The 'bizarre story' of how Russia's most advanced air defense system was 'lost' - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

The ‘bizarre story’ of how Russia’s most advanced air defense system was ‘lost’

China became the first foreign buyer of Russia’s S-400 in 2014, but the delivery of the air-defense system, considered one of the most advanced the world, was marred when a ship carrying it encountered a storm in early 2018.

According to the CEO of Russian defense firm Rostec, the components damaged were more important than first known.

At the IDEX defense conference in the United Arab Emirates February 2019, Sergey Chemezov said that the gear damaged in the storm included the 40N6E, which is the export version of S-400’s 40N6 missile, according to Stephen Trimble, defense editor at Aviation Week.


The 40N6 is the longest-range interceptor of the S-400’s three missiles. The export version of the missile can reach just under 400 kilometers, or roughly 250 miles. The system also comes with a command-and-control system, a radar system, and a launcher.

The ‘bizarre story’ of how Russia’s most advanced air defense system was ‘lost’

Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile system.

(Flickr photo by Dmitriy Fomin)

While the delivery of the S-400 to China had previously been confirmed, whether the 40N6E was included was not known for sure, which led Trimble to ask Chemezov about it, expecting to get a standard “no comment,” he said on the most recent episode of Aviation Week’s Check 6 podcast.

“He not only confirmed it. He also told us this sort of bizarre story about the fate that befell [the missile] on its way … to China,” Trimble said.

Chemezov made clear that the missiles “were on a ship, and the ship got hit by a bad storm, and … ultimately all the missiles were lost. He didn’t explain exactly how they were lost, but he said that they all have to be replaced and that they are now building the replacements for the missile, because of either damage sustained in the storm, or they were just destroyed in the storm somehow.”

Reports of the damage emerged not long after the delivery started in early January 2018.

The ‘bizarre story’ of how Russia’s most advanced air defense system was ‘lost’

An S-400 radar unit.

(Russian Ministry of Defense)

Maritime trackers monitoring ships’ automatic identification systems did notice a vessel that left St. Petersburg with an AIS code indicating it had explosives aboard, Trimble said. That ship hit a storm in the English Channel and returned to port.

Russian state media outlet Tass said in January 2019 that “part of the equipment included in the first shipment” to China had been “damaged by a storm and returned to Russia.”

Around the same time, Russian news agency RIA quoted the spokeswoman for Russia’s military and technical cooperation service as saying parts of the S-400 systems on their way to China were damaged in a storm at sea. The spokeswoman described the components as “secondary” without giving any details.

But the S-400’s missiles are an essential component — the 40N6 even more so.

The revelation “was a very surprising development in this story of this export and completely unexpected,” Trimble said. “I can’t really think of something like this ever happening before, because it’s not just any missile. This is probably one of the most important, strategically, weapon systems in the world right now, and this is the most powerful effector, or missile, within that system.”

“Those missiles now may be at the bottom of the English Channel, which is just an incredible twist in the whole story,” Trimble added.

In May 2018, China received its first regimental set of the S-400 when the third and final ship arrived with “the equipment not damaged during a December storm in the English Channel and the damaged equipment after repairs,” a diplomatic source told Tass at the time.

An S-400 regiment consists of two battalions. Each battalion has two batteries. A standard battery has four transporter erector launchers, each with four launch tubes, as well as fire-control radar systems and a command module. Reports about how many regimental sets China was to get vary from two to six.

The ‘bizarre story’ of how Russia’s most advanced air defense system was ‘lost’

Russian S-400 air-defense missile systems.

The South China Morning Post said in the final days of December 2018 that the People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force tested the S-400 in November, shooting down a “simulated ballistic target” moving at the supersonic speed of nearly 2 miles a second at a range of nearly 150 miles.

The S-400 and Russia’s efforts to sell it abroad have become a point of contention with the US.

In September 2018, the US hit China with sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, or CAATSA, which is meant to punish Russia over its interventions abroad and interference in the 2016 US election.

But other US allies have expressed interest in the S-400, complicating matters for Washington. Despite warnings that the US would rescind F-35 deliveries and that the system wouldn’t work with NATO weapons, Turkey has forged ahead with an S-400 buy, saying in February 2018 that the purchase was a done deal.

India has also agreed to buy the S-400, though Chemezov said New Delhi has yet to make an advance payment, which “was a bit of a surprise,” Trimble said. Buying the S-400 could open India to US sanctions, though there is a wavier process in the CAATSA legislation that could be applied to Delhi.

And despite the Trump administration’s wooing of Saudi Arabia — which includes White House senior adviser Jared Kushner personally negotiating a discount with the Lockheed Martin CEO for the firm’s Terminal High Altitude Air Defense system — the Kingdom is reportedly still interested in the S-400.

“Chemezov refused to talk about the S-400 and Saudi Arabia, and he was very blunt about why,” Trimble said. “He said that if we talk about these kinds of deals, that gets our potential customers in a lot of trouble with the US government, so what we’re doing is negotiating silently, which isn’t a very silent way of negotiating, but that was how he put it.”

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

Articles

Why tech execs want to ban robot weapons

Artificial intelligence experts shook up the tech world this month when they called for the United Nations to regulate and even consider banning autonomous weapons.


Attention quickly gravitated to the biggest celebrity in the group, Elon Musk, who set the Internet ablaze when he tweeted: “If you’re not concerned about AI safety, you should be. Vastly more risk than North Korea.”

 

The group of 116 AI experts warned in an open letter to the UN Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons that “lethal autonomous weapons threaten to become the third revolution in warfare.” Speaking on behalf of companies that make artificial intelligence and robotic systems that may be repurposed to develop autonomous weapons, they wrote, “We feel especially responsible in raising this alarm.”

The blunt talk by leaders of the AI world has raised eyebrows. Musk has put AI in the category of existential threat and is demanding decisive and immediate regulation. But even some of the signatories of the letter now say Musk took the fear mongering too far.

What this means for the Pentagon and its massive efforts to merge intelligent machines into weapon systems is still unclear. The military sees a future of high-tech weapon systems powered by artificial intelligence and ubiquitous autonomous weapons in the air, at sea, on the ground, as well as in cyberspace.

The United Nations has scheduled a November meeting to discuss the implications of autonomous weapons. It has created a group of governmental experts on “lethal autonomous weapon systems.” The letter asked the group to “work hard at finding means to prevent an arms race in these weapons, to protect civilians from their misuse, and to avoid the destabilizing effects of these technologies.”

The ‘bizarre story’ of how Russia’s most advanced air defense system was ‘lost’
United Nations General Assembly hall in New York, NY. Wikimedia Commons photo by user Avala.

Founder and CEO of the artificial intelligence company SparkCognition, Amir Husain, signed the letter but insists that he is against any ban or restrictions that would stifle progress and innovation. He pointed out that the campaign was organized by professor Toby Walsh of the University of New South Wales in Australia, and was meant to highlight the “potential dangers of autonomous weapons absent an international debate on these issues.”

The industry wants a healthy debate on the benefits and risks of AI and autonomy, Amir told RealClearDefense in a statement. But a blanket ban is “unworkable and unenforceable.” Scientific progress is inevitable, “and for me that is not frightening,” he added. “I believe the solution — as much as one exists at this stage — is to redouble our investment in the development of safe, explainable, and transparent AI technologies.”

Wendy Anderson, general manager of SparkCognition’s defense business, said that to suggest a ban or even tight restrictions on the development of any technology is a “slippery slope” and would put the United States at a competitive disadvantage, as other countries will continue to pursue the technology. “We cannot afford to fall behind,” said Anderson. “Banning or restricting its development is not the answer. Having honest, in-depth discussions about how we create, develop, and deploy the technology is.”

The ‘bizarre story’ of how Russia’s most advanced air defense system was ‘lost’
USAF photo by Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson

August Cole, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council and writer at the consulting firm Avascent, said the concerns raised by tech leaders on autonomous weapons are valid, but a ban is unrealistic. “Given the proliferation of civilian machine learning and autonomy advances in everything from cars to finance to social media, a prohibition won’t work,” he said.

Setting limits on technology ultimately would hurt the military, which depends on commercial innovations, said Cole. “What needs to develop is an international legal, moral, and ethical framework. … But given the unrelenting speed of commercial breakthroughs in AI, robotics, and machine learning, this may be a taller order than asking for an outright ban on autonomous weapons.”

But while advances in commercial technology have benefited the military, analysts fear that the Pentagon has not fully grasped the risks of unfettered AI and the possibility that machines could become uncontrollable.

“AI is not just another technology,” said Andy Ilachinski, principal research scientist at the Center for Naval Analyses. He authored a recent CNA study, “AI, Robots, and Swarms: Issues, Questions, and Recommended Studies.”

The ‘bizarre story’ of how Russia’s most advanced air defense system was ‘lost’
USMC photo by Sgt. Lucas Hopkins

Defense has to be concerned about the implications of this debate, he said in an interview. AI is transforming the world “to the level of a Guttenberg press, to the level of the Internet,” he said. “This is a culture-shifting technology. And DoD is just a small part of that.”

Another troubling reality is that the Pentagon has yet to settle on the definition of autonomous weapons. In 2012, the Department of Defense published an instruction manual on the use of autonomous weapons. That 5-year-old document is the only existing policy on the books on how the US military uses these systems, Ilachinski said. According to that manual, a weapon is autonomous if “once activated, it can select and engage targets without further intervention by a human.”

Policies and directives are long overdue for an update, he said. “We need to know what AI is capable of, how to test it, evaluate it.”

He noted that the Defense Science Board, a Pentagon advisory panel, published two studies on the subject in 2012 and 2016 but provided “no good definition of autonomy or AI in either of them.” These are the Pentagon’s top experts and “they can’t even get it straight.”

The ‘bizarre story’ of how Russia’s most advanced air defense system was ‘lost’
USAF photo by Master Sgt. Dennis J. Henry Jr.

Something about Musk’s warning strikes a chord with scientists that truly understand AI, Ilachinski observed. When Google’s Deepmind created a computer program in 2015 that beat the world’s Go champion, it was a landmark achievement for AI but also brought the realization that these algorithms truly have minds of their own. “This is an issue of great concern for DoD.”

There are areas within AI that scientists are still trying to wrap their heads around. In advanced systems like Deepmind’s AlphaGo, “you can’t reverse engineer why a certain behavior occurred,” Ilachinski said. “It is important for DoD to recognize that they may not able to understand completely why the system is doing what it’s doing.”

One reason to take Musk’s warning seriously is that much is still unknown about what happens within the brains of these AI systems once they are trained, said Ilachinski. “You may not be able to predict the overall behavior of the system,” he said. “So in that sense I share the angst that people like Elon Musk feel.”

On the other hand, it is too late to put the genie back in the bottle, Ilachinski added. The United States can’t let up because countries like China already are working to become the dominant power in AI. Further, the Pentagon has to worry that enemies will exploit AI in ways that can’t yet be imagined. Anyone can buy a couple of drones for less than a thousand dollars, go to the MIT or Harvard website, learn about AI, download snippets of code and implant them in the drones, he said. A swarm of smart drones is something “would have a hard time countering because we are not expecting it. It’s very cheap and easy to do.”

MIGHTY FIT

Do this every morning to relieve back pain

There are a lot of reasons for back pain. Many of them are real, and nearly all of them are 100% treatable without a doctor.

What I’m giving you here is the exact protocol you need to be doing in order to relieve your low back pain once and for all.

Whether it’s your disc, your muscles, your tendons, your actual spine, or some combination of them all, there is still plenty you can do to treat your pain yourself.


This is about taking control and responsibility of your body. You’re a Grown Ass Human who shouldn’t be dependent on someone else to treat your issues.

I’m gonna give you exactly what you need in 5 simple steps that you can do every morning with nothing but your body weight and those little eye crusties still hanging out on the corner of your ocular cavity.

“Low Back” Pain Morning Routine | 30 DAYS TO PAIN FREE

youtu.be

Step 1: Awareness: Move your pelvis

How are you living in your pelvis?

Are you anteriorly tilted?

Are you posteriorly tilted?

Are you neutral?

Are you already confused?

When you walk around, you have a tendency to ‘hang out’ in one of these positions.

If you’re overly anteriorly tilted, your pelvis is “facing forward.” This usually means you have weak glutes, weak abs, and tight hip flexors.

If you’re posteriorly tilted, your pelvis is “facing backward” or level (slight forward/anterior tilt is considered normal). This can mean that you have tight glutes, tight abs, kyphotic posture (a rounded upper back), or all three. I’ll get into kyphosis in another article. For now, this article on posture should satisfy your kyphotic curiosity.

BUT, for most people, these words mean nothing. Maybe you’re one of those people. That’s what this first ‘exercise’ is all about: building awareness between your mind and your hips.

It’s especially easy because you can just crawl out of your bed on your hands and knees and never have to actually stand up. This is a great bonus for those of you who are especially lazy in the morning.

A cat/cow sequence is how we are going to achieve that awareness. Check out the video for exactly how to flow through cat/cow.

Perform the sequence for 1-2 minutes or until you feel aware, and your hips are “awake” daily.

