When the military needs to get where they’re going, they climb into some of the most intimidating vehicles on the planet. Gun turrets, inches of armor, and aggressive stylings all make sure enemies know death is bearing down on them. In the World Wars though, many of the vehicles of industrial warfare were just getting started. These are six of the scariest military vehicles that generation served in.
Though quieter in a dive than their nuclear counterparts, diesel submarines were fraught with dangers. The batteries could catch fire and asphyxiate the crew or explode and sink the boat. Sub crews also had to fear their own weapons as torpedoes would sometimes “circle run,” traveling in a loop and hitting the sub that fired them.
M4 Sherman Tank
Early design flaws, such as ammunition storage in the tank turret, made these military vehicles susceptible to large explosions from minor hits. While the flaws were later fixed, it was just in time for the tanks to start facing off against newer Axis tanks with larger guns and thicker armor than the M4. Tank crews were forced to sandbag the inside of their vehicles and weld spare steel or old vehicle tires to the outside. The 3rd Armored Division deployed with 242 tanks and lost 1,348 over the course of the war.
Flying Aircraft Carrier
Two were built: The USS Akron and the USS Macon. The Akron was introduced to the fleet at the end of 1931 and experienced fatal accidents in 1932 and 1933. The first occurred while the ship was attempting to moor in California. Three ground crew members were killed and one was injured. In 1933, a crash at sea resulted in 73 of the 76 members of the crew dying and the total loss of the ship.
One of the survivors, Lt. Cmdr. Herbert Wiley, later took command of the USS Macon. Another storm at sea in 1934 brought down the Macon, but due to the addition of life jackets and the launching of rescue boats, only two members of the crew died. All three fatal accidents involving the airships, as well as multiple other crashes, were caused or complicated by trouble balancing the large ships’ lift and ballast. Flying aircraft carriers were largely abandoned until November of last year when DARPA put out a call for new designs to carry drones.
Mark I Tank
The first tank to see combat, the British Mark 1 was revolutionary, but serving in it was rough. Inadequate ventilation meant the crew breathed carbon monoxide, fuel and oil vapors, and cordite fumes. Temperatures in the tank could climb to over 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Crews endured the heat and noxious gasses while wearing metal face masks because rivets from the hull would shoot through the cabin when struck by enemy rounds.
Within two months of fielding, multiple wing failures led to the aircraft being grounded until it could be reinforced. One of the failures occurred while the famed Red Baron piloted it. In addition, the radiator was positioned immediately above the pilot, meaning holes from enemy fire caused the hot radiator fluid to immediately boil onto the pilot’s face.
Sherman DD Amphibious Tank
A descendant of the M4 Sherman above, the DD carried a rubber screen that would hold out water and allow it to float. But the craft could only handle waves up to one foot. They were deployed at D-Day where many sank due to rough seas and being launched far from shore. Crews were given breathing apparatuses in case they floundered, but the equipment only provided five minutes of air.
“It is with our deepest sympathy that we tell you both service members on board the air craft are deceased, our thoughts and prayers are with their family,” CW5 Glen Webb of the Texas Army National Guard said in a statement.
The AH-64 Apache is the Army’s helicopter gunship. According to a fact sheet released by the United States Army, it entered service in 1984, and can carry AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, 70mm Hydra rockets, and is also armed with a M230 cannon holding 1,200 rounds of ammunition. The Army plans to manufacture 690 Apaches for service.
Apache crashes are not unheard of, with ArmyAirCrews.com listing 43 incidents involving 73 fatalities over the last 36 years, to include one during a test flight. The list includes seven combat losses due to enemy fire (six during Operation Iraqi Freedom, one during Operation Enduring Freedom).
The cause of the crash is under investigation, but KHOU.com reported that bystanders were taking photos of parts from the stricken attack helicopter that were lying near the crash site off the Bayport Cruise Terminal.
Russia’s Kalashnikov company, the maker of the prolific assault rifle, has presented a new product: a formidable crowd control vehicle.
The Shchit (Shield) anti-riot vehicle is based on a heavy truck with a broad extendable steel shield attached to its front. The machine has ports in the shield for firing projectiles and also carries water cannon.
The company has presented the new design at last week’s Moscow arms show, saying it has developed it for Russian law enforcement agencies. Kalashnikov described the new machine as the most advanced such vehicle in the world.
Russia’s newly-formed National Guard has recently received an array of new equipment intended to disperse demonstrations, reflecting what is widely seen as the Kremlin concern about possible mass protests amid Russia’s economic troubles.
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 special missions aviator from the 41st Rescue Squadron looks out from an HH-60G Pave Hawk over Grand Bay Bombing and Gunnery Range at Moody Air Force Base, Ga., May 20, 2016. Airmen simulated different combat and rescue situations to synchronize efforts between a variety of Air Combat Command airframes.
An F-15E Strike Eagle soars above Grand Bay Bombing and Gunnery Range at Moody Air Force Base, Ga., May 20, 2016. Multiple Air Combat Command aircraft conducted joint aerial training, showcasing the aircraft’s tactical air and ground maneuvers, as well as their weapons capabilities.
A soldier conducts physical training while deployed with Task Force Red Wolf during Exercise Beyond The Horizon 2016 at San Marcos, Guatemala, May 30, 2016.
A soldier observes a Bradley Fighting Vehicle maneuver on an objective during a U.S. Army Central combined arms live-fire exercise, part of Exercise Eager Lion, at the Joint Training Center, Jordan, May 24, 2016. Eager Lion is an annual two-week interoperability exercise that aims to increase the partnership ties between the U.S. and Jordanian militaries.
NORFOLK, Va. (June 1, 2016) Master Chief Ship’s Serviceman Alberto Sanchez, center, judges a barber competition as part of Surface Line Week Atlantic. Held annually in Norfolk, Surface Line Week brings Sailors and federal civilians together for friendly athletic and professional competitions.
NORFOLK, Va. (June 1, 2016) Seaman Tristen Blair, assigned to the USS Monterey (CG 61), hugs his mother Karla Blair before the ship departs Naval Station Norfolk with the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group (CSG). The ships are deploying in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th and 6th Fleet areas of operation as well as the Great Green Fleet initiative. While deployed, CSG ships and aircraft will employ operational procedures and energy conservation measures in order to enhance operational capabilities, enabling strike group units to go farther, stay longer and deliver more firepower without having to refuel.
Marines assigned to Officer Candidate School (OCS) participate in the Combat Course aboard Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, May 11, 2016. The mission of OCS is to educate and train candidates in order to evaluate and screen individuals for qualities required for commissioning as a Marine Corps officer.
Marines assigned to Officer Candidate School participate in the Montford Point challenge aboard Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, May 19, 2016. The challenge consisted of a supply run where the Marines went through obstacles and faced similar physical challenges as the Montford Point Marines.
This Memorial Day we honor and remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country and our freedom.
Pictured here is USCG Cutter Marcus Hanna anchored near the Isle of Shoals in New Hampshire. Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Kenny Galanif.
Army engineers at Picatinny Arsenal are working on a new hand grenade design that will allow soldiers to choose between fragmentation or concussion effects.
It also features some other updates like an electronic fuse and an ambidextrous design that’s easier to throw.
The Enhanced Tactical Multi-Purpose grenade will be the Army’s first new hand grenade design in 40 years. It’s also the first time that soldiers will get a concussion grenade in about the same amount of time.
The ET-MP will feature a fragmentation setting which will work similarly to the current design, the M67, where an explosive charge creates shrapnel that flies at high speeds into enemy fighters.
A concussion mode will work in a similar way to the Army’s old MK3A2 concussion grenade. Concussion grenades work by overpressuring the surrounding air, causing a blast wave that can kill enemies in bunkers. The Mk3A2 also served in a limited role for blasting and demolition, a role the new grenade could be capable of as well.
The MK3A2 was retired in 1975 because of asbestos used in the design.
Concussion grenades are also good for killing enemies in the open. Concussion grenades usually have a 2 to 3-meter kill radius in the open while a fragmentation grenade is usually lethal for 5 meters or more.
The ET-MP will also feature a new, electronic fuse which provides a much more accurate timing mechanism, allowing the fuze to be accurate to microseconds. The M213 fuze used in current grenades is timed for 4-5 seconds but, due to variances in how long it takes the internal powder train to burn, can actually detonate in as little as 3 seconds.
As an added bonus, the grenade will work the same way for left and right-handed throwers. The M67 requires that left-handed soldiers prepare the grenade and throw it upside down.
The requirements for the new grenade were developed with input from active-duty troops and training cadre who instruct service members on how to use grenades.
The U.S. Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center is leading the research into the new design. The Project Manager Close Combat Systems, an agency that fields munitions and equipment for use by troops, is expected to receive the final grenade in 2020.
