US and NATO are preparing troops to handle Russian disinformation - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

US and NATO are preparing troops to handle Russian disinformation

At the beginning of 2017, after Dutch fighter pilots deployed to Lithuania on a Baltic Air Policing rotation called home using their own phones, their families started getting sinister phone calls.

The men on the calls, made with pre-paid sim cards, spoke English with Russian accents, according to reports in Dutch media, and would ask the recipients questions like “Do you know what your partner is doing there?” and “Wouldn’t it be better if he left?”

Later that summer, after US Army Lt. Col. Christopher L’Heureux took command of a NATO base in Poland, he returned to his truck after a drill to find someone had breached his personal iPhone, turning on lost mode and trying to get around a second password using Russian IP address.


“It had a little Apple map, and in the center of the map was Moscow,” L’Heureux, who was stationed not far from a major Russian military base, told The Wall Street Journal in 2017. “It said, ‘Somebody is trying to access your iPhone.'”

US and NATO are preparing troops to handle Russian disinformation

US Army armored units in Poland.

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Michael Eaddy)

Those incidents and others like them reflect ongoing efforts by Russians to misinform and intimidate civilians and troops in Europe and abroad.

“Malign influence is of great concern, specifically in the information domain,” US Air Force Gen. Tod Wolters, head of US European Command, told reports at a Defense Writers Group breakfast in Washington, DC, on Tuesday.

“A comprehensive defense involves air, land, sea, space, and cyberspace, which are the five domains that we recognize in NATO,” Wolters added.

But on the fringes of those domains, he said, is hybrid activity, “and part of hybrid activity happens to be information operations … and from a malign influence standpoint we see that often from Russia.”

Learning and building resistance

Several soldiers under L’Heureux’s command had their phones or social-media accounts hacked, according to The Journal.

Wolters, who took over European Command in May 2019, said US personnel and families under his command hadn’t been targeted with that kind of harassment — spokesmen for British and French contingents deployed to the Baltics have recently said the same of their troops — but they have encountered “misinformation” put out by Russia media, including state-backed television channel RT TV.

“If … they’re part of US EUCOM, and they’re in Europe, and they happen to see RT TV, this is a classic example of misinformation,” Wolters said.

“Probably not to the severity” of those 2017 incidents, he added, “but it is another example of exposure of misinformation and from a malign influence perspective on behalf of Russia in the info ops sphere against citizens” in Europe.

Misinformation campaigns are central to Russia’s strategy on and off the battlefield as the 2016 US election interference showed, and not limited to whoever happens to be watching RT.

In Lithuania in 2017, officials warned of propaganda efforts seeking to undermine Lithuanian territorial claims and set the stage for “kinetic operations” by Moscow, a persistent concern among Russia’s smaller Baltic neighbors. Russia is also suspected of orchestrating a broader disinformation campaign to smear NATO’s reputation in Lithuania.

Farther north, Finland has dealt with Russian misinformation throughout the century since it declared independence from its larger neighbor, with which it shares a long border and a contentious history.

Helsinki launched an initiative to build media literacy and counter fake news among its citizens in 2014. The Finnish capital is also home to the European Center of Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threats, set up in 2017 by a dozen members of the EU and NATO.

Former US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis praised the Hybrid CoE, as it’s known, for allowing democracies involved to research shared concerns and threats — “each of us learning from the other and building resistance to those with malign intent toward our democracies.”

US and NATO are preparing troops to handle Russian disinformation

US Air Force Gen. Tod D. Wolters speaks with airmen during a visit to RAF Mildenhall in England, June 22, 2018.

(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Alexandria Lee)

‘Willing to deter in all domains’

While Wolters said personnel under his command haven’t experienced the kind of electronic interference seen in 2017, it’s something they should expect and prepare for, according to Ken Giles, senior consulting fellow with the Russia and Eurasia Program at the British think tank Chatham House, who called those 2017 incidents “unprecedented in recent times.”

“NATO forces should by now be training and exercising with the assumption that they will be under not only electronic and cyberattack, but also individual and personalized information attack, including exploitation of personal data harvested from any connected device brought into an operational area,” Giles wrote in August.

Wolters said his command and its European partners are working together to prepare troops to face and thwart that kind of assault.

“To have a good, comprehensive defense you have to be willing to deter in all domains, to include the information domain, so we have ongoing activities … that involve what we do in US EUCOM with the NATO nations and what we do in US EUCOM with all the partner nations,” Wolters said Tuesday.

US and NATO are preparing troops to handle Russian disinformation

Polish soldiers use an anti-aircraft cannon’s sights to simulate engaging enemy aircraft during exercise Saber Strike 18 at Bemowo Piskie Training Area in Poland, June 14, 2018.

(Michigan Army National Guard photo by Spc. Alan Prince)

At the Supreme Headquarters for Allied Powers in Europe, or SHAPE, Wolters said, “we have information operations, deterrence activities that take place with the 29 [NATO members]” and with NATO partner nations, including Finland, Ukraine, and Georgia.

Most reports of harassment and intimidation of NATO personnel date to the years immediately after the 2014 Russian incursion in Ukraine, when NATO increased activity along its eastern flank, Giles noted in an interview with Military.com in September.

That may just mean the campaign has changed form rather than stopped, Giles said, adding that such incidents could be reduced, though not prevented, by speaking more openly about the threat and by strengthening information security among NATO personnel.

Wolters said his command does have ongoing information-operations training.

“For an infantry soldier that’s part of the battalion-size battle group that’s currently operating in Poland, they receive information-ops training, and they know that that info-ops training is just as important as the training to shoot a 9 mm pistol,” he said Tuesday. “From that standpoint we ensure that we counter with the facts, and we don’t hesitate to call out when truths are not being told in public with respect to the activities that are taking place in NATO and … in Europe.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russian-backed leader in Ukraine killed by chandelier bomb

The prime minister of the Russian-backed Donetsk People’s Republic in eastern Ukraine was killed in August 2018 by a bomb placed in a chandelier or floor lamp, according to Kommersant, a Russian media outlet.

Alexander Zakharchenko was killed about 5 p.m. Aug. 31, 2018 in an explosion at a downtown Donetsk cafe called “Separ,” meaning Separatist.

Zakharachenko died from craniocerebral trauma, with the blast nearly taking his head off, according to Novaya Gazeta, a Russian newspaper.


The explosion also killed Zakharchenko’s bodyguard, Vyacheslav “Slavyan” Dotsenko, and wounded two others, including Alexander Timofeyev, the DPR’s finance minister.

Kommersant reported that an explosive devise was placed in a chandelier or floor lamp and ignited by a telephone call.

The perpetrator was most likely near the cafe and saw Zakharchenko enter before he or she detonated the bomb, Kommersant reported. The cafe is apparently owned by a DPR security official and was thoroughly guarded, raising questions of an inside job.

Multiple people were later arrested near the cafe in connection with the bombing, including “Ukrainian saboteurs,” Russia’s Interfax reported.

“Read nothing into [these arrests of Ukrainian saboteurs] until we know more details,” Aric Toler, a researcher with Bellingcat, tweeted.

Kyiv and Moscow have both been accused of several assassinations in the Donbas and Ukraine as a whole since the war began in 2014.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Netflix wants to help you trick your kids on New Year’s Eve

Netflix just released 14 New Year’s Eve countdown specials to help kids ring in 2019 — and still get to bed early. Starting Dec. 26, 2018, the family-friendly shows will be available on the streaming service to be played any time of day or night.

The short segments (each one is about five minutes) star characters from some of the year’s most popular children’s shows, like Super Monsters and Boss Baby, and end with a countdown to 2019.


And this year, Netflix is offering an even greater variety of countdowns for parents to choose from, including options for older kids and tweens. In 2018, there were only nine New Year’s specials, five fewer than this year’s record-high of 14.

Netflix’s annual tradition is backed by recent research, too. According to a statement made by the streaming service, “77% of U.S. parents actually prefer to stay in than go out for the biggest bash of the year.” The company added that over the last five years, an average of five million people watch the New Year’s Eve countdown shows each year.

To find the popular holiday specials, which are usually available through the first week of January, parents can simply enter “countdowns” in the Netflix search bar.

2019 New Years Eve Countdowns | Netflix

www.youtube.com

Here’s the full list of shows getting New Year’s countdowns in 2018:

  • Alexa and Katie
  • Prince of Peoria
  • Pinky Malinky
  • Motown Magic
  • Larva Island
  • Beat Bugs
  • Skylanders Academy
  • Super Monsters
  • True and the Rainbow Kingdom
  • Tales of Arcadia
  • All Hail King Julien
  • Spirit Riding Free
  • Fuller House

Featured image: Netflix.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

Articles

Russia’s aircraft carrier has started launching sorties over Syria

US and NATO are preparing troops to handle Russian disinformation
Sukhoi Su-33 launching from the Admiral Kuznetsov in 2012. | Russian MoD Photo


The US Naval Institute NewsSam LaGrone reports that armed fighters have flown from Russia’s Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier in the Mediterranean.

As of yet, no strikes have been carried out. Only scouting missions involving the Su-33s and MiG-29Ks have gone forward, according to Lagrone.

Also read: Russia has a ‘pipe dream’ of replacing the US as the world’s dominant naval power

While the Kuznetsov and attack planes on board add little to Russia’s capabilities in the region, the US has nonetheless condemned Russia escalating a conflict where humanitarian catastrophes and possibly war crimes go on with some regularity.

“We are aware of reports that the Russian Federation is preparing to escalate their military campaign in Syria. The United States, time and again, has worked to try and de-escalate the violence in Syria and provide humanitarian aid to civilians suffering under siege,” a Pentagon statement provided to USNI News on Wednesday read.

Russia’s deployment of the troubled, Soveit-era Kuznetsov to Syria serves little military purpose, and likely deployed for propaganda purposes.

Articles

How does the B-52 get more awesome? With lasers, that’s how

Air Force scientists are working to arm the B-52 with defensive laser weapons able to incinerate attacking air-to-air or air-to-ground missile attack.


Offensive and defensive laser weapons for Air Force fighter jets and large cargo aircraft have been in development for several years now. However, the Air Force Research Lab has recently embarked upon a special five-year effort, called the SHIELD program, aimed at creating sufficient on-board power, optics and high-energy lasers able to defend large platforms such as a B-52 bomber.

“You can take out the target if you put the laser on the attacking weapon for a long enough period of time,” Air Force Chief Scientist Greg Zacharias told Scout Warrior in an exclusive interview.

Possibly using an externally-mounted POD with sufficient transportable electrical power, the AFRL is already working on experimental demonstrator weapons able to bolt-on to an aircraft, Zacharias added.

