Air Force builds up Alaskan F-35 fleet in 'great power competition' Arctic pivot - We Are The Mighty
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Air Force builds up Alaskan F-35 fleet in ‘great power competition’ Arctic pivot

April 2021 marks one year since the Air Force’s first two F-35A Lightning II advanced stealth fighters arrived at Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska. Twenty-five of the Air Force’s fifth-generation fighters are now at Eielson, part of the service’s overall plan to turn Alaska into a “fifth-gen powerhouse,” according to an Air Force press release.

“We have come a long way since the arrival of the first aircraft in April 2020 to now,” Air Force Maj. Jarod DiGeorge of the 354th Fighter Wing said in the release. “Flying 24 sorties in one day barely eight months after first wheels down at Eielson. We are currently on track to achieve initial combat capability this spring and full combat capability next winter.”

Former Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James issued a 2016 “record of decision,” effectively establishing Eielson as the home for the service’s Alaska-based F-35s. Additionally, the measure reactivated the 354th Fighter Wing and placed it at Eielson. The wing is slated to receive 54 F-35As in total and is on track to reach full capacity by March 2022.

Air Force builds up Alaskan F-35 fleet in ‘great power competition’ Arctic pivot
A US Air Force F-35A Lightning II assigned to the 354th Fighter Wing flies over Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, Dec. 18, 2020. Thirty-five F-35As, F-16 Fighting Falcons, and KC-135 Stratotankers conducted an “Elephant Walk” formation showcasing the air assets located in interior Alaska. US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kaylee Dubois/Released.

A strong deterrent in Alaska is quickly becoming a focal point of a renewed “great power competition” between China, Russia, and the US. In January 2018, Beijing’s so-called Polar Silk Road Arctic strategy declared China to be a “near-Arctic state” — even though China’s nearest territory to the Arctic is some 900 miles away. Additionally, Moscow and Beijing have agreed to connect the Northern Sea Route, claimed by Russia, with China’s Maritime Silk Road.

By 2022, Alaska will be one of most heavily defended airspaces on earth. When Eielson’s F-35 fleet is at full strength, Alaska will have more of America’s advanced, fifth-generation fighters than any other US state.

“America cannot afford to fall behind as other nations devote resources to the Arctic region to secure their national interests. America’s very real interests in the Arctic will only increase in the years to come,” authors Luke Coffey and Daniel Kochis wrote in a March 2020 report for The Heritage Foundation.

As Eielson AFB gets more F-35As, it gets closer to being fully combat capable. “It allows our aircrew to be able to train realistically without limitations and to accomplish their specific airborne requirements to be fully proficient in the mission and fly at a combat mission ready rate,” DiGeorge said. “Each and every aircraft we receive is also a projection of the wing’s airpower and furthers our ability to strike in a moment’s notice.”

Intel

This awesome GoPro video takes you inside an F-16 flying over Alaska

Air Force builds up Alaskan F-35 fleet in ‘great power competition’ Arctic pivot


Most people will never get to experience a flight in an F-16 fighter but this awesome GoPro video gives a little taste.

Produced with footage from the 35th Fighter Squadron out of Kunsan Air Force Base in South Korea, the video shows pilots as they trained in Alaska last year. It has everything: barrel rolls, air-to-air combat, low-level flight, and live fire at a range.

The squadron was in Alaska to take part in Red Flag Alaska 15-1, a training exercise that allows pilots to sharpen their skills in the air.

“The greatest takeaway from this exercise is being able to fly with other air frames that I don’t normally get to fly with at Kunsan,” 1st Lt. Jared Tew told Air Force public affairs. “And the challenges that RF-A brings are what makes me a better pilot.”

Watch the video:

(h/t The Aviationist)

NOW: The 18 greatest fighter aircraft of all time

Intel

This weapons kit makes dumb bombs smart

Israel’s SPICE (Smart, Precise Impact, Cost-Effective) kit converts unguided bombs into precision-guided ones.


There’s no hiding from a SPICE enabled bomb, it will find you in the dark and chase you on the battlefield. The kit is highly precise in that it combines GPS and EO technology. The GPS side enables the bomb to engage camouflaged or hidden targets in all weather conditions by inputting coordinates. On the other hand, the EO side provides the flexibility of remote control guidance to engage relocatable targets.

With 12 control surfaces on three groups (fore, mid-body and tail), the kit provides a glide range of about 60 kilometers (approx. 37 miles), turning any bomb into a true fire-and-forget weapon. With this much distance between the target, the striking aircraft is safe from short and medium range defense systems.

