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.
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?
The U.S. Army celebrated 240 years of existence last month, and the Independent Journal Review put together a cool video of how its uniforms have evolved over that time.
From the Revolutionary War all the way up to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, soldiers have gone through numerous changes to their uniforms and gear. In fact, just this month the Army began its transition to its new Operational Camouflage Pattern, Army Times reports.
This video shows what soldiers wore into battle since 1775.
The Biden administration told lawmakers Wednesday the US will soon start to evacuate thousands of Afghans who have assisted American troops for nearly two decades to other countries in an attempt to keep them safe while they apply for entry to the United States, The New York Times reported.
As the drawdown in Afghanistan enters its final stages, many veterans and some legislators have warned of a looming humanitarian crisis for the locals who have helped American forces during the past 20 years of war.
“When that last soldier goes wheels up out of Afghanistan, it is a death sentence for our local allies, the Taliban have made that clear in their words and in their actions as they hunt these people down right now as we speak,” Rep. Michael Waltz, a Florida Republican and former Green Beret, said last week.
More than 18,000 interpreters, security guards, fixers, embassy clerks, and engineers have applied for the Special Immigrant Visa, which takes more than two years on average to obtain. The Times reports that those applicants have 53,000 family members. A senior administration official told the Times family members would also be evacuated to another country to await visa processing.
Calls for the Biden administration to swiftly evacuate Afghan contractors have grown in recent months, with advocates fearing the Taliban could go “house to house” after Western forces leave, targeting interpreters and their families. The Taliban, meanwhile, said earlier this month that Afghans who helped foreign forces have nothing to fear as long as they “show remorse for their past actions” and don’t engage in future “treason against Islam and the country.”
Interpreters don’t trust that promise. The Taliban has tortured and killed dozens of Afghan translators during the past two decades, the news agency AFP reported.
“The Taliban will not pardon us. They will kill us and they will behead us,” Omid Mahmoodi, an interpreter who worked with US forces between 2018 and 2020, told AFP.
It’s not clear yet where Afghans will wait, or whether third countries have agreed to the plan. In a June 12, 2021, letter to President Joe Biden, Guam’s governor Lourdes Aflague Leon Guerrero asked that the island be a landing point for those in need, like it was in 1975 when the US evacuated approximately 130,000 Vietnamese refugees.
According to a document from the Truman Center obtained by Coffee or Die Magazine, the cost of flying Afghan allies to Guam would be relatively low. The Truman Center’s Matthew Zeller estimates the average price would be $9,981.65 per person, for a total cost of about $699 million for 70,000 evacuees.
“It sounds like a lot of money until you realize it’s an additional 8.3 hours of the DOD budget. But it’s a hell of a down payment in keeping Americans alive in future wars. Because this is how we’re going to show people that we keep our word,” Zeller said.
During the shooting on Oregon’s Umpqua Community College campus, a 30-year-old Army veteran named Chris Mintz attempted to charge the gunman while trying to save others. The Daily Beast reported this was his fourth day back at school at UCC and is also his son’s sixth birthday.
He heard the gunshots and charged at the attacker to prevent him from entering the room. Mintz was shot at least five times and had two broken legs, but survived his wounds, undergoing surgery at a local hospital.
Mintz is a North Carolina native who joined the Army right after graduating from high school. He was stationed at Fort Lewis in Washington and moved to Oregon after leaving the Army and wants to be a personal trainer.
His family members told Greensboro, NC FOX affiliate WGHC both of his legs are broken and he will have to re-learn to walk, but he is now recovering and expected to survive. No vital organs were hit.
The gunman killed ten people before first responders killed him.
The skies above the United States and its allies aren’t just an intelligence battleground anymore, they’re also a big business arena. Some of the world’s top aircraft designers are looking to get their designs airborne with America’s most top secret missions.
Today, Sweden’s air forces are flying nondescript, ulta-secret spy missions in what appear to be the swankiest luxury aircraft on the market. In April 2021, Sweden flew a pair of luxury airplanes off the coast of Russia, where Russian military signals and radar were highly active.
