US Army soldiers will soon be deploying with game-changing new night vision goggles as the service wraps up the final round of testing this week.
Troops will be putting the Enhanced Night Vision Goggles – Binocular (ENVG-B), recognized as one of the most advanced night vision optics available, to the test at Fort Drum in New York at the last of ten limited user events. Once the testing is complete, the ENVG-B will enter full-rate production with fielding scheduled for this fall, PEO Soldier announced April 22, 2019.
An armored brigade combat team set to deploy to South Korea this fall is expected to be the first unit to deploy with the new system, according to Army Times.
Highlights of the new night vision goggles include dual-tubed binoculars for improved depth perception and increased situational awareness, white phosphorous tubes (a higher-resolution improvement over the traditional green glow), and improved thermal capabilities that allow soldiers to see through dust, fog, smoke, and just about anything else that might impair a soldier’s vision on the battlefield.
But, the really impressive capability is the ability to wirelessly connect the new goggles to the Family of Weapon Sights-Individual (FWS-I) for Rapid Target Acquisition. With the picture-in-picture setup, soldiers can fire accurately from the hip or point their weapon around a corner to observe or fire on targets effectively while remaining hidden.
This capability “enables soldiers to detect, recognize and engage targets accurately from any carry position and with significantly reduced exposure to enemy fire,” the Army explained.
“Now, if a soldier’s on a patrol, weapon’s down at his hip, all of a sudden a threat pops, instead of having to flip up a goggle, shoulder his weapon, reacquire, he has that aim point in his field of view, and he can actually shoot from the hip,” a BAE Systems spokesman previously told Business Insider. The FWS-I, along with the highly-capable monocular ENVG IIIs, were developed by BAE. The new ENVG-Bs were developed by L3.
Army officials have spoken highly of the new goggles and their improved capabilities.
“It is better than anything I’ve experienced in my Army career,” Lt. Gen. James Richardson, deputy commander of Army Futures Command, recently told Congress, according to Army Times. He said there had been been a marked improvement in marksmanship, explaining that Rangers had “gone from marksman to expert” with the help of the new optics.
Referring to the Rapid Target Acquisition capability, Brig. Gen. Dave Hodne, director of the Army’s Soldier Lethality cross-functional team, told reporters last fall that he “can’t imagine, right now, any future sighting system that will not have that kind of capability.”
The new goggles are also suitable for augmented reality, an option that allows the Army, and later the Marines, to turn the optics into a virtual reality platform for synthetic training.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
President Donald Trump has pushed for the rebuilding of American military capabilities across the board, whether it’s the selection of James Mattis as Secretary of Defense or the seeking a larger Navy — or trying to restore the nuclear arsenal. All of this hasn’t stopped him, though, from pursuing the art of the deal. According to a report by Politico, Trump told a gathering of governors and mayors,
“We’re modernizing and creating a brand-new nuclear force. And, frankly, we have to do because others are doing it.”
Being the natural negotiator he is, he then offered a deal, adding, “If they stop, we’ll stop.”
This is not a new position for the President. In December 2016, he tweeted similar sentiments saying, “the United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes.”
In modernizing their nuclear arsenal, the United States Military has been trying to develop a new version of the B61 tactical nuclear bomb. The B61 Mod 12 is slated to add a precision-strike capability to this weapon by using GPS guidance to get the bomb within 30 feet of the target point. Depending on the version, the new B61’s yield could range from .3 kilotons to 340 kilotons.
There’s still a lot to do. The ICBM force uses ancient computers that use eight-inch floppy disks for receiving launch orders from the President. Only two of the strategic systems in the United States’ inventory, the B-2 Spirit and the UGM-133 Trident II submarine-launched ballistic missile, are younger than pop superstar Taylor Swift, who was born in December 1989.
The US Army is working on new camouflage systems to protect soldiers waging war on future battlefields from one of the greatest threats to their survival, a top Army general told lawmakers on April 9, 2019.
“Advanced camouflage technologies are critical,” Gen. Mark Milley, the Army’s chief of staff, told the House Appropriations Committee’s defense subcommittee, Military.com first reported. “We are putting a fair amount of money into advanced camouflage systems, both individual, unit, vehicle, etc.”
The general said that future battlefields are likely to be “highly lethal” environments where “units will be cut off and separated,” making soldier lethality and survivability key.
“We know that adversary [target] acquisition systems are very, very capable in that, if you can see a target, with precision munitions … you can hit a target,” he said. “So camouflage systems that break up electronic signatures and break up heat signatures are critical.”
Soldiers assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team pull camouflaged netting over an artillery emplacement during platoon evaluations on Fort Bragg.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Michael J. MacLeod)
In an era of renewed great-power competition, the Army is increasingly looking closely at protecting soldiers against advanced threats from countries such as China and Russia. Among the greatest threats soldiers face is advanced sensing technology, a top US Army sniper previously told Business Insider.
