China, Russia, and Japan are starting to butt heads in the Pacific - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

China, Russia, and Japan are starting to butt heads in the Pacific

China and Russia are sending aircraft and naval vessels into Japanese territory, and the two countries show no sign of slowing down.


China’s aggressive activity in the South China Sea is well documented. It has disputes with five different countries over a number of islands and waters that they claim to control. Comparatively, the East China Sea — where this conflict with Japan has been unfolding — has been much more calm.

At the center of China and Japan’s feud is the Senkaku Islands, a group of uninhabited islands under Japanese control, but claimed by China, who call them the Diaoyu Islands.

China, Russia, and Japan are starting to butt heads in the Pacific
A U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer assigned to the 37th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron, deployed from Ellsworth Air Force Base (AFB), S.D. to Andersen AFB, Guam, conducts a bilateral mission with a Japan Air Self-Defense Force F-15 in the vicinity of the Senkaku Islands, Aug. 15, 2017. These training flights with Japan demonstrate the solidarity and resolve we share with our allies to preserve peace and security in the Indo-Asia-Pacific. (Photo courtesy of Japan Air Self-Defense Force)

Richard Weitz, a senior fellow and the director of the Center for Political-Military Analysis at the Hudson Institute, told Business Insider that the Chinese “want to enforce their claims” by forcing foreign planes to acknowledge China’s capability to control airspace and the waters of contested territory.

Weitz said Russia is more interested “in monitoring US military activity in the country.” Its conflict with Japan also concerns the Kuril Islands, which were historically part of Japan and were taken by the Soviet Union in the last days of World War II.

For now, there does not appear to be any coordination between China and Russia as they flex their muscles in the Pacific. That could change, Weitz warned, if the US interferes and drives the two powers closer together.

With a resurgent Russia to its north, a nuclear-armed North Korea to its west, and an increasingly capable and powerful China to its Southwest, Japan could become boxed in.

China wants ‘to change the status quo’

A Chinese Peoples Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) Type 054 frigate and a Shang-class nuclear-powered attack submarine were used in the operation, distinguishing the incident from prior incursions in two ways.

The frigate was an official PLAN vessel instead of a more commonly used Coast Guard ship. Additionally, China had never sent a submarine into the contested waters before.

Japanese government data that was translated for Business Insider by Dr. Nori Katagiri, an assistant professor of political science at Saint Louis University and the inaugural visiting research fellow for the JASDF Air Staff College, shows that  China has dramatically increased its naval and aviation activity since 2012 —  prior to which there was virtually no activity.

PLAN aircraft were responsible for 51% of JASDF scrambles from April 1 to September 30, according to data from the Japanese Ministry of Defense. Some of these intercept missions showed an increasing aggression on the part of the Chinese.

In August 2017, China flew H-6K bombers — aircraft that carry nuclear weapons — across the Pacific toward Japan’s Kii Peninsula on Japan’s mainland for the first time. When Japan sends complaints of air violations, the Chinese government responds aggressively, telling Japan to “get used to it.”

The overall rise in Chinese activity may stem from the country’s recent military modernization efforts.

Also Read: China may be training to overtake Japan-administered islands

“China is much more active about wanting to change the status quo,” Weitz said.

Zack Cooper, a senior fellow for the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Business Insider that two things are preventing China from being more bold — the US-Japan alliance, and the superiority of the JSDF.

The U.S. is obliged to defend Japan if it were ever attacked by a foreign nation. Because of this, China has stopped just short of large provocative actions.

“If the U.S.-Japan alliance did not exist, the Chinese would be pushing much much harder,” Cooper said.

However, Cooper said that “both countries know that given the scale and pace of China’s military modernization, it’s just a matter of time before China is able to outclass Japan in most areas of the military competition.”

Until then, China will likely keep trying to push the boundaries, just short of drawing in the U.S.

“[China’s] current strategy makes a lot of sense,” Weitz said. The Chinese will “keep on building up their capabilities, keep on putting pressure on Japan.”

The goal, he said, is to “slowly, over time, change the underlying situation in their favor.”

China, Russia, and Japan are starting to butt heads in the Pacific
Uotsuri-shima / Diaoyu Dao (Blue), Kuba-shima / Huangwei Yu (Yellow), Taishō-tō / Chiwei Yu (Red) referenced on Geospatial Information Authority of Japan and distances referenced on Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan. Every distance of the map show coast to coast, but distances of the coast of Okinawa Island and Naha City, and the coast of Ishigaki-Island and Ishigaki City are quite near on the map.

Russia returning to Cold War activities

To the north, Russia is building up its Pacific fleet to be a formidable force in the region. Two of Russia’s three Borei-class submarines, the most advanced ballistic missile submarines in the Russian fleet, are assigned to the Pacific Fleet.

Additionally, Russia plans on sending its newest Yasen-class attack submarine to the Pacific as soon as it is completed and fully integrated. It will be only the second such submarine in the Russia Navy.

In the air, Russia was responsible for 48% of JASDF air scrambles from April 1 to September 30, the second most behind China. They actually increased the number of flights to Japan, sending 87 more flights to the Japanese Islands than 2016, the year before.

Like China, the majority of Russian jets flying near Japanese territory are a combination of bombers like Tu-96/142, and spy planes like the Russian Il-38. A number of Chinese and Russian fighters and interceptors have been seen by the JASDF as well.

