Military officials confirm US special operators are fighting in Raqqa - We Are The Mighty
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Military officials confirm US special operators are fighting in Raqqa

US military advisers are operating inside the city of Raqqa, Daesh’s last major bastion in Syria, a US official said July 12. The troops, many of them Special Operations Forces, are working in an “advise, assist, and accompany” role to support local fighters from the Syrian Democratic Forces as they battle Daesh, said Col. Ryan Dillon, a military spokesman.


The troops are not in a direct combat role but are calling in airstrikes and are working closer to the fight than did US forces supporting the Iraqi military in Mosul.

“They are much more exposed to enemy contact than those in Iraq,” Dillon said, adding that the numbers of US forces in Raqqa were “not hundreds.”

The operation to capture Raqqa began in November and on June 6 the SDF entered the city. With help from the US-led coalition, the SDF this month breached an ancient wall by Raqqa’s Old City, where die-hard militants are making a last stand.

Military officials confirm US special operators are fighting in Raqqa
SDF fighters among rubble in Raqqa. Photo from VOA.

Dillon said the coalition had seen Daesh increasingly using commercial drones that have been rigged with explosives. The militants employed a similar tactic in Mosul.

“Over the course over the last week or two, it has increased as we’ve continued to push in closer inside of Raqqa city center,” he said.

The US military is secretive about exactly how big its footprint is in Syria, but has previously said about 500 Special Operations fighters are there to train and assist the SDF, an Arab-Kurdish alliance.

Additionally, Marines are operating an artillery battery to help in the Raqqa offensive.

Military officials confirm US special operators are fighting in Raqqa
The United States Marine Corps provide fire support to the SDF during the Battle of Raqqa. Photo from USMC.

The UN said July 12 it is using newly opened land routes in Syria to expand food deliveries to areas around Raqqa.

The new access has allowed the World Food Program to deliver food to rural areas north of the city for the first time in three years.

More than 190,000 people have been displaced from and within Raqqa province since April 1, according to the UN refugee agency. In the past 48 hours, hundreds of civilians managed to flee areas under Daesh control and cross to territory seized by SDF, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. As the map of control changes, so is the access and WFP said it is now delivering food every month to nearly 200,000 people in eight hard-to-reach locations inside Raqqa province as well as other areas in a neighboring province.

Military officials confirm US special operators are fighting in Raqqa
USMC photo by Sgt. Justin T. Updegraff.

Prior to the reopening of the road linking Aleppo in the west to Hassakeh in the east, the WFP relied on airlifts.

“Replacing airlifts with road deliveries will save an estimated $19 million per year, as each truck on the road carries the equivalent of a planeload of food at a significantly lower cost,” said Jakob Kern, the WFP country representative in Syria. “With these cost savings and improved access, we are now reaching more families and people returning to their homes who need our help with regular food deliveries.”

One area that is now reachable is the town of Tabqa, which was taken from Daesh by the US-backed SDF in May. WFP said it was able this month to double the number of people it reaches, delivering monthly food rations to 25,000 people, many of whom have returned to their original homes and are now working to rebuild their lives.

In Homs eastern countryside, meanwhile, a Syrian military source said the army recaptured the Al-Hayl oil field, south of Al-Sukhneh city, from Daesh militants, the state-run news agency SANA reported.

Military officials confirm US special operators are fighting in Raqqa
SDF in Tabqa. Photo from VOA.

The fight against Daesh is only one facet of the war in Syria, which is now in its seventh year. Six rounds of UN-brokered peace talks in Geneva have failed to bring the warring sides closer to a political settlement.

A seventh round is now underway in the Swiss city, but expectations for a breakthrough are almost non-existent.

July 12, the head of the Syrian opposition delegation accused President Bashar Assad’s regime of refusing to engage in political discussions.

Military officials confirm US special operators are fighting in Raqqa
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Photo courtesy of Moscow Kremlin.

Nasr al-Hariri of the High Negotiations Committee also challenged the UN Security Council to “uphold its responsibilities” and maintain pressure on Assad to honor resolutions that the council has passed. He spoke to reporters after emerging from talks with the UN envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, in the latest round of indirect peace talks. Hariri cited the “continuous refusing” of Assad’s government to participate in political negotiations.

Security Council Resolution 2254 from December 2015 called on top UN officials to convene the two sides “to engage in formal negotiations on a political transition process.”

Also July 12, a human rights group said Syrian-Russian airstrikes and artillery attacks on a town in southern Syria last month killed 10 civilians in and near a school. Human Rights Watch said one of the airstrikes hit the courtyard of a middle school in the town of Tafas in the southern province of Deraa, killing eight people, including a child. It says most of those killed were members of a family who had been displaced from another town. It said two other civilians, including a child, were killed an hour earlier by artillery attacks near the school.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Saudi Arabia just accused Lebanon of declaring war

Saudi Arabia said on Nov. 6 that Lebanon had declared war against it because of attacks against the Kingdom by the Lebanese Shi’ite group Hezbollah.


Military officials confirm US special operators are fighting in Raqqa
President Donald Trump and King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia sign a Joint Strategic Vision Statement earlier in 2017. Photo from The White House Flickr.

Saudi Gulf affairs minister Thamer al-Sabhan told Al-Arabiya TV that Saad al-Hariri, who announced his resignation as Lebanon’s prime minister on Saturday, had been told that acts of “aggression” by Hezbollah “were considered acts of a declaration of war against Saudi Arabia by Lebanon and by the Lebanese Party of the Devil.”

Also Read: The White House is going after this Lebanese terrorist group with a $12M bounty

“We will treat the government of Lebanon as a government declaring a war because of Hezbollah militias,” Sabhan said, according to state-owned news channel Al Arabiya.

Military officials confirm US special operators are fighting in Raqqa
ISIS militants loaded into buses who fled Lebanon in a peace deal with Hezbollah. (Screengrab from YouTube UNB News)

Sabhan’s accusations reportedly included smuggling drugs and providing training for acts of terrorism.

Hariri’s resignation came as a surprise for many, particularly when he made his announcement during a trip to Saudi Arabia. The country is politically split between Saudi Arabia loyalists and Iran, which is represented by Hezbollah.

MIGHTY MOVIES

10 photos show how the battle in ‘Avengers: Endgame’ looks without visual effects

“Avengers: Endgame” was one of the biggest films of 2019, earning more than $1 billion at the box office.

The film, which was a culmination of a decade of Marvel movies, featured time travel, heartbreaking moments, and a major battle sequence. Larger-than-life moments were made possible through the use of computer-generated imagery (also known as CGI) and other special effects. And oftentimes, the most exciting scenes in the movie were filmed in front of a green screen.

In a new video shared by Marvel Entertainment, “Endgame” visual effects supervisor Dan DeLeeuw broke down the film’s major battle sequence with Ryan Penagos.

Keep reading to see how different “Endgame” looks without special effects.


Military officials confirm US special operators are fighting in Raqqa

The superheroes returned after stepping through portals.

(Marvel/Disney)

Military officials confirm US special operators are fighting in Raqqa

The portals were created using special effects.

(Marvel Entertainment)

Military officials confirm US special operators are fighting in Raqqa

The Avengers prepare for their final “Endgame” battle.

(Walt Disney Studios)

2. The Avengers ran straight toward Thanos and his army.

They assembled once everyone returned.

Military officials confirm US special operators are fighting in Raqqa

Thanos’ army was much smaller.

(Marvel Entertainment)

When the stars filmed the scene, they were just running toward six men in motion capture suits.

DeLeeuw said that having the six people facing the actors helped them figure out where their eyes should move during the scene.

Military officials confirm US special operators are fighting in Raqqa

Spider-Man giving Captain Marvel the gauntlet.

(Marvel)

3. In the movie, Spider-Man passes the infinity gauntlet to Captain Marvel, with Scarlet Witch, Valkyrie, Okoye, Pepper Potts, Shuri, and Mantis nearby.

Captain Marvel meets all the Avengers for the first time in “Endgame.”

Military officials confirm US special operators are fighting in Raqqa

Brie Larson stars as Captain Marvel.

(Marvel Entertainment)

The scene was actually filmed without Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie and her winged horse.

Holland and his stunt double wore motion capture suits to film. Special effects were later added to create the iron suit that’s seen in the movie.

Military officials confirm US special operators are fighting in Raqqa

Captain America wielded Thor’s hammer in “Endgame.”

(Marvel/Disney)

4. Captain America finally get his hands on Thor’s hammer.

He was always worthy.

Military officials confirm US special operators are fighting in Raqqa

Chris Evans stars as Captain America.

(Marvel Entertainment)

Military officials confirm US special operators are fighting in Raqqa

Korg and Drax attacked an alien.

(Marvel/Disney)

5. Drax and Korg teamed up to take down one of the aliens from Thanos’ army.

Drax is portrayed by Dave Bautista and Korg is played by Taika Waititi.

Military officials confirm US special operators are fighting in Raqqa

Dave Bautista stars as Drax.

(Marvel Entertainment)

Military officials confirm US special operators are fighting in Raqqa

Hulk is played by Mark Ruffalo.

(Marvel/Disney)

Military officials confirm US special operators are fighting in Raqqa

Dave Bautista, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, and Chris Evans filming.

(Marvel Entertainment)

Ruffalo wore a motion capture suit and headpiece while filming.

The Hulk that appeared on screen was made possible thanks to CGI technology.

Military officials confirm US special operators are fighting in Raqqa

Captain America threw his shield at Thanos.

(Marvel/Disney)

Military officials confirm US special operators are fighting in Raqqa

Chris Evans stars as Captain America.

(Marvel Entertainment)

Military officials confirm US special operators are fighting in Raqqa

Elizabeth Olsen and Tessa Thompson.

(Marvel/Disney)

8. One scene in the film showed Scarlett Witch and Valkyrie jumping into the action.

Elizabeth Olsen plays Scarlet Witch and Tessa Thompson stars as Valkyrie.

Military officials confirm US special operators are fighting in Raqqa

Valkryie was introduced in “Thor: Ragnarok.”

(Marvel Entertainment)

Military officials confirm US special operators are fighting in Raqqa

Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts.

(Disney/Marvel)

9. Pepper Potts wore a suit designed by Tony Stark.

The suit also included wings.

Military officials confirm US special operators are fighting in Raqqa

Gwyneth Paltrow has been part of the MCU since “Iron Man.”

(Marvel Entertainment)

Military officials confirm US special operators are fighting in Raqqa

Benedict Wong stars as Wong in the MCU.

(Marvel/Disney)

10. Wong used his sorcery to open portals.

Peter Parker referred to the rings as “yellow sparkly things.”

Military officials confirm US special operators are fighting in Raqqa

Benedict Wong and Evangeline Lilly.

(Marvel Entertainment)

Obviously, there were no fiery rings used in the making of the scene.

The character was first introduced in “Doctor Strange.”

This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.

Also read:

MIGHTY TRENDING

Here’s the weapon US intelligence thinks North Korea actually tested

North Korea announced April 17, 2019, that it had tested a “new tactical guided weapon,” leading to a lot of speculation about what North Korea, a volatile nation known for its nuclear and missile tests, may have actually fired off.

Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan would only go so far as to say that the weapon “is not a ballistic missile” in his discussions with the press April 18, 2019. He added that there has been “no change to our posture or to our operations.”

The South Korean military, according to the semi-official Yonhap News Agency, concluded that North Korea was experimenting with a “guided weapon for the purpose of ground battles.”


US intelligence, CNN reported, has assessed that North Korea tested components for an anti-tank weapon, not a new, fully-operational weapon. The US determined that the weapon was, as CNN worded it, “inconsequential to any advanced North Korean military capability.”

Satellites and aircraft operating nearby did not detect any evidence that the North launched a short-range tactical weapon or a ballistic missile. US officials told reporters that had North Korea fired an operational weapon, US sensors would have detected it.

Military officials confirm US special operators are fighting in Raqqa

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspects the defence detachment on Jangjae Islet and the Hero Defence Detachment on Mu Islet located in the southernmost part of the waters off the southwest front, in this undated photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency on May 5, 2017.

(KCNA

Meaningful or not, the test, which was reportedly “supervised” by Chairman Kim Jong Un and comes just a few months after the failed summit in Hanoi. Some North Korea watchers believe it was intended to send a message to the Trump administration, as the announcement was accompanied by a call from the North Korean foreign ministry to remove Secretary of State Mike Pompeo from all future nuclear negotiations.

“The United States remains ready to engage North Korea in a constructive negotiation,” a State Department spokesperson said.

North Korea has not conducted a nuclear test since Sept. 3, 2017, when it tested what analysts suspect was a thermonuclear bomb, and the country’s last ballistic missile test was the successful launch of a new type of intercontinental ballistic missile in late November that year.

Amid negotiations with Washington, Pyongyang has maintained a strict moratorium on nuclear and ballistic missile testing. North Korea has, however, engaged in lower-level weapons testing to signal frustration during these talks.

Military officials confirm US special operators are fighting in Raqqa

Kim Jong Un inspects the Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile.

(KCNA)

Following an abrupt cancellation of a meeting between Pompeo and his North Korean counterpart in November 2018, the North tested a so-called “ultramodern tactical weapon.” The country apparently tested an artillery piece, most likely a multiple rocket launcher. Nonetheless, that test was the first clear sign that North Korea is willing to restart weapons testing if necessary.

The North Korean leader suggested as much in his New Year’s address. “If the U.S. does not keep the promises it made in front of the world, misjudges the patience of our people, forces a unilateral demand on us, and firmly continues with sanctions and pressures on our republic, we might be compelled to explore new ways to protect our autonomy and interests,” Kim explained.

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

Articles

F-35 forward deploys to Bulgaria

Two F-35A Lightning IIs and about 20 supporting Airmen arrived at Graf Ignatievo Air Base April 28 from Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England.


The F-35As are participating in the first training deployment to Europe. The aircraft and total force Airmen are from the 34th Fighter Squadron, 388th Fighter Wing, and the Air Force Reserve’s 466th Fighter Squadron, 419th Fighter Wing at Hill Air Force Base, Utah.

“The United States and Bulgaria have a strong and enduring relationship,” said Lt. Gen. Richard Clark, the Third Air Force commander, during a press event after the arrival. “We routinely train through joint and combined initiatives like Operation Atlantic Resolve and in flying exercises like Thracian Eagle, Thracian Summer and Thracian Star. Our commitment to Bulgaria is but an example of our unwavering support to all allied nations.”

Similar to the aircraft’s visit to Estonia on April 25, this training deployment has been planned for some time and was conducted in close coordination with Bulgarian allies. It gives F-35A pilots the opportunity to engage in familiarization training within the European theater while reassuring allies and partners of U.S. dedication to the enduring peace and stability of the region.

Military officials confirm US special operators are fighting in Raqqa
U.S. Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw

“I have to say that for us, this makes us very proud,” said Maj. Gen. Tsanko Stoykov, the Bulgarian Air Force commander. “Our efforts have been appreciated and we are trusted as a reliable ally and it immensely contributes to the development of the bilateral relations between our two counties and our two air forces.”

This is the first overseas flying training deployment of the U.S. Air Force’s F-35As. The deployment provides support to bolster the security of NATO allies and partners in Europe while demonstrating the U.S. commitment to regional and global security.

Related: Israel’s F-35s may have already flown a combat mission against Russian air defenses in Syria

“We are grateful to our Bulgarian friends for their support in making today possible,” Clark said. “Your cooperation helps prepare the F-35 for its invaluable contribution to our alliance. We look forward to many more years of our shared commitment and partnership.”

This training deployment signifies an important milestone and natural progression of the Joint Strike Fighter Program, allowing the U.S. to further demonstrate the operational capabilities of the aircraft. It also assists in refining the beddown requirements for the F-35A at RAF Lakenheath in order to enhance Europe’s ability to host the future capabilities of the Air Force and coalition team. Also, it helps to integrate with NATO’s infrastructure and enhance fifth-generation aircraft interoperability.

