The South Korean military is among the best in the world, and it is the largest part of the force that will “fight, tonight” if North Korea attacks, said a US Forces Korea official speaking on background.
The official spoke to reporters traveling with Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Dunford is here to participate in the Military Committee Meeting with his South Korean counterpart Air Force Gen. Jeong Kyeong-doo.
Much of the discussion in the Military Committee Meeting is on the military capabilities and capacities that the United States and South Korea bring to the ability to “fight, tonight.”
North Korea is a dangerous state, the official said, noting the North Korean military gets the lion’s share of resources in the country. And, while North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un is working to develop nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them, North Korea’s conventional forces are a worry, as well, he said.
The North has much of Seoul — South Korea’s capital city with 25 million people — within range of artillery over the demilitarized zone, the official said. The North has 950,000 service members on active duty and another 600,000 reserve personnel.
South Korean Military
The South Korean military is extremely capable, the official said. The United States and South Korea are strongly tied to one another with US assets aiding the South Koreans and vice versa. The two nations train to the same standards, the official said, and use the same battlefield tactics, techniques, and procedures.
“From a person who has worked with a lot of different countries, I put them at the high-end of capability,” the official said of South Korea’s military. “I wouldn’t stretch it to say it is an absolute replacement for a US capability, but combined it is very strong.”
South Korea has a formidable force of its own with about 625,000 service members on active duty and about 3 million in reserve, he said. South Korea has military conscription.
The South Koreans also have an economy to buy and maintain modern military equipment, the official said.
North Korean Military Capabilities
North Korea’s conventional military capabilities “are in the decline,” the official said, “because of the economy, because of their austerity.”
North Korea’s aircraft are old, as are its tanks and armored personnel carriers, the official said. North Korea’s navy has a number of submarines, but it is uncertain how capable they are, he added.
Just comparing capabilities, the official said he’d South Korea’s military capability “way above that of the North.”
But the North has the numbers and “quantity has a quality all its own,” the official said.
“I do not dismiss the conventional threat from the North,” he said. “But the [North’s] unconventional threat — the nukes, the missiles, cyber capabilities, special operations forces — are growing.”
Russia’s newest nuclear ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) the “Knyaz Vladimir” — or “Prince Vladimir” in English — was officially launched the week of Nov. 20.
The submarine is the first version of a second variant of the Borei-class submarine (also known as the Dolgorukiy-class after the name of its first vessel), which will be known as the Borei II-class. It was launched during a float out ceremony at the Sevmash Shipyards in Severodvinsk in northern Russia.
The 558 ft long and 44 ft wide submarine is different from its three predecessors. The Knyaz Vladimir has an improved suite of electronics, a deeper dive capability (400 metres), improved living quarters, and lower sound levels that help make the sub virtually undetectable.
The biggest difference in the Knyaz Vladimir is its ability to launch four additional RSM-56 Bulava ballistic missiles, each capable of carrying multiple nuclear warheads.
As Franz-Stefan Gady at The Diplomat points out, this means that the Knyaz Vladimir “will be capable of launching 96-200 hypersonic, independently maneuverable warheads, yielding 100-150 kilotons apiece,” meaning each warhead alone is ten times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.
That is enough to devastate the entire eastern seaboard of the United States — and then some. All of from just one submarine.
While Knyaz Vladimir is expected to fully integrate with the Russian navy next year, Russia plans on building four additional Borei II-class submarines, with the last one expected to be completed in 2025. That will bring the total number of Borei and Borei II-class submarines to eight.
Two of the three existing Borei-class submarines, Alexander Nevsky and Vladimir Monomakh, are deployed in Russia’s increasingly active Pacific Fleet; while the other sub, Yuri Dolgoruky, is deployed with Russia’s Northern Fleet.
The Knyaz Vladimir is named after Grand Prince Vladimir, also known as Vladimir the Great, who was responsible for Christianizing the Kievan Rus, a moment many Russians consider to be the founding of their nation.
Russia’s submarine activity shows signs of increasing
Russia is currently in the process of modernizing its submarine fleet, which has suffered from years of neglect due to the massive costs associated with SSBNs. While Russia has a number of nuclear submarines still in active service, like the Oscar, Delta III, and the famous Typhoon class- submarines, the Borei II-class submarines are expected to be the backbone of Russia’s SSBN fleet.
