A Bulgarian just bought an attack helicopter to personally fight terrorism - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

A Bulgarian just bought an attack helicopter to personally fight terrorism

According to The Daily Mail and The Sun, a Bulgarian “migrant hunter”, Dinko Valev, has somehow managed to get his hands on an ex-Bulgarian Air Force Mil Mi-24 Hind hybrid gunship/light troop carrier, and has added it to his small arsenal of military gear, which also includes a pair of armored personnel carriers (APCs). Valev, a former semi-professional wrestler, made headlines in Europe for forming small posses of Bulgarian locals to chase down illegal immigrants and, who he calls, potential terrorists from Turkey. The Bulgarian government allegedly helped him acquire the two APCs just last year, while ISIS put a bounty on his head for $50,000 USD.


There aren’t any indications that point towards Valev’s new Hind’s operational status, and there’s nothing to suggest that the aircraft is even flightworthy at all. However pictures of the aircraft show the Hind’s chin turret still equipped with the barrels of a Yak-B 12.7mm 4-barrel Gatling cannon, though those barrels could possibly be plugged and the internal mechanisms removed or disabled. Also noticeable in the picture are two empty UB-32 rocket launcher pods, attached to the port wing of the aircraft. The short video also took a look inside the Hind’s surprisingly clean front cockpit, though the rear cockpit, where the main flight control systems are, wasn’t shown. Valev indicates that he’ll use this Hind to continue his “jihadi-hunting” activities to an even greater magnitude than before. How he’ll actually get the Hind working, armed or even up in the air at all is an entirely different question altogether.

A Bulgarian just bought an attack helicopter to personally fight terrorism
A left side view of a Soviet-made Mi-24 Hind-D assault helicopter in-flight.

It actually isn’t all that difficult to get your hands on old Soviet-era military hardware, and a buyer’s options list ranges anywhere from worn-out utility trucks to fighter jets, and everything in between. Just last year, the Albanian government put up a number of retired yet still flightworthy fighter aircraft for sale as part of a massive downsizing of their military. Bids for the aircraft, which included an assortment of MiG-15, -17 and -19 fighters, began at a whopping $8,600 USD… meaning that just about anybody could have actually entered the bidding process to pick up an aircraft! That, of course, doesn’t include certification, operations, parts and maintenance costs, but that’s still a relative steal!

As for helicopters, you can even find yourself a Mil Mi-24 Hind via a number of websites online, set up by small enterprises which got a hold of a considerable chunk of Soviet-manufactured military gear around and after the fall of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s. When it became unsustainable for the Russian military to continue to operate the large numbers of aircraft, tanks, armored vehicles, etc. it had amassed during the Cold War, entire regiments and brigade-sized elements were retired, their hardware either left to rust and rot on abandoned airfield, sold off at cut rates to other countries, or pawned off (sometimes illegally) to individual buyers. In 2015, everybody’s favorite online auctioneer, eBay, actually put up a Mi-24 for sale, retailing at $4,000,000 USD. Apparently, everything about this particular Hind was operational, save for its weapons, which were removed.

Also Read: Take a closer look at the cinematic villain helicopter of the 1980s: The Mi-24 Hind

Organizations like Russian Military, based out of the United Kingdom, are another option for folks looking to get their hands on old Soviet planes, tanks and other military vehicles. They too offered a Mil Mi-24 Hind at one point, though without a price listed on their official website. This particular helo was de-militarized, possibly used as a prop in a few movies, and left in a state of disassembly, though it was apparently fully capable of being reassembled and flown. It’s unclear whether or not it sold.

MIGHTY CULTURE

14 things milspouses actually want for Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day has quickly become one of the most commercialized holidays. It doesn’t help that we are inundated with red and pink chintzy gifts in stores as soon as the clock strikes 12:01 am on December 26th of each year. All that aside, there is something to be said for taking a day to recognize and celebrate your significant other.


When you add in the complicated military lifestyle to your love affair, how you express that love is also complicated. In fact, it’s immediately elevated from chocolates and flowers (although nice!) to ‘I need a gift that is actually going to help me out here.’

So what are the Valentine’s Day gifts that can easily impress your military spouse? We’ve got 14 for you!

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1. The ability to plan an actual vacation without hesitation

Can you imagine a life where you decide you want to take a vacation, and you just…book it? It seems far fetched, but it could actually happen! And even if you aren’t close to transitioning out of the military, perhaps you can dream about it together over dinner.

2. Orders to the place they really want to be stationed

This may be at the top of every military spouse’s list. There are many variables to living this lifestyle, but actually getting stationed at your dream duty station? That’s THE Ultimate Valentine’s Gift, for sure.

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3. For the family to come to visit you for once

When you do get the luxury of taking leave, many military families often feel torn between going to a bucket-list destination or going home to visit. We won’t even get started on the associated guilt that happens when you do choose to travel instead of visiting family. But guess what can help alleviate some of that guilt? Yep, by having family visit you for once. Planes, trains, and automobiles work both ways!

4. Retire the whole ‘dependa’ thing

Can we just not? While I’m happy to see the recent movement to make the word something more positive, it is still cringeworthy. We’ve been at war for 18 years. No one has time for online bullying— or at least we shouldn’t.

5. A smooth PCS move

Does it exist? Who knows! But, can you imagine being able to buy nice furniture with reckless abandon? Or a home that’s actually ready when you need it to be. Other necessities like childcare, and schools, doctors, and dentists and— well, you get what we’re saying. If it were easy for once.

6. A deployment where nothing breaks- no appliances, cars, etc

What if Cupid could call his friend Murphy Law and tell him to steer clear of your home during a deployment? We’d take that for Valentine’s Day. Or any day, honestly.

