Why 'Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker' is expected to flop at China box office - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY MOVIES

Why ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ is expected to flop at China box office

“Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” is heading for the worst opening at the China box office of Disney’s new “Star Wars” movies.

The movie had earned $2.2 million in the region by 8 p.m. local time on Friday, according to Variety, and was trailing behind three Chinese movies. The Chinese ticket service Maoyan is projecting “The Rise of Skywalker” to earn just $18 million during its theatrical run in China.

The “Star Wars” franchise has struggled to build an audience in the country, where Hollywood is increasingly relying on its box office to boost its blockbusters. The Chinese theatrical market has been growing at a rapid pace and is even projected to dethrone the US as the world’s box-office leader within the next few years.


Each Disney-era “Star Wars” movie has made less in China than the previous one. Here’s how each of them performed there:

  • “The Force Awakens” — 4 million
  • “Rogue One” — million
  • “The Last Jedi” — million
  • “Solo” — million
Why ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ is expected to flop at China box office

(Disney/Lucasfilm)

Despite the lack of enthusiasm in China, all of those movies except “Solo” grossed over id=”listicle-2641661309″ billion worldwide. “The Force Awakens” earned over billion globally and 6 million domestically.

“The Rise of Skywalker” is expected to have a big opening domestically this weekend — despite negative reviews — but still less than the previous movies in the new trilogy. Boxoffice.com is projecting the movie to debut between 0 million and 0 million. “The Force Awakens” opened with 8 million domestically and “The Last Jedi” with 0 million.

“The Rise of Skywalker” so far has a 57% critic score on Rotten Tomatoes, making it the worst-reviewed “Star Wars” movie since “The Phantom Menace.”

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

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MIGHTY TRENDING

Why the Air Force wants new, cheap, lightweight planes

The US Air Force started the second phase of its Light Attack Experiment on May 7, 2018, putting the A-29 Super Tucano and AT-6B Wolverine aircraft through more testing at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico.

Air Force officials have touted light-attack aircraft as a cheap option to address low-end threats, like ISIS or other militant groups, and free up advanced platforms, like the F-22 and F-35, to take on more complex operations.


Air Force chief of staff Gen. David Goldfein has described the light-attack aircraft as part of a networked battlefield, connecting and sharing information with partner forces in the air and on the ground.

“We’re looking at light attack through the lens of allies and partners,” Goldfein told the Senate Armed Services Committee. “A big part of the Light Attack Experiment is a common architecture and an intelligence-sharing network, so that those who would join us would be part of the campaign against violent extremism.”

Phase 2 of the experiment

Why ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ is expected to flop at China box office
A Beechcraft AT-6 experimental aircraft during ground operations is prepared for takeoff from Holloman AFB. The AT-6 is participating in the US Air Force Light Attack Experiment (OA-X), a series of trials to determine the feasibility of using light aircraft in attack roles.
(U.S. Air Force Photo by Ethan D. Wagner)

The latest phase of the Light Attack Experiment will be a three-month, live-fly experiment intended to gather more information about each aircraft’s capabilities, networking ability, and potential interoperability with partner forces, the Air Force said in a release.

The first phase of the experiment took place at Holloman in August 2017, with four aircraft. In February 2018, the Air Force announced that it had narrowed the field to the two current aircraft.

The second phase at Holloman comes in lieu of a combat demonstration, which Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said in February 2018, the service would forgo.

“This second phase of experimentation is about informing the rapid procurement process as we move closer to investing in light attack,” Lt. Gen. Arnie Bunch, the military deputy at the office of the assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, said in the release.

Fighter, attack, and special-operations pilots will take part in this phase of the experiment, working with test pilots and flight engineers from the Air Force, Air National Guard, and Air Force Reserve. They will carry out day and night missions doing air interdiction, close air support, armed overwatch, and combat search and rescue.

Addressing the Air Force’s pilot shortage

Adding light-attack aircraft to the fleet would mean more airframes on which pilots could train in order to maintain their qualifications and prepare to transition to more advanced aircraft — helping address a pilot shortage caused in part by bottlenecks in the training pipeline.

Why ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ is expected to flop at China box office
Two Afghan A-29 Super Tucanos flies over Afghanistan during a training mission before the beginning of the 2017 fighting season, March 22, 2017.
(U.S. Air Force photo)

“If we can get light attack aircraft operating in permissive combat environments, we can alleviate the demand on our 4th and 5th generation aircraft, so they can be training for the high-end fight they were made for,” Bunch said in the release.

The Air Force has not committed to pursuing a contract for a light-attack aircraft after the experiment, however. Lt. Gen. Jerry Harris, deputy chief of staff for requirements, told Flight Global that the Air Force hasn’t made a final decision, though he said service has reserved more than $2 billion over the next six years should it go forward with production.

Critics have said operating such aircraft, even in permissive environments, will expose pilots to more risk.

“The last time the US did this in Vietnam, oh boy, it really wasn’t pleasant,” Richard Aboulafia, vice president of analysis for aerospace-consulting firm Teal Group, told Air Force Times in February 2018. “They took a lot of casualties, for predictable reasons. It’s low, it’s slow and vulnerable, and the air defense environment has become a lot more sophisticated.”

The A-29 Super Tucano is already in service with the Afghan air force, and Wilson said in 2017 that none of those aircraft had been shot down in 18 months of operations.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why Kim Jong Un dying may not be a good thing

As stories continue to bubble to the surface regarding the health and potential demise of North Korea’s Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un, social media has already taken to making memes about the leader of the reclusive state, celebrating the death of a man many see as a modern day tyrannical despot.

To be clear, I’ve spent years covering North Korea (and some other modern despots) in the defense news-sphere, and while I could happily provide a long list of Kim’s failings as a leader and a human being, I can’t help but feel as though we, as a people, should be careful what we wish for.


Of course, I’m not suggesting that you should lose any sleep over the potential death of a tyrant… but it’s important to consider the ways Kim Jong Un’s death could affect the Korean Peninsula, North Korea’s relations with the United States, and the future of the region as a whole.

Why ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ is expected to flop at China box office

Kim Jong Un shown with Russian President Vladimir Putin

(Kremlin)

Kim Jong Un has proven to be a cunning tyrant

While it fashionable to dismiss the acts of evil doers as inherently evil and therefore wrong, the truth is, as former Secretary of Defense and legendary Marine general James Mattis once put it, America has no preordained right to victory on the battlefield. In other words, simply coloring this conflict in shades of black and white, good guys and bad guys, doesn’t do a whole lot of good from a strategic standpoint. From the vantage point of many within North Korea and its government, they are the good guys, and America is the “imperial bully” responsible for their misfortune.

While we in America often chuckle at North Korea’s ham fisted military propaganda, Kim has proven in the years since he took power in 2011 that, despite his nation’s ailing economy and reclusive foreign policy, he’s capable of accomplishing quite a bit with his limited resources.

Why ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ is expected to flop at China box office

Kim Jong Un (bottom right) inspecting a long range ballistic missile.

