Colombian military launches new "elite" unit to counter NARCOs, rebels - We Are The Mighty
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Colombian military launches new “elite” unit to counter NARCOs, rebels

The Colombian military on Friday activated the elite Command Against Drug Trafficking and Offshore Threats (CONAT) unit. CONAT will be comprised of 7,000 troops and its purpose will be to fight narcos, rebels financed by drug trafficking and other illegal activities and which operate across the borders of Colombia and the region, and other organized gangs.

President Ivan Duque, speaking to the troops at the sprawling army base at Tolemaida in central Colombia, described the new unit as “historic.” Meanwhile, the unit displayed aircraft and armored vehicles in a show of force among the troops.

The force, Duque said, will be tasked with “subduing, beating and subjecting the structures of drug trafficking and the… threats linked to the illegal exploitation of minerals, trafficking of species, of persons and, of course, to any transnational form of terrorism.”

“The unit was born to hit, repress, and break down the structures of drug trafficking and transnational threats linked to illegal mining, the trafficking of wildlife, and people, and — of course — any transnational form of terrorism,” President Duque said at the event.

Colombia, considered the world’s largest producer of cocaine, had over 380,000 acres of the coca crop in 2019. That is an area larger than the combined bases of Fort Hood, TX and Fort Bragg, NC, the U.S. military’s two largest bases. 

One controversial development is that Colombia could restart aerial fumigation of coca fields with herbicide glyphosate soon, Defense Minister Diego Molano said.

Colombia had suspended aerial spraying of glyphosate in 2015 following warnings by the World Health Organization (WHO) that the chemical was potentially damaging to health and the environment.Read Next: Colombian Security Forces Kill Top ELN Commander “Uriel”

The last active rebel group in Colombia, the National Liberation Army (ELN), finances its operations through drug trafficking, kidnapping, illegal mining, and extortion. Duque said that the unit will pursue the ELN and ex-FARC rebels who had rejected the 2016 peace deal “without qualms.” 

“Soldiers, it is a morally necessary, morally correct battle… Let’s go for the defense of Colombia!” Duque added. 

The long drug war, as well as a decades-long insurgency, left more than 260,000 dead and have displaced millions of Colombian civilians. 

When Colombian President Duque announced the formation of the unit earlier this year, he mentioned that the ELN and other drug gangs had moved freely across the border of and “were protected in Venezuela.” 

That prompted Venezuelan strongman Nicolas Maduro to rattle his saber and to “respond forcefully” although Colombia made no mention of crossing the border. Maduro, who is prone to making grand pronouncements, said that he ordered the military forces to “clean the barrels of our rifles to answer them at any level we need to answer if Ivan Duque dares violate the sovereignty of Venezuela.” 

Colombia has broken off diplomatic ties with Venezuela since 2019 when opposition leader Juan Guaido was recognized as the interim president. Maduro ran a show election that was rigged. The European Union (EU), and the G7 group, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States, joined the EU in rejecting the results of the elections and denounced them as not “comply[ing] with international standards.”

Colombia has long accused the leftist government of Venezuela of supporting the terrorist insurgents of ELN and FARC. Venezuela has denied this.

This article originally appeared on SOFREP. Follow @sofrepofficial on Twitter.

Intel

Here is what the ISIS chain of command looks like

ISIS does not operate like a typical terrorist group. Unlike Al-Qaeda or the Taliban with a loosely connected network of terrorist cells, ISIS operates like a country with a conventional army.


In January 2014, the secret files of Samir Abd Muhammad al-Khilawi – best-known as Haji Bakr – were obtained after being killed in a firefight. Haji Bakr was a former colonel in the intelligence service of Saddam Hussein’s air defense force who later became ISIS’ head strategist. He’s been secretly pulling the strings at ISIS for years, according to a report by Spiegel.

When he died, he left the blueprint for the Islamic State. These documents show the structure of the Islamic State from top to bottom. This TestTube News video explains how ISIS’ chain of command is broken down according to Haji Bakr.

Watch:

NOW: This former ISIS fighter from New York explains why he quit after only 3 days

OR: Women of the Jihad: An inside look at the female fighters of ISIS

OR: 17 Laws Every Taliban Militant Needs To Follow 

Intel

Army scientists close to creating advanced COVID-19 vaccine

The Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR) is neck deep in the battle against COVID-19 by developing their own vaccine. In typical American military fashion, these soldiers hope to create the best and most effective weapon against the virus. 

