The Navy is pushing harder toward fielding swarms of drones to accomplish missions and guard its ships. In August of last year, the service tested swarms of autonomous boats. Now, they want to take the technology into the air with drones that will fly in a coordinated swarm. To rapidly deploy the drones, the Navy is firing them from cannons.
The crown jewel of the research is the technology to coordinate the drones into a swarm, so the current drones being tested could be switched out for other platforms such as the popular Reaper and Predator drones once the technology matures.
See the video below or read more about the program at Defense One
For decades after Operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield, doctors, scientists and the Department of Veterans Affairs have all struggled to determine what happened to the roughly 25-30% of Gulf War veterans who suffer from a mysterious mix of symptoms from a seemingly unknown cause. The condition and its host of symptoms became known as Gulf War Syndrome, or Gulf War Illness, and wasn’t immediately recognized by the Department of Veterans Affairs.
A Congressional committee went on to suggest a number of possible underlying causes of the condition that were present in the war zone, including depleted uranium dust and pyridostigmine bromide used to protect against chemical nerve agents. They blamed the VA for its lack of experience in environmental health and toxicology.
In that same committee meeting, the House of Representatives recommended a medical research body other than the VA or DoD look into the condition, and that’s exactly what happened.
A body of research has been conducted that has since shed new light on Gulf War Syndrome. The VA has since recognized a number of conditions that are now “presumptive,” meaning gulf War veterans don’t need to prove they happened as a result of military service. This includes:
Other undiagnosed conditions, such as weight loss, fatigue, unexplainable pain and some heart conditions
Researchers at Georgetown University have also discovered physical evidence of the condition in the brains of Gulf War veterans. Nerve fibers connected to pain receptors in the brains of these veterans fire differently than in other humans. This means Gulf War veterans could feel pain while doing something as simple as changing a shirt.
The same researcher who conducted that study, Dr. James Baraniuk, also found that there may be two distinct subsets of Gulf War Illness. By scanning the brains of more than 30 Gulf War veterans before and after moderate exercise, Baraniuk noted changes in two areas of the brain, each correlating to a different set of symptoms.
One group experienced changes in the area of the brain responsible for processing pain, which was consistent with their symptoms. The other group, who reported cardiovascular symptoms, specifically, increased heart rates while doing something as simple as standing up did not have significant activity in that part of the brain.
Instead, the brain of the cardiac-centric group showed decreased activity in the cerebellum, the part of the brain responsible for fine motor control, cognition, pain, and emotion. Healthy patients showed no changes.
“While these findings present new challenges to treating people with Gulf War illness, they also present new opportunities,” said Stuart Washington, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow and lead author on the study.
Air Force Capt. Roger Moseley was a test pilot who got on the bad side of base’s vice commander when he told a group of pilots that — in a world of unmanned aircraft and precision guided munitions — only dinosaurs cared about things like flying faster and higher. He was told he’d never test fly again, but the next morning he was called into the middle of the Nevada desert and offered a top-secret job that he had to agree to on the spot. Moseley did and became one of the first pilot to fly the F-117, the stealth fighter that carried the day in the skies over Iraq during Desert Storm.
Earlier in March, several Air Force squadrons flying a variety of aircraft, including fighter jets, helicopters, and remotely piloted aircraft, participated in a large combat search and rescue exercise in Romania.
Exercise Porcupine is an annual training event that tests and prepares the squadrons of the 31st Operations Group for combat operations. Not only does it test the capabilities and readiness of each individual squadron, but also their ability to work together as a team. This year, the exercise replicated the rescue of an F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot who had been shot down over enemy territory.
All in all, the 510th Fighter Squadron, 606th Air Control Squadron, and the 56th and 57th Rescue Squadrons took place in the exercise with F-16 jets, HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopters, and MQ-9 Reaper drones.
In the scenario, an F-16 fighter had been shot down by the enemy, but the pilot had managed to eject before the bird crashed and now was evading an enemy ground force that was coming after him. During that initial phase, a pilot’s Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Resistance (SERE) training is crucial as he tries to not only evade enemy forces and brutal captivity but also survive in a potentially harsh environment. Potential injuries make the above that much more difficult. For the purposes of Operation Porcupine, the F-16 pilot had a broken arm and pain in his back.