It looked like a luxury private jet that could have belonged to any corporate officer from anywhere in the world. The converted Gulfstream IV was nothing of the sort; it was filled with the latest and greatest in signals intelligence collection equipment.
This isn’t the first time Sweden has employed its sleek fleet of Gulfstream spy planes over the past few years. They’ve been seen flying around Syria and the Mediterranean Sea. Sweden isn’t alone in employing them – other governments are bringing a demand for converted luxury aircraft.
According to Reuters, the market for selling special mission business jets to intelligence agencies is worth more than $3 billion worldwide. Using converted luxury aircraft is apparently a lower-cost alternative to converting larger passenger planes or military aircraft.
One defense and military analyst believes the shift is coming from the advanced listening and intelligence systems. As they get smaller and more powerful, the size of the aircraft needed to house them also gets smaller.
These special missions can vary from passive radar detection, communications interception, and early-warning systems. Countries from South Korea to France to the Israel Defense Forces are looking for more inexpensive ways to continue these missions using advanced equipment and smaller planes.
A private corporate jet can cost anywhere from $20 million to $60 million, the Reuters report says. Conversion to a spy plane with the latest technology could run state actors upwards of another $200 million.
The new demand for smaller aircraft is a boon to the private aviation industry, according to industry executives, who saw a drop off in demand from the civilian sector. A focus on military conversion means the companies will be more dedicated to that sector.
Although using luxury private aircraft as spy planes is a tradition that dates back to the Cold War, the breakthroughs in signals intelligence technology mean that smaller planes can be as effective as larger ones in singular “special mission” roles. The only threat to this new, emerging marketplace for corporate aircraft: special mission drones.
Unmanned aerial vehicles can be a slightly cheaper alternative for some countries looking for so-called “special mission aircraft,” but they aren’t that much cheaper. The Northrop Grumman Global Hawk UAV will still run about $130 million.
But converted executive aircraft are a good investment. The U.S. military purchased a number of Grumman Gulfstream I planes in the early 1960s, converting many to long-range command and control aircraft. They remained in service until 2001.
China is at it again, starting off the first 100 days of the Biden Presidency with a number of cyberattacks aimed at shaking American businesses, local governments and even those agencies with their own interests in what happens inside the Chinese government.
The latest round of Chinese attacks on American data services was one of the most advanced hacks yet, especially in terms of the measures taken to evade detection. This time, the hackers weren’t necessarily targeting the Department of Defense or critical infrastructure, they were targeting individuals with information China would consider valuable.
A hacking group called Advanced Persistent Threat 5 (or APT5) is the culprit in the latest round of attacks according to Charles Carmakal, chief technology officer of Mandiant, a division of FireEye. FireEye has routinely aided the U.S. government in its cybersecurity efforts and has detected or thwarted a number of high-profile attacks in the past decade.
“This looks like classic China-based espionage,” Carmakal told the Washington Post. “There was theft of intellectual property, project data. We suspect there was data theft that occurred that we won’t ever know about.”
Though the defense department was a target of this round of hacking, a number of other U.S. government agencies were, along with some critical defense contractors. The attacks began in June of 2020 and may even be ongoing. The Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), acknowledged as much in an April 2021 alert.
This time, the flaws exploited by Chinese hackers were inside of Pulse Secure virtual private network servers (VPN) that allow remote working employees to access company servers while offsite.
Hackers also got into hardware devices near the victims’ locations, and renamed their servers to mimic those of current employees. Hiding in plain sight with a common name and the accounts of persons they just hacked is what made the intrusion so difficult to detect.
FireEye has a long history of exposing high-profile hacks from state actors. In 2015, the company discovered Chinese hackers exploiting vulnerabilities in Microsoft Word and Office applications as well as Adobe Flash Player. In 2016, it discovered a vulnerability in the Android mobile operating system that allowed hackers to access text messages and phone directories.
The cybersecurity firm was also a target of hackers itself in 2020, when state-funded hackers stole the FireEye toolkit. FireEye had to then begin to fight its own software, releasting tools to make the use of its toolkit more difficult in cyberattacks.
