U.S. Army officials say they’re racing to find and start issuing new jungle boots to combat soldiers by late next year.
The service just released a request for information from companies as part of a “directed requirement” for a new model of Jungle Combat Boot for infantry soldiers to wear in the hot, tropical terrain of the Pacific theater.
“It’s a challenge to industry to say, ‘What can you do based on here are the requirements that we need and how fast can you deliver it to meet these specifications,’ ” Col. Dean Hoffman IV, who manages Project Manager Soldier Protection and Individual Equipment, said Wednesday at theAssociation of the United States Army’s annual meeting.
The Army’s formal requirement for a new type of Jungle Combat Boot will continue to go through the normal acquisitions process, but equipment officials plan to award contracts for new jungle boots next year to meet a recent directive from Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley that two brigade combat teams in Hawaii be equipped “ASAP,” Hoffman said.
“We are going to use this request for information to see what industry can do really fast because what we would like to do is get a BCT out by March of 2017,” he said.
Equipment officials hope to have a second BCT fielded with new jungle boots by September 2017,” according to the Oct. 3 document posted on FedBizOpps.gov.
The Army and the Marine Corps retired the popular, Vietnam War-era jungle boots in the early 2000s when both services transitioned to a desert-style combat boot for combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Since then, Army equipment development has been geared toward the Middle East, Hoffman said.
“We have kind of neglected the extreme weather environments, whether it be jungle or cold weather,” Hoffman said. “Looking at the way the world is shaping, those are areas that we might have to go.”
The Army recently conducted limited user evaluations of several commercial-off-the-shelf, or COTS, jungle boots in Hawaii.
“We put them on soldiers, let them wear them for a couple of weeks and got feedback,” Hoffman said. “What that showed at that time was there was no COTS solution.”
The Army is looking for lightweight materials and better insole and midsole construction, he said.
The problem with the old jungle boots was they had a metal shim in the sole for puncture protection that made the boots get too hot or too cold depending on the outside temperature, Hoffman said.
There are new fabrics that could offer some puncture protection for insoles as well as help push water out of the boot through drain holes, equipment officials say.
The two drain holes on the old jungle boots often became clogged with mud, Hoffman said, adding that newer designs that feature several smaller drain holes tend to be more effective.
The new jungle boots will likely be made of rough-out leather, which tends to dry out quickly and doesn’t need to be shined, he said.
To outfit two brigades, the Army plans to buy 36,000 pairs of new jungle boots, but contracts may be awarded to multiple vendors, Hoffman said.
“If six vendors meet the requirements, we might just award six contracts because, at the end of the day, we want to meet the requirements,” he said.
Many MilSpouses have taken matters into their own hands, trading PCS for profits by starting their own portable businesses. From web design to online tutoring, the women and men behind our soldiers are selling their skills and finding their own freedom.
But running a business that’s not just a pipe dream takes more than moxie- it requires serious knowhow. So if you’re a milspouse entrepreneur, or you plan to be, here are 5 things you must know and do to make your business a success:
Get serious about your business: One of the biggest roadblocks for all entrepreneurs is shifting their business from “side venture” to full-time hustle. Ironically, the only way you’ll ever get others to take your business seriously is to stop treating it as a hobby. Whether you’re a photographer or mom blogger, set office hours, enlist the troops for support, and go public with your commitment to a big-time business.
Be smart about the legal stuff: In addition to taxes, bank accounts, and LLC, military spouse businesses come with a special set of considerations. If you’re running your business from military housing, ask the housing office if there are any special rules or regulations. And if you’re overseas, your business may be subject to the laws that govern business in that country. It’s best to consult a professional to avoid any unpleasant surprises.
Take advantage of resources: To say there are tons of resources available to military spouse entrepreneurs is a gross understatement. Join the Military Spouse Business Association and get access to free mentorship and networking resources. Or attend the Inc. Military Entrepreneur Mentor Fair. Hosted annually, this event helps veterans and spouses start, run, and grow their businesses. Other non-military-related organizations, such as SCORE, provide free mentorship opportunities.
Network, network, network: Military spouse Facebook groups are a great place to meet like-minded entrepreneurs and get support for your growing business- but they’re not always the best place to find potential clients and customers. Step outside your comfort zone and explore opportunities on LinkedIn, marketplaces like Etsy or Elance, or face-to-face networking events in your industry.
Invest in your growing business: Throwing money at your business will not make you successful. However, smart entrepreneurs know that it takes money to make money. Consider taking business and marketing courses, and invest in a web designer and copywriter to create a professional site for your business.
The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:
Airman 1st Class Ian Wilkerson, a 718th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron communication navigation specialist, checks the radio systems of an HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter during a preflight inspection April 26, 2016, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Maintenance and inspections are conducted before and after every mission to ensure aircraft safety and longevity.
Pararescuemen assigned to the 57th Rescue Squadron use the Jaws of Life to tear apart a vehicle’s roof to remove a mock victim during a combat search and rescue demonstration at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, April 21, 2016. Pararescuemen and members of the 48th Security Forces Squadron demonstrated the rescue during a Chief of Staff of the Air Force Civic Leader Program visit.
U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Emerson Nuñez
It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s the US Army.
A helicopter crew, assigned to 1st Battalion, 52nd Aviation Regiment, based at Fort Wainwright, transport supplies and equipment with a CH-47F Chinook helicopter during high-altitude mountain operations at Denali base camp, Alaska, April 24, 2016.
FORT WORTH, Texas (April 22, 2016) U.S. Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron, the Blue Angels, Solo pilots perform at the Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base Air Power Expo 2016. The Blue Angels are currently celebrating their 70th show season and are schedules to perform 66 demonstrations at 34 locations across the U.S. in 2016.
GULF OF ADEN (April 26, 2016) Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Levi Horn observes as Operations Specialist 3rd Class Monica Ruiz fires a 50-caliber machine gun during a live-fire qualification aboard amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4). Boxer is the flagship for the Boxer Amphibious Ready Group and, with the embarked 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, is deployed in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations.
A U.S. Marine Corps CH-53E Super Stallion is staged during a Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command night raid exercise at Tactical Air Combat Training System Airfield, near Yuma, April 21, 2016. This exercise was conducted during Weapons and Tactics Instructor (WTI) course 2-16. WTI is a seven week training event hosted by Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron One (MAWTS-1) cadre. MAWTS-1 provides standardized advanced tactical training and certification of unit instructor qualifications to support Marine Aviation Training and Readiness and assists in developing and employing aviation weapons and tactics.
U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Christopher D. Robson, water purification specialist with Combat Logistics Battalion 24 practice drills during a Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command night raid exercise at Tactical Air Combat Training System Airfield, near Yuma, Arizona, April 21, 2016. This exercise was conducted during Weapons and Tactics Instructor (WTI) course 2-16. WTI is a seven week training event hosted by Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron One (MAWTS-1) cadre. MAWTS-1 provides standardized advanced tactical training and certification of unit instructor qualifications to support Marine Aviation Training and Readiness and assists in developing and employing aviation weapons and tactics.
A U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Houston helicopter aircrewman looks out from an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter while conducting an overflight assessment and search for anyone in distress after recent flooding in southeast Texas, April 19, 2016.
Good Samaritans and U.S. Coast Guard Heartland crews rescued nine mariners after their boat rapidly began taking on water.
In January 2018, some Soldiers within the 25th Infantry Division in Hawaii will receive new uniforms and a new set of boots as part of Program Executive Office Soldier’s continued testing and evaluation of the improved hot-weather combat uniform and jungle combat boot.
Keeping in line with the modernization and readiness initiatives set by Secretary of the Army, Dr. Mark T. Esper, and Chief of Staff of the Army, Gen. Mark A. Milley, the new versions of combat uniforms and boots will allow Soldiers to better operate in hot, extremely hot, and hot/wet environments.
“Today’s Soldier must be ready to execute the mission in any operational environment,” said Col. Stephen Thomas, project manager with Soldier protection and individual equipment, during a Dec. 7 media roundtable here. “[We’re] providing a capability to Soldiers that may give them a decisive edge in that type of environment.”
Production is near competition on 65,000 uniforms and approximately 750 new boots that will be sent to 25th Infantry Division Soldiers in time for the upcoming Pacific Pathways exercise in February, according to Capt. Daniel Ferenczy, assistant product manager for environmental clothing and footwear.
In March, PEO Soldier will then collect feedback from Soldiers and use that information to modify future versions of both systems, Ferenczy added.
Improvements to the combat uniform
To make the new uniform more breathable and lightweight, Ferenczy said that excess layers and seams, which often lock in heat and moisture, have been removed. Furthermore, the new uniform can be dried in 60 minutes, compared to the 90 minutes dry-time of the current uniform.
In addition, program officials have incorporated feedback and made changes to the uniform design from previous field tests. Changes include:
mandarin collar eliminated.
shoulder pockets open from top rather than sides.
zipper closures replaced by buttons.
breast and back trouser pockets removed.
crotch gusseted for better fit, prevent chafing or blowouts.
knee articulated for better maneuverability.
Moving forward, program officials will continue to evaluate other fabric compositions and uniform design elements through 2018, Ferenczy said.
Depending on the feedback received during the upcoming field test, and the requirements set by Army headquarters, a newer version of the hot-weather uniform could be requested and tested by the 25th Infantry Division around the same time next year.
Jungle Combat Boots Version 2
In addition to the new uniform, 25th Infantry Division Soldiers will have a chance to try out five versions of footwear that represent a “Version 2” of the jungle boot. These five variants are based on “Version 1” of the boot Soldiers field-tested earlier this year.
After field testing Version 1, Soldiers determined that they wanted a combat boot that was lighter and more flexible, and which also had less stack-height off the ground. Ferenczy said the five types of Version 2 jungle boots meet all those Soldier demands, while also remaining puncture-proof and quick-drying.
The Version 2 boots also provide increased traction in the mud. Furthermore, he said, all the Version 2 boots are better designed to not hold in any moisture, and incorporate larger-sized drainage vents on both sides.
Come January, the Version 2 boots — 150 from each of five manufacturers — will be distributed to 25th Infantry Division Soldiers to be field-tested until March. The goal is for this current evaluation of Version 2 boots, and subsequent feedback, to be combined into a final offering.
The U.S. Army Aeromedical Research Laboratory (USAARL) introduced an innovative Blackhawk helicopter simulator at a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Sept. 17, 2019, at Fort Rucker, Alabama. The Cockpit Academics Procedural Tool — Enhanced Visual Capable System — or, CAPT-E-VCS for short — is a reconfigurable research platform that allows for swift, mission-responsive research in support of the Army’s Future Vertical Lift and modernization priority. These priorities are part of the Army’s focus on multi-domain operations to counter and defeat near-peer adversaries in all domains.
“USAARL is the Army’s aeromedical laboratory focused on the performance and survival of the rotary wing Warfighters to give them decisive overmatch,” said USAARL’s Commander, Col. Mark K. McPherson, about the importance of fielding state-of-the art tools in research. “This high fidelity simulator is the perfect example of how we merge the science of aviation and medicine to optimize human protection and performance, leveraging science against our nation’s competitors.”
USAARL Commander, Col. Mark McPherson, assists Joshua DuPont, an aerospace engineer at CCDC S3I, with the ribbon cutting that unveiled the Laboratory’s new state-of-the-art aviation research capability, the CAPT-E-VCS.
(Photo by Scott Childress)
The Army views vertical lift dominance over enemy forces as critical to increased lethality, survivability and reach. To meet the demands of Future Vertical Lift priorities, the Army is both developing and acquiring next-generation aircraft and unmanned systems to fly, fight and prevail in any environment. The CAPT-E-VCS was developed in partnership with the U.S. Army Combat Capability Development Command’s System Simulation, Software, Integration Directorate to evaluate new technologies integral to meeting those requirements. The device pairs a Blackhawk medium-lift model helicopter cockpit and academic simulator from California-based SGB Enterprises with a 12-inch projection dome from Q4 Services, Inc., which is headquartered in Orlando, Florida. State-of-the-art X-IG image generation software —developed by Alabama-based CATI Training Systems — was further added to the CAPT-E-VCS in order to create a singular, customizable research platform for USAARL.
Capt. Justin Stewart, a USAARL pilot, gives Master Sgt. Kenneth Carey, USAARL’s Chief Medical Laboratory Non-Commissioned Officer, a CAPT-E-VCS tutorial.
(Photo by Scott Childress)
“Now we can evaluate in a digital glass cockpit platform pilot workload as well as the effects of high altitude flight environments,” said Dr. Mike Wilson, Research Psychologist at USAARL. “For example, we can couple the laboratory’s reduced oxygen breathing device with a high-fidelity simulation environment and create a more realistic test environment for research. This innovation is a mission responsive, cost saving research tool that is critical to moving the Army closer to its Future Vertical Lift goals.”
