China snuck a secret guest into those massive war games - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

China snuck a secret guest into those massive war games

China reportedly sent an uninvited surveillance ship to spy on the recent joint military exercises with Russia, a move highlighting how lingering distrust and competitiveness weaken the so-called “strategic partnership” emerging between Moscow and Beijing.

Beijing sent thousands of People’s Liberation Army troops accompanied by tanks, helicopters, and artillery to eastern Russia for joint drills in September 2018. China also deployed a PLA Navy Dongdiao-class auxiliary general intelligence (AGI) vessel to shadow Russian naval assets training at sea while Chinese ground troops trained on land, USNI News reported, citing a US official. The latter was apparently not invited, but the opportunity to gather valuable intelligence on a competitor was presumably too good to pass up.


While consistent with past Chinese practices — the Chinese navy has sent spy ships to the Rim of the Pacific exercises — it is unusual to surveil an ally while training alongside them, even if it is technically legal under international law.

Given rising tensions between Washington and Moscow and Beijing, some observers suggested that increasing US pressure was driving Russia and China together, laying the groundwork for a possible alliance. A strategic military partnership between the two powers is alarming given each country’s interest in challenging America’s leadership and unilateral power and authority in the international system.

“It sends a signal to Washington that if the U.S. continues on its current course by pressuring Russia and imposing more sanctions, Russia will fall even more into the firm embrace of China,” Alexander Gabuev of the Carnegie Institute in Moscow recently told the Associated Press.

China snuck a secret guest into those massive war games

The Military Band of the Eastern Military District during the opening parade of Vostok 2018.

The “main political significance” of the Vostok 2018 drills “comes from the signaling by both Russia and China about the possible emergence of a strategic partnership, aimed at countering the threat that both countries feel from continued U.S. dominance of the international system,” Dmitry Gorenburg argued in The Washington Post.

The massive war games, touted as “unprecedented” and expected to be held every five years going forward, came as Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to stand together against unilateralism. In June 2018, Xi called Putin his “best friend,” a sentiment seemingly shared by the latter.

But despite the budding bromance between Chinese and Russian leadership, the bilateral relationship between the two countries is undermined by decades of distrust dating back to the Cold War, when Soviet and Chinese troops skirmished along the border and tensions rose to the point that Russia was considering a nuclear strike on China.

Chinese state-affiliated media downplayed talk of a Chinese-Russian alliance, suggesting that the concept was being overhyped. “China and Russia are not allies, and they are firm in not forging an alliance,” the nationalist Global Times explained in a recent editorial. “But the outside world shouldn’t make China and Russia feel an urgent need to strengthen their military cooperation.”

Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis said recently that he sees “little in the long term that aligns Russia and China.”

Exactly what the Chinese intelligence vessel was doing remains unclear, but experts suspect that it was gathering information on Russia’s more technologically-sophisticated navy given China’s interest in advancing its radar and electronic warfare capabilities, USNI News reported. Assuming the ship was indeed uninvited, China may have been trying to learn more about Russian warfighting than Russia was willing to teach.

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

Articles

Ukrainian soldiers are trolling Russian separatists by pretending to be SEAL Team 6

Reports emerged in late July that the Pentagon has devised a plan to arm Ukrainian forces fighting Russian-backed separatists with defensive weapons, such as Javelin missiles.


But many Ukrainian soldiers on the ground believe the plan would give them more of a psychological edge than anything, according to The Daily Signal.

“The weapons themselves will not have a decisive impact on the course of combat operations,” Andrei Mikheychenko, a lieutenant in the Ukrainian army, told The Daily Signal. “Deliveries of lethal weapons, in my opinion, will primarily have psychological significance for both the Ukrainian army and the terrorists it fights.”

The war in eastern Ukraine started shortly after Russia annexed Crimea  in 2014 when pro-Russian Ukrainians proclaimed parts of the Donbas as independent states known as the Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic.

China snuck a secret guest into those massive war games
Pro-Russian rebels shoot in the air at funeral of a fellow fighter killed in a battle for Marinka near Donetsk. Eastern Ukraine, 6 June, 2015. Photo by Mstyslav Chernov

And since then, both sides have been engaged in a full-fledged psychological war.

In an effort to intimidate and vex their enemies, Ukrainian troops have at times pretended to be members of US Navy SEAL Team 6 and give orders over the radio in English, The Daily Signal said.  Other times, they’ve even raised American flags above their lines.

In 2015, Ukrainian troops changed the name of a street in the village of Krymske, which is on the front lines near the LPR, from some old Soviet hero to “John McCain Street,” The Daily Signal said.

China snuck a secret guest into those massive war games
A US Marine assigned to USMC Forces Europe and Africa takes the beach after an amphibious landing in Nikolaev, Ukraine, during exercise Sea Breeze 2017. These are the last guys pro-Russian rebels want to find at their doorstep. USMC photo by Cpl. Sean J. Berry

Russian-backed separatists, on the other hand, have reportedly been known to send Ukrainian forces intimidating text messages.

A few months ago, one journalist with Ukrainian troops received a text message, as did all the soldiers with whom she was embedded, saying “Ukrainian soldiers, they’ll find your bodies when the snow melts,” according to the Associated Press.

“Leave and you will live,” other text messages will say, or “Nobody needs your kids to become orphans.”

Russian-backed separatists have also been known to use more brutal psychological tactics.

