Western spies are failing against Russia and China: time for a spycraft revolution - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Western spies are failing against Russia and China: time for a spycraft revolution

Western models of spycraft are failing. Traditional models of spycraft seek to inform decision-making based on predictive analysis, but this is no longer effective in today’s environment. By nature, closed and authoritarian regimes, such as Russia and China, have an easier job of spying on their more progressive and open adversaries — the United States and the West — and currently possess the advantage. What follows is the author’s abridged philosophy of intelligence on this revolution in spycraft.

Last year, Foreign Policy magazine introduced a provocative thought piece highlighting the ongoing revolution in espionage: namely, that intelligence agencies must adapt (or die) to disruptive changes in politics, business, and technology.


At the risk of irrelevance, Western intelligence agencies are learning that traditional models of spying are outdated and losing out to more nimble, collaborative, and less fragile adversaries. As the article adeptly notes, “the balance of power in the spy world is shifting: closed societies now have the edge over open ones. It has become harder for Western countries to spy on places such as China, Iran, and Russia and easier for those countries’ intelligence services to spy on the rest of the world.”

Circumstances such as unprecedented levels of legislative and judicial scrutiny, technological advances in mobile phones and electronic data, public skepticism of domestic and international intelligence activities, and general political scrutiny in liberal democracies are symptomatic of such difficulties. They represent an underlying revolution that is significantly disrupting traditional notions of Western spycraft.

Standards of Cold War-era surveillance detection disintegrate when applied to modern cities rife with CCTV cameras, such as Beijing or even London. The absence of an online “footprint” (i.e. social media or other publicly available data) instantly warrants additional scrutiny.

Thus, we must examine several philosophical nuances of this intelligence revolution, based on the premise that the Western way of spying is indeed losing out to oftentimes less sophisticated but more effective adversaries, who possess fundamentally less fragile models of spycraft than do Western counterparts.

Lest the author receive undue credit, it must be noted that the framework for this analysis is derived from several schools of thought, ranging from the Roman Stoics to economist-turned-philosopher Nassim Taleb. Indeed, the reader may be familiar with the latter’s concept of anti-fragility, or things that gain from uncertainty, chaos, or randomness. Western models of spycraft certainly do not fit this notion and are, in the author’s opinion, quite fragile.

Western intelligence, and other such similarly traditional systems, are based largely on the value of predictive analysis that can be used to inform decision-making and thereby shape understanding and policy. But what if, as we are now seeing, environments far outmatch capability in complexity, speed, or scope? It is the author’s opinion that the U.S. Intelligence Community is designed on an outdated and fragile premise and, in the face of overwhelming environmental dissonance, must be re-assessed in the framework of anti-fragility.

Put differently, the present U.S. model of spycraft plays to the margins. Western spycraft invests inordinate amounts of manpower and resources into its Intelligence Community only to yield arguably disproportionate and marginal gains in understanding. It is not enough that the intelligence is gleaned in the first place (which remains an altogether impressive feat and a testament to the dedication and professionalism of its practitioners).

Alas, it is growing increasingly challenging to properly inform policy-making in an aggressively partisan and politicized environment. One only need reflect on the overall character of the ongoing Russian bounties discussion as evidence of this model and its debatable effectiveness. And such debatable effectiveness is certainly not for a lack of trying. The effectiveness of the Intelligence Community is a reflection of the broader environment in which it operates.

In the spirit of ancient Roman Stoic philosophers, we must acknowledge that environments cannot be changed and that at best significant national effort is required to “shape” them (and even then, with limited “control” of the exact outcome). In this instance, it is perhaps useful to examine U.S. strategy (or lack thereof) over the course of 20+ years of engagement in Afghanistan in an effort to reflect on any unilateral or coalition efforts taken to shape any semblance of “success” in the country.

Let us introduce a more tangible instance: That brief electronic communication from a foreign diplomat’s privileged conversation? That was probably the result of many factors: Of 17 years of technological research and development; of several successful (and more failed) recruitments to identify and gain sufficient placement and access for an exploit; and immeasurable bureaucratic “churns” to actually manage and manipulate the complex systems and processes in place designed to collect, process, analyze, exploit, and disseminate the information to its consumers. Entire professional careers are the substance of such churns.

While environments cannot be changed, one’s disposition within an environment most certainly can be. Thus, it is perhaps more useful to explore an intelligence model that divorces success from the ability to accurately predict the future. But then, what does this model look like and how is it employed?

In the author’s opinion, an effective spycraft model would maintain the intent to inform policy-making but disregard traditional models of operational risk management in favor of a more aggressive operational culture. In short, the change intelligence agencies must make is largely cultural, but also procedural.

Rather than embark on “no-fail,” highly sensitive (read: events that would cause inordinate damage if learned, i.e. fragile) operations, and futile attempts to accurately predict the future (read: failure to predict or act upon 9/11, Pearl Harbor, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and countless other so-called intelligence failures), it is more useful to focus efforts on intelligence activities that have, in Taleb’s words, more upsides rather than downsides.

This model would remove, within reason, attempts to mitigate risk and would instead truly accept failure and mistakes — regardless of their perceived damage if made public — as a natural feedback mechanism. Rather than the frenetic New York banking system, we have Silicon Valley’s “fail fast” mentality. Rather than the Sword of Damocles, we have Hydra. Rather than post-traumatic stress, we have post-traumatic growth. Instead of isolated muscle hypertrophy, we have complex, multi-functional movements. The comparative benefit of this model is clear and can apply to intelligence systems as well.

So what does this new model of spycraft look like?

For one, it harnesses the power of publicly available data and information to leverage the power of public opinion and access to technology. What previously was known only to few becomes known to many, and with that knowledge comes the ability to influence. Information, which is the bane of closed societies, but also its favorite weapon against open ones, is harnessed to dismantle closed societies from within.

Here’s the bombshell: such a system, albeit in incomplete and slightly “impure” form, already exists in the form of the Russian intelligence apparatus. Indeed, there is a benefit to be gained by examining the nature and relative effectiveness of this chief U.S. adversary.

While far from a perfect comparison, the oftentimes blunt nature of Russian security services does lend itself to a somewhat anti-fragile system. Namely, despite numerous “failures” (in the sense that its operations are consistently made public), the Russian model is such that its public mistakes do not appear to significantly impact the system’s ability to continue to iterate, adapt, and pester its Western opponents.

An additional example can also be found in the spirit of the CIA’s historical predecessor, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). Known affectionately as the “glorious amateurs,” the OSS was the first of its American kind that weathered many failures but also effectively operated in complex environments. By nature of relative American intelligence inexperience, the OSS succeeded in exploiting the upside of its activities simply by being a young, nimble, and discovery-based (i.e. tinkering, iterating, or “risk-bearing”) organization. The OSS was an anti-fragile organization.

Thanks to many of the same advances in technology, politics, and business that challenge Western espionage efforts, Russian spies have been caught on CCTV footage, publicly outed or arrested, appropriately accused of dastardly acts, and of possessing an intolerable appetite for disinformation targeting open societies and liberal democracies. However, it was presumably in Russia’s best interests that, knowing full well the possibility of such downsides, it chose to pursue such activities given the major upsides they produce (discord, division, polarization, etc.).

