Israel has begun construction on a massive underwater barrier with the Gaza Strip which it is calling “impenetrable.”
Israel and the Gaza Strip are both located along the Mediterranean Sea, and are separated by several land borders. But no barrier has ever been erected at sea.
Israel’s Defense Ministry said in a statement that building of the “impenetrable” barrier has begun at Gaza’s northern border, along the beach of a small agricultural community, or kibbutz, called Zikim. The barrier is designed to withstand harsh sea conditions for many years, according to the ministry.
A defense official said the massive barrier will consist of three security layers, which include a layer below sea level, a layer of armored stone, and a top layer of barbed wire. An additional fence will surround the entire area.
Israel’s Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said the “one-of-a-kind” security project will “effectively block any possibility of infiltrating Israel by sea.”
Leiberman added that the barrier serves to limit militant group Hamas’ strategic capabilities as tensions continue to flare along the border. At least 60 Palestinians were killed and more than 2,700 injured during violent clashes with Israeli soldiers early May 2018. On May 29, 2018, more than 27 rockets were reportedly fired from Gaza into Israel.
The decision to build the barrier was prompted by a thwarted attack by Hamas militants at sea in July 2014, during Israel’s Operation Protective Edge. Four Hamas naval operatives, referred to as frogmen, swam ashore at Zikim beach and attempted to cross into Israeli territory. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said the men were armed with automatic weapons and explosives, and sought to carry out a terror attack. The four men were later killed in combined sea, air, and land attacks by the IDF.
The IDF posted aerial footage of the thwarted attack:
A military judge at the Guantanamo Bay detention center ruled Nov. 1 that a senior legal official in charge of the defense for terrorism suspects should be held in contempt of court in a dispute that has disrupted court proceedings at the base.
Air Force Col. Vance Spath issued the ruling against Marine Corps Brig. Gen. John Baker at a hearing at the US base in Cuba.
Spath said Baker should be confined to his quarters for 21 days and fined $1,000 for releasing three defense lawyers in a terrorism case without the judge’s authorization. A senior Pentagon legal official known as the convening authority must uphold the ruling before it becomes official and Baker is expected to challenge it.
Baker was led out of the courtroom to the shock of colleagues.
“It’s incredibly outrageous. It’s disgusting,” said Michel Paradis, a lawyer with the Pentagon’s Military Commission Defense Organization. “This Air Force colonel without any legal authority is arresting the chief defense counsel and sending him to the brig over what is, in essence, an administration authority dispute.”
A Pentagon spokesman, Air Force Maj. Ben Sakrisson, said that the judge acted under rules allowing him to ensure military commission proceedings are “conducted in a fair and orderly manner” and that the convening authority was expected to decide on the sentence in the coming days.
The dispute arose during the pretrial phase in the case of Abd al Rahim al-Nashiri, a Saudi and alleged senior member of al-Qaeda who is accused of planning the 2000 attack on the USS Cole, which killed 17 crew members. He could get the death penalty if convicted.
October 12, 2000, suicide terrorists exploded a small boat alongside the USS Cole—a Navy Destroyer—as it was refueling in the Yemeni port of Aden. Photo form FBI.
Baker excused three defense attorneys assigned by the Pentagon to defend al-Nashiri on ethical issues that arose out of what they said was a breach of the attorney-client privilege. Officials have not disclosed the details of the allege breach, saying the information is classified.
The decision by the Marine general disrupted proceedings at the base scheduled for this week because the remaining defense lawyer said he lacked the experience necessary to carry on. Spath had declined to postpone the hearing.
Lawyers for the Military Commission Defense Organization have asked a judge in Washington to issue an emergency order halting the hearing this week until the issue is resolved.
The Air Force’s new KC-46 Pegasus tanker landed on the flight line at France’s Paris-Le Bourget Airport June 15, 2019, ahead of its public debut at the air show.
But the overseas unveiling comes on the heels of a new government watchdog report outlining new concerns for the KC-46 program, and amid continued challenges with manufacturer Boeing Co. regarding assembly line inspection.
Dr. Will Roper, assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, technology and logistics, said it will take some time for the new inspection process to become standard at Boeing’s production facility. The inspections are supposed to correct actions that set back the program earlier this year.
The Air Force in April 2019 cleared Boeing to resume aircraft deliveries following two stand-downs over foreign object debris (FOD) — trash, tools, nuts and bolts, and other miscellaneous items — found scattered inside the aircraft.
A KC-46 Pegasus.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jeremy Wentworth)
Roper on June 17, 2019, said more FOD issues were discovered within the last week.
“It’s slowing down deliveries,” Roper said here during the airshow.
Currently, the production is averaging one aircraft delivery to the Air Force per month, well below the rate of delivery the service had expected, Roper said.
“We’re currently not accepting at three airplanes per month, which was the original plan. But we’re not going to be pushing on a faster delivery schedule in a way that would put the rigor of the inspection at risk,” he said.
All aircraft under assembly are supposed to be swept routinely for debris. Loose objects are dangerous because they can cause damage over time.
The first halt in accepting KC-46 deliveries occurred in February, and the decision to halt acceptance a second time was made March 23, 2019, officials said at the time.
