F-15 fighter jets are patrolling the Persian Gulf with cluster bombs - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

F-15 fighter jets are patrolling the Persian Gulf with cluster bombs

US Air Force fighter jets are patrolling the Persian Gulf with apparent guided cluster munitions, weapons that may capable of tearing apart Iranian small boat swarms.

“F-15E Strike Eagles from the 336th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron are flying air operations in support of maritime surface warfare,” the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing revealed this week, explaining that “their role is to conduct combat air patrol missions over the Arabian Gulf and provide aerial escorts of naval vessels as they traverse the Strait of Hormuz.”

The F-15E, which can reportedly carry almost any air-to-surface weapon in the Air Force arsenal, is a dual-role fighter able to carry out both air-to-air and air-to-ground missions.


F-15 fighter jets are patrolling the Persian Gulf with cluster bombs

An F-15E Strike Eagle assigned to the 336th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron refuels from a KC-10 Extender June 27, 2019

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Erin Piazza)

Looking at the accompanying photos, Joseph Trevithick, a writer for The War Zone, noticed that the F-15s were carrying cluster munitions. It is unclear what type of munitions the aircraft are flying with, but given their mission is focused on maritime security, it would make sense that the submunitions contained within are one of two suited to a strike on Iran’s swarm boats.

The F-15s in the photos appear to be carrying Wind Corrected Munitions Dispensers, a GPS-guided canister that can be loaded with different submunitions depending on the mission type, The War Zone reports, noting that the aircraft are likely carrying either the CBU-103/B loaded with 202 BLU-97/B Combined Effect Bomblets or the CBU-105/B filled with ten BLU-108/B Sensor Fuzed Munitions.

F-15 fighter jets are patrolling the Persian Gulf with cluster bombs

An F-15E Strike Eagle sits while waiting for an upcoming mission July 15, 2019, at Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Chris Thornbury)

The submunitions contain four separate warheads with their own independent sensors to detect and eliminate targets, and would be well suited to targeting the small Iranian gunboats that have been harassing commercial vessels.

Cluster munitions, while controversial, allow the user to eliminate multiple targets with one bomb. A single CBU-105, for instance, could theoretically achieve 40 individual kills against an incoming small boat force. The US military had initially planned to stop using cluster munitions, but these plans were put on hold until suitable alternatives could be developed.

F-15 fighter jets are patrolling the Persian Gulf with cluster bombs

An F-15E Strike Eagle weapons load crew team prepares munitions July 15, 2019, at Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Chris Thornbury)

The F-15E Strike Eagles with the 336th EFS currently assigned to Al Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates carry a “robust assortment of air-to-ground munitions” and fly “with various configurations to ensure an ability to respond effectively to dynamic situations,” the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing explained.

These fighters are “currently conducting Surface Combat Air Patrol (SuCAP) operations to ensure free and open maritime commerce in the region.”

July 2019, Iranian gunboats attempted to seize the British tanker “British Heritage,” but the Royal Navy frigate HMS Montrose intervened, turning its guns on the Iranian vessels. One week later, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps seized the UK-flagged tanker Stena Impero, an unguarded vessel which Iran has not yet released.

The US has also accused Iran of attacking commercial vessels in the region with limpet mines, as well as targeting and, in one case, shooting down US unmanned air assets.

Western countries have not yet come to a consensus about how they should deal with the serious threat posed by Iranian forces in the region.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

How Sears became the store of the American Century

One of America’s longest-serving retailers is filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. While this doesn’t mark the end of the 130-year-old retailer, it doesn’t exactly bode well for its future, either. With 700 just over Sears and K-Mart stores nationwide, the company is bleeding money it doesn’t have. Hopeful sources tell the Wall Street Journal that there will still be upwards of 300 stores open for the coming holiday season, but the company is a shadow of its former self.


The once-dominant retail sales company, first founded as a mail-order catalog in 1891, has been in a slow decline over the past decade.

F-15 fighter jets are patrolling the Persian Gulf with cluster bombs
(Wall Street Journal)

The company once sold everything, from dresses to appliances to even cars at one point. In fact, President Jimmy Carter even grew up in a shotgun-style house his family purchased through a Sears catalog. Hell, the company even sold cocaine and opium at one point. Try getting that on Amazon.

While anecdotes about Sears, Roebuck, and Company selling patent medicine are quaint, this was a company that was — for much of its life — ahead of its time. The story of the rise of Sears is almost the story of the American century — of the American dream.

F-15 fighter jets are patrolling the Persian Gulf with cluster bombs

An automobile offering from a 1909 Sears catalog.

In the months and years after the Civil War, communication and transportation technologies that were developed to help the Union fight and win the war were still on the cutting edge. While working as a railroad agent around the early 1880s, Richard Warren Sears purchased a collection of unwanted watches from a local jeweler and then resold them to his coworkers — picking up a big profit along the way.

