The head of the Missile Defense Agency has expressed concerns about America’s long-term ability to defend the homeland in the face of growing threats from North Korea.
The U.S. military conducted a successful intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) intercept test in May. An interceptor launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California eliminated a mock long-range missile fired from the Reagan Test Site on Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands in the Pacific. The results of the test have boosted the MDA’s confidence, but there is still much more work to be done.
Vice Admiral James Syring, the director of the MDA, told the House Armed Services Committee Wednesday that the recent intercept test was an “exact replica” of what the U.S. would face in the event of a North Korean missile strike.
“The scenario that we conducted was maybe more operationally realistic than not,” he explained.
North Korea has tested multiple new ballistic missile systems this year. The Hwasong-12 intermediate-range ballistic missile and Pukguksong-2 medium-range ballistic missile could be the technological predecessors to liquid and solid-fueled ICBM systems.
“Today, we are ahead” of the threat, Syring explained in his testimony, “We need to stay ahead.”
“I would not say we are comfortably ahead of the threat; I would say we are addressing the threat that we know today,” Syring testified. “The advancements in the last six months have caused great concern to me and others, in the advancement of and demonstration of technology of ballistic missiles from North Korea.”
North Korea does not yet have an ICBM, but it appears to be moving in that direction at an accelerated pace. While the North may still be several years from developing this kind of technology, defense officials believe that it is necessary to assume that North Korea can “range” the U.S. with a long-range ballistic missile.
In the wake of the recent test, the Department of Defense upgraded its assessment of the capabilities of the U.S. missile shield. For years, the U.S. has maintained “limited capability” to defend against North Korean missiles. The Ground-based Midcourse Defense system has “demonstrated the capability to defend the U.S. homeland from a small number of intermediate-range or intercontinental missile threats with simple countermeasures,” the Pentagon said in a recent memo, according to Reuters.
Nonetheless, the system needs improvements. “It’s just not the interceptor, the entire system,” Syring said June 7, “We are not there yet.”
“We have continued work with the redesigned kill vehicle. We have continued work with the reliability of the other components of the system to make it totally reliable,” he said. “We are not done yet.”
Some expert observers have suggested that the recent intercept test may not have been as realistic as the MDA claims, leaving something to be desired.
“I think Syring was overstating the case,” Joshua Pollack, editor of The Nonproliferation Review and senior research associate in the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, told The DCNF. “A real situation involving ICBM attack could include such unpleasant circumstances as multiple, simultaneous launches on different trajectories; decoys and chaff; intercepts in the shadow of the Earth (not illuminated by sunlight); and attacks on the [Ballistic Missile Defense] system itself by various means.”
“The intercept geometry, as depicted by MDA, in no way, shape or form resembles a [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] ICBM attack against [the continental U.S.],” Jeffrey Lewis, the director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program in the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, tweeted Wednesday. “To be fair, MDA was right to walk before trying to run. A (sic) easy test is totally fine, but Adm. Syring appears to be over-claiming a bit.”
The range of the mock ICBM was 5,800 kilometers, which would give the missile a much slower closing speed than a real North Korean ICBM covering a distance of 9,000 to 11,000 kilometers would have. Faster closing speeds, according to Laura Grego, a senior scientist with the Union of Concerned Scientists, “give the interceptor less time to make course corrections, and are therefore more stressing for the interceptor.”
The head-on engagement trajectory of the May test is also inconsistent with the likely conditions of a North Korean strike.
“This test approximates many aspects of an intercept against an ICBM launched from North Korea, but the target and intercept geometry would be very different in a real attack,” Lewis told TheDCNF. “The missile would be launched closer to the interceptor site, would have a significantly longer range, and (in the case of an attack on DC) moving away from the interceptor site at a much greater angle.”
“MDA is limited by the existing test infrastructure and the very high cost of tests, so we should be reasonable about how realistic MDA can make any test,” he added. “But, in exchange, MDA needs to be reasonable in making claims about what has been demonstrated.”
Other scholars, however, believe the recent intercept test was a big breakthrough.
“This is a good day for homeland missile defense and a bad day for Kim Jong-un,” Thomas Karako, the director of the Missile Defense Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said in response to the test.
During the June 7 congressional hearing, Syring said that in an actual combat scenario, the U.S. would fire off a salvo of interceptors to better address the threat.
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A US Air Force A-10C Thunderbolt II accidentally fired off a rocket outside of the designated firing range in Arizona on Sep. 5, 2019.
The attack aircraft, assigned to the 354th Fighter Squadron from the 355th Wing, “unintentionally” released an M-156 rocket while on a training mission, Davis-Monthan Air Force Base said in a statement.
The M-156, according to CBS News, is a white phosphorous projectile used to mark targets. The rocket landed in the Jackal Military Operations Area, located about 60 miles northeast of Tucson, Arizona.
The Air Force says that no injuries, damages, or fires have been reported.
Sep. 5, 2019’s incident, which is currently under investigation, is the second time in a little over two months an A-10 has accidentally opened fire in an area where it wasn’t supposed to do so.
An A-10 Thunderbolt II.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Zachary Perras)
At the start of July 2019, an Air Force A-10 out of Moody Air Force Base in Georgia accidentally dropped three training bombs over Florida after hitting a bird. The three BDU-33s, non-explosive ordnance designed to simulate M1a-82 bombs, fell somewhere off Highway 129 near Suwannee Springs in northern Florida.
While the dummy bombs were inert, they did include a pyrotechnic charge that could be dangerous if mishandled.
A bird strike, a problem that has cost the Air Force millions of dollars over the years, was identified as the cause of the accidental weapons release in July. It is currently unclear what caused Thursday’s incident.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
If you were wondering about why China didn’t bother to show up to that hearing at the Hague on their South China Sea island claims — when their boycott of the process only made the adverse ruling a guarantee — well, now you know why.
China, like Cersei Lannister from “Game of Thrones,” had no intention of accepting the consequences for their failure to take part.
According to reports from the Wall Street Journal and CBSNews.com, China has deployed weapons to at least seven of the artificial islands it has built in the South China Sea, despite a promise from Chinese president Xi Jingpin.
