During a private meeting with President Donald Trump in March 2018, Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven explained that while his country was not a member of NATO, it regularly partnered with the defense alliance.
Trump, who has clashed with NATO leaders since taking office, responded by saying that was the kind of relationship with NATO that the US should consider, a European diplomat told Washington Post columnist Josh Rogin.
A senior administration official told Rogin that the remark was a joke, but the comment is one of many before and since that hint at disinterest, and, in some cases, hostility from the US president toward the trans-Atlantic alliance of which the US was a founder and is the largest member.
The US is the most powerful military in the 29-member alliance, and US withdrawal would dramatically reduce NATO’s power to deter potential adversaries like Russia at a time when Russian President Vladimir Putin is using cyberattacks and his military to threaten European neighbors.
Trump’s criticisms have centered around financing, and he has often rebuked NATO members for falling short of the 2%-of-GDP defense-spending level to which alliance members have agreed.
He reiterated that criticism in letters sent to some of the NATO members that fell short of that spending threshold in the weeks ahead of the organization’s summit on July 11 and July 12, 2018.
The only one to be made public was sent to Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg. The June 19, 2018 letter, published by Norwegian newspaper VG, said Norway was “the only NATO Ally sharing a border with Russia that lacks a credible plan to spend 2 percent of its gross domestic product on defense.”
In the letter, Trump said he “understand[s] domestic political pressures,” having faced them in the US, but it would “become increasingly difficult to justify to American citizens why some countries continue to fail to meet our shared collective security commitments.”
The letter followed a general template, tailored with language specific to the recipient country, US and foreign officials told Foreign Policy. The officials said the letter sent to Germany contained some of the harshest language —Trump himself has directed some of his most withering scorn at German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Concerns about Trump’s commitment to the alliance have grown during his second year in office, especially as he continues to criticize NATO leaders and pursue rapprochement with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Many of the Trump administration officials who tried to reassure NATO allies have departed.
NATO officials are also worried by what seems to be the increasing isolation of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who is regarded as one of the administration’s steadier hands and a vocal NATO proponent.
Julianne Smith, director of the Trans-Atlantic Security Program at the Center for a New American Security, told The New York Times that Trump questioned other leaders about their opinions of Mattis during the G7 meeting in Canada in May 2018.
Smith, who was deputy national security adviser to former Vice President Joe Biden, said the exchange was “awkward” for those leaders, who felt praise “might be the kiss of death” for Mattis. “So they said deliberately that he is being so tough on us on 2% defense spending, to try to save the guy.”
“There’s overwhelming anxiety, and it’s been punctuated with very specific concerns. That has a profound impact on what our Europeans friends think he thinks about them,” Biden told Rogin. “The consequence is disastrous for our national security and economic interests.”
The US continues to back NATO and its initiatives, particularly the alliance’s efforts to counter Russia.
The bloc also recently agreed to the NATO Readiness Initiative, a plan pushed by Mattis requiring NATO to have 30 land battalions, 30 fighter aircraft squadrons, and 30 warships ready to deploy within 30 days of being put on alert.
But continued cooperation doesn’t mean the ties established between North America and Europe since the end of World War II will endure, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in June 2018.
“It is not written in stone that the trans-Atlantic bond will survive forever,” Stoltenberg said in London. “But I believe we will preserve it.”
“We may have seen the weakening” of some of those bonds, Stoltenberg said. He added that differences had been overcome in the past and said maintaining the partnership “is in our strategic interests.”
“We must continue to protect our multilateral institutions like NATO, and we must continue to stand up for the international rules-based order,” he said.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
On Aug. 6 and 9, 1945, U.S. airmen dropped the nuclear bombs Little Boy and Fat Man on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. On April 26, 1986, the number four reactor at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in the Ukraine exploded.
Today, over 1.6 million people live and seem to be thriving in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, yet the Chernobyl exclusion zone, a 30 square kilometer area surrounding the plant, remains relatively uninhabited. Here’s why.
Fat Man and Little Boy
Dropped by the Enola Gay on Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945, Little Boy was a uranium-fueled bomb about 10 feet long and just over two feet across, that held 140 pounds of uranium and weighed nearly 10,000 pounds.
When he exploded as planned nearly 2000 feet above Hiroshima, about two pounds of uranium underwent nuclear fission as it released nearly 16 kilotons of explosive force. Since Hiroshima was on a plain, Little Boy caused immense damage. Estimates vary but it is believed that approximately 70,000 people were killed and an equal number were injured on that day, and nearly 70% of the city’s buildings were destroyed. Since then, approximately 1,900 people, or about 0.5% of the post-bombing population, are believed to have died from cancers attributable to Little Boy’s radiation release.
A mock-up of the Little Boy nuclear weapon dropped on Hiroshima.
Squat and round, Fat Man, so named for its resemblance to Kasper Gutman from The Maltese Falcon, was dropped three days later on the city of Nagasaki on Aug. 9, 1945.About two pounds of Fat Man’s 14 pounds of plutonium fissioned when it detonated about 1,650 feet above Nagasaki, releasing 21 kilotons of explosive force. Because the bomb exploded in a valley, much of the city was protected from the blast. Nonetheless, it is estimated that between 45,000 and 70,000 died immediately, and another 75,000 were injured. No data on subsequent cancer deaths attributable to radiation exposure from the bomb is readily available.
The design of the reactors at Chernobyl was significantly flawed. First, it had a “built-in instability.” When it came, this instability created a vicious cycle, where the coolant would decrease while the reactions (and heat) increased; with less and less coolant, it became increasingly difficult to control the reactions. Second, rather than having a top-notch containment structure consisting of a steel liner plate and post-tensioning and conventional steel reinforced concrete, at Chernobyl they only used heavy concrete.
