Russia's 'worst-kept secret' is its dependence on mercenaries to project power - We Are The Mighty
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Russia’s ‘worst-kept secret’ is its dependence on mercenaries to project power

The days of the United States staring down the evil empire of the Soviet Union are long passed. Today, Russia is a Wal-Mart version of its former self, and it shows. Although it may seem like a military or strategic powerhouse, it’s ability to project real power is seriously limited. 

In the bygone Russian heyday, the communist threat loomed large. It was a threat that was enough to make the United States – the only other global superpower – limit its wars and interventions for fear of sparking another world war. 

Today, Russia’s biggest threat comes in the form of either bungled poisonings of former Soviet-era operatives and dissidents, election interference, and hacking corporate software that allowed it to collect intelligence on government email servers. 

While the SolarWinds hack was definitely threatening and potentially disastrous, it’s not really the great power struggles we’ve come to expect from an increasingly belligerent Russia. In real terms, according to the RAND Corporation, Russia isn’t really able to make a significant threat to forces on the ground… Unless you happen to be within arms reach.

In a March 2021 blog post, the RAND Corporation’s Molly Dunigan and Ben Connable wrote that Russia’s ability to project power on the ground has actually become a strategic vulnerability, and one the Biden Administration could exploit, if it chose to do so.

“It has almost no organic ability to project and sustain ground power more than a few hundred kilometers beyond its own borders. Russian strategic lift is anemic compared to Soviet-era lift. Available forces are often tied down in one of the many frozen conflicts that ring Russia’s western and southern borders,” they write. 

The conflicts they are referring to are most notably the Russian intervention in the Syrian Civil War and backing separatist rebels in Ukraine. 

Russia, they posit, depends on an army full of drafted Russians who are serving one-year enlistments, and that Russian President Vladimir Putin has decreed that drafted Russians will never be deployed outside of Russia. Those forces make up around half of Russia’s total ground force. 

Instead of using its drafted army to project power, Russia instead uses companies that provide military services, some might call them “mercenaries” to reach its foreign policy goals in Libya, Syria, the Central African Republic, Madagascar, Mozambique, Sudan, Ukraine, Yemen, Burundi, and elsewhere. 

Russia
Russia’s Ceremonial Guard still looks polished, but the Russian military’s power is not what it once was.

Russia will contend that its use of mercenaries alongside its special operations and conventional forces allows it to compete with the United States, Dunigan and Connablle wrote, but that narrative is counterfactual. Such a force actually squared off against a force of United States special operators and Kurdish SDF fighters in Khasham, Syria in 2018. The fight did not go well for the Russians, their mercenaries, and their Syrian allies. 

500 Russian, Syrian, and Shia Militiamen with T-72 and T-55 tanks hit a base of 40 special forces troops, backed by United States Marine Corps artillery, U.S. Air Force “Spooky” gunships, and more firepower were quickly routed in Khasham, losing a quarter of the attacking force in the firefight. It wasn’t even close. 

Rather than bolstering the Russian military on the ground, the mercenaries are instead an example in the decline of the former Soviet Union’s ground force, indicative of its increasing dependence on small, special operations missions and sneaky espionage tactics. But these too are things the United States will have to learn to counter as Russia’s skills with them grow.

Articles

The ingenious Nazi belt buckle pistol that never made it very far

Russia’s ‘worst-kept secret’ is its dependence on mercenaries to project power
Forgotten Weapons, YouTube


The Nazis had some insane weapons, from super soldier serum to four-story guns that could fire shells over 30 miles away.

Some of their weapons were so far left field you’d think they pulled them out of a Robert Rodriguez flick. Case in point is the belt buckle pistol featured on the Forgotten Weapons YouTube channel.

The pistol—also known as the Power Pelvis Gun—was conceived by Louis Marquis during his stint in a World War I POW camp in 1915. Marquis was consumed by the idea for a concealed weapon to exert his authority over the other prisoners without drawing the attention of the guards. He patented his design in 1934 and named it the Koppelschlosspistole, but it was never mass produced because it wasn’t accurate, according to My Gun Culture.

