The US has committed to pulling its forces, as well as NATO forces, out of Afghanistan in a serious bid to stop the 17-year-long war that’s claimed tens of thousands of lives and hundreds of billions of US tax dollars.
Citing “significant progress” in peace talks with the Taliban, the hardline Islamist group that harbored Osama Bin Laden and became the US’s first target after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, a US official told Reuters the US was working on a ceasefire and the timing of a pull out.
“Of course we don’t seek a permanent military presence in Afghanistan,” the official told Reuters on the same day Afghan President Ashraf Ghani gave a televised address saying: “No Afghans want foreign forces in their country for the long term.”
“Our priority is to end the war in Afghanistan and ensure there is never a base for terrorism in Afghanistan,” Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said at a press briefing on Jan. 28, 2019.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani
(Photo by Patrick Tsui)
“Our goal is to help bring peace in Afghanistan and we would like a future partnership, newly defined with a post-peace government,” the official said. “We would like to leave a good legacy.”
President Donald Trump reportedly pushed for a troop withdrawal in Afghanistan at the same time he announced a troop pull out from Syria, which sparked widespread controversy, criticism, and the resignation of his defense secretary and top official in charge of fighting ISIS.
The US and NATO have fought in Afghanistan since 2001, when they toppled the ruling government that had harbored the Taliban and Al Qaeda.
The US and NATO have lost about 3,500 troops in the battle that’s killed tens of thousands of Afghans and nearly 10,000 Afghan security forces fighters a year since 2014.
The Pentagon currently spends about billion a year on the Afghanistan war while other parts of the government contribute additional money to secure the country, build infrastructure, and fund essential programs as the government struggles to control all of its territory.
Trump campaigned explicitly against the war in Afghanistan, calling it a big mistake that left US soldiers fighting without purpose.
United States President Donald Trump.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Anna Pol)
The Taliban recently agreed to a landmark concession, saying it would oppose “any attempts by militant groups to use Afghanistan to stage terrorist attacks abroad,” according to the Wall Street Journal.
Talks in Qatar, now lasting over a week, have produced results that Acting Defense Secretary Pat Shanahan called “encouraging.”
Afghanistan, sometimes called the “graveyard of empires” for its historic ability to resist outside rule from Alexander the Great, to Britain, to the Soviets, has proven a stalemate for the US, which has failed to lock down the entire country from Islamist control.
Can a rifle turn a novice into a world-class sharpshooter? Yes, based on the shootout scoreboard at a major fundraising event for the Chris Kyle Frog Foundation Saturday.
A sharpshooting showdown pitted a young American woman against the reigning NRA global champion … the novice crushed her opponent at the inaugural American Sniper Shootout Saturday in Mason, Texas.
The victorious novice shooter was Taya Kyle. Founder of the Chris Kyle Frog Foundation, she is the wife of U.S. Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle, known as “the most lethal sniper in US military history,” author of autobiography “American Sniper,” and the inspiration for Clint Eastwood’s movie “American Sniper.”
TrackingPoint says that its Precision-Guided Firearms can transform inexperienced shooters into world-class marksmen. To prove this claim, the company put $1 million on the table in an ultimate shootout. If the NRA champion Bruce Piatt could outshoot novice shooter Kyle then he would take home the hefty prize.
But Kyle defeated the champion, with the proceeds from the event going to the Chris Kyle Frog Foundation – here’s how she did it.
Piatt competed with the current military rifles M4A1, M110, and M2010.
Taya Kyle opted for TrackingPoint’s new M600, M800 and XS1 firearms. TrackingPoint touts advanced technology to enhance the accuracy of first-round shots at any distance.
Kyle explained why she chose to be armed with TrackingPoint at the shootout. “The technology of the gun was developed based on conversations with Chris [Kyle] about what factors a marksman has to consider on with every shot,” she told FoxNews.com, via email. “The end result is technology that I know would have saved lives of friends we have lost and will save life and/or limb of those who put it all on the line for the 99% of us they choose to give their life for.”
The rifles incorporate a range of innovations like the company’s “RapidLok Target Acquisition.” As a warfighter pulls the trigger, the target is automatically acquired and tracked. The range is also calculated and measured for velocity. Accuracy is enhanced because all this work is accomplished by the time the trigger is completely squeezed.
Kyle faced off against Piatt in a series of battlefield-simulated challenges.
The competitors had to take shots consistent with those warfighters must take in battle. It meant grappling with realistic challenges like shooting at targets placed at unknown distances as well as moving targets.
To win, both competitors also had to shoot in a range of positions, including prone and off-hand shots. They also had to tackle blind shots when the shooter takes shots while completely hidden without a direct line of sight to the target. The competitors also emulated Chris Kyle’s famous long-distance ‘Sadr city shot,’ which was featured in the film American Sniper.
And Kyle emerged the victor – by a lot. She made ALL of her shots from prone, kneeling, sitting and from cover…as in every single one – 100 percent.
How did the NRA champ fare? Piatt made 58.4 percent of the shots.
There were 29 targets with a total of 10,140 points available.
Kyle scored a perfect 10,140. Piatt scored 3,040 points, making 58.4 percent of his shots. The scoring was weighted based on degree of difficulty.
In the challenges where the shooters took on targets without a direct line of sight while concealed from ‘enemy fire’ – Kyle made 100 percent of the blind shots while Piatt did not make a single one.
