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The latest news on Defense from Business Insider

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    Top Gun

    On May 13, 1986, "Top Gun" catapulted Tom Cruise and US Navy aviation to national prominence. The movie's popularity helped make Cruise the mega star he is today, and increased Navy recruiting by 500% in one summer.

    To prepare for the role, Cruise trained with the Blue Angels, the Navy's elite acrobatic flight-demo team, in an A-4F Skyhawk II. Now, 30 years later, the Blue Angels have invited Cruise on Instagram for a ride-along in their current jet, the F/A-18 Hornet.

    The Blue Angels' Instagram post reads:

    Well, Maverick, it's been 30 years since your last visit, so how do you feel about taking an F/A-18 Hornet for a spin?! Have your people call ours and maybe we can set something up...hey, even if Air Boss says no, we'll work something out, maybe just a quick flyby.

    SEE ALSO: One graphic shows 75 years of Air Force innovation

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    NOW WATCH: A Navy SEAL explains why he’ll never go skydiving as a civilian again

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    Saudi Arabia's Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman reacts upon his arrival at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, June 24, 2015.  REUTERS/Charles Platiau/File Photo

    Saudi Arabia’s decision to reduce its dependency on oil is the final acknowledgment that the Kingdom’s global swing producer role is nearing its end. The decision will have long-standing consequences for OPEC and oil markets.

    The past two years have not been easy for OPEC; the low oil prices that hit the markets in June 2014 have had a disastrous impact on its members’ budgets, and created difficulties for the oil industry in general. The current crisis is not a mere reflection of supply and demand volatility, but of a structural shift that came with the U.S shale revolution. The rise of American non-conventional oil production caught the world by surprise, and quickly transformed OPEC-dominated oil markets.

    Not your father’s oil glut

    The process is comparable only to the North Sea discoveries that caused a similar oil glut in the 1980s. However, both the circumstances and OPEC’s reaction are slightly different this time. Unlike 30 years ago, and probably having the 1980’s experience in mind, OPEC and Saudi Arabia decided not to reduce production, but instead sought to focus on preserving their market share.

    The logic behind the move was that high-cost producers, primarily the U.S shale sector, would not be able to survive the period of low oil prices for long. The logic proved to be correct, but Riyadh hugely underestimated the resilience of the U.S oil industry.

    Two years into the crisis, the U.S shale sector is going through a difficult period of restructuring, with 59 oil companies already having filed for bankruptcy. However, production has fallen only slightly so far, due to improved productivity and deep cost cutting. The decreasing trend will continue and probably accelerate however, which will eventually contribute to global supply and demand rebalancing, and an increase in oil prices, perhaps as early as 2017.

    But despite current woes, the U.S shale sector has strong prospects. The development of a new shale play, although in price comparable to offshore projects, takes less than a year, and North American shale has the shortest payback time of all global oil developments. In such circumstances, the U.S oil industry will have the ability to quickly restart production once demand and prices pick up.

    shale oil worker north dakota

    The future of OPEC

    The key victim of the current oil slump would be deepwater offshore projects, which take seven years on average to develop. According to the consultancy IHS, discoveries of new oil reserves have dropped to their lowest level for more than 60 years, and if the new discoveries rate does not improve, the world might experience a shortfall of around 4.5 million barrels per day by 2035.

    What does this mean for the future of OPEC and oil markets? Although its members would individually remain important players in global oil markets, in essence the cartel has lost its privileged ability to control global oil prices. This will undoubtedly weaken its cohesion, and potentially affect the political dynamics in the Middle East.

    In geopolitical terminology, with the ascent of U.S shale, the world of oil has shifted from unipolarity, dominated by OPEC, towards multipolarity, where Saudi Arabia, the U.S and Russia, along with other smaller producers, compete for market share.

    In the short-to-medium term, such a scenario will eventually prop oil prices as oil production would continue to fall. Even so, with increased competition, it is hard to expect that prices will reach pre-2014 levels any time soon. In the long-run the lack of an organised effort to control prices might bring further volatility to oil markets. In addition, the global move towards a decarbonised economy will put more pressure on oil producers.

    One positive thing that might come out of these trends is the realisation among oil dependant economies that diversification is key for the future economic sustainability in the low-price oil environment. Saudi Arabia is in a good position to successfully achieve this. But the majority of cartel’s members will have to go through a painful period of transition.

    SEE ALSO: Saudi Arabia's Vision 2030 plan to transform its economy might be all 'smoke and mirrors'

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    NOW WATCH: These are the biggest risks facing the world in 2016

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    RS 28 Sarmat Russia missile

    Russia is testing an intercontinental ballistic missile that is so large and powerful it could hit any strategic target in the United States or NATO with independently targeted warheads possibly capable of penetrating ballistic missile defenses.

    According to a TASS report on May 6, Col.-Gen. Sergei Karakayev, commander of the Russian Strategic Missile Forces, said Russia will move their new RS-28 Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missiles to bases at Uzhurskogo and Dombarovsky.

    The first location is near Krasnoyarsk in Siberia; the second is located in the Urals in the Orenburg Oblast and is a major ICBM base first built by the Soviets during the 1960s. In particular, Dombarovsky is a site associated with missile training exercises.

    For example, in the early 2000s the SMF held as many as seven launches from the Dombarovsky site using decommissioned missiles that delivered commercial payloads.

    The bases also are ideal for launching the new missile toward targets either in the United States or in NATO countries such as Germany, France, or the United Kingdom once it becomes operational.