7. A wellness day – spa, range, whatever your spouse actually likes

No matter if you’re a spouse that stays home, works remotely, or outside of the home— it’s all difficult. So we’re always up for taking a ‘mental health day’ and just enjoying the things that relax you and make you happy. It could be a spa day or a day at the gun range. As long as it floats your boat, it’s a wellness day.

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8. A friend reunion – gather up all their friends in one space

If you’ve been in the military community for any length of time, you know there is always someone that you miss. Whether it’s family, a friend from your last duty station, or your college roommate. Ever wonder what it would be like to have all the people you love in one room? Perhaps this isn’t limited to military spouses. Still, we’re willing to bet milspouses have a wide array of people around the world that they miss immensely.

9. Just some peace and quiet

For real. We’ll take a few hours of quiet; however we can get it. Have a weekend at your favorite hotel? Cool. Have someone take the kids out for half a day while you sit on your couch and listen to nothingness? Completely get it.

10. Some help

Or all of it. Cooking. Cleaning. Planning. Adjusting. We’ll take any help that you offer. Please, and thank you.

11. Jobs

You know what would be really pleasant? A job. One where we’re not discriminated against as soon as the employer takes note of our military affiliation. Milspouses are chronically underemployed and unemployed, simply because there’s a possibility a military family will move. While that may be true, civilians move on and leave jobs, too. However, military spouses are also one of the most educated demographics. A great military spouse employee for three years can better position your organization than three years of just a “meh” employee who’ll never leave.

12. Stop it with the stereotypes

We don’t know a milspouse who could do without ever hearing, “but you knew what you signed up for,” and other unoriginal— yet oft-repeated —stereotypes.

13. Our own battle buddy

Making friends as an adult is hard. Add military life to the equation, and it gets harder to create a friendship that goes beyond just the surface. Honestly, that’s what we need, though. Someone who is there, boots on the ground, and can listen, step in to help. And of course, you get to be that person for them, as well.

A Bulgarian just bought an attack helicopter to personally fight terrorism

14. Chocolates and flowers are okay, I guess

Last but not least— the chocolates and flowers aren’t the worst Valentine’s gifts, especially if they’re your thing. There’s a particular type of appreciation for someone to take a moment to express their love and gratitude for you. If chocolates and flowers can do that for you, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.

What is your idea of the perfect Valentine’s Day present? Here’s to your Valentine’s Day being exactly what you need it to be, whether that’s flowers or a new housecleaner.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How Chinese drones are set to swarm the global market

China showed off some of its latest drone models and projects at this year’s Dubai Airshow and it looks like many spectators were interested.


China has seen a dramatic increase in the amount of drones it has sold to foreign countries in recent years, and that could be a troubling development for the United States.

The global military drone market has been dominated by the US. American-made models like the MQ-1 Predator, the MQ-9 Reaper, and the RQ-4 Global Hawk have been deployed around the world in a number of countries.

In large part, China poses a threat to America’s dominance in the drone industry for its ability to make more products that are, at the very least, just as good if not better than the competition, but at a lower price.

A Bulgarian just bought an attack helicopter to personally fight terrorism
China shows off its newest drone in a Youtube video. (Image YouTube screengrab)

China is building impressive and inexpensive drones

The most well-known and used Chinese drones are the CH-3, CH-4, CH-5, and the Wing Loong.

The CH-3 and CH-4 propeller-driven drones are essentially Chinese versions of the Predator and Reaper, respectively, and have similar capabilities. The CH-5 has a current range of 4400 miles over 60 hours, and a planned upgrade that will bring it up to 12,000 miles over 120 hours.

The CH-5 also has a 2,000 pound payload, and the capability to house electronic warfare systems inside it.

A Bulgarian just bought an attack helicopter to personally fight terrorism
China’s Wing Loong. China shows off its newest drone in a Youtube video. (Image YouTube screengrab)

The CH-3 and CH-4 have price tags around $4 million, whereas the Predator and Reaper can cost $4 million and $20 million respectively. The Wing Loong, another Chinese counterpart to the Predator, is priced even lower, at just $1 million. Even the CH-5, which is currently China’s deadliest drone in service, costs “less than half the price” of a Predator.

The prices are so low in part because the Chinese drones are not as sophisticated as their American counterparts. The Chinese drones are not satellite-linked, for example, meaning they cannot conduct operations across the globe the way Predators and Reapers can.

The Chinese drones are still very capable — all are sold with the ability to carry large amounts of ordinance, and many nations have decided to turn to them in order to fill in the gap left by the US.

The US has restrictive regulations and policies

A Bulgarian just bought an attack helicopter to personally fight terrorism
China shows off its newest drone in a Youtube video. (Image YouTube screengrab)

Lower prices, however, may not the only reason behind China’s increased drone sales.

A large part of China’s increased market share looks is linked to regulations and policies that have been in place in the Unites States for years.

In 1987, the US signed the Missile Technology Control Regime, a voluntary pact of 35 nations aimed at preventing the mass proliferation of missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles by requiring them to have heavy regulations and tight export controls.

Currently, under the agreement, drones that can fly over 185 miles and carry a payload above 1,100 pounds are defined as cruise missiles. The Predator and the Reaper, both of which can carry payloads of 3,000 pounds or more, are thus subject to these regulations and controls.

The US has been hesitant to sell drones with lethal capabilities to other countries — especially in the Middle East, because of a fear that they could potentially end up in the wrong hands, and challenge Israel’s dominance in the region.

In fact, the only nation apart from the US that uses armed American-made drones is the United Kingdom.

China, on the other hand, is not constrained by the Missile Technology Control Regime because it never signed it. This means that its products are not under the intense regulation and controls that American drones are.

A Bulgarian just bought an attack helicopter to personally fight terrorism
China shows off its newest drone in a Youtube video. (Image YouTube screengrab)

Additionally, China has traditionally not been as cautious as the the US about selling weaponry and equipment to countries known for human rights violations or in volatile regions and has sold drones to many nations.

