In October 2010, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines started clearing the Taliban insurgency from the Sangin District in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan. Once 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines handed over the area of observation to 3/5, things escalated quickly, making this campaign one of the bloodiest in American history.
Marines who headed out to clear the enemy-infested area were met by a dangerous environment and an extremely complicated IED threat — as a result, casualty rates climbed.
Eventually, the actions of the Marines of 3/5 were unofficially dubbed, “Bangin’ in Sangin.” The narrative that unfolded there was very close to that of a story set in the Wild West. Here’s why:
Paved roads were scarce
In most parts of the world, people drive on paved roads with designated lanes. Well, for British and American forces, the only option was to drive and patrol on roads made from loose gravel. The main roads in the district were described as nothing more than “wide trails.”
Since the majority of the Sangin population uses animals to haul their cargo, in the troops’ perspective, it was like jumping into a time machine and transporting back to the Old West.
The local cemeteries
How many Westerns have we seen where the cowboys, on horseback, encounter an eerie cemetery as they travel through uncharted land? Too often to count, right?
Well, Sangin was no different. Many of the graves were decorated with rocks and flags tied to wooden staves — just like the movies.
The nasty terrain
In many Westerns, the cowboys add days to their journeys because of some unmarked obstacle blocking their path, forcing them around.
In Sangin, the rough terrain provided for some unique challenges. Harsh conditions plus the fact that mud structures can be destroyed and rebuilt quickly made keeping maps current nearly impossible.
The locals lived in tribes
In the old days, Native Americans lived in settlements and did every they could to make ends meet while answering to the chief of the tribe. In Afghanistan, Marines commonly patrolled through similar villages — and the locals answered to their Islamic religious leader, known as the “Mullah.”
Though modern in many ways, social organization on the local level remains tribal.
The Marines lived like cowboys
When Marines left the wire for several days, they packed ammo, food, and their sleeping system. Since they didn’t know where they were going to be sleeping each night, Marines found rest in places most people couldn’t even imagine.
North Korea’s lack of willingness to give up its nuclear weapons program does not mean U.S. recognition of the regime as a de facto nuclear weapons state will end the standoff on the peninsula.
That is the view in the Trump administration, according to analyst John Park at the Harvard Kennedy School, who spoke on Jan. 25 at the Asia Society on the economic symbiosis that characterizes the China-North Korea relationship.
“With respect to living with a nuclear North Korea, very strong voices in the U.S. administration right now have an equation,” Park told UPI.
“It’s Kim Jong Un equals irrational, plus unable to be deterred, plus revisionist, plus commercial.”
“That means he’s literally crazy so you can’t get into some kind of arrangement.”
In 2017, North Korea repeatedly called for recognition as a nuclear weapons state, a move which, according to Pyongyang, could put an end to its missile tests and other provocations.
Park said recognition is not seen as the solution in Washington.
“In the case of North Korea, it’s a millennial with nuclear ICBMs,” he said, comparing Kim Jong Un to other nuclear powers like China and Russia that are considered to be more rational actors.
“That is frightening to any military or national security professional.”
That Kim is regarded as a revisionist also means the United States cannot be certain of a peaceful coexistence with North Korea as a full-fledged nuclear weapons state.
“There is the view that Kim Jong Un will be a nuclear bully, using conventional and other weapons to get his way and eventually affect [Korean] unification on North Korea’s terms,” Park said.
“Also, once he has a viable weapons system, he’ll sell it.”
Michael Swaine, senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said the United States has to decide what policy to pursue based on an evaluation of North Korea strategy.
“The issue is possession versus use,” Swaine said.
If it is weapons possession, but not use North Korea seeks, then the United States will also need to develop a strategy to deal with Pyongyang, a plan that needs to “deter the hell out of them, contain them.”
“But [the weapons] are going to be there,” Swaine said.
Sanctions have been used frequently by the U.S. Treasury to pressure North Korea, and on, Jan. 24, another 16 individuals, nine companies, and six ships were added to the expanding blacklist.
But Park said governments should be aware of the “unintended negative consequences of sanctions” that only help North Korea develop “superbug traits, certain types of resistance” to economic penalties.
“Clearly sanctions are having an impact on key areas,” Park said.
“However, in other areas, if you make the analogy of sanctions as antibiotics, applying these antibiotics on the North Korean regime in key instances, the regime is exhibiting superbug traits.”
Park, a former investment banker, said some Chinese entrepreneurs may be doubling down at a time of heightened risk.
“As you apply more sanctions in this specific area, these Chinese private companies see that as a business opportunity,” Park said.
“They view the elevated risk as a way of propositioning a North Korean client.”
The analyst added economic pressure in the form of wholesale embargoes, rather than targeted sanctions, has put the sanctions approach on overdrive, although the measures may be “too late” because of advancements in the nuclear program, which, in turn, leaves military pressure as the “last policy option standing.”
That scenario could raise the likelihood of war, a view held by some experts in China, Swaine said.
In an ongoing national debate in the world’s second-largest economy, there are those who “believe North Korea has been compelled to adopt policies because of U.S. pressure, U.S. forces on the peninsula,” the analyst said.
“It also reflects a deep suspicion of the United States.”
Swaine, who has met with senior Chinese officials to discuss North Korea, added Trump’s mention of the military option for North Korea is a tactic that is making the Chinese nervous.
“The Trump administration is very unclear…but it thinks it can squeeze the Chinese more” through the mention of the military option, he said.
But the Chinese are also growing impatient with North Korea.
President Xi Jinping, who Trump once described as a “very good man,” has refused to meet with Kim Jong Un.
“That’s quite unprecedented,” Swaine said, explaining China’s peninsula policy has also been driven by a desire to improve relations with the South.
“The Chinese see that the Korean peninsula, eventually, if it’s unified, will largely be unified under the aegis of the South Korean government.
“In other words, [they see] the North Korean government isn’t going to succeed.”
Vice President Mike Pence speaks to Sailors during an all-hands call in the hangar bay aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Adelola Tinubu)
George Reed, a retired Army colonel who served as director of command and leadership studies at the Army War College, said while Carter’s phrasing might not have been appropriate for a public audience, sailors likely understood his intent.
“Of course, you want sailors to give a good reception to the vice president, no matter your party preference,” Reed said.
If the command master chief’s comments were more partisan in nature, though, that’s cause for concern.
“There was a time when the mere act of voting was considered by many officers to be too partisan,” he said. “The shift to a period where military [leaders] feel comfortable sporting bumper stickers and yard signs favoring their party or favored candidate reflects cultural change that might not be in the best interest of the armed forces or the nation.”
Vice President Mike Pence delivers a speech to the crew during an all-hands call in the hangar bay aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman.
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Adelola Tinubu)
This isn’t the first time a Trump administration event involving troops has made headlines.
Last March, when Trump pointed to reporters during a speech to Marines at a California air station and called them “fake news,” the leathernecks cheered.
And in December, when Trump visited troops in Iraq, some had him sign their “Make America Great Again” caps. Since it’s the commander in chief’s political campaign slogan, some said it was inappropriate for them to ask for signatures while in uniform.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
The US appears to have sailed a warship armed with stealth fighters near a disputed reef in the South China Sea.
Filipino fishermen spotted an “aircraft carrier” launching stealth fighters near the contested Scarborough Shoal, a tiny speck of land in the South China Sea, the local media outlet ABS-CBN reported on April 9, 2019. The video report shows what looks like a US amphibious assault ship, most likely the USS Wasp.
The Wasp “has been training with Philippine Navy ships in Subic Bay and in international waters of the South China Sea … for several days,” a US military spokeswoman told The Japan Times, refusing to confirm the Wasp’s presence near Scarborough Shoal for “force protection and security” reasons.
Screenshot of the warship spotted by Filipino fishermen.
The Marine Corps told Business Insider that they were aware of the video but were unable to confirm when and where it was taken. It is also unclear how close the vessel in the video was to the shoal.
The ship has been conducting flight operations in the area as part of ongoing Balikatan exercises with the Armed Forces of the Philippines, according to US Pacific Fleet.
The US Navy warship ship sailed into Subic Bay last week with a heavy configuration of 10 F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters, significantly more than it normally carries. “We have a lot of capability on this ship,” Capt. Jim McGovern, commodore of Amphibious Squadron 11, said of the Wasp, Stars and Stripes reported. The F-35B is a jump jet that has directional engines that allow it take off from and land on short runways.
A US Marine Corps spokesperson told Business Insider that the Wasp has been operating in international waters and Philippine territory during the joint exercises. “Philippine territory” means different things to different countries in the region.
USS Wasp with heavy F-35 configuration in the South China Sea.
China seized Scarborough Shoal, a potential powder keg in the South China Sea, from the Philippines after a tense standoff in 2012. The Philippines took the dispute before an international arbitration tribunal in 2016 and won. Beijing, however, rejected the ruling, as well as the tribunal’s authority.
China has not militarized the shoal as it has the Paracels and Spratlys, the other two corners of what is commonly referred to as the “strategic triangle.”
The US routinely conducts freedom-of-navigation operations, as well as bomber overflights, in the South China Sea as a challenge to Beijing’s sovereignty claims. These operations usually take place in the Paracels and Spratlys.
The last freedom-of-navigation operation near the Scarborough Shoal took place in January 2018, when the US Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Hopper sailed within 12 nautical miles of the shoal. China accused the US of violating its sovereignty and security interests.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Ed Tipper, a member of the famous D-Day-era “Easy Company,” died at his home in Lakewood, Colorado, Feb. 1.
He was 95.
According to a report by the Denver Post, the former paratrooper with the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, spent over 30 years as a teacher before retiring in 1979. He received the Bronze Star and Purple Heart, among other decorations, for his service in World War II.
The Daily Caller noted that Tipper suffered severe wounds during the Battle of Carentan, including the loss of his right eye, when a German mortar shell hit while he was clearing a house. The opening credits of the HBO miniseries “Band of Brothers,” shows Tipper, played by Bart Raspoli, being comforted by Joe Liebgott, played by Ross McCall, in the aftermath of that hit.
“So much of what people talk about with him is what he did in the war. That was two years and really six days starting on D-Day,” his daughter, Kerry Tipper, told the newspaper. “Teaching was 30 years.”
Most notable, though, is that despite the wounds, which included two broken legs, Tipper managed to carry on a very active life.
“He just refused to accept people’s limitations,” his daughter Kerry told the Denver Post. The newspaper reported that Tipper took a list of things doctors said he couldn’t do and made it a checklist. He was known to be an avid skier well into his 80s.
His daughter also added that Tipper, like many in Easy Company, felt, “a little embarrassed that their group got attention, that theirs was spotlighted when there were so many other groups that did incredible things and made sacrifices.”
According to the Denver Post, Tipper is survived by a wife who he married in 1982, a daughter and a son-in-law. A public memorial service is scheduled for June 1.
Below, see the Battle of Carentan as portrayed in “Band of Brothers.” Ed Tipper is wounded at around 7:14 into the video:
Being a West Point cadet isn’t for everyone, and that’s not a bad thing if you’re a poet or an LSD pioneer.
Not everyone can make it through the famed U.S. Military Academy that has been training Army leaders for more than 200 years. The academy has had its fair share of famous graduates, of course, but we looked back at a few who didn’t make it all the way through.
Edgar Allen Poe
Edgar Allen Poe, the poet best known for “The Raven,” served as a non-commissioned officer in the U.S. Army 1827-1829. He was a member of West Point’s Class of 1834 and excelled in language studies, but he was ultimately expelled for conduct reasons. (Wikipedia)
Before he played in the NFL, Chris Cagle was part of West Point’s Class of 1930. He played for the Black Knights during the 1926–1929 seasons. Right before his commissioning, he was forced to resign in May 1930 after it was discovered he had married — a breach of the rules for cadets — in August 1928. (Wikipedia; Photo: Amazon.com)
Timothy Leary, counterculture icon and LSD proponent, was part of West Point’s Class of 1943 before dropping out to “drop out, tune in, and turn on” – his motto during the ’60s.
Richard Hatch was part of West Point’s Class of 1986 before he dropped out to eventually become the original reality show bad boy and winner of the first season of Survivor. (Photo: People.com)
Maynard James Keenan
Maynard James Keenan is well known in rock music circles as the front man of art metal bands Tool and A Perfect Circle. Keenan would have been part of the Class of 1988 but instead of accepting his appointment to West Point in 1984 (while he was attending United States Military Academy Preparatory School) he decided to skip cadet life and instead complete his term of active duty enlistment. (Photo: Karen Mason Blair/Corbis)
Adam Vinatieri is well-known to NFL fans as a placekicker for the New England Patriots and Indianapolis Colts. His stint as a cadet didn’t last very long. He left the Academy after two weeks of plebe life. (Photo: Colts.com)
Dan Hinote dropped out of West Point in 1996 – his plebe year – when he was picked up by the Colorado Avalanche, which made him the first NHL player ever drafted from a service academy. He is currently an assistant coach for the Columbus Blue Jackets. (Photo: NHL.com)
Mitsuo Fuchita was just shy of 40 years-old during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. When he took off in the observer’s deck of a Nakajima B5N2 ‘Kate’ torpedo bomber that day, he probably never imagined he would spend much of the rest of his life in the country he was set to destroy.
Commander Fuchita was in the lead plane of the first wave of bombers that hit Hawaii that day. He was the overall tactical commander in the air and led the attacks that destroyed American air power on the ground and crippled the Navy’s battleship force — a strike group of 353 aircraft from six Japanese carriers.
It was Mitsuo Fuchita who called the infamous words “Tora! Tora! Tora!” over the radio to the other Japanese planes.
He later wrote:
“Like a hurricane out of nowhere, my torpedo planes, dive bombers and fighters struck suddenly with indescribable fury. As smoke began to billow and the proud battleships, one by one, started tilting, my heart was almost ablaze with joy. During the next three hours, I directly commanded the fifty level bombers as they pelted not only Pearl Harbor, but the airfields, barracks and dry docks nearby. Then I circled at a higher altitude to accurately assess the damage and report it to my superiors.”
Fuchita next led the Japanese bombing of Darwin, the largest enemy attack ever wrought on Australia. He then led attacks on British Ceylon — now known as Sri Lanka — where he sank five Royal Navy ships.
He was still aboard the Akagi during the Battle of Midway, perhaps the most pivotal naval battle in American History.
When Midway began, Fuchita was below decks, recovering from appendicitis. He could not fly in his condition so he assisted other officers, coming up to the bridge during the fighting. When Akagi was evacuated that afternoon, Fuchita suffered two broken ankles as the bridge, already burning, exploded.
He was soon promoted to staff officer rank and spent the rest of the war on the Japanese home islands. Fuchita was even one of the inspectors who went to assess Hiroshima after the U.S. dropped an atomic bomb on the city.
When WWII ended, he left the Navy and converted to Christianity after reading a pamphlet written by Jacob DeShazer, one of the Doolittle Raiders who was captured after the raid. He was converted by the pamphlet but was astonished upon meeting DeShazer a few years later.
He called the meeting his “day to remember,” referencing the attack on Pearl Harbor. The experience with the Doolittle Raider changed him “from a bitter, disillusioned ex-pilot into a well-balanced Christian with purpose in living,” Fuchita wrote after the war.
After his conversion, Fuchita toured the United States and Europe as a traveling missionary, regretting the loss of life he inflicted during the war. America, the country he attacked in 1941, eventually became his permanent residence. He wrote numerous books about his wartime experiences and conversion to Christianity.
Though he spent much of the rest of his life in the U.S., Mitsuo Fuchita died in Japan in 1973.
Camels have been used as beasts of burden for millennia and the creature is, in many ways, vastly more suited to the task than even the sturdiest of equids. For example, a typical camel can carry in excess of 300 kilos (661 lbs) of supplies without issue, more than twice the weight an average horse or mule could carry with similar distances/speeds. In addition, camels are also largely indifferent to relatively extreme heat, can go for days without needing to take in additional water, and can happily chow down on many desert plants horses and mules wouldn’t eat if they were starving (meaning more of what they can carry can be cargo instead of food for the animals). When not under heavy load, camels can also run as fast as 40 mph in short bursts as well as sustain a speed of around 25 mph for even as much as an hour. They are also extremely sure footed and can travel in weather conditions that would make wagon use impractical.
For this reason a small, but nonetheless dedicated group within the American military in the mid 19th century was positively obsessed with the idea of using camels as pack animals, and even potentially as cavalry.
It’s noted that the largest proponent of camel power at the time was the then Secretary of War, Jefferson Davis — yes, THAT, Jefferson Davis. Davis particularly thought the camel would be useful in southern states where the army was having trouble transporting supplies owing to the desert-like conditions in some of the regions.
To solve the problem, Davis continually pushed for importing camels, including in a report to congress he wrote in 1854 where he stated, “I again invite attention to the advantages to be anticipated from the use of camels… for military and other purposes, and for reasons set forth in my last annual report, recommend that an appropriation be made to introduce a small number of the several varieties of this animal, to test their adaptation to our country…”
Finally, in early 1855, Congress listened, setting a $30,000 (about $800,000 today) budget for just such an experiment. One Major Henry C. Wayne was then tasked with travelling all the way across the world to buy several dozen camels to bring back to America, with Wayne setting out on this trip on June 4, 1855.
Besides going to places like Egypt and other such regions known for their camel stock, Wayne also took a detour through Europe where he grilled various camel aficionados and zoological experts on how to best take care of the animal.
After several months, Wayne returned to America with a few dozen camels and a fair amount of arrogance about his new endeavor. On that note, only about four months after taking a crash course in camel care, Wayne proudly boasted that Americans would “manage camels not only as well, but better than Arabs as they will do it with more humanity and with far greater intelligence.” Of course, when initial efforts on that front demonstrated a little more experience was needed, various Arab immigrants who had experience managing the beasts were hired to head up the task.
The newly formed United States Camel Corps quickly proved its worth, such as early on managing to carry supplies from San Antonio, Texas to Camp Verde, Arizona during a severe rainstorm that made using wagons practically impossible. In another expedition, the man in charge of the trip, Edward Fitzgerald Beale, afterwards reported back that just one camel was worth four of the best mules on that trip.
Robert E. Lee would later state after another expedition where conditions saw some of the mules die along the journey, the camels “endurance, docility and sagacity will not fail to attract attention of the Secretary of War, and but for whose reliable services the reconnaissance would have failed.”
Despite the glowing reviews, there were various complaints such as the camel’s legendary reputation for stubbornness and frequent temper tantrums and that horses were nervous around them. Of course, horses could be trained to put up with camels. The real issue seems to have been the human factor- soldiers just preferred to deal with more familiar horses and mules, despite the disadvantages compared to camels in certain situations. As Gen. David Twigg matter of factly stated: “I prefer mules for packing.”
Later, just as big of an issue was the fact that it was Jefferson Davis who championed the idea in the first place. As you might imagine, during and after the Civil War, ideas he’d previously prominently pushed for were not always viewed in the best light in the North.
Unsurprisingly from all this, the Camel Corps idea was quietly dropped within a year of the end of the Civil War and later, largely forgotten by history. However, some of the imported camels, including thousands imported by businesses around this same time that were rendered mostly useless with the establishment of the transcontinental railroad in the late 1860s, were simply set free, with sightings of wild camel still a thing in the South going all the way up to around the mid-20th century.
