Russia says fighter intercepted U.S. surveillance planes over Black Sea - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia says fighter intercepted U.S. surveillance planes over Black Sea

Russia says a fighter jet intercepted two U.S. military surveillance planes in the Black Sea — the latest in a series of midair encounters between U.S., NATO, and Russian forces.

Military officials told the state TASS news agency on August 5 that the Su-27 jet met the U.S. planes in international waters in the Black Sea.

“The Russian fighter jet crew approached the aircraft at a safe distance and identified them as an RC-135 strategic reconnaissance aircraft of the U.S. Air Force and an R-8A Poseidon, the U.S. Navy’s maritime patrol aircraft,” the Defense Ministry said.


There was no immediate confirmation of the incident from U.S. or NATO officials, though civilian radar-tracking sites showed U.S. aircraft in the Black Sea region on August 5, not far from Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula.

Crimea was forcibly annexed by Russian in 2014, a move that few foreign countries have recognized. The peninsula is home to the Russian Black Sea Fleet and multiple military installations.

U.S. and NATO jets routinely intercept Russian surveillance and strategic bomber aircraft off NATO member countries and U.S. airspace over the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. The vast majority of incidents are routine and considered nonthreatening.

In May, a NATO official told RFE/RL that Russian military aircraft activity in the Black Sea and other parts of Europe had increased since 2014.

Last year, the official said that NATO aircraft took to the skies 290 times to escort or shadow Russian military aircraft across Europe.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Watch this taste-test review of a 120-year-old ration

Steve from MREinfo has long been the go-to source for all things related to rations, but he may have just made his the most interesting discovery to date: an emergency ration from the Second Boer War, which ran from 1899 to 1902. Now, he’s going to taste it.

Viewer discretion is advised.


His website is beloved by many troops trying to figure out exactly which MRE offers the best snacks and which can be tossed to the FNG. Through his YouTube channel, he receives rations from all around the world and tries them out on camera for the world to see. It’s a great way to see how the other armies of the world treat their troops.

First, here’s a sample of his work with a 2017 Chicken Burrito Bowl to cleanse your palate.

Occasionally, he gets a ration that is well beyond its shelf life and, in the face of putrefaction, he bravely takes a bite — for science. In the past, he has reviewed rations from many historical conflicts, ranging from the Vietnam War to the present.

Recently, he checked off “Second Boer War” from his list of history taste tests. For context, this War happened well before the advent of refrigerating food, it was the war in which Sherlock Holmes’ author, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, fought in, and, at the time, spreading the idea that people might someday watch a man eat a ration via a device that fits in your pocket would get you burnt for witchcraft.

Russia says fighter intercepted U.S. surveillance planes over Black Sea
You know, definitely an era you wouldn’t associate with long-lastingu00a0food.
(Imperial War Museum)

The British Emergency Ration he opens is in remarkable condition. The meal contains dried beef broth that needs to be boiled and cooked before eating. To best satisfy our curiosity, he tries it before and after boiling. Before boiling, it has a flavor profile similar to a packet of instant ramen noodle seasoning — just without any flavor. He says, “it tastes like pulverized beef jerky and bread crumbs mixed with cardboard and a little bit of chlorine.”

He later prepared the broth as intended. The smell of it cooking is horrendous, but he bravely carries on with his experiment.

Seriously. You might not want to watch this unless you have a strong stomach. We won’t take it personally if you can’t handle it.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Restored P-51 Mustang returns for mission over Germany

A restored P-51 Mustang, once flown by the late Brig. Gen. Robin Olds, iconic US Air Force fighter pilot, flew with 480th Fighter Squadron F-16 Fighting Falcons during an event at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, May 28, 2019.

The event included aerial maneuvers by the P-51, formation flight training with F-16s and a presentation about Robin’s accomplishments by his daughter, Christina Olds.

Robin was a triple-ace fighter pilot who had 16 kills by the end of his career. The P-51 that arrived to Spangdahlem, named SCAT VII, was Robin’s seventh airplane which he flew in the last days of World War II. It was restored and is still flying around Europe in the same color scheme it had nearly 75 years ago.


Russia says fighter intercepted U.S. surveillance planes over Black Sea

SCAT VII, a P-51 Mustang, on the runway at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, May 28, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Preston Cherry)

Russia says fighter intercepted U.S. surveillance planes over Black Sea

Scat VII, a P-51 Mustang once flown by triple-ace fighter pilot Robin Olds, over Spangdahlem Air Base, May 28, 2019.

(Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Roidan Carlson)

Russia says fighter intercepted U.S. surveillance planes over Black Sea

Scat VII, a P-51 Mustang once flown by triple-ace fighter pilot Robin Olds, alongside four F-16C Fighting Falcons at Spangdahlem Air Base, May 28, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Roidan Carlson)

Russia says fighter intercepted U.S. surveillance planes over Black Sea

Scat VII, a P-51 Mustang once flown by triple-ace fighter pilot Robin Olds, alongside four F-16C Fighting Falcons at Spangdahlem Air Base, May 28, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Roidan Carlson)

Russia says fighter intercepted U.S. surveillance planes over Black Sea

Scat VII, a P-51 Mustang once flown by triple-ace fighter pilot Robin Olds, alongside an F-16C Fighting Falcon at Spangdahlem Air Base, May 28, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Roidan Carlson)

Russia says fighter intercepted U.S. surveillance planes over Black Sea

Scat VII, a P-51 Mustang once flown by triple-ace fighter pilot Robin Olds, with an F-16C Fighting Falcon at Spangdahlem Air Base, May 28, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Roidan Carlson)

Russia says fighter intercepted U.S. surveillance planes over Black Sea

Scat VII, a P-51 Mustang once flown by triple-ace fighter pilot Robin Olds, with an F-16C Fighting Falcon at Spangdahlem Air Base, May 28, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Roidan Carlson)

Russia says fighter intercepted U.S. surveillance planes over Black Sea

Scat VII, a P-51 Mustang once flown by triple-ace fighter pilot Robin Olds, alongside an F-16C Fighting Falcon at Spangdahlem Air Base, May 28, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Roidan Carlson)

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

Articles

WW2 fighter pilot and founder of Enterprise Rent-A-Car dies at 94

Russia says fighter intercepted U.S. surveillance planes over Black Sea


Jack Taylor, the founder of Enterprise Rent-a-car who served as a fighter pilot during World War II, died last week at the age of 94 according to an announcement made by the company.

Taylor served as an F6F Hellcat pilot in the Pacific Theater during World War II, flying from the U.S.S. Essex and U.S.S. Enterprise (his company’s namesake). He was attached to Carrier Air Group 15, led by the top Navy ace of all time, Commander David McCampbell. CAG 15, which sustained more than 50 percent casualties during the war, was one of the most decorated combat units in the history of U.S. Naval Aviation. Taylor, who served as McCampbell’s wingman on several combat missions, was twice decorated with the Distinguished Flying Cross. He also received the Navy Air Medal.

Russia says fighter intercepted U.S. surveillance planes over Black Sea
Jack Taylor.

After the war, he worked as a sales rep for a Cadillac dealership before getting into the leasing business with a fleet of 7 cars. His breakthrough idea was renting cars at places other than airports for those who needed an extra car around the neighborhood for whatever reason. His company, Executive Leasing, eventually became Enterprise. The company is among the world’s biggest rental car brands, with annual revenues at nearly $20 billion.

Taylor also a philanthropist. Since 1982, he personally donated more than $860 million to a wide variety of organizations including Washington University and the symphony orchestra in his hometown of St. Louis.

Years later, Taylor reflected back on how well his military service had prepared him for his business success, saying, “After landing a Hellcat on the pitching deck of a carrier, or watching enemy tracer bullets stream past your canopy, somehow the risk of starting up my own company didn’t seem all that big a deal.”

popular

Here’s how one soldier got payback on the Iraqi version of Charlie Brown


Editor’s note: Graybeard Publishing, a company owned and operated by military veterans, was planning on putting together a book of humorous combat stories called “SNAFU”. While it’s unclear whether the book was published, the following excerpt from SNAFU was submitted by an anonymous lieutenant who came up with a unique way of dealing with belligerent civilians in Iraq:

Charlie Brown by Lieutenant Anonymous

I was about to hit the road from Baghdad to Al Jaber Air Base one day and stopped by the TOC to get the latest intel updates. When I got there I found another Lieutenant freaking out about an incident he’d just had. He was driving through Safwan when he approached a bridge and saw a bunch of kids holding hands blocking the road. This Lieutenant stopped his convoy and suddenly got ambushed by citizens throwing bricks down onto his convoy from the bridge overhead. But that wasn’t the worst part. While his troops were covering up from the bricks, a bunch of Haji’s dropped grappling hooks and took everything they could off the vehicles. Rucksacks, boxes of MREs, you name it, they got it. And some were even bold enough to run up to the Hummers and steal stuff straight off them.

