After years of declining military spending, the world is now re-arming - We Are The Mighty
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After years of declining military spending, the world is now re-arming

After years of declining military spending, the world is now re-arming
Lockheed Martin photo


For the first time since 2011, the world has spent more on troops and weapons than in the previous year, according to new data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

The researchers estimate that countries spent $1.676 trillion on their militaries in 2015, a one-percent increase over 2014. This is equivalent to around 2.3 percent of the world’s economic output.

But as is often the case with these kinds of statistics, the details are actually more interesting than the headline figures. For starters, there are stark regional differences. Only Eastern Europe and Asia and Oceania boosted their spending. The rest of the world spent less — a lot less.

Africa reduced its spending by 5.3 percent, the first reduction in 11 years. But a closer look at the data makes clear that the continent’s governments haven’t suddenly become radical pacifists. Instead, all North African countries with the exception of Morocco actually increased military spending at rates comparable to previous years. And in Sub-Saharan Africa, most countries stayed on their previous trajectories, as well.

The big outlier is Angola. The southern Africa country cut its military budget by a whopping 42 percent, the first real reduction since it embarked on a spending spree in 2002 after the government had regained control of all diamond mines and oil wells in the aftermath of the civil war.

Angola is still essentially a military dictatorship, so the spending cuts are not representative of a changing government doctrine. Instead, historically low oil prices have battered the heavily oil-dependent economy and government budget, making drastic cuts to military spending all but inevitable.

After years of declining military spending, the world is now re-arming
SIPRI chart

Some other oil-reliant governments across Africa also cut their spending, but more modestly than Angola did. This seems to indicate that these countries have either diversified their economy much better than Angola has …. or have much more pressing security concerns that make continued high spending necessary despite eventual financial collapse.

Overall, Africa spent 68 percent more on its militaries in 2015 than it did in 2006.

In South America, the situation is comparable to Africa, with Venezuela taking the role of Angola and cutting its military spending by 64 percent. Overall, South America and North America slightly decreased their spending, while Central America and the Caribbean increased spending by 3.7 percent.

Obviously, the United States is North America’s most prolific military spender — $596 billion in 2015, a 36-percent share of the whole world’s spending on troops and weapons.

After years of declining military spending, the world is now re-arming
Iraqi M-1 tanks on parade | Wikimedia photo

This is actually more than 20 percent below America’s most recent spending peak in 2010, a result of troop draw-downs in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the automatic “sequestration” budget cuts.

Western and Central Europe essentially maintained their military spending, laying out 0.2 percent less than in the previous year. European spending is down 8.5 percent since 2006.

But the researchers believe that military spending could rise again in this part of the world. “For the first time since 2009, the number of countries in the subregion that increased expenditure was higher than the number of those that reduced spending.” Austerity measures are declining while the threat from terrorism — and Russia — seems to be increasing.

This brings us to the regions that have actually increased spending. All sub-regions of Asia and Oceania boosted their military budgets by at least 0.9 percent — and most individual countries did, as well.

After years of declining military spending, the world is now re-arming
Russian Su-30 fighter | Wikimedia photo

China is obviously the most relevant in this part of the world, representing 49 percent of the regional total. Beijing boosted outlays by 7.4 percent and retained its position as the world’s second-biggest spender. The region at large increased military spending by 64 percent from 2006 to 2015, with only Fiji recording a significant decrease of 23 percent.

But no region increased spending more drastically than Eastern Europe did, at 7.5 percent, contributing to an overall 80-percent boost in military budgets over the last decade. Russia obviously drives this development, both directly by way of Moscow’s own 7.5-percent increase in spending, and indirectly by compelling neighboring countries to re-arm in order to deter Russian aggression.

Still, Russia actually lost its third place in the world rankings to Saudi Arabia. The Middle East country now spends $87.2 billion a year on its military, which actually represents only a 5.7-percent increase over 2014. Saudi Arabia placed before Russia due to the weak ruble, which made Russian military investments cheaper in dollar terms.

After years of declining military spending, the world is now re-arming
A Saudi F-15 during a Red Flag exercise in the United States | U.S. Defense Department photo

SIPRI’s researchers did not include estimates for the Middle East overall because too many countries in the region did not provide public military expenditure data — and independent estimates are unreliable.

Apart from Saudi Arabia, the most interesting country with sufficient data is Iraq, which stands out for its record spending increases over the last decade as it tries to rebuild its shattered armed forces. The Iraqi government increased military spending by 536 percent since 2006 and 35 percent since 2014, bringing the total in 2015 to $13.1 billion.

In contrast, Iran’s military expenditure decreased by 30 percent since 2006, with the largest part of these cuts taking place in 2012 and 2013, after the European Union enacted economic and financial sanctions. As sanctions began to lift in January 2016, experts expect Iran’s military spending to increase in coming years.

Looking at the long-term data, military spending seems to rise and fall based more on economic cycles and long-term policy decisions than on short-term shocks and conflicts. Russia’s recent spate of foreign interventions came after Pres. Vladimir Putin boosted military spending.

Western and Central Europe seem to spend mostly in years when their overall balance sheets look good — and Saudi Arabia is decreasing its rate of spending growth despite its ongoing intervention in Yemen.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Air Force revokes bomb contract linked to Russian oligarch

The Air Force is to ditch a nearly a half-billion dollar contract issued to a Chicago-based company to make bunker-buster bombs after complaints by lawmakers about the company’s ties to a Russian oligarch.

