The Army’s newest Medal of Honor recipient will be retired Capt. Florent “Flo” Groberg from the 4th Infantry Division. President Obama will drape the medal around his neck in a White House ceremony on November 12.
Groberg was leading a personal security detail on Aug. 8, 2012 when he spotted a suicide bomber in Kunar Province, Afghanistan. Groberg rushed the bomber and threw him to the ground, limiting the effects of the blast. Still, four soldiers were killed in the attack when the bomber released the dead man’s trigger he was using.
Another suicide bomber hiding nearby was surprised by the explosion enough that he triggered his own bomb prematurely, which saved more lives thanks to Groberg’s actions.
Groberg survived but was severely wounded. On Sep. 21, 2015, he was called by the president and told he would be receiving the Medal of Honor.
Groberg tells the story in his own words in the video below. Read more here.
Another bullet slammed into the rocky slope beside journalist Mike Boettcher. The Taliban sniper fired again, sending another large-caliber bullet whizzing between the Americans who were scattered among the boulders. Boettcher kept his camera rolling but worried his son Carlos might have been hit. The father-and-son team was embedded with soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division, but getting good footage was now the last thing on his mind.
Eventually the paratroopers forced the sniper to displace, and Mike and Carlos Boettcher were reunited, both unscathed.
“I told you don’t leave my side! This is a damn war zone, Carlos,” Mike can be heard screaming off-camera.
When it comes to documentaries about the war in Afghanistan, Restrepo still reigns supreme. But while the award-winning documentary from Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington is the most acclaimed film of its kind, The Hornet’s Nest is a must-watch for anyone seeking a closer look into America’s longest war.
Mike Boettcher describes the documentary as a “real-life narrative feature.” The feeling that his film is more than a documentary comes from the added drama of Mike and Carlos’ strained relationship. Their final attempt to bond amid the war that surrounds them provides an additional storyline that unfolds like a scripted feature film.
Between 2010 and 2011, the duo embedded with three Army brigades and one Marine battalion on their deployments to Afghanistan. While the filmmakers survived their extended stay in Afghanistan, 44 members of the units they embedded with did not. The combat footage they recorded is as intense as any existing documentary, but the audio surpasses them all. The sounds of bullets snapping and whizzing overhead are so clear it’s hard to believe they weren’t created in a studio and added during editing.
While the combat footage is jarring and the Boettchers’ relationship is compelling, it’s the documentary’s ending that transforms The Hornet’s Nest from an average film to a must-watch. The Boettchers were present at the Battle of Barawala Kalay Valley: a two-day mission that devolved into nine days of heavy fighting. Before the Americans prevailed, six US soldiers were killed in action.
The entire battle unfolds in the film’s final act, concluding with an emotionally devastating battlefield memorial service. The final scene provides a rare glimpse into one of the most sacred military traditions. As the final roll call is read and the surviving soldiers fight to keep their bearings, it becomes difficult to watch. The heart-wrenching conclusion serves as an uncomfortable reminder of the steep cost of the war in Afghanistan.
Following a successful surprise meeting on Nov. 8, 2018, Beijing and Canberra want to be friends again.
That’s good, but it won’t change the fact that, for the Chinese people, Australia has made “probably the worst” impression out of all Western nations, The Global Times has noted in a strongly worded opinion piece.
Despite a reportedly warm first encounter on Nov. 8, 2018, between Australia’s newly enlisted foreign affairs minister Marise Payne and Chinese state councilor and foreign affairs minister Wang Yi (王毅 ) in Beijing, the strident Chinese tabloid had some tough truths to share for those hoping for a thaw in the frosty bilateral relationship.
In a typically withering opinion piece titled “It will be more difficult for China and Australia to repair people-to-people relations than to restore political relations,” the publication compared Australia unfavorably with US President Donald Trump.
At least when Trump was openly hostile toward China, people could understand why, the paper suggested.
“Trump has launched an unprecedented trade war with China, but the Chinese people can at least understand the rationale of the US. But Chinese people do not get why Australia is so hostile to China (in the last two years),” the opinion piece reads.
United States President Donald Trump.
In fact, the resumption of high-level meetings between China and Australia will come a lot easier than rediscovery of the once mutually admirative and friendly feelings between the two peoples, the paper observed.
Making the enemy less of an enemy
“Due to its performance in the past two years, Australia has left a bad impression on the Chinese people, probably the worst of all Western countries,” the opinion column said.
