China holds live-fire drills in tense South China Sea - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

China holds live-fire drills in tense South China Sea

A few days after multiple US bomber flights over the disputed waters of the South China Sea, fighters and bombers from the Chinese military carried out live-fire exercises over the same area — the latest round of drills in a period of increasing tension between the two countries.

Aircraft from the Southern Theater command of the People’s Liberation naval air force conducted “live fire shooting drills” at a sea range in the South China Sea, according to the People’s Daily official newspaper, which released photos from a broadcast by state-run CCTV.


China holds live-fire drills in tense South China Sea

Chinese fighter jets during live-fire drills over the South China Sea, September 28, 2018.

(CCTV via People’s Daily China / Twitter)

The brief report by CCTV stated that dozens of fighter jets and bombers performed the drills to test pilots’ assault, penetration, and precision-strike abilities during operations at sea, according to The Japan Times.

Those exercises came days after US aircraft carried out several overflights through the area.

On Sept. 23 and Sept. 25, 2018, a single US Air Force B-52 Stratofortress bomber flew over the South China Sea in what US Pacific Air Forces described as part of the US’s ongoing continuous bomber presence operations.

China holds live-fire drills in tense South China Sea

A US Air Force B-52H bomber and two Japan Air Self-Defense Force F-15 fighters during a routine training mission over the East China Sea and the Sea of Japan, Sept. 26, 2018.

(Pacific Air Forces photo)

“US Indo-Pacific Command’s Continuous Bomber Presence (CBP) operations have been ongoing since March 2004,” PACAF told Business Insider, saying that recent missions were “consistent with international law and United States’s long-standing and well-known freedom of navigation policies.”

On Sept. 26, 2018, a B-52H heavy long-range bomber based in Guam met Japanese Air Self-Defense Force fighter jets over the East China Sea and Sea of Japan for what Pacific Air Command called “a routine training mission.” The B-52 carried out drills with 12 Koku Jieitai F-15 fighters and four F-2 fighters before returning home.

The US sent B-52s over the disputed waters of the East and South China Seas four times in August 2018, and the increased activity in the skies there comes amid a period of heightened tensions between Beijing and Washington.

China holds live-fire drills in tense South China Sea

A B-52H bomber and two JASDF F-15 fighter jets, Sept. 26, 2018.

(Pacific Air Forces photo)

Asked about the overflights on Sept. 26, 2018, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis described them as normal and pointed to Beijing’s actions in the South China Sea — where Chinese forces have constructed artificial islands and equipped them with military facilities and hardware — as setting the stage for tensions.

“That just goes on. If it was 20 years ago and had they not militarized those features there it would have been just another bomber on its way to Diego Garcia or wherever,” Mattis said, referring to a US base in the Indian Ocean.

“So there’s nothing out of the ordinary about it,” he added.

Beijing has made expansive claims over the South China Sea, through which some trillion in global trade passes annually, clashing with several other countries that claim territory there. China has also set up an air-defense identification zone and claims uninhabited islands controlled by Japan in the East China Sea.

China holds live-fire drills in tense South China Sea

A Chinese fighter jet during a live-fire exercise in the South China Sea, Sept. 28, 2018.

(CCTV via People’s Daily China / Twitter)

On Sept. 27, 2018, China condemned the recent US overflights.

“As for the provocative action taken by the US military aircraft, we are firmly against it and we will take all necessary means to safeguard our rights and interests,” Defense Ministry spokesman Ren Guoqiang said.

In recent days, the US has also sanctioned China’s Equipment Development Department and its director, Li Shangfu, for buying Russian Su-35 combat aircraft in 2017 and Russia’s S-400 air-defense missile system in 2018.

The sanctions are part of a US effort to punish Russia for its actions abroad, and US officials said Moscow was the “ultimate target” of sanctions on Chinese entities. The sanctions did come amid a broader trade dispute between Washington and Beijing, however.

The US also moved ahead with the sale of 0 million in spare parts and other support for Taiwan’s US-made F-16 fighter jets and other military aircraft.

China holds live-fire drills in tense South China Sea

A Chinese fighter jet during a live-fire exercise in the South China Sea, Sept. 28, 2018.

(CCTV via People’s Daily China / Twitter)

China has called for the sanctions to be revoked, summoning the US ambassador and defense attache to issue a protest.

Beijing, which considers Taiwan to be a breakaway province, also demanded the arms deal with that country be cancelled, warning of “severe damage” to US-China relations.

China holds live-fire drills in tense South China Sea

Live-fire drills being carried out by Chinese fighter jets and bombers in the South China Sea, Sept. 28, 2018.

(CCTV via People’s Daily China / Twitter)

China also denied a request for a port call in Hong Kong by US Navy amphibious assault ship USS Wasp in October 2018. The last time China denied such a request was in 2016, during a period of increased tension over the South China Sea.

