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The latest news on Defense from Business Insider

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    The recent spate of ISIS-inspired terror attacks in Turkey and subsequent attempted coup, combined with foreign fighters’ incessant attempts to enter ISIS’s shrinking territory have kept Turkey’s border with Syria, once dubbed a “jihadist highway”, at the forefront of regional security issues.

    Has Ankara responded adequately to the international community’s demands to bring its 911 kilometer border with Assad’s regime under control, or are smuggling and border crossings by militants a continuing threat?

    SEE ALSO: These are the biggest threats to the US and its interests

    Gasoline smuggling

    Earlier this year, gasoline smuggling from Turkey to Syria received international attention after Russia accused the Turkish government of facilitating contraband routes across the Syrian border. While gasoline smuggling has long been a contentious issue in the region, the illicit practice appears to be declining.

    According to figures from Turkey’s Office for Combatting Smuggling and Organized Crime, only 4.33 million liters were seized in 2015, compared with 13.7 million in 2014; these numbers represent a 70% year-over-year decrease. Nonetheless, gasoline smugglers are continuing the illicit practice. Using industrial drilling machines, they continue to install pipes 5-10 meters under the border to facilitate smuggling.


    As drug smuggling — particularly of an amphetamine called Captagon — continues to play a major role in financing armed groups in Syria, the illicit practice has emerged as a major threat to border security.

    Smugglers continue to find increasingly sophisticated methods of smuggling the pills into Turkey for further distribution into traditional consumer bases in the Persian Gulf. An April 2016 seizure in the border region of Hatay, for example, yielded over half a metric ton of the drug.

    Hidden inside pipes, the stash had previously gone undetected by drug-sniffing dogs. One month later in the same region, two law enforcement operations led to the discovery of over 3 million Captagon tablets.

    Fortress on the border

    In 2015, approximately 910 militants were caught crossing the Syrian border into Turkey. This number is modestly lower than the 992 militants captured in 2014, according to figures from the Turkish Armed Forces (TAF).

    In an effort to decrease militant border-crossings, the TAF has already spent 300 million Lira implementing a project dubbed the “Syria Physical Border Security System,” which aims to seal off the 911 kilometer frontier through a combination of concrete walls, watchtowers, observation blimps, flood-lamps, ditches and drones alongside the border.

    In order to prevent militants from entering Turkey via standard routes, the government created a database of individuals banned from entering the country due to alleged ties to militant groups. According to a parliamentary statement by Turkey’s Interior Minister, the database currently contains 41,000 names.

    Despite hardened security measures, a recent incident has caused many to question the extent to which Ankara has abandoned efforts to support anti-Assad foreign fighters operating in Syria.

    Secret files signed by the assistant governor of Ağrı, a region in Turkey’s east that borders Iran, were leaked in early May 2016, exposing that 19 foreign fighters were given medical treatment at a refugee holding center. This incident has since been brought up by opposition members of Parliament.

    Even if Turkey succeeds in sealing the border, Ankara faces the challenge of dealing with the substantial number of Turkish fighters currently fighting on the ground in Syria. Files from Turkish federal police that were leaked to the national newspaper Cumhuriyet estimated that 2,750 Salafi Turks have gone to fight in Syria since April 2011. Approximately 750 of these Turks are currently fighting for ISIS, and 130 remain in the ranks of the al-Nusra Front.

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    b 2 spirit

    As part of the Continuous Bomber Presence mission in the Pacific, the US has regularly kept bombers stationed at Andersen Air Force Base in Guam, but in the last few days the fleet of aging B-52 bombers has been replaced with newer B-1 and B-2 bombers.

    The planes were positioned in the Pacific by US Strategic Command (STRATCOM), which commands fleets of bombers, many of which are nuclear-capable, to maintain stability and deter potential threats.

    Though these deployments are routine, they are likely to raise eyebrows in Beijing, where China has defiantly ignored a ruling from the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague by continuing to destabilize and militarize its man-made islands in the South China Sea.

    "Our strategic bomber force routinely operates around the globe and with our regional allies and partners, and this deployment is one such demonstration of the US commitment to supporting global and regional security," said US Navy Adm. Cecil D. Haney, STRATCOM's commander, in a statement.

    b 1 lancer

    "Bomber training missions ensure crews maintain a high state of readiness and proficiency and demonstrate our ability to provide an always-ready global strike capability, whenever and wherever we are called to do so," he said.

    In June, the B-52s were deployed to Guam alongside the USS John C. Stennis and USS Ronald Reagan carrier strike groups in what was largely seen as a show of force. The B-52s' deployment coincided with a squadron of electronic-warfare planes, EA-18s, at Clark Air Base in the Philippines.

    The electronic attack squadron went to the region to "support routine operations that enhance regional maritime domain awareness and assure access to the air and maritime domains in accordance with international law.

    US Air bases pacific south china sea guam clark air base andersen

    While the Air Force maintains that these deployments are routine and for training purposes, China's increasingly aggressive behavior in militarizing the South China Sea, as well as its open talk of war, suggest that the planes serve a deterrent purpose.

    In the South China Sea, which has effectively become Chinese air space because of the nation's radar outposts and military-grade runways, it's easy to see why the US would want long-range, nuclear-capable bombers and electronic attack aircraft in the region.

    But the newer B-1s and B-2s represent the top notch of the US's airborne-deterrence capabilities. The US has no newer or stealthier bombers in its inventory. The newer bombers have electronic-warfare capabilities built in, and the B-2s' stealth design is ideal for penetrating contested air spaces.

    south china sea

    "Bomber aircraft provide the USPACOM (US Pacific Command) area of responsibility with an effective deterrent capability, ensuring the regional security and stability of the US and our allies and partners," said US Air Force Gen. Terrence O'Shaughnessy, commander of the Pacific Air Forces, in a statement.

    "These bomber deployments visibly demonstrate our readiness and commitment to the Indo-Asia-Pacific region," he said.

    SEE ALSO: These are the biggest threats facing the US

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    NOW WATCH: Former Navy SEALs reveal what Hollywood gets wrong about the elite warriors

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    While vacations and travel are ideally tranquil trips that can put a mind at ease, it is important that travelers are constantly aware of their surroundings. This is especially true for hotel security, retired Navy SEAL Clint Emerson writes in his book 100 Deadly Skills

    Travelers in "high-risk regions may wish ... to construct additional fortifications" in their hotel rooms as doors and locks can be particularly flimsy, according to Emerson. Additionally, stolen keys and corrupt hotel workers may also provide easy access to the room regardless of the door's strength. 

    As doors remain the number one route of entry into hotel rooms, Emerson encourages travelers to learn the following skills to prevent hotel room invasions while travelers are still in the room lounging, sleeping, or using the bathroom.

    For hotel doors that open outwards into the hallway, travelers should attach a nylon line from the room's doorknob to an immobile position in the hotel room. This could be the leg of the bed or another locked doorknob elsewhere in the room. 

    bi_graphics_preventing hotel room invasions

    For doors that open inwards, travelers have more protection options. One potential option is to wedge doorjambs around the area of the door frame. This would reinforce the entirety of the door against being kicked in. 

    Additionally, security devices can be purchased that prevent a door from swinging inwards. As a last resort, furniture in the hotel room can be piled in front of the hotel room door to create an immovable barricade. 

    SEE ALSO: How to pick locks and break padlocks

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    NOW WATCH: Japan has a new hotel operated almost entirely by robots

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    libya isis

    TRIPOLI (Reuters) - Libyan forces battling to oust Islamic State (IS) from Sirte said they captured its university complex on Wednesday as well as the Ouagadougou Convention Complex in Sirte that ISIS had been using as a base but lost one of their warplanes over the city.

    "Our forces have complete control of the whole of the Ouagadougou (convention) complex - they even advanced some distance beyond the complex," said Rida Issa, a spokesman in the forces' media office.

    Issa also said it was not clear how the plane crashed. Islamic State said it had shot down the jet, killing the pilot, according to a statement on a website close to the jihadist group.

    Forces aligned with Libya's U.N.-backed government launched their campaign for Sirte in May. On Aug. 1, the United States began air strikes to help them advance against militants encircled in the center of the Mediterranean coastal city.

    And US Special Operations troops have been spotted on the ground in Sirte. Although the special operators have not directly engaged in combat, they are playing a support role assisting Libyan forces and guiding airstrikes against ISIS in the city.

    U.S. drones and fighter jets have carried out a total of 29 strikes since then, targeting several IS emplacements on Monday and a gun-mounted pick-up truck on Tuesday, according to statements by U.S. Africa Command.

    Libyan fighter jets have also been flying regular missions over Sirte, the hometown of late dictator Muammar Gaddafi, whose fall in an 2011 uprising precipitated years of factional anarchy in the oil-exporting North African country.

    The U.N.-backed government arrived in Tripoli in March, but has struggled to impose its authority and faces continuing resistance from armed factions that control eastern Libya.

    On the ground in Sirte, Libyan forces led by brigades from the city of Misrata have suffered heavy casualties from Islamic State mines and sniper fire. Clashes have been sporadic, with heavier fighting interspersed with lulls that last for several days.

    Libyan forces fights ISIS

    "Our forces are making progress in their attack against Daesh (Islamic State), and have recaptured the University of Sirte," Issa said. They had also advanced to a cluster of unfinished buildings used by Islamic State snipers just west of the center of Sirte, he said.

    The latest clashes came after the government-backed fighters reached a hotel complex southeast of the recently captured Dollar neighborhood on Monday.

    Libyan militants returning from combat in Syria's civil war helped implant Islamic State in Libya in 2014, but IS has struggled to win support or hold territory as most local people regard it as a malign import dependent on foreign fighters.

    (Reuters reporting by Ahmed Elumami; writing by Aidan Lewis; editing by Mark Heinrich)

    SEE ALSO: US Special Operations troops are bringing the fight to ISIS in Libya

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    NOW WATCH: This 26-year-old from Baltimore took a 35,000-mile road trip and ended up fighting in the Libyan revolution

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    the patriot american revolution

    The success of the American Revolution was far from certain in the early months of 1781. The patriots managed to gain French support and survived five years of fighting yet had still not been able to win a decisive victory.

    But after a fake retreat baited a ruthless British commander into a bloody ambush, the tide slowly began to turn in the Americans’ favor and eventually led to the Crown’s defeat later that year.

    In March 1780, the British invaded South Carolina and captured Charleston. When the crown won a lopsided victory at the Battle of Camden, it strengthened their hold on the southern colonies and routed the Continental Army in the south.

    General George Washington sent Gen. Nathaniel Greene to take command the Patriots in the south. Greene immediately dispatched Gen. Daniel Morgan into the Carolina backcountry to harass Lord Cornwallis and interdict his supply lines. In response, Cornwallis sent Lt. Col. Banastre Tarleton, a brutal young commander, to stop Morgan.

    The next January, Tarleton learned of Morgan’s presence and began a pursuit. Morgan began retreating north to avoid being caught between Tarleton’s and Cornwallis’ forces. Flooded rivers slowed his progress. Morgan decided to stand and fight Tarleton rather than get caught attempting to cross a river.

    Although Morgan had a formidable force of over 1,000 men, Tarleton did as well. Unfortunately for Morgan, the majority of his force consisted of colonial militiamen, untested in battle. Morgan’s “green” militia had a tendency to break and run at the first hint of a real fight. Morgan knew it. Tarleton knew it. But Gen. Morgan was a clever chap.

    He decided to use the untested militia as bait to draw Tarleton into a trap. Morgan devised an ingenious, if unorthodox, tactical plan. The Cowpens, a flat grazing area in backcountry South Carolina would be the place to make his stand. He used three lines of men to oppose Tarleton’s advance.

    The first consisted of sharpshooters to harass the British and pick off officers. The sharpshooters would then fall back to the second line, made up of militiamen. The militia would fire off two volleys before feigning a rout and retreating to the third line. Morgan wanted the British to assume they defeated an untrained militia force and charge forward. Instead of finding a fleeing militia they would meet Lt. Col. John Howard’s colonial regulars holding the third line. In reserve, Morgan had a small force of Continental cavalry.

    revolutionary war british red coats

    At dawn on January 17, Tarleton arrived at Cowpens and advanced on Morgan. Tarleton’s arrogance played right into Morgan’s trap. Although slightly outnumbered, the British had more cavalry, regular infantry, and artillery – which the colonials lacked.

    The British launched a frontal assault with infantry in the center and dragoons on the flanks. As they advanced, patriot sharpshooters hit the dragoons hard, taking out numerous officers and disorganizing their advance. They fell back to the second line to join the militia, as planned. When the Redcoats pressed the attack, militia fired off two volleys then began their false retreat. That’s when the British cavalry unexpectedly charged, sending the militia into a real retreat. They flew past the third line where they were supposed to reform.

    The Continental cavalry, led by  Lt. Col. William Washington (cousin of  George Washington) came out of nowhere on the British right flank and dispersed their cavalry. The remaining British were still lured into the trap by the retreating militia and engaged the Colonial regulars.

    Sensing victory, Tarleton committed his reserve infantry. When Lt. Col. Howard gave ordered his men to face the British reserve, a miscommunication sent them into retreat. Morgan, seeing this, quickly rode and turned the men around. They turned and fired a near point-blank volley into the advancing British infantry. It was the same trick the Americans were using in the center and it worked like a charm.

    Battle of Cowpens revolutionary war

    The rebels then surged into the demoralized British from all directions. As Morgan’s third line rushed forward with bayonets, the cavalry attacked from the right flank while the once-retreating militia reformed and hit the left. Many British soldiers surrendered on the spot. The rest fled.

    Tarleton attempted to rally his men. He was met by Lt. Col. Washington who engaged him in hand-to-hand combat. Washington narrowly avoided being killed when his trumpeter appeared in time to dispatch a charging Redcoat. Tarleton escaped with what remained of his force.

    The battle lasted one hour but was a decisive victory for the Americans. The British lost over 100 killed, over 200 wounded, and over 500 captured along with two cannons. The Americans lost 12 killed and 60 wounded.

    Cornwallis, fed up with the Americans, marched to meet them himself. He won a Pyrrhic victory at Guilford Courthouse before seeking refuge at Yorktown. Gen. Washington laid siege to Yorktown and received the British surrender there on October 18, 1781.

    SEE ALSO: Here are 6 foreign weapons systems the Pentagon should buy now

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    NOW WATCH: GREEN BERET: What elite forces are saying about Trump

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    The Marine Corps' variant of the F-35 Lightning II is almost ready for its combat debut.

    "We're going to start to see that airplane deploy here overseas after the first of the year," Gen. Robert Neller, commandant of the Marine Corps, said on Tuesday.

    The "jack-of-all-trades" aircraft was designed to replace the Corps' Harrier, Hornet, and Prowler aircraft but has had significant snags.

    Lockheed Martin's F-35 is America's priciest weapons system, and its development has become one of the most challenged programs in the history of the Department of Defense.

    f35Since its inception, in 2001, the F-35 has experienced setbacks that include faulty ejection seats, software delays, helmet display issues, and an inability to dogfight.

    "We thought we were going to get that airplane a little bit earlier, but we didn't, but now we stood up our second squadron," Neller said during a discussion at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

    Similarly, on July 29, when asked if the F-35B could fly combat missions to fight ISIS in Iraq and Syria, the US Marine Corps' head of aviation said, "We're ready to do that."

    Noting that the decision to deploy the fifth-generation jet into combat would come from higher command, Lt. Gen. Jon Davis, deputy commandant for aviation for the Marine Corps, said that the F-35B is "ready to go right now."

    aei amanda f35"We got a jewel in our hands, and we've just started to exploit that capability, and we're very excited about it," Davis said during a discussion at the American Enterprise Institute on the readiness and future trajectory of Marine aviation.

    Davis, who has flown copilot in every type of model series of tilt-rotor, rotary-winged, and tanker aircraft in the Marine inventory, said that the F-35 is an airplane he's excited about.

    "The bottom line is everybody who flies a pointy-nose airplane in the Marine Corps wants to fly this jet," Davis said.

    Last summer, then Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Joseph Dunford declared initial operational capability for 10 F-35B jets — the first of the sister-service branches.

    "There were a lot of people out here in the press that said, 'Hey, the Marines are just going to declare IOC because it would be politically untenable not to do that,'" Davis said.

    "IOC in the Marine Corps means we will deploy that airplane in combat. That's not a decision I was gonna take lightly, nor Gen. Dunford," he said.


    Ahead of IOC, Davis said that the Marine Corps "stacked the deck with the F-35 early on" by assigning Top Gun school graduates and weapons-tactics instructors to test the plane.

    "The guys that flew that airplane and maintained that airplane were very, very, hard graders," he said.

    Davis added that the jet proved to be "phenomenally successful" during testing: "It does best when it's out front, doing the killing."

    The Marine Corps' first F-35B squadron is scheduled to go to sea in spring 2018.

    f35aMeanwhile, the Air Force, which has been the most bullish on the F-35's combat capabilities, declared its variant ready for combat last week.

    Lt. Gen. Chris Bogdan, the F-35 program's executive officer, said that the Air Force's decision to declare the F-35A's IOC "sends a simple and powerful message to America's friends and foes alike: The F-35 can do its mission."

    "The roads leading to IOC for both services were not easy, and these accomplishments are tangible testaments to the positive change happening in the F-35 program," Bogdan said.

    As the Air Force is buying nearly 70% of the fifth-generation jets being made domestically — 1,763 of 2,443 aircraft — the Air Force sets the economies of scale for the tri-service fighter, with each plane costing a cool $100 million.

    Lockheed Martin, considered a bellwether for the US defense sector, is expected to generate nearly a fifth of its $50 billion in 2016 sales solely from the F-35 program.

    Currently the US Navy variant, the F-35C, is scheduled to reach IOC by February 2019.

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

    SEE ALSO: Here's what pilots who've flown the F-35 have to say about the most expensive weapons project in history

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: America's $400 billion warplane has some major flaws

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    B-52 B-1 B-2 bomber deterrent nuclear pacific guam andersen air force base

    Deborah Lee James, the Secretary of the US Air Force tweeted a single picture on Wednesday that sums up the US's airborne leg of the nuclear triad.

    The B-52, the B-1, and the B-2 simultaneously sit on runways at Andersen Air Force base in Guam, where the planes and their respective squadrons are currently carrying out operation Constant Bomber Presence in the Pacific. This picture shows the first time all three current US bombers have been in the Pacific at once. 

    With nuclear-capable, long range US bombers in the Pacific, the region has enjoyed relative peace and stability since the close of the Vietnam War. Now, as China threatens their neighbors with militarized island outcroppings, the US bomber presence is as important as ever.

    SEE ALSO: The US brings out the big guns in the Pacific amid high tensions with China

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    NOW WATCH: A natural phenomenon is making this massive Chinese sea glow blue

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    Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko gestures during a news conference in Kiev, Ukraine, January 14, 2016. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich

    Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko ordered troops on the border with Crimea and the frontline in Eastern Ukraine to be on high alert on Thursday, following Russian accusations that Ukrainian intelligence agents plotted terror attacks in Crimea.

    The alert, announced in a statement posted to social media, comes amid a period of increased violence, substantial Russian troop movements, and fears that Moscow’s accusations could be used as justification to escalate the years-long conflict.

    Russia on Wednesday accused the Ukrainian defense intelligence agency of planning terror attacks in Crimea, a claim that Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko described as a false “pretext for more military threats against Ukraine.” Poroshenko ordered Ukrainian troops on the border with Crimea and the frontline in Donbass to be on high alert, according to the statement.

    The accusations come amid escalating violence between Russian-backed separatists and Ukrainian forces in the eastern part of the country.

    Russia’s FSB, the successor agency to the KGB, alleged that officials had thwarted attacks planned by the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense’s Main Directorate of Intelligence on “critically-important elements of the peninsula’s infrastructure and life support,” according to a translated statement provided by the Interpreter. Firefights between Russian officials and the alleged perpetrators resulted in two Russians being shot dead, the FSB said.

    Russia has already taken steps to bolster security at its border with Ukraine, according to the statement. Ukrainian officials, including the country’s president, described the accusations as baseless.

    “Russian accusations that Ukraine launched terror attacks in the occupied Crimea are equally cynical and insane as its claims there is no Russian troops in eastern Ukraine. These fantasies pursue the only goal: a pretext for more military threats against Ukraine,” Poroshenko said in a statement Wednesday. “Ukraine resolutely condemns terrorism in all its forms and shapes. We would never ever use terror to de-occupy Crimea. Russia provides money and arms to support terrorism in Ukraine. It became a state-led policy on the occupied areas of Crimea and eastern Ukraine that resembles the Soviet Great Terror.”

    russian soldier crimea border ukraine

    Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Kiev had turned to the “practice of terrorism” when commenting to reporters on the allegations Wednesday, calling the actions “stupid and criminal,” according to Russia Today. Putin further stated that it was “pointless” to meet with Ukrainian authorities in an effort to resolve the conflict in the wake of the incidents.

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Monday that officials from Russia, Ukraine, France, and Germany could meet to discuss the peace process on the sidelines of the upcoming G-20 summit in China at the beginning of September.

    “I think it’s obvious that Kiev’s current authorities are not seeking for ways to solve problems through negotiations, but have turned to terrorism,” Putin said Wednesday.

    Dalibor Rohac, an expert on Central and Eastern Europe at the American Enterprise Institute, told the Washington Free Beacon that it is difficult to independently assess the accusations of terror plots but that it is likely that Putin will use the alleged incidents as reason to escalate the conflict in Ukraine.

    “Following Putin’s remarks earlier today it is likely that this will serve as a justification for the Kremlin to further intensify the conflict,” Rohac said. “The increase in military activity has already been underway for a few days, with new attacks on Ukrainian positions reported from Luhansk, Donetsk, and around Mariupol.”

    “I’m certainly watching the new developments with concern,” Rohac added.

    ukraine grad missile launcher

    Russia has been involved militarily in Ukraine since spring of 2014 when it annexed the Crimean Peninsula, for which the country was slapped with international sanctions. The United States and the European Union have refused to recognized Crimea as Russian territory and have dismissed the referendum that Russia claims legitimized its annexation of the peninsula.

    Despite a second ceasefire agreement brokered in Minsk in February 2015, the conflict in Ukraine has persisted.

    Fighting between Russian-backed separatists and Ukrainian forces has increased in the eastern part of the country in recent weeks, with July marking the deadliest month of fighting since August of last year. Ukraine’s military reported last month that seven troops had been killed and 14 wounded over 24 hours of fighting with separatists.

    A Ukrainian service member was killed and five others wounded in a firefight this week in the eastern zone of conflict. At least 9,500 individuals—more than one in four of them civilians—have been killed in the conflict since the spring of 2014, according to the United Nations.

    Russia’s FSB said Wednesday that officials conducted “operational search activities” near the town of Armyansk in Crimea Friday night and discovered “group of saboteurs” along with an arsenal of weapons, including improvised explosive devices and grenades. A Russian officer was killed by gunfire during the arrest of the “terrorists.”

    And on Monday, “diversionary terrorist groups” from the Ukrainian defense ministry’s special forces divisions made two incursion attempts that were blocked by Russian security and defense officials. A Russian soldier was said to have died during a firefight.

    “The aim of the sabotage and terrorist acts is the destabilization of the social-political situation in the region during the period of the preparation of elections to federal and regional governmental bodies,” the FSB said, referring to Russian parliamentary elections planned for Sept. 18.

    Russia said that it has opened a criminal case into the incidents and detained individuals accused of involvement. Russia has also bolstered security at “facilities of critically important infrastructure and life support” in Crimea and reinforced the border regimen between Russia and Ukraine, the statement said.

    A spokesman for Ukraine’s defense intelligence called the accusations “fake information” in a statement to Reuters, a claim that was later echoed by Poroshenko.

    “Russia will fail to undermine Ukraine’s reputation on the international arena and press for lifting sanctions with such provocative acts,” Poroshenko said on Wednesday. “I urge Russian authorities to honor the international law, especially respect the sovereignty, territorial integrity of states and human rights.”

    “Ukraine is devoted to restore its sovereignty and territorial integrity exclusively through political and diplomatic means. That includes de-occupation of Crimea,” the Ukrainian president added.

    SEE ALSO: Russia will start holding naval exercises in the Mediterranean Sea near Syria

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    NOW WATCH: A global intelligence analyst explains why Russia isn't as strong as people think

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    Iraq Soldiers ISIS FlagWASHINGTON (AP) — The military campaigns in Iraq and Syria have taken 45,000 enemy combatants off the battlefield and reduced the total number of Islamic State fighters to as few as 15,000, the top U.S. commander for the fight against IS said Wednesday.

    Lt. Gen. Sean MacFarland said that both the quality and number of IS fighters is declining, and he warned that it is difficult to determine accurate numbers. Earlier estimates put the number of Islamic State fighters between 19,000 and 25,000, but U.S. officials say the range is now roughly 15,000 to 20,000.

    Saying that "the enemy is in retreat on all fronts," MacFarland said U.S.-backed local forces in both Iraq and Syria have been gaining ground. And he said the flow of foreign fighters into Iraq and Syria has decreased and that many people pressed into fighting for the Islamic State group are unwilling or untrained.

    "All I know is when we go someplace, it's easier to go there now than it was a year ago. And the enemy doesn't put up as much of a fight," he told Pentagon reporters in a video conference.

    MacFarland said Syrian democratic forces are on the brink of defeating IS in Manbij, Syria, in a matter of weeks. The city, he said, is largely in the hands of the Syrian democratic forces and the pockets of enemy resistance are shrinking daily.

    "I don't give it very long before that operation is concluded, and that will deal a decisive blow to the enemy," he said. Asked how long it will take, he said possibly a week or two, but noted that there are still a lot of enemy foreign fighters there battling hard to keep control of the city.

    MacFarland said that Iraqi forces are in a position to begin to retake the northern city of Mosul. But he added that the U.S. still has quite a bit of work to do at the Qayyarah Air Base in northern Iraq before it can be used as a hub for the battle to retake Mosul.

    President Barack Obama authorized the deployment of 560 more U.S. troops to Iraq to help transform the air base into a staging area for the eventual battle to oust IS from Mosul. The group has held Mosul since June 2014 and has used it as a headquarters.

    The U.S. troops will include engineers, logistics personnel, security and communications forces. Some teams of U.S. forces have been in and out of the base to evaluate it and the work that must be done, but officials say large numbers of troops have not yet arrived.

    MacFarland cautioned that while there have been successes in both countries, IS will continue to be a threat.

    "Military success in Iraq and Syria will not necessarily mean the end of Daesh," he said, using an Arabic acronym for the Islamic State group. "We can expect the enemy to adapt, to morph into a true insurgent force and terrorist organization capable of horrific attacks like the one here on July 3 in Baghdad and those others we've seen around the world."


    SEE ALSO: US Special Operations troops are bringing the fight to ISIS in Libya

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    NOW WATCH: TRUMP: President Obama is 'the founder of ISIS'

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    us army gulf war tank

    The US military most certainly has the capability to project force almost anywhere in the world on a moment’s notice. The Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps are on constant alert for the order to break through another nation’s defenses and start aggressively installing a democracy.

    Sure, the services usually work together to win wars. But what if a single branch were tasked to do the entire job on its own?

    From destroying enemy air defenses to amphibious assaults, the Army could go it alone. Here’s how. 

    SEE ALSO: 'Air superiority is not an American birthright' — the US Air Force is in crisis

    The air war

    The air war is one of the areas where the Army would struggle most, but it wouldn’t be a deal breaker. First, the Army has led an invasion force in support of the Air Force before. Apache helicopters fired some of the first shots of Desert Storm when they conducted a 200-mile, low altitude raid against Iraqi air defense sites.

    The Army hit radar stations with Hellfire missiles, air defense guns with flechette rockets, and surviving personnel and equipment with 30mm grenades on the first night of the liberation of Kuwait. The raid opened a 20-mile gap in Iraq’s air defenses for Air Force jets to fly through.

    In an all-Army war, the first flight of Apaches could punch the hole in the air defenses and a second flight could fly through the gap to begin hitting targets in the country.

    The biggest complication would be missions against enemy jets. Even if the Army purchased air-to-air weapons systems for the Apaches, they lack the range and speed of Air Force fighters. While they’re capable of going toe-to-toe against enemy jets and winning, their relatively low mobility would make it challenging to be everywhere at once.

    avenger missile humvee

    The Apache commanders would have to coordinate carefully with ground forces and other air assets to ensure they were providing anti-air at the right locations and times. To make up for the shortfall, Avenger, Patriot, and Stinger missile units would need to be stationed as far forward as possible so that their surface-to-air missiles would be able to fight off enemy fighters and attack aircraft going after friendly troops.

    Amphibious assualts

    The US Army does not specialize in amphibious operations, but it has conducted a few of the largest landings in history, including the D-Day landings.

    The Army has three types of boats that can land supplies and forces ashore without needing help from the Navy. The Army crews on these boats are capable enough that the Navy considers them to be roughly equal to their own craft and doctrine calls for them to assist the Navy in joint amphibious assaults.

    The star of an Army amphibious landing would be the Landing Craft Utility 2000, a boat capable of sailing 6,500 nautical miles and delivering 350 tons, the equivalent of five armed Abrams tanks and their crews.

    The Army also rocks the Landing Craft, Mechanized 8 which can carry as much cargo as a C-17 and deliver it to an unimproved beach or damaged dock.

    Finally, each of the Army’s eight Logistic Support Vessels can carry up to 24 M1 tanks at a time, almost enough to deliver an entire armored cavalry troop in a single lift.

    army logistics landing craft

    Of course, soldiers would struggle against fierce beach defenders without the Marine Corps’ Harriers or Cobras flying in support. The Army would have to rely on paratroopers dropped from Chinooks and attacks by Apaches and special operations Blackhawks to reduce enemy defenses during a beach landing.


    The Army is a master of long-term logistics, but an Army that couldn’t get help from the Merchant Marine, Navy, and Air Force would need to be extremely careful with how it dealt with its supply and transportation needs.

    While helicopters and trucks could theoretically deliver everything the Army needs in a fight, they can’t always do it quickly. A unit whose ammunition dump is hit by enemy fire needs more rounds immediately, not the next time a convoy is coming by.

    To get supplies to soldiers quickly without Air Force C-130s and C-17s, the Army would need to earmark dozens of Chinooks and Blackhawks for surging personnel and supplies based on who needs it most.

    This additional strain on those airframes would also increase their maintenance needs, taking them away from other missions. Logistics, if not properly planned and prioritized, would be one of the key potential failure points that commanders would have to watch.

    So the Army, theoretically, could fight an entire enemy country on its own, using its own assets to conduct missions that the Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps typically handle today. Still, the Army will probably keep leaning on the other branches for help. After all, the Air Force has the best chow halls.

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    Silencers are a greatly misunderstood component of firearms, in large part because of their portrayal in video games and action movies.

    Though silencers can greatly reduce the noise of a firearm, they do not eliminate the sound of a gunshot completely. Instead, silencers limit the noise to a hearing-safe level, keeping a firearm's burst below 140 decibels.

    A pistol equipped with a silencer, for example, is actually louder than a thunderclap but a tad quieter than a dish breaking.

    The main benefit of silencers isn't in the element of surprise but in helping to reduce hearing damage. Hearing loss is the most common disability claimed by veterans.

    The following infographic from SilencerCo helps clarify some basic facts about firearm silencers.silencer 2

    SEE ALSO: 'Air superiority is not an American birthright' — the US Air Force is in crisis

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    NOW WATCH: Amazing video shows what the inside of a gun looks like when it’s being fired

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    Ukraine Russia

    A build-up of Russian military on Ukraine's border with the Crimean region, which has been annexed by Moscow, could reflect "very bad intentions," Ukraine's U.N. envoy warned on Thursday after the U.N. Security Council discussed the growing tensions.

    Ukrainian U.N. Ambassador Volodymyr Yelchenko, who requested the closed-door meeting of the 15-member council, said Russia had amassed more than 40,000 troops in Crimea, seized by Moscow in 2014, and on the Ukrainian border.

    "These numbers may reflect some very bad intentions and this is the last thing we would like to happen," he told reporters.

    "My biggest hope is that this discussion (in the council) will help the Russian Federation to understand that they cannot really continue with this kind of behavior," Yelchenko said.

    Russian President Vladimir Putin has pledged to take counter-measures against Ukraine which he accused of sending saboteurs into Crimea to carry out terrorist acts.

    Yelchenko called on Russia to produce proof of those accusations.

    Russian U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin dismissed concerns about a Russian military build-up. He described the Security Council meeting as "useful" to explain the situation.

    "Instead of counting our military they should be bringing an end to the conflict in Donetsk and stop shelling civilians in Donetsk and Luhansk," Churkin told reporters after the meeting.

    Pro-Russian separatists are fighting the Kiev government's forces in the eastern Ukraine region despite a fragile ceasefire. Civilian casualties from shelling, mines and booby traps in eastern Ukraine are at their highest in a year, the United Nations' human rights chief has said.

    A peace plan for the eastern Donbass region of Ukraine, negotiated in Minsk between Ukraine and Russia by Germany and France some 18-month ago, has stalled for months.

    "There is chaos in Kiev, they don't know what to do about Donetsk," Churkin said. "We call upon all those who have influence on Kiev to make sure that they do what they are supposed to do (under the Minsk agreement)."

    The Security Council has discussed Ukraine dozens of times since Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, but has been deadlocked on the topic as Moscow is one of the body's five veto powers.

     crimea bases

    SEE ALSO: 'Air superiority is not an American birthright' — the US Air Force is in crisis

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    air force

    For decades now Americans have taken US air superiority for granted, but troubling new revelations out of the Air Force cast doubt on just how long the US can rule the skies. 

    Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein, speaking during the "State of the Air Force" address at the Pentagon said of the Air Force's current state, "I believe it's a crisis: air superiority is not an American birthright. It's actually something you have to fight for and maintain."

    Currently, the US Air Force faces a pilot shortage of 700 and a shortage of 4,000 maintainers, which could not come at a worse time.

    The US is now currently involved in active air campaigns in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya, as well as strategic and deterrence missions against North Korea, China, and Iran.

    operation inherent resolve coalition air forces isis

    Drone pilots suffer a high rate of burnout, as they work 12 to 13 hour days, performing mainly intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions, but also some strikes where mistakes caused by tired eyes can cost lives.

    "Demand for our services is way, way up. But we are meeting those demands today with the smallest Air Force in our history," said Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James in a separate "State of the Air Force" address.

    Additionally, austere budgets hamstring the force while a healthy US economy offers attractive employment opportunities that pay better without taxing on pilots so harshly. In short, commercial airlines are poaching the US's best pilots. 

    According to Goldfein, the tight schedules and budgets hurt readiness and in turn hurt morale. 

    Boneyard Graveyard Air Force

    “I’m a believer that morale and readiness are absolutely linked,” he said, as noted by The Washington Post. “And where we have high readiness, we have reasonably high morale and the quality of service is high. And where we have low readiness, we have our largest morale issues.”

    Another possible blow to morale comes in the form of rising adversaries. In the South China Sea, China has established the infrastructure to effectively enforce an air identification and defense zone. In Eastern Europe, Russia has near parity with the US Air Force.

    Meanwhile, the Air Force has been forced to scrounge for parts in museums and old planes in Arizona's "boneyard."

    During the address at the Pentagon, both Goldfein and James made the argument that financial incentives could help the Air Force retain the best talent.

    "The current annual bonus offered to pilots of manned aircraft – $25,000 per year – has not changed since 1999 and its value has been impacted by inflation," the pair explained in a jointly written article on Defense One. For manned pilots, the Air Force has requested the figure be raised to $48,000.

    Reaper drone

    At the Pentagon on Wednesday, James announced that the annual bonus would increase to $35,000 for drone pilots.

    But despite these moves to retain talent, many pilots are simply aging out of the program, and James projects the shortfall to increase tenfold to 7,000 in "a couple of years."

    With such a shortfall, it's hard to imagine the US maintaining superiority in the face of the growing threats around the world. Air superiority is not just nice to have, but it is also the backbone of the US military's dominance. 

    Goldfein adroitly summed up its importance here: "Air power has become the oxygen the joint team breathes. Have it, you don't even think about. Don't have it, it's all you think about."

    SEE ALSO: THE BONEYARD: Where Air Force Birds Go To Die

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    Aleppo, which has been beset by constant violence since 2012, and the site of unspeakable suffering from air strikes, ground fighting, and even chemical weapons attacks, has become a humanitarian nightmare.

    A shortage of well-supplied hospitals has resulted in countless deaths that might have been prevented had the mortally wounded been able to seek medical treatment — a shortage of doctors, many of whom have either been killed or fled Aleppo since the fighting erupted, has made the situation even more dire.

    "We are 15 of the last doctors serving the remaining 300,000 citizens of eastern Aleppo," a group of doctors claiming to be among the last in the city wrote in a letter to US president Barack Obama on Thursday.

    "Whether we live or die seems to be dependent on the ebbs and flows of the battlefield," they added. "Despite the horror, we choose to be here. We took a pledge to help those in need."

    Allegations of war crimes by pro-government forces have been flying around for over a year, but the situation on the ground precludes a thorough investigation of human rights violations. The situation has rapidly deteriorated over the past month, as a government-imposed siege prevented food and medical supplies from entering the rebel-held east.

    "We do not need tears or sympathy or even prayers," the letter read. "We need action."


    The nearly monthlong government siege of Syria's largest city is now on the verge of collapse, after a week of heavy fighting in northern and eastern Aleppo led to the defeat of pro-regime forces by a coalition of Syrian opposition groups.

    The siege has not been completely broken, and the situation remains unstable, said Syrian journalist Hadi Alabdallah, who was in Aleppo while the battle unfolded.

    Fights are still erupting sporadically across the city, he said, and airstrikes continue to puncture any aura of calm.

    Both the regime of Syrian president Bashar Assad — and its close ally, Russia — have offered to impose a temporary ceasefire on the city long enough to evacuate civilians. But the doctors, in their letter, characterized the proposals as "thinly-veiled threats" to essentially "flee now or face annihilation."

    The note contains horrific details about doctors with limited resources who must regularly decide who is worth saving, based on the extent of their injuries.

    aleppoIts harshest rebukes, however, are pointed towards the Obama administration's perceived inaction in attempting to end the violence.

    "We have seen no effort on behalf of the United States to lift the siege or even use its influence to push the parties to protect civilians," the letter read.

    "The burden of responsibility for the crimes of the Syrian government and its Russian ally shared by those, including the United States, who allow them to continue."

    The White House told CNN that they had seen the letter, and condemned the "indiscriminate bombing of medical facilities by the Assad regime in Aleppo and elsewhere in Syria." The statement made no mention of Russia, whom they hope to pressure, along with the UN, into allowing humanitarian aid to flow into Aleppo.

    "These attacks are appalling and must cease," the White House official said. "We commend the bravery of medical professionals across Syria who are working every day in perilous circumstances with minimal supplies to save lives."

    Read the full letter here.

    SEE ALSO: Kurds backed by US special forces killed ISIS' oil overseer

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    A selection of photos from some of the biggest news that you might have missed this week.

    SEE ALSO: These were the best military photos of the past month

    US Secret Service officers work to secure Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton after a protester jumped into the buffer during a rally at Lincoln High School in Des Moines, Iowa, August 10, 2016.

    Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump arrives for a campaign rally at Crown Arena, August 9, 2016, in Fayetteville, North Carolina.

    A man scales the all-glass facade of Trump Tower, August 10, 2016, in New York. Officers responded to Donald Trump's namesake skyscraper on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan and took the man into custody.

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    US Army Reserve

    What if the “2nd amendment people” Donald Trump mentioned recently during a campaign rally were actually able to spark an armed rebellion to overthrow the United States?

    In a 2012 article for the Small Wars Journal, two academics took a stab at such a scenario and tried to figure out how state and federal authorities would likely respond to a small force taking over an American town.

    In their paper, retired Army colonel and University of Foreign Military and Cultural Studies professor Kevin Benson and Kansas University history professor Jennifer Weber wargamed a scenario where a Tea Party-motivated militia took over the town of Darlington, South Carolina.

    The circumstances may seem far-fetched, but in today’s deeply partisan political environment, it’s at least worth looking into how the feds would respond if an American town tried to go it alone.

    Precedents for fighting an insurrection

    Benson and Weber cite Abraham Lincoln’s executive actions during the Civil War and Dwight Eisenhower’s 1957 intervention in Little Rock, Arkansas as precedents for the executive use of force in crushing a rebellion. The President would be able to mobilize the military and Department of Homeland Security to recapture a secessionist city and restore the elected government.

    The government would invoke the Insurrection Act of 1807 to form a response:

    From Title 10 US Code the President may use the militia or Armed Forces to:

    § 331 – Suppress an insurrection against a State government at the request of the Legislature or, if not in session, the Governor.

    § 332 – Suppress unlawful obstruction or rebellion against the U.S.

    § 333 – Suppress insurrection or domestic violence if it (1) hinders the execution of the laws to the extent that a part or class of citizens are deprived of Constitutional rights and the State is unable or refuses to protect those rights or (2) obstructs the execution of any Federal law or impedes the course of justice under Federal laws.)

    The Insurrection Act governs the roles of the military, local law enforcement, and civilian leadership inside the U.S. as this type of scenario plays out.

    US soldier military police platoon M9 Beretta pistol Italy

    How it could go down

    An extreme right-wing militia takes over the town of Darlington, South Carolina, placing the mayor under house arrest and disbanding the city council. Local police are disarmed or are sympathetic to the militia’s cause and integrated into the militia.

    The rebels choke traffic on interstates 95 and 20, collecting “tolls” to fund their arsenal and operation. Militiamen also stop rail lines and detain anyone who protests their actions.

    The insurgents use social media and press conferences to invoke the Declaration of Independence as their rationale, arguing they have the right to “alter or abolish the existing government and replace it with another that, in the words of the Declaration, ‘shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.’”

    Because of this, they enjoy a “groundswell” of support from similarly-minded locals throughout the state. The mayor contacts the governor and his congressman. The governor doesn’t call out the National Guard for fear they’d side with the militiamen. He monitors the situation using the State Police but through aides, he asks the federal government to step in and restore order, but cannot do so publicly.

    The President of the United States gives the militia 15 days to disperse.

    Mobilizing a response

    The executive branch first calls the state National Guard to federal service. The Joint Staff alerts the U.S. Northern Command who orders U.S. Army North/Fifth U.S. Army to form a joint task force headquarters. Local units go on alert – in this case, the U.S. Army at Forts Bragg and Stewart in North Carolina and Georgia, respectively, and Marines at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

    CH-46 during exercise at Camp Lejeune October 2007

    The Fifth Army begins its mission analysis and intelligence preparation of the battlefield. This includes locating enemy bases, critical infrastructure, terrain, potential weather, and other important information.

    Once the Fifth Army commander has a complete picture of the militia’s behavior patterns, deployments of forces, and activity inside the town, he begins a phased deployment of federal forces.

    Civilian control of the military

    The Fifth Army is in command of the military forces, but the Department of Justice is still the lead federal agency in charge on the ground. The Attorney General can designate a Senior Civilian Representative of the Attorney General (SCRAG) to coordinate all federal agencies and has the authority to assign missions to federal military forces. The Attorney General may also appoint a Senior Federal Law Enforcement Officer to coordinate federal law enforcement activities.

    It’s interesting to note that many of the Constitutional protections afforded to American citizens still apply to those in arms against the government. For instance, federal judges will still have to authorize wiretaps on rebel phones during all phases of the federal response.

    Troops on the ground will be aware of local, national, and international media constantly watching them and that every incidence of gunfire will likely be investigated.

    Beginning combat operations

    Combat units will begin show of force operations against militiamen to remind the rebels they’re now dealing with the actual United States military. Army and Marine Corps units will begin capturing and dismantling the checkpoints and roadblocks held by the militia members.

    US Marines

    All federal troops will use the minimum amount of force, violence, and numbers necessary. Only increasing to put pressure on the insurrectionist leaders.

    After dismantling checkpoints, soldiers and Marines will recapture critical infrastructure areas in the city, such as water and power stations, as well as TV and radio stations and hospitals.

    Meanwhile, state law enforcement and activated National Guard units will care for the fleeing and residents of the city. This is partly for political reasons, allowing the government most susceptible to local voters to be seen largely absent from being in direct, sometimes armed conflict with their own elected officials.

    Restoring government control

    Federal troops will maintain law and order on the streets of the city as elected officials return to their offices. Drawing on U.S. military history, the government will likely give individual members of the militia a general amnesty while prosecuting the leaders and those who broke the law during the uprising.

    SEE ALSO: Check out these underwater 'jet boots' used by Navy SEALs

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  • 08/12/16--13:42: The 8 worst guns ever made
  • Apache revolver

    In "The World's Worst Weapons," Martin Dougherty details the long history of overambitious, underachieving weapons that failed to hit their mark.

    From brass-knuckle-knife-revolvers to rocket-propelled ammunition, we've described the eight worst guns ever produced.

    SEE ALSO: The Flying Tank, and 3 other early tank designs too ridiculous to function

    8. Sten gun MK II

    Unfortunately the Sten gun MK II tended to misfire frequently, and there were reports of the gun's bullets bouncing off of targets.

    "At a time when Britain faced invasion and vast numbers of weapons were needed, the Sten was quick and easy to put together, and it was a lot better than nothing," Dougherty wrote.

    Country: United Kingdom

    Entered service: 1940

    Type: Submachine gun

    Range: 230 feet

    Capacity: 32 rounds

    Source: "The World's Worst Weapons"


    7. The Bazooka

    One glaring problem with the bazooka was the massive flare it created when fired, which both exposed the shooters position and shot dust, debris, and flames back at the soldier firing the weapon. Later versions of the bazooka included a back-blast shield.

    "The best thing about the bazooka was that it formed the basis for better weapons that came along later," Dougherty wrote.

    Country: United States

    Entered service: 1942

    Type: Unguided antitank weapon

    Range: Under 500 feet

    Capacity: Single-shot rocket launcher/ 3.5 pound explosive

    Source: "The World's Worst Weapons"

    6. LeMat grapeshot revolver

    The LeMat grapeshot revolver is another great idea for the battlefield that suffered from poor execution. Designed as a cavalry weapon late in the US Civil War, the LeMat revolver stored nine pistol rounds in a revolver setup, with an additional barrel and single shotgun shell in the middle.

    The user would toggle the movable firing pin to select which round they wanted to fire. While it was a great idea in theory, in practice the guns proved to be poorly made.

    Country: United States

    Entered service: 1856

    Type: Handgun

    Range: 164 feet

    Capacity: nine rounds

    Source: "The World's Worst Weapons"

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    f22 raptor tho

    The US Defense Department's latest financial-management report on reimbursement rates offers a glimpse of how much it costs to fly America's Air Force and Navy planes per flight hour.

    The annual report from the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller) lists rates for "other DoD component user," which are aircraft handled within the Defense Department and "all other user rates" which are for services outside the federal government.

    This means that, for example, an F-22 Raptor that isn't used within the US government costs a cool $34k/per flight hour.

    Note: Excluded from the report are fixed wing aircraft that are provided by US Transportation Command (TRANSCOM) and the Defense Working Capital Fund. Figures represent hourly rates effective October 1, 2015, and are to be used when the applicable aircraft are provided on a reimbursable basis. 

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


    Mission: Designed to carry out close-air support at low altitude and low speed. The A-10 is built to be highly survivable and can takeoff and land in locations near the front lines.

    Branch: Air Force

    Other DoD component user rates: $5,944 per hour

    All other user rates: $6,273 per hour

    Source: US Air ForceOffice of the Under Secretary of Defense Comptroller


    Mission: The C-130 is primarily used for airlift missions and transporting equipment and troops. 

    Branch: Air Force

    Other DoD component user rates: $6,604 per hour

    All other user rates: $7,100 per hour

    Source: US Air ForceOffice of the Under Secretary of Defense Comptroller


    Mission: The latest fifth-generation fighter designed to replace the Air Force's aging fleet of F-16 Fighting Falcons and A-10 Thunderbolt II's.

    Branch: Air Force

    Other DoD component user rates: $28,455 per hour

    All other user rates: $29,685 per hour

    Source: US Air ForceOffice of the Under Secretary of Defense Comptroller

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    Nearly 19 miles from the nearest town, a monolithic structure called the Buzludzha Monument adorns the mountains of Bulgaria.

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    Boko Haram Chibok

    Nigerian militant group Boko Haram has published a video apparently showing recent footage of dozens of school girls kidnapped two years ago, and saying some of them have been killed in air strikes.

    Boko Haram seized more than 270 girls from their school in Chibok, northeast Nigeria, in April 2014, part of a seven-year-old insurgency to set up an Islamic state in the north that has killed some 15,000 people and displaced more than two million.

    Dozens of the girls managed to flee to safety in the initial melee, but more than 200 are still missing.

    In the video published on social media, which was seen by Reuters on Sunday, a masked man stands behind dozens of girls.

    "We want to send this message first to the parents of these girls for them to know that these girls are still with us, some of them, and secondly they should tell the Federal Government of Nigeria, to with immediate effect, release our imprisoned brothers," the man said.

    "Some of the girls, about forty of them with God's permission have been married, some of them have died as a result of bombing by the infidels," he said.

    One veiled girl could be seen holding a baby. Parents have accused Boko Haram of having married off some of the girls against their will.

    At the end of the video unidentified bodies could be seen on the ground.

    Information Minister Lai Mohammed said in a statement the government "was on top of the situation" to free the girls.

    Boko Haram Chibok

    "Since this is not the first time we have been contacted over the issue, we want to be doubly sure that those we are in touch with are who they claim to be," he said.

    Army spokesman Rabe Abubakar was quoted as saying by PR Nigeria, an official government agency, that the military disputed the claims that the air force had hit the girls.

    "We are nevertheless studying the video clips to examine if the victims died from other causes rather (than) from the allegation of airstrike," he said.

    Authorities said in May that one of the missing girls had been found and President Muhammadu Buhari vowed to rescue the others.

    Boko Haram, which last year pledged loyalty to the militant group Islamic State, has kidnapped hundreds of men, women and children.

    Under Buhari's command and aided by Nigeria's neighbors, the army has recaptured most territory once lost to Boko Haram, but the group still regularly stages suicide bombings.

    Boko Haram has apparently split with Islamic State naming Abu Musab al-Barnawi two weeks ago as the group's leader for West Africa in a two-page interview in its weekly magazine.

    But the previous figurehead Abubakar Shekau appears to have rejected the new role in another video published after Barnawi's appointment.

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