Storm Bowen was wounded in combat in 2007, and he spent a long time in the hospital. And during that time he discovered the simple pleasure of smoking a cigar. At that point Cigars for Warriors was born.
Cigars for Warriors is a nonprofit charity whose sole mission is to send premium cigars and accessories to the men and women of the U.S. military serving in combat zones, no matter where they are. Requests are made online, and each package comes with cigars, cutters, and literature.
“I’m retired and I have a lot of free time on my hands,” he says. “With cigars, there is so much to learn and experience and it’s easy to get excited.”
Bowen has a lot to be excited about. While recovering from his injuries, he experienced cigar culture for the first time. His brother-in-law took him to get a cigar and share a smoke. He quickly became an aficionado.
“If you’ve never smoked one before and try to pretend you can, it’s the worst thing you can do,” Bowen adds. “My first time, I went for the three dollar one, trying to save money, and it wasn’t a good idea. You just don’t enjoy it properly.”
True to this creed, there are no dog rockets in a Cigars for Warriors care package. Bowen and Cigars for Warriors will only send premium cigars to the troops abroad. Donations in cash defer the cost of purchasing new, high-quality tobacco or for shipping them overseas. Bowen estimates 98 percent of money collected goes to getting the cigars to the troops, while the remaining is used for promotion.
“This really is a group effort,” he explains. “When we first started in 2012, I tried to get a grip on a real number for how many we might be able to send that year. When I set it to 800, everyone looked at me like I was crazy. By the end of the year, we had shipped 92,000.”
Cigars are the number one item requested by deployed troops and Cigars for Warriors is happy to oblige. They use cigar and tobacconist shops as collection points and volunteers to manage the collecting.
“There are many well-organized cigar clubs in combat zones,” Bowen says. “All of us are volunteers and for something so small, it’s having a much bigger impact than we expected. For a lot of these guys, it’s like a slice of home.”
Some of the volunteers working with Bowen are recipients of cigars themselves.
“It’s special to these guys,” Bowen remarks. “We get instant feedback in some cases. They send us photos we call ‘stogie smiles.’ That just fills your tank and gets you going for days.”
To learn more about, donate to, or request cigars from Cigars for Warriors visit http://cigarsforwarriors.org/
Going to war is never an easy choice, but the U.S. has a step-by-step guide that helps military and civilian leaders make that decision.
The sting of the Vietnam War affected America and its culture for a very long time. Not that we lost in Vietnam but it sure didn’t feel like a win, either. It was so devastating to the American psyche the public felt the stigma of the perceived loss until the success of Operation Desert Storm, almost two decades later.
The U.S. military’s failure to rescue the hostages in Iran only added to the problem — making American leaders significantly less cavalier about sending ground troops into combat. This continued even under President Ronald Reagan, whose campaign rhetoric in 1980 made voters fearful he might start World War III (but not fearful enough to keep him out of office).
Contrary to what some may have thought, Reagan’s Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger — a veteran of the Pacific War in World War II — was a careful student of the lessons of Vietnam and was wary about civilian leaders with no military experience using troops as a policy tool. He devised his own doctrine to serve as a guide for policy makers who want to send the U.S. to war:
The United States should not commit forces to combat unless the vital national interests of the United States or its allies are involved.
U.S. troops should only be committed wholeheartedly and with the clear intention of winning. Otherwise, troops should not be committed.
U.S. combat troops should be committed only with clearly defined political and military objectives and with the capacity to accomplish those objectives.
The relationship between the objectives and the size and composition of the forces committed should be continually reassessed and adjusted if necessary.
U.S. troops should not be committed to battle without a “reasonable assurance” of the support of U.S. public opinion and Congress.
The commitment of U.S. troops should be considered only as a last resort.
Weinberger specifically advised Reagan not to send Marines to Beirut in 1983 and after the barracks bombing in October, successfully lobbied against a massive retaliation against Iran. According to Weinberger:
“You have to have a mission, you have to know what you want to do; you have to use force as a last resort after everything else has failed; that when you use it, you have to use it at overwhelming strength, and win your objective and get out.”
