5 stories you may have missed for the week of December 16th - We Are The Mighty
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5 stories you may have missed for the week of December 16th

With everything going on in the world these days, it’s difficult to keep track of every story that pops up. Luckily, WATM has your back.


Related: Here are the best military photos for the week of December 16th

Check out these five stories that you might have missed this week:

5. A U.S. drone takes out a group of al-Shabab fighters 40-miles southwest of Somalia’s capital

U.S. Africa Command reported that a drone strike took out a vehicle carrying explosives posing an “imminent threat to the people of Mogadishu.” The extremist group al-Shabab has been linked to bombings in Mogadishu that have killed over 500 people.

The U.S. has reportedly carried out over 30 airstrikes against the extremist group. The Trump administration approved expanding military operations in Africa.

5 stories you may have missed for the week of December 16th
A Reaper drone firing a guided missile.

4. China continues to install high-frequency radar on their man-made islands — and the U.S. doesn’t like it one bit.

Reportedly, the U.S. and allies are highly opposed to China building on the artificial islands, which cover nearly 72 acres of the Paracel and Spratly Islands. Although the construction is entirely legal, many officials believe they may have ulterior motives.

5 stories you may have missed for the week of December 16th
The location of the man-made structures at Paracel and Spratly islands. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

3. China threatens to invade Taiwan once a Navy ship reaches its port.

A senior diplomat from China threatened to invade the self-ruled island should any U.S. warship visit. Li Kexin, another Chinese diplomat, had told U.S. officials that China would initiate its Anti-Secession Law, which authorizes the use of force on Taiwan to prohibit the island from seceding, only if the U.S. docks their ships.

5 stories you may have missed for the week of December 16th
USS Lassen underway in the eastern Pacific Ocean. (Source: Navy recruiting)

2. Pyongyang said it’s a ‘big step’ toward nuclear war if the U.S. blocks North Korean ships

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson requested that all nations put a clamp on North Korea and reassert the “right to interdict maritime traffic.”  North Korean officials found the remark offensive, causing the rogue nation to threaten war if their ships are blocked.

This issue surfaced after North Korea’s latest missile test raised global concern.

5 stories you may have missed for the week of December 16th
A North Korean test missile launch. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

1. Russia wants to supply arms to the Central African Republic if UN Security Council approves

The request raised concerns from France, who has already questioned Russia’s reasoning for the sale. Russia is seeking an exemption to the arms embargo set on the Central African Republic in 2013. The UN Security Council has until next week to consider the request.

5 stories you may have missed for the week of December 16th
UN Security Council during a session. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

 

MIGHTY TRENDING

A historic C-47 has been lost in Texas crash

Iconic C-47 “Bluebonnet Belle” crashed on July 21, 2018, in Burnet, Texas. 13 people were aboard when the crash occurred. Everyone on board survived, although injuries (one severe and 7 with minor injuries) have been reported. The C-47 was on its way to AirVenture 2018.


“At 9:18 AM, BCSO Communications was notified of a plane crash on the runway at the Burnet Municipal Airport. The aircraft was reportedly attempting to take off when the crash occurred. Everyone on board survived and were able to exit the aircraft. One person was airlifted by helicopter to SAMMC with significant burn injuries. Seven persons were transported by ambulance or personal vehicle to Seton Highland Lakes with minor injuries.

The aircraft caught fire as well as nearby grass. The fires were extinguished by responding fire departments. For further information please contact the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Federal Aviation Administration who are handling the investigation.”, said the Burnet County Sheriff’s Office in a Facebook statement.

www.youtube.com

The investigation into the crash is still undergoing, though it is seen in the video that the tail never gets off the ground. According to specialists, this might have been caused by not enough speed or rotation. Although it is currently pure speculation until the investigation of the crash has been finished.

C-47 “Bluebonnet Belle” N47HL is, sadly, a total loss.

Articles

This is what it means to make a ‘Fini Flight’ in the US Air Force

The final day of work comes upon everyone. Some people take a long lunch with coworkers to hand out gifts and going away mementos. Others choose to quietly go out as they either prepare for retirement or moving on to their next job.


US military pilots take to the skies and soar one last time alongside wingmen from their unit.

Their emotional last day at a unit isn’t just celebrated like a last day at an office. Pilots stick to a tradition that’s as old as the Air Force itself: the final flight, known widely amongst aircrew members as the ‘fini flight.’

5 stories you may have missed for the week of December 16th
Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. John Hughel

The tradition was initially celebrated to accompany milestones in the career of Airmen of all ranks and positions. To find the first documented fini flight, one would have to reach back in history as far as Vietnam, when an aircrew commemorated the completion of 100 missions.

Since then, the way final flights have been celebrated has changed, but the sentiments have remained.