The Air Force awarded a contract worth $419.6 million to A. Finkl & Sons Co. to produce bomb bodies for the 2,000-pound BLU-137 penetrator warhead, which is meant to replace the BLU-109.

Finkl’s contract was slightly smaller than the $467.9 million award given to Ohio-based Superior Forge and Steel Corp to make 300 bomb bodies in the first year with the potential for as many as 3,500 more over four years.


However, according to Bloomberg Government, a group of lawmakers protested the decision, saying Finkl was not eligible for the award because of its foreign parent company, Swiss steel-maker Schmolz + Bickenbach, which is partially owned by Viktor Vekselberg, a Russian billionaire and aluminium magnate who has been hit by US sanctions.

By awarding the contract to Finkl, Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Mark Kelly told Bloomberg, the Air Force had “turned their back” on Ellwood National Forge, a longtime bomb-maker that employs 2,000 people and is based in Pennsylvania. Ellwood had worked on every previous generation of the bunker-buster warhead.

After years of declining military spending, the world is now re-arming

Viktor Vekselberg.

Vekselberg, born in Ukraine and based in Switzerland, is worth more than billion and holds an 11.34% stake and 1.25% stake in Schmolz + Bickenbach through two holding companies, both of which have been hit by US sanctions against Russia over that country’s actions in Crimea and Ukraine. (His stakes in Schomlz + Bickenbach were not large enough to draw sanctions on that company.)

Early 2018 the US imposed sanctions on Russian individuals and entities over Moscow’s suspected meddling in the 2016 US election — including assets worth between id=”listicle-2602523867″.5 billion and billion belonging to Vekselberg and one of the holding companies in question.

Kelly and nine other Republican members of Pennsylvania congressional delegation protested the decision in a July 27, 2018 letter, saying they were “so surprised” Ellwood has missed out on the contract “despite submitting the lowest cost bid and possessing far more experience than either of the companies that won a contract.”

“Perhaps more troubling is that one of the companies that was awarded a contract is the subsidiary of a foreign-owned conglomerate, even though the request for proposal explicitly barred foreign owned, controlled or influenced companies from applying to this contract,” the letter said.

In an Aug. 30, 2018 letter seen by Bloomberg Government, the Air Force appeared to concur, saying Finkl should have been ineligible because of foreign ownership and that it had sent “a notice of termination” to the Chicago-based firm. The Air Force’s letter did not mention Vekselberg.

After years of declining military spending, the world is now re-arming

Munitions maintainers assemble BLU-109 munitions during the Combat Ammunitions Production Exercise at Osan Air Base in South Korea, May 25, 2010.

(US Air Force photo photo by Staff Sgt. Stephenie Wade)

Ellwood also filed a protest of the contract award, on which the Government Accountability Office has yet to rule. It is not clear whether the Air Force will reassign the contract or open it to a new round of bidding.

US sanctions on Russia over alleged meddling in the 2016 election have created other headaches for the Pentagon and lawmakers.

Under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, which President Donald Trump signed into law in August 2017, the US can put secondary sanctions on entities and individuals doing business with the Russian intelligence or defense sectors.

That provision has worried US partners in countries like India, Vietnam, and Indonesia, who still use Russian weaponry and need to make future purchases to maintain their arsenals. India’s looming purchase of Russia’s advanced S-400 air-defense system has been a particular sticking point.

The latest defense authorization bill contains a waiver process for US partners that buy Russian weapons, but the Pentagon has said allies aren’t certain to be spared “from any fallout” from Russia sanctions.

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

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North Korea is getting closer to a nuclear bomb that can hit the US

North Korea has spent decades developing nuclear devices and the missiles to launch them while threatening to flatten cities in the US, Australia, and Asia.


Though experts in the past could credibly dismiss those threats as fantasy, North Korea has recently made swift progress toward that end.

“I wouldn’t be incredibly surprised if it happened in the next few months,” Mike Elleman, the senior fellow for missile defense at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, told Business Insider in May of the potential for a North Korean intercontinental ballistic missile test.

“They have a higher tolerance for risk. If it fails, it fails. I don’t think that greatly concerns them. They’re more interested in trying to demonstrate what they’re trying to do. [There’s] a lot of political messaging going on with these tests.”

North Korea first tested a nuclear device in 2006, and it has tested missiles since 1984. The missiles started with limited capacity and could be fired only at short ranges. Initial nuclear tests were weak and ineffective.

After years of declining military spending, the world is now re-arming
A North Korean anti-aircraft missile drives through Pyongyang. (Photo by Stefan Krasowski via Flickr)

But now the country seems poised to make a leap toward missiles that could cross the globe with almost unlimited firepower.

Siegfried Hecker, a nuclear scientist at Stanford University, told South Korea’s Yonhap News on June 26 that the North Koreans could produce tritium, an element that can turn an already devastating atomic bomb into a hydrogen bomb.

Stephen Schwartz, the author of “Atomic Audit: The Costs and Consequences of US Nuclear Weapons Since 1940,” told Business Insider that while atomic bombs release enormous amounts of energy through fission, hydrogen bombs increase that energy by combining it with fusion, the same reaction that powers the sun.