Already, Russia’s submarine activity shows signs of increasing. In 2015, a admiral said that Russia’s submarine fleet intensified its patrols by almost 50%. A year later, it was reported that Russia’s subs in the Northern Fleet increased their patrol time by half, and just last March, Admiral Vladimir Korolev, the Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Navy, announced that Russia’s submarines had “returned to the level we had before the post-Soviet era.”
Russia is also building fifth-generation nuclear attack submarines, known as the Yasen-class. One of these subs, the Severodvinsk, is already in service with the Northern Fleet.
Last July, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed off on a strategy that singled the US out as a direct threat, saying that it wanted to “dominate the oceans, including in the Arctic.”
“The Russian Federation continues to retain its status as a great naval state, whose naval potential ensures the defensive of its national interests in any part of the World Ocean,” the strategy declared.
Though the US Navy has far more submarines in active service both in SSBN’s and attack submarines, the Russian Navy’s recent moves and its newest submarine plans, show a sign of changing strategy, with a new focus placed on challenging the US Navy’s dominance — particularly underwater.
The U.S. Army will soon launch a redesign of Basic Combat Training intended to build more discipline after many commanders complained that new soldiers often show up to their first units with a sloppy appearance and undisciplined attitudes.
By early summer, new recruits will go through Army BCT that’s designed to instill strict discipline and esprit de corps by placing a new emphasis in drill and ceremony, inspections, pride in military history while increasing the focus on critical training such as physical fitness, marksmanship, communications, and battlefield first aid skills.
The program will also feature three new field training exercises that place a greater emphasis on forcing recruits to demonstrate Warrior Tasks and Battle Drills, the list of key skills all soldiers are taught to survive in combat.
The new program of instruction is the result of surveys taken from thousands of leaders who have observed a trend of new soldiers fresh out of training displaying a lack of obedience and poor work ethic as well as being careless with equipment, uniform, and appearance, Maj. Gen. Malcolm Frost, commanding general of the U.S. Army Center of Initial Military Training, told defense reporters on Feb. 9.
‘A sense of entitlement’
“What leaders have observed in general is they believe that there is too much of a sense of entitlement, questioning of lawful orders, not listening to instruction, too much of a buddy mentality with NCOs and officers, and a lot of tardiness being late to formation and duties,” Frost said. “These are trends that they see as increasing that they think are part of the discipline aspect that is missing and that they would like to see in the trainees that become soldiers that come to them as their first unit of assignment.”
As commanding general of IET, Frost was tasked with increasing the quality of training and reducing new soldier attrition.
After compiling the data from surveys of about 27,000 commissioned officers, warrant officers, and non-commissioned officers, the message was very clear, Frost said.
“The number-one thing that was asked for five-fold or five times as much as any of the other categories was discipline,” Frost said.
“First-unit-of-assignment leaders want Initial Entry Training to deliver disciplined, physically-fit new soldiers who are willing to learn, they are mentally tough, professional and are proud to serve in the United States Army.”
In addition to discipline and physical fitness, leaders also wanted technical and tactical proficiency in warrior tasks and battle drills.
Be a soldier
After working out the details in a pilot at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, the Army has approved a new POI that Frost hopes will better instill into recruits exactly what it means to be a soldier.
“We really tried to attack it by getting after more discipline and esprit de corps,” Frost said.
One new aspect features a series of history vignettes of major battles that the Army has fought in, from Valley Forge in the Revolutionary War all the way to Iraq in Baghdad, Frost said.
“We highlighted those battles; we tied them to Army Values and the Soldier’s Creed and highlighted an individual who received the Medal of Honor or other valor award for actions during each battle,” Frost said.
“So soldiers will learn across all of Basic Combat Training at all the Army training centers what it means to be a soldier, the history of the United States Army through the battles and the campaign streamers and the wars that we have fought and they will be able to look to and emulate a soldier who executed a valorous act during that war.”
The new standardized booklet will be given to each recruit along with their Blue Book at the beginning of training.
Recruits will also learn discipline by doing more practice at a skill that may be as old as soldiering itself — drill and ceremony.
Drill and ceremony
When the war began after the attacks of 9/11, the Army decreased its focus on DC, inspections and other skills that stress attention to detail to make more time for combat skill training.
