North Korea may now have a biological weapons program - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

North Korea may now have a biological weapons program

Five months before North Korea’s first nuclear test in 2006, U.S. intelligence officials sent a report to Congress warning that secret work also was under way on a biological weapon.


The communist regime, which had long ago acquired the pathogens that cause smallpox and anthrax, had assembled teams of scientists but seemed to be lacking in certain technical skills, the report said.

“Pyongyang’s resources presently include a rudimentary biotechnology infrastructure,” the report by the director of national intelligence explained.

A decade later, the technical hurdles appear to be falling away.

North Korea may now have a biological weapons program
A surface-to-surface mediu long range ballistic missile is transported for launch in North Korea. (KCNA)

North Korea is moving steadily to acquire the essential machinery that could potentially be used for an advanced bioweapons programme, from factories that can produce microbes by the tonne, to laboratories specialising in genetic modification, according to United States and Asian intelligence officials and weapons experts.

Leader Kim Jong Un’s Government also is dispatching its scientists abroad to seek advanced degrees in microbiology, while offering to sell biotechnology services to the developing world.

U.S. analysts say North Korea could quickly surge into industrial-scale production of biological pathogens if it chooses to do so. Such a move could give the regime yet another fearsome weapon with which to threaten neighbours or U.S. troops in a future conflict, officials and analysts say.

Current and former U.S. officials with access to classified files say they have seen no hard evidence so far that Kim has ordered production of actual weapons, beyond samples and prototypes. And they can only speculate about the reasons.

“That the North Koreans have [biological] agents is known, by various means,” said one knowledgeable U.S. official who, like several others interviewed, spoke on the condition of anonymity. “The lingering question is, why have they acquired the materials and developed the science, but not yet produced weapons?”

But the official, like others interviewed, also acknowledged that spy agencies might not detect a change in North Korea’s programme, since the new capabilities are imbedded within civilian factories ostensibly engaged in making agricultural and pharmaceutical products.

North Korea consistently denies having a biological warfare programme of any kind, and it has worked diligently to keep all evidence of weapons research hidden from sight.

North Korea may now have a biological weapons program
(North Korea state Media)

Yet, in 2015, Kim commandeered a crew of North Korean cameramen for a visit to the newly named Pyongyang Biotechnical Institute, a sprawling, two-storey facility on the grounds of what used to a vitamin factory. State-run news media described the institute as a factory for making biological pesticides — mainly, live bacteria that can kill the worms and caterpillars that threaten North Korea’s cabbage crop.

To U.S. analysts studying the video, the images provided an unexpected jolt: On display inside the military-run facility were rooms jammed with expensive equipment, including industrial-scale fermenters used for growing bulk quantities of live microbes, and large dryers designed to turn billions of bacterial spores into a fine powder for easy dispersal.

Many of the machines were banned from sale to North Korea under international sanctions because of their possible use in a bioweapons programme. But Kim, wearing a white lab coat and trailed by a phalanx of scientists and military officers, appeared almost gleeful in showing them off, striking the same rapt pose as when he visits the country’s installations for nuclear weapons and long-range missiles.

“It is hard to avoid the conclusion that the institute is intended to produce military-size batches of anthrax,” Melissa Hanham, a North Korea specialist at the James Martin Centre for Nonproliferation Studies in Monterey, California, wrote in a blog posting after the video was shown.

U.S. analysts now believe the timing of the visit was deliberate: The previous week, on May 28, the Pentagon had publicly acknowledged that live samples of U.S.-made anthrax bacteria had been accidentally shipped to a South Korean military base because of a lab mix-up. North Korea lodged a formal complaint with the United Nations on June 4, calling the incident proof of American “biological warfare schemes” against its citizens.

Kim’s trip to the biotechnology institute came just two days later, and was clearly intended to send a message, Hanham said in an interview.

North Korea may now have a biological weapons program
(Photo from North Korean State Media)

Some weapons experts were sceptical, noting the absence of biohazard suits and protective gear found in laboratories that work with deadly pathogens. But since the release of the images, subsequent examinations have poked holes in the official story about the factory’s purpose. For one thing, some of the machines shown were not visibly connected to any pipes, vents or ductwork.

Experts also have questioned why North Korea would buy expensive industrial equipment at black-market rates, just to make a pesticide that can be purchased legally, at vastly cheaper rates, from China.

“The real takeaway is that [ North Korea] had the dual-use equipment necessary for bioweapons production,” said Andrew Weber, a former Assistant Secretary of Defence for nuclear, chemical and biological defence programmes. “What the photos show is a modern bio-production capability.”

Read Also: This is what it would take to clear out North Korea’s nukes

That North Korea possesses the basic components for biological weapons is all but settled doctrine within U.S. and Asian military and intelligence establishments, and has been for years.

Although overshadowed by Pyongyang’s nuclear and chemical weapons, the threat of biological attack from the North is regarded as sufficiently serious that the Pentagon routinely vaccinates all Korea-bound troops for exposure to anthrax and smallpox.

But determining North Korea’s precise capabilities — and the regime’s intentions for using such weapons — have been among the toughest intelligence challenges for U.S. analysts.

Questions about North Korea’s capability have taken on a new urgency, as military planners prepare for the possibility that tensions with Pyongyang could lead to war.

North Korea may now have a biological weapons program
An aerial view of North Korean capital Pyongyang, taken by photographer Aram Pam. (Image Youtube)

While U.S. and South Korean aircraft would seek to knock out suspected chemical and biological facilities from the air, the newest plans include a presumption that infantry divisions would have to face an array of chemical and biological hazards on the battlefield — hazards that may be invisible to fast-moving ground troops, current and former U.S. officials say.

A consensus view among military planners is that Kim is choosing to hold his bioweapons card in reserve for now, while his scientists build up a capacity to manufacture large quantities of pathogens quickly.

Joseph DeTrani, a retired CIA veteran who oversaw intelligence collection for North Korea in the 2000s, noted that ambiguity has been a built-in feature of North Korean weapons programmes for decades.

