To observe Purple Heart Day, WATM is celebrating some of the heroes we’ve featured on the site who kept fighting after they were wounded:
1. Air Force combat controller Robert Gutierrez thought he would die within three minutes after being shot through the lung in Afghanistan, but he kept calling in air strikes, saving his element and earning himself the Air Force Cross.
2. Joe Pinder left professional baseball to volunteer for the Army in World War II. He was wounded almost immediately after leaving his boat on D-Day, but refused medical aid and searched through the surf and chaos to find missing radio equipment. He finished finding and assembling the missing equipment right before he was killed.
5. Nine Green Berets and Afghan Commandos were seriously wounded but kept fighting in the Battle of Shok Valley, including Staff Sgt. Daniel Behr who had his leg nearly amputated by enemy fire at the start of the conflict but stayed in the fight for another 6 hours.
7. The possible first casualty on D-Day was an airborne lieutenant who was mortally wounded before jumping into Normandy, meaning he could have stayed on the plane and sought medical attention. He led his paratroopers out the door anyway.
8. 2nd Lt. Daniel Inouye was shot just before he took out two German machine gun nests with grenades and a Thompson submachine gun. Then, after his arm was nearly severed by an enemy grenade, he took out a third machine gun nest.
In this episode of the Mandatory Fun podcast, Blake, Tim, and Chase speak with stand-up comedian Mitch Burrow about what simple luxuries we wished we had while on deployment.
Mitch is a Marine Corps veteran that served in Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003. He then started a career in manufacturing before realizing that it sucked. Now, Mitch has found his true calling in acting silly on a stage in front of strangers on a nightly basis.
Being forward deployed without the amenities that service members are used to from back home can suck. While some military branches have chow halls with an all-you-can-eat menu, others are forced to eat highly-processed foods from heavy duty plastic bags — a.k.a. MREs.
Although we wish for the most part that our livelihood will remain the same while on deployment, it’s the simple things service members miss the most.
Daenerys Targaryen FINALLY landed on Westeros in HBO’s “Game of Thrones.” She’s even started using the dragons and Dothraki on Westerosi armies! Even though she hasn’t (yet) moved on King’s Landing, there’s a lot of reason to believe it’s just a matter of time before the “game” is over.
This gives us a chance to stop and reflect on all the battles and strategies in the game that led us here. Even better, it gives us a chance to laugh at the worst leaders in the place and question why the hell they thought they could hang in the first place. At least Tommen knew he just wasn’t cut out for it.
7. Theon Greyjoy
Theon’s big victory wasn’t even really a fight. He told the Stark Army there was an attack somewhere else, and when they left he forced Bran to concede Winterfell to him. Then, right before the Iron Born immediately turned on him, he killed some farmer’s family and torched their two kids. Cool.
You know who the real loser was in the sack of Winterfell?
Rickon Stark. Rickon is the real loser in all this. By the time the Starks retake Winterfell, Bran can see through time, Arya has face-melting assassin skills, Jon Snow is hanging with the Mother of Dragons, and Sansa runs the place. What did Rickon get?
Theon sucks. He knew it, his men knew it, the Boltons knew it. And he’s at number seven on this list because we knew it too.
6. Ramsay Bolton
Sure, he seized the North (after it was decimated by the Iron Born, but whatever). We’ll give that to him. But the thing about the way a ruler like Ramsay Bolton operates is that there has to be an element of fear to fighting for him. That also means that there has to be a good chance you’ll survive. If you know you’re going to die no matter what, it makes it difficult to fight for survival.
In the Battle of the Bastards, Ramsay so casually mows down his own troops with arrows to the point that they’re indistinguishable from the enemy in the pile of bodies. See if you can spot the point when a bunch more guys from the Bolton Army would have really come in useful during the Battle of the Bastards:
Where was the shirtless Ramsay Bolton who fought the Iron Born at the Dread Fort?
5. Joffrey Baratheon
If only Stannis Baratheon had attacked King’s Landing with a bunch of prostitutes, then Joffrey would know how to kill the enemy. Donning the King’s Armor in the one time he had a chance to be a real leader, he bravely left the battlefield to go see what his mom wanted.
And don’t forget, Arya was embarrassing Joffrey before it was cool…and before she even had face-wrecking assassin powers.
4. Balon Greyjoy
Remember Balon? No? Funny how the worst among us are completely forgotten as soon as someone with skills and ability comes along.
