Authoritarian leaders are using the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to lock up dissenters and grab power, human rights experts warn - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY SURVIVAL

Authoritarian leaders are using the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to lock up dissenters and grab power, human rights experts warn

Country leaders, some of them from authoritarian regimes, are being accused of using the coronavirus pandemic to consolidate power and crack down on dissenters.

In March, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared a state of emergency that shut down the courts — including his own corruption trial — and allowed Shin Bet security forces to start tracking quarantine violators using their cellphones.


Later in the month, Hungary’s parliament voted to cancel elections, suspend its own legislative power, and grant Prime Minister Viktor Orbán the right to rule by decree indefinitely, all under the premise of fighting COVID-19. It also introduced five-year jail sentences for anyone spreading “fake news” about the virus.

Last week, Kazakhstan’s President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev authorized a rapid and strict military draft that the Defense Ministry said would ensure “the effective and complete protection of the health of our people.” Recruits are being charged with disinfecting spaces and patrolling streets during the lockdown.

Emin Abbasov, a human rights attorney in Azerbaijan, said emergency measures can threaten civil liberties anywhere. But the risk is greatest in countries with dictatorships and weak democracies.

“The restrictive measures imposed on civil liberties take place outside the accountability of those who exercise them — without effective parliamentary control and an independent judiciary,” Abbasov told Business Insider.

In many places, the situation is exacerbated by the absence of a free press.

“In the absence of such guarantees, people do not have the opportunity to assess the necessity, adequacy, and appropriateness of measures taken in the event of a pandemic,” Abbasov said.

Authoritarian leaders are using the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to lock up dissenters and grab power, human rights experts warn

Azerbaijan’s leader threatens to root out the country’s ‘enemies’

In his 16-year tenure as president of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev has faced numerous accusations of corruption, including vote-rigging, human rights abuses, and involvement in a massive billion bribery scheme to whitewash the country’s image abroad. As COVID-19 spread in March, Aliyev warned the pandemic might require him to purge the nation of “enemies.”

“Where do these provocations come from? From the very fifth column, from the enemies who are among us,” he said during a March 19 speech to mark Nowruz, the Persian New Year. “The elements calling themselves opposition, the traitors who receive money from abroad. Their main goal is to destroy Azerbaijan.”

Aliyev added that he was considering a state of emergency and that, during the crisis, “the rules of completely new relationships will apply.”

Less than a week later, on March 25, police arrested opposition leader Tofig Yagublu on hooliganism charges that Human Rights Watch called “spurious.”

“The Azerbaijani government has a longstanding pattern of pursuing trumped-up charges against government critics in order to silence them,” HRW’s Giorgi Gogia said in a statement. “The case against Yagublu falls squarely in that pattern.”

That same month, police closed the offices of the opposition group D18 in Baku, saying activists could not “gather en masse,” even though only four members were present. Several days later, the group was evicted without explanation.

“President Aliyev clearly said that the new reality of the coronavirus does not tolerate the existence of an opposition,” Azerbaijani journalist Khadija Ismayilova told Business Insider.

Ismayilova said others are being summoned to the police and threatened with arrest for writing social media posts about the coronavirus.

In El Salvador, swift action spurs accusations of a ‘political emergency’

A full week before El Salvador reported its first novel coronavirus infection, the National Congress approved President Nayib Bukele’s request for emergency powers — including closing schools and limiting free speech, assembly, and travel — to contain the disease. He implemented a nationwide lockdown on March 21, the same day the country reported its first COVID-19 patient.

“Looking at the measures that the president has taken, I think this is more of a political emergency than a public health emergency,” Mariana Moisa, an anthropologist in San Salvador and member of the Uncomfortable Feminist Collective, told Business Insider.

“At this moment when there’s a public health problem, they are putting more emphasis on the militarization of society than they are investing in the healthcare system. There’s no guarantee that our rights will be respected.”

Bukele promised a 0 stipend to day laborers struggling during the lockdown, but after aid centers became too crowded, he closed them and told citizens to go online or call a toll-free number. On March 30, police in San Salvador used pepper spray to disperse thousands of street vendors and others gathering to demand financial help.

In a televised address on Monday, Bukele warned that security forces would be cracking down further on quarantine violators: “The restrictions are the same, but we are going to be much tougher in enforcing them.”

Those who defy the order could have their cars confiscated or be taken to “containment centers” for 30 days, he said, according to Reuters. Bukele added that the lockdown was being extended for 15 days, and he outlined a plan to track virus carriers.

Authoritarian leaders are using the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to lock up dissenters and grab power, human rights experts warn

A 14-year-old is among those arrested in Cambodia for talking about the pandemic

Cambodia reported 109 confirmed coronavirus cases on March 31, the same day its parliament submitted state-of-emergency legislation that would allow Prime Minister Hun Sen to order unfettered surveillance of telecommunications and censorship of media reports on COVID-19.

But civil rights activists worry that the measure, expected to pass on Friday, will grant Hun Sen far-reaching authority with little accountability.

“Instead of introducing a hasty and problematic law, the government should focus on enacting measures within their current powers in order to manage the COVID-19 pandemic,” Cambodian Center for Human Rights director Chak Sopeaph said.

“Now is a time for action, considered measures, and precautions — not a time for pushing a vague law through parliament that does not include any protections for human rights.”

Since the start of the year, at least 17 people have been arrested in the country for sharing information about COVID-19, Al Jazeera reported, including members of the defunct opposition group Cambodia National Rescue Party.

Most were released after signing pledges to not “spread fake news,” but those still in pretrial detention face charges of incitement, conspiracy, and spreading false information.

Police also arrested a 14-year-old girl who posted on social media that she was worried about rumors of a coronavirus outbreak at her school.

“The Cambodian government is misusing the COVID-19 outbreak to lock up opposition activists and others expressing concern about the virus and the government’s response,” Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.

Uganda is using the coronavirus to fuel homophobia, activists warn

In Uganda, where lawmakers once passed a bill punishing homosexuality with life in prison, the government is accused of using concerns about the virus to fuel homophobia.

On April 1, police raided a shelter for LGBT people in the town of Kyengera, detaining 20 people for failing to follow social distancing. But Frank Mugisha, executive director of Sexual Minorities Uganda, said those charges were only added later.

“A search was conducted in the shelter in order to find evidence of ‘homosexuality,'” Mugisha told Business Insider. “The mayor personally beat up at least two of those arrested as he questioned them about their homosexuality.”

President Yoweri Museveni closed schools, churches, and mosques before any COVID-19 cases were reported in Uganda. He also banned public rallies, elections, political gatherings, and weddings for 32 days, and instituted a broad travel ban.

“You have seen how airports were clogged with people. That crowding is the perfect ground for new infections,” he said in a March 18 address. “Let us, therefore, move early to avoid the stampede.”

Movie theaters, nightclubs, and bars were all shuttered for a month. “These are very dangerous gathering points with the virus around,” Museveni added. “Drunkards sit close to one another. They speak with saliva coming out of their mouth. They are a danger to themselves.”

After the first infection was confirmed, Museveni closed all of Uganda’s borders and police began impounding vehicles of residents trying to leave Kampala.

The question becomes: Will these leaders lift the harsh measures they implemented once the pandemic subsides?

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Joint US-Europe military exercise canceled due to coronavirus

In a measure to keep troops from potentially contracting the COVID-19 virus, a joint American and European exercise has been canceled when authorities determined that it was necessary to stop the exercise to mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus that is spreading through the European Continent right now.


Cold Response 20 was two days into operations when the Norwegians decided to cancel the remainder of the exercise. Authorities from Norway made the determination after several troops were put into quarantine over fears they might have been exposed to the coronavirus. The United States had 1,500 troops in Norway with the total Allied manpower for the exercise being at 15,000.

What is Cold Response 20?

Authoritarian leaders are using the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to lock up dissenters and grab power, human rights experts warn

Cold Response 20’s aim is to enhance high-intensity fighting skills while collaborating with other countries’ forces under severe cold climate conditions while conducting exercises that include maritime, land and air events. The exercise’s aim is to maintain and build upon capabilities and cohesiveness in high-intensity warfighting in an arctic environment.

The exercise was supposed to be held during the month of March, with the 15,000 service members coming from over 10 countries. The nations that were part of the canceled exercise were Belgium, Norway, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States.

In a statement, EUCOM said, “The decision is a precautionary measure in response to the ongoing outbreak of COVID-19 and to protect the health and safety of all participants and local population. The health of our force continues to be a top priority and we are committed to maintaining mission readiness”.

After a Norwegian soldier tested positive for the coronavirus, it was determined he was in contact with over two dozen United States Marines. The Marines were put under quarantine, but the risk was too much for authorities to chance.

According to the most recent data, Norway currently has 277 cases of the coronavirus but have not had any deaths reported so far. However, the number of cases has almost doubled in recent days prompting the concern from officials of a massive spread of the disease.

The European countries with the most U.S. troops stationed there are Germany and Italy. Italy has shut down most of their country as they have had the third-worst national outbreak after China and Iran. South Korea and Japan have the most U.S. troops in Asia. South Korea’s rate of infections seems to have leveled off after getting up to over 7,000 as quarantine procedures have been implemented. Japan has had less than 600 cases as of yet.

[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2F-%2Fmedia%2FImages%2FMHS%2FPhotos%2FAFHSB-MSMR%2FNovember-2019%2FCover-3.ashx%3Fh%3D482%26la%3Den%26mw%3D720%26w%3D720%26hash%3DC26171B2FD79EE6EB7AC82C90E4ABC7D507DFB5C9F955AD49782FE1599E23732&ho=https%3A%2F%2Fhealth.mil&s=160&h=0ef1a8297182225f4d05383de5f13c6ca67c777f044433647c626c51774b25e3&size=980x&c=3866056446 crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252F-%252Fmedia%252FImages%252FMHS%252FPhotos%252FAFHSB-MSMR%252FNovember-2019%252FCover-3.ashx%253Fh%253D482%2526la%253Den%2526mw%253D720%2526w%253D720%2526hash%253DC26171B2FD79EE6EB7AC82C90E4ABC7D507DFB5C9F955AD49782FE1599E23732%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Fhealth.mil%26s%3D160%26h%3D0ef1a8297182225f4d05383de5f13c6ca67c777f044433647c626c51774b25e3%26size%3D980x%26c%3D3866056446%22%7D” expand=1]

The move is the latest in a series of steps the United States military has implemented to prevent service members and their families from being exposed to the virus. There is also talk that the military will put a 60-day pause on troop and family relocations. While no word yet has come, it seems this will most likely affect troops with PCS orders, primarily in South Korea and Italy.

A training exercise in Africa has also been scaled down in breadth, and the Pentagon is considering scaling down or canceling additional exercises. Called African Lion, the exercise would pair Americans with troops from Morocco, Senegal and Tunisia.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This awesome anti-tank missile is getting mounted on drones

You ever imagine the guts it takes to be an infantryman trying to kill a tank? Sure, we develop a new missile to make the job easier every few decades, but that still leaves a dude in 35 pounds of body armor going up against a 41-ton tank. And the infantryman often has to get within 2.5 miles of a tank that can kill him from 5.5 miles away. Luckily, Raytheon has a new plan for that.


Authoritarian leaders are using the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to lock up dissenters and grab power, human rights experts warn

(Raytheon)

Unsurprisingly, that plan includes buying lots of Raytheon’s Javelin missiles. But if you can forgive us some enthusiasm, we’re willing to give them a pass if it means America is getting remote-controlled tank killers.

Basically, Raytheon put its missile into a Kongsberg remote launcher and mounted that on the Titan unmanned ground vehicle. The advantage would be clear. Infantrymen who need to kill a tank would no longer need to expose themselves to enemy fire.

Instead, they can send out the Titan, line up on the tank, and fire the missile. And since it’s a Javelin, they don’t even need line of sight on the enemy to kill the tank. Javelins, as the name implies, can fire up into the sky and then dive back down onto their target.

And the Javelin is “fire-and-forget.” So once the missile is launched, the firer can start re-positioning the drone. And if the tank or another enemy combatant manages to get a shot at the drone before it gets hidden away again, that’s still way better than the current situation where that counter fire would hit a U.S. Marine or soldier.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Nasa caught Hurricane Dorian and three other cyclones in one awesome image

It’s peak hurricane season, as Hurricane Dorian has been reminding us.

But Dorian isn’t the only strong storm swirling: Four cyclones churned over the oceans this week. On Sep. 4, 2019, they lined up for a satellite camera.

The GOES 16 satellite, operated by that National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) with help from NASA, captured the above image of the Western Hemisphere on Sep. 4, 2019. It shows Hurricane Juliette, Tropical Storm Fernand, Hurricane Dorian, and Tropical Storm Gabrielle lined up across the globe.

At the time the photo was taken, Juliette in the East Pacific and Dorian in the Atlantic were Category 2 hurricanes. Fernand and Gabrielle were tropical storms with sustained wind speeds 45 mph and 50 mph, respectively.


Authoritarian leaders are using the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to lock up dissenters and grab power, human rights experts warn

Labeled image of the chain of tropical cyclones lined up across the Western Hemisphere on Sep. 4, 2019.

(NASA Earth Observatory/Joshua Stevens; NOAA National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service)

The image shows 2 hurricanes and 2 tropical storms

Dorian made a record-tying landfall in the northwestern Bahamas on Sep.1, 2019, as a Category 5 hurricane with 185-mph sustained winds. It ground to a halt on Sep. 2, 2019, flooding islands with a wall of water up to 23 feet high, ripping buildings apart with wind gusts as strong as 220 mph, and killing at least 23 people.

In the NOAA image, Dorian can be seen traveling north along Florida’s east coast, towards Georgia and the Carolinas. Since then, it has brought heavy rains and flash floods, lashed the southeastern US coast with powerful winds, caused tornadoes, and even caused bricks of cocaine to wash up on a beach. One man was reported dead in North Carolina after falling off a ladder while preparing for the storm.

Tropical Storm Fernand, meanwhile had just made landfall over northeastern Mexico at the time of this satellite image. The storm caused heavy rainfall, with a threat of flash flooding and mudslides, but it has since dissipated.

Hurricane Juliette has stuck to the open ocean in the East Pacific, and is expected to weaken over the next few days.

Tropical Storm Gabrielle has wandered harmlessly through the open Atlantic, and on Sep. 5, 2019, was “struggling to maintain thunderstorms near its center,” the National Hurricane Center (NHC) reported.

Authoritarian leaders are using the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to lock up dissenters and grab power, human rights experts warn

Hurricane Dorian moves slowly past Grand Bahama Island on Sep. 2, 2019.

(NOAA)

An above-average hurricane season in the Atlantic

NOAA recently revised its forecast for this year’s Atlantic hurricane season — it now projects a 45% chance that this year will see above-average activity. That could mean five to nine hurricanes in the Atlantic, with two to four of those expected storms becoming major hurricanes (defined as Category 3 or above, with winds greater than 110 miles per hour).

On average, the Atlantic sees six hurricanes in a season, with three developing into major hurricanes (defined as Category 3 or above). Hurricane season peaks in August through October, with especially high activity around September 10. The season ends November 30.

Hurricane category numbers don’t necessarily indicate the full destructive power of a storm, however, as they’re based solely on wind speeds. In Hurricane Dorian’s case, the storm has traveled slowly, so its effects have been prolonged.

Slower, wetter storms like this are becoming more common as the planet warms. Over the past 70 years or so, the speed of hurricanes and tropical storms has slowed about 10% on average, a 2018 study found.

Dorian is now the fifth hurricane to reach Category 5 over the past four hurricane seasons in the North Atlantic. In the last 95 years, there have been only 35 Category 5 hurricanes in the North Atlantic, so this frequency of strong storms is far above average.

This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Army confirms one dead in Black Hawk crash during training

The U.S. Army has stated that a person was killed in a Black Hawk training exercise at Fort Hood on Tuesday evening.


Army officials say the 1st Infantry Division from Fort Riley in Kansas was making use of the HH-60M Black Hawk medical helicopter as part of the exercise when the accident occurred and killed one person south of the Robert Gray Army Airfield, the Austin American-Statesman reports.

The training involved medical evacuation hoists. For now, the Army is withholding details on the person killed until all next of kin have been notified of the death. It’s not clear how many soldiers were in the HH-60M when the incident occurred.

This most recent incident reflects a growing trend of training accidents, which has captured the attention not only of military leaders, who have been warning for years of the consequences of budget cuts, but also a growing number of members of Congress. In a Senate speech Wednesday regarding the annual defense budget bill, GOP Sen. John McCain, chairman of the Senate Committee on Armed Services, noted that in the past three years, four times as many service members have died from training accidents than from combat. McCain has long been an opponent of sequestration, which was enshrined in the Budget Control Act of 2011 and imposes “across-the-board” spending cuts.

“And yet as dangerous that these and other foreign threats are, perhaps the greatest harm to our national security and our military is self-inflected,” McCain said. “I repeat: self-inflicted. It is the accumulation of years of uncertain, untimely and inadequate defense funding, which has shrunk our operational forces, harmed their readiness, stunted their modernization, and as every single member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has repeatedly testified before the committed on Armed Services, put the lives of our service members at greater risk.”

McCain noted that 42 service members died in accidents during training exercises this summer alone, mentioning recent incidents like the USS Fitzgerald, the USS John S. McCain and the Marine Corps Kc-130 crash in Mississippi.

popular

This is the only country in South America to send troops to the Korean War

While the Korean War Battles of Old Baldy, Triangle Hill, and Geumseong may not be the first battles that come to mind when we think of the Korean Conflict, for Colombia, they were certainly important. Like their Brazilian neighbors in World War II, the Colombians saw the importance of stemming the advance of an aggressor as essential to the world’s collective security. Three Colombian frigates along with more than 5,000 troops saw action alongside their U.N. allies there.


A Colombian veteran returns home from the Korean War.

 

While the country’s then-President, Laureano Gomez, was also looking for economic support from the West, the Colombians were also eager to remove the pro-German brush that had painted them during the Second World War. By 1951, for the first time in 127 years, Colombia was fully engaged in the fighting on the Korean Peninsula, attached to the U.S. 7th and 24th Infantry Divisions.

Over the course of the rest of the war, Colombia would send battalion after battalion over to fight, numbering more than a thousand men each. They were eager to prove Colombia’s bravery to the rest of the world, like the Turkish and Ethiopians before them. They were unlike any Colombian soldiers who came before them, but when returning home, they found a cold indifferent world.

Authoritarian leaders are using the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to lock up dissenters and grab power, human rights experts warn
Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph Dunford meets a Colombian Korean War veteran at the Korean War Memorial, Headquarters of the Military Forces of Colombia. (DoD photo by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique A. Pineiro)

Their service went largely unnoticed when they returned home. Colombians rejected many of the ideals the Korean War veterans held as they fought to earn their respect in the halls of the U.N.. They suffered the way many veterans the world over suffer after their wars end. While abroad and fighting, they found themselves honored and beloved by veterans from every nation they fought. When they came home, they found it was hard to win over their own nation.

They received no benefits, no pension. Many wounded veterans would come home and one day die without so much as a thank you from the nation for which they were willing to give their lives.

Authoritarian leaders are using the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to lock up dissenters and grab power, human rights experts warn
Colombian Army veterans.

