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The latest news on Defense from Business Insider

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    uss gerald r ford ford class aircraft carrier

    The US Navy's 10 Nimitz-class flat-top aircraft carriers are the envy of the world, and yet the Navy has a newer, more powerful, and more advanced carrier in the works: the Ford-class.

    Named after US President Gerald Ford, the Navy plans to procure four of these titans of the sea. In the slides below, see how the Fords improve on America's already imposing fleet of aircraft carriers.

    SEE ALSO: The age of aircraft carriers could be coming to an end

    New reactor and an all-electric ship.

    The new Ford class carriers will feature an improved nuclear reactor with three times the power-generation capacity as the Nimitz class.

    This outsized power-generation capacity provides the Fords an opportunity to grow into new technologies that come up during their service life.

    With ample power to draw from, the Fords could one day house directed-energy weapons like the Navy's upcoming railgun.



    Watch an F-35 seamlessly take off using an Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS).

    RAW Embed

    The Nimitz class cruisers use an elaborate steam-powered launch system to send F/A-18s and other planes on their way, but the Ford class, drawing on its huge power-generation capacity, will use an electronic system to do the same.

    Not only will the EMALS launch heavier planes, but it will also carefully launch planes in order to reduce wear and tear. Additionally, the increased capacity of these launchers to make planes airborne will allow new plane designs in the future.



    Example of a steam-powered launch:

    RAW Embed



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    Aggressors F 16

    Recently released footage from the Combined Joint Task Force's Operation Inherent Resolve shows US-led warplane taking out a variety of ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria. 

    Currently, the US leads 65 nations in a coalition that is attacking ISIS from the air and supporting regional allies who fight them on the ground.

    ISIS map

    On April 27, the coalition took out an ISIS fighting vehicle near Mar’a, Syria:

    On May 5, the target was an ISIS weapons storage facility near Qayyarah, Iraq:

    Then on May 22, coalition warplanes destroyed an ISIS communications center near their Iraqi capitol of Mosul:

    SEE ALSO: French special forces are advising rebels on the ground in northern Syria

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: 9 animated maps that will change the way you see the world


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    Su 34 air to air

    Russia's Su-34 Fullback fighter/bomber jet is in many ways a reworking of the older Su-27 model, but it includes some shockingly homey features, like a "toilet" and a "kitchenette."

    See some of the unexpected creature comforts aboard the SU-34 in the slides below.

    SEE ALSO: Here's what it looks like when a rogue Russian submarine gets intercepted by the Royal Navy

    The Fullback seems to have been designed head-to-toe with pilot comfort in mind. Instead of sitting one in front of the other, Fullback pilots sit side by side like in a car. This saves room in the cockpit as the pilots can share instruments, and do not need duplicates for their separate compartments.



    Instead of climbing into the cockpit from a rolling staircase like US pilots do, the Russian pilots simply climb up a ladder attached to the landing gear.

    RAW Embed



    Now comes the really amazing part. The cabin is actually big enough to move around in, which is unthinkable in the sleek, streamlined jets the US flies. Pilots can actually lay down in the cabin if they're tired.



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    north korea

    North Korea's nuclear capabilities and ambitions often make headlines, but recently the country has focused more on building national strength in more conventional, yet equally threatening ways.

    Last month, for the first time in decades, North Korea opened its doors to outsiders for the North Korea Workers Party Congress.

    At this Congress, the idea of Kim Jong Un's "byungjin," or a two-sided push toward economic and nuclear development, was discussed.

    As Curtis Melvin, a researcher at the US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University, explained: “Lots of people say that if they have a nuclear deterrent, they won’t need conventional weapons ... But under the Kim Jong Un era, there has been a big increase in spending on the economic and conventional military side,” The Washington Post notes.

    Using satellite imagery, one of the few windows into the secretive nation, Melvin claims to have spotted construction indicating that a railway was coming to the Korean People’s Army naval base and the shipyard at Wonsan.

    According to North Korean media, Kim Jung Un has commented that the naval base would be useful for bolstering the economy.

    As it stands now, the hermit kingdom already possesses a fearsome array of artillery installations across the DMZ just 30 or so miles from Seoul.

    North Korea artillery

    Against these low-tech weapons, advanced defenses like the Patriot missile-defense system and possible deployment of the THAAD system meant to guard against ballistic missiles are of little use.

    Additionally, there is reason to believe that Kim Jung Un has had some success in revitalizing the military by instituting new military leadership after a rash of executions removed some of the old brass.

    Joseph S. Bermudez, an expert on North Korea’s military, told The Washington Post: “I get a sense that when Kim Jong Un came to power, he looked around and said, ‘We have all these old guys running things who haven’t been in the field for 15 or 20 years. We need people who know what they’re talking about.’”

    “Before, you had leaders of special forces who couldn’t run a mile. Now, we see artillery division commanders that actually have an artillery background,” Bermudez continued.

    Foal Eagle 2015

    The North Korean dictatorship claims to have a military that is 1.2 million people strong with an "unlimited reach" from government to conscript citizens into service.

    The threat from North Korea's conventional forces and nuclear forces has triggered nations around the world to tighten sanctions against the rogue nation and the US to engage in vigorous military exercises with South Korea, should the need for decisive action arise.

