The Air Force and the Navy have their own little rivalry going.
Granted, United States Navy pilots are pretty good in many respects, and so are the planes, but the Air Force claims they’ve got air superiority. So when they need to buy a plane from the Navy, it’s… awkward — especially when it involves bombers, something that should be the purview of the Air Force.
Here are six of the most…notable acquisitions the Air Force ended up making from the Navy.
1. Douglas A-24 Banshee
While better known as the SBD Dauntless, the Army Air Force bought a number of these planes. Aviation historian Joe Baugher noted that some were intended to help defend the Philippines, but the outbreak of World War II saw them diverted to New Guinea. Others saw action in the Aleutians and Gilbert Islands.
2. Curtiss A-25 Shrike/Helldiver
The Army Air Force got the SB2C — the notorious “Son of a [Bleep] Second Class” — during World War II. Joe Baugher noted that the Army Air Force never even bothered using them in combat, either exporting them to the Royal Australian Air Force or handing them over to the Marine Corps for use from land bases.
3. Douglas B-66 Destroyer
When the Air Force was looking for a replacement for the A-26/B-26 Invader as a tactical bomber, they settled on a version of the Navy’s A3D Skywarrior. However, the Air Force planned to use it very differently, and so a lot of changes were made, according to Joe Baugher.
The B-66 turned out to be an ideal electronic-warfare platform. One was famous under the call-sign “Bat 21,” leading to one of the most famous — and costly — search and rescue efforts in history.
4. Lockheed RB-69A Neptune
The Air Force was looking for some planes for electronic intelligence missions around the Soviet Union and China when they settled on taking seven P-2 Neptune maritime patrol planes from the Navy, and designating them as RB-69As.
Aviation historian Joe Baugher reveals that the exact origin and ultimate fate of these planes is a mystery, probably intentionally so, given the top-secret nature of intelligence-gathering flights over China and Russia.
5. Douglas A-1 Skyraider
Joe Baugher reported that the Air Force found this classic warbird to be so suitable for the counter-insurgency mission in 1962, they took 150 A-1Es from Navy surplus. The planes were modified for dual controls.
In fact, the Air Force wanted the plane as early as 1949, but harsh inter-service rivalry (including controversy stemming from the “Revolt of the Admirals”) meant the Air Force had to wait to get this plane. It was a fixture on search-and-rescue missions during the Vietnam War.
6. Vought A-7 Corsair
This is probably one of the most successful purchases of a Navy bomber by the Air Force. As was the case with the Air Force basing the B-66 off the A3D, they made changes to the A-7.
Most notable was giving it the M61 Vulcan and a thousand rounds of ammo. Yes, the Air Force gave the A-7 the means to give bad guys the BRRRRRT! The A-7s saw action over Panama in 1989, and were even used to train F-117 pilots. The A-7D was retired in the early 1990s with the end of the Cold War.
“When our Corps goes in as guards over the mail, that mail must be delivered,” wrote Secretary of the Navy Edwin Denby. “Or there must be a Marine dead at the post of duty. There can be no compromise.” It was the Golden Age of the Gangster, when bank robbers were folk heroes, cheered on by citizens who were suffering under the weight of Prohibition and the Great Depression. But when the mail started getting robbed by these hoods, the Postmaster General asked President Harding to send in the Marines.
In October 1921, gangsters hit a mail truck in New York City, making off with .4 million in cash, securities, and jewelry – million dollars when adjusted for inflation. That wasn’t the only high-stakes robbery. Between April 1920 and April 1921 alone, thieves stole more than six million dollars in U.S. mail robberies – million when adjusted for inflation. So when the Postmaster asked the President for the Marines, the Commander-In-Chief was happy to oblige.
Harding instructed Secretary of the Navy Edwin Denby to meet with Commandant of the Marine Corps Maj. Gen. John Lejeune to “detail as guards for the United States mails a sufficient number of officers and men of the United States Marine Corps to protect the mails from the depredations by robbers and bandits.”
Marines guarding a Chicago mail train.
Marines from both coasts were activated and armed with trench guns, M1911 pistols, and the M1903 Springfield rifle to stand watch as high-value mail deliveries were moved between institutions, large cities, banks, and government offices. They rode mail trucks and trains, often seated with the driver and in with the valuable cargo. The Navy Secretary told his new detachment of 50-plus Marines and officers:
“To the Men of the Mail Guard, you must when on guard duty, keep your weapons in hand and, if attacked, shoot and shoot to kill. If two Marines are covered by a robber, neither must put up his hands, but both must immediately go for their guns. One may die, but the other will get the robber, and the mail will get through. When our Corps goes in as guards over the mail, that mail must be delivered, or there must be a Marine dead at the post of duty. There can be no compromise.”
That was the spirit of the orders. The orders themselves were just as intense.
1. To prevent the theft or robbery of any United States mails entrusted to my protection.
2. To inform myself as to the persons who are authorized to handle the mails entrusted to my protection and to allow no unauthorized persons to handle such mails or to have access to such mails.
3. To inform myself as to the persons who are authorized to enter the compartment (railway coast, auto truck, wagon, mail room, etc.) where mails entrusted to my protection are placed, and to allow no unauthorized person to enter such compartment.
4. In connection with Special Order No. 3, to prevent unauthorized persons loitering in the vicinity of such compartment or taking any position from which they might enter such compartment by surprise or sudden movement.
5. To keep my rifle, shotgun, or pistol always in my hand (or hands) while on watch.
6. When necessary in order to carry out the foregoing orders, to make the most effective use of my weapons, shooting or otherwise killing or disabling any person engaged in the theft or robbery, or the attempted theft or robbery of the mails entrusted to my protection.
The FAQ section of the Mail Guards’ training manual tells you everything you need to know about how Marines would respond to this robbery problem, once the gangster tried to break in:
“Q. Suppose he [the robber] is using a gun or making threats with a gun in trying to escape?
A. Shoot him.
Q. Suppose the thief was apparently unarmed but was running away? A. Call halt twice at the top of your voice, and if he does not halt, fire one warning shot; and if he does not obey this, shoot to hit him.
Q. Is it permissible to take off my pistol while on duty; for instance, when in a mail car riding between stations?
A. Never take off your pistol while on duty. Keep it loaded, locked, and cocked while on duty.
Q. Is there a general plan for meeting a robbery?
A. Yes; start shooting and meet developments as they arise thereafter.
Q. If I hear the command ‘Hands Up,’ am I justified in obeying this order? A. No; fall to the ground and start shooting.
Q. Is it possible to make a successful mail robbery? A. Only over a dead Marine.”
Marines in a mail car.
Robberies stopped entirely. For four months, the Marines guarded the U.S. Mail, and for four months, there were zero successful robberies. After a while, the Post Office was able to muster its own guard forces, and the Marines were withdrawn from mail duty. By 1926 robberies shot up again and the Marines were called back.
The second time the Marines were withdrawn, people stopped trying to rob the U.S. mail.
Plenty of people collect World War II memorabilia and small trinkets, but a 78-year-old man in Germany was found with something much bigger: A 44-ton tank.
Acting on a tip, police in northern Germany raided the man’s house on Thursday and found a treasure trove of Nazi military gear inside the man’s cellar, including a Panther tank, a torpedo, and an anti-aircraft gun. How he got it down into his cellar was not clear, but it took 20 soldiers nearly nine hours to haul everything out, according to the BBC.
In the nearby city of Kiel, prosecutors were still trying to figure out whether the weapons violate the country’s War Weapons Control Act, which requires military weaponry to be licensed.
Interestingly enough, a guy having a tank as a personal vehicle was somewhat of an open secret in the town.
“He was chugging around in that thing during the snow catastrophe in 1978,” Heikendorf Mayor Alexander Orth told local media. “Some people like steam trains, others like tanks.”
The extreme and necessary measures taken to restrict the spread of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) have impacted the day-to-day lives of everyone around the globe. From schools and jobs to sports and entertainment such as restaurants, bars and movie theaters – all been closed or impacted. The federal government has not been spared as the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has directed agencies to utilize telework to the maximum extent possible.
Many Federal agencies are able to adapt to this new paradigm and can provide provisions for their employees to access the necessary government networks from home using government furnished laptops and sensible security protocols. Not to say there won’t be hiccups in this process. The scale and speed of this shift to telework are unprecedented, and there will certainly be challenges as government workers and contractors shift to this new reality. What is certain is that the nature of work has changed for the foreseeable future.
What has not changed is our adversaries attempts to leverage and exploit this vulnerable situation for their own gain. Recently, a cyber-attack on the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) by a presumed state actor attempted to overload the Department’s cyberinfrastructure. As the lead agency in the pandemic response, HHS is the trusted source for the latest pandemic information. When trust in the source is compromised or threatened, the public loses confidence and the results can be confusion at best, panic at worst.
The need for keeping our government networks secure is vital for agencies to accomplish their missions.
While many government workers and contractors are adjusting to remote work, there are several groups of workers that cannot. These include our first responders, military members, medical staff and other critical roles that are essential to the day-to-day security of our nation.
Another large group that must continue onsite work are those in the intelligence community. The critical work they carry out every day, often unseen and unheralded, must continue regardless of pandemics, natural disasters, or other events. This work goes on in secure facilities and on secure networks that keep the information safe and to prevent such events as those faced by HHS. As noted by Thomas Muir, the Pentagon’s acting director of administration, and director of Washington Headquarters Services, “You will not have the capacity, obviously, to log on to a classified system from your home, you will be required to perform those duties at the workplace.”
However, with these challenges comes an opportunity for our IC leaders. How much of the work conducted in our nation’s most secure facilities must be classified? Gen Hyten, the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was addressing this question even before the pandemic by saying, “In many cases in the department, we’re just so overclassified it’s ridiculous, just unbelievably ridiculous.”