The aircraft and Airmen began arriving in Europe on April 15, and are scheduled to remain in Bulgaria for a brief period of time before returning to RAF Lakenheath to continue their training deployment.

The KC-135 is from 459th Air Refueling Wing, Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, and is providing refueling support for the deployment to Bulgaria.

Articles

An open letter to Colin Kaepernick from a military veteran

Military officials confirm US special operators are fighting in Raqqa
(Photo: Billy Hurst, AP)


EDITOR’S NOTE: The opinions expressed in this piece are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of We Are The Mighty.

So here we go again. Another professional athlete has decided to protest about the evils of the country that has given him more than any other country would. San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick refused to stand during the National Anthem of two NFL pre-season football games and has said that he intends to continue to refuse in the future.

Related: Another open letter to Colin Kaepernick from a (more understanding) military veteran

Kaepernick made a blanket statement about his actions: “I am not going to stand up and show pride for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

Let’s dissect this a little.

“I am not going to stand up and show pride for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”

This statement implies the government takes an active role in keeping minorities subjugated, like making laws that say “everyone but black people can do X.” That argument has been debunked so many times that you’re clearly uneducated on the issue and makes it hard to even take you seriously (forget the fact that our President is black, we have a Black Congressional Caucus and a long list of extremely successful black entrepreneurs). Truly active government oppression is a thousand times more brutal than what we have here. If you want to see what it really looks like, I invite you to Google El Salvador, Venezuela, Stalinism, North Korea, Somalia, or Saudi Arabia. Or let the USO set you up with a trip to Afghanistan. While there, ask about women’s rights and then tell us all how oppressive America is when you get back.

“It would be selfish on my part to look the other way.”

So how is sitting down selfless and not looking the other way? If you really want to make a difference, get off the bench and actually do something. You signed a $114 million dollar contract with the 49ers and have an average salary of $19 million. How much of that did you donate to black causes or use to help the suffering that has suddenly offended you? I made 1 percent of what you did last year and I’d bet all of it that I donated more of my time to help others than you did.

“There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

Embellish much? Sounds like we’re living in South Africa under Apartheid. The high-profile events you’ve launched off of are real problems, no doubt, but the actual law enforcement data suggests your statement is hyperbolic. Rule of law exists in America. Wrong-doers don’t get away with murder. (Well, OJ did, maybe, but that’s another story, isn’t it?)

When you decided to “sit in,” did you think you were the champion of a cause and every African American would agree with you? I’m willing to bet there are plenty who are rolling their eyes right now because they feel you’re doing more harm than good and wish you would just keep your thoughts to yourself. You’re not Che Guevara and this is not Bautista’s Cuba. You’re not a freedom fighter leading your people out of bondage. You’re an ill-informed athlete who’s only fanning the fires of racism by sitting on the sidelines for a principle that you only understand through a simplistic pop narrative that’s little more than a hashtag campaign.

Look, Colin, I get it. You want to show your anger and dissatisfaction about an issue that means something to you. The problem is you’re going about it all wrong. Instead of inspiring others or sparking change, you’re angering your fellow citizens (especially veterans) and losing respect instead of gaining it. You are an American citizen and this is your country. You have the right to say and do what you like, a right forged by the efforts of millions who actually put their lives on the line, the real freedom fighters.

If you’re pissed, fine. And if you’re pissed enough to take action, even better. Just do it in the right way. Write an insightful article about what ails you. Hire someone to write your memoir that outlines a proposed solution. Go on a speaking tour to raise awareness and inspire others. Use some of those NFL millions to fund a study that helps define the problem and the solution. Fund a scholarship or two for black kids who have the grades to get into college but not the money. Find an inner city high school and donate football equipment or (even better) spend some time on the field mentoring them.

You’re probably wondering why so many people disagree with you, even to the point of burning your jersey in the streets. Simply put, this country isn’t perfect, but even a passing knowledge of history (the kind usually possessed by a guy with a bachelor’s degree) should make you proud to be an American. We liberated Europe from genocidal Naziism, won the Cold War, landed on the moon, made more breakthroughs in technology and medicines that save lives every day than any other country, and given athletes the opportunity to make a ton of money to play a game. The list could go on and on, but it all points to one undeniable fact – the world would be a much worse place than it is without America.

Despite all that, you’ve decided America sucks and chosen to express your dissatisfaction by offending 99 percent of the 324 million Americans who have nothing to do with the issue you’re protesting. That’s your right and you certainly don’t have to respect the flag or the anthem.

But, in return, I don’t have to respect you. Now, instead of seeing a skilled athlete tearing up opposing defenses, millions of people are going to see a misguided man who chose to help break our country instead of help fix it. Sitting on the sidelines during the anthem only makes you part of the problem, not part of the solution.

Need a role model, Colin? Look to U.S. Army Lieutenant Sam Kendricks, who stopped his Olympic pole vault to stand and show respect when he heard the anthem. That guy gets it, but, of course, he’s actually serving something bigger than himself.

Kelly Crigger is a retired lieutenant colonel and the author of “Curmudgeonism; A Surly Man’s Guide to Midlife.”

Life Flip

These are really nice f****** watches

Watches can be incredibly personal—after all, they’re worn every day throughout many of life’s ups and downs. Why shouldn’t you have one that serves as a reminder of all the hard work you’ve done and the things you’ve accomplished? For veterans and first responders, NFW watch company allows them to do just that.