Then, the pilot had to make contact with friendly forces and direct them to his location for a rescue mission. Once proper contact was made with the rescue squadrons, a pair of HH-60G Pave Hawks went in to rescue the downed pilot. The choppers landed as close to the pilot as possible to make the job of the Pararescuemen easier.
“Our role in the HH-60s was to provide a rescue asset to aid in the recovery of any isolated personnel,” U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Richard Bush, a helicopter pilot with the 56th Rescue Squadron HH-60 pilot, said in a press release.
“Our ultimate goal was to rescue the pilot before he was captured by enemy forces. The importance of this exercise is to provide an opportunity for multiple [aircraft] to work together in a realistic and joint environment. There were definitely some things that arose that we had to work through on the fly, but overall I would call it a success and next year I imagine it will be the same.”
Training for a downed pilot scenario is not uncommon. The scenario is especially pertinent in Europe as it has happened during active operations.
In 1999, as the air campaign against the Serbs was taking place in Bosnia, Lieutenant Colonel David Goldfein—who later became a four-star general and the Chief of Staff of the Air Force—and his F-16 fighter jet was shot down by a Serbian surface-to-air missile. With Serbian troops on his heels, Goldfein escaped and evaded until Air Commandos managed to locate and rescue him.
The Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) is a slingshot on steroids.
Compared to steam catapults, the new launch system is lighter, smaller and requires less maintenance while increasing controllability, reliability, and efficiency, according to the Naval Air Warfare Center. The system is designed tolaunch up to 25 percent more aircraft – manned or unmanned – with greater precision.
By eliminating the use of steam, the EMALS system may contribute to the quality of life for sailors sleeping below decks. “The water brake has been removed, so from that perspective, the [catapult] will get quieter,” said Donnelly in an interview with Defense Media Network. “You’ll continue to hear the shuttle noise, jet blast deflectors and hooks hitting the flight deck in the arresting gear area.”
The EMALS system is over 15 years in the making. The system was tested from land-based sites, but this video shows the system being tested from the pre-commissioned USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78).
Although economic sanctions have all but neutered much of the nation’s military modernization efforts, Russia has managed to keep itself relevant in the 21st century by fielding headline-grabbing exotic weapons, including massive nukes far greater in scale than anything Uncle Sam has to offer. With nuclear weapons like the RS-28 Sarmat ICBM and the Status-6 Oceanic Multipurpose System submersible drone, Russia can cause greater devastation to its targets today than at any point during the Cold War. The thing is… that just doesn’t really matter anymore.
Mutually assured destruction
While the fighting during the Cold War was largely relegated to comparably small proxy conflicts, the Cold War eclipsed even World War II in terms of stakes. A Nazi victory in World War II would have changed life as we know it worldwide… but a nuclear exchange in the Cold War could have literally ended it. With stakes that high, it wasn’t difficult for both the United States and Soviet Union to convince lawmakers and taxpayers to pour funding into weapons development. The result was nuclear stockpiles so vast and broadly capable that a doctrine of MutuallyAssured Destruction became the only effective means of deterring large scale war between superpowers.
The concept of Mutually Assured Destruction was originally coined in 1962 by Donald Brennan, a strategist working in Herman Kahn’s Hudson Institute. After the Soviet Union tested their first nuclear weapon in August of 1949, tensions between the World War II allies became significantly more pressing, prompting renewed interest and funding into America’s own weapons of mass destruction. Predictably, the more the United States poured money into defense programs, the more the Soviets did in turn. The result was a cycle of nuclear weapon production and development that found its peak in the 1980s, when the two nation’s combined stockpiles of nuclear weapons exceeded60,000 (or about six times the combined stockpiles of these nations today).
This arm’s race also extended well beyond the nukes themselves. Each nation also needed broadly distributed means of delivering these weapons to their targets, so no nuclear first-strike could completely eliminate a nation’s ability to respond in kind. In order to accomplish this, the United States began distributing nuclear weapon capabilities across the methods of delivery and service branches. Today, we’ve come to know this distribution as the nuclear triad. While nuclear weapons of varying uses and sizes emerged as a part of this effort, the backbone of America’s nuclear triad emerged as a combination of land-based ICBMs, aircraft-based bombs, and submarine-based missiles. The Soviets soon fielded a comparable triad, matching America’s ability to respond to any nuclear attack.
The doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction remains a prominent part of America’s nuclear deterrence strategy for the Soviet Union’s successor, the Russian government. Today, both nations maintain nuclear stockpiles that are significantly smaller than they did at the height of the Cold War. However, while America has allowed a good portion of its nuclear weapon infrastructure to age toward obsolescence, Russia has continued to lean on its nukes as a means of geopolitical showmanship.
How do Russia’s nukes compare to America’s?
The RS-28 Sarmat
Today, the United States maintains approximately 5,800 nuclear weapons, with 3,800 considered active. Within that stockpile are at least 400 LGM-30 Minuteman III land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). The Minuteman III has been in service since 1970, has an operational range of more than 6,000 miles, and is accurate to within 800 feet. These missiles can carry between one and three nuclear warheads, each with a maximum explosive yield of 475 kilotons, giving this weapon a maximum yield of 1.425 megatons. To put it another way, that means each American ICBM can deliver about 95 times the destructive capability of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima.
Sounds pretty big, right? America’s dated Minuteman III missiles certainly pack a punch, but even when carrying three of its most potent warheads, these missiles are utterly dwarfed by Russia’s most advanced (and powerful) ICBM coming into service this year: The RS-28 Sarmat.
The RS-28, sometimes known as the “Satan II,” has been in development since 2014, and was famously described as “capable of wiping out parts of the earth the size of Texas or France,” by Russia’s state-owned media. The missile has a range of 6,385 miles and carries a warhead jam-packed with Multiple Independent Reentry Vehicles (MIRV) that boast a combined destructive yield of 50 megatons. In other words, the RS-28 Sarmat carries a destructive yield greater than 35 times that of the Minuteman III.
America’s most powerful nuclear bomb in service, the B83, also boasts just a 1.2 megaton yield, and even the most powerful nuclear weapon in American history, the 9 megaton B53, rings in at less than 1/5 the yield of the mighty Sarmat.
But if a missile dubbed the “Satan II” and marketed as a way to remove Texas from the map isn’t massive enough, Russia also boasts another doomsday nuke–one said to match or even double the nuclear yield of the Sarmat, while bolstering its destructive capacity by creating an unnatural, natural disaster.
The Status-6 Oceanic Multipurpose System
The Status-6 Oceanic Multipurpose System has gone by a number of names in Western analysis over the years, in part because this weapon was considered something of an urban legend for a long time. Rumors about the Status-6 first bubbled to the surface years ago, largely through vague mentions in Russian news reports, but its existence was confirmed within the past few years–first in a leaked image of a Pentagon intelligence report, and then through official announcements from the Kremlin.
Unlike the submarine-launched nuclear missiles both Russia and the United States maintain as a part of their nuclear triads, the Status-6 (sometimes called “Poseidon” or by its NATO designation of “Kanyon”) is actually a submersible drone. Once deployed by a Russian Navy submarine, the drone can travel autonomously toward its target, covering more than 5,400 miles at depths as low as 3,300 feet. Once it finds its target, the Status-6 simply parks and waits for the command to detonate.
Onboard this submersible drone is an absolutely massive warhead–with some claims saying it carries the same nuclear yield as the RS-28, and others claiming twice that. According to some Russian officials, the Status-6 can be equipped with a 100 megaton weapon… which is two times more powerful than the largest nuclear weapon evereven tested.
A detonation of that magnitude would not only destroy and irradiate a massive area, its positioning under water would result in a radioactive tsunami that would reach far further inland than the blast itself. In no uncertain terms, the Status-6 is intended to serve as a doomsday weapon. It’s the sort of weapon you build not to win wars, but to end them.
What is the strategic value of massive nuclear weapons?
America is amid an arguably overdue effort to modernize its ICBM arsenal in Northrop Grumman’s Ground Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) platform expected to enter service later this decade. Although the weapon’s W87 Mod 0 thermonuclear warhead’s destructive capacity has not been revealed just yet, it stands to reason that these new missiles will still offer significantly less firepower than Russia’s mighty Sarmat, let alone the terrifying 100 megaton capacity claimed by the Status-6.
To some maintaining the Cold War’s mindset of matching capability to deter war, this may seem like an egregious failure on the part of America’s defense infrastructure. After all, how do you hope to deter a 100 megaton weapon if your own most powerful weapons are tiny by comparison? Well, the truth is, you simply don’t have to.