The thing about Balon that’s different from most of the people on this list is that the other people had a reputation for valor, daring, and strategic thinking before the events depicted on the show. Not Balon. Before the events of the show, Balon led a rebellion from the Iron Islands and was quickly owned by Ned Stark. His biggest win was having Theon taken hostage.
Everyone spends the first season making fun of Balon in front of Theon. Only Yara gave a damn when Euron threw the old man over a bridge. In fact, the whole Game of Thrones series got exponentially better as soon as someone killed Balon.
3. The Night King
The Night King has existed since the age of the Children of the Forest. He has practically unlimited manpower that only grows the more he fights. And it’s next to impossible to stop his army in close quarters combat…unless you can figure out the three things that can actually hurt them. And the Night King is giving the living SO MUCH TIME TO FIGURE IT OUT.
Seriously, what is he doing beyond the wall? Every time we see him, he and his army of White Walkers look like they’re just walking around endlessly. Don’t they know they’re supposed to attack in the winter? I know it’s supposed to be the longest winter ever but that doesn’t mean he has to wait until the last minute to attack.
If he just started attacking now, he could swarm The Wall before Jon Snow can mine the Dragon Glass. Or before Dany can beat Cersei and focus the dragons on the North. But no, he’s going to walk around the land beyond The Wall because it’s apparently much more fun than winning. People who are older than history love to take walks.
2. Jaime Lannister
For all the stories you hear about Ser Jaime’s fighting ability, all he ever seems to do is get captured or almost die. When he does win, it’s not because he’s actually fighting. He makes the disappointment list because you feel like he should be better at fighting. And yet we have come to love him anyway.
Jaime didn’t kill Tyrion even though he believed Tyrion killed his son. Jaime failed to kill a small child by throwing him out a window. Even in combat, we’ve seen more success from Samwell Tarly. Tyrion managed to get a few kills in at the Blackwater — the most Jaime ever did was kill his cousin and lose a hand for his trouble.
It’s mind-boggling why Tyrion is the most disappointing Lannister (to the Lannisters, I mean). Jaime is the biggest liability in Westeros and all Tyrion has to do is tell an Army, “Let’s go kill those dudes attacking our city,” and he wins the day.
“But what about Riverrun?” you might ask. Early on, we hear about Jaime taking Riverrun from the Riverlords but by season six, he has to go retake it from the Blackfish. Taking a castle doesn’t do you any good if you can’t keep it. Ask Theon Greyjoy about that.
For the ultimate in Jaime Lannister’s bad decision-making skills, see the last five minutes of the seventh season episode “The Spoils of War” and remember Jaime’s quote: “We can hold them off.” Hey bud, everyone knows she’s got fire-breathing dragons and a barbaric horde of Dothraki horse archers.
Not only did Jaime do nothing for his troops, he didn’t even get the anti-dragon gun ready to fight. That thing stayed in the wagon waaaaaaaaaay too long.
1. Stannis Baratheon
For what all the bookreaders have to say about Stannis Baratheon, we sure expected some magic from this guy. The only magical thing about Stannis came out of Melisandre.
At the Battle of the Blackwater, Stannis drove his Navy into the bay, which would seem like the best idea. But a little bit of intel work and he would have known the Lannisters poured a ton of electric green stuff into the bay in anticipation of the battle, which everyone knew was coming. Then, Stannis did exactly what everyone expected him to do – a frontal assault. No wonder the Lannisters knew exactly how to wipe the floor with his gate crashers.
Also, underestimating the wealthiest family on the continent was a terrible call. They control Casterly Rock and King’s Landing. Why did Stannis never consider the possibility of a relief force from Casterly Rock? Tywin Lannister was known for his ability as a soldier and general and the Lannisters were allied with the Tyrells. Stannis, whose moves surprise no one, never considers outside forces. Like…did he forget he was in The War of Five Kings?
To top that, the real heir to Robert Baratheon led a depleted army against Winterfell. A real commander would work to prepare the army, maybe get some more allies at the last minute, work on a secret plan or weapon to even the odds of assaulting a fortified position. Not Stannis. His ace in the hole was to roast his daughter alive.
The Air Force is surging forward with a massive, fleet-wide modernization overhaul of the battle-tested, Vietnam-era B-52 bomber, an iconic airborne workhorse for the U.S. military dating back to the 1960s.
Engineers are now equipping all 76 of the Air Force B-52s with digital data-links, moving-map displays, next-generation avionics, new radios and an ability to both carry more weapons internally and integrate new, high-tech weapons as they emerge, service officials said.
