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The latest news on Defense from Business Insider

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    USAF f-22 raptor bees

    192nd Fighter Wing Aircraft Maintainers were bemused when they found a swarm of honey bees hanging from the exhaust nozzle of an F-22 Raptor engine following flight operations at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia on June 11, 2016.

    Initially, everyone’s reaction was to run and find someone who could “get rid” of the bees, but Tech. Sgt. Jeffrey Baskin, 192nd Maintenance Squadron crew chief, knew that these honey bees were too important to exterminate.

    “I was shocked like everyone else because it looked like a cloud of thousands of bees, but I knew they wouldn’t sting anyone and were just looking for a new place to live,” said Baskin. “My neighbor maintains two colonies of honey bees and I knew they were at risk for extinction, I figured we might want to get a honey bee expert out to collect them.”

    Maintainers notified Capt. Katie Chiarantona, 192nd Aircraft Maintenance Officer about the honey bee swarm. Since this had never happened on the flight line before, Chiarantona initially called the on-base entomologist to assess the situation. The entomologist immediately knew that he did not have the means to relocate the bees, so he referred Chiarantona to a local honey beekeeper in Hampton, Virginia.

    USAF f-22 raptor bees

    Andy Westrich, U.S. Navy retired and local bee keeper, arrived on base with the needed materials and supplies. According to Chiarantona, Westrich said the swarm was one of the largest he had ever seen. He was escorted to the aircraft and used vacuum hoses to safely corral the honey bees off of the aircraft into large buckets. He then took the bee’s home and found that, as a hive, they weighed eight pounds which calculates to almost 20,000 bees!

    “The honey bees most likely came from a much larger bee hive somewhere else on base,” said Chief Master Sergeant Gregg Allen, 192nd Maintenance Group Quality Assurance chief, who also happens to be a beekeeper. “Bee hives are constantly growing and they eventually become overcrowded. Around springtime, the bees will make a new queen, scout for a new location and take half of the hive with them to that location.”

    Westrich suspected that the swarm of bees were on their way to a new location to build a hive for their queen. Queen bees typically fly with eggs to lay at the new hive and do not eat for up to 10 days before leaving to start a new colony. As a result, the queen is often malnourished for the journey. Westrich believes she landed on the F-22 to rest. Honey bees do not leave the queen, so they swarmed around the F-22 and eventually landed there.

    USAF f-22 raptor bees

    According to Chiarantona, “[Westrich] said that one out of two things could have happened, the queen would have rested and gained energy and the swarm would’ve left in the morning, or they would have decided that the jet engine would be a great place to build a hive.”

    Westrich was able to safely relocate the colony to a local beer producer where they will maintain the honey bee colony and use the honey for their production facility.

    “Every bee is important to our food source; lots of things would die without bees,” said Baskin. “Most of our crops depend on bees, and our bees need to pollinate. This is why I knew we needed to save them instead of [exterminate] them.”

    USAF f-22 raptor bees

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: EX-UNDERCOVER DEA AGENT: What I did when drug dealers asked me to try the product


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    Kurdish Peshmerga

    Kurdish Peshmerga forces launched a fresh attack on Islamic State (IS) forces early on Sunday as part of a campaign to capture Mosul, the militants' de facto capital in Iraq, Kurdish officials said.

    The advance began after heavy shelling and air strikes by a United States-led coalition against IS forces, a Reuters correspondent reported from Wardak, 30 km (19 miles) southeast of Mosul. The militants fought back, firing mortars at the advancing troops and detonating at least two car bombs.

    A Peshmerga commander said a dozen villages had been taken from the ultra-hardline Sunni militants as Kurdish forces headed toward Gwer, the target of the operation, 40 km (25 miles) southeast of Mosul.

    Repairing a bridge that the militants destroyed in Gwer would allow the Peshmerga to open a new front around Mosul. The bridge crosses the Grand Zab river that flows into the Tigris.

    IS said in a statement on its Amaq news service that two car bombs driven by suicide fighters were detonated in one of the villages to block advancing Kurdish forces, causing casualties among the Peshmerga.

    Authorities in autonomous Kurdistan gave no toll for the fighting, other than confirming the death of a Kurdish TV cameraman and the injury of another journalist.

    Clouds of black smoke rose from the scene of fighting and dozens of civilians fled in the direction of Peshmerga lines, brandishing white flags.

    The Iraqi army and the Peshmerga forces of the Kurdish self-rule region are gradually taking up positions around Mosul, 400 km (250 miles) north of the capital Baghdad.

    It was from Mosul's Grand Mosque in 2014 that Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared a "caliphate" spanning regions of Iraq and Syria.

    BIGGEST CITY IN ISLAMIC STATE HANDS

    iraq map isis

    Mosul is the largest urban center under the militants' control, and had a pre-war population of nearly 2 million.

    Its fall would mark the effective defeat of Islamic State in Iraq, according to Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who has said he aims to retake the city this year.

    The Iraqi army is trying to close in from the south. In July it captured the Qayyara airfield, 60 km (35 miles) south of Mosul, which is to serve as the main staging post for the anticipated offensive.

    The Peshmerga operation on Sunday was "one of many shaping operations that will also increase pressure on ISIL in and around Mosul," said an official from the Kurdistan Regional Security Council, using another acronym to refer to IS.

    "Noose tightening around #ISIL terrorists: #Peshmerga advancing east of #Mosul, #ISF shoring up south near #Qayyara,"tweeted Brett McGurk, the U.S. envoy to the coalition fighting the militant group.

    Preparations for the offensive on Mosul are "approaching the final phase," McGurk told reporters during a visit to Baghdad on Thursday. He said the planning included considerations for humanitarian aid to uprooted civilians.

    Once the fighting intensifies around Mosul, up to one million people could be driven from their homes in northern Iraq, posing "a massive humanitarian problem", the International Committee of the Red Cross forecast last month.More than 3.4 million people have already been forced by conflict to leave their homes across Iraq, taking refuge in areas under control of the government or in the Kurdish region.

    SEE ALSO: US-led forces executed the largest single airstrike of the year against ISIS' oil business

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Trump says he was being sarcastic when he called Obama the 'founder of ISIS'


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    us f-15e strike eagle incirlik air base turkey

    Business Insider previously reported on power being cut to Turkey's Incirlik Air Base during the failed July 15 coup and the situation of some 50 B61 nuclear bombs there, but a new report from the Congressional Research Service shows that Congress was also briefed on the matter.

    The brief may be the most official confirmation of the location of the bombs on record, and it goes into detail on why and how the bombs are stored.

    Essentially, the presence of nuclear weapons at Incirlik owes to Cold War tensions and postures between the US and the former Soviet Union. The report asserts that nuclear weapons were stored in Europe, Japan, South Korea, and elsewhere, with a total of about 200 nuclear bombs in Europe. 

    The weapons at Incirlik are the shorter-range variety, and they are mainly valuable to deter potential aggression and demonstrate the US's commitment to NATO. However, Incirlik is unusual in that Turkey does not own or maintain nuclear-capable aircraft, and Ankara does not allow the US to fly nuclear-capable bombers to that airbase.

    So the bombs that sit in Incirlik can't actually be used, or they would have to be hauled to another base first.

