In the November issue of the US Naval Institute’s Proceedings magazine, Commander Daniel Thomassen of the Royal Norwegian Navy argued that Russia’s dream to build a blue water, or global, navy remains a “pipe dream.”
Russia’s navy has made headlines recently with high profile cruise missile strikes on Syria, and the deployment of the core of its northern fleet, including the Admiral Kuznetsov carrier, to the Mediterranean.
“Russia is capable of being a regional naval power in local theaters of choice. But large-scale efforts to develop an expensive expeditionary navy with aircraft carriers and amphibious warfare ships only would diminish Russia’s geographically overstretched homeland defense forces,” writes Thomassen.
Thomassen goes on to point out that strong navies have strong allies and healthy fleets. While Russia has been improving its fleet with some particularly good submarines, it lacks a big fleet that can build partnerships with allies around the world through bilateral exercises.
But the state of Russia’s navy now is only part of the picture. Russia has never been a major naval power, Thomassen points out. At times Moscow has established itself as a coastal naval power, but it never had a truly global reach on par with historic powers like England or Spain.
But that doesn’t seem to matter to Russian leadership, which has set “highly ambitious governmental guidelines for developing and using sea power over the next decades.”
In addition to its submarine fleet, Russia wants new frigates, cruisers, and even carriers. These prospects seem especially dubious because Russia’s Kuznetsov isn’t really a strike carrier like the US’s Nimitz-class carriers.
The Kuznetsov has never conducted a combat mission. Mechanical troubles plague the Kuznetsov, so much so that it often sails with a tugboat. Also, the Kuznetsov just isn’t built for the kind of mission it will undertake off Syria’s coast.
The Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov. | Creative Commons photo
“Since a major confrontation between NATO and Warsaw Pact would most likely take place in Europe, during the later Cold War Soviet planners focused on protecting the heavily defended ‘bastions’ shielding their ballistic missile submarines and not seaborne power projection.
In fact, Russia itself doesn’t have the makings of a global sea power. While it has both Pacific and Atlantic coasts, like the US, the population of Russia’s far east is about as sparse as you’ll find anywhere in the world.
But one powerful reason dictates why Russia’s leadership still marches towards this seemingly unattainable goal — prestige. Being seen as a credible alternative to Western naval power seems important to Russian leadership, and operating a carrier is one way to do that. Additionally, Moscow will spin its carrier deployment as propaganda, or a showcase for its military wares.
So while Russia has capable, credible naval forces to defend its homeland and near interests, it will likely never project power abroad like the US and other naval powers of the past have.
The deaths of 13 US service members at Kabul International Airport on August 26, 2021 shook the nation. Their deaths serve as a tragic punctuation mark to America’s longest war. One of the fallen was Marine Cpl. Hunter Lopez of Indio, California.
Growing up in SoCal, Lopez was a huge Disneyland and Star Wars fan, similar to how growing up in Marceline, Missouri, gave Walt Disney his love of trains. The family has been annual passholders for decades. In November 2019, Lopez visited the park and built his own lightsaber at Savi’s Workshop in Galaxy’s Edge. He loved it so much that, before he deployed, he told his parents that he wanted to be buried with it if he was killed.
His parents wanted to honor Hunter’s request, “but I just couldn’t find the courage to part with the lightsaber he built,” Mrs. Lopez tearfully told Disney Parks. So, six days after Hunter’s death, Mr. and Mrs. Lopez took their 18-year-old son and 17-year-old daughter to Disneyland to build a new one. Together, they would build a replica of Hunter’s lightsaber to bury with him.
“As we walked into Disneyland, the marching band was coming out onto Main Street [U.S.A.] and started to play a Star Wars song,” Mrs. Lopez recalled. “We don’t know if it was Disney magic or whether it was Hunter, but either way it felt good knowing he was there with us.”
A friend of the Lopezes helped arrange for the family to build the lightsaber in private. The friend, a member of the exclusive Disneyland Club 33, also arranged for the family to have lunch at the famous dining club afterwards. When Club 33 Member Services Coordinator Rex Roberts learned of the Lopez family’s visit, he advised resort leaders to see what else they could do that day.
Members of SALUTE, the cast member Business Employee Resource Group that supports veterans and service members, reached out to Vice President of Security Dan Hughes. “We took the American flag that was flying over Disneyland and quickly had it framed and created a plaque, so we could present it to the family,” Hughes said to Disney Parks. In just 90 minutes, he was on his way to Club 33 to meet the Lopezes. “Your son’s sacrifice means the world to our country and also to us at Disneyland, and it’s our honor to give you this token of our appreciation,” Hughes told the family as he presented them with the flag.
“My son loved Disneyland,” Mrs. Lopez said as she broke down in tears. The whole room choked up at the emotional gesture. The gift prompted Mrs. Lopez to recount Disney-related memories of Hunter. His favorite ride was the Mad Tea Party with its iconic spinning tea cups. As a child, he loved Winnie the Pooh so much, Mrs. Lopez nicknamed him, “Hunter Pooh.” However, Star Wars was his true passion.
“He’d dress up as a Jedi for Halloween, he knew all the movies, all the lines — even the background characters,” Mrs. Lopez recalled. When she was pregnant with her second child, 5-year-old Hunter asked to name the baby Uncle Owen after Luke Skywalker’s Uncle Owen from Star Wars. The Lopezes liked the name (minus the “Uncle” part) and named their second son Owen. Owen signed his Airborne infantry contract with the Army just hours before the family received the fateful knock on the door from the casualty notification officers. Hunter advised his brother to join the Army with the goal of becoming a Ranger before following their parents into law enforcement with the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department; Hunter’s own goal after transitioning out of the Marine Corps.