The technical structure and durability of the B-52 airframes in the Air Force fleet are described as extremely robust and able to keep flying well into the 2040s and beyond – so the service is taking steps to ensure the platform stays viable by receiving the most current and effective avionics, weapons and technologies, Eric Single, Chief of the Global Strike Division, Acquisition, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
The B-52 has a massive, 185-foot wingspan, a weight of about 185,000 pounds and an ability to reach high sub-sonic speeds and altitudes of 50,000 feet, Air Force officials said.
“Their structure, service life and air frames are good until around 2040. They are built very strong structurally. This is not a structural modification, but upgrades to the capabilities and the avionics,” Single explained. “You are taking this old structurally sound airframe and putting modern avionics, modern communications technology and modern weaponry into it.”
Known for massive bombing missions during the Vietnam War, the 159-foot long B-52s have in recent years been operating over Iraq and Afghanistan.
The B-52 also served in Operation Desert Storm, Air Force statements said. “B-52s struck wide-area troop concentrations, fixed installations and bunkers, and decimated the morale of Iraq’s Republican Guard,” an Air Force statement said.
In 2001, the B-52 provided close-air support to forces in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom, service officials said. The B-52 also played a role in Operation Iraqi Freedom. On March 21, 2003, B-52Hs launched approximately 100 CALCMs (Conventional Air Launched Cruise Missiles) during a night mission.
Given the B-52s historic role in precision-bombing and close air support, next-generation avionics and technologies are expected to greatly increase potential missions for the platform in coming years, service officials said.
Communications, Avionics Upgrades
Two distinct, yet interwoven B-52 modernization efforts will increase the electronics, communications technology, computing and avionics available in the cockpit while simultaneously configuring the aircraft with the ability to carry up to eight of the newest “J-Series” precision-guided weapons internally – in addition to carrying six weapons on each wing, Single said.
Eight B-52s have already received a communications (coms systems) upgrade called Combat Network Communication Technology, or CONECT – a radio, electronics and data-link upgrade which, among other things, allows aircraft crews to transfer mission and targeting data directly to aircraft systems while in flight (machine to machine), Single explained.
“It installs a digital architecture in the airplane,” Single explained. “Instead of using data that was captured during the mission planning phase prior to your take off 15 to 20 hours ago – you are getting near real-time intelligence updates in flight.”
Single described it key attribute in terms of “machine-to-machine” data-transfer technology which allows for more efficient, seamless and rapid communication of combat-relevant information.
Using what’s called an ARC 210 Warrior software-programmable voice and data radio, pilots can now send and receive targeting data, mapping information or intelligence with ground stations, command centers and other aircraft.
“The crew gets the ability to communicate digitally outside the airplane which enables you to import not just voice but data for mission changes, threat notifications, targeting….all those different types of things you would need to get,” Single said.
An ability to receive real-time targeting updates is of great relevance to the B-52s close-air-support mission because fluid, fast-moving or dynamic combat situations often mean ground targets appear, change or disappear quickly.
Alongside moving much of the avionics from analogue to digital technology, CONECT also integrates new servers, modems, colored display screens in place of old green monochrome and provides pilots with digital moving-map displays which can be populated with real-time threat and mission data, Single said.
The new digital screens also show colored graphics highlighting the aircraft’s flight path, he added.
Single explained that being able to update key combat-relevant information while in transit will substantially help the aircraft more effectively travel longer distances for missions, as needed.
“The key to this is that this is part of the long-range strike family of systems — so if you take off out of Barksdale Air Force Base and you go to your target area, it could take 15 or 16 hours to get there. By the time you get there, all the threat information has changed,” said Single. “Things move, pop up or go away and the targeting data may be different.”
The upgrades will also improve the ability of the airplane to receive key intelligence information through a data link called the Intelligence Broadcast Receiver. In addition, the B-52s will be able to receive information through a LINK-16-like high-speed digital data link able to transmit targeting and Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance, or ISR information.
The CONECT effort, slated to cost $1.1 billion overall, will continue to unfold over the next several years, Single explained.
Twelve B-52 will be operational with CONECT by the end of this year and the entire fleet will be ready by 2021, Single said.
The Air Force is also making progress with a technology-inspired effort to increase the weapons payload for the workhorse bomber, Single added.
The 1760 Internal Weapons Bay Upgrade, or IWBU, will allow the B-52 to internally carry up to eight of the newest “J-Series” bombs in addition to carrying six on pylons under each wing, he explained.
The B-52 have previously been able to carry JDAM weapons externally, but with the IWBU the aircraft will be able to internally house some of the most cutting edge precision-guided Joint Direct Attack Munitions and Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles, among others.
“It is about a 66 percent increase in carriage capability for the B-52, which is huge. You can imagine the increased number of targets you can reach, and you can strike the same number of targets with significantly less sorties,” said Single.
Single also added that having an increased internal weapons bay capability affords an opportunity to increase fuel-efficiency by removing bombs from beneath the wings and reducing drag.
The first increment of IWBU, slated to be finished by 2017, will integrate an internal weapons bay ability to fire a laser-guided JDAM. A second increment, to finish by 2022, will integrate more modern or cutting-edge weapons such as the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile, or JASSM, JASSM Extended Range (ER) and a technology called Miniature Air Launched Decoy, or MALD. A MALD-J “jammer” variant, which will also be integrated into the B-52, can be used to jam enemy radar technologies as well, Single said.
IWBU, which uses a digital interface and a rotary launcher to increase the weapons payload, is expected to cost roughly $313 million, service officials said.
ABOARD USS AMERICA — The Marine Corps’ F-35B is almost ready for its close-up.
The F-35B has entered the home stretch of sea trials on the amphibious-assault ship USS America off the coast of San Diego, California. The third and final stage of testing is 21 days of fine-tuning the fifth-generation stealth fighter’s capabilities.
Stacking the deck, planners purposefully placed the amphibious warship in rough waters in order to evaluate how the pilot and aircraft would adapt.
Devin Faulkner is an infantry veteran of the Army’s 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team who is pedalling across America on a bike in an effort to raise money for veteran causes.
The 24-year-old began his journey Jun. 4 in San Francisco with the intent of riding to New York across 3,900 miles, mostly avoiding major highways and sticking to roads filled with people and other cyclists.
Faulkner left a job at Monster Energy to attempt his trip. Faulkner began at Monster as a photography intern assigned to cover military and veteran activities. This quickly led to him getting involved with the Warrior Built Foundation, a veteran-ran group sponsored by Monster which provides vets with recreational therapy through racing events, camping trips, and vehicle fabrication.
While working for Monster with Warrior Built Foundation and other veteran groups, Faulkner found himself thinking back to an idea he had mentioned to his old medic, a ride across the entire continental U.S.
And now he’s doing it in what is tentatively planned as a 48-day ride. Faulkner planned the route by looking at weather concerns and finding roads frequented by other cyclists.
“So, my original plan,” Faulkner told WATM, “was to ride from San Bernadino, California, where I live, to New York … but then I thought about, ‘This is June. It’s hot out there. There’s no way I’m built to survive in Arizona on a bicycle without water.'”
So Faulkner looked North and used Strava heat maps to find roads commonly ridden by other cyclists. The final route leads through Nevada and Utah east through Chicago and across to New York. He is hoping to finish in about seven weeks but is leaving himself open to stopping in cities to speak with veteran groups along his route, potentially delaying his arrival in New York.
To keep costs low, he’s carrying a tent and sleeping wherever he can find a spot to pitch it.
Unfortunately, he faced trouble even before he could leave for the trip. Faulkner is coming off of two injuries. The first came during a training ride when he moved to avoid a car and struck an obstacle on the road, hurting his wrist and delaying his training. Right after he was able to return to training, he was hurt again when he was riding a motorcycle to work and was sideswiped by a car.
Still, Faulkner was set on beginning his ride on time and climbed back onto the bike just in time to leave for his trip.
All money he raises on the ride is going to post-traumatic stress and groups, such as Warrior Built, that seek to help veterans suffering from PTSD.
5.11 Tactical has been building gear for military personnel, law enforcement officers, and PMC/PSC contractors for years now (and of course for adventurer- and gun-carryin’ type civvies as well). We’ve received word they just released a new, limited edition version of its rolltop boxpack — in Multicam. But what sets it apart is that this time it’s in Multicam Black. MultiCam Black is pretty damned sexy if you ask us.
Go ahead, ask us.
The color will surely excite some (MC Black has become a defacto Gucciflage over the last year or so) and the pack itself will give others that tingly sensation — but there will be a few who piss and moan about it. Special operations forces, military security and three-letter agency types have been drooling over this pattern for their operational kit for a few years now.
5.11 Tactical takes a beating sometimes (as a company, we mean) for having its gear built overseas, and we understand that. We’re as pro “Made in the USA” as you can possibly get, but we’re also realists who try to be pragmatic about gear.
Lots of of reputable companies have their kit built in foreign lands where sweat smells funny and the food makes your guts rumble the first few times you eat it — and much of the equipment they make is worth using. When it comes to packs, bags, and plate carriers, 5.11 makes good stuff.