Eventually, the Colombian government would relent and offer a pension to Korean War veterans who could prove they were indigent. By then, many of those fighting men were well into their 60s and 70s. Some of those veterans were never recovered and remain in Korea to this day. The unit also suffered 213 dead and 567 wounded. They were the last force to arrive but the 9th largest to join in the effort to keep the South free. Still, the men who fought there don’t hold regrets about going.

“It was a really extraordinary experience,” said General Álvaro Valencia Tovar. “I never regretted going, despite the hardships suffered during war, the bitter winter we lived through there…resisting subzero temperatures, but that was all part of a chapter in my life that I’ve always regarded with great sympathy and with pleasant memories.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 2016 Canadian military battle against… Pokémon?


Authoritarian leaders are using the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to lock up dissenters and grab power, human rights experts warn

A couple individuals from the enraptured masses soaking in pure ecstasy.

The year is 2016. “Love Yourself” by Justin Beiber echoes through the streets. People are wearing choker necklaces again, for some reason. And millions of people are walking around, neck craned to their screens, trying to catch Pokémon.

The massive 2016 explosion of “Pokémon GO” sparked national hysteria. Multitudes of people took to the streets, surroundings be damned. Videos of novice Pokémon trainers falling prey to otherwise pedestrian obstacles (like the one below) went viral overnight.

According to a 2017 analysis, Pokémon GO usage contributed to 150,000 traffic accidents, 256 deaths, and a -7.3 billion economic price tag in the first six months of its launch.

Man Falls in Pond Playing Pokemon GO

www.youtube.com

The hysteria was present across the border of our northern ally, as well. The enraptured masses unsuspectingly wandered through Canadian military installations, in search of the powerful pocket monsters.

The Canadian military responded to this invasion with a geopolitical-move as old as time; they issued a firm warning. “It has been discovered that several locations within DND/CAF establishments are host to game landmarks (PokeStops and Gyms) and its mythical digital creatures (Pokémon).”

The enraptured Pokémon masses pressed forward, iPhones in hand, in spite of the vague threat of consequence, while the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation detailed the entire battle with a full after-action report on the situation.

According to the CBC’s report, the Canadian military brass was dumbfounded by their new enemy.

Authoritarian leaders are using the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to lock up dissenters and grab power, human rights experts warn

The enraptured masses.

Maj. Jeff Monaghan issued a base-wide memo at Fort Frontenac, letting his men know that many locations on the military base were being used as “both a Pokémon Gym and Pokèmon Stop.” The CBC contacted Maj. Monaghan to follow up his memo with insider knowledge, “I will be completely honest in that I have not idea what that is.” The war ravaged on.

While an assortment of Canadian stripes dripped sweat over a war table, moving pieces to chokehold Pikachu and his cohorts, security expert David Levenick verbalized his frustration, “We should almost hire a 12-year-old to help us out with this.” However, the enemy was resolute in their affiliation.

The base took to the offensive and armed a handful of MPs with iPhones and iPads to conduct an inside look into the enemy’s formation. The offensive move paid off, and the inside information led to the upgrading of an on-base museum from a “Pokéstop” to a “Pokémon Gym.”

In the end, however, the war ended as all things do: with a gradual decay. 45 million in the Poké-army became 20. And then 10. Then 5. Much like the Great Roman Empire, the enraptured masses slowly collapsed inward. Some sought refuge in “8 Ball Pool” some in “Super Mario Run” and a few brave souls transferred to a different battlefield altogether— “Bumble.”

Even the rapid hysteria of Pokémon GO was no match for the great equalizers of entropy and new apps, but the great flag of Canada waves on, swiping left to right through the end of time.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Air Force Strikers are figuring out how to be competitive

Airman Magazine sat down with Gen. Tim Ray, the Air Force Global Strike Command commander, for an in-depth interview. The below excerpts highlight how the command continues to innovate and explore the art of possible. There are only historical traces of Strategic Air Command; these Airmen are now Strikers. Excellence and teamwork is in the job description; they’re attracting talent and working hard to keep it in-house, building the world’s premiere nuclear and conventional long-range strike team.


“This is about figuring out how to be competitive.” – General Timothy M. Ray

vimeo.com

Airman Magazine: What does it mean to be a “Striker”?

Gen. Tim Ray: Strikers stand on the shoulders of giants like Schriever, Doolittle, Arnold and Eaker. That’s our heritage. We understand that air and space power is not about perfection; it’s about overcoming obstacles and challenges. Strikers are in a business that no one else can do. Strikers know the score; and the score is that there are no allied bombers out there. There are no allied Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles. What we do every day as a Striker is the foundation of the security structure of the free world. This fact is viewed in the eyes of our adversaries and it’s viewed in the eyes of our allies. In a very important way, there’s a lot riding on our Airmen, and we have to get it right every day.

Airman Magazine: What are some of the challenges Global Strike is facing and some of the conversations and solutions your team is coming up with?

Gen. Tim Ray: For us it’s to think about the competitive space we’re in, when the Cold War ended; there really was only one team that stopped competing at this level, of great power competition—the United States. We enjoyed a world order that was to our benefit. Now we have players on the scene with regional reach and capacity, and also global capacity, and we’ve got regional players who want to make sure that they have more sway. So think North Korea, Iran, China and Russia. So how we compete with them is not something that you can take lightly. When you step back and think about it, in this long-term strategic competition, how do we compete?

One of the things I’m very proud of in the command is what we’ve done with our weapons generation facility. Here’s an example: the old requirements for how you would build that were very expensive and somewhat outdated. We brought in a cross-functional team from across the Air Force. We gave everybody a right and left limit and we made them really think about this thing. The outcome of that effort is an option to re-capitalize our facilities at a third of the cost. We’re saving hundreds of millions of dollars that’ll have better security and better capacity. I think that’s the kind of business game we need to continue to play; to go and provide great, relevant capabilities, much more affordable for who we are as an Air Force and who we are as a military. I think that’s how we continue to take this particular thing on, is thinking about the context, what do we have to do to find ways to solve those problems.

A United States Air Force B-52H Stratofortress, accompanied by four Saudi Arabian F-15C Eagles, conducts a low pass over Prince Sultan Air Base, Saudi Arabia, Nov. 1, 2019. The B-52H, deployed from Barksdale Air Force Base, La., is part of a Bomber Task Force operating out of RAF Fairford, England. The aircraft is a long-range strategic bomber capable of delivering massive amounts of precision weapons against any adversary. The bomber conducted a sortie to the U.S. Central Command area of operations in order to conduct interoperability training with Saudi partners in support of our shared regional security interests. Strategic bombers contribute to stability in the CENTCOM and U.S. European Command (EUCOM) areas of operation, and when called upon, they offer a rapid response capability for combatant commanders. This mission to CENTCOM follows the B-1B Lancer mission to PSAB last week, again demonstrating the U.S.’s commitment to the defense of allies and partners.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Daniel Snider)

Airman Magazine: Can you talk about the atmosphere of how we handled things back during the Cold War and how, in today’s great power competition, things are different?

Gen. Tim Ray: With the Cold War, there was bipolarity and a set number of competitors. With the Warsaw Pact and Soviet Union versus everybody else; we had the lead. Now we have multi-polarity with competitors like China, Russia, North Korea, Iran, violent extremist organization challenges; they are now part of the equation. So you have to think more broadly about this global situation.

Things are in this conversation now that weren’t back then, space, cyber, hypersonics, the information domain, the internet, what happens in social media, all those influencers. That’s a very different game when you start to understand what’s really going on out there.

Airman Magazine: How do you maintain a vector and vision for the command in an ever-changing competitive space?

Gen. Tim Ray: When you read the book Why Air Forces Fail, we see that there’s no loss based on a lack of tactics, techniques, or procedures. It’s always for a lack of ability to adapt to what’s going on. So when I think about that particular space, you have to realize this is really more of a chess game. So you can’t try to win every move. But you have to avoid being put on the chess board without options, and that’s how the enemy is playing the game. So you need to know how you get to checkmate on the enemy. And certainly when it comes time to maneuver on the board, you think more strategically. When you consider that dynamic, so how the Soviet Union dealt with us, they tried to win every day, and it didn’t work for them. So we step back and consider what’s going on, you have to set a pace to build margin and to compete that is sustainable.

Airman Magazine: What does the Global Strike Command of 2030 look like?

Gen. Tim Ray: The command in 2030 understands readiness and capacity as an ecosystem. How we tend to look at it these days is fairly numerical. And as you begin to modernize and change you have to think about it as an ecosystem. You have to think about the rate at which you can bring new technology on. You have to think about it in the rate at which you can keep it relevant for the conflict ahead of you, and put those capabilities in on time. You have to understand the training requirements, and the manpower.

So we’re standing up our innovative hub that’s connected to AFWERX—StrikeWerx. We’ve got great connections with academia here locally, and then building that more broadly. So that innovative space, that data, that ecosystem approach, means that I think we can be much more capable of keeping that margin in play, and doing it as affordably as we possibly can. So that piece, that’s an important part of just the organize, train, and equip.

We’re absolutely tying ourselves to space in a very formal way because that’s a big part of how we’re going to operate. Multi-domain command and control, multi-domain operations, means many sensors, many shooters. And to be able to connect them all together, I tell you, if you’re serious about long-range strike, you’re very serious about multi-domain operations, because that’s how we’re going to do this. And so it’s a big part of who we are.

Authoritarian leaders are using the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to lock up dissenters and grab power, human rights experts warn

An unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile launches during a developmental test at 12:33 a.m. Pacific Time Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2020, at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Clayton Wear)

Airman Magazine: How important is it to develop and adopt simulation training technologies that are compatible across the command and that are scalable to an Air Force level?

Gen. Tim Ray: Starting locally at each of the wings, we’re beginning our own efforts to use augmented and virtual reality. It’s already in play in a couple of our wings. Certainly I see the ability to bring artificial intelligence into that, to make sure that we’re doing really smart stuff. We can measure human performance now more accurately, and so you can compare that to a standard.

I’m a huge fan of simulation. There’s a lot of things you can do, but there’s also some real-world things that you’ve got to do. So you’ve got to keep those two things in balance. Not one before the other, but really it’s about putting them together correctly to give you the best trained Airmen, and that you’re relevant. I see us continuing to work down that line. I believe that all the new platforms that we’re bringing on with the new helicopter (MH-139 Grey Wolf), certainly the B-21, the new ICBM, and the new cruise missile, all those capabilities I think we have to bake in the virtual reality, augmented reality, dimensions to training, and the maintenance and the support and the operations. I think that’s got to be foundational, because it’s a much more affordable and more effective way to go.

Airman Magazine: General Goldfein said when it comes to the nuclear enterprise, that there might be a great cost to investing in it, but the cost of losing is going to be much higher. Can you expand on that statement?

Gen. Tim Ray: When you think of our nuclear triad, it must be looked at through the lens of the Chinese triad. Which is not big, but it’s a triad and modernized. The Russian triad which is large and modernized. Then, look at our triad through the minds of our allies and partners. That’s the context. And we don’t get to pick our own context. We don’t get to pick how we want to manage that. That’s the reality of how this operates.

Authoritarian leaders are using the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to lock up dissenters and grab power, human rights experts warn

Airmen from the 90th Missile Maintenance Squadron prepare a reentry system for removal from a launch facility, Feb. 2, 2018, in the F. E. Warren Air Force Base missile complex. The 90th MMXS is the only squadron on F. E. Warren allowed to transport warheads from the missile complex back to base. Missile maintenance teams perform periodic maintenance to maintain the on-alert status for launch facilities, ensuring the success of the nuclear deterrence mission.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Braydon Williams)

Airman Magazine: How important is our commitment to our allies in this fight?

Gen. Tim Ray: What you’ll find is that, whatever happens in the nuclear realm, will need to play out in the capitals of all of our allies. What it is and what it isn’t, what it means and what it doesn’t mean. Because there are countries out there who are, on a routine basis, asking themselves whether they need to build a nuclear program. And because we’re doing what we do, the answer to that is no, they don’t have to. So there is a counter-proliferation dimension here. Back in the Cold War there was the United States, there was the UK, the French, and the Russians. Now there’s India, Pakistan, you’ve got North Korea, and China and so on. You’ve got a very different world. We don’t need more of those. It simply complicates it and makes it more difficult. So it has to play out in our minds, how we intend to stay the course in a way that works. That’s the difficult piece.

Airman Magazine: The Minuteman III was placed in the ground in 1973. As we look at updating those systems, moving toward more integrated, how do you look at the security aspect of that when it comes to the ICBM capability?

Gen. Tim Ray: Security on all dimensions for the nuclear portfolio is so critical. You have to have a very high degree of assurance there. What we’re doing is a priority

You now have a challenge with the old ICBM. When, not if, you need to make a modernization move for a new component, you have a phenomenal integration bill. Right now, we don’t own the technical baseline, which means we have to pay a very high price for that. It was not built to be modular, so now we have to have a lot more detailed engineering, and it’s going to take a lot longer to do that. And it’s less competitive, because there’s only handful of people, maybe one or two places which might even want to take that on.

For the new system, the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent, there’s a different value proposition there. One, it’s modular in design. It’s mature technology. It’s built to be in the ground for a long time. We’re talking about a two-third reduction in the number of convoys, which is a significantly safer world. It’s two thirds fewer openings of the site to do work on it, and to expose it to the outside. You’ll have a more modern communication capability, which means you can design in a much more cyber-resilient capability, and you can look at redundant paths. So I think at the end of the day, the value proposition of being able to make affordable modernization moves or changes to reduce the security challenge, and to bring in that modern technology that you can now work on in a competitive environment, that’s just a much smarter way of doing business.

Airman Magazine: You mentioned the Air Force just acquired a new helicopter which your command will be utilizing. Can you please talk about the acquisition of new technology for your command?

Gen. Tim Ray: There’s a formula for affordability. You need to have mature technology. You have to have stable requirements. You need to own the technical baseline so that you don’t have to pay the prime contractor extra money to go fix it. You need to be modular so that you can make very easy modern modifications without it having to be an entirely new engineering project. So you just have to reengineer that one piece to interface with it all. Then you’ve got to get it on the ramp on time, and then begin your modernization plan. That’s the formula. That’s exactly how the new helicopter played out in a competitive environment. It was the best option. I think we’re going to find it’s going to meet our needs quite well. That’s going to be a tremendous help, and I think it’s going to go faster than fielding a brand new system. So we’re modifying something that has the capacity to be modified. I think it’s a great, great success story.

Authoritarian leaders are using the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to lock up dissenters and grab power, human rights experts warn

The MH-139A Grey Wolf lands at Duke Field, Fla., Dec. 19, 2019, before its unveiling and naming ceremony. The aircraft is set to replace the Air Force’s fleet of UH-1N Huey aircraft and has capability improvements related to speed, range, endurance and payload.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Samuel King Jr.)

Airman Magazine: The Air Force has the great responsibility of being entrusted with the most powerful weapons on the planet. What’s your view in being part of such a huge responsibility?

Gen. Timothy Ray: It is a tremendous responsibility to be in charge of two thirds … On a day to day basis, to be in charge of two thirds of the country’s nuclear arsenal, while there may be some instability, the world without these particular capabilities would be very different. I believe it’s important for us to look at it beyond simply day to day stewardship. If you really think about it, it’s not just the global strike portfolio, or the Air Force portfolio, or even the DoD, the Department of Defense, this is the nation’s arsenal. And the nation’s arsenal, and our leadership role in the world, and the role we play, there’s a tremendous application across the planet. So that just underscores how important it is on a day to day basis.

This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.

popular

America’s secret supersonic spy drones flew over China in the 1960s

While we tend to think of drones as a very modern addition to the battlefield, the truth is, America’s Defense Department has long been interested in the concept of unmanned aircraft. In fact, for a short window of time in the 1960s, America’s supersonic, high-flying drones were already attempting reconnaissance flights over China.

In May of 1960, the United States was at a crossroads. A CIA pilot named Francis Gary Powers flying America’s classified U-2 Spy Plane had been shot down over the Soviet Union at the start of the month. The ensuing international incident edged the world one step closer toward nuclear Armageddon, and President Dwight Eisenhower made the decision to cease all manned flights into Soviet Airspace as a result. With reconnaissance satellite technology under development but still years away from providing actionable intelligence, Lockheed’s famed Skunkworks set to work on another possibility: unmanned flights over the Soviet Union.


Authoritarian leaders are using the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to lock up dissenters and grab power, human rights experts warn
D-21 Drone with additional rocket booster for launch from a B-52H (WikiMedia Commons)

In October of 1962, legendary engineer Kelly Johnson, whose career included designing both the U-2 Spy Plane and the SR-71 Blackbird, set to work designing what would come to be called the D-21: a long-range, high altitude drone that leaned heavily on technology developed for the SR-71’s predecessor, the A-12.

The requirements Johnson was given by the CIA and U.S. Air Force were nothing short of extreme: the drone had to reach speeds of Mach 3.3–3.5, an operational altitude of 87,000–95,000 feet, and needed a fuel range of 3,000 nautical miles. Any modern-day engineer would tell you that such a project would still be daunting today, but Johnson had made a career out of accomplishing the seemingly impossible — often with little more than a hand ruler and scratch paper for calculations.

His D-21 design could meet all the requirements set out for him, but in order to achieve such high speeds at such high altitudes, he had to use a ramjet engine that couldn’t function until it was already flying high in the sky. As a result, plans were drawn up to deploy the drone from a variant of the A-12, dubbed the M-21 Blackbird.

Authoritarian leaders are using the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to lock up dissenters and grab power, human rights experts warn
Just in case you didn’t think the SR-71 could ever look cooler. (WikiMedia Commons)

With a wingspan of just over 19 feet and a length of nearly 43 feet, the D-21 looked a lot like someone had just hacked the end off of one of the A-12’s wings, making the M-21 a matching aesthetic choice, if nothing else.

The D-21 carried a single high-resolution camera that would snap photos over a pre-programmed flight path. It would then eject the film canisters, which would drift down via parachute and float in water. The plan was to capture these canisters in the air, with Navy ships positioned to retrieve them from the water as a backup. The drone itself would then self-destruct to avoid being captured and reverse-engineered.

The first three test flights of the D-21 from the M-21 Blackbird went smoothly, but on the fourth attempt, the drone experienced an “asymmetric unstart” passing through the bow wake of its M-21 mothership. The two aircraft collided in mid-air at the blistering speed of Mach 3.25. Both pilots managed to eject, but one ultimately drowned before he could be rescued. The decision was made to scrap the M-21 mothership strategy and instead deploy the D-21 from beneath the wings of the B-52H bomber.

Authoritarian leaders are using the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to lock up dissenters and grab power, human rights experts warn
Modified D-21 drones on a B-52H Bomber (WikiMedia Commons)

After a number of failures, Lockheed’s D-21 completed its first successful B-52H-launched flight in June of 1968 and soon, the program moved into operational reconnaissance flights over China.

In all, four D-21s were launched from B-52Hs and sent into Chinese airspace on reconnaissance missions. Two of the drones completed their flights, but either failed to eject their film, or the film was deemed irretrievable. The other two flights were either shot down or simply disappeared shortly after launch.

Despite their failures over China, the D-21 program was significantly ahead of its time. A Mach-3 capable drone with an operational ceiling of 90,000 feet was an unheard of proposition in its day and remains impressive even in this new era of unmanned aerial vehicles.

The program was ultimately canceled on July 15, 1971, with the B-52s converted for use in the program returned to operational service.

MIGHTY TRENDING

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

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

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


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

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

[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2F5ea9cc83e3c3fb04701f1eb7%3Fwidth%3D1300%26format%3Djpeg%26auto%3Dwebp&ho=https%3A%2F%2Fi.insider.com&s=138&h=b8ba75f6feb075a141c3f82ca326f4c7cf8f8ed7a52ec643c136a6b663bf8500&size=980x&c=3357143293 crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252F5ea9cc83e3c3fb04701f1eb7%253Fwidth%253D1300%2526format%253Djpeg%2526auto%253Dwebp%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Fi.insider.com%26s%3D138%26h%3Db8ba75f6feb075a141c3f82ca326f4c7cf8f8ed7a52ec643c136a6b663bf8500%26size%3D980x%26c%3D3357143293%22%7D” expand=1]

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

SIPRI Military Expenditure Database

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

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

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

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

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

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

[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2F5ea9cd64fc593d06686147a4%3Fwidth%3D1300%26format%3Djpeg%26auto%3Dwebp&ho=https%3A%2F%2Fi.insider.com&s=566&h=2403d32f8b656503cf50023b55983a25e5cc1f8f293d115a590d7841fa200f9b&size=980x&c=180385284 crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252F5ea9cd64fc593d06686147a4%253Fwidth%253D1300%2526format%253Djpeg%2526auto%253Dwebp%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Fi.insider.com%26s%3D566%26h%3D2403d32f8b656503cf50023b55983a25e5cc1f8f293d115a590d7841fa200f9b%26size%3D980x%26c%3D180385284%22%7D” expand=1]

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

SIPRI Military Expenditure Database

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

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

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

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

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

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

[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2F5c9befc5dc6767144455c3cd%3Fwidth%3D1300%26format%3Djpeg%26auto%3Dwebp&ho=https%3A%2F%2Fi.insider.com&s=879&h=1102db4bf56fe6e4cc32554dde73a62a1a880e36b84e840aaed3973c59ad5805&size=980x&c=2901287497 crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252F5c9befc5dc6767144455c3cd%253Fwidth%253D1300%2526format%253Djpeg%2526auto%253Dwebp%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Fi.insider.com%26s%3D879%26h%3D1102db4bf56fe6e4cc32554dde73a62a1a880e36b84e840aaed3973c59ad5805%26size%3D980x%26c%3D2901287497%22%7D” expand=1]

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

Sgt. Arturo Guzman/US Army National Guard

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2F5caca477862913648176a9b3%3Fwidth%3D1300%26format%3Djpeg%26auto%3Dwebp&ho=https%3A%2F%2Fi.insider.com&s=915&h=2636bbf47332d35491c6070d742eb3df42a88cd2afae6b4c66a4dcc945754fc4&size=980x&c=1108699002 crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252F5caca477862913648176a9b3%253Fwidth%253D1300%2526format%253Djpeg%2526auto%253Dwebp%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Fi.insider.com%26s%3D915%26h%3D2636bbf47332d35491c6070d742eb3df42a88cd2afae6b4c66a4dcc945754fc4%26size%3D980x%26c%3D1108699002%22%7D” expand=1]

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

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

[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2F576d3fb28e91c6997c4b8722%3Fwidth%3D1300%26format%3Djpeg%26auto%3Dwebp&ho=https%3A%2F%2Fi.insider.com&s=503&h=551903533c4c597fef84b232798817fec2750834779dc116f003d99061a7ca4e&size=980x&c=1382637305 crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252F576d3fb28e91c6997c4b8722%253Fwidth%253D1300%2526format%253Djpeg%2526auto%253Dwebp%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Fi.insider.com%26s%3D503%26h%3D551903533c4c597fef84b232798817fec2750834779dc116f003d99061a7ca4e%26size%3D980x%26c%3D1382637305%22%7D” expand=1]

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

Sgt. Seth Plagenza/US Army

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

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

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

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

[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2F5dc336f23afd373c040e3b84%3Fwidth%3D1300%26format%3Djpeg%26auto%3Dwebp&ho=https%3A%2F%2Fi.insider.com&s=508&h=f46a5337bcf85a56ef99e8c9b82f794a99ae2c88531f4ad6b7c5c41438a3a7b0&size=980x&c=3316358981 crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252F5dc336f23afd373c040e3b84%253Fwidth%253D1300%2526format%253Djpeg%2526auto%253Dwebp%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Fi.insider.com%26s%3D508%26h%3Df46a5337bcf85a56ef99e8c9b82f794a99ae2c88531f4ad6b7c5c41438a3a7b0%26size%3D980x%26c%3D3316358981%22%7D” expand=1]

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

US Navy/Mass Comm Specialist 3rd Class Adam Ferrero

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

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

Podcast

5 of the biggest changes coming to the US military


Subscribe: Apple Podcasts | Google Play | Stitcher | Spotify

In this episode of the Mandatory Fun podcast, the gang comments on some of the biggest challenges the U.S. military will face in the coming days.

Because external challenges are easy for a fighting force like ours, the internal struggles are the ones we really want to talk about. These affect not only the troops themselves, but potentially their families, friends, and morale as well.

1. New physical standards for all

The recent years have been huge for the military community in terms of change. The most important changes include who can join, who can serve openly, and how they can all serve. Even the service chiefs are trying to understand how this will affect everyone.

Authoritarian leaders are using the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to lock up dissenters and grab power, human rights experts warn
Chief Petty Officer Selectees from Yokosuka area commands stand in ranks after a physical training (PT) session (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Ben Farone)

Related: Mattis just finished his review of transgender troops

But at a junior-enlisted or NCO level, we know we’re just going to deal with it, no matter what. Women are going to be in combat, along with transgender troops serving openly. What will the new fitness standards look like? Should there be a universal standard?

2. Mattis is cleaning house

The Secretary of Defense, universally beloved by all service members of all branches, wants the military to become a more lethal, more deployable force. To this end, he wants to rid the branches of anyone who is not deployable for longer than 12 months.

Authoritarian leaders are using the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to lock up dissenters and grab power, human rights experts warn
Defense Secretary James N. Mattis hosts with Montenegro’s Minister of Defence, Predrag Bošković, a meeting at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., Feb. 27, 2018. (DoD photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)

Those numbers are significant, too. Experts estimate up to 14 percent of the entire military is non-deployable in this way, which translates to roughly 286,000 service members. It’s sure to make any military family sweat.

