Most Americans know of the elite sailors who serve on Navy SEAL teams, but there is another group of quiet professionals backing them up when they need a heavily-armed ride into or out of combat.
Special Warfare Combatant-craft Crewman, better known as SWCC, serve on high-speed attack boats that can effectively patrol rivers and coastal regions around the world. Tracing their lineage back to the PT boats of World War II and combatant craft of Vietnam, SWCC (pronounced “Swick”) operators today are mostly known for their skills at inserting and extracting Navy SEAL teams.
“We refer to it as the best kept secret in the Navy,” one operator says in the video below.
SWCC teams serve on state-of-the-art boats outfitted with plenty of firepower, which include the U.S. military’s standard M240 light machine-gun, heavy M2 .50 caliber, and the M134 Minigun, a belt-fed monster that can churn out up to 6,000 rounds per minute.
Check out the video of SWCC in action below, courtesy of the U.S. Navy:
Reporter James Foley was no stranger to battle zone coverage. This first-hand look at a Taliban ambush against U.S. soldiers shows how he was willing to put himself in harm’s way to capture the story.
Infantrymen from the 101st Brigade were under constant attack and lost seven troops to IEDs, suicide attacks, and firefights.
Much of the U.S.’s military attention was focused on Kandahar, the Taliban stronghold in the southwest part of the country (Afghanistan), according the PBS video below. But, in Kunar Province in the northeast, the firefights were just as fierce.
The video picks up with Private Justin Greer, age 19, getting shot in the head while manning the turret-mounted grenade launcher.
James Foley was a freelance reporter for GlobalPost, Agence France-Presse and other news organizations. He was murdered by the terrorist group ISIS in August 2014.
In 2013, the China News Service, the second largest state-run media outlet in the People’s Republic of China (PRC), published a piece in its Chinese language service with all the promise of a less-than-peaceful rise. China News has a very pro-PRC slant, and this particular piece was no different. Called “Six wars China is sure to fight in the next 50 years,” the article alluded to the PRC’s pride, shredded after centuries of defeat and embarrassment.
China’s growth as a global economy boomed under the leadership of Chinese Communist Party leader and President Hu Jintao. Hu stepped down in 2012 and his successor, Xi Jinping, has ideas of a “Chinese Dream,” a desire to revitalize the nation and to return China to national glory, perhaps by any means necessary. The article itself could be either bluster or a shared collective feeling, a Chinese “Manifest Destiny.” Either way, the Chinese are already anticipating the needs of – and obstacles to – their rise.
1. The Unification of Mainland China and Taiwan
The mainland Chinese do not seem to believe a peaceful unification with the Republic of China (Taiwan) is possible. Taiwanese politicians use the threat of China or the promise of unification as election year stunts but make no real progress on the issue. The PRC sees the existence of Taiwan as a weakness, given that other countries can use their relations with Taipei as leverage in negotiations. The author of the China News piece proposes giving the Taiwanese a referendum by 2020, to vote on peaceful unification or unification by force. They expect the answer will be war.
The Chinese expect to win, of course. It’s just a matter of time, and that all depends on how much the U.S. and Japan intervene to save Taiwan. The Chinese expect a mainland invasion from the U.S. and will respond with “total war,” and believe they can beat Taiwan and its allies in six months. If the United States doesn’t intervene, the PRC predicts a three-month victory.
2. The forced acquisition of the Spratly Islands
The Chinese think the forced unification of Taiwan will show the other countries of the region the PRC’s resolve in its territorial demands. After a two-year rest from the Taiwan War, the Chinese believe Vietnam and the Philippines will be waiting at the negotiating table to see what the Chinese do, rather than be aggressive or offensive. China will give these countries with territorial claims the option of preserving shares of investments already made in the Spratlys. If not, the Chinese military will take these holdings by force.
China also believes its victory in the Taiwan War will have taught the U.S. “a lesson not to confront too openly with China,” but knows the U.S. will aid the Philippines and Vietnam under the table, with arms, training, and money. Only the Philippines and Vietnam “dare to challenge China’s domination.” China will attack Vietnam first (because that worked out so well the first time), in hopes of intimidating other Pacific nations. The PRC’s win there will make sure other countries return their claims on the islands and ally themselves with China. This victory also gives the Chinese Navy unfettered access to the Pacific Ocean.
