US & China both flexing over this strategic waterway - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

US & China both flexing over this strategic waterway

Days after China sent a half-dozen bombers into the Pacific for military exercises, US Air Force B-52 bombers and F-15 fighters linked up with Japanese aircraft for joint drills.

Two B-52H Stratofortress heavy long-range bombers out of Andersen Air Force Base on Guam joined F-15 Eagles from Kadena Air Force Base for exercises with the Japanese Air Self-Defense Force on April 4, 2019, The Japan Times reported, citing a US Air Force spokeswoman.


Aircraft tracking data for the B-52 flights appears to show the aircraft flying through the Miyako Strait as they made their way toward Western Japan.

The Miyako Strait is a strategically valuable waterway between the Japanese islands of Miyako and Okinawa, providing the Chinese navy its main route into the Pacific Ocean.

US & China both flexing over this strategic waterway

A Chinese H-6 bomber.

The exercises conducted April 4, 2019, like those carried out on March 20, 2019, were reportedly part of US Indo-Pacific Command’s Continuous Bomber Presence mission, which it has done since 2004. Bomber flights and joint drills are conducted regularly to deter aggression.

Allied training “in the vicinity of Western Japan” followed substantial Chinese military activity in the area earlier in the week.

On March 30, 2019, Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force Xian H-6K long-range bombers, accompanied by one Tupolev Tu-154MD electronic intelligence aircraft and at least two fighters, flew through the Miyako Strait, The Diplomat reported.

Two days later, two Xian H-6G maritime strike bombers supported by a Shaanxi Y-9JB electronic-warfare and surveillance aircraft flew through the strait. Japan scrambled fighters to intercept the approaching Chinese aircraft, just as it did on March 30, 2019.

US & China both flexing over this strategic waterway

A Chinese H-6 bomber.

These types of flights are becoming increasingly common as China steps up the tempo for bomber flights into the Western Pacific.

China’s People’s Liberation Army “has rapidly expanded its overwater bomber operating areas, gaining experience in critical maritime regions and likely training for strikes against US and allied targets,” the Department of Defense stated in its annual report on Chinese military power.

“The PLA may continue to extend its operations beyond the first island chain, demonstrating the capability to strike US and allied forces and military bases in the western Pacific Ocean, including Guam,” the report said.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why names are added to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall

Known simply as “The Wall” to the men and women who can find the name of a loved one inscribed on it, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall lists the names of those who fell during the Vietnam War. The names are arranged first by date, and then alphabetically. There are more than 58,000 names on more than 75 meters of black granite, memorializing those who died in service to that war.


The eligibility dates span Nov. 1, 1955, through May 15, 1975, though the first date on The Wall during its dedication was from 1959. A service member who died in 1956 was added after The Wall was dedicated – and names have actually been added on multiple occasions.

US & China both flexing over this strategic waterway

(Hu Totya)

When The Wall was completed in 1982, it contained 57,939 names. As of Memorial Day 2017, there were 58,318 names, including eight women. There are veterans still eligible to have their names inscribed with their fellow honored dead. The Department of Defense decides whose name gets to go on The Wall, but those inscribed typically…

  • …died (no matter the cause) within the defined combat zone of Vietnam (varies based on dates).
  • …died while on a combat/combat support mission to/from the defined combat zone of Vietnam.
  • …died within 120 days of wounds, physical injuries, or illnesses incurred or diagnosed in the defined combat zone of Vietnam..

Currently, victims of Agent Orange and PTSD-related suicide are not eligible to have their name inscribed on the memorial wall. You can request to have a name added at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund website.

10 more names were added to The Wall in 2012 and the statuses of 12 others were changed. The 10 servicemen came from the Marine Corps, Navy, Army, and Air Force, and died between 1966 and 2011. The Department of Defense determined that all deaths were the result of wounds sustained in Vietnam.

As for the status changes, the names are still recorded on The Wall. For those who’ve never seen The Wall in person, each name is also accompanied by a symbol. A diamond means the person was declared dead. A name whose status is unknown is noted by a cross. When a missing person is officially declared dead, a diamond is superimposed over the cross. If a missing person returned alive, the cross would be circumscribed with a circle.

The latter has never happened.

US & China both flexing over this strategic waterway

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial features more than just The Wall, it also includes the Women’s Memorial and “The Three Soldiers” statue.

Status changes happen all the time, as the remains of those missing in action are found, identified, and returned home.

While the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall doesn’t include the names of service members who died through diseases related to Agent Orange exposure, other state and local memorials may include them. As recently as October, 2018, the California Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall began to include those who died through such illnesses.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Philippines want Russian subs because U.S. ones ‘implode’

The leader of a close US ally is turning to rival Russia for submarines, arguing that if his country were to buy American submarines, they would probably “implode.”

President of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte lashed out Aug. 17, 2018, after the US warned the Philippines against purchasing Russian Kilo-class diesel-electric submarines. He accused the US of selling its ally only hand-me-down weapons that endanger the lives of Filipino troops, according to local outlet Rappler.


“Why did you not stop the other countries in Asia? Why are you stopping us? Who are you to warn us?” Duterte asked Aug. 17, 2018, at an event in his hometown of Davao.”You give us submarines, it will implode.” He asserted that the US sent his country “used” and “rusted” North Atlantic Treaty Organization helicopters, claiming the poor condition of the platforms led to the deaths of local forces.

“Is that the way you treat an ally and you want us to stay with you for all time?” he asked. “You want us to remain backwards. Vietnam has 7 submarines, Malaysia has 2, Indonesia has 8. We alone don’t have one. You haven’t given us any.”

US & China both flexing over this strategic waterway

Russian Black Sea Fleet’s B-265 Krasnodar.

Duterte’s latest outburst was triggered by a warning issued Aug. 16, 2018, by Randall Schriver, the US Department of Defense Assistant Secretary for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs.

“I think they should think very carefully about that,” he said, referring to the Philippine government’s interest in acquiring Russian submarines. “If they were to proceed with purchasing major Russian equipment, I don’t think that’s a helpful thing to do [in our] alliance, and I think ultimately we can be a better partner than the Russians can be.”

“We have to understand the nature of this regime in Russia. I don’t need to go through the full laundry list: Crimea, Ukraine, the chemical attack in the UK,” he added, “So, you’re investing not only in the platforms, but you’re making a statement about a relationship.”

An interest in Russian weapons systems has strained relations between the US and a number of allies and international partners in recent months. As Duterte pursues an independent foreign policy often out of alignment with US interests, the Philippines has increasingly looked to develop defense ties with Russia. The country is looking to Russia for submarines as it looks to modernize its military.

“For a nation with maritime territory specially island nation, its national defense is incomplete without (a) submarine,” Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said in early 2018, according to the Philippine Star.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why the US military needs to seriously rethink ‘recruiter goals’

Each year, the United States Armed Forces projects the amount of troops that will exit the service and how many new bodies it needs to fill the gaps in formation. This number is distributed accordingly between the branches and then broken down further for each recruiting station, depending on the location, size of the local population, and typical enlistment rates of each area.

This is, at a very basic level, how recruiter quotas work. If the country is at war, the need for more able-bodied recruits rises to meet the demand. When a war is winding down, as we’re seeing today, you would reasonably expect there to be less pressure on recruiters to send Uncle Sam troops — but there’s not. Not by a long shot.


US & China both flexing over this strategic waterway

“Come show off at the pull-up bars for the low, low price of taking a business card!”

(Dept. of the Army photo by Ronald A. Reeves)

The most obvious fault with “recruiter goals,” or the quota policy, is that it makes fulfilling the quota the single most important responsibility of the recruiter. So, recruiters will go out and put their best foot forward in the name of their branch in hopes that it’ll inspire someone to enlist — despite all of the other things they need to be doing.

Recruiters generally love going to county fairs or air shows and having loads of civilians flock to their booth — otherwise, they wouldn’t be recruiters. These events give civilians, some of whom may have never interacted with a service member, a friendly one-on-one that could — maybe, just maybe — inspire them to one day serve their country.

At the end of the day, that’s all recruiters can ultimately do to bring in recruits, sow the seeds of military service. Recruiters can’t put a gun to anyone’s head to make them sign on the dotted line and they have to respect a person’s decision to turn down Uncle Sam’s offer.