“There is no theoretical upper limit on the maximum yield of a hydrogen bomb, but as a practical matter, it can’t be too large or heavy to fit on its intended delivery system,” said Schwartz, who noted that the largest hydrogen bomb designed, Russia’s Tsar Bomba, had an explosive yield of 100 megatons.

Such a bomb, if dropped on Washington, DC, would flatten buildings for 20 miles in every direction and leave third-degree burns on humans 45 miles out, or past Baltimore.

After years of declining military spending, the world is now re-arming
A huge expanse of ruins left the explosion of the atomic bomb on Aug. 6, 1945 in Hiroshima. 140,000 people died because of the disastrous explosion.

“Those possibilities are sufficiently worrisome that I maintain that the crisis is here now,” Hecker said, not when North Korean missiles “are able to reach the US.” He added, however, that it would take more time for North Korea to weaponize hydrogen bombs. US spy satellites have recently seen increased activity around North Korea’s nuclear test site, but no conclusions can yet be drawn. In the past, North Korea has claimed it has built hydrogen bombs, though not credibly.

On the missile front, North Korea has made fast progress, surprising many experts contacted by Business Insider, who now say the country could test an intercontinental ballistic missile as soon as this year.

A recent rocket-engine test from North Korea could serve as a bad omen. In the past, North Korea has tested rocket engines less than a year before testing the missiles that would use them. Experts said North Korea’s latest rocket-engine test could indeed have been in preparation for an ICBM.

After years of declining military spending, the world is now re-arming
Image from Wikimedia Commons

Hecker urged the US to diplomatically engage with North Korea to get it to adopt a “no use” policy with its nuclear arsenal, a concession from the total denuclearization the US currently demands.

Denuclearization so far has been a nonstarter with Kim Jong Un, the North Korean leader who has written the possession of nuclear weapons into North Korea’s constitution as a guarantor of its security.

“North Korea wants an ICBM with a thermonuclear weapon,” Jeffrey Lewis, the founding publisher of Arms Control Wonk, previously told Business Insider. “They’re not going to stop ’cause they get bored.”

For now, it seems inevitable that North Korea will get it.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Enlisted pilots could fly in combat for the first time since WWII

The Air Force is mired in a deepening pilot crisis, with a shortage of approximately 2,000 pilots from the active-duty Air Force, Air National Guard, and Air Force Reserve at the end of fiscal year 2017 in September.


The Air Force has pursued a number of policies to correct that shortage, including quality-of-life improvements, opening positions for retired pilots, and drawing more active-duty pilots from the National Guard and Reserve. The force also has the option to recall retired pilots, but says it will not avail itself of it.

Now it appears the Air Force is considering a step it has long avoided: training enlisted airmen to be combat aviators.

A new six-month pilot-training program will consist of 15 officers and five enlisted airmen, Maj. Gen. Timothy Leahy, chief of the Second Air Force, told his commanders in a November 30 email, seen by Air Force Times.

Currently, the only Air Force personnel eligible to be pilots are commissioned officers, and achieving officer status requires a four-year college degree.

“Enlisted volunteers will be pioneers in innovating Air Force aviator recruitment, selection, and training processes by demonstrating the potential of non-college graduates to succeed in a rigorous pilot training environment,” Leahy, whose command is responsible for basic military and tactical training for Air Force personnel, wrote in the email.

After years of declining military spending, the world is now re-arming
Maj. Glenn Meleen, a test pilot for the 40th Flight Test Squadron out of Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, prepares to taxi prior to flight in the Textron Scorpion experimental aircraft. Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Christopher Okula

Leahy added that the training program would provide data to Air Education and Training Command commander Lt. Gen. Steven Kwast about “the potential for enlisted members to train to fly modern combat aircraft,” according to Air Force Times. The email was obtained by former airman Steven Mayne, who runs the unofficial Air Force amn/nco/snco Facebook page.

The email said there was a December 15 deadline for airmen to volunteer online and that those picked would start training on February 15. Those who succeed would take solo flights in T-6 single-engine turboprop training aircraft.

Air Education and Training Command spokeswoman Marilyn Holliday confirmed the email to Air Force Times and said the command “chose to focus on flying training because of the urgency involved with the enterprise.” She added that the program was meant to examine how airmen learn and would look at technology that could lead to better and faster learning.

However, she also downplayed enlisted airmen’s proximity to the pilot’s seat, telling Task Purpose that, while the training program was started because of the need for pilots, the “study is not looking at changing our pilot force, but rather it is exploring new ways to effectively and efficiently deliver training.”

Read More: This is why the Air Force pilot shortage is only getting worse

“The plan for this six-month program is to explore the technology available to produce a student, similarly-skilled to a UPT graduate,” Holliday told Task Purpose, referring to the Air Force’s yearlong basic aviation course, Undergraduate Pilot Training.

Officers who pass the six-month course will get pilot’s wings and move on to specialized training, while enlisted airmen who pass will return to the specialty they were selected for during basic training, Holliday said, adding that they could have their flight hours applied to a civilian pilot’s license.

‘The natural progression’

The Air Force said at the end of 2015 that it would begin training enlisted airmen to fly RQ-4 remotely piloted aircraft — part of an effort to meet demand for unmanned-aircraft pilots. At the end of 2016, two master sergeants became the first enlisted airmen in 60 years to complete solo flights during initial flight training.

