As the nation grapples with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the military community and those wishing to join are feeling the effects. A recent memo released by the U.S. Military Entrance Processing Command (MEPCOM) states that recruit candidates with a diagnosis of COVID-19 — even after a full recovery — will now be permanently disqualified from joining the military.
“During the medical history interview or examination, a history of COVID-19, confirmed by either a laboratory test or a clinician diagnosis, is permanently disqualifying,” the memo reads.
Military Times reached out to a Pentagon spokesperson to verify the accuracy of the MEPCOM memo which began circulating on Twitter on May 4, 2020. The Times confirmed the memo was accurate. This disqualifier for serving impacts not just new potential recruits walking in but also those already in the processing phase. According to the memo, once a potential recruit tests positive they must wait 28 days to return to MEPS. Upon return, they will be labeled “permanently disqualified.”
The military does allow medical waivers in certain cases where there is a disqualifier, so initially the assumption was that this would be the case with COVID-19, as well. This appears to not be the case. With COVID-19 being a new virus and little known about the after-effects of surviving it, there is no current guidance in place to inform those who’d be reviewing potential waivers.
When Military Times asked the Pentagon spokesperson why COVID-19 was being labeled a permanently disqualifying diagnosis when other similar acute illnesses weren’t, they declined to answer the question.
Medical professionals are currently racing to research this virus and compile data to understand it. Research institutes all across the world are doing the same to develop a vaccine. But without reliable information on long-term effects or the potential to have a relapse with the virus, too much is unknown. It may be with this in mind that the DOD is implementing this disqualifier, with the potential for it to be lifted later.
In the meantime, survivors of COVID-19 will be turned away and disqualified from serving this country. The Pentagon has not issued any guidance for active duty service members who contract the virus and recover.
Bill the Goat is one of college football’s most-loved mascots. For more than 100 years, a version of Bill has been on the sidelines to support the Midshipmen from the United States Naval Academy as they have literally tackled big time opponents like Army, Air Force and more.
Somewhere along the way, vicious fans of opposing teams, especially service academy teams, decided their chances of winning would be better if Bill the Goat wasn’t there, or if the opposing team was worried about where Bill might be held hostage. This of course led to a series of goat kidnappings.
College football rivalry isn’t what it once was, but nowhere was rivalry better and more entertaining than between service academies. There’s something about the combination of youth, guts and billions of dollars of military training, hardware and vehicles that takes rivalry to a whole new level.
The best of all college rivalry pranks has to be mascot theft. The more intricate and complex, the better. While there have been some epic mascot thefts in college football history, only the service academy thefts ever required intervention from the President of the United States.
The Naval Academy’s mascot, Bill the Goat, is by far the most popular target for a heist. Since the three major service academies signed an agreement against mascot theft in 1995, Bill the Goat has been stolen at least three times, once ending up outside the Pentagon.
Goatnapping missions from the United States Military Academy at West Point are the stuff of legend, with the first documented instance occurring in 1953 using an inside man and a boat. A “prisoner,” a West Pointer studying at the Naval Academy, let three cadets onto the ground at Annapolis who sailed the goat to West Point.
That theft was ended with an order from President Eisenhower himself. Seven years later, it was the Air Force Academy who did the goat grab all the way from Colorado.
In 1960, a full month before the Air Force-Navy Game, three Air Force cadets infiltrated the grounds at the Naval Academy and took Bill. He was flown to the Air Force Academy in the bomb bay of a B-26 Marauder.
In response, the Navy allegedly used its intelligence assets to track the movements of Bill the Goat aboard the Air Force bomber, eventually tracing him to a farm in Colorado. When the Superintendent, Maj. Gen. William S. Stone found out, he brow beat his cadets into returning the goat to Annapolis.
Ten years later, Midshipmen were able to get the goat of the Air Force Cadets during the Navy-Air Force game of 1970. The game was held at Washington, DC’s RFK Stadium and before the game started, a long motorcade flying Air Force General flags drove onto the field on the Air Force side. The Air Force cadets stood at attention for their general, as did the Midshipmen.
When the door opened, out came Bill the Goat, along with two Mids dressed as cadets.
These days, Navy has increased the security around its mascot, as everyone from the service academies to other Maryland universities has made an attempt at goatnapping. Bill the Goat’s location is a closely-guarded secret, as is the security around him.
After placing fifth at the Rogue Invitational in Columbus, Ohio, an armor officer and member of the Army Warrior Fitness Team has stamped his ticket to the CrossFit Games starting Thursday in Madison, Wisconsin.
During the four-day competition, Capt. Chandler Smith said he looks forward to sharing his Army story at one of the largest fitness contests in the world.
“My goals at the CrossFit Games are reflective of my Army career goals as a whole,” Smith said. “My efforts there could potentially [bring in] a Soldier that will help educate my [future] son or daughter when they decide to join the Army.
Capt. Chandler Smith stamped his ticket to the CrossFit Games Aug. 1-4, 2019, in Madison, Wisc., after placing fifth at the Rogue Invitational in Columbus, Ohio. Smith, an armor officer and member of the Army Warrior Fitness Team looks forward to sharing his Army story at one of the largest fitness contests in the world.
(Photo Credit: U.S. Army Recruiting Command)
“I want to do something at the games that [helps] the Army, and the world, become a better place,” he added. “If someone sees my positivity and chooses to reflect that in their daily life — that is a win.”
Smith was born in Gainesville, Florida. His father, Cedric, was a former NFL fullback and currently works as a strength and conditioning coach in the league. As an aspiring young athlete, Smith had ample opportunity to interact with many players and coaches, which taught him to remain humble, he said.
During high school, Smith decided to get into wrestling. His coach, Nage Damas, was a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, and a three-year letter winner on its wrestling team. Through their interaction, Smith decided to enroll in the academy.
“I am the person who is big on discipline,” Smith said. “West Point presented the hardest road … and presented the biggest challenge in comparison to the other academies.”
At the time the Army was highly involved in Iraq and Afghanistan. Smith believed the Army provided the best opportunity for applied leadership.
“Those were conflicts I saw myself in. As an aspiring leader, you want to place yourself at points of friction,” he said.
As both a cadet and wrestler, Smith worked hard to exceed West Point’s academic, physical and military performance standards, he said. He strived to be a positive example for all of his teammates and peers.
“I have been given some gifts in the physical realm,” Smith said. “It is something that the Army has helped me foster by putting me around similarly-minded [people].
“I’m big on putting a focused effort toward whatever it is that I am in charge of doing,” he added. “Anything less than my best would be to sacrifice my gift — that’s how I see it.”
The Army goes to great lengths to support competitive athletes. Here, Capt. Brian Harris completes the half Murph on the Assault AirRunner during the U.S. Army Warrior Fitness Team Tryouts.
(U.S. Army image by Lara Poirrier)
A NEW PATH
Smith’s respect for CrossFit started long before his time at West Point, he said.
“I wanted to do all the cool guy stuff that you see on TV. [CrossFit] helped me out with wrestling during high school and college,” he said.
After Smith graduated in 2015, CrossFit presented the most natural transition to help “stoke that competitive fire,” he added. In between his duties as a new lieutenant, Smith would spend hours in the gym. He was determined to make the CrossFit Games by 2020.
However, Smith’s fitness career almost derailed in February 2016. During an Army exercise, Smith sustained an injury, which broke his left ring finger in two places and sliced off the tip.
The injury happened a day before the CrossFit Open, the first qualifying stage for the CrossFit Games. The year prior, Smith placed 174th overall out of 273,000 total participants, according to CrossFit officials.
Smith took some time to recover and had to learn to operate with his new hand. He took a step back and started to reevaluate his ability to compete.
I didn’t realize that grip strength is a weakness of mine until I had something that affected my ability to grip. I began to specialize in the type of fitness my musculature can naturally support,” he said. “It ended up being a case of traumatic growth as this setback led to greater results.”
Through it all, Smith continued to move up in the ranks. He placed 128th overall in 2018 in the CrossFit standings. Coming into this year’s CrossFit Games, he is ranked 40th overall, according to program officials.
“I’ve gotten a chance to work out with [Smith],” said Master Sgt. Glenn Grabs, the first sergeant of the Army Recruiting Command’s outreach and recruiting company. “He speeds up as the workout gets longer, which makes him such a great competitor. Even though he’s maybe suffering inside, he’s just so positive and never backs down.”
As an overall athlete, Smith is relentless and the true embodiment of the warrior spirit, Grabs added.
“Captain Chandler Smith is not only a great Soldier, but he is a great person,” he said. “When I see him interact with people at competitions or in public, he goes the extra step to connect with people. That’s just who he is as a person and what makes him so remarkable.”
Army Strong: Capt. Kasandra “Kaci” Clark completing the half Murch on the Assault AirRunner during the U.S. Army Warrior Fitness Team Tryouts.
(U.S. Army image by Lara Poirrier)
As a Soldier, Smith looks forward to more milestones he hopes to accomplish in his career. He was recently selected to lead an infantry platoon as an armor officer, which ended up being one of his crowning achievements thus far, he said.
“That’s not something that happens too often. We went over to Bulgaria for nine months as part of the Operation Atlantic Resolve,” he said. “Knowing that my command trusted me enough to take on a role that I wasn’t necessarily trained for — it empowered me a lot.”
For the most part, Smith has not experienced a lot of difficulties while balancing his fitness goals and Army career, he said. However, anything that falls outside those two priorities is sometimes pushed aside.
“I think I am overly focused on doing my nine to five at work. I also take my fitness hobby very seriously. It doesn’t leave much time for anything else,” he said. “I haven’t done too much vacationing or maybe spent as much time with my family as I would have liked to.”
These sacrifices were necessary to keep him relevant in the Army and fitness community, he said.
“[Making the CrossFit Games] is a goal that I’ve had in mind since 2012, and I’ve been in the Army the whole time,” he said. “So figuring out a way to do this all while balancing my Army requirements was going to be a challenge, but I wouldn’t have it in any other way.
“I’m super happy that it has paid off with a trip to the games this year.”
You’ve probably seen it plastered all over billboards by now. The Army is offering “up to $40k in an enlistment bonuses!” Some hopeful recruits will learn that they can, in fact, get that down-payment for a Corvette. Another guy could come in that same day and walk out with just the “honor of serving.”
What’s the difference here? Why does one guy get a ‘vette and the other nothing but a hardy handshake? The determination process is kind of convoluted, but it all comes down to the military trying to get the right people in the right places.
I mean, it’s better to have a brilliant lawyer become an infantry officer than to have an idiot defending troops at a court martial, right?
(U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Ayana Pitterson)
Troops get a bonus based on what they bring to the military, how long they plan on staying in, and when they sign the contract.
So, if you have just a high school education and you want to enlist in a field that’s pretty crowded at a time when everyone is trying to get in for just the 3 years required to get full access to the GI Bill, your bonus prospects are looking pretty bleak. If you have a college degree and plan to use said degree to benefit the military at a time when it’s almost impossible to find others like you — the cash is yours.
With that being said, the stars need to align for everything to work out perfectly. Even if, say, you have a doctorate in law and decide to use your skills in JAG, if you arrive a time when the Army needs more infantry officers, you’re going infantry. Uncle Sam will always have the final say.
Obviously I’m making fun of water dogs (because they’re so used to enduring jokes by everyone that they won’t flip sh*t in the comments section).
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Adam Dublinske)
Highly trained and highly skilled troops, like cyber security NCOs, often leave the service and jump into higher-paying, civilian-equivalent jobs. The troop that was once the backbone of their unit is now working the IT help-desk at Google, dealing with a quarter of the stress for double the pay. The civilian sector is gunning for these troops by offering sweet cash deals — and the military can’t sustain this kind of personnel hemorrhaging.
If the military didn’t offer retention bonuses, those cyber security NCOs would all jump ship. Suddenly, offering that bonus of 0,000 over a four-year period for an indefinite contract doesn’t seem too unreasonable.
All that being said — and this isn’t to diminish the service or need of anyone who didn’t get an enlistment or a reenlistment bonus — the more competitive your specific skill set is to the outside world, the more of an incentive the military will offer to keep you in.
The Pentagon’s emerging “Arsenal Plane” or “flying bomb truck” is likely to be a modified, high-tech adaptation of the iconic B-52 bomber designed to fire air-to-air weapons, release swarms of mini-drones and provide additional fire-power to 5th generation stealth fighters such as the F-35 and F-22, Pentagon officials and analysts said.
Using a B-52, which is already being modernized with new radios and an expanded internal weapons bay, would provide an existing “militarized” platform already engineered with electronic warfare ability and countermeasures designed to thwart enemy air defenses.
“You are using a jet that already has a military capability. The B-52 is a military asset, whereas all the alternatives would have to be created. It has already been weaponized and has less of a radar cross-section compared to a large Air Force cargo plane. It is not a penetrating bomber, but it does have some kind of jamming and countermeasures meant to cope with enemy air defenses. It is wired for a combat mission,” said Richard Aboulafia, Vice President of analysis at the Teal Group, a Virginia-based consultancy.
Flying as a large, non-stealthy bomber airplane, a B-52 would still present a large target to potential adversaries; however, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said part of the rationale for the “Arsenal Plane” would be to work closely with stealthy fighter jets such as an F-22 and F-35, with increased networking technology designed to increase their firepower and weapons load.
Such a scenario would likely rely upon now-in-development manned-unmanned teaming wherein emerging algorithms and computer technology enable fighter jets to control the sensor payload and weapons capability of nearby drones from the cockpit of the aircraft. This would enable Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance assets to more quickly relay strategic or targeting information between fighter jets, drones and “Arsenal Planes.”
Aboulafia explained that air fighters being developed by potential adversaries, such as the Chinese J-20 and other fighters, could exist in larger numbers than a U.S. force, underscoring the current U.S. strategy to maintain a technological edge even if their conventional forces are smaller. An “Arsenal Plane” could extend range and lethality for U.S. fighters, in the event they were facing an enemy force with more sheer numbers of assets.
“There is a concern about numbers of potential enemies and range. When you are dealing with a potential adversary with thousands of jets and you’ve got limited assets with limited weapons payloads, you have got to be concerned about the numbers,” he said.
An effort to be more high-tech, if smaller in terms of sheer numbers, than rival militaries is a key part of the current Pentagon force modernization strategy.
“In practice, the “Arsenal Plane” will function as a very large airborne magazine, networked to fifth generation aircraft that act as forward sensor and targeting nodes, essentially combining different systems already in our inventory to create wholly new capabilities,” Carter told reporters. Aboulafia added that an idea for an “Arsenal Plane” emerged in the 1980s as a Cold War strategy designed to have large jets carry missiles able to attack Soviet targets.
Carter unveiled the “Arsenal Plane” concept during a recent 2017 budget drop discussion at the Pentagon wherein he, for the first time, revealed the existence of a “Strategic Capabilities Office” aimed at connecting and leveraging emerging weapons and technology with existing platforms. This effort is aimed at saving money, increasing the military’s high-tech lethality and bringing new assets to the force faster than the many years it would take to engineer entirely new technologies.
“I created the SCO (Strategic Capabilities Office) in 2012, when I was Deputy Secretary of defense to help us to re-imagine existing DOD and intelligence community and commercial systems by giving them new roles and game-changing capabilities to confound potential enemies — the emphasis here was on rapidity of fielding, not 10 and 15-year programs,” he said.
Carter said “Arsenal Plane” development would be funded through a $71 billion research and development 2017 budget request.
While Carter did not specify a B-52 during his public discussion of the new asset now in-development, he did say it would likely be an “older” aircraft designed to function as a “flying launchpad.”
“The last project I want to highlight is one that we’re calling the “Arsenal Plane,” which takes one of our oldest aircraft platforms and turns it into a flying launchpad for all sorts of different conventional payloads,” Carter added.
The Air Force is already surging forward with a massive, fleet-wide modernization overhaul of the battle-tested, Vietnam-era B-52 bomber, an iconic airborne workhorse for the U.S. military dating back to the 1960s.
Engineers are now equipping all 76 of the Air Force B-52s with digital data-links, moving-map displays, next-generation avionics, new radios and an ability to both carry more weapons internally and integrate new, high-tech weapons as they emerge, service officials said.
The technical structure and durability of the B-52 airframes in the Air Force fleet are described as extremely robust and able to keep flying well into the 2040s and beyond – so the service is taking steps to ensure the platform stays viable by receiving the most current and effective avionics, weapons and technologies
Aboulafia said the new B-52 “Arsenal Plane” could, for the first time, configure a primarily air-to-ground bomber as a platform able to fire air-to-air weapons as well – such as the Advanced Medium Range Air to Air Missile, or AMRAAM.
The integration of air-to-air weapons on the B-52 does not seem inconceivable given the weapons upgrades already underway with the aircraft. Air Force is also making progress with a technology-inspired effort to increase the weapons payload for the workhorse bomber, Eric Single, Chief of the Global Strike Division, Acquisition, told Scout Warrior in an interview several months ago.
The 1760 Internal Weapons Bay Upgrade, or IWBU, will allow the B-52 to internally carry up to eight of the newest “J-Series” bombs in addition to carrying six on pylons under each wing, he explained.
B-52s have previously been able to carry JDAM weapons externally, but with the IWBU the aircraft will be able to internally house some of the most cutting edge precision-guided Joint Direct Attack Munitions and Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles, among others.
“It is about a 66 percent increase in carriage capability for the B-52, which is huge. You can imagine the increased number of targets you can reach, and you can strike the same number of targets with significantly less sorties,” said Single.
Single also added that having an increased internal weapons bay capability affords an opportunity to increase fuel-efficiency by removing bombs from beneath the wings and reducing drag.
The first increment of IWBU, slated to be finished by 2017, will integrate an internal weapons bay ability to fire a laser-guided JDAM. A second increment, to finish by 2022, will integrate more modern or cutting-edge weapons such as the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile, or JASSM, JASSM Extended Range (ER) and a technology called Miniature Air Launched Decoy, or MALD. A MALD-J “jammer” variant, which will also be integrated into the B-52, can be used to jam enemy radar technologies as well, Single said.
IWBU, which uses a digital interface and a rotary launcher to increase the weapons payload, is expected to cost roughly $313 million, service officials said.
The B-52 has a massive, 185-foot wingspan, a weight of about 185,000 pounds and an ability to reach high sub-sonic speeds and altitudes of 50,000 feet, Air Force officials said.
Communications, Avionics Upgrades
Two distinct, yet interwoven B-52 modernization efforts will increase the electronics, communications technology, computing and avionics available in the cockpit while simultaneously configuring the aircraft with the ability to carry up to eight of the newest “J-Series” precision-guided weapons internally – in addition to carrying six weapons on each wing, Single said.
Eight B-52s have already received a communications (coms systems) upgrade called Combat Network Communication Technology, or CONECT – a radio, electronics and data-link upgrade which, among other things, allows aircraft crews to transfer mission and targeting data directly to aircraft systems while in flight (machine to machine), Single explained.
“It installs a digital architecture in the airplane,” Single explained. “Instead of using data that was captured during the mission planning phase prior to your take off 15 to 20 hours ago – you are getting near real-time intelligence updates in flight.”
Single described it key attribute in terms of “machine-to-machine” data-transfer technology which allows for more efficient, seamless and rapid communication of combat-relevant information.
Using what’s called an ARC 210 Warrior software-programmable voice and data radio, pilots can now send and receive targeting data, mapping information or intelligence with ground stations, command centers and other aircraft.
“The crew gets the ability to communicate digitally outside the airplane which enables you to import not just voice but data for mission changes, threat notifications, targeting….all those different types of things you would need to get,” Single said.
An ability to receive real-time targeting updates is of great relevance to the B-52s close-air-support mission because fluid, fast-moving or dynamic combat situations often mean ground targets appear, change or disappear quickly.
Capt. Jeff Rogers (left) and 1st Lt. Patrick Applegate are ready in the lower deck of a B-52 Stratofortress at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., on Aug. 21. The officers are with the 5th Bomb Wing at Minot AFB. | Photo: Master Sgt. Lance Cheung/U.S. Air Force
Alongside moving much of the avionics from analogue to digital technology, CONECT also integrates new servers, modems, colored display screens in place of old green monochrome and provides pilots with digital moving-map displays which can be populated with real-time threat and mission data, Single said.
The new digital screens also show colored graphics highlighting the aircraft’s flight path, he added.
Single explained that being able to update key combat-relevant information while in transit will substantially help the aircraft more effectively travel longer distances for missions, as needed.
“The key to this is that this is part of the long-range strike family of systems — so if you take off out of Barksdale Air Force Base and you go to your target area, it could take 15 or 16 hours to get there. By the time you get there, all the threat information has changed,” said Single. “Things move, pop up or go away and the targeting data may be different.”
The upgrades will also improve the ability of the airplane to receive key intelligence information through a data link called the Intelligence Broadcast Receiver. In addition, the B-52s will be able to receive information through a LINK-16-like high-speed digital data link able to transmit targeting and Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance, or ISR information.
The CONECT effort, slated to cost $1.1 billion overall, will continue to unfold over the next several years, Single explained.
Twelve B-52 will be operational with CONECT by the end of this year and the entire fleet will be ready by 2021, Single said.
Known for massive bombing missions during the Vietnam War, the 159-foot long B-52s have in recent years been operating over Afghanistan in support of military actions there from a base in Guam.
The B-52 also served in Operation Desert Storm, Air Force statements said. “B-52s struck wide-area troop concentrations, fixed installations and bunkers, and decimated the morale of Iraq’s Republican Guard,” an Air Force statement said.
In 2001, the B-52 provided close-air support to forces in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom, service officials said. The B-52 also played a role in Operation Iraqi Freedom. On March 21, 2003, B-52Hs launched approximately 100 CALCMs (Conventional Air Launched Cruise Missiles) during a night mission.
Given the B-52s historic role in precision-bombing and close air support, next-generation avionics and technologies are expected to greatly increase potential missions for the platform in coming years, service officials said.
President Donald Trump tweeted Jan. 2 that he had a “Nuclear Button” to launch a missile attack — but the process is much more complicated than the President made it seem.
Trump’s tweet was a direct response to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who recently warned that nowhere in the U.S. is safe from his country’s nuclear missiles. Despite warnings from the international community, Kim said, North Korea would produce as many missiles and nuclear weapons as possible.