Most importantly, FireEye detected the 2020 SolarWinds attack and reported it to the National Security Agency (NSA). The SolarWinds attack allowed hackers to breach multiple government agencies, grant themselves privileged access to their networks. This attack was allegedly conducted by hackers working for the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service, or SVR.
In response, President Biden implemented seeping sanctions on the Russian economy upon taking office. There is no word yet on retaliation against China from the Biden Administration, the White House has only commented that it was aware of the situation and was monitoring it closely.
The most recent cybersecurity breach by APT5 is the third detected attack in 2021, all suspected to have links to China’s Communist Party. One of the previous two attacks hit 30,000 Americans in small business and local government, the other targeted tech giant Microsoft.
Check out these shots of jets turning pounds and pounds of fuel into speed when the pilots push the throttles into afterburner.
An F/A-18C launches off of Cat 3 with both GE F-404 motors in full burner.
An Air Force F-16 launches out of Aviano, Italy at night with it’s single GE F-110 engine in full afterburner.
An F-22 Raptor makes a high-G pass at an airshow with it’s Pratt and Whitney F-119 engines at full power.
And F-15 Eagle launches with both Pratt and Whitney F-100s in full afterburner.
An F/A-18C Hornet raises the gear and starts a left hand clearing turn off the cat with vapes streaming off of the wingtips and both GE F-404s at full blower.
They didn’t call the F-14 the ‘big fighter’ for nothing. Here a Tomcat rages down Cat 1 with it’s Pratt and Whitney TF-30s at Zone 5 (full power).
A B-1 ‘Lancer’ (better known as “The Bone” — B+one . . . get it?) turns at sunset with all four GE F-110s (same engine used on models of the F-16 and F-14) in full afterburner.
An F-111B zorches over the water with wings swept aft and Pratt and Whitney TF-30 engines at full power.
Another shot of an F-14A Tomcat on the cat in afterburner.
A MiG-25 starts its takeoff roll with both Tumansky R-15B-300s at full power.
The F-35B Lightning II isn’t designed for speed as much as forward quarter lethality and survivability; but it’s single Pratt and Whitney F-135 does create a nice burner plume in this gorgeous sunset shot.
The 2010 smash-hit video game Call of Duty: Black Ops featured many of the conspiracy theories surrounding the Cold War. While some of them have been proven false, others are impossible to debunk — but a select few are very much true. One such example is the true-to-life way in which the protagonist receives orders throughout the campaign: through a “numbers station.”
In the game, your character, Alex Mason, listens to a shortwave radio station transmitting from a boat off the coast of Cuba that intends to send a message to Soviet sleeper agents in the States. Unlike the more fantastical elements of the game, there is historical precedent for remote numbers stations being used by spy agencies of the time.
Before the era of radio encryption, anyone with a radio receiver could listen in on any conversation. Single-channel military radios operate much like the radio in your car, just at a much lower frequency — one that car radios can’t receive. To make sure a secret message wasn’t intercepted by a random person with a radio, agencies used cryptic codes. A well-known example of such secret speech is the American military’s use of Code Talkers.
The other, equally ingenious method was the use of numbers stations. At a given moment and on a known frequency, a one-way message was sent. That message could be, as the name implies, just a string of numbers, either simply spoken or hidden within a specific song or Morse code. The listener would then use a cipher to translate what those numbers meant.
An outed numbers station transmission, The Swedish Rhapsody, sounded like this.
Someone could, for instance, turn on their car radio at exactly 12:34 PM and tune to a station that’s normally just static and hear a person call off a string of numbers, which could then translate into something like, “continue the mission.”
In the case of the video game Call of Duty: Black Ops, this method was used for espionage purposes. The radio station from which these messages were broadcast roamed the Gulf of Mexico, avoiding detection.
The use of open radio frequencies meant that more than one spy could listen in at the same time. Although never officially confirmed, many spy agencies from around the world have alluded to using them in such a manner.
Numbers stations are, allegedly, still in use. The confirmed Cuban numbers station, Atención, was at the center of an espionage case in the late 90s. Cryptic messages are still broadcast in Cuba at random times to this day.
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.
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: