On Mar. 21, 2021, Venezuela’s Nicholas Maduro appeared on Venezuelan state television to announce the Venezuelan military clashed with rebel groups from neighboring Colombia.
He didn’t give any more details about the fighting, but an exiled Venezeulan general told news agency Agence France Presse that the rebel groups came from elements of the former Colombian rebel group FARC.
FARC was first formed in 1964 as a Marxist-Leninist separatist group looking to overthrow the elected government of Colombia. The group waged guerrilla warfare against the government from Colombia’s mountains and jungles for more than 50 years. At its height, FARC fielded as many as 10,000 fighters.
In 2016, a ceasefire was finally called for good and a peace agreement was reached between the two sides and the rebel guerrillas began to disarm. But not every FARC member agreed with the peace deal. Dissidents broke away from the main force and began to operate along the Venezuela-Colombia border.
In February 2021, Colombia accused Venezuela of harboring those dissidents and Maduro threatened to respond by force if Colombia violated Venezuelan sovereignty in hunting down the remnants of FARC.
On Sunday, March 21, Maduro’s chickens came home to roost as FARC rebels attacked the Venezuelan town of Arauquita. Venezuela responded with an aerial bombing campaign according to some reports.
Venezuelan armed forces then moved into the area, claiming to have captured 32 people, destroyed six camps and confiscated weapons, ammunition, explosives, vehicles and drugs.
The ongoing fighting has now displaced some 4,000 Venezuelans, who have crossed the border into Colombia to escape the violence. Venezuela’s Bolivarian National Police have moved into the area, conducting raids and arbitrarily detaining and killing civilians.
Elements of FARC are continuing to fight the Colombian government and no one is exactly sure how strong the group actually is in Colombia. In recent days, the revolutionaries managed to bomb a police station in the capital city of Bogota.
The rebels could be an extreme pain for Venezuela’s military. Though large, the military is mostly staffed by conscripts, and experiencing a wave of desertions in the face of Maduro’s mishandling of the Venezuelan government.
Cliver Alcalá, who retired from Venezuela’s military in 2013 as Maduro came to power, says the experienced rank and file has been gutted by the desertions. For the common Venezuelan soldier, the choice is to either desert and try to survive, or stay for next to no pay and maybe starve to death.
It has left the country’s armed forces inexperienced and full of general officers. He says the glut of high rank has made the army “top heavy” and eroded the chain of command.
“There is no way to know who is in charge of operations, who is in charge of administration and who is in charge of policy,” he told Reuters in 2019.
To top it all off, their commander in chief is Nicholas Maduro. If Maduro’s military acumen is anything like his skill at administration or handling of the government’s oil sales, the Venezuelan military is in for a long fight. Venezuela might be looking to use its newly-trained force of civilians to fight the FARC rebels, which, if the 4,000 refugees fleeing to Colombia is any indication, will not be successful.
Since the beginning of the U.S. nuclear program, there have been 33 nuclear weapons accidents, known as “broken arrows,” according to Eric Schlosser in his book: Command and Control. A “broken arrow” is the Pentagon’s phrase for an unexpected event involving nuclear weapons that result in the accidental launching, firing, detonating, theft, or loss of the weapon.
An example of a “broken arrow” is the Goldsboro accident in which a B-52 carrying two nuclear bombs broke apart, dropping the bombs over Goldsboro, North Carolina. Or the time in 1966 when a B-52 crashed into a KC-135 Stratotanker during a refueling operation, releasing four thermonuclear bombs over Spain. It’s hard to believe, but there are 31 more times these doomsday scenarios played out.
Here is a brief, terrifying history of some of America’s nuclear mishaps:
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.
Then the late 1990s Asian financial crisis hit Thailand. Bangkok’s grand plans for its carrier were significantly hobbled. Commissioned in 1997, the same year the financial crisis struck the country, the Chakri Naruebet — which means “Sovereign of the Chakri dynasty,” the Thai monarchy’s ruling family — was mostly consigned to sitting in port due to lack of funding.
Now, according to The Motley Fool, Asia has plenty of aircraft carriers, as China, India, Japan, and South Korea all have carriers of different sizes. Not wanting to be left out, Singapore is on its way to constructing a carrier too.
All this competition has only made Thailand’s once-proud carrier look like a bizarre reminder of the country’s dysfunction, rather than the symbol of growing prestige that it was intended to be.
According to The Diplomat, Thailand’s AV-8S Matador (Harrier) accompanying jet fleet was withdrawn from service in 2006, leaving Bangkok with an aircraft carrier without aircraft. Thailand experienced a military coup that same year, along with a second one in 2014.
Thailand ordered its aircraft carrier from Spain in 1992. The vessel was commissioned five years later, in 1997
Almost immediately, Thailand ran into budget constraints. The Chakri Naruebet was put to port for the better part of each month and in 2006 its associated air wing was withdrawn. The Harriers are now over 30 years old.
Even while operational, the carrier has been outclassed by the larger vessels of India and China, not to mention the US’s super carrier fleet pictured below. It’s now the smallest functioning aircraft carrier in the world.