He used this experience to start a mail-order watch business with a watch repairman named Alvah Roebuck. The duo moved to Chicago, a rail hub, and expanded their offerings to other jewelry. After selling that business, he moved away to Iowa but came back to the mail-order business shorty after. That’s when Sears and Roebuck founded Sears, Roebuck, Company.

They began to expand into the rest of the postwar United States. Not through brick and mortar stores, rather the company expanded the offerings in its catalog. Most importantly, they began to service the more remote areas of the United States, lending dependability and stability to the supply side of these remote markets — something local stores could not do.

Eventually, the company went public, survived the Great Depression, changes in ownership and direction, and by the 1930s, was opening stores in urban areas to respond to the American population moving closer to those areas and away from rural ones. The company still distributed goods to rural communities from its multi-million square foot warehouse in Chicago. Control over its distribution was one of the stores’ original keys to success.

F-15 fighter jets are patrolling the Persian Gulf with cluster bombs

Fashionable and functional.

Sears was the original “everything” store. Rather than sell the latest fashions or flash-in-the-pan trinkets, the original Sears stores sold reliable consumer staples at a lower cost. Socks and sheets aren’t sexy, but everyone needs them and the Sears Tower, then the world’s tallest building, was built on a foundation of consumer needs.

This is strangely also the foundation of Sears’ downfall. A company that had survived everything from the Panic of 1893 to the Great Depression and two World Wars would begin to lose sight of what once made it great and profitable. While Sears’ dedication to consumer needs helped drive American industry, helped develop suburban areas in the days following World War II, and even drive U.S. companies into Mexico and Canada, it began to lose sight of that foundation.

In the 1980s, the company expanded into credit holdings, stocks and financial products, even real estate. By the 1990s, it was no longer a price leader. Years of inflation in the 1970s and 1980s led to the foundation of similar department stores based on competing with companies like Sears through lower prices. K-Mart, Target, and Walmart fired the first shots that led to Sears’ decline. Amazon just put the nails in the coffin. Allen Questrom, a retired retail executive says 1985 was the year Sears made its first mistake.

“They took their eye off the ball,” Questrom, former head of Sears rival J.C. Penny, told the Wall Street Journal, referring to Sears opening the Discover Card brand. Other industry insiders say it happened earlier, when it purchased brokerage and real-estate firms like Dean Witter Reynolds and Coldwell Banker.

But by the time Sears decided to get rid of its financial holdings, it was too late. It survived the Great Recession, but its last profitable year came in 2010, posting losses of over billion since. Despite a further shedding and sales of unprofitable assets and an increased focus on what does work for the company’s remaining stores, the 70,000 employees left at the once-iconic retailer no doubt wonder if there’s anyone in the wings that could make Sears great again.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is what Boeing’s new stealth tanker looks like

The Navy wants a drone tanker that can launch from ships. And Boeing Co. has thrown its hat in the ring with a futuristic design.


On Dec. 19, Boeing offered a public peek at its design for what the Navy is calling the MQ-25 Stingray: an unmanned aircraft system that can offer in-air refueling to the service’s fighters, including the F-35C.

F-15 fighter jets are patrolling the Persian Gulf with cluster bombs
A Navy F-35C Lightning II is drogue refueled by a KC-10A during a training mission near Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., April 10, 2015. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Brian Kelly)

General Atomics revealed concept art of its proposal for the MQ-25 earlier this year, publishing photos of an aircraft with wide wings, almost fighter-like in silhouette. The prototype aircraft Boeing revealed today has a domed top and thicker body.

In all, four companies were expected to compete for the MQ-25 contract, including Lockheed Martin Corp. and Northrop Grumman Corp. However, Northrop, expected to compete with its X-47B blended-wing-body UAS, dropped out of consideration in October.

To date, Lockheed has only published teaser images of what its unmanned tanker prototype would look like.

“Boeing has been delivering carrier aircraft to the Navy for almost 90 years,” Don ‘BD’ Gaddis, the head of the refueling system program for Boeing’s Phantom Works, said in a statement. “Our expertise gives us confidence in our approach. We will be ready for flight testing when the engineering and manufacturing development contract is awarded.”

Also Read: The Navy wants this drone to extend its fighter range beyond 1k miles

According to the Boeing’s announcement, the prototype aircraft is now completing engine runs and had yet to take its first flight. Deck handling demonstrations are set to begin in early 2018.

The Navy’s unmanned tanker program had been renamed and re-envisioned multiple times as officials juggle requirements and capabilities. The program was formerly called CBARS, Carrier-Based Aerial-Refueling System, before being renamed the MQ-25.

According to Naval Air Systems Command, the MQ-25 will not only deliver “robust organic” refueling capability, but will also interface with existing ship and land-based systems, including those providing intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance.

The competing companies have until Jan. 3 to get their full proposals in; Boeing expects to pick a design in the second quarter of 2018.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is what Russia has to address to thaw relations with the US

The new U.S. national security adviser has told Russia’s U.S. ambassador that Moscow must address U.S. concerns on election meddling, the “reckless” nerve-agent attack in Britain, and the situations in Ukraine and Syria before relations can substantially improve.