As of April 7, 2021, almost 20% of the United States has been vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus. Despite there being three available options for vaccines circulating throughout the country and availability of vaccines opening up to the public at large, the Army is looking ahead. It’s something they’ve been doing for a long time.

Colombian military launches new “elite” unit to counter NARCOs, rebels
 Capt. Bryan Carmichael, Commanding Officer of the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5), receives his second injection of the Covid-19 vaccine.

For over 100 years the Army has been studying viruses and working on vaccinations. Their roots go all the way back to 1893 as the scientists within WRAIR continually dedicated themselves to soldier readiness and preventing death. “When we send soldiers around the world, they not only face the threat of the enemy, they face the threat of diseases that we don’t have here in the United States,” Col. Deydre Teyhen, commander of WRAIR, said in an interview with ABC News. “And so our job at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research is to create ways to prevent that and protect them.”

The Army’s far-reaching contributions to the scientific community have been revolutionary throughout history and they hope to do it again against COVID-19. Since the pandemic began, they’ve been quietly working on a vaccination against the virus wreaking havoc on the world. Their animal trials have progressed to humans and hopes are high. Retired Army Col. Francis Holinaty stepped forward and volunteered to be the first human test subject. 

soldiers getting covid-19 vaccine
Cpt. Aaron Sanborn injects Francis Holinaty on the first day of clinical testing for WRAIR’s spike ferritin nanoparticle (SpFN) vaccine at the WRAIR Clinical Trials Center. Built on a ferritin platform, the vaccine offers a flexible approach to targeting multiple variants of the virus that causes COVID-19 and potentially other coronaviruses as well.

“Amazingly, in that growing landscape of vaccines, our approach is unique,” Dr. Kayvon Modjarrad, the director for emerging infectious diseases at WRAIR said in an interview with ABC News. “It presents that part of the virus, the spike protein that’s the hook that gets attached to your lung cells, a lot of vaccines just present one of those to the immune system. Our approach presents them multiple times.”

From there, the antibodies should provoke a response to the protein spike it’s presented with. The vaccine being developed by WRAIR also skips some of the steps seen in the other vaccines by bringing the protein spike and immune boosting components together for the recipient. The results in animals have shown it to be very promising according to Modjarrad in his interview, even against the highly contagious variants currently causing a new wave of infections. 

Colombian military launches new “elite” unit to counter NARCOs, rebels
Soldiers pose after receiving the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine at MCAS Cherry Point, North Carolina, on Dec. 23, 2020. The Moderna vaccine is a good start, but the Army is looking for more comprehensive options.

Another factor that makes it stand out is its durability, if it’s successful in humans. The current model of their vaccine doesn’t require freezing and could make its way safely on an Amazon truck without fear of the vaccine being ruined. 

The uniqueness of their approach is that it aims to target not just the COVID-19 virus and the variants, but all Coronaviruses. As a team, WRAIR recognizes that the world needs to think ahead to the next Coronavirus, because science has shown that there will be more. By doing the work they’re doing, these soldiers are ensuring the United States will be ready and able to respond. 

Intel

33 of America’s most terrifying nuclear mishaps

Since the beginning of the U.S. nuclear program, there have been 33 nuclear weapons accidents, known as “broken arrows,” according to Eric Schlosser in his book: Command and Control. A “broken arrow” is the Pentagon’s phrase for an unexpected event involving nuclear weapons that result in the accidental launching, firing, detonating, theft, or loss of the weapon.


An example of a “broken arrow” is the Goldsboro accident in which a B-52 carrying two nuclear bombs broke apart, dropping the bombs over Goldsboro, North Carolina. Or the time in 1966 when a B-52 crashed into a KC-135 Stratotanker during a refueling operation, releasing four thermonuclear bombs over Spain. It’s hard to believe, but there are 31 more times these doomsday scenarios played out.

Here is a brief, terrifying history of some of America’s nuclear mishaps:

NOW: The 7 weirdest nuclear weapons ever developed

OR: The US nuclear launch code during the Cold War was weaker than your granny’s AOL password

Intel

Every way not to use social media in the military summed up in recent video

Social media is a beautiful tool, especially to the military community. It allows troops to keep in contact with friends and family while also giving them a platform to share what’s on their mind. However, when used inappropriately, it can have disastrous effects. Recently, a U.S. Air Force Tech Sgt. from the 99th Force Support Squadron made headlines for an expletive-filled and racially charged video she posted to a private Facebook forum. When it was reposted onto a public page, it went viral, getting over 3 million views at the time of writing.


