Russia's creaky, old aircraft carrier is up to something strange - We Are The Mighty
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Russia’s creaky, old aircraft carrier is up to something strange

Russia’s creaky, old aircraft carrier is up to something strange
‘Admiral Kuznetsov’ in dry dock in July 2015. | Christopher Michel/Flickr photo


The aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov is the biggest ship in the Russian navy and the most visible symbol of the Kremlin’s military power. This October, she will travel to the Mediterranean and carry out air strikes in Syria, according to a report from the Moscow-based Tass news agency.

There is a general rule for news about Russian warships. Like most things in life — don’t believe it until you see it. The first problem is that the Tass report, which reverberated throughout the Russian and Western press, relied on a single anonymous “military-diplomatic source.”

Nor is this the first time rumors have spread about the Admiral Kuznetsovgoing to war in Syria. The Russian navy denied a 2015 report which claimed as much.

But this is not to say you should totally disbelieve it, either. Recent activity surrounding the Admiral Kuznetsov may indicate an upcoming combat deployment.

First, here are several reasons to doubt it.

Admiral Kuznetsov has never seen combat, nor would she be of much practical military use. The 55,000-ton carrier has a bow ramp, not steam catapults, requiring her aircraft to shed weight before taking off. This means her planes will go into combat with less fuel or bombs than the ground-based fighters Russia has already deployed to Syria.

This is on purpose. The Soviet Union designed Admiral Kuznetsov as a “heavy aircraft-carrying missile cruiser” to support a surface battle fleet, foreign policy writer Taylor Marvin pointed out.

This makes her less flexible than U.S. supercarriers, and it’s the reason she packs anti-ship missiles for sinking other vessels, but cannot launch fully gassed-up strike planes with heavy bomb loads suitable for attacking targets on land.

Worse, the conventionally-powered Admiral Kuznetsov has problems. Poor maintenance, defective steam turbines and shoddy boilers means she’s unreliable — which is why Russia sends an ocean-going tug with her, wherever she goes.

A video of one of these tugs hauling the carrier in bad weather during a 2012 voyage appeared last year. It has an utterly awesome and appropriately Russian soundtrack.

“Carrier operations, particularly high-tempo strike missions, are an extremely complex logistical and operational dance, with lethal consequences for mistakes,” Marvin wrote. “Since the USSR and Russia has had little opportunity to build these skills, and none to test them in combat, any strike missions from the Kuznetsov would be limited and mostly for show.”

Russia would take a big risk … for not much gain. This doesn’t mean the Kremlin wouldn’t take the risk. There is circumstantial evidence to suggest — although in a speculative fashion — that the Russians may be preparing to do just that.

Russia’s creaky, old aircraft carrier is up to something strange
British destroyer HMS ‘York’ shadows ‘Admiral Kuznetsov’ in 2011. | U.K. Ministry of Defense photo

For one, Admiral Kuznetsov is planning a voyage to the Mediterranean this fall. “It is true. There is such a plan,” Adm. Vladimir Komoyedov, chairman of the State Duma defense committee, told Tass on June 28.

Su-33 and Su-25 jets recently landed on the flattop, last spotted sailing in the Barents Sea. MiG-29Ks — a carrier-launched version of the muscular, multi-role Fulcrum — will arrive “in the coming days,” according to a July 4 reportby Interfax.

The news agency reported that the arrivals are in preparation for a “long hike” planned “roughly in the middle of October.”

The MiG-29K and its two-seater KUB variant are Soviet-era designs revived for the Indian Navy after it purchased the Kiev-class flattop Admiral Gorshkov — renamed INS Vikramaditya — in 2004. However, the planes themselves are brand new, pack advanced avionics and can drop precision-guided bombs.

The Su-33 is an air-superiority fighter, and the Su-25 is a close air support plane. Tass’ source said the carrier will go to Syria with “about 15 fighters Su-33 and MiG-29K/KUB and more than 10 helicopters Ka-52K, Ka-27 and Ka-31.”

But it gets weirder.

Russia went to war in Syria in September 2015. That month, Admiral Kuznetsov was completing a three-month maintenance stint near Murmansk.

Then in October, she appeared in the Barents Sea … for combat training.

That’s unusual, because the Russian aircraft carrier is a snowbird; she heads south late in the year. More specifically, she sails into the Mediterranean, which she did during her four previous deployments — all during winter.

October is not winter. But the Barents Sea and the carrier’s home port at Severomorsk are beyond the Arctic Circle, where flight operations are particularly dangerous beginning in mid-October due to the polar night, when there is little light.

Sergei Ishchenko, a military commentator and former navy captain, found that perplexing. “Only extraordinary circumstances could have forced training flights from the carrier during the least suitable time of the year,” he wrote for the website Svobodnaya Pressa.

“It’s obvious that the war in Syria is that circumstance.”

 Russia might not have a chance to deploy its carrier in combat again for awhile. In early 2017, Admiral Kuznetsov will head into dry dock for a two-year overhaul shortly after she returns from the Mediterranean. The war may be over by the time her repairs are done, giving the Kremlin a tiny window to signal military prowess with its flattop.

More curious is what’s happening with the MiG-29Ks.

These warplanes train at a runway with a ski-ramp in Yeysk, Russia, along the Sea of Azov. The Kremlin built this facility in 2012 as an alternative to a similar ramp runway in Nitka, Crimea — then part of Ukraine — which Russia leased. Russia captured Nitka during its February 2014 invasion, but the facility is apparently not suitable for MiG-29Ks.