“We’re just going to have to stay focused, have to continue verifying through these inspections, and what we hope we’ll see is that [detection will happen earlier] for total foreign object debris to come down,” Roper said.
On top of the FOD issue, a new Government Accountability Office report says that the KC-46 — which hashad its share of issues even before the FOD discoveries — has a long road ahead for fixing other setbacks that still plague the aircraft.
The GAO found that while both Boeing and the Air Force are aware of or have begun implementing solutions to fix the aircraft, the repeated repairs and recurring delays in the program will likely cause other hiccups in the company’s delivery requirement, according to a report released June 12, 2019.
The KC-46 Pegasus deploys the centerline boom for the first time Oct. 9, 2015.
(Boeing photo by John D. Parker)
As previously reported, one of the main issues surrounds poorly-timed testing. But GAO said a new issue lies with delivery of the wing refueling pods, which would allow for simultaneous refueling of two Navy or allied aircraft, or for aircraft that do not use a boom system.
Since the company did not start the process for testing the wing refueling pods on time, GAO found, it is not expected to meet the delivery date for the pods, nearly 34 months after the delivery was originally planned.
“Boeing continued to have difficulty providing design documentation needed to start Federal Aviation Administration testing for the wing aerial refueling pods over the past year, which caused the additional delays beyond what [GAO] reported last year,” the report said. “Specifically, program officials anticipate that the Air Force will accept the first 18 aircraft by August 2019, and nine sets of wing aerial refueling pods by June 2020 — which together with two spare engines constitute the contractual delivery requirement contained in the development contract.”
GAO officials noted the Air Force still grapples with other previously-known problems with the aircraft. For example, the service said in January 2019 said it would accept the tanker, which is based on the 767 airliner design, despite the fact it has a number of deficiencies, mainly with its Remote Vision System.
The RVS, which is made by Rockwell Collins and permits the in-flight operator to view the refueling system below the tanker, has been subject to frequent software glitches. The first tankers were delivered in spite of that problem.
The systemic issue, which will require a software and hardware update, may take three to four years to fix, officials have said.
“The KC-46 boom currently requires more force to compress it sufficiently to maintain refueling position,” the report said. “Pilots of lighter receiver aircraft, such as the A-10 and F-16, reported the need to use more power to move the boom forward while in contact with the boom to maintain refueling position.”
An A-10 Thunderbolt II.
Pilots also pointed out the same power is needed to disconnect from the boom, which could damage the aircraft or the boom upon release.
The solution requires a hardware change and “will then take additional time to retrofit about 106 aircraft in lots 1 to 8,” GAO said. “The total estimated cost for designing and retrofitting aircraft is more than 0 million.”
It’s unclear if the latest findings will impede prospects for future international sales, especially at the Paris air show.
Jim McAleese, expert defense industry analyst and founder of McAleese Associates, said that the KC-46 is still the U.S.’s latest aviation program, and international partners will be curious about it.
“Now that [the Air Force] is accepting deliveries, KC-46 is high visibility for international sales,” McAleese recently told Military.com.
Acting Air Force Secretary Matt Donovan on June 17, 2019, said its presence is key to showing U.S. capabilities abroad regardless of “minor” issues.
“KC-46 really is a great airplane,” Donovan said. “What we’re talking about here are sort of minor things when you take a look at the whole capability of the airplane.”
A KC-46 Pegasus.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Yasuo Osakabe)
Roper added, “The foreign object debris is not a reflection of the end-state performance. We’re not happy with how FOD is being handled … but once we get the FOD out of the airplane the hard way, our operators are getting good performance out in the field.”
The Air Force has received six KC-46 tankers at McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas, and five at Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma, according to a service release.
Designated aircraft and aircrew at McConnell earlier this month began Initial Operational Testing and Evaluation (IOTE), which will provide a glimpse “of how well the aircraft performs under the strain of operations,” the release said.
“As the KC-46 program proceeds with IOTE, participation in the Paris Air Show and other international aviation events serves as [an] opportunity to increase understanding of ally and partner capabilities and proficiencies, while promoting standardization and interoperability of equipment,” the Air Force said.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Sit across the table from Spc. Sergo Dzamashvili for just a few seconds and you’ll see a basic outline emerge fairly quickly. His manners and easy smile, the way he leans forward when he talks, and — not least of all, of course — his affection for Starbucks Doubleshot energy drinks make him the typical — almost archetypal — 30-year-old soldier; busy, eager, and always ready for the next task, the next challenge. But dig a little deeper and you will see, quite clearly, the details that color the world inside that simple sketch. To map the entire terrain, however, you’ll need to travel some 15,000 miles.
“I always wanted to be a soldier,” says Dzamashvili, sitting in the offices of the 21st Signal Brigade on a warm September morning. “When I was a kid that was always something I thought would be cool, being a soldier for the American Army.”
Those words, and indeed his affinity for the Army and America as a whole, are repeated so often and with such calm conviction that he could almost double as a motivational speaker; one specializing, perhaps, in writing simple daily mantras for busy professionals to read on their daily commutes. Instead, Dzamashvili is a board-certified medical doctor who enlisted in the Army just last year, in early 2018. It’s a commitment, he says, that doubles as a gift to the country that gave him opportunities he never would have had in his native Georgia — a tiny, still-emerging country located at the intersection of Western Asia and Eastern Europe.
U.S. Army Spc. Sergo Dzamashvili speaks with a coworker at his desk located in the offices of the 21st Signal Brigade.
(Photo by Mr. Ramin A. Khalili)
“Honestly,” says Dzamashvili, “the reason I wanted to become an American soldier is because America has given my family everything.”
The first 5,000 miles
“When I was born in Georgia,” says Dzamashvili, reaching back to the late 1980s, “it was still part of the U.S.S.R. This was just before the U.S.S.R. split up, and so there was instability and there was upheaval … there was an ongoing fight for power.”
It was that atmosphere of decline that Dzamashvili’s father, Konstantin, sought to flee when he reached out to a friend living in Chicago for help in the early 1990s. Political and cultural strife in the country of — at the time — barely more than four million people had led to the breakdown of living conditions and, in some cases, the basic application of law. And so Konstantin, a neurologist by trade, was hoping America could provide safety for his wife, son, and young twin daughters.
“My father was waiting in breadlines for hours just to feed the family,” says Dzamashvili. “So when he came here, it was for a better life.”
But that opportunity came with a catch. In order to pay for his family’s move to America, Konstantin had to travel to the U.S. alone first in order to save up enough money. He wound up bunking with that same buddy in Chicago for a year —eventually re-starting his medical career at 40-years old — before bringing the rest of the family to Illinois.
Says Dzamashvili of his father, “He was out there for a year, alone, while we were still in Georgia, until he had passed all his boards and started his residency program, which would then fund us coming over here.”
And so at age five, Sergo was finally in the place he wanted to be all along … for a little while, at least.
Return to Georgia
For Sergo, it all started with his grandfather — his father’s father. He was the catalyst, the inception point. He passed away when Konstantin was in his late teens and so Sergo never got a chance to meet him, but he did have pictures — volumes of mementos from Georgia.
“I would always hear stories about his bravery,” says Sergo, “about what kind of man he was. From early on, I was always intrigued — the way he was standing there in his [military] uniform with all these medals.”
Those pictures, coupled with Sergo’s newfound affinity for the United States, stuck with him during his formative years and carried through to his entrance into medical school — which he ultimately chose to attend at David Tvildiani Medical University back in Georgia.
U.S. Army Spc. Sergo Dzamashvili (foreground, right) conducts Army Warrior Tasks (AWT) drills during the 21st Signal Brigade Best Warrior Competition 2019.
(US Army photo by Sgt. Raul Pacheco)
The decision to both leave home (to leave again, in a manner of speaking) and reconnect with family roots was daunting to say the least, as Georgia had been rife with the same political instability from Dzamashvili’s youth up until pro-democratic forces rose to power in the mid-2000s. The tiny, burgeoning country was still — much like Sergo at the time — moving through its adolescent years.
There was contrasting comfort, however, in the medical training itself. Turns out Dzamashvili’s chosen university not only came highly recommended from family friends practicing medicine in Chicago, it was designed specifically to cater to regional students who wanted to ultimately enter U.S.-based medical professions. To that end, all university textbooks were written in English and, further, the overall cost of schooling was substantially less than a U.S.-based medical education — all perks unavailable to his father just a decade-or-so earlier. Ironically, Georgia would eventually, in 2014, become home to the U.S. Army Medical Research Directorate-Georgia, a subordinate command of the USAMRDC’s Walter Reed Army Institute of Research.
“Going back to Georgia really brought me that perspective,” says Dzamashvili. “There was a long time where my family wouldn’t go back, even though we had a chance to go back in the 90s.”
Just twelve years after touching down in America’s Heartland — and just a few years after becoming an American citizen — Sergo was back on a plane at age 17 for a new and different journey.
Homecoming, part II
When you ask him how Georgians speak — ask about the language they use, the way they talk, the casual slang terms they use, even — Dzamashvili is quick to make it clear that Georgia is a singular and unique entity; a hard-fought identity that he clearly still respects.
“Georgians have their own language,” he says quickly, almost as a sly-but-gentle rebuke to those who think the country may still be hindered by its turbulent past in any way. “They have their own alphabet, everything — and so I had to re-learn how to read and write, essentially, when I went back for school.”
Dzamashvili’s university stay would last for six years until his graduation in 2013; at which point he’d not only navigated the rigors of initial medical training, but had reached a poignant understanding of the country of his birth (“people there are very hospitable,” he says), gained a greater understanding of the government’s democratic efforts (“I see hope,” he says), and, with regards to cultural differences, had also determined that Georgia had substantial culinary shortcomings as compared to the U.S. (“I did miss burritos over there,” he says).
U.S. Army Spc. Sergo Dzamashvili assigned to HHC, 21st Signal Brigade, conducts M9 weapons qualification as part of the 21st Signal Brigade Best Warrior Competition 2019.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Raul Pacheco)
Touching back down in Illinois, Dzamashvili eventually passed his medical board examinations, shadowed professional doctors, and even performed clinical research at Edward Hines, Jr. VA Hospital. But when it came time for residency training, instead of waiting a year to attend either Loyola University of Chicago or the University of Illinois at Chicago, he opted for a different path: the U.S. Army.