In Central Asia, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan have purchased a number of Wing Loongs, and Turkmenistan operates the CH-3. In Africa, Nigeria has used CH-3 drones against Boko Haram. Pakistan and Myanmar both operate CH-3’s as well.

By far though, the biggest market is the Middle East.

In 2015, desperate in its fight to counter ISIS gains, Iraq bought a number of CH-4s. After giving up on buying drones from the US, Saudi Arabia and the UAE turned to China and are using CH-4s and Wing Loongs in their campaign against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Jordan and Egypt have purchased Chinese drones as well.

China is even willing to set up factories overseas, which could bypass export restrictions entirely.

China’s future drone projects are even more impressive

A Bulgarian just bought an attack helicopter to personally fight terrorism
China’s Cloud Shadow (Image Kevin Wong @defencetechasia Twitter screengrab)

Last year, at the Zhuhai 2016 Airshow, the public was able to get a glance at some of the newest drones China plans to build and export. Among those was the Cloud Shadow, a semi-stealth drone with six hardpoints capable of carrying up to 800 pounds of ordinance.

There was also the CH-805, and concept CK-20 stealth target drones, which are designed to help train pilots and test air defenses.

Finally, there was the SW-6, a small “marsupial” drone with folding wings capable of being dropped from larger aircraft. Its intended mission is to conduct reconnaissance, but it is considered a prime candidate for China’s drone “swarm” project; dozens, potentially hundreds of small drones linked together in a hive mind and capable of swarming and overwhelming targets.

China has also just successfully shattered the record for the highest flying drone. Previously held by the US RQ-4 Global Hawk, the bat-sized drone was able to fly at a staggering 82,000 feet- 22,000 feet higher than the Global Hawk.

Also Read: This is what China plans to do with its air force of the future

Though the drone did not have a camera or any weapons, it did carry a terrain mapping device and a detector that would allow it to locate and mark ground troops, and was virtually undetectable.

In addition to all this, China is also looking to increase its satellite capabilities, something that could make China’s drones just as advanced as their US counterparts.

In an attempt to combat the loss in sales, the Trump administration, which has not been subtle in its hopes to get foreign countries to buy more American-made defense products, is trying to ease restrictions on the sale of American-made drones.

This includes things like renegotiating the Missile Technology Control Regime, and allowing a number of countries that are not deemed risky to be able to get fast tracked orders.

A Bulgarian just bought an attack helicopter to personally fight terrorism
China shows off its newest drone in a Youtube video. (Image YouTube screengrab)

Though probably interpreted as a way to help the defense industry make more profits, there is actually some logic behind the push. The more China sells drones to countries that are US partners, the more they will become reliant and closer on China.

“It damages the US relationship with a close partner,” Paul Scharre, a Senior Fellow and Director at the nonpartisan Center for a New American Security told the Wall Street Journal. “It increases that partner’s relationship with a competitor nation, China. It hurts US companies trying to compete.”

For now, Israel dominates the military drone market, with 60% of international drone transfers in the past three decades coming from the small nation.

However, China sellls far more armed drones, and is gaining momentum on overall drone sales as well. If current trends continue, China could profit immensely in a market that could be worth $22 billion by 2022.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The government is quiet about plutonium missing for the last year

Two Department of Energy security experts took off to San Antonio in March, 2017. Their mission was to retrieve potentially dangerous nuclear material from a nonprofit research lab. Just to be certain they were getting the goods, they were issued radiation detectors along with a disc of plutonium and a small amount of cesium to calibrate their sensors.

When these two security experts stopped for the night along the 410 beltway, they left the nuclear materials in their rented Ford SUV in a Marriott parking lot that was not in the best neighborhood. The next morning, they were surprised to find the vehicle’s windows smashed in and the nuclear materials gone.

The cesium and plutonium were never recovered, according to the Center for Public Integrity.


For the uninitiated, plutonium is one of the most valuable substances on Earth. It’s also one of few elements that will undergo nuclear fission, which is used in nuclear reactors and nuclear weapons. It’s an extremely deadly and dangerous substance with a half-life of just over 24,000 years. One kilogram of plutonium can explode with the force of 10,000 tons of TNT. Luckily, the Idaho National Laboratory says the amount stolen isn’t enough to make a nuclear bomb — that requires nine pounds of uranium or seven pounds of plutonium.

Something the size and weight of a kettle bell could fill the material need for a nuclear weapon.

A Bulgarian just bought an attack helicopter to personally fight terrorism

Pictured: terrorism.

Cesium is an element that can be used in highly accurate atomic clocks and dirty bombs. It’s one of the most active elements on Earth and explodes on contact with water.

No one briefed the public, no announcement was made in the San Antonio area, and no one would say exactly how much fissile material was stolen and is currently in the hands of someone who thinks they’re just holding cool pieces of metal while slowly irradiating themselves and those around them.

And the military doesn’t have to do any of that, so they don’t. In fact, it happens so often there’s now an acronym for it: MUF – material unaccounted for. An estimated six tons of fissile material is currently considered MUF.

A Bulgarian just bought an attack helicopter to personally fight terrorism

If there’s an acronym AND a powerpoint about it, you know that sh*t is happening all the time.

The Government Accountability Office doesn’t even have a thorough record of material it loaned to other nuclear nations, what the status of that material is, and if their systems are rigorously inspected. At least 11 of those sites have not been visited by U.S. inspectors since before the September 11, 2001, attacks.

In one instance, 45 pounds of enriched uranium — enough for five nuclear detonations — loaned from the military was listed as safely stored when it was actually gone as of 2009 and had been missing for as long as five years. Since 1993, the International Atomic Energy Agency tracked 270 incidents where dangerous fissile materials were trafficked with the intent of doing harm.