China snuck a secret guest into those massive war games
A Ukrainian soldier is forced to eat his own army badge by Russian-backed separatists. Screenshot from YouTube user PavelDonbass

In early 2015, videos emerged of rebel commanders forcing captured Ukrainian troops to kneel on the ground and eat their own army badges.

While many Ukrainian soldiers believe that the US supplying them with defensive weapons would help them in the psychological war, they also believe it will give them a combat edge and help deter attacks, The Daily Signal said.

Russian-backed separatists currently have about 478 working tanks, The Daily Signal said, and most of these can be taken out by the Javelin.

China snuck a secret guest into those massive war games
Minnesota National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class Ben Houtkooper

However other European nations, such as France and Germany, are worried that supplying Kiev with such lethal weapons would only increase the fighting.

While fighting slightly increased in July, the three-year old war, for the most part, has ground to a stalemate in which the two sides lob mortars and grenades from afar and trade sniper fire.

At least 10,090 people — including 2,777 civilians — have been killed, and nearly 24,000 have been wounded, through May 15, according to the UN. More than 1.6 million people have been internally displaced.

President Donald Trump has yet to approve the weapons deal, and is expected to make a decision in coming months.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Military medevacs are facing a hidden emergency

The role of the Dustoff is sacred, enshrined in both the relationship between medical personnel and their patients as well as treaties that underlie the Law of Armed Conflict, but the practical concerns of providing medical care to troops under fire will be sorely tested in a war with a modern foe.


China snuck a secret guest into those massive war games

An Army air ambulance picks up a simulated Marine casualty during a 2018 exercise in Romania.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Alexander Sturdivant)

Currently, the U.S. and most of its allies — as well as many of its greatest rivals — enjoy nearly unquestioned air superiority in their areas of operations and responsibility. So, a commander of a modern military force, whether they’re Italian, French, Chinese, or American, can request a medical evacuation with near certainty that the wounded or sick person can be picked up quickly.

Even in active theaters of war like Afghanistan, wounded personnel can often be delivered to advanced medical care within the “Golden Hour,” the first hour after injury when medical intervention will make the biggest difference between life and death, recovery, and permanent disability.

In one recent case, military personnel in Africa were able to save an Italian woman’s life after she was injured in a car crash, thanks to collaboration between medical personnel from six nations, multiple ambulance services and air crews, and a doctor-turned-linguist.

But the advanced medical capabilities available across NATO and in Russian and Chinese forces rely on an evacuation infrastructure built for uncontested environments, where the worst threat to aircraft comes from IEDs and machine gun fire.

In a new paper from RAND Europe, defense analyst Marta Kepe dovetails recent speeches from military leaders, war game results, and scholarly work. They all point to a conflict wherein troops may have to wait days or longer for evacuation, meaning that providing care at the point of injury, possibly while still under threat of enemy attack, will be the only real chance for life-saving intervention.

Take the case of war with North Korea, a much “easier” hypothetical conflict than one with China or Russia. While North Korea lacks advanced air defense assets and electronic warfare assets, that simply means that they can’t jam all communications and they likely can’t shoot down fifth-generation fighters.

But medevacs rely on helicopters that, by and large, are susceptible to North Korean air defenses. Fly too high and they can be targeted and destroyed by nearly any surface-to air missile that North Korea has. Fly too low and infantrymen with RPGs and machine guns can potentially kill them.

North Korean weapons and aircraft, while outdated, are numerous — there are over 1,300 aircraft in the arsenal and widely deployed anti-air missile sites on the ground. It might take months to wipe them all out during an invasion, the same period of time when ground commanders would expect to take the most casualties.

China snuck a secret guest into those massive war games

An M113 ambulance drives through the Kuwaiti desert during a demonstration.

(U.S. Army)

And that’s before the helicopters’ traditional escorts in Afghanistan and Iraq, AH-64 Apaches that’re armed to the teeth, are tasked for more urgent missions, like taking out air defense and artillery sites.

All this combines to form a battlefield where command teams will need to use ground ambulances and standard vehicles to get their wounded far from the front lines before they can be picked up, tying up assets needed for the advance, taxing supply lines that now have competing traffic, and extending the time between injury and treatment.

Some battlefields, meanwhile, might be underground where it’s nearly impossible to quickly communicate with the surface or with air assets. People wounded while fighting for control of cave networks or underground bunker systems would need to be carried out on foot, then evacuated in ground vehicles to pickup sites, and then flown to hospitals.

China snuck a secret guest into those massive war games

The hospital ship USNS Mercy pulls into port.

(U.S. Military Sealift Command Sarah Buford)

And the closest hospitals might be ships far offshore since role 3 and 4 hospitals on land take time to construct and are vulnerable to attack. While deliberately targeting a hospital is illegal, there’s no guarantee that the treaties would be honored by enemy commanders (Remember, Russia’s annexations of South Ossetia and Crimea were violations of international law, as were China’s cyber attacks and territory seizures in the Pacific).

All of which means that a war with North Korea would see tens of thousands of injured troops die of wounds that wouldn’t have been fatal in a more permissive environment. A similar story exists in Iran.

But China and Russia would be worse since they have the assets necessary to shutdown American communication networks, making it impossible for ground commanders to call for medical aid. They’re also more likely to be able to pinpoint signal sources, making it risky for a platoon leader to call for medical aid for wounded troops.

And China and Russia’s air forces and air defenses, while not quite as large as America’s, are much more potent and well-trained that Iran or North Korea’s. They could likely hold out for months or years while inflicting heavy casualties to American air assets, preventing the establishment of a permissive medevac capability for even longer.

