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The latest news on Defense from Business Insider

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    North Korea

    • North Korea appears to be planning a satellite launch, something that has previously ruined multiple dialogues between Washington and Pyongyang.
    • Satellite launches use technology similar to ballistic missile launches — and they're a sneaky way that North Korea has gotten around previous agreements banning missile testing. But the US would be unlikely to stand for that.
    • Meanwhile, President Donald Trump appears to be preparing for war with North Korea, and a satellite launch could be the jumping-off point.

    Despite a visible and encouraging thaw in relations between North Korea and South Korea, Pyongyang appears to be readying a move that could torpedo upcoming talks with the US and bring about an all-out war.

    The move in question isn't a missile launch, which has often stoked tensions, but a satellite launch — and it demonstrates how fraught talks between the US and North Korea have become.

    The US and North Korea have previously entered into talks with the goal of North Korea's denuclearization, but more often than not, North Korea blows up a deal by launching a satellite vehicle.

    While past agreements between North Korea and the US have prohibited missile testing, negotiators in Pyongyang have cleverly exploited the fact that they don't touch on space programs.

    Because launching a satellite into orbit requires much of the same technology that North Korea uses to launch a ballistic missile, the US has abandoned multiple rounds of talks with North Korea after satellite launches.

    Now, as North Korea prepares to meet face-to-face with a sitting US president for the first time, experts have assessed that Pyongyang may be working on another satellite launch.

    "Pyongyang and Washington's position on their satellite launches are radically different, and thus a crisis may arise once again, and one cannot say it will not end up with a war,"Cheong Seong-chang, a senior researcher at the Sejong Institute, told NK News, a website for expert analysis and commentary on North Korea.

    Cheong said North Korea would most likely launch a satellite "somewhere around the celebrations surrounding their 70th anniversary on September 9." He said the US would be likely to respond with sanctions, and "then North Korea may respond with an even stronger nuclear test."

    Cheong referred to North Korea's repeated threat to launch a missile over the Pacific and detonate its strongest-ever nuclear warhead in the air.

    Cheong said that, overall, the chance of war was low because of a lack of international support — but if North Korea were to cause an atomic explosion to black out and radiate a large swath of the Pacific, it may galvanize the US and the world.

    Trump's not ready for talks, but may be ready for war

    Donald Trump

    President Donald Trump's incoming national security adviser, John Bolton, is a noted hawk on the North Korea issue and has all but dismissed the talks before they can even begin.

    Victor Cha, the Korea chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, recently told MSNBC's "Morning Joe" that Trump couldn't have properly prepared for a summit with the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and that it could end in disaster.

    "Usually, you want the summit to come at the end, after you've had a year of negotiations," Cha said.

    Instead, with almost no diplomatic or official contact with North Korea, Trump unilaterally agreed to the meeting, something that has already boosted Kim's profile.

    Cha said the worst-case scenario for the talks would be for the US and North Korea to "walk out of this thing angry at each other, with deflated expectations — and then there's no place left to go, there's no more diplomacy, because you've used your biggest card right up front."

    Bolton "would have a very big role in organizing and orchestrating what would be discussed," Cha said, adding that Bolton would most likely "allow this summit to take place but really be focused on not taking the pressure off in terms of sanctions."

    Cha knows the Trump administration's North Korea policy well, as he spent almost a year interviewing to become the US's ambassador to South Korea. But he says he was passed up when he refused to endorse military strikes on North Korea.

    Bolton, on the other hand, consistently makes the case for bombing North Korea.

    With Washington unprepared yet determined to go hard on North Korea, and Pyongyang apparently planning a provocative launch, there's a real possibility the talks could backfire and bring about a war.

    SEE ALSO: Trump is now more confident, unleashed to do what he wants — and it looks like war on all fronts

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Why Russia is so involved in the Syrian Civil War

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    trump xi

    • President Donald Trump's administration laid out a new strategy in the Pacific that didn't mention China once, but highlighted ways to combat its influence.
    • It looks like the US will try to boost ties with India to counter China's influence in the Pacific.
    • China has built and militarized islands in the South China Sea and tried to unilaterally dictate who can sail in the shipping lane that sees trillions in annual commerce, and the US committed to halting that.

    President Donald Trump's State Department laid out a new approach, as well as a new name, for its Asia-Pacific policy on Monday.

    Alex N. Wong, the deputy assistant secretary of the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, defined "the strategic concept of the Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy"before reporters at a briefing on Monday. Without using any strong language it lays out a confrontational path towards China's regional ambitions.

    Since taking office, Trump has addressed issues in Asia as a high priority. From elevating North Korea to a main focus of US foreign policy to making trade with China a major issue in economic policy, the rise in population, as well as economic and military might, in the region has been a major focus.

    "We want the nations of the Indo-Pacific to be free from coercion, that they can pursue in a sovereign manner the paths they choose in the region," Wong said. 

    Though Wong didn't specify what coercive forces the Trump administration would address, experts see China's influence and strength in the region as the main force the US needs to hedge against.

    By militarizing and building a series of artificial islands and unilaterally trying to dictate what can happen in international waters where trillions in trade passes annually, the US and China's neighbors fear it could try to lock down the waterway by building in the sea in violation of international law.

    From Wong on what the Trump administration expects of a "free" Indo-Pacific region:

    "We first and foremost mean open sea lines of communication and open airways. These open sea lines of communication are truly the lifeblood of the region. And if you look at world trade, with 50% of trade going through the Indo-Pacific along the sea routes, particularly through the South China Sea, open sea lanes and open airways in the Indo-Pacific are increasingly vital and important to the world."

    Without naming the country, the State Department has raised the prospect of a showdown with China in pursuing free sea lines of communication. The US Navy regularly challenges China's maritime claims with freedom of navigation patrols, whereby US warships sail inside China's claimed sea territory, something that Beijing hotly disputes. 

    Under Trump, these naval maneuvers have already increased.

    Economic pressure

    one belt one road china to poland snow

    Wong later detailed a strategy that could counter China's massive One Belt One Road initiative, whereby China has invested heavily in countries across Asia and Africa, offering them what some call coercive or predatory loans for building infrastructure.

    "We want to assist the region in doing infrastructure in the right way, infrastructure that truly does drive integration and raises the GDPs of the constituent economies, not weigh them down," Wong said, in what could be seen as another veiled snipe at China.

    From Asia-Pacific to Indo-Pacific with purpose

    trump modi

    A more visible pivot in orienting the US as a counter-balance to China comes in the term used for the region, which Wong admitted was "significant" for two reasons — that India is a big player in region and that the US wants India to step up as a bigger influence.

    "India is a nation that is invested in a free and open order. It is a democracy. It is a nation that can bookend and anchor the free and open order in the Indo-Pacific region," Wong said.

    India has increased military-to-military ties with the US and its allies as China becomes more assertive and powerful in the Pacific. The US even floated the idea of including India in the F-35 program, and thereby providing them with a powerful military counter to China's growing stealth jet program.

    In Wong's entire explanation, he didn't mention China specifically once, but did praise India as a possible partner in achieving US goals.

    But even without hearing its name, Beijing can be assured that the US has put together a plan to stop its advance towards regional hegemony. 

    SEE ALSO: North Korea looks to be preparing a launch that could torpedo talks and bring a full on war with the US

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Why Russia is so involved in the Syrian Civil War

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    f 22 arctic

    • F-22 Raptors and F-35 Lightning II stealth fighters can't properly talk to each other in high-pressure combat scenarios because of a technological gap.
    • F-22s have limited communication abilities in part because they need to be stealthy, and transmitting signals kills that stealth.
    • So US pilots have a workaround, where they iron out the details of a strike beforehand and learn to communicate without transmitting signals. 

    The US military leads the world in stealth aircraft, with the F-22 Raptor dominating in the air-superiority role, and the F-35 Lightning II stepping in as a recon/bomber/fighter jet — but the two planes can't actually talk to each other.

    The F-22, which appears as small as a marble on radars, relies on its all-aspect stealth to fight and kill undetected, but in the realm of ultra-high tech warfighting, even communications can give away your position.

    As such, the F-22 cannot talk directly to the F-35. Though the F-35 can send voice communications, targeting data, and mission planning notes to an F-22, an F-22 can't talk back without another plane, a drone, an F-16, or some other older platform around to translate between the distinct tongues.

    That's a huge drawback for the F-22 and the F-35 fighting in their intended capacities, which would be against the most heavily defended airspaces in the world.

    F-22s and F-35s entering heavily guarded airspace, like over Russia or China, have stealth to conceal them, while older jets like drones and legacy fighters that would connect the stealth jets don't. Retired US Marine Corps Lt. Col. David Berke, who has flown both the F-22 and the F-35, told Business Insider that against top-tier foes like Russia and China, only the stealth jets can make it.

    "Where the threat is so robust, with S-400s, J-20s, J-31s, or Su-57s," said Berke, referring to advanced air defenses and China and Russia's top-of-the line fighter jets, "the threat environment is such that only fifth generation aircraft can fly ... When you use a fourth generation aircraft, everyone knows you're there."

    So when the US Air Forces' best jets have to take on the heaviest air forces and defenses in the world, they have to do it without talking to each other, but according to Berke, pilots have a workaround.

    How pilots plan to fight and win anyway without saying a word 

    US Air Force F-35 pilot cockpit

    "If I wanna talk to you using words, the F-22 doesn't transmit voice into the [F-35's] network," nor can it send targeting information, Berke said. "So I can sent targeting information, I can send weapons quality information of surface tracks or air attacks" from an F-35, but the F-22 can't send its own information back.

    But rather than a blunder or oversight, Berke says the F-22's lack of communication was a purposeful design choice: "The F-22 doesn't communicate with anyone — they don't want it to."

    Just like jets can be spotted by radars, communication signals transmitting between plans can get picked up and become part of targeting data in an enemy's kill chain. For that reason, the F-22 was designed to fly almost silently. 

    Instead, the pilots on a high-end strike against a highly defended airspace would simply have to plan their best to avoid the need for talking while on mission.

    "I can just build a really smart tactical plan and do a really good job minimizing my comms," said Berke. "That's what fighter pilots do. That's what people get paid to do in the military."

    "When you're in an F-22 or an F-35, you talk way less then you ever used to" in older jets, said Berke. "All of your comms are based on your actions, the airplane tells the other pilot what you're doing. When you see an F-22 flying in a certain direction, targeting certain assets, you don't talk about it."

    If you have to break radio silence over hostile territory, there's a way to do it

    F-35 and F-22

    If the worst happens, and something unexpected pops up during a mission that an F-35 pilot has to tell an F-22 pilot about, Berke says they have a strategy for that too: Do it very quickly. 

    "You don't turn a microphone on and then a laser death dot blows you up," Berke said. But, by opening up communications and transmitting a signal, "you have to accept greater risk by utilizing less secure means of communication."

    Berke admitted that the networking situation between F-22s and F-35s wasn't ideal, and could open up the jets to enemy fire during high profile missions, but aerial combat, after all, is warfighting, and is never free of risk.

    "It's not by choice," that the F-22 and F-35 can't freely communicate, but the "network in and of itself isn't the highest priority problem to solve," said Berke. 

    But even facing the risk of breaking radio silence over hostile territory, Berke said the threat was minor, and he's still confident the US's fifth gen fighters can get the job done.

    SEE ALSO: The US Navy just trained an aircraft carrier for a big fight with Russia or China

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Why Russia is so involved in the Syrian Civil War

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    This is not your average drone. DroneHunter hunts for unauthorized drones and captures them. It's a fully-autonomous air defense mechanism. Stray drones can be specifically targeted. Or DroneHunter can learn to find rogue drones itself. DroneHunter captures the rogue drones with a net. Forcing it to land on the ground.

    The goal is to stop threats at a safe distance from protected locations. It is able to detect, monitor, and autonomously capture drones in real time. Here's how it works.

    Timothy Bean: The way it works is very simple and straightforward. Usually, a drone is reported in an area where it shouldn't be. This can be reported by a human. It can be reported by a ground radar system or RF system is detecting a drone in a no-fly zone. That system will autonomously queue or send a message to our DroneHunter. So the law enforcement or official will take the DroneHunter out of their car. Or the drone hunter will be deployed at the site because it's there to protect the crew and infrastructure. The DroneHunter will receive an automated queue autonomously with no pilot, no joystick, will launch into the air and go to the sector where the target drone was found. Sometimes up to a mile or two away from the area that's being protected. Or outside the perimeter of the no-fly zone. The DroneHunter will then autonomously with the onboard radar detect the target drone and will track it, and will safely shoot it down with a net and tow it away to a safe location. Either capturing it with a drape net or capturing it with a target net. 

    DroneHunter's airborne net gun can launch at 80 mph. It can hit a target up to 25 feet away. The captured drone is then delivered by tether or parachute. DroneHunter was created by Fortem Technologies. The company's goal was to create AI-based airspace security and safety solutions. The DroneHunter is used by both the US Government and Military. The drone is also used around prisons and stadiums. It's also available for commercial use. As our airspace changes, DroneHunter can keep any area protected and safe.

    Timothy Bean: So, DroneHunter is used by anybody who wants to protect a no-fly zone. So, whether that no-fly zone is around a border, around a data center, around a stadium, an outdoor venue, anywhere you have airspace can be threatened by a drone. A drone bringing a bomb, or invading privacy or doing any kind of illegal surveillance. Those are the customers that want a DroneHunter to control their airspace and keep their airspace safe.

    Fortem imagines a world where we can feel safe with autonomous drones in our airspace. No drones were harmed in the making of this video.

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    USS Gerald R. Ford

    Despite aircraft carriers' immense cost, the Navy believes there is no replacing a well-armed, aircraft equipped, sovereign piece of US territory, powered by dual nuclear reactors.

    Former Defense Secretary William Cohen was fond of saying that without "flattops" the US has "less of a voice, less of an influence." Evidently, many of the worlds nations also believe this is true. 

    The last few years have seen a number of interesting developments for aircraft carriers. Some nations, like India and Spain retired aircraft carriers, while China commissioned its first aircraft carrier, and the UK returned to the rather exclusive carrier owners club.

    The US commissioned its newest aircraft carrier in 2017 — the USS Gerald R. Ford — the first in the Ford-class. Business Insider got a chance to tour the Ford last year.

    In all, 20 aircraft carriers can carry and launch fixed-wing aircraft are currently in service around the world.

    Take a look at them here:

    Walter Hickey and Robert Johnson contributed to an earlier version of this story.

    SEE ALSO: We toured the world's largest aircraft carrier, which can house 75 aircraft (but doesn't have urinals)

    DON'T MISS: We took a rare tour of one of the US Navy's most dangerous warships — nicknamed the 'Sledgehammer of Freedom'

    HMS Queen Elizabeth is the newest aircraft carrier of the Royal Navy, and currently the only active one as well

    Length:932 ft

    Commissioned: 2017

    Propulsion System: Two Rolls-Royce Marine gas turbine alternators and four diesel engines

    History: Queen Elizabeth is the lead ship of her class and one of the newest aircraft carriers in the world. It is currently Britain's only active aircraft carrier, with the second Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carrier, HMS Prince of Wales, still under construction.

    The ship was laid down in July 2009, completed in July 2014, and commissioned in December 2017. Business Insider was able to take a tour of the ship in December, shortly after its commissioning.

    Queen Elizabeth is unique from other carriers in that she has two control towers, one for sea operations, and one for air operations.

    The carrier is intended to have up to 40 aircraft, with the F-35 intended to be the main fixed-wing jet for the ship. Other aircraft planned to be included are Chinook helicopters, Apache AH MK1 gunships, AW101 Merlin transport helicopters, and AW159 Wildcat anti-surface warfare helicopters.