US & China both flexing over this strategic waterway

By all means, we should commend and praise the recruiters who go above and beyond — but the hammer that’s dropped is unjustly cruel.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Daniel Butterfield)

Still, recruiters are expected to enlist a certain amount of recruits into military service — despite the fact that it’s outside the scope of their responsibilities to direct herds of civilians to their offices. They still have to handle all the day-to-day operations of the recruiting station, the plethora of paperwork required by each new recruit, limiting the stress of and mentoring potential recruits, teaching delayed-entry recruits, and acting like a chauffeur between the recruiting depot and MEPS. You could be the most attentive recruiter the military has ever seen, constantly doing everything in your power to best prepare the recruit for military life, but the only metric that matters in the eyes of Big Recruiting is that one, big number.

To make matters worse, the pool of eligible recruits is dwindling as the criteria for service keeps getting stricter.

US & China both flexing over this strategic waterway

My honest opinion? Scrap the negative consequences for not meeting quota but institute minor, but enjoyable benefits that would encourage recruiters to try harder — like a half a day of leave added to their LES for each recruit they bring in or whatever seems more applicable.

(Photo by Dan Desmet, New York District Public Affairs)

All this being said, the quota isn’t entirely without merit. It lets the higher-ups know, at a glance, that a recruiter is keeping their word to the Pentagon. Some might even say that it motivates recruiters to get out there and keep hustling bodies into their office. But the quota has caused much more undue stress than it should.

To put it as bluntly as possible, recruiters are killing themselves for not reaching an arbitrary number, set outside of their control. Recruiters are forced to work longer hours and weekends (up to 15 hours per day, seven days per week in some cases) when crunch time comes. Recently, recruiters were almost denied holiday time — not as in block leave, but spending Christmas morning with their families — because they didn’t meet numbers.

This is nothing new and the stress military recruiters face has been front and center of national discussion for ages now.

The fact is, there’s no simple solution because the numbers still need to be met — but just because it’s not a simple problem doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to fix it. Perhaps we should shift the focus on strengthening the recruits that willingly walk in the door, or we should bring more troops into recruiting stations to lighten the load of the already-overworked recruiters. Something, anything, needs to be done.

It is completely understandable that the military needs new recruits. Check roger. But we cannot sit idly by without addressing the major stressor that causes recruiters to commit suicide at three times the rate of the rest of the Army — which already has a suicide rating twice of the general population.

Articles

Hackers crack Pentagon’s cyber walls more than 130 times

US & China both flexing over this strategic waterway
YouTube


Hackers screened for their good intentions found 138 “vulnerabilities” in the Defense Department’s cyber defenses in a “bug bounty” awards program that will end up saving the Pentagon money, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said Friday.

Under the “Hack The Pentagon” program, the first ever conducted by the federal government, more than 1,400 “white hat” hackers were vetted and invited to challenge the Pentagon’s defenses to compete for cash awards.

Of the 1,400 who entered, about 250 submitted reports on vulnerability and 138 of those “were determined to be legitimate, unique and eligible for bounty,” Carter said at a Pentagon news conference.

The lessons learned from the “Hack The Pentagon” challenge, an initiative of the Defense Digital Services started by Carter, came at a fraction of the cost of bringing in an outside firm to conduct an audit of the Pentagon’s cyber-security, he said.

The awards going out total $150,000 while a full-blown cyber audit would have cost at least $1 million, he said. In addition, “we’ve fixed all those vulnerabilities,” Carter said.

No federal agency had ever offered a bug bounty, he noted.

“Through this pilot we found a cost-effective way to supplement and support what our dedicated people do every day,” Carter said.

“It’s lot better than either hiring somebody to do that for you or finding out the hard way,” he said. “What we didn’t fully appreciate before this pilot was how many white-hat hackers there are.”

Carter said the Pentagon had plans to encourage defense contractors to submit their programs and products for independent security reviews and bug bounty programs before they deliver them to the government.

MIGHTY MOVIES

‘Matrix 4’ confirmed with Keanu Reeves returning as Neo

“I know why you’re here. I know what you’ve been doing. I know because I was once looking for the same thing. I was looking for an answer. It’s the question that drives us, the question that brought you here. You know the question just as I did:”

Will there be another Matrix film?

Looks like the answer is yes, fellow cyberpunk warriors. Yes, you bet your pleather-clad ass there will be.


US & China both flexing over this strategic waterway

I know, right?

There have been rumors for years, but Warner Bros. just announced that Lana Wachowski is officially set to write and direct a fourth film, starring Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss in their dynamic and ground-breaking roles of Neo and Trinity.

“We could not be more excited to be re-entering The Matrix with Lana,” said Warner Bros. Picture Group chairman Toby Emmerich. “Lana is a true visionary — a singular and original creative filmmaker — and we are thrilled that she is writing, directing, and producing this new chapter in The Matrix universe.”

The Matrix 4 script was also written by Aleksandar Hemon (Sense8) and David Mitchell (Cloud Atlas).

Also read: Watch Keanu Reeves get some tactical training for ‘John Wick 3’

This year marks the twentieth anniversary of The Matrix, which garnered four Academy Awards and birthed a franchise that has earned over id=”listicle-2639941881″.6 billion in the global box office. It is still considered one of the greatest science fiction films of all time — as well it should be. Have you watched it lately? It totally holds up.

It also doesn’t hurt that Keanu Reeves’ box office and cult followings are higher than ever.

US & China both flexing over this strategic waterway

Keanu dodging haters since 1984.

Production is set to begin in 2020, with no official release date.

No plot details have been shared, but of course the internet is full of theories:

Matrix 4 will confirm @JohnWickMovie was all a simulation :Ppic.twitter.com/y7pIGWkX6u

twitter.com

In the meantime, fans can enjoy special screenings of The Matrix in theaters starting August 30th.

Articles

Satellites show N. Korea is amping up nuke program

In a revelation that has strategic implications for Japan, analysis of satellite imagery shows the existence of North Korea’s second submersible test-stand barge — a sign that the nuclear-armed country could be ramping up development of its submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) program.


According to the analysis released May 1 by the 38 North website, a project of the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University, the barge was identified in commercial satellite images taken April 19 of the Nampo Naval Shipyard on the country’s west coast.

The isolated nation already operates one barge on the country’s eastern coast, at the Sinpo South Shipyard, from where it has conducted at least four — but as many as six — test-launches of the Pukguksong-1, or KN-11, SLBM since 2014, when that barge was first seen.

US & China both flexing over this strategic waterway

According to the report, the newly detected barge appears to be identical in size and layout to the original. Such barges are used by navies to test underwater new and modified submarine missile launch tubes and systems, and to conduct initial test-launches before the systems are installed in submarines.

“The discovery of a second missile test barge may have a number of implications for the future of North Korea’s SLBM program that appears to be an important priority for Kim Jong Un,” the report said, adding that the timing of the barges’ acquisition could help reveal the direction of the program.

Also read: The tension between North Korea and the US is not good

If both were acquired at the same time, the report said, it would imply that Pyongyang is planning a more extensive test program than it has conducted so far.

It is unclear if the new barge was acquired or manufactured by the North, but since there have been no indications of barge construction work at the North’s west coast naval shipyards over the past year, that suggests the vessel had been acquired from abroad.

“Since the second barge seems to have been acquired three years after the first, this could mean that North Korea is planning to accelerate its SLBM test program to include a west coast component or develop new SLBM designs, or that it may deploy a ballistic missile submarine with the West Sea Fleet,” the report said. “None of these possibilities are mutually exclusive.”

The Pukguksong-1 would give the reclusive state a credible sea-based nuclear deterrent since the threat of a retaliatory second-strike would throw a wrench into any scenario where the U.S., South Korea, and Japan attempt to preemptively destroy North Korea’s nuclear capabilities.

Related: US pushes ‘enhanced deterrence’ approach to North Korea

According to David Wright of the Union of Concerned Scientists, the Pukguksong-1 has a maximum range similar to the North’s Rodong missile of about 1,250 km, allowing it reach most or all of Japan from a submarine located near the Korean coast.

However, the North’s submarine fleet remains limited in range as it is undergoing a modernization revamp, and would currently be easily detectable by superior U.S., South Korean, and Japanese anti-submarine warfare technology.

Experts say any scenario involving an attempted firing of a Pukguksong-1 from the Sea of Japan by submarine would effectively be a suicide mission for the North.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of November 30th

Man, you cut yourself off from the outside world for one extended weekend and you miss everything. Apparently, lettuce is now dangerous and, supposedly, generals carrying “assault” weapons in Afghanistan are dangerous, and some tribe in the Indian Ocean that’s capable of firing a metric f*ckload of arrows into moving airplanes is dangerous, too.

So, if you’ve managed to not die from tainted lettuce or North Sentinelese archers this week, congratulations! You’ve earned yourself some memes.