Unlike Rodrguez’s 12-bullet cock revolver, this little pistol was practical in that it held your pants up while simultaneously being deadly in plain sight.

Russia’s ‘worst-kept secret’ is its dependence on mercenaries to project power
Machete Kills (2013), AR Films

(By the way, how does Sofia Vergara fire this revolver? Where’s the trigger?)

Russia’s ‘worst-kept secret’ is its dependence on mercenaries to project power
Machete Kills (2013), AR Films

The belt buckle pistol on the other hand, is pretty straight forward. The cover plate swings open to expose four barrels and firing triggers.

Russia’s ‘worst-kept secret’ is its dependence on mercenaries to project power
Forgotten Weapons, YouTube

Re-cocking the gun is as easy as closing the barrel cover.

Russia’s ‘worst-kept secret’ is its dependence on mercenaries to project power
Forgotten Weapons, YouTube

The Rock Island Auction Company (RIA) sold the weapon for $14,000. This video shows how the weapons works:

Forgotten Weapons, YouTube

Intel

Powerful video shows the special friendship between a US soldier and an Iraqi child

In 2005, Army Spc. Justin Cliburn befriended two local boys while deployed to Iraq with the Oklahoma National Guard that he will never forget.


“Once I met these children it made every day something to look forward to,” said Cliburn in the StoryCorps video below. “We would play rock, paper, scissors, we would kick around a soccer ball. We were about as close as people that don’t speak the same language can be. I had never been really good with children and this was the first time I felt I loved someone who wasn’t my family member.”

Things changed when the nature of war took its course. This touching video shows how friendships form in the unlikeliest places and the lasting impressions they leave:

NOW: Watch this Iraq War veteran’s tragic story told through the lens of a cartoon

OR: Iraq war vet relives his most intense gunfight

Intel

Elon Musk’s SpaceX wins 2 Pentagon contracts for nearly $160 million to launch missions with its Falcon 9 rockets

  • SpaceX won two contracts for $159.7 million to launch US military craft with its Falcon 9 rockets.
  • The Department of Defense also awarded the United Launch Alliance two contracts for $224.4 million.
  • They are expected to be take place by the end of 2023.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The Pentagon announced Tuesday that it had signed two contracts with Elon Musk’s space company, SpaceX, for more than $159 million.

Under the agreements, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets will launch two separate missions, the US Department of Defense said in a statement.

The two contracts come to $159.7 million and are expected to be completed by the end of 2023, the Pentagon said. It did not disclose the cost of each individual mission.

The launches will take place in Vandenberg Air Force Base, in California, and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, in Florida, it added.

Another launch provider, the United Launch Alliance, was also awarded two Pentagon contracts Tuesday for $224.2 million, the DOD said.

The ULA, which is a joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin, will also provide its Vulcan Centaur rockets for launch services.

The ULA launches are also scheduled before the end of 2023.

This is the third time SpaceX has signed an agreement with the Pentagon. In October, the company won a $149 million contract to make missile-tracking satellites for the DOD – SpaceX’s first government contract to build satellites.

In July, SpaceX won 40% of an agreement with the US military to launch new rockets for the Space Force. The other 60% went to the ULA.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

Articles

Iran’s homegrown fighter design is really just an old F-5 airframe

In August of 2018, Iran’s HESA Kowsar fighter plane took its first flight. The Islamic Republic was particularly happy to highlight this achievement because this jet, it said, was “100% percent indigenously made.” 

Except that it really wasn’t indigenously made. While the HESA Kowsar might have been 100% made in Iran, the design for the fighter is actually based on the Northrop F-5, a plane that has been continuously in use somewhere in the world since 1962.

The F-5, like the Kowsar, is a supersonic light fighter. It is designed for air superiority but is also capable of close-air support roles. The F-5 served the United States Air Force well and even played the role of aggressor aircraft in training exercises. It served in the Air Force until 1990, and the U.S. Navy still flies them as aggressor aircraft in training. 