A Bulgarian just bought an attack helicopter to personally fight terrorism

“He seems totally trustworthy to me. Let’s transfer our plutonium immediately.”

The security contracting firm who lost the equipment was given an award, government bonuses, and a renewed contract. Since the Idaho National Lab considered the amount of nuclear material stolen to be of little consequence, they closed the case.

MIGHTY TRENDING

U.S. warns of Russian hacking group’s attempts to gain ‘dream access’ to computer systems

The U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) on May 28 warned government partners and private companies about a Russian hacking operation that it says uses a special intrusion technique to target operating systems often used to manage computer infrastructure.

“This is a vulnerability that is being actively exploited, that’s why we’re bringing this notification out,” said Doug Cress, chief of the cybersecurity collaboration center and directorate at NSA, in an advisory. “We really want…the broader cybersecurity community to take this seriously.”


The notice is part of a series of public reports by the U.S, agency to share actionable cyber defense information.

The NSA said the hacking activity was tied to “Russian military cyber actors, publicly known as Sandworm Team” and are part of Russia’s Main Intelligence Directorate’s (GRU) Main Center for Special Technologies.

The NSA said the hackers have used the special intrusion technique to add privileged users, disable network security settings, and execute code that enables further network exploitation – “pretty much any attacker’s dream access – as long as that network is using an unpatched version of Exim [mail transfer agent].”

Exim mail transfer agent is software widely used on Unix-based operating systems such as Linux but is far less known than commercial alternatives such as Microsoft Exchange. The vulnerability was patched last year, but some users have not updated their systems.

The NSA did not say who the Russian military hackers have targeted, what business sectors had been most affected, or how many organizations were compromised. But senior U.S. intelligence officials have warned in recent months that Kremlin agents are engaged in activities that could threaten the integrity of the November presidential election.

The Sandworm group is the same one that interfered in the 2016 presidential election, stealing and exposing Democratic National Committee emails and breaking into voter registration databases.

It also has been blamed for disruptive cyberattacks against Ukrainian electric production facilities.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called out the same GRU unit in February for conducting a cyberattack against the country of Georgia.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

Articles

F-35 forward deploys to Bulgaria

Two F-35A Lightning IIs and about 20 supporting Airmen arrived at Graf Ignatievo Air Base April 28 from Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England.


The F-35As are participating in the first training deployment to Europe. The aircraft and total force Airmen are from the 34th Fighter Squadron, 388th Fighter Wing, and the Air Force Reserve’s 466th Fighter Squadron, 419th Fighter Wing at Hill Air Force Base, Utah.

“The United States and Bulgaria have a strong and enduring relationship,” said Lt. Gen. Richard Clark, the Third Air Force commander, during a press event after the arrival. “We routinely train through joint and combined initiatives like Operation Atlantic Resolve and in flying exercises like Thracian Eagle, Thracian Summer and Thracian Star. Our commitment to Bulgaria is but an example of our unwavering support to all allied nations.”

Similar to the aircraft’s visit to Estonia on April 25, this training deployment has been planned for some time and was conducted in close coordination with Bulgarian allies. It gives F-35A pilots the opportunity to engage in familiarization training within the European theater while reassuring allies and partners of U.S. dedication to the enduring peace and stability of the region.

A Bulgarian just bought an attack helicopter to personally fight terrorism
U.S. Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw

“I have to say that for us, this makes us very proud,” said Maj. Gen. Tsanko Stoykov, the Bulgarian Air Force commander. “Our efforts have been appreciated and we are trusted as a reliable ally and it immensely contributes to the development of the bilateral relations between our two counties and our two air forces.”

This is the first overseas flying training deployment of the U.S. Air Force’s F-35As. The deployment provides support to bolster the security of NATO allies and partners in Europe while demonstrating the U.S. commitment to regional and global security.

Related: Israel’s F-35s may have already flown a combat mission against Russian air defenses in Syria

“We are grateful to our Bulgarian friends for their support in making today possible,” Clark said. “Your cooperation helps prepare the F-35 for its invaluable contribution to our alliance. We look forward to many more years of our shared commitment and partnership.”

This training deployment signifies an important milestone and natural progression of the Joint Strike Fighter Program, allowing the U.S. to further demonstrate the operational capabilities of the aircraft. It also assists in refining the beddown requirements for the F-35A at RAF Lakenheath in order to enhance Europe’s ability to host the future capabilities of the Air Force and coalition team. Also, it helps to integrate with NATO’s infrastructure and enhance fifth-generation aircraft interoperability.

The aircraft and Airmen began arriving in Europe on April 15, and are scheduled to remain in Bulgaria for a brief period of time before returning to RAF Lakenheath to continue their training deployment.

The KC-135 is from 459th Air Refueling Wing, Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, and is providing refueling support for the deployment to Bulgaria.

MIGHTY TRENDING

7 times the Russian and Chinese got dangerously close to the US military

A Russian fighter buzzed a US Navy reconnaissance plane Nov. 5, 2018, coming dangerously close to the American aircraft during a decidedly “unsafe” incident.

“This interaction was determined to be unsafe due to the Su-27 conducting a high speed pass directly in front of the mission aircraft, which put our pilots and crew at risk,” the Navy said in a statement, adding, “The intercepting Su-27 made an additional pass, closing with the EP-3 [Aries] and applying its afterburner while conducting a banking turn away.”


The Department of Defense said there was “no radio contact,” explaining that they came “came out of nowhere.” The department explained that these actions “put our aircrews in danger,” stressing that “there is no reason for this behavior.”

Nov. 5, 2018’s intercept is one of many close encounters the US military has had with the Russians over the years, and the US has similar problems with the Chinese as well.