Way back in 1962, when Donald Brennan first coined the term “Mutually Assured Destruction,” the Soviet Union had only successfully tested their first hydrogen bomb (or thermonuclear weapon) some seven years prior. The Soviets didn’t possess any nuclear tsunami drones as they do today, and yet, as far as America was concerned, a nuclear exchange with the Soviets would all but certainly wipe out life on earth as we know it. It’s almost like you don’t need Bond villain-esque nukes to be scary when run-of-the-mill nukes will do the same job.
And therein lies the practical failing of Russia’s massive nukes: They may be good for a bit of geopolitical theater, but strategically they change nearly nothing about the nuclear deterrence mission or the comparative military standing of each nation. Just like during the Cold War, both Russia and the United States are aware that the launch of a single nuclear weapon is all it takes to start a cascade of retaliatory strikes that, once begun, will usher in a nuclear apocalypse most citizens of each nation (and all others) likely won’t survive. When the result is the end of the world, it really doesn’t matter how big that first explosion might be.
So what value is there in a 50 or 100 megaton weapon like those found in Russia’s arsenal? While they don’t actually offer much in the way of strategic value in a nuclear war, they do however play an important role in helping Russia maintain its global reputation as a force to be reckoned with. That reputation is essential, not only for Russia’s aggressive approach to foreign policy, but also to maintain its footing as the arms dealer of choice for nations on America’s naughty list.
Like their token fleet of a dozen or so fifth-generation fighters, or their frequent claims about robot soldiers or invisibility cloaks, Russia depends on foreign press coverage to help advance the perception that Russia is a cutting edge weapons designer and producer. Russia needs the influx of money from foreign sales if they ever hope to secure adequate funding for their notably promising (but sorely under-funded) programs like their T-14 Armata main battle tank.
Put simply: Russia’s massive nukes aren’t really about strategic capability, so much as they’re about perception, intimidation, and economics. Whether or not this effort will be successful, however, is yet to be determined.
As Russian military supplies continue to enter Ukraine, it becomes harder by the day for Putin to deny that Moscow is providing arms to the separatists.
In fact Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, the US Army’s top commander in Europe, says that Russian support for separatists has “doubled” since Ukraine and Russia reached a tentative ceasefire.
“When you look at the amount of Russian equipment that the proxies were using prior to the Minsk agreements, that amount has doubled beginning in December into the hundreds,” Hodges told reporters on his first visit to Ukraine.
Russian support for the separatists include artillery, surveillance drones, and armored vehicles that would otherwise be next to impossible for a rebel group to obtain.
“Those are not the types of things you would find in a militia. They clearly are coming from a modern military force coming from Russia,” Hodges said.
In November, the Armament Research Services has released their third report on the arms and munitions being used by both the Ukrainian government and the rebels in the ongoing conflict. Complete with photographic evidence, it is clear that Moscow has been covertly supplying an assortment of older Soviet weaponry along with recently introduced Russian equipment to the separatists.
AK-47 (Photo: Wikimedia)
Self-loading rifles are a popular weapon of the separatist forces.
Aside from a number of AK rifle varieties, the separatists also sport a host of recreation hunting and sport firearms. In one case, a separatist was documented using VSS rifles. These are Russian-made marksman rifles that are analogous to those used by Russian forces during the annexation of Crimea.
The self-loading rifles used by the separatists include:
Soviet AR-10 and AR-15 hunting rifles
Russian VSS designated marksman rifle
Light Machine Guns
Light machine guns make up some of the most common weaponry of the separatists.
The light machine guns utilized by the separatists include weaponry used by the Ukrainian military, as well as Russian-produced guns that are not in service with Ukrainian forces. The PKP ‘Pecheneg’ light machine gun, for example, is not used by the Ukrainian forces and has been exported outside of Russia in only minimal quantities.
The light machine guns used by the separatists include:
Russian PK and PK GPMGs
Russian PKP ‘Pecheneg’
Shotguns and Bolt-Action Rifles
The use of shotguns and bolt-action rifles have been documented as being used by separatists who are incapable of accessing better quality small arms.
Some older bolt-action sporting rifles have also been documented being used by the separatists. These rifles are in some cases antiques, dating to use with the Russian infantry from World War II or earlier.
The shotguns and bolt-action rifles used by the separatists include:
Russian semi-automatic Saiga 12 shotguns
Turkish semi-automatic Akkar Altay shotguns
Philippino Armscor Model 30 pump-action shotgun
Russian infantry Mosin M91 rifle
Makarov PM Handgun (Photo: Wikimedia)
Russian crafted handguns dominate as the principal choice for the separatists.
