The Air Force took steps to relax the military’s current stance on transgender men and women serving in uniform earlier this month, by requiring a higher authority to authorize discharges for enlisted transgender airmen and airmen who have been diagnosed with gender dysphoria, according to a news release.
Openly transgender Senior Airman Logan Ireland hopes that this decision will eventually allow transgender servicemen and women to serve openly without the risk of involuntary separation, despite the fact that the Air Force policy itself has not changed .
Ireland joined the Air Force as a woman in 2010, and was featured in “Transgender, at War and in Love,” a documentary short exploring his relationship with fiancee and transgender soldier Laila Villanueva.
“Day in and day out, you’re constantly worried about a discharge…so every day when I put on my boots and strap on my gun and duty belt, I’m at risk for a discharge — and that’s the least of my worries in my personal job. No one should have to worry about that day in and day out. “
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.
A special MH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter and one of the oldest and most famous helicopters in the Air Force’s inventory has officially retired. A 32-years-old helicopter with more than 11,000 flight hours and dozens of combat deployments, the MH-60G Pave Hawk with tail number 009 flew for the last time in early May.
Its final flight was broken down into two phases. During the first phase, Captain Tanner Bennett, from the 66th Rescue Squadron, flew the chopper from Nellis Air Force Base, in Nevada, to Pensacola Naval Air Station, in Florida. Then, for the second phase, Major General Chad P. Franks, the commander of the 15th Air Force, flew the 009 from Pensacola Naval Air Station to nearby Hurlburt Field.
As a captain, Franks had flown the 009 in Bosnia during Operation Allied Force and had participated in the mission to rescue a downed F-117 Nighthawk pilot in 1999.
“This Pave Hawk represents the hard work and accomplishments of the men and women of the 55th Special Operations Squadron who took great care of 009 when I flew it in 99’. It is an honor for me to fly this retirement flight,” Major General Franks said in a press release.
The venerable MH-60G chopper has participated in a plethora of combat and humanitarian operations, including Operation Just Cause (invasion of Panama), Operation Desert Shield (Saudi Arabia), Operation Desert Storm (Kuwait, Iraq), Operation Provide Comfort (Haiti), Operation Northern Watch (Iraq), Operation Allied Force (Serbia, Bosnia, Kosovo), Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan), and Operation Iraqi Freedom (Iraq). In addition to conventional search-and-rescue operations, the chopper supported special operations units.
“The maintenance team was jobbing it. With as many hours 009 has, they made sure that it was safe for everyone,” Captain Tanner Bennett, an MH-60G aircraft commander who flew the 009’s last flight, said. “It’s pretty awesome in terms of rescue history. For us to take her home, with Maj. Gen. Franks flying the last part, and knowing it will be on display for future pilots, is an honor to be a part of. I’m just honored. It’s lucky that this MH-60 gets to ride out into the sunset.”
The Air Force plans to display the aircraft at the Hurlburt Field Memorial Air Park.
On Mar. 26, 2021, 20 Chinese military aircraft entered Taiwan’s air defense identification zone, making one of the most aggressive moves against the island nation in recent years. The planes flew over the Bashi Channel, which separates Taiwan from the Philippines.
Taiwanese security planners told Reuters that the formation was likely a training exercise simulating attacks on American warships that traverse the channel.
China flew four nuclear-capable H-6K bombers and 10 J-16 fighter jets across the waterway as Taiwan’ missile defenses quickly organized in case of an impending attack.
Taiwan is officially called the Republic of China, and it is where the Chinese Nationalists escaped in the aftermath of the Chinese Civil War. The island was liberated from Japanese rule after World War II, during which Chinese Nationalists and Communists paused their fighting to focus on Japan.
With the defeat of Imperial Japan, the two sides resumed fighting. By 1949, the Communists under Mao Zedong forced the Nationalists led by Chiang Kai-shek to evacuate to the island. Mainland China has claimed it as part of China ever since.
Democratic Taiwan maintains its independence through its military strength, supported by the United States and other Pacific allies.
China’s flights across the Bashi Channel are not the only aggressive moves mainland China has made against Taiwan in recent days. Taiwan says the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Forces have been making flyovers across the Taiwan-claimed Pratas Islands in the South China Sea almost daily since 2020.
