A senior Air Force commander revealed that airmen flying drones over ISIS-controlled areas in Syria and Iraq are directing close air support strikes supporting allied troops on the ground using unmanned aircraft.
Flying primarily out of Creech Air Force Base in Nevada, the pilots use pairs of MQ-9 Reaper drones where one designates the targets and the other drops ordnance on it, said Gen. Herbert “Hawk” Carlisle, the head of Air Combat Command — a mission he calls “urban CAS.”
“What we’re finding is some of what we can do multi-ship with the MQ-9 is really paying dividends just because of the attributes of those airplanes with the sensor suite combined with the weapons load and the ability to buddy and do things together,” Carlisle said during a Feb. 24 breakfast meeting with reporters in Washington D.C. “We’re finding that as we’re able to practice this more sometimes we can bring them together and pair them off.”
Usually, Air Force Joint Tactical Air Controllers, Combat Controllers or Tactical Control Party airmen paint targets and walk aircraft into a strike, including Reapers. But in terror battlefields like ISIS-held Syrian cities or hotbeds in Iraq, the risk to American boots on the ground is too great to deploy terminal controllers, officials say.
Carlisle added that American unmanned planes are closely linked with ground forces fighting ISIS militants in the battle for Mosul, “doing great work with that persistent attack and reconnaissance.”
“And their interaction with the land component is increasing in the Mosul fight,” he added, hinting that even attack helicopters are now able to link into feeds from Reaper drones.
And there’s more Carlisle wants to do with his MQ-9 fleet.
With recent bonuses of up to $175,000 paid to Air Force unmanned aerial vehicle pilots, the service now has the breathing room to do more with its Reaper fleet than just surveillance or precision strikes with one drone, Carlisle said.
“Some of that [growth] is bearing fruit in that we’re getting a little bit of an opportunity to do some training and get to some other missions,” Carlisle said. “So we’re learning a lot about the MQ-9 and what it can do for us.”
Seriously, as if the first viral video of actor Keanu Reeves slamming steel like a freaking Delta Force ninja wasn’t badass enough, now famed tactical firearms instructor and 3-Gun maestro Taran Butler has released more footage of the “John Wick” star getting his pew pew on.
Butler is a world champion 3-Gun competitor (a shooting sport that requires mastery of a shotgun, handgun and AR-style rifle) and frequently trains actors to properly handle weapons for Hollywood blockbusters.
An earlier video of Reeves slinging lead like a boss exploded online last year, with the actor demonstrating some serious skills in weapons handling and accuracy. In the newest video made up of more clips from the training last year — and includes some help from WATM friend Jaqueline Carrizosa — Reeves displays skills and speed that would make any top-tier competitor (and even some of America’s elite special operators) smile.
His transitions are lightning fast, his shot placement is about as “down zero” as it gets, and his trigger speeds are borderline full-auto, with minuscule splits and solidly low stage times. He even executes difficult “with-retention” handgun shots and moves from a close-in optic to a distance shot with his AR and drops steel every time.
DARPA created a device that hijacks an insect’s brain and body turning it into a miniature drone.
Through a DARPA-funded program, scientists at the University of California invented a tiny rig that connects to an insect’s brain and flight muscles. Once implanted, the device takes over the insect’s body, turning it into a remote control cyborg capable of receiving flight commands wirelessly from a nearby laptop.
Engineers at CRASAR developed small robots to aid in search-and-rescue missions and disaster relief, but nothing they’ve made has come close to the size and capabilities of an insect. Rather than creating such a robot, the University of California scientists decided to take a shortcut. “Insects are just amazing fliers compared to anything we can build at that scale,” said lead engineer Michel Maharbiz in and interview with WIRED.
This is not the first time scientists used technology to control insects, according WIRED:
Researches have created remote-controlled crawling insects before, forcing a bug’s legs to move by electrically stimulating its muscles. It’s simple enough that you can even buy your own kit to commandeer a cockroach at home. But flying bugs are harder to hijack.
This video shows the University of California scientists controlling a beetle cyborg:
Preliminary results of an Army test to see how the service’s M855A1 5.56mm round performs in Marine Corps weapons show that the enhanced performance round causes reliability and durability problems in the Marine M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle, service officials say.