3. Reunification of South Tibet
In 1914, the British and Chinese negotiated the McMahon Line, a legal border between China and India, as part of the Simla Accord. the Simla Accord also carved up Tibet into “Inner” and “Outer” Tibet. Even though the Chinese dispute this line (because they would have to recognize Tibet as an independent state at the time of this treaty), it is the line used on maps between the two countries from 1914 until the Sino-Indian War of 1962. That war changed nothing, except the area once known as the North-East Frontier Agency became known as the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh. On top of the border dispute, this state now has major hydropower potential.
Despite the 1962 war, the Chinese believe they can beat India and “reconquer” South Tibet by force if they can incite the disintegration of the Indian states, sending arms to Pakistan to retake Kashmir, force a war on two fronts and “blitz” into South Tibet. India will lose this war, and China will join the U.S., Europe, and Russia as global powers.
4. The conquest of the Diaoyu and Ryukyu Islands
By this time, the author predicted three major military wars and some years of rest in between. Now, mid-21st century, China will assert its claim over these two sets of islands. China claims these two chains are ancient vassal states of China’s, now occupied by the Japanese (and the Americans, as the base on Okinawa is in the Ryukyus).
With its growing worldwide military presences and global prestige, the Chinese will move to occupy the islands. They predict a weakened U.S. will fight alongside Japan, but that Europe and Russia will do nothing, resulting in a Chinese victory within six months.
5. The Invasion of Mongolia
The Chinese refer to Mongolia as “Outer Mongolia,” a separate part of China, distinct from the Autonomous Region of “Inner Mongolia,” a Chinese province. They assert that the country of Mongolia is a part of China. In the 1600s, it was ruled by the Chinese, but if we’re going back in time, the Mongols ruled China for a while.
No matter what we (or the Mongols) think, the Chinese will place a claim on the country shortly after their invasion of Taiwan. Like their invasion of Taiwan, they will offer the Mongolians a referendum to vote on whether their unification with the People’s Republic of China. If they vote for peace, Mongolia will be accepted into China. If the Mongols vote for war, the PRC should be prepared to not only invade militarily but also be prepared to fight off foreign aggression against this action. The Chinese believe by this point, they will be so powerful and the U.S. and Russia will be in decline so much, it would be difficult for them to mount anything other than a diplomatic defense.
6. China hopes to take back land from Russia
Even though the relations between the two countries have recovered since the Sino-Soviet Split during the Cold War, a lot of mistrust remains. In China’s view, Russia occupies 160 million square kilometers of land belonging to China since the Qing Dynasty, circa 1644. The Chinese author believes by this time (roughly 2045), the Russian government will be in further decline and will take full advantage, especially given the veteran status their military will have after five wars.
The Chinese author asserts “there must be a war with Russia,” and should be prepared to use nuclear weapons if the need arises, especially if a first strike to disarm the Russian nuclear arsenal. Once the Chinese neutralize Russian nuclear assets, they believe the Russians will capitulate and hand over the lost Chinese lands.
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.”
Both Manson and Billy Corgan come from military backgrounds: “We can speak to the personal effect that yes, we can be artists and yes, we can play these roles in public, but at the end of the day, if we don’t serve all our communities – [and] veterans are an integral part of our communities – we’re not really doing service as artists or as people,” Corgan told Rolling Stone.
The tour begins in Concord, California on July 7th.
When Richard Sorge was born, his German parents were living in what is now Azerbaijan, working for the Russian government. He moved with his family to Berlin at a very young age. He was raised in a typical upper-middle-class family, supporters of the German Empire and the Kaiser.
Like many Europeans, he became disillusioned with the state of affairs during and after World War I, and his political views changed. If Richard Sorge hadn’t become a Communist, World War II might have lasted much longer – or ended differently.
At age 18, Sorge enlisted in the German Army and was sent to the Western Front. As a member of a reasonably wealthy family, he was supportive of the Kaiser and the war – at first. As the war dragged on, his views on war not only changed, his entire political point of view changed along with it.
Sorge was wounded in his hands and both legs and was discharged in 1916. By the time he left the army, he was no longer a German nationalist. As he recovered from his wounds, he read the works of Karl Marx and became a Communist. After earning a doctorate degree, he joined the Communist Party and moved to the Soviet Union.
It was in the USSR that he was recruited to work for the Red Army’s intelligence directorate. He was sent back to Germany posing as a journalist. He would spend years in Germany, China, and Great Britain, reporting back to the Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) on the development of communist parties in those countries and the outbreaks of violence in China.
