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- 04/17/17--07:12: _North Korea's embar...
- 04/17/17--07:42: _EX-PENTAGON CHIEF: ...
- 04/17/17--08:40: _'Trumpomania' dead ...
- 04/17/17--09:17: _The Army just picke...
- 04/17/17--11:13: _F-35s arrive in Eur...
- 04/17/17--12:37: _US Marines in Japan...
- 04/17/17--13:01: _Trump says Kim Jong...
- 04/17/17--14:36: _The US's show of fo...
- 04/18/17--07:42: _How North Korean le...
- 04/18/17--11:46: _US intercepts 2 Rus...
- 04/18/17--12:26: _Here's why the F-35...
- 04/18/17--13:50: _US Navy photo revea...
- 04/18/17--14:32: _Meet the Iraqi snip...
- 04/19/17--07:16: _A Navy SEAL command...
- 04/19/17--07:36: _4 crucial words fro...
- 04/19/17--07:44: _Reporters are being...
- 04/19/17--11:33: _Mattis clears confu...
- 04/19/17--12:19: _Paul Ryan: US must ...
- 04/19/17--13:11: _Iran's 'stealth' fi...
- 04/20/17--08:36: _'No choice but to l...
- 04/17/17--09:17: The Army just picked this new semi-automatic sniper rifle
- 04/17/17--11:13: F-35s arrive in Europe to train with NATO and keep Russia in check
- 04/17/17--12:37: US Marines in Japan are pushing the F-35 to the limit
- 04/18/17--11:46: US intercepts 2 Russian bombers near Alaska's coast
- 04/18/17--13:50: US Navy photo reveals aircraft carrier nowhere near North Korea
- 04/18/17--14:32: Meet the Iraqi sniper making life hell for ISIS fighters in Mosul
- 04/19/17--13:11: Iran's 'stealth' fighter is a total joke
North Korea attempted to fire a missile Sunday, but it blew up within seconds.
It happened one day after the anniversary of the country's founding.
While North Korea's missile program may be the shadowiest on earth, it's possible that US cyber warriors were the reason for the failed launch.
A recent New York Times report uncovered a secret operation to derail North Korea's nuclear-missile program that has been raging for at least three years.
Essentially, the report attributes North Korea's high rate of failure with Russian-designed missiles to the US meddling in the country's missile software and networks.
Although North Korea's missile infrastructure lacks the competence of Russia's, the Soviet-era missile on which North Korea based its missile had a 13% failure rate, and the North Korean version failed a whopping 88% of the time, according to the report.
While the missile failure on Sunday could have just been due to poor workmanship, US Deputy National Security Adviser K.T. McFarland seemed to leave room for speculation about espionage, telling Fox News, "We can't talk about secret intelligence and things that might have been done, covert operations, so I really have no comment."
Vice President Mike Pence on Monday visited the demilitarized zone between the Koreas, saying that "all options are on the table to achieve the objectives and ensure the stability of the people of this country," and that "the era of strategic patience" with North Korea "is over."
To those in the know, the campaign against North Korea came as no surprise. Ken Geers, a cybersecurity expert for Comodo with experience in the National Security Agency, told Business Insider that cyber operations like the one against North Korea were the norm.
While the US hacking another country's missile program may be shocking to some, "within military intelligence spaces, this is what they do," Geers said. "If you think that war is possible with a given state, you're going to be trying to prepare the battle space for conflict. In the internet age, that means hacking."
North Korea's internal networks are fiercely insulated and not connected to the internet, however, which poses a challenge for hackers in the US. But Geers said it was "absolutely not the case" that hacking requires computers connected to the internet.
A recent report in The New Yorker on Russian hacking detailed one case in which Russia gained access to a NATO computer network in 1996 by providing bugged thumb drives to shops near a NATO base in Kabul, Afghanistan. NATO operators bought the thumb drives, used them on the network, and just like that, the Russians were in.
"That's where SIGINT (signals intelligence) or COMINT (communications intelligence) comes into collaboration with HUMINT (human intelligence)," Geers said.
He described the present moment as the "golden age of espionage," as cyberwarfare remains nonlethal, unattributable, and almost completely unpunished.
But a recent missile salvo from North Korea suggests that even a prolonged, sophisticated cyberattack can't fully derail its nuclear-missile program.
"Imagine you're the president. North Korea is a human-rights abuser and an exporter of dangerous technology," Geers said. "Responsible governments really need to think about ways to handle North Korea, and one of the options is regime change."
Further, Geers said, because of the limited number of servers and access points to North Korea's very restricted internet, "if it ever came to cyberwar between the US and North Korea, it would be an overwhelming victory for the West."
"North Korea can do a Sony attack or attack the White House, but that's because that's the nature of cyberspace," Geers said. "But if war came, you'd see Cyber Command wipe out most other countries' pretty quickly."
North Korea rolled out what it claimed were intercontinental ballistic missiles at a parade on Saturday, but according to former Defense Secretary William Perry, it would never use them in a first strike.
Perry told CNN's Christiane Amanpour in November that "North Korea, while they're evil, are not crazy" and that it would not seek to carry out a nuclear first strike on South Korea, Japan, or any US forces stationed there.
