How troops use a combat scythe in Afghanistan - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

How troops use a combat scythe in Afghanistan

Picture yourself on a foot patrol in Afghanistan, one of the most dangerous countries in the world where the majority of the population hates the fact that you’re there.


Now, imagine you’re the “lead” of that foot patrol (typically the combat engineer who is looking for IEDs buried in the ground) and you spot a suspicious device ahead with a command wire sticking out of the dirt.

For most of us, it’s not a good idea to approach, especially if that wire trails off toward a nearby compound — it’s a freaking trap. But for troops serving in Afghanistan, it’s just another day at the office.

How troops use a combat scythe in Afghanistan
Counter-IED teams locate roadside bombs using Valon metal detectors. (Photo from Army.mil)

Although most IEDs are considered primitively built with limited resources, the grunts on the ground have a clever way of dealing with ’em: the combat scythe.

Related: This is what it was like fighting alongside Afghan troops

Famously known as an agricultural tool, ground pounders use them to conduct a “hands-on” inspection of a potential threat from up to 12-feet away. The operator will extend out the scythe and use its rounded tip to tug and drag out the device for an exam.

How troops use a combat scythe in Afghanistan
A Marine and his trusty scythe will never run out of batteries. (USMC photo by Cpl. William J. Jackson)

By deploying his trusty scythe, a troop can safely determine if that bump in the ground is indeed an IED and call for a controlled detonation of the affected area. Of course, if it’s a false alarm, then that foot patrol proceeds onward without fear.

Not every IED can be figured out with a solid poking, though. If that IED is trickier than usual, the patrol will call upon the services of Explosive Ordnance Disposal to access and, typically, blow the sh*t out of the device.

On the bright side, controlled detonations are pretty epic to watch. They’re allied forces’ way of telling the bad guys ,”Not today, f*cker.”

That is all.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Can fireworks be used as anti-air weapons? Dumb military questions part 7

“What happens in the U.S. Navy if a military member says he is quitting and immediately abandons ship. Will the Navy make an attempt to rescue him or just let him drown or get taken out by a shark?”

Oh god there’s a lot to tackle here.

“I don’t know. Don’t they call the Coast Guard for that? Let the puddle pirates handle that,” suggests U.S. Army vet Jennifer Campbell.

Green Beret Chase Millsap has some insight: “Despite what you may think, the Navy cannot order sharks to kill people.”

Or so they would have us think…


Can fireworks be used as anti-aircraft weapons? | Dumb Military Questions 107

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Can fireworks be used as anti-aircraft weapons? | Dumb Military Questions 107

“As someone who is in the military what is something you would call fun that a civilian wouldn’t think is very fun?”

The answers to this question will tell you everything you need to know about the military, honestly. Everything from “showers” to “blowing stuff up” was listed.

Oh, and the shower comment came from a Medal of Honor recipient, so don’t you dare judge us.

Anyway, remind me to tell you about the theory I have that there is something fundamentally wrong with a person who volunteers for the military…

“In a real life zombie apocalypse, how well would the military hold up (if the virus was like the one shown in The Walking Dead)?”

“I’ve seen the show. They don’t hold up well at all,” U.S. Air Force vet Mark Harper declared. Millsap confirmed, “They’d all be dead.”

Probably true. Probably true. Also, my worst nightmare…

How troops use a combat scythe in Afghanistan

Can fireworks be used as anti-air weapons, in other words can a fire work harm modern military aircraft?

“This sounds like ISIS is asking these questions,” observed our token civilian, Megan Miller. Who has a point, actually.

Harper went on for awhile about fire worms? So now I’m wondering if he had access to some Top Secret project that the rest of us don’t know about? ::shudder::

“How realistic is the air combat in Top Gun?”

Top Gun is real so it’s all real, right?” asked U.S. Air Force vet Tara Batesole. Yes, Tara. Top Gun is totally real. (No one destroy her dream, okay?)

How troops use a combat scythe in Afghanistan

Not today, ISIS.

Check out more dumb questions videos right here:

Vets answer dumb military questions – part one

Vets answer dumb military questions – part two

Vets answer EVEN MOAR dumb military questions

How to get posted at Area 51 other dumb military questions answered

What happens if you refuse to shower other dumb questions

What do snipers think when they miss’ other dumb military questions

MIGHTY TRENDING

US won’t send ships to China’s anniversary celebration this year

The US Navy will not send warships to participate in celebrations marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Liberation Army Navy.

More than 60 countries, including US allies Japan, South Korea, and the Philippines, are expected to send naval delegations to attend the celebratory fleet review, The Japan Times reported, citing the Chinese defense ministry.

The US, however, will only send a defense attaché from the US embassy in Beijing.