How to Fix “Low Back” Pain (INSTANTLY!)

youtu.be

Step 2: Pain relief: The JC low back sequence

JC is a savior for many of us in the fitness industry. I’m talking about Jeff Cavalier over at Athlean X, of course. He has consistently put out amazing high-quality fitness information for years now. He is one of the few Fitness Youtubers that is truly above reproach. I aspire to be like him.

Down to low back pain business…

JC has provided us with an exercise that is going to provide you with some immediate relief. By starting each morning with the JC Low Back Relief Sequence (JCLBRS for you military nerds that love acronyms), you’re going to get pain free and gain more awareness.

Specifically awareness of how to use your glute medius, which is the weak glute causing your low back to take the brunt of your weight and in turn, causing pain.

Check out the full video above of me walking you through it and the video attached to this section to see JC walk you through it a second time.

Perform the sequence one time on each side daily. The sequence includes a set of 5-10 reps and then the burnout hold.

The ‘bizarre story’ of how Russia’s most advanced air defense system was ‘lost’

Strong glutes useful in: force production, fighting, the bedroom, and pain relief

(https://www.grapplearts.com/develop-powerful-bridge-bjj/)

Step 3: Butt strength: Bridges

Time to take that newfound glute, hip, and low back awareness and apply it to some movement.

Elevated bridges are the perfect way to do just that. You’re going to be teaching your glute medius how to operate under a horizontal load (like what happens when you walk, run, or hike). You’re also going to learn to properly concentrically contract your spinal erectors, without hyper extending them. Lastly, you’re going to train how to posteriorly tilt your pelvis to get a maximum contraction in your posterior chain.

That’s a lot for one exercise.

Perform 2-3 sets of 10-20 reps daily.

Here’s some more on how to train your low back in a smart and safe manner.

The ‘bizarre story’ of how Russia’s most advanced air defense system was ‘lost’

Flutter Kicks rely heavily on engagement from the hip flexors. AVOID them and other exercises like crunches and sit-ups if you have tight hip flexors and/or low back pain.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Machiko Arita)

Step 4; Core strength: Side plank

Time to work your abs. Why? Because that’s how you attract a mate. Everyone knows that core definition is the singular way that most people choose a life partner, so of course, we need to do them every morning.

The real trick here is to choose an exercise that’s great for your core stability and building a shredded six-pack without working your already overactive hip flexors and potentially neutralizing the effect of the previous three steps. So don’t do the crunches from your PT test.

You’re going to do that with the side plank. But a real side plank, not that shit I see checked-out field grade officers doing during PT (looks like they’re just hanging out waiting for retirement.)

Watch the video for exact form cues. You’re going to:

  • keep your hips stacked,
  • keep your abs actively flexed by shortening the distance between your lowest rib and the top of your hips, this will also keep your spine in a neutral position
  • Keep your hips neutral/slightly posteriorly tilted by keeping your glutes engaged.
  • BONUS: abduct your top leg AKA lift your leg for additional core stress and some more glute medius work.

Perform 1-2 sets of 75% effort on both sides each morning. This is about training proper movement and muscular engagement, by staying at the 75% effort threshold you won’t push so hard that your form breaks down and potentially makes your low back issues worse.)

The ‘bizarre story’ of how Russia’s most advanced air defense system was ‘lost’

(Courtesy photo by the Indian Army)

Step 5: Spinal decompression: Hanging out

Time for some relief. Hang from your pull up bar or a door frame and decompress your spine.

This is something you should do whenever you have a chance. We spend all day with gravity compressing our spine together. Your low back ends up taking most of that pressure. By decompressing at the end, you are taking an opportunity to “reset” your spine each day into the proper posture and form that you just spent the last 5 minutes training.

Perform this for 1-2 sets of a max hold. (You’ll get some bonus grip strength work here as well.)

Here are some more great ways to relieve physical stress that you carry around all day.

The ‘bizarre story’ of how Russia’s most advanced air defense system was ‘lost’

You need to train in what you want to be good at… that includes not being in pain.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Nathaniel Stout)

When the results roll in.

You’ll start to feel relief almost immediately, but it’s going to take some time for all your pain to dissipate. That’s why this routine should be part of your life for the rest of your life. Consistency is key here.

We use our bodies every day, so we also need to treat/correct our bodies every day. That’s all this is.

If you want to feel something you’ve never felt before (like pain relief), you need to do something you’ve never done before.

Send me a message anytime to let me know how this morning routine is working to help relieve your low back pain at michael@composurefitness.com.

Don’t forget to join the Mighty Fit FB Group to surround yourself around like-minded people who also want to get strong, lean, and pain-free.
The ‘bizarre story’ of how Russia’s most advanced air defense system was ‘lost’

More at www.composurefitness.com

The ‘bizarre story’ of how Russia’s most advanced air defense system was ‘lost’
Articles

4 crimes you learn to commit in the military

We’re not saying everyone in the military does these things, just that it’s almost impossible to complete an enlistment without someone either encouraging you, or even teaching you, to:


1. Commit petty theft

The ‘bizarre story’ of how Russia’s most advanced air defense system was ‘lost’
(Photo: U.S. Navy)

“Gear adrift is a gift” and similar maxims are just cute ways of saying that it’s sometimes okay to steal. But it’s not. There’s no law that says it stops being government property or someone else’s personal property if they forgot to lock it up or post a guard.

This includes “acquiring” needed items for the squad by snatching up unsecured gear or trading for someone’s off-the-books printer. We know you have to get your CLP, but at least try to get some from the armorer before turning to theft.

2. Smuggle alcohol through the mail

The ‘bizarre story’ of how Russia’s most advanced air defense system was ‘lost’
If their breath never smells minty fresh, maybe get suspicious of their constant mouthwash use.

It’s only legal to ship alcohol through the United States Postal System if you have a license or if it’s in a product like mouthwash. Of course, that mouthwash isn’t supposed to be 80 proof.

But every time a unit gets ready for deployment, the veterans start talking about the super illegal practice of asking family members to pour vodka into empty mouthwash bottles, mix in a few drops of blue and green food coloring, and send it to the base in the mail. Many of the old timers are just making jokes, but it still spreads the knowledge of the tactic. (Which this article also does. Crap.)

3. Lie on federal forms

The ‘bizarre story’ of how Russia’s most advanced air defense system was ‘lost’
The Defense Travel System is reasons 1-3 that no one should ever re-enlist. (Photo: U.S. Air National Guard Master Sgt. Christopher Botzum)

Let’s be honest, perfectly filled out Defense Travel System vouchers and unit packing lists are the exception to the rule. Sometimes, this is because it’s hard to track every little change in a connex’s contents or a trip. But other times, it’s because units on their way out the door on an exercise or deployment are willing to put whatever they need to on the paperwork to get it approved.

It’s an expedient way to get the mission done, but it’s also a violation of Title 18 United States Code 1001, which prohibits false claims to the federal government. Of course, no one is going to prosecute when a connex shows up with three more cots than were on the list, but don’t listen to the barracks attorney telling you that the per diem is higher if you just change this one thing in DTS.

4. Abuse prescription medication

The ‘bizarre story’ of how Russia’s most advanced air defense system was ‘lost’
Perfectly legal in training and combat, actually a crime when using it to avoid a hangover with a prescription. (Photo: U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Nicholas Farina)

Most troops aren’t out there injecting illegally acquired morphine, but most people would probably be surprised to learn that intravenous saline is a prescription medical device (yeah, saltwater in a bag). So are those 800mg Motrins.

And teaching a bunch of troops to give saline injections to each other does help them save lives in combat, but it also prepares them to tack an extra criminal charge onto their alcohol-fueled bender when they get home and stick themselves with a needle to try to avoid getting hungover (which, seriously guys, stop giving yourselves IVs while drunk).

MIGHTY TRENDING

How ISIS is trying to make a comeback with assassinations

Roughly four years ago, ISIS shocked the world when it took over a large swath of territory across Iraq and Syria, declaring the establishment of a new Islamic caliphate in the process.

Fast forward to 2018 and the terrorist group is a shadow of what it was even a year ago. It has lost the vast majority of the territory it previously held and the number of fighters it counted among its ranks has dwindled exponentially to below 3,000.

Nevertheless, ISIS remains a threat in the Middle East, and a new report from the Soufan Center warns it’s attempting to make a comeback by resorting to a tactic it employed back in 2013 when it was still known as Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) — the targeted assassinations of Iraqi security personnel.


“To get back to its heyday of 2014, the Islamic State first needs to get back to 2013, a year in which the terrorist group concluded one very successful campaign to free thousands of its detained members from Iraqi jails and started another campaign to assassinate and intimidate Iraqi security personnel, particularly local police officers,” the report stated.

In late June 2018, Iraq executed 12 ISIS members, which the Soufan Center says was in response to the “high-profile assassination” of eight Iraqi security personnel.

‘A weakened Islamic State is now trying to recreate that past’

With fewer numbers, ISIS will be less inclined to focus on regaining territory and more likely to ramp up attacks on Iraqi police to sow the same brand of chaos it did back in 2013, according to the Soufan Center.

The ‘bizarre story’ of how Russia’s most advanced air defense system was ‘lost’

A masked man in a video that Islamic State militants released in September 2014.

(FBI)

“A weakened Islamic State is now trying to recreate that past,” the report noted.”Targeted attacks on police and government officials have risen in several provinces as the group has stopped its military collapse and refocused on what is possible for the group now.”

The report added, “Assassinations require few people and are perfectly suited as a force multiplier for a group that has seen its forces decimated.”

‘The social fabric of Iraq remains severely frayed’

Peter Mandaville, a professor of international affairs at George Mason University who previously served as a top adviser to the State Department on ISIS, backed up the Soufan Center report.

“I think it would be difficult for ISIS to retake significant territory given the ongoing presence and vigilance of [US-led] coalition forces,” Mandaville told Business Insider, adding, “They certainly have the capacity to engage in an extended insurgency campaign using the kinds of tactics highlighted in the Soufan Center report.”

Mandaville said the situation on the ground in Iraq — that led to the rise of ISIS in the first place — has not changed significantly even though ISIS has more or less been defeated militarily.

“The social fabric of Iraq remains severely frayed, with high levels of political polarization,” Mandaville said. “Until the central government succeeds in advancing key political and security reforms, many areas of Iraq will continue to provide a permissive environment for low intensity ISIS operations.”

David Sterman of the New America Foundation, an expert on terrorism and violent extremism, expressed similar sentiments.

The ‘bizarre story’ of how Russia’s most advanced air defense system was ‘lost’

David Sterman, Senior Policy Analyst, New America International Security Program; Co-Author, All Jihad is Local, Volume II: ISIS in North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula

Sterman told Business Insider that the threat of ISIS returning to the strategy of breeding chaos on the local level by targeting Iraq security personal is “very serious.”

“ISIS continues to show capability to conduct attacks in liberated areas, an issue seen also during the surge,” Sterman added. “Bombings in Baghdad in January 2018 illustrate this as well as the assassinations and smaller attacks discussed” in the Soufan Center report.

In short, ISIS is still in a position to create havoc, albeit in a more limited capacity, in an already troubled country that really hasn’t even begun to recover from years of conflict.

ISIS continues to operate underground across the world

From a broader standpoint, this does not necessarily mean ISIS poses a significant threat to the US.

“Even at its height, ISIS did not demonstrate a capability to direct a strike on the US homeland (as opposed to Europe),” Sterman said. “So the threat [in the US] predominantly remains homegrown and inspired. Of course that doesn’t mean the US should take its eye off of what is happening in Iraq and Syria. ISIS’s bursting onto the global scene is proof of that.”

ISIS continues to wage an effective propaganda campaign online, which helps it maintain a global footprint even as its presence in Iraq and Syria has become more faint.

Moreover, ISIS is also turning to Bitcoin and encrypted communications as a means of rallying its followers worldwide.

“If you look across the globe, the cohesive nature of the enterprise for ISIS has been maintained,” Russell Travers, the acting head of the National Counterterrorism Center, recently told The New York Times. “The message continues to resonate with way too many people.”

The Trump administration says there’s ‘still hard fighting ahead’ against ISIS

Speaking with reporters in late June 2018, Defense Secretary James Mattis lauded the success the US-led coalition has had against ISIS in Iraq and Syria but added that “there’s still hard fighting ahead.”

“Bear with us; there’s still hard fighting ahead,” Mattis said. “It’s been hard fighting, and again, we win every time our forces go up against them. We’ve lost no terrain to them once it’s been taken.”

Meanwhile, US troops stationed near the Iraq-Syria border have been hammering ISIS in Syria with artillery in recent weeks.

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

popular

Grape juice was once the unofficial drink of the Navy

When you think “military beverage,” three things typically come to mind: coffee, beer, and energy drinks. But did you know that around the turn of the century, grape juice was the drink of choice among troops? That’s right. For roughly twenty years, everyone from sailors to soldiers to Marines couldn’t get enough of the purple stuff.

Grape juice reigned supreme during the times of the temperance movement and Prohibition, but it wasn’t just because troops couldn’t drink booze. There were plenty of other reasons for troops to reach for the good stuff.


The ‘bizarre story’ of how Russia’s most advanced air defense system was ‘lost’
Seems fitting. Every time you drink your “cup of Joe” you’re actually mocking a much despised and highly controversial Navy secretary.
(U.S. Navy)

Welch’s grape juice first came about in 1869 when the American physician and dentist, Thomas Bramwell Welch, invented a method of pasteurizing grape juice to halt the fermentation process, preventing it from turning into wine. The result was non-alcoholic and more suitable for church services. Then, it caught on with the temperance movement crowd — long before Prohibition took effect.

On June 1st, 1914, General Order 99 — which banned alcohol on all Navy vessels and installations — was instituted and, as you might expect, sailors lost their minds. They were left with two options: coffee or juice.

From that moment on, sailors referred to their coffee as “cups of Joe,” named after the Secretary of the Navy, Josephus Daniels. The slang was adapted as an insult to the man who took away their booze. But sailors couldn’t just constantly chug java — they needed something rich in much-needed vitamins, and fruit juice was the answer.

Welch’s caught on to the trend and doubled down in lending support to the troops. It was a massive success. The sailors loved grape juice and it quickly became a coveted commodity aboard naval vessels.

A few years later, during World War I, Welch’s turned their Concord grapes into a jam called “Grapelade” and sent it to the troops overseas. Once again, the delicious, fruity goodness was a smash hit among the troops. When the eighteenth amendment to the Constitution was put in place in 1919, effectively disallowing booze across all branches of service, troops took a page from the Navy’s playbook and turned to grape juice.

But troops weren’t just drinking it for the taste — it provided a number of health benefits, too!

 

Articles

This country plans on using fighter jets to hunt down poachers

Ever see those signs on the highway that read “speed limit enforced by aircraft”?


Well, if you’re in South Africa, you might just start seeing similar signage declaring anti-poaching laws are being enforced by the country’s Saab JAS 39 Gripen fighter jets.

Of course, this doesn’t necessarily mean that illegal hunting could be dealt with using a JDAM strike, or even a gun run with the Gripen’s 27 mm Mauser cannon. However, it definitely does herald a new mission for the South African Air Force, and brings to the forefront the struggles the country has had over the years with curbing rampant poaching across its outback.

The ‘bizarre story’ of how Russia’s most advanced air defense system was ‘lost’
Swedish JAS 39 Gripens at Nellis AFB during the multi-national Red Flag exercise (Photo US Air Force)

The SAAF aims to use the Litening III pod to track poachers at night near the South Africa-Zimbabwe border. Built by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems of Israel, the Litening is widely used as to designate targets for guided munitions, enhancing their effectiveness in combat situations.

Instead of designating poachers for an airstrike, the SAAF will use Litening’s reconnaissance capabilities, allowing them to see activity on the ground clearly, even while flying at night. The pod can be slung underneath the aircraft on its wings, or beneath its fuselage on a “belly pylon.”

Litening has already more than proven its worth in night operations in Afghanistan and Iraq over the past 15 years.

The ‘bizarre story’ of how Russia’s most advanced air defense system was ‘lost’
A Litening pod attached to an A-10 Thunderbolt II (Photo Wikimedia Commons)

Using a datalink developed in South Africa known as “Link ZA,” information on the location of poachers as well images of them in action can be shared with other aircraft in the area, or even controllers on the ground. This would presumably be used to vector rangers on the ground to the general location of the poachers.

Poaching has been a widespread and seemingly unstoppable issue in South Africa for decades, causing an alarming decrease in the country’s rhino population. Combat veterans, hired by private security companies and smaller organizations such as Vetpaw have been deployed to the area to combat poaching  in recent years.

The Gripen is a multirole fighter with air-to-ground and air-to-air capabilities, serving with a number of countries across the world. Designed and manufactured in Sweden, it was built as a versatile competitor to the likes of the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, Dassault Rafale and other similar fighters of the current era.

The single-engine fighter currently flies in Thailand, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Sweden, in addition to South Africa, and will soon enter service with the Brazilian Air Force. Saab is still aggressively courting a next-generation version of the Gripen, called the Gripen NG – slightly more on par with Boeing’s Advanced Super Hornet.

The ‘bizarre story’ of how Russia’s most advanced air defense system was ‘lost’
One of nine two-seater ‘D’ model Gripens operated by the SAAF (Photo Wikimedia Commons)

South Africa began taking delivery of its Gripens in 2008, purchasing a total of 26 planes — a mix of single and two-seaters. In 2013, less than half of these aircraft were operational at any given time. Slashes made to the country’s defense budget forced the SAAF to limit flight operations while placing a group of its brand new fighters in storage as they could not be flown.

It was reported last year that the SAAF began rotating its Gripens in and out of storage, activating some of the mothballed fighters to return to service, while storing others to be reactivated later on. Since South Africa does not face any military threats, none of these Gripens have ever been involved in combat situations.

The ‘bizarre story’ of how Russia’s most advanced air defense system was ‘lost’
Rhinos grazing in a nature preserve near Gauteng, South Africa (Photo Wikimedia Commons)

It’s possible that using fighters in such a role might prove to be too expensive for the South African government, though, necessitating the SAAF to explore utilizing a different aircraft for its anti-poaching operations. However, this in itself could be problematic as the Litening pod can only be equipped to fighter and attack jets.

Using Gripens, orbiting high above poaching target zones, will likely turn out to be a decent interim solution while the South African government comes up with a cheaper and more cost-effective solution. Until then, poachers beware, you’re being watched by state-of-the-art fighter jets in night skies above.

 

MIGHTY HISTORY

The Navy used to have nuclear-powered cruisers

While nuclear-powered carriers and submarines are all the rage in the U.S. Navy today, the sea-going service used to have a much wider nuclear portfolio with nuclear-powered destroyers and cruisers that could sail around the world with no need to refuel, protecting carrier and projecting American power ashore with missiles and guns.


The ‘bizarre story’ of how Russia’s most advanced air defense system was ‘lost’

The USS Long Beach fires a Terrier missile in 1961.

(U.S. Navy)

The first nuclear surface combatant in the world wasn’t a carrier, it was the USS Long Beach, a cruiser launched in 1959. That ship was followed by eight other nuclear cruisers, Truxtun, California, South Carolina, Virginia, Texas, Mississippi, and Arkansas. The Arkansas was the last nuclear-powered cruiser launched, coming to sea in 1980.

During the same period, a nuclear-powered destroyer, the USS Bainbridge, took to the seas as well. Due to changes in ship nomenclature over the period, it was a frigate when designed, a destroyer when launched, but would be classified as a cruiser by the time the ship retired.

The head of the Navy’s nuclear program for decades was Adm. Hyman G. Rickover who had a vision for an entirely nuclear-powered carrier battle group. This would maximize the benefits of nuclear vessels and create a lethal American presence in the ocean that could run forever with just an occasional shipment of food, spare parts, and replacement personnel.

The ‘bizarre story’ of how Russia’s most advanced air defense system was ‘lost’

The Navy launched Operation Sea Orbit where nuclear-powered ships sailed together in 1964. This is the USS Enterprise, a carrier; the USS Long Beach, a cruiser; and the USS Bainbridge, classified at the time as a destroyer.

(U.S. Navy)

The big advantage of nuclear vessels, which required many more highly trained personnel as well as a lot of hull space for the reactor, was that they could sail forever at their top speed. The speed thing was a big advantage. They weren’t necessarily faster than their conventionally fueled counterparts, but gas and diesel ships had to time their sprints for maximum effect since going fast churned through fuel.

That meant conventional vessels couldn’t sail too fast for submarines to catch them, couldn’t sprint from one side of the ocean to the other during contingency operations, and relied on tankers to remain on station for extended periods of time.

Nuclear vessels got around all these problems, but their great speed and endurance only really helped them if they weren’t accompanied by conventional ships. After all, the cruisers and destroyer can’t sprint across the ocean if that means they are outrunning the rest of the fleet in dangerous waters.

The ‘bizarre story’ of how Russia’s most advanced air defense system was ‘lost’

The Navy detonates an explosive charge off the starboard side of the USS Arkansas, a nuclear-powered cruiser, during sea trials.

(U.S. Navy Photographer’s Mate 1st Class Toon)

That’s why Rickover wanted a full nuclear battle group. It could move as a single unit and enjoy its numerous advantages without being slowed down by other ships.

And the ships were quite lethal when they arrived. Nuclear carriers at the time were similar to those today, sailing at a decent clip of about 39 mph (33.6 knots) while carrying interceptor aircraft and bombers.

The 10 nuclear cruisers (counting the Bainbridge as a cruiser), were guided-missile cruisers. Four ships were Virginia-Class ships focused on air defense but also featuring weapons needed to attack enemy submarines and ships as well as to bombard enemy shores.

The other most common nuclear cruiser was the California Class with three ships. The California Class was focused on offensive weaponry, capable of taking the fight to enemy ships with Harpoon missiles, subs with anti-submarine rockets and torpedoes, and enemy shores with missiles and guns. But, it could defend itself and its fleet with surface-to-air missiles and other weapons.

The ‘bizarre story’ of how Russia’s most advanced air defense system was ‘lost’

Ticonderoga-class cruisers like the USS Hue City, front, and Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers like the USS Oscar Austin, rear, replaced the nuclear cruisers.

(U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kristopher Wilson)

But the nuclear fleet had one crippling problem: expense. Rickover knew that to ensure that the larger Navy and America would continue to embrace nuclear power at sea, the ships had to be extremely dependable and secure. To do this, ships needed good shielding and a highly capable, highly trained crew.

Nuclear cruisers had about 600 sailors in each crew, while the Ticonderoga-class that took to the sea in 1983 required 350. And the Ticonderoga crew could be more quickly and cheaply trained since those sailors didn’t need to go through nuclear training.

Also, the reactors took up a lot of space within the hull, requiring larger ships than conventional ones with the same battle capabilities. So, when budget constraints came up in the 1990s, the nuclear fleet was sent to mothballs except for the carriers.

And even at that stage, the nuclear cruisers cost more than their counterparts. Conventional cruisers can be sold to allied navies, commercial interests, or sent to common scrap yards after their service. Nuclear cruisers require expensive decommissioning and specially trained personnel to deal with the reactors and irradiated steel.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is the Army’s new lightweight Soldier Protection System

The U.S. Army of the future needs the gear appropriate for tomorrow’s conflicts — and that means armor. Not only will that that future Army be responsible for everything it does at current, it also needs to be prepared for the unknown — situations we can’t foresee today. Who knows which country or actors will be the major threat of the coming days anyway?

The Army’s solution is the Soldier Protection System, a modular, scaleable armor that is both lightweight and adaptable to future technology and threats.


Like former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld once infamously said, you go to war with the Army you have, not the Army you might wish you had. Now, the Army is prepping to go to war with the Army it wants to have. Each piece of the new armor system is designed so the wearing soldier can modify and scale it up (or down) depending on the nature of their mission on any given day.

The ‘bizarre story’ of how Russia’s most advanced air defense system was ‘lost’

(U.S. Army)

At its most minimal, the system is a 2.8 pound vest that is capable of being worn under civilian clothing. Even at such a small weight, the new armor can still stop rounds from a sidearm. At its most protective, the armor is a mix of plates and soft kevlar that can stop blasts from explosions and shell fragments from munitions like Russian artillery shells — all without compromising the soldier’s range of motion.

The ‘bizarre story’ of how Russia’s most advanced air defense system was ‘lost’

Pfc. Chris Lunsford, 4-14 Cavalry Regiment, 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, communicates with local children during a presence patrol in Sinjar, Iraq, on May 30, 2006.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jacob N. Bailey)

Over the course of the last 15 years of war, body armor has evolved — but usually only getting bigger and more restrictive in the process. The total weight of armor added to a soldier’s carry topped out at 27 pounds in 2016. The Soldier Protection System, from its onset, has been aimed at curbing the weight, reducing it as much as one-quarter in some areas of protection. New systems also include hearing protection and a modular face shield, all without increasing the weight carried overall.

The old system was protective, but limiting in many ways. It had none of the included ear and eye protection the Soldier Protection System has and it was not very conducive to the terrain troops had to overcome in the mountains of Afghanistan. It also wasn’t very helpful in beating the blazing heat of Iraqi deserts. The clunky armor was protective, but often impaired mobility while maneuvering and bringing small arms to bear while in the heat of the moment. When facing lightly-outfitted insurgents, and the armor could impede a soldier’s ability when running to cover.

The ‘bizarre story’ of how Russia’s most advanced air defense system was ‘lost’

U.S. Army Soldiers from 2nd Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment conduct a halt while searching mountains in Andar province, Afghanistan, for Taliban members and weapons caches June 6, 2007.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Marcus Quarterman)

Even with the new modifications, the Army’s armor doesn’t protect much against the blast-induced brain injuries so common on the battlefields of the Global War on Terror. Even firing heavy weapons at an enemy can cause traumatic brain injuries. Some studies suggest the new, lighter-weight helmet of the Soldier Protection System can help with the issues surrounding blast damage, but cannot mitigate it completely.

The recent improvements in armor design aren’t the end of the road for Army researchers. They continue to design and redesign the armor to meet the needs of today’s (and tomorrow’s) Army operations, to protect vulnerable areas not covered by even the Soldier Protection System while continuing to drop the total weight carried by U.S. troops in combat.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Russian military is fighting a blizzard in Moscow

Moscow authorities have struggled to clear the streets and told children they could skip school after the Russian capital was hit by massive snowfall.


The national meteorological service said on Feb. 5 2018 that more than the monthly average of snow fell on Moscow over the weekend, with the height of snow reaching up to 55 centimeters in some parts of the capital.

“That’s an anomaly of course,” Nadezhda Tochenova, the deputy head of the Hydrometeorological Center, told AFP news agency.

The ‘bizarre story’ of how Russia’s most advanced air defense system was ‘lost’
Blizzard hits Moscow. (YouTube)

However, she denied claims that the snowfall was an all-time record.

Calling the event “the snowfall of the century,” Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin hailed utility workers and other municipal employees he said had kept the city “functioning normally.”

“There is no collapse, no catastrophe,” Sobyanin told journalists.

The mayor said on Feb. 4 2018 that one person had been killed when a tree brought down electricity lines, and that 2,000 trees collapsed due to the massive snowfall.

Also read: The Russian military is flexing its missile muscles in massive war exercise

The city authorities said more than 100 of those trees fell on vehicles.

Thousands of city workers have been working to keep Moscow’s roads and the subway system open, while the Russian military said it had sent soldiers to help clear snowdrifts on the streets.

Deputy Mayor Pyotr Biryukov said snowplows had cleared 1.2 million cubic meters of snow from the streets.

Meanwhile, the emergency services urged drivers to use public transport unless there was “extreme need,” and Moscow authorities announced that children need not come to school, although they would remain open.

Related: 17 beautiful photos of troops training in the snow

The heavy snowfall triggered the cancellation or delay of dozens of flights at Moscow’s airports, as well as power failures in hundreds of smaller towns around the city.

Officials at the Emergency Situations Ministry said that heavy snowfall also affected the regions of Leningrad, Tatarstan, Saratov, Penza, Ulyanovsk, Kaluga, and Vladimir, where power cuts affected tens of thousands of people.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This was the most fearsome army in the Vietnam War

It might come as a surprise to some that the fighting in Vietnam wasn’t limited to the Soviet-backed North or the U.S.-back South Vietnamese forces. Along with Communist China and other Communist movements in the region, who were fighting to reunite the Vietnams under the red banner, there were other belligerent, free countries in the region who had an interest in keeping South Vietnam away from the Commies. Among them was South Korea, whose tactics were sometimes so brutal, they had to be reined in by American forces.

But brutality doesn’t always inspire fear, and fear is what struck the hearts of Communist forces when they knew they were up against the Australians. The Aussies brought a death the Viet Cong might never see coming.


The ‘bizarre story’ of how Russia’s most advanced air defense system was ‘lost’

(Australian War Memorial)

Today, the picture of the Vietnam War is often American troops on search-and-destroy missions, fighting an often-unseen enemy who blends in with the jungle. When the North Vietnamese Army or the Viet Cong do attack the Americans in this perception, it comes as an unseen, unexpected ambush, routing the Americans and forcing them back to their fire bases. This is not actually how the Vietnam War went – at all. In Vietnam, much of the fighting was also done in the cities and in defense of those firebases. There were even often pitched battles featuring tanks and artillery. In fact, the 1972 Easter Offensive was the largest land movement since the Chinese entered the Korean War, and featured a three-pronged invasion of the South.

So let’s not pretend it was rice farmers vs. American soldiers.

But the North Vietnamese forces in the jungle did have to worry about a mysterious fighting force, moving silently to close in on them and murder them. They weren’t Americans — they were Australians, and they came to Vietnam to win.

The ‘bizarre story’ of how Russia’s most advanced air defense system was ‘lost’

Centurion Mark V/1 tanks of C Squadron, 1st Armoured Regiment, Royal Australian Armoured Corps (RAAC), taking up position on the perimeter of Fire Support Base (FSB) Coral, shortly after their arrival at the Base.

(Neil James Ahern)

Australian special operations units would go out into the jungles of Vietnam for weeks at a time, often without saying a word to one another in order to maintain complete silence as they stalked the Northern troops through the jungles. The Australians committed more forces to the war in Vietnam than any other foreign contributor (except for the United States, that is). It was the largest force Australia had ever committed to a foreign conflict to date and was its largest war. But they conducted themselves slightly differently, especially in terms of special operations.

Just like the image of U.S. troops moving through the jungle, dodging booby traps and getting ambushed, the North Vietnamese forces had to face the same tactics when operating against the Australians. Aussies routinely ambushed NVA patrols and booby trapped trails used by the Viet Cong. When they did engage in a pitched battle, such as places like Binh Ba, the Australians weren’t afraid to fight hand-to-hand and move house-to-house. In fact, the NVA was beaten so badly at Binh Ba, they were forced to abandon the entire province.

The ‘bizarre story’ of how Russia’s most advanced air defense system was ‘lost’

A US Army CH-47 Chinook helicopter delivering stores to 102 Field Battery, Royal Australian Artillery, at Fire Support Base Coral, which is just being established.

(Keith Foster)

The Vietnamese didn’t have much luck on the offensive against the Australians, either. When assaulting Firebase Coral-Balmoral in 1968, the Communists outnumbered the Aussies and New Zealanders almost two-to-one. They hit the base with a barrage of mortars in an attempt to draw the ANZAC forces out of the base and chalk up a win against the vaunted Australians. When the 120 Australians came out to clear the mortars, they found way more than a mortar company – they found 2,000 NVA troops surrounding them.

The Aussies fought on, calling sometimes dangerously close artillery strikes from New Zealand and U.S. positions. The outnumbered fought, surrounded, until an Australian relief force came out of the base to help their beleaguered mates. The NVA pressed an attack on the firebase using an entire regiment but were repulsed. Rather than sit and wait to be attacked again, the Aussies and New Zealanders went out to meet the enemy, this time with Centurion tanks. The battles for Coral-Balmoral went on like that for nearly a month: attack, counter-attack, attack counter-attack. The NVA had strength in numbers but the Aussies had pure strength.

Eventually the NVA would be routed and would avoid Nui Dat Province for as long as the Australians were defending it.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

F-35 production may not begin for more than a year

It’s official: top Pentagon officials will not clear the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter for full-rate production this year, after setbacks during a crucial testing phase.

Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment Ellen Lord on Oct. 18, 2019, said officials may not sign off on the F-35 full-rate production milestone — a sign of confidence in the program to produce more fighter jets — until as far out as January 2021 because of the latest testing lapse.

“I’m going to make some decisions about when that full-rate production decision will be made shortly,” Lord said at a briefing at the Pentagon Oct. 18, 2019.


September 2019, it was revealed that the Lockheed Martin-made F-35 would not complete its already-delayed formal operational test phase by the new fall deadline due to a setback in the testing process.

The ‘bizarre story’ of how Russia’s most advanced air defense system was ‘lost’

A combat-coded F-35A Lightning II aircraft.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Alex R. Lloyd)

Military.com first reported that while F-35 Initial Operational Test and Evaluation (IOTE) was supposed to be complete by late summer, the testing was incomplete due to an unfinished phase known as the Joint Simulation Environment. The F-35 Joint Program Office and Pentagon at the time confirmed the delay.

“We are not making as quick progress on the Joint Simulation Environment integrating the F-35 into it,” Lord told reporters during the briefing. “It is a critical portion of IOTE,” she said, adding inspectors need to get JSE “absolutely correct” before further testing can be done.

The Office of the Secretary of Defense would be the authority to sign off on the decision, moving the program out of its low-rate initial production (LRIP) stage.

The JSE simulation projects characteristics such as weather, geography and range, allowing test pilots to prove the aircraft’s “full capabilities against the full range of required threats and scenarios,” according to a 2015 Director, Operational Test Evaluation (DOTE) report.

The ‘bizarre story’ of how Russia’s most advanced air defense system was ‘lost’

An F-35 Lightning II flies around the airspace of Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., March 5, 2016.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Brandon Shapiro)

JPO spokeswoman Brandi Schiff in September said the JSE is in the process of integrating Lockheed’s “‘F-35 In-A-Box’ (FIAB) model, which is the simulation of F-35 sensor systems and the overall aircraft integration.” FIAB is the F-35 aircraft simulation that plugs into the JSE environment.

“This integration and the associated verification activities are lagging [behind] initial projections and delaying IOTE entry into the JSE,” Schiff said at the time.

Lockheed Martin originally proposed a Virtual Simulator program for this testing. But in 2015, the government instead opted to transition the work — which would become the JSE — to Naval Air Systems Command at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland.

In December 2018, the JPO and Lockheed announced that all three F-35 variants belonging to the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps would be field-tested “for the purposes of determining the weapons systems’ operational effectiveness and operational suitability for combat.”

The testing had originally been set to begin in September 2018.

IOTE paves the way for full-rate production of the Lightning II. Three U.S. services and multiple partner nations already fly the aircraft.

Some versions of the F-35 have even made their combat debut.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How this soldier became the first enlisted female Army ranger

As Staff Sgt. Amanda Kelley made her way through mountainous terrain in the midst of a scorching Georgia summer in 2018, she admittedly struggled, carrying more than 50 pounds of gear during a patrol exercise.

Tired and physically drained, her body had withstood nearly a month of training in the Army’s most challenging training school. She had already suffered a fracture in her back in an earlier phase and suffered other physical ailments.

But then she looked to her left and right and saw her fellow Ranger School teammates, many of whom she outranked.

“I know that I have to keep going,” said Kelley, the first enlisted female graduate of the Army Ranger School at Fort Benning. “Because if I quit, or if I show any signs of weakness, they’re going to quit.”


In the middle of 21 grueling training days in northeast Georgia, Kelley knew if she could weather the mountain phase of the Army’s Ranger School, she and her teammates would reach a new pinnacle, a critical rite of passage for Ranger students. The electronic warfare specialist spent 21 days in the mountains which includes four days of mountaineering, five days of survival techniques training and a nine-day field training exercise. She had already been recycled in the school’s first phase and didn’t want to relive that experience.

The ‘bizarre story’ of how Russia’s most advanced air defense system was ‘lost’

Staff Sgt. Amanda F. Kelley marches in formation during her Ranger School graduation at Fort Benning, Ga., Aug. 31, 2018.

(Photo by Patrick A. Albright)

“It’s not about you at that moment,” Kelley said. “It’s about the people around you. You don’t realize in that moment how many people look up to you until you complete it. Everybody has those trying periods because those mountains are really rough.”

Her graduation from Ranger School paved the way for her current assignment as an electronic warfare specialist with the Third Special Forces Group at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Since 2016, more than 1,200 female soldiers have entered combat career fields, including field artillery, armor and infantry.

Kelley said the Ranger training pushed her to meet the same standards as her male counterparts. She finished the 16-mile ruck march in under three hours.

“You literally go through the same thing,” Kelley said. “It’s not any different … You do the same thing that they do. That’s the greatest thing about Ranger School: there’s one set standard, across the board.”

Taking the easy road has never been how Kelley has lived her life. As a teenager she competed as a centerfielder on boy’s baseball teams. She also was on her high school’s track team. Growing up in the small rural community of Easley, South Carolina, she had few mentors as a teen.

“I just wanted to be somebody,” Kelley said. “And I also want to be someone that others can look up to. I didn’t have that growing up. We don’t all come from a silver spoon background; some of us have to fight for things.”

She joined the Army on a whim in 2011, considering joining the service only six months prior to enlisting. She admired the Army’s rigid discipline and high standards.

“Better opportunities,” was one reason Kelley said she joined the Army. “I wanted to get out of where I was.”

Kelley wanted to reach even higher. The 30-year-old wanted to one day become sergeant major of the Army and let her supervisors know that it wasn’t some pipe dream. After an Iraq deployment with the 1st Armored Division, Kelley’s battalion commander, Lt. Col. Mike Vandy, told her that attending Ranger School would help chart her path to success.

The ‘bizarre story’ of how Russia’s most advanced air defense system was ‘lost’

A family member places the Army Ranger tab on Staff Sgt. Amanda Kelley’s uniform.

(Photo by Patrick A. Albright)

“When I went to Ranger School, I didn’t go so I could be the first (enlisted female),” Kelley said. “I went so that I could be sergeant major of the Army. And I want to be competitive with my peers.”

After Kelley decided to apply for Ranger School, she spent five months physically preparing herself and studying while deployed. Her roommate in Iraq, former Staff Sgt. Mychal Loria, said Kelley would work 12-hour shifts, workout twice a day and still found time for study. At the same time, she helped mentor other soldiers.

“She just exemplified the perfect NCO; always there for her soldiers,” Loria said.

Kelley praised former Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel Dailey for helping create more opportunities for women in combat career fields. Since the first two female graduates — Capt. Kristen Griest and then-1st Lt. Shaye Haver — completed Ranger training in 2015, more than 30 female soldiers have earned their Ranger tab. Sgt. 1st Class Janina Simmons became the first African American woman to graduate from the course earlier this year.

Kelley said has begun preparation for a six-month deployment to an undisclosed location. The South Carolina native said she looks forward to using many of the skills she learned during her time training to be an Army Ranger.

The eight-year Army vet said the Third Special Forces group has fostered a welcome environment for unit members, offering a wealth of training opportunities to help advance her career, including electronics and intelligence courses.

Kelley offered some advice for soldiers who may be considering Ranger School or other certifications to advance their careers.

“Soldiers need to understand that sometimes things you had planned change,” she said. “So just be open-minded to new things and don’t be scared to go after things that seem impossible. Because nothing’s impossible if somebody’s done it before you.”

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

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