In 1983, Maj. Gen. Colin Powell was one of Weinberger’s assistants. In 1991, though Reagan had been succeeded by President George H.W. Bush, Colin Powell was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Though in this role, he did not have operational command, he was the chief military advisor to the President and his Cabinet.
Powell updated the Weinberger Doctrine in 1992, based on lessons learned from the Gulf War, writing in a 1992 article in National Military Strategy:
Is a vital national security interest threatened?
Do we have a clear attainable objective?
Have the risks and costs been fully and frankly analyzed?
Have all other non-violent policy means been fully exhausted?
Is there a plausible exit strategy to avoid endless entanglement?
Have the consequences of our action been fully considered?
Is the action supported by the American people?
Do we have genuine broad international support?
The idea is, if a policy maker can answer no to any of these questions, then U.S. forces should not be committed to a conflict. If the answer to all eight is yes, then U.S. troops can and should be committed. Further, Powell adds:
“Once a decision for military action has been made, half measures and confused objectives exact a severe price in the form of a protracted conflict which can cause needless waste of human lives and material resources, a divided nation at home, and defeat. Therefore one of the essential elements of our national military strategy is the ability to rapidly assemble the forces needed to win—the concept of applying decisive force to overwhelm our adversaries and thereby terminate conflicts swiftly with minimum loss of life.”
In the years following Powell’s tenure as Chairman, the Powell Doctrine slowly lingered on in the new millennium, dying a slow death until a 2010 speech by Admiral Mike Mullen discussed how the use of U.S. troops is seen by policy makers in the post-9/11 era.
“We must not look upon the use of military forces only as a last resort, but as potentially the best, first option when combined with other instruments of national and international power.
We must not try to use force only in an overwhelming capacity, but in the proper capacity, and in a precise and principled manner. And we must not shrink from the tug of war — no pun intended — that inevitably plays out between policymaking and strategy execution. Such interplay is healthy for the republic and essential for ultimate success.”
The first African-American to earn aviator wings in the Marine Corps and the first one to receive a brigadier general star in the Corps has been honored as the namesake of the Navy’s upcoming DDG 121, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer.
Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Frank E. Petersen, Jr. joined the Navy in 1950 and was commissioned as a Marine officer in 1952. He served in Korea and Vietnam before retiring in 1988. Before his retirement, he was the senior-most aviator in the Marine Corps and the Department of the Navy.
During his time in Korea and Vietnam, Petersen flew over 350 combat missions. He flew more than 4,000 hours during his career and was shot down over Vietnam in 1968. His awards include the Navy Distinguished Service Medal, the Distinguished Service Medal, and the Distinguished Flying Cross.
“The courage and perseverance of Lt. Gen. Petersen throughout his distinguished and ground-breaking career make him especially deserving of this honor,” Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus said. “Those who serve aboard DDG 121 will, for decades, carry on the storied legacy of this Marine Corps hero.”
Sure, we all know about the F-16 Falcon, the F-15 Eagle, the Su-27 Flanker, the MiG-29 Fulcrum… all those modern planes.
But in the 1970s and the early 1980s, the mainstays of the tactical air forces on both sides of the Iron Curtain were the Phantom in the west and the Flogger in the east.
The F-4 Phantom was arguably a “Joint Strike Fighter” before JSFs were cool. The United States Air Force, United States Navy, United States Marine Corps, Royal Air Force, Fleet Air Arm, West German Air Force, and numerous other countries bought the F-4.
According to Globalsecurity.org, the F-4 could carry four AIM-7 Sparrows, four AIM-9 Sidewinders, and the F-4E had an internal cannon. The plane could carry over 12,000 pounds of ordnance.
Like the F-4, the MiG-23 was widely exported — and not just to Warsaw Pact militaries. It was also sold to Soviet allies across the world — from Cuba to North Korea. It could carry two AA-7 radar-guided missiles, four AA-8 infra-red guided missiles, and had a twin 23mm cannon.
Globalsecurity.org notes that the Flogger can carry up to 4,400 pounds of ordnance (other sources credit the Flogger with up to 6,600 pounds of ordnance).
Both planes have seen a lot of combat over their careers. That said, the MiG-23’s record has been a bit more spotty.
