NATO invites Russia to observe its massive war games - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

NATO invites Russia to observe its massive war games

NATO allies and a handful of partner countries are gearing up for the alliance’s largest joint military exercises in decades.

Ahead of the Trident Juncture exercises, which are expected to include 45,000 troops, 10,000 vehicles, 60 ships, and 150 aircraft from 31 countries training side by side in and around Norway in fall 2018, the alliance is stressing strength and transparency, and just invited Russian observers so they can get the message up close.

The US Navy admiral commanding the exercise hopes Russia will take them up on the offer.


“I fully expect that they’ll want to come. It’s in their interests to come and see what we do,” Admiral James Foggo told reporters at the Pentagon on Oct. 5, 2018, “They’ll learn things. I want them to be there so they can see how well [NATO allies and partners] work together.”

“There’s a strong deterrent message here that will be sent,” he said. “They are going to see that we are very good at what we do, and that will have a deterrent effect on any country that might want to cross those borders, but especially for one nation in particular.”

NATO invites Russia to observe its massive war games

Soldiers load an M777 howitzer during live-fire training at the Grafenwoehr Training Area in Germany, Sept. 10, 2018, as part of Exercise Saber Junction 18.

(Army photo by Markus Rauchenberger)

So far, Russia has yet to accept the offer.

The drills, Article 5 (collective defense) exercises, will include land, air, and amphibious assets training to repel an adversary threatening the sovereignty of a NATO ally or partner state. The admiral refused to comment on whether or not the exercise would include a nuclear element, as an earlier Russian drill did.

Although it was previously reported that these exercises are the largest NATO drills since the Cold War, they are actually the biggest since 2002, Foggo clarified at Oct. 5, 2018’s briefing. The allied drills come on the heels of massive war games in eastern Russia involving tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of Russian and Chinese troops preparing for large-scale military operations against an unspecified third country.

The purpose of Trident Juncture, according to handouts presented at Oct. 5, 2018’s briefing, is “to ensure that NATO forces are trained, able to operate together, and ready to respond to any threat from any direction.”

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is why China’s J-20 can’t dogfight US stealth fighters

China’s J-20 stealth fighter jet represents a massive milestone for Beijing’s armed forces and the first stealth aircraft ever fielded outside the US, but the impressive effort still falls noticeably short in some areas.

The J-20 doesn’t have a cannon and represents the only entry into the world of fifth-generation fighters that skips the gun, which has seen 100 years of aerial combat.

Enemy aircraft can’t jam a fighter jet’s gun. Flares and chaff will never fool a gun, which needs no radar. Bullets rip out of the gun already above the speed of sound and need not wait for rocket boosters to kick in.


While the F-22, the US’s fifth-generation stealth superiority fighter, can hold just eight missiles, its 20mm rotary cannon holds 480 rounds it can expend in about five seconds of nonstop firing.

The US’s other fifth-generation stealth jet, the F-35, has already used its cannon in combat missions in Afghanistan.

But not every jet needs a gun, and not every jet needs to dogfight.

NATO invites Russia to observe its massive war games

The F-35B firing its gun pod in the air for the first time.

(Lockheed Martin photo by Dane Wiedmann)

The J-20 doesn’t even consider dogfights

The J-20’s lack of a gun shows that the “Chinese recognize that being in a dogfight is not a mission that they’re building for,” retired US Marine Corps Lt. Col. David Berke, a former F-22 pilot and F-35B squadron commander, told Business Insider.

“They probably want to avoid a dogfight at all costs,” he continued.

Air-combat experts previously told Business Insider that the J-20 most likely couldn’t compete with even older US jets like the F-15 in head-on dogfights, but that it most likely didn’t need to.

The Chinese jet — with powerful sensors, long-range missiles, and a stealth design — poses a serious threat to US Air Force refueling, early warning, and other support planes. Tactically, beating back these logistical planes with J-20s could allow China to keep the US operating at an arm’s length in a conflict.

But it increasingly looks as if the J-20 would lose handily to US fighter jets in outright combat, and that may be the point.

According to Berke, guns only work to about 800 feet to score aerial kills.

“I’d rather have a missile that’s good to 800 feet that goes out to 20 miles than a gun that goes to 800 feet and closer but nothing else,” Berke said, adding, “Once you start getting outside of 1,000 feet, you can start using missiles.”

Because the J-20 wasn’t meant to be a close-in brawler, the Chinese ditched it, saving room and weight aboard the jet to allow for other technologies.

Also, the mission of the gun in air-to-air combat may be disappearing.

NATO invites Russia to observe its massive war games

The last US air-to-air-guns kill wasn’t exactly done by a fifth-gen.

(DVIDS)

The US started building the F-22 in the 1990s with a hangover from combat losses to air-to-air guns in Vietnam after fielding jets without guns and relying solely on missiles. The F-35 includes a gun because it has a broad set of missions that include close air support and air-to-ground fires.

