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The latest news on Defense from Business Insider

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    f35b

    An F-35B just carried out a remarkable test where its sensors spotted an airborne target, sent the data to an Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense site, and had the land-based outpost fire a missile to defeat the target — thereby destroying an airborne adversary without firing a single shot of its own.

    This development simultaneously vindicates two of the US military's most important developments: The F-35 and the Naval Integrated Fire Control Counterair Network (NIFC-CA).

    Essentially, the NIFC-CA revolutionizes naval targeting systems by combining data from a huge variety of sensors to generate targeting data that could be used to defeat incoming threats.

    Standard Missile-6So now with this development, an F-35 can pass targeting data to the world's most advanced missile defense system, an Aegis site, that would fire its own missile, likely a SM-6, to take out threats in the air, on land, or at sea.

    This means that an F-35 can stealthily enter heavily contested enemy air space, detect threats, and have them destroyed by a missile fired from a remote site, like an Aegis land site or destroyer, without firing a shot and risking giving up its position.

    The SM-6, the munition of choice for Aegis destroyers, is a 22-foot long supersonic missile that can seek out, maneuver, and destroy airborne targets like enemy jets or incoming cruise or ballistic missiles.

    The SM-6's massive size prohibits it from being equipped to fighter jets, but now, thanks to the integration of the F-35 with the NIFC-CA, it doesn't have to.

    The SM-6, as effective and versatile as it is, can shoot further than the Aegis sites can see. The F-35, as an ultra connective and stealthy jet, acts as an elevated, highly mobile sensor that extends the effective range of the missile. 

    This joint capability helps assuage fears over the F-35's limited capacity to carry ordnance. The jet's stealth design means that all weapons have to be stored internally, and this strongly limits the plane's overall ordnance capacity.

    This limiting factor has drawn criticism from pundits more fond of traditional jet fighting approaches. However, it seems the F-35's connectivity has rendered this point a non-issue.

    Overall, the F-35 and NIFC-CA integration changes the game when it comes to the supposed anti-access/area denial bubbles created by Russia and China's advanced air defenses and missiles. 

    “One of the key defining attributes of a 5th Generation fighter is the force multiplier effect it brings to joint operations through its foremost sensor fusion and external communications capabilities,” said Orlando Carvalho, executive vice president of Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, said in a statement.

    f-35 nifc-ca

    “NIFC-CA is a game changer for the US Navy that extends the engagement range we can detect, analyze and intercept targets,” said Dale Bennett, another Lockheed Martin vice president in the statement.

    “The F-35 and Aegis Weapon System demonstration brings us another step closer to realizing the true potential and power of the worldwide network of these complex systems to protect and support warfighters, the home front and US allies.”

    SEE ALSO: Chief Naval Officer: Russia and China can't stop US aircraft carriers

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: This is how pilots train to fly America's most expensive fighter jets


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    Drill Instructor Yelling Marine Corps

    A new report from Andrew Tilghman of the Military Times states that the US's obesity epidemic has spread to the military, with a whopping 7.8% of US military members now being clinically overweight.

    Having a body mass index (BMI) of over 25 defines one of being overweight by the military's standards, though reason exists to question the accuracy of BMI in predicting overall health.

    While weight problems affect a much smaller portion of the military than the US's population at large (70% overweight), the figure, nonetheless, is troubling.

    “If I have to climb up to the top of a mountain in Nuristan, in Afghanistan, and if I have someone who is classified as clinically obese, they are potentially going to be a liability for me on that patrol,” Army Command Sgt. Maj. John Troxel told the Military Times.

    Read the full report here»

    SEE ALSO: US Navy sailor gives birth on September 11 aboard an aircraft carrier fighting ISIS

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: FORMER MAFIA ASSOCIATE: This is what 'The Sopranos' got right


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    U.S. soldier Chelsea Manning, who was born male but identifies as a woman, imprisoned for handing over classified files to pro-transparency site WikiLeaks, is pictured dressed as a woman in this 2010 photograph obtained on August 14, 2013. Courtesy U.S. Army/Handout via REUTERS

    US soldier Chelsea Manning, serving a 35-year prison term for passing classified files to WikiLeaks, ended her hunger strike on Tuesday after the Army said she would be allowed to receive gender transition surgery, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said.

    The 28-year-old Army private, who was born male but revealed after being convicted of espionage that she identifies as a woman, announced the hunger strike on Friday.

    Manning's treatment will begin with the surgery that was recommended by her psychologist in April, the ACLU, which represented Manning, said in a statement. Manning is held in Kansas.

    No transgender inmate has ever before received gender affirming surgical treatment in prison, the ACLU said.

    "I am unendingly relieved that the military is finally doing the right thing. I applaud them for that. This is all that I wanted — for them to let me be me," Manning said in a statement, though she went on to criticize the government for taking "so long."

    A spokesman for the defense department said it would not comment on the matter in order to protect patient confidentiality.

    Manning in July tried to commit suicide over what her representatives said was the government's denial of appropriate treatment for her gender dysphoria, a condition in which a person feels their physical gender is the opposite of the one he or she identifies with.

    The Army announced later that month that it would investigate Manning for misconduct in connection with the attempt to take her own life, a probe that could lead to indefinite solitary confinement, reclassification into maximum security or additional prison time.

    Chelsea Manning

    According to Manning's representatives, doctors have recommended that as part of her treatment for gender dysphoria the soldier, who began hormone therapy in 2015, be allowed to follow "female hair grooming standards."

    ACLU staff attorney Chase Strangio said in Tuesday's statement that the government plans to still enforce the male hair standards.

    Manning, a former intelligence analyst in Iraq, was sentenced in 2013 to 35 years in prison after a military court conviction of providing more than 700,000 documents, videos, diplomatic cables and battlefield accounts to the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks. The case ranked as the biggest breach of classified materials in US history.

    Among the files Manning leaked in 2010 was a gunsight video of a US Apache helicopter firing on suspected Iraqi insurgents in 2007, an attack that killed a dozen people, including two Reuters news staff.

    SEE ALSO: Melania Trump sues Daily Mail, blogger over 'tremendously damaging' story

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: NASA is bringing back one of its most experimental and dangerous programs


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    Hans Island

    Far in the Arctic North lies the barren and desolate Hans Island. 

    The uninhabited half-square-mile island, possessing no apparent natural resources, is a bizarre sliver of territory for two countries to fight over.

    However, since the early 1930s, this nondescript rock has been at the center of an ongoing disagreement between Canada and Denmark. 

    According to World Atlas, Hans Island is located in the middle of the 22-mile wide Nares Strait, which separates Greenland, an autonomous territory of Denmark, from Canada. Due to international law, all countries have the right to claim territory within 12 miles of their shore. 

    As such, Hans Island is technically located in both Danish and Canadian waters. World Atlas notes that the island was decided to be Danish territory by the Permanent Court of International Justice of the League of Nations in 1933.

    However, as the League of Nations fell apart in the 1930s and was then replaced by the United Nations, the ruling on the status of Hans Island carries little to no weight. 

    The issue of Hans Island then loss traction in popular consciousness and the concerns of the Canadian and Danish governments throughout World War II and the heights of the Cold War, only to reemerge in 1984.

    On that year, Denmark's minister of Greenland affairs visited the island and planted a Danish flag. At the base of the flag, he left a note saying, "Welcome to the Danish island," along with a bottle of brandy, CBC reports.

    And since then, the two countries have waged a not-quite-serious "whiskey war" over Hans Island. 

    Hans Island

    Although the two countries have continued to disagree over the territorial status of the island, the governments have managed to continue the "whiskey war" and keep a good sense of humor over the incident. 

    Peter Takso Jensen, the Danish Ambassador to the US, has said that "when Danish military go there, they leave a bottle of schnapps. And when [Canadian] military forces come there, they leave a bottle of Canadian Club and a sign saying, 'Welcome to Canada.'"

    Currently, a plan is in the works that could turn Hans Island into a shared territory that would be jointly managed by the Canadian and Danish municipalities bordering it.  

    SEE ALSO: 9 wars that were technically ongoing due to quirks of diplomacy

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: This animated map shows how humans migrated across the globe


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    philippines president rodrigo duterte

    Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte may have said he wants to buy arms from China, but he is simply playing China off against the United States rather than presenting a realistic plan, analysts say.

    And the fallout from an international tribunal ruling on the South China Sea is far from over, they added.

    Duterte told military officers in Manila on Tuesday that he would not allow government forces to conduct joint patrols of disputed waters near the South China Sea with foreign powers, and that he was considering acquiring defence equipment from Russia and China.

    Philippines’ Duterte eyes arms from China, ends joint patrols with United States

    Last week, he said he wanted all American special forces out of the southern Philippines, where they have been advising local troops battling Muslim extremists, but the US said no official order was received.

    The acid-tongued Duterte has had an uneasy relationship with the US recently and is also trying to mend ties with China frayed by the ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration, which ruled against China’s territorial claims to the South China Sea.

    philippine south china sea scarborough

    Oh Ei-sun, a senior fellow with the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore, said Duterte’s expressed wish to buy Chinese arms could not be interpreted clearly while debate on the international tribunal ruling continues.

    “What Duterte is doing is to play the US off against China and vice versa, to hopefully achieve the greatest benefits for the Philippines,” Oh said.

    “In this regard, he could afford to be more ‘severe’ and ‘colourful’ against the US, which considers the Philippines to be an important pillar for its rebalancing policy and is thus more restrained in its responses to Duterte’s outbursts, than to China, which typically does not take foreign impoliteness or diplomatic slights too lightly.

    “I think what Duterte is really looking for is better weapons sales terms from the US.”

    Wu Shicun, president of the National Institute for South China Sea Studies, a Chinese government think tank, said Duterte was testing the US while hoping for greater benefits, especially military goods, even though what he said was unrealistic.

    Li Keqiang and Rodrigo Duterte

    “The Mutual Defence Treaty between the US and the Philippines is a legally binding document approved by the Philippine Supreme Court and a few words from Duterte cannot stop that deep military engagement with the US, which obviously wants to maintain and even boost its geopolitical sway in the region,” Wu said.

    “China also may not sell weapons to the Philippines as Duterte wishesdue to a lack of mutual trust. And it would be embarrassing if the Philippines used Chinese warships to fight against China.”

    Military observer Zhou Chenming said the Philippines was neither brave nor powerful enough to split from the US. Therefore, he said, Duterte’s proposal to buy arms from China was mere posturing to please Beijing, which was infuriated by the Hague ruling on the South China Sea, rather than a realistic plan.

    “Also, compatibility problems hinder Chinese arms sale to the Philippines, as the latter is accustomed to US-style weaponry, which is totally different from Chinese designs and production,” Zhou said.

    Ties between the Philippines and China have been strained since the Philippines applied for a ruling on the South China Sea from the Permanent Court of Arbitration. Filipino fishermen have also complained of harassment by Chinese government vessels near the Scarborough Shoal.

    A Chinese Coast Guard ship attempts to block a Philippine government vessel as the latter tries to enter Second Thomas Shoal in the South China Sea to relieve Philippine troops and resupply provisions.

    Oh, from Singapore, said the oral proposal to buy Chinese weapons could not be seen as a symbol that disputes in the South China Sea were over, as “even if the Philippines does not insist upon the ruling, other Southeast Asian countries would still do so. Similarly, the South China Sea situation is calmer at the moment, but will likely flare up as soon as any claimant acts rashly.”

    Wu said the ruling could not be easily ignored by the Philippines because the US and Japan would not allow it to do so, as both viewed it as an excuse to contain Chinese assertiveness in the important waterway.

    Duterte is famous for his outspokenness. He referred to US President Barack Obama as a “son of a whore” last week and, less than a month earlier, he addressed the Chinese presence in the disputed waters. “I guarantee to them (China), if you enter here, it will be bloody,” he said. “And we will not give it to them easily. It will be the bones of our soldiers, you can include mine.”