US and NATO are preparing troops to handle Russian disinformation
DARPA image

Given that an external POD would add shapes to the fuselage which would make an aircraft likely to be vulnerable to enemy air defense radar systems, the bolt-on defensive laser would not be expected to work on a stealthy platform, he explained.

However, a heavily armed B-52, as a large 1960s-era target, would perhaps best benefit from an ability to defend itself from the air; such a technology would indeed be relevant and potentially useful to the Air Force, as the service is now immersed in a series of high-tech upgrades for the B-52 so that it can continue to serve for decades to come.

Defending a B-52 could becoming increasing important in years to come if some kind of reconfigured B-52 is used as the Pentagon’s emerging Arsenal Plane or “flying bomb truck.”

Lasers use intense heat and light energy to incinerate targets without causing a large explosion, and they operate at very high speeds, giving them a near instantaneous ability to destroy fast-moving targets and defend against incoming enemy attacks, senior Air Force leaders explained.

Defensive laser weapons could also be used to jam an attacking missile as well, developers explained.

“You may not want to destroy the incoming missile but rather throw the laser off course – spoof it,” Zacharias said.

Also, synchronizing laser weapons with optics technology from a telescope could increase the precision needed to track and destroy fast moving enemy attacks, he said.

US and NATO are preparing troops to handle Russian disinformation
US Air Force image

Another method of increasing laser fire power is to bind fiber optic cables together to, for example, turn a 1 Kilowatt laser into a 10-Kilowatt weapon.

“Much of the issue with fiber optic lasers is stability and an effort to make lasers larger,” he explained.

Targeting for the laser could also seek to connect phased array radars and lasers on the same wavelength to further synchronize the weapon.

Laser Weapons for Fighter Jets

Aircraft-launched laser weapons from fighter jets could eventually be engineered for a wide range of potential uses, including air-to-air combat, close air support, counter-UAS(drone), counter-boat, ground attack and even missile defense, officials said.

Low cost is another key advantage of laser weapons, as they can prevent the need for high-cost missiles in many combat scenarios.

Air Force Research Laboratory officials have said they plan to have a program of record for air-fired laser weapons in place by 2023.

Ground testing of a laser weapon called the High Energy Laser, or HEL, has taken place in the last few years at White Sands Missile Range, N.M. The High Energy Laser test is being conducted by the Air Force Directed Energy Directorate, Kirtland AFB, New Mexico.

The first airborne tests are slated to take place by 2021, service officials said.

Air Force leaders have said that the service plans to begin firing laser weapons from larger platforms such as C-17s and C-130s until the technological miniaturization efforts can configure the weapon to fire from fighter jets such as an F-15, F-16 or F-35.

Air Combat Command has commissioned the Self-Protect High Energy Laser Demonstrator Advanced Technology Demonstration which will be focused on developing and integrating a more compact, medium-power laser weapon system onto a fighter-compatible pod for self-defense against ground-to-air and air-to-air weapons, a service statement said.

Air Force Special Operations Command is working with both the Air Force Research Laboratory and the Naval Support Facility Dahlgren to examine placing a laser on an AC-130U gunship to provide an offensive capability.

US and NATO are preparing troops to handle Russian disinformation
Image via General Atomics

Another advantage of lasers is an ability to use a much more extended magazine for weapons. Instead of flying with six or seven missiles on or in an aircraft, a directed energy weapon system could fire thousands of shots using a single gallon of jet fuel, Air Force experts said.

Overall, officials throughout the Department of Defense are optimistic about beam weapons and, more generally, directed-energy technologies.

Laser weapons could be used for ballistic missile defense as well. Vice Adm. James Syring, Director of the Missile Defense Agency, said during the 2017 fiscal year budget discussion that “Laser technology maturation is critical for us.”

And the U.S. Navy also has several developmental programs underway to arm their destroyers and cruisers will possess these systems to help ships fend off drones and missiles.

Man-in-the-Loop

As technology progresses, particularly in the realm of autonomous systems, many wonder if a laser-drone weapon will soon have the ability to find, acquire, track and destroy and enemy target using sensors, targeting and weapons delivery systems – without needing any human intervention.

While that technology is fast-developing, if not already here, the Pentagon operates under and established autonomous weapons systems doctrine requiring a “man-in-the-loop” when it comes to decisions about the use of lethal force, Zacharias explained.

“There will always be some connection with human operators at one echelon or another. It may be intermittent, but they will always be part of a team. A lot of that builds on years and years of working automation systems, flight management computers, aircraft and so forth,” he said.

Although some missile systems, such as the Tomahawk and SM-6 missiles, have sensor and seeker technologies enabling them to autonomously, or semi-autonomously guide themselves toward targets – they require some kind of human supervision. In addition, these scenarios are very different that the use of a large airborne platform or mobile ground robot to independently destroy targets.

NOW WATCH: AC-130 gunships could be outfitted with laser cannons

MIGHTY TRENDING

US to establish its first permanent military base in Israel

Israel and the U.S. inaugurated the first American military base on Israeli soil on September 18th, which will serve dozens of soldiers operating a missile defense system.


The move comes at a time of growing Israeli concerns about archenemy Iran’s development of long-range missiles. Together with the U.S., Israel has developed a multilayered system of defenses against everything from long-range guided missile attacks from Iran to crude rockets fired from Lebanon and the Gaza Strip.