    SEE ALSO: US CyberCom is going to launch attacks against critical American infrastructure for an entire month

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: This is what a bar in North Korea looks like


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    Philip Breedlove civilian atlantic council

    On Wednesday, at the Atlantic Council, retired four-star Air Force General and former Supreme Allied Commander of NATO Philip Breedlove spoke about the mounting tensions between Russia and the West as a NATO summit draws near.

    At July's Warsaw summit, NATO leaders will convene to discuss the future of the alliance, the possibility of expansion, and overall strategy.

    Taking questions from the crowd, Breedlove, who entered military service nearly four decades ago during the Cold War and spent four years as the commander of NATO, explained the successes of the alliance since the last major summit in Wales.

    "Mr. Putin may actually be a bit surprised at how well NATO has moved forward with the changes that were started in Wales," Breedlove said.

    "The progress is measurable and demonstrative in the way that we have exercised and the way that the alliance actually came together very quickly to do things many thought they would never do in building the VJTF [Very High Readiness Joint Task Force]," Breedlove continued.

    Russia bombing syria iran russia

    "Putin’s No. 1 goal is to crack EU or NATO ... We have shown him since Wales more unity," Breedlove said, adding that “if Mr. Putin is able to break apart the EU or NATO... he gets everything else he wants."

    But tensions between NATO and Russia are reaching alarming levels. Despite NATO's unity, an increasingly belligerent Russia has threatened military action against Sweden and Finland should they join NATO, and the US after one of its ships made a routine patrol in the Black Sea. Meanwhile, the US has positioned not one, but two aircraft carriers in the Mediterranean in advance of the Warsaw summit.

    Additionally, RAND Corp., through war-gamming and analysis, estimates that Russia's conventional forces could seize Baltic capitals like Tallinn and Riga in as little as 36 hours. Though Breedlove acknowledged the veracity of the modeling methods used by RAND Corp., he questioned the conclusion.

    Speaking first about NATO's success in deterring Russian aggression or advances, Breedlove contested the notion that NATO could not defend its most exposed members on the Eastern flank.

    nato training

    "We can defend if we get early, decisive movements from our nations and our NATO leadership. If we get in front of a problem, which requires good, fused intelligence, indications, and warnings, and the courage to make decisions based on those warnings, I believe we can defend," said Breedlove.

    At this point, a question steered the conversation toward Russia's military doctrine. 

    “The Russians speak about, write about, and train to use tactical nukes as a logical and understood extension of conventional war," said Breedlove. But building a war plan for NATO that projects strength, unity, and determination, yet also includes "off ramps" and "opportunities for deescalation" of conflicts is an "art, not a science," Breedlove conceded.

    Instead, Breedlove firmly put forward that the US must open lines of communications with the Russians who have "talked themselves into a frenzy" regarding war and the use of nuclear weapons, as an Atlantic Council member put it.

    Putin Missile

    Breedlove stressed that NATO should take the lead in establishing communication: "We have to, in a very determined way, we need to establish quality communications with the Russians. If we wait for it to fall in our lap we’re going to fail."

    Toward the end of the conference, Breedlove reaffirmed Obama's statement at the 2014 Wales summit that "we will defend every inch of NATO territory," stating that the commitment to honoring Article 5, which essentially treats an attack on one NATO member as an attack on all NATO members, is as strong as ever.

    “Russia does understand power, strength, and unity,” said Breedlove, offering some hope for reconciliation for the two forces that find themselves in the most heated conflict since the Cold War.

    SEE ALSO: Here's what it looks like when a Russian submarine gets intercepted by the Royal Navy

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: JOHN MCAFEE: This is why the US is losing the ‘cyber war’ to China and Russia


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    ramstein air base protest no drone war

    Several thousand demonstrators formed a human chain along the perimeter of a U.S. Air Force Base in southwest Germany on Saturday in protest against drone operations by the United States.

    The demonstration was organized by the alliance "Stop Ramstein - No Drone War", which says the Ramstein base transmits information between operators in the United States and unmanned drone aircraft in places such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Syria.

    Police estimated 3-4,000 people had formed the chain close to the base, which serves as the headquarters for the U.S. Air Forces in Europe. Organizers spoke of 5-7,000 people. No comment was available on Saturday from officials at Ramstein.

    The use of drones is highly controversial in Germany, where an aversion to military conflict has prevailed since World War Two. Organizers say allowing data for drone deployments to be routed through Ramstein goes against the German constitution and want the base's satellite relay station to be closed.

    Nearly 15 years after a drone first fired missiles in combat, the U.S. military program has expanded to become an everyday part of the war machine for carrying out surveillance and launching strikes.

    President Barack Obama last month approved a drone strike in a remote area of Pakistan that killed Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour. U.S. officials said he had been overseeing plans for new attacks on U.S. targets in Kabul.

    Critics say drones often miss their intended targets, can only partly relay what is happening on the ground and encourage warfare with impunity, waged by people at computer screens far from danger.