According to the Air Combat Information Group, at least 33 MiG-23s of the Syrian Air Force were shot down by the Israeli Air Force since the end of 1973. Of that total, 25 took place in the five-day air battle known as the Bekaa Valley Turkey Shoot. The total number of confirmed kills for the MiG-23s in service with the Syrian Air Force against the Israelis in that time period is five.
ACIG tallied six air-to-air kills by Israeli F-4s in that same timeframe (Joe Baugher noted 116 total air-to-air kills by the Israelis in the Phantom), with four confirmed air-to-air losses to the Syrians. That said, it should be noted that by the late 1970s, the F-4 had been shifted to ground-attack missions, as Israel had acquired F-15s and F-16s.
There is one other measure to judge the relative merits of the F-4 versus the MiG-23. The F-4 beats the MiG-23 in versatility. The MiG-23 primarily specialized in air-to-air combat. They had to create another version — the MiG-23BN and later the MiG-27 — to handle ground-attack missions.
In sharp contrast to the specialization of various Flogger designs, the F-4 handled air-to-air and ground-attack missions – often on the same sortie. To give one example, acepilots.com notes that before Randy “Duke” Cunningham engaged in the aerial action that resulted in three kills on May 10, 1972 – and for which he was awarded the Navy Cross – he dropped six Rockeye cluster bombs on warehouses near the Hai Dong rail yards.
In short, if the Cold War had turned hot during the 1970s, the F-4 Phantom would have probably proven itself to be the better airplane than the MiG-23 Flogger. If anything shows, it is the fact that hundreds of Phantoms still flew in front-line service in the early 21st Century.
The US Air Force is the world’s premier aerial force.
The Air Force has 39 distinct types of aircraft, not counting individual variants within each of those airframes. This range of planes allows the Air Force to highly specialize for each mission and achieve incredible successes.
The following photos show some of the amazing missions that the Air Force carries out both on air and land at night.
A C-130 Hercules from the 36th Airlift Squadron conducts a night flight mission over Yokota Air Base, Japan, May 11, 2016.
Capt. Thomas Bernard, a 36th Airlift Squadron C-130 Hercules pilot, performs a visual confirmation with night vision goggles during a training mission over the Kanto Plain, Japan, Oct. 14, 2015.
Capt. Jonathan Bonilla and 1st Lt. Vicente Vasquez, 459th Airlift Squadron UH-1N Huey pilots, fly over Tokyo after completing night training April 25, 2016.
The F-35 Integrated Test Force is completing a series of night flights, testing the ability to fly the jet safely in instrument meteorological conditions where the pilot has no external visibility references.
A special operations Airman aims his weapon to designate the location of a threat Oct. 9, 2014, during a training mission at Stanford Training Area near Thetford, England.
Staff Sgt. Joseph Pico, a security forces Airman with the 106th Rescue Wing, conducts night-firing training at the Suffolk County Police Range in Westhampton Beach, N.Y., May 7, 2015.
Canadian special operations regiment members call in close-air support from their US Air Force allies during Emerald Warrior 2013 April 26, 2013, at Hurlburt Field, Fla.
Airmen with the 9th Airlift Squadron and 455th Expeditionary Aerial Port Squadron with Marines from the Marine Expeditionary Brigade prepare to load vehicles into a C-5M Super Galaxy Oct. 6, 2014, at Camp Bastion, Afghanistan.
A US Air Force RQ-4 Global Hawk aircraft assigned to the 99th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron, sits on the flight line during pre-flight checks Nov. 23, 2010, while deployed at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia.
Staff Sgt. Robert Clark directs anArmy M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System out of a C-17 Globemaster III, April 25 during Exercise Emerald Warrior, at Hurlburt Field, Fla.
Beneath the light of a full moon, Airmen from the 19th Airlift Wing prepare a C-130J Hercules for a flight March 27, 2013, at Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark.
Senior Airman Larry Webster scans for potential threats using night vision goggles after completing a cargo airdrop Oct. 7, 2013, in Ghazni Province, Afghanistan. Webster is a 774th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron loadmaster.
A US Air Force C-130 Hercules cargo aircraft with the 107th Airlift Wing fires off flares during a night formation training mission.
Maintainers from the 81st Fighter Squadron pull out firing pins and chalks to ready an A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft for takeoff before a night combat search and rescue training mission July 20, 2012.
Airmen from the 25th Aircraft Maintenance Unit prepare an A-10 Thunderbolt II for a simulated combat sortie in support of exercise Beverly Midnight 16-01 at Osan Air Base, South Korea, March 9, 2016.
Maj. Kurt Wampole, assisted by Capt. Matt Ward taxis a C-130H Hercules back to its parking spot at Bagram Airfield, Parwan Province, Afghanistan, Oct. 7, 2013 after completing an air cargo drop mission in Ghazni Provence Afghanistan.
Lt. Col Mark Zinno deployed in Middle East. Photo provided by Zinno.
With over 4 million lives lost to the COVID-19 virus worldwide, life as a collective society has been forever altered. The pandemic has brought changes and challenges military veterans know all too well. Several have banded together to create a message of hope, inspiration and encouragement. Their message is simple: we will get through this.
In March of 2020 when the initial quarantine was announced by then-President Trump, Marine veteran and FOX News personality Johnny Joey Jones was ready for it. Why? Minus the IEDs or guns, it mirrored what life was like every time he was sent overseas.
“I noticed that a lot of what people were saying or complaining about was so similar to the experience of going on deployment and I really just wanted to write it down. Then I thought, ‘What if folks heard this from veterans who got through it?'”
Jones wrote an OpEd for FOX News and the response was overwhelmingly positive which led him to come up with the idea of creating a video. This time it would be with multiple veteran voices and stories in a powerful message to the American people.
He approached filmmaker, actor and video editor Alana Phillips with his vision. “When he called me and explained it all I said absolutely! It was so different from what I had worked on in the past,” she shared. “This was real and had true meaning to it…I also thought this is something that can help people.”
Though she doesn’t have direct military ties herself, both of Phillips’ grandfathers served — one in World War II and another in the Korean War. It’s a legacy she’s always treasured and when this project came along, she said it felt like a way to honor them.
The three minute video features 14 veterans sharing their experiences and words of wisdom. Joining Jones and the other veterans is Army National Guardsman Lt. Col. Mark Zinno, who is attached to the 78th Troop Command in Marietta, Georgia.
Zinno joined the Army in 1999 and just two years after he was commissioned, 9/11 changed all of his initial short-term plans.
“I have spent over 22 years in the US Army, both on active duty and the National Guard and deployed multiple times overseas to fight in the war on terror,” he shared. “I originally signed up before 9/11 to help pay for college and never thought I would stay past my original four year obligation. Twenty years later I’m still wearing the uniform.”
When Jones approached him to take part in the video, it was an easy yes, he said. The message was powerful and Zinno said he thought it would bring an important piece missing from the news media narrative: hope.
“We live in some of the most complicated and troublesome times in our nation’s history. We all need to believe that through working together that we can change that trajectory,” he said.
Though much of the country has reemerged and opened, new variants and fear continue to dominate the news media. Vaccination debates and partisan politics continue to foster a deeper divide in an already-fractured society. With the current environment, the message of We Will Get Through This carries an even deeper meaning.
“I hope people see unity. I hope they see that there are people who are working to make things better. It’s easy to focus on the negative. It’s easy to believe what you see on social media. What’s hard is looking for the positive and doing the actual work to make things better. I hope people get inspired to make the world around them better,” Zinno said.
Creating the video during the quarantine involved unique challenges for Phillips. Repeated Zoom meetings and a new appreciation for researching DVIDs became part of her day. “I’m used to editing with a director in the same room so it was a challenge that way but it showed us how we could do it no matter what was going on in the world,” she shared.
Once she and Jones had gotten to their seventh rough cut, they were ready to involve songwriter, producer, composer and multi-instrumentalist Ben Holst. “He worked his magic. I always said in film that background music is a character in itself and he really brought the video to life,” Phillips said.
Now celebrating its one year anniversary, the video carries a message still desperately needed.
“The last year should have changed everyone’s perspective on what’s important, a simpler way to live and a more efficient way to do things,” Zinno said. “If you haven’t changed it’s because you made a conscious effort to not progress with the times. The best way you can show people that you want to make things better is by being empathic. We all should have more of that after last year.”
As Zinno reflects on his time in service and the continuing challenges the country continues to face, he remains proud. The biggest lesson the Army taught him is simple: sacrifice and selfless service. It’s a message he hopes will resonate with all Americans.
“Always doing the right thing no matter how hard that is. Live by a set of values that are the deciding factor in how you live and act,” Zinno said. “I’m proud of my service not necessarily because of anything I did, but because of the people who served alongside me and always kept me in check and reminded me of those values that we live and die by.”
It’s those deep-rooted values and inherent strength we see and hear on display within We Will Get Through This. As viewers take in the message from those 13 veterans, its the reminder we all needed. And from Jones’ OpEd written over a year ago are the words our country should soak in:
“As a veteran, my role in this is simple, to show you the way. To let you know it’s possible and to give any and everything I have to offer to help you through it….You’ll know first hand what I’ve known now for so long. Americans don’t just survive tragedies of this kind, we thrive after them.”
During World War II there were numerous ways in which American citizens at home could help the war effort. Victory gardens, rationing, recycling (then known as scrap collection), and most importantly war bonds were all a part of daily life.
But some Americans wanted to do more – a lot more. The employees of the Union Pacific Railroad and the citizens of Sparks, Nevada held war bond drives to buy planes that would fly against the Nazis.
By 1943, the American war effort was in full swing on both fronts. The railroads were busy carrying men and materiel coast to coast to be shipped off to the war abroad. Despite their hard work supporting the cause, the railroad men of the Union Pacific still wanted to do more. So, driven by their patriotism, 65,000 employees voluntarily increased their payroll deductions for war bonds during the months of May and June to the tune of $379,000. For their efforts they were rewarded with being the first railroad group to be honored with a named heavy bomber, a B-17 F called The Spirit of the Union Pacific, in August 1943.
The following spring, inspired by what the Union Pacific Railroad had done, the city of Sparks, Nevada took up an effort to ‘buy a bomber,’ as their rallying cry became. The 6,200 residents of Sparks raised $600,000 in the effort to purchase a bomber, the equivalent of nearly $8 million today. With their nearly $10,000 per resident effort, the citizens of Sparks were honored with a B-25J Mitchell bomber named The Spirit of Sparks.
The Spirit of the Union Pacific arrived in England for combat on September 9, 1943 and was assigned to the 571st Bomb Squadron, 390th Bomb Group, Eighth Air Force. Between that time and October 10 the plane flew four successful missions before being taken over by Capt. Robert Short and his crew as a replacement for their usual plane Short Stuff. Unfortunately this would be the last mission of the war for The Spirit of the Union Pacific as well as Capt. Short and his crew. On October 10 The Spirit of the Union Pacific and her crew were on a mission to bomb Munster, Germany as part of a larger effort later known as ‘Black Week’ due to the high losses of American bombers. Just short of the target the formation encountered heavy flak and German fighters. The Spirit of the Union Pacific was hit in the #3 engine causing a fire that consumed the plane. Upon realizing the severity of the hit Capt. Short ordered the crew to bail out. Two other crew members bailed out but did not survive and one was likely fatally injured and crashed with the plane. The remaining seven crewmen landed safely but were immediately captured by the Germans and spent the rest of the war as POW’s.
The Spirit of Sparks arrived in Italy in late 1944 and was assigned to the 321st Bomb Squadron located at Fano, Italy. During its tour The Spirit of Sparks flew over 150 successful missions against Axis positions in Italy and Southern Europe. Lt. Jack Kenyon and his crew flew 30 missions in The Spirit of Sparks in early 1945 taking no casualties before rotating out. Command next passed to Capt. McEldery who despite losing two wingmen in one mission also completed his missions without casualties. Capt. McEldery would be the final commander of the plane though as during transition training for the next crew the new pilot came in for a hard landing that crumpled the wings of the plane ending a very successful career. The plane was scrapped in Italy and used to repair other damaged bombers.
A scale model of The Spirit of Sparks along with a painting done by a crew member who survived 69 missions onboard can be found at the Sparks Heritage Museum in Nevada. Numerous other cities, organizations, companies also purchased planes that served in World War II though little is known about them.