“There are a lot of folks that say ‘we need to go back to the drill and ceremony because we have lost a lot of the discipline aspect of what it means to be a United States Army soldier,'” Frost said.
“It’s not like they are going to be sitting out there just doing DC all the time. The drill and ceremony is going to be interwoven into when they move to and from places … so the movements won’t just be lollygagging, non-tactical movements, they will be actually executing some team drill and ceremony as they move to and from the chow hall and move to and from the barracks.”
But the new BCT isn’t all about spit and polish, Frost said.
Hammer, anvil, forge
“The other big piece we are doing in Basic Combat Training that helps with the esprit de corps and the discipline aspect and also lends a measure of grit and resilience to [BCT] is we have three major field training exercises that we are going to do now. We are calling them the Hammer, the Anvil, and the Forge,” Frost said, describing how the final Forge FTX is an homage to the Army’s historic ties to Valley Forge.
“That is going to be a culminating FTX which is a graduation requirement. It will be an 81-hour field training exercise with about 40 miles of tactical road marching that is conducted through a series of tactical events and mini field training exercises.”
The Forge will include a night infiltration course and a medical evacuation mass casualty exercise. There will be ethical dilemmas soldiers have to negotiate as well as a battle march and shoot, a resupply mission which involves moving supplies, ammo, water to a link-up point, patrol base activities, combat patrols as well as an obstacle course, Frost said.
“If you succeed in making it through the 81-hour FTX … then what will happen is you will earn the right to become a soldier,” Frost said. “You will earn your beret, you will earn a ‘soldier for life’ certificate, you will get your National Defense Service Medal and your uniform will look exactly like a United States Army soldier.”
‘Get after the basics’
The new BCT POI weeded out “a lot of redundant areas and areas that have crept in that did not get after the basics” — shoot, move, communicate and protect or survive, Frost said.
For weapons qualification, recruits will be required to qualify with backup iron sights instead of just on close-combat optic sights.
Physical fitness standards will also be increased, requiring each soldier to score at least 60 points on all three events of the Army Physical Fitness Test instead of 50 points on each as a graduation standard.
Each recruit will also receive 33 hours of combatives training instead of 22 hours, Frost said.
Recruits will receive an increased amount of tactical combat casualty care training such as basic combat lifesaver.
The course will also teach “some of the basics that we had kind of lost with respect to communications such as basic hand and arm signals, and we have doubled the amount of basic reporting on the radio communications” such as MEDEVAC and similar requests, Frost said.
Some qualifications nixed
The new BCT does, however, do away with hand grenade qualification and land navigation course qualification as graduation requirements.
“What we have found is it is taking far, far too much time. It’s taking three to four times as much time … just to qualify folks on the hand grenade course than we had designated so what is happening is it is taking away from other aspects of training,” Frost said.
“We are finding that there are a large number of trainees that come in that quite frankly just physically don’t have the capacity to throw a hand grenade 20 to 25 to 30 meters. In 10 weeks, we are on a 48-hour period; you are just not going to be able to teach someone how to throw if they haven’t thrown growing up.”
Recruits will still receive the same amount of training in these areas, Frost said.
“Just because we took it off as a graduation requirement does not mean they won’t be conducting hand grenade or land navigation training,” Frost said. “They are going to learn all the technical aspects of the hand grenade, and they are going to learn tactical employment and they will throw a live hand grenade.
“With land navigation, it’s the same thing they are still going to conduct land navigation training; they are still going to conduct the day course they are still going to conduct the night course.”
The new changes to BCT, Frost said, will hopefully make new soldiers better prepared for their advanced individual training, first unit of assignment and result in a lower, new-soldier attrition rate
“If we can get a more physically fit, better prepared, more-disciplined soldier in Basic Combat Training, AIT and [One-Station Unit Training] then we believe we will have less attrition in first unit of assignment,” Frost said.
Richard Overton just celebrated his 112th birthday in his hometown of Austin, Texas. Unbeknownst to him, identity thieves were using his compromised bank account to purchase savings bonds through TreasuryDirect. Despite his well-known affinity for whiskey and cigars, the supercentenarian and World War II vet still requires round-the-clock care that costs up to $15,000 per month.
“What the hell are these debits?” Volma recalled thinking. Overton’s bank and TreasuryDirect are aware of the transactions are are taking appropriate measures.