On the day of the Lopez family’s visit, Club 33 also poured 13 glasses of champagne and lined them up on the service counter. The drinks served as a tribute to all 13 service members killed on August 26.
“Disneyland is all about celebration and happiness, so it’s not often that we see or hear this in our work,” Club 33 General Manager Luke Stedman told Disney Parks of the event. “But in this divisive world, when we can all come together and support something so meaningful, it’s a reminder of how much pride our cast can take in what this place means to people.”
During the thick of the 1991 Gulf War, anti-Iraqi coalition forces were mounting some 2,000 air sorties against Iraqi targets in the Middle East. In retaliation, Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein fired scud missiles at Israel.
The U.S. obviously wanted to keep that from happening.
Now, if you’ve been keeping track, the Israelis don’t take kindly to threats. Or attacks. Especially scud missile attacks. Over the course of 17 days, Iraq fired 39 Scud Missiles at the highly populated coastal cities of Tel Aviv and Haifa. An estimated 147 Israelis were killed.
To give you an idea of how Israel tends to retaliate to this sort of thing, the 1972 Munich Olympics attack killed 11 Israelis. In response, Israeli intelligence – the Mossad – launched Operation (no joke) WRATH OF GOD. They hunted down every Arab plotter of the Munich massacre and killed them. For 20 years.
Only the Mossad wasn’t about to wait 20 years to ice Saddam.
In 1992, they came up with Operation Bramble Bush, their plan to assassinate the Iraqi dictator. One agent, Nadav Zeevi, was tasked to find a pattern in Saddam’s movements. Then, the Israelis would track the dictator to where he would spend a longer amount of time. Once Saddam settled into a location, the Israelis would have their revenge.
But instead of an air strike, Israel wanted to mount a “glamorous” commando raid, using Sayeret Matkal special operators in a kill, definitely not capture mission. One version of the proposed raid had commandos launching missiles at Saddam during a funeral.
Israel mounted crazy, balls-out commando raids in the past. Their legendary raid on Entebbe featured a caravan of cars designed to resemble Ugandan dictator Idi Amin’s entourage. They flew into Uganda, landed at the airport, drove off to the terminal, killed every terrorist, and then took their hostages to waiting planes in a hail of gunfire.
Unfortunately for history, they had to abort the idea. It was difficult to track Saddam because of the sheer number of his body doubles. Agent Zeevi even thought to just watch the dictator’s mistresses, but the body doubles also fooled the mistresses.
To make matters worse, a dry run in Israel’s Negev Desert went horribly awry. Troops training for the raid in 1992 accidentally fired a live missile, killing five IDF soldiers. The accident led to officials canceling the operation.
They thought they might try again in 1999, waiting until Saddam was in a designated location. 40 operators divided into two groups; one within 200 meters of the location, painting the location as a target, the other six miles away, firing three Midras missiles on that target.
That plan was scrapped because the Americans and British were bombing Iraq anyway. And in the end, they didn’t have to assassinate the dictator. But let their effort be a lesson: just leave Israel alone.
The commander-in-chief of the Russian Navy says that Russia will build a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier for the first time, but the country will not have this modern flattop anytime soon.
“There will be, of course, a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier but not in the short-term perspective,” Navy Commander-in-Chief Adm. Nikolai Yevmenov said July 10, 2019, in St. Petersburg, according to the state-run TASS News Agency.
The admiral’s comments reflect earlier reports citing unnamed sources in the Russian shipbuilding industry that suggested development of a new carrier might not begin until well into the next decade.
Russia’s naval forces are not expected to even receive the ship until sometime in the 2030s — assuming they ever receive it at all, shipbuilding sources previously told Russian media.
The new carrier is expected to be a marked improvement over the troubled Admiral Kuznetsov.
Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier.
Last fall, the Admiral Kuznetsov, Russia’s only aircraft carrier, was severely damaged when the massive Swedish-built PD-50 dry dock at the 82nd Repair Shipyard in Roslyakovo sank with the aircraft carrier on board. A heavy crane fell on the vessel, punching a large hole in the hull and deck.
Russia’s ability to repair the damage appears to be limited due to the substantial damage to the vital shipyard, and there has even been talk of scrapping the flagship of the Russian navy rather than paying for costly repairs. The carrier offers very little in terms of capability, even with the planned modifications meant to modernize the often disappointing Cold War relic.
The Nevskoye Design Bureau, part of the United Shipbuilding Corporation, presented its design for what it called the Project 11430E Lamantin nuclear-powered aircraft carrier this week at the St. Petersburg international maritime defense show, where the Russian admiral made his comments.
The carrier, as designed, would displace about 80,000-90,000 metric tons, making it much larger than the Kuznetsov but smaller than US Nimitz- and Ford-class carriers.
While Russia has dreams of building a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, the cash-strapped country is also considering conventional alternatives.
Last month, the Krylov State Scientific Research Center unveiled what it said was “a principally new concept of an aircraft carrier” designed to outshine the UK’s HMS Queen Elizabeth. The conventional gas turbine-powered carrier would be, according to the developers, four to six times cheaper than a nuclear-powered version the center presented a few years ago.