US & China both flexing over this strategic waterway

(Meme via Uniform Humor)

US & China both flexing over this strategic waterway

(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

US & China both flexing over this strategic waterway

(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

US & China both flexing over this strategic waterway

(Meme via Shammers United)

US & China both flexing over this strategic waterway

(Meme via United Status Marin Crops)

US & China both flexing over this strategic waterway

(Meme by CONUS Battle Drills)

US & China both flexing over this strategic waterway

(Meme via Sh*t My LPO Says)

US & China both flexing over this strategic waterway

(Meme via Smokepit Fairytales)

US & China both flexing over this strategic waterway

(Meme via Private News Network)

US & China both flexing over this strategic waterway

(Meme via Army as F*ck)

US & China both flexing over this strategic waterway

(Meme by Pop Smoke)

US & China both flexing over this strategic waterway

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

US & China both flexing over this strategic waterway

(Meme via Air Force Nation Humor)

MIGHTY CULTURE

Mighty Talks: MOH Recipients MSG Matt Williams and SSG Ronald Shurer

We recently sat down with Master Sgt. Matt Williams and Staff Sgt. Ronald Shurer of ODA 3336, the first Green Berets to receive the Medal of Honor from the same team. The men recount their harrowing experience, and talk about the brotherhood within the Special Forces community, and what the Medal of Honor means to them.


On April 6, 2008, Operational Detachment-Alpha 3336 entered the Shok Valley in Afghanistan with their Afghan Commando partners to capture a high-value target. Almost immediately upon insertion, the team came under heavy RPG and machine gun fire. Within minutes of landing, the team was dealing with their first casualty and began coordinating an evacuation down the side of a mountain in a foreign language, all the while calling in danger close ordnance to repel the enemy onslaught.

US & China both flexing over this strategic waterway

MSG Williams while on a mission in Afghanistan

(Photo Courtesy of U.S. Army MSG Matthew Williams)

Green Beret teams were some of the first Americans into Afghanistan after 9/11, and the unique nature of their mission inspired Williams and Shurer. Both men feel strongly about the brotherhood that is established within the Special Forces community and speak to those feelings throughout the interview. “I’ve read books, and seen movies, but until you’re in the Q Course, you see that the focus isn’t this tough, lone soldier. It’s much more of a team aspect,” said Shurer. “They’ve got to find those guys with the strong personalities but can play as part of a team, that’s why it kind of fit well with me.” Shurer added.

US & China both flexing over this strategic waterway

​MSG Williams receives the Medal of Honor from POTUS

(Photo Credit: Sgt. Keisha Brown)

As with many other Medal of Honor recipients, the award has changed their lives as they are now part of the Medal of Honor Society, and have appeared on national media to share their heroic actions and remember the efforts of others.”You’re not wearing it for yourself, you’re wearing it for all those guys who didn’t come home, and everyone out there who is still doing the job and still doing the mission,” said Shurer. “If nothing else it puts me in a position to highlight great things that are done constantly by SF teams, special forces teams are always, are constantly out there doing these things” added Williams, “I hope you see a representation of the great things that all the men and women that serve the country are capable of doing and do” he added.

Check out the full video above. Click to read the official citation for MSG Williams and SSG Shurer

US & China both flexing over this strategic waterway

SSG Shurer receives the Medal of Honor from POTUS

(White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

MIGHTY TRENDING

Once powerful al-Qaeda terrorists are losing in Syria

For the first time since its meteoric rise in 2012 amid the chaos of war, al-Qaeda’s branch in Syria is in retreat, battling rival militant groups in the north and fighting for survival in a key foothold near the capital, Damascus.


Over the past three weeks, the extremist group has been driven from nearly all of the northern province of Aleppo, losing dozens of fighters in battles there and in nearby Idlib province.

Also read: US air attack appears to have killed a senior member of al-Qaeda in Syria

The fighting poses a major challenge to the militant group, already beset by infighting and a string of assassinations that have taken out some of its top leaders. Unlike previous battles in which al-Qaeda-linked fighters were able to quickly crush their opponents, the fighting has been particularly fierce, with the militants losing dozens of villages.

The al-Qaeda-linked coalition known as the Levant Liberation Committee is still one of Syria’s most powerful armed groups, with fighters numbering in the thousands.

US & China both flexing over this strategic waterway
The general commander of Ahrar al-Sham, Mohannad al-Masri, center, visiting fighters in rural western Aleppo, Syria. (Militant Photo)

While the U.S.-led coalition and Russian-backed Syrian troops have focused on driving the Islamic State group from the country’s east, the al-Qaeda-linked group has consolidated its control over Idlib, where it remains the strongest force despite its recent losses there.

