At the end of April 2021, intelligence reports indicated the use of directed-energy attacks on American troops over the course of the previous year. Politico reported that two groups of lawmakers were briefed about an investigation into the use of the weapons, both in writing and in person.
According to those intelligence briefings, the Pentagon believes intelligence points to the energy attacks on American service members in Syria and they believe that Russia is responsible. Gen. Frank McKenzie, head of U.S. Central Command, later told Congress he had seen “no evidence” of the attack.
In the fall of 2020, a number of U.S. troops in Syria began presenting with flu-like symptoms, the Politico report says. Similar symptoms have affected American diplomatic officials in Havana, Cuba since 2016. The “Havana Syndrome,” as it’s come to be called, is believed to be caused by a kind of directed-energy weapon.
The symptoms of those affected in Cuba not only include flu-like symptoms, but far-ranging and more severe symptoms. American diplomats have reported ringing and pressure in their ears, loss of equilibrium, and persistent headaches. The worst reports confirm long-term brain damage.
When U.S. troops in the vicinity of Russians began to mysteriously develop the same early symptoms, the Pentagon allegedly set up a task force to investigate. Politico says the details about the attacks and the suspected weapons systems aren’t clear.
What is known is that the attack used concentrated beams of electromagnetic energy, high-frequency radio waves, particle beams, or microwaves to hit their targets.The attacks disrupt electronic equipment and cause neurological and other kinds of injuries.
In Havana, researchers discovered the effects of the weapons can create air pockets in the fluids near the inner ear. Those bubbles float in the paths that carry blood to the brain. Once the cavities reach the brain, they can cause stroke-like effects.
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence has declined to comment about the reports but insiders told Politico that Congress has been briefed about Russia’s use of the weapons in Syria, but the only response from Congress came from Sen. Jim Inhofe, who only said that they would be talking about it and that discussion would be classified.
Amid the global COVID-19 pandemic, and without any direct intelligence of the weapons involved, it’s difficult to know for certain if the attacks on Americans in Syria are really directed-energy attacks or if they are in any way similar to the Cuba attacks.
Not much is known about the energy attacks on the U.S. embassy in Havana. Without knowing for certain the weapon exists, it’s unlikely the United States would blame Russia for an attack that could just be an unrelated illness.
Scientists and researchers conducted thorough tests on more than 100 other embassy personnel in Cuba. Since some of the embassy workers were attacked in their homes, they also tested other people living in their respective buildings. No one else appeared to have been the victim, as they displayed none of the neurological damage or symptoms associated with the mysterious “Havana Syndrome.”
The team that investigated those attacks ruled out any kind of head injury, instead finding that 100 percent of those who claimed to be affected suddenly began suffering from acute onset balance disorders, cognitive issues, and other neurological problems.
Featured image: Image created for the Directed Energy Weapons section of the “Competing in Space” unclassified report, depicting threats that can temporarily impair or permanently damage space-based systems.
The Armata is billed as Russia’s deadliest battle tank and is based on a universal combat platform that serves as the chassis for other military vehicles.
The first configuration, the T-14, has a heavily armored hull and a 125-mm cannon.
T-14 Armata, Wikimedia
The second configuration is an infantry fighting vehicle with a smaller, 30-mm cannon and is called the BMP Armata, or T-15.
The third configuration has a crane instead of a cannon and is the Armored Repair-Evacuation Vehicle, or T-16. It is used to recover damaged armored vehicles and tanks.
The Armata platform has been under development since 2009 and began trials in Feb. 2015. Large deliveries of the tank will start in 2017 or 2018, according to Interfax. Here is the latest video showing the capabilities of the tank, including shots of its interior.
In 1987, Jonathan Pollard became the first American convicted of espionage against the United States for a U.S. ally. He was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 30 years.
His sentence was lighter than most other convicted spies because of a plea agreement he took to get leniency for him and his wife. Convicted in 1987, he was released in 2015 and was sent to Israel, where he now lives. Once in Israel, he received a hero’s welcome for his spying.