Still, despite its shortcomings, the Chakri Naruebet has proved useful in humanitarian missions. The Diplomat notes that the carrier was used after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami as well as in rescue operations after flooding in Thailand in 2010 and 2011.
If Godzilla actually existed and was bent on raising havoc, the Air Force’s 18th Wing out of Kadena Air Base thinks it’ll beat the 350-foot-tall monster.
But how do you defeat a monster that has withstood depth bombs, 50-caliber machine guns, 300,000 volts of electricity, Howitzer cannons, and an aerial bombardment in the 1954 Japanese film classic? How do you defend against atomic breath and super strength?
Senior Airman Mark Hermann and Master Sergeant Jason Edwards believe they have the answer.
During the initial invasion of Iraq on March 25, 2003, then-1st Lt. Brian Chontosh responded to an enemy ambush on his convoy in a way most would expect to see only in a Hollywood action movie. After being attacked by Iraqi forces with mortars, automatic weapons, and rocket-propelled grenades — and caught in the kill zone — Chontosh directed his driver to go straight toward the enemy position as his .50 cal gunner fired.
But wait, there’s more. From his citation for the Navy Cross, the nation’s second-highest award:
He then directed his driver into the enemy trench, where he exited his vehicle and began to clear the trench with an M16A2 service rile and 9 millimeter pistol. His ammunition depleted, First Lieutenant Chontosh, with complete disregard for his safety, twice picked up discarded enemy rifles and continued his ferocious attack. When a Marine following him found an enemy rocket propelled grenade launcher, First Lieutenant Chontosh used it to destroy yet another group of enemy soldiers.
“I was just doing my job, I did the same thing every other Marine would have done, it was just a passion and love for my Marines, the experience put a lot into perspective,” Chontosh told Marine Corps News at his award ceremony.
When it was all over, Chontosh had cleared 200 meters of the enemy trench, killed more than 20 enemy soldiers, and wounded several others. Still, he didn’t want to take all the credit — instead commending the Marines with him that day for saving his life.
“They saved my life, multiple times that day, during the ambush,” Chontosh told Stripes. “That’s all them. If it wasn’t for them, I would be the lieutenant who would be reported as … a case of what not to do.”
Do you know someone we should highlight for the next Warrior Wednesday? Email us info [at] wearethemighty.com with their name, rank, award received, and any other information you think is relevant.
Tanks firing isn’t something many people think of as requiring marksmanship, but tankers take it very seriously. A new video shows Marines engaging targets at the range, and most of the footage is from the perspective of the tankers.
With tanks firing, the big gun is, of course, the main draw. The 120-mm smoothbore can accurately fire shells over 2 kilometers.
But the video also shows the operations of the loader, the crew member who feeds the gun.
The tanks are on a firing line and there are great shots of one tank firing right after another.Machine guns on the tank are not as flashy but crucial for protecting the crew. They get to spit some brass, too.
The Syrian war is a mess, and it doesn’t seem to be getting better any time soon.
Hundreds of thousands of people have died, millions have been displaced and a new terror group has emerged called ISIS. What started off as a civil war is now a proxy war dividing most of the Middle East that has drawn in both Russia and the United States.
This Vox video attempts to decipher the tangled web of who’s fighting who and why in Syria.
After a series of interdictions, the U.S. Coast Guard has found itself in possession of over 32 metric tons of cocaine worth an estimated $1 billion or more on the wholesale market. On the streets, they would likely have fetched $1.8 billion.
The drugs had been consolidated on the deck of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Stratton where the Coast Guard displayed them for media before offloading them. This was the largest offload of drugs in U.S. history.
The forthcoming movie “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” has already inspired parodies, including the latest Navy spirit video ahead of the Army-Navy football game on Saturday, December 12.
In classic rivalry fashion, the Midshipmen predict their 14th straight win against the Black Nights. (Navy has enjoyed a winning streak since 2002.)
The video description follows episode IV’s plot of the rescue of princess Leia. (Just replace Star Wars terms with Navy ones.)
Luke and his band of fellow Mids set out on a journey to rescue Midshipman Leia from Army West Point on the eve of Navy football’s 14th victory. Losing streaks are a path to the dark side. May the 14 be with them.
And the jabs don’t stop there. The video cleverly pokes fun at West Point’s pillow fight incident earlier this year in which 30 first-year students were injured.
When Darth Vader asks what the current state of the academy is, a West Point cadet answers:
My general, everything is normal. It is cold, morale is low and the football team is … like I said, everything is normal.
The elaborate production includes 27 midshipmen, the varsity offshore sailing team, the Commandant of Midshipmen, the Superintendent of the Naval Academy, and even the Chief of Naval Operations.
When you hear the word “jetpack,” you picture someone zooming through the sky like the Rocketeer. But DARPA and Arizona State University’s version of the jetpack is a complete let down.
“We’re not able to fly with our jetpack,” said graduate engineer Jason Kerestes, in a video from Arizona State University. “We have instantaneous thrust and we can pretty much trigger it to allow for faster movement and agile motions.”
The pack is designed to enable troops to run a mile in four minutes, but it doesn’t look like they’re quite there yet. At 3:07 of the video, the engineers say to a runner that his time improvement with the jetpack was only three seconds.