Russia has a “tattletale” (spy ship) operating off the East Coast of the United States, but they’re not the only ones collecting Signals Intelligence (SIGINT). Here’s how the U.S. does spying of its own.
The Viktor Leonov’s snooping has drawn headlines this year – although a similar 2015 operation didn’t draw as much hoopla. It is one of a class of seven vessels in service with the Russian Navy, and is armed with a mix of SA-N-8 missiles and AK-630 close-in weapon systems.
Still, the Navy needs to carry out collection missions and it does have options.
One is the use of aircraft like the EP-3E Aries II electronic intelligence aircraft. Based on the P-3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft, a Navy fact file notes that a dozen were purchased in the 1990s.
The plane was involved in a 2001 mid-air collision with a People’s Liberation Army Navy Air Force J-8 Finback. The EP-3E made an emergency landing at Hainan Island and the Chinese pilot was killed.
The Navy also uses its ships and submarines to gather signals intelligence.
According to the 16th Edition of Combat Fleets of the World, many of its top-of-the-line surface combatants, like the Ticonderoga-class cruisers and the Arleigh Burke-class destroyers are equipped with the AN/SLQ-32 electronic support measures system for SIGINT collection.
According to the Raytheon web site, this system also has the capability to jam enemy systems in addition to detecting and classifying enemy radars.
U.S. Navy submarines also have a sophisticated SIGINT suite, the AN/BLQ-10.
According to the Federation of American Scientists website, this system is capable of detecting, processing, and analyzing radar signals and other electronic transmissions. It is standard on all Virginia-class submarines and is being backfitted onto Seawolf and Los Angeles-class ships.
In other words, every American sub and surface combatant is able to carry out signals intelligence missions.
The Air Force is to ditch a nearly a half-billion dollar contract issued to a Chicago-based company to make bunker-buster bombs after complaints by lawmakers about the company’s ties to a Russian oligarch.
The Air Force awarded a contract worth $419.6 million to A. Finkl & Sons Co. to produce bomb bodies for the 2,000-pound BLU-137 penetrator warhead, which is meant to replace the BLU-109.
Finkl’s contract was slightly smaller than the $467.9 million award given to Ohio-based Superior Forge and Steel Corp to make 300 bomb bodies in the first year with the potential for as many as 3,500 more over four years.
However, according to Bloomberg Government, a group of lawmakers protested the decision, saying Finkl was not eligible for the award because of its foreign parent company, Swiss steel-maker Schmolz + Bickenbach, which is partially owned by Viktor Vekselberg, a Russian billionaire and aluminium magnate who has been hit by US sanctions.
By awarding the contract to Finkl, Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Mark Kelly told Bloomberg, the Air Force had “turned their back” on Ellwood National Forge, a longtime bomb-maker that employs 2,000 people and is based in Pennsylvania. Ellwood had worked on every previous generation of the bunker-buster warhead.
Vekselberg, born in Ukraine and based in Switzerland, is worth more than billion and holds an 11.34% stake and 1.25% stake in Schmolz + Bickenbach through two holding companies, both of which have been hit by US sanctions against Russia over that country’s actions in Crimea and Ukraine. (His stakes in Schomlz + Bickenbach were not large enough to draw sanctions on that company.)
Early 2018 the US imposed sanctions on Russian individuals and entities over Moscow’s suspected meddling in the 2016 US election — including assets worth between id=”listicle-2602523867″.5 billion and billion belonging to Vekselberg and one of the holding companies in question.
Kelly and nine other Republican members of Pennsylvania congressional delegation protested the decision in a July 27, 2018 letter, saying they were “so surprised” Ellwood has missed out on the contract “despite submitting the lowest cost bid and possessing far more experience than either of the companies that won a contract.”
“Perhaps more troubling is that one of the companies that was awarded a contract is the subsidiary of a foreign-owned conglomerate, even though the request for proposal explicitly barred foreign owned, controlled or influenced companies from applying to this contract,” the letter said.
In an Aug. 30, 2018 letter seen by Bloomberg Government, the Air Force appeared to concur, saying Finkl should have been ineligible because of foreign ownership and that it had sent “a notice of termination” to the Chicago-based firm. The Air Force’s letter did not mention Vekselberg.
Munitions maintainers assemble BLU-109 munitions during the Combat Ammunitions Production Exercise at Osan Air Base in South Korea, May 25, 2010.
(US Air Force photo photo by Staff Sgt. Stephenie Wade)
Ellwood also filed a protest of the contract award, on which the Government Accountability Office has yet to rule. It is not clear whether the Air Force will reassign the contract or open it to a new round of bidding.
US sanctions on Russia over alleged meddling in the 2016 election have created other headaches for the Pentagon and lawmakers.
Under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, which President Donald Trump signed into law in August 2017, the US can put secondary sanctions on entities and individuals doing business with the Russian intelligence or defense sectors.
