6 foreign special operations units the US relies on - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

6 foreign special operations units the US relies on

The U.S. has some of the best special operations units in the world, but they can’t do everything on their own. The American military relies on allied special operators from places like Britain, Iraq, and Israel to collect intelligence and kill enemy insurgents and soldiers. Here are 6 of those special operations commands.

A quick note on the photos: Many allied militaries are even more loathe to show the faces of their special operators than the U.S. The photos we’ve used here are, according to the photographers, of the discussed special operations forces, but we cannot independently verify that the individuals photographed are actually members of the respective clandestine force.


6 foreign special operations units the US relies on
A British Special Forces member from the 22nd Special Air Service at Hereford, England, uses binoculars to locate a target down range.
(U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Rick Bloom)

1. SAS and SBS

These could obviously be two separate entries, but we’re combining them here because they’re both British units that often operate side-by-side with U.S. forces, just with different missions and pedigrees. The Special Air Service pulls from the British Army and focuses on counter-terrorism and reconnaissance. The Special Boat Service does maritime counter-terrorism and amphibious warfare (but will absolutely stack bodies on land, too).

Both forces have deployed with U.S. operators around the world, especially in Iraq and Afghanistan where they were part of secretive task forces that hunted top Taliban members, ISIS, and Iraqi insurgents.

6 foreign special operations units the US relies on
The Sayeret Matkal does all sorts of hush-hush missions for Israel, everything from intelligence gathering to direct action to hostage rescue.
(Israel Defense Forces)

2. Sayeret Matkal

Israel’s Sayeret Matkal has generated rumors and conjecture for decades, and it’s easy to see why when you look at their few public successes. They rescued 103 Jewish hostages under gunpoint in Uganda after a plane hijacking. They hunted down the killers who attacked Israel’s 1972 Munich Olympic team, killing 11 coaches and athletes. The commandos in the unit are skilled in deception, direct action, and intelligence gathering.

The U.S. is closely allied with Israel and Sayeret Matkal is extremely good at gathering intelligence, which is often shared with the U.S. One of their most public recent successes came when they led a daring mission to install listening devices in ISIS buildings, learning of a plan to hide bombs in the battery wells of laptops.

6 foreign special operations units the US relies on
French Army special operations troops conduct a simulated hostage rescue during a 2018 demonstration.
(Domenjod, CC BY-SA 4.0)

3. French Special Operations Command

French special operations units are even more close-mouthed than the overall specops community, but they have an army unit dedicated to intelligence gathering and anti-terrorism, a navy unit filled with assault forces and underwater demolitions experts, and an air force unit specializing in calling in air strikes and rescuing isolated personnel behind enemy lines.

Secretary of Defense James Mattis has said that France deployed its special operators to Syria in April where they helped defeat ISIS.

6 foreign special operations units the US relies on
A German Special Forces soldier lines his sites on a target 500 meters away, and awaits direction from an International Special Training Centre instructor to engage the target in 2006.
(U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Gina Vaile-Nelson)

4. Kommando Spezialkräfte

Germany’s Kommando Spezialkrafte is a unit of elite commandos split into four companies with five platoons each, and each platoon specializes in a specific mission types, from airborne operations to sniper to polar. A support company provides medical, maintenance, and logistics support.

The commandos have reportedly deployed to Syria in recent years to fight ISIS. And while Germany is fairly tight-lipped about the unit, they have confirmed that the unit was deployed to Iraq for a few years in the early 2000s. On these missions, they help U.S.-led coalitions achieve success.

6 foreign special operations units the US relies on
Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service (CTS) operators demonstrate forward repelling during the 2nd School graduation in Baghdad, Iraq, Oct. 1, 2018. The ceremony included a ribbon cutting for the repelling tower, which will be used by future 2nd school classes.
(U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Abe McNatt)

5. Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service

The Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service was created by the U.S. and, oddly, does not fall within the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, making this one of the few special operations units that isn’t part of the traditional military. It has three special operations forces brigades and, in recent years, has largely focused on eliminating ISIS-controlled territory and the surviving forces.

The operators have also fought against other groups like Al Qaeda-Iraq. The unit was originally formed in 2003, meaning it has only existed while Iraq was at war with insurgents, so the force has operated almost exclusively within Iraq’s borders. It earned high marks in 2014 when its troops maintained good order and fought effectively against ISIS while many of the security forces were falling apart.

6 foreign special operations units the US relies on
An Afghan National Army Special Operations Commando instructor assesses Commando recruits in training as they perform security duties during a training exercise in Camp Commando, Kabul, Afghanistan, May 6, 2018.
(U.S. Army Master Sgt. Felix Figueroa)

6. Afghan National Army Commando Corps

Afghanistan’s National Army Commando Corps is one of the great bright spots in its growing military. While it’s had growing pains and the Taliban has infiltrated it at some times, it has a reputation for professionalism and skill and has led the way on top-level operations. It’s even capable of the rapid nighttime raids that U.S. forces became famous for when they were in the lead in that country.

The Afghan president ordered the size of the unit be doubled between 2018 and 2020 because the soldiers, all expert marksmen and commandos, have a reputation for getting results. Afghanistan also has the Ktah Khas, a counter-terrorism unit known for daring raids like their 2016 rescue of 59 prisoners in a Taliban hideout.

MIGHTY TRENDING

A fake Kim Jong Un greeted North Korea’s Olympic cheer squad

A man dressed to impersonate North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un walked through Pyongyang’s cheer squad at the Olympics — and they looked unimpressed to say the least.


Though it’s unclear if this is the same impersonator who crashed the games’ opening ceremony, the man was rushed away from the squad, much as the earlier impersonators were shoed away on Feb. 9, 2018.

Also read: This is why no one in North Korea is celebrating Kim Jong Un’s birthday

The cheerleaders looked less than thrilled to see a likeness of Kim before them. The squad is hand-picked for meeting stringent physical requirements, they are unpaid and train for months at a time, and have been imprisoned in the past for talking about the world they see outside of North Korea.

To get a feel for the pictures, check out Star.OhMyNews.com, which first reported the incident. Anna Fifield, Tokyo bureau chief for The Washington Post, also tweeted an image of the incident:

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is the stealth bomber patrolling near China to prevent a war

With its precision, stealth, long-range capability and payload capacity, the B-2 Spirit is one of the most versatile airframes in the Air Force’s inventory. The combination of its unique capabilities enables global reach and allows the Air Force to bypass the enemy’s most sophisticated defenses.


The B-2 Spirit’s low-observable, or stealth, characteristics give it the ability to penetrate an enemy’s most sophisticated defenses and threaten its most valued, and heavily defended targets. Its ability to penetrate air defenses and threaten effective retaliation provides a strong deterrent and combat capability to the Air Force well into the 21st century.

Development

The revolutionary blending of low-observable technologies with high aerodynamic efficiency and large payload capacity gives the B-2 important advantages over existing bombers. Its low observability provides greater freedom of action at high altitudes, increasing its range and providing a better field of view for aircraft sensors. Its unrefueled range is approximately 6,000 nautical miles.

The B-2’s low observability is derived from a combination of reduced infrared, acoustic, electromagnetic, visual and radar signatures. These signatures make it difficult for the sophisticated defensive systems to detect, track and engage the B-2. Many aspects of the low-observability process remain classified; however, the B-2’s composite materials, special coatings and flying-wing design all contribute to its stealth attributes.

6 foreign special operations units the US relies on

The B-2 Spirit is a multi-role bomber capable of delivering both conventional and nuclear munitions.

(US Air Force photo by Gary Ell)

Operational history

The first B-2 was publicly displayed Nov. 22, 1988, in Palmdale, California and flew for the first time on July 17, 1989. The B-2 Combined Test Force at the Air Force Flight Test Center at Edwards Air Force Base, California, was responsible for flight testing, engineering, manufacturing and developing the B-2.

Whiteman AFB, Missouri, is the only operational base for the B-2. The first aircraft, Spirit of Missouri, was delivered Dec. 17, 1993. Oklahoma City Air Logistics Center at Tinker AFB, Oklahoma, is responsible for managing the B-2’s maintenance.

The B-2’s combat effectiveness and mettle was proved in Operation Allied Force, where it was responsible for destroying 33 percent of all Serbian targets in the first eight weeks, flying nonstop from Whiteman AFB to Kosovo and back.

In support of Operation Enduring Freedom, the B-2 flew one of its longest missions to date from Whiteman AFB to Afghanistan and back. The B-2 completed its first-ever combat deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, flying 22 sorties from a forward operating location, 27 sorties from Whiteman AFB and releasing more than 1.5 million pounds of munitions.

6 foreign special operations units the US relies on

A B-2 Spirit drops Joint Direct Attack Munitions separation test vehicles over Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., Aug. 8, 2003.

(US Air Force photo)

The aircraft received full operational capability status in December 2003. On Feb. 1, 2009, Air Force Global Strike Command assumed responsibility for the B-2 from Air Combat Command.

On Jan. 18, 2017, two B-2s attacked an Islamic State of Iraq and Syria training camp 19 miles southwest of Sirte, Libya, killing more than 80 militants. The B-2s dropped 108 500-pound precision-guided Joint Direct Attack Munition bombs. These strikes were followed by an MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle firing Hellfire missiles. The 34-hour-round-trip flight from Whiteman AFB was made possible with 15 aerial refuelings conducted by KC-135 Stratotanker and KC-10 Extender crews from five different bases.

6 foreign special operations units the US relies on

A U.S. Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker from the 100th Air Refueling Wing refuels a U.S. Air Force B-2 Spirit from the 509th Bomb Wing during a mission that targeted Islamic State training camps in Libya, Jan. 18, 2017.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kate Thornton)

After getting pulled from theater in 2010, the B-2s rejoined the B-52 Stratofortress and the B-1B Lancer in continuous rotations to Andersen AFB, Guam, in 2016. The Continuous Bomber Presence mission, established in 2004, provides significant rapid global strike capability demonstrating U.S. commitment to deterrence. The mission also offers assurance to U.S. allies and strengthens regional security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. Bomber rotations also provide the Pacific Air Forces and U.S. Pacific Command global strike capabilities and extended deterrence against any potential adversary while also strengthening regional alliances and long-standing military-to-military partnerships throughout the region.

6 foreign special operations units the US relies on

U.S. military members stand with players of the Kansas City Royals during a military recognition ceremony at Kauffman Stadium as a B-2 Spirit performs a flyover, Kansas City, Mo., Sept. 11, 2018.

(US Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Alexander W. Riedel)

Did you know

  • The B-2 can fly 6,000 nautical miles unrefueled and 10,000 nautical miles with just one aerial refueling, giving it the ability to fly to any point in the globe within hours.
  • The B-2 has a crew of two pilots—a pilot in the left seat and mission commander in the right, compared to the B-1B’s crew of four and the B-52’s crew of five.

Active squadrons

  • 13th Bomb Squadron established in 2005.
  • 393rd Bomb Squadron established in 1993.

Both squadrons are located at Whiteman AFB and fall under Air Force Global Strike Command.

Aircraft stats

  • Primary function: multi-role heavy bomber
  • Contractor: Northrop Grumman Corp.
  • Contractor Team: Boeing Military Airplanes Co., Hughes Radar Systems Group, General Electric Aircraft Engine Group and Vought Aircraft Industries, Inc.
  • Power plant: four General Electric F118-GE-100 engines
  • Thrust: 17,300 pounds each engine
  • Wingspan: 172 feet
  • Length: 69 feet (20.9 meters)
  • Height: 17 feet (5.1 meters)
  • Weight: 160,000 pounds (72,575 kilograms)
  • Maximum takeoff weight: 336,500 pounds (152,634 kilograms)
  • Fuel capacity: 167,000 pounds (75750 kilograms)
  • Payload: 40,000 pounds (18,144 kilograms)
  • Speed: high subsonic
  • Range: intercontinental
  • Ceiling: 50,000 feet (15,240 meters)
  • Armament: conventional or nuclear weapons
  • Crew: two pilots
  • Unit cost: Approximately id=”listicle-2626058834″.157 billion (fiscal 1998 constant dollars)
  • Initial operating capability: April 1997
  • Inventory: active force: 20 (1 test)
  • Maximum speed: Mach 0.95 (550 knots, 630 mph, 1,010 kilometers per hour) at 40,000 feet altitude
  • Cruise speed: Mach 0.85[63] (487 knots, 560 mph, 900 kilometers per hour) at 40,000 feet altitude
  • Range: 6,000 nautical miles (11,100 kilometers (6,900 miles))
  • Service ceiling: 50,000 feet (15,200 meters)

(Source: AF.mil)

This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

North Korea’s generals don’t seem to know how pistols work

Earlier this week, images surfaced out of the reclusive nation of North Korea showing Kim Jong Un posing with a bevy of senior military leaders as they show off their fancy new pistols. The pistols were handed out by the nation’s Supreme Leader in celebration of the 67th anniversary of the Korean War armistice, and according to North Korean media, the pistols were awarded to Kim’s top generals as a symbol of his trust in them.

Of course, after looking at the pictures for a minute… you might start to wonder if that trust is all that founded.


6 foreign special operations units the US relies on

Literally chillin’ like a villain. (North Korea’s KCNA)

Long before a recruit earns the right to call him or herself a Marine, they’re ingrained with the four weapons safety rules. This essential training step comes before being bestowed the title of Marine for good reason: If you can’t handle your own weapon safely, you represent a potential threat to your fellow Marines. Let’s run through those rules again, just in case you’re not familiar with them:

  1. Treat every weapon as if it were loaded.
  2. Never point the weapon at anything you do not intend to shoot.
  3. Keep your finger straight and off the trigger until you’re ready to fire.
  4. Keep the weapon on safe until you intend to fire.

The first thing I couldn’t help but notice in these pictures is the egregious lack of trigger discipline on display in this photo of what should theoretically be North Korea’s most competent military minds. The third weapons safety rule says clearly that you should keep your finger straight and off the trigger until you’re ready to fire. Why is that rule so important? Well, in this case, it would be so you don’t accidentally blow the leader of your country’s head off…

6 foreign special operations units the US relies on

But this guy is clearly thinking about it.

6 foreign special operations units the US relies on

And this guy might just want to replace the 3-Star sitting in front of him.

6 foreign special operations units the US relies on

Dude on the left is literally pointing a pistol at Kim with his finger on the trigger.

Of course, even if you violate the keeping your finger straight and off the trigger rule, the people around you should still be fairly safe if you’re careful not to ever point your weapon at anything you don’t intend to shoot.

6 foreign special operations units the US relies on

I’m pretty sure these two guys think they’re in a water gun fight.

6 foreign special operations units the US relies on

“I’ll just point this weapon safely at Bob’s face.”

6 foreign special operations units the US relies on

Maybe they’re all trying to rob each other?

Of course, it’s safe to assume that none of these weapons were loaded, as Kim Jong Un almost certainly didn’t intend to equip his generals to overthrow him — but that’s not really the point. The whole idea behind firearm safety is not to grow complacent about the rules; a Navy SEAL and a food service specialist learn and exercise the same basic tenants of firearm safety because it serves as the foundation from which you can develop more advanced skills. Snipers still keep their fingers straight and off the trigger until they’re ready to fire for the same reason professional race car drivers wear helmets: Because no matter how good you are, everybody has a bad day.

6 foreign special operations units the US relies on

But like… has this guy ever even seen a pistol before?

Of course, North Korean troops are regularly starving, are poorly equipped, and almost certainly receive sub-par training even by a third-world standard, so we shouldn’t be terribly surprised to see how uncomfortable and awkward its military leaders seem to be with pistols. In that case, it’s the photo op that might be the most confounding.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.


MIGHTY TACTICAL

Marines get Russian helicopters for ‘a more realistic OPFOR’

A report in the Marine Corps Times from Friday, April 27, 2018, by journalist Kyle Rempfer revealed that the U.S. Marine Corps Air Ground Task Force Training Command has filed a solicitation for contractors to provide Russian-built Mi-24 Hind attack helicopter or an Mi-17 Hip transport helicopter to serve as accurate opposing forces threat simulation aircraft.

The aircraft would be equipped with electronic tracking pods for integration into simulated combat exercises at the MCAS Yuma Range and Training Area, a large training facility in the Arizona desert. The Yuma Range and Training Area accurately replicates current and potential threat environments throughout the Middle East and North Africa.


According to Rempfer’s report for the Marine Corps Times, the solicitation read in part,
“The [Mi-24] attack helicopter, due to its size, flight profile, firepower and defensive maneuvering capabilities, constitutes a unique threat creating a realistic, dissimilar and credible opposing force.”

In their potential role as a technically realistic opposing force flying against U.S. Marine ground forces in training the helicopters would accurately replicate the threat capabilities of many potential adversary forces. While the Mi-24 attack helicopter is primarily an air-to-ground attack helicopter the report also mentioned a potential role for any Russian helicopters acquired or contracted as providing a simulated opposing force capability against U.S. Marine Helicopters and tiltrotor aircraft to possibly include the UH-1Y Venom, AH-1Z Super Cobra and MV-22 Osprey tiltrotor.

The U.S. Marine Training Command’s request went on to read, “The scope of this effort is to provide familiarization of flight characteristics, capabilities and limitations of the foreign adversary rotary-wing and propeller driven aircraft,” according to the solicitation. “This will be accomplished by having accessibility to two foreign adversary contractor-provided aircraft that shall participate in certain exercise events as part of a realistic opposing force.”

The request for the opposing forces helicopters will include up to five annual training operations and a maximum of 40 total hours of flight time in VFR (daylight, fair weather Visual Flight Rules) conditions. Of further interest is a notation indicating interest in fixed wing aircraft. Russian fixed wing aircraft such as the Sukhoi Su-27 have already been observed and photographed flying over the Nellis Training Range in Nevada.

In the combined air/ground combat role most commonly performed by the U.S. Marine Corps one relevant adversary aircraft for threat simulation may include the Sukhoi Su-25 (NATO codename “Frogfoot”), although no specific information indicates an interest in the Su-25 from the U.S. Marines.

A remarkable 57 countries currently use the Mi-24 Hind attack helicopter, built at the Mil Helicopter Plant in Moscow, Russia. The aircraft is infamous in western nations for its rugged survivability and significant combat capability. The request for actual Mi-24 Hind helicopters seems to acknowledge the type’s unique and significant capabilities as a potential adversary.

There are currently at least two Mi-24 Hind attack helicopters privately owned in the U.S. by the Lancaster Air Museum in Lancaster, Texas. The aircraft fly frequently at events and airshows around the country.

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This company has just developed ammo that can hunt drones

Let’s face it. Enemy troops behind cover can be a real pain. In fact, someone was gonna have to root them out. Thankfully, that is no longer the case, thanks to new ammunition coming from Nammo.


6 foreign special operations units the US relies on
A drone that was shot down by some of Nammo’s programmable ammo rounds. (Photo from Nammo)

According to a report by Soldier Systems, this programmable ammo is available for a variety of weapon systems, including 40mm grenades from rifle-mounted grenade launchers or automatic grenade launchers like the Mk 19, the 66mm rockets used in the M72 Light Antitank Weapon, the 120mm guns used on the M1A2 Abrams main battle tank, and the 30mm chain gun used on some U.S. Navy ships and the M1296 Dragoon infantry fighting vehicle.

However, Nammo has also reported that the programmable ammo may also be able to deal with enemy drones. This is a huge development, given that the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria made use of drones as a means to deliver improvised explosive devices. As a result, friendly troops could be that much safer (if not completely safe) on the battlefield.