The Air Force continued that training this year, with 30 enlisted airmen (chosen from 800 initial applicants) starting training for the RQ-4 Global Hawk in March. Outside of that initiative, however, the force has shown little interest in training enlisted airmen to fly manned aircraft.

Despite that reluctance, Air Force Chief Master Sergeant Kaleth Wright told Air Force Timesearlier this year that many enlisted men have pilot’s licenses and that enlisted airmen piloting manned aircraft appeared to be “the natural progression.”

Wright also started a study at the end of the summer to explore what benefit the Air Force would get from bringing back the warrant officer program, which some have said would be a way to properly recognize and compensate enlisted pilots for their expanded duties as fliers.

After years of declining military spending, the world is now re-arming
(Photo: U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Jordan Castelan)

Air Force officials have pointed to a number of reasons for the force’s pilot shortage including quality-of-life issues, recruitment by private airlines, as well as strain created by three decades of ongoing operations around the world.

The shortage of qualified fliers has also been exacerbated by a bottleneck in the Air Force’s training pipeline, caused by a combination of factors like force drawdowns, longer deployments, and budget restrictions.

Air Force leaders have zeroed in on budget woes as a particular problem.

Air Force Chief of Staff David Goldfein said in November that he worried, “if we cannot move past sequester in its current form, we’re going to break this force.”

This month, with the window closing on budget legislation, Goldfein again sounded alarm about the worst-case scenario for the Air Force: A budget deal that doesn’t lift spending limits put in place by the Budget Control Act.

Such an outcome would “devastate” the Air Force, Goldfein told Air Force Times, adding to problems created by the last budget sequester and hindering the service’s ability to keep pilots in their planes and, in turn, in uniform.

“If you’re not preparing for or executing combat operations, then you’ll likely stop flying,” Goldfein said. “Currencies will lapse, qualifications will cease, and we’ll potentially look back on the timeframe of having an only 2,000 pilots short [force] as a dream.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why Army artillery is about to get much more accurate

The US Army is developing precision-guided 155mm rounds that are longer range than existing shells and able to conduct combat missions in a GPS-denied war environment.


The Precision Guidance Kit Modernization (PGK-M) is now being developed to replace the standard PGK rounds, which consist of a unguided 155 round with a GPS-fuze built into it; the concept with the original PGK, which first emerged roughly 10 years ago, was to bring a greater amount of precision to historically unguided artillery fire.

Now, Army developers with the Army’s Program Executive Office Ammunition at Picatinny Arsenal are taking the technology to a new level by improving upon the range, accuracy, and functionality of the weapon. Perhaps of greatest importance, the emerging PGK-M shell is engineered such that it can still fire with range and accuracy in a war environment where GPS guidance and navigation technology is compromised or destroyed.

The emerging ammunition will be able to fire from standard 155mm capable weapons such as an Army M777 lightweight towed howitzer and M109 howitzer.

After years of declining military spending, the world is now re-arming
Spc. Avery Lebron Johnson Jr. (R), a cannon crewmember in 1st Platoon, Archer Battery, Field Artillery Squadron, 2d Cavalry Regiment guides a m155 round into a M777 howitzer Aug. 5, 2017 while training in the Vaziani Training Area, Republic of Georgia during Noble Partner 17. Noble Partner is a multinational training exercise in support of Georgia’s second light infantry company contribution to the NATO Response Force. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Jennifer Bunn, 2d Cavalry Regiment)

“PGK-M will provide enhanced performance against a broad spectrum of threats. In addition, PGK-M will be interoperable with the Army’s new long-range artillery projectiles, which are currently in parallel development,” Audra Calloway, spokeswoman for the Army’s Picatinny Arsenal, told Warrior Maven.

BAE Systems is among several vendors currently developing PGK-M with the Army’s Defense Ordnance Technology Consortium. BAE developers say the kits enable munitions to make in-flight course corrections even in GPS-jammed environments.

“Our experience with munitions handling, gun launch shock, interior ballistics, and guidance and fire control uniquely positions us to integrate precision technology into the Army’s artillery platforms,” David Richards, Program Manager, Strategic Growth Initiatives for our Precision Guidance and Sensing Solutions group, BAE Systems, told Warrior Maven in a statement.

This technological step forward is quite significant for the Army, as it refines its attack technologies in a newly-emerging threat environment. The advent of vastly improved land-fired precision weaponry began about 10 years ago during the height of counterinsurgency warfare in Iraq and Afghanistan. GPS-guided 155m Excalibur rounds and the Army’s GPS and inertial measurement unit weapon, the Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System, burst onto the war scene as a way to give commanders more attack options.

Also Read: This is why the US military gave GPS away for free

Traditional suppressive fire, or “area weapons” as they have been historically thought of, were not particularly useful in combat against insurgents. Instead, since enemies were, by design, blended among civilians, Army attack options had little alternative but to place the highest possible premium upon precision guidance.

GMLRS, for example, was used to destroy Taliban leaders in Afghanistan, and Excalibur had its combat debut in the 2007, 2008 timeframe. With a CEP of roughly 1-meter, Excalibur proved to be an invaluable attack mechanism against insurgents. Small groups of enemy fighters, when spotted by human intel or overhead ISR, could effectively be attacked without hurting innocents or causing what military officials like to call “collateral damage.” PGK was initially envisioned as a less expensive, and also less precise, alternative to Excalibur.