“Defeating a thermal signature is probably the hardest thing that a sniper has to do, especially with the emerging technology by our near-peer enemies,” Staff Sgt. David Smith, a sniper instructor at Fort Benning, said, explaining that while it is easy for snipers to hide in the visible spectrum, it is becoming increasingly difficult for them to disappear as US rivals “creep into the thermal arena.”
A US Army soldier may be concealed and well hidden from the watchful eyes of the enemy but light up like a Christmas tree on a high-end thermal imaging device, which can detect the temperature difference between a human body, typically 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, and the environment they’re hiding in.
Army Staff Sgt. Mathew Fox waits to engage a target in the live-fire stalk event during the 2012 International Sniper Competition at the U.S. Army Sniper School on Fort Benning, Ga., Nov. 3, 2012.
(U.S. Army photo by Ashley Cross)
Milley didn’t identify which systems the Army is working on, but the projects would likely include systems like the new Ultra-Light Camouflage Netting System (ULCANS) and possibly the Improved Ghillie System (IGS) being developed for snipers.
ULCANS, developed by Fibrotex, is a kind of advanced camouflage designed to conceal troops from night vision, thermal imaging, radar, and more. The Army awarded Fibrotex a multi-million contract last year to supply US troops with this technology.
The IGS is in testing right now and is expected to eventually replace the older Flame Resistant Ghillie System (FRGS) Army sharpshooters are wearing now. It is unclear if this new system is designed to counter thermal sensors, but it is being put through full-spectrum testing.
It’s not enough to just hide, Army soldiers are having to change the way they conceal themselves to disappear like they have never done before as adversaries step up their game.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The 9th Mission Support Command is conducting its first-ever Operation Pacific Steel involving Soldiers from around the Pacific at Schofield Barracks from Oct. 3 through Dec. 5. The purpose of this exercise is for Soldiers to train on crew-served weapons and pass down their knowledge to their units as well as serving as a prerequisite to attend Operation Cold Steel.
The overall planner of this operation, Staff Sgt. Wes Liberty, who works with planning and exercises at the 9th MSC said, “Pacific Steel is ground mount (training) for heavy weapons, i.e., M240 (machine gun), Mk 19 (grenade launcher) and M2 .50 cal. (heavy machine gun).
Gunner, Staff Sgt. Gerald Orosco, 322nd Civil Affairs Brigade, engages targets with his protective mask while assistant gunner, Staff Sgt. Collin Miyamoto, 322nd Civil Affairs Brigade, provides assistance at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, during Operation Pacific Steel on Nov. 10, 2018.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Edwin T. Basa)
“This is an operation that is actually trickled down from USARC (U.S. Army Reserve Command), he added. They conduct Operation Cold Steel where Soldiers who have qualified on ground-mounted weapons can be trained to operate on vehicle-mounted weapons,” said Liberty.
Soldiers go through an eight-day training period. During that time, they attend various courses to ensure confidence on the weapon systems they are training on. Among these courses include virtual battlespace 3, gunnery skills training, preliminary marksmanship instructions and engagement skills trainer.
The Virtual Battlespace 3 course utilizes a first-person, three-dimensional, tactical mounted machine gun training software program which allows Soldiers to operate in a virtual reality environment using virtual mounted weapons. This in turn, prepares them when they operate real weapons during a live-fire training environment.
The gunnery skill test evaluates the crew member’s ability to perform gunnery-related skills.
The Preliminary marksmanship instructions introduces Soldiers to the weapons they are training on and teaches them how to maintain, operate and corrects malfunctions.
Engagement skills trainer simulates weapons training for Soldiers and prepares them for live-fire qualifications for individual or crew-served weapons.
The weapons the Soldiers train on depends on when they in-process during Pacific Steel. From the beginning to the end of training, all Soldiers are paired up to operate weapons as a team. The first portion of Pacific Steel trains Soldiers on the M240 machine gun. The middle and final portion focus on the M2 .50 caliber heavy machine gun and MK 19 grenade launcher, respectively.
Liberty said Operation Pacific Steel required a lot of planning and preparation.
“This is the first time I’m doing this of this magnitude, so I had some help. I had a lot of help from Schofield, getting the barracks, getting the range, weapons,” said Liberty.
“We’re not doing too bad. Soldiers are coming, they’re getting qualified, they’re getting fed, they’re getting rooms,” he added.
Some Soldiers have already operated these weapons before coming to Pacific Steel, so this has been more like a review course for them.
Sgt. Kenny Tabula, 411th Engineer Battalion, fires his MK 19 grenade launcher while safety officers, Sgt. Angelyn Cayton and Sgt. Valentino Sigrah provide guidance at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, during Operation Pacific Steel, Nov. 17, 2017.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Edwin T. Basa)
Staff Sgt. Collin Miyamoto, 322nd Civil Affairs Brigade, came to Pacific Steel to train on the M2 .50 cal. heavy machine gun even though he had trained on it before. However, he stressed how in-depth the classes were on how to properly operate the M2 as a team.