A 2016 analysis by RAND even postulated that China would be nearly impossible to conquer by 2025. The same weapon systems expected to protect China’s mainland from successful invasion would make it nearly impossible to evacuate all the personnel injured while trying to effect the invasion.

China snuck a secret guest into those massive war games

Air Force special operators render simulated medical aid during an exercise at Fort Hood, Texas, in 2017. The ability for non-medical personnel to render aid under fire is expected to become more important in the coming years.

(U.S. Army)

There is good news, though. The U.S. military has acknowledged these shortcomings and is trying to lay the framework for what a medical corps in a contested environment should look like.

The Army is expanding it’s “Tactical Combat Casualty Care,” or TC3, program where combat lifesavers are trained in military first aid. DARPA is working on autonomous or remotely piloted pods that can fly medical capsules with supplies in or casualty evacuation capsules out without risking flight crews. The Marine Corps already has an experimental autonomous helicopter for logistics.

Beyond that is re-building medical units to perform work closer to the front lines. This is a return to the old days to a certain extent. The only dentist to receive the Medal of Honor earned the award in World War II while acting as a surgeon in a hospital overrun by Japanese attackers.

They could also be more dispersed. Instead of building a few large hospitals with large staffs on easily targeted installations, surgical teams and other care providers could operate in small groups. That way, if one or two teams are destroyed or forced to retreat, there would still be a few groups providing medical care.

In addition to more dispersed and forward-positioned medical personnel, there’s room for expanding the medical capabilities of non-medical personnel.

In 2017, then-Maj. Gen. Paul J. LaCamera, the deputy commander of the XVIII Airborne Corps, suggested that the non-medical soldiers trained in first aid could be sent on rotations with civilian paramedics and other medical personnel that treat trauma victims, building up their understanding of medical care and their resilience.

LaCamera was promoted to lieutenant general and commander of the XVIII Airborne Corps in January, 2018, increasing the chances that his directions will result in actual policy changes. He’s also the commander of Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where special operations medical personnel have been sent to local hospitals to train for years.

Historically, those types of rotations have been limited to medics and other specialized troops. Medical personnel, meanwhile, would see an increased number of rotations into civilian trauma centers in the U.S. and allied countries.

But the most important aspect of medical care under fire in tomorrow’s war will be the same as it is today: Achieve and maintain fire superiority. The best way to open a window to evacuate your own personnel is by killing everyone on the enemy side wounding your troops and trying to prevent it.

MIGHTY TRENDING

SpaceX just fired up its Mars spaceship prototype for the first time

With a deafening roar that rattled windows, SpaceX — the rocket company founded by Elon Musk — fired up its new Mars rocket-ship prototype for the first time April 3, 2019.

The roughly 60-foot-tall stainless-steel rocket ship, called the “Starhopper” (previously the “Test Hopper”), is a basic prototype of a much larger vehicle called Starship. When completed, perhaps in the early 2020s, the two-stage launcher may stand perhaps 400 feet tall and be capable of landing its nearly 200-foot-tall spaceship on Mars.

The Starhopper prototype gave a full-throated yet brief one-second roar of its sole Raptor engine at 7:57 p.m. CDT on April 3, 2019, based on Business Insider’s eyewitness account.


“Starhopper completed tethered hop. All systems green,” Musk tweeted shortly after the brief firing here on Brazos Island. SpaceX had planned to test the rocket ship earlier this month but had issues with ice-crystal formation in the engine.

A camera on South Padre Island, which is located about 5 1/2 miles from SpaceX’s launch site, recorded the first fiery “hop” test through the haze:

FIRST STARSHIP RAPTOR STATIC FIRE TEST AT SPACEX BOCA CHICA TEXAS

www.youtube.com

The sound here on Brazos Island was deafening — so loud that part of a resident’s window blinds was knocked off its frame.

“I was cooking collard greens and my house started rattling. It was like a couple of jet airplanes taking off in your living room,” said Maria Pointer, a retired deck officer who lives with her husband, Ray, about 1.8 miles from SpaceX’s new launchpad.

She said previous tests by SpaceX were loud — comparable to the noise of a jet engine — but “this was magnified to about 10 jet-engine roars,” she said.

First Raptor Static Fire test on StarHopper – April 3, 2019

www.youtube.com

“It reminds you of when the Blue Angels fly over real low,” she added. “That’s the sound. It rattled everything. This was the full Raptor with all the juice going to it. This was the real thing.”

The lone road to SpaceX

SpaceX has been coordinating with Cameron County law enforcement to close access to Highway 4 — the only road into and out of the remote beach community, which about two dozen people share with SpaceX.

During SpaceX’s tests and road closings, renters and longtime residents are permitted to pass through a soft checkpoint about 15 miles east of Boca Chica Village. For safety reasons — the Starhopper is an experimental vehicle that might explode — no one is allowed to pass through a hard checkpoint about 1 1/2 miles west of the launchpad.

Boca Chica Beach, a popular spot with locals from Brownsville and other areas, is also closed during testing operations. Each day of testing has lasted about eight hours.

China snuck a secret guest into those massive war games

SpaceX workers taking Starhopper to a launchpad near Boca Chica Beach, Texas, on March 8, 2019.

(Maria Pointer (bocachicaMaria)

On April 3, 2019, multiple residents said the road closings had proved increasingly vexing, given their frequency, extended hours, and tightening security meant to ward off gawkers.