Indeed, as Foreign Policy magazine adeptly wrote, and as the reader can observe by way of reflecting on other seeming successes reaped by Russian active measures, there is an unrefined yet effective nature to the blunt manner in which Russian security and intelligence services operate.

It must be stated that this model does not advocate for recklessly “burning” any sources and methods, nor for engaging in renegade covert activity that lacks oversight or grounding in well-formed policy. However, it does require a significant cultural paradigm shift that will provide more space for downsides that have not been historically well-received (e.g. temporary injury to bilateral relationships, strained diplomatic interactions, etc.).

The U.S. Intelligence Community is already a complex system, comprised of 17 unique agencies that seek to inform policy-making. It is a long cry from the “glorious amateur” days of the OSS. Thankfully, we do not require complicated systems, regulations, or intricate policies to ensure the community’s success. The more complicated a system, the more we experience “multiplicative chains of unanticipated effects.” In other words, less is more; simpler is better.

The competitive edge of traditional, risk-based intelligence operations is growing smaller. The state of affairs is such that closed societies find it easier to spy on open adversaries more than the opposite. As such, it benefits Western intelligence to undergo aggressive changes that evolve or significantly alter this paradigm. It is time for the Intelligence Community to become a risk-bearing system, rather than a risk management system. It must experience a culture shift that will make it open to accepting failures. This may create short-term downsides for U.S. statecraft but will allow the system to iterate and improve. In the end, it must become anti-fragile.

Thanks for listening.

This article originally appeared on SOFREP. Follow @sofrepofficial on Twitter.

Articles

These Military Veterans Created Your Favorite Comic Books

It’s hard to imagine comic books or the current filmscape without Batman, X-Men, or Captain America. These superheroes are the creations of a handful of men that served in the military.


Western spies are failing against Russia and China: time for a spycraft revolution
Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson – Army

According to Maj. Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson’s biography, he began publishing Fun Comics, the first publication consisting of original material rather than reprints of newspaper comic strips, in the mid-1930s.

The History Channel’s documentary “Comic Book Superheroes Unmasked,” reveals that he was also responsible for launching the golden era of comic books with the first publication of Action Comics and the Superman character in 1938. Action Comics would eventually evolve to become DC Comics, which along with Marvel Comics are the two largest comic book companies in the world.

But before he entered the comic book business, the Major had a military career that began in 1909 when he entered the Manlius Military Academy in New York at the age of 19. After graduation he joined the U.S. Cavalry and quickly moved through the ranks.  By the age of 27 he became one of the youngest majors in the Army’s history.

He saw action in Mexico as commander of the 9th Cavalry under Gen. “Black Jack” Pershing. He fought in the Philippines against the Muslim Moro.  During World War I he was a diplomatic liaison and intelligence officer to the Japanese embassy.

His military troubles began when he wrote an open letter to President Warren Harding in The New York Times criticizing the Army’s chain of command. According to his biography, there was an assassination attempt on his life shortly after that. He was shot by a guard while entering his quarters at Fort Dix. The bullet entered his temple but missed his brain.

He was court-martialed after his recovery. But with the help of his mother and public lobbying of newspapers, senators, and Teddy Roosevelt’s family, he was allowed back into the ranks. He was discharged a few months later and began to pursue his literary career that would eventually lead to comic books.

Western spies are failing against Russia and China: time for a spycraft revolution

Marvel Comics

In 1939, the success of Superman and Action Comics would inspire the creation of Timely Publications and its first issue, “Marvel Comics #1.” The first issue sold out of its 80,000 copies and prompted Moe Goodman – the founder of Action Comics – to produce a second printing that sold about 800,000 copies. With a success on his hands, Goodman began to assemble his comic book team and hired his first official employee, writer-artist Joe Simon.

In 1941, Simon brought on Jack Kirby, and together they created Captain America. Inspired by current events, the patriotic superhero became a hit. The demand for Captain America caused Timely to hire a third employee, inker Syd Shores. But after only ten issues, Simon and Kirby left the company for National Comics (DC Comics) in 1942. At that point assistant Stan Lee stepped up as editor.

When the U.S. entered World War II, Joe Simon enlisted in the Coast Guard; Syd shores and Stan Lee enlisted in the Army, and Jack Kirby was drafted into the Army.

Western spies are failing against Russia and China: time for a spycraft revolution
Joe Simon – Coast Guard

Simon’s autobiography states that he served with the Combat Art Corps in Washington, D.C. as part of the Coast Guard’s Public Information Division. Simon created “True Comics,” which was published by DC Comics and syndicated nationally by Parents magazine. “True Comics” led to to the creation of “Adventure Is My Career,” a comic aimed at driving Coast Guard recruitment.

Western spies are failing against Russia and China: time for a spycraft revolution
Jack Kirby – Army

Kirby was drafted into the Army in 1943 and stationed in the 5th Division as an infantryman. He saw action in France, earned two battle stars and a severe case of frostbite that almost led to the amputation of his feet. After his service, he re-teamed with Simon at Harvey Comics.

Western spies are failing against Russia and China: time for a spycraft revolution
Syd Shores – Army

Shores served in the Army from 1942 to 1946 in France and Germany until he was wounded in Metz, France, which earned him Purple Heart. After his four-month recovery in England, he was re-assigned to an engineering unit and then to the Occupation Forces in Germany before finally being discharged. When he arrived home, he took his job back at Timely and once again took over Captain America (according to a short biography by Alan Hewetson).

Western spies are failing against Russia and China: time for a spycraft revolution
Stan Lee – Army

Stan Lee’s biography states that he enlisted in the Army’s Signal Corps where he wrote manuals, training films, slogans and the occasional cartoon. He was one of the nine soldiers with the playwright designation. After WWII, like Shores, returned to Timely Comics.

For more on this subject watch he following documentary on the history of comic books, from the first appearance of Superman through today’s characters:

DarkStar659, YouTube

MIGHTY CULTURE

A woman made it through SEAL officer test for the first time

The Navy marked a first earlier this year when a woman completed Navy SEAL officer assessment and selection, Military.com has learned.

At the quarterly meeting of the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services in December, a Navy official disclosed that the woman had reached the end of the physically and mentally demanding two-week SOAS process in September. Ultimately, however, she was not selected for a SEAL contract, officials said.

While the military formally opened SEAL billets — and all other previously closed jobs — to women in 2016, no woman has yet made it to the infamous 24-week Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training to date. If the woman had been selected for a SEAL contract at the end of SOAS, she would have been the first to reach BUD/S.


Capt. Tamara Lawrence, a spokeswoman for Naval Special Warfare, said the candidate had not listed the SEALs as her top-choice warfighting community. She was awarded placement in her top choice, Lawrence said.

Western spies are failing against Russia and China: time for a spycraft revolution

US Navy SEAL candidates during Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training.

(US Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Abe McNatt)

“We do not discuss details of a candidate’s non-selection so it does not interfere with their successful service in other warfighter communities,” she said.