On Mar. 22, 2021, an Israeli newspaper, the Israel Hayom, published an interview with Pollard where he says the United States was intentionally keeping Israel in the dark in many areas.
“I know I crossed a line, but I had no choice,” he told the newspaper, adding that the threats to Israel were “serious.” He also describes himself as a “soldier” for Israel.
Pollard was working as an intelligence analyst for the U.S. Navy. He was arrested in 1985 after trying to get asylum in the Israeli embassy in Washington. The Israelis told him he had to go through the embassy’s front door – where the FBI was waiting for him.
He initially told authorities he was passing secrets to the U.S. ally in the Middle East because he was adamant Israel was not getting a total intelligence picture, and that the United States was “stabbing Israel in the back” with an intelligence embargo.
But the facts say something entirely different. Pollard wasn’t just passing along gathered intelligence to the Israelis, he was passing on intelligence about the U.S. military. The Defense Department has never released the full extent of what he sold to Israel, because even the list of his sold secrets is so damaging that it’s also classified Top Secret.
Pollard, now 66 years old, blames his Israeli handlers for his capture, claiming they never trained him to be a spy and brushed off his concerns about getting caught. When Pollard was finally captured and tried, the prosecution used security camera footage of Pollard stealing classified documents to win his conviction.
Ron Olive, the FBI agent who apprehended Pollard, said the Israeli spy was on a “spree” of classified document theft from “every intelligence agency in D.C.” Olive believed Pollard should never have been allowed to leave the U.S. and his fear that Pollard would be hailed as a hero came true.
“The problem with the Israelis,” Olive told the U.S. Naval Institute, “They denied knowing anything about Pollard. They literally lied to two or three presidents that they knew nothing about Pollard.”
Then-Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger said Pollard gave Israel information that could cause grave damage to U.S. national security. The most damaging information he sold was the Navy’s 10-volume Radio and Signal Intelligence [RASIN] manual, which was “in effect, a complete roadmap to American signal intelligence.”
At his defense trial and even to this day, Pollard claimed it was altruistic support for the Jewish state and an American ally that caused him to pass on U.S. intelligence secrets. But for all his altruistic claims, he was still paid $25,000, along with a near $6,000 monthly stipend, along with other gifts of jewelry, hotel stays, and other luxuries.
The government claimed he also attempted to sell U.S. Navy secrets to South Africa, Argentina, Taiwan, Pakistan, and Iran. They estimate Pollard stole more than a million classified documents to Israel, calling him the “most damaging spy in U.S. history.”
Pollard was paroled in 2015 and spent five years on probation before being allowed to leave the United States for Israel.
The Greek tragedian Aeschylus famously wrote: “In war, truth is the first casualty.”
Well, in this new era of so-called “hybrid” or “gray zone” warfare, truth is not only a casualty of war — it has also become the weapon of choice for some of America’s contemporary adversaries.
Recent “deepfake” videos of the actor Tom Cruise illustrate the power of the new technological tools now available to foreign adversaries who wish to manipulate the American people with online disinformation. The three videos, which appear on the social media platform TikTok under the handle @deeptomcruise, are striking in their realism. To the naked eye of the casual observer, it’s difficult to discern the videos as fakes.
Equally as stunning is an artificial intelligence tool called Deep Nostalgia, which animates static, vintage images — including those of deceased relatives. Together, these technological leaps harken back to the famous line by the writer George Orwell: “Who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past.”
The technology now exists for America’s foreign adversaries, or other malign actors, to challenge citizens’ understanding of their present reality, as well as the past. Coupled with the historic loss in confidence among Americans for their country’s journalistic institutions, as well as our addiction to social media, the conditions are certainly ripe for deepfake disinformation to become a serious national security threat — or a catalyst for nihilistic chaos.
“The internet is a machine, but cyberspace is in our minds. As both expand and evolve faster than we can defend them, the ultimate target — our brains — is closer every day,” Kenneth Geers, a Cyber Statecraft Initiative senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, told Coffee or Die Magazine.