It continued: “The Chinese people understand that we must make friends with the outside world and try our best to make the enemy less than the enemy. Therefore, it is acceptable to improve the relationship between China and Australia rationally. However, people’s understanding of the Australian position in recent years is difficult to change in a short time.
For almost a decade really, Australia has been caught in a bit of a slow motion PR trainwreck in China.
Emerging of a once-in-a-generation trading boom that peaked around 2007, relations ironically began to sour around the same time the Mandarin speaking China expert Kevin Rudd was voted into office the same year.
We don’t want to talk about Kevin
The rot really began when Rudd famously delivered an unanticipated dressing-down of China in a speech at Beijing University, using a little-known and controversial word ‘Zheng you’ to describe a friend who is unafraid to tell it like it is.
Unsurprisingly the ensuing blunt assessment of China’s various faults in fluent Mandarin before an audience of hyped-up, patriotically infused, pre-Beijing Olympic students has never been forgotten, or forgiven.
What has followed has been a shopping list of insults, perceived or real, that have stretched the relationship to a breaking point.
Chinese public opinion can grasp that Australia is economically close to China, but politically and strategically attached to the US, the Times noted.
“But Australia has taken the lead in boycotting China’s so-called “infiltration” of the South China Seas … Australia also took the lead among Western countries to exclude Huawei from participating in 5G construction.”
Salt on the wound
“This is to say that salt was sprinkled on the wounds (伤口上的盐) of China-Australia relations.”
This position stands in contrast to the broad reporting of events in Beijing on Nov. 8, 2018, where foreign minister Wang Yi indicated that the two sides had found “an important common understanding.”
The flashpoint of Nov. 8, 2018’s discussions this time centered on the South Pacific, after Australia’s prime minister announced a surprise multibillion economic, diplomatic and security dollar fund to counter China’s rising influence in the region.
Beijing and Canberra should work together in the South Pacific and not wake up one day as strategic rivals, the State Councilor and former Ambassador to Japan said on Nov. 8, 2018.
“Australia and China are not competitors, not rivals but cooperation partners and we have agreed to combine and capitalize on our respective strengths to carry out trilateral cooperation involving Pacific island states.”
Australian prime minister Scott John Morrison.
An important extended thread in China’s 21st century Maritime Silk Road, the redrawing and rebuilding of trade routes, sea lanes and infrastructures, Wang said that China would prefer to be Australia’s partner in driving infrastructure in the Pacific.
Wang spoke of forming a “tripartite cooperative” with Pacific nations after Morrison announced a rebooting of Australia’s engagement with its neglected “backyard,” of which the centrepiece is a billion infrastructure fund to potentially lure island states away from the maritime leg of China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
All well and good for the islands, the Times said, “but it is uncertain whether (people to people ties) will recover.”
“Let Australia pay the price …”
On Nov. 6, 2018, Australia flagged concerns at the United Nations Human Rights Council review in Geneva on the Communist Party’s aggressive expansion of “reeducation” camps directed against local Muslim populations in western China’s Xinjiang province.
“In an interview, Payne said that she would ‘talk about human rights’ in Beijing. This information shows that China-Australia relations will not be too calm in the future,” the Times cautioned.”
The example of Australia tells us that cooperation does not necessarily mean that each other is a friend … of course, we have to build leverage to harness (the advantages) of a complex relationship.”
“Australia said a few words of disrespect to China, but if it does actions that harm China’s actual interests … then we should respond, let Australia pay the price, and steer mutual cooperation through struggle.”
However, foreign minister Wang said that since taking office, the newly elected Australian government (this one is about two months old, and it’s not elected) has made “positive gestures” toward developing China-Australia relations on many occasions.
According to the state council news agency Xinhua, both sides also vowed to “promote bilateral ties on the basis of mutual trust and win-win results.”
“We stand ready to strengthen communication and coordination with Australia in multilateral mechanisms, as a way of jointly safeguarding multilateralism and free trade,” Wang added, in a clear nod to China’s need to shore up multilateral support as the damaging trade war with the US continues to impact the economy.
A country, yes, but also a kind of sandbox for experimentation
Xinhua noted that Payne acknowledged Australia does not regard China as a military threat and that a prosperous China is a positive and significant outcome for the entire world, as is custom on these occassions.
Meanwhile, the Times closed it out like this.
