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- 10/06/16--08:04: Russia is openly taunting the US to militarily intervene in Syria
- 10/08/16--09:30: Astonishing pictures of Afghanistan from before its decades of war
- Likely bombed a UN humanitarian aide convoy trying to provide relief to besieged Aleppo, derailing joint US and Russian peace talks.
- Continued to strike civilian targets in Syria — using chemical weapons, experts have said — exacerbating the refugee crisis in Europe. US Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove has even gone as far as to accuse Russia of purposefully attacking civilians, "weaponizing" the flow of refugees into Europe.
- Sent nuclear-capable missiles to Kaliningrad, Russia's European enclave.
- Suspended an agreement with the US to dispose of weapons-grade plutonium because of what Russia viewed as "unfriendly" acts by the US.
- Sent additional missile defense batteries to Syria, and even threatened to shoot down US planes flying in Syria without warning.
- Participated in military drills with China in the South China Sea, where China has illegally annexed and militarized artificial islands.
- Likely hacked the Democratic National Committee and other US government agencies and leaked the information to the public in an effort to delegitimize the US's upcoming election and destabilize the country at large.
- 10/13/16--11:59: 6 military jobs with the best perks
The Russian Embassy to the US tweeted on Wednesday mocking Pentagon spokesman Josh Earnest for questioning Russia's motives for deploying the advanced SA-23 missile defense system to Syria.
"This equipment contradicts President Putin's own claims that their efforts in Syria are focused on extremists. I'm not aware that ISIL or al Qaeda in Syria is operating aircraft there ... So I do think it raises genuine questions about Russia's credibility and Russia's intentions inside of Syria," said Earnest, suggesting that the only reason for advanced air defenses in Syria would be to challenge the air forces of the US and other nations in the coalition to fight ISIS.
In response, the Russian Embassy the following:
The tweet appears to mock Earnest and taunt the US to intervene militarily in Syria, and that doing so would be assisting terrorists. For its part, Russia has repeatedly denied the existence of moderate opposition to Assad, routinely characterizing all who oppose the regime as terrorists in equal measure.
Meanwhile, the US has vetted and backs a number of moderate groups without ties to terrorist groups like al-Qaeda while leading an international coalition in an air campaign against ISIS in Syria and Iraq.
However, military intervention in Syria against the Assad regime by the US has been repeatedly suggested by top military officials and political leaders as Assad, with Russian backing, shows little regard for international law or civilian life.
On Wednesday, Senator John McCain wrote an editorial in the Wall Street Journal urging the president to act against Assad, writing "As bad as this conflict is now, it can get much worse — and likely will," should the US military continue to ignore the Assad regime's transgressions.
Even Barack Obama himself declared a "red line" in Syria, and said that should Assad use chemical weapons, the US would intervene against him in 2013. However, Assad did cross that line, with multiple, and well documented cases where chemical weapons have been used, and the Obama administration refused to make good on their promise.
Now, with the deployment of yet another advanced missile defense system in Syria, the US's options have been further limited.
Analysts say the S-300 can intercept "any" US cruise missile, meaning a bombardment from US Navy ships in Mediterranean is off the table.
The US Army will soon receive its first prototypes of a newly-engineered up-gunned Stryker infantry vehicle armed with a more lethal, longer-range 30mm cannon as compared with the currently installed .50-cal machine guns.
Called the Stryker Enhanced Lethality Program, the effort was implemented as a rapid-development acquisition program to better equip 9-man infantry units with combat arms to support their missions, maneuvers and ground-attacks.
“It is really about mobile protected fire power for the Infantry Brigade Combat Team. In the Combat Vehicle Modernization Plan it talks about every vehicle having an organic blend of those capabilities… mobility, protection and firepower,” Maj. Gen. David Bassett, Program Executive Officer, Ground Combat Systems, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
General Dynamics Land Systems (GDLS), which builds and engineers the new enhanced lethality Stryker vehicles, will deliver the first eight prototype vehicles in December of this year, Wendy Staiger, Stryker Program Director, GDLS, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
Compared to an existing M2 .50-cal machine gun mounted from Strykers, the new 30mm weapon is designed to improve both range and lethality for the vehicle. The new gun can fire at least twice as far as a .50-Cal, Tim Reese, Director of Strategic Planning, General Dynamics Land Systems, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
“It shoots at a rapid rate of one, three or five-round bursts when you pull the trigger,” Resse explained.
The 30mm cannon, made by Kongsberg, can use a proximity fuse and fire high-explosive rounds, armor piercing rounds and air burst rounds, Reese added. During live-fire testing at Fort Benning, Ga., the 30mm cannon was able to demonstrate firing ability out to ranges of 3,000 meters. Also, while the .50-Cal is often used as a suppressive fire "area" weapon designed to restrict enemy freedom of movement and allow troops to maneuver, the 30mm gun brings a level of precision fire to the Stryker Infantry Carrier that does not currently exist.
Dismounted infantry units are often among the first-entering “tip-of-the-spear” combat forces which at times travel to areas less-reachable by heavy armored platforms such as an Abrams tank or Bradley Fighting Vehicle. Certain terrain, bridges or enemy force postures can also make it difficult for heavier armored vehicles to maneuver on attack.
As a result, having an up-gunned, highly-mobile wheeled Stryker vehicle can massively supplement Infantry Brigade Combat Teams (IBCTs) on the move in hostile warfare circumstances, Basset explained. Also, a gun with greater range and fire-power could better allow forward-positioned infantry units to attack enemies and conduct operations with massively enhanced fire support.
“IBCTs are great in terms of getting Soldiers to the fight but they do not have that staying power unless there are combat platforms that will let them do that. They can hit targets that otherwise they would be engaging with Javelins(Anti-Tank Missiles),” Bassett said.
The new gun, to be fully operational by 2018, incorporates a number of additional innovations for Stryker Infantry Carrier Vehicles and Reconnaissance Vehicles.