Japan is building up its military and may change its constitution

China, Russia, and Japan are starting to butt heads in the Pacific
A U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer assigned to the 37th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron, deployed from Ellsworth Air Force Base (AFB), S.D. to Andersen AFB, Guam, prepares to take off for a bilateral mission with Japan Air Self-Defense Force F-15s in the vicinity of the Senkaku Islands, Aug. 15, 2017. These training flights with Japan demonstrate the solidarity and resolve we share with our allies to preserve peace and security in the Indo-Asia-Pacific. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Christopher Quail)

Most of Japan’s response has been geared towards Japan’s acquisition of more military equipment and systems.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe just recently approved the installation of two Aegis Ashore missile defense systems by 2023 — a move Russia has already criticised.

Japan also produced its first domestically-built F-35 stealth fighter last June, which could soon play an important role for the country.

Japan’s F-35 is the most advanced aircraft in its inventory and may be used on refitted versions of the country’s Izumo-class helicopter carrier, effectively giving Japan full fledged aircraft carriers- something China has warned against.

The Japanese government also approved a record increase in defense spending — focused primarily on ballistic missile defense.

Japan has a pacifist constitution, however, and is governed by what Katagiri called a “defensive defense doctrine.” Central to this are two paragraphs in Article 9 of Japan’s constitution that renounce war as a means of settling international disputes, and forbids Japan from having war potential.

“Even if Japan has a lot of equipment, there are serious legal issues that make it difficult for the Japanese to use them,” Dr. Katagiri said.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

China just added another aircraft carrier to its rapidly growing navy

China’s navy is growing at a rapid rate. On Dec. 17, 2019, China commissioned its first homegrown aircraft carrier, the Shandong, into service as part of the People’s Liberation Army Navy, Chinese state media reported.

The new carrier entered service at the naval port in Sanya on the South China Sea island of Hainan. The ship bears the hull number 17.

China joins only a handful of countries that maintain multiple aircraft carriers, but its combat power is still limited compared with the UK’s F-35B stealth-fighter carriers and especially the 11 more advanced carriers fielded by the US.


The Shandong is the Chinese navy’s second carrier after the Liaoning, previously a rusty, unfinished Soviet heavy aircraft-carrying cruiser that was purchased in the mid-1990s, refitted, and commissioned in 2012 to serve as the flagship of the Chinese navy.

China, Russia, and Japan are starting to butt heads in the Pacific

The Liaoning.

The Shandong is an indigenously produced variation of its predecessor. It features improvements like an upgraded radar and the ability to carry 36 Shenyang J-15 fighters, 12 more than the Liaoning can carry.

Construction of a third aircraft carrier is believed to be underway at China’s Jiangnan Shipyard, satellite photos revealed earlier this year.

China’s first and second carriers are conventionally powered ships with ski-jump-assisted short-take-off-barrier-arrested-recovery launch systems, which are less effective than the catapults the US Navy uses on its Nimitz- and Ford-class carriers.

The third aircraft carrier is expected to be a true modern flattop with a larger flight deck and catapult launchers.

China, Russia, and Japan are starting to butt heads in the Pacific

A J-15 taking off from Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning.

“This design will enable it to support additional fighter aircraft, fixed-wing early-warning aircraft, and more rapid flight operations,” the US Department of Defense wrote in its most recent report on China’s military power.

The US Navy has 10 Nimitz-class carriers in service, and it is developing a new class of carrier. The USS Gerald R. Ford is undergoing postdelivery tests and trials, and the future USS John F. Kennedy, the second of the new Ford-class carriers, was recently christened at Newport News Shipyard in Virginia.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

The earliest-born American to be photographed is also a veteran

Conrad Heyer crossed the Delaware with George Washington. He was also the earliest-born person, one of only a handful of Revolutionary War veterans, to be photographed. But there is one important historical inaccuracy in the legend of Conrad Heyer that may not add up.


Heyer was born an American in the Massachusetts Bay Colony (now the State of Maine) around 1749. He sat for this photo in 1852, at age 103. In that time, he saw the young republic finish the British off during the American Revolution and fight them, again, to a draw in the War of 1812. He saw President Jefferson purchase Louisiana and watched President Polk and the U.S. Army defeat Santa Anna in the Mexican-American War of 1847.

In his 107 years of life, he saw 15 Presidents of the United States, 31 colonies and territories become U.S. states, and barely missed the start of the Civil War.

China, Russia, and Japan are starting to butt heads in the Pacific
TV wasn’t around back then. He had to watch something.

Although this is not the earliest photo of an American, Heyer was the earliest-born American to be photographed (and this is actually a daguerrotype — an early kind of photography).

In the telling of Conrad Heyer’s Revolutionary War tale, however, people have been adding one detail for decades that just might not be true: that Conrad Heyer crossed the Delaware with General Washington in 1776.

Washington’s daring plan to attack Hessian mercenaries in Trenton on Christmas, 1776, was audacious and dangerous. Any troop who fell into the icy river would likely die — and two of the three flat boats set to make the crossing didn’t even make it. Somehow, Heyer was counted among those in Washington’s boat, according to the Maine Historical Society.

China, Russia, and Japan are starting to butt heads in the Pacific
Look out for icebergs, Conrad.

The Journal of the American Revolution did some digging into Heyer’s story. They went back to the sworn testimony Heyer gave years after the Revolution when applying for a veteran’s pension.