Russian defense firms and research centers have been pitching aircraft carrier designs for years, but for now, the Russian Navy has only the out-of-action Kuznetsov.
Russia has nuclear-powered submarines, but it has never had a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier in its fleet. In the final years of the Cold War, the Soviet Union began work on a nuclear-powered carrier known as the Ulyanovsk, but the fall of the Soviet Union led the Russians to suspend development. The project was scrapped, and the ship’s partial hull was disassembled.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
In the event of a conflict on the Korean Peninsula, U.S. and South Korean forces will root and and destroy the regime of Kim Jong-un. The need to properly secure the country’s weapons of mass destruction will necessitate an invasion of North Korea, much of which will come by sea. Leading the way will be the U.S. Marine Corps (USMC). Here are five USMC weapon systems necessary in Korean War II.
5. Amphibious Assault Vehicle
Any seaborne landing by the Marine infantry will involve Amphibious Assault Vehicles (AAVs). First introduced in the early 1970s, AAVs carry up to twenty-one marine infantry and their equipment. Their amphibious nature means they can float out of the well deck of a U.S. Navy ship such as Wasp-class assault ships, swim to shore on their own power and disgorge troops on the beachhead. Alternately, it can use its tracks to transport infantry farther inland.
AAVs are capable of traveling up to eight miles an hour in the water and up to forty-five miles an hour on land. They are lightly armed, typically carrying both a 40mm grenade launcher or .50 caliber machine gun. AAVs are lightly armored, at best capable of repelling 14.5mm machine gun fire or artillery shrapnel. This, combined with their large troop carrying capacity makes them vulnerable on the modern battlefield.
4. MV-22 Osprey
Modern amphibious assaults move marines as much by air as by sea. Aircraft can move faster and farther than AAVs and landing craft, even landing miles away from the nearest beachhead. This vastly increases the amount of terrain enemy forces must actively defend.
A MV-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft can take off and land vertically like a helicopter, rotate its engine nacelles ninety degrees forward, and fly like a conventional aircraft. This gives it the best advantages of both types of aircraft, all the while carrying up to twenty-four combat-ready Marines, support weapons, supplies or vehicles. The Osprey has a top speed of 277 miles an hour, making it a third faster than helicopters in its weight class. It has range of up to 500 miles—or much more with midair refueling.
In a North Korea scenario a marine air assault force led by MV-22s would land a force miles from the enemy beachhead, presenting the enemy commander with the dilemma of which landing to respond to. After a securing the beachhead MV-22s could lead the way, leapfrogging from one landing zone to another, the enemy not knowing if it intends to land five or five hundred miles away.
3. CH-53E Super Stallion
Until an amphibious invasion force seizes an airfield or port, reinforcements and supplies will have to come in via helicopter. While the MV-22 Osprey can transport infantry, it’s limited in the size and weight of the cargo it can carry.
The CH-53E Super Stallion, the largest helicopter in U.S. military service, is capable of carrying a sixteen-ton load, fifty-five marines or any combination thereof. The helicopter has a typical range of 500 miles, but heavy loads cut that down considerably. Fortunately it has a midair refueling probe, giving it almost unlimited range.
The USMC uses Super Stallions to haul heavy equipment, particularly artillery and LAV-25 light armored vehicles from U.S. Navy ships at sea to a secure airhead. The helicopter is also used to move casualties off the battlefield to medical facilities on navy ships.
The Light Armored Vehicle, or LAV-25 is a eight-by-eight armored vehicle that mounts a 25mm M242 Bushmaster cannon. The vehicle can carry up to four scouts to conduct armed reconnaissance missions. The LAV-25 is unique in being capable of landing by sea via LCAC hovercraft, under its own power via waterjet propulsion, or by CH-53 heavy lift helicopter. LAVs are assigned to USMC armored reconnaissance battalions and variants include antitank, command and control, mortar, logistics carrier and recovery versions.
The LAV-25’s combination of firepower and portability makes it dangerous foe for those opposing an amphibious invasion. The LAV-25 can arrive by sea or air, and once on location it can quickly roll out to perform armed reconnaissance missions. LAV-25s were recently upgraded to the standard which included LAV-25A2 included improved armor protection, improved suspension, a new fire suppression system, and a new thermal imaging system for the commander and gunner.
1. High Mobility Armored Rocket System (HIMARS)
The acquisition of the HIMARS rocket system in the mid-2000s gave marine artillery a big boost. HIMARS takes the proven 227mm rocket system from the U.S. Army’s tracked MLRS system and puts it on a five-ton truck, providing a firing platform for up to six rockets (or one jumbo-sized ATACMS rocket) at a time.
HIMARS can be quickly moved ashore via Landing Craft Air Cushion hovercraft, and within minutes can carry out precision fire missions to ranges of up to forty-three miles. The Gimler, or Guided Multiple Launch System – Unitary (GMLS-U) GPS-guided rocket allows HIMARS to engage targets with first round precision. Recently, the marines experimented with chaining HIMARS trucks to the flight deck of amphibious assault ships, providing invasion troops with their own long range, extremely precise naval artillery support.
Specialist Bryan Anderson’s first question when he came out of a seven-day coma and saw his mother was, “What are you doing in Iraq?” But his mother wasn’t in Iraq. She was at his bedside at Walter Reed Medical Center.
A week before Anderson had been on his second combat tour, once again serving as an Army MP this time charged with training members of the Iraqi police. His unit had to travel the streets of Baghdad in up-armored Humvees to get to the various police stations around the city, and they were getting hit by IEDs on a daily basis.
“It wasn’t a matter of if we’d get hit, but when we’d get hit,” he said.
Anderson’s exposure was increased by the fact that the unit commander liked his squad. “He knew we knew what we were doing,” he said. “So our mission became to take him wherever he wanted to go to do whatever he wanted to do.”
And his CO wanted to see everything. “He was ‘Capt. America,’ as we called him,” Anderson said. “I get what he was trying to do – lead by example – but at the time we viewed it as he was putting our lives in danger because he was going out to the same Iraqi police stations every day.”
Although they tried to stay unpredictable with their routes and times, there were only so many police stations and so many ways to get to them. The odds caught up to Anderson on October 23, 2005 at 11 o’clock in the morning. He was driving the last of three Humvees in a slow-moving convoy when an IED triggered by a laser beam exploded next to him.
“I had both my hands on the bottom of the steering wheel and one leg curled under the other because we were only doing, like, five miles per hour, which is why we’re all still alive,” Anderson explains. “The IED was set for a vehicle traveling 30 miles an hour, so instead of going through the passenger compartment the explosion took off the front of the Humvee.”
But although the detonation didn’t happen as the insurgents had planned, the toll on Anderson’s body was substantial. “I saw smoke, fire, and sparks coming through my door,” he said. “And then it was pitch black because there was so much smoke.”
The soldier riding shotgun jumped out before the vehicle stopped with shrapnel in his wrist and hip. The gunner got what Anderson called the “Forrest Gump wound” – shrapnel to his butt – and he jumped out of the turret.
Anderson tried to get out of the Humvee but couldn’t, unaware of his wounds. The two others busted the bolts off the driver’s side door and pulled him out of the wreckage.
“All I could see was my friends running back and forth like they’d just seen a ghost, and I knew something was wrong,” Anderson said.
He tried to use his right hand to swipe the flies away from his face, and noticed that his index finger tip was missing. He turned his hand over and could see shattered bones and torn ligaments.
As he was looking at his right hand a fly landed in his left eye. He went to swipe it with his other hand, but “whiffed,” as he put it. His left hand was gone.
Then he looked down. His legs were gone. He couldn’t process what he was seeing. “There’s no way that just happened,” he thought to himself. “I’m dreaming.”
“Then I got this weird feeling, like, ‘Oh, man, my mom’s gonna kill me,” he said.
Then he looked up at the soldier who was attending to him and asked, “Do you think I’m ever going to get laid again?”
It took the medevac helicopter 12 minutes to get to the scene. Anderson was having trouble breathing because his right lung had collapsed with the concussion of the bomb. The shock was wearing off a bit, and he described the initial pain sensation as a “burning all over, like putting on too much Icy Hot.”
The helo landed in what Anderson described as “an impossible place.” Once they were airborne he passed out.
He awoke seven days later to see his mother standing over him, saying, “You had an accident.”
Anderson considered his injuries and thought to himself, “Really?” Fortunately his entire family was there along with his mother – his identical twin brother, his sister, his aunts and uncles. “That gave me enough strength to say screw it,” he said. “One day at a time, right?”
He spent 13 months at Walter Reed, six weeks in-patient and the rest living at the Malone House as he did physical therapy. For the first four months he had a good attitude, sort of what he called a “wait and see” outlook. But then he fell into deep depression. “I’d look at myself as a triple amputee and ask, ‘What am I possibly going to be able to do?'”
He had panic attacks and flew into uncontrollable rage. He didn’t sleep for two weeks. Then one day he was sitting by a reflecting pond near the Malone House talking to his twin brother who asked him if he was listening to music. Anderson replied that he wasn’t. His brother gave him a CD of a mutual friend’s band.
“I was listening to the chorus of this one song,” he recounts. “The words got to me: ‘Life’s been less than kind. We’ve all been hurt; we’ve all been sorry. Take a number, stand in line. How we survive is what makes us who we are.’ For some reason that just resonated with me, and at that moment I felt like I’d grabbed the first rung of the ladder to pull myself out of this hole.”
The second rung was an impromptu trip to Las Vegas. “I was able to just be a dude for the first time in a long time,” he said. “I had fun, and that forced me to think about what’s in front of me. It made me live in the moment.”
When he got back to Walter Reed he mediated at the reflecting pond again, and it struck him that he had two choices: He could roll over and die or he could go live his life.
“At that moment I made the decision to start figuring out what I could and couldn’t do,” he said. “And it turns out there’s not a lot I can’t do.”
Anderson started skateboarding and snowboarding again. And, after being profiled in Esquire magazine and receiving a couple of offers, he decided to head to LA to pursue an acting career, something he’d always wanted to do.
His first gig was as a stunt driver in “The Dark Knight.” On the set he befriended the movie’s star, Heath Ledger. “He was a skater,” Anderson said. One day he mentioned to the actor that it was intimidating to talk to him with his Joker makeup on. Ledger replied, “You realize I could say the same thing about you, right?”
Anderson’s next role was in “The Wrestler” in which he has a brief scene handing Mickey Rourke one of his prosthetic legs to use as a weapon against an opponent. After that he played a wounded Navy SEAL accused of murder on “CSI: New York.”
Following a couple of episodes of “All My Children,” a cameo in “The Wire,” and an episode of “Hawaii Five-O” he landed a part in “American Sniper.”
“I was standing next to Clint Eastwood and Bradley Cooper thinking, ‘This is crazy,'” Anderson said.
The first scene he was in had no script. “Bradley Cooper told us, ‘Clint likes to do things natural,’ and he told us to just say whatever we wanted. Nobody was talking, so I just wound up taking the lead and telling the story about how my right hand was saved the day I was hit because I reached for a cigarette.”
Anderson’s plan for a future in Hollywood is pretty simple: “More parts,” he said.
Whatever happens he’s going to leverage the main lessons his life since that tragic and fateful day in Iraq has taught him: “Nobody’s going to make you happy. You have to do that yourself,” he said. “And take advantage of all the opportunities that come your way.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s annual call-in question show on June 7, 2018, contained broad talk of improving Russia’s economy and of the coming Russia-hosted World Cup — but also some ominous warnings about World War III.
Putin frequently frames his country as resisting Western aggression designed to hold back Russia, often citing Western sanctions.
The US and other Western countries sanctioned the Russian economy in 2014 over its illegal annexation of Crimea, a Ukrainian peninsula on the Black Sea.
Asked about those sanctions on June 7, 2018, Putin said they were “because Russia is seen as a threat, because Russia is seen as becoming a competitor.”
“It is clear to us that we have to defend our interests and to do so consistently, not boorishly or rudely, in both the sphere of the economy and of defense,” Putin said. “The pressure will end when our partners will be persuaded that the methods they are using are ineffective, counterproductive, and harmful to all.”
Asked whether “nonstop” sanctions could lead to World War III, Putin pulled an Albert Einstein quote to deliver a dark warning.
“‘I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones,'” he said, NBC News reports.
“A third world war could be the end of civilization,” Putin went on, saying the high stakes “should restrain us from taking extreme steps on the international arena that are highly dangerous for modern civilization.”
Perhaps more than any other country, Russia has the nuclear capability to end the world. With about 7,000 nuclear weapons making up the world’s most diverse and destructive nuclear arsenal, Putin could unilaterally decide to embark on a civilization-ending war.
Additionally, by annexing Crimea, Putin changed land borders in Europe by force. In peacetime, that most recently happened in the run-up to World War II.
But Putin also gave a nod to the force keeping his nuclear and military ambitions in check: mutually assured destruction. Basically, if Putin decides to let nukes fly, the US is sure to respond in kind, destroying Russia as well.
“The threat of mutual destruction has always restrained participants of the international arena, prevented leading military powers from making hasty moves, and compelled participants to respect each other,” he said.
Putin then said the US withdrawing from a ballistic-missile defense treaty would make Russia “respond.”
So far, Putin’s response has included building what experts call a nuclear “doomsday device,” an underwater torpedo that could render large tranches of the world uninhabitable for decades.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Many veterans chose the military life in search of something bigger than themselves. This rings true even for British royalty. Just like his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II, his father, Prince Charles, and his brother, Prince William, Prince Harry served in the British military — except his war stories from Afghanistan are far more impressive than most royals.
Prince Harry entered military service in September 2004 and went to The Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in May 2005. During his 44-week intensive training, he went under the name “Officer Cadet Wales” since royal British surnames don’t work like regular folk and he didn’t want any special treatment — despite the fact that everyone at the academy swore loyalty to his badass grandmother.
In case you didn’t know, he’s got badassery in his blood.
After graduating in April 2006, he became an armored reconnaissance troop leader in a unit scheduled to deploy to Iraq. When Defense Secretary John Reid stopped him from deploying, Prince Harry is quoted as saying
“If they said ‘no, you can’t go front line’ then I wouldn’t drag my sorry ass through Sandhurst and I wouldn’t be where I am now.”
Prince Harry didn’t just accept this order. He was determined to fight with his brothers and lead his troops. He finally got that chance in June 2007 when he was secretly allowed to deploy to Helmond Province, Afghanistan as a forward air controller — similar to the American joint terminal attack controller.
Even his living conditions were on par with his fellow soldiers.
When his unit and his Gurkha allies were attacked by the Taliban, Prince Harry himself jumped on the .50 cal to hold the line. He successfully repelled the attack all while the Britons back home knew nothing.
Prince Harry returned to England in May 2008 and began his training as an Apache pilot — as is an unofficial tradition among the House of Windsor — and he was damn good. He returned to Afghanistan, now as “Captain Wales.” The Taliban leaders got wind of his return and called for his head. That didn’t scare this badass and his missions were more ramped up.
In true veteran fashion, he was straight out of f*cks to give.
He returned to England with an untold number of combat missions under his belt (but, supposedly, there were a lot). He left active military service in 2015 but he continues to champion the military and veteran community through his countless organizations. He launched the Invictus Games in 2014 and has been a key figure of Walk With the Wounded, HALO Trust, and London Marathon Charitable Trust.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has been called many things — crazy, mad, insane, and “rocket man” — because of his program to build nuclear bombs and missiles capable of launching the weapons to the U.S.
But experts say he is not crazy to want a nuclear arsenal. And Kim doesn’t necessarily want nukes because of a desire to use them on the U.S. or any other country, contrary to what bellicose political rhetoric might suggest.
“He is not crazy — he has consolidated control over that country in a very effective and ruthless manner,” Jeffrey Lewis, a nuclear-policy expert at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, told Business Insider. “He’s just willing to do really terrible things to protect himself, which I think tells us something about the credibility of their nuclear threat.”
Such a threat is the purpose of the weapons, Lewis says, but almost certainly not their goal.