A White House statement on April 19, 2018, said John Bolton, who took over from H.R. McMaster on April 9, 2018, made the remarks in a meeting with Russia’s ambassador to Washington, Anatoly Antonov.


“At the first meeting between the two in their current roles, they discussed the state of the relationships between the United States and Russia,” the statement said.

“Ambassador Bolton reiterated that it is in the interest of both the United States and Russia to have better relations, but that this will require addressing our concerns regarding Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, the reckless use of chemical weapons in the United Kingdom, and the situations in Ukraine and Syria,” it added.

Several global issues have raised tensions between Washington and Moscow despite President Donald Trump’s stated goal of improving relations between the two countries.

The U.S. intelligence community has accused Russia of a widespread cyberhacking-and-propaganda campaign aimed at influencing the 2016 presidential election vote.

F-15 fighter jets are patrolling the Persian Gulf with cluster bombs
Donald Trump campaigning for president.
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

The United States and Europe have slapped sanctions on Russia for its 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula and its support for separatists in eastern Ukraine.

The U.S. military has assailed Russia for its support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and says it holds Moscow responsible for an alleged chemical weapons attack.

Meanwhile, the United States has said it supports Britain in a dispute with Russia over the March 4, 2018 poisoning of former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, in Salisbury. Britain has blamed Russia for the attack.

Moscow has denied it interfered in the U.S. election, said it had nothing to do with the Skripal poisonings, and claimed the allegations of a chemical attack in Syria are false.

The 69-year-old Bolton, a former UN ambassador, has served as a hawkish voice in Republican foreign-policy circles for decades. Among his more controversial stands, he has advocated for preemptive military strikes against North Korea and war with Iran.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Over 400 US Navy sailors are desperately fighting the 1,000-degree fire raging on a warship for more than a day

A devastating fire continues to spread throughout the US Navy amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard, a US Navy official revealed in an update Monday, over 24 hours after the ship burst into flames.

Rear Adm. Philip Sobeck, the commander of Expeditionary Strike Group 3, told reporters that the fire, which is believed to have originated in the lower vehicle storage area, has damaged the superstructure, collapsed the masts, and spread to the bow.


Sobeck said at the moment it is believed that there are two decks standing between a fire as hot as 1,000 degrees in some places and about 1 million gallons of fuel, but he said that while the risk of the fire reaching the fuel was “absolutely a concern,” the response team would “make sure” the fire does not reach the fuel.

With all the water that has been dumped onto the ship, the Bonhomme Richard is listing on its side. Navy helicopters alone have dumped 415 buckets of water on the ship.

And a total of 57 people, including 34 sailors and 23 civilians, have suffered injuries, such as smoke inhalation and heat exhaustion. Five remain in the hospital.

Sobeck told reporters Sunday evening that “we’re absolutely going to make sure it sails again.”

He added: “We’re just going to get right back at it once we get this thing contained and put out.”

On Monday, he reiterated that he remained hopeful.

There are more than 400 sailors battling the blaze aboard the Bonhomme Richard. “We’re doing everything we can,” the admiral said, adding that the Navy responders would “make every effort to save the ship.”

F-15 fighter jets are patrolling the Persian Gulf with cluster bombs

Firefighters battle a fire aboard the US Navy amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Christina Ross)

‘Hell in a very small space’

The ongoing fight aboard the ship is intense. “Shipboard fires are enormously hard to fight,” retired Adm. James Stavridis, a former NATO commander, wrote on Twitter Monday.

“Having been through a couple, I can tell you they are hell in a very small space,” he said. With temperatures as high as they are in some places on the ship, sailors are rotating in and out on 15-minute firefighting shifts.

The specific cause of the fire is unknown and will likely remain unknown until the fire can be extinguished.

The ship was undergoing maintenance at Naval Base San Diego when the fire ignited.

“At least some, if not all of, the major firefighting systems are tagged out for maintenance,” retired US Navy Capt. Earle Yerger, the former commander of the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan, told Insider. Sobeck confirmed that the Halon fire-suppression system was not active.

Furthermore, “in the yards, you have multiple cables, wires, and hoses running straight through passageways,” he said. “As a result, you can’t close the fire doors. Once [the fire] got seeded and got going, there is no way to contain it. It was like a chimney all the way up to the island.”

Yerger added that limited manning may have also hindered the crew’s early ability to fight the fire, saying that had the ship been at sea with a full crew, they would have likely had it under control in less than an hour. At the time of the fire, there were only 160 people on the ship.

While Sobeck has expressed optimism the ship could be saved, Yerger said the ship was likely too far gone.

“You’re not going to fix it,” he told Insider, adding that the ship’s future probably involved being towed out and sunk to a “deep point in the ocean.”

“Build a new America-class and call it a day. This ship is 23 years old. You’d be better off to start fresh,” he said, referring to the newer amphibs replacing the Wasp-class vessels. “Just let it go.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Afghan president admits ‘horrific’ losses, but says Taliban is losing

The latest reports on the war in Afghanistan seem to contradict the government assurances that victory is within reach, painting a picture of a bloody conflict with no end in sight.

In November 2018, 242 Afghan security force members were killed in brutal engagements with Taliban insurgents, The New York Times reported Nov. 15, 2018. Militants almost wiped out an elite company of Afghan special forces in an area considered the country’s “safest district,” and officials told Voice of America Nov. 15, 2018, that more than 40 government troops were recently killed in Taliban attacks near the border.


Over the past three years, more than 28,000 Afghan soldiers and police have been killed, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani revealed in a rare admission.

“Since 2015, still much regrettable, but the entire loss of American forces in Afghanistan is 58 Americans. In the same period, 28,529 of our security forces have lost their lives,” the president said, according to the Times. For Afghanistan, this figure works out to roughly 25 police officers and soldiers dying each day.

F-15 fighter jets are patrolling the Persian Gulf with cluster bombs

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.

“Are the losses horrific? Yes,” he added, saying that this does not mean the Taliban are winning.

But there are real questions about whether the scale of these losses is sustainable.

US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis highlighted just how devastating the war has been for the Afghan security forces in an October 2018 speech. “The Afghan lads are doing the fighting, just look at the casualties,” he explained. “Over 1,000 dead and wounded in August and September.”

The Afghan government controls or influences only 55.5 percent of the country, the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction (SIGAR) introduced in its most recent quarterly report to Congress, noting that this is the lowest level of control in three years. In November 2015, the government controlled or influenced 72 percent of the country.

Hamid Karzai, former Afghan president, told the Associated Press that the blame for these losses rests on the shoulders of the US.

“The United States either changed course or simply neglected the views of the Afghan people,” Karzai told the AP. His views reflect what has been reported as a growing aversion for the NATO mission.

Signs that the situation in Afghanistan is deteriorating come as the US and its coalition partners ramp up their air campaign against Taliban forces. Coalition bombing in Afghanistan is at a 5-year high, according to the latest airpower report from US Air Forces Central Command, and the year isn’t out.

US Gen. Austin “Scott” Miller, the top US commander in Afghanistan who narrowly escaped an assassination that left two senior Afghan officials dead and a US general wounded, recently told NBC that the war in Afghanistan “is not going to be won militarily. He added that the “the Taliban also realizes they cannot win militarily,” a view that may not be shared by Taliban commanders.

Caitlin Foster contributed to this report.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Watch a Chinese ship try to block US navigation

A Chinese warship threatened a US Navy destroyer during a tense showdown in the South China Sea in late September 2018, according to new details of the encounter.

A Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy Type 052C Luyang II-class destroyer challenged the US Navy Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Decatur during a routine freedom-of-navigation operation near the disputed Spratly Islands. The Chinese warship sailed within 45 yards of the American vessel, nearly colliding with the US destroyer.

The Chinese vessel “approached USS Decatur in an unsafe and unprofessional maneuver in the vicinity of Gaven Reef in the South China Sea,” where it engaged in “a series of increasingly aggressive maneuvers accompanied by warnings for Decatur to depart,” a spokesman for the US Pacific Fleet said in a statement. The Decatur was forced to change course to avoid a collision.


A transcript of the radio exchange between the two naval vessels obtained by the South China Morning Post from the British Ministry of Defense shows that the Chinese ship threatened the Decatur, warning that it would “suffer consequences” if it did not move.

“You are on [a] dangerous course,” the Chinese destroyer warned over the radio. “If you don’t change course, [you] will suffer consequences.”

“We are conducting innocent passage,” the Decatur reportedly replied.

In a video of the incident, an unidentified Navy sailor can be heard saying that the Chinese ship is “trying to push us out of the way.”

The video is a little unclear, but there appear to be ship fenders deployed off deck, Collin Koh, a research fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, noted on Twitter. He explained that “fenders are designed to mitigate the kinetic impact of a collision,” adding that the deployment is “clearly an indication of preparedness for such an eventuality.”

Ankit Panda, a foreign-policy expert who is a senior editor at The Diplomat, called the incident “the PLAN’s most direct and dangerous attempt to interfere with lawful US Navy navigation in the South China Sea to date.”

Unsafe or unprofessional encounters between the US Navy and the Chinese military are, however, not particularly uncommon. “We have found records of 19 unsafe and/or unprofessional interactions with China and Russia since 2016 (18 with China and one with Russia),” Cmdr. Nate Christensen, a spokesman for the US Pacific Fleet, recently told CNN.

A number of these incidents involved dangerous Chinese intercepts of US Navy aircraft. In August 2018, the Chinese military sent a total of six warnings to a US Navy P-8A Poseidon reconnaissance plane, warning it to “leave immediately and keep out.”

It is potentially noteworthy that the details of the showdown between the US and Chinese warships in the South China Sea came from the British Ministry of Defense, as a British naval vessel also found itself in a standoff with the Chinese military in the South China Sea not too long ago.

In early September 2018, China dispatched a frigate to to take on the UK Royal Navy amphibious assault ship HMS Albion when it sailed too close to Chinese outposts in the Paracel Islands. China called the incident a provocation and warned that it would “take all necessary measures to defend its sovereignty and security.”