“We learned PMI, disassemble, assemble, and how to do a functions check, but safety is always first,” Miyamoto said.
His M2 partner, Staff Sgt. Gerald Orosco, 322nd Civil Affairs Brigade, who also trained on the M2 previously, emphasized that Soldiers not only should know how to operated a weapon, but also how to handle a weapon should it ever malfunction.
“Especially the malfunction part. Most people know how to shoot, but do you really know the weapon?”
Moreover, to reemphasize what his partner stated earlier,” Safety is number one,” Orosco said.
For Soldiers like Spc. Alika Jacang-Buchanan of Bravo Company, 100th Battalion, 442nd Infantry Regiment, it’s his first time operating these types of weapons.
He came to Pacific Steel and was fortunate to get hands-on training on multiple weapons. He especially likes engaging targets with the MK 19.
“I like the MK 19 because there’s a boom at the end,” said Jacang-Buchanan.
Soldiers felt that participating in Pacific Steel is a good program and hopes that it will continue in the future. This exercise provides proper training and preparation for Soldiers to employ weapons that they would otherwise not have been likely to use.
Spc. Abraham Salevao of Bravo Company, 100th Battalion, 442nd Infantry Regiment, said, “It’s a learning experience for not only combat MOSs, it’s for everyone to learn. It’s exciting, being behind that weapon, getting that rush. It’s always good to learn, especially these weapons.”
“I’d recommend everyone out there to try Pacific Steel,” he added.
When people think hovercraft, the Landing Craft Air Cushion (also known as the LCAC) comes to mind. Understandably so — that hovercraft has been a vital piece of gear for the Navy and Marine Corps when it comes to projecting power ashore. But these are not the first hovercraft to be used in service. In fact, hovercraft saw action with both the Navy and Army during the Vietnam War.
In 1966, the Navy acquired four Patrol Air Cushion Vehicles, or PACVs (pronounced “Pack-Vees”), for test purposes and deployed them to Vietnam. The hovercraft quickly proved very potent, delivering a lot of firepower and speed and reaching areas inaccessible to traditional tracked or wheeled vehicles.
Patrol Air Cushion Vehicles packed a lot of firepower and were fast — but they never got past an operational test.
A PACV was equipped with a turret that held one or two M2 .50-caliber machine guns mounted on top of the cabin, which held a crew of four. There were also two M60 general-purpose machine guns, one mounted to port and the other to starboard. Additionally, there were two remote-controlled emplacements for either M60s or Mk 19 automatic grenade launchers.
The hovercraft could reach a top speed of 35 knots and had a maximum range of 165 nautical miles. But as maintenance and training proved problematic, especially given the trans-Pacific supply lines, the Navy decided to pull the plug. The Army, however, remained interested. The hovercraft operated primarily from a land base, but could also be deployed from amphibious ships (like today’s LCACs).
PACVs worked with the Navy’s Light Attack Helicopter Squadron Three (HAL-3), providing a fast response to enemy activity.
The Army acquired three Air-Cushion Vehicles, which operated within the 9th Infantry Division. Two were configured for attack missions and both were destroyed in 1970. The other, which was tooled as a transport, was shipped back to the United States.
Learn more about these early hovercraft that did some damage in Vietnam in the video below.
They have achieved cult hero status for their exploits since 9/11, but their success on the battlefield is taking a personal toll on Navy SEALs and members of other US special operations elite forces.
Reports of rampant illicit drug abuse by special operators — while on deployment and at home — have prompted congressional lawmakers to call for an accountability review of the “culture” inside special operations units.
Drug and alcohol use by some members of special operations units is nothing new to the culture within the teams, who see such behavior as a coping mechanism in response to the unforgiving tasks these soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines have been asked to carry out.
“They are pretty much out there on a daily basis in very dangerous situations and working with [partners] who you don’t know if they are going to put a bullet in your back,” one former team member with knowledge of personnel issues told The Washington Times. “The level of stress these people are experiencing is off the charts,” he said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
The unprecedented pace and tempo in which US special operations forces have been used in the post-9/11 global war on terrorism, beginning with al Qaeda and the Taliban and now encompassing Islamic State, Boko Haram, and other groups, has exacerbated those stress levels, leading to even riskier coping behaviors.
“Kill/capture” missions by US special operations units combined with clandestine drone strikes formed the backbone of the Obama administration’s counterterrorism doctrine. Six months into his term, President Trump has shown little sign of abandoning that strategy. Defense Secretary James Mattis said in May that the United States is entering an era of global conflict defined by protracted small wars with extremist militant groups.
“This is going to be a long fight,” Mr. Mattis said.