For practical application in war, this means the TrackingPoint technology has potential to allow American warfighters to stay concealed while still accurately taking on targets. The ability to stay concealed and still shoot accurately could help reduce the risk to warfighters.
Kyle explained further why the tech was developed. “Our first responders and military members regularly face situations most of us cannot imagine,” she told FoxNews.com via email. “They need every advantage for precision and efficiency to protect and serve while minimizing collateral damage and risk to themselves.”
Armed with TrackingPoint tech, Kyle was also able to make moving target and canted shots that Piatt did not.
The day-long American Sniper Shootout was open to the public and also featured music from country singer Easton Corbin, Grammy winner Asleep At the Wheel.
The proceeds from the event benefit the Chris Kyle Frog Foundation. Kyle explained her inspiration for the event as “being able to simultaneously showcase the technology and raise money for CKFF to fulfill its mission … this event was an opportunity to take care of our warriors and their families on many different levels.”
An Army soldier stationed in Germany picked up two Rolexes from the PX before rotating back to the states in early 1960. One watch was to wear himself while the other was a gift for his dad.
He had never heard of Rolex before and only bought them because his sergeant told him they were the best watches ever made. Almost 60 years later, both watches are still working and the sergeant’s advice turned out to be spot on.
The veteran recently appeared on PBS’s Antiques Roadshow and learned that one of the watches, which he paid a little over a month’s salary to buy in 1960, was “easily today, it’s $65,000 to 75,000 on the market.” See the full video from PBS below:
Life in the military is unpredictable and something new happens every single day. It can be hard to keep up but, luckily, there are plenty of talented photographers standing by, ready to capture the most poignant moments.
Here are this week’s best photos from across the military:
(U.S. Air Force photo by Naoto Anazawa)
U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Carlos Howard, 18th Security Forces Squadron military working dog handler, and his MWD, Kitkat, rest before conducting detection training at the Kadena Teen Center April 5, 2018, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Howard and Kitkat trained together to strengthen their bond.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ryan Callaghan)
Staff Sgt. James Baker, left, and Master Sgt. Jeff Nieding, both 71st Rescue Squadron loadmasters, sit on the ramp in the rear of an HC-130J Combat King II, March 30, 2018, in the skies over Florida. As loadmasters, they are responsible for calculating aircraft weight and balance records, maintaining the cargo manifest, conducting cargo and personnel airdrops, and troubleshooting in-flight problems.
(U.S. Army photo by Lt. Col. John Hall)
The colors are held high as a paratrooper from the 173rd Airborne Brigade leads his company in a 2.2 mile full combat equipment run around the Del Din Base in Italy.
(U.S. Army photo by Capt. Tyson Friar)
The 2-501st General Support Aviation Battalion, 1st Armored Division Combat Aviation Brigade conducted a Field Training Exercise which began when a CH-47 Chinook helicopter simulating an air-assault was shot down, April 3, 2018. The pilots and flight crews spent the following two days sharpening their ‘Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape’ skills as they evade the operational forces. This realistic, readiness-building exercise prepares these Soldiers in the event they experience such a scenario in combat, where these lifesaving skills will be vital.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class David A. Brandenburg/Released)
Sailors assigned to the Black Aces of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 41 conduct maintenance on an F/A-18E Super Hornet in the hangar bay aboard the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74). John C. Stennis is underway conducting training in preparation for its next scheduled deployment.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ryan M. Breeden/Released)
Cpl. Joaquin Barrios mans a GAU-17 mini-gun while overlooking the Essex Amphibious Ready Group during a simulated force protection exercise.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Drake Nickels)
U.S. Marines with 2nd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, Fox Battery, carryout training on the lightweight 155mm howitzer on Camp Pendleton, Calif., April 5, 2018. The Marines conducted the training to maintain proficiency and mission readiness.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Ashley McLaughlin/Released)
U.S. Marines assigned to Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron (MAWTS) 1 prepare for an aviation ordnance disposal and close air support exercise in support of Weapons and Tactics Instructor course 2-18 at Chocolate Mountain Aerial Gunnery Range, Ariz., April 3. WTI is a seven-week training event hosted by MAWTS-1 cadre, which emphasizes operational integration of the six functions of Marine Corps aviation in support of a Marine Air Ground Task Force and provides standardized advanced tactical training and certification of unit instructor qualifications to support Marine Aviation Training and Readiness and assists in developing and employing aviation weapons and tactics.
(Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Hunter Medley)
Crewmembers from Coast Guard Cutter Hawser and Coast Guard Cutter Wire, homeported in Bayonne, NJ, take part in emergency signaling device training Tuesday, Apr. 3, 2018. Flares are lifesaving visual signaling devices that can be used day or night to alert emergency responders and fellow boaters to an emergency.
Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) said on April 22 that it launched a military satellite into orbit, after months of failed attempts.
State television and the Tasnim news agency, which is affiliated with the IRGC, reported the launch on April 22, calling it “successful.”
The United States, Israel, and other countries did not immediately confirm the satellite reached orbit, but their criticism suggested they believed the launch happened.
Analysts said it raised concerns about whether the technology used could help Iran develop intercontinental ballistic missiles.
“Iran’s first military satellite, Noor (light), was launched this morning from central Iran in two stages. The launch was successful and the satellite reached orbit,” state TV said.
The IRGC on its official website said the satellite reached an orbit of 425 kilometers above the Earth’s surface.
The multistage satellite launch used a Ghased, or “messenger,” satellite carrier to put the device into space — a previously unheard-of system, according to the paramilitary group.