The Marine Corps in March added the M27 and the M16A4 rifles to the Army’s ongoing testing of M855A1 Enhanced Performance Round at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland after lawmakers questioned why the Army and the Marines use two different types of 5.56mm ammunition.
“One of the reasons we were doing that test was because of congressional language from last year that said ‘you two services need to look at getting to a common round,’ so we heard Congress loud and clear last year,” Col. Michael Manning, program manager for the Marine Corps Infantry Weapon Systems, told Military.com in a Dec. 15 Interview.
Lawmakers again expressed concern this year in the final joint version of the Fiscal 2017 National Defense Appropriations Act, which includes a provision requiring the secretary of defense to submit a report to the House and Senate Armed Services Committees explaining why the two services are using different types of 5.56 mm ammunition.
Congress has approved the provision, but the bill is awaiting President Barack Obama’s signature. The report must be submitted within 180 days after enactment of the legislation, which includes the entire defense budget for the coming year.
If the secretary of defense does not determine that an “emergency” requires the Army and Marine Corps to use the two different types of rifle ammo, they must begin using a common 5.56mm round within a year after the bill is passed, it states.
“The 2017 NDAA language doesn’t surprise us; we kind of figured they were going to say that,” Manning said.
The Army replaced the Cold War-era M855 5.56mm round in 2010 with its new M855A1 EPR, the result of more than a decade of work to develop a lead-free round.
The M855A1 features a steel penetrator on top of a solid copper slug, making it is more dependable than the current M855, Army officials have said. It delivers consistent performance at all distances and penetrates 3/8s-inch-thick steel at ranges approaching 400 meters, tripling the performance of the M855, Army officials maintain.
The Marine Corps still uses the M855 but since 2009 has also relied heavily upon the MK 318, a 5.56mm round that’s popular in the special operations community.
The Army’s M855A1 test, which involves the service’s M4 and M4A1 carbines and the Marine M16A4 and M27, is still ongoing and Marine officials are expecting a final test report in the April-May 2017 timeframe, Manning said.
Preliminary findings of the test show that the Army’s M855A1 round meets all the requirements for a 5.56mm general purpose round in Army weapon systems, “but does not meet the system reliability requirement when fired from the USMC M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle,” Army spokesman Lt. Col. Jesse Stalder said in a Dec. 16 email.
The Marine Corps began fielding the M27 in 2010 to replace the M249 squad automatic weapon in infantry squads.
The M27, made by Heckler Koch, is a version of the German gun-maker’s HK 416, an M4-style weapon that used a piston gas system instead of the direct gas impingement system found on the M4 and M16A4.
“In testing the Army states there was a reliability issue; that is true,” Chris Woodburn, deputy branch chief for the Marine Corps’ Maneuver Branch that deals with requirements, told Military.com in a Dec. 20 telephone interview.
Reliability refers to mean rounds between stoppages, Woodburn said.
“In this case, it appears the stoppages that we were seeing were primarily magazine-related in terms of how the magazine was feeding the round into the weapon,” he said. “We don’t know that for sure, but it looks that way.”
After further testing, Woodburn said the Marines have found a solution in the Magpul PMAG, a highly-reliable polymer magazine that has seen extensive combat use in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“It appears we have found a magazine that takes care of the reliability issues,” Woodburn said.
Marine Corps Systems Command on Monday released a message which authorizes the PMAG magazine for use in the M27, the M16A4 and M4 carbines, Woodburn said.
“The reason they did that is because when Marines are deploying forward, they are sometimes receiving M855A1, and we need to ensure they have the ability to shoot that round,” Woodburn said.
“In terms of the cause analysis and failure analysis, that has not been done, but what we do know is that the PMAG works,” he said.
Preliminary tests also show that the M855A1 also causes durability problems in the M27, Woodburn said.
“Where it still appears that we still have an issue with it is it appears to degrade the durability,” Woodburn said. “Durability is mean rounds between essential function failures, so you are talking bolt-part failures, barrel failures and the like.