Aside from deploying hundreds of special operations military advisers to the front lines of the Islamic State fight in Syria and Iraq, the Trump administration has ordered the expansion of US Special Operations Command’s mission in Africa, battling the Somali-based terrorist group al-Shabab.
“You see our forces engaged in that from Africa to Asia. But, at the same time, this is going to be a long fight. And I don’t put timelines on fights,” Mr. Mattis told CBS News.
‘Something has to give’
The operational tempo for Navy SEALs, Army Special Forces and other “Tier One” US special operations forces units, which spend a majority of their time overseas on deployment, is a vicious cycle but a prerequisite for the job, the former team member said.
“We’re not talking about 18-, 19-year-old kids. You have to have a level of resilience to get where they are,” he said. But even with the most seasoned and battle-hardened veterans, “something has to give” from the relentless demands to deploy.
A pair of random, command-wide drug screenings conducted from November through February uncovered a total of 59 cases of illicit drug use among sailors serving in Naval Special Warfare Command.
Seven command members tested positive for illicit drug use from among more than 6,300 subjected to a sweep of random tests late last year, according to figures that command officials provided to The Times. The command also uncovered 52 cases of illegal drug use among 71,000 tests carried out since August 2014.
Of the 52 command members who tested positive for illegal drug use during the most recent round of tests across the Navy command, 10 were SEAL team members. Command officials could not confirm how many SEAL members were part of the seven positive drug tests found during a round of testing in November and December.
Drug abuse, domestic abuse, or other behaviors tied to the seemingly constant rotations to conflict zones are “endemic of what these people are going through,” the team member said. “These are your franchise players. They want to be the best of the best. It’s a quality you need but also makes it hard to disengage. A lot of it is just coping just the physical toll [the job] takes on you. You have to find an outlet.”
The problem of drug use within the special operations community gained unwanted attention in April when news leaked of a closed-door speech by Capt. Jamie Sands, head of all East Coast-based Navy SEAL teams. The captain warned all 900 Navy special operators in the command about cracking down on the use of illicit drugs — including cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin, marijuana, and ecstasy — among the SEAL teams that went public.
One active-duty SEAL attached to the East Coast teams told CBS News at the time that a number of his team members had tested positive for illegal drugs multiple times but remained on active duty since the Navy was unable to monitor their drug usage on a regular basis. Their frequent, extended deployments overseas allowed team members to avoid regular drug screenings.
Capt. Sands said that would no longer be a loophole in the command.
“We’re going to test on the road,” the officer said. “We’re going to test on deployment. If you do drugs, if you decide to be that selfish individual, then you will be caught.”
Rep. Jackie Speier, California Democrat, in June pushed for legislation requiring US special operations command and the head of the Pentagon’s special operations directorate to conduct an accountability review of the military’s elite units amid reports of heavy drug abuse within the teams.
The review was included in the House draft version of the Pentagon’s spending plan for the upcoming fiscal year, which sets aside $696 billion for military programs and operations. The full House overwhelmingly approved the defense spending package this month.
The measure would require Mark Mitchell, acting assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict, as well as top brass from Special Operations Command in Tampa, Florida, “to provide a briefing regarding culture and accountability in [special operations forces].”
Critics say the Pentagon’s policies do not properly address the problem of illicit drug use among special operators, a claim US Special Operations Command officials vehemently deny.
“No one has turned a blind eye to the challenges special operations forces face after a decade and a half of continuous combat operations,” command spokesman Kenneth McGraw said in a statement to The Times.
Command officials and their counterparts in the services’ special operations directorates formed a task force to address issues such as drug use and other symptoms related to prolonged deployments of the elite US troops. The task force takes a “takes a holistic, integrated approach” to post-deployment issues unique to Special Forces units “designed to maximize access to treatment and minimize any stigma associated with seeking help,” Mr. McGraw said.
Despite the command’s task force and other associated efforts, lawmakers are pressing command officials on the problem of drug use inside the teams.
Ms. Speier’s office declined repeated requests for comment on the legislation and the level of cooperation House members are receiving from command officials and the Pentagon. But her characterization of the need for accountability within the special operations teams to address drug use is the wrong way to view the problem, the former team member said.
“I do not know if this is an accountability issue. It is not just about bad people. I think a lot of it is just what they have been through,” he said. “You have to realize you are not going to eradicate this [problem]. You cannot eradicate those experiences” of war.
Sophisticated, weaponized drones were once a US military monopoly, but a growing number of world powers — including rivals China and Russia, rogue states North Korea and Iran, and stateless terrorist groups such as Islamic State and Yemen’s Houthi rebels — are challenging America’s longtime dominance of unmanned warfare.
In the latest sign of the battle for aerial supremacy in the drone wars, a strike Oct. 9 killed 10 fighters from a Lebanese-based Hezbollah unit fighting in eastern Syria. No group immediately claimed responsibility, but Hezbollah has been allied with Syrian President Bashar Assad in his battle against Islamic State and an al-Qaeda offshoot operating in the country, while Israel has been nervously watching the Shiite militants’ advance.