    More recently, Queen Elizabeth docked for the first time at an overseas port when it visited Gibraltar on February 2018. The carrier should be fully operational by 2020.

    USS Gerald R. Ford is the US Navy's newest aircraft carrier

    Length:1,106 ft

    Commissioned: 2017

    Propulsion System: Northrop Grumman nuclear propulsion system and a zonal electrical power distribution system

    History: USS Gerald R. Ford was laid down in November 2009, completed in October 2013, and commissioned in July 2017. It is the lead ship of its class, and is planned to be the first of 10 new aircraft carriers.

    The ship is still in a testing phase, but is intended to have a planned complement of more than 75 aircraft, mostly F-35Cs. As it is the Navy's newest carrier, new weapons may be added to the ship in the coming years, including lasers.

    The ship has a number of new technologies, like the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System, which is intended to replace the current steam-powered launch system on current aircraft carriers.

    Gerald R. Ford recently tested launching F/A-18F Super Hornets off of its deck last July. It is expected to be fully operational and integrated and into the Navy by 2022.

    INS Vikramaditya is the Indian Navy's only aircraft carrier

    Length:930 ft

    Commissioned: 2013 (Indian Navy), 1987 (Soviet Navy)

    Propulsion System: Eight turbo-pressurized boilers, four shafts, four geared steam turbines

    History: INS Vikramaditya is currently India's only aircraft carrier, after India retired the INS Viraat in early 2017.

    Vikramaditya is a modified Kiev-class aircraft carrier. It was originally built for the Soviet Navy in 1982, and served the Soviet Union under two names; Baku from 1987 to 1991, and Admiral Gorshkov from 1991 to 1996.

    India purchased the carrier in 2004 after years of negotiations for $2.35 billion. After extensive modernization and modification efforts, the Vikramaditya entered full service in the Indian Navy in 2013. 

    It carries a total of 36 aircraft; 26 MiG-29K and 10 Kamov Ka-31 and Kamov Ka-28 helicopters. 

    The Vikramaditya recently became the first ship in the Indian Navy to have an ATM on board.

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    • Russia and the US, the world's two most powerful militaries and biggest nuclear powers, appear set to clash over a suspected chemical weapons attack in Syria.
    • President Donald Trump told Russia to "get ready" for US missiles, and he is reportedly weighing a much bigger strike on Syria than the one last April, which did little long-term damage.
    • A Russian official threatened shooting down incoming US missiles and also targeting the platforms used to launch them, which could mean sinking US Navy ships.

    The US and Russia, the world's two most powerful militaries and biggest nuclear powers, appear set to clash over a suspected chemical weapons attack in Syria, with President Donald Trump tweeting Wednesday for Russia to "get ready" for a US missile strike.

    "Russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria," Trump tweeted. "Get ready Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and 'smart!' You shouldn’t be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!"

    The first part of the tweet referred to comments by a Russian diplomat threatening a counterresponse to any US military action against the Syrian government, which the US and local aid groups have accused of carrying out several chemical weapons attacks on its own people.

    According to Reuters, Russia's ambassador to Lebanon, Alexander Zasypkin, told the militant group Hezbollah's Al-Manar TV that, "If there is a strike by the Americans," then "the missiles will be downed and even the sources from which the missiles were fired."

    Trump canceled a trip to South America over the latest suspected chemical attack, which killed dozens on Saturday, and is instead consulting with John Bolton, his new ultra-hawkish national security adviser. Trump and France have promised a strong joint response in the coming days.

    The president and his inner circle are reportedly considering a much larger strike on Syria than the one that took place almost exactly a year ago, on April 7, 2017, in which 59 US sea-based cruise missiles briefly disabled an air base suspected of playing a role in a chemical attack.

    This time Trump has French President Emmanuel Macron in his corner— but also acute threats of escalation from Syria's most powerful ally, Russia.

    "The threats you are proffering that you're stating vis-à-vis Syria should make us seriously worried, all of us, because we could find ourselves on the threshold of some very sad and serious events," Russia's ambassador to the United Nations, Vassily Nebenzia, warned his US counterpart, Nikki Haley, in a heated clash at the UN.

    The US wants a massive strike, but Russia won't make it easy

    s 400

    Syrian government forces present a more difficult target than most recent US foes. Unlike Islamic State fighters or Taliban militants, the Syrian government is backed by heavy Russian air defenses. Experts on these defenses have told Business Insider the US would struggle to overcome them, even with its arsenal of stealth jets.

    It was US Navy ships that fired the missiles in the April 7, 2017, strike. If Russia were to retaliate against a US Navy ship with its own heavy navy presence in the region, the escalation would most likely resemble war between the two countries.

    Vladimir Shamanov, a retired general who heads the defense affairs committee in Russia's lower house of parliament, would not rule out the use of nuclear weapons in an escalation with the US over Syria, saying only that it was "unlikely,"the Associated Press reports.

    The US has destroyer ships in the region, The New York Times reports, as well as heavy airpower at military bases around the region. While Russian air defenses seem credible on paper, they seem to have done nothing to stop repeated Israeli airstrikes all around Syria.

    US's and Russia's military reputations on the line

    f-22 f22 raptor inherent resolve arabian sea

    On both the Western and Russian sides of the conflict, credibility is on the line. The leaders of the US and France have explicitly warned against the use of chemical weapons, saying they will respond with force. Russia has acted as a guarantor of Syrian President Bashar Assad's safety in the face of possible Western intervention but has found itself undermined by several strikes from the US and Israel.

    Experts previously told Business Insider that an outright war with the US would call Russian President Vladimir Putin's bluff and betray his true aim of projecting power at low cost, while destroying much of his military.

    Additionally, the Syria government, backed by Russia, has struggled to beat lightly armed rebels who have lived under almost nonstop siege for the past seven years.

    For the US and France, failure to meaningfully intervene in the conflict would expose them as powerless against Russia and unable to abate the suffering in Syria even with strong political will.

    For now, the world has gone eerily quiet in anticipation of fighting.

    European markets dipped slightly Wednesday on expectations of military action, and the skies around Syria have gone calm as the pan-European air-traffic control agency Eurocontrol warned airlines about flying in the eastern Mediterranean because of the possibility of an air war in Syria within the next 48 hours.

    SEE ALSO: Here’s what would happen if US tried to strike Russian-backed targets in Syria

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Why Russia is so involved in the Syrian Civil War

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    t4 air base homs

    MOSCOW (Reuters) - The Kremlin said on Wednesday it hoped all sides involved in Syria would avoid doing anything that could destabilize an already fragile situation in the Middle East and made clear it was strongly opposed to a possible U.S. strike on its ally.

    The United States and its allies are considering whether to hit Syria over a suspected poison gas attack that medical relief organizations say killed dozens of people in the rebel-held town of Douma near Damascus on Saturday.

    The Kremlin said on Wednesday allegations that Syrian government forces had carried out the chemical weapons attack were not based on real facts and said it wanted an impartial investigation into the incident.

    Asked about comments by Russia's ambassador to Lebanon who said that any U.S. missiles fired at Syria would be shot down and the launch sites targeted, the Kremlin said it did not want to comment on such matters.

    “As before, we would like to hope that all sides will avoid any steps that a) are not provoked by anything and b) could significantly destabilize an already fragile situation in the region,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told a conference call with reporters.

    SEE ALSO: Trump is weighing a massive strike on Syria — and it could bring all-out war with Russia

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Why Russia is so involved in the Syrian Civil War

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    US Navy aircraft carrier

    President Donald Trump warned on Wednesday that US missiles are coming to strike Syria, despite Russia's threats to shoot down incoming US missiles and even the platforms that fire them.

    The US has struck Syria before, using cruise missiles from two US Navy guided-missile destroyers in the Mediterranean, but experts now say the US will have to go bigger to make an impact on Syria's forces under Russian protection.

    With no aircraft carriers currently in the region, a heavy Russian naval presence in the region, and only 2,000 or so US troops on the ground in Syria, it may seem like the US is outnumbered or outgunned. 

    In reality, the US has massive airpower in the region which far overpowers anything else nearby.

    With the US Air Force presences in Qatar, Jordan, and Turkey, as well as forces on the ground, the US has a multitude of options for carrying out a strike in Syria, despite a heavy Russian presence and advanced missile defenses.

    Take a look at the US's firepower in the region:

    SEE ALSO: Trump warned Russia that a missile strike on Syria is coming — here's how it could go down

    Here's the USS Theodore Roosevelt, the aircraft carrier that just left the region. It has aircraft for logistics, air-to-air, air-to-ground, intelligence and surveillance, early-warning, and antisubmarine warfare. It's one of 11 US aircraft carriers, and as it stands it could make it back to the region within one week at full steam.

    Here's a loaded F/A-18E. This one has an air-to-ground heavy load out, but still carries air-to-air missiles in case an enemy aircraft attacks the US or US-backed forces, as was the case when an F/A-18E had to shoot down a Syrian Su-22.

    The crew can launch one of these every two minutes or so. F/A-18Es off the US aircraft carriers can fly thousands of sorties, or missions, during a single deployment.

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    wwii TOI story

    • Yom Hashoah is Holocaust Remembrance Day.
    • The Jewish liberators of concentration camps are often overlooked.
    • Below, the author shares a story of a great-uncle who liberated a Nazi concentration camp.

    The bartender at the Communist-themed pub in former East Berlin scrunches up his face and readjusts his glasses. Lenin looms on the wall beside him. “This is from Berlin?” I ask him.

    “No, it’s from a little town, you’ve probably never heard of it,” he says of the bottle of doppelkorn liquor he has just poured me.

    “What’s it called?” I inquire, taking a tiny sip from the clear liquid.

    “Nordhausen,” the barkeep replies.

    “Sure, I know it.”

    “You do?” he gasps, amazed an American should know of a Podunk village in Lower Thuringia.

    “Sure, my great-uncle liberated a concentration camp there,” I tell him.

    Silence thicker than Berlin’s humid summer air. After a clumsy moment like so many when the Holocaust is mentioned in modern Germany, he replies: “I did not know there was a concentration camp there.”

    * * *

    Seventy years earlier, in April of ’45, the German army was in tatters and retreating before the Allies. American troops approached the city of Weimar in central Germany on April 11 and liberated the first Nazi concentration camp: Buchenwald. Among the skeletal prisoners famously photographed in the grim barracks was future Nobel Prize winner Elie Wiesel.

    But that same day, 40 miles to the north, a US Army detachment entered another, lesser-known camp outside the town of Nordhausen. The Mittelbau-Dora facility used slave labor to build V-2 rockets and worked thousands to death. Among the men of the 104th Infantry Division was a medic from Brooklyn, New York. A 21-year-old American-born son of Jewish immigrants from Russia, Jules Helfner was fluent in German, kept a pistol in his boot, and was armed with a camera.

    Together with his handwritten notes, Jules’s unique photographs, published here for the first time, bring to life a Jewish foot soldier’s personal experience in the 104th. They document four months of Helfner’s service after landing in France in late 1944, chronicling the march into Germany, liberation of a Nazi labor camp, and his eventual encounter with fellow Jewish soldiers in the Red Army at the climax of World War II.

    All too often, this aspect of the Holocaust story — the Jewish liberators — is overlooked in Israel.

    “He went through hell and back again,” Shirley Helfner, Jules’s younger sister, now 85, said. She was a kid when Jules enlisted and was shipped off to Europe but remembers his return to Brooklyn’s Bed-Stuy neighborhood after the war ended. Speaking with me at her home in Phoenix, she described Jules as quiet and refined, reserved but “with good humor.”

    wwii TOI storyHe was brilliant, she said, a polyglot fluent in English, French, German and Yiddish, the language spoken at home.

    The army wanted to send him to medical school, but, pressed for time as the Allies mobilized for Operation Overlord, the epic invasion of Europe on June 6, 1944, it drafted Jules as a field medic instead, she said.

    The 104th began its tour in Europe after D-Day, as the Allies pushed into the Low Countries and moved on Germany. The earliest dated photo in Helfner’s collection — which his children kept safely over the decades, and which I only saw for the first time last year — is from the Belgian city of Verviers, which served as army headquarters during the bitter winter of ’44.

    As the Allies advanced into the Reich, the 104th was at the front, capturing Cologne at the beginning of March and moving east toward Berlin.

    wwii TOI storyJules posed, leaning against a truck, outside the city’s famed cathedral. (As Jules and the 104th fought through Cologne, his younger brother, Benjamin, was on the opposite side of the globe.

    Serving as a sailor aboard the USS General Harry Taylor, Ben was halfway between Hawaii and Wake Island, crossing the 180th Meridian, bound for the Pacific theater. Ben was my grandfather.)

    Several photos taken by Jules show him and his army friends along the way, occasionally with the rubble of ruined buildings as the backdrop.

    One guy, Julian “Broncho” Nagorski from Upper Black Eddy, Pennsylvania, is named. Nagorski received the Bronze Star for valor, moved to Montana and died in 2008.

    The dates written on pictures are sometimes incorrect, suggesting he annotated them sometime after the war.

    wwii TOI story  german 88 gunThough Jules rarely spoke of his experience, his annotations offer poignant insights. “German 88 piece,” he wrote on the back of a photo taken near Cologne. “The gun we feared most.”

    But the most startlingly personal reflections were written on the photos from Nordhausen.

    * * *

    In mid-April, about 60 miles west of Leipzig, the unit entered the Mittelbau-Dora camp. The German military had already abandoned the facility, in which prisoners were worked to death building buzz bombs. Thousands of bodies were strewn in the open air. Several hundred starving survivors remained, and despite the medics’ best efforts, some of those liberated died in the days following.

    “To see photographs is one thing,” Fred Bohm, an Austrian-born Jewish corporal technician with the 104th, recounted in a 1979 interview, “but to go in and smell and be exposed to this horror you cannot really be ready for that.”

    “But what really struck me is the impact it made on the other guys,” Bohm said. “They were staggered, literally. They were sick.”

    Jules spoke little about his experience in the war, let alone at Nordhausen. But the one time he related it to his younger sister he said “the guys went wild,” Shirley recalled.

    “They went back to the German town [Nordhausen] and they were killing the Germans left and right,” she said he told her. “Such a horrible, horrible experience.”

    wwii TOI story holocaust

    His dozen or so photos from Mittelbau-Dora show rows of emaciated corpses in brutal clarity (inexplicably, they’re all dated March 27). One caption distills the outrage Jules must have felt. “Nordhausen Concentration Camp,” he wrote, before switching to capital letters: “3500 JEWS WERE SLAUGHTERED HERE.”

    American officers ordered German civilians from the nearby town to bury the thousands of bodies.

    “I was put in charge of the burials and I insisted that the Germans from Nordhausen come for the occasion in their Sunday best,” W. Gunther Plaut, a Jewish chaplain with the unit, recounted in an interview years later. “Of course, we did not have enough space to do the work. But in my anger, now turning toward revenge, I told the burghers to use the knives, forks and spoons from their homes. I ordered the women to come out and help wash the bodies."

    A handful of pictures captured the German townsfolk carrying and burying the dead. A unique image, Judith Cohen, director of the photo archive at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC, said, shows several burghers going underground into the subterranean factory.

    “Two charred bodies of inmates of the Nordhausen concentration camp being lifted out of their faulty shelter by German civilians for burial,” reads the caption. One shot, taken below ground, shows the German “robot bomb” — the V-2 rockets — assembly line “worked by the inmates of the Nordhausen concentration camp,” he wrote.

    * * *

    In the weeks following the capture of Mittelbau-Dora, the 104th pressed eastward, eventually encountering the advancing Red Army. The two allied forces met on the Mulde River, just east of Leipzig. German forces were shattered, their vehicles destroyed and burning on the side of a road. Civilians fled and German soldiers surrendered in droves and were pressed into disposing of armaments.

    “These Nazis chose to give up to the 104th US Inf. Div. rather than give up to the Russians,” reads a caption of a photo taken on the Mulde. It would be a familiar story, with millions of Germans fleeing the Soviets at the end of the war, desperate not to fall behind what Churchill would later call the Iron Curtain.

    “German prisoners of war crossing the Mulde River on an improvised pontoon bridge. These Nazis chose to give up to the 104th US Inf. Div. rather than give up to the Russians.” April 1945, near Bitterfeld, Germany. (Jules Helfner)

    Possibly the most improbable images are those in the final days of the war in Europe. The American and Soviet armies stood on opposite banks of the Mulde, and men from either side met in the city of Wurzen. In a brief moment of comradely warmth before the Cold War set in, Russian and American soldiers stood arm in arm in the conquered town square.

    “Red Army soldiers names Ivan + Aleksis with a GI from the 104th,” scrawled Jules. “These Red Army soldiers were Jewish.”

    wwii TOI story

    On what may have been the same day in Wurzen, the beaming smiles of 16 women, the only ones in any of Jules’s photographs, radiate in the spring sun.

    “A group of Jewish girls liberated by the 104th Inf. Div. at Wurzen, Germany. The entire group numbered 1000, most of them were Hungarians, Romanians, Polish, Russian + Austrian.”

    wwii TOI story

    Jules and the men of the 104th returned to the US and were decommissioned in the fall of 1945. He returned to New York.

    His mother Ruth and and sister Shirley both would tell that Jules returned a changed man, quiet and reserved but retaining the sense of humor he shared with his brother, Ben.

    “When he returned,” Shirley said, drawing on 70-year-old snippets of memories, “he gambled away all his back pay of $500.” Jules and his friends got together and got drunk, she recalled; one buddy passed out wasted, so they put him in the bathtub.

    His daughter, Lisa Becker, who lives in Western Massachusetts, said he never really mentioned his wartime experience to her.

    “The photos were kept in my dad’s desk drawer, not under lock and key, but as kids we never had any occasion to be looking around because we simply thought only office supplies, house bills and other related info must be in there,” she told me.

    Despite Jules’s aspirations to go to medical school, the GI bill would only cover four years of it. Instead he worked as an engineer for Grumman. He died in 1978, seven years before I was born, of complications of a heart attack and stroke.

    “It was not until his death in 1978 when my mother was clearing out his desk that she came across the envelope that contained the pictures. By that time my siblings and I were adults,” Becker said, “and my mother finally shared them with us.”

    SEE ALSO: 24 military movies to watch over Memorial Day weekend

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    greek hellenic mirage 2000 jet air force

    • A Greek Mirage 2000-5 fighter jet crashed over the Aegean Sea on Thursday, multiple news outlets reported.
    • Greece's defense minister has said the pilot is dead.
    • Greek and Turkish planes often engage near their borders but are rarely armed and tend not to fire anything.

    A Greek Mirage 2000-5 fighter jet went down near the Aegean island of Skyros on Thursday, according to multiple reports, and Greece's defense minister has said the pilot is dead.

    The Greek newspaper Kathimerini cited a source as saying the Mirage had been returning from a mission to intercept Turkish jets.

    Both Turkish and Greek news outlets reported that a search-and-rescue operation by Greece's navy had been underway.

    "An M2000-5, 9 nautical miles of Iskiri (Skiros) Island disappeared in the northeast"Turkey's Milliyet newspaper reported, quoting a statement from Greece's air force.

    skyros greece turkey

    According to the Milliyet report, Turkey's military said its jets were nowhere near the scene of the crash at the time.

    Greece and Turkey frequently engage jets in dogfights over the Aegean Sea, but the planes are often unarmed and rarely fire missiles. 

    The Mirage is a single-engine multirole aircraft from the 1970s employed by air forces across Europe.

    SEE ALSO: Russia just threatened to target US jets in Syria — but the last thing it wants is an air war with the US

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    NOW WATCH: Why Russia is so involved in the Syrian Civil War

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    Apache_Helicopter_Firing_Rockets_MOD_45154922 1024x573 (DC)

    • Mike Pompeo, the head of the CIA and President Donald Trump's nominee for secretary of state, confirmed on Thursday that the US military killed hundreds of Russians in an intense fight in Syria.
    • The US had previously only confirmed killing 100 or so pro-Syrian regime forces, but multiple outlets reported the number was as high as 300 and that the soldiers were Russian military contractors.
    • Russian military contractors aren't official Russian troops, but volunteers to private military firms.
    • Reports on the firms' communications indicate they were badly humiliated by the lopsided loss. 

    Mike Pompeo, the head of President Donald Trump's CIA and his nominee for secretary of state, just confirmed that the US killed hundreds of Russians in an intense battle in Syria in February.

    Asked about what steps Pompeo would take as secretary of state to hold Russia accountable for its interference in the 2016 US election, he said that more work was to be done on sanctions to send Russian President Vladimir Putin a message. But, he said, Putin may have gotten another, clearer message already. 

    "In Syria now, a handful of weeks ago, the Russians met their match," said Pompeo. "A couple hundred Russians were killed."

    The US had previously only confirmed killing 100 or so pro-Syrian regime forces, but multiple outlets reported the number was as high as 300 and that the soldiers were Russian military contractors.

    Russia has used military contractors, or unofficial forces, in military operations before as a possible means of concealing the true cost of fighting abroad in places like Ukraine and Syria.

    The February battle was reportedly incredibly one-sided, as a massive column of mostly-Russian pro-Syrian regime forces approached an established US position in Syria and fired on the location.

    The US responded with a massive wave of airstrikes that crippled the force before it could retreat, and then cleaned up the remaining combatants with strafing runs from Apache helicopters.

    Phone calls intercepted by a US-funded news organization allegedly captured Russian military contractors detailing the humiliating defeat. "We got our f--- asses beat rough, my men called me ... They're there drinking now ... many have gone missing ... it's a total f--- up," one Russian paramilitary chief said, according to, the US-funded fact-checking website.

    France 24 published an interview in February with a man it described as a Russian paramilitary chief who said more Russians were volunteering to fight in Syria for revenge after the embarrassing loss.

    SEE ALSO: Russian warships have left port in Syria out of fear for their safety after Trump's missile threat

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    NOW WATCH: Why Russia is so involved in the Syrian Civil War

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    • President Donald Trump is said to have nailed down eight potential targets to strike in Syria, including two airfields, a research facility, and a chemical weapons facility, according to a CNBC report.
    • It's possible the locations lie far from Russian forces in the region and therefore would carry a low risk of escalating tensions with Russia — but the White House has indicated it's not afraid to target Russian assets.
    • Any strike on Syria, Russia's ally, runs the risk triggering a massive Russian response that could lead to war between the world's biggest nuclear powers.

    As President Donald Trump has cryptically hinted at looming action on Syria, a new report says he may have nailed down eight potential locations to strike.

    Citing an unnamed source, CNBC reported on Thursday that the US had selected eight possible targets in Syria, including two airfields, a research facility, and a chemical weapons facility.

    Such a strike would amount to punitive action against Syria for what the US and its allies consider a blatant use of chemical weapons against Syrian civilians. But it would still carry the risk of sparking a war with Russia.

    Ryan Bohl, a Middle East analyst at the geopolitical consulting firm Stratfor, told Business Insider that though Syria's chemical weapons facilities lay under the umbrella of Russia's air defenses, they were not actually close enough that a strike on the facilities would endanger Russian troops.

    Russia has threatened to use its air defenses against US missile strikes, and Russian officials have threatened to counterattack if US missiles fly over Syria, potentially by attacking US Navy ships or submarines.

    Dmitry Gorenburg, a senior research scientist at Harvard's Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies, told Business Insider that Russia had flown aircraft specializing in anti-submarine warfare to Syria. Russia has also moved its warships out of a naval base in Syria out of concern for their safety after Trump threatened strikes.

    Russia operates out of airfields in Syria, but it's unclear whether the US would target those. Syria has moved most of its jets to bases with Russian protection for fear of a strike, the CNBC report said.

    The White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, indicated on Wednesday that the US wasn't afraid to target Russian assets in a strike on Syria. But a Russian newspaper reported that the US had been coordinating with Russia to avoid hitting its troops and would provide a list of targets before a strike to avoid escalating conflict between the world's two largest nuclear powers.

    Russia's ambassador to the UN, Vassily Nebenzia, urged the US on Thursday to avoid military action, saying the "immediate priority is to avert the danger of war."

    Asked whether he was referring to a war between the US and Russia, Nebenzia said: "We cannot exclude any possibilities, unfortunately, because we saw messages that are coming from Washington — they were very bellicose. They know we are there. I wish there was dialect through the proper channels on this to avert any dangerous developments."

    He added: "The danger of escalation is higher than simply Syria because our military are there ... So the situation is very dangerous."

    Trump is trying to punish Syria, not start World War 3

    putin and assad

    Several experts have told Business Insider that despite Russia's tough talk, Russian President Vladimir Putin does not want a war with the US.

    "Putin is not interested in a shooting war with the West," Gorenburg said.

    Gorenburg said that because a war could escalate into a nuclear conflict between the US and Russia, and because "the Russian conventional forces just aren't as strong as the US forces," such a fight "would not be a good outcome for Russia."

    So far, Trump has played coy about the timing of a strike on Syria.

    "We're looking very, very seriously, very closely at that whole situation, and we'll see what happens, folks," he said Thursday, adding that a strike could happen "fairly soon."

    Meanwhile, France and the UK have been openly considering participating in a strike and sending forces to the region.

    The US, with or without allies, has enough military presence across the Middle East to crush Russian forces in Syria — but a direct attack on Russian forces carries a risk of escalating a conflict into nuclear war.

    SEE ALSO: Watch the US send an aircraft carrier to the Middle East while the US and Russia feud over Syria

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    NOW WATCH: Why Russia is so involved in the Syrian Civil War

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    Aircraft carrier

    • The prospect of Western military action in Syria that could lead to confrontation with Russia hung over the Middle East.
    • International chemical weapons experts were traveling to Syria to investigate an alleged gas attack by government forces on the town of Douma which killed dozens of people.
    • Russian Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich said international relations should not depend on one person's morning mood, in apparent reference to Trump's tweets.

    BEIRUT (Reuters) - The prospect of Western military action in Syria that could lead to confrontation with Russia hung over the Middle East on Friday but there was no clear sign that a U.S.-led attack was imminent.

    International chemical weapons experts were traveling to Syria to investigate an alleged gas attack by government forces on the town of Douma which killed dozens of people. Two days ago U.S. President Donald Trump warned that missiles "will be coming" in response to that attack.

    The allies of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad were eager on Friday to lay blame for the crisis not with him but with Trump.

    Russian Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich said international relations should not depend on one person's morning mood, in apparent reference to Trump's tweets.

    "We cannot depend on what someone on the other side of the ocean takes into his head in the morning. We cannot take such risks," said Dvorkovich, speaking at a forum.

    Russia has warned the West against attacking Assad, who is also supported by Iran, and says there is no evidence of a chemical attack in Douma, a town near Damascus which had been held by rebels until this month.

    Vassily Nebenzia, Moscow's ambassador to the United Nations, said he "cannot exclude" war between the United States and Russia.

    "The immediate priority is to avert the danger of war," he told reporters. "We hope there will be no point of no return."

    Sheikh Naim Qassem, deputy leader of the Iranian-backed Hezbollah, told Lebanese daily al-Joumhouria: "The conditions do not point to a total war happening...unless Trump and (Israeli leader Benjamin) Netanyahu completely lose their minds."

    U.S. allies have offered strong words of support for Washington but no clear military plans have yet emerged.

    British Prime Minister Theresa May won backing from her senior ministers on Thursday to take unspecified action with the United States and France to deter further use of chemical weapons by Syria.

    Trump was also expected to speak with French President Emmanuel Macron, who said on Thursday France had proof the Syrian government carried out the Douma attack and would decide whether to strike back when all necessary information had been gathered.

    Assad tightens grip

    putin and assad

    Trump himself appeared on Thursday to cast doubt on at least the timing of any U.S.-led military action, tweeting: "Never said when an attack on Syria would take place. Could be very soon or not so soon at all!"

    He met his national security team on the situation in Syria later in the day and "no final decision has been made," the White House said in a statement.

    "We are continuing to assess intelligence and are engaged in conversations with our partners and allies," it said.

    A team of experts from the global chemical weapons watchdog, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, was traveling to Syria and will start its investigations into the Douma incident on Saturday, the Netherlands-based agency said.

    The capture of Douma has clinched a major victory for Assad, crushing what was once a center of the insurgency near Damascus, and underlines his unassailable position in the war.

    He has cemented his control over most of the western, more heavily populated, part of the country, with rebels and jihadist insurgents largely contained to two areas on Syria's northern and southern borders.

    They still control the northwestern province of Idlib, near Turkey, and a southern region around Deraa, on the border with Jordan. Turkish forces and rebel allies control territory in northern Syria, while U.S.-backed Kurdish forces hold wide areas of the northeast, and pockets of Islamic State fighters remain.

    But none of those any longer directly threaten Assad's grip on power, which has been reinforced by Russian air power and Iran-backed fighters on the ground.

    SEE ALSO: Trump reportedly has 8 targets in mind for a Syria missile strike — and Russia said war could be coming

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    NOW WATCH: What living on Earth would be like without the moon

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    drill sergeant

    • Service members find themselves acting nearly uniformly and often shared habits go beyond a person's time in the military.
    •  For some veterans, the main habits that stuck related to seemingly mundane activities such as making sure to stay off the grass while walking outside.
    • We have shared some of the most illuminating habits below.

    Serving in the military can be a life-changing experience.

    New habits and ways of life are quickly adopted, and service members find themselves acting nearly uniformly.

    And these shared habits go beyond a person's time in the military.

    Responding to the question "To ex-military: What habit lasted the most?" on Reddit, several veterans shared routines and customs they had adopted in the military that continued to stick with them years into civilian life.

    We have shared some of the most illuminating habits below.

    For some veterans, the main habits that stuck related to seemingly mundane activities such as making sure to stay off the grass while walking outside. One Army veteran said, "I've been out nearly fifteen years, and I'm still very wary of walking on the grass."

    His experience was echoed by numerous other Army veterans. Another veteran shared, in response, how he first learned to avoid the grass at all costs:

    First week in the big green army. I didn't know shit about shit, just got my TA-50 from CIF and was returning to the barracks. I was walking past battalion when someone yelled at me, something like "Hey, Dick, stop right there!"

    Dropped my duffel bag, "Y-yes, Sergeant!!"

    "What does that sign say right there?"

    I look around frantically, what [f---ing] sign? Oh, like two feet to my front right. "Keep off grass, Sergeant!"

    That [f---er] had me low crawling across the grass with all of my TA-50 for like 2-3 hours. Just dragging my rucksack and duffel bag back and forth.

    Many years later, his retirement was announced on Facebook. I commented with that story. His response was, "I bet you stayed off the grass after that."

    drill sergeant knife handVeteran "68w"noted that his time in the military drilled into him a host of other habits that were impossible to exorcise without extreme care and attention.