Perry, who as the Pentagon chief under President Bill Clinton pushed for the US to strike North Korea's burgeoning nuclear facilities in 1994, said that military action against North Korea no longer made sense and that North Korea wouldn't dare strike first.
"I do not believe the North Korean regime is suicidal," he said. "Therefore I don't believe they're going to launch an unprovoked nuclear attack on anyone."
Perry said that while the situation with North Korea was "unfortunate," he would not support a strike on North Korea since the Hermit Kingdom has a secretive, spread-out nuclear arsenal that the US couldn't hope to knock out before it got a shot off.
"This would be an action which would precipitate a catastrophic nuclear war," Perry said of a US first strike.
In Perry's view, North Korea is more like jihadists — fanatical ideologues who are still thinking somewhat strategically.
"They are not seeking martyrdom," Perry said. "They're not suicidal."
As Russian hopes of swift detente under President Donald Trump have fizzled, state media, which hailed his election win, have made a U-turn. On Sunday, they said he was scarier than North Korea's Kim Jong-Un.
Trump's decision to launch a missile strike against Syria, a Russian ally, drop a giant bomb on Afghanistan, and stick with Obama-era policies on Crimea, mean Russian hopes of him befriending the Kremlin have been on the slide for a while.
If state TV is a guide, his tough talk on North Korea's nuclear program and decision to despatch a naval strike force to the region appear to have buried any Russian hopes that he might intervene less in foreign affairs than his predecessors.
Dmitry Kiselyov, anchor of Russia's main weekly TV news show "Vesti Nedeli," on the Rossiya 1 channel, is widely seen as the top pro-Kremlin presenter. He had already began to dial back the Trumpomania and start criticizing the U.S. president.
But on Sunday, his first broadcast since Rex Tillerson's maiden visit to Moscow as U.S. secretary of state, Kiselyov, who once praised Trump for his "independence" from the U.S. political establishment, removed the proverbial gloves.
"The world is a hair's breadth from nuclear war," said Kiselyov. "War can break out as a result of confrontation between two personalities; Donald Trump and Kim Jong-Un. Both are dangerous, but who is more dangerous? Trump is."
Kiselyov went on to say that Trump was "more impulsive and unpredictable" than the North Korean and to say both men shared some of the same negative traits: "Limited international experience, unpredictability, and a readiness to go to war."
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov declined to say whether Kiselyov's views chimed with the Kremlin's, but said his opinions weren't necessarily always interchangeable with the official position. "His position is close, but not every time," said Peskov.
The fact that Kiselyov is being given free rein to use such tough rhetoric about Trump is nonetheless likely to reflect how deep the Kremlin's anger runs about what it sees as Trump's failure to deliver on his pledge of better ties with Moscow.
Speaking in front of a picture of the North Korean leader and military commanders juxtaposed next to Trump's image, Kiselyov said Kim Jong-Un was less scary than the U.S. president because he was ready for talks, had not attacked other countries, and had not sent a naval armada to the U.S. coast.
"He (Kim Jong-Un) is after all on his home territory. He doesn't plan to attack anyone just for the sake of it," said Kiselyov, who was a cheerleader for state TV's strong anti-American tone under the Obama administration and once said Moscow could turn the United States into radioactive ash.
Delivering a personal jibe, Kiselyov sarcastically told viewers that the North Korean leader's young daughter did not, unlike Ivanka Trump, have an office in her father's official residence.
Other state-controlled and pro-Kremlin media have walked back their initial euphoria for Trump in recent weeks too, but Kiselyov tends to set the tone for everyone else and his intervention is the most robust on Trump yet.
Russians go cold on Trump
Polls suggest state TV's U-turn over Trump has filtered through to the public, most of whom get their news from TV.
A survey by state pollster VTsIOM showed on Monday that the percentage of Russians who hold a negative view of Trump has jumped to 39 from seven percent in a month, and that feelings of distrust and disappointment towards him have grown too.
"The U.S. missile strike on Syria was a 'cold shower' for many Russians," said Valery Fedorov, the pollster's general director.
"Donald Trump's aggressive behavior has resurrected distrust and ill-will towards America, something that has characterized Russian society for the last two decades."
Despite annexing Ukraine's Crimea region in 2014 and continuing to back pro-Russian separatists in east Ukraine, Moscow has long criticized successive U.S. presidents for interfering in other countries' affairs.
Like many others, it bought into Trump's pre-election "America First" rhetoric. Though things have not worked out as it hoped, officials say they still want to try to improve ties with the United States, something they badly need to try to get financial sanctions imposed over Ukraine eased.
The Kremlin realizes however, those same officials say, that the process will be harder and take longer than originally thought and the result is likely to be more limited in scope.
Officials privately say they regard many of Trump's policy positions as no different to, or tougher than, Obama's.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov criticized Pyongyang for its "reckless nuclear actions" on Monday, but made clear Moscow wanted Trump to de-escalate.
"I really hope that the kind of unilateral action we recently saw in Syria won't happen (in North Korea) and that the USA will follow the line which President Trump repeatedly set out during his pre-election campaign," said Lavrov.
