The SR-71 is one of the greatest planes ever made and no military jet has beaten or matched its capabilities since it was retired in 1989.
“It’s the world’s fastest, it holds all the speed records, it goes higher than any other airplane in the world,” said retired Air Force Col. Rich Graham in the video below. “It flew across the entire United States in 64 minutes.”
That being said, flying this bird took more than the typical pilot gear and pre-flight preparations. Traveling at 80,000 feet meant that crews could not use a standard mask and flight suit. They wore specialized protective suits and helmets. Every flight was subject to a series of meticulous steps before, during, and after any mission.
Col. Rich Graham is one of the few people who flew the SR-71, and he explains what a typical mission aboard the Blackbird was like in this video.
The US faces myriad conventional and unconventional threats: Russia, North Korea, Iran, terrorist organizations, climate change, and pandemics are just some of them. Yet, China unquestionably rises to the top as the primary danger to U.S. national security.
Earlier in 2021, Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines stated in Congress that Beijing has become an unparalleled priority for the U.S. Intelligence Community. Indeed, China has become a near-peer competitor that is increasingly challenging the U.S. in multiple domains, all the while trying to revise international norms and adjust them to the Chinese Communist Party’s authoritarian capitalistic system.
According to FBI Director Christopher Wray, the Bureau opens a new counterintelligence investigation related to China every 10 hours, with more than 2,000 current active cases. The majority of these cases relate to economic espionage, which has seen a 1,300% increase in the last few years.
To effectively challenge and surpass the U.S., China needs a robust economy, leadership in technology, and global legitimacy for its political system and policies. Key to achieving these goals is the Chinese intelligence apparatus.
Chinese Espionage: The Dragon’s Eyes and Ears
The Ministry of State Security (MSS) is responsible for the majority of Chinese intelligence operations, with the Chinese military standing in at times, especially in cyber espionage operations.
Chinese intelligence operations are diverse and multi-layered, encompassing all available tools and sectors. State-owned companies, private firms (legitimate and non-), think tanks, non-governmental organizations, researchers, and students, in addition to the increasingly more prevalent cyber operations, are all used in this multi-prong intelligence collection approach. Beijing certainly has the capabilities and the numbers to pursue such a strategy. The Chinese military alone fields approximately 40,000 cyber troops, compared to the just 6,000 that the U.S. Cyber Command can deploy.
China seeks to become the world’s next superpower, dethroning the U.S. and tearing apart the rules-based international system that American and its allies have built since the end of World War Two. To achieve this goal, Beijing primarily goes after economic, industrial, and technological targets that will offer a competitive advantage to the Chinese economic and technological sector. Whether it’s stolen blueprints of American (and foreign, including Russian) aircraft, such as the F-35 or F-22, or missile technology, China is using espionage to fuel its economic furnaces.
These intelligence operations pose a grave threat to U.S. national security and economic prosperity. In a recent interview Mike Orlando, the Acting Director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, stated that Chinese espionage costs the U.S. between $200 to $600 billion a year in stolen intellectual property. And this is something that has been happening for the past two decades, which would mean a loss of $4 trillion, on the low end, to $12 trillion, on the high end; an astounding loss either way.
“The holistic and comprehensive threat to the United States, posed by the Communist Party of China is an existential threat. And it is the most complex, pernicious, aggressive, and strategic threat our nation has ever faced,” Bill Evanina, the former director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, recently told the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.
Both China and Russia take a whole-of-government or whole-of-nation approach to national security. Everything is on the table and nothing is off-limits. Businesses, universities, and individuals are expected to assist the government. In China, under the National Security Law, every business and citizen is required to cooperate with the military and intelligence services and assist the regime in any way possible.
What this means in practice is that when a Chinese student comes to the U.S. to study, he or she will be required to share their research or any information and technology that they might have access to with the Chinese intelligence services. They will also be required to observe and gauge their countrymen also studying at the same institution and report any dissident behavior.
Conversely, there is not such a whole-of-government or whole-of-nation approach in the U.S. For example, Apple won’t create vulnerabilities in its devices and software so the NSA or FBI can access them more easily to conduct surveillance against foreign (in the case of the NSA) or domestic (in the case of the FBI) targets. Indeed, American businesses have the option to work with the military or Intelligence Community but aren’t required to. That’s a strategic disadvantage—but also an institutional and moral advantage.
Economic Espionage: Stealing Ideas and Tech
In order to surpass the U.S., China needs to continue its economic growth and technologically outmatch the U.S. and the rest of the West. However, instead of relying on innovation and invention, China prefers to steal technology and then copy it.