    In the report, Karakayev also said a “completed missile complex” will hold the Sarmat as a “silo-based heavy missile” intended to replace the venerable SS-18 ICBM.

    The Soviets first deployed the SS-18 in 1977 – the missile in its Cold War SS-18 MOD 4 configuration carried 10 multiple independently targeted reentry vehicles each with up to a 750 kiloton yield. An individual warhead had more than 20 times the destructive power of the Hiroshima bomb.

    It was specifically designed to attack and destroy American ICBM silos and other hardened targets.

    Code named Satan by NATO, the SS-18 MOD 6 version of the ICBM currently deployed by Russia has a single 20-megaton warhead.

    Russian sources say Sarmat will be operational by 2018.

    nato v. russia

    However, not much else is known about Sarmat. Various Russian reports indicate that it is a two-stage liquid-fuel missile with an estimated operational range of 6,200 miles weighing about 220,000 pounds and capable of hefting perhaps a dozen heavy warheads, each individually steerable during reentry.

    There is no information on the yield of each warhead. However, the hypersonic speed and increased maneuverability of the warheads apparently is an effort to thwart U.S. anti-ballistic missile systems.

    On Thursday, the Kremlin said Russia is taking protective measures against the Aegis Ashore anti-missile systems deployed in Romania by the United States. Dmitri Peskov, spokesman for Russian Pres. Vladimir Putin, told reporters while commenting on the anti-missile system “the question is not whether measures will be taken or not; measures are being taken to maintain Russia’s security at the necessary level.”

    “From the very outset we kept saying that in the opinion of our experts the deployment of an anti-missile defense poses a threat to Russia,” Peskov said.

    Despite economic hardships and Western criticism, Russia has aggressively worked on improving its strategic missile inventory and the destructive power of its ICBMs. Recently, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said revamping the nation’s strategic missile forces is a No. 1 priority.

    Last year, Gen. Valery Gerasimov, chief of the Russian Armed Forces general staff, said the United States and its NATO allies are developing the means to strike Russia precisely and effectively with strategic weapons. The Kremlin intends to introduce weapons that can penetrate the American missile defense shield and thwart this increased capability, Gerasimov said.

    Russian writers for Sputnik, a Russian propaganda publication aligned with the Kremlin, have published reports touting the capabilities of the Sarmat. They claim the missile will “determine which direction nuclear deterrence will develop in the world.”

    The story even claimed that Sarmat’s warheads could wipe out territory equivalent to a landmass the size of Texas.

    SEE ALSO: How Russia allowed homegrown radicals to go fight in Syria

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    NOW WATCH: Here's the high-tech military equipment Russia could use against the world

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    obama nordic leaders summit finland denmark norway iceland

    The leaders of Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Norway and Iceland will be treated to the pomp of a White House state visit on Friday, a summit where Russia's military aggression will top the agenda.

    President Barack Obama will welcome the leaders for talks focused on pressing global security issues, including the crisis in Syria and Iraq that has led to a flood to migrants in Europe.

    Moscow's annexation of Ukraine's Crimea region in 2014 alarmed Russia's Nordic and Baltic neighbors. With NATO considering ways to try to deter further Russian aggression, the White House wants to show support for its northern European allies.

    "It is a way of sending a signal that the United States is deeply engaged when it comes to the security of the region, and we will be actively discussing what steps we can collectively take to improve the situation," said Charles Kupchan, Obama's senior director for European affairs.

    Kupchan declined comment on specific measures the White House hopes to emerge from the summit.

    Obama will be limited in what he can promise by the political calendar, given that his second and final term ends next year on Jan. 20. Americans are set to hold presidential elections on Nov. 8.

    The visit will culminate in a star-studded state dinner in a tent with a transparent ceiling, with lighting, flowers and ice sculptures evoking the northern lights.

    Pop star Demi Lovato, known for her support of liberal causes, will perform after guests enjoy a main course of ahi tuna, tomato tartare, and red wine braised beef short ribs.

    Obama is expected to laud the humanitarian and environmental accomplishments of his guest nations, who have been key supporters of an international deal to curb climate change that the White House sees as a key part of Obama's legacy.

    "The president has often said, 'Why can't all countries be like the Nordic countries?'" Kupchan said.

    SEE ALSO: Here’s why Russia’s humongous new missile is worth worrying about

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    NOW WATCH: This guy makes flip books using nothing but a hole puncher

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    female marine gunner

    A US Senate committee has approved legislation that would require American women to register for the military draft, setting the stage for a fight in Congress over the historic shift in policy later this year.

    The Senate Armed Services Committee approved the requirement late on Thursday, as an amendment to the $602 billion National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA. The House of Representatives Armed Services Committee approved a similar amendment late last month.

    Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced last year that all combat positions would be open to women, which immediately prompted calls that women also should be required to register, worrying social conservatives.

    The US military has been an all-volunteer force since the 1970s, but young men have been required to sign up for the Selective Service in case the draft is reactivated.

    To become law, the measure would have to be approved by the full House and Senate, and signed by President Barack Obama.

    It is already clear that will not be simple. Representative Pete Sessions, the Republican chairman of the powerful House Rules Committee, has said he will offer another amendment to the NDAA to eliminate the measure requiring women's registration.

    Virtually all male US citizens between the ages of 18 and 25 are required by law to have registered for the military draft within 30 days of their 18th birthdays.

    SEE ALSO: US Special Forces are in Libya to drum up support against ISIS

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    NOW WATCH: The US military spent $10 million in the '50s trying to develop this bizarre-looking hovercraft

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    aegis ashore lmt

    A ballistic missile defence shield which the United States has activated in Europe is a step to a new arms race, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Friday (May 13), vowing to adjust budget spending to neutralise "emerging threats" to Russia.