Male Arabian camels begin courtship via more or less inflating a portion of his soft palate called a dulla with air to the point that it protrudes up to a foot out of his mouth. The result is something that looks somewhat akin to an inflated scrotum hanging out of its mouth. On top of this, they use their spit to then make a low gurgling sound, with the result being the camel also appearing to foam at the mouth at the same time. If this isn’t sexy enough for the lady camels, they also rub their necks (where they have poll glands that produce a foul, brown goo) anywhere they can and even pee on their own tails to increase their lady-attracting stench.
Even though today Camels can only naturally be found in parts of Asia, the Middle East, and Africa, Camels are actually thought to have originated in the Americas around 40 million years ago. It’s thought that they migrated to Asia shortly before the last Ice Age, though there were still Camels in North America as recently as 15,000 years ago.
America isn’t the only place that imported camels. Australia also imported up to 20,000 camels from India in the 19th century to help with exploring the country, much of which is desert. Ultimately many camels were set free and, unlike in the US, the camel population in Australia flourished. Today, Australia is estimated to have one of the largest feral camel populations in the world (estimated at 750,000 camels in 2009), which has since been deemed something of an environmental problem. As such, the government has set up a program to cull the camels, with around a couple hundred thousand being killed in the last several years in an attempt to control the population.
This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.
Moscow first sent fighter jets to Syria in 2015 to help the Assad government, which is a large purchaser of Russian arms. In the first few months of 218, Russia and the Syrian regime have increased bombing runs in Idlib and Eastern Ghouta, killing, injuring and displacing thousands of civilians.
Here are the 11 kinds of military jets and planes Russia has in Syria now:
The Israeli satellite images showed two Su-57s at Hmeimim air base.
The Su-57 is Russia’s first fifth-generation stealth jet, but they are only fitted with the AL-41F1 engines, the same engine on the Su-35, and not the Izdelie-30 engine, which is still undergoing testing.
The satellite images from July showed 11 Su-24 Fencers, but that number might now be 10, since one Fencer crashed in October, killing both pilots.
The Su-24 is one of Russia’s older aircraft and will eventually be replaced by the Su-34, but it can still carry air-to-air and air-to-surface missiles, as well as laser-guided bombs.
The July satellite images showed three Su-25 Frogfoots.
The Frogfoot is another of Russia’s older attack aircraft. It’s designed to make low-flying attack runs and is comparable to the US’s legendary A-10 Warthog.
Su-25s had flown more than 1,600 sorties and dropped more than 6,000 bombs by March 2016, just six months after their arrival in Syria.
One Su-25 was also shot down by Syrian rebels and shot the pilot before he blew himself up with a grenade in early February 2017.
This photo, taken near the Hmeimim air base in 2015, shows an Su-25 carrying OFAB-250s, which are high-explosive fragmentation bombs.
This shows a Russian airmen fixing a RBK-500 cluster bomb to an Su-25 in Syria in 2015.
The satellite images from July showed three Su-27SM3 Flankers, which were first sent to Syria in November 2015.
The upgraded Flankers, which are versatile multirole fighters, were deployed to the war-torn country to provide escort for its other attack aircraft, among other tasks.
The satellite images from July 2017 showed four Su-30SMs.
The Su-30SM, a versatile multirole fighter that’s based off the Su-27, carries a variety of air-to-air and air-to-surface missiles and laser-guided bombs.
The July 2017 satellite images showed six Su-34 Fullbacks.
The Fullback, which first deployed to Syria in September 2015, was Russia’s most advanced fighter in the war-torn country for over a year.
It carries short-range R-73 and long-range radar-guided R-77 air-to-air missiles. It also carries Kh-59ME, Kh-31A, Kh-31P, Kh-29T, Kh-29L, and S-25LD air-to-ground missiles.
The picture shows a Russian airman checking a KAB-1500 cluster bomb on a Su-34 in Syria in 2015.
This shows Russian airmen installing precision-guided KAB-500s at the Hmeimim air base. One airman is removing the red cap that protects the sensor during storage and installation. The white ordnance is an air-to-air missile.
The video below shows a Fullback dropping one of its KAB-500s in Syria in 2015:
The July 2017 satellite images showed six Su-35S Flanker-E fighters.
The Flanker first deployed to Syria in January 2016 and is one of Russia’s most advanced fighters, able to hit targets on the ground and in the air without any air support.
The July 2017 satellite images showed one A-50U Mainstay.
The A-50U is basically a “giant flying data-processing center” used to detect and track “a number of aerial (fighter jets, bombers, ballistic and cruise missiles), ground (tank columns) and surface (above-water vessels) targets,” according to Sputnik, a Russian state-owned media outlet.