In 1818, Congress allotted funds to give pensions to veterans of the Continental Army who were struggling financially. Applicants had to prove their service either by enlistment documents or sworn testimony of those they served with. Don N. Hagist went back to the National Archives for the Journal of the American Revolution and found Heyer’s original sworn testimony, along with the support of his officers.

Heyer did serve in the Continental Army, but his testimony states he served for a year, starting in the middle of December, 1775. But Heyer says he was discharged in December 1777. This could allow for Heyer to have served at the Battle of Trenton. The records of Heyer’s unit, the 25th Continental Regiment, indicate that the unit served in Canada and was disbanded in New Jersey in 1776.

It looks like the year 1777 was a mistake made by the person who wrote Heyer’s pension deposition, as mentions of Heyer and his unit disappear into history a year earlier.

China, Russia, and Japan are starting to butt heads in the Pacific
But not the hearts of Revolutionary War re-enactors.

If he was discharged in Fishkill, New York, as records show, then there is little chance he could have been at the Delaware River crossing in time to join Washington by Christmas, even if he did re-enlist.

But by the time he died, his obituary claimed he’d served three years in the Revolution. Heyer, in reaffirming his pension claim in 1855, swore that he served those three years and was also at the Battle of Saratoga, being present to see General John Burgoyne surrender to Horatio Gates and was later part of Washington’s “bodyguard.”

China, Russia, and Japan are starting to butt heads in the Pacific
His second exploit worthy of a painting.

This is where Heyer could be correct — there is no complete list of members of General Washington’s guard corps. The guard was hand-picked from members of Washington’s field army.

But never once did Heyer ever swear that he was with Washington at the Delaware Crossing.

See Conrad Heyer’s pension statements at the Journal of the American Revolution.

MIGHTY TRENDING

DoD apologizes for threatening to bomb ‘Storm Area 51’ millennials

The Department of Defense was forced to issue an apology Sept. 21, 2019, after a tweet was sent out the day before suggesting the military was going to bomb millenials attempting to raid Area 51 into oblivion with America’s top bomber.

The offending tweet was posted on Sept. 20, 2019, by the Defense Visual Information Distribution Service (DVIDSHub), a DoD media service, in response to the “Storm Area 51” event, which was held the day the tweet was posted.

“The last thing #Millennials will see if they attempt the #area51 raid today,” the tweet read. The accompanying image was a B-2 Spirit bomber, a highly-capable stealth aircraft built to slip past enemy defenses and devastate targets with nuclear and conventional munitions.


China, Russia, and Japan are starting to butt heads in the Pacific

Screenshot of the now-deleted tweet from the Defense Visual Information Distribution Service.

(Screenshot)

The tweet received some immediate backlash online. “The military should not be threatening to kill citizens, not even misguided ones,” Jeffrey Lewis, the director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, tweeted Sept. 20, 2019.

On Sept. 21, 2019, DVIDSHub deleted the troubling tweet and issued an apology. “Last night a DVIDSHUB employee posted a tweet that in NO WAY supports the stance of the Department of Defense,” the military media division wrote. “It was inappropriate and we apologize for this mistake.”

The “Storm Area 51” movement evolved from a Facebook post that went viral. Hundreds of thousands of people signed up for the “Storm Area 51, They Can’t Stop Us All” event, which jokingly called for people to overrun the remote Nevada air force base to “see them aliens.”

The event was ultimately canceled by the organizers due to safety concerns, although some people did show up and there were a handful of arrests.

The Air Force was taking the potential threat seriously though. “Our nation has secrets, and those secrets deserve to be protected,” Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said a few days prior to the event. “People deserve to have our nation’s secrets protected.”

Acting Air Force Secretary Matt Donovan added that the service was coordinating its efforts with local law enforcement. “There’s a lot of media attention, so they’re expecting some folks to show up there. We’re prepared, and we’ve provided them additional security personnel, as well as additional barricades.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The US is now testing an experimental Ebola treatment

A first-in-human trial evaluating an experimental treatment for Ebola virus disease has begun at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Clinical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. The Phase 1 clinical trial is examining the safety and tolerability of a single monoclonal antibody called mAb114, which was developed by scientists at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of NIH, and their collaborators. Investigators aim to enroll between 18 and 30 healthy volunteers aged 18 to 60. The trial will not expose participants to Ebola virus.


Ebola virus disease is a serious and often fatal illness that can cause fever, headache, muscle pain, weakness, fatigue, diarrhea, vomiting, stomach pain and hemorrhage (severe bleeding). It was first discovered in humans in 1976 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and has caused periodic cases and outbreaks in several African countries since then. The largest outbreak, which occurred in West Africa from 2014 to 2016, caused more than 28,600 infections and more than 11,300 deaths, according to the World Health Organization. In May 2018, the DRC reported an Ebola outbreak, located in Équateur Province in the northwest of the country. As of May 20, health officials have reported 51 probable or confirmed cases and 27 deaths. There are currently no licensed treatments available for Ebola virus disease, although multiple experimental therapies are being developed.

China, Russia, and Japan are starting to butt heads in the Pacific

“We hope this trial will establish the safety of this experimental treatment for Ebola virus disease—an important first step in a larger evaluation process,” said NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D. “Ebola is highly lethal, and reports of another outbreak in the DRC remind us that we urgently need Ebola treatments.”