    Oh said: “We can hardly discern the seriousness or real effect of what Duterte blurts out in colourful language on an almost daily basis, only to be typically diluted or explained away by other Philippine officials a short while later. Their flippantly contradictory nature frankly does not inspire confidence in their logical implementation. ”

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    Admiral Kuznetsov Russian aircraft carrier

    If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then the US should be flattered that Russia plans to deploy their only aircraft carrier, the 26 year-old Admiral Kuznetsov, off Syria's coast for its first combat deployment.

    A successful deployment of a full-blown aircraft carrier represents the kind of sophisticated military task only a first-rate world power can pull off, and that seems to be exactly what Russia hopes for.

    Much like their 2015 salvo of cruise missiles fired from the Caspian sea into Syria, the event will likely serve as a commercial for Russian military exports — one of the few bright spots in Russia's ailing economy.

    The deployment will seek to present the best and brightest of Russia's resurgent military. The Kuznetsov, which has suffered from a litany of mechanical failures and often requires tow boats, will stay tight to Syria's shores due to the limited range of the carrier's air wing.

    The air wing, comprised of only 15 or so Su-33s and MiG-29s and a handful of helicopters, does not even have half of the US Nimitz class carrier's 60 plus planes

    Furthermore, the carrier lacks plane launching catapults. Instead, the carrier relies on a ski-jump platform that limits how much fuel and ordnance the Russian jets can carry.

    Even so, the Russian jets aboard will be some of the latest models in Russia's entire inventory, according to Russian state-run media. The bombs they carry will be guided, a sharp departure from Russia's usual indiscriminate use of "dumb" or unguided munitions which can drift unpredictably when dropped from altitude.

    Su33 kuznetsov

    Russian media quotes a military source as saying that with the new X-38 guided bombs, "we reinforce our aviation group and bring in completely new means of destruction to the region." The same report states the bombs are accurate to within a few meters, which isn't ideal, but an improvement.

    Indeed, the Kuznetsov's entire flight deck will function as somewhat of a showroom for Russian military goods. China operates a Soviet-designed carrier, as does India. Both of those nations have purchased Russian planes in the past. A solid performance from the jets in Syria would bode well for their prospects as exports, even as India struggles to get its current crop of Russian-made jets up to grade.

    "Despite its resemblance to the land-based version of the MiG-29, this is a completely different aircraft," Russian media quotes a defence official as saying of the MiG-29K carrier-based variant.

    MiG 29K aircraft INS Vikramaditya indian navy aircraft carrier

    "This applies to its stealth technologies, a new system of in-flight refueling, folding wings and mechanisms by which the aircraft has the ability to perform short take-offs and land at low speeds."

    But the Russian jets practice on land bases that simulate the Kuznetsov, and any US Navy pilot will tell you that landing on a bobbing airstrip sailing along at sea is an entirely different beast. 

    One thing Russia's upcoming carrier deployment does have going for it will be having the world's premier naval and carrier power, the US, at least nominally aligned with them in a recently brokered cease-fire

    SEE ALSO: The F-35 just proved it can take Russian or Chinese airspace without firing a shot

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Watch Russian warplanes fly dangerously close by a US Navy ship


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    su 35 f 22

    The newly brokered cease-fire between the US and Russia has paved the way for military cooperation in fighting terrorist elements in Syria, seemingly closing the book on a window in time where Russian and US jets were flying close enough to each other to risk a potential clash between world powers.

    But how does Russia's air force stack up against the US?

    During Russia's stint in Syria, four of their latest and greatest Su-35 Flanker jets flew sorties just miles from the only operational fifth-generation fighter jet in the world, the US's F-22 Raptor.

    Given the fundamental differences between these two top-tier fighter jets, we take a look at the technical specifications and find out which fighter would win in a head-to-head matchup.

    SEE ALSO: The F-35 just proved it can take Russian or Chinese airspace without firing a shot

    F-22 specs

    Max Speed: 1,726 mph
    Max Range: 1,840 miles
    Dimensions: Wingspan: 44.5 ft; Length: 62 ft; Height: 16.7 ft
    Max Takeoff Weight: 83,500 lb
    Engines: Two F119-PW-100 turbofan engines with two-dimensional thrust-vectoring nozzles
    Armament: One M61A2 20-mm cannon with 480 rounds, internal side weapon bay carriage of two AIM-9 infrared (heat seeking) air-to-air missiles, and internal main weapon bay carriage of six AIM-120 radar-guided air-to-air missiles (air-to-air load out) or two 1,000-pound GBU-32 JDAMs and two AIM-120 radar-guided air-to-air missiles (air-to-ground loadout).

    Source: Af.mil



    Su-35 specs

    Max Speed: 1,490 mph
    Max Range: 1,940 miles
    Dimensions: Wingspan: 50.2 ft; Length 72.9 ft; Height 19.4 ft
    Max takeoff weight: 76,060 lb
    Engines: Two Saturn 117S with TVC nozzle turbofan, 31,900 lbf/14,500 kgf each
    Armament: One 30mm GSh-30 internal cannon with 150 rounds, 12 wing and fuselage stations for up to 8,000 kg (17,630 lb) of ordnance, including air-to-air missiles, air-to-surface missiles, rockets, and bombs.

    Source: CombatAircraft.com



    Maneuverability

    Russia based the Su-35 on the rock-solid Su-27 platform, so its status as a "supermaneuverable" fighter is a matter of fact.

    Russian pilots familiar with previous generations of the Sukhoi jet family's thrust-vectoring capabilities have carried out spectacular feats of acrobatic flight, like the "Pugachev's Cobra."

    On the other hand, the F-22 has a great thrust-to-weight ratio and dynamic nozzles on the turbofan engines. These mobile nozzles provide the F-22 with thrust-vectoring of its own, but they had to maintain a low profile when designing them to retain the F-22's stealth edge.

    Possibly, the Su-35 could out-maneuver the F-22 in a classic dogfight.



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    USS Jackson

    When the US Navy fields a new ship, they don't just take the engineer's word for it that it can withstand nearby bombs — they test it out.

