8 soldiers who saved lives when grenades went bad - We Are The Mighty
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8 soldiers who saved lives when grenades went bad

“Once the pin is pulled, Mr. Hand Grenade is no longer your friend.”


In war, troops who cover enemy grenades (or badly-thrown friendly grenades) with their own bodies have usually been awarded the Medal of Honor. Some lived, but all too often, the award is posthumous.

8 soldiers who saved lives when grenades went bad
U.S. Army Lt. Charles Morgan, with the 6th Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, throws a M67 fragmentation grenade during skills training at Kunduz province, Afghanistan, July 3, 2013. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Avila /Released)

But the opening statement is also true in peacetime training. When recruits are taught to throw grenades, they use the real M67 fragmentation grenade. MilitaryFactory.com notes that this has about 6.5 ounces of Composition B explosive, and can kill people standing roughly 50 feet away. Fragments have gone as far as 750 feet from where the grenade goes off – and they don’t care who is in the way.

So it’s important that trainees handle grenades with care — and have fellow troopers who’ll step in to avert tragedy.

Here are eight badass troops who saved lives during grenade training.

8 soldiers who saved lives when grenades went bad
U.S. Army Spc. Stephen Maklos, right, throws a M67 fragmentation grenade under the supervision of Sgt. Brandon Johnpier while conducting live fire training at Kraft Range on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, Sept. 29, 2016. In order to maintain a safe instructional environment and enforce safety standards, a ‘pit’ noncommissioned officer supervised the Soldiers who were conducting the training in the grenade pits, directing them on proper handling and use of explosives. (U.S. Air Force photo/Alejandro Pena)

1. Marine Sgt. Joseph Leifer

On June 13, 2013, Sgt. Leifer was manning a grenade pit when a student’s toss bounced back into the pit. According to the Marine Corps Times, Leifer grabbed the student, threw him out of the way, and covered him with his body. Leifer received the Navy and Marine Corps Medal on Nov. 7, 2014.

8 soldiers who saved lives when grenades went bad
Sgt. Maj. Anthony Cruz Jr., sergeant major, Marine Combat Training Battalion, Staff Sgts. Shawn M. Martin and Jason M. Kuehnl, and Lt. Col. John J. Carroll, commanding officer, MCT Bn. pose for a photo. The two staff sergeants were awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medals during a graduation ceremony at the School of Infantry West, June 23. On two separate occasions, the Marines immediately responded to improper M67 fragmentation grenade throwing techniques and saved the lives of their students with no regard to their own lives. (USMC photo)

2. and 3. Marine Staff Sgt. Shawn M. Martin and Marine Staff Sgt. Jason M. Kuehnl

According to a Marine Corps release, these Marines received their Navy and Marine Corps Medals on the same day, June 23, 2009. The previous year, each had saved recruits when mishaps took place during grenade training. The Military Times Hall of Valor notes that Kuehnl’s actions took place on Oct. 31, 2008, while Martin’s took place on Sept. 12, 2008.

8 soldiers who saved lives when grenades went bad
Sgt. William Holls, (right) a combat instructor with Mobile Training Company, Advanced Infantry Training Battalion, School of Infantry – East, is presented the Navy and Marine Corps Medal by Lt. Col. John Armellino, commanding officer of AITB, SOI-E, during a ceremony held aboard Camp Geiger, July 15, for saving a Marine’s life while conducting training in the grenade pit in September 2009.

4. Marine Sgt. William Holls

A 2010 Marine Corps release noted that on Sept. 28, 2009, Holls noticed one recruit seemed very nervous as he prepared for the grenade toss. When the recruit froze, Holls moved to assist. The recruit panicked and dropped the live grenade. Holls threw the recruit out of the way and shielded the recruit with his body. Both the recruit and Holls were wounded by the blast. Holls provided first aid to the recruit before help arrived. He received the Navy and Marine Corps Medal on July 15, 2010.

5. Marine Sgt. Duane T. Dailey

The April 2001 issue of Leatherneck magazine noted that Sgt. Duane T. Dailey caught a grenade dropped during training in midair. Dailey received the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for his actions.

8 soldiers who saved lives when grenades went bad
Staff Sgt. Kenneth Kam, Combat Training Company, with his Soldier’s Medal. (US Army photo)

6. Army Staff Sgt. Kenneth Kam

In June 2014, Sgt. Kenneth Kam saw a recruit fail to get a grenade over the wall of the grenade pit at Fort Leonard Wood. With what an Army release described as “three to four seconds” to act, he grabbed the recruit, moved her out of the pit, and saved her life. For those actions, he was awarded the Soldier’s Medal.

7. Army Staff Sgt. John King

According to a report from Newson6.com, Staff Sgt. John King, with less than a half-dozen seconds to react, threw a hand grenade over a wall after a recruit’s bad toss, then pulled the recruit to the ground. The report noted that King was nominated for the Soldier’s Medal. KSWO.com added that King received an Army Commendation Medal while the nomination was being processed.

8. Army Staff Sgt. Gary Moore

A 2013 report from Cleveland19.com described how Staff Sgt. Gary Moore had been doing grenade instruction when a recruit was about to throw a grenade the wrong way. While Moore was correcting the recruit’s aim, the recruit dropped the grenade. Moore was quoted as saying, “I proceeded to get the soldier and myself out of the bay as quickly as possible.”

More like Moore threw the recruit out of the bay and jumped on top of him. Moore received the Soldier’s Medal for his actions.

These near-tragic incidents remind us that even in peacetime, our troops are risking it all.

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This is how the Reaper could be Guam’s first line of defense

Guam’s first line of defense from an incoming North Korean ballistic missile could very well be MQ-9 Reaper drones. This sounds very counter-intuitive, since ballistic missiles go very fast, and the normal cruising speed of the MQ-9 Reaper is 230 miles per hour.


8 soldiers who saved lives when grenades went bad
The MQ-9 Reaper is an armed, multi-mission, medium-altitude, long-endurance remotely piloted aircraft that is employed primarily as an intelligence-collection asset and secondarily against dynamic execution targets. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Cory D. Payne/Not Reviewed)

But according to a report from DefenseOne.com, the secret was not in what the drones could shoot or drop, but instead in what the drones could see. In a June 2016 multi-lateral exercise involving Japan, the United States, and South Korea, two MQ-9 Reapers equipped with Raytheon Multi-Spectral Targeting System C were able to give Aegis ships armed with SM-3s more precise targeting data on the ballistic missile.

The Missile Defense Agency is hoping to reduce the number of drones needed by adding a targeting laser to the Reaper.

According to the Raytheon web site, the Multi-Spectral Targeting System, or MTS, is a combined electro-optical/infra-red system that also adds a laser designator. Various versions of the MTS have been used on platforms ranging from the C-130 Hercules cargo plane to the MQ-9 Reaper. The United States military has two general versions, the AN/AAS-52, or the MTS-A, and the AN/DAS-1, the MTS-B. The Air Force is also buying another Raytheon MTS system, designating it the AN/DAS-4.

8 soldiers who saved lives when grenades went bad
The test-fire of Pukguksong-2. (KCNA/Handout)

One possibility to improve these airborne eyes could center around a jet-powered version of the Reaper called the Avenger. According to the General Atomics web site, the Avengr has a top speed of 400 nautical miles per hour, and can stay airborne for as many as 20 hours, depending on the version.

The Avenger could have the option of not just watching a launch, but maybe even hitting an enemy missile. According to a 2015 report from BreakingDefense.com, the Avenger could also carry the HELLADS, a high-energy laser system. Earlier this year, the Army tested a high-energy laser on the AH-64 Apache, combined with Raytheon’s MTS.

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This is what the Army wants in a new, more powerful combat rifle

US Army weapon officials just opened a competition for a new 7.62mm Interim Service Combat Rifle to arm infantry units with a weapon potent enough to penetrate enemy body armor.


“The Army has identified a potential gap in the capability of ground forces and infantry to penetrate body armor using existing ammunition. To address this operational need, the Army is looking for an Interim Combat Service Rifle that is capable of defeating emerging threats,” according to an August 4 solicitation posted on FedBizOpps.gov.

The service plans to initially award up to eight contracts, procuring seven types of weapons from each gun-maker for test and evaluation purposes. Once the review is concluded, the service “may award a single follow-on Federal Acquisition Regulation based contract for the production of up to 50,000 weapons,” the solicitation states.

“The Government has a requirement to acquire a commercial 7.62mm ICSR to field with the M80A1 Enhanced Performance Round to engage and defeat protected and unprotected threats,” the solicitation states. “The ultimate objective of the program is to acquire and field a 7.62mm ICSR that will increase soldier lethality.”

8 soldiers who saved lives when grenades went bad
The 5.56mm M855A1 Enhanced Performance Round. (U.S. Army photo from Todd Mozes)

The opening of the competition comes just over two months after Army’s Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley revealed to Congress that the M4 Carbine’s M855A1 Enhanced Performance Round cannot penetrate modern enemy body armor plates similar to the US military-issue rifle plates such as the Enhanced Small Arms Protective Insert, or ESAPI.

This past spring, Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Daniel Allyn released a directed requirement for a new 7.62mm rifle designed for combat units, prompting Army weapons officials to write a formal requirement.

The presence of a 7.62mm rifle in Army infantry squads is nothing new. Since 2009, the Army’s squad designated marksman rifle has been the Enhanced Battle Rifle, or EBR, 14 — a modernized M14 equipped with a Sage International adjustable aluminum stock with pistol grip, a Leupold 3.5×10 power scope and Harris bipod legs.

The Army adopted the EBR concept, first used in 2004 by Navy SEALs, in response to the growing need of infantry squads operating in Afghanistan to engage enemy fighters at longer ranges.

8 soldiers who saved lives when grenades went bad
A soldier spotting a target, EBR in foreground. (U.S. Army photo by Timothy Hale)

The EBR is heavy, just under 15 pounds unloaded, compared with the standard M14’s unloaded weight of 9 pounds.

The Army’s Interim Combat Service Rifle should have either 16-inch or 20-inch barrels, a collapsible buttstock, an extended forward rail, and weigh less than 12 pounds unloaded and without an optic, according to a May 31 Army request for information.

Multiple proposals may be submitted by the same organization; however, each proposal must consist of the weapons, proposal, and System Safety Assessment Report. All proposals are due by 3pm EST Wednesday Sept. 6, 2017, the solicitation states.

In addition to the weapons, gun-makers will also be evaluated on production capability and proposed price, according to the solicitation.

8 soldiers who saved lives when grenades went bad
M16 assault rifles. (DoD photo by Capt. Raymond Geoffroy)

All weapons should include items such as a suppressor, cleaning, specialized tools, and enough magazines to support the basic load of 210 rounds.

The competition will consist of live-fire testing and evaluate the following:

  • Dispersion (300m – function, 600m – simulation)
  • Compatible with family of weapon sights – individual and laser
  • Weapon length (folder or collapsed)/ weight (empty/bare) / velocity (300m and 600m calculated)
  • Semi-automatic and fully automatic function testing (bursts and full auto)
  • Noise (at shooter’s ear) / flash suppression
  • Ambidextrous controls (in darkness or adverse conditions) / rail interface
  • 20-30 round magazine to support a 210 round combat load
  • Folding sights

“Areas to be evaluated could include, but not be limited to: Controllability and Recoil, Trigger, Ease/Speed of Magazine Changes, Sighting System Interface (e.g., ability to acquire and maintain sight picture), and Usability of Controls (e.g., safety),” the solicitation states.

8 soldiers who saved lives when grenades went bad
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Caleb Strong

“Additionally, a small, limited user evaluation may be conducted with qualified soldiers,” it states.

Milley told lawmakers in late May that the Army does not believe that every soldier needs a 7.62mm rifle. These weapons would be reserved for the Army’s most rapid-deployable infantry units.

“We would probably want to field them with a better-grade weapon that can penetrate this body armor,” Milley said.

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4 times the US military won by tricking the enemy

Wars are never fought fair and square.


In order to win, militaries try to beef up their own numbers, acquire better technology, or in some cases: totally bullsh*t the other side into thinking they are going to do something they aren’t really doing.

It’s called a feint. In a nutshell, a military feint is a tactic employed in order to deceive the other side. A military might feint that it’s going to attack Town A so the enemy shifts all its forces there, only to later attack Town B.

Here are four times the U.S. military pulled it off to great effect:

1. Both sides made fake guns out of painted logs in the Civil War.

Since photography wasn’t as widespread and there weren’t any reconnaissance planes, feints were arguably easier to pull off during the Civil War. That was definitely the case for the both sides, which sometimes used fake guns to trick each other into thinking they were going to attack somewhere else, or the place they were defending was heavily-fortified.

 

8 soldiers who saved lives when grenades went bad
Library of Congress/ Wikimedia Commons

Known as “Quaker Guns,” soldiers would take wooden logs, paint them black, and then prop them up on a fence or in a mount, making them look like artillery pieces from a distance. From the official US Army magazine:

When Confederate forces advanced on Munson’s Hill after the first Battle of Manassas, they held the hill for three months, but when Federal troops gained the hill in October of 1861, they discovered they had been tricked. There was nothing on the hill except Quaker guns.

Quaker Guns were used before and after the Civil War. But the tactic saw extensive use by the Confederates, to make up for their lack of actually artillery.