6 foreign special operations units the US relies on
The XM25 fires a programmable airburst 25mm smart round. It proved itself in Afghanistan, but it was placed on hold. (US Army photo)

Nammo is displaying some of the programmable ammo at the Defence and Security Equipment International show in London this week. In a release, Nammo claimed that its 40mm grenade has been combat proven. Nammo also stated that the use of programmable ammunition against drones would reduce collateral damage or damage from stray rounds.

Programmable ammo was used as part of the XM25 Punisher weapon system, a semi-automatic 25mm grenade launcher which proved itself in Afghanistan before being placed on hold. ModernFirearms.net notes that the XM25 had a range of up to 700 meters against area targets, and had a six-shot magazine.

Articles

What’s going on with Marine Corps F/A-18 Hornets this year?

Search and rescue efforts are underway for the pilot of a United States Marine Corps F/A-18C Hornet who was forced to eject from his aircraft 120 miles southeast of Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni.


According to a Marine Corps news release, the Hornet was assigned to the 1st Marine Air Wing, III Marine Expeditionary Force and was on what the Marines described as a regular training mission when it went down.

An investigation into why the pilot was forced to eject is underway.

6 foreign special operations units the US relies on
Cpl. Chris Lawler, a crewmaster with Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron (VMGR) 152, observes an F/A-18C Hornet with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 122 approach the refueling hose during Exercise Pitch Black 2016 at Royal Australian Air Force Base Tindal, Australia, Aug. 9, 2016. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Nicole Zurbrugg)

This latest mishap marks the fourth crashed or badly damaged Marine Corps Hornet so far this fiscal year, which began Oct. 1.

In October, an F/A-18C crashed on approach at Twentynine Palms, California, and in November, two Hornets collided in mid-air, losing one plane and badly damaging another.

So far the Marine Corps has suffered five major flight mishaps this year, while the service suffered eight in all of fiscal 2016.

The Marine Corps has had serious problems with its Hornet fleet specifically, including the need to pull nearly two dozen from the “boneyard” at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base this past summer. It was unclear whether this one was of the “boneyard” birds, a Navy hand-me-down or a plane in the Corps’ regular inventory.

Marine Hornets had a rough summer, with a number of crashes prompting a 24-hour stand-down.

However, the August timeout seems to have had little effect, as FoxNews.com reported that there have been four incidents since October, including a mid-air collision between two Hornets in November.

The baseline F/A-18 Hornet has been out of production since Fiscal Year 1997, and the line now only produces the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and the EA-18G Growler electronic warfare plane.

The Marines plan to replace both their F/A-18 Hornets and AV-8B+ Harriers with the F-35B Lightning II. The F-35B has seen some delays, but was introduced in July, 2015. Marine Corps Lightnings are expected to operate off HMS Queen Elizabeth in 2021 due to a shortage of airframes in the Fleet Air Arm.

Articles

US practices D-Day-like landing in Latvia amid Russia tensions

U.S. Marines engaged in a mock beach landing in the Baltics on June 6 in a scene reminiscent of the D-Day landings of World War II.


The drill took place as part of NATO’s Exercise Baltic Operations (BALTOPS), an annual exercise involving approximately 6,000 troops that runs from June 1 to 16. The drill, which took place on a beach in Latvia, is a key component of the exercise which aims to project NATO power from sea at a time when the Russian threat to the Baltics has taken a drastic increase.

“What we want to do is practice and demonstrate the ability to deliver sea control and power projection at and from the sea,” said U.S. Navy Adm. Christopher Grady, Joint Force Maritime Component Commander Europe.

6 foreign special operations units the US relies on
U.S. Marines land in the Baltics for BALTOPS 17. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Ricardo Davila/Released)

Reserve Marines from Texas deployed from the the USS Arlington, an amphibious landing transport, onto the beach with various landing craft. The drill was conducted on the 73rd anniversary of the D-Day landings during World War II, the largest amphibious invasion in modern history.

The Latvian landing was significantly smaller in scope than the multiple landings on D-Day, but both operations involved a combination of air, maritime and land forces. BALTOPS, like D-Day, is also multinational, with 14 nations participating in various drills.

BALTOPS has been recurring since 1972, but this year’s event comes at a time when NATO’s tensions with Russia are at their highest since the end of the Cold War. The ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine and Russia’s aggressive rhetoric has Balkan countries concerned they could be the next target.

They’re scared to death of Russia,” said Gen. Raymond Thomas, head of U.S. Special Operations Command in January. “They are very open about that. They’re desperate for our leadership.”

The U.S. sent a detachment of special operations forces to the Baltics in January in order to help train local forces.

6 foreign special operations units the US relies on
Marines participate in BALTOPS 17. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Ricardo Davila/Released)

Russian forces could reach the capitals of both Latvia and neighboring Estonia in less than 60 hours, according to an assessment by the RAND corporation, even with a week’s notice. Latvia has approximately 4,450 active ground troops, while all three Baltic countries (Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia) have only around 15,750 between them. Estonia can also activate the 16,000 paramilitary troops in the Estonian Defense League, while Lithuania has around 10,000 militia members in the Lithuanian Rifleman’s Union.

