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5 ways to explore Okinawa

Comprised of more than 100 islands in the East China Sea, Okinawa is one of Japan’s 47 prefectures with a population of 1.44 million people (as of May 2018).


A year-round warm climate and overall tropical landscape, Okinawa is considered a leading resort destination and home to multiple U.S. military installations. Here are five ways to explore the archipelago.

Eat and drink

There is no shortage of places to enjoy good food in Okinawa and nearly every type of international cuisine is represented.

“You have to try Coco’s Curry House, Arashi, Pizza In The Sky, Yoshi Hachi, Sea Garden, Gen, Thai In The Sky and Little Cactus,” KT Genta, a Navy spouse who was previously stationed in Okinawa shared.

Craving a good cup of coffee? Stop into Patisserie Porushe, and be sure to order a croissant to go with it.

The traditional spirit of Okinawa is Awamori, which dates back to the dynastic era, and is made by combining water, test and rice malt with korokoji mold and steamed rice. Get a free tour and tasting at Chuko Distillery.

5 ways to explore Okinawa

Historical sites and landmarks

The history of Okinawa is robust — from dynasties to American rule — and the various historical site and landmarks throughout the prefecture tell the region’s story. Be sure to visit:

Okinawa Peace Memorial Park – Located on Mabuni Hill, Peace Memorial Park was a heated battleground during WWII.

Japanese Naval Underground Headquarters – During WWII, Japanese forces constructed an elaborate series of underground tunnels that were used as military headquarters.

Katsuren Castle Ruins – Just a couple in-ruin walls remain at this UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Tower of Himeyuri – The emotional monument honors the Himeyuri medical corps of female students who perished in WWII.

Ikema Ohashi Bridge – A 4,675 ft. bridge with panoramic views of the ocean, it connects the islands Miyako-jima to Ikema-jima and was formerly the longest bridge in Okinawa.

5 ways to explore Okinawa

Beaches and water sports

Trademarked by cerulean shaded waters, Okinawa’s beaches are world-renowned for enjoying a sun-soaked day on the sand or diving in to admire the marine life. Both public and private beaches pepper the coastline, and with hundreds of beaches to choose from across the main and more remote islands, there is a stretch of sand for everyone to enjoy.

Northern Okinawa Island – Uppama Beach, Kanucha Beach, Ie Beach

Central Okinawa Island – Zanpa Beach, Ikei Beach

Southern Okinawa Island – Aharen Beach, Nishibama Beach

Not only does Okinawa offer residents and visitors pristine beaches, the underwater views are attractive for avid divers and snorkelers. Top spots include Manza Dream Hole, Zamami Island and Kabira Bay.

Cultural arts

Okinawa is a destination with deep-rooted cultural history, thus a strong appreciation for traditional and performing arts.

Yachimun – The Okinawan name for pottery is Yachimun and can be traced back to more than 800 years.

Bashofu – Made from the fibers of a Japanese banana-like tree call the Basho, Bashofu is a thin textile that is woven and dyed to make into garments.

Kumiodori – Originating in the early 1700s, Kumiodori is an ensemble dance that has been inscribed by the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Sanshin – The literal translation of Sanshin is “three strings” and is a musical instrument that looks a bit like a banjo.
5 ways to explore Okinawa

Must-see sights

“There is so much to do,” Genta said. “Head to Cocoks for pedicures, hike Hiji Falls, explore Bise Village, which is a peaceful seaside town with sand roads lined with Fukuhi trees, or just drive and get lost. There are so many hidden gems on the island.”

Other must-see spots include Churmai Aquarium, Pineapple Park, Orion Beer Factory, Urashima Dinner Theater, Kokusai Street and Fukushu-en Garden.

This is just a small sampling of ways to explore Okinawa. It’s important to note that one could live their entire life in Japan’s tropical oasis and not see or do everything, so be sure to make the most of your time and have fun!

MIGHTY TRENDING

This small country has become key to Pacific struggles

China’s growing presence in the Pacific and Indian oceans has its neighbors on guard, and their competition for influence has recently kept Sri Lanka’s capital and port city of Colombo busy.

On Oct. 1, 2018, a day after Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force helicopter carrier Kaga, the country’s largest warship, and destroyer Inazuma sailed into Colombo, the ships’ commanding officers and the commander of Japan’s escort flotilla four, Rear Admiral Tatsuya Fukuda, met with the head of the Sri Lankan navy, sharing “views on matters of bilateral importance.”


“Japan’s government is promoting a free and open Indo-Pacific and this deployment in the Asia Pacific is a component of that strategy,” Fukuda told Reuters as his ships sailed to Sri Lanka. Japanese naval vessels have stopped in Sri Lanka 50 times over the past five years, he said.

5 ways to explore Okinawa

Sri Lanka navy personnel welcome Japanese navy ships Kaga and Inazuma in Colombo, Sept. 30, 2018.

(Sri Lanka navy photo)

On Oct. 4, 2018, the same day the JMSDF ships departed, Chinese navy ship Hai Yangdao arrived for a four-day “goodwill visit,” according to Sri Lanka’s navy, which said the Chinese ship’s skipper and the commander of Sri Lanka’s western naval area “held a cordial discussion on matters of mutual interest.”

Sri Lanka sits not far from shipping lines through the Indian Ocean that carry much of the world’s container traffic and the majority of China’s energy imports. Its location has made it an area of interest for countries throughout the region.

Chinese assistance to the country has grown over the past decade, after the US ended direct military aid over Sri Lanka’s poor human-rights record. Earlier this year, China said it would give Sri Lanka a naval frigate as a gift.

That relationship has become more of a concern for India, Japan, and others in recent years, especially after Sri Lanka granted China control of the port of Hambantota for 99 years in 2017.

India in particular is worried Beijing will use the port for military purposes — China and Sri Lanka both deny that will happen — and to augment the presence it has elsewhere in the region, including at a port in Pakistan and a military outpost in Djibouti.

New Delhi has watched warily as Chinese submarines and other warships have passed through the area over the past several years. India’s security posture has undergone what has been called “a tectonic shift” toward the country’s southern approaches in recent years.

On Oct. 6, 2018, Sri Lankan navy ships SLNS Sagara, an offshore patrol ship, and SLNS Suranimala, a missile ship, both left Colombo on their way to India for a four-day goodwill visit that was to include training exercises.

Japan has also sought a larger role in the Indian Ocean region. Tokyo has expanded security partnerships and plans to spend hundreds of billions on infrastructure projects there — ambitions that rival China’s.

5 ways to explore Okinawa

The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force’s Kaga helicopter carrier.

The arrival of Kaga was purportedly meant as a sign to Sri Lanka that Japan was willing to deploy major military assets to an area of the world where China’s influence is growing.

After the Kaga’s departure, Japan’s navy was to begin four days of joint exercises with Sri Lanka’s navy in the Indian Ocean meant to strengthen cooperation between the two forces. Sources told The Japan Times that it was also meant as a message to China, though a MSDF said no specific country as being targeted.

As a part of the exercise, Sri Lankan officers will board the Kaga to observe Japanese training and to exchange information on humanitarian operations. (Officers from the US Navy’s 7th Fleet are also on hand.)

“It’s rare for the MSDF to allow military officials of other countries to board any of its vessels during an exercise at sea,” a public-relations official of the Defense Ministry’s Maritime Staff Office told The Japan Times.

5 ways to explore Okinawa

Sri Lanka navy personnel welcome the US Navy hospital ship USNS Mercy, April 25, 2018.

(Sri Lanka navy photo)

Since the 2015 electoral defeat of Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who presided over a number of questionable deals with China, the US has also looked for ways to rebuild ties with Colombo.

Washington, along with Tokyo and New Delhi, has reportedly taken an interest in the port of Trincomalee on Sri Lanka’s eastern coast as a way to counter China’s presence at Hambantota and around the region.

Trincomalee saw a visit by the US Navy hospital ship USNS Mercy in April 2018, and in August 2018 — a few weeks after Sri Lanka took part in the US-led Rim of the Pacific military exercise for the first time — the amphibious transport dock USS Anchorage pulled into Trincomalee with the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit for a security cooperation exercise. (Such exercises have been done before.)

August 2018 also saw a visit to Sri Lanka by Japan’s defense minister, who stopped in Trincomalee and Hambantota. That visit came a few months after the Japanese foreign minister visited for the first time in 16 years.

“The message to China is that Japan, with India and the United States and of course Sri Lanka, has the capacity to engage militarily,” Nozomu Yoshitomi, a professor at Nihon University and a former Ground Self Defence Force major general who advised the Japanese cabinet, told Reuters in October 2018.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Trump’s IRR Recall Order: What you need to know

You may have heard that President Trump signed an executive order Friday, March 27 allowing the military to recall members of the selected reserve and some former service members to active duty in support of the government’s response to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

While this sounds ominous, the executive order is mainly a formality giving the Pentagon the authority to recall reserve members as necessary. A federal law (10 U.S. Code § 12302) that has been around since 1953 authorizes the president to recall up to one million reservists for up to two years in times of national emergency.


The military branches have also started to gauge interest from recently separated members on volunteering to return to active duty in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Army, for example, recently contacted 800,000 retired members asking about their willingness to return to active duty and help the service fight the pandemic. More than 17,000 retirees, representing various specialties, have responded at the time of this writing.

5 ways to explore Okinawa

Maryland National Guard Transports Citizens During COVID-19 Pandemic.

DoD

Who Will Be The First To Be Recalled?

If the coronavirus pandemic worsens and requires a major military mobilization, an involuntary recall would begin only if there aren’t enough active-duty members, selected reserve and guard members and volunteers returning to active duty. The order of recall is as follows:

  1. Retirees and inactive reservists under 60 who have been off active duty for less than five years
  2. Retirees and inactive reservists under 60 who have been off active duty for five years or more
  3. Retirees and inactive reservists, including those retired for disability, who are over 60 years old

Again, the needs of the service are tantamount, and some military specialties may have different rules than others. A medical officer who has been out of the military for 15 years may be recalled before an aircraft mechanic who separated last month.

5 ways to explore Okinawa

PA National Guard support COVID-19 test site in Montgomery County.

DoD

10 U.S. Code § 12302 also says that recall consideration will be given to:

  1. the length and nature of previous service, to assure such sharing of exposure to hazards as the national security and military requirements will reasonably allow;
  2. family responsibilities; and
  3. employment necessary to maintain the national health, safety, or interest.

That means if you are a health care professional and can do society more good as a civilian, you may be exempted from recall. Also, if you have serious family responsibilities you may be exempted.

The law may also exempt veterans with some disabilities or medical conditions from any involuntary recall. Those with less than honorable discharges and certain separation codes may also be exempted from involuntary recall.

What Happens If You Are Recalled?

You will most likely get a certified letter from the military directing you to an intake center. If you don’t answer the letter, they will send another one to your home of record. If you still don’t respond, you will be identified as a deserter and possibly face legal action.

If you are recalled, you have the same responsibilities as any active-duty member: no drug use, adherence to grooming and physical readiness standards, support of the needs of the military and obedience to the chain of command.

Even if you meet those obligations, you won’t be eligible for any promotions as a recalled member. Instead, you will be paid at your current rank or the rank at which you separated. Your retirement pay and any VA disability benefits will also stop for the duration of your revitalized active duty service.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

7 animals who serve in militaries around the world

From the horses of Chinggis Khan’s army, to Hannibal’s famed elephants, to World War I carrier pigeons, animals have played a crucial role in military operations for centuries.

But despite the technological achievements since Hannibal marched his elephants over the Alps in 218 BCE, militaries still use animals, whether for parades, transport, or weapons detection.

In September 2019, as Hurricane Dorian pummeled parts of the southeastern United States, the team of marine mammals from Strategic Weapons Facility Atlantic in Kings Bay, Georgia, where they patrol the waters for enemy crafts or other intruders, were evacuated to Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division in Panama City, Florida, to ride out the storm.


“At NSWC PCD, we personally understand the trials and tribulations that come with the devastation of a hurricane, especially after Hurricane Michael severely impacted our area in 2018,” Nicole Waters, the Machine Shops Project Manager in Panama City told Navy Times.

“We strongly support the ‘One Team, One Fight’ initiative and will always be willing to help protect any Navy personnel and assets.”

Read on to learn more about the roles animals play in today’s militaries.

5 ways to explore Okinawa

1. A beluga whale was found off the coast of Norway in 2018, sparking suspicions that it was trained as a Russian spy.

The whale was initially found by Norwegian fisherman with a harness strapped to it that read Equipment St. Petersburg, The Washington Post reported at the time. The whale was extremely friendly toward humans, an unusual behavior for a beluga raised in the wild. It was speculated at the time that the whale’s harness may have held a camera or weapons of some sort.

More recently, another whale with a GoPro camera base strapped to it made its way to Norway, where locals named it “Whaledimir.”

5 ways to explore Okinawa

A Navy Marine Mammal Program (NMMP) California sea lion waits for his handler to give the command to search the pier for potential threats during International Mine Countermeasures Exercise (IMCMEX). IMCMEX includes navies from 44 countries whose focus is to promote regional security through mine countermeasure operations in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Kathleen Gorby)

2. The US Navy uses sea lions to recover objects at depths that swimmers can’t reach.

“Sea lions have excellent low light vision and underwater directional hearing that allow them to detect and track undersea targets, even in dark or murky waters,” the US Navy Marine Mammal program explains. They’re also able to dive much further below the water’s surface than human divers, without getting decompression sickness, or “the bends.”

They’re trained to patrol areas near nuclear-powered submarines and detect the presence of adversaries’ robots, divers, or other submerged threats.

5 ways to explore Okinawa

U.S. Navy Marine Mammal Program (NMMP) MK7 Marine Mammal System bottlenose dolphin searches for an exercise sea mine alongside an NMMP trainers. NMMP is conducting simulated mine hunting operations in Southern California during Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC), exercise, July 22. Twenty-five nations, 46 ships, five submarines, and about 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel are participating in RIMPAC from June 27 to Aug. 2 in and around the Hawaiian Islands and Southern California.

(SPAWAR Systems Center Pacific)

3. Dolphins, too, are used by the Navy to sniff out mines.

“Since 1959, the U.S. Navy has trained dolphins and sea lions as teammates for our Sailors and Marines to help guard against similar threats underwater,”according to the US Navy Marine Mammal program.

“Dolphins naturally possess the most sophisticated sonar known to science,” the program’s website says. “Mines and other potentially dangerous objects on the ocean floor that are difficult to detect with electronic sonar, especially in coastal shallows or cluttered harbors, are easily found by the dolphins.”

5 ways to explore Okinawa

Office of U.S. Quartermaster, Army Camel Corp training.

4. The Indian Army uses camels in its parades.

It also piloted a program in 2017 to introduce camels as load-bearing animals in high-altitude areas, specifically the Line of Actual Control (LAC) separating Indian-controlled Jammu and Kashmir from the part controlled by China.

The camels could carry 180-220kg loads, much more than horses or mules, and could travel faster too, according to the Times of India.

5 ways to explore Okinawa

U.S. Army Special Operations Soldiers with 2nd Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) ride horseback on a trail during the Special Operations Forces (SOF) Horsemanship Course at Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center (MWTC), Bridgeport, Calif., June 19, 2019. The purpose of the SOF horsemanship course is to teach SOF personnel the necessary skills to enable them to ride horses, load and maintain pack animals for military applications in austere environments.

(US Marine Corps photo Lance Cpl. William Chockey)

5. US special operators train on horses and mules, in case they’re working in particularly rugged environments where vehicles might now be able to go.

Green Berets from Operational Detachment Alpha 595 rode horses in the mountainous, unforgiving terrain of Afghanistan just after the US invasion, earning them the nickname “horse soldiers.”

5 ways to explore Okinawa

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Kevin McMahon, 39th Security Forces Squadron commander, congratulates Autumn, a 39th SFS military working dog, during the latter’s retirement ceremony at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, July 29, 2019. Autumn served seven years at Incirlik and earned the Meritorious Service Medal for her contributions to the mission.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Magbanua)

6. Of course, man’s best friend plays several important roles in the military.


Perhaps the most famous US military dog is Chesty, the English bulldog mascot of the Marine Corps (Chesty XIV retired last year with the rank of Corporal). But Military Working Dogs (MWDs) perform the very serious duties of sniffing out explosives and drugs, and acting as patrols and sentries on military bases.

5 ways to explore Okinawa

(Photo by Doruk Yemenici)

7. The Indian military uses mules and horses for transport in rugged terrains and high altitudes.

As of 2019, the Indian armed forces were using horses and mules to transport supplies in difficult terrain, although plans to replace the four-legged forces with ATVs and drones came up in a 2017 Army Design Bureau report, according to the Hindustan Times.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

F-22 Raptors intercept two Russian bombers in Alaska

Two U.S. fighter jets intercepted two Russian bombers in international airspace off the coast of Alaska on May 11, 2018.

The two Russian TU-95 Bear bombers flew into a so-called Air Defense Identification Zone located about 300 kilometers off Alaska’s west coast, according to a spokesman for the North American Aerospace Defense Command in a statement to CNN on May 12, 2018.


Two F-22 fighter jets intercepted and visually identified the Russian bombers until they left the zone. The Russian aircraft never entered U.S. airspace, CNN reported, citing the statement.

Russian bombers were escorted by two F-22 fighter jets in international airspace for 40 minutes, the RIA Novosti news agency cited the Russian Defense Ministry as saying on May 12, 2018.

The U.S. fighter jets did not get closer than 100 meters to the Russian bombers, the Russian military was quoted as saying.

Encounters between Russian and U.S. as well as NATO warplanes have increased as Moscow has demonstrated its resurgent military might.

5 ways to explore Okinawa
F-22 Raptor
(Photo by Master Sgt. Jeremy Lock)

Russia also has increased its naval presence in the Mediterranean, Black Sea, and other areas.

In January 2018, a Russian Su-27 came within 1.5 meters of a U.S. Navy surveillance plane while it was flying in international airspace over the Black Sea.

Russia has increased its military presence in the area since it annexed Crimea in 2014.

There have also been interactions between the United States and Russia in the skies above Syria, where the nations support differing sides in the ongoing civil war.

In December 2017, two U.S. F-33 Stealth fighter jets fired warning flares after Russian Su-25 jets entered an agreed deconfliction area in Syrian airspace.

Such incidents have added tension to Russia’s relationship with the West, which has been severely strained by Moscow’s takeover of Crimea, its support for separatists in eastern Ukraine, and its alleged meddling in the U.S. election in 2016, among other things.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Putin brags about the superiority of Russian weapons

President Vladimir Putin hailed new missiles in Russia’s military arsenals but emphasized Oct. 18, 2018, that the country would only use its nuclear weapons in response to an incoming missile attack.

Putin emphasized during an international policy forum in Sochi that Russia’s military doctrine doesn’t envisage a preventative nuclear strike. He said Moscow only would tap its nuclear arsenal if early warning systems spotted missiles heading toward Russia, in which case “the aggressor should know that retaliation is inevitable.”


“Only when we become convinced that there is an incoming attack on the territory of Russia, and that happens within seconds, only after that we would launch a retaliatory strike,” he said during a panel discussion at the forum.

“It would naturally mean a global catastrophe, but I want to emphasize that we can’t be those who initiate it because we don’t foresee a preventative strike,” Putin said.

“We would be victims of an aggression and would get to heaven as martyrs,” while those who initiated the aggression would “just die and not even have time to repent,” he added.

5 ways to explore Okinawa

In this video grab provided by RU-RTR Russian television via AP television, March 1, 2018, a computer simulation shows the Avangard hypersonic vehicle maneuvering to bypass missile defenses en route to target.

The Russian leader also warned that new hypersonic missiles his country developed give it a military edge.

“We have run ahead of the competition. No one has precision hypersonic weapons,” he said. “Others are planning to start testing them within the next 1 to 2 years, and we already have them on duty.”

Another new weapon, the Avangard, is set to enter service in the next few months, he said. In 2018, Putin said the Avangard has an intercontinental range and can fly in the atmosphere at a speed 20 times the speed of sound, making it capable of piercing any missile defense system.

His blunt talk on Oct. 18, 2018, comes as Russia-West relations remain frosty over the Ukrainian crisis, the war in Syria and the allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential vote.

Putin said he still hopes U.S. President Donald Trump will be able to improve the ties between their countries. He thinks Trump wants “some sort of stabilization and improvement of U.S.-Russian ties” and said Moscow is ready for that “at any moment.”

Putin said his meeting with Trump in Helsinki in July 2018 was positive and they had a “normal, professional dialogue” even though their exchange brought strong criticism from Trump.

5 ways to explore Okinawa

Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, July 2018.


At the same time, the Russian president sharply criticized Washington’s reliance on sanctions against Russia and others, saying the instrument of punishment “undermines trust in the dollar as a universal payment instrument and the main reserve currency.”

“It’s a typical mistake made by an empire,” Putin said. “An empire always thinks that it’s so powerful that it can afford some mistakes and extra costs.”

Building on his defiance and boasts, Putin said Russia had nothing to fear given its defense capability and “people ready to defend our sovereignty and independence.”

“Not in every country are people so eager to sacrifice their lives for the Motherland,” he said.

This article originally appeared on The Voice of America News. Follow @VOANews on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Norway prepares for upcoming climate war

As the U.S. maps out plans to protect American military bases susceptible to climate change, its partner nations are growing increasingly concerned that global warming may lead to weapons and technology proliferation as now-frozen waterways open.

Norwegian officials worry that melting Arctic ice will lead players such as Russia, China, and the U.S. to increase use of undersea and aerial unmanned weapons as well as intelligence gathering platforms in the newly opened areas.

The drones could be programmed to “follow strategic assets,” including Norwegian or ally submarines, a top Norwegian Ministry of Defense official said in early May 2019.

He added that the presence of such drones may increase the potential for collisions.

“I don’t think all these unmanned things work perfectly at all times,” he said.


Military.com spoke with officials here as part of a fact-finding trip organized by the Atlantic Council, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, through a partnership with the Norwegian Ministry of Defense. The group traveled to Oslo, Bergen, and Stavanger to speak with organizations and government operations officials May 6-10, 2019. Some officials provided remarks on background in order to speak freely on various subjects.

5 ways to explore Okinawa

The Norwegian ULA class submarine Utstein.

(U.S. Navy photo)

The official’s concern is not unfounded. Norway’s military has reportedly spotted unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs) surfing alongside Russian submarines in the Barents Sea. Russia is also funding research into aerial UAVs that can operate longer in the cold climate, according to a recent report from TASS.

And during the U.S.-led exercise Trident Juncture in 2018 — the largest iteration of the drill since 1991 — troops observed multiple drones flying nearby, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Roughly 50,000 U.S. and NATO forces participated in the three-week exercise. It spanned central and eastern Norway, as well parts of the North Atlantic and Baltic Sea, including Iceland and the airspace of Finland and Sweden, NATO said at the time.

Officials could not confidently say the observing drones belonged to Russia, but noted the increased risk posed by the flights.

While Russia and Norway’s coast guards deconflict on a near daily basis, Norway’s MoD has not held top-level talks with its Russian counterparts since 2013, officials said. Norwegian military officials instead call up their Russian peers on a Skype line they keep open, checking in weekly.

5 ways to explore Okinawa

Russian Coast Guard.

(United States Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer Jonathan R. Cilley)

Russia has been clear about its push for additional drone operations in the Arctic circle.

“There has to be some sort of deconfliction in order to avoid collisions,” said Svein Efjestad, policy director for security and policy operations at Norway’s Ministry of Defense. “If you use UAVs also to inspect exercises and weapons testing and so on, it could become very sensitive.”

Complicating things further, China, which considers itself a “near Arctic state” is planning to create new shipping lanes with its “Polar Silk Road” initiative. Officials expect that process with include drones to surveil the operation.

Commercial drones also compound the congestion issue. For example, Equinor, Norway’s largest energy company, is partnering with Oceaneering International to create drones able to dock at any of the company’s offshore oil drilling facilities to conduct maintenance. The smart sea robot will be controlled from a central hub at Equinor’s home facilities, a company official told Military.com.

Another MoD official highlighted further risk, worrying that “smart drones” could be manipulated in favor of an adversary.

“What if [the drone] can collect data, but [put that data out there] out of context?” the official said, citing spoofing concerns. “The risk is getting higher.”

Norwegian officials plan to pursue regulatory changes to help avoid “nasty reactions” due to the growing congestion of drone operators in the region.

Because as the ice melts, the Arctic “will be an ocean like any other,” the MoD official said.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why World War II veterans are returning captured Japanese flags

It’s not uncommon for troops who overrun an enemy position to take a photo with a captured enemy banner. It’s just as common for them to take that banner home as a souvenir. There are a lot worse things to remove from the battlefield. American troops have been capturing flags since the founding of the republic.

So, why are these World War II veterans returning captured Japanese flags?


The importance of a unit’s standard dates back to antiquity. Roman legions carried standards that took on an almost divine quality, representing the Legion, the Emperor, and even the Gods themselves. They would take extraordinary measures to recover a captured standard, even invading neighboring countries decades after losing the standards just to get them back. The Japanese had a similar tradition with their Yosegaki Hinomaru.

5 ways to explore Okinawa

The hinomaru was a blank flag carried by every drafted Japanese soldier. It was signed by everyone in their life; mother, father, sisters, brothers, neighbors, teachers, wives, and children. It was a good luck charm that wished bravery and a safe return home to the carrier. The Japanese troop then marched off to war, the flag folded and tucked somewhere on his person.

These are usually the flags that were captured by American troops in World War II. Because no one enjoys taking photos with the flags of their fallen enemies like U.S. troops.

Read: These 13 photos of US troops with enemy flags show some traditions never die

5 ways to explore Okinawa
U.S. Marines with a yosegaki hinomaru after the Battle of Iwo Jima. (U.S. Army)

But American troops had no idea these flags were the personal keepsakes of fallen individuals and not unit flags carried by the Japanese army. Now that the men who captured these battlefield trophies are aging and dying, the flags are being sold off or thrown away altogether, but there’s a better way to handle these pieces of history: giving them back.

And that’s what World War II veterans and their families are doing. Through the international nonprofit Obon Society, families and veterans who still possess a captured yosegaki hinomaru are tracking down the Japanese veterans and families of Japanese veterans of the Pacific War to return the family heirlooms and help the aging veterans heal their decades-old, invisible wounds.

If there’s any doubt about the power of these standards, even to this day, just watch below as a Japanese man reacts to seeing his missing brother’s yosegaki hinomaru.

There are no better frenemies than American and Japanese veterans of WWII. In the years that followed, the U.S. and Japan grew ever closer as allies and as people. Despite the overwhelming brutality of the war, the enduring friendships that developed in the years since have been a testament to the idea that peace is always possible, even in the face of such hard fighting. The only thing that remains is handling the losses incurred along the way – brothers, fathers, sons, and friends.

Groups like the Obon Society and its team of researchers make it easy to start healing the pain that remains between families and friends who lost loved ones in the war. If you or your departed veterans have a flag like the ones seen in the photos above, contact the Obon Society to return the flag to its family and maybe even make contact with them.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US at greatest risk in decades according to bipartisan report

Were the US to go to war with China or Russia today, it might lose, a new report to Congress from a panel of a dozen leading national-security experts warns.

“If the United States had to fight Russia in a Baltic contingency or China in a war over Taiwan, Americans could face a decisive military defeat,” the report from the National Defense Strategy Commission — a bipartisan panel of experts handpicked by Congress to evaluate the 2018 National Defense Strategy — explained, calling attention to the erosion of America’s edge as rival powers develop capabilities previously possessed only by the US.


The commission highlights China and Russia’s energized and ongoing efforts to develop advanced anti-access/area-denial (A2/AD) weaponry, systems that could result in “enormous” losses for the US military in a conflict. “Put bluntly, the US military could lose the next state-versus-state war it fights,” the report concludes.

The National Defense Strategy Commission has concluded that US national security is presently “at greater risk than at any time in decades.”

“America’s ability to defend its allies, its partners, and its own vital interests is increasingly in doubt. If the nation does not act promptly to remedy these circumstances, the consequences will be grave and lasting.”

5 ways to explore Okinawa

Russian President Vladimir Putin with Chinese President Xi Jinping during a state visit to Moscow in May 2015.

The report calls into focus a concern that the US military is trying to address — that while the US put all of its efforts and energy into the fights against insurgents and terrorists in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and elsewhere, adversarial powers have been preparing for high-end conflict.

“Many of the skills necessary to plan for and conduct military operations against capable adversaries — especially China and Russia — have atrophied,” the commission argues.

The National Defense Strategy emphasizes the return of “great power competition,” placing the threat posed by rival powers like China and Russia above terrorism and other challenges. The military branches are, in response, shifting their attention to the development of future warfighting capabilities — even as the ISIS fight and Afghanistan War grind on.

Preparation for high-end conflict is visible in the efforts across the Army, Navy, and Air Force to develop powerful stand-off weapons, such as long-range artillery and hypersonic strike platforms.

The commission is supportive of the National Defense Strategy, but it calls for faster measures and clearer explanations for how America plans to maintain its dominance. The report also called for an expansion of the current 6 billion defense budget, the bolstering of the nuclear arsenal, and innovative development of new weapons systems.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

New era of warfare on brink as Army robots take on more advanced obstacles

Some interesting implications are on the line with the success of new military robots. The U.S. Army has been experimenting with robots in hopes of creating a more competent unmanned instrument for battle. The robots took on a variety of complex tasks, each associated with a real-world battlefield application—like sorting through minefields and clearing anti-tank trenches. Not only were the robots successful, but they actually began to complete the tasks faster with each successive attempt. The exercises took place at Yakima Air Base (WA).


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Some military robots have mundane uses like these LS3 “robot mules” designed to carry heavy gear and cargo.

The Yakima Air Base exercises were spearheaded by Lt. Col. Jonathan Fursman and Capt. Nichole Rotte of the 23rd Brigade Engineer Battalion. The team was tasked with creating complicated breach obstacles (within the context of “a realistic and plausible scenario”) for the robots to overcome.

According to Defense News, these breaches included: anti-tank trenches, minefields, and razor wire. The robots also had to breach all of the obstacles while under fire while paving the way for a counterattack into enemy lines.

The exercise was also monitored by a quadcopter, deployed under the watch of the Alabama National Guard, to monitor the use of any chemical, nuclear, or biological agents used. Another separate unit, using an unmanned Polaris MRZR vehicle, shrouded the breach with a smokescreen that clouded the field and heavily impaired (human) vision.

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A “battlefield extraction assist” bot prototype designed to transport wounded soldiers.

At the very start of the breach, the U.S. Army robots used two NGCVs to lay down clear lines of suppression fire at the “enemy.” In a bizarre backward glimpse into the future of warfare, a humvee controlling yet another humvee—was equipped with a 7.62mm gun. This robot-meta suppression fire humvee (I’m sure the Army will come up with another alphabet soup acronym for these in the coming years) was accompanied by an M113 armored personnel carrier (actually controlled by a human).

While the “enemy” was hunkered down by suppression fire, two ABVs (assault breacher vehicles) took on the actual obstacles laid out by Fursman and Rotte. These ABVs were controlled by the Marines Corps (as it is quickly becoming apparent that manned robots should be clarified).

The initial ABV led the way and cleared a safe path through the minefield—leaving stakes in the ground to highlight a path of safety through the exercise for the other ABV.

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Could we see robot infantry within the decade?

The second ABV used a blade to fill a tank trench and, once filled, led a clean path for allied forces to form an assault on the “enemy.”

According to Defense News, via Rotte, the initial breach exercise took “two and a half hours,” but the subsequent attempt took only two hours. The second, faster, attempt matches the same time frame it would take human soldiers to complete the same task. This leads us to the important question: are we on the brink of seeing robotic warfare replace boots on the ground?

The answer lies only in how quickly these machines can begin to operate efficiently and be productive on a mass scale. There were some hangups in the exercise, such as latency issues (lag, as gamers would call it), camera feed problems, and other hiccups. Reports indicate that none of these posed too much of an issue.

The unmanned machines were easy to control. Finding human soldiers to operate the machines isn’t necessarily a problem, as the machines in this exercise were all operated with a standard Xbox One controller—seeing as most members of the armed forces have trained themselves with the intricacies of an Xbox controller in their spare time.

So as unmanned operations become simultaneously more efficient logistically, and more simple practically—the idea of taking boots off the ground in place of robots isn’t a matter of if but a matter of when. If these exercises are any indication of the nearing of that all-important when—then we are well on our way to seeing a new era of battle in which casualties will be measured in gears and bolts.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Iran and Europe want to sidestep sanctions, angering U.S.

The United States has sharply criticized a European Union plan to help Iran get around U.S. sanctions by establishing alternative ways to pay for Iran’s trade with European companies.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, speaking at a New York conference on Sept. 25, 2018, said that he was “disturbed and indeed deeply disappointed” when he heard of the plan announced a day earlier after a high-level meeting between European and Iranian diplomats.

“This is one of the most counterproductive measures imaginable for regional and international peace and security,” Pompeo told the United Against a Nuclear Iran group, accusing the EU of “solidifying Iran’s ranking as the No. 1 state sponsor of terror.”


Pompeo said he imagined Iran’s “corrupt ayatollahs” were “laughing” when they heard news of the proposed payment system, the details of which European leaders said are still being hammered out.

The plan carries out promises by European powers to keep honoring Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers after the U.S. announced in May 2018 that is was withdrawing from the accord and would reimpose sanctions on Tehran.

It represents the latest effort by the EU, France, Germany, and Britain to work with Iran, Russia, and China to keep carrying out the agreement, which granted Iran relief from economic sanctions in exchange for curbs on its nuclear activities, without the United States.

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U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

U.S. national security adviser John Bolton, speaking in the same forum as Pompeo, mocked the EU for the plan’s lack of specifics.

“The European Union is strong on rhetoric and weak on follow-through,” he said. “We will be watching the development of this structure that doesn’t exist yet and has no target date to be created. We do not intend to allow our sanctions to be evaded by Europe or anybody else.”

Bolton said the United States will be “aggressive and unwavering” in enforcing its sanctions. He said Washington still expects Iran’s oil customers to end all of their imports by a Nov. 4, 2018 deadline.

U.S. President Donald Trump told the UN General Assembly on Sept. 25, 2018, that renewed U.S. sanctions on Iran’s oil industry will come into effect on Nov. 5, 2018, with “more to follow.”

Pompeo questioned why nations would continue to trade with what he called an “outlaw regime,” which he said supports militant groups in the Middle East and sponsors attacks against Israeli targets around the world.

“There can be no question Iranian destructive activities are truly global in scope. It is therefore incumbent on every country to join our efforts to change the regime’s lawless behavior,” he said. “The ongoing, multinational, multicontinental nature of Iranian malign activity leaves no room for inaction or indecision.”

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, speaking late on Sept. 24, 2018, alongside Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, said that the sanctions evasion plan was in the interest of global peace and pointed to UN inspectors’ findings that Iran remains in compliance with the nuclear deal.

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EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.

The foreign ministers said in a joint statement that the so-called Special Purpose Vehicle they are creating to facilitate payments on trade with Iran is intended to “assist and reassure economic operators pursuing legitimate business with Iran.”

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told reporters there is “strong unity” between Europe and Iran on minimizing the impact of U.S. sanctions.

But despite the EU’s determination to keep trading with Iran, it has struggled to come up with mechanisms and legal protections that are strong enough to convince major corporations to keep operating in Iran.

Finding a way to pay for Iran’s oil exports — which are a major driver of economic growth in the country — has been a key sticking point. Trade in oil and other globally important commodities is almost always conducted in U.S. dollars, but U.S. sanctions prohibit Iran from using the dollar to conduct business.

Despite efforts by the EU, Iran, India, and China to maintain their imports of oil from Iran, a report from the Institute of International Finance on Sept. 25, 2018, found that Iranian oil exports have dropped significantly already in 2018, even though U.S. sanctions specifically targeting Iran’s oil exports do not go into effect until November 2018.

Exports of Iranian crude oil and condensates dropped by 800,000 barrels to 2 million barrels a day between April and September 2018, the banking group said.

Based on the drop already seen in Iranian exports, the group is projecting that Iran’s economy has fallen into a recession and will contract by 3 percent in 2018 and 4 percent in 2019.

The report said oil exports are falling even though Iran is selling key grades of oil at a deep discount and using its own tankers to ship products to China and India at no extra cost.

It said Iranian shippers are also providing generous payment terms and, in some cases, accepting euros and Chinese yuan instead of U.S. dollars in payment for the oil.

Once U.S. sanctions go into effect, the group said Iran will have to rely more on barter trades to maintain its oil exports.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Hoaxer threatens Coast Guard with ‘nuclear attack’ calls

A Coast Guard detachment in Florida is asking for tips that may help investigators track down a person making fake “mayday” calls on marine band radio and describing a military response to a nuclear attack.

The calls and threats originate off the Gulf Coast of Florida, according to a news release from Coast Guard Public Affairs Detachment Tampa Bay. The pattern of threats and false alarms has continued for some time; the release, issued Sept. 12, 2019, states that Coast Guard Sector St. Petersburg received the latest threat Aug. 13, 2019, via VHF channel 22A.

“In this call, the male caller makes threats against the Coast Guard personnel, aircraft, and vessels,” officials said in the release. “The broadcast sounds like the same person who has made other radio broadcasts that start with MAYDAY three times and then talks about, ‘scrambling all jets we are under nuclear attack.'”


Coast Guard Investigative Service St. Petersburg is calling on the public to share any information leading to the identification of the hoaxer. CGIS, a federal law enforcement agency, investigates crimes within the Coast Guard, but is also tasked as part of its mission with investigating external maritime matters, including false distress calls.

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(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Jamie Thielen)

These kinds of calls are not uncommon; in June 2019, the Coast Guard published several releases asking the public to track down people behind hoax radio transmissions. One caller, from the Pamlico Sound and Oregon Inlet area of North Carolina, made calls “stating that they were ‘going down’ and regularly broadcasts ‘mayday’ or ‘help,’ along with a string of other calls, including profanity,” according to a report from news outlet Coastal Review.

Around the same time, a suspected hoax caller from the Ocean City, Maryland, area made transmissions claiming to be “going down with the ship” and interspersed “mayday” calls with profanity.

According to the recent release, those found guilty of making false distress calls may face up to 10 years in prison and 0,000 in fines on top of whatever it costs to search for and apprehend them.

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(Coast guard photo)

While the Coast Guard does not always announce when suspected hoax perpetrators are apprehended, some do end up doing time. In 2015, a 23-year-old man from Vinalhaven, Maine, was sentenced to a year in prison, up to one year in community confinement and restitution of ,000 to the Coast Guard “for the costs associated with the search that it conducted in response to the hoax calls,” according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

“Hoax calls are costly to the taxpayer and our service,” Charles “Marty” Russell, resident agent-in-charge of the Coast Guard Investigative Service office in St. Petersburg, said in a statement. “When the Coast Guard receives a distress call, we immediately respond, putting our crews at risk, and risking the lives of boaters who may legitimately need our help.”

Those with information about the identity of the hoax caller can call Coast Guard Investigative Service St. Petersburg at (727) 535-1437 extension 2308.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Check out photos of Marines practicing air assaults

Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California — In a magnificent display of combat power, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (MAW) demonstrated its ability to lift a regiment of Marines and their equipment over long distances in a very short period of time in Southern California, Dec. 10, 2019.

Muddy and exhausted with dark clouds looming, the Marines trekked across a rain-soaked field, their footprints embedding into the mud with every weighted step. They marched toward the distant sound of rotor blades.


US Marine Corps CH-53E Super Stallions and MV-22B Ospreys with 3rd MAW waited on the horizon, ready to fulfill their role and extract the warriors following a training event that began with inserting Marines from 1st Marine Division.

Overhead, two UH-1Y Venoms secured an unseen 3-dimensional perimeter, ready to provide support if needed. This is what a regimental air assault looks like.

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Four US Marine Corps CH-53E Super Stallions take off during exercise Steel Knight at El Centro, California, December 10, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Julian Elliott-Drouin)

“The regimental air assault is part of Steel Knight 20, which is a 1st Marine Division exercise,” explained US Marine Corps Col. William J. Bartolomea, the commanding officer of Marine Aircraft Group (MAG) 39, 3rd MAW.

“But of course, as Marines and as Marine Pilots, we are always supporting our brothers and sisters on the ground. We’re involved because the Marine Air Ground Task Force (MAGTF) is better when all of its elements are put together.”

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Helicopter Support Team Marines prepare an M777 Howitzer for external lift during exercise Steel Knight in El Centro, California, December 10, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Julian Elliott-Drouin)

The regimental air assault used a variety of 3rd MAW Marines and machines and integrated each of their capabilities into an adaptable aviation maneuver, all working in support of the ground combat element.

“I think more than anything else, it provides versatility and flexibility,” said Bartolomea. “The air assault portion provides the ground element the ability to maneuver in three dimensions and bypass enemy strong points to get at enemy weak points. The flexibility and the range of fire power that 3rd MAW and MAG 39 brings in support of 1st Marine Division is critical to make sure they can achieve their objectives.”

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US Marines load onto an MV-22B Osprey for a regimental air assault during exercise Steel Knight at Camp Pendleton, California, December 10, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Warrant Officer Justin M. Pack)

The regimental air assault is one of the many exercises 3rd MAW performs in order to provide realistic and relevant training in support of ground operations.

“Training like this is vital to individual and unit readiness,” said Capt. Valerie Smith, a pilot with Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron (HMH) 465, MAG-16. “Integrating aviation in the same manner that it would be used in a MAGTF gives the Marines the training they need to remain aggressive, prepared and focused on operational excellence.”

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US Marines prepare for a tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel during exercise Steel Knight in El Centro, California, December 10, 2019.

(Photo by US Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Juan Anaya)

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Four MV-22B Ospreys arrive for a regimental air assault during exercise Steel Knight on Marine Corps Air Station Camp Pendleton, California, December 10, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Warrant Officer Justin M. Pack)

“At the end of the day,” said Bartolomea, “this combined effort puts our enemies in a dilemma that gets our ground combat element to the objective they need, giving us a lethal edge on the battle field.”

The Super Stallions and Ospreys lifted off from the rain-soaked field, their precise and graceful movements a visible testament to the rigorous training required of aircrews.

The Marines, loaded in the fuselage, looked back on the landing zone as gusts from the rotors blew away all traces of them ever being there save for the muddied footprints they left behind as a reminder of their presence and the lethal capabilities of the force that moved them.

Air assaults of this magnitude are and will continue to be a vital part of the 3rd MAW’s preparation as they train and focus on naval integration and ship-to-shore transport, connecting the naval force and its warriors. The regimental air assault is but one example of how 3rd MAW supports the Navy-Marine Corps warfighting team.

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

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