2. The Allies misled the Germans so well in World War II, Nazi leaders thought the real D-Day invasion was a feint.

8 soldiers who saved lives when grenades went bad
Troops in an LCVP landing craft approach Omaha Beach on D-Day, June 6, 1944.Photo: Wiki Commons

 

In what is perhaps the best feint ever, Allied forces during World War II confused the Nazis so well that they didn’t even know what was happening when the real D-Day landings began.

The deceit goes back to a plan developed prior to the June 6, 1944 landings called Operation Fortitude. Split into two parts — North and South — Fortitude had the goal of convincing the Nazis that the Allies wanted to invade occupied Norway, and Pas de Calais in France. They really wanted to invade Normandy, but the Germans had no clue.

The Allies literally created a fake army consisting of inflatable tanks and trucks, and broadcast hours-long transmissions about troop movements that the Germans would intercept.

When the landings finally came at Normandy, German commanders thought it was a smaller force, and the much larger attack was happening later.

“North of Seine quiet so far. No landings from sea. Pas de Calais sector: nothing to report,” a German message on June 6 reads. Then about a day after invasion, forces were warned: “Further enemy landings are to be expected in the entire coastal area. Enemy landings for a thrust toward Belgium to be expected.”

The Allies were pretty awesome at this deception game. Just one year prior, they fooled the Germans using a uniformed corpse with “top secret” documents into preparing for an invasion in the wrong place, when the Allies instead invaded Sicily.

3. The US Army built a fake base to fool Saddam Hussein, and it worked.

The ground war of the Persian Gulf War was over pretty quickly, thanks to Gen. Schwarzkopf’s extensive planning and leadership. Schwarzkopf wanted to use a “left hook” or “Hail Mary” play of his forces, effectively cutting off Iraqi forces in Kuwait by going behind their lines.

 

8 soldiers who saved lives when grenades went bad
Photo: US Army

But in order to achieve it, Schwarzkopf needed to trick the Iraqi Army. Instead of Iraq thinking they would get hit with a “left hook,” Army planners wanted them to think the U.S. would invade near Kuwait’s “boot heel.” FOB Weasel was how they did it.

It was eerily similar to Operation Fortitude. From a previous article by our own Blake Stilwell:

FOB Weasel was what Rick Atkinson, author of Crusade: The Untold Story of the Persian Gulf War called “a Potemkin base… giving the impression of 130,000 troops across a hundred square kilometers.” Army truck drivers wearing the red berets of paratroopers would shuttle vehicles between FOB Weasel and logistic bases.

The U.S. army’s XVIII Airborne Corps established FOB Weasel near the phony invasion area. They set up a network of small, fake camps with a few dozen soldiers using radios operated by computers to create radio traffic, fake messages between fake headquarters, as well as smoke generators and loudspeakers blasting fake Humvee, tank, and truck noises to simulate movement. Inflatable tanks with PVC turrets and helicopters with fiberglass rotors were lined up on the ground as well. Inflatable fuel bladders, Camo netting, and heat strips to fool infrared cameras completed the illusion. The Americans even taped “Egyptian” radio traffic messages about the supposed American presence to be intercepted by the Iraqis.

As Stilwell notes, even well after the Iraqi Army was expelled from Kuwait on Feb. 21 1991, Iraqi intelligence still thought American forces were near the “boot heel.”

4. The insurgents knew US troops were coming before the Second Battle of Fallujah, but they had no idea of when or where.

Before the Second Battle of Fallujah in 2004, insurgents were well aware that an attack was on the horizon. The city had become completely lawless, swept up by a large number of insurgents, who were spending their time building up defenses in the city.

8 soldiers who saved lives when grenades went bad
Photo: USMC

On the outskirts, Fallujah was completely cut off by U.S. troops surrounding it. Insurgents inside the city knew they would eventually be attacked, but a series of feint attacks made it hard to pinpoint from where or when. And beyond deceit, the feints allowed troops to test out enemy capabilities before the main effort.

From the Marine Corps Gazette:

Marine battalions manning vehicle checkpoints (VCPs) or participating in feints were extremely successful in targeting fixed enemy defenses and degrading insurgent command and control capabilities. A series of feints conducted by 1st Marine Division (1st MarDiv) deceived the insurgents as to the time and location of our main attack. They knew we were coming, but they didn’t know when or from where. The feints also allowed us to develop actionable intelligence on their positions for targeting in Phase II. The Commanding Officer, 3d Battalion, 1st Marines, whose Marines manned the southern VCPs around Fallujah, described this period as a real-world fire support coordination exercise that provided a valuable opportunity for his fire support coordinator and company fire support teams to work tactics, techniques, and procedures and to practice coordinating surface and air-delivered fires.

In an interesting example from a grunt on the ground, a feint attack from Lima Co. 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines tested enemy defenses and helped planners realize the spot they feint attacked wasn’t the best for the real thing.

“Had we decided to attack from the south, the battle would have been hellacious from day one,” one Marine recalls in the book “We Were One.” “The thing we discovered after the battle was they oriented a lot of their defenses to the south.”

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ISIS may be on the verge of losing its biggest asset

8 soldiers who saved lives when grenades went bad
(Screenshot Via YouTube) Islamic State fighters at the Baiji oil refinery.


The Islamic State is one of the most well-funded terrorist organizations in history thanks to the tax base it has managed to establish in its vast swaths of conquered territory in Iraq and Syria.

Running operations to maintain this tax base, however, may prove unsustainable for ISIS in the long run.

The militants are quickly racking up more expenses than they can cover, and their oil revenues have been cut by nearly two-thirds due to US airstrikes on oil refineries and the low price of crude, Indira Lakshmanan of Bloomberg reported.

The US has tried to cut off ISIS’ sources of revenue with little success, however: The group has compensated by levying hefty taxes on salaries and businesses, in some cases demanding residents and companies pay them as much as 20% of their income or revenue — 50% if they are employed by the Iraqi government, the New York Times reported.

And after conquering Mosul in June 2014, ISIS imposed a “protection” tax on every Iraqi Christian who refused to convert to Islam. Christians who refused to pay would not receive the protection of ISIS gunmen and could either leave or be killed.

All in all, ISIS takes in an estimated $1 million every day from extortion and taxation, according to analysts at the nonprofit RAND Corporation.

“ISIS makes most of its money from plunder,” Jonathan Schanzer, vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told Business Insider in May. “We’re seeing that over and over again. They go from one town to the next and knock over a bank or several banks and go house to house and extract whatever is of value.”

“It’s a racket,” Schanzer said. “And that’s how ISIS continues to survive and thrive.

ISIS can continue to tax its captive population for as long as it holds territory, but the militants’ wealth is bound to dwindle as holding this territory is in itself an expensive endeavor. Paying soldiers to rampage across the Middle East is not cheap, either — salaries cost ISIS between $3 million and $10 million every month, and the money the group steals from banks is not being replenished, according to Bloomberg.