Watch:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GujLif0VZIg

ArmedForceUpdate, YouTube

Intel

How US special operators use a Vietnam War-era method to get into and out of dangerous spots quickly

  • During the Vietnam War, US commandos developed an insertion and extraction method that is still used today.
  • Now, with conflict in Southeast or East Asia a growing prospect, its an increasingly relevant but still risky method.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

During the Vietnam War, American commandos developed an insertion and extraction method for operations in the jungle that is still used by today’s special operators.

The Special Patrol Insertion/Extraction (SPIE) system is designed for small special-operations teams that operate in areas where an enemy presence or the terrain prevents helicopters from landing.

The SPIE technique hasn’t been used operationally for decades, in part because US air superiority and lackluster enemy anti-aircraft capabilities have meant it wasn’t needed.

But as the US military gears up for great-power competition against near-peer adversaries, like China and Russia, the SPIE technique is relevant again, especially in a potential conflict in the Pacific.

Warriors of the jungle

Air Force builds up Alaskan F-35 fleet in ‘great power competition’ Arctic pivot
SOG recon team members dangling in mid-air after being evacuated from the jungle. 

The SPIE system can be traced to the rope insertion and extraction techniques of the Vietnam War. It was the innocuous sounding Military Assistance Command Vietnam-Studies and Observations Group (MACV-SOG) that invented and used the method.

A highly classified unit, SOG took the fight to the North Vietnamese Army and Vietcong, conducting cross-border operations into Laos, Cambodia, and North Vietnam—where US troops officially shouldn’t have been.

Composed of Green Berets, Navy SEALs, Recon Marines, Air Commandos, and indigenous forces, SOG tried to stop the onslaught from the North and give South Vietnam some breathing space.

SOG’s classified operations mainly took place in rough and inaccessible jungle, where the NVA had built the infamous Ho Chi Minh trail complex, over which flowed supplies to their forces in South Vietnam. The terrain restricted operations and often forced SOG teams to create their own landing zones by either detonating explosives or by requesting B-52 bombing runs to create craters where helicopters could land.

But landing wasn’t always an option. Secrecy was paramount for mission success. SOG patrols of six to 14 men didn’t have a chance of survival against hundreds or thousands of NVA in an open battle.

With so few landing zones available in the jungle, and with the NVA always trying to monitor them, SOG operators came up with different techniques that didn’t require landing.

Ropes away

Air Force builds up Alaskan F-35 fleet in ‘great power competition’ Arctic pivot
Recon Marines practicing SPIE insertions and extractions. 

At the time, the SPIE terminology didn’t exist, and operators simply used the term “ropes” to refer to methods such as the STABO Extraction Harness, McGuire Rig, and “Swiss Seat.”

The STABO Extraction Harness, or STABO rig, was one of the most used. Designed for quick infiltration into and exfiltration from the jungle, the STABO rig was a mandatory piece of equipment for every recon member. It was worn throughout the mission since recon team members didn’t know if or when they would be compromised, which would often mean a frantic race to escape from superior forces.

During an extraction by ropes, the helicopter crew chief would throw ropes with a sandbag tied to one end down from a hovering helicopter. SOG commandos would hook the ropes to links on their uniforms. The helicopter would then rise straight up to clear the jungle before flying away.

Throughout the Vietnam War, ropes methods saved several lives, and their use sometimes seemed straight out of a movie.

In June 1967, a reinforced SOG company composed of Green Berets and local troops entered Laos to conduct battle-damage assessment after an airstrike on a North Vietnamese headquarters hub along the Ho Chi Minh trail complex.

Air Force builds up Alaskan F-35 fleet in ‘great power competition’ Arctic pivot
Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal sailors conduct a special patrol insertion/extraction exercise aboard aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, September 29, 2015. 

The roughly 100-man “Hatchet Force” came upon a strong NVA force, and a fierce battle ensued. The American commandos and their local allies were surrounded and pinned down, but their firepower saved them from being overrun.

The NVA shot down several fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft that tried to exfiltrate or support the battered SOG company. Eventually, some choppers were able to come in and exfiltrate members of the force.

During one of those trips, a Marine Corps CH-46 Sea Stallion was shot down close to the Hatchet Force’s perimeter. Somehow, Sgt. First Class Charles Wilklow survived the crash, though he was badly wounded.

The NVA captured him but, seeing his wounds, thought he only had a few hours to live. They tied him down and used him as bait for a rescue operation. Considering the certain failure of a rescue mission, SOG headquarters didn’t take the bait.

After four days, Wilklow was still alive, despite his grievous wounds. Yet the NVA didn’t guard him, believing he wouldn’t survive. Wilklow managed to free himself and crawl into the jungle at night.

The next day, a SOG forward air controller spotted an almost-dead Wilklow. He was soon extracted by ropes — despite his ordeal, he was still wearing his STABO rig.

