The highest rate of fire for a machine gun in service is the M134 Minigun. The weapon was designed in the late 1960s for helicopters and armored vehicles. It fires 7.62 mm calibre rounds at a blistering rate of 6,000 rounds per minute, or 100 rounds per second — about ten times that of an ordinary machine gun, according to the Guinness World Records.
The Metal Storm gun, on the other hand, makes the M134 look like a toy. The prototype gun system was rated at 16,000 rounds per second or 1,000,000 rounds per minute. The gun system was developed by an Australian weapons company by the same name. In 2007, Metal Storm Inc. started delivering its gun systems to the US Navy for surface ships. This video shows how the Metal Storm gun achieves its head spinning firing rate.
A Puerto Rico National Guard member takes the temperature of an incoming traveler at Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Photo by Staff Sgt. Marimar Rivera.
A deadly pandemic, a Category 5 hurricane and two earthquakes. While this sounds like cataclysms from the Old Testament — it’s not. Puerto Rico has been dealing with a range of natural disasters for the past three years.
In the center of them all is the Puerto Rico National Guard, stepping up to the challenges each provides.
“It’s certainly showing that the Puerto Rico National Guard is a flexible and adaptable force,” Maj. Gen. José Reyes, adjutant general, said.
The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the lives of just about every American. The mantra of elected officials has been, “Flatten the curve,” meaning stop the spread of the virus. PRNG is doing its part to accomplish that by conducting medical evaluations of everyone entering Puerto Rico.
Earlier this year, PRNG and other federal and state agencies started screening incoming passengers at the international airport in San Juan by installing 11 infrared cameras that measure a person’s body temperature.
If a passenger has a temperature of 100.3° or over, they are immediately taken to a triage area and tested for COVID-19.
This is a 24/7 operation with about 260 PRNG members participating — roughly 60 are assigned to each six-hour shift.
Laiza Rivera, a medical student at Central Caribbean University, took the oath of office to become a 2nd Lt. in the Puerto Rico National Guard on April 2. Here she signs her enlistment contract as Gen. José Reyes looks on. Photo by First Sgt. Luis E. Orengo.
In addition to military personnel, 150 students from Puerto Rico’s four medical schools have volunteered for this mission as well.
This actually worked as an unintentional recruitment campaign when four of them decided to join the PRNG. One of them is 2nd Lt. Laiza Rivera.
The 27–year-old says she was going stir-crazy being home all day because of the lockdown so she decided to volunteer at the airport. Rivera, whose major is ophthalmology, was already in the process of joining but inspired the other three student-volunteers to join as well.
PRNG has similar operations at other ports of entry.
PRNG’s ability to adapt is illustrated in its revised plan for annual training. Ordinarily, large groups of personnel would attend exercises at the national training center in California, as well as another location in Louisiana. Not this year. In an effort to practice social distancing, those exercises will be modified to be conducted in smaller groups at Camp Santiago in Puerto Rico.
Additionally, classes that would normally be held in a conference room have switched to video conferencing.
In 2017, Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico.
Under Reyes’ command, the island’s combined military forces provided its residents with just about everything they needed.
They provided MPs to the local police departments to maintain law and order; engineers cleared hundreds of miles of debris from roadways; and they conducted search and rescue operations in flooded communities and evacuated stranded citizens. The Army aviation unit conducted countless flights to and from the center of the island (its most rural and isolated area) to deliver food, water and emergency supplies.
Puerto Rico still hasn’t fully recovered from the hurricane and the 56 year-old general predicts that won’t happen for another 10 to 12 years.
If the hurricane wasn’t bad enough, Puerto Rico was shaken by two major earthquakes in January. There were 10,000 people who either partially or completely lost their homes.
Reyes, who was born and raised in Puerto Rico, presented a plan to Governor Wanda Vázquez Garced to relocate these refugees. PRNG then established five major camps, each with a capacity of about 1,700. In partnership with FEMA and other agencies, they relocated over 10,000 people in 56 days.
While no one can predict when an earthquake will occur, there is an established hurricane season for the Caribbean and it’s happening now.
Under Homeland Security Presidential Directives Nos. 8 and 9, states and territories are required to conduct preparatory training in response to the threats that pose the greatest risk to national security, including natural disasters.
PRNG is on it conducting emergency management exercises for hurricanes, earthquakes, pandemics and even tsunamis with all 78 municipalities on the island. Until last year, exercises were only for Category 5 hurricanes. The new exercises anticipate all these disasters happening concurrently.
Puerto Rico has had a lot thrown at it over the past three years and, in theory, it all could happen again. PRNG will be ready if it does.
Additionally, Reyes knows Guard units from other states, as well as additional DOD personnel, has Puerto Rico’s back and will be there to support him.
Reyes came out of retirement to take on this command and he’s glad he did.
“It’s a tremendous honor to command the Puerto Rico National Guard, eight-five hundred strong, fully committed men and women with an unbreakable sense of service towards the people of Puerto Rico and our nation,” he said. “I’m very proud of each one of them.”
China’s military has surged in capability and size in the recent decades, but that rise has come, partially, as a result of stealing, copying, or imitating technology developed by the U.S. and other countries. From drones to ships, here are six of the most recent copies:
A Chinese Type 726 landing craft.
LCAC / Type 726
The Chinese Type 726A Landing Craft, Air Cushioned is a near carbon copy of the Navy LCAC, the hovercraft used by the U.S. Navy uses to deliver everything, from bullets to tanks, to bare enemy beaches. The two vessels even have similar capabilities — both can carry 60 tons, but the U.S. LCAC can “overload” to 75 tons.
It’s unclear whether Star UAV System gained intel as a result of cyber espionage or through the Chinese government, if at all, but the similarities between the X-47B and the Star Shadow are hard to ignore.
But, they do manufacture it more cheaply, leading to an edge in exports. An answer to the MQ-9 Reaper drone also exists, the CH-5, but it lacks the altitude of the proper Reaper. It can reach a paltry 9,000 meters, compared to the 15,000 meters of the Reaper.
The Chinese heavy lift Y-20 aircraft at the Zhuhai Airshow in 2014.
(Photo by Airliners.net, CC BY-SA 4.0)
Y-20 / C-17
Rolling off the line in June, 2016, the Y-20 is slightly smaller and carries slightly less weight than the American C-17, to which it appears to be a close cousin. Despite its relative smallness, it’s still a massive transport aircraft capable of carrying Chinese main battle tanks and other gear across the planet.
China purchased Sikorsky S-70 helicopters, the civilian variant of the UH-60 Black Hawk, back in the 1980s. Eventually, they wore out, so China created the “homegrown Z-20,” which are basically UH-60s. They’re so closely related that commentators took to calling the Z-20 the “Copy Hawk.”
The Chinese Type 052 destroyer is an imitation of the U.S. Navy Arleigh-Burke class. The Chinese Haribing (DDG 112) is pictured above.
(U.S. Department of Defense)
Arleigh-Burke / Type 052
China’s Type 052 guided-missile destroyers have large radars, vertical missile tubes that can attack everything from submarines to enemy missiles, and a helicopter hanger, just like the rival Arleigh-Burke class in the U.S. arsenal — and their designs and appearances are very similar.
This is one case, though, where the technology appears to be more imitation than theft. Unlike the drones, the Y-20, and other programs, there’s little evidence that China gained direct access to Arleigh-Burke designs or technology. More likely, Chinese leaders observed the capability of the destroyer, tried to steal it, but figured they could approximate much of the system with their own engineers if necessary.
Moscow has condemned Britain’s plans to build new military bases in Southeast Asia and the Caribbean, saying Russia is prepared to take retaliatory measures if its own interests or those of its allies are threatened.
British Defense Minister Gavin Williamson told the Sunday Telegraph in December 2018 that Britain could establish the new military bases “within the next couple of years” after the country leaves the European Union.
Williamson said the expansion would be part of a strategy for Britain to become a “true global player” after Brexit.
He did not specify where the bases might be built. But the newspaper reported that options included Singapore or Brunei near the South China Sea and Montserrat or Guyana in the Caribbean.
British Defense Minister Gavin Williamson.
Speaking on Jan. 11, 2019, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswomen Maria Zakharova said Williamson’s comments were baffling and warned that such plans could destabilize world affairs.
“Of course, Britain like any other country is independent when it comes to its military construction plans. But against the backdrop of overall rising military and political tensions in the world…statements about the desire to build up its military presence in third countries are counterproductive, destabilizing, and possibly of a provocational nature,” she was quoted as saying by TASS.
Russia has military bases in several former Soviet countries. It also operates military facilities in Syria and Vietnam.
In America, when you go without wearing any underwear, we jokingly call it “going commando.” If you’ve ever deployed to a joint military base and you’ve worked alongside Royal Marines, then you understand the term better than most — you’ve probably received an uncalled-for eyeful when these troops wake up for the work day. That’s because they tend to sleep in just their birthday suits.
But it’s not for comfort’s sake — it’s hygienically sound.
It’s no secret that, when the mission calls for it, military personnel sometimes have to live in tight berthing areas. Because of this close-quarter living, illnesses and bacteria can quickly spread from person to person.
Most service members are taught to shower before they go to bed. After all, you want to remain as clean as possible throughout the night. But when we sleep, we naturally sweat from our pores. Meanwhile, our microscopic skin cells die and flake off. You might not know it, but you leave behind an imprint of skin and sweat wherever you lay — it’s actually pretty nasty.
Royal Marines tend to sleep naked so they don’t hold all the juices and skin flakes emitted from their bodies in the clothes they’ll later wear.
U.S. troops are taught to sleep in a t-shirt and undies or some type of pajamas. Sure, this might contribute to the ever-growing pile of dirty laundry, but at least it’s easier to go to the restroom at 0300 — which is located on the other side of the FOB.
Cooks in the military try their hardest. If you befriend them, they’ll always find a way to slide a few extra slices of bacon your way. But no matter how close you get with the cook in your unit, you’re always going to swing by the gut truck when they arrive.
For those not in the know, gut trucks (or “roach coaches”) are like a civilian food truck except that their menu doesn’t need to be elaborate to attract customers. The bar for quality is set at “better than a scoop of powdered eggs.”
And it’s nothing personal — hell, even the cooks will skip their own food to grab a breakfast burrito from the gut truck. Why?
Doesn’t matter what time it is; they got you.
(Photo by Maj. Wayne Clyne)
They can be ordered on speed dial
If you want to grab chow from the dining facility, you have to go to them. If you’re in the field and the cooks joined you for the morning, you still have to go to their stand.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re at the battalion area, the motor pool, or the back 40 in a field exercise — the gut truck is just a quick call away.
There might be healthy options. No one knows for sure because no one ever orders it.
(Photo by Ens. Jacob Kotlarski)
They have all the POG bait
Coffee isn’t known for its quality in the military. Yeah, it’ll get you up in the morning, but that’s about it. If you want an energy drink or some junk food, you’ll need to bring it with you.
Don’t worry. That retired Sgt. Maj. who realized how much money is blown on junk food every day has you covered. The truck is always fully stocked.
Everyone from the lowliest private to the commanding general is treated to the same fatty, delicious burger.
(Photo by Spc. James Wilton)
They’re faster — even if the lines are longer
Food trucks work on civilian time. To them, more customers means more money. Now, don’t get this twisted — we know military cooks are giving it their all.
Food trucks simply don’t allow high-ranking officers and NCOs to play rock, paper, chevrons and cut the line to ask for an extremely complicated custom order that backs the line up. (If you or someone you know does this, know that troops talk sh*t behind their or your back.)
Gut truck drivers know that throwing out that much bacon is fraud, waste, abuse… and just not cool.
(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Ben Navratil)
The food is always plentiful, hot, and ready
Gut trucks over stock with food before heading out and they have a good idea of how many troops they’ll be feeding. If they don’t have the breakfast burrito you wanted, they’ll have tons of whatever else you’re thinking of.
Conversely, cooks will ration every last piece of bacon like it’s the end of the world only to throw tubs of it away at the end of the meal.
Who ever read that comment card at the end of the DFAC and implemented it is a real American hero.
(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Ben Navratil)
Even cooks caught on to how awesome gut trucks are
See the cover photo at the top of this article? That’s actually not a civilian-owned gut truck. That’s actually a military food truck from the 3rd Infantry Division Sustainment Brigade as part of a test to judge troop reception. And so far, it’s working!
The cooks caught on to what works best for troops in the field and, unlike civilian trucks, these accept the meal-card given to the soldiers in the barracks. It serves all the stuff that troops want — with a little less tasty, tasty junk.
Marines in Afghanistan who need critical supplies in remote areas won’t have to lug their gear in trucks anymore. Instead, Corps planners have developed a new airdrop system that literally flied the supplies to their exact location.
Take that Amazon.
According to a Marine Corps Systems Command release, the last of 162 Joint Precision Air-drop Systems were delivered to the Marines in April. The system, based on the Firefly from Airborne Systems, is capable of delivering 2,200 pounds of supplies to within roughly 500 feet of an aim point when dropped from about 15.5 miles away.
“An average combat logistics patrol in Afghanistan that’s running behind a route clearance platoon may travel at only five to six miles an hour,” Capt. Keith Rudolf of the Marine Corps Systems Command’s Ground Combat Element Systems said. “Depending on how much supply you have on there, you may have a mile worth of trucks that are slow-moving targets.”
The United States Army also operates the 2,200-pound version of the system and also operates a version of the system capable of delivering five tons of supplies. The Marines have also acquired a version known as JPADS ULW – which can deliver 250 to 700 pounds of supplies.
Both versions of the system enable a cargo plane like the C-130J Hercules or the MV-22 Osprey to drop the pallet from an altitude of 24,500 feet – far outside the range of man-portable surface-to-air missiles, RPGs, heavy machine guns, and small arms.
Marine Corps Systems Command is now shifting from the acquisition of the JPADS to sustainment of the system. This includes planning for upgrades to the system to keep it relevant as the missions evolve.
The Marines are also considering a version that will allow reconnaissance Marines to be parachuted in with their gear.
The latest trailer for Black Widow has doubled-down on some dad bod cosplay, and I couldn’t be happier. Yes, the newest preview for Scarlett Johansson’s standalone Marvel movie is looking more and more like a James Bond movie, which is great, but the real question is, when is Black Widow’s fake dad going to get his own movie?
In case you missed it, back in December, we got our initial glimpse of David Harbour as the “Red Guardian” in the first trailer for Black Widow. But weren’t we all a little distracted by Baby Yoda and holiday shopping back then? Yeah. I was, too. Now we can get back to what really matters: thinking about David Harbour as Red Guardian and wondering if he is really Black Widow’s dad. Technically speaking, in the comics, Red Guardian is a character whose real name is usually Alexei Shostakov. In some of the old comics, Alexei Shostakov was married to Natasha Romanova, a.k.a. Black Widow. Obviously, Harbour’s version of this character isn’t married to Scarjo, and he acts way more like her dad. In all likelihood, he is not her dad biologically. But in terms of her Russian secret agent family, it seems like Red Guardian is about as dadcore as it gets.
To be clear, the reason why Red Guardian has a costume that emulates Captain America is that’s what Red Guardian was supposed to be: the Russian version of Cap. The old comic book backstory mostly suggests that unlike Cap, there was no super serum involved, so Red Guardian doesn’t have any superpowers. That is until David Harbour came along and added Dadbod to the list of superpowers possessed by the Red Guardian. In the new trailer (you can watch it above) Red Guardian describes what we’re seeing as “water weight,” and we totally get it. Same man. Same.
Not only will Black Widow finally give Scarjo’s titular character her long-overdue solo movie, but it also seems like the Marvel Cinematic Universe is continuing to court its not-so-secret core demographic, as DadBod Red Guardian follows in the footsteps of DadBod Thor. Lots of dads might want to be Cap or Falcon, but there are also plenty who would settle to be Red Guardian.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
The Navy is a tradition-bound military service, and few traditions are as important as burials at sea.
Perhaps the most unique services in the fleet occur on board submarines that spend the majority of their time under water. Submarine Force Atlantic says it is preparing for burials at sea on several Norfolk-based subs in the next few months.
One of those burials will be for World War II submarine veteran Marcus White, who served on seven war patrols in the Pacific theater during World War II and the Korean War, and was awarded the Bronze Star Medal with the “V” device for valor, signifying it was earned in combat.
White died in June at age 95. The USS Newport News, a Los Angeles-class attack submarine, will commit him and his wife Mary Miles White, who died seven years earlier, to the sea sometime next year. White’s son, Marcus White Jr., lives in Chesapeake and said his father loved being a submariner, and that he’s fulfilling his father’s wishes. The Navy allows active-duty sailors, veterans and their family members to be buried at sea.
The chaplain for the Navy’s Norfolk-based submarine squadron, Lt. Cmdr. Richard Smothers, spoke with The Virginian-Pilot about what makes burial ceremonies on board subs unique and special for those who choose them.
Releasing of cremains
Unlike larger ships such as aircraft carriers that can accommodate caskets, all submarine burials at sea involve cremains. They also must occur at least 3 miles from shore.
Smothers said burials at sea aboard a sub primarily occur in two ways. If the weather is fair, a sub will surface, stop moving and conduct a ceremony topside that involves raising a flag the family can keep, reading any scriptures the family requests and firing a 21-gun salute with seven rifles. A member of the crew will then pour the ashes overboard. Chaplains don’t serve on board subs, and the service is usually led by a lay leader on the boat.
Smothers said the sub’s commanding officer will usually address the crew from an onboard communications system so everyone can learn about the person who was committed to the deep. If the weather isn’t good enough to allow for a full topside ceremony, the cremains can be poured overboard in a smaller ceremony from a ship’s sail, the tall structure found on the topside of the sub.
The other option involves releasing ashes underwater through a torpedo tube while the sub is still moving. Smothers said this is a popular option among those who served as torpedomen.
“I know it sounds amazing or strange, but it does happen, and it can be done very honorably, very respectfully,” he said.
Smothers said the crew will clean the torpedo tube’s surface and place the cremains inside. After the burial, the family will usually receive a letter of condolence and appreciation from the sub’s commanding officer and a chart showing the GPS coordinates where the cremains were released.
Custody of the fallen
The Navy accommodates requests for burials at sea when it can, but it’s not always a speedy process. A ship’s operational schedule takes priority, and it can be months between the time a request is made and the time the burial occurs. In White’s case, that also allowed for a traditional memorial service long before his cremains were set to sail from Norfolk.
For a burial at sea on board a Norfolk-based sub, Smothers said a family will first provide their loved one’s cremains to Naval Medical Center Portsmouth. A religious program specialist in the submarine force will then take custody of the cremains and examine sub schedules to find the best fit.
If former submariners spent most of their time in a certain home port such as Groton, Conn., or Kings Bay, Ga., they’ll try to find a sub based there. Otherwise, they’ll find the best available schedule. Sometimes family members will be allowed onto Naval Station Norfolk or another base to watch the sub carrying their loved one’s remains depart, which is a rare occurrence for an outsider to know when a sub is departing.
Smothers said a religious program specialist will go aboard the sub with the cremains and transfer it to either the executive officer or chief of the boat, where they will be safely locked away in a state room until the burial. Smothers said the Norfolk squadron typically performs about a dozen burials at sea a year.
The submarine force is a small, tight-knit, all-volunteer community that places a premium on valuing tradition and respecting their forerunners. In some cases, subs will perform a burial at sea where a sub sank so a former submariner can be committed to the deep with some of his former crew members or the sub where he served.
Smothers also said it’s not uncommon for family members to request that someone who holds the same job their loved one did participate in the ceremony.
“I think burials at sea, that’s one of the ways we not only just honor those families and their service, but we reactivate our commitment and our appreciation for serving,” Smothers said. “It’s a real privilege to be a part of. … Every sub that’s ever been part of a burial at sea has thanked us and said, ‘Hey, we appreciate being able to do this.’ It’s an honor.”
When most of Afghanistan was under Taliban rule in the late 1990s, the fundamentalist regime drafted a new constitution.
The document was never officially ratified, and it was unclear how much of it was ever implemented before the U.S.-led invasion in 2001 toppled the extremist Islamic group from power.
But the constitution offers a glimpse into what kind of government the militant organization envisages as it prepares to negotiate a future power-sharing arrangement with the current Afghan government led by President Ashraf Ghani.
A political settlement made by the disparate Afghan sides is a key component of the peace deal signed by the United States and the Taliban on February 29 that is aimed at ending the 18-year war.
Under the deal, foreign forces will leave Afghanistan in exchange for counterterrorism guarantees from the Taliban, which has agreed to launch direct negotiations with Afghan officials for a permanent cease-fire and a power-sharing formula to rule the country.
Since 2001, the Taliban insurgency has vowed to drive out foreign forces and overthrow the Western-backed government in Kabul. But even as it seemingly pursues peace, it been vague about what kind of postwar government it envisions in Afghanistan.
Radical Islamic Seminaries
The Taliban emerged in 1994 following the end of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.
The predominantly ethnic Pashtun group first surfaced in ultraconservative Islamic seminaries in Pakistan, where millions of Afghans had fled as refugees.
The seminaries radicalized thousands of Afghans who joined the mujahedin, the U.S.-backed Islamist rebels who fought against the occupying Soviet forces.
The Taliban appeared in the southern city of Kandahar, Afghanistan’s second largest, in 1994, two years after the mujahedin seized power in the country. Infighting among mujahedin factions fueled a devastating civil war that killed more than 100,000 people in Kabul alone.
The Taliban promised to restore security and enforce their ultraconservative brand of Islam. They captured Kabul in 1996 and two years later controlled some 90 percent of the country.
In 1998, Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar assembled some 500 Islamic scholars from across the country to draft a new constitution for the country.
After three days of deliberations, the scholars drafted a 14-page document — the first and only attempt by the Taliban to codify its views on power and governance.
‘Intensely Religious Roots’
In the document, power was centralized in the hands of an “Amir ul-Momineen,” or leader of the faithful. This supreme leader was the head of state and had ultimate authority. This was Mullah Omar, the Taliban’s spiritual leader and founder.
The constitution did not describe how such a leader would be selected or for how long he could serve. But it said the supreme leader must be male and a Sunni Muslim.
An Islamic council, handpicked by the supreme leader, would serve as the legislature and implement laws and policy. The government, headed by the head of the council of ministers — a quasi-prime ministerial position — would report to the Islamic council.
Under the constitution, Sunni Islam was to be the official state religion, even though some 15 percent of the population are Shi’ite Muslims.
The document stated that no law could be contrary to Islamic Shari’a law.
The constitution granted freedom of expression, women’s education, and the right of a fair trial, but all within the limits of the Taliban’s strict interpretation of Shari’a law.
It is unclear how the document shaped the Taliban’s draconian laws and brutal policies during its Islamic Emirate, the official name of the Taliban regime that ruled Afghanistan from 1996-2001.
The Taliban banned TV and music, forced men to pray and grow beards, forced women to cover themselves from head to toe, and prevented women and girls from working or going to school. The Taliban amputated the hands of thieves, publicly flogged people for drinking alcohol, and stoned to death those who engaged in adultery. Executions were common.
Andrew Watkins, a senior analyst for Afghanistan at the International Crisis Group, said the draft constitution reflects the “Taliban’s intensely religious roots” and reveals the importance placed on a “centralized authority” for a group that was “founded on a mission of restoring order to the country.”
The document was littered with contradictions and was never ratified. It was republished in 2005, a year after Afghanistan adopted a new constitution. But the document has disappeared from Taliban discourse in recent years.
“That may have been due to internal debate over certain articles, or just reflective of the group’s inclination to remain flexible in its policies, in part perhaps to prevent internal divisions over policy differences,” said Watkins.
‘Monopoly On Power’
As an insurgent group, the Taliban has preserved some of its key principles since it was overthrown in 2001.
Power is still centralized in the hands of an all-powerful leader, who oversees a shadow Taliban government in Afghanistan. The Taliban still enforces its strict interpretation of Islam in areas under its control. And it still regards Shari’a as the supreme law.
But analysts say the past two decades have changed how the Taliban views power.
The Taliban overcame a succession crisis after the death of Mullah Omar, has fended off competition from the global appeal of the Islamic State (IS) extremist group, and has remained a relatively coherent fighting force despite its 18-year war against foreign and Afghan government forces.
“The group now operates in a strange combination of increasingly centralizing its control over its own membership, while also allowing it to decentralize in other ways,” said Watkins.
The Taliban has claimed recently that it is not the same group that ruled Afghanistan in the 1990s.
In a public statement, the Taliban said it does not want to reestablish its Islamic Emirate and has attempted to project a more reconciliatory image.
But the Taliban’s ambiguity on women’s rights, free speech, and elections — key democratic tenets introduced in Afghanistan since 2001 — has raised fears among many Afghans that the extremist group will attempt to restore its severe regime.
The Taliban said in February 2019 that it is committed to granting women their rights and allowing them to work and go to school, but only as long as they do not violate Islam or Afghan values.
But in the same statement, the Taliban also suggested it wants to curtail the fragile freedoms gained by women, prompting a wave of concern from rights campaigners.
Analysts said the Taliban’s great ambiguity on key issues reflects the divisions within the group.
The Taliban’s political leadership based in Pakistan is believed to be more open to an accommodation in assuming power under a peace deal.
Meanwhile, hard-line military commanders on the battlefield in Afghanistan are reluctant to budge on their demands for a full restoration of the Islamic Emirate.
“There is a cocktail of views among the Taliban on power and governance,” said Javid Ahmad, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Atlantic Council.
“More than anything, Taliban leaders need an intra-Taliban dialogue to settle their conflicting views about a future Afghan state,” Ahmad added.
There are also intense differences among the Afghan political elite.
Pashtuns, the largest ethnic group in Afghanistan, generally support a centralized state that guarantees their control of the government. But non-Pashtuns, which constitute a majority of the population, believe too much power of the state is left in the hands of one individual, and support decentralization because it would enshrine a more inclusive and equitable distribution of power.
Direct talks between the Taliban and an Afghan negotiation team over a permanent cease-fire and a power-sharing arrangement were expected to start on March 10.
But the launch of the negotiations has been delayed due to disputes over the release of Taliban prisoners and the formation of Kabul’s negotiating team.
Even when intra-Afghan negotiations begin, many expect them to be complex and protracted, possibly taking years, considering the gulf between the sides on policy and distributing power.
“It will be incredibly difficult to get the two parties to come up with compromises on every issue of governance,” Ahmad said, although he added that there were also reasons for hope.
