Being forward deployed in a foreign country has many dangers. No matter how well you fortify your Forward Operating Base, it’ll never be safe — only safer.
But for months or even years, it’s home for hundreds of service members…surrounded by an enemy on all sides who want to bring harm to them on a daily basis.
One thing Marines take seriously is making sure that while their brothers and sisters rest inside the wire — they’re safe. With different security levels in place, check out six obstacles that the enemy has to breach before even getting inside.
1. Hesco barriers
One aspect of fighting in the desert is the massive amounts of sand, dirt, and rocks that are available. Filling the natural resources in the encased barriers provides excellent protection against most types of enemy fire.
Marines from 1st CEB, fill Hesco barriers at a combat outpost in Musa Qaleh, Afghanistan. (Photo via 1stMarDiv)
2. Heavy guns in the nest
Occupying the high ground gives allied forces the best vantage possible. Add in a few Marines with big guns waiting for the bad guys to feel froggy — that’s protection.
The bad guys may want to rethink how they attack with these Marines on deck. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)
Even if granted permission to access the FOB, entering should be difficult. Serpentine belts force incoming vehicles to slow down and maneuver through the barrier maze.
If you don’t have permission to enter, the Marines will definitely open fire. (Photo via Global Security)
4. Security rounds
Marines carry hundreds of rounds on their person at any given time. Carrying a full combat load on patrol can wear the body down. Inside a FOB, you can ease up on your personal security — a little.
Instead of carrying 210 rounds, they’ll have the 30 security rounds inserted in their magazine.
In warfare, it’s essential to have cameras positioned everywhere and that see everything.
Dear bad guys, we totally see you. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)
Over time, the gravel inside the Hescos will settle, causing separation between the individual barriers. When FOB security notices this interruption, they frequently place and conceal claymore mines in between the Hescos until the issue is patched up.
Last year marked the fifth consecutive year I’ve visited France, but this time, the mood was markedly different. Terrorist attacks had changed both the topics and the nature of civil discourse, and there was a dramatic increase in physical security around all public events. It was noticeable as soon as I stepped off the plane.
In years past, you’d see pairs of uniformed soldiers of various noncombat arms strolling around Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris looking bored, checking out the young women, and trying to feign interest in a largely symbolic duty. In contrast, last summer I saw squads of jocked-up infantry veterans deployed to even second-string airports, where they were actually patrolling and even — horror of horrors — had magazines in their weapons.
The rifle they carried was the FAMAS, the iconic “Bugle” and the last service weapon to be produced in a nation that at one time led the world in firearms innovation. In 2016, France was in the process of selecting a replacement, which would come from either Belgium — on whose soil hundreds of thousands of French servicemen died — or from Germany, whose conscripts faced them across artillery-scarred mud and from behind the sights of K98 Mausers. France wound up choosing the HK version of America’s service rifle. But hey, we’re all Europeans now.
It seemed appropriate, therefore, to visit the city in which France produced the millions of rifles, bayonets, machine guns, and pistols needed to equip their armed forces, who just 100 years ago were locked in a bloody, existential battle for their nation’s survival. The factory where thousands of workers toiled in a desperate race to put weapons in the hands of those who were battling the Teutonic hordes had been shuttered and bulldozed in the 2000s, but their remarkable product line had been placed behind glass for visitors to gawk at.
Saint-Étienne was, during the latter part of the Industrial Revolution, one of the most important manufacturing centers in Europe, producing textiles, machine tools, bicycles, and farm equipment, but its history as an arms maker dates to the Middle Ages. Swords and armor were manufactured for French kings and emperors to equip their armies, and as edged weapons transitioned to powder, the musket of 1777 became the most prolific firearm ever produced until the advent of WWI.
Over 7 million examples were made (though not all by Saint-Étienne), and troops so equipped faced off against those armed with the Brown Bess in Europe and Asia. French firearms featured prominently in the early days of American history too. Although the famed Charleville musket of the Revolutionary War was named after the eponymous state arsenal in the Ardennes, many were produced in Saint-Étienne and made their way across the Atlantic. Later, in the Civil War, France supplied cannons, Minie rifles, pistols, submarines, and ironclads to both sides.