NFW was started by George Fox, who left a 10-year career at Timex to focus on making watches in his vision, without compromising quality or price point. He accomplishes this goal by spending money on what really matters — the watches — instead of high-priced marketing. For 13 years, his company has been growing steadily with a supportive fan base, especially among the military. He also believed that he could do good with his craft, which has been realized through NFW’s partnerships with charities that support veterans and first responders.

Military officials confirm US special operators are fighting in Raqqa
NFW watches in the field Courtesy of NFW’s Facebook page.

The first partnership started in 2011, when George was approached by a Special Forces Unit to create a special watch for them, with their insignia engraved on the face. He met with unit representatives in Fort Bragg, N.C., and broached the idea of allowing the public to buy the watches as a way to show support and raise funds for the Special Forces Association. This idea was enthusiastically received and the watch was a success.

Also read: This is how Sam Adams will help launch your vet-owned business

This first collaboration between military and small business was the start of a series of charity watches that celebrate Operation Enduring Warrior, the Chris Kyle Frog Foundation, Honor Flight, and first responders. Fifty dollars from each sale goes to the charities and nonprofits that support veterans. These watches do more than just advertise the organization. They also serve as a constant reminder to the wearer of the qualities that are endemic to the men and women who served and continue to serve under that symbol. Taya Kyle, Chris Kyle’s widow, said, “It’s great that the watches raise money for CKFF. But the best thing these watches do is every time someone wears one, sees one, or comments on one, it helps keep Chris’ spirit alive.”

Military officials confirm US special operators are fighting in Raqqa
NFW’s Special Forces Nous Watch benefitting the Green Beret Foundation.

To showcase these watches, NFW relies on the men and women who served in the honored units and wear their timepieces with pride. By not using the traditional watch marketing techniques, such as hiring celebrity endorsers, they are able to keep the watch costs down, allowing more people to wear this reminder of their service every day.

Recently, NFW was chosen to make watches for Medal of Honor recipients, further cementing the company’s relationship with our service men and women, and exemplifying the integrity that George Fox based his company on. He believes that his work with veterans had been more than repaid tenfold, as he has learned from their grit, ingenuity, and spirit. He also feels that it has helped him become a stronger father to his children, allowing him to model strength and integrity. In his spare time, George volunteers with the organizations, such as helping World War II veterans on Honor Flights and running with Operation Enduring Warrior in Spartan Races.

Military officials confirm US special operators are fighting in Raqqa
George Fox doing the Spartan Race with Operation Enduring Warrior.

You can follow NFW on Facebook and Twitter, and see their products in action, from fan photos posted to their Instagram.

What does NFW stand for? Rumor says it’s “Nice F**king Watch,” which they are.

Articles

Lockheed Just Built A New Laser That Can Fry Large Targets From A Mile Off

Military officials confirm US special operators are fighting in Raqqa
Photo: Lockheed Martin


The future of war is now one step closer after Lockheed Martin successfully tested its latest laser weapon system.

Lockheed’s ATHENA laser weapon prototype, short for Advanced Test High Energy Asset, managed to burn through a truck’s hood and destroy the vehicle’s engine and drive train.

During the test,  the truck was mounted on a test platform over a mile away from the weapon. The vehicle’s engine was engaged and running. ATHENA then burned through the truck’s hood and melted the engine and drive train rendering the vehicle incapacitated. Critically, the laser did not cause an explosion or any collateral damage, making ATHENA a potentially effective, non-lethal weapons system.

This ability to target and render vehicles inoperable from a significant distance — while not causing excessive damage — would have untold benefits in war zones. Cars suspected of harboring militants or vehicular bombs could be targeted from a distance. In the event that the vehicle was not a weapon, the risk of a loss of innocent life would far lower than with conventional munitions. However, if the vehicle was indeed an enemy, the combatants inside could be taken for questioning and might provide valuable human intelligence.

Military officials confirm US special operators are fighting in Raqqa
The Naval laser weapon system the US successfully tested in December 2014. Photo: US Navy

ATHENA is a 30-kilowatt fiber laser weapon which makes use of a process called spectrum beam combining to overcome the deficiencies in previous laser weapon systems. In the past, laser weapons have generally been inefficient due to their bulky size, their tendency to overheat, and the amount of energy needed to create a weapon strength beam.

But as Gizmag explains, “Spectrum Beam Combining overcomes these limitations by using fiber laser modules … The optical fibers are flexible, so the laser can be thousands of meters long for greater gain while taking up very little space because it can be coiled like a rope.

“The large surface-to-volume ratio means that it’s easy to cool. In addition, fiber laser are very durable and project a high-quality beam using 50 percent less electricity than an equivalent solid-state laser,” Gizmag continues.

Although still a prototype, Lockheed has high hopes about the future of its ATHENA system. According to a press release, the company envisions the laser weapon systems being placed on military aircraft, helicopters, ships, and trucks in the future.

More from Business Insider:

This article originally appeared at Business Insider Defense Copyright 2015. Follow BI Defense on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How CIA mistakes led to dozens of spies dead

A firewall used by the CIA to communicate with its spies in China compromised their identities and contributed to their executions by the Chinese government, several current and former intelligence officials told Foreign Policy magazine in a report published Aug. 15, 2018.

In a two-year period starting in 2010, Chinese officials began accurately identifying spies working for the US.

