The budget overview states that “this budget fully funds the entire fleet of 283 A-10 Thunderbolt IIs. Fleet strategy and viability will be assessed as the Air Force determines a long term strategy.”
While the A-10 was supposed to slowly be sidelined beginning in fiscal year 2018 on paper, it appears the budget is proposing the exact opposite, though during the close of the Obama administration, then-Secretary of the Air Force Deborah James said in October that the service is thinking about keeping the A-10 around for a longer period of time.
The A-10 has seen extensive use in Iraq and Syria to fight against Islamic State militants, and the fighter jet has turned out to be so useful that the Air Force put out a $2 billion contract to replace the fleet’s wings.
In the past, Air Force leadership has pushed hard to mothball the A-10, in order to devote those resources to the F-35, which has seen incredible cost overruns and delays as the military’s most expensive weapons system in history.
And although Congress has thwarted this attempt multiple times, Air Force officials have still been looking to replace the A-10 with other aircraft like the A-29 Super Tucano, the AT-6 Wolverine and the AirLand Scorpion. The Air Force intends to test these three jets in July.
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The moment the people of Iraq and Syria have waited so long to see has finally arrived: the Kurdish SDF are assaulting the last ISIS stronghold in the Middle East. For years, ISIS and its so-called caliphate conquered and subjugated people across the two countries – including the Kurds, against whom they committed numerous atrocities.
It’s all in the past now, as the U.S.-backed Kurdish SDF just brought the war on ISIS to their last doorstep.
In the small Syrian town of Baghuz, near its eastern border with Iraq, ISIS fighters are using smoke and suicide bombers to try to slow the progress of the Kurds as they roll through ISIS’ last stronghold. The SDF waited weeks before assaulting the area in an attempt to allow innocent civilians to flee the combat zone. Now, the battle has begun, and it’s not looking good for the Islamic State, despite its potentially thousands-strong numbers.
No one in the region will be particularly sad to see the threat of the Islamic Caliphate dissipate. In 2014, the Islamic State saw a surprisingly easy territory grab across Iraq and Syria, capturing weapons, vehicles, cash, and oil in a blitz of unprecedented success.
Kurdish SDF forces have arrested scores of ISIS fighters trying to flee the area.
Inside the captured territory, life under ISIS rule was harsh and repressive, with dire consequences for noncompliance. Under the strictest forms of Islamic law, civilians would be put to death for offenses ranging from smoking cigarettes to dancing. The terror group destroyed numerous historical and religious sites considered blasphemous by their brand of Islam and threatened persecution and genocide against religious and ethnic minorities they considered apostates.
Kurdish fighters in Syria and Iraq began to strike back just as fast. U.S.-backed Kurdish and Iraqi forces had retaken all ISIS-held territory in Iraq by the end of 2017. Though Syria remains a country fractured by civil war, at least one faction is finally on its last leg as the SDF empties the last pocket of ISIS.
At the end of the operation, American forces are likely to go home, as President Donald Trump has restated time and again, most recently in the 2019 State of the Union Address. They are slated to leave Syria by the end of April. For the U.S.-backed Kurdish militias, the future is far from certain.
Turkey, a NATO ally of the United States, considered armed Kurdish groups in Syria to be terrorist groups, no better than ISIS itself. Turkey maintains a large presence in Syria after intervening in the country in 2015. To date, Turkey has struck SDF positions numerous times, despite U.S. warnings – and the SDF has promised retaliation for any Turkish attacks in Syria.
Brittany DeBarros is waging the kind of vehement public protest via Twitter against the Defense Department and US government that’s commonplace in the Trump-era — except that DeBarros is a captain in the US Army Reserve assigned to the Army’s Psychological Operations Command.
According to DeBarros’ Twitter account, she has been called up on two-week assignment since July 14, 2018, but each day since then DeBarros has posted tweets criticizing “the horror being carried out by our war machine for profit,” with the Army moving to investigate the officer’s remarks.
The “Dept. of ‘Defense’ is the largest oil consumer worldwide,” DeBarros notes in one tweet. “The violence unleashed directly is horrific, but it also has massive spillover impacts.”
“Defense corporations made contributions to 496 of 525 Congress members in 2018,” DeBarros said in her most recent tweet, posted on July 20, 2018, the seventh day of her assignment. Defense contractors are prolific political donors, though many of their contributions come from their political-action committees, owners, employees, or employees’ immediate families.
DeBarros, however, has stopped short of directly criticizing President Trump during her July 2018 protest; using “contemptuous words” against the president is a violation of military law.
During the speech, DeBarros said she was a combat veteran who identified as a woman, Latina, white, black, and queer, and that as a person “existing at the intersection of these identities, I carry a grave conviction in my core that there can be no true economic, racial, gender liberation without addressing the militarism that is strangling the morality and empathy out of our society.”