Candidates for SOAS are taken from college Reserve Officer Training Corps programs, service academies, and the Navy’s Officer Candidate School, all prior to getting their first Navy contract. Lawrence declined to specify which pathway the recent female candidate had taken out of concern that doing so would reveal her identity.

Lt. Grace Olechowski, force integration officer with Naval Special Warfare Command, said five women had been invited to participate in SOAS since the pipeline was opened to women. Three had entered SOAS to date, but only one had completed assessment and selection.

Military.com broke the news in 2017 that a first female student had entered SOAS — an ROTC student at a U.S. college. She ultimately exited the process before reaching the selection panel, however.

Lawrence said the SEAL officer selection process is candidate-neutral, meaning the selection board does not know the gender or other personal information of the candidates.

Western spies are failing against Russia and China: time for a spycraft revolution

U.S. Navy SEAL candidates participating in Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Sean Furey)

“Selection is based on the candidate’s scores during the two-week SOAS assessment,” she said. “This process ensures every candidate has a fair and equal chance based on Naval Special Warfare standards.”

It’s also possible that not listing the SEALs as a primary career choice would factor against a candidate in the selection process.

The selection panel is made up of senior SEAL officers, Lawrence said, who use SOAS assessment data along with resume information to select “the most competitive candidates.”

Roughly 180 candidates are selected every year to attend SEAL officer assessment and selection, she said; on average, the top 85 candidates are chosen to continue on to SEAL training. There are four two-week SOAS blocks held every year.

While SOAS precedes the award of a final SEAL contract, it is not for the faint of heart. It was previously called “mini-BUD/S” in a nod to its grueling and rigorous nature.

“Physical stress and sleep deprivation are applied to reveal authentic character traits,” the Navy says on its official Naval Special Warfare recruiting site. “Performance and interview data on every candidate is meticulously documented and presented to the NSW Selection Panel.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Bellingcat IDs second poisoning suspect as Russian agent

Investigative website Bellingcat has identified the second suspect in the nerve-agent attack on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal in Britain as a military doctor employed by Russia’s GRU military intelligence agency.

In September 2018, British prosecutors charged two Russians — Ruslan Boshirov and Aleksandr Petrov — with attempted murder for carrying out the poisoning of Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, with the Novichok nerve toxin in the southern English city in early 2018.

The prosecutors said at the time the two were undercover GRU officers.

Russia has repeatedly denied any involvement in the Skripals’ attempted murder.


“We have now identified ‘Aleksandr Petrov’ to be in fact Dr. Aleksandr Yevgenyevich Mishkin, a trained military doctor in the employ of the GRU,” the British-based group said in a report published on its website.

Bellingcat, a website that covers intelligence matters, had previously identified Boshirov on Sept. 26, 2018, as being decorated GRU Colonel Anatoly Chepiga.

“While Aleksandr Mishkin’s true persona has an even sparser digital footprint than Anatoly Chepiga’s, Bellingcat has been able to establish certain key facts from his background,” the Oct. 8, 2018 report said.

It said that Mishkin was born in 1979 in the Archangelsk region in Northern European Russia and was trained as a military doctor for the Russian naval armed forces at one of Russia’s elite military medical schools.

Western spies are failing against Russia and China: time for a spycraft revolution

A CCTV image issued by London’s Metropolitan police showing Ruslan Boshirov and Alexander Petrov at Salisbury train station.

“During his medical studies, Mishkin was recruited by the GRU, and by 2010 had relocated to Moscow, where he received his undercover identity — including a second national ID and travel passport — under the alias Aleksandr Petrov,” the report said.

“Bellingcat’s identification process included multiple open sources, testimony from people familiar with the person, as well as copies of personally identifying documents, including a scanned copy of his passport,” the website said.

British police declined to make any specific comment in relation to Bellingcat’s latest report or the real names of those charged with poisoning the Skripals.

“We are not going to comment on speculation regarding their identities,” London’s police force said in a statement in response to a media query about the report.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that the two men shown in British surveillance footage near Skripal’s home in Salisbury and identified by British authorities as Boshirov and Petrov were actually civilians on a tourist trip.

Skripal, a former GRU colonel, was convicted of treason in 2006 by a Russian court after being accused of spying for Britain. He relocated to Britain in a 2010 spy swap.

Putin on Oct. 3, 2018, said that Skripal was a “scumbag” who had betrayed his country.

The Skripals were found unconscious on March 4, 2018, on a bench in the southern English town of Salisbury. They were seriously ill but made a full recovery after spending several weeks in a hospital.

British officials said the two were poisoned with Novichok, a military-grade chemical weapon that was developed in the Soviet Union, and blamed Putin’s government for the attack.

In June 2018, a British citizen, Dawn Sturgess, died and her boyfriend, Charlie Rowley, fell ill when they stumbled across remnants of the poison in a town near Salisbury.

Britain on Sept. 5, 2018, announced charges against the two Russian men as police issued photographs of the suspects.

The men acknowledged they were in Salisbury at the time but claimed they were there as tourists.

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

Lists

5 reasons why Luke Skywalker was the perfect boot

As moviegoers flock to their local cinemas to watch the latest installment of Star Wars, it’s important to remember that the whole film franchise wouldn’t be what it is today without the efforts of a young, highly motivated individual, named Luke Skywalker, who had big dreams, but was stuck in a small town.


The original film follows his dynamic journey from living with his uncle’s family to joining the resistance and taking down a dark empire.

It takes a unique character with big aspirations to pull all that off, and it makes us wish Luke was in our squad.

He needs to work on that salute, though. (Image via GIPHY)

Related: 7 reasons why you’d want ‘Pvt. Pyle’ in your infantry squad

Check out these five reasons why Luke Skywalker makes the perfect boot:

5. He was an orphan and could deploy at any moment, without question or notice.

After learning his adopted family has just been taken out by the Empire, Luke does what any motivated teenager would do — goes to war for some payback.

That look when you witness your whole world crumble to the ground. (Image via GIPHY)

4. Luke immediately believed everything he was told about the Force

You can get a boot to believe anything if you say it the right way.

Yes, it is — and no, it’s not. (Image via GIPHY)

3. Luke claimed he’s a crack shot, and it turns out he was pretty good.

“I used to bull’s-eye womp rats in my T-16 back home. They’re not much bigger than two meters.” — Luke Skywalker

2. He’s a natural pilot and flew into the face of danger.

He managed to dodge all that incoming enemy fire like it was no big deal.

“It’s just like Beggar’s Canyon back home'” Luke. (Image via GIPHY)

Also Read: 9 fictional characters that would make great drinking buddies

1. Skywalker took down an entire Empire with two rounds on his first deployment.

That’s not bad for a freakin’ boot.

(Image via GIPHY) 

Now we just have to hope he didn’t let all that success go to his head…

F*ck! We think it did:

It’s not the Medal of Honor, big guy. (Image via Giphy)

Can you think of any other reasons Luke would make an excellent boot? Comment below.

MIGHTY TRENDING

We can thank this veteran for Magnum, P.I., and his service

Former Marine Sgt. Donald P. Bellisario loves the Marine Corps and cherishes what he learned during his time in service. He has developed and produced some of the greatest tv shows of all time such as Magnum, P.I., JAG, NCIS, Airwolf and Quantum Leap to name a few. He is proud of his military service and wrote many strong and real veteran characters for his shows. The main character of Magnum in Magnum, P.I. was one of the first positive veteran characters in TV up to that point. 

He  joined the Corps in 1955 and served until 1959. He was raised in a coal mining town which was 20 miles from Pittsburgh. His father owned a tavern, Al’s Place, since his first name was Albert. It was filled with miners that would come off of a shift and all black except where the cap was on. It was a man’s town where women were not allowed in the bar. Bellisario shared, “I only once saw a woman in the bar and she was from out of town. The miners were aware of her presence and took note not to swear in her midst. Swearing in front of a woman at that time was deemed not right.”

His father taught him a strong work ethic and ingrained in him that you don’t take something for nothing, which has stuck with Bellisario all his life. He has one brother that is seven years younger than him that lives in Boston where they are as different as two brothers could be. Honesty was stressed at home. The work ethic was really stressed too, “when you start a job and you finish it.” He started working at a very young age for his father at the tavern including tending bar way underage. He did road construction while growing up and helped build the superhighways around Pittsburgh that were being built at the time. His job was to put burlap sacks over the concrete so it wouldn’t dry out too quick in the sun. He had to come by a week later to pick up the sacks and sweep four lane highways. He also was a brick layer which he believes he inherited from his grandfather who was a stonemason. His grandfather built homes, buildings, wells and sewers.

A picture containing person

Description automatically generated
Bellisario as a toddler. Photo courtesy of Donald P. Bellisario.

His mother worked in the bar in the morning. Bellisario’s job was to sweep it up, clean it and prepare the glasses. His father never got in until 5:00 in the morning after closing the bar. He would get up around 4:00 pm and be in the bar until closing at 2:00 am. His father was a generous man where if a person needed money, he would give it to them, knowing that he would likely never get it back. His mother was tight with money. He took after his dad where his brother took after his mom. 

He shared, “I was raised in World War II and we had a large bowl in the bar that would collect letters from people that wrote letters to us from the service.” They also kept the photos on the wall of everybody from the town that went into the service. Quite a few went in and the town lost three in the war. Bellisario said, “All the propaganda that comes out during a war I was inundated and loved it.” He had an uncle in the Corps that served in Guadalcanal and was injured on Tarawa, where he came to the bar in his blues after he came back from being wounded. Bellisario just liked the way he looked in his uniform. 

A group of people posing for a photo

Description automatically generated with medium confidence
Bellisario (left) with his parents and brother. Photo courtesy of Donald P. Bellisario.

It was interesting how he joined the Corps where he spent a year and a half in college. He always had an interest in flying and becoming a Naval Aviator, so he went with some friends to join the Navy and he saw a Marine recruiter first. The Marine recruiter told them they could be Marine Naval Aviators. He signed up for the Corps for four years and left a couple of days later. He went to Parris Island and was designated an infantryman initially where he still remembers his serial number to this day! He applied for Marine Corps Aviation and passed all the exams. The Marines flew him up to Cherry Point for testing as well. He graduated with his platoon and didn’t leave with them where he was to be assigned to Pensacola. He stayed at PI and was put in charge of the platoon of misfits. He had to form them up and march them to chow.

A person wearing a uniform

Description automatically generated with low confidence
Bellisario during his time in the Corps. Photo courtesy of Donald P. Bellisario. 

He was assigned to guard a prisoner and to take him to chow by himself. The prisoner had to eat by himself as well. His head DI GySgt West came through the chow hall and saw Bellisario with the prisoner. The DI liked Bellisario and his sing-song cadence. There was another DI with his platoon in the chow hall where he saw Bellisario and started going after him like he was still a recruit. Bellisario doesn’t know why he did, and he informed the DI to stay away from his prisoner. The DI kept coming where Bellisario pulled his M1911 from the holster and put it to the DI’s head. Bellisario shared that the next day they shipped me out and he figures the Corps had given him enough punishment for wanting to be an aviator. 

He then went up to Great Lakes to be trained as an aviation technician. He met his wife up there as she was in the Navy. The Marines cordoned her off from the Navy personnel at the school during the breaks and free time. This opened the opportunity for Bellisario to ask her out. He asked her for a date many times and finally got one. He showed up an hour and a half late for the first date. He shared, “She wanted to know why I was late to a date that I had persisted about for so long. I made up some story about being stuck in Chicago where she forgave me.” The first year of their marriage she got pregnant and was discharged from the Navy. He said, “You could not be in the Navy and pregnant at the same time during that era.” His first duty station was in San Diego after the schoolhouse. 

He did two and a half years of living in Mojave California at Marine Corp Base Twentynine Palms in a Quonset hut. He painted the hut dark green and got sidewinder missile boxes, broke them down and made a white picket fence out of them. He put down grass outside of the hut where he said, “you could watch it grow, literally.” Bellisario elaborated, “People wondered why I was putting so much time into where he would have to move it would go to someone else.” He told them, “I am living here now, and am going to make it as comfortable as I can.” He put a new floor down of Masonite for his children that were crawling around. Marines lined up for his Quonset hut when he shipped out.

Bellisario in 1977. Photo courtesy of Donald P. Bellisario.
Bellisario in 1977. Photo courtesy of Donald P. Bellisario.

While at MACS-9 he had to go over to another unit to pick up a part in the supply office. A junior Marine was sitting on the floor cross legged and reading Pravda. He said, “This was in the late 50’s and you didn’t read Pravada.” The young Marine started spouting off to Bellisario about the Russians, and Communism which angered Bellisario. It got to the point that they were going to fight where one of the Marines in the Marine’s unit grabbed Bellisario before he hit him. The Marine that grabbed him told Bellisario told him, “Leave him alone, he is harmless.” Bellisario said, “I will never forget that.” 

When President John F. Kennedy had been shot in Dallas, Bellisario was at Penn State University when he saw a picture of former Marine Private Lee Harvey Oswald on the TV he said, “My God, I know that man.” Bellisario’s wife said, “You don’t know him, you just think you do.” He argued back and believed he did know Oswald. It came to him later that Oswald was the same man that he got in an argument within the Marine Corps in that supply office. He said, “Oswald was totally spouting propaganda, and no one did anything about it.” 

Western spies are failing against Russia and China: time for a spycraft revolution
Bellisario speaking at his alma matter Penn State. Photo courtesy of Donald P. Bellisario.

He is most proud of his service in the Corps, just being a Marine and he loves the camaraderie of the Marine Corps. Bellisario loves the inclusion of a small group where the Marine Corps is better than the Army. He said, 

“I am proud to be a Marine even though I have a love/hate relationship with the Corps. Once I got married, I couldn’t go through flight school in Pensacola. At that time, you couldn’t be married and go to flight school unless you were commissioned. Once I was in college, I had a Naval Aviator show up at my door and ask me if I wanted to go to Pensacola with me.” Bellisario responded with, “What’s the difference between me now and five years ago, see those two little kids crawling on the floor. That is the difference and I can’t go now because I have two little babies. Going to Pensacola as a cadet at the time would have been tough and take a pay cut from where I was working so it wasn’t a good idea.”

A group of men posing for a photo

Description automatically generated with medium confidence
The cast of Magnum, P.I.. Photo courtesy of closerweekly.com.

He got his pilot’s license himself in single engine planes and helicopters. He flew the helicopter in Magnum, P.I. sometimes for the filming of the show. The Air Officer, former Marine Captain  J. David Jones, on Magnum, P.I. was a former Marine Corps helicopter pilot that was stationed in Marine Corps Air Station Tustin at the same time Bellisario was, but they never met. Jones taught Bellisario how to do everything with a helicopter. He said, “We did things that were not in the book.” Jones was a great guy and was patient as an instructor. On the show they flew Hughes 500s and a Bell 206 helicopter.

Magnum, P.I. is his favorite project he has done in Hollywood. It was his first time creating a show and working with Tom Selleck is great. They got along really well. It was his chance to run the show. The Corps set me up for success where nothing bothered me, I wasn’t afraid to do anything. I took charge when I needed to.” In year two of Magnum, P.I., his federal and state income taxes exceeded his lifetime earnings up to Magnum. He said, “I used to think that a loud voice coming from above would tell me they made a mistake and it wasn’t supposed to be me.” 

Western spies are failing against Russia and China: time for a spycraft revolution
Bellisario working on set. Photo courtesy of Donald P. Bellisario.

He wanted to make a film while he was making commercials where he shared, “I wanted to make something that lasted longer than 28 seconds.” Bellisario turned 40 and decided it was time to take the leap. He was at a Raoul Walsh retrospective in Dallas where they were screening a famous film. Virginia Mayo was in attendance with fellow Hollywood stars. He was in a group of six guys and was drinking beer. In walks Jack Nicholson and he has a beer with Bellisario and his friends. Bellisario told Nicholson that he wanted to make films. At the time he was living in Dallas, TX where Nicholson said, “If you want to make films you can’t do it from here, you have to come to Hollywood.” Bellisario’s wife at the time heard Nicholson’s discussion and yelled a profane comment at Jack over the crowd. Nicholson responded with surprise and questioned why he was being cursed at. Bellisario’s wife did not want to take the family with four children to the Hollywood “drug culture.”

A group of men posing for a photo

Description automatically generated with medium confidence
Tom Selleck, Larry Manetti and Frank Sinatra on the set of Magnum PI. Photo courtesy of bamfstyle.com.

A year later he went to Hollywood without his wife and family. He said, “I didn’t have anything but the ability to direct commercials, which most were done for free and were Public Service Announcements.” He decided he had to do something where he wrote a screenplay and he had copies of it on his desk in his office. A casting director came into his office and wanted to read it. He let her read it and she gave it to her husband who was a B director at Universal Studios. Her husband wanted Bellisario to shoot some film with him and write something. He also wanted to introduce Bellisario to his agent, which is serendipitous because getting an agent is so hard and to get that first gig you need an agent. Bellisario said the director introduced him to the agent and the agent said, “I liked your script and you are a good writer.” He asked the agent how long it takes to sell a script. The agent said, “You’ll sell a script within a year.”  Bellisario had enough money to last six weeks. The agent said the fateful words, “Have you ever thought of writing for television?” Bellisario said no – – “It had never occurred to me to write for television.” 

A picture containing text

Description automatically generated
The cast of Quantum Leap with Scott Bakula (right) and Dean Stockwell (Left). Photo courtesy of sears.com.
A picture containing person, person, indoor

Description automatically generated
Scott Bakula as Sam and Dean Stockwell as Al in the Quantum Leap two-part episode about Lee Harvey Oswald. Photo courtesy birth.moves.death.com.

The script was sent to Stephen J. Cannell at Universal where Cannell called him in for a meeting. Bellisario spent about 30 minutes in the waiting room and when he walked in Cannell did a double take because of his age. Cannell said, “I can make this script and will make this script right now without any changes.” Cannell dropped the script on the desk and asked Bellisario if he wanted a job as a story editor. Bellisario asked, “What does a story editor do?” Cannell said, “A story editor turns out scripts.” Bellisario agreed and he got a job as a story editor for Cannell. That started the whole thing for Bellisario’s career. Bellisario is a self-taught writer where most of it comes from writing advertising commercials. He had to write something that entertained the public and sold a product in 28 seconds. Learning to write short and crisply where only what is necessary is carried over to the script. He wrote the screenplay the same way without anything extraneous in it. 

Western spies are failing against Russia and China: time for a spycraft revolution
Bellisario gearing up for a flight. Photo courtesy of Donald P. Bellisario.
A picture containing text

Description automatically generated
Major Joel Searls with Bellisario back in 2019.  Photo courtesy of Joel Searls.

Throughout his career Bellisario enjoyed working with all of his leads in the series. He said, “Some were nicer than others, all of them were okay.” Thankfully he didn’t end up with anyone who gave him any problems. Bellisario comments, “Catherine Bell was very nice to work with.” One actor, Jan Michael Vincent, the lead of Airwolf  was having alcohol problems on set. Bellisario talked to him one day where he said, “Jan, why are you doing what you are doing? Why don’t you straighten up and work on the show, this is your chance to be a hit again?” Vincent responded with, “Bellisario, I am a drunk, I have always been a drunk and I only want to be a drunk.” Bellisario refers to it as a sad moment for him and for Vincent. Bellisario credits actor and star Ernest Borgnine with keeping Airwolf professional and helping the show get done. 

Western spies are failing against Russia and China: time for a spycraft revolution
Bellisario and friends at the unveiling of his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Photo courtesy of Donald P. Bellisario.

The values Bellisario had when he went into the Marine Corps were strong and he said, “The Corps just reinforced them.” The values were devotion to duty, do a job the whole way through without much delegation, he shared, “Parris Island wasn’t a chore for me where it was something I had prepared my whole life for.” He was made Platoon Guide at boot camp and was the Honor Man for the platoon. He had a great DI, GySgt. West, and when he was kept at PI after graduation, GySgt. West and he would go out fishing together. He shared, “Not too many Marines get invited by their DIs out fishing.” 

A group of people sitting on a bench under an umbrella

Description automatically generated with medium confidence
The cast of Airwolf. Photo courtesy of amazon.com.

The best leadership lesson Bellisario shared is to finish the job you start and take charge when needed. You must go above and beyond what you must do, which is what he learned in the Corps. He encourages Marines that work in Hollywood to write more and about their time in the Corps. You need an accurate portrayal where those who have never served in the Corps don’t write the best Marine scripts because they lack the experience. 

Western spies are failing against Russia and China: time for a spycraft revolution
Bellisario on set with actors David James Elliott (left) and Patrick Labyorteaux (right) on JAG. Photo courtesy of Donald P. Bellisario.

Bellisario shared, “I am most proud of Quantum Leap in his career and it is the most creative show I have done.” He stated that, “I loved making it and considered it the best show I created where Quantum Leap was a different movie every week.” He said,  “It made it challenging and made it interesting.” Bellisario did a two-part episode of Quantum Leap focused on Lee Harvey Oswald and the Kennedy Assassination where it is worth re-watching the episode.  

Western spies are failing against Russia and China: time for a spycraft revolution
Bellisario with the cast of JAG at his star ceremony on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Photo courtesy of cheatsheet.com.

It is a time travel show and when he pitched it to Branden Tartikoff, Tartikoff responded with, “I don’t get it.” Bellisario said, “Branden, your mother would get the show.” Tartikoff replied, “Yeah, but I don’t get it.” Bellisario replied, “Yeah, but your mother gets it Branden.” Tartikoff retorted, “Get out of here and go make it. You’ve got a pilot.” Bellisario always gets a kick out of a Marine Corps sergeant telling the head of a studio what to do. 

He does know how to sell and uses his advertising skills even in Hollywood. His children work in the industry where some worked for him on his shows. He held them to a higher standard where his kids worked extremely hard so that no one thought they got the job just because of their father. 

Western spies are failing against Russia and China: time for a spycraft revolution
Bellisario with his wife Vivienne in front of the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications at Penn State. Photo courtesy of Donald P. Bellisario.

Bellisario and his family are grieving the loss of one of his sons, David Bellisario, who recently passed away. David had worked on a lot of his father’s shows where Bellisario is, “Extremely proud of him and the work he did.” Bellisario described him as, “A good man and he was disciplined.”

MIGHTY MOVIES

The newest military TV show makes all the mistakes you’d expect

Any attempt to make a network TV show about Marines feels forced. I mean, c’mon, if you’ve ever been around Marines for more than 5 minutes, they will already have: cussed 30 times, tried to talk you into day-drinking, and drawn a penis on something nearby. They can be hilariously fun.


But they’re in a courtroom for this one, so maybe this one will feel… different — right?

Not so fast. Maybe it’s the out-of-regs hair, maybe it’s the hacky love storyline, or maybe it’s the fact that every Marine is portrayed as so serious — but something about The Code feels off, in the same way, many others before it have…

Western spies are failing against Russia and China: time for a spycraft revolution

media3.giphy.com

The Code is basically if you put JAG and Law and Order in a blender with flat soda.

There have been a lot of shows about the military. As soon as one is dropped, another cookie-cutter copy is dropped in its place. It’s like one big hair-out-of-regs version of Medusa.

But some have been really good: M*A*S*H, Band of Brothers, JAG (for the first 8 seasons), even the under-appreciated The Unit. More have been not-so-good: The Brave, Valor (which ran walked alongside The Brave for the entirety of their short run walk), Combat Hospital, Last Resort, the last 2 seasons of JAG, and many more.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gyt-j9avxDo
The Code – Not Guilty

www.youtube.com

Some people enjoy the “not-so-good” ones, and that’s fine, too. It would be an awfully boring world if everyone loved the same things.

But the “flyover state” blue collar audience is often overlooked by major networks. There is something irksome about the military shows that are churned out; they’re interchangeable and one-dimensional, and therefore come across as pandering. None of it feels real, it feels like someone giving a book report on something you know they didn’t read—and you can only stand to stomach someone BS-ing the same classroom about Catch 22 for so long.

The Code Trailer

www.youtube.com

Yes, the show has to be dramatized for effect. Yes, some things are going to be “Hollywood” for the sake of a wider audience (at one point a judge literally declares “you will be held in contempt of court” like a Saturday Night Live cold open). I’m sure doctors are sick of the medical procedurals where everyone has lupus, but millions of people love and watch them.

But The Code has some inaccuracies that are particularly grating for a military audience that is worthy of something more dynamic.

One is obvious—get that man a damn haircut.

Also, it’s no surprise that the lead is a heartthrob with no discernible personality traits other than being uber handsome. Dude is literally a walking Ken doll. Not exactly an embodiment of the Marines I’ve met, many of whom are some of the zaniest and insanely crass men ever. They’re not a milk-toast copy/pasted trope—they’re fully dimensional people with faults and ambitions and shadows and humor. Reducing every Marine to a simple hardass archetype, (or worse, force an overly polished Marine without specificity) isn’t just hard to believe—it’s boring.

The uniform on the female captain does appear to be short for the military too. And private school. Maybe public school.

You could poke holes in the battle scene of any TV show, but this one is just annoying, you got the fore-grip man, use it! That’s like eating cereal with a fork, it works, but you look like you got some milk on your lip.

And lastly, you may be hard pressed to find someone who refers to the Uniform Code of Military Justice as “the code.”

Compile all of those, and it’s no wonder why it feels “off” to watch. But The Code does have redeeming qualities: it covers the increasingly significant issue of troops with traumatic brain injuries, it translates military-speak to a civilian audience in a seamless fashion, and it sidesteps being “preachy” or political.

So it’s not all bad. It’s just too familiar. We’ve seen this all before, and it leaves you with an itchy deja vu feeling.

Is the latest out-of-regs entry onto the head of Medusa. The Code? I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

Articles

The Army just went ballistic on a liquor store partly to ‘deglamorize’ booze

It is probably not a good idea to pick a fight with the Army, so changing your name to avoid battle with the US Military Academy at West Point can be a wise tactic.


The United States of America has sued Black Nights Wine Spirits to stop the Highland Falls liquor store from using a name confusingly similar to the Black Knights nickname used by the academy’s athletic teams as far back as the 1940s. After four cease-and-desist letters and the filing of the lawsuit on Aug. 8, the store has seemingly conceded.

“We’ve changed the name to Good Nights,” said a man who answered the phone at the store recently. He said Frank Carpentieri, the owner of Frasiekenjes, LLC, the company that runs the store, would not be available for a few days.

Western spies are failing against Russia and China: time for a spycraft revolution

The lawsuit, filed by acting US Attorney Joon H. Kim, accuses the liquor merchant of tarnishing the academy’s brands.

The Department of the Army holds several trademarks for “Black Knights” and the West Point crest, so it did not escape its attention when Black Nights Wine and Spirits opened last September on Main Street in Highland Falls, just beyond the West Point gates. The store’s name, the Army says, falsely suggests that the enterprise is “associated with or endorsed and approved by the US Military Academy at West Point.”

The Army drew a line in the sand within weeks of the store opening, mailing a cease-and-desist letter that alleges trademark infringement.

Western spies are failing against Russia and China: time for a spycraft revolution
Army Black Knight logos from Wikimedia Commons.

The store then installed a more permanent “Black Nights” sign and placed several items in and around the store that highlight West Point themes.

Besides the alleged abuse of West Point’s goodwill and brand reputation, the lawsuit states that the liquor store defies military policies.

“The Department of the Army is highly concerned with the use of alcohol among its soldiers and is committed to de-glamorizing its use,” the complaint states.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How Marine Raiders saved the day at the Battle of Edson’s Ridge

By October 1942, American Marines and the Japanese were fighting a vicious battle around Henderson Field on Guadalcanal. Marines held a perimeter around Lunga Point while the Japanese controlled the remainder of the island.


The Marines guarding the perimeter mostly consisted of those from the 1st Marine Division. Holding a small ridge along the Lunga River, known as Lunga Ridge, were Marines from the 1st Raider Battalion and the 1st Parachute Battalion.

Those Marines were led by the indomitable Lt. Col Merritt “Red Mike” Edson, commanding officer of the 1st Raider Battalion. Edson was already on his way to becoming a legend having earned two Navy Crosses during his career. He would cement his status on Guadalcanal.

The fact that the Marines were even in place to meet the Japanese was due to Edson’s foresight. Edson, along with Col. Gerald Thomas – Vandegrift’s operations officer, believed that the Japanese were likely to attack at Lunga Ridge. However, Vandegrift believed the attack would come from another area and would not approve the placement of Marines along the ridge. Thomas finally convinced him it would be a good place for Edson’s Raiders to rest, thus plugging a significant gap in the line.

Western spies are failing against Russia and China: time for a spycraft revolution

On the night of September 12, 1942, after trudging through Guadalcanal’s thick jungles, Japanese troops, preceded by an artillery barrage, emerged from the jungle and engaged the Marines on the ridge. However, the Japanese attack was somewhat premature as many other units had failed to reach their jump-off points for the attack.

After some skirmishing and an attack that drove the Marines back, most of the Japanese withdrew to regroup for an attack the next night.

Edson’s men made what preparations they could to improve their defenses.

Unbeknownst to them, they were outnumbered by over three to one.

That afternoon, as darkness approached, Edson stepped up onto a grenade box to address his men:

You men have done a great job so far, but I have one more thing to ask of you. We have to hold out just one more night. I know we have been without sleep a long time, but I expect another attack and I believe they will come through here. If we hold, I have every reason to believe we will be relieved in the morning.

Just after dark on Sept. 13, the Japanese surged out of the jungle into the Marine positions on Lunga Ridge.

A Japanese attack on the right flank dislodged the Marine Raiders of Company B from their hilltop position.

Almost simultaneously, another Japanese assault drove back the Marines of Company B, 1st Parachute Battalion. In the face of the Japanese onslaught, Edson ordered the two companies to fall back towards his command post on Hill 123 in the center of the ridge.

A third Japanese assault slammed into the Marines of C Company, 1st Parachute Battalion, which sent them reeling. With three companies in the midst of falling back, confusion and fear began to take hold. The situation was heading towards a rout for the Marines when Edson appeared with several officers from his staff and, with forceful language and spirit, turned the Marines around to face the Japanese.

Meanwhile, the remaining Raider companies were desperately holding the line against the Japanese.

Western spies are failing against Russia and China: time for a spycraft revolution
Lieutenant Colonel Edson (front row, second from left) poses for a group photo with other Marine officers on Tulagi shortly after the battle in August, 1942.

Over 2,500 Japanese were facing just over 800 Marines. Wave after wave came on.

Edson sent the reinvigorated Paramarines against the exposed left flank with fixed bayonets. They caught the surging Japanese by surprise just as they were preparing to roll up the Marines’ flank and drove them off the hill.

Still, the Japanese attacks continued.

Marine artillery fire pummeled the area in front of the Marines’ positions, inflicting heavy casualties on the Japanese.

Those that survived were met with heavy fire from the Marine defenders on the ridge. When this was not enough, the Marines fought off their attackers in hand-to-hand combat in the pitch-black night.

As each successive wave was mowed down, another formed to take its place.

Eventually, the beleaguered Raiders and Paramarines were joined by the 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment who helped to repulse the final two Japanese assaults before dawn.

The final Japanese positions on Lunga Ridge were destroyed by U.S. Army Air Corps AiraCobras early that morning. What remained of the Japanese assault force retreated into the jungle and away from Lunga Ridge.

Western spies are failing against Russia and China: time for a spycraft revolution

The terrific fighting on Lunga Ridge came to be known to many as the Battle of Bloody Ridge. But for the Raiders and Paramarines that fought there, it was known as Edson’s Ridge.

Throughout the battle, Edson was never more than a few meters from the front lines. And, according to the account of one Marine officer, he boldly stood in his position while most of them hugged the ground. Edson was awarded the Medal of Honor for his leadership during the battle.

The tenacity of the Marines in holding their position saved Henderson Field and, with it, the American effort on Guadalcanal. Had the Japanese broken through, it is likely they could have driven the Marines from the island. The Japanese losses in the battle were difficult to replace.

The result of the battle likely had a large impact on the overall Japanese strategy in the Pacific, as resources were diverted to Guadalcanal that were needed elsewhere. And for the Americans, it was the closest they came to losing their toehold in the Pacific.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The only time a US blimp was ever lost in World War II combat

Airships like zeppelins and blimps lost their appeal somewhere between World Wars I and II. It might have had something to do with the Hindenburg going down in a massive, fiery wreck in front of the whole world. By the time World War II came about, airships were a thing of the past for every military except the United States, which is a shame because you did not want to f*ck with an airship.


They seem like goofy floating targets just begging to be shot down but getting to them was a lot harder than anyone might think. More than that, they were really effective at locating enemy submarines and then blowing them into oblivion. Of the 89,000 ships protected by airships during WWII, only one was ever lost.

And only one airship was ever lost, and it happened off the coast of Florida in July 1943.

Western spies are failing against Russia and China: time for a spycraft revolution

Blimp-Submarine combat seems like it would be adorable.

The missions of blimp crew was an easy one, use the massive range of sight the blimp had over the ocean waters, locate enemy submarines, then call in for fighters and bombers to come finish the subs off. They had some weapons, a few depth charges, and a .50-cal machine gun, but not something to take on a submarine head-to-head. But K-74 did just that.

A 252-foot airship, K-74 was performing its usual mission in the Florida Straits when it spotted German U-boat 134 on radar. The airship came down from the cover of the clouds to find the boat on the surface of the water. Seeing that the U-boat was headed for a merchant convoy, Lt. Nelson Grills decided he couldn’t just wait for backup and had to act fast. As the ship moved to intercept the boat, the sub’s conning tower exploded with 20-mm rounds.

Western spies are failing against Russia and China: time for a spycraft revolution

U-134 under attack from the RAF earlier in 1943. The sub survived the meeting.

K-74 was able to drop two charges on the sub as it flew overhead, but the charges did nothing to silence the 20mm guns. The blimp returned fire, but the submarine had hit one of the airship’s engines, and she was losing altitude fast. Then it caught fire. The next thing he knew, the crew had begun to abandon ship – all because he couldn’t follow protocol. But the ship didn’t explode in a Hindenburg-like burst of flame. It gently fell to the surface of the water, and the crew climbed aboard the deflated ship.

Gills helped his crewmen escape, but as they climbed the balloon part of the ship, Grills got separated when he stayed behind to destroy the ship’s classified documents and top-secret cargo.

Western spies are failing against Russia and China: time for a spycraft revolution

The ship’s commander was found when another K-ship spotted him in the water below just a few hours after his ship went down. His crew was in the water all night and was found by a seaplane the next day. Most of them survived, except for one. The crew was being circled by sharks as planes flew overhead and surface ships moved in for a rescue. The USS Dahlgren had come on scene to pick them up, and even though the Dahlgren’s crew managed to keep some sharks away with small arms, one of the K-74 crewmen was pulled under by a shark and disappeared.

All was not lost, however. K-74 damaged the enemy submarine in the action. The U-boat was forced to limp home heavily damaged. Eventually, it was found at sea by the British Royal Air Force, who swiftly finished it off near the Cies Islands.

MIGHTY TRENDING

It’s official: F-35As in position to fight ISIS

The Air Force’s version of the F-35 Lightning II, the F-35A, has officially been deployed to the Middle East. In the air, the F-35A is supposed to be the most capable variant of the plane, and it has been sent to a base used to generate sorties against ISIS. The base is also well-positioned to support potential U.S. operations in Iran or across the Middle East.


The planes have been sent to the 4th Fighter Wing at Al Dhafra in the United Arab Emirates. The base is too far from Syria for warplanes to reach it without aerial refueling, so it may seem like an odd place from which to attack ISIS. But with the help of aerial tankers, planes like the F-22 and F-35 can take off from there, refuel in the air, and then hit targets across Iraq and Syria before heading from home.

And the F-35A has all the stealth features and sensors of the other F-35 variants without any of the airframe compromises made by the Marine Corps and Navy to help their versions take off from carriers and amphibious assault ships.

So, while the Marine Corps’ F-35B has already made its first combat sortie against the Taliban, and the Navy is focusing on incorporating the F-35C into its own carrier fleet and those of allies, the F-35A could become a frontline and regular attacker against elements of ISIS and other terror groups when they rear their ugly heads for attacks or training.

Western spies are failing against Russia and China: time for a spycraft revolution
U.S. Air Force’s F-35A Lightning II arrives for first Middle East deployment

(U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Chris Thornbury)

While ISIS has been defeated territorially, U.S. Central Command believes there are tens of thousands of fighters operating in sleeper cells or other groupings across the Middle East, including in Syria. The F-35A could help other planes spot and target those forces while avoiding triggering the air defenses of countries like Syria.

And Al Dhafra is well positioned for potential future fights as well. The base is less than 200 nautical miles from the Strait of Hormuz, an important trade chokepoint highly susceptible to Iranian interference. And the Iranian capital of Tehran is actually closer to Al Dhafra than Syria is. F-35As and F-22s would be key to defeating Russia-provided air defenses in Iran if America went to war with that country.

Of course, the Air Force has not said exactly what it plans to do with the F-35As at Al Dhafra. The F-35A was declared combat-ready by the flying service in 2016, but the Air Force has focused on improving the plane’s capabilities and commanders’ understanding of it rather than rushing it into combat.

And that makes a lot of sense. The F-35 is famously the most expensive weapons program in history, partially due to just how ambitious the program was from the outset. Its most advanced stealth capabilities, both the passive elements like its coating and physical design as well as its active protections like electronic warfare capabilities, are aimed at advanced adversaries like China.

It’s just not fiscally prudent to spend a lot of expensive F-35 flight hours over Syria where less-advanced airplanes can safely perform. But some stick time there could help season pilots in their planes, allowing them to be more effective in a future fight.

But still, don’t expect to see too many details of too many F-35A missions in combat anytime soon. Even if the Air Force sends them into combat in the coming days, the service will likely want to play the cards close to the chest to prevent Russian air defenses from getting too good of a look at the plane. The more chances that S-400s and similar systems get to look at the F-35, the better their operators will become at tracking and targeting them.

And if the F-35A is flown against Russia or China, we’ll want those operators caught as flat-footed as possible.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Air Force snagged the alleged Minot M240 thief

The Air Force’s long national nightmare is over. Its missing M240 machine gun was finally recovered from the home of an airman stationed at the base, according to a press release from the Air Force Global Strike Command.

The theft prompted many to question how it could have been lost, why the Air Force has an M240, does the Air Force really need an M240, how many do they have or need, and would the Air Force notice if I took one.

The Air Force Office of Special Investigations obtained a federal search warrant, executing it at the off-base residence of a Team Minot airman on June 19, 2018.

Missing for little over a month, the automatic weapon and the fallout of its theft made waves across the military-veteran community and in the military news cycle. After a box of 40mm MK 19 grenades fell off the back of a humvee while traversing a Native American reservation, the subsequent inventory of the Air Force arsenal on Minot discovered the missing M240 machine gun. This prompted the 5th Bomb Wing, 91st Missile Wing, and other installations to make a thorough inventory of their weapons.


Western spies are failing against Russia and China: time for a spycraft revolution
The Air Force released this super helpful photo of what the case of grenades probably looks like.

The theft also caused the dismissal of 91st Security Forces Group commander Col. Jason Beers, who was moved from Minot to his new job as Chief of Air Force Special Operations Command’s installations division. With AFSOC being based primarily in Florida, I think we can call that an overall win for the Colonel but unfortunately Chief Master Sgt. Nikki Drago was also fired as the unit superintendent.

Not much is known about the airman whose home housed the missing weapon or his motivation for the theft, if he did take it. Perhaps he wanted to help fight the burgeoning crime problem in the Minot area.

The case of grenades is still missing, though. And the Air Force would very much like them returned. If you know where the Air Force’s grenades are, there’s $5,000 reward waiting for you.

MIGHTY TRENDING

‘Ghost Boats’ full of dead North Korean fishermen may be China’s fault

So many North Koreans have disappeared from fishing villages along the Hermit Kingdom’s east coast that the villages dotting the coastline are becoming known as “widow’s villages.”

Where do their husbands go?


They end up dead on boats adrift in the Sea of Japan. Their ships and bodies wash ashore on Japan or are picked up by the Japanese Coast Guard. Last year alone, 50 or more North Koreans were found on Japanese beaches.

For years, the phenomenon of these fishing boats full of dead men was a mystery. But now a few anonymous complaints to the United Nations may explain the “Ghost Boats” phenomenon. China has been poaching fish in North Korean waters, according to an investigation by the Irish Times.

In March 2020, two countries reported that 800 Chinese fishing vessels violated the sanctions placed on North Korean fishing waters. The sanctions were intended to prevent the North from selling the rights to fish in those waters. The area is a heavily-contested and poorly watched region of the ocean as it is but Chinese fleets compound the issue by switching off their location transponders.

Two countries provided the UN with satellite imagery that prove China is operating fishing fleets in the areas. External watchdogs estimate the Chinese have depleted the waters of stocks by up to 70 percent for some species.

The flotilla of Chinese fishing boats has also allegedly forced smaller, less well-equipped North Korean fishermen to pursue waters further from their villages, further from shore and further than their victualing can reasonably accommodate the crews of those ships. Once too far from shore, the North Korean peasants’ boats are susceptible to engine failures and storms – but don’t have the supplies to survive being adrift for very long periods.

Once the engines fail, the boats are likely caught up in the Tsushima current that runs up the west coast of the Japanese home islands. These flat-bottomed boats, filled only with fishing supplies and a few jugs of water, are usually found with tattered North Korean flags, and heavily decomposed bodies, if any remains are found at all.

The fishermen chase squid populations and end up with dead engines in the middle of the ocean, where they will probably spend the rest of their days, dying of thirst or exposure.

Do Not Sell My Personal Information