Ever seen a giant red pushpin looming over your neighborhood in the good ol’ U.S. of A? No? Thank your Navy …
Whatever the future holds, Ukraine is as ready as it’s ever going to be. If the Russians invade the central European country, Ukraine is much better equipped and trained to give them as good a fight as possible. If they are able to join NATO, then a Russian invasion is much more unlikely.
As Russia steps up its military presence on its border with Ukraine, adding around 30,000 troops as of April 2021, Ukraine is getting ready for them. Both sides of the border held military drills in the middle of the month, on their respective sides of the border.
Ukraine sees the Russian troop presence as a direct threat to Ukraine’s national borders and internal security. Russia says its military buildup is a direct response to possible American intervention in the region, as two U.S. Navy ships entered the Black Sea in the week before Russia’s military exercises.
In the aftermath of the 2014 Ukrainian Revolution that brought current President Volodymyr Zelensky to power, the Russian military entered the Crimean Peninsula, captured strategic sites in the area, and installed a pro-Russian government there. It then initiated a referendum among its populace that allegedly voted in favor of joining the Russian Federation.
Two days after the vote, Russia annexed the peninsula. But that didn’t stop the fighting in the region. In the aftermath of the revolution in Ukraine, pro-Russian separatists rose up in the Donbass region of the country and have been fighting Ukrainian government forces ever since.
The two areas that comprise the Donbass region, Donetsk and Luhansk, have declared their independence and are being supported financially and militarily by Vladimir Putin’s government in Moscow.
But that conflict started years ago. When Russian forces entered Crimea, the Ukranian military was largely inexperienced and untrained. After seven years of low-intensity conflict, the military leadership in Kiev believes it fields a battle-hardened army of veterans.
Russia maintains a large military force, with one million troops on active duty and two million in reserve compared to Ukraine’s army of 255,000 in active service and 900,000 in reserve. The bulk of the Russian military’s combat experience is from the recent actions in Syria, and large portions of the Russian army do not deploy outside the country.
Still, observers are concerned that the 30,000 Russian troops on Ukraine’s doorstep is the largest buildup of Russian forces since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Ukraine, for its part, has not only been fighting a war for years on end, giving its troops valuable real-world combat experience, it has also strived toward NATO membership. The gains it made in recent years have dwarfed the gains made under its former pro-Russian leaders.
In the first 18 months of Volodymyr Zelensky’s presidency, the country has met 96 of NATO standards compared to the 196 made by his predecessor over five years. Zelensky’s government has also increased military spending by 1.4% since 2019, now spending 3.4% of its GDP.
NATO membership for Ukraine is still a long way off by most expert opinions. Zelensky has called for four-way talks with Russia, Germany, and France to ease tensions with Moscow and end the military buildup along his eastern border.
In the modern world, most nations cultivate a variety of martial arts disciplines within their borders, not as a formal effort of the government, but rather as a byproduct of public interest. Here in the United States, motivated students can find places to study anything from Japanese Karate to Israeli Krav Maga at their local strip mall, so it should come as no surprise that the military has also come to adopt a variety of disciplines into its own approach to martial arts-based combat.
The Marine Corps Martial Arts Program, as one example, borrows from no fewer than 17 distinct martial arts disciplines, ranging from Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu to Kung Fu, to ensure Marines are as capable in hand-to-hand combat as they are with their rifles.
Iran has also placed an emphasis on martial arts for the sake of defense, though like the nation’s military apparatus itself, their approach has been heavily informed by their culture, internal politics, and unusual military hierarchy, resulting in less than stellar results.
According to a cable sent from the U.S. embassy in Azerbaijan’s Baku Mission that was revealed by WikiLeaks, the Iranian government expects martial arts schools and clubs to serve in the role of “enforcers” when it comes to stemming public dissent, but that’s far from the worst that’s been pressed upon martial arts instructors.
The wire, which came with the decidedly metal headline of, “IRAN: NINJA BLACK BELT MASTER DETAILS USE OF MARTIAL ARTS CLUBS FOR REPRESSION,” goes on to claim that the “ninja black belt master” in question knew of at least one instructor that “was used by the Intelligence service to murder at least six different individuals over the course of several months.” These alleged victims were referred to as “young intellectuals” and “pro-democracy activists.”
Women in Iran may not enjoy the same rights or parity that can be found in Western nations like the United States, but that’s not to say that the Iranian government doesn’t occasionally recognize a woman’s ability to kick ass for their benefit. Most women may not be allowed to travel outside of their homes without a male escort, but some are trained in Japanese Ninjutsu to become stealthy assassins for their government.
In 2012, 3,500 women were registered to begin their training to become ninjas, according to a segment produced for Iran’s state-run media. Some in the United States have opined that Iran permits this training as a means to appease their stifled female population, but it seems more likely that Iran’s government believes it has a use for women that can fight.
The video of these women training may seem cheesy, but their form actually looks a lot better than some of Iran’s highly trained Special Operations troops…
Every nation occasionally releases motivational videos of their highly trained troops executing unusual techniques. The U.S. does insertion and extraction demonstrations with special operators at SOFIC in Tampa, Florida each year. Russia releases footage of their troops shooting live rounds at each other, and Iran… well, Iran’s special operators can be seen in this video losing a fight to a vase.