    Are the bombs secure?

    B 61 nuclear bombs on rack

    The report finds the security situation of the bombs adequate, as they are stored in facilities last updated in 2015, are heavily guarded by US troops, and are stored securely underground. To steal or access these bombs, the report suggests, one would need to overwhelm US and NATO forces on one of their own bases, and then come up with some way to haul a 12 foot long, very heavy warhead. 

    So the report maintains that even with the failed coup, the following turmoil in Turkey's governance, and the brief loss of commercial power to the base, the nuclear weapons at the base were never in harm's way.

    But is there still good reason to question their presence in Turkey?

    Should the US move the nukes?

    B61 nuclear bomb

    In its conclusion, the report weighs the alternatives to stationing nuclear weapons at Incirlik. Moving the warheads could possibly encourage Russia to cooperate more and possibly reduce their nuclear stockpile, though nothing guarantees that.

    A move could be seen as prudent in light of the evolving and uncertain relationship of the US to Turkey, and the weapon's current proximity to ISIS territory and the Syrian quagmire, but it would represent a loss of confidence in the Turkish system, and another host country would have to approve the presence of the nukes.

    But moving the nukes could also strike the wrong note with NATO. In the Baltics, NATO's newest and most exposed members count on the US and the broader alliance to provide credible and effective nuclear deterrence against potential Russian aggression.

    SEE ALSO: Why the US needs to spend $450 billion on nuclear modernization

    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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    hard drive

    First it was video screens sending out electromagnetic waves that could be picked up by a cellphone; then it was Radio Shack-type equipment hidden inside something the size of a pita bread that could be used to “read” the electromagnetic pulses emanating from a standard laptop’s keyboard. Now, Ben Gurion University researchers have discovered a new take on air-gapped network hacks – malware that reads sensitive data and sends it out to a waiting device.

    It’s another example of how malefactors could pull off a hack on some of the most secure networks and individual computers in the world – networks and computers that are not connected to the internet. Hackers generally practice their craft on connected systems, using long-distance network and wifi connections to reach into troves of sensitive data. Ostensibly, though, systems that are not connected to the internet are not within reach of hackers.

    Not quite. New research led by the Ben Gurion University team, led by security researcher Mordechai Guri, shows that even unconnected systems are vulnerable. All a hacker has to do is implant the right kind of malware into a system (usually accomplished by connecting a USB drive or other peripheral to a computer) and get a cellphone within range of the computer.

    This peripheral manipulates the computer’s hard drive to broadcast data to a waiting cellphone or other device, which then stores it and can later upload it to hackers.

    This is known as an air-gap attack. In the past, researchers at Ben Gurion and Tel Aviv universities have discovered several other applications of this kind of attack – like PITA, the Portable Instrument for Trace Acquisitionattack, which uses electromagnetic wave detection equipment (available at any computer hardware store) that could “read” the electromagnetic pulses emanating from a standard laptop’s keyboard, including the keystrokes used to de-encrypt secure documents.

    The new attack, called DiskFiltration, does something similar using the acoustic signals emitted from the movement of a computer’s hard disk drive (HDD). Malware on the computer seeks out data like text files, logins and passwords, databases, and other useful information.

    hackers

    Once the preferred data is discovered, the malware manipulates the hard driver’s actuator (a device that controls the hard drive head arm, which reads data off the disk) to create specific sound patterns – the clicks and whirrs of the movement of the drive.

    Those patterns are recorded by a device like a smartphone, smartwatch, or other Internet of Things (IoT) device that could either transmit the sound patterns to a remote computer (via the cellphone network connection of the device) or keep it intact, awaiting the retrieval of the device by a hacker or their agent.

    It sounds implausible, if not impossible, but air-gap attacks are nothing new. According to many experts, the Stuxnet attack on Iran’s nuclear system – in which a virus infected the servers controlling the Iranian nuclear program’s centrifuges, “choking” them until they ground to a halt – was an air-gapped one, as the computers were not connected to the internet.

    One way to beat air-gap attacks, according to the researchers, is to switch to solid-state drives (SSDs), which have no moving parts and therefore emit no noise. However, according to the researchers, “despite the increased rate of adoption of SSDs, HDDs are still the most sold storage devices, mainly due to their low cost.

    In 2015, 416 million HDD units were sold worldwide, compared to 154 million SSD units. Currently, HDDs still dominate the storage wars, and most PCs, servers, legacy systems, and laptops are installed with HDD drives,” so there are still many vulnerable systems out there.

    Other than that, say the researchers, the best bet is to keep devices away from secure computers. “Procedural countermeasures involve a physical separation of emanating equipment from potential receivers,” says the team. “Smartphone and other types of recording devices should not be permitted in close proximity of the computer.”

    SEE ALSO: These are the most feared hacker groups in the world

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: There’s a glaring security problem with those new credit card chips


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    ROK NAVY aegis Sejong the Great

    South Korea's Yonhap news agency recently reported that the country may seek to buy Raytheon SM-3 ballistic defense missiles from the US as tensions rise with North Korea and in the broader Pacific region. 

    The missiles, if acquired, would replace the SM-2 missiles currently fielded by South Korea's Aegis destroyers and improve their range from about 100 miles to more than 300 miles, significantly extending their layers of missile defense.

    The move to acquire better missile defenses comes after North Korea launched two "No Dong" intermediate-range ballistic missiles, one of which landed near the Sea of Japan

    SM-3 MissileThe South Korean Navy plans to build three more Sejong the Great-class guided missile destroyers that use the same radar and launch system as the US Navy’s Arleigh Burke-class BMD guided missile destroyers, the US Naval Institute reports. As the current ships cannot accommodate the SM-3 missiles, the newer ships may be modified for their use.

    The SM-3 missiles would leverage the South Korean Navy's powerful radar to accurately and reliably destroy incoming ballistic missiles while they're still in space, and safely distant from targets on the surface.

    The Naval Institute also notes that the news of South Korea's SM-3 deliberation was met with immediate and harsh rebuke from a Chinese state-run news agency: “It is unmistakably a strategic misjudgment for Seoul to violate the core interests of its two strong neighbors, at the cost of its own security, and only in the interests of American hegemony.”

    The State Department would not confirm the possible foreign military sale, but a single SM-3 missile costs at least $9 million, according to the US Department of Defense Fiscal Year 2015 Budget Request.

    Watch the SM-3 missile intercept tests in the video below:

    SEE ALSO: North Korea fired 2 more ballistic missiles, and this time one of them was headed toward Japan

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


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    An ongoing Russian military build-up on Ukraine’s borders may indicate preparations for conventional military conflict. It certainly marks a dramatic escalation of tensions that will have significant repercussions in Ukraine.

    Russia has deployed additional military forces and systems to Ukraine’s northern, eastern, and southern borders. Russian military activity around Ukraine has increased since May 2016 when Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced the creation of three new divisions in the Western and Southern Military Districts.

    russia ukraine military buildup

    The current crisis escalated following August 8th when Russia accused Ukrainian special-forces of attempting to infiltrate Crimea on August 7th. Russia has used the allegation to engage in a rapid military buildup on the peninsula and in the separatist regions of Donbas.