The 99th Air Base Wing Public Affairs Chief, Maj. Christina Sukach, responded that it is “inappropriate and unacceptable behavior in today’s society and especially for anyone in uniform. Leadership is aware and is taking appropriate action.” Administrative action is being taken against her. It seems to fit the old military adage, “play stupid games and win stupid prizes.”

Related: This is how the Army teaches you to ‘see green’ -not brown, black, or white

Author’s Note: While the discussions prompted by this video cannot be overlooked, We Are The Mighty will not give a platform to something entirely unbecoming of not only the NCO Corps or the U.S. Air Force, but the entire U.S. Armed Forces. It will not be reproduced here.

Not only is the content of the video disturbing, the 91-second video also manages to go against many of the Department of Defense’s Web and Internet-based Capabilities Policies. Here are a few of the more egregious violations.

Appearance of governmental sanction

Posting comments or videos while in uniform, on a military installation, or during military hours to social media could be misconstrued as an official statement from the U.S. Armed Forces. It’s for this same reason that troops are not allowed to attend many public events in uniform, regardless of rank.

This is why many officials were quick to disavow the video. Despite clearly going against military values, any inaction from up top can still be misconstrued as acknowledgment.

Colombian military launches new “elite” unit to counter NARCOs, rebels
Even military parades need to go through red-tape. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Nathan Berry)

Conduct unbecoming of an NCO

Non-commissioned officers are supposed to lead by example. If a situation arises, the NCO will do everything in their power to correct the issue and move forward.

The video was sparked after the Technical Sergeant wasn’t addressed as “ma’am” by subordinates. A real leader would never complain on social media. Be an NCO — clearly communicate your requirements and make sure your troops address you properly.

Colombian military launches new “elite” unit to counter NARCOs, rebels
Everything taught at the NCO Academy was undone in 1 minute and 31 seconds. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Tiffany Lundberg)

Willingly damaging the reputation of the U.S. Armed Forces

Many of the articles of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, especially Article 134, cover “offenses [involving] disorders and neglects to the prejudice of good order and discipline in the armed forces.”

When you upload a rant video — even to a private forum like this video originally was — you can never expect that it will stay private. At this moment, if you type “Air Force” into Google, you will see every news outlet talking about this video.

Colombian military launches new “elite” unit to counter NARCOs, rebels
This is the image the world should have of the U.S. Air Force — not one of hate. (Image via Air Force)

Intel

Bob Ross was an Air Force Drill Instructor before becoming television’s most beloved painter

Colombian military launches new “elite” unit to counter NARCOs, rebels
Photo: YouTube


“I was the guy who makes you scrub the latrine, the guy who makes you make your bed, the guy who screams at you for being late to work. The job requires you to be a mean, tough person. And I was fed up with it. I promised myself that if I ever got away from it, it wasn’t going to be that way anymore.”

Bob Ross is known for producing beautiful landscapes, his soft-spoken demeanor, and bushy facial hair. Whenever anyone mentions the joy they get from painting, it’s tough not to think of Ross smiling at a camera and filling hundreds of canvases with happy clouds, secret trees, and accidental bushes. Even if you aren’t a student of art, putting on an episode of “The Joy of Painting” will lull anyone into a total state of serenity. What many people don’t know is that one of the biggest influences on Ross’s persona and painting technique was the twenty years he spent in the Air Force, especially his time as a drill sergeant.

Also Read: This Is The Vehicle Lamborghini Designed For The Military 

Born Robert Norman Ross and raised in Orlando, Florida, his first career move was enlisting in the Air Force at the age of 18. He was stationed at Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska which is where he saw snow and mountains for the first time. In order to paint as much as he wanted, he developed quick-painting techniques including wet-on-wet oil painting. Ross credited William Alexander with teaching him the wet-on-wet technique, which enabled him to paint 25 to 30 thousand paintings over the course of his lifetime.

During his twenty years in the Air Force, Ross reached the rank of Master Sergeant. He often commented in “The Joy of Painting” that his landscape choices were influenced by his time in Alaska. ”I developed ways of painting extremely fast,” Ross said. ”I used to go home at lunch and do a couple while I had my sandwich. I’d take them back that afternoon and sell them.” Ross eventually discovered that he could earn more selling paintings than he could in the Air Force and quit.

