The U.S. military is suddenly getting back into the hot air-intercept business again with a vengeance — and as we all wring our hands over the geopolitical implications, it’s as good a time as any to remember that even in times of relative calm, fighter jockeys are always running danger-close interdictions, flirting with mechanical disaster and global crisis. Case in point: this berserker video of a NATO F-16 buzzing the Russian defense minister’s jet and being politely told to piss off by an SU-27 Flanker.
The “exclusive” footage appears to be from Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu’s Tuesday trip to Kaliningrad, a Russian enclave on the Baltic Sea surrounded by NATO member nations. The video comes from the Russian Defense Ministry’s TV station Zvedza — yes, their military has a TV station, and yes, it’s a little slicker than the Pentagon Channel — and it shows what pilots probably consider a non-event, and civvies file away as a “HOLY SHIT WHAT THE EVERLASTING FUCK” moment.
According to the first reports and analysis of the footage, the F-16 (most probably a Polish Air Force Block 52+ aircraft supporting the NATO Baltic Air Policing mission from Lithuania – hence, armed) shadowed the Tu-154 aircraft (most probably the aircraft with registration RA-85686) carrying the defense minister en route to the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad when one armed Russian Su-27 Flanker escorting Shoigu’s plane maneuvered towards the NATO aircraft, forcing it to move farther.
The F-16 eventually meandered away, after giving the Russian aircraft a bit of how’s-your-father. As Cenciotti puts it, “Similar close encounters occur quite frequently in the Baltic region.” He’s not wrong: Also on Tuesday, U.S. commanders blasted a Russian SU-27 crew for “erratically” buzzing an American RC-135 recon aircraft in the same patch of sky.
But how many similar encounters get the sensational propaganda treatment that this one did? Zvezda interviewed a Russian “expert” who called the probably Polish F-16 driver an American “air pirate.”
"The American fighter broke all norms and arrangements and actually behaved like an air pirate,” the “expert,” Aleksandr Zhilin, told the Russian military TV station. “Thank God that the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation are headed by a sensible person, and thank God that our fighter acted beyond all praise.”
He added: "The Americans completely trampled on international law and today behave simply like robbers."
Every once in a while, we run across a photo in The Times-Picayune archives that's so striking that it begs a simple question: "What in the name of Momus Alexander Morgus is going on in this New Orleans photograph?" When we do, we've decided, we're going to share it — and to attempt to answer that question.
Members of the Syrian Democratic Forces control the monitor of their drone at their advanced position, during the fighting with Islamic State's fighters in Nazlat Shahada, a district of Raqqa. (Reuters/Zohra Bensemra)
MUSCAT (Reuters) - The United States should keep arming and aiding the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) following the planned U.S. withdrawal from Syria, provided the group keeps up the pressure on Islamic State, a senior U.S. general told Reuters on Friday.
Long before Tony Stark took a load of shrapnel to the chest in a distant war zone, science fiction legend Robert Heinlein gave America the most visceral description of powered armor for the warfighter of the future. Forget the spines of extra-lethal weaponry, the heads-up display, and even the augmented strength of an Iron Man suit — the real genius, Heinlein wrote in Starship Troopers, "is that you don't have to control the suit; you just wear it, like your clothes, like skin."
"Any sort of ship you have to learn to pilot; it takes a long time, a new full set of reflexes, a different and artificial way of thinking," explains Johnny Rico. "Spaceships are for acrobats who are also mathematicians. But a suit, you just wear."
First introduced in 2013, U.S. Special Operations Command's Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit (TALOS) purported to offer this capability as America's first stab at militarized powered armor. And while SOCOM initially promised a veritable Iron Man-style tactical armor by 2018, a Navy spokesman told Task & Purpose the much-hyped exoskeleton will likely never get off the launch pad.
"The prototype itself is not currently suitable for operation in a close combat environment," SOCOM spokesman Navy Lt. Phillip Chitty told Task & Purpose, adding that JATF-TALOS has no plans for an external demonstration this year. "There is still no intent to field the TALOS Mk 5 combat suit prototype."