“The medium cannon has a feed system with links pulling into the breach. This is a link-less feed system. The ammo is in canisters attached to the breach of the gun and rounds are pulled into the breach one at a time. It is much less prone to jamming,” Reese said. “It Uses the same firing control handle as the current machine gun and same physical display channels.
The new, more-powerful Orbital ATK XM 81330mm 30mm cannon, which can be fired from within the Stryker vehicle using a Remote Weapons Station, will first deploy with the European-based 2nd Cavalry Unit.
While US Army leaders did not, quite naturally, specify that the weapon is intended to counter Russian forces on the European continent, they do often speak candidly about Russian aggression in Ukraine and other areas. In fact, a RAND study months ago determined that the Russian military could invade and over run the Baltic states in merely 60-hours given the small amount of NATO forces in the area. It is not surprising, given this scenario, that the Pentagon and NATO are amidst various efforts to strengthen their force posture in Europe.
It appears to be no accident that this initiative to better arm Stryker infantry carriers comes at a time when the US Army and US European Command are deliberately revving up arms, multi-national training exercises with NATO allies and armored mobility for its forces in Europe – as a direct counterbalance or deterrent to Russia’s aggressive posture in the region.
For instance, last year’s US European Command’s Dragoon Ride convoy across Europe was, among other things, designed to demonstrate the mobility, deployability and responsiveness of NATO armored forces across the European continent. There have been several additional exercises, involving US Army collaboration with Eastern European NATO allies since this convoy and many more are planned for the immediate future.
The US military has truly gone bonkers for unmanned aerial systems, with a vast inventory of surveillance drones alongside a few that are big enough to carry missiles for precision strikes.
But imagine if a UAS could observe a target for units on the ground, providing intel on a key terrorist leader or bomb making factoryand be the bomb that takes them out.
That’s the kind of capability special operations units like the Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command are looking for, and a few companies displaying their wares at the 2016 Modern Day Marine Expo and this year’s Association of the US Army conference are offering the technology to fit that mission.
Developed by Israeli defense firm UVision, the Hero-30 is a beyond line of sight unmanned aerial vehicle that packs into an 11 pound launch canister that can be carried onto battle on a trooper’s back. The drone is about 4 feet long and is launched by a pneumatic shot of air. Once airborne, a soldier flies the vehicle using a handheld control unit which allows him to orbit his target for up to 30 minutes.
Once the bad guy is in sight, the operator just flies the drone straight into its target for the kill. The Hero-30 warhead can be configured for point detonation or air burst while still in flight.
“It is lightweight for a special ops team or an infantry squad to be able to provide them with a precision munition they can fly themselves,” said Clinton Anderson with Mistral Inc., which represents UVision in the US “You can designate how you want it to attack and how you want the fuse to operate and you launch it in attack mode and it comes in right on the target and blows up.”
UVision also has a new version dubbed the Hero-40 that’s a bit longer with greater range and explosive payload and is intended for vehicle-borne operations and missions.
One of the oldest companies in the small UAV business Aerovironment has a more scaled-down answer to the kamikaze drone requirement with its Switchblade miniature lethal aerial system.
Coming in at just under 5 pounds with its diminutive launcher, the Switchblade has a 10 km range and can loiter over a target for about 10 minutes. It’s so small the Switchblade can fit inside a typical tactical pack and delivers a lethal blast on target using a small, handheld ground control system.
“This miniature, remotely-piloted or autonomous platform can either glide or propel itself via quiet electric propulsion, providing real-time GPS coordinates and video for information gathering, targeting, or feature/object recognition,” the company says. “The vehicle’s small size and quiet motor make it difficult to detect, recognize and track even at very close range.”
Company officials say the US Army is buying the Switchblade for testing with its infantry troops and special operations soldiers.
Rebels holed up in Aleppo can leave with their families if they lay down their arms, President Bashar al-Assad said on Thursday, vowing to press on with the assault on Syria's largest city and recapture full control of the country.
The offer of amnesty follows two weeks of the heaviest bombardment of the five-and-a-half-year civil war, which has killed hundreds of people trapped inside Aleppo's rebel-held eastern sector and torpedoed a U.S.-backed peace initiative.
Fighters have accepted similar government amnesty offers in other besieged areas in recent months, notably in Daraya, a suburb of Damascus that was under siege for years until rebels surrendered it in August.
However, rebels said they had no plan to evacuate Aleppo, the last major urban area they control, and denounced the amnesty offer as a deception.
"It's impossible for the rebel groups to leave Aleppo because this would be a trick by the regime," Zakaria Malahifji, a Turkey-based official for the Fastaqim group which is present in Aleppo, told Reuters. "Aleppo is not like other areas, it's not possible for them to surrender."
Washington was also skeptical of government motives: "For them to suggest that somehow they're now looking out for the interests of civilians is outrageous," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said, citing the heavy civilian toll from air strikes and bombardment.
The army announced a reduction in shelling and air strikes on Wednesday to allow people to leave. It backed that up with an ultimatum: "All those who do not take advantage of the provided opportunity to lay down their arms or to leave will face their inevitable fate."
The government also sent text messages to the mobile phones of some of those people trapped in the besieged sector, telling them to repudiate fighters in their midst. More than 250,000 people are believed to be trapped inside rebel-held eastern Aleppo, facing dire shortages of food and medicine.
Speaking to Danish television, Assad said he would "continue the fight with the rebels till they leave Aleppo. They have to. There's no other option."
He said that he wanted rebels to accept a deal to leave the city along with their families and travel to other rebel-held areas, as in Daraya. Neither Assad nor his generals gave a timeline for rebels to accept their offer.
Washington accuses Moscow and Damascus of war crimes for intentionally targeting civilians, aid deliveries and hospitals to break the will of those trapped in the besieged city. Russia and Syria accuse the United States of supporting terrorists by backing rebel groups.
The war has already killed hundreds of thousands, made half of Syrians homeless, dragged in global and regional powers and left swathes of the country in the hands of jihadists from Islamic State who have carried out attacks around the globe.
The United States and Russia are both fighting against Islamic State but are on opposite sides in the wider civil war, with Moscow fighting to protect Assad and Washington supporting rebels against him.
Storming Aleppo's rebel-held zone, which includes big parts of the densely populated Old City, could take months and cause a bloodbath, the U.N. Syria envoy warned on Thursday.
"The bottom line is in a maximum of two months, two and a half months, the city of eastern Aleppo at this rate may be totally destroyed," said Staffan de Mistura, invoking the 1990s atrocities of the Rwandan genocide and Yugolsavia's civil war.
Residents of eastern Aleppo said the aerial bombardment was significantly lighter overnight and on Thursday after the government's statement, but they said heavy fighting continued on the frontlines and people were afraid.
The army and its allies, Iran's Revolutionary Guards and Shi'ite militias from Iraq and Lebanon backed by Russian air power, seized half of the Bustan al-Basha quarter of Aleppo, north of the Old City on Thursday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a war monitor, reported.
"The bombardment decreased a lot in the eastern districts, but there's a sense of foreboding... people are still scared. And because there's still the siege, there's nothing at all in the shops," said Ibrahim Abu al-Laith, a Civil Defence official in eastern Aleppo.
Amir, a resident of the rebel-held district who did not want to be identified with his family name, said it was true that air strikes had diminished, but that he had not yet seen any way for civilians to leave the area. "It's not true that there are safe crossings," he said.
Residents in eastern Aleppo forwarded to Reuters text messages they said had been sent by their telecom provider carrying a government urging them to distance themselves from rebels and warning that they should depart.
"Our people in Aleppo: save your lives by rejecting the terrorists and isolating them from you," read one message. "Our dear people in the eastern districts of Aleppo! Come out to meet your brothers and sisters," read another.
Meanwhile, rebels continued the shelling of residential areas of government-held western Aleppo, where dozens of people have also been killed since the end of a ceasefire two weeks ago. The Observatory said 10 people were killed 52 wounded in government-held areas of Aleppo city by rebels on Thursday.
The government-held western districts of the city are still home to more than 1.5 million civilians who face far less daily danger than in rebel-held areas. Video footage obtained by Reuters showed people in the city enjoying a night club in the Seryan district, while war rages in the east.
Russia says it is targeting the Nusra Front, al Qaeda's Syrian branch which changed its name in July and says it broke ties with the network founded by Osama bin Laden.
The U.N. envoy De Mistura on Thursday urged Moscow and Damascus to accept a deal under which the fighters of that group would leave the city, while other insurgents and civilians would be allowed to remain.
He said there were fewer than 1,000 members of the hardline Islamist group inside Aleppo, part of a contingent of around 8,000 rebel fighters, and offered to lead them out of the city himself to guarantee their safety.
Russian presidential envoy Mikhail Bogdanov said it was "high time" such an offer was made, but it was not immediately clear if Moscow was also willing to stop the bombing.
Distinguishing between fighters from the former Nusra Front and other groups has been difficult in the past, including during the week-long ceasefire which collapsed last month when the army launched its offensive.
Russia accused the United States of failing to ensure that other rebels separated themselves from Nusra, which Moscow and Washington both regard as a terrorist group excluded from the ceasefire.
Russian President Vladimir Putin will visit Paris on Oct. 19 to discuss Syria with his French counterpart Francois Hollande, the only diplomatic track still active over efforts to bring peace to the country.
In his Danish TV interview, Assad accused Washington of using Nusra as a proxy, and said this was why the ceasefire had collapsed.
"It's an American card. Without al-Nusra, the Americans cannot have any real, let's say, concrete and effective card in the Syrian arena," he said.
After approximately 45,000 man-hours restoring a 55 year-old airframe, the US Air Force welcomes it's newest B-52H Stratofortress strategic bomber, named "Ghost Rider," to the 5th Bomb Wing of the Air Force Global Strike Command, IHS Jane's reports.
Over 19 months the bomber underwent significant restoration as it transitioned from the "boneyard" or essentially a graveyard where old US military planes go when they've retired, to Minot Air Base, North Dakota as a fully operational nuclear-capable bomber.
"Ghost Rider" will help compensate for losses to the B-52 fleet in recent years, like the B-52 that exploded on the runway in Guam in May of this year.
The US has increasingly turned to salvaging once-scrapped planes from the boneyard, as tight budgets and overworked air crews struggle to make ends meet.
The US operates 76 B-52 bombers despite the aircraft being first introduced in the mid 1950s. The B-52s serve as a very visible element of the US's nuclear deterrence strategy.
For more than 13 years — from October 7, 2001, until December 28, 2014 — the US and NATO were conducting combat operations in Afghanistan.
And although combat operations were meant to have stopped and the US had begun withdrawing troops from the country by the end of 2014, continued gains by the Taliban and the seeming weakness of the Afghan National Army have forced the US to continue its role in the war-torn country.
Overall, the US maintains a force of nearly 10,000 in Afghanistan, although President Obama plans to draw that force down to 5,500 in 2017. At that point the war would have lasted for 16 years.
In response to this continuation of the US presence in the country, cartoonist Jack Ohman of The Sacramento Bee published this cartoon, which helped him win the 2016 Editorial Cartooning Pulitzer Prize.
Russia has moved nuclear-capable Iskander-M missiles into the Kaliningrad region bordering Poland and Lithuania, the Defence Ministry said on Saturday, adding this was part of routine drills involving such missiles across its territory.
"These missile units have been deployed more than once (in the Kaliningrad region)... and will be deployed as part of military training of the Russian armed forces," ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said in a statement.