“Traditions such as this are great examples of esprit de corps throughout the Air Force community,” said Steven Frank, 27th Special Operations Wing historian. “It can also help create strong bonds of camaraderie and teamwork among past, current, and future generations of Airmen.”

5 stories you may have missed for the week of December 16th
USAF photo by Senior Airman Lauren Main

Today, these final flights are celebrated not for one Airman’s accomplishments but an entire crew’s across the Air Force. They’re used for all ranks and positions to honor their contributions to the unit.

Once the plane lands, it is acknowledged with a formal water salute, where two firetrucks shoot water over the plane creating an arch with plumes of water collapsing down on the plane as it taxis in.

Upon halting the plane, the pilot exits to an immediate barrage of water as their family, friends, and coworkers douse them with fire hoses. Celebratory champagne follows soon after (or whenever their peers decide they had enough water) and thus gives them time to reflect with friends and loved ones on the time they’ve had together at that unit.

5 stories you may have missed for the week of December 16th
USAF photo by Senior Airman Tara Fadenrecht

Frank says it’s one of the many examples of military cultural institutions that Airmen are proud to participate in.

“Fini flights are just one example of over a hundred years of Air Force traditions and heritage that honors the sacrifices and victories previous generations of Airmen have made to secure our freedoms,” Frank said. “Every Air Force organization continues to make contributions to the Air Force story and the exploration and awareness of each unit’s past can help encourage a sense of increased pride and respect for every Airman’s career field and organization.”

Whether they’re pilots who’ve tallied thousands of hours in a particular aircraft or crew who man weapons that deliver air power, fini flights are a longstanding tradition that remain one of the most exhilarating ways to recognize the very best amongst the Air Force’s ranks.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Scientists have discovered a mysterious lump on the moon’s far side

The far side of the moon is hiding a colossal secret beneath its airless, pockmarked surface.

No one is quite sure what it is — the most precise wording researchers can muster is a “large excess of mass.”

The feature lurks dozens of miles beneath a 1,550-mile-wide impact crater called the South Pole-Aitken Basin, which we can’t see from Earth. Ideas for what the mysterious lump may be include the splattered core of a giant metallic asteroid or an ocean of red-hot magma that slowly froze in place.

“Imagine taking a pile of metal five times larger than the Big Island of Hawaii and burying it underground,” Peter B. James, a geoscientist at Baylor University, said in a press release. “That’s roughly how much unexpected mass we detected.”


James is one of a handful of US scientists who announced their discovery in a study published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

The gravitational force of “whatever it is, wherever it came from,” James said, is so great that it drags down the floor of the basin by more than half a mile.

5 stories you may have missed for the week of December 16th

A rendering of a lunar rover for China’s Chang’e-4 moon mission.

(China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation)

A giant secret below the solar system’s oldest, biggest preserved crater

The South Pole-Aitken Basin is believed to be the site of a horrendous collision that occurred about 500 million years after the moon formed. It’s thought to be the largest and oldest intact crater on any planetary body within the solar system.

Whatever formed the basin nearly 4 billion years ago remains a mystery, but the blow was so strong that it likely punched all the way through the moon’s crust and tossed part of the lunar mantle — a deeper geologic layer — onto the surface.

For these reasons, geologists are eager to explore the basin to glean clues about the moon’s formation and composition. In fact, China recently landed its Chang’e 4 mission there (specifically within a roughly 111-mile-wide crater called Von Kármán) to study part of the basin.

James and his colleagues discovered the anomaly beneath the basin by merging data from two NASA missions at the moon. One is the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, which continues to constantly photograph the lunar surface and has led to high-definition surface elevation maps.

5 stories you may have missed for the week of December 16th

The mysterious lunar lump exists below the surface of the lunar South Pole-Aitken Basin (in blues and purples).

(NASA/LROC/Arizona State University)

The other mission was the Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL), which involved two spacecraft — GRAIL A and GRAIL B — working in tandem to detect variations in the strength of the moon’s gravitational field. Larger variations helped tease out information about the moon’s core, and subtler ones revealed unseen mineral deposits, asteroid impact sites, and subsurface features.

“When we combined that with lunar topography data from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, we discovered the unexpectedly large amount of mass hundreds of miles underneath the South Pole-Aitken basin,” James said. “One of the explanations of this extra mass is that the metal from the asteroid that formed this crater is still embedded in the moon’s mantle.”

If the mass is a metallic asteroid core, it didn’t get stuck inside the moon intact; instead, computer simulations suggest it could have spread out as it struck. The researchers think such splattering may have kept the metal floating about 186 miles beneath the crust; otherwise it might have sunk down into the moon’s core, which starts about 310 miles deep.

Another explanation is that, following the impact that formed the basin, a huge ocean of metal-rich magma pooled inside of the lunar crust and solidified into a dense slab.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

It looks like the North Koreans uncovered secret plans to assassinate Kim Jong-un

South Korean lawmaker Lee Cheol-hee said that North Korean hackers have stolen classified military documents, including the US and South Korea’s most current war plans and plans to kill Kim Jong Un, the Financial Times reports.