Russia’s ‘worst-kept secret’ is its dependence on mercenaries to project power
So familiar…(U.S. Air Force photo)

In a way, this is bad news for the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force, because U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy pilots have been training to kill the F-5 and its Kowsar variant for decades. But that idea either didn’t occur to Iran, it wasn’t enough to deter Iran or the Kowsar has a trick or two up its sleeve – which could be the case.

At the same time it launched the first Kowsar fighter, Iran also happily announced the platform carried advanced, fourth-generation avionics and an advanced fire control system, completely designed in Iran. 

Iran’s longtime enemy, Israel, had no compunction about criticizing the Islamic Republic’s fighter. A spokesman for then-Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu released a statement about Iran’s Kowsar:

“The Iranian regime unveils the Kowsar plane and claims that it is ‘the first 100% locally-manufactured Iranian fighter jet,’” the statement read. “It boasts about its offensive capabilities. But I immediately noticed that this is a very old American warplane.”

The Israelis are likely right to be unconcerned about the Kowsar. The light attack aircraft is primarily used for close-air support and as a training plane. If the Iranians ever really fielded the plane against an Israeli attack, the Israel Defence Forces is flying the latest F-35 Lightning II — the match wouldn’t last long. 

In short, the Kowsar would be much better suited to air shows than to actual air-to-air combat with the latest generation of fighter aircraft. If they are used in combat, there’s a much better chance of them being used to support Iranian-backed militias in Iraq or Syria than launching an attack outside of Iran’s sphere of influence. 

The Islamic Republic actually could end up acknowledging that its design was based on the F-5. Whatever it is, Iran actually has buyers lined up for it. Russia, China and Indonesia have all reportedly ordered the aircraft. 

Russia’s ‘worst-kept secret’ is its dependence on mercenaries to project power

What the Kowsar could mean for Iran (outside of combat aircraft) is a chance to rebuild the Iranian Air Force into a formidable fighting force. The Iranians were once some of the deadliest pilots in the air. A new generation of pilots learning to fly a reasonably advanced supersonic attack aircraft could bring back some of its glory days. 

Iran may not be under the weight of crushing sanctions forever, and when it could finally get its hands on fifth-generation or even more advanced aircraft (depending on when those sanctions might end), technology alone won’t do the job. Those advanced planes will still need skilled pilots to fly them.

Intel

Watch a soldier return from Afghanistan to surprise a total stranger

We’ve all seen the military homecoming videos, with a service member returning from overseas to surprise their loved ones.


But what happens when a soldier comes home and surprises a total stranger? Well, not to worry, because the satirical website ClickHole has you covered.

“I think he’s going to be very surprised, because he has no idea that I’m finally back from Afghanistan,” says “Sgt. Luke Brundage,” in the video produced by the one-year-old offshoot of The Onion.

With the look and feel of many familiar homecoming videos, the video hilariously illustrates a very awkward meeting, if something like this ever did occur. Interestingly enough, the actor who portrays Brundage is a Marine veteran, according to The Marine Times.

And while it does have some technical errors (using “soldier” instead of Marine, for instance), it’s still funny as hell. And the actor, Jonah Saesan, had little to do with pointing those out.

“A few people want to focus on the detail,” Saesan told The Times. “I don’t think they understand how little I had to do with the creative process.”

Now watch the video:

NOW: The hilarious ‘Awesome Sh-t my Drill Sergeant Said’ is now in book form

Intel

This is the ultimate special operations weapon

Russia’s ‘worst-kept secret’ is its dependence on mercenaries to project power
Image: courtesy of FN Herstal


NATO wanted a replacement for its 9x19mm Parabellum firearms; what it got is the ultimate special ops weapon.

The FN Herstal P90 is a compact but powerful sub-machine gun. It was designed for vehicle crews, support personnel, special forces and counter-terrorist groups.

