Since operations began over the weekend to retake West Mosul from two years of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria control, Iraqi security forces have already retaken more than 125 square kilometers – more than 48 square miles – of ISIS-held territory near the city, Pentagon director of press operations Navy Capt. Jeff Davis told reporters today.
The announcement of the Iraqi forces moving in on West Mosul came from the Iraqi government, the spokesman added.
Five Villages Liberated
Following their retaking of the eastern half of Mosul in recent weeks, the Iraqi forces moving in to liberate the western region are on the west side of the Tigris River and south of Mosul’s airport, he said, noting that they have liberated five villages in the past couple of days.
The most immediate focus is retaking the village of Abu-Saif in the southwestern region of the area surrounding Mosul, where the Iraqi forces are working while continuing to conduct defensive operations.
“The battle for the complete liberation of Mosul comes as hundreds of thousands of Iraqi citizens have lived for more than two years under ISIS oppression in West Mosul, during which time ISIS has committed a number of horrible atrocities, terrorizing the people of Mosul,” Davis emphasized.
Proven as Capable
“Over the course of the past two years, and in particular in the past four months in Mosul, the [Iraqi security forces] have proven themselves an increasingly capable, formidable and professional force,” he noted.
The U.S.-led coalition is supporting the Iraqi operations with advice and assistance in addition to airstrikes in the past 24 hours, the captain said. “The coalition has conducted a total of eight strikes with a total of 59 engagements using 34 munitions in support of the operations to liberate Mosul,” he added.
While the liberation of Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, is the focal point in that country, 450 American service members are advising and assisting the Iraqi forces, Davis said, adding that number does not include an undisclosed total of special operations forces deployed to Iraq to work with Iraq’s counterterrorism service.
Fake news — or at least global discussion of the phenomenon — continued to flourish in 2017, so much so that Collins Dictionary named the term its Word of the Year.
Defined by Collins as “false, often sensational, information disseminated under the guise of news reporting,” fake news also reverberated across the Russian media and political landscape in 2017.
From a purported Western plot to “collapse” Russia to a New York restaurant’s alleged campaign honoring President Vladimir Putin with a massive hamburger, some of these reports — including outright hoaxes — were treated with credulity by prominent Russian media outlets, public figures, and audiences alike.
Some of them originated in Russia — which Western governments have accused of deploying fake news and disinformation as part of its foreign policy. (Moscow has repeatedly rejected such criticism, including accusations that it was behind a flood of fake news aimed at influencing the 2016 U.S. presidential election.) Others began elsewhere and were then perpetuated by both Russian state-controlled television and privately owned media outlets — and, in some cases, by senior officials.
Here’s a look at some of the fake-news and other dubious reports that resonated across Russia in 2017.
7. ‘Collapsing Russia’
In August, a website confusingly similar in appearance to that of the British newspaper The Guardian published a fake story attributing quotes to a former head of British intelligence about a purported Western plot to dismantle Russia.
The fake interview quoted ex-MI6 head John Scarlett as saying — in clunky English — that Britain and the United States planned to use the pro-Western former president of Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili, and a “fictitious quarrel between Ukraine and Russia” in order to bring about Russia’s “re-disintegration.”
“I must admit that the two Georgian and Crimean wars, the most strategic plan of the U.S. and Britain over the past several years for collapsing Russia, ended with failure,” Scarlett was quoted as saying in the fabricated story.
The ruse was quickly debunked, including in an investigation by BuzzFeed, and The Guardian itself noted that it was a “a fake story…on a fake site purporting to be The Guardian.”
Several Russian media outlets picked up the story, however, including the national television network REN-TV. Days after the false report had been debunked, prominent Russian television personality Vladimir Solovyov appeared to give credence to the hoax on his popular political talk show on state TV, though he added the qualifier, “Some say it’s true, some say it’s not.”
6. Putin Burger
On October 7 — Putin’s 65th birthday — Russian state television and news agencies reported that a New York restaurant was serving a special five-patty burger in honor of the man in the Kremlin. The reports were based on a video produced by Ruptly, a news agency owned by the Russian government-backed TV network RT. Ruptly interviewed an employee at Lucy’s Cantina Royale in New York City who said the restaurant had created a burger weighing 1,952 grams — a reference to the year of Putin’s birth — and featured a small leaflet bearing Putin’s image as evidence of the alleged special menu item.
“It’s not only foreign leaders who are wishing Russia’s president a happy birthday, but ordinary citizens as well. What’s more, they’re doing it in extremely original ways,” an anchor for the state-run Rossia-24 network said in a segment–based on the Ruptly report.
But Russian journalist Aleksei Kovalyov, who regularly debunks canards circulating in the Russian media, quickly dug in to the reports about the special burger, which proceeded to fall apart under scrutiny. The restaurant denied honoring Putin with a burger and said “the employees responsible for this hoax have been suspended pending an investigation.” A bartender at the restaurant later said the “Putin burger” was her idea and that she had lost her job. The employee filmed in the Ruptly video was also reportedly fired.
Ruptly later deleted the video, saying in a statement that the story “did not meet [its] editorial standards.”
Kovalyov has long accused state-controlled Russian media of fabricating or twisting news from abroad in order to produce stories for domestic consumption that are aimed at reinforcing Kremlin messaging. “The Putin burger was a particularly egregious example of virtual reality,” he told RFE/RL.