And according to Ishchenko, the MiG-29K unit — the 100th Shipborne Fighter Aviation Regiment — was not fully trained as of January 2016.Admiral Kuznetsov is useless without those multi-role fighters and their pilots. “Victory in that war demands actual, not potential, power,” Ischenko wrote. “And the Admiral Kuznetsov still lacks its full combat power.”

Hence the reason why the carrier is back in the Barents Sea for the second time since last October, now with MiG-29Ks on the way … on a crash course for an upcoming combat mission.

At least, that’s the theory. We’ll find out in a few months.

Articles

6 reasons why veterans would gear up and head back to war

As veterans, we’ve all thought about signing back up at one time or another. But what would it take to truly get us back in uniform, to don all that heavy gear and take the fight to the enemy as we’ve always done?


Though we all have to take into consideration all the formations, bull-sh*t we receive from the chain of command — and let’s not forget all those wonderful uniform inspections. Everyone loves those.

With all the crap that comes with serving, many veterans still miss some aspects of military life.

Let’s gear up and go to war! (Images via Giphy)

Check out our reasons why we would gear back up to take on the bad guys.

1. If another major terrorist attack happens

The Sept. 11 attacks stirred up patriotism in millions of Americans, and some joined the military during that period just to get a little revenge.

I represent ‘Merica! (Image via Giphy)

2. For a huge bonus check

Everyone wants to line their pockets with extra beer money.

And a case of beer! (Image via Giphy)

3. If your military family went as well

The military brother and sisterhood have a very tight bond, you f*ck with one brother or sister — you f*ck with whole while family.

You said it girl. (Image via Giphy)

4. If you just couldn’t find a good enough job that suits you

Because office work just didn’t satisfy that inner combat operator in you.

These guys were all former snipers. True story. (Image via Giphy)

5. To feel that combat adrenaline rush again

Shooting and blowing up the bad guys makes an operator feel great about themselves. It’s a morale booster.

He nailed every shot too. He’s that good. (Image via Giphy)

6. To get some adventure

Post-military life is hard to adjust too. Sometimes you just want to leave the homeland and get back into the sh*t.

Can we go with you? (Images via Giphy)To all of our military family already forward deployed — we salute you.

Can you think of any more reasons to throw those cammies back on? Comment below.

Articles

Meet The Marine Veteran Who’s Going To Be Star Wars’ Next Villain

Russia’s creaky, old aircraft carrier is up to something strange


The next villain of the Star Wars franchise also happens to be a military veteran.

Meet Adam Driver, the apparent villain of “Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens,” set to be released in December 2015. He’s 31, a graduate of Juilliard, and you’ve seen him in the HBO series “Girls,” along with films such as “J. Edgar,” “Lincoln,” and “Inside Llewyn Davis.”

But before his acting career took off, he was U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Adam Driver. Shortly after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the San Diego-native decided to enlist.

Russia’s creaky, old aircraft carrier is up to something strange

“I was having an argument with my stepfather, and he was like, ‘Why don’t you join the Marine Corps?’ And I was like, ‘Noooo! Well, maybe, actually … ‘” Driver told Rolling Stone. “I went and saw the recruiter, who was like, ‘Are you on the run from the cops? Because we’ve never had someone want to leave so fast.’ I was like, ‘I’m going to be a man.'”

Stationed at Camp Pendleton with 81s Platoon, Weapons Co. 1st Battalion 1st Marines, the infantry mortarman began training for an eventual deployment to the Middle East. From Military.com:

Unfortunately for the young Marine, Driver injured his sternum in a mountain biking accident before deploying. He attempted to mitigate his debilitated state by training harder than before, if for no other reason than to show off that he was okay. However, after two years of service with no time in the field, Driver was medically discharged.

He served for two years and eight months, but was unable to finish his enlistment in the Marines. Still, Driver has continued to serve the military community. He runs a non-profit called Arts in the Armed Forces, which brings contemporary theater performances to troops free of charge. For now, we can speculate on exactly what his role in Star Wars will be, and of course, be sure to check out the movie on Dec. 18.

SEE ALSO: Star Wars tech we could really use in Iraq and Afghanistan

MIGHTY TRENDING

Exclusive interview with Pearl Harbor National Memorial Superintendent Scott Burch

Scott Burch has been Acting Superintendent of Pearl Harbor National Memorial since August, 2020. In this role, Burch oversees the stewardship of the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial and other historic resources associated with the history of World War II in the Pacific from the events leading to the December 7, 1941 attack on Oah’u, to peace and reconciliation.

Before arriving at Pearl Harbor National Memorial Burch had been serving as the Superintendent of the National Park of American Samoa since 2015, where he led a diverse staff of 50. Previously, he served at Crater Lake National Park in Oregon and at Denali National Park and Preserve in Alaska. Some projects and programs he has worked on in parks include expansion of the visitor center and drawing indigenous villages together on conservation issues in American Samoa and working with local tribes on water rights in the American West. He has spent much of his life working to improve diversity and including as many voices as possible on a wide variety of issues.

Russia’s creaky, old aircraft carrier is up to something strange

WATM: Thank you for taking the time to speak with us today. As we approach this national day of remembrance for the lives lost during the second world war, tourists are wondering if you’re open on the anniversary and if so, what precautions is the museum taking against the pandemic?

Thank you for having me today, we are open on the anniversary. It’s going to be a little different this year and most of that is based on the pandemic. We’re delaying our opening time to allow for the safety of our veterans that we will be hosting on the morning of December 7th. Our plan is to have a virtual event that will be live streamed.