“If I were Kim Jong Un, I would want nuclear weapons, too,” added Lewis, who also publishesArms Control Wonk, a site about nuclear arms control, disarmament, and nonproliferation.
Here are the most likely reasons Kim wants a nuclear arsenal.
The U.S. has a track record of breaking its word with rulers
A watershed moment for U.S.-North Korea relations occurred during the Bush administration in the mid-2000s: the six-party talks, initiated after questionable accusations that North Korea was cheating on an agreement not to pursue the production of nuclear materials led to its collapse.
“They very sincerely tried to put Humpty Dumpty back together again,” Lewis said.
But one of the problems the Bush administration ran into was the U.S.’s track record with Iraq, formerly led by Saddam Hussein.
“How do you assure the North Koreans, when they sign a deal, that they don’t end up like Saddam? Because Saddam had actually given them the WMDs, and we still went ahead and said he had them, and we still went ahead and invaded,” Lewis said, using the abbreviation for weapons of mass destruction.
The Americans “realized they had to find a way to convey to Pyongyang that if they went ahead and gave up their nuclear program, we wouldn’t invade them,” Lewis added.
So, Lewis said, the Bush administration pointed to how the U.S. had held up its end of a disarmament agreement with Libya and its ruler at the time, Muammar Gaddafi.
“I know why they did it at the time — it was the right decision,” Lewis said. “But we had a disarmament deal with that guy. We told the North Koreans to go look at how well things had worked out with Libya, and then we turned around and toppled the Libyan government.”
These foreign policy decisions happened during the rule of Kim Jong Il, the father of Kim Jong Un. But his son has not forgotten them.
“Kim Jong Un, I think, is fearful of ending up like Saddam Hussein or Muammar Gaddafi,” Lewis said. “He is terrified that we will do to him what we did to them and has decided that nuclear weapons are the best way to ward that off.”
It’s unlikely North Korea has nuclear and thermonuclear weapons as reliable as those in the U.S.’s arsenal, if North Korea has deliverable weapons at all. But Lewis says this doesn’t really matter in the big picture.
“Every military system has developmental problems and issues, and maybe not work as well as it should,” Lewis said. “But they have all of the skills and expertise in place, and they’ve demonstrated the vast majority of things.”
He added: “If tomorrow they were going to put a nuclear weapon on a missile and fire it at my house, and you asked me, ‘How do you like your odds?’ I would say, ‘I don’t like my odds at all.’ … This is now a serious-enough capability that we have to start assuming, on a bad day, a lot of their stuff is going to go well.”
But nuclear weapons as a stick against the U.S. is not the only reason North Korea wants them.
“I am sure if given the choice between controlling North Korea or North Korea and South Korea, he would clearly prefer to control everything,” Lewis said. “I don’t think, though, that this explains their nuclear behavior.”
That may be because Kim’s ability to take over South Korea — at least not as a smoldering crater — is virtually nil. Lewis also says North Korea isn’t building the kinds of nukes “that would be consistent with that goal.”
What is possible, if not likely — and perhaps surprising to many Americans — is that North Korea sees obtaining nuclear weapons as a way to improve its relations with other countries, including the U.S.
Lewis, who has studied the history of China’s nuclear-weapons program, says it has many similarities to North Korea’s path toward nuclearization.
China set off its first nuclear device in 1964 during the presidency of Lyndon B. Johnson, and two years later it launched a live nuclear warhead atop a missile to prove the capabilities of its program. The U.S.’s view of these events during the Cold War was grim. But over time, something shocking transpired.
“If you had gone into Lyndon Johnson’s office in October 1964 and said, ‘The Chinese are about to test a nuclear weapon,’ he would have said, ‘That’s terrible,'” Lewis said.
“But if you would have then said, ‘No, no, no, it’s great — this is really going to improve Chinese security, and as a consequence of that, China is going to reorient its foreign policy, and they’re going to become anti-Soviet and pro-American, and we’re going to have a diplomatic relationship with them,’ Johnson would have asked you: ‘Really? What president is going to go to China and meet with Mao Zedong?’ And you would have said, ‘Richard Nixon.’ Then he would have thrown you out of its office and said you were an idiot.”
But that is exactly what happened: When China’s proven nuclear capabilities deterred U.S. military action and opened the door for increased local aggression or international diplomacy, China chose the latter.
“The reason it happened is because the people who wanted nuclear weapons in China also wanted a better relationship with the United States,” Lewis said.
His point is that North Korea’s motivations, notwithstanding its accusations of horrifying human-rights abuses, may not be so nefarious as rhetoric and propaganda suggest when it comes to nukes. In fact, it could be that North Korean nuclear scientists see themselves more as doves than hawks.
But the country’s direction is ultimately up to its leader.
“It is possible that the North Koreans will take the security they are given by these weapons and spend it on being awful — sinking more South Korean ships, shelling more South Korean islands, initiating more crises,” Lewis said. “It will depend on how the North Koreans choose to act now that they have this capability. They could be easier to get along with; they could be worse.”
Instead of always assuming the worst, we should practice being “more neutral” about how having nuclear weapons might change North Korea, Lewis said.
“I don’t want to be optimistic, because it could really, truly go either way — North Korea could become more aggressive; North Korea could become less aggressive,” Lewis said. “But we should wait and see.”
He added: “You don’t want to prejudge something like that and foreclose what could be a chance at peace.”
