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 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.

 

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.

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.

 

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

These are the big takeaways from the latest Space Force press conference

What started as wishful thinking by a bunch of vets hoping to one day become space shuttle door gunners is starting to take shape as the next steps in establishing a Space Force are underway.

Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Vice President Mike Pence held a conference at the Pentagon on Aug 9 to discuss the latest plans and updates on the creation of the United States Space Force. To clear some of the fog surrounding it, it’s not about sending armed troops into space nor is it an over-the-top plan to fight aliens.

There is a real and current strategic advantage in using space to aid with Earthly conflicts through satellites operations and missile defense — both of which would fall under the purview of the new Space Force.


Vice President Mike Pence has championed our current space commands within the Air Force and the Navy.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Dennis Hoffman)

Secretary Mattis opened up the briefing and announced that the Pentagon will release its latest space report to Congress, reinforcing the specifics on how they will move forward. He then welcomed Vice President Pence to take the podium.

Vice President Pence reiterated both the desire to push mankind back into space exploration and to utilize space for the rapid advancement of technology. He likened the establishment of the Space Force to that of the Air Force when it was first created.

“In 1939, at the start of the second World War, the U.S. Army Air Corps was still a fledgling organization… By 1945, the American military had nearly 30 times the number of planes and 85 times the number of pilots and support crews compared to just six years earlier and our allies emerged victorious from WWII because of the strength of our armed forces and because our armed forces adapted to meet the emerging threats of the day,” said Vice President Mike Pence.

Once you realize just how many U.S. satellites are in space, how little protection they have, and just how dependent our society is on their safety… you’ll stop thinking of the Space Force as a joke branch.

(Air Force illustration)

Our current military does, in fact, have a space command and has had one for decades. Expanding the space command into a full branch would give the tens of thousands of troops and civilian contractors currently working on the space mission far greater spending to continue and expand upon the responsibilities of the domain.

Founding the Space Force will firmly establish America’s leadership in space. In President Trump’s own words,

“It is not enough to merely have an American presence in space. We must have American dominance in space. And so we will.”

One of the first technologies announced was the fielding of a new generation of jam-resistant GPS and communication satellites. This also comes along with a new missile defense satellite that is “smaller, tougher, and more maneuverable than ever before.”

The need for dominance over space is growing by the day. China launched a missile that tracked and destroyed a test satellite in 2007. Russia has been designing an airborne laser that is said to disrupt satellites and claim to be creating missiles that could be launched mid-flight to destroy satellites. Both have claimed to have ability to move their satellites closer to our own — which could pose an unprecedented new danger.

Many more details about the new branch’s establishment will come soon as we move forward towards its eventual creation with a possible date set for 2020.

Articles

A cut-rate Gaston taught U.S. infantry how to kill tanks

The U.S. Army made a lot of training videos for World War II. Think of them as the PowerPoints of yesteryear. And when it was time to teach infantry to fight tanks, the Army hired an actor that looks suspiciously like the character Gaston and then filmed him drinking beer in a hunting lodge.


(GIF: YouTube/PeriscopeFilm)

Seriously, even the lights hanging from the ceiling are similar. He’s one dentally-challenged sidekick away from being this guy…

(Screenshot: YouTube/Theano Sakalidou)

Considering the fact that the new Beauty and the Beast revealed that Gaston was a veteran, it’s starting to look like Disney based their character on an old War Department training film.

But while Gaston is known for being an idiot, the staff sergeant in the training film knows his stuff. He’s a tanker who takes a little time out to teach infantryman how best to destroy armor.

He starts with how small arms can be used to force tankers to “button up,” diving into their hatches. Once the tanks are buttoned, they can be completely blinded by rounds hitting the view slits and periscopes:

(GIF: YouTube/PeriscopeFilm)

Then, it’s time for grenadiers to try and shoot the crew through the armor with anti-tank rifle grenades:

(GIF: YouTube/PeriscopeFilm)

But if the tanks make it past the grenadiers, the rest of the riflemen can throw Molotov Cocktails at the fleeing armor:

(GIF: YouTube/PeriscopeFilm)

All of these were real weapons and tactics in the fight against German armor, and Gaston helped make it happen.

You can see the whole clip — and learn how to destroy Axis tanks — below:

Articles

The CIA once hired prostitutes to test LSD on unsuspecting Johns

It’s no secret by now that the U.S. government used to really love testing LSD on people. What civilians used to get better at dancing (or at least care less about how bad they danced), the CIA reportedly wanted to use to brainwash, disable and hypnotize people. Sounds about right.


Unless you’re brainwashing people to do more acid, I think you need a new plan.

Project MKUltra was born from the desire to “develop a capability in the covert use of biological and chemical materials.” The project was an extensive testing program which administered citizens from all walks of life with LSD. Even the researchers were dosed.

At least two people died and one of the researchers became schizophrenic after his unwilling trip.

With such disregard for human life, is it any surprise the CIA wouldn’t feel too bad about giving men committing a crime a dose of acid? In the 1950s, that’s just what they did.