The report from the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative noted that satellite photos showed various anti-aircraft weapons on the islands. These join the 10,000-foot airstrips on the islands, which have operated J-11 Flankers. Two such locations in the Spratly Islands are Mischief Reef and Fiery Cross Reef, located about 650 nautical miles from the northernmost point of Hainan Island.
In essence, China has turned these islands into unsinkable, albeit immobile, aircraft carriers. China’s J-15, for instance, has a combat radius of about 540 nautical miles, according to GlobalSecurity.org. By getting those unsinkable aircraft carriers, the J-15s (as well as J-11 and J-16 Flankers in the Chinese inventory) can now carry more weapons, and less fuel, and spend more time dogfighting their adversaries.
When combined with China’s aircraft carrier Liaoning, these bases greatly increase the striking power of the Chinese in the region. The Liaoning, like its sister ship, the Russian Admiral Kuznetsov, has a very limited aircraft capacity (about 18 Su-33 Flankers or MiG-29K Fulcrums for the Russian carrier, and a similar number of J-15 Flankers for the Chinese ship).
That alone cannot stand up to a United States Navy aircraft carrier (carrying 36 F/A-18E/F Super Hornets and 10 F-35C Lightnings). The islands also provide alternate bases, to avoid those embarrassing splash landings that are common with the Kuznetsov.
However, these island bases, if each had a squadron of J-11, J-15 or J-16 Flankers, suddenly change the odds, especially if the Philippines refuse to host land-based fighters. Now, the Chinese could have a numerical advantage in the region against one carrier group, and inflict virtual attrition on the United States Navy.
The forward bases have caused concern from other countries, like the Philippines.
“It would mean that the Chinese are militarizing the area, which is not good,” the Philippine defense secretary told CBSNews.com.
The Philippines have been trying to modernize their forces, including with the recent purchase of a dozen KA-50 jets from South Korea, and the acquisition of second-hand Hamilton-class high-endurance cutters from the U.S. Coast Guard.
They still are badly out-classed by Chinese forces in the region.
The U.S. Navy has conducted freedom of navigation exercises in the South China Sea. In one of the recent operations, the USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) “conducted routine operations” while transiting the region, which is claimed by China. Navy surveillance and maritime patrol aircraft in the region had had a series of close calls with Chinese fighters, including an Aug. 2014 intercept where a J-11 came within 20 feet of a U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon.
Tensions with China increased when President-elect Donald Trump accepted a congratulatory phone call from Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen after winning the Nov. 8 presidential election. Trump had taken a tough line on trade with China during the campaign.
The F-22 was slated to replace the F-15A/B/C/D Eagles as the premier air-superiority fighter. But the Raptor’s production was halted at 187 airframes. Let’s go through a tale of the tape on these planes, before we see what happens when five Eagles jump a Raptor.
According to Joe Baugher, the F-15 has a top speed of Mach 2.5, a cruising speed of 570 knots, can carry eight air-to-air missiles (usually four AIM-120/AIM-7 and four AIM-9), and has a 20mm M61 cannon with 940 rounds. It has a range of 3,450 miles.
Baugher notes that the F-22 has a top speed of Mach 2.2 slightly slower than the F-15. But the F-22 cruises at Mach 1.6. It carries four AIM-120 and four AIM-9 missiles. It also has a 20mm M61 cannon. It has a combat radius of up to 800 nautical miles.
Here’s the video showing how the five Eagles fared against the Raptor. Warning: This was not a fair fight.
The U.S. Navy awarded Demonstration of Existing Technologies (DET) contracts Oct. 25, 2018, valued at approximately $36 million each to L3 Technologies Communications Systems West and Northrop Grumman Corp. Mission Systems in support of the Next Generation Jammer Low Band (NGJ-LB) capability.
The Airborne Electronic Attack (AEA) Systems and EA-6B Program Office (PMA-234) headquartered here manages the NGJ-LB program.
NGJ-LB is an external jamming pod that is part of a larger NGJ weapon system that will augment and, ultimately, replace the aging ALQ-99 Tactical Jamming System currently in use on EA-18G Growler aircraft.
Aviation Electronics Technician Airman Autumn Metzger and Aviation Electronics Technician 3rd Class Mark Homer wipe down an ALQ 99 jamming pod.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Scott Pittman)
“NGJ-LB is a critical piece of the overall NGJ system in that it focuses on the denial, degradation, deception, and disruption of our adversaries’ abilities to gain an advantage in that portion of the electromagnetic spectrum,” said Capt. Michael Orr, PMA-234 program manager. “It delivers to the warfighter significant improvements in power, advanced jamming techniques, and jamming effectiveness over the legacy ALQ-99 system.”
Each DET contract has a 20-month period of performance, during which the NGJ-LB team will assess the technological maturity of the industry partners’ existing technologies in order to inform future NGJ-LB capability development, as well as define the NGJ-LB acquisition strategy.
PMA-234 is responsible for acquiring, delivering and sustaining AEA systems and EA-6B Prowler aircraft, providing combatant commanders with capabilities that enable mission success.
The U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 was backed by most countries in the region, who shared the goal of ousting the extremist Taliban regime and eliminating the allied Al-Qaeda terrorist network.
The governments in Tehran, Moscow, and Islamabad readily helped the United States fight the extremist groups.
Iran provided crucial intelligence to support U.S. special forces and CIA teams orchestrating the invasion.
Russia supplied Soviet-era maps and intelligence and later allowed the U.S. military to send supplies to Afghanistan through its territory.
Even Pakistan, the chief backer of the Taliban, offered its assistance in helping hunt down Al-Qaeda militants and became the main supply line for NATO forces.
But in the intervening 19 years, the regional consensus favoring the U.S. troops in Afghanistan has eroded.
Though the U.S. military swiftly overthrew the Taliban and eliminated Al-Qaeda safe havens in Afghanistan, many feel it got bogged down in mission creep.
Meanwhile, Washington’s ties with many regional players — including Pakistan, Iran, and Russia — became toxic.
With U.S. forces scheduled to exit Afghanistan next year as part of a framework peace deal with the Taliban, Washington’s rivals see an opportunity to step in and expand their footprint in the war-torn country.
Those efforts have intensified since the United States and the Taliban signed a deal in February aimed at negotiating an end to the war, which began way back in 2001.
Under that agreement, U.S. forces will withdraw from Afghanistan by May 2021 in exchange for counterterrorism guarantees from the Taliban, which has pledged to negotiate a permanent cease-fire and power-sharing deal with the Kabul government.
The delayed intra-Afghan peace talks are expected to be complex and protracted, and will likely take years.
Impatient to end the costly and unpopular war, President Donald Trump is considering fast-tracking the exit of American troops ahead of the U.S. presidential election in November, according to U.S. media reports.
Experts say that in the absence of a peace deal, a U.S. military withdrawal could ignite a free-for-all that involves regional powers pursuing often competing interests in Afghanistan.
“The stage has already been set, with many key actors — including Russia and Iran — increasing their ties with both the Afghan state and the Taliban,” says Michael Kugelman, South Asia senior associate at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington.
“The objective is to develop more influence and generate more leverage with key actors across the board, so that they will be in a better position to pursue and achieve their goals in a post-America Afghanistan — a place we can expect to be increasingly unstable and complex.”
Iran, Pakistan, and Russia — with long histories of meddling in the country — are hedging their bets. The three countries have sought to improve their relations with the Western-backed government in Kabul, while also reaching out to the Taliban in case it gains a role in a future Afghan government.
Islamabad has retained its long-standing ties with the Taliban and shelters the group’s leadership, while Tehran and Moscow have been tacitly working to bolster their ties with the militants, with the goal of expanding their own strategic interests in Afghanistan.
‘Make The Taliban Even Stronger’
Pakistan has long been accused of playing a double game in Afghanistan, sheltering and aiding the Taliban while receiving billions in U.S. aid to clamp down on the militants.
Pakistan’s ties to the Taliban date back to the 1990s, when it provided arms, training, and intelligence to the militants. Islamabad was one of only three countries to recognize the Taliban government when it took power in Afghanistan in 1996. After the regime’s fall in 2001, many Taliban leaders took shelter inside Pakistan.
Observers say Pakistan sees the Taliban as an insurance policy for reaching its long-standing strategic goals in Afghanistan — installing a pro-Pakistan government in Kabul and limiting the influence of its archrival India, which has close ties to Kabul.
Experts say Pakistan stands to be the biggest beneficiary of a U.S. military pullout from Afghanistan.
“If a withdrawal leads to a peace process that results in a settlement, then Pakistan would benefit as this would likely entail the Taliban holding a fair share of power,” says Kugelman. “If the peace process collapses and the U.S. withdrawal ushers in a period of extended destabilization, Pakistan would still benefit because it would make the Taliban even stronger.”
Iran has supported its traditional allies in Afghanistan — the Shi’ite Hazara minority and the Persian-speaking ethnic Tajiks — while recently establishing contacts with the Taliban, a predominately Pashtun group.
Iran and the Taliban were on the verge of war in 1998 — when the group controlled most of Afghanistan — after the deaths of eight Iranian diplomats in the Afghan city of Mazar-e Sharif.
Tehran backed the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance before the U.S.-led invasion in 2001. But in recent years the Islamic republic and the Taliban have forged closer ties, with militant leaders even visiting Tehran.
The relationship between Shi’ite-majority Iran and the Taliban, a fundamentalist Sunni group, is complex. Iran officially opposes the Taliban, but experts say it provides some military support to the mainstream Taliban and even rival breakaway factions.
Analysts say that while Iran does not want the Taliban to return to power, Tehran is looking to maintain influence with the group as a hedge in case the Taliban becomes a political player in Afghanistan or it forcibly seizes control of the country.
“These initiatives serve the purpose of securing Iran’s sphere of influence in Afghanistan and perhaps even creating a buffer zone on Afghan soil to protect parts of Iran’s eastern borders from infiltration by forces hostile to Iran,” says Ali Alfoneh, a senior fellow at The Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington.
‘A Great Power’
For more than a decade after the U.S.-led invasion, Russian President Vladimir Putin praised Washington for taking on the “burden” of fighting terrorism in Afghanistan and urged it to “carry it to the end.”
But since 2014, the Kremlin has attempted to undermine the U.S. mission in Afghanistan, fueled by Moscow’s desire to be an international power broker and its rivalry with the West in Ukraine and Syria, where Russia joined Iran in supporting President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
Moscow said it has established contacts with the Taliban in recent years because of the common threat posed by the Islamic State (IS) extremist group in Afghanistan. Washington has accused Russia of arming the Taliban, which it denies.
In the past two years, Moscow has hosted two international conferences on the Afghan peace process, inviting Taliban leaders and Afghan opposition members.
Earlier this month, U.S. media reported that a Russian military intelligence unit had offered secret bounties to the Taliban if they killed U.S. or NATO-member troops in Afghanistan.
Moscow and the Taliban have denied the reports, which are based on U.S. intelligence assessments. But the revelations have served to highlight Moscow’s murky dealings in Afghanistan.
“Russia’s interests in Afghanistan are twofold: to avoid an explosion of chaos on the borders of what it considers its sphere of influence, and to use it as an opportunity to demonstrate and assert its claim to be a great power,” says Mark Galeotti, a Russia analyst and a senior associate fellow at the British-based Royal United Services Institute.
The Marine Corps will present the third-highest combat award to an Iraq War veteran on Thursday, following a review that upgraded his commendation.
Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. Glenn M. Walters, is slated to present the Silver Star Medal to Capt. Andrew Kim, an officer serving with Marine Corps Logistics Operations Group, at the Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms on Thursday.
The ceremony stems from a Pentagon initiative to review all valor awards after Sept. 11, 2001. Kim initially received a Bronze Star Medal for valorous actions performed on Aug. 6, 2003, while serving as a counterintelligence specialist with Task Force Scorpion of the 1st Marine Marine Division in Iraq, according to a press release issued Monday by the Marine Corps.
An Iraqi man approached Kim, his team chief, a linguist and a source. He suddenly drew a pistol and shot Kim’s team chief in the neck.
