Mattis doesn't care about Russia's 'unstoppable' weapons - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Mattis doesn’t care about Russia’s ‘unstoppable’ weapons

Defense Secretary James N. Mattis said he sees no change in Russia’s military capability in light of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s recent speech in which he said Russia has nuclear weapons capable of attacking the United States.


The secretary called Putin’s remarks “disappointing, but unsurprising.”

Mattis spoke with reporters aboard a plane bound for Oman as part of an overseas trip designed to strengthen relationships.

“I looked at President Putin’s speech, and like many of us, I focused on the last third of it,” Mattis said. “The first two-thirds [was] clearly about domestic issues, but also opportunities in that first two-thirds, as I was reading it. And I tried to forget that I … knew what the last third was about — that you would actually see opportunities there to reduce the tensions between the NATO countries, the Western countries, the nations that want to live by international law, maintain sovereignty and territorial integrity of everyone, and the Russian Federation.”

Strategic assessment

The secretary said his role is to make strategic assessments, and that he saw no change to the Russian military capability in Putin’s remarks. The systems the Russian president talked about “are still years away,” the secretary said, adding that he doesn’t see them changing the military balance.

Mattis doesn’t care about Russia’s ‘unstoppable’ weapons
Vladimir Putin.

“They do not impact any need on our side for a change in our deterrent posture, which would be certainly an indication I registered this assessment with something that was changing,” Mattis said.

Moscow’s cancellation of scheduled strategic security talks shows a Russia that’s not even acting in its own best interests, he added.

Ceasefire

Russia signed up with the United Nations Security Council for a ceasefire in Homs, Aleppo, and East Ghouta in Syria, Mattis noted. “Their partner proceeds to bomb, at best, indiscriminately, at worst, targeting hospitals,” he said. “I don’t know which it is — either they’re incompetent or they’re committing illegal acts, or both.”

Also read: This is Mattis’ response to skepticism about ISIS plans

Though he doesn’t have evidence to show them, the secretary told reporters, he is aware of reports of chlorine gas use and of the bombings taking place in Syria. “It’s almost like a sickening replay of what we’ve seen before, in Aleppo for example, and before that in Homs,” he said.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley worked with the U.N. Security Council to reach a cease-fire in Syria, and “Russia’s partner immediately commenced violating it,” Mattis said. “We’re working through diplomatic means; continuing to work,” he emphasized. “We don’t give up.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

New details about Israel’s boldest rescue mission of the 1980s

Israeli secret service agents ran an entire fake luxury beach resort in Sudan as a front for its operations in the 1980s, according to a BBC investigation.

A group of Mossad agents were tasked with smuggling thousands of Jewish refugees in Ethiopia, known as Beta Israelis, from Ethiopia to Israel in the late 1970s and early 1980s.


Thousands of Ethiopian Jews were stranded in Sudan, a Muslim-majority nation hostile to Israel. The agents had to smuggle the refugees across Sudan, then sailed across the Red Sea or airlifted to Israel.

And because Sudan and Israel were enemies, both the Ethiopian Jews and Mossad agents had to keep their identifies hidden.

An unidentified senior agent involved in the mission told the BBC:

“A couple of Mossad guys went down to Sudan looking for possible landing beaches. They just stumbled across this deserted village on the coast, in the middle of nowhere.

“For us it was a godsend. If we could get hold of this place and do it up, we could say we’re running a diving village, which would give us a reason for being in Sudan and furthermore for roaming around near the beach.”

Arous tourist village, located on the Sudan’s east coast, consisted of 15 bungalows, a kitchen, and dining room that opened out to a beach and the Red Sea.

The Sudanese International Tourist Corporation built the site in 1972 but never opened it because there was no electricity, water supply, or a road nearby.

Mattis doesn’t care about Russia’s ‘unstoppable’ weapons
Satellite imagery of a plot of land roughly where the Arous resort used to be.

Posing as employees of a Swiss company, Mossad agents rented the site for $320,000 (£225,000) in the late 1970s. They secured deals for water and fuel, and smuggled air-conditioning units and water sports gear into Sudan to build the diving resort.

An undated brochure of the resort boasted of “attractive, air-conditioned bungalows with fully-equipped bathrooms,” “fine meals,” and a variety of water sports gear available to rent.

