The Greek town of Vrontados on the island of Chios has an Easter tradition they call Rouketopolemos, which literally means Rocket War.
This annual event pits two rival parishes against each other by firing tens of thousands of home-made rockets at the opposing side’s bell tower. The next day, both congregations count the direct hits to determine the winner, but no matter the results, each parish claims victory. Since both sides end in disagreement, they agree to settle the score next year, thus perpetuating the rivalry.
The origins of this tradition are unclear, but one popular story states that it was born from the Turkish occupation of Greece. People from the island were prohibited from celebrating Easter the way they used to. So, the Christians from the churches of San Maria and San Marco decided to have a fake war with rockets to keep the Turkish away. Frightened by the sudden violence, the Turkish kept their distance. In the meantime, the communities celebrated Easter they way they were accustomed to, according to Rocketwar.
The midnight rocket war is truly a spectacle, the action begins at 3:40 of this video:
The U.S. Navy Research team published a video on Wednesday showing off the capabilities of its new “Laser Weapon System” or LaWS, and it’s terrifying. It shoots a 30 kilowatt blast within 2 nanometers of its target according to Defense One.
Simply put, it’s an oversized laser pointer on steroids.
The video starts with a time lapse of the weapon aboard a Navy ship while a boat appears over the horizon. It quickly cuts to an operator housed somewhere within the vessel. He’s standing in front of several screens holding what looks like a glorified X-Box controller. A blast is fired but there’s no bang, no smoke, no projectile, and no tracer, all you see is an explosion.
The video switches to a camera aboard the approaching boat for a close-up of the target. It’s a small stack of shells next to a cut-out of a human. The stack is precisely destroyed without damaging the wooden dummy.
Maybe I’ve seen too many comic book movies, but this is like X-Men’s Cyclops with an invisible laser beam.
Defense One reported that this is the Navy’s answer to drone attacks. Drones are becoming cheaper and more accessible, we’ve had them for years, but now American adversaries have begun to roll out their own versions. The LaWS will hopefully help the Navy keep drones at bay.
According to the Office of Naval Research, this isn’t the final version of the weapon. A more powerful 150-kilowatt version is scheduled for testing in 2016.
Stanley Kubrick’s “Full Metal Jacket” is arguably one of the most influential military movies of all time. It’s the movie would-be troops romanticize about before enlisting in the military and it’s certainly the movie they watch to mentally prepare themselves before shipping off to boot camp to face their drill instructors.
However, as iconic as this 1987 film has become, it almost didn’t turn out that way. This 30-minute video shows how Full Metal Jacket was made and what the cast and crew did to “get it right.” There are plenty of interesting tidbits, like how relatively unknown actor Vincent D’Onofrio initially didn’t even want to do the film, and why a horrific scene between “Animal Mother” and the sniper was cut out.
The Syrian war is a mess, and it doesn’t seem to be getting better any time soon.
Hundreds of thousands of people have died, millions have been displaced and a new terror group has emerged called ISIS. What started off as a civil war is now a proxy war dividing most of the Middle East that has drawn in both Russia and the United States.
This Vox video attempts to decipher the tangled web of who’s fighting who and why in Syria.
It is one thing to admire a 125 pound Belgian Malinois Military Working Dog from a distance. It is quite another to let it attack you for an Air Force training exercise.
Freelance writer Justin W. Coffey was brave enough to take the road less traveled. After visiting the K-9 kennel on the U.S. Air Force base in Japan where he lives, a Security Forces Commander asked if he was interested in letting one of the animals try and rip him to shreds. Intrigued, he conceded, and wrote about his adventure so readers like us could experience the incident without actually getting throttled by a killer dog.
Coffey shared his experience of getting attacked by Fritz the dog with Gizmodo:
It was 95 degrees out, so donning the heavily padded safety suit felt like putting on a sauna. After my first encounter with Fritz, I was happy to be wearing it. Sh–, I’d have worn two if it was possible.
The first thing they had me do was hold my arm out while the dog sat there, patiently awaiting its orders. It’s an odd feeling to have an animal as powerful as this one look at you in anger. And suddenly, before you can even blink, he’s on you, with his teeth sunk into the suit’s arm. They told me to fight, to throw my arm back and forth, to pull up if I could. The idea is to try and prevent the dog from “typewritering,” moving his bite up and down your arm. Being that Fritz is just 25lbs shy of my weight, his bite and subsequent thrashing threw me around like a rag doll.
“Fight back!” The handlers screamed. “Keep him from biting your hand!” It was all in vain; I was typewritered.
They shouted some abrupt orders that I couldn’t understand and Fritz let go, tongue wagging, eagerly awaiting his next command.