The base’s opening is largely symbolic and isn’t expected to bring operational changes. But the Israeli military says that along with other measures, it sends a message of readiness to Israel’s enemies.

“It’s a message that says Israel is better prepared. It’s a message that says Israel is improving the response to threats,” said Brig. Gen. Zvika Haimovich, the commander of Israel’s aerial defense.

The base is located within an existing Israeli air force base and will operate under Israeli military directives.

Israeli and U.S. military officials cut a ribbon at the base Monday, where the American and Israeli flags flew side by side and soldiers from both countries commingled.

Israel’s multi-tier missile defense system includes the Arrow, designed to intercept long-range ballistic missiles in the stratosphere with an eye on Iran, and Iron Dome, which defends against short-range rockets from the Gaza Strip. David’s Sling is meant to counter the type of medium-range missiles possessed by Iranian-backed Hezbollah militants.

Israel considers Iran to be its greatest threat, citing the country’s nuclear ambitions, its development of long-term missiles, hostile anti-Israel rhetoric and support for anti-Israel militant groups. Israel has grown increasingly concerned about Iran’s involvement in the civil war in neighboring Syria, where its troops are supporting President Bashar Assad.

Israel is worried that Iran and its proxy Hezbollah will establish a long-term presence in Syria near the Israeli border.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Mattis swears in Mark T. Esper as the new Secretary of the Army

During two separate ceremonies on Jan. 5, the Army family and the Secretary of Defense officially welcomed Secretary of the Army Dr. Mark T. Esper back into the service that raised him.


As the newly appointed 23rd secretary of the Army, Esper will be key to the Army’s future, said Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis during a swearing-in ceremony at the Pentagon.

As international security continues to be a growing concern, Esper — a West Point graduate and a retired Army lieutenant colonel with combat experience — will need to “hit the ground running,” Mattis said.

US and NATO are preparing troops to handle Russian disinformation
The Army family welcomed the 23rd Secretary of the Army Mark T. Esper Friday, Jan. 5, 2018 at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Virginia. (Photo from U.S. Army)

The defense secretary said he believes Esper will lead an Army that contributes to DOD’s three lines of effort: strengthening alliances, reforming business practices, and building lethality.

“What we have here is someone that we are confident will take the Army forward, that has the right value system [and who] understands that if something is not contributing to lethality, it’s going to the dustbin of history,” Mattis said.

Esper brings with him a wealth of understanding from his time as an Army officer, in the defense industry, and on Capitol Hill, Mattis said.

“This Army has been tested and withstood the strain, but it stood because we have patriotic young people that have put their lives on the line,” Mattis said. “I know you are going to keep us feared by our adversaries and reassure our allies. They know when [the Army] shows up, they will fight harder alongside us.

“When the U.S. Army comes, what you’re saying is America is putting itself on the line,” Mattis said. “That is the bottom line.”

Esper said he appreciates the direction and support that Mattis gives to each of the five services, and that he couldn’t be more inspired to work under the defense secretary’s leadership. He also said he is excited to work alongside the leadership that already stands inside the Army.

“I could not have picked finer Army leadership to serve alongside,” Esper said. “And I can’t say enough about the virtue of our Soldiers, and their resiliency and willingness to take on the tough tasks that lie ahead.”

US and NATO are preparing troops to handle Russian disinformation
Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis officially welcomed back Army Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper into the service that raised him during a swearing-in ceremony held in the Pentagon Friday, Jan. 5, 2018. (Photo from U.S. Army)

Arrival

Since coming aboard the Army Nov. 20, Esper has traveled to meet with Soldiers stationed both inside the United States and abroad. He said he’s been impressed by what he has seen.

“In my first 30 days, I have been able to watch the 1st Calvary Division train at Fort Irwin. I’ve met with the global response force at Fort Bragg, [North Carolina] preparing for a no-notice deployment. And I visited with our troops in combat, in Afghanistan,” Esper said during his arrival ceremony at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Virginia, Friday afternoon.

“Soldiers are the Army’s greatest asset. Their welfare and readiness will always be my top priority,” Esper said.

Before a large crowd of Soldiers, veterans, families, congressional members, foreign dignitaries, and defense industry professionals, Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Mark A. Milley spoke highly of his new boss.

“[Esper] has a spine of titanium [and] steel that is not going to bend to the temporary dramas of the day in D.C.,” Milley said. “He has the Army’s static line like a good jumpmaster. He will not waver. He will never fail to do the right thing for our nation, our troops, or our Army, regardless of the consequences to himself.”

Building the future force

At the official arrival ceremony, Esper discussed his priorities for the Army, which include taking care of people, remaining focused on the Army’s values, readiness, modernization, and reform.

“My first priority is and will remain readiness, ensuring that the total force — active, Guard, and Reserve — is prepared to deploy, fight, and win across the spectrum of conflict,” Esper said.

Read More: This is what you need to know about Mark Esper, the new Army Secretary

Currently, the Army is engaged in over 140 countries around the world. However, fiscal pressures and a lack of steady budget continue to impact the Army’s current readiness and affect future operations, Esper said.

“We are now challenged to address the rise of aggressive near-peer adversaries in Asia and Europe, while our Soldiers continue to fight terrorist groups abroad and reassure our allies around the globe,” Esper said.