The US Navy is apparently expecting incidents like this to occur more frequently going foward. The US and China “will meet each other more and more on the high seas,” Chief of US Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson said Oct. 30, 2018.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Saudi crown prince is hiding out on his superyacht

Mohammed bin Salman’s elevation to crown prince of Saudi Arabia in 2017 set the stage for him to pursue aggressive policies that included confrontations with many rivals around the region.

But changes to the royal line of succession and decisions by the 32-year-old crown prince at home and abroad have undermined the kingdom’s longstanding stability and left him in doubt about his own safety, according to Bruce Riedel, the director of the Brookings Institution’s Intelligence Project.

Prince Mohammed is reportedly aware of the growing enmity.


“Fearing for his security, the crown prince is said to spend many nights on his half-billion-dollar yacht moored in Jeddah,” Riedel wrote for Al-Monitor, where he is a columnist.

Prince Mohammed reportedly dropped a half-billion dollars on the 440-foot-long yacht, named Serene, in late 2016 after spotting it while vacationing in the south of France.

He bought it from a Russian billionaire who moved out the day the deal was signed, and the vessel includes two helipads, an indoor climbing wall, a fully equipped spa, and three swimming pools.

F-15 fighter jets are patrolling the Persian Gulf with cluster bombs

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud.

(DoD photo by Glenn Fawcett)

But Prince Mohammed bought it as he helped push severe austerity at home, including major spending cuts and a freeze on government contracts. Such spending is often used to quell dissent.

“It’s a floating palace longer than a football field and with many perks,” Riedel wrote of the yacht. “It is also a potential escape hatch.”

‘A foolish and dangerous approach’

The main foreign-policy issues that have raised ire toward Prince Mohammed are the now four-year-old war in Yemen — his signature initiative — and the blockade of Qatar.

Criticism of Prince Mohammed’s bloody and disastrous war in Yemen, which has subjected many Yemenis to famine and disease, has been brewing inside Saudi Arabia for months, according to Riedel.

A video of Prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz — the half-brother of King Salman, the father of Prince Mohammed — publicly blaming Prince Mohammed for the war went viral in the kingdom in September 2018.

Saudi Arabia’s turn on Qatar reportedly came as a surprise to many US officials, frustrating them even as US President Donald Trump castigated the Qataris. The blockade has been unwelcome within Saudi Arabia — one cleric has been arrested and faces execution for criticizing it — and has split the Gulf Cooperation Council, Riedel wrote.

Prince Mohammed’s roundup of powerful business executives and members of the royal family in 2017 may have been his biggest domestic miscalculation. It spooked investors and led to capital flight, diminishing confidence in Prince Mohammed’s ability to manage economic issues.

F-15 fighter jets are patrolling the Persian Gulf with cluster bombs

President Donald Trump meets with Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Deputy Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, and members of his delegation, March 14, 2017.

(Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

Among the dozens of businessmen and princes who were arrested was Prince Mutaib bin Abdullah, the leader of the Saudi national guard, the kingdom’s premier fighting force, which, along with the campaign in Yemen, may further alienate Prince Mohammed from the military.

The removal of Prince Mutaib was seen as likely to stir discontent, and Salman’s moves, particularly the roundup, have fed the impression inside the kingdom of Salman “as someone who has disturbed the status quo for the sake of massive personal enrichment and political aggrandizement,” according to Rosie Bsheer, a history professor at Yale.

Salman remains the most likely heir as long as his father is alive, but his actions have helped make the kingdom the least stable it has been in 50 years, according to Riedel. Should King Salman, now 81, die in the near future, succession could be disputed, and the process to appoint the next king could turn violent.

“The Trump administration has given Saudi Arabia a blank check and supports its war in Yemen,” Riedel wrote. “The crown prince has been touted by the White House. It’s a foolish and dangerous approach.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

North and South Korea just took an enormous step back from war

Just days after President Donald Trump mocked North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s “nuclear button” and flaunted the size and efficacy of his own nuclear fleet, the two countries have made strides toward peace.


With little more than a month before the start of South Korea’s Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, North Korea has reopened communications with Seoul and expressed interest in mending relations.

In the same New Year’s Day address in which Kim touted his willingness to engage in nuclear war, he “earnestly” wished for South Korea’s games to succeed and said it was a “good opportunity to show unity of the people.”

Now talks over sending a delegation of North Korean athletes to the games are scheduled to take place between Pyongyang and Seoul.

The U.S. and South Korea have also announced they will pause their military exercises not just through the end of the games in late February but reportedly all the way through the Paralympics, set to end in mid-March.

F-15 fighter jets are patrolling the Persian Gulf with cluster bombs
President Donald J. Trump and President Moon Jae-in of the Republic of Korea at the United Nations General Assembly (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

As a result, the U.S., South Korea, and North Korea may have just scheduled an unprecedented 2 1/2 months of markedly lowered tensions.