The Chinese say the flights were nothing unusual and are a part of routine defense exercises.
The United States does not officially recognize Taiwan, backing out of the 1954 Mutual Defense Treaty in 1979 in exchange for mainland China’s assistance in checking the threat of the Soviet Union’s worldwide aggression.
The U.S.maintains close economic and defense ties with the island nation through the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act, which authorizes the sale of arms to Taiwan. The law also considers military or economic aggression toward the island a grave threat to the national security of the United States.
In 1982, the Administration of Ronald Reagan offered Taiwan “Six Assurances” that would guide relations between the two countries. The U.S. will not set a date for ending arms sales to Taiwan, will not mediate between the island and the People’s Republic of China, will not force Taiwan to enter negotiations with China, recognizes Taiwan’s sovereignty over the island, will not alter the Taiwan Relations act, and will not consult with Beijiing about what arms are sold to Taiwan.
The Pratas Islands have no permanent residents, but both China and Taiwan lay claim to the islands. The islands are strategically important, as they lay 170 miles from Hong Kong and Chinese submarines traverse the Bashi Channel on their way to the Pacific Ocean. Control of the Pratas means control over the entrance to the channel.
China sees a U.S. Navy presence in the channel as a direct threat to Chinese sovereignty in the region. The United States fears the islands could be “China’s Crimea,” a land grab similar to Russia’s sudden annexation of the Ukrainian-held Crimea Peninsula in 2014.
When the U.S. and NATO weren’t willing to go to war over Crimea, experts worried that China’s Xi Jinping would see it as a green light to do the same in the Pratas Islands. If the U.S. allows the Pratas to meet the same fate, it could lose its standing as the protector of the world’s status quo – it’s a red line that could mean war with China.
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.
When the Air Force tells its pilots to “aim high,” they sure as heck mean it. In a bid to offset its persistent pilot retention woes, the Air Force is reportedly offering its aviators a bonus of up to $420,000 to stay in uniform.
The payments are to be doled out over time or in lump sums, and vary in their value according to different types of aircraft. For example: bomber, fighter, special operations, air mobility, and combat search and rescue fixed-wing pilots can receive an additional $25,000 annually for contracts lasting five to seven years, and up to $35,000 annually for contract lengths of eight to 12 years.
Those pilots also have the option to receive a lump sum payment of $100,000 for the five-to-seven-year contracts and $200,000 for the eight-to-12-year contracts.
Remotely piloted aircraft pilots can receive the same benefits, except they can only opt for a $100,000 lump sum payout for contract lengths of eight to 12 years. Combat search and rescue rotary-wing pilots are set to receive annual bonus payments of $15,000 for contracts lasting five to seven years, and up to $25,000 annually for contract lengths of eight to 12 years.
The stress of more than two decades of constant combat deployments has spurred many Air Force pilots to hang up their spurs, so to speak, and head for the airlines or other civilian careers. In March 2020, the Air Force reported that it was 2,100 pilots short of the 21,000 required to execute the National Defense Strategy.
In its fiscal year 2021 budget request to Congress, the Air Force described its crop of pilots as “a force that remains inspired to serve, but are nevertheless stressed by nearly two decades of sustained combat.”
The bonuses are intended to keep pilots in the Air Force. However, with the commercial airline industry in turmoil from the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of pilots looking to leave the service may already be set to decrease in the coming years. Nevertheless, the diminished pull of the commercial aviation economy could be offset if the tempo of military operations ticks up again in the coming years.
“Retention of these valued aviators remains at risk should operational demands continue to outpace our available force structure, shifting the burden of a high operations tempo onto our already stressed aircrew,” the Air Force budget document added.
To make up the pilot shortfall, the Air Force is also looking to add more pilots; the service’s stated goal is to train 1,480 new aircrew annually by 2024.
“Increasing production of new aviators remains the most significant lever we have to arrest aircrew shortages,” the Air Force stated.
To ramp up its pilot “production,” the Air Force is experimenting with an expedited pilot training curriculum for certain types of aircraft.