“This study adds to NIAID efforts in conducting scientifically and ethically sound biomedical research to develop countermeasures against Ebola virus disease,” added Dr. Fauci.

MAb114 is a monoclonal antibody—a protein that binds to a single target on a pathogen—isolated from a human survivor of the 1995 Ebola outbreak in Kikwit, a city in the DRC. Nancy Sullivan, Ph.D., chief of the Biodefense Research Section in NIAID’s Vaccine Research Center (VRC), and her team, in collaboration with researchers from the National Institute of Biomedical Research (INRB) in the DRC and the Institute for Biomedical Research in Switzerland, discovered that the survivor retained antibodies against Ebola 11 years after infection. They isolated the antibodies and tested the most favorable ones in the laboratory and non-human primate studies, and selected mAb114 as the most promising. Professor Jean-Jacques Muyembe, director general of INRB and one of the scientists involved in the original detection of the Ebola virus in 1976, played a key role in discovering mAb114.

China, Russia, and Japan are starting to butt heads in the Pacific
Researchers looking at slides of cultures of cells that make monoclonal antibodies.

In collaboration with the VRC, scientists at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, illustrated that the monoclonal antibody binds to the hard-to-reach core of the Ebola virus surface protein and blocks the protein’s interaction with its receptor on human cells. A single dose of mAb114 protected non-human primates days after lethal Ebola virus infection. The antibody was developed in partnership with the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. It was manufactured for clinical studies by the company MedImmune based in Gaithersburg, Maryland.

“The discovery and development of this experimental Ebola treatment was a collaborative process made possible by Ebola survivors and the DRC scientists who first encountered the virus, as well as through collaboration with our colleagues in the Department of Defense. We are pleased to announce the start of this Phase 1 trial of mAb114,” said NIAID VRC Director John Mascola, M.D.

Martin Gaudinski, M.D., medical director in the VRC’s Clinical Trials Program, is the principal investigator of the new trial. The first three participants will receive a 5 milligram (mg)/kilogram (kg) intravenous infusion of mAb114 for 30 minutes. The study monitoring team will evaluate safety data to determine if the remaining participants can receive higher doses (25 mg/kg and 50 mg/kg). Participants will have blood taken before and after the infusion and will bring a diary card home to record their temperature and any symptoms for three days. Participants will visit the clinic approximately 14 times over six months to have their blood drawn to see if mAb114 is detectable and to be checked for any health changes.

Investigators expect that the trial, called VRC 608, will be fully enrolled by July 2018. For more information about the trial, please visit ClinicalTrials.gov and search identifier NCT03478891.

This article originally appeared on National Institutes of Health. Follow @NIH on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Watch Russia kick off this year’s massive ‘Zapad 2017’ wargame

Russia and neighboring Belarus have begun a joint military exercise near NATO’s eastern flank that has fanned already deep tensions between Moscow and the West.


Moscow and Minsk say the Zapad (meaning, “West”) 2017 exercise, scheduled from Sept. 14 to 20 in Belarus and parts of western Russia, is officially set to involve 12,700 troops.

But Western officials have said the maneuvers could include some 100,000 personnel in what they call a Russian show of power amid the ongoing standoff with the West over Russian aggression in Ukraine.

Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite was among those who voiced alarm about Zapad 2017, saying the military exercises are a sign that Russia is preparing for a serious conflict with NATO.

China, Russia, and Japan are starting to butt heads in the Pacific
Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

“We are anxious about this drill…It is an open preparation for war with the West,” she told reporters.

“This is designed to provoke us, it’s designed to test our defenses, and that’s why we have to be strong,” British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon told the BBC on Sept. 10.

Russia, meanwhile, has pushed back against what it portrays as Western alarmism over the drills, the first to be held in close proximity to NATO member states since Russia annexed Crimea in 2014.

Moscow insists that the size of the exercise will not cross the 13,000-troop threshold that, under Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe rules known as the Vienna Document, would require it to notify other countries and open the maneuvers to observers.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov accused the West on Sept. 14 of “whipping up hysteria” over its military exercises.

China, Russia, and Japan are starting to butt heads in the Pacific
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov. Photo from Moscow Kremlin.

“We reject complaints of these exercises not being transparent,” Peskov told a conference call with reporters. “We believe that whipping up hysteria around these exercises is a provocation.”

Colonel General Andrei Kartapolov, commander of Russia’s Western Military District, said in an interview published by the Russian military’s official Krasnaya Zvezda newspaper on Sept. 13 that the number of troops and hardware used in the drills “will fully comply with the Vienna Document.”

The Zapad exercise is held every four years in rotation with drills in other parts of Russia.

Western governments have responded to Russia’s 2014 seizure of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and backing of separatists in eastern Ukraine with several waves of economic and other sanctions targeting Moscow.

NATO has also bolstered its presence in its easternmost member states that were dominated by Moscow during the Cold War and remain concerned about the Kremlin’s intentions in the region.

China, Russia, and Japan are starting to butt heads in the Pacific
USMC Photo by Cpl. Janessa K. Pon.

Belarus, where part of the Zapad 2017 exercise is being held, borders Ukraine as well as NATO members Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia. The drills are also being staged in Russia’s western exclave of Kaliningrad, which lies between Poland and Lithuania on the Baltic Sea.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said in Estonia last week that the military alliance would send three observers.