3. Okinawa’s “labor camp”

The Marine Corps’ correctional custody units want to open a sort of non-judicial punishment camp on the Japanese island of Okinawa. The purpose is to give commanders a place to send redeemable Marine who mess up for the first time in their career.

Authoritarian leaders are using the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to lock up dissenters and grab power, human rights experts warn
Brig Marines simulate hard labor during a Correctional Custody Unit demonstration Jan. 12 in the Brig aboard Camp Hansen, Okinawa, Japan. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Jessica Collins)

In the military, we joke (sometimes not so jokingly) about the idea of “turning big rocks into little rocks” when we talk about getting caught committing a crime while in the service. Don’t worry — no one actually commits the crime they’re joking about. But what isn’t a joke is hard labor imposed by a military prison sentence. Now, even troops with Article 15 can be forced to turn big rocks into little rocks.

4. A new military pay raise

Yes, the military gets a raise pretty much every year. Is it ever enough? No. Do service members make what they’re worth? Absolutely not. Is Congress even trying? Sometimes it doesn’t feel that way. Well, this year they’re getting the biggest bump yet after nine years of waiting. Are they worth more? Of course they are.

Authoritarian leaders are using the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to lock up dissenters and grab power, human rights experts warn
President Donald Trump lands at Berry Field Air National Guard Base, Nashville, Tennessee on Jan. 8, 2018. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Jeremy Cornelius)

5. Marine Corps blues face a real challenge

For years (actually, decades), the Marines’ dress uniform has been the uncontested, drop-dead sexiest uniform in the American armed forces. Now, they face a usurper that really does have a shot at challenging their spot at the top of the rankings.

Now read: 5 reasons the USMC Blue Dress A is the greatest uniform of all time

Authoritarian leaders are using the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to lock up dissenters and grab power, human rights experts warn
Sergeant Major of the Army Dan Dailey salutes the Anthem pre-kickoff during the Army-Navy game at Lincoln Financial Field. SMA Dailey displayed the Army’s proposed ‘Pink and Green’ daily service uniform, modeled after the Army’s standard World War II-era dress uniform. (U.S. Army photo by Ronald Lee)

The Army is reverting to one of its classic uniforms from the bygone World War II-era: the pinks and greens. The decision was met with near-universal jubilation from the Army (it was a golden age for the U.S. Army in nearly every way).

Now, former airman Blake Stilwell demands the Air Force develop its own throwback jersey.

Mandatory Fun is hosted By:

Blake Stilwell: Air Force veteran and Managing Editor

Tim Kirkpatrick: Navy veteran and Editorial Coordinator

Eric Mizarski: Army veteran and Senior Contributor

Orvelin Valle (aka O.V.): Navy veteran and Podcast Producer

Catch the show on Twitter at: @MandoFun and on our Facebook group.

Articles

ISIS militants are faking illnesses to get out of fighting

There’s a term US soldiers give to one of their own who tries to shirk duty by making constant medical appointments: Sick call commando.


It looks like ISIS has the same problem.

Documents seized last month by Iraqi forces at a former ISIS base in Mosul, Iraq reveal that, despite its ability to recruit religious fanatics to the ranks, the so-called Islamic State has its fair share of “problem” fighters who don’t actually want to fight, The Washington Post reports.

Also read: ISIS is about to lose its biggest conquest in the Middle East

The Post found 14 fighters trying to skate their way out of combat, to include a Belgian offering a note about having back pain, and a Kosovar with “head pain” who wanted to be transferred to Syria.

Another, a recruit of Algerian descent from France, told his superiors he wanted to return home and offered two suspicious claims: I’m sick, and if you send me home, I’ll continue to work remotely.

Authoritarian leaders are using the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to lock up dissenters and grab power, human rights experts warn
The line for ISIS sick call.

“He doesn’t want to fight, wants to return to France. Claims his will is a martyrdom operation in France. Claims sick but doesn’t have a medical report,” one note reads, according to The Post.

Of course, there are plenty within the ranks of ISIS who are still fighting on the front lines. But to see that at least some are trying to get out while they still can seems to suggest that the USand Iraqi military is doing something right.

Iraqi forces captured all of eastern Mosul late last month, and preparations are currently being made to start hitting the western side of the city. The top US general in Iraq, Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, is confident that both Mosul and the ISIS capital of Raqqa will fall “within the next six months.”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

SHOT Show 2019: Glocks are so hot right now

Every year at SHOT Show, there seems to be a theme among the new product releases. 2018 seemed to be the year of the Roland Special & pistol comps, the year prior was pistol caliber carbines, before that was the modular rifles and suppressors. We are already seeing a trend forming here, Glock clones.

Brownells has been killing it with the exclusive Polymer80 options as well as their bargain-priced slides. With the success that Brownells saw with the Polymer80 frames and Brownells produced slides, it was only a matter of time for other manufacturers to jump on the Glock clone bandwagon.


Leading up to the show season Brownells even launched new Gen4 Glock slides,

The Glock clone army that might invade the 2019 SHOT Show really started on the floor of SHOT 2018 with the announcement of the PF940SC and the serialized PF940C frames. Could this have been foreshadowing of the impending invasion?

Our friends over at Grey Ghost Precision dropped their Combat Pistol frame on us back in August 2018, giving Glock builders yet another option. The Combat Pistol frame has a distinctive texture and is ready to build on right out of the box.

How about a folding Glock clone? Full Conceal launched their Polymer80 framed thing in 2018 as well.

There are even options to build a non-Glock Glock in large frame calibers like .45 ACP and 10mm with Polymer80’s recently announced PF45 frame.

As for 2019? We’ve seen a slew of new Glock clones announced like the Alpha Foxtrot aluminum frame, and the new Zev OZ9 pistol kicking the show season off strong. Following those, Faxon Firearms released their FX-19 pistol that appears to be based on a Faxon specific Poly80 frame.

If the Faxon pistol doesn’t do it for you, how about the new Glock build kit from Agency? This one came as the biggest surprise to us given Agency’s history producing some of the nicest Glocks on the planet. If you scoop one of these up, not only do you get an Agency stippled frame but also a lower parts kit and their Syndicate slide.

I think that it’s pretty safe to assume that the show floor is going to be littered with Glock clones built on their very own platform like the ZRO Delta Genesis Z9 or the half a dozen “new” pistols being offered that have a Polymer80 frame.

There are likely several other new Glock clone options that have been overlooked in the sea of plastic fantastic.

Regardless of what this year’s theme turns out to be, we will be pleased with any new products announced. After all, variety is the spice of life.

This article originally appeared on Recoilweb. Follow @RecoilMag on Twitter.

Do Not Sell My Personal Information