China's J-20 stealth fighter enters military service - We Are The Mighty
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China’s J-20 stealth fighter enters military service

China’s J-20 stealth fighter jet has entered military service, according to multiple news reports.


Reuters late Thursday reported the development, citing a Chinese military report that didn’t offer additional details.

Related: How China’s stealthy new J-20 fighter jet compares to the US’s F-22 and F-35

The twin-engine fighter, built by Chengdu Aerospace Corp. for the People’s Liberation Army’s air force, first flew in 2011 and made its public debut in November when the PLAAF showed off two of the aircraft at an airshow over coastal city Zhuhai.

China’s J-20 stealth fighter enters military service
China’s J-20 | Chinese Military Review

Also in the fall, China downplayed reports that the J-20 was spotted at the Daocheng Yading Airport near Tibet or that it may be deployed near the Indian border.

With a reported top speed of 1,300 miles per hour and the ability to carry short- and long-range air-to-air missiles, the jet is often compared to the twin-engine F-22 Raptor, a fifth-generation stealth fighter made by Lockheed Martin Corp. for the U.S. Air Force.

But the J-20 is believed to be far less stealthy than the F-22.

“The forward-mounted canards, poorly shielded engines and underside vertical stabilizers all limit the amount that its radar cross section — which determines how visible the aircraft is to a radar — can be reduced,” Justin Bronk, a research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute in London, has written.

Even so, the apparent arrival of an operational J-20 highlights China’s growing role as a military power.

The country, the second-largest spender on defense after the U.S., is also developing with private funding the Shenyang FC-31, a twin-engine multi-role fighter that resembles Lockheed’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. A production variant of the FC-31 may fly in 2019.

U.S. lawmakers have in the past questioned Pentagon officials why the government hasn’t retaliated against China for copying the designs of its most advanced fighter jets.

China’s J-20 stealth fighter enters military service
A rendering of the Chengdu J-20. | Screenshot via hindu judaic/YouTube

“What they’ve been able to do in such a rapid period of time without any RD … I understand there might be some differences as far as in the software and the weaponry and this and that,” Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, asked during a hearing in 2015. “But they’re making leaps, which are uncommon, at the behest of us, and we know this, I understand, but we’re not taking any actions against them.”

Robert Work, deputy defense secretary, at the time acknowledged that the Chinese “have stolen information from our defense contractors and it has helped them develop systems,” but he added, “we have hardened our systems.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

Disney salutes US military with discounts for 2020

Announcing the 2020 Disney Armed Forces Salute!

Walt Disney World and Disneyland have a great military discount, the Armed Forces Salute. The Salute is a special temporary offer which has been renewed on a year by year basis since January 2009.

The Disney Armed Forces Salute offers Disney theme park tickets at over half off the regular price and Disney resort rooms at up to a 30% to 40% discount!


There are also permanent ticket offers available, though they are not as attractive.

China’s J-20 stealth fighter enters military service

(Photo by Benjamin Suter)

Below you find this sometimes complex information explained and divided into several categories which are:

Are you eligible for the Disney Armed Forces Salute? Here is the list of who is eligible for this discount, as set by the DoD and Disney:

Current military members:

  • Active
  • Reserve
  • National Guard
  • Coast Guard
  • Commissioned Corps of the Public Health Service (PHS)
  • Commissioned Corps of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

Retired military members:

  • Active
  • Reserve
  • National Guard
  • Coast Guard
  • Commissioned Corps of the Public Health Service (PHS)
  • Commissioned Corps of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

100% Service Connected Disabled with the DAVPRM code on their military issued ID.

China’s J-20 stealth fighter enters military service

(Photo by Tyler Nix)

Spouses in place of the member (not Civil Service or Contractor). Note the Disney Armed Forces Salute benefit is for the member only. While spouses may use their member’s benefit, they are not entitled to a benefit of their own. They only use the discounts in place of the member. Non-spouse dependents (kids) are not eligible.

Unremarried Widows are entitled to their departed spouse’s discounts (not Civil Service or Contractor).

Foreign partners/Coalition partners stationed at a US base are eligible. They must have a permanent US Military issued ID (CAC card with blue stripe).

Still not sure if you qualify or not in one of these categories? Check our Military Discount Finder.

Or see Disney’s ID Guide for the Disney Armed Forces Salute.

The 2019 Salute starts on Jan. 1, 2019, and runs through Dec. 19, 2019.

The 2020 Salute starts on Jan. 1, 2020, and runs through dates between Dec. 18, 2020 (December 17 for rooms at Disneyland).

These are special temporary offers which run for this specified period of time and have dates on which they cannot be used.

China’s J-20 stealth fighter enters military service

(Photo by Skylar Sahakian)

The Disney Armed Forces Salute allows qualified individuals (see above) to purchase steeply discounted Disney theme park tickets. These tickets are totally separate from the Regular Military Discounted Magic Your Way tickets available at local military bases and Shades of Green (Disney World’s Military Resort).

The Disney Armed Forces Salutes also offer outstanding discounts on Disney Resort rooms.

The Disney Armed Forces Salute is offered at both Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida and Disneyland in Anaheim, California and may be used at both during the Salute offer.

Salute admission tickets for the Disney theme parks

The Disney Armed Forces Salute offers special military tickets. These tickets are for a specified number of days and come in several varieties.

Qualified individuals may purchase up to a maximum of 6* theme park tickets per military member during the 2019 Salute offer periods.

One ticket must be used by the member or spouse, the rest can be used by anyone else.

These tickets are non-refundable.

The tickets are valid for the entire length of the offer periods (with certain excluded dates):

  • 2019 Disney Armed Forces Salute – Jan. 1, 2019 through Dec. 19, 2019
  • 2020 Disney Armed Forces Salute – Jan. 1, 2020 through Dec. 19, 2020

Days on the tickets do not need to be used consecutively. Any days left on the tickets will expire at the end of each offer period. Tickets from 2019 cannot be used in 2020!

Tickets purchased at all military resellers (except Shades of Green) and not directly from Disney must be activated prior to first use in person by the military member or spouse. See Salute Ticket Activation Procedures

Once the tickets are activated the party may split up. For example some go to one park and some to another, or even use the tickets on different days. The Military ID is checked only upon ticket activation.

Walt Disney World in Orlando Florida

Disney Armed Forces Salute Tickets come and in two types at WDW:

  • The Theme Park Hopper Option, which allows you to visit multiple parks on the same day
  • The Theme Park Hopper Plus Option, which allows 4 entrances to a variety of non-theme Park Disney venues in addition to your 4 theme park days

MDT Guide to Park Hopping

China’s J-20 stealth fighter enters military service

(Photo by Amy Humphries)

2019 WDW Salute Tickets:

For 2019 Disney Armed Forces Salute Tickets come in 2 lengths, 4-day and 5-day.

Disney World 2019 Armed Forces Salute Prices (Valid Jan. 1, 2019 through Dec. 19, 2019)

  • Four-Day Park Hopper Tickets for 1.00
  • Four-Day Park Hopper Plus Tickets for 1.00
  • Five-Day Park Hopper Tickets for 7.00
  • Five-Day Park Hopper Plus Tickets for 7.00

Disney has not announced Spring Blockout Dates for the 2019 WDW Ticket Offer.

2020 WDW Salute Tickets:

For 2020 Disney Armed Forces Salute Tickets come in 3 lengths, 4-day, 5-day, and 6-day.

Disney World 2020 Armed Forces Salute Prices (Valid Jan. 1, 2020 through Dec. 19, 2020)

  • Four-Day Park Hopper Tickets for 5.00
  • Four-Day Park Hopper Plus Tickets for 5.00
  • Five-Day Park Hopper Tickets for 3.00
  • Five-Day Park Hopper Plus Tickets for 3.00
  • Six-Day Park Hopper Tickets for 1.00
  • Six-Day Park Hopper Plus Tickets for 1.00

These tickets can be purchased at Shades of Green, your local Base Ticket Office, or Disney Theme Park ticket booths (Sales tax will be added at Disney World ticket booths).

If you do not have a base near you see this page for other options.

If you initially purchase only the Hopper option, you may add on the Plus Option later for the price difference – plus tax.

You may also upgrade any Disney Armed Forces Salute ticket to an annual or seasonal pass for the price difference between the Salute price and the full price pass plus tax..

Disney Armed Forces Salute tickets purchased from Disney or Base Ticket Offices must be upgraded at a Disney World ticket or Guest Relations window.

Disney Armed Forces Salute tickets purchased at Shades of Green may be upgraded there to a ticket with the Plus Option, or to annual or seasonal passes.

China’s J-20 stealth fighter enters military service

(Photo by Skylar Sahakian)

Note These tickets need to be activated at WDW prior to entering a theme park, see: Disney Armed Forces Salute Ticket Activation – MDT’s How To Guide

Linking your military tickets to your My Disney Experience account does not activate your tickets! You will still need to do so at Disney with a valid military ID!

FastPass Plus – All military discounted tickets including the Disney Armed Forces Salute tickets are able to be linked to your My Disney Experience account. You can then make your advance FP+ reservations the correct number of days ahead based on where you are staying.

  • Disney Resorts (including Shades of Green, Swan and Dolphin, and Disney Springs Hotels) – 60 Days
  • Non Disney Resorts – 30 Days
  • Day Guests – 30 Days

Disneyland in Anaheim California

At Disneyland Disney Armed Forces Salute tickets are Park Hoppers and come in 3-day and 4-day lengths.

2019 Disneyland Salute Tickets:

Disneyland 2019 Armed Forces Salute Prices (Valid Jan. 1, 2019 through Dec. 19, 2019)

  • Three-Day Park Hopper Tickets for 8.00
  • Four-Day Park Hopper Tickets for 8.00

MDT Guide to Park Hopping

Disneyland 2019 Ticket Blockout dates (Dates that these tickets may not be used):

  • April 14-22, 2019

Why are there Blockout Dates?

2020 Disneyland Salute Tickets:

Disneyland 2020 Armed Forces Salute Prices (Valid Jan. 1, 2020 through Dec. 18, 2020)

  • Three-Day Park Hopper Tickets for 4.00
  • Four-Day Park Hopper Tickets for 4.00

2020 Salute tickets available for purchase: Nov. 5, 2019

MDT Guide to Park Hopping

Disneyland 2020 Ticket Blockout dates (Dates that these tickets may not be used):

  • April 12, 2019

These tickets can be purchased at Your local Base Ticket Office, or Disneyland Ticket Booths and Resort Hotels (for registered guests).

If you do not have a base near you see this page for other options.

Note These tickets need to be activated at Disneyland prior to entering a theme park, see: Disney Armed Forces Salute Ticket Activation – MDT’s How To Guide.

At Disneyland Salute Tickets are not valid for Magic Morning early entry admission.

* For families larger than 6, Disney states “Exceptions should be made for immediate families larger than six people.” For example, if a family has five children, Disney will allow all members of the family to purchase Disney Military Promotion Tickets, for Mom, Dad, and the five kids.

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

VA celebrates nurses during National Nurses Week 2020

This National Nurses Week, we salute the over 100,000 VA nurses who work tirelessly every day to serve our nation’s Veterans — and have continued to demonstrate their commitment and dedication throughout this historic global situation.

“VA nurses are fiercely dedicated to our mission of providing excellent care to America’s heroes, which is especially vital during this time,” said Shawanda Poree, program manager of nurse recruitment and resources at VA. “We couldn’t care for the 9 million Veterans enrolled in VA care without them.”


At VA facilities from coast to coast, our nurses consistently advocate for Veterans and ensure they receive the best care.

This year, in honor of Florence Nightingale’s 200th birthday, National Nurses Week is also part of the World Health Organization’s “Year of the Nurse and Midwife,” recognizing the hard work of the world’s nurses.

‘No better feeling’

“There’s no better feeling than caring for the Veteran. You get to know them and they become like your family,” said Sarah Lueger, a nurse manager who serves Veterans at the VA Eastern Kansas Health Care System. “It’s a way for me to give back to them for what they’ve done for us.”

At 100,000-strong, the VA nursing corps is the largest in the nation. Together, they provide continuous, compassionate care and positively impact the lives of Veterans — 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

“The people who work at VA really have a strong passion for what they do, and that is infectious to those around us,” said Karalie Gantz, an inpatient acute psychiatry nurse manager at Topeka VA.

VA nurses practice in a variety of care-delivery settings, including acute, ambulatory, mental health care, telecare and outpatient clinics.

“Within our health care system, there are [so many] different departments and different opportunities that, once you’re here, you can find [your] niche. There really is a place for everyone at VA,” Gantz said.

Grow, lead and innovate

Nurses are a critical part of Veteran treatment teams. They sit on leadership boards and collaborate across disciplines to improve patient outcomes. At all of our 1,250 sites, nurses have a voice at the table with physicians and leadership and help improve patient care.

“Working at VA is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I’ve grown into the nurse that I am now, the leader that I am now,” Lueger said.

We encourage nurses to take advantage of opportunities to accelerate their training. Three available opportunities include:

  • The VA Learning Opportunities Residency (VALOR) Program gives outstanding registered nursing students who have completed their junior year in an accredited clinical program the opportunity to develop their skills at a VA-approved health care facility. More than 50% of VALOR participants are hired as new registered nurses in VA and usually start above the entry-level salary rate established for new graduates.
  • Through the Education Debt Reduction Program, nurses with qualifying student loans receive reimbursements of up to 0,000 over a five-year period. Payments cover tuition and other reasonable expenses, including fees, books, supplies, equipment, materials and laboratory costs.
  • Under the National Nursing Education Initiative (NNEI), part- or full-time VA registered nurses employed for at least one year can receive up to ,117 toward the pursuit of an associate, bachelor’s or advanced nursing degree, including tuition, registration fees and books.

A wealth of resources, including mentoring and preceptor programs, also encourage promotion of staff nurses to executive-level positions.

VA nurses also have the chance to innovate and research. Nurses are helping VA become a leader in telehealth and embracing scientific exploration to come up with new ways to serve Veterans.

Work at VA today 

During Nurses Week 2020 and all year long, we celebrate and thank the VA nurses who are pursuing careers with purpose and making a difference in Veterans’ lives.

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

Articles

Why George Takei loves the country that betrayed him

These days, the general public knows George Takei for two things: his role as one of the most hilarious people on social media, and his role as Starfleet veteran Hikaru Sulu.


But there’s a lot more to the man. Born in 1937, he grew up at an interesting time for Japanese-Americans.

China’s J-20 stealth fighter enters military service

“When Pearl Harbor was bombed,” Takei said in a recent TED talk, “young Japanese-Americans, like all young Americans, rushed to their draft board to volunteer to fight for our country. That act of patriotism was answered with a slap in the face. We were denied service, and categorized as enemy non-alien.”

His grandparents immigrated to the United States from Japan. His mother and father met in Los Angeles, where Takei was born. Now 78, he was four years old on December 7, 1941, when the Empire of Japan attacked Pearl Harbor and took the U.S. into World War II. 110,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry on the West Coast were rounded up and put into ten internment camps for the duration of the war. This was by all counts an unlawful imprisonment of American citizens. No one was excluded, including the Japanese-American being imprisoned in the Life photo below.

China’s J-20 stealth fighter enters military service

Takei goes on to describe the Japanese-Americans conscripted from the internment camps and their two-pronged fight in the war – the fight against the enemy and their fight for recognition as proud American citizens.

“…the astounding thing,” Takei says, “is that thousands of young Japanese-American men and women again went from behind those barbed-wire fences, put on the same uniform as that of our guards, leaving their families in imprisonment, to fight for this country… They said that they were going to fight not only to get their families out from behind those barbed-wire fences, but because they cherished the very ideal of what our government stands for.”

He refers to the U.S. Army’s 442d Regimental Combat Team. Sent to Europe in 1944, the 442d boasted over 9,000 Purple Hearts, 8 Presidential Unit Citations, 52 Distinguished Service Crosses, 560 Silver Stars, and 21 Medals of Honor. For a unit of just over 3,000 troops, they also had the extremely high casualty rate of 93%. They are best known for their actions against Nazi General Albert Kesselring’s Gothic Line in Italy, which Takei describes in his talk.