The Army has chosen a new semi-automatic sniper rifle, replacing the M110 which entered service in 2008.
According to reports by the Army Times, the winning rifle was the Heckler & Koch G28. According to the the company’s website, the G28 is a version of the HK 417 battle rifle — itself a variation of the AR-10 rifle.
This came after a 2014 request for proposals for a more compact version of the M110. The M110 is being replaced despite the fact that it was named one of the Army’s “Best 10 Inventions” in 2007, according to M110 manufacturer Knight’s Armament website.
So, what is behind the replacement of a rifle that was widely loved by soldiers after it replaced the M24 bolt-action system? According to Military.com, it was to get something less conspicuous as a sniper rifle. The M110 is 13 inches longer than a typical M4 carbine, something an enemy sniper would be able to notice.
Being conspicuous is a good way to attract enemy fire.
The new M110A1 does provide some relief in that department, being about 2.5 inches shorter than the M110. More importantly for the grunt carrying it, it is about three pounds lighter than the M110.
Both the M110 and the M110A1 fire the NATO standard 7.62x51mm cartridge, and both feature 20-shot magazines. The Army plans to spend just under $45 million to get 3,643 M110A1s. That comes out to $12,000 a rifle, plus all the logistical and support needs for the Army, including the provision of spare parts.
The Army has long made use of semi-automatic sniper rifles. During the Vietnam War, a modified version of the M14 known as the M21 was used by the service’s snipers. One of those snipers, Adelbert Waldron, was America’s top sniper in that conflict, scoring 109 confirmed kills.
SEE ALSO: The Weapons Of Army Special Operations
For the first time ever, US Air Force F-35As arrived in the UK to train with pilots of the Royal Air Force as tensions between the West and Russia peak.
On the same day that the F-35s arrived in England, two Russian warships passed through the English channel on their way to Syria, in response to the US's April 7 cruise missile strike on a Syrian airfield.
Meanwhile, Montenegro, who the US Senate just backed for ascension into NATO, has an ongoing Interpol manhunt for two Russian operatives they have accused of terrorism for plotting to kill their prime minister. In internal military communications, Russia refers to NATO as the enemy, and they strongly oppose any expansion of the alliance.
As it stands, Russia's forces in eastern Europe far outnumber NATO's so much so that some experts have speculated that Russian forces could seize Baltic capitals within days.
The F-35, with its stealth design and unparalleled information-sharing capabilities, represents a huge step up for US and NATO's air power, as it can improve the performance of legacy planes it flies with by sharing data from its advanced suite of sensors.
Though Russia has long tried to develop counter-stealth technologies and has even taunted the US about its considerable air-defense capabilities, F-35 pilots who spoke to Business Insider said the new fighter would deliver unprecedented capabilities.
The F-35As now at Britain's Lakenheath air base will train with NATO forces to increase interoperability and deter Russian aggression.
Watch the F-35s arrive in the UK below:
US Marine aviators with the F-35B on its first-ever overseas deployment in Japan are training to push the Joint Strike Fighter to its limits while tensions in the Western Pacific reach their highest levels since World War II.
A report from Defense News revealed that the Marines are training on a variety of techniques that will enable them to fight, refuel, and reload from virtually anywhere.
In the event of war, when the US can count on a competent adversary to target its bases with a huge barrage of missiles, the Marines in Japan train for scenarios where they may have little time and space to operate out of.
The two techniques that will allow the Marines to bring the fight back to the enemy even with airstrips and supply lines devastated by missile fire are called "hot loading" and "aviation-delivered ground refueling."
Hot loading simply means that when an F-35 lands, without even turning the engines off, Marines can reload the bomb bays and the F-35 can turn around to fight again. The process saves time and wear and tear on the jet, according to Defense News.
The second techinque, as discussed in the Marine Corps new operating concept, allows F-35s to refuel from just about anywhere. Essentially, instead of going to a designated base that can be far from the front lines that also serves as a big bullseye to an adversary, planes can land on rough patches of land and lay pipe fuel to F-35s which can then return to combat.
This reduces the risk to airborne tankers, which China's new J-20 stealth fighter has been purpose-built to knock out.
The concept of fighting out from austere locations is one of the several ways the US military is addressing the "missile gap," or China and Russia's increasing ability to outrange US systems with extremely long range munitions. Defense News also reports that the USS Wasp, a small aircraft carrier that can support about a dozen F-35s, will deploy to the Pacific.
Additionally, the F-35B with its ability to take off in a short distance and land vertically lends itself ideally to fighting out of improvised bases and making a quick turnaround.
Defense News has a video of the hot loading procedure here.
Washington (AFP) - US President Donald Trump took a moment at the White House Easter egg roll Monday to deliver a terse message to North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un: "Got to behave."
Trump made the off-the-cuff comment to a CNN reporter after kicking off the 139th annual Easter egg roll with First Lady Melania Trump.
"Any message for North Korea, sir, Kim Jong-Un?"
"Got to behave," said Trump.
The warning came after a tense weekend during which North Korea celebrated the birthdate of the regime's founder Kim Il-Sung with a massive military parade highlighting its growing missile capabilities.
But a missile test-launched on Sunday exploded shortly after takeoff, and a widely anticipated sixth nuclear test never materialized.
US Vice President Mike Pence was in Seoul, South Korea Monday where he warned the North not to test Trump's resolve, adding "all options are on the table."
Pence also declared that the era of US "strategic patience" in dealing with the North was over, after more than two decades.
US concerns have mounted amid signs of progress in Pyongyang's efforts to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of landing a nuclear warhead on the US mainland.
US Vice President Mike Pence visited the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea on Monday, emphasizing that the US's strategic patience with North Korea was over and that the US was considering the use of military force.
North Korean Vice-Foreign Minister Han Song Ryol shot back hours later, saying if "the US is planning a military attack against us, we will react with a nuclear pre-emptive strike by our own style and method," and threatened "all-out war" in response to any US action.
On a call with reporters, the State Department told Business Insider there would be a "significant international response" if North Korea carried out further nuclear testing.
The exchange, while troubling, has become familiar since North Korea's nuclear and missile-testing programs accelerated, and President Donald Trump has taken a harder line against the Kim regime.
While experts have said with near unanimity that a US military strike on North Korea would present grave danger or an outright nuclear catastrophe, another option frequently brandished by Trump has been leveraging the US's trade relationship with China, North Korea's biggest backer, to act.
But the US may be overestimating China's pull with Kim Jong Un, according to Jenny Town, the assistant director of the US-Korea Institute and a managing editor at 38 North, a website that brings together experts on North Korea.
"China and North Korea relations have not been great to begin with," Town told Business Insider. Unlike Kim's father and predecessor, Kim Jong Un has never been to China to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Town said.
Town said that, in the past, Beijing could have reined in North Korea. But Kim Jong Un has engaged in killing off senior officials with ties to China, thereby insulating himself. Reuters recently reported that the latest calls from Chinese diplomats to North Korea had gone unanswered.
"In China they’re very frustrated," said Town. "North Korea has progressed further than what they’re willing to accept" and the provocations coming out of North Korea make the relationship very difficult for the Chinese to manage.
Though White House spokesman Sean Spicer said on Monday that the burgeoning relationship between Xi and Trump has paid off, Town said that the US calling for China to simply shut off the Kim regime from trade is "a naive oversimplistic view of the situation."
Town said it would be a mistake to assume that North Korea would react to China shutting off trade by crawling back to the table. North Korea could potentially find other trade partners, and even retaliate against China.
"Floods of refugees, some kinds of military coup ... the Chinese aren’t ready yet to take those risks," said Town.
But while Trump tries to force China's hand against North Korea, where their leverage may be been overestimated, he refuses to give an inch on the US's end.
The US lately has completely dismissed unconditional talks with North Korea, instead seeming to float military options with increasing urgency. The US has an aircraft carrier off North Korea's coast and has deployed additional missile defenses to South Korea.
"They need to have some level of exploratory talks," Town said of the Trump administration, adding that they could be undergoing back-channel or secret talks. "Until you get to the table you don’t even know what’s on the table."
The testy back and forth on Monday between Pence and Han, and the decades of threats flying back and forth suggests that a new approach may be warranted.
"Going straight towards threatening military options is just adding fuel to the fire," Towns said.
For the past 50 years, the world has grown used to crazy threats from North Korea that don't lead anywhere.
But the threats have taken a decidedly sharper and more ominous tone under Kim Jong Un, the third supreme leader of the hermit kingdom.
With all this attention, still relatively little is known of Kim. Here's what we do know of how he grew to be one of the world's scariest dictators:
Kim Jong Un was born on January 8 — 1982, 1983, or 1984.
His parents were future North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il and his consort, Ko Young Hee. He had an older brother named Kim Jong Chul and would later have a younger sister named Kim Yo Jong.
While Kim Jong Un's official birth year is 1982, various reports suggest that the year was changed for symbolic reasons, including that it was 70 years after the birth of Kim Il Sung and 40 years after the birth of Kim Jong Il.
However, a recent move by the US Treasury Department to sanction Kim Jong Un listed his official date of birth as January 8, 1984.
Jong Un — here with his mother — lived at home as a child.
During this period, North Korea was ruled by "Great Leader" Kim Il Sung. While Kim Jong Il was the heir apparent, Kim Jong Un's path to command was far less certain.
Then it was off to Switzerland to attend boarding school.
Called "Pak Un" and described as the son of an employee of the North Korean embassy, Kim Jong Un is thought to have attended an English-language international school in Gümligen near Bern.
Kim Jong Un is described by former classmates as a quiet student who spent most of his time at home, but he had a sense of humor, too.
"He was funny," former classmate Marco Imhof told The Mirror."Always good for a laugh."
"He had a sense of humor; got on well with everyone, even those pupils who came from countries that were enemies of North Korea,"another former classmate told the German newspaper Welt am Sonntag. "Politics was a taboo subject at school ... we would argue about football, not politics."
See the rest of the story at Business Insider
WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. military says it intercepted two Russian bombers in international airspace off Alaska's coast.
Navy Commander Gary Ross, a Pentagon spokesman, says a pair of F-22 Raptor aircraft intercepted the Russian TU-95 Bear bombers on Monday.
Ross says the intercept was "safe and professional."