“It is important to note that as the sources of ISIL’s wealth — notably the money stolen from banks and revenues from oil sales — are either no longer replenished or will diminish over time,” Jennifer Fowler, deputy assistant secretary of the Treasury for terrorist financing and financial crimes, said in a speech at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

“There are already signs that ISIL is unable to provide fundamental services to the people under its control, which Baghdad previously provided or subsidized,” she added.

“While it’s true they’re the best-financed terror group we’ve seen, they’re still an insurgent group, and they have a lot of expenses.”

More from Business Insider:

This article originally appeared at Business Insider Defense Copyright 2015. Follow BI Defense on Twitter.

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The US Army’s ‘Tiger Force’ took terror tactics to the Viet Cong

By 1967, the United States was firmly committed to the war in Vietnam. That year saw 485,600 American troops in country. That’s like arming the entire population of Kansas City and moving them into another country.


So yeah, they were invested.

But from the start, the Vietnam War was unlike the previous American wars. There was no real front, the enemy could be anywhere, and most importantly, they didn’t always fight like a conventional army in the mountains, jungles, or rice paddies.

8 soldiers who saved lives when grenades went bad

The Americans were fighting a limited war, trying to keep North Vietnam from infiltrating or taking over the South. They were also using a data-driven (but flawed) campaign of bombing and other operations based on pursuing and exploiting the fears and beliefs of the North Vietnamese.

Enter then-Maj. David Hackworth.

Hackworth was tasked with creating an elite commando unit from the already elite Special Forces long range reconnaissance patrol units. The mission of what he would call Tiger Force was more than just intelligence gathering. As he put it, he wanted to “out-guerrilla the guerrillas.”

8 soldiers who saved lives when grenades went bad

In 1967, Hackworth was out of the unit, and it was assigned to Vietnam’s Central Highlands, where it conducted a six-month long terror campaign in the Song Ve Valley and as part of Operation Wheeler. The mission was so brutal and so deep in enemy territory, members of the Tiger Force did not expect to survive.

“We didn’t expect to live. Nobody out there with any brains expected to live,” then-Sgt. William Doyle told the Telegraph. “The way to live is to kill because you don’t have to worry about anybody who’s dead.”

In a war where the U.S. military relied on body counts as a measure of success, Tiger Force was ready to do its part. Hackworth once noted, “You got your card punched by the numbers of bodies you counted.”

8 soldiers who saved lives when grenades went bad

Tiger Force went into villages the Viet Cong relied on for support and shelter in the Spring and Fall of 1967 and drove the villagers out of their homes using brute force. They allegedly used some disturbing methods to achieve those ends.

The Toledo Blade’s Michael D. Sallah, Mitch Weiss, and Joe Mahr (right) won the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for their eight months of investigation and reporting on the alleged war crimes committed by Tiger Force.

“Women and children were intentionally blown up in underground bunkers. Elderly farmers were shot as they toiled in the fields. Prisoners were tortured and executed — their ears and scalps severed for souvenirs. One soldier kicked out the teeth of executed civilians for their gold fillings.”

The three journalists say the Army commandos, far from friendly areas and left without support, routinely violated the laws of armed conflict, killed unarmed civilians, dropped grenades on women and children, and covered up the incidents during the official Army investigations.

Some members of the Tiger Force today aren’t even disputing the allegations. Doyle, along with others, claims to have lost count of how many people they killed.

8 soldiers who saved lives when grenades went bad

”I’ve seen atrocities in Vietnam that make Tiger Force look like Sunday school,” Doyle told the New York Times. “Everybody I killed, I killed to survive. They make Tiger Force out to be an atrocity. Well, that’s almost a compliment. Because nobody will understand the evil I’ve seen.”

The Army investigated the allegations for four and a half years but no charges were ever filed and the men of tiger Force became some of the most decorated in the Vietnam War. They were even awarded a Presidential Unit Citation.

For its part, the Army told the Toledo Blade that, barring any new evidence coming to light, the investigations would remain closed, even after comparing the newspaper’s information with their official records.

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The Air Force is looking into disposable drones to be ‘unmanned wingman’

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — After the “explosive” increase in the capabilities of unmanned aerial systems over the last 15 years, the challenges for the future are to develop the ability to avoid being shot down and to reduce the cost of operating and processing the data coming from what the Air Force calls “remotely piloted aircraft,” a panel of industry and Pentagon officials said Sept. 20.


The RPAs have proven their value for collecting intelligence and conducting precision strikes in the 15 years of constant combat since 9/11. But that all has happened in a permissive environment against adversaries that have no air forces or even integrated air defenses, the officials said during a presentation at the Air Force Association’s Air, Space, Cyber conference.

8 soldiers who saved lives when grenades went bad
Airman 1st Class Steven and Airman 1st Class Taylor prepare an MQ-9 Reaper for flight during Combat Hammer May 15, 2014, at Creech Air Force Base, Nev. Fighter, bomber and remotely piloted aircraft units around the Air Force are evaluated four times a year and provided weapons, airspace and targets from Hill AFB, Utah, or Eglin AFB, Fla. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. N.B.)

Although the experts agreed that developing the ability to operate RPAs against high-tech adversaries in the future was crucial, none offered any proposals on how to do that. The Air Force already has some unmanned aircraft with stealth capabilities that allow them to reduce detection by enemy radars. And the Navy is planning to field a carrier-based UAS that will function primarily as an airborne tanker but also will have ISR capabilities.

Kenneth Callicutt, director of Capabilities and Resources at the U.S. Strategic Command, noted that other sensor platforms, such as the E-3 AWACs and E-8 JSTARS, also would be at risk in a future high-end conflict. So the issue would be how to get the sensors forward, he said.

Callicutt suggested that the solution could be the “unmanned wingman,” a low-cost RPA that could be operated by a manned aircraft into high-risk conditions.

James Gear, an advanced systems official with L3 communications, suggested one option could be deciding between the current reusable aircraft or expendable platforms.

“There are times when you don’t want to be burdened to recover that system,” he said.

But others raised the issue of justifying throw away sensor platforms in the current tight budget situation.

Tom Clancy, chief technology officer with Aurora Flight Science Corp, noted that with the great increase in capabilities that RPAs give the warfighters, the way they evolved led to a situation “where it takes more people to operate them than manned aircraft.”

Looking forward, Clancy said, the question is, “how can we deliver on lower cost, deliver more capability at lower cost? That leads to autonomous systems. … As a community, we need to drive to that.”

Christopher Pehrson, a strategic development director at General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, offered two other options to cut the cost of using RPAs to collect intelligence. One, he said, would be to allow a ground commander on the scene to control the aircraft, rather than controllers at a remote location. He also suggested it would be cheaper to have a person who knows the region and the culture of the adversary to handle the ISR data, rather than trying to develop automated systems to process it.

Callicutt raised two other issues created by the proliferation of RPAs collecting vast amounts of data – how to get that data to those who need it and the limited amount available electromagnetic “bandwidth.”