“It is a hotter round and we think, that may be contributing to it, but we won’t know for sure until the testing is complete,” he said.
In 2008, the Marine Corps came out with a requirement for a new 5.56mm round that would penetrate battlefield barriers such as car windshields with our losing performance better than the older M855 round, Marine officials maintain.
The service had planned to field an earlier version of the Army’s M855A1 until the program suffered a major setback in August 2009, when testing revealed that the earlier, bismuth-tin slug design proved to be sensitive to heat which affected the trajectory or intended flight path.
The Army quickly redesigned the M855A1 with its current solid copper slug, but the setback prompted Marine officials to stay with the current M855 round as well as start using the MK 318 Special Operations Science and Technology, or SOST, round developed by U.S. Special Operations Command instead.
The MK 318 bullet weighs 62 grains and has a lead core with a solid copper shank. It uses an open-tip match round design common with sniper ammunition. It stays on target through windshields and car doors better than conventional M855 ammo, Marine officials maintain.
The MK 318 and the Army’s M855A1 “were developed years ago; they both were developed for a specific requirement capability separate and aside from each other,” Manning said. “The bottom line is both of these rounds are very good rounds.”
Both the Army and the Marine Corps “would like to get to a common round,” Manning added.
The Army, however, maintains that it is “committed to the M855A1” round and so far has produced more than one billion rounds of the ammunition, Stalder said.
“It provides vastly superior performance across each target set at an extremely affordable cost and eliminates up to 2,000 tons of lead that would otherwise be deposited annually onto our training bases,” Stalder said. “More than 1.6B rounds have been produced and reports on combat effectiveness have been overwhelmingly positive.”
Two Russian fishermen were just minding their business when a true predator of the sea popped up right next to them.
That’s a nuclear submarine of the Russian Navy. According to translations in Russia Today, the fishermen released a stream of curse words when they realized that a nuclear submarine was so close to them, and one of them asks the other to check out how badly his hands are shaking.
YouTube user Vlad Wild played it cool when he uploaded the video, though. He titled it “Nothing unusual, just submarine.” Check it out below:
Submarines work using stealth, so it’s rare to see them in the wild. These two men were extremely lucky to be able to see the boat in action.
An MQ-9 Reaper drone has bagged its first air-to-air kill of another small, aerial vehicle in a controlled simulation, an official revealed to Military.com.
The successful test in 2017 showed the U.S. Air Force that an unmanned vehicle like the MQ-9 has the ability to conduct air-to-air combat, much like its manned fighter brethren such as an F-15 Eagle or F-22 Raptor, according to Col. Julian Cheater, commander of the 432nd Wing at Creech Air Force Base, Nevada.
“Something that’s unclassified but not well known, we recently in November … launched an air-to-air missile against a maneuvering target that scored a direct hit,” Cheater said. Military.com sat down with Cheater here at the Air Force Association Air, Space and Cyber conference outside Washington, D.C.
“It was an MQ-9 versus a drone with a heat-seeking air-to-air missile, and it was direct hit … during a test,” he said of the first-of-its-kind kill.
“We develop those tactics, techniques and procedures to make us survivable in those types of environments and, if we do this correctly, we can survive against some serious threats against normal air players out there,” Cheater said on Sept. 17, 2018. “We will go participate in ‘Red Flag’ exercises, and we will drop weapons in testing environments to make sure that we can fight against those type of adversaries.”
An MQ-9 Reaper drone.
The effort is key to preparing for the next big aerial war against near-peer threats such as Russia or China, who are advancing their skill sets not only in unmanned aerial vehicles but also in hypersonics, electronic warfare, lasers, and missile testing, Cheater said.
“In many parts of the world, it’s almost a hybrid fight by proxy,” he said. “… the MQ-9 Reaper will certainly be a big part of that. So if you package this aircraft in properly with other aircraft, it will be survivable.”
The MQ-9 has a payload of 3,750 pounds and carries a combination of AGM-114 Hellfire missiles and GBU-12 Paveway II and GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munitions, according to the service. The MQ-9’s weapons load remains flexible, Cheater said.
