An unmanned US military space plane has landed at NASA’sKennedy Space Center following a mission lasting more than two years.
The , which looks like a miniature space shuttle, touched down May 7, causing a sonic boom as it landed on a runway once used for space shuttles which have been mothballed.
The sonic boom caused dozens of nearby residents to take to Twitter, with one saying her house “shook” and her dog had “gone into a frenzy”.
Exactly what the space plane was doing during its 718 days in orbit is not entirely clear, with the US Air Force saying the orbiters “perform risk reduction, experimentation and concept-of-operations development for reusable space vehicle technologies.”
The cost of the mission – the fourth and longest so far – is classified.
The Secure World Foundation, a non-profit group that promotes the peaceful exploration of space, says the secrecy surrounding the suggests intelligence-related hardware is being tested or evaluated aboard the craft.
At 29 feet-long and with a wingspan of 15 feet, the Boeing-built craft is about a quarter of the size of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s now-retired space shuttles.
This mission began in May 2015, when the plane set off from nearby Cape Canaveral Air Force Station aboard an Atlas 5 rocket built by United Launch Alliance, a partnership between Lockheed Martin Corp and Boeing Co.
Its first mission was eight-months-long from April 2010, its second from March the following year lasted 15 months.
A third took off in December 2012 and ended after 22 months.
Another mission is scheduled later this year.
According to the Orlando Sentinel, sonic booms used to be common in the area during the 30 years of NASA’s manned space shuttle programme, with landings at the Kennedy Space Center preceded by a loud double boom.
But the last of those shuttles landed nearly six years ago.
There is also a type of rocket – SpaceX’s Falcon 9 – which produces sonic booms and these were last heard earlier this month.
But officials had refused to confirm the return date for the , so its arrival was not expected by residents.
An Army Ranger veteran who plays Santa was called for an emergency visit to a dying child in Tennessee, arriving just in time to present the boy with a present and hold him as he passed away.
Eric Schmitt-Matzen is a 60-year-old engineer and the president of Packing Seals Engineering, according to Fox News. He carefully cultivates Saint Nicholas’s appearance and performs at approximately 80 events throughout each year.
A nurse contacted him from a hospital near his home in Tennessee to ask that he rush over and comfort a dying child. According to the BBC, he was given a PAW Patrol toy by the child’s mother.
“She’d bought a toy from [the TV show] ‘PAW Patrol’ and wanted me to give it to him,” he told the Knoxville News Sentinel. “I sized up the situation and told everyone, ‘If you think you’re going to lose it, please leave the room. If I see you crying, I’ll break down and can’t do my job.’ ”
Schmitt-Matzen told the sick boy that he was Santa’s “Number One Elf” and that no matter where the boy went next, that title would get him in. Schmitt-Matzen gave the boy the gift and the child asked, “Santa, can you help me?”
“I wrapped my arms around him,” Schmitt-Matzen said, according to the Independent. “Before I could say anything, he died right there. I let him stay, just kept hugging and holding on to him.”
The Ranger veteran left the hospital in tears that any soldier could easily understand. Rangers Lead The Way.
Usually, when someone or something retires, it’s because they’ve grown a little older — and maybe a little slower — over time. Maybe their skills aren’t as useful as they once were, so they opt to spend their sunset years peacefully watching others take over their old duties.
But not the SR-71 Blackbird. It went out with a sonic boom.
The SR-71 was in the prime of its amazing life. This was a titanium bird designed to outrun and spy on the Russians, a bird that was fooling Russians even before it was assembled.
(Laughs in Blackbird)
When the Blackbird was retired in 1990, not everyone was thrilled with the idea. Much of the debate around the SR-71’s mission and usefulness was because of political infighting, not because of any actual military need the plane couldn’t fill. Still, the program was derided by Congressional military and budget hawks as being too costly for its designated mission. Some speculate the old guard of Air Force Cold Warriors had long since retired and newer generals couldn’t explain the plane’s mission in the post-Soviet order.
Whatever the reason for its retirement, the Air Force’s most glorious bird was headed for the sunset — but not before making history and setting a few more records.
An SR-71 refuels in mid-air during sunset.
(U.S. Air Force)
When it was operationally retired in 1990, a Blackbird piloted by Lt. Col. Raymond E. Yeilding and Lt. Col. Joseph T. Vida was tasked to fly one last time from Palmdale, Calif. to its new home at the Smithsonian Institution’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia. Apparently, they had somewhere to be in the D.C. area that day, too.
West Coast of the United States to the U.S. East Coast – 2,404 miles in 68:17.
Los Angeles, Calif., to Washington, D.C. – 2,299 miles in 64:20
Kansas City, Mo., to Washington, D.C. – 942 miles in 25:59
St. Louis, Mo., to Cincinnati, Ohio – 311 miles in 8:32
(U.S. Air Force)
The SR-71 refueled in mid-air over the Pacific Ocean before beginning its transcontinental journey. It arrived at Dulles International Airport to a throng of onlookers and well-wishers who knew a good thing when they saw one.
Addressing the full Senate after the historic, record-setting 1990 flight, Senator John Glenn told the assembly that the flight would be remembered as “a sad memorial to our short-sighted policy in strategic aerial reconnaissance.”
Pictures of off-duty soldiers capture the everyday, mundane moments of what life is really like on the front lines. Much of a soldier’s time in the field doesn’t involve combat or danger, but rather, ordinary tasks, down time, and simple boredom. No matter where the war is or what it’s about, troops in the field often have a lot of time on their hands, not much to do, and a lot of alcohol around. This leads to some great candid moments, and when cameras are around, great pictures.
Soldiers going on leave would often take photos to remember the good times they had, or to memorialize their comrades. There were also performances, bands, and card games to wile away the time, and this is true on all sides of every war. There are as many pictures of German soldiers smiling and goofing off as there are British and American. These photos humanize wars and the people who fought them.
Here are some of the best pictures of soldiers off-duty, taken all over the world.Vote up the best vintage photos of off-duty soldiers below, and be sure to let us know what you think in the comment section.
Answering an air support call for the first time is a gut wrenching experience, and it’s something fighter pilots will never forget. All of the flight hours and training boils down to their first life and death test, a test that will become routine on deployment. 1st Lt. Bart “Lefty” Smith describes his first time:
I mean that’s something that I heard about that people talk about, but something that you never know until you’ve actually felt it. Till you hear gunfire going off in the background over this guy’s radio, and you drop a bomb and it stops. And, he picks up and they get their stuff together and they’re like, ‘okay, we’re going to get on with the exfil.’ That’s a feeling that people have talked about, but having felt that is pretty amazing.
The video is over 14 minutes long, but the first four minutes sums up the stressful experience.
While taking enemy contact, a Chinese mortar struck a Marine bunker near where replacement Marine Cpl. Salvatore Naimo was engaging opposing forces. From this position, he heard the screams of his wounded comrades coming from inside the newly-damaged area.
Naimo, who joined the Marines to avoid being drafted into the Army, dashed over to aid his brothers, exposing himself to enemy fire.
As mortars continued to destroy the surrounding area, Naimo spotted two severely wounded Marines and scooped up one of them up, protecting him with his own body. Soon after, Naimo dropped off the first injured Marine at the aid station and headed right back for the second man as waves of incoming enemy fire blanketed their position.
After returning to the aid station with the second wounded Marine, Naimo informed the corpsmen that he was going to head back to the bunker and continue to fight.
Upon his arrival at the unmanned bunker, he was lucky to discover the Marines before him had stockpiled it with machine guns, ammo, and extra grenades. As the next wave of Chinese attacks throttled, Naimo fired the arsenal of weapons into the enemy — who closed within 15 yards of his position.
Hours later, Marine Lt. Walter Sharpe came across Naimo’s bunker, where he found 36 dead soldiers from the 65th Army Group of Mongolian laid out. Sharpe decided to recommend Naimo for the Navy Cross but sadly was killed in action two days later. He never filed the proper paperwork to get Naimo his Navy Cross.
More than six decades after his heroic efforts, then-Lt. Bruce F. Meyers (who was injured in that same battle) filed the necessary paperwork to award Cpl. Salvatore Naimo the well-deserved Navy Cross.