“Australia is a middle-power Western country not far from China. It is important to say that Australia is important to China. It doesn’t matter if it is not important. China should regard relations with Australia as a sandbox (一块沙盘) for experimenting with the relationship between China and the West.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The life of Ernest Hemingway is something most men only ever get to daydream about. He was an ambulance driver, wounded in action. He was a war correspondent, covering the Spanish Civil War and World War II (the man landed at Omaha Beach on D-Day in the seventh wave), he led resistance fighters against the Nazis in Europe, and even hunted Nazi submarines in the Caribbean with his personal yacht.
In your entire life, you’d be lucky to do one of the things Hemingway wrote about in his books. And one of the reasons his books are so good (among many) is because he wrote many of them from first-hand experience. He actually did a lot of the John-McClane, Die Hard-level stunts you can read about right now at your local library.
Think about it this way: His life was so epic that he won a Nobel Prize in Literature just for telling us the story.
Two world wars, two plane crashes, and the KGB couldn’t do him in. In a strange way, it makes sense that only he could end his own incredible life. This summer (or winter. Or whatever), celebrate your own inner Hemingway by having a few of his favorite beverages while standing at a bar somewhere.
He definitely invented some of these drinks. And might have invented others. But we only know for sure that he enjoyed them all.
Remember, according to the bartender on Hemingway’s boat, Pilar, no drink should be in your hand longer than 30 minutes.
Preferably served by the Florida Bar in Havana.
(Photo by Blake Stilwell)
1. The Daiquiri
It is necessary to start with the classic, because everyone knows the writer’s love for a daiquiri – it was as legendary then as it is today. His favorite bar in Havana even named a take on the classic cocktail after Hemingway but don’t be mistaken, that’s only an homage. The way the author really drank his cocktails is very different from what you might expect.
Nearly ever enduring cocktail recipe has its own epic origin story. The daiquiri is no different. Military and veteran readers might be interested to know the most prevalent is one of an Army officer putting the ingredients over ice in the Spanish-American War. But in truth, the original daiquiri cocktail is probably hundreds of years old. British sailors had been putting lime juice in rum for hundreds of years (hence the nickname, “limeys”).
A daiquiri is just rum, sugar, and lime juice, shaken in ice and served in a chilled glass.
2 oz light rum
3/4 oz lime juice
3⁄4 oz simple syrup
2. “Henmiway” Daiquiri
That’s not a typo, according to Philip Green’s “To Have and Have Another,” a masterfully-researched book about Hemingway and his favorite cocktails and the author’s drinking habits, that’s how this take on the classic daiquiri was written down by bartender and owner of Hemingway’s Floridita bar, Constantino Ribalaigua. Hemingway was such a regular at the bar by 1937 that Ribalaigua wanted to name a drink after him.
2 oz white rum
Tsp grapefruit juice
Tsp maraschino liqueur
Juice of 1/2 lime
The version above is served up, while a tourist version, the Papa Doble, is served blended.
2 1/2 oz white rum
Juice 1/2 grapefruit
6 Tsp maraschino liqueur
Juice of 2 limes
But Papa Hemingway (as he was called) didn’t like sweet drinks. When he had a daiquiri at Floridita, he preferred them blended but with “double the rum and none of the sugar.” Essentially, Hemingway enjoyed four shots of rum with a splash of lime juice.
Drink one with a friend, repeat 16 times to be more like Ernest Hemingway.
3. Dripped Absinthe
Absinthe is a liquor distilled with the legendary wormwood, once thought to give absinthe its purported hallucinogenic effects. Who knows, it might have really had those properties, but today’s absinthe isn’t the same kind taken by writers and artists of the 19th century; the level of wormwood they could cram into a bottle was much, much higher then. What you buy today would not be the same liquor Robert Jordan claimed could “cure everything” in For Whom the Bell Tolls.
Absinthe is prepared in a way only absinthe can be — with ice water slowly dripped over a sugar cube, set above an absinthe spoon and dripped into the absinthe until it’s as sweet as you like. The popularity of absinthe cocktails is still prevalent in places like New Orleans, where the bartenders keep absinthe spoons handy. No one would have the patience to wait for an Old Fashioned made this way, but for absinthe, its well worth the effort.
If you’re looking for a wormwood trip, though, you may need to distill your own.
Papa Hemingway didn’t garnish.