    "I'm still 15 min prior to everything. I have even infected my coworkers with this. I still take my hat off indoors," 68w writes. "I have to purposely slow my eating. I still have an incredibly vulgar mouth. With this comes a proficiency with shit talking that gets me in trouble, as I do not know when to stop."

    Of course, some habits acquired in the military do have real practical worth that proves to be extremely useful in civilian life — even if a little strange for those who have never been exposed to the rationale behind the behavior.

    Army veteran "airborneAnDrowdy"notes that he still has to pack for trips in a certain way: "Been out 5 years. Socks man. Still in balls."

    Others in the Reddit thread quickly agreed, noting that the habit of packing all clothes in zip-close bags to ensure they wouldn't get wet also stuck. And airborneAnDrowdy concurred, saying that he only stopped packing in such a way in response to "the wife's 'recommendation.'"

    But not all habits learned in the military are necessarily perfect for civilian life.

    An Air Force veteran shared, to the near unanimous approval from the Reddit military community, his hardest habit to kick was, "Extreme vulgarity, sadly."

    Jeremy Bender contributed to an earlier version of this story.

    SEE ALSO: Military personnel reveal the most unusual punishments they've ever seen

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    NOW WATCH: The coolest phrases only people in the military use

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    Putin Missile

    • A former Russian navy admiral upped the ongoing war of words between the US and Russia.
    • Retired Admiral Vladimir Masorin said Russia would sink the USS Donald Cook if it fired on Syria.
    • The Cook is currently in the Mediterranean.

    A former Russian navy admiral upped the ongoing war of words between the US and Russia on Friday by saying the Russian navy would sink the USS Donald Cook, a guided-missile destroyer in the region, if it carries out a strike on Syria.

    Here's what retired Admiral Vladimir Masorin told Russian television:

    "It is unlikely that we will have to sink the Donald Cook. Yet, a torpedo is a very effective weapon that causes considerable damage to a vessel. Clearly, we are going to deal with a lot of pressure, but war is a dangerous thing for the Americans in the first place. They live in a completely different world over there, but we have no fear, we are fed up with the Americans, they are like a burr in the saddle." 

    Similarly, Syria reportedly promised to defend itself if attacked, though it's unclear what that means, as they have little capability to wage war against the US.

    But Russia actually has the means to sink the Cook, as it has a considerable naval presence in the eastern Mediterranean, which includes submarines with torpedoes. 

    However, the assumption that the Cook would strike Syria rather than a US submarine firing Tomahawk missiles from a submerged position, can't be realistically relied upon.

    Experts who spoke to Business Insider about the recent military tensions between the US and Syria over Russia have unanimously said that Russia is bluffing, and that they don't want a conventional war with the US, as they would quickly and soundly lose. 

    US Navy destroyers have already attacked Syria in April 2017 with 59 cruise missiles destroying a handful of Syrian planes. Though Russia protested the strike and made overtures about possible aggressive responses, the strike went largely unpunished.

    SEE ALSO: Trump reportedly has 8 targets in mind for a Syria missile strike — and Russia said war could be coming

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    NOW WATCH: Why Russia is so involved in the Syrian Civil War

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    special forces

    An Army Magazine article from 1956 that made the rounds on Twitter predicted what the soldier of the future would look like.

    In many ways, it was surprisingly accurate.

    The author, Lt. Col. Robert R. Rigg, prophesized that these advancements — from night vision goggles, to helicopter warfare, to drone strikes — would come after 1974. While he was technically correct, many came later than he foresaw.

    Here are 10 pieces of gear the "soldier of the future" has — right now.

    SEE ALSO: Here's every weapon the US Army gives to its soldiers

    Radios that offer constant communication with fellow soldiers.

    "The FutureArmy soldier ... will gain independence and action from an ultra-small radio transmitter and receiver," Rigg wrote. "This transceiver will ... place the individual soldier in communication with all other members of his fighting team."

    Most radios aren't built into helmets, but many soldiers are in constant communication with their squad mates through the use of intra-squad radios. Troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, for example, are typically carrying around small, lightweight radios that offer secure communications.

    Some, like special operations forces, use throat microphones (as the magazine also predicted) that transmit when the operator speaks. 

    Night vision goggles that help troops own the night.

    "The soldier will be able to ... change darkness into day with one flick of a wrist on the infrared dial and switch."

    Night vision was developed in the 1940s, but was not fielded in goggle form until 1977

    Night optical/observation devices, or NODs as soldiers call them, are standard issue for most troops in the field these days. However, even Rigg couldn't predict the rise of even better gear, such as thermal devices that can pick up on the human body's heat signature.

    Automatic carbine rifles to give troops more firepower against the AK-47.

    "The individual weapon of the Futurarmy soldier will be an automatic carbine which will replace at least four of today's weapons: the M1 rifle, the carbine, the AR, and the submachine gun."

    The automatic carbine, known as the M16, was first put into service in 1964, and was standard issue by 1969 — five years before Rigg predicted. Though the M16A1 gave soldiers in Vietnam plenty of problems, it's been continuously updated and improved.

    Many soldiers and Marines carry the M4 carbine — a shorter and lighter version of the M-16 — though most are no longer fully-automatic.

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    Tomahawk Missile USS Monterey

    • When President Donald Trump threatened to strike Syria, the US Navy only had one destroyer in the region — leading people to assume that it would take part in the strike.
    • But when the attack occurred, that ship didn't fire anything — which may have been a distraction ploy.
    • Instead, ships in the Red Sea fired a large portion of the missiles, while Syria and its Russian ally apparently failed entirely to defend it.
    • Russian threats to counter-attack also ultimately came to nothing.

    When President Donald Trump threatened to send missiles at Syria — despite Russia's promises to counter-attack — all eyes turned towards the US Navy's sole destroyer in the region. But that may have been a trick.

    Pundits openly scoffed at Trump's announcement of the strike days in advance, especially considering his criticism of Barack Obama for similar talk, but the actual strike appeared to go down well.

    In April 2017,  two US Navy destroyers in the eastern Mediterranean steamed into the region, let off 59 cruise missiles in response to suspected gas attacks by the Syrian government, and left unpunished and unpursued.

    But this time, Russian officials threatened to shoot down US missiles, and potentially the ships that launched them, if they attacked Syria. A retired Russian admiral spoke candidly about sinking the USS Donald Cook, the only destroyer in the region.

    When the strike happened, the Cook didn't fire a shot, and a source told Bloomberg News it was a trick.

    Instead, a US submarine, the USS John Warner, fired the missiles while submerged in the eastern Mediterranean, presenting a much more difficult target than a destroyer on the surface. Elsewhere in the sea, a French navy frigate let off three missiles.

    But the bulk of the firing came from somewhere else entirely — the Red Sea. 

    Near Egypt, the USS Monterey, a Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser fired 30 Tomahawk cruise missiles, and the USS Laboon, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer shot 7, accounting for about a third of the total 105 missiles fired.

    Combined with a trilateral air assault from a US B-1B Lancer bomber and UK and French fighter jets, the attack ended up looking considerably different than last year's punitive strike.

    Syria Air Strike Damascus

    Photos from the night of the attack show Syrian air defenses firing missile interceptors on unguided trajectories, suggesting they were simply blind fired, and did not target or intercept incoming missiles. 

    “No Syrian weapon had any effect on anything we did,” Lieutenant General Kenneth McKenzie told reporters of the strike on Saturday, calling the strike "precise, overwhelming and effective."

    Syria said it shot down 71 of the missiles fired, but no evidence has yet surfaced to vindicate that claim. During the last strike, the US admitted when one of its Tomahawks failed to reach its target due to an error with the missile.

    SEE ALSO: Trump's Syria strike achieves goal of loudly, publicly spanking Assad regime — but nothing else

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    Syria Air Strike Damascus

    • A false alarm led to Syrian air defense missiles being fired overnight and no new attack on Syria took place, Syrian state media and a military commander said on Tuesday.
    • Syrian and Hezbollah media had previously said Syria had thwarted missile attacks on two airfields.
    • The incident underscored fears of a further escalation in the Syrian conflict after a U.S., British and French attack on Syrian targets on Saturday and an air strike on an air base the previous week that Damascus blamed on Israel.