Case in point, at the agency I support, I needed a parking pass for the visitor’s parking lot. This would allow me to park my vehicle a little closer to the building until my permanent parking pass became available. I searched the unclassified or “low side” systems on the building’s operations site but could not find an option to request or print a pass. I asked a colleague if they could point me in the right direction, and she pointed me to the classified or “high side” system. I must have had a perplexed look on my face because she just rolled her eyes and shrugged. Keep in mind, this pass would not allow me access into the building, I would still need to pass multiple other security measures before I could get to my desk.
The path of least resistance in the name of security has caused simple items to become overly secured. The still secure networks of the unclassified systems provide adequate security for mundane administrative tasks such as parking passes and numerous other similar items. While this is a small example and only represents a minor inconvenience to me, it is indicative of a larger problem across the IC to default to classifying all information out of routine, on the side of extreme caution, or in some cases, simply convenience. Of course, the challenges with over-classification are not new and have been documented in the past.
But what if it didn’t have to be this way?
With the explosion of publicly available information, there is more data available today than ever before and growing at an exponential rate. Leaders and organizations are no longer looking for needles in haystacks, they are looking for specific needles in mountains of other needles. Sifting through this data requires the assistance of computers through machine learning and artificial intelligence to find patterns and insights that were previously only available in the most classified environments.
This is not your father’s open-source intelligence or OSINT. The days of the Early Bird emails and newspaper clippings are long gone. The data available includes everything from shipping to industry financials to overhead imagery. All of this is available to commercial companies that are able to pay subscriptions to data providers. Hedge funds, insurance companies, and other industries that are assessing risk use this data on a daily basis to make financial decisions. Our adversaries have much of the same or similar data available to them and are using it to make informed decisions about us.
Not only is this information readily available, but it is also accessible from outside secured classified environments. Work in the open-source community continues unabated as long as there is a reliable internet connection with sensible security precautions enabled and information from data providers.
Many long-time IC members will immediately scoff at the use of OSINT and say that it does not meet the rigor of the classified environment. That may have been true years ago – however, with the speed of social media and availability of technology, events that used to take weeks to assess are now unfolding in the public eye instantaneously, and in some cases, real-time. One only has to look at the Iranian shootdown of Ukraine International Airlines flight 752 as a good example. Iran denied the aircraft was shot down and challenged Western governments to provide proof. Within just a few days, a Twitter user shared a video of what was clearly a missile hitting the plane, and the Iranian government quickly backpedaled and admitted they had made a mistake.
This type of definitive proof was not something that was widely available even 10 years ago, yet is nearly ubiquitous today. There must be a change in culture in the IC as new methods are adopted to supplement traditional methods and sources. In his article “Open Sources for the Information Age,” James Davitch succinctly captured these challenges, “As breaking the current paradigm is difficult, but essential, if the IC is to assume a more proactive posture. Barriers to this goal include organizational inertia, the fear of untested alternative methods, and the satisfaction of answering simpler questions, no matter how illusory their utility.”
In addition to the cultural challenges, there are logistical and financial considerations that must be addressed. A recent RAND study titled “Moving to the Unclassified, How the Intelligence Community Can Work from Unclassified Facilities” addresses many of the pros and cons of the tactical considerations and how leaders might address them. Perhaps the most significant advantages are the intangibles that the RAND authors noted, “The advantages of remote-work programs include greater access to outside expertise, continuity of operations, and increased work-life offerings for recruitment and retention.”
While OSINT is not the panacea for all intelligence challenges, it is a worthwhile tool for a leader to exploit this INT to its fullest potential. As we adapt to the new realities of telework and ways of operating, it is a good time for our IC leaders to advocate for a new way to operate outside of the secure environment.
Well, now we know why Russia is operating its carrier jets from land bases. It seems that when it tries to conduct actual air operations on the Admiral Kuznetsov carrier, the planes end up going in the drink.
According to a report by the Washington Post, the Russians lost an Su-33 “Flanker D” when an arresting cable on the Kuznetsov snapped. The pilot of the Flanker ejected and was safely recovered. The Su-33 went into the Mediterranean Sea, joining a MiG-29K that crashed last month after its own mechanical failures.
An arresting cable snapping can be very dangerous. A video of one incident on USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) where an E-2C Hawkeye airborne early warning aircraft shows the violence of such an accident. The Hawkeye did not fall into the sea due to superb airmanship on the part of the pilots, but eight sailors on board the Nimitz-class carrier were injured.
Russia had intended to use the Kuznetsov, which was commissioned in 1991 by the Soviet Union, to demonstrate its arrival to carrier aviation. The ship can carry roughly 40 aircraft, and deployed with both the Su-33 “Flanker D” and the MiG-29K “Fulcrum” along with Ka-27 “Helix” anti-submarine and Ka-31RLD “Helix” airborne early-warning helicopters. The 55,000-ton vessel can reach speeds of up to 29 knots, and carries 12 SS-N-19 “Shipwreck” anti-ship missiles.
The Russians had hoped to use a successful combat deployment of the Kuznetsov to market its weapons. Syria has become a testing ground for weapons that Russia has deployed, notably, the SS-N-27 Sizzler, a multi-mission cruise missile. The designers of the MiG-29K had particularly been hoping to do well, as they had seen export sales dry up after the fall of the Soviet Union. However, two losses from operations on the carrier have put an apparent damper on sales.
North Korea test fired another missile, just one day after South Korea suspended the deployment of the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense anti-missile system.
The early morning launch occurred June 8th from the coastal city of Wonsan.
“Multiple projectiles that appear to be short-range, land-to-ship cruise missiles” were fired and flew about 200 kilometers before landing in the Sea of Japan, or East Sea as it is called in Korea, according to South Korea’s Office of Joint Chiefs of Staff.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un last month ordered his military to develop the missile capability to precisely target enemy vessels at sea, according to North Korean state media.
During the first week of June, two US aircraft carrier strike groups, the USS Carl Vinson and the USS Ronald Reagan, conducted military exercises in international waters between the Korean Peninsula and Japan.
The South Korean JCS said the test on June 8th was a direct response to the recent US naval exercises.
“It was to show off the capability of various types of missiles and is an armed protest to show off its precise strike capability against enemy warships regarding the (recent) joint naval training of the U.S. carriers, or to secure an advantage in US and North Korea or inter-Korean relations,” said JCS Chief of Public Affairs Roh Jae-Cheon.
The JCS also noted that North Korea’s test of low-altitude cruise missiles is not a violation of United Nations Security Council sanctions, which specifically prohibit high-altitude ballistic missile and nuclear weapons development.
Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga also said this cruise missile test did not warrant a response by the United Nations.
“The government has dealt with actions of North Korea based on responses of the international community, however, we don’t think this ( North Korea’s missile launch this time) is something we need to protest against,” he said.
He also confirmed that the North Korean missiles did not reach his country’s exclusive economic zone that extends 370 kilometers from the coast.
The June 8th launch is the fourth missile test by North Korea since South Korean President Moon Jae-in took office May 10, pledging to reduce tensions with Pyongyang through dialogue and engagement. His conservative predecessor, former President Park Geun-hye, was impeached for her alleged ties to a multi-million dollar corruption scandal.
President Moon convened his first meeting of the National Security Council, where he ordered heightened military readiness to respond to any North Korean provocation.
” President Moon condemned [North Korea’s provocation by saying that] what North Korea will gain from this provocation is international isolation and economic difficulties and it will lose the opportunity for development,” said Park Soo-hyun, the spokesman of the presidential office after the NSC meeting.
On June 7th, the Moon administration suspended the further development of THAAD until an environmental survey, required by law, has been completed. A presidential aide was reported to have said that the survey could take up to two years.
THAAD uses six mobile launchers and 48 interceptor missiles to target long-range ballistic missiles using high-resolution radar and infrared seeking technology. Two of the launchers were installed in March.
During the campaign, Moon called for a full review of the THAAD agreement before authorizing deployment.
US President Donald Trump also raised concerns about the agreement when he demanded $1 billion for the American weapons system in April. Officials in both Washington and Seoul subsequently clarified the US would bear the cost of THAAD system’s deployment and South Korea would provide the land and supporting facilities.
Washington considers the advanced anti-missile battery critical for defense against North Korea’s growing nuclear and ballistic missile capabilities.
However China adamantly opposes the THAAD regional deployment that could potentially give the US the means to counter its missile capabilities as well.
And many residents living near the deployment site have raised concerns over the possible negative health effects of the system’s powerful radar, and over the increased danger of North Korea targeting their region if hostiles break out.
Last week, the South Korean Defense Ministry approved the delivery of four remaining launchers without informing the presidential office. The president suspended a deputy defense minster for his role in bypassing the executive oversight function. Kang Kyung-hwa, Moon’s Foreign Minister designate, also called for the National Assembly to debate this national security matter.
On Thursday, the Defense Ministry declined to comment on the status of THAAD because of an internal investigation under way.
In the National Assembly Thursday, conservative Rep. Lee Cheol-woo with the opposition Liberty Korea Party said delaying THAAD is “neglecting the country’s duty,” while fellow party member Rep. Chung Woo-taik accused the Moon government of undermining the US alliance, “while taking no measures whatsoever against North Korea’s missile launches.”
The South Korean presidential spokesman also said that Moon will reaffirm South Korea’s strong commitment to the US alliance when he meets with Trump in Washington later this month.
At the height of World War I, British intelligence provided the United States with a secret telegram sent from German Foreign Secretary Arthur Zimmerman to the government of Mexico. The telegram promised the Mexicans a military alliance if the United States entered the war against Germany. The Germans promised Mexico it would help them recover the American territories of Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico it lost in the Mexican-American War.
The interception of the telegram was one of the earliest big wins for signals intelligence. Maybe the Kaiser shouldn’t have sent it via Western Union.
“Hopefully no one breaks this code STOP It would mean we lose the war STOP We’re paying by the word STOP”
The note from Zimmerman was sent to the German ambassador to Mexico, Heinrich von Eckardt, letting him know that the German high command intended to resume its policy of unrestricted submarine warfare in the coming days. This strategy, while effective at keeping the British Isles from getting its necessary supplies also had the adverse effect of killing innocent civilians from neutral countries – countries like the United States.
On May 7, 1915, this policy resulted in the sinking of the luxury liner RMS Lusitania, killing some 1,128 people. And 128 of those people were American civilians bound for England. The incident was illegal under international law and sparked widespread anti-German outrage in the U.S. You know relations are strained when Americans rename their food to sound less German.
“Sauerkraut” is still “Liberty Cabbage” to me.
The note read:
We intend to begin on the first of February unrestricted submarine warfare. We shall endeavor in spite of this to keep the United States of America neutral. In the event of this not succeeding, we make Mexico a proposal of alliance on the following basis: make war together, make peace together, generous financial support and an understanding on our part that Mexico is to reconquer the lost territory in Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. The settlement in detail is left to you. You will inform the President of the above most secretly as soon as the outbreak of war with the United States of America is certain, and add the suggestion that he should, on his own initiative, invite Japan to immediate adherence and at the same time mediate between Japan and ourselves. Please call the President’s attention to the fact that the ruthless employment of our submarines now offers the prospect of compelling England in a few months to make peace. Signed, ZIMMERMANN
This wasn’t even the first time the Germans tried to incite the Mexicans against the U.S. There were at least five other occasions when the German Empire funded or assisted efforts to create tensions in North America. President Wilson even had to send U.S. troops to occupy Veracruz during his administration. What the Germans didn’t take into account was the fact that Mexico was already in the middle of its own civil war, Mexico didn’t stand a chance against the U.S., even then, there was already a peace agreement in place, and Mexico knew Germany couldn’t actually support it in any meaningful way.
“Mexico: We are with you. But not like… there. We have to be here. But good luck in your war with the US.”
The British sent the telegram to the U.S. Ambassador to Britain, who eventually got it to President Wilson. Wilson promptly gave it to the American media. When delivered to the American people, who were already anti-Mexican and anti-German, the result was explosive. To make matters worse, Zimmerman admitted the telegram was genuine in a speech to the Reichstag, and the Germans soon sunk two American merchant ships with u-boats. Three months later, in the face of American public opinion, Wilson asked Congress for a declaration of war.
In 2015, Skydance CEO David Ellison said a script was being written and that the story would take place in the contemporary times and feature drone fighters.
“It’s really exploring the end of an era of dogfighting and fighter pilots and what that culture is today,” Ellison said at the time.
Later that year, fellow “Top Gun” star Val Kilmer confirmed that he would be in the sequel.
The original “Top Gun,” which starred Cruise as a hotshot pilot who’s training at the elite Navy Fighter Weapons School, was one of the biggest hits of the late 1980s, earning over $350 million worldwide on a $15 million budget. The movie didn’t just attract the male audience that wanted to see intense aerial action scenes, but women also flocked to the theaters thanks in part to Cruise’s sex-symbol status and the music that ranged from Kenny Loggins’ “Danger Zone” to Berlin’s Oscar-winning ballad “Take My Breath Away” (used as background music to Cruise’s romance with Kelly McGillis in the film).
In his opening statement at his confirmation hearing Thursday, retired Marine Gen. James Mattis said it would be an honor to serve again, mentioned myriad challenges in the world, and brought up a touching personal story about his mother — showing how his family’s military ties and career have come full circle.
“Finally, on a personal note, I’ve worked at the Pentagon twice in my career,” Mattis told the Senate Armed Services Committee. “A few people may know I’m not the first person in my family to do so, when, in the wartime spring of 1942, my mother was 20 years-old and working in military intelligence. She was part of the first government employees to move into the still unfinished Pentagon.”
“She had come to America as an infant and lives today on the banks of the Columbia River in the Pacific Northwest. Little could she imagine in her youth that more than 90 years after she immigrated to this country and 75 years after she first walked through the doors of the War Department, one of her sons would be sitting here in front of you today.”
Mattis is right about that. A neighbor and close friend of his mother in Richland, Washington told a reporter in December that she was amazed at what he had accomplished in his career, and apparently his mother said “I can’t even believe he’s my son.”
Neither his mother nor other family members made the trip to Washington, D.C. to see the 66-year-old retired general testify. When asked by Republican Sen. John McCain whether he wanted to recognize any family members in the audience, Mattis quipped: “Thank you Senator. They are safely west of the Rockies.”
Before Mattis spoke, former Secretary of Defense William Cohen testified in support of the general and also mentioned his 94-year-old mother, who he said he was a “devoted son” to. Cohen also mentioned Mattis remains a member of a local food bank in the area.
Once dubbed “the world’s most dangerous road,” the 7.5-mile stretch from Baghdad’s Green Zone to the airport was called “Route Irish” during the American-led occupation of Iraq.
It was a fitting introduction to the country during the height of the war. For years, Route Irish was a trial by fire: if you survived the drive from the airport, you would be ready for anything.
The Americans and British had a hard time controlling the road for nearly two years. Most taxi drivers refused to go anywhere near it and those that did sometimes got caught up in the mix between the insurgency and the occupation forces. It wasn’t just dangerous for troops; it was dangerous for everyone.
1. It was an easy target.
Irish was the direct airport road, connecting the International Zone (aka the “Green Zone”) with BIAP and the Victory Base Complex. Insurgents of all brands, from loyalists to al-Qaeda in Iraq terrorists knew coalition forces were based along the road and knew they would have to use the road and the areas adjacent. Irish became a magnet for bullets, rockets, mortars, VBIEDs, and hidden IEDs.
Suicide bombers lurked on the exit ramps and road crews repairing holes from previous attacks buried IEDs. It became so bad, that by December 2004, State Department personnel were banned from using Irish and troops began calling it “IED Alley.”
2. The road was a bumpy ride.
All those explosive impacts created craters in the asphalt and littered the road with husks of destroyed vehicles. Besides making the trip seem like you were riding a bucking bronco for miles on end while dodging obstacles, the hastily filled-in holes created by explosions made the trip much longer than it had to be. The craters and garbage also made it easy for insurgents to hide IEDs.
Riding in a Bradley in 127-degree heat with little light and less air flow makes the 8-minute ride seem like it takes hours. Bumping your head on the side of this hotbox a few times will make anyone appreciate a foot patrol or IED sweep.
3. Getting aboard “the Rhino” was intimidating.
“The Rhino” was a Rhino Runner, a 22-seat bus with heavy armor, designed by Florida-based Labock Technologies. Troops, contractors, and VIPs traveling to and from Victory Base, BIAP, or the Green Zone had to mount up into the belly of this behemoth. Looking at this veritable mountain of a vehicle made the first time fobbit on his or her way to Iraqi Freedom’s nerve center think twice about whether or not they could conduct their business via email.
In November 2004, a three Rhino convoy was ambushed on Route Irish with a 250-pound suicide VBIED that made a crater 6 feet wide and 2 feet deep. A dust cloud over 1,000 feet long could be seen for miles around the city. There were no injuries to the 18 people in the vehicle.
4. The road required constant patrols.
Eventually, Irish would be secured by American troops using concrete obstacles, Iraqi Army units, and taking control of the neighborhoods adjacent to the road. Until then, Coalition forces had to keep the road as clean as possible and remove the blown-up car carcasses.
At one point, the Boston Globe reported the U.S. Army dedicated an entire battalion of the 10th Mountain Division to keeping the road as clear and safe as possible. This opened the troops up to constant attacks from suicide bombers, a tactic the military could do little to prevent short of destroying the car before it reached the target.
5. If the attacks weren’t dangerous enough, the Iraqi drivers were.
Because of the frequency and severity of attacks on American and other Coalition personnel (and sometimes sectarian violence) drivers in the city put the pedal to the metal while driving along the road. They so slow down for U.S. vehicle convoys because the turret gunners have no problem taking a few shots at a tailgater.
Iraqis drove the highway at high speeds, veering away from the median (a potential source of IEDs) except when they were veering away from the exits (a source of suicide VBIEDs), and randomly weaved while driving under overpasses for fear of someone dropping something on them.
Civilians who wanted a ride from the Sheraton to the airport could easily hire their own armored shuttle service – for the deeply discounted price of $2,390 each way.
As tensions grow in the South China Sea due to Communist China’s aggressive posture, other countries are trying to build up their military forces. One such country is Vietnam, which has a bit of history with China that includes a naval battle fought nearly 45 years ago.
In 1974, Chinese Communist and South Vietnamese naval forces fought a battle off the Paracel Islands. The South Vietnamese lost both the battle and a corvette while China took the Paracels. At the time, the major surface combatants for the Vietnam People’s Navy were five Petya-class light corvettes, World War II-era destroyer escorts, and eight Osa II-class missile boats armed with the SS-N-2c Styx anti-ship missile. These were older designs and the Chinese simply had more capable vessels.
Today, the situation has changed. Vietnam took advantage of the fall of the Soviet Union to get big upgrades at bargain prices, including the acquisition of six diesel-electric subs. But the big buy was the purchase of a half-dozen Gepard-class frigates from Russia, two of which are now in service.
The Soviets designed the Gepard in the last years of the Cold War to replace older Mirka and Petya-class light frigates. The basic weapons suite includes a SAN-4 launcher, two quad SS-N-25 launchers, a 76mm gun, two AK-630 close-in weapon systems, and two twin 21-inch torpedo tube mounts.
The Russians planned to use a single hull type for five different designs. Gepard 1 would have a helicopter deck. Gepard 2 replaced the SA-N-4 with a hangar for a Ka-27 type chopper. Gepard 3 was larger and packed a CADS-N-1. Gepard 4 was an unarmed rescue ship that still could be fitted with some weapons and, finally, Gepard 5 was a long-range patrol ship that was slower, but still carried a heavier gun armament than a littoral combat ship.
These six frigates join at least a dozen Vietnamese Tarantul-class corvettes (eight armed with SS-N-25, four with SS-N-2) and at least two BPS 500 corvettes.
If Vietnam and China fight over the Paracels again, the Vietnamese will likely put up one heck of a fight.
America is big place! Someone tell the people who make MREs to scour the best regions of the United States for our regional flavors! We could get some better food while learning a little bit about the different regional cuisines of our own country.
1. A better Buffalo Chicken.
What is more ‘Merica than adding butter to hot sauce and then pouring it over chicken wings? The answer is “not much.” But the MRE wizards decided to make it a “pulled” version of the dish, which ended up looking like an electric orange glop.
They gave us whole pieces of meat when it came to the Western Burger and the Frankfurters. Why they decided not to use actual wings (or even boneless wings) is beyond comprehension. And don’t get us started on the lack of Bleu Cheese.
2. Baltimore Crab Cakes.
I know asking for crab from the military is asking a lot. But I’d rather have it processed into MREs than eat what I tasted as it was steamed into a rubbery oblivion at the DFAC on Camp Victory.
Besides the delicious crab cake, a little packet of Old Bay seasoning could totally replace the hot sauce packet as the go-to flavor enhancer.
3. Southern-Style Biscuits and Gravy.
This one isn’t such a great idea for being on-the-go, but if you have time to sit and eat, this would be a great idea. We all know the Elf snack bread can also be used for hammering nails so why not have the MRE people create a buttermilk snack bread that is designed to be moistened up in the field. With gravy.
The end product will look nothing like the photo above, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. Civilian rations already made this – and relatively well. Besides, it will show that the MRE people put some thought into texture and mouthfeel.
4. South Dakota’s Chislic.
Chislic is simple. It’s grilled or fried chunks of meat – usually game or lamb, but can also be beef – topped with seasoned salt or garlic salt. It’s eaten via toothpick and served with saltines. It’s like shish kebab.
So it would be one MRE our Middle Eastern allies could eat with us. We all know MRE makers are fans of crackers and chunked meat. This one sells itself.
5. Hawaiian Spam Musubi.
Bear with me here. Spam gets a bad rap but this Hawaiian snack is pretty great. In Hawaii, Spam is even getting a gourmet makeover. Musubi is fried or grilled Spam on a bed of rice and held together with nori seaweed.
The best part about Spam Musubi is that it tastes great hot or cold and is designed to be eaten on the run.
6. Lowcountry Shrimp and Grits.
The coastal areas of Georgia and South Carolina, especially Charleston, are culinary heaven. Grits are a boiled ground hominy, a corn product. How it’s made isn’t important, but how it’s prepared definitely is. My first breakfast with locals in Charleston had them each prep their grits in a different way. Some add cheese, some add grape jelly, and the chefs add shrimp, tomatoes, sausage, peppers, bacon, spices…
7. West Virginia’s Pepperoni Rolls.
Just like it sounds, the Pepperoni Roll is a bready roll baked with pepperoni in the middle. The idea is to heat the bread and let the pepperoni oils soak into it as the entire thing gets softer. It can also be eaten cold, which is a boon to troops on the move.
For those of you asking if we should really be taking nutrition tips from Appalachia, my response to you is that if we really cared that much about it in the field, we wouldn’t be eating MREs.
8. New Mexico’s Green Chile Stew.
If you’ve eaten MREs for long enough, you’ve come to realize they all taste the same after a while. Why not make one that was prepared the way it was intended, with a sh*tton of green chiles in it?
It can also be a vegetarian option, but the best part about having Green Chile Stew in an MRE is that it can be poured over every other MRE, instantly making even the worst meal edible. Chicken chunks and veggie crumbles aren’t just for lining the reject box anymore!
9. Upstate NY’s Utica Greens.
There are always a lot of complaints that MREs don’t have a lot of vegetable matter in them. Here’s our chance to appease those people while teaching the rest of America that New York State is large and there’s a lot to see between NYC and Buffalo.
Utica Greens are any kind of leafy green sautéed in chicken broth and mixed with bread crumbs, cheese, prosciutto, and hot peppers (and sometimes other things). Serve the bread crumbs in a separate packet, MRE wizards. Ideally, this is downed with a Utica Club Beer.
10. Alaskan Akutuq
Sometimes known as “Eskimo Ice Cream,” Akutuq is an Inuit dish of hard fat whipped with berries or meat. Originally meant to be a dessert, the dish has been modified dozens of times over and now includes savory variations.
The use of hard fats and lean meats (usually game meat) means a high-protein, high fat MRE meal perfect for troops who want that kind of diet and don’t mind where they get it.
11. Cincinnati Chili
Cincy’s chili features finely-ground meat in a thin sauce that includes ingredients like cocoa powder and cinnamon. Three-way, four-way, and five-way variants add onions, kidney beans, or both. It’s served over spaghetti and then covered with so much cheese, it looks like a plate of cheese.
Cincinnati Chili has its detractors (aka everyone outside of the Ohio-Kentucky area) but people in Chicago pour tomato soup in a bread bowl and call it pizza and Californians think In-n-Out is the pinnacle of burgers. E pluribus unum.
I haven’t been to every place in America. What regional foods would make a good MRE? Email email@example.com with your suggestion, a recipe, and maybe even the best restaurant to find it.
After arresting two American university instructors and laying out what it says was an elaborate, CIA-backed plot to assassinate Kim Jong Un, North Korea is claiming to be the victim of state-sponsored terrorism — from the White House.
The assertion comes as the U.S. is considering putting the North back on its list of terror sponsors. But the vitriolic outrage over the alleged plan to assassinate Kim in April is also being doled out with an unusually big dollop of retaliation threats, raising a familiar question: What on Earth is going on in Pyongyang?
North Korea’s state-run media announced May 7 that an ethnic Korean man with U.S. citizenship was “intercepted” by authorities for unspecified hostile acts against the country. He was identified as Kim Hak Song, an employee of the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology.
That came just days after the North announced the detention of an accounting instructor at the same university, Kim Sang Dok, also a U.S. citizen, for “acts of hostility aimed to overturn” the country. PUST is North Korea’s only privately funded university and has a large number of foreign teachers, including Americans.
What, if anything, the arrests have to the alleged plot is unknown. But they bring to four the number of U.S. citizens now known to be in custody in the North.
“Obviously this is concerning,” White House spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters May 8. “We are well-aware of it, and we are going to work through the embassy of Sweden … through our State Department to seek the release of the individuals there.”
Sweden handles U.S. consular affairs in North Korea, including those of American detainees.
The others are Otto Warmbier, serving a 15-year prison term with hard labour for alleged anti-state acts — he allegedly tried to steal a propaganda banner at his tourist hotel — and Kim Dong Chul, serving a 10-year term with hard labour for alleged espionage.
The reported arrest of another “Mr. Kim” — the North Korean man allegedly at the centre of the assassination plot — is more ominous.
According to state media reports that began May 5, he is a Pyongyang resident who was “ideologically corrupted and bribed” by the CIA and South Korea’s National Intelligence Service while working in the timber industry in Siberia in 2014. The Russian far east is one of the main places where North Korean laborers are allowed to work abroad.
The reports say Kim — his full name has not been provided — was converted into a “terrorist full of repugnance and revenge against the supreme leadership” of North Korea and collaborated in an elaborate plot to assassinate Kim Jong Un at a series of events, including a major military parade, that were held last month.
They allege Kim was in frequent contact through satellite communications with the “murderous demons” of the NIS and CIA, who instructed him to use a biochemical substance that is the “know-how of the CIA” and that the hardware, supplies, and funds would be borne by the South Korean side.
Kim Jong Un attended the military parade on April 15 and made several other appearances around that time to mark the anniversary of his late grandfather’s birthday.
The initial reports of the plot concluded with a vow by the Ministry of State Security to “ferret out to the last one” the organizers, conspirators and followers of the plot, which it called “state-sponsored terrorism.”
The North Korean reports also said a “Korean-style anti-terrorist attack” would begin immediately. Follow-up stories on the plot have focused on outraged North Koreans demanding revenge.
It’s anyone’s guess what a “Korean-style” attack might entail.
“I wonder if Kim Jong Un has become paranoid about the influence Americans are having on North Koreans, and about the possibility of U.S. action against him,” said Bruce Bennett, a senior defence analyst and North Koreaexpert at the RAND Corporation. “Will Kim increase his internal purges of North Korean elites? Will he focus on North Korean defectors, people who the regime would like to silence? Or will he do both?”
Tensions between North Korea and its chief adversaries — the U.S. and South Korea — have been rising over Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs, as well as joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises that include training for a possible “decapitation strike” to kill the North’s senior leaders.
Bennett noted that such training has been included and expanded upon in annual wargames hosted by South Korea, which were bigger than ever this year.
The wargames, called Key Resolve/Foal Eagle, just finished, without any signs of North Korean retaliation.
But the current rhetoric from Pyongyang has a somewhat familiar ring to it. Case in point: the movie “The Interview” in 2014.
In June that year, the North denounced the Seth Rogen comedy, which portrays the assassination of Kim Jong Un for the CIA by two American journalists, as “a most wanton act of terror and act of war.” A few months later, hackers broke into Sony Pictures Entertainment computers and released thousands of emails, documents, Social Security numbers, and other personal information in an attempt to derail the movie’s release.
The U.S. government blamed North Korea for the attack. Pyongyang denies involvement, but has praised the hackers.
The North’s claims of a plot to kill Kim Jong Un with a biochemical agent also have an eerie similarity to the assassination of his estranged half brother, Kim Jong Nam, at an airport lobby in Malaysia in February.
In that attack, seen by many as orchestrated by the North, two young women who were allegedly tricked into thinking they were taking part in a television game show, rubbed the deadly VX nerve agent onto the face of the unsuspecting victim, who died soon after.