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The latest news on Defense from Business Insider

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    NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg addresses a news conference during a NATO defence ministers meeting at the Alliance headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, October 27, 2016.   REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

    NATO and Russia held more than three hours of talks on Monday, discussing ways to reduce military accidents but also underscoring their deep disagreement on the conflict in Ukraine.

    Western diplomats said the fact that the NATO-Russia Council, where the Russian ambassador to the North Atlantic alliance sits with members states' envoys, had met at all was significant after an increase in Russian military deployments.

    "Without talking, we cannot solve our differences," NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said after the meeting in Brussels.

    Russia has alarmed NATO by equipping its Baltic fleet with nuclear-capable missiles and stepping up Cold War-style aerial incursions to probe Western air defenses. In October, it demonstratively sent its sole aircraft carrier close to Europe's shores on its way to Syria.

    Russian Ambassador Alexander Grushko gave a detailed briefing on Russian military exercises involving around 120,000 personnel in recent months, NATO diplomats said.

    There was also discussion in Brussels of the tactics being used by Russian pilots, which NATO says are unsafe. These include flying barrel rolls over Western aircraft, not sharing flight plans, and flying without the transponders that allow jets to be identified by ground radar.

    But Stoltenberg said there continued to be "profound disagreements" on one of the central issues in east-west relations: Ukraine.

    He said NATO members would not recognize Russia's annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, and that the alliance remained deeply concerned about eastern Ukraine, partly controlled since 2014 by rebels whom NATO accuses Moscow of financing.

    russian troops crimea

    Despite an internationally-monitored ceasefire, diplomats have cited increasing reports of shelling and civilian casualties.

    NATO for its part has responded to increased Russian military activity by planning to deploy troops to the Baltic states and Poland next year. Although it says its plans are defensive, Russia has been irked and sought explanations.

    Separately, Ukrainian Europe Minister Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze, who met EU officials in Brussels, told Reuters six Ukrainian soldiers had been reported killed on Monday and another 26 wounded in shelling by Russian-backed rebels.

    russia nato map

    The EU extended economic sanctions against Russia on Monday due to a lack of progress in implementing the Minsk ceasefire deal, under which a cessation of fighting was due to be followed by Kiev agreeing to hold local elections in the region.

    "The ball is in the Russian court," Klympush-Tsintsadze told Reuters. "Without security guarantees, without a ceasefire holding ... it will be impossible for Ukraine to move on the political agenda."

    SEE ALSO: Trump nominates Wall Street billionaire and Florida Panthers owner as Army secretary

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    NOW WATCH: Here's why Boeing 747s have a giant hump in the front

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    syria aleppo evacuation

    The United Nations Security Council on Monday unanimously called for U.N. officials and others to observe the evacuation of people from the last rebel-held enclave in Aleppo and monitor the safety of civilians who remain in the Syrian city.

    The 15-member council overcame long-held divisions - that have pitted Syrian ally Russia and China against Western powers over the Syrian conflict - to adopt a French-drafted resolution calling for U.N. officials and others "to carry out adequate, neutral monitoring and direct observation on evacuations."

    The recapture of Aleppo - Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's biggest victory in the nearly six-year-old war - has left thousands of people stuck in the last rebel bastion in the city's east amid accusations by the United Nations and Western powers of atrocities against civilians by pro-government forces.

    U.N. Syria mediator Staffan de Mistura announced on Monday he intended to convene peace talks in Geneva on Feb. 8.

    Thousands of people were evacuated from eastern Aleppo on Monday.

    Doctors Without Border Aleppo Syria

    The U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, said it was hoped the presence of monitors would deter crimes against civilians as they leave Aleppo or against those who choose to stay in the city.

    "Of course the Syrian government doesn't want more monitors," Power said. "If you're doing bad things you don't want monitors around to watch you doing them."

    The United Nations said it has more than 100 people - mainly Syrian national staff - ready to monitor alongside officials from the International Committee for the Red Cross.

    "We stand ready to scale up our presence and efforts across the entire city ... This can be done immediately, but only if the parties live up to this resolution and their most basic legal obligations," U.N. aid chief Stephen O'Brien said.

    The Security Council reached consensus on a text on Sunday after several hours of negotiations. Russia had planned to veto the original French draft over concerns about sending U.N. monitors unprepared into "the ruins of eastern Aleppo," U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said.

    Russia wanted U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to arrange security for U.N. monitors to enter eastern Aleppo "in coordination" with interested parties, meaning the Syrian government. The council agreed that such arrangements would be made "in consultation" with interested parties.

    "We keep contact with our Syrian colleagues here all the time ... they did not raise any serious objections to what we delivered," Churkin told reporters ahead of the vote.

    Syrian U.N. Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari said the adopted resolution was already "part of our continued daily efforts," but he also described it as "just another part of the continued propaganda against Syria and its fight against terrorists" - a term it uses for all groups fighting Assad.

    aleppo syria

    "The last terrorists in some districts of the eastern part of Aleppo are evacuating their strongholds and Aleppo this evening will be clean," he told reporters.

    Russia, which has provided military backing to Assad's troops, has vetoed six Security Council resolutions on Syria since the conflict started in 2011. China joined Moscow in vetoing five resolutions.

    Monday's resolution "demands all parties to provide these monitors with safe, immediate and unimpeded access."

    Unlike previous heated Security Council meetings on Syria, no members spoke in the council chamber after the vote.

    Despite the government's recapture of Aleppo, the fighting in Syria is by no means over, with large tracts of the country still under the control of insurgent and Islamist groups.

