Why a signals intelligence aircraft tried to destroy intel using coffee - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

Why a signals intelligence aircraft tried to destroy intel using coffee

On April 1, 2001, a U.S. Navy EP-3E intelligence-gathering aircraft hit a Chinese J-8II fighter in mid-air, forcing the Navy intel plane to make an emergency landing on nearby Hainan Island – on a Chinese military installation. One Chinese pilot was killed, and the American crew was held captive and interrogated by the Chinese military.

Meanwhile, a trove of Top Secret American intelligence and intel-gathering equipment was sitting in Chinese hands.


Why a signals intelligence aircraft tried to destroy intel using coffee

A Chinese J-8 fighter.

The EP-3E Airborne Reconnaissance Integrated Electronic System, also known as ARIES, aircraft is used for signals intelligence gathering. Much of what these planes do is a close secret, and no one except its crew members really know how or what information they track, which makes what is now known as the “Hainan Island Incident” all the more damaging. When the crew of the EP-3E was forced to land – without permission – on the Chinese military base, it was basically handing China some of the U.S. military’s most secret equipment.

At the end of the EP-3’s six-hour mission, it was intercepted by Chinese jets near Hainan Island, itself an extremely important signals intelligence base for China. One of the Shenyang J-8 interceptors made three passes on the EP-3E, accidentally colliding with it on the third pass. The hit damaged the Navy plane and tore the Chinese fighter in two. After recovering from a steep, fast dive, the Navy crew tried to destroy all the sensitive equipment aboard. Sadly, they had not been trained on how to do that. Protocol for such an event would have been to put the plane into the sea and hope for rescue. Instead, the crew poured coffee into the electronic equipment and threw other sensitive documents out a hatch.

Why a signals intelligence aircraft tried to destroy intel using coffee

The EP-3E spy plane was flown out by a third party in an Antonov-124 cargo plane, the world’s largest.

The crew conducted an emergency landing on Hainan Island’s Lingshui Airfield, where they were taken into custody by the People’s Liberation Army. They were interrogated and held for ten days as the United States negotiated their release. The Chinese demanded an apology for both the illegal landing and for their dead pilot, which the U.S. publicly announced. The plane required extra negotiation, as the Chinese wouldn’t let the United States repair it and fly it out. The Navy had to hire a Russian company to fly it away.

When the Russians came to pick up the plane, they found it torn apart by the Chinese. It was returned to the Navy in pieces months later – and the Chinese presumably learned everything about America’s most sensitive signals intelligence equipment. A later inquiry didn’t fault the crew. In fact, the pilot received the Distinguished Flying Cross for saving the crew and the aircraft. Documents later released by Edward Snowden revealed the Navy didn’t know how much sensitive material was aboard and inadequately prepared the crew for this eventuality.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is what happens to the coins left on military headstones

Coins have long been used to honor fallen warriors. In ancient Greece, it was customary to leave coins either on the eyes or in the mouths of the fallen. It was said that the spirits of the deceased would use these coins to pay Charon the Ferryman to carry their soul across the River Styx and into the afterlife. Many other cultures have taken on some variation of this tradition — and they’ve persisted. Today, many people still leave a coin on the headstone of the dearly departed.

While it’s not exclusively a military tradition, this is common at the resting places of fallen troops. But the thoughtfully placed coins can’t just be left to pile up indefinitely — and the fallen don’t have much use for them. Eventually, someone has to collect these coins and put them to good use.

So, what happens?


Why a signals intelligence aircraft tried to destroy intel using coffee

Now, I can’t say for certain that the grave of “Texas Jack” Omohundro wasn’t visited by 27 people who were there when he was killed over 130 years ago, but if it was, he must’ve had a lot of vampire friends.

(Photo by Peter Greenburg)

There’s an often-shared chain email that suggests each denomination of coin left on a headstone has a different meaning — a sort of hidden message left to be interpreted by other veterans who visit the grave. A penny is used to simply honor the dead, a nickel means you went to boot camp or basic training with the fallen, a dime means you served with them in some capacity, and a quarter means you were there when they died.

This multi-coin theory is suspect at best. The first documentation of such a tradition is only as old as 2009, and you’ll often find nickels, dimes, and quarters on gravestones from World War I and earlier — which just doesn’t make physical sense. Still, this idea has been spread around enough that it carries at least some degree of significance.

Why a signals intelligence aircraft tried to destroy intel using coffee

One fallen veteran’s coins being used to honor another veteran’s life is a noble act.

(American Battle Monuments Commission)

When too many coins pile up at a gravesite, a caretaker collects the money and puts it in a separate fund to help pay for cemetery upkeep. The coins are put towards things like washing graves, mowing the lawn, and killing pesky weeds if the state or local government doesn’t already allocate funds for such things.

The same fund also contributes toward the burial of an indigent veteran who cannot otherwise pay for the process. The VA and other charitable funds may help cover some of the costs, but if the veteran (or the veteran’s estate) still cannot afford the difference, the coins left on the graves of their brothers- and sisters-in-arms will help.

Why a signals intelligence aircraft tried to destroy intel using coffee

What? You didn’t think it was odd that were so many perfectly sized rocks just feet away from nearly every grave?

(U.S. Army photo by Rachel Larue)

While coins are most common — most people reading this article probably have a spare coin sitting in their pocket right now — other mementos are also placed on veterans’ graves.

In nearly every case, caretakers will remove these tokens in order to keep the area in pristine condition. Rocks are also commonly used, but they’ll more like likely be removed and placed nearby, for another visitor to “happen upon.” Military challenge coins, however, are often left on the stone for years.

MIGHTY MOVIES

This year’s Memorial Day concert honors Vietnam veterans

PBS’s multi award-winning National Memorial Day Concert returns live from the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol for a special 30th anniversary broadcast hosted by Tony Award-winner Joe Mantegna. The 30th annual broadcast of the concert airs live on PBS Sunday, May 26, 2019, from 8:00 to 9:30 p.m., before a concert audience of hundreds of thousands, millions more at home, as well as to our troops serving around the world on the American Forces Network.

A 30-year tradition unlike anything else on television, America’s national night of remembrance takes us back to the real meaning of the holiday through personal stories interwoven with musical performances by the National Symphony Orchestra and guest artists.

The 2019 anniversary edition of the concert will feature Vietnam Valor and Brotherhood — brought to life by long-time friends acclaimed actor Dennis Haysbert and Joe Mantegna.


Fifty years since the height of the Vietnam War, the painful memories from their service remain fresh for many of its veterans. In 1969, our soldiers continued to fulfill their duty and carry out the missions their country asked of them. As part of a special 50th anniversary commemoration to honor the service and sacrifice of Vietnam War veterans and to thank them, the concert will share the story of two infantrymen — Ernest “Pete” Peterson (Haysbert) and Brad Kennedy (Mantegna) — who formed a brotherhood while serving in Vietnam and now meet each year at the Vietnam Wall where they remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

Valor and Brotherhood

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Other features include the 75th Anniversary of the D-Day Invasion — featuring a performance by Academy Award-nominated actor Sam Elliott and A Gold Star Widow’s Journey — portrayed by television series star Jaina Lee Ortiz.

For Gold Star families, every day is Memorial Day. This year, the concert will share the journey of one widow — Ursula Palmer (Ortiz) — beginning with the day her worst fears came true, just two weeks before her husband was due to return home. While “moving on” from this devastating loss was not possible, Palmer knew that for the sake of her daughter she would have to learn to move forward. Along the way she found solace and empowerment by co-founding a new chapter of Gold Star Wives, a virtual chapter for post 9/11 widows and widowers, and by helping wounded veterans and their families.

The all-star line-up also includes: distinguished American leader General Colin L. Powell USA (Ret.); Grammy Award-winning legend Patti LaBelle; multi-platinum selling singer, performer and songwriter Gavin DeGraw; Broadway and television star Christopher Jackson; multi-Grammy Award-winning bluegrass icon Alison Krauss; SAG and Olivier Award-winning and Grammy Award-nominated actress and singer Amber Riley; multi-platinum-selling country music star Justin Moore; and Patrick Lundy The Ministers of Music; in performance with the National Symphony Orchestra under the direction of top pops conductor Jack Everly (additional performers to be announced). The 2019 National Memorial Day Concert will share Lambert’s story of bravery and pay tribute to heroes who sacrificed and died in service to our nation and the world.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Army is getting a new extended range cannon prototype

The Army’s King of Battle will soon be restored to its throne: Army M109A7 self-propelled howitzers are getting a massive, much-needed upgrade. The Paladin system is getting an advanced new cannon that will be mounted onto existing Paladins by BAE Systems, an overhaul that will not only increase the range of the guns, but also increase its rate of fire.


The U.S. Army’s artillery has long been overshadowed by America’s competitors when it comes to artillery. China has developed satellite-guided artillery rounds that can reach targets 40 kilometers away. The M109A7 currently has an effective range of 18 kilometers. With this in mind, the U.S. Army’s top modernization priority is improving the range of its artillery, like those of the Paladins.

It’s all a part of the Army’s Futures Command effort to cut through procurement red tape and deliver six highly-needed modernization programs in critical Army functions. The Extreme Range Cannon Artillery is one of those six critical areas for modernization. The howitzer is also getting a turret upgrade, from 38-caliber to 58-caliber. The idea is to minimize performance issues with the chassis while delivering the much-needed upgrade.

Why a signals intelligence aircraft tried to destroy intel using coffee

Artillery crews will be happy to know that BAE is also trying to integrate an autoloader for the cannon, which would not only increase its volume of fire, but also decrease the wear and tear on the gun crews. The new Paladins were already tested at the Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona in December 2018. That test was primarily conducted for rounds with more propellant and the use of a 30-foot cannon.

The Army’s goal for the ECRA is to develop strategic artillery cannon with an effective range of more than 1,800 kilometers.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Reflections of a 1980s Military Spouse

It is a truth universally acknowledged amongst the milspouse community that this lifestyle can be downright crazy – but is this experience one that has always been true of military families?

Does our modern world – the age of technology, the era of constant communication – assist or exacerbate the nuances of military life? We spoke to Stephanie Bates, a Marine Corps spouse of thirty-three years, to find out!


MS: So – let’s talk about you! What does your background look like? Did you have any experience of the military lifestyle before your marriage?

SB: I am 68 years old and I was a military spouse for 33 of those years while John was on active duty. I still feel I am a military spouse – that feeling never goes away, retired or not. It’s a very special community and one I have ALWAYS been proud to be part of! I can honestly say, looking back through the years, I would not change ONE thing about our life in the USMC. We have one son who is a LtCol in the Marine Corps and actually stationed here in Hawaii now which has been wonderful. He and his wife will be retiring here in a year and staying put, which of course pleases us immensely!

MS: How did you and your husband meet?

SB: John and I met in college, where he was just returning from the Vietnam war. We were married in 1972, and although I knew he had been in the Marine Corps previously, I also knew he had been medically discharged (3 Purple Hearts later) and just assumed that part of life was over. We dated for a year, got married my senior year of college in Arkansas and started our life together. Never in a million years did I think we would spend the next 33 years, moving 22 times around the world, back in the Marine Corps. I knew John loved his beloved Corps and unbeknownst to me spent the first 3 years of our married life petitioning the USMC to come back in as an officer. He finally wore them down, gave up his disability and took off for OCS. When this news was presented to me I was devastated! Until I met John I had no experience with any connections to the military. I knew my father and uncles all served but that was it..now he’s telling me he is taking off for 6 months and re joining the Corps! I was at a complete loss, but I knew this was what he lived for. All I could imagine was he would be sent off to war and killed. Didn’t stop to think there was no war going on at the time, but that comes later…

MS: Did you have any preconceptions about what military life would look like before you got married?

SB: I’m not sure what I expected having had no connections with anyone in the military before this, but it exceeded my expectations. Not to say there weren’t some “hard” moments. I remember crying when we were trying to save enough money to buy a mattress for our bed and instead the money had to go for uniforms and a sword! They were pretty lean times, but we had made so many new friends all in the same boat with us, that you could never ever have a pity party for yourself! It was a different time then and not a lot of the wives worked outside the home so there was always something going on. I never felt lonely although I missed our friends and family back home.

MS: When your spouse deployed (or went away for training) in the ’80s, how did that feel? I ask this in light of our age of instant communication – it’s an easy thing to take for granted, after all!

SB: Long distance phone calls were expensive, but that was the only way to keep in touch and that was only when they could get to a phone…No cell phones that’s for sure! And certainly not computers so therefore NO emails or social media. 6 month deployments at that time meant a lot of letter writing and to keep track of letters, we would number them so if they arrived out of sequence, which they did a lot!, you could make sense of them. And a lot of times I would get a letter written on whatever scrap of paper he could find. The back of MRE boxes etc…. Toward the end of our career in the Corps I can’t believe how much easier military life is with the invention of cell phones and computers. It’s the communication that makes all the difference in the world. I have reservations about social media, but that’s another subject. Just being able to talk while your spouse is deployed or knowing that you can get in touch with him in an emergency without having to go through the Red Cross or any other red tape is a game changer. It eliminates so much of the worrying…you know what is going on and don’t have to speculate and think the worst possible scenario.

MS: Have you found that the sense of community in on-base/spouse/family environments has changed at all over the years? If so, how?

SB: In the 80’s there were not a lot of wives who worked outside of the home, so the wives’ clubs and social groups and volunteering groups ( Navy, Marine Corps Relief Society, Red Cross, Omsbudsman) were a lot more active. More spouses work now and this has changed things. Towards the end of our career I could sense the change. The wives clubs became smaller and smaller and did less and less. Volunteerism was down a lot also but this is life as we know it now. The world wide web has made it easier for wives to take their job and career with them. I was a teacher and mainly had to rely on working as a substitute teacher at each duty station. Although they would never come out and say it, teaching jobs were hard to come by as they knew if they hired you in a couple of years you would be gone.

MS: The age-old question – does PCS-ing ever become easier?!

SB: PCSing…no it never gets easier, but it can still be a fun adventure…Of course, as every spouse I know, can tell you they have had at least one move where their spouse is not available to be there for pickup or delivery etc etc…but somehow we get through it, our military spouse friends will always step in to help check off the inventory list while you tell the movers where to put what…nothing ever goes as planned, dates change, orders change but that’s life! I was never one not to add to our household inventory so we always moved with whatever the max allowance we were given, which I’m sure did not please our packers. We even had one packer walk down our driveway and off the job after doing the walkthrough! I did have friends whose philosophy was we will just wait till were are retired then buy what we want…not me, my life was now not later so our moves were a lot of boxes that’s for sure!

MS: What are some ways in which military family culture has changed that you think might be useful for new milspouses to consider? The good, the bad, and the ugly!

SB: The one big difference between life in the Marine Corps today as opposed to the 80’s is that the Marine Corps is so much more family “friendly”! And I’m sure that spouses from the much earlier years would think we had it perfect in the 80’s. The good news is things keep getting better…I know everyone has heard the old adage, “If the Marine Corps wanted you to have a wife they would have issued you one,” but that wasn’t far from the truth in the olden days….There was no thought given to how to make life better for spouses until one day they realized that a happy wife makes a happy life and a much better Marine. I was in on the ground floor with Sandy Krulak and others when the L.I.N.K.S program started. The goal was to help a new wife adjust to life as a military spouse. It was the thought that marrying into the military was like moving to a different country where you didn’t know how to navigate or speak the language. Programs like this have paved the way to helping adjust to military life so much easier.

MS: What would you tell yourself as a young milspouse, with all of the experience that you now have?

SB: There’s not too much I would have done differently if I could go back and give my younger self any words of wisdom but I am forever grateful that the wife of one of my husband’s first commanders told me at our first duty station, “Stephanie, always bloom where you are planted and make the most of every duty station you are sent to.” She was so right, it paid off in so many ways. Wonderful lifetime friends, and memories.

Looking back , all I can say is , that although I went into this with so many trepidations and worries as a young 22 year old, I wouldn’t have traded this life for anything else…it’s been a wild ride. And I also have the Marine Corps to thank for honoring me with the Dickie Chapel Award in 1999, it meant so much to me and still does to this day.

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

China’s military aviation is quickly getting stronger

China continues to emerge as the most dynamic region for defense program development and introductions among the superpowers. In October 2018, photos of their aircraft carrier development and preparations for ongoing sea trials have surfaced; their advanced interceptor claiming to have low-observable capability has reemerged with a new camouflage scheme in an operational unit; they have flown a new long range flying boat amphibious aircraft and shown a new armed, long range remotely piloted aircraft. There are even frequent reports (some of those have been denied already) of a new low-observable strategic heavy bomber ahead of the U.S. unveiling of their new B-21 Raider long range stealth bomber.

All of this new development continues the conversation about China expanding military ambitions beyond their borders in regions such as Africa, the Middle East, and even South and Central America. These ambitions add to their ongoing power projection in the Taiwan Strait and South China Sea.


Perhaps the most significant development is the potential return to a strategic nuclear role for the PLAAF, China’s air force. China’s air delivered nuclear capability has reportedly advanced recently after it was abandoned in the 1980s when China only had air delivered nuclear gravity bombs.

In a Sept. 6, 2018 feature on TheDiplomat.com, analysts Ankit Panda and Prashanth Parameswaran reported that, “The PLAAF once again has a nuclear mission, although we don’t know what that is”. The analysts suggested that an air launched ballistic missile may be an emerging technology China is developing. The missile, thought to be a new version of the CJ-20K long range cruise missile, currently has the capability to strike targets at a range of 1,080 nautical miles (2,000 kilometers) with a conventional warhead after being launched from China’s legacy Xian H-6K heavy bomber.

For the first time ever in early May 2018, the PLAAF flew Xian H-6K heavy bombers to the disputed Woody Island in the Paracel archipelago. The Paracel archipelago, also called “Xisha” by the Chinese, is a disputed chain of low-lying islands in the South China Sea. Although China has maintained a military presence there since 1974 when they forcibly evicted Vietnam, the Taiwanese and Vietnamese both still lay claim to the islands. A Pentagon statement from U.S. Pacific Command spokesman Lt. Col. Christopher Logan said the May landing of Chinese heavy bombers in the island chain is evidence of “China’s continued militarization of disputed features in the South China Sea.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=662hEb84goE
China’s Navy Deploys New H 6J Anti Ship Cruise Missile Carrying Bombers

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The 2018 edition of China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition in Zhuhai, Guangdong, will take place from Nov. 6-11, 2018. Photographers already at the show venue have shared a feast of interesting images in social media including photos of the Chengdu J-20A “Mighty Dragon” in a completely new operational camouflage scheme.

The Chengdu J-20As seen at the show are claimed “fifth generation” twin engine, single seat air superiority fighters with a distinctive canard, delta wing and twin tail configuration. They are reported to be operated by the172th Brigade based at the FTTB (Airbase) at Cangzhou according to expert analyst Andreas Rupprecht who maintains the Modern Chinese Warplanes page on Facebook and publishes a series of authoritative reference guides about Chinese military aircraft (and many others) through Harpia Publishing.

Why a signals intelligence aircraft tried to destroy intel using coffee

Several J-20A Mighty Dragons arrived ahead of the Zhuhai Airshow with brand new paint schemes.

(Hunter Chen Photos via Twitter and Facebook)

Rupprecht noted that two of the J-20A aircraft wore serial numbers 78231 and 78232. He also pointed out that the aircraft previously had an angular “splinter” style camouflage scheme but now have a new, rounded pattern camouflage livery.

In conjunction with the timing of the Zhuhai Airshow, Rupprecht’s Harpia Publishing has just released their latest reference book, “Modern Chinese Warplanes: Chinese Air Force – Aircraft and Units”.

Other unique aircraft photographed arriving at Zhuhai for the 2018 China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition include a unique J-10B prototype aircraft number ‘1034’ modified to with a special thrust vectoring engine nozzle. The modification is likely a test version according the Andreas Rupprecht that has been retrofitted onto the existing WS-10 jet engine.

Why a signals intelligence aircraft tried to destroy intel using coffee

A unique new version of the J-10B with thrust vectoring arrived at Zhuhai Airshow early this week.

(Modern Chinese Warplanes on Facebook photos)

China’s naval aviation program also arcs forward into a rapidly developing and ambitious future with their aircraft carriers. On Oct. 28, 2018, the new, unnamed Type 002 aircraft carrier sailed away from its construction and maintenance facility at Dalian, China for its third sea trial. Andreas Rupprecht observed on his Modern Chinese Warplanes page on Facebook (Author’s note: this page is worth “Liking”) that the ship’s flight deck had been cleaned and possibly prepared for flight deck trials during this current shakedown cruise.

Of equal interest is a photo that surfaced on Google Earth that is only a few weeks old, taken on Sept. 22, 2018, showing the two Chinese aircraft carriers sitting side-by-side in their maintenance and construction yard in Dalian. Dalian is a modern, rapidly growing port city on the Liaodong Peninsula, at the southern tip of China’s Liaoning Province.

Why a signals intelligence aircraft tried to destroy intel using coffee

Two Chinese carriers in the Dalian Shipyard.

(Modern Chinese Warplanes on Facebook photos)

Video of the new AVIC AG600 Kunlong flying boat making its first ever waterborne take-off and landing were posted to YouTube on Oct. 20, 2018. The impressive four-engine turboprop aircraft is intended for the long range maritime patrol, reconnaissance, search and rescue mission. It is said to be capable of operating in sea state 3 conditions, or waves as high as 6.6-feet (2 meters). With its projected range of 2,796 miles (4,500 km), the AG600 flying boat can reach the contested islands in the outlying regions of China’s sea.

Aerial view: China’s AG600 amphibious aircraft makes maiden flight from water

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In addition to global power projection in their own interests, an aim of China’s emerging new military aviation push is the export market. In early October 2018, the sale of 48 new Wing Loong II armed, remotely piloted aircraft to Pakistan was announced.

According to analyst Shaurya Karanbir Gurung of India’s Economic Times in a story published on Oct. 10, 2018, “The Wing Loong II is an improved version of the Wing Loong 1 Unmanned Aerial Vehicle. Falling in the category of Medium Altitude Long Endurance, it is manufactured by the Chengdu Aircraft Industrial (Group) Company. The UAV has been developed primarily for People’s Liberation Army Air Force and export. The concept of the Wing Loong II was unveiled at the Aviation Expo China in Beijing in September 2015.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KV2BILlhtJ8
All About Wing Loong II: Pakistan’s New Drone From China | Urdu | Hindi |

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And finally, and perhaps most interestingly, news about an entirely new, long range low observable Chinese heavy bomber has surfaced. According to some reports, the program is claimed to be significantly advanced in its development. The Hong-20 is tipped as China’s new long-range strategic stealth bomber. Official Chinese media has released concept images of the aircraft after teasing shapes earlier in the year in what appeared to be a direct parody of a video touting the upcoming U.S. bomber, the B-21 Raider.

Why a signals intelligence aircraft tried to destroy intel using coffee

A rendering of what China claims is the new Hong-20 low-observable long range bomber.

(Modern Chinese Warplanes on Facebook photos)

Defense World.net reported that, “The Hong-20 official unveiling could be slated for next month’s Zhuhai Air show though there is no confirmation of it as yet.” The report went on to reveal that Russian media outlet Rossiyskaya Gazeta claimed the Hong-20 bomber has been under development at the Shanghai Aircraft Design and Research Institute in China since 2008.

Why a signals intelligence aircraft tried to destroy intel using coffee

Conceptual artwork from earlier this year of new Hong-20 low-observable long range bomber.

(Andreas Rupprecht/Rupprecht_A on Twitter)

Many casual observers of China’s defense and aviation programs have been cynical of China’s ability to produce truly advanced high-end, reliable new military technologies that may compete with western technology. Because of lingering dogma about China’s mass manufacturing being comprised largely of knock-offs from western technology mimicked quickly at lower cost and lower quality by legions of near-slave laborers, this mistaken stereotype has lingered. Anyone who has visited China recently knows this country has vaulted into a new era of economic, technological and now, military development. Given that China is the country that invented gunpowder and revolutionized warfare, any country that underestimates China’s new capabilities does so at their own peril.

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

China passes Russia’s weakened military to be the US’ top rival

Russia, and the Soviet Union before it, always possessed an outsized military and grew quickly into the role of the US’s chief rival after World War II, but despite prioritizing nuclear and military power above social welfare for decades , the Kremlin has been surpassed.

Russia still wields enviable cyber warfare prowess, tremendous conventional military strength, the world’s most dangerous nuclear weapons, and electronic warfare capabilities among the best on earth.


But nobody is talking about Russia as the US’s top military threat anymore. Today, it’s China.

Under President Donald Trump, the US has introduced a new National Security Strategy that lists China and Russia as its main strategic threats, rather than terrorism or climate change. China is listed first, and mentioned more often throughout the report.

Why a signals intelligence aircraft tried to destroy intel using coffee

The T-14 Armata, another great idea that never really happened.

The culprit behind Russia’s decline? Stagnation

The Russian threat is a known quantity. NATO exists to counter Russia in Europe. Besides Russia’s 2014 illegal annexation of Crimea, its constant aggressive behavior towards its neighbors hasn’t really changed much over the decades.

Russia’s newest generation of nuclear weapons promises to evade and trick all existing US missile defenses, but that’s also old news. Even the US’s 1970s Minuteman III nuclear missile can likely evade Russian defenses. In any case, nuclear war has been a moot point since the establishment of mutually assured destruction.

Russian systems near Eastern Europe can out-range and in some cases overwhelm its NATO counterpart, but Russia stands to gain little in conventional conflict, and under President Vladimir Putin it’s mainly chosen to engage in hybrid warfare and to push its foreign policy goals with hacking and other nefarious plots.

Where are the real innovations in Russia’s military hardware? Russia introduced the Su-57, supposedly a stealth jet that could take on the US’s F-35 and F-22 fighters , but it couldn’t get the money together to order more than 12 of them. Likewise, Russia’s T-14 Armata tank, framed as a NATO tank-killer, will not see serial production.

For the T-14 and Su-57, economic stagnation caused by flat or falling oil prices and US sanctions likely struck the final blow.

Why a signals intelligence aircraft tried to destroy intel using coffee

Aircraft Carrier Liaoning CV-16.

China running wild

China used to buy and reverse engineer Russian weapons systems, which provided it a healthy base to start building its military, the largest in the world, but now it’s clearly surpassed Russia in terms of high-end warfighting.

China, not Russia, provided the first foreign answer to the US’s total dominance in stealth aircraft with the Chengdu J-20 . China has also leapfrogged ahead in software and computing, pursuing both quantum computing and artificial intelligence at a break-neck place.

Just as Putin has changed Russia’s geography by taking Crimea, Beijing changed the very seas they border on by building up military strongholds across the South China Sea and steadily enforcing claims there with a firmer and firmer hand.

China has created a new run of missiles set to give the US Navy a run for its money . China once bought a used Soviet aircraft carrier as a training vessel. Now it has plans to build three or more carriers to project power across the seas. Russia, on the other hand, has had to shelve its sole carrier until 2022, and before that it couldn’t sail without a tug nearby. China has made a show of beating the US in technological races , even when they’re mostly superficial.

China, not Russia, has become the US military’s boogeyman despite sitting half a world away. And with ten times Russia’s population, and an economy set to displace the US as the world’s top, it’s unlikely Russia will hang around much longer in the conversation of top-tier militaries.

Russia can achieve many of its foreign policy goals by spreading its own brand of information in Western democracies and leaning on its smaller satellite states. But China is building an all-aspect military capable of fighting the US military head-on.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

This 1871 expedition is the other Korean War

In 1871, an American fleet led by a diplomatic and merchant ship entered Korean waters and were fired upon by antiquated shore batteries, leading to a battle where 650 Marines and sailors landed on one of the island and fought against Korean personnel to capture five forts.


Why a signals intelligence aircraft tried to destroy intel using coffee

Officers of the USS Colorado pose on the ship in Korean Waters near the end of the Korean Expedition in 1871.

(U.S. Navy)

The mission of the fleet was to open up trade and diplomatic relations with the Korean people, a mission that was fraught with dangers stemming from a bloody history.

The expedition is sometimes known as the Punitive Expedition and may or may not have come as a result of a previous expedition in 1866 where the USS General Sherman sailed upriver to Pyongyang, clashed with local authorities, and fought with large crowds of Koreans before Korean people managed to burn the vessel and kill the survivors.

Meanwhile, the General Sherman incident followed years of Korean atrocities against their Christian populations, largely a response to perceived encroachment by missionaries and other western influences.

Why a signals intelligence aircraft tried to destroy intel using coffee

U.S. Navy officers pose during a council of war aboard the USS Colorado in June 1871 while preparing to make landfall on a Korean island.

(U.S. Navy)

So, when the fleet arrived in Korea, they shouldn’t have expected a warm welcome. But they were still surprised when the lead vessel, an unarmed merchant ship, came under a sustained 15-minute barrage from shore batteries.

But the American fleet was only moderately damaged from the fusillade and the Americans simply withdrew. They returned 10 days later, made landfall, and spoke to Korean authorities.

The Koreans refused to apologize, and the Americans launched a concerted assault on Ganghwa Island, the source of the earlier fire. The island boasted five forts, but they were mostly armed with outdated weapons and the troops lacked training in the tactics of the day.

Why a signals intelligence aircraft tried to destroy intel using coffee

Marine Corps Cpl. Charles Brown and Pvt. Hugh Purvis stand in front of a captured Korean Military Flag in June 1871 following the capture of Korean forts on June 11. Brown and Purvis received Medals of Honor for their actions during the short conflict.

(National Museum of the U.S. Navy)

Approximately 650 Marines and sailors, nearly all the men of the expedition, attacked one fort after another, pushing the Korean forces back and inflicting heavy casualties while suffering relatively little in return. The fighting was over before nightfall, but the Americans achieved a dramatic success.

They captured five forts, killed 243 Korean troops, and suffered three deaths and little damage to equipment.

The Koreans refused to enter negotiations with the Americans, and simply closed themselves back off for another two years.

Why a signals intelligence aircraft tried to destroy intel using coffee

Korean troops killed during the 1871 Korean Expedition.

(Ulysses S. Grant II Photographic Collection)

While the force failed to meet its political and strategic goals, it had been a smashing tactical success. This was partially thanks to the superior American weaponry, but also thanks to the bravery of individual fighters.

Fifteen Medals of Honor for actions in the one-day battle were approved. They range from citations for fighting hand-to-hand with the enemy to save a fellow American like Marine Corps Pvt. John Coleman to “carrying out his duties with coolness” like Quartermaster Patrick Grace did.

This engagement took place before the Battle of Little Bighorn triggered a review of the Medal of Honor standards, resulting in a slow increase in what was necessary to earn one of the medals.

As for Korean relations, they wouldn’t take off until the 1882 Treaty of Peace, Amity, Commerce, and Navigation. Relations under the treaty continued until 1910 when Japan established colonial rule, which didn’t end until 1945 and Japanese capitulation in World War II.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

7 Chinese weapons that will set tone for World War III

A war probably isn’t coming. It’s not in America’s best interests. Or China’s. Or Russia’s. But the military can’t just opt out of preparing for a conflict, just in case. If the U.S. stumbles into a war with China, that country has an ever-growing arsenal of weapons that will force the U.S. military to adapt — especially the Navy.


Why a signals intelligence aircraft tried to destroy intel using coffee

Chinese hypersonic glide vehicles could allow conventional missiles to become a much larger threat.

(果壳军事, CC BY-SA 4.0)

1. Hypersonic missiles

China’s primary hypersonic missile play is the DF-ZF hypersonic glide vehicle, but the country is testing a variety of hypersonic components and has even tested an anti-ship ballistic missile that flies at hypersonic speeds during its final approach to the target.

Glide vehicles, like the DF-ZF, can be fitted to a variety of current missiles, extending their range by up to 50 percent while improving speed. Most of the focus on these weapons so far has been on the strategic level, as hypersonic missiles can carry nukes and bypass most existing defenses, but the missiles are also a huge threat on the tactical level, as they limit the effectiveness of current Navy fleet defenses.

If China and America go toe-to-toe in the Pacific, these hypersonic missiles will greatly threaten the fleet at sea as well as shore installations of the Army, Air Force, and Marine Corps.

Why a signals intelligence aircraft tried to destroy intel using coffee

The Type 072A LST gives Chinese naval commanders a lot of options.

(樱井千一, CC BY-SA 3.0)

2. Type 072A LST

The Chinese Landing Ship, Tank Type 072A is part of a larger family of landing ships, but it’s really the crown jewel of the fleet — and China owns 15 of them. They can carry up to 10 tanks as well as a hovercraft, four landing craft, 250 soldiers, and a helicopter.

All that cargo can be quickly offloaded on most beaches and the ship’s 30mm gun can defend it throughout the process, allowing an armored or infantry company to disembark from each ship directly into combat. For U.S. troops racing China to occupy strategic islands or to defend American-held ground, these ships mean that China can always quickly exploit any toehold it gains.

Why a signals intelligence aircraft tried to destroy intel using coffee

The Chinese AG-600, the world’s largest seaplane.

(Alert5, CC BY-SA 4.0)

3. The AG-600, that massive new seaplane

China’s massive new seaplane, the world’s largest by most metrics, including payload, has generated a lot of buzz. It is new, ugly, and a great tool for logistics in areas like the South China Sea. The weapon has few sensors and no weapons, but it has ability to take off from shallow water while carrying up to 13 tons of supplies. So, it could be just the ticket for re-supplying far-flung troops on islands or ships at sea with no carrier on which to land.

There has been widespread speculation about its suitability in an anti-submarine role. While it does have a lot of the traits of a large reconnaissance platform, mostly high range and payload, China’s own media has downplayed the possibility of it serving as an anti-submarine aircraft.

4. Golden Eagle CR500

Not all that much is known yet about the Golden Eagle CR500, but it’s an unmanned helicopter that can carry air-to-ground missiles. The rumor mill gives it a six-hour endurance and a maximum payload of four missiles. If everything works out, this and similar projects give China the capability to hunt U.S. forces ashore from relatively small ships.

Instead of needing to land a company to recon in force or wait for reconnaissance teams to sweep potentially occupied islands, they could send a couple of small ships carrying these bad boys and fly over the islands, engaging targets they find immediately.

5. CH-7 Drone

China’s newly unveiled CH-7 drone appears to be a direct ripoff of the Navy’s X-47B — and it probably is. But the Navy put combat drones on the back burner after pushback from U.S. pilots, potentially allowing China to take the technological edge. The CH-7, like the X-47B, is a carrier-based stealth drone capable of penetrating contested airspace, conducting reconnaissance and, if necessary, fighting its way free.

If it works even a fraction as well as the X-47B, the CH-7 could give China the ability to strike U.S. forces ashore and to disrupt jet formations without risking their own pilots. This could be a game-changer since one of the biggest limits on China’s large military and civilian aviation dreams is its lack of pilots.

6. H-20 Stealth Bomber

China’s new stealth bomber is still under wraps, technically, but information is leaking out and it appears to be a flying wing like the B-2 Spirit. If its radar absorption, spoofing, and infrared masking is anything like the B-2’s, that means that China might be able to fly through American defenses and strike at radars and missile sites in order to open up the skies for conventional aircraft.

The H-20 is nuclear-capable, but its the door-kicking ability of the plane that actually tips the scales in a conventional conflict. U.S. defenses rely on a distributed network of sensors and interceptors, but you can still open a gap to the heart of a carrier strike group with just a few good hits on Ticonderoga cruisers and Arleigh-Burke destroyers.

Why a signals intelligence aircraft tried to destroy intel using coffee

Chinese Type 56 Corvette

(樱井千一, CC BY-SA 3.0)

7. Type 056 Jiangdao Stealth Corvette

Corvettes are small ships, but what they lack in size and muscle they can make up for in versatility. The Type 056 is no exception, as it displaces only 1,365 tons while capable of carrying four anti-ship cruise missiles, eight surface-to-air missiles, and two torpedo tubes as well as a 76mm main gun and two 30mm guns in support. And they can zip around at 35 mph.

They’re cheap and potent, even if they’re not the kind of big capital ships that fill propaganda ads. They’re lethal enough to pick off amphibious forces and smaller ships, potentially interrupting landings or helping force an opening during a fight between fleets. China commissioned its 41st Type 056 a few months ago.

popular

Reminder that the Nazis made a top general kill himself

Erwin Rommel entered France in 1940 in command of a panzer division, moving around the Maginot Line with the bulk of German attackers and slamming into the French defenses from behind. He would go on to lead troops in North Africa as Hitler’s favored general.

But the bloom was off the rose in 1944 when Hitler made Rommel kill himself.


Why a signals intelligence aircraft tried to destroy intel using coffee

Field Marshal Erwin Rommel and senior officers in France.

(German Bundesarchiv Bild)

The Desert Fox made his legend in France, and then fought in the African desert in 1941. His troops there loved him, and he fought tooth and nail to hold the oil fields and ports in that part of the world. With limited numbers and supplies, he bloodied the nose of British forces and their French and American allies over and over again.

The British tried to kidnap him. They tried to kill him. But mostly, they tried to beat him. And, eventually, with the crushing weight of American armor at their back, they did.

Rommel evacuated north with his surviving forces, and he was put in command of the Atlantic Wall, the bulwark of Fortress Europe. He was brilliant in the role, predicting that the Allies would try to land somewhere other than a deepwater port, and suspecting portions of Normandy beaches in particular. He pushed his men to build defenses, and he pushed the government to send him more supplies.

Why a signals intelligence aircraft tried to destroy intel using coffee

Field Marshal Erwin Rommel and his staff in North Africa.

(German Bundesarchiv Bild)

But all the while, from North Africa to the Atlantic Coast, he was lamenting the clear resource advantage that America had given the Allies. He worried that the war was lost and that further fighting would just cost German blood and weaken its place at the bargaining table.

In 1943, while preparing those defenses in Normandy, he began to see signs that the anti-war movement was right, that Germany was conducting heinous acts besides just prosecuting the war. He could stomach battles, but he was unsettled when he ran into evidence of the rumored death camps, especially when was given an apartment that had, until that very morning, been the property of a Jewish family.

And so he whispered more and more about how Hitler wasn’t to be trusted, about how the war was bad for Germany, and about how the Third Reich couldn’t possibly survive what was coming. When the Allies hit the beaches in June 1944, Rommel’s pessimism became too much to bear.

Why a signals intelligence aircraft tried to destroy intel using coffee

Field Marshal Erwin Rommel’s command tank in World War II.

(German Bundesarchiv Bild)

And so, when an attempt to assassinate Hitler in July 1944 failed, it didn’t matter that there was no strong evidence linking him to the plot. The perpetrators had all been senior military officers, so it was easy to pin a little blame on Rommel, especially since both his chief of staff and his commanding officer were implicated and executed.

Rommel was popular, though. So, he couldn’t just be dragged out back and shot like many of the Valkyrie plotters. Instead, Third Reich officers were sent to Rommel’s home on October 14, 1944. He was there, healing from wounds sustained in a July 17 attack by a British aircraft.

As his son remembered it, his father knew that two other German generals were coming to visit him.

‘At twelve o’clock to-day two Generals are coming to discuss my future employment,’ my father started the conversation. ‘So today will decide what is planned for me; whether a People’s Court or a new command in the East.’
Why a signals intelligence aircraft tried to destroy intel using coffee

Field Marshal Erwin Rommel

(German Bundesarchiv Bild)

Despite Rommel’s worries about Germany’s aggression, he believed that a Soviet conquest of Europe would be devastating for all the rest of Europe, worse than any outcome under Germany. And so he told his son that he would take a command in the Eastern Front, if it was offered.

But that was not what the officers were coming to offer him. And they were not going to put him in front of the People’s Courts either. Instead, after Rommel met with the men for a short time, he went upstairs, and Manfred Rommel, his 15-year-old son, followed him upstairs.

‘I have just had to tell your mother,’ he began slowly, ‘that I shall be dead in a quarter of an hour.’ He was calm as he continued: ‘To die by the hand of one’s own people is hard. But the house is surrounded and Hitler is charging me with high treason. ‘ “In view of my services in Africa,” ‘ he quoted sarcastically, ‘I am to have the chance of dying by poison. The two generals have brought it with them. It’s fatal in three seconds. If I accept, none of the usual steps will be taken against my family, that is against you. They will also leave my staff alone.’

And so that was the deal that Rommel accepted. His family would be made safe. His staff would be made safe. But he would have to drink a fast-acting poison. Manfred briefly pitched the idea of fighting free, but his father was certain they lacked the numbers or ammunition to be successful.

So Rommel left. He carried his field marshal’s baton to the car, shook the hands of his son and his aide, and got in the car of the two generals. They drove a few hundred yards into an open space in the woods and Rommel drank.

He was given a state funeral just four days later. Hitler would follow him into death the following May. But where Rommel committed suicide to save his family, Hitler did it to escape judgment for that and thousand of other actions.

Articles

Why WWII soldiers nicknamed the Sherman tank ‘death trap’

The Sherman tank was a powerful force to be reckoned with on the battlefields in WWII; it was fast and mobile and it shelled out plenty of firepower.


It provided just enough cover for American ground troops as it stomped through the German front lines. The Sherman was designed to patrol over enemy bridges and it was easily transported on railroad cars.

Related: 9 tanks that changed armored warfare

When the U.S. decided to invade Europe, General Patton selected the Sherman as his particular tank of choice and wanted as many to roll off the assembly lines as possible. Nearly fifty thousand were produced between 1942 and 1945.

Weighing in at 33 tons, it sustained a speed of 26 miles per hour and housed 2 inches of armor. Many saw the image of the Sherman tank to be invincible just like the American war effort, but the brave soldiers who served as tank crew members believed that it had too many engineering flaws and was far inferior compared to the German’s Tiger and Panther tanks.

The Sherman tank was equipped with a fully-transversing 75mm turret short barrelled gun that fired a high explosive shell 2,000 feet per second. Compared to the German tanks that shot accurately at 3,500 feet per second, the enemy’s armor piercing ammo was 2-3 times more effective.

It was recommended that to defeat the Germans, the tank crew had to speed up and flank around their battlefield rivalry and get within 600 yards range to be effective.

Captain Belton Y. Cooper, author of Death Traps and a member of the 3rd Armor Division maintenance unit, recounts knowing how inferior the Sherman was after seeing its physical destruction firsthand. He knew it was no match for the Nazi’s arsenal.

“We lost 648 tanks totally destroyed in combat, another 700 knocked out, repaired and put back into action,” Cooper says. “That’s 1,348 tanks knocked out in combat. I don’t think anyone took that kind of loss in the war.”
(HistoryAndDocumentry, YouTube)
MIGHTY TACTICAL

14 nuclear weapons terms and what they mean

Nuclear weapons are humankind’s most fearsome creations.

In a matter of minutes, one nuclear-armed nation can level dozens of cities, spread radioactive fallout for hundreds or thousands of miles, and wreck Earth’s climate.

Most people are familiar with the basics: Slap together enough uranium or plutonium and — kaboom! — you have a nuclear blast. But the details of how these complex devices are made, delivered, and controlled can make the difference between keeping the peace and sparking a cataclysm.


It doesn’t help that there’s more than 60 years’ worth of convoluted terminology surrounding the complex policies and politics of nuclear weapons. There are words like isotopes, tritium, and yellowcake; abbreviations such as HEU, LEU, SSBN, and CVID; and the subtle yet striking difference between uranium-235 and uranium-238.

As US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo resumes talks with North Korea over its nuclear weapons program, we’ve defined some of the most important (and misunderstood) words, phrases, and acronyms here.

That effort could take years to pan out, and it’s guaranteed to get very, very complicated.

Why a signals intelligence aircraft tried to destroy intel using coffee

A mockup of the Fat Man nuclear device.

(U.S. Department of Defense photo)

1. Nuclear weapon

A conventional explosive device rapidly burns up a chemical to cause a blast. A nuclear weapon, meanwhile — such as a bomb or warhead — splits atoms to release thousands of times more energy.

Yet the term “nuclear weapon” can also refer to a vehicle that’s able to deliver a nuclear attack, such as missiles, fighter jets, stealth bombers, and truck-like mobile launchers. (If flying dinosaurs were alive today and trained to drop nuclear bombs, the creatures may be considered nuclear weapons.)

During weapons inspections like the ones between the US and Russia, nuclear warheads are actually concealed with a piece of cloth; it’s the vehicles, missiles, and launch or bombing bays that are the focus. Without them, a warhead can’t get anywhere quickly.

Why a signals intelligence aircraft tried to destroy intel using coffee

A Hwasong-14 intercontinental ballistic missile, or ICBM, launching from North Korea.

(KCNA)

2. Intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM)

An ICBM is a space rocket that can launch a destructive device on top and carry it from one nation to another in a high arc.

Technically speaking, an ICBM is any missile capable of delivering a warhead from more than 3,415 miles away. The missile silos in the US in which they’re stored are sprinkled around the country, with most stationed in middle America.

As of 2018, the US has 800 ICBMs in its stockpile, and Russia has nearly 1,140 ICBMs.

3. Fallout

Fallout describes the dangerous leftovers of a nuclear weapon: a cloud of dust, dirt, sand, pebbles, and bits of debris that an explosion has irradiated.

Bombs or warheads detonated near the ground vastly increase the amount of fallout by sucking up soil and debris, irradiating it, and spreading it for dozens if not hundreds of miles. Very fine particles can circle the globe and be detected by special airplanes.

Why a signals intelligence aircraft tried to destroy intel using coffee

Part of CNO cycle diagram, made just to be illustrative for nuclear reactions in general.

4. Isotopes

Each element on the Periodic Table has a unique chemical identity but can have different weights, or isotopes.

For example, hydrogen is the smallest atom and is usually made of just one positively-charged proton in its nucleus, or core. Its shorthand name, H-1, specifies its atomic weight. If a chargeless neutron gets added, you get the isotope deuterium, or H-2. Add two neutrons and you have the isotope tritium, or H-3.

All three forms of hydrogen have nearly identical chemistry and can, say, bond with oxygen to form water. But their nuclear properties differ significantly: deuterium and tritium can fuel thermonuclear explosions because their extra neutrons can encourage helium atoms (which have two protons) to fuse together far more easily than H-1 alone.

5. Uranium — including U-238, U-235, and U-233

Uranium is a dense element and a key ingredient in nuclear weapons production. It occurs naturally in ores and minerals and has a few important isotopes.

U-238 makes up about 99.27% of natural uranium and is inert. Less than 1% of the uranium in ore is U-235 — the “active ingredient” that can be used for nuclear reactor fuel or bombs.

U-235 is special because it becomes very unstable when it catches a flying neutron. This capture causes it to split (known as fission), release a huge amount of energy, and shoot out more neutrons. Those neutrons can then split other atoms of U-235 in a chain reaction.

Although plutonium (which we’ll describe in a moment) is now the favored bomb-making material, U-235 was used in the Little Boy bomb that the US dropped on Hiroshima in 1945.

U-233 is another isotope that’s weapons-ready, but it’s only made inside special reactors that no longer exist (for now).

6. Plutonium, including Pu-238, Pu-239, and Pu-240

Plutonium is a metallic element that doesn’t occur in nature, and it most often refers to the isotope Pu-239: the go-to material for modern nuclear weapons.

Only nuclear reactors can make Pu-239. They do so by irradiating U-238 with neutrons. The plutonium can then be separated from the uranium, concentrated, and formed into weapons pits — the cores of nuclear weapons.

Pu-239 can more easily trigger a nuclear explosion than uranium, and with less material; as little as about 10 lbs can be enough.

Plutonium-240 is an unwanted and pretty radioactive byproduct of making Pu-239. It can make bombs prematurely explode and fizzle because it’s fairly radioactive. Pu-238 is a byproduct of Cold War weapons production that generates a lot of warmth and powers NASA’s most adventurous robots in the cold, dark depths of space.

Why a signals intelligence aircraft tried to destroy intel using coffee

Yellowcake uranium

7. Yellowcake uranium

Yellowcake is a powder of uranium oxide that’s made by leaching uranium from natural ores and chemically treating it. Despite its name, it’s most often brown or black in color.

The powder is a concentrated form of natural uranium — about 99.72% U-238 and 0.72% U-235. It’s an important commodity because it can be stockpiled and later processed to extract and enrich U-235.

8. Centrifuge

The U-235 and U-238 isotopes are chemically identical and nearly the same weight — so they’re very hard to separate. However, one of the easiest ways to separate uranium is a centrifuge.

The process starts with converting yellowcake into uranium hexafluoride (UF 6), then heating the compound into a gas. The gas then enters a centrifuge: a tall, hollow tube that spins faster than the speed of sound. The rotation pulls heavier U-238 toward the centrifuge’s outer wall while leaving more U-235 near the middle.

Cascades of centrifuges — one linked to another in long chains — further separate and concentrate each isotope. U-235-rich gas moves through an “upstream” line of centrifuges, growing until a desired level of concentration is reached. Meanwhile, U-238 moves “downstream” until it’s mostly depleted of U-235.

It can take thousands of centrifuges spinning for an entire year to enrich enough U-235 for a weapon.

9. Highly enriched uranium (HEU) and low-enriched uranium (LEU)

Highly enriched uranium is any amount of uranium with 20% or more U-235 — the kind that can spur a nuclear detonation.

HEU with a concentration of 85% or more U-235 is considered “weapons-grade,” since that is enough to cause a large and efficient nuclear explosion. But it’s rarely used anymore: It most often goes into special reactors that power naval ships and submarines, can make plutonium, or create medically important isotopes (such as molybdenum-99, which can help diagnose certain heart diseases and cancers).

Low-enriched uranium has less than 20% U-235, and is most often used for nuclear reactor fuel in commercial power plants.

10. Lithium deuteride (sometimes called lithium hydride)

Lithium deuteride is a whitish salt made of one lithium atom and one deuterium atom (hydrogen-2).

It’s a key ingredient in thermonuclear weapons, also called hydrogen bombs — the most powerful type of nuclear arms. (Russia’s Tzar Bomba thermonuclear weapon, detonated in 1961, was about 3,300 times as powerful as the Hiroshima bomb in 1945.)

A thermonuclear weapon is actually two bombs in one. Energy from the first explosion is absorbed by and “ignites” the lithium deuteride, leading to fusion — where two atoms combine — and creating a plasma many times hotter than the sun.

The process also creates a lot of neutrons. These bullet-like particles can then ram into and split a lot of nearby U-238 in the bomb, vastly multiplying the weapon’s destructive energy.

Why a signals intelligence aircraft tried to destroy intel using coffee

A UGM-96 Trident I clears the water after launch from a US Navy submarine in 1984

11. Submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM)


An SLBM is a nuclear-tipped rocket that shoots out of launch tubes in an underwater attack submarine.

As of 2018, the US has 1,920 SLBMs in its stockpile, and Russia has nearly 770 SLBMs.

Unlike most land-based missiles, SLBMs are mobile and very difficult to track. Some models can fly nearly 7,500 miles, which is about 30% of Earth’s circumference. That’s plenty of range to strike any inland target from a coast.