    In a five-day period August 7-12th, Russia has deployed additional naval and air units, ground forces and military hardware, as well as the S-400 air defense system on August 12th. Russia also conducted provocative exercises in Transnistria on Ukraine’s western border.

    These new deployments constitute a significant expansion of Russia’s force projection capabilities and may signal preparations for a large-scale military conflict. Russia’s current force posture allows it to threaten or conduct military operations into Ukraine from multiple directions, increasing Ukraine’s vulnerability to Russian or Russia-backed separatist forces. It thereby compels the Ukrainian military to divide its own forces to address multiple threats.

    It has also predictably triggered Ukrainian military alerts and mobilizations, which will tax Ukraine’s finances and military capabilities and may also further weaken Ukraine’s fragile political situation.

    SEE ALSO: Ukraine is on the verge of full-scale war

    Join the conversation about this story »

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


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    b61 12 nuclear gravity bomb 6 nnsa

    The National Nuclear Security Administration recently authorized a life-extension program for about 480 of the US's 800 B61 nuclear gravity bombs for about $8 billion.

    But as Laicie Heely of the nonpartisan Stimpson Center think tank points out, these bombs are completely irrelevant.

    The B61s recently made news during Turkey's failed coup when it came to light that the US has 50 such nuclear weapons in Turkey's Incirlik Air Base. Headlines pointed out the loss of commercial power to Incirlik during the coup, the base's proximity to ISIS, and the country's over all instability as potential threats to the security of the nukes.

    Even Heely remarked that“from a security point of view, it’s a roll of the dice to continue to have approximately 50 of America’s nuclear weapons stationed at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey, just 70 miles from the Syrian border.”

    But as a briefing to Congress on the matter of the nukes at Incirlik points out, it's very hard to imagine these nukes falling into the wrong hands. The base was updated as recently as 2015, has two large fences, and is heavily guarded by US troops. Even if the facility was breached, the nukes themselves are 12 feet long and massively heavy and need to be dropped from an advanced bomber to be effective.

    The prospect of ISIS or a renegade Turkish cell gaining possession of these nukes seems like an unimaginably slim possibility, but it doesn't matter — the US should still pull these nukes out of Turkey because they're useless and costly.

    First off, the US is not allowed to land the nuclear capable planes these bombs require at Incirlik. Second, even Turkey doesn't operate planes that can carry these nukes. Third, the nukes are of an old and irrelevant design, and they should provide no comfort to anyone as a deterrent.

    b 2 spirit

    General James Cartwright, former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, wrote the following of the B61s in a 2012 report:

    “Their military utility is practically nil. They do not have assigned missions as part of any war plan and remain deployed today only for political reasons within the NATO alliance. The obligation to assure US allies in Europe ... would fall to US strategic nuclear and conventional forces, which are amply capable of fulfilling it.”

    In an interview with Business Insider, Heeley echoed these sentiments. The B61s are short-range and low-yield, not the type of bomb we would use in an actual conflict.

    "The likely hood right is that we're going to use the big bombs, and not the little bombs," Heeley said.

    B 61 nuclear bombs on rack

    In the event that the US would move to use the B61s at Incirlik, a NATO ally would have to remove the bombs from Turkey, bring them to another base, and then the US could equip them onto a bomber. Such a feet of logistics would be hard to conceal from any worthy adversary. 

    Furthermore, the US is currently updating every leg of the nuclear triad — the ability to launch nuclear weapons from the air, land, and sea. This effort is expected to cost anywhere from $450 billion to $1 trillion, but the B61s don't need to be a part of that picture.

    As they are gravity bombs, these nukes are dropped by bombers from the sky, which would require a bomber to fly over its target. In this age of advanced air defenses, gravity bombs have simply outlived their use. The Pentagon is currently developing a long-range standoff cruise missile to eliminate the need to risk bombers and crews over contested air spaces. 

    However much of the money in updating the US's nuclear weapons, specifically preparing them to be fixed to F-15s, F-16s, F-35s, and the coming B-21, has already been spent.

    “We recommend that the US forgo the procurement of B61s intended for delivery by fighter aircraft and remove the weapons from Europe immediately,” the report, co-authored by Heeley states.

    “This would save approximately $3.7 billion from FY 2017-2021 and just over $6 billion during the lifetime of the program, resources that could be used more productively to strengthen conventional forces.”

    What would NATO think?

    nato training

    The nuclear weapons hidden across Europe during the Cold War were stashed for good reason. Though their potency as deterrents has decreased over time, they illustrate the US's commitment to NATO and stability in Europe and Turkey. To pull them out would surely ruffle feathers.

    In the case of Incirlik, Heeley says there is a "very good possibility that they [Turkey] would feel slighted" by the US pulling out its nukes in a time of turmoil. Instead, Heeley and the Stimson group suggest the US should replace these useless, though symbolically important, nukes with an "additional commitment" of conventional forces.

    Likewise, the Baltic nations, NATO's newest and most exposed members against Russia, would surely protest the US appearing to withdraw forces from the region. Again, the Stimson group suggests these nuclear forces should be traded in for "conventional measures we can take to bolster their confidence."

    But stationing additional brigades in Europe and Turkey would be costly, and perhaps unpopular at home. According to Heeley, the costs of maintaining brigades in Europe would be slightly more than the savings that could be realized by pulling the B61s.

    NATO Trident Juncture

    "The money that's saved by removing the nuclear weapon could be poured into the European Assurance Initiative," said Heeley.

    Further, the move away from relying on dated nuclear platforms signals a shift to a more practical tool for actual warfare, but a less meaningful deterrent. Simply put, a conventional war would be more likely to happen than a nuclear conflict because it doesn't automatically guarantee the destruction of both sides.

    "From the US perspective and the Russian perspective, we would all much prefer that exchange take place using conventional forces and not nuclear forces," said Heeley.

    "Both [nuclear and conventional forces] serve a deterrent purpose. If moving additional brigades, for a deterrent purpose to Russia and to reassure our allies, the cost is not significantly more than it is to rebuild this weapon." 

    SEE ALSO: Congress was briefed on possibly moving the US's nuclear weapons from Turkey's Incirlik Air Base

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: ARMY RANGER SNIPER: Why Trump shouldn't have the nuclear codes


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    tu 22

    Russian Air Force Tu-22M3 strategic bombers have been involved in the air strikes in Syria since Moscow has startedpounding Islamic State militants last year.

    The aircraft have carried out carpet bombings dropping OFAB-250-270 and FAB-500M-62 iron bombs on their targets.

    Operating from Engels and Modzok airbases in southwestern Russia, the aircraft had to cover a distance close to 3,000 km exceeding their combat radius thus requiring the support of several Il-78M aerial refuelers on their way to the targets and back.

    On Aug. 15, the first images of a contingent of 6 Tu-22M3 bombers forward deployed to Hamedan Air Base in western Iran, along with supporting Il-76 airlifters, emerged.

     On Aug. 16, the Russian MoD confirmed that the Backfire aircraft deployed to Iran performed an air strike around the besieged city of Deir-ez-Zor in eastern Syria.