“Screw waiting,” says Dzamashvili of his mindset at the time. “I’m going to join the Army. I was always told the fastest way to get into the Army was to just go and enlist anyways, so that didn’t bother me to go enlist for a couple of years as long as I got into the medical field.”
Desire, meet destiny
Now, after thirty years and medical training efforts on two different continents, Sergo Dzamashvili is both a medical doctor and a member of the U.S. Army; his first assignment is here at Fort Detrick. His unique qualifications have bred an understandable eagerness to move forward — a chomping at the bit, of sorts — as, indeed, he’s already started the process of entering the Army’s medical occupation; taking the steps required to become a physician. But if you think the man who’s waited nearly three decades to realize his dream is put off by a little time in the waiting room, then you don’t know Sergo.
“My ultimate goal is to practice medicine in the Army,” says Dzamashvili. “That’s what I want, to give back. I’d like to serve for at least eight years, to give back that entire time in service.”
Just how long it will take to reach that goal is yet to be seen, though it should come as no surprise that Dzamashvili has already attempted to plot the arc of his military medical career even before his training has been completed. Even now, serving as a Human Resources Specialist in the S-1 Office until his next assignment, he finds in each day’s shift what so many others would gladly welcome into their own lives: a sense of purpose, the feeling of belonging, and the satisfaction of a job that truly has meaning.
In the end — if these kinds of stories can have an end — the service career of Sergo Dzamashvili is, in reality, just beginning. It would be an exaggeration, perhaps, to say that Dzamashvili has already lived multiple lives; though it wouldn’t be such a stretch to say that’s the truth, either. In any capacity, his life’s work as currently constructed already stands as an impressive feat; a soldier coupling the desire to serve America with the talent required to make a lasting impact.
Not too bad for a typical 30-year-old.
Says Dzamashvili, “If there’s nothing else I do in my life, I can always say I was a soldier. That’s the way I look at it. If there’s nothing else that I accomplish, I will always know that I served my country.”
Mike Pompeo, the head of President Donald Trump’s CIA, and his nominee for secretary of state, just confirmed that the US killed hundreds of Russians in an intense battle in Syria in February 2018.
Asked about what steps Pompeo would take as secretary of state to hold Russia accountable for its interference in the 2016 US election, he said that more work was to be done on sanctions to send Russian President Vladimir Putin a message. But, he said, Putin may have gotten another, clearer message already.
“In Syria now, a handful of weeks ago, the Russians met their match,” said Pompeo. “A couple hundred Russians were killed.”
The US had previously only confirmed killing 100 or so pro-Syrian regime forces, but multiple outlets reported the number was as high as 300 and that the soldiers were Russian military contractors.
Russia has used military contractors, or unofficial forces, in military operations before as a possible means of concealing the true cost of fighting abroad in places like Ukraine and Syria.
The February 2018 battle was reportedly incredibly one-sided, as a massive column of mostly-Russian pro-Syrian regime forces approached an established US position in Syria and fired on the location.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Craig Jensen)
The US responded with a massive wave of airstrikes that crippled the force before it could retreat, and then cleaned up the remaining combatants with strafing runs from Apache helicopters.
Phone calls intercepted by a US-funded news organization allegedly captured Russian military contractors detailing the humiliating defeat. “We got our f— asses beat rough, my men called me … They’re there drinking now … many have gone missing … it’s a total f— up,” one Russian paramilitary chief said, according to Polygraph.info, the US-funded fact-checking website.
France 24 published an interview in February 2018, with a man it described as a Russian paramilitary chief who said more Russians were volunteering to fight in Syria for revenge after the embarrassing loss.
Despite how ridiculous some rules and laws may seem, they only have to exist because someone actually did something so ridiculous. That’s why it’s still legal to rain death from above, just as long as that death isn’t actual rain. In this case, the United States is the perpetrator, seeding the clouds in Vietnam to keep the North Vietnamese from infiltrating the South.
“This weather is crazy, as if it’s happening to us on purpose!”
The idea is actually a pretty great one. Instead of bombing the Ho Chi Minh Trail into submission, they would simply render it unusable. With Operation Popeye, the United States Air Force seeded the clouds over the Ho Chi Minh Trail in an effort to make the Vietnamese monsoon season last longer, keep the trail muddy and treacherous, and prevent the North from moving men and material into South Vietnam.
From Thailand, the United States used C-130 and F-4C aircraft armed with lead iodide and silver iodide to spread into clouds above the trail. The chemicals condensed the water in those clouds, forming precipitation in the form of rain. They wanted to stop up the dirt roads used by enemy trucks and men, cause landslides, wash out river crossings, and keep the roads impassable.
The 54th Weather Reconnaissance Squadron contributed to the 2,602 cloud seeding missions flown during Popeye.
That’s a lot of rain.
“I never even imagined that’s what that group was doing,” recalls Brian Heckman, a former Air Force pilot, “until we got over there and showed up for the briefing and then they told us what the project was all about. We just went around looking for clouds to seed.”
