Russian and NATO pilots are testing each other's wills in the skies above Eastern Europe - We Are The Mighty
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Russian and NATO pilots are testing each other’s wills in the skies above Eastern Europe

NATO and Russian aircraft and ships have drawn ever closer in the skies and seas around Eastern Europe in recent years, engaging in a kind of cat-and-mouse game that has led to many near misses.


A significant number of these encounters have taken place above the Baltics, where NATO members border a Russia they see as growing increasingly aggressive in its near abroad.

June alone saw several such incidents, including a Russian jet intercepting a US B-52 over the Baltic Sea early in the month, another Russian jet flying within a few feet of a US Air Force reconnaissance jet over the Baltic Sea in mid-June, and a NATO F-16 buzzing the Russian defense minister’s jet later in the month.

Western officials and the research and advocacy group Global Zero — which analyzed 97 midair confrontations between Russian and Western aircraft over the Baltic between March 2014 and April 2017 — have said that Russian pilots are more often responsible for unsafe interceptions; some of which arise from negligence or are accidents, while some are deliberate shows of force.

Russian and NATO pilots are testing each other’s wills in the skies above Eastern Europe
Russian Air Force Sukhoi T-50s. Photo by Toshiro Aoki.

“What we see in the Baltic Sea is increased military activity — we see it on land, at sea and in the air, and that just underlines the importance of transparency and predictability to prevent incidents and accidents,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told The Wall Street Journal. “And if they happen, it is important to make sure they don’t spiral out of control and create dangerous situations.”

Western officials and analysts believe Moscow is using such incidents as geopolitical tactics, responding to events in Europe and elsewhere, such as in Syria. Russia has denied this and said that recent reports about its abilities and activity in the region are “total Russophobia.”

Both sides are working toward “risk reduction” policies for the Baltics. But the uptick in aerial encounters comes amid increased military activity by both sides on the ground in Eastern Europe.

 

Russian and NATO pilots are testing each other’s wills in the skies above Eastern Europe
Army photo by Sgt. Shiloh Capers

Some 25,000 troops from the US and 23 other countries are taking part in the Saber Guardian military exercise in Bulgaria, Hungary, and Romania this month — the drills are designed as a deterrent and are “larger in both scale and scope” than previous exercises, US European Command said in June. US bombers also traveled to the UK in June in preparation for two separate multilateral exercises in the Baltics and elsewhere in Europe that month.

Those military exercises come ahead of war games planned for September by Russia and Belarus. Those exercises could involve up to 100,000 troops and include nuclear-weapons training.

Neighboring countries have expressed concern that those war games could leave a permanent Russian presence in Belarus — the US plans to station paratroopers in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania during them and will adjust its fighter-jet rotation to put more experienced pilots in the area to better manage any encounters with Russian forces.

Russian and NATO pilots are testing each other’s wills in the skies above Eastern Europe
Lithuanian soldiers and US Marines from the Black Sea Rotational Force engaged opposition forces in a partnered attack during Exercise Saber Strike at the Pabrade Training Area, Lithuania, June 15, 2015. USMC photo by Sgt. Paul Peterson.

The US and NATO have increased troop deployments to Eastern Europe. UK and Canadian forces are headed to Poland, Latvia, and Estonia, and NATO personnel are already in Lithuania. The latter country has called for a permanent US military presence there as “a game changer” to counter Moscow.

In the wake of this month’s G20 summit in Germany, several countries in Eastern Europe are moving to boost their air-defense capabilities, with the US aiding the effort.

In early July, Poland and the US signed a memoranda of understanding for an $8 billion sale of US-made Patriot missiles.

This week, the State Department gave tentative approval to a $3.9 billion sale of Patriot missiles and related equipment, like radars, to Romania.

 

Russian and NATO pilots are testing each other’s wills in the skies above Eastern Europe
A US Army Patriot battery deployed to Southeast Asia (Photo US Army)

Patriot missiles have also been stationed in Lithuania for the first time, albeit temporarily, as part of military exercises focused on air defense and involving five NATO countries.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said several times that the deployment of defensive missile systems by NATO allies would be a “great danger,” and he has threatened to respond by boosting Russia’s own missile systems.

“The way I view the Patriots deployment is that it also forms part of a broader U.S. response in the region to the upcoming Russian exercise nearby,” Magnus Nordenman, a Nordic security expert at the Atlantic Council, told AFP.

“Air defense has not been a priority for the last 15 years when NATO was busy in Afghanistan, dealing with piracy and peacekeeping,” he said. “There was not much of an air threat but now that Russia is building up air forces, it is different.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

A Spanish fighter fired and lost a missile near Russian border

A Spanish air force Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jet accidentally fired an air-to-air missile during an a routine training exercise over southeast Estonia on Tuesday afternoon, and authorities have not been able to locate the missile or what is left of it.


The Spanish jet fired the missile — an advanced medium-range air-to-air missile, or AMRAAM, made by US defense firm Raytheon — a little before 4 p.m. local time over the village of Pangodi as it returned from an exercise with another Spanish jet as well as two French Mirage 2000 jets.

The exercise was carried out in an area reserved for such activity about 60 miles from the Russian border. All of the planes are based in Siauliai in northern Lithuania, and the jet that launched the missile was able to return to the base.

Russian and NATO pilots are testing each other’s wills in the skies above Eastern Europe

An AIM-120 AMRAAM being loaded onto an F-16 fighter jet.

(USAF)

The missile’s last location was about 25 miles north of the Estonian city of Tartu. It was reportedly fired northward, but the trajectory and its final location are not known. The 12-foot-long missile has a range of about 60 miles and carries a roughly 50-pound high-explosive warhead.

The missile has a built-in self-destruct mode for such occasions, but it’s not certain that it was activated, and the weapon may have landed on the ground.

The Estonian Defense Ministry has launched a search for the missile using helicopters, and emergency services in the area have asked residents who happen upon the missile or parts of it not to approach it.

Russian and NATO pilots are testing each other’s wills in the skies above Eastern Europe

Estonian Prime Minister Juri Ratas

Estonian Prime Minister Juri Ratas said on Facebook that there were “thank God no human casualties,” and called the incident “extremely regrettable.”

“I am sure that the Estonian defense forces will, in cooperation with our allies, identify all the circumstances of the case and make every effort to make sure that nothing like this happens again,” he added.

Estonia’s defense minister also ordered the suspension of all aerial military exercises in the country’s air space until the incident was resolved.

The Spanish Defense Ministry also opened an investigation.

“A Spanish Eurofighter based in Lithuania accidentally fired a missile without causing any harm,” the ministry said in a statement. “The air-to-air missile has not hit any aircraft. The defence ministry has opened an investigation to clarify the exact cause of the incident.”

NATO’s Baltic air-policing missions were set up in 2004 , after Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania the alliance, to assist the new members with air defense and deter Russian aerial incursions in the area. Spanish jets have done five of the three-month air-policing tours, leading them in 2006 and 2016 and taking part in 2015 and 2017.

The current Spanish deployment is composed of 135 personnel and Eurofighters jets. It began on May 1 and will conclude on August 31.

Jets from NATO countries deployed on air-policing missions have had regular encounters with Russian jets over the Baltics, though there were no reports of Russian aircraft in the area when the missile was fired on Tuesday.

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

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Here is what a war with North Korea could look like

There has been a lot of bluster and saber-rattling around North Korea’s missile tests lately. So what would happen if the sabers were unsheathed?


The short answer: a lot of people would die. Like, a lot.

There are 10 million people in Seoul alone, and an estimated 40 million more in the surrounding areas, which would all be vulnerable to North Korean artillery.

Now, the only likely way any of this would happen is if the North Korea threat went from credible to imminent and required immediate action by the United States, South Korea, and other allies to avert a nuclear attack or invasion.

Russian and NATO pilots are testing each other’s wills in the skies above Eastern Europe
The launch of satellite-carrying Unha rockets is watched closely, since it’s the same delivery system as North Korea’s Taepodong-2 ballistic missile, which was tested successfully in December 2012 and January 2016. (Photo: Reuters/KNCA)

It’s unlikely that China would defend North Korea in this case. With China’s interconnectedness, they would not be able to repeat their efforts from 1950 — the world community would simply not stand for it, and the sanctions would cripple any hopes of continued growth.

With an imminent threat from North Korea, the United States’ options would be limited. However, the first hours will be crucial. America must neutralize the threat from North Korea’s nuclear weapons.

The most viable option is going to involve large numbers of aircraft and missiles aggressively striking targets within North Korea. With little on-the-ground intel to target the missiles, Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps aircraft are going to have to fly into harm’s way to suppress and destroy enemy air defenses and launch sites.

Following close behind the strike aircraft, Air Force B-2 stealth bombers and B-52’s armed with GBU-57 Massive Ordnance Penetrators will strike North Korean launch sites.

Russian and NATO pilots are testing each other’s wills in the skies above Eastern Europe
A B-2 Spirit drops 32 inert Joint Direct Attack Munitions at the Utah Testing and Training Range. (Dept. of Defense photo)

Should North Korea get off a shot towards South Korea, American Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense will be expected to shoot it down.

In coordination with the air strikes, Navy SEALs and operators from the 1st Special Forces Group will conduct clandestine insertions to further secure the sites and ensure their destruction.

South Korean Special Forces will seek to decapitate the regime while also securing nuclear weapons.

These actions will likely trigger a reaction from North Korea to send its army across the DMZ into South Korea.

Russian and NATO pilots are testing each other’s wills in the skies above Eastern Europe
The largest part of the military is the Korean People’s Army Ground Force, which includes about 1.2 million active personnel and millions more civilians who are effectively reservists. (Photo: Reuters/KCNA)

North Korea’s artillery contingent, one of the largest in the world, will unleash a barrage reminiscent of World War I on any targets within range.

Leading the charge right behind the artillery barrage will be thousands of North Korean tanks and armored vehicles. While antiquated, their sheer numbers will pose a problem for American and South Korean gunners.

The defense of South Korea will largely fall on the ROK Army. Although the United States maintains a large military presence in South Korea offensive ground forces consist of only a single rotating armored brigade combat team.

Therefore, simultaneously with the launching of the air strikes, units around the Army and Marine Corps are going to receive notifications for deployment.

In 18 hours or less, the 2nd Ranger Battalion will be wheels up from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, followed closely by the 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division from Alaska.

Alerted simultaneously, the 82nd Airborne Division will push out its Global Response Force brigade.

Russian and NATO pilots are testing each other’s wills in the skies above Eastern Europe
U.S. Army paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division conduct an operation on Oct. 20, 2015. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Juan F. Jimenez)

Meanwhile, every brigade on the west coast and across the Pacific will be alerted for action. Air Force transports from across the country will be diverted west to begin preparations for movement. Air Force fighters will converge on Japan and Korea to bolster the units already there.

Any Marine Expeditionary Units operating in the Pacific will immediately set a course for the Korean peninsula to bring Marine aviation and ground combat assets to bear. At the same time, 1st and 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force units will receive their alert and begin preparations to deploy to Korea.

It is also likely that many of America’s allies in the Pacific, such as Australia and New Zealand, would alert their militaries and provide a contingent for the conflict.

On the ground in Korea, the situation will likely be a mess. With little time to prepare, ROK Army and U.S. Army troops will be fighting desperately against the human wave that is the North Korean Army flowing across the DMZ.

Ranging far in front of the conventional forces, North Korean Special Forces will be conducting sabotage, raids, ambushes, and the like deep behind the front lines sowing confusion and fear into the rear areas.

Russian and NATO pilots are testing each other’s wills in the skies above Eastern Europe
North Korean troops.

Bolstered by the arriving Rangers and paratroopers conducting combat jumps right into the front lines, the Allies will be able to stymy the North Koreans. But without further armored support they will have to fall back.

Outnumbered by at least two-to-one, Allied forces will not be able to hold at the DMZ, or likely, anywhere near it. Using Seoul, and the Capital Defense Command as an anchor, the allied line will stretch across the peninsula roughly along the 37th Parallel.

Overhead, American and South Korean fighters will be having a turkey shoot. Air superiority is assured in a rather short amount of time as the fledgling North Korean Air Force is shot out of the sky or destroyed on the ground. 

Meanwhile, Navy ships and Air Force bombers will continue to pummel known targets and seek to eliminate Kim Jong Un.

As more units arrive on the peninsula and enter the fray, the North Koreans’ early gains will quickly be reversed. Short on food and fuel — their supply lines interdicted — their military will quickly disintegrate in front of the onslaught of a joint combined-arms offensive. A-10’s will have a field day with North Korean armor.

Russian and NATO pilots are testing each other’s wills in the skies above Eastern Europe
The A-10 shows off its non-BRRRRRT related talents. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech Sgt. Bob Sommer)

The early disruptions caused by North Korean Special Forces will end as they are rounded up and eliminated.

In short order, and as more Army and Marine Corps units arrive, the joint effort will roll into North Korean territory.

Defectors will be prevalent but paramilitary forces will slow the offensive as the regime’s true-believers seek to start a guerrilla campaign. However, simple offerings of comfort, such as food, to such a forlorn population may be sufficient to effectively defeat any remnants of resistance.

The Kim regime will be dismantled and families divided over 60 years ago will be reunited. Though facing a numerically superior enemy, and likely suffering large numbers of casualties early on, the superior training and technology of the Allies will win the day.

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Navy adds new regulation after ‘Marines United’ cyber bullying scandal

Acting Secretary of the Navy Sean Stackley has just issued a new regulation that now gives the Navy’s Judge Advocate General Corps a new weapon to use against those who post private nude photos.


Related: The 5 military laws that nearly everyone breaks

According to a report in the Navy Times, Article 1168 has been added to Navy Regulations, prohibiting the “wrongful distribution or broadcasting of an intimate image.” The addition of this regulation means that Article 92 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice can be brought into play against the next “Marines United” scandal participants.

Russian and NATO pilots are testing each other’s wills in the skies above Eastern Europe
(U.S. Navy photo)

“The addition of Article 1168 ‘Nonconsensual distribution or broadcasting of an image’ to Navy Regulations serves to underscore leadership’s commitment to eliminating degrading behaviors that erode trust and weaken the Navy and Marine Corps Team,” Rear Adm. Dawn Cutler, the Navy’s chief of information, said in a statement quoted by the Navy Times. “It provides commanders another tool to maintain good order and discipline by holding Sailors and Marines accountable for inappropriate conduct in the nonconsensual sharing of intimate imagery.”

“This article adds the potential charge of Article 92 ‘Failure to obey [an] order or regulation’ to the possible charges that can be used against an alleged perpetrator. Each case of alleged misconduct will be evaluated on its own facts and circumstances,” Cutler added.

According to an ALNAV message sent out on April 17, the addition of Article 1168 is an “interim change” pending formal amendment to the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

Russian and NATO pilots are testing each other’s wills in the skies above Eastern Europe
Photo: Marine Corps Sgt. Rebekka Heite

Article 92 of the UCMJ makes it illegal to disobey a lawful order. Violators of that who fail to follow any “lawful general order or regulation” are to be “punished as a court-martial may direct.”

Also read: 6 weird laws unique to the US military

Previously, the Marines had been relying on Articles 133 and 134 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, according to a March 5 release by the Marine Corps. Article 120c was also seen as a possible option in some cases.

Articles 133 and 134 are seen as “catch-all” provisions for “conduct unbecoming.” According to the UCMJ, violations of Article 133 “shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.” Violations of Article 134 are to be “punished at the discretion of that court” while taking into consideration “according to the nature and degree of the offense.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Nigeria just bought the JF-17 Thunder to blast Boko Haram

The Nigerian military has been fighting the radical Islamist terrorist group Boko Haram since 2009. Now, Nigeria is getting some new firepower to deal with the group made infamous by kidnapping over 200 girls from a school in Chibok in 2014.


Russian and NATO pilots are testing each other’s wills in the skies above Eastern Europe
Boko Haram fighters. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Nigeria has become the latest country — and the first in Africa — to buy Communist China’s JF-17 Thunder multi-role fighter. The country has ordered three for their 2018 defense budget, which also included funds for the maintenance needs of the Nigerian Air Force’s nine Alpha Jets, which have conducted strikes against Boko Haram in the past. Nigeria also has nine Chengdu F-7 fighters, which is the export designation for Chinese-built J-7 Fishbeds, a copy of the Soviet-designed MiG-21.

Russian and NATO pilots are testing each other’s wills in the skies above Eastern Europe
Nigerian Air Force Alpha Jet loaded up for a strike mission. (Photo from Nigerian Air Force)

According to the BBC, Boko Haram, which calls itself “People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad,” and is also known as the “Islamic State in West Africa,” has conducted a lengthy campaign against the government of Nigeria. The group has suffered some recent reverses in the wake of the 2014 mass kidnapping, which drew international outrage. The United States has been involved in the campaign against Boko Haram, sending Special Forces to assist countries in the region.

Russian and NATO pilots are testing each other’s wills in the skies above Eastern Europe
A C-802 missile in front of a JF-17 Thunder of the Pakistan Air Force on static display at the 2010 Farnborough Airshow. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

To date, the JF-17’s primary user has been the Pakistani Air Force, which sought to replace a mix of French-built Mirages, Nanchang A-5 attack planes, and Chengdu J-7s. The plane was co-developed by Chengdu and the Pakistanis. Myanmar has also reportedly agreed to acquire the plane to bolster their existing force of 31 MiG-29 Fulcrums. They also have a total of 46 older jets, including A-5s, F-6s, and F-7s, according to FlightGlobal.com.

Russian and NATO pilots are testing each other’s wills in the skies above Eastern Europe
Two JF-17 Thunders in formation. (Wikimedia Commons photo by Faizanbokhari)

The JF17 is a good fit for the Nigerian Air Force. It can carry a wide variety of air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons from both China and Western countries. This will allow Nigeria to use its current stocks of weapons to try and finish off Boko Haram.

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6 kick ass fusions of old weapons with new technology

While the high-tech weapon systems of today are cool, there is always a sense of nostalgia for older weapons. So, what if you could get the best of both? Say, give a classic weapons system a boost from modern technology – or use a blast from the past to make a modern system much better?


Here are a few options:

Russian and NATO pilots are testing each other’s wills in the skies above Eastern Europe
The M50 Ontos was a marginal tank killer but was devastating against infantry. Imagine what a .50, digital targeting and a remote operation system could do? (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Old System: M50 Ontos

New Systems: Thermal imaging sights, digital fire control and laser range finder from the M1 Abrams; Common Remotely Operated Weapons Station with M2 .50-caliber machine gun

The M50 Ontos is an obscure vehicle that never really had a chance to fulfill its role as an anti-tank weapon, but it proved to be a potent weapon against infantry. Six 106mm recoilless rifles tend to make a point very well.

But the Ontos had to get close to guarantee hits. It also lacked secondary armament beyond a M1919 .30-caliber machine gun. But what if the Ontos had the fire-control system and thermal sights of the M1A2 Abrams? Now the 106mm rifles can gain more accuracy from further out.

The Common Remotely Operated Weapons Station with Ma Deuce can give the Ontos a better chance to keep an enemy RPG team from getting too close.

Russian and NATO pilots are testing each other’s wills in the skies above Eastern Europe

Old System: M551 Sheridan

New System: M256A1 120mm Gun

The M551 Sheridan once provided a lot of firepower for the 82nd Airborne Division. The air-drop capability meant that the paratroopers were far less likely to be mere speed bumps. And the 152mm cannon could do a number on buildings and bunkers.

But let’s be honest, the gun could be less than reliable, especially when using the MGM-51 Shillelagh missile. So, why not go with the same gun used on the M1A2 Abrams tank? Not only does this gun have the ability to beat just about any tank in the world today, logistics are simpler.

That counts as a win-win.

Russian and NATO pilots are testing each other’s wills in the skies above Eastern Europe
Oshkosh Defense

Old System: M40 106mm Recoilless Rifle

New System: Joint Light Tactical Vehicle

While systems like the BGM-71 TOW and FGM-148 Javelin provide a punch, those missiles can be expensive. But the need for fire support remains.

So, why not look for something cheaper? The M40 recoilless rifle could fit that bill. The shells are cheap, pack a decent punch, but they also can limit collateral damage in ways that a missile can’t (there’s no need to worry about burning fuel).

Think that is a stretch? In his book, “Parliament of Whores,” P.J. O’Rourke recounted how an Army unit pulled recoilless rifles out of storage for Operation Just Cause.

Russian and NATO pilots are testing each other’s wills in the skies above Eastern Europe
The A1 Skyraider was one of the most badass CAS planes in Vietnam. What about making it into an A-10 equivalent? (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Old System: A-1 Skyraider

New Systems: AGM-114 Hellfire, Joint Direct Attack Munition, Paveway Laser-Guided Bombs, M230 chain gun, Sniper ER Targeting pod — aka a crap ton of modern aerial firepower.

The Spad did much of what the A-10 does now: it loitered, carried a big bomb load, and was generally loved by ground troops.

So, what would be a more interesting fusion than to do to the Spad what was done for the A-10 – to wit, give it the ability to use precision-guided weapons?

The Spad could carry up to 8,000 pounds of bombs. Imagine how many targets one equipped with JDAM or Hellfire could take out in a single sortie!

Russian and NATO pilots are testing each other’s wills in the skies above Eastern Europe
Ready the guns! Full broadside!…(Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Old System: Sail Frigate USS Constitution (IX 21)

(Relatively) New System: M116 75mm Pack Howitzer

USS Constitution (IX 21) kicked a lot of butt during her service career. But imagine what this lightweight (1,439 pounds) howitzer would do.

It’s hard to imagine which would be the bigger game-changer in a fight: The higher rate of fire that the M116 would provide, or the high-explosive shells it could shoot up to five and half miles away.

Russian and NATO pilots are testing each other’s wills in the skies above Eastern Europe
(Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Old System: 8-inch/55 Mk 71 Gun

New System: Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer

Let’s face it. The later versions of the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers could use a little more anti-surface punch. The answer may lie in bringing back the Mk 71, an eight-inch gun capable of firing up to 12 rounds a minute. This could also help alleviate the shortfalls in fire support with the retirement of the Iowa-class battleships and the truncation of Zumwalt production from 32 vessels to three. Eight-inch rounds abound, and the precision guidance used on Excalibur, Copperhead, and Vulcano could be adapted to this gun as well.

Old System: W48 155mm nuclear projectile

New System: Excalibur, Copperhead and Vulcano precision guidance systems

With a yield of .072 kilotons (that is 72 tons of TNT), the W48 was intended for use against tactical targets from a 155mm howitzer. But artillery rounds can miss (no, it’s not about hitting the ground). But suppose you merged the W48 with the Excalibur, creating a W48 Mod 2? Now, that 128-pound package puts that .072-kiloton warhead within ten feet of the aiming point. Excalibur is not the only option: The laser-guided Copperhead and OTO Melara’s Vulcano packages would make the W48 a very potent weapon.

MIGHTY TRENDING

China looks to Russia for help with inexperienced troops

The Russian and Chinese armed forces are putting their military might on display on land, in the air, and at sea in a massive exercise in Russia’s far east, where China is learning lessons from Russia’s warfighting experience in Syria and other global hotspots.

Chinese troops, as well as helicopters and tanks, are participating in Vostok 2018, reportedly the largest drills in the history of the Russian army, and while the Chinese and Russian militaries have held drills together in the past, this year’s exercise is different.

“In the past decade, China-Russia military drills mainly focused on anti-terrorism and other non-traditional threats,” Major Li Jinpeng, the battalion commander for a Chinese artillery battalion, told Chinese state-run broadcaster CGTN, noting that these exercises appear focused on classical battle campaigns.


A military researcher told Chinese media that the Chinese People’s Liberation Army could learn from Russia how to “fight in cities, in deserts, and in mountains.”

In the age of renewed great power competition, China is pushing to build a modern fighting force that can win on the battlefield, whether that be the defense of the mainland, a fight over Taiwan, or an armed conflict in disputed waters. During the drills, Russia shared its wartime experiences with China, which has not fought in a conflict in decades.

“The Russian military is interested in seeing and assessing China’s progress in the military field,” Mikhail Barabanov, editor-in-chief of the Moscow Defence Brief, told the Financial Times recently, “I believe that for China the opportunity to get acquainted with the Russian armed forces is much more interesting since the Russian army has in recent years a great deal of combat experience in Ukraine, Syria, etc while China’s armed forces are completely deprived of modern combat experience and have not fought since 1979.”

Russian and NATO pilots are testing each other’s wills in the skies above Eastern Europe

Soldiers of the Chinese People’s Liberation.

(DoD photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley)

A recent article in the Global Times explained that one of the reasons for the ongoing exercises is to learn from the Russian military. “The Russian forces that performed operations in Syria are among the participants of the military exercise. Undoubtedly, joining in such a military exercise with them is helpful for the PLA to become familiar with actual combat,” the article said. This particular point was driven home by Chinese state media as well.

“Almost all the Russian helicopter pilots in this drill have participated in the Syria conflict, so they have very rich real combat experience,” Senior Colonel Li Xincheng, a commander and veteran Chinese helicopter pilot, told CGTN, adding, “Their equipment has been tested in the real battlefield, which we can learn from.”

He added that the Chinese and Russian troops practiced complex strikes not commonly seen in Chinese military exercises. “Unlike the many drills before, this time from the top to the bottom, we have fighter-bombers, helicopters and tanks firing shells at the same time in a three-dimensional attacking system,” Li explained.

Russian state media confirmed by way of a commander that “generalized Syrian experience was used in the drills – from limited objective attacks by landing forces down to firing and reconnaissance rules.” Newsweek, citing the South China Morning Post, reported that Russia is compiling a textbook focused on its Syrian war experience and plans to share it with China.

Russian and NATO pilots are testing each other’s wills in the skies above Eastern Europe

Vostok 2018.

China’s military is undergoing an extensive military modernization program designed to build a lethal force that is able to fight and win wars by the middle of this century. This effort has involved leadership changes, new recruitment standards, and enhanced training with an emphasis on actual live-fire combat exercises for war rather than the rough equivalent of a military parade, even though that still occurs.

“One of my soldiers told me that he fired so many shells in these drills that it is almost equivalent to his total over the past five years,” Captain Zhang Lei, whose armored vehicle battalion participated in the Vostok exercises, told Chinese state media in a commentary on the expenditure of ammunition during the drills.

Both Moscow and Beijing have stressed that the exercises are not aimed at any third party, but both countries have bonded over their mutual interest in challenging US hegemony. The Pentagon said that while the US respects Russia and China’s right to hold military drills, just as the US does with its allies and international partners, the US will be watching closely.

Featured image: Chinese military vehicles through a field during the Vostok 2018 exercises in Russia.

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

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This was the Vietnam War’s longest continuously serving Army ranger

Patrick Gavin Tadina served in the Army for 30 years. He spent a full five of those years fighting in Vietnam. If that wasn’t unique enough, Tadina, who would retire as a command sergeant major, would often do it dressed as the enemy. 

Tadina was a trim 5’5” native Hawaiian, a look that would allow him to conduct and lead long range reconnaissance patrols deep into Vietnam’s central highlands. He would sometimes join an enemy patrol dressed in their distinct black pajamas, sandals, and carrying an AK-47.

Patrick Tadina joined the Army in 1962. By 1965, he was in Vietnam with the famed 173rd Airborne Brigade Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol. He also served in the 74th Infantry Detachment Long Range Patrol and Company N (Ranger), 75th Infantry. He was in the country for a full five years, until 1970.

Russian and NATO pilots are testing each other’s wills in the skies above Eastern Europe
Tadina, far right, as a drill sergeant at Fort Jackson in the late ’70s. (Catherine Poeschl/ Facebook)

With a trim figure and uniquely nonwhite American looks, he used his appearance to get the jump on enemy forces laying in wait for him in the jungle. He led American patrols dressed as the enemy so they wouldn’t have a chance to ambush his Rangers. When escaping from an enemy patrol, he could lead his pursuers into a friendly ambush. 

When spotted by Viet Cong fighters or North Vietnamese regulars, the enemy often had to take a moment to figure out who Tadina was and what he was doing in the jungles of Vietnam. On one occasion, this pause allowed him to warn his fellow soldiers of an ambush, but resulted in Tadina taking two bullets to the legs. 

Laying on the jungle floor in that firefight, he refused to give an inch to the enemy. He received a Silver Star for his actions that day. 

In five years of fighting in Vietnam, Tadina was shot three times but never lost a man who served under him. It’s estimated that 200 soldiers served with Tadina without a casualty. The legendary Ranger himself was awarded two Silver Stars, 10 Bronze Stars (seven with valor), three Vietnamese Crosses of Gallantry, four Army Commendation Medals (two for valor), and three Purple Hearts. 

Russian and NATO pilots are testing each other’s wills in the skies above Eastern Europe
U.S. Army

The stories about Tadina abound on the internet. After his death, friends and fellow soldiers wrote their tributes and memories about the five years Tadina spent in Vietnam:

“Tad infiltrated an enemy hospital to free a POW,” wrote one Ranger. “He killed a guard with a silenced .22 but found the hospital deserted. Talk about balls and trade craft.” 

After the Vietnam War, Tadina stayed in the Army. He would take part in the most significant combat actions in the post-Vietnam world. He served with the 82nd Airborne Division in Operation Urgent Fury in 1983 and with the 1st Infantry Division during Operation Desert Storm in 1991. He retired from the Army in 1992. 

Russian and NATO pilots are testing each other’s wills in the skies above Eastern Europe
Catherine Poeschl/ Facebook

In 1995, Patrick Tadina was inducted into the Ranger Hall of Fame in Fort Benning, Georgia. Although he continued to work in the combat arms field in some of the post-9/11 world’s hotspots, he struggled with mental issues in his later years. 

He died in 2020 at age 77, still one of the Vietnam War’s most decorated enlisted soldiers and an unforgotten icon among the U.S. Army’s Rangers, past and present. Although Tadina has passed, his legend will never die. 


Feature image courtesy of Catherine Poeschl

Articles

Rob Riggle to host ‘InVETational’ golf tourney to benefit Semper Fi Fund

We Are The Mighty and Marine Corps veteran, actor and comedian Rob Riggle present The Rob Riggle #InVETational Golf Classic. The veteran­/celebrity golf tournament will raise money and awareness for the Semper Fi Fund. The Rob Riggle #InVETational Golf Classic will take place at the world-class Valencia Country Club in Los Angeles on Dec. 5, 2016.


During this high-­octane golf tourney, veteran and celebrity teams will contend for the lowest scores and most laughs to raise funds and awareness for the renowned Semper Fi Fund, one of our nation’s most respected veteran nonprofits. Semper Fi Fund provides immediate and lifetime support to post-­9/11 critically ill and injured service members from all branches of the military. Since inception, Semper Fi Fund has assisted over 16,800 service members and their families totaling more than $133 million in assistance.

“The #InVETational celebrates two of my greatest passions – veterans and golf,” Riggle said. “I am excited to partner with We Are The Mighty, a media brand that veterans love and trust, and Semper Fi Fund, which assists thousands of veterans and their families. It’s truly an honor to serve my fellow veterans with this special event.”

“We are honored to partner with Rob to give serious golfers and entertainers the chance to use their sport to bring attention to the great work of Semper Fi Fund,” said David Gale, WATM’s CEO and co­founder. “We Are The Mighty is committed to sharing the experiences of our nation’s military and will feature the remarkable stories of the veteran athletes participating in this tournament.”

Semper Fi Fund President and Founder Karen Guenther added, “As a Marine veteran, Rob Riggle truly understands the sacrifices our nation’s military heroes make for us every day, and how important it is to be there to support these men, women and their families for a lifetime. We are thrilled to be working with Rob and WATM to bring attention to the many needs of recovering and transitioning veterans and their families.”

Best known for his roles in “The Hangover,” “21 Jump Street,” “The Other Guys,” “Step Brothers,” “Modern Family,” “Dumb and Dumber To,” and “The Daily Show” among other popular movies and TV shows, We Are The Mighty’s InVETational host Rob Riggle served over twenty years in the U.S. Marine Corps and Reserves as a Civil Affairs Officer and Public Affairs Officer across the globe including in Afghanistan. Riggle cares deeply about our veterans and has used his success as a comedian and actor to support those who have served our country.

The Rob Riggle #InVETational Golf Classic will be produced by We Are The Mighty in conjunction with charity golf tournament expert Bob Levey of Independent Events & Media. The tournament will be featured on wearethemighty.com and shared via WATM, Riggle, and Semper Fi Fund social media sites. Celebrity and veteran golfers from Semper Fi Fund’s athletics program will be announced soon.

Visit the #InVETational official website here.

Articles

A WWII Veteran Has A Nazi Doctor To Thank For Saving His Life — Twice

Russian and NATO pilots are testing each other’s wills in the skies above Eastern Europe
Bob Levine’s dog tags with the letter ‘H’ indicating his Hebrew faith – a death sentence in Nazi Germany. (Photo: NYDN)


A few weeks after D-Day, U.S Army Private Bob Levine was hit by the shrapnel from a grenade that landed next to him during a fierce battle to take a German-held hill overlooking the beach at Normandy.  The next thing he knew he had an enemy paratrooper standing over him.

“He looked about 10 feet tall, and pointed his submachine gun at me,” Levine told the New York Daily News. “The kid next to me got up and took off, and he just wheeled around and shot him.”

Levine was suddenly a prisoner of war.  And his situation went from bad to worse as his already wounded leg was hit again, this time by fragments from an American artillery shell.

The next thing Levine knew he was lying on a table in a French farmhouse with a Nazi doctor standing over him studying his dog tags.

“He says, ‘Was ist H?’ — and that was all I had to hear,” Levine recalled to the New York Daily News. “I said to myself — and I can still hear myself saying it — ‘There goes my 20th birthday.’

“I really did not think I would make it.”

But he did make it.  He woke up missing two things:  the bottom half of his left leg, which had been surgically amputated, and his dog tags.

Russian and NATO pilots are testing each other’s wills in the skies above Eastern Europe
Bob Levine, seated center, in the hospital during World War II. (Photo: Levine family collection)

The Nazi doctor had saved his life twice.  Once by amputating his leg and preventing the onset of deadly gangrene and once by removing his dog tags, thereby hiding any evidence that Levine was Jewish — a death sentence of its own in the days of the Third Reich.

Levine did some research in the years following the war and discovered that the man who had saved him was Dr. Edgar Woll.  Woll died in 1954 before the two had a chance to meet in person again, but Levine returned to Normandy in 1981 and met with the doctor’s family.  The two families grew close, close enough that one of the doctor’s granddaughters stayed with the Levines while attending Fairleigh Dickenson University.

As terrible as war is there are times when it reveals the potential beauty of humanity.  And what stands out most of all in Levine’s memories of that first meeting with the doctor’s family is a toast one of the German guests offered at a party the Wolls hosted:  “Without you we’d all be saying ‘heil Hitler.'”

Read the entire New York Daily News article here.

Articles

North Korea: Missile tests were practice runs to hit US military in Japan

North Korea’s state-run media announced its latest missile launches were conducted to practice hitting US military bases in Japan, according to The Washington Post on Tuesday.


“If the United States or South Korea fires even a single flame inside North Korean territory, we will demolish the origin of the invasion and provocation with a nuclear tipped missile,” a Korean Central News Agency statement read.

Related: US sets up ballistic missile defense system in South Korea

Three of the four ballistic missiles fired Monday morning flew 600 miles and landed in the sea in Japan’s exclusive economic zone. The other missile landed outside the zone.

Studying the photos provided by North Korea, analysts at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies deduced that the missiles were extended-range Scuds. Having tested these missiles in the past, Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the Middlebury Institute, said that North Korea’s test was not to see whether they could operate but to assess how fast units could deploy them.

“They want to know if they can get these missiles out into the field rapidly and deploy them all at once,” Lewis told The Post. “They are practicing launching a nuclear-armed missile and hitting targets in Japan as if this was a real war.”

The extended-range Scud missiles could be produced more cheaply than other medium-range missiles in the Hermit Kingdom’s arsenal, according to Lewis. This could be disastrous for allied nations, such as Japan and South Korea, not only because North Korea could release a barrage of these missiles, but the rate at which they could be fired can be difficult to counter, even with the US’s defensive systems.

Russian and NATO pilots are testing each other’s wills in the skies above Eastern Europe
Lockheed Martin

One of these defensive systems, the antimissile battery system, known as the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), was in the process of being deployed on Monday night in Osan Air Base, less than 300 miles from the missile launch location.

“Continued provocative actions by North Korea, to include yesterday’s launch of multiple missiles, only confirm the prudence of our alliance decision last year to deploy THAAD to South Korea,” said Adm. Harry Harris, commander of US Pacific Command, in a news release.

Designed to shoot incoming missiles, THAAD has been compared to shooting a bullet with another bullet. However, analysts say that the system would have difficulty in intercepting missiles launched simultaneously — as in Monday’s test.

Also read: 4 things you need to know about North Korea’s missile program

According to a KCNA statement translated by KCNA Watch, Kim Jong Un, the leader of North Korea, supervised the launches from the Hwasong artillery units, who are “tasked to strike the bases of the U.S. imperialist aggressor forces in Japan in contingency.”

The launches came shortly after an annual series of US-South Korea military exercises that kicked off earlier this month. The ground, air, naval, and special-operations exercises, which consist of 17,000 US troops and THAAD systems, was predicted by scholars to be met with some retaliatory measures by North Korea.

“In spite of the repeated warnings from [North Korea], the United States kicked off this month the largest-ever joint military exercise with South Korea,” said North Korean diplomat Ju Yong Choi during a UN-sponsored conference in Geneva on Tuesday, according to Reuters. “The annual, joint military exercise is a typical expression of US hostile policy towards the DPRK, and a major cause of escalation of the tension, that might turn into actual war.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Our trainer will make you a leopard

One thing that’s great about being in the military is you get legitimate, professional license to practice sneaking up on people. It’s the ten year old’s dream…and no adult has ever, in the history of maturity, grown out of it.


Try this.

Google search “sneak up gif.”

Got it?

Great. See you in ten hours.

Russian and NATO pilots are testing each other’s wills in the skies above Eastern Europe
(gif from rebloggy.com)

Pictured above is “Creeping With Intent To Scare Someone Crapless”, a perennial favorite. Note that it isn’t actually the raptor costume that makes this effective. This can be perpetrated to equal or greater effect “eu naturale.”

Russian and NATO pilots are testing each other’s wills in the skies above Eastern Europe
(gif via reactiongifs.com)

And never underestimate the joys of the “Tip-Toe-Tail-Tip-Tug,” as demonstrated here. Be very, very careful who you do this to.

Russian and NATO pilots are testing each other’s wills in the skies above Eastern Europe
(gif via imagur)

And here’s an example of the classic game, “Who’s Hunting Whom?” Watch closely. Which dog do you most identify with? Your answer to this question will force irrevocable conclusions to be drawn about your personality.

For instance, Max is Dog #1, the hunter of the hunter of the hunted.

Russian and NATO pilots are testing each other’s wills in the skies above Eastern Europe
He makes it seem like he’s working his core when in fact, he’s lying in wait… (Go90 Max Your Body screenshot)

Why is he Dog #1?

Because this is Max. Max doesn’t sneak. Kids sneak. Max stalks. Stalks like a fox. His prey? Other jocks. And he doesn’t wear socks. Max wears stalkings.

In this episode, Max gets down and dirty with the core-connected muscles that make it possible for you to low crawl toward your target and then lay down some suppressing fire from the prone position.

But admit it. You thought you’d sneak out today without doing PT. Well, sorry, but Max has been hunting your ass since lunch break. He’s got you in his crosshairs and there’s nowhere to run. Because he can take anything you cherished during childhood and turn it into a regimen for self-improvement (for example, rope swings).

Remember how you loved Spider-Man?

Russian and NATO pilots are testing each other’s wills in the skies above Eastern Europe
Oh the crawliness that is me! (gif via smosh.com)

Yeah, about that:

Russian and NATO pilots are testing each other’s wills in the skies above Eastern Europe
This is the crawliness that’s about to be you. (Go90 Max Your Body screenshot)

Watch as Max ignores your pleas for mercy, in the video embedded at the top.

Watch more Max Your Body:

This is what happens when you swap your workout for PT

This is how you train for brotherhood

This is what happens when a troll runs the obstacle course

One session with this trainer will make you assume the fetal position

This is how you fight when the waters are rising

MIGHTY TRENDING

4 problems the VA secretary wants associated with Agent Orange

VA Secretary David Shulkin suggests he favors expansion of Agent Orange-related health care and disability compensation to new categories of ailing veterans but that factors, like cost, medical science, and politics, still stand in the way.


Shulkin told the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee on March 21, 2018, that he made recommendations to White House budget officials in 2017 on whether to add up to four more conditions — bladder cancer, hypothyroidism, Parkinson-like tremors, and hypertension (high blood pressure) — to the VA list of 14 illnesses presumed caused by exposure to herbicides used during the Vietnam War.

Also read: VA begins awarding compensation for C-123 agent orange claims

“I have transmitted my recommendations to the [White House’s] Office of Management and Budget. I did that by Nov. 1, 2017, Shulkin said. “And we are in the process right now of going through this data. In fact, we met with [OMB officials] on March 26, 2018. They asked for some additional data to be able to work through the process and be able to get financial estimates for this. So, we are committed to working with OMB to get this resolved in the very near future.”

Shulkin didn’t say which of the four conditions, if any, he wants added to the presumptive list, if and when cleared by the White House.

At the same hearing, the VA chief was asked his position on Blue Water Navy veterans of the Vietnam War who also suffer from illnesses on the VA presumptive list but aren’t eligible to use it to facilitate claims for care and compensation.

They “have waited too long for this,” Shulkin agreed, but then suggested the solution for these veterans is blocked by medical evidence or swings on the will of the Congress.

Russian and NATO pilots are testing each other’s wills in the skies above Eastern Europe
Barrels of Agent Orange being stored at Johnston Atoll.

“I would like to try to find a way where we can resolve that issue for them, rather than make them continue to wait,” Shulkin said. “I do not believe there will be scientific data [to] give us a clear answer like we do have on the Agent Orange presumptive” list for veterans who had served in-country. “For the Blue Water Navy… epidemiologic studies just aren’t available from everything I can see. So, we’re going to have to sit down and do what we think is right for these veterans.”

Vietnam veterans who served even a day in-country who have illnesses on the presumptive list can qualify for VA medical care and disability compensation without having to show other evidence that their ailments are service-connected.

Shulkin said VA “recently” received the last report of the National Academy of Medicine, which found a stronger scientific association than earlier studies between certain ailments and herbicide exposure. In fact, however, the VA has had the report, Veterans and Agent Orange: Update 2014, for two years.

More: 5 life lessons today’s troops could learn from Vietnam vets

It was written by a committee of medical experts that reviewed medical and scientific literature on select ailments and herbicide exposure published from Oct. 1, 2012, through Sept. 30, 2014. Released in March 2016, the report found evidence to support raising the strength of association between herbicide exposure and bladder cancer and hypothyroidism. The report upgrades the link from “inadequate or insufficient” evidence to “limited or suggestive” evidence of an association.

In years past, VA decided that for some ailments, such as Parkinson’s and ischemic heart disease, “limited or suggestive evidence” was enough to add these illnesses to the Agent Orange presumptive list. For others, including hypertension, a more common disease of aging, VA deemed it wasn’t enough.

This last NAM report, however, looked again at cardiovascular conditions and herbicide exposure. It didn’t upgrade the link to heart ailments but it did affirm limited or suggestive evidence that hypertension is linked to herbicide exposure.

Russian and NATO pilots are testing each other’s wills in the skies above Eastern Europe
U.S. Army Huey helicopter spraying Agent Orange over agricultural land during the Vietnam War.

It also studied whether Parkinson’s-like symptoms should fall into the same limited or suggestive category as Parkinson’s disease itself. The 2016 report found “no rational basis” to continue to exclude Parkinson-like symptoms from the same risk category. Parkinson’s disease itself was added to presumptive list in 2010.

VA secretaries under both the Obama and Trump administration reacted more slowly on the last NAM perhaps, by law, they could. Congress in 2015 let a portion of the Agent Orange law expire, language that required the VA Secretary to decide on new presumptive conditions within 180 days of accepting a NAM report.

The impact was immediate. Though a senior VA official tasked with reviewing this last NAM report said then-VA Secretary Bob McDonald would make his decisions within three months, it didn’t happen. McDonald left it to his successor. Shulkin waited more months and, in July 2017, vowed to decide by Nov. 1, 2017 OMB blocked an announcement, however, presumably over projected costs.

Related: A Vietnam veteran is returning to thank the doctors who saved his life

Cost has been a factor, too, in Congress not passing legislation to extend VA benefits to Blue Water Navy veterans diagnosed with illnesses on the presumptive list. Budget analysts a few years ago estimated a cost of $1.1 billion over 10 years.

Also, NAM did conduct a review of medical and scientific evidence regarding Blue Water Veterans’ possible exposure to herbicides and concluded in a May 2011 report that “there was not enough information… to determine whether Blue Water Navy personnel were or were not exposed to Agent Orange.”

Blue Water Veterans remain ineligible to use the Agent Orange presumptive list. A lone exception is granted for veterans with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Vietnam veterans with this ailment may be granted service-connection without showing inland waterway service or that they set foot in-country.

Russian and NATO pilots are testing each other’s wills in the skies above Eastern Europe

In every session of Congress, going back years, Blue Water Navy bills have been introduced. They would, if passed, “include as part of the Republic of Vietnam its territorial seas for purposes of the presumption of service connection for diseases associated with exposure [to] herbicide agents while in Vietnam.”

The current House version of the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act (HR 299), introduced in January 2017 by Rep. David Valado (R-Ga.), has 327 co-sponsors. Yet prospects of passage remain dim. Valado reminded Shulkin at a mid-March 2018 hearing of the House Veterans Affairs Committee that, six months ago, Shulkin said he was seeking more recommendations from “subject matter experts” on the issue and would be ready to update Congress in the coming months.

“Have you come to a decision on Blue Water Navy veterans?”

Also read: This is what the average ‘doc’ carried on patrol in Vietnam

“I am aligned with you that these veterans have waited too long,” Shulkin said, “and this is a responsibility that this country has. And, as our veterans get older, it’s unfair.…I believe it is imperative upon us to resolve this issue.

“I also believe,” Shulkin continued, “that there will not be strong scientific data to help resolve this,” in other words to justify benefit expansion. “This is going to be an obligation that we feel as a country, that these veterans shouldn’t be waiting any longer. And I am on the side of trying to find a way to resolve this for the Blue Water Navy veterans.”

Shulkin said his staff is “working hard to look at offsets” which means cuts to other parts of the VA budget to pay for Blue Water Navy benefits, or to find “other ways to be able to do that. And it is a high priority for us.”

Reminded by Valado that “with these types of cancers, time is of the essence,” Shulkin replied, “Absolutely.”

The Senate version of Blue Water legislation, S 422, was introduced by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), has 49 co-sponsors and, so far, equally dim prospects of passage.

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