Around 36 BCE, Chinese forces from the Han Dynasty fought a group of rebels called Xiongnu at a fortress in what is now Kazakhstan.
During the battle, the Chinese noticed their enemy employed a strange but distinctive formation. One historian at the battle recalled a unit that formed a unique “fish-scale“-style of protection using their shields.
Some modern historians think that “fish scale” was a Roman phalanx.
The battle took place in a city that was once known as Liqian, now a part of Gansu province in Northern China. And strangely, people living where the old city once stood are known to have interesting genetic traits unlike people in the rest of the country.
Aqualine noses, green eyes, and fair skin are just a few of the features found among the villagers of Zhelaizhai, where the ancient city once stood.
Some historians believe the people of Zhelaizhai are descended from the Roman Legionaries who fought with the Han Chinese.
Just 17 years before the battle in Kazakhstan, Parthians fighting the Romans at the Battle of Carrhae (in modern-day Turkey) delivered one of Rome’s most crushing defeats. They captured 10,000 legionnaires and sent the powerful Roman General Marcus Licinius Crassus packing (parts of him, anyway).
The theory does have naysayers. Some believe the DNA could be the result of contact from Silk Road trading between Rome and the Far East. Others say Caucasian Huns and warriors with other racial backgrounds fought through this area of Asia at the time.
At least one expert believes there just isn’t enough physical evidence to say these Chinese are descended from Roman legionaries.
“For it to be indisputable, one would need to find items such as Roman money or weapons that were typical of Roman legionaries,” Maurizio Bettini, an anthropologist from Siena University, told La Repubblica. “Without proof of this kind, the story of the lost legions is just a legend.”
When people think of U.S. military pistols, the M1911 and M9 come to mind. The former is iconic for being in service in some capacity for over a century and winning two World Wars. The latter is well-known as the standard-issue sidearm since 1985. However, the Glock 19 has quickly become a favorite in Special Operations. After all, these top-tier operators get to cherry-pick the best equipment available over the standard-issue gear.
Introduced in 1982, the Glock is arguably the most iconic handgun in the world. Its boxy shape and common depiction in media make it instantly recognizable. Moreover, its lightweight polymer frame revolutionized the firearm industry. Even the new standard-issue sidearm, the Sig P320-derived M17/M18, follows this design methodology. Despite initial doubts over the strength of a polymer-framed handgun, the Glock has proven its dependability over decades of use in the hands of soldiers and law enforcement officers all over the world.
Despite its track record, the Glock lost to the aforementioned Sig for the contract as the U.S. military’s standard-issue sidearm. A major factor in this decision was the fact that the Sig provided the modularity that the contract called for with its interchangeable chassis system while the Glock did not. After all, it was called the XM17 Modular Handgun System competition. Sig also bid with a specialized ammunition package from Winchester which reportedly edged it out over Glock.
The cost of arming and rearming an organization the size of the U.S. military is an enormous one. However, Special Operations has a much smaller population to supply and a bigger budget per capita. As a result, SOCOM is able to supply its operators with the best gear for the job at hand. Delta Force has reportedly used the .40 S&W-chambered Glock 22 heavily in the Global War on Terror. However, advancements in 9mm ammo and reduced maintenance have led to reports that they have switched to the Glock 19. The Navy SEALs famously used the Sig Sauer P226-based MK25 before making the switch to the Glock 19. Even the MARSOC Raiders have traded in their steel-framed .45 ACP 1911s for Glocks. And we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention General Austin “Scott” Miller and his tricked out Glock.
As part of a system, the Glock 19 makes sense a lot of sense. Its compact size and polymer frame save weight on an operator’s total kit. Remember, ounces equal pounds and pounds equal pain. The Glock 19 is also accurate enough to serve as a combat sidearm while being small enough to conceal for the more covert operations that SOCOM undertakes. Although the majority of the U.S. military has modernized with the adoption of the M17/M18, SOCOM continues to field the tried and true Glock.
Feature image: A representative assigned to the 7th Special Forces Group fires a Glock 19 Pistol during range training in support of Emerald Warrior Feb. 24, 2021 at Camp Shelby, Mississippi. Emerald Warrior is the largest joint special operations exercise where U.S. Special Operations Command forces train to respond to various threats across the spectrum of conflict. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Gabriel Macdonald)
Several years ago, the United States debated supplying Syrian rebels with high-tech armaments such as anti-tank and surface-to-air missiles. Critics contended that the weapons might fall into the hands of US-designated “terrorist organizations.”
But it is in Iraq that the fear has become real: the US has armed American-killing Iranian proxies and terrorist groups with its best tank, the M1 Abrams.
The Popular Mobilization Forces, an umbrella organization of Iranian-backed Shia militias fighting the Islamic State group, have acquired M1 Abrams tanks given to the Iraqi army. Two PMF militias – the Badr Organization and Kataib Hezbollah – have posted pictures and videos of their fighters alongside M1 Abrams tanks draped with their banners and flags.
The tanks once belonged to the 9th Armored Division, the only Iraqi Army unit that operates the M1 Abrams. It remains ambiguous whether the militiamen in the videos are controlling the tanks themselves or just posing with them under the supervision of tank crews from the 9th.
“In the videos, the passengers in the tanks are wearing the 9th’s uniforms,” Iraqi Army spokesman Colonel Muhammad Baidani told The New Arab. “Taking pictures and placing flags on the tank alone is not proof of ownership.”
Baidani added that the Iraqi Armed Forces and the PMF conduct combined operations “in most battles,” calling allegations that the 9th had loaned the M1 Abrams to the PMF “untrue.”
But sources in the PMF told The New Arab a different story, explaining that the militias obtained the M1 Abrams in two ways: “Sometimes, the PMF asks for American tanks from the Iraqi Army, if Russian-made tanks are unavailable,” said Hussam al-Mayahi, a Badr engineer specializing in military technology and remote weapons stations.
“The PMF also seized some after the fall of Mosul and the second Battle of Tikrit, taking them from IS.”
During IS’ campaign across the east and north of Iraq, the militants managed to seize numerous M1 Abrams tanks, including at least ten during the Battle of Ramadi in 2015.
Jafar al-Husseini, a spokesman for Kataib Hezbollah, confirmed this story: “We captured the American tanks and other military vehicles from IS, who, in turn, [had] seized them from what was left by the Iraqi army. Now, they are under our control, and we are seeking more.”
He claimed that Kataib Hezbollah and other Shia militias now held all IS’ M1 Abrams tanks.
Other tanks appear to come straight from the 9th: “Tanks are provided to us according to the circumstances of the battles and offensives, before being returned to the Defense Ministry,” Karim al-Nuri, a ranking Badr commander, told The New Arab.
Al-Nuri says he has never seen the PMF directly use an American tank but, when shown the pictures and videos that Badr had posted, replied: “It’s important to take any tanks – whether Russian or American.”
If the US delivered M1 Abrams tanks to Iraq’s Defense Ministry despite knowing that they could be given to the PMF, the Pentagon might have violated the Leahy Law – which prohibits the US Defense and State Departments from providing military aid to security forces guilty of abusing human rights.
Iraq remains on the State Department’s list of countries with the most child soldiers, because of these militias who continue to recruit minors.
Kataib Hezbollah presents a wider dilemma. In 2009, the State Department designated it a “terrorist organization” for killing American soldiers, and the US Treasury Department labelled its founder, the Iraqi warlord Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, a “specially designated global terrorist.”
Al-Muhandis works as an operative for the Quds Force, the sub-unit of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps responsible for extraterritorial operations on Iran’s behalf.
“We have heard these reports and we are looking into them,” said a spokesman for the US-led anti-IS coalition, who emphasized in an email, “Department of Defense policies on the provision of military assistance to foreign military forces require that Iraqi Security Forces receiving equipment or training are strictly vetted in accordance with the Leahy Act as well as for associations with terrorist organizations and/or the government of Iran.”
These policies appear to have failed.
A State Department official admitted, “not all US-provided defense articles are under the control of the intended recipient ministry/unit. We are concerned that a small number of M1A1 tanks may be in the possession of forces other than the Ministry of Defense and Iraqi Army.”
“The United States has not provided these or other defense articles to the PMF.”
“Nevertheless, we understand that some equipment has come into the possession of the PMF, which are part of the Iraqi Security Forces by law, and have been used in the fight against ISIS. We will continue to press the Government of Iraq to act as quickly as possible to return these defense articles to their intended recipient ministry/units.”