Besides, the ladies of Siam and Cathay are hawt.
Reminder: At the risk of sounding orgulous, this is just a gear porn notification — a public service if you will — letting you know these things exist and might be of interest. It’s no more a review, endorsement, or denunciation than it is an episiotomy.
The 5.11 “Covert Boxpack” is water- and weather-resistant (note, not -proof) and it’s built of 1680 ballistic polyester (the sames stuff they build tool belts with). It’s a rolltop model, with a dorsal pocket to access things you need in a hurry (primary or secondary handgun depending on your needs, spare mags, rin-no-tama, etc.) and a ventral pocket that’ll hold a ballistic panel.
What, you don’t roll every day with an extra mag or six and a trusty set of rin-no-tama?
Side pockets with elastic retention loops zipper down the sides and a bottom pouch can be used to sequester an IFAK, electronic gear, or whatever else you need to have compartmentalized.
The laptop pouch inside can be accessed through the rolltop or in through the zippered back. It features padded, reinforced shoulder straps and a slide-adjusting sternum strap, and their signature lined eye-pro pocket up top.
The description of the new pack reads largely the same as the regular version. We’ve copied that below from the actual product page. You can watch the manufacturer’s video detailing the original versions features below.
Take a few minutes to check it out. Some of our wretched minions have carried these things. They’re good to go.
The Limited Edition Multicam Black Covert Boxpack is engineered for speed, agility, and dependability in any environment. A slide-adjusting sternum strap and reinforced padded shoulder straps ensure a stable and comfortable carry when you’re on the move, and the roomy TacTec™ main compartment is designed to remain covert but allow fast access to your sidearm or backup. A water resistant finish keeps your gear dry in wet climates, dual side zip pockets are ideal for accessories or a hydration bottle, and internal elastic retention straps allow secure storage for additional magazines.
All-weather roll top backpack
Multicam Black™ exterior
Multiple externally-accessible pockets
Dual size zip pockets with internal elastic retention
Slide adjusting sternum strap
Reinforced padded shoulder straps
Bottom pocket for general storage
1680D ballistic polyester
Water resistant finish
Authentic YKK® zippers
Durable Duraflex® hardware
We picked this video because it’s labeled in Russian, which reminds us of Timka, but don’t worry, it’s narrated in English.
As a colonel in the Syrian Air Force, Muhammed Faris joined a Soviet mission to the space station Mir in 1987. He was the first (and only) Syrian in space. The Soviets awarded Faris its Order of Lenin and Hero of the Soviet Union medals upon his return. After going back home to Syria, the cosmonaut rejoined Syria’s Air Force under dictator Hafiz al-Asad, father of current dictator, Bashar al-Asad.
Eventually, Faris became a general, but when the uprisings in Syria started, he and his wife joined the opposition protests in Damascus. As the regime got more brutal, he decided to flee to Turkey the next year.
“It was a choice,” he toldthe Daily Sabah, a Turkish newspaper. “Instead of living there as a ‘hero’ while my people were suffering, I preferred to live in tough conditions in exile with my honor.” Today he lives in Istanbul with his wife and children.
Despite receiving the highest awards the Soviet Union could give, Faris openly criticized the Russian intervention in his home country. He wants Western leaders to recognize that the only way to end the violence and stem the flow of refugees is to oust Asad.
“I tell Europe if you don’t want refugees, then you should help us get rid of this regime,” he told The Associated Press.
Russia and Syria have a long history of cooperation, extending way back to the founding of modern Syria after World War II. Russia supported Syrian independence from France. Since then, the Russians have provided the various Syrian regimes with aid and military assistance. This aid continued throughout the Cold War and through the elder Asad’s regime.
A photograph taken in North Korea’s Ryanggang Province last week shows the country’s leader Kim Jong Un giving what appears to be an impromptu ballroom dancing lesson to assorted onlookers. As is their custom, the good people of Reddit’s Photoshop Battles snatched up the image and began working their irreverent magic.
The guy second from the left is just hoping no one notices his hat blew off.
A UN report says cases of torture and mistreatment of detainees in Afghanistan have increased despite promises from President Ashraf Ghani and new laws enacted to curb the widespread practice.
At least 39 percent of the conflict-related detainees interviewed by UN investigators “gave credible and reliable accounts” of being tortured or experiencing other mistreatment at the hands of Afghan police, intelligence, or military personnel while in custody, the report says.
That compares with 35 percent of interviewees who reported such ill-treatment in the last UN report, released in 2015.
The Afghan government has acknowledged that problems could be caused by individuals but not as a national policy.
“The government of Afghanistan is committed to eliminating torture and ill-treatment,” the government said in a statement.
The report by the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and the UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR) is based on interviews with 469 conflict-related detainees conducted over the past two years in 62 detention facilities administered by the National Directorate of Security (NDS), Afghan National Police, and other Afghan national-defense and security forces across the country.
“Torture does not enhance security,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein said in a statement. “Confessions produced as a result of torture are totally unreliable. People will say anything to stop the pain.”
The UN report comes as senior Afghan officials prepare to appear before the UN Committee Against Torture in Geneva late April during a review of Afghanistan’s record of implementing anti-torture laws.
The International Criminal Court in The Hague is conducting a separate review of torture in Afghanistan.
“Notwithstanding the government’s efforts to implement its national plan…the present report documents continued and consistent reports of torture and ill-treatment of conflict-related detainees, mainly during interrogation, and highlights a lack of accountability for such acts,” UN officials concluded.
The document notes a 14 percent increase in reports of torture by Afghan National Police, at 45 percent of those interviewed.
The report says that more than a quarter of the 77 detainees who reported being tortured by the police were boys under the age of 18.
A force known as the Afghan Local Police severely beat almost 60 percent of their detainees, according to the interviews carried out by UN investigators.
Nearly 30 percent of interviewees held by Afghanistan’s intelligence agency, the NDS, said they had faced torture or mistreatment.
Afghan National Army soldiers were also accused of mistreating some detainees.
Most detainees who reported being tortured said it was to elicit a confession, and the ill-treatment stopped once they signed a written confession. In many cases, they could not read the confession, the report says.
Torture methods included severe beatings to the body and soles of the feet with sticks, plastic pipes, or cables; electric shocks, including to the genitals; prolonged suspension by the arms; and suffocation.
As laser-guided bombs incinerated Iraqi tanks from the sky, surveillance aircraft monitored enemy troop movements and stealth bombers eluded radar tracking from air defenses in the opening days of Operation Desert Strom decades ago – very few of those involved were likely considering how their attacks signified a new era in modern warfare.
Earlier this year, when veterans, historians, and analysts commemorated the 25th anniversary of the first Gulf War in the early 90s, many regard the military effort as a substantial turning point in the trajectory or evolution of modern warfare.
Operation Desert Storm involved the combat debut of stealth technology, GPS for navigation, missile warning systems, more advanced surveillance plane radar, and large amounts of precision-focused laser-guided bombs, Maj. Gen. Paul Johnson, Director of Requirements for the Deputy Chief of Staff for Strategic Plans and Requirements, told Scout Warrior in a special interview earlier this year.
“We saw the first glimpses in Desert Storm of what would become the transformation of air power,” he said.
The five-to-six-week air war, designed to clear the way for what ultimately became a 100-hour ground invasion, began with cruise missiles and Air Force and Army helicopters launching a high-risk mission behind enemy lines to knock out Iraqi early warning radar sites. Two Air Force MH-53 Pave Low helicopters led AH-64 Apache Attack helicopters into Iraqi territory, Johnson explained.
The idea of the mission was to completely destroy the early warning radar in order to open up an air corridor for planes to fly through safely and attack Iraqi targets. The mission was successful.
“This was the dawn of GPS – the ability to precisely navigate anywhere anytime without any other navigation systems. The Pave Lows had it and the Apaches did not – so the Pave Low was there to navigate the Apache’s deep into Iraq to find the early warning radar sites,” he recalled. “Now, everybody has it on their iPhone but at that day and time it was truly revolutionary.”
Johnson explained the priority targets during the air war consisted of Iraqi artillery designed to knock out any potential ability for Iraq to launch chemical weapons. Other priority targets of course included Iraqi air defenses, troop formations, armored vehicles and command and control locations.
The air attack involved F-117 Night Hawk stealth bombers, B-52s, F-15 Eagles and low-flying A-10 Warthog aircraft, among other assets.
Desert Storm Heroism
At one point during the Air War, Johnson’s A-10 Warthog plane was hit by an Iraqi shoulder-fired missile while attempting to attack enemy surface-to-air missile sites over Iraqi territory.
“I found myself below the weather trying to pull off an attack that failed. I got hit in the right wing. I yelled out and finally keyed the mic and decided to tell everyone else that I was hit. I safely got the airplane back. They fixed the airplane in about 30-days. The enemy fire hit the right wing of the airplane and the wing was pretty messed up, but I had sufficient control authority to keep the wings level,” Johnson said.