A U.S. intelligence official said on Friday that Russia had started moving the Iskander-Ms into its westernmost region in what he said could also be a political gesture to express displeasure with NATO.
Konashenkov said one of the missiles had been deliberately exposed to a U.S. spy satellite. "We did not have to wait for too long - our American partners confirmed it themselves in their revelatory endeavor," he said.
On October 7, the US marked 15 years of military activity in Afghanistan.
And despite over a decades worth of US and NATO military assistance, the country remains deeply troubled with a resurgent Taliban, a highly suspect military, and an economy where the opium industry remains the largest single employer. But before the US invasion, before the Russian war, and before the country's Marxist experiment, Afghanistan used to be a far different place.
In the 60s, amateur photographer and college professor Dr. William Podlich took a leave of absence from his job at Arizona State University to work with UNESCO in the Afghan capital of Kabul, bringing his wife and daughters with him.
Later, his son-in-law Clayton Esterson found the late doctor's photos and put them on the web. The response was amazing.
Esterson told the Denver Post: “Many Afghans have written comments [on our website] showing their appreciation for the photographs that show what their country was like before 33 years of war. This makes the effort to digitize and restore these photographs worthwhile.”
An earlier version of this article was produced by Geoffrey Ingersoll.
On the left is a picture showing the photographer's daughter in a pleasant park. On the right is that same park 40 years later.
In the 60s, this blonde attracted looks in a still very conservative Afghanistan.
But many people also wore nice western clothes in the 60s, too.
See the rest of the story at Business Insider
An increase in activity at a North Korean satellite launch site could indicate preparations for a new test or other activities, a U.S.-based monitoring group said on Saturday.
The 38 North group, run by Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies, said satellite images taken on Oct. 1 show increased activity at the Sohae Satellite Launching Station, including crates on the launch pad and vehicles near the fuel and oxidizer buildings.
But it added that since some of the structures on the launch pad are covered, "it is unclear whether this activity is related to launch preparations or other operations."
North Korea conducted its fifth and biggest nuclear test on Sept. 9 and South Korea has said it believes the north is ready to conduct another nuclear test at any time. There has been speculation that Pyongyang could mark the Oct. 10 anniversary of the founding of its Workers' Party with a sixth detonation.
North Korea has been testing nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles at an unprecedented rate this year under leader Kim Jong Un's direction, including the launch of a satellite in February that was widely seen as a test of long-range ballistic missile technology.
The Sohae center is the North's newly upgraded rocket station where the February satellite launch and other rocket tests have been conducted.
On Friday, 38 North said an increase in activity at North Korea's Punggye-ri nuclear test site could signal preparations for a new test or a collection of data from its last one.
North Korea conducted its first nuclear test in 2006 and has since defied U.N. sanctions to press ahead with the development of the weapons and missiles to carry them, which it says it needs for defense.
In January, it conducted its fourth nuclear test and the fifth was carried out on the anniversary of the nation's founding.
A full year after Russia stepped into the Syrian quagmire on behalf of Syrian President Bashar Assad, Moscow has come to rival and challenge the US and NATO in virtually every arena possible.
Here's a quick glance at what Russia has accomplished just in the last month or so:
Without a doubt, relations between Russia and the West have reached their lowest point since the height of the Cold War.
Retired Russian Lt. Gen. Evgeny Buzhinsky told the BBC that for its part, Russia sees the West as the belligerent party, citing sanctions against Russia as well as barring the Russian Paralympic team from the Rio Olympics for well-documented and state-sponsored doping as Western aggression against Russia.
"Of course there is a reaction. As far as Russia sees it, as Putin sees it, it is full-scale confrontation on all fronts. If you want a confrontation, you'll get one," Buzhinsky told the BBC. "But it won't be a confrontation that doesn't harm the interests of the United States. You want a confrontation, you'll get one everywhere."
After being targeted by two missile launches off the coast of Yemen, the USS Mason, a guided missile destroyer, fired two missiles in defense.
The USS Mason fired missiles defending itself and the USS Ponce, an amphibious dock ship, after it detected inbound cruise missiles presumably fired from Houthi militants on shore in Yemen.
This follows an October 1 incident where a former US Navy ship, the United Arab Emirates' HSV Swift, sustained severe damages from a guided missile fired from Yemen. In the case of the HSV Swift, the Houthis claimed responsibility.
The Mason launched two Standard Missile-2s (SM-2s) and a Enhanced Sea Sparrow Missile (ESSM) to intercept the two inbound missiles, also deploying a Nulka-class anti-ship decoy, at around 7 pm local time, sources told USNI News.
While the Mason did fire defensive missiles and the incoming missiles didn't hit their target, it's not clear if the SM-2s did their job, or if the incoming missile, likely a 1990s vintage Chinese-made cruise missile supplied to Houthi militants by Iran, simply sputtered out and hit the water of its own accord.
The Pentagon confirmed to Business Insider that they were investigating the incident at sea, but would not confirm the firing of the SM-2 missiles.
Instead, the Pentagon only said that "defensive countermeasures" had been taken.
SM-2s, in service with the US Navy for more than 20 years, cost nearly $1 million each.
Riyadh (AFP) - Saudi Arabia announced an easing of its 18-month air blockade of rebel-held areas of neighbouring Yemen on Wednesday to allow the evacuation of hundreds of wounded from a deadly weekend air strike.
More than 140 people were killed in Saturday's raid on the wake for the father of a rebel leader in the Yemeni capital Sanaa that drew worldwide condemnation, including from key Riyadh ally Washington.
At least 525 more were wounded, according to the United Nations, making it one of the bloodiest attacks since a Saudi-led coalition launched a bombing campaign against the Huthi Shiite rebels in March 2015.
More than 300 are in critical condition and need medical treatment abroad, the spokesman for the rebel-run health authority in Sanaa, Tamim al-Shami said on Sunday.
King Salman instructed aid officials to coordinate with the coalition and the Saudi-backed Yemeni government "to facilitate the evacuation of those wounded... and needing treatment abroad," the official Saudi Press Agency reported.
The coalition has enforced an air and sea blockade on rebel areas since the start of its bombing campaign, with exceptions made only for UN flights and UN-supervised aid deliveries, most of them through the Red Sea port of Hodeida.
The rebel-controlled civil aviation authority in the Yemeni capital had called on the United Nations on Tuesday to "act quickly and seriously to end the air blockade imposed on Sanaa airport in order to save the lives of hundreds wounded."
The coalition initially denied responsibility for Saturday's air strike but after condemnation from Western governments, it promised an investigation of the "regrettable and painful" incident.
A letter sent to the UN Security Council on Sunday "expressed the kingdom's deep regret" over the "attack", state media reported the following day.
"It also renewed its full respect for and commitment to international humanitarian law and international human rights law, and the emphasis on continuing to ensure the taking of all possible measures to protect civilians and civilian sites in Yemen".
The coalition has faced mounting international criticism over the civilian casualties from its bombing campaign.
Washington has also come under increasing pressure over the intelligence and logistics support it has provided.
More than 6,800 people have been killed in Yemen since the coalition started its campaign.
More than two-thirds of them have been civilians, most of them killed in coalition air strikes.
In a bold faced power move, Russia just moved additional missile defense batteries to Syria and issued a thinly veiled threat that it would shoot down any US or coalition aircraft that tried to bomb Syrian regime targets without warning.
This step, just days after US and Russian bilateral negotiations for a ceasefire fell through, shows the depth of Russia's commitment to Syrian President Assad, who has shown a ferocious willingness to use chemical and banned weapons against his own people since the war started in 2011.
But the Russian S-300 and S-400 missile defense batteries pose a serious question about US and coalition military capabilities versus the Russians.
Gen. Igor Konashenkov, a Russian Defense Ministry spokesman, went as far as to say that "all the illusions of amateurs about the existence of 'invisible' jets will face a disappointing reality," referring to the US's fifth generation stealth aircraft, the F-22 and F-35.
While the US fields the greatest Air Force in the world, the capabilities of Russia's S-300 and S-400 air defense systems in Syria represent a very real challenge to the US's ability to operate in those zones without being shot down.
"Konashenkov is absolutely right – ‘stealth’ as ‘invisibility’ is just amateurs’ invention, not a technical term."
However, according to Sutyagin, some of the Russian capabilities also fall in the category of speculation rather than hard capability.
For instance, as advanced as Russian surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems are, and they are really quite advanced, they still face very real limitations.
Russian "air defense systems are designed to intercept high flying targets at a maximum range of about 250 miles," said Sutyagin. While this does pose a threat to US and coalition aircraft operating normally in the region, the missile defense can be outfoxed, as they less optimal against low flying planes or missiles.
Even though the Russian systems have great radar range and capabilities, in the real world obstacles abound, and that makes it very hard to get a clear picture of real world air spaces.
The Russian missile defense systems sit on trucks, ready to be positioned wherever needed in a specific region. Some reports indicate that Russian crews can get the missile battery up and running within 5 minutes of parking the truck. Additionally, the mobile missile batteries present an ever changing target, and a puzzle that incoming aircraft must solve anew each time they enter the air space.
But they battery is still just a truck on the ground. Parking it on a hilltop makes it visible. Parking it in a valley severely limits the range due to natural obstacles. So just as the US fantasy of "invisible jets" doesn't completely pan out when the rubber hits the road, neither does the Russian fantasy of a 250 mile air defense zone.
Indeed to flesh out this idea of the Russians, they'd need to operate Airborne Warning and Control Systems (AWACs), or planes that carry large radars and can survey battle spaces free from obstructions on the ground, which Sutyagin says Moscow does not currently have in Syria.
But who would come out on top?
According to Sutyagin, stealth US planes like the B-2, F-22, and F-35 could knock out Russian SAM sites in Syria, but not without a fight.
"Yeah they can do it. In theory they can do it because they will be launching stand off weapons," said Sutyagin, referring to long range missiles as "standoff weapons."
"The tactics of these low visibility planes as they were designed originally was to use the fact that detection range was decreased so you create some gaps in radar range and then you approach through gap and launch standoff weapons," said Sutyagin.
At this point, Russia's "defenses will inevitably detect it, but maybe too late," said Sutyagin, who emphasized that firing a missile doesn't always mean a hit, and detecting a missile doesn't always mean an intercept.
"There is no 100% reliability, but still it will be much more difficult" for Russian SAM sites to intercept missiles fired from US stealth aircraft that can get up close and personal and locate the site first. "If the standoff weapon is also low visibility," the chances only improve, according to Sutyagin.
Additionally, Russian SAM sites in Syria have a limited magazine capacity.
"One air defense battalion with an S-300 has 32 missiles. They will fire these against 16 targets (maybe against cruise missiles they would fire a one-to-one ratio) but to prevent the target from evading you always launch two... but what if there are 50 targets?"
This limitation explains why Russia deployed the S-300 battery to Syria when they already have the more advanced S-400 stationed there.
According to Sutyagin, it takes "40-50 minutes to reload launchers." The SAM sites are then unarmed, with their positions exposed and they're "not well prepared to meet another threat."
What it comes down to
So the US could overwhelm Russian defenses. Or Russia could shoot down US fifth-generation aircraft over Syria. What it comes down to, according to Sutyagin, is training.
Sutyagin says that overall, the situation is "very complicated" and that there is "no easy solution to suppress air defense, but there are opportunities."
Each combat scenario brings unique challenges and opportunities that may benefit one side or another. Generally, there is reason to believe that the pilots of US fifth-generation aircraft are among the best in the world, and that they would have the edge in almost every situation.