Lee said that defense officials revealed to him that 235 gigabytes of data had been stolen, 80% of which has yet to be identified.

But Lee said the theft included Operational Plan 5015, the US and South Korea’s current plan for war with North Korea.

The news follows a May announcement from South Korea’s defense ministry saying its military network had been breached.

“This is a total failure of management and monitoring [of classified information],” Shin Jong-woo, a researcher at the Korea Defense and Security Forum told the Financial Times of the hacks.

The US and North Korea have been engaged in a secretive cyber war for some time, with the US reportedly conducting a large-scale attack against Pyongyang in early October on the instruction of President Donald Trump.

Since then, Russia has provided internet infrastructure support to North Korea in a move that would diversify and strengthen Pyongyang’s cyber war capabilities.

North Korea has been found responsible for a number of high-profile attacks over the years, and is still technically at war with the US and South Korea.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Soldiers to operate armed robotic vehicles from cutting-edge Bradleys

Soldiers are slated to fire at targets in 2020 using a platoon of robotic combat vehicles they will control from the back of modified Bradley Fighting Vehicles.

The monthlong operational test is scheduled to begin in March 2020 at Fort Carson, Colorado, and will provide input to the Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Ground Vehicle Systems Center on where to go next with autonomous vehicles.

The upgraded Bradleys, called Mission Enabler Technologies-Demonstrators, or MET-Ds, have cutting-edge features such as a remote turret for the 25 mm main gun, 360-degree situational awareness cameras and enhanced crew stations with touchscreens.


Initial testing will include two MET-Ds and four robotic combat vehicles on M113 surrogate platforms. Each MET-D will have a driver and gunner as well as four soldiers in its rear, who will conduct platoon-level maneuvers with two surrogate vehicles that fire 7.62 mm machine guns.

5 stories you may have missed for the week of December 16th

Under Secretary of the Army Ryan D. McCarthy, center left, and Gen. James C. McConville, the Army’s vice chief of staff, center right, discuss emerging technology while inside a Mission Enabler Technologies-Demonstrator, a modified Bradley Fighting Vehicle equipped with several upgrades, in Warren, Mich., Jan. 18, 2018.

(Photo by Sean Kimmons)

“We’ve never had soldiers operate MET-Ds before,” said David Centeno Jr., chief of the center’s Emerging Capabilities Office. “We’re asking them to utilize the vehicles in a way that’s never been done before.”

After the tests, the center and Next-Generation Combat Vehicle Cross-Functional Team, both part of Army Futures Command, will then use soldier feedback to improve the vehicles for future test phases.

“You learn a lot,” Centeno said at the International Armored Vehicles USA conference on June 26, 2019. “You learn how they use it. They may end up using it in ways we never even thought of.”

The vehicles are experimental prototypes and are not meant to be fielded, but could influence other programs of record by demonstrating technology derived from ongoing development efforts.

“This technology is not only to remain in the RCV portfolio, but also legacy efforts as well,” said Maj. Cory Wallace, robotic combat vehicle lead for the NGCV CFT.

One goal for the autonomous vehicles is to discover how to penetrate an adversary’s anti-access/aerial denial capabilities without putting soldiers in danger.

The vehicles, Centeno said, will eventually have third-generation forward-looking infrared kits with a target range of at least 14 kilometers.

“You’re exposing forces to enemy fire, whether that be artillery, direct fire,” he said. “So, we have to find ways to penetrate that bubble, attrit their systems and allow for freedom of air and ground maneuver. These platforms buy us some of that, by giving us standoff.”

Phase II, III

In late fiscal year 2021, soldiers will again play a role in Phase II testing as the vehicles conduct company-level maneuvers.

This time, experiments are slated to incorporate six MET-Ds and the same four M113 surrogates, in addition to four light and four medium surrogate robotic combat vehicles, which industry will provide.

5 stories you may have missed for the week of December 16th

(Ground Vehicle Systems Center)

Before these tests, a light infantry unit plans to experiment with the RCV light surrogate vehicles in Eastern Europe May 2020.

“The intent of this is to see how an RCV light integrates into a light infantry formation and performs reconnaissance and security tasks as well as supports dismounted infantry operations,” Wallace said at the conference.

Soldier testing for Phase III is slated to take place mid-fiscal 2023 with the same number of MET-Ds and M113 surrogate vehicles, but will instead have four medium and four heavy purpose-built RCVs.

“This is the first demonstration which we will be out of the surrogate realm and fielding purpose builts,” Wallace said, adding the vehicles will conduct a combined arms breach.

