Like any genre or series, over the years the Army-Navy game “Spirit Spot” videos have run the gamut in terms of production values, imagination, and humor. This one gets the WATM vote for best one produced this year:
Watch the 2014 Army-Navy game live from MT Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Maryland on CBS at 3 PM EST.
Two Belgian physicists have analyzed both Russia and Turkey’s stories surrounding the Russian Su-24 that was shot down by a Turkish F-16 on Nov. 24. Their conclusion is that both countries are making claims that are physically impossible.
Physicists Tom van Doorsslaere and Giovanni Lapenta checked into Turkey’s claims and concluded that two of them were likely false. They reject the claim that the jet spent 17 seconds in Turkish air space and that the Turkish military issued ten warnings to the Russian jet.
The physicists also assert that Russia’s map showing the route of their jet is also bogus because the course change claimed by Russia could not have been caused by the relatively small missile that hit it.
Cyberattacks are the best way for America’s enemies to mess around with the United States without triggering a full-scale war. Let’s be real, if China and Russia saw real-world retaliation for every time they messed with U.S. computer systems, we’d be in the middle of World War III right now.
But aside from stealing military technology, hacking the names and bank accounts of every federal employee, and mucking about in some utility companies, their cyber intrusions have been little more than a nuisance up to this point. That’s not how American cyberwarriors operate.
When the United States and Israel conduct a cyber attack, there’s a good reason for it and the target is clear. Stuxnet, a malicious virus designed to destroy Iran’s uranium enrichment program, was the sniper rifle of the U.S. cyber weapons arsenal.
First uncovered in 2010, the Stuxnet worm was introduced onto the computer systems of the Iranian uranium enrichment facility at Natanz. The program was specifically engineered to be on that particular server, one that had to be running Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition software, that had to be using Siemens technology (specifically, Siemens 7), and had control over a programmable logic controller (PLC), controlling an electric motor. If all of these conditions didn’t exist, the program would eventually delete itself.
PLCs are a critical component of almost all major manufacturing facilities and automated machines, managing everything from traffic lights to pipe valves. There was only one place in the world where those conditions existed: the Natanz nuclear facility in Iran. Those motors were controlling the centrifuges that were enriching uranium for Iran’s nuclear program.
What this means is that whoever created the Stuxnet worm had an insider in the Natanz nuclear facility, one who knew the exact conditions malicious code would have to attack, as well as how best to permanently damage the facility’s operations, or at least set it back a little bit.
Moreover, since the computer systems at Natanz weren’t connected to the internet, the inside man would also have to be able to introduce the worm to the Natanz controlling systems. According to the Times of Israel, this was done by the CIA and Mossad, who set up a fake front company with the sole purpose of getting Dutch intelligence agents posing as technicians into the facility.
Once introduced, the worm lay dormant. Once awakened, it looks for the conditions that would begin its destructive sequence. At Natanz, it found those conditions and began to force the centrifuges to spin too fast for too long, damaging the mechanical equipment. Meanwhile data collection and reporting software tells monitoring engineers that all systems are operating normally.
At Natanz, Stuxnet damaged 1,000 of the estimated 5,000 gas centrifuges before Iran realized something was amiss. They would reportedly execute a number of personnel at the facility, although it’s not known if intelligence assets were killed in the fallout. The day the Iranian government revealed what happened there, two Iranian nuclear scientists were killed by car bombs, further complicating the program’s restart.
No intelligence agency has ever taken credit for the Natanz Stuxnet attacks, but evidence is clear that it was a highly-engineered bug, designed for a limited mission with a small target. But like most clandestine operations, there was unexpected blowback.
The Stuxnet virus escaped from the computers at Natanz and has since spread to other systems across the world, including European manufacturers and a Russian nuclear power plant – and possibly more. Stuxnet is difficult to find and is self-replicating, so computer systems infected by the worm may not realize it until it’s too late.
The U.S. Marine Corps bills itself as the “few and the proud,” but in the 1970s it was the “few and the proud who drive Corvettes and hang out at the beach with babes.”
At least that’s the message from this 30-second U.S. Marine Corps Reserve recruiting commercial from the decade of disco.
“Sure the United States Marine Reserve teaches you a lot,” the narrator of the video says, “like how to take a beachhead.” Except what’s depicted onscreen is a buff Marine running out of the ocean to his girlfriend tanning on the beach.
And well, he continues, “some Marines even get to drive tanks.” The ‘tank’ that’s depicted: A Chevy Corvette.
Talk about clever marketing. I think I want to re-enlist in the Reserves 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.”
For around 30 years, the food court at the center of the Pentagon’s courtyard was an easy source of mid-afternoon calories for the hungry planners of a potential World War III with the Eastern Bloc. There was just one problem, and it wasn’t the food.