The Accelerated Path to Wings program trains transport pilots in about seven months, as opposed to the traditional 12-month undergraduate pilot training program. The expedited curriculum cuts flight time in the T-6 Texan II aircraft — which includes training in aerobatics and other skills that aren’t necessarily essential to pilots of large transport aircraft. Rather, Accelerated Path to Wings student pilots perform all their training in the T-1A Jayhawk.
The Air Force is also experimenting with “augmented reality training” to accelerate the pilot training curriculum and cut down on costs.
Quick, what countries have the second- and third-largest carrier forces in the world?
Number one, of course, is the United States with ten carriers and one on the way, even as it scraps as many as eight older ones (Forrestal, Saratoga, Ranger, Independence, Kittyhawk, Constellation, Enterprise, and John F. Kennedy).
The second-largest is . . . Japan, which has three carriers (actually called “helicopter destroyers”) in service and a fourth on the way. The third-largest carrier force belongs to India, with two in service and one on the way.
Surprised? Don’t be. India’s navy has long been one to reckon with, partially due its heritage under British rule. That Royal Navy DNA makes India a serious naval power, and India has managed to mesh technology from a variety of countries to create their navy.
INS Viraat is the former HMS Hermes, a veteran of the Falklands War. Viraat displaces about 24,000 tons and carries about two dozen aircraft. Viraat is slated to retire soon after the new Vikrant enters service. The Viraat is a V/STOL carrier, along the lines of those in service with Thailand, Spain, and Italy. Viraat is likely to stick around until 2020 — impressive, given that she was first commissioned in 1959 by the Royal Navy.
The other active carrier, INS Vikramaditya, is the former Russian carrier Admiral Gorshkov. When she entered service with the Soviet Navy as Baku, she was originally designed to operate Yak-38 Forgers and Ka-27 Helix helicopters. After the Cold War, Russia needed cash, and India took the chance to buy the Gorshkov. After a lengthy refit following her 2004 (which was a soap opera in and of itself), the Vikrmaditya entered service in 2013. Vikramaditya displaces 45,000 tons and operates three dozen aircraft.
The carrier on the way, INS Vikrant, is being built in India. Intended to displace about 40,000 tons, she can carry 40 aircraft and will enter service in 2018. She is the second carrier to carrythe name, the previous Vikrant being a British-built light carrier that served with India from 1961-1997. The first Vikrant was a museum from 2001 to 2012 before her deteriorating condition forced the Indian Navy to sell her for scrap.
The INS Viraat is the last British-built ship serving with the Indian Navy, and is one of the oldest aircraft carriers in service in the world.
India’s naval aircraft are quite diverse, as well. India operates British Sea Harriers (the Mk 51 version) from the Viraat, along with Sea King helicopters (an American design customized by the Brits) and Dhruv helicopters designed and built in India. The Vikramaditya operates Russian-designed Ka-28 and Ka-31 Helix helicopters, MiG-29K Fulcrums from Russia, and Indian-built Tejas aircraft, a mix that will also be seen on the new Vikrant when it starts trials later this year and enters service in 2018. From land, India’s maritime patrol inventory features not only the modern P-8, but Russian Il-38 “May” and Tu-142 “Bear F” aircraft as well.
In the late 1950s the U.S. Air Force created a training video to demonstrate to airmen what the first stages of a nuclear war with Russia would look like.
The simulated war begins in 1960 with an alert that a Russian attack is incoming, and the action quickly picks up as crews around the world scramble to their planes. There are rare shots of rocket-assisted takeoffs by the B-52s carrying a full nuclear payload. The B-58, a Mach-2 bomber still in development and testing when the movie was shot, is also featured. After Germany, France, and Japan are wiped out, America begins releasing its own nuclear weapons. Missiles launch into the sky, bombs drop from bays, and Russia is obliterated.
Check out the initial alert (8:54), the first bombs and missiles impacting (36:40), or the final score of the first day of conflict (39:58). The commanding general declares victory at 53:10, but then drops one more bomb for the hell of it.
Back in 2013, NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed that the federal government was collecting our personal data. Ever since, Virtual Private Networks, or VPNs, are used to encrypt a person’s activity on the internet. The sophistication of these companies has improved and usage of the software is as easy as turning on a light switch. Everyone has that one friend that spews out conspiracy theories that are just flat out wrong. Keep in mind, even a broken clock is right twice a day, this time the government is watching you.