The major said he was impressed with how quickly soldiers learned to control the RCVs during the Robotic Combined Arms Breach Demonstration in May 2019 at the Yakima Training Center in Washington.

“Soldiers have demonstrated an intuitive ability to master controlling RCVs much faster than what we thought,” he said. “The feedback from the soldiers was that after two days they felt comfortable operating the system.”

There are still ongoing efforts to offload some tasks in operating RVCs to artificial intelligence in order to reduce the cognitive burden on soldiers.

“This is not how we’re used to fighting,” Centeno said. “We’re asking a lot. We’re putting a lot of sensors, putting a lot of data in the hands of soldiers. We want to see how that impacts them. We want to see how it degrades or increases their performance.”

The family of RCVs include three variants. Army officials envision the light version to be transportable by rotary wing. The medium variant would be able to fit onto a C-130 aircraft, and the heavy variant would fit onto a C-17 aircraft.

5 stories you may have missed for the week of December 16th

A C-130 aircraft.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Rhett Isbell)

Both future and legacy armored platforms, such as the forthcoming Mobile Protected Firepower “light tank,” could influence the development of the RCV heavy.

With no human operators inside it, the heavy RCV can provide the lethality associated with armored combat vehicles in a much smaller form. Plainly speaking, without a crew, the RCV heavy requires less armor and can dedicate space and power to support modular mission payloads or hybrid electric drive batteries, Wallace said.

Ultimately, the autonomous vehicles will aim to keep soldiers safe.

“An RCV reduces risk,” Wallace said. “It does so by expanding the geometry of the battlefield so that before the threat makes contact with the first human element, it has to make contact with the robots.

“That, in turn, gives commanders additional space and time to make decisions.”

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

Humor

5 veteran comedians you should look out for

Service members have some of the best humor around; it comes with the job. Our comedy is pretty freakin’ dark when comparing it to the civilian sectors.


They say laughter is the best medicine. In that case, these hilarious veteran comedians should all be damn doctors by now.

Related: 5 military movies you should look out for in 2018

Check out these five military veteran comedians you should look out for in 2018.

5. Mitch Burrow

This Marine veteran served in Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003. Afterward, he started a career in manufacturing, but quickly realized that it sucked. He began his stand-up comedy career after driving down to the Comedy Store in La Jolla, drinking three shots of tequila and a couple of Budweisers, and getting on stage. Later, Mitch was told it went pretty well.

To follow Mitch or check out one of his shows visit his website: MitchBurrow.com.

5 stories you may have missed for the week of December 16th
Mitch Burrow sporting his serious face while doing his monthly workout. (Source: Mitch Burrow)

4. Thom Tran

After enlisting in the Army at 18, Thom spent most of his career as a Communications Sergeant and Civil Affairs Sergeant. Thom decided to become a comedian after sustaining an injury during combat operations.

In 2008, he moved to Los Angeles and soon created The GIs of Comedy tour — a show that travels the world performing for both military and civilian audiences.

5 stories you may have missed for the week of December 16th
The always-hilarious Thom Tran (Source: Thom Tran / IMDB)

3. Isaura Ramirez

After serving 13 years in the Army, this former captain deployed to Iraq for 15 months. When she returned home, Isaura enrolled herself in a comedy class as a form of expression.

Now, this funny girl performs for various venues and has been featured on her very own TED Talk.

5 stories you may have missed for the week of December 16th
Former Army captain and funny girl, Isaura Ramirez.

2. Rocco Stowe

This Philadelphia native joined the Marine Corps at 18, serving as an infantry rifleman (0311) with 3rd Battalion 6th Marines. After leaving the Corps in the mid-90s, Rocco moved to Los Angeles where he’s had luck landing gigs, including headlining his act at several comedy stores throughout the U.S.

5 stories you may have missed for the week of December 16th
This comedian and Marine veteran also serves the community as a knowledgeable yoga instructor

Also Read: 6 reasons why you need a sense of humor in the infantry

1. James P. Connolly

Before James was cracking up audiences with his flawless stand-up routine, he was giving orders while stationed at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton. This former captain served in both Operation Desert Shield and Storm before exiting from the Corps.

Now, he performs wherever he can find work, but you follow him on his website JamesPConnolly.com.

5 stories you may have missed for the week of December 16th
The evolution of James P. Connolly, from boy to man. (Banner art by Michelle Connolly Photography)

They will be here all week and don’t forget to tip your waiter.

Got any vets you think will make us laugh? Leave a comment.

MIGHTY TRENDING

These soldiers fought off COVID-19 and still graduated basic training

Two of the U.S. Army newest soldiers recently earned bragging rights by completing Basic Combat Training after surviving bouts with the novel coronavirus.

Roughly eight weeks ago, 21-year-old Pvt. Carlos Mora and 36-year-old Spc. Juan Guajardo began suffering from COVID-19 symptoms while going through Basic Combat Training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina.