In the video, Iranian officials are shown looking on as men that have been referred to by a number of news outlets as Special Operations troops execute a series of dramatic spin kicks and even spinning back-hands to a vase that simply refuses to break. Eventually, the troops set the intact vase down and bow as their clearly disappointed superiors look on. It wouldn’t be fair to say that this demonstration characterizes all of Iran’s military martial arts efforts, but if these generals were smart, they probably forgot about the demonstration and went straight to the guy that made that vase to see if he was interested in getting into the tank business.
The US Navy has successfully altered a Raytheon Tomahawk land attack missile (TLAM) to be able to hit a moving target at sea, USNI News reports.
In a Jan. 27 test off of San Niolas Island, California, the Navy launched a TLAM which was guided into a moving maritime target through directions given by a Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet flying overhead. TLAMs are capable of changing their direction mid-course.
Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work, the Pentagon’s second-highest-ranked civilian, praised the successful test of the missile during a keynote speech at the WEST 2015 conference. He said the missiles were part of the Pentagon’s “Third Offset Strategy,” an initiative focused on research into new long-range weapons.
“A big part of the Third Offset Strategies is to find new and innovative ways to deploy promising technologies,” Work said. “This is potentially a game changing capability for not a lot of cost. It’s a 1000 mile anti-ship cruise missile.”
TLAMs are already used for land attack missions against static targets. By converting TLAMs into missiles capable of penetrating thickly-armored vessels at sea, the Navy plugs a serious gap in its current weapons capabilities. According to USNI News, TLAMs that have been converted into anti-ship missiles that could be used aboard the Navy’s newer guided-missile destroyers, which cannot currently use the service’s antiquated RGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missile.
The new converted TLAMs would have a range of almost 1,000 nautical miles, allowing the US to maintain a considerable edge over rival naval powers. One of China’s most threatening new military advancements is its development of its own advanced anti-ship cruise missiles. However, these missiles would only have half the range of a converted TLAM.
If fully adapted, the newest iteration of the TLAM will function as a stop-gap measure until the Navy’s next-generation Long Range Anti-Ship missile is ready for action.
Here is a video of the converted TLAM in action.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is the perfect example of a dictator. His authoritarian government holds complete power over the North Korean state and its people.
Un was declared supreme leader following his father’s funeral in December 2011, making him one of the youngest dictators in recent history. However, his time in power pales in comparison to the dictators in this video.
Recently, U.S. Space Force General David Thompson, the Vice Space Operations Chief, sat down for a virtual talk with the Association of Old Crows.
Gen. Thompson emphasized the intraservice utility of the Space Force but also of the branch’s need to create and sustain enduring relationships with the other branches, the intelligence community, and other agencies and departments within the US government.
The Space Force is responsible for capabilities and mission-sets such as navigation, orbital warfare, missile defense, satellite communications, electromagnetic operations, and GPS services, among other tasks.
“We have enduring relationships with the National Reconnaissance Office and the rest of the intelligence community,” said Thompson. “We not only need to maintain those but deepen those as well, especially because we’re now partners with them in the need to defend and protect these capabilities from threats.”
Thompson highlighted that the space in a domain where several countries—and even companies—are looking to expand their presence for economic, civil, public safety, and national security purposes. He suggested that the Space Force might be looking to partnerships where there are common interests and goals.
The Space Force achieved a landmark point in December when General John “Jay” Raymond officially joined the Joint Chiefs of Staff, becoming the 8th member of the highest military council of the US.
“We recognize it clearly as a warfighting domain. And we also know that we, the United States, we’ve got to maintain capabilities in that domain if we are going to continue to deter great power war,” General Mark Milley, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said during the ceremony. “This is an incredibly important organization for the United States military and for the United States as a country. And it’s really important what we’re doing today, which is [to] induct you as an official member into the Joint Chiefs of Staff.”
The commercial sector is another point of interest for the Space Force despite the high-risk it might entail. The ability of private companies to rapidly field and test new technology appeals to the Space Force, which often has to contend with the lengthy test, development, and acquisition timelines found in any bureaucracy.
As for what the Space Force is looking for in future recruits, Thompson said that digitally fluent and cyber-savvy candidates are essential for the Space Force to continue its contribution to the fight but also expand its capabilities.
Headquartered in Virginia, the Association of Old Crows is an international nonprofit professional organization specializing in electronic warfare, tactical information operations, and related disciplines.
In another virtual even, Air Force Gen. John E. Hyten talked about America’s near-peer competitors and their space capabilities and aspirations.
“Russia and China are building capabilities to challenge us in space because if they can challenge us in space, they understand as dependent as we are in space capabilities that they can challenge us as a nation,” said Gen. Hyten during an online event at the National Security Space Association.
Gen. Hyten added that it falls to the Pentagon to continue the education of Americans about US space capabilities but also about the dangers posed by China and Russia and how to best deal with them.