Moving parts

Air Force builds up Alaskan F-35 fleet in ‘great power competition’ Arctic pivot
US Marines conduct special patrol insertion/extraction and helicopter rappel training in Okinawa, Japan, October 23, 2020. 

As tensions rise with China, and with conflict in Southeast or East Asia a growing prospect, the SPIE method is increasingly relevant, but it remains risky and inconvenient.

“[SPIE] operations are pretty dangerous, with lots of moving parts that can potentially go wrong,” a Marine Raider told Insider. “You have to watch as you exit the aircraft mid-air, and more so if you’re the first man out because you’ve got five, six, sometimes seven guys right behind you while the pilots are trying to hold position midair. You also have to account for the rotor wash in water and desert ops. You can’t see much while landing because of the sea spray or dust in the air.”

Since the SPIE technique can be used for both land and water operations, it provides special-operations units with more choices when planning operations in the Pacific theater.

For example, the SPIE technique can be used to extract Navy SEALs conducting special reconnaissance along the Chinese coast or a Special Forces detachment doing unconventional warfare in support of local forces on China’s borders.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

Intel

How sports signals are basic espionage tradecraft

How does a runner on second know when he should steal third? Does a batter automatically know when to bunt? When does a quarterback call an audible – and how can he communicate that play without the other team knowing just what he saw in their defense? Hand signals and codes are simple ciphers designed to communicate a simple message. It’s no different from what intelligence agents have been doing since days of Julius Caesar.


Sports teams have been using encrypted signals since before World War I. Most famously, the 1951 Giants put a man with a telescope in center field to read the opposing teams calls and signals. The Giants overcame an almost 14-game deficit that year to force a playoff with the Brooklyn Dodgers. From the Giants’ center field manager’s office, coach Herman Franks relayed the opposite teams’ signs to the bullpen using an electric buzzer system. The catcher’s call would then be relayed to the batter.

The scheme was simple intelligence tradecraft.

Air Force builds up Alaskan F-35 fleet in ‘great power competition’ Arctic pivot
Simple, right?

“These are simple messages being sent,” says Dr. Vince Houghton, the curator and historian of the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C. “They take a basic step of encryption, the way an army encrypts tactical plans to attack or defend. You can let the enemy know what you’re going to do next, so you can’t send these messages in the clear.”

The reason the ’51 Giants encrypted their signals was the same reason they climbed back into the playoffs: unencrypted messages were easy to intercept, which made it so their hitters knew what the pitcher would do, giving them a huge advantage.

Air Force builds up Alaskan F-35 fleet in ‘great power competition’ Arctic pivot
The incident would later be made into the film ‘Bat 2-1’u00a0starring Gene Hackman and Danny Glover. (TriStar Pictures)

The relationship between sports cryptography and the military can go the other way, too. In Vietnam, Lt. Col. Iceal Hambleton was shot down in an EB-66 near the North-South Vietnam Demilitarized Zone. This was literally the worst situation for military intelligence. Hambleton not only had the intelligence vital to the Vietnam War, but the U.S. military’s entire Cold War-World War III contingency plans. If he was captured by the North Vietnamese, they would be able to give the Soviets the entire Strategic Air Command war plans.

Hambleton survived and the NVA knew exactly how valuable he was. While looking for extraction, he had to evade the NVA patrols looking for him while making his way to the rescue area. The problem was he had to be told how to get there over the radio – and an unencrypted radio was all he had.

Knowing Hambleton was crazy about golf – perhaps the best in the U.S. Air Force – the military fed him the info he needed to move using a simple substitution cypher. It took Hambleton a half-hour to figure out what they were doing.

Air Force builds up Alaskan F-35 fleet in ‘great power competition’ Arctic pivot
The real-world Iceal Hambleton (U.S. Air Force)

“Instead of telling him to move south 100 meters, they would tell him to walk the first hole on Pebble Beach,” says Dr. Houghton. “He was tracked by using descriptions of golf course holes he knew well.”

Other codes included playing 18 holes, starting on No. 1 at Tucson National.

“They were giving me distance and direction,” Hambleton later explained. “No. 1 at Tucson National is 408 yards running southeast. They wanted me to move southeast 400 yards. The ‘course’ would lead me to water.”

Unlike using a radio, sports code has to be done in plain sight — that’s where the hand signals come in to play.

Air Force builds up Alaskan F-35 fleet in ‘great power competition’ Arctic pivot

Check out the International Spy Museum if you’re in the DC area or just take a look around their website for tons of fascinating spy history. You can catch more of Dr. Vince Houghton on the International Spy Museum’s weekly podcast, Spycast, on iTunes and AudioBoom.

For tickets to visit the exhibits and see the largest collection of espionage-related artifacts ever placed on public display, visit https://www.spymuseum.org/tickets/. Also, there’s a $6.00 military discount!