Most VPN services log your activities
VPN logs are the data that providers keep regarding usage of their service. When it comes to what they could store, you have to remember that your provider has access to all of your internet activity. So everything your ISP would normally see is technically now accessible by your VPN provider. Of course, if providers actually logged and stored all of that data, they wouldn’t be offering a very attractive service, and would no doubt lose a lot of customers. Instead, the lack of logs is one of the main selling features broadcast by many providers in a bid to win over consumers.
AIMEE O’DRISCOLL VPN AND CYBERSECURITY EXPERT
Having a VPN that keeps logs of your activity defeats the purpose of a VPN in the first place. All U.S. based VPN providers have to hand over logs to the federal government when ordered to do so. In fact, they’re strictly prohibited on directly telling you if they have been subpoenaed by the feds. A Warrant Canary is one workaround. It is a webpage that they update once a month stating that no secret government subpoenas have been issued. If you use a US based VPN with a Warrant Canary and an outdated page, the canary is dead. So is your privacy.
Foreign based VPNS also cooperate with federal agencies
You may not have heard of 5 Eyes and 14 Eyes countries and that is by design. The 5 Eyes alliance (FVEY) is an agreement between the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. They collect telephone calls, texts, emails, signals to weapon systems or radars and share that information. The FVEY is also a convenient workaround to spying on US citizens by having an ally do the dirty work and handing the information over.
The alliance expanded to Denmark, France, the Netherlands, and Norway and became the 9 Eyes alliance. We now have the 14 Eyes alliance with Belgium, Germany, Italy, Spain and Sweden. The FBI and other agencies can see you if your VPN service is headquartered in any of these countries.
The intention of this alliance is to form a united front against state sponsored intelligence attacks by China, Russia, Iran, and other enemies of the west. What does that have to do with you? Your activity does not have anything to do with national security so it does not apply, right? Wrong. On, March 11, 2020 the House of Representatives passed H.R. 6172, here is the executive summary provided by senate.gov.
The USA FREEDOM Reauthorization Act of 2020 prohibits the government from using FISA authority to collect call details records on an ongoing basis and prohibits the use of tangible business records to obtain cell site location and global positioning system location, with exception. This act extends the authorization for the reformed expiring FISA authorities, along with the “roving wiretap” authorities and “lone wolf” provision to December 1, 2023. It also requires the attorney general to approve a FISA application to surveil any elected federal officials and candidates for federal office and increases the penalty for making false statements to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court from five to eight years imprisonment. Provisions in the legislation also require extensive reporting on FISA applications, FISC and Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review decisions, and investigative techniques used by the federal government.
All an agency has to do is slap a national security label on the subpoena and slap a lone wolf label on you. You do not have to fix in the box, they build it to order around you.
I understand the need to protect our national security and the FBI’s defense against foreign intelligence attacks. I applaud their fervor and dedication to capturing child predators as well. What I do not agree with is the violation of our rights as citizens of the United States. If the federal government wants to hunt down the scum of the earth, by all means do it. They should do it without jeopardizing the confidence of The People.
You can never fully hide on the internet
One of my favorite quotes from The Social Network is by Erica Albright denying Facebook’s founders apology for writing nasty blogs after they broke up. ‘It didn’t stop you from writing it. As if every thought that tumbles through your head was so clever it would be a crime for it not to be shared. The Internet’s not written in pencil, Mark, it’s written in ink.’
So, why does it matter if the government has your information or not? Using a VPN to protect your passwords, banking information, transfer of sensitive documents, etcetera, is a good reason to protect yourself on the internet. Using encryption technology to protect yourself from identity theft is what it is there for. Government websites and commercial websites, like Google, can and will be hacked by foreign adversaries. No one is invulnerable on the internet, not even Uncle Sam. Doxing is when an individual obtains information available on the internet about you and makes it public with malicious intent. If an incel on the internet can find information about you, then a highly trained federal agent can too.
The US Navy has successfully altered a Raytheon Tomahawk land attack missile (TLAM) to be able to hit a moving target at sea, USNI News reports.
