The so-called Islamic State has people exposing its daily atrocities from the inside.
While the band of terrorists of The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) attempt to masquerade as a legitimate government in their de facto capital of Raqqa, Syria, a brave group of activists living inside the city have been documenting life under the brutal regime.
[The group] follows developments in ISIS very closely and appear to be well-sourced inside the city of Raqqa, which is the so-called Islamic State’s capital. The group reported on a failed Jordanian attempt to rescue Muadh al Kasasbeh, a downed pilot from the Jordan Air Force, and his subsequent execution, burned alive, weeks before the hideous video of his murder was made public by ISIS.
Now, in an exclusive video interview from The Wall Street Journal, one of the activists has given his first in-person interview.
“Young guys they just think about going to the bars, meeting girls, and having girlfriends,” the activist says in the video. “But I think about how I will expose ISIS. How I will make the world notice my city.”
A video posted online by Kurdish media purportedly shows a portion of the joint U.S.-Kurdish raid on an ISIS prison complex in Iraq that resulted in the rescue of approximately 70 hostages.
The video, which appears to show a helmet-cam view from a Kurdish Peshmerga fighter, shows scenes of freed prisoners running across a danger area as gunfire can be heard in the background, along with U.S. Army Delta operators waiting inside a room as hostages are searched.
In one part of the video, a black flag of ISIS can be seen clearly on the wall.
The hostage rescue operation — which involved U.S. special operations troops along with Kurdish and Iraq forces — took place last week in northern Iraq’s Kirkuk province in the town of Hawija, according to CNN. At around 3 a.m. on Oct. 22, the area was bombed by coalition air power in support of two helicopters used to land in the vicinity of the makeshift prison, The Guardian reported.
Commandos entered the makeshift detention facility, killing several ISIS militants, and detaining five others, according to Army Times. Four Peshmerga soldiers were wounded, and one American soldier was killed: Master Sgt. Joshua L. Wheeler.
Lt. Danny Nee, a Marine Corps veteran turned firefighter saved a teenager’s life from a burning apartment building on Christmas Day.
His unit was responding to a call that morning when he was notified by onlookers of a woman hanging from a third-floor window. He called a ground ladder and told the woman not to jump, but then realized that the ladder would take too long to deploy and the firefighters were better off rescuing her from the interior.
They made their way through the building, broke through the apartment door and Nee went in with two other firefighters. Nee found the girl, gave her his gas mask and made it out of the building.
From 1988-89, there was a video series on T.V. called “Ethics in America” where leaders in different fields were asked to debate ethical dilemmas. In the seventh episode, senators, military officers, and journalists discussed a hypothetical situation where an American journalist is embedded with enemy troops and finds themselves watching the enemy troops prepare an ambush against American soldiers.
Peter Jennings and Michael Wallace debate their roles as journalists and Americans while military leaders like Gen. William Westmoreland debate their bravery, obligations, and moral duty in the situation. It cuts to the heart of what it means to be a war correspondent, trying to balance duty to their country and their occupation while safeguarding their own lives. An edited version of the conversation is embedded below.
If you want to see the original video, with better quality and more discussion from more people, go to this archive and watch episode 7. This particular discussion starts at 31:30 in the full episode.
U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Paul T. “PJ” Johnson is right up there with the best pilots to have ever flown the A-10. While serving as a captain during Operation Desert Storm, he was decorated with the Air Force Cross for leading the rescue mission of a downed Navy F-14 Tomcat pilot deep behind enemy lines.
Capt. Johnson was en route from another mission when he received the call to search for the F-14 crew that had been shot down the night before. During the next six hours, he lead the search through three aerial refuelings, one attack on a possible SCUD missile site, and three hours of going deeper into enemy territory than any A-10 had ever flown. When he finally spotted the survivor, an enemy vehicle was heading in his direction, which Johnson proceeded to destroy, thus securing the target.
The mission was successful and a first for the A-10. A few days later, Johnson’s skills were on full display when he was hit by an enemy missile while trying to take out a radar site. The explosion left a gaping hole on his right wing, which disabled one of the hydraulic systems. Still, he managed to fly back to safety.
This video shows how Johnson pulled through his “high pucker factor” experience, which he credits to a “wing and a prayer.”
Gen. Johnson received his commission in 1985 from Officer Training School, Lackland Air Force Base. He’s a command pilot with more than 3,000 hours on the A-10 and served as commander of the 75th Fighter Squadron, Pope AFB, N.C.; the 354th Operations Group, Eielson AFB, Alaska; the 355th Fighter Wing, Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona; and 451st Air Expeditionary Wing, Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan. He’s retiring on July 01, 2016, according to his Air Force profile.
