An explosive ordnance disposal technician killed by an ISIS bomb in Iraq on Oct. 20 had been working with a Navy SEAL team near Mosul at the time of his death, Military.com has learned.
Chief Petty Officer Jason C. “JJ” Finan, 34, had been attached to a Coronado, California-based SEAL team at the time of his death, according to a source with close knowledge of the events. Military.com is not releasing the name of the team to avoid compromising operational security.
Finan was killed when his Humvee rolled over an improvised explosive device as it was exiting a minefield, the source said. No other teammates were injured.
In an interview with Stars and Stripes in Irbil, Iraq, this weekend, the commander of the coalition fight against the Islamic State, Army Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, provided more context, saying Finan had spotted one IED and was directing teammates and civilians to safety when his vehicle struck another roadside bomb.
A Defense Department official confirmed to Military.com that Finan, as a member of Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit Three, had been attached to a special operations task force serving in Iraq.
SEAL teams frequently have outside augments serving in specialized capacities, such as explosive ordnance disposal.
In a pair of emails to unit family members, the commander of the SEAL team paid tribute to Finan and the sacrifice he made for his brothers-in-arms.
“JJ was the definition of a professional and a loyal teammate and he will be deeply missed,” the commanding officer wrote. “He answered the nation’s call and paid the ultimate sacrifice for freedom, and for it we will be forever grateful.”
The officer said the team planned to honor Finan formally and informally in coming weeks in a variety of ways.
“Meanwhile, we will remain resolute,” he said. “Our SEALs and sailors currently deployed will continue to do our nation’s work with the utmost dedication and professionalism … this country is blessed to have such patriots as JJ.”
Finan is the first U.S. service member to be killed supporting the Iraqi Security Forces’ assault on Mosul, the last major stronghold for the Islamic State in Iraq.
A 13-year sailor, Finan was a master explosive ordnance disposal technician who had previously deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan and had also served aboard the aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan early in his career.
He had twice been awarded the Combat Action Ribbon and had a number of awards honoring exemplary service, including the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with Combat Valor Device.
In just one day, a GoFundMe page created to support Finan’s family has raised more than $21,000.
Raytheon Co. just announced that its new laser-guided Excalibur S 155mm artillery round scored direct hits on a moving target in a secret, live-fire test for the Marine Corps last spring.
The Excalibur is a combat-proven, precision artillery round capable of hitting within a few feet of a target at ranges out to 40 kilometers, the company said.
The new Excalibur S uses the same GPS technology as the Excalibur 1B variant but adds a semi-active laser seeker to engage both moving land and maritime targets.
“The seeker technology will recognize that the target is no longer there, and it will pick up the laser energy from where the target is and redirect itself to that,” Trevor Dunwell, director of Raytheon’s Excalibur Portfolio, told Military.com.
In a U.S. Navy test, Raytheon fired two projectiles from an M777 155mm Howitzer at a moving target at Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona, and scored two direct hits, he said.
“This happened in April of last year; we had to keep it close-hold working with the Navy … more specifically for the Marines,” Dunwell said. “We set the round for a specific location, we fired it off and, as soon as the round got fired, then the target started moving. It realized the target wasn’t there and realized that it had moved somewhere else and … it switched from GPS to laser designation and then engaged the target.”
The Marine Corps is interested in the Excalibur S round but “has not currently placed an order,” he said.
The next step is to conduct more tests this year. Dunwell would not reveal when they will occur, nor would he divulge which service will sponsor the next test.
The soldiers of 4th Battalion, 27th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, conduct dry-fire exercises, Dec. 5, at Oro Grand Range Complex, N.M., before firing the previous version of the Excalibur. This mission was the first time that a FORSCOM unit has fired the Excalibur outside of the National Training Center, Fort Irwin, Calif. and combat.
If the Marine Corps or the Army decides to purchase the new Excalibur S round, Dunwell said it would not be priced dramatically higher than the current Excalibur 1B, which costs roughly ,000 per round.
The new technology would be effective for use in counter-fire artillery missions, he said.
“If you think about it, it is critically important because you are going to have to engage moving targets … especially if you are doing counter-fires,” Dunwell said. So, if it’s a fire-and-move, now on the counter fire you should be able to engage that moving target.”