“I woke up in the morning and felt horrible,” Mora said in a recent Army news release. “I had a high fever, and I had slight pain. I told the drill sergeants, and they took me to the hospital.”

Guajardo said he has no idea how he got the virus.

“I got a fever, really weak and I had aches,” he said. “I coughed a lot and, when I blew my nose, I had red spots. I went to the hospital, and they did the test. I was positive.”

Army leaders halted the shipment of recruits to BCT for two weeks in early April to beef up testing protocols at the training centers. The Center for Initial Military Training (CIMT) had already taken several aggressive steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19 — ranging from multiple screenings to separating new arrivals at BCT from the main population during the first two weeks of training.

Despite the precautions, about 50 soldiers tested positive for the virus at Jackson in early April.

So far, there have been 6,118 cases of COVID-19 among uniformed members of the U.S. military. Of those, 3,460 service members have recovered and three have died, according to Pentagon figures released May 26.

Mora and Guajardo were both assigned to Jackson’s 2nd Battalion, 39th Infantry Regiment, when they began feeling ill, according to the release.

It’s not clear how severely the virus affected Mora or Guajardo since the Army would not release specific details about their condition or individual treatment, citing patient-privacy restrictions under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), Meg Reed, spokeswoman for CIMT, told Military.com.

“I wasn’t too bad. I was out of breath and had a cough,” Mora said in the release. “Others had it worse. It scared me because they were about my age too.”

Guarjardo said he was more worried about his mother, who was concerned that she hadn’t heard from him.

“She was very worried about me,” Guajardo said in the release. “She’s in Mexico, and it’s bad there. I’m scared for her, but she is staying inside and away from people.”

After two weeks, both Mora and Guajardo were feeling better and soon tested negative at Moncrief Army Health Clinic, according to the release.

Overall, both missed about three weeks of training, so they had to be reassigned to the 4th Battalion, 39th Infantry Regiment.

On May 14, Mora and Guajardo walked across Jackson’s Hilton Field with fellow BCT graduates in a ceremony that was streamed on Facebook for friends and family members, according to the release.

“It took me an extra week to breathe right again,” Mora said of his return to training. “I made it, though.”

Mora is scheduled to take advanced individual training at Fort Lee, Virginia, to become a wheeled vehicle mechanic.

Guajardo said he “really wanted to graduate with my old company,” but the Army Reserve soldier is looking forward to going to AIT at Fort Gordon, Georgia, to become an information technology specialist and “being able to talk to my family every day again,” the release states.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Global military spending just saw its biggest spike in a decade, but the US outspends everyone else by far

Global military expenditure was $1.917 trillion in 2019, rising 3.6% from 2018 and 7.2% from 2010 to reach the highest level since 1988, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

World military spending decreased steadily in the years after the 2008-2009 global financial crash but has risen in each of the five years since 2015, the latest in what SIPRI researcher Nan Tian described as four phases in military spending over the past 30 years.


The post-Cold War years saw spending decline in what many saw “as a peace-dividend period,” Tian said Tuesday during a webcast hosted by the Stimson Center and SIPRI.

That decline bottomed out around 2000, when the September 11 attacks prompted years of defense-spending increases that peaked around 2010 and 2011, Tian said. Spending fell again in the early 2010s.

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World military expenditure by region from 1988 to 2019. Rough estimates for the Middle East are included in the world totals for 2015-2019.

SIPRI Military Expenditure Database

“But more recently, in the last three years, we really see that spending has really picked up,” Tian said. “The reason is the US announcing really expensive modernization programs … and also the end of austerity measures in many of the world’s global spenders.”

US military spending grew by 5.3% in 2019 to a total of 2 billion — 38% of global military spending. The US’s increase in 2019 was equivalent to all of Germany’s military expenditure that year, SIPRI said.

Military spending in Asia has risen every year since 1989, with China and India, second and third on the list this year, leading the way. (Tian said SIPRI’s numbers for China are higher than Beijing’s because SIPRI includes spending it defines as “military-related.”)

“In the case of India and China, we’ve seen consistent increases over the last 30 years,” Tian said. “While India and China really [were] spending in the early 1990s far less than Western Europe … Chinese spending really starts to pick up since about 2000.”

China’s spending, now several times that of France or the UK, and India’s growing expenditures point to “a change in the global balance,” Tian said.

“Whereas a few years ago we saw … [for] the first time that there are no Western European countries in the top five spenders in the world, this is the first time where we see two Asian countries, in India and China, being within the top three spenders, followed by Russia and Saudi Arabia.”

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Military spending as a share of GDP by country in 2019. The countries with military spending of 4.0% or more of GDP are listed.

