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In the last week of June, at an airfield outside Moscow, Russia laid out a smorgasbord of military hardware—including everything from tanks to anti-aircraft batteries—and invited some of the most militaristic nations in the world do some pleasant summer shopping. Meat was grilled in barbecue pits, comely models stood around in mini-skirts, ’80s music and obnoxious techno pounded through the speakers, and once a day, a choreographer from the Bolshoi Theater staged a “tank ballet” of twirling war machines that was grandiloquently titled, “Unconquerable and Legendary.”

Welcome to the deceptively titled Forum for Technologies in Machine Building, the biennial Russian arms bazaar that President Vladimir Putin inaugurated in 2010. Delegations from Iran, Bahrain, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, among many others, attended the expo this year, and spent their time ogling cruise missiles, climbing into armored jeeps and trying out the most famous—and most deadly—Russian weapon of them all: the Kalashnikov assault rifle, which is thought to hold the stomach-turning honor of having killed more people than any other weapon in the history of man.

On the afternoon of June 28, TIME followed around the delegation to the arms bazaar from Syria, who, like many of the participants, would not legally be able to buy their weapons in the West (the TIME magazine story is available to subscribers here). For the past 16 months, Syrian forces loyal to President Bashar Assad have brutally tried to crush a homegrown rebellion, which has already cost around 15,000 lives, including thousands of women and children. The U.S. and Europe have responded by banning weapons sales to Syria, and along with their allies in the Arab world, they have pushed for an international arms embargo against Assad’s government. But Russia, the world’s second largest arms dealer after the U.S., has used its veto power in the U.N. to block these sanctions. With around $4 billion in weapons contracts to fulfill for its Syrian clients, Russia has continued supplying arms to Damascus, which gets nearly all of its weapons from Russia.

It was impossible to tell what, if anything, the Syrians came to the Moscow arms bazaar to purchase. Such deals would be signed behind closed doors, and both sides declined to comment. Colonel Isam Ibrahim As’saadi, the military attache at the Syrian embassy in Moscow, chaperoned the three officials in town from Damascus, and they would only say that they came to Moscow especially to attend the fair. The items that seemed to interest them most that day were armored military vehicles, trucks equipped with roof-mounted rocket launchers and brand new Kalashnikov assault rifles. Andrei Vishnyakov, the head of marketing for Izhmash, the company that created the AK-47, spent more than an hour selling them on the virtues of the firm’s new sniper rifles and machine guns. Before handing the head of the Syrian delegation a silencer-equipped AK-104, Vishnyakov said: “This weapon is perfect for close-quarters combat, house to house.” The Syrian official then lifted the gun’s sight to his eye and pointed it across the crowded pavilion, no doubt wondering how useful it could be back home.

Simon Shuster is TIME’s Moscow reporter.

Yuri Kozyrev is a contract photographer for TIME and was named the 2011 Photographer of the Year in the Pictures of the Year International competition.

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Look out, Arma!
The guys over at PCG noticed that the US Army’s CryEngine-powered “Dismounted Soldier Training System” has two trailers out. Do military training technologies need trailers? Hard to say, unless they are angling to become the third contender for the military manshoots arms race? These trailers are perhaps a little austere to complete with the big boys boombox bombast, but it’s nice and simulatory, as you can see below, so perhaps they could square off with Arma 3.
(more…)

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All it takes are two groups of people, one to gather and one to march past them. Parades took place across the globe these past two months for a variety of celebrations, from shows of military power, to tributes to organized labor, to pride for one’s country or culture. -- Lloyd Young (37 photos total)
Performers dance in the street parade at the annual Notting Hill Carnival in central London Aug. 29.. Revelers flocked to west London for one of Europe's biggest street parties, with record numbers of police on duty to prevent a repetition of riots that shook the British capital three weeks ago. Notting Hill Carnival, an annual celebration of Caribbean culture that usually draws about 1 million people for a colorful procession of musicians and performers. (Olivia Harris/Reuters)

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Adam Rutherford at the Guardian has put together a lovely tribute to the space shuttle.

About 18 months ago, we at Nature started to think about the shuttle's retirement. Others will and have written about the scientific legacy of this grandstanding space programme, but I just wanted to make something beautiful. I figured that as each flight followed a very distinct path (countdown, launch, roll, pitch, yaw, jettison boosters etc.), we could show one journey, cut from every single mission, in order.

Nasa, an organisation that has put men on the moon, kept their video archive on VHS. One of my editors described this as "humankind's greatest achievement recorded on the world's lousiest format". So the first job was to digitise and sift through more than a hundred hour-long videotapes.

I knew that I wanted this to be a music video, and that the soundtrack should be soaring, anthemic and unapologetically triumphalist. Twitter led me to the Sheffield band 65daysofstatic, whose rousing, uplifting energy embodies my sentiments perfectly in two different songs. Two brilliant editors, Nature's Charlotte Stoddart, and the band's video producer Dave Holloway took those songs, and all that shonky footage, and made it better than I ever could have imagined. Each space shuttle mission is there, in chronological order (note: the mission numbering does not follow, for various reasons).

This is a deeply personal film. Those spaceships have been in my life since as long as I can remember, and I think many feel that shared ownership.

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How ill are the Mexican drug wars getting? The drug cartels are building their own armored trucks.

Rival drug gangs are playing around with really serious military hardware, including .50 caliber machine guns and grenades. At least some of them figured out an armoring solution for the uptick in firepower: armoring. Chop shops add inch-thick steel plates to a standard truck chassis like that of a Ford F-150. At least 100 of the so-cold “El Monstruo” monster trucks have been discovered by Mexican security officials this spring, with the most recent two found this weekend. (Thanks to Justin Elliott for the tip.)

The Mexican media call these Los Monstruos “tanks,” and not without reason. One discovered in April had room inside for 12 gangsters, with “two turrets on top and six lateral firing ports” built in. Others are cruder, resembling up-armored SUVs that can withstand “rounds from M-16 and AK-47s,” according to one report.

Still, our pal Paul McLeary thinks that’s not quite accurate — not least of which because these are wheeled vehicles, not tracked ones. A Monstruo captured last month looks “more like the down-on-its-luck little cousin of an MRAP or MAT-V than an Abrams or a Leopard,” Paul observes.

Either way, expect to see one of these on, say, season six of Breaking Bad.

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Luis Robayo / AFP - Getty Images

Colombian soldiers guard a homemade submersible in a rural area of Timbiqui, Colombia, on Feb. 14, 2011. A submersible has the capacity to transport eight tons of cocaine, and it can sail from Colombia to Mexico. The Colombian Army said they found the sub on the southwestern coast of the Colombian Pacific Ocean.

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Robert Hood says: I was a passenger on a U.S. Navy submarine and few years ago, and I was completely overwhelmed by how complex and dangerous a submarine is. So many things can go wrong at any time. It seemed to me that the submariners’ well-practiced skills and professionalism are the only things that prevent tragedies from happening every day. It’s difficult to imagine a drug smuggling organization approaching that kind of skill and organization. Maybe we underestimate them.

El Tiempo Newspaper reports:
Officials were surprised at the advanced technology used to make the 100 ft. long vessel, which allows for complete submersion, making it virtually undetectable.

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