When Cameron County, the state, and other authorities gave SpaceX permission to use the site in 2014, the company agreed to close the road about once a month. Ray Pointer said the road had closings more or less every day for the past week.

Despite the tightened security and compounding inconvenience, Maria Pointer said it was fun to hear and see a bit of history taking place.

“This is the good part about it all,” she said. “It’s exciting.”

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

Articles

10 Sailors missing after USS John S. McCain collides in South China Sea

SOUTH CHINA SEA (NNS) — UPDATE POSTED AUG. 20, 9:42 P.M. (EDT)


The guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) was involved in a collision with the merchant vessel Alnic MC while underway east of the Straits of Malacca and Singapore on Aug. 21.

There are currently 10 Sailors missing and five injured.

The collision was reported at 6:24 a.m. Japan Standard Time, while the ship was transiting to a routine port visit in Singapore.

A family assistance center has been established. Families can call 011-81-46-816-1728 (international) or 243-1728 (DSN on base).

The ship is currently sailing under its own power and heading to port.

Search and rescue efforts are underway in coordination with local authorities. In addition to tug boats out of Singapore, Republic of Singapore Navy Fearless-class patrol ships RSS Gallant (97), RSS Resilience (82), RSN helicopters and Police Coast Guard vessel Basking Shark (55) are currently in the area to render assistance.

MV-22s and SH-60s from USS America are also responding.

Alnic MC is a 600-foot oil and chemical tanker with a gross tonnage of 30,000.

Initial reports indicate John S. McCain sustained damage to her port side aft. The extent of damage and personnel injuries is being determined. The incident will be investigated.

More information to follow.

——————-

UPDATED AT AUG. 20, 8:42 P.M. (EDT)

The guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) was involved in a collision with the merchant vessel Alnic MC while underway east of the Straits of Malacca and Singapore on Aug. 21.

The collision was reported at 6:24 a.m. Japan Standard Time, while the ship was transiting to a routine port visit in Singapore.

A family assistance center has been established. Families can call 011-81-46-816-1728 (international) or 243-1728 (DSN on base).

The ship is currently sailing under its own power and heading to port.

Search and rescue efforts are underway in coordination with local authorities. In addition to tug boats out of Singapore, the Republic of Singapore Navy ship RSS Gallant (97), RSN helicopters and Police Coast Guard vessel Basking Shark (55) are currently in the area to render assistance.

MV-22s and SH-60s from USS America are also responding.

Initial reports indicate John S. McCain sustained damage to her port side aft. The extent of damage and personnel injuries is being determined. The incident will be investigated.

More information to follow.

——————-

POSTED AUG. 20, 7:38 P.M. (EDT)

SOUTH CHINA SEA (NNS) — The guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) was involved in a collision with the merchant vessel Alnic MC while underway east of Singapore and the Strait of Malacca, Aug. 21.

The collision was reported at 6:24 a.m. Japan Standard Time, while the ship was transiting to a routine port visit in Singapore.

Initial reports indicate John S. McCain sustained damage to her port side aft.

Search and rescue efforts are underway in coordination with local authorities.

More information to follow.

MIGHTY TRENDING

An F-22 pilot makes a gear-up belly landing after losing power

A U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor from the 3rd Air Force Wing at Elmendorf Air Force has been involved in an incident at NAS Fallon in western Nevada. The aircraft has been shown in photos posted to social media laying on the runway with the landing gear retracted. The aircraft appears largely intact. No injuries have been reported.

There has not been an official announcement of the cause of the incident, and an incident like this will be subject to an official investigation that will ultimately determine the official cause.


Unofficial sources at the scene of the incident said that, “The slide happened on takeoff. It appears to have been a left engine flameout when the pilot throttled up to take off. By the time he realized the engine was dead, he had already been airborne for a few seconds and raised the gear. The jet bounced for around 1500 feet, and then slid for about 5000 feet. They got it off the ground and on its landing gear last night, so the runway is clear.”

China snuck a secret guest into those massive war games
Social media photos showed the aircraft being lifted with a crane following the incident.
(U.S. Air Force photo)

The source also alleged there was another engine-related incident on an Elmendorf F-22 within the last seven days, although this unofficial information has not been verified.

It is likely the aircraft involved in the incident came from either the 3rd Wing’s 525th Fighter Squadron or the wing’s 90th Squadron. The 525th and 90th fighter squadrons are both part of the U.S. Air Force 3rd Wing. According to several sources the F-22 was at NAS Fallon to provide an adversary training resource to aircraft on exercise at the base. Naval Air Station Fallon is the home of the famous “Top Gun” school, the U.S. Navy Strike Fighter Tactics Instructor program.

MIGHTY GAMING

How ‘World of Warcraft’ paid tribute to Gunny Ermey

On April 15th, 2018, one of the finest Marines to ever grace Hollywood, R. Lee Ermey, passed away. He left behind a legacy that will stand the test of time, portraying troops and veterans in a positive light while connecting civilians to the military by being a cinematic icon.

Nearly every time pop culture alludes to the military, they’re inadvertently referencing his works — typically because of his incredibly popular role in Full Metal Jacket. Blizzard Entertainment’s legendary World of Warcraft is no exception to that rule.

In fact, the newest expansion, World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth, features an entire series of quests dedicated to the Gunny himself.


China snuck a secret guest into those massive war games

You know, actual Marine Corps stuff.

