This is the Russian spy unit that keeps getting caught in the act - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

This is the Russian spy unit that keeps getting caught in the act

Most of us think of highly-trained spies and espionage units as the best of the best, Cold War ninjas who would never dream of getting caught lest they be disavowed by Washington, Moscow, London, or wherever they come from.

If 1980s-era film and television has taught us anything, it’s that the Russian spy agencies are among the best of the best. If that was true, something is severely lacking lately, because one of their spy units keeps getting caught doing some high-profile greasy stuff.


Russia’s GRU unit 29155 was recently outed as the unit behind the alleged payment of bounties to the Taliban for killing U.S. troops in Afghanistan. But that’s not the only high-visibility mission that was uncovered in recent days. 29155 was also allegedly behind the effort to hack Hillary Clinton’s State Department emails during the 2016 U.S. presidential election, the assassination of former KGB spy Sergei Skripal in England, and an attempted coup in Montenegro.

The unit is part of the Russian military intelligence apparatus, responsible for intelligence gathering and operations outside of the Russian Federation. The GRU (as it’s known outside of Russia and the former Soviet Union) was not as widely known or regarded as the Soviet KGB or the KGB’s antecedents, the Russian SVR and FSB, but today it is the go-to agency for military-related operations.

Why? Because it deploys six times as many foriegn operatives as the FSB or SVR. The GRU is Russia’s largest foreign security service. But unlike the KGB, the GRU has been largely unchanged since its Soviet heyday.

The GRU is the unit that takes on the most important military operations, like say, partnering with the Taliban or killing off former Soviet spies. But Foreign Policy says their work has been pretty sloppy in the past few years.

In the case of bounties on American troops in Afghanistan, U.S. intelligence services were actually able to track bank transfers between the Taliban and GRU accounts overseas. As for the other plots, it didn’t even require intelligence services. Media outlets inside and outside of Russia have been able to track members of 29155 because they kept reusing aliases with questionable cover stories to travel throughout the world.

Using these bits of information, the movement of GRU assets was relatively easy to track for the media, who published their findings. It was so easy, the information was confirmed by multiple countries’ intelligence agencies. The members of 29155 were mapped and tracked all over Europe.

Two of the 29155’s agents, Alexander Petrov (really Alexander Mishkin) and Ruslan Boshirov (real name Anatoliy Chepiga), were caught red-handed by Scotland Yard on closed-circuit tv cameras in the 2018 assassination plot of Sergei Skripal.

In that plot, the use of a Soviet nerve agent, along with the GRU operatives, led investigators not only to 29155, but to Chepiga entire graduating class of the GRU academy. From there, they uncovered plots to poison an arms dealer, interfering in elections in Spain, and even a coup in NATO member Montenegro.

Western intelligence saw the effort as a “Rosettta Stone” in reading Russian intelligence movements abroad.

Whoops.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This President wants to prevent asteroids from destroying Earth

On Apr. 15, 2018, an asteroid similar in size to one that may have caused the 1908 Tunguska Event in remote Siberia flew by Earth by a mere 119,400 miles, just half the distance between the Earth and the Moon — and we didn’t even know it was coming.


If you’re unfamiliar with the Tunguska Explosion, it was a mysterious explosion in the most remote region of Russian Siberia that flattened 2,000 square kilometers of forest. It was the largest explosion in Earth’s recorded history and was one-third the size of the Tsar Bomba, the Soviet Union’s largest nuclear detonation — enough to flatten a large metropolitan area.

This is the Russian spy unit that keeps getting caught in the act
This is all anyone saw of the near-miss asteroid. One amateur Austrian astronomer’s gif.
(Michael Jäger)

And we only knew about it one day before it flew by.

This is the Russian spy unit that keeps getting caught in the act

Not this President.

Like something from a 1990s-era disaster movie, President Trump wants to tackle the problem and make the United States the leader in asteroid impact avoidance. Politico reports that Trump wants to spend 0 million toward that effort, which includes unmanned spacecraft that would nudge a small asteroid off course.

NASA estimates there are 1,000 such asteroids close to Earth, what they refer to as “near-Earth objects.” The bad news is that they also estimate there are upwards of 10,000 near-Earth objects that they don’t know about. A growing number of those are said to be the size (or larger) than the ones that wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.