North American Aerospace Defense Command monitors air approaches to North America and defends the airspace.
Fox News said Tuesday the Russian planes flew within 100 miles (160 kilometers) of Alaska's Kodiak Island.
It said the American jets escorted the Russian bombers for 12 minutes. The bombers then flew back to eastern Russia.
The F-35 Joint Strike Figher represents the US Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps' vision for the future of combat aviation, but a damning 2015 report detailed how the F-35 had lost in dogfights with F-16s and F-15s — the very planes it was intended to replace.
Essentially it came down to energy management in the early days of the F-35's testing, according to the report.
During a dogfight, jets have to manage extreme amounts of kinetic energy while making pinpoint turns and maneuvers.
With smaller wings than some legacy fighters and an inferior thrust-to-weight ratio, the early F-35 pilots found it nearly impossible to engage with F-16s.
The report has since become a talking point for detractors of the F-35 program who say it's too expensive and not capable.
But according to retired US Marine Corps Maj. Dan Flatley, who helped design the training syllabus for F-35 dogfights, the F-35's lackluster performance against legacy jets had more to do with old habits of the pilots and a weapons system in its infancy rather than anything wrong with the F-35 concept itself.
"When you first get in the F-35 and try to fight it visually, you immediately go back to everything you knew in your legacy fighter," Flatley told Business Insider in a phone interview.
Indeed, the same report that details the F-35's losses to older jets states that the pilot himself had 2,000 flight hours in an F-15 Strike Eagle, which is a very different beast.
“If you try to fight it like a fighter it isn’t, you’re going to have terrible results,” Flatley said of the F-35. Like any new weapons system, the F-35 takes some getting used to. In 2015, F-35 pilots were pulled from other fighters and introduced to a plane that fundamentally reimagined aerial warfare. A learning curve had to be covered.
Unlike dogfighters from World War II, the F-35 mainly focuses on flying undetected while using its array of fused sensors to paint a clear picture of the threat environment for miles out and to engage with targets before they're ever seen.
As exciting as dogfights are, it's been decades since a US jet engaged an enemy in a turning dogfight, and the F-35's design reflects that new reality.
"If I went out and fought an F/A-18 on day one I’d get destroyed," said Flatley. "But if you do what the jet is really good at, you can do things those other jets wouldn’t dream of."
Flatley stressed that dogfighting, where the close range diminishes the F-35's stealth and sensor fusion advantages, is certainly not the purpose of the Joint Strike Fighter, but rather it can excel in those situations in the right hands.
That's not to say the F-35 was a perfect aircraft that was simply misunderstood in 2015. Flatley said he did approach Lockheed Martin to suggest changes to the jet after its poor run against legacy aircraft.
One attribute the F-35 has that, counterintuitively, helps it in dogfights is its ability to slow down during a turn, but it was during these slow turns that pilots weren't able to control the plane how they were used to.
Basically, the engineers at Lockheed Martin built the F-35's flight controls with an incredible amount of automation, which Flatley said could make the jet "feel like it was fighting you," or"feel like the hand of god pushing you in certain directions."
Flatley and other F-35 pilots needed the ability to push their airplane right to the edge of its abilities — almost to the point where it would fall out of the sky because it hit slow speeds at insane angles — should they need to in a do-or-die dogfight.
"You guys are hand-holding us," Flatley told the engineers, who hadn't imagined the fighter pilot's need to push the limits of their aircraft.
"We want more authority. I want to be able to throw my nose around if I need to," said Flatley, referring to the plane's ability to point its front end at threats in order to better assess and target them.
So Lockheed Martin worked with the pilots and fixed the issues keeping them from acing dogfights, as they do now.
Since that test, the F-35's record speaks for itself. During Red Flag, the US Air Force's most realistic and challenging jet-fighter training event, the F-35 came out with a stunning 20-1 kill ratio on the legacy aircraft that had once beaten it.
Flatly, who came from an F/A-18 background, said he had to shake the old habits he formed in an aircraft that was originally conceptualized in the 1970s, but young pilots training today won't have those problems and could revolutionize the way the F-35 fights.
"The next generation, the first lieutenants that have never flown an F-18 before, those are the pilots that are going to define what the F-35 is going to do," said Flatley.
The US announced on April 8 that the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier would head to the Korean peninsula amid soaring tensions between the US and North Korea — but the US Navy posted a picture of the carrier about 3,500 miles away from Korea on April 15.
Business Insider contacted the Navy about the discrepancy, but it did not immediately comment.
Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis said on April 11 that the Vinson had been called away from exercises near Australia to head for the Korean peninsula but declined to say why. Mattis did say that, as a practice, the Navy does not disclose the whereabouts of its ships.
US aircraft-carrier strike groups include guided-missile destroyers with powerful radars that could potentially be useful in tracking missile launches, like the kind recently attempted by North Korea.
America loves a hero sniper.
Consider Chris Kyle, the veteran Navy SEAL who became the stuff of legend well before publishing his 2012 autobiography “American Sniper,” with more than 160 kills confirmed by the Pentagon during his four tours in Iraq.
Or Gary Gordon and Randy Shughart, the Delta Force snipers posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for their bravery during the 1993 Battle of Mogadishu, actions immortalized in “Black Hawk Down.”
Or Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Carlos Hathcock II, who established a Scout Sniper School at Quantico, Virginia, after returning home from the Vietnam War. Alone with his rifle, the sniper is the embodiment of the one-man army.
Now, Iraq has its own expert marksman to celebrate: Yousef Ali, a 20-year-old Iraqi federal policeman who, with the help of a Russian-made Dragunov sniper rifle, is helping Iraqi security forces and the U.S.-led coalition take back the city of Mosul inch by inch, block by block.
Since Western-backed forces began their advance on Mosul in earnest in February, six months after the initial military offensive by Iraqi forces, ISIS has put up fierce resistance with their own barrage of mortar shells and sniper fire — constant threats lurking behind burned-out houses and mountains of rubble.
USA Today’s Igor Kossov embedded with Ali to get a first-hand look at the task facing the warfighters of the multinational coalition:
Through the small hole in the wall of an abandoned hotel, Ali saw the labyrinth of the Old City’s narrow streets stretch before him.
Less than 300 yards away, the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, prepared for another sneak attack, surrounded by civilian human shields. “The (ISIS fighters) are out there,” said the 20-year-old Iraqi federal policeman, taking his eyes off the scope for a moment. “Just behind those buildings.”…
“Two or three days ago, (ISIS) set some fires to make a smokescreen, then some of them came at us with suicide belts,” Ali said. “I killed two of them.”
Tales of incredible marksmanship in ongoing campaigns against the ISIS caliphate have become the equivalent of war porn for faraway observers. In January, British tabloids ran the thinly-sourced story of a SAS sniper who took out three ISIS fighters “prepared to fire into a crowd of women and children they had told to halt.” And who can forget the tale of 63-year-old Abu Tahseen, Iraqi veteran of five wars, who claimed last year to have killed more than 173 fighters since May 2015?
But that’s the beauty of the Kossov’s profile of Ali. The young Iraqi policeman is less a superhuman marksman and more a courageous young man doing his job — and following his training:
Ali said it had been his dream to become a sniper since he joined police basic training.
After 45 days of basics, he was accepted into sniper training, spending six months becoming acquainted with the specialization under Iraqi and Italian trainers in Baghdad and Fallujah. The training paid off when he was thrust into the Mosul offensive with his M-16 and Dragunov rifles, Ali said.
Of course, Ali maintains a friendly rivalry with his fellow snipers: After all, who doesn’t want to be the next Chris Kyle?
“We always hear everything that’s going over the radio. So sometimes we’ll say, ‘Oh, I killed more (ISIS fighters) than you, you better try harder,'” he told USA Today. “But we all treat each other as brothers here.”
Admiral William McRaven, author of "Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life... And Maybe The World," explains how making your bed every morning can have a positive impact on your well-being and behavior throughout the rest of the day. Following is a transcript of the video.
Admiral McRaven: A normal part of a day for a Navy SEAL was we would arrive at about 7:30 in the morning. From 7:30 to 9 o'clock we did physical training every single morning of most of my career when I was assigned to SEAL teams. That's not an easy thing to do every morning. And of course some people get up, they run or they do whatever their routine is. The idea of making the bed is it's the same sense of discipline. It's the same sense that you're going to get up and do something, but it's an easy task to undertake. You roll out of bed, you just put your bed, you make it straight. Again, you get it right, too. It's not just about kind of throwing the covers over the pillow. It's about making your bed right and walking away and going, "OK, that's good. That looks good. I'm, as simple as it sounds, I'm proud of this little task I did." And that is really what I think sets the tone for the rest of the day.
It is the simplicity. I think it is also the amount of time that it takes to make your bed. It doesn't take an hour to do, and yet you get this sense of accomplishment. The difference between going out for a 30-minute or an hour run or doing an hour's worth of weight training or going off and doing an hour of meditation — this takes you a couple of minutes. Some things are hard to do in the morning, and I think those are important, too. I mean, if you can get up every morning and do your run or do your PT that's great as well, but if you're not one of those persons still it's good to start off with a simple task that moves you forward.
Vice President Mike Pence stood on the deck of the USS Ronald Reagan in Yokosuka, Japan, on Wednesday and reassured thousands of US Navy sailors and regional allies that "the sword stands ready" to strike at North Korea's Kim regime.
The four most important words Pence has said on his Asia trip so far were in response to a key question: Will the US talk to North Korea?
Pence has repeated nearly verbatim statements from Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on the US's strategic patience ending with North Korea, and other military threats by other administration officials.
But his words aboard the Reagan about an "overwhelming and effective" response to any use of conventional or nuclear weapons by North Korea rang hollow.
The US Navy has told Business Insider that the forward-based Reagan will be tied up for months with refittings and training exercises. In a perplexing mix-up, the USS Carl Vinson, which the US Navy said on April 8 would head to North Korea, was photographed 3,500 miles away in Indonesia on April 15.
South Korea's conservative candidate for its May presidential election, Hong Joon-pyo, told The Wall Street Journal of the carrier mix-up: "What Mr. Trump said was very important for the national security of South Korea. If that was a lie, then during Trump's term, South Korea will not trust whatever Trump says."