We must continue to build strong alliances and partnerships around the world [with] countries that train together [and] fight well together. And those that fight well together are most likely to win together.

Through 2017, Soldiers took the fight to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, provided advice and assist support to Afghanistan and other nations, trained with allies and partners in European countries, and provided assistance to citizens recovering from natural disasters.

US and NATO are preparing troops to handle Russian disinformation
The Army family welcomed the 23rd Secretary of the Army Mark T. Esper Friday, Jan. 5, 2018 at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Virginia. (Photo from U.S. Army)

“Our job is to be ready — to be ready for combat,” Milley said. “To deter war, but to fight and win if deterrence and diplomacy fail. That is a solemn task for this nation. We are and will remain ready to engage the intense, bloody, unforgiving crucible of ground combat against any foe anytime and anywhere.”

Esper also identified the need to become better stewards of Army resources, all while modernizing current and future capabilities.

“This means growing the force while maintaining quality. Reshaping it to be more robust and successful in all domains, and modernizing it with the best weapons and equipment available to guarantee clear overmatch,” Esper said.

Consequently, for modernization to be successful, improvements need to be made to the current acquisition process, Esper said.

“This includes improving how requirements are set, empowering acquisition personnel to be successful, ensuring accountability, prototyping, and demonstrating systems early, and involving the private sector much more,” Esper said. “We must provide our Soldiers the tools they need to fight and win when they need it. I am confident that the new Futures Command we’re designing will do just that.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Coast Guard struggling to keep up with surge of narco subs

Through September 2018, Colombia’s navy had captured 14 “narco subs” on the country’s Pacific coast — more than triple the four it captured in 2017 and another sign of drug traffickers’ ingenuity.

Colombia is not alone. The US Coast Guard reported in September 2017 that it had seen a “resurgence” of low-profile vessels, the most common kind of “narco sub,” capturing seven of them since June 2017.


“We’re seeing more of these low-profile vessels; 40-plus feet long … it rides on the surface, multiple outboard engines, moves 18, 22 knots … and they can carry large loads of contraband,” Coast Guard commandant Adm. Karl Schultz told Business Insider in October 2018 during an interview aboard the Coast Guard cutter Sitkinak in New York harbor.

“They’re very stealthy in terms of our ability to see them from the air [and] to detect them by radar,” Schultz added.

US and NATO are preparing troops to handle Russian disinformation

US Coast Guardsmen sit on a narco sub in the Pacific Ocean in early September 2016.

(US Coast Guard photo)

‘Era of experimentation’

Low-profile vessels were the earliest kind of narco sub, a category that includes self-propelled semi-submersibles, which use ballast to run below the surface, and true submarines, which are the most rare.

They emerged in the early 1990s, as traffickers who had made a fortune moving drugs into the US — like George Jung and members of Pablo Escobar’s Medellin cartel — encountered more obstacles.

“In the ’80s, the drug traffickers … were using go-fast boats, they were using twin-engine aircraft, and those were very easily detected by radar systems that we had,” particularly in the Caribbean and the southeastern US, said Mike Vigil, former chief of international operations for the US Drug Enforcement Administration.

“So they started to counter those efforts by building submarines or semi-submersibles, because they were much more difficult to detect,” Vigil added. “They were made out of … wood, fiberglass, and then sometimes they had a lead lining that would reduce their infrared signature.”

The early 1990s was “the era of experimentation,” for Colombian narco subs, according to Vigil, who was stationed on the country’s Caribbean coast at the time and recalls encounters with them on the Magdelena River, which stretches nearly 1,000 miles from southwest Colombia to the Caribbean.

“They were not full-fledged submarines. They would float … just slightly underneath the water, but you could still see the tower, and they were not sophisticated at all,” he said. “Their navigational systems were poor; communications systems were poor.”

There are varying figures for how many narco subs have been caught over the years.

The first such vessel seen at sea by US law enforcement was intercepted in 2006, carrying 3 tons of cocaine about 100 miles off Costa Rica’s Pacific coast. The first one encountered in the Caribbean was stopped in summer 2011 — despite efforts to scuttle it, US authorities were able to recover 14,000 pounds of cocaine.

Criminal groups in Colombia continue to churn out homemade narco subs — 100 a year, according to Vigil — building them in the interior and using the country’s extensive river network, where law enforcement is scarce, to get them to sea.

The technology has advanced, and criminal groups, flush with profits from Colombia’s booming cocaine production, have been able deploy more sophisticated vessels for covert runs to Central America and Mexico, where cargos then move overland to the US. The routes have also grown more circuitous, likely to avoid detection at sea.

Better technology “has upped the chess game” between criminals and the military and law enforcement, Vigil said.

US and NATO are preparing troops to handle Russian disinformation

Suspected drug-smuggling routes in the eastern Pacific Ocean in 2016.

(US Southern Command)

‘A drop in the bucket’

The recent increase in low-profile vessels intercepted by authorities indicates traffickers will adjust their tactics.

“There was certainly an uptick where the semi-submersibles were being utilized quite frequently, and then we had a lot of success against them,” Lt. Cmdr. Devon Brennan, head of the Coast Guard’s Maritime Safety and Security Team in New York, said during an interview aboard the Sitkanik.

“The drug-trafficking organizations are very agile and adept organizations, so they try to shift back,” Brennan said. “For one reason or another, they thought [low-profile vessels] might be a better option because of the success we’ve had against the [self-propelled semi-submersibles], so we have seen an increase in them.”

