Russia is building up strength near NATO's weak point - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia is building up strength near NATO’s weak point

In the months leading up to the summit between Russian President Vladimir Putin and President Donald Trump in Finland, Moscow appears to have ramped up activity in its Baltic exclave of Kaliningrad.

Satellite imagery gathered by Planet Labs and reported by Defense One shows activity around bunkers in Baltiysk, a town that hosts a major Russian port and two air bases.

Between March and June 2018, “the visible change … appears to be the fortification of buildings, characteristic of explosive storage bunkers, utilizing earthen berms to further insulate these structures,” Matt Hall, a senior geospatial analyst at 3Gimbals, told Defense One.


Hall said other structures shown in the images appeared to have been reinforced over that period. Activity in a forested area was partially obscured by foliage, but there appeared to be more structures among the trees, some covered and some uncovered with different levels of fortification.

Russia is building up strength near NATO’s weak point

Aerial photo of Baltiysk

“In this area some of the structures have changed, potentially showing roofing structures or tarps that have since been removed to reveal caches of items,” Hall said. “Additionally, there appear to be new or redistributed items — potentially identifiable as shipping containers.” Hall also told Defense One a railroad line was visible in the photos.

Kaliningrad — 86 square miles of land bordered by Poland and Lithuania — was an important asset to the Soviet Union, and military activity there has grown amid Russia’s recent military buildup. It also hosts Russia’s Baltic Fleet and its 11th Army Corps.

Russian weapons in Kaliningrad have been a point of contention with NATO. In late 2016, Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite said the transfer of nuclear-capable Iskander missiles to the exclave “means an aggressive, open demonstration of power and aggression against not the Baltic states but against European capitals.”

Iskander missiles have a range of about 310 miles and in the past were stationed in Kaliningrad on a temporary basis. But in February 2018, Grybauskaite said Russia had deployed more of the missiles there “for permanent presence.”

The head of Russian parliament’s defense committee confirmed that deployment, saying it was a response to NATO’s buildup in Eastern Europe. A Kremlin spokesman said at the time that Russia had the “sovereign right” to station military forces on its territory.

Russia is building up strength near NATO’s weak point

(Russian Defense Ministry)

Satellite imagery of another area within Kaliningrad showed renovations of what appeared to be an active nuclear weapons storage site, according to a June 2018 report by the Federation of American Scientists.

Images “show one of three underground bunkers near Kulikovo being excavated in 2016, apparently renovated, and getting covered up again in 2018 presumably to return operational status soon,” the report said.

The imagery provided few conclusive details, but “features of the site suggest it could potentially serve Russian Air Force or Navy dual-capable forces,” the report said. “But it could also be a joint site, potentially servicing nuclear warheads for both Air Force, Navy, Army, air-defense, and coastal defense forces in the region.”

The missiles deployed to Kaliningrad have raised concern about threats to Western Europe, but the exclave also positions Russian forces near the Suwalki Gap, a weak point in the NATO alliance, according to a recent report from the Center for European Analysis, coauthored by retired Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, who was head of US Army Europe.

The gap, stretching between eastern Kaliningrad and western Belarus, is the only land connection between NATO and its three Baltic member states: Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia.

“The Suwałki Corridor is where the many weaknesses in NATO’s strategy and force posture converge,” the report says.

“If Russia attempted to establish control over the Suwałki region, or even threatened the free movement of NATO personnel and equipment from within the borders of Kaliningrad and Belarus, it could cut the Baltic states off from the rest of the Alliance” and hinder reinforcement efforts. NATO forces did exercises focused mobility and interoperability in the Suwalki region early 2018

Russia is building up strength near NATO’s weak point

Suwalki Gap crossing

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Kevin Wang)

A dispute over the gap “could escalate with alarming speed,” the report says, though Hodges believes a Cold War-style Russian ground invasion is unlikely.

“I don’t think that Russia intends to invade Europe as though its 1991. They don’t have the capacity to do that anymore,” he told Defense One.

Moscow may instead look to use a crisis in the area to undermine NATO by showing it was unable to response effectively, or at all, to a threat.


“If you accept that premise, that they might do a limited attack to demonstrate that NATO cannot protect its members,” he told Defense One. “That would create a problem.”

Russia is believed to have a substantial military force stationed along NATO’s eastern border, and its ability to deploy it quickly could make it harder for Western forces to distinguish between a military exercise and an actual military operation.

During the Zapad war games in 2013 and 2017, Russian troops simulated advances on the gap, cutting off the Baltic states from the rest of Europe. There has also been an increase in close encounters between NATO and Russian aircraft in the skies over the Baltics.

In the years since Russia’s 2014 incursion in Ukraine, Baltic countries have warned about possible aggression against them.

In 2017, Lithuania said it worried Russia was laying the groundwork for “kinetic operations” through propaganda and misinformation — a manner similar to what preceded Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

Lithuania, which is under pressure from Moscow to allow a permanent Russian-controlled transit corridor to Kaliningrad, has also called for a permanent US troop presence on its soil and started building a fence along its border with Kaliningrad.

The CEPA report lays out several scenarios through which Russia could provoke a crisis to justify action against Suwalki, using disinformation and hybrid-warfare techniques to deflect blame and confuse observers.

“If [Russian forces] ever tried anything, they would do it asymmetrically so that they could achieve whatever they wanted to achieve before the alliance caught on,” Hodges told Defense One.T

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Trump slaps North Korea with new sanctions over human-rights abuses

The Treasury Department issued fresh sanctions against North Korea Oct. 26, following a new State Department report on human rights abuses by Kim Jong Un’s regime.