5. Nobel Winner Alexievich ‘Dead’
In May, a Twitter account purporting to be that of French Culture Minister Francoise Nyssen tweeted out that Belarusian author and Nobel laureate Svetlana Alexievich had died. Nyssen had previously headed the Actes Sud publishing house, which her father founded and had published Alexievich’s writing in French, which appeared to lend credibility to the death claim.
Numerous Russian media outlets — including the government daily Rossiiskaya Gazeta and state news agency RIA Novosti — quickly ran with the report, as did the website of Current Time TV, a project of RFE/RL in cooperation with VOA. European outlets also circulated the report, including the French newspaper Le Figaro and popular Portuguese daily Diario de Noticias.
It was, in fact, a hoax. Alexievich, 69, spoke with RFE/RL’s Belarus Service from Seoul, South Korea, with the reports swirling, saying, “Someone’s impatient.”
Shortly after the original tweet, Italian journalist Tommaso Debenedetti — who had previously published fake interviews with famous writers — claimed he was behind the hoax.
4. Another Sketchy MH17 Claim
On October 6, the official television network of the Russian Defense Ministry published a claim from a man it said was a defector from the Ukrainian Air Force. The man, identified as Yury Baturin, claimed that the Ukrainian Air Force had moved a Buk missile system to within firing range of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 shortly before it was shot down over eastern Ukraine in July 2014, killing all 298 people on board.
The report by the Zvezda network clearly suggested that Ukraine may have shot down the plane amid its war with Russia-backed separatists in Ukraine, though Baturin did not specifically say that Ukrainian forces fired on MH17 with the Buk. The location in question, Baturin said, was the one previously identified by Russian weapons maker Almaz-Antey: a spot near the Ukrainian village of Zaroshchenske.
The Zaroshchenske claim is one of a range of uncorroborated theories that the Russian government and its proxies have proposed about the downing of MH17, including that it was brought down by a Ukrainian fighter jet.
An international investigation has concluded that the plane was brought down by a Russian-made Buk missile system fired from territory controlled by the separatists near the Ukrainian village of Snizhne. The Dutch Safety Board and the Dutch-led international investigation have both dismissed the Zaroshchenske theory, citing a broad range of evidence that includes forensic tests, eyewitnesses, and an intercepted phone call between separatist fighters.
The Buk system was brought in from Russia and smuggled back shortly after the shoot-down, the international investigation has concluded. Critics have accused Moscow of trying to muddy the waters of the investigation in order to deflect possible culpability from the separatists and itself.
The Zvezda report was picked up by numerous Russian media outlets, including the state-run TASS news agency and state-run television. But the man’s claims have yet to be corroborated by any other media outlets, leaving Zvezda as the only source. And within 24 hours of the original publication, Zvezda deleted — without explanation — its reports based on the interview.
But in early December, Baturin’s story was again published by Zvezda, this time in a slightly different interview format. Zvezda told the Russian news site Meduza that the original report was deleted because it wanted to give a more thorough treatment to his story.
As in the original story, Zvezda and Baturin strongly imply that a Ukrainian Buk shot down MH17 but note that the former Ukrainian soldier was unable to detect the launch of a missile from near Kharkiv, where he claimed to have been stationed at the time. The Ukrainian military confirmed to Meduza that Baturin had served in its air force but quit in 2016 due to “family circumstances.”
3. Syrian War (Video) Games
The Russian Defense Ministry in November accused the United States of cooperating with Islamic State (IS) militants in Syria, alleging that Washington was providing cover to the extremist group as Russian and Syrian government forces were targeting IS fighters.
It was an incendiary claim, one that came shortly after an explosive BBC reportalleging that forces backed by a U.S.-led coalition struck a deal that ultimately allowed hundreds of IS militants to leave the eastern Syrian city of Raqqa. (The coalition did not confirm the deal but conceded that IS fighters may have left the city along with a convoy of civilians.)
But the Russian military’s accusation, which it posted on Facebook and Twitter, included curious images that it described as “irrefutable evidence” of alleged U.S. help for IS militants. The images purported to show an IS convoy heading for the Syrian-Iraqi border.
But it didn’t take long for social-media users and investigative groups to discover that one of the images was actually a still from a 2015 promotional video for a video game called AC-130 Gunship Simulator: Special Ops Squadron. The other images were taken from videos released by the Iraqi Defense Ministry in 2016 about anti-IS operations near Fallujah, online investigators found.
The fake images triggered a wave of ridicule, with some on social media mocking the ministry with footage from other video games, like the famous 1980s game Frogger.
The Russian military subsequently scrubbed the images and published new photos it claimed were “irrefutable evidence” of its accusation. The ministry concededthat the original photographs were fake and said a civilian employee was facing a probe in connection with the matter.
2. Bin Laden In the White House
The video-game hijinks weren’t the only time a Russian ministry perpetuated a hoax in 2017.
Maria Zakharova, the Russian Foreign Ministry’s often-caustic spokeswoman, claimed during a political talk show on state TV in November that the late Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden had once visited the White House.
Zakharova made the claim during a discussion about lobbying in the United States and the U.S. investigations into alleged Russian meddling in the U.S. presidential election and potential collusion between Moscow and Donald Trump’s campaign staff.