China’s J-20 stealth fighter enters military service

“They are my heroes and my father is my hero, who understood democracy and guided me through it. They gave me a legacy, and with that legacy comes a responsibility, and I am dedicated to making my country an even better America, to making our government an even truer democracy, and because of the heroes that I have and the struggles that we’ve gone through, I can stand before you as a gay Japanese-American, but even more than that, I am a proud American.”

Now: This Vietnam-era wounder warrior heads ‘the most unique memorial ever built’ 

Articles

This Komet was the fastest combat plane of World War II

The P-51 may have been the plane that won the skies over Europe, and the Me-262 and Gloster Meteor may have been the first operational jet fighters on the sides of the Axis and Allies.


But those planes weren’t the fastest. That honor goes to the Me 163 “Komet.”

The Me 163 was short (about 19.5 feet long), with a wingspan of about 30 feet and looks like a miniature version of the B-2 Spirit. It was armed with two Mk 108 30mm cannon intended to rip apart Allied planes and it had a top speed of almost 600 miles per hour.

China’s J-20 stealth fighter enters military service
Me 163 at the Udvar-Hazy National Air and Space Museum. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

So, why isn’t it more well-known? Well, for starters, the way the plane got its speed — by using a rocket engine — tended to burn up a lot of fuel. That gave it a little over seven minutes of powered flight. The short flight time meant the Me 163 really didn’t have much range — about 25 miles.

After the fuel ran out, the Me 163 was an armed, fast glider. When it landed, it had to be towed. That meant it was a sitting duck until help arrived, and Allied pilots would just wait for the plane to start gliding down before putting a burst into it.

China’s J-20 stealth fighter enters military service
A P-47’s gun-camera footage shows a Me 163 just prior to being shot down. (USAF photo)

According to MilitaryFactory.com, despite operating for about 10 months, the Me 163 just didn’t get a lot of kills – anywhere from nine to 16, depending on the estimate. That’s less than one pera month. Furthermore, only one fighter group ever operated the plane, which was also hobbled by a shortage of rocket fuel.

AcePilots.com notes that the Me 163 was also dangerous to fly. The rocket fuel ingredients were very nasty – and when they leaked through the suit, it did bad things to the pilot. It wasn’t unheard of for Me 163s to just explode on landing as residual amounts of fuel would mix.

China’s J-20 stealth fighter enters military service
This Me 163 in Australian hands shows what a Komet looked like after landing. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

For all intents and purposes, the Me 163 was a manned, reusable surface-to-air missile that could make two attacks. Eventually, the Nazis decided to just use an expendable rocket instead of a manned plane for these types of missions.

Articles

The 9 most devastating nuclear weapons in the world

Nuclear bombs are the most powerful weapons ever devised. Here are 9 of the most destructive in history.


1. Tsar Bomba (50-100 Megatons)

“Big Ivan,” or the “Tsar Bomba,” created the largest explosion ever made by man, and it was tampered to only half of its full strength. Secretary Nikita Khrushchev demanded a record-setting bomb to prove the Soviet Union’s might ahead of an important meeting of the Communist party. To fulfill his wishes, scientists designed and created the bomb in only 15 weeks. Originally designed for a 100-megaton blast, the bomb was tampered down to only 50 megatons to prevent damage to Soviet cities in the original fallout radius. Only one was ever created.

2. B-41 nuclear bomb (10-25 MT)

China’s J-20 stealth fighter enters military service
A B-41 prototype is detonated July 12, 1958 at the Bikini Atoll range. Photo: Wikipedia

Capable of a 25-MT blast, the B41 was the most powerful nuclear bomb ever developed by the U.S. Like the Tsar Bomba, it was a three-stage device. About 500 were created. Due to their weight, they could not ride on missiles and bombers could only carry one device at a time.

3. TX-21 “Shrimp” (15 Megatons)

China’s J-20 stealth fighter enters military service
Photo: Wikipedia

The TX-21 was an experimental weapon that was supposed to create a 5-MT blast. An experimental fusion fuel caused the blast to increase to 15 megatons. While the U.S. ended up with a much stronger weapon than it expected, the experiment resulted in multiple deaths, untold numbers of birth defects, and the accidental contamination of 7,000 square miles of Pacific islands and ocean.

4. B-17 (10-15 Megatons)

China’s J-20 stealth fighter enters military service
Photos: Wikipedia and US Department of Energy

The B-17 was America’s first thermonuclear bomb to be deployed. In a way, it was a tuned-down version of the TX-21. The TX-17 prototype created a 11-MT blast much larger than the expected 4-MT explosion because of an unexpected reaction in the fusion fuel.

5. B-24 (10-15 Megatons)

China’s J-20 stealth fighter enters military service
Photo: Wikipedia

The B-24 was very similar to the B-17 but it used an enriched lithium fusion fuel instead of the natural lithium of the B-17. The experimental TX-24 produced a slightly larger explosion in testing than the B-17 (13.5 MT vs 11 MT), but the estimated yields in their weaponized forms were roughly the same.

6. B-36 (10 Megatons)

China’s J-20 stealth fighter enters military service
Photo: Wikipedia

After the TX-21 “Shrimp” test, America fielded the B-21 with a yield of 4 MT. The military decided to convert the B-21 to B-36s, making each bomb about 2.5 times as strong.

7. B53 (9 Megatons)

China’s J-20 stealth fighter enters military service
Photo: Wikipedia/byteboy

The B-53 contained 300 pounds of high-explosive material that triggered a uranium pit. The pit would then create a nine-megaton explosion.