“But these invitations fall short from the transparency required by the OSCE: briefings on the exercise scenario and progress, opportunities to talk to individual soldiers, and overflights of the exercise,” Stoltenberg told reporters on Sept. 6 during his visit to a NATO contingent in Tapa, Estonia.

“We will monitor the [Zapad 2017] activity closely, and we are vigilant but also calm, because we don’t see any imminent threat against any NATO ally,” Stoltenberg added.

China, Russia, and Japan are starting to butt heads in the Pacific
Zapad 13 military exercise. Photo from Russian Kremlin.

In an interview with Reuters in Berlin, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s foreign policy adviser Kostiantyn Yeliseyev said on Sept. 14 that Zapad 2017 is “very dangerous since they are taking place just near the border with Ukraine.”

Yeliseyev added that the exercises’ purpose is to “destabilize the military situation close to the border with NATO member states” and to “keep as long as possible Russian military troops and weaponry near the [Ukrainian] border and then to use them as a platform for a possible future offensive operation.”

Russia, which has repeatedly accused NATO of stoking regional tensions through enlargement after the fall of the Iron Curtain and deployments in Eastern Europe in the aftermath of the Ukraine crisis, has called Western concerns about the Zapad drills baseless, saying the exercise is “purely defensive.”

China, Russia, and Japan are starting to butt heads in the Pacific
Zapad ’13. Photo from Russian Kremlin.

Kartapolov told Krasnaya Zvezda that in addition to the stated 12,700 troops — around 7,200 from Russia and 5,500 from Belarus — Zapad 2017 included about 70 aircraft and up to 680 pieces of military hardware, including tanks, artillery units, and ships,

During the drills, the joint Russian-Belarus operations are targeting a theoretical adversary attempting to undermine the government in Minsk and establish a separatist stronghold in western Belarus.

This scenario echoes Russian concerns over what Moscow calls Western-orchestrated political revolutions in its backyard, most notably in Georgia in 2003 and in Ukraine, where President Viktor Yanukovych, a Kremlin ally, was ousted in early 2014.

The United States and the European Union have repeatedly rejected such allegations, calling those events the result of grassroots anger against corrupt regimes in the former Soviet republics.

Watch Russia kick off the Zapad ’17 exercises in video below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ykpAmVdl4xk
(Esteban Luna | YouTube)
MIGHTY HISTORY

The insane story of a Russian aircrew’s daring escape from a Taliban prison

In August, 1995, a series of events occurred that would just seem implausible today. A Taliban MiG fighter intercepted a Russian Airstan Ilyushin Il-76TD, forcing it to land at Kandahar International Airport in the middle of a nationwide Civil War. The crew and its passengers were taken prisoner by the Taliban. They were held for a year while the Russian government tried to negotiate their release with the help of a U.S. senator

The 1990s were a crazy time. Even with our post-9/11 goggles off, it seems inconceivable that any number of the above could happen – just try to imagine these crazy things:

  • A Taliban MiG fighter
  • Forcing a Russian plane to land
  • Russian government negotiating
  • A U.S. Senator helping Russia

It’s all true, of course. In 1994, the Taliban exploded out of Kandahar and, by the time of this incident, controlled much of the country south of Kabul. When the Airstan plane was flying over, the Taliban were still deadlocked against the Afghan government of the time, led by Burhanuddin Rabbani.

It must have been an awkward ask for Rabbani, who spent years fighting the Russians in Afghanistan, only to ask them for weapons in trying to keep it away from other Afghans.

China, Russia, and Japan are starting to butt heads in the Pacific
TFW you lose Afghanistan and have to ask for help from the people you took it from.

China, Russia, and Japan are starting to butt heads in the Pacific

Even Jiffy Lube makes you keep the keys on the dashboard, guys.

The Airstan Ilyushin Il-76TD was carrying a load of 30 tons of weapons from Albania bound for the legitimate Afghan government when it was intercepted by a Taliban MiG-21. It was an old fighter, even in the 1990s, but was still enough to bring down the Ilyushin II.

Upon landing, the crew of seven was taken into custody by the Taliban — but the story doesn’t end there. As negotiations between the Russians and the terrorist group began to stall, American Senator Hank Brown stepped in to facilitate the talks, not only buying the Russians time, but also the crew. It didn’t hurt that the Taliban wanted some of their people freed in exchange for their prisoners.

For over a year, the Russian aircrew prepared for their daring escape. Brown managed to get the Taliban to agree to let the Russian Airstan crew maintain their captured aircraft to ensure it was in working order when the time to take off finally came. Brown visited the crew and let them know they would be maintaining it.

But not only did the crew perform its routine maintenance, they also slowly but surely prepared it for their flight home. They finally got their big chance one day, just over a year after being captured. When half of the Taliban who regularly guarded them left the group to attend evening prayers, the crew tricked the others into leaving their weapons outside the plane.

They overpowered the remaining three guards and started the engines.

By the time the Taliban noticed the plane was getting ready for take off, it was already taxiing down the runway. They tried to block their takeoff using a fire truck, but to no avail, the Russians were airborne well ahead of the truck’s position on the runway. The Taliban missed catching the escaping Russians by a mere three to five seconds.

The crew had done the impossible and the Taliban were not able to scramble intercepting aircraft in time to catch them.