The office getting the budget bump is NASA’s planetary defense office, who created a new asteroid-mitigations strategy with the White House and FEMA just last year. None of the proposed strategies involved oil drillers or astronauts; NASA actually scoffs at that idea, saying the work could be done entirely by robotic spacecraft.

Related: This is earth’s real first line of defense against asteroid strikes

But the recent near-miss wasn’t an event that required NASA’s intervention. The asteroid 2018 GE3 flew harmlessly between the Earth and Moon’s orbits, continuing its regular orbit.

“If 2018 GE3 had hit Earth, it would have caused regional, not global, damage, and might have disintegrated in the atmosphere before reaching the ground,” SpaceWeather.com reported. “Nevertheless, it is a significant asteroid, illustrating how even large space rocks can still take us by surprise. 2018 GE3 was found less than a day before its closest approach.”
This is the Russian spy unit that keeps getting caught in the act

(NASA/JPL)

NASA’s California-based Jet Propulsion Laboratory made a model of the orbits of asteroid 2018 GE3, Earth, and other planets in the Solar System, so we can all track where the asteroid is at any given time. Below is the position of the asteroid in relation to Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, and Jupiter at the time of this week.

NASA’s next test will use robot spacecraft to ram an orbiting moon around the asteroid Didymos, currently seven million miles away from Earth, in an effort to change the satellite’s orbit. The only thing delaying this test that everyone agrees is a good idea and that we should definitely get started on is Congress, who are waffling on the latest spending bill that would keep this program along with the U.S. government, running.

It could take as long as another three months to pass the appropriations for the program while NASA estimates a delay of six months or more could affect the program entirely, leaving Earth defenseless.

For now.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

These flashbang grenades are legal for civilians

IWA International is a company based out of Miami, FL that specializes in importing unique tactical gear from all around the world. We recently got a chance to play with a couple of their latest releases — civilian-legal flashbang grenades.

Actual flashbangs produced for military and law enforcement use are classified as destructive devices by the ATF and are not available on the commercial market. They typically consist of an explosive charge and fuse mechanism inside a steel or aluminum grenade body. We have seen simulators and training aids available for unrestricted purchase that use shotgun blanks or even CO2 cartridges to create the bang, popular for use in airsoft and paintball matches.


This is the Russian spy unit that keeps getting caught in the act

But the IWA bangs are a little different. They consist of a small charge inside a cardboard tube. The design actually reminds us of some of the first-generation concussion grenades that used a similar cardboard or paper body. The IWA grenades are classified as pyrotechnics and are governed by the same restrictions that apply to fireworks. Because of this, shipping is limited to ground-transport only which means only those in the Lower 48 will be able to purchase them, state and local laws notwithstanding.

There are currently three models available from IWA – the M11 multi-burst, the M12 Distraction Device, and the M13 Thermobaric Canister. The M11 gives off a single loud bang followed by two smaller bangs. The M12 is a single charge, and the M13 Thermobaric produces a single loud bang and a “mild overpressure” as described by the folks at IWA. Fortunately, they sent us a couple of each for testing. All three models sport OD green cardboard bodies and pull-ring fuses with a safety spoon that flies free when the safety ring is pulled. Each grenade is individually labeled and, though the bodies look identical, the labels are large and clearly marked so you know what you’re getting when you pull the pin. They are roughly the same size as an actual flashbang and seem to fit in most nylon pouches made for the real deal.

This is the Russian spy unit that keeps getting caught in the act

There are, of course, some differences between the IWA products and the real thing. The biggest difference is sound output. The products made by DefTec and ALS produce about 175 decibels on detonation. The IWA grenades are rated for 125 decibels. The other major difference is time delay. Tactical-grade flashbangs usually have a 1.5-second delay, while the IWA versions are currently advertised at 2.5 seconds. They tell us they are working on an improved fuse that will bring the delay down to 2 seconds or less.

The folks we spoke to at IWA say that these are meant primarily for training and simulation purposes. Not to mention the obvious f*ck-yeah-factor of getting to toss grenades for whatever special occasion you can come up with. The lower sound output makes them a more akin to a sophisticated M80 than a tool for post-apocalyptic home defense, but we don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. Who needs a reason to set off explosives? All three versions of the IWA flashbang are available for .99 each, with bulk pricing available.

This is the Russian spy unit that keeps getting caught in the act

The photos here will have to hold you over for now but stay tuned to RecoilWeb and RecoilTV for video of our tests of these unique products. In the meantime, check out iwainternationalinc.com and pick up one or two for yourself.

This article originally appeared on Recoilweb. Follow @RecoilMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The ISIS vs Taliban war in Afghanistan is heating up

Northern Afghanistan is at risk of falling to the Islamic State. Their latest attack in Sar-e Pul Province killed 15 Taliban fighters at prayer, but it’s just the latest in a series of ongoing conflicts that have seen hundred killed on both sides. The ISIS stronghold in Nangarhar Province is pushing westward in an effort to undermine the al-Qaeda-affiliated Taliban there.

All the groups involved in the fighting, including those who support the Ghani government in Kabul, are having the same logistical and intelligence problems faced by anyone fighting in the mountainous country — fighters and civilians switch their allegiances as often as their clothes.

The two terrorist groups are vying for power in the country’s eastern and northern regions. The Taliban want to push the Islamic State out of the country before it can establish a clear footprint. In June 2018, the Taliban launched two sweeping offensives in Kunar and Laghman. ISIS, for its part, did not observe the recent three-day ceasefire for the Eid al-Fitr holiday observed by government and Taliban troops.


Related: Afghanistan just called a temporary ceasefire with the Taliban

This is the Russian spy unit that keeps getting caught in the act

The black represents ISIS support as of December 2015.

(Institute for the Study of War)

It was during that holiday, the holiest of days for the world’s Muslim population, that ISIS killed 25 in a suicide car bomb attack in Nangarhar. According to The National, a newspaper based in the United Arab Emirates, ISIS sources say the recent Taliban advances were effective and that the Islamic State is experiencing “setbacks” in the rocky provinces of Kunar.

Fighters from Islamic State arrived in force in Afghanistan in 2015, just as ISIS fortunes in Iraq and Syria started to turn sour. The strength the group projected outside the country in recent years invited many defections from other terrorists groups and militias, especially from the Pakistani Taliban. The Afghan Taliban and ISIS have been butting heads ever since.

The Taliban dislikes the Islamic State’s brand of Islamic fundamentalism.

This is the Russian spy unit that keeps getting caught in the act

A lot. A whole lot.

ISIS hates that the Taliban draws its legitimacy through ethnic and nationalistic foundations, not Islamic jurisprudence like the kind declared by the Islamic State. To ISIS, Afghanistan is a province they call “Khorasan” and subject to the rule of their self-proclaimed caliphate. The Afghan Taliban’s alliances with Pakistan’s intelligence services and even Shia Muslims are just a few more reasons ISIS declares the Taliban to be non-Muslim nationalists.

There will be no possibility for peaceful resolution between the two.

Articles

In spite of Obama’s previous stance, it looks like boots are hitting the ground against ISIS

As 2015 wanes, calls among Washington’s politicos are on the rise. Those calls are increasingly in favor or are demands for ground troops to engage ISIS leadership in direct combat.


“This is a war.” – House Speaker Paul Ryan
I’m going to introduce an authorization to use Military Force against ISIL that is not limited by Time, Geography or Means. – Sen. Lindsay Graham
“The United States should not delay in leading a global coalition to take out ISIS with overwhelming force.” – Presidential Candidate Jeb Bush
“Air power is extremely important. It can do a lot but it can’t do everything.” – Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James

The Pentagon believes Congress should issue a new authorization of military force (AMF) for use against ISIS in Iraq and Syria while President Obama wants the flexibility to use Special Operations forces against the terror group’s leadership. Obama rejected long-term, large scale ground combat operations in favor of an incremental, air strike-based plan which relies on support for forces already fighting on the ground. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to determine just who the U.S. should back and the plan to back U.S.-trained rebels fell apart.

This is the Russian spy unit that keeps getting caught in the act
Coffee-fueled mayhem (Photo: Voice of America)

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter is in favor of a new AMF, but for some in Congress, the President’s proposal isn’t enough. As Germany, France, China, and Russia ramp up their own operations against ISIS, a few in the U.S. want to take their participation a step further. Senators Lindsey Graham and John McCain are calling for 20,000 ground troops to counter ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

“The aerial campaign is not turning the tide of battle,” Senator Graham told The Guardian. Part of the McCain-Graham proposal includes the U.S. handling logistics for a 100,000 strong Sunni Arab army from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Syria. There are a number of problems with this plan, however.

This is the Russian spy unit that keeps getting caught in the act

The first is that it props up the terrorist organizations recruiting claims that they are the bulwark of true Islam, fighting Western apostates. It also backs up the Sunni Jihadi myth of the “Grand Battle” to be fought for Islam. Most troubling is that the Senators’ plan explicitly supports the Sunni side of what is now widely believed to be a greater religious-political civil war throughout the region (and maybe beyond). As of right now, the U.S. has taken great pains to avoid the perception of taking sides.

The McCain-Graham plan also risks antagonizing the already tense situation relationships between all players. The Russia-U.S. rivalry is well documented, as are Iranian-U.S. issues. The missions of Russia, Iran, and the Iranian-backed Shia militias in Syria and Iraq is to ensure the survival of the Asad regime, a mission antithetical to the policies of the United States and its NATO allies.

This is the Russian spy unit that keeps getting caught in the act
The last one to touch Putin wins . . . (Kremlin Photo)

In Iraq, a similar situation exists. Iraq is a Shia-dominated country where the locals come to increasingly believe the U.S. is supporting the Islamic State, rather than fighting it, and the Iraqis would be able to win if not for U.S. intervention against them.The Iranian-backed militias are seen as the primary bulwark against ISIS aggression despite, the 3,500 ground troops in Iraq, training and advising the Iraqi forces. The call for an increased presence from Congress is a strange idea, considering the Iraqi government has specifically asked the U.S. not to increase its presence in the country.

This is the Russian spy unit that keeps getting caught in the act

Is it in the United States’ best interest to re-enter the conflicts of the Middle East? The Iraqis already are starting to think the U.S. is on the wrong side. It’s a well known fact the lineage of ISIS traces back to al-Qaeda in Iraq, who helped publish The Management of Savagery, a how-to guide for committing atrocities to trap the West in unwinnable ground wars in the Middle East, which was Osama bin Laden’s long-game strategy, first against the Soviet Union and now the United States. If Putin and Russia want to jump back into the Middle East fray, maybe we should consider letting him.

This is the Russian spy unit that keeps getting caught in the act

Articles

Turkish special forces opened a ‘sniper cafe’ on the front line against ISIS

An old Turkish proverb notes that “coffee should be black as hell, strong as death, and sweet as love.” One possible interpretation for this is that you should enjoy your coffee under any circumstance.


Even fighting the Islamic State.

Turkish special forces troops are said to be taking this to the extreme, opening a sort of coffee house on a rooftop overlooking the Syrian city of Al-Bab. The Turks sent their special operators into the area in December, and now the city is said to be surrounded by Turkish forces.

This is the Russian spy unit that keeps getting caught in the act
The livemap of the Syrian War near Al-Bab as of Feb. 15, 2017. The red represents the Free Syrian Army, ISIS is the black area, and Turkish-controlled territory is in dark green.

Reddit user “bopollo” posted a few photos of Turkish troops near a sniper overwatch position. While there’s no concrete evidence the photo was taken in Al-Bab, the writing is on the wall.

This is the Russian spy unit that keeps getting caught in the act
Literally.

Bopollo is a frequent commenter and contributor on operations and developments of the Syrian Civil War. The photo above shows directions to both Al-Bab and Kabbasin, both towns in Syria still held by ISIS.

The road between the two cities is also held by the terror organization. It’s fairly common for troops to write graffiti on the walls of buildings they captured and held. It turns out Turkish special operators are no different.

Related: This collection of graffiti tells the real story of what modern war is like

While it’s entirely unlikely that special forces troops opened an actual functioning business, the building is more likely just an area secured by the Su Altı Taarruz, Turkey’s Navy SEALs (you can see the flag with the SAT logo on it above).

This is the Russian spy unit that keeps getting caught in the act

But because Turkish people are funny and there are at least 106 Starbucks locations in Istanbul, it’s likely some troops are living it up as best they can on the front lines against ISIS.

The U.S. Army won war after war fueled by coffee – turns out Turkey does too. They just don’t have a Green Beans…yet.

Articles

9 Must-Watch Post-9/11 Documentaries

DoD’s embed program and other mechanisms have given journalists and filmmakers substantial access to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, so it’s no surprise that those conflicts have been some of the best documented in history. Here is WATM’s list of 11 post 9-11 documentaries that did the best at capturing what really happened:


The Hornet’s Nest

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qBt-GTfgLh4

A father-son journalism team embedded on what was supposed to be a three-day raid but ended up being nine days of intense fighting by the 101st Airborne.

Restrepo

A group of paratroopers is deployed to the Korengal Valley, one of the most dangerous spots in Afghanistan, for 15 months. During that time, they fight smugglers and insurgents, attempt to win over the locals, and try to save themselves. A camera crew followa them for much of the deployment, documenting their interactions with Afghans and the deep love the men have for each other.

Armadillo

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ta5tT0d86A8

A group of Danish cavalry soldiers deploy on a six-month tour of Helmand and a Danish filmmaker goes with them. The film includes a lot of the tedium of a soldier’s life as well as a raid where the soldiers find themselves within a few meters of a Taliban machine gun team.

Hell and Back Again

Nominated for a Best Documentary Feature Academy Award, this film tells the story of a Marine injured in Afghanistan who, after returning to the states, struggles with his post traumatic stress disorder and a badly broken leg. “Hell and Back Again” gives a visceral look at how hard it can be for wounded troops to return to civilian life.

Drone

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i43vSC-dTC0

This is a very critical look at the American drone program. Drone explains the factors that make drones so popular with troops while also looking at the moral burdens on drone operators and emotional pain of those who’ve lost family members to drone strikes.

The War Tapes

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=32L-yuqpEqEw=560h=315

Directed by Deborah Scranton and shot by National Guard soldiers over the course of their training and deployment to Iraq, the documentary focuses on three men with very different views on the war and their commander in chief. This film is arguably the best in terms of capturing the burdens on the modern-day citizen soldier.

Taxi to the Dark Side

An in-depth look at torture during the opening years of the War on Terror, including the decisions made by the Bush administration. It covers Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, and the leadership (or absence of it) that governed actions in two prisons. Made by the son of a former Navy interrogator, the film went on to win an Academy Award.

No End In Sight

Although “No End In Sight” was released in 2007, the film concentrates on Iraq in the first year after the invasion. It features interviews with White House and State Department officials who were frustrated with missteps that fueled the growing insurgency and caused extra misery for both Iraqi citizens and the U.S. troops assigned to police them.

The Ground Truth

“The Ground Truth” follows a group of Marines and soldiers from the point they’re recruited and then on to their experiences in war. Troops tell their stories in their own words from their initial training through deployments and struggles once they get home.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The US military is now advancing a tactical Ebola vaccine

It turned from a localized problem to pandemic – first hundreds, then thousands, then tens of thousands were infected. The 2014 West Africa Ebola outbreak grew exponentially worse despite efforts to slow its spread. Similarly, Polio was once one of the most serious communicable diseases the world faced, but today, it is nearly eradicated due to vaccine development. The Ebola virus is just as lethal, but there is no Food and Drug Administration-approved vaccine for it… yet.


Also read: US Army gets approval from FDA for new malaria drug research

The Defense Threat Reduction Agency’s Chemical and Biological Technologies Department partnered with the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases and Merck to develop a vaccine to protect warfighters and the public against future Ebola outbreaks.

This is the Russian spy unit that keeps getting caught in the act
Amy Shurtleff, Ph.D., works in a biosafety level 4 laboratory at USAMRIID. Shurtleff is part of a team that evaluated the protective efficacy of Merck’s EBOV vaccine, V920. (Photo by USAMRIID)

Scientists at USAMRIID completed four non-human primate studies to evaluate the protective efficacy of Merck’s Ebola vaccine, V920. Researchers also tested the vaccine in clinical trials within the United States, Canada, Europe, and Africa.

Related: 8 new projects that will revolutionize military medicine

USAMRIID examined the durability of immunogenicity and protection post-vaccination correlation. This data will be pivotal in extrapolating human immune response statistics. Further, researchers will also use the information to predict populations at risk for Ebola.

Conducted at USAMRIID’s biosafety level 4 laboratories, this joint effort will be instrumental when applying for licensure with both the FDA and the European Medicines Agency.

DTRA’s continued effort to enhance the combat support mission also advances public health services by developing innovative technologies that protect against biological threats.

Articles

Air Force says F-35A ready and waiting to be unleashed on ISIS

A U.S. Air Force Operational F-35A may soon attack ISIS over Iraq and Syria, fly to the Baltics as a deterrent against Russian aggression or deploy to the Pacific theater as part of a key force posture build-up, service leaders said.


“We have a global force management process. The F-35 move into the Middle East is scheduled further down the road. If a combatant commander needed it sooner they would ask for it,” Gen. Herbert J. “Hawk” Carlisle, Commander of Air Combat Command, told reporters last year.

Related: Marine Aviators will fly in the F-35 Vs. Super Hornet review

While actual combat deployment could be imminent orseveral years away, declaring the new stealth multi-role fighter operational means Combatant Commanders around the globe do now have the ability to request the F-35A when mission demands require its abilities, he explained.

This is the Russian spy unit that keeps getting caught in the act
The F-35 doesn’t sleep. It waits. | U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stormy Archer

This means that the operational aircraft is now ready for combat and could soon be called upon to meet mission requirements in the ongoing air campaign against ISIS. Although the US-led coalition already enjoys air superiority over Iraq and Syria, the F-35 could be useful firing laser-guided air-to-ground weapons or drop GPS-guided bombs on identified ISIS targets.

This would involve the additional combat deployment of Joint Direct Attack Munitions, or JDAMs. Precision and laser-guided air-to-ground weapons such as the Paveway II, a dumb munition converted into a precision-guided missile which made up more than one-half of the air-ground precision weapons fired during Operation Iraqi Freedom. The weapon has already been sucessfully test fired from an F-35.

This is the Russian spy unit that keeps getting caught in the act

Alongside the Middle East and Europe, Carlisle also addressed the prospect of moving F-35s to the Pacific Theater, explaining that groups of F-35s could go to the region as part of what the Air Force calls “Theater Security Packages.”

“These small deployments of about four ships are dispatched rapidly to global hotspots when needed. It’s kind of like providing the Combat Air Forces on tap. It’s possible that the F-35A’s first combat deployment will be in one of these TSPs,” Benjamin Newell, spokesman for Air Combat Command, told Scout Warrior.

Also read: This is how the F-35 is being tested against Russian and Chinese air defenses

Carlisle explained the potential deployment of F-35s to Europe and other strategic locations in terms of a prior move to deploy the F-22 to Europe as a deterrent against Russian aggression.

“When you send F-22s to the European theater last fall, it was great messaging that goes along with that.

Sending an F-35 would reassure friends and allies. It is a deterrent to potential adversaries. I don’t think it is provocative at all,” Carlisle said.

He went on to describe the stealth F-22 Raptor as the best air-to-air platform in the world and the F-35 as the best air-to-ground fighter in the world.

This is the Russian spy unit that keeps getting caught in the act
F-35s and F-22s. Dream team? | US Air Force photo

In addition to functioning as a deterrent in key global locations, the F-35 could readily be called upon to perform the widest possible range of missions, Carlisle added.

“When you have airplanes you have pre-planned strike missions, interdiction offensive counter air, defensive counter air and air superiority. Many of these are missions I could use it for. It would depend upon the threat environment,” he said.

For instance, should the F-35 attack ISIS, it would be in a position to use both high-altitude precision-guided air-dropped bombs and also use its 25mm gun and other weapons to perform close-air support missions.

The Air Force is now preparing to increase its number of operational F-35s in order to better refine tactics, techniques and procedures, or TTPs.

“The F-35A is fully combat capable now, and can perform missions as requested by combatant commanders. Our next hurdles are to ramp up the forces to provide an adequate number of aircraft to create a working fleet, on which we build TTPs, test new weapons and most importantly, train adequate numbers of Airmen who are the experts in their assigned platform,” Newell explained.

In order to make this happen, the service would need 2 full fighter wings consisting of 144 aircraft and 6 squadrons.

Articles

The US Navy had 90 seconds to defend itself when Iranian-backed militants fired on them off Yemen

This is the Russian spy unit that keeps getting caught in the act
USS Mason (DDG-87) fires an SM-2 during a March 2016 exercise. | US Navy photo


At about 6 p.m. local time on Wednesday in the Bab-al-Mandab Strait between Yemen and Eritrea, the USS Mason, a guided missile destroyer, detected an incoming missile.

The ship’s Aegis Combat System, an advanced radar and fire control system spotted the thread as it zoomed towards the ship.

“You have about 90 seconds from saying ‘yes, that’s a missile” to launching an interceptor missile, one US official told Stars and Stripes.

And that’s exactly what the commanding officer of the Mason did.

“We actually saw an explosion,” an official involved with the operation told Stars and Stripes.

For decades now Aegis radar and fire control systems have protected US ships and citizens by keeping a close eye on the skies

MIGHTY TRENDING

These are the federal tax changes for military troops and spouses

Most service members and their families will see a reduction in their tax bills in 2019, but there are a number of changes in U.S. federal tax laws that they need to be aware of, said Army Lt. Col. Dave Dulaney, the executive director of the Pentagon’s Armed Forces Tax Council.

“The last tax year has been quite exciting with all the changes that were made,” Dulaney said. He noted that the Internal Revenue Service will start accepting tax returns Jan. 28, 2019, for tax year 2018.


A number of pieces of legislation affect military taxpayers, he said: The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the Veterans Benefits and Transition Act and the Combat-Injured Veterans Tax Fairness Act are just a few.

Tax cuts for troops

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act will mean that most service members will see a reduction in federal taxes for 2018, he said. There is an overall reduction of 3 percent for most military families under this act, Dulaney said, in addition, the standard deduction doubled, as did the Child Tax Credit. “Because of these three things, most of our military families are going to see a substantial reduction in overall tax liability,” he said.

This is the Russian spy unit that keeps getting caught in the act

There are also some special provisions that apply to military personnel. Service members who served in the Sinai Peninsula since June 9, 2015, are now eligible for the combat zone tax exclusion, the colonel said.

“This was retroactively applied and what that means is that since taxpayers have up to three years to file an amended tax return to make a claim for refund, those service members who served in the Sinai back in 2015 would be eligible to file an amended tax return, and they need to do it quickly,” he said.

Service members with questions should go to their local tax assistance centers, Dulaney said, noting that this change should affect about 2,000 service members.

Members of the armed forces are still able to deduct their unreimbursed moving expenses incurred during permanent change of station moves, he said.

There are changes to deductions for travel to drill for reservists. “Reservists cannot take deductions for drill duty expenses that are under 100 miles,” he said. Those driving more than 100 miles can still take deductions.

Military spouses

For military spouses there is a significant change as part of the Veterans Benefits and Transition Act of 2018. “This allows military spouses to elect to use their service member’s state of legal residence for state and local taxes,” he said. “

This is the Russian spy unit that keeps getting caught in the act

In the past a spouse may have had to file a different state tax return because they had split legal residences. For example, if a service member with a legal residence of New York moved to Virginia and married a person with a legal residence from that state.

“Now, our military spouses can now elect to use the legal residence of the military member for purposes of filing their state and local taxes,” Dulaney said. “Now military couples will no longer have to file different state tax returns … additionally it will reduce the overall tax burden for military families.”

Injured troops

Finally, the Combat-Injured Veterans Tax Fairness Act has been implemented for veterans who received disability severance pay and had tax withholding applied to the pay. “Now under the tax code, disability severance pay is not taxable under certain situations,” he said. More than 133,000 veterans who have received this pay are eligible for relief under the act.

The vets have until July 2019 to file for a refund.

There are a number of aids for military personnel and their families as they prepare their taxes. Each base has a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program office that will help. To find your local office, visit Military OneSource.

The IRS offers information about free tax preparation.

Military OneSource also has information about military tax services in its tax resource center.

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Defense. Follow @DeptofDefense on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How to get your own free ‘Space Force’ ringtone

If you’re in the military or are a veteran and haven’t heard about the Space Force yet, it’s time to climb out from under that rock you’ve been living in. There’s a sixth branch of the U.S. military now, and it’s going to be a department of the Air Force.

This is the Russian spy unit that keeps getting caught in the act
The men’s department.

Although the Air Force has released very limited guidance on what the new branch will do, how it will roll out, or basically anything at all except that it’s called the ‘Space Force’ and will exist one day, the excitement the idea of a space force brings the military community is palpable.

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Judged solely by the sheer volume of Space Force memes.

Also Read: 5 boring details a Space Force private will get stuck on

So if you’re excited to do your part, you can fully engulf yourself in the burgeoning Space Force culture, you can now enjoy the first Space Force song, sure to be shouted at the top of many a Spaceman’s lungs every morning during Space-ic Training.

This songified version of President Trump’s Space Force announcement was created by The Gregory Brothers, whose YouTube page is packed with pop culture songification. Due to the popular demand for the song to be made into a ringtone via the popular Air Force Facebook page Air Force amn/nco/snco, the Gregory Brothers responded immediately.

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Thanks Air Force amn/nco/snco.

Check out: Why the name of the space-based branch should be Space Corps

Good luck getting this song out of your head now that it goes off every time your mom or dad calls you. You can get your free Space Force ringtone from The Gregory Brothers at their Patreon page.

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3 reasons why the A-10’s replacement won’t bring the same BRRRRRT! to the battle

So, the Air Force is going to test fly a replacement for the A-10 Thunderbolt II “BRRRRRT!” plane this summer — all on account of a Senate committee that just voted to provide $1.2 billion in funding for this program.


A number of planes are competing to see which will replace the legendary Warthog. Among the competitors are the OV-10X from Boeing, the Textron Scorpion, the A-29 Super Tucano, and the AT-6 Texan.

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OV-10G+ operated by SEAL Team 6. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

And while these new planes have their advantages for close air support, they lack some key attributes that makes the A-10 the beloved “Hog” that it is.

3. No armor for the pilot – or other stuff

Let’s be honest, one of the reasons we love the A-10 is that it can take a beating and bring the pilot home. The tale of Kim “Killer Chick” Campbell doesn’t happen with a Tucano or Texan. It just doesn’t. So don’t give us some small prop job and tell us you gave us an A-10 replacement, okay? Just. Freakin’. Don’t.

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2. Lack of payload

The A-10 can carry up to 16,000 pounds of bombs, missiles, and other ordnance — that’s eight tons. The Textron Scorpion carries up to 9,000 pounds. The OV-10X is a modernized version of the OV-10 Bronco, but that plane has a limited payload as well, with the heaviest weapon it carries being 500-pound bombs.

Not bad for a COIN mission, but weak at supporting boots on the ground in a heavy firefight.

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A-10 Thunderbolt IIs break over the Pacific Alaska Range Complex and one aircraft drops a flare during live-fire training April 24. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Robert Wieland)

1. No GAU-8

The A-10 was built around the GAU-8, a 30mm Gatling cannon. It could hold 1,174 rounds’ worth of BRRRRRT!

Now, the old OV-10 that served in Vietnam and Desert Storm had guns – four M60 machine guns. That’s right four 7.62mm machine guns. The OV-10X swaps them out for M3 .50-caliber machine guns. Not bad when you wanna take out Taliban, but a problem when facing tanks.

Now, there was a gun pod that had a version of the GAU-8 with four barrels as opposed to seven, and with 353 rounds. Not bad, but it’s not a GAU-8 mount.

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Photo: US Air Force Airman 1st Class Jonathan Snyder

Don’t get us wrong, the OV-10 makes for a nice COIN bird, and the Textron Scorpion could be a nice, cheap supplementary multi-role fighter.

But let’s get down to the ground truth: If you want to replace the A-10, do it right. And if you can’t replace the A-10 with a new plane, then just admit that the best A-10 replacement is another A-10 and just get them back in production. Is that too much to ask?