Overton is a staple of the Austin community, a well-known personality who receives well-wishers from around the city on his birthday every year. He is featured on one of the city’s murals depicting influential African-American and Latino personalities. On his latest birthday, he received a visit Austin mayor, Steve Adler.
The 112-year-old is reasonably famous, especially among locals and much of his personal information is available online — though not his bank account and social security numbers. The drained account is separate from a GoFundMe account the family uses to raise money for Overton’s care.
His GoFundMe account keeps Overton in his home and away from having to live in a nursing home. Born in 1906, he has outlived all his closest relatives and requires $480 a day for his constant care.
US Marines consult in a desert and protein graphic
Remember that LS3 Mule robot the Marines tested but then decided against deploying because it was just too noisy for use on the frontlines? That was sort of crazy, right? But Army researchers are doing a large amount of work to make quiet, robotic muscles to reinforce soldiers, exoskeletons, and robots of the future.
LS3 Robotic Pack Mule Field Testing by US Military
It might sound sort of odd that the servos on a robot could be too noisy for the place where mortars and machine guns are fired. But Marines and soldiers try to stay quiet and stealthy until the fight starts. Then they start firing, and it’s fine to be super noisy. But a new problem pops up, then: you don’t want any systems to run out of power in the middle of a firefight. And firefights are some of the worst times to change out batteries. You need to be efficient.
But those two problems with the Legged Squad Support System, as the robot program was officially known, could be fixed with one—albeit major—breakthrough. Humans can move without any sound of motors and can go for days or even weeks when necessary with little new energy input. All it takes is muscles instead of motors.
And muscles can use chemical fuels much more efficiently than most motors and other machines. A gallon of gasoline contains 31,000 calories, enough to propel a fit human 912 miles on the bicycle or 260 miles running.
Muscles are very efficient both in terms of energy consumed and weight. That makes them very attractive to engineers, especially ones that need to make stealthy machines.
And scientists are working on that. So, yeah, welcome to the future.
So, the first group is seeking to reverse engineer biological muscles, and that second group is basically studying ways of making plastic muscles.
BTW, if that first group sounds like a bunch of flunkies, “How do they not know how muscles work? I eat carbohydrates and proteins, and I get bigger muscles. Not complicated,” then realize that none of us know how muscles really work on a micro level, the level needed to really engineer a muscle. One of the researchers put it well. Dean Culver said:
These widely accepted muscle contraction models are akin to a black-box understanding of a car engine. More gas, more power. It weighs this much and takes up this much space. Combustion is involved. But, you can’t design a car engine with that kind of surface-level information. You need to understand how the pistons work, and how finely injection needs to be tuned. That’s a component-level understanding of the engine. We dive into the component-level mechanics of the built-up protein system and show the design and control value of living functionality as well as a clearer understanding of design parameters that would be key to synthetically reproducing such living functionality.
Both the projects would result in chemically powered muscles. One group would just create the muscle “fibers” out of plastic instead of proteins. Either way, future warriors could use the extra muscles from the scientists.
But the science is still in the nascent stages, so the real muscle suits probably won’t be available until you need them more for getting around the retirement home than the battlefield.
Until then, you can always get a sweet Halloween muscle suit instead.
The Census Bureau says there are 3.8 million wounded veterans living in America today. That’s as many wounded veterans as there are people living in the states of New Hampshire, Hawaii, and Maine combined.
What’s even more heartbreaking, though, is that many of these veterans feel ignored and misunderstood by the country they gave their blood and bodies to serve.
Working Pictures, an independent film company dedicated to producing content with purpose, wants to help change that with the release of Wise Endurance, a documentary profiling two brave veterans — and the collective of stem-cell physicians providing them with cutting-edge treatment for their combat injuries.
One of these veterans is Roger Sparks, a former Air Force Pararescueman and Silver Star recipient who served during the bloody Operation Bulldog Bite in Afghanistan’s Kunar Province. Sparks is now a veteran advocate who is seeking stem-cell treatments for his and his fellow combat veteran’s blast-induced, traumatic brain injuries.
This specific treatment is called autologous stem cell therapy, where stem cells are harvested directly from the patient’s own fat tissue. The removed stem cells are separated from the fat and reintroduced intravenously to boost healing.