(Blizzard Entertainment)

Over the years, the game has included a total of three nods to his works. First, there’s a character exclusive to Halloween-time events named Sergeant Hartman that aids you in your fight against a fiendish Headless Horseman. There’s a dwarf named Gunny at Honor Hold that makes snarky comments about the player, according to your character’s in-game rank. And there’s a Lieutenant Emry, a misspelling of Ermey’s name, that offers the player a quest to take a beach from the Horde like any good Marine would.

But all of those characters were simply flavor NPCs — none of them really added anything to the story and they were more or less based off of Gunny Hartman, not Ermey himself. The fourth and most recent tribute character pulls nods from his life, sprinkling in just a bit of Full Metal Jacket. Since the latest expansion is very heavy on Naval themes, much of your time is spent landing on beaches.

China snuck a secret guest into those massive war games

And this nice little riff that would have made Ermey proud. You may be gone, but you’ll never be forgotten.

(Blizzard Entertainment)

To begin the quest, you must first play on the Alliance, reach level 110, and begin the War Campaign. You’ll be given three sites to invade the Horde-controlled Zandalar. From these options, you’ll need to pick desert location, Vol’Dun. This is where you meet Sergeant Ermey of the 7th Legion — a human character bearing a striking resemblance to our beloved Gunnery Sergeant Ermey sporting an alliance-themed campaign hat.

Your very first mission is called “Ooh Rah!” and requires you to storm the beaches with Sergeant Ermey to secure a beachhead for the Alliance. Once you’ve killed your requisite number of baddies, Sergeant Ermey has another quest called “Honor Bound,” during which you need to go behind enemy lines to rescue a missing Marine, Private James.

As you work to locate and rescue the private, Ermey delivers plenty of heartfelt lines, waxing on about how he’ll never leave a comrade behind. A few slain creatures, inspected items, and explored areas later, you eventually save him. Once freed and ready to return, Private James will thank you and Sergeant Ermey. For all of his sentiment, when the moment finally comes, Ermey responds with a simple, “You better square yourself away, Private.”

To watch the scenario play out, check out this clip.

Articles

This military theme park lets you drive tanks, crush cars, and shoot machine guns

Whether in the military or not, most people don’t drive tanks. But for nearly a decade, Drive A Tank has opened its doors to civilians wanting to live out their tank fantasies.



Related: 5 things we’d love to do with the Army’s surplus battleship ammo

“We’re trying to get normal people — civilians who wouldn’t normally have access to military equipment — a little bit of hands-on knowledge,” said Drive A Tank’s owner Tony Borglum in the video below.

It’s one of the only places in the world where you can drive a tank and shoot a machine gun under one roof that’s not owned or operated by the government, according to MarKessa Baedke-Peterson.

With packages ranging from $449 to $3,699, this military theme park will have you behind the wheel of a 15-ton armored vehicle through a course of woods and mud. The course ends at the car crushing area where visitors get to destroy perfectly intact Priuses (and other vehicles) by running them over.

But that’s not all. After the tank course, attendees get to shoot anti-material rifles like the Barrett 50 Cal. and belt fed machine guns like the M1919 Browning.

“Now that’s one badass motherf–ker,” Baedke said.

This video shows what a day is like for people who visit Drive A Tank:

The Daily, YouTube

MIGHTY TRENDING

Coast Guard struggling to keep up with surge of narco subs

Through September 2018, Colombia’s navy had captured 14 “narco subs” on the country’s Pacific coast — more than triple the four it captured in 2017 and another sign of drug traffickers’ ingenuity.

Colombia is not alone. The US Coast Guard reported in September 2017 that it had seen a “resurgence” of low-profile vessels, the most common kind of “narco sub,” capturing seven of them since June 2017.


“We’re seeing more of these low-profile vessels; 40-plus feet long … it rides on the surface, multiple outboard engines, moves 18, 22 knots … and they can carry large loads of contraband,” Coast Guard commandant Adm. Karl Schultz told Business Insider in October 2018 during an interview aboard the Coast Guard cutter Sitkinak in New York harbor.

“They’re very stealthy in terms of our ability to see them from the air [and] to detect them by radar,” Schultz added.

China snuck a secret guest into those massive war games

US Coast Guardsmen sit on a narco sub in the Pacific Ocean in early September 2016.

(US Coast Guard photo)

‘Era of experimentation’

Low-profile vessels were the earliest kind of narco sub, a category that includes self-propelled semi-submersibles, which use ballast to run below the surface, and true submarines, which are the most rare.

They emerged in the early 1990s, as traffickers who had made a fortune moving drugs into the US — like George Jung and members of Pablo Escobar’s Medellin cartel — encountered more obstacles.

“In the ’80s, the drug traffickers … were using go-fast boats, they were using twin-engine aircraft, and those were very easily detected by radar systems that we had,” particularly in the Caribbean and the southeastern US, said Mike Vigil, former chief of international operations for the US Drug Enforcement Administration.

“So they started to counter those efforts by building submarines or semi-submersibles, because they were much more difficult to detect,” Vigil added. “They were made out of … wood, fiberglass, and then sometimes they had a lead lining that would reduce their infrared signature.”

The early 1990s was “the era of experimentation,” for Colombian narco subs, according to Vigil, who was stationed on the country’s Caribbean coast at the time and recalls encounters with them on the Magdelena River, which stretches nearly 1,000 miles from southwest Colombia to the Caribbean.

“They were not full-fledged submarines. They would float … just slightly underneath the water, but you could still see the tower, and they were not sophisticated at all,” he said. “Their navigational systems were poor; communications systems were poor.”