10. IL-20 “Coot”
The Coot “is equipped with a wide array of antennas, IR (Infrared) and Optical sensors, a SLAR (Side-Looking Airborne Radar) and satellite communication equipment for real-time data sharing,” according to The Aviationist.
It’s one of Russia’s most sophisticated spy planes.
11. An-24 “Coke”
The An-24 Coke is an older military cargo plane.
Below is one of the July 2017 satellite images, showing many of Russia’s fighters lined up.
latest sat image (15 Jul 2017) shows 33 jets at the Russian Air Base in Latakia: 11 Su-24, 3 Su-25, 3+6 Su-27/35, 4 Su-30 and 6 Su-34 pic.twitter.com/BrVaSsAL5z
Since 2015, Russian airstrikes in Syria have taken out many ISIS fighters — although their numbers are often exaggerated — but they have also killed thousands of civilians.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that between September 2015 and March 2016 alone, Russian airstrikes had killed about 5,800 civilians.
Russia and the Syrian regime have increased bombing runs in Idlib and Eastern Ghouta, killing 290 civilians in one 48-hour period late February 2018.
“No words will do justice to the children killed, their mothers, their fathers and their loved ones,” the UN recently said in a statement. “Do those inflicting the suffering still have words to justify their barbaric acts?”
A number of monitoring groups have also accused Russia of deliberately targeting hospitals and civilians, but Moscow barely acknowledges the civilian deaths and often denies it.
Imagine you’re in a country that tends to pinch pennies when it comes to the defense budget. Now imagine that you’re looking to upgrade your armored fighting vehicles (tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, armored personnel carriers), but you’ve just been told you can’t buy new ones — even second-hand vehicles aren’t an option. Sounds like you’re stuck with obsolete vehicles, right?
Not necessarily. Believe it or not, those old tanks can be given new life, and the process is actually very simple and relatively cheap. More often than not, your real problem isn’t the armored fighting vehicle itself, it’s what goes on top: the turret.
This is where the firepower of your typical armored fighting vehicle resides. Thankfully, the great thing about turrets is that they can be replaced quite easily if you have the proper facilities and trained maintenance personnel. If you have a perfectly good hull, swapping out the turret is a great way to buy time and extend the service life of an otherwise-outdated and outmatched system.
The baseline BTR-80 has a KPV 14.5mm machine gun, but a new turret can make this a BTR-80A with a 30mm auto-cannon.
Russia is doing just this with their BTR-80 and BTR-82 armored personnel carriers. The baseline versions had a manned turret with a KPV 14.5mm heavy machine gun. However, the Russians replaced the initial turret with one that houses a 2A72 30mm auto-cannon — similar to the 2A42 auto-cannon used on the BMP-2 infantry fighting vehicle and the Mi-28 Havoc attack helicopter — thus creating the BTR-80A and the BTR-82A. According to some reports, Russia may make another turret switch for the latter vehicle, giving the BTR-82A a 57mm gun.
During Reforger 82, when this photo was taken, the M60A1 tank was still in widespread service, even as the M1 Abrams was starting to replace it.
Tanks also benefit from this upgrade treatment. For example, Turkey was able to extend the life of 170 M60 Patton tanks by going with the Israeli Sabra upgrade, which essentially puts a Merkava III turret on the Patton’s hull (a few other upgrades were made while they were at it). Egypt is also looking to do this with its fleet of M60 main battle tanks.
The centerpiece of the M60T in Turkish Army service is a new turret like that on Israeli Merkava tanks.
(Photo by Natan Flayer)
The fact is, if you have an older armored vehicle, just junking it or passing it on may not be the best option. You might find that the better bargain is in getting a new turret instead.
The U.S. Air Force plans to double the number of Combat Aviation Advisors it sends to train partners on special operations missions at a time when the Defense Department’s footprint in austere environments has come under scrutiny.
Under guidance in the National Defense Strategy, Air Force Special Operations Command is preparing to grow each of its teams, developing a planned total of 352 total force integration advisors over the next few years, officials said. The CAA mission, under Special Operations Command, has about half that now.
“This is really a second line of effort for [Defense] Secretary [Jim] Mattis,” said Lt. Col. Steve Hreczkosij, deputy director of Air Advisor operations at AFSOC.
Military.com spoke with Combat Aviation Advisors here during a trip to the base in May 2018, accompanying Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson.
“This is AFSOC’s foreign internal defense force,” Hreczkosij said, referring to the U.S. mission to provide support to other governments fighting internal threats such as terrorists, lawlessness or drug activity.
The goal is to sustain five year-round advisory sites around the world by fiscal 2023, Hreczkosij said.
“That might mean five countries, that might mean five major lines of effort … but that is our resourcing strategy goal to influence five locations,” he said.