    A crackdown by Assad on pro-democracy protesters in 2011 led to civil war and Islamic State militants have used the chaos to seize territory in Syria and Iraq. Half of Syria's 22 million people have been uprooted and more than 400,000 killed.

    SEE ALSO: Before-and-after photos show the staggering scale of destruction in Aleppo

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    NOW WATCH: The best way to clear out a ton of space on your iPhone superfast

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    zurich switzerland islamic center shooting

    Three people were wounded in a shooting near an Islamic center in central Zurich on Monday, police said.

    Swiss media said a suspect was on the run after the incident near the main train station in Switzerland's financial capital.

    It was not immediately clear whether the Islamic center or any of the other businesses registered buildings nearby, were the target of the attack, or what any motive might have been.

    People at the scene told Reuters they prayed at the center, which was used as a mosque, often by Somalis.

    Zurich police confirmed people had been wounded in the incident on Zurich's Eisgasse, but gave no more details. A police official was expected to make a statement.

    Police had sealed off the block. Roughly 20 police officers were present and an ambulance had driven away, a Reuters witness said. There was no word on the condition of the wounded.

    The center is registered as an association enabling Muslims to practice their religion, particularly through instruction on Islamic beliefs and teachings, as well as providing for the preservation of Islamic cultural values and scientific seminars, according to Swiss business data website Moneyhouse.

    Across Switzerland, two thirds of its 8.3 million residents identify as Christian but the nation has been wrestling with the role of Islam as its Muslim population has risen to 5 percent, particularly with the arrival of immigrants from the former Yugoslavia.

    In 2009, a nationwide vote backed a constitutional ban on new minarets.

    The Federation of Islamic Organisations in Switzerland said the center was not a member and it did not have any direct knowledge of the incident.

    Another umbrella group, the Swiss Islamic Central Council, was not immediately available for comment.

    SEE ALSO: Russia's ambassador to Turkey assassinated in Ankara

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    NOW WATCH: The best way to clear out a ton of space on your iPhone superfast

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    south china sea uss lassen

    The first confrontation between the US and Chinese navies concluded on Tuesday, when the Chinese returned an underwater oceanographic drone captured in international waters outside of the Philippines.

    "The incident was inconsistent with both international law and standards of professionalism for conduct between navies at sea," said Peter Cook, a Defense Department spokesman.

    And President-elect Donald Trump tweeted of the incident, "Let them keep it."

    The drone, composed of about $150,000 in off-the-shelf technology, ranks low on the list of US-China military confrontations — as past confrontations have involved air crews being detained and planes grounded — but it marks an important shift in what is quickly becoming one of the most militarized and fraught regions on the planet.

    "It’s a very big deal because it is highly unusual for a Chinese navy ship to confront  US Navy ship, even if an oceanographic vessel," said Bonnie Glaser, an expert on Chinese foreign and security policy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

    While the confrontation consisted of a Chinese navy ship plucking the drone out of the sea, the drone belonged to a US Navy ship not far off. This action set a dangerous precedent sure to make US allies doubtful of American commitment to the region.

    Glaser pointed to China's "willingness to just blatantly put a boat in the water and seize the drone," which she described as "an act demonstrating that they're going to do whatever is necessary to protect their interests in the South China Sea."


    China has come a long way in the South China Sea. A few decades ago, China had a small, limited navy incapable of projecting power across a large swath of sea and islands.

    But now, as China has become enriched by trade and investments, its navy has grown impressively. For years, China has been building artificial islands in the South China Sea and outfitting them with radar outposts, military-grade runways, and air defenses— everything Beijing would need to lock down the region and shoot down any planes that challenge its claims.

    By the time the International Court of Arbitration at The Hague declared China's nine-dash line claims in the South China Sea unlawful and unenforceable, it was too late. China has already established "facts in the water" that give it an unparalleled military edge in a shipping corridor that sees $5 trillion annually, and its neighbors have noticed.

    The seizure of the drone was "pretty consequential" in that it showed that "China is willing to stand up to the US and the US Navy," said Glaser.

    China navy

    "Allies and observers will find it hard not to conclude this represents another diminishment of American authority in the region," Douglas Paal, the vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told The New York Times.

    Glaser also spoke of "growing anxiety in the region."

    "Not only in our allies in Japan and South Korea, but also other places like Vietnam and Singapore believe very much that US military presence is necessary to counterbalance Chinese military assertiveness," Glaser said.

    In response to the incident, China suffered no visible consequences despite its clear defiance of international law.

    Glaser suggested that oceanographic US Navy ships should now travel with a destroyer as an escort, but Jeffrey Lewis, Arms Control Wonk's founding publisher, said that the region is already a powder keg.

    Lewis pointed to China's recent flights of H-6K bombers in the South China Sea as evidence of the "security environment deteriorating."

    china H-6K

    Despite being classified as non-nuclear-capable by the Department of Defense, these bombers were reported as being nuclear-capable bombers by several outlets. This speaks to a deeper problem with how nations signal military strengths and intentions to each other, Lewis said.

    When China flies these bombers, mistakes can be made. If China puts its conventional missile forces on alert, it's difficult for the US to tell if the weapons are nuclear-capable. These ambiguities worry Lewis, as they could hypothetically lead to nuclear war for errant reasons.

    Overall, according to Lewis, the Pacific is far less stable than it was just weeks ago before Trump accepted the call from Taiwan. Meanwhile, there has been "no progress toward underlying territory disputes" that fuel tensions in the region, he said.

    map south china sea

    With Trump, the US now has a president who will call China on its aggressive behavior in the South China Sea — he described it as a "massive military complex" in a tweet after taking the call from Taiwan's president, Tsai Ing-Wen.

    "Trump appears to be keeping China off balance, criticizing North Korea, the South China Sea, and China on trade," said Glaser. "The Chinese are really quite concerned about the lack of predictability."

    But the US's response to China remains to be seen. So far, the Obama administration has not moved to rebuke China over the drone, and the world has noticed. Adm. Harry Harris said the US was "ready to confront" China, but has not commented on how the US would confront it.

    Meanwhile, experts, observers, and the Chinese have to wait and see how the Trump administration will respond.

    SEE ALSO: US Navy: We need more aircraft carriers, combat ships to meet rising global threats

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    NOW WATCH: In the 1970s the CIA created a spy drone the size of a dragonfly

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    Former CIA Senior Analyst John Nixon's new book "Debriefing the President: The Interrogation of Saddam Hussein” provides never-before-seen details into the daily life of Iraq's deposed dictator in the months before the 2003 US invasion wrenched him from power.

    Nixon, who wrote his master's thesis on Hussein, and whose full-time job at the CIA was to study him, was shocked to find out that common intelligence on Hussein had been wrong.

    From The New York Times review of Nixon's book:

    His most astonishing discovery was that by the time of the United States-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003, Hussein had turned over the day-to-day running of the Iraqi government to his aides and was spending most of his time writing a novel. Hussein described himself to Mr. Nixon as both president of Iraq and a writer, and complained to Mr. Nixon that the United States military had taken away his writing materials, preventing him from finishing his book. Hussein was certainly a brutal dictator, but the man described by Mr. Nixon was not on a mission to blow up the world, as George W. Bush’s administration had claimed to justify the invasion.

    Hussein's own abdication of authority in lieu of his more artistic pursuits did little to make up for his prior brutal actions as the leader of Iraq. However, it did call into question the overall value of removing the dictator from power in the first place.

    “Was Saddam worth removing from power?”  Nixon asked himself in the book. “I can speak only for myself when I say that the answer must be no. Saddam was busy writing novels in 2003. He was no longer running the government.”

    Since 2003, the mainstream political consensus in the US has turned on George W. Bush's 2003 decision to invade Iraq, with both major party presidential candidates this election cycle condemning the invasion and ensuing occupation of Iraq. 

    You can read the full book review here»

    SEE ALSO: China just confronted the US Navy for the first time — and it looks like they came out on top

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    NOW WATCH: The US Navy is catapulting trucks off aircraft carriers

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    us navy blues

    The Navy has decided to bring back its 241-year-old job ratings system, officials said Tuesday, reversing a decision at the end of September that prompted widespread outcry and even had the White House weigh in.

    A formal announcement is set for Wednesday at 8 a.m. East Coast time.

    The restoration of Navy rating titles will be announced in a Navy administrative message signed by Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson.

    The service still plans to modernize jobs in order to make career paths more flexible and make it easier to transition to civilian work. But the initial plan that replaced all 91 historical ratings, including jobs like yeoman, boatswain's mate, and hospital corpsman, with alphanumeric codes, has been scrapped.

    In the planned remarks, Richardson credits sailors who spoke out during meetings and town hall forums with convincing Navy leadership to walk back the ratings decision.

    "The feedback from current and former sailors has been consistent that there is wide support for the flexibility that the plan offers, but the removal of rating titles detracted from accomplishing our major goals," Richardson wrote in the message. "Furthermore, there has been a solid body of thoughtful input that pointed out that there is a way to have the benefits of the rating modernization program without removing rating titles."

    He also said the reversal was an example of the "fast learning" he has promoted within the Navy since he became the service's top officer.

    "The Design for Maintaining Maritime Superiority states that our most junior teammate may have the best idea and that we must be open to capturing that idea," Richardson wrote, citing a Navy document published in January. "We have learned from you, and so effective immediately, all rating names are restored."

    us navy sailor waving goodbye

    Many questions have yet to be answered. A Navy official told that the service is still determining the best way to allow sailors to hold multiple job titles, a key selling feature of the plan to substitute alphanumeric codes for ratings. Other elements of the original plan, including the potential redesign of ratings badges, will be decided at a future date, the official said.

    Chief of Naval Personnel Vice Adm. Robert Burke, who had been tasked with promoting the job titles overhaul to the fleet over the last three months, said in a statement that the Navy still had decisions to make about rating names.

    The Navy first began to review its ratings system earlier this year at the behest of Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, who ordered the Marine Corps and Navy to ensure their job titles were sufficiently gender-neutral as previously closed jobs opened to women. In response, the Marines announced in June they were changing 19 job titles to remove the word "man," while the Navy expanded its review to the system itself.

    "As we move forward into the execution stages of the rating modernization, more and more sailors will have multiple occupational skill sets or ratings," Burke said. "Before we get there, we will need to tackle the issue of managing rating names. We will involve sailors throughout the Fleet and leverage the Rating Modernization working group to figure out how to best do that."

    Until recently, Navy leadership showed no signs of wavering on the decision to do away with ratings. A petition to bring back the ratings system racked up 100,000 signatures in just under a month, triggering a response from a White House official, who acknowledged the Navy's love of tradition but supported the ratings plan.

    The author of the petition, former Navy operations specialist Dave Weeks, told he had launched it in response to community outcry from those who felt that their rating was a key part of who they were in the Navy.

    US Navy Sailors

    "A lot of people like myself really loved their job, and the title that went along with it was part of your Navy identity," he said. "And besides that, when people start off in the Navy and strike into a rating, it is a huge sense of pride for them to be able to put on a rank badge that has a rating symbol on it."

    In November, Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft distanced himself from the decision to remove ratings, telling his service had briefly considered it, but determined such a move would cause "chaos" in the ranks.

    Earlier this month, Richardson suggested at an all-hands call in Fallon, Nevada that he had underestimated the backlash that would result when the Navy got rid of ratings, Navy Times reported.

    Future changes will aim to make jobs and titles more relevant to today's Navy, Burke said.

    "As we looked at rating modernization effort over the past few months, we saw that we could still achieve the positive results we want without changing rating titles right now," he said. "However, modernizing our industrial-age personnel system in order to provide Sailors choice and flexibility still remains a priority for us. Our personnel system has not fundamentally changed since the 1970s, and just like our ships, aircraft and weapons systems, it needs updates to keep pace with a rapidly changing world."

    -- Hope Hodge Seck can be reached at Follow her on Twitter at @HopeSeck.

    SEE ALSO: Congress will now require the Pentagon to reveal the true cost of war

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    NOW WATCH: Donald Trump's 'strange' morning habit tells you everything you need to know about him

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    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem December 18, 2016. REUTERS/Amir Cohen

    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged the United States to veto a UN Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlement activities in a vote scheduled for Thursday.

    Netanyahu said in a message on Twitter that the United States "should veto the anti-Israel resolution." The Security is due to vote on a draft that would demand that Israel "immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem."

    Egypt circulated the draft on Wednesday evening, diplomats said. It was unclear how the United States, which has traditionally protected Israel from U.N. action, would vote. A White House official declined comment.

    SEE ALSO: Kremlin: Almost all communication between the US and Russia has ceased

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    NOW WATCH: Here's how the White House master bedroom has changed from president to president

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    soldiers playing cards

    US troops and their playing cards have a long history. A large chunk of deployment is spent killing time until the action starts – and card games have long been the weapon of choice for that mission.

    The USPCC even made a cheap deck so soldiers in World War I could easily purchase one for the battlefields.

    It was the company’s signature brand, Bicycle, that did the most for troops in the field. During World War II, Bicycle teamed up with British and American intelligence agencies to create a deck of cards that peeled apart when wet. The cards then revealed secret escape maps so downed pilots and captured soldiers could navigate their way back to Allied lines.

    Once the map pieces were revealed, all it took was to assemble the cards in the right order to get the full map layout.

    The decks were given to POWs in Europe through the Red Cross’ special Christmas parcels, which contained (among other things) a deck of playing cards. Cards were a common occurrence among troops, so they aroused no suspicion from the Nazi camp guards.

    Decks of these cards are said to have helped at least 32 people escape from Colditz Castle and prompted some 316 escape attempts. No one knows for sure how many decks were produced, but the only two known surviving decks are in the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C.

    To commemorate its history, Bicycle recently created a special “Escape Map” throwback deck, complete with map artwork – no water necessary.

    SEE ALSO: 72 years ago, the Nazis launched their last great offensive of World War II — here are 13 photos of the Battle of the Bulge

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    NOW WATCH: Here's how the White House master bedroom has changed from president to president

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    B 61 nuclear bombs on rack

    On Thursday, President-elect Donald Trump tweeted that "The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes."

    But as Kingston Reif, director for disarmament and threat reduction policy at the Arms Control Association, told Business Insider, there's a huge contradiction in Trump's recent thinking on defense projects.

    "Trump may be open to expanding the number of nuclear weapons in the arsenal, building new weapons, increasing the role of nuclear weapons in US policy," Reif told Business Insider in an interview, despite the fact that the US's nuclear arms are already "second to none."

    However, the US's current path towards modernizing US nuclear weapons will already cost a whopping $1 trillion dollars. Though it's not yet clear whether Trump means actually building more or different types of nuclear weapons, he also recently seemed to shun another potentially trillion-dollar US defense project that's already well underway. 

    "One of the interesting contradictions here is that his tweet suggests that he is going to move full steam ahead with the current nuclear modernization plan, but we’ve also heard him express concerns about the F-35 program, saying maybe we need to stop it," said Reif. 

    But, as Reif points out, the F-35 is part of the US's overall nuclear modernization program.

    "Later versions of the F-35 will be nuclear capable and replace other fighters and bombers,' said Reif.

    Thus begging the question: How can Trump support making our nuclear forces "stronger" without supporting the F-35?

    The F-35 promises to bring a quantum leap in the US's airpower, and other US allies and NATO countries will fly the revolutionary plane as well.

    F-35b marines uss america

    F-35 pilots who spoke to Business Insider have asserted unequivocally that the F-35 is the price of admission to great power conflicts of the future, and that the only people critical of the program these days are those who have never sat inside the plane. 

    In fact, the F-35, slated to carry B-61 gravity bombs, will make the nuclear weapons relevant again, as currently no plane in the US arsenal can carry the bomb, which the US already has hundreds of.

    Trump seems not to be "putting two and two together there," according to Reif.

    SEE ALSO: Trump questions the US's nuclear arsenal: Here's how the US's nukes compare to Russia's

    SEE ALSO: Here’s the price tag for the latest batch of F-35s

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    NOW WATCH: Animated map shows every nuclear-bomb explosion in history

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    Since the first nuclear test on July 15, 1945, there have been over 2,051 other nuclear weapons tests around the world. 

    No other force epitomizes the absolute destructive power humanity has unlocked in the way nuclear weapons have. And the weapons rapidly became more powerful in the decades after that first test.