4. Hemingway’s Bloody Mary
There are a number of origin stories for the Bloody Mary — and one of them involves Ernest Hemingway not being allowed to drink. According to one of Hemingway’s favorite bartenders, the author’s “bloody wife” wouldn’t let him drink while he was under the care of doctors. In Colin Peter Field’s “Cocktails of the Ritz Paris,” Field says bartender Bernard “Bertin” Azimont, created a drink that didn’t look, taste, or smell like alcohol.
How the author would feel about bacon-flavored vodka, strips of bacon served in the drink, or any modern variation on the bloody, (involving bacon or otherwise) is anyone’s guess.
Hemingway recovering from his wounds in a World War I hospital with a bottle of stuff that can “cure everything.” The afternoon would have to wait.
5. Death In The Afternoon
Want to drink absinthe, but don’t have the patience for the drip spoons? You aren’t alone. But you still need to figure out how to make the strong alcohol more palatable (go ahead and try to drink straight absinthe. We’ll wait.). Ready for a mixer?
Hemingway called on another one of his favorite beverages for this purpose: champagne. Hemingway loved champagne. You might love this cocktail, but you’ll want to be ready for what comes next. Champagne catches up with you. But that’s a worry for later.
After a few of these, you’ll be brave enough to do some bullfighting yourself (the subject of Hemingway’s book, “Death in the Afternoon.” But be warned, like most champagne cocktails, they go down smooth… but you might need that pitcher of Bloody Mary the next morning.
1 1/2 shots of absinthe
4 oz of champagne (give or take)
In a champagne glass, add enough champagne to the absinthe until it “attains the proper opalescent milkiness,” according to author Philip Greene’s book. But that “proper” was for Hemingway. You may want to adjust your blend accordingly.
6. El Definitivo
This drink is designed to knock you on your ass. Hemingway and his pal created it in Havana in 1942 to win baseball games.
No joke. During these games, essentially little league games, the kids would run the bases while the adults took turns at bat. It turns out Hemingway had a running rivalry with a few of the other parents. But he wasn’t about to get into a fistfight about it like some people might. He had a much better, more insidious plan.
In “To Have and Have Another,” author Philip Greene describes how Hemingway created “El Definitivo” to just destroy other little league parents. But he liked them, too (the drink, that is) — and was often sucked in under its spell with everyone else.
1 shot of vodka
1 shot of gin
1 shot of tequila
1 shot of rum
1 shot of scotch
2 1/2 oz tomato juice
2 oz lime juice
Serve over ice in a tall, tall glass. Get a ride home from little league.
The Pentagon’s research arm is now demonstrating an entirely new level of aircraft autonomy which blends the problem-solving ability of the human mind with computerized robotic functions.
The Defense Advanced Research Project Agency, or DARPA, program is called Aircrew Labor in Cockpit Automation System, or ALIAS.
A key concept behind ALIAS involves a recognition that while human cognition is uniquely suited to problem solving and things like rapid reactions to fast-changing circumstances, there are many procedural tasks which can be better performed by computers, DARPA developers told Scout Warrior.
ALIAS uses a software backbone designed with open interfaces along with a pilot-operated touchpad and speech recognition software. Pilots can use a touch screen or voice command to direct the aircraft to perform functions autonomously.
For instance, various check-list procedures and safety protocols such as engine status, altitude gauges, lights, switches and levers, can be more rapidly, safely and efficiently performed autonomously by computers.
“This involves the routine tasks that humans need to do but at times find mundane and boring. The ALIAS system is designed to be able to take out those dull mission requirements such as
check lists and monitoring while providing a system status to the pilot. The pilot can concentrate on the broader mission at hand,” Mark Cherry, an executive with Aurora Flight Sciences, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
The aircraft is able to perform a wide range of functions, such as activating emergency procedures, pitching, rolling, monitoring engine check lights, flying autonomously to pre-determined locations or “waypoints,” maneuvering and possibly employing sensors – without every move needing human intervention.
Developers explain that ALIAS, which has already been demonstrated by DARPA industry partners Lockheed Martin and Aurora Flight Sciences, can be integrated into a wide range of aircraft such as B-52s or large civilian planes.
Initial configurations of ALIAS include small aircraft such as a Cessna 208 Caravan, Diamond DA42 and Bell UH-1 helicopters, Cherry explained. The ALIAS system is able learn and operate on both single engine and dual-engine aircraft.
Both Lockheed and Aurora Flight Sciences have demonstrated ALIAS; DARPA now plans to conduct a Phase III down-select where one of the vendors will be chosen to continue development of the project.