For example, when the military mission in Afghanistan transitioned from Operation Enduring Freedom to the NATO-led Resolute Support, the MQ-9’s missions increased tenfold in comparison to the MQ-1.
The Reaper conducted 950 strikes, firing approximately 1,500 weapons, between January 2015 and August 2017, according to Air Force Central Command statistics provided to Military.com at the time. The MQ-1 executed only 35 strikes, employing roughly 30 weapons, in that same timeframe.
“We specialize in urban settings,” Cheater said. “That is an important capability that very few aircraft and aircrews have.”
But 2017’s test shows how the service is refocusing and thinking about the agility of the Reaper.
“It’s a balance of the forces and resources that we have available, especially on the maintenance side of the house, and everyone wanting to be as close to the fight in numerous locations,” Cheater said.
An MQ-1 Predator.
For example, “We can fly from one continent to the next — we [recently] flew nine [Reapers] from one operating area to another, and that is agile, that is flexible, and it provides options to the combatant commander,” he said, without disclosing locations.
The Air Force also recently moved a contingent of MQ-9s to Larisa Air Base in Greece for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions across Africa, according to Defense News. Without commenting on additional locations, Cheater said forward movement will always be part of the MQ-9’s future, especially with intelligence gathering on the rise.
“We’re ‘can-do’ operators by heart, and we want to look at it and see what’s the best option,” he said. “Generally, the resources don’t support everything we want to do, so we have to figure out what’s the best mix and match of those resources to achieve the desire and best end result.”
In addition, the future of drone feed dissemination and intelligence gathering is becoming more streamlined as part of the Air Force’s Next Generation Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Dominance Flight Plan, he said.
The plan, released in August 2018 with few specifics for operational security reasons, has become the service’s new road map to incorporating more autonomy and data from multiple sensors across platforms stationed around the globe. “We can determine if there [are] threats or indications of enemy forces,” Cheater said.
The Air Force wants to leverage artificial intelligence, automation and algorithmic data models to streamline opportunities for airmen watching drone feeds.
“We’re actually pretty exceptional as far as adopting new technologies and putting it in combat operations right now,” he said.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
The U.S. military uses some awesome weapon systems, but many of them are even more impressive when you can slow down the action and see exactly how the weapon engages and destroys its targets. We scoured Youtube and found some of the best.
(Funker530, YouTube)Tanks hardly need an explanation. This compilation video includes a few different types of munitions and lots of nice explosions as rounds leave the barrel.
The Javelin is primarily an anti-tank missile that attacks from above, though it can be used against aircraft and buildings in a direct fire mode. An initial charge blows the missile away from the launcher before the propellant sends the fire and forget missile to its target.
3. TOW Missile vs. Tank
(Funker530, YouTube) Tube-launched, optically tracked, wire-guided missiles serve a primarily anti-armor role. The missiles in this video are one of the variants that allow for top-down attacks, exploding above the target to penetrate the tank through its thinner turret armor as opposed to a direct hit.
(FullMag, YouTube)The M134 fires 7.62mm rounds, which makes it a minigun when compared to larger calibers like the 20mm Vulcans but still a big badass compared to most weapons floating around. These weapons are used extensively by the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR).
6. Mk 12 Special Purpose Rifle
(FullMag, Youtube)Developed by the US Navy for use by its special operators, this weapon is an extremely modified version of the M16. It is also now used by Army Special Forces. It fires standard NATO 5.56mm rounds.
7. Det Cord
(FullMag, YouTube)Det cord is a thin cord of explosives that detonates at four miles per second. When watching it at normal speed, it seems like the whole thing goes off at once. In extreme slow-mo though, you can watch the detonation move through the cord.
8. Tomahawk Missile
(okrajoe, Youtube)The Tomahawk missile has many variants, from conventional surface attack to a nuclear version to ones that drop cluster munitions. If you want to see extreme slow-motion video of a Tomahawk striking its target, check out this video.
9. 40mm semi-automatic grenade launcher
(Vickers Tactical, YouTube)The M32 MGL is a semi-automatic grenade launcher that looks like an old-western revolver on steroids. It’s in service with the US Marine Corps and can bring a lot of controlled, accurate pain quickly.