Here are seven times the Russian and Chinese militaries came so close to US ships and aircraft they risked disaster.

A Bulgarian just bought an attack helicopter to personally fight terrorism

Guided-missile destroyer USS Decatur operates in the South China Sea

(US Navy photo)

1. Chinese Type 052 Luyang II-class destroyer nearly collided with US Navy Arleigh Burke-class destroyer on Sept. 30, 2018.

In response to a US Navy freedom-of-navigation operation in the South China Sea, the Chinese military dispatched a People’s Liberation Army Navy warship to challenge the USS Decatur near the Spratly Islands.

The Chinese vessel “approached USS Decatur in an unsafe and unprofessional maneuver in the vicinity of Gaven Reef in the South China Sea,” where it engaged in “a series of increasingly aggressive maneuvers accompanied by warnings for Decatur to depart,” a spokesman for the US Pacific Fleet said in a statement. The Decatur was forced to alter its original course to avoid a collision with the Chinese ship.

“You are on dangerous course,” the Chinese destroyer warned over the radio, according to a transcript of the exchange obtained by the South China Morning Post. The PLAN warship told the US vessel that it was on a “dangerous course,” reportedly stressing that it would “suffer consequences” if it did not change course.

In the video of the incident, an unidentified Navy sailor can be heard saying the Chinese ship is “trying to push us out of the way.”

A Bulgarian just bought an attack helicopter to personally fight terrorism

An EP-3E Aries, assigned to the “World Watchers” of Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadron (VQ) 1, left, escorted by an EA-18G Growler, assigned to the “Patriots” of Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 140, performs a flyby over aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75).

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Bobby J Siens)

2. Russian Su-27 Flanker buzzed a US Navy EP-3 Aries surveillance plane over the Black Sea on Jan. 29, 2018.

During this intercept, the Russian military aircraft came within five feet of the US Navy plane.

“For the Russian fighter aircraft to fly this close to the US Navy aircraft, especially for extended periods of time, is unsafe,” US Navy Capt. Bill Ellis, Task Force 67 commander, said in a statement at the time. “The smallest lapse of focus or error in airmanship by the intercepting aircrew can have disastrous consequences. There is no margin for error and insufficient time or space for our aircrews to take corrective action.”

The Department of State accused Russia of “flagrantly violating existing agreements and international law,” CNN reported.

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A dramatic photo of a Russian jet coming within a few feet of a U.S. Air Force reconnaissance jet over the Baltic Sea June 19, 2017, in a maneuver that has been criticized as unsafe.

(U.S. European Command photo by Master Sgt Charles Larkin Snr.)

3. Russian Su-27 Flanker intercepted a US Air Force RC-135 reconnaissance aircraft on July 19, 2017.

The Russian Flanker “rapidly” approached the US reconnaissance plane, coming within five feet of the US aircraft. The Russian pilot engaged in “provocative” maneuvers, according to US defense officials, who accused the Russians of flying “erratically.”

Intercepts occur frequently, but while most are routine, some are considered “unsafe.” This incident was classified as such “due to the high rate of closure speed and poor control of the aircraft during the intercept,” Fox News reported.

In photos from the incident, the pilot can be seen clearly in the cockpit of the Russian Su-27. At those distances and speeds, the slightest miscalculation increases the odds of a mid-air collision.

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U.S. Air Force WC-135 Constant Phoenix aircraft is refuelled from an air tanker.

(US Air Force photo)

4. Two Chinese Su-30 fighter jets flies inverted over a US Air Force radiation detection plane over the East China Sea on May 17, 2017.

A pair of People’s Liberation Army Air Force Su-30 derivatives came within 150 feet of the aircraft, with one flying inverted over the top of the American plane, US defense officials told CNN at the time.

The incident, which was deemed “unprofessional” by the US military, followed a close encounter a year earlier between the US Navy and a pair of Shenyang J-11 fighter jets. The fighters flew within 50 feet of an EP-3 Ares spy plane.

Two years prior in the summer of 2014, a Chinese fighter flew within 30 feet of a US Navy US P-8 Poseidon aircraft, doing a “barrel roll” over the top.

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In this image released by the U.S. Air Force, a U.S. RC-135U flying in international airspace over the Baltic Sea, is intercepted by a Russian SU-27 Flanker on June 19, 2017.

(US Air Force photo)

5. Russian Su-27 Flanker “barrel rolls” over a US Air Force RC-135 reconnaissance aircraft over the Baltic Sea on April 29, 2016.

The Russian Flanker flew within 25 feet of the US plane before conducting a “barrel roll” over the top of the American aircraft.

“The SU-27 intercepted the U.S. aircraft flying a routine route at high rate of speed from the side then proceeded to perform an aggressive maneuver that posed a threat to the safety of the US aircrew in the RC-135,” a defense spokesperson told CNN.

In an earlier incident that same month, a Russian pilot “performed erratic and aggressive maneuvers,” including another barrel roll, within 50 feet of another US aircraft.

That April, Russian jets also buzzed the US Navy repeatedly, at one point coming within 30 feet of a US Navy destroyer.

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f the Military Sealift Command ocean surveillance ship USNS Impeccable (T-AGOS-23), forcing the ship to conduct an emergency “all stop” in order to avoid collision.

(US Navy photo)

6. Five Chinese vessels harass a US Navy surveillance ship in the South China Sea on March 8, 2009.

Five Chinese vessels — a mixture of military and paramilitary vessels — “shadowed and aggressively maneuvered in dangerously close proximity to USNS Impeccable, in an apparent coordinated effort to harass the US ocean surveillance ship while it was conducting routine operations in international waters,” the Pentagon said in a statement.

The fishing vessels, assessed by experts to be part of China’s paramilitary Maritime Militia, closed to within 25 feet of the Impeccable. One stopped directly in front of the US Navy ship, forcing it to make an emergency “all stop” to avoid colliding with the Chinese vessel.