Tasnim added that the operation was carried from a launchpad in Dasht-e Kavir, a large desert in central Iran.
Iran has suffered several failed satellite launches in recent months. The United States and Israel have said that such launches advance Iran’s ballistic missile program.
Following Iran’s latest launch, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that “Iran needs to be held accountable for what they’ve done.”
“We view this as further evidence of Iran’s behavior that is threatening in the region,” Deputy Secretary of Defense David Norquist told a Pentagon briefing.
General John Hyten, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the launched vehicle “went a very long way” but that it was too early to say whether it successfully placed a satellite in orbit.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry described the launch as a “facade for Iran’s continuous development of advanced missile technology,” while German Foreign Ministry spokesman Christofer Burger warned that “the Iranian rocket program has a destabilizing effect on the region.”
The launch comes amid increased tensions between Iran and the United States over the latter’s withdrawal from a landmark nuclear deal and after a U.S. drone strike killed top IRGC commander Qasem Soleimani in January.
It also may signal that Iran is more willing to take chances during the current global coronavirus crisis, which has slashed oil prices to historic lows and forced many countries into an economic recession.
“This is big,” said Fabian Hinz, a researcher at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterey, California.
“Big question now is what tech the first stage used. Solid propellant? Liquid using old Shahab 3 tech? Liquid using more sophisticated motors/fuels? This is key to establishing how worrisome the launch is from a security perspective,” he added.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a combat Marine or Soldier who doesn’t have wear-and-tear injuries from their deployments and training. U.S. Marine veteran Scot Knutson is no different, but it was during his tenure in Explosive Ordinance Disposal where he received his most significant injuries.
In 2012, blast exposure from IEDs gave Knutson a concussion and traumatic brain injury (TBI), spinal stenosis (compression in the spine), and pulmonary edema caused by trauma to the lungs. When he returned home from his deployment in 2013, he was placed on a non-deployment status to heal — and he was given Oxycodone for the pain.
Like many veterans, Knutson developed an opioid addiction until he was finally hospitalized in 2017 after an overdose.
He received a 30-day in-patient treatment program followed by a 60-day out-patient program to help detox, but he credits THC and CBD products for helping him remain off narcotics ever since.
CBD Treatment Program
“Start low. Start slow.” That’s the advice Knutson has for anyone looking into medicinal cannabis to help treat pain and PTSD. As a Federal Schedule 1 controlled substance, many doctors are prohibited from recommending CBD or THC to patients.
As states begin to decriminalize marijuana, more and more people are gaining access to medicinal strains, but anyone who has jumped right in to an edible knows they can be potent.
When Knutson began his CBD program, he’d been prescribed Ambien for sleep and Prazosin for PTSD-related nightmares. With proper timing and dosage of CBD, along with occasional microdosing of THC, Knutson no longer needed the Ambien for sleep (though the Prazosin, which is non habit-forming and a non-narcotic, continues to help with nightmares, a common side-effect of PTSD).
There really is a difference between the marijuana trips of 70s and the use of medicinal cannabis today. For Knutson, THC in the form of a liquid deliverable (for example, in a sparkling water) will begin to treat pain in 10 minutes. The same dose (5-10mg) in an edible might take 1-2 hours to provide relief.
As for vaping or smoking, Knutson avoids them altogether to protect his lungs.
Knutson Brothers – (Left) Scot, retired Marine and Keef VP of Operations, (Middle) Kelly, co-founder, (Right) Erik, co-founder and CEO.
The Cannabis Industry
Knutson’s transition into a career in the cannabis industry was a slow one. His brother started a cannabis company in 2010 (ironically around the time Knutson was getting his Top Secret clearance background check…) but it wasn’t until after he separated from the Marine Corps in 2014 that he decided to join the industry professionally.
He now helps lead a thriving and award-winning cannabis company, Keef Brands, which is designed with the health-conscious consumer in mind. Through his company, he’s been able to help place other veterans into jobs and security positions within the industry.
When I asked how the Department of Veterans Affairs can better accommodate the needs of veterans, Knutson was pretty straight-forward: “Cannabis needs to come out of the shadows and be talked about so there can be education about how to properly use it. It’d be helpful if the VA would be able to talk about it with veterans so they could receive the treatment they need — and also so they can prevent abuse.”
Arms races usually take place in a tit-for-tat back and forth. Germany got flamethrowers, so America got trench guns. Russia has more tanks, so America gets the Apache. Sure, the balance of power shifts, but the weapons produced all make logical sense given the context.
Sometimes, however, someone thinks of a weapon or an upgrade that completely shifts the balance of power. These weapons are so out there that it sounds like the responsible nation downloaded some mods to get an edge that nobody could have ever planned for.
Nest of bees
The Nest of Bees was a Chinese weapon that worked like a Saturn Missile firework. A group of a couple dozen projectiles, basically arrows with rocket engines, were packed into tubes combined into a single block with one fuse. Warriors would aim at the body of the enemy army, set the fuse alight, and unleash hell.
Pirate and navy games focus on just a couple of important weapons, none more so than the cannons that ships and forts used to inflict damage on one another. But forts had an advantage that game developers don’t often include — and we’re sure that many would pay for the DLC to get it: Hot shot.
Defenders in a fort would stack cannonballs on open grates or, after the year 1800, in large furnaces. The cannonballs would then be heated for less than an hour to reach red or white-hot heat. Then, they would be fired against enemy ships and siege engines. The heat would transfer into the wood and set the whole thing aflame.
