The crisis in Ukraine, centered on Russia’s annexation of Crimea and their backing of separatists in Ukraine’s east, is a complicated mess. The U.S. and NATO tell one story while Russia tells another. Numerous international incidents have already occurred including the downing of a civilian jetliner, confrontations between Navy ships and Russian jets, and a surge in military exercises by both NATO and Russia, usually near shared borders.
On the season finale of Vice, co-founder Shane Smith and correspondent Simon Ostrovsky lay out the growing crisis in a clear and organized manner, making it easier to get a handle on what’s going on. They talk to experts on both sides of the conflict and in a range of positions, from a separatist commander in Eastern Ukraine to President Obama to Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, who oversees the Russian military and its current expansion.
The documentary covers all the arenas where the conflict is playing out including economic sanctions, active fighting in Eastern Ukraine, information wars across the internet, and military build-ups. Most importantly, it makes these developments and the follow-on consequences easy to understand.
The episode premiers tonight on HBO at 11 p.m. A sneak peek is below, and a preview is on Vice’s website.
It’s just one of those things – Israel didn’t take responsibility, but everyone seems to know it was Israel. Iran’s nuclear scientists seem to keep dying in explosions. The Natanz centrifuges keep finding ways to go out of commission, either from computer viruses, mysterious explosions, or this time, due to a blackout.
It happens so often, even Israeli media back in Tel Aviv seem to know Mossad’s work when they see it.
On April 11, 2021, centrifuges at Natanz, Iran’s main nuclear material production site suffered a catastrophic blackout, which may have been caused by an explosion. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif accused the Israeli government of sabotaging the plant with an act of “nuclear terrorism.”
Israel has neither confirmed nor denied any responsibility for the incident. Nor has it ever confirmed or denied responsibility for any one of the many Iranian nuclear scientists who have died from explosions, poisonous gas leaks, or a one-ton automated gun. At least seven Iranian nuclear scientists have met a mysterious fate since 2007.
But killing nuclear scientists haven’t been the only setbacks for the Iranian nuclear program. Aside from their deaths and the latest setback, a fire at the facility in August of 2020 caused the temporary shutdown of the Iranian enrichment program. In 2010, a virus called Stuxnet caused chaos at the facility, forcing sensitive equipment to spin out of control and overheat.
The blackout, which may sound harmless, may still have done untold damage to the centrifuges at the facility.
“Since the first-generation centrifuges are very sensitive and precise devices, it is likely that the sudden power outage damaged 5,000 of them and made them unusable,” Behrooz Bayat said in an interview with VOA Persian on Monday. Bayat is a consultant with the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna. “This does not mean that they cannot be repaired, but it will take months, and Iran’s enrichment program will be postponed.”
The incident comes just days before the U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin landed in Israel for a historic meeting with his Israeli counterpart, Defense Minister Benny Gantz. It also comes at the heels of talks between the U.S. and Iran for rejoining the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, also known as the Iran Nuclear Deal.
“The diplomatic discussions that have been taking place … we expect them to be difficult and long,” Press Secretary Jen Psaki told Voice of America. “We have not been given any indication about a change in participation for these discussions.”
Iran stopped short of officially blaming Israel for the blackout, but has promised future retribution for the repeated attacks. Originally built in a bunker to protect it from an air attack, external forces have to get creative in hitting the Natanz facility. Iran is now rebuilding the entire facility deep inside a nearby mountain, south of the capital of Tehran.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has often described Iran as the premier threat to the nation of Israel, a sentiment echoed by many Israeli officials
“The Tehran of today poses a strategic threat to international security, to the entire Middle East and to the state of Israel,” Gantz said. “And we will work closely with our American allies to ensure that any new agreement with Iran will secure the vital interests of the world, of the United States, prevent a dangerous arms race in our region, and protect the state of Israel.”
Attacks on the Natanz facility or any part of Iran’s nuclear program are not likely to stop anytime soon.
Congress has created a new subcommittee on military intelligence and special operations.
Part of the House Committee on Armed Services, the Subcommittee on Intelligence and Special Operations will have jurisdiction over the policy, programs, and accounts that are related to military intelligence, national intelligence, weapons of mass destruction, and conventional weapons counter-proliferation, counterterrorism, sensitive operations, and special operations.
Representative Ruben Gallego (Democrat, Arizona) was chosen to head the subcommittee. Gallego served six years in the Marine Corps (2000-2006), reaching the rank of corporal and deploying once to Iraq for a 12-month deployment. Gallego holds a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations from Harvard University.
Representative Gallego said in a statement on Twitter that “When I walk to the committee room for the House Armed Services Committee, I walk by a wall with names of all service members that have died in Iraq and Afghanistan. 24 of those names are men I served with. As the new Chairman of the Subcommittee on Intelligence and Special Operations, I serve in their name and honor. I remember being a young man in war hoping someone was looking out for me. If you are out there, know that I am.”
Representative Stephanie Murphy (Democrat, Florida) will serve as the vice-chair of the subcommittee. Murphy has experience in the field from her stint at the Pentagon office that oversees the Special Operations/Low-Intensity Conflict (SO/LIC) office.
It will be interesting to see if the new subcommittee will have any real jurisdiction—and thus power—given the plethora of lawmaking bodies with similar duties already in existence. There are, for example, the Emerging Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, the House Select Committee on Intelligence, the Senate Committee on Armed Services, the House Committee on Armed Services
Representative Adam Smith (Democrat, Washington), the chair of the Armed Services Committee stated that the new subcommittee will allow Congress to exert more scrutiny and oversight were needed.
“As the country faces unprecedented threats from our adversaries and competitors, especially the disruptive impact of disinformation attacks, we will ensure that special operations forces and the Defense Intelligence Enterprise are postured to address those threats,” Walsh said.
“It is critical that these highly sensitive areas of the Committee’s jurisdiction receive the time and attention they deserve, and this new subcommittee structure will facilitate exactly that.”
Gallego has indicated that the subcommittee will be reviewing the deployment of special operations forces across the world to ensure that they are utilized for the US’ best national interest.
The Danish film ‘A War’ is about an officer who had to make a hard decision under fire and the legal charges he faced when he returned home. It’s an unflinching look at military families, the strains of separation during deployment, and the unforgiving nature of commanding troops under fire while wrestling with restrictive rules of engagement.
The film has been nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film and will be released in limited theaters starting February 12.
April 2021 marks one year since the Air Force’s first two F-35A Lightning II advanced stealth fighters arrived at Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska. Twenty-five of the Air Force’s fifth-generation fighters are now at Eielson, part of the service’s overall plan to turn Alaska into a “fifth-gen powerhouse,” according to an Air Force press release.
“We have come a long way since the arrival of the first aircraft in April 2020 to now,” Air Force Maj. Jarod DiGeorge of the 354th Fighter Wing said in the release. “Flying 24 sorties in one day barely eight months after first wheels down at Eielson. We are currently on track to achieve initial combat capability this spring and full combat capability next winter.”
Former Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James issued a 2016 “record of decision,” effectively establishing Eielson as the home for the service’s Alaska-based F-35s. Additionally, the measure reactivated the 354th Fighter Wing and placed it at Eielson. The wing is slated to receive 54 F-35As in total and is on track to reach full capacity by March 2022.
A strong deterrent in Alaska is quickly becoming a focal point of a renewed “great power competition” between China, Russia, and the US. In January 2018, Beijing’s so-called Polar Silk Road Arctic strategy declared China to be a “near-Arctic state” — even though China’s nearest territory to the Arctic is some 900 miles away. Additionally, Moscow and Beijing have agreed to connect the Northern Sea Route, claimed by Russia, with China’s Maritime Silk Road.
By 2022, Alaska will be one of most heavily defended airspaces on earth. When Eielson’s F-35 fleet is at full strength, Alaska will have more of America’s advanced, fifth-generation fighters than any other US state.
“America cannot afford to fall behind as other nations devote resources to the Arctic region to secure their national interests. America’s very real interests in the Arctic will only increase in the years to come,” authors Luke Coffey and Daniel Kochis wrote in a March 2020 report for The Heritage Foundation.
As Eielson AFB gets more F-35As, it gets closer to being fully combat capable. “It allows our aircrew to be able to train realistically without limitations and to accomplish their specific airborne requirements to be fully proficient in the mission and fly at a combat mission ready rate,” DiGeorge said. “Each and every aircraft we receive is also a projection of the wing’s airpower and furthers our ability to strike in a moment’s notice.”
The Colombian military on Friday activated the elite Command Against Drug Trafficking and Offshore Threats (CONAT) unit. CONAT will be comprised of 7,000 troops and its purpose will be to fight narcos, rebels financed by drug trafficking and other illegal activities and which operate across the borders of Colombia and the region, and other organized gangs.
President Ivan Duque, speaking to the troops at the sprawling army base at Tolemaida in central Colombia, described the new unit as “historic.” Meanwhile, the unit displayed aircraft and armored vehicles in a show of force among the troops.
The force, Duque said, will be tasked with “subduing, beating and subjecting the structures of drug trafficking and the… threats linked to the illegal exploitation of minerals, trafficking of species, of persons and, of course, to any transnational form of terrorism.”
“The unit was born to hit, repress, and break down the structures of drug trafficking and transnational threats linked to illegal mining, the trafficking of wildlife, and people, and — of course — any transnational form of terrorism,” President Duque said at the event.
Colombia, considered the world’s largest producer of cocaine, had over 380,000 acres of the coca crop in 2019. That is an area larger than the combined bases of Fort Hood, TX and Fort Bragg, NC, the U.S. military’s two largest bases.
One controversial development is that Colombia could restart aerial fumigation of coca fields with herbicide glyphosate soon, Defense Minister Diego Molano said.
The last active rebel group in Colombia, the National Liberation Army (ELN), finances its operations through drug trafficking, kidnapping, illegal mining, and extortion. Duque said that the unit will pursue the ELN and ex-FARC rebels who had rejected the 2016 peace deal “without qualms.”
“Soldiers, it is a morally necessary, morally correct battle… Let’s go for the defense of Colombia!” Duque added.
The long drug war, as well as a decades-long insurgency, left more than 260,000 dead and have displaced millions of Colombian civilians.
That prompted Venezuelan strongman Nicolas Maduro to rattle his saber and to “respond forcefully” although Colombia made no mention of crossing the border. Maduro, who is prone to making grand pronouncements, said that he ordered the military forces to “clean the barrels of our rifles to answer them at any level we need to answer if Ivan Duque dares violate the sovereignty of Venezuela.”
Colombia has broken off diplomatic ties with Venezuela since 2019 when opposition leader Juan Guaido was recognized as the interim president. Maduro ran a show election that was rigged. The European Union (EU), and the G7 group, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States, joined the EU in rejecting the results of the elections and denounced them as not “comply[ing] with international standards.”
Colombia has long accused the leftist government of Venezuela of supporting the terrorist insurgents of ELN and FARC. Venezuela has denied this.
There’s no hiding from a SPICE enabled bomb, it will find you in the dark and chase you on the battlefield. The kit is highly precise in that it combines GPS and EO technology. The GPS side enables the bomb to engage camouflaged or hidden targets in all weather conditions by inputting coordinates. On the other hand, the EO side provides the flexibility of remote control guidance to engage relocatable targets.
With 12 control surfaces on three groups (fore, mid-body and tail), the kit provides a glide range of about 60 kilometers (approx. 37 miles), turning any bomb into a true fire-and-forget weapon. With this much distance between the target, the striking aircraft is safe from short and medium range defense systems.
The video shows a group of soldiers grilling some steaks at OP Vegas in the Korengal Valley, according to the description. But while they are cooking up their delightful meal, the bad guys decide to start shooting.
While many of the soldiers begin to fire back, at least a couple stick around for the more important task of not overcooking the steaks. “The steaks are fine, that’s all that matters,” one soldier says in the video.
Barracks life is far from luxurious. A typical room resembles a college dorm, minus functioning amenities, such as hot water. However, this self-reliable Marine proves that he can bring luxury to himself.
Jumping out of an airplane can get kind of boring, so sometimes you need to bring along something to keep your mind occupied during the parachute ride down.
That’s what happened in a video posted to YouTube last month, which appears to show an airborne soldier solving a Rubik’s cube while under canopy. It’s strangely mesmerizing to watch as the ground nears, and the soldier manages to figure it out seconds before touching down.
The video description has very little detail however, so it’s hard to say where this came from or whether it’s even legit.
The video has generated a lot of questions. On the Facebook page “Do You Even Jump?” users questioned whether it actually could have been a jump by an active-duty U.S. soldier, considering he stays airborne for about 2 1/2 minutes. A traditional static-line jump carried out from a C-130 military transport plane from a height of about 2,100 or 2,200 feet would have been over much faster, they said. The jumper also appears to jump from a civilian plane using a European parachute, raising the prospect he isn’t American, others added.