In Operation Midnight Climax, the agency used sex workers on its payroll to administer hits of acid to their unsuspecting customers in New York and San Francisco.

Troy Hooper of SF Weekly reported at least three houses used by the CIA to lure men in and give them LSD-laced drinks. Either that or they would have their customers, picked up in bars and restaurants, drive back to one of the houses used by the agency. The men would consume “large doses” of LSD and then do the deed under observation from CIA agents via a two-way mirror.

Observation is important in all kinds of studying, obviously.

Houses in San Francisco operated until 1965, New York’s operated until 1966.

When MKUltra’s overseers left the agency in the 1970s, all files related to the project were ordered destroyed. The American public didn’t even know about the operation until after 1975, when a CIA employee came across documents referring to the program that somehow avoided destruction.

In 1977, John Marks, the author of “The Search for the Manchurian Candidate,” filed a FOIA request for the documents, which numbered some 20,000. President Gerald Ford ordered a congressional commission to look into the matter.

Sidney Gottlieb, a chemist and chief of the CIA’s technical services division testified (in exchange for immunity) that hospitals, prisons, military units, colleges, pharmaceutical companies, and more were all part of the MKUltra program.

No one was ever punished for the program.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Air Force wants to recall 1,000 retirees to active duty

Good news for U.S. Air Force retirees: The service has expanded plans to not only welcome back retired pilots into active-duty staff positions, but also combat system officers and air battle managers.

To help alleviate its manning shortage, the service is encouraging retirees from the 11X, 12X and 13B Air Force Specialty Codes to apply for the Voluntary Retired Return to Active Duty Program, it announced May 23, 2018.


It could take in as many as 1,000 former airmen.

“Officers who return to active duty under VRRAD will fill rated staff and active flying staff, test, training and operational positions where rated officer expertise is required,” said VRRAD Rated Liaison Maj. Elizabeth Jarding of the Air Force’s Personnel Center.

“We can match VRRAD participants to stateside or overseas requirements where they’ll fill critical billets that would otherwise remain vacant due to the shortage of rated officers,” Jarding said in a service release.

Airmen who are currently in rated positions in those specialties but have already put in their retirement orders will also be welcome to extend their service in the VRRAD program, the release said.

Capt. Brad Matherne, 422nd Test and Evaluation Squadron pilot.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Brett Clashman)

The program expansion comes as the Air Force faces a growing deficit of 2,000 pilots, or roughly 10 percent of the total pilot force.

Previously, the VRRAD program — one of many efforts the service is making to ease the shortage — accepted only the 11X career field and remained limited in scope, said Air Force Personnel Center spokesman Mike Dickerson.

“The program was limited by law to a maximum of 25 participants and for a maximum 12-month tour, which limited officers to serving in non-flying staff positions,” Dickerson told Military.com on May 23, 2018.

Active-duty tour lengths have now increased to a minimum of 24 months and a maximum of 48 months, he said. VRRAD participants will deploy only if they volunteer, unless they are assigned to a combat-coded unit, the release said.

“Many who inquired expressed interest in the stability afforded by a longer tour. In addition, longer tours also afforded the potential to utilize these officers in flying as well as non-flying positions, providing more time to requalify and be effectively utilized in various airframes,” Dickerson said in an email.

To date, the 2017 VRRAD program has approved 10 officers, and five have returned to active duty, he said.

“We anticipate that will continue with the expanded authorities,” Dickerson said, adding the officers currently in the program could expand their tour lengths.

Some of the criteria for the expanded VRRAD program have changed: Eligibility applies to rated officers who received an active-duty retirement within the last five years or those in the window to retire within 12 months of their VRRAD date of application, the personnel center said.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Samuel King Jr.)

Airmen must have previously served in the ranks of captain, major or lieutenant colonel, and must be under age 50. Those who are 50 and older may be considered on a case-by-case basis. Previously, the criteria applied to those age 60 and younger in those ranks.

“Applicants must be medically qualified for active duty and have served in a rated staff position within 15 years or been qualified in an Air Force aircraft within 10 years of application for flying positions,” the release said.

Officers who retired for physical disability reasons are not eligible to apply.

The personnel center will accept applications for VRRAD until Dec. 31, 2018, or until all openings are filled, the release said. Those who return to active duty will not be eligible for the service’s aviation bonus nor promotion consideration.

In 2017, the Air Force asked for expanded authorities for its retention shortfalls. As a result, in October 2018, President Donald Trump signed Executive Order 13223, which allowed the service to recall up to 1,000 former pilots.

The Air Force has said it does not plan to force anyone back on active duty involuntarily in any capacity. Officials said at the time they would work through how they could best use the executive order to voluntarily recall pilots.

Officials said additional VRRAD application procedures and eligibility requirements can be found on the VRRAD page of the AFPC public website.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.

Articles

These 13 troops survived headshots thanks to their helmets

Helmets and body armor are heavy, and wearing them in desert air rippling with heat is a grueling and uncomfortable experience. But no matter how hard you’ve been tempted to go helmet-free for a few minutes, these 16 stories of troops surviving headshots thanks to a little Kevlar should make you a believer for life — literally:


(Author’s note: The captions and descriptions in this story were originally written by the military public affairs specialists who took the photos. They have been edited by WATM staff for length.)

1. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Bradley A. Snipes

Lance Cpl. Bradley A. Snipes, antitank assaultman, 3rd Mobile Assault Platoon, Weapons Company, 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team – 2, stands with the helmet that saved his life. (Photo: Sgt. Jerad W. Alexander, USMC)

During a 2005 mission with his platoon, Snipes was shot in the head by an enemy sniper. The only thing that saved his life was the Kevlar helmet he wore.

2. Army Staff Sgt. Ryan Stumpff

Staff Sgt. Ryan Stumpff of Fort Bragg, N.C., poses in bandages holding his damaged helmet. (Photo: Sgt. 1st Class Eric Pahon, USA)

Stumpff was shot in the head by an insurgent in Khowst province, Afghanistan, but the bullet penetrated the back of his helmet, just grazed his head, and exited the front. Halberg then killed the insurgent while protecting his battle buddy.

3. Marine Corps Lance Corporal Christopher D. Hatley Jr.

Lance Cpl. Christopher D. Hatley Jr., a rifleman, takes time before a patrol for a photo.  (Photo: Sgt. Earnest J. Barnes, USMC)

Hatley thought he was hit in the head with a rock after bullets impacted a wall close to him during a 2011 operation. He and his fellow Marines realized shortly thereafter he had actually been shot in the head. His Kevlar helmet saved his life and he was left with only a severe headache.

4. Marine Corps Cpl. Daniel M. Greenwald

Cpl. Daniel M. Greenwald, an assaultman, holds up the Kevlar helmet that saved his life. (Photo: Cpl. Erik Villagran, USMC)

Greenwald was shot in the head by an insurgent sniper while conducting a vehicle checkpoint. He escaped with only a minor gash on his forehead.

5. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Heath Culbertson

Tech. Sgt. Heath Culbertson, 83rd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron flight engineer, shows where a bullet entered then exited his helmet.  (Photo: Capt. Erick Saks, USAF)

Davis was uninjured when he was shot in the helmet during a mission to recover the pilots of a downed Army helicopter, April 23, 2011.

6. Marine Corps Pfc. Fred M. Linck

(Photo: Cpl. Brian Reimers, USMC)

Pfc. Fred M. Linck, an infantryman, was shot in the head and walked away from the incident. The enemy round struck his Kevlar helmet, which saved his life by stopping the bullet from penetrating his head. A piece of fragmentation caused a small laceration to the Marine’s forehead, too small even for stitches.

7. This soldier (Warning: graphic imagery and language)

8. Army Staff Sgt. Kyle Keenan

Staff Sgt. Kyle Keenan, a cavalry section leader, points out the lifesaving characteristics of his Advanced Combat Helmet. (Photo: 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, U.S. Army)

Keenan was shot in the helmet at point blank range by a 9mm pistol on a mission July 1, 2007. Local tips identified an insurgent leader in a safe house in Abu Hillan, Iraq. His troops, who were originally preparing for another mission, changed focus and launched an immediate air assault to nab the cell. Keenan, unfazed by the insurgent’s attempt to shoot him, leveled his shotgun and killed the enemy.

9. Army Sgt. Shawn Snyder

Sgt. Shawn Snyder displays the helmet that saved his life from a sniper in downtown Tikrit, Iraq. (Photo: U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Mark Wojciechowski)

10. Afghan National Army Pvt. Sangar

Afghan National Army soldier Pvt. Sangar holds the helmet he was wearing when he was shot by an insurgent sniper while on post. (Photo: Sgt. James Mercure, USMC)

“I am not scared,” Sangar said through an interpreter. “I will keep fighting next to my guys and keep wearing my helmet,” he added with a laugh.

11. Army Staff Sgt. Joseph McKenzie

Staff Sgt. Joseph McKenzie receives the Advanced Combat Helmet (ACH) that saved his life back from Col. Neal Hoffman IV, Program Manager Soldier Protection and Individual Equipment, Program Executive Office Soldier, at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, on Oct. 27, 2015. (Photo: Staff Sgt. Armando R. Limon, USA)

McKenzie received minor wounds during a firefight in Afghanistan in March 2011.

12. This Marine (Warning: graphic language)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BbCK2Tb_i30

13. Army Staff Sgt. Matthew Harvey

Army Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Buchanan, deputy commanding general for operations, Multi-National Division-Center, recloses the top part of Staff Sgt. Matthew Harvey’s uniform after pinning a Purple Heart on him during an award ceremony March 20, 2009. (Photo: Sgt. Rodney Foliente, USA)

Harvey, a construction supervisor, was awarded his second purple heart after being shot in the helmet and suffering a wound to his left cheek from sniper fire during a route clearance mission in Najaf, Feb. 10, 2009.

(Author’s note: A previous version of this article contained the story of Army Staff Sgt. Kyle Keenan twice. One of them has been removed.)

Articles

This Luftwaffe hero was shot down 32 times during World War II

Han-Ulrich Rudel was the kind of pilot that every soldier wants overhead. He was a close air support and dive bomber pilot who flew 3,500 combat missions and kept getting into the cockpit even after he was shot down 32 times and wounded five times.


Rudel began his career as a reconnaissance pilot in the Luftwaffe but entered dive bombing training as soon as he was allowed. After graduation in 1941, he was transferred to a Stuka dive bombing unit and flying in German blitzkrieg attacks. He would spend nearly all of his World War II career on Germany’s eastern front fighting the Soviets.

The Soviet battleship, the Marat, was sank by Hans-Ulrich Rudel with a bomb to the ammunition magazine. Photo: Public Domain

In Sep. 1941 he was sent against Soviet naval units and successfully sank the battleship Marat. In early 1943 he celebrated his 1,000 sortie. About a month later, in Apr. 1943, he took part in an attack against Soviet amphibious landing craft while flying a Ju-87. He sank 70 boats with the bird’s two 37mm cannons.

During the war, he pioneered a tactic where attack planes would hit the tanks from the rear. The primary benefit was that the planes could fire into the relatively thin armor over the tank’s engine, but it also meant that the planes were flying towards their own lines. That made it easier for pilots hit during an attack to make it back to friendly forces before bailing out.

Hans-Ulrich Rudel, German flying ace. Photo: Public Domain

In a single day using this tactic, Rudel was able to destroy 12 Soviet tanks. In another heavy battle he set his own personal record of 17 tanks in a single day.

Rudel’s willingness to fly low and slow to take out Soviet targets left him exposed to ground fire though, and he was shot down 32 times by anti-aircraft batteries. He was also wounded both on the ground and in the air.

The Ju-87 Stuka was an ugly tank buster. Photo: Public Domain

His worst injury came while chasing a thirteenth tank kill in a fierce battle. After he fired off his final 37mm rounds, his right leg was shot off by anti-aircraft fire. Another pilot had to talk him through a crash landing and pull him out of the plane before he bled out.

Still, he got back in the cockpit after a short convalescence and kept flying on the front lines. Rudel’s return to the cockpit was against Hitler’s express orders. The Führer wanted to make sure his hero pilot survived the war, but Rudel wanted back into the fight.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9FD7MvO7fww
 

Over his career, he destroyed 519 Soviet tanks, a battleship, a cruiser, a destroyer, 70 landing craft, and 11 airplanes. And he was famous for regularly landing and rescuing downed air crews. For his efforts, Rudel was awarded the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Golden Oak Leaves, Swords, and Diamonds, the second highest level of the Knight’s Cross. He was the only recipient of the award.

The only version of the award that was higher than Rudel’s was one specially made for Hermann Göring, and Göring basically got it for being head of the Luftwaffe, not for bravery.

Hans-Ulrich Rudel receives Germany’s top medal for bravery from Adolph Hitler. Photo: Public Domain

Of course, Rudel’s side thankfully lost the war and he was forced into an early retirement. His close-air support expertise was eventually pressed into the service of the U.S. American engineers consulted him about CAS while designing the A-10 Warthog, the beloved, tank-busting beast.

For anyone who is feeling pretty good about Rudel and maybe hoping he was a Rommel-type Nazi, the career military men who turned on Hitler when it became clear he was a monster, sorry. Rudel really was a hateful racist and Nazi. He spoke out regularly in support of the Third Reich and was a member of a neo-Nazi political party from 1953 to his death in 1982.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Here’s what would happen if China attacked the US

Experts at the cutting edge of simulated warfare have spoken: China would handily defeat the US military in the Pacific with quick bursts of missile fired at air bases.

The exact phrasing was that the US was getting “its ass handed to it” in those simulations, Breaking Defense reported the RAND analyst David Ochmanek as saying earlier in March 2019.

“In every case I know of,” Robert Work, a former deputy secretary of defense, said, “the F-35 rules the sky when it’s in the sky, but it gets killed on the ground in large numbers.”


Against China, which has emerged as the US’s most formidable rival, this problem becomes more acute. China’s vast, mountainous territory gives it millions of square miles in which to hide its extensive fleet of mobile long-, medium-, and short-range missiles.

An F-35 is much more capable than the jet shown on the left, but on a runway, the F-35 is just a more expensive target.

(US Navy)

In the opening minutes of a battle against the US, Beijing could unleash a barrage of missiles that would nail US forces in Guam, Japan, the Philippines, South Korea, and possibly Australia. With China’s growing anti-ship capability, even US aircraft carriers in the region would likely come under intense fire.

For the US, this would be the feared attack in which F-35s and F-22s, fifth-generation aircraft and envy of the world, are blown apart in their hangars, runways are cratered, and ships are sunk in ports.

The remaining US forces in this case would be insufficient to back down China’s air and sea forces, which could then easily scoop up a prize such as Taiwan.

Additionally, the US can’t counter many of China’s most relevant missile systems because of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty it signed with Russia, which prohibits missiles with ranges between 310 miles and 3,400 miles — the type it would need to hold Chinese targets at equal risk. (The US is withdrawing from that treaty.)

So given China’s clear advantage in missile forces and the great incentive to knock out the best military with a sucker punch, why doesn’t it try?

The ranges of Chinese ballistic and cruise missiles, air-defense systems, and warships.

(Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments)

Politics

China could light up much of the Pacific with a blistering salvo of missiles and do great harm to US ships and planes, but they likely won’t because it would start World War III.

China wouldn’t just be attacking the US. It would be attacking Japan and South Korea at a minimum. Whatever advantage China gained by kicking off a fight this way would have to balance against a combined response from the US and its allies.

The US is aware of the sucker-punch problem. In the event that tensions rise enough that a strike is likely, the US would simply spread its forces out among its bases and harden important structures, such as hangars, so they could absorb more punishment from missiles.

Potential targets China needed to strike would multiply, and the deployment of electronic and physical decoys would further complicate things for Beijing. For US ships at sea, the use of electronic decoys and onboard missile defenses would demand China throw tremendous numbers of missiles at the platforms, increasing the cost of such a strike.

Key US military bases will also have ballistic-missile defenses, which could blunt the attack somewhat.

The US also monitors the skies for ballistic missiles, which would give it some warning time. Alert units could scramble their aircraft and be bearing down on China’s airspace just after the first missiles hit.

Justin Bronk, a military-aviation expert at the Royal United Service Institute, pointed out at the institute’s Combat Air Survivability conference that when the US hit Syria’s Al Shayrat air base with 58 cruise missiles, planes were taking off from the base again within 24 hours.

A US Air Force B-52 Stratofortress bomber.

(US Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Kevin J. Gruenwald)

Payback is a … consideration

Missiles brigades that just fired and revealed their positions would be sitting ducks for retaliation by the US or its allies.

Japan, which will soon have 100 F-35s, some of which will be tied into US Navy targeting networks, would jump into the fight swiftly.

China would have to mobilize a tremendous number of aircraft and naval assets to address that retaliatory strike. That mobilization, in addition to the preparations for the initial strike, may tip Beijing’s hand, telegraphing the sucker punch and blunting its damage on US forces.

While China’s missile forces pose a huge threat to the US, one punch isn’t enough to knock out the world’s best military, but it is enough to wake it up.

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

Articles

5 epic parties troops threw when the world wars ended

When years of world war come to an end, the troops who fought are going to party hard. From New York to Moscow to Paris, the Allied cities celebrated their victories with abandon.


1. The end of World War II in Europe saw Moscow run out of booze.

Photo: Wikipedia/Bundesarchive Bild

Russia suffered some of the worst devastation of any of the Allies during World War II, possibly even worse than France. So, when the German surrender was announced in Moscow at 1:10 in the morning, the Soviets sure as hell weren’t waiting for the sun to start partying.

Russian soldiers and citizens spilled into the streets in their pajamas and started drinking the town dry. And that’s not an exaggeration, the party got so boisterous that people reported that vodka just didn’t exist in the city by the time the partying ended.

2. Canadian authorities tried to limit drinking at the surrender of Germany and sailors rioted.

The party in Toronto on VE-Day had nothing on Halifax. Photo: Public Domain/John Boyd

Across the Atlantic, Canadian authorities predicted the drunken antics that would ensue and tried to control it by closing bars and liquor stores. Sailors, soldiers, and civilians broke into the largest two liquor stores and 207 other businesses and stole the contents before burning a police car, a wagon, a tram, and 20 other vehicles.

A federal inquiry later blamed the navy for the sailors’ conduct and fired a senior officer in charge of the men.

3. Paris celebrations started slow and then built to a crescendo.

France tried to hold off the celebrations until noon on May 8 after Germany surrendered, but her people were having none of it. People closed their shops and milled towards the building where Gen. Charles de Gaulle announced the official surrender of Germany and Paris really got the party going.

Aviators from all the allied countries started flying around the city at treetop level as a group of men fired celebratory cannon shots nonstop. Soldiers lined up to receive kisses from French girls. Crowds gathered around Allied flags and sang the anthems of each nation as soldiers stood nearby and joined in.

4. The Polish army got drunk on the front lines.

Photo: Imperial War Museums

For units on the front line, the parties celebrating the end of the war started as soon fighting stopped. For the Polish units “Vodka was supplied for the units in unlimited quantities. Kisses and embraces, salvoes from all arms, marked this great event.”

5. Liquor flowed through Paris after the World War I armistice was signed.

Photo: Imperial War Museum

Paris is apparently the place to be when a world war ends. After the first one, Allied soldiers found themselves plied with liquor, celebrated as heroes, and in some cases, surrounded by mobs singing their praise.

“Honest to goodness,” U.S. soldier Alton Lawrence wrote in a letter to a friend, “I never celebrated so in my life before. I ate, drank, and yelled until I almost gagged. Oh what a head the next morning. France has less wine and cognac than she had a week ago.”

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Homes for our Troops builds homes while rebuilding lives

Sgt. Mendes in his new Homes for our Troops home.


On a chilly May morning, the city of Murrieta, CA dispatched a firetruck to a new home. Dozens of men, women and children congregated the driveway. The sounds of  Rolling Thunder could be heard in the distance. As if on cue, the wind picked up and the huge American flag streaming from the ladder of the firetruck began to wave. American Legion Riders escorted wounded Army veteran Sgt. Nicholas Mendes to his new specially adapted home, and the community was there to welcome him.

This is the work of Homes for our Troops.

HFOT builds mortgage-free, specially adapted homes across the United States for those who have been severely injured in theater of combat since September 11, 2001. The non-profit’s purpose is to assist wounded warriors with the complex process of integrating back into society.

Army Sergeant Nicholas Mendes, who was a gunner with the 10th Mountain, 3rd Brigade, is one of 214 veterans to thus far be living in one of these homes. On April 30, 2011, an IED detonated beneath his vehicle in Sangsar, Afghanistan. The explosion, set off by a 1200-pound command wire device, caused multiple fractures to his vertebrae and rendered him paralyzed from the neck down. Mendes had previously served in Iraq in 2008.

After being presented with the key to his new home, Mendes’ wife held the microphone up to his mouth so he could address the audience of well-wishers.

“Bear with me, I didn’t write anything down – because my arms don’t work.” Mendes joked. “It’s just crazy looking back on everything, this all started with a Google search, and then putting in an application to a foundation that I didn’t know if they’d ever write me back…”

Not only did they write him back and build him a home, Homes for our Troops is working with Mendes to allow him to reclaim his independence. The adapted features in his home remove much of the burden from his wife and family and allow him to focus on recovery and his plans to  pursue a career in real estate.

“These men and women are not looking for pity. They’re looking to rebuild their lives.” said Bill Ivy, Executive Director of HFOT.  “We have an extremely talented group of men and women who are either in homes or that we are building homes for. The whole idea is to get them back going to school, back into the work force, raising families. Since 2010 we’ve had over 100 children born to families living in our homes. So it is about the next generation and moving forward. We have a tremendous amount of successes out there.”

Homes for Our Troops lays a foundation for these men and woman to continue on after their injuries. Although their way of life has undergone major changes, their spirit and desire to serve remains. Many of these home recipients are able to rehabilitate to the point where they enter the workforce and give back to their community as teachers and counselors.

Two HFOT recipients started a non-profit together called Amputee Outdoors.  Another recipient, Joshua Sweeny is an American gold medal sledge hockey player and Purple Heart recipient who competed in 2014 Winter Paralympics in Sochi, Russia. Four recipients participated in the recent Invictus games, and one even spent a month in a tent to raise awareness for veteran homelessness.

“There’s duty, there’s honor and self sacrifice. Death nor injury does not diminish those qualities in our soldiers. It is a testament to the love of this country” said David Powers of Prospect Mortgage – one of the key ceremony speakers. “Duty is the mission, the lesson is the sacrifice for our country, and for our freedom.”

For more information visit the Homes for Our Troops website.

HOFT Executive Director, Bill Ivy raising a flag outside Sgt. Mendes’ new home.

 

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia allegedly threatened nuclear war in Europe in 2017

At some point during the Trump administration, Russia told Defense Secretary Jim Mattis that it could use nuclear weapons in the event of a war in Europe — a warning that led Mattis to regard Moscow as major threat to the US.

According to “Fear,” Bob Woodward’s recently released book about turmoil in the White House, Moscow’s warning was in regard to a potential conflict in the Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.

The Baltics were part of the Soviet Union and have deep ties to Russia, which has sought to reassert influence there since the end of the Cold War. Those countries have tried to move closer to the West, including NATO membership.


According to Woodward’s account, the warning from Russia came some time during or before summer 2017, when the Trump administration was haggling over the future of the Iran nuclear deal.

At the time, President Donald Trump wanted to withdraw from the deal, claiming Iran had violated the terms.

Others, including then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, pushed back, citing a lack of evidence of any violation. (Trump refused to recertify the deal in October 2017 and withdrew from it in May 2018.)

Mike Pompeo, then the director of the CIA, and Mattis didn’t disagree with Tillerson, Woodward writes, but they responded to the president’s assertions more tactfully.

Mattis, long regarded as a hawk on Iran, had mellowed, according to Woodward, preferring other actions — “Push them back, screw with them, drive a wedge between the Russians and Iranians” — to war.

Defense Secretary James N. Mattis.

(Photo by Tech Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.)

Russia, Woodward then notes,”had privately warned Mattis that if there was a war in the Baltics, Russia would not hesitate to use tactical nuclear weapons against NATO.”

“Mattis, with agreement from Dunford, began saying that Russia was an existential threat to the United States,” Woodward adds, referring to Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, who is chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Woodward offers no additional context for the warning, nor is it totally clear why that detail is included where it is in the book.

Most nuclear-armed countries have policies that would allow their first-use in a conflict.

The Baltic states have warned about what they perceive as increasing Russia activity against them, and there is evidence that Moscow is working on military facilities in the region.

Imagery released early 2018 indicated ongoing renovations at what appeared to be an active nuclear-weapons storage site in Kaliningrad, a Russian exclave on the Baltic Sea, south of Lithuania.

“Features of the site suggest it could potentially serve Russian Air Force or Navy dual-capable forces,” a Federation of American Scientists report on the imagery 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.”

‘Tactical nuclear weapons as a leveler’

Tactical nuclear weapons typically have smaller yields and are generally meant for limited uses on the battlefield. Strategic nuclear weapons usually have higher yields and are used over longer ranges.

Some experts prefer the term “non-strategic nuclear weapons,” as the use of nuclear weapons would have both tactical and strategic implications. Mattis himself has said there is no such thing as a “tactical” nuclear weapon, as “any nuclear weapon used at any time is a strategic game-changer.”

Russia and the US have more than 90% of the world’s nuclear warheads, though Russia’s arsenal is slightly larger. Pentagon officials have said Russia wants to add to that arsenal, violating current arms-control treaties.

During the Cold War, the Soviets expected Western countries to use nuclear weapons first and had plans to use nuclear weapons against NATO targets in the event of war, using larger-yield devices against targets like cities and smaller-yield ones — “tactical” nukes — against NATO command posts, military facilities, and weapons sites.

The US had a similar plan.

An unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile launches during an operational test at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, Aug. 2, 2017.

(US Air Force photo)

The size of Russia’s current stockpile of non-strategic nuclear weapons is not known, though it’s believed to be much smaller than that of the Soviet Union.

It’s not totally clear how Russia would use “tactical” nuclear weapons — the Congressional Research Service has said Russia appears to view them as defense in nature — but they are seen as compensating for Russia’s conventional military shortcomings. (US interest in “low-yield” nuclear weapons as a deterrent has also grown, though critics say they would raise the chance of US first-use.)

Russia has fewer “strategic” nuclear weapons than the US, and “tactical” nuclear weapons may be more handy for Moscow’s shorter-range, regional focus, Hans Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists, told The National Interest in late 2017.

“Russia’s conventional forces are incapable of defending Russian territory in a long war,” Kristensen said. “It would lose, and as a result of that, they have placed more emphasis on more usage of tactical nuclear weapons as a leveler.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Mexico’s cartel wars are getting worse before they get better

2017 ended as Mexico’s most violent year in recent memory, with 25,339 homicide cases — more than during the peak year of inter-cartel fighting in 2011.


Crime and violence have steadily increased in Mexico over the past three years, and the bloodshed over the past decade has come despite, and often because of, the Mexican military’s and federal police’s presence in the streets.

Speaking before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Feb. 13, Army Gen. Robert Ashley, the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, described a key trend that has contributed to the violence.

Asked what threats US officials saw in Mexico and how the situation there had changed over the past decade, Ashley told the committee what has “transpired over the last couple of years is you had five principal cartels; we alluded to the number of captures [of cartel leaders] that had taken place, over 100. Those five cartels have kind of devolved into 20, and [as] part of that outgrowth, you’ve seen an increase in the level of violence.”

Also read: Mexican cartels may have used a ‘homemade cannon’ to fire drugs over the border

The dynamic Ashley described — the removal of criminal leaders leading to fragmentation of their groups and further violence — has been recognized as a failing of the “kingpin strategy” pursued, with strong US backing, by Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and his predecessor, Felipe Calderon, who deployed troops to confront domestic insecurity in 2007.

‘What’s happening, it’s like ants’

The kingpin strategy targets high-profile criminal leaders, with the idea that their capture or death will weaken their organization.

Ashley noted that under Peña Nieto, Mexico has brought down more than 100 high-profile cartel figures — among them Sinaloa cartel chief Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman (twice), Knights Templar founder Servando “La Tuta” Gomez (captured because his girlfriend brought him a cake), and Hector Beltran Leyva and Alfredo Beltran Guzman, both of whom lead of the Beltran Leyva Organization, an erstwhile Sinaloa cartel ally.

But the hoped-for security gains haven’t materialized.

“What actually happens is that if you take out the head of organization and it creates power vacuums and leads to … both internal schisms and encroachment … and creation of new spaces for other actors that can come, until we see a multiplication effect, or a proliferation, of smaller, regional groups,” David Shirk, a professor at the University of San Diego and director of the school’s Justice in Mexico program, told Business Insider in late 2016.

After a decade of Mexico’s drug war, several large cartels are thought to still be operating in Mexico, though two — the Sinaloa cartel and the Jalisco New Generation cartel— are believed to be the most powerful. But smaller groups, often splinters of larger cartels, have proliferated. (Sinaloa cartel infighting caused violence to spike in northwest Mexico in 2016 and early 2017.)

Information obtained from the Mexican attorney general in 2017 by journalist Nancy Flores indicated there were nine large cartels with 36 smaller related groups present in Mexico — fewer than the 88 total groups the attorney general’s office identified in 2014, and even fewer than the 200 drug-trafficking cells identified by Mexican political scientist and crime analyst Eduardo Guerrero-Gutierrez. Such groups are fluid and hard to define, making an exact number hard to determine.

Read more: A US citizen was arrested as a ranking member of a drug cartel

Smaller groups are also less capable of transnational drug trafficking and rely on local-level crimes, like kidnapping and extortion, which drives up crime levels and increases insecurity.

This dynamic can be seen throughout Mexico, especially in places like Tamaulipas, where factions of the Gulf cartel are competing for control of drug trafficking and other criminal rackets, and in Guerrero, a hotbed for heroin production that is home to a plethora of local and regional criminal groups and larger groups like the Sinaloa cartel that are involved in the cultivation and transportation of drugs as well as local criminal enterprises.

Official photograph of the President of México, Mr. Enrique Peña Nieto.

“What’s happening, it’s like ants,” a Tamaulipas state police officer told Vice of the kingpin strategy’s effects in late 2016. Taking out the “queen ant” without following up, he said, means they can regroup and return — or others take the queen’s place.

‘To recover peace and calm’

But the fragmentation and proliferation of criminal groups aren’t the only trends contributing to insecurity in Mexico.

A lack of economic opportunity for marginalized communities creates amenable operating conditions for criminal groups, which also thrive on high profit margins created by drug prohibition. Corruption, particularly of local government officials and police forces, is rampant, inhibiting efforts to crack down on criminal groups and undermining the rule of law.

Related: A US citizen was arrested as a ranking member of a drug cartel

Deep-seated impunity allows many crimes to go unpunished. According to the 2016 Global Impunity Index, only seven of every 100 crimes in Mexico are reported, and just 4.46% of reported crimes actually result in convictions. All told, “less than 1% of crimes in Mexico are punished,” the Center for Impunity and Justice Studies, which calculated the index, estimated.

Despite its failings, the Mexican government has not scrapped the militarized approach to fighting crime. A controversial law formalizing the military’s role in domestic law enforcement was signed late last year, though it is being evaluated by the supreme court.

And at the end of January 2018, days after final crime data showed just how violent 2017 had been, Mexico’s national security commissioner said more soldiers would be deployed to crime hotspots — “to recover peace and calm for all Mexicans.”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Army has a need for speed according to chief buyer

The U.S. Army‘s acquisitions chief said recently that the military needs to make a major technological breakthrough in speed if combat forces are to maintain their edge on future battlefields.

“What is it that we could do that would be the same as ‘own the night?’ ” said Bruce Jette, assistant secretary of the Army for acquisitions, logistics and technology, referring to the service’s breakthrough in night-vision technology. “And I’ll tell you, the thing that keeps coming is speed.”


Speaking at the National Defense Industrial Association’s Science Technology Symposium and Showcase, he recalled an experience he had in the early 1980s as a tank commander during a force-on-force training exercise at Fort Carson, Colorado.

“I was coming up over this ridgeline, and the other guy is coming up over the other ridgeline. I saw him, he saw me,” Jette said.

Each tank started rotating its turret toward the other.

“It was like quick draw: Who is going to get in line with the other guy first?” Jette said, describing how it all came down to “the rate at which the turret turned.”

The Russians are experimenting with robotic turrets that use algorithms to speed up decision-making in combat, he said. Images appear on a flat screen inside the tank, and “the computer goes, ‘I think that is a tank.’

An M1A2 SEP Abrams from 116th Cavalry Brigade Combat Team, Idaho Army National Guard (middle) and a M1134 Anti-Tank Guided Missile Vehicle from 1st Squadron, 14th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., return from waging mock battle against one another during an eXportable Combat Training Capability exercise, at Orchard Combat Training Center, south of Boise, Idaho, Aug. 14, 2014.

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Chris McCullough)

“They have [pictures] of our tanks and vehicles in their computer, and the computer looks at them and puts little boxes around them and, depending on how far away they are and depending on what orientation they are in, the computer has an algorithm that says, ‘Shoot that one first, that one second and that one third,’ ” Jette said.

This reduces the number of steps the gunner must go through before engaging targets.

“I need your ideas on how to put ourselves way past what these guys are onto,” Jette said, addressing an audience of industry representatives. “How can we be faster? How can we be better?”

He added, “One of the reasons we are not doing that yet is we are not going to mistake an ice cream truck for a tank. Our probability of target detection and identification has to be extremely high. Our thresholds would have to be higher; we would have to be better, we would have to be faster. Speed is going to be critically important.”

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.