“This thing called the low-profile vessel, it’s evolutionary,” Schultz said. “The adversary will constantly adapt their tactics to try to thwart our successes.” The increase “reflects the adaptability, the malleability” of traffickers, he added.

Schultz and Brennan both emphasized that the Coast Guard is having success capturing narco subs. And Colombian officials have said that intercepting those vessels at sea — along with arresting traffickers on land — lands a serious blow to criminal organizations.

US and NATO are preparing troops to handle Russian disinformation

A abandoned low-profile vessel found by the Guatemalan coast guard on April 22, 2017.

(Guatemalan army / US Southern Command)

Vigil was skeptical of the true impact, saying the DEA estimated at least 30% to 40% of drugs coming to the US were moving on narco subs, but authorities were likely only intercepting 5% of those vessels.

“They may be capturing more but, again, that’s because there’s a hell of a lot more being using to smuggle drugs,” Vigil said. (Coast Guard Vice Commandant Adm. Charles Ray has said the service faces “a capacity challenge” in trying to patrol trafficking routes through the eastern Pacific, an area the size of the continental US.)

Vigil also noted that the costs seemed to favor the traffickers.

“The submarines cost id=”listicle-2611789516″ million or million … depending on the communications systems, the engine, the materials used in them, the navigational systems,” Vigil said. Even though many are likely only used once, he added, “they have absolutely no economic impact on the cartels.”

Each kilogram of cocaine is worth only a few thousand dollars in Colombia. But the multiton cargos narco subs can carry are worth hundreds of millions of dollars once they’re broken up and sold in the US or Europe.

The cost to build a narco sub is “a drop in the bucket compared to the payload that they carry,” Vigil said. “So a million, million is nothing to them.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Army astronaut follows historic Apollo footsteps

U.S. Army Col. Andrew R. Morgan, M.D., will launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, aboard a Soyuz (Union) MS-13 spacecraft on July 20, 2019, at 12:28 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time for a nine-month mission aboard the International Space Station.

“Twenty-five years ago I made the decision to serve my country as a military officer. I view my nine-month mission to the space station as a continuation of that service, not just to my country, but the entire international community.” Morgan said. “Service to others will keep me focused and motivated while I’m away from my family, living and working on board the International Space Station to successfully complete our mission.”


Morgan, who will be the first Army physician in space, is a board-certified Army emergency physician with a sub-specialty certification in primary care sports medicine. During his time aboard the space station Morgan will participate with his crew mates and others to facilitate numerous medical and technological experiments and tasks, as well as a number of planned high-profile space walks.

US and NATO are preparing troops to handle Russian disinformation

U.S. Army Col. Andrew R. Morgan, M.D.

(Photo by Ronald Bailey)

His mission, Expeditions 60, 61 and 62, would make the longest single-mission spaceflight for an Army astronaut and be among the longest ever for an American astronaut when complete.

Morgan will launch with his crew mates from Baikonur Cosmodrome’s famous “Gagarin’s Start” launch pad. Known as LC-1/5, the pad is the same location where the world’s first artificial satellite “Sputnik 1” launched in 1957 as well as the first human in space, Russian Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, in 1961.

Morgan’s crew is also launching on the 50th anniversary of the Apollo XI lunar landing which he considers a significant and meaningful way to commemorate the accomplishment for all humanity.

“An international crew launching to an International Space Station on the 50th anniversary of what was the apex of the space race — it’s an interesting contrast.” Morgan said. “The Expedition 60 crew is honored to commemorate Apollo XI’s historic accomplishment for the world with our launch, and proudly bear the torch for the next generation of space exploration.”

US and NATO are preparing troops to handle Russian disinformation

U.S. Army Col. Andrew R. Morgan, M.D.

(Photo by Ronald Bailey)

Still serving as an active duty Army officer, Morgan was selected as an astronaut candidate in June 2013, completing the training in July 2015. Prior to his selection as an astronaut candidate he served as a commissioned Army medical corps officer with the U.S. Special Operations Command, including tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Morgan considers New Castle, Pennsylvania, his hometown. He earned a Bachelor of Science in environmental engineering at the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, New York, in 1998, and received his Doctorate in Medicine from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Bethesda, Maryland, in 2002.

“I am a soldier, a military physician, and a NASA astronaut, in that order. I’m a soldier first, and the military trained me to be a leader of character, dedicated to taking care of people,” Morgan said. “Every quality that’s made me a successful astronaut is a product of my military training: from my academic degrees to my operational skills. While I regularly draw on the technical skills and specialized training I learned in the military, it’s my leadership experiences that I rely on the most.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest memes for the week of December 21st

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. After saving up all of those leave days, you can finally enjoy yourself and take some time off to do whatever you’d like. Well, not whatever you’d like; you’ll have to take a piss test the day you come back, so, keep that in mind.

Regardless, you’re finally going to see all of your civilian family and friends! Sure, they’re probably doing the exact same thing as they were when you enlisted. And, yes, even though you’re only in town for a little while, your friends probably won’t want to make the 20-minute drive up to your parent’s place to see you. But hey, maybe you can sleep in and you don’t have to shave for two weeks. So, there’s that.

Anyways. Here’re some memes to help you get through the stress of dealing with everyone on leave.