When the war in Vietnam kicked off, the Navy’s special warfare operations weren’t exactly the same as we know them today. During World War II and the Korean War, the Navy’s special operators were mostly “Frogmen,” members of the Underwater Demolition Teams (UDT).
Within months of the start of the Vietnam War, the Frogmen were carrying rifles and became experts in special operations tactics. The Navy SEALs were about to be reborn and tested in the jungles of Vietnam.
The Navy SEALs, as we know them today, were established in 1962 in a commitment from the Kennedy White House to develop America’s unconventional warfare capabilities. The SEALs were descended from the World War II-era joint “Scouts and Raiders” and the Navy’s UDTs used extensively throughout that war.
Although they kept a low profile throughout the Korean War, the UDTs’ Frogmen perfected many of their operations along the North Korean coastline (even moving inland in many cases) and honed their commando abilities against a real-world enemy.
But Vietnam was the first war in which the Navy SEALs were fully funded and fully developed, graduating three classes of SEALs from the Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL Course (BUD/S) every year.
By 1967, the number of BUD/S classes increased to five per year. Before the mid-1960s, SEALs in Vietnam were being used to reconnoiter beaches and landing sites, survey waterways and train South Vietnamese commandos. The CIA began to use SEALs in its Phoenix Program, an effort to undermine the Viet Cong in South Vietnam through counterterrorism and counterintelligence operations.
In the late 1960s, the Viet Cong, the guerrilla forces of the North Vietnamese communist government, had created an entire shadow government of its own in North Vietnam. The bread and butter mission of the U.S. Navy SEALs was to deploy into the jungle and take down VC leaders.
Most of these leaders were mid-level, and the SEALs would deploy in nine-man teams, with two of those being South Vietnamese commandos and one being a Navy SEAL officer. The team would head out into the jungle for a couple of days, complete the destruction of a VC official, and then head back to base.
These direct action, search-and-destroy missions were a far cry from the SEALs earliest days of carrying demolition explosives to a specific structure and destroying it before leaving the area. On top of killing the enemy, SEALs also had to gather intelligence in Vietnam. This meant they had to actually capture enemy troops and interrogate them.
Sometimes, this meant learning to speak Vietnamese. The SEALs had truly come into their own as a complete, well-rounded special operations force. For the duration of the war in Vietnam, there were at least eight full platoons of Navy SEALs in the country.
The elite status of the special operators also included the look they’re still known for to this day: relaxed uniform and grooming standards. One of the favorite items among Vietnam-era Navy SEALs, were Levi’s blue jeans – because the government-issued camouflage just didn’t hold up against the dense jungle foliage.
For all the trouble SEALs had at the start of the war, including high casualty rates, public anger over the Phoenix Program, and internal Navy division over the relaxed grooming and uniform standards, the SEALs proved they were worth the trouble. They were willing to do what other units weren’t willing to do, in the face of overwhelming odds.
And the Navy SEALs still do it, almost 60 years later.
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.
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).
The M982 Excalibur is the world’s most sophisticated artillery munition designed for a weapons system that was introduced during the Vietnam War: The M109 Howitzer.
This smart munition was co-developed by U.S.-based Raytheon Missile Systems and Swedish BAE Systems Bofors to precisely kill targets from long range and eliminate collateral damage. It gives a projectile the same precision you’d expect from a missile.
“You can aim the gun off target up to 20 degrees off angle and the round will still fly itself back to your target,” said Jim Riley from Raytheon Missile Systems in the video below.
The U.S. Air Force may end the careers of four Texas pilots it believes were dealing ecstasy and pot.
There were no witnesses. No drug paraphernalia were found. The officers’ drug tests all came back clean.
The evidence the Air Force found? Text messages between those involved through a search conducted before a warrant was granted. The texts themselves were quotes from “Pop Another Pill” by JellyRoll, songs by Warren G., Miley Cyrus and quotes from the 2005 film “Wedding Crashers.” The pilots’ took a trip to Las Vegas, where Cyrus’ “We Can’t Stop” became a theme of their textual conversations after they heard it on the radio.
The four Airmen are already off of flight status, stripped of their wings, and have huge, glaring blemishes on their records, which will hurt their Air Force careers as well as any possibility of becoming a commercial pilot once they leave the Air Force.