Mossad agents posed as the resort’s managers, and female agents were put in charge of day-to-day operations to make the hotel look less suspicious. They also hired 15 local staff — none of whom knew the true identities of their managers and colleagues.

Hotel guests included Egyptian soldiers, British SAS troops, foreign diplomats, and Sudanese government officials — none of whom, too, knew of the true identity of their hosts.

Gad Shimron, a Mossad agent who worked at the resort, told the BBC: “We introduced windsurfing to Sudan. The first board was brought in — I knew how to windsurf, so I taught the guests. Other Mossad agents posed as professional diving instructors.”

He added: “By comparison to the rest of Sudan, we offered Hilton-like standards, and it was such a beautiful place, it really looked like something out of the Arabian Nights. It was unbelievable.”

The diving storeroom, which was out of bounds, contained hidden radios that the agents used to keep in contact with their headquarters in Tel Aviv.

Mattis doesn’t care about Russia’s ‘unstoppable’ weapons
The resort was keen to showcase its proximity to the sea and water sports equipment.

The Mossad agents would leave at night for their rescue operations from time to time, telling local staff that they’d be out of town for a few days.

They would then drive to a refugee camp hundreds of miles away where Beta Israelis were waiting, and bring them back to a beach near Arous. They then transferred the refugees to Israeli SEAL teams, who took them to a waiting navy ship, and on to Israeli territory.

After one of the operations almost got busted, Israel decided to send jets to covertly airlift the Ethiopians to Israel instead.

The agents abandoned the resort in 1985 after years of running it. The military junta in charge of country at the time started scouring the country for Israeli spies, and Mossad’s head in Israel ordered the agents to leave.

The Mossad agents evacuated the resort in a hurry, while guests were still staying at the hotel, an unidentified agent told the BBC.

“They would have woken up and found themselves alone in the desert,” they said. “The local staff were there, but no-one else — the diving instructor, the lady manager and so on, all the Caucasians had disappeared.”

The agents transferred at least 7,000 Ethiopians to Israel over the course of their operations at Arous.

Travel writer Paul Clammer wrote in his his 2005 guide to Sudan: “Arous Resort was closed when I visited… Though the colourful, relatively fresh paint gave them a cheerful look, the whole place was in disarray: Beach bungalows had toppled roofs, quads were rusty and jet skis left unattended, all suggesting the place was abandoned in a hurry.”

Arous’ website, referenced in some travel guides, is now defunct. Business Insider tried calling two phone numbers linked to the resort on April 19, 2018, but the lines were dead.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Don’t miss out on these 6 veteran education opportunities

While every veteran probably knows about the GI Bill, there are a number of other education benefits offered that they might be unaware of. Here are a few of them:


1. VA Work-study Programs

These work-study positions are part-time jobs, up to 25 hours a week, for students-veterans usually at local VA facilities (i.e. hospitals, Vet Centers, etc.) that allow veterans to earn extra money and gain experience while in school. The job may only pay minimum wage but since it is considered an education benefit it is tax free. To utilize this benefit a veteran must be enrolled at least three-quarters of the time and are using veteran education benefits, such as the GI Bill.

Bonus:

If you are a veteran working for the VA, a company, or non-profit that is dedicated to serving veterans you can apply to host a work-study program and employ your own student veterans.

2. Vocational Rehabilitation

vocational rehab

Also known as Voc Rehab this is a benefit provided by the VA to assist veterans with service connected disabilities to obtain education or training in a new field. This can be particularly useful for veterans who have exhausted their GI Bill but wish to continue their education.

3. Veterans Upward Bound

A pre-college program designed to help veterans reintegrate into higher education after their service. Unfortunately there are only 49 programs nationwide, but they cover most states and many major universities. Check to see if there is a program in your area.

4. Veterans Success Program at your school

Much like the Veterans Upward Bound program, many colleges and universities have implemented their own in-house programs to assist veterans with the transition to college. The nationally recognized program at the University of Arizona offers specialized classes to help transitioning veterans and also has a VETS Center on campus.

5. State Veteran Education Benefits

Many states have enacted their own benefits for veterans, such as the Hazelwood Act in Texas, which pays the tuition of Texas veterans after they have exhausted their GI Bill. Other states have varying types of veteran assistance, check with the Veterans Services Representative at your school for more information.