He noted that Link 16, currently the best secure system of transmitting data between military systems, was created in 1964.

“I submit it’s time to start thinking about the next battle network,” and cited the concept of the “combat cloud” that senior Air Force officials have proposed. That would be a secure version of the cloud currently used by individuals and corporations to store their computer files.

“It’s no secret, we need better communications, like the combat cloud,” Callicutt said.

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7 leadership lessons from former commanders of America’s most elite warriors

8 soldiers who saved lives when grenades went bad
Former Navy SEAL Task Unit Bruiser commander Jocko Willink, left, and Charlie Platoon leader Leif Babin. | Courtesy of Jocko Willink and Leif Babin


The United States Special Operations Command (SOCOM) oversees the American military units that take on incredibly difficult and unconventional missions.

These units contain some of the most elite warriors in the world.

And though each unit in SOCOM has its own culture, certain approaches are universal.

From their writings and from our interviews with former Navy SEAL commanders Jocko Willink and Leif Babin, former Delta Force commander going by the pseudonym Dalton Fury, and retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal — who led the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) branch of SOCOM before leading American forces in the war in Afghanistan — Business Insider noticed recurring lessons on leadership that could apply in any type of career.

We’ve collected those lessons here.

8 soldiers who saved lives when grenades went bad
Students assigned to Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL class 282 participate in Rock Portage at Coronado Island in 2010. | Seaman Kyle Gahlau/Navy Visual News Service via Flickr

A team’s success falls entirely on its leader

After returning from duty as a SEAL platoon commander in the 2006 battle of Ramadi in Iraq, Leif Babin became a SEAL training instructor. It was during one “Hell Week” of Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL Training (BUD/S) in 2008 that he saw an incredible example of leadership at work, he wrote in his 2015 book “Extreme Ownership,” cowritten with Jocko Willink.

Babin and his fellow instructors split the SEAL candidates into teams of seven for a string of boat races, which required the teams to run with a 200-pound raft held aloft and then placed into the ocean for a short course. After several races, Boat Crew II was almost guaranteed to win and Boat Crew VI was almost guaranteed to come in last place.

The most senior instructor decided to swap the team leaders of Crews II and VI. To Babin’s surprise, Crew II performed well but never reached first, and Crew VI won nearly every race.

“When the leader of Boat Crew II took charge of Boat Crew VI … [h]e didn’t wait for others to solve his boat crew’s problems,” Babin wrote. “Rather than tolerate their bickering and infighting, he pulled the team together and focused their collective efforts on the single specific goal of winning the race.”

What it all comes down to, Babin writes, is “whether or not your team succeeds or fails is all on you.”

Manage your boss

8 soldiers who saved lives when grenades went bad

Dalton Fury spent more than 20 years in the US Army as a Ranger and then as a Delta Force operator.

Fury is the pseudonym he uses for his writing, since his time in Delta Force, one of the  most secretive and elite forces in the US, has required him to conceal his true identity.

He sent us a collection of leadership lessons he learned in Delta Force and Rangers

Fury writes that part of being an effective leader is knowing not only how to instill confidence in your subordinates, but in your superior.

He explains that there are times in special operations where plan A isn’t going exactly as planned, and if the leadership in charge of the mission’s commander gets nervous, the entire thing could turn into a disaster. It’s why, Fury says, leaders need to assure their own leaders in advance that they are prepared for whatever unexpected situations arise.

 

Mitigate risk as much as possible

8 soldiers who saved lives when grenades went bad
The Delta Force unit that served in the battle of Tora Bora.

Whoever’s in charge can’t waste time excessively contemplating a scenario without making a decision. But when it’s time to make that decision, all risk must be mitigated as much as possible.

Willink and Babin both write about situations in Ramadi in which delaying an attack until every detail about a target was clarified, even when it frustrated other units they were working with, resulted in avoiding tragic friendly fire.

Fury says it is the leader’s responsibility to “see the forest through the trees” and anticipate as many scenarios in a mission as possible, in order to always have a plan ready to go with the least risky choice available.

Have a set of standards that guide decisions

8 soldiers who saved lives when grenades went bad
Retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal sits aboard a helicopter during active duty in 2009.

“There are a set of standards that you know are right,”McChrystal told Business Insider. “They may look and feel different at times, but those standards should guide you.”

He said that there was once a time when he was mulling over a weighty decision with a command sergeant major, and he was questioning what his values were telling him was right. They worked over the decision for six months.

“And at the end of that decision, I thought I had consensus, and I announced this decision, and I looked to him for approval and he said, ‘It was the right decision. But you could have made it six months ago.'”

“The reality is we often delay making decisions when we already know the right answer and we’re trying somehow to prevent ourselves from having to make that step because we’re trying to mitigate all the reaction we’ll get to it,” he said. “But sometimes you just have to cut bait and do it.”

Be the alpha, but don’t be overbearing

8 soldiers who saved lives when grenades went bad
Retired Navy SEAL commander Jocko Willink. | Twitter/Jocko Willink

As a SEAL officer, Willink needed to be aggressive. (“Some may even accuse me of hyper-aggression,” he said.) But he differentiated being a powerful presence to his SEAL team from being an intimidating figure.

He wrote that, “I did my utmost to ensure that everyone below me in the chain of command felt comfortable approaching me with concerns, ideas, thoughts, and even disagreements.”

“That being said,” he added, “my subordinates also knew that if they wanted to complain about the hard work and relentless push to accomplish the mission I expected of them, they best take those thoughts elsewhere.”

As Fury put it: “Play well with others — but remain the alpha.”

Be calm without being robotic

8 soldiers who saved lives when grenades went bad
Retired Navy SEAL commander Jocko Willink, left, during the 2006 battle of Ramadi in Iraq. | Courtesy of Todd Pitman

Willink says that while leaders who lose their tempers lose respect, they also can’t establish a relationship with their team if they never expression anger, sadness, or frustration.

“People do not follow robots,” he writes.

For Fury, this comes when a leader is humble. “And at that moment when you apply this secret, realizing you are not one of the action heroes — more Clark Kent than Superman — you have met the first standard for actually leading high-performance teams,” he wrote.

Trust your subordinates

Fury says that in the military, commanders establish relationships with officers they can trust to act on their own and come through in a crisis.

For example, Fury writes, “Year after year, commander to commander, maverick warrior … Jim ‘Serpico’ Reese, a stand-out Ranger and Delta officer, quite possibly would have made [Ulysses S.] Grant appear wanting when it came to working through chaos, calming nerves, and demanding the best out of subordinates.”

It’s this trust in each other that makes elite units so special.

When talking about the Navy SEALs in particular, McChrystal wrote in his book, “Team of Teams,” he said it is their intense, selfless teamwork from the top down that allows them to process any challenge with “near telepathy.”