Flaming ammo? Just type “Devil’s Balls” into the chat window and hit enter.
The reputed Claw of Archimedes toppled ships in the Siege of Syracuse, saving the city, according to ancient sources.
The Claw of Archimedes
Archimedes (yeah, the famous one) was tasked with creating defenses for the Carthaginian city of Syracuse. Syracuse was a coastal city with tall walls, but the leaders knew that Rome was building a huge fleet with massive ships to come get them. Archimedes came up with a few solutions, the most famous of which became known as the Claw of Archimedes.
Think of it as a final line of defense. Simply hit one button and the enemy’s closest ships are suddenly thrown into the air and sunk. Skyrim doesn’t have anything like that.
Often described as “automatic crossbows,” the Zhuge Nu and similar designs required the operator to cock the weapon between each shot.
Zhuge Nu semi-automatic crossbow
When faced with enemy archers, wouldn’t it be nice if you could fire 15 shots without reloading while everyone else has to pull new arrows from a quiver like a chump? The Zhuge Nu crossbow carried 10-15 arrows in a wooden box and allowed the operator to quickly fire one arrow after another by simply cocking a wooden block.
Of course, there were trade offs — most importantly in terms of range and accuracy. The weapon was typically accurate to 65 yards. Only put in this cheat code if you’re going to be fighting lots of enemies at medium range.
During the days where most warriors were carrying swords and spears, a few Chinese warriors were lucky enough to get fire lances. These were weapons made of bamboo or iron and then packed with sand near the handle and gunpowder near the tip.
Wielders could use it in a few ways, but the end result was always lighting the fuse and allowing the flames to erupt in someone’s face — sometimes firing a poison dart or other projectile that was packed in the tip in the process. To be the only guy shooting flames and poisonous darts into people’s brain cavities, first create a warrior character and then bust out the Game Genie.
Most people have heard about America’s plans to drop bombs filled with lots of live bats on Japanese cities. Now think about what that weapon would look like in a game. “You drop a bomb, and then all of the things inside the bomb fly to your targets and set them on fire.” That’s pretty sweet bomb upgrade — for humans, that is. It’s horrible for the bats.
Of course, the bat bomb project was famously abandoned after it proved too hard to control. So, no American aviators got to take advantage of the weapon in combat.
“My job was to catch spies,” shared former FBI agent Joe Navarro. He was straight up recruited to the FBI when he was a 23-year-old cop and he spent the next 25 years with the Bureau, working in counterintelligence and counterterrorism.
He specialized in the science of nonverbal communication — reading the unspoken clues about a person just by observing their body language and behavior.
“Most of my career I spent within the National Security Division. A lot of it had to do with looking at specific targets and then it was about, ‘How do I get in their heads and neutralize them?'”
There are a lot of myths out there. Take crossing your arms; Navarro says many people think of this as a “blocking behavior,” but crossed arms are actually known as “self-soothing” — the action of calming or comforting oneself when unhappy or distressed. “It’s a self hug,” he asserts.
“We are never in a state where we’re not transmitting information,” Navarro says with confidence. Check out the video to see precisely what that means:
Former FBI Agent Explains How to Read Body Language | Tradecraft | WIRED
Even body posturing in the stance Navarro calls “arms akimbo” can communicate different behavior based on the placement of the fingers. On the left, the fingers forward might indicate territorial behavior. It changes to a more inquisitive stance when the thumbs are forward.
Navarro can discern meaning from hand placement to foot activity.
“It really is looking at an individual and saying, ‘What are they transmitting?'” From walking pace to blink-rate, agents like Navarro will determine whether they should marshall resources to monitor or question an individual.
In the video, Navarro goes on to describe the effect a handshake can have on people, down to the very bonding chemicals that may or may not be produced by the body. He also unsettles a pair of strangers and describes the ramifications that action has on their interaction.
Then the video gets interesting, that is, if you’re a poker fan.
Navarro breaks down the body language of a poker table. “This is a great opportunity to be looking for behaviors indicative of discomfort,” he explains. “Even before the game starts this is an opportunity to collect ‘poker intelligence.'” If you think you’ve got a killer poker face, you may want to check out the video above! You’ll never look at your thumbs the same way again…
On Thursday, U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptors intercepted a pair of Russian military planes as they entered into America’s Alaska air defense identification zone (ADIZ), just days after conducting similar intercepts of Russian bombers in the same region. This time, the Russian aircraft, which were both reportedly IL-38 maritime patrol planes, had come within 50 miles of the Alaskan island of Unimak and then proceeded to spend a full four hours in the area.
A pair of F-22s, America’s most capable air superiority fighters, intercepted the Russian planes and escorted them out of the area. Thursday’s intercept marks the fifth time American fighters had to shoo Russian bombers and other aircraft away from U.S. Air Space this month, and the ninth time this year. A number of those intercepts included Russia’s Tu-95 long range, nuclear capable, heavy payload bombers, as well as Su-35 fighter escorts.
Russian Su-35 (WikiMedia Commons)
The Su-35 is a fourth-generation fighter, meaning it lacks stealth capabilities, but is still regarded as among the most capable dogfighting platforms on the planet. The Su-35’s powerful twin engines are capable of propelling the fighter to a top speed of Mach 2.25, far faster than an F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, and each comes equipped with thrust vectoring nozzles that allow the aircraft to perform incredible acrobatics that most other fourth and even fifth generation fighters simply can’t.