“Say something mean to the dog and then run away!” The handlers instructed. “You need to provoke him, it’ll make the pursuit more realistic.”
Alright. “F–k you Fritz!” And I ran, as fast as I could.
To read more about Coffey’s intense encounter, check out photos and the full article at Gizmodo
Cedric Terrell’s photography studio is full of energy, creativity, and stunningly beautiful people, inside and out.
The photographer and former Marine captures gorgeous profiles of anyone from everywhere. This guy is straight up talented. After seven years with the USMC, Cedric is running his own studio with offices in New York, Washington D.C., and Los Angeles. Learn more about Cedric in the videos below.
ISIS militants have begun deploying aerial mines made of condoms and small packages of explosives, according to a report from Russia Insider, a Pro-Russian volunteer media outlet. The prophylactics are filled with a lighter-than-air gas and floated into the sky near Idlib, Syria.
There’s speculation that the bombs are actually being deployed by other militant groups. Popular Science pointed out that Idlib is controlled by the al-Nusra Front, not ISIS. Rebel factions fighting against Assad like al-Nusra have been the primary target of Russia’s bombing campaign in the area and it may be them resorting to extreme measures to try and get out from under the constant airstrikes.
The mines would be largely ineffective against the jets that conduct most of the attacks since the bombers fly at such a high altitude. They may have better luck against Russian helicopters that fly close to the ground, but it’s still a desperate action that’s unlikely to be successful. Protection from STDs and protection from aerial attacks don’t normally require the same equipment.
When the Air Force tells its pilots to “aim high,” they sure as heck mean it. In a bid to offset its persistent pilot retention woes, the Air Force is reportedly offering its aviators a bonus of up to $420,000 to stay in uniform.
The payments are to be doled out over time or in lump sums, and vary in their value according to different types of aircraft. For example: bomber, fighter, special operations, air mobility, and combat search and rescue fixed-wing pilots can receive an additional $25,000 annually for contracts lasting five to seven years, and up to $35,000 annually for contract lengths of eight to 12 years.
Those pilots also have the option to receive a lump sum payment of $100,000 for the five-to-seven-year contracts and $200,000 for the eight-to-12-year contracts.
Remotely piloted aircraft pilots can receive the same benefits, except they can only opt for a $100,000 lump sum payout for contract lengths of eight to 12 years. Combat search and rescue rotary-wing pilots are set to receive annual bonus payments of $15,000 for contracts lasting five to seven years, and up to $25,000 annually for contract lengths of eight to 12 years.
The stress of more than two decades of constant combat deployments has spurred many Air Force pilots to hang up their spurs, so to speak, and head for the airlines or other civilian careers. In March 2020, the Air Force reported that it was 2,100 pilots short of the 21,000 required to execute the National Defense Strategy.
In its fiscal year 2021 budget request to Congress, the Air Force described its crop of pilots as “a force that remains inspired to serve, but are nevertheless stressed by nearly two decades of sustained combat.”
The bonuses are intended to keep pilots in the Air Force. However, with the commercial airline industry in turmoil from the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of pilots looking to leave the service may already be set to decrease in the coming years. Nevertheless, the diminished pull of the commercial aviation economy could be offset if the tempo of military operations ticks up again in the coming years.
“Retention of these valued aviators remains at risk should operational demands continue to outpace our available force structure, shifting the burden of a high operations tempo onto our already stressed aircrew,” the Air Force budget document added.
To make up the pilot shortfall, the Air Force is also looking to add more pilots; the service’s stated goal is to train 1,480 new aircrew annually by 2024.
“Increasing production of new aviators remains the most significant lever we have to arrest aircrew shortages,” the Air Force stated.
To ramp up its pilot “production,” the Air Force is experimenting with an expedited pilot training curriculum for certain types of aircraft.
The Accelerated Path to Wings program trains transport pilots in about seven months, as opposed to the traditional 12-month undergraduate pilot training program. The expedited curriculum cuts flight time in the T-6 Texan II aircraft — which includes training in aerobatics and other skills that aren’t necessarily essential to pilots of large transport aircraft. Rather, Accelerated Path to Wings student pilots perform all their training in the T-1A Jayhawk.
The Air Force is also experimenting with “augmented reality training” to accelerate the pilot training curriculum and cut down on costs.
In January 2015, Logos announced that the company was issued a second grant to develop a prototype in partnership with Alta. The Logos-Alta team named their concept dirt bike SilentHawk and plan to have an operational prototype in 18 months. Here’s a concept rendering of what it looks like:
According to War Is Boring, the SilentHawk runs on a hybrid-electric drone engine and can use three different fuels – gasoline, diesel, and JP-8, a type of jet fuel. Since the combustion side isn’t silent, operators will have to switch to the electric battery when they want to be stealthy.