10. U.S. Navy Railgun
(defenseupdate, YouTube)Currently in tests with the U.S. Navy, the electromagnetic railgun has been a dream for years. Judging by videos like these, and the fact that the railgun is scheduled for sea trials in 2016, that dream may soon be a reality.
11. Fully-automatic M4
(The Slow Mo Guys, YouTube)Most military guys are familiar with the M4, though few get any trigger time with the fully automatic version. Here, you can see the full-auto M4 in all its glory as it’s slowed way down. The entire video is capturing action that took place in just over two seconds.
We live in a world full of uncertainty. This has always been the case. But when you have kids, that uncertainty becomes less abstract and action is required. It needs to be met with the understanding that it’s on you to take the proper precautions to protect your family when shit hits the fan. There’s truth in that saying “Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.” There’s also truth in the saying “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” The act of preparing helps you feel a bit less worried about hurricanes, floods, super viruses, and other such events. You can’t control anything; but you can control how ready you are.
One way to ensure you’re ready: prepare an emergency kits or go-bag. Companies like Uncharted Supply Co., Echo-Sigma, and Emergency Zone have made small fortunes in recent years selling premade emergency kits for this very reason. Affordable, portable, and packed with short-term survival essentials, their sole purpose is to arm people with the gear they need to get out of town should a life-or-death situation unfold right before your eyes.
Emergency kits are also commonly known as bug-out bags. Borrowing military terminology, the moniker refers to when U.S. troops were directed to retreat (or “bug out”) with their vital survival gear during dire situations in the Korean War. Some other common nicknames used today include the battle box, 72-hour kit, go-bag, and INCH bag, the latter of which stands for “I’m Never Coming Home”.
Not necessarily intended for long-term survival, the modern-day bug-out bag emphasizes being ready to go with everything you would need should an unforeseen emergency evacuation arise. And while the concept of proactively preparing for a worst-case scenario can seem like a daunting task, it’s also incredibly important.
“Natural disasters and society disasters such as a loss of power are not going to stop happening — we all know there will be something happening again sooner or later,” says Stroud. “It takes such little effort to prepare, yet the payoff can be very profound, and even save lives.”
Stroud, true to his reputation, doesn’t believe in taking the easy way out and is not a fan of the one-size-fits-all, ready-made bug-out bag. Why? For the simple reason that the hands-on nature of putting one together yourself makes you aware of its contents. “People must become comfortable making their own bug-out bags through research and learning,” he says.
“There is no shortcut here, and there is no company that is going to put together a grab-and-go kit that is going to work for your own family’s individual needs,” Stroud adds. “Most people will purchase such a kit and never open it or go through the contents to make sure they all work well.”
So what does the proper bug-out bag contain? While an emergency kit for single guy in his 50’s will vary significantly from the contents of one prepared by parents evacuating with a newborn, there are certain items both need to contain..
Now, it’s important to keep in mind that you aren’t planning for a glamping vacation or a weekend family escape to the woods. These evacuation essentials are geared toward survival purposes. They’re intended to keep you covered during the first 72 hours after an emergency strikes. You’ll want to source items that are easy to carry, durable in unpredictable conditions, and most importantly, useful in keeping you and your family safe.
Here, with Stroud’s help, are some of non-negotiables that need to be included in a bug-out bag
What to Pack in a Bug-Out Bag or Go-Bag
Water purification pump:The LifeStraw Mission, a gravity water purifier, weighs a little more than a pound but has the capacity to purify 12 liters of water per hour
There’s no shortage of online communities and websites completely dedicated to survivalism and preparedness. Popular digital destinations like The Ultimate Bug Out Bag Guide, The Prepared, and Ready To Go Survival are teeming with resources related to the topic, ranging from how-to-videos to in-depth gear reviews.
All of these sources keep updated master lists of everything you could possibly need in a bug-out bag. And a simple Google search for “bug-out bag essentials” will instantly return millions of results. But at the end of the day, only you can ultimately decide what needs to be included in your family’s survival kit. Personalization is paramount.
Stroud even brings it a step further, advising that every family member takes ownership of preparing for their specific needs.