    The device tested in 1945 had a 20 kiloton yield, meaning it had the explosive force of 20,000 tons of TNT. Within 20 years, the US and USSR tested nuclear weapons larger than 10 megatons, or 10 million tons of TNT. For scale, these weapons were at least 500 times as strong as the first atomic bomb.

    To put the size of history's largest nuclear blasts to scale, we have used Alex Wellerstein's Nukemap, a tool for visualizing the terrifying real-world impact of a nuclear explosion.

    In the following maps, the first ring of the blast is the fireball, followed by the radiation radius. In the pink radius, almost all buildings are demolished and fatalities approach 100%. In the gray radius, stronger buildings would weather the blast, but injuries are nearly universal. In the orange radius, people with exposed skin would suffer from third-degree burns, and flammable materials would catch on fire, leading to possible firestorms. 

    An earlier version of this story was written by Armin Rosen. 

    11 (tie). Soviet Tests #158 and #168

    On August 25 and September 19, 1962, less than a month apart, the USSR conducted nuclear tests #158 and #168. Both tests were held over the Novaya Zemlya region of Russia, an archipelago to the north of Russia near the Arctic Ocean. 

    No film or photographs of the tests have been released, but both tests included the use of 10-megaton atomic bombs. These blasts would have incinerated everything within 1.77 square miles of their epicenters while causing third-degree burns up to an area of 1,090 square miles. 

    10. Ivy Mike

    On November 1, 1952, the US tested Ivy Mike over the Marshall Islands. Ivy Mike was the world's first hydrogen bomb and had a yield of 10.4 megatons, making it 700 times as strong as the first atomic bomb. 

    Ivy Mike's detonation was so powerful that it vaporized the Elugelab Island where it was detonated, leaving in its place a 164-foot-deep crater. The explosion's mushroom cloud traveled 30 miles into the atmosphere. 

    9. Castle Romeo

    Romeo was the second US nuclear detonation of the Castle Series of tests, which were conducted in 1954. All of the detonations took place over Bikini Atoll. Castle Romeo was the third-most powerful test of the series and had a yield of 11 megatons. 

    Romeo was the first device to be tested on a barge over open water instead of on a reef, as the US was quickly running out of islands upon which it could test nuclear weapons.

    The blast would have incinerated everything within 1.91 square miles.

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    marine oneAmong the special modes of transportation reserved for the president is Marine One.

    A specialty built helicopter, Marine One accompanies the president around the country and even overseas. Built to rescue the president during an emergency, the helicopter is customized with a suite of amazing features.

    "The helicopter was very smooth, very impressive," Obama told reporters after his first ride in the helicopter in 2009. "You go right over the Washington Monument and then you know — kind of curve in by the Capitol. It was spectacular."

    We have compiled some of Marine One's most amazing features below.

    SEE ALSO: There is no car like the president's armored limo — aka 'The Beast'

    Each year, only four pilots from HMX-1 squadron, aka "The Nighthawks," have the honor of flying Marine One.

    Source: National Geographic "Marine One"

    The helicopter can cruise at over 150 mph ...

    Source: National Geographic "Marine One"

    ... and can continue flying even if one of its three engines fails.

    Source: America's Book of Secrets "Presidential Transports"

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    An Abrams battle tank during a tour of the Joint Systems Manufacturing Center, Lima Army Tank Plant, in Lima, Ohio, April 23, 2012.

    The Army is preparing to configure Abrams tank prototypes able to control nearby “robotic” wing-man vehicles which fire weapons, carry ammunition and conduct reconnaissance missions for units on the move in combat, service officials said.

    Although still in the early stages of discussion and conceptual development, the notion of manned-unmanned teaming for the Abrams continues to gain traction among Army and General Dynamics Land Systems developers.

    Algorithms are progressing to the point wherein they will be able to allow an Abrams tank crew to operate multiple nearby “wing-man” robotic vehicles in a command and control capacity while on the move in combat.

    Army researchers, engineers and weapons developers are preparing to prototype some of these possibilities for future Abrams tanks, Maj. Gen. David Bassett, Program Executive Officer, Ground Combat Systems, told Scout warrior in an interview.

    “As I look to the future and I think about game-changing technologies, manned-unmanned teaming is a big part of that. There’s a set of things that we think could be really transformational,” Bassett said.

    This kind of dynamic could quickly change the nature of landwar. 

    Autonomous or semi-autonomous robotic vehicles flanking tanks in combat, quite naturally, could bring a wide range of combat-enhancing possibilities. Ammunition-carrying robotic vehicles could increase the fire-power of tanks while in combat more easily; unmanned platforms could also carry crucial Soldier and combat supplies, allowing an Abrams tank to carry a larger payload of key combat supplies.

    Also, perhaps of greatest significance, an unmanned vehicle controlled by an Abrams tank could fire weapons at an enemy while allowing the tank to operate at a safer, more risk-reducing stand-off range.

    m1a1 abrams tank

    As unmanned vehicles, robotic platforms could be agile and much lighter weight than heavily armored vehicles designed to carry Soldiers into high-risk combat situations. By virtue of being able to operate without placing Soldiers at risk, tank-controlled ground drones could also be used to test and challenge enemy defenses, fire-power and formations. Furthermore, advanced sensors could be integrated into the ground drones to handle rugged terrain while beaming back video and data of enemy locations and movements.

    “You don’t need armor on an auxiliary kit,” Michael Peck, Business Development Manager, General Dynamics Land Systems, told Scout Warrior in an interview.

    Manned Abrams tanks, therefore, could make use of advanced thermal sights, aided by robotic sensors, to locate and destroy enemies at ranges keeping them safe from enemy tank fire. Sensor robots could locate enemy artillery and rocket positions, convoys and even some drones in the air in a manner that better alerts attacking ground forces.  

    Land drones could also help forces in combat breach obstacles, carry an expeditionary power supply, help with remote targeting and check route areas for IEDs, Army and General Dynamics statements said.

    Some of the early prototyping is being explored at the Army’s Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center, Warren, Mich.

    Army Chief of Staff Mark Milley has consistently emphasized that manned-unmanned teaming and autonomy central to the Army’s preparations for the future, Bassett explained.

    “The Chief has been really candid with us that what whatever we build for the future has that concept in mind that we are laying the architectures in that will support that,” he added.

    m1 abrams tank desert storm gulf war iraq

    Thus far in the Army, there are both tele-operated vehicles controlled by a human with a lap-top and joystick as well as platforms engineered with autonomous navigation systems able to increasingly perform more and more functions without needing human intervention.

    For instance, TARDEC has developed leader-follower convoys wherein tactical trucks are engineered to autonomously follow vehicles in front of them. These applique kits, which can be installed on vehicles, include both tele-operated options as well as automated functions. The kits include GPS technology, radios, cameras and computer algorithms designed for autonomous navigation.

    Also, the Army has already deployed airborne manned unmanned teaming, deploying Kiowa and Apache helicopters to Afghanistan with an ability to control the flight path and sensor payload of nearby drones in the air; in addition, this technology allows helicopter crews to view real-time live video-feeds from nearby drones identifying targets and conducting reconnaissance missions. Autonomy in the air, however, is much easier than ground autonomy as there are less emerging obstacles or rugged terrain. 

    Air Force & Navy Robotics

    The Army is by no means the only service currently exploring autonomy and manned-unmanned connectedness. The Air Force, for instance, is now developing algorithms designed to help fighters like the F-35 control a small fleet of nearby drones to conduct reconnaissance missions, test enemy air defenses and carry ammunition.

    In similar fashion, Navy engineers are working on an emerging fleet of Unmanned Surface Vehicles able to create swarms of attacks small boats, support amphibious operations by carrying supplies and weapons and enter high-risk areas without placing sailors at risk.

    F-35A F-35B

    These developments represent the cutting edge of technological progress in an area known as “artificial intelligence.” Among other things, this involves the continued use of computers to perform an increasingly wider range of functions without needing human intervention. This can include gathering, organizing or transmitting information autonomously.

    The technological ability for an autonomous weapons system to acquire, track and destroy a target on its own – is already here.

    Pentagon doctrine is clear that, despite the pace at which autonomous weapons systems are within the realm of realistic combat possibilities, a human must always be in-the-loop regarding the potential use of lethal force. Nevertheless, there is mounting concern that potential adversaries will also acquire this technology without implementing the Pentagon’s ethical and safety regulations.

    At the same time, despite the promise of this fast-emerging technology, algorithms able to match the processing power of a human brain are quite far away at the moment. Engineering a robotic land-vehicle able to quickly process, recognize, react and adjust in a dynamic, fast-changing combat environment in a manner comparable to human beings, is a long way off, scientist explain. Nonetheless, this does not mean there could not be reasonably short-term utility in the combat use of advanced autonomous vehicles controlled by a nearby Abrams tank crew.

    SEE ALSO: Here's what we think is going to happen in 2017

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    john kerryA senior Israeli Cabinet minister on Wednesday called US Secretary of State John Kerry's planned Mideast policy speech a "pathetic step," further heightening tensions between the two close allies as the Obama administration prepares to leave office.

    The comments by Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan were the latest salvo in a toxic exchange following the US's refusal to veto a UN Security Council resolution last week that called Israeli settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem a violation of international law.

    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has slammed the resolution, and accused the US of colluding with the Palestinians in drawing it up.

    Following up on the UN resolution, Kerry was scheduled to deliver a farewell speech in Washington on Wednesday to outline his proposals for a peace settlement between Israel and the Palestinians.

    Next month, France is set to host an international conference where 70 countries, over Israeli objections, hope to endorse an international framework for Mideast peace. Israeli officials fear that the conference's recommendations may then be approved in another UN Security Council resolution just before Obama leaves office on Jan. 20.

    In a radio interview, Erdan said Kerry's speech was part of a broader effort to hinder the incoming administration of Donald Trump, who has signaled he will have much warmer relations with Israel.

    "This step is a pathetic step. It is an anti-democratic step because it's clear that the administration and Kerry's intention is to chain President-elect Trump," Erdan told Israel Army Radio.

    obama netanayhu

    Erdan, a member of Netanyahu's Likud Party and inner Security Cabinet, said Obama administration officials are "pro-Palestinian" and "don't understand what's happening in the Middle East."

    Kerry mediated a nine-month round of peace talks that broke down in early 2014 with little progress.

    Israel MapIsraeli leaders have made no secret that they are counting on Trump to change US policy. While Trump has not outlined a vision, he has signaled a much more sympathetic approach toward Israel, appointing an ambassador with strong ties to the West Bank settler movement and promising to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, over Palestinian objections.

    The international community overwhelmingly opposes Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, territories captured by Israel in 1967 and claimed by the Palestinians for an independent state. The Palestinians, and most of the world, see settlements, now home to 600,000 Israelis, as an obstacle to peace.

    Netanyahu says the conflict with the Palestinians, including the fate of the settlements, must be resolved through direct negotiations and says that international dictates undermine the negotiating process.