    SEE ALSO: Russia: We're going to respond to a US ship entering the Black Sea

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: The Pentagon plans to hunt enemy submarines using this drone warship


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    A company named Vivos has built an underground bunker that's being marketed to billionaires. This is what it looks like inside and how much it costs

    Produced by Eames Yates, Original Reporting by Madeline Stone and Talia Avakian

    Follow BI Video: On Facebook

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    f-35 dutch air show

    On June 10, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter made its international airshow debut during the “Luchtmachtdagen 2016” airshow at Leeuwarden Air Base.

    f-35 dutch air show

    The first two Dutch F-35A aircraft, AN-1 (F-001) and AN-2 (F-002), that had arrived at Leeuwarden at the end of the type’s first eastbound transatlantic crossing, on May 23, performed an “air power demo” along with RNlAF (Royal Netherlands Air Force) F-16s, AH-64, Chinook that simulated a series of attacks on the airfield.

    f-35 dutch air show

    The Dutch F-35As were deployed to the Netherlands to conduct both aerial and ground environmental noise tests and perform flights over the North Sea range.

    f-35 dutch air show

    The F-35 also performed a flyover in formation with a Spitfire and an F-16.

    f-35 dutch air show f-16 spitfire

    Below you can find an interesting clip showing the “air power demo” by Robin van der Reest.

    SEE ALSO: We compared the sizes of some of the world's most famous aircraft — here's how they stack up

    Join the conversation about this story »

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


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    F-35twoThe Danish fighter competition is over, it would seem, as the parliament has officially approved a program for 27 F-35 Lightning IIs.

    As I noted last week, the purchase price remains indeterminate, so the Danish Defense Ministry may be seriously unprepared for the final bill, if it’s really taking seriously the source-selection team’s calculations. As I wrote earlier this week, it's hard to see how F-35As will cost to procure and fly than F-18Es.

    In Canada, the Trudeau Government seems sharply opposed to the F-35, strongly preferring the F-18E, and largely on cost. In the long run, though, it’s just possible that pursuit of the Joint Strike Fighter could be a low-cost option for air forces. Seriously—read on.

    As recently as this May, the Canadian Department of National Defence may have been wondering whether the F-18E would even be available. That’s one reason why Ottawa is moving quickly. In Defense News earlier this week, David Pugliese reported that the Trudeau Government had decided to buySuper Hornets as an “interim” replacement for the plain-old-older Hornets.

    Competition would be pushed off to the mid-2020s, and participation in the JSF program preserved. That stratagem follows the approach of that other Commonwealth realm, Australia, in its interim purchase of F-18Es, Fs, and Gs. If the plan sticks, it may prove a politically deft move that sidesteps Canada’s very strict federal statutes on competition in contracting. 

    The F-35, the prime minister asserted to the Commons this week, is “an aircraft that does not work and is far from working,” so an emergency purchase under emergency rules is essential to keep the RCAF flying. And to be fair, the Harper Government did similar things to keep the Canadian Army in good shape in Afghanistan.

    f 18 sunset

    A Canadian Super Hornet deal still could pose a challenging industrial problem for the manufacturer. As Byron Callan wrote for Capital Alpha this week, if the RCAF needs a squadron set of perhaps 20 F-18Es, “the trick for Boeing would be to make these aircraft available in the 2018-19 timeframe in order to retain an annual build rate in the low-to-mid-twenties.”

    That would be enough to maintain a credible commitment to NORAD as the Canada’s least airworthy CF-18As retire. As the Liberals’ held during the recent federal elections, “the primary mission of our fighter aircraft should remain the defence of North America, not stealth first-strike capability.” In the near term, keeping Tupolevs from flying in over the Arctic requires some range and perhaps a long-range missile. Low-observability may be optional—for now.

    That gets back to capabilities. As I described it back in 2010, the F-35 is something of a flying antenna, whose electronic capabilities may provide its single pilot with great awareness of his battle space. As I wrote, it may also prove “a great stand-off interceptor, with its electronically scanning radar, infrared tracker, and [eventually pair of] AMRAAMs”.

    F-35 cockpit

    The Stillion Thesis holds that sensors and missiles will matter more than dogfighting skill and maneuverability, so seeing and shooting first may be not just important, but essential, for success in aerial combat. Could a future Russian bomber wander over Canada with its own long-range air-to-air missiles? That big target might also bring a really big radar, perhaps affording the intruder that critical first shot.

    This is why Colonel Alex Grynkewich, who heads the USAF’s Air Superiority 2030 project, told Lara Seligman of Defense News in April, it’s not clear that the next fighter jet will be a fighterper se. Whatever it is, it will be stealthy and sensing, unless the requirements-writers get past what Colonel Mike Pietrucha called, in a March and April two-part series for War On The Rocks, “the Air Force’s overcommitment to stealth.” He so writes because there's already considerable concern that the F-35 will have difficulty penetrating Russian and Chinese ground-based air defenses, stealth or not.

    If low observability does remain important—and I have wondered about this too—then it’s important to note that the F-35 is only really radar-evading when carrying a light load. The airplane's clean lines are ruined by external stores.

    F-35

    Thus some of the F-35’s proponents have been arguing that the close-in work of penetrating enemy defenses, or firing volleys of missiles at ingressing enemies, should be undertaken by robotic “trusted wingmen,” commanded by F-35 pilots through those extensive electronics suites. Numbers have a way of complicating enemies’ plans, and you can’t quite do that manned-unmanned thing without fully-networked assets.

    Looking at the problem from the constraints, this is why Byron Callan of Capital Alpha has written that one of the possible “outcomes for military aviation shortfalls” is supplementing these now more-expensive manned fighters with drones. It's a view espoused just today by Dan Gouré of the Lexington Institute in his call for a new high-low mix for the Air Force, to include manned and unmanned turboprop attack aircraft.

