Countries that border the Pacific are taking part in a massive exercise called “Rim of the Pacific” or “RIMPAC.” Dozens of ships, hundreds of aircraft, and thousands of people are practicing their warfighting skills in RIMPAC.
Military photographers and videographers have been sending out hundreds of excellent photos and videos from the exercise this year, and here are 19 of the best of what they’d captured:
1. Marines and U.S. allies attacked the beaches of Hawaii in a simulated amphibious assault
2. Once the Marines hit the sand, they flooded out of their vehicles and got to work
3. Marine attack helicopters flew overhead and provided support to the guys on the ground
5. Ashore, infantry Marines prepped for the hard fight to the island’s interior
6. At training areas past the sand, the Marines practiced assaulting buildings and bunkers
7. They even went to firing ranges to practice making stuff blow up
8. Out at sea, the Navy got in the action with a large formation of 40 ships that included some surprising participants …
BTW, if you want to see hundreds of photos of these 40 ships sailing next to each other, just click on this link. Literally hundreds. There are different angles and close-ups on dozens of the ships available.
9. … like the Coast Guard’s USCGC Stratton …
10. … and a Chinese hospital ship, the Peace Ark
11. Onboard the Peace Ark, doctors and other medical personnel practiced treating patients and responding to humanitarian crises
12. Another Chinese ship, the multirole frigate Hengshui, fired on targets to display its proficiency
13. Under the waves, a New Zealand dive unit had to locate an 18-foot shipping container and assist in its recovery
14. A Canadian team found and interrogated an underwater wreck during their training
15. Forces from four allied countries land on a “captured” beach on a Royal Australian Navy landing craft
16. Military vehicles laid down beach matting to prevent other vehicles from slipping on the loose sand. The matting can be laid down in combat to allow tanks and other heavy vehicles to assault towards their objectives quickly
17. Royal Australian combat engineers cleared the way inland for allied forces by searching out mines and other simulated explosives
18. Air Force F-22 Raptors and a tanker aircraft assisted with the exercise, allowing the Air Force to improve its interoperability with the U.S. Navy and foreign militaries
19. The Mexican Navy sent small craft to southern California to practice working with U.S. Navy riverine craft, the small boats that patrol rivers and other tight waterways
RIMPAC takes place on most even-numbered years and has been held 25 times since 1971. America’s traditional allies in the Pacific usually attend, but some rivals like Russia and China are common guests as well.
In 2013, the Obama Administration drafted what became known at “the Playbook,” an 18-page drone strike policy guideline laying out how the President orders a targeted killing of an enemy combatant abroad. A few days ago, the administration released a redacted version of the policy as a result of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union.
The Presidential Policy Guidance (or PPG, the official name of Obama’s “playbook”) first place an emphasis on capturing the enemy, instead of raining death from above. If capturing the terrorist (referred to in the PPG as the “HVT,” or High-Value Terrorist) is not “feasible,” the policy outlines the steps to be taken to designate an HVT for “Lethal Action.”
1. We know who we’re supposed to be killing
According to the PPG, only “an individual whose identity is known will be eligible to be targeted.”
2. They’re definitely up to something
The strike will be approved if the “individual’s activities pose a continuing, imminent threat to U.S. persons.”
3. We definitely know where the person is
U.S. forces have to know with “near-certainty” that an HVT is present.
4. Only lawful combatants are hit
The attacking drone operator has to have “near certainty that non-combatants will not be injured or killed.”
6. Capture isn’t a feasible possibility
This rule actually only means that capture isn’t feasible at the time of the operation. So this really just means the U.S. could capture the HVT or just wait and kill it later.
7. The HVT’s host country is no help
The government where the terrorist lives isn’t going to do anything about it, so we have to handle it ourselves.
8. We really just have to kill this person
“No other reasonable alternatives to lethal action exist.”
At this point, number five might be glaring at you, but there’s not even a hint at what the redacted criterion might be. Even the 2013 PPG summary memo released by the White House left out this factoid and any glimmer of its contents.
Since Obama took office, there have been 373 drone strikes abroad, with an estimated 4,000 killed. (Up to 966 of those deaths were civilians.) Four Americans have been killed by such drone strikes, but only one – the 2011 targeting of American-born Yemeni cleric Anwar Al-Awlaki – was a planned target.
The Marine Corps has unveiled a new badge for its elite Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command operators, an eagle with outstretched wings clutching a Raider stiletto with a constellation that represents the Marines who served in the Pacific in World War II.
“The individual MARSOC operator must be trained and educated to think critically and function in an increasingly complex operating environment — to understand and interact in dynamic, dangerous and politically-sensitive battlefields,” Maj. Gen. Carl E. Mundy III, commander, U.S. Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command, said in a press release. “Our rigorous training pipeline ensures that a newly minted critical skills operator has developed the skills required for full spectrum special operations. This badge serves as a visual certification that they have trained and prepared to accept their new responsibilities.”
The same press release details the badge’s symbols:
The center of the 2-inch x 2.75-inch insignia consists of the bald eagle, representing the United States, with outstretched wings to symbolize the global reach of the U.S. Marine Corps. A dagger clutched by the eagle reflects the emblem of Marine Raider Battalions and the Marine Special Operations School. The Southern Cross constellation superimposed on the dagger represents the historic achievements of the Marines serving during the Pacific campaign of WWII, specifically those actions on Guadalcanal. The Southern Cross remains a part of the legacy of modern-day Marine Corps Raider units.
MARSOC is the newest of the major special operations commands and was officially formed in 2006 so the Marine Corps would have a headquarters which could work directly with U.S. Special Operations Command.
The unit’s lineage is traced back to Marine Raiders of World War II who conducted vital operations against Japanese defenders in the Pacific Theater of that war.
Three Raider battalions make up the primary fighting force of MARSOC. The first Raiders of this modern unit were recruited out of top-tier units like Marine Reconnaissance and Force Reconnaissance battalions.
The United States Air Force gets a lot of (brotherly) hate from its sister branches, many claiming that we Airmen (and women, but big “A” here) have it easy. Though we often try to justify our already awesome branch, the others aren’t always entirely wrong. Here are what some think are the top 10 Air Force luxuries that almost make an airman feel guilty.
1. Barracks? We don’t need no stinking barracks!
Unless we’re stationed in Korea or a single digit number of other near-war zone areas, the airmen who must live on base get to do so in the comfort of single, double or quad-style apartment dormitories as opposed to 20 or more person barracks.
We live the college kid life of having our own bed, sink and closet with more often than not the only thing we share being bathrooms, kitchens and common areas. I don’t know about you, but I can really get behind not having my roommate’s snoring keep me awake.
2. Not Quite Hogwarts, but still…
When it comes to eating – grub, chow, mess, food – everyone looks to the Air Force as the “presidential” treatment. You want two slices of cake? Feel free. What’s that? A Twix or a Snickers bar for the road? They’re right there waiting for you.
I’ve never met anyone from a non-USAF branch that didn’t think we had the best DFACs and the best quality of food in ’em. And if it’s so late that the Chow Hall isn’t open, there’s probably a flight kitchen near the flight line to grab a good ol’ Box Nasty.
However, I don’t know if I could call a chicken sandwich, coke, bottle of water, apple/orange and a Snickers nasty. It’s good to be the fly guys.
3. TDYs: A Thing of Beauty
Whenever my unit was given a TDY (a temporary duty assignment – and know that I was with several units), the NCOICs were almost always able to get us an off-base hotel, usually in a Hilton. Free pool, free gym, queen size bed (minimum), no more than 2 to a room, etc. TDYs were mini-vacations for us and we pocketed that lovely per-diem while eating on-base for meal plan prices.
The TDYs were filled with nights of going out and days of 9-5 work, so it was almost as if we went to a medical convention or a business convention. I am almost certain that no other branch would tolerate that, but the Air Force allows that luxury for the NCOs who know their way around and take care of their people.
4. By Basic Training, We Mean Basic:
Let me put an end to this now and say that Stress Cards are not, have not and will never be a thing. We’ve all heard that each branch gets these mythical things, but it just isn’t true. That being said, the Air Force does have one of the shortest (at 8 weeks) Basic Training requirements.
We do have the BEAST in 6th or 7th week (it may have changed since I graduated basic), but it was surprisingly easy with the base area pre-assembled and most of the time practicing EOD sweeps and questioning people coming in. There were no smoke bombs, flashbangs, no sim grenades, land nav or anything extremely strenuous that some other branches have. While it’s no walk in the park, it’s not exactly limit-pushing either.
5. Look at the Size of my Wallet!
The USAF had an estimated budget of $160 billion in FY2015. While this was slightly less than the Navy’s budget (by less than 10%), the Navy has to pay for both itself and the Marine Corps. Because the Air Force doesn’t suffer from the split personality of our brothers and sisters in the Department of the Navy, we’ve got the largest per person budget in the military.
This means that we have the coolest toys, best planes, largest office supply budget and more. While we claim that we do more with less, we often do more with more.
6. Consistency of the workday
The stereotype holds true, it seems, that the Air Force is the branch with the most consistent workdays. Barring weeks where we had to do an exercise (which for my unit was 2-3 weeks every 4 months) we pretty much always got in after PT at 0900 and left at 1630.
For units that don’t have field exercises as often, it is almost always a consistent workday. “People First, Mission Always” is one of the mottos. I believe it rings true in this area, and for that, many of us airmen are grateful.
7. There’s Strong, and Then There’s Air Force Strong
We may only get 60 seconds compared to Army 120 for calisthenics on PT tests, but our numbers are much easier to manage than any other branches’. To pass by bare minimums, one needs only run a 1.5 mile in 13:14, have a 37.5-inch waistline, and perform 44 push ups plus 46 situps in a minute each.
“He’s doing a push-up, for god’s sake, help him!”
This pales in comparison to the USMC’s 15 pullups, 75 crunches, and 22-minute, 3-mile run. While the Air Force isn’t full of fatties, for sure, we have the greenest grass in the field.
8. “Vacation All I Ever Wanted, Vacation Had to Get Away”
Interestingly, I had a friend fear for his life after receiving his deployment orders. He was genuinely frightened and filled out paperwork to make out his will and to give someone power of attorney over his assets should something happen to him. Being a good friend, I asked him where he was going. I wanted to give him all the support I could. He told me he was going to Qatar. At that moment, I was torn between being a good friend and offering my support and being a great friend and mocking him.
For those not in the know, Qatar deployments include daily alcohol allowances (most Middle Eastern countries don’t allow any) and other amenities that make it more like a vacation with a work component than a deployment into a dangerous war zone. While it’s not a vacation exactly, there are as many pros as cons with many of our deployments.
9. Performance Evals are Broken
While this recently underwent a change, the yearly EPR system used to be a “gimme,” with an overwhelming majority of airmen getting “firewall 5s” or perfect scores on their eval.
Now the brass has finally realized after over a decade that this is ridiculous and are attempting to change the system to make a “5” rating mean something. The jury is still out on this, and also how it will affect the promotion cycle. But up until recently, airmen could be assured that by being average, they would be graded “The best of the best.”
10. Living On High
To be honest, this one does make me feel a little guilty. So, my friend was stationed at an Army base for tech school. On his first LES, he sees an additional allowance. So it’s not actually called substandard living pay, it’s something like that. While not all Air Force bases are cushy, if you are living in quarters that the DoD deems not up to USAF standards, the airmen will get an additional allowance not to exceed 75 percent of BAH for their rank.
There are many considerations that go into this, but suffice it to say that the reasoning is because the Air Force was the first “all volunteer” branch, and to attract high-quality airmen, the USAF needed higher quality housing.
In the early days of the Cold War, the United States was working on developing advanced surface-to-air missiles to intercept Soviet bombers. The first and only missile for a while that fit the Air Force’s bill was dubbed the “Bomarc.”
According to Designation-Systems.net, the missile was first called the XF-99, as the Air Force was trying to pass it off as an unmanned fighter. Eventually, the Air Force switched to calling the Bomarc the IM-99.
The system made its first flight in 1952, but development was a long process, with the IM-99A becoming operational in September 1959. The IM-99A had a range of 250 miles, a top speed of Mach 2.8, and could carry either a 1,000-pound high-explosive warhead or a 10-kiloton W40 warhead.
The IM-99A had a problem, though – its liquid fuel needed to be loaded into the booster before launch, a process that took about two minutes. The fueling was not exactly a safe process, and the fuel itself wasn’t entirely stable. So, the Air Force developed a version with a solid booster. The IM-99B would end up being a quantum leap in capability. Its speed increased to Mach 3, it had a range of 440 miles, and only carried the nuclear warhead.
The Bomarc also has the distinction of making Canada a nuclear power. Well, sort of. Canada bought two squadrons’ worth of the missiles, replacing the CF-105 Arrow interceptor. Canada’s Bomarcs did have the nuclear warhead, operated under a dual-key arrangement similar to that used by West Germany’s Pershing I missiles.
The Bomarc, though, soon grew obsolete, and by the end of 1972 they were retired. However, the Bomarc would end up sharing the same fate as many old fighters, as many of the missiles were eventually used as target drones since their speed and high-altitude capability helped them simulate heavy Russian anti-ship missiles like the AS-4 Kitchen and AS-6 Kingfish.
Over 700 Bomarcs were produced. Not a bad run at all for this missile.
Two of the greatest things ever are pets and returning veterans. No matter what your personal outlook on life is, nothing pulls at heartstrings like when the two meet. If you have any photos or videos of returning home to your pet, or even if you want to show off your furry best friend, please share them in comment section!
Marine Corps Chief Warrant Officer 5 Christian P. Wade, the 2nd Marine Division Gunner as well as the personality behind that video of cooking bacon on a suppressor, has a new video where he tests the resilience of the Marine Corps’ new reinforced pack frame.
Despite long falls, getting dragged behind a Jeep, and about 51 Kalashnikov rounds, the new pack proves itself to be surprisingly tough. You can see what finally destroys the pack in the video below:
On Dec. 8, 2012, Byers was part of a SEAL Team Six unit deep in the Taliban-controlled mountains of Afghanistan on a mission to rescue Dr. Dilip Josheph when all hell broke loose. According to the MoH citation, Byers distinguished himself that night by showing extreme courage and disregard for his life when he shielded the hostage with his body while simultaneously taking out two insurgents.
In this Navy video, Byers shares the story of that evening, as well as his reaction to the news that he would be receiving the Medal of Honor.
Well, we’ve covered what the Army would want to work on in 2018. Now, it’s the Navy’s turn. Some parts of the Navy have had a horrible year. So, what would the Navy want to work on?
4. An accelerated shipbuilding program
Let’s face it, the Navy at present has a grand total of 279 ships. This has primarily been due to the “peace dividend,” from the end of the Cold War. In 1987, the United States Navy had 594 ships. This included a force of 14 carriers to today’s 11, 102 submarines back then as opposed to 52 today, and 115 frigates compared to eight Littoral Combat Ships. The Navy wants to reach 355 ships by 2037. That’s a long time. This is something that should go high on the list of things to be corrected.
3. Help pilots breathe in flight
Some Navy pilots (notably those flying the T-45 Goshawk and F/A-18 Hornet) have been experiencing what the DOD calls “physiological events” (hypoxia) while in flight. The Heritage Foundation noted that the first six months of 2017 saw 52 such incidents, while 114 took place in 2016. If pilots can’t breathe, they have a hard time fighting. Getting to the bottom of why pilots aren’t getting enough oxygen needs to happen, stat.
2. Buy enough Lightnings
The Navy needs to replace 546 A to D model Hornets. The plan is to buy 327 F-25Cs. Now, while the F-35 is a good airplane, the fact of the matter is that it has not mastered the art of being in two places at once. Replacing the legacy Hornets on a one-for-one basis seems like a much better bet.
