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.”
The Navy needs a new fighter to replace the Super Hornet by the 2030s, and that means moving a whole lot faster than the F-35’s development.
The U.S. Navy joined the Air Force in garnering attention for their Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) program recently, but just because they’re using the same acronym as the Air Force doesn’t mean they intend to field the same aircraft. In fact, it seems the Navy is open to looking broadly at potential replacements for its workhorse 4th generation fighter, as well as its electronic warfare counterpart, the EA-18G Growler.
This new fighter, which some have assumed will qualify for a “6th generation” moniker, will have its work cut out for it as the United States military pivots back toward deterring nation-level foes with increasing technological parity like China. In fact, it’s likely that whatever the Navy’s new fighter is, it’ll require support from at least one un-crewed aircraft in order to maximize its capabilities.
“As we look at it right now, the Next-Gen Air Dominance is a family of systems, which has as its centerpiece the F/A-XX – which may or may not be manned – platform. It’s the fixed-wing portion of the Next-Gen Air Dominance family of systems,” Rear Adm. Gregory Harris explained.
Admiral Harris’ suggestion that the Navy’s next fighter might not have a pilot may not be indicative of where the program currently sits developmentally, but rather, it likely suggests that the U.S. Navy is willing to consider a variety of potential solutions to the problems facing the nation’s fleet of flat-top fighters.
China, widely seen as America’s most militarily potent adversary, has already begun fielding hypersonic anti-ship missiles with operational ranges in excess of a thousand miles. Because of the incredible speed in which these weapons fly (greater than Mach 5), the U.S. currently does not have any reliable means of intercepting or defending against such an attack. As a result, America’s supercarriers would have to remain outside the thousand-plus mile reach of these weapons, creating what’s known as an “area denial bubble” extending from Chinese shores with these weapons in place.
Currently, America’s Navy fighters have a combat radius reaching up to 750 or so miles, making them unable to cover the distance required to fly combat sorties over China without putting their carriers at risk of hypersonic missile strikes. You can read a more complete explanation of this area denial bubble and the Navy’s fighter fuel range woes in our in-depth discussion on it here.
But these new jets will need more than just range in order to dominate a 21st-century battlespace. The Navy’s Super Hornet replacements will need to leverage at least some degree of stealth in order to be survivable, and in fact, will likely need improved stealth capabilities over jets like the F-35 and F-22 in order to be seen as a truly 6th generation fighter. Improved avionics and data fusion capabilities are also all but certain–but the element that may make these new fighters really stand out from Lockheed Martin’s existing stealth jets is their use of drones for a variety of support roles.
“But we truly see NGAD as more than just a single aircraft. We believe that as manned-unmanned teaming comes online, we will integrate those aspects of manned and unmanned teaming into that,” Harris said.
“Whether that – we euphemistically refer to it as our little buddy – is an adjunct air-to-air platform, an adjunct [electronic warfare] platform, discussion of could it be an adjunct advanced early warning platform. We’ll have to replace the E-2D [Advanced Hawkeye] at some point in the future, so as we look to what replaces that.”
The U.S. Air Force drew headlines the world over last year when they announced that they had already built and tested a prototype for their NGAD fighter program, prompting many to wonder if a new jet is right around the corner. Of course, the truth is, that prototype was likely a demonstrator for some elements of new fighter technology, like operating while interlinked with a constellation of support drones. In other words, the Air Force’s tests might have been about proving something was possible, moreso than moving into production.
But the progress the Air Force has made in the NGAD realm will almost certainly benefit the Navy’s NGAD efforts, despite both branches being clear that they have no intention of repeating mistakes made during the F-35’s acquisition process. The Joint Strike Fighter program that berthed the F-35 required a single fighter platform that could fill the disparate needs of multiple military branches and allied forces. The result was an incredibly complex, expensive, and slow development process that hasn’t been fully completed to this day, even in its 14th year of flying.
With the Navy’s stable of Super Hornets and Growlers expected to age out of service within the next two decades, the F-35’s timetable just won’t cut it. The Navy needs a new, more capable, longer-range fighter–and it needs it sooner rather than later. That’s where some degree of cooperation between the branches can still be viable, even as the Navy and Air Force pursue different airframes with different specialties.
By using an open system architecture in designing these aircraft, the Navy and Air Force will be able to leverage new sensors and other digital technologies in both aircraft. Fielding the same modular systems would reduce costs, increase interoperability, and importantly, make it similarly inexpensive to replace those systems with newer ones as technology allows.
“So if you think about it, a contractor may have a particular sensor – let’s just use the radar as an example – and over time, perhaps the performance of that radar isn’t what you want, either from a sustainability standpoint or purely from a capability standpoint,” he said.
“With that open mission system architecture, you have an ability to more rapidly replace that without getting into vendor lock. And we’ve seen vendor lock create problems for us before. We firmly believe that competition will give us a better reliability, lower sustainment costs and lower the overall costs.”
The Navy is taking a two-step approach to replacing its 4th generation jets, first focusing on a replacement for the F/A-18 Super Hornet, and then for the EA-18 Growler, which is fundamentally the same or very similar, but is equipped with a suite of electronic warfare systems instead of kinetic munitions. The next-generation platforms in these roles may not be two similar jets. Instead, some roles will likely be filled by drones, as the Navy works toward fielding a larger uncrewed fleet.
The Navy is currently developing the MQ-25 Stingray as part of this very endeavor. Boeing’s prototype was originally intended to serve as a carrier-based UCAV (Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle), but the Navy pivoted toward a fuel carrier in order to begin picking away at China’s area denial bubble. The MQ-25 will be able to refuel manned aircraft in contested airspace, allowing for greater range. It stands to reason, however, that the MQ-25 could find other uses aboard the Navy’s flat tops, including the kinetic one it was originally designed for.
“Right now – notionally – looking at driving towards an air wing that has a 40-60 unmanned-manned split and overtime shift that to a 60-40 unmanned-manned split. So to try to drive an air wing that is at least 50 percent or more unmanned over time,” Harris explained.
“Again, a lot of that’s going to be dependent on the success we see with the MQ-25 Stingray, on our ability to truly learn how to operate around the aircraft carrier and safely execute that both on the flight deck and then airborne.”
Despite an increased focus on using artificial intelligence to aid in decision making aboard drones, it seems unlikely that the Navy’s next fighter will come without a cockpit. Dogfights between aircraft are considered to be among the most complex situations pilots could contend with, and the technology isn’t quite mature enough to hand those life or death decisions off to an AI system yet. Further, before we can field such platforms, America will have to contend with the idea of giving a machine the decision to choose a target and execute. Currently, human operators manage those decisions. However, using drone platforms as “arsenal ships” or “missile magazines” that support stealth aircraft may indeed be feasible.
“Having an unmanned platform out there as an adjunct missile carrier I see as not a step too far, too soon. I could have an unmanned friend. I typically say a flying Dorito chip when I’m thinking about it – doesn’t have to be that, right,” Harris continued.
“An unmanned system with missiles I can clearly in my mind envision a way to say, ‘fine defensive combat spread. Shoot on this target.’ And I will squeeze the trigger or I will just execute – enable that unmanned platform to shoot the designated target. That doesn’t stretch beyond my realm of imagination.”
It seems clear that the next fighters America fields will be just one piece of a larger “family of systems,” blending crewed and uncrewed aircraft, fusing data from air, ground, and sea-based sensors, and engaging targets with its own munitions as well as weapons carried by other assets. This networked interoperability will allow decision makers a broader set of options and pilots a great degree of awareness and capability.
The only question is, can they do it in time to beat the Super Hornet’s final flight off into the sunset?
In 2011, the U.S. government spent about $718 billion on defense. That’s nearly half of all military spending on the planet. The other top 13 nations combined spent $695 billion.
While the yearly budget is spread out according to defense needs, some projects take the lion share. Case in point are weapon systems like the Virginia Class Submarine with a procurement cost of $76.6 billion and the V-22 Osprey at $95.2 billion. Although costly, they aren’t the most expensive military mega-projects of all time. Here’s the list:
1. Nazi Germany’s Atlantic Wall
Final cost: unknown
Although the final cost was never determined, the French portion alone would have cost $200 billion when adjusted for inflation.
The Air Force‘s Airman Battle Uniform is getting its official send-off. On Thursday, airmen will be required to retire their old “Tiger Stripe” camouflage for good and switch to the Operational Camouflage Uniform, or OCP. The service has spent three years phasing in the Army‘s service duty uniform.
The Air Force approved the OCP to be worn full-time beginning Oct. 1, 2018, with the expectation that all airmen and Space Force guardians would make the complete changeover by April 1, 2021, after wearing the Airman Battle Uniform, or ABU, for more than a decade.
The OCP already has a history with the service.
Since 2012, nearly 100,000 airmen have worn the uniform when deployed overseas to places like Afghanistan or while operating outside the wire, Maj. Gen. Robert LaBrutta, then-Air Force director of Military Force Management Policy and deputy chief of staff for Manpower, Personnel and Services, said in 2018. LaBrutta retired in 2019.
Air Force Special Operations Command members were some of the first to don the OCP, along with some Security Forces units, LaBrutta said at the time.
Service member feedback played a big role in the decision to switch to the OCP, top officials have said. Airmen have expressed on social media that moving to a single combat uniform for the service couldn’t come soon enough.
In 2013, The Washington Post reported that there were 10 different types of military camouflage uniforms in use, depending on service and where troops were stationed.
The ABU’s “tiger stripe” pattern was supposed to pay homage to camouflage used during the Vietnam War, according to the Post.
But early iterations “looked slightly off” from one uniform to the next, with multiple shades making up the pattern, according to Master Sgt. Mike Smith, who wrote a farewell tribute to the ABU earlier this year. Smith serves at the I.G. Brown Training and Education Center at McGhee Tyson Air National Guard Base in Tennessee.
“Not since leisure suit wearers were cool has an outfit been so disliked and oppositely loved,” he said in a release. “One opponent compared its camouflage design to an over-patterned couch; another advocate hailed its unique ability to channel the wind down her sleeves, from one arm to the other while driving down the road — she will miss that.”
Airmen at the Tennessee base got together to say goodbye to the ABU one last time March 29, taking selfies in the tiger stripe.
“We’ve come a long way in this uniform, here and deployed,” said Chief Master Sgt. Steven Durrance, the enlisted professional military education center commandant at McGhee Tyson.
“It’s important to capture this moment and take time for our heritage, who we are, and where we come from,” he said in a separate release.
The service will donate leftover uniform gear associated with the ABU to junior ROTC programs across the country, service officials have previously said.
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.
China has quietly been reaching a naval milestone: They floated their first indigenous aircraft carrier on April 23, 2017. The vessel is sort of a half-sister to their current aircraft carrier, the Liaoning.
And the Chinese decided to copy this less-than-successful vessel – which probably should be hauled away to the boneyard.
According to DefenseNews.com, the new vessel, reportedly named Shandong, is almost a copy of the Liaoning. The big difference is in the arrangement of phased-array radars. But it has the same limited capacity (roughly 36 planes). Appropriately, the carrier has been designated as he Type 001A, while the Liaoning was designated Type 001.
The Shandong, though, may be the only ship in her subclass. The DefenseNews.com report notes that China is no longer testing the ski ramp – and instead has been trying to build catapults for launching aircraft. According to GlobalSecurity.org, China is planning to build two Type 002 aircraft carriers, followed by a nuclear-powered design, the Type 003.
The Type 002 carriers are slated to include catapults – which are far better at launching planes than the ski jump on the Kuznetsov-class design, and displace anywhere from 70,000 to 80,000 tons. The Type 003 will displace about 100,000 tons and be comparable to the Nimitz and Ford-class carriers.
China has stated a goal of having 10 aircraft carriers by 2049.
Delta Force goes by many official and unofficial names. It is most commonly referred to as “The Unit,” but those in the inside call it CAG (Combat Applications Group). Whatever you call it, no one ever speaks of Delta Force officially and such, no one really knows exactly what instructors are looking for in future operators.
“It’s not always the best guy that makes it,” said former Delta Force operator Pat Savidge in this Military Channel video. “It’s the right guy.”
Delta Force operators are the toughest of the tough. The group is made up of elite soldiers and special forces troops from all branches of service, including the National Guard and Coast Guard.
This video shows what it takes to try out for Delta Force:
According to the The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinal, American military planners thought the battle would only be a few days. Instead, it dragged on for five weeks, at a cost of more than 6,800 American lives. The Japanese lost more than 18,000.
This Day in Marine Corps History. 19 February 1945: At 08:59, one minute ahead of schedule, the first of an eventual 30,000 Marines of the 3rd Marine Division, the 4th Marine Division, and the new 5th Marine Division, making up the V Amphibious Corps, landed on Iwo Jima The initial wave did not come under Japanese fire for some time, as General Kuribayashi’s plan was to wait until the beach was full of the Marines and their equipment. By the evening, the mountain had been cut off from the rest of the island, and 30,000 Marines had landed. About 40,000 more would follow.
Each year, this five-day intensive training program, also known as Cool School, teaches over 700 servicemembers the survival skills necessary to fight back against nature and survive in the Arctic.
“Mother nature does not like you in this situation,” Survival Instructor Staff Sgt. Seth Reab, tells his students in the morning freeze. “She’s violent. She’s harsh. Your job is to survive until help comes; her job is to find a way to take your life.”
The Air Force’s Cool School, which brings in more than 700 participants every year across all service branches, takes place outside Eielson Air Force Base, deep inside Alaska. Temperatures average about 30 degrees below zero.
At the start of the course, all participants are given the emergency equipment they would have depending upon what plane they would be flying.
The emergency equipment usually works. But everything else in the Arctic will try to kill the participants. This includes subzero temperatures …
… and even dehydration. Despite the abundance of snow, it is extremely difficult to drink enough water under harsh Arctic conditions.
One of the first things students are taught is to harvest snow in parachutes, in order to melt it down for water.
This supply of snow can then be moved into tin cans, in which the snow can be mixed until it melts enough to easily drink.
Warmth is just as important as water. Students are taught to find tender wood with which to build a fire.
In Cool School, students are taught the ideal way to split wood into longer thin splints that will burn more easily and evenly.
Servicemembers learn to create sparks with a metal match. Though somewhat antiquated, metal matches can be used indefinitely.
Once students create a fire, it can be used for signaling, heat, and food preparation.
Students also learn more basic practical skills — they have to change socks in order to keep feet dry so as to avoid hypothermia.
On the first night of school, students are taught to create open primitive shelters that provide little insulation from the elements.
Staff Sgt. Joseph Reimer unpacks his duffle bag during the first night of arctic field training near Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. The course is five days in duration with instruction in familiarization with the arctic environment, medical, personal protection, sustenance and signaling. Reimer is an explosive ordnance disposal technician assigned to the 354th Civil Engineer Squadron
During the second day, instructors teach students to make more complex A-frame shelters out of wood and a parachute or tarp.
Airman 1st Class Ray Simon prepares the cover for his thermalized A-frame shelter during arctic survival training at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. The A-frame shelter is designed to keep the survivor warm and dry to endure harsh arctic nights. Simon is a 3rd Maintenance Support Squadron crew chief.
The A-frame is then covered with almost a foot of snow to provide insulation.
Airman 1st Class Ray Simon looks out of his thermalized A-frame tent during Arctic Survival School training. The thermalized A-frame is designed to keep survivors warm and dry in arctic environments. Simon is a 3rd Maintenance Support Squadron crew chief and also a member of a crash disable damage recovery team responsible for retrieving downed aircraft in emergency situations.
Another vital principle of survival students learn is how to create an effective signal fire by placing a flare inside a base of kindling and smoke-generating tree limbs.
Staff Sgt. Seth Reab ignites a flare in the middle of tender wood to create a smoke signal during a field training lesson at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. The signal flare can be seen for up to 10 miles away and much further when rescue help is coming through the air. Reab is an Air Force Arctic Survival School instructor assigned to Det. 1, 66th Training Squadron at Eielson AFB.
Next to the smoke signal, students create a giant letter ‘V’ to alert passing pilots that they are in need of rescue.
You can watch a recap of the Arctic Survival School below.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Central Intelligence Agency: Many Americans often pair the two high-level security organizations together. While agents of both organizations report directly to the Director of National Intelligence and their work often overlaps, their overall structure and mission differ vastly.
The key differences between the organizations lie in where the security threat comes from, who they are essentially extensions of, and the authorities granted to both. It can basically be summed up by what the ‘I’ in their names stand for. The FBI focuses on investigating crimes while the CIA focuses on gathering intelligence.
Federal Bureau of Investigation
The FBI works under the jurisdiction of the Department of Justice. They are essentially business-suit-wearing police officers, although they function at a much higher level.
The Bureau was founded after merging several other branches of the Department of Justice together. Early work of the FBI was to hunt down known gangsters of the 1930s, such as John Dillinger, “Baby Face” Nelson, and George “Machine Gun” Kelly. Over the years, the FBI has taken on more counter-terrorism roles in the wake of the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993, the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, and the apprehension of the Unabomber.
While the work of the FBI is occasionally covert, their presence is much more known than that of the CIA. They have field offices in 56 major cities, 350 smaller offices, and are in many embassies and consulates. Despite how films portray them (especially when the protagonist is a police officer and FBI agents are in their way), they often work hand-in-hand with many police stations.
Central Intelligence Agency
The CIA, on the other hand, is actually a civilian foreign intelligence service of the United States government. Among countless other functions (countless because a lot of internal workings of the CIA are classified), this is where you would find the spies.
Created as a successor to the Office of Strategic Services, the first real mission of the CIA was to gather what information it could during the Korean War and, eventually, against the Soviet Union. The CIA has been known to install pro-American governments around the world.
The CIA doesn’t let information out about the size and scope of their operations, but it’s generally considered that they hide in plain sight in many locations around the world. As mentioned, the CIA employs much more than spies. Translators, cyber-analysts, and negotiators are far more common.
To learn more about the differences between the two agencies, check out the video below:
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: