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The latest news on Defense from Business Insider

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    Csis andrew metrick

    At a recent Center for Strategic & International Studies conference on "Undersea Warfare in Northern Europe," a research assistant and a "guru" on Russia's naval capabilities revealed one of the most frightening and disturbing weapons in Moscow's navy.

    Andrew Metrick, the coauthor of a report that details the uptick in Russian submarine activity in the North Atlantic, outlined Russia's troubling return to Cold War-era levels of submarine patrols, much of which has been previously reported.

    Meanwhile, the report also stated that US and NATO antisubmarine warfare capabilities had "atrophied."

    One detail, however, stood out: "I want to talk about something that isn't talked about a lot, it's the Russian auxiliary submarine force," said Metrick.

    "Russia operates a small number of very small, nuclear powered submarines that are capable of diving in excess of several thousand meters," he said.

    Metrick was referring to the Losharik, a very secretive submarine with a fantastic design, capabilities, and the potential to carry out clandestine operations.

    Nuclear-powered submarines can operate undetected underwater for vast periods of time, allowing them to position themselves almost anywhere. This vessel is a particular threat because of it's size and ability to dive to incredible depths.

    In the past, vessels able to dive miles underwater were used for research purposes, but Russia's Losharik has been converted into a ballistic-missile submarine.

    Losharik submarine russia

    "You can imagine what a clandestine deployable deep submergence vehicle could be used for," said Metrick. "It's pretty scary to think about some of the types of missions it can be used for."

    "It's probably the most shadowy part of the Russian undersea apparatus. It's not operated by their navy, it's operated by a separate branch of their ministry of defense," he said.

    Given the fact that Russia operates many submarines capable of launching nuclear-tipped missiles, and their frequent intrusions into waters near undersea telecommunications cables, and even near to the UK's Faslane naval base, which houses its nuclear deterrent, the Lorsharik rightfully gives NATO naval planners pause.

    SEE ALSO: Meet the US's answer to China's 'carrier killer' missile

    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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    FILE - In this March 9, 2012, file photo, China's People's Liberation Army Gen. Guo Boxiong attends a session of the National People's Congress in Beijing. A Chinese military court on Monday, July 25, 2016, sentenced Guo Boxiong to life in prison for taking bribes, concluding China's highest-level prosecution of a military figure in decades. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan, File)

    BEIJING (AP) — A Chinese military court on Monday sentenced a former top general to life in prison for taking bribes, concluding China's highest-level prosecution of a military figure in decades.

    Guo Boxiong was also stripped of his rank and forced to hand over all his assets to the Chinese government, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

    Guo, 74, is a former vice chairman of the Central Military Commission, which is led by Xi Jinping, China's president and leader of the ruling Communist Party. Guo also was once among the 25 members of the party's Politburo.

    While few details of the charges against Guo were immediately released, state media had reported that prosecutors had proof that he and his family took advantage of his position and accepted bribes to arrange promotions and assignments for others.

    The reports cited prosecutors as saying Guo had confessed to the bribery charges.

    Guo is among the most powerful figures to fall in Xi's sweeping anti-corruption drive. Guo's former immediate subordinate on the military commission, Gen. Xu Caihou, was also facing prosecution when he died of cancer in March last year.

    Hong Kong's South China Morning Post newspaper quoted an unidentified military source as saying Guo had taken a total of 80 million yuan ($12.3 million) in bribes.

    Though officially retired, Guo continued to enjoy many of the rights and privileges of his exalted status.

    As the commission's first-ranking vice chairman, Guo was responsible over a decade for the daily operations of the 2.3 million-member People's Liberation Army, the world's largest standing military. During that time, the military enjoyed large annual budget increases, fueling competition for potentially lucrative control over funds, units and support functions such as construction.

    Guo's prosecution had been expected since March 2015, when his son, Maj. Gen. Guo Zhenggang, was placed under formal investigation for corruption and unspecified criminal activity. The senior Guo was expelled from the party a year ago.

    Some top generals are reported to have accumulated stunning fortunes through corruption in both cash and gifts, including golden statues of Mao Zedong and cases of expensive liquor stacked to the ceiling in secret underground caches.

    Such practices are believed by some to have sapped morale and battle worthiness in the People's Liberation Army, and Xi has relentlessly driven home the need for officers to keep their hands clean and follow the party's leadership.

    SEE ALSO: China’s new fifth-generation stealth fighter took another step towards completion

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: This 'Pokémon GO' knockoff is the most downloaded game in China right now


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    Marines F-35b red flag

    For the first time ever, six US Marine F-35s took part in Red Flag, a hyper realistic, three-week-long training exercise that takes place in the skies above Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada.

    The fifth-generation jets will take part in aerial combat and close-air support drills, as well as mock war games against opposing forces as part of the exercise. Red Flag is scheduled to run from July 11 to July 29.

    Red Flag represents an important test for the troubled jet, which has so far been a nightmarish project running behind and over budget. In previous simulations of combat against legacy platforms, the F-35 embarrassingly failed against F-16s.

    However, in more recent simulations, the improved F-35 simply dominated F-15s in dogfights.

    The Marine pilots seem optimistic about the F-35s' prospects in the simulated combat, and they are pleased with the work it has done so far.

    “We’re really working on showcasing our surface-to-air capabilities,” Maj. Brendan Walsh, an F-35 pilot said in a Marine Corps press release. “The F-35 is integrating by doing various roles in air-to-air and air-to-ground training.”

    “With the stealth capability, the biggest thing that this aircraft brings that the others do not is situational awareness,” Walsh said.

    F-35B

    “The sensor sweep capability that the F-35 brings to the fight, not only builds those pictures for me, but for the other platforms as well. We’re able to share our knowledge of the battle space with the rest of the participants in order to make everyone more effective.”

    As with any warplane, the capability of the platform is directly tied to the skill of the pilot, and exercises like Red Flag provide unparalleled opportunities to train in realistic situations. This year, the F-35 will train with F-16s, F-22s, F-18s, B-52s and other current Air Force, Army, Marine, and Navy platforms.

    Lt. Col. J.T. Bardo, the commanding officer of the Marine flight squadron taking part in Red Flag said of the F-35: "If I had to go into combat, I wouldn't want to go into combat in any other airplane."

    Watch a video report on the F-35 at Red Flag below:

    SEE ALSO: This is the 'most shadowy' part of Russia's navy — and it is rightfully giving NATO planners pause

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: GREEN BERET: This is how we're different from US Navy SEALs


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    A-10 landing

    The following video shows an A-10C Thunderbolt II from the 190th Fighter Squadron at Gowen Field in Idaho taking off from Nevada's Nellis Air Force Base and proceeding to an austere landing site at Delamar Dry Lake near Alamo, Nevada, on January 26.

    Pilots from the 190th FS performed landings during both day and night sorties to qualify on the unique ability of the A-10 "Warthog" to use unimproved surface landing strips.

    A-10 Thunderbolt pilots in all the US Air Force units perform this kind of training, usually with the support of special tactics squadrons that provide air traffic control at the landing strip; this kind of training is used to validate procedures used when operations occur from within a denied territory, where there is no established landing zone under friendly control.

    Watch the entire video from 124th Fighter Wing:

    SEE ALSO: Here's what's wrong with the A-10

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Watch newly released footage of the F-35B taking off, hovering, and landing vertically


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    The world is ultimately linked by its bodies of water. 

    Global trade relies upon open navigation of the water ways and easy access around the globe.

    However, the following seas have had their fair share of being fraught with tension. We have listed eight of the tensest seas in the world below. 

    SEE ALSO: Russia controls this strategic slice of territory in the heart of NATO-allied eastern Europe

    SEE ALSO: This is what Russian aggression in the Baltic Sea looks like

    Aegean Sea

    Countries in Conflict: Greece and Turkey

    Airspace violations between Greece and Turkey are a common issue between the two countries, especially over the Aegean Sea.

    The island-filled stretch of water separating Turkey and Greece contains maritime boundaries that are a persistent source of disagreement between the two countries.

    Although violations happen with frequency between the two countries, Turkey and Greece have seen a rapid increase in incidents since 2013.



    Black Sea

    Countries in Conflict: Russia, Ukraine, and NATO

    The Black Sea has become a point of geopolitical tension following Russia's annexation of the Crimean peninsula and the conflict with Ukraine. In June 2015, a Russian Su-24 buzzed a US guided-missile destroyer that was operating in the sea raising tensions between the two countries. 

    And in June 2016, the US told Russia that it was planning on continuing its military patrols in the Black Sea over Russian assertions that such a move was harming regional security.

    Earlier in April 2016, Ukraine and NATO member Turkey launched joint naval drills in the Black Sea as both countries face sharply deteriorating relations with Moscow.



    Baltic Sea

    Countries in Conflict: NATO and Russia

    The Baltic Sea is ringed by NATO members, countries leaning towards NATO, and two Russian ports. Since Russia's annexation of the Crimean Peninsula and the start of the Ukraine crisis, tensions throughout the Baltics have steadily risen. 

    On April 12, two Russian aircraft repeatedly flew simulated attack patterns over a US naval ship. In response to the incident, US Secretary of State John Kerry said that the US would have been in the right to shoot down one of the buzzing Russian aircraft — signaling the incredible tensions facing this part of the world.



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    Boys salvage goods from a site hit by air strikes in the rebel held town of Atareb in Aleppo province, Syria. REUTERS/Ammar Abdullah

    My Council on Foreign Relations colleague Elliott Abrams wrote that President Obama’s inaction in Syria “will be a permanent stain on his presidency.” He’s right, and the evidence of the staggering cost of American inaction continues to grow on a daily basis.

    The humanitarian cost is the starkest, with perhaps 400,000 people killed and millions more displaced from their homes or forced to flee the country as refugees. The body count continues to pile up as the Assad regime pounds Aleppo into oblivion. The government was reported to have bombed four hospitals on Saturday night with heavy civilian casualties.

    The French government has accused the Assad regime of war crimes comparable to those committed in Sarajevo during the wars of Yugoslav succession and has called for an immediate humanitarian halt to the fight. The White House has also condemned the hospital bombings and renewed its call for Assad to step down. Given the president’s unwillingness to do anything to compel Assad, this is more empty verbiage that only further undermines American credibility.

    The most effective way for the US, France, and others to save Syrian lives would be by declaring no-fly zones and doing more to help moderate rebels fight back. But that, clearly, is not in the cards. Instead, Secretary of State John Kerry is pursuing a fantastical plan to cooperate with Russia to fight ISIS.

    Yes, this is the same Russian regime that recently bombed a base in southern Syria being used by moderate rebels and their partners in the British and American Special Operations Forces. And yes, this is the same Russian regime that has clearly indicated time and again that its only priority in Syria is to keep its allies in the murderous Assad regime in power.

    Yet Kerry still proposes to share intelligence with the Russians in the naive hope that they will refrain from hitting moderate rebel groups and concentrate on ISIS and the al-Nusra Front. James Clapper, director of national intelligence, publicly warned against this plan, telling the Washington Post’s David Ignatius, “I’ve expressed my reservations about, for example, sharing intelligence with [the Russians] . . . which they desperately want, I think, to exploit — to learn what they can about our sources and methods and tactics and techniques and procedures.”

    As long as the Obama administration continues naively pursuing the chimera of cooperation with Moscow, it will not do anything serious to stop the bloodletting in Syria. And that, in turn, means not only more deaths in Syria but also more oxygen for terrorist groups and more impetus for refugees to leave Syria–including dangerous and mentally disturbed individuals such as the man who detonated himself in Ansbach, Germany, and might have killed many more people.

    SEE ALSO: Turkey's military 'is now a broken force' — and 'it will take years for it to heal'

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: EX-PENTAGON CHIEF: These are the 2 main reasons ISIS was born


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    Marine Corps OCS boot camp

    For anyone who has been through it, recruit training (or whatever your service calls it) conjures up memories of hard work, new life lessons and a real sense of accomplishment.

    But while the reward at the end of the experience seems worth it when it’s over, some parts of boot camp just plain sucks.

    So here are eight things you surely don’t miss about basic training.

    SEE ALSO: Step Inside A Chinese Boot Camp For Teens Who Are Addicted To The Internet [PHOTOS]

    1. Losing sleep

    The days of sleeping until noon are over. Getting up at 0400 or 0500. every morning is the norm. At times, trainees only get four hours of sleep due to night training events. Eventually, recruits learn to take “power naps” during moments of downtime to make up for the lack of sleep.



    2. Eating in a hurry

    During basic training, you have mere minutes to eat your food. This is where the old saying of “eat your chow in a hurry, you’ll taste it later” earns its meaning.



    3. Fire Guard

    You are sleeping comfortably following a long day of training when suddenly a fellow trainee wakes you up and tells you, “It’s your turn for fire guard.”

    It’s 0200, you walk around the barracks or sit at a desk while making sure the doors are secure and everyone is accounted for is part of military conditioning during training.

    On fire guard, you must also be alert because drill sergeants could show up at any time to make sure guards are not sleeping on duty. They may even ask you some military questions or ask you to recite your general orders.



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    President Barack Obama declared in 2013 that all military combat positions should be open to women by 2016, including the Green Berets

    Washington (AFP) - Two women will soon be the first female soldiers to undergo training to become members of the Green Berets, the US Army's special forces, the military said Monday.

    "They are the first two women who have been selected for special forces assessment" following the elimination of the ban on women in combat roles, said Major Melody Faulkenberry, a spokeswoman for the United States Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School.

    She did not give additional details about the candidates.

    President Barack Obama's administration decided in 2013 that all combat positions should be open to women by 2016, including the infantry and special operations forces.

    The Marines had requested some exemptions, but these were overruled by Defense Secretary Ashton Carter. 

    Two female Marines were assigned to frontline infantry roles in May, though it will take some time before they are placed in their new roles. 

    Rules stipulate that a female "leadership cadre" needs to be established in their units at least three months beforehand.

    Although women warriors have frequently found themselves in combat situations in Iraq and Afghanistan, they had previously been barred from joining frontline combat roles.

    Currently, women account for 15.6 percent of the 1.34 million active duty personnel in the Army, Marine Corps, Navy and Air Force.

    SEE ALSO: Witness the moment US soldiers find themselves in close-quarters combat

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: GREEN BERET: Why our strategy against terrorism is making things worse


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    F-35 and F-22

    A recent report from the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies, written by Maj. Gen. Jeff Harrigian and Col. Max Marosko of the US Air Force, gives expert analysis and never before seen detail into how the US's fifth-generation aircraft would fare in a war with China.

    The report starts with a broad overview of fifth-generation capabilities and their roles in the future of air combat, and it concludes with a hypothetical war in 2026 against an unnamed nemesis after "rising tensions in a key region abroad."

    However, the locations mentioned in the scenario are all in the Western Pacific and clearly seem to indicate the rival is China, whose advanced radar and missile capabilities make for very interesting challenges to the US Air Force's force structure.

    F-35 and F-22

    As the scenario takes place ten years in the future, it is assumed that all the kinks with integrating fifth generation fighters into the force have been ironed out, and that the F-35 and F-22 work seamlessly to aid legacy aircraft via datalink.

    In the opening stanza of such a conflict, the Air Force officials say that the US would send its F-35s and F-22s to a wide range of bases across the Pacific, leveraging the US's vast network of bases and allies with some of the valuable warplanes.

    Such a step denies China's ability to land a "knockout blow" as they normally could, because typically US jets stay stationed at larger bases, presenting a more attractive target. Also, by this time, the US's fifth-generation aircraft can find airfields on their own, without the help of air traffic controllers, allowing the force to be further spread out to present less target-rich areas.

    F-15 Elephant Walk

    Additionally, regional allies like Australia, who also fly the F-35, can quickly fill in for US airmen in a pinch. A US F-35 can land on an Australian airfield and receive much the same maintenance as it would at it's home base, the officials claim.

    With the Pacific now a patchwork of small units of F-35s and F-22s, the Chinese would seek to leverage their impressive electronic warfare capabilities, but the officials contend that the fifth-gens would weather the storm.

    "Heavy radar and communications jamming confront US and coalition forces, but fifth generation aircraft leverage their networked multi spectral sensors to detect and target enemy aircraft, while supporting a common operating picture through data links and communication architectures," the Air Force officials write.

    Johnson South Reef south china sea csis

    Meanwhile, legacy platforms like F-16s, F-18s, and F-15s provide a critical layer of defense closer to the US mainland. China's formidable surface-to-air missile capabilities keep these older, more visible fighters off the front lines until the stealthier platforms, like the F-35, F-22, B-2, and the upcoming B-21 do their job.

    The officials recognize the need for the fifth-gen fighters to strike quickly and get out of the heavily contested air spaces. Destruction of many of the US and allied airfields is expected, however the versatile fifth-gens continue to switch up locations as China depletes their supply of ballistic and cruise missiles on low-yield targets.

    HQ-9 China MissileMany of China's SAM batteries are road mobile, so fifth-gen fighters will have to use their geo-location and electronic warfare capabilities to seek and destroy these sites. 

    The onboard sensors in the fifth-gens will provide vital leeway for the fighters to make decisions on the go.

    From the report:

    "Aircraft take off with minimal information—little more than a general target area that may be more than 1,000 miles away. On the way to target, the fifth generation aircraft receive minimal tanker, threat, and target information, but sufficient updates to enable them to ingress, identify, and prosecute targets successfully before returning to operating airfields."

    Loses of US and allied airfields and troops would naturally follow in such a conflict, however the forces are integrated and use the same platforms, so they can quickly fill in for each other in the event of loses.

    All the while, F-35s and F-22s whittle away at China's air defenses, gradually lowering the threat level from high to moderate. Eventually, the bulk of the US Air Force's fleet —legacy fighters— can operate in the area with acceptable rates of survivability.

    F-35 and F-16

    And that's it. Once F-16s are flying over Beijing, the conflict is essentially settled. In the moderately contested airspace, fifth generation jets can essentially data-link with legacy fighters and use them as "armada planes," leveraging their increased capability to carry ordinance to eliminate whatever remains of China's air defenses.

    SEE ALSO: Meet the US's answer to China's 'carrier killer' missile

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Watch newly released footage of the F-35B taking off, hovering, and landing vertically


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    Al Qaeda Nusra Front

    High-level Islamist figures and sources close to Jabhat al-Nusra in Syria have confirmed over the past few days that the group will soon cut ties with Al-Qaeda. Multiple reports also have confirmed that the group’s consultative council (Majlis as-Shura) has recently voted to break away from the terror organization.

    The sources justified the delay of the announcement due to unresolved issues within the group and opposition from some leaders over the move, as well as external pressure being applied by Jund al-Aqsa, a jihadist group operating in Syria. Although similar claims about Al-Nusra’s intention to sever ties with Al-Qaeda have been circulating since late 2013, experts familiar with this topic agree that unlike previous claims, there is growing circumstantial evidence that the group might actually follow through with the move.

    “We’ve heard such claims before, but this one comes after Abu Mohammed al-Maqdisi (an influential Jordanian-Palestinian Salafist) effectively gave his permission for such a move,” Charles Lister, a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute, tweeted yesterday in response to these reports. However, it is still not clear when this split might be announced and what impact the move will have on Al-Nusra in particular and on the dynamics of the conflict in Syria in general.

    Jabhat al-Nusra was established in Syria in late 2011 and quickly gained notoriety for its military exploits against the Assad regime. In December 2012, the group was designated a terrorist organization by the US due to its affiliation with Al-Qaeda in Iraq, whose members would later go on to form the core of ISIS. Nonetheless, Al-Nusra continued to increase its influence and root itself within Syrian society while suspected ties between the group and Al-Qaeda remained unconfirmed speculations.

    However, Syrian opposition groups began pressuring Al-Nusra to distance itself from Al-Qaeda after the former pledged its allegiance to Al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri in April 2013. Regional countries, namely Turkey and Qatar, were also reportedly involved in attempts to persuade Al-Nusra to sever ties with Al-Qaeda, but the group remained loyal.

    However, it seems that recent developments in Syria may be finally changing the group’s calculus.  “Al-Nusra may distance itself from Al-Qaeda because it feels that the creation of the proposed US-Russian air coalition to specifically target them is imminent. The group is also trying to regain the community support it has been losing in Syria by transforming itself into a Syrian group,” wrote Syrian journalist Manhal Barish on the activist website Al-Modon.

    syria map

    Another source close to the group confirmed to the author  that “although talks on breaking with Al-Qaeda have been ongoing for a long time now, the launching of the proposed US-Russian air coalition to target Nusra has played a significant role in the timing of the decision. The Al-Shura Council and the high and mid-level leaders all agreed on the break, with the blessing of Al-Qaeda leadership, due to the threats the group is facing,” said Mohamed Raed, a local activist in Idlib.

    It is not clear how the split will take place or whether it will also be conditioned on certain guarantees and steps taken by rebel groups. According to a member of Jabhat al-Nusra who spoke on condition of anonymity, “Al-Nusra will change its name but the group’s aims and principles will remain the same.”

    Although the source did not refer to any conditions that will come with such a decision, experts familiar with the group stated that Al-Nusra’s decision to split from Al-Qaeda will likely be in exchange for the formation of a new fighting coalition comprising Al-Nusra members and various rebel groups. “Suggestion seems to be that no decision has been made, but that Jolani (Al-Nusra’s leader) will offer a proposition to opposition groups to accept/reject,” Charles Lister wrote in a tweet.

    Similarly, Hassan Hassan, a resident fellow at the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy, stated that Al-Nusra will only change its name, with its agenda in Syria remaining the same. One sticking point in a future Nusra-rebel coalition could be Al-Nusra’s stated goal of forming an Islamic emirate in Syria, per ‪ Zawahiri's proposal in May 2016.

    A senior figure in Ahrar al-Sham, who spoke to the author under condition of anonymity, stated that “I am aware of Al-Nusra’s attempt to break from Al-Qaeda, which is something we have long been asking for. However, there are no ongoing negotiations with Al-Nusra on forming a new coalition as a condition to that.”

    nusra

    The impact of any imminent Al-Nusra split from Al-Qaeda will depend on how the move is carried out and the reaction from local and international actors. Jabhat al-Nusra is trying to change the rules of the conflict in Syria by forcing other rebel groups to increase their strategic cooperation with it. The rebel alternative would be to continue opposing the group, which could lead to their own isolation and increase communal support for Al-Nusra.

    Al-Nusra is also trying to use the threat of a potential US-Russian air coalition to its advantage. “We hope that this move will stop the cooperation between the US and Russia, or at least delay it. Even if the new coalition goes forward and they begin targeting us, people will know that it is not happening because of our name or affiliation, which will be a victory for us and our religion. It will also bring us closer to other [rebel] groups and show us who we can trust and who we cannot,” stated the same anonymous source in Al-Nusra.

    Similarly, Abu Mohammed al-Maqdisi also indicated that those who do not change their position towards Al-Nusra will be exposed. “Al-Nusra has the right to ask those who asked it to break from its leadership to distance themselves from their backers.” Notably, Maqdisi did not comment on the possible consequences for group’s that continue to oppose Nusra.

    Nusra’s previous attempts to eliminate US-backed groups in northern Syria, such as the Hazem Movement and the Syrian Revolutionary Front, may offer some indication on how the group could respond to future rivals. 

    Many experts predict that Al-Nusra will have a tough time benefiting from any public split with Al-Qaeda. “Even if Jabhat al-Nusra breaks from Al-Qaeda today, that won’t stop it from being targeted or labeled as a terrorist group. That was possible two years ago but not anymore. However, we still hope that Al-Nusra will take a genuine decision to become part of the revolution by changing its aggressive project, which is rejected by the community and other [armed] groups,” wrote Ahmed Abazeid, a Syrian journalist.

    al nusra figher US machine gun

    Any decision by Al-Nusra to break away from Zawahiri and Al-Qaeda is also unlikely to occur without internal dissent. “If Al-Nusra goes ahead with the decision to break with Al-Qaeda, the group is likely to be divided and it may even split. The announcement has not yet been made publicly due to strong internal opposition, and as a result, not all of those who strongly oppose it are expected to remain,” said, Hani al-Ahmed, a media activist in rural Aleppo.

    Moreover, Al-Nusra will find it difficult to win over other rebel groups. “Nusra’s attempts to trick opposition groups into supporting them will not work, especially after the former’s attacks against Free Syrian Army groups. When the US-Russian coalition starts targeting Nusra, other opposition groups, especially those who receive support from the US, will not even dare to condemn those attacks,” wrote Manhal Barish.

    Although it may be difficult to persuade rebel groups to change their position towards Al-Nusra, the recent increase in the group’s local popularity indicates that communal support for Al-Nusra would likely increase as a result of any joint US-Russian targeting campaign.  

    Attempts by Jabhat al-Nusra members and supporters to explain and justify the group’s decision to break with Al-Qaeda, instead of denying it, strongly indicates that such a scenario is likely to happen, although it will take some time before it is announced publicly. If the move happens, Al-Nusra will likely change its name while retaining its long-term goal of establishing an Islamic emirate in Syria.

    However, if the split does not happen, Al-Nusra might face the risk of massive internal fracture between members of the group who supported breaking away from Al-Qaeda and those who wished to remain under the umbrella of the global terror movement.  

    SEE ALSO: The staggering cost of inaction in Syria 'will be a permanent stain'

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: EX-PENTAGON CHIEF: These are the 2 main reasons ISIS was born


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    F-35B

    Lately there have been many articles and reports about the services in general, and the Marine Corps in particular, reducing stateside training hours for aviators.

    The reasons for this are varied. Long story short, resources are limited, and a disproportionate share are going to the fight against ISIS and other overseas operations. This means that for those not actually on deployment, there’s not much flying going on. Many pilots are getting fewer than 15 hours a month, and some are getting less than 10.

    When I started flying in the Marine Corps two decades ago, pilots assigned to line units regularly got about 30 hours per month. That gradually dropped to 20. With 30 hours, one steadily improves. With 20, one is at least confident in fundamental skills. With 15 and below, one is just focusing on the bare essentials.

    Once a pilot goes below about 15 hours, his skills start to atrophy. The fundamentals of flying, which need to come naturally, require conscious thought when a pilot hasn’t been in the air enough. So of those limited hours, many have to be spent just practicing takeoffs, landings, and instrument approaches. Every pilot is required to get prescribed numbers of these essential tasks at regular intervals. Those flights aren’t just administrative, they’re essential. Aviation is a dangerous business, even without bad guys shooting at you.

    Other military jobs are dangerous in a combat zone. Military aviation is dangerous all the time. If you can’t bring the aircraft back home at night or bad weather, then the enemy doesn’t even have to work. Practicing the fundamentals is essential. But military pilots don’t just fly from point A to point B.

    They’re expected to do important and demanding tasks in-between, like picking up troops or dropping bombs. The bare minimum does not maintain adequate proficiency in those skills without compromising either mission accomplishment or safety.

    Air Force F-35B Marines

    Some may wonder whether the extra flight time these pilots get while deployed makes up for the deficit incurred stateside. It does to a small extent. Pilots often catch up a little on flight hours while deployed. Modern simulators also make up from some of the shortfall, but there’s a huge difference between playing a video game of landing an aircraft in the dust and actually doing it. Just like in football, one can’t just just practice like a madman for a few months, then play Madden 17 for the rest of the year, and expect to complete at a high level.

    And competing at a high level is, or will be, the problem. As much as President Obama was criticized for saying ISIS was the JV team, as far as aviation goes, it is. It has no real air force or integrated air defense system, which was also true of the Taliban in Afghanistan and of Iraqi insurgents. While the U.S. is blessed to have a large contingent of combat experienced aviators who at know what it’s like to see tracer rounds traveling the wrong direction, that experience has come at the price of not practicing for tougher foes and tougher mission sets.

    While there have been many individual missions that have required exceptional skill and heroism, the bulk of combat aviation sorties since 9/11 have been missions such as “battlefield circulations” for assault aircraft, i.e. moving people and stuff from base to base. Other platforms have similar woes. Many a fighter pilot who thought he’d be dogfighting MiGs has instead found himself working as a JDAM truck driver when he’s not flying a “manned UAV” providing ISR (Intelligence/Surveillance/Reconnaissance) via a Lightning pod or similar system.

    us marines osprey Cobra gold thailand

    What they aren’t doing is practicing missions with large flights of multiple aircraft types or against enemies with“double digit” surface-to-air missiles. While deployed, the military has to do the mission, whatever that is. Back home, the mission should be to rest, recover, refit, and prepare for the next fight or potential fight.

    When the number of hours is barely enough to sustain proficiency in the basics of all-weather flying and landing, it’s laughable to think pilots will get really good at the more demanding mission sets. On top of just maintaining the basics, aviators stateside also have to support tasking from higher headquarters, ranging from the useful, such as helping the infantry train, to the useless, such as supporting “dog and pony” shows for communities or dignitaries.

    A few pilots, either the best, or those who their commanders like the most, depending on who you ask, will get to practice massive missions at advanced training such as the Weapons and Tactics Instructor Course at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Arizona.

    The rest of the herd get the minimums to keep the crew legal to fly their assigned missions. That comes with a price in both safety and mission accomplishment.

    Beyond those, the real cost is in the long term. Doing the minimum in aviation training is like paying the minimum on your credit card. You can live large for awhile, going to parties like the one with ISIS. Eventually the bill gets bigger and bigger, and you end up either limping along for years, never able to get ahead, or going broke when you can’t even afford the minimum.

    A U.S. Marine Corps Lockheed Martin F-35B fighter jet hovers over the runway at the Farnborough International Airshow in Farnborough, Britain July 15, 2016.  REUTERS/Peter Nicholls

    Typically In Marine aviation, a new pilot checks in as a first lieutenant or new captain, does a deployment or two, then ends up as an instructor to the next crop of new pilots. That now mid-grade captain is expected to be at his most proficient at tactics, able to lead the most difficult missions and train the next group of lieutenants.

    If most of those captains barely get the minimums stateside, then spend their deployments schlepping cargo from base to base, the next generation doesn’t get mentorship and flight leadership knowledge passed on to them. And if that group only gets the minimums, too, then…

    Those captains eventually go off to a school, or a staff job, or whatever. They come back as majors, who are now neck-deep in administrative running operations or maintenance, and who fly the minimums, or maybe even less, because they’re too busy dealing with making quad slides in PowerPoint for their commander to show his commander. Besides, the captains are supposed to handle most of the actual flight training, right?

    Eventually, the Marine Corps will be left with squadrons full of pilots who are salty enough from combat service to attract wild deer, but who worry about the basics, like doing shipboard landings.

    When I started in Marine aviation, the old guys, the lieutenant colonels and colonels, often had four or five thousand hours of flight time, sometimes more. By the time I left, I was considered an unusually high-time pilot with only about 3500 hours. Those behind me are on a pace for far less.

    The Marine Corps will never cry uncle on its assigned missions overseas. That “will do” mentality has kept the Marine Corps in good stead for 240 years now. But when what it physically “can do” falls short of what it will do, something is going to break. The nation’s leadership in the White House and in Congress either need to give Marine air more or ask less of it, or the broken something is likely to be many multimillion dollar aircraft and their crews.

    Carl Forsling is a former career Marine pilot.

    SEE ALSO: Behold the most expensive weapons system ever and all of its ammunition in one photo

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    NOW WATCH: The 'Zulu Cobra' helicopter is one of the Marines' most powerful weapons


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    Since 1953, Sikorsky's helicopters have served every US commander in chief since President Dwight D. Eisenhower, and that legacy is poised to continue with the VH-92A program.

    Sikorsky Aircraft, a unit of Lockheed Martin, won the $1.24 billion US Navy contract in 2014 to develop six new presidential helicopters.

    On Monday, Lockheed Martin announced that the VH-92A team "successfully demonstrated that the design meets the system requirements."

    In short, it's all happening.

    The aircraft will now enter production, and test flights are scheduled for 2017.

    hey gorgeous

    SEE ALSO: There is no other helicopter in the world like Marine One, the president's No. 1 getaway vehicle

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    NOW WATCH: President Obama's one-of-a-kind limo is named ‘The Beast’ for a good reason


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    The following 1944 photo, colorized by Marina Amaral, shows two American GIs sitting next to a military vehicle in Nazi-occupied Geich, Germany.

    The two soldiers from C Company, 36th Armored Infantry Regiment, 9th Infantry Division, smoke cigarettes while looking out at the war-torn city.

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    The 9th Infantry Division, nicknamed the "Old Reliables," was one of the first US Army combat units to fight on the ground during World War II. The unit saw a little more than 300 days of combat during the war.

    See more of Marina Amaral's gorgeous colorized photos »

    SEE ALSO: Amazing colorized photos show a new side of World War II

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    NOW WATCH: Inside a secret basement under Grand Central that was one of the biggest World War II targets


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    In the below 1944 photo, colorized by Marina Amaral, US Army troops examine a one-man submarine that washed up on the Anzio beachhead in Italy.

    According to The National World War II Museum, the submarine was converted from a torpedo, with the warhead chamber replaced with a cockpit.

    US troops captured the 17-year-old Nazi pilot when the beached unterseeboot, or U-boat, was found in April 1944.

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    See more of Marina Amaral's gorgeous colorized photos: This rare colorized WWII photo of US troops takes you to the frontlines of Nazi Germany

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    NOW WATCH: Here’s what the US Navy learned about shark attacks during World War II


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    WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Rising sea levels due to hurricanes and tidal flooding intensified by climate change will put military bases along the US East Coast and Gulf Coast at risk, according to a report released on Wednesday.

    Nonprofit group the Union of Concerned Scientists analyzed 18 military installations that represent more than 120 coastal bases nationwide to weigh the impact of climate change on their operations.

    Faster rates of sea level rises in the second half of this century could mean that tidal flooding will become a daily occurrence for some installations, pushing useable land needed for military training and testing into tidal zones, said the report titled "The US Military on the Front Lines of Rising Seas."

    By 2050, most of these sites will be hit by more than 10 times the number of floods than at present, the report said, and at least half of them will experience daily floods.

    Four of those - including the Naval Air Station in Key West, Florida, and the Marine Corps recruit depot in South Carolina - could lose between 75 and 95 percent of their land in this century.

    The report said the Pentagon already recognizes the threat of climate change on its military installations but warned that more resources and monitoring systems are needed to boost preparedness.

    But last month, the US House appropriations committee passed an amendment that blocked funding for the Pentagon's climate adaptation strategy.

    "Our defense leadership has a special responsibility to protect the sites that hundreds of thousands of Americans depend on for their livelihoods and millions depend on for national security," the report said.

    (Editing by Matthew Lewis)

    SEE ALSO: Satellites reveal 'secret' US military bases around the world

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    NOW WATCH: Here's what could happen to Earth over the next 500 years


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    On July 28, 1976, when the SR-71 Blackbird set a world air speed record by traveling 2,193 miles per hour (Mach 3.3) over Edwards Air Force Base in California.

    And nothing in the Air Force’s inventory — past or present — can beat its signature performance characteristics.

    Here are 11 photos that show why the Blackbird remains the standard of aviation cool:

    The SR-71 “Blackbird” was a high-speed, high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft developed by Lockheed’s legendary “Skunk Works” team in the 1960s.

    Sr71The Blackbird was capable of speeds exceeding Mach 3.0. The fuselage was designed to expand at high speeds, which caused the airplane to leak fuel on the ground because the panels fit very loosely when jet was parked. 

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    The Blackbird’s service ceiling (max altitude) was 85,000 feet, which forced crews to wear pressure suits and astronaut-type helmets.BuzzCarpenterSR-71s were manned by two aviators: a pilot and a Reconnaissance Systems Officer who monitored surveillance systems from the rear cockpit.  Lockheed Martin Blackbird SR 71 Rear Pilot

    Only 32 Blackbirds were manufactured, and they were in service from 1964-1998. Despite over 4,000 combat sorties, none of the planes were lost due to enemy fire. However, 12 of them were destroyed in mishaps.sr 71 blackbird

    Claustrophobic types need not apply. The narrow space between canopy rails didn’t give crews much room to move around.

    The outer windscreen of the cockpit was made of quartz and was fused ultrasonically to the titanium frame. The temperature of the exterior of the windscreen reached 600 °F during a mission.

    Lockheed Martin Blackbird SR 71 Pilot Hangar Brakes

    Nothing ‘glass’ about this cockpit. The SR-71 presented the pilot with a dizzying array of steam gauges and switches. And visibility out the front wasn’t the greatest.

    Lockheed Martin Blackbird SR 71 Cockpit

    Although not technically a stealth aircraft, the SR-71 was hard for enemy SAM systems to spot because it was designed with a low radar cross section in mind.sr-71 spy plane

    Because of its high approach speed the Blackbird used a drag chute to slow down on the runway after touchdown.

    Lockheed Martin Blackbird SR 71 Chute Landing Parachute Drag

    Aerial refueling capability allowed the SR-71 to perform long-range, high endurance missions.Lockheed Martin Blackbird SR 71 Refuel KC 135

    The Blackbird still holds the record for fastest air-breathing manned aircraft (a record it broke in 1976). Although the SR-71 is no longer in service, the legend lives on.

    Lockheed Martin Blackbird SR 71 Shock Diamonds Dusk

    SEE ALSO: A US Air Force major describes flying the fastest plane in history

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    NOW WATCH: 11 game-changing military planes from the last 15 years


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    FT. LAUDERDALE, FloridaSpecialists who have studied Russia’s cyber warfare capabilities said the Kremlin is responsible for the hacking and eventual release of 20,000 emails from the Democratic National Committee, adding that there is no sure way to stop these kinds of attacks from recurring.

    Experts who spoke to the Washington Free Beacon cautioned that it is difficult to prove the connection between the hackers and the Russian government with a legal degree of certainty, but they said the evidence indicated Russian involvement.

    Russia’s intelligence services decided years ago to make cyber warfare a national defense priority, said Dr. David Stupples, director of the Centre for Cyber Security Sciences at City University London. They have become increasingly proficient in cyber operations as a result.

    “From around 2007, Russia decided that information warfare was key to winning any world conflict, and that it was this area of capability and technology they decided would benefit from vastly increased military investment,” Stupples said. “What made this decision easier was that Russia was also home to the largest numbers of some of the world’s best hackers.”

    While the DNC is not a high-value military target, “there was still a threefold motivation to hack its system,” Stupples said. “One was to demonstrate that Russia is on top of its game in this kind of shadowy warfare. Another was to embarrass the Democrats and undermine the presidential election process at a critical time. A third was to test U.S. security measures.”

    Testing U.S. defenses would reveal to Moscow how Washington might react in response to further provocations.

    “The goal of testing U.S. security measures is not now, nor has it in the past—proved to be a difficult objective for Moscow,” Stupples said. “The National Security Agency and FBI have long suspected that Russia had penetrated a significant number of sensitive U.S. infrastructure systems in order to test efficacy and document structure—not to mention steal military secrets.”

    cybersecurity

    The goal of Russia’s cyber warfare activities is not just random disruption or embarrassing revelations, Stupples said in May at the European Electronic Warfare Symposium in Rotterdam.

    “What Russia is doing is linking cyber attacking and hacking with its open information warfare methods—propaganda disguised as news programming, funding of NGOs, etc.—and in coordination with its military establishment’s use of electronic warfare,” Stupples said. “By employing all three methods together in an integrated pattern of activity Moscow can achieve what its military theorists call ‘reflexive control’—in other words warping your adversary’s perceptions to the point where that adversary begins to unknowingly take wrong or damaging actions.”

    Russia has a distinct advantage in the cyber realm because it engages the services of non-governmental cyber crime entities, which masks its role in cyber attacks.

    “This is what the U.S. and others of us do not have—proxy cyber warriors,” said Stupples. “What the Russians are saying is that ‘we will make these criminal organizations our partners—recruiting them to do cyber work for the Russian state.’”

    The Kremlin promises its criminal partners it will “turn a blind eye to their attacking banks, disrupting commerce in the west, etc.” as long as they make themselves available to do the odd job for Russia’s intelligence services and military.

    There are currently more than one million Russian programmers engaged in cyber crime, according to the United Kingdom and other NATO intelligence services. These programmers are affiliated with 40 Russian-based cyber crime rings. The United States and its partners could not feasibly match this level of manpower using only government agencies and employees.

    cybercom army hacking military defense command

    The United States has maintained misplaced faith in international agreements or treaties as other state actors have raced ahead in developing cyber warfare capabilities, according to several experts. While Russia, China, North Korea, and other nations sign accords about cyber warfare, they use proxies to carry out prohibited operations and then blame them on criminal enterprises. “How do you prove which cyber attacks by a criminal gang were ordered by Moscow or Beijing and which were not?” asked one European expert.

    The experts said no firewall or security scheme was ever going to be effective to acceptable levels against these kinds of attacks. The most effective deterrent, they said, was an offensive response more severe than the attack suffered.

    “The U.S. administration not only continues to ‘fight the last war’ with ineffective measures, but it refuses to engage in reprisals against Moscow,” said a cyber security specialist in Poland.

    In 2008, a malware program named Agent.btz compromised some of the most sensitive U.S. military computer networks, including those of the NSA. The U.S. military’s offensive cyber unit proposed counter measures that could be taken against the Russian government, which was thought to be responsible for the attack.

    Senior administration officials turned down these suggestions, reasoning that the Russian operation was “an act of espionage and not an outright attack,” according to the Washington Post.  NATO specialists on electronic warfare said Russia exploits these ambiguities in U.S. policy.

    According to Stupples, “Washington is now playing catch up” in a field where its adversaries have invested considerable resources.

    The problem will only worsen with time, said another European expert, who said the current administration’s refusal to confront Russia directly had only made the situation worse.

    “Regardless of who wins this U.S. election, this issue needs to be addressed at the highest levels as soon as a new president takes office in January 2017.”

    SEE ALSO: The worst might be yet to come with the DNC email hack

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    NOW WATCH: Here's what happens when you ask top government officials about an ultra-secret cyber weapon


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    An Egyptian military vehicle is seen on the highway in northern Sinai, Egypt, in this May 25, 2015 file photo.   REUTERS/Asmaa Waguih/Files

    The Egyptian army said Wednesday it killed 25 members of a militia affiliated with Islamic State in the northern Sinai, Sky News Arabia reported.

    An aerial attack by military helicopters on a camp of the Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis group killed 25 militants and wounded 15 others, near the border town of Rafah, the report said.

    The attack was in response to the killing Sunday night of an Egyptian police major in al-Arish, the provincial capital of North Sinai. The attack was claimed Monday by the Islamic State group, Egypt’s Interior Ministry said in a statement.

    The jihadist group’s Egypt affiliate has been waging an insurgency in the peninsula that has killed hundreds of policeman and soldiers.

    The group said in a statement circulated on social media that its fighters “assassinated” the major and made off with his car and automatic rifle.

    The jihadists have kept up the attacks in Sinai, mostly roadside bombings and ambushes, despite a massive military campaign to uproot IS from the eastern peninsula bordering Israel and the Palestinian Gaza Strip.

    Most of the group’s attacks have targeted security forces, but it has also attacked Egyptian Christians and tourists.

    Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis has strong ties to Gaza’s Hamas. Israel’s Channel 2 television reported in June that the commander of IS forces in the Sinai made a secret visit to the Gaza Strip to meet with Hamas terror leaders to widen their cooperation and coordinate attacks on Egyptian and Israeli targets.

    Shadi al-Menei, one of the founders of Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, met with leaders of the Hamas military wing and discussed the ongoing supply of weapons sought by Hamas.

    AFP contributed to this report.

    SEE ALSO: Morocco says it has arrested 52 suspected ISIS militants and foiled several attacks

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    NOW WATCH: An 18-year-old illegally climbed Egypt's Great Pyramid of Giza in broad daylight


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    The killing of an 85-year-old Roman Catholic priest on Tuesday is the latest continuum of ISIS-linked attacks terrorizing Europe.

    The death of the Rev. Jacques Hamel in Rouen comes two weeks after another suspected ISIS lone wolf killed 84 people celebrating Bastille Day in Nice.

    But unlike in the aftermath of the attack on France's Charlie Hebdo office in January 2015 and the string of attacks in Paris in November 2015, which saw unity across France, the country's opposition politicians have responded to the most recent attacks with strong criticism of the government's security record.

    "All this violence and barbarism has paralyzed the French left since January 2015," Nicolas Sarkozy, who is expected to enter a conservative primary for next year's presidential election, told the newspaper Le Monde.

    "You clearly have instances, for example, in Brussels and Paris, where the perpetrators of those attacks were crossing borders with impunity," Fran Burwell of the Atlantic Council said in an interview.

    "The question then becomes how do you get two national police forces to cooperate and share information?" she asked.

    police germany

    The attacks in France, coupled with violence in Germany and Belgium, show that Europe's efforts to work together to fight terrorism have been ineffective.

    "What has changed in Europe is that everyone knows that this cooperation [among European states] needs to be built," Burwell said. "That is going to be a long road. You don't flip a switch and it is suddenly there. That is a big challenge for Europe."

    bohn jrennan

    "This scenario has been a long time coming for Europe," Rick Nelson, an analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told USA Today. "I don't see this letting up anytime soon."

    During a July 13 discussion at the Brookings Institution on identifying emerging security threats, CIA Director John Brennan emphasized that Europe needs to accelerate its plan to form a unified security front much like what the US did after the 9/11 attacks.

    "We learned after 9/11 some very, very painful lessons about how the different parts of the US government, whether it be FBI, CIA, NSA, and others, needed to work better together," Brennan said.

    "And that was difficult and painful, but we were one country and we had one leadership and we were directed to do that ... when you look at Europe and you look at the European Union, there are currently 28 members — soon to be, I guess, 27 — that have separate legal systems, separate information-technology systems, different practices as far as how they follow through on their privacy and civil-liberty obligations," Brennan added.

    "There is still a fair amount of work that needs to be done, but I do think it is going in the right direction, but it needs to accelerate," he said.

    And as the Atlantic Council's Ashish Kumar Sen notes, growing discontent among some far-right political parties about the influx of refugees could make it difficult for German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President François Hollande to win reelection in 2017.

    Reuters contributed to this report.

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    NOW WATCH: EX-PENTAGON CHIEF: These are the 2 main reasons ISIS was born


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    Last week at the Naval Air Station at Patuxent River, Maryland, US Marines carried out the first successful test of the F-35B's GAU-22 gun pod, Business Insider has confirmed.

    Business Insider previously reported on the first test of the F-35A's integrated gun, but the gun pod, which will be used on the F-35B and C variants, is an entirely different animal.

    Instead of the integrated design of the Air Force's F-35A, the Marine Corps' F-35B and the Navy's F-35C will feature a 220 round, 25 mm gun in a modular pod.

    This means that the Navy and Marine variants, which launch from aircraft carriers or amphibious assault vessels, will have the option of excluding the gun to save weight and increase fuel efficiency.

    Here's the GAU-22 ripping a target with pinpoint accuracy:

    While the F-35 has fielded some criticism for its gun, which at 55 rounds per second can empty its entire magazine in under four seconds, the gun actually makes sense for the type of close air support environment the F-35 is expected to operate in.

    The much loved A-10 Warthog, which holds 1,350 rounds, is ideal for flying low and slow, loitering in the sky, and delivering their precise fire to provide close air support. However, this only makes sense in an uncontested air space.

    The F-35's smaller magazine capacity reflect the future of close air support as military planners envision it. The F-35 will usher in an era of quick, and precise strikes that leverage a suite of sensors, electronic warfare capabilities, and stealth.

    Watch the full video of the GAU-22 gun pod fire for the first time below:

    SEE ALSO: Here's how US fifth-generation aircraft would win in a war against China

    SEE ALSO: Marine Corps F-35s will go head-to-head with F-18s, F-22s, F-16s, and more at Red Flag

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    NOW WATCH: Watch newly released footage of the F-35B taking off, hovering, and landing vertically


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