“In air-to-air, the cannon serves one very specific and limited purpose only useful in a very predictable phase of flight, which is a dogfight,” Berke said.

“The Chinese probably recognize that [dogfights are] not where they want the airframe to be and that’s not the investment they want to make,” he continued.

“Utilizing a gun against a highly maneuverable platform is an incredibly challenging task,” Berke said. In World War II, propeller-driven planes frequently engaged in turning fights where they attempted to get behind one another and let the guns rip, and bombers flew with turret gunners covering the whole compass.

But today’s F-22s, J-20s, Su-35s, and other highly maneuverable jets give the guns an “extremely limited use” in combat, according to Berke.

Berke said the US most likely hadn’t scored an air-to-air-guns kill in decades.

A Business Insider review found that the last time a US plane shot down an enemy aircraft with guns was most likely the Cold War-era tank buster A-10 downing an Iraqi helicopter in 1991— hardly applicable to the world of fifth-generation fighter aircraft.

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

Lists

The 21 most authoritarian regimes in the world

The Economist Intelligence Unit has released its latest Democracy Index, which ranks 167 countries according to political and civic freedom.


Countries are given a score out of 10 based on five criteria. Above eight is a “full democracy,” while below four is an “authoritarian regime.”

Scandinavian countries topped the list and the U.S. remained a “flawed democracy” in this index.

The study has five criteria: Whether elections are free and fair (“electoral process and pluralism”), whether governments have checks and balances (“functioning of government”), whether citizens are included in politics (“political participation”), the level of support for the government (“political culture”), and whether people have freedom of expression (“civil liberties”).

Below are the world’s most authoritarian regimes:

21. United Arab Emirates — 2.69/10

NATO invites Russia to observe its massive war games
Skyline of Downtown Dubai with Burj Khalifa from a Helicopter. (Image Wikipedia)

Electoral process and pluralism: 0.00

Functioning of government: 3.57

Political participation: 2.22

Political culture: 5.00

Civil liberties: 2.65

20. Azerbaijan — 2.65

NATO invites Russia to observe its massive war games
Members of the Azerbaijani Special Forces during a military parade in Baku 2011 (Image Wikipedia)

Electoral process and pluralism: 0.50

Functioning of government: 2.14

Political participation: 3.33

Political culture: 3.75

Civil liberties: 3.53

19. Afghanistan — 2.55

NATO invites Russia to observe its massive war games
Marines from 3rd battalion 5th Marines on patrol in Sangin, Afghanistan. (Image JM Foley)

Electoral process and pluralism: 2.50

Functioning of government: 1.14

Political participation: 2.78

Political culture: 2.50

Civil liberties: 3.82

18. Iran — 2.45

NATO invites Russia to observe its massive war games
The northern Tehran skyline. (Image Wikipedia)

Electoral process and pluralism: 0.00

Functioning of government: 3.21

Political participation: 4.44

Political culture: 3.13

Civil liberties: 1.47

17. Eritrea — 2.37

NATO invites Russia to observe its massive war games
Saho women in traditional attire (Wikipedia)

Electoral process and pluralism: 0.00

Functioning of government: 2.14

Political participation: 1.67

Political culture: 6.88

Civil liberties: 1.18

16. Laos — 2.37

NATO invites Russia to observe its massive war games
Host of dancers for Laos New Years celebration. (Image Wikipedia)

Electoral process and pluralism: 0.83

Functioning of government: 2.86

Political participation: 1.67

Political culture: 5.00

Civil liberties: 1.47

15. Burundi — 2.33

NATO invites Russia to observe its massive war games
Tutsi soldiers and gendarmes guarding the road to Cibitoke on the border with Zaire. (Image Wikipedia)

Electoral process and pluralism: 0.00

Functioning of government: 0.43

Political participation: 3.89

Political culture: 5.00

Civil liberties: 2.35

14. Libya — 2.32

NATO invites Russia to observe its massive war games
Children in Dublin, Ireland, protesting Libya’s then president, Gaddafi, before his overthrow. (Image Wikipedia)

Electoral process and pluralism: 1.00

Functioning of government: 0.36

Political participation: 1.67

Political culture: 5.63

Civil liberties: 2.94

13. Sudan — 2.15

NATO invites Russia to observe its massive war games
Sudanese rebels in Darfur. Both the government and the rebels have been accused of atrocities. (Image Wikipedia)

Electoral process and pluralism: 0.00

Functioning of government: 1.79

Political participation: 2.78

Political culture: 5.00

Civil liberties: 1.18

12. Yemen — 2.07

NATO invites Russia to observe its massive war games
Soldiers in Yemen. (Image Wikipedia)

Electoral process and pluralism: 0.00

Functioning of government: 0.00

Political participation: 4.44

Political culture: 5.00

Civil liberties: 0.88

11. Guinea-Bissau — 1.98

NATO invites Russia to observe its massive war games
An abandoned tank from the 1998–1999 civil war in the capital Bissau (Image Wikipedia)

Electoral process and pluralism: 1.67

Functioning of government: 0.00

Political participation: 2.78

Political culture: 3.13

Civil liberties: 2.35

10. Uzbekistan — 1.95

NATO invites Russia to observe its massive war games
Uzbek children. (Image Wikipedia)

Electoral process and pluralism: 0.08

Functioning of government: 1.86

Political participation: 2.22

Political culture: 5.00

Civil liberties: 0.59

9. Saudi Arabia — 1.93

NATO invites Russia to observe its massive war games
President Donald Trump speaks with Mohammed bin Salman, Deputy Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, during their meeting Tuesday, March 14, 2017, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, D.C. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

Electoral process and pluralism: 0.00

Functioning of government: 2.86

Political participation: 2.22

Political culture: 3.13

Civil liberties: 1.47

8. Tajikistan — 1.93

NATO invites Russia to observe its massive war games
Shanty neighborhoods just outside of Dushanbe, Tajikistan. (Image Wikipedia)

Electoral process and pluralism: 0.08

Functioning of government: 0.79

Political participation: 1.67

Political culture: 6.25

Civil liberties: 0.88

7. Equatorial Guinea — 1.81

NATO invites Russia to observe its massive war games
The city of Malabo in Equatorial Guinea. (Image Wikipedia)

Electoral process and pluralism: 0.00

Functioning of government: 0.43

Political participation: 2.78

Political culture: 4.38

Civil liberties: 1.47

6. Turkmenistan — 1.72

NATO invites Russia to observe its massive war games
Celebrating the 20th year of independence in Turkmenistan (Image Wikipedia)

Electoral process and pluralism: 0.00

Functioning of government: 0.79

Political participation: 2.22

Political culture: 5.00

Civil liberties: 0.59

5. Democratic Republic of Congo — 1.61

NATO invites Russia to observe its massive war games
Refugees in the Congo (Image Wikipedia)

Electoral process and pluralism: 0.50

Functioning of government: 0.71

Political participation: 2.22

Political culture: 3.75

Civil liberties: 0.88

4. Central African Republic — 1.52

NATO invites Russia to observe its massive war games
Refugees of the fighting in the Central African Republic observe Rwandan soldiers being dropped off at Bangui M’Poko International Airport in the Central African Republic. (Image Wikipedia)

Electoral process and pluralism: 2.25

Functioning of government: 0.00

Political participation: 1.11

Political culture: 1.88

Civil liberties: 2.35

3. Chad — 1.50

NATO invites Russia to observe its massive war games
A tribal delegation in Chad. (Image Wikipedia)

Electoral process and pluralism: 0.00

Functioning of government: 0.00

Political participation: 1.11

Political culture: 3.75

Civil liberties: 2.65

2. Syria — 1.43

NATO invites Russia to observe its massive war games
A Syrian soldier aims an assault rifle from his position in a foxhole during a firepower demonstration.

Electoral process and pluralism: 0.00

Functioning of government: 0.00

Political participation: 2.78

Political culture: 4.38

Civil liberties: 0.00

1. North Korea —1.08

NATO invites Russia to observe its massive war games
A defector from North Korea dodges bullets as he crosses the DMZ.

Electoral process and pluralism: 0.00

Functioning of government: 2.50

Political participation: 1.67

Political culture: 1.25

Civil liberties: 0.00

MIGHTY TRENDING

This new American amphib will pack a huge aerial punch

The US Navy on Sept. 23 will christen the USS Tripoli (LHA-7), its latest America-class amphibious assault ship that will pack Osprey helicopters, F-35 fighters, and thousands of Marines for rapid deployment from sea to shore.


Lynne Mabus, the wife of former Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, will break the ceremonial bottle of wine across the bow of the 844-foot warship during a ceremony at Huntington Ingalls Industries in Pascagoula, Mississippi.

Once it hits the fleet around 2018, the Tripoli will join the USS America (LHA-6) on the high seas, with the pair of ships packing unique capabilities among the expected total 11 ships of this class. Besides their power-plant and technology upgrades, the Tripoli and America will not have a well deck for launching small boats filled with Marines to the shore.

Instead, the ships are “optimized for aviation capability” — giving them larger hangar decks to store more aircraft, enhanced aircraft-maintenance facilities, more storage for onboard jet fuel, and more high-tech intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities.

NATO invites Russia to observe its massive war games
The future USS Tripoli (LHA 7) is launched at Huntington Ingalls Industries. Tripoli was successfully launched after the dry-dock was flooded to allow it to float off for the first time. Tripoli incorporates an enlarged hangar deck, enhanced maintenance facilities, increased fuel capacity and additional storerooms to provide the fleet with a platform optimized for aviation capabilities. The ship is planned to be christened in 2017 with delivery planned for late 2018. (U.S. Navy photo/Released)

“The idea is rapid mobility air assault,” Capt. Michael Baze told US Naval Institute News. “So the thinking with me and my Marines right now is, lighter companies, people that can move quickly via the (MV-22) Osprey and the (CH-53Es).”

The Tripoli will also be the first LHA “fully ready to integrate the entire future air combat element of the Marine Corps,” including the F-35B, capable of short takeoffs and vertical landings.

With its aviation-focused capability to deploy Marines, the Tripoli and America allow more standoff from potential hotspot areas.

“I don’t have to worry about force protection for my ship as much because I don’t have to get two and three miles off the beach to deploy my Marines” on small boats, Baze said. “The truth is, I’m over 100 miles right now — we could deploy the Marines from here.”

This will be the third Navy ship to bear the name Tripoli, which commemorates the 1805 Battle of Derna, in which US Marines defeated the Barbary pirates in Libya. The victory is also memorialized in the “Marines’ Hymn” with the line “from the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli.”

The Tripoli will be able to hit a speed of about 20 knots, with an approximate displacement of 45,000 tons.

MIGHTY TRENDING

A leaked recording shows Iran knew from the start it had shot down a passenger jet, Ukraine says

Iranian officials knew their military had shot down a passenger jet and lied about it for days, Ukraine said Sunday, citing a leaked audio recording of an Iranian pilot communicating with air-traffic control in the capital Tehran.


In the leaked audio recording — said to be from the night in January when Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 was shot down — a pilot for Iran Aseman Airlines radioed the air-traffic control tower to say he saw the “light of a missile,” Reuters reports.

The control tower can reportedly be heard trying, unsuccessfully, to reach the Ukrainian passenger aircraft on the radio as the Iranian pilot says he saw “an explosion.”

NATO invites Russia to observe its massive war games

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky.

Aseman Flight 3768 was close enough to the airport in Tehran to see the blast, the Associated Press reported, citing publicly available flight-tracking data.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a television interview that the recording “proves that the Iranian side knew from the start that our plane had been hit by a missile.”

Ukraine International Airlines said, according to Reuters, that the audio was “yet more proof that the UIA airplane was shot down with a missile, and there were no restrictions or warnings from dispatchers of any risk to flights of civilian aircraft in the vicinity of the airport.”

UIA Flight 752 was flying from Tehran to the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, on January 8 when it was shot down shortly after takeoff, killing all 176 people on board. The incident happened just hours after Iran launched a barrage of ballistic missiles at US forces in Iraq in retaliation for a US drone strike that killed Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, and the country’s air-defense systems were on high alert.

Iran initially said the aircraft crashed as the result of a mechanical error, but reports quickly began surfacing in the US, Canada, and parts of Europe that intelligence suggested the plane was shot down by a surface-to-air missile. Iran vehemently denied the accusations.

On January 11, however, Iran acknowledged that it accidentally shot down the commercial airliner.

Though it blamed “human error,” Iran also sought to cast responsibility with the US, arguing that the killing of Soleimani had led to a dangerous spike in tensions that resulted in the accident. Still, Iranian citizens and international observers questioned why Iran didn’t ground civilian air traffic after its missile attack on US-occupied bases in Iraq.

Iran said it mistook the airliner for an enemy missile. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani called the incident a “grave tragedy” and an “unforgivable mistake.”

Iran’s Civil Aviation Organization is in charge of investigating aviation incidents, with one official saying Ukraine’s decision to release the confidential recording, which aired on Ukrainian television, had “led to us not sharing any more information with them.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why a war in space may come sooner than you think

The battle to justify the need for a Space Corps rages on in Washington, but the war may soon be upon us, according to the Air Force Chief of Staff, Gen. David Goldfein. The waiting list to sign up as a Space Shuttle door gunner, sadly, isn’t yet available, as the actual battle will be satellite defense primarily.


Space isn’t just a vast nothingness outside of our planet. The placement of satellites in orbit has played a key, strategic role in combat. Historically, satellites in orbit were fairly hard to reach, so the need to defend them hasn’t been a concern. That was until an increasing number of nations gained the ability to knock them out.

The Air Force has kept their eyes on fighting in Space since before 1963. Following the Air Force’s lead, the Department of Defense has made many advancements to America’s space program, such as the Space and Missile Systems Center and free access to GPS satellites. In 2007, China took steps toward being able to shoot down satellites and, in 2008, America proved it could. Recently, Russia claimed to have a plane-mounted laser that can take out satellites.

NATO invites Russia to observe its massive war games
As if a MiG-31 couldn’t have been more of a headache… (Photo by Dmitriy Pichugin)

Gen. Goldfein told the press we need “to embrace space superiority with the same passion and sense of ownership as we apply to air superiority today.” To do this, the United States needs missile-detection satellites in place to watch over our orbiting assets.

Of huge benefit to the USAF’s Space Program is the advancement of civilian space programs, such as SpaceX, and their ongoing innovations, such as the reusable super heavy-lift launch vehicle, Falcon Heavy. The USAF and SpaceX have worked hand-in-hand on all things space. SpaceX helps research and foot part of the bill while the USAF helps by providing equipment and certifications. Combined, they’re about to launch the Deep Space Atomic Clock. While this might not sound as impressive as an all-out war in space, it will help give an absolute measurement of time in Space — which, because of time dilation, is a pain in the ass to keep accurate.

Needless to say, the final frontier is going to get much more interesting in the next few years.

NATO invites Russia to observe its massive war games

MIGHTY CULTURE

The US Air Force just brought this B-52 bomber back from the dead

A decommissioned B-52H Stratofortress heavy, long-range bomber nicknamed “Wise Guy” was brought back from the Air Force’s “boneyard” and delivered to an operational unit, the Air Force announced May 14, 2019.

Col. Robert Burgess, the commander of the 307th Operations Group, 307th Bomb Wing, flew the aircraft back to Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana on May 14, 2019, The War Zone reported.


NATO invites Russia to observe its massive war games

The art on the side of “Wise Guy.”

(307th Bomb Wing)

NATO invites Russia to observe its massive war games

“Wise Guy” being delivered to the 307th Bomb Wing.

(307th Bomb Wing)

NATO invites Russia to observe its massive war games

“Wise Guy” at Barksdale Air Force Base, May 14, 2019.

(US Air Force/Facebook)

NATO invites Russia to observe its massive war games

“Wise Guy” lands at Barksdale Air Force Base, May 14, 2019.

(US Air Force/Facebook)

“Wise Guy” is the second B-52 to ever return from the “boneyard.” The other, a bomber nicknamed “Ghost Rider,” was brought back and delivered to the 307th Bomb Wing in 2015.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

How veterans are using writing to heal

Navy veteran and creative writing gold medalist Patrick Ward is excited to share his work at this year’s Vet Gala at the National Veterans Creative Arts Festival (NVCAF). His featured story can be found among the 15 short stories and poems displayed in Writers’ Row at the festival’s Artist and Writer Exhibition.

“Writing has helped bring me back to the person that I want to be,” Ward said. “I’m truly grateful for the opportunity to be here and to share my story with others. We all have stories to tell. My hope in telling mine is that it inspires someone while I’m here.”


Inspiration and healing

Gary Beckwith, creator of the annual Veterans Literacy Jam at Battle Creek VA Medical Center and one of this year’s NVCAF writing event organizers, says he hopes veterans realize their potential and leave feeling healed.

NATO invites Russia to observe its massive war games

Navy Veteran and creative writer, Patrick Ward (right), listens during a discussion at the writing workshop at the National Veterans Creative Arts Festival. Ward’s story is among the 15 short stories and poems displayed in Writers’ Row at the festival’s Artist and Writer Exhibition.

“I believe that writing can be a cathartic experience,” said Beckwith. “The writing workshops and Vet Gala were designed to, not only highlight the talents of our writers, but were organized with the hopes that veterans leave here feeling inspired.”

During the festival, writers take the opportunity to speak about their writing and how it has affected their health, emotional well-being and recovery.

Army veteran Otto Espenschied has used writing to help him overcome Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and cope during a nine-year battle with non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Recently receiving a gold medal for his short story titled, “I Don’t Have PTSD,” he explains that writing and participating in this year’s festival has helped him understand that he is stronger than he ever knew.

“It’s hard to dream when you’re barely holding on,” he said. “Writing has helped get me through some tough times, but I’m alive. I can hug my daughters and my wife each day. What more can I ask for?”

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

MIT technology could reduce the number of nukes in the world

Even in peaceful times, stockpiled warheads can pose a danger if they’re accidentally set off or fall into the wrong hands. Plus, there’s always a chance conflict could escalate, which is why many experts support dismantling nuclear warheads around the world.

But most arms-control treaties don’t require warheads to be inspected, since the process could reveal military secrets. And even if inspections were required, nuclear experts worry that nations could try to fool inspectors by offering imitation warheads.

To eliminate the risk that countries would lie about this, two MIT researchers have come up with a novel way to verify that a warhead is authentic — all without revealing how the weapon was built.


The scientists describe the new technology in a paper published in the journal Nature Communications. Their method uses neutron beams: streams of neutrons that can plunge deep into a warhead and reveal its internal structure and composition, down to the atomic level.

The technology, if implemented, could encourage countries like Russia and US to allow their warheads to be inspected and verified as real before they get dismantled.

Nations typically don’t inspect warheads 

The US and Russia recently dissolved the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which kept both countries from possessing, producing, or testing thousands of land-based missiles. Shortly after, each nation conducted a missile test, stoking fears of a nuclear arms race similar to the Cold War.

NATO invites Russia to observe its massive war games

(Defense Ministry)

During the Cold War era, the US and Russia built up their arsenals of nuclear warheads. By 1967, the US had acquired the most warheads in its history — around 30,000. The Soviet Union reached its peak warhead supply in 1986, when it had around 45,000.

When the Cold War ended in 1991, the nations agreed to dismantle some of these weapons, but they didn’t allow each other to inspect the actual warheads. Instead, they showed proof that the devices that carried these warheads, such as missiles and aircrafts, had been torn apart — which meant that the warheads couldn’t be deployed.

The US, for instance, cut off the wings of B-52 bombers and splayed them out in a “boneyard” in the Arizona desert. Russian officials could then verify via satellite that the planes were out of commission.

NATO invites Russia to observe its massive war games

A B-52 bomber.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Sarah E. Shaw)

Today, the US and Russia each have around 4,000 warheads left in their military stockpiles, in addition to around 2,000 warheads each that are “retired,” or ready to be dismantled. The Federation of American Scientists estimates that Russia is dismantling up to 300 retired warheads per year, but confirming that number isn’t easy.

That’s where the technology from the MIT researchers comes in.

The tool captures a warhead’s unique shadow, not classified details

The MIT researchers’ tool can detect isotopes like plutonium, which are found in the core of a warhead, since those atoms release specific wavelengths of light. These measurements then pass through a filter that scrambles and encrypts them. This allows a warhead’s unique structure to get probed without any resulting 3D image of its exact geometry. (It’s kind of like looking at a shadow of the warhead rather than the object itself.)

NATO invites Russia to observe its massive war games

W80 nuclear warhead.

(Public domain)

The researchers estimate that the scan can be completed in less than a hour.

The test’s encryption process is more secure than encrypting information on a computer, which can be hacked.

If nations are confident that their military secrets are safe, the researchers said, they could be more inclined to allow their warheads to be inspected. Of course, the method would need to be more thoroughly vetted before it could be implemented, they added.

But eventually, they said, it could help to “reduce the large stockpiles of the nuclear weapons that constitute one of the biggest dangers to the world.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

These soldiers defeated tanks by hacking them

A tank unit deployed to the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California, for a training exercise had a big surprise when they were ordered to carry out an assault. Their movement was halted not by artillery and missiles, but by ones and zeros. They had been hacked.


According to a report by DefenseSystems.com, the assault was thwarted by cyber weapons. While the exact nature of the hacking wasn’t disclosed, the report did state that it targeted the radios and wireless communication systems on the tanks.

 

NATO invites Russia to observe its massive war games
Photo: Capt. Kyle Key

“These tanks had to stop, dismount, get out of their protection, reduce their mobility,” Capt. George Puryear told DefenseSystems.com. The need to do so resulted in their “defeat” in the training exercise.

Other electronic warfare and cyber warfare capabilities were also tested at Fort Irwin. In one of the tests, hackers were able to infiltrate into a network and provide false data to the commanders. The potential mischief that can be wreaked with that capability is endless – to include “tricking” a force into friendly-fire incidents.

NATO invites Russia to observe its massive war games
A US Navy (USN) EA-6B Prowler from the Electronic Attack Squadron-133 (VAQ 133), out of Woodby Island, Washington, takes off from Eielson Air Force Base (AFB), Alaska, in support of exercise NORTHERN EDGE 2002.

The implications of these exercises have not been ignored. The Army’s Rapid Capabilities Office and United States Cyber Command have been working on technology to protect American battlefield networks from hackers. One of the systems being applied is a kit that can either be carried by troops or mounted on armored vehicles.

The kits, said to be more capable than the jammers used by aircraft to combat enemy air defenses, have the ability to recognize and analyze electronic signals. During combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, electronic warfare planes like the EA-6B Prowler and EA-18 Growler were used to scramble enemy communications, but in combat against a country like Iran or North Korea, not to mention Russia, those planes may be needed for other mission.

NATO invites Russia to observe its massive war games
M1A2 Abrams Main Battle Tanks move to engage targets during a joint combined arms live-fire exercise near Camp Buehring, Kuwait Dec. 6-7, 2016. The multi-day exercise was designed to test the efficiency of the U.S. Army and Kuwaiti Land and Air forces abilities to identify and eliminate enemies’ anti-aircraft capabilities. Around 30 M1 Abrams Main Battle Tanks, two Kuwaiti AH-64 Apache helicopters, several Bradley Armored Fighting Vehicles, scout sniper teams, 120mm mortar teams, and M109 Self Propelled Howitzer artillery fire assaulted mock enemy positions during the exercise. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Aaron Ellerman)

 

The kits are slated to be tested during a NATO exercise known as Saber Guardian that will take place in Bulgaria, Hungary, and Romania. The Army is also looking at alternatives to the Global Positioning System, including the Adaptive Navigation System, which uses software algorithms to measure not only a cloud of atoms in the system, but also to analyze radio, TV, and even lightning strikes to generate accurate positions. The Army is also developing the Spatial, Temporal and Orientation Information in Contested Environments program, using long-range signals, data sharing, and self-sufficient tactical clocks to overcome jamming.

Those two systems and as many as five others could begin testing in 2018, according to Maj. Gen. Wilson A. Shoffner, the Rapid Capability Office’s director of operation, in hopes of preventing future hacking incidents. 

MIGHTY MOVIES

The ‘most Russian movie possible’ has a machine gun toting bear

What makes a movie “the most Russian movie possible?” In this case, it isn’t the long takes and subtle camera movement that trademarked films of the late Soviet Union. It instead features modern-day Soviet-level superheroes drawn together from all corners of the former USSR in order to fight an evil super villain who destroys Moscow and wants to take on the whole of Russia.

One of them is a military-trained, literal Russian Bear who mows down robotic drones with a minigun.


In the Russian action flick “Zaschitniki” (which translates to “Guardians“), the bear and other Russian superheroes are formed as an Guardians of the Galaxy-meets-Suicide Squad super unit who must take down a force of robots and henchmen who threaten all of Russia after they destroy the Russian Army and burn Moscow to the ground. The Guardians are superheroes formed through science during the Cold War, intended to protect the USSR from invaders.

Xenia has the power of invisibility and can change her body into water, Lernik can control Earth and rocks with his mind. Temirkhan has super speed and kills people with curved swords, and Arseniy turns into a giant bear-man who wields an equally giant machine gun. The creator of a subsequent superhero creation program flees the Soviet government and hides in Siberia, continuing his experiments and turning himself into a cyborg and creating clones of himself.

All of the heroes hide for decades after the fall of the USSR, emerging only because the Russian government wants to restart the program.

You see where this is going.

NATO invites Russia to observe its massive war games

To shots like this.

The Guardians are quickly captured by the evil cyborg doctor. While he’s off controlling an army of robots and tanks to gain control of all the Russian satellites in orbit so he can control all the technology in the world. Somehow, a Russian officer frees the Guardians. She trains them to fight and gives them special suits and weapons. An all-out Avengers-level brawl takes place in Moscow with the Guardians just murdering the other side.

Eventually they have to come together to defeat the villain. They touch each other and release a blast of energy, which the Russian officer forgets to tell them while they’re training for this big battle.

Listen, what you need to know is that Guardians isn’t a great movie, even by international action flick standards. What it does have is an awesome werebear and some other cool action scenes, which is all we ever really wanted. It also has a setup for a sequel which will be the worst movie I ever watch from start to finish.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How a 200-year-old engine is changing sub warfare

Swedish submarines have proven themselves in exercises against the U.S. One of their subs successfully lodged a kill against the USS Ronald Reagan as the carrier’s protectors stood idly by, incapable of detecting the silent and stealthy Swedish boat. Oddly, the Swedish forces succeeded while using an engine based on a 200-year-old design.


NATO invites Russia to observe its massive war games

The USS Ronald Reagan was sailing with its task force for protection when a single Gotland-class submarine snuck up, simulated killing it, and sailed away without damage.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Peter Burghart)

First, a quick background on what engines were available to Sweden when it was looking to upgrade its submarine fleet in the 1980s. They weren’t on great terms with the U.S. and they were on worse terms with the Soviets, so getting one of those sweet nuclear submarines that France and England had was unlikely.

Nor was it necessarily the right option for Sweden. Their submarines largely work to protect their home shores. Nuclear boats can operate for weeks or months underwater, but they’re noisier than diesel subs running on battery power. Sweden needed to prioritize stealth over range.

But diesel subs, while they can run more quietly under the surface, have a severe range problem. Patrols entirely underwater are measured in days, and surfacing in the modern world was getting riskier by the day as satellites kept popping up in space, potentially allowing the U.S. and Soviet Union to spot diesel subs when they came up for air.

So, the Swedish government took a look at an engine originally patented in 1816 as the “Stirling Hot Air Engine.” Stirling engines, as simply as we can put it, rely on the changes in pressure of a fluid as it is heated and cooled to drive engine movement.

That probably sounded like gobbledygook, but the important aspects of a Stirling engine for submarine development are simple enough.

  • They can work with any fuel or heat source.
  • They generate very little vibration or noise.
  • They’re very efficient, achieving efficiency rates as high as 50 percent while gas and diesel engines are typically 30-45 percent efficient.
NATO invites Russia to observe its massive war games

An officer from the HMS Gotland watches the crew of a U.S. patrol plane track his sub during war games near Sweden in 2017.

(U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Brian O’Bannon)

Sweden tested a Stirling engine design in a French research vessel in the 1980s and, when it worked well, they modified an older submarine to work with the new engine design. Successes there led to the construction of three brand-new submarines, all with the Stirling engine.

And it’s easy to see why the Swedes chose it once the technology was proven. Their Stirling engines are capable of air-independent propulsion, meaning the engines can run and charge the batteries while the sub is completely submerged. So, the boats have a underwater mission endurance measured in weeks instead of days.

But they’re still stealthy, much more quiet than nuclear subs, which must constantly pump coolant over their reactors to prevent meltdowns.

NATO invites Russia to observe its massive war games

The HMS Gotland sails with other NATO ships during exercise Dynamic Mongoose off the coast of Norway in 2015.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Amanda S. Kitchner)

So much more stealthy, in fact, that when a single Swedish Gotland-class submarine was tasked during war games to attack the USS Ronald Reagan, it was able to slip undetected past the passive sonars of the carriers, simulate firing its torpedoes, and then slip away.

The sub did so well that the U.S. leased it for a year so they could develop tactics and techniques to defeat it. After all, while Sweden may have the only subs with the Stirling engine, that won’t last forever. And the thing that makes them so stealthy isn’t restricted to the Stirling design; any air-independent propulsion system could get the same stealthy results.

Shortened to AIP, these are any power systems for a submarine that doesn’t require outside oxygen while generating power, and navies are testing everything from diesel to fuel cells to make their own stealthy subs. China claims to have AIP subs in the water, and there is speculation that a future Russian upgrade to the Lada-class will introduce the technology (as of August 2017, the Lada-class did not feature AIP).

So, for the U.S., getting a chance to test their mettle against them could save lives in a future war. And, if it saves a carrier, that alone would save thousands of lives and preserve tons of firepower.

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For its part, Sweden is ordering two new submarines in their Type A26 program that will also feature Stirling engines, hopefully providing the stealth necessary to catch Russian subs next time their waters are violated. Surprisingly, these advanced subs are also cheap. The bill to develop and build two A26s and provide the midlife upgrades for two Gotland-Class submarines is less than id=”listicle-2589628522″ billion USD.

Compare that to America’s Virginia-Class attack submarines, which cost .7 billion each.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This combat Cessna can shoot Hellfire missiles

Cessna’s are not the sexiest or most frightening aircraft, but there is a variant that could sneak towards an enemy relatively quietly and from low altitude before blowing that enemy away with two AGM-114 Hellfire missiles.


The AC-208 Combat Caravan is a modified version of the civilian C-208 that is used for everything from commercial air travel to science research to air ambulances.

The Combat Caravan contains additional sensors and a laser-designator for targets, as well as two points for mounting Hellfire missiles. It also has defensive measures such as ballistic panels and a flare system.

Weapon pylons hold the Hellfire missile, either the laser-designated AGM-114M or the “fire-and-forget” AGM-114K that uses its own radar to stay on target.

 

NATO invites Russia to observe its massive war games
An Iraqi air force pilot from the 3rd Squadron fires of some flares from an Iraqi air force Cessna AC-208 above the Aziziyah test fire range in Iraq on Nov. 8. (Photo: U.S. Army Sgt. Brandon Bolick)

 

The ground-attack aircraft is in service with the Iraqi Air Force. It first engaged in combat in 2014, striking ISIS targets near Ramadi and Fallujah.

The Iraqi Air Force originally purchased three of the AC-208s and three C-208s with reconnaissance capabilities but has been buying them at a decent clip since. One of the AC-208s crashed near Kirkuk, Iraq, in 2016, but the Iraqi Air Force still has eight and is asking to buy two more.

 

NATO invites Russia to observe its massive war games
A three-man Iraqi aircrew from Squadron 3 fires an AGM-114 Hellfire missile from an AC-208 Caravan at a target on a bombing range near Al Asad Air Base. (Photo: courtesy Multi-National Security Transition Command Iraq Public Affairs)

Other militaries have purchased the Combat Caravan. The planes are in service in Afghanistan, Argentina, Honduras, Kenya, and other countries — typically flying ground-attack and reconnaissance missions against Islamic extremists.

While the AC-208 is not the beefiest of ground-attack aircraft, it does give a lethal capability with relatively little training and infrastructure requirements. This allows air forces with smaller budgets to get Hellfires in the air for use against enemy forces.

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