According to a September Gallup Poll, only 9% of Americans said they have “a great deal” of trust in the media to report the news “fully, accurately, and fairly.” On the other hand, when it comes to trusting the media, six out of 10 Americans, on average, responded that they had “not very much” trust or “none at all.” Those findings marked a significant decline in Americans’ trust for the media since polling on the topic began in 1972, Gallup reported.
“Americans’ confidence in the media to report the news fairly, accurately and fully has been persistently low for over a decade and shows no signs of improving,” Gallup reported.
That pervasive distrust in the media leads to increased political polarization and is bad for America’s democratic health, many experts say. Americans’ loss of trust in the media could also portend a national security crisis — especially as contemporary adversaries such as Russia and China increasingly turn to online disinformation campaigns to exacerbate America’s societal divisions.
In fact, Russia already used deepfake technology in its disinformation campaign to influence the 2020 US election, said Scott Jasper, author of the book, Russian Cyber Operations: Coding the Boundaries of Conflict. In advance of the election, Russian cybercriminals working for the Internet Research Agency created a fake news website called “Peace Data,” which featured an entirely fictitious staff of editors and writers, multiple news agencies reported.
“Their profile pictures were deepfakes generated by artificial intelligence,” Jasper told Coffee or Die Magazine. “The fake personas contacted real journalists to write contentious stories that might divide Democratic voters.”
A Soviet doctrine called “deep battle” supported front-line military operations with clandestine actions meant to spread chaos and confusion within the enemy’s territory. Similarly, modern Russia has turned to cyberattacks, social media, and weaponized propaganda to weaken its adversaries from within. According to an August State Department report, Russia uses its “disinformation and propaganda ecosystem” to exploit “information as a weapon.”
“[Russia] invests massively in its propaganda channels, its intelligence services and its proxies to conduct malicious cyber activity to support their disinformation efforts, and it leverages outlets that masquerade as news sites or research institutions to spread these false and misleading narratives,” wrote the authors of the State Department report, Pillars of Russia’s Disinformation and Propaganda Ecosystem.
Some experts contend that the cyber domain has become the proverbial “soft underbelly” of America’s democracy. In the past, America’s journalistic institutions served as gatekeepers, shielding the American people from foreign disinformation or propaganda. However, due to the advent of social media and the internet, America’s adversaries now enjoy direct access into American citizens’ minds. Consequently, the ability to manufacture video content indistinguishable from reality is an exponential force multiplier for adversaries intent on manipulating the American people.
The emerging deepfake threat spurred the Senate in 2019 to pass a bill mandating that the Department of Homeland Security provide lawmakers an annual report on advancements in “digital content forgery technology,” which might pose a threat to national security.
According to the Deepfake Report Act of 2019: “Digital content forgery is the use of emerging technologies, including artificial intelligence and machine learning techniques, to fabricate or manipulate audio, visual, or text content with the intent to mislead.”
The advancement of deepfake technology has been meteoric. Just a couple of years ago, the casual observer would have been able to rather easily tell the difference between genuine humans and their computer-generated, deepfake doppelgangers. Not anymore. Much like the advent of nuclear weapons, the Pandora’s box of deepfake technology has officially been opened and is now impossible to un-invent.
The potential dangers of this technological leap are practically boundless.
Criminals could conceivably concoct videos that offer an alibi at the time of their alleged crimes. Countries could fabricate videos of false flag military aggressions as a means to justify starting a war. Foreign adversaries could generate fake videos of police brutality, or of racially charged acts of violence, as a means to further divide American society.
“I think it’s a safe assumption that video manipulation is a key short-term weapon in the arsenal of less reputable political-military organizations needing to shape some opinions before the contents can be disputed,” Gregory Ness, a Silicon Valley cybersecurity expert, told Coffee or Die Magazine.
There are certain commercially available artificial intelligence, or AI, tools already available to detect deepfake videos with a fidelity surpassing that of the human observer. Microsoft, for example, has already developed an AI algorithm for detecting deepfakes.
Some cybersecurity experts are calling on social media platforms to integrate these deepfake detection algorithms on their sites to alert users to phony videos. For his part, Geers, the Atlantic Council senior fellow, was skeptical that social media companies would step up on their own initiative and police for deepfake content.