That is to say that Russia is clearly taking these incursions into America’s backyard seriously, sending some of their most capable platforms on these missions.
America’s F-22 Raptor, however, also comes equipped with twin, thrust vectoring power plants, which in conjunction with its stealth capabilities, likely makes the F-22 the most fearsome air superiority fighter on the planet.
Are Russian bomber intercepts common for the U.S. or its allies?
The short answer is yes. The United States and Russia have a long history of staring matches in the Alaskan ADIZ, but many other nations, particularly members of NATO, often mount their own intercept flights as Russian pilots encroach on their air space as well.
USAF F-22 Raptor intercepting a Russian Tu-95 bomber near Alaska earlier this month. (NORAD)
Russia regularly conducts long-distance bomber missions all over the world, sometimes prompting an intercept response from nations that feel threatened by their bomber presence. According to the BBC, Royal Air Force intercept fighters have ushered away Russian bombers and other aircraft encroaching on their airspace no fewer than ten times since the beginning of 2019.
What is Russia trying to accomplish?
Like many military operations, these flights are motivated by multiple internal and external factors.
Training and Preparation
The primary reason behind these long-range flights, particularly for heavy payload bombers, is simply training. In order to be able to execute these long range bombing missions in the event of real war, Russian pilots conduct training flights that closely resemble how actual combat operations would unfold.
It’s worth noting that the United States conducts similar long-range training flights with its own suite of heavy payload bombers, including the non-nuclear B-1B Lancer and the nuclear capable B-52 Stratofortress. Long duration missions can be dangerous and difficult even without an enemy shooting back at you — so it’s in the best interest of nations with long range bomber capabilities to regularly conduct long range flights.
Long range missions require a great deal of logistical planning as well, as bombers are often accompanied by fighters that don’t have the same fuel range as the massive planes they escort. That means not only coordinating with escort fighters from multiple installations, but also managing support from airborne refuelers and flights of Advanced Warning and Control (AWAC) planes. Executing such a complex operation takes practice, no matter the nation conducting them.
An important part of Russia’s foreign policy is maintaining the threat they represent to diplomatic opponents (like the United States and its NATO allies). Deterrence is the ultimate goal of many military operations, and demonstrating the capability to launch long-range strikes against national opponents is meant to support that doctrine.
The concept of using a strong offense as a good defense dates back to when mankind first starting sharpening sticks to defend their territory, and is perhaps best demonstrated in a modern sense by America and Russia’s nuclear deterrent approach of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD). The premise behind MAD is simple: by maintaining a variety of nuclear attack capabilities, it makes stopping a nuclear response to an attack all but impossible. In other words, if the U.S. launch nuclear weapons at Russia, Russia would be guaranteed to fire their own back at the U.S., and vice versa.
The promise that one nuclear attack would immediately result in a large-scale nuclear war is seen as deterrent enough to keep nuclear powers from engaging in such a terrible form of warfare… at least thus far.
The third, and perhaps most nefarious, reason behind these flights that prompt intercepts from U.S. or allied fighters is as a means of desensitizing military personnel and even civilian populations to the presence of Russian bombers or other aircraft on our doorstep.
Because each of these flights prompts a flurry of headlines form major media outlets, many Americans have taken to dismissing these flights as so commonplace they hardly warrant the webspace. Likewise within the military, conducting frequent intercepts of Russian aircraft can leave some pilots and commanders increasingly complacent about the threat these aircraft potentially pose.
Imagine a bear breaking into your trash can every couple of months. The first few times, you’d be pretty scared and concerned. You might even set up cameras and invest in some bear-spray you can use to deter the bears from coming back. After a few months of sporadic bear visits, that fear turns to annoyance, as you begin to feel as though the bear isn’t a threat to you, but is an inconvenience in your life.
After years of dealing with the same bear digging through your trash, you would likely stop seeing the bear as a threat to your safety and adopt a more neutral approach to rolling your eyes and swearing under your breath every time it comes lumbering up to your old trash can.
The bear itself is no less dangerous to you than it was the first time you saw it and panicked, but your perception of the bear has shifted. Now, while you’re aware that it could hurt you, you’ve also developed an understanding that it probably won’t. You may even start to ignore it from time to time. That unintentional complacency brought about through familiarization will leave you less primed to react if the bear suddenly does pose a threat to your safety.
The slight delay in your response, brought about by complacency, could be all the bear needs to do some real damage. The same can be said about Russian Tu-95 Bear bombers.
How to combat complacency with a Russian “Bear” in your yard
Complacency isn’t just a concern when it comes to Russian aircraft or curious bears. Letting your guard down is a constant concern for service members on the front lines of any conflict.
Military protocol is one powerful tool in the fight against complacency, because it mandates a threat response and outlines its proper execution. In other words, the U.S. Military doesn’t have to make any specific decisions at the onset of identifying a potential threat. Instead, they execute the tasks on their threat response checklist to gather vital information, prepare a response, and in these cases, intercept the bombers.
USAF F-22 intercepts Russian bomber (NORAD)
In this way, America can turn the potential threat of complacency into a valuable training operation, wherein U.S. personnel act as though this Russian bomber flight could be a real attack. Of course, the risk of complacency remains, but that’s why continuous training and preparation is an essential part of American defense.
Whether it’s Russian bombers or a wayward Grizzly, if you treat every interaction like it could be dangerous, you’ll be better prepared in the event that it is.
