The world's two biggest terror groups may go head to head in Syria - We Are The Mighty
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The world’s two biggest terror groups may go head to head in Syria

Experts have been warning for a while now that Al Qaeda is still very much a presence as a jihadist group, posing perhaps an even bigger long-term threat than ISIS.


And now, Al Qaeda is planning to challenge ISIS in its stronghold — Syria.

American and European officials told The New York Times recently that Al Qaeda has started moving veteran operatives to Syria as the group plans to escalate its fight with ISIS (also known as the Islamic State, ISIL, or Daesh), which operated under the Al Qaeda umbrella until the two groups split off and became rivals.

And though ISIS has been grabbing most headlines with its gruesome propaganda machine and bold proclamations about building a “caliphate” that will take over the world, Al Qaeda has been quietly focusing on its strategy to be the last group standing when the dust settles.

The world’s two biggest terror groups may go head to head in Syria
Al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front fighters carry their weapons on the back of a pickup truck during the release of Lebanese soldiers and policemen in Arsal, eastern Bekaa Valley, Lebanon. | YouTube

Al Qaeda is now “taking an opportunity off of what ISIS did” to make itself a main focus of the West’s fight against terror, Ali Soufan, the CEO of strategic-security firm The Soufan Group, said earlier this month at a national-security conference at Fordham University in New York.

“What ISIS did made so many people in the Muslim world think, ‘Al Qaeda are the good guys. ISIS are the bad guys,'” said Soufan, a former FBI special agent who has investigated high-profile terror cases.

“Even when you hear some people testifying on Capitol Hill that, ‘It’s OK. Let’s support al-Nusra or let’s support Ahrar al-Sham because they probably will fight ISIS’ — well al-Nusra is … an official affiliate of Al Qaeda in Syria,” he continued, referencing the group Jabhat al-Nusra, which is fighting ISIS for control of territory in Syria.

While ISIS has made a show of its excessive violence — through beheading videos and other propaganda distributed online in several languages — Al Qaeda has been more cautious. The group holds the same brutal ideology to which ISIS subscribes, but it’s been more patient with winning over the Syrian population.

“You can see Al Qaeda taking advantage thinking strategically,” Soufan said. “ISIS is not thinking strategically. ISIS is just doing crazy stuff, a lot of violence, trying to bring a lot of people in.”

And while ISIS has lured thousands to its territory with its violent advertising and declaration of the “caliphate,” or pseudo-state ruled by a strict interpretation of Islamic law, recent reports indicate that fighter defections within the group are increasing and the flow of foreign fighters to ISIS territory has slowed. On top of that, the group has been losing territory without gaining much new land.

“ISIS is becoming like a smoke screen. We’re all looking at ISIS all the time. ‘Oh, look, ISIS, they did a video, or they put out another thing of Dabiq,'” Soufan said, referring to the group’s English-language online propaganda magazine.

He added: “They are technically more advanced than Al Qaeda, but I think Al Qaeda is looking into the long term.”

The world’s two biggest terror groups may go head to head in Syria
ISIS fighters in Syria | YouTube

Al Qaeda’s strategy seems to be predicated on waiting for Syrians to slowly come around to the idea of Islamic rule. That lowers the chance of a successful uprising if Jabhat al-Nusra is able to establish Syria as an Islamic “emirate” — land that would be controlled by the group and run under strict Islamic law, similar to ISIS’ so-called caliphate.

Charles Lister, a fellow at the Middle East Institute who has written a book on the insurgency in Syria, said at a recent event in Washington, DC, that Al Qaeda has sought to grow not just acceptance of its rule in Syria, but also support from the general population. He also assessed that Al Qaeda is playing a long game.

“This is an organization that has spent the last five years growing durable, deep roots in Syrian opposition and revolutionary society,” Lister said. “ISIS, on the other hand, has shallow roots. It hasn’t deigned to acquire popular support — it controls populations.”

Al Qaeda’s emirate might now come sooner rather than later — The Times reported that the Al Qaeda operatives being funneled into Syria have been told to start creating a headquarters in Syria and to lay the groundwork for establishing an emirate. The emirate would be in direct competition with ISIS.

Eric Schmitt wrote in The Times that Al Qaeda establishing an emirate in Syria would mark a “significant shift.” Al Qaeda has so far resisted declaring an emirate — it’s part of the group’s long-term strategy to avoid acting too hastily before leaders feel confident that fighters could hold the territory they seize.

Syrians on the ground seem to have been expecting this for a while.

Ahmad al-Soud, the commander and founder of the Syrian rebel group Division 13, told Business Insider earlier this year that “Nusra’s stated goal throughout all of Syria from when they first started until today is to turn Syria into an Islamic emirate.”

“They don’t want any other armed group in Syria except for them, and they want to turn it into kind of what Afghanistan was under the Taliban,” al-Soud said. “Once they … get rid of all the other groups, [Jabhat al-Nusra] can finally duke it out between them and ISIS for who’s the worst.”