That there are so many plausible suspects shows the increasing prominence of drone warfare, analysts say.
Unmanned weapon systems, colloquially known as drones, have been staples in the US military arsenal since the post-9/11 global war on terrorism. The first publicly acknowledged drone strike conducted by US forces was a 2001 attack against insurgents in Afghanistan just weeks after the American invasion of the country, according to a database tracking drone strikes compiled by the thinktank New America.
Since then, 28 other nations have successfully developed or purchased weaponized drone assets for their militaries, according to the New America report. That list includes Iran and North Korea, which developed and deployed armed aerial drones in 2010 and 2012, respectively.
Having seen the success of the US drone program, “other states are bringing their own drone programs online, and the proliferation of civilian drone technology has opened the door to the use of [unmanned aerial vehicles] by non-state actors,” wrote Alexander Sehmer, editor of the Jamestown Foundation’s Terrorism Monitor, which recently published a survey of increased drone use by Islamic State and states such as Russia and Iran.
Poland and Taiwan were the most recent entrants into the growing league possessing armed drone technology. Earlier this year, Taipei and Warsaw announced plans to field medium-altitude, long-range aerial drones for military operations.
The drone explosion is actually much larger, US intelligence officials warn. As many as 87 nations are believed to possess some sort of rudimentary unmanned capability that could be used for surveillance or offensive operations.
Still from an ISIS-released video entitled “Ninawa Wilayah – Knights of Diwan” that demonstrates the use of drones.
As drone technology becomes cheaper and the availability of such technology bleeds over from military markets into commercial ones, terrorist groups such as Islamic State and al-Qaeda are quickly taking advantage. Commercially available quad-rotor drones, operated by simple remote controls over standard radio frequencies, wrought havoc on local and coalition forces as they pushed Islamic State back from its enclaves in northern Iraq and now Syria.
Islamic State ground commanders would often use the commercial, off-the-shelf drones outfitted with Bluetooth cameras to track movements of Iraqi and coalition tanks and armored vehicles in cities such as Fallujah, Mosul, and Tal Afar.
The terrorist group would use that information to direct armored suicide car bombers to strike enemy forces advancing through the city. In some instances, Islamic State fighters would rig commercial drones with hand grenades, mortar shells, or other explosive ordnance and drop the makeshift bombs onto Iraqi forces or into coalition firebases set up along the front line of the advance.
The use of commercial drones became such a concern that US commanders in Iraq and Syria ordered American and coalition warplanes to target Islamic State drone-makers, putting them on par with other high-value targets. Three top Islamic State drone developers were killed in a US airstrike late last month, Defense Department officials confirmed Oct. 6.
“The removal of these key ISIS leaders disrupts and degrades ISIS’ ability to modify and employ drone platforms as reconnaissance and direct fire weapons on the battlefield,” Col. Ryan Dillon, the top US military spokesman in Iraq, said in a statement.
Islamic State is not the only American adversary to exploit the military applications of drones. American warplanes shot down an Iranian-built Shaheed-129 aerial drone advancing on US and coalition positions in southern Syria in July.
Iranian-backed Houthi rebels, who are engaged in a civil war in Yemen, reportedly launched a sea-based armed drone against a Saudi warship in the Red Sea in January. The relatively sophisticated technology is evidence that the US and its allies point to of Iranian backing of the rebel group in Yemen’s civil war.
“Our assessment is that it was an unmanned, remote-controlled boat of some kind,” Vice Adm. Kevin Donegan, 5th Fleet commander and head of US Naval Forces-Central, confirmed to Defense News in February. The drone strike killed two Saudi navy sailors and injured three others.
The potential for unmanned aircraft being used by terrorist groups or non-state actors against the US or its allies has weighed heavily on American intelligence officials going back to 2013.
A US intelligence official who spoke with The Washington Times on the condition of anonymity, said at the time that it is “getting easier for non-state actors to acquire this technology.”
Because drones have clear peaceful, commercial applications as well, “one problem is that countries may perceive these systems as less provocative than armed platforms and might use them in cross-border operations in a way that actually stokes regional tension,” the official said.
US adversaries’ adoption of military drone technology began to peak around 2010, just as US drone operations against terrorist targets under the Obama administration reached its high-water mark. That year, President Obama authorized a drone strike against US-born radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, the spiritual leader of al-Qaeda’s Yemeni cell.
Iran was the first to obtain a viable unmanned combat aircraft in 2010, according to analysis by New America, fielding the Karrar armed drone. North Korea followed two years later by introducing the “suicide drone” — a modified version of the Raytheon-built MQM-107 Streaker unmanned aircraft, according to South Korean intelligence officials.
Foreign military drone sales by US defense firms were tightly regulated and limited to America’s closest allies, said Alyssa Sims, a national security analyst at New America.