The rise of near-peer threats, and newer technologies commensurate with larger budgets and fortified military modernization ambitions, have created an entirely new war environment confronting the Army of today and tomorrow. Principle among these circumstances is, for example, China’s rapid development of Anti-Satellite, or ASAT weapons.

After years of declining military spending, the world is now re-arming
Marines with Charlie Battery, 1st Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment, fire an M982 Excalibur round from an M777 howitzer during a recent fire support mission. (US Marine Corps photo)

This ongoing development, which has both the watchful eye and concern of US military strategists and war planners, underscores a larger and much-discussed phenomenon – that of the United States military being entirely too reliant upon GPS for combat ops. GPS, used in a ubiquitous way across the Army and other military services, spans small force-tracking devices to JDAMs dropped from the air and much more, of course including the aforementioned land weapons.

Advanced jamming techniques, electronic warfare and sophisticated cyberattacks have radically altered the combat equation – making GPS signals vulnerable to enemy disruption. Accordingly, there is a broad consensus among military developers and industry innovators that far too many necessary combat technologies are reliant upon GPS systems. Weapons targeting, ship navigation and even small handheld solider force-tracking systems all rely upon GPS signals to operate.

Accordingly, the Army and other services are now accelerating a number of technical measures and emerging technologies designed to create what’s called Position, Navigation and Timing (PNT), or GPS-like guidance, navigation, and targeting, without actually needing satellites. This includes ad-hoc software programmable radio networks, various kinds of wave-relay connectivity technologies and navigational technology able to help soldiers operate without GPS-enabled force tracking systems.

At the same time, the Army is working with the Air Force on an integrated strategy to protect satellite coms, harden networks and also better facilitate joint-interoperability in a GPS-denied environment.

The Air Force Space strategy, for instance, is currently pursuing a multi-fold satellite strategy to include “dispersion,” “disaggregation” and “redundancy.” At the same time, the service has also identified the need to successfully network the force in an environment without GPS. Naturally, this is massively interwoven with air-ground coordination. Fighters, bombers and even drones want to use a wide range of secure sensors to both go after targets and operate with ground forces.

After years of declining military spending, the world is now re-arming
Today, the Air Force operates the largest GPS constellation in history with more than 30 satellites.  (U.S. Air Force Graphic by Maureen Stewart)

The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) is working with industry to test and refine an emerging radio frequency force-tracking technology able to identify ground forces’ location without needing to rely upon GPS.

Given all this, it is by no means insignificant that the Army seeks guided rounds able to function without GPS. Should they engage in near-peer, force-on-force mechanized ground combat against a major, technologically advanced adversary, they may indeed need to launch precision attacks across wide swaths of terrain – without GPS.

Finally, by all expectations, modern warfare is expected to increasingly become more and more dispersed across wider swaths of terrain, while also more readily crossing domains, given rapid emergence of longer-range weapons and sensors.

This circumstance inevitably creates the need for both precision and long-range strike. As one senior Army weapons developer with PEO Missiles and Space told Warrior Maven in an interview last Fall — Brig. Gen. Robert Rasch — … “it is about out-ranging the enemy.”

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Rebels in Syria fought with rare, expensive Nazi-made rifles

World War II history buffs are going to lose their minds. A Syrian rebel faction called the al-Tawhid Brigade stumbled on an arms cache of 5,000 German WWII-era Sturmgwehr 44 (STG-44) rifles.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6EsCle4ooM0

The STG-44 was designed to increase the volume of fire for German infantry units fighting on the Eastern Front against the Soviet Red Army. It accomplished this mission but was developed too late in the war to make an impact.

After years of declining military spending, the world is now re-arming
A German soldier demonstrates a Sturmgwehr equipped with a scope during testing in 1943.

The rebels thought they’d found a cache of Ak-47s. The two don’t look that much alike, but it’s understandable how the ill-armed and ill-equipped group would get excited at their find anyway.

After years of declining military spending, the world is now re-arming
AK-47 vs. STG-44

Besides, there’s little reason to see how 5,000 Nazi-built rifles worth an estimated $30,000 apiece ended up in the Syrian desert.

The al-Tawhid Brigade was an Islamist faction originally allied with the Free Syrian Army and the Syrian National Coalition against the government of Bashar al-Asad. In 2013, the al-Tawhid Brigade along with 11 other factions, would leave the Coalition and join al-Qaeda. That same year, its head commander died of wounds sustained in a Syrian government air strike and the group’s membership would defect to the various other groups fighting pro-Asad forces. The group is now defunct.

There is no word on what happened to the rare, expensive Nazi relics. For those keeping tabs at home, that’s a $150 million dollar loss.

Keep an eye out for those STG-44s. They’ve shown up in state-sponsored gun buybacks in California and Connecticut.

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Watch this modern-day Samurai slice a BB pellet traveling at 217 miles per hour

42-year-old Isao Machii is a Japanese Iaidoka, master of Iaido. Iaido is martial art focused on controlled movements in drawing a sword, striking an opponent, cleaning the blood from the blade, and then re-sheathing the sword. Iaido started during the Japanese feudal system and is the foundation of modern Japanese swordsmanship.


