The site of the world's worst nuclear accident is on fire - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

The site of the world’s worst nuclear accident is on fire

Ukrainian authorities say a wildfire has broken out in the exclusion zone around Chernobyl, where the world’s worst nuclear accident occurred in 1986, but radiation levels remained within safe limits.

“Radiation levels have not risen either inside the exclusion zone or in adjoining areas,” the zone’s administration said in a statement on June 5, 2018.

Prime Minister Volodymyr Hroysman wrote on Facebook that “radiation levels are safe. In Kyiv and in Chernobyl itself, including at the Chernobyl power station site, they are significantly below the acceptable limits. So there’s no need to worry.”


“I stress once more: the situation is fully under control,” he added.

The fire broke out in dry grass on the morning of June 5, 2018, in the area of high radiation less than 10 kilometers from the power station, and later spread over some 10 hectares of woodland, the state emergency service said in statements.

It published photographs of smoke billowing from woodland and flames spreading along the ground.

The state nuclear-industry regulator said the former nuclear power station was not at risk from the flames.

More than 130 firefighters were battling the fire as well as two planes and a helicopter that dumped water on the fire, the state emergency service said, adding that the wind was not blowing toward the capital, Kyiv.

The site of the world’s worst nuclear accident is on fire
Entrance to the zone of alienation around Chernobyl.

Wildfires occur regularly in the woods and grassland around the power station. In 2015, a forest fire burned for four days.

Chernobyl’s No. 4 reactor, which is about 100 kilometers north of Kyiv, exploded in 1986 during testing in the worst such accident ever.

Radioactive fallout from the power station contaminated up to three-quarters of Europe, according to some estimates, with Ukraine, Russia and Belarus, all then part of the U.S.S.R., the worst affected.

A 30 kilometers radius around the power station is still an exclusion zone where people are not allowed to live.

The three other reactors at Chernobyl continued to generate electricity until the power station finally closed in 2000. A giant protective dome was put in place over the fourth reactor in 2016.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

A US airstrike crushed ISIS fighters massing in Syria

U.S. military officials say American airstrikes in Syria on Jan. 21 killed up to 150 Islamic State fighters in a command center in the Middle Euphrates River Valley.


The U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State says the strikes were near As Shafah, which is north of Abu Kamal in eastern Syria. They targeted an IS headquarters and were assisted by Syrian Democratic Forces who watched the area before the attack.

Also Read: Mattis says Turkey is fighting in the wrong part of Syria

The coalition says there was a heavy concentration of fighters at the site and they appeared to be “massing for movement.” The large number of fighters killed in the attack underscores U.S. assertions that the Islamic State group continues to be a threat in Syria and hasn’t been defeated.

The coalition says only IS fighters were killed in the strikes.

MIGHTY CULTURE

We must speak out against the flaws of America

Last week, I read an article on this site called, “America, Where Are You Going?” in which the author (anonymous) bemoaned recent social and political activism of his or her fellow military spouses.

I read all the way to the second page, where one line jumped out above all the rest: “However, that mutual understanding and respect that our spouses should never be publicly political seem to have fallen to the side for a few…” (emphasis added).

Dear Anonymous, I could not disagree with this sentiment more. Here is my rebuttal.


For over twenty years, I’ve served my country by making sure that my spouse’s home and family are taken care of. I make lunches and brush hair and comfort babies when they haven’t seen their daddy in too long. I make sure that if he is called to deploy, he can leave our family knowing that we are taken care of and focus on the job in front of him. I love my country. My work isn’t a sacrifice so much as it is an act of patriotism and pride.

At the same time, it is out of a deep and abiding love for my country that I recognize her flaws and errors. It is also my duty to speak up and call for change.

In 1830 the treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek was signed, and my ancestors were robbed of their homeland in Mississippi. Choctaw Nation would start the trek west to Oklahoma where they would be confined to a reservation in a wholly new environment. My ancestors survived, though many others didn’t.

This story was told to me as a child. I could hear the pain in my grandmother’s voice as she retold the story her grandma told her. The early 1800s was one of many dark chapters in American history. But my Nation grew strong and built a future in Oklahoma.

Ever since then, I have been firmly grounded in the understanding that my country has deep flaws that we should all mourn. We also have the promise of freedom and the opportunity to grow that is lacking in so many places around the world. My American story goes back far beyond the first European settlers, then later was enriched by Italian and Welsh ancestors. I am rooted in this country in deep ways. This makes me both confident in the future that is possible and aware of the blemishes within.

Part of my duty as a patriot, as a military spouse, and as an American is to speak out against actions that harm our citizens and dishonor our history. Of course we can be publicly political! We’re stakeholders in this great American experiment, aren’t we? That means we get a say in how our country’s run. In fact, as military spouses who have lived in all different kinds of places, we have unique insights on how different systems work. Our perspective is tremendously valuable to the political process.