    The United States switched on the $800 million missile shield at a Soviet-era base in Romania on Thursday (May 12) saying it was a defence against missiles from Iran and so-called rogue states.

    But, speaking to top defence and military industry officials, Putin said the system was aimed at blunting Russia's nuclear arsenal.

    "This is not a defence system. This is part of a US nuclear strategic potential brought onto a periphery. In this case, Eastern Europe is such a periphery," Putin said.

    "Those people taking such decisions must know that until now they have lived calm, fairly well-off and in safety. Now, as these elements of ballistic missile defence are deployed, we are forced to think how to neutralise the emerging threats to the Russian Federation," he said.

    Coupled with deployment in the Mediterranean of US ships carrying Aegis missiles and other missile shield elements in Poland, the site in Romania was "yet another step to rock international security and start a new arms race", he said.

    Russia would not be drawn into this race. But it would continue re-arming its army and navy and spend the approved funds in a way that would "uphold the current strategic balance of forces", Putin added.

    Russian President Vladimir Putin gestures as he speaks during a meeting with journalists after a live broadcast nationwide call-in in Moscow, Russia, April 14, 2016.   REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

    US Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work said on Thursday that the shield would not be used against any future Russian missile threat.

    Frank Rose, deputy US assistant secretary of state for arms control, warned at the time that Iran's ballistic missiles could hit parts of Europe, including Romania.

    Putin said the prospect of a nuclear threat from Iran should no longer be taken seriously and was being used by Washington as an excuse to develop its missile shield in Europe.

    Iran missile

    The full defensive umbrella, when complete in 2018 after further development in Poland, will stretch from Greenland to the Azores.

    It relies on radars to detect a ballistic missile launch into space. Sensors then measure the rocket's trajectory and destroy it in space before it re-enters the earth's atmosphere. The interceptors can be fired from ships or ground sites.

    SEE ALSO: Obama is meeting with Nordic leaders to talk about Russia's aggression

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Here's the high-tech military equipment Russia could use against the world

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    Mustafa Badreddine Hezbollah

    No aircraft from the US-led coalition were in the area of Damascus where Hezbollah's top military commander was reportedly killed in a blast, the White House said on Friday.

    "There were no US or coalition aircraft in the area where he was reported to be killed," White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters, adding that he could not confirm Mustafa Badreddine's reported death, which the Lebanese Shi'ite group said occurred at a base near Damascus airport.

    SEE ALSO: The US is gearing up for another military campaign in Libya

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: The US military spent $10 million in the '50s trying to develop this bizarre-looking hovercraft

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    lori robinson

    Air Force Gen. Lori J. Robinson on Friday became the first woman to lead a top-tier US warfighting command when she took over as leader of the North American Aerospace Defense Command and US Northern Command in Colorado.

    Robinson — one of just two female four-star generals in the Air Force — was installed during a ceremony attended by Defense Secretary Ash Carter; Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff; and Canadian minister of defense Harjit Sajjan.

    During the ceremony at a hangar at Peterson Air Force Base, Carter praised Robinson as a strategic thinker capable of making split-second, life-and-death decisions.

    He also said Robinson and her husband, David Robinson, a retired two-star general, understand the difficulties military families face, alluding to the death of David Robinson's daughter, 2nd Lt. Taryn Ashley Robinson, following a pilot training accident.

    She was fatally injured in a crash months after graduating from the Air Force Academy. She died in January 2006, four weeks before her 23rd birthday.

    "To any family that has experienced loss, their own strength and leadership can be an inspiration," Carter said.

    None of the officials mentioned during the ceremony that Robinson is the first woman to lead a US combatant command. Instead, the focus was her abilities and the service of her predecessor, Admiral William Gortney.

    People who know Robinson describe her as the personification of a new generation of leaders, someone who understands that the Air Force has a broad role in space, cyber security and drones, not just flying and fighting.

    Air Force

    That's what sets Robinson apart, not her gender, said Maria Carl, a retired Air Force colonel who knows her.

    "Gen. Robinson reflects that change as much as anything else," said Carl, who serves on the Military Affairs Council of the Hawaii Chamber of Commerce.

    Carl didn't serve under Robinson but worked with her in her Chamber of Commerce role, when the general headed the Pacific Air Forces at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.

    "She has an ability to take all the different pieces of the picture and pull it together strategically," Carl said.

    Air Force Academy Superintendent Michelle Johnson, a three-star general and the first woman to head the school, said Robinson is an inspiration to female cadets at the academy.

    "They appreciate seeing somebody that they can aspire to," Johnson said after the ceremony that included a 19-gun salute from cannons outside the hangar.


    Robinson's family has deep roots in the Air Force. Her husband was a pilot in the Thunderbirds demonstration team. Her father, George Howard of Jackson, New Hampshire, was a 30-year Air Force veteran and a pilot in the Vietnam War.

    "I have looked up to my father my entire life," Robinson told senators at a confirmation hearing involving her new job last month. He accompanied her to the hearing.

    norad xmasOne of her new commands, the North American Aerospace Defense Command or NORAD is a joint US-Canada operation that defends the skies over both nations and monitors sea approaches. It's best known for its Cold War-era control room deep inside Cheyenne Mountain — now used only as a backup — and for its wildly popular NORAD Tracks Santa operation on Christmas Eve, fielding calls from children asking for Santa's whereabouts.