As algorithms progress to expand into greater “artificial intelligence” functions, computers with increasingly networked and rapid processors are able to organize, gather, distill and present information by themselves. This allows for greater human-machine interface, reducing what is referred to as the “cognitive burden” upon pilots.
There are some existing sensors, navigational systems and so-called “fly-by-wire” technologies which enable an aircraft to perform certain functions by itself. ALIAS, however, takes autonomy and human-machine interface to an entirely new level by substantially advancing levels of independent computer activity.
In fact, human-machine interface is a key element of the Army-led Future Vertical Lift next-generation helicopter program planning to field a much more capable, advanced aircraft sometime in the 2030s.
It is certainly conceivable that a technology such as ALIAS could prove quite pertinent to these efforts; a Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstration Army ST program is already underway as a developmental step toward engineering this future helicopter. The intention of the FVL requirement, much like ALIAS, is to lessen the cognitive burden upon pilots, allowing them to focus upon and prioritize high-priority missions.
The human brain therefore functions in the role of command and control, directing the automated system to then perform tasks on its own, Cherry said.
“Help reduce pilot workload and increase safety in future platforms,” Cherry said.
Aircraft throttle, actuation systems and yokes are all among airplane functions able to be automated by ALIAS.
“It uses beyond line of sight communication which is highly autonomous but still flies like a predator or a reaper,” John Langford, CEO of Aurora Flight Sciences, told Defense Systems in an interview.
Due to its technological promise and success thus far, ALIAS was given an innovation award recently at the GCN Dig IT awards.
Russia deployed some of its best air defenses to Syria to keep US missiles and jets at bay as the US military’s immense air and naval power fought ISIS in close proximity — but the supposedly airtight defenses are routinely defeated by Israel.
In February 2017, a Syrian-manned Russian-made S-200 missile defense system shot down an Israel F-16 returning from a massive raid targeting Iranian forces in Syria.
In response, Israel launched another raid that it claimed took out half of Syria’s air defenses, of which older Russian systems comprised the majority.
In April 2018, Syria got rocked by a missile attack that appeared to ignite a munitions depot hard enough to register as a 2.6 magnitude earthquake and is believed to have killed dozens of Iranians.
Reported image of a strike on Iranian soldiers in Syria.
Russia accused Israel of purposefully flying under the Il-20 to confuse the Syrian air defenses into shooting down a friendly plane and quickly shipped the more advanced S-300 missile defenses to Syrian hands.
Somehow Israel has continued to hit targets in Syria at will with F-16s, non-stealthy fourth-generation fighter-bombers.
On Jan. 14, 2019, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu acknowledged that his country’s air force had carried out hundreds of raids in Syria, with a recent one hitting Iranian weapons near Damascus International Airport.
Russia initially deployed air defenses to Syria to keep powerful countries like the US from attacking Syrian President Bashar Assad, and later to protect its own air force fighters stationed there.
The US has long opposed Assad, as he violently shut down peaceful protesters in 2011 and has stood accused of torture, war crimes, and using chemical weapons against civilians during the country’s maddening 7-year-long civil war.
According to experts, there’s two likely reasons why Syria’s Russian-made air defenses can’t get the job done: 1. Israel is good at beating Syrian air defenses. 2. Syria is bad at beating Israeli jets.
Israel is good at this
“One of the Israeli hallmarks when they do these sort of fairly bold strikes within the coverage of the Syrian air defenses is heavy electronic warfare and jamming,” Justin Bronk, an aerial combat expert at the Royal United Services Institute told Business Insider.
Bronk said that Israel, a close US ally that takes part in major training events in the US, has become adept at knocking over Syrian air defenses.
Israel sees Iranian arms shipments through Syria as an existential threat. Although Israel has relationships to maintain with the US and Russia — both key players in the Syrian quagmire — Netanyahu has said resolutely that Israel will stop at nothing to beat back Iran.
Israel’s air force.
In more than 100 raids admitted by Netanyahu, Israel has only lost a single aircraft. Bronk attributes this to “many, many tricks developed over decades” for the suppression of enemy air defenses developed by Israel.
Finally, Syria shooting down a friendly Russian plane evidences a lack of coordination or situational awareness, whether due to old hardware, Israeli electronic warfare, or simply poor execution.
Israel’s most recent attacks in Syria took place smack in the middle of Damascus, Russian and Syrian air defenses make for some of the world’s most challenging airspace.