Asked on Sept. 26, 2018, about recent events, Mattis said he didn’t think there had been a “fundamental shift in anything.”

“We’re just going through one of those periodic points where we’ve got to learn to manage our differences,” he said.

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

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Watch this veteran’s reaction when he learns his Army souvenirs are worth mucho dinero

An Army soldier stationed in Germany picked up two Rolexes from the PX before rotating back to the states in early 1960. One watch was to wear himself while the other was a gift for his dad.


China holds live-fire drills in tense South China Sea
Photo: PBS Facebook video screenshot

He had never heard of Rolex before and only bought them because his sergeant told him they were the best watches ever made. Almost 60 years later, both watches are still working and the sergeant’s advice turned out to be spot on.

The veteran recently appeared on PBS’s Antiques Roadshow and learned that one of the watches, which he paid a little over a month’s salary to buy in 1960, was “easily today, it’s $65,000 to 75,000 on the market.” See the full video from PBS below:

MIGHTY TRENDING

Questions surround crash of special operations helicopter in Iraq

Late Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2018, U.S. military officials identified the Army helicopter pilot who died on Aug. 20, 2018, as a result of wounds received in a crash in Iraq on Aug. 19, 2018 during an undisclosed operation. Official news releases report three additional wounded U.S. personnel have been evacuated to treatment facilities.

Chief Warrant Officer 3 Taylor J. Galvin, 34, from Spokane, Washington, died Aug. 20, in Baghdad as a result of injuries sustained when his helicopter crashed in Sinjar, Ninevah Province, according to a Department of Defense news release.


CW3 Galvin was assigned to Delta Company, 1st Battalion, 160th SOAR (Special Operations Aviation Regiment) as an MH-60M Blackhawk helicopter pilot. He was flying in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. Galvin was originally from Phoenix, Arizona. He was 34 years old. Galvin was a combat veteran special operations pilot with nine deployments including two during Iraqi Freedom, three in Operation Enduring Freedom and four more during Operation Inherent Resolve. He was the recipient of the U.S. Army Air Medal (C device) and Air Medal (30LC) for heroism or meritorious achievement while flying in addition to numerous other awards.

China holds live-fire drills in tense South China Sea

Chief Warrant Officer 3 Taylor J. Galvin.

In an August 20, 2018 article on Newsweek.com about the fatal crash, journalist James LaPorta reported that, “It is unclear why the MH-60 Blackhawk went down, but U.S. military sources with knowledge of the crash said the helicopter was returning to base after conducting a partnered small-scale raid on Islamic State militants in an undisclosed region as part of ongoing counterterrorism operations.” LaPorta went on to write, “Ten U.S. military personnel were onboard the aircraft being flown by U.S. Army pilots from the elite 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, known as the Night Stalkers.”

The region near Sinjar (Shingal), Iraq where the crash occurred had been active in supporting cross-border anti-ISIS operations into neighboring Syria for more than a month until U.S. troops were withdrawn from the area in the middle of July 2018 according to a report by Wladimir van Wilgenburg published in the regional Kurdistan 24 online news source. This is also the region where Iraqi Air Force F-16s have conducted their first airstrikes against insurgents during cross-border strikes into Syria.

The crash was reported to have occurred at approximately 10:00 PM local time (2200 hrs, GMT+3). Sunset in the region on Aug. 19, 2018, the date of the accident, occurred at 6:40 PM local time. Weather in the area was hot, 101 degrees Fahrenheit, with light winds and clear skies. Pentagon spokesman Colonel Robert Manning told reporters that the crash was not caused by enemy fire.

China holds live-fire drills in tense South China Sea

(US Army photo)

Reports about the aircraft and the personnel on board may contradict official assertions that the U.S. role in the region is predominantly in an advisory capacity. The 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, the “Night Stalkers”, is a highly-specialized combat aviation unit headquartered at Ft. Campbell, Kentucky that supports elite U.S. and coalition combat units like Army Special Forces, Naval Special Warfare (SEALs) and other special operations units.

This latest crash brings the total of serious U.S. military aircraft accidents this year to at least 14.

The 160th SOAR, the “Night Stalkers”, are most famous for the raid to capture Osama bin Laden, Operation Neptune’s Spear, on May 1, 2011. During that raid, the unit flew a classified, low-observable variant of the Blackhawk helicopter that has since been popularly referred to in speculation as the “MH-X Stealth Black Hawk” or “Silent Hawk”. Images of part of the secret helicopter were seen around the world when one of them crashed inside Bin Laden’s compound during the raid, leaving the tail section visible. Books and media accounts suggest only two of the aircraft were ever produced.

In 2015, a MH-60M Black Hawk crashed on the deck of a U.S. Navy ship near Okinawa, Japan, injuring seven; more recently, in August 2017, a 160th SOAR’s MH-60 crashed off Yemen killing one soldier.