During the film, both Sparks and his 14-year-old son, Oz (who has Cerebral Palsy and type 1 diabetes), experienced noticeable results from their stem cell treatments. Oz’s results are visible — the show follows Oz as he moves from non-verbal to speaking. The results, captured on film, lead the collective to encourage other doctors to offer the same service to veterans, with a plan to use the findings as part of a national study and database to further the treatment of concussive injuries using adipose derived stem cells.
Sparks introduces Pararescueman team member Jimmy Settle, who was shot in the head during Bullbog Bite (Settle’s memoir, Never Quit, is a national best-seller). The treatment was so effective for Settle that he began to heal his inability to freely touch his face. The former track champion also was able to resume running again, which he had previously been unable to do.
These successes in autologous stem cell therapy have inspired Sparks to become an advocate for his fellow combat servicemen. As a result, Sparks, Cell Surgical Network’s doctors, including Dr. Kyle Bergquist, Dr. Mark Berman, Dr. Elliot Lander, and Dr. Larry Miggins, and the filmmakers have established Healing Our Heroes Foundation — a non-profit organization whose goals are to treat combat veterans with adipose-derived stem cells and study the initial, promising results.
Because there are no medical treatments for TBI, stem cells could be a real game-changer in the health of our wounded warriors.
A national network of providers have already committed to treating a significant portion of the population of former combat veterans through the efforts of the Wise Endurance team, and further fundraising is being planned through the sale of the documentary and donations.
The film is available online for purchase on the film’s website. Proceeds will go to fund the Healing Our Heroes Foundation, which will provide treatment, travel, and accommodation for the veterans, as well as cover the costs of studying the outcomes.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper is pledging to improve the way troops are treated while in coronavirus quarantine after a soldier in Texas reportedly called the situation “the most dysfunctional Army operation I’ve ever seen.”
A soldier, referred to by the pseudonym Henry Chinaski by The Daily Beast, told the outlet he has been stuck in a 15-by-15 foot room with three other troops at Fort Bliss since Sunday. The service members just returned from Afghanistan and have been ordered to remain quarantined for two weeks in case they caught the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, while deployed or returning to the States.
The group gets two meals a day and a couple bottles of water, The Daily Beast reported Tuesday. The soldier, who has served for 17 years, texted reporters with the outlet about their experience. He said they’ve gotten no information about what they’re supposed to be doing while they wait.
“Prisoners receive better care and conditions than that which we are experiencing at Fort Bliss,” the soldier told The Daily Beast. “The Army was not prepared, nor equipped to deal with this quarantine instruction and it has been implemented very poorly.”
The situation now has Esper’s attention, a Pentagon spokesman told reporters Wednesday.
“His response is, ‘We can do better, and we need to do better,'” Jonathan Hoffman said. “I know that the commander at Fort Bliss is aware; he has been in contact. My understanding is that he met with all the soldiers who are quarantined and talked through some of their concerns.”
The soldier at Fort Bliss told The Daily Beast his exercise has been limited to push-ups, sit-ups and lunges in the room. On Tuesday, the service members got 20 minutes of yard time, according to the report.
The military is now looking at allowing troops stuck in holding patterns before they’re considered to be virus-free more time outside, Hoffman said, and visits to base exchanges, where they can purchase toiletries and other items.
“[We’re] also looking at other bases that are doing quarantines,” Hoffman said. “We’re checking to see how they’re holding up and doing this, as well. We can do better.”
As of Wednesday morning, 49 U.S. troops had tested positive for COVID-19. Another 14 Defense Department civilians, 19 dependents and seven contractors also have the virus.
Hoffman said every base commander is looking at how the military should handle quarantine situations as a result of The Daily Beast’s story.
“This is something that’s unusual for all these bases to be handling, and they’re doing the best they can,” he said. “… [But] we owe it to them, and we’re going to look into it and try to do better.”
Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business is trying to maximize the entrepreneurial potential of America’s veterans, and after a successful pilot program in 2014, the school is again opening its doors to another 25 current and former military for their Post-9/11 Ignite Program.
“No veteran wants a handout and just say ‘hey come to this program [and] learn some things because you’re a veteran.’ No,” said Alex Martin, a Marine veteran, in a video about the program. “What they do want is: ‘hey, do you want to work hard for something? Do you want to learn the language of this business or this industry? If you do, and if you’re qualified, and if you’re the right person for the job and if you’re a man or woman of character, then you have shot to get interviewed.”