When author Robert B. Baer asked his boss at the CIA for the definition of assassination his boss replied, “It’s a bullet with a man’s name on it.” Baer wasn’t sure what that meant so he started to research the topic beyond what he already had experienced around it in his role at the CIA. The end of that process became his insightful and provocative new book, The Perfect Kill, in which he outlines 21 laws for assassins. Here are 11 of them:
Law #1: THE BASTARD HAS TO DESERVE IT
“The victim must be a dire threat to your existence, in effect giving you license to murder him. The act can never be about revenge, personal grievance, ownership, or status.”
Law #2: MAKE IT COUNT
“Power is the usurpation of power, and assassination its ultimate usurpation. The act is designed to alter the calculus of power in your favor. If it won’t, don’t do it.”
Law #5: ALWAYS HAVE A BACKUP FOR EVERYTHING
“Count on the most important pieces of a plan failing at exactly the wrong moment. Double up on everything — two set of eyes, two squeezes of the trigger, double-prime charges, two traitors in the enemy’s camp.”
Law # 7: RENT THE GUN, BUY THE BULLET
“Just as there are animals that let other animals do their killing for them — vultures and hyenas — employ a trusted proxy when one’s available.”
Law #8: VET YOUR PROXIES IN BLOOD
“Assassination is the most sophisticated and delicate form of warfare, only to be entrusted to the battle-hardened and those who’ve already made your enemy bleed.”
Law #9: DON’T SHOOT EVERYONE IN THE ROOM
“Exercise violence with vigilant precision and care. Grievances are incarnated in a man rather than in a tribe, nation, or civilization. Blindly and stupidly lashing out is the quickest way to forfeit power.”
Law #15: DON’T MISS
“It’s better not to try rather than to try and miss. A failed attempt gives the victim an aura of invincibility, augmenting his power while diminishing yours. Like any business, reputation is everything.”
Law #16: IF YOU CAN’T CONTROL THE KILL, CONTROL THE AFTERMATH
“A good, thorough cleanup is what really scares the shit out of people.”
Law #17: HE WHO LAUGHS LAST SHOOTS FIRST
“You’re the enemy within, which mean there’s never a moment they’re not trying to hunt you down to exterminate you. Hit before it’s too late.”
Law # 19: ALWAYS HAVE AN ENCORE IN YOUR POCKET
“Power is the ability to hurt something over and over again. One-offs get you nothing or less than nothing.”
Law #21: GET TO IT QUICKLY
“Don’t wait until the enemy is too deeply ensconced in power or too inured to violence before acting. He’ll easily shrug off the act and then come after you with a meat cleaver.”
For the rest of Robert B. Baer’s 21 laws for assassins, buy his amazing book here.
The United States has confirmed to RFE/RL its delivery of American-made, Javelin antitank missile systems to Ukraine in a move that is welcome in Kyiv but will almost certainly enrage Moscow amid a four-year conflict that pits Russia-backed separatists against Ukrainian national troops.
“They have already been delivered,” a U.S. State Department official confirmed on April 30, 2018, in response to an RFE/RL query on the handover of Javelins.
In a statement posted on Facebook, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko also confirmed the delivery and said his country continues “to strengthen our defense potential in order to repel Russian aggression.”
“I am sincerely grateful for the fair decision of [U.S. President] Donald Trump in support of Ukraine, in defense of freedom and democracy,” Poroshenko wrote. “Washington not only fulfilled our joint agreement, it demonstrated leadership and an important example.”
A shipment of lethal aid would appear to deepen U.S. involvement in the simmering conflict and mark at least a symbolic victory for Ukraine in its effort to maintain Western backing in the ongoing conflict.
After months of heated debate in Washington and, reportedly, much reluctance on the part of U.S. President Donald Trump, the White House was said to have approved the Javelin sale in December 2017.
That announcement sparked a sharp rebuke from Moscow, with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov accusing the United States of “fomenting a war.”
Two sources who wished to remain anonymous as they were not authorized to speak publicly about it — one in Ukraine and the other in the United States — confirmed the Javelin deliveries to RFE/RL ahead of the State Department announcement.
Neither disclosed when the missile systems arrived in Ukraine, whether all the promised missiles and launchers had been sent or where they were being stored; or whether Ukraine’s military had begun training on Javelins. But one of the sources added that the Javelins were delivered “on time.”