The US crew members used firehoses to defend their vessel as the Chinese threw wood into the water and use poles to snag the acoustic equipment on the Navy surveillance ship. The Pentagon described the incident as “one of the most aggressive actions we’ve seen in some time.”

A few years later in 2013, China and the US clashed again in the South China Sea, as a Chinese warship forced a US Navy guided-missile cruiser to change course to avoid a collision.

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Damaged EP-3 spy plane at Lingshui Airfield after the fatal collision.

(Lockheed Martin photo)

7. Chinese J-8 fighter jet collided with a US Navy EP-3 Aries spy plane over the South China Sea on April 1, 2001.

While most intercepts, no matter dangerous, pass without incident, some have been known to be fatal.

During the unsafe incident, the two Chinese J-8 interceptor fighters made multiple close passes near the US aircraft. On one pass, one of the aircraft collided with the US spy plane, causing the fighter to break into pieces and killing the pilot — Lt. Cdr. Wang Wei. The EP-3 was damaged in the collision and was forced to make an unauthorized emergency landing at Lingshui Airfield on Hainan Island.

The crash, a definitive tragedy but not the unmitigated disaster it could have been, proved extremely damaging to US-Chinese relations.

The incident was preceded by a pattern of aggressive intercepts that began in December 2000, according to a Congressional Research Service report. Between December 2000 and April 13, 2001, there were 44 PLA interceptions of US aircraft. In six instances, Chinese fighters came within 30 feet of the American planes, and in two cases, the distance was less than 10 feet.

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

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North Korea’s missile shot at Japan could be a warmup for a Guam strike

North Korea fired a missile over Japan’s Hokkaido province in the early morning hours of August 29, and the early figures coming out from the launch indicate it could have been a warm up for similar action toward the US territory of Guam.


North Korea has expressed vitriolic anger over US and South Korean war games throughout the month of August. It culminated in the announcement of a plan to fire missiles toward Guam, where the US keeps nuclear-capable bombers and some 7,000 military personnel.

The launch August 29 overflew Japan and traveled almost 1,700 miles before crashing down into the sea, hitting a high point of about 340 miles over land. Japan has previously said it would shoot down any missiles headed toward its territory, but this one simply flew over. The missile launch coincides with the completion of Northern Viper, a joint US-Japanese military drill in Hokkaido.

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Lance Cpl. Mario Anderson checks on a team member during a live fire training event Aug. 16, 2017 at the live fire range in Hokudaien, Japan, in support of Northern Viper 17. USMC photo by Sgt. Ally Beiswanger.

Specifically, North Korea threatened to fire four Hwasong-12 missiles over Japan into the waters just about 20 miles short of Guam.

Experts contacted by Business Insider said it would be unlikely that North Korea could pull off such a feat with a missile that has only been tested once successfully. Furthermore, doubts remain about North Korea’s ability to create a warhead that can survive reentering the Earth’s atmosphere.

Based on early estimates, the launch August 29 appears to have used a single Hwasong-12 rocket in a possible confidence-building measure before any possible attempt on Guam.

But even if the launch ends up having been another missile, or not intended to sure up capabilities headed for a shot toward Guam, the violation of Japan’s sovereign air space will likely demand a response. And US and Japanese policymakers may look to shoot down further tests if they travel the same route.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Airman awarded Bronze Star for meritorious achievement in Afghanistan

Major Aaron Darty, 100th Maintenance Squadron operations officer, was presented the Bronze Star Medal at RAF Mildenhall, England, July 1, 2019, for his meritorious achievement while at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan.

Since Dec. 6, 1941, men and women who served in any capacity in or with the U.S. military, have been awarded the Bronze Star Medal by distinguishing themselves through heroic or meritorious achievement or service in a combat zone.

From March 3, 2018, to March 2, 2019, Darty served as the operations officer and maintenance advisor for the 442nd Air Expeditionary Advisory Squadron. During this time, he operated outside of a coalition-controlled airfield, where he endured 29 indirect fire rocket attacks and was exposed to a persistent threat of insider attacks.


Even with all of the challenges, Darty was able to help execute more than 10,000 sorties during his year in Afghanistan, and he also helped set up a UH-60 Black Hawk maintenance training program, which allowed for the host nation members to become more familiar with this technology.

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U.S. Air Force Maj. Aaron Darty, 100th Maintenance Squadron operations officer, poses for a photo at RAF Mildenhall, England, July 9, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Brandon Esau)

“This was an outstanding opportunity for me and I learned so much about my job as well as myself,” Darty said. “I was able to work alongside great U.S. military members as well as extraordinary Afghan National Army counterparts who all shared the same common goal.”

Before arriving to RAF Mildenhall, Darty finished the 365-day deployment which brought its share of obstacles.

“Communication was the toughest obstacle we faced,” Darty said. “We received training in Dari, which is one of the primary languages in Afghanistan, and we worked alongside some of the bravest interpreters and people I’ve ever met in some of the most hostile conditions, and patience was my guide.”

Learning patience and understanding of other cultures was a major factor in Darty and members of his team being awarded the Bronze Star.

“Some things I was the lead for and some I did on my own, but this award is really for the 40-plus other people in the squadron who did the heavy lifting,” Darty said. “Our team consisted of Romanian, Swedish and U.S. service members from different branches – it was a truly joint, coalition organization.”

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U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Paul Weme, 100th Maintenance Group commander, presents Maj. Aaron Darty, 100th Maintenance Squadron operations officer, with a Bronze Star Medal during a ceremony held at RAF Mildenhall, England, July 1, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Brandon Esau)

Master Sgt. William Smith, 733rd Air Mobility Squadron production superintendent at Kadena Air Base, Japan, worked alongside Darty in Afghanistan and attests to his ability to lead a team with a common goal.