The sanctions against seven individuals and three entities, including the North Korean government, freeze any property within US jurisdiction and prohibit any transactions by US citizens with those targeted.

The sanctioned entities include the Workers’ Party of Korea.

Russia is building up strength near NATO’s weak point
Despite the extreme secrecy within the belligerent state, North Korean human rights abuses find their way into the light. Photo from Flickr user Roman Harak.

“North Korea is run by a brutal regime that continues to engage in serious human rights abuses,” said Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin. “We are especially concerned with the North Korean military, which operates as secret police, punishing all forms of dissent. Further, the military operates outside of North Korea to hunt down asylum seekers, and brutally detains and forcibly returns North Korean citizens.”

The action comes about one week before President Trump embarks on his first trip to Asia, where he will visit Japan, South Korea, and China to hold discussions on curbing North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile programs.

Mr. Mnuchin said the sanctions “target the North Korean military and regime officials engaged in flagrant abuses of human rights.”

“We also are targeting North Korean financial facilitators who attempt to keep the regime afloat with foreign currency earned through forced labor operations,” he said.

Russia is building up strength near NATO’s weak point
Photo released by the Korean Central News Agency

In September, the Treasury Department leveled sanctions against eight North Korean banks and 26 people linked to the country’s financial networks, seeking to curb Pyongyang’s belligerence.

The Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control said the new sanctions are aimed at North Korea’s Military Security Command and two of its top officials, Jo Kyong-Chol and Sin Yong Il, and Ri Thae Chol, the country’s first vice minister of the Ministry of People’s Security.

Also sanctioned are Ku Sung Sop, the consul general in Shenyang, China, and Kim Min Chol, an official in the North Korean Embassy in Vietnam.

MIGHTY MOVIES

6 more comic book creators who served their country

If there’s any single artistic medium that draws in a remarkable amount of veterans, it’s comic books. Oftentimes, it takes the mind of someone who has served in the military to create a truly believable, relatable superhero.

It’s widely known that many of the godfathers of the comic book industry served in the U.S. military. Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and Syd Shores, for example, all fought in the Western Front in WWII. But many of the other writers and artists served, too — like these 6 creative minds.


Russia is building up strength near NATO’s weak point

(Courtesy Photo)

Jim Starlin — Navy

Many of Marvel’s space-themed comics come from the mind of Vietnam War photographer and Navy veteran Jim Starlin. After returning home to Detroit, he initially made a living working on cars. Eventually, he broke into the comic book industry with many originals and revisions to existing cosmic characters.

Drax the Destroyer, Gamora, and even Thanos were all co-created by him. The Marvel Cinematic Universe’s ultimate MacGuffins, the Infinity Stones, and the much of the basis for the latest blockbuster, Avengers: Infinity War, come from Starlin’s storylines.

Russia is building up strength near NATO’s weak point

Humbly enough, she never wrote herself into a comic… even though she kinda earned it.

(Courtesy Photo)

Alice Marble — OSS

Before becoming one of the first women to play a prominent role in comic books, Alice Marble lived an insane life. Not only was she a world-class tennis player but, during World War II, she served as a spy for the American government. She recovered from being shot in the back by a German agent and started to share her life through the adventures of Wonder Woman.

She served as the associate editor for Wonder Woman and was the creator of the Wonder Women of History strips. These shorts were page-long bookends attached to the end of each Wonder Woman issue that showcased the badassery of one woman per issue.

Russia is building up strength near NATO’s weak point

He’s also responsible for making superheroes jacked as hell under their spandex.

(Photo by Alan Light)

Curt Swan — Army

DC’s most respected artist of the Silver Age served in the Minnesota National Guard during WWII. Curt Swan was activated and deployed to Europe when his peers discovered his amazing gift for drawing. He was immediately reassigned by his superiors to make comics for Stars and Stripes.

After falling in love with a Red Cross worker (who he would eventually marry), Swan got a job at DC Comics, drawing Superman from 1948 until 1986. His ability to convey frenetic superpowers in print, like the iconic wooshings that show speed or the powerful impact bubbles that denote heavy punches, was heavily imitated.

Russia is building up strength near NATO’s weak point

He worked on ‘The ‘Nam’ with the next entry on this list…

(Marvel.com)

Doug Murray — Army

Doug Murray served in Vietnam and later crafted what is considered one of the truest depictions of the war through his series, The ‘Nam. Remarkably, Murray was clever enough to stay true to the horrors and ugly sides of war while also keeping the Comics Code Authority happy.

The ‘Nam wasn’t pretty and touched on many horrific truths of war, but it cleverly hid its punches to get approved for publication. Outside of The ‘Nam, Murray also wrote the Weapon X series, which gave Wolverine his definitive backstory.

Russia is building up strength near NATO’s weak point

The ‘G.I. Joe’ character Tunnel Rat is entirely based on him and his life.

(Courtesy Photo)

Larry Hama — Army

After fighting in Vietnam as a combat engineer and “tunnel rat,” Larry Hama began a career in acting before coming back to his childhood passion, comic books.

Not only did he work on The Warlord, Wonder Woman, and Batman for DC, but he earned his place as one of the Marvel greats when he took over the G.I. Joe comics and turned it into the deep franchise fans love today instead of just a line of generic military toys. He also co-created The ‘Nam, Wolverine, Punisher: War Zone, and Venom.

