Russian assassins are probably sleeper agents hiding in the UK - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Russian assassins are probably sleeper agents hiding in the UK

Former Russian spy Sergei Skripal left the hospital in May 2018, after recovering from an assassination attempt. Skripal and his daughter were poisoned with a nerve agent at his home in Salisbury in March 2018, by Russian spies, British counter-terror authorities have said.

One creepy prospect for the Skripals is that the would-be assassins may still be in the UK, living undercover as normal people, Russian espionage experts say. It’s easy to smuggle people out of Britain. For those of us not in the espionage business, it seems surprising that the attackers would stay in the country rather than escape immediately.


But Russia probably left its agents in place for an extended period after the attack.

Russia probably has more “sleeper” agents living as ordinary British people in the UK right now that during the Cold war, according to Victor Madeira, a senior fellow at The Institute for Statecraft, who testified to Parliament about Russian covert interference in Britain. Russia’s “illegals” program places agents in Western countries where they live apparently normal lives for years, all the while quietly collecting influential contacts. Russia might activate an illegal for a special mission like an assassination. Fifteen people are suspected to have been killed by Russian spies in Britain since 2003. The most recent was Nikolay Glushkov, a vocal Putin critic who predicted his own murder.

Russian assassins are probably sleeper agents hiding in the UK
Nikolay Glushkov

Madeira told Business Insider that if a sleeper agent was used in the attempt on Skripal’s life, he or she probably remained in Britain after the attack rather than trying to immediately escape back to Russia.

“Why leave someone here, at risk of detection, after such a high-profile attack?” he told Business Insider. “I can only think of two scenarios where that might happen:
  • “An actual ‘illegal’ with an existing, years-long ‘legend’ would attract attention by going missing all of a sudden – i.e. friends, co-workers or neighbours might report a missing person to police, who might then put two and two together and tie that person to the Skripal attack. Better to keep him/her in place, living a mundane life again, their role in this operation now concluded.”
  • “Someone who isn’t an ‘illegal’ in the strictest sense of the word, but for now having to stay in hiding in the UK until things settle down a bit. Perhaps with a new set of ID papers, s(he) can eventually look to exit the country via a quieter, lower-profile exit point.”

Obviously, we cannot know exactly what the operative did after the attack. The Mirror reported in April 2018, that one suspect has flown back to Russia. Earlier that month, the Mirror’s source speculated that the sleeper agent would still be in the UK, ready for another mission. “Unless it were an absolute emergency and the operative had to chance a ‘crash escape’, this exit point would normally be carefully picked based on e.g. the set of ID papers available, the person’s appearance and overall profile, history in the UK if checked by the Border Force, how tight border controls were assessed to be at that exit point, etc.,” Madeira told Business Insider.

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

MIGHTY MOVIES

This milspouse made the latest cut on ‘American Idol’

American Idol is back this year on ABC with Ryan Seacrest and new judges Katy Perry, Lionel Richie, and Luke Bryan. They’ve just announced the Top 24 and there’s a military spouse who’s made it this far in the competition.

Jurnee (just one name and she says it’s real) is an 18-year-old hostess from Denver, CO. Her wife, Ashley, serves in the U.S. Army.


Check out Jurnee’s audition video below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=01XhRdvPZxY

www.youtube.com

After Hollywood Week, Jurnee learned she made it to the Top 24 and performed Never Enough for her Idol Showcase. Ashley, who’s soon to be deployed, made it to Los Angeles for the performance.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JRMBMs6ZLPw

www.youtube.com

Longtime Idol viewers will notice the way that the producers are presenting her (ahem) journey means that they’re setting up Jurnee to have a long run on the show (if she continues to perform with the ability she’s demonstrated so far). We’ll be tuning in and following her progress in the weeks to come.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is why you can’t trust North Korea’s new charm offensive

In the run-up to the 1988 Summer Games in Seoul, South Korea, North Korea bombed South Korea Air Flight 858, killing 115 people. Afterward, when South Korea remained steadfast in its desire to host the games, North Korea suddenly offered high-level talks. North Korea toned down its rhetoric and tried to negotiate a co-hosting of the Olympics, but this effort fell apart. This historical lesson is corroborated by one of the Flight 585 bombers who was caught and turned. She is still alive today and recently warned not to trust North Korea’s current dictator Kim Jong-un’s outreach.


The 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea is well underway and once again North Korea is attempting to use the games for their ends. North Korea is trying to steal international attention, break sanctions, and drive a wedge between the United States and South Korea.

Also read: North Korea’s brinkmanship will continue right after the Olympics

Kim has already made himself take center-stage, using a dramatic opening to South Korea to force the international spotlight onto himself. Right now, cooperation is his chosen tool of persuasion, as he spoke of reunification, restarted the North Korean-South Korean hotline, and worked to convince South Korea that both Olympic teams should march under one neutral flag. Kim also launched a charm offensive to show he is serious about negotiations. This has included toned-down rhetoric, a smaller military parade, and sending flashy bands to perform at the Olympics. He also sent North Korean pop star and propagandist Hyon Song-wol to find a venue for an orchestra, causing a sensation which bedazzled South Korean journalists and citizens.

Russian assassins are probably sleeper agents hiding in the UK
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. (KCNA)

In the background of all this distraction, North Korea is preparing to make a show of force. Satellite imagery showed 13,000 troops and 150 vehicles drilling for the small Feb. 8 military parade that featured a new missile system. Kim knows he can have a larger parade to send a message anytime he wants. It remains to be seen if he will engage in any missile or nuclear tests during or right after the Olympics.

Related: South Koreans are not happy to be Olympic partners with the North

North Korea’s appearance of reconciliation also purposefully includes sanctions violations. One of these sending senior North Korean officials to visit South Korea despite being banned from traveling. South Korea will have to decide if it wants to make an exception to the ban, but without certain waivers from the United Nations Security Council, such visits would violate the law. Meanwhile, it is unclear how the US would respond. Already Kim’s less notorious sister, Kim Yo-jong, who is not barred from visiting, has had a successful time charming the South Korean and American media.

Kim will likely get away with several sanctions violations because he will extract them as the cost of North Korean cooperation. Even if they are minor, these violations will test the limits of what others will tolerate. They will make the point that North Korea always has been – and always will be – able to do as it pleases.

Finally, Kim would love to see the South Korean-American alliance rendered a dead letter. Although it is a very unlikely goal, Kim attempts to accomplish this by contrasting South Korea’s willingness to talk with the bellicosity of US President Trump. North Korea’s aim is to create the perception that the Koreas are working together against interference by America. When North Korea returns to aggression, Kim will claim that it is America’s fault. By cozying up to South Korea and then walking out, Kim hopes to drive a small wedge into the alliance.

More: South Korea wants North Korea to host some 2018 Winter Olympics events

South Korea should talk to Kim, and so should America, mainly to lower the odds of accidental war. However, talks require realizing that nuclear weapons will not be up for serious discussion and that North Korea will continue its pattern of behavior. Sudden shifts to threats place pressure on South Korea and shifts to friendliness invite confused opponents to the bargaining table on Kim’s terms. Wise policymakers anticipate this pattern, rather than being angered or duped by it. To take Kim Jong-un’s overtures at face-value is foolish, and South Korea should assume that the Supreme Leader is after something more than the gold at these Olympics.

popular

Why this rifle is one of the most popular in history

It’s no secret that there are solid arguments against the American M4 rifle. Its “varmint” caliber chambering and fouling-prone gas impingement operating system have formed the foundation of complaints against the platform for decades.


In fact, U.S. Special Operations Command responded to those concerns in the early 2000s with the SOCOM Combat Assault Rifle program, which sought to replace aging M4 carbines with something more powerful and reliable. The one that was ultimately fielded turned out to be the Mk-17 SCAR Heavy battle rifle.

 

Russian assassins are probably sleeper agents hiding in the UK
An Army Special Forces soldier armed with a Mk-17 SCAR-H, America’s modern variant of a classic battle rifle. (Photo: USASOC via Flickr)

 

Chambered in 7.62×51 and feeding from detachable box-type magazines, the SCAR-H took the world-class ergonomics of the M4 and married them to a harder-hitting round and a more reliable operating method — a short-stroke, piston-driven action. The SCAR is an awesome weapon; literally every unit fielded with it raves about its performance, reliability, and incredibly-light recoil.

Plus, the short-stroke piston system is adjustable, so shooters can crank the gas to high if their SCAR becomes too dirty or fouled up in a prolonged firefight. This same system makes the platform more modular as well, since unlike the M4 it doesn’t require a different buffer or spring with different barrel lengths.

With all the inherent advantages of the SCAR, it’s hard not to wonder how someone didn’t invent something like it before.

Except they did. In fact, the same company responsible for the SCAR’s production and development designed a rifle with many of the same features more than 70 years ago – the FN FAL.

 

Russian assassins are probably sleeper agents hiding in the UK
Irish soldiers armed with the FN FAL rifle in The Congo. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

 

For the uninitiated, the FAL or Fusil Automatique Leger (light automatic rifle), isn’t some unknown prototype that never saw action. It was fielded by more than 90 countries, many of which belonged to NATO, earning it the nickname, “The Right Arm of the Free World.”

Having seen more than 60 years of combat use, the FAL also holds the distinction of being one of the few rifles to be fielded by two opposing armies, including during the Falklands War where Argentine and British forces both wielded FALs. Hell, the FAL has been fired in anger on nearly every continent on Earth, cementing its reputation as a die-hard reliable battle rifle.

Given that much of America’s war on terror groups takes place in the Middle East, it’s important to note that Israel’s armed forces, the IDF, equipped its soldiers with the FAL before replacing it with American-donated M-16 rifles.

In all fairness, some in the IDF claimed issues with the FAL in dusty and sandy conditions led to its replacement by the M-16. This claim should be viewed with heavy skepticism for several reasons, the largest being that no politician wants to be seen as the impetus behind equipping their military with, ‘cheaper’ equipment. Plus, the FAL served all over Africa without similar concerns emerging.

In fact, many believe the FAL should have been the rifle America adopted as its DMR for use in both the plains of Europe, and the Middle East.

 

Russian assassins are probably sleeper agents hiding in the UK
British troops modified the receiver to accommodate optics. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Truth be told, the FAL isn’t perfectly suited for the role as it ships from the factory. If it were to see even a small fraction of the developmental evolution of the M16, it would have been a world-class fighting rifle in no time.

For instance, as it arrives from the factory, the FAL lacks an optics rail, and the available solutions aren’t suited to hard, combat use. However, the receiver itself could easily be modified by a competent engineer to incorporate a full-length, integral optics rail — much like the A3 version of the M4.

Just like the SCAR-H, the FAL features an adjustable gas block, similar heavy-duty box-type magazines and a robust, piston-driven action. The biggest difference between the FAL and the SCAR-H is the FAL’s lack of a railed receiver and its weight.

The SCAR utilizes extruded aluminum to reduce both cost and overall weight. The FAL, however, uses steel stampings and a milled receiver. The FAL’s use of all-steel components makes it very durable but also vastly heavier than the SCAR. Still, the mothballed M-14s that were pressed back into service post-9/11 were even heavier (especially with some of the accurizing chassis that were attached to them later).

Russian assassins are probably sleeper agents hiding in the UK
Talk about harsh conditions…The FAL has also been the chosen weapons of many of the world’s insurgent armies. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Another advantage of the FAL over the M14 is its ability to retain proper zero under harsh conditions. The M14 and its civilian counterpart, the M1A, both have a bad reputation for losing battle zero if the upper handguard is disturbed. Plus, since the rifle uses a hunting-style stock, the action needs to be bedded (essentially a fancy term for glued) into the stock to ensure it doesn’t shift inside it.

Overall, the FAL is objectively a superior combat arm than the M14; one designed for harder use, while offering similar performance. The FAL isn’t an ideal designated marksman rifle in its current form. But it could have been an incredible asset to infantry dealing with distant treats and priority targets.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

US Army uses pearls for life-saving technology

Round, smooth and iridescent, pearls are among the world’s most exquisite jewels; now, these gems are inspiring a U.S. Army research project to improve military armor.

By mimicking the outer coating of pearls (nacre, or as it’s more commonly known, mother of pearl), researchers at University at Buffalo, funded by the Army Research Office (ARO), created a lightweight plastic that is 14 times stronger and eight times lighter (less dense) than steel and ideal for absorbing the impact of bullets and other projectiles.

ARO is an element of the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Army Research Laboratory.

The research findings are published in the journal ACS Applied Polymer Materials, and its earlier publication in J. Phys. Chem. Lett. (see related links below)


“The material is stiff, strong and tough,” said Dr. Shenqiang Ren, professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, a member of University at Buffalo’s RENEW Institute, and the paper’s lead author. “It could be applicable to vests, helmets and other types of body armor, as well as protective armor for ships, helicopters and other vehicles.”

Russian assassins are probably sleeper agents hiding in the UK

Round, smooth and iridescent, pearls are among the world’s most exquisite jewels; now, these gems inspire U.S. Army researchers looking to improve military armor.

The bulk of the material is a souped-up version of polyethylene (the most common plastic) called ultrahigh molecular weight polyethylene, or UHMWPE, which is used to make products like artificial hips and guitar picks.

When designing the UHMWPE, the researchers studied mother of pearl, which mollusks create by arranging a form of calcium carbonate into a structure that resembles interlocking bricks. Like mother of pearl, the researchers designed the material to have an extremely tough outer shell with a more flexible inner backing that’s capable of deforming and absorbing projectiles.

“Professor Ren’s work designing UHMWPE to dramatically improve impact strength may lead to new generations of lightweight armor that provide both protection and mobility for soldiers,” said Dr. Evan Runnerstrom, program manager, materials design, ARO. “In contrast to steel or ceramic armor, UHMWPE could also be easier to cast or mold into complex shapes, providing versatile protection for soldiers, vehicles, and other Army assets.”

Russian assassins are probably sleeper agents hiding in the UK

A new lightweight plastic that is 14 times stronger and eight times lighter (less dense) than steel may lead to next-generation military armor.

(University at Buffalo)

This is what’s known as soft armor, in which soft yet tightly woven materials create what is essentially a very strong net capable of stopping bullets. KEVLAR is a well-known example.

The material the research team developed also has high thermal conductivity. This ability to rapidly dissipate heat further helps it to absorb the energy of bullets and other projectiles.

The team further experimented with the UHMWPE by adding silica nanoparticles, finding that tiny bits of the chemical could enhance the material’s properties and potentially create stronger armor.

“This work demonstrates that the right materials design approaches have the potential to make big impacts for Army technologies,” Runnerstrom said.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Marines honored for cool heads during aerial fire

The Marine Corps presented the Air Medal to three U.S. Marines on July 24, 2018, at Marine Air Station Miramar, California, for their actions while crewing a CH-53E Super Stallion that caught fire off the coast of Okinawa, Japan, during aerial refueling operations.


Russian assassins are probably sleeper agents hiding in the UK

Capt. Molly A. O’Malley stands during an award ceremony where she and two other Marines received the Air Medal.

(U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Dominic Romero)

The awards were presented to Capt. Ryan J. Boyer, Capt. Molly A. O’Malley, and Sgt. Garrett D. Mills of Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron (HMH) 462, Marine Aircraft Group (MAG) 16. The Marines were serving in Japan last year and were conducting operations near Okinawa’s Northern Training Area, an area often used for jungle training.

The in-flight fire was severe, with locals reportedly hearing a series of small explosions soon after the crew managed an emergency landing in a privately-owned field near the coast. The pilots acted quickly to get the helicopter back to land and the crew rushed off a number of passengers, allowing everyone to escape without injury before the helicopter burned too badly.

The helicopter itself was almost completely destroyed by the fire. The engine, most of the rotor blades, and the fuselage are visible as just a pile of slag in the Japanese field in images and video released by Japanese media after the crash.

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Additional helicopters rushed to the scene to secure the crew and passengers and another CH-53 came on station with a helibucket to drop water and control the flames until Japanese firefighters and American first-responders from the nearby base could respond.

The quick actions of the crew and first responders prevented any property damage to anything except the plants directly under the burning helicopter.

This success by the crew and emergency workers had positive consequences beyond protecting the life and health of the passengers and local population. American military aviation in the area is extremely controversial, and nearly all incidents on the island trigger local protests and condemnation from politicians. Limiting the property damage and protecting all human life reduces the amount of backlash.

Russian assassins are probably sleeper agents hiding in the UK

Capt. Ryan J. Boyer, Capt. Molly A. O’Malley, and Sgt. Garrett D. Mills pose with their air medals and a CH-53 Super Stallion after their award ceremony.

(U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Dominic Romero)

The Marine Corps’ fleet of CH-53E Super Stallions are quickly becoming obsolete as their heavy rate of use in ongoing conflicts across the world — as well as normal operations and training — take a toll. The average CH-53E is 15 years old.

The aircraft are being used at three times the originally expected rate and many airframes have logged over 3,000 flight hours. A Jane’s Defense analysis of the aircraft estimated that the frames will last an average of 6,120 hours.

The aircraft is being replaced by the CH-53K, a very similar version of the helicopter but with a significantly more capability.

See more photos from the award ceremony below:

Russian assassins are probably sleeper agents hiding in the UK

A U.S. Marine receives the Air Medal from Maj. Gen. Kevin M. IIams during a July 24 ceremony honoring three Marines’ quick actions during an Oct. 11, 2017 in-flight fire.

(U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Dominic Romero)

Russian assassins are probably sleeper agents hiding in the UK

Capt. Ryan J. Boyer, Capt. Molly A. O’Malley, and Sgt. Garrett D. Mills stand during an award ceremony as Maj. Gen. Kevin M. IIams gives his remarks.

(U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Dominic Romero)

Russian assassins are probably sleeper agents hiding in the UK

Capt. Ryan J. Boyer, Capt. Molly A. O’Malley, and Sgt. Garrett D. Mills stand in front of Maj. Gen. Kevin M. IIams during a July 24 award ceremony honoring their actions during an Oct. 11, 2017 fire in their CH-53E Super Stallion.

(U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Dominic Romero)

MIGHTY CULTURE

Looks like soldiers won’t be fighting in space anytime soon

Soldiers aren’t likely to don space suits and blast off into space to fight an enemy, the head of Army Space Command said this week.

But the domain is going to play a big role in the way the Army trains and fights in the future, Lt. Gen. James Dickinson, commanding general of Army Space and Missile Defense Command, told reporters at the annual Association of the U.S. Army meeting in Washington, D.C.

“We need to make sure we’re going to be able to protect what we have in space,” the three-star said. “But I don’t think that lends itself necessarily to formations in space.”


Space as a future conflict zone led President Donald Trump to direct Pentagon leaders last year to create a Space Force. The U.S. has since stood up Space Command, a new unified combatant command that’s serving as a precursor to the future Space Force.

Russian assassins are probably sleeper agents hiding in the UK

(NASA)

“Space is very important,” Dickinson said. “It’s gotten a lot of national senior leader attention over the last year or so, and the Army is excited to be part of that.”

The service is developing a new space training strategy, he added, which will likely be completed in the next three or four months. That could lead to changes across the force about how soldiers train for ground fights.

There are a lot of space-based tools on which soldiers currently rely, he said, that could be jammed or degraded by adversaries. The Army will need to place soldiers at the unit level who understand those risks and challenges.

Russian assassins are probably sleeper agents hiding in the UK

(NASA)

“We need soldiers that are subject-matter experts who know about space in formations,” Dickinson said.

The Army’s upcoming training strategy could suggest how those formations will be organized, he said. It’s also going to outline how security challenges in space will affect future operating environments.

“The training strategy … will give you fundamentals on what we need to look for as far as environments we’re going to operate in and what we see in terms of those formations and who will be in those types of formations,” he said.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

In 1866, 80 men went to war — this is why 81 came home

Today, Liechtenstein is a small country – the fourth smallest state in Europe and sixth smallest in the world. It rests on the banks of the Rhine between Switzerland and Austria. It was named after the Princes of Lichtenstein, who united the County of Vaduz and the lands of Schellenberg in 1719, forming their small but charming Principality of Liechtenstein.

They managed to remain neutral (and thus largely avoid) both world wars. In 1943, the principality went so far as to ban the Nazi party. By this time, indeed, they didn’t even have an army, having disbanded it completely in 1868.

And yet their final deployment in 1866 remains notorious for two reasons: first, they lost no battles and suffered zero casualties (having avoided all fighting). Second, they left with a force of 80 men — and returned home with 81.

Or so the legend goes…


Russian assassins are probably sleeper agents hiding in the UK

During the Austro-Prussian War of 1866, Liechtenstein sent an army of 80 strong to guard the Brenner Pass between Austria and Italy while a reserve of 20 men stayed behind. While the deployed force was there to defend the territory against any attack from the Prussian-allied Italians, according to War History Online, “there was really nothing to do but sit in the beautiful mountains, drink wine and beer, smoke a pipe and take it easy.”

In the main theater of the war, the Battle of Königgrätz would earn Prussia a victory, decisively ending the war.

Russian assassins are probably sleeper agents hiding in the UK

The Battle of Königgrätz by Georg Bleibtreu

So the men of Liechtenstein marched home. When they returned, however, their numbers had grown to 81.

But who was the extra man?

According to The World at War, an Austrian liaison officer joined them. Lonely Planet seems to share a version naming the newcomer an “Italian friend” — other sources have suggested that he was a defector.

None of the stories seem to be substantiated — but no one has debunked them either.

Meanwhile, Liechtenstein remains a thriving and successful country — that still has no army to this day.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

First she invented tech to help amputees — now she’s giving it to veterans

Amira Idris Radovic is a biomedical engineer who developed a device that helps amputees manage phantom limb pain — now, she helps provide them for free to veterans.

She has managed to provide veterans with over 50 ELIX devices, each from a $210 donation, and now she’s eligible for an Amber Grant that would award her $25,000. All you have to do is click to vote — no sign-ups, no e-mails. Just click to support.

Idris is giving back to the military community — let’s show her we’ve got her six.


TheraV Our Story

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How it works:

“We’ve learned that the reason people suffer form this pain is because of mixed signals that are being relayed to the nerve endings of the remaining limb and we found that we are able to overcome those mixed signals and disrupt them by using vibration technology,” she reported.

Russian assassins are probably sleeper agents hiding in the UK

According to a recent report from the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Amputation System of Care, nearly 90,000 veterans with amputations were treated in Fiscal Year 2016.

“Phantom limb pain (PLP) refers to ongoing painful sensations that seem to be coming from the part of the limb that is no longer there. The limb is gone, but the pain is real. TheraV’s ELIX wearable specifically addresses phantom limb pain by stimulating periphery sensory nerves with vibrations. The vibrations activate large sensory nerve fibers, which carry touch and pressure stimulation to the brain. Activation of these large sensory nerve fibers closes the pain gate, thus inhibiting pain signals from reaching the brain.”

The Amber Grants began in 1998 to support women entrepreneurs. They have grown to a ,000 monthly grant and a ,000 annual grant. In March 2019, Amira won the Amber Grant and is now competing for the annual award.

With just two clicks, you can help her provide more devices for veterans with amputations.

Amira wants veterans to know that they can sign up on her website to get the device and is adamant about spreading the message that amputation doesn’t have to mean losing quality of life.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Pentagon is pumping millions more into missile defense

The Pentagon is injecting $440 million more into missile defense, including yet another expansion of its fleet of missile interceptors, to counter North Korea’s accelerating push for a nuclear-armed missile capable of hitting the United States.


As a reflection of its urgency, the Pentagon asked Congress to let it shift funds from the current budget rather than wait for the next defense budget. The Pentagon already had $8.2 billion in its missile defense budget prior to the add-ons.

The Pentagon on Oct. 4 spelled out $367 million of the shifted money, with the rest expected to be announced later. The spending has come under increased scrutiny as North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs have progressed and critics have questioned whether the Pentagon has developed missile defenses that would work in combat.

Russian assassins are probably sleeper agents hiding in the UK
KCNA, the state run media out of North Korea, released a photo of what it claims is the launch of a surface-to-surface medium long range ballistic missile. (KCNA)

Some of the additional $440 million is for projects that are classified secret, including $48 million more for development of technology for cyber “operations,” according to a breakdown of the spending by the Pentagon’s budget office.

The Pentagon has never acknowledged that it has engaged in cyber operations against North Korea’s nuclear or missile programs. The New York Times earlier this year reported that in 2014, then-President Barack Obama ordered Pentagon officials to step up their cyber and electronic strikes against North Korea’s missile program in hopes of sabotaging test launches.

The more conventional approach to countering North Korea’s missiles is what the Pentagon calls ground-based interceptors, which are anti-missile missiles that would be launched from underground silos at Fort Greely in Alaska in the event the US decided to try to shoot down a North Korean missile aimed at the United States. The interceptors are designed to slam into an incoming enemy missile outside the Earth’s atmosphere, obliterating it by the force of impact.

Russian assassins are probably sleeper agents hiding in the UK
A ground-based missile interceptor is lowered into its missile silo during a recent emplacement at the Missile Defense Complex at Fort Greely, Alaska. Army photo by Sgt. Jack W. Carlson III.

The $440 million in extra funds for missile defense include $128 million to begin a new expansion of the missile interceptor force in Alaska. That includes $81 million to begin increasing the number of interceptors from 44 to 64, and $47 million to begin buying parts for 10 of the additional 20 underground silos in which the interceptors are installed.

The Pentagon had not publicly announced that it plans to increase the interceptor force by 20. The decision reflects concern that the current force is inadequate to face a North Korean nuclear and missile threat that is growing faster than anticipated.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

SciFi loves nuclear hand grenades, but you’ll never get one

Ever since America figured out nuclear bombs, science fiction writers have flirted with all the different ways that nuclear weapons could work. But while lots of SciFi weapons have come to fruition, like drones and pain rays, the nuclear hand grenade will always be a weapon of fiction.


Fallout 76 Nuka Grenade

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The military worked hard to expand its arsenal of nuclear weapons during the Cold War, making both large, high-yield weapons, like thermonuclear bombs, as well as smaller weapons, like nuclear cannons and recoilless rifles.

Nuclear weapons, explained in fiction with a bunch of mumbo jumbo and explained in the real-world with language that feels the same, follow specific physical rules. To trigger a nuclear explosion, material that can undergo fission—meaning that its atoms can be split apart and release energy—have to be brought from below a critical mass to above a critical mass.

Basically, you have to have a bunch of material that you’ve kept separated, and then you have to collapse it quickly. Once enough fissionable material is in a tight enough space, it’ll explode. Going from subcritical to critical will cause a nuclear explosion, usually within a millionth of a second. Fusion weapons work by allowing a fission reaction to trigger a hydrogen fusion process.

Russian assassins are probably sleeper agents hiding in the UK

The Davy Crockett Bomb was a nuclear device delivered via recoilless rifle. While the warhead was about as small as it could be while reaching critical mass, the explosion was still large enough to give third-degree burns to everyone with 350 yards.

(U.S. Army)

And that brings us to why you’ll never see a nuclear hand grenade. You have to, have to, reach critical mass for the weapons to work. The minimum amount of nuclear material needed for a plutonium reaction is 11 pounds of weapons-grade material. That’s a heavy hand grenade. Even then, it requires a “neutron reflector,” a layer wrapped around the material that reflects any escaping neutrons back into the sphere. Graphite, steel, and other materials work for this purpose.

But that adds on more weight. A uranium weapon would be even worse, weighing in at 33 pounds plus its reflector. And that’s without accounting for the weight of the parts needed to keep the nuclear material compartmentalized until it’s time to set it off.

But even worse for the operator, these small amounts of nuclear material would have a devastating effect at much larger ranges than an operator could possible throw it. Take the W54 warhead placed on America’s lowest-yield nuclear missiles, the Davy Crockett bomb fired from a recoilless rifle and the AIM-26 air-to-air nuclear missile.

Russian assassins are probably sleeper agents hiding in the UK

A W54 warhead explodes after a Davy Crockett test shot. It’s the smallest warhead ever deployed and nearly the smallest warhead possible, and it still kills everything within a few hundred yards.

(YouTube/Jaglavaksoldier)

The W54 had approximately 50 pounds of uranium, about as small as you could get while still achieving critical mass. Even that small amount of material created an explosion with the same yield as 250 tons of TNT. Think you can throw a 33-pound grenade far enough to be safe from the 250-ton blast? Hint: You would need to throw it at least 350 yards just to avoid third-degree burns from radiation.

So, while the Fallout series lets you play with Nuka grenades and Star Wars features thermal detonators, real nuclear hand grenades will always be out of reach.

Sorry, everyone. But, the good news is that laser rifles have a real chance. Sweet.

Articles

Sailor killed in Mosul was attached to SEAL team

Russian assassins are probably sleeper agents hiding in the UK
Chief Petty Officer Jason C. Finan. | U.S. Navy photo


An explosive ordnance disposal technician killed by an ISIS bomb in Iraq on Oct. 20 had been working with a Navy SEAL team near Mosul at the time of his death, Military.com has learned.

Chief Petty Officer Jason C. “JJ” Finan, 34, had been attached to a Coronado, California-based SEAL team at the time of his death, according to a source with close knowledge of the events. Military.com is not releasing the name of the team to avoid compromising operational security.

Finan was killed when his Humvee rolled over an improvised explosive device as it was exiting a minefield, the source said. No other teammates were injured.

In an interview with Stars and Stripes in Irbil, Iraq, this weekend, the commander of the coalition fight against the Islamic State, Army Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, provided more context, saying Finan had spotted one IED and was directing teammates and civilians to safety when his vehicle struck another roadside bomb.

A Defense Department official confirmed to Military.com that Finan, as a member of Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit Three, had been attached to a special operations task force serving in Iraq.

SEAL teams frequently have outside augments serving in specialized capacities, such as explosive ordnance disposal.

In a pair of emails to unit family members, the commander of the SEAL team paid tribute to Finan and the sacrifice he made for his brothers-in-arms.

“JJ was the definition of a professional and a loyal teammate and he will be deeply missed,” the commanding officer wrote. “He answered the nation’s call and paid the ultimate sacrifice for freedom, and for it we will be forever grateful.”

The officer said the team planned to honor Finan formally and informally in coming weeks in a variety of ways.

“Meanwhile, we will remain resolute,” he said. “Our SEALs and sailors currently deployed will continue to do our nation’s work with the utmost dedication and professionalism … this country is blessed to have such patriots as JJ.”

Finan is the first U.S. service member to be killed supporting the Iraqi Security Forces’ assault on Mosul, the last major stronghold for the Islamic State in Iraq.

A 13-year sailor, Finan was a master explosive ordnance disposal technician who had previously deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan and had also served aboard the aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan early in his career.

He had twice been awarded the Combat Action Ribbon and had a number of awards honoring exemplary service, including the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with Combat Valor Device.

In just one day, a GoFundMe page created to support Finan’s family has raised more than $21,000.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is the nerve agent used on a former Russian spy

Sergei Skripal, the former Russian double agent, and his daughter Yulia are fighting for their lives in a Salisbury hospital after being exposed to nerve agent.


While officials did not specify the type of nerve agent used, a well-placed source told the BBC it was likely to be extremely rare.

Nerve agents are extremely toxic chemicals that effectively shut down communication between the brain and muscles — in other words, they stop the body from working. They are also very hard to make.

Here’s what you need to know about the deadly substances.

What are nerve agents?

Russian assassins are probably sleeper agents hiding in the UK
Molecular illustration of the nerve agent, Sarin.

Nerve agents can take the form of gas, aerosol, or liquid, and enter the body through inhalation, the skin, or the consumption of liquid or food contaminated with them, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said.

Symptoms include restlessness, loss of consciousness, wheezing, and a running nose, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Depending on the amount and method of administration, symptoms can take minutes or hours to occur, Sky News science correspondent Thomas Moore said. When administered in high doses, nerve agents can suffocate victims to death within a couple of minutes, the OPCW said.

Also read: North Korea accuses White House of assassination plot

It’s not clear when the Skripals were exposed to the chemicals and how much was administered to them.

A witness at Zizzi, the restaurant where the Skripals were eating before they collapsed, told the BBC that the elder Skripal “seemed to lose his temper” and “just started screaming at the top of his voice, he wanted his bill and he wanted to go.”

Another witness who saw the stricken Skripals later on said Yulia “looked like she had passed out” and Sergei “was doing some strange hand movements, looking up to the sky.”

What was used on the Skripals?

Russian assassins are probably sleeper agents hiding in the UK
CCTV image showing Skripal buying groceries and scratch cards near his Salisbury home five days before he collapsed. (ITV News)

The type of nerve agent used on the Skripals remains unclear. Investigators have identified it but are not making it public at this point, the BBC reported.

A source close to the investigation told the BBC the nerve agent was likely rarer than sarin gas, which is believed to have been used in the Syrian war and used to kill 13 people in a Tokyo subway in 1995.

The source also said the substance used was not VX, which was used to assassinate the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in 2017.

The Sun previously reported military scientists on the case as saying the pair might have been poisoned with a “hybrid” kind of thallium, a hard-to-trace heavy metal commonly found in rat poison and insecticides. Detectives originally thought former KGB spy Alexander Litvinenko was poisoned with thallium in London in 2006.

How easy is it to make nerve agents?

The raw materials for nerve agents are relatively inexpensive and easy to procure, the OPCW said. However, the chemical weapon itself is difficult to make.

Victor Madeira, a senior fellow at The Institute for Statecraft who testified to Parliament about Russian covert interference in Britain, told Business Insider: “Nerve agents are rare, tightly-controlled synthetic substances that do require specialised knowledge to manufacture, store and use safely.

More: Chances are the hot model that added you to her social feed is a Russian spy

“However, that knowledge isn’t beyond someone with a good Master’s degree in Organic Chemistry, say, and access to a good laboratory. Very difficult, but not impossible.”

Chemical weapons expert Richard Guthrie similarly told The Guardian that manufacturing nerve agents require “fairly complicated chemistry,” and were “essentially impossible” to make at home.

“Nerve agents, such as sarin or VX, require some fairly complicated chemistry using certain highly reactive chemicals,” Guthrie said. “Small quantities could be made in a well-equipped laboratory with an experienced analytical chemist. To carry out the reactions in a domestic kitchen would be essentially impossible.”

Does this point to Russia?

Russian assassins are probably sleeper agents hiding in the UK
Vladimir Putin.

Experts appear to differ over whether Russia was responsible.

Matt Tait, a former GCHQ officer, said the method of attack seemed “designed to project that this is a nation-state that’s doing it.”

He told The Atlantic: “This is a very extreme form of killing in a way that is designed to project that this is a nation-state that’s doing it. Nobody can be under any sort of illusions that this is some sort of run-of-the-mill killing. […]

Related: These 9 weapons are banned from modern warfare

“The clear message that they’re sending to both people who currently work for their intelligence agencies and also people who used to work for their intelligence agencies … they will make an example of you.”

Madeira disagreed. Just because nerve agents are rare doesn’t necessarily mean a state actor did it, he said.

“Simply using a ‘very rare’ nerve agent against Col. Skripal wouldn’t necessarily indicate Kremlin (or Russian) involvement,” he told BI. “This is why DSTL Porton Down [the UK Ministry of Defence’s science lab] and partner agencies are racing to ‘fingerprint’ the agent used, which will then allow them to narrow the list of potential sources right down.”

Rob Wainwright, executive director of Europol, told CNN that attacking an ex-spy with a nerve agent in Britain was an “outrageous affront to our security in Europe and our way of life.” He warned, however, that people should “exercise caution before jumping to any conclusions.”

The Kremlin has vehemently denied any involvement or knowledge of the case.

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