    Despite the Israeli anger, Netanyahu ordered a Jerusalem planning committee to delay a vote on approving construction of some 500 new homes in Jewish developments of east Jerusalem, a city councilman said. Council member Hanan Rubin told The Associated Press that Netanyahu asked to delay Wednesday's vote so as not to antagonize relations with the US

    Meanwhile, a senior leader of the West Bank settlement movement called Kerry a "stain on American foreign policy" and "ignorant of the issues."

    Oded Revivi, chief foreign envoy of the Yesha Council, said Kerry is "the worst secretary of state in history," who "chose to stab his closest ally in the back" and knows little about the realities of Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

    SEE ALSO: KERRY: 'We could not, in good conscience, stand in the way' of the UN resolution on Israel

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    putinRussia on Wednesday promised retaliation against Washington in the event of new economic sanctions.

    US Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said that Russia and President Vladimir Putin should expect tough sanctions after cyber attacks during the presidential election, won by Donald Trump.

    "To be honest, we are tired of lie about the 'Russian hackers', which is being poured down in the United States from the very top," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said.

    She also called reports of possible new sanctions a "provocation directed by the White House".

    SEE ALSO: KERRY: 'We could not, in good conscience, stand in the way' of the UN resolution on Israel

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    Benjamin Netanyahu

    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said US Secretary of State John Kerry's Middle East speech on Wednesday was biased against Israel.

    In a statement in English issued by the Prime Minister's Office, Netanyahu said: "Like the Security Council resolution that Secretary Kerry advanced in the U.N., his speech tonight was skewed against Israel."

    The Israeli leader said Kerry "obsessively dealt with settlements", which the United States strongly opposes, in the speech.

    Netanyahu accused Kerry of barely touching upon "the root of the conflict - Palestinian opposition to a Jewish state in any boundaries".

    SEE ALSO: Senior Israeli Cabinet minister: Kerry's speech was 'pathetic' and 'anti-democratic'

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    Donald Trump

    Let’s face it. As 2016 has shown, we live in a dangerous world.

    Furthermore, there are real problems and challenges at the Pentagon, like $125 billion in “administrative waste” over the last five years.

    In less than a month, a new team takes charge, which is to be lead by retired Marine Gen. James “Mad Dog” Mattis, President-elect Donald Trump’s choice to serve as Secretary of Defense.

    So, what are some of the challenges that “Mad Dog” and his team will face?

    SEE ALSO: 19 of the weirdest weapons people have tried to take through airport security

    Getting the nuclear house in order

    Most of America’s strategic delivery systems are older than music superstar, sometime actress, and veteran serenader Taylor Swift.

    Of the two that are younger than her, only one isn’t “feeling 22” as the hit song puts it. In fact, in some case, very outdated tech is being used. How outdated? Try 8-inch floppy disks in an era when a micro SD card capable of holding 128 gigabytes costs less than $40.

    America’s nuclear arsenal needs to be updated, quickly.

    Streamlining the civilian workforce

    Don’t get us wrong, most civilian employees at the Department of Defense do a lot of good. But as the active duty military dropped from 1.73 million in Sep. 2005 to just under 1.33 million in Sep. 2016, the civilian workforce increased from 663,866 to 733,992, according to Pentagon reports.

    California Republican Rep. Ken Calvert noted in a Washington Examiner op-ed that the ratio of civilian employees to uniformed personnel is at a historical high.

    There was $125 billion of “administrative waste” over the last five years. That money could have bought a lot of gear for the troops. This needs to be addressed as soon as possible, with Iran and China, among other countries, getting a little aggressive. The DOD’s business is to fight wars, and a little refocusing on military manpower might be needed.

    Acquisition Reform

    It is taking longer to deliver weapon systems to the troops, and they are getting more expensive.

    The Air Force announced the B-21 Raider earlier this year. But it might not be in service until the mid-2020s at the very earliest — and the B-52 isn’t getting any younger. The F-35 has taken almost 15 years to reach an initial operational capability after the winner was chosen in 2001.

    By comparison, Joe Baugher notes that the F-111 took about five years from the selection of General Dynamics to the first planes reaching operational squadrons — and that drew controversy back then.

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    dump truck trump tower

    Massive dump trucks filled with sand will line the streets surrounding New Year's Eve celebrations in New York City this weekend. The 20-ton vehicles will hold an additional 15 tons of sand, the Associated Press reported Thursday night.

    The trucks provide a dense, protective barrier in the event of a bombing. It is part of comprehensive antiterrorism strategies law-enforcement officials deploy to ensure public safety.

    The Times Square New Year's Eve event is already a heavily policed affair, but the stakes are even higher this year after a series of terrorist attacks erupted in Europe — some of which involved the use of heavy vehicles.

    A Tunisian man who drove a heavy truck into a Christmas market in Berlin this month killed 12 people and injured 56 others. His attack followed a more deadly assault in Nice, France, in July that left 86 people dead when a man drove a 20-ton refrigerated truck into a crowd celebrating Bastille Day.

    Officials cited by the Associated Press said they were unaware of any specific threats against Times Square.

    Here's some of what you might see there on New Year's Eve:

    • 65 sand-filled dump trucks
    • 100-plus patrol cars
    • 7,000 officers
    • Specially armed counterterrorism units and bomb-sniffing dogs

    The truck tactic has been used before.

    Garbage-haulers were parked around Trump Tower and Hillary Clinton's election headquarters on Election Day in November.

    Similar preparations are being made for New Year's Eve festivities in Las Vegas.

