Bill to compensate sailors exposed to Agent Orange fails - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Bill to compensate sailors exposed to Agent Orange fails

On Dec. 9, 2018, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand went to the floor of the Senate to ask her colleagues for unanimous consent to pass H.R. 299, known as the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act.

The act, which passed in the House of Representatives with a unanimous vote, would extend Veterans Affairs benefits to veterans who served in warships off the coast of Vietnam and were exposed to toxic Agent Orange.


If successful, Gillibrand’s request would have expedited the bill’s passage — but one senator, Republican Mike Enzi of Wyoming, objected, according to Stars Stripes.

“On this bill, many of us have been made aware of the potential cost growth and the budgetary and operational pressures that would happen at the VA,” he said. “They’re having a lot of problems, anyway.”

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Leaking Agent Orange barrels circa 1973.

The VA has estimated that the bill would cost the bureau .5 million over the course of 10 years. But the Congressional Budget Office has previously estimated it would cost a fraction of that amount — id=”listicle-2623193782″.1 million. Regardless of cost, some senators, backed by the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion, view the bill as an obligation.

“If we can afford to send veterans to war, it’s unacceptable that we can’t afford to take care of them when they return home wounded,” B.J. Lawrence, national commander of the VFW, said in a statement.

Sen. Jon Tester, the ranking Democrat on the Senate veterans affairs committee, agreed.

“It is our obligation to meet the needs of the folks who have sacrificed for our country,” he said on the Senate floor.

Sens. Gillibrand and Tester held a press conference on Dec. 11, 2018, calling for more support for the struggling bill.

“Shame on the VA for trying to muddy the waters and say ‘but we don’t have enough money for these veterans,'” Gillibrand said in the press conference. “Is their sacrifice no less?”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is what Russia has to address to thaw relations with the US

The new U.S. national security adviser has told Russia’s U.S. ambassador that Moscow must address U.S. concerns on election meddling, the “reckless” nerve-agent attack in Britain, and the situations in Ukraine and Syria before relations can substantially improve.

A White House statement on April 19, 2018, said John Bolton, who took over from H.R. McMaster on April 9, 2018, made the remarks in a meeting with Russia’s ambassador to Washington, Anatoly Antonov.


“At the first meeting between the two in their current roles, they discussed the state of the relationships between the United States and Russia,” the statement said.

“Ambassador Bolton reiterated that it is in the interest of both the United States and Russia to have better relations, but that this will require addressing our concerns regarding Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, the reckless use of chemical weapons in the United Kingdom, and the situations in Ukraine and Syria,” it added.

Several global issues have raised tensions between Washington and Moscow despite President Donald Trump’s stated goal of improving relations between the two countries.

The U.S. intelligence community has accused Russia of a widespread cyberhacking-and-propaganda campaign aimed at influencing the 2016 presidential election vote.

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Donald Trump campaigning for president.
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

The United States and Europe have slapped sanctions on Russia for its 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula and its support for separatists in eastern Ukraine.

The U.S. military has assailed Russia for its support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and says it holds Moscow responsible for an alleged chemical weapons attack.

Meanwhile, the United States has said it supports Britain in a dispute with Russia over the March 4, 2018 poisoning of former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, in Salisbury. Britain has blamed Russia for the attack.

Moscow has denied it interfered in the U.S. election, said it had nothing to do with the Skripal poisonings, and claimed the allegations of a chemical attack in Syria are false.

The 69-year-old Bolton, a former UN ambassador, has served as a hawkish voice in Republican foreign-policy circles for decades. Among his more controversial stands, he has advocated for preemptive military strikes against North Korea and war with Iran.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Are promotion ceremonies standard? What to expect when pinning up

Promotions are an exciting event in a military career, and celebrating them comes standard. The question, however, comes in what type of celebration to expect — essentially, how big is too big? And what’s the “norm” for each rank and service branch?


Because everyone who gets promoted to a new rank is presumably doing so for the first time, there’s a steep learning curve. You can talk to others or attend services of those ahead of you in order to learn what’s expected by you as the service member.

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Big or small, salute them all!

It doesn’t matter if you’re getting your first promotion or your 10th, it’s something to be excited about! Enjoy your achievement and bask in the progress of your career. Don’t overlook a promotion for it being “small,” but rather take time to pat yourself on the back.

This is a big deal; you’ve earned it!