After the defeat of IS, al-Qaeda is seen as the main jihadi group that rejects any peace talks to try to end Syria’s seven-year conflict. Its presence in northern Syria and in the Damascus suburbs of eastern Ghouta has provided a pretext for President Bashar Assad and his Russian backers to wage war against opposition-held territory, since various de-escalation and cease-fire agreements have excluded al-Qaeda.

More: Drone strike kills suspected al-Qaeda militant in Yemen

Several hundred al-Qaeda fighters holed up in eastern Ghouta have become a burden to the armed opposition battling government forces there, which has pressed the extremists to leave the area for their stronghold in Idlib in order to avoid the current crushing offensive.

The group’s presence has also raised concern in nations from Turkey to the United States that fear the global network founded by Osama bin Laden could use its presence in northern Syria to launch terrorist attacks around the world.

US & China both flexing over this strategic waterway
Ahrar al-Sham fighters holding positions in the countryside around the northern Syrian town of al-Bab, Aleppo province, Syria.

The recent fighting appears to have been triggered by the February 2018 assassination of a senior al-Qaeda official, Abu Ayman al-Masri, who was riding in a car with his wife when members of a rival militant group, Nour el-Din el-Zinki, fired on their vehicle, killing al-Masri and wounding his wife.

The killing led to battles in Aleppo and Idlib that have raged for the past three weeks.

The shooting was preceded by the merger of Nour el-Din el-Zinki and the ultraconservative Ahrar al-Sham, both former al-Qaeda allies now turned enemies.

Related: Special operators just rescued a high-profile prisoner from al-Qaeda

Amid the recent battles, the new coalition, the Syria Liberation Front, has forced the al-Qaeda fighters to retreat west to Idlib.

The insurgents say that the war against al-Qaeda will not stop until the jihadi group is crushed in Syria — an ambitious goal. It is also a striking statement, considering the rival groups once turned to al-Qaeda’s experienced and battle-hardened fighters for support in the battle against Assad’s forces.

US & China both flexing over this strategic waterway
Militants of the al-Qaeda-linked coalition known as Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham, gathering in a village in Idlib province, Syria. (Photo by Ibaa News Agency)

Yazan Mohammed, a media activist based in Idlib province, said that although al-Qaeda has lost some territory in the recent fighting, the group is far from being defeated.

The al-Qaeda fighters are “not scouts. They are an organized and powerful group,” Mohammed said.

In recent years, tens of thousands of rebels and civilians from around the country have fled to Idlib or been forced there by government troops, raising concerns that the presence of al-Qaeda will give the government a pretext to storm the province under the cover of Russian airstrikes as it has elsewhere, including in Aleppo in late 2016 and in the current offensive in the eastern suburbs of Damascus.

More reading: Al-Qaeda leader tells Iraqi Sunnis to prepare for long guerilla war

Brett McGurk, the top U.S. envoy for the coalition battling IS, said in 2017 that Idlib is the largest al-Qaeda haven since bin Laden’s days in Afghanistan.

“This war will not stop,” said Bassam Haji Mustafa, a senior official with the Nour el-Din el-Zinki group. “This is a real war against al-Qaeda, its extremist ideas and terrorism.”

After the recent battlefield losses, a senior al-Qaeda commander, Abu Yaqzan al-Masri, released an audio asserting the militant group will soon crush the offensive and the focus will again be “to fight infidels,” an apparent reference to the West.

US & China both flexing over this strategic waterway
A tank with markings of the ultraconservative Ahrar al-Sham militant group, that was captured by Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham, in Idlib province, Syria. (Photo by Ibaa News Agency)

The commander’s comments coincided with a counteroffensive in which the al-Qaeda affiliate regained some villages it had lost earlier, although its presence in Aleppo province has almost ceased to exist.

Local activists said the al-Qaeda counteroffensive was backed by members of the Turkistan Islamic Party, a powerful group consisting mostly of jihadis from China’s Turkic-speaking Uighur minority.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which tracks Syria’s seven-year conflict, says the fighting that broke out on Feb. 20, 2018, has killed 223 fighters on both sides, including 132 from al-Qaeda’s affiliate.