Both the Taliban’s political vision and the Afghan political system are modeled on the centralization of power and the supreme role of Islam.
Afghanistan’s 2004 constitution prescribes that “no law can be contrary to the beliefs and provisions of the sacred religion of Islam” and sometimes appears at odds with more liberal and democratic elements within it.
Power is in the hands of a heavily centralized government. The president has the right to appoint and fire governors, mayors, police chiefs, district governors, and senators and has a tight grip on the country’s finances and how funds are spent and distributed.
“There is much more common ground in the legal and governance systems of these two than many of their supporters, on either side, care to admit,” said Watkins.
During more than five decades of operational service, the Boeing B-52 heavy bomber has been the backbone of the strike capability of the U.S. Air Force. Its long range, ability to operate at high altitudes and capability to carry nuclear or precision-guided conventional ordnance to any point on the globe, has made it a key component of nuclear deterrence and U.S. National Security Strategy.
Development and design
Born of specifications for a new heavy bomber presented by Air Materiel Command in 1945, the first iteration of what would become the B-522, was the Boeing 464-40 created in 1946. This airframe was powered by turboprop engines, as jet engines were not yet seen as reliable or fuel efficient enough for long-range missions.
As development continued through the end of the decade, the project became the keystone for the fledgling U.S. Air Force’s Strategic Air Command under the direction of Gen. Curtis LeMay. At his insistence, the XB-52 and YB-52, which had more operational equipment, featured 35-degree swept wings with eight Westinghouse turbojet engines.
The YB-52 first took flight in April 1952 and subsequent ground and flight testing lead the Air Force to order 282 of the new heavy bombers, beginning with the delivery of three B-52As and 10 B-52Bs by 1954.
(U.S. Air Force photo)
During the rollout ceremony, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Nathan Twining described the B-52 as “the long-rifle of the air age.”
The B-52 has since received many upgrades to communications, electronics, computing and avionics on the flight deck, as well as engines, fuel capacity and the weapons bay. These upgrades enable the B-52H to integrate into the new digital battlefield and precisely deliver a large array of weapons, from conventional, nuclear and smart bombs to conventional or nuclear cruise missiles, on targets anywhere in the world.The use of aerial refueling gives the B-52 a range limited only by crew endurance.
Further development included a reconnaissance variant, as well as a model used as a launch platform for 93 NASA X-15 missions to explore the boundaries of space. A B-52H is currently used for launching other research vehicles by NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center in California.
A total of 744 B-52s were built with the last, a B-52H, delivered in October 1962.
(U.S. Air Force photo)
In a conventional conflict, the B-52 can perform strategic attack, close-air support, air interdiction, offensive counter-air, and maritime operations.
Throughout the Cold War, B-52s were a cornerstone of the Nuclear Triad, which was comprised of nuclear missile submarines, Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles and bombers capable of delivering nuclear bombs.
(U.S. Air Force graphic by Maureen Stewart)
Throughout the Cold War B-52s were continuously airborne on alert patrols armed with nuclear weapons should hostilities erupt with the Soviet Union. These missions ended in 1991.
During the Vietnam War, beginning with Operations Arc Light and Rolling Thunder in 1965 and concluding with Operations Linebacker and Linebacker II in 1972, B-52s carried out various bombing campaigns.
(U.S. Air Force photo)
During Operation Desert Storm in 1991, B-52s flew over 1500 sorties and delivered 40 percent of all the weapons dropped by coalition forces. They struck wide-area troop concentrations, fixed installations and bunkers, and decimated the morale of Iraq’s Republican Guard.
They also bombed targets in Yugoslavia during Operation Allied Force in 1999 and Operations Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraqi Freedom in 2003, providing close air support through the use of precision guided munitions. They have most recently engaged in missions against ISIL targets in Syria as part of Operation Inherent Resolve.
All B-52s can be equipped with electro-optical viewing sensors, a forward-looking infrared (FLIR) and advanced targeting pods to augment targeting, battle assessment, and flight safety, further improving its combat ability, day or night and in varying weather conditions utilizing a variety of standoff weapons, such as laser-guided bombs, conventional bombs, and GPS-guided weapons.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Austin M. May)
Did you know?
The B-52 is capable of dropping or launching the widest array of weapons in the U.S. inventory, including gravity bombs, cluster bombs, precision guided missiles and joint direct attack munitions.
Current engineering analyses show the B-52’s life span to extend beyond the year 2040.
B-52s also assist the Navy in ocean surveillance.
The lower deck crew of the B-52, the navigator and radar navigator, eject downward.
