NATO is trying to up its game in the waters around Europe - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

NATO is trying to up its game in the waters around Europe

Shrinking ice coverage in the Arctic has drawn the attention of NATO, Russia, and other countries to the high north, where the promise of more accessible waterways means potential military and commercial competition.

Since Russia’s 2014 seizure of Crimea and incursion in Ukraine, however, NATO members have been concerned about Moscow’s actions closer to home, and developments in recent weeks indicate the alliance is focusing on securing waterways around Europe, in the Baltic and Mediterranean seas and the eastern Atlantic — all areas that could be contested in a conflict with Russia.

Below, you can see what NATO is being warned about, and what the alliance is and isn’t doing to address it.


NATO is trying to up its game in the waters around Europe

A Russian Ilyushin Il-22 Bizon and a Su-27 Flanker, flying along the Baltic coast, May 14, 2019.

(UK Ministry of Defense)

The Baltic Sea, bordered by six NATO member countries and with Russia’s second-largest city, St. Petersburg, at its eastern end, has always been a busy area.

Encounters between NATO forces and Russian forces at sea in the Baltic and in the skies over Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, where NATO members carry out air patrols, have been on the rise since 2014. (The air policing mission has actually been going on since 2004.)

That encounters include an incident this summer in which a Russian Su-27 fighter escorting Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu’s plane turned into a NATO jet, forcing it away.

These tensions have come with military buildup as well.

Starting in 2016, NATO deployed some 4,500 troops in battle groups to the Baltics and Poland. Since the end of 2017, Sweden, which like Finland is not part of NATO, has sent new military forces to Gotland Island, which it had withdrawn from in 2005.

In Kaliningrad, an exclave that is home to Russia’s Baltic Fleet, Moscow has deployed new weaponry, including nuclear-capable ballistic missiles, and upgraded facilities, including what appear to be active nuclear-weapon storage bunkers.

Summer 2019, Russia also set up a helicopter base on Gogland, a small island between Finland and Estonia. Estonian officials played down the military significance, but the base is still seen as a Russian move to assert its power in the region and keep its neighbors guessing.

NATO is trying to up its game in the waters around Europe

The guided-missile destroyer USS Bainbridge participates in a photo exercise during exercise Baltic Operations (BALTOPS) in the Baltic Sea, June 9, 2018.

(US Navy/Mass Comm. Specialist 1st Class Theron J. Godbold)

NATO countries along the Baltic have sought a more robust presence, and Germany has taken the lead.

Among NATO members, Germany, which has been criticized for the paucity of its defense spending and the quality of its armed forces, has taken the lead and tried to bring NATO and the EU closer together on Baltic security.

Vice Adm. Rainer Brinkmann, deputy chief of the German navy, said in September 2019 that Russia was the “one main challenge” in the Baltic and that Western partners “must take appropriate measures to cope” and “to prevent the Baltic Sea from being a ‘mare clausum,'” or “closed sea.”

Like its neighbors, Russia has legitimate reasons to be in the Baltic, but the number of actors there, each with their own national and commercial interests, make it a delicate situation, according to Christopher Skaluba, director or the Transatlantic Security Initiative at the Atlantic Council.

“I think [the Russians] know that aggressive actions in the Baltic are likely to get the attention, in a way they probably didn’t want, of the NATO nations and Sweden and Finland.”

“The Baltic is pretty small place. There’s a lot of players. That piece of it gets really ugly really quick,” Skaluba told Business Insider in October 2019. “I think for lots of reasons, there are more incentives to avoid [conflict] than there are to … catalyze it.”

NATO is trying to up its game in the waters around Europe

An F-35B fighter jet aboard the British aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, Oct. 13, 2019.

(LPhot Kyle Heller/UK Ministry of Defence)

A new battle of the Atlantic.

Russia’s navy is increasingly active in the North Atlantic, and though the level of that activity and the size of Russia’s navy don’t appear to reach that of the Cold War, it has set NATO on edge.

Growing tension between NATO members and Russia in the Atlantic has been called “the fourth battle of the Atlantic,” following World War I and II and the Cold War.

The UK in particular has struggled to keep up, calling on NATO allies to help track Russian subs thought to be lurking in and around British waters.

“In 2010, a Royal Navy ship was called on just once to respond to Russian navy ships approaching UK territorial waters. Last year we had to respond 33 times,” the UK’s then-defense minister, Gavin Williamson, said in May 2018.

The Royal Navy has built new aircraft carriers, equipping them with Britain’s first F-35s, and acquired US-made maritime patrol aircraft after scrapping its Nimrod patrol aircraft in 2010.

NATO is trying to up its game in the waters around Europe

Royal Navy frigate HMS St Albans is currently the Nations on call warship for escorting foreign warships.

The UK and its allies in Europe want to keep “a critical choke point” between them open.

While any conflict in the Atlantic today is likely to look much different than previous battles, it’s likely to involve the English Channel and waters around it, especially the North Sea — at least that’s the concern of the five European countries who effectively revived the Cold War-era “Channel Committee” November 2019.

The pact signed on Nov. 7, 2019, by senior navy leaders from Germany, France, the UK, Belgium, and the Netherlands pledges to “harmonize” naval purchasing plans, potentially to include common procurement, according to Defense News.

But the countries also want to increase personnel exchanges and joint training and eventually recognize the professional qualifications of service members across the group.

“The Channel area is the front door to Central Europe and an important gate to the Baltic Sea,” the text of the pact says. “It is the critical choke point for the maritime traffic between the United Kingdom and continental Europe.”

The committee is also another military tether between mainland Europe and the UK, whose future relations with the rest of the continent remain in doubt amid the turmoil of Brexit.

