This is how the 'largest defense bill in history' pushes troops to stay in uniform - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

This is how the ‘largest defense bill in history’ pushes troops to stay in uniform

The House passed a nearly $700 billion bipartisan defense bill on Nov. 14, boosting the number of jet fighters, ships, and other weapons in an effort to rebuild what critics say is a depleted US military.


The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for 2018 also calls for an increase of more than 20,000 active-duty and reserve troops, as well as a 2.4% hike in troop pay.

It is the largest defense bill in US history, and lawmakers say the funding increase will improve military readiness and low retention rate.

“Over the last several years, we have seen an increase in threats and a decrease in funding for our military,” Rep. Mac Thornberry, chairman of the House Committee on Armed Services, said in a statement. “This year’s NDAA begins to rebuild our military and to ensure we can defend the American people.”

This is how the ‘largest defense bill in history’ pushes troops to stay in uniform
Maj. Gen. Walter L. Miller Jr. (left) the commanding general of II Marine Expeditionary Force, welcomes Rep. Mac Thornberry (right) at Marine Corps Air Station New River, N.C., March 18, 2016. Thornberry met with senior leaders and junior Marines from units with II MEF to discuss readiness, personnel, and equipment-related issues. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Lucas Hopkins)

Critics have complained that the Pentagon has abandoned the military in recent years. As a result, they say, the military has suffered from a low retention rate, lack of preparedness, and preventable officer misconduct.

“The military readiness crisis has impacted every service from ship collisions, aircraft crashes, and vehicle accidents to personnel shortages in critical roles, like aviation and cybersecurity,” Sen. John McCain said during a hearing on Nov. 14. “And by the way, the Congress is also complicit in this almost criminal behavior.”

Read Also: After years of declining military spending, the world is now re-arming

Under the newly proposed defense policy, the Army would see the greatest troop increase, with an added 7,500 active-duty and 1,000 reserve troops.

The Army has said they need more money in order to meet retention goals. Sgt. Major of the Army Daniel Dailey told an audience in February that the Army would need more money in order to offer bonuses and other incentives to increase retention.

This is how the ‘largest defense bill in history’ pushes troops to stay in uniform
(U.S. Army photo by Kristen Wong)

“We are going to go back and ask for more money,” Dailey said, referring to the then-upcoming NDAA.”That is exactly what we intend to do because we have to.”

House Democrats have also previously pushed for higher military pay, citing private sector opportunities that may pay more. The NDAA’s proposed 2.4% would match wage growth in the private sector.

“Our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines deserve pay increases that are competitive with opportunities in the private sector and that better reflect the gravity of their sacrifices on behalf of our nation,” Rep. Ruben Gallego said in a statement in June. “We should demonstrate our respect for their service not just in speeches and public gestures, but in their paychecks.”

Congress helps Trump fulfill a campaign promise

The NDAA exceeds President Donald Trump’s initial budget request by at least $26 billion, but the $700 billion total may not come to fruition if Congress doesn’t roll back a 2011 law that set strict limits on federal spending. Those limits would cap defense spending at $549 billion, according to Reuters.

This is how the ‘largest defense bill in history’ pushes troops to stay in uniform

The Senate will vote on the defense bill later this month. If it passes, Trump is expected to sign it into law, assuming Congress is able to resolve spending cap issue.

Trump had previously set the military pay raise at 2.1%.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump promised to rebuild the military, criticizing former President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for overseeing military cuts.

“As soon as I take office, I will ask Congress to fully eliminate the defense sequester and will submit a new budget to rebuild our military,” Trump promised during an interview on CNN. “It is so depleted. We will rebuild our military.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Museum creates massive replica of Nimitz flight deck

The National Naval Aviation Museum at Naval Air Station-Pensacola unveiled a nearly 9,000 square foot scale replica exhibit of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz’s (CVN 68) flight deck, Oct. 31, 2018.

The museum’s theater ticket counter was built to look like Nimitz’s island, and the flight deck is the second phase of the museum’s Nimitz project.


For the man in command of the ceremony, the Nimitz flight deck and having the towering 68 at his back was familiar territory.

“I’ve had the opportunity to deploy with her on three separate occasions,” said retired Navy Capt. Sterling Gillam, director, National Naval Aviation Museum. “My first arrested landing as a young aviator was on Nimitz. She is the oldest carrier in our fleet and in my opinion the most capable.”

This is how the ‘largest defense bill in history’ pushes troops to stay in uniform

Retired Marine Corps. Lt. Gen. Duane Theissen, President and CEO of the Naval Aviation Museum Foundation addresses guest during an unveiling of the 1/4 replica flight deck exhibit of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Cole Schroeder)

This exhibit is Gillam’s way of sharing a story in an interactive way. The exhibit gives viewers a chance to not only learn the history of Nimitz, but to see, touch and feel it.

“Our job here at the National Naval Aviation Museum is to tell the story of our rich, 107-year legacy of Naval aviation,” said Gillam. “That history is not static. Right now, men and women are flying off aircraft carriers around the world. These are Nimitz class carriers.”

There were many moving parts that brought this project, as well as the ceremony, together.

This is how the ‘largest defense bill in history’ pushes troops to stay in uniform

Retired Navy Capt. Sterling Gillam, left, Director of the Naval Aviation Museum along with retired Navy Vice Adm. Jim Zortman, middle, the chairman of the Naval Aviation Museum Foundation, and retired Marine Corps. Lt. Gen. Duane Theissen, President and CEO of NAMF prepare to cut the ribbon during an unveiling of a 1/4 replica flight deck exhibit of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz.

“The museum is a part of history,” said George Taylor, project manager. “The guys that worked with us to get the flooring in place, brought their families out. They were proud that they were a part of history.”