The latest defense authorization bill contains a waiver process for US partners that buy Russian weapons, but the Pentagon has said allies aren’t certain to be spared “from any fallout” from Russia sanctions.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Now that the military life is thoroughly back into full swing after the new year lull, I’m going to make a wild guess and assume that a large portion of the grunts are now going to go out into the field “to make up for lost time.” Have fun with that.
To a certain extent, I understand summer field problems. Go out and train for what you’ll do on a deployment. And I get that there are certain parts of RC-North, Afghanistan, that get cold as balls, so acclimatizing makes sense. But winter field exercises back stateside just teaches troops one crucial thing: never second guess the packing list.
You’ll be doing the exact same as thing you’ll do during every other field exercise, but if you, for some reason, forget gloves… Well, you’re f*cked.
For the rest of you POGs who’re still lounging around the training room on your cell phones, have some memes!
(Meme via PT Belt Nation)
Five bucks says that Adam Driver still has a poncho liner on his couch.
DARPA has found a single, hyper-efficient motor that they think could power large UAVs, electrical generators, and robots. The engines are so small and so efficient, that soldiers could carry powerful generators in their rucksacks.
DARPA signed a contract with LiquidPiston for nearly $1 million to develop an engine that is much lighter than current military generators and that could generate the same amount of electricity for half as much JP-8 fuel.
“Today’s diesel/JP-8 engines and generators are extremely heavy,” Dr. Nikolay Shkolnick, a co-founder of LiquidPiston, said in an press release. “For example, a typical 3kW heavy-fuel generator weighs over 300 pounds, requiring six people to move it around. LiquidPiston’s engine technology may enable a JP-8 generator of similar output weighing less than 30 pounds that could fit in a backpack.”
The engine would get its outstanding efficiency through a patented “High Efficiency Hybrid Cycle,” design that is a large departure from piston engines. LiquidPiston holds the patent for this type of engine. See how it works at 0:40 in the video below.
And, with only two moving parts, the engines are much quieter and stealthier than those they would replace.
“Our engine has no vibration at all and it’s a lot quieter,” Alexander Shkolnik, the president of LiquidPiston, told MIT News while discussing LiquidPiston’s smallest engine. “It should be a much nicer user experience all around.”
If everything works out, forward operating bases and UAVs would get much quieter, generators could be delivered to outposts more easily, and the need for convoys in theater would be reduced as fuel requirements dropped.
A US Marine Corps F-35 squadron plans to deploy aboard the British Royal Navy’s new flagship, the HMS Queen Elizabeth.
“It’s going to be a wonderful new way — and I will offer, potentially a new norm — of doing coalition combined allied operations with a maritime partner,” Lt. Gen. Steven Rudder, head of Marine Corps aviation, said at this week’s Sea-Air-Space conference outside Washington, DC, according to Military.com.
A yet-to-be-identified Marine Corps squadron is expected to deploy aboard the foreign carrier in 2021.
This approach will be a “tremendous milestone in the progression of maritime interoperability with the UK,” Capt. Christopher Hutchinson, a Marine Corps spokesman, told Military.com. He told Business Insider that this will be the first time in modern history, if not ever, US aircraft have deployed aboard a foreign aircraft carrier.
HMS Queen Elizabeth visiting New York City.
The deployment has been a long time in the making, as senior US and British defense officials reportedly first began discussing this type of cooperation as a real possibility when the HMS Queen Elizabeth was commissioned in 2017.
An F-35B jet, a short takeoff/vertical landing variant of the fifth-generation stealth fighter developed for the Marine Corps, landed on the HMS Queen Elizabeth for the first time last September. “The largest warship in British history is joining forces with the most advanced fighter jets on the planet,” then British Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson said in a statement.
An F-35B Lightning II above the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, Sept. 25, 2018.
(UK Ministry of Defense)
Last fall, US Marine Corps Maj. Michael Lippert, an F-35B test pilot, spent several weeks conducting test flights from the deck of the British carrier. The movement of a whole squadron to the carrier is simply the next step in the cooperative process.
Both sides are currently preparing for the eventual deployment. “They’re working together … on all of the things that go into making sure supportability is right,” Rudder said, according to Military.com. “It has been a pleasure working with our UK partners on this. I think it’s going to be a very interesting data point and operational success.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The Air Force today takes a ribbing from the other services for being soft, so it’s easy to forget that historically their mission has been one of the most dangerous. This was on display in World War II when Allied aircrews were tasked with bombing Nazi-occupied Germany and Imperial Japan.
In this clip, a World War II Royal Air Force veteran discusses what it was like flying bombers to Berlin through a wall of flak so thick that, as he describes it, it sounded like driving a car through a hailstorm. He also tells of the mission where their bomber was chased down by German fighters and forced to crash land.
It’s been said that if you look at an infantryman’s eyes you can tell how much war he has seen. Stare into the eyes of many of the fighting men portrayed by World War II combat artist Tom Lea and you can tell his subjects have seen Hell – and then some.