SIPRI Military Expenditure Database

Data is not available for all the countries in the Middle East, but Saudi Arabia is by far the biggest spender for which SIPRI could estimate totals. In terms of arms imports, the Middle East “has now the largest share it has ever had since 1950, as a region,” SIPRI senior researcher Siemon Wezeman said on the webcast.

“That’s partly related to ongoing conflicts [and] very strong tensions, Iran vs. the Gulf States, Saudi Arabia. It is a very strong driver of arms imports, especially by the Gulf States,” Wezeman added, noting that Iran, under arms embargo, is not a major weapons importer.

Most of Africa’s military spending, 57%, is done by North African countries. “They have the money,” Wezeman said, “especially Algeria, and Morocco to a lesser extent, are basically the big ones buying there.”

“Many of the other African countries buy a couple of armored vehicles — a helicopter here, a little aircraft there — and do that every few years. That’s basically their armed forces,” Wezeman said, adding that fighting insurgencies, like Boko Haram, or peacekeeping, as in Somalia, also drove increased military spending.

Sub-Saharan Africa has seen “extremely volatile spending” in recent years, related to the many armed conflicts there, Tian said.

“As countries need to fight … they need to allocate resources to the military. But conflicts, of course, are extremely destructive on a country’s economy,” Tian added. “So we see that countries are increasing spending one year, decreasing spending another year.”

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A Croatian army Hedgehog Battery conducts a Vulkan M-92 Mobile Multiple Launch Rocket System live-fire training at Bemowo Piskie, Poland, December 5, 2018.

Sgt. Arturo Guzman/US Army National Guard

Overall military expenditures by Western European nations fell slightly between 2010 and 2019, but Eastern European countries have increased their military spending by 35% over the past decade.

“Some of this is really down to a reaction to the perceived threats of Russia,” as well as the replacement of Soviet-era equipment and purchase of US and NATO equipment, Tian said.

“European countries, aside from seeing a bigger threat from Russia, also are going through a cycle of replacing their fourth-generation combat aircraft with fifth-generation combat aircraft. So there is a big load of new combat aircraft, mostly or almost all of them US-exported weapons, going to Europe,” Wezeman added.

But an economic contraction sparked by the coronavirus pandemic is likely to bring down military expenditures.

“We’ve seen this historically following the ’08-’09 crisis, where many countries in Europe really cut back on military spending,” Tian said, noting that military spending as a share of GDP might increase if “GDP falls and spending doesn’t decrease as much as GDP.”

This time around, spending in Europe may “be stronger in the coming years” despite the coronavirus, Wezeman said, “because the contracts … in many cases have been signed.”

Below, you can see who the top 10 defense spenders were and how much of the world’s military expenditures they accounted for in 2019.

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The first operational F-35A Lightning II is welcomed to the Japanese Self-Defense Force’s 3rd Air Wing, at Misawa Air Base, February 24, 2018.

US Air Force/Tech. Sgt. Benjamin W. Stratton

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A British paratrooper prepares to load a helicopter in a simulated medical evacuation during the Swift Response 16 exercise in Hohenfels, Germany, June 17, 2016.

Sgt. Seth Plagenza/US Army

5. Saudi Arabia, .9 billion — down 16% from 2018 and 3.2% of the world total.

Saudi Arabia’s 2019 defense spending and its share of the world total are estimates by SIPRI.

2. China, 1 billion — up 5.1% from 2018 and 14% of the world total.

China’s 2019 defense spending and its share of the world total are estimates by SIPRI.

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The future US Navy aircraft carrier John F. Kennedy as its dry dock is flooded three, October 29, 2019.

US Navy/Mass Comm Specialist 3rd Class Adam Ferrero

1. United States, 2 billion — up 5.3% from 2018 and 38% of the world total.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Afghanistan is beefing up its air force to fight every threat

Recently, the Afghan Air Force grabbed headlines by dropping its first laser-guided bomb. From here, that might not seem so impressive — the U.S. dropped laser-guided Paveways in Vietnam as early as 1968. But, considering the fact that their military force was decimated by a civil war that began after the Soviets left in 1989, Afghanistan’s military modernization is quite the shock.


Today, as World Air Forces 2018 notes, the Afghan Air Force has 12 A-29 Super Tucanos (with six more on order) as well as 28 MD530Fs (with 154 on order) and ten UH-1H Iroquois utility helicopters. The Afghan Air Force is also acquiring almost 160 UH-60A Blackhawk helicopters, four of which have already been delivered. These aircraft are set to replace a fleet of Russian-designed Mi-8/Mi-17 Hip transport helicopters and Mi-25 Hind attack helicopters.

5 stories you may have missed for the week of December 16th

Afghan Air Force MD-530F Cayuse Warrior helicopter fires its two FN M3P .50 cal machine guns

(U.S. Air Force Photo by Staff Sgt. Perry Aston)

The Super Tucano is currently a finalist in the OA-X competition (alongside the Beechcraft AT-6B). The UH-60A Blackhawk helicopters are second-hand, but will be upgraded with a newer engine and rocket pods before delivery. Afghanistan is also going to acquire Cessna 208 Caravan light transport aircraft armed with AGM-114 Hellfire missiles.