A sergeant at the time, Kim immediately returned fire, killing the assassin. He was then hit repeatedly by small arms fire from the rear. Disregarding his own wounds, Kim ushered his fallen team chief into a vehicle and exited the ambush’s kill zone, pursued by five Iraqis in a white pickup truck.
His vehicle sprayed by volleys of enemy fire, Kim drove to a light armored reconnaissance security element and ordered a deadly counterattack on the enemy — “bold” actions theMarine Corps concluded showed “undaunted courage and complete dedication to duty,” plus “gallantry and effectiveness under fire” that “saved the lives of all those conducting the mission,” according to this award citation.
This week, Vladimir Shamanov, a former military officer who leads the Defense Committee in Russia’s lower house of parliament, said that by the end of this year ISIS “won’t exist anymore as an organized military structure.”
While ISIS is losing large swaths of its home turf, it still operates in a number of countries. Here are nine places where the fight against ISIS is not slowing down.
The Egyptian government has been fighting Islamist insurgents since the military took power in 2013. Most of the fighting has happened in the Sinai Peninsula, where ISIS proclaimed a province in 2014.
Egypt has been under an official state of emergency since April, after a attack killed dozens of members of Egypt’s minority Christian population.
Hundreds of Egyptian police and military servicemen have been killed in battles with jihadists. In an ISIS attack on an army outpost in Sinai in July 2016, 23 soldiers were killed and at least 26 were wounded.
In late October, at least 54 policemen and conscripts, including several officers, were killed in what appeared to be a well-planned ambush. Though no group has claimed responsibility for the attack, authorities have not ruled out ISIS.
The latest attack took place in the Giza governorate, which means the insurgency is spreading beyond the Sinai Peninsula — a worrisome sign that may have led President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to reorganize his security leadership.
Libya became a safe haven for terrorist groups after Moammar Gadhafi was overthrown in 2011. It currently has three different governments claiming authority over the country, and the lack of a strong central authority and a unified security force has allowed militias to fill the void.
ISIS seized the coastal city of Sirte — Gadhafi’s hometown — in 2015. At its peak, ISIS was thought to have over 5,000 militants in Libya. In addition to causing chaos there, they were aiding jihadist groups in Egypt and other parts of North and West Africa.
Though ISIS lost control of Sirte in December 2016, they still have what officials have described as a “desert army” operating in the regions south of the city. That army has shown signs of trying to gain ground in the country.
The US launched its first airstrike in Libya under President Donald Trump in September, 150 miles south of Sirte, reportedly killing 17 militants.
A major concern among European officials is that as ISIS loses territory in Iraq and Syria, its fighters could relocate to Libya. Among those fighters may be Westerners who could use Libya’s role as a transit point for migrants to return home.
Yemen has long been a battleground in the fight against Al Qaeda and other jihadist groups. While the Saudi-led military campaign against Iran-backed Houthi rebels in country has received much of the attention, ISIS’ presence there has gotten the notice of the US.
ISIS created its Yemen branch in 2014, during the chaos that followed the ouster of President Ali Abdullah Saleh in 2012. Since then, its attacks have killed hundreds.
US forces launched more than 100 airstrikes against Al Qaeda in Yemen this year, according to the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. October saw the first US airstrikes against ISIS in Yemen. According to US Central Command, the three strikes on ISIS training camps reportedly killed 60 militants.
ISIS’s Afghan affiliate, known as Islamic State in Khorasan, or ISIS-K, was declared in 2014. The group mostly made up of Taliban defectors and new recruits.
Though the group only controls small patches of territory, it has been a main focus for the US military. On April 13, the US dropped its largest nonnuclear bomb on an ISIS-K compound. Estimates of the number killed range between 36 and 96 militants.
Militants affiliated with ISIS and Taliban fighters in Afghanistan have also clashed with each other, resulting in deaths on both sides.
A drone strike in Afghanistan’s Kunar Province on October 12 reportedly killed 14 ISIS militants — though an Afghan MP, Shahzada Shaheed, claimed all the casualties were civilians.
The US estimates that there are roughly 600 to 800 ISIS-affiliated militants still in the country, mostly in Nangarhar province in northeast Afghanistan.
5 – 3. Mali, Niger, and Nigeria
West Africa is becoming an increasingly important front in the fight against ISIS. Islamist violence is not new in the region. There was an insurgency that took over northern Mali in 2013, and the jihadist group Boko Haram declared allegiance to ISIS in 2015.But the violence has showed no signs of slowing down.
New groups like the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara — which reportedly carried out the early-October ambush that killed four US soldiers while they were on a mission with local partners in Niger — are being formed, and the number of militants joining these groups seems to be increasing.
On October 23, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford said that ISIS “has aspirations to establish a larger presence” in Africa.
“We’re going to see more actions in Africa, not less,” Dunford said, adding that the US military will be making recommendations to Trump and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and that US forces will remain in the area despite the casualties in Niger.
As in West Africa, Islamist violence is not new to Somalia. For the last decade, the most feared jihadist group in the country has been Al Shabab, an Al Qaeda ally. ISIS unsuccessfully tried to recruit Al Shabab in 2015, and now the two groups fight each other in addition to government forces.
Though smaller than Al Shabab, ISIS’ affiliate in Somalia has made its mark as a deadly terrorist organization. It has routinely conducted bombings and attacks that have killed hundreds. It is also outgaining Al Shabab in terms of foreign volunteers, as most aspiring jihadists want to be part of the ISIS brand.
In October, the largest bombing in the history of Mogadishu, the Somali capital, left at least 300 civilians dead and caused more than 275 injuries.
No group has claimed responsibility, but it is a troubling sign as it could lead to more violent competition between Al Shabab and ISIS, as they try to become the dominant Islamist group in the country.
The Trump administration sent US troops to Somalia in May — the first such deployment in more than 20 years — to aid antiterrorism efforts. On Friday, the US military carried out its first two drone strikes on ISIS targets in Somalia, killing “several terrorists,” according to US Africa Command.