8. EC-16 (6-8 Megatons)

China’s J-20 stealth fighter enters military service

The EC-16 was an “emergency capability” nuclear device and the only thermonuclear device deployed that required a cooling system. Five devices were delivered to the U.S. arsenal in Jan. 1954, but they were quickly replaced when the more stable and easier to deploy B-14s and B-17s became operational later that year.

9. EC-14 (7 Megatons)

The EC-14 was the first solid-fuel thermonuclear weapon deployed by the U.S. It was only deployed as an emergency capability in Feb. 1954. The EC-14 was retired in Oct. 1954 and many of them were converted to B-17s.

NOW: The 7 weirdest nuclear weapons ever developed

Articles

The Brussels attacks hint at a worrying ‘iceberg’ theory about terror networks in Europe

China’s J-20 stealth fighter enters military service
The aftermath of the explosion inside the Brussels metro. | Twitter


At least 34 people were reported killed and dozens more wounded after explosions ripped through Zaventem Airport and a metro station in Brussels on Tuesday morning.

The attacks came days after Saleh Abdeslam, a suspect in last year’s Paris attacks, was arrested in the Belgian capital, which is also the de facto capital of the European Union.

Clint Watts, a senior fellow at the George Washington University Center for Cyber and Homeland Security, said on Tuesday that the Brussels attacks were in line with an “iceberg” theory of terrorist plots.

That theory purports that, just as for every iceberg seen above water, the underlying mass of a terror network and its plots are not immediately visible — or, “for every attacker, there are usually three to four additional people who helped facilitate the plot.”

“That the eight attackers in Paris used more explosive belts than ever before seen in the West suggests a sizeable European terrorist facilitation network,”Watts wrote for War on the Rocks in November.

He added: “The iceberg theory of terrorist plots suggests we should look for two, three, or possibly four dozen extremist facilitators and supporters between Syria and France. This same network is likely already supporting other attacks in the planning phase.”

Belgian officials have long been aware of the existence of an ISIS-linked terrorist cell in Brussels, believed to be centered in the district of Molenbeek. Belgium’s interior minister, Jan Jambon, has called Molenbeek “the capital of political Islam in continental Europe,” and multiple suspects have been arrested there in connection to the Paris attacks.

Outside Belgium, at least 18 people have been detained across Europe since November for their alleged roles in the Paris attacks, The New York Times reported last weekend.

China’s J-20 stealth fighter enters military service
View from exterior of Zaventem Airport | Instagram

‘Considerable planning and coordination’

Tuesday’s attacks in Brussels bear a shocking similarity to the methods employed by ISIS in Paris on November 13, experts said. Those attacks are believed to have been coordinated by ISIS’ external operations wing, using multiple attacks across the city to overwhelm the police and evade capture.

Just as the Paris attackers planned their assault for at least three months prior to the attack, experts believe the attacks that rocked Brussels on Tuesday morning were most likely months in the making, the timing driven more by a desire to act before being disrupted than by revenge for Abdeslam’s arrest.

“Twin coordinated attacks on Belgian transport sites. Maybe revenge for Abdelslam, but planned and prepped ages ago,” ISIS expert Michael Weiss, author of “ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror,” tweeted on Tuesday.

Will McCants, author of “The ISIS Apocalypse,” agreed.

“Plots like this take weeks or months to put in motion,” McCants told Business Insider on Tuesday. “If the attackers are associates of Abdeslam, then they probably moved up the timetable of a preexisting plot to avoid capture.”

Significantly, traces of explosives were found in a Brussels apartment rented by the terrorists weeks before they carried out the terrorist attacks, The New York Times reported, suggesting the existence of a makeshift bomb factory in the heart of Belgium’s capital.

Terrorism expert Mia Bloom, professor of communication at Georgia State University and author of two books on terrorist-recruitment methods, told Business Insider “a plot of this caliber requires considerable planning and coordination.”

“It is likely that Abdeslam’s cell has been plotting this prior to his arrest (there was a substantial arms cache found),” Bloom said.

She added: “Coordinated attacks (multiple attacks in the same location, happening around the same time) tend to require the most planning. While it’s impossible to know for certain, in my humble opinion, it is highly unlikely that these attacks took only a few days.”

Geopolitical and security analyst Michael Horowitz largely echoed this sentiment in a statement to Business Insider.

“I think that more than a retaliation, the attacks (likely planned months ago), were in reaction to it: The cell was likely concerned that Abdeslam would talk and his capture eventually lead to dismantling of their own cell.”

JM Berger, coauthor of “ISIS: The State of Terror,” said in an email to Business Insider that while it was “very early to draw any major conclusions,” it was “certainly possible this attack had already been planned and the timetable was moved up after the arrest.”

A sophisticated ‘foreign infrastructure’

Analysts say the terrorist network’s ability to evade law enforcement after the Paris attacks long enough to plan and execute a major attack in the heart of the EU, even if its timeline was disrupted by Abdeslam’s arrest, is testament to the deep networks jihadists have consolidated across Europe.

The CT [counter-terrorism] federal police are actually very good,” Ben Taub, freelance contributor for The New Yorker on jihadism in Europe, tweeted on Tuesday. “It’s a numbers issue. Can’t keep up. Networks too deep.”

Articles

US scrambles fighters after Syrian aircraft bombed near SpecOps Forces

U.S. fighters scrambled Friday against Syrian aircraft that dropped bombs near American special operations forces on the ground in the northeast in an incident that was the closest the U.S. has come to combat in the wartorn country.