Russia is building up strength near NATO’s weak point

Sgt. Rock’s service number was Kanigher’s in real life.

(DC Comics)

Bob Kanigher — Army

There was a drastic dip in comic book popularity in the 1950s that nearly destroyed the industry. Only kids and troops read comics — and kids started losing interest. The day was saved when an Army veteran by the name of Robert Kanigher burst onto the scene.

He took over Wonder Woman after William Moulton Marston’s death and ushered in the Silver Age of Comics. His works include nearly everything in DC that wasn’t created during the Golden Age. His artistic baby, however, is one of the military and veteran community’s favorite comics, Sgt. Rock.

Articles

This was the final farewell of a heroic Marine military dog

US military hero dog “Cena,” a 9-year-old Black Labrador who served as a bomb detection dog in Afghanistan and saved the lives of his handler and uncounted other American warriors, ended his service July 26 after a battle he could not win with bone cancer.


Cena died peacefully in the arms of his battle buddy, former Marine Corps Cpl. Jeff DeYoung, in their hometown of Muskegon, Michigan.

The two first met during Improvised Detection Dog training in Virginia in July 2009. They were deployed to Afghanistan later that year and during their service together, the two were part of Operation Moshtarak in February 2010 that was the largest joint operation up to that point.

DeYoung and Cena typically led the way as U.S. troops trudged through the rugged and treacherous sandscapes of Afghanistan. Cena was trained to detect more than 300 different types of explosives and if he smelled something suspicious on patrol he alerted DeYoung, who would then call in an explosives technician to safely remove or detonate the bomb.

Cena and DeYoung ate together, slept together, and fought together, forging a deep bond between them.

“Once I laid down on top of him to protect him from gunfire,” said DeYoung. “I carried him through a freezing cold, flooded river on my shoulders.”

Russia is building up strength near NATO’s weak point
Cena and Corporal DeYoung (Photo from American Humane via NewsEdge) 

DeYoung’s protectiveness of Cena was repaid many times over. Each military dog is estimated to save the lives of between 150-200 servicemen and women during the course of their career, and one of those lives was DeYoung’s. Suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress and the recent loss of several close comrades in combat, DeYoung tried to take his own life. But Cena intervened and saved his comrade from committing suicide.

Despite their seemingly unbreakable bond, DeYoung and Cena were separated unceremoniously without even the chance for a goodbye when DeYoung left military service and Cena continued working through three deployments. For four years, DeYoung suffered nightmares and flashbacks, missing Cena every single day.

Finally, when Cena was retired for a hip injury, the two were brought back together in an emotional reunion made possible with the help of American Humane, the country’s first national humane organization, which has also been working to support the U.S. military, veterans, and military animals for more than 100 years.

The reunion in 2014 was covered by media across the nation and Jeff and Cena’s story has been carried in hundreds of countries around the globe.

Russia is building up strength near NATO’s weak point
Photo by Capt. Allie Payne

Since then, DeYoung and Cena have served as military ambassadors for American Humane, traveling around the country to raise awareness about the importance of reuniting service dogs with their handlers, and how the dogs can improve and save the lives of veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress.

“Military Working Dog Cena is a true American hero and an inspiring testament to the life-changing power of the human-animal bond,” said Dr. Robin Ganzert, president and CEO of American Humane. “He will be greatly missed by all those who knew and who owe their lives to him. His work and his example will live on in the memories of all who knew him and were touched by his story.”

Cena was family to me,” said DeYoung. “It’s always been him and me against the world, and losing him has devastated me to my core. Goodbye, my most faithful friend. I will never forget you.”

 

MIGHTY MOVIES

The ‘Jack Ryan’ season 2 teaser promises a LOT of action

The Emmy nominated Amazon series ‘Jack Ryan’ returns August 31 with season two and the official teaser trailer is here to get you amped.

“After tracking a potentially suspicious shipment of illegal arms in the Venezuelan jungle, CIA Officer Jack Ryan heads down to South America to investigate. As Jack’s investigation threatens to uncover a far-reaching conspiracy, the President of Venezuela launches a counter-attack that hits home for Jack, leading him and his fellow operatives on a global mission spanning the United States, UK, Russia, and Venezuela to unravel the President’s nefarious plot and bring stability to a country on the brink of chaos.”

The stakes and stunts look much higher for Ryan, with roof jumps, IEDs, hand-to-hand combat, and of course, an enemy to outsmart.


Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan Season 2 – Official Teaser | Prime Video

www.youtube.com

[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/B0WIIVxAHwN/ expand=1]Jack Ryan on Instagram: “Go inside the anatomy of a #JackRyan fight scene with @amazonprimevideo X-Ray.”

www.instagram.com

Creators Carlton Cuse (Lost, Bates Motel) and Graham Roland (also a writer and Marine) came up with their own story for this version of the ‘Jack Ryan’ story, keeping it modern just as Tom Clancy, the author of the books upon which the show is created, is celebrated for.

“They were geopolitical thrillers of the moment,” Cuse told IndieWire. “When we started writing [our own story], we felt like telling a terrorist story was the right thing to do. There was probably no great existential crisis that the world was facing out there than terrorism, at that moment in time.”

[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/Bxz85ZlHEeT/ expand=1]John Krasinski on Instagram: “TheMurphChallenge.com Memorial Day is coming up. No matter where you are or what you’re doing, please take a moment out of your day Monday…”

www.instagram.com

John Krasinski, who plays the titular lead, is by now no stranger to military and law enforcement roles. His portrayal of ‘Jack Silva’ in 13 Hours elevated him out of The Office and into a uniform. His respect for the military has extended beyond the roles he plays.