North Korea hates the U.S. and South Korea’s military exercises, which regularly feature huge numbers of troops and advanced weapons systems. Lately, the drills and development of new weapons systems have increasingly focused on taking out Kim.

North Korea often intentionally times missile launches to coincide with the drills.

North Korea, China, and Russia all support the “freeze for freeze” path to negotiations, wherein the U.S. and South Korea suspend the military drills in exchange for North Korea halting missile and nuclear tests.

The U.S. has always rejected this strategy on the grounds that North Korea’s missile tests are illegal and the military drills are not. But the Winter Olympics have opened a window of opportunity for diplomacy.

But is it a trap?

North Korea has made overtures of peace to South Korea before. In fact, Andrea Berger, a senior researcher at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, pointed out on Twitter that Pyongyang had a history of extending olive branches after periods of tension.

“2017 painted the extremely worrying security backdrop that everyone is desperate to move away from,” Berger wrote. “The DPRK will test each South Korean administration, pushing to see how far doors will open.”

“But, it is worth remembering that most January windows of opportunity for North-South progress get smashed fairly quickly,” Berger wrote — North Korea’s peace overtures normally occur in January.

Read More: The North Korean cold war will be paused for the Olympics

Even as North Korea prepares for its highest-level talks with South Korea in years, reports have surfaced that it’s planning to test a missile or at least a rocket engine.

Additionally, a lull in activity may tempt South Korea to side with China, Russia, and ultimately Pyongyang, rejecting the U.S.’s calls for total denuclearization and holding out for talks until strict preconditions have been met.

But for now, the U.S. and South Korea are set to go months without provoking North Korea with military exercises. It will be up to North Korea, which has backed out of peace talks before, to demonstrate its commitment to de-escalation.

Articles

USS Mahan fires warning shots at Iranian vessels

The Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Mahan (DDG 72) fired warning shots at a group of Iranian vessels in the Persian Gulf on Jan. 8. The incident comes less than two weeks before President-elect Donald Trump takes office.


According to Reuters, the shots were fired after the Iranian vessels ignored requests by radio to slow down as they approached the American warship and came within 900 yards.

Similar harassment took place this past summer, with Iranian speedboats making close passes to USS Nitze (DDG 94) and USS Squall (PC 7), which also fired warning shots.

Iran also threatened U.S. Navy aircraft in September. In November, Iranian speedboats pointed weapons at a U.S. Navy helicopter.

F-15 fighter jets are patrolling the Persian Gulf with cluster bombs
The Flight II Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Mahan (DDG 72). (U.S. Navy photo)

Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen fired on U.S. Navy vessels using Iranian-built Noor anti-ship missiles this past October. The destroyer USS Mason (DDG 87) defeated three attacks in the space of a week, and USS Nitze carried out a retaliatory strike on radar sites. This past September, while campaigning for the White House, Trump vowed that Iranian vessels harassing U.S. Navy forces would be “shot out of the water.”

The Iranian vessels were described in the Reuters report as “fast attack vessels.” These vessels, sometimes called “Boghammers,” are speedboats with a variety of weapons, including rocket launchers and heavy machine guns.

According to “Combat Fleets of the World,” Iran has over 180 of these vessels. During the Iran-Iraq War, they were used to attack oil tankers.

A July, 1988 skirmish between those speedboats and the cruiser USS Vincennes and the frigates USS Sides and USS Elmer Montgomery lead to the downing of an Airbus passenger jet.

F-15 fighter jets are patrolling the Persian Gulf with cluster bombs
Iranian fast-attack boats during a naval exercise in 2015. | Wikimedia photo by Sayyed Shahaboddin Vajedi

The USS Mahan is the first of seven Flight II Arleigh Burke-class destroyers. These ships have a five-inch gun, a 29-cell Mk 41 VLS forward, a 61-cell Mk 41 VLS aft, Mk 15 Phalanx Close-In Weapon Systems, and two quad Mk 141 launchers for the RGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missile.

Articles

This is how ISIS is raising a new generation of terrorist fighters

ISIS might be ceding territory in the Middle East, but it hasn’t given up the battle for hearts and minds.


The terrorist group is playing a long game, working aggressively to indoctrinate children under its control to groom the next generation of jihadis in its image.

While other terrorist groups around the world have also used children, new reports reveal the unprecedented system ISIS has created to raise the next generation of terrorists.

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ISIS

German newspaper Der Spiegel talked to several children who explained how ISIS, also referred to as IS or the Islamic State, methodically brainwashes kids to ensure that even if its territory is wiped out, it’ll still have a loyal band of followers keeping the group alive.

Der Spiegel explained this strategy, as Nikita Malik of the Quilliam Foundation, a think tank that analyzes ISIS propaganda, understands it:

By depicting children, says Malik, IS wanted to show that it was relatively unimpressed by bombs. IS’ message, she explains, is this: ‘No matter what you do, we are raising a radicalized generation here.’ Within the system, says Malik, the children’s task was to spread IS ideology in the long term, and to infiltrate society so deeply and lastingly that supporters would continue to exist, even if territory was lost.