Of the three charter members of the “Axis of Evil” – Iraq, Iran, and North Korea – Iran may be the last man standing, thanks to the guys with the crazy hair – Kim Jong-Un and Donald J. Trump.
The Iranian leadership’s special blend of messianism, self-pity, and paranoia has fueled its hegemonic push West, through Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon, and meddling in the territory of its neighbors, Yemen and Afghanistan. This makes sense in the regime’s House of Leadership, while it husbands its nuclear weapons development capability for another day, thanks to the “Iran nuclear deal” or Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), but it undercuts Iran’s need to attract foreign investment to revive its deteriorating economy.
Despite the surprise election of Donald Trump as U.S. President, Iran’s leadership no doubt hoped the opportunity for contracts for U.S. companies, read Boeing, would be too good to pass up despite candidate Trump’s disdain for the JCPOA, which he called “the worst deal ever.” And in May 2018, after delaying for over a year and giving the U.S. Congress or the other JCPOA partners an opportunity to fix the agreement, Trump announced the U.S. was withdrawing from the “horrible one-sided” JCPOA.
On the other side of the world, North Korea’s hereditary leader, Kim Jong-Un, had a face-t0-face meeting in Singapore with Donald Trump, who had only recently derided him as “Rocket Man.” Kim has visited Beijing several times to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping and made a historic trip to the Panmunjom truce village where he met South Korean President Moon Jae-in and stepped over the border into South Korea, the first North Korean leader to do so.
What does Iran have to do to get some respect?
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un
There may not be much Iran can do because North Korea has one thing Iran lacks: neighbors who want a peace process to succeed and can brandish the appropriate carrots and sticks.
Iran’s neighbor Iraq is key to Iran’s regional strategy due to its location and large Shia Muslim population, but Iran’s involvement increases Iraqi Sunni anxiety, leaving them open to manipulation by outside forces; Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, and Pakistan have neither the financial or political heft to improve Iran’s economy or its security situation; Turkey, a regional competitor, will likely bide its time as Iran’s isolation continues; in the Southern Caucasus, secular Azerbaijan is wary of its militant neighbor, and Armenia is a shambles and hardly able to help itself much less anyone else. And across the Persian Gulf lies Saudi Arabia, anxious to take down its regional rival as its ambitious young ruler looks to reshape its economy and society.
Iran’s remaining partners in the JCPOA – China, France, Germany, European Union, Russia, and the United Kingdom – are distant from the consequences of any regional instability and are primarily motivated by trade opportunities.
North Korea lives in an entirely different neighborhood. To its North are China and Russia, two permanent members of the UN Security Council and, in China’s case, a diverse, growing economy – the world’s second largest. To the South is South Korea, home of the world’s eleventh largest economy and a vibrant exporter of cultural and technology products. Across the Sea of Japan is, well, Japan, a leading technology exporter and home of the third largest economy.
North Korea’s neighbors have significant security concerns: China wants to stop North Korean refugees escaping across its border and to be able to mitigate the increasing stress in its relations with the Kim regime. South Korea is interested in threat reduction and family reunification; Japan can’t move out of range of the North’s missiles, so would like the missile and nuclear weapon programs to end. And the U.S., with 28,000 troops and numerous family members in the South, is fully invested in both denuclearization and a peaceful end of the Korean War, which started sixty-eight years ago in June 2018.
Chinese president Xi Jinping
If war broke out again on the Korean Peninsula, the effect would worldwide and immediate as South Korea is a vital part of the global supply chain for high technology equipment. And it’s unlikely someone else could quickly pick up the slack: it is estimated that the replacement cost of the display manufacturing capability of Samsung and rival LG will top billion. In the words of one analyst, “If Korea is hit by a missile, all electronics production will stop.”
So a major conflict in Asia will damage economies worldwide; more trouble in Iran’s neighborhood, short of stopping all oil exports from the Persian Gulf, is Page 3 news.
President Trump probably looked at Iran and North Korea and correctly concluded that North Korea was the greater strategic threat to the U.S. and must be dealt with first. The North has intercontinental ballistic missiles that can soon reach the U.S. mainland, even if it now lacks warhead re-entry capability and terminal guidance technology. But Trump’s strategy of “maximum pressure” was then amplified by Pyongyang’s neighbors who have their own economic and political heft and who want the North to denuclearize and join the world economy.
Iran is a noisy, regional menace but is being countered in part by aggressive economic sanctions which, coupled with the regime’s economic mismanagementand corruption, are doing more damage than a subversion campaign sponsored by the U.S. and its allies. But that’s probably going on, too.
Kim signaled he was taking the country in a new direction in 2016, at the 7th Congress of the Workers’ Party of Korea, where he emphasized his policy of “byungjin” — or “simultaneous pursuit” — equating economic growth and the development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missile delivery systems. His likely goal is to announce significant economic growth at the 8th Workers’ Party Congress in 2022.
Shortly after Trump’s return from his meeting with Kim, U.S. media reported North Korea had increased nuclear production at secret sites. Was Trump snookered by Kim as some observers hoped? Possibly, but Kim likely wants to maximize production of nukes and missiles, so he has more to trade when trading day arrives. He also needs to keep the military-industrial complex busy and motivated as he prepares for years of difficult negotiations with the U.S. and his neighbors.