“It was an absolute pleasure to have the opportunity to work with a person of his caliber in a hostile and foreign environment,” Smith remarked. “Major Darty has an uncanny ability to bring everybody around him up, even in unknown situations. He was always calm in numerous high-stress situations where our number one priority was keeping our people safe and out of harm’s way.

Coming together as a team to execute the mission is, according to Darty, part of his vision for the airmen he works with here.

“My advice to them is always rely on the people next to you,” Darty expressed. “This was something I learned while deployed which I never learned anywhere else. We were our own security and even though we may not be getting shot at everyday here, you have to always trust the person by your side.”

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

China suffers new sanctions for buying Russian military tech

The Trump administration has hit China with tariffs on $250 billion in consumer and industrial goods in 2018, and now sanctions tied to Beijing’s arms deals with Russia are being added to the mix.

On Sept. 20, 2018, the State Department said it would impose sanctions on China’s Equipment Development Department and its director, Li Shangfu, for “significant transactions” with Russia’s main weapons exporter, Rosoboronexport.

The Equipment Development Department oversees procurement of China’s defense technology.


The Chinese entities will be added a sanctions list established under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, or CAATSA, which was passed in August 2017 and went into effect in January 2018.

The law is meant to punish Russia for actions that include meddling in the 2016 US presidential election. Countries trading with Russia’s defense and intelligence sectors — including US allies — can face secondary sanctions, though a waiver process was included in the legislation. (The US added 33 other people and entities to the list on Sept. 20, 2018.)

A State Department official said the sanctions were related to China’s purchase of 10 Russian-made Su-35 combat aircraft in 2017 and of Russia’s advanced S-400 air-defense system, which China bought in 2014 and started received in early 2018.

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S-400 Triumf launch vehicle.

“Both transactions resulted from pre-Aug. 2, 2017, deals negotiated between EDD and Rosoboronexport,” the State Department said.

“Since China has now gone ahead and, in fact, done what is clearly a significant transaction … we feel it necessary and indeed we are required by the law [to] take this step today,” a senior administration official said.

This is the first time the US has sanctioned a buyer of Russian weapons under the law. While the sanctions were imposed on China, the State Department official said the move was directed at Moscow.

“The ultimate target of these sanctions is Russia. CAATSA sanctions in this context are not intended to undermine the defense capabilities of any particular country,” the official said. “They are instead aimed at imposing costs upon Russia in response to its malign activities.”

‘Strongly outraged’

China and Russia have both lashed out at the sanctions.

Russia dismissed the measures as an “unfair” measure meant to undermine Russia’s position as a major arms exporter. (The US and Russia are the world’s two biggest weapons suppliers.)

Those subject to the sanctions are blocked from foreign-exchange transactions subject to US jurisdictions. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Sept. 21, 2018, that Moscow was doing what it could to not depend on the international financial system over which the US has influence.

“We are doing all that is necessary not to depend on the countries that act in this way regarding their international partners,” Lavrov said, according to state-controlled media.

China also bristled at the sanctions. A Foreign Ministry spokesman said Beijing was “strongly outraged by this unreasonable action” and that China “strongly urged the US to immediately correct its mistakes and revoke the so-called sanctions. Otherwise it must take all consequences.”

India, a major US partner, similarly plans to buy the S-400, and it and other US partner countries are also major buyers of Russian weapons.

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U.S. Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo flanked by U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, Indian Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj and Indian Defense Minister Nirmala Sitharaman delivers closing remarks at the 2+2 Dialogue, in New Delhi, India, Sept. 6, 2018.

While the legislation was under discussion, US defense officials requested exceptions be made for those countries that worked with the US but still needed to buy Russian arms.

At the end of August 2018, the Pentagon’s top Asia official said the “impression that we are going to completely … insulate India from any fallout” related to the sanctions was “a bit misleading.”

But as of early September 2018, when Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met their Indian counterparts in New Delhi, Pompeo said there had been no decision on action over India’s purchase of the S-400.

The sanctions will ban the Chinese company from export licenses and from foreign-exchange transactions that take place under US jurisdiction and block the firm from the US financial system and its property and interests in the US.

Li, the director, will be barred from the US financial system and financial transactions, have any property and interests blocked, and be barred from having a US visa.

“Today’s actions further demonstrate the Department of State’s continuing commitment to fully implement CAATSA section 231, which has already deterred billions of dollars-worth of potential arms exports from Russia,” the agency said.

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

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Pentagon report clears coalition of wrongdoing in strike that killed Syrian soldiers

No misconduct was involved in the decision by personnel in the American-lead Combined Air Operations Center to carry out an air strike that killed a number of Syrian-government aligned forces on Sept. 17.


That is the central finding of an investigation by Air Force Brig. Gen. Richard Coe.

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A U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon flies over Iraq in support of Operation Inherent Resolve April 5, 2016. The President has authorized U.S. Central Command to work with partner nations to conduct targeted airstrikes of Iraq and Syria as part of the comprehensive strategy to degrade and defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Corey Hook/Released)

“In my opinion, these were a number of people all doing their best to do a good job,” Coe said of the personnel on duty when the incident happened, according to an official report released Nov. 29.

The strike took place near Dayr Az Zawr. A release from Combined Joint Task Force Inherent Resolve for that day noted the incident, stating that one strike “believed to have engaged an ISIL fighting position, may have mistakenly struck a Syrian military unit and destroyed Syrian military vehicles.”

While “friendly fire” is nothing new — in the War on Terror, coalition forces had over three dozen such incidents — the question is always the same: How did such a mistake happen?

Well, that’s been asked over the years after other incidents, like when Stonewall Jackson was shot by Confederate soldiers on a picket line, or when Allied ships off Sicily opened fire on C-47 transports carrying elements of the 82nd Airborne Division in 1943, downing 23 transports.