Those who suggest that spouses should never be political are likely the spouses who benefit most from the way things are now. I do not have that luxury. My Nation does not have that luxury. For us, our existence is political. If we do not speak up, we risk being erased entirely.

At the very end of the article, the author wrote: “The military is not just one entity, it is a family made up of individuals, all with different outlooks on life, political affiliations, religions, every race, and every culture imaginable.”

On this we can agree. Military spouses are no more of a monolith than any other demographic in America. I have military spouse friends who are Muslim, Jewish, Black, Hispanic, Asian, Gay, Transgender, socialists, and conservatives. All of us come into this military life with passions and beliefs, some that change and some that grow stronger. The shared experience of serving together bonds us across those differences with a strength that is rarely seen in civilian circles.

So of course: I no more speak for all military spouses than they speak for me. (I’ll add that in the original New York Times article I’m pretty sure this author referred to, that was made abundantly clear.) However, it does not mean that we do not speak at all. On the contrary, we cannot and must not remain quiet when we see injustices. We can and must stand up and say enough.

If you’re interested in political activism like me and what to know where to start, I recommend checking out the Secure Families Initiative. They host nonpartisan webinar trainings on how to be the best advocate you can be, whether that’s lobbying your elected officials or simply telling your story. It’s a super cool community of kickass military spouses!

My voice is important, my voice is unique, and my voice is mine. I am not speaking for my spouse or anyone else, but I am speaking for what I believe is best for my family, national security, and my country.

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.

Articles

DARPA’s newest tech will give pilots X-ray vision

The official Mad Scientists of war, otherwise known as Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency employees, have crafted a way for helicopter pilots to see through dust, snow, and smoke to fly safely even when their view is blocked.


The site of the world’s worst nuclear accident is on fire
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Dalton A. Precht

Currently, low-visibility conditions lead to crashes and collisions that cost the U.S. hundreds of millions of dollars and can lead to troops’ deaths. Brownouts, when helicopter pilots lose visibility due to dust kicked up by their rotors or sandstorms, have caused a number of crashes in the recent wars in the desert.

The Multifunction RF program is developing a full sensor package that will scan the environment for hazards and report them to the pilot, even when fog, dust, or other obscurants block the pilots’ vision.

The system maps terrain and landing zones in brownouts or whiteouts, prevents collisions with other aircraft and obstacles, and warns of weather hazards.

When the pilot is in combat, the system will aid in identifying and acquiring targets, guiding weapons, and linking the data feeds of different aircraft.

Ideally, the system will work as a “plug and play” add-on to current and future aircraft. Everything from modern helicopters to drones to the coming Joint Multi-Role Aircraft will feature the technology.

Articles

This sailor earned the Medal of Honor for saving his crew from an Israeli attack

The officers of the USS Liberty were sunbathing on the decks of their ship on June 8, 1967, just outside of Egypt’s territorial waters. Not too far away, Egypt was in the middle of the Six Day War with Israel, who would occupy the Sinai Peninsula by the war’s end.


The peaceful day aboard the intelligence-gathering ship was destroyed when Israeli Mirage and Mystere jets tore through the air – and dropped ordnance that ripped through the Liberty’s hull.

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McGonagle shows the damaged Liberty in June 1967 (U.S. Navy photo)

Commander William McGonagle was severely wounded as the Israelis fired rockets, dropped napalm on the bridge, and then strafed his ship. He still managed to call his crew to quarters and take command of the Liberty from the bridge. The ship was on fire, men were dead and wounded, and McGonagle himself was burned by napalm and losing blood.

The Liberty was not a warship but a lightly-armed, converted freighter — a holdover from World War II. Her mission was to collect signals intelligence and radio intercepts on the war between the Arabs and Israelis but not to get involved in the fighting or violate Egyptian sovereignty.

With his ship still in range of the U.S. 6th Fleet, Cmdr. McGonagle radioed the USS Saratoga, which sent 12 fighters to assist. Those fighters were recalled on orders from Washington. The Israeli fighters eventually let up and disappeared on their own. But that wasn’t the end of the attack. When they were gone, three Israeli torpedo boats opened up on the American ship and blew a 40-foot hole in the Liberty’s hull.

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The hole in USS Liberty’s hull from an Israeli torpedo. (U.S. Navy photo)

The armaments on the USS Liberty were totally outmatched. The ship was carrying only four .50-caliber machine guns, a far cry from the Egyptian ship Israelis claim shelled the coastline that morning. The Liberty was a sitting duck.

Of the ship’s 294 men, 34 were killed in the attack and 171 were wounded.

With his ship burning and flooded, McGonagle directed the maneuvering of his ship for 17 hours while critically wounded. He refused medical treatment until he was convinced more critically wounded members of his crew were treated. He didn’t give up command until the Liberty encountered a U.S. destroyer.

For his gallantry and determination, McGonagle was awarded the Medal of Honor.