Indeed, Sutyagin says that the US's airborne capabilities put them in a better situation than the US was in during Vietnam, when Russian SAM sites shot down many US planes.
Though the details of the how US F-22 Raptor pilots would engage an enemy SAM site are classified, a pilot with the program recently told National Interest's Dave Majumdar that the F-22 pilots are confident they could prevail.
But jets and SAM sites fight battles on air, over seas, and on land — not on paper.
"If American pilots will be not experienced in their fifth-gens, they will be shot down. If they are brilliant, operationally, tactically brilliant, they will defeat them," concluded Sutyagin.
At around 6 p.m. local time on Wednesday, a US Navy destroyer detected an incoming missile attack from territory in Yemen controlled by Iran-aligned Houthi rebels, the second such incident in the past four days, a Pentagon statement said.
The USS Mason, which was accompanying the USS Ponce, an amphibious-transport dock without the same missile-defense capabilities, took "defensive countermeasures" in response.
None of the incoming missiles hit the USS Mason or Ponce as it sailed in international waters north of the Bab al-Mandab, the Pentagon statement said.
This marks the second time in four days missiles from Houthi-controlled parts of Yemen have targeted US Navy ships, and the second time the US ships have responded by firing missiles to intercept the incoming salvos.
So far, the US has undertaken no direct military action against the Iranian-backed Houthi uprising in Yemen, however the Pentagon statement said the following:
"Those who threaten our forces should know that the US commanders retain the right to defend their ships, and we will respond to this threat at the appropriate time and in the appropriate manner. "
The USS Mason and Ponce moved off the coast of Yemen after an October 1 incident where Houthi militants took responsibility for a missile attack that savaged the HSV Swift, a former US Navy ship used by the United Arab Emirates.
On Sunday, the USS Mason fired two SM-2 interceptor missiles — an Evolved Seasparrow Missile (ESM) used for closer threats and a Nulka antiship missile decoy — to counter missiles coming from Yemen.
Bryan Clark, a naval analyst at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, said Sunday's event was "very significant."
“It might be the first time the SM-2 was used against an actual threat for which it was designed,” Clark said. “It’s definitely the first time ESSM has been used … This is obviously a huge deal.”
Now it appears the US Navy has had to repeat this extraordinary feat just days later.
The Houthis, who are battling the internationally recognized government of Yemeni President Abd Rabbu Mansour al-Hadi, denied any involvement in the previous attempt to strike the USS Mason or the nearby USS Ponce on Sunday.
But US officials have told Reuters there are growing indications that Houthi rebels, who are backed by Iran, were responsible for Sunday's incident.
The rebels appeared to use small skiffs as spotters to help direct the missile attack on the warship. A video claimed by the Houthis showed them using a similar tactic when they struck a United Arab Emirates vessel on October 1.
The US is also investigating the possibility that a radar station under Houthi control in Yemen might have "painted" the USS Mason, something that would have helped the Houthi fighters pass along coordinates for a strike, the officials said.
The Houthis, who are allied to Hadi's predecessor Ali Abdullah Saleh, have the support of many army units and control most of the north, including the capital, Sanaa.
Reuters has learned that the coastal-defense cruise missiles used against the USS Mason on Sunday had considerable range, adding to concerns about the kind of heavy weaponry that the Houthis appear willing to employ and some of which US officials believe is supplied by Iran.
The SM-2 missiles used by the USS Mason cost just under $1 million each. It's not clear whether the missiles intercepted the incoming threat, or if the missiles fired from Yemen simply failed to reach the US ships.
For the second time in two days, the USS Mason had to defend itself from incoming missile attacks launched from Houthi-controlled areas in Yemen.
In doing so, the Mason likely recorded the first ever use of the SM-2 interceptor missile in combat after more than 20 years of peaceful service.
These incidents come just a month after Iran made a habit out of harassing US Navy ships at sea.
Dr. Jonathan Schanzer, an expert on Iran and Yemen at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said that these incidents, by all indications, look "like an Iran-backed harassment strategy that has been carried out with weapons that are almost certainly provided by the Iranians."
"It's a provocation and challenge to a crucial waterway," Schanzer said of the incidents in the Bab al-Mandab Strait, one of the busiest waterways in the world and a choke point for crucial aide entering Yemen, where a war has raged for 18 months, causing mass starvation and a humanitarian nightmare.
According to Schanzer, these attacks are "a direct challenge to the US military," which is only becoming more dangerous for US sailors as they refuse to return fire.
"The lack of response on the part of the US might be emboldening the group," said Schanzer.
"After the first rocket there was an opportunity. It’s unclear to us why the US Navy didn’t fire back at the location from where the rocket was fired," said Schanzer. Indeed, the Mason is an Arleigh Burke class guided-missile destroyer with an Aegis radar, the world's most advanced radar system, on board.
Instead of simply firing missiles to intercept and neutralize the incoming threats, the US Navy very likely had the capability to counter the 1990s-vintage missile and send another missile speeding toward the coast of Yemen where the Iranian-backed Houthis were likely in waiting.
"The fact that they didn’t [fire back] might have been an indication to these militants that they can continue to do so with impunity," Schanzer said.
But the reason for the lack of action may come from the top. According to Schanzer, the Obama administration "doesn’t want to get dragged into another Middle East conflict, but [it's] also an administration that is phobic of clashing with Iran-sponsored actors."
Obama — who has repeatedly refused to engage allies of Iran militarily, even after Syrian President Bashar Assad crossed Obama's "red line" in Syria by using chemical weapons against his own people — seems completely averse to confronting the regional power in order to preserve the fragile Iran deal, a key element of Obama's foreign-policy legacy.
With Obama in office for just a few more months, Schanzer thinks we're unlikely to see the US military respond to force with force. Instead, any million-dollar missiles fired by the US Navy will likely be in defense.
"The last thing they want to do is challenge Iran," said Schanzer.