ISIS made its mark in the Philippines in a manner similar to that in Iraq and Syria — suddenly emerging with a large and organized force, seizing large amounts of territory.
Led by Isnilon Hapilon and the Maute Brothers — who formally lead Abu Sayyaf and the Maute Group, respectively — forces that pledged loyalty to ISIS took over the city of Marawi in Lanao del Sur province on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao.
The siege that followed resulted in the deaths of 962 ISIS militants, including Hapilon and at least one of the Maute Brothers; 165 Philippine soldiers were killed, and nearly 1.1 million people were displaced.
Though Philippine soldiers liberated the city, ISIS remains a threat in the Philippines and in Southeast Asia as a whole.
The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:
U.S. Air National Guard Senior Airman Jeremy Johnson, 138th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, Tulsa, OK, performs routine maintenance on an F-16’s critical components, Oct. 27, 2016.
A New York Air National Guard HC-130 Combat King II assigned to the 102nd Rescue Squadron lands on a dirt landing strip at Fort Polk, La., during Southern Strike 17, Oct. 27, 2016. SSTK 17 is a total force, multi-service training exercise hosted by the Mississippi Air National Guard’s Combat Readiness Training Center in Gulfport, Miss., from Oct. 24 through Nov. 4, 2016. The exercise emphasizes air-to-air, air-to-ground and special operations forces training opportunities. These events are integrated into demanding hostile and asymmetric scenarios with actions from specialized ground forces and combat and mobility air forces.
Soldiers from 1st Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade’s armament team, load ammunition and fuel at the forward rearming and refueling point before AH-64D Apaches conduct an aerial gunnery exercise, at Fort A.P. Hill, Va., Oct. 26.
U.S. Army Paratroopers Spc. Jordan Myer (Left) and Pfc. Justin Gilbert (Right) assigned to Chosen Company, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade, firing rounds for training during exercise Silver Arrow Oct. 27, 2016, in Adazi, Latvia. The U.S. Army is participating in exercise Silver Arrow. Silver Arrow is a two-week long Latvian led exercise, which joins foreign Armed Forces units, in order to develop relationships and leverage Allied and partner nation capabilities preserving peace through strength. The exercise is part of Operation Atlantic Resolve, a U.S. lead effort being conducted in Eastern Europe to demonstrate U.S. commitment to the collective security of NATO and dedication to enduring peace and stability in the region.
Petty Officer 3rd Class (AW) India Campbell fires a .50-caliber machine gun during a live-fire exercise on the fantail of the Navy’s only forward-deployed aircraft carrier, USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76). The live-fire exercise provided Weapons Department and Security Department personnel with small-arms proficiency training for the .50-caliber and M240B machine guns. Ronald Reagan, the Carrier Strike Group Five flagship, is on patrol supporting security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.
Members of Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit (EODMU) 5, Platoon 503, embarked aboard USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), descend a rope from an MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter, assigned to the “Golden Falcons” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 12, onto the flight deck of the forward-deployed Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Barry (DDG 52) during a fast-rope and helicopter, visit, board, search and seizure (HVBSS) exercise. Barry is on patrol with Carrier Strike Group Five (CSG 5) in the Philippine Sea supporting security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.
Marines assigned to Bravo Battery,”Black Sheep,” 1st Battalion 12th Marine Regiment, dig holes to support the recoil of an M777A2 Howitzer during a direct fire training exercise, part of Lava Viper 17.1, at Range 13 aboard the Pohakuloa Training Area, on the big Island of Hawaii, Oct. 16, 2016. Lava Viper is an annual combined arms training exercise that integrates ground elements such as infantry and logistics, with indirect fire from artillery units as well as air support from the aviation element.
Three MV-22B Osprey tiltrotor aircraft with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 262, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, fly west above the Pacific Ocean during scheduled flight operations after departing USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6), Sept. 26, 2016. VMM-262 is the Aviation Combat Element for the 31st MEU, and features a variety of fixed-wing, rotary-wing, and tiltrotor aircraft.
Coast Guard Cutter Ocracoke sits at the pier at Naval Station Newport as the sun sets on Oct. 25, 2016, during the Coast Guard 1st District Cutter Roundup held in Newport, Rhode Island. The Ocracoke is an 87-foot patrol boat based in South Portland, Maine.
Coast Guard cuttermen from units across the First District train in The Damage Control Wet Trainer “Buttercup” in Newport, Rhode Island, Monday. Oct. 24, 2016. The junior enlisted crewmembers were together in Newport for a Cutter Roundup, a week-long event to unite, train, and prepare the First District’s cutter fleet.
UrselD: How did the Stan Lee cameo in the Marvel movies thing start?
Born Stanley Martin Lieber almost a century ago in 1922, the man who would become far better known by his pen name, Stan Lee, was born into a family of very modest means with Stan, his brother, and Romanian immigrant parents sharing a single room apartment in New York during the 1930s.
As Lee would recall, “I grew up in New York City during the Depression. My earliest recollections were of my parents, Jack and Celia Lieber, talking about what they would do if they didn’t have the rent money. Luckily, we were never evicted. But my father was unemployed most of the time. He had been a dress cutter, and during the Depression, there wasn’t much need for dress cutters. So I started working when I was still in high school. I was an office boy, I was an usher, I wrote obituaries for celebrities while they were still alive. Lots of jobs.”
Showing an interest in writing from his teens, Lee’s mother was his #1 fan at that time, “She thought I was the greatest thing on two feet. I’d come home with a little composition I had written at school and she’d look at it and say, “It’s wonderful! You’re another Shakespeare!” I always assumed I could do anything. It really is amazing how much that has to do with your attitude.”
Stan Lee in “Ant-Man and the Wasp.”
In 1939 at the age of 17, Lee landed a job with a company owned by his cousin, Jean Goodman’s, husband, Martin Goodman. The company was called Timely Publications. While the pay wasn’t much, a mere per week (about 7 today), it was potentially a path to a professional writing gig, though not quite the one he originally envisioned for himself.