Upon his return to civilian life, Ross launched his famous program, “The Joy of Painting.” Each episode could be filmed about as quickly as he could paint, and he did the entire thing for free. His main source of income stemmed from the Bob Ross Foundation which sold art supplies and taught painting. Ross subsequently earned widespread fame and success but kept a low profile. He passed away in 1995 from lymphoma, but his legacy endures.

Here’s a short video of Bob Ross painting a landscape:

More from Military.com:

This article originally appeared at Military.com Copyright 2014. Follow Military.com on Twitter.

Intel

6 crazy new DOD programs that sound like science fiction

After two decades of counter-terror operations, America’s Department of Defense, or DoD, is pivoting back toward great power competition with a slew of new programs and proposals that seemingly blur the line between science fiction fantasy and legitimate military capability.

America’s combat operations in places like the Middle East have afforded its defense apparatus a great deal of experience, but that benefit doesn’t come without a price. Aside from the significant wear and tear on equipment (and the associated maintenance costs), America’s defense apparatus has also offered its competition in nations like Russia and China a perfect opportunity to study and assess Uncle Sam’s military capabilities. While neither Russia nor China currently possesses truly peer-level military capabilities when compared to the United States, it’s important to remember that they don’t need to in order to pose a significant risk to American interests, or indeed its very safety.

With America’s combat playbook open for all to see, China and Russia have both devoted significant portions of their defense spending to leverage gaps in the U.S.’s proverbial armor. As a result, the United States now finds itself falling behind the technological power curve in a number of important ways, including hypersonics and potentially even anti-satellite weapons.

Colombian military launches new “elite” unit to counter NARCOs, rebels
Russia’s hypersonic Kh-47M2 Kinzhal missile mounted on a Russian Air Force MiG-31K (WikiMedia Commons)

But despite the strategic advantage America’s defense commitments have offered its competitors in recent years, it wouldn’t be wise to count the U.S. out quite yet. In fact, the DoD already has a number of groundbreaking programs underway, and in recent months, the Defense Department has gone even further, soliciting proposals for advanced technology so unusual that practically read like science fiction.

Of course, soliciting proposals and even funding programs doesn’t mean every one of these efforts will result in an operational weapon or mature strategic capability. Some of these programs are sure to fail or to be pulled apart and devoured by other broader reaching efforts. Like SOCOM’s Ironman-like TALOS armor or the stealth RAH-66 Comanche, a DoD program doesn’t have to cross the finish line to benefit the force.

Here are 6 crazy-seeming DoD programs that are currently in development.

Fusion Reactors and “Spacetime Modification” weapons

Colombian military launches new “elite” unit to counter NARCOs, rebels

In 2019, the U.S. Navy’s Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division (NAWCAD) filed a number of seemingly out of this world patents that could, in theory, revolutionize not only military aviation, but just about everything. Among these filings were patents for a High Energy Electromagnetic Field Generator, which if functional, could produce massive amounts of power with far-reaching military and commercial implications and would practically result in the world’s first highly efficient fusion reactor.

But if near-limitless clean energy isn’t crazy enough, another offshoot of this work led by U.S. Navy aerospace engineer Dr. Salvatore Pais would see the creation of a “spacetime modification weapon” that would, in his words, “make the Hydrogen bomb seem more like a firecracker, in comparison.

You can read a thorough breakdown of Pais’ work, as well as a similar effort led by Lockheed Martin, in our coverage of this story here.

Plasma Holograms that can fool missiles (and maybe even people)

Colombian military launches new “elite” unit to counter NARCOs, rebels
Artist’s rendering of DoD program to field laser induced plasma filament holograms.

New technology under patent by the U.S. Navy could shift the odds of survival further into the favor of stealth aircraft by leveraging lasers to produce plasma bursts that could trick inbound missiles into thinking they’ve found a jet to chase that would actually be little more than a hologram.

According to their patent, the laser system could be installed on the tail of an aircraft, and upon detection of an inbound missile, could literally project an infrared signature that would be comparable to a moving fighter jet’s exhaust out away from the fighter itself. Multiple systems could literally project multiple aircraft, leaving inbound missiles to go after the decoy plasma “fighters” instead of the actual aircraft itself.

These “laser induced plasma filaments,” as researchers call them, can be projected up to hundreds of meters, depending on the laser system employed, and (here’s the part that’ll really blow your mind) can be used to emit any wavelength of light. That means these systems could effectively display infrared to fool inbound heat seeking missiles, ultraviolet, or even visible light. 

You can read more about this effort in our full coverage of it here.