Intel

10 of the craziest aerial dogfights in movies

Aerial dogfights are less likely to happen nowadays than in previous decades, and it’s especially true as drones have begun to takeover the battlefield.


Still, the exploits of legendary flying aces like Manfred von Richthofen “Red Baron,” Randy Cunningham “Showtime 112,” and Robin Olds “Wolf 01” have continued to spark the imagination of Hollywood. The following video shows ten of the most memorable aerial dogfights in movies. The list includes any aircraft or spaceship.

Watch:

NOW: The first black fighter pilot was also an infantry hero and spy

OR: We went behind-the-scenes at an air show headlined by the Navy’s elite Blue Angels

Intel

Watch a soldier return from Afghanistan to surprise a total stranger

We’ve all seen the military homecoming videos, with a service member returning from overseas to surprise their loved ones.


But what happens when a soldier comes home and surprises a total stranger? Well, not to worry, because the satirical website ClickHole has you covered.

“I think he’s going to be very surprised, because he has no idea that I’m finally back from Afghanistan,” says “Sgt. Luke Brundage,” in the video produced by the one-year-old offshoot of The Onion.

With the look and feel of many familiar homecoming videos, the video hilariously illustrates a very awkward meeting, if something like this ever did occur. Interestingly enough, the actor who portrays Brundage is a Marine veteran, according to The Marine Times.

And while it does have some technical errors (using “soldier” instead of Marine, for instance), it’s still funny as hell. And the actor, Jonah Saesan, had little to do with pointing those out.

“A few people want to focus on the detail,” Saesan told The Times. “I don’t think they understand how little I had to do with the creative process.”

Now watch the video:

NOW: The hilarious ‘Awesome Sh-t my Drill Sergeant Said’ is now in book form

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Patton once set cash on fire after learning his men weren’t being given free coffee

Air Force builds up Alaskan F-35 fleet in ‘great power competition’ Arctic pivot
Photo: National Archives and Records Administration


Gen. George S. Patton, Jr. was known for his courage and skill on the battlefield in world War II, but he was nearly as well known for his colorful character. He carried ivory-handled pistols, designed his own sword, and once burned a crate of Red Cross cash after he was offered free coffee.

Patton was moving through Bastogne, Belgium in December 1944 with one of his drivers, Francis “Jeep” Sanza. Patton spotted a Red Cross canteen truck and told Sanza to pull over.

The men got out of the Jeep and went to order food. Sanza got two crullers and a coffee, for which he was charged 10 Francs. The Red Cross worker then told Patton that he could have his snack for free. The general became angry that the Red Cross would give him special treatment but still charge his men. He demanded the woman show him the money the Red Cross had collected.

Sanza described what happened next in an interview with the Napa Valley Register:

“So she takes out this orange crate filled with money, puts it down on the ground. He took out a lighter, lit one bill, let it burn and then ignited the whole box. Then he took a shovel from the Jeep and buried the ashes.”

Patton seems to have escaped punishment for his outburst, likely because his forces broke through German lines in Bastogne at the end of the same month. His success allowed 101st Airborne Division paratroopers under German siege to escape and pushed the German forces across of the Rhine River.

NOW: 11 quotes that show the awesomeness of Gen. George S. Patton

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These Are The Weapons That Russia Is Pouring Into Eastern Ukraine

As Russian military supplies continue to enter Ukraine, it becomes harder by the day for Putin to deny that Moscow is providing arms to the separatists.


In fact Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, the US Army’s top commander in Europe, says that Russian support for separatists has “doubled” since Ukraine and Russia reached a tentative ceasefire.

“When you look at the amount of Russian equipment that the proxies were using prior to the Minsk agreements, that amount has doubled beginning in December into the hundreds,” Hodges told reporters on his first visit to Ukraine.

Russian support for the separatists include artillery, surveillance drones, and armored vehicles that would otherwise be next to impossible for a rebel group to obtain.

“Those are not the types of things you would find in a militia. They clearly are coming from a modern military force coming from Russia,” Hodges said.

In November, the Armament Research Services has released their third report on the arms and munitions being used by both the Ukrainian government and the rebels in the ongoing conflict. Complete with photographic evidence, it is clear that Moscow has been covertly supplying an assortment of older Soviet weaponry along with recently introduced Russian equipment to the separatists.

Self-Loading Rifles

ak-47 russian separatists weapons AK-47 (Photo: Wikimedia)

Self-loading rifles are a popular weapon of the separatist forces.

Aside from a number of AK rifle varieties, the separatists also sport a host of recreation hunting and sport firearms. In one case, a separatist was documented using VSS rifles. These are Russian-made marksman rifles that are analogous to those used by Russian forces during the annexation of Crimea.