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Israel maintained that its attack on the Liberty was a mistake, that the planes were looking for an Egyptian ship, the El Quseir. Some find this troublesome, considering the El Quseir was a very different size than the Liberty and had a very different profile. Still, The IDF’s own inquiry says the Israeli Chief of Naval Operation did not know the Liberty was in the area. The captains of the torpedo boats maintained that closer identification was impossible because the Liberty was “enveloped in smoke.”

McGonagle’s official account of the incident corroborates the Israeli account, but the crew of the Liberty aren’t so certain. A 2002 BBC Documentary includes interviews with the Liberty’s crew, Israeli officials, and even Robert McNamara, the U.S. Secretary of Defense at the time.

“I was never satisfied with the Israeli explanation,” then-Secretary of State Dean Rusk said of the Liberty Incident “Their sustained attack to disable and sink Liberty precluded an assault by accident or some trigger-happy local commander. … I didn’t believe them then, and I don’t believe them to this day. The attack was outrageous.”

There are numerous conspiracy theory-related sites, some even run by Liberty crewmembers, that call into question some of the actions of the Israeli forces and of the orders from Washington. Some of these theories include:

• The Liberty was attacked to keep the U.S. from knowing about Israel’s upcoming attack on Syria.

• Trying to draw the U.S. into a greater anti-Arab war.

• Hiding Israeli war crimes (alleged massacres of Egyptian POWs).

• Israelis using unmarked aircraft.

• Torpedo boats machine gunning life rafts.

• Jamming radio signals meant that Israel knew the frequency the ships would be on– and thus knew they were American.

Official accounts (including from McGonagle) maintain that the Israeli torpedo ships halted mid-attack and offered assistance once the identity of Liberty was ascertained. The Americans politely declined.

Though Israel has apologized for the incident and paid reparations to the sailors’ families, many among the crew of the Liberty believe the U.S. still downplays the attack on their ship to kowtow to their longtime ally.

MIGHTY FIT

10 things that every soldier can do… can you?

One of the first steps to joining the military is completing a series of physical fitness tests. The bar is set high to keep members of the armed forces from getting injured in the line of duty. It’s dangerous out in the field, and it’s a lot more dangerous if you’re too slow and weak to keep up!


While we civilians probably won’t need to literally run for our lives, meeting military fitness standards are a great way to stay in shape, protect ourselves from injury, and stave off preventable conditions like heart disease and diabetes. Are you tough enough to join the army? The standards are changing in 2020, but if you can handle all of the exercises below, you just might make it.
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A two-mile run…or three

To make it in the army, soldiers have to be able to run pretty fast. For men between ages 22 and 26, you have to complete a 2 mile run in under 16 minutes 36 seconds, or 19:36 for women.

For Marines, make that two-mile run a three-mile run. If you’re between 21 and 25, you have to do it in less than 27:40 for a man, or 30:50 for a woman. Want a perfect score? Cut that to a mere 18 minutes for men, and 21 minutes for women. That’s the equivalent of three, back-to-back six-minute miles for guys, and three seven-minute miles for women. Phew! I’m sweating already.

A ton of crunches

To be in any branch of the military, a strong core is a must. To join the Marines, if you’re between ages 21-25, the minimum standard is 70 for men and 55 for women.

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Pushups

Time to work on those shoulders and pecs. To be a Marine, men between 21 and 25 have to be able to whip out at least 40 pushups, or 18 for women in the same age group. Soon, you’ll have to be able to handle hand-raised pushups, where your hands come off the ground after each repetition. 10 of those puppies will be the bare minimum to pass!

Pull-ups

Women don’t typically love to work out their upper body, but to get army strong, neglecting your lats, delts, and biceps isn’t an option. If you’re a woman between 26 and 30, doing 4 pull-ups is the bare minimum- only one less than the standard for men!

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Swims

If you prefer swimming laps to running miles, the Navy might be a better fit for you. To join the Navy, you swap a 1.5-mile run with a 500 yd swim. For a visual, that’s over four football fields of water to cover.

Deadlifts

The deadlift is a whole-body strength exercise in which you lift a weighted barbell off the ground to a standing position, then lower it back to the floor. Soldiers can lift at least 140 lbs…and up to 340! Did we mention you have to be able to do it three times in a row?

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Standing power throws

Grab a 10 lb medicine ball, squat, and then throw it behind you, up and over your head. (Check to make sure nobody’s behind you first!) How far did it go? If you made it at least 4.5 yards after three tries, you might be tough enough to be a soldier.

A 250-meter pprint, drag, and carry

If you want to be able to heroically drag your loved ones from a burning building, this is the exercise to work on. A five-in-one test, you have to complete a 50-meter sprint, a backward 50-meter drag of a 90-pound sled, a 50-meter lateral movement test, a 50-meter carry of two 40-pound kettlebells, and a final 50-meter sprint- in under three minutes!