    Based on the footage that was released after the first mission, the Tu-22s were escorted by some Su-30SM Flankers derivatives (launched from Latakia airbase), as happened during the previous airstrikes of the RuAF Tu-22s, Tu-160s and Tu-95s.

    Under the newly signed agreement with Iran, Russian bombers will be able to cut their flight time by 60%, saving money and increasing the ops tempo: the current distance to Syria in roughly 900 km, meaning that no aerial refueling is required for a round-trip mission from Iran.

    Hmeymim airbase, near Latakia, that has been the headquarters of the Russian aircraft since October last year was unable to accommodate the large (34m wingspan) Russian supersonic, variable-sweep wing, long-range strategic bombers.

    SEE ALSO: Russia has released the first official footage of its new fifth-generation fighter

    Join the conversation about this story »

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


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    us air force f-16

    The US Air Force is the world's premier aerial force. 

    The Air Force has 39 distinct types of aircraft, not counting individual variants within each of those airframes. This range of planes allow the Air Force to highly specialize for each mission and achieve incredible successes. 

    The following photos show some of the amazing missions that the Air Force carries out both on air and land at night.

    SEE ALSO: Take a look at these incredibly surreal photos of the Navy at night

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

    A C-130 Hercules from the 36th Airlift Squadron conducts a night flight mission over Yokota Air Base, Japan, May 11, 2016.



    An F-16 Fighting Falcon assigned to the 354th Fighter Wing sits on the flightline March 25, 2015, at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska.



    Capt. Thomas Bernard, a 36th Airlift Squadron C-130 Hercules pilot, performs a visual confirmation with night vision goggles during a training mission over the Kanto Plain, Japan, Oct. 14, 2015.



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    ash carter Voltaire Gazmin us philippines pacific allies aircraft carrier

    In the picture above, US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, left, shakes hands with the Philippines' secretary of national defense, Voltaire Gazmin, aboard the back of a V-22 Osprey as it flies over the South China Sea ahead of the USS John C. Stennis, an aircraft carrier.

    Altogether, the picture reveals a very big problem for China.

    The USS John C. Stennis just returned from a 7-month deployment in the Indian and Pacific oceans. During its outing, the Stennis exercised with 26 nations in the Rim of the Pacific and other exercises, including dual-carrier ops with the USS Ronald Reagan.

    In the meantime, China only further isolated itself by ignoring The Hague's ruling in the South China Sea and by ramping up dangerous and belligerent rhetoric.

    The US has lots of friends in the Pacific; Japan, South Korea, India, and the Philippines are all in regular contact with the US Navy. China's increasingly aggressive and unilateral acts will only draw its Pacific neighbors into closer cooperation with the US.

    In short, this picture reveals China's huge disadvantage in trying to dictate terms in the Pacific: It has no Ospreys, no modern operational aircraft carriers, and no one to shake hands with.

    SEE ALSO: How China's military stacks up to the US armed forces

    Join the conversation about this story »

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


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    vacuum bomb syria

    Imagine taking a deep breath then submerging yourself in water.

    Then imagine having all of the oxygen forced instantaneously from your body. Try to inhale again.

    But instead of cold water filling your lungs, toxic, flammable particles start killing you from the inside out.

    Such suffering and death is distressing and inhumane. That is what is inflicted by a thermobaric bomb, sometimes called a “vacuum bomb”. They first appeared in modern form in the 1960s and have been refined ever since. Russia, the US, China, India and many others have them.

    Thermobaric bombs use different combinations of heat and pressure to produce different high explosive effects. An initial explosion produces a pressure wave powerful enough to flatten buildings or penetrate into cave or other structures. At the same time, the explosion will disperse highly flammable fuel particles around its vicinity.

    These, often aluminium-based, particles ignite a fraction of a second later and burn at very high temperatures. The two blasts combine for maximum effect. They use up all the oxygen in the surrounding air, creating a vacuum – hence “vacuum bomb”. The resulting vacuum can be powerful enough to rupture the lungs and eardrums of anyone nearby.

    The Syrian and Russian governments have both been accused of using thermobaric bombs against rebel forces. Compelling evidence supports the claims of devastating consequences for nearby civilians.

    It is brutally clear why Vladimir Putin and his ally Bashar al Assad might use these weapons. Thermobaric bombs are highly destructive with fearsome, direct physical effects. In opposition-held areas, civilians are just as likely to be affected as combatants. The indirect effects are also desirable from Syrian and Russian government perspectives. Local communities are terrorised into submission or displaced, joining the millions of refugees seeking sanctuary elsewhere.

    Grim strategy

    vacuum bomb syria

    The use of aerial bombing in this manner has a long history. What we see in Syria is just a new twist on an old theme.

    In the 1920s the air warfare theorist Giulio Douhet anticipated that aerial bombing would remove any distinction between soldiers and civilians. Entire populations would become the focus of bombing by explosives, incendiaries and even chemical weapons. The deliberate targeting of civilians would force them into submission. He predicted that the will to resist would evaporate, then people would demand that their leaders surrender.

    Paradoxically, Douhet put forward this idea for the strategic bombing of civilians, in part, as a moral argument. Short, aggressive air campaigns against civilians would force an early end to hostilities. Such outcomes would be preferable to the prolonged loss of life he witnessed in World War I.

    This approach should be rejected as barbaric in the 21st century.

    It is the principle that underpinned the carpet bombing of cities in World War II. Not to mention America’s use of the atom bomb against Japan.

    Whatever qualms about fire-bombing civilians emerged after that war were later enshrined in international humanitarian law. They state that civilians should not be attacked. Also, the presence of fighters or soldiers within the civilian population “does not deprive the population of its civilian character”. However, those laws are ignored by Assad and Putin in Syria today.

    Civilian targets

    putin assad

    The UN Human Rights Council has been highly critical of numerous uses of lethal force in Syria. This includes the aerial bombardment by pro-government forces of areas beyond government control. It seems almost too obvious to state that the widespread killing of civilians by such methods is immoral. The weapons are indiscriminate and cannot distinguish between combatant and noncombatant. Their use against civilians is disproportionate to any threat those civilians pose to Assad’s rule. Further, the suffering and death they inflict is inhumane, by any measure. Worse, any claim that only fighters are being targeted in these bombings is dishonest and inaccurate.

    Part of Douhet’s prediction from almost a century ago is coming true before our eyes. The distinction between civilian areas and the battlefield has disappeared in places like Aleppo. The Syrian regime and its Russian allies have made sure of that. The failure of Douhet’s prediction is that civilian deaths are not bringing about the end of the fighting.

    The reality that Western powers must face is that these moral arguments are irrelevant to Assad and Putin. However, it would be foolish to pretend that there is not a certain harsh logic to their actions. Regime continuity and personal survival motivate Assad, while strategic self-interest motivates Putin.

    Until some form of brokered peace is achieved, with distasteful but necessary accommodations, the suffering will continue. Right now, the West is powerless to prevent these abhorrent Russian and Syrian tactics. We can only stand by while their vacuum bombs literally suck the life out of innocent civilians.

    Peter Lee, Reader in Politics and Ethics, University of Portsmouth

    This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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    iraqi forces fallujah isis

    Abu Ahmed told us how the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) came to acquire some of the world’s most fearsome weapons, which were claimed as spoils of war from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces months before its creation.

    Roughly four months before the split between the Nusra Front and ISIS, in December 2012, dozens of Syrian jihadi fighters climbed a hill toward Regiment 111 — a large army base near the town of Darat Izza, in northern Syria. That town had been taken roughly five months earlier by a coalition of rebel groups. But while they had besieged Regiment 111 since the summer of 2012, they still had not succeeded in capturing the base from the troops loyal to President Assad.

    The weather had turned bad in winter, however, making it more difficult for the Syrian Air Force to hold off the rebels with airstrikes. Moreover, the base was huge, sprawling over almost 500 acres, and difficult to protect from all approaches.

    Syrian Army soldiers inside Regiment 111 successfully defended their base during the first rebel attack in early November 2012, killing 18 Nusra fighters in the process. But the cold December wind only fortified the rebels’ resolve. The base was a goldmine: home to guns, artillery, ammunition, and vehicles. And deep inside Regiment 111’s bunkers lay something even more valuable — a cache of chemical weapons.

    jihadists syria

    The attack was led by the Nusra Front and supported mainly by Kataib Muhajiri al-Sham, a unit within Liwa al-Islam; Majlis Shura al-Mujahideen; and Katibat al-Battar, which consisted largely of Libyan jihadis. The fighters knew that the base possessed ammunition and other weapons, but did not know in advance it contained chemical weapons.

    As the rebels climbed the hills near Regiment 111, intense fighting erupted. “That day, all of us were full of excitement and revenge,” Abu Ahmad told us. “Everybody wanted to avenge the 18 Nusra brothers who were martyred during the first attack.  People were screaming: ‘This time we will conquer it!’” 

    Within a day, the combined jihadi forces had broken through the lines of the Syrian Army. Shortly after, Regiment 111 was fully under jihadi control. They found large stocks of weapons, ammunition and, to their surprise, chemical agents. They were, according to Abu Ahmad, mainly barrels filled with chlorine, sarin, and mustard gas.

    What followed was the distribution of the war spoils. Everybody took some ammunition and weapons. But only the Nusra Front seized the chemical weapons. Abu Ahmad watched as the al Qaeda affiliate called in 10 large cargo trucks, loaded 15 containers with chlorine and sarin gas, and drove them away to an unknown destination. He did not see what happened to the mustard gas.

    Three months later, both the Syrian government and rebel groups reported an attack in Khan al-Assal, near Aleppo. The international media said that 26 people had been killed, among them 16 regime soldiers and 10 civilians. Both the Syrian regime and opposition claimed that chemical weapons had been used — and both accused the other of having carried out one of the first chemical weapons attacks in the Syrian war.

    Abu Ahmad kept his mouth shut in public, but privately he and some of his Syrian jihadi comrades discussed the matter. Although they did not have any evidence, they wondered whether the material used in the Khan al-Assal attack had been taken from Regiment 111. He knew he couldn’t ask Abu al-Atheer for clarification. By now he had learned one of the golden rules of the secretive jihadi movement: When it’s none of your business, keep quiet.

    “Among our people, it is not done to ask,” Abu Ahmad told us.

    jihadist chemical weapons

    That would be the end of the issue for the next eight months. Beginning in April 2013, Abu Ahmad and his comrades would be preoccupied with Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s expansion into Syria, and the escalating tensions between the newly-created ISIS and the Nusra Front. It was a confused time in the Syrian jihadi world: Many factions within the Nusra Front were breaking off to join ISIS, while the al Qaeda affiliate worked feverishly to maintain loyalty within its ranks. Territory, bases, and weapons were up for grabs like never before.

    But in mid-August 2013, Abu Ahmed received news that made him think that ISIS had emerged from the split with the Nusra Front in possession of the chemical weapons seized at Regiment 111 — and that it was now using them against its enemies.

    Out of the blue, Abu al-Atheer, the man to whom Abu Ahmed had pledged loyalty — and who had in turn pledged loyalty directly to Baghdadi — told his own commanders that ISIS had twice used chemicals during attacks against the Syrian Army. The announcement came during a normal conversation between Abu al-Atheer and his men; the ISIS commander told the story happily and proudly.

    “The brothers sent a car bomb with chemicals to a [Syrian Army] checkpoint near al-Hamra village in Hama,” Abu al-Atheer claimed, as they sat in their headquarters.

    Al-Hamra is located roughly 20 miles northeast of the city of Hama. It is still controlled by forces loyal to the Syrian government.

    Abu al-Atheer spoke of another ISIS chemical attack. “We also used one car bomb filled with chemicals against regime forces near to Menagh Airbase,” he said. Menagh Airbase is located roughly 20 miles north of Aleppo. After a year-long siege, on Aug. 5, 2013, Menagh Airbase was eventually overrun by jihadis led by ISIS.

    russian airstrikes Syria

    Again, Abu Ahmed thought back to that cold December day when jihadi fighters overran Regiment 111. Were these the same chemical weapons that he and his comrades had found stockpiled in the base back then?

    Whether they are or not, the Islamic State appears to still have these weapons in their arsenal. More than two years later, on Oct. 6, 2015, the New York Times published an article describing how the Islamic State used chemical weapons against moderate rebel fighters in the northern town of Marea. According to the Times, the group fired projectiles that delivered “sulfur mustard.” This substance is more commonly known as mustard gas.

    The Dutch-Turkish jihadi Salih Yilmaz, a former soldier in the Dutch Army who has joined IS, admitted on Aug. 31, 2015, on his now defunct blog that Islamic State indeed used chemical weapons there. Yilmaz was asked by a reader of his blog “why did they accuse [the Islamic State] of recently using chemical weapons in Aleppo province?”

    Yilmaz responded by writing: “Where do you think IS got their chemical weapons from? From our enemies — and thus we use their own weapons against them.”

    SEE ALSO: How ISIS was really founded

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    NOW WATCH: America's B-2 stealth bomber is unlike any military aircraft in the world


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    Russian Tu-22M

    On August 16, Russia launched the first airstrikes in Syria from Hamedan Air Base in Iran.

    The next day, they released video of it, which highlights important differences between Russian and US or US-led coalition airstrikes.

    The video shows a Russian Air Force Tu-22M3 strategic bomber flying high above the clouds and releasing a bunch of bombs over what Russia claims was Deir-ez-Zor, ISIS-held territory in eastern Syria. Though the footage may seem impressive at first glance, it shows there is still a lot to be desired from Russia as a modern military power.

    In the slides below, see the two styles of air strikes compared side by side.

    SEE ALSO: The US is going to spend $8 billion on completely useless bombs

    Here is Russia's air strike from Iran, filmed on August 16.

    RAW Embed

    The footage is full color, likely shot from a helmet-mounted GoPro on the escort pilot. The footage is branded by RT, a TV station, for broadcast.

    All we see is the Tu-22s bomb bay open, and unguided, or "dumb" bombs, pour out. The pilot looks down as the bombs fall, but there is no way of seeing through the cloud cover.

    Dropping a large number of unguided bombs is known as "carpet bombing," a terribly inaccurate way to inflict lots of damage cheaply. Bombs dropped from these heights, if not guided, can drift and explode far from their intended targets. 



