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The latest news on Defense from Business Insider

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    The F-35 has hit yet another snag. During a recent exercise at Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho, US Air Force F-35A pilots set out to practice evading surface-to-air missiles, but they could not, because the SAM radars on the ground could not even find the ultra-stealthy planes.

    "If they never saw us, they couldn't target us," said Lt. Col. George Watkins, commander of the 34th Fighter Squadron at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, told the Air Force Times.

    To participate in the exercise as planned, the F-35As had to turn on their transponders, essentially announcing their presence so the SAM sites could see and engage them.

    "We basically told them where we were at and said, 'Hey, try to shoot at us,'" said Watkins.

    Had Watkins and crew not turned on their transponders, "most likely we would not have suffered a single loss from any SAM threats while we were training at Mountain Home."

    Air Force planners have been counting on the F-35's ability to enter heavily contested airspace unseen by enemy radar and missiles, and the result of this exercise seems to vindicate that strategy, to say the least.


    "When we go to train, it's really an unfair fight for the guys who are simulating the adversaries," Watkins continued. "We've been amazed by what we can do when we go up against fourth-gen adversaries in our training environment, in the air and on the ground."

    The idea that F-35s can enter the most heavily defended air spaces on earth, pass by undetected by SAM sites and radars, and soften up those targets as well as legacy fighters represents the entire reasoning behind the trillion-dollar thrust to get this weapons system in the air.

    Watkins said that with just four F-35s, he can "be everywhere and nowhere at the same time because we can cover so much ground with our sensors, so much ground and so much airspace. And the F-15s or F-16s, or whoever is simulating an adversary or red air threat, they have no idea where we're at and they can't see us and they can't target us."


    Watkins described a "pretty awesome feeling" seeing the grand plans of the F-35 come to fruition in a realistic training exercise, by rendering virtually all other platforms obsolete.

    Utah's Hill Air Force Base, where Watkins commands the squadron of F-35s, now has 21 certified pilots, 222 maintainers, and 15 F-35s at the ready. Another F-35 is scheduled to be delivered at the end of August, and more pilots and maintainers are continually being trained to full readiness.

    According to the Air Force Times, no further shortfalls in supply are expected, and top Air Force brass should declare the plane operationally ready within a few days.

    SEE ALSO: Here's how US 5th-generation aircraft would win in a war against China

    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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    San Bernardino shooting

    Attacks across the Western world—including most recently in Nice, but also of course in Brussels, Paris, San Bernardino, and elsewhere—highlight the growing threat from extremism, with Syria as its home base. It’s time to recognize, therefore, that containment of the Syria crisis (which I think is essentially President Obama’s policy and which many in the scholarly community continue to support) is not working.

    Although ISIS has hideouts around the world, Syria is really its epicenter, as my colleague Will McCants has written in his book “The ISIS Apocalypse.” It’s the epicenter not only in terms of operational hold on territory, but also in terms of the group’s narrative: that of waging an apocalyptic fight against the infidels, through which it will “liberate” the Middle East and turn it into a broader ISIS-controlled caliphate.

    But current U.S. policy on Syria appears to try to pull off a far-fetched three-cushion pool shot, in the words of The Washington Post’s David Ignatius: try to get joint U.S.-Russian operations against Nusra and ISIS, and reduce Bashar Assad’s attacks on moderate rebel forces so they can gain ground. (And in the meantime, I’ll add, get support from Jordan’s King Hussein and all of our allies to put pressure on different groups at different times.)

    But will all that actually come together? I applaud Secretary of State John Kerry, with his seemingly boundless energy, for trying to find some way forward. But with only 300 U.S. personnel on the ground and no advantage in structural forces, this approach is not going to work.

    It won’t work because fundamentally the United States and its allies are weak on the ground militarily—and we don’t have a serious strategy for changing that.

    We need to think about solving this problem, and soon. I would propose the following changes in our Syria policy:

    A man carries an injured girl after an airstrike on Aleppo's rebel held Kadi Askar area, Syria July 8, 2016. REUTERS/Abdalrhman Ismail

    • On the diplomatic front, I think we need to envision some kind of a confederation model as our political goal. There is no other realistic way to square the fact that the United States doesn’t have major allies on the ground, except the Kurds, with real military potential. And yet, we are still hoping to simultaneously defeat ISIS, defeat the Nusra Front, and replace Assad. That approach just doesn’t make sense.
    • Secondly, in terms of military assets on the ground, there are several things we should do differently. For one, we need to be somewhat more willing to work with groups that are tainted by past association with the Nusra Front, as long as we can vouch for the fact that they are not themselves Nusra members. 
      We should give them anti-tank missiles—though not anti-aircraft missiles—and much more help in terms of ammunition, logistics assistance, and food, to help them build up their forces. We must also be clever about employing various options for no-fly zones: We cannot shoot down an airplane without knowing if it’s Russian or Syrian, but we can identify those aircraft after the fact and destroy Syrian planes on the ground if they were found to have barrel-bombed a neighborhood, for example.
      These kinds of operations are complicated, no doubt, and especially with Russian aircraft in the area—but I think we have made a mistake in tying ourselves in knots over the issue, since there are options we can pursue.
    • Finally, we should push the debate about what creating safe havens really means. I don’t think we should start declaring safe havens, but rather try to help them emerge. The Kurds are making gains in Syria’s northeast, for instance, as are some forces on the southern front—so, if the United States, in cooperation with its allies, accelerates and intensifies its involvement on the ground in those areas, safe havens can essentially emerge. An important advantage of this approach is that it doesn’t require putting American credibility on the line, but does help local allies build up and reinforces successes on the ground.

    None of these proposals would be a panacea, and each would come with challenges. But we are in need of a more realistic Syria policy, recognizing that the current three-cushion-shot approach is not working, nor will it ever work if current conditions continue.

    SEE ALSO: One factor may be stopping ISIS and al Qaeda from uniting — and the US should encourage it

    Join the conversation about this story »

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

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    On this day, 72 years ago, the single largest anti-Nazi military operation led by a resistance movement began. 

    The Warsaw uprising, led by the Polish resistance Home Army movement, raged from August 1 to October 2, 1944. The goal of the operation was to liberate the Polish capital, with the help of an advancing Soviet column. 

    However, the Soviets ultimately stopped their advance short and left the Home Army to deal with a renewed Nazi offensive against the city alone. Ultimately, the Nazis crushed the uprising and razed approximately 95% of the city in revenge. 

    This photo of the Warsaw uprising, colorized by Marina Amaral, depicts two members of the Home Army, Henryk Ożarek (left) and Tadeusz Przybyszewski (right), battling against the Nazi occupation of the city. 

    Warsaw Uprising home army

    See more of Marina Amaral's gorgeous colorized photos »

    SEE ALSO: This rare colorized WW2 photo of US troops takes you to the frontlines of Nazi Germany

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: The US Navy’s most expensive war ship ever is experiencing more setbacks

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    Recep Tayyip Erdogan Turkey Speech

    Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ongoing military purge is not merely a response to a coup, but an aggressive restructure, rebranding, and reorientation of the Turkish military. Erdogan began to purge the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) after elements of it launched an unsuccessful coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

    Turkish security forces detained nearly 10,000 service members including 143general officers and admirals in the first week, totaling over 1/3 of the officer corps. Erdogan justified his crackdown on a counterterrorism basis, claiming to remove members of exiled cleric Fetullah Gulen’s movement, which Turkish authorities have designated as the “Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO).”

    He has also dismissed, and in some cases arrested, tens of thousands of judges, civil society members, and academics, and he closed down dozens of newspapers. The extent of Erdogan’s purge and his use of a counterterrorism justification demonstrate his intent to use the coup attempt as an excuse to transform the Turkish military into a source of personal power and eliminate sources of dissent in Turkey.

    The current military purge is part of an ongoing campaign by Erdogan to eliminate threats to his Islamist regime. The Turkish military historically has a secular culture and views itself as a protector of the post-Ataturk democratic society. Erdogan thus views the military as a threat to his vision of an Islamist autocracy and has taken steps to eliminate it since 2007.

     He dismissed 400 Turkish officers including 37 generals and admirals in response to alleged coup conspiracies between 2007 and 2010, prompting the resignation of the Chief of the General Staff and the Commanders of the Turkish Navy, Land Force, and Air Force.

    About half of the Brigadier Generals and Rear Admirals removed this month were promoted to their rank after the initial purges. Erdogan’s aggressive measures after the recent failed coup attempt indicates that he likely seeks to finish his long-time campaign through this final purge.

    Erdogan’s purge targeted a wide swath of the TSK leadership. He used the justification of alleged membership of individual commanders to the alleged FETO rather than direct participation in the coup attempt itself.  The main units that participated in the coup attempt were the Istanbul Gendarmerie, the Istanbul-based 1st Army 3rd Corps, the Ankara-based 2nd Army 4th Corps, the 4th Main Jet Base group at Akinci, and the 10th Tanker regiment at the Incirlik Airbase in Adana.

    turkey military purge

    Erdogan nonetheless extended his purge throughout non-combat units that did not appear to play a direct role in the coup attempt.. He purged the General Staff, the Training and Doctrine Command, and Turkey’s military and police intelligence community, which he condemned for “significant gaps and deficiencies” in failing to prevent the coup attempt.

    Erdogan’s purge centralizes his authority, removes internal resistance, and takes control of the training programs for young military officers in order to retain control of the TSK’s future.

    Erdogan is centralizing his control over a new national security apparatus as he consolidates. He stated in his first interview after the coup attempt: “a new structure will be emerging. With this new structure, I believe the armed forces will get fresh blood.”

    Turkish Prime Minister Yildrum later provided additional details, stating: “There are problems in [the] hierarchy between lower level and senior level [officials.] We will restructure [the army] in a manner that will resolve these problems.”

    Recep Tayyip Erdogan Turkey President

    His statement indicates that Erdogan will collapse some command echelons in order to ensure that the culture and ideology at the now-loyal senior officer ranks diffuses throughout the entire force. A Turkish parliamentary official reported that Erdogan intends to transfer control of the General Staff and MIT from the Prime Minister’s office to his own, which would provide Erdogan with direct operational control over the TSK and Turkey’s intelligence establishment. The move requires parliamentary approval, which he will almost certainly receive.

    He is also empowering the Turkish police, which played a major role halting the coup attempt. Turkish Interior Minister Efkan Ala announced that Turkish police will be equipped with heavy weapons on July 28. The strengthening of the Turkish Police is likely a mechanism to balance the strength of the Turkish Gendarmerie, elements of which participated in the coup attempt.

    Erdogan will also reward commanders that remained loyal to him during the coup attempt by promoting them to senior positions within the government after they finish their service. The career trajectories of these commanders will signal how Erdogan is consolidating his personal control over the Turkish security apparatus. Commanders to watch out for include:

    turkey military purge

    Erdogan’s purge affects the American military relationship with Turkey. In the short term, the TSK will have limited ability to conduct military operations as Erdogan completes his purge and restructure. Former NATO Supreme Allied Commander General James Stravridis said Erdogan’s purge is having a “chilling effect” on the TSK, stating, “there will be a strong negative impact on the ability of the Turkish military to perform its duties across the spectrum of alliance activities.”

    Previous options in the anti-ISIS fight such as deploying large numbers of TSK to shut down the Syrian-Turkish border are likely now unviable in the short term, even if Erdogan wanted to undertake them. Erdogan’s consolidation of personal power and removal of the TSK’s secular culture will likely also have long-term implications for Turkish-American military relations.

    This report will present a partial assessment of the Turkish Order of Battle prior to the coup based upon the rank and position of general officers and admirals that either remained loyal to Erdogan during the coup attempt (highlighted in green) or that were purged in the first week after the coup attempt (highlighted in red).

    Turkish Land Forces

    turkey military purge

    First Army (Istanbul): The 1st Army is headquartered in Istanbul with units stationed along Turkey’s borders with Greece and Bulgaria. 1stArmy Commander General Umit Dundar was critical to Erdogan’s victory over the coup attempt.

    He warned Erdogan of the coup early enough to enable Erdogan to escape detention. He later appeared on television to declare the coup illegitimate, projecting a source of strength and anti-coup sentiment that fueled anti-coup protests. He then led police and civilians to retake the Ataturk International Airport.

    The 5th Corps’ 54th Mechanized Infantry Brigade is headquartered in Erdine and stationed along Turkey’s borders with Greece and Bulgaria. Turkish security forces arrested its commander, Brigadier General Hidayet Ari Erdine.

    The 1st Army also includes the Izmir-based 3rd Corps, currently designated as the NATO Response Force –Turkey. Numerous 3rd Corps units participated in the coup attempt. Turkish security forces arrested 3rd Corps Commander Lieutenant General Erdal Ozturk, although his exact role in the coup attempt is unclear. The 52nd Tactical Armored Division’s 66th Mechanized Infantry Brigade, based in Hasdal Istanbul, participated in the seizure of the Ataturk Airport. Turkish security forces arrested its commander Brigadier General Mehmet Nail Yiğit.

    Second Army (Malatya): The 2nd Army is headquartered in Malataya with units stationed along Turkey’s borders with Syria, Iraq, and Iran. It is Turkey’s second largest land formation at 100,000 troops, including three corps. The 2nd Army is the ostensible “invasion force” - Erdogan would use it in a military intervention into Syria, but had objected to proposals for intervention in the past. It played a large role in anti-PKK operations in southeastern Syria.

    Turkish security forces arrested 2nd Army Commander General Adem Huduti and Chief of Staff Avni Angun along with most of the commanding officers in the Diyarbakir-based 7th Corps, including three mechanized units. Erdogan’s purge of the 2nd Army may make it more amenable for use in Syria in the future.

    Alternately, the purge could neuter the 2nd Army, requiring Erdogan to consider other options for influence in Syria. An alliance with Syrian Salafi-jihadi groups is one possibility, as a previous ISW report examined.

    Third Army (Erzincan): The 3rd Army is the largest Turkish land formation. It is headquartered in Erzincan with units stationed along Turkey’s borders with Armenia and Georgia. 3rd Army Commander Ismail Serdar Savas remained loyal to Erdogan during the coup attempt. The purge left the 3rd Army’s leadership largely intact, possibly indicating its loyalty to Erdogan.

    Aegean Army Command (4th Army) (İzmir): The Aegean Army Command is headquartered at Izmir with units stationed along the west coast of the Anatolia peninsula. It consists primarily of training brigades and the Cyprus Turkish Peace Force. Turkish authorities arrested its Chief of Staff Mehmduh Hakbilen and Deputy Chief of Staff Hakan Eser during the purge.

    Additional NATO Units

    turkey military purges

    The military requirements of allied NATO nations has not deterred Erdogan’s purge. Erdogan has eliminated numerous Turkish generals serving in positions for NATO, demonstrating a newfound defiance. Erdogan’s disruption of NATO could simply be an unhindered extension of his aggressive purge. Alternatively, he could be setting conditions to break with NATO by drawing back Turkey’s role.   

    Allied Land Command

    NATO’s Allied Land Command (LANDCOM) is based in Izmir alongside the Aegean Army. Its duties include serving as the “headquarters element responsible for the conduct of land operations and the synchronization of land forces command and control (C2)” for NATO operations. Turkish authorities arrested the LANDCOM Chief of Staff, Salih Sevil on July 20.

    Resolute Support - Afghanistan

    The United Arab Emirates authorities detained the Commander of the Turkish Task Force for NATOs Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan, Major General Cahit Bakir, and the Commander of the Train, Advice, and Assist Command (TAAC) in Kabul, Brigadier GeneralSener Topuc, and handed them over to Turkish MIT on July 26, 2016. Bakir previously served as the Head of Turkish Air Force Intelligence until his deployment to Afghanistan in January 2015.

    Turkish Air Force

    Erdogan’s purge of the Turkish Air Force constituted ¼ of the total general officers/admirals purged in the first week after the coup attempt. Erdogan removed the commander of all nine Main Jet Base Group Commands, units that include combat air wings. The arrests included the Commander of the 10th Tanker Base Command at Incirlik Air Base, General Bekir Ercan Van, who requested American asylum prior to his arrest.

    turkey military purge

    American officials denied any involvement in the coup attempt, but the prominent role of the 10th Tanker Base has provoked popular demonstrations against the U.S. presence at Incirlik. A consolidation of command and control over Turkey’s combat air wings could position Erdogan to halt Turkey’s participation in anti-ISIS operations without meeting internal resistance.

    Turkish Navy

    turkish military purge

    Erdogan’s purge of the Navy was less severe, but included two key commanders: Commander of the Black Sea Region, Rear Admiral Hasan Dogan, and Commander of the Dardanelles Straight, Rear Admiral Serdar Ahmet Gundogdu. The Black Sea Region and Dardanelles Straight are strategic regions for Turkey in its relationship with Russia. It is unclear whether both commanders participated in the coup attempt, but Erdogan likely seeks to install loyal leaders in these positions.

    This report does not examine detained military personnel at echelons below the general officer/admiral level or the additional personneldishonorably discharged on July 28. Two unidentified generals in the Land Forces have also since resigned. The purge of these personnel is likely concentrated in key geographic areas where Erdogan seeks to solidify his control. Istanbul and Ankara are likely highly represented, along with Izmir, which hosts the 3rd Corps/NATO Rapid Reaction Force.


    Erdogan is reshaping Turkey’s foreign policy away from U.S. interests as he carries out his purge. Director of National Intelligence (DNI) James Clapper outlined the effect of Erdogan’s purge on July 29, stating “many of our interlocutors have been purged or arrested.

    There’s no question this is going to set back and make more difficult cooperation with the Turks.” Erdogan and loyal Turkish authorities have also fueled anti-U.S. rhetoric within Turkey. Erdogan created a narrative that the U.S. supported the coup attempt because of the asylum provided to Fetullah Gulen.

    Turkish officials and media outlets loyal to Erdogan have gone even further, stating that the US was directly behind the coup attempt. One outlet accused former US International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) Commander General John F. Campbell of orchestrating the coup attempt. The anti-American sentiment Erdogan is stoking during his purge may indicate that he is setting conditions for a pivot in Turkish foreign policy away from the U.S.

    Erdogan is meanwhile pursuing a closer partnership with Russia. Turkey and Russia have revived talks over the Turkstream deal since the failed coup attempt, which would expand Russia’s access to the European gas market.

    Turkish authorities have also alleged that the Turkish pilot who shot down a Russian jet in November 2015 was a rogue FETO member, further distancing the Turkish government from the escalation. Former Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu contradicted the allegation, stating unequivocally “I gave the order.” Davutoglu’s statement suggests Erdogan is using the alleged FETO conspiracy to ease his rapprochement with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

    Erdogan is scheduled to meet with Putin on August 9th in St. Petersburg. Erdogan’s purge of Turkish commanders serving in NATO raises the question of whether he is considering leaving the alliance, perhaps to enter into a partnership with Russia. He is most likely to balance both relationships in the near term, but American policymakers must nonetheless brace for the new reality that America’s alliance with Turkey is not guaranteed.

    SEE ALSO: Turkey's president just gave himself the power to issue direct orders to military commanders

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: IAN BREMMER: Turkey’s president wants to emulate Putin — but it’s not going to work

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    Ahead of the US Air Force's decision to declare their variant of Lockheed Martin's F-35 Lightning II combat ready, the Joint Strike Program announced the successful testing of the jet's air-to-air missiles.  

    During testing on July 28, Air Force F-35A test pilot Maj. Raven LeClair identified a drone target and fired an air-t0-air missile from the external wing to engage it over restricted military airspace off the coast of California.

    F 35 and AIM 9X"It's been said you don't really have a fighter until you can actually hit a target and we crossed that threshold with the first air-to-air weapon delivery of an AIM-9X," LeClair said following the successful exercise.

    The F-35A is equipped with two short-range, heat-seeking AIM-9X missiles on its wings, as well as a General Dynamics GAU-22/ 25mm Gatling gun and two 2,000-pound GBU-31 JDAM guided bombs. 

    Even though the Air Force is currently operating the oldest fleet in its history, it's the last of the sister service branches to declare its F-35 variant combat ready. 

    SEE ALSO: The largest buyer of the F-35 just declared it ready for war

    SEE ALSO: The F-35 has hit another snag — this time because it is just too good

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: The F-35 has hit another snag — this time because it’s too stealthy

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    US navy uss ronald reagan rimpac 2010 carrier strike group

    China has an aggressive posture in the South China Sea, the world's largest military, an ever modernizing and threatening navy, and a fearsome domestic ballistic- and cruise-missile program. But there is one thing that it can't buy, build, or claim as its own: allies.

    In the video below, the US leads submarines, destroyers, white hulls, amphibious assault vessels, and more in what has to be one of the most powerful naval formations of all time as part of Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2016.

    Forty-five surface ships, five submarines, and more than 200 aircraft from 26 nations participated in the entire exercise from start to finish, and even China sailed with the group for the early portion.

    In the clip, you see Japanese and Chinese war ships, South Korean submarines, coast-guard ships, and all manner of naval power in a tight formation in the royal-blue waters of the Pacific. Of course, the formation is led by a US aircraft carrier, the premier source of naval power projection today. The US' allies carried on into the ocean off of Hawaii and carried out high-end warfighting drills to build readiness and interoperability. 

    Though China has an impressive grip on the South China Sea with its militarized islands and radar outposts, unilateral action can get it only so far. With China's immediate neighbors disputing their claims, the only multilateral, peaceful way forward is through international cooperation — the kind on display here at RIMPAC:

    RIMPAC 2016 runs from June 30 to August 4.

    SEE ALSO: Chinese official: Prepare for a 'people’s war at sea'

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    china navy

    International tensions continue to mount in the wake of The Hague ruling on July 12 that China’s claims to the South China Sea have no legal basis.

    Considering what’s at stake, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. U.S. trade accounts for $1.2 trillion of the $5.3 trillion of trade that passes through the South China Sea each year. As the Council on Foreign Relations recently noted, a crisis in the South China Sea would seriously impact both regional economies, as well as our own, increasing insurance rates and necessitating longer transits from port to port.

    That the South China Sea may, by Chinese estimates, yield 130 billion barrels of oil (more than any area of the globe except Saudi Arabia), only compounds the importance of a peaceful resolution. However, as U.S. focus intensifies in one area of the globe, it wanes in another.

    It means that, even if we get our way in the South China Sea, we risk losing big in the game of globalization. While the U.S. is busy leading complicated diplomatic processes in Asia, China continues expanding its influence elsewhere, specifically, in the very regions that have moved down the list of U.S. foreign policy priorities.

    Nowhere is this phenomenon more prevalent than in Djibouti, a country situated on the northeast coast of Africa described by U.S. Ambassador Tom Kelly as “at the forefront of [U.S.] national security policy” but one that few Americans understand in terms of strategic value. Though small in size, Djibouti plays a vital role in U.S. national security. It houses our only permanent military base on the African continent and positions us within striking distance of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQIP) and al-Shabaab, in Somalia.

    Similar to the South China Sea, Djibouti is also a critical trade route. Positioned at the choke point between the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, the Port of Djibouti is the nucleus of one of the busiest shipping routes in the world, connecting Europe, the Far East, the Horn of Africa and the Persian Gulf.

    Yet despite its importance, the country has been overshadowed by other American foreign policy priorities, like the geopolitical chess match in the South China Sea. Earlier this year, the U.S. sent the USS John C. Stennis carrier strike group (CSG) to the disputed waters as a show of force.

    djibouti map

    To put that in terms of financial commitment, the acquisition cost of a CSG is roughly $13 billion, and it costs $6.5 million a day to simply operate a CSG. We gave under $5.5 mn dollars in aid to Djibouti in all of 2015, less than the cost of operating our carrier strike group in the South China Sea for just one day.

    When Djibouti – a country led by an increasingly authoritarian leader – held elections last year, the U.S. gave $7,914 for “Elections and Political Processes” and $4,486 for “Political Parties” via USAID. No American election monitors were present. Not surprisingly, incumbent President Omar Guelleh emerged victorious, earning 87% of a vote which activists claim was preceded by political repression, police brutality, and biased national media.

    While the U.S. turns away from Djibouti, China is leaning in, investing billions in infrastructure projects that only extend its influence there. And it’s working. Nearly one year ago today, China and Djibouti came to terms on what is China’s first overseas military base. It will soon give China the largest military presence in the country and a major stake on one of the most strategic waterways in the world.

    The South China Sea is just one investment in China’s increasingly diversified portfolio. For China, the most likely worst-case scenario is they are allowed to save face after The Hague ruling, paving the way for a successful G-20 meeting in Hangzhou and the IMF’s expected acceptance of the Chinese yuan to its globally recognized basked of reserve currencies. Not a bad worst-case scenario.

    SP-MAGTF Djibouti Africa

    The best case could include the above, along with China maintaining some sort of military presence in the South China Sea. If so, the country is, as one senior western diplomat warned, one step closer to developing a “web of bases” that give them “control over strategic waterways all the way into the Med[iterranean Sea].”

    It’s clear China is playing the long game, actively investing in strategic influence around the globe. As the United States works towards a peaceful conclusion in the South China Sea, we must also remain focused on nurturing critical diplomatic relationships elsewhere. Making our influence felt in the South China Sea is important, but far less so if it dissolves our position in countries like Djibouti.

    James D. Durso is the Managing Director of Corsair LLC, a supply chain consultancy. He was a professional staff member at the 2005 Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission and the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Mr. Durso served as a U.S. Navy officer for 20 years. His overseas postings were as a Foreign Military Sales advisor in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, and in Iraq as a civilian transport advisor with the Coalition Provisional Authority.

    SEE ALSO: A one minute video shows China's worst nightmare in the Pacific

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: A global intelligence analyst explains why the ‘real’ China is not the China we think of

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    China navy PLA aircraft carrier Liaoning

    Since the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague ruled against China's nine-dash line in the South China Sea, there has been a marked increase in rumblings of the unimaginable: War in the Pacific between China, it's neighbors, and their ally, the US.

    China had given signs that it had no intention to respect the Hague's ruling, but lately rhetoric has been stepped up a notch, with the AFP reporting that a Beijing minister urged preparations for a "people's war at sea."

    In fact, China's state-run media has been awash with bluster on the subject of their military and sovereignty. China's Global Times went as far as to challenge Australia directly, saying: "If Australia steps into the South China Sea waters, it will be an ideal target for China to warn and strike."

    On Weibo, a state-regulated blogging site, Lian Fang, a professor at the military-run National Defense University said that, "The Chinese military will step up and fight hard and China will never submit to any country on matters of sovereignty," Reuters reports.

    Beijing has even gone as far as to unilaterally announce a "no sail zone" in international waters, which directly violates international maritime laws and courtesy.

    This kind of unilateral action would undoubtedly prompt a response from the US, whose navy regularly patrols the waters of the South China Sea even as China builds up military outposts in the region

    Usually, regional powers are deterred from making power plays on international waters and shipping lanes by the deterrent factor of the US's massive military, but Beijing seems emboldened by both their own rapidly advancing military might as well as the US's preoccupation with the presidential election.

    US Navy uss lassen

    "The People's Liberation Army is ready," one source with ties to the military told Reuters.

    "We should go in and give them a bloody nose like Deng Xiaoping did to Vietnam in 1979," the unnamed source continued, making reference to China's brief invasion of Vietnam to punish Hanoi.

    But despite China's impressive ballistic and cruise missile programs, the country's military is largely untested in modern warfare. Conversely, the US navy is stretched thin seeing to interests around the globe, and they would face huge difficulties in abandoning their posts worldwide to focus on China.

    A war between China and it's neighbors also has the dangerous possibility to divide the world. The US will no doubt come to the aide of it's allies, and China and Russia have increased military ties which could further complicate the scenario.

    china navy

    The fact is a war between the world's two largest economies, who are both nuclear-armed naval powers, would be a full on disaster with the brunt of that damage being felt by civilians in the Pacific and the world at large.

    One unnamed Chinese source seemed especially aware of the potential for catastrophe in the military posturing in a statement to Reuters: "Our navy cannot take on the Americans. We do not have that level of technology yet. The only people who would suffer would be ordinary Chinese" 

    SEE ALSO: A one minute video shows China's worst nightmare in the Pacific

    SEE ALSO: This is what the next flash point in the South China Sea looks like

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    NOW WATCH: The US and 25 other nations are working together in the world’s largest maritime exercise

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    Ultimate Commado boxing

    "It was the '90s."

    That's all the explanation you really need when you watch this clip of a former British SAS soldier going up against a US Recon Marine in a sensationalized "boxing" match.

    In 1998, an obscure company called Universal Warriors hosted the "Commando Knockout Challenge," where contestants, all of them elite servicemembers hailing from several different countries, went head-to-head in spectacular fashion. 

    This gloriously America-themed event centered around a pentagon-shaped ring and even had its score card labeled "USA vs The World". 

    Wearing camouflaged pants, Carl Richardson — the 5'9" and 171 pound former SAS instructor, faced against Matthew Ortiz — the US Recon Marine at 5’11" and 168 pounds. 

    "I’m gonna bring America back to Britain and show [them] who’s boss," said Richardson prior to the fight.

    In response, Ortiz struck back with, "We kicked the British out once — and we’ll do it again.”

    On this particular night, however, history failed to repeat itself as Richardson (wearing the red gloves) dealt Ortiz a knockout blow.

    Watch the entire clip below:

    SEE ALSO: An inside look at a terrorist group's summer camp for kids

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    NOW WATCH: Floyd Mayweather just spent $4.8 million on one of the fastest cars in the world

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    general curtis Scaparrotti NATO

    The commander of U.S. European Command recently said allied nations must pay their fair share of defense costs to deter Russia in comments that support Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump's tough talk on NATO.

    U.S. Army Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, EUCOM commander and NATO's Supreme Allied Commander Europe, emphasized to an audience at last week's Aspen Security Forum that European countries, as well as the United States, have an obligation to spend at least 2 percent of their gross domestic product on defense.

    "I support the idea that we have committed to a 2 percent [goal] and of that 20 percent toward modernization," Scaparrotti said July 28.

    "It's very important; without it, we are not going to outpace Russia's modernization," he added. "We have got to have that in order to have a credible force. I reinforce that with them."

    Currently, only five of the 28 countries in NATO have honored the commitment to invest 2 percent of GDP in defense, Scaparrotti said. However, he added that 22 others have increased their investment in defense.

    The NATO commander's comments come about two weeks after Trump caused alarm in mid-July when he suggested the United States might abandon its NATO military commitments if he were elected president.

    The Republican presidential candidate suggested allies that haven't paid their NATO dues wouldn't be guaranteed of getting help if Russia invaded.

    However, this is where Scaparrotti parted with Trump's stance on NATO, seeking to reassure allied countries that the U.S. will honor its commitment.

    "One thing they need to know is they can count on the United States to do what we say we are going to do," Scaparrotti said.

    The U.S. recently committed to joining other NATO countries in placing a four-battalion force to bolster the military presence in Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Poland in an attempt to deter future Russian military aggression.

    Moscow continues to modernize its military, Scaparrotti maintains.

    Polish army soldiers take part in the

    "They are reorganizing their force; they have made it smaller, so it can be more professional," he said. "When you look at the weapons systems etc., they have been watching us.

    "They have fired long-range precision missiles from submarines, from surface ships, from medium bombers," he said, "and so I am impressed with that as well."

    Scaparrotti insisted that Russia is an adversary that must be taken seriously.

    "We have to be strong, and we also have to look at the world around us and be prepared to invest in the force that we need, to invest in the capabilities that we need, to continue to stretch ourselves so that we outpace these capabilities that they are developing," he said.

    "We need to do that in the United States and," he said, "we need to do that as the NATO Alliance."

    SEE ALSO: The only map you need to see to know that Donald Trump is wrong about NATO

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    NOW WATCH: This Global Hawk surveillance drone will be NATO’s new eyes in the sky

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    b 52

    Dubbed “Polar Roar” the latest US show of force saw bombers flying to the North Sea and the Baltic Sea in a Cold War-style exercise.

    One B-52H Stratofortress from the 2nd Bomb Wing, Barksdale AFB, two B-52Hs from the 5th Bomb Wing, Minot AFB, and two B-2A Spirits from the 509th Bomb Wing, Whiteman AFB, were launched in simultaneous, non-stop flights from the US to the North and Baltic Seas. The planes flew around the North Pole and over Alaska, and over the Pacific Ocean to Alaska’s Aleutian Islands, respectively.

    The mission saw some of the bombers drop inert weapons (in the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex) and included joint training with some regional partners whose fighters had the opportunity to intercept the heavy bombers.

    During their transit through the European region, the Danish F-16s supporting NATO’s continuous Baltic Air Policing mission, along with JAS-39 Gripens from the Partnership for Peace nation of Sweden, joined the bombers.  Additionally, Typhoons from Great Britain – one of the Baltic Air Policing detachments – were airborne in western Estonia training areas while the bomber transited the Baltic Sea off the Estonian coast.

    As highlighted by one of our sources, it’s worth a note the fact that the Russian Su-27s based at Kaliningrad, were not scrambled to perform VID (Visual Identification) of the Stratofortress bomber in the Baltic. The Flankers are frequently launched to intercept the US RC-135 Rivet Joint deployed to RAF Mildenhall. Moreover, the NATO countries always scramble their QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) fighters when the Russian Tu-95 or Tu-160 bombers transit in international airspace off their sovereign airspace.

    Realistic exercises like POLAR ROAR are conducted periodically in coordination with North American Aerospace Defense Command. Usually, on a 24-hour period, during these drills nearly every USSTRATCOM component, task force, unit, command post and bomb wing takes part in the training event with the aim of improving all the command capabilities: Space, cyber, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, global strike, and ballistic missile defense.

    According to the US Air Force “POLAR ROAR demonstrates the ability of the US bomber force to provide a flexible and vigilant long-range global-strike capability and provides unique and valuable opportunities to train and integrate with allies and partners.”

    Essentially, it’s a message to Russia. This is noteworthy, after a surge in missions flown by the Russian Air Force bombers close to European airspaces as recorded by NATO.

    SEE ALSO: Russia just threw an epic birthday party for its Navy

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    NOW WATCH: 11 facts that show how different Russia is from the rest of the world

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    This retro recruiting commercial fully embraces the Air Force’s reputation for offering "the good life.

    The Air Force takes a lot of flak for its image as the cushier, more civilized branch of the military, and while today’s airmen have done a great deal to end that stereotype, it persists.

    Probably because videos like this are still floating around the internet.

    Let’s be real though, after having served on active duty in the military, it’s hard to blame anyone for wanting to have the best of both worlds.

    There’s a self-assured swagger and charm to the advertisement, due in large part to the silky smooth jazz in the background and singer Dionne Warwick’s narration.

    “Even guys who have already started to build themselves a good life can gain a lot by joining up with their local Air Force Reserve unit,” says Warwick. “You can keep that good thing going while you earn, learn, and travel, and do an important job for your country.”

    The commercial doesn’t market the military as an identity, but as a way to improve upon an already good life. The guy in the video looks pretty happy:

    If I’d been around when the recruitment commercial aired, I probably would have considered the Air Force Reserve, before promptly enlisting in the Marines.

    SEE ALSO: These are all the planes in the US Air Force

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    NOW WATCH: The F-35 has hit another snag — this time because it’s too stealthy

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    ISIS Telegram

    The Islamic State plans to target American air bases in Kuwait, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, an Israeli cyber-intelligence company that claimed to have hacked the jihadist organization’s Telegram communication group said on Wednesday.

    Intsights, a Herzliya-based intelligence company, hacked into what it said was an Islamic State Telegram group in which the organization’s operatives publish terror attack plans, according to a report on Channel 10.

    The company, which is run by former IDF intelligence officers, told the TV station the Islamic State uploads potential targets to the group, and in recent months some of the targets have been hit by individuals claiming allegiance to the terror organization. One such target presaged in the Telegram group was the church in Normandy, France, where local priest Father Jacques Hamel, 85, was murdered by jihadists on July 26.

    The team managed to infiltrate the covert group, whose 500 members pinpoint targets in the expectation that a jihadist will carry out an attack there.

    “Telegram is completely encrypted and there’s no fear that someone will intercept the messages and understand what you wrote,” Intsight co-founder Alon Arvatz told Channel 10. The group it hacked is accessed by members introducing fellow Islamic State members, he said. “I need to know someone who can vouch for me that I’m cleared for the group and only then can I join.”

    The Intsight team did not detail how it managed to hack into the group, but if it breached the much-vaunted encryption of Telegram’s communication channels, it would be the second known hack of its kind in a week.

    Earlier this week, Reuters reported that a group believed to be backed by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corpshacked into Telegram accounts in Iran.

    Arvatz said that earlier this week a member of the group uploaded a list of American air bases in the Persian Gulf and around the globe that could be potential targets. A map uploaded to the Telegram group pinpoints air force bases in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom and other countries of Western Europe, as well as Israeli air force bases.

    Among the high priority targets were air bases in Bahrain and Kuwait being used by the American-led coalition to strike Islamic State targets in Syria and Iraq.

    SEE ALSO: A DC-area transit police officer has been arrested after a stunning ISIS sting operation

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

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    Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are seen at the Laboratory of Entomology and Ecology of the Dengue Branch of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in San Juan, March 6, 2016. Picture taken March 6, 2016. REUTERS/Alvin Baez

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Thirty-three members of the U.S. military, including a pregnant woman, are believed to have contracted the mosquito-borne Zika virus overseas, the Pentagon said on Wednesday.

    Air Force Major Ben Sakrisson, a Pentagon spokesman, said the U.S. service members are believed to have been infected outside the continental United States, but cautioned that it is hard to tell where exactly they may have contracted Zika.

    Florida authorities last week reported the first signs of local transmission of the virus in the continental United States in a Miami neighborhood.

    The Zika outbreak was first detected last year in Brazil. U.S. health officials have concluded that Zika infections in pregnant women can cause microcephaly, a birth defect marked by small head size that can lead to severe developmental problems in babies.

    (Reporting by Susan Heavey and Yeganeh Torbati; Editing by Tim Ahmann and Will Dunham)

    SEE ALSO: This might be the best way to predict how Zika will spread in the US

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    NOW WATCH: This animated map traces the shocking spread of Zika and where it could hit next

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    People inspect a site hit by airstrikes in the rebel held town of Atareb in Aleppo province, Syria, July 25, 2016. REUTERS/Ammar Abdullah

    The Syrian civil war is as confusing and opaque as it is sadistic and bloody. On one side stands Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a barbarous tyrant backed by Iran and Russia, Hizbullah, and Shi'ite militias from Iraq, the remnants of the Syrian army, and the odd Kurdish splinter group.

    Against him are arrayed multiple rebel groups including the Islamic State extremist group, Al-Qaeda, and a host of more moderate rebel factions. It is often hard for the observer to make sense of events, let alone understand their true importance. But one thing is clear: the insurgent offensive under way right now in Aleppo aimed at breaking the government siege of rebel-held areas in the east of the city may reshape the direction of the entire war.

    On the weekend of July 30-31, the surrounded rebels who held the center of Aleppo city and a larger body of rebel groups to the west of the city tried to reconnect their battle lines, striking at a position in the strategic Ramouseh district. But, as ever, outgunned, the regime fought back: using Russian airstrikes to try to halt the advance. 

    Syria's revolution is now unequivocally in the balance. As Kyle Orton,  a research fellow at the Henry Jackson Society, points out in an e-mail interview with RFE/RL, Aleppo is the last major urban holding of the mainstream armed opposition in Syria. If the political process is to amount to anything other than a regime victory in all but name, the rebels have to hold Aleppo City.

    For its part, the regime, with Russian and Iranian help, has severely lessened the strategic threat from the insurgency already -- for them to retake Aleppo City would kill it. Orton is blunt: "In short, the course of the entire war is in the balance with the fate of Aleppo."

    If the rebels succeed in breaking the siege then the pro-regime coalition will suffer a serious strategic setback. As Orton further notes, "the pro-Assad forces [are holding] out in northwestern Syria by some relatively tenuous supply lines through Hama and southern Aleppo." If the rebel positions in Idlib Province and southwestern Aleppo are expanded to include areas of Aleppo City, Assad's bases in the north come under serious threat, and with it Assad's chance of crushing the rebellion entirely. 

    Detoxifying The Islamist Brand

    But there is another more complex and disturbing possibility that encapsulates the problems of Syria in a microcosm. The main rebel players in the offensive are Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (formerly the Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Nusra Front), Ahrar al-Sham, and Free Syrian Army brigades. Al-Qaeda in Syria's renaming of itself as Fatah al-Sham -- officially for the sake of "rebel unity" -- is, in reality, little more than a move to publicly detoxify its brand. 

    Mohammed al-Jolani of Jabhat al-Nusra

    And this is where a major question about the timing of the offensive comes in. Endless rounds of failed peace talks have yielded nothing for the rebels. Discussions of talks scheduled for late August are likely to yield nothing once again. With Iran and now Russia behind it, the regime is now so strong it has little incentive to compromise. Meanwhile, Russian support is not merely confined to the battlefield. Its diplomatic efforts have deftly changed the conversation from one centering on Assad's removal to the conditions under which he will stay in power.

    As each cease-fire inevitably failed (almost invariably broken by pro-Assad forces), Al-Qaeda was eventually able to claim, back in December 2015, that the entire peace process was a "conspiracy" against the revolution. And its absurd claims gained traction among an increasingly desperate population who saw little reaction from the onlooking global community.

    More than this, after each cease-fire ended, Al-Qaeda was the mainstay of much of the rebel fight back -- it was even able to make significant gains in southern Aleppo. In essence, the rebels allowed Al-Qaeda back into the mainstream opposition by their own adherence to previous cease-fire agreements.

    Under its new Jabhat Fatah al-Sham banner, the group can now use the Aleppo offensive as a means by which to further integrate into the mainstream rebel alliance. As Orton states, it presents the group with its best chance yet of using "the rebellion as a shield against external attack, annexing what is an objectively good cause -- breaking the nascent terror-siege of Aleppo City…[to] show its utility as the military tip of the spear to act as a kind of special forces for the insurgency -- and…make connections and alliances that can facilitate its vanguardist program."

    Jabhat al-Nusra, Nusra Front

    Short Supplies

    Meanwhile, the possibility of (yet another) humanitarian catastrophe becomes increasingly distinct. The UN estimates that some 300,000 people are trapped inside the city with rapidly shrinking medical supplies and, critically, declining stocks of food. The regime is clearly going all-out to capture Aleppo and crush the rebellion once and for all.Thus far, however, it has been slow to respond to the rebel counterattack. This state of affairs will not last. It will rain down destruction from the air and the ground. 

    So far reports are sketchy due to an insurgency media blackout in the area, but it does appear that the rebels are making significant steps toward breaking the siege. According to some reports, on August 1, they captured the strategic Al-Mishrefah area, south of the Ramousah air force artillery base. But they still needed to advance another 2.5 kilometers to take the city's artillery base, one of the biggest in all of Syria and a base that has been the linchpin of Assad's defenses in the city.

    Achieving this would allow them to reach their fellow rebels on the Aleppo side. Now, according to Orton, "fragmentary reports [say] there has been intense fighting and very rapid and significant gains for the insurgency…coming within several hundred yards of breaking the siege on eastern Aleppo City."

    If these reports are true -- or if the rebels are able to make minor gains or at least maintain the status quo in the city -- then once again it will be Jabhat Fatah al-Sham that benefits the most. In leading the charge to rescue the besieged population while the world looks on, it will have irretrievably bound itself to the armed opposition in Northern Syria. 

    And that is a scenario that benefits no one -- not the mainstream rebels and most of all, not Syria's long-suffering people.

    SEE ALSO: Russia claims Syrian rebels used chemical weapons in Aleppo

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    kim jong un

    North Korea is aiming to plant a national flag on the moon within the next ten years, a senior official with Pyongyang’s version of NASA told the Associated Press in a report published Thursday.

    Hyon Kwang II, director of the scientific research department of the National Aerospace Development Administration, said that international sanctions would not prevent North Korea from launching more advanced satellites into orbit by 2020.

    “Even though the U.S. and its allies try to block our space development, our aerospace scientists will conquer space and definitely plant the flag of the DPRK on the moon,” Hyon said, referring to North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

    Hyon said the nation’s five-year plan, ordered by leader Kim Jong Un, would focus on launching additional Earth observational satellites “to solve communications problems by developing geostationary satellites.”

    The development would mark North Korea’s first geostationary communication satellite.

    “All of this work will be the basis for the flight to the moon,” Hyon said.

    North Korea also plans “to do manned spaceflight and scientific experiments in space, make a flight to the moon and moon exploration, and also exploration to other planets,” he added.

    German analyst Markus Schiller, an expert on North Korea’s missiles, told the Associated Press that the geostationary satellite would likely be a more viable goal for the nation than a moon landing. He estimated it would take Pyongyang at least two decades to launch a successful lunar orbit.

    “Judging from what I have seen so far with their space program, it will take North Korea about a decade or more to get to lunar orbit at best,” Schiller said.

    SEE ALSO: China to the US: You provoked these North Korean missile tests

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

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    Dirty Bomb Response

    The Center for Public Integrity has published a troubling report detailing the activity of an undercover group from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) who managed to procure enough low-level radioactive material to create a "dirty bomb".

    A dirty bomb, or a bomb that propels radioactive materials in the air with help from a conventional explosive charge, requires radioactive material that can only be obtained via license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).

    The commission only allow sales of the materials to groups that can prove a legitimate need for them, as well as the capacity to keep them safe.  

    In theory, these materials are regulated and should be hard to get, but as the covert group proved, anyone with sufficient money and will can obtain the potentially devastating materials.

    The group set about their plan by renting office space in Dallas, Texas, where a robust fracking industry regularly requires radioactive materials for gauges needed in their search for gas and oil deposits. 

    “I wouldn’t call what we did very sophisticated,” Ned Woodward, leader of the GAO plot to expose weaknesses in the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's practices.

    Indeed their tactics were not sophisticated, but were very bold. The group, with a real address for a phony business, simply made up a security officer, resume and all. Once set up, the group submitted a request to buy radioactive materials for an industrial gauge, which is common practice in fracking country.

    So common in fact is this process, that the NRC has deputized Texas to issue licenses to buy radioactive materials without federal review. 

    So an inspector came out to the phony, empty office, but instead of turning the group down for having no security in place, or arousing suspicion about the obvious potential that the business was a shell company, he issued a license on the spot for a small amount of radioactive material.

    The quantity of this material wouldn't suffice to make a dirty bomb, but the NRC doesn't keep these licenses in reliable databases, so the group simply copied the license, wrote in larger amounts, and placed a new order for double the amount of radioactive material.

    “There was nothing we had done to improve that site to make it appear as if it were an ongoing business,” said Woodward.

    CBRN military chemical attack

    This fraud could have been repeated indefinitely, according to David Trimble, director of Natural Resources and Environment at the GAO. 

    "It’s a back door,” said Trimble. “We walked through it and we showed the door was still open. We could have kept doing it. If you can forge [a license] once, there’s no reason you can’t forge it again and again.”

    While a dirty bomb isn't much deadlier than a comparable explosive without the radioactive element, it would create a biological hazard zone that could take years to clean up. If detonated in a city center or busy port, the aftermath of a dirty bomb would cost billions, shut down an area, and subject an unlucky few to the agonizing complications of having been exposed to radiation. 

    The report exposes a disturbing weakness in the US's regulation of these materials. When radioactive material can so readily be obtained in the US, there is no need for bad actors to risk communicating and coordinating with foreign actors. 

    The covert group actually “designed our test to fail,” one GAO official said. They purposefully did very little to appear legitimate, and essentially obtained their license on promises that in the future they'd put better safety measures in place. 

    In a defensive post on the GAO's official blog, the NRC largely placed the blame on the licensing agents in Texas, also mentioning that only one of the GAO covert group's attempts had been successful.

    Read the full report from the Center for Public Integrity here.

    SEE ALSO: China to the US: You provoked these North Korean missile tests

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    lisa jaster rangerAs one of the first women to attend and pass Ranger School, Maj. Lisa Jaster explains how she physically and mentally prepared.

    For me, going to Ranger School was never about integrating the military. It was never a quest for fame. It didn’t start off as a desire to change the perception of women in the military. I really just wanted the same opportunities that my male peers were given automatically.

    The secondary mission of an engineer is to fight as infantry. I am an engineer. Going to Ranger School was an opportunity to build my repertoire and become the best possible version of me. I want to be someone who others look up to and that means constantly being more and doing more. I want to be a good soldier, not a good female soldier.

    The debates about women in combat arms are long and energized. Many of them start and end with physical differences between men and women focusing on raw strength and percentage of lean body mass. Since Ranger School is advertised as the Army’s premier leadership school, I wanted to go to improve my military leadership skills.

    But Ranger School started off as an infantry school and maintains high physical fitness standards. Once I did some research and understood what those standards were, I didn’t see any reason that I should be denied access. I knew men with tabs that I could smoke in most physical contests. Guys that I beat in the gym and on the track attended and graduated. So in my mind, the issue of strength was a non-issue. But I needed to be ready, because failing physically meant that we’d never progress the conversation past the physical differences between genders.

    lisa jaster ranger

    After the birth of our second child in 2012, I signed up for IronMan Texas. I was having problems fitting strength training in with my endurance workouts, and my husband had been harassing me for years to try high-intensity interval training. So, I met with Vanessa Goebel, owner of CrossFit Memorial Houston, and explained my personal and fitness goals to her over coffee.

    I was quickly convinced that I would benefit from CrossFit. I signed up right then and there and started attending class three days a week in addition to my IronMan training. I fell in love with CrossFit and moved away from endurance training after the race. My body loved it too. I was leaner than ever before and loved being part of a community that valued healthy eating, heavy weights, and hard sweat sessions.

    Soon after that, with a bit of coercion from both my son and my husband, I began training Brazilian jiu jitsu. I would train at CrossFit Memorial Houston for 90 or more minutes following programming from CrossFit Invictus and then head straight to jiu jitsu for an hour. Between the demanding CrossFit workouts and grappling with men daily, I was evolving for the better.

    In September 2014, the possibility of one integrated Ranger School class was brought to my attention. Although it took me awhile to cozy up to the concept of attending — also my husband’s idea — I finally decided I wanted to do it for all the reasons I mentioned earlier. I just wanted to be the best I could be at my job regardless of my gender or age. My training only required slight tweaks to get ready for the school.

    I still predominantly followed Invictus programming, adding a weight vest to many of the runs and low-impact movements such as box step-ups. I substituted dead hang chin-ups whenever kipping pull-ups appeared in the workouts and added ruck walks/runs a few nights a week. The strength requirements for Ranger School were never a concern.

    lisa jaster ranger

    Ruck marching and upper body exercises were definitely not a deficit. But being strong and running fast are not always conducive to one another. Under normal circumstances I can easily run five miles in under 40 minutes, but I needed to make sure I could do it when I was stressed, tired, and hungry. Therefore, the majority of physical training changes were focused on the run.

    I included my family in physical and tactical training, which included ruck running to my daughter’s daycare and then letting her ride in or on my rucksack on the march home all while using a range finder to estimate distances to the next vehicle, sign, or intersection. When I would come home from the office, my husband would hand me my weight vest and I’d wear it all evening to get used to standing under load.

    I cut back on movements that weren’t going to help me pass the course, such as muscle-ups and other gymnastics-based skills. And I continued to roll in the dojo four days a week. Learning to push past my limits in both CrossFit and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu helped prepare me mentally as well as physically for the challenges that waited.

    Strength and fitness have been a big part of my life for a long time. I could not have succeeded if I first started training when I heard about the opportunity in September. Ranger School is too demanding for that. Not only is passing the graded fitness events required, you have to be able to think and function afterward as well.

    Being totally consumed by the physical hardships of the course doesn’t leave much capacity to deal with all the other aspects. Successfully humping a ruck to the top of a mountain is inconsequential if you can’t problem solve effectively or be a good teammate once you get there.

    If I could advise the 2014 version of myself, the woman who signed up for this task, I would tell her that being fit is important and it’s the only way to get through the front door at Ranger School. But fitness will not be the only factor in your success. If you want to push past barriers and be part of the small percentage of soldiers who wear the coveted Ranger Tab, then you need to know your tactics, know yourself, and understand why you are pushing yourself so hard.

    Proving that women can handle the physical rigors merely started the conversation — it didn’t end it. I succeeded in deleting the adjective by being one of the 41% who pass Ranger School. I wasn’t capable for a femalesoldier. Ask the other 59%, I was just capable.

    SEE ALSO: US admiral: This overlooked region will be the next front line against ISIS

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    NOW WATCH: ARMY RANGER: This is how we're different from the Navy SEALs

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    For all but the most familiar firearm users and operators, the inner workings of a gun are a mystery.

    Everyone knows firearms have a trigger, which when pulled fires a bullet. But between the pulling of the trigger and the bullet leaving the weapon, how does a gun function?

    The YouTube channel C&Rsenal has an ingenious way of explaining how various guns function — with the use of X-ray animations showing what happens as a person pulls the trigger.

    A selection of GIFs made from the channel's videos, showing some of the historical weapons used in World War I, are below:

    SEE ALSO: This awesome infographic shows how silencers actually work

    SEE ALSO: Here's what a rocket-propelled grenade looks like in extreme slow motion

    A six-round 8 mm French Ordnance revolver, fired by a hammer:

    RAW Embed

    Source: YouTube

    A three-round 8x50 mm Berthier Mle. M16 bolt-action rifle:

    RAW Embed

    Source: YouTube

    An eight-round .32 ACP Mauser Model 1914 'Pocket Pistol,' which was striker-fired and had an ejector slide:

    RAW Embed

    Source: YouTube

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    Syria's Aleppo province has long been the seat of intense fighting between Syrian rebels, some of whom the US back, and the Syrian regime backed by Russia.

    Numerous reports of egregious bombings on hospitals and civilian areas by Syrian and Russian warplanes have come out of the area, where fighting has been the norm for much of Syria's 5-year-long civil war.

    But on August 1, when the rebels and Syrian government forces were staging an especially hard battle, which resulted in a helicopter getting shot down and reports of chemical weapon use, the Syrian rebels took a dramatic step to try to halt the feverish pace of airstrikes on the besieged town — they took to the streets and burned tires.

    Numerous videos have popped up on social media showing Syrians rolling out and setting tires ablaze. The thick black smoke rising off the tires can be seen stretching across the city, darkening the horizon and greatly decreasing visibility from the sky.

    While burning tires is hardly a longterm air-defense strategy that any military commander would approve, it certainly could complicate Russian and Syrian bombing runs as they fly low and drop unguided munitions. With poor visibility, the planes would have no idea what, or who, they were bombing.

    Watch a compilation of the scenes below:

    Here a Syrian even goes as far to apologize to environmentalists for burning rubber, but specifically mentions Syrian and Russian airstrikes as his cause:

    These photos purport to show children participating in the tire-burning effort:

    SEE ALSO: Air strikes believed to be Russian hit two displaced persons' camps in Syria

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

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