NATO also has rotating forces throughout the Baltic region, but RAND’s assessment noted that they may not be enough to stave off a Russian attack.

“Such a rapid defeat would leave NATO with a limited number of options, all bad,” noted the report.

Fortunately for the Baltics, President Donald Trump has noted he is “absolutely committed” to the collective defense of NATO, a stark change from his previously doubtful outlook on alliance.

 

 

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MIGHTY SURVIVAL

Chinese government rejects allegations that its face masks were defective, tells countries to ‘double check’ instructions

The Chinese government is rebuffing the notion that its face masks exported to other countries were “defective” and suggested that the nations did not “double-check” the instructions.

China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Thursday claimed in a tweet that the “true story” behind the alleged faulty face masks sent to the Netherlands was that the Chinese manufacturer explicitly “stated clearly that they are non-surgical.”


“Masks of various category offer different levels of protection, for day-to-day use and for medical purposes,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in the tweet. “[Please] double-check the instructions to make sure that you ordered, paid for and distributed the right ones. Do not use non-surgical masks for surgical purposes.”

The statement comes as the Dutch government recalled 600,000 of the Chinese-manufactured face masks for being defective and not meeting safety standards — over half of the 1.3 million total N-95 protective masks that were delivered to the Netherlands.

Hospitals in the country were requested to return the masks that did not properly fit on faces and prevent COVID-19 virus particles from making human contact. The N-95 mask is able to block out 95% of airborne particles when used properly.

6 foreign special operations units the US relies on

“When they were delivered to our hospital, I immediately rejected those masks,” one hospital employee reportedly said to Dutch broadcaster NOS. “If those masks do not close properly, the virus particles can simply pass. We do not use them.”

Other countries have expressed concern with medical equipment manufactured in China. After purchasing 340,000 test kits from a Chinese manufacturer, Spain’s government claimed that 60,000 of them did not accurately test for COVID-19.

European Union Minister for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell said in a blog post that the Chinese government was attempting to be perceived as an international ally in the “global battle of narratives.”

“China is aggressively pushing the message that, unlike the US, it is a responsible and reliable partner,” Borrell wrote. “In the battle of narratives, we have also seen attempts to discredit the EU as such and some instances where Europeans have been stigmatized as if all were carriers of the virus.”

Representatives from the Communist Party of China (CCP) in recent weeks have shifted the narrative surrounding the coronavirus’s origins by questioning its validity. Despite health officials and scientists widely agreeing that COVID-19 originated in Wuhan, China — likely from a wildlife market — government officials suggested that the US Army may have shipped the virus to China.

The Global Times, which operates under the Chinese government’s purview, also claimed in a tweet that Italy “may have had an unexplained strain of pneumonia” in November and December — around the same time as China reported its first positive case.

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

MIGHTY MOVIES

Iranian state TV used a photo of an actor from ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ to spread a wild theory that a senior CIA official was killed in a plane crash in Afghanistan

Iran’s state TV broadcast a photo of an actor from”Zero Dark Thirty” to illustrate a claim that the CIA officer that inspired the character had been killed.


On Monday, the US military confirmed an E-11A surveillance plane crashed in Ghanzi, eastern Afghanistan. The Taliban, who control the region, say several top CIA operatives were killed, and have since denied access to the crash site.

One of those CIA operatives was Michael D’Andrea, state TV said, according to BBC Monitoring, which first reported the claims made on Iranian TV.

Iranian TV did not provide any evidence for its claim that D’Andrea was killed Monday.

6 foreign special operations units the US relies on

But instead of airing a photograph of the real D’Andrea, Iran’s Channel One chose to show the face of Fredric Lehne, a US actor who played a character inspired by D’Andrea in the 2012 movie “Zero Dark Thirty.” The movie is a dramatization of the US assassination of al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden.It is not know if the choice of photo was an error, or a last resort due to a lack of available photographs of D’Andrea.


6 foreign special operations units the US relies on

The network also said D’Andrea “had a key role in killing Iranian general Qasem Soleiman,” according to BBC Monitoring.

The movie details the decade-long hunt for al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden following the 9/11 attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people.

The real D’Andrea is the head of the CIA’s activities concerning Iran, according to The New York Times.

The CIA declined to comment on Iranian TV reports when contacted by Business Insider.

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

Intel

Why military dolphins are more hardcore than you’d think

Troops have long used animals in warfare. Horses to carry them into battle, pigeons to send messages, and dogs to do all sorts of things a good boy does. The Animal Kingdom’s second smartest species is no exception when it comes to fighting in our wars.


The military dolphin program began in 1960 when the U.S. Navy was looking for an easier method of detecting underwater mines. Their solution was to use the animals that play around the mines without problem: the bottlenose dolphin and the California sea lion.