The self-loading rifles used by the separatists include:

  • Soviet AK-74
  • Soviet AKS-74U
  • Soviet AR-10 and AR-15 hunting rifles
  • Russian VSS designated marksman rifle

Light Machine Guns

Air Force builds up Alaskan F-35 fleet in ‘great power competition’ Arctic pivot
RPK-74 (Photo: Wikimedia)

Light machine guns make up some of the most common weaponry of the separatists.

The light machine guns utilized by the separatists include weaponry used by the Ukrainian military, as well as Russian-produced guns that are not in service with Ukrainian forces. The PKP ‘Pecheneg’ light machine gun, for example, is not used by the Ukrainian forces and has been exported outside of Russia in only minimal quantities.

The light machine guns used by the separatists include:

  • Russian RPK-74
  • Russian PK and PK GPMGs
  • Russian PKP ‘Pecheneg’ 

Shotguns and Bolt-Action Rifles

Air Force builds up Alaskan F-35 fleet in ‘great power competition’ Arctic pivot
Saiga 12 Shotgun (Photo: Wikimedia)

The use of shotguns and bolt-action rifles have been documented as being used by separatists who are incapable of accessing better quality small arms.

Some older bolt-action sporting rifles have also been documented being used by the separatists. These rifles are in some cases antiques, dating to use with the Russian infantry from World War II or earlier.

The shotguns and bolt-action rifles used by the separatists include:

  • Russian semi-automatic Saiga 12 shotguns
  • Turkish semi-automatic Akkar Altay shotguns
  • Philippino Armscor Model 30 pump-action shotgun
  • Russian infantry Mosin M91 rifle

Handguns

handguns russian separatists weapons Makarov PM Handgun (Photo: Wikimedia)

Russian crafted handguns dominate as the principal choice for the separatists.

Igor “Strelkov” Girkin, the former leader of the Donbass People’s Militia and governor of Luhansk, has had photos carefully taken of him handling a Russian Stechkin APS. The APS was originally designed for Russian vehicle, artillery, and RPG crews.

The handguns used by the separatists include:

  • Russian Makarov PM
  • Russian Stechkin APS

Anti-Material Rifles

Air Force builds up Alaskan F-35 fleet in ‘great power competition’ Arctic pivot
PTRS-41 Rifle (Photo: Wikimedia)

Anti-material rifles are light weapons that have been designed for use against military equipment rather than use against people.

The anti-material rifles being used by the separatists include outdated and obsolete Soviet World War II era anti-tank rifles (the PTRS-41) and the equally old PTRD. In at least one case, separatists were found to be using the Russian ASVK anti-material rifle. The ASVK has only been introduced into the Russian military within the past two years and none have been known to have been exported.

The anti-material rifles used by the separatists include:

  • Soviet PTRS-41
  • Soviet PTRD
  • Russian ASVK

Heavy Machine Guns

Air Force builds up Alaskan F-35 fleet in ‘great power competition’ Arctic pivot
DShKM Machine Gun (Photo: Wikimedia)

The origins of the heavy machine guns used by the separatists in Ukraine is murky. Both the Ukrainian government and the separatists use similar weaponry, and it is possible that the rebels salvaged the weaponry from Ukrainian military vehicles.

In general, the heavy machine guns used by the separatists are fairly old. Most date

back to the Soviet Union, while the Maxim PM1910 may date back as early as the Russian Empire. The PM1910 was likely looted from a museum or a historical re-enactment community.

The heavy machine guns used by the separatists include:

  • Soviet DShKM
  • Soviet NSV and NSVT
  • Soviet Maxim PM1910

Underbarrel and Automatic Grenade Launchers

Air Force builds up Alaskan F-35 fleet in ‘great power competition’ Arctic pivot
GP-25 Grenade Launcher (Photo: Wikimedia)

Like the heavy machine guns, both the Ukrainian government and the separatists have used the same variety of underbarrel and automatic grenade launchers.

In the case of eastern Ukraine, it is impossible to determine whether the grenade launchers were captured from Ukrainian soldiers or were provided to the separatists from Russia.

The grenade launchers used by the separatists include:

  • Soviet GP-25
  • Soviet AGS-17 AGLs

Portable Anti-Tank Systems

Air Force builds up Alaskan F-35 fleet in ‘great power competition’ Arctic pivot
RPG-7 (Photo: Wikimedia)

The separatists have a wide variety of portable anti-tank systems. For the most part, the rebels seem to prefer the use of rocket propelled grenades of the legacy RPG-7 launcher. However, the rebels have also used more modern RPG-18 and RPG-22 systems.

Notably, separatists have also been documented using MRO-A disposable incendiary rocket launcher systems. These systems are not known to have ever been exported outside of Russia.