The four-week program is meant for veterans and transitioning service-members who have a demonstrated record of excellence in and out of uniform, and who are passionate about starting or scaling up a business. The Ignite Program accelerates their development from idea to profitable venture.
Those who are selected after the application period closes on March 3rd will live on campus with the other participants, learning about business fundamentals from some of the world’s best professors. Topics include innovation, leadership, operations, marketing, strategy, negotiations, and finance accounting.
The program also includes practical application along with classroom instruction. The participants split themselves into small groups, who then develop and finally pitch their business to a panel of experienced entrepreneurs and investors from Silicon Valley.
Alongside The Commit Foundation, a veteran service organization focused on helping transitioning service members, Stanford is subsidizing this immersive environment for anyone interested in building a successful business. Beyond the rigorous training, the veterans form new connections across branches of service.
To learn more about the Stanford Graduate School of Business Post-9/11 Ignite program, click here. To register for the February 11th informational webinar, click here.
William Treseder served in the Marines between 2001 and 2011. He now writes regularly on military topics, and has been featured in TIME, Foreign Policy, and Boston Review.
The US Defense Department is making another multi-million dollar investment in high-energy lasers that have the potential to destroy enemy drones and mortars, disrupt communication systems, and provide military forces with other portable, less costly options on the battlefield.
US Senator Martin Heinrich, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and longtime supporter of directed energy research, announced the $17 million investment during a news conference Wednesday inside a Boeing lab where many of the innovations were developed.
The US already has the ability to shoot down enemy rockets and take out other threats with traditional weapons, but Heinrich said it’s expensive.
High-energy lasers and microwave systems represent a shift to weapons with essentially endless ammunition and the ability to wipe out multiple threats in a short amount of time, he said.
“This is ready for prime time and getting people to just wrap their head around the fact that you can put a laser on something moving really fast and destroy it … has been the biggest challenge,” said Heinrich, who has an engineering degree.
Boeing has been working on high-energy laser and microwave weapons systems for years. The effort included a billion-dollar project to outfit a 747 with a laser cannon that could shoot down missiles while airborne. The system was complex and filled the entire back half of the massive plane.
With advancements over the past two decades, high-powered laser weapons systems can now fit into a large suitcase for transport across the battlefield or be mounted to a vehicle for targeting something as small as the device that controls the wings of a military drone.
“Laser technology has moved from science fiction to real life,” said Ron Dauk, head of Boeing’s Albuquerque site.
The company’s compact laser system has undergone testing by the military and engineers are working on a higher-powered version for testing next year.
While the technology has matured, Dauk and Heinrich said the exciting part is that it’s on the verge of moving from the lab to the battlefield.
Another $200 million has been requested in this year’s defense appropriations bill that would establish a program within the Pentagon for accelerating the transition of directed-energy research to real applications.
Heinrich said continued investment in such projects will help solidify New Mexico’s position as a leading site of directed-energy research and bring more money and high-tech jobs to the state.
Boeing already contributes about $120 million to the state’s economy through its contracts with vendors.
It looks like the list for the Army’s senior enlisted promotions got pushed out — which is fantastic news for everyone who got picked up. Congratulations! You worked hard and it’s paying off.
To the rest of you, my condolences. But let me be clear here: I’m not pitying the NCOs — oh no, they’ll get their time to shine (or get RCPed for staying in at the same rank, whichever comes first). My heart aches for the soldiers beneath the NCOs that didn’t make the list. Get ready for a world of hurt because your platoon sergeant is about to take their frustrations out on you.
With the push for a 350-ship Navy as a centerpiece of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, many wonder how the U.S. can expand its surface fleet quickly and without breaking the bank.
The Coast Guard may have an answer — or at least a starting point for the answer — with its Bertholf Class National Security Cutters. A Dec. 30, 2016, release from Huntington Ingalls noted that a ninth cutter of what was originally planned as an eight-ship class had been ordered.
However, at the SeaAirSpace 2017 Expo, Huntington Ingalls displayed a model of the FF4923, also known as the Patrol Frigate. Using the same basic hull and propulsion plant as the Bertholf-class cutters, the FF4923 adds a lot more teeth to the design.