    In comparison, here is a US-led airstrike on a weapons storage facility in Raqqa, Syria, ISIS' capital there.

    RAW Embed

    Note that this footage is most likely filmed by a drone flying steadily and removed from the subject, there is not the production quality you'd pursue to broadcast this on TV as propaganda.

    When the bomb hits, it's a single projectile in a straight trajectory. That's because the US and US-led coalition airstrikes almost exclusively use precision-guided munitions. 

    You just don't see carpet bombing out of the coalition.



    For context, here we see Iraqi helicopters gun footage as they savage a large convoy of ISIS vehicles.

    RAW Embed

    The Iraqis don't go to much trouble with video production either. They simply posted the gun camera footage after a successful strike



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    russian troops crimea

    The Pentagon has identified eight staging areas in Russia where large numbers of military forces appear to be preparing for incursions into Ukraine, according to US defense officials.

    As many as 40,000 Russian troops, including tanks, armored vehicles, and air force units, are now arrayed along Ukraine’s eastern border with Russia.

    Additionally, large numbers of Russian military forces will conduct exercises in the coming days that Pentagon officials say could be used as cover for an attack on Ukraine.

    “Russian units will likely practice reinforcing the [Crimean] peninsula through such activities as amphibious landings and air defense exercises, and this may involve the change out of equipment and long convoys of military vehicles,” one defense official said.

    The military exercises are an ominous sign. Similar large-scale Russian exercises were conducted near Ukraine a month before Moscow carried out the covert military operation to take over the strategic Black Sea peninsula in March 2014.

    Navy Capt. Danny Hernandez, a spokesman for the US European Command, told the Washington Free Beacon that the upcoming Russian exercises are being closely monitored.

    “We are extremely concerned about the increased tensions near the administrative boundary between Crimea and the rest of Ukraine,” Hernandez said. “We urge both sides to avoid provocative steps or rhetoric that could escalate the situation.”

    Russian forces do not appear to be building up inside the occupied Crimean Peninsula along the border with Ukraine, he said.

    However, over the past several months large numbers of Russian troops and tanks have been moving into eight bases stretching from Yelnya, near Smolensk and northeast of Ukraine, southward through Rostov—a city located very close to eastern Ukraine.

    Defense officials said it is not clear whether the massing of forces is saber rattling by Moscow designed to coerce Ukraine into accepting the takeover of Crimea or preparations for further conflict. “Regardless of the reason, the warning time for Russian action has been greatly reduced” by the staging of forces near Ukraine, a second defense official said.

    Russian military forces were identified by the officials at eight locations near the Ukrainian border: Yelnya, Klintsy, Valuyki, Boguchar, Millerovo, Persianovskiy, and bases called Rostov-1 and Rostov-2.

    Rep. Mike Pompeo (R., Kan.) a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said Russia is continuing aggression and threats against the rest of Ukraine after invading Crimea.

    russia crimea navy

    “This is unacceptable and will only serve to further instability in the region,” Pompeo said. “Unfortunately, President Obama is once again ‘leading from behind’ and is doing nearly nothing to buttress the Ukrainian people. Mr. Putin must respect the sovereignty of other nations. This is a non-negotiable lesson most countries learned long ago.”

    Wire service reports and online blogs have revealed satellite photos of the Russian military buildup at the eight locations.

    Reuters reported in June on the deployment of troops to Klintsy, and the website InformNapalmreported July 30 that armored units of the 28th Motorized Rifle Brigade were moved to a base near Valuyki, and at Rostov.

    A Russian military training camp reportedly was set up at Persianovskiy, located about 28 miles north of Rostov, according to a report by the online news outlet Bellingcat. Troops and aircraft at Millerovo also have been identified in satellite photos since 2015.

    Reuters reported in September that a Russian military base was being set up near Boguchar, and the blog Russian Military Analysis reported that a motorized rifle brigade was deployed last year to Yelnya.

    Mark Schneider, a former Pentagon official, said the troop movements are worrying signs that Moscow may be preparing for war with Ukraine.

    “There is lot of press in the last week about a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine including massing of troops,” said Schneider, now with the National Institute for Public Policy.

    Russia has denied reports that Moscow is considering breaking diplomatic relations with Ukraine. Ukraine’s government has ordered troops mobilized and placed on alert.

    Russia last week accused Ukraine of conducting covert sabotage operations against infrastructure inside Crimea, charges the Kiev government denied. Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that Russian forces in Crimea would be fortified as a result of the attempted sabotage. Putin is expected to visit Crimea later this week, Reuters reported from Moscow.

    Schneider said another troubling sign of possible Russian military action was the recent firing of Putin’s chief of staff, Sergei Ivanov, a former official of the KGB and FSB intelligence services. “Ivanov’s firing could be related to Putin’s desire not to have a powerful KGB/FSB general running the Kremlin when he is going to do something risky,” he said.

    Phillip Karber, a former US arms control official who has traveled extensively in Ukraine war zones, identified several new military units at the eight locations, including up to two brigades of the newly established Russian First Guards Tank Army at Yelnya and Klintsy in the north, elements of the 20th Army located to the south of those units, and forces from the 49th Army deployed further south near Rostov.

    russian troops crimea

    “The fact that a full scale Russian invasion is still a plausible scenario after 30 months of conflict is an abject repudiation of an American policy of ‘leading from behind’ and West European fetish for trying to find ‘off-ramps’ that Putin hasn’t the slightest interest in taking,” said Karber, now head of the Potomac Foundation.

    Karber believes Russian military action against Ukraine could take place and that Moscow’s trumped-up claims of a recent Ukrainian “terrorist” attack in Crimea could be used as a pretext.

    Russia appears to be shoring up forces in Crimea and eastern Ukraine, he said. The upcoming military exercises will likely be conducted from areas that could facilitate an attack, using Russian forces deployed in Moldova’s Transnistria region and marine units on ships in the Black Sea, Karber said.

    “For the next month the terrain is perfect for armor moving cross-country and the skies are clear for air,” Karber said. “The 24th of August is Ukraine’s Independence Day, which is when the Russians attacked in 2014. A successful campaign, with US and NATO doing nothing but verbiage, re-establishes Russia as a major European Power that has to be dealt with and increases Putin’s popularity at home.”

    Karber said a full-scale Russian military offensive likely would aim to seize key military-industrial areas such as the tank plant at Kharkiv, the missile factory at Dnepropetrovsk, the shipyard at Mykolyev, and the port of Odessa.

    Russian forces also could drive into Ukraine from the northeast to the outskirts of Kiev and place the capital within artillery range in a bid to force a change of government.

    russia ukraine military buildup

    “Loss of that much population, around 14 million people, and territory would effectively end Ukraine as a viable state,” Karber said, adding that the action would involve full-scale war, large numbers of refugees, and heavy casualties. It could also trigger anti-Russian guerrilla warfare.

    Still, Russia does not appear to have all the forces in place for a major military operation, he said.