In late 1944, German Pvt. Paul-Alfred Stoob was one of the many German troops quickly retreating from Allied forces. During his withdrawal, he was hit with fire from a Sherman tank and wounded in his head and leg. When he finally made it home to Germany, he learned that his father was also wounded in his head and leg in the exact same town in World War I.
Stoob was a Panther tank driver taking part in the general German withdrawal in 1944 before the Battle of the Bulge temporarily halted Germany’s loss in territory. After the Panther was destroyed by Allied fire, Stoob and the rest of his crew stole a truck and headed east towards Belgium.
They managed to scrape together bread and some eggs before lucking out and discovering a stash of delicacies abandoned by a German headquarters unit. Only a short time after they filled their truck with the fresh food, an American Sherman crew spotted them and opened fire. Stoob was hit in the head and leg, but still tried to escape.
He made for a nearby cemetery and attempted to use the gravestones as cover for his escape. Before he could get away, a French priest begged for him to stop and then went and got an American medic to tend to his wounds.
Stoob spent the rest of the war in a prisoner of war camp in the U.S. and didn’t make it home until 1947. That was when he learned that his father, a veteran of World War I, had been wounded in the same unnamed village in 1914, exactly 30 years before his son.
The Navy has been testing a railgun that could see deployment on the guided-missile destroyer USS Zumwalt and her sister ships. The goal is to get the railgun to not only be able to fire its projectiles to a range of 110 nautical miles, but to increase the rate of fire to as many as ten rounds a minute.
The long range is only one of the many advantages. Another is improved safety. Gunpowder can be very volatile, as a number of British battlecruisers found out at Jutland and at the Denmark Straits. The battleship USS Arizona (BB 39) also found out about how bad a gunpowder explosion in the wrong place at the wrong time can be.
The approach also saves money, and provides for more ammo capacity. The gunpowder is expensive to safely store, has to be purchased, and it takes up spaces in the ship. All of those factors end up making the ship design more expensive.
The railgun testing is slated to take place over the summer at the Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division in Virginia. One of the big issues will be to quantify how much electrical power will be needed to send the rounds downrange.
Forget what you saw in 2009’s “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” when an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer took out the Decepticon Devastator. Only the Zumwalt-class destroyers have the electrical power capacity to use a railgun.
Another is addressing the issue of barrel wear – largely because it is sending the mail downrange at Mach 6.
Dr. Tom Beutner of the Office of Naval Research notes that the barrel wear issue is being fixed, saying, “They’ve extended the launcher core life from tens of shots’ core life when program started to something that’s now been fired over 400 times and … we anticipate barrels will be able to do over 1,000 shots.”
Watch the video of the Navy testing the railgun’s autoloader below:
The US-led coalition fighting ISIS in Syria launched its third strike in as many weeks on pro-regime forces inside a deconfliction zone around al Tanf, near a border crossing in Syria’s southeast desert.
Two US officials told CNN that the June 8 strike came after three vehicles were seen entering the deconfliction zone, and two of the vehicles were hit when they were 24 miles from the base at al Tanf.
“The pro-regime UAV, similar in size to a US MQ-1 Predator, was shot down by a US aircraft after it dropped one of several weapons it was carrying near a position occupied by Coalition personnel who are training and advising partner ground forces in the fight against ISIS,” US Central Command said in a statement.
The “munition did not have an effect on coalition forces,” according to coalition spokesman Col. Ryan Dillon.
US and other coalition personnel are at the al Tanf garrison, near the border crossing, to train local partner forces, who captured the area earlier this year. (US personnel and local partners repulsed an intense attack by ISIS soon after.)
The first such strike in the al Tanf area came on May 18, when coalition forces targeted pro-Assad forces “that were advancing well inside an established deconfliction zone” spreading 34 miles around al Tanf, US Central Command said in a release at the time.
The strike came after unsuccessful Russian efforts to stop the movements, a show of force by coalition aircraft, and warning shots.
Christopher Woody/Google Maps
Earlier this week, pro-regime and coalition aircraft both conducted strikes against opposition forces in the vicinity of al Tanf.
On Tuesday, Iranian-backed Shia militia fighters came under attack on the ground just inside the deconfliction zone boundary, according to CNN. In response to that attack, Washington and Moscow communicated on a deconfliction line set up previously. Russia shared a request from the Syrian government to launch a strike in support of the militia, to which the US agreed.