Early career promotions

Consider that, earlier in one’s career, promotions will come faster. It’s easier to climb the ranks your first few years in. There’s nothing wrong with this, only to keep in mind that in years to come, promotions won’t come as easily, or as frequently.

It’s a good idea to communicate this to friends and family, too. So they aren’t expecting fast pay jumps … and to give them a better idea of how the military works. In fact, it’s a good idea to keep your loved ones in the know for a better communication process about your future.

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Pinning and pomp and circumstance

No matter what rank you’re pinning, there will be some type of ceremony. Keep in mind that, depending on the circumstances, they could be a big deal, or something simple. For instance, if deployed, you might have a fast “here’s your new rank” get together. While, when stateside, you can invite loved ones and plan an actual event.

In general, you get to choose someone to pin (or velcro) on your new rank. Decide who you want this person to be, whether a family member, co-worker or someone else who’s made a profound influence in your life. Ask them in advance, and if they aren’t associated with the military, coach them on what/when to add said insignia.

Branch matters

Promotion ceremonies usually come with much tradition and history. These traditions will vary based on branch, unit and career path. Be sure to get in on the fun and play up whatever will take place. As a member of each branch, you’re likely to know what’s ahead and how the ceremony will play out.

For instance, army members might exchange coins, Marines will march in and out of their promotion stance, and so forth.

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Reaching the big jumps

When reaching higher ranks, more is expected on promotion day, most notably a cake! Sources say, even at 8 a.m., a cake will be eaten, and showing up without one is simply not done.

Whether enlisted or an officer, upper ranking soldiers will host a reception to celebrate their big day, and the size of that reception often depends on the rank itself. In general, this is usually E7 or O4 and above, while E9 or O5/O6 will host an even larger celebratory event. Each branch will have its own nuances, so check with those in your unit, or scour the net for best practices with each upcoming promotion.

When a promotion sits ahead, consider the best way to celebrate. Not only to bask in your achievements but to follow within military traditions based on your achievement and branch.

Humor

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of Oct. 20

How was your week? Anything interesting happen?


NO. Nothing of interest happened in the White House, Congress, or Hollywood. And definitely not on Twitter.

I’m joking. Of course it did, this is 2017 and everyone is mad about something… most of those people are justified, but some of them are outraged to be outraged. You can be outraged at how hilarious these military memes are.

Or you can be outraged at how boss that segue was.

1. It’s almost Halloween, are you prepared? (via Pop Smoke)

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2. The Navy won Jeopardy this week. (via Navy Crow)

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This is who Army loses to every year in November.

3. At least he’s not driving. (via Disgruntled Decks)

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Baby steps.

4. When you absolutely, positively leave all your f*cks on the flightline.

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Meet your new L-T!

Now read: This is what it was like fighting alongside Afghan troops

5. Sometimes you wanna show the world you skip leg day. (via Sh*t My LPO Says)

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Thank god they aren’t standard, half the ANG would lose circulation in their feet.

6. Jack O’Lanterns are meant for scaring kids, not troops.

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I bet the pie tastes bitter.

7. The Saltiest Soldiers can be found in Kuwait. (via the Salty Soldier)

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You know who you are.

8.  Has your new sailor given up yet? (via Sh*t My LPO Says)

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OOOOOOOOOOH HES TRYIN’

9. Remember the people who make the magic happen. (via Maintainer Nation)

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They also don’t remember the cooks, sappers, and most of the astromech droids.

Read: This is why people yell ‘Geronimo’ when jumping from heights

10. He didn’t start the fire… (via the Salty Soldier)

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… just the smoke.

11. This never happens in the Air Force. (via Decelerate Your Life)

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12. A Coastie told me this was accurate.

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Now tell me what a Yeoman does.

13. This doesn’t mean what you think it does. (via Ranger Up)

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Or maybe it does. This is Ranger Up, after all.

Now: That time a US Navy fighter accidentally shot itself down

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The US military could soon be flying one of the fastest helicopters ever

Helicopters have been very versatile, serving as anything from transports to gunships. But they haven’t been all that fast. According to AirForce-Technology.com, the fastest helicopter in military service is the CH-47F Chinook, which has a top speed of 195 mph.


That could change if the Sikorsky S-97 enters service with the U.S. Army. With a top speed of at least 253 mph, it blows the competition away — even if it isn’t quite as fast as Airwolf.

But hey, the technology is getting pretty close.

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The S-97 Raider showing the new technology that enables it to fly at speeds of at leas 220 knots. (Lockheed photo)

But the S-97 isn’t just fast. According to Lockheed, this futuristic helo, with contra-rotating main rotors and a pusher in the tail, can carry AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, Hydra 2.75-inch rockets, and will shoot a 7.62mm machine gun or a .50-caliber machine gun. Four can fit inside a C-17 Globemaster transport. Lockheed notes that the S-97 can also carry up to six troops in its cabin.

Lockheed says that the S-97 could fill other roles besides the armed reconnaissance role that the AH-64 Apache has taken over, including as a search and rescue helicopter, a multi-mission special operations helicopter — and there’s even a proposed unmanned variant. The S-97 can also be refueled in flight.

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The S-97, this time showing a gun pod on the left side. (Lockheed photo)

One area the helicopter could excels is in the so-called “high and hot” climates that have often limited other helicopters. Lockheed claims the helicopter can hover at 10,000 feet in an air temperature of 95 degrees.

Lockheed is marketing the S-97 Raider to not just the Army and Special Operations Command, but states that the S-97 could also fill missions for the Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force. You can see a video about this futuristic helicopter below.

Articles

That time a guy jumped out of a plane at 18,000 feet with no chute — and survived

On the evening of March 24, 1944, a Royal Air Force airman jumped out of his damaged bomber without a parachute.


Not only did he survive, but he landed with little more than bumps and bruises.

His name was Nicholas Alkemade. Or should we say, the “indestructible” Nicholas Alkemade. Born Dec. 10, 1922, Alkemade was a rear gunner on a four-engine Avro Lancaster its crew had nicknamed “Werewolf.”

In March 1944, the crew was on a bombing mission over Berlin, which went without incident. But on their way back to England, the bomber caught on fire after being razed by machine-gun fire from a German fighter. The order came from the Werewolf’s pilot to abandon the crippled bomber, but Alkemade wasn’t wearing his parachute, since the gunner’s area was too cramped for it to be worn all the time.

When he tried pulling his chute out of storage, it was in flames. The plane was going down and he had few options.

“I had no doubts at all that this was the end of the line,” he told Leicester Mercury years later. “The question was whether to stay in the plane and fry or jump to my death. I decided to jump and make a quick, clean end of things. I backed out of the turret and somersaulted away.”

So out he went, headed from 18,000 feet above the Earth to the ground at 120 miles per hour. He lost consciousness during the descent, which would have been the end of this story. Except, three hours later, Alkemade — now safely lying on the ground — opened his eyes.

The RAF Museum picks up the story:

He was lying on snowy ground in a small pine wood. Above him the stars were still visible, only this time they were framed by the edges of the hole he had smashed through the tree canopy. Assessing himself, Alkemade found that he was remarkably intact. In addition to the burns and cuts to the head and thigh, all received in the aircraft, he was suffering only bruising and a twisted knee. Not a single bone had been broken or even fractured. Both of his flying boots had disappeared, probably torn from his feet as he unconsciously struck the tree branches. Being of no further use, Alkemade discarded his parachute harness in the snow.

Though his incredible survival arguably made him the luckiest man in the world, his luck soon changed. He began to blow on his emergency whistle, which got the attention of German civilians nearby. After he was taken to a local infirmary, he was interrogated by the Gestapo the next day.

He told them what happened, and like anyone else would, they basically called bullsh-t.

“You say you fell from a plane, but you have no parachute,” the Gestapo interrogator asked him, according to the Mercury. His interrogators accused him of burying it and being a spy, until he told them to find his discarded harness, along with the crashed aircraft that was nearby, according to the RAF Museum.

The Germans investigated and found he was legit. They even gave him a certificate stating, “It has been investigated and corroborated by the German authorities that the claim of Sergeant Alkemade, No. 1431537, is true in all respects, namely, that he has made a descent from 18,000 feet without a parachute and made a safe landing without injuries, the parachute having been on fire in the aircraft. He landed in deep snow among fir trees.”

Alkemade spent his next 14 months as a prisoner of war at Stalag Luft III in Poland, and returned to England after the war ended. He died in 1991.

Articles

This is how British pilots made beer runs for troops in Normandy

To keep the many men and machines in fighting shape during the World War II invasion of France, logistics technicians sure had their work cut out for them. Bomb, bullets, planes and tanks were top priorities, so there was little room for luxury items that’d keep the troops in good spirits while fighting Nazis.


And when a British brewery donated gallons of beer for troops on the front, there was no way to get it to the men by conventional means.

Enter Britain’s Royal Air Force.

In the early days after the Normandy invasion of June 1944, British and American troops noticed an acute shortage of adult beverages — namely beer. Many British soldiers complained about watery cider being the only drink available in recently liberated French towns. Luckily for them, the Royal Air Force was on the tap (pun intended) to solve the problem.

With no room for cargo on their small fighter planes, RAF pilots arrived at a novel solution – using drop tanks to transport suds instead of fuel.

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The drop tanks of a Spitfire each carried 45 gallons of gas, meaning a plane could transport 90 gallons of extra liquid. When carrying fuel, the tanks were used and then discarded.

For the purposes of ferrying beer, ground crews set about steam cleaning the tanks for their special deliveries. These flights became known as “flying pubs” by the troops they served. A few British breweries, such as Heneger and Constable, donated free beer for the RAF to take to the front. Other units had to pool their funds and buy the beer.

As the desire for refreshment increased in Normandy, the RAF began employing the Hawker Typhoon which could carry even more than the Spitfire. Unfortunately, the Typhoon was often mistaken by inexperienced American pilots as the German Focke-Wulf 190.

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According to one British captain, the beer deliveries were attacked twice in one day by U.S. P-47 Thunderbolts. The Typhoon had to jettison its tanks into the English Channel to take evasive action, costing the troops on the ground dearly.

The drop tanks also had a serious disadvantage. While they could carry large amounts of beer, the initial runs still tasted of fuel. Even after the tanks had been used several times and lost their fuel taste, they still imparted a metallic flavor to the beer.

To counter this problem, ground crews developed Modification XXX, a change made to the wing pylons of Spitfire Mk. IXs that allowed them to carry actual kegs of beer.

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These kegs, often called ‘beer bombs,’ were standard wooden kegs with a specially-designed nose cone and attachments for transport under the wing of the Spitfire. Though they carried less beer, it arrived tasting like it just came out of the tap at the pub, chilled by the altitude of the flight over the channel.

To ensure their compatriots remained satisfied, pilots would often return to England for rudimentary maintenance issues or other administrative needs in order to grab another round. As the need for beer increased, all replacement Spitfires and Typhoons being shipped to airfields in France carried ‘beer bombs’ in their bomb racks to the joy of the thirsty crews manning the airfields.

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When the Americans learned of what the British were doing they joined in, even bringing over ice cream for the GIs as well.

As the practice gained popularity, Britain’s Custom and Excise Ministry caught wind and tried to shut it down. Thankfully by that time, there were more organized official shipments of beer making it to the troops. However, the enterprising pilots kept up their flights with semi-official permission from higher-ups, they just kept it a better secret.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How North Korea will spark a global arms race

CIA Director Mike Pompeo said Jan. 23 that North Korea is moving “ever closer” to putting Americans at risk and that he believes leader Kim Jong Un won’t rest until he’s able to threaten multiple nuclear attacks against the U.S. at the same time.


“North Korea is ever closer to being able to hold America at risk,” Pompeo said at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative-leaning think tank in Washington. “I want everyone to understand that we are working diligently to make sure that, a year from now, I can still tell you that they are several months away from having that capacity.”

Speaking after one year on the job, Pompeo also said the CIA believes Kim would not only use nuclear weapons to stay in power, but to threaten to reunify the divided Korean Peninsula under his totalitarian regime. The quest for reunification is disputed by some North Korean experts who see Kim’s nuclear program as primarily a means of retaining power and don’t think he would threaten or forcibly try to take over South Korea.

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(Image via Wikimedia Commons)

Pompeo said North Korea’s nuclear weapons program has developed at a “very rapid clip,” but that Kim is hoping for an arsenal of nuclear weapons — “not one, not a showpiece, not something to drive on a parade route.”

He wants the ability to deliver nuclear weapons from multiple missiles fired simultaneously. “That increases the risk to America,” Pompeo said. It’s unclear how well the United States could defend against multiple missiles fired from North Korea at the same time.

Pompeo also warned that North Korea could sell nuclear-weapon and ballistic-missile technology and research to other countries, including Iran, which could set off a nuclear arms race.

Asked whether Iran could use its existing agreements with Pyongyang to advance its own nuclear-weapons program, Pompeo called it “a real risk” and admitted that the CIA could miss such transfers of information. “So if someone asks me as the senior intelligence leader of the CIA, can you guarantee this [would be uncovered], I would say absolutely not.”

