Russia has begun massive military exercises across its central and eastern regions, starting weeklong war games the Defense Ministry says will involve some 300,000 personnel — twice as many as the biggest Soviet maneuvers of the Cold War era.
The Sept. 11-17, 2018 exercises, called Vostok-2018 (East-2018) and billed by Moscow as its biggest in decades — or in history — come amid persistently high tension between Moscow and the West and are being closely watched by NATO.
The war games demonstrate “Russia’s focus on exercising large-scale conflict,” NATO spokesman Dylan White said in late August 2018, stating that the Western alliance had been briefed about Vostk-2018 and would monitor it.
“It fits into a pattern we have seen over some time — a more assertive Russia, significantly increasing its defense budget and its military presence,” White said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, who met with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the opening day of a Sept. 11-13, 2018 economic forum in the Far Eastern port city of Vladivostok, is expected to observe the exercises briefly during his trip.
Chinese and Mongolian troops are taking part, amid ongoing Kremlin efforts to pursue closer ties with Beijing and other Asian capitals.
“We have a trusting relationship [with China] in the spheres of politics, security, and defense,” Putin said at the start of his meeting with Xi.
At a news conference after their talks, Xi also touted the relationship between Russia and China, which has a far larger population and an economy several times the size of Russia’s.
Xi, whose country is locked in a tense confrontation with the United States over trade and tariffs, said that Russia and China should work together to oppose protectionism and what he called unilateral approaches to international problems.
He said that an increasingly unpredictable geopolitical climate made partnership between Russia and China particularly important.
Up to 3,500 Chinese military personnel will take part in the “main scenario” of the drills at the Tsugol proving ground, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Sept. 4, 2018.
Alex Kokcharov, a Russia analyst at the London-based risk assessment firm HIS Markit, said that China has never before participated in war games on Russian soil that were not under the auspices of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).
“Fundamentally, the goal of this specific exercise is to project Russian military power in the Asia-Pacific region,” Kokcharov said. “If Russia had not invited China, that would have been viewed by Beijing as a potentially dangerous activity by Russia.”
President of China Xi Jinping awarded the Order of Friendship of the People’s Republic of China to Vladimir Putin, June 2018.
Russian officials have said that the war games are not meant as a threat to any particular country but are justified by what Putin’s spokesman described on Aug. 28, 2018, as a hostile international environment.
Russia’s “ability to defend itself in the current international situation, which is often aggressive and unfriendly to our country, is justified, essential and without alternative,” Peskov said.
On Sept. 10, 2018, Peskov called Vostok-2018 part of “a regular, routine training process aimed at improving skills and coordination in our armed forces.”
“This is a very important exercise, but it is still part of the annual routine development of the Russian armed forces,” he said.
Relations between Russia and the West have been severely strained by Moscow’s actions in Ukraine and Syria and its alleged interference in elections in the United States and European countries.
The war games demonstrate “Russia’s focus on exercising large-scale conflict,” NATO spokesman Dylan White said in late August 2018, stating that the Western alliance had been briefed about Vostok-2018 and would monitor it.
“It fits into a pattern we have seen over some time — a more assertive Russia, significantly increasing its defense budget and its military presence,” White said.
Shoigu said that about 300,000 military personnel would take part, twice as many as the largest war games conducted by the Soviet Union: the Zapad-81 exercises in 1981.
“In some ways (Vostok-2018) will repeat aspects of Zapad-81, but in other ways the scale will be bigger,” Shoigu said.
He said it would involve more than 1,000 warplanes, helicopters, and drones; up to 80 combat and logistics ships; and up to 36,000 tanks, armored personnel carriers, and other vehicles.
“Imagine 36,000 military vehicles moving at the same time: tanks, armored personnel carriers, infantry fighting vehicles — and all of this, of course, in conditions as close to a combat situation as possible,” Shoigu said.
The drills are being held in Russia’s Eastern and Central military districts, which encompass more than half of the country’s territory.
LifeWaters offers scuba diving and scuba certifications as part of recreational water therapy. The non-profit organization improves the lives of disabled veterans with a dedicated staff of volunteers, including Spinal Cord Injury therapists, doctors, nurses, veterans, and civilians.
Bill Chase is a Air Force Vietnam-era veteran who served from 1973-1978. While stationed in Hawaii, he learned to dive and then later became a certified diver. In 2016, after a successful engineering career, Chase was diagnosed with Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. While at a VA therapy appointment, the therapist mentioned scuba diving, and then referred Chase to LifeWaters.
Forced retirement opens new door
ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. Chase was forced to retire after the diagnosis and soon sought assistance from Paralyzed Veterans of America for help in filing claims for VA benefits and support at the St. Louis VA. Approximately 700 to 900 veterans with ALS are served annually by PVA to obtain their VA healthcare benefits.
“I am always excited to be involved helping a veteran’s bucket list wish come true!” said PVA Vice President and LifeWaters Advanced Scuba Diver, Hack Albertson. “It was an absolute honor to meet and dive with Bill Chase and his family.”
Albertson credits the LifeWaters adaptive scuba training that allowed him to dive in over 200 locations around the world. “I love being a member of LifeWaters and [being] an Advanced Scuba Diver. I was even blessed to dive Pearl Harbor on December 7th while conducting an oil study for the U.S. National Park Service. I can never thank LifeWaters enough for the opportunities and experiences diving has given me.”
“Blown away by kindness” at LifeWaters
LifeWaters offers different services depending on needs, desires and skill level. They have amputee scuba diving, disabled veteran scuba diving and other scuba diving programs.
“ALS progression is different for everyone. In my case, I have no leg motion, my arms and lungs are affected. I’ve recently lost some ground with my lungs, so when I dive I now use a full-face mask because it’s easier to breathe,” said Chase.
Chase was surprised that he was eligible for adaptive diving. He recently completed the HERO dive with his family at the Epcot Center Aquarium at the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida. Chase has even gotten closer to his family while they trained for their scuba adventure.
“If I were in a different physical state, I wouldn’t hesitate to become part of this group. The dive itself was awesome, in spite of my physical limitations. My family and I thoroughly enjoyed the entire experience,” he said.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
Its vulnerability reminded me of a conversation I had two years ago, at the Web Summit conference in Lisbon with cybersecurity investor Sergey Gribov of Flint Capital. He was talking up one of his investments, an industrial cybersecurity firm based in Israel called CyberX. Half-bored, I girded myself for his pitch. They usually go like this: “The internet is full of hackers! They want to steal your data and your money! If only companies used my company’s awesome product, we would all be safe!”
I have heard hundreds of pitches like this.
But my conversation with Gribov was different. It was … extreme. The criminals who break into the web sites of banks or chainstores and steal personal data or money are not the scariest people out there, he told me. The hackers we really ought to be worrying about are the ones trying to take entire countries offline. People who are trying to take down the internet, switch the lights off, cut the water supply, disable railways, or blow up factories.
The West’s weakness is in the older electronics and sensors that control processes in infrastructure and industry. Often these electronics were installed decades ago. The security systems controlling them are ancient or non-existent. If a hacker can gain control of a temperature sensor in a factory, he — they’re usually men — can blow the place up, or set it on fire. “The problem people don’t realise is it becomes a weapon of mass destruction. You can take down a whole country. It can be done,” he said.
And then, how do you respond? Does the country that was attacked — the one struggling to get its power grid back online — launch nukes? Probably not, he said, because “you have no idea who did it.”
“You can have a team of five people sitting in a basement and be just as devastating as WMDs,” he said. “It’s really scary. In some sense it’s a matter of time because it’s really easy.”
At the time, I discounted my conversation with Gribov. His VC fund was invested in CyberX, so he had an obvious interest in propagating the idea that the world is full of bad guys.
But in the years since we talked, two unnerving things happened.
In December 2017, three men pleaded guilty to causing the largest internet outage in history – a distributed “denial of service” attack that blacked out the web across most of the US and large chunks of Northern Europe for about 12 hours. They had disabled Dyn, a company that provides Domain Name System (DNS) services — the web’s directory of addresses, basically — to much of the internet.
“Someone is learning how to take down the Internet,” Bruce Schneier, the CTO of IBM Resilient believes
Both attacks were conducted by relatively unsophisticated actors. The Dyn attack was done by three young men who had created some software that they merely hoped would disable a competitor’s company, until it got out of control. The Mauritania attack was probably done by the government of neighbouring Sierra Leone, which was trying to manipulate local election results by crippling the media.
Three major power suppliers simultaneously taken over by hackers
Next, I talked to Nir Giller, cofounder and CTO of CyberX. He pointed me to the December 2015 blackout in Ukraine, in which three major power suppliers were simultaneously taken over by hackers. The hackers gained remote control of the stations’ dashboards, and manually switched off about 60 substations, leaving 230,000 Ukrainians in the cold and dark for six straight hours.
“It’s a new weapon,” Giller says. “It wasn’t an accident. It was a sophisticated, well-coordinated attack.”
The fact that the hackers targeted a power station was telling. The biggest vulnerabilities in Western infrastructure are older facilities, Giller believes. Factories, energy plants, and water companies all operate using machinery that is often very old. New devices and software are installed alongside the older machinery, often to control or monitor it. This is what the industrial “internet of things” looks like. Hackers don’t need to control an entire plant, the way they did in Ukraine. They only need to control an individual sensor on a single machine. “In the best-case scenario you have to get rid of a batch” of product, Giller says. “In the worst case, it’s medicine that is not supervised or produced correctly.”
CyberX has done work for the Carlsbad Desalination Plant in California. It claims to be the largest seawater desalination plant in the US. And it serves an area prone to annual droughts. Giller declined to say exactly how CyberX protects the plant but the implication of the company’s work is clear — before CyberX showed up, it was pretty easy to shut down the water supply to about 400,000 people in San Diego.
2010 was the year that cybersecurity experts really woke up to the idea that you could take down infrastructure, not just individual companies or web sites. That was the year the Stuxnet virus was deployed to take down the Iranian nuclear program.
“Stuxnet in 2010 was groundbreaking”
The principle behind Stuxnet was simple: Like all software viruses, it copied and sent itself to as many computers running Microsoft Windows as it possibly could, invisibly infecting hundreds of thousands of operating systems worldwide. Once installed, Stuxnet looked for Siemens Step7 industrial software. If it found some, Stuxnet then asked itself a question: “Is this software operating a centrifuge that spins at the exact frequency of an Iranian nuclear power plant that is enriching uranium to create nuclear weapons?” If the answer was “yes,” Stuxnet changed the data coming from the centrifuges, giving their operators false information. The centrifuges stopped working properly. And one-fifth of the Iranian nuclear program’s enrichment facilities were ruined.
“Stuxnet in 2010 was groundbreaking,” Giller says.
Groundbreaking, but extremely sophisticated. Some experts believe that the designers of Stuxnet would need access to Microsoft’s original source code — something that only a government like the US or Israel could command.
Russia is another state actor that is growing its anti-infrastructure resources. In April 2017 the US FBI and the British security services warned that Russia had seeded UK wifi routers — the little boxes that serve wireless internet in your living room — with a hack that can read all the internet traffic going through them. It’s not that Vladimir Putin wants to see what you’re looking at on Pornhub. Rather, “What they’re doing there is building capability,” says Andrew Tsonchev, the director of technology at Darktrace Industrial, a London-based cybersecurity firm that specialises in artificially intelligent, proactive security. “They’re building that and investing in that so they can launch attacks from it across the world if and when they need to.”
A simple extortion device disabled Britain’s largest employer in an afternoon
Then, in 2017, the Wannacry virus attack happened. Like Stuxnet, Wannacry also spread itself through the Microsoft Windows ecosystem. Once activated, it locked up a user’s computer and demanded a ransom in bitcoin if the user wanted their data back. It was intended as a way to extort money from people at scale. The Wannacry malware was too successful, however. It affected so many computers at once that it drew attention to itself, and was quickly disabled by a security researcher (who ironically was later accused of being the creator of yet another type of malware).
During its brief life, Wannacry became most infamous for disabling hundreds of computers used by Britain’s National Health Service, and was at one point a serious threat to the UK’s ability to deliver healthcare in some hospitals.
The fact that a simple extortion device could disable Britain’s largest employer in an afternoon did not go unnoticed. Previously, something like Stuxnet needed the sophistication of a nation-state. But Wannacry looked like something you could create in your bedroom.
A screenshot shows a WannaCry ransomware demand.
Tsonchev told Business Insider that Wannacry changed the culture among serious black-hat hackers.
“It managed to swoop across, and burn down huge sectors in different countries for a bit,” he says. “In the course of that, the shipping industry got hit. We had people like Maersk, and other shipping terminals and operators, they went down for a day or two. What happened is the ransomware managed to get into these port terminals and the harbours that control shipping … that intrigued attackers to realise that was something they could deliberately try and do that wasn’t really in their playbook at that point.”
“Oh look, we can actually start to do things like take down manufacturing plants and affect the global shipping industry”
“So this year, we see follow-on attacks specifically targeting shipping terminals and ports. They hit the Port of Barcelona and the Port of San Diego and others. That seemed to follow the methodology of the lessons learned the previous year. ‘Oh look, we can actually start to do things like take down manufacturing plants and affect the global shipping industry.’ A couple years ago they were just thinking about stealing credit card data.”
But it may have taught North Korea something more useful: You don’t need bombs to bring a nation to its knees.
Oddly, you have a role to play in making sure this doesn’t happen. The reason Russia and North Korea and Israel and the US all got such devastating results in their attacks on foreign infrastructure is because ordinary people are bad at updating the security software on their personal computers. People let their security software get old and vulnerable, and then weeks later they’re hosting Stuxnet or Wannacry or Russia’s wifi listening posts.
National security is, somehow, about “the absurdity of the mundane,” says Tsonchev. “These little annoying popups [on your computer] are actually holding the key to national security and people are just ignoring them. Individuals have a small part to play in keeping the whole country safe.”
So if you’re casting about for a New Year’s resolution right now, consider this one: Resolve to keep your phone and laptop up to date with system security software. Your country needs you.
U.S. Marines arrived in Syria Wednesday to begin the first phase of President Donald Trump’s plan to expel the Islamic State from its capital of Raqqa, The Washington Post reports.
The Marines reportedly from the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit based in San Diego will provide artillery support to the Syrian Democratic Forces, and accompanying U.S. special operators in the assault on the city. The type of artillery base must be within 20 miles of its intended target to be effective, the Post notes. Some infantry Marines accompanied the unit to provide force protection on the mission.
Trump, along with Secretary of Defense James Mattis, will also likely lift the current cap on U.S. special operators embedded with local forces in tandem with the deployment. The U.S. has approximately 500 special operators in the country currently. Their proposal would also include the use of U.S. attack helicopters, U.S. artillery, and increased arms sales to U.S.-backed forces.
The main recipient of U.S. aid and artillery support will likely be the Syrian Democratic Forces, an anti-ISIS force largely composed of Syrian Kurdish fighters. American reliance on Syrian Kurds will likely spark major tensions between the U.S. and Turkey, who regard the Kurdish forces as an existential threat on par with ISIS. The Kurdish forces have proven the only reliable, large-scale U.S.-backed force capable of fighting the terrorist group effectively.
New strategic plans for Raqqa are likely just a small facet of a new overall strategy to eradicate ISIS. Trump ordered a 30-day review of U.S. strategy, along with options to increase operations tempo, which the Pentagon delivered to the White House Monday.
“This plan is a political-military plan,” Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford told a think tank audience in late February. “The grievances of the [Syrian] civil war have to be addressed, the safety and humanitarian assistance that needs to be provided to people have to be addressed, and the multiple divergent stakeholders’ views need to be addressed.”
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Before World War II, the Marine Corps had what were known as Marine Defense Battalions. These units were used to defend outposts like those on Wake Island and Midway Atoll, and the one at Wake deserves credit for one of the great stands in Marine Corps history after being left high and dry by the U.S. Navy’s answer to George McClellan.
Now the Marines may be ready to resurrect that concept. According to a solicitation posted at FedBizOpps on Oct. 27 of this year, the service is looking for some land-based anti-ship missiles that can reach out and touch the enemy at least 80 miles away. The system needs to be “employable by highly deployable and mobile forces.”
Such missiles are actually old hat for many countries, both friendly and not-so-friendly. Norway, for instance, relied on land-based batteries of the Penguin anti-ship missile to supplement armed missile boats should the Cold War have turned hot. The Soviet Union (and later Russia) developed land-based versions of the SS-N-3 Shaddock, SS-N-2 Styx, and the SS-N-26 Sapless. China’s Silkworm missiles were famously purchased by Iran, and Iran developed the Noor, which was fired at American ships multipletimes last year.
According to Marine Corps history, during World War II, 20 Marine Defense Battalions were formed. Back then, these units generally had coastal artillery to defend against enemy ships (the 1st Marine Defense Battalion at Wake actually sank a Japanese destroyer), as well as machine guns for defending against troops, and anti-aircraft guns for use against enemy planes. And of course, every Marine in those units was a rifleman.
What sort of modern missiles might be used? The United States does have the Harpoon anti-ship missile in service – some versions of which can reach over 80 miles. Other relatively off-the-shelf options could include the Norwegian-designed NSM, or a ground-launched version of the LRASM. There is also the chance that the 155mm Vulcano heat-seeking round could be used from Marine Corps M777 howitzers.
In short, the Marines’ desire for a few good anti-ship missiles could lead to the return of some little-known but storied units to the Marine Corps.
In the opening days of WW1, Unterseeboots, better known simply as U-boats, proved to be a potent and constant threat to Allied ships, with one U-boat identified as SM U-9 infamously killing nearly 1,500 British sailors in less than an hour by sinking three armoured British cruisers on Sept. 22, 1914. That same U-boat would go on to sink over a dozen British ships during its naval career, with targets ranging from small fishing boats caught in open water to the Edgar-class protected cruiser, HMS Hawke.
The Edgar-class protected cruiser, HMS Hawke.
The reason for the U-boat success in the early going of the war was, in part, due to the fact that when they were submerged they were undetectable by technology of the day.
Another factor that played into German hands is that the Allies, especially the British, consistently downplayed the danger posed by submarines and their value in combat. In fact, at first British Naval brass simply refused to acknowledge that U-boats were sinking ships. For example, the aforementioned actions of U-boat SM U-9 were initially attributed to mines.
In short, British Naval officers had little faith in the potential of submarines and wrote them off as a mere fascination that had no real potential in combat beyond novelty. Thus, they did little at first to try to come up with viable ways to combat them.
Things got real, however, when U-boats like SM U-9 began targeting British supply ships, almost bringing the country to its knees when it found itself unable to secure even basic provisions for its citizens and factories.
A solution was needed. But how to take out a target that is capable of disappearing at will?
It was quickly noted that one weakness of the U-boat was that it needed to use its periscope to mark its target before attacking. This presented a brief, but exploitable window of opportunity to attack the craft in some way. But how?
Up until the introduction of depth charges in 1916, while mines and large nets were utilized to protect certain areas with some minor effect, the conclusion of the Admiralty Submarine Attack Committee was that the best thing to do was simply for ships to either run away from or try to ram the U-boats when the periscope was spotted.
Naturally, beyond risking damage to your own vessel, getting closer to the thing that’s about to shoot you with an otherwise somewhat unreliably accurate torpedo isn’t ideal, nor is necessarily trying to run away when you’re already a marked target. However, it is at least noted that with the periscope up, U-boats couldn’t go faster than about 6 knots and, as stated, torpedoes of the age weren’t terribly accurate or reliable so the more distance you could get between you and the U-boat the better. In the end, these two methods weren’t totally ineffective, but a better solution was still needed.
German submarine, U-9, on return Wilhelmshaven, Germany.
(Illustration by Willy Stöwer)
This all got the wheels turning among the military think tanks, with the result being some rather humorous proposals as to how to solve the U-boat problem, with particular emphasis put on somehow taking out the periscope. After all, without the periscope, the U-boat’s only way to target a foe would be to completely surface, making it a relatively easy target for more traditional and accurate weaponry. With proper escorts for the supply ships, this could easily solve the U-boat problem.
But how to take out the periscope?
A suggestion by the British Board of Invention and Research was to train seagulls to fly at the periscopes, which would both make the presence of the periscope more apparent and potentially obscure the vision of the person looking through the periscope long enough to take action… To do this, it was suggested that they feed seagulls in certain regions they wanted protected through periscope like devices.
Next up, there was a suggestion to simply put a type of paint in the water with the hopes that it would get on the periscope lens, blinding the operator.
Going back to animals, a sea lion trainer called Joseph Woodward was hired to look into the possibility of training sea lions to detect U-boats and then hopefully alert the British of their presence. Unfortunately it isn’t known whether this method was effective, though the Royal Society does note that the training of at least some sea lions was performed. We presume given that the program wasn’t expanded beyond trials that it wasn’t terribly effective or perhaps not practical.
As you might imagine, none of these methods went anywhere. But this brings us to the rather absurd method that does seem to have been put into practice.
In the early days of the war, sailors were put on small patrol boats, all equipped with the latest and greatest in anti-submarine technology — large hammers and bags.
They were thus instructed that if they saw a periscope popping up to the surface, they were to try to get close to it, then have one person place a bag over the periscope while another got their Whack-A-Mole on in an attempt to destroy it, hopefully all before any target could be identified and a torpedo launched.
Exactly how effective this tactic is isn’t clear but we do know that it was popular enough for at least one senior officer aboard the HMS Exmouth to enlist the help of burly blacksmiths with extra large hammers to patrol with sailors aboard the smaller boats. With their amazing hammering abilities, both in strength and blow accuracy, presumably it was hoped they’d do a better job than your average sailor at quickly taking out a periscope.
Of course, as more sophisticated technologies were developed, this tactic, sadly, became obsolete. But never forget for a brief, but glorious time in history, there was a guy who could claim his job was to hunt submarines with a giant hammer, no doubt giving a cry of “For Asgard!!!” before smiting his foe.
This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.
Growing trust between the local community and U.S. service members, and fostering good relationships with the government in the area surrounding a new base increases the chance of local support for airmen deployed there in an effort to bring stability to the region.
The U.S. Army’s 411th Civil Affairs Battalion are experts in nurturing relationships in host countries. Partnering with local community groups and base groups, civil affairs specialists have donated food, supplies, built classrooms and built solar powered wells in the communities surrounding Air Base 201 in Agadez, Niger. They also trained technicians on how to maintain the solar panels.
This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.
The Marine Corps has reached another acquisition milestone decision by gaining approval for full-rate production of the AN/TPS-80 Ground/Air Task-Oriented Radar system from the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition on May 23, 2019. The G/ATOR system combines five legacy radar systems into a single, modernized solution with multiple operational capabilities, providing Marines with comprehensive situational awareness of everything in the sky.
“G/ATOR is a phenomenal capability that lends itself to warfighting dominance for years to come,” said John Campoli, program manager for Ground/Air Task Oriented Radar program office at Program Executive Officer Land Systems. “We’ve received tremendous positive feedback from Marines on the system, and are excited to get this capability to warfighters across the MAGTF.”
G/ATOR provides real-time radar measurement data to the Common Aviation Command and Control System, Composite Tracking Network, and Advanced Field Artillery Data System. All G/ATOR systems share a common hardware and operating system software baseline to satisfy the warfighter’s expeditionary needs across the MAGTF with a single solution.
U.S. Marines set up the AN/TPS-80 Ground/Air Task-Oriented Radar system on Feb. 26, 2019.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Leo Amaro)
The highly expeditionary, three-dimensional, short-to-medium-range multi-role radar system is designed to detect, identify and track cruise missiles, manned aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles as well as rockets, mortars and artillery fire. The Corps started fielding G/ATOR to Marines in 2018, reaching initial operational capability for air defense and surveillance missions in February 2018 and counter-fire and counterbattery missions in March 2019.
As previously reported, G/ATOR is being developed and fielded in three blocks that will support the Marine Air-Ground Task Force across the range of its capabilities. Block 1 — which began fielding a year ago — provides air defense and surveillance capabilities; Block 2 supports MAGTF counter-fire and counterbattery missions; and Block 4 — a future iteration — will provide expeditionary airport surveillance radar capabilities to the MAGTF. With this full-rate production decision, the Corps will procure 30 additional G/ATOR units.
This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.
Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis saw a rare display on a trip to Indonesia where he sought to improve ties with the country’s historically vicious special forces.
As part of that trip, Mattis watched a demonstration by soldiers, during which they broke bricks over their heads, walked on hot coals, performed martial arts, rolled in broken glass, killed live snakes, and drank their blood.
As the troops prepared the snakes, which were king cobras, one reportedly got loose and postured, as if preparing to bite Mattis, though it was wrangled back into the fold, the Japan Times reports.
But Mattis was in Indonesia to repair ties with the country’s military, which came under sanction when the country’s former dictator used the special forces as a criminal organization to brutally enforce his policies.
Currently, Indonesia’s special forces are banned from training with U.S. forces, but Mattis may look to soften that policy after the trip.
Many fear that Indonesia, the country with the largest Muslim population in the world, could become home to extremist groups like ISIS as the group looks to expand beyond Iraq and Syria.
Additionally, Indonesia has proved a key figure in pushing back on China’s expansion into the South China Sea. The U.S. may look to fold them into a coalition of countries that resist the unilateral militarization of the important shipping lane.
Mattis said on his trip he thought the human rights violators of Indonesia’s past had moved on from the special forces, and stressed the need for the countries to work together.
North Korea’s lack of willingness to give up its nuclear weapons program does not mean U.S. recognition of the regime as a de facto nuclear weapons state will end the standoff on the peninsula.
That is the view in the Trump administration, according to analyst John Park at the Harvard Kennedy School, who spoke on Jan. 25 at the Asia Society on the economic symbiosis that characterizes the China-North Korea relationship.
“With respect to living with a nuclear North Korea, very strong voices in the U.S. administration right now have an equation,” Park told UPI.
“It’s Kim Jong Un equals irrational, plus unable to be deterred, plus revisionist, plus commercial.”
“That means he’s literally crazy so you can’t get into some kind of arrangement.”
In 2017, North Korea repeatedly called for recognition as a nuclear weapons state, a move which, according to Pyongyang, could put an end to its missile tests and other provocations.
Park said recognition is not seen as the solution in Washington.
“In the case of North Korea, it’s a millennial with nuclear ICBMs,” he said, comparing Kim Jong Un to other nuclear powers like China and Russia that are considered to be more rational actors.
“That is frightening to any military or national security professional.”
That Kim is regarded as a revisionist also means the United States cannot be certain of a peaceful coexistence with North Korea as a full-fledged nuclear weapons state.
“There is the view that Kim Jong Un will be a nuclear bully, using conventional and other weapons to get his way and eventually affect [Korean] unification on North Korea’s terms,” Park said.
“Also, once he has a viable weapons system, he’ll sell it.”
Michael Swaine, senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said the United States has to decide what policy to pursue based on an evaluation of North Korea strategy.
“The issue is possession versus use,” Swaine said.
If it is weapons possession, but not use North Korea seeks, then the United States will also need to develop a strategy to deal with Pyongyang, a plan that needs to “deter the hell out of them, contain them.”
“But [the weapons] are going to be there,” Swaine said.
Sanctions have been used frequently by the U.S. Treasury to pressure North Korea, and on, Jan. 24, another 16 individuals, nine companies, and six ships were added to the expanding blacklist.
But Park said governments should be aware of the “unintended negative consequences of sanctions” that only help North Korea develop “superbug traits, certain types of resistance” to economic penalties.
“Clearly sanctions are having an impact on key areas,” Park said.
“However, in other areas, if you make the analogy of sanctions as antibiotics, applying these antibiotics on the North Korean regime in key instances, the regime is exhibiting superbug traits.”
Park, a former investment banker, said some Chinese entrepreneurs may be doubling down at a time of heightened risk.
“As you apply more sanctions in this specific area, these Chinese private companies see that as a business opportunity,” Park said.
“They view the elevated risk as a way of propositioning a North Korean client.”
The analyst added economic pressure in the form of wholesale embargoes, rather than targeted sanctions, has put the sanctions approach on overdrive, although the measures may be “too late” because of advancements in the nuclear program, which, in turn, leaves military pressure as the “last policy option standing.”
That scenario could raise the likelihood of war, a view held by some experts in China, Swaine said.
In an ongoing national debate in the world’s second-largest economy, there are those who “believe North Korea has been compelled to adopt policies because of U.S. pressure, U.S. forces on the peninsula,” the analyst said.
“It also reflects a deep suspicion of the United States.”
Swaine, who has met with senior Chinese officials to discuss North Korea, added Trump’s mention of the military option for North Korea is a tactic that is making the Chinese nervous.
“The Trump administration is very unclear…but it thinks it can squeeze the Chinese more” through the mention of the military option, he said.
But the Chinese are also growing impatient with North Korea.
President Xi Jinping, who Trump once described as a “very good man,” has refused to meet with Kim Jong Un.
“That’s quite unprecedented,” Swaine said, explaining China’s peninsula policy has also been driven by a desire to improve relations with the South.
“The Chinese see that the Korean peninsula, eventually, if it’s unified, will largely be unified under the aegis of the South Korean government.
“In other words, [they see] the North Korean government isn’t going to succeed.”
Nowadays, people may not remember much about H. Ross Perot outside of his boisterous personality, his third-party Presidential run, or maybe even just comedian Dana Carvey’s spot-on impression of the Texas billionaire. Perot was a naval officer and eight-year veteran whose work ethic and subsequent success is the very ideal vets strive to achieve. He not only helped himself, he helped others achieve their potential.
The onetime Eagle Scout even demonstrated his love for country after leaving the military, by remembering POWs, supporting American troops by opposing a war, and taking care of the Americans who worked for him. His Presidential run was just the most visible part of the former Midshipman’s life.
As far as Dana Carvey’s impression goes, Perot loved it.
“The number one rule in leadership is to always be accountable for what you do,” Perot famously said in the middle of the 1992 Presidential Debate. “When you make a mistake, step up to the plate and say you made a mistake. That’s leadership, folks.”
Perot knew a thing or two about leadership. He joined the Navy via the Naval Academy at Annapolis, becoming the class President for the Academy’s 1953 class. It was there he helped establish the Academy’s honor concept, a code of conduct that forbids Midshipmen from lying, cheating, or stealing. He graduated from the USNA a distinguished graduate, forever changing the experiences of Midshipmen at the Academy.
“I had never seen the ocean, and I had never seen a ship — but I knew that I wanted to go to the Naval Academy,” he reportedly said of his appointment to Annapolis.
But his determination didn’t end with his service. Like most of us, Perot transitioned into civilian life and found the standards much lower than he was used to. In his first post-military job as a salesman for IBM, he filled his entire annual quota in two weeks. He would eventually go on to found his own information technology company, Electronic Data Systems, the one that would make him a billionaire. Within a week of going public, he increased the EDS stock price tenfold. It was the fastest fortune ever made by any Texan.
When called upon to serve his country as a civilian, he did so, traveling to Laos in 1969 to investigate the conditions of American POWs held by the North. Perot was apparently appalled, as he tried to organize a relief airlift that rubbed the Cold War superpowers the wrong way. He also took care of his people, as many veterans instinctively do, even when he was at the top. When two of his employees were taken captive by Iranians in 1979, he organized and paid for the rescue operation that freed the two hostages.
It was with this life of service, hard work, and success that Perot was able to take the fight to two entrenched parties represented by longtime politicians, and change the American political scene forever. For all the jokes made about his demeanor, Perot earned nearly 20 percent of the popular vote, a return that forced President Bill Clinton to reconsider his economic policies and end his term with a budget surplus – a practically unthinkable feat in today’s politics.
The rapper 2 Chainz and the Tru Foundation, a non-profit focused on helping the Southside of Atlanta and the surrounding areas, visited the home of Dierdre Plater, a disabled veteran living in Palmetto, Georgia.
He was there to spread Christmas cheer and surprise Plater, a single mother, with new furniture and her rent for an entire year.
2 Chainz used proceeds from his recent line of “Dabbing Santa” ugly Christmas sweaters. The rapper plans to extend the giving to other families in need during the Christmas season.
“It’s hard to keep gas in the car, food in the house, and do everything by myself being a single parent,” Dierdre Plater told CBS 46, the local CBS affiliate.”I love to see stuff like this happen for other people, but I never thought it would happen to me.”
Police in Massachusetts are investigating the latest case of vandalism to an Iwo Jima memorial.
Officials say the memorial in Fall River was doused with the contents of a fire extinguisher last weekend.
Commandant Bruce Aldrich of the city’s Marine Corps League tells the Herald News that surveillance video captured a man and woman vandalizing the statue at about 4 a.m. Oct. 14. The fire extinguisher was left behind and is being processed for fingerprints.
The Fall River memorial. Wikimedia Commons photo by user Kenneth C. Zirkel.
City Veteran’s Agent Raymond Hague is concerned the statue’s protective coating was damaged.
The memorial is a one-third scale replica of the Iwo Jima memorial in Washington depicting Marines raising the US flag on Mount Suribachi, a moment captured in a Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph.
The Fall River memorial, dedicated in 2005, has frequently been targeted by vandals.