Machii holds Guinness World Records for the most martial arts sword cuts to one mat (suegiri), the fastest 1,000 martial arts sword cuts, the most sword cuts to straw mats in three minutes, and the fastest tennis ball (820 km/h) cut by sword.

“This is about processing it at an entirely different sensory level because he is not visually processing it,” said Dr. Ramani Durvasula, who was on hand for the BB pellet event. “This is a different level of anticipatory processing. Something so procedural, something so fluid for him.” Machii agreed, saying he doesn’t use his eyes, but can instantly visualize the trajectory of the object in his mind.

He is now headmaster of his own samurai school. See more of his swordsmanship, and enjoy the reactions of people watching him:

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Behold, the largest plane in the US Air Force

At 222 feet across, almost 300 feet long, and 65 feet tall at its tail, Lockheed Martin’s C-5 Galaxy is the largest transport aircraft in the US Air Force. With a cargo hull 121 feet long and 19 feet across, the C-5 is a flying warehouse that can carry a combat-ready military unit or deliver necessary supplies anywhere in the world.


The C-5 has a cargo capacity of 142 tons, the equivalent of carrying two M1A1 Abrams tanks, six greyhound buses, or 25,844,746 ping-pong balls. Below, see just how awesome the C-5’s carrying capacity is.

The C-5 Galaxy absolutely dwarfs humans.

After years of declining military spending, the world is now re-arming
People in line to enter the 445th Airlift Wing’s first C-5A Galaxy in 2005. | US Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Charlie Miller

The engine alone is more than 7 feet across.

After years of declining military spending, the world is now re-arming
Staff Sgt. Randall Ard, 730th Air Mobility Squadron crew chief, clears the runway for a C-5 Galaxy at Yokota Air Base, Japan, August 31, 2015. | US Air Force photo

Even large helicopters are tiny compared to the C-5.

After years of declining military spending, the world is now re-arming
US Marine Corps Bell AH-1 Sea Cobra helicopters and a Bell UH-1N Twin Huey helicopter are parked on the flight line as a US Air Force C-5A Galaxy aircraft stands by after unloading supplies during Operation Desert Shield on January 23, 1991. | US Army

To ease loading and unloading, the C-5 opens from the nose and the tail end.

After years of declining military spending, the world is now re-arming
ILA-boy via Wikimedia Commons

With four massive engines that each produce the force of 800 cars, the C-5 sounds amazing. (Sound starts about 0:30 mark.)

Chinook helicopters fit with ease.

After years of declining military spending, the world is now re-arming
US Air Force photo

Hauling an A-10 is no problem.

After years of declining military spending, the world is now re-arming
US Air Force

Fighter jets fit too!

After years of declining military spending, the world is now re-arming
Members of the 451st Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron aerial port flight and 22nd Airlift Squadron prepare to load a US Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter aircraft onto a US Air Force C-5 Galaxy cargo aircraft on Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, August 18, 2011. | US Air Force photo

Here comes the M1 Abrams.

After years of declining military spending, the world is now re-arming
US Air Force photo

Over 266,000 pounds of cargo and armored vehicles are loaded into a C-5 in Afghanistan.

After years of declining military spending, the world is now re-arming
Airmen from the 9th Airlift Squadron and 455th Expeditionary Aerial Port Squadron work with Marines from the Marine Expeditionary Brigade to load vehicles into a C-5 Super Galaxy October 6, 2014, at Camp Bastion, Afghanistan. | US Air Force photo

Here the C-5 unloads an 81-foot boat for the Navy.

After years of declining military spending, the world is now re-arming
A C-5 Galaxy offloads an 81-foot boat for the US Navy at Coronado Naval Base, California. | Photo by SSgt. Angel Gallardo

The C-130 is a big plane in its own right, but its fuselage fits easily inside the galaxy.

After years of declining military spending, the world is now re-arming
A C-130 Hercules training fuselage is loaded into a C-5 Galaxy for transport to Stratton Air National Guard Base, New York. This was the first time a C-5 transported a C-130 fuselage. | US Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Ty Moore

In times of trouble, when aid is needed on a huge scale, the C-5 is a welcome sight.

After years of declining military spending, the world is now re-arming
A C-5 Galaxy from the Air Force Reserve Command’s 433rd Airlift Wing is ready to depart a deployed location on another mission supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. | US Air Force photo by Capt. Jeremy Angel

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This is how the USS Arizona memorial made Elvis the King

In the early hours of Dec. 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service, killing 2,403 service members and launching President Roosevelt’s decision to enter World War II.


Although the event was catastrophic, only two ships were beyond repair — USS Oklahoma and Arizona. The Oklahoma was eventually refloated to the surface, but the battle damage was too overwhelming to repair and return to service.

However, the USS Arizona took four devastating direct hits from 800kg bombs dropped from high altitude Japanese planes. One of the bombs ripped into the Arizona’s starboard deck and detonated. The explosion collapsed the ship’s forecastle decks, causing the conning tower to fall thirty feet into the hull.

Related: This American admiral planned the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1932

Talks of constructing a permanent memorial started as early as 1943, but it wasn’t until several years later that the effort would take shape. After the creation of Pacific War Memorial Commission, plans of how to commemorate the ship’s memory began rolling in.

