Switzerland is a politically neutral country, yet it has a strong military. All across the Swiss alps are military installation and bunkers carefully hidden so as to blend into the surrounding landscape. Some of them are camouflaged as huge rocks, others as quiet villas or barns that could open up in the event of an emergency to reveal cannons and heavy machine guns that could blow any approaching army to smithereens. Enormous caverns are dugout on the mountain side to function as ad-hoc airbases with hangars. Every major bridge, tunnel, road and railway has been rigged so they could be deliberately collapsed, whenever required, to keep enemy armies out. Highways can be converted into runways by quickly removing the grade separations in between the lanes.
Is that a rock?
The country has nuclear fallout shelters in every home, institutions and hospitals, as well as nearly 300,000 bunkers and 5,100 public shelters that could accommodate the entire Swiss population if required. Switzerland also has one of the largest armies on a per capita basis, with 200,000 active personnel and 3.6 million available for service. Every male citizen under 34 years old (under 50 in some cases) is a reserve soldier. Soldiers are even allowed to take all personally assigned weapons to home. If anyone were to invade Switzerland, they would find a nation armed to the teeth.
In his 1984 book, La Place de la Concorde Suisse, acclaimed New Yorker author John McPhee quoted a Swiss officer as saying: “Switzerland doesn’t have an army, Switzerland is an army.” Indeed, Switzerland’s powerful citizen army has helped preserve the country’s neutrality and keep neighboring countries from invading Swiss territory. The country hasn’t been involved in any military conflict for 200 years.
A bunker disguised as a house.
Fortification of the Swiss alpine region began in the 1880s. They were intensified and modernized during the World War and again during the Cold War period. But today, as a neutral country with no immediate threats to its borders, most of the bunkers lie empty and many are falling into disrepair. Some have been converted into shelters for homeless people, others house things like museums and hotels.
The Swiss government considered closing them down but the cost of decommissioning — an estimated $1 billion — far surpasses what it takes annually to maintain them. While the matter is still debated, the bunkers are likely to stay because they still provide use as fallout shelters. “Neutrality is no guarantee against radioactivity,” they say. In 1978, a law was passed requiring all new buildings to incorporate a shelter. If a family decides against building a shelter, they must pay for a place in the public shelter. Switzerland is the only country in the world that could provide protection to its entire population of 8 million, and more.
The U.S. military’s mysterious X-37B has returned to Earth following a record-setting 908 days in orbit around the planet, though what it was doing for all that time largely remains a closely guarded secret. The curious unmanned craft reportedly touched down at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center early Friday morning and was preceded by a pair of powerful sonic booms that rattled residents, who were left scratching their heads until the source of the sounds was ultimately revealed. The landing marked the conclusion of the X-37B’s sixth mission, which began when it was launched back in May of 2020.
While details surrounding the X-37B mission are somewhat scant, a U.S. Space Force press release touting the craft’s return gave some insight into some of the work that had been conducted during the 908 days it was orbiting the Earth. They revealed that one experiment aboard the space plane “successfully harnessed solar rays outside of Earth’s atmosphere and aimed to transmit power to the ground in the form of radio frequency microwave energy.” Meanwhile, a NASA study utilizing the craft’s marathon mission length looked at “the effect of long-duration space exposure on seeds.” The space plane’s 908 days in orbit smashed the record previously set by the X-37B fifth mission, which lasted 780 days.
The United States Space Force (USSF) is the space service branch of the U.S. Armed Forces, one of the eight U.S. uniformed services, and the world’s only independent space force. Along with its sister branch, the U.S. Air Force, the Space Force is part of the Department of the Air Force, one of the three civilian-led military departments within the Department of Defense. The Space Force, through the Department of the Air Force, is overseen by the secretary of the Air Force, a civilian political appointee who reports to the secretary of defense, and is appointed by the president with Senate confirmation. The military head of the Space Force is the chief of space operations who is typically the most senior Space Force officer. The chief of space operations exercises supervision over the Space Force’s units and serves as one of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Space Force personnel are called Guardians.
This uniform description from Reddit: The new Space Force uniforms make you look like a fascist bus-driver from “The Jetsons.”
In Death Valley National Park, north of Barstow, California, is Rainbow Canyon. It’s not especially remarkable, just one canyon in an area full of them, all but indistinguishable from its neighbors in an area populated mainly by snakes. But stand on one of the canyon tops for long enough and a fighter jet will suddenly roar into the valley below you, flying fast and very, very low. It will be visible for only a few seconds before it turns hard and disappears behind the next hill. But during those few moments, anyone with a camera has a brief chance to take a spectacular picture. Rainbow Canyon (or Star Wars Canyon, as some call it) is part of the R-2508 restricted airspace complex, host to a busy, low-level training route for combat aircraft.
Military pilots train to fly low and fast, hiding behind hills to fool radar and going fast enough that they can’t be shot at. Since flying is a perishable skill, every fighter or attack pilot periodically has to practice such low-level flights. Rainbow Canyon is in the desert of eastern California, where the population is sparse and the airspace wide open. It’s also surrounded by military bases, bombing ranges, maneuvering grounds and radars—an ideal spot for military pilots to hone their skills. Among the nearby facilities are Edwards AFB, Naval Air Station China Lake, and Plant 42 (where Lockheed and Northrop build advanced aircraft).
Artist rendering of LLD laser mounted on a ship. Credit: Lockheed Martin
The US Navy Office of Naval Research has successfully tested an all-new, fully electric laser weapon system. Designed to fry aerial threats like drones and missiles, the new weapon system is entirely electric, so it doesn’t require chemicals.