“For decades, we have been lulled into complacency and inattention as our drones have obliterated weddings, funerals, religious ceremonies, ordinary homes, and ordinary people,” DeBarros said.
“We begrudge the poor for the pennies we give them to eat and survive but cheer for the nearly 0 billion annually we spend on defense. The military industrial complex is literally corporate greed weaponized,” DeBarros added. “From the militarized equipment in which our police forces and federal agencies are clad, to the large percent of current and former soldiers conditioned for war and then hired to occupy our streets to keep peace, is it any wonder that our neighborhoods are treated like combat zones, and our neighbors treated like combatants?”
DeBarros’ protest has gained the attention of the Army, which confirmed her assignment to Army Times and said it was looking into her statements.
Officials at US Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command “are aware of the situation surrounding Cpt. Brittany DeBarros,” Army spokesman Sgt. 1st Class Stephen Crofoot told Army Times. “To maintain the integrity of the ongoing investigation, we are unable to comment at this time.”
Army Reserve and National Guard soldiers are permitted to make political statements in public while they have civilian status but doing so is not allowed while they are on active orders. DeBarros did not reply to Facebook messages sent by Army Times, nor did she respond to a Twitter message sent by Business Insider on July 23, 2018.
DeBarros’ June 2018 speech came just a few days after the Army’s 10th Mountain Division accepted the resignation of 2nd Lt. Spenser Rapone.
Rapone — an Afghanistan combat veteran and a 2016 West Point graduate — posted pictures of himself at his West Point graduation in a T-shirt with Che Guevara’s face and with a sign reading, “Communism will win,” inside his hat.
The photos provoked backlash, including a call for an investigation by Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, which prompted West Point to say Rapone’s actions “in no way reflect the values” of West Point or the Army.
Rapone enlisted in the Army after high school and served as a Ranger in Afghanistan but became disillusioned with the military soon after joining, he said in June 2018 on an episode of What a Hell of a Way to Die, a left-wing podcast hosted by two combat veterans.
“By the time I deployed, I encountered most people who had no real interest in why we were fighting and [were] more so interested in just the next time they could go out and kill brown people and just [terrorize] the Afghan population,” Rapone said.
“To this day, we had this nebulous idea of going after the Haqqani network, and I’m sure they’re not great dudes, but it’s like, are they really threatening the United States of America?” Rapone said. “And isn’t it the United States that caused Afghanistan to turn into [a] hellscape?”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
In the ultimate irony of Cold War-era surveillance, one of America’s most effective spy planes — and literally the fastest plane ever built — could never have happened without the help of its intended target, the Soviet Union.
Turns out the Americans bought the metal it needed to help the SR-71 Blackbird withstand the temperatures of supersonic travel from its longtime rival Russia. These are just a few of the fun facts the Smithsonian revealed in a recent video on the plane.
The documentary features a tour of the SR-71 at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. Former Blackbird pilot Buz Carpenter joins the tour, giving the lowdown on what kept the stealthy plane up in the air. Carpenter flew the SR-71 hundreds of times during its time in service, and he even flew the airplane that now resides at the Smithsonian.
The SR-71 had three nose options: A training nose, a radar nose, and a camera nose capable of taking a 72-mile wide photo. The film in that camera was 5 inches wide and 2 miles long. It had to be processed in 500-foot rolls.
The radar nose wasn’t required for navigation. The SR-71 had a pod that read the location of the stars in the sky and, as long as you gave the plane its initial position on the planet, the plane would know where it was anywhere in the world. This was 12 years before the global positioning system was first imagined by the U.S. military.
While the radar nose could assist with avoiding enemy ground fire, the Blackbird’s jamming and missile countermeasures usually meant — not to mention its 2,200 miles-per-hour speed — enemy surface-to-air missiles missed by a mile. Literally.
That top speed meant the average temperature of the plane’s skin was upwards of 600 degrees. At that temperature, it couldn’t be built with aluminum, so it had to be built with 93 percent titanium – and that titanium came from Russia.
The Russians never knew to whom they were selling the titanium, but they sold enough to build 32 SR-71 Blackbirds — planes used primarily to spy on the Soviet Union. The windows were made of quartz and the plane was built with intentional gaps in the wings and fuselage to account for heat expansion during flight. The airplane grows about 2 inches in width and 4 inches in length because of the frictional heat. The hottest part of the plane could get to 1,200 degrees.
The plane’s engines are unique to the Blackbird because no jet engine can absorb supersonic air. So they were specially designed to expand and contract with the airspeed. The extremely high airspeed gave the jet a unique sonic boom as it broke the sound barrier, and the Air Force routinely overflew foreign heads of state to remind them the U.S. could see them.
Of the 12 Blackbirds rendered unserviceable (none were shot down), four of those came from tire failure. Engineers solved this by cutting the amount of fuel the plane carried during takeoff. A normal mission would see one or two in-flight refuelings. The plane had to refuel every two hours, either in air or on land.