The State Department provided no details beyond the confirmation of the delivery.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has lobbied hard to Western officials for more weapons, in addition to limited supplies of nonlethal aid from Washington and European allies so far and U.S. approval of commercial weapons sales.
A $47 million U.S. military-aid package approved in 2017, and confirmed in March 2018, specified 210 Javelin antitank missiles and 37 Javelin launchers, two of them spares, for Kyiv.
State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in December 2017, that U.S. military assistance to Ukraine was intended to bolster that country’s ability to “defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity, and to deter further aggression.”
Kyiv and Western governments say Moscow has armed and coordinated Ukrainian separatists as well as provided Russian fighters to help wrest control of swaths of territory that border Russia since Moscow seized Crimea from Ukraine in March 2014.
The Javelins’ delivery is likely to spur a response from Moscow, which rejects accusations of involvement despite mounting evidence that includes weapons movements and cross-border artillery barrages, captured Russian troops, and intercepted communications.
Responding to the approved delivery of the missiles to Kyiv in December 2017, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said arming Ukraine would further inflame tensions between Moscow and Washington and push Ukraine “toward reckless new military decisions.”
Since 2015, the U.S. has provided Ukraine with $750 million in nonlethal aid, including Humvees, night-vision equipment, and short-range radar systems.
There has been a recent uptick in fighting between Ukrainian soldiers and Russian-backed separatist forces, according to reports from the Ukrainian Defense Ministry and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s Special Monitoring Mission (OSCE SMM).
A 3-year-old cease-fire deal known as Minsk II has helped to reduce the intensity of the fighting, but it has not ended the war.
The Defense Security Cooperation Agency said in March 2018, that while the Javelin sale would “contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the United States by improving the security of Ukraine” and “help Ukraine build its long-term defense capacity to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity,” it “will not alter the basic military balance in the region.”
War is a strange time, and there is perhaps no stranger one in history than World War II.
From rumors that the Nazis were involved in occult research — rumors that have been successfully mined in films like Indiana Jones and comic books like Hellboy— to ominous sightings, mysterious battles, and ghostly planes, World War II scarred the world, and left behind countless mysteries, many of which have never been solved.
We’ve written in the past about some of these, such as the vanishing Amber Room, but now we’re going to investigate a few of the spookiest, eeriest, and most uncanny enigmas left behind by the Second World War.
11. The Nazi Gold Train
Alleged hiding place of the train in Wałbrzych (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)
In April of 1945, it was pretty clear to the Nazi forces that the war was almost over, and it wasn’t going in their favor. According to some accounts, they loaded a train with Nazi treasure, including gold and other valuables looted from Jewish victims of the Holocaust, and sent it on a trip through the Owl Mountains, where it disappeared. Some believe that the train vanished into tunnels created in the mountains as part of Der Riese, a secret facility built by the Nazis during the war. In spite of the efforts of countless treasure hunters over the decades, however, the so-called Nazi “ghost train” has never been recovered.
10. Foo Fighters
Even before the term UFO (or Unidentified Flying Object) had been officially adopted by the United States Air Force in 1953, pilots were spotting strange things in the sky. During World War II, they called these mysterious objects “foo fighters,” a name that was borrowed from the Smokey Stover comic strips of artist Bill Holman. Initially reported by the 415th Night Fighter Squadron, and named by their radar operator Donald J. Meiers, these objects were generally thought to be secret weapons employed by the Axis forces, though the Robertson Panel later determined that they were likely natural phenomena such as St. Elmo’s Fire.
9. The Disappearance of Flight 19
An artist’s depiction of Flight 19 (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)
While technically occurring shortly after the end of the war, the disappearance of Flight 19 is notable in part because of its role in helping to establish the legend of the Bermuda Triangle. While on a training flight over that infamous patch of ocean, five Grumman TBM Avenger torpedo bombers lost contact with the tower. A Martin PBM Mariner flying boat was launched to search for the planes, which were assumed to have crashed, but the Mariner disappeared as well. No wreckage or bodies were ever recovered, either from Flight 19 or the Mariner, and Navy investigators were unable to determine a cause for the total disappearance of, in all, some 27 men and six planes.
8. The Pearl Harbor Ghost Plane
The P-40B is the only survivor from the Pearl Harbor attack (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)
There are plenty of stories of ghost planes and strange sightings in the sky surrounding World War II, but perhaps none are as astonishing as the “Pearl Harbor ghost plane.” On December 8, 1942—nearly a year to the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor—an unidentified plane was picked up on radar headed toward Pearl Harbor from the direction of Japan.
When U.S. planes were sent to investigate, they saw that the mystery plane was a Curtiss P-40 Warhawk, the kind that had been used by American forces in the defense of Pearl Harbor and not used since. They said that the plane was riddled with bullet holes, and that the pilot could be seen inside, bloody and slumped over in the cockpit, though he is said to have waved briefly at the other planes just before the P-40 crash-landed. When search teams explored the wreckage, however, they found no body, and no indication of a pilot, simply a diary that claimed that the plane had flown from Mindanao, an island some 1,300 miles away.
7. The Battle of Los Angeles
The attack on Pearl Harbor shocked America so much that it probably comes as no surprise that when an unidentified object was spotted in the sky over Los Angeles only a few months later, the response was swift. Witnesses described the object in question as round and glowing orange. It didn’t take long for searchlights to begin sweeping the skies or for anti-aircraft guns to fire more than 1,400 shells at the mysterious object. If anything was hit, no wreckage was found. In 1949, the United States Coast Artillery Association claimed that a weather balloon had started the shooting, while in 1983 the U.S. Office of Air Force History chalked the whole event up to a case of “war nerves.”
6. Hitler’s Globe
Hitler’s Globe was also known as the Führer Globe (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)
Made famous by Charlie Chaplin in his film The Great Dictator, Hitler really did have an enormous globe with a wooden base in his office. Manufactured by the Columbus factory, the globe was one of Hitler’s most prized possessions, but after the end of the war, it was never seen again. Some claim that a globe, recently auctioned by its owner, was Hitler’s, but historian Wolfram Pobanz disputes that, saying the globe in question actually belonged to Joachim von Ribbentrop.
5. Die Glocke
During World War II, Nazi propaganda popularized the idea of a number of Wunderwaffe, or “Miracle Weapons” that were supposedly going to help Germany win the war. Most of these weapons remained prototypes or even simply theoretical, but the idea of them entered the public consciousness, and has proven fertile ground for science fiction writers over the years.
In the year 2000, a Polish journalist named Igor Witkowski described a particularly chilling Wunderwaffe known as Die Glocke, German for “The Bell.” This bell-shaped weapon was said to be roughly 12 feet tall, and contained two rotating cylinders filled with a metallic liquid known as Zerum-525. When activated, the terrifying weapon was supposed to create a zone of effect around itself that would cause blood to coagulate inside the body and plants to decompose. Many of the scientists who worked on Die Glocke were said to have died while testing it, though the weapon was never used and, depending on whom you believe, may never have actually existed at all.
4. The Blood Flag
Hitler is accompanied by the Blutfahne (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)
Before the rise of the Third Reich, the infamous Nazi flag had already made its appearance during Hitler’s failed Beer Hall Putsch of 1923. During the fighting that followed, the flag was soaked in the blood of Nazi Brown Shirts, and became a potent symbol of the movement.
Throughout the war, Hitler would use replicas of the flag, which was sometimes referred to as the Blutfahne, or “Blood Flag,” in rallies, but the flag itself was last seen in 1944. Some believe that the bloodstained flag was destroyed during the Allied bombing of Munich, while others assert that the flag still exists. Many have claimed ownership of it over the years, but no claims have been proven.
3. 17 British Soldiers at Auschwitz
In 2009, during excavations at perhaps the most infamous of the Nazi concentration camps, a list was found containing the names of 17 British soldiers. What is unclear is what the list was a list of. Were these former prisoners of war, or defectors who joined the SS? What’s more, some of the names had marks by them, which seemed to indicate something, though what they indicated remains unclear.
2. Who Turned in Anne Frank?
Through her famous diary, Anne Frank has become one of the most well known voices of the atrocities of the Holocaust. The diary was written while Frank was hiding in Amsterdam, but she ultimately died in the Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp. While her diary shed light upon much of her life, the reason for her death remains a mystery. Someone must have reported her, but who ultimately made the anonymous phone call that led to the capture and execution of Anne Frank and her family?
1. Big Stoop
For a war that was fought more than 70 years ago, the number of Allied soldiers who remain listed as MIA is staggering, clocking in at more than 70,000. Many of these men disappeared in the war’s Pacific theater, where oceans, islands, and jungles made recovery—and discovery—difficult. Among these were the crew of a B-24 bomber called Big Stoop, shot down near Palau. For decades, the plane and its crew were considered lost, with no wreckage or bodies to be found. It wasn’t until 2004 that the plane’s fuselage was located by a team of divers, and not until 2010 that the families of the crew were able to bury at least some of their bones in Arlington National Cemetery, though mysteries still surround the exact fate of the bomber.
These are just a few of the strange and unexplained events that took place during and surrounding the Second World War. Even when the mysteries of war find solutions, the fog that war leaves behind often obscures as much as it reveals, and there can be no doubt that the aftermath of World War II left many other secrets behind, some of which we may still not be aware of even today.
Iran says it is holding a U.S. Navy veteran, confirming media reports about a case that risks further escalating tensions with Washington.
The New York Times reported on Jan. 7, 2019, that Michael White, 46, was arrested while visiting Iran and had been held since July 2018 on unspecified charges.
On Jan. 9, 2019, Iranian state news agency IRNA carried a statement by Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi that confirmed the arrest, but did not specify when it had happened or what crime he was accused of.
Qasemi was quoted as saying that Iran had informed the U.S. government about White’s arrest within days of when he was taken into custody in the city of Mashhad “some time ago.”
The spokesman added that White’s case was going through the legal process and officials will make a statement at the appropriate time.
The U.S. State Department said it was “aware of reports” of the detention but did not provide further details, citing privacy considerations.
U.S. Navy veteran Michael White reportedly jailed in Iran
The New York Times has quoted White’s mother, Joanne, as saying she learned three weeks ago that her son was being held at an Iranian prison.
She said her son had visited Iran “five or six times” to see an Iranian woman she described as his girlfriend.
White’s incarceration was also reported on Jan. 7, 2019, by Iran Wire, an online news service run by Iranian expatriates.
White’s imprisonment could further worsen relations between Washington and Tehran, longtime foes.
Tensions have been high since U.S. President Donald Trump pulled Washington out of a landmark nuclear deal with Iran and reimposed crippling economic sanctions against Tehran in 2018.
At least five Americans have been sentenced to prison in Iran on espionage-related charges.
Among them is Xiyue Wang, a Princeton University student, who was given a 10-year sentence for espionage. He was arrested in August 2016 while conducting research for his dissertation on Iran’s Qajar dynasty. Both Wang and the university deny the claims.
Baquer Namazi, a retired UNICEF official, and his son Siamak, an Iranian-American businessman, were sentenced in 2016 to 10 years in prison for spying and cooperating with the U.S. government. The charges were denied by the family and dismissed by U.S. authorities.
Bob Levinson, a former Federal Bureau of Investigation agent, vanished on Iran’s Kish Island in 2007 while on an intelligence mission. Tehran has said it has no information about his fate.
The U.S. Navy’s first African American diver, Carl Brashear, used to always say, “It’s not a sin to get knocked down, it’s a sin to stay down.” His son, Army Reserve Chief Warrant Officer Phillip Brashear, tells his family’s story of struggle, legacy and honor.
From conquering racism and alcoholism to refusing to let a leg amputation end his Navy career, Carl is truly an American hero. Watch as both Phillip and his son continue that legacy.
One of the benefits of quarantine is catching up on every single television show ever made. There’s nothing better than revisiting some of the classics and clearly, Cheers has to make that list. What’s extra entertaining is when these 40-year-old shows accurately predict the future (like these M*A*S*H episodes).
In episode five of season one, Cheers absolutely nails it.
In this episode, titled “Coach’s Daughter,” customer Chuck (played by Tim Cunningham) sits at the bar and tells bartender Sam (Ted Danson) and the Cheers’ regulars that he has a new job at a biology lab. He shares his anxiety about working with mutant viruses and the reaction from the Cheers’ crew couldn’t be any more fitting to what we are experiencing with COVID-19.
Cheers ran from 1982 through 1993 with 275 half-hour episodes. Although it was almost cancelled early on, it made it an impressive 11 seasons. Set in a bar in Boston, visiting the friendly location on the airwaves became a weekly household staple, with everyone wanting to visit the place, “Where everybody knows your name.” Cheers earned 26 Emmy Awards, six Golden Globe Awards and many other accolades. It remains one of the best shows in history.
Cheers had several episodes with military-connected plots, although none better than “One for the Book,” which aired December 9, 1982. In this iconic episode, two customers enter the friendly neighborhood establishment, and of course their paths should meet. One is Buzz Crowder played by Ian Wolfe.
Buzz and his buddies from WWI agree to meet every 10 years for a reunion, but just as we see with our WWII veterans present day, Buzz’s peers are dwindling. In this episode, Buzz is the last one left. Luckily for him, you may walk into Cheers alone, but you’ll never leave without making friends. In “One for the Book,” that friend happens to be a young man getting ready to head to the monastery and looking for a night of fun before he becomes a monk.
Photo: Cheers, NBC Universal
While Cheers ran on NBC, all 275 episodes are now available for streaming on CBS All Access. Start today and we’re confident you can finish the series before the end of quarantine. Or, let’s be honest, by the end of the week.
Watches can be incredibly personal—after all, they’re worn every day throughout many of life’s ups and downs. Why shouldn’t you have one that serves as a reminder of all the hard work you’ve done and the things you’ve accomplished? For veterans and first responders, NFW watch company allows them to do just that.
NFW was started by George Fox, who left a 10-year career at Timex to focus on making watches in his vision, without compromising quality or price point. He accomplishes this goal by spending money on what really matters — the watches — instead of high-priced marketing. For 13 years, his company has been growing steadily with a supportive fan base, especially among the military. He also believed that he could do good with his craft, which has been realized through NFW’s partnerships with charities that support veterans and first responders.
The first partnership started in 2011, when George was approached by a Special Forces Unit to create a special watch for them, with their insignia engraved on the face. He met with unit representatives in Fort Bragg, N.C., and broached the idea of allowing the public to buy the watches as a way to show support and raise funds for the Special Forces Association. This idea was enthusiastically received and the watch was a success.
This first collaboration between military and small business was the start of a series of charity watches that celebrate Operation Enduring Warrior, the Chris Kyle Frog Foundation, Honor Flight, and first responders. Fifty dollars from each sale goes to the charities and nonprofits that support veterans. These watches do more than just advertise the organization. They also serve as a constant reminder to the wearer of the qualities that are endemic to the men and women who served and continue to serve under that symbol. Taya Kyle, Chris Kyle’s widow, said, “It’s great that the watches raise money for CKFF. But the best thing these watches do is every time someone wears one, sees one, or comments on one, it helps keep Chris’ spirit alive.”
To showcase these watches, NFW relies on the men and women who served in the honored units and wear their timepieces with pride. By not using the traditional watch marketing techniques, such as hiring celebrity endorsers, they are able to keep the watch costs down, allowing more people to wear this reminder of their service every day.
Recently, NFW was chosen to make watches for Medal of Honor recipients, further cementing the company’s relationship with our service men and women, and exemplifying the integrity that George Fox based his company on. He believes that his work with veterans had been more than repaid tenfold, as he has learned from their grit, ingenuity, and spirit. He also feels that it has helped him become a stronger father to his children, allowing him to model strength and integrity. In his spare time, George volunteers with the organizations, such as helping World War II veterans on Honor Flights and running with Operation Enduring Warrior in Spartan Races.
A disguised North Korean ship bound for Egypt was intercepted carrying more than 30,000 rocket-propelled grenades (RPG) in what the UN called the “largest seizure of ammunition in the history of sanctions against [North Korea],” The Washington Post reported on Sunday.
According to a confidential report, US officials tipped off Egyptian authorities on the Jie Shun, a suspicious 300-foot-long freighter that set sail on an 8,000 mile voyage from North Korea on July 23, 2016.
The ship was registered in Cambodia and flew a Cambodian flag, in an apparent attempt to avoid unwanted scrutiny. The Jie Shun also occasionally turned off its transponder, according to a February UN report.
“The vessel’s automatic identification system was off for the majority of the voyage,” the report said, according to The Post, “except in busy sea lanes where such behavior could be noticed and assessed as a safety threat.”
But once US intelligence agencies notified Egyptian officials, the plan appeared to slowly unravel. When customs agents first boarded the vessel to inspect its goods, it appeared as if nothing was out of the ordinary. The manifest listed 2,300 tons of limonite — a type of iron ore. However, beneath the stones were 79 wooden crates that contained thousands of rocket-propelled grenades, estimated to be worth $23 million.
The rounds themselves were a practice rounds typically used for training, The Post reported. And given the quantity of the RPGs, it suggested that it was intended for thousands of recruits for a large army — lending weight to the theory that Egypt’s military was the intended recipient.
The crates were also imprinted with the name of an Egyptian company, one that diplomats refused to name, according to The Post. The official UN report also does not mention the company —only that “the private company” had its license revoked and was closed. Egypt eventually destroyed the RPGs under UN supervision.
Beyond North Korea’s limited amount of permissible international trade, which has become even slimmer following increased UN sanctions, the country remains heavily invested in illicit trade, including narcotics, counterfeit currencies, and cheap weapons.
The relationship between Egypt and North Korea is one that has been forged since the Soviet Union, according to The Diplomat. The two nations have since remained economic partners, despite the US’s watchful gaze. In 2008, Egypt invested in North Korea’s infrastructure by creating the country’s only 3G mobile phone network, giving 300,000 North Koreans access to an outdated telecommunications service.
Although it may appear that Egypt was implicated in an arms deal with North Korea, officials from the Egyptian Embassy argued that it had been transparent with the process and that it “will continue to abide by all Security Council resolutions and will always be in conformity with these resolutions as they restrain military purchases from North Korea.”
If Kim Jong Un wanted to keep F-35s from being able to roam around his country with absolute freedom, he should have been investing in radar technology or fifth-generation fighters instead of nuclear weapons. Now, his erstwhile enemy to the South is getting some of the latest and greatest tech outside of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
“We, on our part, have no other choice but to develop and test the special armaments to completely destroy the lethal weapons reinforced in South Korea, ” said KCNA, North Korea’s state media outlet.
KCNA says a lot of things, though. Very enthusiastically.
South Korea received its first two F-35 Joint Strike Fighters in March 2019 and will have another 38 delivered by 2021. North Korea’s air force consists of very old Soviet-built MiGs and is largely unchanged from the air force his grandfather used. It’s so bad even the North Koreans acknowledge their fleet leaves something to be desired. Now, with South Korea’s acquisition of the world’s most advanced fighter, the North may actually have to make some much-needed upgrades.
“There is no room for doubt that the delivery of ‘F-35A’, which is also called an ‘invisible lethal weapon’, is aimed at securing military supremacy over the neighboring countries in the region and especially opening a ‘gate’ to invading the North in time of emergency on the Korean peninsula,” North Korea said in a statement via KCNA.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in shakes hands with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during their summit at the truce village of Panmunjom.
While Kim and U.S. President Donald Trump are having a very public bromance, South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in is largely left out of the media spotlight. When Trump arrived to meet with Kim at the Korean Demilitarized Zone, Moon was on the sidelines while Trump went for a walk in North Korea.
Rapprochement with the United States doesn’t extend to the South in every instance, however. The delivery of the vaunted F-35 prompted the North to issue these stunning rebukes of South Korean defense policy, calling the South “impudent and pitiful.”
“The South Korean authorities had better come to their senses before it is too late, shattering the preposterous illusions that an opportunity would come for improved inter-Korean relations if they follow in the footsteps of the United States,” said North Korea in an official statement.
Total devastation. No power. No running water. The scene on the ground at Tyndall Air Force Base was a grim, ‘post-apocalyptic’ one when a five man team from Keesler AFB’s 85th Engineering Installation Squadron arrived in mid-October 2018, just days after Hurricane Michael hit the Florida Gulf Coast.
Hurricane Michael was the strongest storm to hit Florida in nearly a century. Tyndall Air Force Base took a direct hit, resulting in catastrophic infrastructure damage.
“The closer we got to Tyndall, there was more and more devastation. All the trees were snapped and laid over, buildings completely devastated with no power, no clean water, when we first got to the base,” said Capt. Nathan McWhirter, 85th EIS operations flight commander.
Quickly getting to work, the engineering team began assessing the buildings for any useable equipment and materials to get base communications up and running.
“We were doing all of our inspections using headlamps and hard hats, going into these buildings that are completely gutted. It looked like a complete war zone honestly,” he said. “We were one of the first teams on base, so there were very few people here at the time too. It was kind of eerie and surreal surveying some of these buildings.”
Despite the power outages and limited communication material, the crew has been able to successfully restore connectivity and avenues of communication around base. The engineering team has been able to get the base-wide ‘giant voice’ mass notification system up and running, as well as patching up new antennae’s and fiber work to get air to ground communications connected. The biggest challenge to completing these projects McWhirter said, was the lack of usable equipment and lack of power.
Tech. Sgt. Skyler Shull, Airman Hunter Benson and Staff Sgt. Charlie Hegwer, 85th Engineer Installation Squadron, install three recycled antennaes on fabricated mounts for the Tyndall Enterprise Live Mission Operations Center facility at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., Nov. 2, 2018.
(US Air Force photo)
“The hurricane knocked out all sorts of antennae’s so we’ve been scrounging around, taking them off damaged towers and putting them on good towers. There’s no material here, so we are just trying to salvage what we can,” he said.
“A lot of the buildings don’t have power still so that’s a big limiter. [Civil engineering] is working super hard and trying to do it smartly. We don’t want to turn power on to a building that’s been destroyed and risk having a fire,” McWhirter added. “We are trying to work on relocating these large communication nodules safely and cost effectively.”
Although it has a long way to go before it’s fully functional again, McWhirter said the base has come a long way in the short amount of time their team has been there. A tent city has been set up, with places to sleep and hot meals being provided, as well as clean water for bathing and drinking, making life easier for the on the ground reconstruction teams and returning personnel.
“More and more people started coming in, we were able to bring more and more assets in,” he explained. “Just seeing the difference from when were first got here to today, is remarkable. There is still obviously tons of work that needs to be done, but just in these short couple of weeks things have gotten way better.”
As the team prepares to transition back to Keesler AFB, conditions at Tyndall AFB have improved dramatically. More and more resources and personnel are arriving, all dedicated to bringing Tyndall AFB back to life. While they were just one piece of the overall restoration effort, McWhirter acknowledges that his team played a key role in the early recovery efforts.
“I just want to say how proud I am of my team and the work they are doing and the support we are getting back home from the 85th EIS and the 81st Training Wing; getting us out the door quickly and making sure we have everything that we need,” said McWhirter. “The guys out here are really killing it and I’m proud to be part of a restoral effort. This is unprecedented thing to be able to build up a base that’s been devastated. We’ve come a long way.”
The U.S. Army is slowing down its timeline to acquire a fleet of Joint Light Tactical Vehicles, an armored Humvee replacement that some have criticized as being better suited to past wars.
The Army’s $178 billion proposed budget for fiscal 2021 earmarks $894.4 million to buy “1,920 JLTVs of various configurations as well as 1,334 JLTV-T companion trailers,” according to a Feb. 10 Army statement.
“They are reductions; they are not cuts,” Maj. Gen. Paul Chamberlain, director of Army budget, told reporters at the Pentagon. “We are extending the production life for JLTV.”
The Army began slowing its JLTV acquisition strategy last year, announcing it would buy 2,530 JLTVs in fiscal 2020, a significant reduction from its 2019 purchase of 3,393 vehicles.
The JLTV was one of 93 programs the Army cut or reduced last year, putting roughly billion in savings toward the Army’s ambitious modernization effort.
Last April, then-Secretary of the Army Mark Esper said that the JLTV was essentially designed to fight a war with the kind of improvised explosive device (IED) threats that existed in Iraq.
The JLTV became a modernization priority for the Army and Marine Corps in the early days of Iraq, after the Humvee proved unable to protect troops from deadly IEDs.
Army leaders said last year that the service was considering lowering its procurement objective of buying 49,000 JLTVs by the mid-2030s.
Now Army budget officials say that the service has extended JLTV’s production life until 2041.
“The total number remains the same; it’s just over a longer period that it is going to be procured,” Chamberlain said.
Oshkosh Corp. was selected in August 2015 over Lockheed Martin Corp. and AM General LLC to build the JLTV, but Army budget officials said Tuesday that the service may award another competitive JLTV contract in 2022 to get a better deal.
“Normally, we do that to drive price down on the end-state, so if you have competition in the production space, you will eventually get some savings out of it,” John Daniels, deputy assistant secretary of the Army for Plans, Programs and Resources, told reporters at the Pentagon.