Alleged Russian assassins claim they are simple tourists - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Alleged Russian assassins claim they are simple tourists

Two men accused by London of poisoning former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter with a military-grade nerve agent have told Russia’s state-funded RT television station they visited the British city of Salisbury in March 2018 as tourists.

The two men, who looked similar to the pictures of the suspects released by Britain on Sept. 5, 2018, denied having played any role in the murder attempt.


“Our friends had been suggesting for a long time that we visit this wonderful town,” one of the men said of Salisbury in a short clip of the interview played by RT on Sept. 13, 2018.

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“Maybe we did [approach] Skripal’s house, but we don’t know where is it located,” one of the two men claimed.

British Prime Minister Theresa May’s spokesman called the interview “an insult to the public’s intelligence,” saying it was full of “lies and blatant fabrications.”

British officials have accused the suspects of smuggling the Soviet-designed nerve agent Novichok into Britain in a fake perfume bottle and smearing some of the substance on the front door of Sergei Skripal’s home in Salisbury, where the former intelligence officer settled after being sent to the West in a Cold War-style spy swap in 2010.

The attack left Skripal, 67, and his daughter Yulia, 34, in critical condition, but both have recovered after weeks in the hospital.

The men interviewed by RT denied carrying the fake women’s perfume bottle with them.

“Isn’t it silly for decent lads to have women’s perfume?” one of the two men was quoted as saying by the Kremlin-funded RT.

“The customs are checking everything, they would have questions as to why men have women’s perfume in their luggage. We didn’t have it.”

They also said they stayed less than one hour in Salisbury due to poor weather.

“We went there to see Stonehenge, Old Sarum, but we couldn’t do it because there was muddy slush everywhere,” one of the two men said, referring to local landmarks.

Alleged Russian assassins claim they are simple tourists

A picture taken on Fisherton Road in Salisbury on March 4, 2018, and released by the British Metropolitan Police Service on Sept. 5, 2018, shows Aleksandr Petrov (right) and Ruslan Boshirov.

In the statement, the British government said the interview reflected more “obfuscation and lies” by Moscow.

“The government is clear these men are officers of the Russian military intelligence service — the GRU — who used a devastatingly toxic, illegal chemical weapon on the streets of our country,” it said in a statement.

“We have repeatedly asked Russia to account for what happened in Salisbury in March 2018,” the statement said. “Today — just as we have seen throughout — they have responded with obfuscation and lies.”

The RT interview was aired a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin said his country had identified the men Britain suspects of poisoning Skripal and his daughter, but claimed they were civilians.

“They are civilians, of course,” Putin said on Sept. 12, 2018, contradicting the British government’s assertion that they were officers of Russia’s military intelligence agency, known as the GRU.

Following Putin’s declaration, May’s spokesman said that Britain’s attempts to get an explanation from Moscow over the poisoning had always been met with “obfuscation and lies.”

The two suspects are GRU officers, the spokesman reiterated, adding, “The government has exposed the role of the GRU, its operatives, and its methods, this position is supported by our international allies.”

Early September 2018, British authorities announced that they had charged two Russian men, identified as Aleksandr Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, with carrying out the poisoning on March 4, 2018.

British Home Secretary Sajid Javid said on Sept. 9, 2018, that Britain will catch the two men and bring them to prosecution if they ever step out of Russia.

Calling the poisoning a “sickening and despicable” attack, Javid said it was “unequivocally, crystal-clear this was the act of the Russian state — two Russian nationals sent to Britain with the sole purpose of carrying out a reckless assassination attempt.”

The poisoning led Britain, the United States, the European Union, and others to carry out a series of diplomatic expulsions and financial sanctions against Moscow.

It has further damaged already severely strained relations between Russia and the West and has been a cause for solidarity at a time when Western officials accuse Moscow of seeking to cause rifts in relations between Western countries.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

The game-changing Swedish warship that sank in its first battle

In 1563 and 1564, Sweden built a massive warship that was the pinnacle of naval technology at the time.

Its creation ushered in a sea change in naval combat — despite the fact that the ship sank early in its first battle.


King Eric XIV of Sweden ordered that the ship Mars be constructed to put Sweden at the forefront of naval artillery. It was a five-deck ship with two decks dedicated to artillery, mostly cannons. Even the crow’s nests had guns.

All this came at a time when naval engagements were decided by seamanship and armed boardings —where a group of sailors from one ship crossed to the deck of an enemy ship and fought with swords and pistols.

Naval artillery in the early and mid-1500s was focused on killing enemy personnel or causing structural damage to the enemy ship, but no one had ever sunk a ship that way. Ships were usually sank by fire, sabotage by boarding crews, or by ramming.

But Eric XIV had a vision of the future and ordered his admiral to take the Mars as part of a huge fleet aimed at Denmark and Lubeck (part of modern Germany) and sink ships using its naval artillery.

And the admiral delivered… probably. A Danish chaplain said that the Mars cast a somber shadow over the whole Danish and German fleet when it arrived. He also said it later sank the Longbark, one of the largest ships in the enemy fleet, with naval gunnery.

If accurate, it was likely the first time a ship was sunk by naval artillery.

Alleged Russian assassins claim they are simple tourists

The 64-gun warship Vasa sits in museum. The ship was built in the tradition of the Mars, but wasn’t as well designed and floundered during its first voyage in 1628.

(Jorge Lascar, CC-BY 2.0)

But the Mars cast too large a shadow and, as a consequence, drew too many attackers. On the second day of the battle, enemy ships sent massive amounts of fireballs onto the Mars and disabled it before sending boarding parties onto it.

What happened next is unsure. A fire definitely occurred in the Mars‘ gunpowder stores, and that might have set the loaded cannons off. Regardless, the ship was destroyed in the following hours, left to sink in approximately 250 feet of water.

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Luckily for archaeologists, it was 250 feet of the Baltic Sea, which lacks the large populations of shipworms that destroy wrecks in the rest of the world. And the cold water is relatively still, reducing erosion. According to researchers who spoke to National Geographic, the wreck might be the best preserved vessel of its kind.

The concept behind the Mars was proven in the years following its loss as navy after navy, including those of Denmark and Lubeck, constructed large ships reminiscent of the cannon-toting behemoth.

Articles

World War II veteran gets Bronze Star after 73 years

A South Carolina World War II veteran’s family, along with Congressman Joe Wilson and Rep. Bill Taylor, R- SC, recently honored the war hero with the Bronze Star, which he actually received 73 years ago.


On May 20, Aiken County’s James “Boots” Beatty, 96, was presented the award that was authorized in 1944, but he was never notified.

Now, after decades, Wilson and Taylor presented the Bronze Star.

“I honored him recognition from the South Carolina House of Representatives,” Taylor said. “Boots was one of the original military ‘tough guys’. He served in the famed Devil’s Brigade, our county’s First Special Forces Unit and the forerunner of Delta Force, the Navy Seals.”

Alleged Russian assassins claim they are simple tourists
Navy Seals in WW2. Photo by Wikimedia Commons

The Bronze Star Medal, unofficially the Bronze Star, is a United States decoration awarded to members of the United States Armed Forces for either heroic achievement, heroic service, meritorious achievement, or meritorious service in a combat zone.

Beatty received this and several other awards during a special surprise presentation at his home in Aiken.

“Today’s recognition was a surprise arranged by his loving family who didn’t know of his special service until they discovered it six years ago because he never told them,” Taylor said.

Jim Hamilton, Beatty’s son-in-law, and several other family members also presented other medals and decorations Beatty won, but lost over the many years.

Alleged Russian assassins claim they are simple tourists
Photo by Wikimedia Commons

Beatty also was presented with the Good Conduct medal, which was approved by the Secretary of War on Oct. 30, 1942; the European — African — Middle Eastern Campaign Medal is a military award of the United States Armed Forces which was first created on Nov. 6, 1942 by executive order 9265, issued by President Franklin D. Roosevelt; and the World War II Victory Medal, Hamilton said.

He also received the Active Duty Army Minute Man Lapel Pin, Combat Infantryman Badge, and the Expert Infantryman Badge.

Articles

7 things you should know before joining the infantry

There’s no shortage of heroic war stories — truth or fiction — with heavy amounts of glory and honor in them, which can cause young adults to crave certain adventures. Although serving in the infantry does bring a level of individual satisfaction, many facts tend to get left out regarding what it’s really  like to be a ground pounder.


So before you run to your local recruiting office to sign on the dotted line and become a hero or whatever, here are a few things you might need to know:

1. It’s a dangerous job

Movies do a great job depicting how dangerous war can be as directors add in cinematic kills and awesome camera work.

In real life, there’s no pulse-pounding theme music or slow motion effects — the sh*t is real.

Yes, we’re serious. (Image via Giphy)

2. You will make unbreakable relationships

Once you make a friend in the infantry, you always have that special bond no matter what.

Hopefully, you’re the “Maverick” in the relationship. (Image via Giphy)

3.  It can be really, really boring

You’ve probably heard the phrase “hurry up and wait.” In a grunt unit, everything takes more time than it should and you’re going to have plenty of down time. So make sure you have games downloaded on your smartphone to play and help you stay awake while you wait for the higher-ups to “pass the word.”

Stay awake brain. (Image via Giphy)

4. You will get to blow sh*t up

This is the best part. That is all.

3/5 Get Some! (Image via Giphy)

5. You will be made to do stupid tasks

It’s called a “working party.” This sounds way more fun than it actually is. Instead of plenty of beer and drunken coeds, you’ll be outside in the heat “police calling” cigarette butts or mopping your boss’s office.

If this looks fun, being a boot in the infantry may be your calling(Image via Giphy)

Also Read: 5 differences between Army and Marine Corps infantry

6. You will go on a lot of mandatory hikes

Whether it’s 5 miles or 25 miles, an infantryman will put on all his gear and equipment and walk the base to help get him in shape for deployment — it’s called a conditioning hike and it’s the worst.

Here’s a fun little trick, wear pantyhose under your socks to keep from ripping up your heels up. You’re welcome.

It might look weird, but it can save your feet and maybe even your life. (Image via Giphy)

7. You’ll earn yourself lifelong pride, you smug bastard.

If you manage to get through all the training, deploy to combat, and make it home safe — you will have unspoken bragging rights forever.

Smile! You’re not serving behind a desk for the next four years. (Image via Giphy)

MIGHTY SPORTS

Navy’s 2018 Army-Navy Game smack video just dropped

The Midshipmen-turned-video-content-producers (who also happen to be Navy officers) just churned out the next iteration of their “Go Navy Beat Army” saga. From the minds who brought you classics, like We Give A Ship and Helm Yeah, comes their newest production: SPACE FORCE.


Naval Officer Rylan Tuohy graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis in 2016. In his time as a Mid, he produced a couple of Navy’s most appreciated Army-Navy Game traditions, the Navy spirit video. In the past, he’s had special guests like Sen. John McCain, Adm. John Richardson, Roger Staubach, and even the U.S. Navy Blue Angels appear in his annual troll on the U.S. Military Academy.

This year he’s featuring the U.S. Space Force.

The video starts as a kind of recruiting video for the newly-christened U.S. Space Force, but takes a dramatic turn in order to take a shot at the Army. We watch as a Space Force pilot wakes up from the “bad dream” of reenlisting in the Army.

Not to be outdone, Army’s own efforts at video-based smacktalk have increased dramatically over the years. Their response to Tuohy’s 2016 “We Give A Ship” video was their own wordplay-laden video, “We Don’t Give A Ship, We Give A Truck.” Even better was its response to Tuohy and Navy’s 2017 “Helm Yeah” video, a highly-produced, 10-minute short film on West Point’s Facebook Page, called “Lead From The Front.”

Filmed in 4K, the video featured then-Commandant of the U.S. Military Academy Lt. Gen. Robert Caslen, and trolled all of Navy’s athletics, their uniforms, cadets, and their fanbase. It also talked smack about the Midshipmen’s own smack-talk videos.

Lead From the Front will probably go down as the premiere video about how the Black Knights might kidnap Navy’s mascot using the full power of the U.S. Army. It was produced by then-cadet Austin Lachance (who is now an officer) and was complete with special effects, helicopters, and a soundtrack produced by the West Point Band.

There’s no word yet on how Army might respond to this year’s Space Force jab.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Unanswered questions about the Ukrainian plane crash in Iran

All 176 people on board were killed when a Ukraine International Airlines plane crashed in Iran early on Wednesday morning.

Authorities in Iran and Ukraine, as well as at the airline, have offered statements and press conferences, but a number of key unanswered questions are still swirling.

Investigations have kicked off amid rampant speculation that current political tensions between the US and Iran could have contributed to the plane crash.

Information about who was on the passenger jet — Flight PS 752 — and what happened before the crash remain lacking.

Here are the unanswered questions.


What happened on the flight?

A complete timeline of the flight is yet to emerge.

We know that the plane took off at 6:12 a.m. local time on Wednesday and lost contact about two minutes later.

But we don’t know exactly what time it crashed — just that it was only in the air for a few minutes, based on flight-tracking software, and that the debris was found about six miles from the airport from where it took off.

Authorities also said the plane burst into flames shortly after takeoff, but whether the plane was already on fire before it crashed to the ground is not yet clear.

A video shared by the partially state-run Iranian Students’ News Agency appears to show the plane on fire in the air before hitting the ground and filling the sky with flames, but the video’s content and connection to this crash has not yet been verified.

Who was killed?

Ukraine’s foreign minister said that the victims mostly came from Iran and Canada.

Vadym Prystaiko said the victims were 82 Iranians, 63 Canadians, and 11 Ukrainians, as well as 11 Swedish citizens, four Afghan citizens, three UK citizens, and three German citizens. Nine of those on board were crew members.

But he did not identify the victims.

Sky News identified the three UK citizens on board, while the airline identified the pilots as Volodymyr Gaponenko, Alexei Naumkin, and Sergey Khomenko. All had a minimum of 7,600 hours on Boeing 737 planes. Vice also identified some Canadian victims.

Ukraine International Airlines said it will post the passenger list on its website “after final confirmation of their presence on board of the aircraft.”

Was the plane shot down?

Some aviation experts have argued that the plane was likely shot down; others have said it was too early to speculate about the cause.

But the idea that the plane was deliberately downed, including shot down by a missile, is speculation at the moment, and its account is contradicted by authorities.

Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, warned against “speculation or unchecked theories regarding the catastrophe” until official investigations were done. He said, “Our priority is to establish the truth and those responsible for this terrible catastrophe.”

Iranian authorities said in the hours after the crash that it had been caused by technical problems, dismissing the idea that it could have been a terrorist or military attack.

Alleged Russian assassins claim they are simple tourists

President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Qassem Biniaz, an official at the Iranian Ministry of Roads and Urban Development, told state news agency IRNA that an engine caught fire and the pilot was unable to regain control, The New York Times reported.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian Prime Minister Oleksiy Honcharuk refused to rule out the idea that the plane could be downed by a missile, but cautioned against speculation before the investigation.

CFM, the French-American maker of the jet engine, said that any speculation on causes was premature, according to Reuters.

“We have no further information at this time. Any speculation regarding the cause is premature,” the company said.

Ukraine’s embassy in Tehran initially dismissed the idea of terrorism or a rocket attack soon after the crash, blaming an engine failure instead. But that statement was later replaced by one that says the cause is unknown and is being investigated.

According to Reuters, the embassy said the earlier statement was based on preliminary information but was not official, and that Iranian authorities had asked the embassy to remove it.

Suspicion over causes of the crash have been heightened amid the increased tension in Iran after the US assassinated its top general and Iran subsequently attacked bases housing US troops in Iraq.

Hours before the plane crash, Iran attacked two Iraqi military bases that housed US and coalition forces with ballistic missiles. There is no evidence that the two incidents are linked.

Were there any faults with the plane?

Ukraine International Airlines has sought to distance itself from the possibility that there was a fault with the plane or its crew.

It said in the hours after the crash that the plane was built in 2016 and that it had last completed maintenance checks just two days ago.

Officials: Boeing 737-800 crash in Iran likely a result of mechanical issues

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It also said that the plane was one of the best in its fleet and had an experienced crew. The airline had never had a fatal flight before.

The airline’s vice president of operations, Ihor Sosnovsky, said the airline doubted the crew had made mistakes: “Given the crew’s experience, error probability is minimal.”

The plane model, the Boeing 737-800 NG, has been in the air since the 1990s, and is considered the most popular aircraft in use today. It has been involved in some crashes in the past, though no recent crashes have been attributed the plane’s design.

The crash may ramp up pressure for Boeing as it deals with the fallout of two fatal crashes by two 737 Max planes in 2018 and 2019, both of which were believed to be caused by a flawed flight-control system.

But the 737 model involved in Wednesday’s crash does not use the same software believed to have played in a role in those doomed flights.

Boeing said in a Wednesday statement: “This is a tragic event and our heartfelt thoughts are with the crew, passengers, and their families. We are in contact with our airline customer and stand by them in this difficult time. We are ready to assist in any way needed.”

How will the investigations work?

Under international rules, Iran must investigate the crash, though typically a number of different investigations take place into plane crashes.

Ukraine’s President Zelensky also said that he had instructed his prosecutor-general to open criminal proceedings after the crash.

Ukraine International Airlines said it would take “all measures” to determine the cause of the crash, and that Ukraine, Iran, and Boeing representatives would also be involved.

But Boeing, a major American company with close ties to the US government, may face problems in getting involved with the investigation because of US sanctions on Iran and newly heightened tensions between the two countries.

Mehr, a semi-official Iranian news agency, quoted the head of Iran’s civil aviation authority as saying the country would not give the plane’s black boxes to Boeing, Reuters reported. He said he was not sure what country Iran would give them to.

It is not clear what the role the independent US National Transportation Safety Board, which investigates plane crashes, will play. It said it is “monitoring the developments” and is working with US agencies to “determine the best course of action.”

Investigators have not yet released a timeline for when they expect to release any preliminary conclusions. Final reports usually take months to complete.

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

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Articles

‘The West Wing’ cast reunites in new PSA supporting Veterans Treatment Courts

Martin Sheen, Allison Janney, and other former cast members of NBC’s The West Wing reunited to produce an advocacy video on behalf of Justice For Vets, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the creation of a nationwide network of Veterans Treatment Courts in the U.S. criminal justice system.


Half of the U.S. military’s returning service members experiencing some form of mental health issues, one in five have some form of post-traumatic stress, and one in six struggle with substance abuse, both related to experiences in their service. Many of the 700,000 veterans in the criminal justice system are there because of their service-related trauma, addiction, or mental illness. This is not limited to the veterans of the recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In 2008, Judge Robert T. Russell of Buffalo, New York noticed many of the returning faces in his courtroom were veterans. The rising number of veterans in the city’s treatment courts led to the creation of the country’s first Veterans Treatment Court. The idea was to create a support group among the niche population of veterans adopting, with slight modifications, ten key components as described in the U.S. Department of Justice Publication entitled Defining Drug Courts: The Key Components, combining those with the ten essential elements of Mental Health Courts.

These courts allow veterans to appear before judges who understand the unique challenges facing them. More than that, Veterans Treatment Courts give vets the the chance to participate in recovery with fellow veterans, to re-establish the esprit de corps kindled by their military service. The court becomes their new unit with the judge in the role of commanding officer. The new team members support each other and are mentored through their rehabilitation period.

Alleged Russian assassins claim they are simple tourists
Veterans Service Officers share a unique bond with particpants and help them access their claims. (Photo: Justice For Vets)

The Department of Veterans Affairs plays an important role in guiding recovery of the veteran. The courts area “one-stop shop,” linking veterans with the programs, benefits and services.  A Veterans Justice Outreach Specialist, or VJO, is present during hearing to give the courts on the spot information about health records, treatment options, disability benefits, and to make appointments. The VJO is not a member of the court, but plays a critical advisory role.

And there is a lot of evidence showing Veterans Treatment Courts work.

“The concept is creating a community,” Judge Marc Carter of Harris County, Texas told a crowd gathered to watch the Justice For Vets public service announcement in Los Angeles. “It’s not only important in Veterans Courts but in the entire criminal justice system. While they’re in treatment they have success, but when they’re back to their homes they face the same triggers that sent them to me in the first place. In the Veterans Courts we create that community. It can change their lives forever.”

There are now 264 Veterans Treatment Courts in 37 states, and one in Guam. 13,200 veterans are in the care of the courts and their community instead of behind bars, with 3,000 more veterans serving those courts as volunteer mentors. The structure, rigorous treatment and peer mentoring of Veterans Treatment Courts are producing more permanent positive treatment outcomes, returning more veterans to their communities, and saving the American taxpayer the cost of incarceration.

“Vets courts will continue to grow as they do in Texas,” Judge Carter said. “The value of bringing people back healthy to their communities as opposed to putting them in prison and returning them in the same conditions is immeasurable.”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

6 exciting future weapons the Army needs next

Within a decade, if not sooner, leap-ahead technologies like lasers, hypersonic weapons, mobile and secure networks, and unmanned/autonomous air and ground vehicles will likely reside in combat formations, said the Army’s secretary.

Peer threats from China and Russia — nations also developing these technologies — make fielding these systems absolutely necessary, said Secretary of the Army Mark T. Esper, who spoke May 16, 2018, at the Center for a New American Security here.


The secretary provided a glimpse into some of these new capabilities that the Army is developing, in partnership with industry, as part of its six modernization priorities.

1. Long-range precision fires

“The Army is looking at hypersonics as game changer in its No. 1 modernization priority: long-range precision fires,” Esper said.

Hypersonic weapons can fire rounds or a projectile hundreds of miles, he said. “That gives us an incredible ability to reach out and hurt an adversary or at least to hold him at bay,” he said. Further, it would buy time for maneuver forces to secure objectives on the battlefield.

Projectiles of hypersonic weapons travel at speeds of Mach 5 or more using a supersonic combustion ramjets. Mach 5 is a speed well above high-performance jets that cruise at Mach 3 or 4 at their fastest. Experts say that cruise missiles or even unmanned aerial systems could eventually be modified to make them hypersonic.

Alleged Russian assassins claim they are simple tourists
Secretary of the Army Dr. Mark T. Esper, speaks at the Center for a New American Security in Washington, D.C., May 16, 2018.
(Photo by David Vergun, Army News Service)

2. Next generation combat vehicle

The second modernization priority, a next generation combat vehicle, will replace the aging Bradley Fighting Vehicles, which no longer have the power or space to haul modern communications gear or advanced weaponry, he said.

For development of the NGCV, the Army is not averse to opening the competition up to foreign partners as well as American companies, he added. The Stryker, a highly successful vehicle, wasn’t made in America.

Stryker vehicles are produced by General Dynamics Land Systems of Canada.

While NGCV is the second priority in modernization, the Army will need to continue to improve upon its current fleets of tactical vehicles until a complete phase-in of NGCV occurs, which will be further down the road.

Right now, some Bradleys have been test-configured in a leader-follower formation, allowing them to run semi-autonomously. Eventually, Bradleys will be able to run completely autonomous. And the NGCV will be designed from the ground up to operate that way, and it will also be able to team with manned vehicles.

The difficulty in doing that is the vehicles will need to avoid obstacles in the terrain, operate without GPS and move while under attack, something current driverless car technology cannot yet accomplish, he pointed out.

But the time will come when that’s possible, aided by such things as artificial intelligence, he said.

Not NGCV specific, but on another vehicle-related matter, the secretary said that a production decision on the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle will be made later this year. JLTV is a replacement for the Humvee.

3. Future vertical lift

The Army expects to get a future vertical lift prototype, its third modernization priority, in the 2020 timeframe, Esper said.

There are some demonstrators now, with industry shelling out $3 or $4 dollars to every dollar the Army puts up, which is good value for taxpayers, he noted.

Having said that, the Army’s current aviation fleet is in good shape and will continue to get upgrades.

The dream of FVL, he said, is to get much more range, lift and speed over what the current rotor fleet can provide. That will enable aviation to provide Soldiers with the lift, surveillance and firepower they will need on battlefields of the future.

4. Army network

The fourth priority is building a network that can move with the maneuver force and enable secure communications, Esper said.

Even when this development occurs, Soldiers will still need to be able to operate against a peer threat who could disrupt communications at best or deny communications at worst.

Alleged Russian assassins claim they are simple tourists
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. William Tremblay)


Soldiers at the combat training centers are now training to operate without GPS or communications. It’s the type of training the Army used to do but had gotten away from, he added.

5. Air and missile defense

The fifth modernization priority is air and missile defense.

Russian and separatist activities in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine was a wakeup call for the need to improve air and missile defense, Esper said. In 2014, drones were used to surveil and target Ukrainian mechanized units with rockets.

Opposition forces at the combat training centers are now employing unmanned aerial systems as part of training, he said.

By 2020, the Army will field a battery of Strykers in Europe that will be fitted with interceptors to shoot down enemy aircraft as well as UAS, he said. But that’s only an interim measure.

The ultimate goal, he said, is to fit Strykers and NGCVs with directed energy weapons like lasers. Directed energy weapons also include microwaves and particle beams.

The advantage in using directed energy weapons, Esper said, is that they have an unlimited magazine as long as they are being powered, and, “you can’t get caught by the enemy while you’re re-loading missiles on the rails.”

Hypersonic weapons could also be employed in air and missile defense, he added.

6. Soldier lethality

The Army’s final modernization priority is Soldier lethality.

In areas of modernization, there is a lot of research going on with things like improved night vision goggles and synthetic training, Esper said.

Alleged Russian assassins claim they are simple tourists
(Photo by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Mark Burrell, 210th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment.)

However, there are ways in which the Army can make Soldiers much more lethal outside of the scope of research going on in the Soldier Lethality and Synthetic Training Cross Functional Teams, he said.

For instance, Congress has provided the Army with enough funding to increase CTC rotations, he said. In coming years, the Army will be able to do 20 rotations per year, which include four involving the Reserve components.

These rotations involve the high-end, maneuver warfare fight and also asymmetric warfare where, for example, role-players standing in as refugees are scattered on the battlefield. “We don’t want to forget the hard-won lessons of the past,” he said.

If it sounds like the battlefield of the future will be complex as well as lethal, it will be, Esper said. The battlefield of the future will require an intelligent type of Soldier who can carry on with minimal guidance. To get there, the Army is keeping its recruiting and retention criteria high.

The Army will also soon launch its Integrated Pay and Personnel System, which will identify Soldier’s knowledge, skills, attributes and desires. This will allow the Army to place Soldiers in the right jobs and locations, he said, and that will increase readiness.

In another effort to improve readiness, the Army is actively engaged in removing tasks Soldiers do that don’t involve readiness and is not congressionally mandated, like certain training, he said.

“The goal is to get Soldiers away from their computers, out of their offices and into the field,” he said.

Lastly, to improve the fitness of Soldiers, and reduce injuries and non-deployability, “we are planning and budgeting to put into all of our maneuver battalions a nutritionist, a sports trainer and a physical therapist. Some units are doing that already. The game plan is to treat our Soldiers like professional athletes,” he said.

During a recent visit to Fort Drum with the 10th Mountain Division, Esper said he met with leaders who said that after these health professionals were added, injuries went down and fitness levels noticeably increased because of how they adapted their training.

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

Articles

Here’s a tragic reminder that Americans are still in the fight in Afghanistan

The Pentagon released the name of a Special Forces soldier who was killed by an improvised bomb attack during a night raid with Afghan commandos in the restive Helmand province, a reminder that the fight continues 15 years after American troops first landed there.


Staff Sgt. Matthew Thompson, 28, of Irvine, California, was killed while accompanying Afghan special forces on a raid near Lashkar Gah. Thompson was a Green Beret with the 3rd Battalion, 1st Special Forces group based in Washington and died Aug. 23 alongside six of his Afghan comrades.

Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. — Staff Sgt. Matthew V. Thompson, 28, of Irvine, California, died Aug. 23, 2016, of wounds received from an improvised explosive device while on patrol in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. (Photo: U.S. Army)

Another American servicemember was wounded in the attack and remains in stable condition at a hospital in Afghanistan, officials say.

“This tragic event in Helmand province reminds us that Afghanistan remains a dangerous place, and there is difficult work ahead even as Afghan forces continue to make progress in securing their own country,” Pentagon chief Ash Carter said in a statement. “We will continue to work closely with the government of Afghanistan and our NATO partners to bolster the capabilities of the [Afghan national defense and security forces] so they can provide the people of Afghanistan the peace they deserve.”

The deaths came on the eve of a brazen attack on the American University in the Afghan capital Kabul that killed 14 and wounded 35. No Americans are among the casualties so far.

The top spokesman for the NATO mission in Afghanistan said special operations troops, many of them Americans, are on missions nearly every night throughout the country advising Afghan commandos who are targeting Taliban holdouts in key areas. He said that about 10 percent of Afghan special forces missions include NATO troops, but they’re not usually engaged in the fighting.

Alleged Russian assassins claim they are simple tourists
Commandos from the 7th Special Operation Kandak prepare for the unitís first independent helicopter assault mission, March 10, 2014, in Washir district, Helmand province, Afghanistan The mission was conducted to disrupt insurgent activity. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Richard B. Lower)

“This is something that we do nationwide [so] it’s possible that we have some NATO [special operations force] element out in the field on any given night,” said Army Brig. Gen. Charles Cleveland during an Aug. 25 press conference. “Our role in that, of course, is that we don’t participate, we don’t go on the objective, but we provide the assistance they require.”

Cleveland said about 80 percent of Afghan special operations missions are conducted solo, with another 10 percent incorporating NATO and U.S. help in the rear, including intelligence and surveillance support.

Alleged Russian assassins claim they are simple tourists
A U.S. Special Forces soldier, attached to Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force-Afghanistan, and an Afghan National Army commando, of 6th Special Operations Kandak, scan the area for enemy movement after taking direct fire from insurgents during an operation in Khogyani district, Nangarhar province, Afghanistan, March 20, 2014. Commandos, advised and assisted by U.S. Special Forces soldiers, conducted the operation to disrupt insurgent freedom of maneuver. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Connor Mendez)

He added that the Taliban have been unable to hold any major city or town, and typically raid a checkpoint, steal equipment and are pushed out by Afghan forces some time later.

The operation in which Thompson was killed included an effort by Afghan special forces to interdict Taliban insurgents on the outskirts of the key Helmand town of Lashkar Gah. It was a “fairly large operation,” Cleveland said.

“It was an effort to clear out Taliban strongholds so conventional forces could move in,” he said.

Though violence has been on an upsurge as the summer fighting season crests, officials say the Taliban isn’t able to mount an effective, large-scale assault to win coveted territory and sanctuary.

“The idea that they’re this invincible force, moving ahead and claiming territory we don’t believe is accurate,” Cleveland said. “We don’t think there’s a massive, invincible offensive coming from the Taliban.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

B-52 squadron commander fired for his penis drawings

A commander of a B-52 Stratofortress squadron at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, was recently relieved from duty after sexually explicit and phallic drawings were discovered inside the bomber’s cockpit screens during a recent deployment, Military.com has learned.

A command-directed investigation anticipated to be released by Air Force Global Strike Command in coming weeks will show that Lt. Col. Paul Goossen was removed from command of the 69th Bomb Squadron Nov. 27, 2018, because penis drawings were discovered on a moving map software displayed on the nuclear-capable B-52’s Combat Network Communication Technology (CONECT), according to a source familiar with the incident.


The system, used to display common data such as pre-planned routes for sorties and target coordinates, captured the data for post-sortie debriefs. Screengrabs of the images were later used for laughs at an end-of-deployment party, sources said.

“Any actions or behavior that do not embody our values and principles are not tolerated within the Air Force,” said Air Force Global Strike spokesman Lt. Col. Uriah Orland in response to Military.com’s request for comment.

Orland would not confirm the contents of the CDI, but added the zero-tolerance policy “includes creating or contributing to an unhealthy, inappropriate work environment.”

Alleged Russian assassins claim they are simple tourists

A B-52 Stratofortress.

During the 69th’s deployment to Al Udeid Air Force Base, Qatar, between September 2017 and April 2018, penis drawings were repeatedly created by members of the unit and were captured as screengrabs for a CD montage, the source said. The montage was played at the end of the deployment, and then left behind and later turned in to officials. The suggestive material prompted an investigation.

The Air Force on Nov. 27, 2018, said Goossen was removed “due to a loss of trust and confidence from his failure to maintain a professional workplace environment.”

Col. Bradley Cochran, commander of the 5th Bomb Wing, initiated the investigation, which concluded Oct. 31, 2018, said Maj. Natasha Cherne, spokeswoman for the 5th Bomb Wing.

Goossen took over as the squadron commander in summer 2017, Cherne said in November 2018.

Goossen was commander of the 69th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron when the B-52 flew its last missions against the Islamic State before the B-1B Lancer took over the mission in the Middle East, according to the Air Force.

During its eight-month deployment, Air Force units to include the 69th launched “834 consecutive B-52 missions without a maintenance cancellation,” while targeting ISIS and Taliban fighters across the U.S. Central Command region, the service said in a release.

Crews, including Goossen, even took part in a holiday conference call with President Donald Trump Dec. 24, 2017, while on station. Goossen was photographed speaking to the president during the conference call.

Alleged Russian assassins claim they are simple tourists

Lt. Col. Paul Goossen speaking to the president during a conference call.

(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Patrick Evenson)

“Having the 69th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron be selected to receive a morale phone call from the President of the United States is a true Christmas gift and a real honor,” Goossen said of the phone call. “We feel fortunate to represent all Air Force deployed personnel and we are humbled to have the opportunity out of so many deserving units,” he said in the release.

Even though the 69th’s drawings were restricted to the cockpit, the latest incident follows a spree of aerial maneuvers from various units over the last year throughout the military involving illustrated penises.

Most recently, two West Coast-based Marines under investigation for executing a flight pattern that resembled a phallus in late October 2018 have been restricted to ground duties, the Marine Corps said in November 2018.

It was suspected Air Force crews over Ramstein Air Base, Germany, attempted their own sky penis drawing in April 2018.

Two Navy aviators piloting an EA-18G Growler in November 2017 over Washington state were also disciplined for their infamous incident that went viral across the internet.

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

Articles

This Civil War veteran demonstrated how to ditch the bottle and become a saint – literally

On that rare occasion in your service, you might have run into a fellow trooper who, after reflection, could be called a “saint” for his or her selfless courage and commitment to duty.


And while very few of a martial bent wind up actually becoming saints, one Civil War veteran is being considered for canonization by the Catholic Church for his devotion to duty.

Alleged Russian assassins claim they are simple tourists
And beards. Many veterans are dedicated to beards as well.

Joseph Dutton was a veteran of the American Civil War. He left the United States for Hawaii in his mid-40s, arriving in Honolulu with nothing but the clothes on his back. He spent the remainder of his life in a leper colony trying to eclipse his past mistakes “in his own eyes and in the eyes of God.”

When Brother Joseph Dutton died in March 1931, former President Calvin Coolidge said:

Whenever his story is told men will pause to worship. His faith, his work, his self-sacrifice appeal to people because there is always something of the same spirit in them. Therein lies the moral power of the world. He realized a vision which we all have.

Dutton joined the Union Army in April 1861 as a private in the 13th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry. The Vermont native moved to Wisconsin when he was just 4 years old. By age 18, he was enlisting to fight in the Civil War.

Though his regiment didn’t fight in any major battles during the war (only five men of the regiment were killed), it served faithfully in garrison duty and battled guerrillas until the end of the war. Dutton was recognized as a “dashing daredevil” and one “of the best and bravest officers in the army,” rising to the rank of regimental quartermaster sergeant and then lieutenant.

Dutton’s life was not so prosperous after the war. He performed the gloomy duty of supervising the disinterment of soldiers who were buried in unmarked graves and relocating their remains to national cemeteries. He married in 1866, but it ended in ruin when his wife cheated on him and they divorced.

For several years he found refuge in a bottle. He bounced around employment as an investor in a distillery business, an employee of a railroad company, and as a special agent for the federal government.

In April of 1883, the former army officer turned 40 and decided he needed a change in his life. He was baptized in the Catholic Church of St. Peter’s in Memphis and took the name Joseph after his favorite saint, dropping his birth name of Ira. He lived in the Abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky for two years, committed to a vow of silence and ascetic living.

Although he was content living his life in isolation at Gestsemani, Joseph wanted to commit the remainder of his years to helping others. He explained his motivation when he wrote:

“I wanted to serve some useful purpose during the rest of my life without any hope of monetary or other reward. … The idea of a penitential life became almost an obsession and I was determined to see it through.”

He was inspired to travel to Hawaii after reading about Father Damien and his work with lepers at Kalaupapa. He arrived at Honolulu from San Francisco in July of 1886 to offer his services to Father Damien de Veuster.

Alleged Russian assassins claim they are simple tourists
Father Damien, seen here with a girls choir, was canonized as a saint himself in 2009.

Hawaiians infected with leprosy or suspected of it were rounded up by the authorities and dumped into this remote settlement over the preceding decades. The leper settlement on the island of Molokai was located at the base of a range of sea cliffs bordering the ocean that formed a natural barrier from the outside world. Father Damien transformed the lawless settlement into a sanctuary that provided comfort, medical needs, and a place to worship for the infected.

The priest took the 43-year-old wanderer under his wing without hesitation. Damien had been infected with leprosy while serving the settlement for over a decade and was in desperate need of an assistant and a successor. He would be dead only three years later.

Alleged Russian assassins claim they are simple tourists
Dutton (far right) with two men from the Molokai Leper Colony.

Dutton worked “from daybreak to dark” as he cleaned and dressed wounds of “all of the type that leprosy inflicts on mankind.” Dutton was as unconcerned with being infected as Father Damien was. One account said of Dutton, “leprosy had no power to instill fear in his mind.” When Damien died in 1889, Dutton took over as his successor and continued to tirelessly carry out his work.

Despite the isolation of the settlement, word of Dutton’s story reached the United States. Presidents Theodore Roosevelt, Warren G. Harding, Calvin Coolidge, Hebert Hoover and Franklin D. Roosevelt all praised him in writing. Franklin D. Roosevelt stated that he should “be raised up for the view and emulation of many others.”

Alleged Russian assassins claim they are simple tourists
Brother Joseph Dutton, center front, with Kalaupapa boys and men.

President Theodore Roosevelt ordered sixteen Navy battleships sailing to Japan to redirect their course in July of 1906 and pass in sight of the settlement to pay homage to the worldly saint.

With the outbreak of World War I, Dutton wrote President Woodrow Wilson and offered his services by organizing “a few hundred of the old veterans” from the American Civil War to form a sharpshooter unit. This was politely declined by President Wilson, but his offer did not go unappreciated. Dutton remained a lifelong American patriot even though he never returned to the United States.

Dutton died in March of 1931 at 88. He was buried in the Saint Philomena Catholic Church Cemetery of Hawaii, and was mourned by many. The army veteran who devoted a portion of his life serving his country and the other half serving others never saw himself as a modern-day saint.

In the years before his death, he wrote: “These writers make me out a hero, while I don’t feel a bit like one. I don’t claim to have done any great things; am merely trying, in a small way, to help my neighbor and my own soul.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

India’s satellite destruction now threatens International Space Station safety

NASA is calling India’s destruction of a satellite last week a “terrible, terrible thing” and says the space debris created by the explosion should be considered a threat to the International Space Station and the astronauts on board.

India intentionally destroyed one of its satellites with a missile last week, a move Prime Minister Narendra Modi welcomed as one that established India “as a space power.”

But NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine told employees on April 1, 2019, that it posed an “unacceptable” threat to astronauts on board the ISS.


He said the satellite shattered into pieces, many of them large enough to pose a danger to the space station but not large enough to track. It is unclear how many pieces of debris were created.

Alleged Russian assassins claim they are simple tourists

The International Space Station in orbit.

(NASA)

“What we are tracking right now, objects big enough to track — we’re talking about 10 cm (4 inches) or bigger —about 60 pieces have been tracked,” he said.

He said 24 of those pieces were traveling above the ISS, even though the satellite had been orbiting 185 miles above the Earth, lower than the station, which orbits roughly 250 miles above the Earth.

“That is a terrible, terrible thing to create an event that sends debris at an apogee that goes above the International Space Station,” Bridenstine added.

“That kind of activity is not compatible with the future of human spaceflight.”

He said the risk of the ISS colliding with debris had increased by 44% in 10 days as a result of the Indian missile.

“It’s unacceptable and NASA needs to be very clear about what its impact to us is,” he said.

Six crew members are living aboard the ISS.

A software-engineering company called Analytical Graphics made a simulation of the debris created by the anti-satellite test, which it posted on YouTube.

“We modeled 6,500 fragments, basically those that were larger than half a centimeter,” Tom Johnson, the vice president of engineering for Analytical Graphics, said.

Alleged Russian assassins claim they are simple tourists

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

India downplayed the risk of debris after its missile launch, with its top scientists saying last week that the country expected the debris to burn out in Earth’s atmosphere in less than 45 days.

G. Satheesh Reddy, the chief of India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation, said a low-altitude military satellite was targeted with the goal of reducing the risk of debris.

“That’s why we did it at lower altitude — it will vanish in no time,” he told Reuters. “The debris is moving right now. How much debris, we are trying to work out, but our calculations are it should be dying down within 45 days.”

Acting US Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan warned a day after India’s test that the event could create a “mess” in space.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

China trains near Taiwan Strait, ready to defend

China has kicked off large-scale military drills in waters near Taiwan just days after warning in a new defense report that it remains ready and willing to use force to achieve reunification.

Drills are being held at both ends of the Taiwan Strait, according to two local maritime safety administration notices marking off the exercise areas.

An area off the coast of Guangdong and Fujian provinces was blocked off from Monday to Friday for military activities in the South China Sea while an area off the coast of Zhejiang province was marked off for military exercises in the East China Sea from Saturday to Thursday, Reuters reported.


Breaking News: China simultaneously conducts major military exercises targeting Taiwan in the East and South China Sea from July 28 to August 02.pic.twitter.com/UABJv9GiIk

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The South China Morning Post reports that these exercises may be “routine” drills the Chinese defense ministry recently announced but adds that these appear to be the first simultaneous exercises in the area since the 1995-1996 Taiwan Strait Crisis. Business Insider was unable to independently confirm this point.

“The main goal of the drills is to practise how to effectively maintain control of the sea and the air amid growing foreign interference in Taiwan affairs,” Song Zhongping, a Hong Kong-based military analyst, told the Post, explaining that the exercises “serve as a warning to foreign forces that the [People’s Liberation Army] has the resolve to [achieve reunification] with Taiwan.”

Also read: That time Russia and China almost went to nuclear war

A Taiwan-based naval affairs expert said that the PLA was responding to US arms sales to Taiwan and the increasingly routine transits by US Navy warships through the Taiwan Strait, a sensitive international waterway.

Earlier this month, the US has also approved a .2 billion arms sale to Taiwan, one that will see the delivery of tanks and surface-to-air missiles able to help Taiwan “maintain a credible defensive capability.”

Here’s why so many nations want to control the South China Sea — and what China wants to do

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Here’s why so many nations want to control the South China Sea — and what China wants to do

And last week, the US Navy Ticonderoga-class cruiser USS Antietam sailed through the Taiwan Strait. The move came just one day after the release of a new Chinese defense white paper warning that the Chinese government will not renounce the use of force to achieve reunification with Taiwan.

“We make no promise to renounce the use of force, and reserve the option of taking all necessary measures,” the report read. “This is by no means targeted at our compatriots in Taiwan, but at the interference of external forces and the very small number of ‘Taiwan independence’ separatists and their activities.”

“The PLA will resolutely defeat anyone attempting to separate Taiwan from China and safeguard national unity at all costs,” the sharply worded warning said.

Commenting specifically on the recent Taiwan Strait transit, the state-run China Daily accused Washington of “raising a finger to what the white paper said about China’s determination to defend its unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity,” adding that if the US “thinks that Beijing will not deliver on this commitment, it is in for a rude awakening.”

Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense said Monday that it is monitoring Chinese military activities, adding that it remains confident in its ability to defend the homeland and safeguard Taiwan’s freedom, democracy and sovereignty, according to local media.

“The national army continues to reinforce its key defense capacity and is definitely confident and capable of defending the nation’s security,” the ministry said in a statement.

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