In accordance with the Justice Department’s recent efforts to disrupt business email compromise (BEC) schemes that are designed to intercept and hijack wire transfers from businesses and individuals, including many senior citizens, the Department announced Operation Keyboard Warrior, an effort coordinated by United States and international law enforcement to disrupt online frauds perpetrated from Africa. Eight individuals have been arrested for their roles in a widespread, Africa-based cyber conspiracy that allegedly defrauded U.S. companies and citizens of approximately $15 million since at least 2012.
Acting Assistant Attorney General John P. Cronan of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney D. Michael Dunavant of the Western District of Tennessee, Executive Assistant Director David T. Resch of the FBI and Acting Special Agent in Charge William C. Hoffman of the FBI Memphis Field Office, made the announcement on June 25, 2018.
Five individuals were arrested in the United States for their roles in the conspiracy including Javier Luis Ramos Alonso, 28, a Mexican citizen residing in Seaside, California; James Dean, 65, of Plainfield, Indiana; Dana Brady, 61, of Auburn, Washington; Rashid Abdulai, 24, a Ghanaian citizen residing in the Bronx, New York, who has been charged in a separate indictment; and Olufolajimi Abegunde, 31, a Nigerian citizen residing in Atlanta, Georgia. Maxwell Atugba Abayeta aka Maxwell Peter, 26, and Babatunde Martins, 62, of Ghana and Benard Emurhowhoariogho Okorhi, 39, a Nigerian citizen who resides in Ghana, have been arrested overseas and are pending extradition proceedings to face charges filed in the Western District of Tennessee.
The indictment also charges Sumaila Hardi Wumpini, 29; Dennis Miah, 34; Ayodeji Olumide Ojo, 35, and Victor Daniel Fortune Okorhi, 35, all of whom remain at large. Abegunde had his detention hearing today before U.S. District Court Judge Sheryl H.
Lipman of the Western District of Tennessee, who ordered him detained pending trial, which has been set for October 9, 2018.
(Cliff / Flickr)
“The defendants allegedly unleashed a barrage of international fraud schemes that targeted U.S. businesses and individuals, robbing them to the tune of approximately million,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Cronan. “The Department of Justice will continue to work with our international partners to aggressively disrupt and dismantle criminal enterprises that victimize our citizens and businesses.”
U.S. Attorney D. Michael Dunavant said: “Frauds perpetrated through the Internet cause significant financial harm to businesses and individuals in our District and throughout the United States. Because those committing Internet fraud hide behind technology, the cases are difficult – but not impossible – to investigate. We will continue to deploy our resources to take on these difficult cases and seek justice for citizens harmed by Internet scammers.”
“The devastating effects that cybercrime and business email compromise have on victims and victim companies cannot be understated, and the FBI has made it a priority to work with our law enforcement partners around the world to end these fraud schemes and protect the hard-earned assets of our citizens,” said William C. Hoffman, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the Memphis Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. “These charges are the result of the diligence, hard work and tenacity of the best and smartest investigators and prosecutors, to overcome the challenges faced when dealing with sophisticated efforts to hide criminal activity that involves numerous people in multiple countries, and should send a signal that criminals will not go undetected and will be held accountable, regardless of where they are.”
The indictment was returned by a grand jury in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee on Aug. 23, 2017, and charges the defendants with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering, conspiracy to commit computer fraud, and aggravated identity fraud.
The indictment alleges that the Africa-based co-conspirators committed, or caused to be committed, a series of intrusions into the servers and email systems of a Memphis-based real estate company in June and July 2016. Using sophisticated anonymization techniques, including the use of spoofed email addresses and Virtual Private Networks, the co-conspirators identified large financial transactions, initiated fraudulent email correspondence with relevant business parties, and then redirected closing funds through a network of U.S.-based money mules to final destinations in Africa. Commonly referred to as business email compromise, or BEC, this aspect of the scheme caused hundreds of thousands in loss to companies and individuals in Memphis.
(Photo by Christiaan Colen)
In addition to BEC, the Africa-based defendants are also charged with perpetrating, or causing to be perpetrated, various romance scams, fraudulent-check scams, gold-buying scams, advance-fee scams, and credit card scams. The indictment alleges that the proceeds of these criminal activities, both money and goods, were shipped and/or transferred from the United States to locations in Ghana, Nigeria, and South Africa
through a complex network of both complicit and unwitting individuals that had been recruited through the various Internet scams. The defendants are also charged with concealing their conduct by, among other means, stealing or fraudulently obtaining personal identification information (PII) and using that information to create fake online profiles and personas. Through all their various schemes, the defendants are believed to have caused millions in loss to victims across the globe.