Hours later, pro-Assad forces were observed entering the deconfliction zone with vehicles and weaponry, including a tank and artillery, as well as over 60 fighters. The US then launched its own airstrike on those forces after they refused to withdraw from the area.
The coalition said it issued several warnings before “destroying two artillery pieces, an anti-aircraft weapon, and damaging a tank.”
The US-led strike, carried out by a F/A-18 fighter, dropped four bombs and “killed an estimated 10 fighters,” according to CNN.
June 8th’s engagements add to a string of encounters that could lead to greater conflict in Syria between the US-led coalition and its local partners and pro-regime forces and their backers, Iran and Russia.
“The Coalition does not seek to fight Syrian regime, Russian, or pro-regime forces partnered with them,” CentCom said in its statement.
“The demonstrated hostile intent and actions of pro-regime forces near Coalition and partner forces in southern Syria, however, continue to concern us and the Coalition will take appropriate measures to protect our forces,” the statement said.
The strategic value of the al Tanf area — through which a highway connecting Damascus to Baghdad runs — as well as the direction of events elsewhere in Syria makes clashes between coalition forces and pro-regime forces a continuing possibility.
ISIS’ eroding control of territory in Syria, and the likelihood that Kurdish forces — who’ve signaled a willingness to negotiate with Assad for autonomy — will soon take control of the area around Raqqa in northeast Syria make territory in the southeast of the country increasingly valuable.
Recent events in Syria indicate that “the United States [is] seemingly looking to cement a north-south ‘Sunni axis’ from the Gulf states and Jordan to Turkey,” Fabrice Balanche, a French expert on Syria and a visiting fellow at The Washington institute for Near East Policy, wrote recently.
“The challenge is that Iran and its proxies would very much like to establish some sort of land bridge from Iraq into Syria and they have had designs on this for quite some time,” a former Pentagon official told The Christian Science Monitor.
Capturing al Tanf and the nearby border crossing would allow Tehran to link Iraq to the Mediterranean coast through Syria, facilitating the movement of men and material.
But doing so would also isolate coalition-backed forces fighting ISIS and their special-forces advisers.
Intelligence sources have told Reuters that the coalition’s presence near al Tanf is meant to prevent such a route from opening.
“Initially, the United States and the coalition had planned this unconventional warfare campaign to pressure the middle Euphrates River valley and cut off [ISIS communications lines],” the former Pentagon official said. “Now, ironically, it’s not just threatening [ISIS], it’s also threatening Iran’s designs for the area.”
Russia has also become involved in the confrontations around al Tanf.
Earlier this month, coalition-backed Syrian forces attacked Shia militias that had moved down the highway toward the Iraqi border. They forced the militias, which are backed by Iran, to retreat, but Russian jets soon launched strikes against the coalition-backed fighters, forcing them back as well.
Hezbollah, a Lebanon-based Shia militant group backed by Iran and heavily involved in the pro-regime fight in Syria, has entered the fray as well. The group’s military-news unit issued a statement this week warning that the “self-restraint” it had about US-led airstrikes would end if the US crossed “red lines.”
“America knows well that the blood of the sons of Syria, the Syrian Arab Army, and its allies is not cheap, and the capacity to strike their positions in Syria, and their surroundings, is available when circumstances will it,” the statement said.
Observers have noted that the Trump administration would likely be much less hesitant about attacking Hezbollah in Syria. Given the web of alliances that now ensnare forces in Syria, such attacks would likely have broader repercussions.
“American unwillingness to confront Iran and its proxies in Syria, if obliged by circumstances, is a thing of the past,” Frederic Hof, director of the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East and a former State Department liaison to Syrian opposition forces, told The Christian Science Monitor.
“And Moscow would now have to anticipate with high likelihood aerial combat with US forces should it elect to provide tactical air support to Iran and its proxies on the ground,” Hof added.
“Our people are gathering in the Tanf area right now, so a clash is definitely coming,” a Hezbollah unit commander in Beirut, speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Monitor.
The safety and survival of American civilians along with countless US military assets hinges, to some extent, upon the existence of a nuclear-armed, air-launched long-range stealthy cruise missile able to elude sophisticated enemy air defenses and threaten or strike targets deeply lodged in enemy territory, senior Air Force officials said.
At first glance, this concept could resonate as somewhat extreme or exaggerated — given the existing US “Triad” of nuclear weapons to include ICBMs, air-dropped bombs, and submarine-launched nuclear firepower.