More: The US military will stay in Syria without new authorization

Despite losing dozens of villages in the recent battles, it is unlikely that al-Qaeda will be defeated easily in Idlib, where the militants have crushed many of their opponents in recent years.

“They will not be able to defeat the Committee,” said Abu Dardaa al-Shami, who sometimes fights with the al-Qaeda affiliate but refused to take part in the current battles, saying he only fights against government forces.

“This is mission impossible,” he said.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How Swedish aircraft challenge Russians over the Mediterranean

On May 1, 2018, a Swedish Air Force S102B Korpen has started operating in the eastern Med.

The aircraft is one of two SwAF’s S102B Korpen aircraft, heavily-modified Gulfstream IVSP business jets used to perform ELINT missions. These aircraft have been in service with the Swedish Air Force since 1992, when they have replaced the two TP85s (modified Caravelle airliners formerly belonging to the SAS airline) that had been operated for 20 years since 1972. They are equipped with sensors operated by ELINT personnel from the FRA (the Radio Establishment of the Defense), capable to eavesdrop, collect and analyze enemy electronic emissions. As we have often reported here at The Aviationist, the Korpen jets routinely conduct surveillance missions over the Baltic Sea, flying high and fast in international airspace off the area of interest. The most frequent “target” of the S102B is Kaliningrad Oblast and its Russian installations. For this reason, the Swedish ELINT aircraft are also frequently intercepted by Russian Su-27 Flankers scrambled from the Kaliningrad exclave’s airbases.


Anyway, it looks like the Swedish airplane has now pointed its sensors to the Russian signals in Syria, deploying to Larnaca, Cyprus: the example 102003/”023″, using callsign “SVF647”, was tracked, by means of its ADS-B/Mode-S transponder, twice on May 1, 2018, flying off Syria, Lebanon, Israel and Egypt, more or less in the very same way many other aircraft (U.S. Navy P-8s, U.S. Air Force RQ-4 and RC-135s) have been doing for some weeks.

Here’s the first mission in the morning on May 1, 2018:

Here’s the second mission, later on the same day (21.40LT):

Considered the quite unusual area of operations, one might wonder why the Swedish S102B is currently operating close to the Syrian theater, so far from home. We can just speculate here, but the most likely guess is that the aircraft is collecting ELINT off Syria to acquire new baseline data for assets that are deployed there and which may either be currently or imminently deployed in Kaliningrad. Possibly surface vessels too, which might add to the Baltic Electronic Order of Battle. “I think they are just acquiring ELINT that is unique to Syria and might have applications in the Baltic,” says a source from the U.S. Rivet Joint community who wishes to remain anonymous.

For sure, with all the Russian “hardware” deployed to Syria, often referred to as a “testbed” for Moscow’s new equipment, there is some much data to be collected that the region has already turned into a sort of “signals paradise” for the intelligence teams from all around the world.

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.

popular

South Korea’s Marines are almost as scary as the Americans’

The United States Marine Corps has long lived by Mattis’ motto of “no better friend, no worse enemy.” They make for very scary opponents, able to defeat enemies who greatly outnumber them — just ask the Chinese about the Chosin Reservoir; they know who really won that battle.


But the Republic of Korea Marine Corps is almost as scary to foes as the United States Marine Corps, and for good reason. While the United States Marine Corps has been around for 242 years, the South Korean Marines have only been around since 1949. That’s 68 years. Not bad, but still a mere one-seventh of the time the American leathernecks have been kicking ass.

South Korean Marines saw action in Vietnam when their 2nd Marine Brigade was deployed alongside two divisions from the Republic of Korea Army. During the war, a company of South Korean Marines was attacked by three battalions of North Vietnamese and Viet Cong troops. When the fighting was finished, the South Korean Marines had triumphed, losing only 15, a small fraction of the 306 enemy troops killed.

U.S. Army studies of the South Korean forces that fought in Vietnam noted that the South Korean troops in general, including their Marines, had taken great steps forward since the Korean War. They even seized more weapons than American units did in similar operations.

 

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Republic of Korea Marines provide security after they dismount a CH-53 Sea Stallion helicopter during the two-day culmination of Exercise Key Resolve/Foal Eagle 2008 at Rodriguez Live Fire Complex in South Korea March 8, 2008. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Freddy G. Cantu)

After the Vietnam War, the South Koreans turned to their Marine Corps to establish a special unit to retaliate against North Korean commando attacks. This unit’s motto translates, roughly, to “kill them all, let God sort it out.”