NATO is trying to up its game in the waters around Europe

The Mediterranean has also become a venue for what the US and others see as an emerging great-power competition.

NATO members in southern Europe have been focused on immigration from the Middle East and North Africa and the threat of terrorism emanating from those regions.

But Russian naval forces are a constant presence in the Mediterranean, traveling to and from Moscow’s bases in the Black Sea and and its base in Tartus, Syria, which is Russia’s only such facility outside the territory of the former Soviet Union.

With the ongoing civil war in Syria, the eastern Mediterranean has also become a venue for military operations, with Russian subs demonstrating their new ability to strike targets on land with missiles.

The Russian presence around the Mediterranean and Black seas, Iran’s presence in Syria, and antagonistic intra-alliance relations with Turkey all present security challenges for NATO, according to a recent Atlantic Council report.

“As the south becomes more congested and contested, and great-power competition intensifies, NATO defense, deterrence, and containment mission in the south is increasingly urgent and more complex,” the report states.

NATO is trying to up its game in the waters around Europe

US Navy destroyer USS Carney fires it MK 45 5-inch lightweight gun at night while on patrol in the Mediterranean Sea, Sept. 11, 2016.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 3rd Class Weston Jones)

The lack of a strategy in the Mediterranean could have more serious consequences for the alliance as a whole, according to one deputy secretary general.

NATO has made a lot progress improving its defense and deterrence against Russia since 2014, “but it was more talk than action when it came to addressing problems in the south,” Alexander Vershbow, a distinguished fellow at the Atlantic Council and coauthor of the report, said during its presentation October 2019.

“This theme figured prominently in my farewell address to the North Atlantic Council three years ago, and unfortunately the situation hasn’t changed all that much since then,” added Vershbow, who was deputy secretary general of NATO and US ambassador to Russia.

According to the report, “many of the conventional defense and deterrence challenges associated with NATO’s east are now reemerging in the south,” including enhanced Russian anti-access/area-denial capabilities, provocative actions in the Black Sea, and hybrid activity on the ground.

Though NATO has taken steps to remedy its shortcomings in the Mediterranean — such as setting up a “hub of the south” at Joint Forces Command in Naples, Italy — establishing a maritime-focused enhanced southern presence there could be a way to counter Russia and sharing the burden of doing so among members, Vershbow said.

“Russia is back with a vengeance in the eastern Mediterranean and in the Black Sea,” which adds a geopolitical dimension to NATO’s need to project stability and bolster defense and deterrence, Vershbow added.

“The lack of an effective southern strategy could put alliance solidarity at risk if the publics in the southern NATO countries see the alliance as failing to address what they consider to be their priority concerns,” Vershbow said. “It could undermine their willingness to share the burdens of collective defense against Russia, and everybody loses in that scenario.”

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

Articles

The Army is close to fielding a weapon sight straight out of science fiction

In the next 18 months or so, the Army expects to field two new systems to dismounted Soldiers that will allow for more rapid acquisition of targets, even those hidden by darkness, smoke, or fog.


First out of the gate will be the Enhanced Night Vision Goggle III, expected to be fielded sometime between April and June of 2018. Shortly after, the Army hopes to field the Family of Weapons Sights – Individual, between January and March of 2019.

The FWS-I and ENVG III are unique in that the FWS-I, which would be mounted on a Soldier’s weapon, wirelessly transmits its sight picture to the ENVG III, which a Soldier wears on his helmet.

Additionally, the ENVG combines thermal imaging with more common night vision image intensification technology, which is recognizable by the green image it creates.

NATO is trying to up its game in the waters around Europe
Photo from US Army

Under starlight, targets may blend in with the background. But with the thermal capability overlaid on night vision, targets can’t hide in smoke or fog. They “really pop out with that contrast,” said Dean Kissinger, an electronics engineer who is currently assigned to Program Product Manger Soldier Maneuver Sensors at Program Executive Office Soldier.

Lt. Col. Anthony Douglas, who serves as product manager for Soldier Maneuver Sensors at PEO Soldier, said the two sensors have benefits beyond helping dismounted Soldiers better visualize targets. By paring the two systems wirelessly — allowing what the weapon-mounted sight is seeing to be beamed directly to the Soldier’s eye — these systems also help the Soldier acquire a target faster.

Rapid Target Acquisition

“The capability gap that we were tasked with [closing] by developing this was the rapid target acquisition capability,” Douglas said. “We are allowing the Soldier to actually see what is on their weapons sight, saving them time from having to bring the weapon to his eye.”

Master Sgt. Lashon Wilson, the senior enlisted advisor for product manager Soldier Maneuver Sensors, explained how the system will work and make it easier for a Soldier to acquire a target.

NATO is trying to up its game in the waters around Europe
Photo Credit: PEO Soldier

“This weapon-mounted system talks wirelessly to the smart battery pack that is on the Soldier’s head, that then transmits a signal to the ENVG III, which now displays a reticle onto the Soldier’s optic,” Wilson explained. “So now what this does is, while the Soldier is on patrol and he has his ENVG III on and he is looking, he has a greater field of view of what is going on in the battlefield.”

Soldiers wearing the ENVG III, which is mounted on their helmet, can choose to see both night-vision imagery and thermal imaging as well in their goggle. But they can also choose to see the image coming off the FWS-I that is mounted on their rifle.

A variety of modes allows Soldiers to see in their goggles only the image from the ENVG III itself, only the image from the FWS-I, or a combination of the two. Using a “picture-in-picture” mode, for instance, the image from their FWS-I is displayed at the bottom right of the image that is coming from the goggle.

In another mode, however, if the FWS-I on the rifle and the ENVG III on the Soldier’s helmet are both pointed in the same direction and seeing essentially the same thing, then the image from the FWS-I can project a reticle into the goggle. The Soldier can see the full image of what his goggle normally sees, but a circle representing the reticle from the FWS-I is overlaid onto that image, letting the Soldier know where his rifle is pointed. What this means is the Soldier doesn’t need to actually shoulder his weapon to acquire a target. That saves time for the Soldier in acquiring that target.

NATO is trying to up its game in the waters around Europe
Army photo by Jalen Brown

“We are saving him three to five seconds, and increasing their situational awareness on the battlefield,” Douglas said.

Additionally, because the reticle is projected onto what the Soldier is already seeing in his goggle — a much wider view of his environment than what he would see if he looked through his rifle scope — he is able to acquire a target while maintaining situational awareness of what else is going on around him.

Steep Learning Curve

At Fort Belvoir, members of the press were allowed to shoot an M-4 rifle that was equipped with the FWS-I, while wearing a helmet equipped with the ENVG III.

Several man-shaped targets were spaced out in the firing lane, each equipped with thermal blankets to simulate body heat. A pair of fog machines simulated battlefield smoke to make it difficult to acquire those targets using only day optics. Using night vision goggles alone, some of the targets could not be seen. But when combined with the thermal imaging capabilities built into the ENVG III and FWS-I, those targets were easily visible.

NATO is trying to up its game in the waters around Europe
Army photo by Jalen Brown

Using the system proved a bit challenging, however. When looking through the goggle, which was at one point displaying the image transmitted from the rifle-mounted FWS-I, it was hard to tell if it was the helmet that was crooked, the ENVG III that was crooked, or the shooter’s own head that wasn’t on quite straight.

“The gun is tilted,” Wilson confirmed. He served as a trainer for members of the press who were allowed to shoot.

Maj. Kevin Smith, who serves as the assistant product manager for FWS-I, said there is a “steep learning curve,” for the system.

“We just got through with the tests with the 4th Infantry Division out of Fort Carson, Colorado, back in June,” he said. “We only spent about 40 hours of in-classroom training. But we also spent about a week on the range or so. That’s where the Soldiers were really starting to get it and understand it and feel it, on the range.”

Smith said one such training event was held at Fort Carson, and two were held at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington.

NATO is trying to up its game in the waters around Europe
USMC photo by Cpl. AaronJames B. Vinculado

“Once they get comfortable with it, they really love it,” Smith said. “One Soldier, a noncommissioned officer who didn’t like it at first, later on during the last test we did, asked me when are we getting this fielded. He said he wanted it now. They want to take them to war and they want to use them.”

A Family of Sights

The soon-to-field FWS-I is meant for the M4 and M16 rifles, and can mount on those rifles in front of day sights that have already been bore-sighted, Kissinger said. What this means is that Soldiers can pop the FWS-I onto and off of their rifle without having to remove their day sights first.

The FWS-I will also work with the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon, the M141 Bunker Defeat Munition, and the M136 AT4 Light Anti-Tank Weapon.

Kissinger said the FWS-I actually provides capability to both light and medium weapons. In the past, there had been sights fielded for both types of weapons. Now that FWS-I provides capability to both, he said, there will be less variations in weapons sights, and a smaller logistics trail.

NATO is trying to up its game in the waters around Europe
Army photo by Sgt. Jeffrey Alexander

More capability is also coming to this “family” of weapons sights, Douglas said. There will be a crew-served variant and a sniper variant as well. Both are still under development, he said.

Both the FWS-I and the ENVG III are currently in low-rate initial production. The Army hopes to buy 36,000 of the FWS-I, and about 64,000 of the ENVG III, Smith said. He also said that the new gear is targeted squarely at dismounted Soldiers with infantry brigade combat teams and special operations forces.

For now, he said, he expects it will be squad leaders and two team leaders within a squad that might first see the FWS-I.

“This is a day or night capability,” Douglas said. “We’re talking about dismounted Soldiers who would use this. For our mounted soldiers, those on the Stryker or Bradleys … they do not operate without their thermal on all the time. So we are giving the dismounted Soldier the same capability the mounted Soldiers have.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is how much the Milky Way weighs (probably)

We can’t put the whole Milky Way on a scale, but astronomers have been able to come up with one of the most accurate measurements yet of our galaxy’s mass, using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and the European Space Agency’s Gaia satellite.

The Milky Way weighs in at about 1.5 trillion solar masses (one solar mass is the mass of our Sun), according to the latest measurements. Only a tiny percentage of this is attributed to the approximately 200 billion stars in the Milky Way and includes a 4-million-solar-mass supermassive black hole at the center. Most of the rest of the mass is locked up in dark matter, an invisible and mysterious substance that acts like scaffolding throughout the universe and keeps the stars in their galaxies.


Earlier research dating back several decades used a variety of observational techniques that provided estimates for our galaxy’s mass ranging between 500 billion to 3 trillion solar masses. The improved measurement is near the middle of this range.

“We want to know the mass of the Milky Way more accurately so that we can put it into a cosmological context and compare it to simulations of galaxies in the evolving universe,” said Roeland van der Marel of the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland. “Not knowing the precise mass of the Milky Way presents a problem for a lot of cosmological questions.”

NATO is trying to up its game in the waters around Europe

On the left is a Hubble Space Telescope image of a portion of the globular star cluster NGC 5466. On the right, Hubble images taken ten years apart were compared to clock the cluster’s velocity. A grid in the background helps to illustrate the stellar motion in the foreground cluster (located 52,000 light-years away). Notice that background galaxies (top right of center, bottom left of center) do not appear to move because they are so much farther away, many millions of light-years.

(NASA, ESA and S.T. Sohn and J. DePasquale)

The new mass estimate puts our galaxy on the beefier side, compared to other galaxies in the universe. The lightest galaxies are around a billion solar masses, while the heaviest are 30 trillion, or 30,000 times more massive. The Milky Way’s mass of 1.5 trillion solar masses is fairly normal for a galaxy of its brightness.

Astronomers used Hubble and Gaia to measure the three-dimensional movement of globular star clusters — isolated spherical islands each containing hundreds of thousands of stars each that orbit the center of our galaxy.

Although we cannot see it, dark matter is the dominant form of matter in the universe, and it can be weighed through its influence on visible objects like the globular clusters. The more massive a galaxy, the faster its globular clusters move under the pull of gravity. Most previous measurements have been along the line of sight to globular clusters, so astronomers know the speed at which a globular cluster is approaching or receding from Earth. However, Hubble and Gaia record the sideways motion of the globular clusters, from which a more reliable speed (and therefore gravitational acceleration) can be calculated.

The Hubble and Gaia observations are complementary. Gaia was exclusively designed to create a precise three-dimensional map of astronomical objects throughout the Milky Way and track their motions. It made exacting all-sky measurements that include many globular clusters. Hubble has a smaller field of view, but it can measure fainter stars and therefore reach more distant clusters. The new study augmented Gaia measurements for 34 globular clusters out to 65,000 light-years, with Hubble measurements of 12 clusters out to 130,000 light-years that were obtained from images taken over a 10-year period.

When the Gaia and Hubble measurements are combined as anchor points, like pins on a map, astronomers can estimate the distribution of the Milky Way’s mass out to nearly 1 million light-years from Earth.

Hubblecast 117 Light: Hubble & Gaia weigh the Milky Way

www.youtube.com

“We know from cosmological simulations what the distribution of mass in the galaxies should look like, so we can calculate how accurate this extrapolation is for the Milky Way,” said Laura Watkins of the European Southern Observatory in Garching, Germany, lead author of the combined Hubble and Gaia study, to be published in The Astrophysical Journal. These calculations based on the precise measurements of globular cluster motion from Gaia and Hubble enabled the researchers to pin down the mass of the entire Milky Way.

The earliest homesteaders of the Milky Way, globular clusters contain the oldest known stars, dating back to a few hundred million years after the big bang, the event that created the universe. They formed prior to the construction of the Milky Way’s spiral disk, where our Sun and solar system reside.

“Because of their great distances, globular star clusters are some of the best tracers astronomers have to measure the mass of the vast envelope of dark matter surrounding our galaxy far beyond the spiral disk of stars,” said Tony Sohn of STScI, who led the Hubble measurements.

The international team of astronomers in this study are Laura Watkins (European Southern Observatory, Garching, Germany), Roeland van der Marel (Space Telescope Science Institute, and Johns Hopkins University Center for Astrophysical Sciences, Baltimore, Maryland), Sangmo Tony Sohn (Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Maryland), and N. Wyn Evans (University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom).

The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and ESA (European Space Agency). NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, manages the telescope. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland, conducts Hubble science operations. STScI is operated for NASA by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy in Washington, D.C.

This article originally appeared on NASA. Follow @NASA on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This guy is certain that Hitler was ‘high as a kite’

German crime novelist Norman Ohler rocked the boat with historians when he published “Blitzed,” his well-researched and compelling argument that Adolf Hitler was high as a kite during World War II.

“Nazi Junkies” (out now on DVD and Digital) is a documentary series that relies heavily on Ohler’s research for “Episode 1: Hitler the Junkie,” digging deep into the Führer’s relationship with sketchy doctor Theodor Morell, a man whose “vitamin shots” were laced with cocaine and Eukodal, a German version of oxycodone.


Ohler appears in the documentary, which uses excellent footage from the war years to support the case that Hitler’s questionable military decisions were fueled by the sense of invincibility his drug habit caused.

We’ve got an exclusive clip from “Hitler the Junkie” below.

NAZI JUNKIES 101 clip

www.youtube.com

“Episode 2: Nazi Junkies” explores the widespread use of methamphetamine in the German military. After its introduction in the 1930s, Pervitin became widely used all over Germany and was even sold mixed into chocolate bars. Meth supported the booming economy, and historical records indicated that it fueled the troops during the Blitzkrieg.

The use of drugs in battle by the Nazis is far more established in WWII historical literature, and this episode seems to have been made before Ohler’s research into Hitler caused such a stir. His book also tells this story, but the novelist-turned-historian didn’t participate in this part of the documentary.

NATO is trying to up its game in the waters around Europe

The filmmakers make a point of emphasizing the fact that German doctors insisted that troops have their access to Pervitin severely curtailed before they began fighting on the Eastern Front. The size of the territory they aimed to conquer was far bigger than they’d tackled in Poland and France, but could their effectiveness have also been undercut by a lack of access to drugs?

Both episodes make the case that drugs were a critical part of Nazi Germany’s rise and fall. The conclusions are logical, and the arguments are coherent. “Nazi Junkies” takes these arguments from history books and shares them with the audience that loves WWII documentaries. It’s worth a look.

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

Articles

A Navy SEAL is now governor of Missouri

Eric Greitens — a Navy SEAL; Rhodes scholar; White House Fellow; founder of the veterans organization The Mission Continues;  author; and one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People —  was elected governor of Missouri Nov. 8.


NATO is trying to up its game in the waters around Europe
(Facebook photo)

It was an uphill battle, according to Kaj Larsen, a fellow SEAL and friend of WATM who helped campaign for Greitens. The outgoing governor, Jay Nixon, was ineligible to run for re-election due to the state’s term limits, but Greitens nevertheless faced a tough challenger in current Missouri Attorney Gen. Chris Koster.