The Russian sub fleet is growing and growing more active, and the US and its NATO partners are more concerned about what those boats and rest of the Russian navy are up to around Europe.
For the US Navy, that means more focus on the Atlantic, especially the North Atlantic, closer to the home base of Russia’s Northern Fleet on the Barents Sea.
At the end of September 2019, the Navy reestablished Submarine Group 2 in Norfolk, Virginia, five years after the unit was deactivated. The reactivation comes just over a year after the Navy reestablished its Second Fleet, which oversees the western half of the Atlantic up into the high north.
Sonar Technician (Submarines) 3rd Class Christopher T. Woods stands lookout on the Navy sub Colorado in the Atlantic Ocean prior to its commissioning, January 11, 2018.
(US Navy photo by Mass Comm Specialist 1st Class Jeffrey M. Richardson)
The reestablishment of Submarine Group 2 is likewise “aimed at enhancing the Navy’s capacity to command and control its undersea warfare forces seamlessly across the entire Atlantic area, from the eastern seaboard of the United States to the Barents Sea, and even into the Southern Atlantic, if the need arises,” the Navy said in a release.
Echoing the comments of the Navy’s top officer upon the reestablishment of Second Fleet, Vice Adm. Charles Richard, commander of US submarine forces in the Atlantic, cited the “more challenging and complex” security situation as the reason for the return of Group 2.
“To maintain America’s undersea superiority, we must increase naval power and our readiness for high-end blue water warfare. How we’re organized to command that employment will be a driving factor in our success — that’s why we’re re-establishing Sub Group 2 today,” Richard said in the release.
A submarine group, composed of squadrons, handles the organization, training, and equipping of those boats while they’re state-side. Individual subs are attached to that squadron and group until they’re assigned to a combatant command, six of which are responsible for operations in specific areas of the globe.
A US Navy chief petty officer of the boat aboard pre-commissioned unit (PCU) South Dakota, directs his team while underway in the Atlantic Ocean, Nov. 27, 2018.
(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jared Bunn)
“Until [a submarine] makes that transition, it’s part of Group 2,” which owns it and operates it and tells it what to do, said Bryan Clark, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.
Reestablishing Submarine Group 2 doesn’t necessarily mean there will be more subs prowling the Atlantic, but its return is important because the “group is in charge of the movement and the command and control of the ship” before it transitions over to combatant command, Clark said.
Without Group 2, the attention of command elements in the Atlantic was spread thin over a larger number of subs. Bringing back Group 2, Clark said, “allows you to put more attention on the North Atlantic submarines.”
“Along with the second fleet … it’s a way of putting more command and control and leadership attention on that part of the ocean,” Clark added.
Russian Black Sea Fleet’s B-265 Krasnodar Improved Kilo-class submarine.
Reestablishing Second Fleet and Submarine Group 2 are “visible representations of the US commitment to the security in the Atlantic in an era of great power competition,” Lt. Marycate Walsh, a spokesperson for Second Fleet, said in an email.
“Increased challenges and threats required a commensurate increase in capacity to address possible contingencies,” Walsh said, adding that Group 2’s operations in the region will add to and integrate with those of Second Fleet.
Submarine Group 2 also oversees anti-submarine warfare for US Fleet Forces Command and, when assigned, for Fourth Fleet. Fleet Forces Command organizes, trains, and equips naval forces for assignment to combatant commands, and Fourth Fleet is responsible for ships, subs, and aircraft operating around Central and South America.
In that role, Submarine Group 2 will “employ combat-ready forces in [anti-submarine warfare] and undersea warfare operations across mission-essential sea-service functions,” Cmdr. Jodie Cornell, a spokesperson for Submarine Forces Atlantic, said in an email.
The USS Rhode Island returns to Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay in Georgia after three months at sea.
(US Navy photo)
Group 2 will also “ensure assigned staffs and submarines achieve and maintain a level of training, personnel and material readiness necessary to carry out their assigned missions” and “advocate for resources and requirements that enable advancements in [anti-submarine warfare] and undersea warfare operations,” Cornell said.