So before I left I told my guys “when we get to that bridge, we’re going to blow right through anyone there. I don’t care who’s on the road, we keep going.” They all nodded and away we went. Sure enough, we were driving down MSR Tampa and got to that bridge and a bunch of kids were holding hands blocking the road.

“Keep going!” I yelled at my driver, knowing they would move if he hit the gas. “Don’t slow down!”

But he did. He slowed and stopped dead under the bridge, which was the wrong place to be.

Next thing I know bricks and cinder blocks were raining down from above, which could have killed my guys since we weren’t in armored Humvees. In seconds we we’re surrounded by a bunch of Haji’s who were trying to steal stuff off the vehicles.

One guy in particular was wearing a yellow Charlie Brown shirt. He reached into my window and tried to steal my radio right in front of me until I punched him square in the face four times. I nearly stabbed the fucker, but I hit him solid in the face enough that he backed away.

Finally we get going again and I’m fucking livid. I yelled at my driver repeatedly all the way to Al Jaber Air Base and then spent the next few days steaming mad about the incident. We got punked. Our vehicles were damaged, we lost some shit, and the worst part was we didn’t have to. We knew it was coming and still they got us.

So I’m sitting there for days wondering how to get back at those fuckers until one night I had to take a piss. The latrine was too far away, so I got out of my hooch and pissed in a water bottle. A big one too, something like a gallon. And then it hit me. An idea. For the next few days I filled that thing with as much piss as I could muster then went to the chow hall to get as much powdered grape drink mix that I could find. I mixed it up, found myself a cooler and iced it down for a day before we were scheduled to leave.

The next day we hit the road and I’ve got this big bottle of purple piss in my cooler and a whole shitload of skittles and candy packs. I made my guys secure everything inside the trucks so nothing else would get stolen and told my driver to go ahead and slow down when we hit that bridge.

So we approached the bridge and sure enough the crowds came out to stop us. I immediately threw out all the skittles bags to keep the kids away and looked for Charlie Brown because I knew he only owned one t-shirt and would be wearing it again. It took a minute, but sure enough I spotted him, his shirt, and the bruises I gave him a few days ago. When he ran up to my vehicle I pulled out the ice-cold bottle of purple piss, gave it to him, and told my driver to take off.

As the convoy started rolling I watched him like a hawk in my rear view mirror. Charlie Brown lifted the frosty bottle high above his head and drank my piss. And he didn’t just take a swig and spit it out, but he kept drinking, probably thinking it was some exotic tasting American energy drink that would give him vim and vigor. I watched him as long as I possibly could and laughed my ass off for the next ten miles.

He may have puked it out a few minutes later. He may have fallen ill and been in agony for days. Or he may have died. I really don’t care either way. All I know is I went past that spot at least three more times before I redeployed, but never saw Charlie Brown again.

If you have a funny story to tell or are a veteran trying to get published, send a note to Kelly Crigger at kcrigger@graybeardbooks.com.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Army snipers field test a more accurate, ergonomic rifle

Eight Ivy Division snipers with the 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team field tested an upgrade to the Army’s sniper rifle in the shadows of the fabled Rocky Mountains.

Engineered as an upgrade to the M110 Semi-Automatic Sniper System, the Compact, Semi-Automatic Sniper Rifle (CSASS) was redesigned to enhance a sniper’s capability to perform missions with greater lethality and survivability, according to Maj. Mindy Brown, CSASS test officer with the Fort Hood, Texas-based U.S. Army Operational test Command.


Upgrades being tested include increased accuracy, plus other ergonomic features like reduced weight and operations with or without a suppressor.

Russia says fighter intercepted U.S. surveillance planes over Black Sea

A sniper team fires the M110E1 Compact, Semi-Automatic Sniper Rifle (CSASS) in Mission Oriented Protective Posture (MOPP) gear during operational testing at Fort Carson, Colo.

(Photo by Maj. Michael P. Brabner)

Brown said the purpose of the operational test is to collect performance data and soldier feedback to inform the Army’s procurement decision regarding the rifle.

“We do this by having the snipers employ the system in the manner and the environment they would in combat,” Brown said.

“In doing this, we achieve a twofold benefit for the Army as we test modernization efforts while simultaneously building unit — or in this case — sniper readiness.”

She went on to explain how the 2nd IBCT snipers stressed the rifles as only operators can, during the 10-day record test.

The snipers fired 8,000 rounds from various positions while wearing individual protective and tactical equipment as well as their Ghillie suits and cold weather gear.

Russia says fighter intercepted U.S. surveillance planes over Black Sea

A sniper engages targets from behind a barrier during the short-range tactical scenario of the Compact, Semi-Automatic Sniper Rifle (CSASS) operational test at Fort Carson, Colo.

(Photo by Maj. Michael P. Brabner)

To also test how the CSASS allowed snipers to shoot, move, and communicate in a realistic combat environment, they also executed Situational Training Exercise (STX) force-on-force missions in what they described as, “the best sniper training they’d received since attending Sniper School at Fort Benning, Ga.”

The 2nd IBCT snipers really pushed each other, testing the CSASS in what evolved into a competitive environment on the ranges.

“Despite single-digit frigid temperatures, gusting winds, and wet snow, the snipers really impressed me with their levels of motivation and competitive drive to outshoot each other,” said Sgt. 1st Class Isidro Pardo, CSASS Test Team NCOIC with OTC’s Maneuver Test Directorate.

An agreed upon highlight of the test among the snipers was the force-on-force day and night STX Lanes.

Russia says fighter intercepted U.S. surveillance planes over Black Sea

A test sniper occupies an observation post and conducts counter-sniper operations on a dismounted Situational Tactical Exercise Lane at Fort Carson, Colo..

(Photo by Maj. Michael P. Brabner)

Sniper teams were pitted against one another on tactical lanes in natural environmental and Urban Terrain to see who could infiltrate, detect, and engage whom first.

Staff Sgt. Cameron Canales, from Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment said, “The force-on-force STX lanes were an extremely fantastic way for us as snipers to hone our field craft.”

One other sniper, Sgt. 1st Class Cecil Sherwood, from Headquarters Troop, 3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment said he really enjoyed all the “trigger time” with the CSASS.

Russia says fighter intercepted U.S. surveillance planes over Black Sea

A test sniper engages targets identified by his spotter while wearing a Ghillie suit during the Compact, Semi-Automatic Sniper Rifle (CSASS) operational test at Fort Carson, Colo.

(Photo by Maj. Michael P. Brabner)


Sherwood said he was able to learn from the other test snipers and improve his field craft.

“In a regular sniper section, I would never get this much trigger time with a sniper rifle or be issued nearly as much ammunition to train with in a fiscal year, let alone a 10-day period,” he said.

While OTC celebrates its 50th Anniversary, 2nd IBCT snipers and OTC’s CSASS Test Team are a testament to the importance of the half century relationship between the Operational Force and the test community.

“As we move into a period of focused modernization, now, more than ever, that relationship is decisive to ensuring only the best materiel capability solutions make it into the hands of the men and women in uniform serving on the front lines around the world and at home,” Brown said.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Army’s ‘Space Cowboys’ can see anywhere

It can sometimes be hard for commanders to get a full picture of the battlefield, whether that’s on the ground in Syria or in the forests of Colorado. The “Space Cowboys” of the Colorado Army National Guard‘s 117th Space Battalion aim to solve that problem.


Just the Facts

  • The 117th Space Battalion is the only unit of its kind in the National Guard.
  • Its 12 space support teams work with commercial and classified space-based assets to support command requirements.
  • The 117th has the highest concentration of space support teams anywhere in the Army.
  • Army Space Support Teams are made up of six soldiers — two officers and four enlisted — each with unique skills. The teams deploy around the world to enhance intelligence and operations planning abilities.
  • Russia says fighter intercepted U.S. surveillance planes over Black Sea

    U.S. Army Sgt. Rick D. Peevy, a crew chief from Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 135th Aviation Regiment, Colorado Army National Guard, surveys the scene while wildfires burn the training range at Fort Carson, Colo., June 12, 2008.

  • “The [space] support team allows the warfighter to see and overcome enemy forces using the most appropriate amount of lethality available to them,” said Army Sgt. Maj. Fred Korb, the 117th’s senior enlisted leader. “For example, this allows the maximum effectiveness for targeting enemy forces while limiting danger to the coalition warfighter and noncombatants.”
  • More than 55 percent of soldiers in the unit have advanced degrees.
  • “Support can include producing imagery products, deconflicting GPS issues, missile warning, missile defense, satellite communications, and space as well as terrestrial weather effects on operations,” said Army Staff Sgt. Joseph Fauskee, the noncommissioned officer in charge of one of the battalion’s space support teams.
  • The 117th’s soldiers also produce the imagery needed to support wildfire fighting efforts in their home state. This year, some of its soldiers responded to the Spring Creek fire, the third-largest wildfire in Colorado history.
  • This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Defense. Follow @DeptofDefense on Twitter.