In 1972, a B-52 tail-gunner, Albert Moore, shot down a MiG-21 over Vietnam. It was the last recorded bomber-gunner to shoot down an enemy aircraft.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, 365 B-52s were destroyed under the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. The aircraft were stripped of usable parts, chopped into five pieces with a 13,000 pound steel blade and sold for scrap at 12 cents per pound.
(Photo by Senior Airman Curt Beach)
General characteristics – (source: AF.MIL)
Primary function: Heavy bomber
Contractor: Boeing Military Airplane Co.
Power plant: Eight Pratt & Whitney engines TF33-P-3/103 turbofan
Thrust: Each engine up to 17,000 pounds
Wingspan: 185 feet (56.4 meters)
Length: 159 feet, 4 inches (48.5 meters)
Height: 40 feet, 8 inches (12.4 meters)
Weight: Approximately 185,000 pounds (83,250 kilograms)
Maximum takeoff weight: 488,000 pounds (219,600 kilograms)
Fuel capacity: 312,197 pounds (141,610 kilograms)
Payload: 70,000 pounds (31,500 kilograms)
Speed: 650 miles per hour (Mach 0.84)
Range: 8,800 miles (7,652 nautical miles)
Ceiling: 50,000 feet (15,151.5 meters)
Armament: Approximately 70,000 pounds (31,500 kilograms) mixed ordnance: bombs, mines and missiles. (Modified to carry air-launched cruise missiles)
Crew: five (aircraft commander, pilot, radar navigator, navigator and electronic warfare officer)
Unit cost: $84 million (fiscal 2012 constant dollars)
When Hirohito assumed the role of Emperor of Japan, the country was at the top of its game. A great world power, fresh off a victory over the Russian Empire, Japan enjoyed a booming economy, the third-largest navy, and a permanent seat at the head of the League of Nations. It soon began to unravel.
A swath of assassinations of government officials, attempts on the Emperor’s life, and a failed coup by a faction of the Japanese military may have left Hirohito suspicious and paranoid. He did little to stem to the rising tide of militarism in the Japanese government and did nothing to stop the military from ending civilian oversight of the Imperial Japanese Military. Most of us know what happened in the years that followed.
Hirohito toward the end of his life.
After World War II, much of Japan was able to move forward. Hirohito was not deposed but remained Emperor. Just how much control he was able to exercise over the governing of the empire is still a subject of debate in Japan to this very day. He claimed he was little more than a figurehead but many believe his god-like status in Japanese society could have done more. Only he, and perhaps those around him, knew for sure.
One of those around him published a book about his time with the Emperor.
Hirohito, now known as Emperor Showa in Japan, lived until 1989, just shy of his 88th birthday. A recently-published diary penned by Shinobu Kobayashi, then one of the Emperor’s chamberlains, one of the men who managed the Imperial household functions, says the Emperor was by no means happy about Japan’s entry in the war or how it was conducted in his name.
It is true that once many in the military government of Japan learned that the Emperor would broadcast a surrender order via the use of his voice recorded on vinyl, they attempted to depose Hirohito and destroy the record. The conspirators were thwarted by the layout of the Imperial Palace and the record was smuggled out by a laundry woman and broadcast the next day. But over the years, evidence and other memoirs have been published that paint a contradictory view of the man, who was certainly one of the 20th Century’s most important, controversial figures.
Kobayashi says the Emperor felt “anguish” over Japan’s entry into World War II, and feared that as his life continued, he would only attract more blame for his country’s actions. When the royal household attempted to reduce his workload after the death of his brother Prince Takamatsu, Hirohito was dismissive.
Hirohito next to Gen. Douglas MacArthur in the days following Japan’s surrender. Many Japanese were offended by this photo, given the General’s casual stance in the face of the Emperor’s formality.
(U.S. Army photo)
“There is no point in living a longer life by reducing my workload,” the then-86-year-old Emperor said. “It would only increase my chances of seeing or hearing things that are agonizing.” Kobayashi tried to console the emperor by pointing to Japan’s miraculous postwar recovery in the intervening decades.
“It’s a page in history,” he wrote. “You do not have to worry.”
Hirohito managed to avoid being tried as a war criminal because Gen. Douglas MacArthur trusted that even the Emperor’s most fervent believers would adopt democracy after the war – with the Emperor’s blessing. Hirohito’s continued presence on the Chrysanthemum Throne became a unifying symbol of postwar Japan.
After Hirohito’s death in 1989, his son, Akihito, assumed the throne as the 125th Emperor of Japan. The line of monarchs can be traced back to 680 BC, with varying degrees of power and responsibility.