Despite acknowledging that the PMF had seized many M1 Abrams tanks in one way or another, the State Department declined to estimate just how many. It could not confirm whether it had lost track of how many tanks may be under the militias’ control.
The ranking Democrats and Republicans on the US House Committee on Foreign Affairs and the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, which oversee the sale of M1 Abrams tanks and other weapons to Iraq, failed to reply to repeated requests for comment by email and phone for this article.
In December 2014, several months after the Iraqi army had lost many of its M1 Abrams tanks to IS, the State Department agreed to sell it another 175, once the Defense Department notified the US Congress, which has spent much more time deliberating over tanks sold to Saudi Arabia than to Iraq.
For now at least, Iraq appears to have a continuous supply of the M1 Abrams for years to come. Al-Husseini, the Kataib Hezbollah spokesman, may just get his wish.
Kyiv says Russia has “partially” unblocked Ukrainian ports on the Sea of Azov, allowing Ukrainian ships to pass through the Kerch Strait for the first time since Nov. 25, 2018, when Russian forces seized three Ukrainian Navy vessels and detained 24 crewmen.
“Berdyansk and Mariupol are partially unlocked,” Infrastructure Minister Volodymyr Omelyan said on Dec. 4, 2018, as NATO reiterated its call on Russia to allow “unhindered access” to Ukrainian ports in the Sea of Azov.
“Vessels make their way to the entrance and exit through the Kerch Strait toward Ukrainian ports,” Omelyan said.
The minister said that ships navigating through the Kerch Strait to and from Ukrainian ports “are stopped and inspected by Russia as before, but the traffic has been partially restored.”
Ukraine’s Agriculture Ministry later said that the country had resumed grain shipments from the Sea of Azov.
“Passage of vessels with agricultural products through ports in the Sea of Azov has been unlocked,” the ministry said in a statement.
“The loading of grain to vessels through the ports of Mariupol and Berdyansk is restored and carried out in regular mode,” it added.
Captured BK-02 Berdyansk with a hole in the pilothouse.
The naval confrontation between Russia and Ukraine topped the agenda of a NATO foreign ministers’ meeting with their Ukrainian counterpart, Pavlo Klimkin, in Brussels.
After the talks, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the 29 members of the alliance called on Russia to “immediately release the Ukrainian sailors and ships it seized.”
“Russia must allow freedom of navigation and allow unhindered access to Ukrainian ports,” he added.
“In response to Russia’s aggressive actions, NATO has substantially increased its presence in the Black Sea region over the past few years — at sea, in the air, and on the ground,” Stoltenberg also noted.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.
Russia continues to hold 24 Ukrainian sailors detained in the Nov. 25, 2018 incident, despite demands from NATO for their release from detention centers in Moscow.
Moscow Human Rights Commissioner Tatyana Potyayeva was scheduled on Dec. 4, 2018, to visit three Ukrainian sailors who were injured in the Nov. 25, 2018 incident, when Russian forces rammed a Ukrainian Navy tugboat and fired on two other ships before seizing the vessels.
The clash has added to tension over Crimea, which Russia occupied and illegally annexed from Ukraine in March 2014.
It also has raised concerns of a possible flare-up in a simmering war between Kyiv and Russia-backed separatists that has killed more than 10,300 people in eastern Ukraine since April 2014.
The Russia-backed separatists hold parts of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions, including a piece of shoreline that lies between the Russian border and the Ukrainian Sea of Azov port city of Mariupol.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, on Dec. 3, 2018, said concerns that Moscow could seek to create a “land corridor” linking Russia to Crimea were “absurd.”
At their Brussels meeting, the foreign ministers “restated NATO’s solidarity with Ukraine,” Stoltenberg said.
“We recognize Ukraine’s aspirations to join the alliance, and progress has already been made on reforms. But challenges remain, so we encourage Ukraine to continue on this path of reform. This is crucial for prosperity and peace in Ukraine,” the NATO chief said.
Chinese military personnel departed a naval base in Zhanjiang on July 18, destined for Beijing’s new base in the East African country of Djibouti.
China started construction on the base, which it officially calls a “logistics facility,” in February 2016, and it has not said when the base might formally start operations.
The Chinese navy has been assisting anti-piracy efforts in the Gulf of Aden and peacekeeping missions in Africa for some time, but the base in Djibouti will be Beijing’s first such facility overseas.
