Sappers are the Army’s experts in mobility on the battlefield. They stop the enemy from moving around and clear obstacles that inhibit the U.S. infantry and other ground troops. To do these jobs, they have to know how to fight an enemy, construct infrastructure like bridges and fences, and destroy enemy obstacles with explosives and tools.
Here are 19 photos that show their mission:
1. Engineers clear routes through enemy territory for maneuver forces.
2. To do this, they detect enemy mines, IEDs, barbed wire, trenches, and other obstructions.
3. If an obstruction or explosive is detected, the engineers ‘interrogate’ (sapper speak) the obstacle and decide what to do.
4. Once they identify a threat, they may mark it so infantry units know where the safe path is.
5. But they often decide to blow the obstruction up. Sappers are known for their skill with explosives.
6. When the enemy is hiding in a building, the sappers can cut through the walls or doors to get to them.
7. They could also just blow the door off the hinges or a hole in a wall. Again, sappers blow up a lot of stuff.
8. Once the building is open, they can force their way inside but will often leave the task of searching the building to the infantry or other maneuver units.
9. When the enemy protects the objective with barbed wire and other obstacles, the engineers use Bangalore torpedoes to blow open a path.
10. Another specialty of engineers is getting themselves and equipment to hard to reach places. Here, sappers create improvised rafts to cross a lake.
11. They also have proper boats, like the Zodiac, that they’ll use to cross the water.
12. Sappers can even drop directly into the water with their equipment and boats via a helicopter.
13. They’ll climb up cliff faces or repel from ledges to open a route or block an enemy.
14. Sappers use many different explosives, including missiles, to complete their missions.
15. Javelin Missiles are most commonly used to destroy enemy armored vehicles.
16. Engineers may aim to hit an enemy tank or armored vehicle while it’s in a choke point, preventing other vehicles from crossing there.
17. Enemy ground units can be stopped or slowed with mines. Claymores fire a barrage of steel bearings at enemies.
18. For more security, the sappers and other engineers can put up fences or other obstacles.
19. This prevents enemy soldiers from getting to friendly forces as easily.
It’s been that way for a long time. One incident that got very dangerous involved a training operation involving a B-58 Hustler with the 43rd Bombardment Wing out of Carswell Air Force Base in Texas. The trainees had 32 flight hours and six sorties in their plane.
But the plane’s seventh flight went bad from the moment it began to take off. The left main landing gear failed and damaged a fuel tank, sending aft a train of flame as the afterburners of the B-58’s four J79 jet engines ignited the fuel. Miraculously, the plane didn’t explode, and was able to take off.
The navigator noticed the flames, and advised the pilot. The pilot reported the plane’s situation to ground control. A plane was sent up, but couldn’t tell how badly the Hustler was damaged until they flew over the city of Fort Worth.
Eventually, the decision was made to send the B-58 to Edwards Air Force Base to make an emergency landing. What was supposed to be a routine training mission ended up lasting 14 hours, and involved multiple pit stops with Air Force aerial refueling planes, during which the pilot had to come up with a technique to maintain speed and directional control using the Hustler’s engines.
The B-58 eventually made a safe landing. You can see the Air Force documentary on this incident below.
America’s F-16 multi-role fighters are some of the most advanced aircraft on the planet, carrying precision weapons and using them to kill bad guys around the world.
But in March 2003, two F-16 pilots were called to assist 52 British special operators surrounded by 500 Iraqi troops — meaning the friendlies were outnumbered almost 10 to 1.
Worse, there was essentially no light on the battlefield. It was so dark that even the pilots’ night vision goggles weren’t enough for the F-16s to tell where forces were on the ground.
But the pilots could hear through the radio as the situation on the ground went from bad to worse. The Iraqi troops were pressing the attack, pinning the Brits down and preparing to overrun them.
Thinking fast, Lt. Col. Ed Lynch climbed to altitude and then went into a dive, quickly building up sonic energy around his plane as he approached the speed of sound.
As he neared the ground with the massive amount of sound energy surrounding his cockpit, he broke the sound barrier and pointed the bulk of the energy at the ground where he believed the Iraqi troops to be. Lynch pulled up a mere 3,000 feet from the ground, sending the massive sonic boom against the troops below.
The energy wave struck with enough force that the Iraqi troops thought the F-16s were dropping bombs or firing missiles. The Iraqi troops broke apart and the British special operators were able to get out during the chaos.
Just about every military unit has a motto of sorts, but some are way cooler than others.
From “get some” to “fire from the clouds,” we looked around the world for some of the military’s best mottos. Here’s what we found:
1. “Whatever It Takes”
1st Battalion, 4th Marines: Stationed at Camp Pendleton, California, 1/4 is an infantry battalion that has been fighting battles since its first combat operation in the Dominican Republic in 1916. That’s also where 1st Lt. Ernest Williams earned the Medal of Honor — the first for the battalion.
2. “Get Some”
3rd Battalion, 5th Marines: Based at the northern edge of Camp Pendleton, California, the “Dark Horse” battalion is one of the most-decorated battalions in the Marine Corps.
3. “The Only Easy Day Was Yesterday”
US Navy SEALs: SEAL training isn’t easy, and neither is the day-to-day job. While individual SEAL Teams, stationed in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Coronado, Calif., and Little Creek, Va., have their own mottos and phrases, the community’s feeling about hard work is summed up in this motto.
4. “Balls of the Corps”
3rd Battalion, 1st Marines: “The Thundering Third” is stationed at Camp Pendleton, California, and has a notable former member in Gen. Joseph Dunford, the current commandant of the Marine Corps.
5. “Peace Through Strength”
USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76): Commissioned in 2003, the Ronald Reagan is a nuclear-powered supercarrier homeported in Coronado, Calif. Named after the 40th president, the “Gipper” takes its motto from a mantra Reagan adopted while countering the Soviet Union.
6. “We Quell the Storm, and Ride the Thunder”
3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines: “The Betio Bastards” of 3/2 are based at Camp Lejeune, and have been heavily involved in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. The battalion is perhaps best known for its fight on Tarawa in 1943.
7. “Retreat Hell”
2nd Battalion, 5th Marines: It was in the trenches of World War I where 2/5 got its motto. When told by a French officer that his unit should retreat from the defensive line, Capt. Lloyd Williams replied, “Retreat? Hell, we just got here!” With combat service going back to 1914, 2/5 is the most decorated battalion in Marine history.
8. “Molon Labe” (Greek for “Come and take them”)
I Army Corps (Greece): This former Greek Army unit (disbanded in 2013) had the Spartans’ King Leonidas to thank for its awesome motto. When the Persians told them to lay down their weapons at the Battle of Thermopylae, Leonidas defiantly responded in the most badass way possible.
9. “Better to die than to be a coward”
The Royal Gurkha Rifles (United Kingdom): The Gurkha Rifles are a very unique regiment of the British Army, since its members are recruited from Nepal. Known as the “bravest of the brave,” the battlefield heroics of the Gurkhas made international headlines in 2010, with the actions of Cpl. Dipprasad Pun.
While alone at a Helmand checkpoint that became surrounded by 12 to 30 Taliban fighters, Pun shot more than 400 rounds, chucked 17 grenades, set off a Claymore mine, and even threw his tripod from his machine gun at a bad guy. He received the second highest military award for his heroics, The Daily Mail reported.
10. “Facta Non Verba” (Latin for “Deeds, Not Words”)
Joint Task Force 2 (Canada): Based out of Ottawa, Canada, JTF 2 is an elite special operations force. It’s basically Canada’s version of Navy SEAL Team 6. The unit has deployed all over the world, although most of its actions remain secret.
11. “Mors Ab Alto” (Latin for “Death from Above”)
7th Bomb Wing: Stationed at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, it’s one of only two B-1B Lancer bomber wings in the Air Force.
12. “Ready for All, Yielding to None”
2nd Battalion, 7th Marines: Stationed at Twentynine Palms, California, the battalion’s current motto is a slight variation on its Vietnam-era one: “Ready for Anything, Counting on Nothing.”
13. “Si vis pacem, para bellum” (Latin for “If you wish for peace, prepare for war.”)
Royal Navy (United Kingdom): The Royal Navy’s motto is a lot like the USS Ronald Reagan’s “peace through strength,” except a bit more badass. The latin phrase comes from Publius Flavius Vegetius Renatus, a Roman author who penned the Iron Age version of a military technical manual.
14. “Lerne leiden ohne zu klagen!” (German for “learn to suffer without complaining!”)
Kampfschwimmer (Germany): This elite unit from Germany wants its members to know they should just suck it up. Which makes sense, since the Kampfschwimmers of the German Navy are that country’s version of US Navy SEALs. Like most other special operations forces, its size and operations are classified.
15. “De Oppresso Liber” (Latin for “To liberate the oppressed”)
U.S. Army Special Forces: Created in 1952, Special Forces is known for producing elite warriors, with a primary focus on unconventional warfare and foreign internal defense. With those tasks, many soldiers have lived up to the motto, by going to both friendly and un-friendly nations to train and support militaries, rebel groups, and engaged in combat around the world.
16. “Semper Malus” (Latin for “Always Ugly”)
Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 362 (HMH-362): This helicopter unit nicknamed “Ugly Angels,” is stationed at Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii and holds the proud distinction of being the first aircraft unit ashore in Vietnam.
17. “Fire From The Clouds”
33rd Fighter Wing: Stationed at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, the wing’s mission is to train F-35 pilots and maintainers.
18. “Swift, Silent, Deadly”
1st, 2nd, and 3rd Recon Battalions: Reconnaissance Marines are trained for special missions, raids, and you guessed it: reconnaissance. For these three battalions, stationed at Camps Lejeune, Pendleton, and Schwab, the motto pretty much sums up what they can do.
19. “Make Peace or Die”
1st Battalion, 5th Marines: Nicknamed “Geronimo,” the Camp Pendleton based 1/5 has been involved in every major U.S. engagement since World War I. Most recently, the battalion has been deployed to Darwin, Australia as the Corps tries to “pivot to the Pacific.”
The Senate Armed Services Committee held a hearing Thursday on whether to confirm Gen. James Mattis as the next defense secretary, and plenty of interesting bits came out of the roughly three-hour session.
The retired four-star general gave frank and concise answers on everything from cybersecurity policy to what he expects will be the biggest threats to the United States.
Shortly afterward, he was approved for a waiver for the requirement of having a seven-year gap between being active-duty in the military and serving in the civilian role at the Pentagon.
When asked whether the US can confront the terror group in its capital of Raqqa, Mattis said he believed the US could, but he added that the anti-ISIS strategy needed to be reviewed and “energized on a more aggressive timeline.”
He told members that “we have to deliver a very hard blow against ISIS in the Middle East so there is no sense of invulnerability or invincibility there.” For the US, according to Mattis, that means attacking ISIS’ main areas of strength so they cannot pop up elsewhere.
He mentioned Russia as the biggest threat
Despite President-elect Trump’s restraint on calling out Russian aggression and cyberwarfare, Mattis didn’t pull punches in his assessment of Moscow.
“Since Yalta, we have a long list of times that we’ve tried to engage positively with Russia,” Mattis said. “We have a relatively short list of successes in that regard.” He praised NATO and its effectiveness, and added that Russian President Vladimir Putin was “trying to break” that alliance.
In some areas Russia and the US can work together, but in many others, Mattis said, Putin remained a strategic competitor or an outright adversary.
“I have very modest expectations about areas of cooperation with Mr. Putin,” he said.
Mattis says he wouldn’t roll back the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell or the change on women in combat roles
In the past, Mattis has not really been a fan of women being integrated into combat roles, such as infantry. He was asked about this repeatedly — at times having his speeches quoted to him — and asked whether he would reverse the 2013 policy change.
“I’ve never come into any job with an agenda, a pre-formed agenda of changing anything,” he said. “I assume the people before me deserve respect for the decisions they’ve made.”
That answer did not satisfy Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), however, and she continued to press him. In the end, Mattis told her: “I have no plan to oppose women in any aspect of our military. In 2003, I had hundreds of Marines who happened to be women serving in my 23,000 person division … I put them right on the front lines with everyone else.”
He was also asked about protections for LGBTQ service members, and he had a very blunt answer to that. “Frankly, senator, I’ve never cared about two consenting adults and who they go to bed with.”
He says the Iran deal isn’t perfect, but it should remain intact
Mattis called the Iran deal an “imperfect” one, but still supported the US keeping its end of the bargain. The answer was a break from the President-elect, who has promised to “rip up” the deal with Tehran.
“I think it is an imperfect arms control agreement — it’s not a friendship treaty,” Mattis said. “But when America gives her word, we have to live up to it and work with our allies.”
Later, he said, “It’s not a deal I would have signed.”
Mattis says cyberwar is a big problem that still has no clear doctrine in place
Mattis was asked interesting questions on cyberwarfare, which were especially pertinent in the wake of Russian hacks of Democratic party officials and their affect on the presidential election. Unfortunately, he said he did not believe the US has anything resembling a sophisticated cyber doctrine.
In other words, there is no strategy in place for the US to respond to cyber attacks, like there is for other physical examples, such as a nuclear strike or an attack on a NATO ally.
Mattis said there needs to be a comprehensive plan developed to address this shortfall, because “cyber cuts across everything we do today.”
He added: “Because of the cyber domain, it’s not something the military can do in isolation.”
On D-Day, Richard Todd was one of the paratroopers who took part in the capture of Pegasus Bridge. Todd had parachuted in after the original assault and helped reinforce the British Army’s Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry led by Maj. John Howard.
Little did Todd know at the time that he would find himself portraying that same British commander when legendary director Daryl Zanuck was making Cornelius Ryan’s book “The Longest Day” into an epic movie.
Imdb.com reports that Todd was very nearly killed on D-Day. He had been assigned to a new plane. The switch was a fortunate one since his original transport was shot down by the Nazis, killing all aboard. A 2004 article by the London Guardian reported that Todd’s D-Day involved making his way to Pegasus Bridge, reinforcing Howard’s unit, and helping to fend off German attacks on the bridge while under Howard’s command until seaborne forces linked up with the paratroopers.
Todd never discussed his actions on D-Day. However, in his memoirs, “Caught in the Act,” he would write, “There was no cessation in the Germans’ probing with patrols and counter-attacks, some led by tanks, and the regimental aid post was overrun in the early hours. The wounded being tended there were all killed where they lay. There was sporadic enemy mortar and artillery fire we could do nothing about. One shell landed in a hedge near me, killing a couple of our men.”
By 1962, Richard Todd had become a well-known actor, with his most notable role having been Wing Commander Guy Gibson in the 1954 movie, “The Dam Busters.” Todd had also starred in “D-Day, the Sixth of June” three years later as the leader of a commando group sent to take out German guns.
When he was asked to play himself in “The Longest Day,” he demurred, admitting his own role in the invasion had been a small part. The London Telegraph quoted him as saying, “I did not do anything special that would make a good sequence.” Zanuck, determined to have Todd in the film, cast him as Howard instead.
“The Longest Day” was one of Todd’s last big roles, as British cinema moved in a very different direction in the 1960s. He still found work acting, narrating the series “Wings over the World” for AE Television and appearing in several “Doctor Who” episodes, among other roles.
Todd would die on Dec. 3, 2009, after having been named a member of the Order of the British Empire in 1993. Below is the trailer for “The Longest Day.”
The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:
National VFW Honor Guard in dress whites.
Airmen in their dress blues during a Veterans Day ceremony.
Soldiers assigned to 10th Special Forces Group, maneuver through a shooting range during a weapons training exercise at the Panzer Range Complex, Boeblingen, Germany, Nov. 08, 2016.
A US Army Golden Knights Soldier lands after jumping into the Girls’ Science and Engineering Day at UAHuntsville in Huntsville, Ala., Nov. 5, 2016.
PEARL HARBOR (Nov. 3, 2016) Sailors aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS Decatur (DDG 73) render honors to the Battleship Missouri Memorial as Decatur prepares to moor at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. Decatur, along with guided-missile destroyers USS Momsen (DDG 92) and USS Spruance (DDG 111) are deployed in support of maritime security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific as part of a U.S. 3rd Fleet Pacific Surface Action Group (PAC SAG) under Commander, Destroyer Squadron 31 (CDS 31).
PACIFIC OCEAN (Nov. 11, 2016) A Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 78 MH-60R Sea Hawk helicopter prepares to take off from the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) flight deck. Carl Vinson is currently underway conducting Composite Training Unit Exercise (COMPTUEX) in preperation for an upcoming deployment.
The sun sets over the USS Green Bay (LPD-20) at White Beach Naval Base, Okinawa, Japan, August 21, 2016.
Marines with the Maritime Raid Force, 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, conduct combat marksmanship and close-quarters tactics training during a “deck shoot” aboard the USS Makin Island, while afloat in the Pacific Ocean, Nov. 2, 2016.
Servicemembers from all five branches participated in the New York Giants vs. the Philadelphia Eagles Military Appreciation Game at MetLife Stadium today. More than 100 service members from the New York and New Jersey area volunteered to represent their branch of service during the pre-game and halftime ceremonies.
They say practice makes perfect, which is exactly why our crews are always training. A crewmember aboard the USCG Cutter Active, a 210-foot medium-endurance cutter homeported in Port Angeles, Wash., fires a 25mm gun during underway training.
Lt. Colonel Shannon Stambersky takes a selfie with her UCLA Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) cadets after completion of an annual field training exercise (FTX) at Camp Pendleton and filming of the first ROTC Virtual Reality recruitment video.
The USS Ford, the lead ship of the new Ford-class aircraft carrier series, is expected to join the US Navy by February 2016, according to CNN. Once deployed, the ship will be the largest carrier ever to ply the seas and will feature a number of changes and advancements over the United States’ current Nimitz-class aircraft carrier.
Here’s a look at this multi billion-dollar beast:
The USS Gerald Ford is expected to cost upwards of $13 billion by the time it is deployed.
The USS Gerald R. Ford.
The Ford, and the accompanying Ford-class carrier fleet, are intended to relieve stress and over-deployment within the US Navy. Currently, the Navy operates 10 carriers but wants an additional vessel to take pressure off of the rest of the fleet.
Photo: US Navy Chris Oxley
The ship will feature a host of changes over the current Nimitz-class carrier. Ford-class carriers will be capable of generating three times more electrical power than the older carrier classes, for example.
Photo: US Navy 3D model
A 3D model of the USS John F. Kennedy, the second ship the Ford-class carrier series.
This increased electrical power supply allows the Ford to use the newly designed Electro-Magnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS), which will allow the vessel to launch 25% more aircraft a day than the previous steam-powered launch systems.
A successful test of the EMALS launch system.
The amount of electricity onboard also makes the Ford-class carriers ideal candidates to field laser and directed-energy weapons in the future, like rail guns and missile interceptors.
A demonstration of a rail gun.
Once launched, the Ford will be the largest warship in the world. It will be 1,092 feet long and displace upwards of 100,000 tons.
Photo: US Navy John Whalen
Shipbuilding floods Dry Dock 12 to float the first in class aircraft carrier, Pre-Commissioning Unit Gerald R. Ford
This size will allow the carrier to house about 4,400 staff and personnel while also carrying more than 75 aircraft.
Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Aidan P. Campbell
The aircraft carrier Pre-Commissioning Unit (PCU) Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) gets underway beginning the ship’s launch and transit to Newport News Shipyard pier 3 for the final stages of construction and testing.
The Ford is expected to carry F-35s and, once available, carrier-based drone aircraft.
A U.S. Navy Lockheed Martin F-35C Lightning II conducts it’s first arrested landing aboard the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN-68) in the Pacific Ocean November 3, 2014. The F-35C was conducting initial at-sea developmental testing.
But for all the advances within the Ford-class carrier group, some have questioned the wisdom of continuing an astronomically expensive carrier-heavy naval strategy in a time when inter-state warfare is rare and nations like China continue to develop potentially carrier-killing long-range anti-ship cruise missiles.
The Department of Veteran Affairs has just released the draft master plan for how the agency intends to improve the campus of its West Los Angeles facility after years of encroachment, misuse, and neglect. The plan follows a landmark legal ruling last year following a lawsuit that alleged that VA was violating the covenant of an 1888 deed whereby the United States acquired title to the West LA Campus by misusing parts of it for commercial purposes in lieu of caring for and serving veterans.
The agreement established a nonprofit, Vets Advocacy, to serve as a partner in the West LA VA master planning process. Vets Advocacy and We Are The Mighty have joined forces in a grassroots campaign to assist the veteran community in voicing how they’d like to see VA services provided at the West LA VA campus.
“With the proper veteran input, the West LA VA redevelopment plan has the potential to serve as a 21st Century blueprint for VA campuses nationwide,” said Jonathan Sherin, a psychiatrist and veteran advocate who has been a key facilitator of the planning effort.
The new master plan for the West LA Campus will help VA determine and implement the most effective use of the campus for veterans, particularly for homeless veterans, including underserved populations such as female veterans, aging veterans, and those who are severely physically or mentally disabled. Focus areas include considerations surrounding vet housing (both temporary and permanent), vet services, and historic preservation.
The draft plan divides the campus into four zones labeled (1-4 respectively) “Healthcare Excellence,” “Coordinated Care,” “Veteran Housing,” and “Recreation.” Details of each zone can be found in the document.
“This draft master plan provides the VA with a stronger foundation to build a 21st century healthcare campus and vibrant community for veterans,” VA Secretary Robert McDonald said in a statement. “It also helps to ensure we will have the housing and healthcare resources needed to sustain the mission of ending veteran homelessness.”
Now that the draft master plan has been published, veterans have 45 days to review it and provide inputs, thereby helping to ensure the plan meets the needs of those it is designed to assist. The master plan can be viewed and downloaded and comments can be submitted at #VATHERIGHTWAY.
The Navy will soon finish initial prototyping of new weapons tubes for its Virginia-Class submarines designed to massively increase missile firepower, bring the platform well into future decades and increase the range of payloads launched or fired from the attack boats.
The new missile tubes, called the Virginia Payload Modules, will rev up the submarines’ Tomahawk missile firing ability from 12 to 40 by adding an additional 28 payload tubes – more than tripling the offensive strike capability of the platforms.
Prototyping of the new submarines amounts to early construction, meaning the missile tubes now being engineered and assembled will be those which will ultimately integrate into the completed boat. In essence, construction and metal bending for elements of what will become the first VPM are underway.
“Prototyping is underway,” Rear Adm. Charles Richard, Director of Undersea Warfare, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
Increasing undersea strike capability is a key element of the strategic calculus for the Navy as it continues to navigate its way into an increasingly high-tech and threatening global environment; potential adversaries are not only rapidly developing new quieting weapons and sonar detection technologies but also fielding long-range, precision-guided anti-ship missiles designed to target surface ships at long ranges.
The nation’s newest and most advanced nuclear-powered attack submarine and the lead ship of its class, PCU Virginia. | U.S. Navy photo by General Dynamics Electric Boat
The Chinese DF-21D and subsequent follow-on weapons in development are engineered to destroy carriers, destroyers and other surface vessels from distances as far as 900-miles off shore; if there is not a suitable defense for these kinds of long-range “anti-access/area-denial” weapons, the Navy’s ability to project power and launch attacks could be significantly limited. Carriers, for example, could be forced to operate further from the coastline at ranges which greatly complicate the aerial reach of many fighter aircraft which would launch from a carrier air-wing. If carriers are forced by the threat environment to operate at ranges further than fighter aircraft can travel, then new potentially dangerous aerial refueling options become much more complicated and challenging.
Navy strategy is therefore looking much more closely at the size and mission scope of its submarine fleet moving into the future, as undersea assets will most likely have an ability to conduct reconnaissance or strike missions far closer to an enemy shoreline – locations where it may be much harder for surface ships to operate given the fast-increasing threat environment. While the service is, of course, massively revving up its surface-ship offensive and defensive weaponry designed to allow vessels to better operate in so-called “contested” or high-threat areas, submarines are expected to increasingly play a vital role in a wide range of anticipated future mission requirements.
For example, improved increased sonar and quieting technologies referred to as Navy “acoustic superiority” are expected to allow submarines to conduct undersea reconnaissance missions much closer to enemy forces – and possibly behind defended areas. Such an ability could prove to be particularly relevant in coastal waters, shallow areas or islands such as portions of the South China Sea. These are precisely the kinds of areas where deeper draft surface ships may have trouble operating.
Building Virginia payload modules
The Navy plans to engineer a new 84-foot long module into the length of the submarine in order to add four 87-inch launch tubes into the body of the ship.
The tooling and initial castings are now nearing completion in preparation for the first prototyping of the VPM tubes which will be finished in 2017, developers explained. Construction of the first VPM boat is slated for 2019 en route to being finished and operational by 2024 or early 2025. Initial work is underway at an Electric Boat facility in Quonset Point, R.I.
“The first tube fabrication begins next April,” Ken Blomstedt, Vice President of the Virginia-Class Program here at Electric Boat, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
The second submarine construction among the planned Block V Virginia-class attack submarine will be engineered with integrated VPM. It is called SSN 803, Blomstedt explained. The last 20 ships of the class, in Blocks V, VI and VII, will have VPM integrated.
A new massive module will be emerging from an Electric Boat manufacturing facility in Quonset Point, R.I.
“We are able to add that amount of strike capability in for a 15 percent increase in the price of the vessel – all on-track coming in very nicely. We are excited about the progress of the design. We are finishing up the castings of the integrated tube and hull,” Richard said.
“Tube and hull” forging
Electric Boat developers tell Scout Warrior the VPM technical baseline has now been approved by the Navy, clearing the way for initial construction.
“The module consists of four 87-inch vertical payload tubes. The module is broken up into three sections – a forward support base, center section with four vertical payload tubes and an internal ballast tank to preserve or restore buoyancy for increasing the length of the ship,”
The technical baseline, which was informed by 39 key decisions, has been formally submitted and approved by the Navy as of February of this year.
“Will be exciting to see that first 184-foot module with VPM installed. Key to the module is using an integrated tube and hull approach,” Blomstedt added.
Electric Boat is using an emerging construction technique, called “tube and hull forging” design to expedite building and lower costs. The tactic involves connecting the top section of the tube to the pressure hull as one monolithic piece, he said.
“From a technology standpoint, we are broadening the base with a one-piece casting. That piece comes into the missile tube fabricator,” Blomstedt said.
Along with firing Tomahawk missiles, the additional 87-inch payload tubes are being engineered to accommodate new weapons as they emerge and possibly launch other assets such as unmanned underwater vehicles.
The Navy will likely use the pace for a whole bunch of future payloads that they are just starting to think about,” Blomstedt said.
While it is certainly conceivable that Torpedoes and other weapons could eventually be fired from VPM tubes, Virginia-Class boats currently have a separate torpedo room with four torpedoes able to launch horizontally
A ballast tank has a pressure hull where the crew can operate, water levels inside the boat are adjusted to raise or lower the boat within the ocean; the weapons are designed to fire out of the launch tubes from a variety of different depths.
“When you submerge the ship, there is normally sea water all around the tubes,” he said.
Need for more undersea fire power
The reason for the Virginia Payload Modules is clear; beginning in the 2020s, the Navy will start retiring four large Ohio-class guided-missile submarines able to fire up to 154 Tomahawk missiles each. This will result in the Navy losing a massive amount of undersea fire power capability, Navy developers have explained.
From 2002 to 2008 the U.S. Navy modified four of its oldest nuclear-armed Ohio-class submarines by turning them into ships armed with only conventional missiles — the USS Ohio, USS Michigan, USS Florida and USS Georgia. They are called SSGNs, with the “G” designation for “guided missile.” These boats were among US military assets that provided firepower during action against Libya in 2011 – by firing Tomahawks from undersea at key locations such as enemy air defenses designed to clear the way for strike aircraft.
If the VPM action is not taken, the Navy will lose about 60-percent of its undersea strike launchers when the SSGNs retire in the 2020s. When VPM construction begins in 2019, that 60-percent shortfall will become a 40-percent shortfall in the 2028 timeframe.
Accordingly, building VPMs is designed to eliminate the loss of firepower. The rationale for accelerating VPM is to potentially mitigate that 40-percent to a lower number, Navy developers have said.
Virginia-class submarines, engineered to replace the 1980s-era Los Angeles-class attack submarines, are being built in block increments. Blocks I and II, totaling 10 ships, have already been delivered to the Navy. Block III boats are currently under construction. In fact the first Block III boat, the USS North Dakota, was delivered ahead of schedule in August of 2014.
The first several Block IV Virginia-class submarines are under construction as well — the USS Vermont and the USS Oregon. Last April, the Navy awarded General Dynamics’ Electric Boat and Huntington Ingalls Industries Newport News Shipbuilding a $17.6 billion deal to build 10 Block IV subs with the final boat procured in 2023.
Also, design changes to the ship, including a change in the materials used for the submarines’ propulsor, will enable Block IV boats to serve for as long as 96-months between depots visits or scheduled maintenance availabilities, Navy developers explained.
In the early 1860s, Spain was dealing with the loss of many of its overseas colonies. Spain also suffered a series of minor insults to their prestige at the hands of Peru, a former Spanish colony. In an effort to save face and collect on debts left over the Peruvian War of Independence, Spanish forces launched a fleet of ships in April 1864 to seize the valuable Chincha Islands off the coast of Peru.
So when the Spanish landed 400 marines on the islands and formed a blockade of Peruvian ports, the Peruvian government was understandably angry. A political crisis followed as negotiations repeatedly failed to end the standoff. This stalemate drug on from April 1864 to September 1865.
That was when a Spanish ship went to a Chilean port to refuel with coal and the Chileans refused it on the basis that they couldn’t support Spain’s occupation of the islands and blockade of Peru. The Spanish commander, Vice Adm. Juan Manuel Pareja, sailed his flagship into the Chilean harbor and demanded a military salute from the town. When it was refused, Spain demanded reparations payments. The Chileans declared war in September 1865 instead. The Chincha Islands war was on.
Chile won an early victory at the Battle of Papudo when it captured a Spanish ship, the Covadongo. Peru then entered open hostilities with Spain and signed a treaty with Chile. Spain, Peru, and Chile fought for a year before Ecuador and Bolivia joined the fight against Spain in late-1866.
In early 1867 Spain crippled Chile’s merchant marine and shelled a Chilean city. While the attacks were militarily successful, the rest of the world was quick to condemn Spanish actions. Spain found itself with even fewer friends as Britain and America condemned the attacks.
Spain eventually gave up on the war without having captured any ground beyond the original guano-soaked gains in the Chincha Islands. As the Spanish withdrew, Peru took the islands again and have continued to collect the guano since.
The Chincha Islands War wasn’t the only conflict the nations fought for guano. The War of the Pacific from 1879-1884 was partially over guano deposits in the Atacama Desert.
After some consultation between senior leaders and their ink’d subordinates, the Marine Corps has just hit the company street and deckplates with a new tattoo policy.
“The Commandant and I have been talking with Marines throughout the Corps during our visits and we’ve taken their questions and comments to heart because it continues to be important to Marines,” said Sgt. Major Ronald L. Green, Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps. “The Commandant said it best in the Marine Corps Bulletin in that we’ve attempted to balance the individual desires of Marines with the need to maintain the disciplined appearance expected of our profession. I think we have accomplished just that with MCBUL 1020. We took the time we felt this policy deserved, we wanted to make sure we got it right.”
Here’s a graphic that highlights the details of the new reg:
Note that officers are limited to no more than four tats visible in the PT uniform. (And just when Justin Bieber was thinking of heading to OCS.) Also, the width of a single tattoo standard is defined by the width of an individual’s hand, which — according to campaign rhetoric — means that if Donald Trump was a Marine he’d have relatively small tattoos.
The regulation reinforces the overall intent that “any tattoo, regardless of where it is cannot express sexism, nudity, racism, vulgarity, or anything that is offensive and is of nature to bring discredit to the Marine Corps or damage the nation’s expectations of them.” No ruling on where “Nickleback” logos fit within those guidelines.
“There is a reason why Marine Corps Recruiting has remained so successful throughout the years, when you ask Marines why they chose the Corps, most will tell you because they wanted to be different,” Green said. (Really . . .)
And nothing says “different” these days than some killer ink. Tribal armband, anyone? Just keep it under three inches wide, Devil Dog.