One pilot told his buddy who was at a wedding to come meet him on the town afterward and to “bring you[r] bridesmaid bitches.” The pilots also joked about “poppin pills” and “smokin’ bud.” According to The Daily Beast, one of the accused wrote his commanding officer:
“I can’t imagine a scenario in which a group of Air Force officers would be texting about engaging in criminal acts if that’s what they actually had done,” told the CO. “Maybe I’m naive in this regard, but it makes no sense to me.”
In “That Which I Love Destroys Me,” a newly-released documentary that deals with the current PTSD epidemic, writer and director Ric Roman Waugh (“Felon,” “Snitch”) does exactly what he needed to do to respect the importance and delicacy of the subject matter: He gets out of the way of the story by letting the principals tell it themselves.
“My job was to let them tell their story with unflinching candor,” Waugh said at a recent screening in Los Angeles.
TWILDM follows the post-war lives of two veteran special operators. Jayson Floyd served in Afghanistan as a Sergeant in the U.S. Army’s elite 75th Ranger Regiment, and Tyler Grey was a member of Delta Force and served multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Floyd and Grey met at a Forward Operating Base in Afghanistan in 2002, but their friendship blossomed after their complicated paths of post-active duty life joined around the methods they’d unlocked for dealing with their PTSD – mainly understanding the benefits of a supportive community of those wrestling with their own forms of post-traumatic stress.
Waugh sets the tempo of the documentary with soliloquies featuring a number of people, but mostly Floyd and Grey. Their personalities are at once different and complimentary. Floyd is Hollywood-leading-man handsome, moody and brooding, and speaks with a rapid-fire meter that forces you to listen closely to cull out the wisdom therein. Grey is more upbeat, a conversationalist who uses comedy to mute his emotional scars. He is quick with folksy metaphors that show how many times he’s told some of these stories, and he matter-of-factly relates how he sustained massive wounds to his right arm as breezily as a friend talking about a football injury.
The two warriors’ physical appearance changes throughout the documentary, which has the net effect of showing the passage of time and the range of their moods. Sometimes they’re clean-shaven; sometimes they’re bearded. Their hair length varies. The differences color the underlying chaos around the search for identity of those dealing with PTSD.
Others are featured, as well. Grey’s ex-girlfriend singularly comes to represent the toll of PTSD borne by those around the afflicted. She’s beautiful and articulate, and as she speaks from a couch with Grey seated next to her, a pathos emerges that is intense and heartbreaking. You can tell she loves him, but they’ll never be together again. Too much has been said during the darkest days. For his part, his expression evinces resignation for the beast inside of him that he is still taming, as he’ll have to for the rest of his life. The sadness in his eyes is that of a werewolf warning those who would attempt to get close to stay away lest they be torn to shreds in the dark of night.
Floyd’s brother tells of the letter Floyd wrote explaining why he couldn’t be physically present to be the best man at his wedding. As the brother reads the letter he begins to weep, which causes Floyd to weep as well. The image of the tough special operator breaking down is very powerful.
But perhaps the most powerful scene is the one featuring Grey participating in a special operations challenge in Las Vegas. He’s back in his element, wearing the gear he wore so many missions ago, a member of a team of elite warriors bonded by a clear-cut mission.
The team cleanly makes its way through a series of obstacles, but at the last one – where they must each climb a 15-foot rope to ring a bell – Grey falters. His wounded hand won’t hold him. He tries again and again, each attempt increasingly pathetic. It’s hard to watch. He finally gives up.
His teammates pat him on the back and put on the good face, but Grey is obviously crushed by his failure – something that goes against every molecule of his special operations DNA.
Grey convinces his teammates (and the camera crew, as Waugh revealed at the LA screening) to get up early the following day and try again before the event organizers tear down the obstacle course. This time Grey rings the bell. The scene captures the triumph of that day and, in a broader sense, the will to triumph over PTSD.
“Dealing with PTSD is a constant process,” Floyd said. “To do this right we had to rip the scab off and show the wound.”
“We know we’re not the worst case,” Grey added. “This is our story – just about us – and we’re putting ourselves out there not to compare but hopefully to coax people into sharing.”
Find out more about “That Which I Love Destroys Me,” including dates and places for the nationwide tour, here.
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.
Fusion Reactors and “Spacetime Modification” weapons
In 2019, the U.S. Navy’s Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division (NAWCAD) filed a number of seemingly out of this world patents that could, in theory, revolutionize not only military aviation, but just about everything. Among these filings were patents for a High Energy Electromagnetic Field Generator, which if functional, could produce massive amounts of power with far-reaching military and commercial implications and would practically result in the world’s first highly efficient fusion reactor.