    Earlier this week, David Axe wrote that “instead of buying more than 1,700 identical F-35s over a period of 30 years,” the USAF might consider more frequent updates of electronics and weapons to the “same fuselage, wings, and engines”—and of course lots of drones. If that’s the future, then surrounding a few expensive manned jets with lots of less-expensive unmanned ones could prove the lower-cost option.

    F-35B

    Will this alternative, Workian way of manned-unmanned war work against first-rate opponents? Maybe it won’t, and the USAF will be hoist by its own autonomous petard. Maybe it could, but the Canadians and Dutch will never buy into flying killer robots. Maybe it will be absolutely essential in a 21st-century, Third Offset sort of way.

    It’s hard to know, as flying forces are only beginning to work out the doctrines, operating concepts, technical architectures, and legal authorities needed to make it possible. But it will certainly provide proponents of F-18s, F-35s, and almost anything else a great set of marketing slides for the next sales pitch.

    James Hasík is a senior fellow at the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security.

    SEE ALSO: The strangest things in the cockpit of a Russian Su-34

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: The US Navy is putting the finishing touches on a 32-foot barrel gun with 4,500 mph firepower​


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    ar-15

    The AR-15 holds a dubious distinction.

    Law-enforcement officials have said it has been used by James Holmes in Aurora, Colorado; Adam Lanza in Newton, Connecticut; Syed Rizwan Farook in San Bernardino, California; and, most recently, by Omar Mateen in the deadliest mass shooting in US history — at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando.

    The rifle itself is extremely easy to come by.

    Not much that distinguishes an AR-15 from other production rifles. Often the differences between an "assault rifle" and a "hunting rifle" are superficial — but sometimes they are practical.

    The AR-15 does offer multiple rails, which allow things like scopes, additional grips, and laser sights to be readily added to the rifle.

    Importantly, it is a semi-automatic rifle that is less powerful than many common hunting rifles, but these distinctions mean little in reality.

    A semi-automatic rifle fires as fast as you can pull the trigger. It is commonly known that by "belt-loop firing," you can essentially use the gun's own momentum to make it fire as if it was automatic. 

    ar15

    In states like Florida, where Mateen's rampage took place, there are no limitations placed on the design and capacity of magazines that can be sold for semi-automatic rifles.

    This means that the AR-15's 30-round capacity can be readily expanded.

    Mateen was also licensed to carry a firearm, as he worked as a security officer. That means he passed a background check and demonstrated firearm competency in front of state licensing agents, as The Wall Street Journal noted.

    mateenBut there were also signs that Mateen was violent. 

    Sitora Yusifiy, Mateen's ex-wife, said Mateen "was not a stable person."

    "He beat me. He would just come home and start beating me up because the laundry wasn’t finished or something like that," she said, according to The Washington Post

    Additionally, FBI official Ronald Hopper said Mateen had been investigated twice by the FBI for links to terrorists.

    He was cleared both times, and this did not affect his legal right to own guns. 

    In Florida one can walk into a gun show and leave with an AR-15, or an equally formidable rifle, and leave with it that evening for around $1,000 — even if on the FBI's "no-fly" list.

    An AR-15 fitted with a short barrel and a shortened buttstock, both easily possible, results in a deadly assault rifle that is less than two-feet long, easily concealable in a heavy coat, and it's extremely easy to get.

    SEE ALSO: Obama warned of a massive loophole in US gun laws for terrorists just 12 days before the Orlando shootings

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: FORMER GREEN BERET: Essential survival tips that could save your life


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    A handout photograph posted by the Orlando Police Department on Twitter with the words,

    The Orlando Police Department is crediting a Kevlar helmet with saving the life of an officer who responded to the deadliest mass shooting in history.

    The department on Sunday posted a picture of the officer's helmet showing damage from being struck by a bullet during the incident. The green paint is chipped, parts of the fabric is torn and there appears to be a small hole.

    "Pulse shooting: In hail of gunfire in which suspect was killed, OPD officer was hit. Kevlar helmet saved his life," the department tweeted on its Twitter account.

    The make and model of the helmet weren't immediately known.

    The officer, who wasn't identified but was presumably a member of the department's SWAT team, suffered an eye injury, Danny Banks, special agent in charge of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s Orlando bureau, told CNN.

    The incident was the deadliest mass shooting in American history, with at least 50 individuals confirmed dead and another 53 injured. The shooting began around 2 a.m. Sunday at a packed Orlando nightclub called Pulse, which caters to the lesbian, bisexual, gay and transgender, or LBGT, community.

    The gunman, who was shot and killed in a shootout with police, pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, during a 911 call, CNN reported. He was identified as Omar Mateen, a 29-year-old citizen and Muslim who lived in Port St. Lucie, Florida, and whose parents were of Afghan origin, Fox News reported.

    "This was an act of terror and an act of hate," President Barack Obama said during a press conference at the White House.

    Barack Obama

    Obama credited first responders with preventing an even deadlier attack by quickly responding to the scene and rescuing hostages. Mateen reportedly held dozens of people hostage until about 5 a.m., at which point the Orlando Police Department's SWAT team raided the building using an armored vehicle and stun grenades, and killed him, The New York Times reported.