Articles

The Air Force is looking for more pilots to fly like the Russians and Chinese

Air-to-air dogfights have been lacking in recent years.


In one sense it is a good thing – it means the United States has been able to take control of the air very quickly. But American pilots still need to be able to practice – and not everyone can get to Red Flag or the Navy’s equivalents.

Recently the Air Force has been using Northrop T-38 Talons to help alleviate the problem. The T-38 Talon is a supersonic trainer that served as the basis for the F-5 “Freedom Fighter” and the F-5E/F Tiger. The F-5s were light, day-time fighters that were very maneuverable, and they have served as Navy and Marine Corps aggressors for the long time.

The Air Force has been using T-38s to supplement F-16s at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada and at Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska.

Russia is building up strength near NATO’s weak point
A T-38 Talon participates in the 2004 Lackland Airfest. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Lance Cheung)

Aggressor training, developed after the Ault Report showed shortcomings in naval aviation, has helped keep American airmen good, and emerged in the late stages of the Vietnam War. The famous “Top Gun” school, in particular, had a marked effect, sending kill ratios skyrocketing to over 13:1.

Many of the aggressor pilots are currently members of the military, but according to a report by Aviation Week and Space Technology, that is changing as the Air Force seeks to hire contractors. Part of the reason has been an ongoing pilot shortage.

Russia is building up strength near NATO’s weak point
An air-to-air right side view of an F-21A Kfir (young lion) aircraft. The Israeli-built delta-wing tactical fighter was used as part of the Navy’s aggressor training. (US Navy photo)

The other reason is that some of the private companies can offer planes beyond the T-38 for these missions. A 2016 report from DefenseOne.com noted that one company has a mix of F-21 Kfirs, A-4 Skyhawks, Hawker Hunters, and L-39 Albatross jets. Among the companies getting into the mix is Textron, which makes the Textron AirLand Scorpion.

The final reason. though, maybe the most important.

That is because turning the aggressor training over to contractors could make them even tougher opponents for Air Force and Navy pilots. While many an Air Force pilot has non-flying billets at various points in their career, contractors will be able to just keep flying and dogfighting. This will make the military pilots they face off against sweat more, but it may prove the wisdom behind one old saying: The more you sweat in training, the less you bleed in war.

Humor

11 hilarious Marine memes that are freaking spot on

Marine humor is super dark and most people outside of our community will never understand it.


But it’s all good — so long as we’ve got these memes, we know we’re not alone.

Related: 9 military photos that will make you do a double take

1. Maybe this is why Marines are so obsessed with pull-ups (via Marine Corps Memes).

Russia is building up strength near NATO’s weak point
And faster than a speeding bullet.

2. They must have been a 0311 Marine. But still saltier than a staff sergeant…

Russia is building up strength near NATO’s weak point
And still gets more respect than any POG… ever.

3. When you’re so excited that you forget how to speak proper English.

Russia is building up strength near NATO’s weak point
Yeah, what he said.

4. The main difference between a Marine and an Airman (via Pop Smoke).

Russia is building up strength near NATO’s weak point
Killers vs. paper pushers.

Don’t Forget About: 11 memes that are way too real for every Corpsman

5. I can no longer see these rhyming pairs without hearing Taylor Swift… (via Military Memes).

Russia is building up strength near NATO’s weak point
It’s all fun and games until gunny finds you skating this hard.

6. It’s the one injury prevention tip that isn’t endorsed by the safety NCO (via Military Memes).

Russia is building up strength near NATO’s weak point
But hey, as long as that PFC lifts with his legs, he’ll probably be fine.

7. Becoming a Marine means you change forever.

Russia is building up strength near NATO’s weak point
F*ck yeah, the change is forever! Semper Fi!

8. The Marine Corps Fashion show is very hit or miss.

Russia is building up strength near NATO’s weak point
But you know you still want to bang one of them.

Also Read: 12 intense photos of the Army’s grueling sniper school

9. Don’t complain, boot.

Russia is building up strength near NATO’s weak point
It’s better than using your toothbrush.

10. The legend has finally been proven.

Russia is building up strength near NATO’s weak point
We never doubted it. We swear we didn’t.

11. Sgt. Pennywise was just named recruiter of the year. True story.

Russia is building up strength near NATO’s weak point
Even his nameplate says Pennywise. That’s freakin’ classic!

Articles

SEAL Team 6 vet agrees to pay feds profit from bin Laden raid book

Russia is building up strength near NATO’s weak point


After a four-year legal battle, Matthew Bissonnette, a former member of the elite SEAL Team 6 who participated in the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, has agreed to forfeit to the Justice Department all of the proceeds from “No Easy Day,” his first-person account of the raid written under the pen name “Mark Owen.”

“I acted on the advice of my former attorney, but I now fully recognize that his advice was wrong,” Bissonnette wrote in a formal apology, as reported by NPR. “It was a serious error that I urge others not to repeat.”

“No Easy Day,” co-written by military journalist Kevin Maurer, was the first public account from someone who actually participated in the high-profile raid to kill the al Qaeda leader. That impact was enhanced by the fact that not only did it deal with the killing of the terrorist mastermind, but it was written by a member of SEAL Team 6, the one of the nation’s top special operations units whose methods and techniques are highly classified and seldom written about.

The book was a bestseller, and that as much as anything is what got the author in trouble with the Pentagon. Officials claimed that Bissonnette had violated a non-disclosure agreement he’d signed as a Navy commando and also failed to have the book’s manuscript reviewed by proper authorities before it was published.

“Ironically, Matt didn’t want the book to be about him,” co-author Maurer said in an exclusive interview with WATM. “He always intended for it to be a tribute to his teammates and one that would allow readers to truly understand what SEALs do. It was also supposed to be a nod to the CIA, helicopter pilots, and Rangers — all the elements of these sorts of missions.”

Russia is building up strength near NATO’s weak point

Maurer, who sat down with Bissonnette in Virginia Beach five days a week for a month recording the story before writing it out, said the former SEAL was focused on security.

“He was never cavalier about the details,” Maurer said. “We talked a lot about things we weren’t going to include. It was a conscious decision.”

After experiencing firsthand the hew and cry from veterans — as well as members of the special operations community displeased that one of their own had broken ranks by socializing their tactical world on a grand scale — Maurer said he understood the Justice Department ruling. But he added that “the real travesty is that the money [estimated at more that $6 million according to court documents, as reported by NPR] is now going to the government instead of veteran charities as Matt had always intended.”

Bissonnette’s current lawyer, Robert Luskin, hinted that his client had been made a scapegoat by government officials embarrassed by the information that has come out about the bin Laden raid and other operations in the wake of “No Easy Day” landing on shelves.

“The government has a right to keep its secrets and to enforce procedures that are designed to protect them from inadvertent disclosure,” Luskin said in a statement. “But it is shameful that — of all the people who leaked, talked, whispered and backgrounded about the mission — Matt Bissonnette, who risked his life to make it a success, is the only one to pay a price.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

How Chinese drones are set to swarm the global market

China showed off some of its latest drone models and projects at this year’s Dubai Airshow and it looks like many spectators were interested.


China has seen a dramatic increase in the amount of drones it has sold to foreign countries in recent years, and that could be a troubling development for the United States.

The global military drone market has been dominated by the US. American-made models like the MQ-1 Predator, the MQ-9 Reaper, and the RQ-4 Global Hawk have been deployed around the world in a number of countries.

In large part, China poses a threat to America’s dominance in the drone industry for its ability to make more products that are, at the very least, just as good if not better than the competition, but at a lower price.

Russia is building up strength near NATO’s weak point
China shows off its newest drone in a Youtube video. (Image YouTube screengrab)

China is building impressive and inexpensive drones

The most well-known and used Chinese drones are the CH-3, CH-4, CH-5, and the Wing Loong.

The CH-3 and CH-4 propeller-driven drones are essentially Chinese versions of the Predator and Reaper, respectively, and have similar capabilities. The CH-5 has a current range of 4400 miles over 60 hours, and a planned upgrade that will bring it up to 12,000 miles over 120 hours.

The CH-5 also has a 2,000 pound payload, and the capability to house electronic warfare systems inside it.

Russia is building up strength near NATO’s weak point
China’s Wing Loong. China shows off its newest drone in a Youtube video. (Image YouTube screengrab)

The CH-3 and CH-4 have price tags around $4 million, whereas the Predator and Reaper can cost $4 million and $20 million respectively. The Wing Loong, another Chinese counterpart to the Predator, is priced even lower, at just $1 million. Even the CH-5, which is currently China’s deadliest drone in service, costs “less than half the price” of a Predator.

The prices are so low in part because the Chinese drones are not as sophisticated as their American counterparts. The Chinese drones are not satellite-linked, for example, meaning they cannot conduct operations across the globe the way Predators and Reapers can.

The Chinese drones are still very capable — all are sold with the ability to carry large amounts of ordinance, and many nations have decided to turn to them in order to fill in the gap left by the US.

The US has restrictive regulations and policies

Russia is building up strength near NATO’s weak point
China shows off its newest drone in a Youtube video. (Image YouTube screengrab)

Lower prices, however, may not the only reason behind China’s increased drone sales.

A large part of China’s increased market share looks is linked to regulations and policies that have been in place in the Unites States for years.

In 1987, the US signed the Missile Technology Control Regime, a voluntary pact of 35 nations aimed at preventing the mass proliferation of missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles by requiring them to have heavy regulations and tight export controls.

Currently, under the agreement, drones that can fly over 185 miles and carry a payload above 1,100 pounds are defined as cruise missiles. The Predator and the Reaper, both of which can carry payloads of 3,000 pounds or more, are thus subject to these regulations and controls.

The US has been hesitant to sell drones with lethal capabilities to other countries — especially in the Middle East, because of a fear that they could potentially end up in the wrong hands, and challenge Israel’s dominance in the region.

In fact, the only nation apart from the US that uses armed American-made drones is the United Kingdom.

China, on the other hand, is not constrained by the Missile Technology Control Regime because it never signed it. This means that its products are not under the intense regulation and controls that American drones are.

Russia is building up strength near NATO’s weak point
China shows off its newest drone in a Youtube video. (Image YouTube screengrab)

Additionally, China has traditionally not been as cautious as the the US about selling weaponry and equipment to countries known for human rights violations or in volatile regions and has sold drones to many nations.

In Central Asia, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan have purchased a number of Wing Loongs, and Turkmenistan operates the CH-3. In Africa, Nigeria has used CH-3 drones against Boko Haram. Pakistan and Myanmar both operate CH-3’s as well.

By far though, the biggest market is the Middle East.

In 2015, desperate in its fight to counter ISIS gains, Iraq bought a number of CH-4s. After giving up on buying drones from the US, Saudi Arabia and the UAE turned to China and are using CH-4s and Wing Loongs in their campaign against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Jordan and Egypt have purchased Chinese drones as well.

China is even willing to set up factories overseas, which could bypass export restrictions entirely.

China’s future drone projects are even more impressive

Russia is building up strength near NATO’s weak point
China’s Cloud Shadow (Image Kevin Wong @defencetechasia Twitter screengrab)

Last year, at the Zhuhai 2016 Airshow, the public was able to get a glance at some of the newest drones China plans to build and export. Among those was the Cloud Shadow, a semi-stealth drone with six hardpoints capable of carrying up to 800 pounds of ordinance.

There was also the CH-805, and concept CK-20 stealth target drones, which are designed to help train pilots and test air defenses.

Finally, there was the SW-6, a small “marsupial” drone with folding wings capable of being dropped from larger aircraft. Its intended mission is to conduct reconnaissance, but it is considered a prime candidate for China’s drone “swarm” project; dozens, potentially hundreds of small drones linked together in a hive mind and capable of swarming and overwhelming targets.

China has also just successfully shattered the record for the highest flying drone. Previously held by the US RQ-4 Global Hawk, the bat-sized drone was able to fly at a staggering 82,000 feet- 22,000 feet higher than the Global Hawk.

Also Read: This is what China plans to do with its air force of the future

Though the drone did not have a camera or any weapons, it did carry a terrain mapping device and a detector that would allow it to locate and mark ground troops, and was virtually undetectable.

In addition to all this, China is also looking to increase its satellite capabilities, something that could make China’s drones just as advanced as their US counterparts.

In an attempt to combat the loss in sales, the Trump administration, which has not been subtle in its hopes to get foreign countries to buy more American-made defense products, is trying to ease restrictions on the sale of American-made drones.

This includes things like renegotiating the Missile Technology Control Regime, and allowing a number of countries that are not deemed risky to be able to get fast tracked orders.

Russia is building up strength near NATO’s weak point
China shows off its newest drone in a Youtube video. (Image YouTube screengrab)

Though probably interpreted as a way to help the defense industry make more profits, there is actually some logic behind the push. The more China sells drones to countries that are US partners, the more they will become reliant and closer on China.

“It damages the US relationship with a close partner,” Paul Scharre, a Senior Fellow and Director at the nonpartisan Center for a New American Security told the Wall Street Journal. “It increases that partner’s relationship with a competitor nation, China. It hurts US companies trying to compete.”

For now, Israel dominates the military drone market, with 60% of international drone transfers in the past three decades coming from the small nation.

However, China sellls far more armed drones, and is gaining momentum on overall drone sales as well. If current trends continue, China could profit immensely in a market that could be worth $22 billion by 2022.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Navy will test its newest carrier with underwater explosions

The US Navy is planning to finalize weapons integration on its new USS Ford carrier and explode bombs in various sea conditions near the ship to prepare for major combat on the open seas, service officials said.

Service weapons testers will detonate a wide range of bombs, to include a variety of underwater sea mines to assess the carrier’s ability to withstand enemy attacks. “Shock Trials,” as they are called, are typically one of the final stages in the Navy process designed to bring warships from development to operational deployment.


“The USS Gerald R. Ford will conduct further trails and testing, culminating in full-ship shock trials. The ship will then work up for deployment in parallel with its initial operational testing and evaluation,” William Couch, an official with Naval Sea Systems Command, told Warrior Maven.

Testing how the carrier can hold up to massive nearby explosions will follow what’s called a Post Shakedown Availability involving a final integration of various combat systems.

“The Post Shakedown Availability is planned for 12 months, with the critical path being Advanced Weapons Elevator construction and Advanced Arresting Gear water twister upgrades,” Couch added.

The Navy’s decision to have shock trials for its first Ford-Class carrier, scheduled for deployment in 2022, seems to be of particular relevance in today’s modern threat environment. In a manner far more threatening than most previously known threats to Navy aircraft carriers, potential adversaries have in recent years been designing and testing weapons specifically engineered to destroy US carriers.

Russia is building up strength near NATO’s weak point
USS Gerald R. Ford
(U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Christopher Delano)

One such threat is the Chinese built DF-21D “carrier killer” anti-ship missile. This weapon, now actively being developed and tested by the Chinese military, can reportedly hit moving carriers at ranges up to 900 nautical miles.

Accordingly, unlike the last 15 years of major US military counterinsurgency operations where carriers operated largely uncontested, potential future conflict will likely require much more advanced carrier defenses, service developers have explained.

A 2007 Department of Defense-directed Shock Trials analysis by the non-profit MITRE corporation explains that many of the expected or most probable threats to warships come from “non-contact explosions where a high-pressure wave is launched toward the ship.”

MITRE’s report, interestingly, also identifies the inspiration for Shock Trials as one originating from World War II.

“During World War II, it was discovered that although such “near miss” explosions do not cause serious hull or superstructure damage, the shock and vibrations associated with the blast nonetheless incapacitate the ship, by knocking out critical components and systems,” the MITRE assessment, called “Navy Ship Underwater Shock Prediction and Testing Capability Study” states.

The MITRE analysis further specifies that, following a nearby explosion, the bulkhead of a ship can oscillate, causing the ship to move upward.

“Strong localized deformations are seen in the deck modes, which different parts of the decks moving at different frequencies from each other,” MITRE writes.

The existence and timing of USS Ford Shock Trials has been the focus of much consideration. Given that post Shock Trial evaluations and damage assessments can result in a need to make modifications to the ship, some Navy developers wanted to save Shock Trials for the second Ford-class carrier, the USS Kennedy. The rationale, according to multiple reports, was to ensure the anticipated USS Ford deployment time frame was not delayed.

Russia is building up strength near NATO’s weak point
Gerald R. Ford on the James River
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Cathrine Mae O. Campbell)

However, a directive from Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shannahan, following input from the Senate Armed Services Committee, ensured that shock trials will occur on schedule for the USS Ford.

Data analysis following shock trials has, over the years, shown that even small ship component failures can have large consequences.

“A component shock-qualification procedure which ensures the survivability of 99% of the critical components still is not good enough to ensure a ship’s continued operational capability in the aftermath of a nearby underwater explosion,” MITRE writes.

Also, given that the USS Ford is introducing a range of as-of-yet unprecedented carrier-technologies, testing the impact of nearby attacks on the ship may be of greater significance than previous shock trials conducted for other ships.

For instance, Ford-class carriers are built with a larger flight deck able to increase the sortie-generation rate by 33-percent, an electromagnetic catapult to replace the current steam system and much greater levels of automation or computer controls throughout the ship. The ship is also engineered to accommodate new sensors, software, weapons and combat systems as they emerge, Navy officials have said.

The USS Ford is built with four 26-megawatt generators, bringing a total of 104 megawatts to the ship. This helps support the ship’s developing systems such as its Electro-Magnetic Aircraft Launch System, or EMALS, and provides power for future systems such as lasers and rail-guns, many Navy senior leaders have explained.

In addition, stealth fighter jets, carrier-launched drones, V-22 Ospreys, submarine-detecting helicopters, laser weapons, and electronic jamming are all deemed indispensable to the Navy’s now unfolding future vision of carrier-based air power, senior service leaders said.

Several years ago, the Navy announced that the V-22 Osprey will be taking on the Carrier On-Board Delivery mission wherein it will carry forces and equipment on and off carriers while at sea.

Russia is building up strength near NATO’s weak point
V-22 Osprey

However, despite the emergence of weapons such as DF-21D, senior Navy leaders and some analysts have questioned the ability of the weapon like this to actually hit and destroy carriers on the move at 30-knots from 1,000 miles away.

Targeting, guidance on the move, fire control, ISR, and other assets are necessary for these kinds of weapons to function as advertised. GPS, inertial measurement units, advanced sensors and dual-mode seekers are part of a handful of fast-developing technologies able to address some of these challenges, yet it does not seem clear that long-range anti-ship missiles such as the DF-21D will actually be able to destroy carriers on the move at the described distances.

Furthermore, the Navy is rapidly advancing ship-based defensive weapons, electronic warfare applications, lasers, and technologies able to identify and destroy approaching anti-ship cruise missile from ranges beyond the horizon. One such example of this includes the now-deployed Naval Integrated Fire Control – Counter Air system, or NIFC-CA. This technology, which travels in carrier-strike groups, combines ship-based radar and fire control systems with an aerial sensor and dual-mode SM-6 missile to track and destroy approaching threats from beyond-the-horizon.

The Navy is also developing a new carrier-launched tanker, called the MQ-25A Stingray, to extend the combat range of key carrier air-wing assets such as F/A-18 Super Hornets and F-35C Joint Strike Fighters. The range or combat radius of carrier-based fighter jets, therefore, is fundamental to this equation. If an F-35C or F/A-18 can, for instance, only travel roughly 500 or 600 miles to attack an inland enemy target such as air-defenses, installations, and infrastructure – how can it effectively project power if threats force it to operate 1,000-miles off shore?

Therein lies the challenge and the requisite need for a drone tanker able to refuel these carrier-launched aircraft mid-flight, giving them endurance sufficient to attack from longer distances.

As for a maiden deployment of the USS Ford slated for 2022, Navy officials tell Warrior Maven the ship will likely be sent to wherever it may most be in need, such as the Middle East or Pacific.

This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.

MIGHTY MOVIES

4 reasons why ‘Black Hawk Down’ should have been about Hoot

In 1993, U.S. forces consisting of Army Rangers and Delta Force commandos stormed into Mogadishu, Somalia, to capture warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid and key members of his militia.


During the raid, two UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters were shot down, 18 Americans were killed, and 73 were wounded.

Director Ridley Scott brought the heroic story to the big screen in 2001’s Black Hawk Down, which portrays the power of human will and brotherly bonds between soldiers in the fight.

Although the film follows Sgt. Eversmann, did you ever wonder how different the film would have been if Hoot was the star?

We did, and here are four reasons why:

Related: 7 reasons ‘Top Gun’ should have been about Iceman

4. Hoot’s backstory

We first meet the brave Delta Force operator as he’s undercover, lurking around the city of Mogadishu with his eyes fixed on potential targets, gathering info. That’s a pretty badass thing to do and take a lot of balls in our opinion.

The only backstory we get from the film is that Hoot uses his trigger finger as his safety.

Maybe that’s all we need.

Russia is building up strength near NATO’s weak point

3. There would have been more aerial target practice

Remember when that Black Hawk helicopter picked up Hoot in the middle of the desert and then he shot that wild pig looking thing off-screen? That was awesome!

Well, we bet that if Hoot were the star, that scene would have been a set up for a dope aerial-to-ground shootout with the Somali militia — just sayin’.

Russia is building up strength near NATO’s weak point

2. He’s the most interesting character in the film

We understand that film is based on the real raids that took place, but take a step back from that, and we bet everyone can agree that we all felt like Hoot was always cool and calm even though the troops faced an uncertain future.

Shout out to the cast and crew for making this character so compelling.

Also Read: This is what the Marines from ‘Heartbreak Ridge’ are doing today

1. Why he does it

In the last scene where we see Hoot, he talks to Sgt. Eversmann about how he responds when people ask him “why we do it.”

Although his answer is epic and on point, if the film was about him, we’re freakin’ positive that would have seen that scene take place somewhere in the movie.

Russia is building up strength near NATO’s weak point

MIGHTY TRENDING

There was another suicide bomber attack that wounded 2 US troops in Afghanistan

Officials say a suicide bomber in an explosives-packed vehicle has attacked a NATO convoy north of Kabul, wounding two U.S. soldiers and at least three civilians.


“We had two U.S. soldiers wounded and their injuries are not life-threatening,” Navy Captain William Salvin, a spokesman for U.S. forces in Afghanistan, said on September 11.

Local Afghan officials said at least three civilians were also wounded in the attack, which took place near Bagram Airfield, the largest U.S. base in Afghanistan.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing, which comes on the 16th anniversary of the September 11, 2011, terrorist attacks in the United States. The attacks triggered the U.S.-led military operation that toppled the Taliban government in Afghanistan.

On September 6, a suicide bomber blew himself up outside Bagram Airfield, wounding several people. The Taliban claimed the attack was in revenge for a U.S. leaflet deemed highly offensive to Muslims.

Articles

Future Marine mega-drone may carry same weapons as F-35

The Marine Corps is on the hunt for a mega-drone that can take off and land vertically and deploy aboard ship — all while carrying a serious amount of firepower.


The service is asking a lot as it develops its MUX platform, short for Marine air-ground task force unmanned expeditionary capabilities, with plans to reach initial operational capability by 2026.

Also read: The Marine Corps wants an ‘R2D2’ robot for every squad

The Corps’ deputy commandant for aviation, Lt. Gen. Jon “Dog” Davis, said Wednesday at the Unmanned Systems Defense conference in Arlington, Virginia, that this future platform — a Group 5, the largest class of military drone — will be equipped to fight from sea as well as land.

Russia is building up strength near NATO’s weak point
Bell Helicopter’s planned V-247 Vigilant unmanned, single-engine armed tiltrotor platform may be a candidate for the Marine Corps’ plan for a mega-drone. | Illustration courtesy Bell Helicopter, a unit of Textron

“I would say we’re very aggressive with what we want that Group 5 to be,” Davis said. “I want my airplane to go off a seabase and, frankly, I think the Group 5 [unmanned aircraft system] for the Marine Corps will have [AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile] on there, will have AIM-9X [Sidewinder missile], will have all the weapons that an F-35 will carry, maybe even the sensors the F-35 will carry.”

This future drone will not be a competitor with the Corps’ new F-35B Lightning II 5th-generation fighter but a collaborator, able to team with the aircraft on missions, he said.

“It’s about … making sure that the Marines have the very best protection wherever they go, whatever they do, and manned-unmanned teaming is not just with attack helicopters — it’s with jets, it’s with grunts,” Davis said.

In the Corps’ 2016 aviation plan, the MUX is described as filling an extremely broad range of missions, including electronic warfare; reconnaissance and surveillance; command, control, communications and computers [C4]; aircraft escort; persistent fires; early warning; and tactical distribution.

“It will be a multi-sensor, electronic warfare, C4 bridge, [anti-air warfare] and strike capability at ranges complementary to MV-22 and F-35, giving MAGTF commanders flexible, persistent, and lethal reach,” the document states. “It will provide scalable MAGTF support deploying as detachments or squadrons supporting commanders at the tactical, operational, and strategic levels.”

Russia is building up strength near NATO’s weak point
Lockheed Martin’s F-35A aircraft displays its weapons load-out at Edwards Air Force Base in California. | Lockheed Martin photo by Matt Short

Call it a mega-drone, if you will.

Prominent candidates for such a role include the Bell-Textron V-247, an unmanned, single-engine armed tiltrotor platform designed to operate from the sea; the Lockheed Martin K-Max built by Kaman, an optionally manned cargo chopper used to transport gear in Afghanistan and now being developed to accommodate sensors; and the Tactically Exploited Reconnaissance Node, or Tern, an aircraft developed by DARPA and the Office of Naval Research that sits on its tail so it can launch and recover on a ship’s deck.

Davis said he wants the Marines’ Group 5 UAS to be able to fly at 30,000 feet, the typical cruising altitude for an airliner, and to carry weapons internally to maximize efficiency and time on station. Ultimately, he said, he wants an unmanned aircraft that can do everything a manned aircraft can.

“Do I think it will replace manned platforms? No, but I think we have to integrate, look for capabilities, cover down our gaps, our seams, that are out there,” he said. “Frankly, no matter how many airplanes I have, I don’t get 24/7 coverage with my manned platforms, especially from my seabase. If we do distributed operations, we’re going to need all the game we can bring.”

Davis said he wants to see a tech demonstration flight of the MUX by 2018 and early operational capability for the system by 2024.

That timeline puts development of the mega-drone slightly ahead of the joint Future Vertical Lift program, which will select a next generation of helicopters for services including the Army and Marine Corps.

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