When I got there, I found out that the opening was in the comic book department. Apparently, I was the only guy who had applied for the job. I figured it might be fun. So I became a gofer — there were only two guys, Joe Simon, the editor, and Jack Kirby, the artist. They were the creators of Captain America, and that’s what they were working on at the time. I would fill the inkwells, go down and buy lunch, and erase pages and proofread.
Two years into the job, he was finally granted a chance to write filler text in the 1941 Captain America #3 comic. Called, Captain America Foils the Traitor’s Revenge, the story, along with being warmly received by fans, introduced the idea of Captain America being able to throw and ricochet his trademark shield, now a defining aspect of the character. It was also the first comic in which Lieber, as he was then known, wrote under the pseudonym Stan Lee. According to Lee, he chose not to write under his then real name since he still hoped to one day write “proper literature” and had dreams of writing the “great American novel”. Thus, he didn’t want his name to be sullied by his work in comics.
Plans changed, however, when he randomly got a promotion to head editor of the comic department at just 19 years old.
[Simon and Kirby] were fired for some reason. Martin had no one to run the department. He said to me, “Can you do it?” I was . When you’re , what do you know? I said, “Sure, I can do it.” Martin must have forgotten about me, because he just left me there. I loved it. I was so young, it was sometimes embarrassing. Someone would come into the office and see me there and say, “Hey, kid, can I see the editor?”
At this point, in order to give the illusion of a large staff, Lee took to using a variety of other pseudonyms as well.
In 1942, a temporary editor was hired while Lee served in the US Army with the Signal Corps. He never saw combat, instead working at repairing communications equipment and later writing field manuals and military slogans as a part of the Training Film Division. Also in that division were the likes of Frank Capra, Theodor Geisel (Dr. Seuss), and the creator of The Addam’s Family, Charles Addams.
Despite being in the army, Lee still kept up with his work at Timely as best he could from afar, with weekly letters mailed to him explaining exactly what he needed to produce content for that week. Once he was done, he’d mail it back.
Lee’s service ended in 1945 and he went back to Timely full time.
It was two years later that Lee, with an awkwardness befitting a man who would come to create the characters nerds the world over would grow to love, Lee met and wooed his future wife.
There are conflicting accounts on whether one of Lee’s friends dared him to ask out some red headed model or his cousin set him up on a blind date with said model. Either way, Lee went to her office to see about that date. However, when he arrived and knocked at the door of the modeling agency, the woman who answered was someone completely different — a hat model from England by the name of Joan Boocock. Joan had come to America after marrying one Sanford Dorf, who had been serving in the UK during the war.
Stan Lee in “Doctor Strange.”
Stunned when he saw her, rather than play it cool, instead Lee apparently almost immediately professed his undying love for her, and then followed this awkward exchange up by telling her he’d had her face in his mind and been drawing it since he was a kid… (According to Lee, this wasn’t any sort of cheesy line, but the absolute truth.)
Rather than finding any of this weird or creepy, despite being married at the time, Joan agreed to go out on a date with Lee. As to why, despite by her own admission being in a happy marriage, she found it completely boring. (I guess as you’d expect from marrying someone named Sanford Dorf.)
But Stan Lee, she states, “He wore a marvelous floppy hat and scarf and spouted Omar Khayyam [an 11th/12th century Persian poet] when he took me for a hamburger at Prexy’s. He reminded me of that beautiful man, [British actor] Leslie Howard.”
As for Lee, he said he knew right on his first date he wanted to marry Joan. Two weeks later, not caring in the slightest that she was already married, he proposed and she said yes.
The problem was that she now needed a divorce, which was prohibitively difficult in New York at the time. Where there is a will, there’s a way, however, and she simply moved to Reno temporarily. You see, in Reno, you only needed to live there six weeks before you could file for divorce in the area, and the judges there were much more accepting of such.
However, during her time in Reno, being a beautiful young model and all, suitors flocked to her like the salmon of Capistrano. With Lee back in New York and their relationship not exactly built on a firm foundation, Lee said at one point he got a letter from Joan with the implication being she was thinking of breaking off their whirlwind courtship.
Not going to give her up without a fight, Lee took a trip to Reno and convinced her he was the love of her life and she his. The two then got married in Reno on the same day she got a divorce, and by the same judge who granted it, mere minutes after the divorce papers were signed.
While you might think such a relationship was doomed to end in failure. In fact, the couple spent the next 69 years together, before Joan’s death in 2017 at the age of 95.
Stan Lee in “The Amazing Spider-Man.”
Said Lee of Joan in their twilight years together, “My wife and I are really so close. And yet, I’m not sure if she’s ever read a story I wrote. She’s not into comics at all.”
Going back to Stan Lee’s career, as for Timely’s strategy in those days, it was essentially just copy whatever the competition was doing.
Martin was one of the great imitators of all time. If he found that a company had Western magazines that were selling, he would say, “Stan, come up with some Westerns.” Horror stories, war stories, crime stories, whatever. Whatever other people were selling, we would do the same thing. I would have liked to come up with my own stuff, but I was getting paid.
This all changed, ironically, from copying someone again–
Martin mentioned that he had noticed one of the titles published by National Comics seemed to be selling better than most. It was a book called Justice League of America and it was composed of a team of superheroes… “If the Justice League is selling, he spoke, “Why don’t we put out a comic book that features a team of superhereos?”
At this point in his career, Lee had grown weary of writing comics, seeing the medium as stagnant and devoid of interesting characters. He was, in fact, planning on quitting.
That’s when Joan told him he should take the opportunity in trying to copy the Justice League concept to create the character’s he’d find interesting. Lee says she stated, “Why not write one book the way you’d like to, instead of the way Martin wants you to? Get it out of your system. The worst thing that will happen is he’ll fire you — but you want to quit anyway.”
Simultaneously, Lee states, “[My wife] Joan was commenting about the fact that after 20 years of producing comics I was still writing television material, advertising copy, and newspaper features in my spare time. She wondered why I didn’t put as much effort and creativity into the comics as I seemed to be putting into my other freelance endeavors… [Her] little dissertation made me suddenly realize that it was time to start concentrating on what I was doing — to carve a real career for myself in the nowhere world of comic books.”
Lee then decided,
For just this once, I would do the type of story I myself would enjoy reading…. And the characters would be the kind of characters I could personally relate to: they’d be flesh and blood, they’d have their faults and foibles, they’d be fallible and feisty, and — most important of all — inside their colorful, costumed booties they’d still have feet of clay.
While this might all seem pretty normal today, at the time in the superhero genre it was groundbreaking. Said Lee, “That’s what any story should have, but comics didn’t have until that point. They were all cardboard figures….”
The product of this was The Fantastic Four. The results surpassed his wildest expectations.
We had never gotten fan mail up until that point… Sometimes we might get a letter from a reader that would say, “I bought one of your books and there’s a staple missing. I want my dime back.” And that was it. We’d put that up on the bulletin board and say, “Look! A fan letter!” Suddenly, with Fantastic Four, we really started getting mail…”We like this… We don’t like that… We want to see more of this.” That was exciting! So I didn’t quit… After that, Martin asked me to come up with some other superheroes… And we stopped being a company that imitated.
With business booming, Lee states, “[We] realized we were onto something. I figured we needed a new name, because we were not the same company we had been. I remembered the first book Martin published when I started there was called Marvel Comics. It had the Human Torch and the Sub-Mariner, and it was very successful. Why don’t we call the company Marvel? There are so many ways you can use that word in advertising. I came up with catch phrases like ‘Make mine Marvel’ and ‘Marvel marches on!'”
At this point while Martin was open to giving Lee fairly free rein, he still had his limits, which was a problem for Spider-Man, who Lee dreamed up as follows:
The most important thing in those days was the cover. All these books were on the newsstand, and you had to hope your cover would compel somebody to buy the book. And everything depended on the name. A character like Hurricane was a guy who ran very fast. Later on, when I was looking for new superheroes, it occurred to me that somebody crawling on walls would be interesting. I thought, Mosquito Man? It didn’t sound very glamorous. Fly Man? I went down the list and came to Spider-Man. That was it.
The concept of Spider-Man, however, was a little too far out.
Stan Lee in “Spider-Man.”
[Martin] didn’t want me to do it. He said I was way off base. He said, “First of all, you can’t call a hero Spider-Man, because people hate spiders.’ I had also told him I wanted the hero, Peter Parker, to be a teenager, and he said, “A teenager can’t be the hero… teenagers can just be sidekicks” Then when I said I wanted Spider-Man to have a lot of financial problems and family worries and all kinds of hang-ups, he said, “Stan, don’t you know what a hero is? That’s no way to do a heroic book!” So he wouldn’t let me publish it.Later, we had a book that we were going to cancel. We were going to do the last issue and then drop it. When you’re doing the last issue of a book, nobody cares what you put into it, so — just to get it off my chest- I threw Spider-Man into the book and I featured him on the cover. A couple of months later when we got our sales figures, that had been the best-selling book we’d had in months. So Martin came in to me and said, ‘Do you remember that Spider-Man character of yours that we both liked? Why don’t you do a series with him” After that, it was much easier… Whatever I came up with, he okayed. After that, came The X-Men and Daredevil and Thor and Dr. Strange… and the rest. The books did so well that I just gave up all thoughts of quitting.
With business booming, Martin decided to sell the company, with Perfect Film and Chemical aquiring Marvel in the late 1960s. Not long after that, Lee got a promotion,
[They] made me the president and even chairman. But I was never a businessman. I remember when the board asked me to come up with a three-year plan for the company. I said, “Guys, I don’t know how to predict where we’ll be in three years. I don’t even know what I’m going to have for breakfast tomorrow.” I resigned as president after about a year. I mean, I can add and subtract, but I hate to read sheets of numbers. I like to write stories.
This brings us finally to the cameos and how that whole thing got started.
His first cameo of sorts was text only, occurring in an All-Winners comic in 1941 where various characters petition Lee to add more characters. Next up, Wayne Boring and Hank Chapman decided to put their boss in the 1951 Astonishing #4.
Where the cameos really became a thing though started in 1963, when Lee and his long-time collaborator, Jack Kirby, appeared in The Fantastic Four #10 in which the pair are featured on the cover, as well as inside. On the cover, it shows the duo with Lee saying, “How’s this for a twist Jack? We’ve got Doctor Doom as one of the Fantastic Four!!” With Kirby adding, “And Mister Fantastic himself as the villain!! Our fans oughtta flip over this yarn!!”
Stan Lee in “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.”
Beside them, it also states, “In this epic issue surprise follows surprise as you actually meet Lee and Kirby in the story!! Plus a gorgeous pin-up of the invisible girl!”
As for inside the issue, it has Doctor Doom demanding that Lee and Kirby get the Fantastic Four to walk into a trap, which they then do.
Said Lee of this sort of thing, “The artists back then would draw me in as a joke or just to have fun. And I would put some dialogue balloons there and it looked as if I intended it. I didn’t try to do cameos in those days.”
But fans loved it, as well as the chance to get to know the people behind the comics, which were featured in a section of their own as well. The point of all of this, along with the little quips and notes in various areas was, according to Lee, “[For] the reader to feel we were all friends, that we were sharing some private fun that the outside world wasn’t aware of.”
From here the occasional cameo caught on, with Lee stating, “Anything that seemed fun and anything that the readers seemed to enjoy we kept doing and those things brought in a lot of fan mail. And we weren’t doing movies or television, our whole existence depended on comic books, so if you see that something is interesting to the fans you stay with it.”
Since then Lee, and to a lesser extent Kirby (who was notably more camera shy), appeared numerous times across many forms of media. These cameos range from simple background characters in comics bearing Lee’s likeness to full on self-referential roles in Marvel’s numerous works. The most egregious example of the latter is arguably the 1990s Spider-Man cartoon in which Spider-Man is transported to the “real” world via magical comic shenanigans and meets Stan Lee, who reveals that he created Spider-Man and spends some time conversing with his creation before being left stranded on a roof.
Moving on to Lee’s first cameo in video form, this appeared in the 1989 The Trial of the Incredible Hulk where Lee appears in the jury at the trial.
Arguably Lee’s most unusual cameo is one in a property owned by Marvel’s single biggest rival, DC — Superman: The Animated Series. In the episode, Apokolips… Now! Part 2, Lee, along with characters who bear a striking resemblance to members of the Fantastic Four, appear in a brief crowd shot of the funeral of the character, Dan Turpin. Said character’s appearance was largely based on the aforementioned Jack Kirby, who’d sadly died the year earlier. Out of respect for his memory and his contribution to the world of comics, the animators for the episode snuck in a character who looked like Lee along with several other Marvel characters Kirby had helped create. The commitment to accuracy was such that the graveyard shown in the episode was modeled on the one Kirby is buried in, in real life and the crew hired an actual rabbi to read a kaddish that was included in the episode’s audio. Lee’s cameo was removed in the subsequent DVD release of the episode, but he can still be seen in the episode’s storyboards.
Speaking of cameos, a slightly lesser known fact is that Lee’s beloved wife, Joan, who was the inspiration for a few female characters in the Marvel universe, also did voice work for the 1990s Fantastic Four and Spider-Man animated series, as well as a cameo of her own in X-Men: Apocalypse where she appears alongside Stan Lee.
This all brings us to Stan Lee’s final cameo, where he appears as a de-aged hippie alongside a woman who is meant to be a de-aged Joan Lee — very fittingly for them both, this final cameo appeared in Marvel’s Endgame.
This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has called for Russia to withdraw its troops from breakaway regions in Georgia while also pledging deeper security and economic support for Tbilisi.
“The United States unequivocally condemns Russia’s occupation on Georgian soil,” Pompeo said in opening remarks to the annual U.S.-Georgian Strategic Partnership in Washington on May 21, 2018. “Russia’s forcible invasion of Georgia is a clear violation of international peace and security.”
Russia has troops stationed in Georgia’s Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions that remained after a 2008 war in South Ossetia between Russian and Georgian troops.
Moscow and a few other nations have recognized the two separatist regions as independent countries.
Pompeo also repeated U.S. policy that Washington supports Georgia’s eventual membership in NATO.
Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili said after a meeting with Pompeo that U.S. support for a peaceful resolution to Russian troops in Georgia “is of highest importance to our country and regional stability.”
Kvirikashvili added that Georgia’s membership in the military alliance would be a “clear added value for Euro-Atlantic security.”
NATO promised Georgia eventual membership in 2008.
Kvirikashvili said U.S. involvement in infrastructure projects in Georgia, like the Anaklia deep-sea port on the Black Sea coast, would help attract economic interest to the area.
North Korea is reportedly preparing missiles and rockets by the hundreds to parade around Pyongyang the day before the South Korean Winter Olympics kicks off in an attempt “to scare the hell out of the Americans.”
“Hundreds of missiles and rockets” will be on display, according to CNN’s Will Ripley. Ripley reports this will include “many dozens” of Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missiles, the type North Korea most recently tested that experts assess could hit the entire continental US with a large nuclear warhead.
South Korean media reports that launchers that stretch 250 meters and 50 meters have already been spotted at Mirim Airport in Pyongyang.
Ripley, who frequently travels to North Korea, cited diplomatic sources “with deep knowledge of North Korea’s intentions” as saying they would show off the missiles to “scare the hell out of” US citizens as the two countries’ leaders exchange nuclear threats.
But as is often the case with North Korea, the bark may be worse than the bite. Ripley notes that foreign media has been banned from the parade, meaning only North Korean imagery will come out of the event.
This gives North Korea ample opportunity to doctor the images, as they often do. North Korea’s dozens of ICBMs may be faked, made of different materials, and almost certainly not coupled with actual nuclear warheads.
North Korea has made considerable efforts to capitalize on the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics as a propaganda coup, going as far as to rewrite their own history as the pretense for moving its usual military parade from April to February, when Pyongyang is bitterly cold.
Ripley reports that North Korea may conduct additional missile tests in the near future. If they do, the country runs a higher-than-ever-before risk of incurring the US’s military wrath, as talk of strikes on North Korea has reportedly reached a fever pitch in Trump’s inner circle.
A true warfighting professional knows how to be civilized at armed conflict. And what many military greats learned over the ages is that there’s nothing like a friendly animal by your side to keep you calm and centered when things get kinetic. And when it comes to friendly animals, a dog is hard to beat.
Here are three dogs that did their part keeping their masters focused during World War II:
1. Gen. George S. Patton’s American Bull Terrier Willie
Gen. Omar Bradley talking to Gen. George S. Patton as Patton’s dog Willie takes a snooze in his favorite chair. Photo: U.S. Army)
Patton acquired an American bull terrier in 1944 and named him “William the Conqueror,” although the dog proved to be anything but aggressive and was actually scared of gunfire. But in spite of his timid disposition Patton loved him like few other living things on the planet.
‘My bull pup . . . took to me like a duck to water. He is 15 months old, pure white except for a little lemin [sic] on his tail which to a cursory glance would seem to indicate that he had not used toilet paper,’ Patton wrote in his diary.
2. Commander-in-chief Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Scottie Fala
FDR received his dog Fala from a cousin in 1940 with the idea that a canine companion would keep the commander-in-chief more relaxed during stressful times. The president and his dog became inseparable from that point forward, which arguably made Fala the most famous White House pet of all times.
According to the Daily Mail, the pup was given obedience training before he formally took up residence in the White House in November 1940, where he could be spotted attending press conferences. He even learned how to stand at attention on his hind legs when the national anthem was played.
The adorable Scottie captured the hearts of Americans and became a national symbol as World War II spread across Europe.
3. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Scottie Telek
Like Patton, Ike also relied on a faithful dog during the war. Telek was surrounded by controversy however, as it was rumored that the dog was co-owned by his mistress and driver Kay Summersby.
‘One day when they were driving in the country, Kay mentioned that she wanted a dog,’ according to Dr. Ronnie Elmore, a professor from Kansas State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, in an interview with a school publication in 2004 about Ike’s pet.
Though numerous Eisenhower contemporaries have refuted claims of a torrid love affair, Summersby inherited the Scottie after his departure from Europe, further sparking rumors of the intimate bond between the two.