But this likely isn’t the U.S.’s current thinking. President Donald Trump has expressed hopes to expand nuclear-weapons capabilities, and American military forces appear to be quietly training to face a conflict on the Korean Peninsula.
The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is an annual piece of legislation which gives authority and funding to the United States Military. While it is a detailed body of work that doesn’t make for light reading, it should be read. This legislation is filled with items that impact the military family directly.
It addresses military pay
The 2020 NDAA provided a 3.1% pay raise to military service members. This pay raise was the biggest one to be received in the last decade and was reflected in the first paycheck received by service members of 2020. The bill also extended specific bonuses and special pay. One of the big take-aways of this bill is the focus on supporting not just the member, but the military family as a whole.
Military spouse education and employment
Within the bill there are increases in support of professional licensure for spouses. With the new 2020 bill, spouses are currently eligible for up to 00 in reimbursement for licensure costs accumulated when moving. This is twice the amount that was authorized in last year’s bill. It also addresses license portability by giving authorization to the Council on State Governments to research ways to create reciprocity across state lines.
The bill also extended opportunities for spouses for education. The My Career Advancement Account program is an example of this, as it is a valuable resource for military spouses. It offers up to 00 in assistance for licensure, certification, or an associate’s degree in a field that is portable. The eligibility for this is limited to E-1 through E5, W-1 through W-2, and O-1 spouses. The initial pilot program had it available to all spouses but rising costs and enrollment forces restrictions in who can utilize this benefit. In this bill language, Coast Guard spouses were also included even though they fall under the Department of Homeland Security.
Military housing reforms
One of the key elements of this bill is that it addresses the issues within military privatized housing. The bill created new accountability for these companies by enforcing quality assurance measures. It also increased the number of required inspections. This bill provides an additional 1.8 million dollars to make sure that each housing office has the vital personnel it needs to ensure military families are taken care of.
One of the tools that will be utilized going forward is a way to assess and evaluate for risks within military housing. This includes things like mold and lead. It also allows for the BAH to be withheld from the private housing entity until issues or disputes are solved. Another key piece is that it forces transparency by requiring these entities to disclose repairs or issues prior to lease signing. There will also now be a required Tenant Bill of Rights and minimal livable standards established.
Military family needs
The NDAA also authorized million for the STARE BASE program, which is a DOD youth program. It is an American military educational program for grades K-12 that teaches science and math in hands on ways. It was created to tackle the low rates of readiness in these subjects by implementing a program that makes math and science fun and interactive. To learn more about this program and to see if it’s located in your area, click here.
One of the chief concerns outlined in the 2018 Blue Star Families survey was that 72% of military families cannot find reliable childcare. An amendment was included in the NDAA for 2020 that creates more coordinator positions on bases to assist with childcare and extends childcare hours for families.
Another key piece to this legislation is that it created the ability of military service members to sue under administrative claims for medical malpractice by a military provider. Although there was existing legislation for under the Federal Tor Claims Act, the United States itself was immune. After countless hearings within congress over a decade, this amendment passed within the NDAA. If a service member sustains injury or death they can file a claim and receive up to 0,000 as long as they file it within two years.
Surviving spouses receive relief
Finally, one of the biggest parts of the 2020 NDAA is the elimination of what is known as the “widows’ tax” in phases. For multiple decades surviving families have not received their full benefits as they deserve, even though they paid into the benefit programs. This is a piece of legislation that has been debated and fought over for almost twenty years. Finally, change is coming and it will be finalized by 2023.
If you’d like to look through the 2020 NDAA, you can find it here. Fair warning, it is 1119 pages long. However, a pro tip is to utilize the search ability within the document to enter terms that you want to specifically read about. This will bring you exactly where you need to go. Happy reading!
An Army astronaut on a six-month mission in space recently shared her experience, saying she still leans on her military training while aboard the International Space Station.
Lt. Col. Anne McClain, a former helicopter pilot who has flown over 200 combat missions, blasted into space on a Russian Soyuz rocket in early December 2018 to serve as a flight engineer for her crew.
“I spent my whole career working high-risk missions in small teams in remote areas, which is what we’re doing right now,” she said in an April 24, 2019 interview.
McClain, 39, is one of five soldiers in the Army Space and Missile Defense Command’s astronaut detachment. Its commander, Col. Andrew Morgan, is slated to launch July 20, 2019, the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing.
During her stay, McClain has been able to complete two spacewalks — both about 6.5-hours long — for maintenance outside the space station, which is about the length of a football field.
Astronaut Lt. Col. Anne McClain is pictured in the cupola holding biomedical gear for an experiment that measures fat changes in the bone marrow before and after exposure to microgravity.
On March 22, 2019, she and another American astronaut replaced batteries and performed upgrades to the station’s power system. Then on April 8, 2019, she and a Canadian astronaut routed cables that serve as a redundant power system for a large robotic arm that moves equipment and supports crews while outside the station.
When she first started to train for spacewalks back in Houston, McClain said it reminded her of being an OH-58 Kiowa helicopter pilot on a scout weapons team.
The spacesuits, she noted, are like small spacecraft that need to be constantly monitored in order for their occupants to stay alive against the extreme temperatures and vacuum of space. Suits have their own electronics, power and radio systems — similar to components helicopter pilots often cross-check while remaining focused on the mission.
Astronaut Lt. Col. Anne McClain works in a laboratory inside the International Space Station Jan. 30, 2019.
Then there is the buddy team aspect of both operations.