Indeed, strategists at Korean conglomerate Samsung think North Korea is “already past the point of no return,” and the economy will overtake the military as the regime’s means of survival. If so, regime insiders will want to be rewarded for their fidelity, as visions of mobile phone licenses and mining concessions dance in their heads. Though North Korea is a long way from mass politics, economic success will enable Kim to solidify his popular base as a counterweight to regime insiders.
In fact, Kim may be ahead of his cadres in the new politics game. In 2017, in a national broadcast, he admitted “My desires were burning all the time, but I spent the past year feeling anxious and remorseful for the lack of my ability,” a startling admission from someone the subject of a pervasive personality cult. And Kim and Trump know a picture of two men shaking hands is enough to start a political reordering.
Where is Iran in all this? As part of North Korea’s denuclearization, the U.S. will insist on implementing the Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) program in conjunction with monitoring by the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs. CTR was the way to prevent “loose nukes” – preventing the “proliferation of WMD [Weapon of Mass Destruction] and related materials, technologies and expertise from former Soviet Union states.”
The U.S. will demand to know the extent of North Korea’s cooperation with Iran (and Syria and Pakistan, for that matter). The information won’t come cheap, but it will allow the U.S. and its partners to identify new key weapons development officials and facilities, and to attack the transport networks and financial systems that support Iran’s WMD program. And those same networks probably support Iran’s program of terror and subversion, most of it directed against Iran’s neighbors, so political and security progress in Asia may pay dividends in the Middle East.
And time is of the essence, as the media recently uncovered the possible use of Danske Bank Estonia in Tallinn to finance weapons deals between North Korea and Iran. North Korea was the focus of the news cycle two weeks ago, but if its future disclosures lag media reporting, it will be continually reacting to disclosures about its money laundering and use of the informal transportation sector and for no benefit.
And the U.S. must not forget the Iranian people – they are a key audience (aside from swing voters in the 2020 U.S. elections). They should be the target of news reports on economic progress in North Korea as their economy continues to stagnate so they, and the young especially, can ask why their leaders can’t get the world’s respect and engagement. To underline what happened, they should be reminded that Trump traveled to Asia – Kim’s neighborhood – to meet him.
Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s invocation of “resistance” will be increasingly threadbare if Iranians’ quality of life deteriorates as additional sanctions bite and China stops taking Iran’s calls.
Kim Jong-Un, Ali Khamenei – they’ve both done awful things, but now we’ll see who’s the transformational leader with his eyes on the future.
Army researchers have discovered that being initially uncertain when faced with making critical mission-related decisions based on various forms of information may lead to better overall results in the end.
Army collaborative research has studied networked teams and asked the following question: “Does the uncertainty regarding shared information result in lower decision making performance?”
The answer seems to be “not necessarily,” as the findings suggest that uncertainty may actually be helpful in certain situations.
This finding may sound counterintuitive, as many algorithms specifically incorporate the objective to reduce uncertainty by removing conflicting or irrelevant data.
Reducing uncertainty is desirable when decision makers are processing high-quality information which is correct, timely, complete and actionable.
Additionally, in automated settings requiring no human input, prior beliefs may not impact decisions and it is not necessary to consider the impact of uncertainty on beliefs.
However, many real-world scenarios do not correspond to this idealized setting and hence more nuanced approaches may be needed.
Army graphic designed by U.S. Army Research Laboratory graphic artist Evan Jensen delivers the key idea that making decisions under uncertainty may not be such a bad thing after all.
“We are continuously flooded with large amounts of unverified information from social and news media in our daily lives,” said Dr. Jin-Hee Cho, a project lead of the trustworthy multi-genre networks with the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command Research Laboratory’s Network Science Division. “Hence, we may find ourselves unable to make a decision due to too much information as opposed to too little.”
In the context of battlefield situations, different information through diverse channels is available for a decision maker, for example, a commander.
The commander needs to incorporate all opinions or evidence to make a final decision, which is often closely related to time-sensitive mission completion in a given military context.
“Investigating how uncertainty plays a role in forming opinions with different qualities of information is critical to supporting warfighters’ decision making capability,” Cho said. “But, what if we cannot reduce uncertainty further?”
Recently, Cho presented her research paper entitled “Is uncertainty always bad: The effect of topic competence on uncertain opinions” at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ International Conference on Communications.
This research is completed in collaboration with Professor Sibel Adali at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, where Cho and Adali have been working together through the Research Laboratory’s collaborative program called the Network Science Collaborative Technology Alliance.
In the paper, the researchers pointed out that although past work investigated how uncertain and subjective opinions evolve and diffuse in social networks, there is little work on directly showing the impact of uncertain, noisy information and topic competence on forming subjective opinions and beliefs as well as decision making performance.
Dr. Jin-Hee Cho, project lead of the trustworthy multi-genre networks with the U.S. Army Research Laboratory’s Network Science Division.
“Information often has multiple attributes that all contribute to decision making in conjunction with the competence, knowledge and prior beliefs of individuals in the given topic,” Adali said. “Many information models tend to oversimplify the problem abstracting out these factors which become quite important in situations involving uncertain, noisy or unreliable information.”
The key motivation of this study is to answer the following question: “When we are stuck with high uncertainty due to noisy, not credible information, how can an individual maximize the positive effect of a small pieces of good information for decision making?”
To study this problem, Cho and Adali extended the subjective logic framework to incorporate interactions between different qualities of information and human agents in scenarios requiring processing of uncertain information.
In their recent research paper, the following lessons are presented as answers to this key problem:
One, as human cognition is limited in detecting good or bad information or processing a large volume of information, errors are inevitable.