Schmitt notes in The Times that “establishing a more enduring presence in Syria would present the group with an invaluable opportunity” because it would “not only be within closer striking distance of Europe but also benefit from the recruiting and logistical support of fighters from Iraq, Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon.”

With the collapse of the ceasefire in Syria, the timing might be good for Al Qaeda to increase its presence there. The ceasefire — between the regime of embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad and the rebels who oppose his rule — never applied to terrorist groups like Al Qaeda and ISIS, but it allowed the Syrian government and its allies to focus its fire on jihadists rather than moderate rebels.

Additionally, the West seems to have focused mostly on hitting ISIS in Syria — US officials are emphasizing operations to drive ISIS out of its strongholds in Syria and Iraq and deprive them of more territory.

The dysfunction in Syria provides the perfect vacuum for Al Qaeda to move in and exploit.

Soufan explained:

Al Qaeda’s position is, “Let’s create a lot of these vacuums where there is no strong government, and let’s operate under a different name.” Bin Laden actually, before he died, in his letters, he was telling Al Qaeda, “Do not use Al Qaeda’s name. I do not want anyone to use Al Qaeda’s name, because the moment you use Al Qaeda’s name, the West and the locals are going to come and they’re going to beat you up.”

Al Qaeda has done this in Syria with Jabhat al-Nusra, which is always referred to as such rather than simply “Al Qaeda.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Chinese ‘re-education centers’ hold millions prisoner

In the northwest Chinese region of Xinjiang, many locals read endlessly, write often, and sing loudly.

But not by choice.

In extrajudicial indoctrination camps around Xinjiang, ethnic Uighur men and women are forced to study Chinese history, write personal reflections, and sing songs like “Without the Communist Party, there is no New China.” Many are beaten, tortured, and are unable to go home.


China considers this process “re-education.” It runs outside the court system with people dragged away for infringements like talking to a loved one overseas or having a beard, and there is no course for appeal.

A recent estimate put the number of people who have been, or are currently, interned since April 2017, in the hundreds of thousands, or even just over one million.

Though the exact total is unknown, Adrian Zenz, a social researcher at the European School of Culture and Theology, pored over local job ads and government bids to find new evidence of the system’s existence and scale.

Since 2016, there were government bids to construct or upgrade 73 facilities in Xinjiang that, despite various names, appeared as though they will operate, wholly or at least in part, as re-education centers.

Re-education centers are often disguised as vocational training hubs, as many were in these bids, but the details betray their hidden purpose.

Together, the facilities required guard rooms, video surveillance, security fences, police equipment, police living quarters, handheld security inspection devices, steel-reinforced concrete walls, and even iron chains.

“Many of these facilities are heavily secured, to an extent that they do not just aim to keep potential intruders out, but to keep those inside under tight surveillance.” Zenz told Business Insider.

Twenty bids listed new or upgraded monitoring or video surveillance. One bid from January 2018, wanted 122 cameras to cover the whole facility without leaving any “dead angles.”

One center required security nets, the renovation of a guard room, and “four watchtowers.” Another, submitted on April 25, 2018, requested an 86,000 square-foot “underground facility.”

The world’s two biggest terror groups may go head to head in Syria

These security features, according to Zenz, confirm reports that vocation centers frequently function as internment camps, though many facilities likely sit on a continuum.

“All we know is that a substantial number of facilities, likely capable of holding at least several hundred thousand, are geared more towards the re-education side. Some are explicitly and directly marked as re-education facilities. More than likely, facilities with a stronger vocational training focus can likewise hold several hundred thousands,” said Zenz.

“Some even specifically state that they are designed to perform ‘re-education.’ An official government notice from April 2017, pertaining to these facilities in a particular prefecture mandated that training topics include military drill, Chinese language, legal knowledge, ethnic unity, religious knowledge and patriotic education.”

Job ads are also a huge giveaway

As easy as it may be to silently whisk away thousands of people to new re-education centers, skyrocketing prisoner would also require a huge recruitment drive.

According to Zenz, from May 2017, counties with large ethnic minority populations “initiated a wave of recruitments” for so-called education and training centers.

But ads for such staff were often listed in the same ads as open police positions, and some ads even preferred recruitees with a military or police background.

Other job ads conflated the two roles, hiring “training center policing assistants.” If the staff were being hired to work at a regular vocation center the high number of security personnel would be “difficult to explain,” said Zenz.

The world’s two biggest terror groups may go head to head in Syria
Armed Police soldiers in the street of Urumqi.

Ads also frequently lacked required skills or qualifications that would normally be crucial to providing vocational training. Many required only a middle-school education whereas other provinces, where few Uighur would live, usually require at least a bachelor degree.

In one Xinjiang country, where Uighurs make up 95% of the population, 320 jobs available at a “training center” had three criteria: have a middle-school education, be loyal to the Chinese Communist Party, and be part of the ethnic majority Han.

Re-education isn’t the only problem Uighurs face

In an attempt to crack down on religious extremism, authorities in Xinjiang have targeted almost any form of religious expression by Uighur Muslims.

Women have been banned from wearing burqas and veils. Residents were barred from fasting during Ramadan with restaurants ordered to stay open despite religious obligations. And in 2016, millions of Xinjiang residents were ordered to surrender their passports and must seek permission to travel abroad.

Authorities have installed surveillance apps on residents’ phones and begun collecting DNA samples, fingerprints, iris scans, and blood types from all Xinjiang residents aged between 12 and 65. They have also collected voice samples that may be used to identify who is speaking on tapped phone calls.

There’s also 40,000 facial-recognition cameras that are being used to track, and block, the movement of Uighurs in the region.

Xinjiang is considered by experts to be a testing ground for what the US State Department has described as “unprecedented levels of surveillance.”

The concern is Xinjiang could also be a testing ground for a nationwide re-education system.

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

Articles

Admiral’s drunken, naked antics cost him his job

A top logistics officer was removed from his post after a night of drinking ended with him wandering a Florida hotel naked, the Navy announced Dec. 7.


The world’s two biggest terror groups may go head to head in Syria
Photo: US Navy

Rear Adm. David Baucom was the director of Strategy, Policy, Capabilities, and Logistics at the U.S. Transportation Command, a joint-service post that oversees logistics in all military branches. He was attending a conference in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida in April when his drinking got away from him.

Navy investigators who looked into the event tallied up at least eight drinks for the admiral for the night of Apr. 7. Security cameras filmed Baucom stumbling around the hotel and hitting his head on a barstool during the night. He also wet his pants at one point, according to the Stars and Stripes.

Eventually, a hotel employee collected Baucom and took him to his room, said the Washington Times. But Baucom awoke and reemerged naked from the room hours later and his room door locked behind him.

Baucom later told a colleague he hadn’t packed pajamas because his suitcase was full and he didn’t want to pay a baggage fee for another bag, the Washington Post reported.

Two women staying at the hotel saw the admiral walking around the hotel and searching for a towel. They reported it to hotel employees and Baucom was led back to his room.

The world’s two biggest terror groups may go head to head in Syria
Rear. Adm. David Baucom, seen here wearing clothes, tours a uniform issue facility that is full of clothes. Photo: US Navy Mass Communications Specialist 1st Class Andre N. McIntyre

The admiral checked himself into a drug and alcohol program when he got back to his base, the Navy Times reported. He also has a medical condition that contributed to the incident.

Still, the Navy knows a drunken sailor when they see one and determined that his actions had more to do with his intoxication than his medication. The 34-year veteran was removed from his post and reprimanded for his behavior.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Air Force will upgrade its ultimate bunker buster

The largest non-nuclear weapon in the Air Force‘s arsenal recently got an upgrade from Boeing, Air Force officials told Military.com.


While they couldn’t comment on how many GBU-57 weapons received the upgrade for operational security reasons, “the Enhanced Threat Response IV modification improved the weapon’s performance against hard and deeply buried targets,” Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek said. The announcement was first reported by Bloomberg News.

Known as the Massive Ordnance Penetrator, or MOP, the bomb is a bunker buster meant to take out hard, deeper-rooted areas, such as underground lairs. While the MOP weighs in at 33,000 pounds, its warhead is only roughly 5,300 pounds.

The MOP is a GPS-guided munition designed for bombers like the B-2 Spirit and, thus far, has never been used in combat.

The world’s two biggest terror groups may go head to head in Syria
A B-2 Spirit soars after a refueling mission over the Pacific Ocean on Tuesday, May 30, 2006. The B-2, from the 509th Bomb Wing at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., is part of a continuous bomber presence in the Asia-Pacific region. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III)

Whether or not the MOP is currently deployed was not disclosed.

In October 2017 The Aviationist website posted an account of Northrop Grumman-made B-2s simulating airstrikes across various targets in Missouri. According to the witness, the strikes, simulated in the Ozarks, resembled a practice run in a mountainous terrain such as Afghanistan or North Korea.

Meanwhile, citing a test and evaluations report, Aviation Week recently reported that three B-2s, each armed with a GBU-57, struck at targets at the Army’s White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico in May, 2017.

The MOP outweighs the Air Force’s Massive Ordnance Air Blast, or MOAB, bomb. However, the air-burst MOAB — first deployed in combat in 2017 — is the most powerful conventional bomb with 18,000 pounds of explosives, equivalent to about 11 tons of TNT.

Also Read: Watch classic jets test out napalm and other bombs

The 21,600-pound GBU-43 — nicknamed “mother of all bombs” — dropped from an MC-130 special operations cargo plane onto a specific location in Nangarhar province in eastern Afghanistan in April 2017. The intention was to take out militants affiliated with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria’s branch Khorasan, or ISIS-K, amassed in a tunnel complex.

That strike killed at least 94 militants, a U.S. military official said at the time.

Articles

Here are the best military photos of the week

The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:


AIR FORCE:

A C-17 Globemaster III, assigned to the 535th Airlift Squadron, 15th Wing, glides past Waianae Range as it prepares to land at Wheeler Army Airfield, Hawaii, Oct. 24, 2016. The C-17 made a rare landing at Wheeler Army Airfield to pick up Soldiers from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division and transport them to the island of Hawaii in preparation for exercise Lightning Forge 17.

The world’s two biggest terror groups may go head to head in Syria
U.S. Army photo/Staff Sgt. Armando R. Limon

Zombies emerge from the forest as the sun begins to set at the annual Zombie Stomp run Oct. 29, 2016, at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. More than 100 runners participated in ducking, dodging and evading hungry zombies over the 5K course.

The world’s two biggest terror groups may go head to head in Syria
U.S. Air Force photo/Samuel King Jr.

Army:

A U.S. Army Soldier, assigned to 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, defends an objective during training at the National Training Center, located at Fort Irwin, Calif., Oct. 29, 2016.

The world’s two biggest terror groups may go head to head in Syria
U.S. Army photo by Pvt. Guy Mingo

A 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) Soldier talks on a radio during an air-mobile exercise, part of a defense support of civil authorities training mission at Joint Base Myer – Henderson Hall, Va., Nov. 1st, 2016.

The world’s two biggest terror groups may go head to head in Syria
U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Cody W. Torkelson

Navy:

BREMERTON, Washington (Nov. 2, 2016) Seaman Aaron Thompson, from Columbia, S.C., and Seaman Jake Ridley, from Oklahoma City, raise the ensign during morning colors aboard the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74). John C. Stennis is conducting a scheduled maintenance availability at Naval Base Kitsap-Bremerton.

The world’s two biggest terror groups may go head to head in Syria
U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Dakota Rayburn

PACIFIC OCEAN (Oct. 30, 2016) Two F-35B Lightning II aircraft land on the flight deck of amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6). The F-35B short takeoff/vertical landing (STOVL) variant is the worldâs first supersonic STOVL stealth aircraft. America, with Marine Operational Test and Evaluation Squadron 1 (VMX-1), Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 211 (VMFA-211) and Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 23 (VX-23) embarked, are underway conducting operational testing and the third phase of developmental testing for the F-35B Lightning II aircraft, respectively. The tests will evaluate the full spectrum of joint strike fighter measures of suitability and effectiveness in an at-sea environment.

The world’s two biggest terror groups may go head to head in Syria

The world’s two biggest terror groups may go head to head in Syria
U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Kyle Goldberg

Marine Corps:

Marines with Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, conduct a company attack range in Twentynine Palms, Calif., Oct. 21, 2016. Bravo Company is participating in Integrated Training Exercise (ITX) 1-17 and preparing to support Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force.

The world’s two biggest terror groups may go head to head in Syria
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Sarah N. Petrock

Marines with Jump Platoon, 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, inspect gear prior to a mission during a field exercise aboard Camp Pendleton, Calif., Oct. 19, 2016. 1st Marine Division is employed as the ground combat element of I Marine Expeditionary Force and provides the ground combat forces necessary for ship to shore forcible entry operations.

The world’s two biggest terror groups may go head to head in Syria
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Joseph Prado

USCG Station Point Judith, R.I., crews conduct tactical boat training on a 29-foot response boat. Station Judith has 35 members and operates two 45-foot Motor Life Boats and a 29-foot Response Boat – Small.

The world’s two biggest terror groups may go head to head in Syria
USCG photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Nicole Groll

The crew of USCG Cutter Waesche marked the end of a record year in counterdrug operations offloading more than 39,000 pounds of seized cocaine, worth over $531 million, in San Diego.

The world’s two biggest terror groups may go head to head in Syria
U.S. Coast Guard photo

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Light Phone II wants to make you better

In these days of compulsive social media scrolling, email refreshing, and COVID-19 news updating, most of us are on our phones a bit more than we really want to be. Here to save us from ourselves and our over-connected online lives is the Light Phone II, an elevated offering in the so-called “dumb phone” product space.

Billed as “the phone that actually respects you,” this second iteration of the Light Phone is designed to give you back some of your time and attention. It’s incompatible with apps that have anything resembling a feed (email, social media, YouTube). What you can do with it is what some would argue is all you need to do: receive and make text messages and calls from your imported contacts, use a calculator, set alarms, and use it as a hotspot. (The company is developing tools to enable users to play music or hail a cab.) In partially disconnecting you from your digital world and its distractions, the idea goes, it can help you simplify your life.


Unlike the first Light Phone, which was a pared-down phone designed to be a secondary, feature-free device, the update includes a few more bells and whistles so that you can use it as your primary — and potentially only — device. Imagine a life without push notifications, invasive ads, and constant headlines. It’s like a mental detox. Alternatively, it can still be used as a secondary device if you want to balance out your desire to be present with your need to update your socials.

The world’s two biggest terror groups may go head to head in Syria

The most minimalist smartphone you can buy.

If you have T-Mobile, Verizon, or ATT service, you can switch the SIM card from your smartphone to the Light Phone II and you’re all set (the phone runs on 4G LTE connectivity). For others, you can subscribe for service through Light itself for a low monthly fee, though your Light Phone will have a different phone number from the one on your primary device. Note that the Light Phone II is an unlocked phone and ships to you without a SIM card.

In never serving up feeds, social media, ads, news, or email, the phone effectively discourages you from using it. That frees parents up to, well, talk to our kids. Or read a book. Or take a walk without being tethered to Instagram. By short-circuiting your screen time through the Light Phone II, you can focus on being present with your partner and children right now. Which is truly a bright idea.

Buy it here.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

Articles

Pearl Jam’s guitarist Stone Gossard pays tribute to military members in new single

When the global COVID-19 pandemic prevented Pearl Jam guitarist Stone Gossard from touring with the band in 2020, Gossard didn’t just sit at home and wait for the virus to pass him by. Like any musical great, he began to explore new sounds with new collaborators.

The result of that exploration is his side project, Painted Shield. The electronic rock collab includes singer-songwriter Mason Jennings, drummer Matt Chamberlain and keyboardist Brittany Davis.

Painted Shield is releasing its first new single since November 2020 with a new song, “4th of July” — a tribute to those who served in the armed forces of the United States and what it takes to come home.

The world’s two biggest terror groups may go head to head in Syria

“The lyrics to this song were inspired by the stories of friends of mine who have served in the military,” the band told WATM. “It touches on the recovery work needed to integrate back into civilian life after being in conflict.”

Painted Shield’s 2020 self-titled debut album was an entirely new collaboration for Gossard and the band, an electronic departure from Pearl Jam’s distinctive sound. The mix resonated with fans of Pearl Jam and electronic music, as the debut saw 1.5 million streams and a complete sellout of its initial LP pressing. 

The band’s latest comes not only on Independence Day, but at a time when much of the U.S. military is looking back at 20 years of war in Afghanistan. As the war winds down, the single comes at a time when the United States is taking a critical look at the effect of the Global War on Terrorism.

“4th of July” is about these struggles and more.

“The music reflects that inner and outer struggle, the acoustic guitar and melancholic folk melody mirror the simplicity of the child world while the electric guitar, organ and drums slash, defend, and erupt and mirror the complexity of the adult world,” the band said. “There is a tension represented that I hope encapsulates and reflects the human struggle, the struggle for peace and love in the face of violence and fear.”

“4th of July” is especially relevant in that it’s also about why people join the military in the first place — where they come from and how that affects their world view.

Painted Shield’s new single, available now, is another kind of departure from Gossard’s previous work, even with Painted Shield’s previous album. 

It’s unlike anything the band has done in the past, but it feels familiar; a recognizable mix of Gossard’s 90’s grunge roots with the war protest songs of the Vietnam era with hints of Giorgio Moroder. It all comes together into a song that is at once edgy and nostalgic. 

“4th of July” is a fitting tribute to the men and women who served in the Armed Forces, looking back on how their service started and has evolved through decades of war and conflict, at home and abroad. 

MIGHTY CULTURE

Listen to the cockpit audio of the Navy’s infamous ‘sky penis’ flight

After the laughter died down, many of us wondered what the hell the pilots who drew the Navy’s penis in the sky – now known everywhere as the “sky penis” – were thinking. We may never know exactly what was going through their minds, but now at least we know what they were saying when they drew the now-famous celestial phallus.

“You should totally try to draw a penis.”


It was a clear day over Washington state in 2017, when suddenly the skies were marred by what appeared to be a huge dong in the wild blue yonder. Thousands of feet above the earth, U.S. Navy pilots behind the sticks of an EA-18G Growler were giggling up a storm after noticing their contrails looked particularly white against the vivid blue backdrop of the sky.

They didn’t notice the contrails weren’t dissipating quite as fast as they hoped they would. At least, that’s what the official cockpit audio recording says.

“My initial reaction was no, bad,” the pilot wrote in a statement. “But for some reason still unknown to me, I eventually decided to do it.”

While the above recording isn’t the official audio – the Navy didn’t release the audio, just the transcripts – it’s a pretty good replica done by the guys from the Aviation Lo Down podcast. It includes such gems as:

  • “You should totally try to draw a penis.”
  • “Which way is the shaft going?”
  • “It’s gonna be a wide shaft.”
  • “I don’t wanna make it just like 3 balls.”

While everyone involved seemed pleased with their great work, including the commander of the training mission in another Growler, they soon realized the contrails were still there, their magnum opus firmly painted on the sky for all the world to see – and see they did. Residents of Okanogan soon called into their local news station to complain about the large drawing in the sky.

The Navy has not released the identities of those involved in creating the most memorable public achievement made by the Navy since Top Gun, it has only ever mentioned the two junior-ranking pilots were highly skilled and good leaders who one might think would know better.

More importantly, no one knows what became of them. Here’s to hoping they got tickets to the Army-Navy Game.

Articles

A-10s blast ISIS as Syrian ceasefire takes effect

The world’s two biggest terror groups may go head to head in Syria


A ceasefire between U.S.-backed rebels and Russian-backed Syrian forces went into effect in Syria on Feb. 27 — the first major respite in five years of warfare that has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives. The volunteer rescuers from the Syrian White Helmets group reported the ceasefire “holding in the main.”

“Today very quiet,” the group tweeted. “Long may it last.”

But the ceasefire doesn’t apply to Islamic State, of course — nor to Syrian, Russian, American and rebel attacks on the militant group. The Pentagon reported that its allies in the “New Syrian Forces” repulsed Islamic State attacks along the Mar’a Line in northern Syria while U.S.-vetted rebels in the Syrian Democratic Forces group gained control of the Tishreen Dam east of Aleppo as well as Shaddadi, a strategic logistical hub for militants in the northeastern part of the country.

Islamic State also attacked Kurdish SDF forces holding Tel Abyad, a Syrian town on the Turkish frontier that was a key border crossing for the militant group before the Kurds liberated it in July 2015. U.S. Air Force A-10 attack jets flying from Incirlik air base in Turkey strafed the militants, apparently drawing heavy ground fire. The distinctive sound of the A-10s’ powerful 30-millimeter cannons — and the chatter of small-caliber guns presumably firing back — is audible in the video below.

Articles

The US military took these incredible photos this week

The military has very talented photographers in its ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. This is the best of what they shot this week:


AIR FORCE:

An F-15E Strike Eagle sits on the flightline at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, Nov. 12, 2015. Six F-15Es from the 48th Fighter Wing deployed in support of Operation Inherent Resolve and counter-Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant missions in Iraq and Syria.

The world’s two biggest terror groups may go head to head in Syria
Photo by Airman 1st Class Cory W. Bush/USAF

Aircrew with the 20th Special Operations Squadron and combat controllers with the 26th Special Tactics Squadron execute an aerial and ground demonstration for U.S. Air Force Academy cadets Nov. 10, 2015, in Colorado Springs, Colo. The flyover and demonstration celebrated Veterans Day with future leaders of the Air Force.

The world’s two biggest terror groups may go head to head in Syria
Photo by Airman 1st Class Shelby Kay-Fantozzi/USAF

An F-15E Strike Eagle from the 48th Fighter Wing at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, lands at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, Nov. 12, 2015. Six F-15Es are deployed in support of Operation Inherent Resolve and counter-Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant missions in Iraq and Syria. As an air-to-air and air-to-ground fighter aircraft, the F-15E specializes in gaining and maintaining air superiority.

The world’s two biggest terror groups may go head to head in Syria
Photo by Airman 1st Class Cory W. Bush/USAF

ARMY:

U.S. Army Soldiers, assigned to 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, conduct operations during Decisive Action Rotation 16-02 at the National Training Center on Fort Irwin, Calif., Nov. 12, 2015.

The world’s two biggest terror groups may go head to head in Syria
Photo by Pfc. Daniel Parrott/US Army

A Soldier, assigned to 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment-Blackhorse, fires an M240B machine gun while acting as an opposing force during Decisive Action Rotation 16-02 at the

National Training Center, Fort Irwin, Calif., Nov. 14, 2015.

The world’s two biggest terror groups may go head to head in Syria
Photo by Spc. Taria Clayton/US Army

NAVY:

PACIFIC OCEAN (Nov. 10, 2015) – The guided-missile destroyer USS Chung-Hoon (DDG 93) fires an SM-2 missile during a live-fire exercise. Sailors from the John C. Stennis Strike Group are participating in a sustainment training exercise (SUSTEX) to prepare for future deployments.

The world’s two biggest terror groups may go head to head in Syria
Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jonathan Jiang/USN

PACIFIC OCEAN (Nov. 16, 2015) The guided-missile destroyer USS Stockdale (DDG 106) sits anchored off the southern coast of California.

The world’s two biggest terror groups may go head to head in Syria
Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Timothy M. Black/USN

ATLANTIC OCEAN (Nov. 16, 2015) Guided-missile destroyer USS Gonzalez (DDG 66) transits the Atlantic Ocean. Gonzalez is deployed with the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th and 6th Fleet areas of responsibility.

The world’s two biggest terror groups may go head to head in Syria
Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class P. Sena/USN

MARINE CORPS:

A Marine Corps MV-22 Osprey assigned to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force-Crisis Response-Central Command stages on a hasty landing zone during a tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel drill at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia, Nov. 16, 2015.

The world’s two biggest terror groups may go head to head in Syria
Photo by Lance Cpl. Clarence Leake/USMC

Marines with the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit jump off the side of the USS Essex during a swim call. The Marines and sailors of the 15th MEU and Essex Amphibious Ready Group jumped 30-feet into the water and swam to their respective checkpoint.

The world’s two biggest terror groups may go head to head in Syria
Photo by Cpl. Elize McKelvey/USMC

COAST GUARD:

Since 1998 U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Atlantic City has stood the watch!

The world’s two biggest terror groups may go head to head in Syria
Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Dave Froehlich/USCG

In 1984, HH-65A Dolphin helicopters were accepted into service. Today we use MH-65D Dolphin helicopters.

The world’s two biggest terror groups may go head to head in Syria
Photo: USCG

NOW: More awesome military photos

OR: These vintage photos prove the military has always worked hard (and Played harder)

MIGHTY TACTICAL

War in space will probably be really boring

Ever since President Trump first announced his intentions to establish a new branch of the American Armed Forces dedicated specifically to space and orbital defense, imaginations have run wild with what this new era of conflict miles above our heads might look like. Decades worth of movies and video games have shaped our idea of war among the stars, and it’s hard not to let our imaginations run a bit wild when the concept of zero-G warfighting is suddenly so real that our lawmakers are actually budgeting for it.


The thing is, our ideas of space warfare and the reality of conflict in space are pretty far off from one another… at least for now. America’s near-peer opponents in China and Russia have both already stood accused by the international community of launching weapons systems into orbit, but these aren’t Decepticons equipped with doomsday lasers and vessels full of jet-pack laden Space Marines. Warfare in space doesn’t take nearly that much effort or panache. In fact, in some cases, an act of war would require little more than a nudge. In practice, there’s very little difference between the sorts of tools being developed to capture and destroy space junk and weapons being designed to capture and destroy satellites.

Space harpoon skewers ‘orbital debris’

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The truth is, America’s massive orbital infrastructure was largely deployed in an era with no serious competitors on the horizon. That means many of the satellites we rely on for communications, navigation, and defense lack any real means of defending themselves from attack or even moving out of the way of many kinds of danger. Departing Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson aptly described it by saying the United States had built “a glass house before the invention of stones.” Like a glass house, our satellite infrastructure is incredibly vulnerable, and now America’s opponents have already begun throwing stones.

The 1967 Outer Space Treaty outlines what its framers hoped would be the path to peaceful coexistence in orbit and beyond, but the language of the treaty allows for a great deal of latitude when it comes to orbital weapons. China, Russia, and the United States are all among the signatory members of the treaty, alongside a long list of others. Article IV of the treaty bans any signatory nation from deploying nuclear weapons (or other weapons of mass destruction) in orbit, and while other portions of the treaty also attempt to dissuade a real-life remake of Star Wars, the treaty itself bars little else when it comes to weapons.

Of course, that hasn’t stopped nations like Russia from referencing the 1967 Outer Space Treaty when accusing the United States of violating international norms during ongoing debates about the future of American space defense. This bit of tomfoolery notwithstanding, America, Russia, and China do want to appear as though they’re honoring the intent of this treaty, and as a result, orbital weapons often come in the guise of something else entirely. Russia’s Inspector satellites, for instance, are believed to have been designed specifically for use as a weaponized platform that can both eavesdrop on nearby satellite communications and directly interact with other orbital platforms.

The world’s two biggest terror groups may go head to head in Syria

Ground based lasers may soon be able to blind satellites temporarily, wreaking havoc with communications, navigation, and early warning systems.

(USAF Photo)

All an Inspector satellite would need to do in order to poke a hole in America’s defensive infrastructure is grab an American satellite with a retractable arm and pull it down into a degrading orbit. Eventually, the Russian satellite would just let go and watch its target burn up as it enters the atmosphere. The entire process would be fairly slow and even mundane to look at, but without any form of defense in orbit, there would be nothing U.S. Space Command could do but watch until the satellite went dark.

Similar methods to the same end would include deploying nets to capture enemy satellites or even simply giving them a push. Depending on the age and capability of the satellite, that could really be all it took to take it out of commission. In extreme cases, like the satellites the U.S. relies on to identify nuclear ballistic missile launches, simply incapacitating a satellite for a few minutes (by pushing it off its axis, for instance) could neuter the nation’s ability to spot or intercept inbound nukes. China has already demonstrated the theoretical ability to do exactly that using ground-based lasers that are invisible to the naked eye.

There are a number of strategies already being developed to counter this form of orbital warfare, like developing a fast-launch infrastructure to replace damaged satellites rapidly and deploying more maneuverable and capable platforms that aren’t as susceptible to these simplistic forms of attack… but for the next few decades, that’s the reality of our space wars: simple satellite drones nudging, poking, and maybe shooting at one another while we watch from below with bated breath.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why most people don’t have what it takes to be a fighter pilot

What’s not to love about being a fighter pilot? Even the troops who continually bash the Air Force get a little giddy when they hear the BRRRRT of an A-10 in combat. And when you actually meet a fighter pilot, you’ll rarely see them without a huge smile on their face because they know they own the sky.

Sounds pretty sweet, right? Well, we’re sorry to say, but you very likely don’t make the cut. In order to even be considered for the lengthy training process that fighter pilots go through, you have to be in the top percentile of healthy, capable bodies.

If you’re still curious how you’d stack up, check out the requirements below.


The world’s two biggest terror groups may go head to head in Syria

If you pass these, then you can start your journey at OCS… Then resume your pilot training requirements.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Christopher Stoltz)

First and foremost, you begin your journey at the Military Entrance Processing Station, or MEPS. They’ll check you for the disqualifying factors that apply to all service members and the additional qualifiers that dictate pilot selection.

Most people are well aware of the strict vision requirements of pilots, but it’s much more intensive than a regular check-up at the optometrist. You cannot be color blind, which immediately disqualifies about 8.5 percent of the population, and you must have 20/20 vision uncorrected.

Now, clean off your glasses before you read this shocker: perfect vision is actually very uncommon. According to studies from The University of Iowa, a low 30 percent of the population enjoys 20/20 vision, uncorrected. It’s also worth pointing out that, at this stage in the selection process, they disqualify those who have a history of hay fever, asthma, or allergies after the age of 12. You must also have a standing height of between 5’4″ and 6’5″ and a sitting height of 34 to 40 inches.

The world’s two biggest terror groups may go head to head in Syria

You also need to be able to swim one mile in a flight suit. Good luck.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Nicholas Benroth)

Additionally, you must already be on your way to becoming an officer in the branch that you wish to fly with. Once you’ve completed your branch’s officer training, you can finally submit your flight packet.

Then, there’s the physical fitness exam. Everyone in the Air Force must undergo the USAF Physical Fitness Test, but fighter aircrews have a different, more difficult one, called the Fighter Aircrew Conditioning Test. This test gauges whether a candidates body will be able to withstand the insane amount of G-forces a fighter pilot endures.

Navy and Marine pilots must also undergo the Aviation Selection Test Battery and score among the highest. The test is extremely grueling and if you fail once, your chances of becoming a pilot drop significantly. Fail three times in your lifetime and you’re never to be considered again.

If you’re smart enough, strong enough, and have good enough eyes, then you just might be selected to be begin the training to become a fighter pilot. That’s right; your journey is just beginning.

To learn about these schools, the physical requirements, and more, check out this video from The Infographic Show.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Navy has 7 nuclear carriers at sea for the first time in years

For the first time in years, seven of the US Navy’s 11 nuclear aircraft carriers are at sea simultaneously, according to US Naval Institute News.


The USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), USS Nimitz (CVN 68), and USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) are in the Western Pacific on operational deployments. They have full air wings and carrier escorts.

The USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) and USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) are in the Eastern Pacific, while the USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) and the brand-new USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) are in the Atlantic. Those four carriers are on training missions or doing workups before deployments.

All the carriers — including the ones converging on the Western Pacific — are on planned operations amid President Donald Trump’s 12-day trip to Asia.

Here’s what each carrier is up to.

The USS Ronald Reagan just finished a three-day drill in the Sea of Japan with a Japanese destroyer and two Indian warships.

The world’s two biggest terror groups may go head to head in Syria
The aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) patrols the waters south of Japan. (Navy photo by Mass Communications Specialist 2nd Class Nathan Burke)

Source: Reuters

The USS Nimitz, the lead ship in the Nimitz class, visited Sri Lanka in October — the first time a US aircraft carrier had visited the dock Colombo over 30 years.

The world’s two biggest terror groups may go head to head in Syria
USS Nimitz (CVN 68) and Carrier Air Wing Eleven (CVW-11) personnel participate in a flag unfurling rehearsal on the ship’s flight deck during Tiger Cruise with the help of fellow tigers. (Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 3rd Class Elizabeth Thompson)

Source: USNI News

The USS Theodore Roosevelt visited the US territory of Guam on Oct. 31, the first time the carrier has ever done so.

The world’s two biggest terror groups may go head to head in Syria
The USS Theodore Roosevelt visited the US territory of Guam on Oct. 31, the first time the carrier has ever done so. (Image via @PacificCommand Twitter)

Three months earlier, the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un threatened to launch missiles near the island. More recently, China reportedly practiced bombing runs targeting Guam with H-6K “Badger” bombers.

The USS Carl Vinson recently conducted training exercises off the coast of Southern California and is now doing a planned sustainment exercise and flight tests with the F-35C Lightning II fighter.

The world’s two biggest terror groups may go head to head in Syria
F/A-18 Hornets and Super Hornets assigned to Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 2 fly over the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70), front. (Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Sean M. Castellano)

Source: Times of San DiegoUSNI News

The USS John C. Stennis had been at the Kitsap-Bremerton naval base in Washington state for repairs, but left port last week for the Eastern Pacific.

The world’s two biggest terror groups may go head to head in Syria
An MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter from the Chargers of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 14 performs plane guard operations near the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis. (Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Matthew Martino)

Source: USNI News

The USS Abraham Lincoln finished its four-year, mid-life refueling and complex overhaul in May and is now going through qualifications.

The world’s two biggest terror groups may go head to head in Syria
Sailors aboard the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) prepare to receive supplies from the Military Sealift Command fast combat support ship USNS Rainier. (Navy photo by Capt. Lee Apsley.)

Source: USNI News

The USS Gerald R. Ford, the first of its class, is the largest and most advanced ship in the US fleet. It was commissioned in July and is undergoing trials and exercises before it fully joins the fleet.

The world’s two biggest terror groups may go head to head in Syria
Sailors man the rails of the aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) during its commissioning ceremony at Naval Station Norfolk, Va. Ford is the lead ship of the Ford-class aircraft carriers, and the first new U.S. aircraft carrier designed in 40 years. (Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Andrew J. Sneeringer)

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