Igor “Strelkov” Girkin, the former leader of the Donbass People’s Militia and governor of Luhansk, has had photos carefully taken of him handling a Russian Stechkin APS. The APS was originally designed for Russian vehicle, artillery, and RPG crews.
The handguns used by the separatists include:
Russian Makarov PM
Russian Stechkin APS
Anti-material rifles are light weapons that have been designed for use against military equipment rather than use against people.
The anti-material rifles being used by the separatists include outdated and obsolete Soviet World War II era anti-tank rifles (the PTRS-41) and the equally old PTRD. In at least one case, separatists were found to be using the Russian ASVK anti-material rifle. The ASVK has only been introduced into the Russian military within the past two years and none have been known to have been exported.
The anti-material rifles used by the separatists include:
Heavy Machine Guns
The origins of the heavy machine guns used by the separatists in Ukraine is murky. Both the Ukrainian government and the separatists use similar weaponry, and it is possible that the rebels salvaged the weaponry from Ukrainian military vehicles.
In general, the heavy machine guns used by the separatists are fairly old. Most date
back to the Soviet Union, while the Maxim PM1910 may date back as early as the Russian Empire. The PM1910 was likely looted from a museum or a historical re-enactment community.
The heavy machine guns used by the separatists include:
Soviet NSV and NSVT
Soviet Maxim PM1910
Underbarrel and Automatic Grenade Launchers
Like the heavy machine guns, both the Ukrainian government and the separatists have used the same variety of underbarrel and automatic grenade launchers.
In the case of eastern Ukraine, it is impossible to determine whether the grenade launchers were captured from Ukrainian soldiers or were provided to the separatists from Russia.
The grenade launchers used by the separatists include:
Soviet AGS-17 AGLs
Portable Anti-Tank Systems
The separatists have a wide variety of portable anti-tank systems. For the most part, the rebels seem to prefer the use of rocket propelled grenades of the legacy RPG-7 launcher. However, the rebels have also used more modern RPG-18 and RPG-22 systems.
Notably, separatists have also been documented using MRO-A disposable incendiary rocket launcher systems. These systems are not known to have ever been exported outside of Russia.
The portable anti-tank systems used by the separatists include:
Crew-Served Recoilless Guns and Mortars
Used alongside the portable anti-tank systems are a mixture of Soviet-era recoilless guns and mortars. These weapons are generally dated. There is no direct evidence that these weapons have been provided by the Russians to the separatists, as both the Ukrainian government and the separatists make use of similar systems.
The crew-served recoilless guns and mortars used by the separatists include:
Soviet SPG-9 recoilless gun
Soviet 82 and 120 mm mortar tubes
Soviet 120 mm 2B16 Nona-K
Anti-Tank Guided Weapons
Anti-tank guided weapons (ATGWs) have been documented in large numbers in the hands of the separatists. The majority of these ATGWs are used by both the Ukrainian military and the separatists.
However, the separatists have also been documented using the 9K135 Kornet ATGW system. The Kornet is not in service with the Ukrainian military, although it is used by the Russians. Based on discarded components found on the battlefield, the missiles used for the Kornet were produced in Russia in 2007.
Russia has exported the Kornet to several other states around the world, and militants in Gaza, Iraq, Libya, and Syria have all been documented using the weapon system.
The ATGWs used by the separatists include:
Man-Portable Air Defense Systems
Separatist forces have a large array of man-portable air defense systems (MANPADs) and anti-aircraft guns. By and large, the MANPADs that the separatists have been using are of the same make as what is within the Ukrainian arsenal. There have been reports of separatists seizing supplies of MANPADs from the Ukrainian military early in the conflict.
However, in one notable exception, Polish PPZR Grom MANPADs were captured from the separatists. One of the only countries that Poland ever exported the PPZR to was Georgia. In 2008, during Russia’s invasion of the country, Russia was known to have captured some of the Polish-supplied PPZRs. It is likely that those captured weapons are now being funneled to the separatists.
The MANPADs used by the separatists include:
Polish PPZR Grom
Aside from MANPADs, the separatists also have a varied arsenal of anti-aircraft guns. At times, these weapons have also been turned against Ukrainian military personnel and light vehicles.