Syrian air force Su-24s made by Russia departed the areas over the contested city of Hasakah before the U.S. warplanes arrived but Pentagon officials made clear that the Syrians would risk attack if they returned.

U.S. and coalition troops were on the ground near the bombing in their train, advise and assist role, according to Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman.

China’s J-20 stealth fighter enters military service
U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Erin Trower

“The Syrian regime would be well advised not to do things that would place them at risk,” he said. “We do have the right of self-defense.”

No U.S. or coalition troops were injured in the bombings, which were close enough to pose a threat, he said.

Davis said he could not confirm that the incident in the skies over Hasakah was the closest the U.S. has come to combat in Syria but added that “I’d be hard-pressed to think of another situation like it.”

President Barack Obama has barred combat for U.S. ground forces in Iraq and Syria but the ban stops at self-defense.

Davis said that two Syrian Su-24s conducted bombing runs over Hasakah, where there have been clashes in recent days between Syrian regime forces and Kurdish militias backed by the U.S.

American officials immediately contacted the Russians through communications channels set up by the two militaries under a memorandum of understanding, Davis said. “The Russians said it was not them,” he said.

The U.S. then scrambled fighters but Davis said the action was not an “intercept” since the Syrian aircraft were leaving the scene.

Articles

Here is the Marine Corps’ 2018 warplane wish list

The Marine Corps has asked Congress for $3.2 billion to buy warplanes and other equipment that did not make President Donald Trump’s fiscal 2018 defense budget plan, according to a copy of the request obtained by CQ Roll Call.

Gen. Robert Neller, the Marine Corps commandant, signed off on the “unfunded priorities list” and service officials sent it to lawmakers within the last week.


It appears to be the first of four such lists due soon on Capitol Hill – one each from the Marine Corps, Navy, Army and Air Force – which together will add up to multiple billions of dollars. This is an annual ritual for the Pentagon and Congress as the budget and appropriations are ironed out.

The most expensive item on the Marine Corps list is $877 million for six F-35 fighter jets. The jet is being built for all the services.

The Marine Corps wish list includes a request for $617 million for four F-35Bs, a version designed to take off and land vertically, and $260 million for two F-35Cs, the jet’s aircraft carrier variant.

The Air Force and Navy may also seek additional F-35s in their forthcoming wish lists.

Other aircraft on the Marine Corps list include:

  • $356 million for four KC-130J Hercules propeller planes, which can either refuel other aircraft or perform assault missions
  • $288 million for two CH-53K King Stallion logistics helicopters
  • $228 million for two C-40A Clipper jets, the military version of the Boeing 737 airliner, which can carry passengers or cargo

China’s J-20 stealth fighter enters military service
A Marine prepares an AH-1Z Viper for storage at Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, Okinawa, Japan, Dec. 2, 2016. Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 267 conducted aerial live-fire training utilizing the AH-1Z Viper for the first time in Okinawa. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Steven Tran/Released)

  • $221 million for seven AH-1Z Viper attack helicopters
  • $181 million for two MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft, which are capable of ferrying Marines and supplies
  • $67 million for four UC-12W Huron propeller planes, which are small, multi-mission aircraft

The Marine Corps is also seeking $312 million for five ship-to-shore connectors, which are air-cushion landing craft for carrying Marines ashore in amphibious assaults.

The service also wants boosts in a variety of ammunition programs as well as several buildings to be constructed on Marine Corps bases.

The lists have effectively become addenda to the formal budget request each year. Sometimes called “wish lists,” they provide military justifications to lawmakers interested in adding to the defense budget items the White House did not request. To the extent Congress funds items on the lists, it must increase the total amount for the Pentagon or cut other programs to offset the expense.

This year, the lists take on an added dimension. Trump made “rebuilding” the military a cornerstone of his campaign. While his new budget would increase spending on keeping existing assets in ready condition, it does not provide much increase in the procurement or other accounts that would need to rise to support a significant buildup.

Defense hawks in Congress have criticized Trump’s request as inadequate, and they will use the wish lists to bolster their argument.

Articles

This is how agile ‘Lightning carriers’ could rule the South China Sea

The US Marine Corps just set forth its vision of a battle plan to take on growing threats around the world — and it calls for small “Lightning carriers” armed to the teeth with F-35s.


The 2017 Marine Aviation Plan acknowledges the burgeoning “missile gap” between the US and adversaries like China, who have a number of “carrier killers” — long-range precision weapons specifically designed to hit land bases and aircraft carriers before they can hit back.

While the US Navy is working on the MQ-25A Stingray as an unmanned refueling system to extend the range of its carrier aircraft, the Marines seem ready to press ahead with a similar concept in “Lightning carriers.”

Basically, the Marines will already have enough F-35Bs to equip several of their smaller amphibious assault ships, sometimes known as helicopter carriers, while the Navy waits on their F-35Cs to sort out carrier-launch issues for its larger, Nimitz-class carriers.

Related: Here’s when the F-35 will use stealth mode vs. ‘beast mode’

“While the amphibious assault ship will never replace the aircraft carrier, it can be complementary, if employed in imaginative ways,” reads the plan. The Marines refer to one such creative use of the smaller carriers as a “Lightning carrier,” or an amphibious assault ship with 20 F-35Bs and an “embarked, organic aerial refueling capability” to extend their range.

The Marines plan to further reduce reliance on land and sea bases with “mobile forward arming and refueling points” that employ decoys and deception to confuse the enemy and keep US aircraft spread out and unpredictable.

The F-35B with its stealth, unparalleled intelligence gathering, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities, plus extended range, can match the long range missiles fielded by Russia and China and help the Marines secure land and sea bases by allowing them to see first, and if need be, shoot first.