6. Veteran Scholarships

Many veteran and unit organizations (i.e. the 82nd Airborne Division Association) offer scholarships to their members. A quick search for your unit’s association (or just asking your buddies) should get you started.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Iran warns US aircraft carrier is a ‘target,’ not a ‘threat’

As US troops and weaponry pour into the Middle East to counter Iran with threats of “unrelenting force,” Iran warns that US forces are “targets,” not threats.

A little over a week ago, the White House, following approval from the Pentagon, announced that the USS Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group and a bomber task force composed of B-52 Stratofortress heavy, long-range bombers were being immediately deployed to US Central Command as a warning to Iran, which the US believed might be planning an attack on US interests.


The Pentagon announced May 10, 2019, that additional assets, including an amphibious assault vessel and an air-and-missile defense battery, were also being sent into the region. The US has said that it will respond to any Iranian attack with “unrelenting force.”

Mattis doesn’t care about Russia’s ‘unstoppable’ weapons

A U.S. Air Force B-52H Stratofortress aircraft assigned to the 20th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron taxis for takeoff on a runway at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, May 12, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ashley Gardner)

Iranian military leadership pushed back over the weekend.

On May 11, 2019, Yadollah Javani, the deputy head of political affairs of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, said that the US “wouldn’t dare to launch military action against us.” His comments came shortly after Ayatollah Tabatabai-Nejad, a high-ranking cleric in the Iranian government, warned that US forces will face “dozens of missiles.”

Another IRGC commander followed suit May 12, 2019.

“An aircraft carrier that has at least 40 to 50 planes on it and 6,000 forces gathered within it was a serious threat for us in the past,” Amirali Hajizadeh said. “But, now it is a target.”

“If (the Americans) make a move, we will hit them in the head,” he added.

Mattis doesn’t care about Russia’s ‘unstoppable’ weapons

Ghadir-class submarine.

Iran’s state media released an animated video back in February showing one of Iran’s Ghadir-class submarines sinking an American aircraft carrier. Such an aggressive act, the success of which is far from guaranteed, would be a bold and dangerous move for Iran.

“The decision to go after an aircraft carrier, short of the deployment of nuclear weapons, is the decision that a foreign power would take with the most reticence,” Bryan McGrath, an influential naval consultant, previously told Business Insider. “The other guy knows that if that is their target, the wrath of God will come down on them.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Space Force to include National Guard

The U.S. Space Force will incorporate National Guard units that already have a space-related mission, according to the head of Air Force Space Command.

“We rely very heavily on the Air National Guard and the Air Force Reserve forces, and that’s going to continue in the future,” said Air Force Gen. John “Jay” Raymond during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee to become the new head of U.S. Space Command.

“They operate really critical capabilities. They provide a capacity, a resource capacity, and we’re going to rely on them. They’re seamlessly integrated,” he said June 4, 2019.


In March 2019, officials announced that Raymond had been nominated to lead U.S. Space Command. Pentagon officials said at the time that, if confirmed, he would continue leading Air Force Space Command along with U.S. Space Command. The current Senate version of the Fiscal 2020 National Defense Authorization Act legislation would also require Raymond to lead Space Force for at least a year.

Mattis doesn’t care about Russia’s ‘unstoppable’ weapons

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk discusses U.S. space operations with Gen. Jay Raymond, the Commander, Air Force Space Command, and Joint Force Space Component Commander; and Gen Terrence O’Shaughnessy, the Commander of the North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command, April 15, 2019.

Guard units across seven states already have space missions, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-New Hampshire, said during the hearing. That includes roughly 1,500 airmen conducting space-related operations in Ohio, Alaska, Colorado, Florida, New York, Arkansas, and California.

Raymond’s comments come as other officials want to make sure there is a place for the Guard in the Space Force structure.

Last month, Air National Guard director Lt. Gen. L. Scott Rice said that, while details are still being worked out, ANG units are “all in” for space operations.

During an Air Force Association breakfast in Washington, D.C., Rice said the Pentagon is looking to leverage the state forces that already have space-related operations.

Mattis doesn’t care about Russia’s ‘unstoppable’ weapons

U.S. Air National Guard Lt. Gen. L. Scott Rice, Director of the Air National Guard (right) answers questions from airmen of the 142nd Fighter Wing during a town hall session at the Portland Air National Guard Base, Portland, Oregon, March 2, 2019.

(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. John Hughel, 142nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs)

“My job is to make sure it works. How would I present the operational piece and the bureaucracy for a new Space Force? I would do it from those seven states. I would not do 54 states and territories of Space National Guard,” he said.

However, the Air National Guard is setting up two new space squadrons in two more states, which would also be incorporated into the Space Force structure in the near future, Rice said.

“We are looking at standing up more capability for space control squadrons in the Pacific,” he told reporters after his presentation at the breakfast, as reported by Federal News Network.

“We are under review on where we are going to do that and how we are looking at that. The timeline is within the next month, two new squadrons in two new states.”

He did not reveal the locations under consideration.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Syria disaster proves that Putin can’t protect troops in Syria

Russia grappled with a tragedy on Sept. 18, 2018, after Syria, its ally, mistakenly shot down one of its planes flying above the Mediterranean, and it shows how Russian President Vladimir Putin is strangely powerless to protect his own people.

After Russia’s Il-20 spy plane went down, its defense ministry quickly blamed Israel, which had attacked Syria with low-flying jets evading and jamming radar during a prolonged missile strike.

Syria’s missile defenses, unable to get a fix on the Israeli fighters, had instead spotted a large, slower-moving Russian spy plane flying overhead, locked on, and fired, killing 15 Russians with a Russian-made missile.


“With so much congestion in the Syrian air, it’s not surprising at all,” Anna Borshchevskaya, a Russia expert with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told Business Insider. “This is not the first time when Putin looked like he couldn’t protect his people.”

After Russian generals blamed Israel and promised “countermeasures” in response, Putin called it a tragic accident, attributed no blame, and did not promise retaliation.

The skies above Syria remain combative and congested. Russian planes continue their routes. Syrian air-defense officers remain jumpy on the trigger, and there’s no indication this won’t happen again.

Mattis doesn’t care about Russia’s ‘unstoppable’ weapons

Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Paper tiger Putin

Russia entered the Syrian conflict with a roar in September 2015. Russian air power saved Syrian President Bashar Assad from a backsliding civil war that had promised to crush him.

Russian missile defenses protected him, and service members all but ensured the US wouldn’t raise a finger against the Syrian president, no matter how badly he battered his own people.

But three years have passed, and though Assad remains in power, Russians are still dying in Syria, and the country has become isolated and weak. Russia has lost nine fixed-wing aircraft and an untold number of helicopters in Syria. In early 2018 the US devastated a column of Russian mercenaries who approached its position in Syria, killing as many as 300 with superior air power.

Recently, when the US threatened Syria with further punishment for what it says are chemical-weapons attacks, Russia threatened to hit US forces in Syria. The US responded with live-fire exercises, and Russia soon backed down.

After US strikes on Syria in both April 2017 and April 2018, Russia threatened retaliation or cutting communication with the US. And both times, nothing happened.

Putin has time and time again asserted himself as a powerful figure exploiting the void left by the US’s refusal to engage with Syria’s civil war. But time and time again, Putin has failed to protect his own people.

“Putin filled a vacuum in Syria, but he didn’t need to be super powerful to do that,” Borshchevskaya said. “Presence is often relevance, and that’s what happened in Syria.”

While Russia has openly taunted the US to intervene in Syria, Putin has merely correctly estimated the US’s complacence, rather than legitimately scared off a determined foe. Putin masterfully played off a lack of US political will in order to convince many European US allies that the US was scared.

“So many people in the West were so worried of risking a war with Russia over Syria,” Borshchevskaya said. “That was never going to happen. They don’t want to fight a war with us. They know they can’t win it.”

Mattis doesn’t care about Russia’s ‘unstoppable’ weapons

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Russia’s strong and weak at the same time

While Russia projects strength with a raggedy aircraft carrier in Syria and a three-year military campaign that has managed to secure a status quo without definitively beating pockets of unsophisticated rebels, its own people felt the hurt.

Putin’s aggressiveness in dealing with Syria and Ukraine and his links to international instances of Kremlin critics being poisoned have led to sanctions and isolation for Russia, harming its economy.

In August 2018, Putin broke his 2005 promise not to raise the retirement age, reminding many Russians that, because of lower national life expectancies, they could die before seeing a dime of their pensions but had lived to see that money spent in Syria and Ukraine. Mass demonstrations broke out across Russia.

Russia has done well to achieve its limited objective of keeping Assad in power in Syria. But when it comes to protecting Russian lives, the loss of the Il-20 points to a “hugely embarrassing” trend of Putin failing his people, Borshchevskaya said.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Yabba Dabba Doo: Did you know the Army owned dinosaurs?

It turns out a massive flood control project is an excellent way to unearth dinosaurs. At least, that’s what happened back in 1993 in Coralville, Iowa.

In 1993, Coralville, Iowa, experienced 28 days of rain. More than 17,000 cubic feet of water flowed over a spillway, wiping out the state’s yearly crop of soybeans and corn. Roads were obliterated, people’s lives were in jeopardy, and the city was literally drowning.


The Coralville Dam was built in the 1950s by the US Army Corps of Engineers to help provide flood protection for the Iowa River Valley to the south. It was named after the city, which had weirdly received its name from the ancient fossilized reefs that stud the river’s limestone.

Once the rains stopped and the citizens of the city could step outside without being swept away, the Corps returned to the site to assess the damage and explore the choices for reconstructing the dam. What they discovered shocked everyone.

The Corps discovered that the floods eroded five feet of limestone from the edge of the spillway. This created a gorge and unearthed several fossil beds, most of which were about 375 million years old. The fossils were mainly marine creatures that had once lived in the sea that used to cover Iowa. Because the Corps discovered them, all the sea creatures immediately became the property of the US Army.

That’s not to say that the Army will be opening a theme park filled with these fossils any time soon, but it’s pretty exciting to think that the Army has done its part to help advance the field of paleontology.

The survey archaeologist for the Corps, Nancy Brighton, said that the collection spans the entire paleontological record. So anything relating to animals and the natural world that existed before humans are included in that.

Because the Corps of Engineers manages more than 8 million acres of land across the United States, finds like the one in Iowa aren’t super uncommon. In fact, the Corps asl owns one of the most intact T. rex skeletons ever found. More on that later.

All thanks in part to the Flood Control Act, signed by Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1936 that decreed the need for dams, levees, and dikes all across the country. But before construction could begin on those early-iteration dams, the Corps had to complete a thorough survey. Those surveys almost always exposed ancient fossil beds.

In fact, it’s assumed that most of what American archeologists have discovered are thanks in part to the efforts of the Corps. All of the hydropower and flood control projects that started back in the 1950s certainly paved the way for new discoveries.

The greatest of all of these discoveries didn’t happen way back, though. It was just a few decades ago, in 1988, on Labor Day. That morning, Kathy Wankel, a hiker, and amateur fossil collector, was trekking through Montana’s Fort Peck Reservoir when something caught her eye.

At first, she thought it was a shoulder blade pushing up through the rocky soil. The lighting was perfect, according to Wankel, which allowed her to see the webby pattern of bone marrow, and that’s when she knew she’d discovered something big.

And by big, of course, we mean enormous. Wankel and her husband had stumbled on the remains of a T. rex thought to have roamed the Montana area some 66 million years ago. The discovery that Wankel and her husband made was one of just eight at the time. Since then, about 50 other skeletons have been discovered.

It took nearly a year to figure out who owned the land where the skeleton was found. At long last, the Corps began to dig. It took several years and a large team to unearth the 38-foot skeleton weighing in at nearly six tons. The most astonishing part? It was almost one hundred percent complete, making it the first specimen to be discovered with small lower arm bones fully intact.

Since 2017, the T. rex has called the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History home. The Corps of Engineers has agreed to a 50-year loan to ensure that all Americans have a chance to see it – when the world’s not locked down with COVID, at least.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Space Force has launched its first recruiting commercial

The U.S. Space Force‘s first commercial has a message for its new troops and potential recruits: “Maybe your purpose on this planet isn’t on this planet.”

It’s the closing line in the 30-second commercial, which gives viewers a glimpse into what a Space Force job might look like. That could mean protecting U.S. satellites in ground operations centers, overseeing rocket launches to deploy satellites in orbit, or perhaps recovering the super-secret X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle, according to the imagery seen in the video.


