Moscow has for the first time test-fired its Iskander-M tactical ballistic missile outside the Russian soil during a drill in Tajikistan, targeting a simulated terrorist camp located 15 kilometers from the Tajik-Afghan border.
Colonel Yaroslav Roshchupkin, an aide to the commander of Russia’s Central Military District, made the announcement on June 1 in the Russian city of Yekaterinburg in the administrative center of Sverdlovsk Oblast.
Roshchupkin added that Uragan (Hurricane) rockets were also used in the joint military exercise named Dushanbe-Antiterror 2017 from May 30 to June 1 in Tajikistan.
Russia’s show of missile readiness took place amid mounting concerns over the deployment by the US Air Force of long-range nuclear-capable B-52 Stratofortress bombers and 800 airmen to the UK in support of joint exercises with NATO allies and partners taking place across Europe in June.
The NATO exercises are to take place near Russia in the Baltic Sea, the Arctic and along Russia’s border with several NATO partners.
On June 1, Russian President Vladimir Putin stated the expansion of US missile systems across the world is a “challenge” to his country and necessitates Moscow’s response in the form of a military build-up in the region.
The Russian president also warned against the negative impact of Sweden’s potential NATO membership on bilateral Moscow- Stockholm ties.
He said Russia will have to take additional security measures should Sweden join the Western military alliance.
“If Sweden joins NATO, it will negatively affect our relations because it will mean that NATO facilities will be set up in Sweden so we will have to think about the best ways to respond to this additional threat,” Putin said, adding, “We will consider this [membership] as an additional threat for Russia and will search for the ways to eliminate it,” Putin added.
Watch the actual test launch of the Iskander-M missile during Russia’s recent anti-terror exercise.
Russia has expressed alarm over President Donald Trump’s pledge to maintain U.S. dominance in space and create a separate branch of the military called the “space force.”
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova voiced Russia’s concerns on June 20, 2018, a day after Trump said that “America will always be the first in space.” He also said, “We don’t want China and Russia and other countries leading us.”
In his latest directive on space matters, Trump called for the Pentagon to create a new “space force” that would become the sixth branch of the U.S. armed forces — a proposal that requires congressional approval.
Zakharova said during a news briefing in Samara that Russia “noted the U.S. president’s instructions…to separate space forces from the air force,” saying, “The most alarming thing about this news is the aim of his instructions, namely to ensure [U.S.] domination in space.”
Zakharova accused the United States of “nurturing plans to bring out weapons into space with the aim of possibly staging military action there.”
She warned that if realized, such plans would have a “destabilizing effect on strategic stability and international security.”
While Russia has a branch of the military called “space forces,” their activities are “purely defensive,” the spokeswoman insisted.
Iran is planning for a bigger navy as soon as provisions of the 2015 nuclear deal expire. Planned purchases include new warships and submarines much more advanced than vessels currently in the theocracy’s inventory.
According to the Times of Israel, the United States Navy’s Office of Naval Intelligence issued a report on Iran’s naval strength. The SS-N-26 Yakhont, already in service with Russia, was mentioned as one system Iran was seeking to acquire.
According to a website maintained by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the Yakhont, which has a range of just under 162 nautical miles, has already been exported to Indonesia, Vietnam, and Syria. A variant of the SS-N-26, the BrahMos, is in service with India. CSIS noted that most of Syria’s missiles were destroyed in a July 2013 air strike by the Israeli Defense Force.
According to the 16th Edition of Combat Fleets of the World, Iran’s most modern combat vessels are three Kilo-class submarines acquired from Russia in the 1990s. The Kilos have six 21-inch torpedo tubes and can hold up to 18 torpedoes.
Modern versions of that sub in service with the Russian Navy can fire the SS-N-27/SS-N-30 Sizzler cruise missile. The SS-N-26, SS-N-27, and SS-N-30 have both land-attack and anti-ship variants.
The Times of Israel report comes just as the United States Navy announced a close encounter between a Military Sealift Command vessel and an Iranian frigate. According to CBSNews.com, an Iranian frigate came within 150 yards of the missile range instrumentation ship USNS Invincible (AGM 24).
The encounter was described as “unprofessional, but not unsafe” due to the fact that the frigate was not approaching the MSC vessel, but was instead on a parallel course.
The Military Sealift Command website notes that USNS Invincible displaces 2,285 tons, has a top speed of 11 knots, and a crew of 18. The vessel is unarmed, and is used for collecting data on missile launches. It is one of two in service.
The scene speaks for itself: you can clearly see the journalist presenting her report from the runway as several Hind gunships fly close to her. As many as 14 Mi-24s can be seen in the footage with the second one literally buzzing the journalist with the stub wing endplate missile pylon missing her head by a few inches…
Take a look:
This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.
Congress first introduced a “certificate of merit” in 1847, to be presented by the President when quote “a private soldier distinguishes himself in the service.” It came with a $2 monthly stipend.
Over the years, the award evolved to honor both Army and Navy service members and in July 1862, President Lincoln signed the legislation approving the official Congressional Medal of Honor. At the time, 88 service members had already performed heroic actions that would ultimately merit the decoration.
The stipend evolved, too. Today, the Medal of Honor pension is $1259 per month as well as other benefits like Space-A travel and impressing the hell out of anyone they meet.
Receiving the Medal of Honor confers a great deal of prestige on the recipient as well as an acknowledgement that the recipient and their unit members went through an especially dire and dangerous experience or gave a heavy sacrifice for the American people. The celebrity that goes with the medal allows recipients to cast light on issues that affect veterans and active duty troops.
But in addition to the intangible benefits like honor and stature, there are some tangible benefits that the military and the U.S. government give to medal recipients to acknowledge their sacrifice, such as preferred access to military academies for their dependents and special status in the exchange of salutes. (While military members aren’t required to salute Medal of Honor recipients, they are encouraged to do so as long as the recipient is physically wearing the medal, even when the recipient is in civilian clothes. Also, while military salutes in other situations are always up the rank structure — meaning the junior soldier salutes the senior one — anyone may render a salute to a MoH recipient first. There have even been cases of American presidents saluting MoH recipients.)
There have been over 3,400 Medal of Honor recipients, 71 of whom are still alive today. If you meet one, know that you are in the presence of greatness.
Earlier in 2019, President Trump wanted to send U.S. troops into Mexico to assist the Mexican government in fighting drug cartel violence. But even after the brutal killing of an American family in Mexico, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador declined Trump’s offer to accept American troops inside Mexico. Trump wanted to “wipe them off the face of the Earth,” saying we just needed a “call from your great new President.” But that call never came.
In order to expand the range of options for American intervention, Trump is looking into designating the cartels as a foreign terrorist organization, a move he says will come in the next 90 days.
“They will be designated,” Trump said in the interview. “I’ve been working on that for the last 90 days. You know, designation is not that easy. You have to go through a process and we’re well into that process.”
That process means the cartels acting like a foreign terrorist organization, specifically meeting certain criteria set by the State Department. The organization must be foreign, have the capability to engage in terrorist activities, and present a threat to U.S. national security.
Under the ‘terrorist activity defined, they meet the criteria for being engaged in hijacking and sabotage conveyances, detaining/murder/injuring an individual or a government organization to keep them from doing any act as a condition for the release of an individual,” Lenny DePaul, Chief Inspector/Commander of the U. S. Marshal Service, told Fox News.
The groups are also guilty of targeted assassinations, using explosives to threaten and destroy government institutions, and posing a danger to individuals and property.
Once designated a foreign terrorist organization, cartel members would no longer be able to enter the United States, Americans would no longer be able to do business with these groups, their sub-organizations, or legitimate organizations with ties to the cartels. This includes doing business with any known member of any cartel. Domestic law enforcement would also be able to prosecute gang members and drug dealers using anti-terrorism laws. An estimated 80 percent of weapons used by cartels come from the United States, and the violence is only getting worse.