Some senior citizens retire to Florida. Marine Lt. Col. Art Nalls retired to the cockpit of his privately-owned AV-8B Harrier “jump jet.”
Once a naval aviator and test pilot experienced in roughly 65 different types of aircraft, Nalls made a fortune in the real estate development business after he left the service. But he never forgot his love of flying or the first aircraft he flew in the Marine Corps — the Harrier.
After attending an air show and rediscovering his passion for flight, Art purchased a Russian Yak 3 (Yakovlev Yak-3), only to soon realize that the enormous Soviet Star on the plane wasn’t exactly attracting the eyeballs at airshows. What the people wanted to see were our nation’s greatest planes. He noticed that the biggest star at any airshow was the Harrier Jump Jet, so beginning in 2010 Art Nalls began his quest to own one himself. Everything finally came together after discussing the possibility of owning one with the FAA (and receiving approval), and then finding a British Harrier Jump Jet for sale after Great Britain took them out of commission.
Although the video doesn’t mention the price he paid, the going rate for a Harrier is around $1.5 million. Then of course there’s the insane price of gas, which Nalls makes up by performing at air shows.
Check out this awesome video from AARP:
Feature image: Screen capture from YouTube
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Conscription in the United States military — also known as “the draft” — ended with the Vietnam War. Today men and women serve because they want to, not because they have to, but it wasn’t always that way.
Throughout history, when a country waged war and needed a large Army, it turned to drafting its people. The U.S. applied conscription as early as the Revolutionary War by drafting men into the militia and state Army units.
But every time a government turned to conscription, it stirred controversy, exposing fault lines of race, culture and social class. Some say it unifies the country, others argue it tears a society apart. Despite the all-volunteer force of the United States as an example of defense without conscription, there are many countries which still use a draft in 2015.
In early 1918, American troops were reaching France and beginning to make an impact on the ebb and flow of the war. While the previous combatants had been largely deadlocked for years, fresh American troops could turn the tide of otherwise evenly matched fights.
Germany was on the losing side of this power shift and needed to win the war before more American troops and equipment could arrive. A grand offensive was planned that would come to be known as the Fourth Battle of Ypres or the Battle of Lys.
If successful, it would have forced the British back to the channel ports and possibly caused an evacuation like that in nearby Dunkirk 22 years later.
A British artillery crew maneuvers its 18-pounder field gun at Saint Floris during the Battle of the Lys, also known as the Fourth Battle of Ypres. (Photo: Imperial War Museum)
A two-day artillery bombardment preceded an attack on April 9, 1918, that drove the Portuguese defenders in the Ypres Salient back five miles and cost 7,000 Portuguese lives.
British troops in the area were forced to pull back and cover the gaps of the withdrawing Portuguese soldiers and nightfall on April 9 found them in a precarious position. They held the high ground that the Germans desperately needed and they were outnumbered. The British 19th Division was attempting to hold off a concerted attack by the entire German Fourth Army.
In this brickfilm, a stop-animation movie made almost entirely with Legos, YouTube user Snooperking recreates that disastrous morning for the allies in April 1918 as the British attempt to hold the line and prevent the Germans taking the high ground.Snooperking, YouTubeSnooperking does a pretty impressive job with the Legos, representing dead bodies from previous fighting with small skeletons and using different Lego heads to capture the fear of the attackers, the resolve of the defenders, and the utter panic when any soldier finds himself on the wrong end of the bayonet.
Luckily, while the middle weeks of April 1918 were disastrous for the British in terms of lost territory, they did bleed the Germans heavily for every yard of territory lost. The German offensive stalled and was called off at the end of April. German losses during the attack allowed for their stunning defeats a few months later as Allied forces, bolstered by American reinforcements, went on the offensive.
(h/t Doctrine Man)
Designed by a former toy maker, the Black Hornet UAV fits in a human palm and weighs the same as three pieces of paper. But don’t be fooled by its size. It has impressive capabilities as a reconnaissance drone, which is why Special Forces and U.S. infantry have begun testing it.
The tiny drone feeds surprisingly clear video to the pilot from as far as kilometer away and can bear different sensors including thermal cameras for night assaults. The video is stored on the small user station on the operator’s belt, so enemies lucky enough to catch the Hornet will not be able to see what video the pilot has captured.
See this amazing little drone in action in this video:
To learn more, check out this article at Defense One.
HBO’s “Generation Kill” chronicles the experiences of the 1st Recon Marines during their first wave on Baghdad in 2003. Though the show was based on a serious book by journalist Evan Wright, it was full of funny Marine Corps moments.
From Sgt. Maj. Sixta’s ass-chewings to “Captain America’s” WTF moments, here are some of the funniest scenes distilled into one short video (clips courtesy of HBO):
The Army was involved in some weird experiments during the 1950s and ’60s. Some of the weirdest took place at Edgewood Arsenal, Md., where the military tested chemicals like LSD on active-duty volunteers.
In the archived footage below, a squad of soldiers is ordered to conduct drill and ceremony while sober, and then again after being given LSD. To skip straight to the soldiers drilling while high, go to 1:42 in the video below.