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.

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Japanese prime minister pays his respects at Pearl Harbor in solemn ceremony

President Barack Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met Dec. 28 at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, to pay their respects to the victims and honor the survivors of the attack 75 years ago that drew the United States into World War II.


Speaking alongside Japanese Prime Minster Shinzo Abe in Honolulu, President Barack Obama reflects on how war tests people’s most enduring values, Dec. 27, 2016.

China holds live-fire drills in tense South China Sea
Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, Yeoman 2nd Class Michelle Wrabley, assigned to U.S. Pacific Fleet, President of the United States, Barack Obama, and U.S. Pacific Command Commander, Adm. Harry Harris pause to honor the service members killed during the Dec. 7, 1941 attacks on Pearl Harbor. Abe is the first Japanese prime minister to visit the USS Arizona Memorial. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Jay M. Chu/Released)

“It is here that we reflect on how war tests our most enduring values,” Obama said. “How even as Japanese-Americans were deprived of their own liberty during the war, one of the most decorated military units in the history of the United States was the 442nd Infantry Regiment, and its 100th Infantry Battalion, the Japanese-American Nisei.”

“America’s first battle of the Second World War roused a nation,” Obama said. “Here, in so many ways, America came of age. A generation of Americans — including my grandparents, that greatest generation — they did not seek war, but they refused to shrink from it.”

On the front lines and in factories, Americans did their part to win that war, Obama said. To the World War II veterans in his audience, he declared, “A grateful nation thanks you.”

The meeting of the two leaders, the president said, was intended to “send a message to the world that there is more to be won in peace than in war, that reconciliation carries more rewards than retribution.”

“Here in this quiet harbor, we honor those we lost,” Obama said. “And we give thanks for all that our two nations have won, together, as friends.”

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Soldier shoots her way to Olympic dream

Many Soldiers join the Army as a step towards achieving their goals and dreams. That was reversed for one Soldier going through Advanced Individual Training on Fort Jackson. She qualified for the Olympics in a sport equally suited for the Army – marksmanship.

Spc. Alison Weisz, from Company B, 369th Adjutant General Battalion, will graduate Advanced Individual Training Oct. 8 and then head to the Army Marksmanship Unit in Fort Benning, Georgia. She made Team USA for the Women’s 10m Air Rifle Event for the 2021 Olympic Games, and will be part of the AMU’s International Rifle Team, and compete internationally in both 10m Air Rifle and 50m Three-Position Small bore Rifle.


“It had always been a goal of mine to join the Army after qualifying for the Olympics,” said the Belgrade, Montana native. “The initial plan pre-COVID was that I was going to qualify, go to the Olympics this summer in Tokyo, in August come back, take a little bit of time off, and go to basic training. And that was all just because I wanted to look forward towards 2024 and the Olympics in Paris. The best way to do that for my career and my sport was with the Army.”

The AMU will help her hone her craft even further.

“The Army Marksmanship Unit has some of the best resources that you could imagine, for our sport specifically,” said Weisz, who graduated Basic Combat Training at Fort Jackson with Company A, 3rd Battalion, 60th Infantry Regiment. “As far as gunsmiths on hand, obviously it’s a source of income as well.”

The Army also helps her financially.

“It’s hard to get that money and financial stability outside of it, outside of anything like the Army,” she said.

China holds live-fire drills in tense South China Sea

Spc. Alison Weisz poses in front of her company sign. Photo by Josephine Carlson

According to USA Shooting, Weisz “became involved in shooting sports through a gun safety and education program out of a small club in Montana at 9 years old.” She was hooked and began her pursuit that led her to the University of Mississippi’s shooting program where she witnessed a slice of Army-life for the first time. Her great uncle was the only one in her Family to have served in the Army.

Some highlights to her shooting resume include 2019 Pan American Games Gold Medalist, Olympic Quota Winner, splitting a playing card on her first try, and four-time NCAA Individual Qualifier and 2016 NCAA Air Rifle Bronze Medalist.

“When I was in college we had matches there,” Weisz said of traveling to Georgia to compete at Fort Benning, “because they host a lot of the national competitions and other selection matches.”

It was at these competitions she would face rivals now turned teammates.

“Even to make this Olympic team, I was competing against my now teammates at the Army Marksmanship Unit and quite honestly it was a very tight race between a couple of them and myself for the women’s 10 meter event,” she said.

In basic training she initially didn’t let her drill sergeants know that she was a world-class marksman who could split a playing card in half with a single shot. In fact, she said she found Basic Rifle Marksmanship “super- fascinating” because it reinforced principles she had known for a long time.

“I was actually really impressed by all the fundamentals that they taught and the fact that those are the same fundamentals that I still follow today and it’s a completely different type and style of shooting so it was really cool to see,” she said.