“I recommend one bug-out bag per person,” he says. “Each family member, including all adults and any children capable of carrying, should have their own bug-out bag — personally designed — that they are familiar with.”
In addition to the general must-have survival elements, what should parents evacuating with kids in tow bring? Consider the below list a starting point. While there’s bound to be some crossover in the lists below, use your best judgement when curating each bag. Include any additional items that you feel would be absolutely necessary, and engage your kids in preparing their own bags so they’re familiar with the contents.
Bug-Out Bag Essentials for Babies
Diapers: Diapers are so lightweight, it’ll be easy to bring enough to last a 72-hour period. The absorbency of diapers also helps them come in handy as cold or hot packs when emergencies strikes.
Dry formula: Even if your baby is still breastfeeding, you’ll want to make sure to keep a healthy supply of dry formula packets on hand, just in case.
Bottle: Bring a bottle should you need to resort to using dry formula (plus, you can use the nipple as a pacifier, or store other items inside the bottle for extra protection).
Pacifier: Because a pacified baby beats a crying baby.
Antibacterial wipes While these can be used for the whole family, they’ll come in handy for a quick baby bath or other sanitation purposes.
Baby carrier You’ll want to be able to use your hands and carry your baby comfortably.
Bug-Out Bag or Go-Bag Essentials for Children Ages 3-6
Snacks: Food may be scarce, so be sure to bring some of your kid’s favorite snacks along. Bonus points if the snacks also pack a jolt of energy or nutrition.
Oral hygiene supplies: keeping to some routine habits, even in extreme situations, can help instill a sense of normalcy and independence―plus, healthy oral hygiene habits never hurt.
Multivitamins: your child’s diet can be severely challenged in an emergency, so stash a daily vitamin supplement in their bag.
Study walking shoes: terrain may be rough, so plan to pack a durable pair of walking shoes (that fit their ever-changing foot size) which can stand the conditions you may face.
Thermal blanket: A light, metal-coated space blanket is ultra-lightweight and designed to retain heat in colder temperatures. It can even be used as a make-shift shelter.
Ear plugs: depending on the scenario, ear plugs can help drown out frightening noises during the day and ensure a more sound sleep at night.
Bug-Out Bag Essentials for Children Ages 6+
Gum or hard candy: Whether they’re leveraged as an energy-booster or a pick-me-up when morale is low, you’ll be glad you brought a handful of sweets.
Pedialyte powder: Children aren’t the best at communicating when they’re thirsty, so avoid dehydration with a few packets of this electrolyte-infused powder.
Books: we’re not talking heavy, hard-cover books, but the mind can weaken faster than the body in times of stress―so keep a favorite paperback close by.
Other mind-occupiers: should boredom set in, it’s not a bad idea to have a deck of cards, coloring book, or other such extras on hand.
Emergency whistle: Kids six and older can let curiosity get the best of them, so arm them with an emergency whistle in case they get separated from the family.
Walkie-talkies: When whistles won’t cut it, or the family is planning to temporarily split up, a pair of walkie-talkies will definitely come in hand.
Additional Bug-Out Bag or Go-Bag Items to Keep in Mind
Power bank: pack a fully-charged power bank or two to keep cell phones and other necessary electronics charged. Ideally, you want a solar-powered bank that can be refueled via sunlight.
Document protection: during periods of uncertainty, it’s imperative to keep your family’s important documents (like birth certificates, social security cards, and passports) with you at all times, so invest in a waterproof document pouch for when you’re on the go.
Super Glue and duct tape: in an evacuation scenario, you never know when you’ll need to take a page from the MacGyver playbook (plus, Super Glue and duct tape can be used in a range of medical emergencies).
N99 masks: These face masks are effective at filtering out 99 percent of non-oil-based airborne particulate matter, including most pollution, bacteria, and viruses.
Extra money: In emergency situations, cash is king. Five-hundred dollars in small bills is a good amount.
Sunscreen: Because sun exposure is likely in emergency situations.
This covers the basics. The point here is to get you thinking about preparing and taking an active role in considering the worst. Luck, they say, is where preparation and opportunity meet. While it’s good to hope that the opportunity never arises in this case, you’ll be thankful to have prepared if it does.