    “The more aggressive and ambitious the attack, the further and longer it will isolate Russia from Western Europe, and it would gravely embarrass Putin’s favorite American presidential candidate and make his pro-Russian statements look naive and foolish at best, or worse, an apologist for the aggressor,” Karber said, referring to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

    SEE ALSO: The critical difference between Russian and US airstrikes

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


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    f35 aircraft carrier eisenhower

    ABOARD THE USS GEORGE WASHINGTON--Seven NavyF-35 Joint Strike Fighters spent Monday morning in a round robin off the coast of Norfolk, Virginia, completing a tight succession of take-offs and arrested landings as pilots with Strike Fighter Squadron 101 completed carrier qualifications on the aircraft.

    The dozen instructors with the squadron each completed the required 10 traps and two touch-and-go maneuvers in less than two days. But thanks to an advanced landing system in the fifth-generation aircraft that limits the variables pilots need to monitor when they catch the wire, officers with the squadron said they could have gotten the practice they needed in much less time.

    "What has traditionally been required for initial qualifications ... that can probably be reduced, because the task becomes mundane after a while," said Lt. Cmdr. Daniel Kitts, officer in charge of the testing detachment aboard this ship. "You can make corrections so easily."

    The system that makes the difference is Delta Flight Path, developed by Lockheed Martin Corp. with input from Naval Air Systems Command. That system is one of more than a half-dozen F-35C features that are being tested in this third and final round of carrier exercises.

    During a 20-day developmental testing period aboard the George Washington that will conclude Aug. 23, pilots will test the aircraft's ability to fly symmetrical and asymmetrical external weapons loads, execute aircraft launches at maximum weight and against crosswinds, try out a new helmet software load designed to improve visibility in dark conditions, test the capabilities of Delta Flight Path and the Joint Precision Approach and Landing System, and take out and replace an entire F-35C engine to simulate major maintenance aboard a carrier.

    At the conclusion of these tests, officials believe the F-35C will be substantially ready for initial operational capability, a milestone the aircraft is expected to hit in 2018.

    F35C

    But success of the built-in carrier landing technology may have even wider-reaching effects.

    Like the Maritime Augmented Guidance with Integrated Controls for Carrier Approach and Recovery Precision Enabling Technologies, or MAGIC CARPET, system now being tested on the Navy's legacy F/A-18E/F Super Hornets, Delta Flight Path gives the aircraft the ability to stay on glide slope automatically and minimize the number of corrections the pilot must make.

    "All pilots are trained, we make corrections for glide slope with the throttle. We practice it when we get to our fleet trainers, and we practice it a bunch each and every time before we come out to the boat," Kitts said. "So what you're able to do when you come out here is hopefully spend less time practicing, because the workload on the pilot is extremely reduced."

    That's important, Kitts said, because time spent in the field and on the carrier practicing landings is time in which pilots are becoming less tactically proficient because they can't develop and drill other skills.

    The commanding officer of VFA-101, Capt. James Christie, said pilots are collecting data as they complete their required takeoffs and landings that could be used to inform a prospective proposal to reduce carrier training and qualification requirements.

    "We're not going to move too quickly; we're going to ensure it's the right thing to do," Christie said. "But as soon as we have the empirical evidence that shows we can safely reduce those numbers, I'll be all for submitting that to leadership."

    So far, the data looks good. In this round of testing, there have so far been no bolters, when an aircraft unintentionally misses the wire, and no landing wave-offs attributed to aircraft performance or safety issues, said Lt. Graham Cleveland, landing signal officer for VFA-101.

    F-35C

    Cleveland said this new technology might enable the Navy to cut ashore training from 16 to 18 field carrier landing practices to between four and six. He said he also envisioned cutting carrier qualification requirements from ten to six traps in the future.

    "That's going to save money, that's going to save fuel, that's going to save aircraft life, basically," he said.

    The future aside, getting out to the carrier for the first evolution of testing to involve operational pilots as well as test pilots was its own milestone for many at the fore of efforts to ready the F-35C for the fleet.

    "It's incredibly gratifying to see them come out and really make this aircraft real from the perspective of the fleet," said Tom Briggs, acting chief test engineer for the Navy. "This is going to be a viable program, a viable aircraft that's really going to do what it's designed to do … watching them come out here and do this, it's goose-bumpy."

    --Hope Hodge Seck can be reached at hope.seck@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @HopeSeck.

    SEE ALSO: The only chart you need to see to know that America's F-35 is the future of warfare

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    NOW WATCH: Watch the Marines' F-35 fire an 80-round burst from its gun pod for the first time


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    incendiary rounds syria russia

    In a troubling report on Tuesday, Human Rights Watch accused Russian and Syrian war planes of dropping internationally banned incendiary weapons on civilian areas of Syria.

    “The Syrian government and Russia should immediately stop attacking civilian areas with incendiary weapons,” Steve Goose, arms director at Human Rights Watch, said in the report.

    “These weapons inflict horrible injuries and excruciating pain, so all countries should condemn their use in civilian areas.”

    The report goes to lengths to establish the use of RBK-500 ZAB-2.5SM incendiary bombs, manufactured in the Soviet Union, as having been used 18 times over the last three months. Each instance cites video evidence, witness testimonies, and sometimes actual physical remnants of the bombs recovered.

    In one case, Russian state TV actually ran footage of Su-34s taking off on a bombing run with the banned munitions in tow.

    As Thomas Gibbons-Neff of the Washington Post notes, "Russia is party to a United Nations protocol that bans the use of airdropped incendiary munitions on areas with high concentrations of civilians. Syria, however, is not."

    In the past, the UN has voiced concerns about the use of banned incendiary and cluster munitions in Syria, but they have not been able to verify it. 

    Read the full report at Human Rights Watch here»

    SEE ALSO: The critical difference between Russian and US airstrikes

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


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    hyuga japan navy aircraft carrier

    Japan once had the second-most powerful carrier force in the world – on December 7, 1941. On that date, they had six fleet carriers and five light carriers in service, with two fleet carriers on the way. That was in comparison to the United States, which had seven fleet carriers in service with a whole lot of carriers on the way.

    Today, Japan has regained the number two slot in terms of aircraft carriers. Currently, they have three in service and one on the way. Now, they don’t call their aircraft carriers aircraft carriers.

    Instead, they are calling them “helicopter destroyers” – to create the impression they are replacing the four vessels of the Haruna and Shirane classes. These two classes each packed two five-inch guns forward along with an eight-cell ASROC launcher. At the rear, they had an over-sized (for a destroyer) hangar capable of carrying three SH-3 Sea King (later four SH-60) helicopters.

    Take a good look at the Hyuga-class “helicopter destroyers.” Put it next to a Nimitz-class carrier. Aside from the size difference, the Hyuga design obviously has much more in common with a Nimitz than Japan’s past helicopter destroyers.

    hyuga aircraft carrier japan navy rimpac

    In fact, the Hyuga and her sister Ise, at just under 19,000 tons, outweighed Thailand’s Chakrinaruebet, which displaces about 11,500 tons, the Italian Giuseppe Garibaldi (10,500 tons), and the Spanish Principe de Asturias (16,700 tons). While Hyuga has a 16-cell Mk 41 VLS capable of firing RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles and RUM-139 Vertical-Launch ASROCs and two triple 324mm torpedo tubes, the primary objective is to support helicopters – up to eighteen of them.

    In a sense, they are like the last ships named Ise and Hyuga, which ended up as hermaphrodite battleship/carriers at the end of World War II.