Admiral Arthur Radford ordered a flag to be installed on the wreck site and have a colors ceremony conducted every day.

In 1950, requests for additional funds were denied by the government, as their top priority was to focus on the war efforts in Korea.

After years of declining military spending, the world is now re-arming
USS Arizona after being struck by Japanese in Pearl Harbor.

In 1958, President Dwight D. Eisenhower inked Public Law 85-344 allowing the PWMC to raise $500,000 for the memorial construction. But after two years of fundraising, only $155,000 in total proceeds had been collected — they needed a lot of help.

Little did they know, they were about to get it.

Tom Parker read about the PWMC’s struggling endeavor and came up with a genius plan. Parker just happened to be Elvis Presley’s manager and was looking for ways to get his client back on top after being drafted by the Army in 1957 — Elvis was discharged from service in 1960.

Reportedly, Parker approached Elvis to perform at a benefit to help boost the memorial campaign — and his music and acting careers.

Elvis, who was not only patriotic but loved the idea of performing for a cause, agreed to help with the campaign. The PWMC agreed to Parker’s plan, and a performance date was set — March 25, 1961.

After years of declining military spending, the world is now re-arming
The flyer for Elvis’ fundraising performance.

Also Read: 5 times the US was attacked at home during WWII (besides Pearl Harbor)

Although the performance brought in $60,000 in revenue, the campaign was still well short of its goal. But from the publicity of Elvis’ show, donations from outside sources rolled in, and the PWMC finally raise the $500,000 they needed.

On May 30, 1962, the USS Arizona Memorial officially opened thanks to Elvis and the PWMC.

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ISIS snuck behind Iraqi forces in this surprise counterattack in Mosul

A major Islamic State group counterattack July 7 along the northern edge of Mosul’s Old City neighborhood has pushed Iraqi Army forces back some 75 meters (82 yards) and is threatening recent gains in other Old City fronts, an Iraqi military officer said.


The officer said the attack was launched just after noon July 7 and estimated it was carried out by 50 to 100 IS fighters. A doctor at a medic station said he received more than a dozen wounded Iraqi soldiers.

Both men spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.

Iraqi security forces have retaken almost all of Mosul — Iraq’s second largest city — from IS militants who overran it in 2014.

After years of declining military spending, the world is now re-arming
Photo from DoD.

In late June, IS counterattacks on the western edge of Mosul — neighborhoods retaken months earlier — stalled the push by Iraqi forces to go deeper into the Old City as they forced a reallocation of Iraqi ground forces, coalition surveillance, and air support.

Unlike the July 7 attack, the late June counterattack was launched from outside Mosul, most likely from Tal Afar, an IS-held town some 60 kilometers (37 miles) west of Mosul.

The counterattacks underscore the extremist group’s resilience in Iraq, despite significant territorial losses and months of heavy fighting with Iraqi forces backed by US air power.

The pockets of IS-held Mosul now measure less than a square kilometer.

Also on July 7, The UN’s migration agency suspended operations in two camps — the Qayara air strip emergency site and the Haj Ali camp — near Mosul hosting nearly 80,000 displaced Iraqis due to sporadic violence and exchange of gunfire.

After years of declining military spending, the world is now re-arming
An Iraqi federal police takes a break before another day’s offensive to liberate and secure West Mosul, Iraq, March 2, 2017. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Jason Hull)

IOM spokesman Joel Millman said the security situation prevented six water-tanker trucks from entering the Haj Ali camp, where temperatures reached the low 50s Celsius (122 Fahrenheit) in recent days.

Humanitarian groups have repeatedly suspended operations in and around Mosul due to security concerns since the fight to retake the city from IS began last October.

In April, the United Nations suspended operations in the same area due to security threats along the road south of Mosul’s western half.

In February, the UN suspended operations in eastern Mosul weeks after the area was declared fully liberated as IS attacks continued to inflict heavy civilian casualties.

In both instances, the UN resumed operations within a matter of days.

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Woman helping to put faces to names on Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial

After years of declining military spending, the world is now re-arming


A mere mention of the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial in D.C. is enough to evoke emotional thoughts of the living remembering their fallen. On a daily basis, veterans, family members, friends and strangers alike are visibly impacted by the seemingly endless stretch of black granite that bears the names of 58,307 men and women who lost their priceless lives – or remain missing – due to that war. Some reach out their hand to touch the wall, some reverently read  names, and thousands each year will leave behind an item in tribute (NPS approximates that 400,000 items have been kept in the collection since 1982). Eight summers ago, one visitor walked away with an experience that compelled her to help others literally see the veterans whose names were represented on that wall.

During a vacation with her husband to Washington, D.C. in 2008, Janna Hoehn of Kihei, Maui was one of the 4 million a year who visit “The Wall”. This was an important visit for her.  She purposed to write down one name and learn more about that individual.

“Vietnam was my entire high school years, I recall the way the returning Veterans were treated. It always has stayed with me.” said Hoehn, “I have always had a huge place in my heart for Vietnam Veterans. Standing in front of the Vietnam Wall profoundly changed my life … I never dreamed how it would affect me.”