8 soldiers who saved lives when grenades went bad
Delta Force operators in Afghanistan, their faces censored to protect their privacy. Courtesy of Dalton Fury.

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This Marine helicopter pilot says a wingsuit is the best way to fly

He’s piloted an AH-1W Super Cobra helicopter gunship in combat, but Marine Capt. Kyle Lobpries is still chasing that next adrenaline rush.


On Memorial Day, wearing a high-performance Jedei II wingsuit, Lobpries stepped off an airplane at 36,215 feet over northern California. For more than eight minutes, he flew like a bird.

He floated to Earth before his parachute deployed at 3,003 feet and carried him onto a field nearly 19 miles away and nearly set a distance record for wingsuit flight.

Thrilling enough? Yes and no.

Next month, Lobpries will compete in speed skydiving. Goal? Maximum velocity.

Don’t people, like objects, descend at 120 mph?

8 soldiers who saved lives when grenades went bad
Photo courtesy Kyle Lobpries Facebook

Generally, yes, but freefall speed increases by reducing friction. Tuck yourself in from the belly or spread-eagle position and fall head-first, for example, and a skydiver could reach 180 mph, according to the Federation Aeronautique Internationale, the World Air Sports Federation. Get into a tight, lean position – think slender torpedo – and a skydiver could hit 300 mph or more.

That’s Lobpries’ goal.

So far, he’s hit 297 mph in training. At such speeds, the 33-year-old is flying nearly twice that of his own helicopter. Straight down.

“It’s pretty scary,” he admitted. “When you go that fast, everything is vibrating and shaking and kind of blurry.”

Next month, he’ll compete in speed skydiving at the FAI World Parachuting Championship in Chicago, Sept. 10-21. Speed diving is the newest recognized discipline by FAI, which will crown champion whoever tallies the “fastest speed possible over a given distance.”

Last year, the top speed over a 1-kilometer descent was 317.5 mph, according to SkyDive magazine.

(Speed skydiving shouldn’t be confused with the recent jump by skydiver Luke Aikins, who leapt from 25,000 sans parachute into a big net and the Guinness Book of World Records for highest skydive without a parachute. And it’s not the same speed record adventure-skydiver Felix Baumgartner got when he reached 833.9 mph and broke the speed of sound falling 127,000 feet to Earth in 2012, still the highest skydive.)

As a kid in Texas, Lobpries saw wingsuiters on TV and thought, that’s cool. He made his first jump, a tandem ride, as a 19-year-old college freshman and since has amassed various parachute ratings and qualifications and some medals, even as his military flight career took off. He got the requisite 200 jumps before jumping with his first wingsuit, in 2010.

“I remember my heart beating very fast. I was very nervous,” he recalled of that jump from 12,500 feet.

It’s been his great passion ever since and between overseas deployments. “I think this is the more truer way to fly, to actually use your arms to support yourself in the air,” he said.

Wingsuiting to a layperson seems like a complex feat of science and physics. With his grounding in aviation and aeronautics, Lobpries pores over jump and flight data and calculations. He’s working on designing the most efficient and fast wingsuit design.

Lobpries lives near San Diego and is the Marine Corps liaison officer with Tactical Air Control Squadron 12 at San Diego Naval Base. It’s a non-flying billet. Outside of work, chances are good he’s in the air or somewhere maybe riding his Ducati 1199 Panigale S.

Every one of his jumps requires a lot of thought and study to ensure safety and solid performance. Lobpries spent months planning and preparing for the May wingsuit flight near Davis, California. He slimmed down to 172 pounds, building strength and stamina through a clean diet and strength conditioning that include core exercises and yoga, despite nagging lower-body injuries from a 2014 bad landing. His May 28 training jump, at 30,000 feet, went well.

Two days later, Lobpries and several skydivers boarded the Cessna, sucking on oxygen before they parachuted from 30,000 feet. Lobpries stayed behind when they jumped. “My plan was to go as high as possible,” he said.

8 soldiers who saved lives when grenades went bad
Courtesy Kyle Lobpries Facebook

Lobpries had FAA clearance, a GoPro camera, three GPS devices and a potential world record in mind as the Cessna climbed to 36,215 feet. (That’s cruising altitude for a commercial jet.) Frost covered the windows as the Cessna pushed beyond its ceiling limits. “It was definitely rocking and rolling up there,” he said.

With heaters tucked into his gloves and breathing apparatus on his face, Lobpries stepped off into thin, -62 degrees Fahrenheit air. “I had trouble breathing. I couldn’t exhale,” he recalled, but he managed to clear a frozen exhale valve. He listened to audible altimeter readings and focused on his micro movements. “I just continuously thought about body positioning,” he said.

Lobpries jumped with no specific landing zone in mind. “I asked the pilot to drop me off 18 miles north of the drop zone, and I would fly south as far as I could,” he said. A straight path gave him the best shot to maintain the proper glide slope. A slight tailwind took him over farmland, a small town and “one guy that waved” as he flew over. An FAI judge tracked the 8:27 flight and took the GPS devices for verification.

If FAI-verified, Lobpries thinks it’s the longest distance and highest duration wingsuit jump to date. “I want to set a bar,” Lobpries said, “and if someone breaks it, that’s fine.”

“The draw is just the goal. Just like somebody wanting to run a marathon … or become a lawyer,” he said.

He hopes his record “will inspire people to accomplish” their goal. He’s recently taken up BASE jumping. But for now, he’s focused on Chicago and reaching 300 mph and, perhaps eventually, a speed skydiving record.

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White House predicts another chemical attack in Syria

The White House issued a stern warning to Syrian President Bashar Assad on June 26 as it claimed “potential” evidence that Syria was preparing for another chemical weapons attack.


In an ominous statement issued with no supporting evidence or further explanation, Press Secretary Sean Spicer said the US had “identified potential preparations for another chemical weapons attack by the Assad regime that would likely result in the mass murder of civilians, including innocent children.”

He said the activities were similar to preparations taken before an April 2017 attack that killed dozens of men, women, and children, and warned that if “Mr. Assad conducts another mass murder attack using chemical weapons, he and his military will pay a heavy price.”

The White House offered no details on what prompted the warning and spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said she had no additional information.

8 soldiers who saved lives when grenades went bad
Photo from White House YouTube.

Several State Department officials typically involved in coordinating such announcements said they were caught completely off guard by the warning, which didn’t appear to be discussed in advance with other national security agencies. Typically, the State Department, the Pentagon, and US intelligence agencies would all be consulted before the White House issued a declaration sure to ricochet across foreign capitals.

The officials weren’t authorized to discuss national security planning publicly and requested anonymity.

A non-governmental source with close ties to the White House said the administration had received intelligence that the Syrians were mixing precursor chemicals for a possible sarin gas attack in either the east or south of the country, where government troops and their proxies have faced recent setbacks.