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Leg tucks

Another full-body move, this one will test your strength from head to toe. Beginning with an alternating grip on an overhead bar, hang with straight arms. Then, bring the knees to the elbows while completing a pull-up. It’s crazy hard to do correctly, so only one is required to pass…but 20 reps will get you a perfect score!

Maintain extreme physical and mental endurance

Soldiers can go and keep on going. They can power through the pain, physical exhaustion, and heartbreak of battle. While we’re still against overtraining, don’t be afraid to push yourself within reason. Run a little faster, go a little further, and try things you’re not sure you’re capable of. You might be surprised how tough you really are!

MIGHTY MOVIES

‘South Park’ banned in China after most recent episode

The most recent episode of “South Park,” called “Band in China,” mocked Hollywood’s submission to the country. Now the long-running Comedy Central animated series has seemingly been banned in China itself.

Episodes, clips, and online discussions of the show have been removed from the Chinese internet, according to The Hollywood Reporter. THR reviewed the Chinese social network Weibo and found zero mention of the series; clips and episodes on Chinese streamer Youku didn’t work; and “South Park” discussion forums on Tieba had been closed.

“According to the relevant law and regulation, this section is temporarily not open,” a note on the platform says when you search for a “South Park” discussion thread, according to THR.


In the episode, Hollywood wants to make a biopic of Stan Marsh’s band, but must alter the movie to fit China’s regulations. Meanwhile, Stan’s dad, Randy, attempts to sell marijuana in the country after people in South Park stop buying his and start growing their own.

The Return of Fingerbang – “Band in China” – s23e02 – South Park

www.youtube.com

China is currently the second-largest theatrical market in the world and Hollywood has increasingly relied on the country’s box office to give potential blockbusters a boost. A report from Ampere Analysis last year predicted that China would surpass the US as the world’s box office leader by 2022.

The “South Park” episode is heavily critical of China’s censorship and references the country’s crackdown on Winnie the Pooh imagery. After China’s ruling Communist Party announced it wanted to eliminate presidential term limits last year, photos comparing its leader Xi Jinping to Pooh popped up online.

Disney’s “Christopher Robin,” a live-action take on the Winnie the Pooh characters, was not released in China last year because the character was such a symbol of resistance, according to THR.

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

Articles

11 things that are only funny to submariners

We asked the sailors of the Submarine Bubblehead Brotherhood, a Facebook group for U.S. Navy submariners, what some of their funniest experiences were while underway and got over 230 funny comments. Here are 11 of the best replies:


*Note: identities kept anonymous per group’s request.

1. The shoe polish prank.

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HappyHaptics, YouTube

The best items for this prank are binoculars, periscopes and sound powered telephones. Yes, it’s a bit childish but hilarious when you’ve been cooped up for weeks on end.

2. When civilians or people not in the submarine community ask if the subs have windows.

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Star Trek: The Next Generation, Paramount Television/Orvelin Valle/We Are The Mighty

Facebook group comment: When people ask if we had windows I’d tell them we had a big screen just like on Star Trek and that we could communicate face to face. You should have seen their faces.

3. Sending a NUB (Non Useful Body) to machinery to get a machinist’s punch.

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Burn After Reading, Focus Features

4. Sending a NUB to feed the shaft seals.

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Shaft seals are mythological creatures new sailors are sent to go looking for on a fool’s errand by another sailor. The shaft seals are actually a series of interlocks and safety mechanisms that ensure the integrity surrounding the ship’s main propulsion shaft, and not nautical mammals.

5. Farting into the ventilation that takes air from one compartment into another.

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Fresh Movie Trailers, YouTube

Facebook group comment: We had a mech who’d stand watch on the ERUL (engine room upper level) that used to fart into the ventilation return that took air from the ERUL to the maneuvering control room. Then we’d all look around to figure out who sh-t themselves. About a minute later, we’d see him staring through the window at us with a grin bigger than Tennessee.

6. Preparing a NUB to go hunting when the 1MC (the ship’s public address system) announced “the ship will be shooting water slugs.”

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U.S. Navy Photo by Journalist 3rd Class Corwin Colbert.

Water slug refers to shooting a submarine’s torpedo tube without first loading a torpedo — like firing blanks with a gun.

7. Waking a sleeping shipmate and shouting “Come on man, we’re the last ones!!” while wearing a Steinke hood or SEIE.

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Submarine Escape Immersion Equipment MK-10 suite. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jhi L. Scott

A Steinke hood is used to escape a sub stranded on the ocean floor.

8. Trimming a shipmate’s webbed belt when he is trying to lose weight.

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Image: The Belt Whole Sale

Facebook group comment: I’d trim about a quarter inch every couple of days from his webbed belt while he was trying to lose weight. He will say, “I’ve lost 10 pounds,” to which I’d respond, “why is your belt still tight?”