“Recall these fantastic, mind-boggling photographs of Bin Laden being hosted in the White House. This is classic lobbying in the true sense of the word,” Zakharova said.
The Saudi-born Bin Laden, who was killed in a 2011 U.S. raid in Pakistan, never visited the White House. Zakharova did not specify during the program which “photographs” she had in mind, though some Russian media outlets speculated she was referring to a photoshopped image appearing to show former first lady and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton shaking hands with the Al-Qaeda leader.
That image, which has circulated online for years, is a fake. Bin Laden’s head in the photo, which was taken in May 2004, was superimposed over that of musician Shubhashish Mukherjee. The firebrand conservative site Tsargrad.tv cited Zakharova’s claim without noting that Bin Laden had never been to the White House.
Days later, Zakharova took to Facebook to say she didn’t mean to suggest that Bin Laden “personally” had visited the White House but rather “his colleagues, his advisers, so to speak.” She cited what she called her “favorite photograph” of U.S. President Ronald Reagan “hosting a Taliban delegation in the White House.”
The photograph in question, which Zakharova attached to her post, shows Reagan meeting with Afghan rebel leaders to discuss the fight against invading Soviet forces. The United States funded Afghan mujahedin fighting — alongside Bin Laden and other Arab fighters — against the Soviets; but the photograph in question of Reagan and the Afghans was taken in February 1983 — nine years before the Taliban was founded.
In October, a columnist writing for the state-run Russian news agency RIA Novosti published an angry screed decrying what he called “propaganda horror stories” about Russia that are regularly published in the Dutch media. The column, titled Muscovites Eat Rat: Who In Europe Is Writing Fake News About Russia, focused on a short November 2016 article in the Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant about a Moscow restaurateur who serves nutria — a large rodent also known as a river rat.
The columnist, Vladimir Kornilov, delivered a highly skewed and, at times, outright false version of the original article to his readers. He incorrectly suggested that the article claimed Muscovites had started eating rat meat because they were “starving” due to Western sanctions over Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and its backing of armed separatists in eastern Ukraine.
“Nonsense, you say? You are correct. But the thing is, such nonsense about Russia is periodically published in the leading newspapers in the Netherlands — a country that is regularly presented as a leader in global media-freedoms ratings,” Kornilov wrote.
He also called the De Volkskrant article “enormous,” when in fact it clocked in at fewer than 400 words.
Kornilov’s column was picked up by several prominent Russian media outlets.
The original article — one of several published in the Western media at the time about Moscow restaurateur Takhir Kholikberdiyev and his nutria-based delicacies — said nothing about Russians going hungry due to sanctions, though it noted that the punitive measures have prompted restaurants to seek alternative and domestically produced ingredients.
“It remains a mystery why, almost a year after an entirely friendly article was published, a RIA Novosti columnist needed to distort its content,” the opposition-minded Russian news site The Insider wrote.
Kovalyov, the Russian media critic, debunked the false characterizations in the RIA Novosti column in a post on his website, Noodle Remover, with the headline: If The ‘Western Media’ Didn’t Lie, No Problem, We’ll Lie For Them And Then Expose Them!
“You are attributing words to the author of the article that he didn’t write,” Kovalyov wrote, addressing Kornilov, “and on the basis of these inventions are accusing ‘the Western media’ of creating fake news about Russia!”
An Instagram account claiming to be of a retired Russian pilot of an Su-35, Russia’s top jet fighter, posted a picture purportedly of a US F-22 Raptor stealth jet flying above Syria, suggesting it was evidence that his older, bigger jet could outflank it.
The author of the post claimed to have spotted the F-22, which has all-aspect stealth and is virtually invisible to traditional radars, during combat operations in Syria.
After describing at length how these encounters usually go — there are dedicated lines of communication used to avoid conflict between Russia and the US as they operate in close proximity over Syria — the author claimed to have locked onto the F-22.
A Business Insider translation of part of the caption reads: “F-22 was arrogant and was punished after a short air battle, for which of course it got f—ed.”
Even if the images are genuine, “it doesn’t alone suggest that the Su-35S is reliably capable of detecting and intercepting the F-22,” Justin Bronk, an air-combat expert at the Royal United Services Institute, told Business Insider.
“Furthermore, the F-22 will have been aware of the Su-35’s presence since the latter took off, so it isn’t really any indication of a diminishment of the F-22’s combat advantage,” he said.
“IRST systems can be used to detect and potentially track stealth aircraft under specific conditions,” Bronk said. But that “doesn’t mean that they are anything approaching a satisfactory solution to the problem of fighting against such targets, as they have limited range compared to radar and are vulnerable to environmental disruption and degradation,” he added.
In essence, he said, an F-22 would have seen the Su-35 long before the Russians saw the American, and the S-35 most likely spotted the F-22 only because it flew up close in the first place.
A Pentagon spokesman, Eric Pahon, told Business Insider that he was “unable to verify the claims made on Instagram” but that “Russia has been conducting a concentrated disinformation campaign in Syria to sow confusion and undercut US and allied efforts there.”
US pilots can tell when their jets have been targeted by enemy weapons, so they would know whether a Su-35 pilot established any “lock.”