“Up here on a spacewalk, that’s the other astronaut that’s outside with you,” she said. “On the ground, that was the other helicopter that I was flying with.
“Most importantly, you have to be able to work with that other person and their system — their spacesuit, their helicopter — in order to accomplish the mission,” she added. “It was actually amazing to me how many of the skills kind of carried over into that environment.”
Unique from her Army days has been her participation in scientific experiments on the station, the only research laboratory of its kind with over 200 ongoing experiments.
An upcoming experiment, she said, is for an in-space refabricator, a hybrid 3D printer that can recycle used plastic to create new parts.
“That’s a really exciting new technology to enable deep-space exploration,” she said.
Astronaut Lt. Col. Anne McClain, wearing the spacesuit with red stripes, and Air Force Col. Nick Hague work to retrieve batteries and adapter plates from an external pallet during a spacewalk to upgrade the International Space Station’s power storage capacity March 22, 2019.
In December 2018, NASA announced plans to work with U.S. companies to develop reusable systems that can return astronauts to the Moon. Human-class landers are expected to be tested in 2024, with the goal to send a crew to the surface in 2028.
What’s learned in these missions could then help NASA send astronauts to Mars by the 2030s, according to a news release.
While currently in low Earth orbit, McClain explained that resupply vehicles can come and go. Beyond that, crews would need to be self-sustained for longer periods of time.
“We’re using the space station as a test bed for some of the technologies that are going to enable us to work autonomously in space,” she said, “and hit some of our deep-space exploration goals.”
As with other astronauts, McClain has also become a guinea pig of sorts in human research tests that study how the human body reacts to microgravity.
Anne McClain, now an astronaut and lieutenant colonel, stands next to a OH-58 Kiowa helicopter.
One experiment she has been a part of is monitoring airway inflammation up in space.
With a lack of gravity, dust particles don’t fall to the ground and will often be inhaled by astronauts. The tests measure exhaled nitric oxide, which can indicate airway inflammation, she said.
This research could be important if astronauts are sent back to the Moon, which is covered with a fine dust similar to powdered sugar, she said.
“If that’s in the air and we’re breathing that for months on end, if we’re doing extended stays on the lunar’s surface,” she said, “we need to understand how that affects the human body.”
While there is no typical day in space, McClain said their 12-hour shifts normally start with a meeting between them and support centers in the U.S., Russia, Germany and Japan.
When not helping with an experiment, astronauts do upkeep inside the station that includes plumbing, electricity work, changing filters, checking computer systems, or even vacuuming.
Astronaut Lt. Col. Anne McClain uses the robotics workstation inside the International Space Station to practice robotics maneuvers and spacecraft capture techniques April 16, 2019.
The best parts of her day, she said, are when she gets the chance to peer down on Earth. Every day, the station orbits around the planet 16 times, meaning astronauts see a sunrise or sunset every 45 minutes.
“One of the cool things about going to the window is if you’re not paying attention, you don’t even know if it’s night or day outside,” she said. “You could look out and see an aurora over the Antarctic or you could look out and see a beautiful sunrise over the Pacific.”
After seeing Earth from above with her own eyes, McClain has come to realize people there are more dependent on each other than they may think.
Astronaut Lt. Col. Anne McClain poses for a photograph with her 4-year-old son before she launched to the International Space Station in early December 2018.
“You get this overview effect where you realize how small we are and how fragile our planet is and how we’re really all in it together,” she said. “You don’t see borders from space, you don’t see diversity and differences in people on Earth.”
Those back on Earth can also gaze up and enjoy a similar effect.
“Sometimes we focus too much on our differences, but when we all look up into space, we see the same stars and we see the same sun,” she said. “It really can be unifying.”
Whenever she glanced up at the stars as a young child, she said it was a magical experience and eventually sparked her interest in becoming an astronaut.
Her family supported her dream and told her she could do whatever she wanted as long as she put in the work.
As a tangible way to honor those who fought to defend their freedoms, Americans are being encouraged to perform their civic responsibility just days before Veterans Day in a new national PSA from Got Your 6 and issue-driven media company ATTN:
The PSA launched a nonpartisan campaign “Don’t Just Thank, Vote!” featuring actors and veterans Rob Riggle, David Eigenberg, and J.W. Cortes, actors Tom Arnold and Joe Manganiello, and supporters of the veteran empowerment organization Got Your 6.
“We know that veterans are more engaged in the democratic process, but even if all 21.8 million veterans were to cast a ballot in November, we still wouldn’t reverse the downward trend in voter participation,” said Iraq War veteran and Got Your 6 Executive Director Bill Rausch. “Got Your 6 believes that voting is the most basic civic responsibility, and that disengagement is a sign of faltering community health. As veterans, we feel it is our responsibility to lead from the front by challenging Americans to not just thank us for our service, but to honor every veteran by voting.”
According to U.S. Census Bureau data, 70 percent of registered veterans voted in the 2012 presidential election, compared with 60.9 percent of registered non-veterans. A recent report by Got Your 6 demonstrates that that gap is even more profound in local elections, with 15 percent higher voting rates for veterans over their non-veteran counterparts.
Not only are veterans statistically more likely to vote this Election Day, they are also uniquely positioned to encourage non-veterans to do the same.
The “Don’t Just Thank, Vote!” PSA acknowledges that voter turnout in the United States is among the worst of all developed nations. To increase the voting rate on Nov. 8, the veteran-driven campaign challenges all citizens to show their support of the men and women who wore the uniform through actions, not just words.