    "Their courage and professionalism saved lives and kept the carnage from being worse," Obama said. "It's the kind of sacrifice our law enforcement professionals make every day."

    SEE ALSO: There's a key difference between the Orlando attack and past ISIS-claimed massacres

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    Marine Gen. James N. Mattis is something of a legend in the US military. Looked at as a warrior among Marines, and well-respected by members of other services, he's been at the forefront of a number of engagements. 

    He led his battalion of Marines in the assault during the first Gulf war in 1991, and commanded the task force charging into Afghanistan in 2001. In 2003, as a Major General, he once again took up the task of motivating his young Marines to go into battle.

    One day before beginning the assault into Iraq, on March 19, 2003, every member of 1st Marine Division received this letter, written in Mattis' own hand.

    In the letter, he tells them, "on your young shoulders rest the hopes of mankind." He conveys a sense of staying together and working as a team, writing, "keep faith in your comrades on your left and right and Marine Air overhead. Fight with a happy heart and a strong spirit."

    He finally signs off with the motto of 1st Marines: "No Better Friend, No Worse Enemy."

    You can see the full letter below:

    general mattis marines letter iraq

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: FORMER GREEN BERET: Essential survival tips that could save your life


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    putin military russia

    On Thursday, Russia grounded it's entire fleet of Su-27s, believed to be more than 300 planes, after a jet from the Russian acrobatic team crashed and killed the pilot.

    The latest incident follows a string of deadly accidents which continues to underscore Russia's military maintenance and modernization woes.

    In March, Russia withdrew the majority of their best pilots from Syria even though they had "left some important military tasks unfinished," like encirclement of Aleppo, as Jeff White, a defense fellow at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told Business Insider previously.

    Since Russian President Vladimir Putin's withdrawal from Syria, Russian planes have carried out a number of high profile stunts, including simulating an attack on the USS Donald Cook and pulling "top gun stunts" over a US recon plane that was performing a routine patrol over the Baltic sea in international airspace. 

    russian jet su 24 baltic donald cook

    What's more, Russia's new T-50 (aka PAK FA) was seen flying over Crimea for Aviadarts, the Russian version of Red Flag, a US-led air force exercise that trains fighters in realistic scenarios. 

    The flight of the T-50 over Crimea came off as especially brazen due to Russia's illegal 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine. And while the tactic was perfect for propaganda purposes, the jet doesn't hold up to closer scrutiny. 

    The fact is that the T-50, the first truly new airframe designed in Russia for some time, has been plagued by difficulties in its development. Russia routinely touts the plane as being a "fifth generation fighter," but as IHS Jane's notes, it's a fifth generation fighter in name only.

    The design fails to adequately integrate the avionics and integrated stealth characteristics that typify true fifth generation platforms like America's F-22 Raptor and the F-35 Lightning II.

    Sukhoi PAK FA

    The T-50 failed to impress at a Singapore air show, and India was so unimpressed with the T-50 that they decided to shelve their version of the fighter, citing failing engines and high costs.

    Instead, it is likely that the T-50 flying over Crimea was another flashy move done for propaganda purposes, to show that Russia has an advanced and powerful air force, despite evidence of the contrary. 

    SEE ALSO: The strangest things in the cockpit of a Russian Su-34

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: JOHN MCAFEE: This is why the US is losing the ‘cyber war’ to China and Russia


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    north korea

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) - North Korea may be significantly expanding its nuclear weapons production and could have added six or more weapons to its stockpile in the last 18 months, a U.S. research institute said on Tuesday.

    The Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) estimated last year that North Korea had 10 to 16 nuclear weapons at the end of 2014. It based that conclusion on an analysis of the country's production of weapons-grade uranium and plutonium recovered from spent nuclear fuel.

    In revised estimates contained in a report provided to Reuters, the institute's David Albright and Serena Kelleher-Vergantini said North Korea may have added another four to six weapons since then, for a total of 13 to 21 or even more today.

    The report said the 13 to 21 estimate did not take into account the possible production of additional highly enriched uranium at a second centrifuge plant thought to exist in North Korea.

    "Nonetheless, this exercise, despite not being comprehensive, shows that North Korea could be significantly increasing its nuclear weapons capabilities," the report said, adding that most of the increase could be attributed to the production of weapons-grade uranium.

    The report came a week after a senior U.S. State Department official told Reuters that North Korea had restarted production of plutonium fuel, indicating that it planned to pursue its nuclear weapons program in defiance of international sanctions that followed its fourth nuclear test in January.

    Plutonium also can be used to make nuclear weapons.

    The institute's report said the group independently confirmed activity inside the radiochemical laboratory at North Korea's Yongbyon nuclear site.

    kim jong un

    It said commercial satellite imagery from June 8 did not show direct signs, but noted "indirect signatures associated with plutonium-separation" there.

    These included the removal of tanks previously spotted in front of the laboratory's reception building and signs that a coal-fired steam generation plant may have been active on June 8.

    The report also noted signs of external activity at a site the institute identified as a possible isotope-separation facility that could be used to produce tritium for thermonuclear weapons that North Korea has said it intends to develop.

    North Korea vowed in 2013 to restart all its nuclear facilities, including the main reactor and a smaller plant at Yongbyon, which was shut down in 2007 as part of an international disarmament-for-aid deal that later collapsed.