Drone Wingmen and “Skyborg”

Colombian military launches new “elite” unit to counter NARCOs, rebels
A U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor and F-35A Lightning II fly in formation with the XQ-58A Valkyrie low-cost unmanned aerial vehicle over the U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground testing range, Ariz., during a series of tests Dec. 9, 2020. (US Air Force photo)

The 2005 movie “Stealth” depicts a team of 6th generation fighter pilots who are assigned a new wingman: an AI-enabled drone. The movie may not have gotten much right about military aviation, but the premise has proven not just viable, but likely. With programs underway like the Air Force Research Laboratories Skyborg and Boeing’s Loyal Wingman, it’s only a matter of time before we start seeing data-fusing jets like the F-35 flying with their own constellations of support drones that can be used to extend their sensor reach, engage targets on the fighter’s behalf, or even sacrifice themselves to prevent a missile from reaching the crewed aircraft.

Recently, the U.S. Air Force successfully flew a Kratos Valkyrie UCAV alongside both of America’s 5th generation fighters, with an active data link connecting the F-35 to the drone. While still a rudimentary test, this flight was truly just the beginning.

You can learn more about this effort in our coverage here.

Artificial Intelligence in the cockpit

Colombian military launches new “elite” unit to counter NARCOs, rebels

In August of last year, Heron Systems’ incredible artificial intelligence pilot system defeated not only its industry competitors, but went on to secure 5 straight victories against a highly trained U.S. Air Force F-16 pilot, without the human pilot even scoring a single hit. It was a significant success for the endeavor to get AI into the cockpits of American fighters, even if the competition was technically stacked in the AI’s favor.

The intent behind the competition wasn’t to embarrass a human pilot, but rather to improve both the AI’s ability to make decisions and develop a level of trust between human operators and future AI co-pilots. By outsourcing some tasks to a highly capable AI, pilots can focus more of their bandwidth on situational awareness and the task at hand.

You can read more about this effort in our coverage of it here.

6th Generation Fighters

Colombian military launches new “elite” unit to counter NARCOs, rebels
(U.S. Air Force rendering of a 6th generation fighter.)

Last September, the U.S. Air Force shocked the world with the announcement that they had already designed, built, and flown a prototype of the next generation of fighters. Details released by the DoD are scarce, but there are a number of assertions we can make about this program based on publicly available information.

In order to justify the creation of a new fighter generation, this new jet will need to offer all the capabilities found in 5th generation jets like the F-35, along with a slew of entirely new capabilities. It seems feasible that the fighter that has already been tested by not be a mature platform destined for service, but may instead be a technology demonstrator used to assess the efficacy of some of these state-of-the-art systems.

You can learn more about what exactly makes a 6th generation fighter in our coverage here.

Using shrimp to track enemy submarines

Colombian military launches new “elite” unit to counter NARCOs, rebels

DARPA’s effort to track undersea life’s behavior as a means to detect enemy submarines has just entered its second phase. In the first phase, DARPA’s Persistent Aquatic Living Sensors (PALS) program sought to prove that sea life would respond to the presence of a submarine in a measurable way. With that seemingly confirmed, the second stage of the program will focus on developing sensors that can identify that behavior and relay a warning back to manned locations aboard a ship or onshore.

Undersea life tends to behave in a certain way when it senses the presence of a large and foreign object like a submarine. By broadly tracking the behavior of sea life, PALS aims to measure and interpret that behavior to make educated guesses about what must be causing it. In other words, by constantly tracking the behavior of nearby wildlife, PALS sensors can notice a significant change, compare it to a library of known behaviors, and predict a cause… like an enemy submarine, even if a submarine was stealthy enough to otherwise evade detection.

You can read more about this program in our full coverage here.

Feature photo courtesy of the U.S. Army Acquisition Support Center

Intel

Recon Marines honor fallen brothers with a grueling 30-mile ruck run

Memorial Day is a day of remembrance for troops who have paid the ultimate sacrifice in defense of the United States.


On this day, Americans may be posting tributes on social media or attending events to honor the fallen. For a group of Recon Marines however, their way of honoring fallen brothers is with an intense, grueling challenge over nearly 30 miles.

“I’ll run for him until I retire,” says Master Gunnery Sgt. Christopher May of his comrade Staff Sgt. Caleb Medley, in a new video produced by the Marine Corps. Medley died in Feb. 2013 in a parachuting accident while training in California, according to The Marine Times.