Pair of presentation pistols from the workshop of maître Nicholas Boutet.
While the history of French firearms development in Saint-Étienne could easily fill its own building, the collection shares space with other notable local trades and is housed almost entirely on the upper floor of the Musee d’Science et Industrie. The building itself is reached by crossing a small town square that’s quintessentially French; while we were there, the weekly market was well underway and townsfolk were stocking up on locally grown produce, meat, and cheese.
Climbing a few limestone steps to the entrance, the ballistic pilgrim enters the usual foyer-slash-gift-shop, ponies up their entrance fee, and then climbs the stairs past displays of glass and lace.
Examples of medieval armor, swords, and halberds greet the museum’s visitors as they enter the third floor space of the Museum of Science and Industry. Inside, displays cover both combat and jousting, with examples of both highly decorated plate armor and mail in evidence, along with the lances and shields every well-equipped nobleman needed in order to win the heart of a fair maiden.
The period where armor was being supplanted due to the ability of commoners to punch big frickin’ holes in it with their comparatively cheap matchlocks overlaps the birth of several of the most notable area workshops. Locks from this time are displayed in wall-mounted cases and some are quite stunning in both design and execution. The earliest service firearms on display are a pair of wheel-lock cavalry pistols dating from 1550, while a suit of Maximilian armor dates all the way back to 1415.
Although Alexandre Dumas’ characters were fictitious, his father was an honest-to-God general in the French revolutionary wars, and there really were two companies of Musketeers who served as the king’s bodyguard. The only remaining example of a Musketeer pistol is on display in the MSI, along with corresponding Mousquetons, or cavalry carbines.
Fusil d’Assaut de la Manufacture d’Armes de Saint-Étienne.
At around the same time, an enterprising gunsmith by the name of Nicholas Boutet was hiring the best artisans he could find to produce what could be fairly considered some of the finest guns the world has ever seen. As arquebusier, or gunsmith to the court of Louis XVI, he was given free reign to create extraordinary works of art, such as the pair of cased pistols shown here.
As the industrial age progressed, cartridge arms replaced flintlocks in a process familiar to amateur historians on both sides of the pond. Production became both codified and centralized, with Saint-Étienne’s place as a strategic asset to the French Empire cemented in place with every one of the bricks laid to enclose the new factory. Revolvers from the 1870s are showcased and demonstrate just how advanced their designs were in comparison to contemporaries on the world stage.
While we were taming the west with Colt single-actions, the French were fielding their first sophisticated D/A revolver, which for a military pistol was exquisitely made (in the officer’s variant anyway — rank has its privileges). The 11mm 1873 Chamelot-Delvigne was made until 1886 and continued in service until well into the Second World War. Civilian versions were widely distributed, with Belgian copies hitting the market soon after the military adopted the pistol; we encountered examples of both at a local flea market, where, due to being over 100 years old with no currently manufactured ammunition, they’re freely traded.
The MSI has numerous, well-preserved samples of drop-dead gorgeous French sporting arms from the golden age of gun making, but it’s the oddballs and one-offs that are particularly eye-catching. Such as the carbide-powered rifles and the high-powered airguns, along with early semi-auto shotguns that show a level of development that surpass their American counterparts. This is, after all, the country that was the first to field a self-loading service rifle, over 20 years before the Garand stepped onto the stage.
As visitors make their way past case after case of well-preserved and displayed products of the gunmakers’ craft, they eventually fetch up at the usual Euro-bullshit display of modern art, the message being, of course, that guns are bad m’kay? It’s ironic then that the last exhibit before having to suffer the artists’ smug self-righteousness is of the final products of the Saint-Étienne factory, which is, of course, where our story started. We can only hope that the gamble of neglecting and then destroying the remnants of their domestic arms industry doesn’t come back to bite them. History’s a bitch, ain’t it?
Performance will be the primary factor in the future if the Defense Department has to resort to a civilian reduction in force, DoD officials said today.
The department revamped the rules for the reduction-in-force process as a result of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2016.
That law requires the department to establish procedures to provide that, in any reduction in force of civilian positions in the competitive or excepted service, the determination of which employees shall be separated from employment shall be made primarily on basis of performance.
A reduction in force, or RIF, as it is known, is the term used when the government lays off employees. The RIF procedures determine whether an employee keeps his or her present position, whether the employee has a right to a different position or whether the employee must be let go.
In the past, tenure was the primary factor when making RIF calculations. Now, an employee’s performance rating of record will carry the greatest weight followed by tenure group, performance average score, veterans’ preference and DoD service computation date-RIF.
“The DoD civilian workforce is one of the department’s most important assets,” said Julie Blanks, acting assistant secretary of defense for civilian personnel policy. “However, there are times when the department must make difficult decisions that impact our civilians, and in doing so, it is imperative these decisions result in our continued ability to seamlessly execute our national security mission. When circumstances necessitate a RIF, the department must ensure we are retaining our highest performing employees.”
The changes will apply to almost all of DoD’s 750,000 civilian employees. This change in the RIF process only applies to DoD. The government-wide provisions that rank four retention factors by tenure of employment; veterans’ preference; length of service; and performance remain in place for other federal agencies.
Under the new system, if an agency is forced to employ a RIF, employees will be placed on a retention register based on periods of assessed performance of 12 months or more or less than 12 months. The idea is to give an equitable comparison for employees whose performance has been assessed over a comparable period of time.
The first retention factor is rating of record. The rating of record is the average drawn from the two most recent performance appraisals received by the employee within the four-year period preceding the cutoff date for the RIF.
The second factor is tenure group. There are three tenure groups, with group III being temporary or term employees, these employees will be ranked at the bottom of the retention register below groups I and II.
Tenure group I and II employees are those serving on permanent appointments. Tenure group I includes employees who are not on probation and whose appointments are not career-conditional.
Tenure group II employees are those hired into permanent appointments in a career-conditional or probationary status. In general, tenure group II employees must have three years of creditable service and meet all other stated conditions of their probationary period in order to attain Tenure group I status. Tenure group I will be ranked above employees in tenure group II within each rating of record group.
The third factor is an employee’s average score. In general, an employee’s average score for one performance appraisal is derived by dividing the sum of the employee’s performance element ratings by the number of performance elements. For purposes of RIF, average score is the average of the average scores drawn from the two most recent performance appraisals received by the employee within the four year period preceding the “cutoff date” for the RIF.
Veterans’ preference is the fourth factor. “Veterans are a key part of the civilian workforce, representing a highly skilled, extremely well-qualified cadre of employees,” Blanks said. “The department firmly believes that highly performing veterans in the civilian workforce will not be disadvantaged by the new RIF policy.”
The final factor is the DoD service computation date-RIF, with those serving the longest having the edge.
DoD officials stress that a RIF is always the last resort for the department. They will do everything they can to mitigate the size of reductions, including the use of voluntary early retirement authority or voluntary separation incentive payments. Agencies will also use hiring freezes, termination of temporary appointments, and any other pre-RIF placement options.
The new DoD RIF policy and procedures are consistent with the implementation of the DoD Performance Management and Appraisal Program. This program standardizes the civilian performance appraisal system throughout the department.
The US Navy has reportedly launched 59 cruise missiles at airfields controlled by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in response to a chemical attack that killed at least 80 people in the northwestern part of the country on Monday.
Tomahawk missiles were launched from two Navy warships stationed in the Mediterranean according to CNN, and NBC News.
No casualties have yet been reported but officials tell NBC News that no people were targeted.
Missiles hit runways and military infrastructure used by Syrian and Russian forces, who the US blames for using chemical weapons in the attack on Monday.
Several prominent GOP Senators and Representatives urged strikes on Syria after evidence of chemical attacks surfaced. The strike, while not targeting troops themselves, carried a high risk of killing Syrian and Russian servicemen in collateral damage.
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:
A fly away security team from the 1st Battalion, 153rd Infantry Regiment provides security for a C-130J May 26, 2017, during a cargo mission in Somalia, supporting the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa. CJTF-HOA promotes prosperity and security in East Africa by assisting partner nations with countering violent extremist organizations, fostering regional security cooperation, and by protecting U.S. personnel and facilities in its 10-country area of responsibility.
U.S. Air Force firefighters from the 8th Civil Engineer Squadron, Kunsan Air Base, 51st Civil Engineer Squadron, Osan Air Base, and Republic of Korea Air Force firefighters, spray water at a fire during combined fire training at Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea, May 23, 2017. U.S. and ROKAF firefighters trained together to help bridge communication gaps and improve their efficiency in responding to real-world scenarios.
Soldiers of the 155th Armored Brigade Combat Team, Mississippi Army National Guard, provide security while transporting residents during an evacuation exercise during the 155th Armored Brigade Combat Team’s National Training Center rotation May 31, 2017, at Fort Irwin, California.
A UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter sits under Milky Way galaxy in the Mojave Desert May 30, 2017, at the National Training Center, Fort Irwin, California. The 25 second exposure was taken when the moon was setting, lighting up the clouds on one side of the horizon. Further detail in the Milky Way galaxy was brought out by stacking 10 images together. Soldiers of Company C, 1st Battalion, 106th Aviation Regiment, are at NTC conducting combat training to strengthen their individual and combat readiness skills.
1st Sgt. Tyler S. Brownlee, second from left, Company B, 1st Battalion, 38th Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, briefs Company B soldiers April 25, 2017, about their role in the following day’s air assault mission during the “Operation Raider Focus” exercise at Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site.
WESTERN PACIFIC (May 26, 2017) A wave breaks on the forecastle of Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Wayne E. Meyer (DDG 108) as the ship begins her approach to fleet replenishment oiler USNS Rappahannock (T-AO 204) for a replenishment-at-sea. The U.S. Navy has patrolled the Indo-Asia-Pacific routinely for more than 70 years promoting regional peace and security.
SEA OF JAPAN (June 1, 2017) The Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group, including the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70), Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 2, the guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Champlain (CG 57) and the guided-missile destroyers USS Wayne E. Meyer (DDG 108) and USS Michael Murphy (DDG 112), operate with the Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group including, USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), CVW-5, USS Shiloh (CG 67), USS Barry (DDG 52), USS McCampbell (DDG 85), USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) and USS Mustin (DDG 89), and the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force ships (JS) Hyuga (DDH 181) and JS Ashigara (DDG 178) in the western Pacific region. The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force and U.S. Navy forces routinely train together to improve interoperability and readiness to provide stability and security for the Indo-Asia Pacific region.
Marines with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 363 insert Marines with 3rd Marine Regiment in a long range raid simulation during Integrated Training Exercise (ITX) 3-17 at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Arizona, May 27. ITX is a combined-arms exercise enabling Marines across 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing to operate as an aviation combat element integrated with ground and logistics combat elements as a Marine air-ground task force. More than 650 Marines and 27 aircraft with 3rd MAW are supporting ITX 3-17.
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. David Bickel
U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Dustin Pagano, combat marksmanship coach, Combat Marksmanship Company, Weapons Training Battalion, sites in on a target at Altcar Training Camp, Hightown, United Kingdom on May 24, 2017. The U.S. Marine Corps travels to the United Kingdom annually to compete in the Royal Marines Operational Shooting Competition and learn with their allies while building relationships.
An HH-65 Dolphin helicopter hoists a rescue swimmer during a search and rescue demonstration for Fleet Week New York, May 29, 2017. This year commemorates the 29th annual celebration of the U.S. Marine Corps, Navy and Coast Guard.
Congressman Charlie Crist, U.S. Representative for Florida’s 13th District, right, speaks with Air Station Clearwater crew members Tuesday, May 30, 2017, prior to an aerial assessment of beach erosion along Pinellas County, Florida’s coast. Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew members provided the overflight for the congressman and Army Corps of Engineers personnel.
North Korea has launched what appears to be a missile headed towards the northern end of Japan at around 5:58 a.m. local time, according to Japanese government officials.
Japan’s NHK News reported that the missile passed over Japan and warned people in northern Japan to take necessary precautions.
Although three missiles were fired, according to Japanese officials, it was not entirely clear if all of them were headed towards the same trajectory. NHK also reported that a missile broke off into three pieces before splashing down into the Pacific Ocean.
South Korean military officials have also confirmed reports of the missile launch and said that it flew for about 1677 miles.
During the tense moment, multiple prefectures in Japan were reportedly put on alert.
“We’ll take utmost efforts to protect the public,” Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe said, shortly following the launch.
The latest act of provocation from North Korea comes amid a spate of questionable moves, despite regional leaders, including Russia, denouncing North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in recently called for his county to prepare to “immediately switch to offensive operations” if the North makes a “provocation that crosses the line,” NK News reported.
On September 1, 1998, North Korea fired a missile towards Japan’s airspace, offering no explanation for the incident.
The M1 Abrams main battle tank gets a lot of attention and respect. As well it should; it has a very enviable combat record – not to mention a reputation that is simply fearsome.
After all, if you were facing them and knew that enemy shells fired from 400 yards away bounced off the armor of an M1, you’d want to find some sort of white fabric to wave to keep it from shooting at you.
But the Abrams doesn’t operate alone. Often, it works with the Bradley Fighting Vehicle, or BFV. The “B” could also stand for “badass” because the Bradley has done its share of kicking butt alongside the Abrams, including during Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Incidentally the Bradley took a lot of flak early on, pun intended. People called it a “coffin ready to burn.” U.S. News and World Report placed it on their list of America’s 10 Worst Weapons. Even the legendary “60 Minutes” took its shots at the vehicle.
That said, the Bradley proved `em wrong in Desert Storm. Here are some of the reasons why:
Chain Gun Firepower
The Bradley has the M242 25mm Bushmaster chain gun, and can hold up to 900 or 1500 rounds, depending on whether you are in the M2 Infantry Fighting Vehicle or M3 Cavalry Fighting Vehicle. This chain gun can handle just about any battlefield threat. Opposing armored personnel carriers or infantry fighting vehicles, dismounted infantry, trucks, just about anything on the battlefield short of a tank can be taken out. That sells the M242 short. In Desert Storm, one Bradley even took out a T-72 with that chain gun!
An Anti-Tank Missile, Too!
But the Bradley didn’t forget the fact that tanks are on the battlefield. It has a two-round launcher for the BGM-71 Tube-launched Optically-tracked Wire-guided (TOW) missile. The BGM-71E TOW has a range of about two and a third miles, and carries a 13-pound shaped charge. This is enough to rip just about any tank to shreds. The BGM-71F attacks the top of a tank with two explosively formed projectiles.
Oh, and the Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle can stow five reloads for its launcher. The Cavalry Fighting Vehicle carries ten — almost enough to take out an entire company of tanks.
The Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle can carry up to seven grunts in the back. What can grunts bring to the table? Plenty. With M4 carbines, M249 squad automatic weapons, M203 grenade launchers, M320 grenade launchers, the FGM-148 Javelin anti-tank missile, and a host of other weapons, the grunts can add to the vehicle’s already impressive punch.
The Cavalry Fighting Vehicle carries two grunts, but they have access to the same weapons that the grunts in the Infantry Fighting Vehicle do.
The Bradley also comes in the Bradley Linebacker version. This Bradley, designated the M6, replaced the TOW launcher with a four-round launcher for the FIM-92 Stinger. Now, the Bradley could hunt aircraft and helicopters. It retained the M242, though, which still gives it the ability to handle ground targets.
The M7 Bradley Fire Support Vehicle replaced the M113-based M981, and while it still has a 25mm gun, it uses a sophisticated navigation system (a combination of GPS and inertial navigation) to serve as a reference point. The TOW system has been replaced with something far more deadly: the means to provide laser designation for anything from Hellfire missiles, to Copperhead laser-guided artillery rounds, to Paveway laser-guided bombs like the GBU-12 and GBU-24.