But did you know that, thirty years ago, the Afghan Air Force packed a lot of punch? An inventory of older equipment shows a lengthy list of Soviet designs were once in service, ranging from the Il-28 Beagle and MiG-17 Fresco to the MiG-23 Flogger. But 12 years of civil war wore that force down substantially. By the time Operation Enduring Freedom began, less than 20 planes were flyable. After Operation Enduring Freedom, there simply wasn’t an Afghan Air Force.

5 stories you may have missed for the week of December 16th

One of what will be up to 160 UH-60A Blackhawks for the Afghan Air Force.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jared J. Duhon)

We’ve got a long way to go before the Taliban, al-Qaeda, and ISIS are defeated in Afghanistan, but the new Afghan Air Force should help speed that process along.

Lists

20 amazing tattoos inspired by Navy life

There was a time when the only Westerners who sported tattoos were sailors.


Tattoos in Western culture can be traced back to Captain James Cook’s visit with the Maori people in the 1700s. His crew decided to get them as souvenirs, and the Western tattoo culture started from there, according to Steve Gilbert in his book Tattoo History.

Traditional sailor tattoos symbolized experiences such as travel, achievements, rank, status, significant life events, superstitions, and more. These are a few examples of the meaning behind traditional sailor tattoos:

  • Anchor: associated with the Boatswain’s Mate rate or Chief rank, but also symbolizes safety and stability
  • Dragon: associated with service in Asia
  • Nautical Star: symbolizes the North star and guide for a safe return home
  • Lighthouse: symbolizes safe passage to home port
  • Old sailor or captain: symbolizes life experiences
  • Rudder: symbolizes control of a destiny

Sailor tattoos fell out of style for several decades but made a comeback thanks to pop culture. Today, sailor tattoos are more popular than ever — and not just with sailors. Celebs, musicians, sorority girls, homemakers, techies — everybody’s getting inked.

Here are some of the coolest Navy-inspired designs recently sighted around the web:

1. Old sailor

 

5 stories you may have missed for the week of December 16th
Photo: Roman Abrego @romantattos/Instagram

2. Captain Jack Sparrow

5 stories you may have missed for the week of December 16th
Photo: Roman Abrego @romantattoos/instagram

3. Portrait of a sailor

5 stories you may have missed for the week of December 16th

Photo: küstenmädel/Pinterest

4. Ship on the horizon

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Photo: Katelyn King/Pinterest

5. Golden chain captain

5 stories you may have missed for the week of December 16th
Photo: Eric Roest/Pinterest

6. Popeye The Sailor Man

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Photo: Mary Martin/Pinterest

7. Vintage photo of Captain Elvy

5 stories you may have missed for the week of December 16th
Photo: William Black/Pinterest

8. Ship’s wheel

5 stories you may have missed for the week of December 16th
Photo: Brittany Cozzens/Pinterest

9. Crown and anchor

5 stories you may have missed for the week of December 16th
Photo: Kaley Mckeithen

10. Dangers of the sea

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Photo: Daniel Fonseca/Pinterest

11. Sailor’s grave

5 stories you may have missed for the week of December 16th
Photo: Korenn Pendleton

12. Set sail 

5 stories you may have missed for the week of December 16th
Photo: Emily Hartung

13. Octopus grappling a diver helmet

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Photo: Worldtattoogallery/Pinterest

14. Deep sea diver

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Photo: Kyle Scarry/Pinterest

15. There’s a million more miles to roam tattoo

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Photo: Sma Barn/Pinterest

16. Octopus coming out of the skin

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Photo: Brittnie Cudo/Pinterest

17. Set sail in traditional American style

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Photo: Bryan Fahey/Pinterest

18. Sailor kissing nurse

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Photo: Sean Dustman/Pinterest

19. Poseidon

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Photo: Jared Scott/Pinterest

20. Sailor smoking his pipe

5 stories you may have missed for the week of December 16th
Photo: Pietro Sedda/Tumblr

 

 

NOW: The US military took these incredible photos in just a week

OR: 11 reactions to seeing your relief show up after a long watch

MIGHTY TRENDING

5 reasons why ‘Bangin’ in Sangin’ was like the Wild West

In October 2010, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines started clearing the Taliban insurgency from the Sangin District in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan. Once 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines handed over the area of observation to 3/5, things escalated quickly, making this campaign one of the bloodiest in American history.


Marines who headed out to clear the enemy-infested area were met by a dangerous environment and an extremely complicated IED threat — as a result, casualty rates climbed.