    The USS Jackson, an Independence-class Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) meant for patrols in shallow water, just passed the first of three scheduled "shock trials." The shock trials are composed of the ship sailing along as the Navy carefully detonates 10,000 pound bombs on either side of it. The results are then measured.

    “The shock trials are designed to demonstrate the ship’s ability to withstand the effects of nearby underwater explosion and retain required capability,” according to a Navy statement.

    “This is no kidding, things moving, stuff falling off of bulkheads ... Some things are going to break. We have models that predict how electronics are going to move and cabinets are going to move, but some things are going to happen, and we’re going to learn a lot from this test,” US Navy Rear Adm. Brian Antonio told USNI News.

    uss jackson shock trial

    So far, the Jackson has passed the trials handsomely. 

    The Independence class, along with the Freedom class LCSs, represent the Navy's vision of the future of surface warfare. Though both classes have suffered significant engineering difficulties, their modular design promises to revolutionize the way US Navy ships equip, train for, and deploy capabilities.

    Watch the shock trial below:

    SEE ALSO: How Russia plans to imitate US naval power with its aircraft carrier deployment to Syria

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: This incredible time-lapse shows what a day is like on an aircraft carrier


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    US navy uss ronald reagan rimpac 2010 carrier strike group

    In an opinion piece in the US Naval Institute's News Blog, Retired US Navy Commander Daniel Dolan asserts that Russia and Iran harass and intercept the US military not because the US is weak, but because they want to influence the coming presidential election.

    Indeed, Iranian ships frequently harass US Navy ships in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz, and very recently a Russian Su-27 fighter jet carried out a very unsafe and unprofessional intercept of a US reconnaissance plane.

    Critics of the Obama administration have been quick to blame these encounters on his perceived foreign policy weakness, both towards Iran via the Iran Deal and towards Russia with the less than hands on response to the 2014 illegal annexation of Crimea. 

    But as Dolan writes in his piece, "these actions against America’s forward-deployed aircraft and ships are not occurring because America is weak, but rather, it is because America’s enemies are attempting to set the conditions to weaken America post-November elections."

    According to Dolan, Russian intercepts of US planes are commonplace, the US returns the favor when Russian planes skirt the shores of Alaska, and Iranian vessels follow a similar paradigm. 

    russian su-27

    But Dolan points to Russia's alleged hacking of DNC servers to prove Russia's desire for a Donald Trump victory in November.

    Trump, for his part, makes no secret of his admiration for Putin, and his desire to pull out of the costly NATO alliance and leave Europe to hold it's own against Russia.

    Dolan says this is exactly what the Russian president wants. On the Iranian side, Dolan is sure that the Iranian hardliners want the Iran Nuclear Deal torn up, another position Trump has explicitly backed.

    However, the Iran Deal provided a huge windfall of cash for Iran, and Eurasia Group Chairman and Iran expert Cliff Kupchan explicitly told Business Insider that the Iranians are "are not gonna walk away from that."

    Perhaps Dolan's most cogent point is that the US military isn't weak. Dolan says that the US shows the flag in the Black Sea and the Persian Gulf as a sign of strength, and that the US has indeed stepped up its presence in these region in response to the very same threats critics say Obama has backed down from.

    US navy

    "While there is room to criticize US foreign policy, it is simply not true that US military presence around the world is weak," writes Dolan.

    Dolan says that Americans should be proud of the US's military presence in troubled regions around the world, that the US acts with the professionalism and confidence every bit befitting the best fighting force the world has ever known. 

    Read the full editorial here»

    SEE ALSO: Why Iran is 'playing with fire' in the Persian Gulf against US Navy ships

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Obama said the White House previously announced the $400 million payment to Iran — here's the footage


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

    SEE ALSO: 19 photos show a rare side of the world that aircraft servicemembers see

    Family members of the passengers and crew of Flight 93 touch the Wall of Names, following a wreath laying ceremony at the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, September 11, 2016.



    Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton smiles as she speaks to aids on her campaign plane, in White Plains, New York, September 15, 2016, before traveling to a rally. Clinton returned to the campaign trail after a bout of pneumonia that sidelined her for 3 days and revived questions about both Donald Trump's and her openness regarding their health.



    Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks to the Economic Club of New York luncheon in Manhattan, New York, September 15, 2016.



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    F-35b uss wasp

    The role of the F-35 in the future of air combat just got a lot clearer, and it's going to be a star.

    The F-35's integration with Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense platforms, recently proven in a test at White Sands Missile Range, shows that the F-35 can destroy airborne enemies without firing a shot of it's own by leveraging the US Navy's Naval Integrated Fire Control Counterair network (NIFC-CA).

    Basically, the NIFC-CA uses a giant network of sensors to create targeting data that can be accessed by several naval platforms, like destroyers and other planes.

    But the NIFC-CA is old. Ships first deployed with this capability in March 2015.

    In the past, the Navy's E-2 Hawkeye played the "quarterback" role in this system as an "elevated sensor" that could see airborne threats at altitude, in orbit, or flying low like a cruise missile.

    However the Hawkeye is an unarmed propeller-driven plane that only launches from aircraft carriers.

    e2c

    Now, the F-35 can do everything the Hawkeye did, and much, much more. For one, the F-35 is armed and can take out targets on its own. Secondly it is a stealthy, fast jet fighter that can slip in and out of enemy defenses unnoticed.

    Third, it has the Multifunction Advanced Data Link (MADL), a system originally devised to communicate between F-35s that has now been expanded to participate in the NIFC-CA.

    MADL provides significant advantages over traditional systems of transmission, namely that it's very difficult to jam. Adversaries have never seen anything like the MADL, and if they ever do figure out how to disrupt it, it will certainly take some time. 

    When the F-35 program reaches its maturation point about a dozen US allies will be flying the Joint Strike Fighter. They will all have the ability to contribute targeting data to their own fleets as well as that of allied nations. So an Australian F-35 could transmit data to a nearby South Korean Aegis-equipped destroyer and take out a distant target, no problem.