But those stringent limitations on the export of US drone technology opened the door for rival producers, especially China, to step into the voracious market.
“Evidence of the use of armed drones supplied by China, in Pakistan, Iraq, and Nigeria in the past year alone reveals the increased willingness of foreign nations to invest money in the purchase or production of armed drones,” she wrote.
Even American weapons makers are looking to markets abroad in the wake of reduced Pentagon budgets in the final years of Mr. Obama’s term.
Beijing’s “no questions asked” approach to armed drone sales has pushed China to the forefront of international proliferators of unmanned technologies, outside of the US and Israel, Ms. Sims wrote. Nigerian and Pakistani forces field China’s CH-3 armed drone, while Iraq, even as it relies on US military support in the fight against Islamic State, has deployed the newer CH-4 against Islamic State positions during the ongoing war there.
Tony Mendez meets President Carter after the success of Operation Argo (CIA).
During the Cold War, fighting had grown hot in many countries, but never ignited between the two global superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union. For the intelligence agencies of East and West, however, the Cold War was a daily war, with real losses and real victories.
There were many hotspots of international espionage. These were places like West Berlin, Vienna and Washington, where Eastern Bloc agents and Western operatives had a relatively free hand in movement and recruiting. In the Soviet-dominated cities of the world, spying was an entirely different matter. Agents caught by security services risked torture and death. CIA officers risked being exposed and sent back home to a potentially ended career.
In cities like Moscow, the KGB reigned supreme and CIA officers had to bring their best game with them while working there. CIA Officer Tony Mendez (of Argo fame) wrote three memoirs about his time in the CIA, and listed 10 unwritten rules officers and agents had to follow while working in Moscow, appropriately dubbed “the Moscow Rules.”
1. Assume nothing
This is just helpful for everyone in everyday life. Everyone could use a dose of skepticism, but it’s especially important for CIA officers working one of the Cold War’s harshest posts. Mendez says it was imperative to remind yourself that nothing was ever what it seemed to be.
2. Never go against your gut
If a situation doesn’t feel right, especially for a seasoned CIA intelligence officer, it probably isn’t right. Even the best get beaten and sometimes it’s important to just walk away rather than push your luck. Getting caught could put your life and the life of an agent in the field at risk.
3. Everyone is potentially under opposition control
This goes for literally anyone, Mendez wrote in one of his memoirs. Whether it’s someone shoveling snow in the winter or an ice cream salesman in Gorky Park in the summertime. Mendez also mentions that every bartender in the Soviet-era hard-currency bars were working for the state security service, as were half of Moscow’s cab drivers.
4. Don’t look back; you are never completely alone
This means they were never alone, even in their own dwellings. The KGB had everything that was of potential intelligence value wired for the best possible audio. They were not just looking for information, they would also look for ways to blackmail suspected enemy operatives and agents.
5. Go with the flow, blend in
It was of prime importance for officers to blend in and maintain their “legend” – the cover story for the person they were supposed to be while on a two-year tour in Moscow. Any deviation or suspicious action could destroy the legend or an operation. Even something as simple as running stop signs could be interpreted as trying to break away from a surveillance team.
6. Vary your pattern and stay within your cover
Every suspected American intelligence operative was under 24/7 surveillance by a team of KGB operatives. This means that any CIA officer had to check their public behavior at all times, and sometimes even their private behavior. Any step out of line would only mean an increase in the number of people or means used to track their movements.
7. Lull them into a sense of complacency
This means staying within your cover always, never trying to break surveillance, and acting the way you’re supposed to at all times in accordance with your legend. It’s basically a reminder to follow all the rules that came before. This will give your surveillance team the reassurance that you are not an operative and they may begin to make mistakes in following your movement.
8. Don’t harass the opposition
Remember, you’re undercover, trying to lull them into complacency, not daring them to catch you doing some spycraft. Don’t give the KGB a reason to want to catch you in the act. They’re the KGB and if they want to make up a reason to expel you, they will.
9. Pick the time and place for action
Arranging any kind of meeting with an agent (if it has to be a meeting, most of the time communications were done via one-way radio or through dead drops) should be done on the case officer’s terms. The officer needs to have control over the environment for any kind of meeting or exchange. When the agent demands a meeting on their terms, see rule number two.
10. Keep your options open
The intelligence landscape in Moscow was an ever-changing environment where agents could turn and be turned at any time. It was important for officers to be open to new potential sources and never be fixated on a certain doctrine or plan.
WASHINGTON, DC — Hours after North Korea launched its second missile test in the past week, US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter met with South Korea’s minister of defense, Han Min Koo, at the Pentagon on Thursday.
“As with previous tests we strongly condemn last night’s attempt, which, even when failed, violated several UN Security Council resolutions, and affirm that this latest provocation only strengthens our resolve to work together with our Republic of Korea allies to maintain stability on the peninsula,” Carter said in opening remarks.