Assad had denied responsibility for the April 4 attack on the town of Khan Sheikhoun in the rebel-held Idlib province that killed dozens of people, including children. Victims show signs of suffocation, convulsions, foaming at the mouth, and pupil constriction.

Days later, President Donald Trump launched a retaliatory cruise missile strike on a Syrian government-controlled air base where US officials said the Syrian military had launched the chemical attack.

It was the first direct American assault on the Syrian government and Trump’s most dramatic military order since becoming president months before.

8 soldiers who saved lives when grenades went bad
The guided-missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) conducts strike operations while in the Mediterranean Sea, April 7, 2017 local time). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ford Williams)

Trump said at the time that the Khan Sheikhoun attack crossed “many, many lines,” and called on “all civilized nations” to join the US in seeking an end to the carnage in Syria.

Syria maintained it hadn’t used chemical weapons and blamed opposition fighters for stockpiling the chemicals. Russia’s Defense Ministry said the toxic agents were released when a Syrian airstrike hit a rebel chemical weapons arsenal and munitions factory. Russia is a close ally of Assad.

The US attack on a Syrian air base came after years of heated debate and deliberation in Washington over intervention in the bloody civil war. Chemical weapons have killed hundreds of people since the start of the conflict.

Earlier on June 26th, Trump had dinner with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, and other top officials as he hosted Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the White House.

Tillerson and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov talked earlier that day about the need to secure a cease-fire in Syria, fight extremist groups, and prevent the use of chemical weapons, the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

8 soldiers who saved lives when grenades went bad
Photo from Moscow Kremlin.

Nikki Haley, the US Ambassador to the United Nations, followed up Spicer’s statement with a Twitter warning: “Any further attacks done to the people of Syria will be blamed on Asaad, but also on Russia Iran who support him killing his own people.”

Less than an hour after Spicer issued the statement, Trump was back to tweeting about the 2016 campaign, denouncing investigations into potential collusion between Moscow and his campaign aides as a “Witch Hunt!”

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VA chief says he’d stay if Trump wants him

As a new administration prepares to take charge in late January, the man who’s lead the Department of Veterans Affairs through nearly three years of turbulence says if President-elect Donald Trump wants him to stay aboard, he’ll keep working to reform the sprawling agency.


“I haven’t yet received a call,” says Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert McDonald. “But I would never turn my back on my duty.”

Trump has reportedly looked into several candidates for the post, including former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown and former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, but some are calling for McDonald to stay on.

During a recent “Town Hall”-style meeting at the West Los Angeles VA Jan. 4, McDonald fielded questions from the veteran audience that touched on service lapses and recent scandals, including accusations and fraud within the VA and a perceived lack of accountability.

“A certain employee here lost 30 vehicles and still drew a $140,000 salary,” one veteran and VA employee complained. “There’s no accountability with people in management.”

McDonald agreed he inherited a VA plagued with bad actors, but said most of the local VA leaders who were in office when he took over are no longer employed by the VA.

For McDonald the changes haven’t happened fast enough. Speed, he laments, is his greatest challenge. Future VA Secretaries will feel the need for speed as well.

8 soldiers who saved lives when grenades went bad
Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. James A. Winnefeld, Jr. and (left) Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald (center) receive a brief on a firearms training driving simulator during a tour of the Center for the Intrepid, Dec. 19, 2014. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jonathan Snyder)

“One of the things I talk about in my top 10 leadership principles is the need to get the right leaders in place,” McDonald told WATM in an exclusive interview. “I changed 14 of my 17 top leaders, but it’s two and a half years later, and we’re not done yet.”

Many of the veterans at the town hall meeting asked McDonald to address problems specific to them — bad record keeping or missed appointments. While the VA secretary said he’d get those problems fixed, he argued its a good sign the complaints focus on the tactical rather than larger systemic problems.

“Two and a half years ago, many of the comments I got were things like, ‘it’s too hard to get an appointment,’ ” he says. “Now, more and more, we’re hearing about individuals and that individual service.”

When you run a large customer service organization, you want to get from anecdotes to specific situations so you can deal with them,” he added.

Talking to McDonald, you can hear how his time as CEO of Procter  Gamble colors his view of running the VA.

“The brands you like the most, ones you can’t do without, you feel like you have an intimate relationship,” he says. “That intimacy leads to trust. What you want to do is measure the trust and measure the emotion that comes out of the experience that you have.”

Those are the metrics that he says matter.

“The fact that trust of the VA has gone up from 47 percent to 60 percent, it’s not where we want it to be, but the fact that it’s gone up says the veterans are seeing a difference,” he said. “What we’ve seen is ease of getting care has gone up 20 points, and the effectiveness of care has gone up about 12 points. Trust, then, has gone up 13 points.”

8 soldiers who saved lives when grenades went bad
(VA photo)

While veterans’ trust in the system has gone up, McDonald said, there are still calls for more services to be transitioned to private organizations. Many argue private doctors and specialists are more efficient and provide a quicker turnaround for vets in need, while others say moving toward privatization is a bad idea.

For McDonald, a careful mixture of both is the right way forward.

“Since I’ve been the secretary, we’ve gone from 20 percent of our appointments in private medicine to now 32 percent in the private sector, so there has been some degree of privatization,” he says. “We’ve done that in a very evolutionary way, where if we didn’t have a skill, specialty, or a location, we would send people into the community.”

“As I looked at this, privatizing VA services wholesale didn’t make sense to me,” he added.

He explained what he calls the “three-legged stool” of the VA: valuable medical research (to the tune of $1.8B per year), training 70 percent of doctors in the United States, and providing the “best patients” for clinical work – patients with unique situations.

He also said many veterans organization don’t want total privatization.

“They like the integrated care that the VA provides, and they like having medical providers who are familiar with their unique situations,” McDonald says. “They typically have a number of issues that need to be resolved simultaneously.”

Whether he stays in the job or not, McDonald feels it’s important the next VA secretary has a similar pedigree to his — one that combines military experience with top-line business credentials.

“It’s important to have somebody who’s a veteran, obviously, because they have to have credibility with the veteran population, but somebody who’s also run a large organization,” he says. “I think it’s advantageous to have somebody who’s run a large organization and understands the importance of getting the right leaders in place, of setting the right strategies, of making sure the system’s robust, of setting the right culture.”

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China and Japan locked in Coast Guard arms race

China and Japan are redefining the nature and purpose of the Coast Guard. Americans still think in terms of air-sea rescue or chasing drug smugglers when they think about their Coast Guard. China and Japan think about their Coast Guards in terms of realpolitik.


The two nominally civilian services are on the front lines of territorial disputes in the South and East China Seas. Both countries are adding to their coast guard fleets at a breakneck pace. One could almost call it a Coast Guard arms race, except that the vessels are lightly armed if armed at all.