9. Pranking the XO (Executive Officer) by stealing the door to his stateroom.

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U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Todd A. Schaffer/ Orvelin Valle/ We Are The Mighty

It is tradition to prank the XO by stealing the door to his stateroom before transferring to another unit. This is huge because the CO (Commanding Officer/captain) and the XO are the only ones aboard who don’t have to share their rooms. It’s all in good fun, as is the XO’s retaliation. For example, we’ve heard of an XO who replaced his missing door with a tall sailor. Yes, that’s right, a real person. He even held a handle and made creaking noises when the XO opened the door.

10. Getting drunk sailors back on the boat after a port visit.

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Mister Roberts, Warner Bros.

Facebook group comment: We’d laugh as we came face to face with the stumbling fools reeking of booze and debauchery. Me and the other watch stander would tie a line around the drunks and lower them down the aft battery hatch. The first few times were rough, they’d bang around going down but we eventually became good at it. Hell, sometimes I was one of those stumbling fools but they took care of me as I took care of them.

11. Pranking the JOOD (junior officer of the deck) with a trim party.

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National Geographic, YouTube

The prank is performed on a newly qualified Dive Officer, Chief of the Watch or JOOD where men and other weights are shifted fore and aft to affect the trim of the boat.

Trim definition (for non-sailors): Both on a submarine and surface vessels, a ship is designed to float as level as possible in the water. When the majority of the cargo weight is shifted to one end of the ship, the ship will begin to tilt.

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National Geographic, YouTube

*BONUS!

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15 Turns To Nowhere, Facebook

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia says fighter intercepted U.S. surveillance planes over Black Sea

Russia says a fighter jet intercepted two U.S. military surveillance planes in the Black Sea — the latest in a series of midair encounters between U.S., NATO, and Russian forces.

Military officials told the state TASS news agency on August 5 that the Su-27 jet met the U.S. planes in international waters in the Black Sea.

“The Russian fighter jet crew approached the aircraft at a safe distance and identified them as an RC-135 strategic reconnaissance aircraft of the U.S. Air Force and an R-8A Poseidon, the U.S. Navy’s maritime patrol aircraft,” the Defense Ministry said.


There was no immediate confirmation of the incident from U.S. or NATO officials, though civilian radar-tracking sites showed U.S. aircraft in the Black Sea region on August 5, not far from Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula.

Crimea was forcibly annexed by Russian in 2014, a move that few foreign countries have recognized. The peninsula is home to the Russian Black Sea Fleet and multiple military installations.

U.S. and NATO jets routinely intercept Russian surveillance and strategic bomber aircraft off NATO member countries and U.S. airspace over the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. The vast majority of incidents are routine and considered nonthreatening.

In May, a NATO official told RFE/RL that Russian military aircraft activity in the Black Sea and other parts of Europe had increased since 2014.

Last year, the official said that NATO aircraft took to the skies 290 times to escort or shadow Russian military aircraft across Europe.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

Articles

Admiral’s drunken, naked antics cost him his job

A top logistics officer was removed from his post after a night of drinking ended with him wandering a Florida hotel naked, the Navy announced Dec. 7.


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Photo: US Navy

Rear Adm. David Baucom was the director of Strategy, Policy, Capabilities, and Logistics at the U.S. Transportation Command, a joint-service post that oversees logistics in all military branches. He was attending a conference in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida in April when his drinking got away from him.

Navy investigators who looked into the event tallied up at least eight drinks for the admiral for the night of Apr. 7. Security cameras filmed Baucom stumbling around the hotel and hitting his head on a barstool during the night. He also wet his pants at one point, according to the Stars and Stripes.

Eventually, a hotel employee collected Baucom and took him to his room, said the Washington Times. But Baucom awoke and reemerged naked from the room hours later and his room door locked behind him.

Baucom later told a colleague he hadn’t packed pajamas because his suitcase was full and he didn’t want to pay a baggage fee for another bag, the Washington Post reported.

Two women staying at the hotel saw the admiral walking around the hotel and searching for a towel. They reported it to hotel employees and Baucom was led back to his room.

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Rear. Adm. David Baucom, seen here wearing clothes, tours a uniform issue facility that is full of clothes. Photo: US Navy Mass Communications Specialist 1st Class Andre N. McIntyre

The admiral checked himself into a drug and alcohol program when he got back to his base, the Navy Times reported. He also has a medical condition that contributed to the incident.

Still, the Navy knows a drunken sailor when they see one and determined that his actions had more to do with his intoxication than his medication. The 34-year veteran was removed from his post and reprimanded for his behavior.

MIGHTY TRENDING

What China’s spin doctors want you to believe this week

Most national governments have some sort of official apparatus for pushing its views in other countries. The U.S. has the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Qatar has Al Jazeera, Russia has Russia Today and Russia Beyond the Headlines. China has a few outlets as well, including China Military. We took a quick tour to see what they’re talking about right now.


International Army Games 2018: Obstacle course contest held in Fujian, China

www.youtube.com

Chinese teams are going to impress at the International Army Games

The International Army Games that Russia holds every year are coming up, and China is bragging about the 13 fighter jets it’s sending this year. Two of the pilots are from the People’s Liberation Army Navy, and this is the first time that pilots from that branch have participated.

It also has paratroopers participating, and it’s bragging that its team is the only one using only domestically produced weapons and equipment. That domestic production of equipment is an odd flex since it only matters if you think you might lose access to key imports during a conflict.

But while China’s flexes might be odd, don’t count them out on performance. Their special operators have done well for themselves at the Warrior Games in Jordan.

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(Studio Incendo, CC BY 2.0)

The White House is lying about Chinese military forces near Hong Kong

China has a bit of a problem in its Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong. Widespread protests there have only grown and international news coverage is turning against the central government. A recent Bloomberg report said that America was tracking Chinese troop deployments near the border of Hong Kong.

China is preferring to call the protests riots and is referring to some of the participants as “radical forces,” and it wants to convince the world that the army is nowhere near the conflict. But it also said that the commander of the Hong Kong garrison condemned the protests Wednesday during a speech celebrating the army’s 92nd Birthday.

China can hold the Taiwan Straits against anything, even without new Russian missiles

China has been seeking to “re-unify” for years with Taiwan. If you don’t know, this is a pretty deliberate misnomer. Taiwan was one a part of China the same way that Texas was once part of Mexico. During a brutal civil war, the Communists took control of mainland China while the Republic of China fell back to Taiwan and has defended the island ever since.

The countries are separated by the Strait of Taiwan, and any military deployment near that strait changes the balance of power. So, China’s recent deployment of S-400 anti-aircraft missiles manufactured in Russia ruffled some feathers all around the world. China, through China Military, is trying to say that the S-400 deployment is not big deal, though that’s obviously crap.

The S-400 is the same missile system that Russia turned to to defend Kaliningrad, Crimea, and other important strategic positions. It’s very capable, and even the export version can hit targets over 150 miles from the launcher. It’s simply madness to claim that deployment of such an advanced system on the Strait of Taiwan won’t affect the balance of power there.

China is not a major threat to the U.S. militarily

In an op-ed in China Military, Senior Col. Lu Yin argues that China is not a major security threat to the U.S. Her argument centers on three pillars. First, it’s not China’s intent to fight the U.S. or establish a sphere of influence. Second, China is not capable of presenting a true threat to the U.S. due to a lack of mechanization. Finally, China hasn’t engaged in a war in 40 years.

These arguments have some serious holes. First, China’s Belt and Road Initiative is very much about expanding a sphere of influence that China already has, and it has been using an oversized coast guard to punish neighbors and seize territory in the Pacific. Second, China is under-mechanized and modernized, but it has been rapidly closing that gap for 20 years. And finally, China hasn’t engaged in a war in decades because it wasn’t ready for one. That’s no longer the case.

But, it is still a good sign that Chinese military officers are arguing for peace. It’s most likely a ruse or a tactic to buy time by keeping some Americans hopeful for long-term peace, but if China starts abiding by agreements like the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, China and the U.S. could avoid more confrontation and potential conflict.

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The U.S. Navy tests a prototype railgun in 2008. China has deployed its prototype weapon.

(U.S. Navy)

Chinese scientists are creating new marvels of naval might

In the previous entry, we mentioned that China hasn’t engaged in a war for decades because it wasn’t ready for war, but has been building up its capability. Well, they’re currently bragging about engineers getting new citations and medals, likely because of their work in full-electric propulsion.

FEP is useful on any vessel because it allows smooth, consistent power. But it is especially valuable on warships designed to fire energy weapons and electromagnetic railguns, the kinds of weapons that would make a big difference in a future naval fight. China is aggressively pursuing railguns, recently sending its first railgun-equipped vessel out for sea trials.

China does appear to be behind the U.S. in most naval tech that matters, but it’s moving fast and it has the industrial capacity to mass produce any weapon and platform designs that work in trials. But it also has a tendency to over-tout its breakthroughs. So it’s unclear whether this hinted full-electric propulsion advance really means anything.

Chinese troops are securing U.N. compounds and missions in Africa

China has troops deployed in Africa on a peacekeeping mission and China Military and CGTN.com have devoted resources to trumpeting the Chinese role in securing a base after it was hit by a suicide attack. French, Malian, and Estonian troops were injured in the attack.

Meanwhile international coverage has focused on the efforts of Malian and French troops to contain the threat, especially the Malian troops who identified the suicide vehicle and fired on it as it entered the checkpoint. This forced the vehicle to explode outside the gate with enough distance that injuries were limited.

China Military wants everyone to know that, “Chinese sentinels used high-powered telescopes to strengthen observation and the snipers occupied the commanding heights to prepare for shooting.” Basically, Chinese troops took over guard towers or similar positions and used scopes and binoculars.

Still, that’s not bad considering what troops China deployed to Mali. It has a guard detachment and an engineer detachment on the ground, so hardening the entry points and finishing work on the airport is about all that can be expected. No shame there.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

5 planes that hope they can survive an F-22 assault

Air forces around the world have to wrestle with one simple but scary fact: Their fighters may have to go against the F-22 and, to maybe a lesser degree, the F-35, both fifth-generation stealth fighters equipped with modern, lethal air-to-air weapons and great sensors.

Here are five fighters that nations are hoping can hold their own against the kings of the skies, even if, so far, it doesn’t appear that any are up to the task:


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Chengdu J-20s maneuver during a public airshow.

(Alert 5, CC BY-SA 5.0)

Chengdu J-20

China’s J-20 fighter is arguably the greatest actual threat to America’s fifth-generation fighters. China has a number of fighters in development, production, and early deployment, but the J-20 appears to be the crown jewel. It’s large, but appears to be stealthy at least from the front. It can carry lethal, extremely long-range missiles, and the Center for Strategic International Studies reported as late as 2017 that it could be a full fifth-generation stealth fighter.

Now, some fifth-generation traits have turned out to be absent from the J-20, most notably the super cruise feature. But while the J-20 can’t go above the speed of sound without afterburners, it’s still likely to be dangerous. Luckily, India has claimed that the J-20 isn’t as stealthy as advertised, saying its pilots have tracked the planes near the countries’ shared border from miles away.

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The Russian Air Force flies its Sukhoi Su-57 fighters.

(Anna Zvereva, CC BY-SA 2.0)

Sukhoi Su-57 (formerly known as PAK FA)

The Russian Sukhoi Su-57 is one of the few rival fifth-generation fighters that currently exist, and its creators insist that it not only rivals the F-22, but some even claim it’s better in air-to-air and air-to-surface operations. Russia really hopes this fighter can dominate the F-22 and F-35 if it ever goes to war with the west.

But the plane doesn’t appear to be all that impressive. It’s woefully underpowered, according to most experts and the Indian leaders who backed out of buying the plane (more on that momentarily), it’s not all that stealthy, and its weapons capabilities are fine, but nothing to brag about. For it to approach anything like the speed of the F-22, it needs to use its afterburners which destroy what little stealth it does have.

Even worse, Russia can’t afford the plane, opting not to buy the it in significant numbers as sanctions and low oil prices continue to cripple its economy.

​TAI TFX

Turkey is chasing a fifth-generation fighter of its own called the TFX under the umbrella of Turkish Aerospace Industries. While Turkey is a NATO member and is slated to buy F-35s, its relationship with America and the west has become more tenuous and tense, and Turkey needs its own weapons to guarantee its security as it drifts closer to Russia.

The aircraft is under development with a first flight scheduled for 2023. It’s envisioned as having a stealthy fuselage, high speed, and a focus on air-to-air operations with air-to-surface capabilities. It is supposed to be capable of Mach 2 speeds and an almost 700-mile combat radius. If relations with the west hold, the TFX will fly with Turkish F-35s. Otherwise, it will work with Russian S-400s and older F-16s.

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HAL Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA) model

(Johnxxx9, CC BY-SA 3.0)

HAL AMCA

India was part of the PAK FA program that created the Sukhoi Su-57, but when it got its hands on the early planes, they were underpowered and failed to meet up to specs, according to Indian military leaders. So India proceeded from the Sukhoi program and ramped up their program for a homegrown fifth-generation fighter, the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft.

The goal aircraft looks a lot like the F-22 with stealth, super cruise, dual engines, and all-weather capabilities. It’s getting high-end engines, radar, and long-range missiles. Oddly enough, those high-end engines might come from America. While India and the U.S. often have a tense relationship, the AMCA is even more likely to fly against China’s J-20 than it is against the F-22, so America wants the profit of selling engines while also increasing China’s risk.

And if F-22s do end up fighting the AMCA? Well, the F-22 is likely to win no matter what engines the AMCA gets.

HESA F-313 Qaher

Look, we’re only including this plane because the Iranian government claims that it exists and that it exceeds the F-22 and F-35, but no one who actually follows Iranian developments really believes the plane exists or that it would have fifth-generation traits if it did.

Iran unveiled the plane in 2013 and made its claims, but the plane appears to be just a mockup, it’s shape isn’t actually all that great for limiting radar cross section or for taking on enemy jets, and the plane hasn’t been seen since that first, high-profile debut. So, you know, our money is on the F-22.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Air Force has more pilots but struggles to train them

The Air Force is grappling with a protracted pilot shortage, with the total force lacking about 2,000 fliers, the majority of them fighter pilots.

Air Force officials say they’re rolling out a number of initiatives to address the problem, but the training squadrons in charge of preparing pilots are still using some stop-gap measures to train the pilots they have.


Brig. Gen. Mike Koscheski, outgoing head of the Air Force’s Air Crew Crisis Task Force, told Air Force Magazine in July 2018 that his team, set up in 2017, now has a five-year plan and has made progress in revamping the pilot-training process.

The plan provides structure for implementation of the 69 initiatives proposed to address the shortage. The plan also intends to grow manning levels to 95% by fiscal year 2023.

“When I first started there was no timeline, just initiatives,” Koscheski said.

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Capts. Wes Sloat, left, and Jared Barkemeger, 7th Airlift Squadron pilots, take off in a C-17 Globemaster III at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, July 27, 2017.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Keith James)

Koscheski, who is leaving his position to be director of plans, programs, and analysis for US Air Forces Europe and Africa, said the plan focuses on pilot retention, production, and requirements.

The retention element was “critically important” and the one in which the service has seen the most advancement, he said. It includes increased pay and bonuses, more flexibility in assignments, and the reduction of the administrative duties that many find onerous or distracting.

“Sometimes instead of trying to create more aircrew, if we create more support personnel or keep the aircrew we have healthy, we can get more production out of” fewer people, Koscheski told Air Force Magazine.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein told Air Force Times in June that the service was getting ready to announce a plan to reinvigorate squadrons, ensuring they have strong leaders and high morale.

“That, to me, is the secret sauce. That’s what’s going to keep people in. It’s what’s kept me in,” Goldfein said, without describing the plan.

Goldfein has also said he wants to push production to 1,400 to 1,500 pilots a year. (Others say 1,600 a year are needed to fix the shortfall.) But the force already faces challenges growing production from 1,200 pilots a year to 1,400.

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President Donald Trump and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein, second right, with two US Air Force pilots at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, Sept. 15, 2017.

(US Air Force photo by Scott M. Ash)

Finding airmen who want to be pilots generally hasn’t been the issue, however. What the Air Force has struggled with is getting student pilots through the training pipeline — a process complicated by a bottleneck created by a lack of pilots available to serve as instructors.

In 2018, the training process was further delayed by a month-long safety stand down for the Air Force’s T-6 Texan training aircraft, due to unexplained physiological events that endangered pilots.

Koscheski said the stand down led the force to train about 200 fewer pilots than expected, though he and other Air Force officers have said that pause gave the service time to reevaluate the training.

A syllabus redesign was done “first and foremost … to create better pilots,” Koscheski said. “The side benefit is it now takes five to nine weeks less to get pilots through pilot training, so … we’re able to get more [students] through [the pipeline], but now it just increases production.”

Researchers from the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies have also called on the Air Force to increase its use of contractors, arguing in a report in early 2018 that “innovative uses of contractors in the training pipeline” were needed to ramp up pilot production without depriving front-line squadrons of fliers.

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A 64th Aggressor pilot on the flight line after a Red Flag 17-4 exercise sortie on Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, Aug. 25, 2017.

(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kevin Tanenbaum)

The Air Force has already brought in contractors to fill the role of “red air,” in which US pilots pose as rival aircraft.

Koscheski told Air Force Magazine that the service was considering bringing in contractors to be instructors.

‘A leap into the unknown’

The lack of instructors has led some training squadrons to implement stop-gap measures and compensate in other ways in order to use their limited resources in the most efficient way.

The 56th Fighter Wing at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona found out in 2017 it would only get 13 of the 26 F-16 instructor pilots it requested. Rather than spread the pain, the wing commander sent 12 of the new instructors to the 54th Fighter Group at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico, which will take over F-16 training as the 56th shifts to F-35 training operations.

Back at Luke, Air Force officers decided to shift their remaining resources to the squadron training on newer-model F-16s. That shift was a better use of resources and better for pilots, they told Aviation Week in early 2018, but it still was “a leap into the unknown.”

Other bases are making changes to the training itself to handle more pilots with the same number of instructors.

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Pilots prepare a T-6 Texan II for a training flight at Vance Air Force Base, Oklahoma, June 13, 2018. The T-6 Texan II is the first aircraft Air Force Pilots learn to fly before moving on to more advanced aircraft.

(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Corey Pettis)

At Vance Air Force Base in Oklahoma, Air Force officials are preparing for an increase of more than 100 student pilots in the next few years. By 2021, the base expects to have about 450 student pilots.

“We have an increased student load coming, and from 2017 to 2021 the forecast is a 34 percent increase in students,” Col. Darrell Judy, commander of the 71st Flying Training Wing, told The Oklahoman in July 2018.

But officials at Vance don’t expect to get more instructors for several years. Judy said the base would instead increase its use of simulators and change other parts of training in order to adjust to the increase.

“We believe we have found a way to trim off about six weeks from the current 54 weeks of training that students go through,” Judy said. “That will allow us a greater throughput [of students] with the amount of instructors we currently have now.”

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