The Pentagon will send a proposal to the White House in early May laying out America’s long-term presence in Afghanistan, senior defense officials said May 4. The plan will likely include a request for more U.S. troops.
U.S. military officials have said they need greater forces to meet the growing training and advising mission in Afghanistan, where local forces are fighting a Taliban insurgency. And there is a new push for NATO members to step up their commitments of troops and other resources to help the country in its struggle for stability.
Theresa Whelan, who is currently working as the Pentagon’s assistant defense secretary for special operations, told senators the new plan likely will go to the White House next week.
“We are actually actively looking at adjustments to the approach in Afghanistan right now,” Whelan told the Senate Armed Services Committee. “The interest is to move beyond the stalemate and also to recognize that Afghanistan is a very important partner for the United States in a very tricky region.”
Gen. John Nicholson, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, and other senior military leaders have repeatedly described the fight in Afghanistan as a stalemate. Officials have said they need more trainers and advisers to increase the capabilities of Afghan forces.
But the United States doesn’t want to carry the burden by itself.
A senior NATO official said the U.S. has sent letters to allies asking them to increase their commitments. The official was not authorized to discuss the letters publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Appearing with Whelan, Gen. Raymond Thomas, head of U.S. Special Operations Command, told the Senate panel he has enough forces for the military’s counterterrorism mission in Afghanistan, which is targeting Islamic State, al-Qaida and Taliban militants.
Thomas said a critical factor in ongoing discussions about a new Afghanistan strategy is the need for an enduring U.S. presence in the country. The new plan would set the parameters for how that could look.
With the rhetoric about global trade deficits heating up on the campaign trail, it might appropriate to momentarily shift our focus away from the asymmetric threats of the Taliban and ISIS and look at the world of conventional warfare. Here’s how the world’s three most powerful militaries stack up in 4 major categories:
1. Stealth fighters
While America holds the current stealth jet lead with the only fielded fifth-generation fighter, Russia and China are both gunning for it. There are only 187 F-22s, and the F-35 that is supposed to be joining them is running into all sorts of problems in the test phase, including the hi-tech helmet that is supposed to put all kinds of info in the pilot’s visor that doesn’t work right yet.
Russia is developing only one stealth fighter but it has capabilities that some put on par with the F-22. The T-50 will likely enter service in late 2016 or early 2017. Also known as the PAK FA, it’s less stealthy than the Raptor but more maneuverable. The F-22 would likely get a jump on the Russians in a war, but would be in serious trouble if it was spotted first.
Likely winner: As long as the other planes are still more hypothetical than real, the F-22 remains the clear victor. Still, Raptor drivers can’t rest easy knowing that multiple aircraft are being developed with the primary mission of bringing them down, and those planes are being developed with engineers who have the F-22’s schematics.
Russia is developing the prototype T-14 on the Armata platform, but right now it relies on the T-90A, which is still an awesome tank. One even survived a direct hit from a TOW missile in Syria. Originally fielded in 2004, the T-90A features an autoloader, reactive armor, a remotely-operated machine gun, and a 125mm cannon. The crew can fire anti-tank guided missiles from the main gun.
Like Russia, China fields a few varieties of tanks and has new ones in development. It’s go-to for tank-on-tank engagements is the Type 99. It features a 125mm smoothbore gun with auto-loader that can also fire missiles. The tank has been upgraded with reactive armor and is thought to be nearly as survivable in combat as Western or Russian tanks.
Likely winner: Strictly looking at the gear in a one-on-one fight, it’s a draw. But America has more top-tier tanks and a better history of training crews, plus (Ukraine notwithstanding) U.S. forces have more recent combat experience than their rivals.
3. Surface ships
With the largest Navy in the world, America has any surface fight in the bag if it happens in the middle of the ocean. The crown jewels are the Navy’s 10 full-sized aircraft carriers and 9 landing helicopter docks. But the Navy’s technological advantages and sheer size might not be enough to overcome China’s missiles or Russia’s diesel subs if it had to fight in enemy waters.