The portable anti-tank systems used by the separatists include:

  • Soviet RPG-7
  • Soviet RPG-22
  • Soviet RPG-26
  • Russian RPG-18
  • Russian RPO-A 
  • Russian MRO-A

Crew-Served Recoilless Guns and Mortars

Air Force builds up Alaskan F-35 fleet in ‘great power competition’ Arctic pivot
SPG-9 Recoilless Gun (Photo: Wikimedia)

Used alongside the portable anti-tank systems are a mixture of Soviet-era recoilless guns and mortars. These weapons are generally dated. There is no direct evidence that these weapons have been provided by the Russians to the separatists, as both the Ukrainian government and the separatists make use of similar systems.

The crew-served recoilless guns and mortars used by the separatists include:

  • Soviet SPG-9 recoilless gun
  • Soviet 82 and 120 mm mortar tubes
  • Soviet 120 mm 2B16 Nona-K

Anti-Tank Guided Weapons

Air Force builds up Alaskan F-35 fleet in ‘great power competition’ Arctic pivot
9K111 Firing (Photo: Wikimedia)

Anti-tank guided weapons (ATGWs) have been documented in large numbers in the hands of the separatists. The majority of these ATGWs are used by both the Ukrainian military and the separatists.

However, the separatists have also been documented using the 9K135 Kornet ATGW system. The Kornet is not in service with the Ukrainian military, although it is used by the Russians. Based on discarded components found on the battlefield, the missiles used for the Kornet were produced in Russia in 2007.

Russia has exported the Kornet to several other states around the world, and militants in Gaza, Iraq, Libya, and Syria have all been documented using the weapon system.

The ATGWs used by the separatists include:

  • Soviet 9K111
  • Soviet 9K114
  • Soviet 9K115
  • Russian 9K135

Man-Portable Air Defense Systems

Air Force builds up Alaskan F-35 fleet in ‘great power competition’ Arctic pivot
Strela Launcher (Photo: Wikimedia)

Separatist forces have a large array of man-portable air defense systems (MANPADs) and anti-aircraft guns. By and large, the MANPADs that the separatists have been using are of the same make as what is within the Ukrainian arsenal. There have been reports of separatists seizing supplies of MANPADs from the Ukrainian military early in the conflict.

However, in one notable exception, Polish PPZR Grom MANPADs were captured from the separatists. One of the only countries that Poland ever exported the PPZR to was Georgia. In 2008, during Russia’s invasion of the country, Russia was known to have captured some of the Polish-supplied PPZRs. It is likely that those captured weapons are now being funneled to the separatists.

The MANPADs used by the separatists include:

  • Soviet 9K38
  • Soviet 9K32
  • Polish PPZR Grom

Anti-Aircraft Guns

Air Force builds up Alaskan F-35 fleet in ‘great power competition’ Arctic pivot
ZU-23-2 Anti-Aircraft Gun (Photo: Wikimedia)

Aside from MANPADs, the separatists also have a varied arsenal of anti-aircraft guns. At times, these weapons have also been turned against Ukrainian military personnel and light vehicles.

The anti-aircraft guns that the separatists, and to a smaller extent the Ukrainian government, have been utilizing are heavy machine guns mounted in one, two, and four barrel configurations. The separatists likely captured the anti-aircraft weapons from the Ukrainian military.

The anti-aircraft systems used by the separatists include:

  • Soviet 14.5 x 114 mm ZPU 
  • Soviet ZU-23-2

Artillery

Air Force builds up Alaskan F-35 fleet in ‘great power competition’ Arctic pivot
D-30 Howitzer (Photo: Wikimedia)

Artillery has become one of the primary methods of engagement between the Ukrainian government and separatist fighters. Indiscriminate shelling by both sides has led to widespread destruction throughout portions of eastern Ukraine, along with significant civilian casualties.

Both the Ukrainian government and the separatists use the same varieties of Soviet and Russian artillery in their engagements. As such, it is difficult to determine whether the rebels had received these arms directly from Russia or had looted them from the Ukrainian military.

The artillery systems used by the separatists include:

  • Soviet 122 mm D-30 howitzer
  • Soviet 100 mm BS-3 anti-tank gun
  • Soviet 100 mm MT-12 anti-tank gun
  • Soviet 152 mm 2A65 Msta-B
  • Soviet 76 mm ZiS-3 field gun

Main Battle Tanks

Air Force builds up Alaskan F-35 fleet in ‘great power competition’ Arctic pivot
T-64 Tank (Photo: Wikimedia)

Both Ukrainian governmental forces and the separatists have placed high value on the use of main battle tanks. In many cases, the separatists are utilizing captured Ukrainian tanks, or tanks of the same model provided by the Russians.