However, in an exclusive interview with Scout Warrior, Lt. Gen. Jack Weinstein, Deputy Chief of Staff for Strategic Deterrence and Nuclear Integration, said that the emerging Long-Range Stand-Off weapon, or LRSO, is intended to function as a critical element of the US military nuclear arsenal.
Along these lines, senior Air Force leaders continue to argue that engineering a new, modern Long-Range Standoff Missile with nuclear capability may be one of a very few assets, weapons or platforms able to penetrate emerging high-tech air defenses. Such an ability is, as a result, deemed crucial to nuclear deterrence and the commensurate need to prevent major-power warfare.
Therefore, in the event of major nuclear attack on the US, a stand-off air-launched nuclear cruise missile may be among the few weapons able to retaliate and, as a result, function as an essential deterrent against a first-strike nuclear attack.
The Long Range Stand-Off, or LRSO, weapon will be developed to replace the aging AGM-86B Air Launched Cruise Missile or ALCM, currently able to fire from a B-52. The AGM-86B has far exceeded its intended life span, having emerged in the early 1980s with a 10-year design life, Air Force statements said.
Unlike the ALCM which fires from the B-52, the LRSO will be configured to fire from B-2 and B-21 bombers as well, service officials said; both the ALCM and LRSO are designed to fire both conventional and nuclear weapons.
While Air Force officials say that the current ALCM remains safe, secure and effective, it is facing sustainment and operational challenges against evolving threats, service officials also acknowledge.
“We’ve had cruise missiles for a very long time. The first cruise missile was the hound dog, so we’ve had cruise missiles since the 1970’s and what we’re doing now is developing a long-range standoff weapon for a modern A2-AD (defensed Anti-Access/Area Denial) environment. People write articles that say these weapons are destabilizing, but I don’t understand that. They’re not destabilizing when they’re protecting your nation,” Weinstein said.
In effect, the rapid evolution of better networked, longer-range, digital air-defenses using much faster computer processing power will continue to make even stealth attack platforms more vulnerable; current and emerging air defenses, such as Russian-built S-300s and S-400s are able to be cued by lower-frequency “surveillance radar” — which can simply detect that an enemy aircraft is in the vicinity — and higher-frequency “engagement radar” capability. This technology enables air defenses to detect targets at much farther ranges on a much larger number of frequencies including UHF, L-band and X-band.
Furthermore, Dave Majumdar from The National Interest writes that Russia is now developing a next-generation S-500 air-defense system able to destroy enemy aircraft at distances up to 125 miles.
Russian officials and press reports have repeatedly claimed its air-defenses can detect and target many stealth aircraft, however some US observers believe Russia often exaggerates its military capabilities. Nonetheless, many US developers of weapons and stealth platforms take Russian-built air defenses very seriously. Many maintain the existence of these systems has greatly impact US weapons development strategy.
Accordingly, some analysts have made the point that there may be some potential targets which, due to the aforementioned superbly high-tech air defenses, platforms such as a B-2 stealth bomber or services now-in-development next-generation bomber, the B-21, might be challenged to attack without detection.
A stealthy, high-tech nuclear armed cruise missile, such as an LRSO, may indeed in some cases be one of a very few weapons able to hold certain heavily defended or hard-to-reach targets at risk.
The U.S. Air Force has released a request for proposals, RFP, to industry for its Long Range Standoff, or LRSO, nuclear cruise missile program. Up to two contract awards are expected in 4th quarter fiscal year 2017, a service statement said.
A report in “Inside Defense” says the service intends to buy 1,000 new cruise missiles and expects the LRSO program could cost about $17 billion for the missile and its nuclear-capable warhead.
Along these lines, a report from “War is Boring” explains that the Air Force’s budget request for fiscal year 2016 calls for around $1.8 billion in spending on the missile during the next five years.
“There will be two versions—one to carry an updated W80 thermonuclear warhead, and another packed with conventional explosives for non-nuclear attacks,” the War is Boring report states.
The Air Force plans to start fielding LRSO by 2030.
LRSO to Keep the Peace
Weinstein made the argument that if, for example, the Russian military believed having an advanced nuclear cruise missile would give them a distinct advantage – they would be likely to pursue it. As a result, US deterrence strategy needs to ensure its offensive nuclear fire power can match or exceed that of any potential rival. This conceptual framework provides the foundation for why many US military leaders believe it is vital for the Air Force to have an operational LRSO.
“If another nation believes they can have an advantage by using a nuclear weapon, that is really dangerous. What you want to do is have such a strong deterrent force that any desire to attack with nuclear weapons will easily be outweighed by the response they get from the other side. That’s the value of what the deterrent force provides,” he said.
However, several reports have cited a group of US Senators who are making the case against development of LRSO, claiming it would both be redundant, too costly and too “destabilizing.” The concern, grounded in nuclear non-proliferation sensibilities, maintains it could further inspire nuclear arms-race type provocations and introduce new, more threatening elements into the air-triad of the nuclear arsenal.
In addition, a report in The National Interest cites the Federation of American Scientists as saying that LRSO would be redundant, expensive and not necessary.
“The FAS believes that a new, stealthy and conventionally armed cruise missile, the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile-Extended Range (JASSM-ER) is a better and cheaper choice. “The new nuclear cruise missile will not be able to threaten targets that cannot be threatened with other existing nuclear weapons,” writes Hans Kristensen, director of the FAS’s Nuclear Information Project, according to the report from Mike Peck of The National Interest.
At the same time, the FAS statement does not seem to address the concern from Air Force leaders that a longer-range nuclear threat may, in fact, be necessary in today’s high-tech threat environment. The LRSO, naturally, is being engineered to launch both nuclear and conventional attacks. While many details and plans for the weapon are, quite naturally, not available for public discussion, it takes little imagination to point out that the LRSO is being designed to be much more capable than both the ALCM and JASSM-ER in terms of range, command and control technology and stealth characteristics.
Weinstein also reiterated that the existence of an LRSO will not destabilize decision-making regarding the potential employment of nuclear weapons. He emphasized that, despite the presence of an LRSO, nuclear weapons will only be fired by the President of the United States.
“The actual truism when it comes to nuclear weapons is that no one in the United States military releases nuclear weapons – nobody. The President of the United States releases nuclear weapons, therefore when we develop new capability based on the environment we’re in, based on defensive systems that other nations have, it doesn’t make us able to use them any quicker or any faster,” Weinstein explained.
The historic and somewhat iconic B-52, which is now bombing ISIS, will be among the platforms to be armed with the emerging LRSO; the idea is to equip the large bomber with long-range conventional and nuclear attack potential. The Air Force is now upgrading the platform with new radios, data links, avionics and weapons capability to ensure the older aircraft remains relevant and function for at least several more decades.
“You have to look at the history of it. We needed something that would go high and fast and penetrate to say – ‘well the world has changed.’ It goes low and we use it in conventional conflicts, and then we use it to fight ISIS and we use it to defend on a nuclear standpoint, and it’s a great platform that has many years left in it,” Weinstein said.
Air Force Statement: LRSO Acquisition
“The RFP identifies the contract requirements and proposal instructions for the LRSO’s Technology Maturation and Risk Reduction, or TMRR, phase. After receipt of industry proposals, the Air Force will conduct a source selection and award contracts to up to two prime contractors. The prime contractors will execute a 54-month effort to complete a preliminary design with demonstrated reliability and manufacturability, which will be followed by a competitive down-select to a single contractor.”
Chinese media on Thursday indicated ongoing work on a new long range air-to-air missile that seems tailor-made to give the US Air Force problems when operating in the Pacific.
As Business Insider has previously covered, tensions between the US and China have been steadily ratcheting up over the last few years, and they have spiked since Donald Trump took office after breaking with decades of tradition and taking a call from Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen.
Photographs posted on IHS Jane’s and on Chinese media show China’s J-11B and J-16 fighters carrying an as-of-yet unnamed missile that Air force researcher Fu Qianshao told Chinese state-run media has a range of almost 250 miles — much further than current Chinese or even US capabilities.
“The successful development of this potential new missile would be a major breakthrough,” Reuters reports Fu as telling a Chinese state-run newspaper.
According to Fu, the missile would enable the People’s Liberation Army Air Force to “send a super-maneuverable fighter jet with very long-range missiles to destroy those high-value targets, which are the ‘eyes’ of enemy jets.”
The US’s airborne early warning and control planes (AWACS), basically giant flying radars, are the “eyes” Fu refers to. These planes can detect enemy movements and give targeting data to US fighter jets and bombers. Without them, the US Air Force faces a steep disadvantage.