1. Give the SEALs a break
While units like the Navy SEALs have been responsible for some of the biggest successes in the War on Terror (like killing Osama bin Laden), what isn’t know is that they have been running hard. A commentary by the Heritage Foundation stated that some of these operators have had a dozen deployments – or more. That is a lot in the 16 years since 9/11. There are two ways to fix this: First is to take a hard look at the missions SEALs are asked to perform. The second is to expand the size of the force. Navy leadership needs to do both.
What do you think the Navy needs to work on in 2018?
Military Saves Week kicked off at U.S. military installations worldwide on Monday.
Every year, America Saves, a non-profit foundation designed to help Americans make smarter financial choices, hosts Military Saves Week, a military oriented campaign observed aboard military installations and sponsored by various financial institutions and other organizations.
Military Saves Week focuses on helping to educate military service members and their families on healthy saving and spending habits as well as assessing their own savings status, reducing their debt, and increasing their wealth.
Military Saves Week offers events and classes across all branches of service at over 100 installations worldwide during the week. Some of the events include luncheons, workshops, youth focused savings discussions, and prizes.
SCHOFIELD BARRACKS — Military Saves Week runs from Feb. 27 to March 3. The Financial Readiness Program is offering financial counseling, classes, and other events to help service members and their families manage their money. (U.S. Army photo by Kristen Wong)
Most of the events will focus on benefits and how best to use them, with nearly every installation hosting at least one event focused on the new Blended Retirement System.
Military Saves Week works alongside the Department of Defense’s Financial Readiness Campaign.
General Dunford wrote in a memo for the chiefs of the military services on Oct. 7, 2015, in preparation for last year’s Military Saves Week:
“Military Saves Week is an opportunity for our military community to come together with federal, state, and local resources, to focus on the financial readiness of military members and their families and help them reduce debt and save their hard-earned money.”
Dunford went on to write, “We are asking our military members to commit to feasible financial goals.”
Participants in Military Saves Week are asked to sign a pledge that reads “I will help myself by saving money, reducing debt, and building wealth over time. I will help my family and my country by encouraging other Americans to Build Wealth, Not Debt.” The pledge goes on to help the participant set goals for savings, with the option to receive text message updates for savings tips and financial advice.
It’s well known that in the American military, the green beret is the exclusive headdress of soldiers qualified as Army Special Forces. The only way to don one of these distinctive berets is to complete the arduous “Q Course” and be awarded a Special Forces tab.
In fact, Army Special Forces soldiers are often called “Green Berets” based on that specific Army green “Shade 297” cap.
But how America’s premier unconventional warfare force got that iconic headwear is as much a testament to the force’s tenacity as it is a tribute to the founding soldiers who challenged at Big Army’s authority.
The beret is said to be somewhat derived from America’s ties to the British Commandos of World War II, who wore a green beret as their standard-issue headdress beginning in 1941.
So it’s not surprising that according to the official history of the Army Special Forces Association, America’s green beret was first designed by SF major and OSS veteran Herbert Brucker about two years after the unit was formed, likely due to the close work between the OSS — the predecessor to the Special Forces — and Royal British Commandos during the war.
But that all changed in the early 1960s, when then-President John F. Kennedy adopted the Special Forces as America’s answer to the guerrilla wars that marked the first decades of the Cold War. Before a visit to Fort Bragg in 1961, Kennedy reportedly ordered then Special Warfare School commander Brig. Gen. William P. Yarborough to outfit his soldiers with the distinctive caps, arguing these unconventional warriors deserved headgear that set them apart from the rest of the Army.
In a twist of irony, just weeks before Kennedy’s visit, the Army officially adopted the green beret for Special Forces soldiers.
Kennedy was said to have asked Yarborough whether he liked the new berets, with the SF general telling him, “They’re fine, sir. We’ve wanted them for a long time.”
Later, Kennedy sent Yarborough a message thanking him for the visit to Bragg and remarking, “The challenge of this old but new form of operations is a real one, and I know that you and the members of your command will carry on for us and the free world in a manner which is both worthy and inspiring. I am sure that the Green Beret will be a mark of distinction in the trying times ahead.”
The bond between the late president and the Special Forces community are so strong that on Nov. 25, 1963, as Kennedy was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery, a Special Forces sergeant major placed his green beret on the grave of the fallen president. Silently, steadily 42 other Special Forces Soldiers laid their berets alongside, the Army says.
Since then, the SF lays a wreath at Kennedy’s grave in Arlington National Cemetery on the anniversary of his death.
Operation Credible Sport was hatched in the wake of the disastrous Operation Eagle Claw, the attempt to rescue hostages held at the U.S. embassy in Tehran, Iran that resulted in a collision at a refueling point in the desert that destroyed two aircraft and killed 8 service members. The mishap caused commanders to call off the mission.
But the hostages were still in Iranian hands and a new attempt at rescue had to be made. The Air Force decided to attempt the mission using a C-130 modified with rockets to takeoff and land in short distances. The modified aircraft would land in a soccer stadium near the U.S. embassy, allow the assault team out to rescue the hostages, then pick everyone up and fly them out.
Rocket-assisted takeoffs, or RATOs, is a technique where rocket engines provide the lift necessary to let heavy aircraft takeoff on a short runway. The tactic had been in use since World War II and C-130s had already successfully employed the technique. The more well-known JATO, jet-assisted takeoffs, worked in a similar manner with jet engines doing the heavy lifting.
But Operation Credible Sport called for rockets to also assist in the landing, which required three sets of rockets to fire at precise times in the process. First, a set of forward-facing rockets would act as an air brake. Then downward-facing jets would slow the aircraft’s descent and after touchdown a third set of rockets would stop the C-130 on the short runway.
Unfortunately the C-130 test flight was less than successful. When the pilots attempted to land the plane, the first set of rockets blinded the pilots. Then the flight engineer was dazzled by the first rockets and thought the plane had already reached the ground. Thinking he just needed to stop the aircraft, he fired the final braking rockets and halted the plane’s forward momentum.
This stopped the wings from creating lift. The second set of rockets, designed to slow the plane’s descent and soften the landing, had not been fired. So the plane fell the final twenty feet to the runway almost straight down.
The shock of the landing broke part of the right wing off. The rockets then lit the jet fuel on fire, and the entire airplane was destroyed.
Luckily, the crew made it out of the wreckage alive. The Air Force buried the plane at the test site and ordered the rockets placed on a backup C-130 so testing could continue.
But negotiators were able to reach a settlement that freed the hostages and made the modifications unnecessary. The plans for a rocket-landed airplane were then scrapped.
Watch the modified aircraft fly below, (and check out 1:40 to see the crash):
This is perhaps the oldest of the UAV-mounted weapons, making its debut off the MQ-1 Predator. With a range of five miles and a 20-pound high-explosive warhead, the Hellfire proved to be very capable at killing high-ranking terrorists — after its use from the Apache proved to be the bane of enemy tanks.
2. GBU-12 Paveway II
While the 2,000-pound GBU-24 and GBU-10 got much more press, the GBU-12 is a very important member of the Paveway laser-guided bomb family. Its most well-known application came when it was used for what was called “tank plinking” in Desert Storm. GBU-12s, though, proved very valuable in the War on Terror, largely because they caused much less collateral damage than the larger bombs.
3. GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM)
This is the 500-pound version of the JDAM family. While it has a larger error zone than the laser-guided bombs, it still comes close enough to ruin an insurgent’s day. The GPS system provides a precision option when weather — or battlefield smoke — makes laser guidance impractical.
4. AGM-176 Griffin
This missile has longer range and a smaller warhead, but it still packs enough punch to kill some bad guys. The Griffin has both a laser seeker and GPS guidance. In addition to blasting insurgents out of positions with minimal collateral damage, Griffin is also seen as an option to dealing with swarms of small boats, like Iranian Boghammers.