There are varying figures for how many narco subs have been caught over the years.

The first such vessel seen at sea by US law enforcement was intercepted in 2006, carrying 3 tons of cocaine about 100 miles off Costa Rica’s Pacific coast. The first one encountered in the Caribbean was stopped in summer 2011 — despite efforts to scuttle it, US authorities were able to recover 14,000 pounds of cocaine.

Criminal groups in Colombia continue to churn out homemade narco subs — 100 a year, according to Vigil — building them in the interior and using the country’s extensive river network, where law enforcement is scarce, to get them to sea.

The technology has advanced, and criminal groups, flush with profits from Colombia’s booming cocaine production, have been able deploy more sophisticated vessels for covert runs to Central America and Mexico, where cargos then move overland to the US. The routes have also grown more circuitous, likely to avoid detection at sea.

Better technology “has upped the chess game” between criminals and the military and law enforcement, Vigil said.

China snuck a secret guest into those massive war games

Suspected drug-smuggling routes in the eastern Pacific Ocean in 2016.

(US Southern Command)

‘A drop in the bucket’

The recent increase in low-profile vessels intercepted by authorities indicates traffickers will adjust their tactics.

“There was certainly an uptick where the semi-submersibles were being utilized quite frequently, and then we had a lot of success against them,” Lt. Cmdr. Devon Brennan, head of the Coast Guard’s Maritime Safety and Security Team in New York, said during an interview aboard the Sitkanik.

“The drug-trafficking organizations are very agile and adept organizations, so they try to shift back,” Brennan said. “For one reason or another, they thought [low-profile vessels] might be a better option because of the success we’ve had against the [self-propelled semi-submersibles], so we have seen an increase in them.”

“This thing called the low-profile vessel, it’s evolutionary,” Schultz said. “The adversary will constantly adapt their tactics to try to thwart our successes.” The increase “reflects the adaptability, the malleability” of traffickers, he added.

Schultz and Brennan both emphasized that the Coast Guard is having success capturing narco subs. And Colombian officials have said that intercepting those vessels at sea — along with arresting traffickers on land — lands a serious blow to criminal organizations.

China snuck a secret guest into those massive war games

A abandoned low-profile vessel found by the Guatemalan coast guard on April 22, 2017.

(Guatemalan army / US Southern Command)

Vigil was skeptical of the true impact, saying the DEA estimated at least 30% to 40% of drugs coming to the US were moving on narco subs, but authorities were likely only intercepting 5% of those vessels.

“They may be capturing more but, again, that’s because there’s a hell of a lot more being using to smuggle drugs,” Vigil said. (Coast Guard Vice Commandant Adm. Charles Ray has said the service faces “a capacity challenge” in trying to patrol trafficking routes through the eastern Pacific, an area the size of the continental US.)

Vigil also noted that the costs seemed to favor the traffickers.

“The submarines cost id=”listicle-2611789516″ million or million … depending on the communications systems, the engine, the materials used in them, the navigational systems,” Vigil said. Even though many are likely only used once, he added, “they have absolutely no economic impact on the cartels.”

Each kilogram of cocaine is worth only a few thousand dollars in Colombia. But the multiton cargos narco subs can carry are worth hundreds of millions of dollars once they’re broken up and sold in the US or Europe.

The cost to build a narco sub is “a drop in the bucket compared to the payload that they carry,” Vigil said. “So a million, million is nothing to them.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

New insight to ISIS found in a fighter’s captured diary

A notebook written in English that may have belonged to an ISIS fighter was reportedly found in a jail in Raqqa, according to the National, which exclusively obtained the notebook from an unnamed source.

The notebook reportedly details the inner workings of the militant group, including their future plans, military shortcomings, and issues foreign fighters faced within the group.


According to pictures of the purported notebook provided by the National, the pages appear to be written in English by one author who used American spelling of words and numbers. A second author wrote in French, and Arabic was used in some of the text as well.

The author details ISIS’s core strategies for maintaining control in the region.

On one page, the author describes how to prevent defectors from leaving ISIS territory: “We should push civilians who want to flee to our centers of gravity in Mosul and Raqqa.” The author added: “The enemy might try to break our control over an area and allow civilians to escape.”

China snuck a secret guest into those massive war games
Hidden camera footage of what life was like under ISIS control in Raqqa.

The notebook describes a solution, written in large letters “THE BIG SOLUTION” which explains that ISIS should not use “conventional military power against a much stronger foe,” and suggests the group focus on “insurgency” until their “political situation allows for a more conventional approach.”

Another page compares several types of guns and their cost in dollars using hand drawn pictures.

The author also discusses expanding efforts to other countries, including Saudi Arabia. A page reportedly questions: “How to make Saudi like Syria? Can we get people to hate Their [sic] rulers?”

The author continues: “Mecca and Medina are a priority for the [caliphate] to actually influence world Muslims. But to get there we need to destabilize Al-Saud. Direct action against Al-Saud from Iraq will likely fail militarily and attract US ground troops so the best way to do this is internally, with the support for Yemen and Iraq.”

The writings also appear to show that ISIS fighters kept up with international news, and often monitored global political cycles.

The author offers suggestions on how to pull “the USA to another major war to exhaust its economy.” The writer also extensively followed the US presidential elections, and said key decisions would depend on US political action.

“The US decisions are very important, and they depend on the Presidential elections.”