“The U.S. Navy will continue to pursue its primary goal of constructive, risk-reduction focused, discourse with the PLAN,” Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Dave Eastburn told Business Insider in an emailed statement April 4, 2019. “Along with the international community, the Department of Defense engages with the PLAN in forums that advance international rules and norms and a Free and Open Indo-Pacific.”


“The United States Navy will continue to engage the PLAN through established military-to-military dialogues,” Eastburn added. He declined to say why the US Navy will not be participating in China’s anniversary celebration as it has done in the past.

Tensions between the US and China have been on the rise in the South China Sea and Taiwan Strait. In recent years, the US and China have had occasional confrontations at sea.

How troops use a combat scythe in Afghanistan

The guided missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald under way in the Pacific Ocean.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Paul Kelly)

The US disinvited the Chinese navy from 2018’s Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercises in response to China’s militarization of the South China Sea.

“The PLA is the principal threat to U.S. interests,” Adm. Philip Davidson, the commander of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee in February 2019. Stressing that China is a threat to US and allied interests in the First Island Chain, he added that “the PLA is quickly increasing its ability to project power and influence beyond the First Island Chain.”

The US Navy sent the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald to participate in the Chinese navy’s 60th anniversary event, the South China Morning Post has reported. The decision to not send one this year could be seen as a snub.

“America’s ships and sailors are needed across the Indo-Pacific,” Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jim Inhofe recently told The Washington Free Beacon, praising the administration’s decision.

“America’s Navy is busy enough confronting the challenges posed by China’s aggression in the South China Sea and other critical aspects of great power competition without the distraction of participating in communist pageantry,” the Oklahoma Republican added.

Indeed, the anniversary fleet review is a major propaganda moment for Beijing. “The naval parade in April aims at sending a message to the international community” about the capabilities of the Chinese navy, a Beijing-based military analyst told the South China Morning Post.

The anniversary celebrations will be held in Qingdao from April 22 to 25, 2019.

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

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Marines offer former pilots up to $100K to come back to active duty

Attention Marine aviators: The Marine Corps needs you to return to active duty.

That’s the call the Marine Corps issued this week in its quest to get its former pilots to come back into the fold. The service is sweetening the deal by making selectees immediately eligible for bonuses of up to $100,000.


“The Marine Corps, like all services, has been challenged in the recent past with shortages in pilot inventory,” Capt. Joe Butterfield, a Marine spokesman at the Pentagon, said. “… We designed the aviation bonus and Return to Active Duty opportunities to offset the deficits we have at the junior officer grades.”

Captains or majors who flew or commanded six Marine aircraft are eligible to return to active service, according to a service-wide message announcing the new policy. Aircraft include the AV-8B Harrier; F-35B Joint Strike Fighter; F/A-18 Hornet; MV-22 Osprey; KC-130 Hercules; and CH-53K King Stallion.

The Marine Corps wants the pilots to sign two-, three- or four-year contracts to return to active duty. Those selected will be automatically career-designated if they weren’t prior to leaving the service, and those willing to stay in longer could be given preference.

Return to Active Duty submissions are due by Nov. 6. Officers in the Selected Marine Corps Reserve, Individual Ready Reserve, and Individual Mobilization Augmentee Detachments could all be eligible. Aviators who had left the service completely could also qualify once they affiliate with a Reserve component, the administrative message states.

The service’s pilot crunch is largely due to challenges with producing new aviators while the Marine Corps is transitioning to new platforms, Butterfield said. The service is in the process of upgrading several of its aircraft as it transitions squadrons to the F-35 or CH-53K.

Going back on active duty could make pilots eligible for the Marine Corps Aviation Bonus Program for fiscal year 2021, which starts on Oct. 1. That bonus program, announced earlier this month, offers aviators in certain grades and communities expected to face personnel shortfalls up to 0,000 for another six years of service.

Since the Marine Corps wants former captains and majors to come back and fly for between two and four years, bonuses for those coming back in under those timelines would top out at 0,000.

The military has been struggling to retain pilots who’ve been able to pick up bonus options to go to commercial airliners in recent years. But the coronavirus pandemic has left some airlines struggling as travel declined, raising the possibility that military pilot retention will improve in coming years.

The Marine Corps has semi-annual Return to Active Duty boards, and since the start of the pandemic, Butterfield said the service has seen more applicants.

“We are aware of the pressures that come with current airline furloughs, and are offering this interim board with decreased obligations (24, 36, and 48-month) compared to previous RAD boards [with] 48-month obligations,” he said.

The Marine Corps didn’t answer questions about which of its platforms face the greatest shortages. The service has identified operational tempo and airline hiring as just two challenges the Marine Corps faces in keeping its pilots.

“This interim board gives the opportunity for those no longer on active duty to fly with the Marine Corps again and continue their service to the nation,” Butterfield said.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

An Alabama startup just revealed the world’s largest drone

  • Scrappy launch startup Aevum unveiled the world’s most massive drone on Thursday.
  • Called Ravn X, the 55,000-pound UAV is designed to drop a rocket in midair, which will shoot small satellites into orbit.
  • The US Air Force picked Aevum to fly a $4.9 million satellite mission in 2021. Aevum has also contracted a commercial mission.
  • Jay Skylus, Aevum’s CEO and founder, says his company’s aiming to launch customers’ satellites within three hours of receiving them at a spaceport.
  • “We are not just a launch company — I can’t emphasize that enough,” he said.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Aevum, a quiet, scrappy, and ambitious rocket-launch startup, unveiled the biggest drone in the world on Wednesday.

Called Ravn X, the fully autonomous vehicle is 80 feet long, has a wingspan of 60 feet, and stands 18 feet tall. It’s not the largest unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) by size — the wings of Northrop Grumman’s MQ-4C Triton stretch nearly 131 feet. But the Ravn X wins on mass, weighing 55,000 pounds when you include the rocket that will drop out of its belly in midair and shoot a satellite into space. 

Despite its unusual size and mission, the drone isn’t so different from your standard aircraft. It flies like a typical plane, and it and its rocket use Jet A, a very common kerosene-based fuel, says Jay Skylus, the CEO and founder of Aevum.

“We don’t need a launch site. All we need is a runway that’s one mile long and a hangar,” Skylus told Business Insider. (Even small commercial airports have runways that easily meet that mark.)

Aevum has toiled over the design for roughly five years in its makeshift headquarters: an old textile mill-turned-tech incubator in Alabama. Skylus said he mulled over the concept a decade prior to that as he hopped from NASA to one space startup after another. After being disappointed with the approaches he saw and resistance to new ideas, Skylus said, he scraped together a bit of funding and got to work with some aerospace colleagues.

Read moreA colossal rocket-launching drone is just one small part of Aevum’s bid to become the ‘Amazon of space,’ the startup’s founder says

Once Ravn X reaches the right location, speed, and altitude, its two-stage rocket is designed to drop, ignite within half a second, and launch a roughly 100-kilogram (220-lb) payload into low-Earth orbit. The approach is similar to air-launched rocket systems developed by Virgin Orbit‘s and Pegasus, though Skylus claims Aevum’s unmanned version is more efficient, cost-effective, and enterprising.

Aevum is presenting a “new paradigm of access to space,” Skylus said. “There’s now ground launch, air launch, and autonomous launch.”

Autonomous launch to space within 180 minutes

How troops use a combat scythe in Afghanistan
Autonomous launch startup Aevum plans to use a Ravn X rocket-launching drone to send payloads to orbit within hours of a customer’s order. 

More than 100 startups like Aevum exist in a pool of companies hoping to dominate the small-launch industry, or rockets able to fly payloads weighing 1,000 pounds or less to orbit. The market has surged in recent years with the shrinking size and increasing performance of electronics, plus a growing thirst for space-based images, data services, and more. 

What Aevum has that few similar companies do, though, is the blessing and funding of the US Air Force. Last year, the Department of Defense contracted Aevum to launch a new mission called Agile Small Launch Operational Normalizer 45 (ASLON-45) for $4.9 million. The goal is to fly small, experimental satellites that can detect adversaries’ missile launches.

Aevum scooped up the contract in part because the company claims it can take a small satellite from a customer and get it into orbit within 180 minutes, if necessary — a task that’d typically take months to work out. Skylus said years of intensive software development have mostly automated the requisite launch paperwork, mission profiling, payload integration, and more. As a result, he said, Aevum needs only about 10% of the staff typically required for launching rockets. 

“We are not just a launch company — I can’t emphasize that enough,” he said.

Lt. Col. Ryan Rose, a chief within Kirtland Air Force Base’s Space and Missile Systems Center, visited Aevum this week at the Cecil Spaceport-based launch facility in Jacksonville, Florida.

“I’m excited to see the bold innovation and responsiveness in development today by our small launch industry partners to support emerging warfighter needs,” she said in an Aevum press release. “The US Space Force is proactively partnering with industry to support US space superiority objectives. Having a robust US industry providing responsive launch capability is key to ensuring the US Space Force can respond to future threats.”

Aevum and the USAF hope to get ASLON-45 off the ground by mid-2021.

“There’s really no reason for us to not be ready. ASLON-45, like the name implies, is an agile mission. What we’re really trying to show is not that small launch vehicles can deliver stuff to orbit — Rocket Lab is already doing that,” Skylus said, referring to the New Zealand small-launch company that recently flew its sixteenth mission to orbit

He added: “What we’re proving is agility, flexibility, responsiveness, and operational efficiency. This is a brand-new architecture, and a brand-new launch vehicle that’s never been conceived.”

How troops use a combat scythe in Afghanistan
Skylus, the CEO of Aevum, says his company is “being credited with having invented a brand new paradigm of access to space.” 

Skylus acknowledged the fear some people have of drones generally, and one carrying a big rocket specifically. But he said the company is working very closely with the Federal Aviation Administration to ensure Ravn X is extremely safe to fly and launch payloads to space.

An agency spokesperson declined an interview request by told Business Insider, but noted Aevum said it plans to apply for a launch license in 2021.

“When you start looking into all of this … the line between a piloted commercial airliner versus our launch vehicle really starts to blur,” Skylus said. “It’s hard to tell where one’s more safe than the other, and why a person might feel more comfortable with in a giant Boeing airplane flying over you, every single day, versus this one.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

This soldier found out she was pregnant only after she had a baby in Afghanistan

In the summer of 2012, young Benjamin was born to Pvt. Ashley Shelton in the middle of FOB Shindand, Afghanistan. The story was first broken by Stars and Stripes in October 2012, but details surrounding the birth weren’t released until WTHR 13 Investigates got into contact with the mother recently.


Pvt. Ashley Shelton was assigned to the 12th Combat Aviation Brigade out of Ansbach, Germany and deployed in the spring. Normally, Army regulations bar pregnant soldiers and those who recently gave birth from deploying. However, due to her pregnancy tests being disregarded as “false-positives,” she was still sent with her unit.

How troops use a combat scythe in Afghanistan
Pvt. Shelton’s unit in Afghanistan. (Image via WTHR 13 Investigates)

Related: 5 struggles those who wore BCGs will remember

She continued her regular Army duties, even those that would normally be unfit for an expected mother such as physical training and combat duties. There were no normal signs of pregnancy, such as weight gain or a baby bump. Morning sickness or and cramping was mostly written off with a dismissive, “Well, it’s Afghanistan…”

How troops use a combat scythe in Afghanistan
Baby Benjamin shortly after birth. (Image via WTHR 13 Investigates)

Then, on Aug. 12, she went to the aid station for cramps. The doctor told her to drink fluids and prescribed her bed rest. On her way back, her water broke and she blacked out. Her child, Benjamin, was born. The U.S. Army has yet to clarify what exactly went wrong, but they conducted internal investigations. Army representatives told WTHR 13 Investigates that they can not talk about personal health issues due to federal health privacy laws.

Years later, Benjamin exhibits some congenital birth defects, which may be a result of mishandled pregnancy. His medical records show a small knot in his lower left leg, described as a club foot, and a lower speech level than normal. Ashley Shelton has been struggling the last years with getting attention for her son’s and her own medical conditions.

How troops use a combat scythe in Afghanistan
Benjamin Shelton (Image via WTHR 13 Investigates)

That hasn’t stopped the fun-loving kid from running around the playground, though. There’s no telling if the kid ends up being a superhero, but that’s a backstory that tops Marvel and DC characters. Even if the kid doesn’t become a superhero, if he serves in the Army like his mother, you can bet that he’ll have a one-up card on everyone. “Where were you born? Some POG civilian hospital not in the middle of combat? That’s cute.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

Warsaw remembers the historic ghetto uprising 75 years later

Commemorations are being held to mark the 75th anniversary the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, when thousands of young Jewish fighters took up arms against occupying Nazi German forces during World War II.

The uprising broke out April 19, 1943, when about 750 Jewish fighters armed with pistols and other light arms attacked a German force more than three times their size.


Many left last testaments saying that they knew they would not survive but that they wanted to die at a time and place of their own choosing and not in the gas chambers at the Treblinka death camp, where more than 300,000 Warsaw Jews had already been sent.

Only a few dozen fighters survived when the Germans crushed the uprising. Most have since died or are no longer healthy enough to attend the observances.

How troops use a combat scythe in Afghanistan
With more than 400,000 imprisoned Jews at its highest point, Nazi Germany’s Warsaw Ghetto was the largest in Poland during World War II. The final act of Jewish resistance started 75 years ago, on April 19, 1943, a month before the ghetto was burned down in May of that year.

Polish President Andrzej Duda is scheduled to visit a Jewish cemetery and then take part in the official ceremony at the Ghetto Heroes Monument.

The commemoration comes at a time of heightened tensions between Poland and Israel over Warsaw’s new Holocaust law, which came into effect in March 2018, and led to harsh criticism from Israel, Jewish organizations, and others.

The legislation penalizes statements attributing Nazi German crimes to the Polish state with fines or a jail term. Polish government officials say the law is meant to protect the country from false accusations of complicity.

Poland was invaded by Nazi Germany in World War II and ceased to exist as a state. An estimated 6 million Poles, about half of them Jews, were killed.

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

Articles

Pentagon reportedly considering sending ground troops into Syria

The Defense Department is considering recommending the US send ground troops into Syria to fight the terrorist group ISIS, according to a source who spoke to CNN.


“It’s possible that you may see conventional forces hit the ground in Syria for some period of time,” a defense official told CNN.

There are currently hundreds of US troops in Syria offering training and assistance to US-backed local forces there. But conventional forces would likely be on the ground in larger numbers, according to CNN.

Related: General claims 60,000 ISIS fighters have been killed

CNN reported last month that Defense Secretary Jim Mattis was taking control of a Pentagon review to determine which options the Defense Department would present to President Donald Trump on the fight against ISIS.

How troops use a combat scythe in Afghanistan
U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Joel Salgado

The defense official CNN cites in Wednesday’s report stressed that any decision on Syria would ultimately be up to Trump.

Charles Lister, a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute and an expert on Syria, said he’s “not surprised” to see that the US is considering ground troops in Syria to fight ISIS.

“Fits Trump desire for a rapid victory + withdrawal,” he tweeted.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The last troop killed in WWII died after the war ended

On Dec. 7, 1941, the Empire of Japan launched a brutal attack on Pearl Harbor, killing over 2,300 American military personnel and catapulting the U.S. into World War II. After nearly four years of fierce fighting, Japan agreed to the terms of surrender as laid out in the Potsdam Declaration. On August 14th, 1945, this decision was broadcast across Japan.

A few weeks later, thousands of brave men gathered on the USS Missouri to witness a historic event as Gen. Douglas MacArthur, accompanied by Adms. Chester Nimitz and William Halsey, met with the Japanese delegation. Officials signed the Japanese Instrument of Surrender on September 2, 1945, finally putting a stop to the war and securing victory for the Allies.

How troops use a combat scythe in Afghanistan
A still photo as the Japanese officially surrender.

Tragically, between the announcement of the surrender and the signing of the document, despite an active ceasefire, one last American life was lost.


During the war, Sgt. Anthony J. Marchione served as an aerial photographer with the 20th Combat Reconnaissance Squadron. On August 18, 1945, Marchione was on a mission to gather evidence that the Japanese were indeed complying with the ceasefire when the B-32 he was aboard took enemy fire.

Japanese machine guns ripped into the side of the B-32’s metal skin, creating a shower of shrapnel inside the cabin. Marchione noticed one of the crew members was gravely wounded and he rushed over. As the brave photographer helped his brother-in-arms, another barrage of enemy gunfire rained down on the American bomber.

How troops use a combat scythe in Afghanistan
An American B-32.

The second round of incoming fire struck Marchione. He bled to death aboard his plane in the skies over Tokyo that Saturday afternoon. Sgt. Marchione’s tragic, untimely death has the dubious distinction of being the very last of World War II.

The aerial photographer was about a month away from celebrating his 20th birthday.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why Russia and Japan still haven’t signed a WW2 peace treaty

When Japanese President Shinzo Abe addressed a packed audience at the Eastern Economic Forum in September 2018, held in the Russian Far East city of Vladivostok, he had a direct message for his host.

He appealed to Vladimir Putin, like he does every time the two leaders meet, to help expedite the signing of a treaty that would formally, and finally, end World War II.


A little later, Putin turned animatedly to Abe. “You won’t believe it, but honestly, it’s a simple thought, but it came to my mind just now, right here,” he said. “Let’s sign a peace agreement by the end of the year,” he told Abe, “without any preconditions.”

How troops use a combat scythe in Afghanistan

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Japanese President Shinzo Abe.

The room erupted in applause, and Russian state media hailed the offer as a breakthrough. “This is a sensation,” gushed a Rossia-24 presenter covering the event. “Unbelievable progress has been reached.”

But as Putin and Abe prepare for talks in Moscow on Jan. 22, 2019, a territorial dispute that has remained unresolved since the war continues to stall efforts toward a Russo-Japanese peace deal, and analysts say there is little indication the latest round of negotiations will change that.

‘Inherent part of Japan’

For the past 70 years, Japan has waged a dogged diplomatic campaign to reclaim what it calls its Northern Territories, a handful of islands off the coast of Hokkaido, its northernmost prefecture, that the Soviet Union captured in the final days of World War II.

Today they are referred to by Moscow as the Southern Kuriles, an extension of the archipelago that extends southward from Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula.

How troops use a combat scythe in Afghanistan

Japan established sovereignty over the islands in dispute — Iturup, Kunashir, Shikotan, and a group of islets known as Habomai — in an agreement with the Russian Empire in 1855. They are still considered by Tokyo to be an “inherent part of the territory of Japan.”

“There’s a historical and ancestral aspect to this discussion from the Japanese standpoint,” says Stephen R. Nagy, an associate professor with the department of politics and international studies at International Christian University in Tokyo. “Many feel they have left the lands of their ancestors.”

For Russia, the Kuriles provide its naval fleet with access to the Pacific, and serve as a symbol of the Soviet role in the World War II victory.

Following the war, the two countries failed to sign a peace treaty, although the Soviet-Japanese Joint Declaration of October 1956 formally ended hostilities and opened diplomatic relations between the two sides. The declaration also annulled previous Soviet claims of war reparations against Japan and provided for two of the disputed territories — Habomai and Shikotan — to be returned to Japan following the conclusion of a formal peace treaty.

When Putin and Abe followed up on their Vladivostok meeting with talks in November 2018 in Singapore, they agreed to use the 1956 agreement as a foundation for further discussion. But that leaves Putin’s offer of “no preconditions” in question.

What comes first?

After talks in Moscow in January 2019 between Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his Japanese counterpart, Taro Kono, Moscow made clear that Japan must accept Russian sovereignty of the disputed territories before any peace treaty is signed. “Questions of sovereignty over the islands are not being discussed. It is the Russian Federation’s territory,” Lavrov was quoted as saying.

And there have been key developments since 1956: namely, the deepening of the U.S.-Japanese alliance, and more recently the decision to station a U.S. missile-defense system on Japanese territory. The Japanese press has reported that Abe assured Putin no U.S. bases would be built on the islands once under Japanese possession, a fear that Russia has voiced many times. But Japan’s partnership with the United States remains a sticking point.

Artyom Lukin, an international-studies expert at the Far Eastern Federal University in Vladivostok, says there is little reason to believe a treaty will be hammered out immediately.

“I don’t think that anything substantive, anything which could be pronounced publicly, will come out of this meeting,” Lukin says of the Jan. 22, 2019 talks. “They may make a tentative, preliminary agreement, but because the issue is so complex they’ll need more high-level meetings before the issue is settled. My guess is that we’ll see no public announcement until Putin’s planned visit to Japan in June.”

Fyodor Lukyanov, editor of Russia In Global Affairs, says that Putin’s statement in Vladivostok was blown out of proportion. In fact, Lukyanov argues, the Russian president was just reiterating a long-held stance.

“The Japanese position is the territorial issue first, and then, after having settled that, we can discuss the peace treaty,” Lukyanov says. “And the Russian position, strongly supported by Putin in that speech, is just the opposite — first normalize the relationship and then maybe we can discuss this issue.”

Lukin agrees. “I wouldn’t read too much into Putin’s statement in Vladivostok,” he says. “I think we should pay much more attention to Abe’s statement in Singapore, when he said that Japan was ready to negotiate on the basis of the 1956 declaration. For me this basically means that Japan is ready to accept the fact that it can’t get from Russia anything more than Habomai and Shikotan. So the question is, how much and what will Russia demand from Japan in exchange for those two islands.”

Generosity not popular

At a press briefing in Tokyo following Putin’s appearance with Abe in Vladivostok in September 2018, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga insisted that Japan’s position remained that “the Northern Territories issue is resolved before any peace treaty.” But few expect Russia to yield.

An opinion survey carried out in November 2018 by the independent pollster Levada Center found that only 17 percent of Russians support the handover of the disputed territories to Japan in exchange for a peace deal to end World War II. Almost three-quarters were against the idea.

Russian Protesters Decry Possible Territory Handover To Japan

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Russian state media has helped keep those numbers up. On Jan. 13, 2019, flagship news program Vesti Nedeli dismissed the Japanese suggestion that the islands be returned before a treaty is ratified.

“We have the hypersonic Avangard rocket, we have the hypersonic Kinzhal,” host Dmitry Kiselyov said, referring to two nuclear-capable weapons ceremoniously unveiled by Putin during his state-of-the-nation address in March 2019. “We don’t need anything from Japan…. And how can we politely explain that one should behave politely?”

In November 2019, the independent Russian daily Vedomosti wrote in an editorial that “much time has been lost” in settling the Kuriles question. “The Kremlin has succeeded in reviving imperialist passions,” it wrote. “Any territorial concession after the annexation of Crimea will damage Putin’s image as a gatherer of Russian lands, and will raise the level of discontent among his traditional support base.”

Lukyanov says that Putin is aware of Russian public opinion and unlikely to advance such a controversial cause at a time when his approval ratings are already slipping.

“Any territorial concession in any country is a very unpopular move, and to make it, a leadership should be in a strong position,” he says. “Theoretically, I can imagine that something like this would be doable immediately after the Crimean takeover five years ago, but now the situation is different, and the whole atmosphere in the country is much less optimistic, because of economic and other problems. And in this situation, to give such a juicy piece to opponents, to accuse Putin of unpopular territorial concessions, that’s certainly not what he needs right now.”

In recent weeks, several rallies have been held across Russia to protest the possible handover of the islands. On Jan. 20, 2019, some 300 nationalists and members of the Russian far right gathered in central Moscow, chanting slogans including “Crimea is ours! The Kuriles are ours!” and “We won’t return the Kuriles!”

In its bid for a diplomatic breakthrough, the Japanese leadership has suggested that Russia’s cession of the islands would open up trade with its Asian neighbor at a time of debilitating Western sanctions. But Lukyanov describes as a “primitive interpretation” the notion that Russia might relinquish the Kuriles because it needs Japan for its economic development.

“Russia’s real calculation is much more geostrategic,” he says. “Because Russia’s drift toward Asia is inevitable and will continue, because the whole of international politics is shifting to the East, and to Asia.”

The Russian leadership is aware of the risk of becoming overly dependent on China, he adds.

“For Russia, strategically it’s much more important to have a stable and constructive relationship with the big powers in Asia — South Korea, Japan, India, and Indonesia — all those that might play a role as counterweights to China. And this, to me, is the only reason why the whole discussion [about the Kuriles] is still going on.”

Also read: Yes, Japan and Russia are technically still at war.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Air strikes in Yemen kill dozens, including children

Dozens of people, many of them children, were killed in Saudi-led coalition air strikes on Aug 9 in Yemen’s Saada province, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and local medical sources said.

The ICRC said one strike targeted a bus driving children in Dahyan market, in northern Saada. Hospitals in the area received dozens of dead and wounded, the ICRC said.


The Western-backed coalition, which is fighting Iranian-backed Huthi rebels in Yemen, said in a statement that it targeted missile launchers used to attack the southern Saudi industrial city of Jizan, and accused the Huthis of using children as human shields.

“Today’s attack in Saada was a legitimate military operation… and was carried out in accordance with international humanitarian law,” the Arabic-language statement said.

It was unclear how many children were killed and how many air strikes were carried out in the area, in northern Yemen, near the border with Saudi Arabia.

The Huthi rebels’ health ministry said at least 43 people were killed, and 61 were wounded. The ICRC said most of the victims were under 10 years old.

“Scores killed, even more injured, most under the age of 10,” Johannes Bruwer, head of delegation for the ICRC in Yemen, said in a twitter post.

Saudi Arabia and Sunni Muslim allies have been fighting in Yemen for more than three years against the Huthis, who control much of north Yemen including the capital Sanaa and drove the government into exile in 2014.

Almost 10,000 people — a vast majority of them civilians – have been killed since the Huthis took control of the north in 2014, when they forced President Abd-Rabbu Mansur Hadi into exile in neighboring Saudi Arabia.

MIGHTY MEMES

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of May 11

Oh snap! The first official recruiting ad for the Space Force has finally dropped! Don’t get me wrong. I’m just as hyped as everyone else who joked to their retention NCO that the only way they’d stay in was to reclass as a space shuttle door gunner.

But, like, why do they even need an advertisement at this point? Everyone knows who they are and are already planning on camping out at the recruitment offices when they open. It’s like seeing a commercial for a Ferrari. It’s just a waste of time and money when we’re already sold on the idea.

Whatever. They’re probably going to have a bigger budget than the Air Force – so spend it if you got it, right? Anyway, here are some memes.


1. I don’t care about any of your damn stories from Basic. But you can be damn sure that I’ll play along with whatever BS lie about how badass you are to tell civilians.

2. While we’re in, we all sh*ttalk chief for being OFP. But, he’s literally treating the military like it’s a 9-5 job at that point.

3. North Korean generals got nothing on some of the E-4’s I’ve seen these days…

No photo description available.

4. Anyone know if the vehicles in the motorpool are still fine? No one’s been around to kick their tires in ages!

5. All else fails, pocket sand…

6. One makes things go boom. The other prevents things from going boom. See the problem?

7. Largest amphibious landing in military history and it wasn’t conducted by the branch of the military specifically designed for such a task…

(Yeah, I know. They were in the Pacific and Marine generals assisted in the planning. I thought Marines were at least supposed to understand jokes.)

8. “Ah, I see you’re a man of culture as well.”

9. For the Space Force? In a heartbeat. Then again, I’ve been out for a few years, put on a few pounds, have literally no applicable skills needed in space… But I’d do it.

10. Well. Now I’m going to rewatch Band of Brothers this quarantine… for the 101st time…

11. As long as you don’t have flat feet. (Is flat feet still a thing?)

12. f it looks right, it is right.

13. If you didn’t jump up out of your bunk, but forgot that you’re on the lower one, so you smack your head so damn hard it echoes through the bay, did you even go to basic/boot camp?

MIGHTY CULTURE

First naval aviators graduate new USAF pilot training program

The first two student naval aviators graduated from the U.S. Air Force’s Pilot Training Next (PTN) program at Randolph Air Force Base (AFB) just outside of San Antonio, Aug. 29, 2019.

The PTN program is a course of instruction designed to train military pilots at a lower cost, in a shorter amount of time, and with a higher level of proficiency leveraging emerging technologies to create a dynamic training environment.

The PTN program individualizes training, adjusting to each student pilot’s strengths and weaknesses. It integrates virtual reality (VR), advanced biometrics, artificial intelligence (AI), and immersive training devices (ITD) with traditional methods of learning.


“The most appealing part of this program is we step away from the common denominator or one-size-fits-all training that has to be done on a certain timeline,” Det. 24 Commander U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Ryan Riley said. “With PTN we have been able to focus more on competencies and the focus of the individual student. We tailor the training to you, and that is a very different mindset shift and that is what I am most excited about.”

How troops use a combat scythe in Afghanistan

A T-6A Texan II aircraft prepares to conduct a tough-and-go landing on Randolph Air Force Base, Texas.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by 1st. Lt. Pawel Puczko)

Navy instructors selected Ensigns Charles Hills and Seth Murphy-Sweet for the PTN program in lieu of the standard Navy Primary Flight Training phase. This joint training effort is a step toward integrating emerging technologies into Navy’s flight training curriculum. Now Hill and Murphy-Sweet are ready to move forward to the advanced stage of flight training with the Navy’s Training Air Wing 2 at Naval Air Station Kingsville, Texas.

“I think a big thing with this program was the ability to utilize the VR, get the experience and pacing down for each flight realtime,” Hill said. “This benefited all the students – being able to chair fly while being able to see the whole flight rather than to have to use your imagination. This helped in getting the motor skills while we were able test it out in VR and see how the exact input corresponds to a correct output.”

The relatively new program is being improved with each iteration and allows a more tailored approach to learning in comparison to traditional flight training from the instructor’s perspective. Instructors use a collaborative learning environment to evaluate and analyze students and subsequently make corrections and improvements.

How troops use a combat scythe in Afghanistan

Ensign Charles Hill (left) and Ensign Seth Murphy-Sweet stand with their graduating Pilot Training Next (PTN) class on Randolph Air Force Base, Texas.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by 1st. Lt. Pawel Puczko)

PTN First Assignment Instructor Pilot (FAIP) U.S. Air Force Capt. Jake Pothula shared his views on just how the program differs from the traditional syllabus.

“I went through traditional training,” he said. “The biggest difference with the PTN program is the fact that we aren’t tied to a very rigid, unforgiving syllabus, so students have the ability to choose their own training or have it be molded by instructor pilots who have the students’ individual best interest in mind. In traditional Undergraduate Pilot Training (UPT) you get more flying hours, but PTN students get a lot more simulator time. The students probably get three times as many hours in the sim than a traditional UPT student would. It’s something they could do at their own pace and choose what they want to do. I would say that these students have a very different set of skills. They excel at understanding their place in a larger mission and understanding what their aircraft is going to do especially in the cases of large field or large force exercises. I feel they definitely have a better grasp on more abstract concept such as mission management.”

Integrating new technologies such as ITDs allows students to gain experience using real-world scenarios. Students can not only fly the strict patterns and procedures they learn from their books, but also integrate air traffic control decondition as well as other aircraft.

“I think the unique and most exciting aspect with where PTN is going is the partnership with the Navy and Air Force,” Riley said. “With this partnership the Navy has loaned us eight T-6B Texan II aircraft. The manufacturer modified the avionics to what we call the T-6B plus, which has software specifically built for the PTN program mission.”

How troops use a combat scythe in Afghanistan

Commander Air Force Recruiting Brig. Gen. Jeannie Leavitt speaking at the Pilot Training Next (PTN) class graduation on Randolph Air Force Base, Texas.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by 1st. Lt. Pawel Puczko)

Adding Navy instructors and students to the PTN program brings a unique perspective since training in the T-6B Texan II is new to the Air Force. VR simulators add a new and exciting element to the PTN program and draws parallels to the gaming industry, which could help attract new accessions.

Today the Navy’s Primary Flight Training phase uses simulators and VR trainer devices to augment the traditional curriculum, which allow students better familiarity with aircraft controls and their areas of operations. Technology within fleet aircraft and the aviation community at large is constantly advancing, and as we move forward simulators and ITDs will play an increasingly significant role in the way we train our military aviators.

CNATRA, headquartered in Corpus Christi, trains the world’s finest combat quality aviation professionals, delivering them at the right time, in the right numbers, and at the right cost to a naval force that is where it matters, when it matters.

This article originally appeared on United States Navy. Follow @USNavy on Twitter.

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