The Navy generally does not comment on operations, and neither Cornell or Walsh would comment on potential future operations for subs assigned to Submarine Group 2.
But Richard’s mention of the Barents Sea, adjacent to the home of Russia’s Northern Fleet and its strategic nuclear forces on the Kola Peninsula, hints an increasing concern among US and NATO forces about Russian subs being able to reach into Europe with their relatively new sub-launched missile capability.
“The Kalibr-class cruise missile, for example, has been launched from coastal-defense systems, long-range aircraft, and submarines off the coast of Syria,” Adm. James Foggo, head of US Naval Forces in Europe and Africa, said in late 2018. “They’ve shown the capability to be able to reach pretty much all the capitals in Europe from any of the bodies of water that surround Europe.”
Ranges of Russia’s Kalibr missiles when fired from seas around Europe. Light red circles are the land-attack version. Dark red circles indicate the anti-ship version.
The threat of sub-launched cruise missiles is “certainly … part of what this is intended to address,” Clark said of Submarine Group 2. “This gives better coordination and better command and control of those submarines.”
More frequent deployments of more sophisticated Russian subs are driving more US naval activity in the Atlantic, which includes more deployments US Navy P-8 maritime patrol aircraft to Iceland, where they have a higher operational tempo.
Those aircraft are in part managed by Group 2, Clark said. It helps “having people at Group 2 being able to focus on that problem.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Marcin Platek/Released. (DVIDS).
The belt buckle used today has evolved over 2000 years. First incepted and used in China and Rome, the fastener has had multifunctional purposes. As its use went over centuries of the middle ages, the buckle became a more intricate element made of different materials, including bones and antlers.
Archaeological evidence has shown that the buckle has been used from as early as 3300 and 1200 BCE. This bronze age was defined by technological progress that defined how people used advanced tools and weapons, essential components for hunting, and other forms of survival. Bronze incepted an entirely new age of artistic decorative art who were involved people of varied creative capabilities.
As a necessity for carrying a broad range of components, particularly tools and weapons, belts with buckles became a norm.
The first used belt buckle was made out of softened tree bark covers. From this invention, belts have been shaped into different cultural and geographical specifications worldwide. Materials have evolved from traditional barks to bronze, seasoned leather and artificial components.
Early Roman buckles were D and square-shaped, crafted out of wrought iron by metalworkers. A few hundred years later, iron buckles were made out of hand, an art that transitioned to cast bronze. By the fourth and fifth centuries, buckles had spread across Europe, with oval and D buckles being created in large quantities for decorative art.
Military buckles made significant appearances within the civil war era and had a colossal influence on contemporary designs. American Navajo silversmiths began designing turquoise buckles, and by the 20th century, cowboys were accentuating the Stetson hat with conspicuous clasps.
Although cowboys existed way before the 1900s with suspenders and military buckles, they slowly took the stage in western movies. From over a dozen belt manufacturers to buckle-featuring flags, these components provided an avenue to feature a sense of patriotism throughout the US.
The buckle belt slowly garnered popularity from these crude beginnings and evolved to be appreciated by a dynamic art form of indigenous Indian tribes in the south. Shaped by the exquisite skills of Navajo Indians, the buckle was shaped into various styles by silversmiths.
Accessorized with multi-utility
Functionally, belt buckles served a significant purpose of offsetting the wearer’s shoulders from the burden of objects attached to garments. Another related objective was to secure items. During the middle ages, women secured cosmetics, pomanders and purses on their belts. The buckles also endured the imagination that sword sheaths were attached to straps by knights during the middle ages.
At the same time, buckles served military identification throughout the centuries. Officers in ancient warfare were divided into general staff, cavalry and infantry, all of whom wore buckles showing different branches of service. In the Marine Corps, officers and enlisted have different belt buckles complete with tradition and trivia.
Navajo Indians seemingly borrowed the Japanese culture of ranking swimmers in the 1960s for their martial arts. Fueled by the perception that belts should initially be white and turn brown throughout its use, after which it turns black, different colors were used to show ranking. Adding stripes to the buckle was also a way of showing advancement at lower levels.
In some cities, women wore buckles to show respectability, as those with questionable character were denied wearing them. Allegedly used to mitigate women’s fidelity, the Navajo Indians effectively used buckles to ensure women remained chaste while men were away.
Right through the 20th century, women’s belts were often of the same material as their coats. Buckles crafted out of plastic or metal also gained traction in the west, while men exclusively wore leather belts with metallic buckles to secure their trousers.
There are obvious signs that technology had advanced in warfare. We see it in just the evolution of the M270 MLRS. But it is also obvious in the development of something far more humble: The pup tent.
The versions in use since the Civil War were pretty much a sheet of fabric called a shelter half, along with a folding pole and stakes. Two soldiers would each take their half, tie `em together, and set the tent up for two. Each shelter half and associated supplies came in at about five and a half pounds, according to olive-drab.com.
Now, why might that matter today? Well, yeah, you have Forward Operating Bases, Combat Outposts, and all that, but sometimes, when the grunts are on a patrol, they need to haul that shelter with them. In today’s day and age, when they can carry up to 200 pounds, they need to find some ways to lighten the load.
Today, though, that shelter is very different. At the Association of the United States Army expo in Washington, D.C., one company outlined a new version of the pup tent. Litefighter has developed a complete shelter known as the Litefighter 1. This is a small tent that troops can carry that comes in at under four and a quarter pounds, according to the company’s website.
This tent can be used as a free-standing tent with or without a rain fly, a lightweight hasty hooch, a bug-net over a standard cot (with or without the rain fly), and as a free-standing scout hide-site with camouflage netting. It can be easily assembled or disassembled, and fits easily into rucksacks.
While a new pup tent doesn’t generate the excitement of watching a MLRS fire off its rockets, or troops sending lead downrange, it counts. Especially when the troop in the fight has been able to get a good night’s sleep before the engagement.
The Tom Clancy brand was launched both in print and on the big screen with “The Hunt for Red October,” a Cold War nail-biter that more or less created the technothriller genre. The movie, released by Paramount in 1990, features a young Alec Baldwin as protagonist Jack Ryan who amazingly makes intel officers look cool. The movie remains an exciting romp 25 years on . . . but it also falls victim to the Hollywood trap of associated technical mistakes. (And we’ll skip the fact the Soviet captain has a Scottish accent while the rest of his crew have British accents to represent the fact they’re speaking Russian.) Here are 20 of them (with exact time stamp where applicable):
1. (2:55) Red October is being escorted out of the Russian harbor by a United States Coast Guard Cutter and U.S. Navy sea tugs.
2. (2:50) As Red October heads out of the channel the flat sides of the fake sub are visible at the waterline.
3. (5:24) Jack takes off from Heathrow in the dark for a six hour flight to DC (five time zones behind), but it’s light when he arrives and is driven to Langley.
4. (19:41) Patuxent, Maryland is home to the Naval Air Systems Command, not a Naval Shipyard.
Fun Fact: (20:01) Jeffrey Jones, who plays the engineer at the shipyard, also played Principal Rooney in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.”
Fun Fact: (23:03) Tim Curry, who plays Petrov, Red October‘s doctor, also played Frank N. Furter in “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.”
5. (35:11) When the Red October‘s Political Officer reads the orders, he reveals they’re supposed to test the silent drive and return home “on or about the 16th of this month.” Shortly afterwards, Jack Ryan is briefing Jeffrey Pelt and asks “isn’t it the 23rd?” which means the 16th of the month has already past.
6. (35:15) Jack Ryan’s brief to Jeffrey Pelt and the Joint Chiefs ignores the fact that ICBMs could be fired from pretty much anywhere around the globe. Why would a “madman” drive within 500 miles of the coast to do what could be done from the Iceland-UK Gap or wherever?
7. (51:10) COD turns into an E-2 Hawkeye as it lands aboard the USS Enterprise off of Nova Scotia.
8. Jonesy identifies the sonar contact as a Typhoon-class ballistic missile submarine, and they label it the Typhoon-7 as they have six other Typhoon submarines recorded in the computer. However, in November 1984, which is when this is supposed to happen, only two had been commissioned and the third was near completion. As a result the Dallas couldn’t have had six Typhoons in its computer at the time, only two.
9. (1:14:26) Tomcat turns into a Korean War-era Panther during ramp strike. (See more detail about this egregious error here.)
Fun Fact: Fred Thompson, who plays the admiral aboard the Enterprise, was also a U.S. Senator from Tennessee between 1994-2003.
10. (1:23:20) Helicopter pilot randomly switches from right seat to left and then back again while ferrying Ryan to the USS Dallas.
11. (1:23:55) Helo crewman spots the Dallas at “three o’clock” and the pilot turns left in response, which would take the aircraft away from the sub not put it closer to it.
12. (1:26:00) Helicopter doesn’t have windshield wipers going in a torrential rain storm.
13. (1:28:52) Once aboard the Dallas Ryan shows no signs of hypothermia (shivering, for instance) after releasing himself from the helo hoist and spending several minutes in near-freezing water.
14. Same footage used twice to show a torpedo hitting the water –one from a Russian Bear bomber and one from an American asset.
15. (1:44:52) Reuben James (FFG-57) was not commissioned until March 22, 1986 therefore couldn’t have been around during 1984, the period in which “The Hunt for Red October” is set.
16. (1:45:52) Movie crew (holding camera and wearing blue jeans and tennis shoes) visible on deck as crew abandons Red October because of bogus nuclear reactor leak.
17. (1:53:30) When the members of the Dallas crew arrive aboard the Red October, Ramius asks Ryan if he speaks Russian (in Russian) but basic lip reading reveals he is actually saying “Do you speak Russian” in English.
18. (2:01:27) As camera angles shift during this scene Ramius randomly switches which hand he’s using to cover his gunshot wound and hold his weapon.
19. (2:06:42) A submarine would only “rig for red” if it was going to periscope depth, which the Dallas never does throughout “The Hunt for Red October.”
20. (2:07:32) Surface view of the supposed underwater explosion shows the pyrotechnic flash that triggered it (at time 2:05 in the YouTube clip below).
MOSCOW — When Trevor Reed traveled to Moscow last summer, it was to study Russian and spend time with his girlfriend Alina Tsybulnik, whom he hoped to marry in September.
But days before he was due to fly home to Texas, Tsybulnik’s co-workers hosted a party that would end with the 29-year-old American spending a night at a Russian police station and, ultimately, standing trial on charges of violently assaulting the police officers who brought him there.
On July 29, a Moscow court is expected to issue its verdict in a case that has shaken Reed’s family and prompted speculation that the former U.S. Marine has become a pawn in a geopolitical standoff between Russia and the United States.
Charged with the “use of violence dangerous to life and health against a representative of the authorities,” Reed has languished in detention since August 2019 and faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. When the final hearing in his case wrapped up at Golovinsky District Court on July 27, he told RFE/RL that he had lost 20 kilograms and was tired “all the time.” He hoped the ordeal would end soon.
“Based on the evidence in my case, I think it’s clear what the outcome should be,” he said.
Reed claims to have no memory of what happened following the party on August 15, where he says he was encouraged to drink large quantities of vodka. But the events leading up to the police officers’ arrival are subject to little dispute.
According to Tsybulnik, in the early hours of August 16 she asked to share a ride with two of her co-workers. On the way, Reed felt nauseous and tried to get out of the vehicle. When the driver pulled up beside the busy road, Reed began drunkenly pacing in dangerous proximity to oncoming traffic. Tsybulnik’s co-worker called the police. She then drove off with another colleague, leaving Tsybulnik alone with Reed.
“I wouldn’t have called the police myself,” Tsybulnik, 22, said in an interview with RFE/RL. She suspects law enforcement took a special interest in Reed on account of his nationality. “After all, he’s an American, and we have a strange relationship with America right now.”
Inconsistencies And Retractions
Two police officers arrived and took Reed in to sober up, telling Tsybulnik to come back in a few hours and pick him up. When she arrived at the police station around 9 a.m., she said, he was being questioned, without a lawyer or interpreter present, by two men who introduced themselves as employees of the Federal Security Service (FSB), Russia’s FBI equivalent. He was accused of endangering the lives of the policemen who brought him in, Tsybulnik was told, by yanking the driver’s arm and elbowing another officer who tried to intervene.
But from the outset, the case against Reed has been marred by inconsistencies. Video evidence reviewed in court appeared to show no evidence that the police vehicle swerved as a result of Reed’s actions, as alleged by the police officers. Speaking before the judge, the officers themselves have claimed to have no memory of key moments in the journey, have retracted parts of their statements on several occasions, and have failed to answer simple questions from Reed’s defense team.
“Let’s put it this way. Almost everything introduced in the trial, that’s in the case, has been fairly well disputed,” said Reed’s father, Joey Reed, who has attended every hearing in his son’s trial. “We understand the nature of the judicial system here — it works differently to what we’re used to. But even within this system, there just seems to be a lot of irregularities as to what’s going on.”
The elder Reed traveled from Texas last September to be near his son, renting an apartment and riding out the height of the coronavirus pandemic in the Russian capital. He has sought to drum up media coverage and regularly updates a website he created and dedicated to Reed’s case, where he points out flaws in the evidence and keeps a record of each court session. A clock on the home screen counts the time Reed has spent in a Russian jail.
Americans On Trial
The U.S. Embassy in Moscow has sent a Russian-speaking representative to each court hearing, but Ambassador John Sullivan has made few public remarks about his case.
“The United States Embassy has not visited my son in five months,” Joey Reed said. “Their only contact with him was a two-minute phone call last month.”
The embassy declined, via its spokeswoman Rebecca Ross, to comment on Reed’s case.
Reed is among several Americans whom Russia has placed on trial in recent years on charges that their supporters, and in some cases the U.S. government, have said appear trumped-up. On April 22, speaking about Paul Whelan, another former U.S. Marine tried in Moscow this year, Sullivan said “he is foremost in my thoughts every day as I continue my service as ambassador, along with other Americans who have been detained — Michael Calvey and Trevor Reed.” Calvey, a Moscow-based investor, is under house arrest pending trial on fraud charges he disputes. Whelan was convicted of espionage, a charge he denies, and sentenced to 16 years in prison on June 15, in a ruling Sullivan called “a mockery of justice.”
In July 2019, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov called on the United States to free Konstantin Yaroshenko, a Russian pilot serving 20 years on a conviction of conspiracy to smuggle cocaine, and proposed a prisoner swap that would involve the release of a U.S. national held in Russia. Ryabkov did not specify whom he meant, but some took the comment as evidence that Moscow is using Americans like Reed as bargaining chips amid tensions with Washington. Viktor Bout, a Russian gunrunner whose arrest by U.S. authorities inspired the 2005 movie Lord Of War, is another Russian serving time in the United States whom Moscow has sought to repatriate.
The last major prisoner swap between the two countries was a decade ago, when Russia sent several prisoners including Sergei Skripal and the United States transferred 10 deep-cover agents operating in suburban America in a case that inspired the hit TV show The Americans.
Joey Reed plans to leave Russia if his son is sentenced to prison, and continue fighting for his release from the United States. “I’m sure the United States government will be involved,” he said. “And I will probably be spending a lot of time in Washington, D.C.”
Tsybulnik, a Moscow attorney specializing in criminal and international law, said Reed is ready to appeal a conviction before Russia’s Supreme Court. If he’s released, they will marry and seek to expedite her planned move to the United States.
The case against her partner of more than three years has changed her attitude not only to Russia’s legal system, she said, but to her country as a whole.
“There is no evidence of a crime here. This person is not guilty. But they’ve been trying him for a year — a year he’s spent in jail,” she said. “I no longer want to practice law in Russia. I’m ashamed. Ashamed for Russia’s reputation.”
Although the H-6 was initially fielded by the U.S. Army in the early ’60s, it wasn’t until the failed “Eagle Claw” mission in 1980 that the service started getting serious about supporting special operations with helicopters.
Since that time “Little Birds” have been used in crucial special operations missions across the globe from Panama to Somolia to Iraq and Afghanistan.
Little Birds are operated by the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne), the “Night Stalkers”
The Night Stalkers operate a variety of helicopter models including the Chinook and Blackhawk, all modified for special operations missions.
Little Birds come in two basic variants — troop transport and attack. The attack version — the AH-6 — is armed with two M134 miniguns, two M260 7-shot Hydra 70 rocket pods. Alternately, the AH-6 can be armed with Hellfire anti-tank missiles, air-to-air Stingers, Mk-19 40 mm automatic grenade launchers, or .50 caliber machine guns.
In September 1987, Night Stalkers participated in Operation Prime Chance, engaging and neutralizing an Iranian ship that was being used for mine laying. Little Birds attacked the threat while using aviator night vision goggles and forward-looking infrared devices over water, the first successful night combat engagement under these conditions.
The Little Bird can carry up to six troops, three on each side, but usually they limit the number to two per side.
Little Bird pilots get specialized training in close quarters flying and night ops and those skills are heavily leveraged once they get to the Night Stalkers.
When not at war Little Bird pilots train as intensely as the special operators they carry.
After all, they set themselves to a very high standard: According to it’s mission statement the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne) is constantly ready to arrive time-on-target plus or minus 30 seconds.
And here’s the last thing an insurgent might see . . .
A senior Afghan defense official said that country’s government wants the vaunted A-10, which is highly regarded for its durability and lethality in close-air-support operations, to return to Afghanistan.
No decision on A-10 deployments has been made, according to Air Force Brig. Gen. Lance Bunch, who directs U.S. air operations in Afghanistan. “The discussions of what forces we move to Afghanistan or drawdown from Iraq and Syria are all ongoing,” Bunch said.
After the liberation of Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria in July and October, respectively, operations against ISIS in those two countries, in which the A-10 played a major role, have begun to wind down.
President Donald Trump has also started to pursue an expansion of U.S. operations in Afghanistan over the later half of 2017 and the Air Force may see increased operations in Afghanistan as a part of that expansion.
In September, the Air Force chief of staff said the force was “absolutely” reviewing greater involvement following Trump’s decision on Afghanistan strategy.
The Air Force has deployed six more F-16 fighter aircraft — bringing the total to 18 F-16s — and a KC-135 tanker aircraft to Afghanistan in recent months. And the air war in the country has already intensified. (Though the Pentagon has begun classifying previously available data about military operations in Afghanistan.)
The numbers of weapons released by U.S. combat aircraft in Afghanistan have hit highs not seen since the 2010 surge. Air Forces Central Command data released in October showed 751 weapons dropped in September, eclipsing the 503 released in August and setting a new five-year high. (Data released in November adjusted September’s total down to 414 and recorded a new high — 653 — in October.)
U.S. forces in Afghanistan have also turned their attention to the Taliban’s involvement in the drug trade in an effort to cut into the insurgent group’s financing. Advanced F-22 fighters, joined by B-52 bombers and Afghan A-29 Tucano propeller aircraft, attacked drug labs in November.
Since then, about 25 Taliban drug labs in northern Helmand province — a hotbed for Afghan drug production — have been destroyed, costing the Taliban almost $16 million in revenue, according to Bunch, who said the air campaign against Taliban financing had only “just begun.”
In 2017, area under opium cultivation in Afghanistan increased 63% over the previous year, according to U.N. data. Even though eradication increased 111% during that period, the number of opium-poppy-free provinces declined from 13 to 10.
The Taliban has gotten heavily involved in the drug trade. The insurgent group has also expanded its territorial control in Afghanistan — from 11% of the country’s 407 districts in February to 13% in August.
Trump’s new strategy will also deploy more U.S. troops to Afghanistan — some of whom will embed with Afghan forces closer to the fighting. That could put them in harm’s way and will likely lead to more U.S. aircraft providing close air support, at which the A-10 excels.
The Air Force backed away from plans to begin mothballing its A-10 fleet earlier this year. The Air Force has pushed Congress for additional funding to produce new wings for 110 of its 283 Thunderbolts, and Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson assured lawmakers this month that money allotted for that project would keep the A-10 dominant.
“I happen to be a fan of the A-10,” Wilson told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee on Dec. 7.