The anti-aircraft guns that the separatists, and to a smaller extent the Ukrainian government, have been utilizing are heavy machine guns mounted in one, two, and four barrel configurations. The separatists likely captured the anti-aircraft weapons from the Ukrainian military.
The anti-aircraft systems used by the separatists include:
Soviet 14.5 x 114 mm ZPU
Artillery has become one of the primary methods of engagement between the Ukrainian government and separatist fighters. Indiscriminate shelling by both sides has led to widespread destruction throughout portions of eastern Ukraine, along with significant civilian casualties.
Both the Ukrainian government and the separatists use the same varieties of Soviet and Russian artillery in their engagements. As such, it is difficult to determine whether the rebels had received these arms directly from Russia or had looted them from the Ukrainian military.
The artillery systems used by the separatists include:
Soviet 122 mm D-30 howitzer
Soviet 100 mm BS-3 anti-tank gun
Soviet 100 mm MT-12 anti-tank gun
Soviet 152 mm 2A65 Msta-B
Soviet 76 mm ZiS-3 field gun
Main Battle Tanks
Both Ukrainian governmental forces and the separatists have placed high value on the use of main battle tanks. In many cases, the separatists are utilizing captured Ukrainian tanks, or tanks of the same model provided by the Russians.
However, the separatists have also used Russian tanks that are not known to have ever been exported outside of the country such as the T-72B and T-72BA. Notably, the separatists have also deployed the T-72B3, the latest T-72 model in the Russian service. The tank is not known to have been exported and it was just introduced into service in 2013 indicating Russian involvement in the crisis.
The main battle tanks used by the separatists include:
Soviet T-64A, B, BM, and BV models
Russian T-72 B
Infantry Fighting Vehicles and Armored Personnel Carriers
Infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs) and armored personnel carriers (APCs) are the most documented type of armored fighting vehicle in use in Ukraine. Both IFVs and APCs are designed to function as armored troop carriers, with IFVs being differentiated as having an armament of 20 mm in calibre or larger for offensive capabilities.
Although the separatists and the Ukrainians use many of the same IFVs and APCs, separatists have been documented using Russian-variants of APCs in the Ukrainian arsenal that were designed in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Strikingly, separatists have also been documented driving the BTR-82AM IFV. This model was inducted into Russian service in 2013 and is not known to have ever been exported.
The IFV and APC systems used by the separatists include:
Russian MT-LB 6MA, MT-LBVM, and MT-LBVMK
Both the Ukrainians and the separatists have utilized the same variants of self-propelled artillery. Given the models and the Ukrainian numerical advantage in fielding these weapon types, the separatists likely looted or captured their self-propelled artillery.
The self-propelled artillery systems used by the separatists include:
Soviet 2S1 Gvozdika
Soviet 2S3 Akatsia
Soviet 2S5 Giatsint-S
Soviet 2S9 Nona-S
Self-Propelled Rocket Artillery
Much like self-propelled artillery, the Ukrainian government has used self-propelled rocket artillery significantly more than the separatists have. In almost every occasion that the separatists have used rocket artillery, the weapons systems used were identical to what is in the arsenal of the Ukrainian government.
Although the separatists have generally used the 9K51 Grad rocket system, which may or may not have been looted from Ukrainian forces, the rebels also have used a 9K51M Tornado-G. This is a modernized Grad system that was likely supplied by the Russians. However, documented proof of the separatist’s using this system is limited.
The self-propelled rocket artillery systems used by the separatists include:
Soviet 9K51 Grad
Russian 9K51 Tornado-G
Self-Propelled Air Defense Systems
In addition to MANPADs, the separatists have made frequent use of self-propelled air defense systems. These systems seek to negate the Ukrainian government’s complete aerial dominance. The systems have proved effective at downing Ukrainian aircraft and were also involved in the tragic downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17.
The rebels in general have used air defense systems that are present in the Ukrainian military. However, the separatists have also utilized Russian Pantsir-S1 and Buk missile systems that were not in the Ukrainian arsenal.
The self-propelled air defense systems used by the separatists include:
When Russian President Vladimir Putin visited the studios of state-owned media outlet Russia Today in 2013, he reportedly instructed them to break “the Anglo-Saxon monopoly on global information streams.”
It appears he has not forgotten that goal.
Politico reported on Monday that Russian hackers have been posing as attractive women and friending US troops on Facebook to gather intelligence about the military.
These actions are part of a larger Russian strategy aimed at manipulating and extracting intelligence from the US military.