“Social media profits from our negativity, vulnerability, and stupidity,” Geers said. “Why would they stop?”
The overarching intent of disinformation campaigns — particularly those prosecuted by Moscow — is not always to dupe Americans into believing a false reality. Rather, the real goal may be to challenge their belief in the existence of any objective truths. In short: The more distrustful Americans become of the media, the more likely they are to believe information based on its emotional resonance with their preconceived biases. The end goal is chaos, not brainwashing.
“If we are unable to detect fake videos, we may soon be forced to distrust everything we see and hear, critics warn,” the cybersecurity news site CSO reported. “The internet now mediates every aspect of our lives, and an inability to trust anything we see could lead to an ‘end of truth.’ This threatens not only faith in our political system, but, over the longer term, our faith in what is shared objective reality.”
Some experts say the US government should get involved, perhaps by leveraging the power of the Department of Defense, to patrol the cyber domain for deepfake videos being spread by foreign adversaries. The Pentagon, for its part, has already been called in to defend America’s elections against online disinformation.
In the wake of Russia’s attack on the 2016 presidential election, the Department of Defense partially shouldered the responsibility of defending against foreign attacks on America’s elections. By that measure, it’s certainly within the bounds of national security priorities for Washington to leverage the US military’s resources to root out and take down deepfake videos.
“Governments will inevitably step in, but what we really need is for democracies to step up and create innovative policies based on freedom of expression and the rule of law,” Geers said.
In the 1950s, Lockheed Martin designed the C-130 with transport in mind, by the end of the 1960s, Boeing converted the lumbering giant into one of the deadliest aircraft in the world. Its endurance and capacity to carry munitions made it the perfect AC-47 Spooky gunship replacement.
Like the AC-47, the new, AC-130 was capable of flying faster and higher than helicopters, and its excellent loiter time allowed it to deliver concentrated fire to a single target on the ground. The gunship first saw action during the Vietnam War and has continued to receive updates. The newest version of the gunship, the AC-130U Spectre, uses the latest sensor technologies and fire control systems to improve range and accuracy.
This video perfectly shows why Boeing received an $11.4 million indefinite contract by the U.S. Air Force. Watch it now:
Earlier this week, defense officials from the United States and the United Kingdom signed an agreement that will allow the two nations to merge forces into a joint U.S./U.K. carrier strike group in 2021. The joint strike group will be led by the U.K.’s new flagship carrier, the HMS Queen Elizabeth, and will include a U.S. Navy Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, as well as a compliment of U.S. Marine Corps F-35B Joint Strike Fighters.
“This deployment underscores the strength of our bilateral ties and demonstrates U.S.-U.K. interoperability, both of which are key tenets of the U.S. National Defense Strategy,” a Pentagon’s announcement on the agreement reads.
Carrier strike groups represent some of the most potent means of force projection in any nation’s military, made up of an aircraft carrier and assorted ships tasked with defending and supporting carrier operations. The standard U.S. Navy carrier strike group is led by one of America’s supercarriers from the Nimitz class of ships (with Ford-class carriers expected to enter operational service in the near future as well). Each carrier maintains a carrier air wing made up of as many as 70 aircraft, allowing a single ship to leverage more destructive power than some entire nations. The U.S. Navy operates F/A-18 Super Hornets and will soon fly F-35C Joint Strike Fighters from the decks of its flat tops.
That carrier is usually accompanied by at least one cruiser, two destroyers or frigates, and other ships that may support specific operations like nuclear submarines or supply ships. All told, a single American carrier strike group usually boasts more than 7,500 personnel and wields enough conventional firepower to achieve tactical and strategic objectives on a broad scale. At any given time, the United States maintains 10 such carrier strike groups around the world.
The U.K. maintains only one carrier strike group, which is smaller in scale than any of America’s. Today’s UKCSG (U.K. Carrier Strike Group) is comprised of nine total ships, including the HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier, two frigates, two destroyers, one replenishment ship, and a solid support ship. The Queen Elizabeth, which is the largest warship ever built for the Royal Navy, is not nuclear powered like America’s Nimitz-class carriers and is notably smaller–displacing 65,000 tons compared to the Nimitz’s 100,000.