However, the separatists have also used Russian tanks that are not known to have ever been exported outside of the country such as the T-72B and T-72BA. Notably, the separatists have also deployed the T-72B3, the latest T-72 model in the Russian service. The tank is not known to have been exported and it was just introduced into service in 2013 indicating Russian involvement in the crisis.

The main battle tanks used by the separatists include:

  • Soviet T-64A, B, BM, and BV models
  • Russian T-72 B
  • Russian T-72BA
  • Russian T-72B3

Infantry Fighting Vehicles and Armored Personnel Carriers

Air Force builds up Alaskan F-35 fleet in ‘great power competition’ Arctic pivot
BMP-2 (Photo: Wikimedia)

Infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs) and armored personnel carriers (APCs) are the most documented type of armored fighting vehicle in use in Ukraine. Both IFVs and APCs are designed to function as armored troop carriers, with IFVs being differentiated as having an armament of 20 mm in calibre or larger for offensive capabilities.

Although the separatists and the Ukrainians use many of the same IFVs and APCs, separatists have been documented using Russian-variants of APCs in the Ukrainian arsenal that were designed in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Strikingly, separatists have also been documented driving the BTR-82AM IFV. This model was inducted into Russian service in 2013 and is not known to have ever been exported.

The IFV and APC systems used by the separatists include:

  • Soviet BMP-2
  • Soviet MT-LB
  • Russian BTR-82Am
  • Russian MT-LB 6MA, MT-LBVM, and MT-LBVMK

Self-Propelled Artillery

Air Force builds up Alaskan F-35 fleet in ‘great power competition’ Arctic pivot
2S1 Gvozdika (Photo: Wikimedia)

Both the Ukrainians and the separatists have utilized the same variants of self-propelled artillery. Given the models and the Ukrainian numerical advantage in fielding these weapon types, the separatists likely looted or captured their self-propelled artillery.

The self-propelled artillery systems used by the separatists include:

  • Soviet 2S1 Gvozdika
  • Soviet 2S3 Akatsia
  • Soviet 2S5 Giatsint-S
  • Soviet 2S9 Nona-S

Self-Propelled Rocket Artillery

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9k51 Grad Launcher (Photo: Wikimedia)

Much like self-propelled artillery, the Ukrainian government has used self-propelled rocket artillery significantly more than the separatists have. In almost every occasion that the separatists have used rocket artillery, the weapons systems used were identical to what is in the arsenal of the Ukrainian government.

Although the separatists have generally used the 9K51 Grad rocket system, which may or may not have been looted from Ukrainian forces, the rebels also have used a 9K51M Tornado-G. This is a modernized Grad system that was likely supplied by the Russians. However, documented proof of the separatist’s using this system is limited.

The self-propelled rocket artillery systems used by the separatists include:

  • Soviet 9K51 Grad
  • Russian 9K51 Tornado-G 

Self-Propelled Air Defense Systems

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9K33 Osa (Photo: Wikimedia

In addition to MANPADs, the separatists have made frequent use of self-propelled air defense systems. These systems seek to negate the Ukrainian government’s complete aerial dominance. The systems have proved effective at downing Ukrainian aircraft and were also involved in the tragic downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17.

The rebels in general have used air defense systems that are present in the Ukrainian military. However, the separatists have also utilized Russian Pantsir-S1 and Buk missile systems that were not in the Ukrainian arsenal.

The self-propelled air defense systems used by the separatists include:

  • Soviet 9K33, 9K35, and 9K37 
  • Russian Pantsir-S1
  • Russian Buk missile system 

More from Business Insider:

This article originally appeared at Business Insider Defense Copyright 2015. Follow BI Defense on Twitter.

Intel

Enlisted women are going to serve on Navy submarines for the first time ever

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Female sailors visit USS Ohio Photo: Flickr


The U.S. Navy is now recruiting enlisted servicewomen to serve on submarines in 2016.

This move will take the 2011 decision to integrate female officers into the submarine force one step further, assigning female chief petty officers and senior petty officers to co-ed crews.

Navy officers are reportedly optimistic about the transition process — even despite a video-taped shower scandal that took place aboard the USS Wyoming — one of the first subs to be assigned female officers in late 2011.

For more on this story, check out military.com

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Intel

Will the US military continue to fly the Confederate flag?

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Photo: Flickr


The Confederate flag’s dark and nuanced history has long made the rebel banner an uncomfortable topic of conversation. In the minds of many Americans, it is a symbol of slavery and institutionalized racism – an emblem on par with the Nazi swastika. For others, it’s simply an expression of regional pride.

However, after the racially-motivated church slayings in South Carolina last week – committed by a man who was a proud flyer of the stars and bars – state governments have begun to remove the Confederate flag from their federal buildings. The United States military, on the other hand, has yet to address the issue officially.