It will be very much like the usual ceremony with a ship passing in review, we’ll have a missing man fly over, echo taps, and great speakers. The only people on site will be the speakers themselves as they’re being filmed and live streamed on our social media page. We’re not even going to invite the veterans this year because of concern of that high-risk population. So, what we’ve offered them is the opportunity to take their families out on the memorial that morning on their own personal tour of the memorial.

Five of them have taken us up on that offer. So, we’ll run one group at a time to keep them separate and then once we’re finished with that, we plan on opening the park itself to the public at about 1230. =

WATM: Safeguarding our nation’s history is an immense privilege and commitment. When did you realize your passion for the Pearl Harbor National Memorial needed to be turned into action?

For me personally, the Arizona memorial has been important to me my entire life. I grew up here just up the hill. My first experience in life is the shrine room in the memorial. So this place has a very special place in my heart. As I’ve gone down the path of life, I feel lucky that it has led me back here to home, where I literally feel like I belong. 

I’ve known that my passion needed action from my very first days and my very first memories. It was just a matter of time to be able to finally come back and give back what it has given me my whole life. 

WATM: What is something about the history of the battle that most people don’t know?

I’m glad you’ve asked that question, Ruddy. Our real focus for our ceremony and the events we’re having is to try to share a very diverse story about what we serve and protect — to include as many stories as we can. One of the interesting things that I think is not well known, the attack on December 7th, 1941 which is very well known and changed the world forever after World War II, one of the sad stories is that that battle lead a series of events that lead to the mass incarceration of over 120,000 Japanese in the United States. Including over 2,000 in Hawaii based solely on their race.

As wisemen say ‘if you don’t learn from history, you’re likely going to make the same mistakes again.’

I think it is a better place because we’ve learned from things like that. I think it’s important to share and celebrate our success in coming so far from those things. Not only as a nation with our world international relations but as humans.

Russia’s creaky, old aircraft carrier is up to something strange

WATM: Americans love to conserve the heritage that has shaped our way of life. How can people who cannot travel to Hawaii support the mission of the Pearl Harbor National Memorial? 

The best way to support our mission, preserving and protecting this special place, is to learn more about it. That is one of the big reasons the National Park Service is so happy to be involved in preserving and protecting the Pearl Harbor National Memorial. 

There are the usual ways to learn about this place: our website, social media, and lots of ways to engage even though you cannot get to Hawaii. This weekend, starting tomorrow, is a real special opportunity. 

We have a virtual program called Beyond Pearl Harbor: Untold Stories of WWII.

There are three components to the programs – Live sessions, film festival, and education videos. They all can be found on this website: www.pacifichistoricparks.org/virtualprograms

It will kick off at 1600 HST December 7th, 2020 for the duration of the weekend.

When I arrived in this job one big personal goal, I had was to make Pearl Harbor National Memorial more relevant to more people. This program is part of that work. On one level its designed to be a jump start to our virtual Dec 7th event, but it has developed a life of its own. Pacific Historic Parks is hosting it on their website and have been instrumental in helping us work on the new messages we hope to share this year.

There are 9 facebook live programs:

MIGHTY TRENDING

Controversial Russian bombers carry out drills over the Caribbean

Days after their arrival in Venezuela triggered a verbal duel between Washington and Moscow, two Russian strategic bombers carried out drills over the Caribbean Sea, Russia’s defense ministry said Dec 12, 2018.

The two Tu-160 nuclear-capable bombers in Venezuela “conducted a flight in the airspace over the Caribbean Sea. The flight lasted for about 10 hours,” the ministry’s press service said, according to state-media outlet Tass.


“In certain parts of the route, the flight of Russian bombers was conducted together with Su-30 and F-16 fighter jets of the Venezuelan National Bolivarian Military Aviation. The pilots from the two countries practiced air cooperation when fulfilling air tasks,” it added.

As with the flight from Russia to Venezuela, the flight over the Caribbean was “in strict accordance with [international] rules of using airspace,” Tass said.

Russia’s creaky, old aircraft carrier is up to something strange

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

It is not the first time Tu-160 supersonic bombers have been to Venezuela. They visited in 2013 and in 2008. The earlier occasion came during a period of heightened tensions stoked by Russia’s brief war with Georgia that year.

The latest trip, which comes during heightened tensions over Russia’s meddling the 2016 US election and recent clash with Ukraine, prompted sharp words from all sides.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also chastised Caracas and Moscow, saying on Dec. 10, 2018, that people in Russia and Venezuela “should see this for what it is: two corrupt governments squandering public funds, and squelching liberty and freedom while their people suffer.”

The Pentagon also chimed in, saying that while the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro sought visits from Russian aircraft, the US was working with “regional partners and international organizations to provide humanitarian aid to Venezuelans fleeing their crisis-racked nation.”

The Organization of American States also expressed “the greatest concern” about the visit, saying it was not authorized by Venezuela’s national assembly, as required by the constitution.

Venezuela and Russia responded in kind.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called Pompeo’s remarks “rather undiplomatic” and “totally inappropriate.”

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza on Dec. 11, 2018, called Pompeo’s comments “disrespectful,” and, like Peskov, described them as “cynical” in light of the US’s own military activity abroad.

Arreaza also said it was “outrageous” for the US to question Venezuela’s defense cooperation with other countries after President Donald Trump “threatened us publicly with a military intervention,” referring to Trump’s references to the possibility of military action to oust Maduro.

On Dec. 11, 2018, Diosdado Cabello — a powerful Venezuelan official who has been accused of involvement in drug trafficking and been sanctioned by the US — mocked the “poor opposition leadership,” who he said had called for foreign military intervention but became frenzied at the arrival of the Russian bombers.

Russia’s creaky, old aircraft carrier is up to something strange

Venezuelan politician Diosdado Cabello.

“One thing is to call for the devil and other is to see him coming,” Cabello said.

The Trump administration has cast Venezuela as the US’s most significant foe in the region and sought to isolate the Maduro government, largely through sanctions on Maduro and officials around him.

The US and other countries in the region have condemned Maduro for ongoing political strife and economic deterioration in his country — turmoil that has prompted some 3 million Venezuelans to flee, straining resources and prompting backlash in the neighboring countries that have received many of them.

On Dec. 11, 2018, after speaking with Russian officials, the White House said the bombers currently in Venezuela would depart on Dec. 14, 2018 and return to Russia.

However, according to an unverified report in Russian daily Nezavisimaya Gazeta, cited by Tass and by Reuters, a longer-term Russian military presence in Venezuela has been discussed, in part as a response to US plans to exit the Cold War-era Intermediate Nuclear Forces treaty.

Russian officials wanted to deploy “strategic aircraft” to a Venezuelan base in the Caribbean, to which Maduro not object, according to the report. They could go a base on La Orchila island, northeast of Caracas. (Russia said at the end of 2014 it would conduct long-range air patrols in the Caribbean.)

A military expert quoted by the paper said such a deployment would remove the need for those aircraft to return to Russia and for aerial refueling during “patrol missions in the Americas.” The aircraft could conduct missions in the region and be replaced on a rotating basis, the expert said.

While Venezuelan law prohibits foreign military bases, military aircraft could be hosted temporarily, the Russian newspaper said.

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

Articles

Meet the F-16 pilots who turned their wartime experiences into hilarious songs

Some vets with a tendency toward showmanship like to take their talents to YouTube or Hollywood when they hit the post-service world.


Russia’s creaky, old aircraft carrier is up to something strange
These guys sang a couple songs that pissed their CO off (bravo!). (Photo: Amazon.com)

But the former F-16 fighter pilots behind Operation Encore took the old-school approach and are working to shatter some of the caricatures of veterans through music. The result is a blend of music genres from a variety of military-affiliated artists that range from folksy bluegrass to present-day pop rock — all of it relating to experiences of war that poke fun at life in the service and lament the tragedy of war.

Chris Kurek is the co-founder and partner with Viper Driver Productions. He’s better known as “Snooze,” one of the two founding members of the band Dos Gringos, a pair of F-16 pilots who released four satirical albums full of songs with titles like “I Wish I Had a Gun Just Like the A-10” to the NSFW drinking song “Jeremiah Weed” to the Willie Nelson-esque “TDY Again.”

The band kicked off when Kurek and his fellow jet jock Robert “Trip” Raymond were deployed to Kuwait for Operation Southern Watch and later Operation Iraqi Freedom.

“We were out there for six months, there was nothing else to do,” Kurek said. He and Raymond wrote some songs and performed for the rest of their squadron.

Their songs drew what Kurek described as “wonky eyes” from some, but their squadron commander was very supportive, encouraging them to record the songs on CD, even offering to put up the money.

“We were kind of writing on stuff that pointed out things that drive you crazy in the military,” he said.

After the band’s return stateside, they went to Texas to record their first CD, “Live at the Sand Trap.”

Turns out Dos Gringos’ wing commander was less than pleased with their extracurricular enterprise and barred them from performing at the Cannon Air Force Base Officer’s Club.

But the band went viral in a 2003 sorta way via the enlisted maintenance personnel who particularly dug the song, “I’m a Pilot,” Kurek said. The semi-satirical ditty about a self-centered fighter jock — which evokes a sound similar to some songs from the 80s band Warrant — was passed around the flightline.

Eventually, Dos Gringos would put out three more albums —”2,” “Live at Tommy Rockers,” and “El Cuatro” — before the band had to go on hiatus due to pressure from higher ups as Raymond rose through the ranks.

They were not done with music, though. Both felt some frustration with how some caricatured vets and with what they perceived as an effort by Nashville to cash in on the veteran experience.

Kurek recounted that the war wasn’t always patriotism or sadness, pointing out there was a lot of “goofing off and laughter” because of “boredom.”

Russia’s creaky, old aircraft carrier is up to something strange
Stephen Covell, a former Army medic who contributes to Operation Encore. (From OperationEncoreMusic.com)

“Vets can write about anything,” Kurek said. Eventually, in a conversation with Erik Brine, a C-17 pilot who was a later addition to Dos Gringos, Kurek recounted someone asking, “I wonder if there are any other people who did what we did on deployment – bring a guitar and write songs.”

They began a search, and it was a pair of submissions from Stephen Covell, an Army medic who served with the 82nd Airborne Division, that prompted them to create Operation Encore.

“Those two alone were the best I ever heard,” Kurek said. “They conveyed a combat vet’s experience.”

Covell’s submissions pushed Kurek and Raymond to launch a Kickstarter campaign to pay for airfare, studio time, mixing and mastering.

Russia’s creaky, old aircraft carrier is up to something strange
Rachel Harvey Hill, a military spouse who has contributed to Operation Encore. (From OperationEncoreMusic.com)

While two albums, “Volume 1” and “Monuments,” have so far been released, Kurek notes the process has been a challenge, largely due to the way the music industry has changed. Kurek recounted that when the first Dos Gringos album came out, CDs were still king. The rise of iTunes and digital downloads were one shift which evened out – the volume increased, even as they got less per song.

With Operation Encore, though, the big challenge has been the fact that the music industry has shifted once again to streaming services, and it takes hundreds of thousands of streams to get real money. Furthermore, Kurek pointed out that Dos Gringos was a niche market, and their audience knew what they would get.

Operation Encore is different.

“Operation Encore is a compilation, not one band, sound, or genre,” he explained, pointing out some of the songs were pop rock, others country or bluegrass. Furthermore, the singers who appear are scattered all over the world. Just getting the performers together for a concert would entail airfare, hotel rooms, and equipment rental. Not to mention all the stuff that is in the riders for the artists.

Russia’s creaky, old aircraft carrier is up to something strange

Kurek, though, is still hot on his Iraq War-era band.

“I wish we could do one more Dos Gringos album,” he said.

Operation Encore’s CDs can be purchased at CDBaby.com, or bought as digital downloads from iTunes, Amazon.com, and Google Play. Dos Gringos CDs are also available at CDBaby.com, and can be purchased from iTunes, Amazon.com, and Google Play.

MIGHTY TRENDING

VA asks for more veterans to sign up for Burn Pit Registry

An overall goal of scientific research on groups such as veterans is generalizability — the measure of how well the research findings and conclusions from a sample population can be extended to the larger population.

It is always dependent on studying an ideal number of participants and the “correct” number of individuals representing relevant groups from the larger population such as race, gender or age.

In setting the eligibility criteria for the Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry, VA researchers used generalizability as an important consideration.

Simply put, they want as many veterans and active-duty service members who had deployed to specific locations to join the registry. Participants could have been exposed to burn pits or not. They could be experiencing symptoms or not. Or, they could receive care from VA or not.


Helping to improve the care of your fellow veterans

For researchers, everyone eligible to join the registry has a unique experience critical in establishing empirical evidence. By signing up and answering brief questions about their health, veterans and active-duty service members are helping researchers understand the potential effects of exposure to burn pits and ultimately helping improve the care of their fellow veterans.

Russia’s creaky, old aircraft carrier is up to something strange

It is estimated that 3 million veterans and active-duty service members are eligible to join the registry. However, just over 173,000 have joined as of April 1, 2019, and 10 out of 100 have had the free, medical evaluation, which is important to confirm the self-reported data in the registry.

See what questions are asked

In hopes of encouraging more participation in the registry, VA is sharing a partial list of registry data collected from June 2014 through December 2018. This snapshot will give you a sense of the type of questions on the questionnaire as well as how the data is reported when shared with researchers and VA staff.

As a reminder, the registry is open to active-duty service members and most Veterans who deployed after 1990 to Southwest Asia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Djibouti and Africa, among other places.

Check your eligibility and sign up.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Pentagon will partner with a powerful Indonesian special forces unit

The Pentagon is looking to boost counterterrorism cooperation with an elite Indonesian special forces group, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Jan. 23 during a visit to Jakarta.


The special forces unit, known as Kopassus, has been accused of a range of human rights abuses, including killings and torture, mostly in the 1990s. Mattis says the group has since reformed.

“That was upwards of 20 years ago, and we’ll look at it since then,” Mattis said after meeting with Indonesian President Joko Widodo, Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu, and other leaders.

Mattis’ visit aims to expand overall military cooperation with Indonesia, which is modernizing its military and has shown an increased willingness to push back against China’s territorial claims.

Indonesia is also dealing with the possible return of hundreds of Indonesians who fought with the Islamic State terror group in Syria and Iraq.

Russia’s creaky, old aircraft carrier is up to something strange
Defense Secretary James N. Mattis meets with the Minister of Defense of Indonesia Ryamizard Ryacudu during a visit to Jakarta, Indonesia on Jan. 23, 2018. (DoD photo by Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)

“We are out to expand in ways that respond to any requests from Indonesia on counterterrorism to include the special forces units,” Mattis said alongside his Indonesian counterpart.

Following those talks, Ryacudu said he would like Mattis to help relax the legal limitations on closer U.S. ties with the elite special forces group.

Rights abuses

Kopassus’ alleged abuses include massacres in East Timor, the abduction and forced disappearance of student pro-democracy activists, and a torture campaign in Aceh during a now-ended insurgency. Rights groups say many of those responsible have not been held accountable.

Amid those concerns, the United States severed ties with Kopassus in 1999. In 2010, the Pentagon took initial steps toward reestablishing cooperation, but the ties have been limited and non-lethal, consisting of staff exchanges and low-level subject matter dialogue.

Mattis says he believes the group has reformed and would now stand up to the scrutiny of the so-called Leahy Law, which prohibits the United States from providing military assistance to foreign security forces that violate human rights.

Also Read: Senate extends controversial spy law that affects US citizen privacy

Joseph Felter, the top U.S. defense official on Southeast Asia, said the Pentagon sees “real value and potential in working with Kopassus as a partner in counterterrorism,” if the State Department were to loosen restrictions.

“They are a very, very effective counterterrorism unit,” Felter said.

The United States already has very close ties with the Indonesian military. Since 2013, Felter said the United States has sold more than $1.5 billion to Indonesia under the foreign military sales program, including the Apache helicopter and the F-16. And Felter says Jakarta is considering buying more F-16s.

Russia’s creaky, old aircraft carrier is up to something strange
An Indonesian Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon sits on the flight line during exercise Cope West 17 at Sam Ratulangi International Airport, Indonesia, Nov. 10, 2016. First conducted in 1989, Cope West is a Pacific Air Force lead exercise, normally focusing on airlift, air-land and air drop delivery operation techniques. Cope West 17 is the first-fighter focused exercise in Indonesia in 19 years involving the U.S. Military and the Indonesian Air Force. Both the U.S. F/A-18D Hornets and Indonesian F-16 Fighting Falcons bring unique capabilities affording the associated nations the opportunity to learn and understand each other’s skills, preparing them for real world contingencies and further strengthening their relationship. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Aaron Henson)

“Anytime we can help a partner uphold a free and fair rules-based order in a free and open Indo-Pacific, that’s what we’re here for,” the deputy assistant secretary of defense for South and Southeast Asia said.

Vietnam

On Jan. 24, Mattis heads to Vietnam, where China is likely to be a major focus.

The Pentagon last week unveiled a new National Defense Strategy that prioritizes the U.S. geopolitical rivalry with China and Russia.

Vietnam is one of the most vocal critics of China’s expansive claims in the South China Sea and has repeatedly clashed with Chinese ships in the area.

During his visit to Indonesia Tuesday, Mattis repeatedly spoke about the importance of the “rule of law” and “freedom of navigation” – comments apparently aimed at China.

MIGHTY TRENDING

North Korea wants its new subs to fire nuclear missiles

North Korea appears to be working on a new submarine capable of firing nuclear-armed ballistic missiles, according to information gathered by South Korea’s military.

Kim Hack-yong, a South Korean lawmaker who until recently was head of the legislature’s defense committee, told The Wall Street Journal that North Korea appeared to working on the sub at the port of Sinpo on the country’s east coast.

An aide to Kim said South Korean intelligence had noticed workers and materials moving at the port, where work on the sub appeared to be taking place at an indoor facility. Kim, whose term as the defense-committee chief recently ended, is a member of the conservative party that has been wary of talks with North Korea.


US military intelligence noticed similar activity at the port late 2017, detecting what appeared to be construction on a new diesel-electric submarine at the Sinpo shipyard, The Diplomat reported in October 2017, citing a US government source.

US intelligence estimates at that time gave the sub a submerged displacement of 2,000 tons and a beam of 36 feet, making it the largest ship built for the North Korean navy.

The Journal report comes as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visits Pyongyang on July 6, 2018, where he is likely to push North Korea for more solid commitments regarding denuclearization. While North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump pledged at their mid-June 2018 summit in Singapore to “work toward” denuclearization, no specific agreement was reached.

Russia’s creaky, old aircraft carrier is up to something strange

An underwater test-firing of a submarine ballistic missile shown in an undated photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency on April 24, 2016.

The US made some concessions to Pyongyang at that summit, including halting Ulchi Freedom Guardian, a major US-South Korea military exercise scheduled for August 2018. But evidence has emerged suggesting North Korea has not abandoned its nuclear ambitions.

Five US officials told NBC News that North Korea has increased its production of enriched uranium for nuclear weapons.

While missile and nuclear tests have halted, one official said, “there’s no evidence that they are decreasing stockpiles, or that they have stopped their production.”

North Korea has one of the world’s largest navies by number of ships. South Korea’s defense ministry estimates Pyongyang has 430 surface vessels and about 70 submarines.

Many of those subs are thought to be obsolete, but that fleet includes one Gorae-class ballistic-missile sub, which was outfitted with a new missile-launch tube in summer 2017, according to The Diplomat. (South Korea is reportedly looking to buy six US-made P-8 Poseidons, one of the world’s most advanced sub-hunting aircraft.)

Russia’s creaky, old aircraft carrier is up to something strange

A Hwasong-12 long-range strategic ballistic rocket test-launched on May 15, 2017.

The sub under construction at Sinpo may be a successor to that Gorae-class boat, advancing a program that US officials consider a threat because it could allow North Korea to achieve greater surprise for a nuclear strike.

“It’s too early to say if the North Koreans have defaulted on the Singapore agreement to denuclearize,” Yang Uk, chief defense analyst at Seoul-based private think thank the Korea Defense and Security Forum, told The Journal.

“But earlier satellite images have already shown enough evidence proving North Korea has not abandoned its SLBM program,” he added, referring to submarine-launched ballistic missiles.

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

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Here’s who’d win if an Airborne brigade fought a MEU

Author’s note: This is a very hypothetical look at how a fight between two of America’s greatest expeditionary units could play out. Obviously, this battle would never actually happen since paratroopers and Marines rarely fight outside of bars. Both sides can only use their indigenous assets and their rides to the fight, no requesting Patriot missile support or a carrier strike group.


During the short War of Alaskan Secession in 2017, one brutal battle pitted an Army Airborne Brigade Combat Team against a Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU).

The fight centered on Fort Glenn, an abandoned World War II airfield on Umnak Island in the center of Alaska’s Aleutian Island Chain. The 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division attempted to take the fort for the Alaskan Independence Forces while the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit steamed north to capture it for the Federal Forces.

Russia’s creaky, old aircraft carrier is up to something strange
Map data: Google, DigitalGlobe, TerraMetrics, Data SIO, MOAA, US Navy, NGA, GEBCO. Graphics: WATM Logan Nye

The Alaskans wanted the base to act as an early-warning installation and a platform for controlling Arctic traffic while the Federal Forces needed it as a marshaling and power projection platform for the invasion of Alaska.

The soldiers and Marines raced to the island, each unaware of the other’s plans. 4th Brigade caught a ride from Alaskan Air National Guard C-17s while the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit rode in on their dedicated Navy ships, the USS Peleliu and the USS Germantown, from where they were already steaming in the northern Pacific.

The paratroopers arrived first, jumping into the grass and wildflowers covering Fort Glenn. After Army pathfinders walked the runway and declared it safe for airland operations, C-17s began ferrying the unit’s heavy equipment onto the base.

Russia’s creaky, old aircraft carrier is up to something strange
Photo: US Army Sgt. Joseph Guenther

It was at this critical moment that the Army colonel learned from one of his UAV operators that the 31st MEU was south of the island and steaming towards Deer Bay, a natural beach that sat at the foot of Fort Glenn.

This was a crisis for the airborne unit. A surprise winter storm approaching mainland Alaska had grounded the F-22s and other fighters captured as the war began, but the commander knew the MEU would still be able to launch its eight Harriers and four attack helicopters with the Navy’s ships safely out of the storm’s path.

The Army had limited options. They could attempt to defend Fort Glenn with what static defenses could be emplaced quickly, hide and set up an ambush at the beaches for when the Marines landed, or withdraw to the nearby high ground at Mount Okmok, a volcano that rarely erupts.

The Army decided to make its stand at the beach. Soldiers from the two battalion weapons companies rushed their Humvees, complete with TOW missile launchers, Mk. 19s, and .50-cals, away from the airfield and down to areas of dead space on the shore.

Russia’s creaky, old aircraft carrier is up to something strange
Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Micah VanDyke

Javelin missile teams jumped out and positioned their launchers to screen for aircraft flying low and slow. Riflemen grabbed their assault packs and began setting up their own positions.

The soldiers waited and watched as the Marines’ amphibious assault vehicles crept into view. It wasn’t until the first of the Ospreys and SuperCobras neared the beach and spotted the humvees that the Javelin crews began firing.

The first missiles streaked toward the aircraft, but they had only limited anti-air capabilities. Two SuperCobras and two Ospreys came down, but the rest of the aircraft began evasive maneuvers.

Russia’s creaky, old aircraft carrier is up to something strange
Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Ashlee J. Lolkus Sherrill

The Humvees moved up from the dead space to give their gunners a shot at the Marines coming in. TOW missiles and 40mm grenades began striking the AAVs making their way to the beach while .50-cal gunners targeted the Marines Combat Rubber Raiding Crafts.

The Marines, though surprised to find the beach occupied, were masters of amphibious warfare. The command quickly ordered the landers to turn south where the terrain around Deer Bay would protect them from the missiles. The AAVs began suppressive fire to cover the movement.

A few TOWs were launched at the Navy ships, but the Phalanx Close-In Weapons Systems destroyed them and the Navy pulled out of range.

Then the Marines began readying the Harriers. While the nearly 4,000 soldiers of an Airborne Brigade Combat Team vastly outnumber the 2,200 in a MEU, the MEU brings 7 acres of U.S. territory and 8 ground attack jets with them.

Russia’s creaky, old aircraft carrier is up to something strange
Photo: US Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Claudia Palacios

The Marines knew that since the Army fired Javelins, an anti-tank missile that is a risky choice against helicopters, the Javelin was their only anti-air missile. So the Harriers were free to fly just a little too fast and a little too high for the Javelins, and therefore they were able to rain destruction.

Once the Harriers were airborne, it was over for the Army’s heavy weapons platforms. After destroying the Humvees, they went after the Army howitzers and the few M1135 Strykers on the island.

The Army attempted an organized withdrawal to the mountain as the two remaining SuperCobras returned with the Harriers. The LCACs and Landing Craft Units offloaded the Marines’ six Light-Armored Vehicles and 120 humvees. The surviving AAVs swam onto the shores.

Army mortar crews, riflemen, and the surviving Javelin firers fought a valiant delaying action, but the island provided little cover and concealment and they were destroyed.

By the time the storm had passed over the Alaskan mainland and the governor could send reinforcements, the resistance on Umnak Island had been essentially wiped out. There was simply too little cover and concealment for the paratroopers to defend themselves against the air and armored support of a MEU once the Marines knew that they were there.

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This Mayor took time off to go to war in Afghanistan

Russia’s creaky, old aircraft carrier is up to something strange
This post is reprinted with permission from NationSwell, new digital media company focused on American innovation and renewal.


Most of us can’t take a seven-month leave of absence from work, but most of us don’t have as good of an excuse as Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind.

Mayor Buttigieg, better known as “Mayor Pete,” took office January 1, 2012, at the age of 29 — making him the youngest mayor in America to serve a city with more than 100,000 residents. He assumed command while still fulfilling his monthly commitments as a member of the Navy Reserve, but after about two years in office, he was called to serve abroad.

After a few months of preparation with his mayoral team, Buttigieg left South Bend in the hands of his Deputy Mayor Mark Neal and departed to perform intelligence counter-terrorism work in Afghanistan for seven months.

Russia’s creaky, old aircraft carrier is up to something strange

Buttigieg grew up in South Bend. His parents were transplants that arrived a few years before his birth to pursue work at the University of Notre Dame. Although his family found opportunity in the Indiana city, Buttigieg would come to learn while growing up that his hometown was a city in crisis: the all-too-familiar tale of a Midwestern town in an economic tailspin due to loss of industry. In South Bend’s case, it was the shuttering of the Studebaker car company, which until 1963, when its factories closed, was the largest employer in town.

After high school, Buttigieg left South Bend to pursue higher education, first at Harvard and later, at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar. After spending some time in the private sector doing consulting work, he joined the Navy as a reservist in 2008, putting into practice his childhood admiration of his great uncle, a family hero who died while serving in 1941.

The Great Recession hit South Bend hard, and Mayor Pete recalls following his hometown’s news from a distance.

“I was reading headlines from home,” says Buttigieg, “I was thinking, ‘Jeez, we gotta do more, we gotta change things a little bit back home.’ And then beginning to stop asking that question ‘why don’t they…’ and start asking that question ‘why don’t we?’ or ‘why don’t I?'”

Russia’s creaky, old aircraft carrier is up to something strange

Buttigieg returned to South Bend in 2008 and made his first foray into politics: a run for Indiana State Treasurer in 2010 (an effort he lost decisively to incumbent Richard Mourdock). While contemplating his next step, it became apparent that South Bend would soon have an open-seat mayor’s race for the first time in 24 years. Encouraged by his supporters in town, Buttigieg ran and was elected mayor on November 8, 2011, with 74 percent of the vote.

Buttigieg’s administration works hard to reinvent South Bend, while still acknowledging and celebrating its past, including work to redesign the old Studebaker campus into a turbo machinery facility in partnership with Notre Dame. By taking advantage of its excellent Internet capability (thanks to fiber optic cables that run through the town via old railroad routes), the city is attracting tech start-ups. Additionally, a 311 line has been set up for city residents.

But what might be called Buttigieg’s signature program is his plan to demolish, renovate or convert 1,000 vacant homes in 1,000 days. Since 1960, South Bend has lost about 30,000 residents, and empty homes pepper the entire town — attracting crime and lowering property values. This ambitious program, dubbed the Vacant Abandoned Properties Initiative, was launched in February 2013. As of January 10, 2015, 747 properties have been addressed, putting South Bend is ahead of schedule.

Buttigieg recently announced that he is running for a second term, perhaps surprising those who assumed he was only interested in using the mayor’s office to further his career. He is also personally renovating a home in the neighborhood where he grew up, while continuing to give one weekend a month to the reserves. He sees the recent initiatives in South Bend as a way to establish the next era for the community and is excited about the way South Bend is once again investing in itself.

“I would like to believe that if the work matters to you,” says Buttigieg, “and the importance of it is what fills your sails, that people can see that.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=47v=OqvYL3ZoVBk

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This article originally appeared at NationSwell Copyright 2015. Follow NationSwell on Twitter.

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6 tips to live the best life ever from USAF vet Bob Ross

With his soothing voice and famous catchphrases, Robert Norman “Bob” Ross inspired many Americans to pick up a paintbrush and put it to canvas.  


The famed oil painter brought “Happy Little Trees” and “Mystic Mountains” to our television screens for many years with his show “The Joy of Painting”, which aired from 1983 until 1994 on PBS. What many people may not know about Ross is that prior to being an instructional painter, he was a military man.

Russia’s creaky, old aircraft carrier is up to something strange
Bob Ross before and after…

In fact, Mr. Ross served in the U.S. Air Force for 20 years, 1961-1981, where he would achieve the rank of Master Sergeant. Ross held main leadership positions, which included serving as a first sergeant.

Ross said in a 1990 interview with the Orlando Sentinel that he had jobs in the Air Force that required him to be “tough and mean;” however, it did not fit his personality and he vowed to change when he left the service.

“I was the guy who makes you scrub the latrine, the guy who makes you make your bed, the guy who screams at you for being late to work,” he said. ”The job requires you to be a mean, tough person. And I was fed up with it. I promised myself that if I ever got away from it, it wasn’t going to be that way anymore.”

While some aspects of military life could be rough and not appealing to him, it did play a part in his success following his post-military career.

Unfortunately, the world lost Bob Ross way too soon in 1995 after a long battle with lymphoma. He was only 52 years old.

Along with his paintings, Bob Ross left us so many incredible life lessons that we can all learn from. Here are 6 of those lessons:  

1. Inspiration can come from anywhere

It was his time while stationed in Alaska that inspired much of his work. Many of his paintings feature mountains covered in snow as well as open landscapes. While he may have not always liked the military lifestyle, he found peace living in the “Last Frontier.”

Along with his time in Alaska, the rapid speed in which he painted was also inspired by his military background. Ross leveraged his work pace in his military career to translate it to his painting technique. Aspects in your everyday life can serve as moments of inspiration.

2. Do not set limitations

Bob Ross was never one to set rules when he was painting. He would typically tell his viewers “paint what you want,” or “do what you feel.” Many art teachers may follow the traditional rules of painting but Bob Ross likes to throw out the rule book.   

3. Staying calm

Bob Ross was one cool individual. He never seemed to get stressed out or frustrated when he was painting. His tone was always so relaxing, and he always seemed to put life into perspective when his was painting. Ross remained calm on a consistent basis, which had a direct link to his performance. This cool demeanor allowed him to complete thousands of paintings throughout his career making him not only a great painter but a successful TV personality and businessman.

4. Follow your passion

Following his military career, Bob Ross could have easily taken the conservative route working a regular job. Instead he took a risk by following his passion for painting, and he devoted his life to it. In the process of following his dreams, he helped others discover a love for the arts. It is an accomplished that only a few of us dare to do because many of us have a fear of failure.

5. Stay positive

Having a great attitude in life is not always easy. Let’s face it life is hectic. However, Bob Ross always seem to have an optimistic viewpoint. Even when he made a mistake, he would say “there are no mistakes, just happy accidents”

6. Believe in yourself

At the 2:29 mark of this clip Bob Ross gives us his best advice saying the following “The secret to doing anything is believing that you can do it. Anything that you believe you can do strong enough, you can do. Anything. As long as you believe.” If you ever start to doubt yourself just remember these words.

Bob Ross’ influence and legacy is enduring to this day. Luckily for us, Netflix announced this past June that it is now streaming his other show “Beauty is Everywhere” on its service giving a whole new generation of people the chance to discover his great work, positive vibes and of course his glorious afro.

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