(KCNA)

While it’s all but certain that North Korea’s population is suffering under Kim’s decision to continue his pursuit of nuclear weapons even under a myriad of international economic sanctions, many mistake Kim’s nuclear efforts for nuclear intent. The truth is, it seems clear the Kim Jong Un does not want to develop nuclear weapons to use them, he wants a nuclear arsenal so other nations are forced to engage with him.

As a non-nuclear state with minimal conventional military power, it was only through the development of nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles that can carry them to far away targets that Kim was able to secure a meeting with the President of the United States and commence talks that could lead to lifting North Korean sanctions.

Why ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ is expected to flop at China box office

Kim Jong Un meets with American President Donald Trump

(White House Photo)

Kim’s nukes are about leverage, not war

As a nuclear power, Kim Jong Un has enjoyed more positive exposure from an American president in recent years than either of his predecessors managed. Some may contend that Trump tends to buddy up with tyrants like Kim, but once North Korea’s tests demonstrated that they were rapidly positioning themselves to be capable of launching nuclear strikes on the American mainland, there’s little a U.S. president can do outside of opening negotiations. The only alternative, at that point, would have been kinetic intervention (military action), as sanctions alone have proven insufficient to deter North Korea’s nuclear program.

Kim has not ordered another test since sparse talks with Trump commenced, which can be credited to open diplomatic channels between the Trump administration and North Korea, but in a number of ways, it may also benefit North Korea to put these tests on hold.

Why ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ is expected to flop at China box office

Previous tests showed that while North Korea may be able to reach American shores with missiles, they still seemed to be struggling with the survivability of their nuclear re-entry vehicle. They have also failed to demonstrate how effective their targeting apparatus is at such long ranges. In other words, North Korea may not be as nuclear capable as they are perceived to be by many around the world… and Kim likely wants to keep perceptions right where they are. Continued tests increase the opportunity for malfunction, and a loss of some of the credibility his government has gained.

Let there be no mistake, a nuclear North Korea is bad for everyone, but in Kim’s hands thus far, his nuclear weapons have appeared to be a means to gain leverage, rather than a means to initiate war.

Why ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ is expected to flop at China box office

Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo receives photos from his meeting with Chairman Kim Jong Un from Chairman Kim’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, in Pyongyang, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea on October 7, 2018.

[State Department photo/ Public Domain]

There seems to be no clear line of succession

While many may want to celebrate the potential passing of Kim Jong Un, it remains unclear exactly who would take the lead of the reclusive state upon his death. Many contend that Kim’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, would be next in line for Supreme Leader, which would mark the first female leader in modern North Korean history. Questions remain about whether the North Korean system would readily accept a female leader, as well as what damage the premature death of Kim Jong Un could do to the popular North Korean sentiments about the near-deity role of their supreme leader.

While Kim Jong Un is a bad guy, he’s a fairly stable one with a firm grip on the North Korean populace. If questions arose regarding who is supposed to be in charge, North Korea runs the very real risk of seeing entire facets of its system collapse under competing claims over the role of Supreme Leader… and that would be bad news for just about everyone on the planet.

Why ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ is expected to flop at China box office

(Image courtesy of North Korea’s KCNA)

A nuclear arsenal with new hands on the button

If Kim Jong Un passes away, the United States will be faced with the daunting challenge of re-initiating nuclear talks with a person that is far less predictable, at least early on, than Kim–who has served as the “devil you know” for nearly a decade. A new leader may not share Kim’s sense of self-preservation when it comes to nuclear war, and may choose aggression over Kim’s theatrics. While we tend to scoff at many of North Korea’s efforts to garner attention on the world stage, the truth is, those efforts are in many ways better than taking overt and aggressive action that could lead to bloody war.

A more aggressive leader may push harder for an end to sanctions by using the threat of nuclear attack–which in all likelihood would end in war, rather than an end to said sanctions… but even that would be a better alternative than a breakdown of the North Korean system altogether.

Why ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ is expected to flop at China box office

Despite stalled talks with President Trump, North Korea has not restarted ICBM testing.

(Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

There are many lingering questions about North Korea’s nuclear chain of command, but in the event North Korea finds itself with multiple potential leaders jockeying for position — the person with their hand on the nuclear button will almost certainly gain a significant leg up. Worse still, if civil conflict breaks out, the chance of nuclear launch or even losing nuclear weapons entirely as they’re sold to nefarious third parties becomes a very real possibility.

A nuclear North Korea is bad, but North Korean nukes falling into the hands of an extremist organization that aims to attack the United States would be worse.

Why ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ is expected to flop at China box office

North Korean troops peering over the border into South Korea

(WikiMedia Commons)

A refugee crises in the making

Unrest in North Korea, prompted in part by the diminishing standard of living many of North Korea’s citizens have experienced under Kim’s rule, could result in an absolutely massive refugee crises on both South Korean and Chinese borders.

In 2017, a North Korean soldier named Oh Chong-Song defected by fleeing across the heavily guarded demilitarized zone between North and South Korea. North Korean soldiers opened fire on Oh, ultimately hitting him five times. He was soon rescued by South Korean troops who airlifted him to a nearby hospital, where he underwent lifesaving surgery.

Why ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ is expected to flop at China box office

Actual shot of North Korean defector xx making a break for the border under fire.

(UNC)

The results of that surgery, however, also gave us important insights into the conditions within the reclusive state. Because of the high profile troops stationed on the border receive, North Korea tends to provide them with the best of supplies and resources. Oh was found to have little more than hardened corn kernels in his stomach, alongside large parasitic worms. If Oh’s condition was better than many within North Korea, it stands to reason that many inside Kim’s nation are truly desperate, and currently held at bay by the nation’s strict governmental rule.

If that rule were to waiver, or the system were to become unstable, many North Koreans could see that as the opportunity they need to seek a better life elsewhere, prompting millions to pour over the borders into neighboring states. Such a refugee crises would put nations like China and South Korea under incredible strain. As such, China, who can be seen as North Korea’s closest ally of sorts, is already invested in securing the stability of the nation by sending doctors to assist with whatever is going on with Kim Jong Un.

Why ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ is expected to flop at China box office

(Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

The devil you know

There is no debate about whether Kim Jong Un is a villain from the vantage point of the Western world, but the devil you know offers some advantages over one you don’t. Kim Jong Un may be a despot, but in many ways, he’s a fairly predictable one. A new leader could make things better, but losing Kim could potentially make things much worse… provided a more aggressive leader were to take his place or worse still, no clear leader emerges.

In many ways, preventing war with North Korea is a balancing act… and while few may weep for Kim if is dead, it’s hard to say if a North Korea without Kim will tip toward a better future, a worse future, or no future at all.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

MIGHTY HISTORY

You will never be as badass as this explorer who removed his own appendix

Leonid Rogozov was one of 13 scientists and researchers on the Soviet Union’s sixth expedition to Antarctica from 1960 to 1962. One morning in 1961, he woke up feeling general malaise, weakness, and feverish along with pain in his abdomen. He soon understood what was happening. His appendix needed to be removed. Unfortunately, he was the only one who could do it.

So he did.


If movies and television taught us anything during the Cold War, it’s that Russians are amazingly strong superpeople who punch with the force of a full ton, can train even the worst armies to become special operators, and seem to know everything about everyone. In this case, movies and television were absolutely right. Rogozov was the only medical doctor on the team of Soviet scientists at Novolazarevskaya Station, almost 47 miles from the Antarctic Coast, separated by the Lazarev Ice Shelf. On April 29, 1961, the morning he woke up with pain in his abdomen, the average daily temperature would have been around 13 degrees Fahrenheit.

The doctor recognized his symptoms as indicative of appendicitis, an inflammation affecting the appendix that can cause it to burst. Without any kind of treatment, this condition can kill in a matter of a few days. Rogozov had to act fast because his condition was only getting worse. He was beginning to vomit and believed his appendix might soon burst. With the help of two fellow scientists holding mirrors, he used a novocaine solution to numb the direct area and then went to work.

Why ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ is expected to flop at China box office

No big deal.

The doctor made a 12-centimeter incision and began looking into his own abdomen and the organs within. He noticed his appendix was discolored with a dark stain and estimated it was about to burst. For two hours, he poked around, resected his appendix, and battled bouts of nausea and the weakness caused by his condition. He sometimes even had to work by feeling alone, being unable to see from the angle he was sitting. But the operation was a success.

Four days later, his digestive system began functioning normally. After five days, his fever receded, and after a week, the incision was completely healed. In two weeks, he was back to duty and after a month, back to heavy labor in Antarctica as if he hadn’t just cut out his own appendix.

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

5 tips from astronauts for thriving in isolation

NASA Astronaut and U.S. Army Lt. Col. Anne McClain took to Twitter to share the official training astronauts use for living in confined spaces for long periods of time. Afterall, the International Space Station has been operating for nearly 20 years, giving NASA astronauts and psychologists time to examine human behavior and needs when living and working remotely.

They narrowed the behavior skills down to five general skills called “Expeditionary Behavior,” or “EB” because the military just loves a good acronym.


Built from 1998 to 2001, the International Space Station usually holds crews of between three and six people who will spend about six months there at a time, though mission lengths can vary. During that time, the astronauts perform experiments and spacewalks, maintain the space station, conduct media and education events and test out technology.

Also during this time, they are allocated at least two hours a day for exercise and personal care.

According to NASA, the living and working space in the station is larger than a six-bedroom house (and has six sleeping quarters, two bathrooms, a gym and a 360-degree view bay window). Still, six months in a space bucket with two to five other people can give some perspective to anyone feeling confined.

This is the “GoodEB” that helps astronauts:

4/ Skill 1, Communication: Def: To talk so you are clearly understood. To listen and question to understand. Actively listen, pick up on non-verbal cues. Identify, discuss, then work to resolve conflict.

twitter.com

Communication

“Share info/feelings freely. Talk about intentions before taking action. Use good terminology. Discuss when your or others’ actions were not as expected. Debrief after success or conflict. Listen, then restate message to ensure it’s understood. Admit when you’re wrong,” McClain tweeted.

It’s common for humans to have strong emotional responses and act on them before they fully understand them. Honest communication is critical in a confined space or during heightened stress.

6/ Skill 2, Leadership/Followership: Def: How well a team adapts to new situations. Leader enhances the group’s ability to execute its purpose through positive influence. Follower (aka subordinate leader) actively contributes to leader’s direction. Establish environment of trust.

twitter.com

Leadership/Followership

“Accept responsibility. Adjust style to environment. Assign tasks, set goals. Lead by example. Give direction, info, feedback, coaching + encouragement. Ensure teammates have resources. Talk when something isn’t right. Ask questions. Offer solutions, not just problems,” urged McClain.

For anyone confined with family or roommates, it can be an adjustment to share personal space and limited supplies for a prolonged period of time. Shifting to a team dynamic can bring a new perspective to everyone’s roles within the home. If you weren’t already doing this, now is the time to share the household chores, the cooking, the supply runs, and, for many families, the education responsibilities.

8/ Skill 3, Self-Care: Def: How healthy you are on psychological and physical levels, including hygiene, managing time and personal stuff, getting sleep, and maintaining mood. The ability and willingness to be proactive to stay healthy.

twitter.com

Self-Care

“Realistically assess own strengths and weaknesses, and their influence on the group. Learn from mistakes. Take action to mitigate stress or negativity (don’t pass on to the group). Be social. Seek feedback. Balance work, rest, and personal time. Be organized,” suggested McClain.

There’s a quote I’ve always liked that says, “Please accept responsibility for the energy you are bringing into this space,” and it feels especially relevant now. We must each stay in touch with ourselves so we can identify rising stress and mitigate it with self-care.

Self-care can be anything from calling a friend to a work-out session from YouTube to releasing expectations of perfection and taking the time to enjoy some relaxation with a book or movie.

10/ Skill 4, Team Care: Def: How healthy the group is on psychological, physical, and logistical level. Manage group stress, fatigue, sickness, supplies, resources, workload, etc. Nurture optimal team performance despite challenges.

twitter.com

Team Care

“Demonstrate patience and respect. Encourage others. Monitor team for signs of stress or fatigue. Encourage participation in team activities. Develop positive relationships. Volunteer for the unpleasant tasks. Offer and accept help. Share the credit; take the blame,” said McClain.

I’ll really highlight one of these tips from McClain: Monitor team for signs of stress or fatigue. Teaching ourselves this skill will intrinsically build compassion and problem-solving into relationship skills, not just now, but going forward. It’s about looking out for each other and anticipating the needs of others. This is a critical skill for any member of the team.
12/ Skill 5, Group Living: Def: How people cooperate and become a team to achieve a goal. Identify and manage different opinions, cultures, perceptions, skills, and personalities. Individuals and group demonstrate resiliency in the face of difficulty.

twitter.com

Group Living

“Cooperate rather than compete. Actively cultivate group culture (use each individual’s culture to build the whole). Respect roles, responsibilities, and workload. Take accountability, give praise freely. Work to ensure positive team attitude. Keep calm in conflict,” suggests McClain.

Parents are learning how to homeschool. Partners are sharing household responsibilities like cooking and cleaning. More people are sick and being cared for by their roommates.

All the while, we are each learning how to restrict our movements while maintaining our health and vitality. The key points throughout NASA’s Expeditionary Behaviors are to take care of each other and ourselves by working together.

And just remember, Scott Kelly set the record for most consecutive days in space by an American by living for 340 days during a one-year mission aboard the International Space Station, proving that humans are pretty remarkable when it comes to adapting to our environment!

If you need any advice on thriving from home, here are a few We Are The Mighty articles that can help:

Intel

Why the USGS says it’s stupid to roast marshmallows over a volcano

There’s nothing better to do while you’re out camping with the people you tolerate love than to crack open a beer and roast some marshmallows over a nice fire. I mean, who doesn’t love a little puffed sugar that’s slightly caramelized?

As everyone knows, the entire state of Hawaii has collectively forgotten the last time they gave a f*ck. Many people are taking the recent volcanic eruption with far less seriousness than natural disasters deserve — unlike here in Los Angeles, where a light drizzle brings the entire city to a terrified stand-still.

Why ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ is expected to flop at China box office
Still not as terrifying as reenlisting.

Many Hawaiians have reacted to the flow of lava by taking photos of the incoming molten rock and, generally, taking the whole thing in stride. Twitter user @JayFurr was trolling the official United States Geological Survey — Volcanoes twitter account and asked if it was okay to roast marshmallows in the heat given off by the lava.

@USGSVolcanoes responded with their own half-trolling response.


Which is all legitimate advice. Sulfur dioxide is, essentially, air pollution and hydrogen sulfide is what gives volcanoes that farty smell (hence the joke in Shrek). The sulfuric acid within the vog (or volcanic fog) actually has a really kick-ass reaction when met with sugar. Check the video below for example.

The USGS took the trolling in stride, even if nearly every news outlet insists they took it seriously. For obvious reasons, getting close to lava is a dumb idea and, from the get-go, it was obvious this Twitter user was kidding — Jay Furr’s account even says he’s from Vermont.

But this wasn’t the only time the idea of cooking marshmallows over a pool of magma has come up. Storytrender on YouTube did it a while back in New Zealand. There’s no audio, but you can kind-of see the guy wince while he eats the roasted marshmallow.

It’s safe to assume it tasted like farts.

MIGHTY TRENDING

5,200 troops sent to southwest border, Northcom says

The Defense Department will deploy more than 5,000 active-duty personnel to aid the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Customs and Border Protection “to harden the southern border,” said Air Force Gen. Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy, the commander of U.S. Northern Command and North American Aerospace Command.

“Border security is national security,” the general said at a news conference at the Ronald Reagan Building Oct. 29, 2018. He briefed the press alongside U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin K. McAleenan.

The active-duty troops will be participating in Operation Faithful Patriot, the general said.


“As we sit here today, we have about 800 soldiers who are on their way to Texas,” the general said. The troops are coming from Fort Campbell and Fort Knox, Kentucky.

“By the end of this week we will deploy over 5,200 soldiers to the Southwest border,” he said. “That is just the start of this operation. We will continue to adjust the numbers and inform you of those.”

The active duty soldiers will join 2,092 National Guardsmen participating in Operation Guardian Support. The deployment “fully adheres to our current authorities and governed by law and policy,” the general said. The troops that deploy with weapons will carry them, the general said.

Why ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ is expected to flop at China box office

Air Force Gen. Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy, commander of U.S. Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command, discusses the Defense Department deployment to the Southwest border during a joint news conference in Washington, Oct. 29, 2018.

The troops will be in support of law enforcement with Customs and Border Protection, McAleenan said. The agency is facing something new. “What is new and challenging about this caravan phenomenon is the formation of multiple large groups, which present unique safety and border security threats,” he said at the news conference. “Due to the large size of the potential caravans that may arrive at the border, however, the Department of Homeland Security has further requested the support of the Department of Defense.”

The agency has requested aid in air and ground transportation, and logistics support, to move CBP personnel where needed. Officials also asked for engineering capabilities and equipment to secure legal crossings, and medical support units. CBP also asked for housing for deployed Border Protection personnel and extensive planning support.

Two caravans 

The commissioner said there are two caravans that the agency is watching. One has already made illegal entry across two international borders, and the second – still in Guatemala – “has deployed violent and dangerous tactics against Guatemalan and Mexican border security teams,” he said. “Accordingly, we are preparing for the contingency of a large group of arriving persons intending to enter the United States in the next several weeks.

Operation Faithful Patriot will harden the U.S. border with Mexico. “In a macro sense, our concept of operations is to flow in our military assets with a priority to build up Southern Texas then Arizona and then California,” O’Shaughnessy said. “We will reinforce along priority points of entry to enhance CBPs ability to harden and secure the border.”

Members of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will bring their experience to the border, the general said. They will be joined by three combat engineer battalions with expertise in building temporary barriers and fencing. The battalions will bring their heavy equipment “which as we speak is long hauling toward Texas,” the general said.

Military planning teams are already engaged with CBP counterparts.

The military is also providing three medium lift helicopter companies and military police units. There are already three C-130 Hercules and one C-17 Globemaster III aircraft standing by to provide strategic airlift for CBP.

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Defense. Follow @DeptofDefense on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Navy secretary bets his job that he can fix USS Ford

Like most first-in-class warships, the USS Gerald R. Ford has had problems during its construction and testing, especially because of the array of new technology it carries.

But the $13 billion aircraft carrier has attracted special attention, and now Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer is putting his job on the line to guarantee one big problem will be resolved.


The Ford’s new Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System has been a particular focus for President Donald Trump. He expressed dismay with the system in May 2017 and has mentioned it several times since, bringing it up at random on several occasions.

Other officials, including the Senate Armed Services Committee chairman, Sen. James Inhofe, have objected to protracted issues with the carrier’s Advanced Weapons Elevators, which use magnets rather than cables to lift munitions to the flight deck.

Why ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ is expected to flop at China box office

President Donald Trump speaking with Navy and shipyard personnel aboard the Gerald R. Ford in Newport News, Virginia, in 2017.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication 1st Class Joshua Sheppard)

None of the carrier’s 11 elevators were installed when it was delivered in May 2017 — 32 months late. But the Navy accepted and commissioned the carrier, and after a year of testing at sea, in July 2018 it entered its post-shakedown period.

The start of the post-shakedown period was delayed by another defect, and it was extended from eight months to a year to take care of normal work and work that had been put off, like the installation of the elevators and upgrades to the Advanced Arresting Gear, which has also faced technical problems.

The Navy has said the elevators will be installed and tested by the end of the post-shakedown period in 2019. Six will be certified for use at that time, but five won’t be completed until after July 2019.

Spencer said Jan. 8, 2019, that during a discussion at the Army-Navy football game in December 2018 he gave Trump a high-stakes promise.

“I asked him to stick his hand out — he stuck his hand out. I said, ‘Let’s do this like corporate America.’ I shook his hand and said the elevators will be ready to go when she pulls out or you can fire me,” Spencer said at an event at the Center for a New American Security, according to USNI News.

“We’re going to get it done. I know I’m going to get it done,” he added. “I haven’t been fired yet by anyone — being fired by the president really isn’t on the top of my list.”

Why ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ is expected to flop at China box office

Tugboats maneuvering the Gerald R. Ford into the James River.

(US Navy photo)

Spencer also said Trump asked him about EMALS. He told the president that the Navy had “got the bugs out” and that the system and its capabilities were “all to our advantage.”

Inhofe is also raising the stakes.

“The fleet needed and expected this ship to be delivered in 2015,” he told Bloomberg on Jan. 7, 2019. “Until all of the advanced weapons elevators work, we only have 10 operational aircraft carriers, despite a requirement for 12.”

Inhofe has told the Navy he wants monthly status reports on the carrier until its elevators are working.

The Ford is the first of its class, and the next Ford-class carrier, the USS John F. Kennedy, is under construction by Huntington Ingalls at Newport News, Virginia, where it reached the halfway point in 2018.

The Navy told legislators early January 2019 that it would go ahead with a plan to buy the next Ford-class carriers, CVN 80 and CVN 81, on a single contract, known as a “block buy.”

Why ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ is expected to flop at China box office

A crane moving the lower stern into place on the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier John F. Kennedy at Huntington Ingalls Shipbuilding in Newport News, making the second Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carrier 50% structurally complete, on June 22, 2017.

(US Navy photo)

The Navy has said it will spend about billion on the first three Ford-class carriers, and it has touted the block buy as a way to save as much as billion over single contracts for the third and fourth ships. The program as a whole is expected to cost billion.

“This smart move will save taxpayer dollars and help ensure the shipyards can maintain a skilled workforce to get the job done,” Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia said after the Navy informed lawmakers of the decision.

Inhofe, however, remains wary.

He told Bloomberg that he looked forward to “the greater predictability and stability” provided by the block buy but called the purchase “a significant commitment” requiring “sustained investments for more than a decade” to get the billion in savings estimated by the Navy.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why space debris cleanup might be a national security threat

As an international relations scholar who studies space law and policy, I have come to realize what most people do not fully appreciate: Dealing with space debris is as much a national security issue as it is a technical one.

Considering the debris circling the Earth as just an obstacle in the path of human missions is naive. As outer space activities are deeply rooted in the geopolitics down on Earth, the hidden challenge posed by the debris is the militarization of space technologies meant to clean it up.


To be clear, space debris poses considerable risks; however, to understand those risks, I should explain what it is and how it is formed. The term “space debris” refers to defunct human-made objects, relics left over from activities dating back to the early days of the space age. Over time that definition has expanded to include big and small things like discarded boosters, retired satellites, leftover bits and pieces from spacecraft, screwdrivers, tools, nuts and bolts, shards, lost gloves, and even flecks of paint.

Why ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ is expected to flop at China box office

A computer-generated image of objects in Earth orbit that are currently being tracked. Approximately 95 percent of the objects in this illustration are orbital debris, i.e., not functional satellites. The dots represent the current location of each item. The orbital debris dots are scaled according to the image size of the graphic to optimize their visibility and are not scaled to Earth. The image provides a good visualization of where the greatest orbital debris populations exist.

(NASA photo)

From the 23,000 pieces of debris in Earth orbit that are larger than 5-10 centimeters that we can track and catalog, to the hundreds of millions that we cannot, there is little question that both big and small objects whizzing around at lethal speeds endanger the prospects for civilian, commercial and military missions in outer space. You may pick apart what the movie “Gravity” got wrong, but what it got unforgettably right was the sense of devastation wrought by an orbital debris cloud that destroyed equipment and killed three astronauts on impact. No matter its size, space debris can be lethal to humans and machines alike.

As of early 2018, the European Space Agency (ESA) estimates that there have been about 500 break-ups, collisions, explosions or other fragmentation events to date that yielded space debris. Some of these events are caused by accidents. NASA reported the first-ever known collision between two objects in space in July 1996, when a European booster collided with a French spacecraft. That incident created one new piece of debris, which was itself promptly cataloged. Yet accidents can also have a big impact on increasing the debris cloud. In 2009, for the first time ever, a functioning U.S. communications satellite, Iridium-33, collided with a non-functioning Russian one, Cosmos-2251, as they both passed over extreme northern Siberia. This single crash generated more than 2,300 fragments of debris.

Natural fragmentation versus deliberate destruction

Space debris may also be affected by the breakup of older spacecraft. In February 2015, a Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP-F13) spacecraft, called USA 109, which had gone up 20 years earlier, blew up due to a battery malfunction. It may have contributed 100 debris pieces that were tracked by military radars on Earth, and possibly also 50,000 shards larger than 1 millimeter that defied tracking because they are too tiny. Because of the satellite’s original high altitude, all those fragments will remain in orbit for decades, posing risks for other spacecraft. In November 2015, again due to a possible battery failure, another decommissioned U.S weather satellite, NOAA-16, crumbled adding 136 new objects to the debris cloud.

Notably, debris itself can also fragment. In February 2018, a discarded tank from the upper stages of a Ukrainian-Russian Zenit-3F rocket fragmented.

Why ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ is expected to flop at China box office

Fuel tank of an Iridium satellite launched in 1997-1998 re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere and crashed in a California orchard where it was discovered in late October 2018.

(Kings County Sheriff’s Office)

Debris can also fall back down on Earth, whether from natural orbital decay or controlled re-entry. Fortunately most such falling debris lands in the Earth’s oceans. But sometimes it does not, and these rare events may become a bigger hazard in the years ahead as the size of the debris cloud grows, and as the projected fleet of commercial small satellites becomes a reality. Recently, parts of Zenit rocket debris are reported to have ended up crash-landing in Peru. One of the most recent such events just took place in October 2018. The U.S. military identified a fuel tank from a decade-or-so-old Iridium satellite that crashed in a walnut orchard in Hanford, California.

Then there are the highly publicized deliberate events that add to the debris cloud. In 2007, China used a ground-based direct-ascent missile to take out its own aging weather satellite, the Fengyun-1C. This event created an estimated 3,400 pieces of debris that will be around for several decades before decaying.

China’s actions were widely seen as an anti-satellite test (ASAT), a signal of the country’s expanding military space capabilities. Having the ability to shoot down a satellite to gain a military advantage back on Earth exposes the basic nature of the threat: Those who are most dependent on space assets – namely, the United States, with an estimated 46 percent of the total 1,886 currently operational satellites – are also the most vulnerable to the space debris created deliberately. There is no doubt that the aggressor will also lose in such a scenario – but that collateral damage may be worthwhile if your more heavily space-dependent rival is dealt a more crippling blow.

Why ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ is expected to flop at China box office

Saudi officials inspect a crashed PAM-D module in January 2001.

Stealth ‘counterspace race’

The set of government or commercial solutions to counter orbital debris – whether lasers, nets, magnets, tethers, robotic arms or co-orbiting service satellites – have only fueled the prospects for a stealthy race for dominance in outer space.

The same technology that captures or zaps or drags away the debris can do the same to a functioning spacecraft. Since nobody can be sure about the intent behind such proposed “commercial” space debris cleanup technologies, governments will race to get ahead of their market competitors. It matters how and with what intent you counter space debris with dual-use technologies, and more so at a time of flux in the world order. Both the old and new space powers can easily cloak their military intentions in legitimate concerns about, and possibly commercial solutions to, debris hazards. And there are now a number of open assessments about space junk removal technologies that can double up as military programs, such as lasers or hunters.

This fusion of the market and the military is not a conspiracy but a reality. If you are a great power like the United States that is heavily dependent on space assets in both the economic and military realms, then you are vulnerable to both orbital debris and the technologies proposed for its cleanup. And both your allies and your rivals know it.

This is how we have ended up in a counterspace race, which is nothing like your grandfather’s space race. In a fundamental way, this new race reflects the volatile geopolitics of peer or near-peer competitors today, and there is no getting away from it in any domain. Just as on Earth, in the cosmos the world’s top space powers – the United States, China, Japan, Russia, India – have moved from merely space situational awareness to all-out battlespace awareness. If things stay the course, accidental or deliberate events involving orbital debris are poised to ravage peaceful prospects in outer space.

How then do we move forward so that outer space remains safe, sustainable and secure for all powers, whether big or small? This is not a task any one single nation — no matter how great — can carry out successfully on its own. The solutions must not only be technological or military, either. For peaceful solutions to last, deterrence and diplomacy, as well as public awareness, will have to be proactively forged by the world’s space powers, leaders and thinkers.

This article originally appeared on The Conversation. Follow @ConversationUS on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Army and Navy deploy to support Tyndall rebuild

While Hurricane Michael created catastrophic devastation to most of Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, the relief efforts were a reminder of the symbiotic relationship between military branches.

In the days following the storm, the Air Force came in droves to provide support, with the Navy and Army not far behind. Engineers from the Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 133, Gulfport, Mississippi, and the 46th Engineer Battalion, Fort Polk, Louisiana, hit the ground running.


They traveled in convoys bringing with them construction vehicles and equipment. Unable to bring everything they would need, they also arranged to have contracted vehicles meet them at Tyndall AFB.

In teams, totaling more than 130 personnel, they worked to clear trees and debris.

“We are going full force getting trees removed, so we can help people access their buildings,” said Equipment Operator 2nd Class Zachary Bunter, MNCB 133. “Our main focus is 30 feet around buildings and roads.”

Why ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ is expected to flop at China box office

Navy Construction Mechanic 3rd Class Vance Winecke, Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 133, from Gulfport Miss., cuts branches off of trees as they are cleared away from buildings.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Sean Carnes)

His team was successful in clearing the area around the base clinic.

“We are hoping to clear up enough that when the permanent party are returning it may be less of a shock,” said Lt. Col. Christopher Klein, 46th Engineer Battalion commander. “We want to restore hope that the base is going to come alive again.”

The Army has also taken on clearing out Fam Camp, which will be used as a staging area for rebuild efforts.

“We are all here to take care of each other,” said Klein. “We take care of our brothers and sisters on our right and left and that is what this mission is. I told (the Soldiers) to remember that they are helping their own and that is what is most important.”

For many, it is also about putting their training to work.

“For some of them, this is their first time seeing a disaster like this and doing first response,” said Bunter. “These type of missions, humanitarian and disaster recovery, are what we really shine at – being able to go out and help people whether it is here in the U.S. or overseas.”

Why ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ is expected to flop at China box office

Sailors from the Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 133, from Gulfport Miss., work clearing trees away from buildings.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Sean Carnes)

Klein echoes his sentiment.

“We have stood up to do hurricane response three times in the past two years and this is the first time we have actually been called out to help,” he said. “The soldiers are getting to experience what the Army does, what the military does and what the Department of Defense does.”

At the end of the day, the Army and Navy have the same end goal – to return normalcy to the base and surrounding community.

“Contractors have thanked us for helping because the base is a huge source of revenue for the local community,” said Bunter. “Hopefully this base recovers and hopefully what we do is a big help to everything.”

Getting the mission up and running is also a priority.

“We have to get it right so they are able to go out continue what their mission is,” said Klein. “They run a very important mission out of this base, so it is important for the nation and DoD to get it up and running as quick as possible.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

Articles

This is what makes tankers so deadly

American tankers were slightly late to the armored game, historically. Britain first rolled out the tank in the Battle of the Somme in 1916, before America even joined the war. In fact, America wasn’t even able to get its first tank, the M1917, to production in time to fight in World War I.


But America came roaring back in World War II with pioneers of armored doctrine, including the first American tank officer, George S. Patton. Since then, tanks have had a respected place in the pantheon of American combat arms. Today, tankers drive the M1 Abrams tanks into battle. Here’s what makes them so lethal.

Why ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ is expected to flop at China box office
U.S. Soldiers with the 2nd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, fire an M1A2 SEPv2 Abrams Main Battle Tank during exercise Combined Resolve VII at the 7th Army Training Command in Grafenwoehr, Germany, Aug. 18, 2016. (Photo: U.S. Army Visual Information Specialist Markus Rauchenberger)

Abrams tanks are highly mobile, capable of propelling themselves at speeds of over 40 mph despite their approximately 68 short tons of weight. That weight goes even higher if the tank is equipped with protection kits like the Tank Urban Survival Kit (TUSK).

Why ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ is expected to flop at China box office
M1A2 Abrams Main Battle Tanks move to engage targets during a joint combined arms live-fire exercise near Camp Buehring, Kuwait Dec. 6-7, 2016. (Photo: U.S. Army Sgt. Aaron Ellerman)

Once it gets within range of its target, the Abrams crew can fire their 120mm smoothbore cannon, the M256A1. The cannon can use a variety of ammunition including high-explosive, anti-tank (HEAT) ammo; canister rounds that are basically tank-sized shotgun shells; and sabot rounds, depleted uranium darts that shoot through armor and turn into a fast-moving cloud of razor-sharp, white-hot bits of metal inside the enemy tank.

Why ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ is expected to flop at China box office
Marines with 1st Tank Battalion fire the M1A1 Abrams tank during the 11th Annual Tank Gunnery Competition at Range 500, Feb. 20, 2016. The competition was divided into six segments to test the skills of the tank crewmen. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Ali Azimi)

These tank rounds make short work of most enemy tanks, but they’re also heavy. Loaders have to move them from storage racks to the gun by hand, and each round weighs between 40 and 51 pounds.

Why ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ is expected to flop at China box office
A pallet full of 120mm rounds sit waiting to be loaded and fired from the M1A2 tanks during gunnery. Considering that just one 120mm round weighs roughly 50 pounds, an entire 14-tank company is a force to be reckoned with. (Photo: U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Leah Kilpatrick)

The tanks can fire canister or other rounds to destroy enemy infantry and light vehicles, but they can also turn to their mounted machine guns. The Abrams has a .50-cal machine gun and two 7.62mm machine guns.

Why ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ is expected to flop at China box office
Command Sgt. Maj. Eric C. Dostie, U.S. Army Central senior noncommissioned officer, fires a M2A1 .50 Caliber Machine Gun with a Soldier from the 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, during a visit to Camp Buehring, Kuwait Oct. 18, 2016. (Photo: U.S. Army Sgt. Aaron Ellerman)

While Abrams can survive open warfare, crews prefer to hide and maneuver their tanks into better position as often as possible to protect the tank from enemy infantry, armor, and air assets. Covering the tank in local camouflage is a good first step, and using the terrain to mask movement is important as well.