Despite his warning, Pompeo doesn’t think a North Korean attack on the United States is imminent. He said the Trump administration is “laser-focused” on achieving a diplomatic solution to the nuclear standoff.

Americans should know that it is working to prepare a series of options so the president has the “full range of possibilities” to address the threat.

Also Read: Russia thanks Trump for the CIA tip that foiled a terror attack

He wouldn’t address the question of whether there are military options available to the US that don’t risk an escalation into nuclear war with North Korea.

“There is much effort all across the U.S. government to ensure that Americans don’t have to feel at risk,” Pompeo said.

“We saw what happened in Hawaii. It is an imperative — an American, national imperative — that we as an intelligence agency deliver the information to our senior leaders such that they can resolve this issue in a way that works for the American people.”

Earlier this month, a false alarm that a ballistic missile was headed for Hawaii sent the islands into a panic, with people abandoning cars and preparing to flee their homes until officials said the cellphone alert was a mistake.

MIGHTY TRENDING

India wants advanced sub-hunting planes in response to China

India’s Navy is considering adding to its fleet of P-8I maritime patrol aircraft, as the country shifts its military posture toward its southern approaches out of concern about Chinese naval activity.


India’s Naval Chief Adm. Sunil Lanba told India Strategic magazine that aerial-surveillance capability was an important part of navy operations, and the country’s Defense Ministry has said the P-8I is able to provide “a punitive response and maintaining a watch over India’s immediate and extended areas of interest.”

New Dehli made its first purchase of the aircraft in 2009, not long after the November 2008 terrorist attack in Mumbai, during which attackers arrived by boat. India bought eight P-8I aircraft at the time, deploying them in 2013. It followed that with a purchase of four more in 2016, buying them at the 2009 price.

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Boeing P-8I of the Indian Navy (Image from Indian Navy)

“A number of measures have been taken since ’26/11′ to strengthen maritime, coastal, and offshore security by the concerned agencies in the country,” Lanba said, including expanding maritime security forces’ capabilities, enhancing surveillance in maritime zones, and streamlining intelligence-sharing.

While Lanba did not say how many long-range maritime reconnaissance aircraft, like the P-8I, the Indian navy would ultimately require, his predecessors have said as many as 30.

The P-8I, which is India’s variant of Boeing’s P-8 Poseidon aircraft, has some of the most sophisticated anti-submarine-warfare technology available, including Raytheon and Telefonics systems that provide 360-degree radar coverage. The plane also has a magnetic anomaly detector, which searches for shifts in the earth’s magnetic field created by a submarine’s hull.

The aircraft can carry Harpoon anti-ship missiles, depth charges, Mk-54 torpedoes, and rockets. The Indian variant also has specific communications software and Identify Friend or Foe abilities, allowing it to interoperate with Indian naval and air force systems. They can also data-link with Indian submarines to share information about target vessels.

‘Our Navy is fully capable and ever ready’

Anti-submarine warfare has become a focal point for the Indian military, and the U.S. and India have held talks about related technology and tactics. Both countries have become increasingly wary of Chinese naval activity, particularly Chinese submarines, in recent years.

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P-8A Poseidon aircraft No. 760 takes off from a Boeing facility in Seattle, Wash., for delivery to fleet operators in Jacksonville, Fla., marking the 20th overall production P-8A aircraft for the U.S. Navy. (U.S. Navy photo courtesy of Boeing Defense)

China has also expanded its infrastructure in the region, including a presence at ports in DjiboutiPakistan, and Sri Lanka.

India has been tracking Chinese submarines entering the Indian Ocean since 2013, and a 2015 U.S. Defense Department report confirmed that Chinese attack and missile submarines were operating there.

In mid-2016, Indian naval officials said they were sighting Chinese subs four times every three months on average.

“As a professional military force, we constantly evaluate the maritime security environment in our areas of interest. We lay a lot of stress on Maritime Domain Awareness,” Landa told India Strategic when asked about hostile submarines operating in the Indian Ocean.

“Accordingly, we are fully seized of the presence and likely intentions of all extra-regional forces operating in the Indian Ocean,” Landa said. “Our Navy is fully capable and ever ready to meet any challenges that may arise in the maritime domain.”

‘A tectonic shift’

Some sightings of Chinese subs have taken place around the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, which sit near the Malacca Strait, through which more than 80% of Chinese fuel supplies pass.

New Delhi started deploying P-8I aircraft and spy drones to the islands in early 2016, with plans to develop enough infrastructure and maintenance capabilities there to support a division-level force of about 15,000 troops, a fighter squadron, and some major warships. Other reports suggest India is considering installing an “undersea wall” of sensors in the eastern Indian Ocean.

Also Read: Everything you need to know about China’s air force

Growing activity in the Indian Ocean, as well as the ocean’s centrality to global trade and India’s own security, have led New Delhi to shift its focus to the country’s 4,700-mile southern coastline, where security and energy infrastructure are concentrated.

“This is a tectonic shift in India’s security calculus, that it has to protect its southern flank,” Brahma Chellaney, a strategic-studies professor at the Center for Policy Research, told The New York Times in July 2017, around the time of the Malabar 2017 naval exercises between the U.S., India, and Japan.

India has done naval patrols and anti-submarine warfare exercises with partners in the region — in November, India, the U.S., Japan, and Australia announced the creation of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or Quad, defense partnership. New Delhi has also looked to expand its military, spending tens of billions of dollars on foreign fighter jets, armored vehicles, and naval vessels.

Subs have become of particular interest for India in light of growing Chinese naval activity in the region, according to India Strategic.

The Kalvari, the first of six diesel-electric attack submarines designed by a French firm and built in India, was commissioned in December. Prime Minister Narendra Modi called the Kalvari a marquee example of the “Make in India” initiative, which aims to develop India’s domestic arms industry through collaboration with foreign firms.

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P-8I crew at their workstations during the Search and Rescue sortie in South Indian Ocean on 23 Mar 2014. (Image from Wikipedia)

India has already contacted foreign shipbuilders about building six more nonnuclear subs.

The navy, citing concerns about China, has called for a third nuclear-powered carrier that incorporates U.S. technology and is pushing ahead with plans to acquire such a carrier at an expected cost of nearly $25 billion.

The plan includes a component of 57 fighter aircraft, for which U.S. F-18s and French Dassault Rafales are being considered. Aircraft acquisitions may push the price higher.

The expense of acquiring such a ship has given India’s Defense Ministry pause, however, though others have argued that aircraft carriers are the best way to counter threats around the region.

“As India does not have a policy of overseas basing, a carrier force remains the only suitable alternative for a regional power like India to conduct out-of-area contingencies,” retired Indian Vice Adm. Shekhar Sinha wrote in December 2016.

The Indian navy has one operational carrier, INS Vikramaditya, which is a Russian Kiev-class carrier-cruiser overhauled by Moscow for the Indian navy between 2004 and 2013. The Vikramaditya operates Russian-made aircraft, including MiG 29K fighters, which India has asked Russia to “ruggedize” for carrier operations. The INS Vikrant, which is India’s first domestically built carrier, is under construction.

In what appears to a sign of the Indian navy’s move toward the U.S. and away from Russia, American naval officials from a joint working group were invited aboard the Vikramaditya in late October to assess ways to transition Indian carriers to U.S. naval operational concepts, according to India’s Business Standard.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia and Syria hate this U.S. base but can’t touch it

Russia and the Syrian regime warned the US in early September 2018 that they planned to carry out counterterrorism operations near a key US garrison in southeastern Syria known as al-Tanf, where several hundred Marines have been stationed since at least 2016.

But the US responded with a live-fire exercise, and the Russians backed down.

In fact, the al-Tanf garrison has long drawn the ire of Moscow, Tehran and the Syrian regime — but all they’ve been able to do is complain about it.


The US is “gathering the remnants of the Islamic State at this base in order to later send them wage war on the Syrian army,” Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said in late September 2018, according to Sputnik, a Russian state-owned media outlet.

“According to satellite and other surveillance data, terrorist squads are stationed [at al-Tanf],” Russian General Valery Gerasimov told Russia’s Pravda in late 2017. “[Terrorists] are effectively training there.”

Iran’s Press TV also cited Gerasimov’s quote a June 2018 article titled, “US forces training terrorists at 19 camps inside Syria: Russian expert.”

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Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem

Without any real evidence, US adversaries have lobbed many rhetorical attacks against the US forces for supposedly harboring or training terrorists at al-Tanf.

Damascus and Russian state-owned media even claimed in June 2018 that the US was preparing a “false flag” chemical attack “identical to the kind that took place in Douma” at al-Tanf.

“The U.S. led Coalition is here to defeat ISIS, first and foremost, and that is the objective of the presence in at al-Tanf,” US Army Colonel Sean Ryan, a spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve, told Business Insider in an email.