Once Japan had taken parts of China in 1931, the Soviet Union was worried that the Japanese Empire would invade the Soviet Far East. Sorge was sent to Germany to join the Nazi Party, get a job as a correspondent in Japan, and set up an intelligence gathering ring there.
That’s exactly what he did. After reading Adolph Hitler’s Mein Kampf, he became adept at creating Nazi propaganda and began attending beer hall meetings. He was so good at his work in Germany that three publications commissioned his work in Japan. Sorge’s farewell dinner was attended by Joseph Goebbels himself.
By 1933, Sorge was working in Japan as a correspondent for Germany’s top newspaper. His real job, from his Soviet handlers, was to determine if Japan was planning an attack on the USSR. He recruited a team of communist informants and by 1935 had contacts in both the German military presence in Japan, as well as the Japanese military and government.
Sorge was, soon after he was established, committed to the role of the hard-drinking playboy and ladies man, a typical Nazi diplomat in Japan at the time. He was so trusted by the German delegation in Japan that they weren’t just sharing information with the Soviet spy, Sorge was actively writing diplomatic cables back to Berlin.
After some Japanese officers started a border clash with the USSR near Manchuria, Sorge learned that it was an isolated incident and that Japan had no intentions of an all-out invasion of the USSR.
By far, the two most important intelligence findings of Sorge’s time in Japan came after World War II had started in earnest. He learned that Nazi Germany was planning its invasion of the USSR in 1941, but Soviet leader Joseph Stalin wrote off Sorge as a drunkard. Sorge’s next intelligence coup would not be ignored.
In September 1941, Sorge learned that the Japanese military command was resisting German pressure to go to war with the USSR and wanted to attack the United States’ possessions in the Pacific instead. He reported to Moscow that the Japanese would not invade the Soviet Union until the Nazis captured Moscow, the Japanese had enough troops to invade Siberia, and a civil uprising could be started there.
After receiving this intelligence and seeing the Germans halted before Moscow, Stalin felt he could move Soviet Far East divisions to counter the Nazi invasion and turn the tide against the Germans.
Sorge was eventually arrested under the suspicion of espionage. He confessed under torture and was hanged as a spy in November 1944.
When Russian President Vladimir Putin visited the studios of state-owned media outlet Russia Today in 2013, he reportedly instructed them to break “the Anglo-Saxon monopoly on global information streams.”
It appears he has not forgotten that goal.
Politico reported on Monday that Russian hackers have been posing as attractive women and friending US troops on Facebook to gather intelligence about the military.
These actions are part of a larger Russian strategy aimed at manipulating and extracting intelligence from the US military.
The U.S. military’s online behavior campaign is used to highlight the importance of appropriate conduct online and social media behavior to help eradicate bullying, exploitation and degradation of fellow service members. (Graphic Illustration by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Kegan E. Kay/Released)
Russia seems to be infiltrating the social media accounts of US troops for at least two reasons, according to Politico.
One, it allows Russia to better glean the activities of the US military through what its troops post online. “Spies understand that a great deal can be discerned about what militaries are up to based on the unclassified behavior of soldiers,” John Bambenek, of Fidelis Cybersecurity, told Politico.
Two, it gives them the chance to make US troops sympathize with Russia by inserting propaganda into their news feeds.
For example, former military contractor Serena Moring told Politico she noticed US service members sharing a link about a Russian soldier who heroically died while fighting ISIS in Syria.
According to the Pravda report, the Russian soldier supposedly called in an airstrike on himself while surrounded by ISIS militants, telling his command, “I don’t want them to take me and parade me, conduct the airstrike, they will make a mockery of me and this uniform. I want to die with dignity and take all these bastards with me.”
While the veracity of the story is unknown, Moring told Politico that US soldiers were sharing it with admiration.
“All of the response from the military guys was like, ‘That is awesome. That’s an epic way to die,'” she told Politico. “It was a very soldier-to-soldier bond that was created through social media.”
Russia is employing these hybrid warfare tactics against many Baltic states as well.
According to the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act, hybrid warfare are “activities conducted to enable a resistance movement or insurgency to coerce, disrupt, or overthrow a government or occupying power by operating through or with an underground, auxiliary, or guerrilla force in a denied area.”
In fact, Kyiv recently outlawed Russian social media sites, which Ukrainian officials said were being used to spread propaganda. Human Rights Watch, however, accused Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko of trying to curb freedom of expression.
The Blue Grass Army Depot in Kentucky is one of only two remaining chemical weapons stockpile locations in the US. The other is the Pueblo Chemical Depot in Colorado. Chemical weapons destruction began at the latter in 2015.