“The entire United States is within range of our nuclear weapons, a nuclear button is always on my desk. This is reality, not a threat,” Kim said during his New Year’s speech. “This year, we should focus on mass-producing nuclear warheads and ballistic missiles for operational deployment. These weapons will be used only if our society is threatened.”
Trump responded, tweeting, “North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the ‘Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times.'”
“Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger more powerful one than his, and my Button works!” Trump tweeted.
North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the “Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times.” Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger more powerful one than his, and my Button works!
“The President’s ability to exercise that ability and direction is ensured by people, processes, and capabilities that comprise the nuclear command and control system,” Kehler said. “This is a system controlled by human beings — nothing happens automatically.”
In short, there is no button.
Inside the ‘football’ and the ‘biscuit’
It would be more accurate to say that there is a phone, and a long line of advisors, both civilian and military, that present all the facts and all the options on the table.
Once the decision is made, the President himself must authenticate that he is the one giving the order by calling the senior officer in the Pentagon. That officer will give the President a “challenge code” that requires a matching response, which the President or one of his aids carries at all time on a laminated card called the “biscuit.”
Once the order is confirmed by the highest ranking official, it works its way down the chain of command until it reaches those who are responsible for turning the keys and carrying out the action.
The missile could be launched from either the sea or from land. In both cases, multiple people need to authenticate the order even after it comes down from the Pentagon.
Bloomberg determined that the process could take anywhere from five to 15 minutes after the President’s order.
Even the famous “nuclear football” that is in reach of the President at all times does not contain a button.
Instead, it contains books with strike options, classified sites to shelter the President, instructions, codes, and likely some type of communication device.
Though the President has the authority to launch nuclear weapons, a press of a button on his desk will not send ICBMs hurling towards targets.
“The nuclear decision process includes assessment, review, and consultation between the president and key civilian and military leaders, followed by transmission and implementation of any presidential decision by the forces themselves” Kehler said.
“All activity surrounding nuclear weapons are characterized by layers of safeguards, tests, and reviews.”
Russia’s media regulator, Roskomnadzor, says it has started checking the legality of the BBC World News channel’s Russian operations and its websites, following a statement by British media watchdog Ofcom that Russia’s RT television channel had violated impartiality rules.
Roskomnadzor said on Dec. 21, 2018, that the goal of the verification is to establish whether the content of the BBC operation is consistent with Russian laws.
The statement comes a day after Ofcom said it was considering sanctioning Russia’s state-financed RT, saying it had broken impartiality rules in seven programs in 2018, including coverage of the poisoning in Britain of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter.
Britain blames the Russian government for the poisoning of the Skripals in the city of Salisbury in March 2018.
Russia has repeatedly denied that its agents were behind the poisoning and accused British intelligence agencies of staging the incident to stoke what they called “Russophobia.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The Skripals survived the poisoning, in which a Soviet-made military nerve agent known as Novichok was used.
Two other British citizens were exposed to the same nerve agent in June 2018, apparently by accident; one of them, Dawn Sturgess, died.
Ofcom since 2012 has repeatedly found RT to have breached its rules on impartiality and of broadcasting “materially misleading” content.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters in Moscow on Dec. 21, 2018, that Roskomnadzor’s move was in response to Ofcom’s announced checks of RT operations.
“Many have questions for the BBC regarding its biased coverage of some events, as they are covered not like a media outlet should do but in a preprogrammed and biased way,” Peskov said.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova hailed Roskomnadzor’s move, writing on Facebook that “it is high time to do that.”
“…the British government’s blatant interference in the activities of Russian medias outlets (constant propaganda against the RT channel, attempts to defame our reporters and so on) leave us no choice but to give a tit-for-tat response,” Zakharova wrote.
The BBC said on Dec. 21, 2018, that it worked in full compliance with Russia’s laws and regulations to deliver independent news.
“As everywhere else in the world, the BBC works in Russia in full compliance with the country’s laws and regulations to deliver independent news and information to its audiences,” said a BBC spokesperson.
Such capability would be game-changing for the People’s Republic of China.
“It would provide China with the large and global lift that not even the US has possessed, except by rental,” wrote Peter Singer, an avid China watcher on Popular Science. “It’s large enough to carry helicopters, tanks, artillery, even other aircraft.”
For the most part, as Singer mentioned, China will rent the massive planes, but the agreement does allow for China to domestically build An-225s.
But the herculean plane lends itself to civil applications too. China could easily use it to move construction supplies, to offload its glut of steel, or to bring supplies to its several building projects as part of the “One Belt, One Road” initiative.
As Marcus Weisgerber at DefenseOne points out, the adoption of old, soviet-era technology from Ukraine is an instance of history repeating itself, as China’s sole aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, is also a refurbished Ukrainian hull.
The U.S. military is prepping for anti-surface warfare to make a comeback, and it’s moved one step closer with another successful test of the latest air-launched, Long Range Anti-Ship Missile.
Lockheed Martin Corp., the missile’s manufacturer, recently launched the AGM-158C LRASM from a B-1B Lancer at Point Mugu Sea Range, California, the company said.
The aircrew “simultaneously launched two LRASMs against multiple maritime targets, meeting the primary test objectives, including target impact,” Lockheed said in a release.
Once launched from the aircraft, the missile — based on the, Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile-Extended Range, or JASSM-ER — will be able to autonomously sensor-locate and track targets while avoiding friendly forces.
“This continued success with LRASM provides confidence in its upcoming early operational capability milestone, putting a proven, unmatched munition into the U.S. Navy and U.S. Air Force inventories,” said David Helsel, LRASM program director at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control.
“The successful flight demonstrates LRASM’s continued ability to strengthen sea control for our forces,” he said in the release.
“The B-1 is the only Air Force platform scheduled to receive this, and we are the threshold platform for [it],” Maj. Jeremy Stover, B-1 program element monitor and instructor weapons systems officer, told Military.com in July.