Russian media has since picked up the story, running it with analysis that suggests the Su-35 may be able to defeat the F-22.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is looking at ways to change how the human body manages time in order to improve wounded soldiers’ chances of survival and recovery.
DARPA has set up the Biostasis program to use molecular biology as a way to evaluate and possibly alter the speed at which living systems operate with the goal of extending the window of time between a damaging event and the collapse of those systems.
Such an extension would expand the “golden hour” — the period of time between injury or infection and the first treatment that is regarded as one of the most important factors in saving a life on the battlefield.
“At the molecular level, life is a set of continuous biochemical reactions, and a defining characteristic of these reactions is that they need a catalyst to occur at all,” Tristan McClure-Begley, the Biostasis program manager, said in a DARPA release.
“Within a cell, these catalysts come in the form of proteins and large molecular machines that transform chemical and kinetic energy into biological processes,” he added.
“Our goal with Biostasis is to control those molecular machines and get them to all slow their roll at about the same rate so that we can slow down the entire system gracefully and avoid adverse consequences when the intervention is reversed or wears off,” McClure-Begley said.
The Defense Department policy that ensures wounded troops are moved off the battlefield for care within the first hour after injury has been credited with the military’s nearly 98% survival rate, Rear Adm. Colin G. Chinn, Joint Staff surgeon, said in mid-February 2018.
But the Pentagon’s shifting focus to near-peer adversaries — ones with considerable firepower and air capabilities — has raised questions about whether the golden hour can endure in future conflicts.
The Army is looking at additional training for medics to allow them to provide care beyond the initial triage stage, bridging the gap between a combat medic’s basic knowledge and that of a professional stationed at a battlefield aid station.
DARPA’s initiative, still nascent, is looking for biochemical approaches that control how cells use energy at the level of proteins, using examples from nature of organisms that can survive in extreme conditions and drastically reducing or shutting down their metabolic processes.
“If we can figure out the best ways to bolster other biological systems and make them less likely to enter a runaway downward spiral after being damaged, then we will have made a significant addition to the biology toolbox,” McClure-Begley said.
Right now, the Biostasis program is focused on developing and testing proof-of-concept technologies. Similar Biostasis technologies could yield other medical benefits by reducing reaction times and extending the shelf life of blood and other biological products.
The US military is looking at other ways to boost the body’s ability to respond to and recovery from injury.
Early 2018, doctors and researchers at the Military Health System Research Symposium discussed regenerative medicine and its uses — in particular, the possibility of regenerating limbs, muscles, and nerve tissue.
“We’re not quite there yet,” said Army Lt. Col. David Saunders, extremity repair product manager for the US Army Medical Materiel Development Activity. “What we’re trying to do is develop a toolkit for our trauma and reconstructive surgeons out of various regenerative medicine products as they emerge to improve long-term outcomes in function and form of injured extremities.”
Saunders added that there has been progress in using synthetic grafts to spark the regrowth of muscle, nerve, vascular, and connective tissues.
The research discussed at the symposium included efforts to use fillers to help damaged bones recover and the examination of the African spiny mouse, which has the ability to shed skin to escape predators and recover, scar-free, relatively quickly.
“Extremity wounds are increasingly survivable due to the implementation of body armor and damage-control surgeries,” Saunders said. “[There are] many wonderful things emerging in the field of regenerative medicine to restore form and function to our wounded warfighters.”
The technologies in question are far from practical application. But the military, working under wartime imperatives, has made rapid medical advances in the past. In the run-up to World War II, an Army commission secured FDA approval for a flu vaccine — the first one in the US — in just two years.
Securing a port can be the type of job that hits the three Ds: dull, dirty, and dangerous.
Often, those charged with that security operate using rigid-hull inflatable boats or other small craft – often in proximity to huge vessels like Nimitz-class carriers or large amphibious assault ships.
One wrong move, and Sailors or Coast Guardsmen can end up injured – or worse.
However, the Navy may be able to reduce the risk to life and limb, thanks to a project by the Office of Naval Research called Control Architecture for Robotic Agent Command and Sensing, or “CARACaS.”
With CARACaS, a number of RHIBs or small craft can be monitored remotely, thus removing the need to put personnel at risk.
According to a U.S. Navy release, these “unmanned swarming boats” or USBs, recently carried out a demonstration in the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland, where they were able to collaborate to determine which one would approach a vessel, classify it, and then track or trail the vessel.
The USBs also provided status updates to personnel who monitored their activity.
“This technology allows unmanned Navy ships to overwhelm an adversary,” Cdr. Luis Molina of the Office of Naval Research said. “Its sensors and software enable swarming capability, giving naval warfighters a decisive edge.”
A 2014 demonstration primarily focused on escorting high-value ships in and out of a harbor, but this year, Molina noted that this year, the focus was on defending the approach to a harbor.
The biggest advantage of CARACaS? You don’t need to build new craft – it is a kit that can be installed on existing RHIBs and small boats.
“When you have a 60 meter rope, and you have to climb 120 meters…you are forced to climb to the end of your rope. From there, your team is hanging at the middle of the mountain deciding if you keep going up or back down.”
Soldiers training at the Chilean Mountain Warfare School quickly learn why it is one of the most respected climbing and survival schools anywhere. The rock climbing requires soldiers to make their own routes up cliff faces, day and night, and secure their own anchors with their climbing partners. For many of the soldiers, it is the toughest course they will ever complete.
Staff Sgt. Norberto Rodriguez, of the 10th Mountain Division’s Light Fighters School, spent five months training in the Chilean Andes alongside students from across central and South America. His experiences are unique as one of a very small number of American soldiers who have successfully completed this world-renowned mountain warfare and survival course.
“When you’re with another army for five months, you learn a lot. You learn how they work. It’s not the same as deploying with another army,” said Rodriguez.
Students at the Chilean Mountain Warfare School hike up a portion of the Chilean Andes during the winter portion of the course.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. John Doe)
While he is no stranger to the cold and snow, being stationed at Fort Drum, the winter conditions while training in the Andes were very different from the weather and geography of upstate New York. Rather than only see the obstacle, Rodriguez chose to see it as a challenge and an opportunity to better himself.
“The first time I put on a pair of skis, I took two steps and fell. Now I can ski with a weapon, no poles, and a full ruck sack while skiing down a mountain.”
Mountain warfare is not new as a discipline. At the United States Army Mountain Warfare School, they train soldiers from across the Army on how to fight effectively in mountainous areas of operation.
“Mountain warfare is an important discipline because it essentially adds another major plane of maneuver–the Z axis [for vertical infiltration]”, said Capt. Nathan Fry of the U.S. Army Mountain Warfare School in Vermont.
A student of the Chilean Mountain Warfare School stands in the snow during the winter portion of the course in the Chilean Andes mountains.
(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Kelly Simon)
Fry further established that understanding how to use terrain effectively is a major mobility enabler, especially in the vertical terrain of rugged mountains.
“To be successful in operations such as this, mountain warfare units must have soldiers who understand how to live unplugged and off-the-grid…and know how to dress for wild temperature swings, travel light enough to gain thousands of vertical feet in a single day, procure water, and avoid hazards such as rock falls or avalanches,” Fry stated.
The Chilean Mountain Warfare School uses its proximity to the Andes to its advantage when training students. Many of the students that graduate find careers in mountain rescue and specialized mountain infantry units.
As an infantryman, Rodriguez has experienced many patrols, both in training and while deployed. Whether dismounted or from a vehicle, many soldiers are often able to rely on support or resupply if it is needed during a mission. Mountain warfare units do not have readily available resupply options.
Staff Sgt. Norberto Rodriguez checks the harness on his pack mule before heading out for training at the Chilean Mountain Warfare Course.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. John Doe)
“If you finish your water, you have to know how to search for more. And if you finish your food, you have to know how to hunt for it. That’s just one of the things that you learn quick. This is mountain warfare. It’s just different. It’s its own animal,” Rodriguez said.
The five-month course challenged Rodriguez every day. Across two seasons he trained on hand-to-hand combat and is now qualified in mountain survival and ski-borne tactical operations. He learned to work with pack mules in mountainous terrain in day and night operations, and became an experienced rock and ice climber.
The harsh terrain of the Chilean Andes provides a majestic and challenging backdrop for the students of the Chilean Mountain Warfare School.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. John Doe)
“I’ve always loved the outdoors. As an infantryman, you’re doing something wrong if you don’t. But before I went to the Chilean Mountain Warfare School, I wasn’t a rock climber. I wasn’t a skier. None of those things. Those are skills they gave me,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez looks forward to sharing his new skills with his future soldiers, and shared that wherever the Army sends him, he knows he has faced larger obstacles before.
The military has very talented photographers in its ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. This is the best of what they shot this week:
The guided-missile destroyer USS Carney departs Mayport for its new homeport of Rota, Spain, Sept. 6.
An F-22 Raptor pilot from the 95th Fighter Squadron based at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., gets situated in his aircraft prior to taking off from Ämari Air Base, Estonia, Sept. 4, 2015.
Airman 1st Class Stefan Alvarez, a 3rd Combat Camera Squadron photojournalist, loads 5.56 mm ammunition into an M4 magazine in preparation for the next drill during Advanced Weapons and Tactics Training Sept. 4, 2015, in Converse, Texas.
A Critical Skills Operator with U.S. Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command uses a torch to cut through a metal door to gain entry on a building during Marine Special Operation School’s Master Breacher’s Course at Stone Bay aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Aug. 5, 2015.
1st Lt. Keith G. Lowell administers OC spray during the OC Spray Performance Evaluation Course on Camp Hansen, Okinawa, Japan, Aug. 27, 2015. This course is part of the Non-Lethal Weapons Instructor Course, which is only offered once a year to all service members on Okinawa.
U.S. Coast Guard Sector San Diego ASTs run pilots and aviation crews through Shallow Water Egress Training at Naval Base Point Loma. The training is conducted in a controlled environment to prepare flight crews on how to safely exit an overturned helicopter in the water.
A United States Navy EP-3E Aries electronic surveillance plane had a near-collision with a Chinese fighter in the East China Sea. The incident is the latest in a series of close calls between Chinese and American military assets.
According to a report by FoxNews.com, a Chinese Chengdu J-10 “Firebird” fighter armed with air-to-air missiles flew under the EP-3 and pulled up about 300 feet in front of the Navy plane, forcing it to make an evasive maneuver to avoid a collision.
The incident reportedly took place in international airspace, about 90 miles from Qingdao, headquarters of China’s North Sea Fleet.
According to GlobalSecurity.org, the North Sea Fleet includes some of China’s most powerful assets, including a number of the nuclear-powered submarines in service with the People’s Liberation Army Navy. The incident came days after Adm. John Richardson, the Chief of Naval Operations, spoke with his Chinese counterpart about North Korea.
The United States and China have been involved in a number of incidents in recent months. This past May, another pair of J-10s had a close encounter with a Navy P-3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft, coming within 200 yards of the plane, and making slow turns in front of the plane.
Also in May, the crew of an Air Force OC-135W Constant Phoenix radiation surveillance plane were on the receiving end of a “Top Gun” intercept that the Department of Defense characterized as “unprofessional.” In 2001, a J-8 “Finback” collided with an EP-3E, killing the Chinese pilot, and forcing the EP-3E to make an emergency landing at a Chinese airfield.
The United States has carried out a number of “freedom of navigation” exercises in the region, including a passage within six miles of Mischief Reef. China has threatened to fine ships that do not obey its maritime edicts in the South China Sea, a major maritime flashpoint.
While not as prominently in the news as the South China Sea, the East China Sea is also the location of territorial disputes, notably the Senkaku Islands, which both Japan and China claim.
Many efforts exist to try and tap into the potential of separating military veterans as employees and leaders, but “The Bunker” fosters veteran entrepreneurs by helping them start and grow great technology companies.
“The Bunker is a veteran-operated, veteran-focused effort with an emphasis on finding and offering entry points into the technology community,” explains Todd Connor, CEO of The Bunker, in a YouTube video about the program (linked below).
The Chicago-based program helps military veterans tap into existing government programs while also providing networking opportunities for breaking into the technology sector.
These efforts, currently encompassing seven cities, all work by providing military veterans with shared office space, networking events, and speaker series focused on growing technology companies. They also provide mentorship and help new businesses find partners interested in working with veteran-owned businesses.
While the Bunker is based out of Chicago, interested parties can apply to be part of the program in six other cities including Los Angeles, Austin, Texas, and Washington D.C. Some programs, like those in Chicago and Kansas City, are fully up and operational while others, like the one in Tacoma, Wash., are planning to launch this year.
To see companies that have successfully partnered with The Bunker or to apply to be part of the program, check out their website.The Bunker, in addition to looking for more entrepreneurs, provides the option for people to apply as mentors, interns, and business partners.
Anyone who’s ever shot an AR or M4 with a suppressor knows how much better the experience is. Hence the saying, “Once you go suppressed, you never go back.”
Previously the exclusive domain of special operations troops, the Marine Corps is experimenting with outfitting an entire infantry battalion with suppressors to fire with their M16 and M4 rifles — and even with their light, medium and heavy machine guns, like the M2 .50cal.
“What we’ve found so far is it revolutionizes the way we fight,” a top Marine Corps official told Military.com recently. “It used to be a squad would be dispersed out over maybe 100 yards, so the squad leader couldn’t really communicate with the members at the far end because of all the noise of the weapons. Now they can actually just communicate, and be able to command and control and effectively direct those fires.”
Industry and military experts agree, saying suppressors deliver tremendous advantages to troops in battle. But there’s a reason why the technology has been primarily in the kit bag of special operations troops and highly trained snipers — they’re not always “grunt proof” and can sometimes cause more problems than they solve if used improperly, experts say.
So first, let’s look at three reasons why firearm sound suppressors awesome. Then we’ll show you three reasons why they’re a potential bigtime problem.
1. Signature mitigation
One of the main benefits to suppressor use by infantry troops, military experts say, is that the suppressor helps eliminate the flash of the powder burn from a fired round from emerging from the end of the barrel. Sound suppressors are like a vehicle muffler and use a series of baffles to progressively disperse the gas and flash from a shot.
The flash from a shot is a dead giveaway of a trooper’s position to the enemy — especially at night. (DoD photo)
When a trooper fires his rifle equipped with a suppressor — which can add another 4-6 inches to the end of the barrel (more on that in our “disadvantages list”) — that’s a lot of extra room for the flash to dissipate, making it hard for a bad guy to see a Marine’s position in the dark.
“This reduces or eliminates attention drawn to the shooter, making him virtually invisible,” said one Marine infantry expert. “We like to fight at night because it helps us reduce the enemy’s ability to see us or identify us as quickly — add a suppressor and it will help increase tempo.”
2. Recoil reduction
One of the things that a lot of shooters don’t realize is that a suppressor drastically reduces a firearm’s felt recoil, one industry expert said. Trapping the gasses within the suppressor negates the need for muzzle breaks or other devices to help keep the barrel level shot after shot.
As anyone who’s had to fire a shot in anger would know, accuracy is the key to survival, and suppressors help a lot in this area.
“Suppressors reduce firing recoil significantly … reducing the speed and quantity of the gas expelled and reducing the total momentum of the matter leaving the barrel, transferring to the gun as recoil,” the Marine infantry expert told WATM. “Suppressors also increase the speed of the bullet to the target, and this will cause an increase in accuracy and the shooter’s ability to track the target longer — and if needed calmly fire another carefully aimed shot.”
3. Sound suppression
Of course, as the name implies, suppressors are primarily designed to reduce the report of a firearm. They are not “silencers” like the Hollywood image would imply. A suppressor typically reduces the sound of a rifle from 160 dB to 135 dB — just enough to make it hearing safe, but by no means deadly quiet.
But that sound reduction is enough to provide a major advantage in fighting indoors and helping small unit leaders communicate better on the battlefield. Particularly when used with a machine gun, the suppressor can expand the area a unit can communicate and operate, industry and military experts say.
“Especially in [close quarters battle] suppressors are particularly useful in enclosed spaces where the sound, flash and pressure effects of a weapon being fired are amplified,” the infantry expert said. “Such effects may disorient the shooter, affecting situational awareness, concentration and accuracy. This could also reduce the noise in the battlefield thus aiding leaders in maintaining command and control.”
And the affect on a trooper’s hearing isn’t anything to shake a stick at either, industry experts say.
“The VA spends about $10 million per year on helping veterans who’re suffering from hearing loss,” the silencer industry source said. “That’s a big concern for service members who’re being exposed to gunfire throughout their career.”
While it’s clear most agree suppressors deliver major advantages to the war fighter, it’s not all ninja moves and .5 MOA shots every time.
Look, it’s physics folks. That gas and flash from a shot has to go somewhere.
Trapped in the suppressor, the hot gas and flash of a magazine dump, for example, can heat the accessory up to as much as 500 degrees. That’s enough to melt handguards and deliver severe burns if a trooper absentmindedly handles one.
That means if grunts are using suppressors as a matter of course, they have to add yet another element to look out for when they’re manipulating their weapons.
2. Length and Weight
Adding a “can” to the end of a rifle adds extra weight and length to the firearm. That changes how the trooper operates, particularly in close quarters battle scenarios.
The whole point of equipping infantry Marines with 14.5-inch barreled M4s is the make them more maneuverable. Adding another 6 inches to their rifle puts them right back in M16 A4 land, the Marine infantry expert said.
The added weight to the end of the barrel also affects accuracy and manipulation, industry sources say. A suppressor can make a rifle “front heavy,” changing the way a shooter has to mount the rifle and balance it for an accurate shot.
Great care has to be taken in mounting a suppressor to a rifle, the industry expert told us. Marines are probably using suppressors that attach to the rifle using a quick-attach mount so that a trooper can take the suppressor off quickly if needed (the other type of attachment is to just thread it directly to the barrel).
If this attachment isn’t done right and the suppressor is just a tiny bit off from the line of the barrel, it can result in the fired bullet impacting the baffles inside the suppressor, causing it to rupture. This is known as a “baffle strike,” and while it doesn’t usually cause severe injury, it can take a gun out of a fight, the industry source said.
Additionally, on direct (gas) impingement guns like the M4 (but not like the piston-driven M27), the suppressor can force a lot of gas back into the rifle breach.
“A suppressor scenario is going to result in a much filthier gun,” the industry source said. “That could cause more malfunctions if it’s not cleaned immediately.”
Modern suppressors are awesome and make shooting a firearm more controllable, accurate and safe. Most believe outfitting service members with this technology increases their effectiveness on the battlefield. But its important to remember they do come with some drawbacks that take training and practice to avoid.
Roughing it in the field can be tough. The first few days might seem kind of fun and cool, but after a week of limited internet and electricity, no showers, and sleeping in the dirt, everyone starts itching for a few creature comforts.
But, there are a few gadgets and tools that can make life easier (without weighing down your ruck). Here are 8 of them:
1. Portable solar chargers
One of the best things for keeping a modern, connected life going in the field is solar power. Grunts at a small base or outpost aren’t going to get much access to generator power, but small solar panels can let them power a couple of devices.
The big concern on these is balancing weight to power. No one is willing to add too many pounds on just for a chance to play Pokemon Go in the field.
2. Rugged cell phones
Some manufacturers make special “military grade” phones, but troops can usually get away with a solid, mainstream phone in a great case.
The phone should have a solid state hard drive and either be waterproof or have a waterproof case. In a pinch, a standard case and an MRE beverage pouch make all phones waterproof.
A quality e-reader is standard kit for avid bibliophiles in the field and can keep a soldier or Marine in the field occupied during whatever off-duty time he or she is afforded. The best models are rugged, have low power requirements, and can hold plenty of books.
Avoid anything that is more tablet than e-reader. With only a limited amount of solar power, fancy readers with color graphics and other power hungry features can end up spending most of their time in a line for a charger.
4. Pop up bed net
These quick shelters keep out all the annoying bugs that bite and crawl over troops in the field. In areas at high risk for West Nile and other diseases, the military branches sometimes issue them. Everyone else has to buy them with personal funds.
Like everything else on this list, keep a firm eye on weight and make sure to pick a camouflaged or subdued color. The first sergeant won’t let you use a bright orange shelter in a tactical situation.
5. Chemical heating pads
Look, it gets cold in the field and hour six on overnight guard in a hasty machine gun position is much more comfortable with a small heating pad in your pockets or taped to your chest. The problem is most of them can only be used once.
That’s all right, though. Pick a small, long-lasting version rather than a big back pad or something that’ll give a short burst of heat. A single hand warmer on a patch of skin with high blood flow—try the hands, near the armpits, or anywhere with a major artery—can take the edge off the cold and last for an entire guard shift. It’ll usually even have enough juice left to help you get to sleep when you rack out afterward.
6. Small flashlights and headlamps
Headlamps with red lenses are a necessity for the field. No one wants to wear that big, D-battery flashlight the military often includes on packing lists. Opt for a smaller LED flashlight that can be carried in the pocket for directional lighting, and get a headlamp for map reading, walking around and general use.
7. Field stool
This isn’t complicated. There’s not always a hill or fallen log to sit on, so a nice field chair is a great asset. The best of these are small stools that only weigh a few ounces.
8. Steel spoon
Trying to cut through a beef patty with an MRE spoon can get dicey at times. You can hedge against broken utensils by always carrying an extra plastic spoon from an old MRE, or you can purchase a steel spoon like your grandfather carried and cut with confidence.
The EC-130H Compass Call is a modified Hercules tasked with various types of signals surveillance, interdiction, and disruption. According to the U.S. Air Force official fact sheets, “the Compass Call system employs offensive counter-information and electronic attack (or EA) capabilities in support of U.S. and Coalition tactical air, surface, and special operations forces.”
The USAF EC-130H overall force is quite small, consisting of only 14 aircraft, based at Davis-Monthan AFB (DMAFB), in Tucson, Arizona and belonging to the 55th Electronic Combat Group (ECG) and its two squadrons: the 41st and 43rd Electronic Combat Squadrons (ECS). Also based at DMAFB and serving as the type training unit is the 42nd ECS that operates a lone TC-130H trainer along with some available EC-130Hs made available by the other front-line squadrons.
The role of the Compass Call is to disrupt the enemy’s ability to command and control their forces by finding, prioritizing and targeting the enemy communications. This means that the aircraft is able to detect the signals emitted by the enemy’s communication and control gear and jam them so that the communication is denied. The original mission of the EC-130H was SEAD (Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses): the Compass Call were to jam the enemy’s IADS (Integrated Air Defense Systems) and to prevent interceptors from talking with the radar controllers on the ground (or aboard an Airborne Early Warning aircraft). Throughout the years, the role has evolved, making the aircraft a platform capable of targeting also the signals between UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) and their control stations.
According to the official data:
The EC-130H fleet is composed of a mix of Baseline 1 and 2 aircraft. The 55th ECG recently eclipsed 10,900 combat sorties and 66,500 flight hours as they provided U.S. and Coalition forces and Joint Commanders a flexible advantage across the spectrum of conflict. COMPASS CALL’s adaptability is directly attributed to its spiral upgrade acquisition strategy guided by the Big Safari Program office and Air Force Material Command’s 661st Aeronautical Systems Squadron based in Waco, Texas. Combined efforts between these agencies ensure the EC-130H can counter new, emergent communication technology.
The Block 35 Baseline 1 EC-130H provides the Air Force with additional capabilities to jam communication, Early Warning/Acquisition radar and navigation systems through higher effective radiated power, extended frequency range and insertion of digital signal processing versus earlier EC-130Hs. Baseline 1 aircraft have the flexibility to keep pace with adversary use of emerging technology. It is highly reconfigurable and permits incorporation of clip-ins with less crew impact. It promotes enhanced crew proficiency, maintenance and sustainment with a common fleet configuration, new operator interface, increased reliability and better fault detection.
Baseline 2 has a number of upgrades to ease operator workload and improve effectiveness. Clip-in capabilities are now integrated into the operating system and, utilizing automated resource management, are able to be employed seamlessly with legacy capabilities. Improved external communications allow Compass Call crews to maintain situational awareness and connectivity in dynamic operational and tactical environments.
Delivery of Baseline-2 provides the DoD with the equivalent of a “fifth generation electronic attack capability.” A majority of the improvements found in the EC-130H Compass Call Baseline-2 are classified modifications to the mission system that enhance precision and increase attack capacity. Additionally, the system was re-designed to expand the “plug-and-play” quick reaction capability aspect, which has historically allowed the program to counter unique “one-off” high profile threats. Aircraft communication capabilities are improved with expansion of satellite communications connectivity compatible with emerging DoD architectures, increased multi-asset coordination nets and upgraded data-link terminals. Furthermore, modifications to the airframe in Baseline-2 provide improved aircraft performance and survivability.
Although it’s not clear whether this ability has already been translated into an operational capability, in 2015, a USAF EC-130H Compass Call aircraft has also been involved in demos where it attacked networks from the air: a kind of in-flight hacking capability that could be particularly useful to conduct cyberwarfare missions where the Electronic Attack aircraft injects malware by air-gapping closed networks.
With about one-third of the fleet operating in support of Operation Inherent Resolve (indeed, four EC-130Hs, teaming up with the RC-135 Rivet Joint and other EA assets, are operating over Iraq and Syria to deny the Islamic State the ability to communicate), the fact that a single EC-130H (73-1590 “Axis 43”) was recently deployed from Davis Monthan AFB to Osan Air Base, South Korea, where it arrived via Yokota, on Jan. 4, 2018, it’s pretty intriguing.