Still, officials know it takes time to train partners and allies, such as the Afghan National Security Forces, who are employing A-29 Super Tucano light attack aircraft as well as Pilatus PC-12NG planes converted into intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platforms.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Sgt. Nathan Lipscomb)
While Air Combat Command and Air Mobility Command work with partner nations in similar ways, Combat Aviation Advisors are the U.S. military’s most advanced team to train foreign partners battling tough scenarios, said Lt. Col. Cheree Kochen, who is assigned to the Irregular Warfare Plans division at the Air Force Special Operations Warfare Center.
“This is the advanced flying — flying on night-vision goggles, airdrop, infiltration and exfiltration” as well as intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, she said.
“We are authorized to get in partner nation aircraft and fly on their missions,” Hreczkosij said. “We integrate, we embed. We live in their squadron building. Our approach is an enduring and integrated approach to make sure they really embed this technique, mission or equipment into how they do business.”
The air commando unit also sets the agenda for how host nation troops should learn and equip themselves based on U.S. and host nation goals.
“We also do security force assistance, which is kind of the catch-all term for mil-to-mil partnerships,” Hreczkosij said. “We provide that last tactical mile.”
The support is “about SOF mobility, ISR advising and armed reconnaissance. We’re certainly not dropping bombs,” he said, adding, “it’s not an attacking sort of mission. It’s more of a ‘target of opportunity,’ then you can see it.”
Why not contractors?
Not all partnerships are the same. NATO special operations forces and those in more austere environments vary in training, skill level and mission set, officials said.
Countries CAA troops regularly deal with include Afghanistan, Cameroon, Uganda, Kenya, Mauritania, Mali, Tunisia, Chad, and the Philippines.
“We don’t care what type of airplane our partners are flying,” Hreczkosij said.
The unit is, however, looking to acquire more C-208s, dubbed AC-208s when equipped with Hellfire missiles, here at Hurlburt to practice on and or take as trainer aircraft to countries eager to build a force of their own.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Weston A. Mohr)
The unit commonly uses PC-6, C-208 and PC-12NG ISR aircraft; C-145/M-28, BT-67 and C-308 mobility aircraft; and AT-802, AC-235, and AC-208 armed recon aircraft.
Kochen said an upcoming project includes operations in Nepal, in which advisers are taking C-145 Skytrucks retired from nearby Duke Field in Florida and giving members maintenance training before aerial operations begin.
It isn’t uncommon for contractors to have a role in host nation troops’ basic pilot training either in the U.S. or overseas, she said.
Hreczkosij agreed. “Contractors aren’t in the current fight, so they don’t get the current [tactics, techniques, and procedures] with other forces in the field, and they don’t always have the trust of the partner nation,” he said. “If I’m sitting across from, say, an airman in sub-Saharan Africa … and we’re both wearing a uniform, we have a common understanding.”
Without naming the region, Kochen discussed a case in which contractors were overly bullish about their training, sometimes anticipating that the foreign trainees could learn faster on an aircraft than they actually could. It’s led to a few crashes in recent years because “the country was doing tactics that were a little bit dangerous for them for their skill level,” she said.
Hreczkosij added, “There’s a place for contractors. It’s just not in this place.”
Standing on their own
AFSOC’s 6th Special Operations Squadron, along with the Reserve’s 711th Special Operations Squadron out of Duke Field, make up the only Combat Aviation Advisor mission in the Air Force.
There are 16 Air Force Specialty Codes within the mission, including instructors, pilots, maintainers, and Tactical Air Control Party airmen, among others. Team members can speak more than a dozen different languages.
While the job dates back to World War II, the unit’s true genesis dates to Vietnam, Hreczkosij said, when the 4400th Combat Crew Training Squadron was dispatched to Southeast Asia to train the Vietnamese and Cambodian air forces to leverage older aircraft in counter-insurgency and military assistance during the war.
It wasn’t until the 1990s when the Air Force would again start using air commandos as a foreign internal defense force for operations across the globe.
Both Hreczkosij and Kochen were part of the 6th SOS before moving to the Air Force Special Operations Warfare Center headquarters and have been in the mission for more than a decade.
Kochen said CAAs want to work with as many countries as they can, but are turning away work due to demand.
“We get a long list, and we can only do one-third of what we’re being asked to do,” she said.
The dwell-deployment rate, however, is on par with the Air Force’s current deployment schedule, Hreczkosij said, adding the units are not overtasked at this time.
Kochen reiterated that their work goes only so far before the foreign partner has to step in and take over. “There’s no point in sending guys over” to a country they’ve been working with for a while, such as Afghanistan, because “our guys would only be getting in their way,” she said, referring to training the Afghan Special Mission Wing on PC-12NG ISR operations.
“Thirty months later here, they are doing 15 sorties per day and night, providing a combat effect to the organic larger Afghan air force,” Hreczkosij said of the Afghan ISR unit.
“They’re able to give their guys check rides without us being there anymore,” Kochen said. “We give them a capability that we can just leave and hopefully they can just fight their own wars.
“That’s the goal. That we don’t have to send U.S. forces over there. The goal is to set up a sustaining, capable unit that can continue doing that same mission,” she said.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.