South Carolina’s Army Guard still flies 16 streamers that were created under the Confederacy, and servicemen and women are allowed to sport the Confederate flag on clothing and tattoos — something the Defense Department does not consider offensive material. Still, some military officials have decided to retire the flag after the shootings, including The Citadel, South Carolina’s famous military academy, which removed the Confederate Naval Jack from its chapel.

Gen. Daniel Allyn, vice chief of the U.S. Army, spoke to the The Military Times about the rebel flag’s importance within the American military:

“I think that, when you are a student of military history, let’s face it: One of our greatest military generals in the history of our nation was Robert E. Lee,” Allyn said, referring to the legendary Confederate commander.

At Army posts throughout the country, there are “thousands of battle pictorials of Grant and Lee going up against each other with their requisite flags,” he added, noting Lee’s Union counterpart, Gen. Ulysses Grant, who later became America’s 18th president. “So yes, you will find those resident. And if those are offensive to people, I’m sure that our commanders will deal with that.”

“We swear our allegiance to the flag of the United States of America,” Allyn said, “… and we will protect and defend that flag.”

For more on the topic, check out The Military Times

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Intel

“Severe Clear” is the Iraqi War through the eyes of frontline Marines

Shot by First Lt. Mike Scotti on his home camera,and told through the journal entries of Kristian Fraga, “Severe Clear” is a first-person account of the Marines who were on the front lines of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003.


“Here is the truth about being a Marine that you won’t find on the local news,” Scotti says behind a jiggling, hand-held camera. “We’re loud. We drink too much, fight too much and swear too much. Truth be told, our rifles are the only things we think about more than sex.”

Watch this brief clip that captures some of the ups and downs of this roller coaster documentary:

Video: Dominic Mason, YouTube

Watch the full movie on YouTube or Amazon Prime for free.

Intel

The interesting backstories to each of Gen. Jim Mattis’ nicknames

There has never been a United States Secretary of Defense that has been so universally beloved. Retired Gen. Jim Mattis was confirmed last year by a landslide vote of 98 in favor and 1 opposed, despite being on a waiver to circumvent the seven-years-since-retirement requirement to be appointed Secretary of Defense.


Long before he rose to the highest position in the Armed Forces, second only to the President, he earned several monikers, each from a different aspect of his ability to lead.

4. “Mad Dog” Mattis

For the record: He is not a fan of the name, “Mad Dog” Mattis. So, you probably don’t want to go saying it to a man that has admitted that the max effective range on his knife hand is hundreds of miles. It dates back to a 2004 Los Angeles Times article saying that U.S. troops in Fallujah called him “Mad Dog” behind his back and that it was “high praise” in Marine culture.

The “Mad Dog” label stuck following a series of intimidating quotes, such as, “be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet” and “a good soldier follows orders, but a true warrior wears his enemy’s skin like a poncho.” At Gen. Mattis’s confirmation hearing, former Maine Senator and the Secretary of Defense from 1997 to 2001, William Cohen, joked that it’s a misnomer and the nickname “Braveheart” would have been much more accurate.

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3. “Warrior Monk”

The most accurate of his nicknames has to be “The Warrior Monk.” Another beautiful Mattisism is, “the most important six inches on the battlefield is between your ears.”

Gen. Mattis is well known for his intelligence, extensive book collection, and giving his troops required reading lists that range from cultural studies to Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations. For his complete reading list, broken down by rank and region of deployment, click here.

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One has to wonder about his take on fictional war novels, like Dune, Starship Troopers, and Ender’s Game. (DoD photo by Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)

2. “CHAOS”

His preferred nickname is the call sign he used as a Colonel, “Chaos.” He joked at a conference that he’d like to tell people that it was for some dignified reason, but it’s not.

When he was a regimental commander at Twentynine Palms, he was leaving the S-3 office and noticed the words “CHAOS” written on the whiteboard. He asked someone what it meant and got, “Oh, you don’t need to know about that…” which, of course, only piqued his interest more. Finally, they broke it to him that it meant, “Colonel Has An Outstanding Solution.” It was a joke at his expense that he took in stride, so he wore it as a badge of honor.

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If anything, Gen. Mattis knows how to take a joke in stride. (Image via Instagram)

1. “Patron Saint of Chaos”

Secretary of Defense Mattis’ legendary status among the troops has earned him the title, “Saint Mattis of Quantico. Patron Saint of Chaos.”

The meme has spread far and wide from Terminal Lance to t-shirts to the sidebar of the USMC subreddit to even being posted by the MARSOC official Facebook page.

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(Image via OAF Nation)

So, if you’ll join us in a quick reading,

Hail Mattis, full of hate. Our troops stand with thee. Blessed art though among enlisted. And blessed is the fruit of thy knife hand. Holy Mattis, father of War. Pray for us heathen, Now and at the hour of combat. Amen.
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