“The base will ensure China’s performance of missions, such as escorting, peacekeeping, and humanitarian aid in Africa and west Asia,” state news agency Xinhua said. “The base will also be conducive to overseas tasks including military cooperation, joint exercises, evacuating and protecting overseas Chinese, and emergency rescue, as well as jointly maintaining security of international strategic seaways.”
Djibouti, home to about 800,000 people, also has French and Japanese troops, is strategically located in the Horn of Africa, sitting on the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, a gateway to Egypt’s Suez Canal and one of the world’s busiest shipping corridors.
And the new Chinese base is just a few miles from Camp Lemonnier, a major US special-operations outpost.
“We’ve never had a base of, let’s just say a peer competitor, as close as this one happens to be,” US Africom Command chief Marine Gen. Thomas Waldhauser said in March.
Camp Lemonnier, a US military base in Djibouti, is strategically located between the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. (Google Maps)
“Yes, there are some very significant operational security concerns, and I think that our base there is significant to US because it’s not only AFRICOM that utilizes” it, Waldhauser said at the time. US Central Command, which operates in the Middle East, Joint Special Operations Command, and European Command are active there as well.
A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said July 12 that the Djibouti base was “primarily used for the better fulfillment of international obligations,” and that, “China’s defense policy is defensive in nature. This has not changed.”
State-run media outlet the Global Times was less reserved, saying in an editorial on July 12, “It is certainly the PLA’s first foreign naval base … It is not a supply point for commercial use.”
The base in Djibouti is just one project China has undertaken in the East African country.
Chinese banks have funded at least 14 infrastructure projects in the country, including a railway connecting Djibouti and Ethiopia, valued at $14.4 billion. Beijing has made similar investments throughout the continent.
US officials, as well as countries in the region, have expressed concern about the capabilities the new base gives Beijing and what it may augur about Chinese ambitions abroad.
The US Defense Department said in a June report that the Djibouti base, “along with regular naval vessel visits to foreign ports, both reflects and amplifies China’s growing influence, extending the reach of its armed forces.”
“China most likely will seek to establish additional military bases in countries with which it has a longstanding friendly relationship and similar strategic interests, such as Pakistan, and in which there is a precedent for hosting foreign militaries,” the report said.
Other countries in South Asia — India in particular — are concerned about Chinese activity in the region and see the Djibouti base as another part of Beijing’s “string of pearls,” which refers to Chinese facilities and alliances among Indian Ocean countries, including Bangladesh, Myanmar, and Sri Lanka.
China is already heavily involved in the Pakistan port of Gwadar and is building a network of roads and power plants under a project known as China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. Civilian ports that Beijing has helped build in places like Pakistan and Sri Lanka can also receive naval vessels, fueling suspicions that China aims to deepen its strategic capacities in the region.
India sees the Djibouti base as a potential hub for Chinese surveillance operations and has objected to China’s planned shipping network with Pakistan, saying it cuts through disputed parts of Kashmir.
Analysts have also said New Delhi is worried by Chinese submarines, warships, and tankers present in the Indian Ocean. India has tracked Chinese submarines entering the Indian Ocean since 2013, and a 2015 US Defense Department report also confirmed that Chinese attack and missile submarines were operating in the Indian Ocean.
“The pretext is anti-piracy patrols in the Gulf of Aden,” a Indian defense source told The Times of India in May. “But what role can submarines play against pirates and their dhows?”
“If I were Indian I would be very worried about what China is up to in Djibouti,” a Western diplomat briefed on Chinese plans said in March 2016.
Other countries in the region have looked for ways to balance against what is seen as China’s growing influence. Australia and India, along with countries like Vietnam and Japan, have considered informal alliances to bolster regional security in light of growing Chinese influence and doubts about US commitment under President Donald Trump.
This week, the Indian, Japanese, and US navies started the Malabar 2017 exercise in the Bay of Bengal. The exercise, which this year features three aircraft carriers, is seen by some as a effort to check Chinese activity in the region.
China has criticized such military balancing and has dismissed suggestions that it plans to expand its footprint abroad. After the US Defense Department report issued in June, Beijing said it did “not seek a sphere of influence.”
Built in 1985, the Kuznetsov, a 55,000-ton behemoth, is a veteran of a full four deployments and the Russian Navy’s flagship. It’s powered by diesel fuel generators. Serving on the ship is akin to punishment for Russian sailors, who coined the phrase, “If you misbehave, you’ll be sent to the Kuznetsov.”