Eventually, the actions of the Marines of 3/5 were unofficially dubbed, “Bangin’ in Sangin.” The narrative that unfolded there was very close to that of a story set in the Wild West. Here’s why:

5 stories you may have missed for the week of December 16th
Cpl. Robert Santiago, front, from Perth Amboy, N.J., and Sgt. Eddie Glowacki, from Great Valley, N.Y., Security Force Assistance Advisor Team 2-215, look out over the Sangin Valley during an operation near Forward Operating Base Nolay, Afghanistan, Jan. 27, 2014. The SFAAT considered the operation to be a success and was dedicated to helping the ANA in the region to become completely sustainable and self-sufficient. (Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Joshua Young)

Paved roads were scarce

In most parts of the world, people drive on paved roads with designated lanes. Well, for British and American forces, the only option was to drive and patrol on roads made from loose gravel. The main roads in the district were described as nothing more than “wide trails.”

Since the majority of the Sangin population uses animals to haul their cargo, in the troops’ perspective, it was like jumping into a time machine and transporting back to the Old West.

The local cemeteries

How many Westerns have we seen where the cowboys, on horseback, encounter an eerie cemetery as they travel through uncharted land? Too often to count, right?

Well, Sangin was no different. Many of the graves were decorated with rocks and flags tied to wooden staves — just like the movies.

5 stories you may have missed for the week of December 16th
HM3 Mitchell Ingolia, assigned to 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment conducts a security patrol through the dangerous area known as Sangin, Afghanistan. (Photo by U.S. Marine Cpl. David Hernandez)

 

The nasty terrain

In many Westerns, the cowboys add days to their journeys because of some unmarked obstacle blocking their path, forcing them around.

In Sangin, the rough terrain provided for some unique challenges. Harsh conditions plus the fact that mud structures can be destroyed and rebuilt quickly made keeping maps current nearly impossible.

The locals lived in tribes

In the old days, Native Americans lived in settlements and did every they could to make ends meet while answering to the chief of the tribe. In Afghanistan, Marines commonly patrolled through similar villages — and the locals answered to their Islamic religious leader, known as the “Mullah.”

Though modern in many ways, social organization on the local level remains tribal.

5 stories you may have missed for the week of December 16th
U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jose Maldonado (left) and Cpl. Rocco Urso (right), both with India Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, provide over watch security during an operation in Sangin Valley, Afghanistan, on Oct. 7, 2010. The Marines conducted a two-day operation to clear insurgents from the Wishtan area. (USMC photo by Cpl. David Hernandez)

 

The Marines lived like cowboys

When Marines left the wire for several days, they packed ammo, food, and their sleeping system. Since they didn’t know where they were going to be sleeping each night, Marines found rest in places most people couldn’t even imagine.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Top US Marine says young troops should not be blamed for using TikTok

Gen. David Berger, the US Marine Corps commandant, suggested the concerns surrounding a service members’ use of questionable Chinese-owned apps like TikTok should be directed against the military’s leadership, rather than the individual troops.

Speaking at the Reagan National Defense Forum in Simi Valley, California, on Saturday morning, Berger said the younger generation of troops had a “clearer view” of the technology “than most people give them credit for.”

“That said, I’d give us a ‘C-minus’ or a ‘D’ in educating the force on the threat of even technology,” Berger said. “Because they view it as two pieces of gear, ‘I don’t see what the big deal is.'”


“That’s not their fault. That’s on us,” Berger added. “Once they begin to understand the risks, what the impact to them is tactically … then it becomes clear. I don’t blame them for that. This is a training and education that we have to do.”

5 stories you may have missed for the week of December 16th

Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps Gen. David Berger speaks with Marines during a town hall gathering at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina, July 31, 2019.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Micha Pierce)

Foreign-owned apps like TikTok have prompted concern from lawmakers and the military in recent months. TikTok, the viral video-sharing app from China, was investigated by intelligence agencies and the military for concerns on the “operational security risks posed … and other China-owned social media platforms that can access massive amounts of US users’ personal data,” according to a letter by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer in November.

“National security experts have raised concerns about TikTok’s collection and handling of user data, including user content and communications, IP addresses, location-related data, metadata, and other sensitive personal information,” Schumer added in the letter.

5 stories you may have missed for the week of December 16th

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.

To “err on the side of caution,” US Army cadets throughout high school and university were banned from using TikTok while in uniform to represent the military, a spokeswoman said in November. The act does not ban them from using it for personal use.

The app, which was formerly Musical.ly, exploded in popularity and boasted 1 billion monthly active users earlier this year. TikTok and its owner, Beijing ByteDance Technology, claims that American user data is not stored in China, nor is it politically influenced by the country.

“Let us be very clear: TikTok does not remove content based on sensitivities related to China,” the company said in a statement in October. “We have never been asked by the Chinese government to remove any content and we would not do so if asked. Period.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

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