While the Queen’s carrier may not be as large as its American counterparts, it still packs one hell of a punch. The HMS Queen Elizabeth is capable of supporting more than 65 aircraft and intends to field between 24 and 35 F-35B Joint Strike Fighters, alongside another 14 helicopters, at any given time.
“Next year, HMS Queen Elizabeth will lead a British and allied task group on our most ambitious deployment for two decades,” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said. “We shall forward-deploy more of our naval assets in the world’s most important regions, protecting the shipping lanes that supply our nation.”
The UKCSG currently includes the HMS Diamond, HMS Defender, HMS Kent, HMS Richmond, at least one attack submarine, the RFA Fort Victoria supply ship, and a Tide-class tanker for fuel.
The HMS Diamond and the HMS Defender are both Daring-class air-defense destroyers with a suite of onboard weapon systems, including up to 48 Aster 15 and Aster 30 missiles. The Kent is a Duke-class frigate with anti-submarine torpedoes, 8 Harpoon anti-ship missiles, and 32 anti-air missiles, and the Richmond is an older Type 23 frigate with a similar loadout. The subs used in the carrier strike group hail from either the older Trafalgar or the latest Astute-class of nuclear attack submarines.
In 2021, the UKCSG will be joined by the USS The Sullivans, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer homeported in Mayport, Florida. The 505-foot ship displaces around 6,800 tons and carries a crew complement of around 280. Each Arleigh Burke-class vessel can carry 56 Raytheon Tomahawk cruise missiles. Each Tomahawk can strike targets as far away as 1,550 miles.
The joint strike group will be bolstered in the air by 10 of the U.S. Marine Corps’ short take-off, vertical landing variant of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. While the U.S. Navy operates F-35C’s off the decks of its own flattops, the F-35B has been considered a better option for the Queen Elizabeth’s sloping deck. The F-35B is the only version of the stealth fighter that can land vertically, eliminating the need for arresting wires during landing. The U.S. Marine Corps has been operating F-35Bs off the deck of amphibious assault ships in recent years in a similar fashion, earning the colloquial name of “Lightning Carriers.”
Much like U.S. special operations forces, Russia has its own elite troops that shine during special missions like counterterrorism and hostage rescue.
“Spetsnaz,” or special purpose, is an umbrella term for special ops in Russia and other eastern Bloc states. These elite troops traditionally fall under the GRU [intelligence service], FSB [security service], and other ministries, in addition to the traditional military structure.
Regardless, they are the “core of the best trained men the Soviet Union, now the Russian Federation, could produce,” according to SOFREP.
In this video, we get a sense of what these troops are capable of. Though it is worth pointing out that this was produced in Russia and isn’t exactly an impartial look at this force.
The Annual David E. Grange Jr. Best Ranger Competition was held April 16-19 at Fort Benning, GA, hosted by the Maneuver Center of Excellence and the Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade. This notable Army tournament is a culmination of grueling physical, mental and tactical tasks. The encounter got its start back in 1982 when it began among Ranger units. The contest was later expanded to all U.S. Armed Forces in 1987, so long as the participants meet certain criteria: they must be Ranger qualified, serving as active-duty soldiers, and acting as a two-man team.
The 2020 Best Ranger Competition (BRC) was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, marking this year as the 37th event.
Over 60 hours, the teams competed in various events, kicking off at 0530 Friday. From there, teams fought in back-to-back tests that were designed to challenge and grade them individually and as a partnership. Extended foot marches, land navigation, and Ranger-specific tasks were laid out for the entire weekend, with some events being open for friends and family members to spectate.
Each Best Ranger event is set up with 50 teams of participants who take on an array of events, which vary from year to year. Each BRC has included aspects of marksmanship, foot marches of 30+ miles (with a 60-lb ruck), military knots, weapons assemblies, obstacle course, land navigation, and water confidence/swim tests.
From its inception, the BRC was meant to place “extreme demands on each buddy team’s physical, mental, technical, and tactical skills as Rangers.” This year did not disappoint.