It was said the Soviet Union had at least two nuclear missiles pointed at it at all times.
The hot dog stand, replaced in the early 2000s with another, presumably less hot dog-oriented food stand, was the center of life for a lot of the Cold War lunches had by the staff at the nation’s most important military building. It was said that the Soviet Union watched the comings and goings of top U.S. military brass in and out of the tiny structure in the middle of the courtyard every day.
They surmised it must be an important planning center or command and control bunker. So, obviously, when the war broke out, it would have to be one of the first things to go. Two ICBMs should take care of it.
“Rumor has it that during the Cold War the Russians never had any less than two missiles aimed at this hot dog stand,” Brett Eaton, an information and communications officer for Washington Headquarters Services, told DoD News. “They thought this was the Pentagon’s most top-secret meeting room, and the entire Pentagon was a large fortress built around this hot dog stand.”
No one in Russia has ever confirmed this rumor, but the stand still earned the moniker “Cafe Ground Zero.” In reality, substantiated or not, the hot dog stand was smack dab in the middle of the United States’ most important military building. Since the blast radius of the Soviet Union’s best and biggest nuclear missile was big enough to wipe out New York City along with parts of New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, it stands to reason that destroying the hot dog stand at the center of the Pentagon would just be a win for clogged arteries.
The so-called Islamic State of Iraq and Syria is notorious for its cruel treatment of women, subjecting female citizens to stringent dress codes, curfews, and corporal punishment.
Women who live under ISIS-enforced Sharia law cannot wear makeup, color or travel without a male chaperone. Burqas are also required, and refusal to conform to dress code can result in torture for both the woman in question and her husband.
When ISIS seized large swathes of territory in Iraq last year, the United Nations reported that the group “attacked and killed female doctors, lawyers, among other professionals.” Women doctors who weren’t killed were told to abide by the strict dress code while working, and were threatened with the destruction of their homes when they went on strike. The U.N. also received reports of female politicians and community leaders subjected to abduction, torture and murder.
Despite the terrorist organization’s heinous violence towards females, however, many women are flocking to serve alongside their husbands under ISIL by monitoring and punishing other women under Sharia law.
In Frontline’s recently released documentary, “Escaping ISIS,” women who formerly upheld the jihad recount their duties as agents of ISIL.
“The first thing we’d do is take her and whip her,” Umm Abaid, a former female ISIL fighter, told Frontline. “Then we’d take her clothes and replace them with clothes required by Sharia law. Then we would take her husband’s money to pay for the clothes. Then we’d whip him as well.”
The documentary focuses on both the women who rally behind ISIL’s cause and those who were forced into the organization as wives or slaves of terrorist leaders — using undercover footage and victim testimony to paint a haunting picture of what life “behind the veil” is truly like.
“Escaping ISIS” premieres Tuesday, July 14, at 10 p.m. EST both on-air and on FRONTLINE’s website.
The name Ranger commands respect in the military community. Synonymous with top-tier units like the U.S. Army’s 75th Ranger Regiment, the Philippine Scout Rangers, and the Nepalese Mahabir Rangers, they are elite warfighters in the military community. The U.S. Army’s Rangers trace their history back to Francis Marion, the legendary Swamp Fox who employed guerilla tactics and maneuver warfare against the British during the American Revolution. The British Army, who also fielded a Ranger unit during the Revolution, are forming a new Ranger Regiment for the 21st century.
In early 2021, the UK Ministry of Defence announced the formation of a new special operations brigade, the core of which will be the Ranger Regiment. Comprised of four battalions, the regiment will be a proactive rather than a reactive force. “The best way to prevent conflict and deter our adversaries is to work alongside partners to strengthen their security and resilience,” said Defence Minister Ben Wallace. “These Ranger battalions will be at the vanguard at a more active and engaged armed forces.”
Over the next four years, £120 million will be invested into the formation of the new brigade, with the Rangers receiving a portion of the funds. The thousand-strong regiment is scheduled to be established in August 2021 and hopes to deploy by early 2022. To build its ranks, the Ranger application is open to all members of the British Armed Forces. However, the regiment will begin an exclusively infantry unit. Four specialized infantry battalions, 1 SCOTS, 2PWRR, 2 LANCS, and 4 RIFLES have been selected to seed the regiment. They will form the nucleus of what will eventually become an “all-arms, all-Army” unit.
As global threats evolve, so too must the warfighters that meet them. Basic infantry skills will be vital to any prospective regiment applicant. However, Rangers will have to adapt to the complexities of the modern battlefield, “Matching brainpower with firepower, data and software with hardware,” said Chief of the General Staff, General Sir Mark Carleton-Smith.