United States Space Force: Purpose :30 Commercial

www.youtube.com

“Some people look to the stars and ask, ‘What if?’ Our job is to have an answer,” the commercial states as a young man sporting a fresh haircut looks up toward the stars.

“We would have to imagine what will be imagined, plan for what’s possible while there’s still impossible. Maybe you weren’t put here just to ask the questions. Maybe you were put here to be the answer,” it says.

The commercial is the first promotional video for the new service, an effort to attract recruits to join the military’s sixth branch.

Its debut comes days after the Space Force opened its application process for eligible active-duty personnel to transfer into the service.

The opening of applications means the eventual, “physical act of [commissioning] into the U.S. Space Force,” Gen. David “DT” Thompson, vice commander of Space Force, said April 23. Enlisted members would re-enlist directly into the Space Force, he said during a webinar, hosted by Space News.

“The window for airmen to volunteer to transfer to the USSF opened on Friday, May 1, and we have already received several hundred applications,” a Space Force official told Military.com on Wednesday.

The commercial also closely follows the full trailer for Steve Carell’s new Netflix comedy “Space Force” set to premiere on the streaming service May 29.

Sitting alongside Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett during a webinar Wednesday, Gen. John “Jay” Raymond, chief of space operations and head of U.S. Space Command, remarked on Carell’s upcoming show.

“The one piece of advice that I would give to Steve Carell is to get a haircut,” Raymond said during the chat, hosted by the Space Foundation. “He’s looking a little too shaggy if he wants to play the Space Force chief.”

Barrett added, “It seems to me that it’s just further evidence that space is where things are happening. Whether it’s Netflix or in the United States Pentagon, space is where things are happening.”

Speaking about the commercial, Barrett said she hopes it will inspire “Americans to find their purpose in the nation’s newest service.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

You won’t believe this F/A-18D flyover cost a U.S. Marine Corps Squadron Commander his job

A few days ago reading the news that Lt. Col. Ralph Featherstone, Marine All Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 225 squadron commander since last April, had been fired on Jan. 24 after performing a flyover during a “sundown” ceremony at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, “due to concerns about poor judgment” I immediately thought his F/A-18 had performed some kind of insane low passage or buzzed the Tower as done in the famous Top Gun scene.


Then, I found the video obtained by the San Diego Union-Tribune that shows the actual flyover. According to the media outlet, an air wing official confirmed the removal was linked to the flight shown in the following video:

What is more, “Featherstone was in the rear seat of the jet when it flew lower and faster than was approved in the day’s flight plan.”

In about 30 years attending airshows and events and 25 years reporting about military aviation I’ve seen many many “stunts” (i.e. aggressive maneuvers at low altitude) far worse than the one in the video above. Maybe we miss some detail about the whole story here, but that flyover is far from being “low”! No matter you are an expert or not, I think you won’t find it dangerous from any point of view.

Let’s not forget that the sundown ceremony celebrated the squadron’s transition from the “Legacy Hornet” to the F-35B STOVL (Short Take Off Vertical Landing) variant of the Lightning II aircraft. It’s an event aimed at boosting the morale of the squadron as it moves to another chapter of its history. Do you see anything “unsafe” in that passage?

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

What happened when Russian mercs tried testing the US in Syria

More details have emerged from a massive battle in Syria that is said to have pitted hundreds of Russian military contractors and forces loyal to the Syrian government against the US and its Syrian rebel allies — and it looks as if it was a mission to test the US’s resolve.


Bloomberg first reported in February 2018, that Russian military contractors took part in what the US called an “unprovoked attack” on a well-known headquarters of the Syrian Democratic Forces, a rebel cohort the US has trained, equipped, and fought alongside for years.

Also read: The threats just keep coming from Russia over Syria strikes

Reuters cited several sources on Feb. 16, 2018, as confirming that Russian contractors were among the attackers and that they took heavy losses. The purpose of the attack, which saw 500 or so pro-government fighters get close to the US-backed position in Syria, was to test the US’s response, Reuters’ sources said.

How the battle played out

Mattis doesn’t care about Russia’s ‘unstoppable’ weapons
US forces fire off artillery rounds in Syria. (Photo from U.S. Marine Corps)

Initial reports said pro-government forces launched a coordinated attack that included about 500 troops, 122mm howitzers, tanks, and multiple launch rocket systems.

A source close to Wagner, the Russian military contracting firm, told Reuters that most of the troops were Russian contractors and that they advanced into a zone designated as neutral under a deal between the Russian military and the US-led coalition against the terrorist group ISIS.

The troops reportedly sought to find out how the US would react to the encroachment into that zone.

Forces operating Russian-made T-55 and T-72 tanks fired 20 to 30 tank rounds within 500 feet of the SDF base, which held some US troops, said Dana White, the Pentagon press secretary, according to the executive editor of Defense One.

More: Why Russia is hiring mercenaries to fight in Syria

The US-led coalition responded with “AC-130 gunships, F-15s, F-22s, Army Apache helicopter gunships, and Marine Corps artillery,” according to Lucas Tomlinson, a Fox News reporter. CNN also reported that Himars and MQ-9 drones were used in the attack.

“First of all, the bombers attacked, and then they cleaned up using Apaches,” attack helicopters, Yevgeny Shabayev, a Cossack paramilitary leader with ties to Russia’s military contractors, told Reuters.

The Reuters report cites an unnamed source as describing Bloomberg’s report that 300 Russians died as “broadly correct.”

The US reported more than 100 dead. According to Reuters, Russia says only five of its citizens may have died in the attack.

The Pentagon says only one SDF fighter was injured in the attack.

What might the Russians have learned from the ‘test’?

Mattis doesn’t care about Russia’s ‘unstoppable’ weapons
Russia’s military aircraft at a base in Syria. (Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation.)

The pro-government forces operated without air cover from Russia’s military. The US-led coalition apparently warned Russia of the attack, but it’s unclear whether Russia’s military passed on notice to the troops on the ground.

“The warning was 20 minutes beforehand,” a source told Reuters. “In that time, it was not feasible to turn the column around.”

Reports have increasingly indicated that Russia has used military contractors as a means of concealing its combat losses as it looks to bolster Syrian President Bashar Assad’s flagging forces. Russia has denied it has a large ground presence in Syria and has sought to distance itself from those it describes as independent contractors.

Related: Russia just declared the defeat of ISIS in eastern Syria

According to the news website UAWire, Igor Girkin, the former defense minister of the self-described Donetsk People’s Republic, a separatist region backed by Russia in eastern Ukraine, said that Russian mercenaries operating in Syria who died in combat were cremated on sight to hide the true cost of Russia’s involvement.

As the US’s stated mission in Syria of fighting ISIS nears completion, others have taken center stage. The US recently said it would seek to stop Iran from gaining control of a land bridge to Lebanon, its ally, citing concerns that Tehran would arm anti-US and anti-Israeli Hezbollah militants if given the chance.

The US also appears intent on staying on top of Assad’s oilfields in the east both to deny him the economic infrastructure to regain control of the country and to force UN-sanctioned elections.

MIGHTY TRENDING

B-1 Bombers train to launch long-range anti-ship missile over Black Sea

It wasn’t a typical flight.

Two B-1B Lancers from the 28th Bomb Wing at Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota, marked their first-ever flight with Ukrainian Su-27 Flankers and MiG-29 Fulcrums last week over the Black Sea. At the same time, the long-range bombers also trained in launching the Long-Range Anti-Ship Missile, known as LRASM, U.S. Air Forces Europe-Africa officials said Monday.


“The rise of near-peer competitors and increased tensions between NATO and our adversaries has brought anti-ship capability back to the forefront of the anti-surface warfare mission for bomber crews,” said Lt. Col. Timothy Albrecht of USAFE’s 603rd Air Operations Center.

“LRASM plays a critical role in ensuring U.S. naval access to operate in both open-ocean and littoral environments due to its enhanced ability to discriminate between targets from long range,” Albrecht, also the Bomber Task Force mission planner, said in a release. “With the increase of maritime threats and their improvement of anti-access/area denial environmental weapons, this stealthy anti-ship cruise missile provides reduced risk to strike assets by penetrating and defeating sophisticated enemy air-defense systems.”

Officials recently told Military.com that practicing deploying LRASM is part of a broader Air Force Global Strike vision: As part of its mission “reset” for the B-1 fleet, the service is not only making its supersonic, heavy bombers more visible with multiple flights around the world, it’s also getting back into the habit of having them practice stand-off precision strikes — especially in the Pacific — signaling a dramatic pivot following years of flying close-air support missions in the Middle East.

During a simulated strike, crews “will pick a notional target, and then they will do some mission planning and flying through an area that they are able to hold that target at risk, at range,” Maj. Gen. Jim Dawkins Jr., commander of the Eighth Air Force and the Joint-Global Strike Operations Center at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, said in an interview earlier this month.

The flight over the Black Sea with Ukrainian counterparts incorporated Turkish KC-135s, in addition to aircraft from Poland, Romania, Greece and North Macedonia for a “long-range, long-duration strategic #BomberTaskForce mission throughout Europe and the Black Sea region,” USAFE tweeted.

The latest integration exercises over Eastern Europe have not gone unnoticed.

On Monday, Russia’s Ministry of Defense noted an uptick in NATO and U.S. activity in the region, to include the B-1 transiting through the Sea of Okhotsk on May 22, and near the Kamchatka Peninsula last month.

Col.-Gen. Sergei Rudskoy, chief of the main operational directorate for the Russian General Staff, said U.S. bomber flights alongside NATO partners have “increased sharply” over the last several weeks.

“Strategic bombers flew in April #B1B along Kamchatka, and in May, five such flights were recorded,” the MoD said on Twitter. Rudskoy also noted the first-ever B-1 flight over Ukraine, which prompted a Russian Air Force Su-27 and Su-30SM to scramble and intercept the bombers.

Mattis doesn’t care about Russia’s ‘unstoppable’ weapons

Still considered a “strategic” bomber, the Lancer was originally designed as a nuclear bomber with a mission to fly at low altitude, sneaking into enemy territory in order to avoid Soviet early warning radars. However, in compliance with the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, the once-nuclear bomber has been disarmed of nukes.

Dawkins said countries should expect more Bomber Task Force missions.

The shorter flights — with two to three bombers — are not the same as a deployment, and are also part of the Pentagon’s larger “dynamic force employment” strategy for military units to test how nimbly they can move from place to place, he said.

“There is just so much of a bigger signal sent with a bomber than with a couple of [F-16 Fighting Falcons],” Dawkins said. “It just is what it is.”

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

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US officials want to deploy 5,000 more troops to Afghanistan

President Donald Trump’s senior advisers said they have proposed sending additional troops to Afghanistan to weaken the Taliban in an effort to bring about negotiations.


In order to send the reinforcements, Trump must approve the recommendation by his senior military and foreign policy advisers aimed at breaking a military deadlock in the war that began in 2001, U.S. officials told The New York Times. The proposed additional troops would work together with a greater number of Afghan forces and operate more closely to the front lines.

The new strategy, which is supported by top Cabinet officials, would give the Pentagon the authority to set troop numbers in Afghanistan and to carry out airstrikes against Taliban militants.

Mattis doesn’t care about Russia’s ‘unstoppable’ weapons
A couple hug before the last group of the 16th Combat Aviation Brigade Soldiers deploy for Afghanistan at Joint Base Lewis-McChord Sunday. The Raptor Brigade has deployed about 800 Soldiers in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel with U.S. Forces Afghanistan.

U.S. officials told The Washington Post the new plan expands the U.S. military role in Afghanistan to stem an increasingly confident and resurgent Taliban to force it back to the negotiating table with the Afghan government.

The recommendation was created after a review of the 15-year war — America’s longest — conducted by the Department of Defense, the Department of State, U.S. intelligence agencies and other government agencies.

In Afghanistan, there are 13,000 international troops — 8,400 from the United States — assisting the Afghan security forces, mainly in training and advising roles, but U.S. troops also carry out counter-terrorism operations.

The proposed plan would send an additional 3,000 to 5,000 U.S. troops, including hundreds of Special Operations forces. The U.S. government would request NATO nations to send thousands of troops. The final number of how many U.S. troops would be sent depends on how many troops NATO allies are willing to send.

Trump is expected to make a decision before the May 25 NATO summit in Brussels.

The Taliban frequently launches attacks, generally targeting Afghan troops, international troops and government officials. In April, the Taliban launched an attack in which it killed more than 140 soldiers stationed at Camp Shaheen, which serves as a headquarters of the Afghan National Army.

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