Dolphins are naturally very brilliant animals with an advanced memory and strong deductive reasoning skills. Their ability to understand that performing certain tasks meant getting fishy treats allowed the U.S. Navy to make excellent use of their biosonar. Every mine they locate, they get a treat. Sea lions are just easy to train and have good underwater vision. According to the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command, there are roughly 75 dolphins and 50 sea lions in the Navy Marine Mammal Program.

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The dolphins get much more love because, well, they’re more useful to the Navy.
(Photo by Alan Antczak)

Military dolphins have many unique abilities to offer the Navy if trained properly. Outside of mine detection, they make excellent underwater guards. Dolphins can be trained to distinguish friendly ships from foes and, when a threat is detected, will press an alert button on allied posts.

With further training, dolphins can actually place mines on the bottom of ships or physically attack enemy divers.

Since the program began, dolphins have been used in every conflict alongside the Navy. In Vietnam, they were used to guard an ammunition pier. In the Tanker War, the US protected Kuwaiti oil exports by deploying dolphins to guard Third Fleet ships.

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It’s like being at SeaWorld. But instead of jumping through hoops, the dolphins will beat the hell out of you or attach a bomb to your boat.
(U.S. Navy Photo)

Unfortunately, this hasn’t come without harm to our porpoise partners. They’re naturally playful animals and changing a normally cheerful animal into a beast of war, even if just for training, ruins the dolphin’s chance at a normal life. They aren’t meant for domestication and the added stress greatly reduces their life expectancy.

The U.S. Navy isn’t the only nation to use military dolphins. Russia, Ukraine, and possibly Iran do as well and, sadly, their marine mammals aren’t treated anywhere near as well. A scathing statement from Kiev about the Ukrainian dolphins that were taken by Russia after the annexation of Crimea supposedly applauded the deaths of the starved dolphins. To them, the dolphins were “so patriotic” that they would sooner die than follow Russian commands.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How earthquakes keep shaking up North Korea’s nuclear test site

South Korea said it detected an earthquake Oct. 13 near North Korea’s main nuclear test site, the fourth since the country’s sixth and most powerful nuclear test explosion last month. Some experts suggested the area is now too unstable to conduct more bomb tests.


The magnitude 2.7 quake occurred about 54 kilometers (34 miles) northwest of Kilju, the town where the test site is located in northeastern North Korea, according to officials at South Korea’s Korea Meteorological Administration. They said it wasn’t man-made and didn’t appear to cause any damage in the area.

The officials, who requested anonymity citing department rules, said they believe the four quakes probably happened because the underground nuclear test on Sept. 3 weakened or affected the tectonic plate structures in the area. The region isn’t one where earthquakes naturally occur and no quakes were detected after the five smaller nuclear tests North Korea has conducted since 2006.

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KCNA, the state run media out of North Korea, released a photo of what it claims is the launch of a surface-to-surface medium long range ballistic missile. (KCNA)

The officials declined to say how the recent quakes might have affected the area and the test site, where all of North Korea’s nuclear bomb tests have taken place. But some civilian experts said North Korea may stop using the site.

North Korea, which is accelerating its efforts to develop more powerful nuclear weapons and missiles, is unlikely to waste its limited nuclear materials by conducting tests that are weaker than its sixth. But a more powerful underground detonation at the current site could be “potentially suicidal,” not only because of the weakened ground, but also because of the threat of a volcanic eruption at Mount Paektu, which is about 100 kilometers (60 miles) away, according to Kune Yull Suh, a professor of nuclear engineering at Seoul National University.

Du Hyeogn Cha, a visiting scholar at Seoul’s Asan Institute for Policy Studies, previously expressed similar worries, saying he wondered whether North Korea would be able to carry out another nuclear test in the area. Other experts said the quakes might have been caused by landslides or the collapsing of test structures such as tunnels.

North Korea’s state media haven’t reported any of the four quakes detected by South Korea and other countries.

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Heaven Lake in the caldera atop Mt. Paektu. Wikimedia Commons photo from user Farm.

The North has vowed to bolster its nuclear and missile programs despite increasing US-led pressure on the country. Worries about a potential military clash between the US and North Korea have also intensified in South Korea and elsewhere, with President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un exchanging crude personal insults and warlike rhetoric.

At the height of the standoff between the countries last month, North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho told reporters the country could conduct a hydrogen bomb test over the Pacific Ocean. Suh said Ri’s comments might indicate the North is unable to carry out new explosions at its test site.

“It’s likely that North Korea will conduct its next nuclear test in the stratosphere, or about 100 to 300 kilometers (60 to 185 miles) from the ground, where it will be able to conduct more powerful detonations,” Suh said.

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These are 10 of the longest-serving weapons in the US combat arsenal

As far as weapon systems are concerned, having the best available can be key to success on the battlefield.


But with rapid changes in technology, some weapons come and go rather quickly. Other times, weapons are so well designed and so effective, they stay in service for decades.

Here are 10 of the longest-serving weapons ever used by the United States military.