An indictment is merely an allegation and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
The FBI led the investigation. The FBI’s Transnational Organized Crime of the Eastern Hemisphere Section of the Criminal Investigative Division, Major Cyber Crimes Unit of the Cyber Division, and International Organized Crime Intelligence and Operations Center all provided significant support in this case, as did INTERPOL Washington, the U.S. Marshals Service, and the U.S. Attorney’s Offices of the Northern District of Georgia, Western District of Washington, Central District of California, Southern District of New York, and the Northern District of Illinois.
Senior Trial Attorney Timothy C. Flowers of the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Debra L. Ireland of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Tennessee are prosecuting the case, with significant assistance from the Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs.
This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Justice. Follow @WDTNNews on Twitter.
From the court-martial of Billy Mitchell to Robin Olds’ mustache, U.S. Air Force history is filled with examples of Airmen thumbing their nose at authority. So of course what started as a way to identify friendly units in mid-air in World War I quickly evolved into a way of thumbing one’s nose at military uniformity and authority. The unintended consequence of that effort is a gallery of beauty and style — a lasting legacy in the minds of generations to come.
This art form is as old as powered flight. In the context of war, crews created designs to immortalize their hometowns, their wives and sweethearts back home, to earn themselves a name in the minds of their enemies, or provide some kind of psychological protection from death, among other motifs.
Some things were universal. “Mors ab alto” is Latin for “Death from above.” And then some art was based entirely on the record of the plane. Like the B-29 Superfortress Bockscar, below, who dropped the atomic bomb dubbed Fat Man on Nagasaki, Japan, and whose nose art depicts a train boxcar nuking Nagasaki.
Nose art was also a great way to build esprit de corps with the crew and maintainers around a plane, as seen in this photo of the crew of Waddy’s Wagon recreating their own nose art.
Of course, a list of the best WWII nose art would not be complete without the pin-ups.
Nose art wasn’t all sexy women and bombs, though. Some crews used their nose to (deservedly) brag.
Don Gentile, World War II Eagle Squadron member and the first ace to beat Eddie Rickenbacker’s WWI dogfighting record, flew a P-51B famously called Shangri-La, which featured a bird wearing boxing gloves.
And sometimes, when your war record is long enough, it’s okay to let the world know you’re watching the clock.
Popular cartoons were also featured on World War II-era planes. Walt Disney famously looked the other way (in terms of copyright infringement) for much of the art done in the name of winning the war, notably on bomber jackets and nose art. The RAF’s Ian Gleed flew a Supermarine Spitfire featuring Geppetto’s cat Figaro.
American pilot and Doolittle Raider Ted Lawson flew a B-25 Mitchell Bomber over Tokyo called the Ruptured Duck, an image of an angry, sweating Donald Duck wearing pilot headphones in front of crossed crutches.
Next time you watch Dumbo with your kids, remember that Dumbo dropped ordnance on Japan and was said to be fairly accurate.
Bomb icons depicted the number of missions flown over the enemy. For some icons weren’t enough. Thumper here took the war personally and marked the name of each city it bombed.
Nose art was also used to complain (as all troops do) as a way to deal with the monotony of deployed life, the lack of supplies, and/or the frustrations of the crew to keep their bird flying, as seen by Malfunction Sired by Ford (below).
Or it was used to brag that they could keep their girl in the air, with whatever they had lying around.
Some crews definitely brought their A-game to the art form, like the crew of this B-29 Superfortress.
Others tried, but were ultimately (and obviously) better suited to fighting the war than designing the nose of their B-24 Liberator.
The award for all-around best nose-art in World War II has to go to the RAF’s James Archibald Findlay MacLachlan, who lost an arm to a combat injury early in the war and thus had to fly with a prosthetic limb. His fighter plane’s nose depicted the hand from his own amputated arm making the “V for Victory” sign.
After serving in the Armed Forces, beginning a rewarding career is one of the most important steps a veteran can take. Sadly, the expense of attending college or enrolling in a vocational training program can be a major obstacle. A fully-online technology program called V School hopes to change that. Partnering with We Are The Mighty, the online school is offering a full-ride scholarshipto help a deserving veteran, active or reserve military member, or one of their dependents on their path to success.
V School has been helping veterans break into tech since 2013.
V School describes itself as a “veteran-backed tech education,” and for good reason. One-third of their staff members are veterans, and the school is approved to accept the G.I. Bill. More importantly, the program is highly-rated and seeks to help students to succeed in more ways than one. Here’s what every student can expect from the V School experience:
A flexible schedule based on content-mastery, not rigid deadlines
Outcome-based training focused on preparing students for future employment.
A student-staff ratio of 1:8
Access to a lifetime of career support from industry insiders
Assistance building a strong portfolio to help land your first job in tech
Mentorship from alumni and fellow vets
After completing the program, graduates are prepared to hit the job market hard.