China snuck a secret guest into those massive war games
Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign.
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

“However, if democrats lose, a Republican administration would be more likely to bring US boots on the ground, and cooperation with Iran will likely stop,” the author reportedly wrote.

The journal also reportedly layed out a strategy for confronting the US on the battlefield: “Fighting the USA might be more dangerous militarily, but it will grant IS respect in muslim [sic] eyes.”

The notebook also reveals the innermost thoughts of what appears to have been a foreign ISIS fighter. At the bottom of a page detailing “important” military issues “to study,” the author asks himself: “Who am I? What should I do? Why am I here? How did I reach this place?”

According to the report, the author bemoans several limitations within the group, including lack of training time to militant fighters and notes there were “problems created by different languages.”

Associate Professor at the Naval War College Monterey, Dr. Craig Whiteside, told the National that there were notable similarities between the strategies laid out in the book and the strategies taught in western military training.

“The author has studied topics we study in a war college, such as the differences between policy and strategy.”

“If this is a foreign fighter, not studying their own country for military facilities but instead learning about Iraq and Syria, the goal is to encourage them to stay,” he added.

Figures from October 2017 show more than 40,000 fighters from more than 110 countries flocked to Syria and Iraq after its establishment in 2014. Reports indicate that roughly 129 US nationals joined the caliphate. Of those foreign fighters, at least 5,600 citizens or residents from 33 countries who have returned home.

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 reasons why the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is extraordinary

Since its founding in 1938, the Sturgis Motorcycle has been held every year with the exception of the three year period between 1939 and 1941; the rally did not take place due to gas rationing in support of the war effort overseas. However, the rally returned in 1942 and has been held every year since.

Here are 5 reasons why Sturgis is nothing short of extraordinary.


1. Persistence

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 is no exception to Sturgis’ longstanding run. On June 16, the mayor of Sturgis announced that the city council had decided to move forward with the 80th Sturgis motorcycle rally. During a Facebook broadcast, he outlined that the rally will include, “modifications that provide for the health and safety of our visitors, and our residents and our town.” Ten days/nights of riding, food and music will take place in Sturgis, South Dakota from August 7-16.

China snuck a secret guest into those massive war games

A ride during the 2019 rally (Sturgis Motorcycle Rally)

2. Attendance

Historically, attendance at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally has averaged around 500,000 people. Official attendance peaked in 2015 at 739,000 for the rally’s 75th anniversary. Billed as the largest motorcycle rally in the world, people come from all across the country to be a part of Sturgis’ famed rally. Many riders make it a family event, towing their motorcycles behind a camper and riding the last few miles into town. Others transport their rides via shipping companies and arrive by plane. In 2005, when the official attendance was 525,250 people, the rally’s director estimated that fewer than half the attendees actually rode there, a testament to just how many people came from far and wide to experience Sturgis.

China snuck a secret guest into those massive war games

Rally Headquarters features vendors, rally registration, and city info booths (Sturgis Motorcycle Rally)

3. Fundraising

With so many people descending on the small town every year, the city of Sturgis capitalizes on the rally which makes up 95 percent of its annual revenue. In 2011, the city earned nearly 0,000 from the sale of event guides and sponsorships alone. On average, the rally brings in over 0 million to the state of South Dakota annually. While the Lakota Indian tribe has protested the large amount of alcohol distributed at the rally so close to the sacred Bear Butte religious site, they have also acknowledged the importance of the revenue that the rally brings into the region and the tribes.

China snuck a secret guest into those massive war games

(Sturgis Motorcycle Rally)

4. Entertainment

The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is not just a bunch of bikers standing by their bikes in parking lots. Rather, the rally originally focused on motorcycle races and stunts. In 1961, the rally introduced the Hill Climb and Motocross races. Other forms of motorcycle entertainment included intentional board wall crashes and ramp jumps. Over the years, the rally was extended in length from a three day event to its current 10 day length. Entertainment and attractions also expanded to include vendors and live music. The first concert at the Sturgis Rally featured the legendary Jerry Lee Lewis. Other big names have followed like Lynyrd Skynyrd, Def Leppard, Montgomery Gentry, Cheap Trick, Tom Petty, Aerosmith, Bob Dylan, Ozzy Osbourne and Willie Nelson. This year, notable bands scheduled to perform include 38 Special, Quiet Riot and Night Ranger.

China snuck a secret guest into those massive war games

Panels of the memorial (Sturgis Motorcycle Rally)

5. Veteran recognition

Regularly attended by veterans, especially Vietnam Vets, the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally takes great pride in recognizing the sacrifices made by the men and women of the armed forces. In 2019, the Sturgis Rally held a Military Appreciation Day presented by the VFW. Activities included a reception to honor a local veteran, entertainment and a flyover by a B-1 Lancer bomber. For 2020, the Sturgis Rally will feature the Remembering Our Fallen photographic war memorial. Highlighting service members killed during the War on Terror, Remembering Our Fallen is designed to travel and includes both military and personal photos.

MIGHTY MOVIES

4 of the ways the ‘Sons of Anarchy’ are like your infantry squad

The brotherhood of an infantry squad is hard to match. No matter where you go after you leave, you’ll struggle to find that same type of camaraderie. Sure, there are civilian jobs out there that offer something similar, but let’s face it — nothing will ever rival getting sh*tfaced in the barracks on the weekend with your best buds after a long week of putting up with your command’s bullsh*t.

That’s why we love watching shows like Sons of Anarchy.