With no planned sleep, Rangers cover 60 miles while running, shooting, and identifying their way through obstacles; there was also a mystery event, leaving athletes in the dark on how to prepare.
This year’s title went to 1st Lieutenant Vince Paikowski and 1st Lieutenant Alastair Keys. Team 34 landed themselves in the #1 slot at the end of Friday, the first full day of competing, and didn’t budge through the entire event. They finished the final buddy run on Sunday, and were awarded in a final ceremony on Monday, April 19th.
The pair are stationed to the 75th Ranger Regiment out of Fort Benning, GA, and return the title back to the 75th for the first time since 2017.
Notable Best Ranger facts
There are 50 teams, but no #13; tradition skips the unlucky number, leaving the last team at #51.
The average Ranger in the BRC is 28 years old, 5’ 10” in height, and weighs 165 pounds.
26% of participants have previously competed.
The most winningest participant of the BRC is CPT Mike Rose, who has won the competitions three separate times (twice with one partner and one with another). His last title was in 2019. Three others have been awarded the BRC twice, all with different partners each time.
Teams turn in an intent to compete and are reviewed by command teams who then review the Rangers. This is done to include a collection of the best, highly trained Ranger-qualified soldiers.
The maximum punishment for desertion during a time of war is death. But it’s highly unlikely Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who allegedly left his Afghanistan post in 2009, or any troop today would receive that sentence. The last service member executed for desertion was Pvt. Eddie Slovik in 1945 (by a twelve-man firing squad).
There were over 20,000 American military deserters between 2006 and 2015. Of those, about 2,000 have been prosecuted.
This short TestTube News video explains the severity of desertion and its place in military history.
“Rambo” is one of the most recognizable military movie series of all time. The indestructible, bow-wielding Special Forces soldier was adapted for video games, comic books, animation, and much more. The series was a permanent fixture of the action movie genre during the 1980s and served as the inspiration for Chuck Norris’s “Delta Force,” Arnold Schwarzenegger’s “Commando” and countless others.
Rambo is a guy’s guy with skills in all things badass: survival, weaponry, hand-to-hand combat, and guerrilla warfare.
As you may recall, Rambo is pulled back into war on two occasions by Col. Trautman and saved the day in both films. Key and Peel made this hilarious comedy sketch depicting what the Trautman/Rambo meeting would be like if it happened today.
Prickly heat is that very annoying rash that develops when you’re out in the field for days or weeks without taking a shower. The sweat glands become blocked when you sweat profusely and don’t allow the sweat to evaporate. The blockage occurs:
In areas between skin creases like the neck, armpits, and groin where skin touches adjacent skin preventing sweat to evaporate.
By wearing tight clothing.
By bundling up with heavy clothing or sheets that make it difficult for air to circulate. Yes, you can also get prickly heat in the Winter.
By using heavy creams that block skin pores.
It feels like pins and needles on the surface of the skin that only get worse when you relieve yourself by scratching. Prickly heat is actually the second level of heat rash. Heat rash levels are:
Clear (miliaria crystalline): this type of heat rash looks like small, clear beads of sweat on the skin. This is the mildest version of heat rash and doesn’t produce many uncomfortable symptoms.
Red (miliaria rubra): this is the most common type of heat rash and it’s the one known as prickly heat because of it’s intense itching and burning.
White/Yellow (miliaria pustulosa): when prickly heat turns white or yellow it’s the first sign of skin infection and you should see the doc.
Deep (miliaria profunda) this level of heat rash produces large, firm bumps on the skin. The sweat glands become chronically inflamed and cause damage to deep layers of the skin.
Luckily, preventing prickly heat is easy by maintaining good hygiene and keeping the skin cool and dry. This is easier said than done without the amenities of first-world living. In the field, this means trying not to sleep in your sweaty, dirty uniform and using baby wipes to keep yourself somewhat clean.
But in case you do get prickly heat, you can also treat it with calamine lotion and hydrocortisone creams and sprays, according to MedecineNet.com. Just make sure you pack it in your ruck.