“We started with nothing against our opponent’s $11 million,” Larsen wrote on Facebook as Greitens claimed victory in the state. “But when your buddy is in a gunfight, you show up with ammunition to help. For three months straight we outworked our opponent.”

NATO is trying to up its game in the waters around Europe
Kaj Larsen introduces Eric Greitens for his victory speech at a hotel in the Chesterfield suburb of  St. Louis. (Facebook photo)

Greitens is a Republican who ran against what he saw as corrupt establishment politics; called for banning gifts from lobbyists; advocated instituting term limits for every elected office in Missouri; wants to cut government spending; supports the Second Amendment, and called for more backing of local firefighters and law enforcement officers in the state.

Also read: 10 tips on raising resilient kids from an Al Qaeda-fighting Rhodes Scholar

At 42, Greitens is the youngest governor in the United States. This is his first attempt at public office. Republicans have only won the Missouri Governor’s seat once since 1992.

According to his book, “The Heart and the Fist,” Greitens went to Naval Officer Candidate School in January 2001, then went to BUD/S — the basic training course for Navy SEAL candidates — in February 2002.

He deployed four times in support of the Global War on Terror, including tours in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Horn of Africa. He then joined the Naval Reserve in 2005. His service was attacked during the campaign, but his staff released 225 pages of his military records before the election, according to the St. Louis Dispatch.

His awards include the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart, among many Achievement and Commendation Medals.

NATO is trying to up its game in the waters around Europe
Eric Greitens as a SEAL in Iraq.

“We’re going to take on the special interests and clean up Jefferson City,” Greitens said in his victory speech as recorded by the Kansas City Star. “Our mission in this campaign was to build a stronger and better Missouri we can take in a new direction.”

Not everyone is thrilled with Greitens’ victory. The most controversial issue surrounding his campaign is his support of making Missouri a “Right-to-Work” state, sapping power from local labor unions.

“It was one of the high honors of my life to introduce my friend and swim buddy last night as he took the stage to give his victory speech,” Larsen wrote on Facebook.
Winning the governorship is a big deal, but as the BUD/S motto goes: The only easy day was yesterday.
MIGHTY CULTURE

Green Berets head ‘into thin air,’ training for mountain warfare in Nepal’s legendary Himalayan Peaks

The Army’s Green Berets need mountain warfare training — and what better place to do it than on the so-called roof of the world?

About the size of the US state of Georgia, Nepal is wedged between India and China along the length of the Himalayan mountain range. The mountain kingdom is home to eight of the world’s 14 highest mountains, including 29,029-foot Mount Everest, the world’s highest peak. For two 1st Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) Green Berets, this was the perfect turf on which to hone their mountain warfare prowess.

Two 1st Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) Green Berets stand along with their course mates and instructors atop Thorang Peak during the culminating exercise for the Nepali Army’s High Altitude and Mountain Warfare School in Nepal, October 2020. US Army courtesy photo via DVIDS.

In September and October, the pair of Special Forces soldiers spent six weeks with the Nepali Army High Altitude and Mountain Warfare School (HAMWS), training on all sorts of hard-charging mountain warfare skills, including ascending and descending techniques, survival and rescue techniques, the use of special equipment, and cliff assault tactics.

And for the pièce de résistance, the Green Berets put their new skills and equipment to the test scaling Thorang Peak, a 20,200-foot mountain. At that altitude, there’s roughly half as much air pressure — and half as much oxygen — as at sea level.

“Marrying a deep expertise in mountain warfare tactics and mountaineering techniques with breathtaking terrain, the program succeeded in not only sharpening our capabilities but in forging strong bonds between new friends,” a detachment commander from the 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) said, according to a Department of Defense release.

Green Berets with 1st Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne), navigate difficult terrain during the Nepali Army’s High Altitude and Mountain Warfare School in Nepal, October 2020. US Army courtesy photo via DVIDS.

Nepal has more than 13,000 peaks higher than 6,000 meters, or about 19,700 feet. (Alaska’s Denali, the highest mountain in North America, is 20,310 feet high.) For the past 30 years, the Nepali Army’s HAMWS has hosted some 16 foreign students from 23 participating countries. This year, four total students from the US, Pakistan, and Bangladesh participated.

US Special Operations forces have trained in Nepal for years — including parachute jumps in the shadow of Mount Everest in the country’s Khumbu region.

It was on one of those deployments when disaster struck.

On April 25, 2015, a 7.8-magnitude earthquake devastated much of Nepal’s Himalayan landscape, killing about 9,000 people. Ancient monuments in the capital city of Kathmandu were turned to rubble. A massive avalanche at Mount Everest base camp killed 24 people, National Geographic reported.

A Green Beret with 1st Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) scales a wall using mountaineering techniques taught at the Nepali Army’s High Altitude and Mountain Warfare School in Nepal, October 2020. US Army courtesy photo via DVIDS.

After the 2015 earthquake, the deployed Army Green Berets ditched their training and went into real-world search and rescue mode. Among other efforts, they performed a helicopter rescue mission in the Himalayas, saving 30 stranded trekkers, including an American named Corey Ascolani.

US military personnel traveled to Nepal in 2017 for a humanitarian aid mission called Pacific Angel 17-4.

The US has another, more clandestine military connection to Nepal, dating back to the Cold War when the CIA supported Tibetan guerrillas based in Nepal’s Mustang region. Known as the Chushi Gangdruk, the CIA-backed irregular Tibetan force conducted cross-border raids against Chinese forces inside Tibet — a lingering point of contention between Beijing and Washington.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Fighting intensifies between nuclear-capable India & Pakistan

India on Feb. 26, 2019, launched airstrikes across its border with Pakistan in a military escalation after a terror attack in Kashmir left 40 Indian troops dead, and Pakistan immediately convened a meeting of its nuclear commanders.

Gun fighting on the ground broke out along India and Pakistan’s de facto border after what Vipin Narang, an MIT professor and an expert on the two country’s conventional and nuclear forces, called “India’s most significant airstrike against Pak in half a century.”


The strikes happened after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi unleashed the military to respond however it saw fit after the terror attack, which India blames on Islamic militants based in Pakistan.

India and Pakistan, which have been engaged in a bitter rivalry for decades, have fought three wars over the disputed territory, and analysts are closely watching the crisis for clues about whether it could escalate from airstrikes to a heightened nuclear posture.

Pakistan denies any involvement in the terror attack but swiftly “took control” of the Jaish-e-Mohammed militant camp in question.

India said its airstrikes killed as many as 300 Muslim separatist militants, but it is unclear whether the attack had any effect. Pakistan said its air force scrambled fighter jets and chased India off, forcing the jets to hastily drop their bombs in an unpopulated area, and Pakistan’s prime minister called India’s claims “fictitious.”

NATO is trying to up its game in the waters around Europe

Political map of the Kashmir region districts, showing the Pir Panjal Range and the Kashmir Valley.

For the mission, India flew its Mirage 2000 jets, which it uses as part of its nuclear deterrence. The jets dropped more than 2,000 pounds of laser-guided bombs, according to News18.com. As a branch of India’s nuclear forces, the Mirage 2000 fleet has some of the most ready aircraft and pilots, India Today reported.

The strike took place about 30 miles deep into Pakistan’s territory in a town called Balakot, Indian Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale said at a press conference.

“The existence of such training facilities, capable of training hundreds of jihadis, could not have functioned without the knowledge of the Pakistani authorities,” Gokhale said. The US has similarly accused Pakistan of harboring terrorists and backed India’s right to self-defense after the terror attack.

Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor, the spokesperson for Pakistan’s military, said Pakistan successfully scrambled jets and scared off the incoming Indian Mirage 2000s. He also tweeted pictures of craters and parts of what could be Indian bombs.

“Payload of hastily escaping Indian aircrafts fell in open,” Ghafoor said of the images. It’s unclear if India hit their targets, actually killed anyone, or simply dropped fuel tanks upon leaving Pakistan.

India’s airstrikes hit relatively close to Pakistan’s prominent military academies and the country’s capital, Islamabad, raising concern among the military that it’s under the threat of further Indian strikes.

NATO is trying to up its game in the waters around Europe

Pakistan’s nuclear threat

At a press conference in response to the airstrikes, Ghafoor issued a veiled nuclear threat to India.

“We will surprise you. Wait for that surprise. I said that our response will be different. The response will come differently,” Ghafoor said at a press conference.

Ghafoor added that Pakistan had called a meeting of its National Command Authority, which controls the country’s nuclear arsenal.

“You all know what that means,” Ghafoor said of the nuclear commanders’ meeting in a press conference he posted to Twitter.

But India has nuclear weapons and means to deliver them, too. Additionally, both countries maintain large conventional militaries that have become increasingly hostile in their rhetoric toward each other.

Best case scenario? Conventional skirmishes

India and Pakistan have fought three wars over the border and have nuclearized to counter each other’s forces. With China closely backing Pakistan and the US supporting India, Pakistan and India’s rivalry has long been seen as a potential flash point for a global nuclear conflict.

Reuters’ Idrees Ali reported after the strikes that gunfights had broken out along Pakistan and India’s border. The two countries have fought three wars over the disputed region of Kashmir, which both countries claim but administer only in part.

Both India and Pakistan now appear out for blood after the fighting. Reuters reported that all around India people were celebrating, and Modi praised the military as “heroes.”

Meanwhile, Pakistan’s denial that the airstrikes hit anything may give them some deniability and wiggle room to not respond with escalation, but hardliners within Pakistan will likely call for action.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of September 13th

This week marked the 18th anniversary of the September 11th attacks and the beginning of the longest war in American history. Chances are, you’ve probably had the same conversation with your comrades, coworkers, friends, or whomever about where you were when you heard about the attacks.

Now that it’s been 18 years, that means that if you’re still in the military, you could now have that same conversation with a young private/airman/seaman and be greeted with the response of, “Oh, I wasn’t even born yet!”

Man — now I feel old when I tell people I was skipping some middle school class to play Pokemon on my Gameboy in the bathroom and came back to everyone watching the news. I can honestly say that I’ve never skipped class since that day.


Don’t worry. I get it. You’re now probably thinking about how old you are because you were doing something much more mature than I was seven years before I could enlist. Just wait for a few weeks when kids who were just sent off to Basic/Boot Camp on their 18th birthday graduate. There’s going to be some serious dog and pony shows for them and I bet it’ll be all over the news. Then you’ll really feel old!

Anyways, now that I’ve given you some existential dread about your own aging — here are some memes!

NATO is trying to up its game in the waters around Europe

(Meme via Sam Ridley Comedy)

NATO is trying to up its game in the waters around Europe

(Meme via Army as F*ck)

NATO is trying to up its game in the waters around Europe

(Meme via The Salty Soldier)

NATO is trying to up its game in the waters around Europe

(Meme via Infantry Follow Me)

NATO is trying to up its game in the waters around Europe

(Meme via Weapons of Meme Destruction)

NATO is trying to up its game in the waters around Europe

(Meme via On The Minute Memes)

NATO is trying to up its game in the waters around Europe

(Meme via Call for Fire)

NATO is trying to up its game in the waters around Europe

(Meme via Team Non-Rec)

NATO is trying to up its game in the waters around Europe

(Meme via Not CID)

NATO is trying to up its game in the waters around Europe

(Meme via Lost in the Sauce)

NATO is trying to up its game in the waters around Europe

(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)

NATO is trying to up its game in the waters around Europe

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

NATO is trying to up its game in the waters around Europe

(Meme via Private News Network)

MIGHTY TRENDING

Massive Chinese air drills warn US ‘not to provoke Pyongyang’

With each passing day, tensions flare anew on the Korean Peninsula. By now, we all know that North Korea’s been hard at work dong what they do best: Launching test missiles and fiery rhetoric.


On Dec. 4, the U.S. and South Korea kicked off their largest joint air exercise yet, dubbed Vigilant Ace 18, involving hundreds of aircraft and tends of thousands of troops on the ground. As you might expect, Pyongyang wasn’t too happy about the drills, going as far as saying Dec. 2 that Trump’s Administration is “begging for nuclear war.”

NATO is trying to up its game in the waters around Europe
F-15s from Kadena Air Base, Japan, taxi for takeoff at Gwangju Air Base, Republic of Korea, Dec. 04, 2017. The fighter aircraft are participating in the pinensula-wide routine exercise, Vigilant Ace-18. (U.S Air Force photo by Senior Airmnan Jessica H. Smith)

While we’re at a point now where North Korean threats are as routine as the sunrise, China has sent an aggressive message in passive support of the belligerent state that warrants more serious attention.

Related: China’s Air Force growing in size and technological edge

People’s Liberation Army Air Force Spokesman Shen Jinke announced Dec. 4 (the same day as Vigilant Ace 18 kicked off) that China would be running drills through “routes and areas it has never flown before.” These new routes are expected to cover airspace over the Yellow Sea and the Sea of Japan. The exercises will involve all variety of aircraft, from reconnaissance planes to fighter jets, in joint operation with surface-to-air missiles. Simultaneously, China launched drills Dec. 2 that involve sending new Shaanxi Y-9 transport aircraft over the South China Sea, simulating an airdrop over an island in contested waters.

NATO is trying to up its game in the waters around Europe
A U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II fighter aircraft, assigned to the 25th Fighter Squadron, taxis down a runway during Exercise VIGILANT ACE 18 at Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, Dec. 3, 2017. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Franklin R. Ramos)

Though Chinese military officials will likely claim that the new drills are not in direct response to U.S. and South Korean actions, military experts agree that this show of force warns against the continued provocation of North Korea.

The U.S. and China have a rocky history, but are far from going to blows. That being said, should conflict erupt on the Korea Peninsula, we’ll quickly see how the chips fall.

 

MIGHTY HISTORY

The last soldier drafted by the US Army retired in 2011

America’s history with conscription is a contentious one at best. Most of the men drafted to fight from the Civil War to the Vietnam War probably sucked it up and served as required. But after years of citizens rioting over the draft, burning draft cards, and running away to Canada to dodge the draft, the U.S. moved its military to an all-volunteer service in 1973.

But there was at least one man who found that Army life suited him well, and he wore the uniform of the United States Army for the next 39 years.


The man who would one day become Command Sgt. Major Jeffery Mellinger was the son of a Marine working as a drywall hanger in his hometown of Eugene, Oregon when he received his draft papers. Thinking they were written by President Nixon personally, he excitedly reported for duty at Fort Ord in California. He was just 19 years old.

NATO is trying to up its game in the waters around Europe

What he found was less than the picture of military discipline that he expected. There was a lack of respect for the military as an institution, both inside and outside of the service. He found himself in West Germany working as a clerk. Around him, he saw rampant drug use, racism, and indifference. He could not wait to get out.

“If somebody told me I’d be in the army for 40 years on that day I would’ve just laughed at them, you know,” Mellinger told ABC News, chuckling.

But the commander of his first unit told him what military service meant – and that lesson stuck with him. The would-be onetime file clerk draftee soon became an Army Ranger, Jumpmaster, Special Forces instructor, jungle warfare expert, freefall expert, drill sergeant, and of course, Command Sergeant Major.

NATO is trying to up its game in the waters around Europe

Mellinger in Army jump school in 1972, left, and on patrol in Baghdad in 2005.

(Jeffery Mellinger)

Re-enlisting, he once said, was the best decision of his life. He has since made more than 3,700 jumps with 33 total hours in freefall. Although he was drafted during the Vietnam War, he never saw combat there. He deployed to Iraq, spending more than 33 total months in country. His convoys hit some 27 roadside improvised explosive devices, and on two occasions completely destroyed his vehicle. He was uninjured by any of them.

“We lost count of how many times Mellinger’s convoy was hit,” said his boss in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus. “He’s a national asset.”

Mellinger was just one of two million men drafted by the U.S. military during the Vietnam War era and says the Army is better off with an all-volunteer force.

“You get people who want to do this work,” he told Time Magazine. “If you had a draft at any other business in the world, you’d get people who maybe weren’t suited to be accountants or drivers or mathematicians. We’re doing just fine, thank you, with the all-volunteer force.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Mattis says Turkey is fighting in the wrong part of Syria

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Jan. 23 issued a strong rebuke of Turkey’s offensive against a U.S.-allied Kurdish militia in northern Syria, saying it is distracting from the fight against Islamic State militants.


“The violence in Afrin disrupts what was a relatively stable area of Syria. It distracts from international efforts to ensure the defeat of ISIS, and this could be exploited by ISIS and al-Qaida,” Mattis told reporters in Indonesia.

Turkey, the week before, began bombing and has sent troops into northern Syria’s Kurdish-controlled region of Afrin along the Turkish border, in an attempt to drive out the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, or YPG.

NATO is trying to up its game in the waters around Europe
Syrian civil war map, showing control by city. Size of circle is proportional to population (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

“We urge Turkey to exercise restraint in their military actions and rhetoric and ensure its operations are limited in scope and duration,” said Mattis, who is meeting with his Indonesian counterparts in Jakarta.

On Jan. 21, Mattis said Turkey, a member of NATO, had alerted the United States ahead of the attack. But at that point, Mattis did not criticize the Turkish operation. His tone changed.

“In the Afrin area, we had actually gotten to the point where humanitarian aid was flowing and refugees were coming back in. The Turkish incursion disrupts that effort,” Mattis said.

Also Read: Turkey fought a proxy battle with the US in Syria this weekend

The YPG is a key U.S. partner in the war against the Islamic State group, and makes up a large portion of the Syrian Democratic Forces — a coalition that has forced Islamic State militants from virtually their entire so-called caliphate. But Turkey views the YPG as a terrorist group and accuses it of having links to Kurdish separatists.

The U.S. decision to back the YPG has been a source of rising tension between Washington and Ankara, and Turkey repeated its calls on the United States to end its support of the militia.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The B-52H is finally getting new radar-system upgrades

Top defense contractors are competing to give America’s longest-serving bomber a big-time upgrade to its onboard sensors to improve the aircraft’s lethality in combat.

The radars on US Air Force B-52H Stratofortress bombers are old and haven’t been updated since the 1980s.

To keep these decades-old aircraft fighting into the foreseeable future, the Air Force is pursuing new advanced radar systems that can unlock the full fighting capabilities of the older bombers, allowing them to eliminate ground targets, as well as take on non-traditional combat roles, such as taking out ships at sea and engaging in aerial combat.


Northrop Grumman, a major US defense contractor, is currently pushing to replace the B-52 bomber’s outdated AN/APQ-166 radars with its AN/APG-83 Scalable Agile Beam Radar (SABR) as part of the B-52 Radar Modernization Program, Inside Defense reported Feb. 26, 2019.

NATO is trying to up its game in the waters around Europe

A B-52 Stratofortress.

(Photo by Airman 1st Class Victor J. Caputo)

The SABR system pitched for the B-52 is the same as that being installed on Air Force F-16s. Northrop Grumman has an enhanced SABR variant for the B-1B Lancer as well.

Also in the running to provide improved radar systems for the B-52, Raytheon is pulling radar capabilities from the F-15’s APG-63(v)3 and APG-82 Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radars and the APG-79 on the Super Hornets and Growlers, according to an earlier statement from the company.

The US Air Force is determined to see the 60-year-old bombers wage war for at least a century, so the heavy, long-range bombers are receiving a variety of upgrades to extend their length of service. Improvements include an upgraded weapons rack for smart munitions, new engines, and a new radar system, among other things.

Northrop Grumman submitted a proposal this week to Boeing, which is handling source selection for the radar upgrades for the Air Force.

The company states its SABR system “leverages [the] proven, fifth-generation Active Electronically Scanned Array radar capabilities of the AN/APG-77 on the F-22 Raptor and the AN/APG-81 on the F-35 Lightning II.”

Incorporating AESA radar capabilities into the B-52’s sensor suite would be a big deal, The War Zone’s Tyler Rogoway explains, noting that an advanced radar system like Northrop Grumman’s SABR could improve targeting, surveillance, and situational awareness.

NATO is trying to up its game in the waters around Europe

A B-52 taking off from Tinker AFB.

The upgrade would allow the bomber’s six-man crew to simultaneously engage ground and naval targets in all weather conditions and at greater distances, target enemies using advanced electronic attack capabilities, and even engage in air-to-air combat if necessary.

With these enhanced capabilities and the B-52’s ability to carry a large arsenal of weaponry into battle, the aircraft will be better prepared to fight in contested anti-access zones and defend friendly forces.

China and Russia, both of which are locked in military competition with the US, have been pursuing standoff capabilities to create anti-access/area-denial environments, and the US military is working hard to counter emerging challenges to American operations by developing its own standoff capabilities.

For instance, during 2018’s Valiant Shield exercises, B-52 bombers practiced dropping new 2,000-pound derivatives of the Quickstrike-ER (extended range) naval mine. The bombers can lay devastating mine fields from 50 miles away.

Northrop Grumman and Raytheon are also competing to replace the AN/APG-73 radar systems on older-model F/A-18 Hornets, with Northrop offering the SABR system and Raytheon offering its APG-79, according to Inside Defense.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

China’s electric buses kill oil demand as US dependency increases

China’s rapidly growing fleet of electric buses could be the biggest existential threat to oil demand in the future as more and more vehicles shun fossil fuels.

A new report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance suggests that China’s electric-bus revolution could kill off oil demand in the future with 6.4 million barrels a day displaced by electric vehicles by 2040.


By the end of 2019, a cumulative 270,000 barrels a day of diesel demand, predominantly from China, will be removed from the market. China’s revolution in electric vehicles has been astonishing and looks set to continue into the future. For example, in the growing mega city of Shenzen, the entire 16,000 strong fleet of buses run on electric engines and taxis will soon follow suit.

NATO is trying to up its game in the waters around Europe

Bloomberg estimates that electric buses and cars collectively account for 3% of global oil demand growth since 2011. The market is still small, making up around 0.3% of current consumption, but is set to expand rapidly in the coming years.

Global energy demand is still growing despite the boom in electric vehicles, with the US set to become the world’s largest oil exporter in the coming years.

A number of American cities and universities, such as the University of Utah, have unveiled electric-bus fleets in recent years. And in 2017, 12 major global cities agreed to buy only all-electric buses starting in 2025, according to Electrek.

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

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