On the way back from the mission, while flying a severely damaged airplane, Johnson received in-flight refueling from a KC-10 aircraft at about 25,000 feet. Johnson received the Air Force Cross for his heroism on another ocassion during the war, where he helped rescue a downed F-14 fighter jet.
The Combat Debut of New Technology
While there was not much air-to-air combat during Desert Storm, the Iraqis did try to field a few Mig-29 fighter jets. However, upon being noticed by U.S. Air Force F-15E radar – they took off, Johnson said.
The advent of much great air-fired precision weaponry, aided by overhead surveillance and GPS for navigation is largely referred to as the 2nd Offset – a moment in the evolution of warfare marked by significant technological leaps forward. Johnson explained that the 2nd Offset fully came to fruition in the late 90s during Operation Allied Force in Kosovo.
GPS guided bombs, called Joint Direct Attack Munitions, or JDAMs, did not yet exist at the time of the first Gulf War – but GPS technology for navigation greatly improve the ability of pilots and ground forces to know exactly where they were in relation to surrounding territory and enemy force movements.
This was particularly valuable in Iraq due to the terrain, Johnson explained. There was no terrain or mountainous areas as landmarks from which to navigate. The landscape was entirely desert with no roads, no terrain and no rivers.
In addition, massive use of laser guided weaponry allowed air assets to pinpoint Iraqi targets from a laser-spot – thereby increasing accuracy and mission efficiency while reducing collateral damage.
“Laser weapons had been around since Vietnam but we expended laser guided bombs in numbers that we had never done before,” he explained.
Some of the weapons dropped included Maverick missiles, the 2,000-pound Mk 84 penetrator and a 500-pound Mk 82 along with cluster weaponry. The Maverick missile is an anti-armor precision weapon which uses electro-optical precision weaponry to destroy targets.
“The Maverick has a camera in the front of the missile that would lock on and guide itself to the target. It is old technology but very precise,” Johnson added.
Also, airborne surveillance, in the form of the Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System, or JSTARS, provided attacking forces with an unprecedented view from the sky, Johnson said.
The aircraft used Ground Moving Target Indicator and Synthetic Aperture Radar, or SAR, to deliver a “rendering” or painted picture of ground activity below.
“This allowed us to monitor the battlefield day or night regardless of the weather and detect movement of enemy ground formations. The Iraqi forces tried to make a movement on the village of Khafji. It was a large-scale movement by the Iraqi Army in the middle of the night because they thought we could not see them. We saw them,” Johnson explained.
Due to this surveillance technology, the commander of the air war moved an entire theater’s worth of air power to attack the Iraqi formation.
“In Desert Storm you had the ability to dynamically see what was going on in the battlespace and perform command and control in real time and divert assets in real time. You had the ability to navigate incredibly precisely and then the ability to apply precision weapons – one weapon kills one target at a time,” he added.
Desert Storm also involved the combat debut of beyond line-of-sight satellite communications which, among other things, provide missile warning systems, Johnson said.
“We did not shoot at every Scud that came in because we know where it was going to go,” Johnson recalled.
Johnson explained that the Gulf War changed the paradigm for the strategic use of air power by allowing one plane to precisely hit multiple targets instead of using un-guided bombs to blanket an area.
“We began a change in calculus. Since the dawn of air power, the calculus has always been – ‘How many airplanes does it take to destroy a target?’ A-10s can put a string of bombs through the target area and hopefully one of the bombs hits the target. By the end of the 90s, the calculus was – ‘How many targets can a single airplane destroy?’ Johnson said.
Desert Storm Ground War
The 100-hour ground war was both effective and successful due to the air war and the use of tactical deception. U.S. amphibious forces had been practicing maneuvers demonstrating shore attacks along the Kuwaiti coastline as a way to give the Iraqis the impression that that is how they would attack.
“The Iraqis saw these amphibious maneuvers because that is what we wanted them to see,” Johnson explained.
However, using a famous “left hook” maneuver, U.S. coalition forces actually attacked much further inland and were able to quickly advance with few casualties through thinner Iraqi defenses.
There were, however, some famous tank battles in the open desert during the ground attack. U.S. Army tanks destroyed large numbers or Iraqi tanks and fighting positions – in part because advanced thermal infrared imagers inside U.S. Army M1 Abrams battle tanks enable crews to detect the signature of Iraqi tanks without needing ambient light.
Although this gave U.S. forces and an advantage – and the U.S. Army was overwhelmingly victorious in Desert Storm tank battles – there were some tough engagement such as the Battle of Medina Ridge between the Army’s 1st Armored Division and Iraqi Republican Guard forces.