On Course Report, 55 students have reviewed the school, with an average rating of 4.8 stars out of 5.
Verified reviewer Ryan Pettingill shared one of many rave reviews, stating, “The product this company brings to Utah is absolutely top notch. The mindful teachers and other cooperative faculty work hard every day to provide an excellent learning experience. The skills I have learned here about Website Development surpass anything I could have learned at a traditional 4-year University. Choosing this school may have been the best decision I have ever made to seriously change my career path.”
Who the V School Scholarship is for
If you’re an outstanding member of the military community who’s passionate about coding and ready to step into a new career, we’re talkin’ to you. Military spouses and family are welcome, too!
How to Apply
Prior coding experience isn’t required, but every applicant will need to take an aptitude test to see whether you’d make a good fit for the job. You’ll also have to fill out an application and answer a few essay questions. Easy! If you’re interested in being the recipient of the Full-Ride Military + Veteran Scholarship, apply online right here. V School can’t wait to meet you!
In November 2017, Oh Chung Sung, a defected North Korean soldier, plowed through a Korean People’s (North Korean) Army checkpoint attempting to cross the DMZ. KPA soldiers fired on him and his vehicle. When his vehicle crashed, troops closed in and shot him several times. Republic of Korea (South Korean) Army troopers discovered the wounded defector and dragged him to safety.
Not many details are known, since North Korea’s state news isn’t the most reputable source and, as it turns out, Oh may have been pretty drunk through most of it.
Due to the multiple gunshot wounds, pneumonia, and 10-inch parasites living inside him, he has only had the strength to endure around an hour of questioning per day by South Korean intelligence agencies. Rumors started circulating that Oh was involved in a murder in North Korea before fleeing the country. These rumors are still being investigated but, as it turns out, what he may have been hiding was the fact that he was severely intoxicated during his escape, and was trying to avoid getting a DUI.
Reports show that he was trying to impress a friend by driving into Panmunjom village, the site of the 1953 Armistice signing. It’s not known if or how long he had been planning to defect, but he admits the actual escape wasn’t planned.
South Korea has a policy to aid and resettle North Korean defectors, but Oh’s story is one of the most high profile cases. He openly embraced South Korea and had a flag hung in his hospital room to reassure him that his escape was successful.
Another benefit of escaping a dictatorship on a drunken bender was being able to ask for a Choco Pie, a South Korean snack similar to the American MoonPie. He told officials that he loved the treats and that Kim Jong Un had banned them in the North since they represent the evils of capitalism. After he told them about the “Choco Pie Black Market,” the manufacturer of the snacks, Orion, swore to give Oh a lifetime supply of Choco Pies as long as he remains in South Korea.
Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh was known around the world as the husband of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II. The two had been married since 1947. On April 9, 2021, at the age of 99, Prince Philip passed away.
Philip was born in Greece into the Mountbatten family. He was both a Prince of both Greece and Denmark. However, following the Greco-Turkish War, Philip’s family was forced to abdicate the throne and was exiled from the country when he was a baby.
Philip was educated in France, Germany, and the United Kingdom. In early 1939, he completed a term as a cadet at the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth before he repatriated to Greece for the summer. However, at the behest of Greece’s King George II, he returned to Britain in September and resumed Royal Navy training. The next year, Philip graduated from Dartmouth as the top cadet in his class. He was appointed a midshipman and served aboard ships protecting the Australian Expeditionary Force in the Indian Ocean. Following the invasion of Greece in October 1940, Philip transferred to the battleship HMS Valiant in the Mediterranean Fleet to protect his home country.
Following further schooling at Portsmouth, Philip was commissioned as a sub-lieutenant in early 1941. He returned to the Mediterranean Fleet where he fought in numerous engagements including the the Battle of Crete and the Battle of Cape Matapan. Following the latter, Philip was mentioned in dispatches for his conspicuous service. During this time, he was also awarded the Greek War Cross.
In July 1942, Philip was promoted to lieutenant and participated in Operation Husky, the Allied invasion of Sicily. During the invasion, Philip saved his ship from enemy bombers during a night attack with his quick thinking. As the planes approached, Philip concocted the idea to launch a raft with smoke floats as a distraction. The plan worked and HMS Wallace was able to slip away unnoticed. In October, Philip became the ship’s first lieutenant. At the age of 21, he was one of the youngest first lieutenants in the Royal Navy.
In 1944, Philip transferred again to the Pacific Fleet where he served with the 27th Destroyer Flotilla. While serving aboard HMS Whelp, Philip participated in the Okinawa campaign. The British naval forces neutralized Japanese airfields on surrounding islands in support of the invasion. He also helped rescue down Royal Navy aviators Sub-Lieutenant Roy Halliday and Gunner Norman Richardson when their Grumman TBF Avenger went down over the ocean. Halliday went on to become Director-General Intelliegence in Britain’s Defence Intelligence Staff from 1981-1984.