In a Jan. 27 test off of San Niolas Island, California, the Navy launched a TLAM which was guided into a moving maritime target through directions given by a Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet flying overhead. TLAMs are capable of changing their direction mid-course.
Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work, the Pentagon’s second-highest-ranked civilian, praised the successful test of the missile during a keynote speech at the WEST 2015 conference. He said the missiles were part of the Pentagon’s “Third Offset Strategy,” an initiative focused on research into new long-range weapons.
“A big part of the Third Offset Strategies is to find new and innovative ways to deploy promising technologies,” Work said. “This is potentially a game changing capability for not a lot of cost. It’s a 1000 mile anti-ship cruise missile.”
TLAMs are already used for land attack missions against static targets. By converting TLAMs into missiles capable of penetrating thickly-armored vessels at sea, the Navy plugs a serious gap in its current weapons capabilities. According to USNI News, TLAMs that have been converted into anti-ship missiles that could be used aboard the Navy’s newer guided-missile destroyers, which cannot currently use the service’s antiquated RGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missile.
The new converted TLAMs would have a range of almost 1,000 nautical miles, allowing the US to maintain a considerable edge over rival naval powers. One of China’s most threatening new military advancements is its development of its own advanced anti-ship cruise missiles. However, these missiles would only have half the range of a converted TLAM.
If fully adapted, the newest iteration of the TLAM will function as a stop-gap measure until the Navy’s next-generation Long Range Anti-Ship missile is ready for action.
The U.S. has conducted more than 4,700 air strikes against ISIS militants since Aug. 2014, and the American pilots carrying out those attacks often have awesome — and sometimes hilarious — callsigns.
In an interesting article for The New York Times, journalist Helene Cooper profiles some of the pilots flying from the USS Theodore Roosevelt, who go by names like “Yip Yip,” “Pope,” and “Pizza.” The pilots talk about some of their missions to strike inside Iraq and Syria and the camaraderie among their squadron.
“Quite honestly, the U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marines own the skies,” Maj. Anthony Bourke, a former Air Force fighter pilot, told The Times. “So even though pilots dream of dogfights, the biggest risk now is small-arms fire, and if you stay above 10,000 feet, you’re not going to be hit.”
Though the Times article does not explain how they got their new names, it’s well known in the fighter pilot community that callsigns are usually earned during a “naming ceremony,” where fellow pilots bestow a newbie with something of a play on their name, or a name that evokes a past screw-up (cool names like “Iceman” or “Maverick” are usually out of the question).
So who are the mystery men flying in on F/A-18s to strike terrorist infrastructure? According to the photo spread accompanying the article, they are:
“Yard Sale” — Navy fighter pilot
“Chaz” — Navy fighter pilot
“Xerxes” — Navy weapons officer
“Pope” — Marine fighter pilot
“Yip Yip” — Navy fighter pilot
“Pickle” — Navy fighter pilot
“Skull” — Marine fighter pilot
“Pope” — Marine fighter pilot
“Betty” — Marine fighter pilot (and yes, he’s a guy)
“Sweet P” — Navy weapons officer
“Smoat” — Navy fighter pilot
“Bones” — Navy weapons officer
“Pizza” — the commander of the Roosevelt’s air wing
Now after an ISIS truck gets blown to bits, we know it may have all been the work of a guy named Yard Sale.
The Greek town of Vrontados on the island of Chios has an Easter tradition they call Rouketopolemos, which literally means Rocket War.
This annual event pits two rival parishes against each other by firing tens of thousands of home-made rockets at the opposing side’s bell tower. The next day, both congregations count the direct hits to determine the winner, but no matter the results, each parish claims victory. Since both sides end in disagreement, they agree to settle the score next year, thus perpetuating the rivalry.
The origins of this tradition are unclear, but one popular story states that it was born from the Turkish occupation of Greece. People from the island were prohibited from celebrating Easter the way they used to. So, the Christians from the churches of San Maria and San Marco decided to have a fake war with rockets to keep the Turkish away. Frightened by the sudden violence, the Turkish kept their distance. In the meantime, the communities celebrated Easter they way they were accustomed to, according to Rocketwar.
The midnight rocket war is truly a spectacle, the action begins at 3:40 of this video: