Why on Earth would an army provide its enemy with ammunition? So they would use it, of course. The United States wanted the North Vietnamese to use the ammo they provided because they would take out the weapon (and maybe even the person) using it.
There was no unconventional war like the one that played out behind the scenes of the greater war in Vietnam. One small aspect of that hidden war was Project Eldest Son, a plan that would take out the enemy’s individual infantry rifles using its own ammunition.
It was carried out by a U.S. military entity called the Studies and Observations Group, the Special Forces unit that was behind many of the top secret missions and operations inside the Military Assistance Command Vietnam. The unit was in many of the major battles and offensives of the war, including the Tet Offensive and the Easter Offensive. But Project Eldest Son was different. It was a slow burn, a subtle influx of materiel into the enemy’s supply and ammunition depots, with one marked difference – one that wouldn’t show itself until it was too late.
Starting in 1967, the United States and the MACV-SOG began sending the Communist forces throughout the area ammunition for the AK-47, machine guns, and even mortars. They all looked ordinary, but they didn’t work like any ordinary ammo – and they weren’t just duds, either. These rounds were filled with high explosives, enough not just to fire the projectiles, but enough to destroy the weapon and severely wound the shooter. For the mortar rounds, the explosives together could kill an entire mortar crew.
After a while, the United States hoped the Vietnamese Communists would be afraid to use their own weapons and ammo. Killing the enemy was a good side effect, but the SOG needed some of them to survive.
For two years, special operators all over Vietnam would capture ammunition and supply centers, infuse cases of ammo with the faulty ammunition and then let it end up back in the hands of the enemy. Like seemingly everything in Vietnam, you never knew what might be booby-trapped. Eventually, the SOG would have to warn U.S. troops against using Communist weapons and ammo over the defective new M-16 to prevent the explosives from killing friendlies.
The program only ended because it was leaked to the media in the West, but even so, the efficacy of the program was never fully known.
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.
Officers of the USS Colorado pose on the ship in Korean Waters near the end of the Korean Expedition in 1871.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Army and Air Force once conducted an air-to-air combat experiment between jet fighters and attack helicopters. Called J-CATCH, or Joint Countering Attack Helicopter, it was not the first of its kind but the most conclusive using modern technology.
The results showed attack helicopters proved remarkably deadly when properly employed against fighter aircraft. And it wasn’t even close.
First conducted by the Army using MASH Sikorsky H-19s, airframes developed in the 40s and 50s, the modern J-CATCH test started in 1978, as the Soviet Union expanded their helicopter forces. Of special concern was the development of the Mil Mi-24 or Hind helicopter gunship. The four phase J-CATCH experiment started in earnest with the Army, Marines, and Air Force participating in simulations at NASA’s Langley labs.
The second phase was a field test, pitting three AH-1 Cobras and two OH-58 Scouts against a Red Team force of UH-1 Twin Hueys and CH-3E Sea King helicopters and developed many new helicopter air-to-air tactics and maneuvers designed to counter the Russian Hind.
Phase Three is where the fighters came in. The Air Force chose F-4, A-7, A-10, and F-15 fighter aircraft to counter whatever the Army could muster in the exercise. The F-4 and F-15 were front line fighters with anti-air roles while the A-7 and A-10 had air-to-ground missions.
For two weeks, the helicopters trounced the fighter aircraft. The fighter pilots in the test runs sometimes didn’t even know they were under attack or destroyed until the exercise’s daily debriefing. The Army pilots were so good, they had to be ordered to follow Air Force procedures and tell their fixed-wing targets they were under attack over the radio. This only increased the kill ratio, which by the end of the exercise, had risen to 5-to-1 in favor of the helicopters.
The fourth phase of the exercise saw the final outcome of the test: fighters should avoid helicopters at all costs, unless they have superiority of distance or altitude.
Expensive brass gongs and bells are being stolen from navigational buoys off the coast of Maine, and the Coast Guard is asking for help to track down whoever is pilfering them.
The sounding devices are used by ships and sailors to navigate, especially in low-visibility conditions. The sounding devices are attached to buoys and “play a vital role in the safe passage of ships and mariners,” the Coast Guard said in a release.
Six buoys have been hit over the past six months, according to Lt. Chellsey Phillips, spokeswoman for the South Portland Coast Guard Station.
Anyone with information that leads to a conviction could get up to half the value of the fine imposed, the Coast Guard said.
This is not the first time the Coast Guard has had to address the public about its buoys in New England.
In April 2017, the Coast Guard in Rhode Island asked people to stop shooting at buoys there. At the time, one Coast Guard crew found a buoy that had been peppered with 20 bullet holes and sunk, creating a navigation hazard.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Although they say a lot, these are six things you’ll never hear a Marine recruiter say:
6. “When you get to MEPS, make sure you disclose all of your medical issues, especially if it’s not already in your paperwork.”
Since recruiters are in the business of making their quotas and enlisting all the people they can, the advice they give also includes finely crafted verbiage that will cover their ass should something arise during your screening.
No recruiter wants to see their next potential “poolee” disqualified for any reason.
“No, I don’t have asthma.” (Image via GIPHY)
5. “We get just as much funding as the Army does, so don’t worry about getting issued any gear that’s outdated.”
You can Google the Marine Corps annual budget. Spoiler: It’s nowhere near what the Army earns.
4. “If a drill instructor ever gets in your face, remind them you’re a big deal and he or she shouldn’t bother you again.”
Good luck with all that. A recruiter isn’t going to set you up for that type of failure.
Never say these words. (Image via GIPHY)
3. “If you want a real career in infantry, you should consider going to the Army instead.”
Although the Army and Marine infantry are similar in various ways, the Corps prides itself on the ground pounders it produces. In fact, they’ll commonly advise youngsters to pursue a job in the MOS followed by, “you can lat move later.”
2. “Every movement you do in the Corps, you’ll do at your once pace. Senior Marines are known for their patience.”
Earlier this week, it was announced that the Washington Redskins will be getting a new name, in a decision that has proven a bit controversial in the political arena. From my vantage point, gleefully removed from the politics of it all and without a real stake in Washington’s football franchise, I welcome this change with open arms for a few important reasons.
Recognizing the heroism of the brave Black Americans the “Redtails” name comes from
If you’re not already familiar with the story of the real Redtails (also sometimes called the Red Tails), it really is one worth honoring in the most American of sports. Back in World War II, the United States military was still segregated. Black Americans, while expected to serve, were not allowed in many combat roles.
You may not have heard the name “Redtails” before, but you’ve almost certainly heard of the Tuskegee Airmen. These brave pilots were the U.S. Army Air Corps’ (the predecessor to the Air Force) first Black aviators, earning the Tuskegee name from the Tuskegee Army Air Field in Alabama that they trained on.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Delanie Stafford)
Many white bomber pilots didn’t know that the legendary Redtails were indeed Black pilots at the time, but thanks to their fighting prowess, it soon didn’t matter. Prejudice be damned, the Redtails were often requested for particularly daring missions, as they’d gained a reputation for their courage and technical skill. In all, the Redtails flew more than 15,000 individual sorties over Europe and North Africa during the war, and more than 150 Distinguished Flying Crosses were awarded to the Tuskegee Airmen.
Here at Sandboxx News, one of our contributors is actually the grandson of one of those Tuskegee Airmen. Harry Alford writes about entrepreneurship in the military sphere, and is the co-founder of Humble Ventures.
“I’m a lifelong Washingtonian and I’ve never felt comfortable supporting a team with such a disparaging, racial and offensive name for a mascot. I am very supportive of the name change,” Alford explains.
Members of the first graduating class. Left to right: Captain Benjamin O. Davis, Jr., second lieutenants Lemuel R. Custis, George Spencer Roberts , Charles H. DeBow, Mac Ross
“In particular, I’m especially excited at the potential of the new name, Redtails. As the grandson of one of the original five Tuskegee Airman, Charles DeBow, this would mean the world to me. The name change signifies a new path forward while honoring the past as well as those who currently serve our country today.”
In a very real way, the Tuskegee Airmen of the 332nd Fighter Group, flying planes with bright red painted tails (hence the name Redtails), not only proved to be some of the most heroic aviators of the war, they also helped bring about an end to military segregation. If you ask me, that’s a pretty cool namesake for a football team playing out of America’s capital city.
Maj. Shawna R. Kimbrell, 555th Fighter Squadron (USAF)
Paying respect to the military community
In America today, the fact that the Redtails were pioneering Black aviators really matters, but these brave pilots fall into another important socio-economic category that the former Washington Redskins can honor: military service personnel.
America’s Armed Forces truly do represent a vibrant cross sections of American cultures and backgrounds, but it has become increasingly apparent in recent studies that America’s military is largely made up of people from what you might call a “warrior class” of Americans. About 80% of those who choose to volunteer to serve in America’s military have a direct family member who served as well. In other words, for most of us, serving in the military could be seen as getting into the “family business.” I’m no exception–my father served in Vietnam as an Army medic and my grandfather was a Marine who fought in the Pacific theater of World War II.
By acknowledging a heroic World War II unit by naming the football franchise that plays in our nation’s capital the Redtails, the former Washington Redskins could send a message to America’s Black communities and service members of any color: We honor the service and sacrifice of our sons and daughters in service, regardless of their race, ethnicity, or heritage.
It could attract new Americans to a great sport
In today’s social media-charged climate, everything is seen as a political statement; whether its watching football on a Sunday, buying beans at your local grocery store, or watching a musical on Disney+. As a guy that’s spent my entire adult life analyzing foreign policy and media manipulation, I find our love affair with waging war on one another troubling, so I try not to participate.
You may have political reasons you choose to skip football. You may have political reasons you choose to watch football. I just love football and prefer to leave the politics on Twitter.
I grew up in a fairly poor family, and we didn’t have the opportunity to do much of anything just because it was fun. Football, however, was always the exception. My dad and older brother both played football before me, and when it was my time to suit up, I reveled in the opportunity to be a part of something bigger than myself. I loved playing football, complete with the broken bones and concussions I ended up with, for many of the same reasons I loved the Marine Corps. To me, my team was more important than I was, and playing well for my team was my chance at doing something that really mattered in my little slice of the world.
I continued playing football all the way into the Marine Corps. (Sandboxx)
Yup, football is a violent sport and you can get hurt (Lord knows I did), but you also get to experience the grueling exhaustion of overtime, the thrill of a hard-fought victory and the stinging pain of failure. Football forced me to engage with and appreciate complex emotions at a young age, and made me a better man, and Marine, for it. Today, watching football spurs that part of my brain that remembers padding up to play ball from the peewee leagues to my back-to-back championship run in the Marine Corps… and I’m grateful for it.
For young Americans growing up in an increasingly chaotic world, a positive change like honoring the Tuskegee Airmen could be just the push they need to throw the game on one Sunday. For some small percentage of folks, that experience may mature into a love for the game that I hold so dear.
A new name that pays respect to a downtrodden American community, that honors military service and sacrifice, and can entice non-football watching Americans to give the sport I love a try? The Washington Redtails (or Red Tails) seems like a no-brainer to me.
Even the band’s name is a reference to medieval knight’s armor – the Swedish metal band Sabaton makes music about war, history’s greatest battles, and daring feats of combat badassery. Their latest album, The Great War, features songs about just World War I. If you’ve never had an interest in military history, Sabaton might make the difference for you.
Also, their music videos are pretty great.
Their songs are poetic and thoughtful, about real historical events. From the Serbians fighting in World War I, to Poland’s legendary Winged Hussars, and even the Russians at Stalingrad – the heroes aren’t Swedish, they’re anyone who did something amazing for their comrades on the battlefield. Other songs are about the Night Witches (Russian female aviators who terrorized the Nazis), the Brazilian Expeditionary Force in World War II, and Audie Murphy’s postwar struggle with PTSD.
I know the video below looks like a broken link, but it’s really a music video for a Sabaton’s heavy metal song about the 101st Airborne at Bastogne, called “Screaming Eagles.” The music video begins with Gen. Anthony MacAuliffe’s now-famous reply to the German surrender demand – “Nuts.”
The band’s entire fourth album was inspired by Sun Tzu’s Art of War, another album is about World War II and the Finnish-Russian Winter War. They have released singles about the World War II-era battleship Bismarck and World War I’s Lost Battalion; nine companies of the United States 77th Infantry Division who lost more than half its manpower at the Argonne Forest in 1918.
Sabaton has won almost every metal award for which they were nominated, including Best Breakthrough Band, Best Live Band, and they were nominated for the 2012 “Metal as F*ck” Award for their album Carolus Rex, which actually was about the rise of the Swedish Empire under King Charles XII.
The song below is about 189 Swiss Guards who defended the Vatican during the Sack of Rome in 1527.
The Central Issuing Facility loans plenty of great and not-so-great items to the troops. Many pieces of gear, like the load-bearing vest and the elbow pads, were tossed back with no remorse, but others are just too damn useful to part with.
Whether they’re listed as expendable, given to the troops with no intention of reclamation, or they’re swapped with a second one bought at the surplus store off-installation, troops just can’t part with these things.
The MOLLE straps let you know that it’s legit — not some imitation.
(Photo by Sgt. Patrick Eakin)
Go to any college campus in America and within ten seconds, you’ll identify who’s using the GI Bill to pay for tuition. Rarely will a vet switch back to a civilian backpack after using the assault pack.
It’s much sturdier than anything you can find in the back-to-school section and it’s free, so… why not?
Even if vets have the options, they’ll only use the multi-tool.
(Photo by Pedro Vera)
Most civilians will stockpile an entire drawer full of miscellaneous tools. Veterans who were issued a multi-tool will just use the one.
Sure, civilians can get their own versions, but there’s just something badass about fixing stuff around the house with a Gerber that has a front sight post adjuster.
Basically what every veteran’s closet looks like.
(Photo by Mike Kaplan)
Throughout a troop’s career, they sign off a lot of junk that’s never going to be touched again — even after they clear CIF for the last time. This leads to every veteran owning their very own “duffel bag full of crap.”
The bag may get re-purposed for storing other things, but nine times out of ten, it’s still full of the same crap that was stuffed in there years ago.
I’m totally not talking about myself… Totally.
(Photo by Lance Cpl. Taylor Newman)
Standard shovels are far too bulky to keep around. Collapsing an entrenching tool and tossing it in the trunk is kind of necessary if you live in a state that gets terrible snowfall.
Even if you’re not using it to get your car out of a snowbank because you’re too damn proud to call someone for help and you want to prove to yourself that you’re still a competent survivor and driver, it still makes for a great way to dig holes at a moment’s notice.
Just sayin’. After people stop mocking you for wearing snivel gear, your resistance to the weather goes down — fast.
(Photo by Airman Areca T. Bell)
Troops don’t often get the chance to wear their thermals while in the military without enduring ridicule from their peers. The moment they get out, they finally have the opporunity.
The same thermals can be spotted on both veterans who are out hunting and veterans that just don’t feel like wearing civilian pajamas.
Doesn’t matter if our older brothers hate it. We don’t mind be hated and comfortable.
(Photo by Spc. Michael Sharp)
After veterans get out, they’ll be cuddling on the couch with their significant other, watching TV while draped in some regular old throw blanket. But it just isn’t the same. It’s not their poncho liner or, as it’s more affectionately known, their woobie.
That throw blanket from Bed, Bath, and Beyond didn’t deploy with them. That throw blanket wasn’t their only companion in the bizarrely cold desert nights. That throw blanket wasn’t the only piece of military gear that was fielded with the express intention of being used for comfort.
No, only the woobie holds that special place in the hearts of younger veterans.
The greatest ten-cent beer opener ever!
P-38 can openers
These items aren’t really ranked in any particular order. But if they were, the can opener would certainly top the list. Many troops swear that their beloved woobie is the most cherished, but older generations of veterans will confess a deep love for their can opener.
Republican Sen. John McCain, an internationally renowned Vietnam War hero who served for 30 years in the Senate representing Arizona, died Aug. 25, 2018, due to complications stemming from brain cancer.
His office said in a statement that his wife Cindy McCain and their family were alongside him when he died.
“At his death, he had served the United States of America faithfully for sixty years,” his office said.
McCain, 81, was a part of many of the past three decades’ most significant political moments. He was the 2008 Republican presidential nominee in a contest he lost to President Barack Obama. He also sought the presidency in 2000, mounting a primary campaign against President George W. Bush.
A graduate of the Naval Academy, the Arizona Republican followed both his father and grandfather, who were four-star admirals, into the US Navy, where he carried out airstrike missions.
During a 1967 bombing run over Hanoi, McCain’s plane was shot down, nearly killing him. He was captured by North Vietnamese forces and spent six years as a prisoner of war, suffering brutal beatings at the hands of his captors, which left him with lifelong physical ailments.
He quickly lost 50 pounds and saw his hair turn white. His captors did not treat his injuries from the plane crash.
Because his father was named commander of US forces in Vietnam that same year, the North Vietnamese offered to release McCain early. He refused unless every prisoner of war taken before him was also released. He was soon placed in solitary confinement, where he would remain for the next two years. He was not released until March of 1973.
Photograph of John McCain after his release from captivity.
(National Archives photo)
Upon returning to the US, McCain was awarded a number of military medals, including two Purple Hearts. He soon set his sights on politics and ran for an Arizona congressional seat in 1982, winning a tough primary and subsequently the general election.
In 1986, he ran for the Senate seat vacated by longtime Republican Sen. Barry Goldwater, who was the Republican presidential nominee in 1964. He won that election as well, and he has been reelected to the Senate for five additional terms — most recently in 2016.
Early in his Senate career, McCain became embroiled in the “Keating Five” scandal. McCain was one of five senators who received campaign contributions from Charles Keating Jr. and was later asked by Keating to prevent the government from seizing his Lincoln Savings and Loan Association.
McCain met twice with regulators to discuss the government investigation. He later returned the donations and admitted the appearance of it was wrong. The episode led McCain to become a leader on campaign finance reform, which included the passage of the McCain-Feingold Act.
During his 2000 campaign for president, the press became enthralled with the candidate who won over a reputation as a “maverick,” rebuffing his party’s conservative orthodoxy at the time. He famously traveled on a bus called the “Straight Talk Express” during his 2000 bid.
U.S. Sen. John McCain speaks to a group of Soldiers before re-enlisting them during an Independence Day celebration in Kabul, Afghanistan, July 4, 2013.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Dustin Payne)
In 2008, McCain fared far better. He won the Republican presidential nomination but ultimately was defeated by Obama in a year in which he faced defending an unpopular war in Iraq and a faltering economy under the Bush administration. McCain selected then-Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate, a move criticized by some as having opened the floodgates for the Republican Party to be infiltrated by a number of far-right candidates who went on to be elected.
After the 2008 campaign, McCain returned to the Senate, his stature even more prominent, leading on national security and military issues.
He was diagnosed with brain cancer early in his sixth term. He battled through it, returning to Congress this past summer. In perhaps his last signature political moment, McCain cast a dramatic vote against his party to stop the repeal of Obamacare, coming to the floor in the middle of the vote before pausing and pointing his right thumb down. The moment highlighted a contentious relationship between the senator and President Donald Trump.
The type of brain tumor with which he was afflicted, glioblastoma, is particularly aggressive and difficult to treat. He had been receiving chemotherapy, but his family announced in August that he would no longer seek medical treatment.
McCain is survived by his seven children and his second wife, Cindy, whom he married in 1980 following a 15-year marriage to Carol Shepp.
Most famous among his children is Meghan, who is a prominent conservative pundit and cohost of ABC’s “The View.” During a December episode, former Vice President Joe Biden consoled her and said that if “anybody” could overcome that cancer, it was her father.
“Your dad is one of my best friends,” he said.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The U.S. Navy has released video of a Su-27, a Russian fighter, conducting an extremely dangerous maneuver against the crew of an EP-3 Aries plane taking part in Trident Juncture, the massive NATO war games that have sent the Russian military into a tizzy.
The depicted aerial maneuvers, which included the Russian plane flying within a few feet of the U.S. aircraft with engines roaring, were seemingly conducted solely with the intention of threatening the unarmed plane. The intercept included two passes and lasted for approximately 25 minutes. According to a Navy statement,
On Nov. 5, 2018, a U.S. EP-3 Aries aircraft flying in international airspace over the Black Sea was intercepted by a Russian SU-27. This interaction was determined to be unsafe due to the SU-27 conducting a high speed pass directly in front of the mission aircraft, which put our pilots and crew at risk. The intercepting SU-27 made an additional pass, closing with the EP-3 and applying its afterburner while conducting a banking turn away. The crew of the EP-3 reported turbulence following the first interaction, and vibrations from the second.
Article IV of the agreement specifically calls for commanders of aircraft to “use the greatest of caution and prudence in approaching aircraft and ships of the other Party,” something that this November 5 incident seems to be a flagrant violation of. This follows a November 2 incident in which a Russian bomber flew nearly directly over a U.S. command ship, the USS Mount Whitney.
A Pentagon spokesperson told Business Insider that Russia failed to make radio contact with the plane before conducting its maneuvers, making this interaction especially dangerous.
This sudden increase in incidents is no accident. NATO’s Trident Juncture war games are a response to increasing Russian aggression, including the illegal annexation of Crimea and election meddling across the Europe and the U.S.
The military exercises have triggered a series of responses from Russia, which include the dangerous intercepts, a huge missile exercise announced and held in the middle of NATO’s training, and an increased naval presence in the waters in and around the exercise.
Russia’s concerns about the large exercise ring hollow, though, since Russia held the Vostock 2018 war games in September, which it claimed was its largest exercise since the Cold War. While Russia inflated the size of Vostock, claiming 300,000 troops where there may have been as few as 150,000, it was still much larger than Trident Juncture, which has only 50,000 participants.
But Trident Juncture is still frightening for Russia as 30 nations are taking part. Vostock had only three participants: Russia, China, and a small Mongolian force. And Trident Juncture includes nations that are Russian neighbors and either members of NATO or friends of the alliance, posing a big threat to Russia’s ability to push around its neighbors.
“We would like to reaffirm that we have strong determination, confidence and capability to destroy any type of ‘Taiwan independence’ scheme in order to safeguard the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Ma Xiaoguang, a spokeswoman for the State Council’s Taiwan Affairs Office, recently said.
The Chinese also flew bombers around Taiwan in a show of force as well, and though tensions decreased a bit when promised live-fire drills were scaled back, the events are a reminder to analysts and policymakers that one of the worlds oldest Cold War-era conflicts remains unsolved, and could escalate to war.
A war of nerves
Much of that has to do with Chinese President and General Secretary of the Communist Party Xi Jinping, who has taken a much more aggressive stance on Taiwan than his immediate predecessors.
“Xi Jinping has essentially linked rejuvenation of the Chinese Nation to the retaking of Taiwan,” Bonnie Glaser, the director of the China Power Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Business Insider.
“We were in a period of relative quiet with the Taiwan issue, and now it’s in a more primary place on the agenda as far as Beijing is concerned,” Glaser said.
At the core of the issue is that the Peoples Republic of China wants Taiwan, known officially as the Republic of China, to return to the fold to create one country that is unified under the rule of the Communist Party of China.
(Photo by Michel Temer)
But Taiwan, with the help of the US, has so far managed to resist the PRC’s attempts to isolate it politically and economically, and has even shown signs of moving further away from the PRC and towards official independence — a move that would almost certainly provoke an armed response from the mainland.
“The current situation in the Taiwan [Strait] is a war of nerves,” Ian Easton, a research fellow at the Project 2049 Institute and the author of “The Chinese Invasion Threat: Taiwan’s Defense and American Strategy in Asia,” told Business Insider in an email.
“Taiwan is winning. They have not compromised under pressure, but tensions are running high and are likely to get much worse.”
Taiwan’s military has advantages — and problems
Taiwan’s military has a few advantages if it comes to war. First and foremost, Taiwan has been training to defend the island for decades.
For a country of only 23 million people, its military is quite capable. It has an active force of around 180,000 troops, with 1.5 million reservists — putting its size on par with the militaries of Germany and Japan, despite having a much smaller population.
Some of its equipment is relatively high-end. Its air force operates around 100 US-made F-16s, and 100 indigenously made F-CK-1A/Cs. Its Army maintains a number of AH-64 Apache gunships, and AH-1W SuperCobras.
Taiwan’s navy has roughly eight destroyers and 20 frigates in service, mostly former Oliver Hazard Perry-class and Knox-class ships. But they also have six French-built La Fayette-class frigates. The navy also sails a large number of fast missile boats, and two modified Zwaardvis-class attack submarines.
On top of that, Taiwan has a lot of anti-air and anti-ship defenses, and hundreds of cruise missiles that can strike mainland China.
Taiwan’s geography also provides another advantage. Crossing the Taiwan Strait would take up to 7-8 hours by sea, and during that time Taiwan could prepare for an invasion, and use its navy and air force to attack incoming Chinese ships, and set up anti-ship mines along the Strait.
The PRC also does not currently have the capability to transport the required number of troops (once estimated to be as high as 400,000) needed to take the island.
Furthermore, Taiwan is very mountainous, and does not offer a lot of landing zones where the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) could establish solid beachheads. Roughly only 10% of its shoreline is suitable for the large-scale amphibious landing that the PLA would have to make.
All of this means an invasion of Taiwan by the PRC would be extremely costly. “China has no obvious starting move that guarantees that they don’t absorb a lot of risk from this,” Scott Harold, the associate director of the RAND Corporation’s Center for Asia Pacific Policy, told Business Insider.
But Taiwan’s military has two large problems — a lack of advanced equipment, and problems with its transition from compulsory service to a fully volunteer force.
Much of the military equipment needs to be modernized, especially its tanks and ships, and this can’t be done for diplomatic reasons. Only around 20 nations officially recognize Taiwan, and the PRC puts a lot of pressure on other countries to not do business with the island, especially in terms of defense.
The only nation that is willing to sell Taiwan complete weapon systems is the US, but they have “been slow to provide the weapons that Taiwan has been requesting, especially over the past 10 years,” according to Easton.
The military is also having difficulty making hiring quotas, which is affecting overall capability and performance because they are trying to replace its largely conscript service with professional soldiers.
“China has a massive military, so Taiwan must maintain its advantage in quality,” Easton said.
An uncertain future
A war between the PRC and Taiwan would also risk involving the US, which, while not under legal obligation, has opposed to any use of force against Taiwan in the past.
It deployed carrier battle groups to the Strait in 1995 to prevent war from breaking out, and relations between the two countries remain strong. One analyst Business Insider spoke to calculated that US submarines could sink 40% of a PLA invasion force.
War between the two Chinas, then, would be catastrophic. “In short, it would be extremely complex and fraught with risk for both China and Taiwan,” Easton said, adding that “both sides would stand to lose hundreds of thousands, if not millions of lives, and the U.S. would almost certainly join the fight on Taiwan’s side.”
Such a quagmire could turn into a war of attrition, and if it were it to result in failure for the PLA, it would be devastating to the Chinese Communist Party.
“It is inextricably tied to the legitimacy of the Communist Party,” Glaser said. “I think that that is the belief in the leadership — that they can never be seen as soft on Taiwan. They cannot compromise.”
She pointed to Xi’s comments at the 19th Party Congress in October 2017; “We will resolutely uphold national sovereignty and territorial integrity and will never tolerate a repeat of the historical tragedy of a divided country,” he stated to wild applause.
“We have firm will, full confidence, and sufficient capability to defeat any form of Taiwan independence secession plot. We will never allow any person, any organization, or any political party to split any part of the Chinese territory from China at any time or in any form.
“This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is frequently touted as the most advanced fighter ever to take to the skies, and soon it will be certified to carry nuclear bombs.
Like all fifth generation fighters, the F-35 is a stealth platform designed to avoid detection and engagement from air defense systems. As a result, the aircraft must carry its weapons payload internally, in the belly of the aircraft, rather than on external pylons like we’ve all come to expect on fourth generation jets like F-16 Fighting Falcon or the F/A-18 Super Hornet.
Fourth generation fighters like this F-16 carry their bombs, missiles, and external fuel tanks under their wings. (Air Force photo by Tom Reynolds)
(F-35 Joint Program Office)
External pylons allow fighters to carry far more ordnance into a fight than the F-35 can internally (and indeed, even the F-35 has external pylons that can be used when detection is not a concern).
(F-35 Joint Program Office)
The F-35 goes nuclear
While most people tend to think of heavy payload bombers like the B-2 Spirit and B-52 Stratofortress when talking about the airborne leg of America’s nuclear triad, the role of dual purpose “nuclear fighters” has long been a part of the strategy. Currently, both the F-15E Strike Eagle and F-16 Fighting Falcon fill the role of “nuclear fighter” in America’s stable, alongside their aforementioned nuclear bomber sister platforms.
Americans’ nuclear triad, for those who aren’t aware, is comprised of nuclear ICBMs on the ground, nuclear missile subs in the water, and nuclear-capable aircraft in the air. The premise of maintaining this triad is simple: by keeping America’s nuclear weapons dispersed and utilizing multiple forms of delivery, it makes it all but impossible to stop American from launching a nuclear counter-attack against an aggressive state that started lobbing nukes America’s way. In other words, America’s nuclear triad is the backbone of Uncle Sam’s part in the “mutually assured destruction” doctrine.
For now, the “nuclear” title is going to remain with the F-15s and F-16s, but the U.S. intends to certify the F-35 for nuclear duty by 2023 and it will likely carry that title well beyond the retirement dates for its two nuclear predecessors.
But before it can be certified, the Air Force needs to test the F-35’s ability to deploy these weapons thoroughly, and that’s where these incredible new photos come in. Ever since last June, the F-35 Joint Program Office has been overseeing drops of inert B61-12 nuclear bombs. These bombs have already seen testing with the F-15E, and will soon replace a number of older nuclear bomb variants.
(F-35 Joint Program Office)
These bombs may be inert, but they are designed to look and act like the real thing, giving the Pentagon all the information it needs to assess the F-35’s capabilities as a nuclear strike platform.
These tests are all being conducted with an F-35A, which is the standard takeoff and landing variant of the platform utilized primarily by the United States Air Force. The Navy’s F-35Cs are designed to take off and land on the deck of aircraft carriers, and the F-35B employed by the Marine Corps can take off on extremely short runways and even land vertically on the decks of ships. At least to date, it appears that the Pentagon has no intentions of mounting nuclear weapons in the F-35B or C variants.
North Korea has a massive air force that outnumbers the South Korean and US jets it’s meant to counter mostly with Russian-made fighters and bombers, but in reality the force is basically a joke.
According to a new International Institute for Strategic Studies report on North Korea’s conventional military, the air force has 110,000 officers and enlisted personnel taking care of approximately 1,650 aircraft. That force includes about 820 combat aircraft, 30 reconnaissance aircraft, and 330 transport aircraft.
“During wartime, the force likely has the capability to conduct a limited, short-term strategic and tactical bombing offensive and to launch a surprise attack,” IISS assesses.
Because the jets are spread out across a wide swath of the country, North Korea is most likely able to “conduct strike missions against command and-control facilities, air-defence assets, and industrial facilities without rearranging or relocating its aircraft,” the report says.
The IISS says North Korea’s best jets are its MiG-29 fighters, which it probably only has a few dozen of, its 46 MiG-23 fighters, and its roughly 30 Su-25 ground-attack aircraft. “The remaining aircraft are older, and less capable MiG-15s, MiG-17/J-5s, MiG-19/J-6s, MiG-21/J-7 fighters and Il-28/H-5 light bombers,” the report says.
(Photo by Srđan Popović)
But all of those planes are from the 1980s, and IISS says they can’t hang in today’s environment of electronic warfare.
This is something the US would be sure to exploit, as almost all of its jets have jamming capabilities and its aircraft carriers can transport specialty electronic-warfare planes.
Additionally, the US and South Korea’s abilities to monitor North Korean planes via satellite and recon drones severely blunts any surprise attacks they could pull off.
Even worse for North Korea than the age of its planes, however, could be its pilots’ lack of training. Because North Korea relies on China for almost all of its jet fuel, and that item has long been under sanction, it has to preserve the precious little fuel it does have.
This means less flight time for pilots and less time training in the real world, and it almost certainly precludes realistic training against adversarial jets.
A video in 2015 showed North Korean pilots walking around with toy planes in front of Kim Jong Un, who observed their training. Another shot shows the pilots at flight simulators, a tool commonly used by air forces around the world.
For this reason, North Korea relies heavily on building hardened, bomb-resistant ground structures for its jets and using surface-to-air missiles to fight any prospective air wars.
North Korea’s air force actually has modest capability impressive for a country of its size and income, but it simply could not contend with South Korean and US jets.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.