However, as long as an individual is not biased towards false information, systematic errors do not cascade in the network.
In this case, high uncertainty can even help the decision maker to maximize the effect of small pieces of good information because the uncertainty can be largely credited by being treated as good information.
Another insight is that less information is better, particularly when the quality of information is not guaranteed.
“A non-biased view is vital for correct decision making under high uncertainty,” Cho said. “You don’t even have to favor true information either. If we are not biased, it allows even small pieces of true information to lead you to the right decision.”
So, when faced with tough decisions on the battlefield, warfighters need not rely solely on one way of thinking and processing information, as the answer they need to successfully make a move or complete a mission could be right in front of them in the form of an uncertain feeling.
Marine Corps Capt. Daniel Kult, Sgt. John Dietrick and Pfc. Alexander Meinhardt, from left to right, of 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, pose at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport on May 4, 2020.
Three Marines who sprang into action to restrain a hostile and disruptive fellow passenger are now being recognized by their unit commanding officer for their bravery and quick thinking.
The incident happened Monday on a flight from Tokyo to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport in Texas. The three North Carolina-based Marines, all assigned to 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, were Capt. Daniel Kult, Sgt. John Dietrick and Pfc. Alexander Meinhardt. They had been traveling back to the U.S. for various reasons, about halfway through a six-month Unit Deployment Program pump in Okinawa.
During the flight, according to a Marine Corps news release, a passenger barricaded himself inside one of the plane’s bathrooms and loudly began to make what officials described as threatening comments.
“While watching a movie during my flight from Japan to Texas, I started to hear screaming coming from the restroom on board,” Dietrick, an infantry assault section leader from Mechanicsville, Virginia, said in a statement. “When I took off my headphones, I heard a man sounding very distraught and screaming from the bathroom.”
The Marines then moved quickly, according to the release. While a flight attendant got the door unlocked, the three men grabbed the passenger and used flex ties to bind him. They took him back to a seat and stayed with him to make sure he remained restrained for the rest of the flight.
“I knew I had to step in when he became a danger to others and himself,” said Meinhardt, a mortarman from Sparta, Wisconsin. “I didn’t think twice about helping restrain him through the rest of the flight.”
Kult, an infantry officer from Coons Rapids, Iowa, credited the Marines’ quick, decisive actions to their training.
“We just assessed the situation and acted,” he said. “Working with the flight crew, we got the door open and from there worked together to subdue him. We didn’t take time to talk it over. We just got ready and did what we needed to help.”
In light of the episode, the plane was rerouted to the Los Angeles International Airport. The problem passenger was disembarked and sent to a mental health facility for evaluation, according to the release. The incident will be investigated by the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California, officials said.
Of the bravery of the three Marines, their battalion commanding officer simply said he was not surprised.
“I happen to know all three of them, two of them well, and they are all what I would call ‘men of action,'” Lt. Col. Chris Niedziocha, commander of 1/6, said in a statement. “I’m continually amazed by and grateful for the people we have in this battalion.”
It’s not the first time U.S. service members in transit have jumped into action to prevent a disaster. Perhaps most famously, a soldier and an airman traveling on a train in France in 2015 helped to avert a terror attack — and were eventually awarded honorary French citizenship in thanks for their efforts.
Northrop Grumman Corp. and Boeing Co. have received the ICBM replacement contracts for technology maturation and risk reduction, the service said in an announcement on August 21.
The two contracts are not to exceed $359 million each, the service said, though Boeing was awarded a $349 million agreement and Northrop received a $328 million deal.
Lockheed Martin Corp., the world’s largest defense contractor, was also in the running for the competition announced last year. The Air Force opted to down-select from three companies to two for the next phase of the program.
After the 36-month risk reduction phase, a single company will be chosen for the engineering and manufacturing development in 2020.
“We are moving forward with modernization of the ground-based leg of the nuclear triad,” said Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said. “Our missiles were built in the 1970s. Things just wear out, and it becomes more expensive to maintain them than to replace them. We need to cost-effectively modernize,” she said in the release.
“As others have stated, the only thing more expensive than deterrence is fighting a war. The Minuteman III is 45 years old. It is time to upgrade,” added Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein.
The Air Force is responsible for two out of the three legs of the nuclear triad. It expects to deploy GBSD in the late 2020s.
Northrop and Boeing were selected because the defense companies are determined “to provide the best overall value to the warfighter and taxpayers based on the source selection’s evaluation factors,” which are their technical approach, technical risk, and cost/price, Air Force officials said.
Boeing will perform majority of the TMRR’s program work in its Huntsville, Alabama facility, while Northrop will use Redondo Beach, California, as its facility.
For the GBSD acquisition program, the service’s Nuclear Weapons Center will also be “focused on developing and delivering an integrated GBSD weapon system, including launch and command-and-control segments,” the announcement said.
Officials have noted that GBSD is meant to be more modular and technically advanced, and more readily adaptable to challenges posed by hostile adversaries.
The first contract awards come at a time when the Defense Department is conducting the Nuclear Posture Review, designed to determine what role nuclear weapons should play in US security strategy — and how many should be in the arsenal.
Additionally, the GBSD news precedes the Air Force’s anticipated announcement for the Long Range Standoff Weapon, or LRSO — a nuclear-capable cruise missile to be launched from aircraft such as the B-52 Stratofortress.
The LRSO program would replace the AGM-86B Air Launched Cruise Missile, and a contract is expected to be announced this year.