“This new display is designed to get our visitors in the frame of mind of what they’re going to experience throughout the museum,” said retired Marine Corps. Lt. Gen. Duane Thiessen, president and CEO of the Naval Aviation Museum Foundation. “They’re going to step on to a facsimile of a Nimitz class carrier. This is today. This is the Navy today. It’s deployed today. It’s operational today. These visitors are then going to go off of this carrier, through the museum, and they’re going to then learn and understand how they got to that point.”

This is how the ‘largest defense bill in history’ pushes troops to stay in uniform

Retired Navy Capt. Sterling Gillam, Director of the Naval Aviation Museum prepares the Ouija board display before the unveiling of replica flight deck exhibit of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Cole Schroeder)

Thiessen talked about the unveiling event as being the first of many experiences for those visiting the museum in the future.

“You come here, you’re going to get an experience,” said Thiessen. “You don’t just learn something, you get to touch it, you get to understand it, and you get to experience it.”

Although Nimitz will one day reach its life span and be replaced, its history and legacy will live on at the National Naval Aviation Museum.

Gillam may never again have the opportunity to launch from a flight deck or feel the jet’s tailhook catch the arresting gear wire. However, his contribution, and that of thousands of others who have served on board Nimitz, will be preserved as part of the Nimitz legacy.

This article originally appeared on the United States Navy. Follow @USNavy on Twitter.

Articles

Air Force upgrades F-15 to compete with Chinese J-10

The Air Force is reving up electronic warfare upgrades for its F-15 fighter as a way to better protect against enemy fire and electronic attacks, service officials said.


Boeing has secured a $478 million deal to continue work on a new technology called with a system called the Eagle Passive Active Warning Survivability System, or EPAWSS.

“This allows the aircraft to identify a threat and actively prosecute that threat through avoidance, deception or jamming techniques,” Mike Gibbons, Vice President of the Boeing F-15 program, told Scout Warrior in an interview a few months ago.

Related: Trump teases big order of F-18s in response to F-35 cost overruns

 These updated EW capabilities replace the Tactical Electronic Warfare Suite, which has been used since the 1980s, not long after the F-15 first deployed. The service plans to operate the fleet until the mid-2040’s, so an overhaul of the Eagle’s electronic systems helps maintain U.S. air supremacy, the contract announcement said.

Boeing won the initial contract for the EPAWSS project last year and hired BAE Systems as the primary subcontractor. 

Overall, the US Air Force is vigorously upgrading the 1980s-era F-15 fighter by giving new weapons and sensors in the hope of maintaining air-to-air superiority over the Chinese J-10 equivalent.

The multi-pronged effort not only includes the current addition of electronic warfare technology but also extends to super-fast high-speed computers, infrared search and track enemy targeting systems, increased networking ability and upgraded weapons-firing capability, Air Force and Boeing officials said.

“The Air Force plans to keep the F-15 fleet in service until the mid-2040’s.  Many of the F-15 systems date back to the 1970’s and must be upgraded if the aircraft is to remain operationally effective. Various upgrades will be complete as early as 2021 for the F-15C AESA (Active Electronically Scanned Array) radar and as late as 2032 for the various EW (electronic warfare) upgrades,” Air Force spokesman Maj. Rob Leese told Scout Warrior a few months ago.

The Air Force currently operates roughly 400 F-15C, D and E variants. A key impetus for the upgrade was well articulate in a Congressional report on the US and China in 2014. (US-China Economic and Security Review Commission —www.uscc.gov). Among other things, the report cited rapid Chinese technological progress and explained that the US margin of superiority has massively decreased since the 1980s.

As an example, the report said that in the 1980s, the US F-15 was vastly superior to the Chinese equivalent – the J-10. However, Chinese technical advances in recent years have considerably narrowed that gap to the point where the Chinese J-10 is now roughly comparable to the US F-15, the report explained.

Air Force and Boeing developers maintain that ongoing upgrades to the F-15 will ensure that this equivalence is not the case and that, instead, they will ensure the superiority of the F-15.

This is how the ‘largest defense bill in history’ pushes troops to stay in uniform
A Boeing Advanced F-15 Eagle on the flight line in St. Louis. | Boeing photo

Among the upgrades is an ongoing effort to equip the F-15 with the fastest jet-computer processer in the world, called the Advanced Display Core Processor, or ADCPII.

“It is capable of processing 87 billion instructions per second of computing throughput, translating into faster and more reliable mission processing capability for an aircrew,” Boeing spokesman Randy Jackson told Scout Warrior.

High tech targeting and tracking technology is also being integrated onto the F-15, Gibbons added. This includes the addition of a passive long-range sensor called Infrared Search and Track, or IRST.

The technology is also being engineered into the Navy F-18 Super Hornet. The technology can detect the heat signature, often called infrared emissions, of enemy aircraft.

“The system can simultaneously track multiple targets and provide a highly effective air-to-air targeting capability, even when encountering advanced threats equipped with radar-jamming technology,” Navy officials said.

IRST also provides an alternate air-to-air targeting system in a high threat electronic attack environment, Navy, Air Force and industry developers said.

The F-15 is also being engineered for additional speed and range, along with weapons-firing ability. The weapons-carrying ability is being increased from 8 up to 16 weapons; this includes an ability to fire an AIM-9x or AIM-120 missile. In addition, upgrades to the aircraft include adding an increased ability to integrate or accommodate new emerging weapons systems as they become available. This is being done through both hardware and software-oriented “open standards” IP protocol and architecture.

The aircraft is also getting a “fly-by-wire” automated flight control system.

“Fly by wire means when the pilot provides the input – straight to a computer than then determines how to have the aircraft perform the way it wants – provides electrical signals for the more quickly and more safely move from point to point as opposed to using a mechanical controls stick,” Gibbons explained.