Why ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ is expected to flop at China box office
An M1 Abrams Tank emerges out of wooded terrain after Soldiers assigned to 1st Battalion, 68th Armor Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade, 4th Infantry Division had concealed it to blend in with surrounding environment, Jan 20, at Presidential Range in Swietozow, Poland. (Photo: U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Tarr)

Concealment is tricky in a tank, but it increases survivability and allows the tanks to conduct ambushes.

Why ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ is expected to flop at China box office
Soldiers assigned to 1st Battalion, 68th Armor Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade, 4th Infantry Division sit in an M1 Abrams Tank after concealing it in wooded terrain, Jan 20, at Presidential Range in Swietozow, Poland. (Photo: U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Tarr)

Abrams tanks were originally produced in 1978, but they’ve been modernized many times since then to keep them as capable as possible. The M1A1 rolled off in 1985 and the M1A2 in 1986. Now, upgrade kits like the TUSK or the System Enhancement Packages (SEP) improve M1A2s’ capabilities.

Why ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ is expected to flop at China box office
The Abrams Integrated Display and Targeting System, or AIDATS, upgrades the thermal and day sights on the stabilized commander’s weapon station through a state-of-the-art, high definition camera, and permanently mounted color display. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

Army and Marine Corps logistics officers have to work hard to ensure the heavy tanks can always be deployed where they are needed. While Abrams can be airlifted, its much cheaper to ship them by boat.

Why ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ is expected to flop at China box office
An M1A2 Abrams tank from 1st Battalion, 68th Armor Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, sits on the dock after being off-loaded from a cargo vessel at the port of Bremerhaven, Germany, Jan. 6, 2017. (Photo: U.S. Army Capt. Scott Walters)

When it would be dangerous or too expensive to drive the tanks to their objective, they can be loaded onto trains or special trucks for delivery.

Why ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ is expected to flop at China box office
Sgt. Arnulfo Ramos, an M1A2 Abrams tank crewman for Company Bravo, 1st Battalion, 66th Armor Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, secures the chains on a tank after it was loaded on to a rail car at Fort Carson, Colorado, Nov. 15, 2016. (Photo: U.S. Army Ange Desinor)

But the most impressive way to deliver an Abrams is still definitely driving it off a plane.

Why ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ is expected to flop at China box office
(Photo: U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Richard Wrigley)

The tanks can operate in most environments, everything from snow-covered plains…

Why ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ is expected to flop at China box office
An M1A2 Abrams Tanks belonging to 1st Battalion, 68th Armored Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade, 4th Infantry Division fires off a round Jan. 26, 2017 in Trzebien, Poland. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Corinna Baltos)

…to scrub-covered plains…

Why ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ is expected to flop at China box office
Marines with Company A, 4th Tank Battalion, 4th Marine Division, Marine Forces Reserve, fire a M1A1 Abrams Main Battle Tank during their annual training at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., July 19, 2016. Marines fired the tanks to adjust their battle sight zero before the main event of their annual training. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Gabrielle Quire)

…to sandy deserts.

Why ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ is expected to flop at China box office
An M1A2 Abrams Main Battle Tank fires suppressive rounds at targets during Hammer Strike, a brigade level live-fire exercise conducted by the 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, at the Udairi Range Complex near Camp Buehring, Kuwait. (Photo: U.S. Army Sgt. Christopher Johnston)

To make sure they can always get to the target, tank units sometimes bring specially equipped engineers with them. The Assault Breacher Vehicle is built on the M1 chassis but features a number of tools for breaking through enemy obstacles rather than a large number of offensive weapons.

Why ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ is expected to flop at China box office
An Assault Breacher Vehicle with 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, idles in the Black Top Training Area aboard Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif., May 17, 2016. (Photo: Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Levi Schultz)

The front of the breacher is a plow that can cut through enemy berms, creating a path for tanks.

Why ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ is expected to flop at China box office
An Assault Breacher Vehicle drives through a lane in a berm during breaching exercises aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Dec. 8, 2016. Marines with 2nd Tank Battalion along with 2nd CEB worked together to conduct breaching exercises in which they provided support fire while Assault Breacher Vehicles eliminated tank pits and created a lane in which tanks may safely travel, aboard Camp Lejeune, Dec. 8-10, 2016. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Preston McDonald)

The main purpose of the plow is to scoop up and either detonate or remove enemy mines. Mines that don’t go off are channeles to the sides of the path, creating a clear lane for following tanks.

Why ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ is expected to flop at China box office
An Assault Breacher Vehicle uses its mine plow in order to scan the surrounding area for potential threats during breaching exercises aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Dec. 8, 2016. Marines with 2nd ank Battalion along with 2nd CEB worked together to conduct breaching exercises in which they provided support fire while Assault Breacher Vehicles eliminated tank pits and created a lane in which tanks may safely travel, aboard Camp Lejeune, Dec. 8-10, 2016. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Preston McDonald)

The breacher vehicles can quickly create a lane through IEDs by firing one of their Mine-Clearing Line Charges, a rocket-towed rope of explosive cord that explodes approximately 7,000 pounds of C4, triggering IEDs and mines.

Why ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ is expected to flop at China box office
A U.S. Marine Corps Assault Breacher Vehicle (ABV) assigned to 1st Combat Engineer Battalion (CEB) launches a Mine Clearing Line Charge (MCLC) on range 600 at Camp Pendleton, Calif., Feb. 20, 2015. Armed with approximately 7,000 pounds of C4 explosives and a mine resistant Titanium-plated undercarriage, the ABV ensures Marines can maneuver on the battlefield despite enemy minefields. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Warrant Officer Wade Spradlin)

The M1 Abrams is still a titan of the battlefield, allowing tankers to be some of the most lethal soldiers and Marines in any conflict.

Why ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ is expected to flop at China box office
Marines from Company C, 1st Tank Battalion, prepare their tank for the day’s attack on Range 210 Dec. 11, 2012, during Steel Knight 13. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. D. J. Wu)

MIGHTY TRENDING

A major US ally in the Pacific wants to scrap an important military deal with the US, and that may give China an edge

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte followed through on numerous threats to end his country’s Visiting Forces Agreement with the US on Tuesday, notifying Washington of his intent to withdraw, triggering a 180-day countdown.


On Friday, Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said he thought the two sides could reach a political resolution, but recent history suggests the pact’s demise could be an opportunity for China in a strategically valuable region.

Since taking office in 2016, Duterte has repeatedly criticized the US and US officials. The US, which ruled the Philippines as a colony in the first half of the 20th century, remains close with the Philippines and is very popular there — as is Duterte, who had 87% approval in December.