The report reveals a few of the causes. First, the Syrian forces were not exactly in uniform when they were first detected by an unmanned aerial vehicle. Yet they were packing a lot of firepower, and were near tunnels and other fighting positions.

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Aircrews perform a preflight check on an MQ-9 Reaper before it takes of for a mission. (Photo from DoD)

This lead planners to believe they’d spotted an ISIS unit out in the open. It was a classic case of mistaken identity, compounded by a misunderstanding (the United States personnel used the wrong reference point when informing the Syrian allied Russians of the strike).

And it was made worse by some good old-fashioned Russian paranoia.

According to the report, when the Russians called on a de-confliction hotline, they waited 27 minutes for their normal point of contact to arrive before passing on the news that Syrian forces were being hit. During that time, 15 of the 37 attack sorties were carried out.

Coe’s report not only recommended that in the future both sides not only pass critical information immediately, but also that the entire Flight Safety Memorandum of Understanding that helps keep Syrian and Russian targets from being struck by coalition air power be reviewed and updated.

Top CENTCOM commander Lt. Gen. Jeff Harrigian has ordered Coe’s recommendations be implemented, saying, “In this instance, we did not rise to the high standard we hold ourselves to, and we must do better than this each and every time.”

While the changes recommended will hopefully lessen the chance of friendly fire incidents in the future, friendly fire will still always be a risk on a complex battlefield.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia can’t be trusted after Ukraine aggression, says Mattis

Russia’s seizure of three Ukrainian ships in the Sea of Azov in contradiction to signed treaties and the Law of the Sea show that Russia cannot be counted on to keep its word, Defense Secretary James N. Mattis said at the Pentagon Nov. 28, 2018.

The secretary spoke to reporters while awaiting the arrival of Lithuanian Defense Minister Raimundas Karoblis for a meeting.

Over the weekend, Russia barred the Kerch Strait at the mouth of the Sea of Azov off the Crimean Peninsula. Russian sailors opened fire and wounded at least three Ukrainian sailors in the seizure of two armored naval vessels and a tugboat.


Mattis noted that NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has condemned the action on behalf of the 29 NATO allies and called for “calm and restraint.” The NATO official also called for Russia to release the ships and sailors immediately.

“It was obviously a flagrant violation of international law, it was I think a cavalier use force that injured Ukrainian sailors,” Mattis told reporters. “It was contempt, really, for the traditional ways of settling these kinds of concerns if they had any. When you think there is a treaty between the two countries that prohibits exactly what happened, it just shows that Russia cannot be counted on now to keep its word.”

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Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

During a Nov. 26, 2018 news conference at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Stoltenberg said the alliance members “expressed their full support for Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.”

“We call on Russia to ensure unhindered access to Ukrainian ports and allow freedom of navigation for Ukraine in the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait,” he added. The secretary general’s statement came after an extraordinary meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Commission.

Latest escalation

The incident is the latest escalation in the war between Russia and Ukraine that started when Russia illegally annexed Crimea in 2014. NATO’s position since the annexation has been consistent: The United States and all NATO allies condemned Russia’s aggressive actions in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine.

Stoltenberg said Russia must end its support to militant groups in eastern Ukraine and withdraw all its forces from Ukrainian territory.

The escalation is the latest in Russia’s ongoing militarization of Crimea, the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov. “The Russian move poses further threats to Ukraine’s independence and undermines the stability of the broader region,” Stoltenberg said.

NATO provides support to Ukraine and its people. The United States and the other NATO allies sanctioned Russia for its moves.

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

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Russia and China are about to flex their muscles in the South China Sea

The South China Sea is already a powderkeg, given the major tensions in the region over a six-way maritime Mexican Standoff involving China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Brunei. This past summer, China saw an international tribunal rule against its claims in that body and condemn Beijing’s construction of artificial islands.


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The forward deployed Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS McCampbell (DDG 85), left, leads the Russian Federation navy Slava-class guided-missile cruiser Varyag and the Irkut tanker during Pacific Eagle, a bilateral exercise with the Russian Federation navy. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Corey Hensley)

That’s not to say China’s abiding by the ruling. Far from it, to be honest. The Chinese took a page from the playbook of Game of Thrones’ Cersei Lannister by not even showing up for any of the process leading up to the ruling. China doesn’t seem to care that the ruling went against them, as it is now inviting Russia for joint exercises in the maritime flashpoint for the fifth straight year.

According to a report from the Times of India, Chinese military spokesman Liang Yang said, “Chinese and Russian participants will undertake defense, rescue, and anti-submarine operations, in addition to joint-island seizing missions and other activities.”

The Times of India noted China has sent 10 naval vessels to take part in the exercise, along with 11 aircraft, eight helicopters, and other military assets. Russia is reportedly sending three surface combatants, two supply vessels, and other assets as well.

Two of the vessels Russia sent were an Udaloy-class “large anti-submarine ship” (often referred to as a destroyer in Western media) and a Ropucha-class landing ship.

The South China Sea has seen a number of incidents in the past few years involving Chinese forces. Shortly before the international tribunal issued its ruling on China’s claims, Chinese forces sank a Vietnamese fishing boat and then interfered with rescue operations. Chinese aircraft have also made a number of close passes to U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft and EP-3E Aries II electronic surveillance aircraft, including some within ten feet.

One such close pass in 2001 went wrong, and a Chinese J-8 “Finback” collided with a U.S. Navy EP-3E Aries II. The Chinese plane crashed, killing the pilot, Wang Wei, while the EP-3E made an emergency landing on Hainan Island, where the 24-person crew was held for ten days. Lieutenant Shane Osborn received the Distinguished Flying Cross for his actions after the incident.

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