She added she was impressed how the drill sergeants were able to teach her peers “who have never touched rifles before, they’ve never seen them, and they’ve never been around them.”

China holds live-fire drills in tense South China Sea

Spc. Weisz walks with her fellow trainees during basic combat training at Fort Jackson. US Army photo

While she felt home on the rifle range, she found other aspects of training difficult such as doing physical training in the hot, humid South Carolina mornings, to being rained on during training because you would be wet and have to sit in soggy clothes until later in the day when you could return to the barracks to change.

“I think the most challenging was learning how to deal with so many different people from so many different places and doing such difficult yet simple things 24/7,” she said. Things such as standing at attention, not moving, being quiet, and trying to get 60 people or more to do were difficult for people who don’t have a background founded in discipline.

“They might not have had that being raised or in their life,” she said. “In my sport, discipline is literally all it is; so it was very natural for me. When I need to do something I just do it and just deal with it even if something is bothering me to ignore it and I know and I understand that other people didn’t have that.”

Despite the challenges, Weisz said she plans on using the new experiences to help her on the firing line.

“Even though it was in using pushups or rappelling down the wall with fear … I can now take those skills I’ve learned and apply when I’m actually training and shooting so rather than questioning myself (with questions like), ‘Am I going to be able to shoot well today?'”

Weisz is “super-excited” to get to the AMU after graduation because she “will be training with the best of the best and now we will be the best of the best. The more you surround yourself with the best, the better you will become.

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Facing appointments or giving birth alone? You’ve got this.

Jenny Byers, a first time mom living in San Diego at the time, laid on the hospital bed with tears streaming down her face as her son, Declan, was placed on her chest.

In what was such a joyous moment in her life, Byers wished just one thing — that her husband could be there to witness the occasion. She turned over her shoulder as a nurse nearby held up a computer with a live FaceTime call with PJ Byers, meeting his son for the first time.


China holds live-fire drills in tense South China Sea

Courtesy of Jenny Byers

“That’s your daddy,” she said to her newborn son experiencing skin-to-skin beneath a blanket.

PJ Byers redeployed when Declan was five months old and they met for the first time face-to-face in an emotional airport family reunion.

“At first I was scared our family was being robbed of one of the most special moments of our lives,” Jenny Byers told We Are The Mighty. “But I was wrong. That moment was still just as special, but in a way I wasn’t expecting. Thanks to modern day technology, we got to meet our son together.”

The Byers family’s story is not an outlier. Being married to someone in the military often means facing many of life’s challenges without your significant other and pregnancy is no exception.

“When my son was born we were at Fort Campbell, and my daughter was four,” said Sophie Pappas, a journalist and Army spouse. “I ended up driving myself to the hospital while my mom from Indiana stayed with my daughter. The midwife was super amazing during my second birth. She held one of my legs up with one of her hands and with her other hand she held my iPhone so my husband could FaceTime and see everything! I will always be grateful he was able to at least watch over FaceTime.”

Pappas credits the love and adrenaline running through her body for being able to deliver her baby boy without focusing on the absence of her husband.

China holds live-fire drills in tense South China Sea

Courtesy of Sophie Pappas

“When I was pushing, I remember laying in the hospital room at 8-centimeters dilated, totally alone,” she shared. “My water broke and I started to push right then and there with not even a nurse around. I didn’t know how to call anyone in, so I just started doing it alone. Looking back, that was one of the most amazing moments of my life. The strength that your body has to just do what it needs to do is incredible.”

While military spouses facing pregnancy alone and delivery without their spouse is not new, this is an unprecedented situation for many pregnant civilians as the coronavirus outbreak continues.

Heading to appointments without spousal support or delivering a new baby in a plan that looks different than it did six months ago is a scary realization that is top-of-mind for many moms-to-be.

Here is what military spouses who were pregnant and/or delivered alone want to share with expectant moms:

“I wish I trusted in myself a little more that I was capable and strong enough to do it alone and that it wouldn’t be forever. I also talked to my OB/GYN who knew about my experience and would let me videotape parts of the appointment such as ultrasounds. She was also really good about giving me lots of US pictures that I could send to my husband.” – Maureen Hannan Tufte

“I would tell them to be sure and ask for help when they need it. I was pretty stubborn about trying to do it all on my own, but when I did have help, I would realize how much I really needed it. Maybe find pregnancy groups (fitness or otherwise) to get involved in. Maybe they’ll find a kindred spirit who is going through the same thing? I would tell them that they can get through this.” – Julie Estrella

“I think the biggest thing with any pregnancy is that whether a national pandemic or a deployment or any event gets in the way, you’re going to have this ‘idea’ of exactly how you want things to go or you think things will go. I can 10000% guarantee that no pregnancy has ever turned out exactly like the mom and dad to be imagined, it’s just life. The sooner you adjust to the idea that things may change or unexpected events may occur, the better your anxiety and nerves will be and the less it will sting when that inevitable curveball comes your way.” – Kati Simmons

“It’s scary to be pregnant by yourself, especially during a first pregnancy. But the baby will keep growing no matter whether or not your partner is available. All you can do is take care of yourself and try not to stress out. Then be sure to Reach out to friends, call family, do what you can to find support because there are definitely people who are willing to help.” – Julie Yaste

“What brought me comfort before giving birth without my husband was hearing about other women who had labored alone before me. Knowing I wasn’t the only one to ever face this situation gave me every affirmation I needed, to know I was going to be okay.” – Jenny Byers

“I would tell someone to not get hung up on who won’t be there, think about who will. You and your baby! Embrace these moments to bond and build a connection. Dwelling on the sadness of your spouse not being there takes away from the joy.” – Kelsey Bucci

“We are capable and able to do hard things. It will be ok. Not having your spouse around for the birth is really hard. But, it will be ok. Lots of pictures and FaceTime. We are lucky to live in a land of technology.” – Alana Steppe

“Know it’s only temporary and the feeling of seeing your husband or spouse with your baby will be the most amazing feeling and make it all worth it.” – Emily Stewart

China holds live-fire drills in tense South China Sea

Courtesy of Kelly Callahan

“You are stronger than you know, and while the situation may not look anything like what you pictured, it is amazing what our mind and body will do (and do well) when we are faced with the challenge of bringing a new life into the world. What I realize now that we are on the other side of it, is that this situation is a small piece of our story and it’s a beautiful one. Lucy is in kindergarten now and I’ve heard her share with classmates and teachers more than once that her daddy could not be there when she was born, so she got to meet him on the computer, because he was fighting bad guys in other places. It all adds to who we are and how we are shaped. I would also add that the nurses and doctor who helped me deliver stepped up in ways I never could have imagined. They made sure the technology was just right so that my husband was included and included him in the conversations. They supported me like we had known each other for years and cried with me when she was born. The medical community is amazing and will not let anyone feel alone.” – Kelly Callahan

A spouse who wished to remain anonymous gave sage advice for expectant moms from the perspective of both a mom of six and labor and delivery nurse of ten years:

“I can confidently tell you that now, more than ever, your nurses are ready to be your doula, photographer and friend,” she shared. “You will not be left alone. You will have our entire team here to celebrate with you on your special day.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Wounded Marine vet Alex Minsky found a new life as an underwear model

Alex Minsky joined the Marine Corps with every intention of making a career out of it, but that plan was changed by an insurgent IED. Now he’s found a new life in the fast-paced world of male modeling.


Alex Minsky joined the Marine Corps right after high school, intending to stay in for the long haul. He’d spent most of his life as the troublemaker, but when that stopped at seventeen, he was left with little direction and no idea where to go from there.

When he entered, he had an inkling that he would be good at it. As infantry, he was deployed to Afghanistan with the intention of fighting the Taliban, but on his first deployment, his truck ran over an IED.

After time spent in a coma and losing his right leg, he woke up frustrated at the slowness of his recovery. He itched to get back into the fight, but doctors informed him that, due to severe brain trauma, that probably wasn’t an option. Without direction once again, he turned to alcohol.

After several DUIs, he was forced to get help. It was this period that showed him that when he was drinking, he was only running away—and he didn’t want to run away anymore.

He found that fitness was directly related to his sobriety, and his life only improved from there. He works as a fitness trainer and a male model, and since then he’s spent his career running toward things, instead of away.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia tries to explain away MH17 missile once again

The Russian military has made a new claim about the downing of a passenger jet over the war zone in eastern Ukraine in 2014, asserting that the missile that brought Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 down was sent to Soviet Ukraine after it was made in 1986 and never returned to Russia.

Defense Ministry officials made the claim at a news conference in Moscow on Sept. 17, 2018, in an apparent attempt to discredit the findings of an international investigation that determined the system that fired the missile was brought into Ukraine from Russia before the Boeing 777 was shot down on July 17, 2014, and smuggled back into Russia afterward.

Kyiv swiftly disputed the Russian assertion, which a senior Ukrainian official called an “awkward fake,” while the Dutch-led Joint Investigation Team (JIT) said that it was still waiting for Russia to send documents it requested long ago and that Russia had made “factually inaccurate” claims in the past.


In a statement to RFE/RL, the Dutch government said it had “taken notice of the publications in relation to the press conference by the Russian Ministry of Defense.”

“The Netherlands has the utmost confidence in the findings and conclusions of the JIT,” the statement added. “The JIT investigation has broad support by the international community. The government is committed to full cooperation with the criminal investigation by all countries concerned as reflected in [UN Security Council] Resolution 2166.”

Speaking to RFE/RL’s Russian Service in an interview, the founder of cybersleuthing outfit Bellingcat accused Russia of “lying about the content” of videos it used as evidence, and said there was “absolutely no way to know” whether the records it cited are genuine.

All 298 passengers and crew were killed when the jet, which was en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, crashed in an area held by Russia-backed separatists in the Donetsk region.

The tragedy caused an international outcry and deepened tensions between Moscow and the West following Russia’s seizure of Crimea and support for the militants in their fight against Kyiv’s forces after pro-European protests pushed Moscow-friendly Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych from power.

The JIT also found that the Buk missile came from Russia’s 53rd Antiaircraft Missile Brigade and was fired from territory held by the Russia-backed separatists.

Many of the JIT’s findings have been corroborated or supported by evidence gathered by journalists and independent investigators, such as the British-based Bellingcat.

The Russian Defense Ministry officials claimed that some of the evidence used by the JIT, including videos investigators used to track the path of the missile from Russia to Ukraine and back, was falsified. They cited alleged evidence whose authenticity and accuracy could not immediately be independently assessed.

Citing what they said were newly declassified documents, the Defense Ministry officials asserted that the missile was manufactured in Dolgoprudny, outside Moscow, in 1986 — five years before the Soviet Union fell apart — and was sent by railway to a missile brigade in the Ternopil region of western Ukraine in December of that year.

“The missile belongs to the Ukrainian armed forces and never returned to Russian territory,” said Lieutenant General Nikolai Parshin, chief of the Defense Ministry’s missile and artillery department.

In Ukraine, National Security and Defense Council Secretary Oleksandr Turchynov said Russia’s “statement alleging that the missile that downed MH17 had a Ukrainian footprint was yet another awkward fake [issued] by the Kremlin in order to conceal its crime, which has been proven by both the official investigation and by independent expert groups.”

Earlier, Bellingcat’s Eliot Higgins cast doubt on the allegation that video footage was doctored by investigators, writing on Twitter that the Russian Defense Ministry “should probably know we have the original version of the video they’re talking about at the moment.”

“And we’ve never published it. And the JIT has it,” Higgins added in successive tweets.

In a statement on Sept. 17, 2018, the JIT said it would “meticulously study the materials presented as soon as the Russian Federation makes the relevant documents available to the JIT as requested in May 2018″ and required under a UN Security Council resolution.”

The JIT said that it asked Russia to provide “all relevant information” about the incident back in 2014, and in May 2018 “specifically requested information concerning numbers found on several recovered missile parts.”

The investigative body said that it had “always carefully analyzed” information provided by Russia, and in doing so “has found that information from the Russian Ministry of Defense previously presented to the public and provided to the JIT was factually inaccurate on several points.”

Bellingcat’s Higgins echoed that statement, telling RFE/RL’s Russian Service that “the Russian Ministry of Defense has a long and well-established track record of lying and faking evidence.”

“So, really, there is absolutely no way to know that this information is genuine,” Higgins said. He also disputed the claim that videos were doctored, accusing the Defense Ministry of making “purposely misleading” statements about video evidence and “just lying about the content.”

The new Russian assertions follow several other attempts by Russia to lay blame for the downing of MH-17 on Ukraine, including initial suggestions — now discredited — that the jet was shot down by a Ukrainian warplane.

The 298 victims of the crash are among more than 10,300 people killed since April 2014 in the war in eastern Ukraine, where fighting persists and the Moscow-backed militants continue to hold parts of the Donestk and Luhansk provinces despite internationally-backed cease-fire and political-settlement deals known as the Minsk Accords.

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

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Army Legend Hal Moore Dies at 94

Legendary retired Army Lt. Gen. Harold “Hal” Moore of “We Were Soldiers” fame died Feb. 10. The commander of 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment at the Battle of Ia Drang was days short of his 95th birthday.


China holds live-fire drills in tense South China Sea

According to a report by the Opelika-Auburn Tribune, Lt. Gen. Moore had suffered a stroke on the evening of Feb. 9 and was “hanging tough,” according to a family member.

China holds live-fire drills in tense South China Sea
Then-Lt. Col. Hal Moore and Cmd. Sgt. Maj. Basil Plumley in Vietnam. Plumley died in 2012.

Moore gained immortality from the book, “We Were Soldiers Once, and Young,” co-written with reporter Joe Galloway, about the battle of the Ia Drang Valley in Vietnam. The book was used as the basis for the 2002 film “We Were Soldiers,” in which Academy Award-winning actor Mel Gibson portrayed Moore.

Moore served 32 years in the Army after graduating from West Point, and his decorations included the Distinguished Service Cross and four Bronze Stars.

According to an official after-action report, the three-day battle left 79 Americans killed in action, and another 121 wounded. None were left behind or missing after the battle. American forces killed 634 enemy troops, and wounded at least 1,200.

China holds live-fire drills in tense South China Sea
Soldiers of the U.S. Amry 1/7th Cavalry disembark from a Bell UH-1D Huey at LZ X-Ray during the battle of Ia Drang. (US Army photo)

While preparing to film the epic movie — which made over $78 million at the United States box office, according to Box Office Mojo — Gibson would develop a deep friendship with Moore. This past summer, while headlines noted that Gibson and Vince Vaughn had eaten at Hamilton’s, an Auburn-area restaurant, what hadn’t been known then was that Moore’s family had recommended the eatery to the A-list superstars.

Below, here are some of the more iconic moments from “We Were Soldiers,” starring Mel Gibson as Hal Moore.

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US Navy Blue Angels will fly over Disney World

You don’t see too many planes flying over Walt Disney World, but that will change on April 6 when the U.S. Navy Blue Angels make two flybys over the Magic Kingdom.


This isn’t the first time the performance squadron has graced the skies above Mickey’s place. The Blues did a flyby back in 2015, when six F/A-18 Hornets flew right over Main Street and performed a Delta Break in which they split into six different directions. The two planned flybys on April 6 will happen between 9:30 a.m.-10 a.m., according to the Disney Parks blog.

The Blue Angels are set to perform at the Sun ‘n Fun Fly-In in Lakeland, Florida. They practice at Lakeland Linder Regional Airport on April 6 and April 7 and have performances on April 8 and April 9.

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Smoke on! (Photo: U.S. Navy)

While they are based in Pensacola, the Blue Angels are making their first Florida appearance of the year. Their Air Force counterparts, the Thunderbirds, have already made two of their three planned air show appearances for 2017 ,having just performed at the Melbourne Air Space Show the weekend of April 1.

A highlight of that was the transportation of 87-year-old Buzz Aldrin, who can now say he’s walked on the moon and flown in a Thunderbird. They earlier performed at the TICO Warbird Airshow in Titusville, Florida, and had their own flyby of an American icon, when they took to the skies over Daytona International Speedway ahead of the Daytona 500.

The Thunderbirds finish their Florida schedule for 2017 with a stop up in the Panhandle for the Gulf Coast Salute at Tyndall Air Force Base on April 22-23.

The Blue Angels will make three more stops in the state stretching into November: the mid-summer Pensacola Beach Air Show on July 8, a two-day performance at Naval Air Station Jacksonville on Nov. 4-5 and the Homecoming Air Show at Naval Air Station Pensacola on Nov. 11-12. Air shows held at military bases are free.

The Sun ‘n Fun will also feature the French Air Force’s Patrouille de France Jet Demonstration Team, which this year is making its first U.S. appearances in 30 years.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How Libyan rebels called in airstrikes against Gaddafi will blow your mind

In 2011, Libyans took arms against the 40-plus year rule of Muammar Gaddafi. The dictator tried to brutally crush a demonstration against his regime in Benghazi. The response from the Libyan people was a nearly nine-month-long civil war which ended with the death of the dictator near his hometown of Sirte. But it was a victory that almost never was. The Libyan Rebels needed to level the playing field when it came to air superiority – they needed to be able to call in airstrikes.

That’s where Twitter came in.


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Some people swear by it.

By mid-March 2011, Gaddafi’s loyalist forces were pushing the rebels back fast. All their hard-won gains liberated more than half of Libya from the dictator who promised to make the streets of Benghazi run red with rebel blood. Gaddafi’s air power was proving to be a decisive advantage in the civil war. Luckily for the rebels, there was a NATO task force assembling offshore.

American, French, British, and Canadian ships had all joined each other off the Libyan coast and began to hit Gaddafi’s positions with the full might of their respective sea-based air forces. They also began to enforce a no-fly zone. This was enough to turn the tide of the rebels, who were battle-hardened veterans, fighting for their lives. It was a strategic win for them, no doubt, but the tactical use of NATO air power proved problematic.

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“I can just call a jet fighter and one will come kill these tanks? This must be what being a U.S. soldier is like.”

Many wondered how NATO fighters could know where to drop tactical missiles and bombs when their own JTACs are not on the ground with rebel forces, and NATO has no direct communications with the fighters it’s supporting. The answer is that the Twitter social media network became part of NATO’s overall “intelligence picture.” NATO allies began analyzing data gleaned from Twitter posts to understand Gaddafi’s movements but also to assist rebel fighters in pushing down pro-Gaddafi attacks.

Rebel fighters using their cell phones would gather coordinates from Google Earth and then tweet those coordinates to NATO, who would then come in and light up the loyalist forces. The top NATO brass says it’s a normal step any military would take.

That’s how Gaddafi would meet his end, and where his death would be posted for the world to see.

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“Yes, right up his butt. It’s on YouTube.”

“Any military campaign relies on something that we call ‘fused information’,” said Wing Commander Mike Bracken, a NATO spokesman. “We will take information from every source we can… The commander will assess what he can use, what he can trust, and the experience of the operators, the intelligence officers, and the trained military personnel and civilian support staff will give him those options. And he will decide if that’s good information.”

Since NATO had no boots on the ground but deems it vital to support the Libyan rebels, extrapolating the information needed by commanders seems like a totally legitimate means of intelligence gathering – and an effective one to boot. NATO airplanes decimated Libyan air defenses and made the critical difference in the war for the Libyan people to liberate themselves from a terrible dictator.

And then tweet about it.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Unidentified for decades, Texas soldier receives final rites

A funeral was held Jan. 10 for a Texas soldier whose 92nd Infantry Division was the only African-American Army division to fight in Europe and who was buried for decades as “unknown.”


The service was held at Houston National Cemetery for Army Pfc. Lonnie Eichelberger, a 20-year-old from Waco who died in heavy fighting with German forces in Italy just months before Germany’s surrender in 1945.

For decades, he was among nearly 73,000 U.S. service members from WWII who are unaccountable.

“It has brought closure that he has been identified,” said his great-nephew, Cheyenne Eichelberger, who explained that family members knew only that his uncle was killed in action somewhere in Europe.

Also Read: This is how the remains of a WWII hero made it home after 75 years

Army officials notified the family in 2016 that Defense Department scientists had identified the remains using dental and anthropological analysis and circumstantial evidence.

Pfc. Eichelberger enlisted at a time the Army was segregated and he was assigned to the 92nd Infantry Division, which, in 1944 and 1945, fought at the westernmost portion of the Allied line in northern Italy, according to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, an arm of the Defense Department.

“That’s the forgotten piece,” Cheyenne Eichelberger said Jan. 10. “Minorities have served in every war and conflict that America has been involved in.”

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Soldiers of the 92nd Infantry Division pursue the retreating Germans through the Po Valley, Italy, April 1945. (Photo from U.S. Army)

His uncle was declared missing after a battle near Strettoia, Italy. Remains recovered near there after the war in Europe ended could not be identified and eventually were buried in 1949 at the American cemetery in Florence, Italy, designated as remains X-193.

Decades later, information was obtained linking X-193 to two soldiers in the 92nd Infantry who still hadn’t been identified, so the remains were disinterred in 2016 and ultimately one set was identified as Eichelberger’s, according to DPAA.

Of the approximately 73,000 service members in WWII whose remains have not been recovered, more than 3,600 were from Texas.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Taliban drug labs targeted by B-52 strikes overnight

American aircraft have targeted drug producing facilities in Afghanistan for the first time under a new strategy aimed at cutting off Taliban funding, the top U.S. general in the country said Nov. 20.


Gen. John Nicholson said the raids were carried out Nov. 19 in the southern Helmand province, as part of the strategy unveiled by President Donald Trump in August. Afghan and American aircraft — including B-52 bombers dropping 2,000-pound bombs and F-22 attack planes — took part in the raids.

Nicholson said the insurgents generate an estimated $200 million a year from poppy cultivation and opium production.

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Marines with 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, patrol through Musa Qaleh District, Afghanistan, April 17, 2012. During Operation Lariat, Marines engaged in multiple firefights with insurgents before searching suspicious compounds. (DOD Photo by Cpl. Kenneth Jasik)

In a news conference with the Afghan army chief of staff, Nicholson said the Taliban were becoming a criminal organization. “They fight so that they can keep profiting from narcotics trade and other criminal activities,” he said. He added that there are 13 major drug trafficking organizations in Afghanistan, of which seven are in Helmand.

Afghanistan’s opium production has nearly doubled this year compared to 2016, while areas that are under poppy cultivation rose by 63 percent, according to a joint survey released last week by the United Nations and the Afghan government.

Read Also: Afghanistan’s opium production is out of control

Production stands at a record level of 9,000 metric tons (9,921 U.S. tons) so far in 2017, with some 328,000 hectares (810,488 acres) under cultivation, according to the survey, carried out by the Counter-Narcotics Ministry and the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime.

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A field filled with opium poppy plants can be seen April 11, 2012, in Marjah, Afghanistan. Heroin is derived from raw opium gum, which comes from opium poppies. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt Michael P. Snody)

Afghanistan is the world’s top cultivator of the poppy, from which opium and heroin are produced.

The Taliban prohibited poppy cultivation when they governed the country in the late 1990s, but have since come to rely on it as they wage an increasingly potent insurgency against the government and its foreign backers.

The Taliban have seized several districts across the country and have carried out a series of major attacks, mainly targeting Afghan security forces, since U.S. and NATO forces officially shifted to a support and counterterrorism role at the end of 2014.