    It should be noted the Hyuga has also operated V-22s, and the Spanish, Thai, and Italian carriers, while smaller, successfully operated versions of the AV-8B Harrier. With a top speed of thirty knots, the Hyuga can move quickly – and generate a lot of wind over the bow. That is very useful when you want to launch a V/STOL aircraft with a load of bombs and missiles.

    japan aircraft carriers

    Japan’s latest aircraft carrier – helicopter destroyer – is the Izumo. She’s 27,000 tons, carries 28 aircraft, and is roughly the size of Spain’s Juan Carlos I, Italy’s Conte di Cavour, and about 20 percent larger than the now retired Invincible-class carriers the Royal Navy used. It should be noted that the Spanish, Italian, and British carriers operated Harrier jump-jets as well.

    The Izumo also dispenses with the heavy anti-air and anti-sub armament that the Hyuga-class carriers carried. Izumo’s only weapons are two Phalanx close-in weapon systems and two Mk 31 launchers for the RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile. Izumo is currently in service while Kaga is on the way. In short, Japan is not confusing the Izumo’s purpose – at least in terms of the equipment on board.Izumo is still called a helicopter destroyer, even though she’s really an aircraft carrier.

    SEE ALSO: The US Air Force just made a huge show in the South China Sea with 3 nuclear-capable bombers

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    NOW WATCH: Rare footage shows the successful testing of the most powerful weapon known to man


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    Iran revolutionary guard hormuz

    Afghanistan's Hazara minority have a proud lineage, supposedly dating back to Genghis Khan, but a recent piece from Ramin Mostaghim and Nabih Bulos in the LA Times claims that they are fleeing persecution in Afghanistan only to be sent to fight, and often die, in Syria by Iran.

    Currently, Hazaras have face persecution as Shia Muslim minorities in a Sunni Muslim country. The Hazaras have equal rights under Afghanistan's 2004 constitution, but they were sold as slaves as recently as the 19th century, Al Jazeera reports, and their continued fleeing of Afghanistan in large numbers testifies to their continued persecution. 

    The LA Times piece reports that Hazaras entering Iran are given a choice: Go to jail, face deportation, or fight in the Fatemiyoun Division — an all-Afghan Shiite militia that backs Assad and seems to take on some of the dirty work Iranians in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard don't touch. 

    ethnolinguistic map of Afghanistan hazara

    “Iranians see the Hazara as cannon fodder,” a Sheik from Qom, told the LA Times.

    “If the Hazara are the Muslim Shiite brethren of Iranians, then why are they the least important people in the devastating civil war in Syria?”

    But some Hazaras see the fight in Syria as noble, protecting fellow Shia Muslims from Sunni persecution by the likes of ISIS and other militias. 

    However, this foreign venture for the ethnic group may be having dire consequences at home. The LA Times suggests an ISIS-claimed bombing in at a Hazara protest in Kabul was retribution for the Fatemiyoun Division's activities in Syria.

    Read the full piece from the LA Times here»

    SEE ALSO: Syrian warplanes bomb Kurdish-held parts of the city of Hasaka for the first time in 5 years

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    NOW WATCH: Something is about to happen to Afghanistan's abandoned palace named 'abode of peace'


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    Uss america

    When the US first fielded the USS America, a new amphibious assault ship that conspicuously lacked a well deck to launch landing ships, more than a few people were confused. But word has come back from the Rim of the Pacific Exercise, and it looks like this new breed of aircraft carrier could be the future of amphibious warfare.

    Typically, the US has fielded amphibious assault ships loaded with helicopters and landing craft intended to pull up just a few miles off of a beach, rapidly deploy, and overwhelm defenses from the sea and air, D-Day style. But the USS America, the first in its class, rethinks that old paradigm.

    "The idea is rapid mobility air assault. So the thinking with me and my Marines right now is, lighter companies, people that can move quickly via the (MV-22) Osprey and the (CH-53Es)," Capt. Michael Baze told US Naval Institute News.

    The new America-class ships will greatly improve the range of these types of ships. Now, instead of wading in shallow waters off the coast of a hostile beach that may very well be teaming with mines, these ships can strike fast and hard from far out.

    "I don't have to worry about force protection for my ship as much because I don't have to get two and three miles off the beach to deploy my Marines (on surface connectors)," Baze said. "The truth is, I'm over 100 miles right now, we could deploy the Marines from here."

    D Day

    Over the past years, the Marines have gotten progressively heavier. Their vehicles have grown bulkier with additional modules and armor, their packs crammed with more gadgets, their logistics dependent on bulldozers. The America, dependent on air lifts, won't be able to carry these items, so they'll have to be outsourced to other ships with well decks.

    But the America isn't unique in abandoning well decks and rethinking the role of amphibious assault ships — Japan's Izumo-class helicopter destroyer has the same idea.

    About 200 feet shorter than a full-on Nimitz-class flattop, the Izumo is a large helicopter carrier with two 20 mm Phalanx close-in weapons systems and two SeaRAM missile launchers for defense. The Izumos will rely on the aircraft on board to protect them, but that's where they have a trick up their sleeves.

    Both Japan and the US await the full readiness of the F-35B short-takeoff vertical-landing platform. Business Insider has reported extensively on how this aircraft will provide game-changing capabilities to militaries and make these ships that traditionally carried helicopters and harrier jets into full-fledged aircraft carriers.

    F 35B plane navy

    With the fifth-gen multi-role planes on board, Japan's Izoumo-class carriers can effectively police the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu islands that are a constant source of tension between Japan and China. As Business Insider reported, the plane's integrated stealth design will allow these planes to breach enemy air defenses, strike quickly and disable them, and then allow more traditional landing craft to take beaches.

    "When America was built there were a lot of people scratching their heads … Now, by every account I get from America, there's incredible goodness. And I think once we start populating that platform with the F-35 it will only grow exponentially," Brig. Gen. Raymond Descheneaux, commanding general of Fleet Marine Forces in RIMPAC 2016, told USNI news.

    The loss of well decks on this new class of carrier represents a pivot to air power and a repurposing of space onboard to house and maintain more aircraft.

    In the future, ships like America will take the role of the quarterback, sending assets deep onshore, avoiding dangerous beaches, beating down enemy defenses, and coordinating with more traditional elements of the Marine Expeditionary Units to change the game when it comes to power projection at sea.

    Read a full and thorough report on the USS America's capabilities and mission from USNI News' Megan Eckstein »

    SEE ALSO: How Japan's newest aircraft carriers stack up to other world powers' flattops

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: This is why a US aircraft carrier is a force to be reckoned with


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

    SEE ALSO: 23 jaw-dropping photos from Russia's massive International Army Games

    Flames whipped by strong winds burn though a hillside before destroying camper vans during the Blue Cut Fire in San Bernardino County, California, August 17, 2016.



    A helicopter makes a drop over a wildfire in West Cajon Valley, California, August 17, 2016. A day after the fire ignited the brush left tinder-dry by years of drought, the flames advanced despite the efforts of over 1,000 firefighters.



    A smokejumper leaps from an airplane during a training flight above Winthrop, Washington, June 30, 2016.



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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