Muralist, illustrator, war correspondent, portraitist, landscape artist, novelist, and historian, the multi-talented Lea covered World War II for “Life” magazine, a publication that pioneered photojournalists’ coverage of combat yet still showcased his drawings and paintings of warfare. Now, the public has a rare opportunity to view some of Lea’s best work at a single impressive exhibit.
There are also interpretative displays, audio-visual presentations of oral histories from World War II veterans who participated in the battles Lea portrayed, and displays of personal items that belonged to Lea such as his drawing table, brushes and an easel.
Even though World War II is frequently remembered as a time when the combat photographer came into his own, Lea’s work as an artist was relevant during World War II because it was extremely dynamic and caught the imagination of service members’ families and other civilians back home, said Larry Decuers, the exhibit’s curator.
“His images provided everyone on the home front with a realistic — if haunting— view of combat unfolding overseas,” Decuers said. “Lea’s works also represented a unique aspect of wartime journalism because they were so detailed in design.”
Thomas Calloway “Tom” Lea III, who died in 2001, said his mission as an artist and journalist was straightforward: “I did not report hearsay; I did not imagine, or fake, or improvise; I did not cuddle up with personal emotion, moral notion, or political opinion about War with a capital W. I reported in pictures what I saw with my own two eyes, wide open.”
A native of El Paso, Texas, Lea was one of the first civilian artists hired by “Life” as a correspondent during World War II. His work in numerous theaters of operation required him to travel more than 100,000 miles during the war.
Lea risked his life to document combat ranging from convoy battles involving destroyers in the North Atlantic to the bloody beach assault during the Battle of Peleliu. His subjects ranged from admirals and generals to ordinary servicemen, but he felt a particular affinity for the men below decks and the Marines who faced some of the most ferocious combat of the entire war.
His paintings ultimately became full-color spreads in 10 issues of “Life,” reaching more than 30 million readers and providing a chilling perspective on the war.
Among the art displayed in the exhibit is perhaps Lea’s most famous – and haunting – wartime painting, “That 2,000-Yard Stare.” It has become one of the most iconic images of the effects of war on the human psyche.
“He left the States 31 months ago,” Lea wrote about his subject, a combat Marine at Peleliu. “He was wounded in his first campaign. He has had tropical diseases. He half-sleeps at night and gouges Japs out of holes all day. Two-thirds of his company has been killed or wounded. He will return to attack this morning. How much can a human being endure?”
But the display also includes drawings and sketches of soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines engaged in the day-to-day and behind-the-scenes jobs that made the fighting possible.
And then there is his painting of U.S. Navy chaplain John J. Malone experiencing combat for the first time as he does his best to help overwhelmed corpsmen treating casualties. “He was deeply and visibly moved by the patient suffering and death,” Lea wrote. “He looked very lonely, very close to God, as he bent over the shattered men so far from home.”
The exhibit helps people today understand Lea’s contribution to how the public learned about World War II’s events at a time when there was no cable or satellite news and no Internet to provide instantaneous coverage.
“As it is the museum’s mission to tell the complete story of the American experience in World War II, it is critical that we share all aspects of the war – including stories about the courageous men and women who traveled overseas in order to share stories with anxious families back home,” Decuers said. “Lea’s work is a significant piece of World War II, and we’re thrilled to share it at our institution.”
For more information, call (877) 813-3329 or (504) 528-1944, or visit the museum on the Web at nationalww2museum.org.
Vice President Mike Pence swore in Air Force Gen. John W. “Jay” Raymond as the highest-ranking military leader of the newly created U.S. Space Force in a ceremony that recognized the arrival of the nation’s newest military branch.
Raymond was formally designated the first chief of space operations in a formal ceremony sponsored by the White House and held at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. It came less than a month after the Space Force, by law, became the sixth independent branch of the U.S. military, marking the first time since 1947 that a new military branch had been created.
“The first decision the president made after establishing the Space Force was deciding who should be its first leader,” Pence said. “I was around when the President made that decision and I can tell you, he never hesitated. He knew right away there was no one more qualified or more prepared from a lifetime of service than General Jay Raymond to serve as the first leader of the Space Force.”
Gen. John W. “Jay” Raymond addresses the audience in the Executive Eisenhower Office Building Washington after being sworn in as the first chief of space operations by Vice President Mike Pence, Jan 14, 2020.
(Photo by Andy Morataya, Air Force)
The Space Force was established Dec. 20 when President Donald J. Trump signed the National Defense Authorization Act. He also appointed Raymond to lead the Space Force. Although directed by its own military leadership, the Space Force is nested within the Department of the Air Force.
Raymond noted the historic nature of the moment. “Not only is this historical; it’s critical,” he said. “That is not lost on me or the outstanding Americans who serve with me.”
The Space Force’s overarching responsibility is training, equipping and organizing a cadre of space professionals who protect U.S. and allied interests in space while also providing space capabilities to the joint force. The Space Force’s mandate includes developing military space professionals, acquiring military space systems, refining military doctrine for space power, and organizing space forces for use by combatant commands.