But the Philippine president nevertheless decided to end the VFA, with his spokesman saying it was “time we rely on ourselves” and that the country “will strengthen our own defenses and not rely on any other country.”

While President Donald Trump said he didn’t “really mind,” the US Embassy in the Philippines said it would “carefully consider how best to move forward,” and Defense Secretary Mark Esper said it was “a move in the wrong direction.”

Asked on Friday about the decision, McCarthy touted US-Philippine ties.

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A Philippine marine looks through the sights on a US Marine Corps M777 towed 155 mm howitzer at Colonel Ernesto Ravina Air Base in the Philippines, during exercise KAMANDAG 3, October 12, 2019.

US Marine Corps/Staff Sgt. Donald Holbert

Washington and Manila have “a long history” of working “very hard together” and of “very strong” military-to-military relations, McCarthy told an audience at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. “We have about 175 days to work through this diplomatically. I think we can drive forward to an end state that will work out for all of us politically.”

The US and the Philippines are also bound by the Mutual Defense Treaty and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, but ending the VFA would undercut those and the legal standing US forces have when in the Philippines.

The latter effect would endanger hundreds of military exercises and other military cooperation. US Special Forces troops have been stationed in the Philippines to help fight ISIS-linked militants, and the US military has trained there with other countries in the region. The Philippines has also hosted US troops deployed as part of Pacific Pathways, which is meant to allow US and forces in the region to build stronger partnerships and readiness.

Asked about the effect of the VFA withdrawal on US basing and training, McCarthy said Friday that “conversations are underway” particularly among the White House and State Department.

“The VFA, by changing that would change basically the freedoms that you have to do the training,” McCarthy said, “but this is a very close ally, and we would work through that, but it’s basically [changing] the protocols of how you would work together if it actually goes through.”

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US Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jovanny Rios guides a Philippine marine in a combat life-saver drill during KAMANDAG 2, in the Naval Education Training Center, Zambales, Philippines, October 2, 2018.

US Marine Corps/Pfc. Christian Ayers

Day 181

There a number of reasons the VFA may ultimately survive. Philippine military and security forces value the relationship, under which they receive military assistance, training, education, and weapons.

Philippine officials have suggested a need to review the VFA “to address matters of sovereignty” but have stopped short of advocating withdrawal. Duterte’s foreign secretary also indicated on Tuesday that the announcement should be seen as a jumping-off point for such negotiations, saying “other reactions have been idiotic.”

But it’s not the first time the Philippines has pulled out of this kind of deal. In 1991, it did not renew a mutual basing agreement, leading to the closure of Naval Base Subic Bay, the largest US base in the Pacific, and the withdrawal of US forces.

Manila “quickly discovered that after it did that it was rendered largely defenseless with its limited military capabilities, and China actually started taking very bold actions in the South China Sea, including the occupation of the Mischief Reef,” Prashanth Parameswaran, a senior editor at The Diplomat, said on The Diplomat podcast.

“We’re now left in a situation where we’re not just hypothetically talking about what might happen,” Parameswaran added. “We actually have a historical record about what happens when the alliance goes through periods like this.”

Duterte has won concessions on other issues by pushing on Washington, Parameswaran said, calling a similar outcome this time the “optimistic scenario,” but in light of the impulsiveness of both Duterte and Trump, there remains “an element of risk.”

Agreements like the VFA take time to negotiate and ratify — after ending the basing agreement in 1991, the two countries weren’t able to establish the VFA until 1998 — and other countries in the region, like Australia and Japan, can’t replace US military assistance to the Philippines, leaving Manila weaker in the face of Chinese ambitions.

“That is the big, worrying scenario about Day 181,” Parameswaran said, “because the Philippine military, it’s building up in terms of its capabilities, but it’s still one of the weakest militaries in the Asia-Pacific, and that’s going to be laid bare on Day 181 if this doesn’t get sorted out.”

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Turkey’s S-400 could give F-35s and F-22s a boost in a fight with Russia

Turkey’s purchase of Russia’s top-of-the-line S-400 missile defense system has caused a diplomatic spat between Ankara and Washington and led NATO’s southernmost member to miss out on the F-35 stealth fighter jet, but it could actually prove fatal to Moscow’s plans to take on US F-22s and F-35s.

Articles on the threat posed to the F-35 program by the S-400 are a dime a dozen, with experts across the board agreeing that networking Russian systems into NATO’s air defenses spells a near death sentence for allied air power.

Additionally, scores of US experts have argued that Turkey’s S-400 could get a peak at the F-35’s stealth technology and glean important intelligence on the new plane meant to serve as the backbone of US airpower for decades to come.


But something weird is going on with the US’s laser focus on F-35’s security. Michael Kofman, a senior research scientist at CNA, a nonprofit research and analysis organization, told Defense One this should be cause for concern.

Why ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ is expected to flop at China box office

An F-35A Lightning II.

“For some reason coverage tends not to ask the question of how are Russians planning to deal with the potential problem of US intelligence being all over their system in Turkey,” he said.

“Russians are not crying about selling their best tech to a NATO country, despite the obvious implications for technology access. That should make us wonder,” he continued.

Basically, while Russia’s installation and support for S-400 systems in Turkey may give it intel on the F-35, Turkey, a NATO country, having Russia’s best weapon against against US airpower could spell doom for the system.

If the US cracks the S-400, Russia is in trouble

Russia relies on its missile defenses to keep its assets at home and abroad safe as it pursues increasingly risky military escalations in theaters like Ukraine and Syria. Defeating these systems, potentially, could leave Russia vulnerable to attack.

But if the US can take a look at Russia’s S-400 “depends entirely on what conditions the Russians manage to hold the Turks to in terms of allowing NATO (US) access to inspect the system,” Justin Bronk, an aerial combat expert at the Royal United Services Institute, told Business Insider.

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Russian S-400 batteries in Syria.

(Russian Defense Ministry)

“It’s potentially a very valuable source of previously unavailable information about a threat system which is a specific priority for the alliance and the US has never come into possession of an S-400 before,” Bronk said. However, “it may be that the system is actually operated by and guarded by Russian personnel in Turkey which could complicate things,” he continued.

Also, Russia’s export version of the S-400 doesn’t exactly match the version they use at home, but a former top US Air Force official told Business Insider that the US already has insight into Russia’s anti-air capabilities, and that the export version isn’t too far off from the genuine article.

Russia needs the money?

“Russia will sell them to whomever will give them the cash,” the source continued, pointing to Russia’s weak economy as a potential explanation for making the risky move of selling S-400 systems to a NATO country.

So while Russia may get some intelligence on the F-35 through its relationship with Turkey, that road runs both ways.

Furthermore, while US stealth aircraft represent individual systems, Russia’s missile defenses serve as an answer to multiple US platforms, including naval missiles. Therefore, Russia having its S-400 mechanics exposed may prove a worse proposition than the F-35 being somewhat exposed to Russian eyes.

“Getting a look at the system architecture and the hardware would still be extremely valuable for NATO,” Bronk concluded.

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

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