“No U.S. troops have trained ISIS and that is just incorrect and misinformation, it is truly amazing some people think that,” Ryan said.

The US has trained Syrian rebels at al-Tanf, namely a group called Maghawir al Thawra, which “is fairly secular by regional standards and has been at the forefront of the fight against ISIS,” Omar Lamrani, a senior military analyst at Stratfor, told Business Insider.

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Members of Maghawir al Thawra and a US Army soldier repair a water well in an-Tanf.

But the “claim that the US is training ISIS and like-minded groups at al Tanf is certainly absurd,” Lamrani said.

“To the Russians and Iranians, almost any group fighting against the Syrian government can be labeled a terrorist group,” Lamrani said.

So why do Russia, Iran and the Syrian regime care so much about this garrison?

“I’d say that the primary reasons why Iran cares about it so much is, again, it blocks the Bagdhad-Damascus highway,” Lamrani said, which Tehran uses to transport weapons to Damascus, where the Syrian regime is based.

“The reason they want the land route is that it’s easier to bring [weapons] across land in greater quantities, and the shipping route is very vulnerable to Israeli interception, and the air route is expensive and often gets hit by Israeli airstrikes,” Lamrani added.

Moscow, on the other hand, is upset about al-Tanf because “it’s the last area in Syria where the United States is involved with rebels on the ground that are not Syrian Democratic Forces,” Lamrani said.

The Russians and Syrian regime have “open channels” with the SDF, and want to negotiate — not fight — with them, Lamrani added.

But Moscow, Tehran and the Syrian regime’s ire might go beyond just styming the flow of weapons to Damascus and training rebels.

“There’s a history at that garrison at al-Tanf,” Max Markusen, associate director and an associate fellow of the Transnational Threats Project at CSIS, told Business Insider.

“I think that the Syrian regime, the Russians and Iranians, would see it as a [symbolic] victory if the United States pulled out of there than just sort of tactical level objectives,” Markusen said, adding that there’s much resentment for the US having trained rebels at al-Tanf too.

But they’re not foolish enough to kinetically force US troops out because “the costs of escalation are too high,” Markusen said.

So they’re relegated to discrediting the al-Tanf garrison.

Going forward, “we will continue to see an escalation of rhetoric,” Markusen said, but “I don’t there’s going to be a major outbreak of conflict.”

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

Articles

Trump veterans adviser investigated for saying Clinton should be shot

A Marine Corps veteran and co-chair of Donald Trump’s national veterans coalition is under investigation by the Secret Service after saying Hillary Clinton should be “shot for treason.”


Al Baldasaro, a state representative in New Hampshire and delegate for the Republican presidential nominee, first made the remarks on Tuesday during a radio interview on WRKO in Boston.

“I’m a veteran who went to Desert Shield, Desert Storm. I’m also a father who sent a son to war, to Iraq, as a Marine Corps helicopter avionics technician. Hillary Clinton, to me, is the Jane Fonda of the Vietnam,” Baldasaro said.

Bill to compensate sailors exposed to Agent Orange fails
In this May 31, 2016, photo, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump listens at left as Al Baldasaro, a New Hampshire state representative, speaks during a news conference in New York. | Photo by Richard Drew

He was referring to the actress’ 1972 visit to Hanoi, during which she was photographed sitting on a North Vietnamese anti-aircraft gun — a trip that stirred many Americans to call her a traitor and earned her the nickname “Hanoi Jane.”

Clinton “is a disgrace for the lies that she told those mothers about their children that got killed over there in Benghazi,” Baldasaro said.

The 2012 attack on the U.S. compound in Benghazi in which four Americans were killed has been a recurring topic this week at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.

Patricia Smith, the mother of one of the Americans slain in the attack, on Monday spoke at the event and said she blamed the presumptive Democratic nominee for the tragedy that resulted in the death of her son Sean Smith, a U.S. foreign service information management officer; Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens; and the others.

Referring to Clinton, Baldasaro said, “She dropped the ball on over 400 emails requesting back-up security. Something’s wrong there. I wish they made the documents public. …  This whole thing disgusts me. Hillary Clinton should be put in the firing line and shot for treason.”

Baldasaro, whose LinkedIn page states he retired as a first sergeant after serving 22 years in the Marine Corps, went on to refer to Marine Maj. Jason Brezler, a reservist and member of the New York City Fire Department, whose military career hangs in the balance of a legal case stemming from improperly handling classified material.

In 2012, Brezler sent colleagues an email from a Yahoo account containing a classified profile of an Afghan policeman whom the Marines believed was corrupt and sexually abusing young Afghan boys.

Baldasaro was angry at what he said was a different level of legal scrutiny applied in the Marine’s case. “They’re trying to kick him out of the military,” he said.

Baldasaro hasn’t apologized for his remarks about Clinton. Indeed, on Wednesday he repeated his calls for her to be executed during an interview with WMUR in New Hampshire.

“I’m a military man first, and anyone who takes information about our CIA or Secret Service and people at our embassy and puts it out on a server where anyone can grab it, putting Americans in danger to be killed, should be held accountable,” he said, according to The New York Times. “As far as I’m concerned, it is treason and the penalty for treason is the firing squad — or maybe it’s the electric chair now.”

Baldasaro in May defended the Trump campaign for having distributed $5.6 million to veterans charities. The money was raised during a fundraiser in January, though many large charitable donations had only been distributed in the week before the press conference detailing the gifts, the Associated Press reported.

Secret Service spokesman Robert Hoback said the agency is aware of comments made by New Hampshire state Rep. Al Baldasaro and that it “will conduct the appropriate investigation,” according to the newswire.

A spokeswoman for Trump’s campaign, Hope Hicks, told reporters that Baldasaro doesn’t speak for the campaign, the AP reported. She didn’t say whether he would continue to serve as a veterans adviser to the candidate.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Hurricane Hunters were in Michael’s eye when he made landfall

The 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron started flying into Hurricane Michael Oct. 7, 2018, and over the next four days observed it intensify from a possible tropical depression to a Category 4 storm, which made landfall near Mexico Beach, Florida, at 12:30 p.m. Oct. 10, 2018.

“This storm started out as a low level investigation with the possibility of it reaching tropical storm status by the end of the first flight,” said Col. Robert J. Stanton, 403rd Wing vice commander and navigator who was on the mission. “We had a challenge on the first entry into the storm trying to find the center because the eye of this storm was oval shaped and roughly 30 to 40 miles long.”

Stanton said that during the next two passes into the eye, they were getting better readings because the storm was developing throughout the course of their mission.


The track was predicted to hit the Florida Panhandle from the start. It was named Michael Oct. 7, 2018, and was upgraded to a Category 1 hurricane by Oct. 8, 2018.

“Michael was different than others, because the track pretty much stayed the same from day one,” said Capt. Kelsie Carpenter, 53rd WRS aerial reconnaissance weather officer, who flew into the storm on Oct. 9, 2018. “We sent the data to the National Hurricane Center and watched it go from a Category 1 to a Category 2 storm while we were fixing the center and it appeared to be intensifying.”

The 53rd WRS “Hurricane Hunters” were inside the storm as it made landfall in Florida as a Category 4.

Bill to compensate sailors exposed to Agent Orange fails

Hurricane Michael on Oct. 10, 2018, after the storm made landfall as a category 4 hurricane over the Florida panhandle.

(NASA photo)


The 53rd WRS is the only Defense Department unit that flies reconnaissance missions into severe tropical weather during the hurricane season, June 1 through Nov. 30, to gather data for the National Hurricane Center to improve their forecasts and storm warnings. In all, the squadron flew nine missions into Hurricane Michael to gather this information.

While the model forecasts have improved for tracking, Maj. Jeremy DeHart, 53rd WRS ARWO, said intensity forecasts are tricky to predict.

“Data from our drop today indicated that it continued to strengthen right up to landfall,” said DeHart. “Our last dropsonde measured a central pressure of 919 millibars, which was lower than both Katrina and Andrew.”

“This was such a powerful storm for building up in the Gulf of Mexico. It doesn’t happen often that you see a storm increasing intensity while making landfall,” said Lt. Col. Sean Cross, 53rd WRS pilot.

While inside the eye, the crew could see the storm surge hitting the coastline of Florida, said Cross.

“The eyewall also looked different than others I have flown because it was like we were inside an 18-mile-wide barrel or drum, with the eyewall going straight up and down,” he said.

Hurricane Michael hit the Florida Panhandle with 150 mph winds near Mexico Beach, causing massive damage.

“After our experience here on the Mississippi Gulf Coast after Katrina we understand how difficult it is to experience and recover from a devastating storm,” said Stanton. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to those who are being impacted by Hurricane Michael today.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

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