They left Taliban airspace as fast as possible and set course for the UAE. By the time they landed, Russian President Boris Yeltsin was waiting by the phone to congratulate them. They made it home to Russia shortly after. The crew is said to celebrate their escape from the terrible event like a second birthday. The Taliban are brutal to prisoners, and the crew of the Airstan Ilyushin Il considered the entire country a prisoner of the terror group.

“My heart really goes out to these people. I’ve seen what a poverty-stricken and miserable standard of living they have. They’re still fighting because they’ve nothing left to lose,” a member of the crew told the BBC.

Their daring escape was the subject of a Russian film, Kandagar, in 2010.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How to make restaurants a healthy part of your meal plan

Whether it’s dinner from your neighborhood carry out or going to lunch with friends, eating out is a part of everyone’s life. Having diabetes can make this tough, but with planning and thoughtful choices, you can enjoy a variety of healthy foods away from home. Use these tips to enjoy eating out while still sticking to your routine of eating healthy for diabetes.


Plan ahead

While restaurants are in the business of selling food, and not necessarily helping you stick to your diet, many offer healthy food choices and alternatives. You can plan what you want to order ahead of time by looking at menus online. It’s also easier to make healthy food choices if you’re not starving, so before a party or dinner, enjoy a diabetic-friendly snack. If you are going to a friend’s house, ask if you can bring food to share. That way you’ll know there are healthy options to eat.

China, Russia, and Japan are starting to butt heads in the Pacific

Know the amount of carbs you should have in each meal.

If you have diabetes, it’s important to know the number of carbohydrates you should have in each meal. Carbs can raise blood sugar levels more than other nutrients, so it’s best to monitor them. Try limiting cheese, bacon bits, croutons, and other add-ons that can increase a meal’s calories, fat, and carbohydrates.

Mind your portions

Many restaurants pack their plates with portions that are often twice the recommended serving size. You can avoid the temptation to overeat by:

  • Choosing a half-size or lunch portion.
  • Sharing meals with a dining partner.
  • Requesting a take-home container to put half your food in before you start to eat your meal.
  • Making a meal out of a salad or soup and an appetizer.
China, Russia, and Japan are starting to butt heads in the Pacific

Fresh fruit and vegetables promote healthy eating habits.

When at parties, choose the smallest plate available or a napkin to keep from overeating. A good rule of thumb is to fill half of your plate with vegetables or salad. Then split the other half of your plate between protein and non-starchy carbohydrates. If you have a sweet tooth, fruit is a good choice for dessert. Since you likely don’t have a measuring cup or food scale handy, you can estimate serving sizes based on your hands:

  • 2 to 3 ounces is about the size of your palm
  • ½ cup is about the size of your cupped hand
  • 1 cup is about the size of your full fist

Healthier alternatives

As you decide what foods to add to your meal, consider how they are prepared. Rather than ordering something breaded or fried, ask that your food be:

  • Broiled
  • Roasted
  • Grilled
  • Steamed
China, Russia, and Japan are starting to butt heads in the Pacific

Don’t settle for the side dish that comes with your meal. Instead of fries, choose a side salad with fat-free or low-fat salad dressing, or extra vegetables. You can also control how much fat you eat by requesting butter, sour cream, gravy and sauces on the side. If you choose a sandwich, swap house dressings or creamy sauces for ketchup, mustard, horseradish or fresh tomato slices. Drinking sugar-sweetened soft drinks is an easy way to rack up calories, so instead opt for water or unsweetened ice tea. If you drink alcohol, limit yourself to one serving and choose options with fewer calories and carbs, such as:

  • Light beer
  • Dry wines
  • Mixed drinks made with sugar-free mixers, such as diet soda, diet tonic, club soda or seltzer

Add it to your food journal

Keeping a food journal is a great way to stay aware of what you eat each day. Diabetic veterans can track both their meals and vitals with My HealtheVet’s Track Health feature. Before your meal, take and enter your blood sugar level. Once you are done eating, record the foods you chose. This will help you – and your doctor – understand your eating habits and create a diabetes meal plan that meets your lifestyle and health needs.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US Navy helps search for submarine lost for nearly a week

An Argentinian submarine is missing at sea.


The ARA San Juan, with 44 crew members on board, disappeared on Nov. 15, about 270 miles off the southern tip of South America.

NASA has been trying to help find the 216-foot sub from the sky. And now the U.S. Navy is sending support to locate and rescue the ship from the sea.

The U.S. Southern Command said Nov. 19 it’s sending a Submarine Rescue Chamber, designed during WWII, which can reach a submarine submerged up to 850 feet, and bring up to six people at a time back to the surface. A Pressurized Rescue Module, which can rescue up to 16 people at a time, and a Remotely Operated Vehicle are also on their way.

China, Russia, and Japan are starting to butt heads in the Pacific
Personnel assigned to the Portuguese navy submarine SKS Tridente climb down to their submarine after mating with the U.S. Submarine Rescue Diving and Recompression System’s Pressurized Rescue Module, Falcon, during the NATO exercise Bold Monarch 2011. Bold Monarch is the world’s largest submarine rescue exercise with participants and observers from more than 25 countries. The 12-day exercise supports interoperability between submarine rescue units. (Image DVIDS)

On Nov. 18, the missing crewmembers tried to make seven satellite calls, Argentine defense minister Oscar Aguad said. But stormy weather in the southern Atlantic likely blocked the calls from going through.

Argentine navy spokesman Enrique Balbi said the crew should have enough food and water aboard, in order to wait out the choppy seas and 20-foot waves until they are found, according to Reuters.

The working theory is that an electrical outage knocked out the ship’s communications. Submarines are supposed to surface if that happens.

Also Read: Microsoft’s co-founder just helped find this long-lost Navy cruiser

The families of the crewmembers are anxiously awaiting news of the missing submarine.

“Yesterday’s news was something of a respite for us, to know that there is life,” Claudio Rodriguez, whose brother is on the San Juan, told local TV channel A24 Sunday morning.

Articles

Navy officer accused of espionage is about to go to trial

A military trial is set to begin for a Taiwan-born Navy officer accused of passing military secrets to China or Taiwan.


Lt. Cmdr. Stephanie Turo, a Navy spokeswoman, confirmed on May 3 the espionage trial in Norfolk will begin May 4.

Lt. Cmdr. Edward C. Lin is accused of failing to report foreign contacts and passing along secret national defense information. He is being held in a Navy brig in Virginia.

Also read: 7 ways to prove your spouse is really a spy

Court documents do not reveal whom Lin is accused of spying for. But officials told The Associated Press last year that the country involved is China or Taiwan, and possibly both.

Civilian defense attorney Larry Younger declined to comment. Lin’s sister, Jenny Lin, wrote to members of Congress last year and said the Navy lacks evidence to support the charges.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The US Senate reportedly advised members to stop using Zoom

US senators have been advised not to use videoconferencing platform Zoom over security concerns, the Financial Times reports.

According to three people briefed on the matter, the Senate sergeant-at-arms — whose job it is to run law enforcement and security on the Capitol — told senators to find alternative methods for remote working, although he did not implement an outright ban.


China, Russia, and Japan are starting to butt heads in the Pacific

With the coronavirus outbreak forcing millions to work from home, Zoom has seen a 1,900% increase in use between December and March to 200 million daily users. This has been accompanied by a string of bad press about its security and privacy practices, to the point where CEO Eric Yuan was forced to publicly apologize last week.

This week the company admitted to “mistakenly” routing data through China in a bid to secure more server space to deal with skyrocketing demand. “We failed to fully implement our usual geo-fencing best practices. As a result, it is possible certain meetings were allowed to connect to systems in China, where they should not have been able to connect,” Yuan said.

The news sparked outrage among some senators, and Senate Democrat Richard Blumenthal called for the FTC to launch an investigation into the company.

“As Zoom becomes embedded in Americans’ daily lives, we urgently need a full transparent investigation of its privacy and security,” the senator tweeted.

The slew of privacy issues has also prompted the Taiwanese government to ban its officials from using Zoom, and Google banned use of the app on work computers due to its “security vulnerabilities.”

While the Senate has told its members to stay away from Zoom, the Pentagon told the FT that it would continue to allow its staff to use the platform. A memo sent to top cybersecurity officials from the Department of Homeland Security said that the company was being responsive when questioned about concerns over the security of its software, Reuters reported.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Here is the sniper rifle that the US Army, Marines, and the special operators all want to get their hands on

US military snipers in the Army, Marines, and the special operations community are getting new bolt-action sniper rifles, and they all want a certain one from Barrett.


The preferred choice is the Barrett Multi-Role Adaptive Design (MRAD) rifle, Task & Purpose first reported, citing budget documents and previous contracting information.

Rather than force snipers to choose between weapons capable of firing different rounds for different purposes, the multi-caliber rifle can be chambered in 7.62X51 mm NATO, .300 Norma Magnum, and .338 Norma Magnum.

China, Russia, and Japan are starting to butt heads in the Pacific

“There are three ranges associated with the three calibers, and there are different target sets that we are trying for at those ranges,” Army Lt. Col. Chris Kennedy, the lethality branch chief for the soldier division at the Maneuver Center of Excellence, told Insider.

“It gives more flexibility to the sniper as to what configuration to put it in and what targets they are going after,” he added.

In its fiscal year 2021 budget request, the Army asked for 536 MRAD sniper rifles for a little over million for the Precision Sniper Rifle (PSR) program. The Marine Corps, which is also buying MRAD rifles for the Advanced Sniper Rifle (ASR) program, estimated that each one would cost about ,000.

The Army’s latest budget request described the rifle as “a multi-caliber, bolt-action sniper rifle, which is effective against personnel and material targets at extreme ranges.” The weapon is expected to replace the Army’s M2010 and M107 sniper rifles.

“What we are trying to achieve is to collapse those two systems into one instead of having the sniper choose one or the other,” Kennedy told Insider.

China, Russia, and Japan are starting to butt heads in the Pacific

The Army PSR, not to be confused with the older special operations PSR, is expected to be lighter, more accurate, and have a greater range than legacy systems.

The rifle, the budget request said, also “includes a sound suppressor and direct view optics (with fire control capabilities), which allows snipers, when supplemented with a clip-on image intensifier or thermal sensor system, to effectively engage enemy snipers, as well as crew served and indirect fire weapons virtually undetected in any light condition.”

The goal is to offer a passive sighting system that is not emitting anything that could give away a sniper’s position, Kennedy said.