12. Ballistic-missile submarines (SSBN or SSB)

Attack submarines that can launch ballistic missiles are known as SSBs or SSBNs. The “SS” stands for “submersible ship,” the “B” for ballistic” (as in ballistic missile), and the “N,” if present, means “nuclear” (as in powered by a nuclear reactor).

These vessels can stay underwater for 90 days and carry more than a dozen nuclear-warhead-tipped SLBMs — each of which can strike targets thousands of miles inland.

Russia has about 11 nuclear-armed subs and the US has about 14.

13. Complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization (CVID)

CVID is the strategy that was pursued in disarming Libya of its nuclear weapons. The Trump administration pursued it in initial talks with Kim Jong Un and North Korea.

The approach allows inspectors into a country to count weapons, witness their destruction, disable nuclear reactors, prevent the development of missiles, and perform other watchdog work.

Weapons experts think North Korea will reject CVID, mostly because it’d bar the use of nuclear reactors to produce energy and rule out the development of rockets, which can launch satellites and people into space.

Experts also point out that the strategy has a nasty historical precedent: Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddafi followed through on a US-led CVID program but ultimately ended up dead in the streets.

The Trump administration is reportedly changing its mind about CVID, though, and may push a plan that’s more acceptable to North Korea.

14. Deterrence

Deterrence is the idea that if countries have nuclear weapons, the threat of an overwhelming retaliation in response to an attack will keep the peace.

In 1995, a few years after the Cold War ended, Reagan-era government officials wrote:

“Deterrence must create fear in the mind of the adversary — fear that he will not achieve his objectives, fear that his losses and pain will far outweigh any potential gains, fear that he will be punished. It should ultimately create the fear of extinction — extinction of either the adversary’s leaders themselves or their national independence, or both. Yet, there must always appear to be a ‘door to salvation’ open to them should they reverse course.”

Some nuclear weapons experts worry that deterrence will only keep the peace for so long. They also think belief in deterrence encourages the development and spread of nuclear weapons— so if and when nuclear conflict does break out, the catastrophe will be much worse.

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

Articles

‘The Ghost’ is the most decorated infantry officer you’ve never heard of

Guinness World Records stopped tracking the world’s most decorated soldiers because the importance and distinction of certain medals outweighs the objective number of medals a service member can be awarded —a distinction veterans certainly understand.


What brought this to their attention was the medal count between Audie Murphy – long regarded as the most decorated U.S. soldier ever – and a little-known WWII veteran and Medal of Honor recipient named Matt Urban, whose medal count matched Murphy’s.

Why a signals intelligence aircraft tried to destroy intel using coffee
Audie Murphy just after WWII. (U.S. Army photo)

But no one knew that Urban had matched the well-known Murphy until 36 years after the end of WWII because Urban’s recommendation and supporting paperwork were lost in the bureaucratic shuffle.

He was also awarded the French Croix de Guerre and the Legion of Merit but never knew until his military records were reviewed to award his Medal of Honor.

And there were a lot of actions to review.

President Carter called then retired Lt. Col. Matt Urban “The Greatest Soldier in American History” as he presented the Medal of Honor to Urban in 1980. The soldier’s Medal of Honor citation alone lists “a series of actions” – at least 10 – that go above and beyond the call of duty.

Why a signals intelligence aircraft tried to destroy intel using coffee
Urban receiving the Medal of Honor from President Carter in 1980. (White House photo)

The Nazis called Urban “The Ghost” because he just seemed to keep coming back to life when they killed him. The soldier’s seven Purple Hearts can attest to that.

Urban joined the Army ROTC at Cornell in 1941. It was just after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and unfortunately for the Nazis, Urban graduated in time to land in North Africa in 1942.

He was ordered to stay aboard a landing craft off the Tunisian coast, but when he heard his unit encountered stiff resistance on the beaches, he hopped in a raft and rowed to the fight. There he replaced a wounded platoon leader.

Later, at the Battle of the Kasserine Pass, Urban destroyed a German observation post, then led his company in a frontal assault on a fortified enemy position. During one German counterattack, Urban killed an enemy soldier with his trench knife, then took the man’s machine pistol and wiped out the rest of the oncoming Germans. He was wounded in his hands and arm.

Why a signals intelligence aircraft tried to destroy intel using coffee
German Medium Tank Mk-IV knocked out by American artillery fire, Kasserine Pass. (U.S. Army photo)

In North Africa, his actions earned him two Silver Stars, a Bronze Star, and two Purple Hearts.

It was in France where Urban would distinguish himself and earn his nickname. His division landed at Normandy on D-Day, and later at the French town of Renouf he spearheaded another gallant series of events.

On June 14, 1944, two tanks and small arms began raking Urban’s men in the hedgerows, causing heavy casualties. He picked up a bazooka and led an ammo carrier closer to the tanks.

Urban then exposed himself to the heavy enemy fire as he took out both tanks. His leadership inspired his men who easily bested the rest of the German infantry.

Later that same day, Urban took a direct shot in the leg from a 37mm tank gun. He continued to direct his men to defense positions. The next day, still wounded, Urban led his troops on another attack. He was wounded again and flown back to England.

Why a signals intelligence aircraft tried to destroy intel using coffee
The notorious hedgerows in the French countryside, 1944. (U.S. Army photo)

In July 1944, he learned how much the fighting in the French hedgerows devastated his unit. Urban, still in the hospital in England, ditched his bed and hitchhiked back to France. He met up with his men near St. Lo on the eve of Operation Cobra, a breakout effort to hit the German flanks and advance into Brittany.

He found his unit held down by a German strong point with two of his tanks destroyed and a third missing its commander and gunner. Urban hatched a plan to remount the tank and break through but his lieutenant and sergeant were killed in their attempts – so he mounted the tank himself.

“The Ghost” manned the machine gun as bullets whizzed by and devastated the enemy.

He was wounded twice more in August, refusing to be evacuated even after taking artillery shell fragments to the chest. He was promoted to battalion commander.

Why a signals intelligence aircraft tried to destroy intel using coffee
Matt Urban in 1944. (Polish-American Congress photo)

In September 1944, Urban’s path of destruction across Europe was almost at an end. His men were pinned down by enemy artillery while trying to cross the Meuse River in Belgium. Urban left the command post and went to the front, where he reorganized the men and personally led an assault on a Nazi strongpoint. Urban was shot in the neck by a machine gun during the charge across open ground. He stayed on site until the Nazis were completely routed and the Allies could cross the Meuse.

And that’s just his Medal of Honor citation.

In a 1974 interview with his hometown newspaper, the Buffalo News, he credits his survival to accepting the idea of dying in combat.

“If I had to get it,” Urban said, “it was going to be while I was doing something. I didn’t want to die in my sleep.”

Why a signals intelligence aircraft tried to destroy intel using coffee
Urban after receiving the MoH in 1980. (U.S. Army photo)

The reason he never received a recommendation for the Medal of Honor was because the recommendation was just lost in the paperwork shuffle. His commander, Maj. Max Wolf filed the recommendation, but it was lost when Wolf was killed in action.

“When I came home, I never thought about war,” he said in a 1988 press report. “That’s why the medal was 35 years late. … I just never pursued it.”

It was the enlisted men who fought with Urban who started asking about “The Ghost’s” Medal of Honor.

“The sight of him limping up the road, all smiles, raring to lead the attack once more, brought the morale of the battleweary men to its highest peak – Staff Sgt. Earl G. Evans in a 1945 letter to the War Department that was also lost.

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Matt Urban died in 1995 at age 75 and is interred at Arlington National Cemetery.