And so Popeye continued with gusto, even though Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird had no knowledge of the program and even testified to the “fact” that there were no such programs in Vietnam before Congress. The public didn’t find out about the program until the release of The Pentagon Papers, published by the New York Times and other newspapers in 1971. That’s how the Environmental Modification Convention came to pass in 1977.
Chemtrails were still totally legal.
Its full name was actually the Convention on the Prohibition of Military or Any Other Hostile Use of Environmental Modification Techniques, restricting “widespread, long-lasting or severe effects as the means of destruction, damage or injury.” It basically says that any manipulation of weather (aka “environmental modification”) as a means of destruction in wartime is strictly prohibited.
The United States was an early signatory to this agreement.
In the event of a conflict on the Korean Peninsula, U.S. and South Korean forces will root and and destroy the regime of Kim Jong-un. The need to properly secure the country’s weapons of mass destruction will necessitate an invasion of North Korea, much of which will come by sea. Leading the way will be the U.S. Marine Corps (USMC). Here are five USMC weapon systems necessary in Korean War II.
5. Amphibious Assault Vehicle
Any seaborne landing by the Marine infantry will involve Amphibious Assault Vehicles (AAVs). First introduced in the early 1970s, AAVs carry up to twenty-one marine infantry and their equipment. Their amphibious nature means they can float out of the well deck of a U.S. Navy ship such as Wasp-class assault ships, swim to shore on their own power and disgorge troops on the beachhead. Alternately, it can use its tracks to transport infantry farther inland.
AAVs are capable of traveling up to eight miles an hour in the water and up to forty-five miles an hour on land. They are lightly armed, typically carrying both a 40mm grenade launcher or .50 caliber machine gun. AAVs are lightly armored, at best capable of repelling 14.5mm machine gun fire or artillery shrapnel. This, combined with their large troop carrying capacity makes them vulnerable on the modern battlefield.
4. MV-22 Osprey
Modern amphibious assaults move marines as much by air as by sea. Aircraft can move faster and farther than AAVs and landing craft, even landing miles away from the nearest beachhead. This vastly increases the amount of terrain enemy forces must actively defend.
A MV-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft can take off and land vertically like a helicopter, rotate its engine nacelles ninety degrees forward, and fly like a conventional aircraft. This gives it the best advantages of both types of aircraft, all the while carrying up to twenty-four combat-ready Marines, support weapons, supplies or vehicles. The Osprey has a top speed of 277 miles an hour, making it a third faster than helicopters in its weight class. It has range of up to 500 miles—or much more with midair refueling.
In a North Korea scenario a marine air assault force led by MV-22s would land a force miles from the enemy beachhead, presenting the enemy commander with the dilemma of which landing to respond to. After a securing the beachhead MV-22s could lead the way, leapfrogging from one landing zone to another, the enemy not knowing if it intends to land five or five hundred miles away.
3. CH-53E Super Stallion
Until an amphibious invasion force seizes an airfield or port, reinforcements and supplies will have to come in via helicopter. While the MV-22 Osprey can transport infantry, it’s limited in the size and weight of the cargo it can carry.
The CH-53E Super Stallion, the largest helicopter in U.S. military service, is capable of carrying a sixteen-ton load, fifty-five marines or any combination thereof. The helicopter has a typical range of 500 miles, but heavy loads cut that down considerably. Fortunately it has a midair refueling probe, giving it almost unlimited range.
The USMC uses Super Stallions to haul heavy equipment, particularly artillery and LAV-25 light armored vehicles from U.S. Navy ships at sea to a secure airhead. The helicopter is also used to move casualties off the battlefield to medical facilities on navy ships.
The Light Armored Vehicle, or LAV-25 is a eight-by-eight armored vehicle that mounts a 25mm M242 Bushmaster cannon. The vehicle can carry up to four scouts to conduct armed reconnaissance missions. The LAV-25 is unique in being capable of landing by sea via LCAC hovercraft, under its own power via waterjet propulsion, or by CH-53 heavy lift helicopter. LAVs are assigned to USMC armored reconnaissance battalions and variants include antitank, command and control, mortar, logistics carrier and recovery versions.
The LAV-25’s combination of firepower and portability makes it dangerous foe for those opposing an amphibious invasion. The LAV-25 can arrive by sea or air, and once on location it can quickly roll out to perform armed reconnaissance missions. LAV-25s were recently upgraded to the standard which included LAV-25A2 included improved armor protection, improved suspension, a new fire suppression system, and a new thermal imaging system for the commander and gunner.
1. High Mobility Armored Rocket System (HIMARS)
The acquisition of the HIMARS rocket system in the mid-2000s gave marine artillery a big boost. HIMARS takes the proven 227mm rocket system from the U.S. Army’s tracked MLRS system and puts it on a five-ton truck, providing a firing platform for up to six rockets (or one jumbo-sized ATACMS rocket) at a time.
HIMARS can be quickly moved ashore via Landing Craft Air Cushion hovercraft, and within minutes can carry out precision fire missions to ranges of up to forty-three miles. The Gimler, or Guided Multiple Launch System – Unitary (GMLS-U) GPS-guided rocket allows HIMARS to engage targets with first round precision. Recently, the marines experimented with chaining HIMARS trucks to the flight deck of amphibious assault ships, providing invasion troops with their own long range, extremely precise naval artillery support.