Russia still struggles with force projection, but the launch of Kalibr cruise missiles at ground targets in Syria proved that Russia has found a way to give even their small ships some serious bite. An anti-ship version of the missile is thought to be just as capable and, if fired in a large enough salvo, may be able to overcome U.S. ship defenses like the Phalanx. Russia also fields the Club-K missile system, a land-attack and anti-ship cruise missile system that can be hidden in shipping containers.
Likely winner: The U.S. Navy is still the undisputed champ across the world but it would take heavy losses if it fought China or Russia at home. A full-scale invasion might even fail if planners aren’t careful.
Likely winner: The U.S. submarine fleet wins for both power projection onto land and sub-on-sub combat, but the gap is narrowing. Chinese and Russian innovations and the rapid construction in new shipyards will make the ocean a more dangerous place for American submariners.
Russia is doubling down in its support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
In an effort to prop up the Syrian government, and secure its own interests in the region, Russia is establishing its “most significant” military foothold in the region since the days of the Cold War.
As part of this push, Russia has taken over the main international airport in Damascus and is airlifting tons of supplies, soldiers, and armaments including tanks into the country.
At the same time, Russians are building another base in Latakia, the ancestreal heartland of Assad.
So far, Moscow has deployed around a half dozen T-90 battle tanks in Syria, The New York Times reports citing American military specialists. The tanks are currently being stationed at airfields throughout the country.
Reuters reports that Russia has placed seven T-90s by an airfield in Latakia. The tanks are currently defensively deployed, but that could change as Russia continues to fly more equipment and personnel into the country.
The T-90 tank is Russia’s second-most recent tank. It first entered service in the Russia military in 1992, and Russia began exporting the vehicle in 2004. As of 2007, Russia only had around 200 T-90 tanks within its armed forces. As such, the deployment of over a half dozen of the tanks to Syria is a fairly large move.
According to Army Technology, the T-90 is heavily armed with a wide variety of rounds. The tank comes with one main turret that can fire armor piercing rounds, high-explosive anti-tank rounds, and shrapnel projectiles. In addition, the vehicle has an anti-tank guided missile system and a mounted machine gun.
Defensively, the tank has both conventional and reactive armor shielding as well as various jamming tools that make it difficult to enemy’s to lock onto the tanks position.
Altogether, the T-90 is an extremely capable vehicle. Aside from Russia’sbrand new T-14 Armata tank, which has yet to enter mass procurement, it is Russia’s latest and most capable battle vehicle.
In addition to the T-90s, the Times reports that Russia has also moved in howitzers, armored personnel carriers, and artillery into Latakia.
A news broadcaster affiliated with the terrorist group ISIS has released an Android app that teaches children the Arabic alphabet — and it’s full of references to weapons and jihad.
Al Bayan Radio, which broadcasts ISIS propaganda on radio waves in the Middle East and through its Android apps, made the app available to supporters on the encrypted messaging app Telegram and other platforms ISIS commonly uses. The app isn’t available on the Google Play store, but can be accessed through files shared online.
This app is the latest step in Al Bayan’s expansion — the radio network broadcasts on FM frequencies in the Middle East, but has also recently released other Android apps and Telegram channels that distribute its propaganda to a wider audience.
The app has games for memorizing and how to write the Arabic letters in addition to including a nasheed (a cappella Islamic songs) designed to help teach the alphabet. The lyrics in the nasheed are littered with jihadist terminology, while other games within the app also include militaristic vocabulary with more common, basic words. Words like ‘tank,’ ‘gun,’ and ‘rocket’ are among the first few taught within the application.
The site took posted these screenshots from the app:
The website noted that this is ISIS’ first app, however, aimed exclusively at children.
But it’s far from the only example of ISIS (which is also known as the Islamic State, ISIL, or Daesh) trying to indoctrinate children under the pretense of educating them.
The group has also released textbooks that teach various subjects using weapons and other terrorist motifs.
Children have also featured prominently in photos and videos that ISIS has distributed through its various propaganda networks. They are shown at training camps and in schools, leading experts to worry that children living in ISIS territory are being indoctrinated with terrorist ideology at a young age, which could be difficult to reverse whenever ISIS is defeated.