It’s an ugly futuristic-looking weapon. The bullpup design with ambidextrous controls and top-mounted magazine make it unconventional. But make no mistake, this is an incredibly useful weapon. It’s so effective that it’s currently in service with military and police forces in over 20 nations throughout the world, according to this video.

Watch:

American Heroes Channel, YouTube

Intel

Everyone Can Achieve ‘Rambo’ Status With This 500-Round Backpack

The scenes of John Rambo wasting bad guys with an endless supply of ammunition isn’t so unrealistic after all.


While military blog Task and Purpose nailed it with its recent article on what military movies get wrong, the U.S. Army is actually fielding a new backpack that will give soldiers 500 rounds to fire downrange.

Also Read: Here’s What An Army Medic Does In The Critical Minutes After A Soldier Is Wounded

Russia’s ‘worst-kept secret’ is its dependence on mercenaries to project power
Rambo endless ammo scene. YouTube

The Rapid Equipping Force (REF) has created the IRONMAN backpack, which bring soldiers closer to the infinite ammo Rambo status. It holds 500 rounds of ammo connected to a feeder that attaches directly to the M240B or Mark 48 machine gun. It eliminates the need for an ammunition bearer, although hiking with that much ammo could get pretty rough.

This video explains how the apparatus works, with the firing demonstration beginning at 5:00. Check it out:

NOW: These Are The US Army’s Top Five Photos Of 2014

OR WATCH: Theresa Vail, Army Vet And Former Miss Kansas, Is The First Female Host On Outdoor Channel

Intel

Biden signs sweeping new law allowing VA to vaccinate all veterans, spouses

President Joe Biden on Wednesday signed into law a sweeping new measure that supercharges the Department of Veterans Affairs‘ ability to vaccinate millions of Americans.

The Save Lives Act will allow the VA to vaccinate all veterans, veteran spouses, caregivers and Civilian Health and Medical Program recipients, regardless of their VA eligibility.

Read Next: Veterans, Military Families Could Lead the Way in Making America Civil Again, Groups Say

However, patients enrolled in VA care will get priority. About half of all 18 million living U.S. veterans are enrolled in VA care, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

“This new law expands options for where veterans and their families can receive the COVID-19 vaccine, ensuring that every veteran, spouse, and caregiver will have access to the protection they need from VA,” Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., the chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee said in a statement. “This bipartisan bill follows through on our shared goal of getting more shots into the arms of as many veterans as possible.”Advertisement

As of Wednesday, the VA has fully vaccinated more than 1.5 million people, including veterans and employees. Previously, only veterans enrolled in VA could get vaccinated.

The bill’s signing comes during a massive concerted effort from the Biden administration to give vaccine access to as many Americans as possible, with the goal of the country starting to return to relative normalcy by Independence Day.

“COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on all American including veterans and their families,” Veterans of Foreign Wars National Legislative Director Pat Murray said in a statement. “The end may be near, but we will not come out of this until everybody possible has vaccinations.”

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

Intel

Situation Room meetings about the 2011 Osama bin Laden raid were named ‘Mickey Mouse meeting’ to ensure its secrecy, new account says

  • Former US officials told Politico how the 2011 hit on bin Laden was planned in the White House.
  • Situation Room meetings were labeled “Mickey Mouse meeting” on calendars to hide the subject.
  • The report details in minute detail how the US located and planned to kill the al-Qaida leader.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Situation Room meetings about the 2011 mission to kill Osama bin Laden were titled “Mickey Mouse meeting” on official calendars to conceal their purpose, according to a new account of the raid.

On Friday Politico published an oral history, written by Garrett M. Graff, of the bin Laden raid as told by 30 US political, military, and intelligence officials who were central to its success.

The officials said that in the run-up to the strike, which began on May 1, 2011, and concluded early the next day, they took many steps to ensure that news of the raid didn’t leak.