The carrier’s boilers are also defective to the point where the central heating system is inoperative and crewmen must bring their own heaters. This does not keep the pipes from freezing in extreme temperatures. Instead of fixing the system, the Russian Navy simply closed half the ship’s latrines and stopped running water to 60 percent of its cabins. Half the ventilators are also in need of repair, so the ship reeks of mold and mildew.
To further the discomfort, the cafeteria on board the carrier seats 150 people, for a crew of almost 2,000. Remember that the command closed half the latrines? There are 25 operational ones for 2,000 crewmen. The Russian sailors say they’re in formation ten times a day, for 35 minutes each time. That’s almost six hours of formation every day.
The Kuznetsov in its natural habitat: drydock
Comparatively, the U.S.’ oldest carrier is the Nimitz, build in 1975. The Nimitz is a nuclear-powered carrier, the flagship of its strike group. It is home to more than 6,500 sailors and has an unlimited endurance time and distance. Nimitz-class carriers have a life expectancy of 50 years and will not be replaced until at least 2025. (And they don’t deploy with deepwater tugs.)
Those in America worried about the military capability and force projection of Russia, China, and others can rest at ease. China’s first homegrown carrier uses the same terrible power source as the Kuznetsov as well as similar air assets, like a bow ramp which launches fighters into the air while limiting the weight and armament the planes can carry.
Red dot sights are becoming as ubiquitous on handguns as they are these days on rifles. And the cool thing is they’re getting smaller and cheaper for the everyday shooter and operators on a budget.
Shield is a company based in the U.K. that manufactures high performance military proven red dot sights, and we’re gonna have a little chat about two of them.
For your hand blaster (snicker): the Shield Sights RMS
Remember: At the risk of sounding orgulous, we must remind you – this is just a gear porn notification; a public service if you will, letting you know these things exist and might be of interest. It’s no more a review, endorsement, or denunciation than it is an episiotomy.
It’s built of aerospace aluminum (pronounce that the way the Brits do), with a side accessible battery drawer. Shield, who has been building Red Dots for 20 years, describes it as the ‘next evolution in mini red dots’, and while it’s designed for a pistol, you could just as easily throw it on a rifle or a shotgun.
They’re available in 4 MOA or 8 MOA versions. MSRP is £275.99 to £312.00 depending on which one you get, or if you purchase a package deal. Not sure what that is in US dollars? LMGTFY.
Shield says with their Glock MOS plate you won’t need suppressor sights to co-witness, explaining, “On all Glock MOSs the interchangeable plate screws directly into the slide, and the sight then screws into the plate. All we’ve done is created a plate with two posts that the sight goes over and the screws go into the pillars securing the sight in place. This allowed us to make the plate considerably thinner…with our mounting plate, which is sold separately, you can co-witness without suppressor sights.”
Learn more right here, or check their social media for an announcement of domestic distributors (links below).
For your long gun: the Shield Sights Switchable Interface Sight (SIS)
This is a red-dot reflex descendant of the JPoint and then the CQB (Close Quarters Battlesight) built for the U.K.’s MoD, which is the British version of the DoD. Shield says the new SIS is just as reliable, and will take just as much of a beating, as the Brit CQB. If that’s true, it’s likely to be a sight worth having.
There are over 50,000 of those out there “serving”. And if you remember, it earned the Best Target Acquisition Product for the Soldier at the 2013 Soldier Technology Awards.
The SIS features 4 switchable reticles and an automatic light meter to dial the reticle up or down to adjust to your environment, so you won’t have any flaring. (Note: you might think flaring is a term that belongs in the same lexicon as JOI or merkin, but you’d be wrong.)
It has 3 automatic levels and 12 manual levels as well. It’s powered by a single CR2032 lithium battery and weighs just a smidge more than 2 oz. Reticle is a 1 MOA dot or an 8 MOA dot in a 65 MOA ring.
As Shield tells it,
“The SIS CD (Center Dot) reticule was designed to offer the user the best of both worlds. With the touch of a button the dot can go from 8MOA down to 1MOA and back again. The 8MOA was found to be the best choice for UK Soldiers as it made them much faster and accurate in close quarter environments and the 1MOA now gives that same Soldier the ability to hit targets out to far greater distances than believe possible by a red dot.”