After years of declining military spending, the world is now re-arming
Janna Hoehn | KRGV.com

As she read through the etched names of soldiers, she noticed some had a diamond carved between the names, but a few had a cross. The explanation of those symbols would aid her in choosing a soldier’s name:

“I asked a man standing next to me why most the names had a diamond carved between the names, but a few had a cross, he explained to me the cross was an MIA. If the remains were ever returned to America then the cross could be easily made into a diamond. That is why I chose the name I did, I wanted an MIA after he explained it to me.”

She chose the name of Major Gregory John Crossman from Michigan. She found out that he was a 26-year-old pilot whose plane went down. April 25, 2016 marked 48 years that he has been missing in action.

She wanted to put a face to this name and story. “Putting a face with a name changes the whole dynamic of the Vietnam Wall. It makes that person real. [It is] someone’s loved one, a son, husband, father, grandfather, uncle, cousin, nephew, best friend…” she said.

Later, she heard about Faces Never Forgotten, an effort by the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial Wall Foundation to “put a face and a story to each name on The Wall”.  Hoehn sent over Gregory’s photo, and about a week later, was contacted by Jan Scruggs, the program’s founder and president. He called to thank her for the photo, and enlisted her to help find photos of Maui’s fallen. “I was honored to do so.”, Hoehn said. In 6 months she found all 42 photos for the Maui fallen, then went on to help complete the entire state of Hawaii.

Her mission was far from over. She is committed to the difficult task of tracking down these photo of the fallen state by state. At the time of writing, she has to find photos of fallen Vietnam veterans in seven states. Those being: California (many), Texas (many), Washington (16),  Colorado (15), Alaska (4), Utah (3), and Nevada (1).

The photos are displayed online on the “Wall of Faces”. The VVMF hopes to break ground by 2018 on a physical museum site. They will further recognize the fallen heroes by enlarging their photos on a floor to ceiling display on their birthdays.

Learn more about The Wall of Faces here. To provide missing information from the Wall of Faces (photos, biographical information), you can email Janna directly.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Kim Jong Un brought his own toilet to the Singapore Summit

Kim Jong Un has arrived in Singapore ahead of a historic summit with US President Donald Trump — and he brought his toilet.

The North Korean leader is said to always travel with several toilets, including one in his Mercedes.

Daily NK, a South Korean website focusing on North Korea news, reported in 2015 that “the restrooms are not only in Kim Jong Un’s personal train but whatever small or midsize cars he is traveling with and even in special vehicles that are designed for mountainous terrain or snow.”


The publication quoted an unnamed source as saying, “It is unthinkable in a Suryeong-based society for him to have to use a public restroom just because he travels around the country.” Suryeong is a Korean term meaning “supreme leader.”

After years of declining military spending, the world is now re-arming
Kim’s toilet.
(KCNA photo)

So, why does Kim always travel with several lavatories at his disposal? According to The Chosun Ilbo, a South Korean newspaper, the portable toilets “will deny determined sewer divers insights into to the supreme leader’s stools.”

The secrecy of the North Korean leader’s health is, apparently, paramount.

“Rather than using a public restroom, the leader of North Korea has a personal toilet that follows him around when he travels,” Lee Yun-keol, a former member of a North Korean Guard Command unit who defected, told The Washington Post.

Lee explained, “The leader’s excretions contain information about his health status so they can’t be left behind.”

Kim’s urine and fecal matter are periodically examined to check for illnesses and other health indicators, according to Daily NK.

US-North Korean relations have seemingly come a long way in the past few months — it was only January 2018, when a top authority on North Korea suggested that the US should bomb Kim’s personal toilet to put fear in him.

“It will send an unmistakable message: We can kill you while you are dropping a deuce,” Jeffrey Lewis wrote.

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

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This was reportedly the youngest US serviceman killed in Vietnam

While most teenagers in the 1960s were worried about who they were going to take to the high school dance, Pfc. Dan Bullock was serving in Marine Corps and fighting against the communist guerilla army in North Vietnam.


At the age of 12, Bullock’s mother passed away forcing him and his sister to pack their North Carolina belongings and move up north to New York where they lived with their father and his new wife in Brooklyn.

But due to an unhappy home life, Bullock set his sights on joining the Marine Corps.

Related: Once upon a time, this ‘little kid’ was a lethal Vietnam War fighter

As other young men in those days decided to flee toward Canada to dodge the draft, Bullock decided to adjust the date on his birth certificate from Dec. 21, 1953 to Dec. 21, 1949, so he could enlist in the Marine Corps.

His newly revised birth certificate convinced Marine recruiters enough to let him join the Corps at the ripe age of 14.

In May of 1969, and within six months after graduating boot camp, Bullock arrived in Vietnam ready to fight with his platoon. He would be killed a month later.

After years of declining military spending, the world is now re-arming
Dan Bullock wearing his dress blue uniform. (Source: Wikipedia Commons)

On June 7, 1969, Bullock suffered significant wounds from an enemy satchel charge while serving in the Quang Nam Province and passed away shortly after, making Pfc. Bullock the youngest American to lose his life in the multi-year skirmish.

But it wasn’t until reporters visited Bullock’s family home when they discovered the tragic news of Bullock’s exact age — he was only 15.

Also Read: 5 key pieces of military technology developed by the US to fight the Vietnam War

Pfc. Dan Bullock’s memory can be honored on Panel 23W, Row 96 of the Vietnam Veteran Memorial.