Today, the South Korean Marines are looking to modernize their force. On November 23, 2010, North Korean forces shelled Yeonpyeong Island. As a result, South Korean Marines are getting new return-firepower, like the K9 howitzer. To learn more about this elite fighting force, check out the video below:

(Warthog Defense | YouTube)

MIGHTY MOVIES

6 more comic book creators who served their country

If there’s any single artistic medium that draws in a remarkable amount of veterans, it’s comic books. Oftentimes, it takes the mind of someone who has served in the military to create a truly believable, relatable superhero.

It’s widely known that many of the godfathers of the comic book industry served in the U.S. military. Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and Syd Shores, for example, all fought in the Western Front in WWII. But many of the other writers and artists served, too — like these 6 creative minds.


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(Courtesy Photo)

Jim Starlin — Navy

Many of Marvel’s space-themed comics come from the mind of Vietnam War photographer and Navy veteran Jim Starlin. After returning home to Detroit, he initially made a living working on cars. Eventually, he broke into the comic book industry with many originals and revisions to existing cosmic characters.

Drax the Destroyer, Gamora, and even Thanos were all co-created by him. The Marvel Cinematic Universe’s ultimate MacGuffins, the Infinity Stones, and the much of the basis for the latest blockbuster, Avengers: Infinity War, come from Starlin’s storylines.

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Humbly enough, she never wrote herself into a comic… even though she kinda earned it.

(Courtesy Photo)

Alice Marble — OSS

Before becoming one of the first women to play a prominent role in comic books, Alice Marble lived an insane life. Not only was she a world-class tennis player but, during World War II, she served as a spy for the American government. She recovered from being shot in the back by a German agent and started to share her life through the adventures of Wonder Woman.

She served as the associate editor for Wonder Woman and was the creator of the Wonder Women of History strips. These shorts were page-long bookends attached to the end of each Wonder Woman issue that showcased the badassery of one woman per issue.

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He’s also responsible for making superheroes jacked as hell under their spandex.

(Photo by Alan Light)

Curt Swan — Army

DC’s most respected artist of the Silver Age served in the Minnesota National Guard during WWII. Curt Swan was activated and deployed to Europe when his peers discovered his amazing gift for drawing. He was immediately reassigned by his superiors to make comics for Stars and Stripes.

After falling in love with a Red Cross worker (who he would eventually marry), Swan got a job at DC Comics, drawing Superman from 1948 until 1986. His ability to convey frenetic superpowers in print, like the iconic wooshings that show speed or the powerful impact bubbles that denote heavy punches, was heavily imitated.

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He worked on ‘The ‘Nam’ with the next entry on this list…

(Marvel.com)

Doug Murray — Army

Doug Murray served in Vietnam and later crafted what is considered one of the truest depictions of the war through his series, The ‘Nam. Remarkably, Murray was clever enough to stay true to the horrors and ugly sides of war while also keeping the Comics Code Authority happy.

The ‘Nam wasn’t pretty and touched on many horrific truths of war, but it cleverly hid its punches to get approved for publication. Outside of The ‘Nam, Murray also wrote the Weapon X series, which gave Wolverine his definitive backstory.

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The ‘G.I. Joe’ character Tunnel Rat is entirely based on him and his life.

(Courtesy Photo)

Larry Hama — Army

After fighting in Vietnam as a combat engineer and “tunnel rat,” Larry Hama began a career in acting before coming back to his childhood passion, comic books.

Not only did he work on The Warlord, Wonder Woman, and Batman for DC, but he earned his place as one of the Marvel greats when he took over the G.I. Joe comics and turned it into the deep franchise fans love today instead of just a line of generic military toys. He also co-created The ‘Nam, Wolverine, Punisher: War Zone, and Venom.

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Sgt. Rock’s service number was Kanigher’s in real life.

(DC Comics)

Bob Kanigher — Army

There was a drastic dip in comic book popularity in the 1950s that nearly destroyed the industry. Only kids and troops read comics — and kids started losing interest. The day was saved when an Army veteran by the name of Robert Kanigher burst onto the scene.

He took over Wonder Woman after William Moulton Marston’s death and ushered in the Silver Age of Comics. His works include nearly everything in DC that wasn’t created during the Golden Age. His artistic baby, however, is one of the military and veteran community’s favorite comics, Sgt. Rock.

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