Mike Morell, who was deputy director of the CIA at the time, told Politico that the idea to label the meetings “Mickey Mouse meeting” came from John Brennan, then the White House homeland security and counterterrorism advisor.

“We also had the cameras and the audio in the Situation Room covered or turned off,” Brennan told the magazine.

Ben Rhodes, then-deputy national security advisor, also told Politico that he knew something serious was underway by looking at the titles of meetings listed on the Situation Room schedule.

“Suddenly, there was a very unusual pace of deputies- and principals-level meetings without a subject. I knew that there was something happening,” he said.

“At no other point in my eight years in the White House did that happen until 2016 with the Russian interference in the election.”

Russia’s ‘worst-kept secret’ is its dependence on mercenaries to project power
Al-Qaida leader and terrorist Osama bin Laden from a video in 1998. 

Former President Barack Obama was also keen to prevent any news of the mission getting out, especially if it ultimately went badly or failed.

On April 30, 2011, the evening before the raid began, Obama asked his speechwriter Jon Favreau to change a joke prepared for that night’s White House Correspondents’ dinner, where the president typically makes a speech mocking himself.

To hit back at GOP figures for mocking his middle name — Hussein — Obama was going to crack a joke in which he referred to “Tim ‘bin Laden’ Pawlenty,” referring to the then-Minnesota governor, Favreau told Politico.

“He’s like, ‘Why don’t we say his middle name is Hosni, like Hosni Mubarak?’ I remember just being like, ‘That’s not as funny.’ And Obama is like, ‘Trust me on this. I really think Hosni will be much funnier,'” Favreau said.

Dan Pfeiffer, then the White House communications director, said: “No one could figure out why Obama made that change. It seemed like a weird change.”

President Joe Biden on Sunday issued a statement marking 10 years since the raid that killed the terrorist leader, saying: “We followed bin Laden to the gates of hell — and we got him.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

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You need to see this incredible B-1B Bomber crash landing

In a 1989 incident, the Air Force crew of a B1-B bomber found itself unable to lower the front landing gear during a training flight and was forced to execute an emergency landing in the dry lake bed at Edwards Air Force Base, California.


The four-person crew was executing a routine training flight without nuclear weapons onboard on Oct. 4, 1989, and realized three hours into the flight that the front landing gear was malfunctioning. Over the next nine hours, the crew worked to get the gear down.

 

Russia’s ‘worst-kept secret’ is its dependence on mercenaries to project power
(GIF: YouTube/airailimages)

 

Investigators later blamed a hydraulic failure, but the crew in the air just knew that they had to reach the ground safely. The Air Force routed the plane to a dry lakebed in California that was often used for landing the space shuttle.

The dust of the Rogers Dry Lake bed is more likely than most surfaces to allow for a safe skid, reducing the risk to the crew and plane. The full landing is visible from a few angles in this video from airailimages:

Feature image: screen capture from YouTube/Airrailimages

Intel

Hollywood’s 10 wildest nuclear bomb blasts

These are 10 of the most memorable scenes in movies that feature nuclear bomb explosions.


Ever since the advent of nukes, Hollywood has been fascinated with its destructive force. The big explosion is usually the climax of any movie featuring these doomsday weapons. From 1964’s Dr. Strangelove to the latest installment of Christopher Nolan’s Batman, here are some of the best nuclear blasts in movies, according to WatchMojo.

Watch:

Intel

5 things about getting shot you probably didn’t know (even if you’ve been shot)

Some people go skydiving or do other extreme sports to get their adrenaline fix. Troops, on the other hand, get into gunfights. Celebrated war correspondent, Sebastian Junger nails this phenomenon in his 2014 Ted talk about why soldiers miss war.


Related: How to survive a gunfight (according to a drunk Green Beret)

While thrilling, the downside to any gunfight is getting shot. This video reveals five random facts about gunshot wounds you probably didn’t know. (For instance, did you know that women are more likely to survive than men? What does that do to your “women in combat” matrix?)

Watch:

Video: WatchMojo.com

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