    MIGHTY SPORTS

    How soldiers push their limits to stay fit

    Some soldiers physically push themselves, compete against who they were yesterday, and train above and beyond meeting the minimum requirements of an Army physical fitness test. As motivation to be physically active can vary, some Maryland Army National Guard soldiers conduct their regular exercise routines in innovative ways.

    Soldiers like Capt. Meghan Landymore, an ultra-marathoner and member of the All Guard Marathon Team; Sgt. Donita Adams, a basketball coach and All-Army Women’s Basketball team member; and Capt. Ben Smith, an avid obstacle course racer and American Ninja Warrior participant, are passionately competing in high levels of sports and maintaining their personal fitness.

    Soldiers are required to maintain a certain standard of physical fitness. The annual Army Physical Fitness Test requirement for soldiers gives commanders an indication of the overall fitness of the soldier. The Army is now transitioning to the Army Combat Fitness Test, a six-event, age and gender neutral test, designed to assess a soldier’s physical fitness and readiness for physically demanding combat situations. Staying active can help prepare individuals to maintain a level of fitness for the physical demands of military service.


    Runner for life

    Capt. Meghan Landymore, a Joint Force Headquarters Medical Detachment physician assistant, is an accomplished ultra-marathon runner and member of the All Guard Marathon team. Each year, Army and Air guardsmen compete for a position on the All Guard Marathon Team during the National Guard Marathon Trials. The trials take place during the Lincoln Marathon, a traditional 26.2 mile marathon race, in Lincoln, Nebraska. Landymore placed third in her age group, sixth overall, and qualified for the national team with a time of 3:23:09.

    Russia says fighter intercepted U.S. surveillance planes over Black Sea

    Army Capt. Meghan Landymore, a Joint Force Headquarters Medical Detachment physician assistant, poses for a photo July 9, 2019, at the Fifth Regiment Armory, Baltimore. Landymore is an accomplished ultra-marathon runner and member of the All Guard Marathon Team.

    (Photo by Senior Airman Sarah McClanahan)

    Landymore first moved off the starting block as a competitive runner in high school, where she was required to participate in a sport. As a kid who grew up performing gymnastics, running wasn’t her initial choice. However, after some encouragement from her father, she found her path – cross country.

    On her first day of practice where every single person raised their hand in response to the question “who trained over the summer?” Every person except for her. The feeling of being behind the curve wasn’t something she was comfortable with. But, after working hard with her new coach, Landymore quickly became one of the top athletes on the team after just a couple short months.

    Once she started, no one could stop her stride. Landymore ran all throughout her years in college and ran her first marathon, the 2010 New York City Marathon, while in graduate school. In 2012, she placed ninth overall for her first ultra-marathon, the Golden Gate Trail Run Winter 50K, with a time of 5:02:34. Ultra-marathons are anything over the traditional 26.2 mile marathon and sometimes through challenging trails that require hiking or climbing. With more than 30 ultra-marathons under her belt, this July she competed in the 106-mile North Dakota Maah Daah Hey Trail Run with the All Guard Marathon Team.

    For ultra-marathon athletes like Landymore, training for a race becomes more than just a form of physical fitness, it becomes a lifestyle.

    “It affects everything,” said Landymore. “It becomes your personality and becomes what you talk about, and who you hang out with.”

    Training includes a combination of all types of running, from lengthy distances, overnight trail runs, tempo runs on a track, to hitting a strength training session in the weight room. However, training extends beyond the track or gym, needing to balance nutrition and family life can be a challenging task.

    “It takes a lot to try and eat enough calories that are not junk calories,” says Landymore. “Other than nutrition, you’re fatigued. Just getting through daily life is actually really hard as an ultra-runner. I think we overlook it because it’s just what we do. It’s exhausting, I have two young kids. It affects my husband. Though they are supportive and understanding as much as they can be.”

    Russia says fighter intercepted U.S. surveillance planes over Black Sea

    Capt. Ben Smith, 32nd Civil Support Team survey team leader, poses in for a photo in front of a sign for the American Ninja Warrior 2019 television show. Smith is an avid obstacle course runner and was a participant in the 2019 Baltimore Maryland City Qualifiers for this year’s ANW.

    (Photo by Senior Airman Sarah McClanahan)

    On race day, her family often plays an impactful role of supporting her through the experience. Her husband will sometimes pace her for portions of her runs or act as a support crew providing various supplies like dry shoes or socks at each stop throughout the race. Her 4-year old son even ran with her through the finish line during the 2017 Patapsco Valley 50K.

    Landymore explains that the supportive community of ultra-marathoning is what the experience is all about. Ultra-marathon racing is more than simply running, it gives other invaluable attributes.

    “I think a big part of people [competing in any sport] is being able to be in pain and to handle it for any given time whether that’s a few seconds or few minutes,” says Landymore. “You have to know how to be uncomfortable. I think that’s necessary for most of life.

    Nothing but net

    Sgt. Donita Adams, a MDNG chaplain’s assistant and All-Army Women’s Basketball team member, connects her faith and the love she has for the game of basketball. She is the only National Guard member selected for an all-star team to compete at the 2016 Conseil-International-Du-Sport-Militaire World Military Women’s Basketball Championship.

    “Basketball is a way that I can cope with a lot of things,” says Adams. “If I’m stressed out, I know I can go play basketball and clear my mind from anything. It’s my peace. God has given me a way to escape and go into an element where him and I can connect. Basketball is almost like that connection that I have with God. It ties us together because it’s something that I’m passionate about.”

    Both basketball and her faith have been pivotal elements in Adams’ life. At 5-years old she picked up a basketball for the first time and by 8-years old started playing on a team. It wasn’t until high school that Adams found her love for coaching.

    At 16, Adams landed her first coaching gig at a summer camp. Unbeknownst to her, one of the girls she would coach that summer was the daughter of an inspiring teacher Adams had in the sixth grade. This teacher saw the potential in Adams and made a point to push her to succeed. It was at this camp that her passion for mentorship and coaching ignited.

    “My Amateur Athletic Union coach was a big influence in my life, a father that I didn’t have,” said Adams. “I knew that I wanted to give back to my community and this [coaching] was my way to give back.”

    Russia says fighter intercepted U.S. surveillance planes over Black Sea

    Army Capt. Meghan Landymore, a Joint Force Headquarters Medical Detachment physician assistant, poses for a photo July 9, 2019, at the Fifth Regiment Armory, Baltimore. Landymore is an accomplished ultra-marathon runner and member of the All Guard Marathon Team.

    (Photo by Senior Airman Sarah McClanahan)

    Prior to enlisting in the Army, Adams took on a head coaching job at Watkins Mill High School, the school she attended prior to transferring to Damascus High School. For four years, she taught and developed nearly 100 female student athletes on and off the basketball court. She taught the importance of mentorship and being a role model as an athlete.

    “Sometimes you don’t sign up for this stuff,” said Adams. “But when you put on that jersey, or when you sign up for a sport, it comes along with it.”

    Adams recently resigned from her head coaching position to give herself the opportunity to impact young athletes beyond the walls of Watkins Mill High School. Now she coaches the young men and women of Truth Basketball, a personal venture dedicated to teaching, coaching, and mentoring young athletes. Truth Basketball holds fundraisers to cover much of the fees associated with playing basketball. Adams hopes to turn the venture into a non-profit in the future to continue making basketball accessible and providing more resources to young men and women.

    In addition to coaching, Adams is in her third year of playing for the All-Army Women’s Basketball team. October 2019, she’s headed to Wuhan, China to play with Team USA in the Military World Cup Games. For the second time, Adams will have the opportunity to play with Team USA representing the Maryland Army National Guard on an international stage. However, this will be the first time she will play in an Olympic-level event.

    Leaping over obstacles

    Capt. Ben Smith, 32nd Civil Support Team survey team leader, an avid obstacle course runner and a participant in the 2019 Baltimore Maryland City Qualifiers for American Ninja Warrior, a show where contestants demonstrate their agility and strength through challenging obstacle courses.

    Through his training for the Toughest Mudder races, an overnight, eight-hour version of the Tough Mudder races, Smith realized while he was adequately conditioned to run the course, his technique work in tackling obstacles needed to be strengthened. This is where Smith was introduced to the world of American Ninja Warrior.

    “I began Ninja Warrior training to increase obstacle course proficiency,” said Smith. “From there, I fell in love with the sport.”

    Each year, ANW hosts city qualifying and final competitions in different cities throughout the nation including Baltimore. Each qualifier race consists of six obstacles testing competitors’ ninja skills including grip strength, lateral transversing, static or dynamic balance, and explosive movement. Competitors will need to efficiently and cohesively use all of these skills to complete an ANW course.

    “The principles are the same as the preparation for any school, task, or mission,” explains Smith. “I worked through minor obstacles and adjusted my plan for major ones. The first key was to assess the skills I would need to develop. This is a challenge as no two ninja courses are the same. I set out a plan to identify weaknesses and train them in lieu of improving only my strengths.”

    To be selected, Smith competed for one of around 600 slots against about 60,000 applicants. The selection decision rested entirely on his submission video. Once he was selected, his ANW training began.

    Russia says fighter intercepted U.S. surveillance planes over Black Sea

    Capt. Ben Smith, 32nd Civil Support Team survey team leader, poses in for a photo in front of a sign for the American Ninja Warrior 2019 television show. Smith is an avid obstacle course runner and was a participant in the 2019 Baltimore Maryland City Qualifiers for this year’s ANW.

    (Photo by Senior Airman Sarah McClanahan)

    Smith explains simply being physically fit will not carry an athlete far in ANW and a more well-rounded approach to training is required. To prepare for his competition, Smith’s physical training and conditioning focused on improving endurance, speed work, functional strength, balance, and active recovery. This often resulted in late nights at his obstacle course gym multiple times a week. Smith would also incorporate ninja training into his regular physical training for the Army by including exercises focused on grip strength, balance, or running on curbsides for portions of his regular runs.

    However, the biggest obstacle for Smith’s training was the unknown. The day prior to the competition he was able to see the course but wasn’t able to touch any of the obstacles prior to competing.

    Though challenging, tackling the ANW course helped Smith identify areas he could improve upon including his speed and fluidity between the different obstacles. His training leading up to the race focused on individual skills. In practice, it was a struggle to apply them cohesively on the course.

    Unfortunately, Smith did not successfully complete his run of the Baltimore Maryland City Qualifiers and was stopped short at the second obstacle of the race, the double twister. This obstacle involves two free-spinning pendulums where competitors must leap from a springboard to the first pendulum and use their momentum to move from each pendulum and finally to the landing platform. An unexpected stopper restricting the movement of the second pendulum caused Smith to ultimately plummet into the water.

    While his run was not aired on this episode of ANW, a short clip of his entrance was aired of Smith ripping off of a modified level A vapor protection suit. Vapor protection suits are crucial for protection against dangerous chemicals encountered in Smith’s job with the 32nd Civil Support Team.

    Despite recently sustaining a broken ankle, he is determined to work through his injury and get back to training and sharpening his ninja skills for the next round of applications.

    The MDNG athlete

    For every Maryland National Guard soldier, “game day” may not come in the form of an ultra-marathon, basketball game, or obstacle course race. Instead, the training, conditioning, and physical readiness of each and every soldier is tested by the APFT or fast-approaching ACFT.

    Russia says fighter intercepted U.S. surveillance planes over Black Sea

    U.S. Army Sgt. Donita Adams, assigned to the Md. Army National Guard attempts to score during a basketball game. The 2017 Armed Forces Basketball Championship is held at Joint Base San Antonio, Lackland Air Force Base.The best two teams during the double round robin will face each other for the 2017 Armed Forces crown.

    (Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Emiline Senn)

    It’s important to note that the ACFT will not be an easy test and must be approached with a well-rounded training program personalized for each individual soldier to build them up from where they are starting to where they need to be, explained Landymore.

    Competing at a higher level of sports is not the only option for soldiers preparing for the ACFT. A voluntary program called “Fit to Serve” is available to soldiers for coaching in fitness and offers technology to track physical activity and sleeping habits. The program also provides physical therapy resources which focus on overall health wellness and resiliency.

    “The best advice I can give is to use the resources around you,” says Adams. “There are people in your circle or even in your unit who are experts, like trainers or athletes, so use those resources. They are very knowledgeable. Take time during your drill weekend to do the exercises and workouts because it’s going to help you. Because as soon as it’s implemented we are expected to perform.”

    This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

    MIGHTY TRENDING

    Top 9 deadliest nuclear arsenals in the world ranked

    Russian President Vladimir Putin confirmed long-held rumors in the US intelligence community in a speech on March 1, 2018, by announcing Russia had built an underwater nuclear device capable of killing millions in a single blast and rendering thousands of square miles of land uninhabitable for decades.

    The US, Russia’s main nuclear rival, had no answer for this weapon— no defenses in place can stop it, no emergency-response plans in place address it, and no forthcoming projects to counter or neuter it.


    On the surface, the doomsday torpedo represents unrivaled capability of nuclear destruction, but a nuclear arsenal’s worth rests on many factors, not just its ability to kill.

    Eight nations control the roughly 14,200 nuclear weapons in the world, and another nation holds an additional 80 or so as an open secret.

    Nuclear weapons, once thought of as the ultimate decider in warfare, have seen use exactly twice in conflict, both times by the US during World War II.

    Since then, nuclear weapons have taken on a role as a deterrent. The US and Russia, Cold War rivals for decades, have not fought head-to-head since the dawn of the nuclear era, owing the peace at least in part to fear that a conflict would escalate into mutual, and then global, destruction.

    What makes a good nuclear arsenal?

    • First, a good nuclear doctrine. Will a country strike first, or only in response?
    • Second, safety. Are the nukes secure? Does the country participate in nonproliferation treaties?
    • Third, do the nukes work as intended? Is the arsenal sufficient? Can the nukes survive an initial attack?

    In the slides below, Business Insider has weighed these questions with the help of Hans Kristensen, the director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists, to rank the world’s nuclear arsenals.

    Russia says fighter intercepted U.S. surveillance planes over Black Sea
    (KCNA)

    9. North Korea: the fledgling force

    North Korea fails by virtually every metric used to measure nuclear arsenals. North Korea’s nuclear missiles may not even work, and the country’s leader, Kim Jong Un, diverts money from essential services for his own people to foot the bill. The nation is a constant proliferation threat.

    Furthermore, North Korea’s nuclear doctrine, as pieced together from decades of saber rattling, amounts to essentially saying it will nuke the US, South Korea, or Japan if it wishes, and as a first strike. In the 21st century, only North Korea has tested nuclear weapons, introducing the threat of radioactive fallout to a new generation.

    North Korea serves the world as a reminder of the horrors of nuclear proliferation. Every day, intelligence officials investigate whether the poverty-stricken country has helped another rogue state acquire missile or nuclear-bomb technology.

    North Korea remains an international pariah under intense sanctions for its nuclear activity, so why bother?

    Because North Korea has a hopeless disadvantage in nonnuclear forces when compared to South Korea, Japan, or the US. Because Pyongyang can never hope to defeat any of its enemies in conventional fighting, it turned to nukes as a guarantor of its security.

    North Korea’s nuclear arsenal

    Weapons count: estimated 60

    Weapons count rank: 9

    North Korea has a number of short- to intercontinental-range ballistic-missile systems thought to operate off the backs of mobile missile launchers.

    One analyst has warned that North Korea’s mobile launchers may simply distract from the real threat of hidden nuclear silos, but no evidence of such silos has ever appeared in US intelligence reports made public.

    North Korea has tested a number of submarine-launch platforms and fields a fleet of older submarines, but this capability is thought to be far off.

    North Korea’s nuclear arsenal comes down to a few older ballistic-missile systems in the field and some long-range systems in development, according to Kristensen.

    It’s completely unknown if North Korea keeps its nuclear weapons mated or with the warhead affixed to the missile.

    Russia says fighter intercepted U.S. surveillance planes over Black Sea

    8. Pakistan: loose nukes?

    Pakistan built nuclear weapons in response to its bitter regional rival, India, testing and proceeding with a relatively simple nuclear mission: deter or defeat India.

    Pakistan managed to develop what’s known as a “credible minimum deterrent,” or the lowest number of nukes possible while still credibly warding off India, which has much stronger conventional forces and many times Pakistan’s population.

    Full on shooting wars and frequent cross-border skirmishes have broken out between India and Pakistan since World War II, making the relatively smaller country fear for its sovereignty.

    “Pakistan has concluded that India can use its more advanced conventional forces to push into Pakistan and Pakistan wouldn’t have a choice except to use nuclear weapons,” Kristensen told Business Insider.

    Pakistan would score highly for having a simple nuclear mission, and not going overboard in meeting it, except for two glaring issues: safety and responsibility.

    Pakistan has links to Islamic extremists with connections to global terror networks. Experts have long feared not enough has been done to secure Islamabad’s nukes against these threats.

    Additionally, “Pakistan has lowered the threshold for nuclear weapons use,” by building smaller, tactical nuclear weapons, according to the Arms Control Association.

    Pakistan Air Force Chengdu JF-17.

    Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal

    Weapons count: 150

    Weapons count rank: 6

    Pakistan has ballistic missiles with ranges just long enough to hit anywhere in the country of India. It has built nuclear-tipped cruise missiles that can travel more than 400 miles.

    Pakistan’s air force has reportedly practiced dropping nuclear bombs with its foreign-made planes. The US has specifically given Pakistan permission to modify its F-16 fighters to drop nuclear weapons.

    Pakistan has no nuclear-missile-capable submarines, but has reportedly started work on one in response to India’s first nuclear submarine.

    Pakistan is thought to keep its nuclear warheads separate from its missiles and delivery systems.

    Russia says fighter intercepted U.S. surveillance planes over Black Sea

    7. India: between a rock and a hard place

    “India is still a nuclear posture that’s still in vivid development,” according to Kristensen.

    While India had early success creating advanced nuclear devices, the rise of China and Beijing’s aggression in the region has made India divert its focus from one regional rival, Pakistan, to a second.

    Just as Pakistan fears India’s greater strength and numbers, India has come to fear China’s growing and modernizing conventional forces.

    But unlike Pakistan, India has sworn off nuclear first strikes and not looked into tactical nuclear weapons. Additionally, India is considered to be more responsible with its nuclear weapons and is assumed to keep them more secure.

    India doctrine succeeds for the most part by having a credible deterrent that’s not overblown and good cooperation with other nuclear powers.

    But India’s submarine fleet remains a dream at the moment, lowering its overall score.

    India’s nuclear arsenal

    Weapons count: 140 (stored)

    Weapons count rank: 7

    Like Pakistan, India has air-dropped and land-launched nuclear weapons. Initially, India built shorter-range weapons to hold Pakistan at risk, but has since evolved to take aim at China with longer-range systems.

    India is testing the Agni V, a land-launched missile that can range all of China, but as Kristensen said, “once they develop them they have to build up their base infrastructure.”

    India recently launched its first nuclear-powered submarine for a supposed deterrence patrol, but Kristensen said the patrol lasted only 20 days and did not bring armed nuclear missiles with it.

    “India has to be able to communicate reliably with a ballistic missile submarine at sea, possibly under tensions or while under attack they have to maintain secure communications. That will take a long time,” said Kristensen.

    As it stands, the missiles and submarine India has picked out for its underwater nuclear deterrent can’t range China’s vital points or most of Pakistan.

    Russia says fighter intercepted U.S. surveillance planes over Black Sea

    A briefing slide of the alleged Status-6 nuclear torpedo captured from Russian television.

    (BBC)

    6. Russia: bomb makers gone wild

    Russia ended World War II with the Red Army outnumbering any force on Earth. But throughout the nuclear age, it saw Europe turn away from it in favor of the West.

    Russia feared it was conventionally weaker than NATO, which has grown to include 29 nations, and started building the world’s most vast array of nuclear weapons.

    “Russia seems to sort of be driven by a frantic exploitation of different options,” Kristensen said. “You have a very prolific sort of effort to bring in more experiments with many more and new systems, more so than any nuclear weapons state does.”

    Russia is mainly focused on stopping a US or Western invasion and holding US cities and forces at risk. To combat the US with forces all over the globe, Russia needs a lot of nukes. Russia has signed the nuclear nonproliferation treaty, but stands accused of violating other arms agreements with the US.

    Putin frequently looks to the country’s nuclear strength for propaganda purposes, announcing in 2018 no less than five new nuclear offensive and defensive systems meant to defeat the US in a nuclear war that nobody seriously thinks Russia wants.

    No country needs five new nuclear weapons in a year.

    While Russia has about the same number of nukes as the US, Russia’s have higher yields and could end all life on Earth more quickly and with great spectacle than any other nation.

    But because Russia explores all kinds of ridiculous nuclear weapons, bases nuclear warheads near population centers, uses nuclear weapons to threaten other countries, and because the fall of the Soviet Union led to the greatest episode of loose nukes in world history, Russia sits on the low end of this list.

    Russia’s arsenal

    Weapons count: 6,850 (1,600 deployed; 2,750 stored; 2,500 retired)

    Weapons count rank: 1

    Russia has the full nuclear triad with constantly modernized bombers, land-based missiles, and submarines. The triad is a true 24/7/365 force with submarines on deterrence patrols at all times.

    Additionally, Russia has a high number of tactical nuclear weapons with shorter-range and smaller-explosive yields, which arms-control advocates say lowers the threshold for nuclear war.

    According to Kristensen, most of the supposedly revolutionary Russian nuclear strategic systems hyped by Putin will see limited deployments. While Putin hypes a new hypersonic, maneuverable intercontinental-ballistic-missile (ICBM) warhead, Kristensen notes that most ICBMs will remain the old type. Furthermore, all ICBM warheads travel at hypersonic speeds.

    Russia routinely sinks needed cash into “really frivolous exploratory type systems that make no difference in deterring or winning,” according to Kristensen.

    One “excellent” example of this, according to Kristensen, is the Poseidon underwater 100 to 200 megaton nuclear torpedo.

    This weapon, potentially the biggest nuclear explosive device ever built, just doesn’t make sense.

    The weapon would essentially set off tidal waves so large and an explosion so radioactive and punishing that continents, not countries, would pay the price for decades.

    The US has not found it useful to respond to these doomsday-type devices.

    Russia stores its nuclear warheads mated to missiles and ready to fire. Additionally, it has surrounded Moscow with 68 nuclear-tipped missile interceptors meant to protect the city from a US strike.

    Russia says fighter intercepted U.S. surveillance planes over Black Sea

    5. Israel: Who knows?

    “Israel is interesting because it’s a semi-dormant nuclear program, but it’s not dormant,” Kristensen said.

    Israel, unlike others on this list, finds itself mainly in conflict with nonnuclear foes. Iran has vowed to destroy Israel, but it has sworn off building nuclear weapons.

    Furthermore, Israel’s conventional military, with its top-of-the-line air force and close coordination with the US, easily overpowers its regional foes in traditional fighting.

    Instead of reaching for nuclear weapons to threaten a more powerful foe, Israel has a “very relaxed nuclear posture, truly what you could call a last resort posture,” according to Kristensen.

    Secrecy surrounding Israel’s nuclear program has made it hard to evaluate, so it gets the middle spot.

    Israel’s nuclear arsenal

    Weapons count: estimated 80

    Weapons count rank: 8

    Truly, nobody knows what weapons Israel has or doesn’t have, and that’s the way they like it.

    That said, Israel has fairly advanced weapons systems, including land-based systems that remain unmated from nuclear warheads.

    Kristensen said Israel has mobile missiles and aircraft that can launch nuclear bombs.

    “Rumor is Israel has a cruise missile for their submarines and there are writings about nuclear land mines and tactical nukes, but they remain in very much in the rumor box,” he said.

    Russia says fighter intercepted U.S. surveillance planes over Black Sea

    Nuclear submarine HMS Vanguard.

    4. UK: USA lite

    Weapons count: 215 (120 deployed; 95 stored)

    Weapons count rank: 5

    During the Cold War, the UK labored to create its own nuclear weapons and delivery systems, but since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the UK has withdrawn from that posture and essentially become a client of the US.

    The UK operates four nuclear submarines that fire can fire 16 Trident missiles made by the US. That’s it. The UK won’t get an “arsenal” page for this reason. The warheads on these patrols are mated to missiles.

    The UK belongs to NATO and draws Russia’s ire sometimes as a loud voice in the West, but doesn’t have a very big or powerful conventional military.

    Nor does the UK have any clear-cut enemies. While the recent UK-Russia hostilities may have reminded the island it’s not without opposition, Russia’s horns are mainly locked with the US.

    As far as doctrine goes, the UK vows to use nuclear weapons only defensively and has signed the nonproliferation treaty, meaning it has agreed not to spread nuclear technology.

    The UK has “very close coordination and nuclear targeting planning with the US,” Kristensen said. “It’s not a standalone nuclear power in the same way that France considers itself to be.”

    The UK has determined it doesn’t need a very big nuclear arsenal and didn’t overdo it, giving it high marks on its small force.

    Russia says fighter intercepted U.S. surveillance planes over Black Sea

    A French Dassault Rafale flies above the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier.

    (Marine nationale)

    3. France: No news is good news

    France has a long history with nuclear weapons, like the UK, but has maintained more independence and control over its stockpile and doctrine.

    “The French have a very open ended strategy that looks at potential use against any significant threat against crucial French interests,” Kristensen said. This includes using nuclear weapons against a state that launches a weapons of mass destruction attack on France.

    In 2015 after the tragic Paris attacks by ISIS fighters, France sent its aircraft carrier to fight the militants in Iraq and Syria, but they used conventional weapons.

    France’s nuclear doctrine allows first use in a broad range of circumstances, and while its weapons are not as aligned with NATO’s posture as the US or the UK’s, “it’s assumed they would pick a side and somewhat contribute to the deterrence posture of NATO,” Kristensen said.

    Also, France collaborates less with the US on nuclear issues, though their targeting objectives probably broadly align with the US’s, Kristensen said.

    Essentially, France’s strong conventional military allows them to avoid much discussion of using nuclear weapons. Additionally, the French seem more able to stomach paying for nuclear weapons and infrastructure, which the British have often been uneasy about.

    France’s participation in the nonproliferation treaty and its relative stability with its nuclear program earns it high marks for such a limited arsenal.

    Aircraft mechanics prepare a B-2 Spirit bomber before a morning mission in Guam.

    (US Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Val Gempis)

    France’s arsenal

    Weapons count: 300 (290 deployed; 10 stored)

    Weapons count rank: 3

    France mainly breaks with the UK on nuclear weapons in that they have 50 or so aircraft that can launch missiles with a range of about 300 miles that deliver nuclear warheads, according to Kristensen.

    Like the UK, France has four nuclear-powered submarines, one of which stays on a constant deterrence patrol ready to fire mated nuclear missiles.

    While it’s not a nuclear weapon outright, outside of the US, only France operates a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, the Charles de Gaulle.

    Russia says fighter intercepted U.S. surveillance planes over Black Sea

    Aircraft mechanics prepare a B-2 Spirit bomber before a morning mission in Guam.

    (US Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Val Gempis)

    2. US: the big boy

    The US’s nuclear warhead count falls short to only Russia, and like Russia, the US swelled its arsenal to surpass 30,000 weapons during the height of the Cold War.

    The Cold War saw the US explore a wide, and sometimes exotic, range of nuclear-weapons delivery options, including cruise missiles and artillery shells.

    But since then, US has attempted to sober its nuclear ambitions, and has become the source of many nonproliferation regimes and attempts to curb the spread of nuclear weapons globally.

    When the Soviet Union collapsed, it was the US that took on accounting for the loose nukes spread across places like Kazakhstan and Ukraine. The US leads the diplomatic pressure campaign to keep North Korea from getting nuclear weapons.

    From 2015 to 2017, the US led an effort to stop Iran from building nuclear weapons.

    The US invented nuclear weapons and remains the only country to have ever dropped them in anger, but the US’s conventional-military supremacy curtails any need for nuclear saber rattling.

    Today, the US allows for nuclear-first use and has signed the nuclear nonproliferation treaty.

    While the US has come a long way from the arms-race madness of the Cold War, it still spends a world-record amount of money on its nuclear arsenal and could stand to lose about a third of its force, according to experts.

    Because the US tries to be a transparent, responsible nuclear force, it scores the highest out of any country with greater than a “credible minimum deterrent.”

    US’s arsenal

    Weapons count: 6,450 (1,750 deployed; 2,050 stored; 2,650 retired)

    Weapons count rank: 2

    Today the US’s nuclear arsenal has narrowed down to a triad in constant stages of modernization.

    The US operates two nuclear-capable bombers, the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber and the B-52 Stratofortress, originally built in the 1950s and slated to fly for 100 years.

    The US operates a fleet of nuclear submarines, which it keeps on constant deterrence patrols.

    The US also has nearly 400 intercontinental-range missiles in silos around the country, mostly aimed at Russia’s nuclear weapons for an imagined “mutual destruction” scenario.

    Recently, the US has come under intense criticism for President Donald Trump’s proposal to build more smaller or tactical nuclear weapons. Experts say these weapons make nuclear war more likely.

    The US has tactical nuclear weapons stored around Europe and Turkey, which, like the bigger strategic weapons, are stored mated.

    Russia says fighter intercepted U.S. surveillance planes over Black Sea

    Type 094 submarine.

    1. China: True minimum

    In 1957, before China had nuclear weapons, its leader, Chairman Mao, said the following horrifying quote about nuclear war:

    “I’m not afraid of nuclear war. There are 2.7 billion people in the world; it doesn’t matter if some are killed. China has a population of 600 million; even if half of them are killed, there are still 300 million people left. I’m not afraid of anyone.”

    In 1967, China had tested nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles. To prove its systems worked in the face of Western doubts, it fired the only nuclear-armed ballistic missile in history to an unpopulated region within its own borders.

    Given China’s early enthusiastic attitude toward nuclear combat, it developed a surprisingly responsible and calm force.

    China has just 280 nuclear warheads, and none of them are mated to delivery systems. China flies bombers and sails submarines that it calls nuclear-capable, but none of them have ever actually flown with nuclear weapons.

    China’s nuclear doctrine forbids first strikes and centers around the idea that China would survive a nuclear strike, dig its bombs out of deep underground storage, and send a salvo of missiles back in days, months, or years.

    This essentially nails the idea of “credible minimum deterrence.” Everyone knows China has nuclear weapons, that they work, and nobody doubts China would use them if it first received a nuclear attack.

    Also, China has spent a fraction of the money the US or Russia has spent on weapons while conforming with nonproliferation treaties.

    China has continued to build up its missile, submarine, and bomber fleets, but all without the scrutiny afforded to nuclear systems.

    Because China’s nuclear warheads don’t sit on missiles, if China attacked another country with ballistic missiles, the attacked country could be fairly sure the missiles were not nuclear armed and resist returning fire with its own nuclear weapons.

    China has more big cities than any other country and stands to lose more than anyone in a nuclear exchange, but the incredible restraint shown by the Chinese earns them the top slot in this ranking.

    China’s nuclear arsenal

    Weapons count: 280 stockpiled

    Weapons count rank: 4

    China operates three types of ballistic missiles, some of which out-range their US counterparts.

    China has nuclear-capable submarines and bombers, but they do not ever travel with nuclear weapons on board.

    China relies on a growing and modernizing conventional military to assert its will on other countries and virtually never mentions its nuclear arsenal.

    This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

    MIGHTY TRENDING

    The Army created a new, safe vaccine for the Zika virus

    Three Phase-1 human clinical trials evaluating an Army-developed Zika purified inactivated virus vaccine, known as a ZPIV, have shown it was safe and well-tolerated in healthy adults and induced a robust immune response. Initial findings from the trials were published early in December in the medical journal “The Lancet.”


    Each of the three studies included in the paper was designed to address a unique question about background immunity, vaccine dose or vaccination schedule. A fourth trial with ZPIV is still underway in Puerto Rico, where the population has natural exposure to other viruses in the same family as Zika (flaviviruses), such as dengue.

    Russia says fighter intercepted U.S. surveillance planes over Black Sea
    A team of U.S. Army researchers at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research are developing a Zika vaccine that has induced a strong immune response in early trials. (U.S. Army photo by Jonathan Thompson, WRAIR)

    “It is imperative to develop a vaccine that prevents severe birth defects and other neurologic complications in babies caused by Zika virus infection during pregnancy,” said Dr. Kayvon Modjarrad, WRAIR’s Director for Emerging Infectious Diseases, the Zika program co-lead and the article’s lead author. “These results give us hope that a safe and effective vaccine will be achievable.”

    Across the three trials, a total of 67 healthy adult volunteers (55 vaccine, 12 placebo) received two vaccine injections, four weeks apart. Researchers measured the immune response by monitoring levels of Zika virus-neutralizing antibodies in the blood. More than 90% of volunteers who received the vaccine developed an immune response against Zika.

    Read More: Here’s what US troops should do if they’re worried about Zika

    “Not only is the development of a Zika vaccine a global public health priority, but it is also necessary to protect Service Members and their families,” said Col. Nelson Michael, director of WRAIR’s Military HIV Research Program and Zika program co-lead.

    The ZPIV vaccine candidate was developed as part of the U.S. Department of Defense response to the 2015 outbreak of Zika virus in the Americas. WRAIR researchers conceived the ZPIV vaccine in February 2016 and were able to advance the candidate to a Phase 1 human trial by November of the same year.

    “WRAIR has previously steered to licensure a similar vaccine for Japanese encephalitis, a flavivirus in the same family as Zika, which helped speed our vaccine development effort,” said Dr. Leyi Lin, who led one of the trials at WRAIR.

    Russia says fighter intercepted U.S. surveillance planes over Black Sea
    A team of U.S. Army researchers at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research are developing a Zika vaccine that has induced a strong immune response in early trials. (U.S. Army photo by Jonathan Thompson, WRAIR)

    In the volunteers who received the vaccine, neutralizing antibody levels peaked two weeks after they completed the 2-dose vaccine series, and exceeded the threshold established in an earlier study needed to protect monkeys against a Zika virus challenge. Researchers also found that antibodies from vaccinated volunteers protected mice from a Zika virus challenge, providing insight into how this vaccine might prevent Zika infection.

    Next steps include evaluating how long vaccine-induced immunity lasts, and the impact of dose, schedule and background immunity. Michael added that, “Army researchers are part of integrated, strategic US Government effort to develop a vaccine to protect against Zika.”

    The ZPIV program is led by Col. Michael and Dr. Modjarrad. The principal investigators at each of the study sites were Dr. Leyi Lin at WRAIR, Dr. Sarah L. George at SLU and Dr. Kathryn E. Stephenson at BIDMC. The sponsor of the investigational new drug application for two of the studies (WRAIR and SLU) is the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Division of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health. The BIDMC study is investigator-sponsored by Dr. Kathryn Stephenson.

    Russia says fighter intercepted U.S. surveillance planes over Black Sea
    A team of U.S. Army researchers at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research are developing a Zika vaccine that has induced a strong immune response in early trials. (U.S. Army photo by Jonathan Thompson, WRAIR)

     

    MIGHTY TRENDING

    Falsely accused Marine commandos were just exonerated

    After ten years of silence, the Pentagon has offered a lukewarm confirmation on the exoneration of a group of special operations Marines wrongfully accused of committing war crimes during Operation Enduring Freedom in 2007.


    Even though it ostensibly appears to be a gesture of goodwill from the Pentagon towards the falsely accused Marines, it has done little to mitigate the public humiliation these elite commandos have endured in the decade since a routine mission went horribly wrong in Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan.

    On the morning of March 7, 2007, a platoon of MARSOC Marines of Task Force Violent was dispatched to Shinwar District within Nangarhar to meet with local elders and build rapport. What the Marines of Violent didn’t know was that they were rolling into a carefully-planned ambush and would soon find themselves in a fight for their lives.

    Upon moving into town, a suicide bomber in a van drove into the column of Humvees, his vehicle packed with explosives. Within seconds, gunmen hidden in nearby houses and on rooftops began raking the convoy with small arms fire. Quickly getting themselves out of the kill box, the MARSOC element drove off in a hurry, returning fire to cover their egression to safety.

    Russia says fighter intercepted U.S. surveillance planes over Black Sea
    A MARSOC Critical Skills Operators secures a landing zone in Helmand Province, Afghanistan (Photo from US Marine Corps)

    Before the Marines had even made it back to their forward operating base, a grim and chilling story emerged of an intoxicated American fighting force brutally slaughtering civilians — children, women, and elderly men — at random in Shinwar.

    MARSOC, short for Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command, was the newest addition to US Special Operations Command in 2006. TF Violent, made up of 120 Marines from MARSOC’s Fox Company and helmed by Maj. Fred Galvin, would be sent overseas to Afghanistan the following year for its initial deployment.

    With operators drawn from the remnants of the Marine Corps’ Force Reconnaissance units, MARSOC boasted highly-trained asymmetric warfare specialists, capable of taking on and executing missions analogous to those carried out by the US Navy’s SEAL teams or the Army’s Special Forces.

    Just as Galvin and the platoon made it back to their post, tall tales abounded of American troops entering homes and shooting indiscriminately in a frenzied fury. Death tolls varied with some capping off at 19 or 20 civilians killed in cold blood by Marines.

    Russia says fighter intercepted U.S. surveillance planes over Black Sea
    MARSOC Marines operating in Farah Province, Afghanistan (Photo US Marine Corps)

    The situation rapidly disintegrated into a mess. Galvin was relieved of command and TF Violent was recalled to the United States. USSOCOM leadership, worried about another My Lai Massacre on its hands, went on record saying that there was nothing to support the veracity of TF Violent’s account of the ambush and attack.

    In essence, USSOCOM had just publicly admitted that one of its own had committed a major war crime before any form of investigation or inquiry had proven their guilt. Galvin and his fellow officers were relieved and shuffled around. The Marines of Violent were held in limbo, their futures uncertain. If found guilty, they would face dishonorable discharges and a lengthy incarceration at Fort Leavenworth’s military detention facility.

    In record time, negative press, including an article from the New York Times likening Shinwar to the infamous killings at Haditha, worsened matters for the shamed members of Violent. Public opinion slanted against all Americans present at Shinwar that fateful day.

    Then-Lieutenant General Frank Kearney, Deputy Commander of USSOCOM at the time, lashed out against TF Violent, taking legal actions against its members after determining that they apparently did not come under fire from enemy irregulars in Shinwar. Kearney would quickly be accused of unlawful command influence in his efforts to discredit TF Violent.

    However, in the following months, the prevailing story surrounding Shinwar began to crumble. Preliminary investigations convened by the military determined that the Marines of TF Violent used excessive force and appeared, at a first glance, to be very guilty of the war crimes they were accused of committing.

    Russia says fighter intercepted U.S. surveillance planes over Black Sea
    A MARSOC Critical Skills Operator waits in ambush with Afghan police and special forces while on patrol in Helmand Province (Photo from US Marine Corps)

    An ensuing NCIS investigation and a court of inquiry convened by none other than then-Lieutenant General, James Mattis, absolved the Marines of TF Violent of any wrongdoing. There was little evidence to support that they had carried out a massacre of the civilian populace. Conflicting accounts from Afghan locals in Shinwar derailed the narrative and Navy investigators determined that only a handful of military-aged males were killed. A woman and a young boy did sustain minor injuries, but none as horrible as stories coming out of Shinwar claimed. Nevertheless, the Marines of Violent and the United States were the subject of weighty condemnations by the Afghan government, the United Nations, and Amnesty International.

    Of the 120-strong complement of TF Violent, seven Marines, including Galvin, were singled out for charges and punishment, each due to their perceived role in what occurred in March 2007. Known as the MARSOC 7, these Marines were subject to threats, coercion, and even attempts at forced confessions through blackmail.

    But by 2008, the Marines of TF Violent were released of any suspicion and absolved of all wrongdoing. The crimes they were accused of simply did not hold any water. Even after being declared innocent, in the past decade, the MARSOC 7 have suffered considerably from the stigma of being falsely accused of war crimes.

    Unable to find jobs in the civilian world as a result of being labeled war criminals and faced with dead-end military careers, many were left to fend for themselves by a Corps that seemed to care more about its public image than its warfighters.

    Congressman Walter Jones of North Carolina has led a bipartisan effort to get these Marines a public apology and exoneration to once and for all put down the ghosts of Shinwar, so that the Marines can move on with their lives. Maj. Galvin, now retired after 30 years of service in the Corps, has been instrumental in getting the Pentagon to issue confirmation of Violent’s pardon.

    Russia says fighter intercepted U.S. surveillance planes over Black Sea
    Afghan police and army personnel patrolling Shinwar in 2017 (Photo US Army)

    To that end, the Pentagon quietly confirmed to Jones that Galvin and his men had been found to be fully in the right on that fateful March day in 2007, and had executed the mission to the best of their training. Even still, this confirmation seems to be far less than what the Marine Corps and the Pentagon could do to fully clear the names of these MARSOC Marines.

    Even with this latest move by the Pentagon, albeit a quiet and almost unnoticeable action, why was the Marine Corps so reticent about fixing the tarnished reputations of its most elite commandos?

    The answer may lie within the considerable friction between MARSOC and the Army-led Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force-Afghanistan (CJSOTF-A), its overseer during its initial deployment. According to a Marine Corps Times series on the Shinwar affair in 2015, TF Violent’s Marines were generally under-supplied and ill-prepared for the environment they were thrust into.

    While MARSOC Marines had to live a spartan lifestyle, feasting on packaged Meals Ready to Eat and going without replacement uniforms and gear, other special operations units operating under CJSOTF-A’s umbrella were provided with hot meals and well-stocked logistics and a supply chain.

    During the March 7 attack itself, CJSOTF-A officers were seemingly unconcerned that a MARSOC platoon had been hit by an IED and was taking heavy fire. Though it was later recommended that officers manning the CJSOTF-A’s command post be charged with dereliction of duty, they were left uncharged.

    Russia says fighter intercepted U.S. surveillance planes over Black Sea
    An Afghan soldier questions a driver at a checkpoint in Shinwar (Photo US Army)

    By the end of 2007, public opinion was firmly against the actions of TF Violent and the MARSOC 7 were faced with a worsening uphill battle, nearly impossible to win.

    In the wake of Shinwar, the higher echelons of MARSOC appeared to be concerned with petty issues surrounding Violent and Fox Company’s officer leadership. Some critics argue that the leaders of the fledgling special ops outfit were trying to save face.

    In doing so, they turned the MARSOC 7 and the Marines of TF Violent into scapegoats.

    Galvin and Jones have spearheaded an effort over the years to publicly restore the names of the Marines of Violent and, to that end, Jones has introduced a Congressional resolution that would permanently set the record straight on Shinwar and the actions of Fox Company’s warfighters.

    Between 2007 and the present day, MARSOC has evolved into a highly competent and effective special operations asset. Now referred to as the Raiders — a tribute to the Marines’ WWII-era unconventional warfare force — with their own special insignia, they undergo deployments around the world as directed by USSOCOM.

    Though the first of the new Raiders, Galvin and the MARSOC 7 have neither been awarded the title nor the insignia, largely due to the false allegations that just won’t go away.

    Officers from both MARSOC and CJSOTF-A who were involved in attempting to wring confessions out of the MARSOC 7 and discredit their actions were allowed to continue their careers with their respective branches with no mark or mention on their record noting their at-all-costs crusade against the Marines of TF Violent.

    While the Pentagon’s quiet confirmation of TF Violent’s innocence has been the most these Marines have had to alleviate some of the burden of the past ten years, there is still far more the Department of Defense and Marine Corps can do to right this wrong.

    It’s only a start.

    MIGHTY TRENDING

    Under the sea: Russia, China and American control of the waterways

    In the summer of 2007, in a bizarre incident shown live on Russian television, scientists accompanied by a couple of senior politicians descended 4,300 meters to the floor of the Arctic Ocean in two Mir mini submarines. Divers then planted a Russian flag on the seabed, and Russia officially notified the United Nations that it was claiming the ridge as part of its sovereign territory.

    In effect, the Chinese did the same kind of thing when they decided to start building islands in the South China Sea by dredging sand from the bottom of the ocean.

    In both cases, the countries were creating new sovereign territory.


    One implication of their declaration was that anyone traveling within the 12-mile limit defined by international law was traversing through their sovereign waters, and could only do so subject to their approval.

    Indeed, the Chinese take their claim so seriously that it even threatened that it “is not frightened to fight a war with the US in the region” to protect its sovereignty.

    Russia says fighter intercepted U.S. surveillance planes over Black Sea

    A Russian flag planted by from a submarine undersea at the North Pole.

    So the question is: why do American policymakers care about seemingly insignificant tracts of land so far away from America’s shores?

    International law and American concerns

    International law is pretty clear. You can’t declare any territory submerged under the sea outside the conventional 12-mile limit as your own, although you may have some privileges in the waters that lie immediately beyond it. You certainly can’t build up some land to above the waterline, thus creating an island, and call it part of your own territory. And in neither case can you legitimately control access by other vessels. Indeed, no international commission has upheld the Russian or Chinese claims. But that hasn’t stopped either the Chinese or the Russians from trying.

    Americans, however, are pretty emphatic when it comes to denying such claims have any legitimacy.

    In the Russian case, American policymakers were understandably caught off guard and bemused by this strange symbolic act.

    But, at the same time, American policymakers have a right to be worried. Climate change could vastly increase sea traffic through the Arctic Ocean. And the future implications of Russian control of these sea-lanes have lots of potential downsides, given recent friction over Ukraine and Syria.

    In the Chinese case, Americans were caught off guard and bemused when they shouldn’t have been.

    The Chinese have been making claims for a long time about their sovereignty over huge portions of both the East and South China Sea. But in this case, Americans are worried about what China’s control of these waterways might do now to these commercial shipping lanes. Every year an estimated 50% of the world’s total of commercial trade plus oil passes through the area.

    Global trade and American national security

    The question of why we do care isn’t as obvious as it may seem.

    America’s policymakers declare that the maintenance of global trade and commerce is in its national security interests. So America needs to keep these shipping lanes open to what they call “freedom of navigation.”

    What that means is that they can send an Aegis class destroyer (so this was a powerful ship, not the equivalent of a coast guards vessel) and sail it past the Subi Reef (think of an island so small it would drive you mad if it was deserted and you had to live on it alone). It’s the equivalent of a drive-by — just to send a message.

    Then you put the US secretary of defense on an aircraft carrier, the USS Roosevelt, and do it again — just to ensure that both the Chinese and America’s important regional allies understood the message:. “This isn’t your territory — and our mighty navy is not about to allow you to push us out.”

    You might understandably assume that the Chinese, with their huge volume of exports, would also want to maintain open seas. And that the Russians would want to ship oil and gas to keep their economy afloat by water. So there is nothing to worry about.

    But that’s where more modest concerns about global trade are replaced by those about deeper, hardcore national security interests. For Americans there is a difference between “our” open seas and “their” open seas.

    Freedom of navigation and American doctrine

    A central element of American national security doctrine is the notion of “Freedom of Navigation” or FON.

    In effect, we (Americans) assert our right to sail where we want, when we need to. Behind that, however, is the deeply embedded concept of “control of the commons..”

    Military historian Alfred Thayer Mahan popularized this idea over 130 years ago. He stressed the importance of America’s navy in ensuring the free flow of international trade. The seas were his “commons.”

    Russia says fighter intercepted U.S. surveillance planes over Black Sea

    Alfred Thayer Mahan 1840 – 1914.

    Mahan argued that the British Empire was able to retain its commercial and military advantage by ensuring its ships could go anywhere. And that it could deny anyone else from doing so, if needed, in times of war. The overriding lesson is that wars are not won on the land. They are won on the sea by denying your adversary access to resources.

    Today, Mahan’s work remains a core element of America’s military doctrine. It is taught to America’s naval officers at their major training academy where he himself once worked and where his work is still regarded as having biblical significance. But it no longer is just applied to commercial trade. It now is applied to the access of its military in all kinds of commons — in the air, on the sea, in space and even in cyberspace.

    So American policymakers become frustrated when they believe Chinese hackers spy on the US or they build islands because it demonstrates that the US can’t “control” that commons.

    The answering message is clear. As Ash Carter, the US Secretary of Defense, said in a speech about Russia “At sea, in the air, in space and in cyberspace, Russian actors have engaged in challenging activities.” Carter went on to make it clear that the US wouldn’t tolerate Russian efforts to control those domains. Responding to Chinese threats, he also clearly implied in the same speech that China’s continued activities could indeed lead to conflict.

    The importance of chokepoints

    But the sea remains the priority when it comes to controlling the commons.

    And Chinese sovereignty over the South China Sea offers the prospect that a key trading route located in a narrow strip of water between land masses either side, what they call a chokepoint could be closed by the Chinese, in the future, if not today.

    Russia says fighter intercepted U.S. surveillance planes over Black Sea

    (US Department of Defense)

    The Malacca Strait on the Western end of the South China Sea is one chokepoint — the immediate object of the US’ concern. The Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf, where much of the world’s oil passes through, is another. And, at least according to the US Congressional Research Service, the Arctic Ocean, where the Russian planted their flag, could become another.

    So this leaves the Americans with an abiding dilemma.

    They are saddled with a grand military doctrine built on the principle of keeping the globe’s key access points freely accessible to the US. The barely audible counterpart is that it should maintain a capacity to deny that access to any potential adversary in case of war. The doctrine, however, in practice can itself engender conflict — as we saw with the Chinese.

    America may have a much bigger military capacity and even newer technologies that allow it to fight conventional wars. But defending the open seaways is expensive and often counterproductive. The Chinese, for example, are the world’s largest importer of fossil fuels and China is far more dependent on foreign oil than the newly fossil fuel independent United States.

    So critics ask why the US is defending the Persian Gulf when the Chinese are the prime beneficiaries?

    The answer, it appears, has far more to do with military strategy than with global commerce.

    This article originally appeared on The Conversation. Follow @ConversationUK on Twitter.

    MIGHTY SPORTS

    US Air Force Thunderbirds will perform Super Bowl flyover

    The United States Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron Thunderbirds are scheduled to conduct a flyover during the national anthem performance at Super Bowl LIII, Feb. 3, 2019, over Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta.

    “Supporting this event is a tremendous honor for the team and the U.S. Air Force,” said Lt. Col. John Caldwell, Thunderbirds commander and leader. “We look forward to showcasing the pride, precision and professionalism of our nation’s 660,000 Total Force airmen to football fans around the world.”


    The Thunderbirds’ flyover, its first public event in 2019, will feature six F-16 Fighting Falcons, soaring over the Mercedes-Benz Stadium at the moment the final notes of The Star Spangled Banner are sung. They will take off for the Super Bowl LIII flyover from Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Marietta, Georgia.

    Super Bowl 51 2017 USAF Thunderbirds Flyby Compilation NRG Stadium Houston Texas

    www.youtube.com

    The Thunderbirds last flew over the Super Bowl in 2017 at the NRG Stadium, Houston.

    The Thunderbirds’ team is composed of eight pilots, four support officers, 120 enlisted airmen and three civilians serving in 28 Air Force job specialties. In 2019, the Thunderbirds are scheduled to perform at 65 air shows in 33 different locations all over the world.

    Since the unit’s inception in 1953, more than 300 million people in all 50 states and 60 countries have witnessed the distinctive red, white and blue jets in thousands of official aerial demonstrations.

    This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

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