Nicolas Maduro is the world’s worst dictator in the world’s worst dictatorship. To be clear, he’s not the worst in that he’s particularly repressive to his citizens or running concentration camps. He’s the worst in terms of how he came to power and how he holds on to it. He rose in power thanks to Hugo Chavez’ cult of personality while he and his party managed the rapid decline of what was one of South America’s most vibrant economies.
For a while, it looked like the Kremlin might have been propping up his regime, but now it looks like Moscow might be abandoning him.
Maduro maintains a tenuous grip on power solely because the street thugs – colectivos – and military generals who protect him have more to lose than he does if they lose control of Venezuela. For the Russians, their biggest gain in propping up Maduro is annoying the United States in its own backyard. Unfortunately for Maduro, Russian support may be all he has left, and he may be losing that.
In March 2019, Russia sent military planes, materiel, and advisors to Venezuela, confidently showing the world the Kremlin had Maduro’s back and that any intervention in Venezuela’s ongoing political crisis would be met with Russian interference as well. But the Venezuelan President’s luck might be running out.
Don’t give anyone any ideas.
On June 2, 2019, Russia withdrew its contractors and defense advisors in the country and the private Russian firm paid by Venezuela to train its military just cut its Russian staff by half. This latest development may be showing that the millions the Maduro regime owes the Russians may not be enough for Russia to keep Maduro’s government from collapsing on itself. The biggest reason for the pullout, according to the Wall Street Journal, is that Maduro can’t actually pay the Russians anymore.
American sanctions against Venezuela and the long-term decline of the country’s oil production infrastructure has led to a huge decline in the country’s coffers. The United States and Russia showcase Venezuela’s struggle in their own struggle for worldwide supremacy. But even so, it may not be enough for the Russians to keep Maduro’s barely-functional regime afloat.
The tough talk coming out of the Kremlin has been increasingly more provocative in the days since American and Russian troops were involved in an Aug. 25, 2020 armored vehicle crash that injured seven U.S. service members.
U.S. official Capt. Bill Urban says the Russian troops used “deliberately provocative and aggressive behavior” in northeastern Syria. There is a series of established means for the Russian and American forces in the country to communicate and the Russians blatantly disregarded those channels.
Instead of communicating a request for passage through an American-controlled zone, a convoy of Russian armored vehicles made and “unauthorized incursion” into the area. They met a joint American and Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) convoy, which they decided to “aggressively and recklessly pursue.”
As the U.S. convoy moved, it was sideswiped by Russian vehicles, and buzzed by an extremely low overflight from a Russian helicopter. While the seven servicemembers sustained injuries consistent with vehicle accidents, all are said to have returned to regular duty.
There are now videos of the provocative behavior circulating on social media sites. The Russian Embassy in the United States blamed the US for the collision, after Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mike Milley and the chief of Russia’s General Staff, Gen. Valery Gerasimov, discussed the incident via telephone.
General Gerasimov said the American-led coalition in Syria was informed of the Russian convoy’s passage and that it was the US convoy that was attempting to block and delay the Russians’ passing through the area. The Pentagon confirmed the conversation, but none of the details announced by the Russians.
The National Security council released a statement to CNN that revealed the vehicle struck by the Russians was a Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected All-Terrain Vehicle (M-ATV) and that Russia’s behavior was “a breach of deconfliction protocols, committed to by the United States and Russia in December 2019.”
This most recent clash between American and Russian military forces came near the northeastern Syrian town of Dayrick. A number of incidents involving US troops coming under attack from Russian-back Syrian government forces have occurred in recent weeks, including a rocket attack on a U.S. base and a skirmish between Syrian and American convoys.
Russia is opposed to the continued American presence in the SDF-controlled eastern provinces of Syria, which contain much of the country’s oil fields – and are used by the Kurdish-led SDF to fund its continued anti-ISIS operations in Syria. Though President Trump has ordered all but 500 US troops to leave Syria, the United Nations estimates there are still some 10,000 or more ISIS-affiliated fighters operating in the country.
The last time American forces engaged in a direct altercation with Russians in Syria, it resulted in a four-hour firefight between Syrian government troops with the help of Russian mercenaries and a cadre of U.S. troops in an SDF headquarters building. No Americans were harmed.
U.S. Army Specialist Jay Strobino was with his team in Rushdi Mullah, a small farming village in Iraq’s infamous Triangle of Death, on Feb. 1, 2006. They were there on a mission to grab a suspected enemy insurgent. Everything was going according to plan as they searched the house — no surprises.
That all changed when a truck full of insurgents rolled into the opposite side of town and pinned down a corner of their outer cordon. Strobino was about to be in the firefight of his life.
The “Triangle of Death” became infamous during the U.S. occupation of Iraq.
(Image courtesy of the US Army Center for Military History.)
Strobino, along with three others, made their way to the corner. He killed one of the insurgents who was trying to make it across the road; the resulting break in fire allowed him and his team to run across the street, closer to where the other enemy combatants were.
His team snuck behind a row of houses, where Strobino shot another insurgent through a window of an adjacent house. They then moved to the house that the remainder of the insurgents were behind. With his SAW gunner on the rooftop of the last building, Strobino and two others maneuvered to the back of the property.
Behind the house, there was a shed and a fence surrounded by bushes. Strobino was the first to scale it but not without some difficulty.
“When I got over, I saw two insurgents spaced about 10 to 15 feet apart, facing away from me. I held my aim but didn’t want to fire because everyone else I shot that day wouldn’t die, and we were taking up to 15 rounds to stop [them from] advancing or firing,” he said. Insurgents in Iraq were known to take drugs before going into battle that would often allow them to keep fighting even after suffering mortal wounds.
U.S. Army Specialist Jay Stobino in Iraq.
(Photo courtesy of Jay Strobino.)
So he stayed put for the moment, waiting on his teammate to get over the fence, but his teammate kept getting caught. The two insurgents Strobino had zeroed in on turned to face him, and he was forced to fire. Fortunately, his squad leader soon made it over the fence and was able to join in the fight.
There was still another insurgent left, though. He was aiming his AK-47 around the front corner of the house, firing back at Strobino and his squad leader. In response, his squad leader threw a grenade, and their team followed after.
“I ran to the front corner of the building and peered around. His weapon was up and out of the front doorway. I put my weapon on burst and turned the corner, hoping to grab his barrel,” he said.
The enemy fighter heard them coming and had already started moving toward Strobino and his other teammates when he came around the corner. Strobino pulled the trigger, sending the target to the floor; however, the target fired back.
Strobino was hit, and it was bad.
“My leg was broken and my ulnar nerve was hit in my arm,” he said, “and I lost control of my right hand.”
Strabino in the hospital after suffering 13 bullet wounds in a firefight in Iraq.
(Photo courtesy of Jay Strabino.)
The two soldiers with him had taken cover behind a truck, and Strobino planned to throw a grenade. But the moment he pulled it out, the insurgent threw his own over the truck where his team was positioned and came out firing. He sprayed his weapon again, hitting Strobino a second time.
“At this point, I thought everyone was dead and I was immobilized. But my squad leader called out my name — I couldn’t believe it. I threw my grenade over to him so he could arm it and toss it around the corner,” Strobino said.
But the grenade didn’t kill the insurgent, and with his condition quickly deteriorating, getting Strobino out of there became the priority. The other members of his team pulled him behind the building. His platoon sergeant and his radiotelephone operator (RTO) moved up, bandaged him, pulled security, and called for a medevac.
The insurgent was still in the house. A second team threw multiple grenades into the home before going in. Two of those soldiers took rounds; one of them died on the medevac back to Baghdad. After that, they called in Apaches to finish the job, blowing up the house.
Strobino’s condition was so dire that his parents were nearly summoned in fear that he wouldn’t make it home. He immediately went under the knife and had surgeries every 12 to 24 hours. From Iraq, he was flown to Germany for two weeks and eventually back to the U.S., where a long road of recovery awaited him.
Strobino had been shot a total of 13 times, and it cost him more than just blood. “I lost a large portion of my right femur and couldn’t walk on that leg for six months,” Strobino said. “I lost a lot of that quad group as well.”
A portion of the wounds Strobino received during the firefight.
(Photo courtesy of Jay Strobino.)
He had to teach his brain how to perform small physical tasks again. He got winded standing at the side of his bed while two people held him. Fortunately, the great people at places like the VA hospital in Augusta, Georgia, and the Fisher House helped him pull through.
“The Fisher House is like a Ronald McDonald house for wounded vets,” Strobino said. “It’s practically five-star accommodations for the family members of a wounded veteran that are recovering at the adjacent hospital. The family has their own private room. There’s a huge shared kitchen, laundry room, dining rooms, relaxing rooms. Everything is handicap accessible. And the families stay there free of charge.
“It helps the veteran because they can have family there while they are trying to recover,” he continued. “And it also helps the families because they are living in an area with other families going through similar situations. They can all empathize and help each other out.”
At the end of 2006, Strobino was awarded a Silver Star for his valor in combat. The citation reads:
The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress July 9, 1918 (amended by an act of July 25, 1963), takes pleasure in presenting the Silver Star to Specialist Jay Christopher Strobino, United States Army, for exceptionally meritorious achievement and exemplary service as a Team Leader in 3d Platoon, Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 502d Infantry Regiment, 2d Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), attached to the 4th Infantry Division, during combat operations in support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM, on a mission on 1 February 2006 in Rushdi Mulla, Iraq. Specialist Strobino’s exceptional dedication to mission accomplishment, tactical and technical competence, and unparalleled ability to perform under fire and while injured, contributed immeasurably to the success of his unit in Rushdi Mulla, Iraq, and reflects great credit upon himself, his unit, the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) and the United States Army.
“The absolute biggest thing is to stay positive,” he said, in regard to facing an unexpected challenge. “Surround yourself with positive people and feed off each other’s energy. Know that you’re not going to be able to do it alone, and it’s not going to be easy. But be sure to celebrate each small victory.”
The first US service member to test positive for the coronavirus has recovered after spending 49 days in isolation.
A 23-year-old soldier stationed in South Korea became the first US service member to fall ill as the coronavirus spread from China to countries around the world. He tested positive on February 26, and his wife tested positive two days later.
US Forces Korea said in a statement Thursday that the soldier has returned to his off-base residence outside Camp Caroll and is waiting for a decision on when he can return to duty.
The soldier “was cleared from isolation after having been asymptomatic for more than seven days, being fever-free without the use of fever-reducing medications, successfully passing two consecutive COVID-19 tests with negative results at least 24 hours apart, and being cleared by USFK medical providers,” USFK explained.
South Korea was, at one point in time, one of the worst hit locations outside of China, but the situation in the country has stabilized. South Korea has had only around 10,000 cases with a little over 200 deaths.
South Korea and U.S. Army Joint Security Area Security Battalion fire team members perform a four-man carry of a simulated injured service member during a joint search and recovery exercise April 8, 2016, at Camp Bonifas, South Korea. 51st Civil Engineer Squadron fire prevention firefighters assisted in the exercise by teaching South Korea and U.S. Soldiers how to safely enter a crashed aircraft to rescue individuals.
(U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Dillian Bamman)
While there were roughly two dozen USFK-related cases, only two US service members were infected. There are over 28,500 US military personnel in South Korea.
USFK said that it “continues to maintain a robust combined defense posture to protect the Republic of Korea against any threat or adversary while maintaining prudent preventive measures to protect the force.”
As of Wednesday, 2,486 US service members have tested positive for the coronavirus worldwide, with 85 requiring hospitalization. While 446 have recovered, two have died from related complications, according to the latest figures from the Pentagon.
The hardest hit US service branch has so far been the Navy with 951 cases. The majority of those cases are aboard the deployed aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, which has reported more than 600 coronavirus cases.
Russia’s military leaders have reportedly called its intelligence service “deeply incompetent” after Western investigators accused its agents of being behind the nerve agent poisoning in England and an attempted hack into the global chemical weapons watchdog.
Photographs showing Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Borishov, two men accused of poisoning former spy Sergei Skripal.
(London Metropolitan Police)
The GRU was described in the meeting, MBK said, as “deeply incompetent,” “infinitely careless,” “morons,” and people that “would still wear the budenovka” — a phrase that means being outdated. The budenovka was a military hat worn in the late 1910s and early 1920s, shortly after the Russian tsar was deposed.
The defense leaders are also considering a “big sweep” at the GRU and ask some of its generals to leave, MBK said.
MBK was founded by Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a prominent Kremlin critic.
Former Russian spy Sergei Skripal buying groceries in Salisbury, England, days before he was poisoned with military-grade nerve agent.
( ITV News)
in September 2018 the UK accused two Russian men of traveling to Salisbury, England, and poisoning Skripal and his daughter with military-grade nerve agent this March, and said they were GRU agents traveling under pseudonyms.
The two men also went on national Russian TV to say that they only visited England to visit a cathedral.
Investigative journalism site Bellingcat, however, has since identified Petrov as Dr. Alexander Mishkin, “a trained military doctor in the employ of the GRU,” and Boshirov as Col. Anatoliy Chepiga, a highly decorated officer with the GRU.
Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov told RT’s editor-in-chief they had nothing to do with the Skripals’ poisoning. Sept. 12, 2018.
In early October 2018, the Netherlands also accused four Russian GRU agents of trying to launch a cyberattack on the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the world’s chemical weapons watchdog. The OPCW was, at the time, investigating the nerve agent attack on Skripal and a reported chemical attack in Douma, Syria, where Russian jets have bombed.
The men — two tech experts and two support agents — were caught red-handed and attempted to destroy some of the equipment to conceal their actions, Dutch authorities said.
The Netherlands then determined that they were agents of the GRU after finding that one of their phones was activated near the GRU building in Moscow, and discovering a receipt for a taxi journey from a street near the GRU to the Moscow airport, the BBC reported.
Mark Urban, a British journalist who recently wrote a book about Skripal, wrote in The Times on Oct. 9, 2018: “It would be surprising if this series of compromised operations did not trigger some realignment in Moscow, a further round of struggle between the spy bosses.
“The mockery of the GRU for its recent upsets, both globally and on Russian social media, must have rankled. Whatever the intentions of the Salisbury operation, they cannot have included opening decorated heroes of the agency up for ridicule,” Urban added, referring to Chepiga and Mishkin.
President Donald Trump said he was going to “remain flexible” and left open the possibility of shelving highly anticipated talks between the US and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
“We’ve never been in a position like this with that regime,” Trump said during a joint press conference with Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe on April 18, 2018. “I hope to have a very successful meeting. If we don’t think that it’s going to be successful … we won’t have it. We won’t have it.”
Trump went further, and floated the possibility of leaving Kim during the summit.
“If the meeting when I’m there is not fruitful, I will respectfully leave the meeting,” he said.
The exact location and date of the proposed Trump-Kim summit is not yet clear, but Trump reportedly said it could happen by early June 2018. The president said five locations were being considered, but added that the US is not one of them
US officials confirmed that CIA director Mike Pompeo made a secret trip to North Korea during Easter weekend 2018, to meet with Kim. Pompeo visited the country as part of Trump’s advance envoy to lay the groundwork for the proposed summit, during which the two leaders are expected to discuss the regime’s nuclear weapons program.
“I like always remaining flexible,” Trump said. “And we’ll remain flexible here. I’ve gotten it to this point.
“This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The M16A4 was the standard service rifle for the Marine Corps until October, 2015, when it was decided that the M4 Carbine would replace them in infantry battalions. For whatever reason, civilians tend to think the M16A4 is awesome when, in reality, it’s actually despised by a lot of Marines.
Now, the M16A4 is, by far, not the worst weapon, but it didn’t exactly live up to the expectations laid out for it. They’re accurate and the recoil is as soft as being hit in the shoulder with a peanut, so it certainly has its place. But when Marines spend a considerable amount of time in rainy or dusty environments, they’ll find it’s not the most reliable rifle.
Here are some of the major complaints Marines have about the weapon:
Hopefully it isn’t this bad.
They get rusty very easily
For a weapon that’s supposed to be used in “every clime and place,” these rifles seem to get rust like boots get married – way too quickly. This just means that you should carry some CLP and scrub it off regularly — another task to add to the pile.
Find time to clean it when you can.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Richard Currier)
Cleaning is a headache
Outside of problems with rust, the chamber gets caked with carbon after firing a single magazine. This is yet another thing you’ll have to spend time cleaning. And when you break the rifle down, you’re going to find carbon has found its way into every possible small space.
Again, just keep that chamber as clean as possible.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Ken Scar)
Jams are too common
If there’s a bit of dirt in the chamber, prepare for some double feeds or stove-pipe jams. This might just be the fact that many of these rifles have been worn down from participating in two separate combat theaters, but the fact remains: your gun will jam.
Have fun clearing buildings with these.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Melanie Wolf)
They’re too long
An M16A4 is nearly 40″ long. For close quarters, these really aren’t the best weapons. You’ll have to find ways to adapt the rifle to the environment but, at the end of the day, it’s a pain in the ass to try and jump through a window with it.
Just take the covers off and put a grip on.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Dana Beesley)
Rail covers make the hand guards slippery
You could just refrain from using covers, but without them, you run the risk of degrading your rails. With them, you won’t be able to get as steady of a group, which means your per-shot accuracy will go down slightly.
We have all seen upsets in sports before. We might see a number one team in college football lose to an unranked bottom feeder, a team barely making the NBA playoffs sweeping the defending champs in the first round, a boxer throwing a desperate punch and knocking out a champion. But forty years ago today, on Feb. 22, 1980, the sports world was rocked to its core. The U.S. Men’s hockey team beat the mighty Soviet Union team at the 1980 Olympics in Lake Placid, NY.
This upset was truly a David versus Goliath upset. The Americans had no reason or chance to win… at least that is what everyone thought.
In the Olympics then, there were strict “amateur” rules on who was eligible. Professional athletes were not allowed to play. Hence Americans couldn’t send NBA or NHL players in the Olympics even if they wanted to. So, the USA (and most of the world) had to rely on college kids and other non-professionals. Once you were done with school, you got a job and trained on your own time. The Communist Bloc, however, found an obvious way around that. They more or less gave athletes bogus jobs and paid them to train all the time. They were essentially professionals.
The Soviets dominated the international hockey scene because of this. Prior to this game, they had won five Gold Medals and 14 World Championships. They had been playing together for years and were a well-oiled machine. In contrast, the Americans had only been together for a few months. They were college kids who usually only had one chance at the Olympic games because of the amateur rules.
In an exhibition at Madison Square Garden before the Olympics, the USA was trashed by the Soviets by a score of 10-3. The Soviets went into the Olympic games as a very confident team.
As the tournament progressed in the round-robin format, both teams played well. The Americans fought to a draw and several victories, while the Soviets steamrolled everyone they played.
People often forget, but it wasn’t the Gold Medal Game. And if you remember watching it live, you remember wrong — the game was on a tape delay by about three hours. Over 18,500 people packed the arena at Lake Placid, and there was a patriotic fervor in the air. People claim the U-S-A chant started that night.
Nowadays, we are used to the super-patriotic feelings at sporting events, but things were different back then.
America was in a bit of a rough spot.
There was still a pall hanging over the country over the lives lost in Vietnam, made worse when Saigon fell in 1975. There was inflation and gas shortages to deal with. The value of the dollar was low. There was stagnation in the economy. Urban decay and high rates of violent crime racked American cities. The Ayatollah in Iran was still holding Americans hostage after the embassy takeover.
The mood could best be described by a term that was applied to a Jimmy Carter speech – “malaise.”
Americans really needed a moment of pride. It came that night.
The USA played hard, scrappy, and didn’t back down. They went down three times and came back to tie three times. They went ahead in the third period on a Mike Eruzione goal to make it 4-3. When you look at the stats of the game, the U.S. was really outplayed in most aspects. They held off the Soviet attack 10 minutes, which probably seemed like an eternity.
As the time clicked off the clock, the crowd grew more insane, and the arena turned into a human pressure cooker ready to blow.
Al Michaels, feverishly counted down the time with one of the most iconic calls of all time.
“11 seconds, you’ve got 10 seconds, the countdown going on right now! Morrow, up to Silk. Five seconds left in the game. Do you believe in miracles? YES!”
The effect was immediate. Pandemonium reigned in the stands. Players exuberantly celebrated. The Soviets looked on in shock and awe. Coach Herb Brooks ran into the locker room and broke down in tears. When the players went in, they broke out into “God Bless America.” They then took a call from President Carter (and they still had a game to go to win Gold!).
Seriously this video will give you chills.
Sports Illustrated didn’t even have to put words on the cover. The picture alone told the story.
The country was gripped with patriotic fervor, and after what seemed like a long national nightmare, Americans felt that miracles do indeed happen, and good times were ahead.
A great navy is key to any great military. It’s what allowed Brittania to rule the seas for decades, France to establish vast colonies around the world, and Japan to assert itself over European powers in Asia in the early 1900s. But navies are, obviously, made up of dozens or hundreds of individual ships, and not all of them are created equal.
So we’ve dug through the history to find out top 10 picks for ships that, either because of revolutionary designs or because their crews made a new technology work where all others had failed, changed naval combat overnight:
The 64-gun warship Vasa was built in the tradition of the Mars, the first great artillery-focused naval warship.
(Jorge Lascar, CC-BY 2.0)
The Swedish warship Mars was the test platform for a bold new strategy in the 1560s: Elevate naval artillery from from a weapon used to hurt enemy ships to one that can actually sink enemy ship. The Swedish king was obsessed with the concept, and commissioned the Mars with five decks, two of them dedicated to naval artillery carrying massive cannons.
The Nautilus set speed and range records. It even conducted an entire cruise where it surfaced only once, rising to the open air only to transit the Panama Canal. It also completed the first transit of the ship across the North Pole, conducting the crossing underwater on August 3, 1958. Now, the entire U.S. submarine fleet is nuclear-powered.
The first-nuclear powered carrier and first nuclear-powered surface vessel in history, the USS Enterprise set range and speed records thanks to its powerful fuel source and engines.
The USS Enterprise of World War II was the most decorated ship of the war, and the Navy brought the name back to commission its first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier in 1960. That USS Enterprise would, like the USS Nautilus, set speed and range records. It also led the Navy’s first and only all-nuclear task force, sailing around the world with USS Long Beach and USS Bainbridge, a cruiser and frigate.
Russian torpedo boats Sinop and Chesma were pretty forgettable warships except for one exchange in January 1878, when they launched the first successful self-propelled torpedo attack in naval history. The torpedo they used had been invented in England in 1866, but no navy had successfully used it in combat yet.
Without getting too technical, there’s a difference between steam-piston engines and steam-turbine engines. Steam turbines are much more powerful, and the HMS Viper and HMS Cobra were British torpedo destroyers commissioned at the same time in order to take advantage of the additional speed turbines gave.
Both ships were capable of flying across the surface at almost 40 mph (about 34 knots for the actual sailors out there). They were over 10 percent faster than most other warships of the day, and they helped prove the steam turbine technology. Today, steam turbines powered by nuclear reactors propel the new Ford-Class carriers.
The Union referred to the CSS Virginia as the Merrimack, the name originally given to her by the Union, throughout the war.
USS Monitor and CSS Virginia
At the Battle of Hampton Roads, the clash of two American ships changed naval warfare overnight. The CSS Virginia, a Confederate ship captured from the Union, attacked the northern fleet at Hampton Roads on March 8, 1862, and the Union ironclad USS Monitor showed up the next day to protect the rest of the fleet.
The Napoleon was a 90-gun warship that was launched in 1850 and soon changed the way steam-powered ships operated. Prior to the Napoleon, steam was used to power paddle wheals on one side of a warship. Sails provided primary power, and the wheel helped the ship maneuver quickly during fights.
The Furious had all sorts of shortcomings as a carrier, most notably the short flight deck that made landings extremely hazardous. It underwent multiple redesigns and refits between World War I and II, eventually becoming a full flat-top carrier.
Any naval buffs out there saw this one coming. While there are plenty of game-changing ships on this list, as well as dozens more from history that we could have chosen, the Dreadnought was such a game-changing ship that the entire world sought to copy its design and methods of construction, leading to the “Dreadnought Era” followed soon after by the “Super Dreadnought Era.”
This step, just days after US and Russian bilateral negotiations for a ceasefire fell through, shows the depth of Russia’s commitment to Syrian President Assad, who has shown a ferocious willingness to use chemical and banned weapons against his own people since the war started in 2011.
But the Russian S-300 and S-400 missile defense batteries pose a serious question about US and coalition military capabilities versus the Russians.
Gen. Igor Konashenkov, a Russian Defense Ministry spokesman, went as far as to say that “all the illusions of amateurs about the existence of ‘invisible’ jets will face a disappointing reality,” referring to the US’s fifth generation stealth aircraft, the F-22 and F-35.
While the US fields the greatest Air Force in the world, the capabilities of Russia’s S-300 and S-400 air defense systems in Syria represent a very real challenge to the US’s ability to operate in those zones without being shot down.
“Konashenkov is absolutely right – ‘stealth’ as ‘invisibility’ is just amateurs’ invention, not a technical term.”
However, according to Sutyagin, some of the Russian capabilities also fall in the category of speculation rather than hard capability.
For instance, as advanced as Russian surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems are, and they are really quite advanced, they still face very real limitations.
Russian “air defense systems are designed to intercept high flying targets at a maximum range of about 250 miles,” said Sutyagin. While this does pose a threat to US and coalition aircraft operating normally in the region, the missile defense can be outfoxed, as they less optimal against low flying planes or missiles.
Even though the Russian systems have great radar range and capabilities, in the real world obstacles abound, and that makes it very hard to get a clear picture of real world air spaces.
The Russian missile defense systems sit on trucks, ready to be positioned wherever needed in a specific region. Some reports indicate that Russian crews can get the missile battery up and running within 5 minutes of parking the truck. Additionally, the mobile missile batteries present an ever changing target, and a puzzle that incoming aircraft must solve anew each time they enter the air space.
But they battery is still just a truck on the ground. Parking it on a hilltop makes it visible. Parking it in a valley severely limits the range due to natural obstacles. So just as the US fantasy of “invisible jets” doesn’t completely pan out when the rubber hits the road, neither does the Russian fantasy of a 250 mile air defense zone.
Indeed to flesh out this idea of the Russians, they’d need to operate Airborne Warning and Control Systems (AWACs), or planes that carry large radars and can survey battle spaces free from obstructions on the ground, which Sutyagin says Moscow does not currently have in Syria.
But who would come out on top?
According to Sutyagin, stealth US planes like the B-2, F-22, and F-35 could knock out Russian SAM sites in Syria, but not without a fight.
“Yeah they can do it. In theory they can do it because they will be launching stand off weapons,” said Sutyagin, referring to long range missiles as “standoff weapons.”
“The tactics of these low visibility planes as they were designed originally was to use the fact that detection range was decreased so you create some gaps in radar range and then you approach through gap and launch standoff weapons,” said Sutyagin.
At this point, Russia’s “defenses will inevitably detect it, but maybe too late,” said Sutyagin, who emphasized that firing a missile doesn’t always mean a hit, and detecting a missile doesn’t always mean an intercept.
“There is no 100% reliability, but still it will be much more difficult” for Russian SAM sites to intercept missiles fired from US stealth aircraft that can get up close and personal and locate the site first. “If the standoff weapon is also low visibility,” the chances only improve, according to Sutyagin.
Additionally, Russian SAM sites in Syria have a limited magazine capacity.
“One air defense battalion with an S-300 has 32 missiles. They will fire these against 16 targets (maybe against cruise missiles they would fire a one-to-one ratio) but to prevent the target from evading you always launch two… but what if there are 50 targets?”
This limitation explains why Russia deployed the S-300 battery to Syria when they already have the more advanced S-400 stationed there.
According to Sutyagin, it takes “40-50 minutes to reload launchers.” The SAM sites are then unarmed, with their positions exposed and they’re “not well prepared to meet another threat.”
What it comes down to
So the US could overwhelm Russian defenses. Or Russia could shoot down US fifth-generation aircraft over Syria. What it comes down to, according to Sutyagin, is training.
Sutyagin says that overall, the situation is “very complicated” and that there is “no easy solution to suppress air defense, but there are opportunities.”
Each combat scenario brings unique challenges and opportunities that may benefit one side or another. Generally, there is reason to believe that the pilots of US fifth-generation aircraft are among the best in the world, and that they would have the edge in almost every situation.
Indeed, Sutyagin says that the US’s airborne capabilities put them in a better situation than the US was in during Vietnam, when Russian SAM sites shot down many US planes.
Though the details of the how US F-22 Raptor pilots would engage an enemy SAM site are classified, a pilot with the program recently told National Interest’s Dave Majumdar that the F-22 pilots are confident they could prevail.
But jets and SAM sites fight battles on air, over seas, and on land — not on paper.
“If American pilots will be not experienced in their fifth-gens, they will be shot down. If they are brilliant, operationally, tactically brilliant, they will defeat them,” concluded Sutyagin.
But Kim told Li that the regime had already taken steps towards denuclearization, like refraining from further nuclear and missile testing, and awaited the US to reciprocate in its actions. US intelligence reports indicate that North Korea has continued to work on its nuclear program and missile arsenal.
“We would like the United States to take some kind of action that is reasonable, then we would like to move forward along the process of a political solution,” Kim told Li during their meeting, according to the Asahi Shimbun, citing Chinese state media.
The North Korean leader added that the country is “taking measures by sticking firmly to the agreement” made with President Donald Trump during their summit in June 2018, though he did not expand on what measures had been taken, Asahi added.
North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un.
Moscow official Valentina Matviyenko said on Sept. 10, 2018, that Kim appealed to Russia to help ease crippling sanctions imposed against the regime, given the “steps they have been taking” in line with Kim’s agreement with Trump, Russia’s TASS state news agency reported.
“Those are very serious steps aimed at the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” she said, adding that Kim expects “reciprocal” measures by the US because “it is impossible for only North Korea to take unilateral steps on denuclearization.”
The relationship between the US and North Korea remains uneasy
Relations between North Korea and the US have grown stale in recent months, though both sides appear to be open to dialogue.
But on Sept. 10, 2018, the White House said it’s planning another summit between Trump and Kim after it received “further evidence of progress” with Pyongyang in the form of a “very warm and very positive” letter. Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said no details have been finalized, and said it will not release the full letter unless Kim agrees it should be made public.
On Sept. 9, 2018, Trump praised Kim’s muted 70th anniversary celebrations, which didn’t feature its usual showcase of nuclear weapons, as a sign of progress.
“This is a big and very positive statement from North Korea,” he tweeted. “Thank you To Chairman Kim. We will both prove everyone wrong! There is nothing like good dialogue from two people that like each other!”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The Marine Corps operates continuously in every clime, place, day or night. The heartbeat of the battlefield is the Combat Operations Center. By design it will work with high tech machines or on the move with radios and whiteboards. The Communications Officer is in charge of setting up encryption and making sure the battalion commander has the ability to talk to his officers. Out of all the things that are a threat to readiness, the ‘Comms O’ will always ban the use of coffee machines.
Energy needs of the equipment
Combat Operations Center energy needs are strictly monitored. Every radio, from the PRC-119 (and variants) to the high-powered antennas used at the company level and above. They need a lot of energy to transmit radio waves. Different factors such as line of sight, elevation, interference, distance, and power sources dictate what cannot be used in the COC. The power output increases and decreases to match what is going on in the field. Battery charging is the priority for obvious reasons. It is easy to underestimate the drain a coffee maker can have. If a troop disregards the standard operating procedures, it can easily knock out the topology if it is running at max power to communicate with far flung platoons. The Comms Shop will adjust the power needs for what they expect. A Coffee machine is a wrench in the engine.
Ironically the culprits of disregarding the ‘no coffee machines’ ban in COCs are of the brass variety. The higher in the pecking order, the easier it is to dismiss a corporal watching in horror. Luckily, this is what training is for, to do the mistakes in the field and not overseas where they count. Time and time again, without fail, the first field op a battalion conducts will lose comm because an officer gave into the temptation of a hot cup of Joe.
Rock, paper, I out rank you
This one time, an unpopular Comms O, ranted for about 15 minutes to not use coffee machines during a Command and Staff meeting. Unbeknownst to him, the colonel specifically had gourmet coffee packed with the COC gear. Fortunately, the field op was an offense and defense exercise that did not require any live fire training. In the middle of the night a little red night turned on and the COC turned off. From a distance, one heard a rampaging Comms O barreling towards the tent ready to rip the perpetrator in two.
Inside he found the three of top brass fiddling with the machine. Of course, the lower enlisted got the ass chewing for not stopping the colonel and two majors from doing what they wanted. To their credit, the senior officers took the blame for what they caused. The Comms O said that ‘that is not how any of this works’. If they wanted coffee that bad, they could have told him and he would’ve fired up a new generator just for them.
This is one of those things that is learned the hard way that is never included in the ‘lessons learned’ report at the conclusion of a field exercise. It’s a womp, womp moment every unit goes through that they will not admit. The coffee maker is an EMP waiting to happen. It is unofficially accounted for when gauging the battalion’s energy needs. The good news is that it’s a problem identified, corrected, and not repeated past the first op as a unit. The coffee machine is banned unless the Comm O says so.
In contrast, the total number of fatal casualties from Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001 is 6,995.
Suicide is a threat to our nation’s service members — and in U.S. Army Paratrooper and creator Jordan Martinez’s words, “Now, more than ever, we must tell stories about their experiences and remind others how important it is to never give up on the battle at home.”
His passion for this topic is what inspired the USC School of Cinematic Arts graduate student to create The Gatekeeper, a psychological thriller that accurately, artistically, and authentically highlights the real struggles veterans face with PTSD and suicide.
This ain’t no ordinary student film:
‘The Gatekeeper’ cast and crew filming on location at the Los Angeles National Cemetery.
The Gatekeeper will be the first film in USC history to use motion capture technology for pre-visualization. Martinez has invested state of the art technology and equipment, incredible production locations, and professional cast and crew for this film, including Navy veteran and Stranger Things actress Jennifer Marshall and Christopher Loverro, an Army veteran and the founder of non-profit Warriors for Peace Theater.
Martinez is a combat veteran who saw first-hand the psychological effects war has on returning service members — and decided to do something about it.
Or you can contribute to their Indiegogo campaign, which will directly pay for authentic looking military grade equipment, wardrobe, weaponry, and locations, as well as daily expenses for the crew. Student films rarely yield a return on the financial investment of the students who create them, so supporting a campaign like this will go directly to helping a veteran tell a critical military story — the first of many, unless I’ve read Martinez’s tenacity, vision, and drive wrong.