Some children living under ISIS control are sent to military camps, and some are sent to schools.

They’re taught how to pray and use weapons, desensitized to violence, and given drugs to make them more susceptible to whatever ISIS wants them to believe.

A new report from the Washington Institute for Near East Policy details ISIS’ system of exposing children to its radical ideology.

“Stating that the Islamic State promotes religious extremism is far from sufficient in understanding what it seeks to achieve, much less what it teaches its students,” the report noted, stating that the terrorist group is creating a “fighter generation committed to IS’ cause” in a way that’s “both specific and unprecedented.”

ISIS has created its own textbooks filled entirely with material that caters to its radical ideology. Weapons are used to illustrate math problems for young kids, and chapters dealing with Western governments focus on “explaining why each is a form of idolatry because of its violation of God’s sovereignty,” according to the report.

“It is instilling very young children with … Islamism, jihadism, and it’s something that’s going to stick around for a long, long time,” Charlie Winter, an expert on ISIS propaganda and senior researcher for Georgia State University, told Business Insider earlier this year. “It’s an elephant in the room that isn’t being given enough scrutiny.”

Der Spiegel summarizes how the indoctrination process works:

The recruitment of children takes place in several phases, beginning with harmless socialization. Islamic State hosts events in which children are given sweets and little boys are allowed to hold an IS flag. Then they are shown videos filled with violence. Later, in the free schools IS uses to promote the movement, they learn Islamic knowledge and practice counting and arithmetic with books that use depictions of tanks. They practice beheading with blond dolls dressed in orange jumpsuits. With a new app developed by IS, they learn to sing songs that call upon people to engage in jihad.

ISIS supports this brainwashing with ideological justifications for its worldview, claiming God has given ISIS the authority to punish unbelievers.

An introduction printed in its textbooks reads:

The Islamic State carries the burdens — with the agreement of God almighty — of refuting [nonbelievers] and bringing them to a renewed monotheism and a wide Islamic expanse under the flag of the rightly guided caliphate and its outstretched branches after it won over the devils and their lowlands of ignorance and its people of destruction.

Now that ISIS is losing territory in Iraq and Syria, it’s shifting to insurgency tactics similar to what Al Qaeda in Iraq, ISIS’ predecessor, did during the Iraq War. Bombings and terrorist attacks maintain the sense that ISIS is omnipresent even when militarily the group is losing.

And the kids ISIS is indoctrinating now will remain even after the terrorists have lost the cities and towns they once controlled.

“This is a political problem that will last well beyond the existence of the group,” Winter said. “Even if all the leaders are killed and [ISIS] suddenly disintegrates … there would be lots and lots of these children who have known nothing other than jihadist warfare, who have been taught that Shias need to be killed at all costs, that there’s a global conspiracy against them and the only way they can survive in life is by killing people who are their enemies and not really questioning whether they should be doing it.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

A sailor stuck on Puerto Rico delivered aid in his mom’s car

Joel Rivera rumbled down dirt roads in his mother’s Kia Forte weeks after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico — on a mission for the U.S. military that he never imagined when he joined the Navy 14 years ago as a submariner.


Dressed in civilian clothing, Rivera and his cousin drove through mountains searching for islanders needing food and water who were out of reach because large trucks couldn’t use debris-filled and washed-out roads. He’d drop off what little provisions he could carry in the four-door sedan and — whenever he could get a cell phone signal — report to military officials on the island about the hardest-hit areas.

“I’d really just pick a spot on a map that was secluded,” he said. “At this point the government was handing out food and water to the cities.”

“I wanted to take care of the places where they were overlooking.”

This was far from an ordinary assignment for Rivera, a machinist’s mate aboard the USS San Francisco as it transitions from a decommissioned attack submarine to a training vessel at Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Portsmouth.

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Aerial view of part of Roseau, revealing widespread damage to roofs. (Photo from UK DFID)

While the Navy sent helicopters, ships and doctors from Hampton Roads to help, Rivera was simply on vacation. He managed to get to an Army Reserve Center base, secured orders to temporarily join a military police battalion there, then was given an incredible autonomy to help in a way few others could — all without ever wearing a uniform.

“It was a great experience doing that. At the same time you could see in their faces that this is not enough, and it’s always going to be like that I think,” Rivera said earlier this month at Submarine Forces Atlantic’s headquarters in Norfolk. “I could only give them a couple things here, a couple things there.”

Rivera’s unlikely role as a submariner delivering humanitarian aid ashore started out as rest and relaxation.

He was born in Puerto Rico and was visiting his parents for the first time in six years when Maria struck as a Category 4 storm in September, causing catastrophic damage to much of the American territory’s infrastructure and leaving residents like his parents without electricity or running water. He had chosen a two-week visit during what happened to be hurricane season because he has no family in Hampton Roads and volunteered to work over the holidays so others could spend time with loved ones.