US and NATO are preparing troops to handle Russian disinformation

(Meme by WATM)

US and NATO are preparing troops to handle Russian disinformation

(Meme via Hooah My Ass Off)

US and NATO are preparing troops to handle Russian disinformation

(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

US and NATO are preparing troops to handle Russian disinformation

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

US and NATO are preparing troops to handle Russian disinformation

(Meme via 1st Meme Division)

US and NATO are preparing troops to handle Russian disinformation

(Meme via Smokepit Fairytales)

US and NATO are preparing troops to handle Russian disinformation

(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

US and NATO are preparing troops to handle Russian disinformation

(Meme via Untied Status Marin Crops)

US and NATO are preparing troops to handle Russian disinformation

(Meme via Do You Even Comm, Bro?)

US and NATO are preparing troops to handle Russian disinformation

(Meme via Pop Smoke)

US and NATO are preparing troops to handle Russian disinformation

(Meme via Air Force Nation Humor)

US and NATO are preparing troops to handle Russian disinformation

(Meme via Ranger Up)

US and NATO are preparing troops to handle Russian disinformation

(Meme via US Army WTF Moments)

MIGHTY TRENDING

You will laugh at this Marine vet comic (and that’s an order)

Marine veteran James P. Connolly (Sirius/XM Radio, Comics Unleashed) hosted the 6th Annual Veteran’s Day Benefit Comedy Show “Cocktails Camouflage” at Flappers Comedy Club in Burbank, California in early November.


All funds raised were donated to Veterans in Film Television (VFT), a non-profit networking organization that unites current and former members of the military working in film and television and offers the entertainment industry the opportunity to connect with and hire veterans.
In this video, headliner and USMC vet Greg Hahn reads the crowd into his grand life plan and remembers how he was right out of boot camp.
MIGHTY TRENDING

Carrier strike group joins forces for Trident Juncture

The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) and select ships from Carrier Strike Group Eight (CSG-8) joined U.S. Army, Air Force, and Marine Corps service members Oct. 25, 2018, for the largest NATO exercise since 2015 – Trident Juncture 2018 (TRJE 18).

The U.S.’s 14,000-strong combined force will join participants from all 29 NATO member nations, as well as partners Sweden and Finland. The Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group (HSTCSG) will send aircraft from embarked Carrier Air Wing One (CVW-1) to conduct sorties, both at-sea and on Norwegian land ranges, nearly every day while participating in TRJE 18. Adding to the exercise, the strike group will be conducting high-end warfare training in air, surface and subsurface operations. Through these focused, multi-mission events, HSTCSG will work alongside allies and partners to refine its network of capabilities able to respond rapidly and decisively to any potential situation.


“For nearly 70 years, the NATO alliance has been built on the foundation of partnerships, cooperation and preserving lasting peace,” said HSTCSG Commander, Rear Adm. Gene Black. “Our strike group’s operations in the North Atlantic region over the past several weeks demonstrate our commitment to these ideals, and we’re looking forward to enhancing our cooperation with our allies and partners during Trident Juncture.”

The HSTCSG has spent much of the past few weeks in the North Atlantic refining its skill sets and capabilities in preparation for the exercise. After sailing off the coasts of Iceland and in the North Sea, strike group ships crossed the Arctic Circle and began operations in the Norwegian Sea. For several days, the strike group also operated alongside Royal Norwegian Navy ships in the Vestfjorden — a sea area inside Norwegian territorial waters.

US and NATO are preparing troops to handle Russian disinformation

The aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman transits the Strait of Gibraltar.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Laura Hoover)

Along with fostering stronger bonds among allies and partners, TRJE 18 is designed to ensure NATO forces are trained, able to operate together and ready to respond to any threat to global security and prosperity.

The exercise will take place in Norway and the surrounding areas of the North Atlantic and the Baltic Sea, including Iceland and the airspace of Finland and Sweden from Oct. 25 to Nov. 23, 2018. More than 50,000 participants will be involved in target training events, utilizing approximately 250 aircraft, 65 ships and more than 10,000 support vehicles.

“We’ve been looking forward to participating in this exercise, and it’s a privilege to take part,” added Black. “Trident Juncture provides our strike group another opportunity to work closely with our NATO allies in order to learn together, enhance our capabilities and become stronger together as we work toward mutual goals.”

Currently operating in the U.S. Sixth Fleet area of operations, Harry S. Truman will continue to foster cooperation with regional allies and partners, strengthen regional stability, and remain vigilant, agile and dynamic.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

What happens when two carriers kick in your door at once

American aircraft carriers are kings of the ocean. They come loaded with dozens of lethal warplanes, ready to take off from “4.5 acres of sovereign soil” and send missiles into enemy jets while dropping bombs on enemy troops and infrastructure.

U.S. carriers often operate independently of one another, typically sailing within their own strike groups even when operating against the same targets. But the Navy does have another option: combining the carrier strike groups into a single entity with 9 acres of sovereign soil bearing down on hostile forces.

Here’s what that looks like:


US and NATO are preparing troops to handle Russian disinformation

An F/A-18E Super Hornet, from the “Eagles” of Strike Fighter Squadron 115, launches from the flight deck of the USS Ronald Reagan during dual-carrier operations in 2017.

