Russia Begins Production Of World’s Largest Helicopter


According to RT, the world’s most powerful heavy transport helicopter, the Mi-26 T2, is now officially on the production line, Russian Helicopters Corp. announced.

The Soviet-Russian heavy transport helicopter Mi-26 (NATO designation: Halo) remains world’s largest and most powerful helicopter to ever go into serial production.

The helicopter has both civilian and military modifications, writes RT.

What Is Jade Helm 15? Jon Stewart Discusses It.

Comedy Central

The discussion on Jade Helm 15 begins at roughly the 4:55 mark.

On May 4th, Jon Stewart discussed Texans’ irrationality in regards to the Jade Helm 15 military exercises.

(Updated article)

Annual War Games Near On The Korean Peninsula

Kim Jong Un and North Korea's militaryOn the Korean peninsula, the jittery season is drawing near: joint military exercises conducted by South Korea and the United States each spring will start next week.

North Korea tests 'cutting-edge' missile

The drills, involving thousands of troops and state of the art military hardware, don’t play well with North Korea.

“Each year, Pyongyang complains and demands a stop to these annual exercises, which it claims to be offensive in nature,” said Sung-Yoon Lee, a professor of Korean studies at Tufts University.

The United States and South Korea stress that the exercises, named Foal Eagle and Key Reserve, are supposedly defensive and non-provocative in nature. The North Korean regime,of course, doesn’t see it that way, and its state media has characterized the drills as rehearsals for an attack.

Philip Yun is the executive director of the Ploughshares Fund, a group that advocates nuclear disarmament. “The North Koreans, being paranoid in their own way, have always had this concern: ‘If there is going to be an invasion, this would be the time,'” said Yun.

In March 2013, the North Korean military went as far as claiming that the United States was carrying out the drills with the aim “to mount a preemptive nuclear strike together with its South Korean puppet forces.”  Playing up the threat also helps the North Korean leadership’s propaganda efforts to control the population, according to Yun.

As well as providing practice for the forces involved, the exercises send a message that the United States “would defend South Korea in the case of a North Korean invasion,” claimed Tong Kim, a visiting scholar at the U.S.-Korea Institute, part of Johns Hopkins University.

North Korea usually responds to the drills with a lot of angry rhetoric and a series of weapons tests.  Near the start of the year, North Korea typically demands the cancellation of the exercises, threats of impending doom are made, and rockets are fired into the sea.

On February 8th, just a day after the North announced it had successfully tested a “cutting-edge” anti-ship missile, North Korea fired five short-range missiles into the East Sea, according to the South Korean Defense Ministry.

The U.S. and South Korean militaries announced Tuesday that the exercises will run from March 2nd to April 24th.

Pyongyang also carries out their own drills each winter that analysts view as offensively minded.

Have the U.S. and South Korea ever suspended their drills?  Yes, amid nuclear negotiations with Pyongyang in early and mid-1990s, Washington held off on the drills several times.

“There is precedent, we have (suspended the drills) before,” said Yun. But he qualified that “circumstances have changed significantly since that period of time.”

North Korea has determinedly pressed on with its nuclear weapons program, regardless of international outcry. It has carried out a series of underground tests and launching long-range rockets that could be used as intercontinental missiles.

In January, Pyongyang suggested it would halt nuclear tests if the United States canceled the joint drills.  The news drew a sharp response from Marie Harf, a U.S. State Department spokeswoman.  Harf seemed convinced the drills with South Korea are defensive and not threatening.

“The offer, as I understand it, which we see as an implicit threat, is for the U.S. to stop doing something that is routine, that is transparent, that is defensive in nature, and that is annual … in exchange for the North Koreans not doing something that is prohibited under multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions and that they are not supposed to be doing,” Harf said.

“That’s really a false choice here,” she stated.

Why did tensions increase so much in spring 2013?  In 2012, North Korea conducted a long-range rocket test, followed by its third nuclear test two months later.

The United Nations responded with sanctions, and Pyongyang continued to ramp up its threats of nuclear war against South Korea and the United States.

One North Korean government website even uploaded a YouTube video showing an imaginary missile attack on Washington, D.C.

The U.S. decision to fly B-2 stealth bombers – which are capable of carrying nuclear weapons – over the region during the annual military drills only served to further antagonize the North.  “That was a really bad escalation of the tensions in the Korean peninsula,” Tong Kim said of the period.

But Pyongyang’s decisions to carry out the rocket launch and nuclear test were most likely carefully timed, according to Yun, who was part of U.S. teams that negotiated with North Korea under former President Bill Clinton.  “They game everything out. They don’t do things off the cuff for the most part,” he said of the North Koreans. “If they’re going to do something very provocative, they have an extensive decision tree laying out many options.”

Army Staff Sergeant Suicide

Military investigators have ruled that Army Staff Sgt. Heidi Ruh’s death on May 9, 2014, at Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo, was ruled a suicide, the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command said.

“Based on the totality of the investigation, to include the evaluation of evidence, death scene examination, interviews, and the final autopsy and toxicology reports conducted by the Armed Forces Medical Examiner, as well as the legal opinion, our investigation determined that (her)  manner of death was suicide and the cause was an intraoral gunshot wound,” Army CID spokesman Christopher Grey told Stars and Stripes in an email.

She joined the military in January 2003 as a biomedical equipment specialist. She was assigned to 1st Medical Brigade at Fort Hood, Texas, and deployed to Kosovo in January 2014 and was attached to Kosovo Force’s Multinational Battle Group-East.

Ruh was 32. Her home of record was listed as Barrington, Ill. She had two sons.

According to her obituary, Ruh was born on Aug. 27, 1981, at Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma, and was the daughter of Cathi and Scott Ruh. She was a 1999 graduate of Kiel High School, Kiel, Wisconsin. She served in Afghanistan and volunteered to go to Kosovo.

Deaf In The Military

TEDx Talks

Keith Nolan always wanted to join the United States military — but he’s deaf, an automatic disqualification according to military rules.

In this talk, he describes his fight to fight for his country.

This speech was made at TEDxIslay in Los Angeles, California on April 23, 2011. All of the speakers that day were deaf.

In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together.

Obama’s Budget-Boost For Military Spending Points To Brewing National Security Debate: WaPo

According to the Washington Post, the battle over the budget that President Obama will submit Monday is emerging as a proxy for the 2016 presidential election debate on national security.

The president will ask Congress to break through its own spending caps — commonly referred to as “sequestration” — and allocate about $561 billion for Pentagon expenditures, about $38 billion more than is currently allowed under the law.

There’s broad consensus in both parties that the military needs more money to modernize its forces and meet its responsibilities.  For now, though, it’s unclear how Congress and the White House can come to an agreement on where to find the additional funds.

The situation could provide an opening for Republicans to make an argument that they are the party best positioned to keep the country safe.

“A lot of Republicans see opportunity in an election that’s a referendum on Obama’s foreign policy,” said Danielle Pletka, vice president for foreign and defense policy studies at the conservative American Enterprise Institute.

Maddow: Waste In The Military? Why Is So Much Budget Information Classified?


Senator Claire McCaskill talks with Rachel Maddow about a new U.S. policy to classify information about how (and how much) money is spent in support of the Afghan security force.

They also talk about the new nominee for Secretary of Defense.

‘Money Shifting’ At The Pentagon

The U.S. Defense Department plans to shift money around and claim they are “saving money.”

According to Bloomberg, the Department plans to close 15 American bases in Europe and also base two new squadrons of F-35 fighter jets in the U.K.

Consolidation of U.S. posts across Europe will save the Pentagon about $500 million annually when it’s completed in five or six years.

However, the Pentagon must first spend $1.4 billion to move and close operations, according to John Conger, the acting deputy undersecretary of defense for installations and environment who outlined the plan at a briefing.

The restructuring will result in a net decrease of about 2,000 U.S. military and civilian personnel in Europe, according to Defense Department figures.

The plan calls for permanently basing the F-35s at Royal Air Force Lakenheath in the U.K. starting in 2020.

The biggest closures would also occur in the U.K., where the U.S. will return three major installations — Royal Air Force Mildenhall, RAF Alconbury and RAF Molesworth — and their supporting sites, resulting in a net decrease of about 2,000 Americans in the country.

More than 74,000 U.S. military and civilian personnel are based in Europe, according to a fact sheet provided by U.S. European Command on its website.

The Pentagon has sought for years to close domestic bases in the U.S. to save billions of dollars annually, as it tries to shed extra facilities after a decade of war in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Lawmakers have, however, blocked such efforts, questioning the cost savings and the potential loss of thousands of military jobs in their districts.

Instead, they have pressed the Defense Department to consolidate bases in Europe. The overseas closings, which the Pentagon said will take five to six years to complete, don’t require congressional action, although lawmakers could bar needed funding.

Congress already has approved a $985 million “European Reassurance Initiative” that President Barack Obama sought to upgrade some facilities, enhance regional training exercises and help strengthen the military capacity of eastern European allies and nations such as Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova, according to the Pentagon.

The reassurance was offered after Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine and backed pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.

“We have been working with our allies to reposition thousands of our military and civilian personnel within the region,” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said in a statement. “This transformation of our infrastructure will help maximize our military capabilities in Europe so that we can best support our NATO allies and partners in the region.”

The loss of Mildenhall will remove 3,200 U.S. personnel, offset partially by 1,200 going to RAF Lakenheath with the F-35 fighters. The Defense Department is working to bolster foreign sales and support for the F-35, which is still in development even as it’s being produced by Bethesda, Maryland-based Lockheed.

However, Germany and Italy will each gain several hundred U.S. personnel in the reorganization, offset by the loss of about 500 in Portugal.

Did anyone reading this know that the U.S. had military in Portugal?

While operations already had been scaled back at many of the bases targeted for closing or restructuring, the loss of some have resonance because of their military history.

Royal Air Force Alconbury, for example, was one of the main bases used by the U.S. Eighth Air Force’s B-24 and B-17 heavy bombers against Nazi Germany in World War II. During the Cold War, the U.S. stationed high-altitude U-2 spy planes at Alconbury.

Alconbury’s runway and flight line were already closed in the mid-1990’s, and it now operates as a “non-flying facility” under the control of the U.S. Air Force, according to the base’s website.

Jerry Boykin

Who is Jerry Boykin?

Sources state that William G. “Jerry” Boykin was the United States Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence under President George W. Bush from 2002 to 2007 and is a conservative Christian political activist.

He is currently executive vice president at the Family Research Council.

During his 36-year career in the U.S. Army, he spent 13 years in the Delta Force, including two years as its commander, and was involved in numerous high-profile missions, including the 1980 Iran hostage rescue attempt and the Black Hawk Down incident in Mogadishu, Somalia.

The Family Research Council was designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center in 2010.

Recently, Boykin said “Thank God For ISIS” for bringing attention to the “Destruction Of The Military,” and he claimed the military will “never get out of” the Middle East.

Video by Right Wing Watch.

Top Prosecutor Leaves Military to Reform Military Justice System

The Air Force's chief prosecutor, Col. Don Christensen, is going to work for the sexual assault victim advocacy group Protect Our Defenders. (Courtesy Don Christensen)

One of the military’s most highly regarded prosecutors is leaving the justice system he’s served for more than two decades to work for a group devoted to reforming it.

Col. Don Christensen, formerly the chief prosecutor for the Air Force, is retiring from the service in December and will become the president of Protect Our Defenders, an influential nonprofit that advocates for and supports military sexual assault victims and lobbies for military justice reform.

Christensen says changes are due to a system that enables perpetrators and punishes victims.

“I’ve seen how people in units rally around the accused,” he said.  “These are the future convening authorities.”

“We need to professionalize the justice system. Make it similar to what the rest of the world does.”

Christensen became well-acquainted with the advocacy group, also known as POD, after he won a conviction two years ago against Lt. Col. James Wilkerson on charges that the F-16 pilot and 31st Fighter Wing inspector general at Aviano Air Base in Italy had sexually assaulted a sleeping house guest.

At the time, Third Air Force commander Lt. Gen. Craig Franklin subsequently dismissed the case and reinstated Wilkerson into the force.

Franklin’s action — reversing the verdict and sentence of a five-colonel jury — shocked and angered numerous victims’ groups and U.S. lawmakers, who said it illustrated the bias confronting military victims of sexual crimes.

The case led to a host of legislative changes to the military justice system, including the end of commanders’ unfettered ability to dismiss verdicts and reduce sentences.

“I feel like military justice has been hijacked by a number of female senators and congresswomen,” said defense lawyer Frank Spinner, who represented Wilkerson.

After more than two decades working inside the system — as a defense lawyer, judge and prosecutor — Christensen says it remains deeply flawed.

“We need to bring balance to the system,” he said. “We’ve shoveled all these rights onto the accused that don’t appear anywhere else.”

Under the military justice system, for instance, alleged victims can be ordered to give repeated interviews and depositions to the defense before trial. And unlike in the civilian court system, defendants can call supporters to provide “good character evidence” during the trial, which by itself can raise “reasonable doubt” for an acquittal.

Christensen said he’d decided to work for Protect Our Defenders because he considers the group focused and savvy. “When they advocate changes, they’ve actually thought through how the changes will affect the criminal justice system,” he said. “I also know they’re pro-military.”

Still, he said, he expected his new career choice would be controversial. “I’ll lose friends,” he said. “There are some people who are so hostile to anything anti-military-justice, they’ll think I’m selling out.”

Nancy Parrish, POD founder and former president, said she was “honored and humbled” that Christensen was coming on board.

“Col. Christensen knows the ins and outs of our military justice system,” she said. “He has seen, up close and personal, the lack of justice victims too often receive in the military justice system, which puts a victim’s fate in the hands of the rapists’ boss rather than professional, legally trained experts.”

At POD, Christensen will “fight to improve the military that he loves,” Parrish said.