The Blue Grass Army Depot originally stored over 500 tons of mustard and nerve agents in 155 mm projectiles, 8-inch projectiles, and M55 rockets. Each 155 mm munition can carry either 6 pounds of VX or 11.7 pounds of a mustard agent.
The facility has already disposed of its 8-inch projectiles containing GB nerve agent, and it began disposing of the 155 mm H mustard rounds in 2019, with more than 64% destroyed by January 2021. Efforts to dispose of the 155 mm VX artillery shells started on January 10, 2021.
A BGCAPP spokesperson explained to Insider that the length of time it takes for the plant to destroy a batch of chemical weapons projectiles varies. The number of weapons the plant can process at a time can range from a handful to several dozen.
To dispose of the VX projectiles, automated equipment first dismantles the munition, and then the chemical agent and weapons components are destroyed separately through chemical and thermal treatments.
The next phase will start this fall, when the plant will start disposing of the M55 rockets, each carrying about 11 pounds of VX, that are still stored at the Blue Grass Army Depot.
The Department of Defense announced last September that the Pueblo Chemical Depot, once home to more than 780,000 chemical weapons munitions, had successfully disposed of all of its nearly 300,000 155 mm mustard agent projectiles.
The US military is working to eliminate its entire chemical weapons stockpile by the end of 2023 in accordance with the Chemical Weapons Convention. This international treaty prohibits the production and use of chemical weaponry and requires the disposal of stockpiled weapons.
Stanley Kubrick’s “Full Metal Jacket” is arguably one of the most influential military movies of all time. It’s the movie would-be troops romanticize about before enlisting in the military and it’s certainly the movie they watch to mentally prepare themselves before shipping off to boot camp to face their drill instructors.
However, as iconic as this 1987 film has become, it almost didn’t turn out that way. This 30-minute video shows how Full Metal Jacket was made and what the cast and crew did to “get it right.” There are plenty of interesting tidbits, like how relatively unknown actor Vincent D’Onofrio initially didn’t even want to do the film, and why a horrific scene between “Animal Mother” and the sniper was cut out.
Much like U.S. special operations forces, Russia has its own elite troops that shine during special missions like counterterrorism and hostage rescue.
“Spetsnaz,” or special purpose, is an umbrella term for special ops in Russia and other eastern Bloc states. These elite troops traditionally fall under the GRU [intelligence service], FSB [security service], and other ministries, in addition to the traditional military structure.
Regardless, they are the “core of the best trained men the Soviet Union, now the Russian Federation, could produce,” according to SOFREP.
In this video, we get a sense of what these troops are capable of. Though it is worth pointing out that this was produced in Russia and isn’t exactly an impartial look at this force.
The A-10 Thunderbolt II (AKA Warthog) was designed around its massive GAU-8/A Avenger nose cannon.
The gun and plane were developed in parallel, which resulted in the perfect marriage. In fact, without the nose cannon, the plane is completely off balance and can’t fly.
Developed by General Electric, the 30 mm hydraulically driven seven-barrel Gatling-type cannon was designed to combat tanks and provide close air support. Both the A-10 and its GAU-8/A gun entered service in 1977. This video explains the cannon’s role in today’s battlefield.
According to DARPA researchers at the University of Maryland, funded by the agency’s Mathematics of Sensing, Exploitation and Execution (MSEE) program, recently developed a system that enabled robots to process visual data from a series of “how to” cooking videos on YouTube. “Based on what was shown on a video, robots were able to recognize, grab and manipulate the correct kitchen utensil or object and perform the demonstrated task with high accuracy – without additional human input or programming,” DARPA said.
These scientists throwing the calculus of “cooking is as much of an art as it is a science” way off. Perhaps one day having a personal robot chef will be as commonplace as having a toaster, microwave or blender.
“If we have robots that are humanoid and they have hands, that will be the next industrial revolution,” said Yiannis Aloimonos, University of Maryland computer scientist. “I am particularly very happy to be participating in this revolution because it will change fundamentally our societies.”
Still, it’s hard to imagine Chef Ramsay getting any satisfaction out of yelling at a robot on an episode of Hell’s Kitchen . . .
You may have heard stories from North Korea’s state media that sound just plain silly. Like the time, Kim Jong-Il phoned the North Korean soccer coach during their World Cup match against Brazil with the invisible phone he invented. Or the time Kim Jong-Il played golf for the first time and finished with 11 holes-in-one. The list goes on.