China is targeting and stealing “transport technologies,” such as quantum computing, autonomous vehicles, artificial intelligence, biotechnology, and 5G. Although there is a military application for all of these technologies, the commercial and economic value is equally important to Beijing in its bid to become a superpower.
The Chinese also use talent acquisition programs to attract top talent to China, not unlike any other nation. But while innocuous at the face of it, these programs often require the stealing of technology from the previous company to provide to the hiring Chinese one as a part of that process.
“So if you look back 20 years ago, what we were most concerned about was intelligence services targeting the U.S. government for classified information or targeting DOD technologies. And what we’ve seen over the last 20 years is the shift to private sector intellectual property research and development, particularly by China, who has been the most egregious one in stealing those technologies. And we’ve also seen their capabilities of China and Russia move from not only the human operations, but to cyber operations and to technical collection that has made it a difficult target to work,” Orlando added.
It’s worth noting that the U.S. Intelligence Community collects foreign intelligence just like the Chinese MSS. However, it’s the issue of how this intelligence is used that differentiates the two. Beijing won’t—and doesn’t— hesitate from collecting intelligence and stealing secrets to advance its economic purposes, including Chinese corporations, in addition to its national security.
The majority of countries employ their intelligence services in a similar manner. The French, for example, are historically notorious for their industrial and economic espionage, even against the U.S. Conversely, the U.S. collects foreign intelligence for national security purposes, rather than to share it with American corporations so that they can have a competitive advantage over their international competitors.
A Shift in Intelligence Collection
To further complicate matters, U.S. counterintelligence officers have seen a shift from more traditional espionage operations to non-traditional ones. Historically, countries have used two methods of human intelligence espionage: official cover and non-official cover.
Official cover is when an intelligence officer is assigned to an embassy or consulate abroad under a diplomatic role, for instance, as political officers or consular officers. In addition to their diplomatic duties, these officers perform their intelligence duties during the day or at night. Although they are known to the local country—and other countries—and are restricted by their secondary diplomatic tasks, they do enjoy diplomatic immunity if they are caught.
Non-official cover is when an intelligence officer deploys under a fake name and backstory, pretending to be someone he or she isn’t. This approach offers more flexibility to the intelligence officer as local counterintelligence officials and security services are less likely to suspect and thus monitor him or her. The use of non-official cover, or “Illegals,” as some countries call them, came into public view rather dramatically in 2010 with the arrest of 10 Russian intelligence officers who had been operating inside the U.S. for decades.
Now there seems to be a third category that, although it has always existed, never used to surpass those standard approaches in volume of use. Non-traditional collectors aren’t trained intelligence officers of the SVR, GRU, or MSS but rather businessmen, researchers, and students who have legitimate jobs or conduct genuine research. They use their innocuous-looking credentials to act as surrogates or proxies for their intelligence services.
The case of Maria Butina, who was arrested and convicted for being a Russian agent in 2018, is a great example of this approach. Under the genuine guise of a graduate student at the American University, Butina infiltrated conservative and NRA circles seeking to assess and develop targets.
As the above examples show, the Chinese intelligence efforts are formidable and worth taking very seriously.
Retired Marine Gen. James Mattis wants Post 9/11 veterans to know their wartime service strengthens their character through what he has coined “post-traumatic growth.”
Writing in The Wall Street Journal, the former Centcom commander adapted a speech he gave recently in San Francisco that is a must-read for veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. In it, he writes of how veterans should reject a “victimhood” mentality and ask for nothing more than a level playing field after they return home.
For whatever trauma came with service in tough circumstances, we should take what we learned—take our post-traumatic growth—and, like past generations coming home, bring our sharpened strengths to bear, bring our attitude of gratitude to bear. And, most important, we should deny cynicism a role in our view of the world.
We know that in tough times cynicism is just another way to give up, and in the military we consider cynicism or giving up simply as forms of cowardice. No matter how bad any situation, cynicism has no positive impact. Watching the news, you might notice that cynicism and victimhood often seem to go hand-in-hand, but not for veterans. People who have faced no harsh trials seem to fall into that mode, unaware of what it indicates when taking refuge from responsibility for their actions. This is an area where your example can help our society rediscover its courage and its optimism.
Well-known and especially beloved by Marines, the 64-year-old general retired from the service in 2013 after 41 years in uniform. Since then, he has been teaching at Dartmouth and Stanford University, offered testimony to Congress, and started work on a book on leadership and strategy.
“I am reminded of Gen. William Sherman’s words when bidding farewell to his army in 1865: ‘As in war you have been good soldiers, so in peace you will make good citizens,'” Mattis wrote.