Philip was again part of history when HMS Whelp became the first allied ship to enter Sagami Bay on August 27, 1945, following V-J Day. The ship led the way for the battleships HMS Duke of York, USS Iowa, and USS Missouri. Philip was present in Tokyo Bay for the formal Japanese surrender on September 2. Two weeks later, HMS Whelp arrived in Hong Kong to accept the surrender of Japanese forces there as well. After the war, Philip served as an instructor at HMS Royal Arthur, the Petty Officers’ School in Corsham Wiltshire.
Philip met the future Queen Elizabeth II in 1939. The Royal Family toured Dartmouth and Philip was asked to escort the King’s two daughters, Elizabeth and Margaret. Elizabeth fell in love with Philip and the two began exchanging letters. In the summer of 1946, Philip asked King George VI for Elizabeth’s hand in marriage. The King agreed on the condition that the engagement be announced the following year after Elizabeth’s 21st birthday. The engagement was publicly announced in July 1947 and the two were wed on November 20 that same year. Their marriage is the longest of any British monarch. Philip left active naval service at the rank of commander when Elizabeth became queen in 1952.
With Philip’s passing, Buckingham Palace has announced the start of Operation Forth Bridge, the plan for the prince’s funeral. Although his death has made headlines around the world, Philip was insistent that his passing be met with minimal “fuss.” The plans, which had been previously drawn up, have since been modified to adhere to the country’s COVID mitigation policies. Philip would have turned 100 in June.
The US-led coalition air campaign against ISIS militants in Iraq and Syria has dragged on for months, but the US airmen mounting the raids haven’t lost track of time.
During Christmas Day airstrikes against the terrorist group, some US pilot donned Santa hats, photos of which were shared by the US Air Force, as first spotted by international monitoring group Airwars.
Coalition air forces mounted 18 strikes against ISIS targets in Iraq in Syria on December 25.
Near Raqqa, the group’s de facto capital city in Syria, 11 strikes were directed at ISIS tactical units, fighting positions, vehicles, and weapons, including ISIS’ apparent go-to of late: A vehicle-borne improvised explosive device.
Near Mosul, the second-largest city in Iraq and the terror group’s last stronghold in that country, two strikes were directed at ISIS tactical units, fighting positions, vehicles, weapons, and infrastructure.
According to a release from Operation Inherent Resolve, all aircraft involved in Christmas Day strikes returned to base safely.
US forces on the ground in Iraq appear to be stepping up their involvement in the fight for Mosul.
As a recent Reuters report quotes the commander of the main US unit on the ground in Iraq:
“We have always had opportunities to work side-by-side, but we have never been embedded to this degree … That was always a smaller niche mission. Well, this is our mission now and it is big and we are embedded inside their formations.”
Many civilians have found themselves in the cross-fire, especially in Iraq, where they have been caught between ISIS and Iraqi fighters on the ground as well as in the path of ongoing airstrikes.
In the 10 days before Christmas, Airwars documented reports — some of them contested — indicating that more than 50 civilians were killed by air and ground fire from coalition and Iraqi forces.
ISIS continues to menace civilians as well.
The terrorist group has fired on civilian areas of Mosul, including liberated sections of the city, and a Human Rights Watch report issued on Tuesday states that the terror group executed at least 13 people — including two boys — in villages south of Mosul where locals mounted an effort to expel the group’s fighters.
China reportedly sent an uninvited surveillance ship to spy on the recent joint military exercises with Russia, a move highlighting how lingering distrust and competitiveness weaken the so-called “strategic partnership” emerging between Moscow and Beijing.
Beijing sent thousands of People’s Liberation Army troops accompanied by tanks, helicopters, and artillery to eastern Russia for joint drills in September 2018. China also deployed a PLA Navy Dongdiao-class auxiliary general intelligence (AGI) vessel to shadow Russian naval assets training at sea while Chinese ground troops trained on land, USNI News reported, citing a US official. The latter was apparently not invited, but the opportunity to gather valuable intelligence on a competitor was presumably too good to pass up.
While consistent with past Chinese practices — the Chinese navy has sent spy ships to the Rim of the Pacific exercises — it is unusual to surveil an ally while training alongside them, even if it is technically legal under international law.
Given rising tensions between Washington and Moscow and Beijing, some observers suggested that increasing US pressure was driving Russia and China together, laying the groundwork for a possible alliance. A strategic military partnership between the two powers is alarming given each country’s interest in challenging America’s leadership and unilateral power and authority in the international system.
“It sends a signal to Washington that if the U.S. continues on its current course by pressuring Russia and imposing more sanctions, Russia will fall even more into the firm embrace of China,” Alexander Gabuev of the Carnegie Institute in Moscow recently told the Associated Press.
The Military Band of the Eastern Military District during the opening parade of Vostok 2018.