A major reason for creating the Space Force is the importance of space for both national security and everyday life. It is the backbone that allows for instant communication worldwide, precision navigation and global commerce. The U.S. Space Force will ensure the country’s continued leadership in space, Raymond said. Equally important, he added, is avoiding conflict in space.
“We want to deter that conflict from happening,” he said. “The best way I know how to do that is through a position of strength.”
Among those attending the ceremony were Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper, Deputy Defense Secretary of Defense David L. Norquist, Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein and Air Force Gen. John E. Hyten, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as well as Adm. Charles Ray, vice commandant of the Coast Guard; Navy Adm. Michael Gilday, chief of naval operations; and Air Force Gen. Joseph L. Lengyel, chief of the National Guard Bureau.
Faculty members and cadets at the U.S. Air Force Academy wait to receive “first contact” from the cadet-designed FalconSAT-6 satellite after its successful launch into space, Dec. 3, 2018.
(Photo by Joshua Armstrong, Air Force)
“We are moving forward with alacrity and in accordance with presidential direction, the law, and DOD guidance,” Barrett said about the establishment of the new U.S. Space Force. “Directing this effort is the incomparably qualified leader, General ‘Jay’ Raymond. As a career space officer, he’s the perfect person to guide this lean, agile, vital Space Force.”
Raymond was the natural choice for the job. He is the commander of the U.S. Space Command; the nation’s unified command for space.
Before his new role, Raymond was the commander of Air Force Space Command, which carried the nation’s primary military focus on space, managing a constellation of satellites, developing policy and programs and training frontline space operators. Air Force Space Command was redesignated as the U.S. Space Force under the recently passed NDAA.
More broadly, the Space Force is responsible for maintaining the United States’ space superiority, even as space becomes more crowded and contested. The NDAA, which created the Space Force, also directs that the Space Force “shall provide the freedom of operation in, from, and to space, while providing prompt and sustained space operations.”
(Charles Pope is assigned to the Secretary of the Air Force Office of Public Affairs. Air Force Maj. Will Russell contributed to this report.)
As a Military Working Dog handler in the US Marine Corps, I got to work with some of the best trained dogs in the world.
These dogs can sniff out bombs that have been buried underground, sniff out drugs that are hidden in ceiling tiles, take down a man three times their size, and track a person long after they’re gone to find criminal suspects or lost kids.
As a handler paired up with an explosive detection dog, my job was to train him, maintain his skills, keep him healthy, make sure he got exercise, and make sure he was healthy. After graduating from dog handling school, I was paired with my first dog, Kuko.
As a new handler with an experienced dog, I had to get up to his level before we could be an effective team. Once I got there, I could start teaching him new things to take our team to the next level.
While you may not be training your dog to find bombs buried in mud or drugs hidden in a car bumper, there are some keys to training dogs that will apply no matter what skills you are trying to teach.
Airman 1st Class John Fountain, a military working dog handler, with MWD Deny on the Obedience Obstacle course at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, April 24, 2019.
(Air Force photo by Airman Jesse Jenny)
1. You have to build a relationship.
The first thing you do upon meeting your new MWD is begin to build rapport. If you take home a brand-new puppy, you begin training by establishing a relationship with the dog. With so many dogs in a unit’s kennel, handlers take turns dropping food pans for the dogs twice a day.
However, when a handler partners with a new dog, it’s a good idea to let that handler drop their dog’s food for a few days to establish a good bond. The dog begins to associate the handler with good things.
This was particularly important with our, shall we say, “crankier” dogs. While our dogs weren’t trained to be mean, they aren’t the friendliest dogs either. They have a serious job to do, and they are serious dogs.
I’ve seen handlers get bit by their own dogs more than a few times. Two of the best dog teams in my first unit had scars from their dogs. Training too hard, too fast with a dog that doesn’t trust you yet can lead to frustration on both sides and usually doesn’t lead to good results.
US Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Eliot Fiaschi takes a moment to brush his partner Meky’s teeth during a break while on duty at the Djibouti Pier, April 23, 2009.
(Photo by Tech Sgt. Dawn Price)
2. Groom your dog every day.
Grooming your dog helps build the relationship, keeps the dog clean and healthy, and lets you check them over from the tip of their nose to the tip of their tail for any problems. With hair covering most of them, dogs can have serious issues developing that you can’t see until you brush them.
If your dog is running around in wooded areas, check in their ears, their paws, and in between their paw pads for ticks. Even with preventative medication, ticks can bite dogs and infect them with multiple diseases that can be devastating or deadly. Even a small cut on the paw can turn into something bigger if not treated properly, and dogs that don’t feel good aren’t good students.
One of our dogs contracted a tick-borne disease that nearly killed him. While we never found the tick, the dog tested positive for Babesia. He only survived because his handler had noted that he seemed more and more lethargic over the course of about three days.
Because she was watching him closely, she noticed when his gums and tongue went pale, indicating a serious problem. He was rushed to the vet, where aggressive treatment saved his life. His recovery was long and difficult and led to his retirement, but the vets and vet techs care about the dogs and will save them if possible.
Airman 1st Class John Fountain, a military working dog handler, with MWD Deny on the Obedience Obstacle course at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, April 24, 2019.
(Air Force photo by Airman Jesse Jenny)
3. Consistency is key.
During this rapport-building time, start laying the foundations for the training that you want to do with your dog.
Don’t let them get away with things that you won’t accept later. Reward good behavior with praise, attention, play, or treats. Once training begins, consistency is going to be key to getting good results.
If you are training the dog to sit, set the dog up to succeed by training in the same area every time. Keep your voice the same. Don’t change the way you say the command. Don’t give the command unless you are prepared to reward.
A military working dog team completes a detection training scenario in Southwest Asia, Jan. 10, 2017.
(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Tyler Woodward)
4. Training takes time.
You can’t rush dog training. Some dogs pick things up faster than others. MWDs are trained for four to seven months in basic skills before they are officially called an MWD. If your dog isn’t grasping basic tasks, you can’t move on to the more advanced. Basic obedience, (the sit, down, and stay) is the foundation of all further training.
Take your time to master the basics, and refresh them from time to time. MWDs are professionals with years of experience, and they get obedience refresher training almost every day. It’s much easier to maintain proficiency than it is to fix a problem that you have let slide for too long.
US Air Force Staff Sgt. Brandon Stone, a military working dog handler, braces for impact as military working dog, Cola, attempts to detain him during a K-9 demonstration exercise, Aug. 17, 2017.
(US Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Bradly A. Schneider)
5. Dogs have bad days too.
Say you’ve been training your dog for weeks. He’s performing well, and then one day he just refuses to work for you. He won’t sit. He seems bored, antsy, tired, or just lazy.
Don’t get mad, and don’t continue to correct the dog if it isn’t working. Dogs have their bad days too. Sometimes they just don’t want to work. If you try to force it, you will become frustrated and angry, which hardly ever leads to good results. Recognize that there might be a medical issue at play. Sick dogs aren’t usually enthusiastic students.
During an evaluation at my last base, a dog wouldn’t stay in the sit. The handler couldn’t get the dog to stay after multiple corrections. The evaluator took a close look and saw that the dog was positioned on an ant hill and had fire ants biting his legs. Continuing to correct the dog in that situation would be ineffective and would harm the good rapport between dog and handler.
Recognize that your dog is a living, breathing creature that has feelings and emotions.
US Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Victor Longoria shares a playful moment with his partner, Timmy, after a training session, April 16, 2009.
(Photo by Tech Sgt. Dawn Price)
6. Dogs need to have fun.
Recognizing that dogs are living, breathing creatures, they need to have fun. If the dog only ever sees you for training, you are missing a big part of the relationship.
Take your dog out and let him run, play with toys, lay in the sun, take a break, and just be a dog. It will make for a happy dog that wants to please you by doing the right thing when training. In a strong dog team, the dog’s desire to please the handler provides as much motivation as the toy or the treat.
My first dog was not especially affectionate, and I wouldn’t say that he ever loved me in the way that a pet loves its owner. He had handlers before me, and he would have more after me, but we still had a strong bond, which made us an effective team.
I took him out, let him play, tossed a ball for him, let him lay in the sun, and took him for long walks with no commands. He knew when it was time to work and when it was time to play, and he trusted that if he did what I asked and made me happy, good things would come to him.
Staff Sgt. Cody Nickell, a military working dog handler, works with Topa to get him accustomed to being in a Huey helicopter, at Yokota Air Base, Japan, July 26, 2018.
(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Donald Hudson)
7. Not every dog is going to be able to learn every task.
Between buying carefully selected dogs from Europe and breeding their own at Lackland Air Force Base, the military goes through a lot of dogs. Not every dog makes it as an MWD. They fail out for a variety of reasons, from health issues to behavioral issues. Some dogs just aren’t cut out for the type of work that MWDs do.
We had a dog that didn’t want to bite people. She was sent after a decoy wearing the bite sleeve, and she faked a leg injury instead of chasing him down. The vet determined that nothing was wrong with her, she just didn’t want to bite.
If your dog just isn’t getting it, it might be the dog.
While you probably (hopefully) aren’t training your dog to bite people, you might find that your dog won’t sit, won’t drop the ball, or won’t stay for longer than a second. Keep in mind that some breeds of dogs are known for their willingness to learn, and others are not.
Don’t adopt a working dog breed and keep it inside all day without exercise. That’s how houses get destroyed. Do your research and adopt a dog that is going to fit in with your lifestyle and not a dog that you saw in a movie and you think looks cool.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
For the first time ever, a woman is now “in the final stage of training” to become the U.S. Army’s first female Green Beret.
The female soldier, who has not been identified by the Army, is an enlisted member of the National Guard, and was one of only a handful of women to ever make it through the rigorous 24-day assessment all aspiring Soldiers must survive in order to earn a spot in the year-long Special Forces qualification course, commonly referred to as the “Q Course.” According to a spokesman for the U.S. Army, this Soldier is nearing completion of the Q Course, which means her accession into the role of Special Forces engineer sergeant is all but guaranteed, provided she doesn’t fall out of training due to injury or a sudden shift in her performance. There is also at least one other woman in the same Q Course, though the Army did not indicate whether or not she was expected to pass.
U.S. Special Forces Green Beret Soldiers, assigned to 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne), Operational Detachment-A, prepare to breach an entry point during a close quarter combat scenario while Integrated Training Exercise 2-16 at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms.
The Army isn’t releasing any information about the Soldier that may soon earn the mantle of first-ever female Green Beret, citing security concerns and standard protocol.
This Soldier won’t be the Army’s first ever female to earn a role within a Special Operations unit, however. In 2017. a female Soldier earned her place in the Army’s elite 75th Ranger Regiment, and more than a forty others have now completed Ranger School, which is widely considered to be not only grueling, but among the best leadership courses in the entirety of the U.S. Armed Forces. One of those women, Captain Kristen M. Griest, became the Army’s first female infantry officer back in 2016.
“I do hope that, with our performance in Ranger school, we’ve been able to inform that decision as to what they can expect from women in the military,” Captain Griest said when she graduated in 2015. “We can handle things physically and mentally on the same level as men.”
(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Jason Robertson)
Although the title “Special Forces” is often attributed to all Special Operations units in popular culture, in truth, the title “Special Forces” belongs only to the U.S. Army’s Green Berets. Special Forces Soldiers are tasked with a wide variety of mission sets and often serve as physical representation of America’s foreign policy at the point of conflict. That means Green Berets are experts in unconventional warfare, training foreign militaries for internal defense, intelligence gathering operations and, of course, direct-action missions aimed at killing or capturing high value targets. Earning your place among these elite war-fighters means excelling throughout 53 weeks of arduous training centered around combat marksmanship, urban operations, and counter-insurgency tactics, among others.
Meet ROTC Cadet Colonel Megan Steis. She belongs to the 430th at Ole Miss (@det430olemiss) as she is rolling down final during her senior year at the University of Mississippi.
Megan is one of 12 finalists of Navy Federal Credit Union’s ROTC All-American Award program, which honors exemplary ROTC cadets with a scholarship that is split between their student expenses and their detachment. From a pool of over 170 submissions, cadets have been judged by their Leadership, Military Excellence, Scholarship and Service. Just to be nominated, the candidate must be in the top 25 percent of his or her class academically, as well as ranked in the top 25 percent of ROTC. There is no shortage of excellence among these young ROTC men and women, but Megan has earned her way to the top.
Of the 12, three finalists are chosen to win additional scholarship money, but Megan said no matter the outcome there’s a camaraderie that’s grown between them. They even have a group chat. Megan says these connections across ROTC branches alone have been a reward in and of itself.
“Everybody is outstanding,” Cadet Colonel Steis said.
Nominated by her Detachment Commander without her knowledge, Megan has certainly earned her place among finalists by the work she put into the 430th. She looked at the detachment budget and realized it was in need of attention. What did she do? She began an integrated priority list, and then went on to organize a fundraising effort called “Steps for Vets.” Cadets got sponsors to donate a dollar amount per mile they ran, which promoted physical health on top of raising money. Megan ran over 30 miles. Some of the proceeds went to benefit the detachment, which bought them a T-6 flight simulator. “We are one of the first detachments in ROTC around the country to have a flight simulator.” She noticed there were a lot of people in ROTC at the University of Mississippi who want to be pilots. Her thoughts?
“Let’s go for it.”
And she did. She said the simulator has not only torn down walls between upper and lower classmen, but has been a great recruiting tool as well as help them train for their future careers.
This is especially important for Megan because it is her dream to become a pilot. She’s working toward her hours in the cockpit, but that doesn’t mean her work to continue building resources at her detachment is over.
“We don’t have a joystick. A joystick would be really useful.”
She said the portion of her scholarship for her detachment would not only go to a joystick for the simulator, but she also has plans to grow their alumni outreach program.
“We have amazing alumni at Ole Miss who have had outstanding military careers and we don’t even know who they are. Depending on how COVID turns out in the spring I’d love to have a crawfish boil. It’d be great to have some of that Ole Miss heritage and to have the alumni come back.”
And to anyone considering the ROTC Megan has this to say:
“You have a place here. Try it. I wanted to be a part of something greater than myself. Thankfully I tried it. If I didn’t ever try it I wouldn’t know how much potential I had as a leader. I got here and I realized these people are just like me. They’ve become family.”
Thank you to all the NFCU’s ROTC All-American Awards finalists for your relentless pursuit of excellence. Congratulations, Cadet Colonel Steis, for the scholarship and good luck beyond senior year. The Air Force will be lucky to have you.
Iran and Israel engaged in a war of words two days after an exchange of missile fire in Syria, with a prominent Iranian cleric threatening to “raze” two Israeli cities if it “acts foolishly” and attacks Iranian forces in Syria again.
Israel’s defense minister issued his own warning, saying Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will face only “damage and problems” unless he kicks the Iranian military presence out of his country.
Israeli minister Avigdor Lieberman said Assad should especially beware of Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s Quds Force, a branch of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps that oversees operations outside Iran’s borders.
“I have a message for Assad: Get rid of the Iranians, get rid of Qassem Soleimani and the Quds Force. They are not helping you, they are only harming,” Lieberman said.
“Their presence will only cause problems and damage. Get rid of the Iranians and we can, perhaps, change our mode of life here,” he said.
On May 10, 2018, Israel accused Iran of firing rockets from Syria into the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, the first time that Iran is believed to have attacked Israel with rockets.
Israel struck back with its heaviest air strikes in Syria since the start of the Syrian civil war in 2011, saying it had attacked nearly all of Iran’s military infrastructure in the country. A war monitor said the missile exchange left 23 fighters dead.
Israel has warned it will not allow Iran to establish a military presence close to its borders in Syria, where Iranian military advisers, troops, and allied Shi’ite militia have since 2011 played a key role backing Assad in his civil war against Sunni rebels.
Iran on May 10, 2018, called Israel’s accusations, which were supported and corroborated by the United States and Western allies, “fabricated and baseless excuses” to stage attacks in Syria.
A senior Iranian cleric, Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami, warned that the Jewish state could face destruction if it continues to challenge Iran.
“We will expand our missile capabilities despite Western pressure…to let Israel know that if it acts foolishly, we will raze Tel Aviv and Haifa to the ground,” he said in remarks during Friday Prayers that were carried on Iranian state television.
A prominent Iranian ally in Lebanon joined the verbal volley on May 10, 2018, warning that both Israel and the United States will face retaliation for repeated Israeli air strikes in Syria that monitors say have killed dozens of Syrian, Iranian, and Hizballah fighters in recent weeks.
Lebanese parliament speaker Nabih Berri, who is allied with Hizballah, told the Associated Press in an interview that some 1,000 U.S. troops that are stationed in northern and eastern Syria to fight the Islamic State extremist group may be in danger.
“There are American interests in Syria and if there is a larger war, I don’t think even the American president can bear the consequences,” Berri said.
The White House on May 10, 2018, repeated its demand that Iran stop its “reckless actions” against U.S. allies Israel and Saudi Arabia.
After a telephone call between U.S. President Donald Trump and British Prime Minister Theresa May, “both leaders condemned the Iranian regime’s provocative rocket attacks from Syria against Israeli citizens,” the White House said.
“It is time for responsible nations to bring pressure on Iran to change this dangerous behavior,” said White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders.
“The Main Enemy.” That’s how the Russian political, military, and intelligence apparatuses see the United States. Although the end of the Cold War brought with it hopes of democratization in Russia, 30 years later, with President Vladimir Putin, a former KGB officer, at the helm, Russia seems buried in the past, stoking a fire against the West mainly through covert means and information operations.
Earlier in the year, the U.S. Intelligence Community released its annual threat assessment. When it came to Russia, American intelligence assessed that it poses one of the most serious intelligence threats to the U.S., sowing discord and division within the U.S. while trying to divide Western alliances, such as NATO and the European Union, alongside preserving and increasing Russia’s global standing.
Heading this campaign of subversion are Russia’s potent intelligence agencies: The SVR (foreign intelligence), FSB (domestic intelligence and counterintelligence), GRU (military intelligence), and FSO (a mix of domestic law enforcement, border patrol, presidential guard, and signals intelligence).
A History of Subversion
From the reign of the Tsars, Russian history is deeply steeped in espionage. The Russian monarchs operated intelligence services to prevent the all-dreaded assassination attempts from domestic and foreign rivals. When the Bolsheviks ousted the Tsars after the Russian Revolution in 1917, they kept the same focus on intelligence, but now the target deck of potential threats swelled. Russian anti-communists (also known as the “Whites”), foreign nations, and even other Bolsheviks were all considered threats to the nascent revolution.
The Soviets began spying against other countries immediately, and the U.S. in particular was a big target. From the 1930s to the 1950s, Russian intelligence officers recruited hundreds of Americans to spy for the Soviet Union, an espionage onslaught that resulted in the compromise of the Manhattan Project and the leaking of nuclear secrets to the Soviets, with which they managed to build their own atomic weapons.
Other Western countries were also affected. Great Britain’s infamous Cambridge Five (Donald Mclean, Kim Philby, Guy Burgess, Anthony Blunt, and John Cairncross), a group of the British elite who infiltrated its institutions, including MI6, Foreign Office, and BBC, wreaked havoc with their perfidy.
West Germany suffered too. A cadre of “Romeos,” attractive young Soviet and East German intelligence officers, used their sex appeal and charm to target lonely, single West German secretaries and recruit them, infiltrating the highest echelons of the West German government.
In an interview in 1998, KGB general Oleg Kalugin, head of KGB’s political operations in the U.S. who later defected and became an American citizen, offered some great insight on how Russian intelligence services tackled the “American target.”
“The heart and soul of the Soviet intelligence—was subversion. Not intelligence collection, but subversion: active measures to weaken the West, to drive wedges in the Western community alliances of all sorts, particularly NATO, to sow discord among allies, to weaken the United States in the eyes of the people of Europe, Asia, Africa, Latin America, and thus to prepare the ground in case the war really occurs. To make America more vulnerable to the anger and distrust of other peoples,” he had said.
An Unofficial Rulebook
By interfering with the U.S. political process in 2016, Russian intelligence services, directed by the Kremlin, crossed an unspoken line that had existed since and survived throughout the Cold War. In his excellent book, Spymaster’s Prism: The Fight Against Russian Aggression, Jack Divine, a retired CIA officer who served as acting director and associate director of operations, describes this unofficial rulebook as the “Moscow Rules.”
This set of unofficial norms ensured that the respective intelligence activities didn’t go beyond a red line that would provoke either side into using its military—and as a result, its nuclear arsenal. Assassinations, terrorism, and excessive violence against the other country’s intelligence officers were a no-go, as was direct interference in the other country’s political processes.
For example, KGB officers wouldn’t beat a CIA officer caught meeting with a Soviet asset in Moscow to death (they could—and did—try and execute their countryman, though). Similarly, the CIA wouldn’t promote independence movements in other nations inside the Soviet Union or try to influence the leadership deliberations inside the Communist Party in an effort to destabilize Kremlin’s power.
These unofficial “rules of engagement” kept in check the respective intelligence services, ensuring that their actions in the cloak and dagger realm didn’t inadvertently cause World War Three. But in 2016, Putin Russia threw the Moscow Rules out of the window.
Back to the Future
In 2016, using its cyber capabilities, the Kremlin aimed to delegitimize America’s democratic process, sow distrust in Western media, and widen preexisting socioeconomic and racial fissures in the U.S. The main actor in this was the Internet Research Agency (IRA), a seemingly independent organization that works closely with the Russian intelligence apparatus, particularly the SVR and GRU.
In 2016, the IRA created thousands of Twitter accounts (3,814), YouTube videos (more than 1,000), and hundreds of Facebook pages and events, masking them as American political groups and initiatives, that posted divisive and inflammatory material. Using thousands of bots on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other major social media platforms, they promoted and spread these posts to reach at least 29 million Americans, and potentially reaching 126 million, and influenced the political process in a way that’s hard to quantify.
Several of these pages and posts were directly opposed to each other (for example, “Blacktivist” and “Stop All Immigrants”) despite being run by the same Russian source. It is worth highlighting that Russian intelligence services directed their malicious efforts against Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, and, to a lesser extent, Bernie Sanders and Jill Stein. It wasn’t until the closing months of the election season, when Trump seemed to have a feasible chance to win, that the Russians started favoring him. (It’s important to highlight that Russian meddling in the election process was primarily intended to make Americans question the electoral process and democratic institutions.)
The election interference, one of many in which Russian intelligence meddled in the last few years (other examples are the Brexit vote, Scottish independence referendum, and Catalonia independence referendum), is part of what the Russians refer to as “Active Measures.”
Active Measures (Aktivnye Meropriyatiya), is the Russian version of Covert Action and can include election interference, information operations, influence operations, assassinations of dissidents, and cyberwarfare.
Through its active measures tactics, Russia attempts to undermine U.S. influence in the world and sow division between Western countries and NATO in order to weaken the West, thereby increasing Moscow’s importance to the world as a major international player.
According to the U.S. Intelligence Community, Russian officials believe that the U.S. and its allies have been conducting influence operations to undermine Russia and Putin in addition to pursuing regime-changing in the countries of the former Soviet Union, such as Ukraine and Georgia. Interestingly, U.S. officials assess that Russia seeks an accommodation with the U.S. on mutual non-interference in domestic matters and also for the West to recognize Russia’s long-gone sphere of influence in states the former Soviet Union. If that assessment is correct, it could explain the interference in the 2016 election as a show of force from the Kremlin and a tangible way to visualize the dangers of domestic interference.
Although subversion is the primary goal of Russian intelligence operations, it doesn’t mean that traditional collection is absent, with the Kremlin targeting mostly the U.S. defense and artificial technology industries, usually recruiting employees within those companies in order to achieve their goals.
A formidable foe, the Russian intelligence services pose a grave threat to the U.S. and the West.