The weapon will enhance not just the B-1, but the U.S. military’s targeting capabilities while protecting at-risk assets in a high-threat environment, Stover said. The B-1 may be capable of carrying more than 20 LRASMs at a time.
The Air Force is scheduled to integrate LRASM onboard the B-1B in 2018 and the Navy on its F/A-18E/F in 2019, the release said.
“We need to do that to make sure that those who use VA are protected, that they are cared for,” he said. “We will get over this and we will make sure everything is done to protect those who have done so much for our country.”
Suicide prevention, benefits
Wilkie also talked about the President’s Roadmap to Empower Veterans and End a National Tragedy of Suicide, or PREVENTS, executive order. The goal of PREVENTS is to bring together stakeholders across all levels of government and in the private sector to work side by side to provide Veterans with the mental health and suicide prevention services they need. The secretary said VA is weeks away from the PREVENTS initiative task force report. The report will supply a roadmap for greater cooperation at the state, local and tribal level.
The secretary also offered high praise for Veteran Service Organizations like the American Legion. He said through continued engagement and the MISSION Act, Vietnam Veterans are about to receive additional benefits.
“We have finally published the regulations that give financial and material support to the families of our Vietnam warriors who take care of those warriors at home, and it is long past time,” the secretary said.
Wilkie said he has a personal interest in caring for Vietnam Veterans. His father received injuries in Cambodia during the Vietnam War. Wilkie said the nation should never turn its back “on those men and women who provide us the very freedoms that we breathe and live every day.”
The secretary also discussed another group of Vietnam Veterans. He said VA started accepting Blue Water Navy compensation claims in January. Wilkie added that VA expects 70,000 to apply for the benefits “that are long overdue.”
In Afghanistan’s turbulent Helmand province, US Marines are rekindling old relationships and identifying weaknesses in the Afghan forces that the Trump administration hopes to address with a new strategy and the targeted infusion of several thousand American forces.
Returning to Afghanistan’s south after five years, Marine Brig. Gen. Roger Turner already knows where he could use some additional US troops. And while he agrees that the fight against the Taliban in Helmand is at a difficult stalemate, he said he is seeing improvements in the local forces as his Marines settle into their roles advising the Afghan National Army’s 215th Corps.
Turner’s report on the fight in Helmand will be part of a broader assessment that Gen. Joseph Dunford will collect this week from his senior military commanders in Afghanistan.
Dunford landed in Kabul Monday with a mission to pull together the final elements of a military strategy that will include sending nearly 4,000 more U.S. troops into the country. He will be meeting with Afghan officials as well as US and coalition military leaders and troops.
The expected deployment of more Americans will be specifically molded to bolster the Afghan forces in critical areas so they can eventually take greater control over the security of their own nation.
The Taliban have slowly resurged, following the decision to end the combat role of US and international forces at the end of 2014. The NATO coalition switched to a support and advisory role, while the US has also focused on counter-terrorism missions.
Recognizing the continued Taliban threat and the growing Islamic State presence in the county, the Obama administration slowed its plan to withdraw all U.S. forces from Afghanistan by the end of last year. There are now about 8,400 there.
But commanders have complained that the sharp drawdown hurt their ability to adequately train and advise the Afghans while also increasing the counter-terror fight. As a result, the Trump administration is completing a new military, diplomatic, and economic strategy for the war, and is poised to send the additional US troops, likely bolstered by some added international forces.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis will be in Brussels later this week and is expected to talk with allies about their ongoing support for the war.
While Turner said he has already seen improvements in the Afghan’s 215th Corps, he said adding more advisers would allow him to pinpoint problems at the lower command levels, including more brigades.
“The level and number of advisers you have really gives you the ability to view the chain on all the functional areas. The more areas you can see — you can have a greater impact on the overall capability of the force,” he told the Associated Press in an interview from Helmand Province. “If we had more capacity in the force we would be able to address more problems, faster.”
He said that although the Afghan forces have improved their ability to fight, they still need help at some of the key underpinnings of a combat force, such as getting spare parts to troops with broken equipment.
The seemingly simple task of efficiently ordering and receiving parts — something American forces do routinely — requires a working supply chain from the warehouse to the unit on the battlefield.
And Turner said that’s an issue that could be improved with additional advisers.
Other improvements, he said, include increasing the size of Afghanistan’s special operations forces and building the capacity and capabilities of its nascent air force.
The Afghan ground forces in Helmand, he said, have been able to launch offensive operations against the Taliban, including a recent battle in Marjah.
“I don’t think last year they could have taken the fight to Marjah like they just did,” he said. “They’re in a much better position that they were a year ago.”
But they are facing a resilient Taliban, whose fighters are newly financed, now that the poppy harvest is over.
“Once they draw their finances, they start operations,” said Turner. “What we’ve seen so far since the end of May, when they made that transition, is a steady grind of activity across a number of places in the province.”
What has helped a lot, Turner said, is his Marines’ ability to renew old relationships with Afghan tribal elders, provincial ministers, and military commanders they worked with six or seven years ago.
Battalion officers they knew then are now commanders, and many government leaders are still in place.
“We obviously have a long commitment here in Helmand. It’s been good for the Marines to come back here,” he said. “This is a really meaningful mission. I think people realize that we don’t want to get into a situation where the kinds of pre-9/11 conditions exist again.”
When it comes time to write up the technical pamphlets for the next generation of military gear, the manufacturers … probably won’t call us.
Here are seven perfectly accurate descriptions of military hardware that no self-respecting manufacturer would ever publish:
1. The Apache is the world’s most advanced digital camera
The AH-64 just has so many features that Canon and Nikon would never dream of putting on a camera: multiple rotor blades, a hydraulics systems, missiles, rockets, and a cannon. It’s almost hard to spot the camera sensors in the ball at the front.