(U.S. Navy Mass Communications Specialist 2nd Class Kenneth Abbate)

Carrier air wings have 60 or more aircraft, and, when two carriers show up, they bring both of their wings for a combined total of between 100 and 150 aircraft. For Carrier Air Wings 1 and 7, the air wings assigned to the USS Harry S. Truman and the USS Abraham Lincoln, which took part in an exercise in August, this includes nine squadrons of F/A-18 Super Hornets. These fighters can kill most anything on the ground or in the sky, though they aren’t stealthy like the coming F-35C Thunder II.

Each squadron has 10-12 of the Super Hornets, equipped with 20mm cannons, AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles, AIM-7 Sparrows, AIM-120 AMRAAMs, Harpoons, HARM, SLAMs, Maverick missiles, Joint Stand-Off Weapons, Joint Direct Attack Munitions, and Paveway Laser-Guided bombs.

If you got lost in that extended list of deadly weapons, just know that the Super Hornets can carry a large variety of missiles and bombs with warheads or payloads ranging from a couple pounds of high explosives to a few thousands pounds (one of those bombs even made our list of weapons that could bring down a Star Wars AT-AT Walker).

US and NATO are preparing troops to handle Russian disinformation

A combined formation with planes from six squadrons and two carriers flies past the USS Ronald Reagan during a dual-carrier operation in 2016.

(U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Jacob Lerner)

So, if two carriers with nine squadrons of Super Hornets, each with 10-12 aircraft show up, the enemy is facing about 100 highly armed aircraft—but those aircraft and pilots are highly vulnerable to enemy air defenses since they lack real stealth capability.

So, how is the Navy going to kick in your door? By crippling your air defenses and shooting down your fighters, of course.

Those HARM missiles mentioned above? Those are high-speed, anti-radiation missiles. When the Super Hornet finds an enemy air defense site, they can fire the missile towards the enemy radar, and the missile actually follows the radar back to the source, eliminating the enemy radar dish.

US and NATO are preparing troops to handle Russian disinformation

An E-2C Hawkeye from the “Liberty Bells” of Airborne Early Warning Squadron 115 transits the flight deck of the USS Ronald Reagan. The Nimitz-class Aircraft carriers USS John C. Stennis and USS Ronald Reagan conducted dual aircraft carrier strike group operations in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations.

(U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Matthew Riggs)

That knocks out the “eyes” of the enemy, but it’s not like enemy fighter pilots are gonna sit around drinking tea and discussing how rude the Americans are for destroying their radar dishes — they’re gonna go try to kill ’em.

And that’s why the Navy doesn’t send only fighters up during a big fight. They’re accompanied by E-2D Hawkeyes, airborne early warning aircraft that are basically flying radar dishes, feeding target and threat information to all the fighters it’s linked to.

This gives a huge advantage to the American fighters it supports in the form of a greater view of the battlefield, allowing the airborne commander to better direct the fighters’ efforts. It helps guarantee that the American jets are always at the decisive engagement, tipping the scales in their own favor. With two carriers and two air wings, this will be especially important as literally hundreds of fighters could be fighting at once.

US and NATO are preparing troops to handle Russian disinformation

The Nimitz-class Aircraft carriers USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) and USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) conduct dual aircraft carrier strike group operations in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations.

(Photo: U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Nathan Burke)

Door, meet kick.

So, if the Navy is called upon to break into enemy airspace, and they successfully do it with the dual-carrier setup they practiced this summer, what happens next? With the enemy air defenses weakened, any number of follow-on operations are easier.

For instance, a Marine Expeditionary Force can much more easily take the beaches when friendly Harriers and Super Hornets are the only jets in the sky. Friendly jets and helicopters can take out beach defenses and ferry troops from ship to shore with minimal to no losses.

US and NATO are preparing troops to handle Russian disinformation

Chief Naval Aircrewman Joel James, assigned to the “Dragon Slayers” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 11, observes from an MH-60S Seahawk helicopter as ships assigned to the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group and the Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group transit the sea in formation while conducting dual-carrier sustainment operations.

(U.S. Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Thomas Gooley)

Marines under fire can call for help and, with two carriers in the area and minimal air defenses left, be basically guaranteed to receive it.

Meanwhile, if American pilots or aircrews had been shot down during the doorkick, MH-60 helicopters can swoop in to recover them quickly because it would have two carriers worth of jets to protect them.

If the enemy tries to use submarines to sink the carriers, there are two sea combat squadrons and two maritime strike squadrons as well as multiple American attack submarines available to hunt down the undersea threat. Anti-ship ballistic missiles face additional Aegis destroyers to get to the U.S. assets.

So, yeah, a dual-carrier strike group brings a lot of firepower and capability, so why doesn’t the Navy do it more often, in exercises and in combat?

Well, it’s crazy overkill for a lot of operations. The Navy only has 11 carriers, and some of those are in drydock or other service at any time. So, giving up over 20 percent of the deployed carrier fleet for a single operation would only happen in the case of a large, decisive operation. The Navy likely sent the Lincoln and Truman to practice, just in case.

If there were a war with China or Russia, there would be a good reason to combine two carrier strike groups. With hundreds of enemy jets likely to take to the air against the U.S., the Super Hornets would need at least a few squadrons in the air to have a chance. That would take multiple carriers to maintain, and it’s more easier to defend one pair of carriers than two separate ones.

At the end of the day, for freedom of navigation missions, humanitarian relief, and reassuring allies, one carrier easily gets the job done. But, if there is a two-carrier, three-carrier, or even larger fight, the Navy is prepared.

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