Confronting Iran's Yemeni proxies "could put them in a peripheral conflict with the Iranians — that explains the reticence," Schanzer concluded.
The US officially entered the conflict in Yemen with a salvo of cruise-missile strikes on three coastal radar sites in areas of Yemen controlled by Houthi rebels, retaliating after failed missile attacks this week on a US Navy destroyer, US officials said late Wednesday.
There was no immediate word of any casualties in Yemen.
US officials told Reuters that the Arleigh Burke-class USS Nitze launched the Tomahawk cruise missiles at about 4 a.m. local time on Thursday.
"These radars were active during previous attacks and attempted attacks on ships in the Red Sea," the officials said, adding that the radar sites were in remote areas with a low risk of civilian casualties.
"Targeting US warships is a sign that the Houthis have decided to join the axis of resistance that currently includes Lebanese Hezbollah, Hamas, and Iran," Michael Knights, an expert on Yemen's conflict at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told Reuters.
The strikes authorized by President Barack Obama represent Washington's first direct military action against Houthi-controlled targets in Yemen's conflict. The Pentagon said initial US assessments indicated the radar sites were destroyed.
"These limited self-defense strikes were conducted to protect our personnel, our ships, and our freedom of navigation in this important maritime passageway," Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said. "The United States will respond to any further threat to our ships and commercial traffic, as appropriate."
Two times in the past four days the USS Mason, a guided-missile destroyer, fired interceptor missiles in self-defense after detecting incoming missiles launched from the territory held by Iranian-backed Houthi militants. The incidents occurred in the Bab al-Mandab Strait between Yemen and Eritrea with no damage or injuries to the US Navy.
The Houthis, a militant uprising against the internationally recognized government of Yemeni President Abd Rabbu Mansour al-Hadi, denied previous attempts on the USS Mason, but had taken credit for a similar missile strike that savaged a former US Navy ship operated by the United Arab Emirates.
The direct strike against the Houthis makes the US a participant in the conflict in Yemen, where Saudi Arabia has led a brutal air campaign linked to high civilian deaths and potentially war crimes.
Reuters previously reported that the US had worried that direct involvement in the conflict on Saudi Arabia's behalf could make it liable to be tried for possible war crimes committed during the 18-month conflict.
Simultaneously, the US has been trying to manage a fragile relationship with Iran after the adoption of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action to curb Iran's nuclear program.
Iran backs the Houthi militants, has provided them with arms, and previously has openly provoked the US Navy in international waters.
For 241 years, the US Navy has been the most visible part of America's military might, visiting far-flung ports of call and operating all over the world.
To celebrate the US Navy, we've pulled out some of the coolest photos from the archives.
In the decades after the Civil War, America began a new era of foreign intervention with the Navy leading the way. This 1899 photo shows sailors eating on the USS Olympia, which was the US's flagship during the Spanish-American War of the previous year.
The USS Holland, seen in this photo from 1900, was the Navy's first commissioned submarine.
President Theodore Roosevelt ordered a fleet of US ships to circumnavigate the globe from 1907-1909.
See the rest of the story at Business Insider
Dubai (AFP) - An air strike on a Yemeni funeral ceremony which killed at least 140 people "is an apparent war crime," Human Rights Watch said on Thursday.
The Saturday strike which Yemen's Huthi rebels blamed on a Saudi-led military coalition was one of the deadliest in the coalition's air campaign against the rebels and their allies.
The coalition has faced mounting international criticism over civilian casualties from its bombing.
"While military personnel and civilian officials involved in the war effort were attending the ceremony, the clear presence of several hundred civilians strongly suggests that the attack was unlawfully disproportionate," Human Rights Watch said in a statement.
"The funeral strike underscores the urgent need for credible international investigations into alleged laws-of-war violations in Yemen."
The watchdog called on foreign governments including the United States and Britain to immediately suspend arms sales to Saudi Arabia.
"After unlawfully attacking schools, markets, hospitals, weddings and homes over the last 19 months, the Saudi-led coalition has now added a funeral to its ever-increasing list of abuses," said HRW's Middle East and North Africa director Sarah Leah Whitson.
"An independent international investigation of this atrocity is needed as the coalition has shown its unwillingness to uphold its legal obligations to credibly investigate."
Leading rebel officers were among those killed in the strike, the rebel-controlled Saba news agency reported.
Saudi Arabia announced an easing of its blockade of rebel-held areas to allow the evacuation of hundreds of wounded for treatment abroad.
The coalition initially denied responsibility but after condemnation from Western governments, it promised an investigation of the "regrettable and painful" event.
A letter sent to the UN Security Council on Sunday "expressed the kingdom's deep regret" over the "attack", state media reported the following day.
"It also renewed its full respect for and commitment to international humanitarian law and international human rights law, and the emphasis on continuing to ensure the taking of all possible measures to protect civilians and civilian sites in Yemen."
Military jobs all seem pretty similar from the outside. Everyone shoots at the range, everyone gets compensated according to the same pay tables, and everyone gets yelled at by the people with fancier symbols on their uniforms.
But some military jobs have hidden perks that just come with the territory. For example, if the mission requires that a soldier have access to the internet, then that soldier can usually use the internet for other stuff as long as they don’t abuse the privilege. So here are six jobs with hidden perks that help make life a little more bearable:
Corpsmen/medics usually have fridge access for medicines.
There are only a few groups of people who regularly had access to refrigeration during a deployment to the burning hot desert. The cooks (more on them later) and the medical folks — at smaller bases, this means Navy corpsmen and Army and Air Force medics.
The medical personnel need refrigeration to keep certain medicines from going bad. But whatever area of the fridge that’s left over is usually divvied up by the medics to keep drinks cold, a rare luxury on some bases.
The cooks also have refrigerators … and spare food.
The cooks have even greater access to fridges than the medics, and they can sometimes grab extra food and energy drinks to trade or share. Most forward operating bases with dining facilities feed hundreds of soldiers and Army recipes are usually written for batches of 100 servings.