Japan is reinforcing its Coast Guard contingent in the waters around the disputed Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea with 10 new 1,500-ton patrol craft and two new helicopter- equipped vessels. This is in addition to six other cutters already in the region. Tokyo will no longer have to borrow vessels from other Coast Guard districts allowing them to concentrate on routine Coast Guard duties such as rescuing ships in distress.

8 soldiers who saved lives when grenades went bad

Tokyo is also overhauling its main operational base on the island of Ishikagi, the closest Japanese island to the Senkakus, with enlarged port facilities to handle the new vessels. It is close to another small island where Japan recently opened an army garrison to protect a new radar base (a well as asserting sovereignty in case China expands its designs on other islands in the Ryukyu chain.)

Both Japan and China assert their claims to the uninhabited Senkaku islands with coast guard cutters rather than ships of their regular navies.  On an average of once every two weeks, two or three Chinese Coast Guard vessels enter Japanese territorial waters. They stay for a couple hours then leave. Meanwhile, Japanese Coast Guard vessels regularly patrol the disputed waters ordering anyone inside the territorial zone to leave.

China is also expanding its fleet and building ports of call to maintain them. The growing fleet allows Beijing to assert its claim and support its interests over the entire South China Sea. At present, Coast Guard ships are stationed near the Scarborough Shoal claimed by the Philippines; another routinely patrols the Laconia Reefs off the coast of Malaysia.

While it once depended on former naval frigates, China is now commissioning purpose-built cutters. It is currently commissioning two of the world’s largest Coast Guard cutters, ships that could alter the balance of power in the South and East China Seas (one ship is to be stationed in each sea).

Known only by their hull numbers, in this case Haijing 2901 and Haijing 3901 (the first digit denotes which sea it is to patrol). They displace 10,000 tons, possibly more when fully outfitted. That makes them larger than the U.S. Navy’s Ticonderoga- class cruisers and Japan’s 6,500-ton Shikishima- class Coast Guard cutters previously the largest in the world.

The U.S.S. Forth Worth, a Littoral Combat ship based in Singapore, which has undertaken Freedom of Navigation patrols in the Spratly islands, displaces a mere 1,200 tons. A warship like the Fort Worth could, of course, defend itself from a Chinese maritime enforcement vessel on a collision course, but it would mean firing the first shot.

This may be a coast guard “arms race” except that the competing vessels are not heavily armed. The new Japanese cutters are armed with 20 mm cannons and water cannons. The new Chinese super cutters are not necessarily heavily armed either. Pictures that have been published so far show that they lack gun turrets. It is not armaments that make these two Coast Guard Dreadnaughts so formidable; it is their sheer size.

8 soldiers who saved lives when grenades went bad

The military version of the People’s Daily, the press organ of the Chinese Communist Party, boasted that these powerful new ships could ram and possibly sink a 9,000-ton vessel without damaging itself. That makes them a potential threat to regular naval vessels of the U.S. and Japanese navies.

Ramming has been a tactic in territorial disputes in both the East and South China Seas, harkening back to the days of the Romans and Carthaginians. A large Chinese fishing vessel rammed a Japanese Coast Guard cutter near the Senkakus in 2011. Earlier this year another Chinese Coast Guard vessel rammed one of its own fishing trawlers that had been taken into custody by Indonesian authorities for allegedly illegally fishing in Jakarta’s 200-nautical miles exclusive economic zone.

Retired USN Captain James Fanell, formerly chief of intelligence for the U.S. Pacific Fleet, calls the Chinese Coast Guard,  “A fulltime marine harassment organization. Unlike the U.S, Coast Guard, the Chinese service has no other mission but to harass other nations into submitting to China’s extravagant claims,” he says.

Fanell notes that China is building new Coast Guard vessels, like the two super cutters, at “an astonishing rate.”

The regular navies of Japan and China generally stay in the background, but Tokyo is also suspicious about the recent activities of the regular Chinese Navy in waters near the disputed islands. A contingent of Chinese frigates now hovers about 70 km away from the Senkaku, close enough to come to the aid of any of its coast guard vessels that gets in trouble.

For its part, the Japanese government recently made public what the cabinet had decided earlier in the year, that Japanese naval vessels might intervene should the Coast Guard be unable to do its normal “policing” duties. “If it becomes difficult for the police and the Japan Coast Guard, then the Maritime Self Defense Force (navy) could respond,” said defense minister Gen Nakatani. That could happen if Chinese navy ships actually entered Senkaku waters.

The use of “white hulls,” mostly unarmed or lightly armed Coast Guard cutters, rather than “gray hulls,” has been a stabilizing element in the numerous territorial encounters of the past few years. But the recent remarks suggest that Tokyo expects to see more gray hulls than white hulls in the coming year.

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This pilot was saved when the enemy shot him in the bullet

Walter Chalaire was an American newspaper reporter turned British pilot during World War I whose life was saved while he was being shot down thanks to the enemy bullet becoming lodged in a round on Chalaire’s cartridge belt.


The lucky pilot was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, in 1895 and went to college in New York. During school, he made money as a reporter while studying law before graduating in 1916. That was just in time to head to Europe and fight the Germans.

8 soldiers who saved lives when grenades went bad
Cadet Walter Chalaire, at right, later became a Royal Air Force lieutenant and was saved during a pitched aerial fight when this cartridge belt stopped a German round. (Photo: PhotoBucket/njaviator)

Chalaire joined the military and was soon assigned to the newly formed Royal Air Force’s No. 202 Squadron, a reconnaissance and bombing unit that operated predominantly over Belgium and France on the Western Front.

On August 14, 1918, Chalaire was piloting a De Havilland DH-4 on a mission near Ostend, Belgium, and got separated from the other observation plane. Chalaire and his observer, a British sergeant, were alone in contested skies when they spotted two flights of German planes. The first was above them and the second was below and behind.

8 soldiers who saved lives when grenades went bad
The De Haviland DH-4 was a common plane in World War I. (Photo: Public Domain via San Diego Air and Space Museum)

The Germans turned on the sole English plane and started peppering it with fire. Chalaire and his observer returned fire, downing two of the enemy. But the Allied crew was outgunned and rounds flew through the plane, cutting cables, puncturing the tank, and wounding the observer seven times.

Chalaire was still trying to fight his way east when a German burst hit him. One round went into his shoulder but the other was caught by his cartridge belt, driving its way into one of Chalaire’s unused rounds.

8 soldiers who saved lives when grenades went bad
Royal Air Force Lt. Walter Chalaire’s cartridge belt and goggles were photographed after he returned to friendly lines. (Photo: National Archives and Records Administration)

That was when the American finally bugged out as hard as he could, sending the plane into a steep dive and praying that the damaged plane didn’t collapse as the air rushed over it.

Chalaire made it to the coast before setting it down and then rushed to find help for his observer who survived. The pilot’s goggles and ammo belt were photographed and his story was reported in American newspapers. He survived the war and became a prominent lawyer before passing away in 1971.

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