The “main political significance” of the Vostok 2018 drills “comes from the signaling by both Russia and China about the possible emergence of a strategic partnership, aimed at countering the threat that both countries feel from continued U.S. dominance of the international system,” Dmitry Gorenburg argued in The Washington Post.
The massive war games, touted as “unprecedented” and expected to be held every five years going forward, came as Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to stand together against unilateralism. In June 2018, Xi called Putin his “best friend,” a sentiment seemingly shared by the latter.
But despite the budding bromance between Chinese and Russian leadership, the bilateral relationship between the two countries is undermined by decades of distrust dating back to the Cold War, when Soviet and Chinese troops skirmished along the border and tensions rose to the point that Russia was considering a nuclear strike on China.
Chinese state-affiliated media downplayed talk of a Chinese-Russian alliance, suggesting that the concept was being overhyped. “China and Russia are not allies, and they are firm in not forging an alliance,” the nationalist Global Times explained in a recent editorial. “But the outside world shouldn’t make China and Russia feel an urgent need to strengthen their military cooperation.”
Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis said recently that he sees “little in the long term that aligns Russia and China.”
Exactly what the Chinese intelligence vessel was doing remains unclear, but experts suspect that it was gathering information on Russia’s more technologically-sophisticated navy given China’s interest in advancing its radar and electronic warfare capabilities, USNI News reported. Assuming the ship was indeed uninvited, China may have been trying to learn more about Russian warfighting than Russia was willing to teach.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The Army’s M249 light machine gun has been in service since 1984. The M240 machine gun has been in service since 1977. Under the Next Generation Squad Weapons program, the Army aims to replace the M4 carbine, the M249 light machine gun, and potentially the M240 machine gun. Requiring a chambering of 6.8mm for both the rifle and automatic rifle systems, SIG Sauer hopes to replace the M249 with their LMG-6.8.
At first glance, the new machine gun looks very similar to most machine guns currently in military use. To be fair, that was part of the design philosophy when SIG Sauer planned the LMG-6.8. Their intent is to maintain the familiarity of infantry weapon systems while increasing the soldier’s lethality with their new machine gun.
Perhaps the most important improvement featured in the LMG-6.8 is the bullet that it fires. The Army only stipulated the bullet’s diameter for the NGSW program. How the manufacturers cased the round was up to them. While Textron opted for a futuristic plastic telescope-cased design, SIG made improvements where they could while retaining proven reliability.
SIG’s 6.8x51mm hybrid ammunition uses a traditional brass case that features a stainless steel base. This increases the strength of the case’s primer pocket and allows for a higher pressure loading. Simultaneously, it maintains the tried and tested reliability of brass-cased ammo in sealing the weapon’s chamber. The new round not only exceeds the performance of the M249’s 5.56x45mm NATO round, but also the M240’s 7.62x51mm NATO round.
Following the modern design methodology of modularity, the LMG-6.8 can also be chambered in 7.62x51mm NATO and 6.5 Creedmoor. The former is an especially useful feature for the Army if the SIG Sauer entry is selected. As units acquire the new machine gun, they will also have to acquire the new 6.8x51mm ammo. Designing the NGSW-AR to be configured to fire 7.62x51mm NATO allows soldiers to train with and expend existing stockpiles of ammo while stockpiles of new ammo are built up. It also allows continued interoperability with NATO partners who don’t make the switch to the new round.
Looking to the future, another requirement for the NGSW program is a powered rail. Utilizing a battery box integrated into the top of the stock, the LMG-6.8 powers its 22-inch top rail for the use of enablers like scopes, cameras, and other electronic equipment that the Army may integrate in the future. The machine gun also features an adjustable stock and a familiar M4/M16-style fire selector switch. It’s worth noting that the semi-automatic and automatic positions are switched from the traditional M4/M16 pattern.
Slightly unique for a belt-fed machine gun is the LMG-6.8’s charging handle. To start, it’s a left-side charge. Even more unusual is its folding design. This keeps it out of the way and allows the weapon system to be more streamlined and reduce the chance of snagging. The feed tray is also a side-opening design. Not only does this make it easier to manipulate, but it also allows the end user to mount additional attachments like clip-on thermals with minimal interference.
Another quality of life improvement is the loading process. The LMG-6.8 can be loaded on safe or fire, feed tray open or closed, with or without the loading spoon, and with the bolt forward or back. It also features a mountable magwell for the attachment of its box magazine. This makes reloading on the move a more familiar and much easier task. It also allows the system to be adapted to new mounting methods that might be developed in the future.
A bipod is a necessity for a machine gun and the LMG-6.8 has quite a nice one. Integrated into the front end of the weapon, the bipod can be deployed with just one hand. Moreover, it can be folded and stowed either to the front or back of the weapon depending on the user’s needs.