It’s basically impossible to make and order the exact amount of food needed for any meal, so there’s always some spare servings of something left over — sometimes cooked and sometimes waiting to be cooked. Cooks will trade away those unused 15 servings of ribs or chicken to others for special favors.
Public Affairs has usually has Facebook access even when the rest of the base is on blackout.
The gatekeepers of the unit Facebook page, meanwhile, have their own great perk. When the rest of the base is put on communications blackout, public affairs troops are still required to keep the unit’s social media pages going to reassure family members back home and to keep up normal appearances.
This requires that the PA shop always has access to Facebook and Twitter, meaning its soldiers can exchange messages with family and update their own pages even when the base was otherwise blacked out.
See the rest of the story at Business Insider
In the early-morning hours of October 12, the USS Nitze fired a salvo of Tomahawk cruise missiles at radar sites in Houthi-controlled Yemen and thereby marked the US's official entry into the conflict in Yemen that has raged for 18 months.
The US fired in retaliation to previous incidents where missiles fired from Iranian-backed Houthi territory had threatened US Navy ships: the destroyers USS Mason and USS Nitze, and the amphibious transport dock USS Ponce.
After more than two decades of peaceful service, this was likely the first time the US fired these defensive missiles in combat.
"These strikes are not connected to the broader conflict in Yemen," Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said. "Our actions overnight were a response to hostile action."
But instead of responding to the attack with the full force of two Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers, the Navy's response was measured, limited, and in self-defense.
Jonathan Schanzer, an expert on Yemen and Iran at the Foundation for Defending Democracies, said the US's response fell "far short of what an appropriate response would be."
"Basically, the US took out part of the system that would allow for targeting, protecting themselves but not going after those who fired upon them," Schanzer told Business Insider.
Even the limited strike places the US in a tricky situation internationally and legally. The Obama administration has desperately tried to preserve relations with Iran since negotiating and implementing the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action to ensure Iran doesn't become a nuclear state.
But the pivot toward Iran, a Shia power, has ruffled feathers in Saudi Arabia, a longtime US ally and the premier Sunni power in the Middle East.
By taking direct military action against the Houthi rebels, a Shia group battling the internationally recognized government of Yemeni President Abd Rabbu Mansour al-Hadi, the US has entered into — even in a limited capacity — another war in the Middle East with no end in sight.
Iran and the Houthis
Phillip Smyth of the Washington Institute on Near East Policy told Business Insider that Iran views Shia groups in the Middle East as "integral elements to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)."
Smyth confirmed to Business Insider the strong bond between Iran and the Houthi uprising working to overthrow the government in Yemen.
According to Smyth, in many cases Houthi leaders go to Iran for ideological and religious education, and Iranian and Hezbollah leaders have been spotted on the ground advising the Houthi troops.
These Iranian advisers are likely responsible for training the Houthis to use the type of sophisticated guided missiles fired at the US Navy.
For Iran, supporting the revolt in Yemen is "a good way to bleed the Saudis," Iran's regional and ideological rival. Essentially, Iran is backing the Houthis to fight against a Saudi-led coalition of Gulf States fighting to maintain government control of Yemen.
"The Iranians are looking at this from a very, very strategic angle, not just bleeding Saudis and other Gulf States, but how can they expand their ideological and military influence," Smyth said.
Yemen presents an extremely attractive goal for enterprising Iran. Yemen's situation on the Bab-al-Mandab Strait means that control of that waterway — which they may have been trying to establish with the missile strikes — would give them control over the Red Sea, a massive waterway and choke point for commerce.
The risk of picking a side
The US officially became a combatant in Yemen on Wednesday night. In doing so, it has tacitly aligned with the Saudi-led coalition that has been tied to a brutal air blockade.
The Saudis stand accused of war crimes in connection with bombing schools, hospitals, markets, and even a packed funeral hall.
Internal communications show the US has been very concerned about entering into the conflict for fear that it may be considered "co-belligerents" and thereby liable for prosecution for war crimes, Reuters reported.
Lawrence Brennan, an adjunct professor at Fordham Law School and a US Navy veteran, told Business Insider the "limited context in which these strikes occurred was to protect freedom of navigation and neutral ships" and likely doesn't "rise to the legal state of belligerence."
Yet Russian and Shia sources are quick to lump the US and Saudi Arabia together, Smyth added. Just as the US and international community look to hold Russia and Syria accountable for the bombing of a humanitarian aid convoy in Syria, the indiscriminate Saudi air campaign in Yemen makes it "very easy to offer a response" to the cries of war crimes against them, he said.
Indeed, now Russian propagandists can offer up a narrative that suggests a dangerous quid pro quo narrative, suggesting that the US and Russia are trading war crimes in the region, and to "throw out chaff" and muddy the waters should the international community looks to prosecute Russia and Syria, Smyth added.
Gone too far — or not far enough?
So, while the US has now entered the murky waters of the conflict in Yemen — where 14 million people lack food and thousands of civilians have been murdered — Schanzer says the US may not have done enough.
The Navy "didn’t hit the people who struck them," Schanzer said. "They're not looking for caches of missiles, not looking for youth hideouts, not looking to engage directly."
For Schanzer, this half measure "seems like it’s not even mowing the lawn."
But with the US already involved in bombing campaigns in six countries, it is "loathe" to get mired in another Middle Eastern conflict and equally concerned about fighting against Iran's proxies, whom it sees as extensions of Iran's own IRGC.
For now, the Pentagon remains committed to the idea that the strike on Houthi infrastructure was a "limited" strike, and that it's strictly acting in self-defense, which Schanzer said is "not really the way to achieve victory."
But with just three months left in President Obama's second term, there is good reason to question if the US's objective is to help the people of Yemen and end the war, or to simply sit out the festering conflict as it balances delicate regional alliances.