Other versions of the Bradley are used for command and control and for combat engineers. In short, this vehicle can do a lot.
The Bradley has not been easy to kill. During Desert Storm, only three were lost to enemy fire. In Operation Iraqi Freedom, about 150 Bradleys were lost from all causes. Still, the vehicle still allows the crew and grunts inside to survive.
It Keeps Up
One problem with the M113 armored personnel carrier has been the fact it couldn’t keep up with the M1 Abrams. The Bradley never had that problem — and was able to fight side-by-side with the M1, allowing such feats as the 24th Infantry Division’s advance of 260 miles during the 100-hour long ground war of Desert Storm.
The combat record of the Bradley also speaks volumes. In Desert Storm, Bradleys destroyed more enemy vehicles than the Abrams.
It Keeps Getting Better
The Bradley isn’t standing still. Like the M1 Abrams, it has received upgrades thoughout its career. By 2018, the new versions of the Bradley will be entering service, bringing a more powerful engine, new shock absorbers, and an improved power-management system, among other improvements.
So, before you dismiss the badass Bradley, keep these things in mind. The United States Army bought over 4,600 of these vehicles — and it has outlasted two efforts to replace it in the Future Combat Systems XM1206 and the Ground Combat Vehicle Infantry Carrier Vehicle. Not a bad track record for this vehicle!
Now that women are eligible for any combat job in the U.S. military, the top brass thinks it might be time for them to register for the draft as well. The civilian government doesn’t entirely agree. Yet, a short time ago, Congressman (and combat veteran) Duncan Hunter added legislation to the upcoming National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would require women to register for the draft.
The only problem is Hunter didn’t want it to happen. He only wanted to force a debate on the issue of women in combat. He never expected the idea of women registering for the draft to pass. The provision gained unexpected support and momentum in the House Armed Services Committee and passed. (Ironically, Hunter voted against his own amendment.)
Today, the Rules Committee of the House of Representatives removed Hunter’s provisions before the NDAA was introduced on the greater House floor, a move that caused Congressional Democrats to criticize Republicans for not bringing the bill to a potentially damaging public debate.
The idea of women registering is not entirely dead yet. In their version of the NDAA, the Senate Armed Services Committee also includes language that would force women to register for Selective Service. That provision is expected to be removed during closed-door meetings between the two houses of Congress as they prepare a compromise bill for President Obama to sign.
The U.S. Defense Department has approved the Air Force’s new KC-46A Pegasus refueling tanker for initial production despite recent technical challenges that resulted in program delays.
The service late last week announced that Frank Kendall, the Pentagon’s chief weapons buyer, approved the Boeing Co.-made aircraft based on the 767 airliner for low-rate initial production, known in acquisition parlance as Milestone C.
“I commend the team for diligently working through some difficult technical challenges,” Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James, said in a statement.
Earlier in the week, she suggested Kendall’s decision might not come until later in the month and that failure by Congress to approve a budget for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1 would hurt the acquisition effort.
Under a continuing resolution, “KC-46 production would be capped at 12 aircraft,” not the 15 as proposed in the fiscal 2017 budget, and the result would be to “delay operational fielding of this platform,” James said.
Parts of the plane that required reworking included the boom used to refuel Air Force planes (hoses extend from the body and wings to refuel Navy and Marine Corps aircraft, as well as those from allies); the fuel system (which was overhauled after workers loaded a mislabeled chemical into it); and wiring and software.
Boeing has reportedly spent more than $1.2 billion on the repairs, including installing hydraulic pressure relief valves to alleviate “higher than expected axial loads in the boom” discovered in tests to refuel the C-17 Globemaster III, according to the Air Force statement.
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein said he was confident “the KC-46 is ready to take the next step.”
Meanwhile, Darlene Costello, an acquisition executive with the service, said, “I appreciate Boeing’s continued focus as they work to finish development prior to first aircraft delivery.”
Boeing plans to deliver the first 18 KC-46As to the service by January 2018, a date that was previously scheduled for August 2017.
The Air Force within the next month will award the Chicago-based aerospace giant two contracts with a combined value of $2.8 billion for 19 aircraft.
The service plans to spend $48 billion to develop and build 179 of the planes to replace its aging fleet of KC-135s, according to Pentagon budget documents. Boeing forecasts an $80 billion global market for the new tankers, the website Trading Alpha has reported.
The Air Force has selected as preferred bases for the aircraft Altus Air Force Base in Oklahoma, McConnell Air Force Base in Kansas, and Pease Air National Guard Base in New Hampshire.
The Sherman tank was a powerful force to be reckoned with on the battlefields in WWII; it was fast and mobile and it shelled out plenty of firepower.
It provided just enough cover for American ground troops as it stomped through the German front lines. The Sherman was designed to patrol over enemy bridges and it was easily transported on railroad cars.
When the U.S. decided to invade Europe, General Patton selected the Sherman as his particular tank of choice and wanted as many to roll off the assembly lines as possible. Nearly fifty thousand were produced between 1942 and 1945.
Weighing in at 33 tons, it sustained a speed of 26 miles per hour and housed 2 inches of armor. Many saw the image of the Sherman tank to be invincible just like the American war effort, but the brave soldiers who served as tank crew members believed that it had too many engineering flaws and was far inferior compared to the German’s Tiger and Panther tanks.
The Sherman tank was equipped with a fully-transversing 75mm turret short barrelled gun that fired a high explosive shell 2,000 feet per second. Compared to the German tanks that shot accurately at 3,500 feet per second, the enemy’s armor piercing ammo was 2-3 times more effective.
It was recommended that to defeat the Germans, the tank crew had to speed up and flank around their battlefield rivalry and get within 600 yards range to be effective.
Captain Belton Y. Cooper, author of Death Traps and a member of the 3rd Armor Division maintenance unit, recounts knowing how inferior the Sherman was after seeing its physical destruction firsthand. He knew it was no match for the Nazi’s arsenal.
“We lost 648 tanks totally destroyed in combat, another 700 knocked out, repaired and put back into action,” Cooper says. “That’s 1,348 tanks knocked out in combat. I don’t think anyone took that kind of loss in the war.”
Pakistan is an awkward ally to the U.S., to put it mildly. The relationship hasn’t really been the same since the end of the Cold War. The U.S. routinely violates Pakistan’s airspace and strikes Pakistani nationals with drones, while the Pakistanis harbored America’s whole reason for global warfare — Osama bin Laden.
It’s a complicated relationship.
According to the nonprofit Arms Control Association, Pakistan has at least 140 nuclear warheads and rather than secure them in fortified bunkers, Pakistan hides them in plain sight – by driving them through rush hour traffic in an unsuspecting delivery van.
In a shocking report from the Atlantic, it seems Pakistan’s military uses civilian vehicles without “noticeable defenses” dispersed throughout the country, driving in everyday traffic. The raid on Abbottabad only increased the number of nuclear weapons driving through Pakistan like Morgan Freeman drove Miss Daisy.
When Pakistan became a nuclear power in 1998, the world kinda cringed. It wasn’t only the idea of a nuclear exchange between Pakistan and its longtime enemy, India. It was the threat of terrorists getting a nuclear weapon, parts of a nuclear weapon, or even the fissile material used in them and then sneaking it out through Pakistan’s porous borders.
The Pakistani government assures you: there is nothing to be concerned about.
“Of all the things in the world to worry about, the issue you should worry about the least is the safety of our nuclear program,” an official at the Inter-Services Intelligence directorate, the Pakistani military spy agency, told The Atlantic “It is completely secure. … It is in our interest to keep our bases safe as well. You must trust us that we have maximum and impenetrable security. No one with ill intent can get near our strategic assets.”
But the United States is not the kind of country that takes chances with something like that. America already showed it can make an incursion into Pakistan to do whatever it wants (see: Raid, bin Laden). Shortly after the raid, NBC News’ Robert Windrem quoted “current and former U.S. officials” who said securing the Pakistani nukes has been a priority for the national security community since Pakistan became a nuclear state.
A former president of Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf, told NBC that the United States seizing Pakistani nukes would lead to all-out war between the two countries.
The 2011 Atlantic article recounts a number of militant attacks on Pakistan’s suspect 15 nuclear sites. The University of Maryland’s Global Terrorism Index even showed a huge spike in terrorism-related incidents in the two years following the 2011 Atlantic article.
Between the attacks on their suspected nuclear sites and the looming threat of U.S. Navy SEALs coming to snatch them from secured locations the Pakistanis were at a loss for what to do with their nukes. That’s when they started using the delivery vans.
The Hürtgen Forest is a massive German timberland where 33,000 Americans were killed and wounded in five months of fighting from Sep. 12, 1944 to Feb. 1945 as artillery batteries dueled, tanks clashed, and infantrymen battled each other nonstop.
The initial American movement into the Hürtgen Forest was a side objective for First Army’s Lt. Gen. Courtney H. Hodges. He was taking a route above Hürtgen Forest to attack Koln, Germany, during the early days of Operation Market Garden.
If he took the forest himself, the woods would become an impossible obstacle for Germans attempting to counterattack on his southern flank. If he did not, he feared the trees would provide concealment to an enemy that could then threaten his belly at any time.
Hodges sent the 9th Infantry Division into the southern part of the forest on Sep. 12. The understrength division initially made good progress into the forest and encountered little resistance. Once they neared the villages and hamlets though, German soldiers began picking apart the attackers.
Bad fog and icy weather prevented American bombing runs most days. The few American tanks available for the battle were forced to fight their way through narrow passes and across tank obstacles, preventing them from reaching much of the fighting. So, the battle quickly became a mostly infantry fight with rifle and mortarmen maneuvering on top of each other, and the Germans had a very real advantage. They had concrete bunkers built under the earth where mortars and artillery pieces were largely incapable of rooting them out.
Those concrete bunkers protected the Germans from one of the biggest dangers in Hürtgen, tree bursts. Artillery and mortar rounds that struck trees would turn the whole things into an explosion of wood shrapnel that could kill or maim anyone exposed to it. This was predominantly the American forces.
The 9th Infantry Division’s last big fight in Hürtgen Forest was from Oct. 6-16, 1944 when they painstakingly made their way through the trees towards Schmidt, Germany with tanks from the 3rd Armored Division. Even with the armor support they only moved the front 3,000 yards while taking 4,500 casualties.
The 9th was finally relieved by the Pennsylvania National Guard’s 28th Division and the 707th Tank Battalion. The 28th’s first attack was characterized by massive artillery barrages and tanks firing shells straight into buildings as the Allies took small towns on the way to Schmidt.
On Nov. 3 the Allies took Schmidt itself, but it was recaptured by the Germans the next morning. The Americans had been unable to get their own tanks up to the town due to impassable terrain. But the Germans came from the opposite side and were been able to bring Panther heavy tanks to bear.
The Americans again struggled to take any important ground until the senior commanders were forced back to the drawing board. This time they relieved the 28th Division with the 4th Division and called the 1st Infantry Division to attack from the north. The weather had finally cleared enough for the planes to bomb en masse and artillery units opened a massive barrage to help destroy German positions.
The slow progress continued as First Army kept sending new units into the grinder. Three more infantry divisions, an armored division, a Ranger battalion, and elements of the 82nd Airborne Division all marched into the trees. While they killed, wounded, and captured heaps of Germans, all of them took heavy casualties themselves.
The ferocity of the fighting dropped but did not end in mid-December. The Germans had launched the famous Battle of the Bulge to the south and both sides had to send supplies and other assets to support their forces there.
The dwindling German forces in Hürtgen were finally cleared in early Feb. 1945 and America became the owner of a couple of dams and countless trees. The Army took 33,000 casualties to occupy the forest. The battle is described as either a pyrrhic victory or a defeat by most historians. The Army simply lost too many men and got too little in return.
The thrust toward Koln, the offensive that Hodges had been worried would be stopped by a counterattack from Hürtgen, was ultimately successful. First Army took the city on Mar. 6, 1945.