The Hermit Kingdom’s latest test occurred on Wednesday at 5 p.m. CDT near the northwestern city of Kusŏng, according to a US Strategic Command statement. The presumed Musudan intermediate-range ballistic missile failed upon launch.
The Musudan missile is speculated to have a range of 1,500 to 2,400 miles, capable of targeting military installations in Guam and Japan, based on estimates from the Missile Defense Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
North Korea has tested Musudan missiles eight times this year. All launches except the sixth one, on June 22, were considered to be failures.
Carter and Han described new opportunities for bilateral cooperation, specifically, bolstering maritime security to counter North Korea’s submarine-based ballistic-missile launches.
“A submarine launch poses an especially grave threat since it could catch the United States and allies by surprise,” Rebeccah Heinrichs, a fellow at the Hudson Institute specializing in nuclear deterrence and missile defense, told Business Insider in a previous interview.
“When you have a 60 meter rope, and you have to climb 120 meters…you are forced to climb to the end of your rope. From there, your team is hanging at the middle of the mountain deciding if you keep going up or back down.”
Soldiers training at the Chilean Mountain Warfare School quickly learn why it is one of the most respected climbing and survival schools anywhere. The rock climbing requires soldiers to make their own routes up cliff faces, day and night, and secure their own anchors with their climbing partners. For many of the soldiers, it is the toughest course they will ever complete.
Staff Sgt. Norberto Rodriguez, of the 10th Mountain Division’s Light Fighters School, spent five months training in the Chilean Andes alongside students from across central and South America. His experiences are unique as one of a very small number of American soldiers who have successfully completed this world-renowned mountain warfare and survival course.
“When you’re with another army for five months, you learn a lot. You learn how they work. It’s not the same as deploying with another army,” said Rodriguez.
Students at the Chilean Mountain Warfare School hike up a portion of the Chilean Andes during the winter portion of the course.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. John Doe)
While he is no stranger to the cold and snow, being stationed at Fort Drum, the winter conditions while training in the Andes were very different from the weather and geography of upstate New York. Rather than only see the obstacle, Rodriguez chose to see it as a challenge and an opportunity to better himself.
“The first time I put on a pair of skis, I took two steps and fell. Now I can ski with a weapon, no poles, and a full ruck sack while skiing down a mountain.”
Mountain warfare is not new as a discipline. At the United States Army Mountain Warfare School, they train soldiers from across the Army on how to fight effectively in mountainous areas of operation.
“Mountain warfare is an important discipline because it essentially adds another major plane of maneuver–the Z axis [for vertical infiltration]”, said Capt. Nathan Fry of the U.S. Army Mountain Warfare School in Vermont.
A student of the Chilean Mountain Warfare School stands in the snow during the winter portion of the course in the Chilean Andes mountains.
(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Kelly Simon)
Fry further established that understanding how to use terrain effectively is a major mobility enabler, especially in the vertical terrain of rugged mountains.
“To be successful in operations such as this, mountain warfare units must have soldiers who understand how to live unplugged and off-the-grid…and know how to dress for wild temperature swings, travel light enough to gain thousands of vertical feet in a single day, procure water, and avoid hazards such as rock falls or avalanches,” Fry stated.
The Chilean Mountain Warfare School uses its proximity to the Andes to its advantage when training students. Many of the students that graduate find careers in mountain rescue and specialized mountain infantry units.
As an infantryman, Rodriguez has experienced many patrols, both in training and while deployed. Whether dismounted or from a vehicle, many soldiers are often able to rely on support or resupply if it is needed during a mission. Mountain warfare units do not have readily available resupply options.
Staff Sgt. Norberto Rodriguez checks the harness on his pack mule before heading out for training at the Chilean Mountain Warfare Course.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. John Doe)
“If you finish your water, you have to know how to search for more. And if you finish your food, you have to know how to hunt for it. That’s just one of the things that you learn quick. This is mountain warfare. It’s just different. It’s its own animal,” Rodriguez said.
The five-month course challenged Rodriguez every day. Across two seasons he trained on hand-to-hand combat and is now qualified in mountain survival and ski-borne tactical operations. He learned to work with pack mules in mountainous terrain in day and night operations, and became an experienced rock and ice climber.
The harsh terrain of the Chilean Andes provides a majestic and challenging backdrop for the students of the Chilean Mountain Warfare School.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. John Doe)
“I’ve always loved the outdoors. As an infantryman, you’re doing something wrong if you don’t. But before I went to the Chilean Mountain Warfare School, I wasn’t a rock climber. I wasn’t a skier. None of those things. Those are skills they gave me,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez looks forward to sharing his new skills with his future soldiers, and shared that wherever the Army sends him, he knows he has faced larger obstacles before.
Amid increased Russian aggression, including the Kremlin’s unveiling a new “Satan 2” nuclear missile, NATO forces announced on Oct. 27 that they were increasing deployments of troops to nations most likely to suffer an attack if Russia goes on the offensive.