That Israel can still fight in Syria among top Russian air defenses shows either that their force has its tactics down pat, that Syria can’t field decent air defense regimes, or that Russia has turned a blind eye to Israel pounding on Iranian advances in the region.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
When Syrian President Bashar al-Asad used a sarin nerve gas attack on his own citizens during the first year of Donald Trump’s presidency, Trump was pissed. According to veteran journalist Bob Woodward’s 2018 book, Fear: Trump in the White House, Trump wanted to kill Asad for the attack, using a targeted leadership strike.
But cooler heads prevailed, and then-Secretary of Defense James Mattis convinced the President to hit Syrian airfields with a series of Tomahawk missiles instead.
Sparing them from getting hit by Mattis’ personal Tomahawk.
The Russians came to Syria in September 2015, at a time when things looked pretty bleak for the regime, good for the loose confederation of rebels, and great for the Islamic State. Almost immediately, Russian intervention began to make the difference for the Syrian government forces. By the end of 2017, the government had retaken key cities and areas from both rebel groups and ISIS fighters.
Also the end of 2017, the Russians began to make their presence at air bases in the country permanent. That’s who the United States called in April 2017, delivering a warning that some of America’s finest manufactured products were being forcibly delivered to a Syrian airbase that night.
There goes id=”listicle-2636430379″.8 million worth of forcible export.
Nearly 60 Tomahawk missiles were fired from the destroyers USS Porter and USS Ross of the U.S. Navy’s Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean Sea that night. The Pentagon ordered the Navy to deliver a warning to Russian troops in the area right before the attack hit at 3:45 in the morning. According to Woodward’s source, the Russian airfield troop who picked up the phone sounded like he was dead drunk.
“That’s our secret, captain… we’re always drunk.”
The warning worked, and the attack reportedly killed no Russian troops at the Shayrat Air Base, though it did damage and destroy aircraft and missile batteries, on top of killing nine Syrian government troops and seven civilians. The U.S. attack purposely avoided attacking a sarin gas storage facility on the base. The base itself was targeted because it was the source of Asad’s sarin gas attack on Syrian civilians.
Warning Russia of the pending attack may have given the Syrian Air Force notice to shelter its planes and prepare for the attack, as it was noted that many of the planes there survived the assault and its airfields were operational again less than 24 hours later.
Russian President Vladimir Putin called his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu on April 11, 2018, and warned the country against airstrikes in Syria.
The Kremlin released a statement verifying the call, and said Putin “emphasized the importance of respecting Syria’s sovereignty” and called on the Israeli Prime Minister to “refrain” taking action to that could “further destabilize the situation in the country and threaten its security.”
The two leaders discussed the recent aerial attack on military airbase in Homs, Syria, which reportedly killed at least 14 people. Russia has accused Israel of leading the strike, an allegation that Israel has neither confirmed nor denied.
Israeli officials confirmed the phone call, reported Haaretz, adding that Netanyahu said Israel would act to prevent Iran’s military presence in Syria. News of the phone call came as Netanyahu delivered a speech for Israel’s Holocaust Memorial Day (Yom Hashoa) in which he brazenly threatened Iran not to “test Israel’s resolve.”
On April 11, 2018, Netanyahu reportedly told his security officials in a closed-door meeting that he believes the US will order a military strike against Syria in retaliation for a suspected gas attack on April 7, 2018, that killed dozens of civilians.
Russia has aligned itself with Syrian leader Bashar Al-Assad, and his government forces, and Israel is trying to curb Iran’s growing influence in Syria, and prevent Iranian fighters from attacking Israel’s border.
Netanyahu and Putin have maintained positive relations in the last few years, and have discussed preventing a military confrontation between their armies in Syria. But the recent call between the two leaders likely signals a growing divide in their approach to the regional conflict.
Reporting from the ground in Syria, NBC News’ Richard Engel and Kennet Werner spoke to Brig. Gen. Jonathan Braga, whose forces beat back the pro-Syrian government advance on a well known US position near valuable oilfields.
The Pentagon said the pro-Syrian forces, including many Russians hired by private military contractors, made an “unprovoked attack” on their positions with artillery fire. The US response included airstrikes and artillery shelling that sources say wiped out much of the advancing column in just minutes.
“Those artillery rounds could have landed and killed Americans, and that’s why we continue to prepare our defenses,” Braga, who directs the US-led operations against ISIS, told NBC News.