“They talk openly about their ‘nuclear deterrent,’ but with chemical and biological weapons, it’s different,” DeTrani said. “They’ve always played it close to the vest. For them, it’s a real option. But they want to preserve the possibility of deniability.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Navy is accelerating a new class of ballistic missile sub

The Navy and industry may be speeding up full production plans for its first Columbia-Class nuclear armed ballistic missile submarine as part of a broader move to increase the size of the service’s submarine fleet more quickly.

According to Navy statements, the first Columbia-Class submarine has been scheduled for procurement in 2021 as a first step toward achieving operational status by the early 2030s.

“Depending upon available resources, the Navy plan is aligned with the current 30-Year Shipbuilding Plan,” Naval Sea Systems Command spokesman William Couch told Warrior Maven.

The Navy’s Shipbuilding plan, released earlier this year, does cite acceleration as a priority as the service strives for an expanded 355-ship fleet.

“Navy continues to aggressively pursue acquisition strategies to build ships more quickly and more affordably,” the plan says.

Also, industry leaders and members of Congress have discussed fully funding and accelerating the program, an effort which will bring new nuclear undersea strategic deterrence technology to the Navy. Submarine-maker General Dynamics has recently announced that early purchases are in place to acquire the materials needed to begin full construction by as soon as 2020, according to a report in The National Interest.

Ultimately, the Navy hopes to build and operate as many as 12 new nuclear-armed submarines, to serve well into the 2080s.

North Korea may now have a biological weapons program
USS Asheville

“The Navy’s role is to be a knowledgeable and demanding customer, to define the requirement, and to work with Congress to establish the foundational profiles to attain it,” the Shipbuilding Plan states.

While acceleration, given current industry expansion and Congressional support is expected to potentially speed this up, the shipbuilding plan cites formal procurement of the first Columbia in 2021, with the second slated for 2024.

While the exact timetable for full construction of the first Columbia is likely something still in flux, depending upon Navy and General Dynamics planning, the service has been working to add funding to accelerate the program. For several years now, requirements work, technical specifications, and early prototyping have already been underway at General Dynamics Electric Boat.

The administration’s 2019 budget request, released early 2018, has already increased funding for the service’s new nuclear-armed ballistic missile submarine by $2 billion over 2018’s amount in what appears to be a clear effort to further accelerate technology development and early production. Several Congressional committees are strongly supporting funding for the new submarine in their respective budget mark ups.


The budget request, which marks a substantial move on the part of the Navy and DoD, asks for $3.7 billion in 2019, up from $1.9 billion in 2018. The new budget effort is quite significant, given that there has been a chorus of concern in recent years that there would not be enough money to fund development of the new submarines, without devastating the Navy shipbuilding budget.

North Korea may now have a biological weapons program
NAVSEA concept ofu00a0Columbia-class submarine

The Columbia-class plus-up is a key element of a cross-the-board Navy budget increase; overall, the Navy 2019 request jumps $14 billion over this year, climbing to to $194 billion.

Many regard the Columbia-Class submarines as the number one DoD priority, and it is quite possible the additional dollars will not only advance technical development and early construction, but may also move the entire production timeline closer.

Construction on the first submarine in this new class is slated to be finished up by 2028, with initial combat patrols beginning in 2031, service officials have said.

Perhaps of equal or greater significance is the fast-evolving current global threat environment which, among other things, brings the realistic prospect of a North Korean nuclear weapons attack. Undersea strategic deterrence therefore, as described by Navy leaders, brings a critical element of the nuclear triad by ensuring a second strike ability in the event of attack.

The submarines are intended to quietly patrol lesser known portions of the global undersea domain. Ultimately, the Navy hopes to build and operate as many as 12 new nuclear-armed submarines, to be in service by the early 2040s and serve well into the 2080s.

Navy nuclear-armed ballistic missile submarines are intended to perform a somewhat contradictory, yet essential mission. By ensuring the prospect of massive devastation to an enemy through counterattack, weapons of total destruction can – by design – succeed in keeping the peace.

Columbia-Class Technology

Although complete construction is slated to ramp up fully in the next decade, Navy and General Dynamics Electric Boat developers have already been prototyping key components, advancing science and technology efforts and working to mature a handful of next generation technologies.

With this in mind, the development strategy for the Columbia-Class could well be described in terms of a two-pronged approach; in key respects, the new boats will introduce a number of substantial leaps forward or technical innovations – while simultaneously leveraging currently available cutting-edge technologies from the Virginia-Class attack submarines, Navy program managers have told Warrior.

Designed to be 560-feet– long and house 16 Trident II D5 missiles fired from 44-foot-long missile tubes, Columbia-Class submarines will be engineered as a stealthy, high-tech nuclear deterrent able to quietly patrol the global undersea domain.

North Korea may now have a biological weapons program
NAVSEA concept of Columbia-class submarine

While Navy developers explain that many elements of the new submarines are not available for discussion for security reasons, some of its key innovations include a more efficient electric drive propulsion system driving the shafts and a next-generation nuclear reactor. A new reactor will enable extended deployment possibilities and also prolong the service life of submarines, without needing to perform the currently practiced mid-life refueling.

By engineering a “life-of-ship” reactor core, the service is able to build 12 Columbia-Class boats able to have the same at sea presence as the current fleet of 14 ballistic missile submarines. The plan is intended to save the program $40 billion savings in acquisition and life-cycle cost, Navy developers said.

Regarding development of the US-UK Common Missile Compartment, early “tube and hull” forging have been underway for several years already, according to Navy and Electric Boat officials.

The US plans to build 12 new Columbia-Class Submarines, each with 16 missile tubes, and the UK plans to build four nuclear-armed ballistic submarines, each with 12 missile tubes.

The Columbia-Class will also use Virginia-class’s next-generation communications system, antennas and mast. For instance, what used to be a periscope is now a camera mast connected to fiber-optic cable, enabling crew members in the submarine to see images without needing to stand beneath the periscope. This allows designers to move command and control areas to larger parts of the ship and still have access to images from the camera mast, Electric Boat and Navy officials said.

The Columbia-Class will utilize Virginia-class’ fly-by-wire joystick control system and large-aperture bow array sonar. The automated control fly-by-wire navigation system is also a technology that is on the Virginia-Class attack submarines. A computer built-into the ship’s control system uses algorithms to maintain course and depth by sending a signal to the rudder and the stern, a Navy Virginia Class program developer told Warrior Maven in a previous interview.

Sonar technology works by sending out an acoustic ping and then analyzing the return signal in order to discern shape, location or dimensions of an undersea threat.

Navy experts explained that the large aperture bow array is water backed with no dome and very small hydrophones able to last for the life of the ship; the new submarines do not have an air-backed array, preventing the need to replace transducers every 10-years.

In January 2017, development of the new submarines have passed what’s termed “Milestone B,” clearing the way beyond early development toward ultimate production.

In Fall 2017, the Navy awarded General Dynamics Electric Boat a $5 billion contract award is for design, completion, component and technology development and prototyping efforts.

This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Belgian F-16s intercept 2 Russian nuclear-capable supersonic bombers

Belgian Air Force F-16s scrambled to intercept two Russian Tu-160 Blackjack supersonic, nuclear-capable bombers, accompanied by two Sukhoi Su-27 Flanker fighters over the Baltic Sea on Sept. 17, 2019.

The Belgian Air Force has been guarding the Baltic airspace since Sept. 3, 2019, when it took over the police mission from fellow NATO member Hungary, which was supported by Spain and the UK in its mission. Four Belgian F-16s and at least 60 soldiers have been deployed to protect Baltic airspace from unwelcome incursions, according to the Belgian Ministry of Defense.

Sept. 17, 2019’s interception was Belgium’s first since it began its rotation over Baltic airspace, and seemingly at very close range.


Russian aircraft have engaged in several provocative actions over NATO airspace this year. In June 2019, British Typhoon fighter jets scrambled to intercept Russian Su-30 Flanker fighters twice in two days.

North Korea may now have a biological weapons program

An British air force Typhoon fighter jet, foreground, with a Russian fighter over the Baltics.

(UK mInistry of Defence/Twitter)

But NATO countries aren’t merely reacting to Russian aggression. In August 2019 alone, US and UK aircraft sent clear messages to Russia:

  • US B-2 Spirit stealth bombers flew with UK F-35s, the B-2’s first time flying with non-US F-35s.
  • B-2 Spirit bombers landed in Iceland for the first time. The B-2, which operates from Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, Andersen Air Force Base on Guam, Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean, and Royal Air Force Fairford in the UK, needs specific conditions to support its stealth capabilities.
  • B-2 bombers flew their first extended sorties over the Norwegian Sea earlier in September 2019 — right in Russia’s backyard.
North Korea may now have a biological weapons program

Two US Air Force B-2 Spirit stealth bombers, currently deployed to RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire, fly alongside two Royal Air Force F-35B Lightning aircraft from RAF Marham near the White Cliffs of Dover, England, Aug. 29, 2019.

(US Air Force/UK Ministry of Defense)

NATO countries share the mission of protecting Baltic airspace, as the Baltic countries — Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania — don’t have the infrastructure to protect their own airspace and are considered at risk of destabilization or invasion by Russia.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Operation Mail Call connects isolated Veterans with the world

Veterans in the community living center (CLC) at VA Central Western Massachusetts Healthcare System, like CLC residents throughout the VA health care system, are isolated due to COVID-19 safety precautions and unable to receive visitors.


But thanks to the hundreds of letters they have received through Operation Mail Call, they know they haven’t been forgotten.

Call to action

Operation Mail Call began when Navy Veteran Tim Moran posted a call to action on Facebook. Moran is a VA Central Western Massachusetts registered nurse.

“I asked people to write to our Veterans in the CLC on the main campus since they can’t leave or receive visitors for their own safety,” says Moran. “We received between 115 to 120 pieces of mail in response to that first Facebook post. Every Veteran received at least three or four letters during the first mail all.”

Inspired by Navy service

Moran says Operation Mail Call was inspired by his time as a sailor in the Navy. “I worked on a fast frigate homeported in San Diego. My high school sweetheart used to write me letters scented with perfume. I used to read those letters over and over again.”

As Moran prepared to deploy to a VA CLC in Bedford, Massachusetts, to help care for coronavirus patients, he handed the project over to VA Recreation Therapist Meaghan Breed.

“We’re happy to spread the love to other Veterans who live on our main campus. And to those who are unable to receive visitors at this time as well,” Breed says.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

5 reasons vets who never served together still make great friends

It’s a bitter-sweet day when troops leave the service. It’s fantastic because one book closes and another opens. Yet saying goodbye to the gang you served with is hard. Vets always keep in contact with their guys, but it’s not the same when they’re half way around the country.


Instead, vets have to make new friends in the civilian world. Sure, we make friends with people who’ve never met a veteran before, but we will almost always spot another vet and spark some sort of friendship.

North Korea may now have a biological weapons program
U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class China M. Shock

They get our jokes

Put just plain and simply, vets generally have a pretty messed-up sense of humor. The jokes that used to reduce everyone to tears now get gasps and accusations that we’re monsters.

There’s also years of inside jokes that are service wide that civilians just wouldn’t get.

They can relate to our pain

No one leaves the service without having their body aged rapidly. Your “fresh out the dealership” body now has a few dings in it before heading to college.

Civilian classmates just don’t get how lucky they are to have pristine knees and lower back.

North Korea may now have a biological weapons program
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

They side-eye weakness with us

Military service has taught us to depend on one another in a life or death situation. If you can’t lift something like a sandbag on your own, your weakness will endanger others. If you can’t run a minimum of two miles without tiring, your weakness will endanger others.

The people we meet in the civilian world never got that memo. Together, we’ll cull the herd the best way we know how as veterans — through ridicule. Something only other vets appreciate.

They can keep partying at our level

If there is one constant across all branches, it’s that we all know how to spend our weekends doing crazy, over-the-top things with little to no repercussion.

Civilians just can’t hang with us after we’ve downed a bottle of Jack and they’re sipping shots.

North Korea may now have a biological weapons program
Image by Jair Frank from Pixabay

They share our “ride or die” mentality

Veterans don’t really care about pesky things like “norms” if one of our own gets slighted in any way. Some civilian starts talking trash at a bar? Vets are the first to thrown down. Some piece of garbage lays a hand on one of our own? Vets’ fists will be bloodier.

All jokes aside about scuffing up some tool, this doesn’t just lend itself as an outlet for unbridled rage. Back in the service, we all swore to watch each other’s backs on an emotional level too. Your vet friend will always answer the call at three AM if you just can’t sleep.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This Blue Angels cockpit video is terrifying and amazing

This cockpit video footage of Blue Angel 4 in the “slot” position shows F/A-18 Hornets flying INCHES from each other — even as they do advanced aerial acrobatics.

Oh, and it’s a 360 degree video, so you can get the full picture of what these maneuvers are like (minus the 8’s pulled during the demonstration).


The U.S. Navy Blue Angels showcase the pride and badassery of the United States Navy and Marine Corps. Each year, they perform more than 50 flight demonstrations at more than 25 air show sites.

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I was lucky enough to fly a JET-O (Jet Orientation) flight as a cadet in a T-37, and while my pilot was generous enough to take me on some thrilling barrel rolls (I did *not* throw up, thank you very much), that sortie was nothing compared to this aerial demonstration.

Anyone with VR sets can take this video to awesome heights, but even without, it’s pretty breathtaking.

North Korea may now have a biological weapons program
Look at that precision. I’ve seen troops that can’t even walk in formation, let alone fly a supersonic jet three feet away from another supersonic jet.
(Photo by Dirk HansenFlickr)

Also read: This WWII ace scored kills from every Axis country — and the US

Blue Angels fly fighter aircraft that are maintained to near combat-ready status — except for the paint scheme and the removal of weapons. More specific modifications include the use of a specific smoke-oil for demonstrations and a more precise control stick.

“Precise” is the operative word here. Check out the video below to see for yourself — butt clenching begins around 2:10. You can drag your mouse or move your phone to look around.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How Russia’s only carrier would fight an American carrier

It wasn’t so long ago that the British and Russians exchanged trash talk over carriers. That all started when the then-Defense Secretary, Michael Fallon, called the Admiral Kuznetsov “dilapidated.” The Russians responded by calling the first of the Royal Navy’s new carriers, HMS Queen Elizabeth, “a large, convenient target” and warned the Brits to keep their distance.


Now, both carriers have had their problems. If you’re a loyal WATM reader, you have followed the Kuznetsov Follies. We are talking a first deployment that featured two splash landings, needing to operate planes from land bases, not to mention the fact that the new fighter is a possible dud and the carrier is a floating hell for the crew.

North Korea may now have a biological weapons program

HMS Queen Elizabeth has a problem of her own, though. No planes. In fact, she may have to operate F-35Bs from the United States Marine Corps, which will require some adjustments. Any fight here would be tough to call, but give the Brits the edge. Once the F-35s clear out the Kuznetsov’s air wing (largely because they are far more advanced than MiG-29s and Su-33s), the Kuznetsov will only have 12 SS-N-19 Shipwreck missiles to use. No problem for the Queen Elizabeth’s escorts.

Related video:

But how well would the Kuznetsov fare against an American carrier? If anything, it’s even more of a slaughter. According to the 16th Edition of Combat Fleets of the World, the Kuznetsov can carry 18 Su-33 Flankers or MiG-29K Fulcrums, four Su-25 Frogfoot trainers, 15 Ka-27 Helix ASW helicopters, and two Ka-31 Helix airborne early warning choppers.

North Korea may now have a biological weapons program

By comparison, it should be noted that a typical American carrier air wing has four strike-fighter squadrons of F/A-18E/F Super Hornets or F/A-18C Hornets, each with a dozen multi-role fighters. So, the Russians are fighting at the wrong end of eight-to-three odds. The American carrier’s air wing, by the way, does offer electronic-warfare assets as well.

Once the Kuznetsov’s fighters are gone, the American carrier can then either launch an alpha strike to sink the Kuznetsov, or support an attack by B-1B Lancers carrying LRASMs. Either way, the Kuznetsov is going down. Heck, even an old Midway-class carrier could take the Kuznetsov.

North Korea may now have a biological weapons program

Articles

The VA just doled out $500k to a veteran for heart care delays

The Department of Veterans Affairs is now paying a veteran $500,000 to settle a lawsuit, in which the veteran alleged he suffered heart damage because of delays in care.


John Porter, an Air Force veteran who served in the Vietnam War, sued the VA in 2016, saying that the staff at the Des Moines, Iowa VA medical center failed to inform him for years that he was suffering progressive heart failure, The Associated Press reports.

Porter recounted that he first went to the Des Moines VA in 2011 because he was beginning to feel chest tightness. Subsequent tests revealed that he might be suffering from heart problems. Another test three weeks later indicated that his heart was only performing at half the ideal level, according to the text of the lawsuit. Still, no one informed Porter that the test was essentially showing progressive heart failure, even though he continued to experience fatigue and dizziness.

North Korea may now have a biological weapons program
Marines, veterans, and care providers watch as the American flag is walked to the flagpole at the Carl T. Hayden VA Medical Center in Phoenix, AZ. Photo by Sgt. Justin Boling

It was only when Porter visited a VA hospital in Phoenix three years later in 2014 that doctors examined old tests from the Des Moines facility and told Porter the results.

“I’m just glad it’s over. They drug it out for so long,” Porter told The Des Moines Register.

Porter added that he didn’t place the blame on the facility as such and instead pointed to communication breakdowns at the facility.

North Korea may now have a biological weapons program
Wikimedia Commons photo by Billy Hathorn.

“The Des Moines VA is full of knowledgeable, caring, and competent people,” Porter said. “I have nothing against the VA hospital.”

Although the VA did settle the suit, federal lawyers did not admit that any VA staff were negligent and further denied that Porter’s life was in any way shortened by the delay in care.

Articles

US servicemember killed in Afghanistan during anti-ISIS operation

The Pentagon has confirmed that a U.S. servicemember was killed in Nangarhar Achin Province, Afghanistan, though officials declined to release any more details, including the casualty’s name and branch.


Some media outlets are reporting that the he was a special operations commando.

North Korea may now have a biological weapons program
U.S. Army Special Forces soldiers from the 3rd Special Forces Group patrol a field in the Gulistan district of Farah, Afghanistan. (Photo: U.S. Army Spc. Joseph A. Wilson)

The commander of U.S. troops in Afghanistan Gen. John W. Nicholson confirmed that the servicemember was killed during a raid on ISIS fighters with Afghan special forces by a roadside bomb that detonated during a patrol.

“On behalf of all of U.S. Forces – Afghanistan, we are heartbroken by this loss and we extend our deepest sympathies to the families and friends of the service member,” Nicholson said. “Despite this tragic event, we remain committed to defeating the terrorists of the Islamic State, Khorasan Province and helping our Afghan partners defend their nation.”

This is at least the fourth service member to be killed in anti-ISIS operations. Navy SEAL Petty Officer Charles Keating was killed in May while rescuing other U.S. forces who had become encircled by ISIS fighters. Marine Staff Sgt. Louis Cardin was killed in March when his artillery unit came under rocket attack. Army Master Sgt. Joshua Wheeler was killed in 2015 during a raid to rescue ISIS hostages.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia attacks, captures Ukrainian ships and sailors

Ukrainian lawmakers are to decide whether to introduce martial law after Russian forces fired on Ukrainian ships and seized 23 sailors in the Black Sea off the coast of the Russian-controlled Crimean Peninsula.

The Verkhova Rada is to vote on Nov. 26, 2018, on a presidential decree that would impose martial law until Jan. 25, 2019, the first time Kyiv has taken such a step since Russia seized Crimea and backed separatists in a war in eastern Ukraine in 2014.


Before submitting the decree, President Petro Poroshenko demanded that Russia immediately release the ships and sailors, who he said had been “brutally detained in violation of international law.”

He also urged Moscow to “ensure deescalation of the situation in the Sea of Azov as a first step” and to ease tension more broadly.

European Council President Donald Tusk condemned the “Russian use of force” and tweeted that “Russian authorities must return Ukrainian sailors, vessels refrain from further provocations,” adding: “Europe will stay united in support of Ukraine.”

North Korea may now have a biological weapons program

European Council President Donald Tusk.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said that the Ukrainian sailors would be held responsible under Russian law for violating the border, but did not specify what that meant.

Poroshenko earlier said he supported the imposition of martial law, which could give the government the power to restrict public demonstrations, regulate the media, and postpone a presidential election slated to be held in late March 2019, among other things.

Yuriy Byryukov, an adviser to Poroshenko, said on Facebook that his administration does not plan to postpone the election or restrict the freedom of speech.

Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accused Kyiv of violating international norms with “dangerous methods that created threats and risks for the normal movement of ships in the area.”

An emergency meeting of the UN Security Council was called for later in the day, and NATO ambassadors were meeting their Ukrainian counterpart in Brussels to discuss the situation.

In a sharp escalation of tension between the two countries, Russian forces on Nov. 25, 2018, fired on two warships, wounding six crew members, before seizing the vessels along with a Ukrainian Navy tugboat.

Kyiv said it had not been in contact with 23 sailors who it said were taken captive.

The three Ukrainian vessels were being held at the Crimean port of Kerch, the Reuters news agency quoted an eyewitness as saying on Nov. 26, 2018. The witness said people in naval-style uniforms could be seen around the ships.

The announcement of the hostilities on Nov. 25, 2018, came on a day of heightened tension after Russia blocked the three Ukrainian Navy ships from passing from the Black Sea into the Sea of Azov via the Kerch Strait.

The UN Security Council is to hold an emergency session on Nov. 26, 2018, to discuss the matter.

The AFP news agency quoted diplomatic sources as saying the meeting was requested by both Ukraine and Russia.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova accused Ukrainian authorities of using “gangster tactics” — first a provocation, then pressure, and finally accusations of aggression.

North Korea may now have a biological weapons program

Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), which oversees the country’s border-guard service, said its forces fired at the Ukrainian Navy ships to get them to stop after they had illegally entered Russian territorial waters.

“In order to stop the Ukrainian military ships, weapons were used,” the FSB said. It also confirmed that three Ukrainian Navy ships were “boarded and searched.”

But the Ukrainian Navy said its vessels — including two small artillery boats — were attacked by Russian coast-guard ships as they were leaving the Kerch Strait and moving back into the Black Sea.

The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said Russia’s “aggressive actions” violated international law and should be met with “an international and diplomatic legal response.”

Demonstrators protested outside the Russian Embassy in Kyiv late on Nov. 25, 2018.

Earlier on Nov. 25, 2018, Kyiv said a Russian coast-guard vessel rammed the Ukrainian Navy tugboat in the same area as three Ukrainian ships approached the Kerch Strait in an attempt to reach the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol on the Sea of Azov.

Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov posted a video of the ramming on his Facebook page.

Mariupol is the closest government-controlled port to the parts of Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk regions that are controlled by Russia-backed separatists.

It has been targeted by the anti-Kyiv forces at times during the war that has killed more than 10,300 people since it erupted shortly after Russia seized Crimea.

In a reference to Russia, the Ukrainian Navy said the collision occurred because “the invaders’ dispatcher service refuses to ensure the right to freedom of navigation, guaranteed by international agreements.”

“The ships of the Ukrainian Navy continue to perform tasks in compliance with all norms of international law,” the Ukrainian Navy said in a statement. “All illegal actions are recorded by the crews of the ships and the command of Ukraine’s Navy and will be handed over to the respective international bodies.”

“The ships of the Ukrainian Navy continue to perform tasks in compliance with all norms of international law,” the Navy said in a statement.

After that incident, Russian authorities closed passage by civilian ships through the Kerch Strait on grounds of heightened security concerns.

Russian news agencies quote a local port authority as saying that the strait was reopened for shipping early on Nov. 26, 2018.

In Brussels, the European Union late on Nov. 25, 2018, called upon Russia “to restore freedom of passage”‘ in the Kerch Strait.

NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said NATO was “closely monitoring developments” in the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait and was “in contact with the Ukrainian authorities, adding: “We call for restraint and deescalation.”

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Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko says he supports a move to introduce martial law.

“NATO fully supports Ukraine’s sovereignty and its territorial integrity, including its navigational rights in its territorial waters,” Lungescu said. “We call on Russia to ensure unhindered access to Ukrainian ports in the Azov Sea, in accordance with international law.”

The spokeswoman stressed that at a summit in July 2018, NATO “made clear that Russia’s ongoing militarization of Crimea, the Black Sea, and the Azov Sea pose further threats to Ukraine’s independence and undermines the stability of the broader region.”

Russia claimed it did nothing wrong. The FSB accused the Ukrainian Navy ships of illegally entering its territorial waters and deliberately provoking a conflict.

The Sea of Azov, the Kerch Strait, and the Black Sea waters off Crimea have been areas of heightened tension since March 2014,when Russia seized Crimea from Ukraine and began supporting pro-Russia separatists in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

A 2003 treaty between Russia and Ukraine designates the Kerch Strait and Sea of Azov as shared territorial waters.

But Moscow has been asserting greater control since its takeover of Crimea — particularly since May 2018, when it opened a bridge linking the peninsula to Russian territory on the eastern side of the Kerch Strait.

Both sides have recently increased their military presence in the region, with Kyiv accusing Moscow of harassing ships heading toward Ukrainian ports in the Sea of Azov, such as Mariupol and Berdyansk.

The Ukrainian Navy said it was a Russian border-guard ship, the Don, that “rammed into our tugboat.” It said the collision caused damage to the tugboat’s engine, outer hull, and guardrail.

Russia’s ships “carried out openly aggressive actions against Ukrainian naval ships,” the statement said, adding that the Ukrainian ships were continuing on their way “despite Russia’s counteraction.”

But the Kyiv-based UNIAN news agency reported later that the two small-sized armored artillery boats and the tugboat did not manage to enter the Sea of Azov.

Ukrainian Navy spokesman Oleh Chalyk told Ukraine’s Kanal 5 TV that the tugboat “established contact with a coast-guard outpost” operated by the FSB Border Service and “communicated its intention to sail through the Kerch Strait.”

“The information was received [by Russian authorities] but no response was given,” Chalylk said.

But the FSB said the Ukrainian ships “illegally entered a temporarily closed area of Russian territorial waters” without authorization. In a statement, it did not mention the ramming of the Ukrainian tugboat.

A few hours before Russian forces fired on Ukrainian Navy ships, the FSB said two other Ukrainian ships — two armored Gyurza-class gunboats — had left Ukraine’s Sea of Azov port at Berdyansk and were sailing south toward the Kerch Strait at top speed.

Russian officials said after the reported shooting incident in the Black Sea that those Ukrainian ships in the Sea of Azov turned back to Berdyansk before reaching the Kerch Strait.

The FSB also warned Kyiv against “reckless decisions,” saying that Russia was taking “all necessary measures to curb this provocation,” Interfax reported.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

Articles

Here are 64 restaurants offering veterans free food on Veterans Day

You’ve served your country, now these restaurants want to serve you. Check out the deals they’re offering, what you have to bring to prove your veteran status, and come on out (if you like what they’re offering).


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Related: These 7 tips will make your free Veterans Day meal more epic

Please note that not all franchise restaurants participate in the Veterans Day program. Be sure to contact your nearest restaurant for participation.

1. 54th Street Grill: The Kansas City-based chain offers veterans and active duty military a free meal up to $12. Dine-in only.

2. Applebees: Applebee’s has a special Veterans Day menu built for veterans and active duty military members. Vets can choose one item from that menu.

3. Arooga’sAll veterans and troops will receive one complimentary item from a fixed menu at Arooga’s. Although there is no purchase necessary, Arooga’s Veterans Day offer is for dine-in only and drinks are not included.

4. Bar Louie: Veterans and active-duty military will get a free appetizer or entrée on Veterans Day.

5. BJ’s Restaurant: Active duty military and veterans receive a complimentary entree under $12.95 and $5 beers.

6. Bob Evans: Veterans and active military personnel receive a free meal of choice menu options. From Nov. 12 – Dec. 31, vets will get a 10 percent discount.

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7. Bonanza SteakhousesActive duty and retired military get a free buffet.

8. Bonefish GrillAll active and retired service members with a valid military ID will receive a complimentary Bang Bang Shrimp at all Bonefish Grill locations.

9. Bruegger’s BagelsVeterans and active duty military members get a free small drip coffee on Nov. 11 at participating locations.

10. Buffalo Wild Wings: Vets will get a complimentary order of wings and a side of fries to veterans and active-duty military. Must present acceptable proof of military service, which includes: permanent or temporary U.S. military ID cards, veteran’s card, a photograph of yourself in military uniform, or dine-in at a participating location in uniform.

11. California Pizza Kitchen: Veterans and active military receive a complimentary entrée from a special menu. Please come in uniform or bring your military ID or other proof of service.

12. Cattlemens:  The California chain offers active, inactive, and retired military personnel get a free Small Sirloin Steak Dinner.

13. CentraArchy Restaurants: Veterans and active duty service members get a free entrée and 25 percent off to their accompanied family and friends at participating restaurants.

14. Cheeseburger in Paradise: Active and retired military personnel receive a complimentary burger with fries.

15. Chevy’s Fresh MexAll active and retired military personnel can select one complimentary item from a special Veterans Day menu.

16. Chicken Salad Chick: Veterans get a free Original Chick (a meal including a chicken salad scoop or sandwich, side, pickle and cookie) along with a drink (no purchase necessary).

17. Chili’s: Veterans and active military service members get a free entrée from a limited menu.

18. Chuck E. Cheese’sActive and retired military members can receive a free individual one-topping pizza

19. Cracker Barrel: Veterans get a complimentary Double Chocolate Fudge Coca-Cola Cake dessert during lunch and dinner. Must show proof of military service.

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20. Denny’s: Active, inactive and retired military personnel get a free Build Your Own Grand Slam from 5 a.m. to noon at participating locations.

21. Famous Dave’s BBQFormer and current military personnel will receive a free Two Meat Combo.

22. FATZ Café: Veterans and active military get a free World Famous Calabash Chicken meal.

23. Fazoli’sVeterans get a free Build Your Own Pasta Bowl.

24. Figaro’s Pizza: Veterans and active duty service members get a complimentary medium 1-topping pizza.

25. Fogo de Chão: Veterans and active duty personnel will receive 50 percent off their meal and up to three additional guests will receive 10 percent off their meals.

26. Friendly’s: Vets and military personnel are offered a free Big-Two-Do breakfast or All American Burger (with fries and a beverage) during lunch or dinner.

27. Golden Corral: On Monday, Nov. 14, from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., Golden Corral offers a free sit-in “thank you” dinner for Military veterans, retirees, and active duty members.

28. Gordon Biersch: Veterans and active military personnel receive a free appetizer.

29. Green Mill Restaurant and Bar: Veterans and active duty military get a free meal.

30. Greene Turtle: Veterans and active duty military receive a free meal from a select menu.

31. Hooters: All active-duty and retired military to stop in for a free meal from the Hooters Veterans Day Menu by presenting a military ID or proof of service at any Hooters location nationwide.

32. Hy-Vee:  The Midwestern Grocery chain is offering veterans and active duty military members a free breakfast buffet.

33. IHOPVeterans and active duty military get free Red, White, and Blue pancakes from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at participating locations.

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In case you were wondering.

 

34. IKEA: Veterans get a free entrée from Nov. 7 through Nov. 11.

35. Krispy Kreme: Krispy Kreme is offering a free doughnut and small coffee to all veterans at participating locations.

36. Krystal: Active and retired military receive a free Krystal Sausage Biscuit from opening to 11:00 a.m.

37. Little Caesars: Veterans and active military members receive a free $5 Lunch Combo from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

38. Logan’s Roadhouse: In addition to the 10 percent military discount offered every day, military and former military guests will also receive a free dessert.

39. Longhorn Steakhouse: Offers a free appetizer or dessert (no purchase required, no restrictions) to anyone showing proof of military service, plus 10 percent off for guests that dine with Veterans on Nov. 11.

40. Max Erma’s: Participating Max Erma’s locations are offering veterans and active military personnel a free Best Cheeseburger in America.

41. Menchie’sAll active and retired military personnel will receive a free 6 ounce frozen yogurt.

42. Mission BBQ: Free sandwiches and cake for active duty military members and veterans at participating locations.

43. O’Charley’s:  Veterans and active duty service members get a free meal at any location on Nov. 11. Additionally, O’Charley’s offers a 10 percent military discount all year long.

44. Old Country Buffet: Current and former service members receive a free buffet and drink all day.

45. Olive GardenAll veterans and current service members get a free meal from a limited menu.

46. On the BorderVeterans and active duty military can enjoy a free meal from the “Create Your Own Combo” menu.

47. Outback Steakhouse: All active and former service members receive a free Bloomin’ Onion and a beverage on Nov. 11. Outback is also offering active and former service members 15 percent off their meals Nov. 12 through Dec. 31.

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48. Panera Bread: A complimentary You-Pick-Two with military identification or if wearing their uniform to the participating Panera Bread bakery-cafes in the Cleveland, Akron, Canton area.  For a complete list of participating bakery-cafes, click here.

49. Ponderosa Steakhouse: Active duty and retired military get a free buffet from 4 p.m. to close.

50. Red Hot Blue: Veterans receive a free entrée with the purchase of two drinks and a second entrée of equal or greater value on Nov. 9 through 11. Coupon required.

51. Red Lobster: Veterans, reserve, and active-duty military personnel receive a free appetizer or dessert from a limited menu on Nov. 10 and 11.

52. Red Robin: All veterans and active-duty military members will get a free Red’s Tavern Double Burger and Bottomless Steak Fries. No purchase is necessary. Just show proof of service.

53. Ruby Tuesday: All veterans, active duty and reserve military service members with valid military ID can enjoy one free appetizer (up to a $10 value).

54. Ryan’s: Current and former service members receive a free buffet and drink.

55. Shoney’s: Shoney’s will offer a free All-American Burger to veterans and active duty service members. Shoney’s also offers a 15 percent everyday hometown heroes discount (military, fire, Police, EMT).

56. Sizzler: Active duty and veteran military members get a free lunch and beverage from a limited menu until 4 p.m.

57. Spaghetti Warehouse: From Veterans Day to Nov. 13 buy one entrée and get the second entrée free. Coupon required,  download it here.

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Red Lobster’s Seafood Stuffed Mushrooms.

58. Starbucks: Veterans, active duty service members and spouses get a free tall coffee at participating locations.

59. Texas Roadhouse: Texas Roadhouse locations nationwide will offer veterans a free lunch from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

60. TGIFridaysLunch is on the house for all active and retired U.S. military service members on Veterans Day. Those with military ID will be treated to a free lunch menu item up to $12 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

61. Twin Peaks: Active duty and veterans get a free menu item from the Annual Veterans Day Appreciation Menu.

62. Village InnFree INN-credible V.I.B. breakfast for veterans and active duty military. Valid on 4 INN-credible items: Cheese Omelette, Strawberry Crepe, Hickory-Smoked Bacon or French Toast.

63. Wienerschnitzel: Veterans and active duty military receive a free Chili Dog with a small fry and a 20-ounce drink.

64. World of Beer: A free select draught beer or $5 off your entire bill. Bring proof of military service.

MIGHTY MONEY

How to make $1 million with your military pay

Getting your first paycheck on active duty is awesome — because getting paid is the best. But most of us don’t know what to do with that money. Buy a Camaro? Stuff it in a mattress? Maybe…but what about turning it into a million dollars?

It might sound too good to be true, but it actually isn’t. Let’s talk about a simple financial product for beginning investors: the Roth IRA.


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First: Some good news for service members. America’s new tax plan combined with a military pay raise is giving troops a nice little bump in their wallets.

Pay grades E-1 to E-6 are now in a new, lower Federal tax bracket.

This could be add up to 00 a year in savings — and that’s before you start making those deductions, so your newfound wealth might even be higher.

PLUS you got a pay raise of up to 00 so that’s an extra two grand a year right off the bat. Baller.

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But before that wad of cash burns a hole in your pocket, consider the smart way to spend this money – money you won’t even miss. The Roth IRA is one easy way to do it — and it could make you a millionaire.

You can take that post-tax income and make non-taxable money while you sleep. This is literally the least you can do for retirement — and again, it’s super easy.

With a Roth IRA, you contribute to an individual retirement account (IRA) after taxes (meaning there is no tax benefit) BUT you are not taxed when you withdraw the funds. And those funds are going to growwwwww.

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That’s an investment of 8.33 per month.

Nerd Wallet

So if you max out your Roth IRA from age 18 to 65, you’ll be taxed against the 0,000 you invest…but you’ll retire with id=”listicle-2626415708″.5 million that you can withdraw tax-free.

Here’s how it works.

The Roth IRA is an account that holds your investments — you can select the investment options and risk strategies yourself or seek advice from the brokerage entity you’re investing with.

Each year, you can max out the yearly contributions the government allows, which in 2018 is ,500 (It’s ,500 if you’re over the age of 50, but for now, we’re just going to do the math for the fifty-five hundred dollar bracket).

So you select your investment options, probably with higher risk if you’re younger, and set up an automatic contribution of 8 per month.

Do this from age 18 to 65….

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…with a decent compounded interest rate of… say …. 6 percent (the market actually did 8.3 percent in the last ten years but just to be safe…)

…and you will make 1.59 million dollars over your lifetime.

The most important thing to remember when investing is compound interest.

Investing consistently over time means you are increasing the amount invested AND earning interest on what you’ve invested AND earning interest on your interest.

This is why it’s critical to start early and be consistent. Even a small amount invested over time can yield greater results than a large amount invested later with no time to grow.

So if you’re getting a later start, don’t panic. If you begin at age 30 and max out your Roth IRA until age 65, you can still end up with 0,000 at retirement — and again, that’s just with a 6% rate of return, which is a conservative estimate based on lower-risk options.

The bottom line is to start as early as you can and be disciplined about it.

Spending 8 per month to max out your Roth IRA might seem like a lot when you’re an E-1 earning about 00 a month — but remember, that income is discretionary. The military has benefits like BAH and health insurance — it’s got the big stuff covered, so be wise with how you budget the rest of your income.

And again, if you set up automatic payments, you won’t even miss that money.

I know you want to buy video games and an 80-inch big screen for the barracks…but resist that urge and set yourself up to be a ballin’ millionaire later.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why the first all-female spacewalk isn’t gonna happen

With the first in a series of three spacewalks successfully completed at the International Space Station, NASA has updated astronaut assignments for the remaining two spacewalks and will preview the third in an upcoming news conference on NASA Television and the agency’s website.

NASA astronauts Nick Hague and Anne McClain conducted the first spacewalk in this series on March 22, 2019. Hague and fellow NASA astronaut Christina Koch now are preparing to conduct the second spacewalk Friday, March 29, 2019, during which they will continue work started on the first spacewalk to install powerful lithium-ion batteries for one pair of the station’s solar arrays.


Koch had been scheduled to conduct this spacewalk with astronaut McClain, in what would have been the first all-female spacewalk. However, after consulting with McClain and Hague following the first spacewalk, mission managers decided to adjust the assignments, due in part to spacesuit availability on the station. McClain learned during her first spacewalk that a medium-size hard upper torso – essentially the shirt of the spacesuit – fits her best. Because only one medium-size torso can be made ready by Friday, March 29, 2019, Koch will wear it.

Mission experts previewed the tasks for the first two spacewalks during a March 19, 2019 news conference.

McClain now is tentatively scheduled to perform her next spacewalk – the third in this series – on Monday, April 8, 2019, with Canadian Space Agency astronaut David Saint-Jacques. Assignments for this spacewalk will be finalized following completion of the second spacewalk.

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Astronauts (from left) Anne McClain and David Saint-Jacques are pictured in between a pair of spacesuits that are stowed and serviced inside the Quest airlock where U.S. spacewalks are staged.

(NASA)

Experts will discuss the work to be performed on the April 8, 2019 spacewalk during a news conference at 2 p.m. EDT Tuesday, April 2, 2019, at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. Live coverage of the briefing and spacewalks will air on NASA Television and the agency’s website.

Media wishing to attend the briefing in person must request credentials from the Johnson newsroom at 281-483-5111 no later than 4 p.m. Monday, April 1, 2019. Media interested in participating by phone must contact the newsroom by 1:45 p.m. April 2, 2019.

Participants in the briefing will be:

  • Kenny Todd, International Space Station manager for Operations and Integration
  • Rick Henfling, spacewalk flight director
  • John Mularski, lead spacewalk officer

McClain and Saint-Jacques will lay out jumper cables between the Unity module and the S0 truss, at the midpoint of the station’s backbone, during their April 8, 2019 spacewalk. This work will establish a redundant path of power to the Canadian-built robotic arm, known as Canadarm2. They also will install cables to provide for more expansive wireless communications coverage outside the orbital complex, as well as for enhanced hardwired computer network capability.

Live coverage of both spacewalks will begin at 6:30 a.m., and each is expected to last about 6.5 hours. The March 29, 2019 spacewalk is scheduled to start at 8:20 a.m., while the April 8, 2019 spacewalk is set to start at 8:05 a.m.

These will be the 215th and 216th spacewalks in the history of International Space Station assembly and maintenance. During the first spacewalk of the series, on March 22, 2019, McClain became the 13th woman to perform a spacewalk. Koch will become the 14th on March 29, 2019.

Learn more about the spacewalks and the International Space Station at: https://www.nasa.gov/station

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