    ROK NAVY aegis Sejong the Great

    The applications and versatility of the F-35's MADL has surprised even those close to the program.

    “Originally we didn’t think F-35s would use through datalinks directly to ships… This gives them the ability to talk directly to the ship with a very hard to detect very hard to jam MADL link,” retired Navy officer Bran Clark told USNI News.

    SEE ALSO: How Russia plans to imitate US naval power with its aircraft carrier deployment to Syria

    Join the conversation about this story »

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


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    Obama Putin

    Russia's Foreign Ministry is sharply criticizing the United States as being obstructive and deceptive regarding the airstrike by coalition warplanes on a Syrian military position that killed more than 60 soldiers.

    A ministry statement on Sunday said that in an emergency U.N. Security Council session called following the airstrike, the United States took "an unconstructive and indistinct position."

    The Americans "not only turned out to be unable to give an adequate explanation of what happened, but also tried, as is their custom, to turn everything upside down," the statement said.

    Russia's military said it was told by the Syrian army that at least 62 soldiers were killed in the Deir el-Zour air raid and more than 100 wounded.

    Join the conversation about this story »


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    Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte arrives at the military's Camp Tecson to talk to soldiers in San Miguel, Bulacan in northern Philippines September 15, 2016. REUTERS/Erik De Castro

    MANILA (Reuters) - Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said on Sunday he needed six more months for his war on drugs, saying he only realized how bad the country's narcotics problem was after taking office over two months ago.

    Duterte, a former crime-busting mayor of the southern city of Davao, won the presidency in May promising to suppress crime and wipe out drugs and drug dealers in three to six months.

    More than 3,500 people - or about 47 per day - have been killed in the past 10 weeks, some 58 percent by unknown assailants and the rest in legitimate police operations against illegal drugs, according to local police.

    "I did not realize how severe and how serious the problem of drug menace in this republic was until I became president," Duterte said in a media briefing in Davao.

    He said there were "hundreds of thousands of people already in the drug business" now, some of them working in government.

    "We would need time to put everything in order. Give me a little extension, maybe of another six months," he said.

    Duterte has lambasted the United Nations and the United States, which have criticized the surge in killings in the Philippines since he launched his anti-drugs campaign.

    Join the conversation about this story »


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    Obama and Putin

    Perhaps the most famous piece of stage direction in Western literature occurs in the third act of Shakespeare’s classic play“The Winter’s Tale: “Exit pursued by a bear.” 

    There’s plenty of reason to think that being pursued by a bear, the most iconic image of Russia in international relations, is precisely how the United States must feel at the moment.

    Seemingly in every direction we turn, Russia is there, chasing our policy choices off the stage of world events.

    Despite valiant efforts to negotiate with Russia in Ukraine, Crimea, Syria, Iran, missile defense in Europe, NATO membership, and cybersecurity — to name just a few — Moscow and Washington have serious disagreements.

    It’s tempting to think that the root of these disagreements is the difficult personality and background of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who manifests genuine personal dislike for both the United States and President Barack Obama, as well as for NATO.

    Much of Putin’s political DNA is oriented toward conflict with the West. But even under the former KGB colonel, the United States has found zones of cooperation over time with Russia, working together on issues as diverse as counternarcotics, counterpiracy, security issues in Afghanistan, arms control, and counterterrorism, among others.

    And Secretary of State John Kerry has done heroic work with his counterpart in setting up a shaky but better-than-nothing cease-fire in Syria by negotiating with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov.

    Clearly, it’s possible for skilled American diplomats to establish a productive relationship with Russia. That’s not to suggest it’s easy — or that the outcome is entirely in Washington’s hands. But some approaches to negotiating with Russia work better than others. Here are a few tips, many drawn from the hard lessons I learned during my frequent conversations and negotiations with Russia as a NATO supreme allied commander:

    james stavridis

    Begin by understanding the Russian worldview. Russians see themselves as a powerful empire of enormous physical size with a distinct culture — a nation in every sense of the word. Russians are intensely proud of their language, the scope of their literature, and their scientific contributions.

    They understand that they lost the Cold War, but they also believe fiercely that the moves of the West after the fall of the Berlin Wall, especially NATO’s expansion into the former Soviet allies, was a fundamental violation of perceived agreements. Leaving aside the veracity of the latter point, in negotiating with the bear, we have to understand how they see themselves.

    russia victory day parade

    Accept the supremacy of Putin. Russia has always followed the “strong man” approach to leadership. Some leaders are better than others — think Peter the Great as opposed to Ivan the Terrible; or Mikhail Gorbachev instead of Joseph Stalin – but, either way, the nature of Russian psychology is hierarchical. Today, the country’s leader is Putin, and the country’s political decision-making has been centralized under him. We will not succeed with negotiations at a lower level, and we will have to show a modicum of respect to Putin and recognize his overweening influence on all decisions.

    Prepare for a long and difficult process. No matter the level or significance of the issue over which we will be negotiating, Russians will make it hard. They are deeply suspicious of nontrusted partners, and the United States tops the list. (As NATO supreme allied commander, I was not a negotiating partner that most Russians were inclined to welcome with open arms.)

    Even the atmospherics of negotiations will be suffused by distrust, outbursts of rudeness and skepticism, threats to crater the discussion, and frequent finger-pointing. Knowing that is their basic negotiating posture can make it easier to rise above provocations. And remember that Russians go into a negotiation thinking not how they can create a win-win outcome, but rather how they can defeat the other side.

    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (R) shake hands at the conclusion of their news conference following their meeting in Geneva, Switzerland where they discussed the crisis in Syria September 9, 2016. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

    Sharpen your logic. Russians value logic and direct exchanges and quickly become frustrated and disrespectful when confronted with emotional approaches to negotiating. They do not shy away from constructing elaborate schemes with deception and complicated maneuvers, much like a chess match. It’s no accident that Russians are excellent chess players, having produced double the number of grand masters than the United States, despite having half our population.

    Wait for it. Russians often think silently before jumping to answer a question or formulate a thought. It is rude to break into a silence after asking a question, and avoid the Western tendency to rush the conversation forward. Seemingly a minor point, but one that I have seen lead discussions in less productive directions if ignored.

    Obama and Putin

    Don’t overlook the personal. Despite all the points above, personal relationships can be important to Russians. I was able to create real openings through memorable gatherings at either my official quarters in Belgium or similar settings in Russia. Vodka helps, although the stereotype of constant drinking and having to live up to the challenge of consuming more alcohol than an interlocutor is overstated.

    On the other hand, making meaningful, moving, and even poetic toasts is appreciated and remembered. There is a phrase in Russian — bratskiye otnosheniya— that is hard to translate, but it means roughly a deep level of trust sufficient to exchange truly meaningful information and views. It takes time to develop it, and you cannot surge otnosheniya for a crisis: You must invest in it over time.

    Overall, we should remember Putin’s famous if somewhat ambiguous comments in December 2014 about Russia as a metaphoric bear. He said, “They will always try to put him on a chain, and as soon as they succeed in doing so they tear out his fangs and claws.” A bear in a corner is a dangerous thing. That’s why the United States needs to think carefully about not only its policies, but also about its approach to negotiations.

    SEE ALSO: Russia criticizes US response to an airstrike that killed more than 60 Syrian soldiers

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    Children walk near damaged buildings in rebel-held Ain Tarma, eastern Damascus suburb of Ghouta, Syria September 17, 2016. Picture taken September 17, 2016. REUTERS/Bassam Khabieh

    FA Syrian ceasefire brokered by the United States and Russia was in deep trouble on Monday as a rebel official said it had practically failed and signaled insurgents were preparing for a full resumption of fighting.

    Already widely violated since it took effect a week ago, the ceasefire came under added strain at the weekend when Russia said jets from the US-led coalition against Islamic State killed more than 60 Syrian soldiers in eastern Syria.

    The US-Russian agreement marks the second ceasefire negotiated by Washington and Moscow this year in the hope of advancing a political solution towards ending the war, now in its sixth year, that has killed hundreds of thousands of people.

    But while the agreement has led to a significant reduction in fighting over the past week, violence has been increasing in recent days, and a planned delivery of humanitarian aid to besieged rebel-held districts of eastern Aleppo - one of the first steps in the deal - has been repeatedly postponed.

    Plans to evacuate several hundred rebels from the last opposition-held district of Homs city have also overshadowed the agreement, with rebels saying it would amount to the government declaring the ceasefire over. The Homs governor said the plan had been postponed from Monday to Tuesday.

    The collapse of the ceasefire, a major project of US Secretary of State John Kerry, could doom any chance of the administration of President Barack Obama negotiating a breakthrough on Syria before it leaves office in January.

    Kerry overcame scepticism of other administration officials to hammer out the truce, gambling on cooperation with Russia despite the deepest mistrust in decades between the Cold War-era superpower foes. Washington and Moscow back opposite sides in the war between insurgents and President Bashar al-Assad's government, while both oppose the Islamic State jihadist group.

    syria map

    The politburo chief of one prominent Aleppo rebel group, Fastaqim, said the agreement had "practically failed and has ended", adding that it remained to be seen if anything could be done "in theory" to save it.

    Zakaria Malahifji, speaking to Reuters from the Turkish city of Gaziantep, also indicated rebel groups were preparing for combat: "I imagine in the near future there will be action by the factions".

    Fares al-Bayoush, the head of another rebel group operating in northern Syria under the western-backed Free Syrian Army umbrella, told Reuters "the truce in its current state cannot be continued".

    The Syrian army meanwhile had yet to announce any extension of the seven-day ceasefire it declared on Sept. 12, which was due to expire at 11:59 p.m. (2059 GMT) on Sunday, according to the statement issued by the army command when the truce was announced.

    UN official "pained" at Aleppo aid failure

    Children play along a street in the rebel-held al-Sheikh Said neighbourhood of Aleppo, Syria September 1, 2016. REUTERS/Abdalrhman Ismail

    The US-Russian deal set out steps including a nationwide ceasefire, aid deliveries, and joint US-Russian targeting of jihadists including Islamic State and a faction formerly known as the Nusra Front, which was al Qaeda's Syrian wing until it changed its name in July.

    Washington hopes it will lead to talks on ending a war that has splintered Syria, uprooting 11 million people and creating the world's worst refugee crisis.

    But it has faced enormous challenges from the outset, including how to disentangle nationalist rebels backed by the West from jihadists who are not covered by the deal.

    And there has been no sign of compromise on the issue at the heart of the war: the future of Assad, who enjoys firm Iranian and Russian military backing that is buttressing his strongest military position in years. The dispute over his fate has made a mockery of all previous diplomatic efforts to end the fighting.

    The last ceasefire, reached in February, unraveled over a period of weeks as fighting intensified, particularly in and around Aleppo, Syria's biggest city before the war and now potentially the war's biggest prize for pro-government forces.

    The UN aid chief said an aid convoy destined for rebel-held eastern Aleppo was still stuck in Turkey.

    Aleppo map

    "I am pained and disappointed that a United Nations convoy has yet to cross into Syria from Turkey, and safely reach eastern Aleppo," the UN Under Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs Stephen O'Brien said in a statement.

    The United Nations says it still lacks sufficient security guarantees from both sides to deliver aid to eastern Aleppo, the rebel-held half of the city which has been divided for years and which pro-government forces completely encircled this month.

    Up to 275,000 people remain trapped in that part of the city without food, water, proper shelter or medical care, he added.

    UN officials have blamed Damascus for blocking aid deliveries to other besieged, rebel-held areas.

    The air strike on a Syrian army position by the US-led coalition on Saturday triggered a fierce war of words between Washington and Moscow, with Russia saying it put the agreement under threat.

    A US official said the US military believed reports that about 60 Syrian troops were killed. Two Danish F-16 fighter jets and Australian aircraft took part in the raid.

    The United States relayed "regret" about the unintentional loss of life. The Danish defense minister said on Monday "more credible sources" were needed before he could draw conclusions.

    "I don't want to explore different scenarios until we are certain, that we have even hit Syrian soldiers," Minister of Defense Peter Christensen told local news agency Ritzau. "So far it's only a Russian report. I think we need others and more credible sources, before I conclude anything."

    Syria's UN Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari said on Sunday the air strikes aimed to sink the US-Russian ceasefire plan.

    Homs evacuation

    A photo of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad is seen along a street in old Homs city May 8, 2014. REUTERS/Khaled al-HaririThe Syrian government and its allies have mostly focused their firepower on western areas of the country that are of greatest significance to Assad, including the main cities of Damascus, Homs, Hama, Latakia, Tartous and Aleppo.

    The planned evacuation of several hundred rebels from the last opposition-held district of Homs, al-Waer, has also endangered the deal. Rebels said that plan would amount to the government declaring the truce over.

    The Homs governor Talal Barazi said the evacuation had been postponed due to "logistical obstacles", and negotiating committees were completing the preparations, state TV reported. He told journalists it would take place on Tuesday morning.

    Barazi said on Sunday that between 250 to 300 rebels were due to be evacuated from Waer, on Monday. The opposition say such evacuations are part of a government strategy to forcibly displace its opponents after years of siege and bombardment.

    The government has been seeking to conclude local agreements with rebels in besieged areas to give them safe passage to the insurgent stronghold of Idlib in northwestern Syria.

    SEE ALSO: Assad might have hidden some of Syria’s deadliest chemical weapons

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    Russian President Vladimir Putin sits before the start of the opening ceremony of the G20 Summit in Hangzhou in eastern China's Zhejiang province, Sunday, Sept. 4, 2016.  REUTERS/Mark Schiefelbein/Pool

    The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe criticized Russian parliamentary elections on Monday, saying they had been marred by curbs on basic rights and a lack of distinct political alternatives.

    Vladimir Putin's political allies won a landslide victory in the election, near final results showed on Monday, paving the way for Putin to run for a fourth term as president in 18 months if, as expected, he chooses to do so.

    Ilkka Kanerva, a Finnish parliamentarian and the OSCE's special coordinator for the elections, told a news conference monitors had noted some improvements, including greater transparency when it came to the vote's administration.

    But he said the overall picture was beset by problems.

    "Legal restrictions on basic rights continue to be a problem. If Russia is to live up to its democratic commitments, greater space is needed for debate and civic engagement," he said.

    "Democratic commitments continue to be challenged as the electoral environment was negatively affected by restrictions to fundamental freedoms and political rights, firmly controlled media and a tightening grip on civil society."

    Kanerva also said a liberalized party registration process had yet to result in "distinct political alternatives."

    SEE ALSO: China won't stop Kim Jong-un — so the US has to stand up to both of them

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    FILE - In this June 5, 2015 file photo, a view of the Homeland Security Department headquarters in Washington. The U.S. government has mistakenly granted citizenship to at least 858 immigrants who had pending deportation orders from countries of concern to national security or with high rates of immigration fraud, according to an internal Homeland Security audit released Monday, Sept. 19, 2016. The Homeland Security Department’s inspector general found that the immigrants used different names or birthdates to apply for citizenship with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and such discrepancies weren’t caught because their fingerprints were missing from government databases.  (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

    The US government has mistakenly granted citizenship to at least 858 immigrants who had pending deportation orders from countries of concern to national security or with high rates of immigration fraud, according to an internal Homeland Security audit released Monday.

    The Homeland Security Department's inspector general found that the immigrants used different names or birthdates to apply for citizenship with US Citizenship and Immigration Services and such discrepancies weren't caught because their fingerprints were missing from government databases.

    The report does not identify any of the immigrants by name, but Inspector General John Roth's auditors said they were all from "special interest countries"— those that present a national security concern for the United States — or neighboring countries with high rates of immigration fraud. The report did not identify those countries.

    DHS officials identified an additional 953 people who had been naturalized despite outstanding deportation orders, though auditors couldn't determine if those immigrants had digital fingerprints on file or not.

    Roth's report said fingerprints are missing from federal databases for as many as 315,000 immigrants with final deportation orders or who are fugitive criminals. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has not reviewed about 148,000 of those immigrants' files to add fingerprints to the digital record.

    The gap was created because older, paper records were never added to fingerprint databases created by both the now-defunct Immigration and Naturalization Service and the FBI in the 1990s. ICE, the DHS agency responsible for finding and deporting immigrants living in the country illegally, didn't consistently add digital fingerprint records of immigrants whom agents encountered until 2010.

    The government has known about the information gap and its impact on naturalization decisions since at least 2008 when a Customs and Border Protection official identified 206 immigrants who used a different name or other biographical information to gain citizenship or other immigration benefits, though few cases have been investigated.

    Roth's report said federal prosecutors have accepted two criminal cases that led to the immigrants being stripped of their citizenship. But prosecutors declined another 26 cases. ICE is investigating 32 other cases after closing 90 investigations.

    ice agent

    ICE officials told auditors that the agency hadn't pursued many of these cases in the past because federal prosecutors "generally did not accept immigration benefits fraud cases." ICE said the Justice Department has now agreed to focus on cases involving people who have acquired security clearances, jobs of public trust or other security credentials.

    Mistakenly awarding citizenship to someone ordered deported can have serious consequences because US citizens can typically apply for and receive security clearances or take security-sensitive jobs.

    At least three of the immigrants-turned-citizens were able to acquire aviation or transportation worker credentials, granting them access to secure areas in airports or maritime facilities and vessels. Their credentials were revoked after they were identified as having been granted citizenship improperly, Roth said in his report.

    A fourth person is now a law enforcement officer.

    Roth recommended that all of the outstanding cases be reviewed and fingerprints in those cases be added to the government's database and that immigration enforcement officials create a system to evaluate each of the cases of immigrants who were improperly granted citizenship. DHS officials agreed with the recommendations and said the agency is working to implement the changes.

     

    SEE ALSO: After a decade of setting the tone in Europe, Germany's Merkel's power is fading

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    South China Sea

    While military deployments to the tense seas around Southern China often make headlines, China has been quietly building paramilitary forces out of their coast guard and fishing fleets.