According to the “16th Edition of Combat Fleets of the World,” a Bertholf Class cutter carries a Mk 110 57mm main gun, a single Phalanx Close-In Weapons System, and some .50-caliber machine guns. Not bad for a patrol ship — and roughly comparable to the armament suite on a littoral combat ship.
The FF4923, though, offers a 76mm gun, a 16-cell Mk 41 Vertical Launch System, two triple Mk 32 torpedo tubes, a launcher for the RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile, two Mk 141 quad mounts for the RGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missile, and a half-dozen machine guns. In this ship, the Mk 41 VLS would only use RIM-66 SM-2 missiles, RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles, and RUM-139 Vertical-Launch ASROCs.
The 76mm gun, incidentally, offers the option of using guided rounds like the OTO Melara’s Vulcano for surface targets and the DART round against aircraft and missiles.
This is not the only offering that Huntington Ingalls has made. According to an April 2012 report from DefenseMediaNetwork.com, in the past, HII offered the FF4921, which used a Mk 56 Vertical-Launch System for the Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile that is best known for its use on Canada’s Halifax-class frigates, and the PF4501, a minimal-change version of the Bertholf.
Even if the United States Navy doesn’t order some of these Bertholfs with teeth, export orders could find American workers very busy – even after the larger-than-planned Bertholf Class order for the Coast Guard is fulfilled.
It’s not very often we Americans want to cheer for the Internal Revenue Service. This is the organization that takes a significant chunk of our paychecks every week, after all. But trust me, by the end of this, you’re going to give this particular law enforcement agency its due. So while they irk us for the money it takes, the IRS also busts tax cheats and will reach out to taxpayers to inform them bout how to pay and pay the right way.
Oh, and they helped bring down one of the largest child pornography websites ever, netting hundreds of pedophiles worldwide, people who thought they’d never get caught. It became an international, inter-agency success story.
It’s a well-known fact that almost anything, no matter how illicit, is available on the dark web, a section of the Internet that isn’t indexed by search engines and is protected by layers and layers of encryption that can only be accessed using Tor, a special browser. An estimated 57 percent of dark web activities are illegal in nature, including the sale of stolen bank accounts, drugs, and child pornography. Because of the anonymity of the dark web, blockchain technology, and the bitcoin used to purchase much of these items, predators, hackers, and drug dealers think it’s a reasonably safe marketplace. Now the IRS can tick off its first score against these illicit practices.
An informant revealed the existence of a child pornography website to federal agents, one that appeared because other sites were shut down by authorities. This site, called “Welcome to Video,” accepted bitcoin as payment, a further way to guarantee the users’ anonymity. But the IRS doesn’t normally cover this ground. So they turned to Homeland Security for help in following the money.
The investigators weren’t able to trace the source of the server hosting the imagery, but through a defect in the website, they were able to trace individual elements of the site. Meanwhile, IRS agents sent bitcoin to addresses associated with the Welcome to Video site. The addresses, they found, were going to addresses given to them by a criminal informant. The feds were able to trace the blockchain ledgers of bitcoin transactions within Tor, a supposedly anonymous browser. Then they divided their resources, one would find the users of the site, and another would find its host.
Federal agents copied one of the confirmed users’ mobile phones and laptops when it was confiscated at an international airport. From there, they traced its bitcoin transactions to South Korea and the United States. They confirmed payments to the Welcome to Video site but also found the website operator’s bitcoin transactions. That’s when they hit the jackpot – the operator of the website opened his U.S. exchange account with a selfie – holding his South Korean passport.
Authorities in Seoul raided the home of a 22-year-old living with his parents, who hosted a “mammoth” child porn site. They took down the site but didn’t alert its users. They were next. Instead, they uploaded a page in broken English about updates being made to the site.
Now that they had the server, authorities in the U.S., South Korea, and London had access to all of “Welcome to Video’s” users. This information led to the arrest of some 300 people in 12 countries – including DHS Agents and other Americans in Georgia, Texas, and Kansas. The Wall Street Journal reports that as a result of the server’s seizure, 23 minors were rescued, all being held and abused by users of the website.
Most of the arrested individuals have since pled guilty or are already serving time. One of the alleged users jumped from his balcony, killing himself.
For the whole story and more details about the amazing work of the IRS, check out the full story in the Wall Street Journal… and try to remember this on April 15th.