    North Korea announced at a rare congress of its ruling Workers' Party last month that it would strengthen its nuclear weapons capability.

    (Editing by Richard Chang)

    SEE ALSO: This one graphic is all you need to see to realize North Korea is a real threat to the US

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    NOW WATCH: Here’s how North Korea’s weird internet works


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    Coast Guard icebreakerAs China expands its fleet of icebreakers capable of traversing the Arctic region, the commandant of the Coast Guard said he was “concerned.”

    China will soon launch a second medium icebreaker, said Adm. Paul Zukunft. While the country’s interest in the Arctic region may be benign, it is at the moment unclear, he said June 13 during remarks at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank. The speech was held in conjunction with the U.S. Naval Institute.

    “I don’t know what the long-range plan is — you know what is China’s vision for an Arctic strategy. Beyond the global commons, where are those lines drawn and will it encroach upon the sovereign interest of the United States? I can’t answer that question so obviously that does cause me great concern,” he said.

    “I’m not as concerned when I see an icebreaker doing research but if I see a mobile offshore drilling unit now moving up there [it’s], ‘Houston, we have a problem,’” he said.

    China — which is bulking up its Navy — has been making waves in the South China Sea as it builds man-made islands in disputed territory. It could be turning its gaze to the Arctic now. In January, it was reported that the country had commissioned a new icebreaker known as the Haibing 722. China also operates the Xue Long, which was built in 1993.

    The Arctic region is rich in oil, natural gas and minerals, Zukunft said. There are a number of actors that have interests in the region, particularly as sea ice melts and new sea lanes open up.

    “About 13 percent of the world’s oil, … about a third of the world’s natural gas and about a trillion dollars worth of minerals reside on the seafloor up in the Arctic region,” he said.

    Arctic map

    Compared to other northern countries — such as Canada, Sweden, Finland and Russia — the United States has limited vessels that can traverse the icy expanses of the Arctic.

    The Coast Guard currently owns three polar icebreakers — the USCGC Polar Star, USCGC Polar Sea and the USCGC Healy. Only the Polar Star, a heavy-duty vessel, and the Healy, a medium-duty vessel, are operational.

    The service has for years been making the case for the construction of a new polar icebreaker. It has been estimated that it could cost $1 billion to procure. The Obama administration's fiscal year 2017 budget request allotted $150 million to support design activities required to begin production of the ship in fiscal year 2020.

    “We’ve already hired acquisition staff personnel so we can get a jump start if we have an appropriation,” he said. Even if the United States had more icebreakers, however, the country will never have enough presence to meet every challenge in the region, he said.

    “The United States can’t do it alone,” he said. It must collaborate with other Arctic nations during emergencies.

    china xue long icebreaker

    Zukunft recently met with Arctic Council member states — which include Russia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden — to stress the importance of collaboration and to set up an information-sharing infrastructure, he said.

    “The first thing we need to do is set up a communication protocol, an information exchange where we can communicate with one another 24/7 and share domain awareness of what is happening in the high north latitudes,” he said. “In March we will meet one last time while we chair the Arctic Council to finalize these operating guidelines for the Arctic.”

    For example, under such an information sharing agreement, Zukunft could easily call Russian counterparts if the nation displayed provocative behavior in the region, he said.

    “Say you have an event up in the Arctic, and maybe it’s our icebreaker and for whatever reason we get buzzed by a Russian aircraft. I can reach out to my counterpart and say ‘Hey, what’s up with this?’ The other service chiefs don’t have that luxury,” he said.

    The region is “the one area where we have an open dialogue with our Russian counterparts in terms of how do we frame the strategic environment of the Arctic,” he said.

    The United States’ icebreaker fleet pales in comparison to that of Russia, which has 41 such vessels. Even so, Russian officials have said the country doesn’t have enough resources to meet the demands of the Arctic alone, Zukunft added.

    SEE ALSO: The only map you need to see to know the Arctic is the next major frontier

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    NOW WATCH: Watch a US Navy submarine rise through the ice in the Arctic Circle


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    The United States littoral combat ship USS Coronado is shown during a media tour in Coronado, California April 3, 2014. The ship will be commissioned on April 5. REUTERS/Mike Blake

    On Tuesday, the US Navy announced that the USS Coronado had completed initial operational tests and evaluations with Raytheon's SeaRAM antiship missile-defense system and, in doing so, answered a big question.

    Antiship cruise missiles have long been an area of concern for US military planners, as China and Russia develop increasingly mature and threatening missiles of that type.

    Effectively, Russia's and China's antiship missiles and air power have the capability to deny US or NATO forces access to strategically important areas, like the South China Sea, the Black Sea, and the Baltics.

    And that's where the SeaRAM antiship cruise missile could potentially be a game changer. Building upon the already capable Phalanx close-in weapons system, a computer-controlled 20 mm gun system that automatically tracks and fires on incoming threats, the SeaRAM system simply replaces the gun with a rolling airframe missile launcher.

    The autonomous firing controls of the SeaRAM system, as well as it's use of the existing Phalanx infrastructure, means that the system will have relatively low manning costs, and that its procurement was affordable.

    The tests showed that the SeaRAM system performed in hostile, complicated conditions. Raytheon claims that the system shot down two simultaneously inbound supersonic missiles as they flew in "complex, evasive maneuvers."

    Here is the SeaRAM tracking and firing on a target:

    "The successful testing on the Independence variant (USS Coronado) demonstrates the self-defense capabilities of the ship and systems and installs confidence in Coronado as the ship prepares for its maiden deployment this summer," said LCS program manager Capt. Tom Anderson in the statement.

    Currently, the Navy plans for the Coronado to take an extended deployment to Singapore.

    coronado searam rolling airframe launcher

    Cmdr. Scott Larson, the Coronado's commanding officer, said in a NAVSEA statement:

    USS Coronado is designed to fight and win in contested waters, where high-end anti-ship cruise missiles pose a significant threat to naval forces.

    Today's test validates the Independence variant's ability to effectively neutralize those threats and demonstrates the impressive capability SeaRAM brings to our arsenal.

    SEE ALSO: US Navy is sending more ships to East Asia amid rising tensions with China

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    NOW WATCH: The US Navy's last line of defense is this ultimate gun


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    Operation Blue Peacock

    The Cold War spawned decades' worth of bizarre weapon ideas as the West and the Soviet Union strove towards gaining the strategic upper hand over their superpower rival.

    The US was responsible for at least seven nuclear weapon designs during the Cold War that now seem outlandish or ill-advised. But the US wasn't alone in its willingness to build seemingly absurd weapons systems to gain some kind of advantage over the Soviets.

    In the 1950s, the UK designed a nuclear landmine that would be placed in West Germany to stop a hypothetical Soviet assault on the rest of Europe, the BBC reports. The landmine, dubbed Operation Blue Peacock, would be operated remotely so that it could be detonated at the moment when it could inflict maximal damage on the invading Red Army. 

    But the weapon had a major hitch. Buried underground, it was possible that the mine would become cold to the point that the detonator would be unable to trigger a nuclear blast. In 1957, British nuclear physicists found a solution: chickens. 

    "The birds would be put inside the casing of the bomb, given seed to keep them alive and stopped from pecking at the wiring," the BBC notes. The chickens' body heat would be enough to maintain the triggering mechanism's working temperature. In all, the chickens would be estimated to survive for a week, after which time the bomb would return to a possibly cooled and inoperable state. 

    In all, the landmines designed in Operation Blue Peacock were thought to yield a 10-kiloton explosion which would produce a crater 375 feet in diameter, according to the American Digest. Such destructive potential ultimately led to the abandonment of the project as the British realized that there would be an unacceptable amount of nuclear fallout from such a blast — never mind the complicated issue of burying nuclear weapons within the territory of an allied nation. 

    By 1958, after the production of only two prototypes, Operation Blue Peacock was abandoned. 

    SEE ALSO: The 12 largest man-made explosions in history

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    130 mm smoothbore Rheinmetall

    Last week at Eurosatory 2016, an international defense exhibition, Germany's Rheinmetall unveiled a new and enlarged cannon to be fitted to a new generation of tanks, and perhaps to take part in the next generation of tank warfare.

    Currently, the standard for main battle-tank turrets across NATO nations is the 120 mm smoothbore, also developed by Rheinmetall.

    The standard caliber makes coordination on munitions and procurement easy between allied nations, but it also allows adversary nations to plan against a common offense.

    Such is the case with Russia's T-14 Armata tank, which seems to have been designed with NATO's antitank capabilities in mind. The Armata features active defenses and explosive reactive armor that the 120 mm smoothbore rounds from a US M1 Abrams or a German Leopard 2 may struggle to pierce.

    But defensive features like reactive armor and active defense are modular, and can be added to existing tanks. What can't readily attach to an existing tank is a bigger turret, which the Armata has.

    The Armata features a 125 mm main cannon, and Rheinmetall's new turret is just a hair bigger at 130 mm, but these small adjustments make a big impact. According to the company, though it's increasing the caliber by only 8%, it's providing a 50% increase in kinetic energy to projectiles over the 120 mm turrets NATO uses today.

    leopard 2a5 strong europe tank challenge

    Along with the new turret, it's designed a new armor-piercing fin-stabilized discarding sabot round, which is a fancy way of describing a round that is not explosive but rather meant to channel the force of the tank blast into a long tungsten penetrator rod that melts through enemy armor and defenses.

    The new turret and rounds still have a long way to go before being fitted into any tanks new or old. The entire turret, including the recoil system, weighs 3.5 tons and fires rounds that weigh more than 60 pounds and measure over a yard in length, IHS Jane's notes.

    strong tank europe leopard tank germany

    The hulking turret assembly and rounds may require a new tank with an autoloader, and one that's able to withstand the increased recoil, Defense News notes.

    But that's exactly what the joint German and French venture to develop a new tank, called the "main ground combat system," seeks to develop: a tank capable of meeting next-generation threats, possibly bearing the standard cannon of the future, the 130 mm smoothbore.

    SEE ALSO: The US Navy just developed an answer to one of the biggest threats from Russia and China

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    Bones, suspected to belong to members of  Iraq's Yazidi community, are seen in a mass grave on the outskirts of the town of Sinjar, November 30, 2015. REUTERS/Ari Jalal/Files

    Islamic State is committing genocide against the Yazidis in Syria and Iraq to destroy the religious community of 400,000 people through killings, sexual slavery and other crimes, United Nations investigators said on Thursday.

    Their report, based on interviews with dozens of survivors, said that the Islamist militants had been systematically rounding up Yazidis in Iraq and Syria since August 2014, seeking to "erase their identity" in a campaign that met the definition of the crime as defined under the 1948 Genocide Convention.

    "The genocide of the Yazidis is ongoing," it said.

    The 40-page report, entitled "They Came to Destroy: ISIS Crimes against the Yazidis", sets out a legal analysis of Islamic State intent and conduct aimed at wiping out the Kurdish-speaking group, whom the Sunni Muslim Arab militants view as infidels and "devil-worshippers".

    The Yazidis are a religious sect whose beliefs combine elements of several ancient Middle Eastern religions.

    "The finding of genocide must trigger much more assertive action at the political level, including at the (U.N.) Security Council," Paulo Pinheiro, chairman of the commission of inquiry, told a news briefing.

    Commission member Vitit Muntarbhorn said it had "detailed information on places, violations and names of the perpetrators", and had begun sharing information with some national authorities seeking to prosecute foreign fighters.

    The four independent commissioners urged major powers to rescue at least 3,200 women and children still held by Islamic State (IS or ISIS) and to refer the case to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for prosecution.

    "ROAD MAP FOR PROSECUTION"

    Yazidi Girl Sinjar

    "ISIS made no secret of its intent to destroy the Yazidis of Sinjar, and that is one of the elements that allowed us to conclude their actions amount to genocide," said another investigator, Carla del Ponte.

    "Of course, we regard that as a road map for prosecution, for future prosecution. I hope that the Security Council will do it because it is time now to start to obtain justice for the victims," added del Ponte, a former U.N. war crimes prosecutor.

    Islamic State, which has proclaimed a theocratic caliphate - based on a radical interpretation of Sunni Islam - in areas of Iraq and Syria under its control, systematically killed, captured or enslaved thousands of Yazidis when it overran the town of Sinjar in northern Iraq in August 2014.

    At least 30 mass graves have been uncovered, the report said, calling for further investigations.

    yazidi clothes

    Islamic State has tried to erase the Yazidis' identity by forcing men to choose between conversion to Islam and death, raping girls as young as nine, selling women at slave markets, and drafting boys to fight, the U.N. report said.

    Yazidi women are treated as "chattel" at slave markets in Raqqa, Homs and other locations, and some are sold back to their families for $10,000 to $40,000 after captivity and multiple rapes, according to the report.

    Militants have begun holding "online slave auctions", using the encrypted application Telegraph to circulate photos of captured Yazidi women and girls, "with details of their age, marital status, current location and price"," it said.

    "No other religious group present in ISIS-controlled areas of Syria and Iraq has been subjected to the destruction that the Yazidis have suffered," the report added.

    SEE ALSO: NATO WARNS: Russia is building a military 'zone of influence'

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    AH 64E apacheArmyAH-64 Apache attack helicopters have gone into action in Iraq for the first time in support of the slow-moving advance on Mosul but were being kept out of the ongoing siege of Fallujah, where increasing reports of abuses and killings of Sunni refugees have emerged.

    Baghdad government spokesman Saad al-Hadithi said an investigation had begun of charges that the Popular Mobilization Forces, the Shiite militia backed by Iran that has joined the Iraqi Security Forces encircling Fallujah, had gone on a killing spree against Sunnis fleeing the city 40 miles west of Baghdad, Reuters reported.

    The investigators "are following up on the violations and a number of arrests have been made. Strict orders were issued to protect civilians," Hadithi said.

    Suhaib al-Rawi, governor of Anbar province where Fallujah is located, said on Sunday that 643 men who escaped from Fallujah had gone missing between June 3 and June 5, and "all the surviving detainees were subjected to severe and collective torture by various means." He charged that 49 Sunni men had been executed by the PMF.

    The United Nations and Amnesty International last week said they had received "credible reports" of the beatings and executions of Sunni men and boys who were separated from the women and children after fleeing Fallujah and were interrogated on suspicion that they might be members of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), or sympathizers.

    Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, said "we're certainly aware of the reports, the allegations against the PMF," but the was not involved in the effort to cope with the flow of refugees, or in sorting out whether ISIS members might be hiding in the groups fleeing Fallujah.

    ISIS map

    Davis said American trainers and advisers teach the Law of Armed Conflict on the humanitarian treatment of civilians to Iraqi forces, but the has no dealings with the PMF.

    Davis said Apaches attacked and destroyed an ISIS vehicle-borne improvised explosive device near the town of al-Qayyarah in the Tigris River Valley about 40 miles south of Mosul on Monday.

    The government of Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi authorized the use of the helicopters for the plan to retake northwestern Mosul, but there were no immediate plans to use the gunships in Fallujah, Davis said.

    Apache_Helicopter_Firing_Rockets_MOD_45154922 1024x573 (DC)

    Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, who was in Brussels for a NATO defense ministers meeting, told reporters on his plane Monday that the Apaches "were employed against an ISIL target, an ISIL target was struck in the operation. This is the first time that it's been called into action, and effectively" against ISIL (another acronym for ISIS), Carter said.

    SEE ALSO: Real-time drone footage just gave the Apache a deadly advantage

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


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