    Her other command, Northern Command, is responsible for defending US territory from attack and helping civilian authorities in emergencies. It was created after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

    Robinson has an extensive background in command and control, the science of orchestrating military operations across a broad area. In her previous job, commander of Pacific Air Forces, her area of responsibility spanned more than half the globe.

    "You're dealing with a lot of countries, a lot of the air forces in the Pacific, China being one of them," said Darryll Wong, a retired Air Force major general and Hawaii's former adjutant general. "She had to be a fast learner."

    Robinson joined the Air Force in 1982 through the ROTC program at the University of New Hampshire.

    SEE ALSO: White House says it wasn't a US-led coalition plane that killed the Hezbollah leader in Syria

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    NOW WATCH: The US is showing its strength against Russia by sending its most advanced warplanes to the Black Sea

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    US special operations troops have been stationed at two outposts in Libya since late last year to try to enlist local support for a possible offensive against ISIS, the Washington Post reported on Thursday, citing US officials.

    Two teams totaling fewer than 25 troops are operating from around the cities of Misurata and Benghazi to seek potential allies and glean intelligence on threats, according to officials who spoke on condition of anonymity, the newspaper reported.

    ISIS — aka the Islamic State, ISIL, or Daesh — has been building up forces in Libya as a potential "back-up capital" in case the terrorist group is driven out of its main base in Syria. ISIS is thought to have several thousand fighters in Sirte, but the group has had trouble expanding to other areas of Libya.

    Still, ISIS has wasted no time building up its operations in the notoriously unstable country — the group has reportedly set up propaganda "media points" in the city and started imposing its strict laws, like requiring women to wear Islamic veils in public and permitting public executions.

    The US special operations forces are trying to help local forces fight ISIS while taking advantage of foreign air power, according to the Post.

    "These types of activities can be the difference between success and failure in what the administration refers to as areas outside of active hostilities," William F. Wechsler, who was a senior Pentagon official overseeing Special Operations activities until last year, told the Post. "You're mapping local networks, both friendly and unfriendly."

    Local forces are now reportedly preparing for an assault in ISIS in Sirte.

    But the political situation in the country is tenuous and could hamper attempts to effectively beat back ISIS. The country is split between opposing factions, which have separate command centers overseeing anti-ISIS operations, according to the Post.

    American officials told the Post that if these factions don't coordinate their assault against ISIS, then the terrorist group could end up growing stronger.

    An unnamed senior US official told the Post that the US military has "been working with our allies to urge focus on ISIL and not fueling rivalries across the country."

    SEE ALSO: How Russia allowed homegrown radicals to go fight in Syria

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    NOW WATCH: How ISIS makes over $1 billion a year

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    IIsraeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting in the Israeli occupied Golan Heights near the ceasefire line between Israel and Syria, April 17, 2016. REUTERS/Sebastian Scheiner/Pool sraeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lashed out at Iran Sunday for staging a Holocaust-themed cartoon contest that mocked the Nazi genocide of six million Jews during World War II and said the Islamic Republic was busy planning for another one.

    Iran has long backed armed groups committed to Israel's destruction and its leaders have called for it to be wiped off the map.

    Israel fears that Iran's nuclear program is designed to threaten its very existence. But Netanyahu said that it was not just Iran's belligerent policies that Israel opposed, but its values as well.

    "It denies the Holocaust, it mocks the Holocaust and it is also preparing another Holocaust," Netanyahu said at his weekly Cabinet meeting. "I think that every country in the world must stand up and fully condemn this."

    State Department spokesman Mark Toner, traveling with Secretary of State John Kerry in Saudi Arabia, said the United States was concerned the contest could "be used as a platform for Holocaust denial and revisionism and egregiously anti-Semitic speech, as it has in the past."

    "Such offensive speech should be condemned by the authorities and civil society leaders rather than encouraged. We denounce any Holocaust denial and trivialization as inflammatory and abhorrent. It is insulting to the memory of the millions of people who died in the Holocaust," Toner said.

    The denial or questioning of the genocide is widespread in the Middle East, where many regard it as a pretext Israel used for its creation and to excuse its actions toward the Palestinians.

    A Palestinian protester holding a sign shouts during clashes with Israeli troops near the border with Israel, in the east of Gaza City, in this October 16, 2015 file photo. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem

    "Holocaust means mass killing," said contest organizer Masuod Shojai Tabatabaei. "We are witnessing the biggest killings by the Zionist regime in Gaza and Palestine."

    He said the purpose of the Tehran event was not to deny the Holocaust but rather to criticize alleged Western double standards regarding free expression — and particularly as a response to depictions of the Prophet Muhammad by the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and others.

    The exhibit featured some 150 works from 50 countries, with many portraying Israel as using the Holocaust to distract from the suffering of the Palestinians. Others depicted Palestinian prisoners standing behind concentration camp-style barbed wire fences, Netanyahu likened to Nazi leader Adolf Hitler and a Jerusalem mosque behind a gate bearing the motto "Arbeit Macht Frei" that appeared at the entrance to the Auschwitz death camp.

    Auschwitz death camp survivor Jacek Nadolny, 77, who was registered with camp number 192685, holds up a wartime photo of his family, as he poses for a portrait in Warsaw, January 7, 2015. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel

    The contest was organized by non-governmental bodies with strong support from Iran's hard-liners. A previous contest in 2006 got a boost from then-President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a hard-liner who referred to the Holocaust as a "myth" and repeatedly predicted Israel's demise.