WEAPONIZED LASER SYSTEM DEVELOPMENT INCREASING
Around the world, military forces are increasingly testing and deploying laser systems. The Debrief recently reported on the Iron Beam weapon system successfully tested by the Israeli Defense Ministry. The U.S. military has also tested several laser-based weapons systems with varying degrees of success, including a ship-mounted laser that blasted an incoming surface drone to pieces.
211214-N-VQ947-1142 GULF OF ADEN (Dec. 14, 2021) — Amphibious transport dock ship USS Portland (LPD 27) conducts a high-energy laser weapon system demonstration on a static surface training target, Dec. 14, while sailing in the Gulf of Aden. During the demonstration, the Solid State Laser – Technology Maturation Laser Weapons System Demonstrator Mark 2 MOD 0 aboard Portland successfully engaged the training target. (U.S. Navy photo illustration by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Devin Kates)
NAVY LASER BLASTS ALL TARGETS FROM THE SKY
Dubbed the Layered Laser Defense system (LLD) by the Office of Naval Research (ONR), the Lockheed Martin designed laser weapon marks a significant technological breakthrough. Unlike laser weapons systems designed and tested in the 1980s, the LLD is entirely electric. As such, the LLD system carries no chemicals or propellants, dramatically improving safety and cost concerns. Also, since the final model is designed for on-ship deployment, the LLD could theoretically operate with unlimited ammunition as long as the ship can provide electrical power.
“The Navy performed similar tests during the 1980s but with chemical-based laser technologies that presented significant logistics barriers for fielding in an operational environment,” said Dr. Frank Peterkin, the ONR’s directed energy portfolio manager. “And, ultimately, those types of lasers did not transition to the fleet or any other service.”
There is also a cost-savings benefit to the Navy for this type of system. For example, Israel’s Iron Dome costs upwards of $150,000 to bring down a single incoming missile, while a disabling shot from their Iron Beam laser system costs at most a few hundred dollars. According to a report in New Atlas, the LLD is expected to cost around a dollar per shot.
The system offers other advantages as well. For example, it is equipped with a high-resolution telescope that lets operators identify and assess the weapon’s effectiveness. The system can also adjust its power output, which can disable and not destroy specific targets the Navy may not want to destroy. The system can also target surface threats like fast attack boats or water-borne drones.
In February, the Office of Naval Research carried out the LLD system tests at the US Army’s High Energy Laser Systems Test Facility at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. According to a report by TechSpot, “the LLD was tested against a wide range of targets, including unmanned fixed-winged aerial vehicles and quadcopters as well as the high-speed drones that acted as subsonic cruise missile replacements.” All tests were a success, with the LLD system downing every target.
A Russian warship that was damaged by an explosion on Wednesday has sunk, Russia’s defence ministry has said.
Moskva, the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea fleet, was being towed to port when “stormy seas” caused it to sink, according to a ministry message.
The 510-crew vessel was an important symbolic and military target, and has led Russia’s naval assault on Ukraine.
Ukraine claims it struck the warship with its missiles, but Russia has made no mention of an attack.
Late on Thursday, however, Russian state media broke the news that the ship had been lost.
“While being towed … towards the destined port, the vessel lost its balance due to damage sustained in the hull as fire broke out after ammunition exploded. Given the choppy seas, the vessel sank,” state news agency Tass quoted the ministry as saying.
Earlier, Russia had said there was a fire on board after ammunition exploded.
Ukrainian military officials said they struck the Moskva with a Ukrainian-made Neptune missile – a weapon designed after Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, and the naval threat to Ukraine in the Black Sea grew.
Earlier in the conflict the Moskva gained notoriety after calling on Ukrainian border troops defending Snake Island in the Black Sea to surrender – to which they memorably radioed a message of refusal which loosely translates as “go to hell”.
Originally built in Ukraine in the Soviet-era, the Moskva entered service in the early 1980s according to Russian media.
The missile cruiser was previously deployed by Moscow in the Syria conflict where it supplied Russian forces in the country with naval protection.
It carries over a dozen Vulkan anti-ship missiles and an array of anti-submarine and mine-torpedo weapons, the reports said.
The Moskva is the second major Russian ship known to have been severely damaged since the invasion began.
Namesake Glory (1979–2000), Moscow (2000–2022) Builder 61 Kommunara Shipbuilding Plant (SY 445), Nikolayev, Soviet Union Laid down 1976 Launched 1979 Commissioned 30 January 1983 Decommissioned September 1990 Reinstated April 2000 Identification 121 Fate Sunk on 14 April 2022, responsibility disputed Notes Flagship of the Black Sea Fleet
The Chilean Army comes by its German influences and traditions honestly, from a decent-sized influx of German immigrants during the second half of the 19th century, most of whom settled in the southern part of the country, centered around Puerto Montt, where the weather is cooler and wetter, and where dairy farms and breweries now abound. But it didn’t end with Chile. Bolivia, Columbia and Argentina all used German advisors, techniques and uniforms. Right up to the present day.
(Bolivian soldiers with stahlhelm M35 helmets and M16 assault rifles.)
(Argentine soldiers with Casco M38 helmets in the mid-1940s.)
Former US Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman general Mike Mullen with Chilean honour guard 2012.
Chilean army 2014
German Waffen SS troops 1944
(Colombian troops on the streets of Bogota in the 1948-1949 time frame.)
Traditions are hard to break, especially military tradition.
Not to be left out of the equation, the U.S. changed their military helmets in the early 1980’s. The Advanced Combat Helmet (ACH) is the United States Army’s current combat helmet. Although very different from the German helmets, the U.S. helmet does have a similar look.