Watch the video below:

SEE ALSO: 12 rare and amazing photos from the ‘War to End All Wars’

Intel

This battle against ISIS was the biggest in the Philippines since WWII

With the help of U.S. special forces, the Armed Forces of the Philippines have been battling radical Islamic terrorists in the south Pacific island chain since 2002. The Philippines, a former Spanish colony, is a predominantly Christian nation. However, its southern islands are home to a large Muslim population. Since the late 60s, there has been some form of push, political or terrorist, to create an independent Muslim state in the southern Philippines. The most prominent terror organization in Philippines since the early 2000s is the Abu Sayyaf Group.

Colombian military launches new “elite” unit to counter NARCOs, rebels
Abu Sayyaf Group is the ISIS branch of Asia (ASG)

Known officially by their ISIS counterparts as Islamic State — East Asia Province, ASG first had ties to Al-Qaeda. They operated extensively throughout southeast Asia, especially in Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines. ASG conducted bombings, kidnappings, assassinations, and drug trafficking to further their cause for an Islamic caliphate. Under the leadership of Isnilon Hapilon, who swore allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, ASG began conducting kidnappings and killings in the name of ISIS in 2014.

Simultaneously, brothers Omar and Abdullah Maute, founded their own Islamic terrorist organization in their hometown of Marawi in the southern Philippines. The brothers were educated in Muslim nations overseas where they were radicalized. Bringing this ideology back to the Philippines, they recruited other Muslim Filipinos to their cause. Working alongside Hapilon, Maute group and ASG stockpiled weapons and ammo in Marawi for a planned offensive. It would be their opening attack to establish an Islamic caliphate in the Philippines.

By May 2017, Maute group and ASG had amassed a huge stockpile of arms in Marawi. However, their planned offensive was forced to be accelerated. Working with the Philippine National Police, AFP Intelligence learned that Hapilon, who was on the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorists list with a reward of $5 million, was in Marawi. A surgical operation was launched on May 23, 2017 to capture the ASG leader. However, when Philippine special forces entered the city, they found much more than they bargained for.

Colombian military launches new “elite” unit to counter NARCOs, rebels
A Filipino soldier takes cover during a firefight in Marawi (AFP)

Prepping for the planned offensive, roughly 1,000 militants had amassed in Marawi, some of whom came from foreign countries. Heavily armed, they quickly took over the city, burning churches, homes, and executing known Christians on sight. As civilians fled, some Muslims harbored their Christian neighbors who could not get out and hid them from the extremists. ASG and Maute group blocked all roads in and out of the city and took hostages demanding that the AFP cease all military operations in and around Marawi. At the same time, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte declared a state of martial law for the entire island of Mindanao.

The next day, additional military forces arrived and 120 hostages at the hospital were freed. Key buildings like city hall and a university were recaptured by AFP forces who established command posts in preparation for the coming operations. The Philippine Air Force began airstrikes on Marawi. Army units pushed into the city and battled against heavy resistance. Although AFP ground troops were able to re-secure much of Marawi by May 31, the sections of the city under militant control were a maze of tight alleys and closely packed buildings. It would require Fallujah-style house-to-house room-by-room clearing to secure the rest of the city.

Moreover, Hapilon and the Maute brothers were still at large. Even if the majority of the militants were killed or captured, the escape of the terrorist leaders would be a major victory for ISIS. Heavy street fighting raged through the contested areas of the city as AFP troops rooted out pockets of resistance in search of the high value targets. To complicate the already arduous task of urban combat, the militants dug tunnels throughout the city. Like the Vietcong in Vietnam or the Soviets in Stalingrad, this allowed them to escape quickly and covertly from an engagement and reappear in an unexpected location.

Colombian military launches new “elite” unit to counter NARCOs, rebels
Filipino Marines conduct a fire mission with 81mm mortars (AFP)

Fighting continued through June with the AFP announcing that it had killed over 200 militants. Still, resistance in the city was stiff and Marawi seemed no closer to being secured. Additionally, an estimated 2,000 civilians remained trapped in the city. On the morning of June 25, a unilateral ceasefire began in recognition of the Islamic holiday of Eid. This allowed Muslims on both sides of the fighting to observe the end of the month-long period of Ramadan. It also gave many civilians the opportunity to escape. Despite the ceasefire, militant snipers continued to engage AFP positions. At the end of the ceasefire, combat operations resumed in full.