    China operates the biggest fishing fleet in the world, and in the South China Sea, where its sweeping territorial claims conflict with its neighbors, Beijing uses these fishing ships as a kind of militia to harass and block other nation's vessels from accessing the vital trade routes and fishing grounds.

    In an interview with DefenseNews, Andrew Erickson, a professor of strategy with the US Naval War College and a founding member of the China Maritime Studies Institute, suggested that it's time to start exposing these fishing boats for the aggressive militias they are.

    While the Center for Strategic and International Studies recently released an eye-opening report on China's use of its coast guard as a sort of "second navy," Beijing's inclusion of fishing fleets in its maritime law enforcement push has gone on for years now as a kind of open secret.

    “China's maritime militia is only as deniable for China as we allow it to be, and we don't have to allow it to be deniable,” said Erickson.

    According to Erickson, China doesn't publicize its militia in any English language publication, but in domestic internet pages and files, China makes it abundantly clear that the fishing vessels have a "militia" function.

    south china seas

    “There is plenty of evidence of the front-line elite Chinese maritime militia units answering specifically to a People’s Liberation Army (PLA) chain of command, being entrusted with the fulfilling of specific state-sponsored missions with respect to participation in international sea encounters and incidents,” said Erickson.

    However, Erickson says the US military, and practically no one in the US, has said a word about this. This leads to China having a dangerous advantage, where it may even now be collecting photos and videos to later use as propaganda, showing its secret militia in a benign light.

    Erickson says that by the US simply showing it is on to China's adventurism, and that the US intelligence apparatus can read in Chinese too, could help to deter Beijing from pushing the envelope in the South China Sea, where incidents have already occurred between nations being bullied by Chinese fishing vessels.

    “I believe we already have enough data to make very conclusive durable connections using sources that, within China's own system, are authoritative and legitimate. The only thing missing is for some US government official and report to state this officially,” Erickson said.

    Read the full piece at DefenseNews.com here»

    SEE ALSO: China and Russia are practicing 'island-seizing' in the South China Sea

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    Russian airstrike syria bomber

    A week into a cease-fire in Syria brokered by Russia and the US, Russian-made warplanes hit a UN aid convoy traveling to the besieged town of Aleppo to provide relief to Syrians at the scene of some of the most intense fighting in the country's five-year civil war.

    At least 18 of 31 trucks in a UN and Syrian Arab Red Crescent convoy were hit and 12 people were killed, according to Reuters.

    UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called the airstrike "sickening" in remarks on Tuesday at the UN General Assembly in New York.

    "Present in this hall today are representatives of governments that have ignored, facilitated, funded, participated in or even planned and carried out atrocities inflicted by all sides of the Syria conflict against Syrian civilians,"Ban said.

    "It started with an hour of extremely fierce bombing," Besher Hawi, the former spokesman for the opposition's Aleppo city council, told Reuters of the air raid. "Now I can hear the sound of helicopters overhead. The last two were barrel bombs."

    Because the Syrian regime, which has been linked to chemical warfare against civilians and other war crimes, flies Russian-made jets, it can be hard for ground forces distinguish them from the Russian air force, which also carries out airstrikes in Syria, reportedly sometimes on hospitals or with banned munitions.

    Rami Abdurrahman of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told The Associated Press that the Syrian air force "does not have the capabilities to carry out such airstrikes within two hours." Abdurrahman added that "it was mostly Russian warplanes who carried out the air raid."

    Future of US-Russian relations

    Obama and Putin

    "The United States is outraged by reports that a humanitarian aid convoy was bombed near Aleppo today," State Department spokesman John Kirby said. "The United States will raise this issue directly with Russia. Given the egregious violation of the cessation of hostilities we will reassess the future prospects for cooperation with Russia."

    Secretary of State John Kerry had described the cooperation between the US and Russia as possibly "the last chance we have to save a united Syria," and that a truce between the two powers leading to negotiations to end the war "is the only realistic possible solution."

    But the Syrian military has declared the cease-fire over, an official failure that comes to a close after the US mistakenly killed more than 60 Syrian soldiers in an airstrike, and the aid convoys Russia promised to let through to Aleppo were bombed.

    While the US can claim it had faulty information on the position of the Syrian troops, the position of the UN aid convoy was known to all parties and clearly marked as a humanitarian effort.

    A senior US official told Reuters he was not sure if US-Russian relations could be salvaged at this point, as the countries back opposite sides in the Syrian conflict, and their latest attempt at cooperation proved disastrous.

    "At this point the Russians have to demonstrate very quickly their seriousness of purpose because otherwise there will be nothing to extend and nothing to salvage," the official told Reuters.

    SEE ALSO: Arab countries' foreign policy ambitions could start hurting their economies

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    b 52 stratofortresses minot air force base north dakota

    The 5th Bomb Wing at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota recently carried out Prairie Vigilance 16-1 by flying 12 B-52 bombers at once in an effort to demonstrate that the squadron could project conventional, or even nuclear, force "anywhere, anytime."

    The B-52, first flown in the 1950s, is the Air Force's biggest and oldest bomber, but it is still a force to be reckoned with. 

    "Approximately 3,500 Airmen from across the wing demonstrated safe, secure, reliable nuclear-capable weapons standards and procedures," a US Air Force statement said.

    By now, the Air Force is expertly practiced at deploying the B-52 anywhere in the world in even a moment's notice. In fact, the branch tricked the participating airmen and had them fly a week early without a hitch.

    “Airmen from the 5th Bomb Wing were tasked to demonstrate our nuclear [capable] tasking without prior notification or coordination,” Col. Douglas Warnock, 5th Operations Group commander, said. “The exercise was originally scheduled for next week, but by starting a week early, it gave our Airmen the opportunity to clearly exhibit their abilities and nuclear prowess.”

    See how these senior aircraft still scramble at a moment's notice in the video below:

    SEE ALSO: 'Sickening' airstrike on UN aid trucks in Syria may be the last straw in US-Russia relations

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