It was in the opening days of Operation Desert Storm on Jan. 19, 1991 when fighter jets were roaring through Iraqi airspace, and anti-aircraft crews were waiting for them with surface-to-air missiles (SAM). For Air Force Maj. ET Tullia, it was an unforgettable mission that saw him cheating death not once, but six times.
According to Lucky-Devils, a military website that recounts much of the engagement, U.S. F-16s were trying to attack a rocket production facility north of Baghdad. The account continues:
As the flight approached the Baghdad IP, AAA [Anti-Aircraft Artillery] began firing at tremendous rates. Most of the AAA was at 10-12,000ft (3,658m), but there were some very heavy, large calibre explosions up to 27,000ft (8,230m). Low altitude AAA became so thick it appeared to be an undercast. At this time, the 388th TFW F-16’s were hitting the Nuclear Research Centre outside of the city, and the Weasels had fired off all their HARMs in support of initial parts of the strike and warnings to the 614th F-16’s going further into downtown went unheard.
Many of the F-16 pilots that day had to deal with SAM missiles locking on to them, and were forced to take evasive maneuvers. Maj. Tullia (Callsign: Stroke 3) had to dodge six of those missiles, at times banking and breathing so hard that he was losing his vision.
Again, via Lucky-Devils:
Meanwhile, ET became separated from the rest of the package because of his missile defensive break turns. As he defeats the missiles coming off the target, additional missiles are fired, this time, from either side of the rear quadrants of his aircraft. Training for SAM launches up to this point had been more or less book learning, recommending a pull to an orthogonal flight path 4 seconds prior to missile impact to overshoot the missile and create sufficient miss distance to negate the effects of the detonating warhead. Well, it works. The hard part though, is to see the missile early enough to make all the mental calculations.
The following video apparently shows footage through the view of Tullia’s heads-up display that day, and around the 3:00 mark, you can hear the warning beeps that a missile is locked on. Although the video is a bit grainy, the real focus should be on the hair-raising radio chatter, which, coupled with his heavy breathing, makes you realize that fighter pilots need to be in peak physical condition to do what they do.
The military command responsible for defending the the US and Canada from attack responded to more Russian military flights near Alaska last year than any year since the end of the Cold War, the four-star general leading the command said Tuesday.
US Air Force Gen. Glen VanHerck, head of North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), told the Senate Armed Services Committee in written testimony that “Russia continues to conduct frequent military operations in the approaches to North America.”
“Last year,” the general told lawmakers Tuesday, “NORAD responded to more Russian military flights off the coast of Alaska than we’ve seen in any year since the end of the Cold War.” These flights involved heavy bombers, anti-submarine aircraft, and intelligence assets.
VanHerck said that the Russian military flights near Alaska “show both Russia’s military reach and how they rehearse potential strikes on our homeland.”
The Russian military aircraft, which include Tu-160 and Tu-95 long-range bombers, Tu-142 anti-submarine warfare aircraft, Il-38 maritime patrol aircraft, and A-50 early warning and control planes that are regularly accompanied by Su-35 fighters, are typically intercepted by US Air Force F-22 Raptors assigned to NORAD whenever they fly into the Alaskan Air Defense Identification Zone.
No Russian military aircraft has at any point breached US or Canadian airspace, which extends out to 12 nautical miles from the US coastline.
Russian long-range air patrols were fairly common during the Cold War but became less frequent in the aftermath. In recent years, these flights have again become frequent occurrences.
The US military also conducts bomber flights near Russia, which have prompted the Russian military to scramble interceptor aircraft in response.
In addition to frequent military flights near Alaska, the Russian Navy also conducted exercises focused on maritime approaches in the Arctic and Pacific. The drills also involved anti-submarine patrols and anti-ship cruise missile launches in the US exclusive economic zone, an area that extends out 200 miles from a country’s coastline.
In his written testimony, VanHerck asserted that “Russia presents a persistent, proximate threat to the United States and Canada and remains the most acute challenge to our homeland defense mission.”
VanHerck argued that Russian leaders “seek to erode our influence, assert their regional dominance, and reclaim their status as a global power through a whole-of-government strategy that includes information operations, deception, economic coercion, and the threat of military force.”
The general said that should the US wind up in conflict with Russia, “we should expect Russia to employ its broad range of advanced capabilities—nonkinetic, conventional, and nuclear—to threaten our critical infrastructure in an attempt to limit our ability to project forces and to attempt to compel de-escalation.”
He also called attention to Russian newer offensive capabilities such as advanced cyber and counterspace weapons, as well as hypersonic weapons.