He was set to fly back to Norfolk just four days after the hurricane made landfall, but it soon became clear that would be impossible. A few days after clearing debris in his parents’ neighborhood, helping neighbors repair roofs and generators, he hiked for five hours to get to his grandmother’s house and ride with his uncle to a nearby military base. He needed to tell his bosses in Virginia what happened, but even the base didn’t have telephone or internet service yet.

He didn’t try going to another base for several more days — gas for a vehicle was a precious commodity. But when the roads near his parents house became passable, he found an Army Reserve Center he heard might have communications.

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Petty Officer 2nd Class Joel Rivera, right, assigned to Deep Submergence Unit, directs members of the media down the hatch of the Submarine Rescue Diving and Recompression System during a submarine rescue exercise as part of exercise Bold Monarch 2011.  (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Ricardo J. Reyes)

There, he was able to use Facebook Messenger to let his superiors know he was safe. They told him to just keep helping out in his community and return to Virginia when he could.

On Day 28 in Puerto Rico, he got a cellphone signal and talked to his boss again. Rivera was told if he could find a base to take him in, he would be given temporary orders to join it so he didn’t have to use all his leave. The Army Reserve quickly said yes.

At first, Rivera mostly did clerical work at a base near his home. But after two days, he said he felt like he wasn’t doing enough to directly help.

So Rivera was given a unique assignment: Go to a commercial airport near his parents’ home in Ponce on the southern end of the island that was being used to fly in humanitarian supplies by JetBlue Airlines. There, JetBlue officials stuffed his mother’s car with boxes of bottled water, canned goods, breakfast bars, snacks, and other supplies.

“We went exploring and talked to the people, said, ‘Hey, I’m trying to find the people that really need this.’ They were really helpful. They weren’t greedy. They pointed us where to go,” Rivera said. “It’s mountainous areas, places I didn’t even know were there.

Read More: This is how the Army Corps of Engineers is helping Puerto Rico

“Dirt roads. Places I shouldn’t have been taking my mom’s car through.”

When he could, Rivera said, he’d wait in line for hours to get ice so that residents could have a cold sip of water during extremely hot and humid days. Rivera bought a cooler for the ice and paid for gas, although he said the Army base provided some fuel.

For two weeks, Rivera primarily operated on his own, occasionally texting his whereabouts to a contact at the police battalion. When he was able to get a flight home nearly two months after he arrived, he returned to the reserve center base one more time so he could thank everyone for the opportunity to work with them.

Rivera realizes it’s unusual for a submariner to do what he did, but the lessons he’s learned in the Navy about staying calm under pressure helped.

“When disaster strikes you try not freak out about it and try to see the bigger picture. We’ll eventually get this road clear, we’ll eventually get a little bit more stable with the water,” he said.

“I think that was one of the biggest things, is just realizing is that everything’s eventually going to be a little bit better throughout any situation.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

Check out the Thunderbird’s stunning photo shoot

The Frontiers and Flight air show was held at McConnell Air Force Base in Kansas in early September 2018. The crowd was treated to demonstrations of 70 military and civilian aircraft, including B-2 stealth bombers, A-10 Warthogs, KC-135 Stratotankers, and more.

The air show also included a demonstration of six F-16 Thunderbirds.

After the show, the Thunderbirds flew back home to Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, soaring over Lake Powell reservoir near the Grand Canyon in Arizona along the way.

And the pictures are stunning.

Check them out below.


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The Thunderbirds fly over the Glen Canyon Dam in Lake Powell on Sept. 10, 2018.

(US Air Force photo)

F-15 fighter jets are patrolling the Persian Gulf with cluster bombs

Thunderbirds fly in formation over Lake Powell on Sept. 10, 2018.

(US Air Force photo)

F-15 fighter jets are patrolling the Persian Gulf with cluster bombs

Thunderbirds soar over Lake Powell on Sept. 10, 2018.

(US Air Force photo)

The squadron flies F-16Cs and F-16Ds with unique red, white and blue paint jobs.

Read more about the specifications of F-16Cs and F-16Ds here

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Thunderbirds leave contrails behind while flying over Lake Powell on Sept. 10, 2018.

(US Air Force photo)

But when the Thunderbirds were first activated, they flew F-84s. The squadron then switched to F-100s, and then several others, before adopting the F-16 in 1992.

More specifically, the Thunderbirds first flew F-84F Thunder jets, which were combat-fighter bombers that flew missions during the Korean War.

F-100 Super Sabres, which the Thunderbirds switched to in 1956, were the world’s first supersonic fighter jets.

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Thunderbirds fly over a river in Lake Powell on Sept. 10, 2018.

(US Air Force photo)

F-15 fighter jets are patrolling the Persian Gulf with cluster bombs

US Air Force Thunderbirds conduct a photo op over Lake Powell while returning from McConnell Air Force Base, Sept. 10, 2018.

(US Air Force photo)

Thunderbird demonstrations involve about 30 different maneuvers using one or more F-16s.

Read more about their maneuvers here.

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Thunderbirds fly in delta formation over Lake Powell on Sept. 10, 2018.

(US Air Force photo)

They also fly in several different formations, including the delta formation below.

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

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