On both the North Korean and US sides of the conflict, all talk of military action can likely be dismissed as bluster.
North Korea has promised "nuclear thunderbolts" and "all-out war," but any conflict between the US and Kim Jong Un's regime would likely be bloody and result in the near destruction of North Korea, unacceptable civilian losses in South Korea and possibly Japan, and the devastation of US military bases in the region by missile and artillery fire.
None of the dozen or so North Korea experts contacted by Business Insider said large-scale military action against the regime was credible. China must know this. North Korea, on some level, must know this.
North Korea has repeatedly offered to scale back its nuclear program if the US stops its annual military drills with South Korea. The US has dismissed this, saying that planned, regularly occurring military exercises that have gone on for 40 years without leading to war can't be equated to a state that often threatens to nuke its neighbors.
Trump has brought two ideas to the North Korean stalemate: threaten military force, and leverage the US's trade relationship with China to force its hand against the Kim regime.
But military force wouldn't work, and there's not much China can do.
In light of the failure of military and economic measures, diplomatic engagement looks like the only option left, but Pence has made the US's stance on this clear: "Not at this time."
Jalalabad (Afghanistan) (AFP) - Security forces were still blocking access Wednesday to the site in eastern Afghanistan where the US dropped a massive bomb on an Islamic State group stronghold six days ago.
The US military dropped its GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast, dubbed the "Mother of All Bombs", in combat for the first time on April 13.
The target was caves and hideouts being used by the jihadist group in the Achin district of Nangargar province.
The blast triggered shockwaves which residents said they felt miles away. It was said by the Afghan defence ministry to have killed at least 95 militants, including some IS commanders and foreign fighters, but no civilians.
The statement could not be independently verified, with reporters including AFP correspondents turned away from the site again Wednesday even though there was no sign of fighting in the immediate area.
Ahmad Jan, a resident of Achin who fled IS fighting and moved with his family to the provincial capital Jalalabad long before the bomb was dropped, told AFP he had no idea whether his house or relatives survived the attack.
"No one can go there, they have completely blocked the area. I don't know if my house is destroyed. They have not even shown any dead bodies to anyone," he said.
A spokesman for Afghan special forces said landmines and "pockets of resistance" on top of mountains had slowed down operations in the area. He did not specify if the fighters were Islamic State.
Police officials in Nangarhar could not immediately comment, and US-led NATO forces in Afghanistan would not comment Wednesday. They said this week they were still assessing the situation.
Some Afghans have condemned the use of their country as what they called a testing ground for the weapon, and against a militant group that is not considered as big a threat as the resurgent Taliban.
Analyst and retired general Atiqullah Amarkhail told AFP the US military needed time to analyse the impact and clean the debris.
"It was not an ordinary bomb. It carried a special kind of explosives, it was tested in a mountainous area for the first time, I believe a team of US experts are now working on the ground to assess the effects and impacts," he said.
IS, notorious for its reign of terror in Syria and Iraq, has made inroads into Afghanistan in recent years, attracting disaffected members of the Pakistani and Afghan Taliban as well as Uzbek Islamists.
But the group has been steadily losing ground in the face of heavy pressure both from US air strikes and a ground offensive led by Afghan forces.
U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis looked to address confusion over a U.S. aircraft carrier group on Wednesday, saying that its schedule had been disclosed earlier to be transparent.
"The bottom line is, in our effort to always be open about what we are doing we said that we were going to change the Vinson's upcoming schedule," Mattis told reporters, referring to the Carl Vinson strike group.
"We don't generally give out ships schedules in advance but I didn't want to play a game either and say we were not changing a schedule when in fact we had," Mattis said.
There had been confusion after U.S. President Donald Trump boasted early last week that he had sent an "armada" as a warning to North Korea even as the aircraft carrier strike group he spoke of was still far from the Korean peninsula.
The U.S. military's Pacific Command explained on Tuesday that the Carl Vinson strike group first had to complete a shorter-than-initially planned period of training with Australia.
But it was now "proceeding to the Western Pacific as ordered", it said.
The United States must keep military options on the table when it comes to North Korea, but it does not want to use them unless it has to, U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan said during a visit to Britain on Wednesday.
"... of course we don't want to have military options employed, but we must keep all options on the table," he said when asked if the U.S. administration would be willing to drop bombs on North Korea.
In a wide ranging question and answer session Ryan also said he supported tighter sanctions on Iran, that the United States wants to strike a trade deal with Britain as soon as possible, and that he would like to see domestic tax reforms completed by the end of the summer.
Iran recently released footage of what it claims is a fifth-generation stealth fighter jet called the Qaher F-313 rolling around a runway, but experts aren't buying it.
The F-313 has appeared before, in 2013, when War Is Boring pointed out that the jet was too small to carry its announced weapons payload or even fit a pilot.
Business Insider showed the footage to a senior scientist working on stealth aircraft who asked to remain anonymous because of the classified nature of his work.
As far as radar signature goes, "some parts are laughable," the scientist said. Specifically, he said the downturned wingtips reminded him of something out of "Star Trek" and the vertical or near vertical fins on the plane would light up a radar.
The scientist said he seriously doubted that Iran had the engineering processes and expertise in place to manufacture a stealth aircraft, the details of which need to be perfectly lined up to baffle radars. Iran has for years been under sanctions, prohibited from buying the kinds of components needed to build advanced stealth aircraft.
Writing for Vice's Motherboard, journalist David Axe said the F-313 — which does not fly in the video — had its tire pressure stenciled on the outside of the plane and that it was way too low for a full-sized airplane weighed down with instruments and fuel.
The scientist says the tire pressure "takes away all doubt that it's a fake."
Still, some experts say Iran could attain somewhat credible stealth aircraft in the near future, as China's J-31, an F-35 knockoff, nears production.
Watch Iran's 'stealth' fighter scoot around a runway:
Moscow (AFP) - Ilya looks tired and drawn. After being beaten and tortured by men in military uniform in Russia's Chechnya region, he fled to Moscow but still fears for his life -- because he is gay.
"In Chechnya, I had no choice but to lie or die," says the 20-year-old.
He is now hiding out in a small house on the edge of Moscow with five other Chechen men after they escaped what they say is a brutal campaign against gay men by authorities in the Muslim region of Russia's North Caucasus.
All refused to give their real names for fear of someone recognising them and tracking them down.
"If any of my relatives realises I'm gay, they won't hesitate a minute before killing me," another of the men, 28-year-old Nortcho, told AFP.
"And if they don't do it, they will get killed themselves for failing to uphold the family honour."
While casual homophobia is common in Russia, the problem is particularly acute in conservative Chechnya, where homosexuality is taboo and seen in many families as a moral failing that should be punished by death.
In late March, the Novaya Gazeta liberal newspaper -- known for critical reports on Ramzan Kadyrov, Chechnya's iron-fisted ruler for the last decade -- published a shocking report that gay men had been rounded up.
The newspaper reported that the authorities had detained more than 100 gay men and urged their families to kill them to "wash clean their honour." It said at least two had been killed by relatives and a third died after being tortured.
The accusations were taken all the more seriously since the security forces controlled by Kadyrov -- a fierce loyalist of President Vladimir Putin -- have long been accused by rights activists of carrying out kidnappings and beatings of his opponents.
Asked to comment on the Novaya Gazeta report, Kadyrov's spokesman claimed that such punitive treatment of gay men in Chechnya was impossible since they "do not exist" in the region.
Kadyrov on Wednesday denied that any homosexuals had been arrested, saying "provocative articles about Chechnya (have) reported so-called arrests.
"It's even embarrassing to talk about it. It's said there have been what are called arrests, murders, (newspapers) have even given the name" of one victim, he said. "But he is alive, in good health and is at home."
The Moscow branch of a Russian NGO called the LGBT Network is helping Chechens to flee the region and receives "three or four requests for help each day," said the branch's leader Olga Baranova. Nearly 20 people at risk have already moved to Moscow, she told AFP.
While Ilya is now more than 1,800 kilometres (1,120 miles) from the Chechen capital of Grozny, he still jumps up every time a car drives close by the house, which is surrounded by a fence.
"By helping me, the Network has handed me a reprieve -- but they'll find me in the end," he says quietly.
In October he was taken into a field and beaten by three men in military uniform. A huge scar runs along the side of his jaw.
"They filmed everything. They told me it would end up on social media unless I paid 200,000 rubles ($3,650). I borrowed the money and paid it," he said, speaking hoarsely.
But after that he had to flee to Moscow anyway.
"Some soldiers came to see my mother and told her I was gay," he said. "I'm terrified. I haven't been able to sleep since I left."
Another man who refused even to give an alias said he left Chechnya two weeks ago. He said he too has been unable to sleep since, haunted by the fear that his wife and his child will find out he is gay.
In March he was held "in an unofficial prison" for a week, the man said.
"There were other gay men in the cell. Some of them had been beaten up," he recalled. "When I was released, I realised that meant I should leave as swiftly as possible."
Reports of the abuses have drawn international condemnation, as activists have accused the authorities in Russia of turning a blind eye for fear of upsetting Kadyrov in a region where Moscow fought two bloody separatist wars.
US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said Monday she was "disturbed" by the reports.
Tanya Lokshina of Human Rights Watch said that in her view: "It will only take a call from the Kremlin to Kadyrov for the arrests to stop."
Russia's Prosecutor-General's office formally opened an investigation on Monday but Russia's human rights ombudswoman Tatyana Moskalkova told TASS state news agency there had been no reports of such missing people to police, investigators or prosecutors.
Lokshina of Human Rights Watch countered that "imagining people coming forward with information without getting any effective protection, any security guarantee, is just impossible."
"Here we are dealing with LGBT people and they are particularly vulnerable in Chechnya because in addition to fearing the authorities they also have to fear their own relatives," she said.
The Novaya Gazeta reporter Irina Gordiyenko, one of the journalists who broke the story, has received a death threat from Chechnya's chief mufti over her investigation.
Gordiyenko says that Kadyrov rules with "absolute tyranny" with the Kremlin's tacit consent.
"That's what lies at the heart of the problem: the impunity of the Chechen authorities," she said.