The fictional motorcycle club happens to embody a lot of the things we loved about “being with the homies” in our squads. The way they interact with each other and their overall lifestyle runs eerily parallel to the way grunts conduct themselves.


If you’ve watched the show, this won’t come as a surprise but, in case you haven’t, these are the ways Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club, Redwood Original are a lot like your infantry squad:

China snuck a secret guest into those massive war games

Nothing else compares…

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. A. J. Van Fredenberg)

Brotherhood

SAMCRO is all about the brotherhood. They’re always looking out for each other and going to extreme lengths to help one another. It’s not just about your duty, it’s about the love you have for the people with whom you serve. Being in an infantry squad helps you develop this mentality.

China snuck a secret guest into those massive war games

And sh*t like this will suck less.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. William Chockey)

Loyalty

Oftentimes, you won’t have to be asked to do things because you’ll want to do them without being asked. You know that your actions are for the betterment of the squad. The guys to your left and right depend on you and you them. This loyalty will be a driving desire in everything you do.

China snuck a secret guest into those massive war games

Even working out is something that benefits your squad mates.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. A. J. Van Fredenberg)

You go beyond “for the club”

After you get used to your squad and you’ve established your loyalty and brotherhood, you’ll begin to go beyond what’s required of you to help out the squad. You might even start taking MarineNet courses you’re interested in to help boost your squad’s effectiveness.

At the end of the day, SAMCRO members make choices and do things because of their love and loyalty to the club.

China snuck a secret guest into those massive war games

You’ll do anything for your squad.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo)

Dedication to one another

When one of your brothers is going through a rough time, you’ll feel a drive to do whatever you can to help them out. If someone hurts your squad mate in one way or another, no matter what it is, you’ll be out for blood. This is honestly one of the things that makes the Sons of Anarchy such an interesting group of people to watch.

MIGHTY MOVIES

These are 5 distinctive qualities of Bob Ross that were because of the Air Force

Bob Ross might be one of the last names you’d think of when considering all the celebrities that have served. The videos of him “painting a happy little bush in the corner right there” exude calmness and tranquility — exactly the opposite of what you’d expect from a training instructor turned hardened, twenty-year First Sergeant turned retiree, but that’s exactly who he is.

What makes Bob Ross’s story even more awesome to the military community is that nearly every aspect of his hallmark zen was directly inspired by — or intentionally the exact opposite of — his time spent as First Sergeant of the U.S. Air Force Clinic at Eielson AFB, Alaska.


China snuck a secret guest into those massive war games

Yep. That’s Alaska alright.

(Bob Ross, “Winter Night,” 1984)

His choice in scenery

As you can imagine, at Eielson AFB, there’s nothing but the Last Frontier for as far as the eye can see. It’s 26 miles from Fairbanks and another thousands before you reach what most consider normal civilization.

While Bob Ross was stationed there, this was his view — and it’s what inspired him to draw. A beautiful backdrop of snow-capped mountains and rivers flowing through verdant woods just needed to be captured somehow. The world needed to see the majesty that he saw.

China snuck a secret guest into those massive war games

His style of wet-on-wet oil painting and his use of bigger brushes meant that this masterpiece was made in just 25 minutes.

(Bob Ross, “Mountain Retreat,” 1984)

His quick art style

As the first sergeant of an entire medical facility, he needed to find some sort of distraction from the constant stress. He found his outlet one day at the Anchorage USO Club when he attended an art class. Drawing became his passion and he would often paint during his brief lunch breaks.

Within his hour of break for lunch, he’d have to finish an entire painting — and eat. This time constraint proved handy later on. He was already trained in creating an entire painting within brief, half-hour episodes when it came time to create the show.

His soft voice

Bob Ross served many years as a training instructor and yet found no pleasure in raising his voice to give orders. He swore to himself that when he retired out of the Air Force, he’d never yell again. After twenty years of service, he retired in 1981 and kept his word.

His soft voice was the tune to which many picking up painting as a hobby. As anyone who’s drawn or painted knows, you will often make mistakes while creating art. You’ll crumple the paper up or set fire to the easel because you got one line wrong. But that’s not the Ross way. According to First Sergeant Bob Ross (Ret.), “there are no mistakes. Only happy accidents.”

China snuck a secret guest into those massive war games

When they start selling Chia-pets in your likeness because of your wacky hair, no one will let you cut it.

(Shop PBS)

His signature hairdo and beard

Today, he’s known as the man with the poofiest perm and a glorious vet beard, but it wasn’t always this way. In fact, for a long time after his retirement, he kept up a professionally done crew cut and would shave every week. But times were tough for Ross.

He would have to skip a hair cut every other week until, eventually, he started skipping them altogether. All the while, he was trying to get the first version of The Joy of Painting on the air. By the time he was able to support himself through the show and associated art supplies, his ‘fro and beard had become part of his identity. This look stuck with him, no matter how much he wanted to shave it and go back to the crew cut.

China snuck a secret guest into those massive war games

Hands down the best “post DD-214” life by a long shot!

(Bob Ross Inc.)

His desire to teach

Deciding to leave the military and start a public access show about painting isn’t part of anyone’s get-rich-quick scheme. He did it because it was one of his proudest moments of being in the Air Force: being an instructor, only now he could do it without raising his voice.

Later on, Bob Ross Inc. paint supplies and books brought in money, but that’s never what mattered most to him — he donated plenty of it away. He was just a veteran who wanted to share his Joy of Painting with the world.