In addition to technical support from the United States in hunting the wanted terrorist leaders, the Philippines accepted the aid of the Australians. Two AP-3C Orion surveillance planes were sent to the Philippines to support the battle. By July, AFP reported nearly 400 militants had been killed and over 700 civilians had been rescued. Still, 93 AFP service members were KIA and at least 45 civilians were dead.

On July 20, AFP forces scored a major strategic victory. Mapandi bridge, which provides access to Marawi’s commercial center, was retaken. This allowed AFP armored vehicles to push further into the city. Intense close-quarter fighting continued in the city’s rubble. IEDs and militant snipers made progress slow and deadly. However, AFP forces scored a major victory when Abdullah Maute was killed in an airstrike on August 7. His death was a morale boost for the weary Filipino troops who had been engaged in heavy and constant combat for months.

Colombian military launches new “elite” unit to counter NARCOs, rebels
The fighting demolished much of the city (AFP)

On August 18, the AFP announced that the combat zone had been reduced to an area covering 800×600 meters. Still, this section of the city contained 400 buildings which would have to be cleared one-by-one in search of Hapilon and Omar Maute.

By September, the combat zone had been reduced to an area of 500 square meters. However, these gains came at a high cost. Hundreds of Filipino troops had been wounded and dozens killed. On September 24, the last key bridge in Marawi was captured by the AFP, effectively isolating the remaining militants. Although Islamic representatives lobbied for a peace agreement, the Philippine government rejected them, saying that it was too little, too late. They would accept nothing less than total victory over the terrorists. In October, a major development occurred that would help bring the fighting to an end.

A hostage who had been held by Hapilon and Maute managed to escape to AFP lines and informed them of the location of the terrorist leaders. Army Special Forces Command quickly planned a top-tier operation. Elements of the 1st Scout Ranger Regiment and the Light Reaction Regiment, modeled after the 75th Ranger Regiment and Delta Force respectively, were tasked with clearing the suspected location and killing or capturing Hapilon and Maute. Trained by their American counterparts, these were the best men for the job. Supported by armored fighting vehicles, the commandos executed the operation on October 16.

Colombian military launches new “elite” unit to counter NARCOs, rebels
Soldiers of the Light Reaction Regiment in Marawi (AFP)

As the special forces troops assaulted the target building, Hapilon and Maute escaped out the back. However, they were engaged by the remainder of the commandos and the armored vehicles who had secured the rear of the building. Maute was almost immediately killed by the .50-cal gunner in one of the vehicles. However, the gunner was unable it identify the fleeing militant as Maute through his thermal sight. Meanwhile, Hapilon was engaged by Ranger sniper teams who struck him three times in the chest. Despite going down, Hapilon harmlessly returned fire until he succumbed to his wounds.

The commandos killed a further 8 militants in securing the target building. 17 hostages including women, children, and a 2-month-old baby, were rescued. There were no AFP or civilian casualties. Once the target area was secure, the commandos went through the bodies and identified Hapilon and Maute. The announcement of their deaths was met with celebration across Marawi. DNA samples were sent to the FBI in the United States who confirmed the identities of the terrorist leaders.

The next day, President Duterte flew down to Marawi and declared the city’s liberation from the Islamic state. Fighting continued until October 23, exactly five months from the start of the battle, when the last pockets of ASG and Maute fighters were eliminated. The victory was hard-won. 168 Philippine service members were killed and over 1,400 were wounded. Sadly, 87 civilians also lost their lives during the five months of fighting. Still, 978 militants were killed and 12 were captured. The Battle of Marawi dealt a major blow to ASG and all but eliminated Maute group.

Colombian military launches new “elite” unit to counter NARCOs, rebels
Philippine Scout Rangers in Marawi (AFP)

Marawi itself suffered greatly. 95% of structures in the 4 square kilometer combat zone were damaged, if not completely destroyed. This left 200,000 civilians displaced. The battle was the most intense and destructive in the Philippines since WWII. Rehabilitation and recovery efforts continue to this day.

The Battle of Marawi was the ultimate failure for ISIS in southeast Asia and a display of strength and unity for the Filipino people. ASG and Maute group were unable to establish their caliphate. Moreover, the Filipino people, Muslims, Christians, soldiers, and civilians alike, stood side-by-side against the violence and terror brought upon them and prevailed.

Colombian military launches new “elite” unit to counter NARCOs, rebels
Filipino soldiers clear a building in Marawi (AFP)
Intel

Air Force General: Field this next-gen fighter in time to beat China

The Air Force must field its Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) fighter soon if it wants to compete with China, the general in charge of the service’s fighter fleet said Friday.