    New York Police Department Chief Carlos Gomez told the AP, "As we formulated this year's plan, we paid close attention to world events and we learned from those events." The NYPD's commissioner, James O'Neil, echoed the sentiment, saying, "It can't just be, 'What happens in New York, what happens in the United States?' It has to be more, 'What happens worldwide?'"

    SEE ALSO: Trump on Russia sanctions: Time to move on, but I’ll meet with intelligence agencies anyway

    DON'T MISS: Russia is already retaliating against new US sanctions over cyberattacks

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    NOW WATCH: Watch Times Square test its New Year’s confetti in the rain to make sure it can withstand any weather condition

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    north korea

    The US Defense Department, reacting to North Korea's statement that it plans to test an intercontinental ballistic missile, said on Tuesday it was confident in its ability to protect U.S. allies and the U.S. homeland from threats from Pyongyang.

    "We have a ballistic missile defense ... umbrella that we're confident in for the region and to protect the United States homeland," Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook told a news briefing two days after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said his country was close to testing an ICBM.


    SEE ALSO: Stunning images show how the US military rung in 2017 in Afghanistan while under threat

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    NOW WATCH: Airplane designers have a brilliant idea for the middle seat

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    F-35 vs F-16 dogfight

    Since 2001, Lockheed Martin and US military planners have been putting together the F-35, a new aircraft that promises to revolutionize aerial combat so thoroughly as to leave it unrecognizable to the general public.

    Throughout its development, detractors of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter have knocked the program for taking too long and costing too much, though overruns commonly occur when developing massive, first-in-class projects like the F-35.

    But perhaps the most damning criticism of the F-35 came from a 2015 assessment that alleged that F-16s, first fielded in the 1970s, had handily defeated a group of F-35s in mock dogfight tests.

    According to Lt. Col. David "Chip" Berke, the only US Marine to ever fly the F-22 and the F-35, the public has a lot of learning to do when assessing a jet's capability in warfare. 

    "The whole concept of dogfighting is so misunderstood and taken out of context," Berke said in an interview with Business Insider.

    "There is some idea that when we talk about dogfighting it’s one airplane's ability to get another airplanes 6 and shoot it with a gun ... that hasn’t happened with American planes in maybe 40 years," Berke said.

    "Everybody that’s flown a fighter in the last 25 years — we all watched 'Top Gun'," said Berke, nodding to the 1986 smash hit where US Navy pilots jockey for position against Russian-made MiGs, point their nose at them, and blast the planes away.

    F-35b marines uss america

    However, planes don't fight like that anymore, and comparing different planes statistics on paper and trying to calculate or simulate which plane can get behind the other is "kind of an arcane way of looking at it," Berke said. 

    Unlike older planes immortalized in films, the F-35 doesn't need to face its adversary to destroy it. The F-35 can fire "off boresight," virtually eliminating the need to jockey for position behind an enemy.

    The F-35 can take out a plane miles beyond visual range. It can pass targeting information to another platform, like a drone or a US Navy destroyer, and down a target without even firing a shot.

    While US Air Force pilots do train for classic, World War II-era dogfights, and while the F-35 holds its own and can maneuver just as well as fourth-generation planes, dogfights just aren't that important anymore. 

    Berke said that dogfighting teaches pilots "great skill sets, but WVR (within visual range) conflict doesn’t always mean a turning fight within 100 feet of the other guy maneuvering for each other's 6 O’clock." Berke also made an important distinction that all conflicts WVR do not always become dogfights.

    Also, "within visual range" is a tricky term.

    F 35 v F 16

    "You could not see a guy who’s a mile away, or you could see a guy at 50 miles if you got lucky," said Berke of WVR conflicts. The fact is, that with today's all-aspect weapons systems, a plane can "be effective in a visual fight from offensive, defensive, and neutral positions."

    "We need to stop judging a fighter’s ability based on wing loading and G’s," said Berke of lifelong analysts who prize specifications on paper over pilot's insights. 

    Furthermore, Berke, who has several thousand flying hours in four different airplanes, both fourth and fifth generation, stressed that pilots train to negate or avoid WVR conflicts —  and no plane does that better than the F-35.

    Even in the F-22 Raptor, the world's most lethal combat plane in WVR conflicts and beyond, Berke said he'd avoid a close up, turning fight. 

    "Just because I knew I could outmaneuver an enemy, my objective wouldn’t be to get in a turning fight and kill him," said Berke.

    air force

    Unfortunately for "Top Gun" fans, and fans of the gritty, Star Wars-style air-to-air combat depicted in TV and films, the idea of a "dogfight" long ago faded from relevance in the world of aerial combat.

    A newer, less sexy term has risen to take its place: Situational awareness. And the F-35 has it in spades.

    SEE ALSO: China's aircraft carrier conducted drills in the South China Sea

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

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    afp israeli soldier who shot dead prone palestinian guilty of manslaughter

    Israel's prime minister has called for a pardon for a soldier convicted of manslaughter in the shooting death of a badly wounded Palestinian assailant.

    With his comment, Benjamin Netanyahu has plunged into a raging political debate that has divided the country, putting himself at odds with the military. The prime minister made the remarks just hours after Sgt. Elor Azaria was convicted on Wednesday. He faces a maximum sentence of 20 years. Azaria's defense team has already said it will appeal.

    On his Facebook page, Netanyahu wrote: "I support giving Elor Azaria a pardon."

    He also urged the public to support the army and its commanders.

    The country's president, Reuven Rivlin, has authority to issue pardons but has said he will wait for the legal process to run its course before making a decision.

    Join the conversation about this story »

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