A Romanian soldier of the 33rd Mountain Battalion Posada fires a semi-auto PKM while conducting a simulated attack during exercise Combined Resolve VII on Sept. 11, 2016. (Photo and cutline: U.S. Army Spc. Nathaniel Nichols)
Russia has consolidated its military control and NATO believes it has 330,000 troops massed near Moscow. NATO has described its new deployments as a measured response. NATO’s new deployments consist of only about 4,000 soldiers.
The alliance will send a previously agreed upon four multinational battalions to its borders with Russia. A German-led battalion is headed to reinforce Lithuania, a Canadian-led battalion is reporting to Latvia, a British-led battalion is deploying to Estonia, and a U.S.-led battalion is protecting Poland. Most of the forces will arrive at their destinations in 2017.
Britain had originally pledged 650 men for the battalion in Estonia, enough for a headquarters and a few companies of frontline fighters. But the British Secretary of State for Defence, Sir Michael Fallon, announced on Oct. 26 that Britain would deploy 800 troops instead. Those 800 soldiers will sport tactical drones and Challenger 2 main battle tanks.
All of the NATO battalions being deployed are made up of multinational forces led by a battalion headquarters from a single nation, according to IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly. The U.S.-led battalion going to Poland is the largest force planned in the agreement.
The U.S. also agreed to a deal with Norway that calls for 330 Marines to deploy to that country. The Marines have previously cooperated with Norway in NATO training exercises set in that country, says CNN.
America has pledged $3.4 billion to increasing defensive measures in Europe in 2017. A portion of the money will go to staging more military equipment near vulnerable NATO areas.
All of this activity comes amid continuously heightening tensions in Europe. Russia has continued to invest heavily in military infrastructure and exercises despite tightening budgets in Moscow.
Whisper is a mobile app which allows its users to post anonymous messages (called “Whispers”) out into the ether and receive replies from other users who might be interested in what they have to say. The messages are text superimposed over a (presumably) related photo to illustrate the point.
A recent update allowed Whispers to be categorized into a few firm subcategories: Confessions, LGBTQ, NSFW, QA, Faith and Military. Military members and those with an interest in the military can “anonymously” (quotes included because the app still tracks users with their phone’s GPS) post their thoughts, feelings, and interactions with military members. Some of the confessions can be funny, but others give insight into real struggles veterans face when they feel alone and have no one to turn to and the struggles their families face trying to help their loved ones reintegrate after war.
President-elect Donald Trump named three members of his national-security team Nov. 18, including his pick for Attorney General, CIA director and National Security Advisor.
According to multiple media reports, retired Army Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn was selected to be Trump’s National Security Advisor, while Alabama Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions was chosen for the Attorney General slot.
Kansas Rep. Mike Pompeo was asked to serve as director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
Kansas Rep. Mike Pompeo was picked to head the Central Intelligence Agency. (Official congressional portrait)
Flynn, who had been a strong supporter of Trump on the campaign train and was a former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, served in a number of posts during his Army career. He took part in Operations Urgent Fury and Restore Democracy, then served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan prior to taking charge of the DIA.
Flynn’s service decorations include the Defense Superior Service Medal with two oak leaf clusters, the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the Bronze Star with three oak leaf clusters, the Meritorious Service medal with five oak leaf clusters, and the Army Commendation Medal with five oak leaf clusters.
Flynn’s tenure as DIA director was marked by controversy, leading him to retire in August 2014.
Representative Pompeo was first elected to Congress in 2010 and was re-elected to his fourth term in 2016. Prior to entering Congress, Pompeo served for five years in the United States Army, reaching the rank of captain, then went to Harvard Law School before founding an aerospace firm and becoming president of an oilfield equipment company.
Pompeo has been an advocate of a hard line with the Islamic Republic of Iran. Pompeo has served on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and the House Select Committee on Benghazi.
Senator Sessions is in his fourth term, having first been elected in 1996. Prior to his election, he served as a United States Attorney for 12 years.
During his service as a U.S. Attorney, his 1986 nomination as a federal judge was derailed. Sessions later ran for Attorney General of Alabama serving two years before winning his seat in the U.S. Senate.
While best known for his tough positions on illegal immigration and border security, Sessions was the sponsor of the HEROES Act of 2005, which boosted the death gratuity benefit to $100,000, and upped Serviceman’s Group Life Insurance coverage to $400,000. The legislation became law later that year.
Sessions served on the Senate Committee on Armed Services, the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, the Senate Committee on the Budget, and the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. Sessions also served in the Army Reserve from 1973-1977, reaching the rank of captain.
Both Flynn and Sessions had been reportedly under consideration to serve as Secretary of Defense in a Trump administration. Had Flynn been nominated for that post, he would have needed a special exemption from rules mandating civilian leadership of the Pentagon.