This echoes analysis provided to Business Insider by Australia Strategic Policy Institute‘s senior analyst Dr. Malcolm Davis, who told Business Insider that “the Chinese are recognizing they can attack critical airborne support systems like AWACS and refueling planes so they can’t do their job … If you can force the tankers back, then the F-35s and other platforms aren’t sufficient because they can’t reach their target.”
The new Chinese missile could grant the PLA Air Force the ability to cripple the US’s airborne support infrastructure, and figures into a larger anti-access area denial (A2AD) strategy the Chinese have been developing for years now.
According to Davis, the US’s advantage over adversaries like China has faded over the last few years. “The calculus is changing because our adversaries are getting better,” Davis said of China’s emerging capabilities.
Davis said that adversaries like China and Russia are “starting to acquire information edge capabilities that [the US] has enjoyed since 1991 … The other side had 20 years to think about counters to the Joint Strike Fighter (the F-35). Given the delays, by the time [the F-35] reaches full operation capability, how advanced are the Chinese and Russian systems going to be to counter it?”
As a possible solution, Davis recommended pairing fleets of unmanned vehicles with the F-35 to give the US a quantitative advantage as Chinese advances, like the new missile and plane, erode the US’s qualitative edge.
“We don’t have time to be leisurely about the fifth generation aircraft,” said Davis. “The other side is not going to stand still.”
A policy developed more than a year ago that creates new distinctions for performance and valor awards has taken effect for the Department of the Navy.
According to an all-Navy message released in late August, Marines and sailors can begin to receive awards bearing new “C” and “R” devices, indicating the award was earned under combat conditions or for remote impact on a fight, a condition that would apply to drone operators, among others.
The policy also establishes more stringent criteria for the existing “V” device, stipulating that it applies only to awards for actions demonstrating valor above what is expected of a service member in combat.
The changes were first announced in January 2016, when then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced a Pentagon-wide review of high-level combat awards, a measure designed to ensure that troops serving since Sept. 11, 2001, had been appropriately honored.
Carter also approved the creation of the new devices as a way to distinguish clearly the conditions under which an award had been earned.
Development of the C device for awards earned under combat conditions enabled more selective use of the V device, giving it added weight and significance as an indicator of heroism.
“We’re raising the bar,” a Pentagon official told reporters at the time of the policy rollout. “What we’ve seen is, maybe it has been … a little too loose in the past.”
Notably, the ALNAV states, authorization of the C device does not entitle award recipients to wear the Combat Action Ribbon, which has more restrictive criteria.
The R device, meanwhile, is the product of conversations about how to recognize those who have direct impact on a fight from afar in a changing battlespace, such as unmanned aerial vehicle operators.
According to the all-Navy message, the sailors and Marines who might be eligible for this award are not just drone pilots. They also include:
Those who conduct ship-to-shore or surface-to-surface weapon system strikes.
Operators who remotely pilot aircraft that provide direct and real-time support that directly contributes to the success of ground forces in combat or engaged in a mission, such as a raid or hostage rescue.
Cyberwarfare that disrupts enemy capabilities or actions.
Surface-to-air engagement that disrupts an enemy attack or enemy surveillance of friendly forces.
Troops exercising real-time tactical control of a raid or combat mission from a remote location not exposed to hostile action.
For awards in which certain conduct or conditions is presupposed, the rules are not changing.
Bronze Stars, for example, are not eligible for the new C device, as combat conditions are inherent in the award.
Likewise, Silver Stars, Navy Crosses, and Medal of Honor awards are not eligible for the V device, as all these awards are presented for extraordinary valor or heroism.
For the Department of the Navy, processing of awards with the new devices began with the release of the ALNAV, Lt. Cmdr. Ryan De Vera, a service spokesman, told Military.com.
While the Navy will not retroactively remove V devices from any awards in keeping with the new rules, De Vera said Marines and sailors who believe they merit one of the new devices for awards earned since Jan. 7, 2016 can contact their command to initiate a review of the relevant award.
“The onus is on the sailor or the Marine to do that,” he said.
Awards given before the new policy was announced will not receive any additional scrutiny.
“All previous decorations that had a V device remain valid,” De Vera said. “It’s important to note that they are in no way diminished or called into question by the new policy.”
North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un, presided over the launch of a new anti-ship cruise missile system on June 8 in Wonsan, on North Korea’s east coast. And though the missiles performed well and struck their target, it was a pretty weak showing.
The missiles flew about 125 miles, South Korea said, and fired from tracked launchers with forest camouflage. The missiles themselves were not new, according to The Diplomat, but they showed off a new launcher that can fire from hidden, off-road locations within moments of being set up.
But those are about the only nice things you could say about these missiles.
In the photos released by North Korean media, it’s clear the missiles are striking a ship that isn’t moving.
The ship appears anchored, with no wake. Photo by Rodong Sinmun
In a combat situation, the ships would move and take countermeasures. For the US, South Korean, and Japanese navies, that often means firing an interceptor missile.
North Korea also lacks the ability to support these missiles with accurate guidance. The US would use planes, drones, or even undersea platforms to observe and track a target.
Photo by Rodong Sinmun
North Korea waited to test these missiles until two US aircraft carrier strike groups armed to the teeth with missile defense capabilities left its shores, perhaps to avoid embarrassment should the US knock them down.
Unlike its practice with ballistic-missile tests, which are banned under international law, the US did not publicly comment on this launch. North Korea is well within its rights to test a cruise missile in international waters.
Photo by Rodong Sinmun
But despite the rudimentary technology used in the launch, North Korea did show that it poses a real threat. Not only do the missile launchers leverage the element of surprise, but they represent yet another new missile capability.
In a few short months, North Korea has demonstrated a range of capabilities that has surprised experts and military observers. Though the missiles don’t pose a threat to the US Navy, Kim showed he’s serious about fighting on all fronts.
Every Fourth of July, I find myself at a fireworks show enjoying the pretty lights and the prettier colors only to be slapped in the face with a muscially-driven grand finale that should be an awe-inspiring feat of Amerigasmic glory.
Except that the music driving that finale often has nothing to do with America. At all.
I’m talking about the 1812 Overture. Here’s the part you definitely know:
I may be an overreacting history nerd. I accept that possibility. But also consider that I want us all to bask in the glory that is the history of the United States. We are f*cking amazing.
We’re back-to-back World War champs, we have the strongest military in the history of ever unless Star Wars turns out to be real, and we don’t need to take other countries’ history as our own.
My (correct) guess is that people think the 1812 Overture is so-named because of the War of 1812, fought between Britain and the United States, often called our second war for independence. That war was fought to a grinding draw.
They burned Washington. We burned what would become Toronto (only because London was too far to swim, but dammit, we would have). We checked the vaunted Royal Navy in both oceans and the Great Lakes.
We even teamed up with pirates and beat the British at New Orleans. (Side note: we should bring back pirate alliances.)
My other (probably correct) guess is that if an American doesn’t live in New Orleans or upstate New York, the bulk of what they know about the War of 1812 is that it started in 1812. And because the sun obviously revolves around the Earth and the Earth obviously revolves around America, the 1812 Overture must be about our War of 1812.
What else did history have to pay attention to in 1812, other than America toppling the giant again, “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2“-style?
(Reminder: a draw is not a loss.)
It turns out, a whole hell of a lot was going on. Namely, 1812 is the year Napoleon’s Grande Armée (minus all the men he lost to disease and lice on the march) captured Moscow. But before they did, the Russians made sure to douse the city in vodka and burn it to the ground.
The French Army spent the winter in Moscow trying to find snails, or whatever it is they ate, in a burned-out city as babushkas laughed at them from the shells of former homes and distilleries.
This is how Tchaikovsky was inspired to write the 1812 Overture, an awesome piece, complete with church bells and cannons and lots of drums and what not.
But Tchaikovsky didn’t like it. He called it, “very loud and noisy and completely without artistic merit, obviously written without warmth or love.”
There are a number of clues in the song that should have signaled to us that it — like many things — isn’t about us. For starters, it’s written by a Russian named Tchaikovsky. That should have been our first clue.
Secondly, the Marseillaise — the French National Anthem — is actually played in the 1812 Overture. More than once.
So when I’m watching the fireworks on July Fourth, I’m always quizzically raising an eyebrow as we celebrate our independence with the French National Anthem.
Unlike other Americana that borrows from other countries songs (The Star-Spangled Banner, for example, is the tune of a British drinking song set to Francis Scott Key’s poem about the bombing of Fort McHenry), the 1812 Overture is a piece we will never be able to fully co-opt as uniquely American.
So play something else. I recommend “The Battle of the Kegs,” an American propaganda song about Patriots scaring the sh*t out of British sailors with a bunch of beer kegs during the Revolution.
Special Thanks to Logan Nye for contributing to this post.