The Army’s PSR is the same MRAD rifle for which Special Operations Command offered Barrett a nearly million contract last year. It was selected for the command’s ASR program as a replacement for the older PSR for special operations snipers, Military Times reported last March.

In the Department of the Navy’s fiscal year 2021 budget proposal, the Marines included a million request for 250 Barrett multi-caliber sniper rifles. The service wants the new rifles to “replace all current bolt-action sniper rifles in the Marine Corps.”

The recent budget request describes the rifle, part of the ASR program, as a “multi-caliber system featuring extended range, greater lethality and a wider variety of special purpose ammunition than current systems.”

The purpose of the PSR and ASR programs, according to the budget documents, is to provide US military snipers with capable modern rifles that will allow them to maintain standoff and overmatch against near-peer competitors.

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

Articles

The war-tested C-130 is getting a massive upgrade

The Air Force is progressing with a massive technological overhaul of its warzone-tested C-130 aircraft, giving the platform new radios, digital avionics, collision avoidance technology and reinforced “wing-boxes,” service officials said.


The Air Force remains vigilant about its C-130 fleet to ensure the airframes, wingboxes, avionics and communication systems remain safe and operational well into the 2030s and beyond. This is particularly true of the older 1980s-era C-130Hs, Air Force developers explained.

Also read: AC-130 gunships could be outfitted with laser cannons

“The thing that causes the greatest risk to the airplane is the life of the wing. We monitor the wing of the aircraft and as the wings get past their service, life we bring the airplanes back in and bring in new structures — with the primary focus being the center wingbox which is the area where the wings mount to the fuselage,”Col. Robert Toth, Chief of Tactical Aircraft, Special Operations and Combat Search and Rescue Division, told Scout Warrior in an interview several months ago.

China, Russia, and Japan are starting to butt heads in the Pacific
A C-130J Hercules aircraft from the 115th Airlift Squadron. | U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Brigitte N. Brantley

As for when a C-130 is in need of a maintenance upgrade to preserve and maintain service life, the Air Force uses an assessment metric referred to as “equivalent baseline hours.” The wing-boxes are changed once the aircraft reaches a certain “severity factor” in its operational service time. This is necessary because the wear and tear or impact of missions upon and airplane can vary greatly depending upon a range of factors such as the altitude at which a plane is flying, Toth said.

“Low-level flight may be three to four times the severity factor of flying at a higher level,” he said.

Also, by January of 2020 the entire fleet of C-130s will need to comply with an FAA mandate and be equipped with systems that will relay aircraft position to a greater fidelity back and forth between the airplane and the air traffic management authorities, he added. This will allow them to sequence more aircraft closer together and enhance an ability to move commerce.

Avionics Modernization Program, Increment 1 involves adding new 8.33 radios to the aircraft to improve communication along with initiatives to upgrade cockpit voice recorders and digital data recorders. C-130s will also receive new collision-avoidance technology designed to prevent the planes from hitting terrain or colliding with one another mid-air.  Inc. 1 is currently ongoing and is slated to complete by 2019.

China, Russia, and Japan are starting to butt heads in the Pacific
A C-130 Hercules from the 36th Airlift Squadron conducts a night flight mission over Yokota Air Base. | U.S. Air Force photo by Yasuo Osakabe

AMP Inc. 2 involves a larger-scale effort to integrate digital avionics throughout the airplane. Inc. 2 will require nine-months to one year of work and be completed by 2028, Toth explained.

“This will allow us to bring the airplane from analog to digital, integrate a glass cockpit and use touchscreen displays. We will get away from the old systems of avionics where we had dial-driven instrumentation to where it is all digital. This makes us able to process a lot more information,” Toth said.

As part of the C-130 modernization calculus, the Air Force will consider retiring some C-130Hs and replace them with newly-built C-130Js; the service has authority to acquire an additional 20 C-130Js, Toth added.

“We continue to evaluate where it makes sense to retire and older airplane and instead put that money into buying new airplanes,” he said.

C-130 Fleet

AC-130 gunships make up a small portion of a fleet of roughly 500 C-130 planes throughout the Air Force and Special Operations Command, Toth explained.

The cargo planes are used to airdrop supplies, equipment, weapons and troops in forward deployed locations.

As a propeller-driven aircraft, the C-130s are able to fly and land in more rugged conditions and withstand harsh weather such as obscurants. The propellers make the aircraft’s engines less susceptible to debris flying in and causing operational problems for the engines.

“It really allows you to do that tactical movement of equipment and personnel to take the airplane to the last tactical mile. A lot of our transport strategic airlifters are meant to go to a hard runway to a hard runway somewhere and then they turn over the cargo to be moved to the forward areas to a C-130 or a vehicle. The C-130 allows you to take that cargo and land on a smaller runway or an unimproved airfield,” Toth added.

C-130s are used for domestic, international and warzone transport including homeland security, disaster relief and supply deliveries, among other things.

“There are probably missions that have yet to be dreamed up for the C-130,” Toth said.

The fleet consists of 135 more modern C-130J aircraft and 165 older C-130Hs which have been around since the 80s, Toth explained.

Also, MC-130Js are specially modified airlifters engineered to transport Army Green Berets, Navy SEALs and Army Rangers.

“They are essentially a C-130J further modified with defensive systems with radar countermeasures and infrared radar and advanced sensors for specialized missions. They also can perform in-flight refueling,” Toth explained.

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