Plane turrets got their combat debut in World War II but were nearly obsolete by the time the war ended as jet planes could fly too fast for most gunners to hit them.
Most turrets were scrapped after the war, but one enthusiast in Georgia is collecting those that survived and restoring them to working conditions.
In his workshop in Georgia, Fred Bieser has thousands of turret parts and, as of 2013 when this video was shot, had restored seven turrets. Most of them are kept in his workshop, but some have gone on display at military museums.
In this video from Tested, Bieser takes a video crew through his workshop and shows the guts of turrets and how they worked.
The video includes a lot of cool history on turrets, like how pilots worked with gunners to ensure accuracy and how Britain and America used different technologies for power and control.
Each year, this five-day intensive training program, also known as Cool School, teaches over 700 servicemembers the survival skills necessary to fight back against nature and survive in the Arctic.
“Mother nature does not like you in this situation,” Survival Instructor Staff Sgt. Seth Reab, tells his students in the morning freeze. “She’s violent. She’s harsh. Your job is to survive until help comes; her job is to find a way to take your life.”
The Air Force’s Cool School, which brings in more than 700 participants every year across all service branches, takes place outside Eielson Air Force Base, deep inside Alaska. Temperatures average about 30 degrees below zero.
At the start of the course, all participants are given the emergency equipment they would have depending upon what plane they would be flying.
The emergency equipment usually works. But everything else in the Arctic will try to kill the participants. This includes subzero temperatures …
… and even dehydration. Despite the abundance of snow, it is extremely difficult to drink enough water under harsh Arctic conditions.
One of the first things students are taught is to harvest snow in parachutes, in order to melt it down for water.
This supply of snow can then be moved into tin cans, in which the snow can be mixed until it melts enough to easily drink.
Warmth is just as important as water. Students are taught to find tender wood with which to build a fire.
In Cool School, students are taught the ideal way to split wood into longer thin splints that will burn more easily and evenly.
Servicemembers learn to create sparks with a metal match. Though somewhat antiquated, metal matches can be used indefinitely.
Once students create a fire, it can be used for signaling, heat, and food preparation.
Students also learn more basic practical skills — they have to change socks in order to keep feet dry so as to avoid hypothermia.
On the first night of school, students are taught to create open primitive shelters that provide little insulation from the elements.
Staff Sgt. Joseph Reimer unpacks his duffle bag during the first night of arctic field training near Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. The course is five days in duration with instruction in familiarization with the arctic environment, medical, personal protection, sustenance and signaling. Reimer is an explosive ordnance disposal technician assigned to the 354th Civil Engineer Squadron
During the second day, instructors teach students to make more complex A-frame shelters out of wood and a parachute or tarp.
Airman 1st Class Ray Simon prepares the cover for his thermalized A-frame shelter during arctic survival training at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. The A-frame shelter is designed to keep the survivor warm and dry to endure harsh arctic nights. Simon is a 3rd Maintenance Support Squadron crew chief.
The A-frame is then covered with almost a foot of snow to provide insulation.
Airman 1st Class Ray Simon looks out of his thermalized A-frame tent during Arctic Survival School training. The thermalized A-frame is designed to keep survivors warm and dry in arctic environments. Simon is a 3rd Maintenance Support Squadron crew chief and also a member of a crash disable damage recovery team responsible for retrieving downed aircraft in emergency situations.
Another vital principle of survival students learn is how to create an effective signal fire by placing a flare inside a base of kindling and smoke-generating tree limbs.
Staff Sgt. Seth Reab ignites a flare in the middle of tender wood to create a smoke signal during a field training lesson at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. The signal flare can be seen for up to 10 miles away and much further when rescue help is coming through the air. Reab is an Air Force Arctic Survival School instructor assigned to Det. 1, 66th Training Squadron at Eielson AFB.
Next to the smoke signal, students create a giant letter ‘V’ to alert passing pilots that they are in need of rescue.
You can watch a recap of the Arctic Survival School below.
There’s going to be sequel to “Top Gun” that brings back Tom Cruise as Maverick, but comedian/actor (and Marine veteran) Rob Riggle wants a shot to be in the movie.
With a pretty hilarious “audition” video shot last year for Funny or Die, we say he definitely needs a role. So what if “Top Gun 2” is going to be about drone warfare, Riggle would be way better than “Goose.”
Gotta love the callsign he ends up with: “Ringtone.”