Effects Based Warfare – Changing Air Attacks
The use of such precision from the air marked the debut of what is commonly referred to as “effects based warfare,” a strategic air attack technique aimed at attacking specific targets from the air without needing to destroy the infrastructure of the attack area.
As a result, targets included command and control centers, moving ground troops or armored forces, supply lines and other strategic and tactical targets. Effects-Based warfare experts describe this as a “strategic rings” approach with command and control at the center of the inner circle and other enemy assets in the so-called outer rings.
One idea, among others, was to use precision weaponry from the air to cut off communication and supply lines between the command and control centers and outer forces on the move — in order to paralyze and destroy mobile enemy forces.
This approach was successfully used in Desert Storm, marking a historic shift in the strategic use of air power. In fact, a similar conceptual framework was used more than 10 years later in the opening attacks of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
“There once was a time when we thought we had to go into the layers sequentially where we had to start at the out layers and peel it back to get into the inner layers. Desert Storm indicated that this is not the case. The first ordnance to hit the ground was at the inner layer,” Johnson explained.
“China respects and upholds the freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea, which countries enjoy under international law, but firmly opposes any country’s attempt to undermine China’s sovereignty and security in the name of the freedom of navigation and overflight,” said Geng Shuang, a spokesman China’s Foreign Ministry, according to CNN.
Indeed, China’s military doctrine even goes as far as permitting a first strike against threats to China’s sovereignty, but the USS Carl Vinson has been operating in the South China Sea for decades.
But the move to promote freedom of navigation in the South China Sea comes as China has all but nailed down the region as firmly within its control. China owns a series of artificial islands, which satellite images show it has militarized with missile launchers and radar outposts.
The US takes no side in the dispute between China and six other nations over who owns what in the region but has repeatedly expressed interest in preserving freedom of navigation in an area with vast oil reserves and about $5 trillion in annual shipping.
At an Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit on Sunday, leaders from the region tried to develop a framework for a code of conduct in the heavily contested South China Sea, but found the process “has become virtually moot and academic,” former Philippines National Security Adviser Roilo Golez told ABS-CBN news
“I expect China to still resist the finalization and approval (of a code of conduct) so that China can further militarize the artificial islands with the placement of offensive medium-range and long-range missiles,” said Golez.
The Battle of Fort Sumter kicked off one of the bloodiest wars in American history and, for the most part, was itself the opposite of bloody. Actually, in hindsight there were some pretty funny moments.
When South Carolina seceded from the United States on December 20, 1860, all federal forces in the state were put on alert – they were now in unfriendly territory. In Charleston, Union Major Robert Anderson saw the situation deteriorating and moved his small force of 85 soldiers from Fort Moultrie – on the mainland overlooking Charleston Harbor – to Fort Sumter in the middle of the harbor. Fort Sumter was unfinished when Anderson’s men occupied it and by the time of Lincoln’s inauguration a few months later on March 4, 1861, the men were running low on supplies.
Across the water, Confederate Brigadier General Pierre Gustave Toutant (PGT) Beauregard saw the Union men running low on supplies and demanded their surrender on April 11. Anderson refused and the next morning at 4:30am, the Confederate forces took the first shots of the Civil War. What followed was a 34-hour exchange of artillery fire, most of which came from the Confederate side. Guess how many people died. Zero. Actually, according to Mark Collins Jenkins, more animals died than people – one mule.
After 34 hours, Anderson decided he had had enough and agreed to surrender. The first casualty of the war was nearly Roger A. Pryor, an emissary from Virginia who visited Fort Sumter shortly after the battle. Pryor sat with Union officers and got up to pour himself a drink without asking, which would have been a pretty badass move. However, instead of pouring what he thought was whiskey, he actually poured a glass of iodine and drank it all in one gulp. Fortunately for him, Union doctors quickly pumped his stomach and saved his life.
The first casualty of the war came shortly after Pryor’s incident and occurred during the Union surrender ceremony, which generously included a 100-gun salute. The salute was cut short, however, after the Union soldiers accidentally placed their stockpile of ammunition too close to their cannon. High winds were blamed for carrying sparks from the cannon to the ammunition, which set off a large explosion that killed one Union soldier and mortally wounded another. The ceremony ended and the next day, the Union troops withdrew from the fort.
It would’ve been nice if the rest of the war went the same way, but by the time the war ended four years later, between 700,000 and 900,000 soldiers and civilians were dead on both sides, making it the bloodiest war in American history by some estimates. Bummer.