The U.S. military’s online behavior campaign is used to highlight the importance of appropriate conduct online and social media behavior to help eradicate bullying, exploitation and degradation of fellow service members. (Graphic Illustration by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Kegan E. Kay/Released)
Russia seems to be infiltrating the social media accounts of US troops for at least two reasons, according to Politico.
One, it allows Russia to better glean the activities of the US military through what its troops post online. “Spies understand that a great deal can be discerned about what militaries are up to based on the unclassified behavior of soldiers,” John Bambenek, of Fidelis Cybersecurity, told Politico.
Two, it gives them the chance to make US troops sympathize with Russia by inserting propaganda into their news feeds.
For example, former military contractor Serena Moring told Politico she noticed US service members sharing a link about a Russian soldier who heroically died while fighting ISIS in Syria.
According to the Pravda report, the Russian soldier supposedly called in an airstrike on himself while surrounded by ISIS militants, telling his command, “I don’t want them to take me and parade me, conduct the airstrike, they will make a mockery of me and this uniform. I want to die with dignity and take all these bastards with me.”
While the veracity of the story is unknown, Moring told Politico that US soldiers were sharing it with admiration.
“All of the response from the military guys was like, ‘That is awesome. That’s an epic way to die,'” she told Politico. “It was a very soldier-to-soldier bond that was created through social media.”
Russia is employing these hybrid warfare tactics against many Baltic states as well.
According to the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act, hybrid warfare are “activities conducted to enable a resistance movement or insurgency to coerce, disrupt, or overthrow a government or occupying power by operating through or with an underground, auxiliary, or guerrilla force in a denied area.”
In fact, Kyiv recently outlawed Russian social media sites, which Ukrainian officials said were being used to spread propaganda. Human Rights Watch, however, accused Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko of trying to curb freedom of expression.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
When a masked man walks into a gas station with a knife, most people would step aside.
That’s exactly what Daniel Gaskey did initially, until the eight-year Marine veteran figured out what was going on and decided to take action. The off-duty firefighter was pushed out of the way at the register by the masked man. Security footage captured what happened next.
“I just launched on his back, put my arm around his head, around his neck and just rotated and just thrust him on the ground,” Gaskey told CBS-Dallas-Fort Worth. “I landed on top of him and standing. And once I got them on the ground and I was on top of it I was able to get the knife away and threw it out of his reach and focused more on controlling him.”
Besides being a firefighter and a veteran of the Marine Corps, Gaskey also wrestled in high school. Looks like that came in handy.
Due to a design oversight, the internal weapon’s bay of the F-35B is too small to carry the required load of the new Small Diameter Bomb II (SDB II), Inside Defense reports, citing the Pentagon’s F-35 Joint Program Office. The SDB II is a next-generation precision-strike bomb that was meant to dovetail with the F-35 program.
The F-35B was designed to carry eight SDB IIs inside the internal weapons bay. These bombs would allow the F-35 pilot to target eight points from 40 miles away and with complete precision. The SDB IIs can also change course in-flight to follow moving targets through laser or infrared guidance systems, according to Foxtrot Alpha.
However, the F-35B can only fit four of the required bombs in its weapons bay. The F-35B variant has a significantly smaller internal bay than the F-35A and F-35C due to the aircraft’s design as a short-takeoff-vertical-landing aircraft.
Inside Defense reports that the “Navy initially wanted to field the SDB II first on the F-35B/C but is instead bringing forward integration with the F/A-18 Super Hornet. The SDB II is an F-35 Block 4 software capability and the release of that software load has been pushed back to FY-22.”
In other words, because the SDB II is included with the weapon Block 4 upgrade for the F-35, the aircraft is now likely to not field the new munitions until 2022.
F-35 spokesman Joe DellaVedova confirmed to Inside Defense that the SDB II problem has been known since 2007 and the more difficult changes to the aircraft have already been made in order to allow it to field the munitions.
“We’ve been working with the SDB II program office and their contractors since 2007,” DellaVedova said. “The fit issues have been known and documented and there were larger and more substantial modifications needed to support SDB II that have already been incorporated into production F-35 aircraft.”
The F-35B variant is the Marine Corps model of the plane and 34 aircraft have already been delivered to the branch. The delay in implementing the SDB II will not affect the aircraft’s ability to fly but will limit the operations that the F-35B will be able to effectively carry out.