As President Donald Trump touted a new era of diplomacy with the North Korean regime, a classified intelligence assessment appeared to tell a different story, according to several US intelligence officials.
The assessment revealed that, in recent months, North Korea had upped its production of fuel for nuclear weapons at several secret sites, according to over a dozen intelligence officials cited in an NBC News report published June 29, 2018. The officials said they believe North Korean leader Kim Jong Un may be trying to conceal the secret facilities from the US.
“Work is ongoing to deceive us on the number of facilities, the number of weapons, the number of missiles,” one senior US intelligence official said to NBC News. “We are watching closely.”
According to five US officials cited by NBC News, the North Korean regime was increasing production of enriched uranium, even as relations with the US improved following the 2018 Winter Olympics. And since the leaders of both countries held a summit in Singapore in mid-June, 2018, the Trump administration has already delivered some concessions to the North.
Trump halted Ulchi Freedom Guardian, a major joint military drill with South Korea that was scheduled for August 2018. The military exercises have been a point of contention for North Korea, which sees them as a direct threat. The US and South Korea treat the drills as defensive measures.
During the US-North Korea summit, the first such meeting between a sitting US president and a North Korean leader, the two men pledged to “work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.” It was a vast departure from 2017 when both Trump and Kim were openly threatening nuclear war. But the broad and nondescript document fell short of a specific plan or goal, and was criticized by foreign-policy experts.
And though North Korea took several steps to indicate it was in the process of dismantling its weapons program, such as blowing up tunnels leading to a nuclear-test site, critics who monitored the development say it may have all been for show.
“There’s no evidence that they are decreasing stockpiles, or that they have stopped their production,” a US official familiar with the intelligence report told NBC. “There is absolutely unequivocal evidence that they are trying to deceive the US.”
“There are lots of things that we know that North Korea has tried to hide from us for a long time,” another intelligence official added.
The intelligence report may also confirm the theory held by many arms experts: that North Korea possesses a second, undisclosed nuclear enrichment facility. In 2008, North Korea signaled it would curb its nuclear program by televising the destruction of a water-cooling tower at a plutonium extraction facility, only to announce that it would “readjust and restart” in 2013.
The report also calls into question Trump’s claim that North Korea no longer poses as a nuclear threat to the US: “There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea,” Trump tweeted in June, 2018, after returning from his meeting with Kim. “Meeting with Kim Jong Un was an interesting and very positive experience. North Korea has great potential for the future!”
President Donald Trump on May 29, 2018, praised the “solid response” to a letter he sent North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in which he canceled a planned summit between the two leaders.
After Trump sent the letter on May 24, 2018, many of Asia’s top negotiators spent the weekend in a flurry of diplomatic activity with the goal of saving the summit, which had been scheduled for June 12, 2018, in Singapore.
“We have put a great team together for our talks with North Korea,” Trump tweeted on May 29, 2018. “Meetings are currently taking place concerning Summit, and more. Kim Young Chol, the Vice Chairman of North Korea, heading now to New York. Solid response to my letter, thank you!”
When Trump called off the summit, citing North Korean anger and hostility, it came as a shock to US allies and journalists alike.
Two days later, Kim had a surprise meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, an attempt to get the summit back on track.
In talking to South Korea, North Korea seemed to put aside its anger and recent hostility, agreeing to attend meetings with Seoul it had canceled in protest of US-South Korean military exercises. It also reaffirmed its aim for denuclearization.
Notably present at the meeting was Kim Yong Chol, a high-ranking official with ties to North Korea’s spy service.
Kim Yong Chol has been singled out for sanctions by the US. He is accused of masterminding an attack on a South Korean navy ship that killed 46 people and of involvement in the 2014 cyberattack on Sony Pictures.
If Kim Yong Chol arrives in New York, it will represent the highest-level North Korean to visit the US since 2000, NK News reported.
“At best, this will give US officials a better understanding of North Korea’s position and steer the summit in a more realistic direction,” a former State Department Korea Desk officer, Mintaro Oba, told NK News. “At worst, tense meetings will cloud or poison the atmosphere, calling the summit into question once again. It’s hard to tell which direction is more plausible right now.
“We can also probably expect that some in Washington may raise concerns about the optics of meeting with an official with Kim Yong Chol’s past of provocations.”
But Trump’s team, previously thought to be unprepared for the summit, also saw a big change over the last weekend of May 2018.
The US ambassador to the Philippines, Sung Kim, traveled to North Korea for talks. He took part in denuclearization talks with North Korea a decade ago and is highly regarded in that capacity.
With the summit’s originally scheduled date now less than two weeks away, Trump’s letter to Kim has whipped the region into a flurry of activity that appears for now to have saved diplomacy.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Early August 2018, a decorated US Army Special Force soldier was arrested and charged in relation to an attempt to smuggle 90 pounds of cocaine from Colombia to Florida, but he may just be one player in a multimillion-dollar operation.
Army Master Sgt. Daniel Gould was arrested in Florida on Aug. 13, 2018, in connection with an attempt to bring 90 pounds of cocaine into the US on a military aircraft, defense officials told NBC News early August 2018. That haul would be worth several million dollars on US streets.
Gould was assigned to the 7th Special Forces Group based at Eglin Air Force Base in northwest Florida. The group’s area of responsibility is Latin America south of Mexico and the waters surrounding Central and South America. The unit is heavily involved in counter-drug operations in the region.
Gould is a veteran of Afghanistan, where he earned a Silver Star, the Army’s third-highest award, for fending off an ambush in late 2008.
His arrest came after US Drug Enforcement Administration agents found more than 90 pounds of cocaine in two backpacks aboard a military airplane that was bound for Florida. A military official told NBC News that a service member found the drugs and alerted authorities while the plane was still in Colombia.
A US sniper team assigned to the Army’s 7th Special Forces Group competes in an unknown-distance event in Colombia during the Fuerzas Comando competition, July 26, 2014.
(US Army photo by Master Sgt. Alejandro Licea)
Gould had been on vacation in the city of Cali in southwest Colombia the week prior to his arrest. He was already back in the US when the drugs were discovered. Officials told NBC News that someone else put the two backpacks on the plane in Colombia but could not say whether that person was complicit in the smuggling attempt.
Now the investigation has reportedly turned to finding out what Gould was doing in Colombia during that vacation, whether others were involved in the smuggling attempt, and if this plot was undertaken by a larger network that has previously been linked to US military personnel.
According to an Aug. 26, 2018 report by Colombian newspaper El Tiempo, DEA investigators in Colombia are focusing on establishing who may have helped Gould acquire and transport the cocaine and whether military personnel involved in getting the drugs onto a plane knew what was going on.
Gould reportedly planned to leave Colombia on a commercial flight on Aug. 12, 2018, connecting through Miami before arriving at Fort Walton Beach, which is just a few minutes’ drive from Eglin Air Force Base.
However, according to El Tiempo, he changed his plans abruptly, switching his final destination to Pensacola, about an hour’s drive from his original destination — which may indicate he was aware the drugs had been discovered.
Investigators in Colombia are also trying to establish whether Gould had any connection to a trafficking network uncovered after the Oct. 2011 arrest of Lemar Burton, a US sailor caught with 11 pounds of cocaine in his luggage as he boarded a flight from Colombia to Europe.
Burton, assigned to Sigonella Naval Air Station in Sicily at the time, was in Colombia on personal leave, the US Embassy in Bogota said after his arrest. His arrest prompted an investigation that uncovered an international smuggling ring operating out of airports in Cali and Bogota, moving drugs to Europe.
The ring relied on couriers, mainly foreigners, to carry drugs in parcels like suitcases with false bottoms. In the months after Burton’s arrest, arrests were made in the US and Colombia. Several other US citizens were involved.
A Blackhawk helicopter supports the US Army’s 7th Special Forces Group and Naval Special Warfare members during an exercise at in El Salvador, Dec. 2, 2016.
(US Army photo by Master Sgt. Kerri Spero)
The drugs Burton and Gould were attempting to transport were sourced to Buenaventura and Tumaco, two main drug-producing regions on Colombia’s Pacific coast that are part of the area in which Gould’s unit was supporting anti-drug operations, according to El Tiempo.
A source with knowledge of the case told El Tiempo that Colombian authorities had not been given information about the investigation and that the military aircraft in question did not leave from a Colombian base. A military source told the paper that it was not clear which US plane in Colombia was involved.
A DEA spokesman said the agency does not comment on ongoing investigations. A spokeswoman for the US Attorney for the Northern District of Florida said the office had no public information to offer about the case.
A spokesman for US Army Special Operations Command, which oversees the 7th Special Operations Group, said a service member was being investigated and that the DEA was leading the probe but declined to comment further. The command has said it was cooperating with law-enforcement on the case.
The investigation is ongoing and the nature of Gould’s involvement remains uncertain, but US military personnel getting involved in drug smuggling, particularly in Colombia, is not unheard of.
“It’s not unusual for servicemen to take advantage of the drug trade to make a lot of money,” said Mike Vigil, former head of international operations for DEA.
They “have access to these foreign countries. They have contacts, and a lot of times they actually smuggle the drugs on military aircraft,” Vigil added, pointing to cases he was involved in during the 1970s in which US service members smuggled heroin from Southeast Asia to the US, often carrying it in their personal luggage.
Authorities are trying to determine the timeline, the source of supply, and other people who may have been involved, Vigil said, adding that Gould may have gotten involved through his official duties or may have been connected with criminal groups, like remnants of the Cali or Valle de Cauca cartels, through personal contacts.
The smuggling attempt uncovered this month seemed “very sloppy,” suggesting those involved were “just getting into the business,” Vigil said.
“Anybody with a great knowledge [of trafficking] would’ve used a different transportation method or covered their tracks a little better.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Trump’s speech focused largely on the long history of North Korea’s human-rights abuses, though Trump departed from his past rhetoric by offering North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his people “a path to much better future” if the country abandoned its nuclear ambitions.
But returning to typical form, Trump also brought up the US’s victories over ISIS and its nuclear submarines in the region. Trump said misinterpreting the US’s restraint for weakness would be a “fatal miscalculation” by North Korea, and he called on the international community to implement the UN’s strict sanctions on Pyongyang.
North Korean officials, who spoke with CNN about the speech, were not thrilled. “We don’t care about what that mad dog may utter because we’ve already heard enough,” they said.
The officials reaffirmed North Korea’s commitment to building nuclear weapons, bringing up the US’s “nuclear aircraft carriers and strategic bombers” before promising to “counter those threats by bolstering the power of justice in order to take out the root cause of aggression and war.”
North Korean officials have repeatedly said they will not look to negotiate with the US until they complete their country’s nuclear weapons program. At the same time, the US remains intent on preventing North Korea from perfecting a nuclear-equipped missile capable of reaching the US mainland.
On Wednesday, Trump arrived in China to talk to President Xi Jinping, the most powerful Chinese leader since Chairman Mao, about North Korea among other things. China, North Korea’s main ally and trading partner, has been unusually helpful in the US’s recent push to increase sanctions on Pyongyang.
China on Nov. 19 again sent bombers and intelligence-gathering aircraft through international airspace between the islands of Okinawa and Miyako in the East China Sea, part of what Beijing has called continued “regular” exercises in the area.
Japan scrambled fighters in response, though no violation of Japanese airspace was detected.
Four H-6 bombers and two intelligence-gathering aircraft flew a route that took them through the Miyako Strait and back. The flight was believed to be the first through the passageway since August, when six Chinese bombers flew near Kansai’s Kii Peninsula for the first time.
China, under powerful President Xi Jinping, has embarked on a large-scale campaign of modernizing its military — especially its air force and navy — as it seeks to project power farther from its shores.
In a speech during a twice-a-decade Communist Party congress in October, Xi said China is aiming to become a “world-class” force that safeguards the country’s “territorial integrity.”
Beijing is embroiled in a dispute in the East China Sea with Tokyo over the Japanese-administered Senkaku Islands, known as the Diaoyus in China.
However, the Defense Ministry in Tokyo said last month it had scrambled fighter jets through September — the first half of fiscal 2017 — a total of 287 times, down 120 times from the same time period in the previous year.
Despite the fall, the ministry documented an uptick in “unusual” flights, including the August drill in skies off the Kii Peninsula.
Last year, the Air Self-Defense Force scrambled fighters 1,168 times, the most since records began being kept in 1958, besting the previous high of 944 — a figure that came at the height of the Cold War in 1984.
China’s military has also sent aircraft, including bombers and fighters, on long-range missions over the Bashi Channel and the Miyako Strait as well as through the Tsushima Strait from the East China Sea into the Sea of Japan and back.
In July, the Chinese military sent ships and planes through international but politically sensitive waters and airspace near Japan as part of its continuing push to hone its ability to operate further from its shores.
At the time, the Chinese Defense Ministry said Japan “should not make a fuss about nothing or over-interpret, it will be fine once they get used to it.”
Beijing has blasted Japan for hyping the flights, calling them part of “regular” drills, while Tokyo has said it will keep a steady eye on the “expanding and increasing” actions of the Chinese military in the area.
It’s impossible to predict whether you’ll be the victim of a cyberattack, but you can drastically reduce the odds of one in a few simple steps.
The vast majority of people whose accounts are hacked don’t take basic precautions to protect them, making them “low-hanging fruit,” according to Alex Heid, chief research and development officer at cybersecurity firm SecurityScorecard.
“If you’re not thinking about these things, you have a nice car and you’re leaving it unlocked in a bad neighborhood. And the internet is the worst neighborhood there is, in my opinion,” Heid told Business Insider.
Follow these expert-recommended steps to avoid the pitfalls that can expose your accounts and sensitive information to hackers.
(Photo by Ilya Pavlov)
1. Change your passwords frequently.
According to Heid, hackers accumulate millions of login credentials and passwords in online databases garnered from previous data breaches. Even with just one set of login credentials, hackers commonly try to log into other sites using the same email and password, assuming that users will have the same password across platforms. Using different passwords from site to site will thwart this strategy.
(Photo by Courtney Clayton)
2. Don’t use the same security questions across different sites.
Following the same principle, if one site you use is compromised in a data breach, hackers might gain access to the security question and answer you set up in order to reset your password. If you use the same question across sites, it’s incredibly easy for hackers to subsequently reset your password on every one of your accounts.
3. Use bogus information for security questions to throw hackers off.
Password-reset questions typically ask for personal information like your mother’s maiden name or the street you grew up on. Rather than filling this out truthfully, use false information or an inside joke that hackers wouldn’t be able to guess. This tactic may seem counterintuitive, but can be effective, according to Heid.
“I always recommend using a password manager solution like Keypass or something like that to handle all the different passwords,” Heid said.
Password managers can generate long, difficult-to-guess passwords and automatically save them across websites, making it easy to keep your passwords diverse and hard to crack.
5. Don’t leave a public trail of personal information via social media.
Be mindful of information that hackers could glean from your public social media accounts — especially if you’re using that information for a password reset question.
“Pets’ names, kids birthdays, spots you went to for your honeymoon, all of those are common password reset answers that can be obtained from social media. Even stuff like the street you grew up on, that can be found in public records,” Heid said.