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.
Although the college football rivalry is lopsided in Notre Dame’s favor (73 wins -14 losses – 1 tie since the first game in 1927) that doesn’t keep the Naval Academy midshipmen, led by Spirit Spot master Rylan Tuohy, from talking a little smack against the Irish in the form of this hilarious music video:
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:
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.”
President Trump caught a lot of flak for sharing intel with the Russians last year. Specifically, in May when he shared classified info from Israel with Russian envoys Sergey Kislyak and Sergey Lavrov.
What Trump shared was information regarding a new ISIS weapon and the Saudi bomb maker who developed it — laptop computer bombs that are undetectable at airport security.
Vanity Fair detailed how Sayeret Matkal forces — elite Israeli counter-terror troops — flew undetected across Jordan and then north into Syria. The helicopters dropped the troops and Syrian Army jeeps a few miles away from their target. They then drove on toward their objective.
According to latest intel, hey were on their way to a meeting house of an ISIS cell. The Israelis wanted to ensure it was tapped so they could hear every word. An operative in the field guaranteed them valuable information would come from there. At first it sounded like the bug was a bust — no one was saying anything.
Then it happened. The ISIS troops started talking about how to build the laptop weapon that couldn’t be detected at airports. The bombs would cause airplanes to fall from the sky in huge fireballs. Once the Mossad had the info, they quickly shared it with other potential targets, namely the United States.
Al-Qaeda’s chief bomb maker in Yemen and Saudi Arabian national Ibrahim al-Asiri was thought to be the mastermind behind the weapon.
That’s what President Trump shared with the Russian Foreign Minister.
Only the Mossad knows what happened to Israel’s inside man in Syria as a result of his location being leaked. An Israeli official told Vanity Fair that, “whatever happened to him, it’s a hell of price to pay for a president’s mistake.”
There’s a reason Navy carrier pilots are so cocky.
Their jobs would be challenging if they were just steering small hunks of metal through the air at high speed in combat, but they also take off and land on huge floating hunks of metal moving at low speed through the waves.
In this video from PBS, the already challenging task of landing on a floating deck gets worse in rough seas. With large waves striking the USS Nimitz, the flight deck pitches dozens of feet up and down, making the pilots’ jobs even harder.
Late night host Conan O’Brien visited with Air Force working dog handlers and got into all sorts of shenanigans. He joked with the handlers, watched the dog chase down a suspect, and even tried to out-dog the Air Force’s canines.
You read that right. He tried to compete with the dog in an obstacle course.
There’s a common misconception of life in the Marine Corps being filled with action-packed activities and explosions. However, reality doesn’t always live up to expectations. For instance, there are things that sound awesome, like the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program (MCMAP), which one would expect to be filled with roundhouse kicks and other Street Fighter moves.
And then there’s reality, which involves no roundhouse kicks and a lame peer evaluation.
The boys of Terminal Boots put together this short video with four scenarios showing what Marines expect in a situation followed by what really happens.
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:
Since the beginning of the U.S. nuclear program, there have been 33 nuclear weapons accidents, known as “broken arrows,” according to Eric Schlosser in his book: Command and Control. A “broken arrow” is the Pentagon’s phrase for an unexpected event involving nuclear weapons that result in the accidental launching, firing, detonating, theft, or loss of the weapon.
An example of a “broken arrow” is the Goldsboro accident in which a B-52 carrying two nuclear bombs broke apart, dropping the bombs over Goldsboro, North Carolina. Or the time in 1966 when a B-52 crashed into a KC-135 Stratotanker during a refueling operation, releasing four thermonuclear bombs over Spain. It’s hard to believe, but there are 31 more times these doomsday scenarios played out.
Here is a brief, terrifying history of some of America’s nuclear mishaps:
A Taliban sniper team thought it would be a good idea to snipe some American soldiers, little did they know what they’d be facing in retaliation. America’s military doesn’t respond with just a little firepower, it responds with jets and bombs.
In this Hornet’s Nest clip on the American Heroes Channel, a father-son journalism team embedded with the 101st Airborne captured footage of the unit pinned down by Taliban snipers. The snipers come dangerously close to killing some of the soldiers. At first, the soldiers respond with machine gun fire, which managed to injure one of the insurgents but nothing too serious. “They’re reporting that everything is okay,” said the translator listening to the enemy radio chatter. “Good, it’s not going to be okay,” said Lt. Col. Joel Vowell in the video below.
The soldiers were using the shots to lock in the enemy’s position. Air support is called in and BOOM! Game over terrorists.
The military’s embedded program give journalists and filmmakers access to wars like never before, so it’s no surprise that the latest conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have been some of the best documented in history. Here’s the footage:
Retired Marine Gen. James Mattis wants Post 9/11 veterans to know their wartime service strengthens their character through what he has coined “post-traumatic growth.”
Writing in The Wall Street Journal, the former Centcom commander adapted a speech he gave recently in San Francisco that is a must-read for veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. In it, he writes of how veterans should reject a “victimhood” mentality and ask for nothing more than a level playing field after they return home.
For whatever trauma came with service in tough circumstances, we should take what we learned—take our post-traumatic growth—and, like past generations coming home, bring our sharpened strengths to bear, bring our attitude of gratitude to bear. And, most important, we should deny cynicism a role in our view of the world.
We know that in tough times cynicism is just another way to give up, and in the military we consider cynicism or giving up simply as forms of cowardice. No matter how bad any situation, cynicism has no positive impact. Watching the news, you might notice that cynicism and victimhood often seem to go hand-in-hand, but not for veterans. People who have faced no harsh trials seem to fall into that mode, unaware of what it indicates when taking refuge from responsibility for their actions. This is an area where your example can help our society rediscover its courage and its optimism.
Well-known and especially beloved by Marines, the 64-year-old general retired from the service in 2013 after 41 years in uniform. Since then, he has been teaching at Dartmouth and Stanford University, offered testimony to Congress, and started work on a book on leadership and strategy.
“I am reminded of Gen. William Sherman’s words when bidding farewell to his army in 1865: ‘As in war you have been good soldiers, so in peace you will make good citizens,'” Mattis wrote.