2. The M1A2 Abrams tank provides very effective body armor for troops
Because the armor is on motorized tracks, you can barely even feel the 60 tons of protection. It even has seats, a feature most body armor lacks.
3. The A-10 is a great way to get a look at the battlefield
It gets you high enough to see over the terrain while keeping you low enough to see all your enemies. If only there was something we could do about them from up here?
4. Navy aircraft carriers are cruise ships with (slightly) less sex and much more (hidden) booze
You can move a LOT of people with one of these ships. Over 6,000 with the old Nimitz-class. The newer Ford ships hold less people, normally about 4,000, but have sweet magnets that could hold literally anything to a fridge. In a pinch, there’s even a way to move people from shore directly to the ship without it docking. But be warned that the cruise directors are pretty uptight and the upper decks are noisy.
5. TOW missiles are a much faster delivery method than carrier pigeons
While carrier pigeons top out at around 90 mph in a sprint, TOW missiles fly at an astounding 715 mph. There’s almost nothing that can get your message across a battlefield faster, and the control cables let the recipient know just where the message came from.
Just a quick note, when sending messages to friends you should be sure to remove the original payload.
6. Rifles can punch holes through hella paper at once
Don’t use boring three-hole punches that can only handle a few sheets when these rifles can create either 5.56mm or 7.62mm openings in dozens of sheets of paper at once.
7. CS gas is a quick and effective decongestant
Neti pots are weird and pouring liquids through your sinus cavities can lead to brain parasites. 2-chlorobenzalmalononitrile has neither drawback and is extremely effective at helping you breathe free clearing your sinuses.
Next time you step on a LEGO brick in the middle of the night, think twice before you vindictively throw it in the trash. If it’s part of a rare or coveted set, it could be worth enough to dull your pain. In fact, the LEGO collectors market has become its own building block economy, with some sets bringing in thousands of dollars on the brick market.
“Many factors play into a set’s aftermarket value, but demand is the primary factor,” explains Chris Malloy, managing editor for The Brothers Brick, and co-author of Ultimate LEGO Star Wars.“For most of the company’s history, LEGO was viewed as exclusively a children’s toy. So, in the early 2000s, when LEGO began to explore the adult market in a serious way, they began developing a lot of massive sets with high price tags.”
Gerben van IJken, a full time LEGO expert with the EU-based auction platform Catawiki, and a LEGO investor and appraiser, also cites rarity, detail, and demand as reasons for increased value in LEGO collectibles.
“Most high-priced sets are recent, but not that recent. Properties such as Star Wars, for example, benefited from the restart of the movie franchise and the fact that people who loved Star Wars as kids – but didn’t have the money to buy sets that cost hundreds of dollars – are now buying them.”
So what are the most valuable LEGO sets around? That’s what we set out to find. While LEGO lore (get used to that term) tells of employee exclusives, such as a solid gold, 14K LEGO brickvalued between ,000 and ,000, we’ve kept this list to models, sets, and minifigures that are, or once were, available to the general public. So take a look at these sets and see if you have any of them sitting in the attic.
1. #10179 LEGO Ultimate Collector’s Series Millennium Falcon
Highest Sale Price: ,000
The out-of-this-world sale price for this Star Wars set is a bit misleading, because it was a one-time thing influenced by some extraordinary factors. “This sale involved a first edition set, sold in an airtight case,” says van IJken. “It was also sold in Las Vegas, which influenced the markup.”
Despite the galactic inflation, a first edition Millennium Falcon is one of the most — if not the most —valuable Lego sets ever produced. “We’ve sold these sets for prices ranging from ,400 – ,700,” he says. However, a re-released version that came out in 2017 has devalued the set, according to Malloy. “Since the new Millennium Falcon came out, the more recent value is about id=”listicle-2629731824″,679, with only one sold in the last 6 months.” That said, with an original price of about 0, even the more modest sale price still represents a nearly 300 percent increase, making this set a true smuggler’s treasure.
2. #10189 LEGO Taj Mahal, First Edition
Highest Sale Price: ,864
“This set used to trade blows with the Millennium Falcon for the top spot,” explains Malloy. “But it’s a perfect example of why speculating LEGO set values and prices is a very, very risky business.” LEGO re-released the Taj Mahal model a few years ago as part of a different collection, which dropped the price from north of ,000 to a mere 0. Despite the devaluation however, this set is still an architectural masterpiece and first editions once sold for about 10 percent of their highest valued price.
3. #6080 LEGO King’s Castle
Highest Selling Price: ,600
If you’ve got a mint condition, in-the-box 1984 King’s Castle, you might be able to fetch some serious LEGO loot. Part of the reason is that, in general, a sealed LEGO set is worth up to ten times as much as an opened one. Another part is that, for the 80s, this was a HUGE set. “The largest set in a given theme during the 80s and 90s was typically in the 600 piece range,” Malloy explains. “Since the early 2000s, most themes include sets of more than 1,000 pieces. This means that there are a greater number of recent sets with a high starting value than there were from decades past.” Remarkably, the price of LEGOs on a per-piece basis has stayed relatively the same – about .10 per piece – since the 1980s, according to Malloy. So, the larger the set, regardless of its release date, the greater the possible value.
4. #10030 LEGO Ultimate Collector’s Series Imperial Star Destroyer
Highest Sale Price: ,300
According to Malloy and van IJken, the high prices for Star Wars sets has less to do with rarity, and more to do with the enormous demand for all things Light or Dark Side. “Countless fans collect these sets to try and complete the full ‘Ultimate Collector’s Series’, or find every version of their favorite ship,” Malloy says. When fully assembled, this highly-detailed Star Destroyer measures more than three feet long, and is comprised of more than 3,000 pieces. Other versions of the same ship, which are not part of the Ultimate Collector’s Series, can still fetch nearly a grand on the secondary market.