    AMMAN (Reuters) - A false alarm led to Syrian air defense missiles being fired overnight and no new attack on Syria took place, Syrian state media and a military commander said on Tuesday.

    Syrian state TV reported overnight that anti-aircraft defenses had shot down missiles fired at an air base in the Homs area, and a media unit run by the Lebanese group Hezbollah said missiles had also targeted an air base near Damascus.

    The incident underscored fears of a further escalation in the Syrian conflict after a U.S., British and French attack on Syrian targets on Saturday and an air strike on an air base the previous week that Damascus blamed on Israel.

    Syrian state news agency SANA cited a military source as saying a number of air defense missiles had been fired but no foreign attack had taken place.

    Separately, a commander in the regional military alliance backing the government attributed the malfunction to "a joint electronic attack" by Israel and the United States targeting the Syrian radar system.

    The issue had been dealt with by Russian experts, said the commander, who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity.

    State television had showed pictures of a missile it said was shot in the air above the air base.

    A Pentagon spokesman said there was no U.S. military activity in that area at this time. Asked about reports of the missile attack, an Israeli military spokesman said: "We don't comment on such reports."

    Saturday's strikes by the U.S., Britain and France were in retaliation for a suspected chemical weapons attack by the Syrian military in eastern Ghouta. Both Damascus and its ally Russia have denied using any such weapons.

    SEE ALSO: Trump's Syria strikes might have been illegal — and it shows Congress has limited power to stop him from going to war

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    NOW WATCH: What living on Earth would be like without the moon

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    Kim Jong Un

    • North and South Korea may be on the verge of announcing a peaceful end to the Korean War, which has gone on since 1950.
    • A South Korean intelligence source reportedly said the upcoming meeting between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in could result in the announcement.
    • North Korea seemed destined for war with South Korea and the US just one year ago, but many significant shifts have taken place, though experts remain skeptical.

    The upcoming summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae In could result in a historic announcement, with the sides declaring an end to the 68-year long war on the peninsula, according to a report.

    Newspaper Munhwa Ilbo cited an unnamed South Korean intelligence source as saying the coming Kim-Moon summit on April 27, the first time the leaders will meet face-to-face, may result in a peace announcement.

    The news follows weeks of planning between the South and North that kicked off with a thawing of previously tense relations during the Winter Olympics.

    Since then, Kim has expressed an unprecedented willingness to talk to the South, a desire to talk about denuclearization with the US, and traveled outside his country for the first time since assuming power in 2011 to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping.

    During the thaw, North Korea has seen an influx of South Korean visitors, including diplomatic delegations and Korean pop bands, with Kim himself sitting in on a performance that he reportedly loved.

    North Korea has also opened up the Kim family to publicity, sending his sister Kim Yo Jong to the games and upgrading the status of Ri Sol Ju, the wife of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, from "comrade" to "revered first lady" in a potential bid to create a cult of personality around her.

    The US maintains a wait-and-see attitude toward the talks, and has vowed to stay tough on North Korea by not letting up on sanctions or military pressure. But the customary military exercises that take place with the US and South Korea have been delayed and toned down since last year.

    Experts remain skeptical that North Korea would actually go through with its promises to denuclearize, as it has entered into negotiations in the past only to have them fall apart when it came time to inspect their nuclear sites.

    But South Korean diplomats repeatedly say Pyongyang has stuck to its promise of denuclearization, and even laid out specific plans for implementation.

    In any case, the relations between North Korea and the world have markedly turned since last year when President Donald Trump threatened the country with presumably nuclear "fire and fury" and Pyongyang spoke of firing missiles at US forces in Guam and detonating nukes in the sky.

    SEE ALSO: A new era of diplomatic relations with North Korea is on the horizon — here's what's happened so far

    DON'T MISS: Kim Jong Un appears to have totally caved to Trump's pressure — but it could be a trap

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    NOW WATCH: Why Russia is so involved in the Syrian Civil War

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    USS Michigan loading Tomahawk

    • Israeli officials cited in a Ynetnews report characterized the missile strike on Friday by the US, the UK, and France on suspected chemical weapons facilities in Syria as a failure.
    • Multiple Israeli government and military sources suggested the strike was not effective in hurting Syria's ability to conduct chemical attacks.
    • These officials also criticized President Donald Trump's talking about the strike beforehand.
    • The latest strike most likely didn't change anything on the battlefield in Syria, and it's hard to know how much of the chemical weapons stockpile it hit.

    The strike by the US, the UK, and France in Syria on Friday involved 105 missiles fired from air and sea to rain down thousands of pounds of explosives on three targets suspected of being chemical weapons facilities— but Israeli officials cited in a recent news report characterized it as a failure.

    "If President Trump had ordered the strike only to show that the US responded to [Syrian President Bashar] Assad's use of chemical weapons, then that goal has been achieved,"Israel's Ynetnews quoted a senior defense official as saying. "But if there was another objective — such as paralyzing the ability to launch chemical weapons or deterring Assad from using it again — it's doubtful any of these objectives have been met."

    An intelligence official who talked to Ynetnews wasn't as forgiving.

    "The statement of 'Mission Accomplished' and (the assertion) that Assad's ability to use chemical weapons has been fatally hit has no basis," the official said, most likely referring to a recent tweet from President Donald Trump.

    Unlike the US's strike in April 2017, the latest one did not target Syrian jets or airfields — though the earlier attack apparently had little impact, as Syrian jets took off from the damaged airfield within 24 hours and reports of chemical warfare persisted.

    Israel is apparently not impressed with Trump's tough talk

    t4 air base homs

    The Israeli officials seemed to take issue with Trump's talking about plans to strike before doing so.

    Israel is suspected of carrying out a silent but lethal air war against Iranian-aligned militias in Syria, though Israel seldom comments on whether it took part in specific strikes, and if it does, it's always after the fact.

    "If you want to shoot — shoot, don't talk," Ynetnews quoted an Israeli diplomatic source as saying. "In the American case, this is mostly talk. They themselves show actions are not going to follow."

    After Trump tweeted a warning last week to "get ready" for incoming missiles, it appears Russia and Syria moved assets to more protected locations in an attempt to limit the available targets for a strike.

    Nobody knows how many chemical weapons Assad has left

    Syria Chemical

    The US said the strikes hit the "heart" of Syria's chemical weapons infrastructure but acknowledged that some "residual" capabilities remained. The strike did not deal any damage to Syria's air force, which the US suspects of deploying the weapons.

    While Ynetnews' sources estimated that the strikes didn't take out the bulk of Syria's chemical weapons, it's hard to know the extent of its current stockpile or exactly where all the stores could be.

    International inspectors certified in 2013 that Syria had destroyed its chemical weapons facilities as a result of a deal brokered by Russia. But reports of chemical attacks have surfaced regularly since then, and Islamist rebels fighting in the town of Douma — the site of the suspected chemical attack earlier this month that sparked the US and allies' strike on Friday — say Assad is using the terrifying weapons to win on the battlefield.

    "They bombed and bombed, and we weren't defeated by conventional weapons, so they found the only way was to use chemical [weapons],"an official in the rebel group Jaysh Al Islam told Reuters.

    Despite the US and allies' latest missile strike, the Syrian government has strengthened and fortified its position by clearing out more rebel strongholds.

    The UK has acknowledged that the intention of the strikes was not to turn the overall tide in the war and was essentially meant as a punitive action to compel Assad not to use chemical weapons.

    SEE ALSO: Trump's Syria strikes might have been illegal — and it shows Congress has limited power to stop him from going to war

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    NOW WATCH: Why Russia is so involved in the Syrian Civil War

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