Braga also confirmed that it was largely Russian nationals that took part in the fighting, though the Kremlin denies this.
But despite the overwhelming victory that saw zero casualties on the US side, Braga said he’s “absolutely concerned” about further clashes in the future.
After the massive battle, Russian job listing sites were seen as advertising security work in Syria, in what is likely a recruitment play for more mercenaries. A man claiming to recruit Russians to work as private military contractors said that the recruits he now met were joining up to take revenge on the US after the battle shook their national pride.
Possible round two
Now, according to NBC News, the forces that once attacked the US sit just three miles away, and Braga is uneasy.
“There is no reason for that amount of combat power to be staring at us this closely,” Braga said. “I don’t think that’s healthy for de-escalation.”
As a result, Braga’s forces are digging in and preparing for what could be a future clash.
Russia stands accused of using military contractors, or Russian nationals without proper Russian military uniforms, to conceal the true cost of fighting in places like Ukraine and Syria.
But when the Russian mercenaries were crushed by US airpower, they reportedly had no anti-aircraft weaponry.
It’s unclear how the Russian mercenaries and pro-Syrian government forces expect to stand a chance against the US without the involvement of the proper Russian military, or at least weapons that can take down the US Apache helicopters that are said to have strafed and mopped up the mercenaries towards the end of the battle.
South Korea’s military is planning to mass produce the Cheongung, a self-developed midrange surface-to-air missile system after a reassessment or reappraisal.
The development of a long-range radar and an aerial infrared countermeasure may also restart after they were suspended, Newsis reported Dec. 26.
Seoul’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration made the announcements following the 108th arms acquisition project committee meeting.
Discussions of mass production of the Cheongung, also known as the Cheolmae-2, or KM-SAM, began on Nov. 17, according to the South Korean press report.
The technology is part of the country’s homegrown anti-missile systems, the Korean Air and Missile Defense.
KAMD in turn is part of South Korea’s “three-axis system” that also includes Seoul’s homegrown anti-missile systems and Kill Chain, a pre-emptive strike system.
Defense authorities said programs to develop a fixed long-range radar system to detect North Korea aircraft, and infrared countermeasures, are to be suspended following the discovery of flaws, but to be resumed as “soon as possible,” according to Newsis.
Yonhap reported Dec. 26 LIG Nex1, a local defense contractor, developed the radar that failed in an operational test in 2014.
The design firm AVX has pitched to the military before, but you’re probably not familiar with their work. That’s because they don’t have a full aircraft to their credit or any big programs that everyone would recognize. But they’ve been quietly working to make military aviation better, winning maintenance contracts and bids to increase fuel efficiency.
And their work in the fuel efficiency space led them to propose a fairly radical redesign of the helicopter. Right now, the “traditional” helicopter design calls for one main rotor that generates lift and a tail, “anti-torque” rotor that keeps the bird pointed in the right direction. It’s the design at work on the Apache, the MH-6 Little Bird, the Lakota, and lots more.
But AVX wants to see more use of “coaxial” designs where the main rotor has two discs instead of one. They spin in opposite directions, stabilizing the helicopter without the need for a tail rotor. These coaxial designs are typically more efficient, and AVX wants to combine that with two ducted fans for propulsion, allowing for a helicopter that’s safer, faster, and more efficient.
The Army ended up retiring the OH-58 instead of going through an overhaul, but that left it with no dedicated scout helicopter. Right now, the AH-64 Apache is switch hitting, serving as a scout helicopter and an attack helicopter. But Apaches are more expensive per flight hour, heavier, and require highly specialized pilots that the Army is already short on.
Getting a new scout helicopter would alleviate a few of these problems. But AVX isn’t as large or as experienced an aviation company as Bell, Boeing, Lockheed, or other companies that have produced rotary platforms for the Army. So AVX has partnered with L3 Technologies, another company experienced in supporting Army aviation.
And the aircraft these companies are pitching to the Army for the new scout helicopter? You guessed it: Coaxial rotor blade for lift and two ducted fans for propulsion. As an added bonus for efficiency, there are two stubby wings that will generate significant lift at high speeds.
Now, it’s far from certain that AVX will get selected by the Army. The Army wants to be buying and fielding the birds by 2024, an aggressive timetable that a small company will struggle to meet. And it wants to buy the aircraft for million apiece flyaway cost, meaning there won’t be a lot of room in the budget for inefficiencies and screwups. So, the Army may prefer a more experienced manufacturer.