5. #6399 LEGO Airport Shuttle
Highest Sale Price: ,484
As part of the “Classic Town” line, this set was sought after by 90s kids everywhere. Why? Because it was one of the rare monorail sets that featured a looping track and battery-powered train. Originally selling at 0, this 730-piece model sits alongside other monorail sets such as the Futuron Monorail Transport System (1987, set #6990) and the Monorail Transport Base (1994, set #6991), which each average more than id=”listicle-2629731824″,000 in collector markets. “The monorail is sought after because it was a limited production,” says van IJken. “In fact, LEGO folklore tells us that LEGO outsourced the production of the monorail tracks — just the tracks, not the trains — to a company that went bankrupt. Because of that, the tooling pieces for the tracks were lost, and the monorail sets were abandoned.”
6. #10190 LEGO Market Street
Avg. Sale Price: ,163
Designed by a LEGO fan, this hyper-realistic set is a LEGO Factory exclusive which incorporates intricate design elements such as spiral staircases, awnings, and removable balconies. It’s also part of the sought-after “modular” collection, which allows you to construct it in different ways and supplement it with different sets to create a truly unique LEGO town. The highly-valued “Cafe Corner” set (#10182), is one such set, itself valued at nearly id=”listicle-2629731824″,600.
7. #1952 LEGO Milk Truck
Average Value: id=”listicle-2629731824″,980
Released in 1989, this LEGO vehicle set debuted in Denmark to promote the Danish dairy company MD Foods. While it only contains 133 pieces, it’s niche availability, and subsequent rarity, make it one of the most sought after “oddities” in LEGO land. Don’t be fooled by later, domestic releases, such as this one, which are much less valuable.
8. #71001 LEGO Minifigures Series 10, “Mr. Gold”
Average Sale Price: id=”listicle-2629731824″,786
If you have kids, you know the thrill of hunting for the rare, blind-boxed LEGO Minifigures. “This Minifigure was limited to 5,000 pieces,” explains Malloy. “Sold to the public, they were mixed in with the unmarked, blind packs as a ‘treasure hunt’ item.” Minifigures, which are a huge part of LEGO lore can drastically affect the value of whole sets. “It’s common to sell sets without the Minifigures, which will often drop the value by at least 50%,” Malloy adds. And Mr. Gold, because he wasn’t part of a larger set, had a sticker price of only .99 during his release in 2013.
Average Sale Price: 8 (used), id=”listicle-2629731824″,700 (Mint in Same Box [MISB])
“Maersk and LEGO have a long history, and LEGO continues to release Maersk sets,” explains Malloy. “These are both limited sets, and finding accurate listings on them can be tough. I’ve seen a mint, in-box Container Ship listed for id=”listicle-2629731824″,700, a used Truck for ,000, and a new Truck for ,600. But these are asking prices.” Still, both sets are rare enough to command respectable scratch.
10. #10196 LEGO Grand Carousel
Average Sale Price: id=”listicle-2629731824″,591
The LEGO Creator series – of which this intricate carousel set is a part – is a recent example of the detail factor that makes certain models so valuable. It’s a work of art that sells for nearly id=”listicle-2629731824″,500.
11. #3450 LEGO Statue of Liberty
Average Sale Price: id=”listicle-2629731824″,531
As part of the LEGO Architecture series, this 2,882 piece beauty can fetch up to ,000 in its first edition. There’s even a boxed set on Amazon listed at ,000. (.54 for shipping, though? We’ll pass.) “This set and the Eiffel Tower regularly switch places in the value department, says van IJken. “More recently, the Statue of Liberty has begun to gradually increase in value,” he says. Standing at 30″ tall, it’s likely to tower over your typical toddler — assuming he or she doesn’t swallow the torch pieces first.
12. #10018 LEGO Darth Maul
Average Sale Price: id=”listicle-2629731824″,333
Back to the Sarlacc pit we go to retrieve yet another high priced Star Wars LEGO set. This time, it’s a bust of a bust — the majorly underwhelming Darth Maul from 1999’s The Phantom Menace. His 1,800+ piece visage looks incredibly cool, and the hype was strong with this one, having been released less than two years after the film. So, again, a combination of Star Wars buzz, moderate rarity, and a great looking figure created a sought after collectible. If you’re not inclined to pay max Galactic Credits, though, here’s a list of all the pieces needed to build your own for a fraction of the bounty. Instructions too!
13. #6081 LEGO King’s Mountain Fortress
Average Listing Price: id=”listicle-2629731824″,326
A key component of LEGO’s 90s Castle line, this 400+ piece stronghold features a realistic drawbridge, landscaping elements, and several badass Minifigure knights. Currently, eBay features a handful of used sets (some complete, some not), which go for nearly 15 percent of the boxed set we’ve listed. “If you want to sell a set like this quickly,” Malloy says, “eBay is the way to go. If you get lucky and there’s a bidding war, it’s likely to bring in the highest price possible. But if you want to have more control over the price but don’t care about selling as quickly, use Bricklink, which is a dedicated community for LEGO collectors.”
14. #4051 LEGO NesQuik Bunny
Average Sale Price: 4
“There are a few increasingly rare LEGO pieces that were available to the public, but this one is the most baffling to me,” says van IJken. “It’s the Nesquik bunny, who is the mascot of the chocolate milk brand. This figure was part of a line that was centered around movie making, and was endorsed by Steven Spielberg.” It came with a yellow sweater and brown pants and was given away with European chocolate milk cartons. Some did hop on over to the US, though, and if you have a mint, bagged one, you can hock it for some modest money. Not bad for what was once a free giveaway.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.