1. M1903 Springfield .30 Cal Rifle

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U.S. Marines with M1903 rifles and bayonets in WWI France, 1918. (Imperial War Museum photo)

The M1903 was one of the first rifles to use the famous .30-06 round and was the standard American infantry rifle during World War I. Although officially replaced by the M1 Garand in 1937, it was still in service due to insufficient numbers of Garands. The Springfield .30 cal was retained as a sniper rifle through the Korean War and even into Vietnam before finally being retired after over 60 years of service.

2. M1911 .45 Cal Pistol

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A U.S. Marine with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s maritime raid force fires an M1911 .45 caliber pistol at a range in Jordan during Eager Lion 2013. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

 

The M1911 is a creation of the legendary gunmaker John Browning, and it endured in service for over 100 years. The pistol became an icon for its strength in battle and by those who used it. The M1911 was phased out in favor of the Beretta M9 9mm pistol in the late 1980s but has stayed in service with Marine Special Operations units and is now designated as the M45.

3. M1919 .30 Cal Machine Gun

 

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A Navy machine gunner of the Riverine Force in Vietnam using an M1919 being fed by an upside-down M-13 link belt. (DoD photo)

The M1919 was another one of John Browning’s successes. An air-cooled version of the M1917 that served U.S. troops well in World War I, it saw extensive use in World War II and Korea. The M1919 was phased out in favor of the new M60 in the late 1950s. However, the Navy, having a surplus of the weapons, converted many to 7.62 mm and used them on gun boats patrolling the rivers of Vietnam.

4. M2 .50 Cal Machine Gun

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LCpl. Paul Rodas mans a .50 caliber machine gun as part of the security force during an exercise in the Central Command AOR. The 24th MEU is on their six-month deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. (U.S. Navy Photograph by PH2(SW) Michael Sandberg)

The “Ma Deuce” is a weapon system loved by the troops who use it and feared by those it targeted. The gun was designed near the end of World War I, too late to see service, and entered full production in 1921. Also designed by John Browning, the weapon is so well-built that in 2015 a 94 year old example was found still in service. Though numerous other designs have been proposed, the military has no plans to stop using the M2 anytime soon.

5. B-52 Stratofortress

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Munitions on display show the full capabilities of the B-52 Stratofortress. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Robert J. Horstman)

The B-52 was designed to deliver nuclear weapons against the Soviet Union during the height of the Cold War. Despite never having to conduct this mission, the B-52 has been the workhorse of conventional bombing campaigns for more the 60 years. The Air Force plans to keep it in service into the 2040s.

6. M60 .30 Cal Machine Gun

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Staff Sgt. Clarence Neitzel of the 173d Airborne Brigade mans an M60 machine gun on Hill 875 outside of Dak To on November 22, 1967. (U.S. Army photo)

The M60 entered service in 1957, just in time to see heavy use in the jungles of Vietnam. The M60 served as the standard machine gun for the U.S. military until the 1990s when the M240 was adopted. However, more than 50 years later, the M60 continues to serve with some SEAL teams and as helicopter armament.

7. M14 .30 Cal Rifle

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Gunner’s Mate 1st Class Marcus Wrice fires an M14 rifle during a weapons qualification aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Nicolas C. Lopez)

The M14 had a short service life as the standard American infantry rifle from 1959 to 1964 when it was replaced by the M16. But the rifle never left service and was the basis for the M21 and M25 sniper rifles before making a serious comeback during the Global War on Terror when it was upgraded to the M14 Enhanced Battle Rifle.

8. M16 5.56 mm Rifle/ M4 Carbine

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Sergeant Christopher L. Mc Cabe fires his rifle during monthly range training on May 15, 2008. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Thomas J. Griffith)

Since replacing the M14 in 1964, the M16/M4 family of rifles has become the longest-serving standard rifle for the U.S. military. Despite its troubled beginning, the M16 and M4 have earned a hard-fought reputation as reliable and effective weapons. Despite numerous attempts to replace it, no competition has yielded a better rifle.

9. LGM-30 Minuteman Ballistic Missile

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An unarmed LGM-30G Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile launches during an operational test Feb. 20, 2016, at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kyla Gifford)

The Minuteman intercontinental ballistic missile has served as part of the U.S. nuclear triad since entering service in 1962. The Minuteman was the first ICBM to employ multiple independent reentry vehicles, allowing each missile to deploy three separate warheads for greater chances of target destruction. The Air Force, responsible for the missiles, currently operates 450, down from the peak of 1,000 during the 1970s.

10. M61 Vulcan 20 mm Cannon

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An AC-130A Spectre gunship’s 20mm Vulcan cannon ammo belt. This is the earlier belted M61. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The M61 is the United States’ primary armament for fixed-wing aviation. After entering service in 1959, the gun saw extensive use in Vietnam by all branches fighting in the skies. The gun was credited with shooting down 39 MiGs during the war. After over 50 years of service, the M61 is still found on American fighters and in the Navy’s Phalanx CIWS.

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