Since 2006, some 250,000 people have been killed in cartel infighting. The reason? The Mexican Government under President Felipe Calderon declared war on the cartels in an effort to end drug and gun violence. It began with 6,500 troops sent to Michoacán state and ended with 45,000 being sent in. By the end of Calderon’s term, 120,000 Mexicans were dead due to cartel-related violence. Since the escalation of violence, the cartels have turned into full-on insurgent groups.
(Drug Enforcement Agency)
The cartels have begun to hire mercenaries and recruit paramilitary forces to protect their trade routes and territories. They use insurgent tactics and propaganda methods to intimidate journalists and influence the Mexican populace. When their public relations campaigns have little effect, they all turn to violence and targeted killings.
But Mexico is pushing back against the United States.
“Our problems will be solved by Mexicans,” President Andres Manuel Lopez said a press conference. “We don’t want any interference from any foreign country.”
“USA wonder why Russia would want to carry the S-300 to Syria,” read the meme’s text. “Because you never really know what kind of assistance terrorists might get.”
“All jokes aside, #Russia will take every defensive measure necessary to protect its personnel stationed in #Syria from terrorist threat,” said the embassy’s tweet.
U.S.-Russian relations have diminished significantly in the last week. The veiled threat is the latest in a series of provocative actions and statements Russia is making concerning U.S. involvement in Syria. Secretary of State John Kerry announced Monday that the U.S. would be suspending talks regarding the Syrian conflict after Russia’s failure to abide by a mutually agreed ceasefire in September.
Diplomatic failures regarding Syria are forcing the Obama administration to reconsider its options in the five-year-long conflict, including “staff level”discussions that could include military strikes against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a key Russian ally. Russia responded to reports of the talks by warning that removal of Assad would cause “terrible tectonic shifts” in the Middle East.
The Russian Defense Ministry announced its deployment of the S-300 anti-aircraft missile system to its naval base in Tartus, Syria, Tuesday. A statement from the ministry claimed that the missile system, which can target both ballistic missiles and aircraft, was deployed in order to ensure the safety of the naval base.
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The Fisher Family is an American dynasty. They started as a family of contractors and would eventually build a real estate firm that came to shape the iconic Manhattan skyline.
Zachary Fisher started in construction when he was just 16 years old. The company he and brothers, Martin and Larry, would form came to be worth some $1.6 billion dollars today, by Forbes’ estimate, and owns an incredible five million square feet of space.
Theirs is an amazing story of the American Dream — but what they chose to do with their wealth is an even more amazing story.
Fisher could not join the Marines in World War II because of a leg injury. Instead, put his best skills to work on the home front, assisting in building coastal fortifications in the United States. He was a strong supporter of the Armed Forces, the people protecting the American Dream that allowed him to become the man he did.
He never forgot his love for the military and the people who serve. He once said he began giving to the Armed Forces to pay a debt he owes them.
“There is nothing more important than someone giving their life for me,” he told the New York Daily News in 1998. “Here I am living in this free country because someone is giving their life for me. I feel grateful, and I always will.”
By the 1970s, his philanthropy within the Armed Forces culminated in saving the USS Intrepid from the scrap heaps. Instead of losing the storied aircraft carrier that fought in WWII, Korea, and Vietnam, Fisher’s work and patronage allowed for the construction of the USS Intrepid Museum in New York City in 1982, now the largest naval museum in the world.
That same year, he founded the Zachary and Elizabeth M. Fisher Armed Services Foundation.
When the Marine barracks in Beirut were bombed in 1983, it was Fisher’s Foundation that sent a $10,000 check to every single family of the 241 Marines who died that day. It wouldn’t bring back their loved ones, but it would take care of the necessities of life while the families grieved.
It wasn’t only those Marines who received help from the Fishers. The families of servicemembers killed in military accidents also found a small bit of solace as they mourned their losses. Notably, the families of sailors killed in a turret explosion aboard the USS Iowa also received financial help in the form of $25,000 each.
The Fishers kept giving these extra funds for more than 20 years, because they considered the government’s death benefits for those on Active Duty to be too low. Through the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, they paid an individual benefit for every family until the government significantly increased the amount it gives.
The Fishers even provided more than 700 scholarships to military members and their families who couldn’t afford a higher education.
It was in 1990 that the Fisher family began the legacy that would make them immortal in the hearts of military families: The Fisher House.
Fisher heard about a service woman who was hospitalized while undergoing medical treatment. He was told her husband couldn’t afford a hotel for the entire time, so he slept in his car for the duration of her hospital stay. Fisher learned the military had no plans for supporting military families in those circumstances, so he decided to solve the problem himself.
Fisher Houses were born.
The Fisher House is a program dedicated to building comfort homes for the families of hospitalized veterans and military personnel. The homes come with common kitchens, dining rooms, and recreational areas so that no one has to be alone during some of the most trying times of their lives.
“I thought maybe it would help people financially,” Zachary Fisher once said. “But I didn’t count on the way families console one another. No one has to be alone in a motel room anymore. It just became a tremendous thing and had blessed my life in many ways.”
Fisher was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1998 from President Bill Clinton for the wide range of support he provided the military and its families over his lifetime. Fisher didn’t just provide financial assistance — he also sat on the board of influential organizations like the Navy League and established awards promoting excellence in military medicine.
Zachary Fisher died on June 4, 1999, unable to to be present when President Clinton signed Public Law 106-161, which made Zachary Fisher an honorary veteran of the United States military.
Even the spirit of his love for the military continues with those who run the Fisher House today. During the 2013 government shutdown, Congress wavered over paying death benefits to families of servicemembers killed in action. When word got to Fisher House, they immediately pledged that they would make those payments where the government failed.
Joseph Krebs Marine Corps veteran of the Korean War salutes a bust of Zachary and Melissa Fisher that adorns this and every Fisher House foyer.
Today, his legacy lives on at each of the 72 Fisher Houses in three countries, still taking care of the families of wounded and disabled veterans under the VA’s care. The Fishers provided more than six million nights of lodging, $17 million in scholarships, and 58,000 airline tickets — all for the families of wounded, ill, or disabled veterans.
With all the focus on the “unsinkable” carriers China is building in the South China Sea, people forget that the United States has its own options for unsinkable carriers.
1. Luzon, the Philippines
Both Clark Air Base and NAS Cubi Point were major bases for the United States when America had forces deployed to the Philippines until 1991.
At Clark Air Base, the 3rd Tactical Fighter Wing operated F-4 Phantoms from 1974 to 1991. Prior to that, other units, including the 405th Tactical Fighter Wing and the 463rd Tactical Airlift Wing operated at the base.
The eruption of Mount Pinatubo knocked Clark Air Base out of action for a while, but it now serves as Clark International Airport, and features two runways that could be expanded to over four kilometers long, according to the airport’s web site.
Naval Air Station Cubi Point is another likely base. During the Cold War, it was used as a major maintenance base. Now known as Subic Bay International Airport, this facility is largely unused – and could be the place to base P-8 Poseidon squadrons or even F/A-18E/F Super Hornets to contest Chinese efforts to take the South China Sea.
In a January 2016 report, ManilaLiveWire.com listed Cubi Point as a natural location for the United States to operate from under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement.
One lesser known airbase, handed over to the Philippines in 1971 is the former Naval Station Sangley Point, now called Danilo Atienza Air Base. This air base, also in the region, is in active use by the Philippine Air Force. According to Scramble.nl, this base operated OV-10 Broncos for the Philippines, but in the past, it operated P-3 Orions when it was used by the United States Navy.
2. Palawan, the Philippines
Scramble.nl notes that the Antonio Bautista Air Base operates N-22 Nomad cargo planes and Polish W-3 helicopters. But the base’s location is also that of Puerto Princesa, and the Naval Institute Guide to World Military Aviation notes that the runway is just over 8,500 feet. This could enable it to operate modern strike fighters.
While pretty far from the actual South China Sea, Singapore is one unsinkable aircraft carrier that China would get very nervous about, since it pretty much throttles the Straits of Malacca.
This is because there are three bases that can operate modern fighters and even bombers, according to the Naval Institute Guide to World Military Aviation. The most notable is Singapore International Airport, with two runways over 13,000 feet in length. That could make it easy for heavy bombers to operate there.
Paya Lebar also has a runway over 12,000 feet long, making it another possible base bombers can operate from. F-15SG fighters operate from that base, according to Scramble.nl. Tengah’s runway is just over 9,000 feet, and can operate F-16s.
4. Republic of China, aka Taiwan
If things get hairy enough, the Republic of China, better known as Taiwan, is another option. Taiwan’s Air Force is quite modern. Scramble.nl notes that Taiwan has F-16s and P-3s among its inventory, giving it commonality with the U.S. military.
Taiwan’s use, though, would probably only take place during a time of war with China. Under the “One China” policy, the United States needs to keep at arm’s length with this country, but China knows that Taiwan is potentially an American base.
Leonard Matlovich joined the Air Force in 1963. He served three tours in Vietnam, volunteering for all of them. The son of an Air Force Chief, his service record was nothing short of exemplary. The only problem was that Matlovich was gay in the military at a time when discrimination was accepted practice.
Leonard Matlovich enlisting in the U.S. Air Force, CMSgt Matlovich by his side. (leonardmatlovich.com)
Matlovich might seem like an anomaly by today’s standards. He was a conservative Republican and a staunch Catholic who hated the reforms of Vatican II. He even converted to Mormonism later in his service.
In 1966, he received an Air Force Commendation Medal for bravery during a mortar attack. He personally ran to the base perimeter to bolster the defenses there and help tend to the wounded.
He was innovative and dedicated. An electrician, he came up with a nighttime lighting system for base perimeters that inhibited the ability of North Vietnamese snipers to target the base population. Matlovich personally repaired all the base systems during nighttime attacks, never waiting until the dust settled. This is how he received a second Commendation Medal and the Bronze Star.
Matlovich received a Purple Heart while clearing mines near Da Nang. He was blown up by a mine and as he lay there in pain he realized the physical pain was not nearly as bad as the pain he felt for hiding who he truly was.
That’s when he decided to challenge the Air Force policy on homosexuals in the service. By 1975 Matlovich was up for a discharge based on his sexuality. He lawyered up and was determined to fight the case all the way to the Supreme Court. It caught the media’s attention and Matlovich became the first openly-gay person to appear on the cover of a U.S. magazine.
The Air Force decided to let him stay if he signed a document saying he’d never engage in homosexual acts again. Matlovich refused.
He was going to be drummed out of the Air Force under a General Discharge. It was upgraded to Honorable by the Secretary of the Air Force, based on Matlovich’s service record, but that didn’t stop the Tech Sergeant.
In 1976, Matlovich and his lawyers took their case to the U.S. district court in Washington, D.C. to argue the Air Force policy violated the same constitutional principles that recently won Civil Rights cases for African-Americans and women in the United States.
All it led to was a re-wording of the DoD anti-gay policy.
He fought to stay in the Air Force as an openly-gay man but in the end accepted that the court cases would never stop. He took a cash settlement for his back pay, which he immediately donated to nonprofits who fought for gay rights.
Matlovich spent the rest of his life fighting for equal rights for the LGBT community in the United States. In 1986, he was diagnosed with HIV and began to fight for more attention to HIV/AIDS research. Matlovich was a vocal critic to the Reagan Administration’s response to the outbreak of the disease.
When Leonard Matlovich died of AIDS in 1988, he was buried in Washington, D.C.’s Congressional Cemetery. His gravestone doesn’t have his name on it. He wanted it to be a memorial for all homosexual military veterans. It reads:
“A Gay Vietnam Veteran | When I was in the military, they gave me a medal for killing two men and a discharge for loving one.”
Leonard Matlovich’s gravesite has become a pilgrimage site for the LGBT community, especially those serving in the military of United States and other countries.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is on the cusp of having something his father and grandfather could only dream of — the ability to unleash a nuclear attack on the United States.
For anyone paying attention, the test launch of his country’s first intercontinental ballistic missile on the Fourth of July came as little surprise.
He has been racing to develop better and longer-range missiles and vowed this would be the year of the ICBM in his annual New Year’s address. He made good on that vow with the launch of the “Hwasong-14.”
But that isn’t all he’s been doing.
Here’s a quick primer.
Closing the Gap
North Korea’s newest missile is called the Hwasong-14. Hwasong means “Mars.”
Experts believe the two-stage, liquid-fuel missile gives Kim the capability of reaching most of Alaska and possibly Hawaii. Some experts add Seattle and San Francisco. North Korea’s missiles aren’t very accurate, so big, soft targets like cities are what they would be aimed at.
Big caveat: Kim’s technicians still have a lot of work to do.
It’s not clear if this missile could be scaled up to reach targets beyond Alaska, like New York or Washington. Reliability is also a big issue that requires years of testing to resolve. And that liquid fuel makes the missile a sitting duck while it’s being readied for launch.
Diversifying the Arsenal
Along with a record number of tests — 17 this year alone — Kim has revealed a surprising array of missiles: Harpoon-style anti-ship missiles, beefed up Scuds, submarine-launched ballistic missiles, and missiles that use solid fuel, which makes them easier to hide and harder to destroy.
David Wright, with the Union of Concerned Scientists, said heightened activity over the past 18 months suggests Kim decided a couple of years ago to speed up and diversify.
The takeaway: North Korea is well on its way toward a fine-tuned arsenal of missiles that can strike South Korea, Japan, and the United States.
Pushing the Envelope
More sanctions, almost certainly. US President Donald Trump claimed “severe things” could be in the offing. The US has circulated a new list of sanctions in the UN Security Council and UN Ambassador Nikki Haley put the world, and especially China, “on notice” if it doesn’t toe Washington’s line.
China, North Korea’s economic lifeline, has reduced its imports from the North, including a cutoff of coal purchases. It appears to still be selling lots of goods to North Korea, which may anger some sanctions advocates but generates a huge trade deficit that could spell destabilizing inflation for the North if left unchecked.
North Korea, meanwhile, needs to improve its nuclear warhead technology. Its Punggye-ri underground nuclear test site has been on standby for months. So a test is fairly likely. And there will be more launches.
As Kim put it, expect lots more “gift packages, big and small” for Washington.
The head of the US’s cyber operations, on Feb. 27, 2018, said the country’s response to Russia’s hacking provocations has “not changed the calculus or the behavior” and that “they have not paid a price.”
Speaking before lawmakers on Feb. 27, 2018, US Cyber Command chief and National Security Agency Director Adm. Mike Rogers said that he had not been given the authority by President Donald Trump to counter Russia’s cyber operations.
“I believe that President Putin has clearly come to the conclusion there’s little price to pay here,” Rogers said. “And that therefore, ‘I can continue this activity.'”
“Everything, both as a director of NSA and what I see at the Cyber Command side, leads me to believe that if we don’t change the dynamic here, this is going to continue,” Rogers said. “And 2016 won’t be viewed as something isolated. This is something will be sustained over time.”
The US intelligence community has concluded that Russia meddled in the 2016 US presidential election through a complicated media and hacking campaign. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson also believed that Russia has already launched a campaign to meddle with the US’s midterm elections in 2018.
Russia has also been a prime suspect in the hacking hundreds of computers that were used by authorities from the 2018 Winter Olympics, according to US intelligence sources cited in a Washington Post report.
“There are tools available to us, and again, I think in fairness, you can’t say nothing’s been done,” Rogers said. “But my point would be it hasn’t been enough. Clearly what we’ve done hasn’t been enough.”
A recent SSRS poll indicates most Americans believe the Trump administration is not doing enough to prevent foreign meddling in elections, according to CNN. Around 60% of respondents in the poll say they are not confident Trump is doing enough to stop countries from influencing US elections.