DARPA has been interested in silenced motorcycles as stealthy, quick, insertion and extraction vehicles for quite some time. According to Defense Industry Daily, Air Force teams have been shoving dirt bikes out of planes since 2010, and the Marine Corps has been training troops on third party vendors since 2012.
Zero Motorcycles toyed with the idea and developed the Zero MMX, but it didn’t work out. DARPA pulled their funding because the battery only lasted two hours.
“Moving to Israel was like lighting a fire under (his) drive,” Raskin said. “He wanted to squeeze every last drop out of every minute out of every hour out of every day.”
He joined the Israel Defense Forces in his early 20s and tried out for the Sayeret Matkal, the secretive unit known for the famed 1976 rescue raid on Uganda’s Entebbe Airport. Later he used his love of algorithms and formulas to found Akamai, a tech company that played a big part in making the Internet faster.
Lewin rode the ups and downs of the early days of the Internet’s boom and bust, and on 9/11 he was headed to Los Angeles to sit down with other Akamai execs to discuss ways to cut costs. He was seated in 9B, which put him near the front, in the area where the terrorists were seated. Before the airplane hit the North Tower of the World Trade Center, flight attendants were able to relay that he’d been the first passenger stabbed to death. That fact makes it plausible, based on his understanding of Arabic and his self-defense training, that he was fighting two of the terrorists when he was attacked from behind by a third terrorist he didn’t realize was there.
As Todd Leopold writes at CNN, “Friends have always pondered the what-ifs. Lewin may have finished his Ph.D., something that always nagged at him. Friends thought he could have entered Israeli politics. Or he could have become a high-tech household name, like Bill Gates or Steve Jobs.”
“Those who knew him feel like the world was robbed,” says Raskin. “He was always searching for something greater.”
Here’s a video about Lewin’s short but productive and rewarding life:
In the movies, secret agents face their adversaries with guns, weapons, and flashy cars. And they’re so proficient in hand-to-hand combat that they can bring enemies to their knees with the right choke hold or take them down with a well-placed aimed shot. As much as I’d like to think I was that cool, in reality, life in the CIA is much more pedantic.
What most people don’t know is that the CIA is really a massive sorting agency. Intelligence officers must sift through mountains of data in an effort to determine what is authentic and useful, versus what should be discarded. We must consider the subtleties of language and the nuance of the nonverbal. We must unwind a complicated stream of intelligence by questioning everything. In the counterterrorism realm, this process has to be quick; we have to weed out bad information with alacrity. We can’t afford to make mistakes when it comes to the collection, processing, dissemination, and evaluation of terrorism intelligence. As we say in the CIA, “The terrorists only have to get it right once, but we have to be right every time.”
Contained in that massive flow is an incredible amount of useless, inaccurate, misleading, or fabricated information. The amount of bad reporting that is peddled, not only to the CIA but to intelligence agencies all over the world, is mind-boggling.
That’s precisely why one of the greatest challenges we faced as counterterrorism experts was figuring out who was giving us solid intelligence and who wasn’t. And when we were dealing with terrorists, getting it wrong could mean someone’s death.
In early 2007 when Iraq was awash with violence, many Iraqis who had formerly counted the United States as the Great Satan for occupying their country switched sides and were willing to work with Coalition Forces against Iraqi terrorists. Brave locals were rebelling against al-Qa’ida’s brutal tactics and were doing whatever they could to take back the streets from these thugs. This was a turning point in the war. Our counterterrorism efforts became wildly successful, fueled by accurate and highly actionable intelligence.
In one such case, we were contacted by one of our established sources, who was extremely agitated. Mahmud had come from his village claiming that he had seen something that sent chills down his spine. As Mahmud was driving not far from his home, he saw an unknown person exit a building that one of his cousins owned. The building was supposed to be empty and unoccupied. For reasons Mahmud could not explain, he thought that something bad was going on and that maybe the man he saw was a member of Al-Qa’ida in Iraq (AQI).
(Courtesy Tyndale House Publishers)
Up until this point, Coalition Forces had found Mahmud’s information extremely reliable. Of course, they did not know his name or personal details, but they made sure we knew that his information had checked out. They contacted us on numerous occasions to praise us for the source’s reporting, explaining that it had allowed them to disarm IEDs and detain insurgents who were causing problems in his village.
Mahmud had a solid track record. But the bits he provided this time were sketchy and lacked sufficient detail. You can’t just disseminate intelligence reports saying that a location “feels wrong,” “seems wrong,” or that some random dude you just saw “looked like a bad guy.” That kind of information does not meet the threshold for dissemination by the CIA. In this case, however, the handling case officer and I went against protocol and put the report out.