Chinese authorities rounded up the suspects and executed or imprisoned them before their handlers were able to determine what was going on.


“You could tell the Chinese weren’t guessing,” one of the US officials said in the report. “The Ministry of State Security were always pulling in the right people.”

“When things started going bad, they went bad fast.”

US intelligence officials cited in the report are now placing the lion’s share of the blame on what one official called a “f—– up” communications system used between spies and their handlers.

This internet-based system, brought over from operations in the Middle East, was taken to China under the assumption that it could not be breached and made the CIA “invincible,” Foreign Policy reported.

Military officials confirm US special operators are fighting in Raqqa

Police officer, Beijing, China.

(Photo by Shawn Clover)

“It migrated to countries with sophisticated counterintelligence operations, like China,” an official said.

“The attitude was that we’ve got this, we’re untouchable.”

Intelligence officers and their sources were able to communicate with each other using ordinary laptops or desktop computers connected to the internet, marking a stark departure from some of the more traditional methods of covert communication.

This “throwaway” encrypted program, which was assumed to be untraceable and separate from the CIA’s main communication line, was reportedly used for new spies as a safety measure in case they double-crossed the agency.

Unbeknownst to the CIA, however, this system could be used to connect with mainstream CIA communications, used by fully vetted CIA sources.

According to the report, the vulnerability would have even allowed Chinese intelligence agencies to deduce it was being used by the US government.

The Chinese set up a task force to break in to the throwaway system, Foreign Policy said, but it was unclear how they ultimately identified people.

The consequences for this breach were grim.

About 30 spies were reportedly executed, though some intelligence officials told Foreign Policy that 30 was a low estimate.

The US officials were reportedly “shell-shocked” by the speed and accuracy of Chinese counterintelligence, and rescue operations were organized to evacuate their sources.

The last CIA case officer to meet with sources in China reportedly handed over large amounts of cash in hopes that it would help them escape, Foreign Policy said.

The CIA has since been rebuilding its network in China, but the process has been an expensive and long endeavor, according to The New York Times, which in 2017 first reported on the suspected vulnerability and sources’ deaths.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The State Department is withering and China is taking advantage

The shrinking of the U.S. State Department and the sidelining of its diplomatic corps, the backbone of American foreign policy, were major themes during Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s first year at Foggy Bottom.


The State Department’s civilian workforce fell more than 6% between September 2016 and September 2017, which includes the first eight months of the Trump administration. The number of employees in administrative and legal positions fell 5.4%.

Within the foreign affairs occupation series, the number of employees fell 11.9%, from 2,580 in December 2016 to 2,273 in September 2017, according to Government Executive. Foreign affairs employees were more than 40% of the 836 civilian workers who left between Jan. 1 and Sept. 30.

Highly experienced members of the State Department have been a disproportionate percentage of those departures. Between December 2016 and September 2017, 16.2% of employees with 25 or more years of experience left. The number of employees in the foreign-affairs occupation series with at least 25 years of experienced shrunk 13.1% over the same period.

The department’s foreign service ranks, which includes diplomats and support staff, fell 1.2% in Tillerson’s first year, but the number of foreign service officers — those responsible for political, diplomatic, and economic relations — fell by about 2%, with 166 leaving.

Tillerson — whose planned reorganization the State Department has been criticized by legislators — kept a hiring freeze in place for most of his first year on the job. He eased it at the end of December for eligible family members and announced the expansion of the Expanded Professional Associates Program, which provided bureaus with greater placement flexibility.

Military officials confirm US special operators are fighting in Raqqa
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson speaks with U.S. Air Force Col. Corwin Pauly, 60th Air Mobility Wing vice commander at Travis Air Force Base, Calif., June 2, 2017. Tillerson stopped at Travis before heading to Sydney, Australia to attend the Australia-United States Ministerial Consultations forum. (U.S. Air Force photo by Louis Briscese)

But the trickle of new employees entering the State Department doesn’t compensate for the steady flow of departures, according to former diplomats.

Amb. Barbara Stephenson, president of the American Foreign Service Association, said in December 2017 that the Foreign Service’s “leadership ranks are being depleted at a dizzying speed.” When Obama left office, the State Department had five career ambassadors, but with the departure of Tom Shannon, a 34-year State Department veteran, earlier this month, just one remains.

“You’re throwing out the people at the top, so you’re losing expertise,” Ron Neumann, a retired 37-year State Department veteran, told Government Executive this month. “If you don’t bring in people at the bottom … you’re setting up a long-term problem.”

“Other countries are represented by people who have a deep background in the issue,” Neumann said, “and you’re like the high-school kid trying to pretend you’re in college.”

The atrophying of the State Department comes as China beefs up its own diplomatic corps, overhauling its Foreign Ministry to empower its diplomats, according to Bloomberg.

Chinese President Xi Jinping got the revamp underway in January 2017.

A reform committee led by Xi called on the Foreign Ministry to “forge a politically resolute, professionally exquisite, strictly disciplined foreign affairs corps,” and in October 2017, Xi appointed China’s top diplomat to the country’s powerful Politburo, making him the first former Foreign Ministry official in 20 years to reach that level.

Military officials confirm US special operators are fighting in Raqqa
Chinese President Xi Jinping. (Photo from Moscow Kremlin)

The reforms will give Chinese ambassadors more control over their portfolios and strengthen the country’s diplomats as they manage multiple trade deals, supervise infrastructure projects, and oversee numerous foreign loans — all of which are elements of Xi’s efforts to exercise more clout abroad and become a more prominent player in international affairs.

“I can imagine these changes would be really good for the morale for the Chinese diplomats at the foreign ministry at a time when the morale of the diplomats in the U.S. foreign service is at an all-time low,” Susan Shirk, a former deputy assistant secretary of state for East Asia, told Bloomberg.

Budget plans recently announced by the White House are likely to do little to improve the mood among those remaining at the State Department.

The budget would expand funding for the military but impose an $8.8 billion reduction for the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development during the current and next fiscal years — the biggest reduction since the 1990s.

Also Read: This is SecState’s plan to welcome Taliban into Afghan government

Lawmakers have a few weeks to find additional sources of funding, but the proposed cuts have already drawn rebukes from current and former members of the military, among others.

More than 1,200 veterans representing every branch of the military sent a letter to House and Senate leaders on February 12, saying that “strategic investments in the State Department and USAID will be essential if we are to solidify our hard-fought gains and prevent other bad actors from filling the void” around the world.

That letter came one day after 151 retired three- and four-star generals and admirals sent a letter to House and Senate leaders opposing cuts to the international affairs budget, to which the Trump administration proposed an almost 30% budget cut in 2017.

“We call on you to ensure our nation also has the civilian resources necessary to protect our national security, compete against our adversaries, and create opportunities around the world,” the letter says. “We must not undercut our nation’s ability to lead around the world in such turbulent times.”
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Here are the best military photos for the week of Feb. 11

The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:


AIR FORCE:

Dave Chappelle (right) and Donnell Rawlings, actors and comedians, stand in front of a C-17 Globemaster III Feb. 2, 2017, at Joint Base Charleston, S.C. Chappelle was in town for his stand-up comedy show when he made the visit to see service members and federal civilians at the base.

Military officials confirm US special operators are fighting in Raqqa
U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Tom Brading

Four B-1B Lancers assigned to the 9th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron, deployed from Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, arrive Feb. 6, 2017, at Andersen AFB, Guam. The 9th EBS is taking over U.S. Pacific Command’s continuous bomber presence operations from the 34th EBS, assigned to Ellsworth AFB, S.D. The B-1B’s speed and superior handling characteristics allow it to seamlessly integrate in mixed force packages. While deployed at Guam the B-1Bs will continue conducting flight operations where international law permit.

Military officials confirm US special operators are fighting in Raqqa
U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Richard P. Ebensberger

An F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot, assigned to Detachment 1, 138th Fighter Wing, dons his helmet in preparation of a barnstorming performance for reporters, Feb. 1, 2017, in Houston.

Military officials confirm US special operators are fighting in Raqqa
U.S. Air National Guard photo/Tech. Sgt. Drew A. Egnoske

CV-22 Osprey assigned to the 8th Special Operations Squadron at Hurlburt Field, Fla., and the 20th SOS at Cannon Air Force Base, N.M., fly in formation over Hurlburt Field Feb. 3, 2017. This training mission was the first time in Air Force history that 10 CV-22s flew in formation simultaneously.

Military officials confirm US special operators are fighting in Raqqa
U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Joseph Pick

Senior Airman Austin Boyd, of the 138th Fighter Wing, attaches a hose containing liquid oxygen to an F-16 Fighting Falcon, Feb. 1, 2017.

Military officials confirm US special operators are fighting in Raqqa
U.S. Air National Guard photo/Tech. Sgt. Drew A. Egnoske

Airman 1st Class Joseph Humphrey (left), an Air Force fire protection specialist, and Airman 1st Class Tyler Parmelee conduct ice water rescue training at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, Feb. 4, 2017. The training taught the JB Elmendorf-Richardson firefighters self-rescue techniques, victim recovery and certified them as ice water rescue technicians. Humphrey and Parmelee, natives of Ridgecrest, Calif., and Ashburn, Va., are assigned to the 673rd Civil Engineer Squadron.

Military officials confirm US special operators are fighting in Raqqa
U.S. Air Force photo/Alejandro Pena

ARMY:

173rd Airborne Brigade paratroopers conduct a security halt during a foot patrol at the 7th Army Training Command’s Grafenwoehr Training Area, Germany, Jan. 28, 2017.

Military officials confirm US special operators are fighting in Raqqa
U.S. Army photo by Visual Information Specialist Markus Rauchenberger

A U.S. Army drill sergeant corrects a recruit during her first day of training at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., Jan. 31, 2017. Referred to as “Day Zero” this marks the beginning of the recruit’s journey through Basic Combat Training, where she will transition from a civilian to a Soldier.

Military officials confirm US special operators are fighting in Raqqa
U.S. Army photo by Stephen Standifird

NAVY:

SEA OF JAPAN (Feb. 03, 2017) Sailors assigned to the forward-deployed Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS McCampbell (DDG 85) clear the ship’s forecastle of snow and ice. McCampbell is on patrol in the 7th Fleet area of operations in support of security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.

Military officials confirm US special operators are fighting in Raqqa
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jeremy Graham

OTARU, Japan (Feb. 3, 2017) Sailors assigned to the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS McCampbell (DDG 85) man the rails as the ship pulls into Otaru, Japan. McCampbell is on patrol in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations in support of security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.

Military officials confirm US special operators are fighting in Raqqa
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jeremy Graham

MARINE CORPS:

A student in the Swedish Basic Winter Warfare Course waits for his FN Minimi light machine gun to cool during a field training exercise in Avidsjaur, Sweden, Jan. 30, 2016. Marines participated in the multi-national training that focused on winter-weather survival, performing infantry operations and leading small units in cold-weather conditions.

Military officials confirm US special operators are fighting in Raqqa
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Marcin Platek

Cpl. Ramon Valenci, a dog handler with 1st Law Enforcement Battalion, assigned to 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, orders his military working dog, Red, to search for improvised explosive devices during Integrated Training Exercise (ITX) 2-17, at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, California, Jan. 19, 2017. ITX is a combined-arms exercise which gives all elements of the Marine Air Ground Task Force an opportunity to utilize capabilities during large scale missions to become a more ready fighting force.

Military officials confirm US special operators are fighting in Raqqa
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Aaron S. Patterson

Thank you to the PA’s who offered me the opportunity to take over the USCG account for the past week. Loved showing everyone Air Station Kodiak Alaska. I hope I represented the Coast Guard aviation world well. Thank you, everyone, who sent me all of your great shots and videos, wouldn’t have happened without you.

Military officials confirm US special operators are fighting in Raqqa
U.S. Coast Guard photo

Hercules C-130 fixed wing looking great on the ramp.

Military officials confirm US special operators are fighting in Raqqa
U.S. Coast Guard photo by AET3 Betty Sciscoe

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This Green Beret will make you a mental commando

When things get squirrely, military vets have several advantages over career civilians. Vets, of course, have the benefit of combat and tactical training, but they’ve also learned to develop a formidable mental game.


Former Green Beret Mike Glover used this notion as inspiration and a jumping off point when he founded Fieldcraft Survival, his school for disaster preparedness.

With 18 years of deep operational experience, certifications out the wazoo (just check his founder’s bio), and a doomsday sense of humor that would make Mad Max proud, Glover is uniquely qualified to teach civilians to keep their heads and preserve their lives as the worst case scenario unfolds.

“At Fieldcraft, our whole basic motto is we’re teaching mindset over hard skills.”

Things, of course, got extra squirrely when Oscar Mike host Ryan Curtis dropped in for a visit.

Military officials confirm US special operators are fighting in Raqqa

Glover hustled Curtis right into training, first in the classroom to reinforce the importance of developing a strong mental game and then in the field, where the two ran through the O.P.S. Course, which stands for Observe, Prepare, Survive.

And just as the word “challenge” was leaving Curtis’ mouth a distant cry of distress told our heroes it was time to oil up for action.

What happened next pretty much sums up the whole series.

Military officials confirm US special operators are fighting in Raqqa
These are the faces of true bravery. (Go90 Oscar Mike screenshot)

Watch as Glover teaches this wannabe Martin Riggs the real meaning of the word “squirrely”, in the video embedded at the top.

Watch more Oscar Mike:

This is why you don’t challenge an ex-sniper to a duel

The Marine Rapper will make you shake your Citizen Rump

This is why the future of motocross is female

This is what happens when a Navy SEAL becomes an actor

This is what happens when a SEAL helps you with your lady problems

Articles

This Marine’s powerful music earned him an epic record deal

Keeping your head on a swivel, eyes always on alert, and being prepared for anything are just a few of ways Marines serving in the infantry stay vigilant while forward deployed.


With the constant threat of danger lurking around every corner, many veterans use music as a way to relax and recenter; some, like John Preston, take it one step further and use music to tell their stories and encourage others not to give up hope.

Related: This Marine rapper spits lyrics that veterans know all too well

During a tour in Iraq, Preston began his music career by writing the song “Good Good America,” which propelled John into the industry and landed him a record deal upon his return home.

Military officials confirm US special operators are fighting in Raqqa
John takes a moment for a photo op while deployed. (Source: John Preston)

For the next few years, John slowly veered away from music and became a firefighter — but his passion for music didn’t die out.

Luckily, he managed to return to music signing with Pacific Records and quickly released his first single “This Is War” in the fall of 2014. The song became a national media topic after a Marine veteran made a call-to-action to veterans across the nation to make a stand against ISIS.

John’s musical momentum began taking shape once again as his record label released several of his songs in the following months.

Also Read: This incredible rap song perfectly captures life in Marine Corps infantry

Military officials confirm US special operators are fighting in Raqqa
Marine veteran and talent musician, John Preston. (Source: John Preston)

“We are taking our message to the public, and today we tell the mainstream that we are here and we are loud. The perception of the broken veteran is a myth that we refuse to buy into,” Preston tells WATM. “My music is about our lives and the real battles we have and continue to fight: on and off the battlefield. We are here to show our community and the general public our talent, work ethic, and our drive to push forward through all adversity.”

Sadly, in January of 2016, John’s brother ended his own life after a hard battle with post-traumatic stress. The action almost convinced Preston to end his music career once again but has instead fueled his passion and his new single “Superman Falls.”

Preston is an executive producer on the album, which climbed to #21 on the iTunes rock charts. The song continues to spread throughout the veteran community as well as the mainstream music scene. To check out the John Preston’s music on iTunes click here.

Currently signed with Concore Entertainment/Universal Music Group, his newest single “Before I am Gone” was released on September 5, 2017. To check out the John plans on donating 100 percent of his profits to Stop Soldier Suicide.

John plans on donating 100 percent of his profits to Stop Soldier Suicide.

Check out John Preston’s video below to watch his behind the scenes footage.

(Youtube, John Preston Music)
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