Another part of the LMG-6.8 system is the suppressor. Where other firearms generally need an increase in gas pressure to cycle properly with a suppressor, SIG’s design can run just fine with or without a suppressor on its normal gas setting. It does have an adverse gas setting in the event that it is used in a truly trying environment like extreme cold, sandy deserts, or swampy jungles. The suppressor itself also minimizes the amount of gas blowback to the shooter and reduces their exposure to toxins.
SIG Sauer has stated that the NGSW submissions are still working prototypes. “We’re continually evolving them for the program,” said Jason St. John, Director of Government Products at SIG Sauer. Whichever manufacturer the Army selects, the desired end-state is a more adaptable, accurate, and lethal soldier for tomorrow’s fight.
The fate of some 5,000 Taliban prisoners jailed in Afghanistan is threatening to turn into a major stumbling block in efforts to end the 19-year war in the country.
The Taliban is demanding the release of the detainees before the launch of direct negotiations between Afghans and the Taliban over a permanent cease-fire and a future power-sharing arrangement.
Those intra-Afghan talks, slated for mid-March, will begin after the United States and the Taliban sign a historic peace deal that will trigger the phased withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan.
Experts said the issue of Taliban prisoners could be a key obstacle in launching the country’s peace talks or, conversely, be used as a bargaining chip to exact concessions from the militants.
There are fears that the release of thousands of Taliban fighters could deprive the Kabul government of a key amount of leverage and undercut the peace process by strengthening the Taliban’s position on the battlefield.
Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen told RFE/RL’s Radio Free Afghanistan on February 26 that Kabul will free 5,000 Taliban prisoners in exchange for the release of 1,000 members of the Afghan security forces held by the militants.
Shaheen said the “trust-building measure” was a prerequisite for the launch of the intra-Afghan talks.
He added that the prisoner release was part of the U.S.-Taliban peace deal, although Afghanistan is not a signatory to that bilateral agreement.
But the Taliban and the United States have not yet disclosed the contents of the deal.
The Kabul government has ruled out releasing the prisoners before the start of talks.
“When we, as the government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, enter into negotiations with the Taliban and they demand the release of their prisoners, it will naturally be discussed, and will take into account the laws and interests of our people and [our decision] will be based on the consensus that will arise at that stage,” said Sediq Sediqqi, President Ashraf Ghani’s spokesman, on February 20.
‘Quid Pro Quo’
Omar Samad, a former Afghan diplomat who is now a senior fellow at the Washington-based Atlantic Council, said the issue could be used as a “political stumbling block or a bargaining chip.”
“Bargaining chip can mean quid pro quo,” he said.
Michael Kugelman, South Asia associate at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, said the Afghan government could offer the Taliban a major concession before intra-Afghan talks with the expectation that the militants will reciprocate.
Kugelman said that could mean the insurgents agreeing to reduce violence during the negotiations, which analysts expect to be complicated and protracted.
The United States and the Taliban agreed to a weeklong reduction of violence across Afghanistan before the signing of the peace deal. The partial truce has largely held, with a dramatic decrease in Taliban attacks from around 75 per day down to under 15.
The militants contest or control nearly half of the country.
A similar truce during intra-Afghan talks has been mooted, although the Taliban has not commented on the possibility.
But analysts warned that there was a risk in the government giving away one of its primary bargaining chips at such an early stage of the peace process.
“The Taliban has ample leverage because it’s in no hurry to conclude a peace deal,” said Kugelman. “If it receives a major concession it may hold out and demand more before giving something up in return.”
10,000 Taliban Prisoners
There are an estimated 10,000 Taliban prisoners being held in Afghanistan. But the militants have said that some of those detained were accused of being sympathizers or members of the group, often to settle old scores, and are not actually combatants.
There have been several high-profile prisoner swaps and releases of insurgents since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001 that toppled the Taliban regime.
In November 2019, two Western hostages were released from Taliban custody in exchange for three senior Taliban prisoners, including Anas Haqqani, the younger brother of Sirajuddin Haqqani, the leader of the Haqqani network, a powerful Taliban faction.
The prisoner swap was seen as an attempt to kick-start U.S.-Taliban peace negotiations after U.S. President Donald Trump abruptly ended the talks over rising Taliban attacks.
In 2014, five senior Taliban members were released from the U.S. military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in exchange for a captured U.S. soldier, Bowe Bergdahl.
All five former Guantanamo Bay detainees are based in Qatar, where they have taken part in negotiations with U.S. officials.
In 2013, former President Hamid Karzai controversially released scores of Taliban prisoners from a formerly U.S.-run prison near Kabul as an attempt to convince the militants to open direct talks with Kabul.
The move failed to convince the Taliban to come to the negotiating table. Analysts said some of those freed returned to the Taliban, bolstered their ranks, and increased the insurgency’s efficacy on the battlefield.