    SEE ALSO: America's former top spy is worried about Donald Trump

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    NOW WATCH: The US Army is sending Apache attack helicopters to fight ISIS in Iraq

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    nuclear football

    The so-called nuclear Football is a black leather briefcase that contains top-secret items capable of allowing the US president to authorize a nuclear attack while away from fixed command centers, such as the Situation Room in the White House.

    Officially referred to as the "president's emergency satchel," the unsophisticated-looking portable Football is hand-carried by one of five military aides and is always within reach of the commander in chief, just in case.

    According to Bill Gulley, a former director of the White House Military Office, the ubiquitous Football does not contain a doomsday red-button keypad but rather four items:

    • a 75-page black book of retaliatory nuclear-strike options printed in black and red ink
    • another black book with a list of classified sites to shelter the president
    • a manila folder containing 10 pages of instructions on how to operate the Emergency Broadcast System
    • an index card with authentication codes

    Sometimes an antenna can be seen poking out of the briefcase, which suggests that there may be communications equipment inside.

    football with antenna

    The nickname "Football" comes from "Dropkick," a code name given to a secret nuclear-war plan, according to former US Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara. Initiating a Dropkick would require one of these Footballs, Smithsonian Magazine explains.

    The military aides selected to carry the briefcase are trained to administer the president for a nuclear attack in minutes.

    nuclear football

    "You're always kind of on edge," recalls then Air Force Major Robert Patterson, who toted the Football for President Bill Clinton. "I opened it up constantly just to refresh myself, to always be aware of what was in it, all the potential decisions the president could possibly make," Patterson told The Associated Press.

    The ubiquitous Football is always in the same airplane, helicopter, car, and elevator alongside the president. When the president is at home, the Football is stored in a secure location inside the White House, The AP reports.

    nuclear football

    According to Patterson, some aides chased after Clinton while he jogged around the White House compound — all the while lugging the 45-pound briefcase.

    The lethal luggage first appeared during the Kennedy administration, shortly after the Cuban missile crisis in 1962.

    It became immediately clear to top national-security officers that the president needed unlimited access to nuclear war plans after he reportedly posed the following questions during a National Security Council meeting:

    kennedy nuclear football

    Fifty-three years later, the regularly updated Football represents the incredible military might and tremendous responsibility that follows the president everywhere.

    SEE ALSO: A story about JFK explains the dangers of smoking weed in the White House

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    NOW WATCH: The number of times Obama has had to respond to mass shootings during his presidency is staggering

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    obamaTuesday, President Obama announced his decision to visit Hiroshima, Japan, the site where the US dropped an atomic bomb in August 1945.

    Obama will specifically visit Memorial Park, which commemorates the event; he will be the first sitting American president to do so, although he does not plan to offer any sort of apology.

    The bombing of Hiroshima killed around 100,000 people; three days later, tens of thousands more were killed after the United States bombed Nagasaki.

    To discuss the issues of war and memory, I spoke by phone with Carol Gluck, a professor of Japanese history at Columbia University.

    We talked about the ways in which the American and Japanese narratives of the war have changed over time, how nationalism has shaped the memory of World War II, and why Obama’s decision to visit is symbolically important. The conversation has been edited and condensed.

    Isaac Chotiner: What did you make of President Obama’s decision to visit Memorial Park?

    Carol Gluck: I think it is a very good decision. I think it is a decision that probably would have made sense to do earlier, but it makes particular sense to do in the context of President Obama’s anti-nuclear policies. It also makes sense in terms of the alliance between Japan and the United States. I think the question is why it took 71 years for this to happen. And I think there are answers to that.

    Which are?

    The first reason is that the atomic bomb narrative is extremely strong in every country I have studied. It is one of the few aspects or parts of the story of the Second World War that haven’t changed, while other parts have. The countries’ national nuclear narratives are very much locked in place. The Japanese national narrative is that the bomb gave Japan a mission for peace in the world.

    The bomb doesn’t end the war: It starts the postwar mission for peace. The American narrative is that the bomb ended the war and saved American lives. That’s the story.

    Hiroshima bombing

    The second reason is that the politics of apology have gained more emphasis since the end of the Cold War.

    That’s interesting because the critique some people make is that Japan’s understanding of the war hasn’t changed at all, on any front, and that the country still sees itself as a victim rather than an aggressor.

    It has a victim narrative, but that is true with every country, including Germany, which saw itself as a victim of its leaders. But Japanese victims’ narratives lasted a lot longer than others. There are several reasons for that, but probably the most important was the United States, which conspired in creating that narrative in the first few months after the American occupation.

    To achieve the goals of the American occupation, it was important to see the Japanese aggression and atrocities as something that was brought about by bad leaders, so that these leaders—but not the people—were held responsible. That was a good grounding for reforms. This narrative sat well with the Japanese but it was a co-created narrative.

    hirohito japanDo you think the larger Japanese narrative has changed?

    Yes, yes. That is what I am trying to argue. The bomb story hasn’t changed but the country has changed since 1989. When Hirohito died in 1989, the same year the Cold War ended, the United States stopped being the only country that mattered to Japan.

    The country was [suddenly] facing Asia, and so you got the rise of issues like the comfort women and biological war crimes. [Japan exploited a vast number of sexual slaves—so-called “comfort women”—from the countries in Asia that it occupied.]

    These things, according to Japanese opinion polls, have had a tremendous impact on the Japanese public. That is why there is a conservative backlash. If you look at polls about the comfort women, the Japanese people think the comfort women should be compensated. You have to separate out the Japanese public from the right-wing politicians.

    Sadly, one of those politicians is the prime minster, who has visited a shrine that includes war criminals and appointed people to government positions who take a reactionary line on World War II.

    Not only sadly, but loudly. It isn’t just Prime Minister Abe. This nationalistic, conservative leadership that uses the rewriting of history to bolster its regime is something we see now with Putin, Xi, Erdogan, Modi, and in Poland and Hungary.

    We may start seeing it here after November.

    Well, I don’t think it will change our narrative of WWII. [Laughs.] It may change other things. But my point is that the larger story has changed but the bomb story hasn’t changed. Here, I don’t think the story has changed but the attitude is changing. The people who fought in WWII will not change their narrative. They tried to put it on a postage stamp saying, “Atomic Bomb Hastened War’s End.” But then you have future generations that are not all the same.

    Japan Hiroshima Anniv_Mill

    In Hiroshima they start with the bomb, although now they acknowledge there was a war that ended with the bomb. But the Americans end the bomb story in 1945, and what wasn’t acknowledged was the arms race and radiation sickness.

    This was the subject of the Enola Gay controversy at the Smithsonian in 1995, where veterans did not want to acknowledge radiation sickness. The Japanese ignore everything before Hiroshima and the Americans ignore everything after Nagasaki. Both of the stories are truncated.

    There is one other point. The atomic bombings were a continuation of civilian bombing, area bombing, carpet bombing, that every country did in World War II. It was universal. So if we are talking about the lessons of Hiroshima, we need to talk about the lessons of civilian bombings generally.

    I was just about to ask what lesson you thought people in both countries should end up taking away from the visit.

    It is not going to be this! What I am arguing is that these bombs are often singled out but they are a subset. It is a new gadget to do the same horrific thing. It is not going to come up. This is what I mean about the bomb narrative being so solid.

    But I think the main thing of the visit—like most things involving the politics of memory—is symbolic. It is a symbolic gesture. It says, “We don’t believe nuclear war is right and we don’t want to see it ever again.” That’s what the banner in Hiroshima says: “We shall not repeat this evil.” The New York Times asked what everyone else does: Does this refer to the bomb or the war?

    Yes, there is an ambiguity there. Actually it means both. And so that’s what Obama is saying with his visit. We are saying that this sort of suffering is terrible, and that’s good. Instead of having a huge military parade, which have gotten bigger and bigger in Moscow and Beijing, this is another way of talking about the war.

    SEE ALSO: World War II ended 70 years ago — here's the planned US invasion of Japan that never happened

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    NOW WATCH: Startling facts about World War II

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    illegal gold mine

    Organized crime networks in Latin America have long made their money off of drugs.

    But over the past decade, as gold prices have soared, cartels have increasingly turned to illegally mining the metal to earn cash.

    In Peru and Colombia, they're now making more money exporting illegal gold than cocaine. 

    Eighty percent of the gold mined in Colombia and up to 90 percent of the gold mined in Venezuela is produced illegally.

    That's according to a recent report from The Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime, which outlines the impact this crush of illegal mining is having on displaced communities, forced-labor miners and sex workers who are trafficked to serve this burgeoning industry.  

    “When you arrive in these illegal mines, you just realize that there is like a chain of victimization,” the report’s author, Livia Wagner, said in an interview with PRI's The World.

    In illegal mines, workers are forced to extract gold in dangerous conditions across Latin America, and the report documents women and girls as young as 12 from all over Peru being trafficked to work in brothels near the mining outposts.  

    Many of the girls are lured by promises of work, and once they arrive deep in the Amazon, Wagner said, “there is just no way out for them.”

    In some places, like Peru, mine owners are in cahoots with human traffickers. In places like Colombia, insurgent groups including the FARC actually manage the mines.   

    FARC rebels pose with an unidentified girl holding a weapon in southern Colombia in this undated photo confiscated by the Colombian police and released to the media on November 12, 2009. REUTERS/National Police/Handout

    In addition to the human cost, the report outlines the environmental impact of widespread illicit gold mining.  

    The neurotoxin mercury, which is used in illegal mining to separate gold from sediment, is seeping into waterways, soil and air around mining sites.

    At one illegal mine in Peru, Wagner said she watched a miner mix sand and mercury with his bare feet.

    “This was just very shocking for me,” Wagner said.

    Illegal mining also contributes to deforestation in sensitive Amazon regions.  

    After traveling for an hour through dense jungle to reach an illegal mine, “suddenly everything opens up, there are no trees there anymore, and all you can see is dead trees, like skeletons,” Wagner said.

    The report found local governments “largely helpless” in combating illegal gold mining.

    When shopping for jewelery, consumers can look for gold that has been certified as coming from legal sources. But determining the source of precious metal in electronics and other products isn’t so easy.

    “If you go and want to buy a laptop and say, OK, where does the gold come from that’s in your cell phone or the laptop?” Wagner said. “There, it’s a little more difficult.”

    SEE ALSO: US agents just busted one of the longest narco tunnels ever, operating 'in full view of the world'

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    NOW WATCH: This is how Mexican drug cartels make billions selling drugs

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    Checkpoint Charlie us russian tanksThis post from Igor Markov, an EECS professor at Michgan, originally appeared on Quora as an answer to the question "Overall, who had the stronger military during the Cold War, the US or USSR? Or did it fluctuate throughout?"

    It fluctuated throughout, as technology changed many times over, and the economic fortunes of the USSR became very sensitive to oil prices.

    As of 1945 (before the Cold War), the USSR had the strongest conventional land-based military and, after the US withdrew most of its troops, essentially dominated in Europe (the US returned some of the troops, but the USSR still held vast numerical advantage, especially in tanks).

    The US had the strongest Navy and dominated both the Pacific and the Atlantic uncontested; this didn't change throughout the Cold War, even though naval technologies changed a lot (nuclear subs, etc), and the USSR invested heavily in surface and submarine navies.

    The airforces were more or less evenly matched in 1945, except that the US and the UK had better air defense networks. In subsequent years, the USSR developed very competitive air defense equipment and networks.

    Other airforce technologies also made major leaps forward, but the USSR eventually lagged behind due to systemic weakness in digital electronics.

    F 4B intercepts tu-95 cold war

    Early nuclear weapons affected the balance in several ways. In addition to its demonstrated use of offensive nuclear weapons, the US developed several categories of defensive nuclear weapons, including area air defense and a strategy to block a possible Soviet armor advance through the Fulda gap using tactical nuclear weapons (such as artillery shells).

    fulda gapAs a result, the stronger Soviet ground forces in Europe could not fully realize their potential.

    In the 1970s and 1980s, the US developed medium range missiles, antitank weapons, robust ground attack planes (A-10) and attack helicopters to neutralize the Fulda gap threat.

    At early and mid stages of the Cold War, the USSR had a larger count of nuclear missiles, but that was partly explained by the perceived unreliability of missiles and warheads.

    There were also rumors of the so-called Bomber gap and Missile gap between the US and the USSR, most of which turned out false.

    SEE ALSO: An RAF officer just opened up about one of the biggest problems with NATO

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    NOW WATCH: The US is showing its strength against Russia by sending its most advanced warplanes to the Black Sea

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    Eurofighter RAF Typhoon

    Two loud bangs were heard across central eastern UK on May 2, as two Typhoon jets from RAF Coningsby were scrambled to intercept a Cityjet Avro RJ-85 that was flying as Air France 1558 from Paris Charles de Gaulle, France, to Newcastle, UK.

    The RJ-85 failed to reply to the ATC (Air Traffic Control) calls prompting the British Air Defense to scramble two Typhoons in QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) that intercepted the airliner and escorted it to landing.

    To reach the “unresponsive civil plane” the two Typhoon fighters accelerated to supersonic speed causing the sonic boomsthat shocked several houses in parts of Yorkshire at around 21.50LT.

    The following video was filmed by a surveillance camera in North Leeds. Turn your speakers on to hear the two loud bangs!

    SEE ALSO: Here's who had the stronger military during the Cold War

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    NOW WATCH: The US is showing its strength against Russia by sending its most advanced warplanes to the Black Sea

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    1947 israel partition plan UN

    In November 1947, the United Nations voted to partition what was then called “Palestine.”

    The plan called for a complete British withdrawal, separate Jewish and Palestinian states, and an international regime to control the ancient, holy city of Jerusalem.

    The partition plan was rejected by Arab nations in the region on the grounds that it violated the UN charter’s principles of self-determination.

    Before May 1948, the conflict consisted of separate Arab and Jewish fighting for supremacy and fighting to expel the British. On May 15, 1948, the Jewish people of the region declared independence as the state of Israel and the world hasn’t been the same since.

    The Partition of Palestine passed in the UN General Assembly in November 1947. Immediately after the partition vote passed, the country descended into a civil war for control of the political and cultural hearts of the region.

    May 14th, 1948 was the day the British announced their intent to end their UN mandate. Shortly before midnight that day, Jewish political leader David Ben-Gurion declared an independent Israel.

    The Jewish people in Palestine didn’t just get independence handed to them. The conflict that started the day after the partition vote now exploded into a full-scale war, the day the British were to leave.

    The neighboring Arab states Egypt, Transjordan (now modern Jordan), Iraq, and Syria immediately invaded the territory declared to be Israel. Jewish paramilitary groups that were once considered terrorists under the British Mandate coalesced into the Israel Defence Forces.

    Screen Shot 2016 05 16 at 9.35.26 AM

    These groups were already engaged in conflict with Palestinian Arab units throughout the area, including the Arab Liberation Army and Holy War Army. The British were functionally gone anyway and the major cities of Tiberias, Jaffa, Haifa, and Acre had already fallen to the Israelis.

    Syrian forces would invade from the North, linking up with Iraqi and Jordanians forces in Nazareth, then pushing West to take the coastal city of Haifa. The Egyptians were supposed to capture Tel Aviv from the South. The Jordanian King Abdullah I didn’t want to invade any area given to the Jewish state under the UN partition, and the plan was changed.

    Israel butterfly haganah negev

    The Egyptians, by far the largest of the invading armies, were still to invade from the South and capture Tel Aviv. Two weeks after the Israeli declaration of independence, Egyptians were knocking at the door, ready to move on Tel Aviv. The defense of the city fell to one man, Lou Lenart. Lenart would enter the history books as the man who devised and executed the IDF’s first aerial strike.

    Lenart was a seasoned combat airman. He joined the Marine Corps in 1940 with the singular goal of killing Nazis. He would go to flight school later in his career, which saw him serve as air support for Marines on Okinawa and participate in bombing raids over Japan. After the war, he found out he lost 14 family members in the Holocaust. That loss galvanized his feelings on an independent Jewish state. By the time he arrived in Israel, he was an experienced combat pilot.

    Lenart and three fellow pilots (Ezer Weizmann, Mudy Alon, and Eddie Cohen) flew four Czech Avia S-99 airplanes, cobbled together with the remains of Nazi Messerschmitt fighters. Armed with a machine gun and four 150-pound bombs, the four flew south to Ashdod where they’d heard the Egyptians were camped.

    They had no radar, no radios, and communicated with hand signals. Finding masses of Egyptian troops, trucks, and tanks, the Jewish pilots dropped low, dropped their bombs and shot up anything they could see.

    Avia S-99 israel

    “They didn’t even know Israel had an air force,” Lenart would say later. “The Arabs had everything, we had nothing. And we still won. When I’m asked how we did it, I say: ‘We just didn’t have a choice. That was our secret weapon.’”

    Louis (Lou) LenartThey encountered what turned out to be an armored column of 10,000 Egyptian troops and 500 vehicles.

    Cohen was killed in the attack and Alon was shot down (he would be killed later in the war).

    The Egyptians were stunned and scattered. By the time they recovered, Egypt had lost the initiative.

    This was the beginning of Operation Pleshet. Israeli forces would then harass the Egyptians and group for a counter attack.

    Though that counter was not successful, Egypt’s strategy turned from offensive to defensive and to this day, the bold Israeli airstrike is credited for saving Tel Aviv.

    The (first) war for Israel’s existence would drag on until March 1949 but Tel Aviv would never fall to an Arab army.

    Lenart died in 2015 at the ripe old age of 94. His efforts in the 1948 war were never forgotten.

    SEE ALSO: Netanyahu: Iran is 'preparing another Holocaust'

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    NOW WATCH: Here's the high-tech military equipment Russia could use against the world

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    This footage shows just how skillful you have to be to land a helicopter on a ship during rough seas. The Danish Royal Navy had some help from Prism Defence with these tests to see just how bad the weather had to be before helicopter flight was impossible.

    Produced by Rob Ludacer

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    AC 130H_Spectre_jettisons_flares

    The AC-130 has humble origins. Essentially it is a 1950s cargo plane, the C-130 Hercules, decked out with guns, advanced avionics, guns, and more guns. 

    Able to fly faster and higher than a helicopter, but with excellent range and loiter time, the AC-130 is one of the most effective platforms for delivering devastation downrange available on air, sea, or land. 

    The magic of the AC-130 is it's ability to slowly bank and fly in cricles, while the side mounted guns rain down destruction on a single central point. 

    Recent footage from Warleaks takes us inside this mighty gunship, as we'll explore in the slides below.

    SEE ALSO: 'Top Gun' turns 30 today, and the Navy Blue Angels are inviting Tom Cruise for another ride-along

    Here we see the AC-130U ripping it's 25 mm Gatling gun.

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    Here's what that looks like from the crew's point of view.

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    Here we see the view from the ground.

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    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    Southwest Cay Vietnam

    China is not the only nation building islands in the South China Sea — although the scope of its construction is unparalleled.

    Along with Beijing, Vietnam has also started projects mostly within the past two years of constructing islands. Altogether, the Center for Strategic and International Studies' Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative has documented 10 sites of Vietnamese construction throughout the region. Together, Vietnam has built slightly over 120 acres of land in the area.

    By comparison, China has created over 3,000 acres of land in the Spratly Islands, far overshadowing Vietnam's efforts. But Vietnam's construction gives China cover for its activities as the US has called on both sides to cease construction in the region.

    Below are before and after photos showcasing Vietnam's island-building efforts:

    SEE ALSO: These images might just be the clearest signs of China's expansion in the disputed South China Sea

    Spratly Island: 2014 - 2016

    Southwest Cay: 2005 - 2016

    Sin Cowe Island: 2006 - 2016

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    lori robinson

    Air Force Gen. Lori Robinson, in taking charge of U.S. Northern Command, seizes a higher billet than any woman who has ever worn the uniform.

    On May 13, Air Force Gen. Lori Robinson took over as leader of U.S. Northern Command, becoming the first female service member to lead a unified combatant command and thus the highest ranking woman in U.S. military history.

    “She was selected because she was the most qualified officer,” said Defense Secretary Ash Carter, who attended the ceremony at Peterson Air Force base in Colorado. “I hope that the excellence she represents is an inspiration to women to join our armed forces.”  

    Northern Command, or NORTHCOM, is responsible for defending the U.S. homeland and surrounding region. It also oversees the North American Aerospace Defense Command, or NORAD. As the head of NORTHCOM, Robinson will be the top general overseeing military activities in North America.

    Robinson’s appointment to one of the most senior positions in the U.S. military may come as little surprise to those who have followed her meteoric career. According to Defense News, between June 2012 and October 2014, she rose from two-star serving as deputy commander, US Air Forces Central Command, to four-star serving as commander, Pacific Air Forces, an assignment that made her the first female four-star to command combat forces.

    Now, Robinson is the highest ranking female service member in our nation’s history. While women have reached the rank of four-star before — including Adm. Michelle Howard, who currently serves as the 38th Vice Chief of Naval Operations — none have reached a billet as high as a unified combatant command like NORTHCOM.

    In 2008, now-retired Gen. Ann Dunwoody broke the so-called “brass ceiling” when then-President George W. Bush appointed her to become the head of the U.S. Army Material Command, making her the military’s first four-star officer.

    “It is an honor,” Robinson said at the ceremony. “I can’t think of a more sacred responsibility than defense of the homeland. And to be able to do that and be in this level of command is unbelievable.”

    Being a combatant commander is often a stepping stone to serving in the top role of the U.S. military, the chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff, which means Robinson, whose Air Force career began in 1982, could be the first woman to qualify for that position.

    SEE ALSO: Air Force General makes history as first woman ever to lead a combatant command

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    NOW WATCH: Female soldiers have created a 30-woman unit to fight ISIS in Iraq

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