On April 26, 1986, engineers wanted to run a test of how long electrical turbines powered by the reactor would continue operating when the reactor was no longer producing power. To get the experiment to work, they had to disable many of the reactor’s safety systems. This included turning off most automatic safety controls and removing ever more control rods (which absorb neutrons and limit the reaction). In fact by the end of the test, only 6 of the reactor’s 205 control rods remained in the fuel.
As they ran the experiment, less cooling water entered the reactor, and what was there began to turn to steam. As less coolant was available, the reaction increased to dangerous levels. To counteract this, the operators tried to reinsert the remaining control rods. Sadly, the rods also had a design flaw in the graphite tips. This resulted in the displacement of the coolant before the reaction could be brought under control. In a nutshell, as these tips displaced the coolant, within seconds the reaction actually increased drastically due to the heat, creating even more steam, and thus getting rid of more coolant.
This might have not been so bad had the control rods been able to be inserted fully to perform their function of absorbing neutrons and thus slowing the reaction, except the heat became so intense, that some of the graphite rods fractured, jamming the rods at about one third of the way in.
A mockup of the Fat Man nuclear device.
So, in the end, when the nearly 200 graphite tips were inserted into the fuel, reactivity increased rapidly, rather than slowed as was supposed to happen, and the whole thing blew up. It is estimated that about seven to ten tons of nuclear fuel were released and at least 28 people died directly as a result of the explosion.
It is further estimated that over 90,000 square miles of land was seriously contaminated with the worst effects being felt in Ukraine, Belarus and Russia. However, radiation quickly spread in the wind and affected wide swaths of the northern hemisphere and Europe, including England, Scotland and Wales.
Hard data on the number of people who died as a result of the radioactive release are difficult to find. It is known that of the 100 people exposed to super high radiation levels immediately after the accident, 47 are now deceased. Additionally, it has been reported that thyroid disease skyrocketed in those countries closest to Chernobyl; by 2005, 7,000 cases of thyroid cancer were recorded in Ukraine, Belarus and Russia.
Most experts agree that the areas in the 30 kilometer Chernobyl exclusion zone are terribly contaminated with radioactive isotopes like caesium-137, strontium-90 and iodine-131, and, therefore, are unsafe for human habitation. Yet neither Nagasaki nor Hiroshima suffer these conditions. This difference is attributable to three factors: (1) the Chernobyl reactor had a lot more nuclear fuel; (2) that was much more efficiently used in reactions; and (3) the whole mess exploded at ground level. Consider:
Little Boy had around 140 pounds of uranium, Fat Man contained about 14 pounds of plutonium and reactor number four had about 180 tons of nuclear fuel.
Only about two pounds of Little Boy’s uranium actually reacted. Likewise only about two pounds Fat Man’s plutonium underwent nuclear fission. However, at Chernobyl, at least seven tons of nuclear fuel escaped into the atmosphere; in addition, because the nuclear fuel melted, volatile radioisotopes were released including 100% of its xenon and krypton, 50% of its radioactive iodine and between 20-40% of its cesium.
Both Fat Man and Little Boy were detonated in mid-air, hundreds of feet above the Earth’s surface. As a result, the radioactive debris was taken aloft and dispersed by the mushroom cloud rather than being drilled into the earth. On the other hand, when reactor number four melted down at ground level, the soil underwent neutron activation, where the already active neutrons in the burning fuel reacted with the soil causing it to become radioactive.
Lately, some weird reports have been coming from the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone – wild animals have returned, and, for the most part, they seem fine. Moose, deer, beaver, wild boar, otter, badger, horses, elk, ducks, swans, storks and more are now being hunted by bears, lynx and packs of wolves, all of which look physically normal (but test high for radioactive contamination). In fact, even early effects of mutations in plants, including malformations and even glowing are now mostly limited to the five most-contaminated places.
Although not everyone is ready to agree that Chernobyl is proof that nature can heal herself, scientists agree that studying the unique ecosystem, and how certain species appear to be thriving, has produced data that will ultimately help our understanding of long term radiation effects. For example, wheat seeds taken from the site shortly after the accident produced mutations that continue to this day, yet soybeans grown near the reactor in 2009 seem to have adapted to the higher radiation. Similarly, migrant birds, like barn swallows, seem to struggle more with the radiation in the zone than resident species. As one expert explained, they’re studying the zone’s flora and fauna to learn the answer to a simple question: “Are we more like barn swallows or soybeans?“
This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.
The M1 Abrams tank is arguably the best in the world — there are many reasons why it dominates the battlefield. But it’s not the only vehicle to have been called the “M1.” Prior to World War II, there were two other M1s in service, and neither were anything like the Abrams. In fact, these vehicles were downright puny. That being said, these little vehicles were important in their own way.
It might not seem like the greatest lot in life, but some people leave a legacy of being an example of what not to do. That also apply to tanks and other armored vehicles — see the Soviet-era T-72 for a prime example of this, both in terms of design and operational experience. This was also the case with America’s earliest M1s.
The M1 armored car was so bad, America only bought a dozen.
The first of these vehicles was the M1 armored car. Looking at it, this vehicle lacked intimidation factor. It was best described as a funky-looking 1930s car with a turret that housed an M2 .50 caliber machine gun with two additional .30 caliber machine guns. Only about a dozen of these were built.
The vehicle only powered the rear four wheels. Even though it packed two spares, the biggest problem with this armored car was its off-road performance. As it turns out, all-wheel drive is necessary when not exclusively travelling on paved roads.
Civil War veterans inspect a M1 “combat car” at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York.
The other M1 was the M1 “combat car.” This ‘car’ was, in reality, much closer to a light tank, but there was a specific reason for the semantics. In the years between World Wars, cavalry was prohibited from operating tanks. So, instead, they created an “armored car” with a tank’s armaments: one M2 .50-caliber machine gun and one .30-caliber machine gun. A grand total of 113 M1s were purchased, and it hung around until 1943.
Neither of these M1s saw any combat — which was a good thing for their four-man crews. Still, these vehicles, made major contributions to the war effort by teaching America what was needed to create a truly modern armored force.
Learn more about these vehicles — and see how far armored vehicles have come in terms of design — in the video below!
Flying close to ground troops in combat in hostile and high-threat conditions requires a host of unique attributes for an aircraft — such as flying slow and low to the ground, absorbing some degree of small arms fire and having an ability to quickly maneuver in response to fast-changing ground combat conditions.
These and many more are among factors now being analyzed as proponents of both the A-10 Warthog and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter assess their respective abilities to perform the crucial and highly valued Close Air Support mission. The Pentagon and the Air Force are now conducting a thorough examination of each plane’s capability for this role – including extensive analysis, simulated tests, flights of both aircraft under combat-like conditions and a range of tests, Air Force and Pentagon officials have explained. While many of the details of the ongoing evaluation are not now being discussed publically, the results are expected to bear prominently upon the visible ongoing debate regarding the future mission scope of both the A-10 and the F-35.
While the cherished A-10 is unambiguously combat-tested in the role of Close Air Support, some F-35 advocates have mused that the JSF sensors, maneuverability, high-tech computers, 25mm canon and arsenal of weapons just might better position the 5th generation aircraft for the mission; at the same time, the A-10s titanium frame, built-in redundancy, famous nose-aligned 30mm cannon and wide-ranging precision-weapons envelope make clearly make it the best choice for close air support.
Sure enough, the A-10s performance against ISIS, Congressional lobby and broad adoration among ground troops are among the many factors believed to have influenced the Air Force’s current plan to both extend the life of the current A-10 and also explore requirements options for a future Close Air Support platform. Air Force officials have told Scout Warrior the ongoing requirements and analysis procedure is looking at three options – upgrading the existing A-10 airframe, using the best available commercial-off-the shelf aircraft, or simply engineering an building a newly designed A-10-like Close Air Support airplane.
Many A-10 proponents are convinced that there is no other plane capable of succeeding with the highly-dangerous, revered and essential Close Air Support Mission. Nevertheless, the Air Force does plan to use the emerging F-35 for Close Air Support moving into the next decade. In addition, F-35 advocates argue that the stealth aircraft’s speed, maneuverability and high-tech weapons and sensors give the F-35 a decisive Close Air Support advantage.
In the meantime, the F-35 weapons integration including live fire drops, weapons separation assessments and modifications for future munitions adaptions is progressing as well alongside the existing F-35/A-10 analysis.
The aircraft has already demonstrated an ability to fire an AMRAAM (Advanced Medium Range Air to Air Missile), JDADM (Joint Direct Attack Munition) or GBU 12 (laser-guided aerial bomb), and AIM 9X Sidewinder air-to-air missile.
So-called “Block 3F” software for the F-35 increases the weapons delivery capacity of the JSF as well, giving it the ability to drop a Small Diameter Bomb and 500-pound JDAM.
By the early 2020s, the F-35 is slated to be configured with a next-generation Small Diameter Bomb II
As a multi-role fighter, the F-35 is also engineered to function as an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platform designed to apprehend and process video, data and information from long distances. Some F-35 developers have gone so far as to say the F-35 has ISR technologies comparable to many drones in service today that are able to beam a “soda straw” video view of tactically relevant combat locations in real time.
Built-in ISR is an asset which could have the effect of greatly helping close-air-support efforts.
Also, F-35 advocates reiterate that the airplane’s high-tech Electro-Optical Targeting System and 360-degree sensors Distributed Aperture System will give the newer aircraft an uncontested combat and close-air-support ability. The F-35s so-called computer-enabled “sensor fusion” might enable it to more quickly ascertain and destroy moving targets by gathering, integrating and presenting fast-changing combat dynamics and circumstances.
Finally, the F-35’s stealth configuration and speed is expected to better enable it to evade air defenses and move closer to emerging ground-targets in many instances — and its air-to-air ability will enable the aircraft to respond to potential air-threats which could appear in the course of a ground-support mission.
AIM-9X Sidewinder Missile
The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter fired an AIM-9X Sidewinder infrared-guided air-to-air missile for the first time earlier this year over a Pacific Sea Test Range, Pentagon officials said.
The F-35 took off from Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., and launched the missile at 6,000 feet, an Air Force statement said.
Designed as part of the developmental trajectory for the emerging F-35, the test-firing facilities further development of an ability to fire the weapon “off-boresight,” described as an ability to target and destroy air to air targets that are not in front of the aircraft with a direct or immediate line of sight, Pentagon officials explained.
“If you think if a boresight in terms of a firearm… that’s the adjustments made to an optical sight, to align the barrel of a firearm with the sights. If you think of it in aircraft terms… traditionally air-to-air missiles are fired at targets in front of the them,” Joint Strike Fighter Program Office spokesman Joe DellaVedova, told Scout Warrior.
The AIM-9X, he described, incorporates an agile thrust vector controlled airframe and the missile’s high off-boresight capability can be used with an advanced helmet (or a helmet-mounted sight) for a wider attack envelope.
“For example, instead of having to position the aircraft directly in front or behind the enemy fighter… a high off-boresight weapon enables the pilot to just look to the left, right or up and down to engage a target, fire it and the missile locks on for the kill,” he explained.
The AIM-9X missile, which can also be fired at surface-to-air and air-to-surface, is currently in use on a number of existing fighter aircraft such as the Air Force’s F-15E and F-16 and the Navy’s F-18 Super Hornet.
Engineered by Raytheon, the newest AIM-9X Block II weapons are built with a redesigned fuse for increased safety and a lock-on-launch capability. The missile is also configured with a data link to support what’s called “beyond visual range” engagements, meaning targets at much farther ranges picked up by sensors or early warning radar. This could provide a fighter jet with an ability to destroy enemy targets in the air while remaining at a safer stand-off distance less exposed to hostile fire.
“The AIM-9X Sidewinder is an infrared-guided, air-to-air missile employing a focal plane array sensor for unparalleled target acquisition and tracking, augmented by jet vane control technology for extreme maneuverability against a variety of high performance threats,” Mark Justus, Raytheon AIM-9X program director, told Scout Warrior in a written statement. “The missile also has proven capability in air-to-surface and demonstrated capability in surface-to-air missions.”
The AIM-9X Block II is the current version of the AIM-9 Sidewinder short range missile family in use by more than 40 nations throughout the world, Justus added.
“The AIM-9X missile has been acquired by twenty international partners. It is configured for easy installation on a wide variety of modern fighter aircraft and we are excited to complete this milestone of the first AIM-9X live fire from the F-35 as we progress through the aircraft/missile integration activities,” he said.
Weapons integration for the F-35 is designed to evolve in tandem with software advances for the aircraft, described as “increments.” Each increment, involving massive amounts of lines of computer code, improves the platform’s ability to integrate, carry and fire a wider range of weapons.
Block 2B, for example, is already operational and builds upon the enhanced simulated weapons, data link capabilities and early fused sensor integration of the earlier Block 2A software drop.
Block 2B enables the JSF to provide basic close air support and fire an AMRAAM (Advanced Medium Range Air to Air Missile), JDAM (Joint Direct Attack Munition) or GBU 12 (laser-guided aerial bomb), JSF program officials have said.
The next increment, Blocks 3i will increase the combat capability even further and Block 3F will bring a vastly increased ability to suppress enemy air defenses.
The Air Force plans to reach operational status with software Block 3i in 2016. Full operational capability will come with Block 3F, service officials said.
Block 3F will increase the weapons delivery capacity of the JSF as well, giving it the ability to drop a Small Diameter Bomb, 500-pound JDAM and AIM 9X short-range air-to-air missile, Air Force officials said.
F-35 25mm Gatling Gun
Last Fall, the Pentagon’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter completed the first aerial test of its 25mm Gatling gun embedded into the left wing of the aircraft, officials said.
The test took place Oct. 30, 2015 in California, Pentagon officials described.
“This milestone was the first in a series of test flights to functionally evaluate the in-flight operation of the F-35A’s internal 25mm gun throughout its employment envelope,” a Pentagon statement said.
The Gatling gun will bring a substantial technology to the multi-role fighter platform, as it will better enable the aircraft to perform air-to-air attacks and close-air support missions to troops on the ground – a task of growing consequence given the Air Force plan to retire the A-10.
Called the Gun Airborne Unit, or GAU-22/A, the weapon is engineered into the aircraft in such a manner as to maintain the platform’s stealth configuration.
The four-barrel 25mm gun is designed for rapid fire in order to quickly blanket an enemy with gunfire and destroy targets quickly. The weapon is able to fire 3,300 rounds per minute, according to a statement from General Dynamics.
“Three bursts of one 30 rounds and two 60 rounds each were fired from the aircraft’s four-barrel, 25-millimeter Gatling gun. In integrating the weapon into the stealthy F-35A airframe, the gun must be kept hidden behind closed doors to reduce its radar cross section until the trigger is pulled,” a statement from the Pentagon’s Joint Strike Fighter said.
The first phase of test execution consisted of 13 ground gunfire events over the course of three months to verify the integration of the gun into the F-35A, the JSF office said.
“Once verified, the team was cleared to begin this second phase of testing, with the goal of evaluating the gun’s performance and integration with the airframe during airborne gunfire in various flight conditions and aircraft configurations,” the statement added.
The new gun will also be integrated with the F-35’s software so as to enable the pilot to see and destroy targets using a helmet-mounted display.
The gun is slated to be operational by 2017.
Small Diameter Bomb II
The Air Force is engineering and testing a new air-dropped weapon able to destroy moving targets in all kinds of weather conditions at ranges greater than 40-miles, Air Force and Raytheon officials said.
The Small Diameter Bomb II, or SDB II, is designed to integrate onto the F-35 by 2022 or 2023; it is engineered todestroy moving targets in all kinds of weather, such as small groups of ISIS or terrorist fighters on-the-move in pick-up trucks.
A weapon of this kind would be of extreme relevance against ISIS fighters as the group is known to deliberately hide among civilian populations and make movements under cloud cover or adverse weather in order to avoid detection from overhead surveillance technologies.
While the Air Force currently uses a laser-guided bomb called the GBU-54 able to destroy moving targets, the new SDB II will be able to do this at longer ranges and in all kinds of weather conditions. In addition, the SDB II is built with a two-way, dual-band data link which enables it to change targets or adjust to different target locations while in flight.
A key part of the SDB II is a technology called a “tri-mode” seeker — a guidance system which can direct the weapon using millimeter wave radar, uncooled imaging infrared guidance and semi-active laser technology.
A tri-mode seeker provides a range of guidance and targeting options typically not used together in one system. Millimeter wave radar gives the weapon an ability to navigate through adverse weather, conditions in which other guidance systems might encounter problems reaching or pinpointing targets.
Imagining infrared guidance allows the weapon to track and hone in on heat signatures such as the temperature of an enemy vehicle. With semi-active laser technology, the weapon can be guided to an exact point using a laser designator or laser illuminator coming from the air or the ground.
Also, the SBD II brings a new ability to track targets in flight through use of a two-way Link 16 and UHF data link, Raytheon officials said.
The millimeter wave radar turns on first. Then the data link gives it a cue and tells the seeker where to open up and look. Then, the weapon can turn on its IR (infrared) which uses heat seeking technology, Raytheon officials said.
The SBD II is engineered to weigh only 208 pounds, a lighter weight than most other air dropped bombs, so that eight of them can fit on the inside of an F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, Raytheon officials explained.
The U.S. State Department says its coordinator for counterterrorism is traveling to the three Scandinavian countries to discuss matters including “Iran-backed terrorism” in Europe.
The State Department announced Ambassador Nathan Sales’ trips to Denmark, Sweden, and Norway in a Jan. 29, 2019 statement, saying that Iran “remains the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism.”
“In recent years the regime has directed or backed terrorist plotting in France, Denmark, The Netherlands, Albania, and elsewhere,” it added.
In January 2019, the European Union approved fresh sanctions on Iran’s intelligence services and two Iranian nationals, accusing them of attempting — or carrying out — attacks against Iranian government opponents on Danish, Dutch, and French soil.
Nathan A. Sales prepares to sign his appointment papers to become Ambassador-at-Large and Coordinator for Counterterrorism at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C. on Sept. 29, 2017.
(State Department Photo)
Tehran denied the claim, saying the accusations were aimed at damaging relations between Iran and the EU.
The Dutch government in 2019 accused Iran of likely involvement in the killings of two Dutch nationals of Iranian origin in 2015 and 2017. Both were opponents of the Iranian regime.
In October 2018, Denmark accused Iran’s authorities of planning to carry out attacks on its soil on Iranian exiles belonging to an Iranian opposition group, while France blamed Tehran for a foiled bombing attack that targeted a rally organized by another banned group near Paris in June 2018.
And in December 2018, non-EU member Albania expelled Iran’s ambassador to Tirana and another diplomat, saying they were suspected of “involvement in activities that harm the country’s security.”
Precise reasons for the move were not given, but U.S. officials said it sent a clear message that conducting “terrorist operations in Europe” was unacceptable.
The alleged plots in Europe have strained relations between Tehran and the European Union, which has been working to preserve the 2015 nuclear deal after the United States pulled out of the accord aimed at preventing Iran from developing a nuclear bomb.
The U.S. State Department said that Sales’ talks with Danish, Swedish, and Norwegian officials will also touch upon the prosecution of foreign terrorist fighters who traveled from Europe and other parts of the world to fight alongside the extremist group Islamic State in countries such as Syria and Iraq.
“The United States is urging its partners to repatriate their citizens and prosecute them for the crimes they have committed,” the statement said.
It said that a 2017 UN Security Council resolution requires states to combat terrorist travel, using tools including terrorist watch lists and airline reservation data.
Animal companions are a highlight of the post-service life of veterans. Loyal, trained to take care of your health needs and they keep depression at bay. Watching your dog get into mischief and then freezing in place when you catch them red-handed is priceless. Pets are best reserved for the transition into civilian hood. Pets are not allowed in the barracks for 5 valid reasons.
1. The quad would be a biohazard
Imagine morning formation followed by the routine physical fitness time. The detail leader rounds the group over to the quad and everyone stretches. The group assumes the push up position when suddenly you feel something very warm, oozing between your fingers. Not everyone picks up after their animals — that’s why we passed laws forcing people to do it. Now imagine 5,000 troops in a battalion with a furry friend.
The benefit of those pristine training areas is that you do not have to worry about animal waste like you would in a park. The threat of slipping on a log that is an incubus of viral plague would become an everyday occurrence. Most people would pick up after their animals but enough people would not that it would affect the readiness of our warfighting organizations.
2. Field Ops
The animal’s health and wellbeing are also a concern when troops have to go on weeklong field ops. Other times troops train across state lines for months at a time. Who is going to feed the pet? Pets get lonely too. Pets, like people, become resentful when they feel abandoned. A person can be made to understand why you are absent from their life but an animal, in their innocence, cannot.
3. Not everyone is a pet person
Let’s face the ugly truth head on, some people aren’t meant to raise an animal. How many times have you seen a pet owner do the bear minimum to keep their pet a live? Why even have one at all. Statistically speaking, an increased rate of pet ownership is going to increase the rate of abuse. Neglect is a type of abuse, just feeding an animal subpar food with no attention or exercise is cruelty. Now, I’m not saying service members would intentionally neglect pets. However, the opportunity for that problem to exist in a barracks setting is a realistic concern.
Imagine the noise of all those cats, dogs and birds housed closely together. Now imagine every time the duty roves his post he sets off every single one of them into a barking frenzy at 0300.
4. They would escape
Animals are curious and full of energy. Naturally, some would want to explore the world by any means necessary. Room inspections would become near impossible. Troops would go UA and AWOL looking for their pets not caring about the consequences. It would present a new kind of discipline problem. Never underestimate the loyalty an active duty troop would have to their pet.
5. Troops would be happy
Troops would be happy, especially Marines. We can’t have Marines getting off work happy — it would be pandemonium. The world would end, there would be peace on earth, even Jesus would come back. No one would end their active service or retire. America needs her troops to be mean and lethal. No one is going to be angry enough to invade another country when they feel fulfilled in life.
As the Marine Corps continues to adjust fire in the face of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, General David H. Berger, Commandant of the Marine Corps, has ordered a halt to Physical Fitness Tests (PFTs) across the Corps until further notice. Despite testing being suspended, however, Marines are still expected to stay in fighting shape.
Marines, the PFT requirement for this semi-annual period is cancelled in accordance with COVID-19 prevention guidelines. Our fitness to fight remains a priority, and I expect each of us to continue to maintain our fighting condition. Find details in a forthcoming MARADMIN.
“Marines, the PFT requirement for this semi-annual period is cancelled in accordance with COVID-19 prevention guidelines. Our fitness to fight remains a priority, and I expect each of us to continue to maintain our fighting condition. Find details in a forthcoming MARADMIN.” General Berger wrote.
The forthcoming MARADMIN, or Marine Administrative Message, will likely provide further guidance upon its release, including when Marines can expect to commence testing again.
The Marine Corps PFT, which consists of three timed events, is one of two fitness tests the Marine Corps uses to assess the physical readiness of each Marine. The PFT consists of dead hang pull ups (which can be substituted for push ups), crunches, and a three mile run. Because Marines do their crunches with a spotter that both holds their knees and keeps tally of the repetitions, it may have been deemed impossible to effectively practice social distancing during the execution of the test. Other events do not necessarily include such close proximity to other Marines, but may still have resulted in unnecessary exposure.
The military as a whole has been taking proactive steps to ensure the health and safety of service members, their families, and civilian DoD personnel. Recently, all members of the military were ordered to wear cloth masks in circumstances that don’t allow for social distancing, and everyone on base, regardless of whether they are military or civilian, are expected to wear masks when in close proximity with others.
Despite multiple overlapping initiatives, the military has seen a sharp rise in the number of infected service members in recent weeks, many of which hail from the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier the USS Theodore Roosevelt. Thus far, nearly 700 Sailors from the Roosevelt have tested positive for the coronavirus. The USS Harry S. Truman carrier strike group has been ordered to remain at sea for the time being in order to ensure the safety of the crew and the readiness of America’s rapid response to any potential threats.
Marines have played an active role in numerous DoD efforts relating to COVID-19, including a small detachment of Marines deployed to Guam to support the recovery of the Roosevelt’s crew. Marines from Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment made headlines around the world last week when they sprinted life-saving oxygen tanks to ambulances waiting to transfer COVID-19 patients that were stuck waiting in traffic.
With a baby on the way, Spc. Donald Ulloa and his wife were up all night preparing for the arrival of a new child. With no such luck on this particular day, he went about his normal routine.
Ulloa, a soldier with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 38th Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, was at a gas station with his Family in the car when he witnessed a vehicle accident. He looked toward the road and saw a car hit a motorcyclist before the motorcyclist flew through the air.
His soldier skills kicked in and he didn’t hesitate, he ran toward the accident and immediately began to assess the situation. He quickly realized the bike on the motorcyclist’s leg needed to be moved, so he threw the bike off the man before looking around to delegate tasks. One person called 911 and another woman was able to translate from Spanish to English for Ulloa, while he began applying his combat lifesaver course techniques until emergency services arrived.
“That’s just the type of soldier he is,” said Sgt. 1st Class Billy Thornton, human resources NCO, HHC, 1st Bn., 38th Inf. Reg., 1st SBCT. “To be the first one on scene was great — whether here or overseas — he would do the same. I was surprised by the event, but not by Ulloa’s actions. I had immediate praise for him.”
When it comes to chaotic events, Thornton said he knows Ulloa is always ready. The office staff is constantly training to be prepared for any situation, and Ulloa is always looking for ways to improve.
Spc. Donald Ulloa, a soldier with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 38th Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, helps Soldiers on the range.
The military taught Ulloa to remain calm in hectic situations. Whether on a range, at a shoot house or downrange, Ulloa said the first thing he realized was that he needed to be calm. But looking back, he believes he did what anyone else would have done.
“I don’t think that I could have done anything differently … as infantrymen we are taught to run toward it and provide help,” he said.
Not wanting to see any child grow up without a parent, Ulloa said it doesn’t matter who it is. He would have done the same for anyone, because he believes “it’s everyday soldier training; its selfless service, sacrifice, integrity … day one or 20 years later it’s all the same core values that are instilled in you.”
Ulloa’s quick actions that day demonstrated only a fraction of the soldier he is.
“I’ve only known Ulloa since May of this year,” Thornton said. “We showed up at Fort Carson at the same time. He does everything he is asked and in a timely manner, and he is respectful to superiors and peers. He is a model soldier.”
He recently was named “4th Infantry Division and Fort Carson Soldier of the Week” for his accomplishments within the unit. The company started a program that prepares the brigade for deployments, called “Raider Onboard.” The unit ensures soldiers are deployable with the three-week program by ensuring their paperwork and annual online classes are completed. The second week focuses on buddy aid and the combat lifesavers course, and week three hones in on driver training and issuing military licenses.
Since June 2018, Ulloa has processed nearly 900 soldiers through the program, making the unit, battalion, and brigade more readily deployable.
Soldiers with Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 3rd Battalion, 157th Field Artillery, congratulate one another on the M4 iron sights zero range at Fort Carson, Colorado Springs, Colo., Feb. 10, 2009.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Liesl Marelli, Colorado National Guard)
“Because of the manning, it became difficult,” Thornton said, before asking Ulloa to help as an assistant instructor. “Ulloa just took over … that when I came in; my commander and sergeant major said they wanted a volunteer program.”
Before moving to Fort Carson, Ulloa completed hundreds of volunteer hours, without recognition, at his last duty station.
So it was right up his alley when he was asked to pitch in with the unit’s designated driver program.
Ulloa earned his volunteer service medal by doing various things with the unit. He also volunteered for cleanup through the city of Colorado Springs, including gathering about 50 people to help clean up the area.
“It was a massive undertaking,” Thornton said.
He volunteered to raise money through a silent auction for a children’s hospital. This along with many other volunteer events is what pushed him over his hours for his first Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal.
“It was my pleasure to write up his award. Ulloa is about to receive his second volunteer service medal,” Thornton said.
It takes many soldiers years to get the award, but he is not surprised Ulloa is about to earn his second. Thornton said he can always count on Ulloa in areas where volunteers are needed.
“Ulloa’s work ethic and values supersede his rank,” he said.
Thornton said that regardless of the task, he is confident when Ulloa fills in for him, he “takes it and runs with it.”
Thornton said he has worked with a lot of good soldiers and despite the recent attention on Ulloa, he is humble about it.
Ulloa said he wasn’t looking for recognition but instead wanted the unit to be highlighted for the designated driver program.
Because of the program that Ulloa helped set up, other soldiers have come forward to volunteer as part of the program and some have chosen to quit drinking because of this program, he said. And to date the 1st Bn., 38th Inf. Reg., 1st SBCT, does not have any DUIs.
Due to an accident while serving, Ulloa is set to get out of the Army soon.
“I wish Ulloa the best of luck,” Thornton said. “I hope he continues to support his community and I am quite sure he will.”
Baby Yoda began disappearing from the popular GIF-sharing platform Giphy last week, however, with a message apparently saying the GIFs were removed “for copyright reasons.” Some fans speculated either that Disney made a copyright claim about the GIFs or that Giphy preemptively removed them.
A Giphy representative told Gizmodo on Nov. 24, 2019, however, that things had been sorted out.
“Last week, there was some confusion around certain content uploaded to GIPHY and we temporarily removed these GIFs while we reviewed the situation,” the person told Gizmodo via email. “We apologize to both Disney and Vulture for any inconvenience, and we are happy to report that the GIFs are once again live on GIPHY.”
Now, the GIFs have returned. Here are some great picks to send your friends.
I would write an intro about how, in the end days of World War II, Germany was short on manpower, territory, and resources, but nearly every article about Germany’s failed super weapons starts that way. So, just, you know, remember that Germany was desperate at the end of World War II because Hitler was high on drugs and horrible at planning ahead when he invaded his neighbors.
So, on the list of harebrained schemes that the Nazis turned to in order to stave off their inevitable defeat, the Natter has to be one of the craziest. Basically, because they were low on metal and airstrips and they thought rockets seemed awesome, the Nazis made a single-use, vertically launched, rocket-powered plane that only fired rockets. These were supposed to be “grass snakes” that rose from the forests of Germany and slaughtered Allied bombers.
…because of a special SS initiative, a defensive surface-to-air rocket aircraft is supposed to be forced into production. And they will be propelled by C-Agent as well. That is the height of stupidity, but it’s also fact.
“Eh, needs more rockets.”
(Anagoria, CC BY 3.0)
Oh, and, worst of all, the planes couldn’t land without breaking apart.
Assuming everything didn’t go to hell during that not-at-all-dangerous process, the pilot could then maneuver onto incoming bombers and fire up to 24 rockets at them. Since the Natter flew at over twice the speed of a B-17’s max, the pilots really needed to fire their rockets accurately and quickly before they overshot their target.
Once they were out of ammo, the pilot would release the nose and deploy the parachutes. The nose would fall separately from the rest of the plane and, hopefully, the parts would land safely. The parts and the pilot would be recovered and ready for another round.
“This will save the war.”
(San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive)
It, uh, did not work properly. On the second unmanned test flight, the flight components hit the ground with fuel remaining. That fuel blew up, destroying the plane. But because the blast wouldn’t have—necessarily—killed the pilot, they went ahead with a manned flight.
That flight went worse. No offense to the Nazi test pilot. On March 1, 1945, Lothar Sieber took off in a Ba-349, but it immediately started flying inverted and climbed into cloud cover. It emerged from the clouds a few minutes later and crashed into the ground, miles away.
The pilot was dead, either from the shock of takeoff, the canopy flying off in flight, or the crash. The plane was destroyed. And everyone finally gave up on the idea of the Natter.
Not that it would have changed much if it had been controllable. The western Allies crossed into Germany about two weeks later, and a few rocket-powered fighters wouldn’t have stopped the advance. But, hey, “Grass Snake” at least looks cool on a T-shirt.
The Air Force fires an unarmed Minuteman III missiles during a 2017 test.
If you had to guess at the world’s strongest nuclear power, you would probably get the top two right. America and Russia are top dogs and have been so since Russia became an official country again. Before that, you guessed it, the Soviet Union was on top.
But do you know who is number three in the world? Well, for a few years in the Cold War, North Dakota could have claimed that spot by seceding.
Even more shocking, according to numbers in 2006, seven U.S. states would be in the world’s top 10 nuclear powers at the time if their arsenals had been counted separately. America’s nuclear arsenal in Europe could have formed an eighth.
At the start of the Cold War, America was the top atomic power because it was the only atomic power. Then, Soviet scientists created a bomb through their own research and theft of American secrets. For much of the Cold War, America’s arsenal was larger, in missiles as well as warheads and bombs.
But there was a problem for Americans in the Cold War. They didn’t know that. Thanks to the flawed Gaither Report and the rapidly accelerating fields of atomic and then nuclear research, there was a belief in the U.S. that the Soviet Union in the 1950s could be manufacturing up to five rockets per day with a sparkling new warhead on each. (We’ve previously written about that, here.)
Intercontinental ballistic missiles sit outside a base in Wyoming.
(U.S. Air Force R.J. Oriez)
So America raced to stay ahead of the Soviet Union, manufacturing hundreds and then thousands of missiles, bombs, and other weapons in the Cold War. In an effort to draw Soviet weapons away from American cities as well as to protect the country’s counter-strike capability, America put the newest missile and warheads in hardened silos in the Midwest.
So about 250 Minuteman III missiles were packed with up to three warheads each in sites across North Dakota. It was the largest missile arsenal of any state at the time, leading to North Dakota getting the moniker “world’s third-largest nuclear power.“
In the modern era, if the U.S. arsenal was split into the states that house the weapons, North Dakota would be the world’s fifth-largest nuclear power. Russia is number one with about 6,800 warheads. But, according to this map from the Bulleting of Atomic Scientists in 2006, there are seven U.S. states with larger arsenal than France’s number 3 arsenal.
France has 300 nuclear weapons, putting it far behind Washington (2,364 weapons), New Mexico (1,914 weapons), Georgia (1,364 weapons), North Dakota (1,254 weapons), Louisiana (940 weapons), Nevada (902 weapons), and Montana (535 weapons). America’s arsenal in Europe is also larger than France’s at 400 weapons.
Many of these U.S. weapons are in storage or are scheduled for decommissioning. That’s the case in New Mexico and Nevada. Georgia and Washington house weapons that are deployed on ballistic and cruise missile submarines. North Dakota and Montana have missiles in silos as well as air-launched missiles and bombs. Louisiana houses air-launched missiles and bombs.
Now, of course, state governors don’t actually control those arsenals. The weapons were commissioned by the federal government and are still largely controlled by the active military and the Department of Energy. So, yeah, it’s a U.S. arsenal and not state ones. Still, it’s comforting to know that this author’s state would have the fourth largest arsenal in the world. Hope we don’t piss off Washington State, though.
Twenty-six bones, 33 joints, and over 100 ligaments. That’s not your body we’re talking about — that’s just your feet. It’s an awful lot of moving parts to pack into a foot-long space. Throw on 180 or so pounds on top of that, and then consider that if you exercise, every running step you take multiplies the impact of your weight threefold, and you can see the kind of pressure your delicate foot structure is under day in and day out.
The perks of strengthening your feet are multifaceted. First, strong feet give your legs a durable base to push off from when you’re running, cycling, squatting, or doing whatever it is you like to do to stay fit. Second, strong feet are more resistant to foot pain, one of the most common sources of bodily aches right up there with back pain. Tight arches, sore heels, plantar fasciitis — all of these complaints are met with a physical therapist’s advice to build foot strength. By pre-emptively exercising your digits, you might avoid the pain altogether.
Make sense? Great. Here are 7 exercises to get you started. The whole series takes about 20 minutes and you should do it several times a week.
1. Towel scrunch
Sit in a chair with bare feet. Place a towel on the floor, about two feet in front on the chair. Using the toes on your right foot, extend your digits across the towel, then contract them, scrunching your toes together and pulling the fabric close to your chair. Release the towel and extend your toes against, grabbing more fabric and you scrunch them together. Continue reaching and scrunching until you have created a balled-up towel in front of your chair. Do three times.
Sit in a chair, feet flat on the floor in front of you. Place one hand on either knee. Press down with your arms while simultaneously lifting your heels off the floor, resisting the pressure and rising onto your toes. Release. Do 3 sets of 10 reps.
3. Pick-up game
Take the pieces to your favorite board game like Monopoly (chess and checkers work, too), and scatter them on the floor. Sit in a chair in the middle of the mess. Using only your toes, grab, lift, and carry each piece to a nearby bucket where they will be stored. Continue until floor is clean. Bring the kids in on this one — it’s a family favorite.
Tie an exercise band around the leg of a couch or bed. Sit on the floor, about two feet from the bed, and tie the other end of the band around your midfoot so that there is pressure on the band. Begin to flex and point your foot, keeping resistance on the band the whole time. Do 20 reps on one foot, then switch sides and repeat. Do three full sets.
5. Calf raises
The same exercise that tones your calves also builds strength and stability in your ankles. You can do these exercises with both feet at once, or one at a time. Stand facing a wall, about a foot away. Placing hands on the wall for balance as needed, rise up onto your toes and back down, making sure you roll up to the very top each time. Do 3 sets of 12 reps.
Stand in the middle of a room, feet shoulder-width apart. Shift your weight to the right side and lift your left foot off the floor 6 inches. Close your eyes. Attempt to count to 30 (30 seconds) while balancing with eyes closed. Repeat on opposite side.
7. Alphabet game
Stand next to a wall, feet shoulder-width apart. Shift weight to the right side and lift your left foot in front of you, knee bent. Trying to maintain your balance (use the wall for support if necessary), begin to trace the letters of the alphabet in the air with your left foot. Work from A to Z, then switch sides and repeat.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
Israeli Air Force Mirage IIICJ 158 at the Israeli Air Force Museum in Hatzerim. Bears 13 kills markings and the colours of 101 Squadron. (Wikimedia Commons).
Israeli Col. Giora Epstein, one of the world’s greatest fighter aces of the jet era, was leading a flight of four planes during the Yom Kippur War when his team spotted two Egyptian MiG-21s. Epstein pursued the pair and quickly shot down the trail plane.
But that’s when the Israelis got a surprise. The pair of MiG-21s were bait. While the four Israeli planes were pursuing the surviving MiG they could see, approximately 20 more MiG-21s suddenly hit them with an ambush.
What followed was one of the most lopsided victories in modern aerial combat. The four Israeli Neshers fought the approximately 21 MiGs, calling out to each other to help them avoid Egyptian MiGs or to chase down vulnerable enemies.
During the fight, Epstein’s partner shot down a MiG but got missile exhaust into his own engine, causing a stall. Epstein walked him through a restart and sent him home. Another Israeli pilot chased a MiG out of the battle area, and the third headed home due to a lack of fuel.
Epstein found himself alone with 11 enemy MiGs. What followed was minutes of insane aerial combat as Epstein’s main target pulled off a maneuver thought impossible in a MiG-21: a split S at approximately 3,000 feet. It’s a move that should have caused him to crash into the ground.
But the MiG succeeded, barely. It got so close to the ground that it created a cloud of dust against the desert ground, but then escaped the cloud and flew back toward the sky. Epstein managed to get a burst of machine gun fire out before the MiG could escape, destroying the Egyptian jet. Epstein was left in the fight with 10 MiG-21s out for vengeance for their lost comrades.
The MiGs flew in pairs against Epstein, firing bursts of machine gun fire and missiles at the Israeli ace. Epstein outmaneuvered them, killing two with 30mm cannon fire and forcing the rest to bug out.