But if near-limitless clean energy isn’t crazy enough, another offshoot of this work led by U.S. Navy aerospace engineer Dr. Salvatore Pais would see the creation of a “spacetime modification weapon” that would, in his words, “make the Hydrogen bomb seem more like a firecracker, in comparison.”
You can read a thorough breakdown of Pais’ work, as well as a similar effort led by Lockheed Martin, in our coverage of this story here.
Plasma Holograms that can fool missiles (and maybe even people)
New technology under patent by the U.S. Navy could shift the odds of survival further into the favor of stealth aircraft by leveraging lasers to produce plasma bursts that could trick inbound missiles into thinking they’ve found a jet to chase that would actually be little more than a hologram.
According to their patent, the laser system could be installed on the tail of an aircraft, and upon detection of an inbound missile, could literally project an infrared signature that would be comparable to a moving fighter jet’s exhaust out away from the fighter itself. Multiple systems could literally project multiple aircraft, leaving inbound missiles to go after the decoy plasma “fighters” instead of the actual aircraft itself.
These “laser induced plasma filaments,” as researchers call them, can be projected up to hundreds of meters, depending on the laser system employed, and (here’s the part that’ll really blow your mind) can be used to emit any wavelength of light. That means these systems could effectively display infrared to fool inbound heat seeking missiles, ultraviolet, or even visible light.
You can read more about this effort in our full coverage of it here.
Drone Wingmen and “Skyborg”
The 2005 movie “Stealth” depicts a team of 6th generation fighter pilots who are assigned a new wingman: an AI-enabled drone. The movie may not have gotten much right about military aviation, but the premise has proven not just viable, but likely. With programs underway like the Air Force Research Laboratories Skyborg and Boeing’s Loyal Wingman, it’s only a matter of time before we start seeing data-fusing jets like the F-35 flying with their own constellations of support drones that can be used to extend their sensor reach, engage targets on the fighter’s behalf, or even sacrifice themselves to prevent a missile from reaching the crewed aircraft.
Recently, the U.S. Air Force successfully flew a Kratos Valkyrie UCAV alongside both of America’s 5th generation fighters, with an active data link connecting the F-35 to the drone. While still a rudimentary test, this flight was truly just the beginning.
You can learn more about this effort in our coverage here.
Artificial Intelligence in the cockpit
In August of last year, Heron Systems’ incredible artificial intelligence pilot system defeated not only its industry competitors, but went on to secure 5 straight victories against a highly trained U.S. Air Force F-16 pilot, without the human pilot even scoring a single hit. It was a significant success for the endeavor to get AI into the cockpits of American fighters, even if the competition was technically stacked in the AI’s favor.
The intent behind the competition wasn’t to embarrass a human pilot, but rather to improve both the AI’s ability to make decisions and develop a level of trust between human operators and future AI co-pilots. By outsourcing some tasks to a highly capable AI, pilots can focus more of their bandwidth on situational awareness and the task at hand.
You can read more about this effort in our coverage of it here.
6th Generation Fighters
Last September, the U.S. Air Force shocked the world with the announcement that they had already designed, built, and flown a prototype of the next generation of fighters. Details released by the DoD are scarce, but there are a number of assertions we can make about this program based on publicly available information.
In order to justify the creation of a new fighter generation, this new jet will need to offer all the capabilities found in 5th generation jets like the F-35, along with a slew of entirely new capabilities. It seems feasible that the fighter that has already been tested by not be a mature platform destined for service, but may instead be a technology demonstrator used to assess the efficacy of some of these state-of-the-art systems.
You can learn more about what exactly makes a 6th generation fighter in our coverage here.
Using shrimp to track enemy submarines
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.
Israel has a new drone that launches like a missile, flies over a target like a normal unmanned aerial vehicle, and then strikes with nearly twice the explosive power of a Hellfire missile.
The Harop, manufactured by Israel Aerospace Industries, can loiter over a target area for six hours, watching for bad guys until it’s ready to engage. Then it flies to the target, crashes into it, and detonates its 33-pound warhead.
The Harop is based on another IAI drone, the Harpy. The Harpy is suicide drone that was built specifically to find and engage radar stations.
IAI announced a successful test of the Harop June 7, according to IHS Jane’s 360, who also reported that the drone may have optional landing gear to allow for recovery when it doesn’t find a target.