Last March, the White House announced plans to levy new sanctions against Russia for a list of digital transgressions that included their efforts to meddle with the 2016 presidential election.
This apparent admission from a Trump administration official drew headlines all over the nation, but another facet of that round of sanctions that failed to draw the same level of attention could actually pose a far greater threat to America’s security: the revelation that the Russian military had managed to infiltrate critical portions of America’s commercial power grid.
Power lines are like the nation’s veins and arteries.
“We were able to identify where they were located within those business systems and remove them from those business systems,” one officialsaid of the infiltration, speaking on condition of anonymity.
America does not have a single power grid, but rather has multiple interlinked systems dedicated to supplying the electrical lifeblood to the nation — and if calling it “lifeblood” seems like a bit of poetic license, consider that the U.S. Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack predicted a whopping 90% casualty rate among American citizens in the event of a prolonged nationwide power failure. Money may make the world go ’round, but without electricity, nobody would be alive to notice.
It’s not just civilians that would find their way of life crippled following a blackout. More than a decade ago, areport filed by the Pentagon’s Defense Science Board warned that, “military installations are almost completely dependent on a fragile and vulnerable commercial power grid, placing critical military and homeland defense missions at unacceptable risk of extended outage.”
With no power in people’s homes, they would rely on other forms of fuel until they ran out as well.
(Dave Hale via Flickr)
One would hope that Uncle Sam took that warning to heart and made an effort to insulate America’s defensive infrastructure against such an attack, but the truth is, very little has been done. In fact, one law passed by the State of California in 2015 actually bars military installations from using renewable energy sources to become independent of the state’s commercial power suppliers.
This means a cyber attack that managed to infiltrate and take down large swaths of America’s power grid would not only throw the general public into turmoil, it could shut down America’s military and law enforcement responses before they were even mounted.
Today, fighting wars is still largely a question of beans, bullets, and Band-Aids, but in the very near future (perhaps already) it will be time to add buttons to that list. Cell phones don’t work without power to towers, and without access to telephone lines or the internet, communications over distances any further than that of handheld walkie-talkies would suddenly become impossible.
Without refrigeration or ready access to fuel, cities would rapidly be left without food and people would grow desperate.
Coordinating a large scale response to civil unrest (or an invasion force) would be far more problematic in such an environment than it would be with our lights on and communications up. But then, if previous government assessments are correct, an enemy nation wouldn’t even need to invade. They could just cut the power and wait for us to kill one another.
Today, we still tend to think of weapons of mass destruction as bombs and bacteria, but in the large scale conflicts of the 21st century, a great deal can be accomplished with little more than keystrokes. Destabilizing a nation’s economy and unplugging the power can ruin an entire nation. Not even one of Russia’s massive new nuclear ICBMs can do that.
The United States isn’t alone in this vulnerability. In fact, similar methodologies have already been employed in conflict-ridden places like Eastern Ukraine. As cyber attacks become more prevalent, it’s not just likely, it’s all but inevitable that cyber warriors will become the true tip of the spear for the warfare of tomorrow.
The latest trailer for Black Widow has doubled-down on some dad bod cosplay, and I couldn’t be happier. Yes, the newest preview for Scarlett Johansson’s standalone Marvel movie is looking more and more like a James Bond movie, which is great, but the real question is, when is Black Widow’s fake dad going to get his own movie?
In case you missed it, back in December, we got our initial glimpse of David Harbour as the “Red Guardian” in the first trailer for Black Widow. But weren’t we all a little distracted by Baby Yoda and holiday shopping back then? Yeah. I was, too. Now we can get back to what really matters: thinking about David Harbour as Red Guardian and wondering if he is really Black Widow’s dad. Technically speaking, in the comics, Red Guardian is a character whose real name is usually Alexei Shostakov. In some of the old comics, Alexei Shostakov was married to Natasha Romanova, a.k.a. Black Widow. Obviously, Harbour’s version of this character isn’t married to Scarjo, and he acts way more like her dad. In all likelihood, he is not her dad biologically. But in terms of her Russian secret agent family, it seems like Red Guardian is about as dadcore as it gets.
To be clear, the reason why Red Guardian has a costume that emulates Captain America is that’s what Red Guardian was supposed to be: the Russian version of Cap. The old comic book backstory mostly suggests that unlike Cap, there was no super serum involved, so Red Guardian doesn’t have any superpowers. That is until David Harbour came along and added Dadbod to the list of superpowers possessed by the Red Guardian. In the new trailer (you can watch it above) Red Guardian describes what we’re seeing as “water weight,” and we totally get it. Same man. Same.
Not only will Black Widow finally give Scarjo’s titular character her long-overdue solo movie, but it also seems like the Marvel Cinematic Universe is continuing to court its not-so-secret core demographic, as DadBod Red Guardian follows in the footsteps of DadBod Thor. Lots of dads might want to be Cap or Falcon, but there are also plenty who would settle to be Red Guardian.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.