But there are early elements of the design that signal a possible AVX advantage. First, despite all the tech required to make those coaxial blades and ducted fans work, the technologies are fairly proven and don’t add a whole lot to cost. Also, the program has ambitious requirements for speed, size of the aircraft, and agility, and the AVX design fits the bill if it makes it through selection and manufacturing process without any big compromises.
So the next helicopter looking over your shoulder in battle might just look like a science fiction aircraft, but don’t expect Michelle Rodriquez to be flying it. She’ll most likely be busy with Fast and the Furious 14.
From St. Nicolas Island, Calif., the United States fired its latest gift for Vladimir Putin’s Russian Army – a new medium-range missile that would have been banned under the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty signed in 1987. The accord, also known as the INF Treaty, bans nuclear-capable weapons with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers.
The United States left that treaty earlier in August 2019, after blaming Russia for violating the agreement first. The Russians aren’t happy about it at all.
Russia’s 9M729 missile, the one that broke the 1987 INF Treaty.
The Aug. 18, 2019 missile test saw the projectile deliberately fly beyond the 500-kilometer range that would have seen it banned by the INF Treaty. Newly-minted Secretary of Defense Mark Esper wants missiles like this new one deployed throughout the Asia-Pacific region, but that effort was hampered under the old agreement. Now the U.S. is free to pursue the relevant technology.
“Data collected and lessons learned from this test will inform the Department of Defense’s development of future intermediate-range capabilities,” the Defense Department said.
Meanwhile, the Russians were openly upset about the Americans pulling out of the treaty and then having a new weapon within the same month.
“All this elicits regret, the United States has obviously taken the course of escalating military tensions. We will not succumb to provocations,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said. “We won’t allow ourselves to be pulled into a costly arms race.”
Bold words from a government who has, according to the United States government, already violated the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty on several occasions, most notably after it developed and deployed a prohibited missile, known by its apparent Russian designation Novator 9M729, a land-based cruise missile with a range of more than 500 kilometers.
“Russia has violated the agreement; they have been violating it for many years,” Trump said after a Oct. 20 campaign rally in Elko, Nevada. “And we’re not going to let them violate a nuclear agreement and go out and do weapons and we’re not allowed to.” But it’s not just the President who is denouncing the Russian military. The State Department came to the same conclusion.
“The United States has determined that in 2016, the Russian Federation (Russia) continued to be in violation of its obligations under the INF Treaty not to possess, produce, or flight-test a ground-launched cruise missile (GLCM) with a range capability of 500 kilometers to 5,500 kilometers, or to possess or produce launchers of such missiles,” according to the State Department’s April 2017 Adherence to and Compliance with Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments report.
The new U.S. missile isn’t nuclear-equipped (at least, not for this particular test) and resembles the more common Tomahawk missile in looks and the once-banned intermediate-range Tomahawk missile last seen in 1987. But the Russians weren’t the only ones upset about the looming new Cold War.
“This measure from the U.S. will trigger a new round of an arms race, leading to an escalation of military confrontation, which will have a serious negative impact on the international and regional security situation,” Chinese Foreign Minister Geng Shuang said, adding that the U.S. should ditch its Cold War mentality.
First World War hero Sgt. Stubby, a Boston Terrier who fought in the trenches with the American 26th Infantry Division and was credited with saving many of their lives, is the titular character and focus of a new animated movie hitting screens in 2018.
Then-Pvt. Robert Conroy assumed responsibility for Stubby and smuggled him onto the SS Minnesota with the 102nd. Stubby served predominantly as a mascot when the unit arrived in France, but began to take a more active role as a sentry.
He remained at the front and later caught a German spy attempting to slip into the American lines in the Argonne Forest. Stubby held the spy until humans could complete the capture.
Despite the grenade wounds and damage from multiple gas attacks, Stubby continued to serve until the end of the war and was once again smuggled across the ocean. Back in America, he rose to prominence as a celebrity.
He was made a lifetime member of the American Legion, Red Cross, and YMCA. The YMCA even put him on a three bones a day salary in exchange for his assistance recruiting members. General of the Armies John J. Pershing, former commander of all U.S. forces in Europe, personally pinned a medal on Stubby’s vest.
That vest has been well decorated with awards, some granted during the war and some, like the gold medal presented by Pershing, were granted after the war.
Stubby continued to live with Conroy until he died in the veteran’s arms in 1926.