The new Ranger Regiment will be routinely deployed around the globe, supporting allied nations in defense and security operations. “They will be able to operate in complex, high-threat environments, taking on some tasks traditionally done by Special Forces,” the Defence Command Paper said. “This work will involve deterring adversaries and contributing to collective deterrence by training, advising and, if necessary, accompanying partners.” So far, Mozambique and Somalia have been announced as two countries under consideration for the Rangers’ first deployment.
The official Japanese surrender ceremony took place aboard the USS Missouri anchored in Tokyo Bay on September 2, 1945. Here’s some amazing B-roll uncovered by the Naval History and Heritage Command that shows behind-the-scenes stuff like the Japanese delegation coming aboard American warships on their way to the ceremony as well as what it looked like to the hundreds of sailors perched above the main deck when it all went down. The ceremony was a veritable who’s who event with military rock stars of the day like MacArthur, Nimitz, and Halsey in attendance. (There’s no sound on the video, but it’s worth the time.)
Specifically, you can be a zombie in the upcoming “Call of Duty: Black Ops III.”
Omaze and ActivisionBlizzard are holding a contest where the winner will be turned into a zombie featured in the upcoming game. In addition to the zombification, the winner will have their name placed somewhere in the game world.
Entering the contest is done through charitable donations to the Call of Duty Endowment on the contest page at Omaze. Larger donations grant more entries into the contest and all donations come with benefits based on donation size. A lot of great perks are on the table – everything from in-game exclusives to autographed swag to a special lunch and VIP tour of the Treyarch studios, the developer of “Call of Duty: Black Ops III.”
The money raised goes to the Call of Duty Endowment, an organization that finds the best nonprofits helping fight veteran unemployment and then provides them with extra funding and networking opportunities. The endowment estimates that a veteran is employed for every $914 they spend, so even small donations can help put a veteran to work. Also, ActivisionBlizzard will match funds raised in the contest, doubling the impact for veterans.
Whatever the future holds, Ukraine is as ready as it’s ever going to be. If the Russians invade the central European country, Ukraine is much better equipped and trained to give them as good a fight as possible. If they are able to join NATO, then a Russian invasion is much more unlikely.
As Russia steps up its military presence on its border with Ukraine, adding around 30,000 troops as of April 2021, Ukraine is getting ready for them. Both sides of the border held military drills in the middle of the month, on their respective sides of the border.
Ukraine sees the Russian troop presence as a direct threat to Ukraine’s national borders and internal security. Russia says its military buildup is a direct response to possible American intervention in the region, as two U.S. Navy ships entered the Black Sea in the week before Russia’s military exercises.
In the aftermath of the 2014 Ukrainian Revolution that brought current President Volodymyr Zelensky to power, the Russian military entered the Crimean Peninsula, captured strategic sites in the area, and installed a pro-Russian government there. It then initiated a referendum among its populace that allegedly voted in favor of joining the Russian Federation.
Two days after the vote, Russia annexed the peninsula. But that didn’t stop the fighting in the region. In the aftermath of the revolution in Ukraine, pro-Russian separatists rose up in the Donbass region of the country and have been fighting Ukrainian government forces ever since.
The two areas that comprise the Donbass region, Donetsk and Luhansk, have declared their independence and are being supported financially and militarily by Vladimir Putin’s government in Moscow.
But that conflict started years ago. When Russian forces entered Crimea, the Ukranian military was largely inexperienced and untrained. After seven years of low-intensity conflict, the military leadership in Kiev believes it fields a battle-hardened army of veterans.
Russia maintains a large military force, with one million troops on active duty and two million in reserve compared to Ukraine’s army of 255,000 in active service and 900,000 in reserve. The bulk of the Russian military’s combat experience is from the recent actions in Syria, and large portions of the Russian army do not deploy outside the country.
Still, observers are concerned that the 30,000 Russian troops on Ukraine’s doorstep is the largest buildup of Russian forces since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Ukraine, for its part, has not only been fighting a war for years on end, giving its troops valuable real-world combat experience, it has also strived toward NATO membership. The gains it made in recent years have dwarfed the gains made under its former pro-Russian leaders.
In the first 18 months of Volodymyr Zelensky’s presidency, the country has met 96 of NATO standards compared to the 196 made by his predecessor over five years. Zelensky’s government has also increased military spending by 1.4% since 2019, now spending 3.4% of its GDP.
NATO membership for Ukraine is still a long way off by most expert opinions. Zelensky has called for four-way talks with Russia, Germany, and France to ease tensions with Moscow and end the military buildup along his eastern border.
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 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.