This is how the ‘largest defense bill in history’ pushes troops to stay in uniform
The J-10 at Zhuhai airshow. | Creative Commons photo

Along with these weapons upgrades and other modifications, the F-15 is also getting upgrades to the pilot’s digital helmet and some radar signature reducing, or stealthy characteristics.

However, at the same time, the F-15 is not a stealthy aircraft and is expected to be used in combat environments in what is called “less contested” environments where the Air Force already has a margin of air superiority over advanced enemy air defenses.

Also read: World’s most-advanced aircraft carrier one step closer to completion

For this reason, the F-15 will also be increasing networked so as to better support existing 5th-generation platforms such as the F-22 and F-35, Air Force officials said.

The intent of these F-15 upgrades is to effectively perform the missions assigned to the F-15 fleet, which are to support the F-22 in providing air superiority and the F-35 in providing precision attack capabilities, Leese said.

“While these upgrades will not make these aircraft equivalent to 5th generation fighters, they will allow the F-15 to support 5th generation fighters in performing their missions, and will also allow F-15s to assume missions in more permissive environments where capabilities of 5th generation fighters are not required,” Leese added.

Gibbons added that the upgrades to the F-15 will ensure that the fighter aircraft remains superior to its Chinese equivalent.

“The F-15 as a vital platform that still has a capability that cannot be matched in terms of ability to fly high, fly fast, go very far carry a lot. It is an air dominance machine,” Gibbons explained.

Articles

Coast Guard commandos guarding Trump, deployed to Med

A little-known group of specially-trained Coast Guardsmen are playing a key role in securing a presidential retreat in Florida and guarding against the smuggling of doomsday weapons out of war-torn Syria.


Few know about the Coast Guard’s cadre of special operations units but that doesn’t mean they’re sitting idle, says the service’s top commander.

“This is a team that’s not sand lot ball. These are the pros that have very unique weapons skills and training and not everyone makes this team,” said Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft during a breakfast meeting with reporters April 12. “These teams are if anything probably over employed right now in terms of their optempo — both on the anti-terrorism front and on the counter-terrorism front as well.”

This is how the ‘largest defense bill in history’ pushes troops to stay in uniform
The official patch of the Coast Guard’s Maritime Security Response Team. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)

Established in the years after 9/11 to provide another layer of special operations capability both in the United States and worldwide, the Coast Guard previously housed these various specialized teams under one command, dubbed the “Deployable Operations Group.” Comprised of highly-trained boat teams, crisis response forces and counter proliferation experts, the DOG was disbanded in 2012 and its units dispersed to separate commands.

Despite its troubled past, the Coast Guard’s special operators are front and center in some of America’s most high profile missions. Zukunft said his teams are providing maritime security for President Donald Trump when he visits his golf resort at Mar a Lago in Florida, working closely with the U.S. Secret Service to protect world leaders from potential attack.

This is how the ‘largest defense bill in history’ pushes troops to stay in uniform
Security Zones in vicinity of Mar A Lago, Florida are established during VIP visits to the Miami area. (U.S. Coast Guard photo illustration by Seventh Coast Guard District)

“I had three teams providing force protection for presidents of the two largest nations in the world — China and the United States — at Mar a Lago. That’s what these teams do, Zukunft said. “We’re seeing more and more of these nationally significant security events in the maritime domain.”

The service’s capability also includes Coast Guardsmen trained to locate and secure chemical and nuclear weapons — operators that are part of the Maritime Security Response Teams. Similar to SEALs, the MSRT Coast Guardsmen can take down ships, oil platforms and other vehicles used to smuggle WMD material over water.

It’s members of these MSRT units that are currently deployed to help the U.S. military guard against doomsday weapons leaking out of Syria and other regional hotspots.

This is how the ‘largest defense bill in history’ pushes troops to stay in uniform
The Coast Guard’s Maritime Security Response Team (MSRT) from Virginia participates in a training evolution in Hyannis, Mass., Thursday, Oct. 22, 2015. The highly trained and specialized team, using a real-world underway ferry, practiced tactical boardings-at-sea, active shooter scenarios, and detection of radiological material. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Ross Ruddell)

“We have a full-up [counter terrorism team] deployed right now in the Mediterranean in support of CENTCOM. It’s an advanced interdiction team in case there is any movement of a weapon of mass destruction,” Zukunft said. “This is a team that if necessary, forces itself onboard a ship … and they have all of the weapons skills of special forces, but they have law enforcement authority.”

Despite the rocky road in the unit’s formation, Zukunft is confident the Coast Guard’s special operations units are here to stay.

“To turn the lights out and then decide ‘whoa we have this threat’ — it’s going to take [a while] to reconstitute that, and in doing so the assumption would be that we will never have a terrorist attack directed agains the United States ever again,” he said. “I am not willing to make that assumption. I am all in.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Here’s the (failed) status of the first private lunar mission

April 11, 2019 Editor’s Note: NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine released the following statement on the Beresheet lunar lander: “While NASA regrets the end of the SpaceIL mission without a successful lunar landing of the Beresheet lander, we congratulate SpaceIL, the Israel Aerospace Industries and the state of Israel on the incredible accomplishment of sending the first privately funded mission into lunar orbit. Every attempt to reach new milestones holds opportunities for us to learn, adjust and progress. I have no doubt that Israel and SpaceIL will continue to explore and I look forward to celebrating their future achievements.”

Following a nearly two-month journey, the first private robotic spacecraft to attempt a Moon landing is on track to meet its goal on April 11, 2019, and NASA is a partner in SpaceIL’s Beresheet mission. The landing attempt comes on the heels of the agency’s own charge from the president to accelerate its plans to send astronauts to the surface of the Moon by 2024.


“NASA wants to conduct numerous science and technology demonstrations across the surface of the Moon, and we will do so with commercial and international partners,” said Steve Clarke, deputy associate administrator for Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “Supporting SpaceIL and the Israel Space Agency (ISA) with this mission is a prime example of how we can do more, together. We’re hoping a successful landing here will set the tone for future lunar landers, including our series of upcoming commercial deliveries to the Moon.”

In addition to providing access to the agency’s Deep Space Network to aid in communication during the mission, NASA launched a navigation device on Beresheet, SpaceIL’s Moon lander, which will provide lunar surface location details that can be used by future landers for navigation. Beresheet is carrying a NASA instrument called a laser retroreflector array. Smaller than a computer mouse, it features eight mirrors made of quartz cube corners set in an aluminum frame. This configuration allows the device to reflect light coming from any direction back to its source.

This is how the ‘largest defense bill in history’ pushes troops to stay in uniform

Illustration of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.

(NASA Goddard Space Flight Center)

NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter or LRO, will attempt to take scientific measurements of the SpaceIL lander as it lands on the Moon. LRO will try to use its own instrument called a laser altimeter, which measures altitude, to shoot laser pulses at Beresheet’s retroreflector and then measure how long it takes the light to bounce back.

By using this technique, engineers expect to be able to pinpoint Beresheet’s location within 4 inches (10 centimeters).

This simple technology, requiring neither power nor maintenance, may make it easier to navigate to locations on the Moon, asteroids, and other bodies. It could also be dropped from a spacecraft onto the surface of a celestial body where the reflector could help scientists track the object’s spin rate or position in space.

“It’s a fixed marker you may return to it any time,” said David E. Smith, principal investigator of the Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter, or LOLA, on the LRO.

The ISA and SpaceIL will also share data with NASA from another instrument installed aboard the spacecraft. The data will be made publicly available through NASA’s Planetary Data System.

This is how the ‘largest defense bill in history’ pushes troops to stay in uniform

A graphic showing Beresheet’s path to the Moon. Dates correspond with Israel Standard Time.

(SpaceIL)


Beresheet launched Feb. 21, 2019, on SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The spacecraft completed a maneuver April 4, 2019, called a lunar capture that placed it in an elliptical orbit around the Moon, setting the stage for its first landing attempt on April 11, 2019. Beresheet is targeting an area known as the Sea of Serenity (Mare Serenitatis in Latin), which is near where NASA’s Apollo 17 astronauts landed in 1972.

The president’s direction from Space Policy Directive-1 galvanizes NASA’s return to the Moon and builds on progress on the Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft, collaborations with U.S industry and international partners, and knowledge gained from current robotic assets at the Moon and Mars.

For more information about NASA’s Moon to Mars exploration plans, visit: https://www.nasa.gov/moontomars

This article originally appeared on NASA. Follow @NASA on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Russia’s new hypersonic missiles already leaked to spies

Russia’s Federal Security Service reportedly suspects that plans for two of Russia’s new, game-changing hypersonic missiles have been leaked to Western spies.

Russia’s Ministry of Defense on July 19, 2018, released new footage of two of its most revolutionary weapons systems: a hypersonic Kh-47M2 “Kinzhal” nuclear-capable, anti-surface missile and the Avangard, a maneuverable ballistic missile reentry vehicle specifically made to outfox the US missile defenses arrayed around Europe.

Related video:

The Federal Security Service, known as the FSB, now suspects these systems, each of which cope with the challenges of flight at about 10 times the speed of sound, have been leaked to the West.

“It was established that the leak came from TsNIIMash employees,” a source close to the FSB investigation told Russia’s Kommersant newspaper, as the BBC noted. TsNIIMash is a Russian state-owned defense and space company.

“A lot of heads will roll, and for sure this case won’t end just with a few dismissals,” the source said.

This is how the ‘largest defense bill in history’ pushes troops to stay in uniform

A Boeing X-51 hypersonic cruise missile at Edwards Air Force Base in California in 2010.

(U.S. Air Force photo)

The hypersonic arms race

The US, China, and Russia are all locked in a heated arms race to create weapons that can travel many times the speed of sound, defeating today’s missile-defense systems.

China and Russia frequently test their weapons and have even fielded a few systems ahead of the US, but their focus is nuclear, while the US seeks a more technically difficult goal.

With nuclear weapons, like the kind Russia and China want on their hypersonics, accuracy doesn’t matter. But the US wants hypersonics for precision-strike missiles, meaning it has the added challenge of trying to train a missile raging at mach 10 to hit within a few feet of a target.

Given that nuclear weapons represent the highest level of conflict imaginable, believed in most cases to be a world-ending scenario, the US’s vision for precision-guided hypersonic conventional weapons that no missile defenses can block would seem to have more applications. The US’s proposed hypersonics could target specific people and buildings, making them useful for strikes like the recent ones in Syria.

But if Russia’s hypersonic know-how has somehow slipped into Western hands, as the FSB has reportedly indicated, then its comparative advantage could be even weaker.

Featured image: A MiG-31 firing a hypersonic Kh-47M2 “Kinzhal” nuclear-capable, anti-surface missile.

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

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MIGHTY TRENDING

The President says the Post Office is Amazon’s ‘delivery boy’

President Donald Trump lashed out against Amazon on July 23, 2018, saying the US Postal Service is its “delivery boy.”

“The Amazon Washington Post has gone crazy against me ever since they lost the Internet Tax Case in the U.S. Supreme Court two months ago,” Trump tweeted, seemingly referring to a high court ruling in June 2018 that freed states to collect sales tax on online purchases. “Next up is the Post Office which they use, at a fraction of real cost, as their “delivery boy” for a BIG percentage of their packages.”


Trump has argued that Amazon takes advantage of the postal service, which he claims is losing money from the e-commerce giant. But the post office had been slipping into the red since before the rise of Amazon and is not funded directly by taxpayers.

July 23, 2018’s tweets are just the latest in a string of attacks on Amazon that have carried on for months.

“I am right about Amazon costing the United States Post Office massive amounts of money for being their Delivery Boy,” Trump tweeted in April 2018. “Amazon should pay these costs (plus) and not have them bourne by the American Taxpayer. Many billions of dollars. P.O. leaders don’t have a clue (or do they?)!”

This is how the ‘largest defense bill in history’ pushes troops to stay in uniform

Amazon chief executive officer Jeff Bezos

(Flickr / Steve Jurvetson)

Part of Trump’s frustrations toward Amazon seem to be associated with its chief executive officer Jeff Bezos owning the Washington Post. The tweets came after a weekend of critical news reports on the White House and the Trump campaign.

“In my opinion the Washington Post is nothing more than an expensive (the paper loses a fortune) lobbyist for Amazon,” Trump tweeted. “Is it used as protection against the antitrust claims which many feel should be brought?”

Shares of Amazon fell as much as 2.4% following the tweets. They’re up 54% this year.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Coast Guard caught a sea turtle with $53 million in cocaine

The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Thetis was just doing their thing in November, 2017, hunting smugglers and mapping America’s puddles (or whatever it is they do), when they came across the ultimate smuggler: an ancient sea monster with $53 million of drugs in tow.


This is how the ‘largest defense bill in history’ pushes troops to stay in uniform

USCGC Thetis transits past the USCGC Tampa Bay in Key West.

(U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Lisa Ferdinando)

The Coast Guard first spotted the drugs with an Over The Horizon small boat, identifying it as a debris patch with contraband likely in it. When the pursuit mission commander arrived at the debris field, he identified both the cocaine and a sea turtle caught in the middle of it.

Despite catching the sea turtle swimming with bales of contraband on it, the commander kept an open mind about whether or not the sea turtle was involved in the underlying crime.

This is how the ‘largest defense bill in history’ pushes troops to stay in uniform

A crewman from the USCGC Thetis prepares to cut a sea turtle free of bales of cocaine.

(Coast Guard

The Coast Guardsmen identified chaffing on the sea turtle and went to render aid. Speaking of which, seriously guys —do not leave trash lines in the ocean. Slowly dying of infection from chaffing or starvation because you can’t hunt is a horrible way to go.

The Coast Guardsmen cut the turtle free and allowed it to swim away without further investigation, instead concentrating on recovering what turned out to be 1,800 pounds of cocaine valued at million. They also recovered the 75 feet of lines and cords which would’ve been a persistent threat to sea turtles and other wildlife.

This is how the ‘largest defense bill in history’ pushes troops to stay in uniform

For some reason, these are the best photos the Coast Guard released of the sea turtle rescue. Not sure if all Coast Guardsmen are limited to smart phones from 2008 or what, but we would include better photos if we had them.

(U.S. Coast Guard)

The encounter was part of Operation Martillo, and USCGC Thetis was on a 68-day patrol where the Coast Guard and its partners ultimately captured 5 million worth of drugs, mostly cocaine and marijuana.

While the Coast Guard is often mocked as being not real military or being “puddle pirates” (see the intro paragraph), the service does amazing work in the Pacific, capturing massive amounts of drugs otherwise destined for illegal U.S. markets. For the past few years, they’ve captured three times as many drugs at sea as the rest of law enforcement has captured within the U.S. and at all land borders.

This is how the ‘largest defense bill in history’ pushes troops to stay in uniform

USCGC Thetis arrives in Naval Station Guantanamo Bay in 2010.

(U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer Bill Mesta)

And the Coast Guard has done this while being dramatically under-resourced for such a large mission. They can often only put three cutters onto the mission at a time, and are only able to interdict 20 to 25 percent of the seaborne drugs headed into the country.

As one Coast Guard officer put it to Men’s Journal, “imagine a police force trying to cover the entire U.S. with three cars. That’s the tactical problem we’re trying to solve.”

The U.S. isn’t the only country involved in the efforts. Operation Martillo has been going on since 2012 and has member countries from South America and Europe, and Canadian forces were part of the sea turtle rescue. SOUTHCOM says the operation has scooped up over 693 metric tons of cocaine, nearly 600 sea vessels and aircraft, and nearly 2,000 smugglers since it was launched in early 2012. It’s also nabbed million in bulk cash.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Iran and the US trade escalating threats on Twitter

President Donald Trump shot down a veiled vision of peace offered by Iran’s president on July 22, 2018, to full-on threaten the Islamic Republic with historically epic confrontation — and it looks as if his administration could topple the country.

“To Iranian President Rouhani: NEVER, EVER THREATEN THE UNITED STATES AGAIN OR YOU WILL SUFFER CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE,” Trump tweeted.

“WE ARE NO LONGER A COUNTRY THAT WILL STAND FOR YOUR DEMENTED WORDS OF VIOLENCE & DEATH. BE CAUTIOUS!” he continued.


Trump was responding to statements from Rouhani, Iran’s elected political leader who serves at the pleasure of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the country’s religious supreme leader.

In a meeting with Iranian diplomats, Rouhani offered a vision of peace with the US but also said a conflict between the two would be “the mother of all wars.”

According to Reuters, he said: “America should know that peace with Iran is the mother of all peace, and war with Iran is the mother of all wars.”

Rouhani’s statement, though balanced against the threat of massive war, actually represents a shift in Iranian foreign policy.

Iran has strongly opposed the US since its theocratic government took power in 1979, with officials chanting “death to America” in parliament. Iran’s navy has the explicit, though lofty, operational goal of destroying the US Navy.

This is how the ‘largest defense bill in history’ pushes troops to stay in uniform

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani

Trump is coming for Iran’s leadership

Rouhani, in extending a veiled olive branch, may have been acting in anticipation of an onslaught by Trump.

A new report from Reuters suggests Trump’s administration has launched a campaign designed to topple Iran’s leaders.

Several officials told Reuters that Trump would pressure Iran’s leaders with tough sanctions and an information campaign meant to erode their support.

Recent statements from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo indicate this shift has already taken place, as the US expresses its hope for the Iranian people to install a more moderate, secular government.

This is how the ‘largest defense bill in history’ pushes troops to stay in uniform

An Iranian woman protesting the theocratic government’s rule that all women must wear headscarves in public.

(My Stealthy Freedom آزادی یواشکی زنان در ایران / Facebook)

It could actually work

Since late 2017, Iran has seen wave after wave of grassroots protests with citizens rejecting the regime’s economic, social, and foreign policies.

Iranian women rejecting the forced dress code of headscarves have become emblematic of the movement.

While European countries strongly opposed Trump’s withdrawal of the US from the Iran nuclear deal, the threat of US sanctions has successfully made Tehran a pariah in the business world.

After Trump’s withdrawal, Iran’s currency ballooned and the government imposed a set of strict financial controls on its citizens, capping the amount of foreign currency they can hold and seizing overseas accounts.

As Iran’s working class rejects the government’s foreign-policy ambitions, the upper class has had its aspirations of foreign travel or education crushed by such financial restrictions. Iran’s government has responded to protests with security forces and violence time and time again, but the unrest has continued on a regular basis in 2018.

At the same time, Israel has proved adept at beating back Iran in its push toward the Mediterranean. In May 2018, after a rocket attack that Israel attributed to Iran, Israeli jets devastated a large swath of Iranian forces in Syria.

Russia, normally a powerful ally of Iran, swiftly turned its back on Tehran, refusing to sell it air defenses even when its forces were coming under heavy fire from Israel and telling Iran’s militias to leave Syria.

Karim Sadjadpour, an Iran expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace think tank, told Reuters that Trump’s strategy could produce one of two outcomes.

“Outcome one is capitulation, forcing Iran to further curtail not only its nuclear program but also its regional ambitions,” Sadjadpour said. “Outcome two is the implosion of the Islamic Republic.”

The US maintains it does not seek regime change for any country, even those as antagonistic as Iran and North Korea.

But the people of Iran have shown a genuine distaste for the theocracy’s policies, and the noted Iran hawks Pompeo and John Bolton, the national security adviser, may see the opportunity as too good to pass up.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Army is holding a competition for the world’s best tank crew

Four-person tank crews from across the U.S. Army, U.S. Marine Corps and partner nations met at Fort Benning, Georgia, to take part in the Sullivan Cup April 30 through May 4, 2018. The Sullivan Cup is a biennial competition to determine the best tank crew through a series of scored tests.

The Maneuver Center of Excellence, the U.S. Army Armor School, and the 316th Cavalry Brigade host the competition.


At a demonstration at Red Cloud Range at Fort Benning April 27, 2018, Col. Thomas Feltey, 316th Cavalry Brigade commander, talked about the competition, which began Monday, April 30, and to which the public is invited.

“You’re going to see a demonstration of our Army’s tank crews’ proficiency, conducting both live fire and maneuver exercises,” said Feltey. “What we’re putting together is a series of arduous testing — it’s both technical and tactical — to get the most out of our Soldiers in this competition.”

The crews are from the following units:

– 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division
– 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division
– 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division
– 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division
– 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division
– 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division
– 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division
– 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division
– 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division
– 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division
– 11th Armored Cavalry Division
– U.S. Marine Corps
– 30th Armored Brigade Combat Team, 29th Infantry Division, National Guard
– The School of Armour, Australian Army
– 35th Brigade, Kuwait Land Force

Feltey stressed the complexity of the tank crew’s performance.

“There’s a lot of activity that goes on inside these tanks, so they’ve got to synchronize the actions of the driver, the loader, the gunner and the tank commander,” he said. “Then they’ve got to understand the terrain so they can move their vehicle tactically … while taking into account what the enemy is doing.”

This is how the ‘largest defense bill in history’ pushes troops to stay in uniform
Winner of the 2016 Sullivan Cup Competition.

One of the goals of the Sullivan Cup, according to Feltey, is the demonstration of good doctrinal technique, which begins at the Maneuver Center of Excellence and Fort Benning.

“We’re following our doctrinal foundation of our integrated weapons training strategy,” he said. “And we’re modeling exactly what these tank crews and these units can do back at their home station. So really, in our way, it’s Fort Benning leading the way and showing our Army what right looks like.”

Throughout the week, the crews are scheduled to perform a gunnery skills test, engage targets with their tanks’ weapon systems, call for fire, take written exams, perform tank-related physical fitness tasks, conduct a competitive combat maneuver exercise, conduct a timed stress shoot, and more.

The weeklong competition is open to members of the public, whom Felty welcomed so they might witness the difficult work that goes into tank operation.

“This is their Army, so it’s a great opportunity for them to come out and see what we do on a daily basis,” he said. “There’s a lot of hard work and a lot of preparation that goes into being able to fire these tanks.”

The first big event of the Sullivan Cup was Operation Thunderbolt, which took place in the afternoon of April 30, 2018, at Red Cloud Range.

“If they come to the demonstration on Monday, they’re not only going to get to see a tank, but arguably they’re going to feel the power of the 120mm main gun and also our mortars that are out here,” said Feltey.

Children younger than 5 and pregnant women should not attend.

To keep up with the Sullivan Cup, visit the Maneuver Center of Excellence and Fort Benning Facebook page at www.fb.com/fortbenningmcoe. Family and friends are encouraged to tweet updates on their teams during the competition using @FortBenning and the hashtag #Sullivancup.

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @usarmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Kim family visits South Korea for the first time since the Korean War

The sister of the North Korean leader on Feb. 9 2018 became the first member of her family to visit South Korea since the 1950-53 Korean War as part of a high-level delegation attending the opening ceremony of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.


Arriving on her brother Kim Jong Un’s white private jet for a three-day visit, Kim Yo Jong and the country’s 90-year-old nominal head of state Kim Yong Nam are scheduled to meet with South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Feb. 10 in a luncheon at Seoul’s presidential palace.

Dressed in a black coat, carrying a black shoulder bag, and hit with a barrage of camera flashes, Kim Yo Jong smiled as a group of South Korean officials, including Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon, greeted her and the rest of the delegates at a meeting room at Incheon International Airport.

The North Koreans — also including Choe Hwi, chairman of the country’s National Sports Guidance Committee, and Ri Son Gwon, chairman of the North’s agency that deals with inter-Korean affairs — then moved down a floor on an escalator to board a high-speed train to Pyeongchang.

Also read: Kim Jong Un suspected of ordering assassination of nephew

Moon has been trying to use the games as an opportunity to revive meaningful communication with North Korea after a period of diplomatic stalemate and eventually pull it into talks over resolving the international standoff over its nuclear program.

The last time a South Korean president invited North Korean officials to the presidential Blue House was in November 2007, when late liberal President Roh Moo-hyun, the political mentor of Moon, hosted then-North Korean premier Kim Yong Il for a luncheon following a meeting between the countries’ senior officials.

Skeptics say North Korea, which is unlikely to give up its nukes under any deal, is just using the Olympics to poke holes at the U.S.-led international sanctions against the country and buy more time to further advance its strategic weaponry.

The North Korean delegation’s arrival came a day after Kim Jong Un presided over a massive military parade in Pyongyang that was highlighted by the country’s developmental intercontinental ballistic missiles, which in three flight tests last year showed potential ability to reach deep into the U.S. mainland when perfected.

Related: North and South Korea to train together at the Winter Olympics

South Korean media have been speculating about whether Kim will send a personal message to Moon through his sister and, if so, whether it would include a proposal for a summit between the two leaders.

Kim Yo Jong, believed to be around 30, is the first member of North Korea’s ruling family to visit the South since the Korean War.

As first vice director of the Central Committee of North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party, Kim has been an increasingly prominent figure in North Korea’s leadership and is considered one of the few people who has earned her brother’s absolute trust.

Analysts say the North’s decision to send her to the Olympics shows an ambition to break out from diplomatic isolation and pressure by improving relations with the South, which it could use as a bridge for approaching the United States.

By sending a youthful, photogenic person who will undoubtedly attract international attention during the games, North Korea may also be trying to craft a fresher public image and defang any U.S. effort to use the Olympics to highlight the North’s brutal human rights record.

South Korea has yet to announce a confirmed schedule for the North Korean delegates aside from their participation in the opening ceremony and the Feb. 8 luncheon with Moon.

This is how the ‘largest defense bill in history’ pushes troops to stay in uniform
South Korean President Moon Jae-in. (Photo from official South Korea Flickr.)

There’s a possibility that they would attend the debut of the first-ever inter-Korean Olympic team at the women’s ice hockey tournament, hours after their meeting with Moon. They could also see a performance by a visiting North Korean art troupe in Seoul before heading back to Pyongyang.

The North has sent nearly 500 people to the Pyeongchang Games, including officials, athletes, artists and also a 230-member state-trained cheering group after the war-separated rivals agreed to a series of conciliatory gestures for the games.

Moon, a liberal whose presidential win in May last year ended a decade of conservative rule in Seoul, has always expressed a willingness to reach out to the North. His efforts received a boost when Kim Jong Un in his New Year’s Day speech called for improved ties between the Koreas and expressed willingness to send athletes to Pyeongchang.

This led to a series of talks where the Koreas agreed to have its delegates jointly march during the opening ceremony under a blue-and-white “unification” flag and field a combined team in women’s ice hockey. A North Korean art troupe also performed in Gangneung on Feb. 8 2018 and will perform in Seoul on Feb. 11 2018 before heading back home.

More: North and South Korea just took an enormous step back from war

Critics say that South Korea while cooperating with its rival over the Olympics allowed itself to play into the hands of the North which is apparently trying to use the games to weaken sanctions.

South Korea allowed the North to use a 9,700-ton ferry to transport more than 100 artists to perform at the Olympics, treating it as an exemption to maritime sanctions it imposed on its rival, and is now considering whether to accept the North’s request to supply fuel for the ship.

While neither Kim Yo Jong nor Kim Yong Nam are among the North Korean officials blacklisted under U.N. sanctions, the U.S. Treasury Department last year included Kim Yo Jong on its list of blacklisted officials over her position as vice director of the ruling Workers’ Party’s Propaganda and Agitation Department.

The U.N. committee monitoring sanctions against North Korea has proposed granting an exemption for Choe, who has been on the U.N. sanctions blacklist since last June.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

These are the Black Hawk’s new futuristic cockpit upgrades

In keeping with technological advancements and modernization, a Corpus Christi Army Depot (CCAD) Induction ceremony was held Jan. 9, 2019, to mark the beginning of the newest upgrades to the UH-60 Black Hawk Helicopter.

According to Jackie Allen, industrial engineer, CCAD, the modernization process of the Lima-model helicopters is twofold: To introduce an affordable and relevant technological upgrades, and to improve the aviation community’s requirements for such a helicopter.


The Corpus Christi Army Depot will begin the nine-step recapitalization process on the Black Hawk, with six more to follow this fiscal year, said Allen. The final end state scheduled for the Corpus Christi Army Depot is 760 converted Victor-model Black Hawks.

Specifics to the modification are focused on the cockpit and the electronic components within, said Don Dawson, director of aircraft production, CCAD.

This is how the ‘largest defense bill in history’ pushes troops to stay in uniform

Col. Gail Atkins, commander, CCAD, speaks to Lt. Col. Andrew Duus (right), product manager, Program Executive Office, Aviation, Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, and depot employees about the significance of CCAD having the opportunity to be selected to lead the UH-60V (Victor model) Black Hawk helicopter project during the CCAD UH-60V Induction Ceremony

(Photo by Quentin Johnson)

“[Lima models] have an old analog dial instrumentation,” said Dawson. “What this [upgrade] does is gives [the Victor model] a full glass cockpit,” which is similar to the Mike model.

A glass cockpit is a digital suite that streamlines an enhanced management system allowing for better Pilot-Vehicle Interface — or PVI — added Allen.

Many advantages to a better PVI, include using a moving map, enhanced messaging between the pilots and commands, and the best navigation system available, which is part of an open system architecture, said Lt. Col. Andrew Duus, product manager, Program Executive Office, Aviation, Redstone Arsenal, Alabama.

“The open system architecture will significantly minimize the time getting new technology uploaded into the aircraft,” said Duus.

The upgrade goes further than implementing an infrastructure to improving pilot interaction and training efforts. Dawson said, the upgrade will “help the pilots with all the information flow coming to them … it synergizes the information and gives it to them in bite-size pieces.”

This is how the ‘largest defense bill in history’ pushes troops to stay in uniform

CCAD leaders, employees and visitors pose for a photo in front of a UH-60L (Lima model) Black Hawk helicopter immediately following the CCAD UH-60V Induction Ceremony.

(Photo by Quentin Johnson)

Additionally, the upgrade will help to train pilots, as most are learning on Mike models that are already equipped with the digital cockpit. “[The upgrade] will speed up the cost of training for new pilots, because they now can learn, essentially, one cockpit instead of two,” added Dawson.

The CCAD is prepared for this project, which is considered a “significant responsibility” given the depot’s position to produce such a “phenomenal helicopter for our [Army],” said Col. Gail Atkins, commander, Corpus Christi Army Depot.

Duus said he and PEO leadership are thankful for the Depot’s commitment to this project and are confident in the work they perform.

“The legacy and trust that has been established by [CCAD] is what has got us here … I look forward to working with all of you and harness the value you provide,” said Duus.

The U.S. Army has utilized the Black Hawk since the 1970s. They are offered in multiple airframe configurations, including the Alpha, Lima, Mike and Victor models, all used to provide air assault, general support, aeromedical evacuation, command and control, and special operations support to combat, stability and support operations.

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

China cries at launch of new Japanese destroyer

Japan recently launched a new class of destroyer with top-of-the line US missile-defense technology, and despite Japan’s mostly defensive posture, China portrayed the ship as a dangerous menace.

The seven decades since World War II, which concluded with the US dropping two atomic bombs on Japan, have seen the rise of a strong US-Japanese alliance and peace across the Pacific.


Japan, following its colonization of much of China during the war, renounced military aggression after surrendering to the US. Since then, Japan hasn’t kept a standing military but maintains what it calls a self-defense force. Japan’s constitution strictly limits defense spending and doesn’t allow the deployment of troops overseas.

But threats from North Korea, which several times has fired nuclear-capable missiles over Japan, have prompted a desire in Tokyo for missile defenses, which the US has obliged, manifesting itself in part in Japan’s new Maya destroyer class.

This is how the ‘largest defense bill in history’ pushes troops to stay in uniform

Japan’s Maya-class ballistic missile defense destroyer

(Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force)

“It’s not a big deal that they have this ship,” Veerle Nouwens, an Asia-Pacific expert at the Royal United Services Institute, told Business Insider. “They’re using it for military exchanges or diplomacy. That’s effectively what it’s doing by going around to India, Sri Lanka, and Singapore.”

The new destroyer isn’t a radical departure from Japan’s old ones and will spend most of its time training with and visiting neighboring militaries. The destroyer isn’t exactly a rubber ducky, but it has one of the more peaceful missions imaginable for a warship.

One reason it may have drawn rebuke from Beijing is simple geography. This destroyer will have to pass through the South China Sea, and that is extremely sensitive for Beijing, which unilaterally claims almost the whole sea as its own in open defiance of international law.

China’s Global Times state-linked media outlet responded to the ship’s launch by saying it was “potentially targeting China and threatening other countries,” citing Chinese experts.

“Once absolute security is realized by Japan and the US, they could attack other countries without scruples,” one such expert said, “which will certainly destabilize other regions.”

This is how the ‘largest defense bill in history’ pushes troops to stay in uniform

The various territorial claims over the South China Sea

China’s real game

“China seeks full control over the South China Sea,” Nouwens said. “We can say that quite squarely. It seeks to displace the US from its traditional position from its regional dominance in Southeast Asia and the Asia-Pacific more widely.”Since World War II, the US, particularly the US Navy, has enforced free and open seas and a rules-based world order. Imposed at a massive cost to the US, this order has enriched the world and specifically China, as safe shipping in open waters came as a given to businesses around the globe.

But now, Nouwens said, “China is threatening to lead to a situation where that may not be a given anymore.”

China has repeatedly threatened force against countries that seek to undertake simple activities, like fishing, within their own UN-designated maritime borders. But when a US Navy ship passes through the South China Sea, Beijing calls it provocative, unhelpful, or destabilizing.

“When other countries do it, it’s threatening,” Nouwens said. “When China does it to other countries, it’s fine.”

That the only two countries to ever engage in nuclear war can now work together as partners looking to protect the rights of all countries on the high seas might represent a welcome and peaceful development.

But for Beijing, which fundamentally seeks to undermine that world order to further its goals of dominating Asia, it’s cause for worry.

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

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