Gen. Mark Kelly, head of Air Combat Command, said that he is “confident” that adversaries like China, facing this new technology, “will suffer a very tough day and tough week and tough war.”

“What I don’t know, and what we’re working with our great partners, is if our nation will have the courage and the focus to field this capability before someone like the Chinese fields it and uses it against us,” he said during a virtual chat with reporters at the Air Force Association’s annual Aerospace Warfare Symposium.

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In September, the Air Force revealed it had quietly built and flown a brand-new aircraft prototype that could become a future advanced fighter jet. Officials have said NGAD defies traditional categorization as a single aircraft platform or technology. Instead, it’s made up of a network of advanced fighter aircraft, sensors and weapons in a growing and unpredictable threat environment.Advertisement

The NGAD program could also include fighters and autonomous drones fighting side-by-side, officials have said.

“We just need to make sure we keep our narrative up and articulate the unambiguous benefit we’ve had as a nation to have that leading-edge technology ensuring we have air superiority for the nation and the joint force,” Kelly said.

When asked how close the Air Force was to fielding NGAD, Kelly demurred.

The Air Force is developing NGAD alongside a future fighter road map. In an ongoing “TacAir study,” Air Force officials are trying to determine the right mix of aircraft for the future inventory, and assessing how future fighter concepts would fit into the current mix of fourth- and fifth-generation fighters.

“This study will give us that 10-to-15-year lens … so we’re not trying to deal with it day by day, week by week, year by year,” Kelly said Friday.

The Air Force wants to outline specific mission sets for its aircraft where it can. Deploying high-end fighters like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter or F-22 Raptor for a routine allied patrol mission, for instance, is costly overkill.

Lockheed Martin, the F-35’s manufacturer, estimates the jet’s cost per flight hour at $36,000, with a goal of reducing it to $25,000 by the end of 2025, company officials said this week. That adds up, Kelly said.

Cost aside, Kelly said the F-35’s role as premiere, multirole combat jet remains unchanged, despite discussions of new fighter development.

“It’s still going to be a centerpiece of much of what our Air Force does for decades to come,” he said.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles “CQ” Brown this week disputed reports that the F-35 was a high-cost Pentagon failure, saying that was “nowhere near the case.”

Brown told reporters on Feb. 17 that the Air Force isn’t ruling out bringing a new fighter jet into its inventory as it looks to replace older, fourth-generation F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft, also made by Lockheed.

Since the inception of the Joint Strike Fighter program, the Air Force has held that older Falcons should be replaced by the fifth-gen F-35 Lightning II. Some critics viewed Brown’s comments last week as foreshadowing the stealth jet’s demise.

The Air Force is the largest customer for the F-35, and hopes to procure 1,763 F-35 A-variants. But according to Aviation Week, future budgets could limit the inventory. The magazine reported in December that the service might cap its total F-35 buy at 1,050 fighters.

Neither Brown nor Kelly addressed how many F-35s the service would ultimately end up with during this week’s conference.

The chief added NGAD and the F-35 are not comparable from a programmatic and funding standpoint.

“As far as NGAD versus F-35, we’re not going to take money from the F-35 to [fund] the NGAD,” Brown said Thursday.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

Intel

These are the real-life wars that inspired ‘Game of Thrones’

The medieval series of wars between the House of York and the House of Lancaster for control of England’s throne inspired HBO’s hit TV series “Game Of Thrones.” These squabbles became known as the “Wars of the Roses” because both sides used roses to symbolize their family. The House of York was represented by a white rose and the House of Lancaster by a red rose.


Although the fighting officially lasted from 1455 to 1487, there was so much drama that related fighting broke out before and after this period. This short video describes the power struggle, complex motives and shifting loyalties between the two families.

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Intel

Powerful video shows the special friendship between a US soldier and an Iraqi child

In 2005, Army Spc. Justin Cliburn befriended two local boys while deployed to Iraq with the Oklahoma National Guard that he will never forget.


“Once I met these children it made every day something to look forward to,” said Cliburn in the StoryCorps video below. “We would play rock, paper, scissors, we would kick around a soccer ball. We were about as close as people that don’t speak the same language can be. I had never been really good with children and this was the first time I felt I loved someone who wasn’t my family member.”

Things changed when the nature of war took its course. This touching video shows how friendships form in the unlikeliest places and the lasting impressions they leave:

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