Within the hour, we were contacted by one of the MNF-I (Multi-National Force-Iraq) units with responsibility for that AOR. They regularly executed counterterrorism operations in that village and wanted to know more about the sourcing. They were interested in taking a look at the abandoned building because they had been trying to locate terrorist safe houses they believed were somewhere in the vicinity of the building mentioned in our report. They had a feeling that nearby safe houses were being used to store large amounts of weaponry and a few had been turned into VBIED (vehicle-borne improvised explosive device) factories. But there was one big problem: Military units had acted on similar intelligence reports before, but the reports had been setups—the alleged safe houses were wired to explode when the soldiers entered.
A spate of these types of explosions had occurred east of Baghdad in Diyala Governorate, and while we had not yet seen this happen out west in al-Anbar Governorate, one could never be too careful. Basically, the military wanted to know: How good is your source? Do you trust him? Do you think he could have turned on you? Could this be a setup?
This was one of the hardest parts of my job. While I had to protect the identity of our sources when passing on intelligence, I had to balance this with the need to share pertinent details that would allow the military to do their job. It was critical to give them appropriate context on the sources, their access, and their reporting records, and to give them a sense of how good the report may or may not be. Given our positive track record with these military units, I knew that they would trust my judgment, and therefore, I needed to get it right. Lives were at stake.
My mind was spinning.
What do I think? Is this a setup? He’s usually such a good reporter, but what if someone discovered he was the mole?
Even if Mahmud was “on our side,” the insurgents could turn him against us by threatening the lives of his wife and kids. Similar things had happened before. I prayed, “Please, Lord, give me wisdom.”
(Courtesy Tyndale House Publishers)
The bottom line was, I didn’t know anything for sure, and I told the military commander that. But I also remembered that just the week before, Mahmud had provided a report that MNF-I units said was amazingly accurate regarding the location of an IED in his village. They found the IED and dug it up before the Coalition Humvee rolled over it. So as of then, he was definitely good, and I told the commander that as well.
The next day, the case officer came to my desk and said, “Did you hear?”
“Mahmud’s information was spot on!”
“Really?” What a relief, I thought. “What happened?”
“When the soldiers entered the abandoned building, they found seven Iraqis tied up on the floor, barely clinging to life. It was more than a safe house. It was a torture house. There were piles of dead bodies in the next room.”
Mahmud’s intuition about the stranger he saw exiting that building had been correct. Something about the unidentified man’s behavior or appearance—the look on his face, the posture of his body, the way he walked or the way he dressed—had hit Mahmud as being “off” or “wrong.” It turned out that local AQI affiliates had commandeered the building and were using it as a base to terrorize the local population.
My colleague pulled out copies of the military’s photographs that captured the unbelievable scene. The first images showed the battered bodies of the young men who had just been saved from certain death. According to the soldiers, when they entered the building and found the prisoners on the floor, the young men were in shock. Emaciated and trembling, they kept saying, “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.” They could barely stand, so the soldiers steadied them as the young men lifted up their bloodstained shirts for the camera, revealing torsos covered in welts and bruises. If that unit hadn’t shown up when they did, those men would have been dead by the next day.
I swallowed hard as I flipped through the photographs of the horrors in the next room, and my eyes welled up with tears. The terrorists had discarded the mutilated bodies of other villagers in the adjacent room, leaving them to rot in a twisted mound. I could hardly accept what I was seeing. It reminded me of Holocaust photos that were so inhumane one could not process the depth of the depravity: men and women . . . battered and bruised . . . lives stolen . . . eyes frozen open in emptiness and horror.
My stomach began to churn, but I made myself look at the pictures. I had to understand what we were fighting for, what our soldiers faced every day. As much as I wanted to dig a hole and stick my head in the sand, I needed to see what was really happening outside our cozy encampment in the Green Zone.
They say war is hell; they don’t know the half of it.
Michele Rigby Assad is a former undercover officer in the National Clandestine Service of the US Central Intelligence Agency. She served as a counterterrorism specialist for 10 years, working in Iraq and other secret Middle Eastern locations. Upon retirement from active service, Michele and her husband began leading teams to aid Christian refugees.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
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.
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.
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.
Nuclear energy is clean and efficient when everything works. The U.S. powers aircraft carriers, submarines, and even cities with it, but there are obvious down sides: Disasters can lead to death, destruction, and poisonous radiation.
Nuclear accidents are graded from zero to seven, zero being no safety issues and seven being extremely hazardous to health and the environment. Two examples of major nuclear incidents include the 1986 disaster in Chernobyl, Ukraine and Fukushima, Japan in 2011.
Although no occurrence of this magnitude has happened in the United States, the Department of Energy has been tasked with cleaning up over 100 nuclear sites within its borders, according to this TestTube video.