VanHerck told the Senate Armed Services Committee in the coming years, “Russia hopes to field a series of even more advanced weapons intended to ensure its ability to deliver nuclear weapons to the United States,” pointing to the Poseidon torpedo, one of several “doomsday” weapons Russian President Vladimir Putin touted a few years ago.
The general’s comments come as the US military focuses intently on China, which Department of Defense leadership has called “the pacing challenge” for the US. The Biden administration has repeatedly made a point of identifying China as the priority challenge.
In 2011, the U.S. government spent about $718 billion on defense. That’s nearly half of all military spending on the planet. The other top 13 nations combined spent $695 billion.
While the yearly budget is spread out according to defense needs, some projects take the lion share. Case in point are weapon systems like the Virginia Class Submarine with a procurement cost of $76.6 billion and the V-22 Osprey at $95.2 billion. Although costly, they aren’t the most expensive military mega-projects of all time. Here’s the list:
1. Nazi Germany’s Atlantic Wall
Final cost: unknown
Although the final cost was never determined, the French portion alone would have cost $200 billion when adjusted for inflation.
Weapons that have uncontrollable effects or cause unjustifiable suffering are banned from being used in war. These weapons are so insidious that more than 115 nations have signed The Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) also known as the Inhumane Weapons Convention.
Despite the CCW and various other treaties that prohibit these weapons, some countries continue to use them. This video shows the types of weapons that are illegal under the CCW and why.
Last month Evander Holyfield turned 53, but instead of swimming in birthday gifts, it was he who was doing the giving. The former heavyweight boxing champ teamed up with Don Mann, a former Navy SEAL Team 6 member and founder of Frogman Charities, to raise $1,000,000 for SEAL veterans and their families.
The non-profit’s mission is to register participants for a self-paced 5K of either walking, running, biking, or paddling and making a donation.
“They get a medal, award, certificate, and the money goes to support these charities among the SEAL organizations,” Mann said in the NBC video below. “These charities support the active duty folks with PTSD or combat-related injuries and wounds. It supports families who’ve lost husbands and fathers.”
The former champ didn’t just decide to support these charities out of the blue, it turns out his father was a veteran and joining the Navy was plan B if his boxing career didn’t take off.
These are 10 of the most memorable scenes in movies that feature nuclear bomb explosions.
Ever since the advent of nukes, Hollywood has been fascinated with its destructive force. The big explosion is usually the climax of any movie featuring these doomsday weapons. From 1964’s Dr. Strangelove to the latest installment of Christopher Nolan’s Batman, here are some of the best nuclear blasts in movies, according to WatchMojo.
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:
A new short film created by the U.S. Air Force has been nominated for an Emmy Award.
Produced by Airman Magazine, the two-minute video captures the harrowing challenges airmen face during SERE training. “The Perfect Edge” compares the Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape program that airmen undergo to the process of forging a survival knife, and the parallel is visually striking.
It features real footage of participants engaging in the intense wilderness survival and physical training exercises at SERE, along with narration by Senior Airman Joseph Collett, an instructor at the school.
Bryan Sperry left college football at Kansas State to serve in World War II. At 19, he was an infantryman in the Battle of the Bulge. After the war, Sperry returned to the game. He played football in England for a short period before making it back to the states and playing for Kansas University. He and the KU team went on to play in the 1948 Orange Bowl and only lost one game, the Orange Bowl, that whole season.
On April 25, KU held an alumni scrimmage with players from the 1948 team and Sperry, 70 years after his last KU appearance, scored an over 30-yard touchdown. The video of the touchdown is below. For the full story, check out the article in the Kansas City Star.
As anti-ISIS forces retake Mosul and march on Raqqa, more and more of the terror group’s mystique is falling away. It’s hard to be the international bogeyman when your forces are suffering defeats across your caliphate.
But one of ISIS’s most prominent battlefield weapons is still deadly frightening, the armored vehicle-borne improvised explosive device. While VBIEDs were already common in Iraq and Afghanistan, ISIS upped the ante by creating especially effective armored versions and then employing them like artillery — softening their enemy’s lines and breaking up attacks.
For the Iraqi Army, the Kurdish Peshmerga, and other anti-ISIS forces, understanding these weapons is a matter of life or death. But typically, the weapons are destroyed before they can be captured, either because the soldiers hit it with a rocket, tank, or artillery round, or because the operator triggers his explosive cargo.
This makes it relatively rare that a suicide vehicle is captured intact. But there have been a few, and Sky News got the chance to tour one of these captured vehicles during the Iraqi military’s initial punch into Mosul.
The vehicle, captured by Kurdish Peshmerga, had been heavily modified with the removal of any unnecessary weight, the addition of thick, heavy armor, and the installation of a massive amount of explosives.
See the full tour of the vehicle in the video below: