The remaining flyoffs involved in the OA-X program, the U.S. Air Force’s search for a new light attack/armed reconnaissance plane, have been cancelled. The announcement comes after the fatal crash of an A-29 Super Tucano plane, which was one of the two finalists that made the cut for the second phase of the program.
The OA-X program, which is officially the “Observation/Attack-X” program, originally evaluated four planes: The Embraer A-29, the Beech AT-6B Wolverine, the AT-802 Longsword, and the Textron Scorpion. Both the AT-802 Longsword and Textron Scorpion were eliminated after the first round of the evaluations.
The objective of the OA-X program was to find and field a partial replacement for the A-10 Thunderbolt II ground-attack plane. Though any partial replacement will find it hard to stack up to the reputation or capabilities of the A-10, it would likely be able to operate in permissive environments, like Afghanistan.
The T-6 Texan serves as the basis for the AT-6B Wolverine.
The eventual winner of the OA-X program is likely to see interest from a number of countries the United States works with in the fight against terrorism. Some of those allies, including the Afghan Air Force, already use the A-29 Super Tucano, while others are already using the T-6 Texan II trainer, the basis for the AT-6.
The Afghan Air Force used the AT-29 Tucano.
(Photo by Nardisoero)
The planes flying as part of the OA-X program are all able to operate GBU-12 Paveway II laser-guided bombs and GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munitions. Both of those precision-guided bombs are 500-pound weapons. Eligible planes are also able to use rocket pods, AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, and gun pods.
The OA-X is intended to replace the A-10 Thunderbolt in providing close-air support in counter-insurgency missions.
The United States Air Force put the A-10 into service in 1977 and bought 716 of the planes. At present, they’re found in 13 squadrons. The Air Force plans to keep these planes in service through 2040, but the search for a replacement (or several partial replacements) is ongoing.
Despite the devastating crash, the program will continue but, until further investigation, all tests will take place on the ground.
Unless you’re an avid shooter, there tends to be only a handful of ammunition types a person can list off the top of their heads, and even fewer if we’re talking specifically about rifles. Although there’s a long list of projectiles to be fired from long guns, the ones that tend to come to mind for most of us are almost always the same: 5.56 and 7.62, or to be more specific, 5.56×45 vs. 7.62×39.
National militaries all around the world rely on these two forms of ammunition thanks to their range, accuracy, reliability, and lethality, prompting many on the internet to get into long, heated debates about which is the superior round. Of course, as is the case with most things, the truth about which is the “better” round is really based on a number of complicated variables — not the least of which being which weapon system is doing the firing and under what circumstances is the weapon being fired.
This line of thinking is likely why the United States military employs different weapon systems that fire a number of different kinds of rounds. Of course, when most people think of Uncle Sam’s riflemen, they tend to think of the 5.56mm round that has become ubiquitous with the M4 series of rifles that are standard issue throughout the U.S. military. But, a number of sniper platforms, for instance, are actually chambered in 7.62×51 NATO.
So if both the 5.56×45 vs. 7.62×39 rounds are commonly employed by national militaries… determining which is the superior long-range round for the average shooter can be a difficult undertaking, and almost certainly will involve a degree of bias (in other words, in some conditions, it may simply come down to preference).
For the sake of brevity, let’s break the comparison down into three categories: power, accuracy, and recoil. Power, for the sake of debate, will address the round’s kinetic energy transfer on target, or how much force is exerted into the body of the bad guy it hits. Accuracy will be a measure of the round’s effective range, and recoil will address how easy it is to settle the weapon back down again once it’s fired.
The NATO 5.56 round was actually invented in the 1970s to address concerns about the previous NATO standard 7.62×51. In an effort to make a more capable battle-round, the 5.56 was developed using a .223 as the basis, resulting in a smaller round that could withstand higher pressures than the old 7.62 NATO rounds nations were using. The new 5.56 may have carried a smaller projectile, but its increased pressure gave it a flatter trajectory than its predecessors, making it easier to aim at greater distances. It was also much lighter, allowing troops to carry more rounds than ever before.
The smaller rounds also dramatically reduced felt recoil, making it easier to maintain or to quickly regain “sight picture” (or get your target back into your sights) than would have been possible with larger caliber rounds.
The 7.62x39mm round is quite possibly the most used cartridge on the planet, in part because the Soviet AK-47 is so common. These rounds are shorter and fatter than the NATO 5.56, firing off larger projectiles with a devastating degree of kinetic transfer. It’s because of this stopping power that many see the 7.62 as the round of choice when engaging an opponent in body armor. The 7.62x39mm truly was developed as a general-purpose round, limiting its prowess in a sniper fight, however. The larger 7.62 rounds employed in AK-47s come with far more recoil than you’ll find with a 5.56, making it tougher to land a second and third shot with as much accuracy, depending on your platform.
So, returning to the metrics of power, accuracy, and recoil, the 7.62 round wins the first category, but the 5.56 takes the second two, making it the apparent winner. However, there are certainly some variables that could make the 7.62 a better option for some shooters. The platform you use and your familiarity with it will always matter when it comes to accuracy within a weapon’s operable range.
When firing an AR chambered in 5.56, and an AK chambered in 7.62, it’s hard not to appreciate the different ideologies that informed their designs. While an AR often feels like a precision weapon, chirping through rounds with very little recoil, the AK feels brutal… like you’re throwing hammers at your enemies and don’t care if any wood, concrete, or even body armor gets in the way. There are good reasons to run each, but for most shooters, the 5.56 round is the better choice for faraway targets.
Displaying images of Donald Trump staring at a cemetery filled with crosses and Vice-President Mike Pence enveloped by flames, the nearly four-minute video showed the island of Guam being targeted by intermediate-range ballistic missiles.
“Americans should live with their eyes and ears wide open. They will be tormented day and night by the Hwasong-12 rockets without knowing when they will be launched,” the caption reads, according to Yonhap. “They will be in jitters.”
“(We) just wish US policymakers should seriously think twice ahead of an obvious outcome (of a war),” another caption says, showing a photo of US Defence Secretary James Mattis. “Time is not on the US side.”
With the exercises continuing on Aug. 22, upped its rhetoric, saying it would be a misjudgment for the US to think that Pyongyang would “sit comfortably without doing anything,” the state-run Korean Central News Agency said, citing an unidentified military spokesman.
The ongoing drills and visits of US military officials to South Korea create the circumstances for a “mock war” on the Korean peninsula, KCNA said.
The comments represent a more belligerent tone after a war of words between the US and appeared to have subsided.
Trump praised North Korean leader Kim Jong-un last week for waiting to launch missiles over Japan into waters near Guam, after previously warning of “fire and fury” if he continued to threaten the American homeland.
Tensions increased in July after conducted two intercontinental ballistic missile tests. Trump has said military force is an option to prevent Kim from gaining an ICBM that could deliver a nuclear weapon to the US.
On Monday, South Korea President Moon Jae-in said shouldn’t use the latest round of drills as an excuse for any further provocations. The exercises “are not aimed at raising military tensions on the Korean peninsula at all,” Moon told Cabinet members.
Kim made a visit in early August to a guard post about 1 kilometer (0.6 miles) from the border with the South, Yonhap News reported, citing unidentified South Korean government officials. The South Korean military considers the visit an unusual act and is preparing to prevent a possible military provocation, Yonhap said.
Army Spc. Gabriel D. Conde’s short life spanned the history of U.S. involvement in Afghanistan since Sept. 11, 2001, from the euphoria over the fleeting early successes to the current doubts about the new strategy to break what U.S. commanders routinely call a “stalemate.”
When Conde was six years old, then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice said the Taliban had been defeated and the Afghan people were now free “to create a better future.”
He was seven years old when then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said, “We’re at a point where we clearly have moved from major combat activity to a period of stability and stabilization and reconstruction activities.”
When Conde was 12, then-President George W. Bush was at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan to declare that “the Taliban is gone from power and it’s not coming back.”
In 2009, when Conde was 13, then-President Barack Obama said he would “make the fight against al-Qaida and the Taliban the top priority that it should be. This is a war that we have to win.”
He sent 30,000 more U.S. troops into Afghanistan, with a timeline for their withdrawal.
Obama wanted the withdrawal to be complete by the time he left office, but he left behind about 8,500 U.S. troops to deal with a resurgent Taliban and a new enemy — an offshoot of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria called Islamic State-Khorasan Province, or IS-K.
August 2017, when Conde was 21, President Donald Trump announced a new strategy for Afghanistan that discarded “nation building” in favor of a plan to drive the Taliban into peace talks and a negotiated settlement.
Trump acknowledged that his initial impulse was to pull U.S. troops out completely, but he agreed to boost troop levels from 8,500 to about 14,000.
The presence of U.S. troops would now be conditions-based and not subject to artificial timelines. “We’re going to finish what we have to finish. What nobody else has been able to finish, we’re going to be able to do it,” Trump said.
Late April, 2018, the Taliban announced the start of its 16th annual spring offensive.
On May 1, 2018, when Conde was 22, he was killed by small-arms fire in the Tagab District of Kapisa province northeast of Kabul. A second U.S. soldier was wounded.
Conde, of Loveland, Colorado, served with the 3rd Battalion, 509th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), of 25th Infantry Division, based at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska. His unit was expected to return to Alaska at the end of May 2018.
Also on May 1, 2018, the Trump administration took official note of the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan by granting political asylum to former Capt. Niloofar Rahmani, the first female fixed-wing pilot in the Afghan Air Force, who had been training in the U.S.
Through her lawyer, she had successfully argued to immigration authorities that the chaos in Afghanistan, and death threats against her and her family, made it impossible for her to return.
On the same day that Rahmani won asylum and Conde was killed, the latest in a wave of suicide bombings and terror attacks devastated the Shash Darak district of central Kabul in what Afghans call the “Green Zone.”
Two suicide bombers had slipped past the estimated 14 checkpoints surrounding the district, Afghanistan’s TOLOnews reported.
The first set off a blast and the second, reportedly disguised as a cameraman, joined a pack of reporters and photographers rushing to the scene and triggered a second explosion.
At least 30 people, including nine journalists, were killed. A 10th journalist was killed on the same day in an incident in Khost province. (Short biographies of the 10 journalists can be seen here.)
Mattis put on spot over attacks
In response to May 1, 2018’s events, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Army Gen. John Nicholson, commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, echoed what other commanders and Pentagon officials have said so many times before during America’s longest war.
They mourned the loss of a valorous soldier and the victims of the bombings. They said the strategy of increased airpower and the buildup of Afghan special forces is showing progress. They pledged to stay the course.
At a session with Pentagon reporters May 1, 2018, Mattis said the Taliban are “on their back foot.”
The recent terror attacks show that they are desperate, he said.
“We anticipated they would do their best” to disrupt upcoming elections with a wave of bombings aimed at discouraging the Afghan people from voting, Mattis said.
“The Taliban realize the danger of the people being allowed to vote,” he added. “Their goal is to destabilize the elected government. This is the normal stuff by people who can’t win at the ballot box. They turn to bombs.”
At a welcoming ceremony on May 2, 2018, for the visiting Macedonian defense minister, Mattis was challenged on how he could point to progress amid the wave of bombings and a recent series of watchdog reports on widespread and continuing corruption in Afghanistan.
“The message from this building has consistently been that the situation is turning around, that things are improving there,” Mattis was told. “How do you reconcile this difference?”
“First, I don’t know that that’s been the message from this building. I would not subscribe to that,” Mattis said. “We said last August NATO is going to hold the line. We knew there would be tough fighting going forward.
“The murder of journalists and other innocent people is a great testimony to what it is we stand for and more importantly what we stand against,” he added.
“The Afghan military is being made more capable. You’ll notice that more of the forces are special forces, advised and assisted, accompanied by NATO mentors. And these are the most effective forces,” Mattis said.
“We anticipated and are doing our best and have been successful at blocking many of these attacks on innocent people but, unfortunately, once in a while they get through because any terrorist organization that realizes it can’t win by ballots and turns to bombs — this is simply what they do. They murder innocent people,” he said.
For the long run, “We’ll stand by the Afghan people, we’ll stand by the Afghan government and the NATO mission will continue as we drive them to a political settlement,” Mattis said.
Nicholson’s two-year plan to end the ‘Forever War’
“Actions like this only strengthen our steadfast commitment to the people of Afghanistan,” Nicholson, who doubles as commander of U.S. Forces-Afghanistan, said after the bombings May 1, 2018, and the death of Conde.
“We offer our sincere condolences to the families of those killed and wounded, and we stand with our Afghan partners in defeating those who would threaten the people of this country, whose cries for peace are being ignored,” he said.
Like many of his troops, the 60-year-old Nicholson, a West Point graduate, has served multiple tours in Afghanistan. When he was confirmed by the Senate in March 2016 to succeed Army Gen. John Campbell as commander, he would go back to Afghanistan for the sixth time.
Since 9/11, “the U.S. campaign in Afghanistan has largely defined my service” in 36 years in uniform, he told the Senate.
Nicholson is the son of Army Brig. Gen. John W. Nicholson, also a West Point graduate, and is distantly related the legendary British Brig. Gen. John Nicholson (1821-1857), who fought in the First Anglo-Afghan War.
Early on in his command, Nicholson was at the forefront on the military advisers who convinced Obama to approve the expansion of the air campaign against the Taliban and IS-K. In February 2017, he began arguing for more troops to partner with the Afghan National Defense Security Forces.
Mattis later signed off on what was essentially Nicholson’s plan. And Trump, in coordination with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, authorized it in an address to the nation in August 2017.
(DOD photo by U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brigitte N. Brantley)
In a video conference from Kabul to the Pentagon in November 2017, Nicholson said it would take about two years to bring 80 percent of Afghanistan under government control and drive the Taliban into peace talks.
“Why 80 percent? Because we think that gives them [the Afghans] a critical mass where they control 80. The Taliban are driven to less than 10 percent of the population; maybe the rest is contested,” Nicholson said.
“And this, we believe, is the critical mass necessary to drive the enemy to irrelevance, meaning they’re living in these remote, outlying areas, or they reconcile — or they die, of course, is the third choice,” he said.
Nicholson’s remarks contrasted with a simultaneous report from the Pentagon’s Inspector General’s office.
In his foreword to the IG’s quarterly report, Acting IG Glenn Fine said, “During the quarter, Taliban insurgents continued to attack Afghan forces and fight for control of districts, and ISIS-K terrorists launched high-profile attacks across the country.”
Fine added, “Internal political tensions increased in Afghanistan, and corruption remained a key challenge to governance despite positive steps by Afghanistan’s Anti-Corruption Justice Center.”
Fine also said that maintaining the accuracy of future IG reports made available to the public is becoming more difficult, since key statistical measures are now being classified.
“When producing this report, we were notified that information that was previously publicly released regarding attrition, casualties, readiness, and personnel strength of Afghan forces that we had included in prior Lead IG reports was now classified,” Fine said. “In addition, we were advised that ratings of Afghan government capabilities were now classified.”
The strategy — what strategy?
In announcing the strategy for Afghanistan in August 2017, Trump made clear that he was doing so with grave misgivings.
“Someday, after an effective military effort, perhaps it will be possible to have a political settlement that includes elements of the Taliban in Afghanistan. But nobody knows if or when that will ever happen,” he said.
The skeptics are many. “Why would anybody call this a strategy? We declared we wanted to win, but we didn’t change anything fundamentally that we’re doing,” retired Army Lt. Col. Jason Dempsey, who served two tours in Afghanistan, told Military.com.
The focus now, as it has been for years, is on building up the Afghan military into a more effective force capable of holding and administering territory retaken from the Taliban, he said, “but that army assumes the existence of a functioning government.”
“We are creating a military that assumes the existence of a state that does not exist,” said Dempsey, an adjunct senior fellow of the Military, Veterans and Society Program at the Center for a New American Security.
“What it boils down to is that we can’t decide what we want,” Dempsey said. “The only consensus we have on Afghanistan is that we don’t want to lose.”
In her analysis of the Trump administration’s strategy, Brookings Institution scholar Vanda Felbab-Brown wrote that the president basically had three options — “full military withdrawal, limited counterterrorism engagement, and staying in the country with slightly increased military deployments and intense political engagement.”
“The option the Trump administration chose — staying in Afghanistan with a somewhat enlarged military capacity — is the least bad option,” Felbab-Brown said.
“Thus, the Trump administration’s announced approach to Afghanistan is not a strategy for victory,” she said.
“Staying on militarily buys the United States hope that eventually the Taliban may make enough mistakes to seriously undermine its power,” she said. “However, that is unlikely unless Washington starts explicitly insisting on better governance and political processes in the Afghan government.”
Watchdog reports contrast with claims of progress
The goal of better governance is dependent on an Afghan military as the enabler, but the office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) said May 2, 2018, that the number of Afghan soldiers and police has declined sharply in the past year.
In a report, SIGAR said that the combined strength of the military and police dropped nearly 11 percent over the past year, from about 331,700 in January 2017 to about 296,400 this January, well below the total authorized strength of 334,000.
“Building up the Afghan forces is a top priority for the U.S. and our international allies, so it is worrisome to see Afghan force strength decreasing,” John Sopko, the head of SIGAR, told reporters.
At the end of January 2018, insurgents controlled or had influence over 14 percent of the Afghanistan’s 407 districts, SIGAR said, while the Afghan government controlled or influenced 56 percent. The remaining districts were contested, SIGAR said.
The report also noted the significant increase in the air campaign: “The total of 1,186 munitions dropped in the first quarter of 2018 is the highest number recorded for this period since reporting began in 2013, and is over two and a half times the amount dropped in the first quarter of 2017.”
In addition, the report indicated that Nicholson’s plan to bomb drug production centers and have the Afghan military interdict shipments in an effort to cut off Taliban funding was having little effect.
“From 2008 through March 20, 2018, over 3,520 interdiction operations resulted in the seizure of 463,342 kilograms of opium. But the sum of these seizures over nearly a decade would account for less than 0.05% of the opium produced in Afghanistan in 2017 alone,” SIGAR said.
Since 9/11, the U.S. has invested more than $850 billion in the war and efforts to bolster the Afghan government, but a recent drumbeat of reports from SIGAR and the Pentagon Inspector General’s office have highlighted widespread and continuing corruption.
At a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing in April 2018, Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri, called on Army Secretary Mark Esper to justify a $50 million contract that SIGAR charged was used to buy luxury cars such as Alfa Romeos and Bentleys for Afghan officials and pay for $400,000 salaries for no-show jobs.
“Please tell me that a senator 20 years from now is not going to be sitting here and going, ‘How in the world are taxpayers paying for Alfa Romeos and Bentleys?’ ” McCaskill said.
‘We’ve kind of been going about it wrong’
As of March 2018, there were roughly 14,000 U.S. military personnel serving in Afghanistan as part of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel, according to U.S. officials.
Of the 14,000, about 7,800 of these troops were assigned to NATO’s Resolute Support mission to train, advise and assist Afghan security forces.
The 7,800 number reflects an increase of 400 personnel from the deployment of the Army’s first Security Force Assistance Brigade, or SFAB, to Afghanistan.
In February 2018, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats issued a report on what those troops can be expected to accomplish this year that was at odds with the upbeat assessments of Mattis and Nicholson.
“The overall situation in Afghanistan probably will deteriorate modestly this year in the face of persistent political instability, sustained attacks by the Taliban-led insurgency” and the “unsteady” performance of the Afghan military performance, the DNI’s report said.
Afghan troops “probably will maintain control of most major population centers with coalition force support, but the intensity and geographic scope of Taliban activities will put those centers under continued strain,” the report said.
Mattis and Nicholson have singled out the SFAB as a key component in reforming and refining the operations of the Afghan security forces.
The SFAB concept takes specially selected non-commissioned and commissioned officers, preferably with experience in Afghanistan, and assigns them the train, advise and assist role in place of conventional Brigade Combat Team units.
Before the deployment, Army 1st Sgt. Shaun Morgan, a company senior enlisted leader with the SFAB, told Stars & Stripes that there were no illusions about the difficulty of the job ahead.
“So, we’ve been kind of going about it wrong for a while, I think,” Morgan said. “Maybe this is an opportunity to get on the right foot toward getting it right.”
Previously in Afghanistan, “we couldn’t get it through our heads that we weren’t the fighters,” Morgan told Stripes in a reference to the role of U.S. troops as partners and advisers to the Afghans who were to take the lead in combat.
“I think the bosses decided maybe this is the right shot, and it just makes sense to me,” Morgan said.
The Afghans also were under no illusions on the continuing threats posed by the Taliban and other insurgents, and the risks they take to go about their daily lives.
Shah Marai Faizi, the chief photographer for Agence France-Presse in the Kabul bureau, was among the nine journalists killed in May 1, 2018’s suicide bombings in Kabul. He was the father of six, including a newborn daughter.
In 2017, Shah Marai wrote an essay titled “When Hope Is Gone” that was read in part on the Democracy Now cable program.
“Life seems to be even more difficult than under the Taliban because of the insecurity,” he wrote. “I don’t dare to take my children for a walk. I have five, and they spend their time cooped up inside the house. I have never felt life to have so little prospects, and I don’t see a way out.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.
The team behind the upcoming 007 film, dubbed Bond 25, released an unconventional first look in the form of behind-the-scenes footage and peeks from the movie. Set to take place all over the world, per usual, star Daniel Craig’s Bond-swan-song definitely looks to be a colorful flick.
The reveal includes Fukunaga in action, Craig looking cool-as-always, Westworld’s Jeffrey Wright as “Felix Leiter” (“a brother from Langley”), and Captain Marvel’s Lashana Lynch as “Nomi” on location in the Caribbean.
One of the most interesting and exciting additions to the project is writer Phoebe Waller-Bridge, creator of Killing Eve and Fleabag — projects praised for their levity, humor, and surprising character moments.
Waller-Bridge will join Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, and Scott Z. Burns.
The official James Bond Twitter account is killing it when it comes to sharing Bond history, stories, and progress, including behind-the-scenes looks like this:
Daniel Craig and the @astonmartin V8 on location for #Bond25pic.twitter.com/cPgfMSlUYm
Marines from the special operations community have been kicking ass and taking names for years. From hunting down Taliban fighters for questioning to tracking the highest value targets — they’re on the job.
While people know that the Marines have two different special forces units, most don’t understand the differences between them.
Both Marine Recon and Marine Raiders go through a similar training pipeline, but their differences may surprise you.
In many ways, these badasses are similar, but here are three key differences between the two elite units.
3. Their MOSs are different — but not by much.
Every job in the military has a different MOS, or military occupation specialty, designation. Marine Raiders have use MOS 0372 while Recon uses the designation of 0321.
You might’ve noticed that the first two numbers of these designations are same. If you have the numbers “03” at the beginning of your MOS designation, that means you’re a part of the Marine Infantry — and not a POG.
2. Their proud history is different.
The Marine Raiders were established during World War II for special operations, but were disbanded after the war came to a close. Soon after, the Korean War kicked off and decision-makers said “oh sh*t” to themselves as realized they needed to create another elite unit to continue kicking ass.
So, in March 1951, the Amphibious Reconnaissance Platoon was formed and, just two years later, was later expanded into a company, made up of several divisions. The company conducted highly successful missions throughout the Korean War, eventually becoming what’s known today as United States Marine Corps Force Reconnaissance.
In 1987, United States Special Operations Command was formed, composed of Army Green Berets, Navy SEALs, and Detachment One — which was made up of some of the best Marines, including some Force Reconnaissance, and would eventually become the Marine Raider Regiment. In 2006, MARSOC was formed as part of SOCOM.
At this time, Force Reconnaissance is still fully operational, but many were chosen to become MARSOC.
1. Their missions are different
Marine Recon conduct amphibious assaults, deep recon and surveillance, and battlespace shaping in support of the Marine Expeditionary Force.
Marine Raiders support their governments’ internal security, counter subversion, and reduce violent risks from internal and external threats against the U.S.
In leaked documents, newly published by The Washington Post and ZDF, the CIA describes how it pulled off “the intelligence coup of the century:” for decades, a company that sold encryption devices to more than 120 countries was secretly owned and operated by the CIA itself.
The company, Crypto AG, was acquired by the CIA at the height of the Cold War. Through a classified partnership with West Germany’s spy agency, the CIA designed Crypto AG’s encryption devices in a way that let the agency easily decrypt and read all messages sent by the company’s clients.
Some details of Crypto AG’s coordination with US intelligence agencies had been previously reported — a 1995 investigation by The Baltimore Sun revealed that the National Security Agency reached an agreement with Crypto AG executives to secretly rig encryption devices. However, the newly-published CIA report unveils the full extent of the US’ operation of Crypto AG.
For decades, Crypto AG was the leading provider of encryption services. It boasted hundreds of clients ranging from the Vatican to Iran, generating millions of dollars in profits. The CIA maintained control over the company until at least 2008, when the agency’s confidential report obtained by The Post was drafted.
Crypto AG was liquidated in 2018, and its assets were purchased by two other companies: CyOne Security and Crypto International. Both have denied any current connection to the CIA, and Crypto International chairman Andreas Linde told The Post that he “feels betrayed” by the revelation.
“Crypto International and Crypto AG are two completely separate companies without any relationship,” a spokesperson for Crypto International said in a statement to Business Insider. “Crypto International is a Swedish owned company that in 2018 acquired the brand name and other assets from Crypto AG … We have no connections to the CIA or the BND and we never had.”
A representative for CyOne Security did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s requests for comment.
In a statement to Business Insider, CIA press secretary Timothy Barrett declined to confirm or deny the report, saying the agency is “aware of press reporting about an alleged U.S. government program and do not have any guidance.”
Crypto AG began selling encryption devices in 1940, marketing a mechanical device that was powered by a crank. The CIA reportedly purchased the company with a handshake deal in 1951, which was renewed with a secretive “licensing agreement” in 1960.
In the decades that followed, the CIA oversaw technical advances in Crypto AG’s devices, shifting to electronic devices. The company reportedly contracted with Siemens and Motorola to modernize its gadgets.
The CIA’s surveillance continued through the 1990s and 2000s, even as Crypto AG’s revenue began to dwindle. It was ultimately dissolved in 2018 and sold for between million and million, according to anonymous current and former officials quoted by The Post.
Read the full report by The Washington Post and ZDF here.
It evaluates 187 countries and territories and ranks them into four tiers (Tier 1, Tier 2, Tier 2 Watch List, and Tier 3), with Tier 1 being the best and Tier 3 the worst.
Russia, Belarus, Iran, and Turkmenistan were among 22 countries ranked as Tier 3. Others included Burma (also known as Myanmar), China, North Korea, Syria, and Venezuela.
The Russian government “does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so,” the 2018 Trafficking In Persons report stated as a reason why Russia remained among the worst offenders for the sixth year in a row.
It said Russian authorities “routinely detained and deported potential forced labor victims without screening for signs of exploitation, and prosecuted victims forced into prostitution for prostitution offenses.”
It urged Moscow to investigate allegations and prevent the use of forced labor in construction projects, screen for trafficking indicators before deporting or repatriating migrants, and to establish formal national procedures to aid law enforcement officials.
The report said Belarus, a Tier 3 country since 2015, “maintained policies that actively compelled the forced labor of its citizens, including civil servants, students, part-time workers, and the unemployed, citizens suffering from drug or alcohol dependency, and, at times, critics of the government, among others.”
In Iran, which has been Tier 3 since at least 2011, “trafficking victims reportedly continued to face severe punishment, including death, for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to trafficking.”
It also accused the government of providing financial support to militias fighting in Iraq that recruited and used child soldiers.
It said Turkmenistan, which remained on the Tier 3 list for the third consecutive year, continued to use “the forced labor of reportedly tens of thousands of its adult citizens in the annual cotton harvest and in preparation for the Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games” that the country hosted in September 2017.
Pakistan, meanwhile, was upgraded from Tier 3 to Tier 2, with the report crediting Islamabad with “making significant efforts” to tackle trafficking.
It said Pakistan, which had been Tier 3 from 2014-17, “demonstrated increasing efforts by increasing the number of victims it identified and investigations and prosecutions of sex trafficking.”
It cautioned, though, that the country’s overall law enforcement efforts on labor trafficking remained “inadequate compared with the scale of the problem.”
The State Department ranked Georgia as the only former Soviet republic to be a Tier 1 country, a category that comprises 39 countries.
In the middle are the Tier 2 countries, defined as those that do not fully meet the minimum standards but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance.
These include Afghanistan, Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Macedonia, Moldova, Pakistan, Romania, and Serbia.
The report listed 43 countries in danger of being downgraded to Tier 3 in future years. The Tier 2 Watch List includes Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kyrgyzstan, Montenegro, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, along with EU member Hungary.
Few British politicians are as controversial as former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Still, it was incumbent upon foreign governments to protect her when she traveled abroad. When preparing to visit Japan for an economic summit, Thatcher received the strangest offer for protection – Japan wanted to protect the Iron Lady with a team of twenty “Karate Ladies.”
It may sound like a silly offer, but at the heart of it, the Japanese were doing their best to accommodate Thatcher on the basis of her gender. In June 1979, the British Prime Minister was due to visit Tokyo for an economic summit and Thatcher had just won the post of Prime Minister – the first woman in the United Kingdom’s history to hold the position. She beat out the male Labour candidate James Callaghan just one month prior. The Japanese public were interested in Maggie Thatcher’s status as Britain’s premier working mother.
Thatcher was not interested in attending the conference as a woman, but rather wanted to attend as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.
“If other delegation leaders, for example are each being assigned 20 karate gentlemen, the Prime Minister would have no objection to this; but she does not wish to be singled out. She has not had in the past, and does not have now, any female Special Branch officers.”
Thatcher with Japanese Crown Prince Akihito.
Sir John Hunt, Thatcher’s Cabinet Secretary, raised the issue with his Japanese counterpart when discussing the Prime Minister’s security detail.
“Sir John said that Mrs. Thatcher will attend the summit as prime minister and not as a woman per se and he was sure that she would not want these ladies; press reaction in particular would be unacceptable.”
The bodyguard force was supposedly made up of 20 or so all-female bodyguards who were trained in unarmed combat, among other skills. Thatcher’s objection wasn’t to the offer of a security detail, but rather the idea of an all-female unit. They wanted to avoid the embarrassment of even getting such an offer, but the offer reached the British press anyway. Thatcher attended the 1979 summit, where no Karate Ladies were present or required.
There are no stupid questions…except for these ones!
When civilians have burning questions about the military, they turn to the only trusted source out there: the internet. Luckily for us, this means we get to relive our glory days and have a little bit of amusement. What’s the best thing to do when civvies ask something like, “Should I wear my cowboy hat at basic training for the Air Force?”
Gather a group of your military buddies, have some drinks, and turn the camera on:
Should you wear your cowboy hat to basic training? | Dumb Military Questions 101
For the record, it was a unanimous ‘yes’ to wearing your cowboy hat to basic training. It was the first time there was peace, belonging, and unbridled respect among the five branches.
Other questions were less universal or specifically catered to the specops vets in the group:
“How do special forces soldiers *really* open velcro quietly?”
Luckily, Green Beret Terry Schappert was on hand with a few suggestions. “Just throw a flashbang grenade. That gives you enough time and noise to open the velcro.” Problem solved. Thanks, Schappert.
“Are tall and strong soldiers more effective than short, thin soldiers?”
Now this one opened up some varied points. On the one hand, tall, strong soldiers can’t fit inside tanks, as U.S. Air Force vet Mark Harper sagely observed. But on the other hand, just look at U.S. Navy SEAL Remi Adeleke. Do we even need tanks? Really? If given the choice between the two…
Adam West was born, and drafted into the Army, as William West. In the military, he was in charge of standing up TV stations at San Luis Obispo, California, and Fort Monmouth, New Jersey. But if it seems odd that the star of a farcical show like the 1966 version of “Batman” got his start in the Army, it was actually the perfect way to prepare for such a ridiculous show.
Here are six reasons why:
1. Renaming everything to some arbitrary standard like “bat cuffs,” “bat time,” and “bat channel,” makes sense for anyone who has had to relearn names for Velcro, Duck Tape, and zipper
Those are ridiculous ways of referring to Velcro, Duck Tape, and zippers, which are all brand names that the Army can’t use in official doctrine. So young Billy West would have gotten used to using the Army names. It was probably easy to start calling everything “bat” later in life.
2. Dealing with a group of ne’er-do-wells like the “Batman” villains is old hat for anyone who has dealt with an Army squad
Penguin, Riddler, Catwoman, Archer, and other crazy villains were always hatching insane schemes in the Batman TV show. But, once again, the Army would’ve prepared the future Bruce Wayne for this.
Soldiers decide to get high with spice and bath salts? Yup, sounds about right. Troops smuggling liquor overseas by pouring it into Listerine bottles and mixing in food coloring? Seen it. Enlisted hijinks are basically Silver Age Batman ridiculous, just without the fancy gadgets and costumes.
3. Having to mentor a grown adult while treating them like a child is how all specialists deal with new privates
One of the more awkward truths about the Batman is that Robin, the Boy Wonder, was actually a 21-year-old man when the show began. The grown adult Adam West had to act like mentoring another grown man while treating him like a child wasn’t sort of weird.
But again, the Army is perfect preparation for this. After all, most specialists have only been in the military for a few years and they can be assigned responsibility of a private first class who has been in the Army a couple of years. So, 24-year-old supervising 20-year-olds.
4. Spending all of your time with an attractive lady without giving in is easy for any NCO who had to ignore their co-ed lieutenant’s good looks
One of Batman’s greatest villains was Catwoman, who definitely had a thing going on with Batman. But Batman refused to give in to it (though he almost kissed her once, and a later incarnation of Batman ran off to Europe with her).
But any specialist or sergeant who has pulled overnight duty with an even moderately attractive officer knows what it’s like to weigh the consequences of “fraternization” over and over. Chances are, young and attractive Billy West had to say no to a few female sergeants and officers, or at least find the right place to give in without getting caught.
5. Only in the military and “Batman” can the little stuff be crucial during an emergency
This is a small one, but most organizations will let little things go during an emergency. But Batman doesn’t accept any of that crap from Robin. Proper grammar is important, and Batman corrects Robin even as Catwoman tries to get away on a rocket.
You know, just like a sergeant major yelling about gloves during a firefight or reflective belts during literally anything.
6. Working within made-up rules is easy for anyone who has dealt with UCMJ and Rules of Engagement
Batman runs into some pretty stupid bureaucratic problems during the show, like that time the Riddler sues Batman (while using riddles to explain his scheme, because of course he did) for false imprisonment and assault.
When a Russian destroyer came close to colliding with a US Navy warship on June 7, 2019, Russian sailors were spotted sunbathing on the deck. A retired Russian admiral says there’s nothing weird about that.
Russian Admiral Valentin Selivanov, a military analyst who previously served as the chief of staff of the Russian Navy, told Russian media on June 10, 2019, that there’s nothing wrong with relaxing topside when you’re not at war. “There is a time for war, and a time for sunbathing,” the admiral explained.
On June 7, 2019, the US Navy accused the Russian destroyer Admiral Vinogradov of taking a run at the Ticonderoga-class cruiser USS Chancellorsville in the Philippine Sea. The two ships narrowly missed one another as the Russian destroyer came within 100 feet of the US warship.
Each side blamed the other for the incident; however, the US Navy released photos and videos to support its version of events.
(1/2) USS Chancellorsville Avoids Collision with Russian Destroyer Udaloy I DD 572
In one video, at least two Russian sailors were seen sunbathing shirtless on the helicopter pad. One sailor is sitting down, and pants aren’t immediately visible, although the video isn’t particularly clear.
“Our vessel is on the move in the open sea,” Selivanov told the Russian government’s Sputnik news agency, adding, “The seamen and officers have had lunch. They are on their after-lunch break, glad to be serving in the south. Sure, if one was sunbathing, then dozens were. And yes, you have to be undressed to sunbathe.”
The sunbathing Russian sailors has been interpreted a couple of different ways.
The New York Times noted the sailors and argued that this behavior could suggest that “the Russian vessel was not on high alert at the time and was not engaged in a planned provocation.”
The Russian statement on the incident claimed that the USS Chancellorsville put itself on a collision course with the Russian destroyer and the “crew was forced to conduct an emergency maneuver.”
The U.S. Navy cruiser USS Chancellorsville, right, is forced to maneuver to avoid collision from the approaching Russian destroyer Admiral Vinogradov.
(U.S. Navy photo)
Were the Russian warship seriously concerned about the possibility of a collision, there would have likely been an all-hands response. The lack of such a response and the presence of Russian sailors calmly sunbathing on the deck could signal that the Russian destroyer was not the reactive party in this incident.
It is difficult to know for certain what was going on aboard the Russian ship, but US naval experts have already cast doubt on Russia’s narrative, with one telling Business Insider that the USS Chancellorsville had the right of way and accusing the Russian warship of acting in a “dangerous” fashion.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
With each set of PCS orders, I wonder whether we should consider a Personally Procured Move (PPM), which is the official name of what most of us call a DITY, or Do It Yourself move. It’s tempting — you hear stories of military families making tons of money, and it seems like there is less chance of damaged goods. If you’re considering a DITY move this PCS season, here are six questions you need to ask yourself:
How much reimbursement will you get?
For most people, the main reason to consider doing a DITY move is to make a little money. Before you get started, be sure you understand exactly what you will and will not receive, whether you do a DITY, a full government move, or something in between.
All service members who are executing PCS orders are entitled to a wide range of travel entitlements, including:
monetary allowance in lieu of transportation (technically called MALT, but often just called mileage),
per diem for travel days,
When you do a DITY move or a partial DITY move, you’ll also get an allowance for moving your belongings, based upon the distance and weight moved. From that allowance, you pay all the expenses of the move: packing materials, hired help, the actual transportation of your goods, and unpacking. Any excess reimbursement beyond your actual expenses is taxable income.
Contact your personal property office to be sure you understand your entitlements and the reimbursement requirements for your branch, including when you need to have your vehicle weighed (empty/full/both? start/finish/both?).
Can you manage an upfront cost?
All branches have a process for getting an advance of a portion of your anticipated move reimbursement, but it doesn’t always work out as expected. If you decide to do a DITY move, you should plan to pay for all expenses out-of-pocket and expect that it may take months to be reimbursed.
Is moving yourself realistic?
Doing a DITY move is work, especially if you have a lot of stuff or heavy things like a piano or old-school entertainment center. Do you realistically have the time, mental energy and physical strength to pack up everything you own, load it safely onto a truck — or into a moving container — and unload it all on the other end?
Do you have a lot of professional gear?
One major limitation of a full DITY move is there is no way to separate out professional gear weight. Service members and their spouses are permitted to deduct the weight of certain specified work-related items from the overall weight of goods. Separating professional gear is a big help if you are close to your weight allowance.
Will you be able to keep track of the paperwork?
DITY moves require extra paperwork and receipts, particularly when you go to file your income tax return. You’ll need weight receipts to get reimbursed by the military — requirements may vary by branch. Then, because DITY reimbursements are taxable income, you’ll need all your expense receipts to deduct from your income.
TIP: Experienced DITY movers recommend a designated folder or envelope for receipts, but also taking a photograph of every single receipt when you get it. Upload the picture to the cloud to ensure you’ll always have access to a copy.
Have you considered a partial DITY?
One of the easiest ways to get the benefits of a DITY move without the work is to do a partial DITY, which separates your move into two parts. The government movers take care of the things you don’t want to move, and you get reimbursed for the portion you do move. A partial DITY is a good solution if you aren’t sure you want to do a full DITY, or if you have certain items you want to move yourself.
DITY moves are a good option for different situations, but they are a lot of work and they may or may not make money. Understanding the reimbursements and the process will help you decide if it is the right option for you.