China’s J-20 stealth fighter enters military service
Four F-35B Lightning II aircraft perform a flyover above the amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6) during the Lightning Carrier Proof of Concept Demonstration. | US Navy photo by Andy Wolfe

In December, an F-35 pilot aboard the USS America, a new type of amphibious assault ship built specifically for the F-35, called the “Lightning carrier” concept “the most powerful concentration of combat power ever put to sea in the history of the world.”

Additionally, the F-35 won’t just increase capabilities, but if acquired faster to replace the aging F-18s and Harriers in the Marines’ fleet, it could save $1 billion, according to the US Naval Institute.

But the Marines aren’t just waiting on the F-35B to save them. The service has big plans to network every single platform into a “sensor, shooter, electronic warfare node and sharer – able to move information throughout the spectrum and across the battlefield at light speed.”

China’s J-20 stealth fighter enters military service
From boots on the ground to satellites in the sky, this complicated graphic details how the Marine Corps plans to integrate every bit of data from any platform, anywhere. | USMC Graphic

With upgraded data sharing and command and control abilities, every asset from boots on the ground to satellites in the sky will work together to provide decision-quality information to war fighters, whether they’re on carriers, land bases, or taking a beach.

While China cements its land and sea grab with militarized islands in the South China Sea, the Marines’ aviation plan takes on a new urgency. The plan details how the first F-35B squadrons will deploy to Japan and the US’s West Coast.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Storm clouds are gathering over the Korean Peninsula

“Storm clouds are gathering” over the Korean Peninsula, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis declared Dec. 22.


And as diplomats try to resolve the nuclear standoff, he told soldiers that the US military must do its part by being ready for war.

Without forecasting a conflict, Mattis emphasized that diplomacy stands the best chance of preventing a war if America’s words are backed up by strong and prepared armed forces.

“My fine young soldiers, the only way our diplomats can speak with authority and be believed is if you’re ready to go,” Mattis told several dozen soldiers and airmen at the 82nd Airborne Division’s Hall of Heroes, his last stop on a two-day pre-holiday tour of bases to greet troops.

China’s J-20 stealth fighter enters military service
Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis enters Michie Stadium before the 2017 graduation ceremony at West Point. Army photo by Michelle Eberhart.

The stop came a day after Mattis visited the American Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, becoming the first defense secretary to visit in almost 16 years.

Also read: This video answers the question of the casualty radius of Mattis’ knife hand

Mattis’ comments came as the UN Security Council unanimously approved tough new sanctions against North Korea, compelling nations to sharply reduce their sales of oil to the reclusive country and send home all North Korean expatriate workers within two years. Such workers are seen as a key source of revenue for North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s cash-strapped government.

President Donald Trump and other top US officials have made repeated threats about US military action. Some officials have described the messaging as twofold in purpose: to pressure North Korea to enter into negotiations on getting rid of its nuclear arsenal, and to motivate key regional powers China and Russia to put more pressure on Pyongyang so a war is averted.

The Daily Telegraph reported earlier this week that the Trump administration had had “dramatically” stepped up preparations for a “bloody nose” attack to send Pyongyang a message.

Also this week, when asked about the US’s stance toward the stand-off with North Korea, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, said the US had “to be prepared if necessary to compel the denuclearization of North Korea without the cooperation of that regime.”

For the military, the focus has been on ensuring soldiers are ready should the call come.

At Fort Bragg, Mattis recommended the troops read T.R. Fehrenbach’s military classic “This Kind of War: A Study in Unpreparedness,” first published in 1963, a decade after the Korean War ended.

“Knowing what went wrong the last time around is as important as knowing your own testing, so that you’re forewarned — you know what I’m driving at here,” he said as soldiers listened in silence. “So you gotta be ready.”

Read More: US considers a ‘limited strike’ to bloody Kim Jong Un’s nose

The US has nearly 28,000 troops permanently stationed in South Korea, but if war came, many thousands more would be needed for a wide range of missions, including ground combat.

The retired Marine Corps general fielded questions on many topics in his meetings with troops at Guantanamo Bay naval base in Cuba and Naval Station Mayport in Florida on Thursday and at Camp Lejeune and Fort Bragg in North Carolina on Friday. North Korea seemed uppermost on troops’ minds as they and their families wonder whether war looms.

Asked about recent reports that families of US service members in South Korea might be evacuated, Mattis stressed his belief that diplomacy could still avert a crisis. He said there is no plan now for an evacuation.

“I don’t think it’s at that point yet,” he said, adding that an evacuation of American civilians would hurt the South Korean economy. He said there is a contingency plan that would get US service members’ families out “on very short notice.”

Mattis said he sees little chance of Kim disrupting the Winter Olympics, which begin in South Korea in February.

“I don’t think Kim is stupid enough to take on the whole world by killing their athletes,” he said.

Mattis repeatedly stressed that there is still time to work out a peaceful solution. At one point he said diplomacy is “going positively.” But he also seemed determined to steel US troops against what could be a costly war on the Korean Peninsula.

 

China’s J-20 stealth fighter enters military service
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and South Korean Minister of Defense Song Young-moo visit the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea during a visit to the Joint Security Area in South Korea, Oct. 27, 2017. DoD photo by US Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith.

“There is very little reason for optimism,” he said.

Mattis is not the only senior military official cautioning troops to be ready for conflict.

Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller told Marines in Norway this week that he saw a “big-ass fight” in the future, cautioning them to remain alert and ready. Neller said he believed the Corps’ focus would soon shift away from operations in the Middle East toward “the Pacific and Russia.”

“I hope I’m wrong, but there’s a war coming,” Neller told Marines in Norway according to Military.com.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is what Iran will do if the US pulls out of the nuke deal

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is threatening to “shred” the nuclear deal between Tehran and global powers if the United States pulls out.


Khamenei, Iran’s highest authority, said on October 18 that Tehran will stick to the 2015 deal as long as the other signatories respect it.

He was speaking in Tehran days after U.S. President Donald Trump announced he would not certify that Iran is complying with the agreement and warned he might ultimately “terminate” U.S. participation.

Trump accused Tehran of violating the “spirit” of the agreement, in part for its continued testing of ballistic missiles, and said he would ask Congress to strengthen U.S. legislation to put additional pressure on Iran.

China’s J-20 stealth fighter enters military service
Ministers of foreign affairs and other officials from the P5+1 countries, the European Union and Iran while announcing the framework of a Comprehensive agreement on the Iranian nuclear program, 2015. Photo from US Department of State.

Trump’s announcement has put Washington at odds with other parties to the accord and the European Union, which have voiced their support for the agreement.

Khamenei welcomed Europe’s support but said it was not sufficient, saying “Europe must stand against practical measures [taken] by America.”

Under the nuclear deal, Tehran agreed to curtail its nuclear activities in exchange for relief from sanctions that have hurt its economy.

The six powers that signed the accord are the United States, Britain, France, Russia, China, and Germany.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US carriers are mythical juggernauts that might die in a new war

The US Navy’s 11 aircraft super carriers represent the envy of the world in terms of naval might and power projection, but the cult status they’ve achieved and the rise of Russia and China’s missile fleets could lose the US its next war.

The myth of aircraft carrier goes that in times of crisis, the first question a president asks is: Where are the aircraft carriers?

The US Navy’s Nimitz-class aircraft carriers tower above most buildings at 130 feet above the waterline. More than 1,000 feet in length displacing 100,000 tons of water, they transcend the idea of ships and become floating cities, or mobile airfields.


Around 80 aircraft and 7,000 sailors, marines, and pilots live aboard the craft as its nuclear reactor steams it across the world’s oceans at a remarkable clip. One of these carriers costs about billion. The aircraft on board likely cost another billion or so.

The lives of the crew and the significance of the carrier to the US’s understanding of its national power are priceless.

China’s J-20 stealth fighter enters military service

Sailors signal an E-2D Hawkeye ready for launch on the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman, Oct. 27, 2018.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Thomas Gooley)

Mythical creatures

Jerry Hendrix, a former captain in the US Navy who worked with the chief of naval operation’s executive panel on naval aviation and missile defense cautioned at a Heritage Foundation talk on Dec. 11, 2018, that the carriers may have become too mythological to fight.

“Carriers have gone beyond mere naval platforms to become near mystical symbols of American national power,” said Hendrix. “They are the symbol of the nation, its greatness, in the way they are perceived as asset of national prestige.”

If the US purchased all of one carrier in a single year, it would eat 80% of the total shipbuilding budget, Hendrix said.

But with the proliferation of carrier-killer missiles from China and Russia, meaning missiles purpose-built to sink carriers at sea from ranges far beyond the furthest missile from the furthest-flying jet off a carrier’s deck, it’s not immediately clear how these massive ships can bring their impressive power to bear.

Carriers sail with a strike group of dedicated warships that can take on submarines, missiles, aircraft, and other surface combatants.

Bryan Clarke, former special assistant to the chief of naval operations who also spoke at Heritage, said that in a best-case scenario, a carrier strike group could down 450 incoming missiles. China could likely muster 600 missiles in an attack about 1,000 miles off their coast.

So short of some revolution in strike group armaments or tactics, China looks to have a solid chance at sinking the mythical aircraft carrier.

China’s J-20 stealth fighter enters military service

The last time the US lost an aircraft carrier was in World War II.

(NETNebraska)

Too big to fail?

“Presidents may well be hesitant to introduce carriers inside dense portions of the enemy’s threat environment,” said Hendrix. “The military may make that advice based upon the mission they’ve been given,” he continued, “but the president might not feel comfortable risking it.”

The commander in chief of the US military owes his job to public opinion. Losing an aircraft carrier at sea would shock a nation that hasn’t seen such destruction in a single battle since the Vietnam war.

“For fear of loss of national prestige or even their political power,” US presidents might not even want to use carriers, said Hendrix. “For the loss of an aircraft carrier will have a significant impact on the national conversation.”

“We need to begin as a nation to have a conversation that prepares the American people for war,” said Hendrix. “There is, unfortunately, the heavy potential of conflict coming, but the nation is not ready for heavy battle damage to its navy and specifically not to its aircraft carriers. We need to move these assets back in the realm of being weapons, and not being perceived as mystical unicorns.”

But Bryan McGrath, founding managing director of The FerryBridge Group LLC, a naval consultancy, told Business Insider that the US’s enemies would think twice before targeting a carrier, and that a wartime US Navy and people can and have risen to the task of fighting on through sunk carriers in the past.

“The decision to go after an aircraft carrier, short of the deployment of nuclear weapons, is the decision that a foreign power would take with the most reticence,” said McGrath. “The other guy knows that if that is their target, the wrath of god will come down on them.”

For now, the expert community remains split around the utility of aircraft carriers going forward, but the US Navy continues to build them and set thousands to sea on them in a sure sign of confidence.

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

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