Things you need to know about al Qaeda, ISIS, and the Taliban - We Are The Mighty
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Things you need to know about al Qaeda, ISIS, and the Taliban

Everyone wants to throat-punch ISIS, right? Right!


But what is ISIS…really? And who attacked the World Trade Center? And what’s the deal with Syria?

Keeping track of terrorist groups can be confusing, so here’s the quick and dirty on three hard-hitting groups the U.S. is currently fighting:

1. Al Qaeda

Things you need to know about al Qaeda, ISIS, and the Taliban
Osama bin Laden created al Qaeda, executed the 9/11 attacks, and was killed by U.S. Navy Seals on May 2, 2011.

Al Qaeda is a Sunni Islamic militant organization founded by Osama bin Laden circa 1988 and is responsible for the attacks against the United States on Sept. 11, 2001.

Originally organized to fight the Soviet Union during the Afghan War, al Qaeda continues to resist entities considered corrupt to its leaders, including differing Islamic interpretations and foreign (read: U.S.) occupation of their lands.

Al Qaeda operates under the belief that it is their duty to kill non-believers, including civilians.

After 9/11, a U.S.-led coalition launched an attack in Afghanistan to target al Qaeda, which had been operating under the protection of the Taliban government in the country. Operation Enduring Freedom successfully toppled the Taliban and dispersed al Qaeda throughout the region, but U.S. forces remain unable to fully eradicate the group.

Today, al Qaeda is still a significant threat across the Middle East and North Africa. Though forced to operate underground, the organization cooperates with other terrorist groups and continues to engage in attacks against the U.S. and its allies.

2. The Taliban

Things you need to know about al Qaeda, ISIS, and the Taliban
Two Taliban religious police beating a woman in public because she dared to remove her burqa in public. (Hidden camera footage courtesy of the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan)

Let’s go back to the Afghan War.

From 1979-1989, the Soviet Union invaded and occupied Afghanistan. Afghan fighters known as the mujahedeen resisted, finally forcing the Soviet Union to withdraw from the country.  In the aftermath, there was a power vacuum, with fighting among the mujahedeen until the Taliban was established in 1994.

The Taliban seized control of Afghanistan and imposed strict Islamic laws on the Afghan people. A Sunni Islamic fundamentalist political movement, the Taliban harbored al Qaeda operations, including bin Laden’s stronghold, which led to the U.S. invasion Afghanistan after the September 11 attacks.

During OEF, the Taliban lost governing control of Afghanistan and went into hiding along its borders and Pakistan, but it continues to wage its war against the West and the current Afghan government.

Today, largely funded by opium production, the Taliban fights to regain control of Afghanistan, engaging with military forces in-country and claiming responsibility for terrorist attacks in the region.

3. ISIS

Things you need to know about al Qaeda, ISIS, and the Taliban
ISIS continues to defend territory in Iraq and Syria, but inspires or takes credit for global attacks, including the November 2015 attacks in Paris, France, and the May 2017 attacks in Manchester, England.

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or just the Islamic State, is a Salafi jihadist Sunni Islamic militant group established in 1999 with the intention of establishing their God’s rule on earth and destroying those who threaten it.

They are known for being exceptionally brutal, utilizing publicity and the social media to broadcast mass executions, beheadings, and crucifixions.

They once pledged allegiance to al Qaeda, but separated from it in 2014 and concentrated their attention on Syria and Iraq.

In January 2014, ISIS captured the city of Raqqa, Syria. For the next six months, the group overtook major Iraqi cities like Mosul and Tikrit before self-declaring a caliphate, an Islamic State with authority over the global Muslim population.

In August 2014, President Barack Obama approved airstrikes against ISIS.

Today, the United States works with Syrian and Iraqi forces to purge ISIS control from Syria and Iraq.

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Today in military history: Crusader control of Holy Land ends

On May 18, 1291, Acre, the last Crusader stronghold in the Middle East, fell to the Muslim Mamluks, ending Crusader control of the Holy Land.

European Christian Crusaders had been reeling from Sala-a-din’s conquest of Jerusalem in 1187. The Third Crusade recaptured Acre (in modern-day Israel) for the next 100 years. But in that time, one by one, Crusader cities would fall to the Mamluk Sultanate.

The Muslim Mamluks came to power in the region in 1250, marking a shift in the balance of power in the region. The Muslims were then able to compete with the heavy cavalry of the Crusader knights – and they did. 

Crusader cities in Caesarea, Haifa, Galilee, and Antioch sparked more Crusades from Europe, but they were largely ineffective. Latakia fell in 1278, Tripoli in 1289. Acre was surrounded. 

The Crusaders hoped for either an army from Italy or an unlikely alliance with the Mongols. Neither materialized and the Mamluks laid siege to Acre on April 5, 1291. By May 18, Al-Ashraf Khalil’s 222,000-strong army entered the city and killed its Crusader defenders, ending the last Crusader control of the region.

The Siege of Acre, also known as the Fall of Acre, marked the end of further crusades to the Levant. With the fall of Acre, the Crusaders lost their last major stronghold of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, and by 1302 with the loss of Ruad, they were no longer control any part of the Holy Land.

Featured Image: Siège d’Acre (1291) by unknown 14th century French artist (Gallica Digital Library)

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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:

A weapons load team from the 35th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron prepares to load a weapons system while being inspected by a standardization load crew from the 35th Maintenance Group during a quarterly weapons loading competition at Misawa Air Base, Japan, Dec. 30, 2015. The objective of the weapons load crew competition was to gauge how quickly and efficiently teams of Airmen are able to arm an F-16 Fighting Falcon.

Things you need to know about al Qaeda, ISIS, and the Taliban
U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Deana Heitzman

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Joshua Peters, 41st Rescue Squadron special missions aviator, loads ammunition into an HH-60G Pave Hawk, Jan. 7, 2016, at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. The Pave Hawk helicopter features two crew-served .50 caliber machineguns, one located on each side. Peters was loading the weapons as part of a training mission.

Things you need to know about al Qaeda, ISIS, and the Taliban
U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Lauren M. Johnson

ARMY:

An army jumpmaster, assigned to Special Operations Command South, issues commands during an airborne operation over Homestead Air Reserve Base, Fla., Jan. 12, 2016.

Things you need to know about al Qaeda, ISIS, and the Taliban
U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Osvaldo Equite

Soldiers assigned to 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, prepare to hook a tracked amphibious vehicle to a CH-47 Chinook helicopter, from 16th Combat Aviation Brigade, during sling load training at Fort Wainwright Alaska, Jan. 12, 2016.

Things you need to know about al Qaeda, ISIS, and the Taliban
U.S. Army Alaska photo by 1st Lt. James Gallagher

A soldier, assigned to 2d Cavalry Regiment, guides a Stryker armored vehicle during railhead operations at Konotop, Poland, Jan. 11, 2016.

Things you need to know about al Qaeda, ISIS, and the Taliban
U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Paige Behringer

Soldiers assigned to the New York Army National Guard, conduct tactical training at a NYPD training facility and range at Rodmans Neck in the Bronx, N.Y., Jan. 9, 2016.

Things you need to know about al Qaeda, ISIS, and the Taliban
U.S. Army photo by Capt. Mark Getman, The National Guard

UH-60 crew chief, assigned to the Colorado National Guard, conducts preflight checks on a MEDEVAC helicopter in preparation for a blizzard response exercise at Buckley Air Force Base, Aurora, Colo., Jan. 9, 2016.

Things you need to know about al Qaeda, ISIS, and the Taliban
U.S. Army photo by Spc. Ashley Low, The National Guard

NAVY:

OKINAWA, Japan (Jan. 12, 2016) Ensign Frank S. Sysko assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 3 holds his breath while he exits a mud-filled trench during a jungle warfare training evolution hosted by Marines with the Jungle Warfare Training Center (JWTC). The JWTC endurance course tests the Seabees will, stamina and the ability to work together as a team. NMCB 3 is deployed to several countries in the Pacific area of Operations conducting construction operations and humanitarian assistance projects.

Things you need to know about al Qaeda, ISIS, and the Taliban
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Michael Gomez

SOUDA BAY, Greece (Jan. 13, 2016) A diver assigned to Mid Atlantic Regional Maintenance Center Norfolk, performs repairs on USS Carney (DDG 64) Jan. 13, 2016. Carney, an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, forward deployed to Rota, Spain, is conducting a routine patrol in the U. S. 6th Fleet area of operations in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe.

Things you need to know about al Qaeda, ISIS, and the Taliban
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Theron J. Godbold

ARABIAN GULF (Jan. 10, 2016) Aviation ordnancemen inspect ordnance on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75). The Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group is deployed in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, maritime security operations, and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations.

Things you need to know about al Qaeda, ISIS, and the Taliban
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Justin R. Pacheco

SOUDA BAY, Greece (Jan. 9, 2016) Sailors aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS Ross (DDG 71) prepare to shift colors during sea and anchor detail before pulling into Souda Bay, Greece Jan. 9, 2016. Ross is conducting a routine patrol in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe.

Things you need to know about al Qaeda, ISIS, and the Taliban
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Justin Stumberg

MARINE CORPS:

Marines’ tents stand below Mt. Fuji during Exercise Fuji Samurai Jan. 7 aboard Combined Arms Training Center Camp Fuji, Gotemba, Japan. Exercise Fuji Samurai is held at CATC Fuji during the month of January and includes countless fire and maneuver drills and other combat-based training evolutions that take place over a period of approximately two weeks.

Things you need to know about al Qaeda, ISIS, and the Taliban
U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Cpl. Janessa Pon

Marines with Marine Wing Support Squadron 371 don Mission Oriented Protective Posture suits and gas masks during Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear decontamination and reconnaissance training aboard Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Arizona, Jan. 13, 2016.

Things you need to know about al Qaeda, ISIS, and the Taliban
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Travis Gershaneck

COAST GUARD:

Coast Guard Maritime Safety and Security Team members patrolled the waters of the Potomac River in support of last night’s State of the Union address.

Things you need to know about al Qaeda, ISIS, and the Taliban
USCG photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Lisa Ferdinando

The first group of women enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard began their 10-weeks of basic training at the Coast Guard Training Center in Cape May on January 15, 1974. Thirty-two women were in the initial group and formed Recruit Company Sierra- 89.

Things you need to know about al Qaeda, ISIS, and the Taliban
Photo: USCG

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Russians are messing with global GPS

On May 15, 2018, under a sunny sky, Russian President Vladimir Putin drove a bright-orange truck in a convoy of construction vehicles for the opening of the Kerch Strait Bridge from Russia to Crimea. At 11 miles long, it is now the longest bridge in Europe or Russia.

As Putin drove across the bridge, something weird happened. The satellite navigation systems in the control rooms of more than 24 ships anchored nearby suddenly started displaying false information about their location. Their GPS systems told their captains they were anchored more than 65 kilometers away — on land, at the Anapa Airport.


This was not a random glitch, according to the Center for Advanced Defense Studies, a security think tank known as C4ADS. It was a deliberate plan to make it difficult for anyone nearby to track or navigate around the presence of Putin, it said.

‘All critical national infrastructures rely on GNSS to some extent’ — and the Russians have started hacking it

The Russians have started hacking into the global navigation satellite system on a mass scale to confuse thousands of ships and airplanes about where they are, a study of false GNSS signals by C4ADS found.

Things you need to know about al Qaeda, ISIS, and the Taliban

Putin driving two construction workers across the Kerch Strait Bridge.

GNSS comprises the constellation of international satellites that orbit Earth. The US’s Global Positioning System, China’s BeiDou, Russia’s Glonass, and Europe’s Galileo program are all part of GNSS.

Your phone, law enforcement, shipping, airlines, and power stations — anything dependent on GPS time and location synchronization — are all vulnerable to GNSS hacking. A 2017 report commissioned by the UK Space Agency said that “all critical national infrastructures rely on GNSS to some extent, with Communications, Emergency Services, Finance, and Transport identified as particularly intensive users.” An attack that disabled GNSS in Britain would cost about £1 billion every day the system was down, the report said.

The jamming, blocking, or spoofing of GNSS signals by the Russian government is “more indiscriminate and persistent, larger in scope, and more geographically diverse than previous public reporting suggested,” said a recent Weekly Intelligence Summary from Digital Shadows, a cybersecurity-monitoring service.

Things you need to know about al Qaeda, ISIS, and the Taliban

This diagram shows GPS signals for a ship jumping between the accurate location at sea and a false location at a nearby airport.

(C4ADS)

Nearly 10,000 incidents of ships being sent bad location data

The C4ADS study found that:

  • 1,311 civilian ships have been affected.
  • 9,883 incidents were reported or detected.

Until the past couple of years, C4ADS thought the Russians used GNSS jamming or spoofing mostly to disguise Putin’s whereabouts.

For instance, a large area over Cape Idokopas, near Gelendzhik on the Black Sea coast of Russia, appears to be within a permanent GNSS-spoofing zone. The cape, believed to be Putin’s summer home, or dacha, contains a vast and lavish private residence — “a large Italianate palace, several helicopter pads, an amphitheatre, and a small port,” C4ADS said. It is the only private home in Russia that enjoys the same level of airspace protection and GNSS interference as the Kremlin.

Things you need to know about al Qaeda, ISIS, and the Taliban

C4ADS thinks Putin’s summer home is protected by a permanent GNSS-spoofing zone.

(C4ADS)

‘Russian forces had developed mobile GNSS jamming units to provide protection for the Russian president’

“The geographical placement of the spoofing incidents closely aligns with places where Vladimir Putin was making overseas and domestic visits, suggesting that Russian forces had developed mobile GNSS jamming units to provide protection for the Russian president,” Digital Shadows said. “The incidents also align with the locations of Russian military and government resources. Although in some areas the motive was likely to restrict access to or obstruct foreign military.”

Ships sailing near Gelendzhik have reported receiving bogus navigation data on their satellite systems.

“In June 2017, the captain of the merchant vessel Atria provided direct evidence of GNSS spoofing activities off the coast of Gelendzhik, Russia, when the vessel’s on-board navigation systems indicated it was located in the middle of the Gelendzhik Airport, about 20km away. More than two dozen other vessels reported similar disruptions in the region on that day,” C4ADS said.

An million superyacht was sent off course by a device the size of a briefcase

Most of the incidents were recorded in Crimea, the Black Sea, Syria, and Russia.

Perhaps more disturbingly, GNSS-spoofing equipment is available to almost anyone for just a few hundred dollars.

“In the summer of 2013, a research team from The University of Texas at Austin successfully hijacked the GPS navigation systems onboard an million superyacht using a ,000 device the size of a small briefcase,” C4ADS said. “The experimental attack forced the ship’s navigation systems to relay false positioning information to the vessel’s captain, who subsequently made slight course corrections to keep the ship seemingly on track.”

Since then, the cost of a GNSS-spoofing device has fallen to about 0, C4ADS said, and some people have used them to cheat at “Pokémon Go.”

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

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This Army veteran running for Senate assembles an AR-15 blindfolded in a new ad

Army veteran Jason Kander is running for the US Senate to unseat Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), and he just dropped an incredibly effective ad pushing back on criticism of his gun rights positions.


He assembles an AR-15 blindfolded while simultaneously talking about his time serving as an intelligence officer in Afghanistan. “I approve this message, because I would like to see Sen. Blunt do this,” he says, holding up the finished rifle, in what is the political equivalent of a mic drop.

Last week, the National Rifle Association released an ad that criticized “liberal Jason Kander” for a 2009 vote against the defensive use of guns. The spot criticized the Democrat as being weak on Second Amendment rights.

Things you need to know about al Qaeda, ISIS, and the Taliban
Missourians for Kander | YouTube

In response, Kander is seen blindfolded in a new ad released Wednesday, pushing back on that view.

“Sen. Blunt has been attacking me on guns. In Afghanistan, I volunteered to be an extra gun in a convoy of unarmored SUVs,” Kander says. “And in the state legislature, I supported Second Amendment rights. I also believe in background checks so that terrorists can’t get their hands on one of these.”

Brandon Friedman, a former Army officer and CEO of public relations firm McPherson Square Group, told Business Insider the spot was “a masterpiece.”

Still, Kander has an uphill battle in the race. His opponent Roy Blunt scored the endorsement of the influential NRA in April, and he currently leads the challenger by three points, according to the RealClearPolitics average of Missouri’s US senate race.

Watch the ad below:

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VA health care foiled again by sudden money shortage

The Department of Veterans Affairs warned June 14 it was unexpectedly running out of money for a program that offers veterans private-sector health care, forcing it to hold back on some services that lawmakers worry could cause delays in medical treatment.


It is making an urgent request to Congress to allow it to shift money from other programs to fill the sudden budget gap.

VA Secretary David Shulkin made the surprising revelation at a Senate hearing. He cited a shortfall of more than $1 billion in the Choice program due to increased demand from veterans for federally-paid medical care outside the VA. The VA had previously assured Congress that funding for Choice would last until early next year.

“We need your help on the best solution to get more money into the Choice account,” Shulkin told the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “If there is no action at all by Congress, then the Choice program will dry up by mid-August.”

The department began instructing VA medical centers late last week to limit the number of veterans it sent to private doctors so it can slow spending in the Choice account. Some veterans were being sent to Defence Department hospitals, VA facilities located farther away, or other alternative locations “when care is not offered in VA,” according to a June 7 internal VA memorandum.

The VA is also scrambling to tap other parts of its budget, including about $620 million in carry-over money that it had set aside for use in the next fiscal year beginning Oct. 1. It was asking field offices to hold off on spending for certain medical equipment to help cover costs, according to a call the department held with several congressional committees June 13.

It did not rule out taking money from VA hospitals.

Things you need to know about al Qaeda, ISIS, and the Taliban
David Shulkin (Photo by Robert Turtil, Department of Veterans Affairs)

Shulkin on June 14 insisted that veterans will not see an impact in their health care. He blamed in part the department’s excessive use of an exception in the Choice program that allowed veterans to go to private doctors if they faced an “excessive burden” in traveling to a VA facility. Typically, Choice restricts use of private doctors only when veterans must wait 30 days or more for an appointment or drive more than 40 miles to a facility.

Medical centers were now being asked to hew more closely to Choice’s restrictions before sending veterans to private doctors, Shulkin said.

He described the shortfall in the Choice program as mostly logistical, amounting to different checking accounts within the VA that needed to be combined to meet various payments.

Some senators were in disbelief.

They noted that VA had failed to anticipate or fix budget problems many times before. Two years ago, the VA endured sharp criticism from Congress when it was forced to seek emergency help to cover a $2.5 billion budget shortfall due in part to expensive hepatitis C treatments, or face closing some VA hospitals.Congress allowed VA to shift money from its Choice account.

“I am deeply concerned,” said Sen. Patty Murray, D- Wash., explaining that VA should have “seen this coming.” She said veterans in her state were already reporting delays in care and being asked to travel to VA facilities more than 4 hours away.

Sen. Jon Tester of Montana, the top Democrat on the panel, expressed impatience.

“For months we’ve been asking about the Choice spend rate and we were never provided those answers to make an informed decision,” he said. “No one wants to delay care for veterans — no one — so we will act appropriately. For that to happen this late in the game is frustrating to me.”

Major veterans’ organizations said they worried the shortfall was the latest sign of poor budget planning.

Carl Blake, an associate executive director at Paralyzed Veterans of America, said the VA has yet to address how it intends to address a growing appeals backlog as well as increased demands for care. “The VA could be staring at a huge hole in its budget for 2018,” he said. “It’s not enough to say we have enough money, that we can move it around. That is simply not true.”

The shortfall surfaced just weeks after lawmakers were still being assured the Choice program was under budget, with $1.1 billion estimated to be left over in the account on Aug. 7, when the program was originally set to expire. That VA estimate prompted Congress to pass legislation last March to extend the program until the Choice money ran out.

Shulkin said he learned about the shortfall June 8.

Currently, more than 30 per cent of VA appointments are made in the private sector, up from fewer than 20 per cent in 2014, as the VA’s 1,700 health facilities struggle to meet growing demands for medical care. During the 2016 campaign, President Donald Trump criticized the VA for long wait times and mismanagement, pledging to give veterans more choice in seeing outside providers.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The F-35 could shoot down ballistic missiles — with one catch

As the US military begins deploying the F-35, which brings with it the promise of revolutionizing aerial combat, it may also be deploying a ballistic-missile defense asset.


US jet fighters have spent decades trying to master the air-to-air kill. In the days of “Top Gun” and the F-14 Tomcat, that meant turning dogfights, with a mix of guns and missiles to outfox the other pilot.

But today a new threat has taken aim at the US, and it’s more dangerous than any fighter jet.

As North Korea works toward building out its missile technology to put the US mainland in range of its nuclear arsenal, the F-35’s new air target may be a missile, not a fighter.

According to Justin Bronk, an expert on aerial combat at the Royal United Services Institute, the missiles already aboard the F-35 just need a slight tweak to start taking on missiles.

“By changing the firmware a bit, tweaking it a bit, you could gain a theoretical” capability to engage ballistic missiles, Bronk told Business Insider.

A source involved in ballistic-missile defense at the Pentagon confirmed Bronk’s statement. Basically, the F-35 and its AIM-120 air-to-air missile stand a few wires away from potentially being able to disrupt North Korea’s next missile test, but there’s a catch.

Burnout

Things you need to know about al Qaeda, ISIS, and the Taliban
An F-35 Lightning II assigned to Hill Air Force Base, Utah, flies alongside a 100th Air Refueling Wing KC-135 Stratotanker during a flight to Estonia on April 25, 2017. The F-35s are participating in their first-ever flying training deployment to Europe. (U.S. Air Force photo /Senior Airman Christine Groening)

Perhaps the reason the F-35 doesn’t already come equipped to shoot down ballistic missiles is that doing so still presents a logistical nightmare.

North Korea often launches from unexpected locations, at strange times, and from mobile launchers. This all adds up to a very unpredictable launch, which an F-35 would have limited time to position itself against.

“You’d have to be impractically close to their launch area,” Bronk said. The problem then comes down to the missile itself.

“Given that an AIM-120 burns for seven to nine seconds and then coasts, and a ballistic missile does the opposite, all while climbing,” Bronk explained, the F-35 would have to engage the missile from very close.

As a ballistic missile blasts upward, quickly gaining speed, the AIM-120’s short burn time means the missile has only precious few seconds to catch its target before slowing down. During those seconds, the ballistic missile only gets higher and faster.

F-35 as the quarterback, not a tackle

Things you need to know about al Qaeda, ISIS, and the Taliban
An AIM-120 AMRAAM being loaded onto an F-16CJ. | US Air Force

A more likely ballistic-missile defense situation spearheaded by the F-35 could capitalize on what the US military does best: networking complicated systems and getting support from linked assets.

The F-35’s AIM-120 is just 12 feet long, undersize for this role. But the US Navy’s Arleigh-Burke guided-missile destroyers carry several 21-foot-long interceptor missiles.

The F-35’s designers built it to integrate easily with the Navy’s targeting system, so the F-35 can find, track, and provide targeting info to missiles fired from ships or even other jets.

“If you had F-35 loitering as close as possible but not in the airspace, with its sensor package is tuned to pick up a ballistic missile’s infrared signature,” Bronk said, it could function as a “forward part of the warning chain.”

This approach would allow the F-35 to stay out of North Korean airspace, which could be seen as an act of war. Instead, the F-35 simply tracks the ballistic missile, and a US Navy destroyer shoots it down.

Perhaps sooner rather than later

Things you need to know about al Qaeda, ISIS, and the Taliban
Weapons dropped from U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer bombers and U.S. Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II practicing attack capabilities impact the Pilsung Range, Republic of Korea. The F-35Bs, assigned to Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, conducted a sequenced bilateral mission with South Korean F-15K and Koku Jieitai (Japan Air Self-Defense Force) F-2 fighters. This mission is in direct response to North Korea’s intermediate range ballistic missile launch and emphasizes the combined ironclad commitment to regional allies and partners. (Republic of Korea Air Force photo)

The F-35’s deployment to Japan and its involvement in the ballistic-missile-defense discussion comes at a time of extreme tensions between the US and North Korea, with both sides reportedly announcing intentions to escalate further.

Last week, sources from President Donald Trump’s administration reportedly said they were planning a “bloody nose” attack to damage North Korea’s missile program and humiliate the country.

South Korean media reported on Thursday that North Korea may be planning a satellite launch, which looks very much like a missile launch but instead deposits a satellite in space.

In North Korea, missile launches are key propaganda events and vital to the military’s research and development. For the US, the F-35 is the most expensive weapons system ever made and one that has yet to deliver on its promise of changing the game in aerial warfare.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Army announces historic, ‘temporary promotion policy’ for soldiers

Sergeant Major of the Army Michael Grinston announced a historic new temporary promotion policy for soldiers. The policy is designed to expand on the Army’s ongoing commitment to supporting its soldiers. 

“Today I am pleased to announce a new promotion policy that helps us to continue to put people first,” Grinston shared on a press call. Beginning with the January 2021 promotion month, soldiers unable to complete the Army’s required Professional Military Education courses to qualify for advancement to sergeant, all the way through sergeant major, due to pregnancy, deployment or those enrolled in a non-resident sergeant major course will be temporarily advanced to the next rank. 

Through research, the Army recognizes that the requirements for advancement to higher rank negatively impacts women in particular. Grinston shared that female soldiers would routinely speak to him about the struggle and difficulty of determining when to start a family in order to not negatively impact their career. Female soldiers are unable to complete the physical training portion of leadership school required due to pregnancy or being postpartum, often putting them behind their male counterparts in career advancement. 

Deployed soldiers were also falling behind their peers in advancement opportunities. Grinston explained that Army units overseas were declining to send soldiers to the required PME courses due to operational needs within combat zones. Around 300 soldiers requested exceptions in 2019 in order to advance to the next rank. Although the number may seem small, Grinston shared that it would be much higher if the Army ever had to significantly increase their numbers to meet combat needs.  

When developing the policy, leadership wanted to ensure that those attending either sergeant major course could advance on time, regardless of how they took it. It was discovered that those attending the nonresident sergeant major course tended to finish their course later, missing the deadline for meeting requirements for promotion on time. This left qualified soldiers waiting a year to advance to the next rank despite completing the required schooling. The new policy avoids that.  

Command Sergeant Major Kenyatta Gaskins was also on the call with members of the press and addressed questions on whether soldiers being temporarily promoted were actually ready to advance. “Those soldiers have already demonstrated that they have the potential to perform at the next higher level. They have been recommended for promotion by their commanders,” he explained. “I don’t believe we are blindly promoting individuals. These are well deserved promotions of soldiers who’ve demonstrated the ability to perform at the next higher level.” 

The temporary promotion policy applies not only to active duty Army but also those in the Army Reserves and Army National Guard. As long as soldiers are otherwise qualified and meet the conditions outlined, they will be advanced beginning January 1, 2020.

Those temporarily advanced to the next rank will have a set amount of time to complete their PME courses or they will revert back to their previous rank. Should they be reverted back due to not completing PME, they will not be required to pay back the received increase in pay due to temporary advancement. Active soldiers returning from deployment will have one year to complete their PME course and active female soldiers will have two years from the end of their postpartum profile. Those in the Army Reserves or Army National Guard will have three years. 

The temporary promotion is allowable only once in a soldier’s career. 

“I believe none of these scenarios – starting a family, deploying to a combat zone or selection to the nonresident sergeant major course should be a reason a soldier’s career should be delayed,” Grinston explained. “These temporary promotions support the Army’s ‘people first’ strategy.”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why your future bunkers might be made of wood

Sticks and stones may break your bones, but they’re also great building materials. And the Department of Defense is eyeing a return to stick-based construction in some places where it currently uses concrete and similar materials. Fire and blast tests have already gone well, and the Army is working with universities to test its performance against ballistic weapons.


It’s all thanks to a new material that all the cool architects are talking about: cross-laminated timber. The footnotes version on this stuff is that it’s timber assembled in layers, and each layer is placed at 90 degrees from the previous one.

So, think of a Jenga tower, but with lots of glue so the blocks don’t slide apart. Believe it or not, this actually creates a super-strong structure, so strong that architects are certain they can make skyscrapers with the stuff, though buildings of about five stories are the norm right now and the tallest completed so far is 14 stories.

Things you need to know about al Qaeda, ISIS, and the Taliban

Believe it or not, this is a passing fire test. Cross-laminated timber passed the test for fire resistance, but organizers were a little disappointed that it never self-extinguished. It was hoped that as the wood charred, which greatly reduces its flammability, the flame would run out of fuel.

(YouTube/Sisekaitseakadeemia)

But the Pentagon isn’t eyeing the material for tall office structures, or at least not exclusively for that. They allowed the Forest Products Laboratory, part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, to test CLT structures against blasts. Yeah, they want to know how the buildings will do against bombs.

The FPL has already tested the material when set on fire, when exposed to extreme moisture, and when shaken as it would in an earthquake. The wood did great in the earlier tests, but the military didn’t want to adopt new materials that would get destroyed the first time a big, bad wolf tried to blow it up.

The blast tests were done in 2016 and 2017 at Tyndall Air Force Base. This was before the hurricane wiped out many of the base’s structures (which were not CLT).

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That blast looks stronger than the Big Bad Wolf, but somehow, the stick-buildings are still standing.

(Air Force Civil Engineering Center AFCEC, Tyndall Air Force Base)

The wood performed well during the tests, flexing and twisting in some cases but—in most of the tests—surviving the blasts. The panels did rupture during the final test, a test designed to overwhelm the timbers and push them well beyond their design limits. But even then, the buildings were safe to enter and walk through.

Now, Georgia Tech in Atlanta is working on a ballistics test with the Army at Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland. The tests are slated to include additional blast testing as well. So, yeah, the Army wants to figure out whether it makes tactical and strategic sense to have wood buildings and structures, even in some places where it might currently use concrete.

All-in-all, CLT is a promising material for the military, and it’s achieved a lot of acceptance in the civilian world. It’s much better for the environment than concrete, which releases CO2 both in production and construction, and steel, which is energy intensive to mine, smelt, forge, and ship.

Timber, in contrast, actually removes carbon from the atmosphere as it’s created and grown, and it’s very lightweight, so it doesn’t cost as much fuel to move the material.

Currently, though, the material is quite expensive to purchase as there are only a few manufacturers making it. Prices are expected to come down over the next couple of decades. An ambitious plan for a 7-story building is slated for completion in 2041, partially because building right now would require that the builders buy up all available CLT, making the project cost as much as double what normal construction would.

Articles

9 items deployed troops use instead of cash

Everyone has heard the phrase “cash is king” but that’s not always the case when troops are deployed overseas.


When service members deploy to remote areas, they enter a barter economy where cash loses value since there is nearly nowhere to spend it. But a shortage of consumer goods drives up the value of many commodities.

Some troops — call them blue falcons or businessmen — will stockpile these commodities for a profit.

1. Cigarettes

Among vets, even non-smokers stockpile cigarettes. They’re easy to trade, hold their value for weeks, and are always in demand. Plus, sellers can reap great profits after patrols. A smoker who lost their cigarettes in a river is not going to haggle the price down if they won’t reach a store for days.

2. Dip

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Photo: Wikimedia Commons/OAC

Similar to cigarettes, the addictive nature of dip means it’s always in demand. Dip is slightly harder than cigarettes to trade since users can’t easily break a can into smaller units. But, since troops can’t always smoke on patrol and smoking in government buildings is prohibited, dipping is sometimes the better method of nicotine consumption.

3. Energy drinks (especially “rare” ones)

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Part of the reason tobacco is so popular is that it’s a stimulant, something that is desperately needed on deployments. Energy drinks are the other main stimulant that is widely traded. They have different value tiers though.

Drinks the military provides, like Rip-Its, are worth less since they’re easy to get. Monsters are generally available for purchase on large bases. So, they’re are easy to trade but still command high value. Foreign-made drinks, which pack a great kick, can sometimes be found in the local economy and demand the greatest price.

4. Beef jerky

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Mmmmm…..

High in protein and salt, jerky is great for marches and patrols. It’s easy to carry and shelf-stable. Troops can trade individual pieces if they want to buy something cheap or use whole bags for large purchases.

5. “Surplus” gear

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Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Andrew Smith

Every time a unit does inventory, someone is missing something. But, service members with lots of extra cigarettes can always buy someone’s “surplus” gear to replace what they’re missing. Prices vary, of course. Missing earplugs are cheap, but eye protection is expensive.

The only things that can’t be purchased are those tracked by serial number. Replacing something with a serial number requires help from the E-4 mafia.

6. Hard drives (the contents)

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Photo: US Air Force Airman Taylor Queen

Nearly everyone deployed has a computer drive with TV episodes and movies from back home. Old movies are traded for free, but getting new stuff requires the rare dependable internet connection or a care package with DVDs. Those who have digital gold will share new shows in exchange for other items or favors.

7. Electrical outlets

Electrical safety Army currencies Marine Corps deployed trades trading Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Johann H. Addicks

These work on a subscription basis. In many tents, there are only a few outlets hooked up to the generator. So, entrepreneurs snatch up real estate with an outlet, buy a power strip, and sell electrical access. The proliferation of portable solar panels is cutting down on this practice.

8. Lighters and matches

Matches are distributed in some MREs, but not as much as they used to be. Lighters are available for purchase at most bases. Still, service members at far-flung outposts are sometimes hurting for ways to light their tobacco. Smart shoppers save up their matches and buy up Bics while near base exchanges, then sell them in outlying areas.

9. Girl Scout cookies

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Photo: DoD by Capt. Andrew Adcock

Girl Scout cookies come in waves. Every few weeks, boxes will show up in every office on a forward operating base. Resupply convoys will grab dozens to take out to their troops in the field. But, as the days tick by, inventories will wane. This is especially true of top types like Caramel deLites and Thin Mints.

The trick is to store the boxes after the delivery comes in, and then trade them for needed items when everyone else has run dry. A box of Tagalongs can wrangle a trader two cans of dip if they time it right.

NOW: 18 terms only soldiers will understand

OR: 19 of the coolest military unit mottos

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

B-2 stealth bombers deployed to Pacific as warning to rivals

The US has deployed three B-2 Spirit bombers and 200 airmen to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii for training in the Pacific, Pacific Air Forces Public Affairs revealed Jan. 11, 2019.

The stealth aircraft from Whiteman Air Force Base were deployed to the Pacific to support US Strategic Command’s Bomber Task Force mission, a deterrence mission intended to reassure allies and send a clear message to any country that would threaten regional peace and security.


“Deploying to Hawaii enables us to showcase to a large American and international audience that the B-2 is on watch 24 hours a day, seven days a week ready to protect our country and its allies,” Lt. Col. Joshua Dorr, the director of operations for the 393rd Bomber Squadron, explained in a statement.

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U.S. Air Force B-2 Spirit deployed from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, takes off from Wake Island Airfield Sept. 14, 2018.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Danielle Quilla)

“This training is crucial to maintaining our regional interoperability. It affords us the opportunity to work with our allies in joint exercises and validates our always-ready global strike capability,” he added.

The latest deployment marks the second time B-2 Spirit bombers, which are capable of carrying both conventional and nuclear weapons payloads, have been deployed to Hawaii. During the first deployment, the bombers trained alongside F-22s flown by members of the Hawaii Air National Guard 199th Fighter Squadron.

“The B-2 Spirits’ first deployment to [Pearl Harbor] highlights its strategic flexibility to project power from anywhere in the world,” Maj. Gen. Stephen Williams, the director of air and cyberspace operations at the Pacific Air Forces headquarters, said in a statement in October. 2018

The major general added that the deployment “helped ensure a free and open Indo-Pacific,” rhetoric the US uses regularly to describe moves meant to counter Chinese actions perceived as aggressive or coercive.

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A B-2 Spirit bomber deployed from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, lands at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, Jan. 10, 2019.

(Photo by Senior Airman Thomas Barley)

The second deployment comes at a time of heightened tension between the US and China, especially in contested waterways like the South China Sea where China is expanding its military footprint and the US armed forces are responding in kind.

China has reacted aggressively to US military activities in the region, sharply criticizing the US and even threatening US military vessels.

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A US Air Force B-2 Spirit deployed from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Danielle Quilla)

The Chinese mainland is protected by an integrated air defense system, and Chinese-occupied territories in the South China Sea are defended by a so-called “wall of SAMs [surface-to-air missiles].”

Despite its large size, the B-2’s low-observable characteristics “give it the ability to penetrate an enemy’s most sophisticated defenses and put at risk their most valuable targets,” Pacific Air Forces noted in their statement on the recent deployment. “Its presence in the Hawaiian Islands stands as a testament to enhanced regional security.”

B-2 bombers deployed to the Pacific in 2017, specifically to Andersen Air Force Base on Guam, to reassure allies and partners during a period defined by alarm over North Korea.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Mattis says Turkey is fighting in the wrong part of Syria

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Jan. 23 issued a strong rebuke of Turkey’s offensive against a U.S.-allied Kurdish militia in northern Syria, saying it is distracting from the fight against Islamic State militants.


“The violence in Afrin disrupts what was a relatively stable area of Syria. It distracts from international efforts to ensure the defeat of ISIS, and this could be exploited by ISIS and al-Qaida,” Mattis told reporters in Indonesia.

Turkey, the week before, began bombing and has sent troops into northern Syria’s Kurdish-controlled region of Afrin along the Turkish border, in an attempt to drive out the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, or YPG.

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Syrian civil war map, showing control by city. Size of circle is proportional to population (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

“We urge Turkey to exercise restraint in their military actions and rhetoric and ensure its operations are limited in scope and duration,” said Mattis, who is meeting with his Indonesian counterparts in Jakarta.

On Jan. 21, Mattis said Turkey, a member of NATO, had alerted the United States ahead of the attack. But at that point, Mattis did not criticize the Turkish operation. His tone changed.

“In the Afrin area, we had actually gotten to the point where humanitarian aid was flowing and refugees were coming back in. The Turkish incursion disrupts that effort,” Mattis said.

Also Read: Turkey fought a proxy battle with the US in Syria this weekend

The YPG is a key U.S. partner in the war against the Islamic State group, and makes up a large portion of the Syrian Democratic Forces — a coalition that has forced Islamic State militants from virtually their entire so-called caliphate. But Turkey views the YPG as a terrorist group and accuses it of having links to Kurdish separatists.

The U.S. decision to back the YPG has been a source of rising tension between Washington and Ankara, and Turkey repeated its calls on the United States to end its support of the militia.

Articles

Army evaluates new shoulder-fired rocket tech

The U.S. Army is testing new recoilless rifle technology designed give soldiers shoulder-fired rockets that are lighter and more ergonomic and in future, make them safe to fire in tight urban spaces.


Testers at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland are evaluating upgrades to the M3 recoilless rifle, also known as the Multi-role Anti-armor Anti-personnel Weapon System, or MAAWS. The improvements will make it more ergonomic, six pounds lighter and shorter.

Also read: The Army’s new grenade has a split personality

Maneuver officials at Fort Benning, Georgia, are also conducting a live-demo on the new Shoulder Launched Individual Munition, or SLIM, as part of the Army Expeditionary Warrior Experiments, or AEWE, 2017.

SLIM is a new lightweight, disposable shoulder-fired rocket, made by Aerojet Rocketdyne. It weighs 14.9 pounds and is designed to be safely fired from inside enclosures without causing hearing or respiratory system damage, Army officials at the Army’s Maneuver Center of Excellence at Benning maintain.

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A soldier tests the recoilless rifle known as the M3E1 Multi-role Anti-armor Anti-personnel Weapon System. | U.S. Army photo

“At 14.9 pounds, it lightens the soldier load, increases engagement lethality and flexibility by eliminating the need for multiple specialized rocket systems with single purpose warheads,” according to a recent press release from MCOE.

Officials from Benning’s Maneuver Battle Lab will document findings in an initial report on live fire capabilities Nov. 1 and present them in conjunction with the AEWE 2017 Insights Briefing to the public on March 1, 2017.

Findings from the assessment of SLIM and other technologies will inform the material selection process for the Individual Assault Munition capabilities development document and final production decision, Benning officials say.

The Individual Assault Munition, or IAM, is a next-generation, shoulder-launched munition being designed for use by the Objective Force Warrior.

IAM will also contribute to survivability by enabling soldiers to engage targets from protected positions without exposing themselves to enemy fire, Army officials maintain. The new weapon is being designed to combine the best capabilities of the M72 LAW, M136 AT4, M136E1 and M141 BDM and replace them in the Army arsenal.

Meanwhile, Aberdeen test officials are testing improvements to the M3 MAAWS . The 75th Ranger Regiment and other special operations forces began using the recoilless rifle in 1991.

The Army began ordering the M3 for conventional infantry units to use in Afghanistan in 2011. The M3 weighs about 21 pounds and measures 42 inches long. The breech-loading M3 fires an 84mm round that can reach out and hit enemy bunkers and light-armored vehicles up to 1,000 meters away.

Program officials will incorporate modern materials to “achieve input provided by U.S. Special Operations Command and other services’ users,” said Renee Bober, Product Manager for the M3E1 at U.S. Army Project Manager Soldier Weapons, in a recent Army press release.

To assist in the project with funding and expertise, the M3E1 team turned to the Army Foreign Comparative Testing Program and began working with the M3’s Swedish manufacturer, Saab Bofors Dynamics, for testing and qualifying its next-generation weapon, known as the M3A1.

Saab unveiled the new M3A1 in 2014. It’s significantly lighter and shorter than the M3 recoilless rifle. It weighs about 15 pounds and measures 39 3/8 inches long.

The Army project team traveled to Sweden so they could observe and validate the vendor’s testing instead of duplicating it back in the U.S., said William “Randy” Everett, FCT project manager.

“It was an innovative solution that saved more than $300,000,” he said.

When testing and qualifications are completed in spring 2017, it is scheduled to go into type classification in the fall of 2017, Army officials maintain. After that, the system will be available for procurement to all Department of Defense services.

The upgraded weapon will able to fire the existing suite of MAAWS ammunition, Army officials maintain.

One of the upgrades will include a shot counter. For safety reasons, a weapon should not fire more than its specified limit of rounds.

Right now, soldiers are manually recording the number of rounds fired in a notebook provided with each weapon. The shot counter will help the system last longer because soldiers can keep a more accurate count of how many rounds go through each weapon, Army officials maintain.

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