The U.S. Army Reserve celebrates its 109th birthday on Apr. 23. During more than a century of service, its soldiers have defended America in combat, added to its prestige in peacetime, and — in one case — even provided a president who led America through the end of World War II and the start of the Cold War.
Here are six of the most impressive Army reservists to ever wear the uniform:
1. Charles Lindbergh
The famous pilot of the Spirit of St. Louis aircraft, Charles Lindbergh, was the first man to fly from New York to Paris non-stop. He did so in his capacity as a civilian pilot, but he was also an Army Air Service reservist. President Calvin Coolidge awarded Lindbergh the Medal of Honor.
Lindbergh later had a falling out with the Roosevelt administration over his isolationism and resigned his commission in April 1945. When America joined the war that December, Lindbergh was blocked from re-entering military service but managed to fly combat missions in the Pacific anyway.
Eifler had originally joined the Army when he was only 15 and was first discharged at the age of 17 when the military found out. He became a Reserve officer years later and eventually rose to the rank of colonel. For his work with Detachment 101, he was dubbed “the most dangerous colonel.”
3. Beauford T. Anderson
Staff Sgt. Beauford T. Anderson was fighting on the island of Okinawa when Japanese forces managed to flank part of the 96th Infantry Regiment (Organized Reserves) and force them back. The Americans eventually fell back into an old tomb and Anderson slowed their assault by emptying his carbine into the attackers at point blank range.
He had already received the Bronze Star with Valor for rescuing wounded soldiers under fire on Leyte.
4. Harry S. Truman
Yes, that Harry S. Truman, the one who ordered two nuclear bombs to be dropped on Japan. He was an Army Reserve colonel when America entered World War II and was excused from drilling for obvious reasons. He served in the Senate for most of the war before being selected as President Franklin Roosevelt’s running mate in the 1944 elections.
This comes after Kandahar police chief general Abdul Raziq said the week before that certain countries in the region were keeping the Taliban’s war machine operational as they believe conflict in Afghanistan protects their interests.
He said countries such as Pakistan, Russia, and Iran are funding and equipping the Taliban and other insurgent groups in order to fuel the war machine and pursue their own objectives.
Raziq said some countries in the region have a vested interest in the conflict in Afghanistan.
He claimed that there is sufficient evidence to show that Pakistan, Russia, and Iran are funding the Taliban and other militant groups in the country.
“The Russians have been in contact with the Taliban militants since 2004 or 2005. It is not correct to say that they (Russians) engaged in ties with the Taliban in recent times (only), but now these relations have been clarified. Pakistanis, Iranians and the Russians are jointly supporting the terrorists, however the Russians do their work through Iran, for instance sending the Taliban weapons and money,” said Raziq.
U.S director of defense intelligence Lieutenant General Vincent R. Stewart said in Congress that despite signs of Russia’s support for the Taliban, U.S officials have not found physical evidence to back these claims.
On May 24, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg also said the alliance had heard reports to this effect but they too did not have proof.
The Afghan government has also said on a number of occasions in the past that they do not have evidence to back these claims.
U.S. Marines with Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment patrol the fields in Marjeh, Afghanistan to seure the city of Marjeh from the Taliban. (Official U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl Andres J. Lugo)
The Russian embassy’s statement further said that Moscow once again declares that allegations of its support to the Taliban “does not match the reality (of the situation) and are merely unsubstantiated claims.”
This coincides with the Afghan National Security Adviser Mohammad Hanif Atmar’s meeting with his Indian counterpart Ajit Doval on the sidelines of a summit in Moscow, the national security council said in a statement.
The NSC said the two sides held talks on further expanding bilateral, political, and security relations.
The statement added that the two sides also held talks on the establishment of a comprehensive plan to support and strengthen the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces.
Atmar arrived in Moscow on May 23, heading a delegation of high-ranking Afghan officials.
Officials from 25 countries are meeting at the Russia Security Conference, which will focus on countering terrorism in the region.
The skies above the United States and its allies aren’t just an intelligence battleground anymore, they’re also a big business arena. Some of the world’s top aircraft designers are looking to get their designs airborne with America’s most top secret missions.
Today, Sweden’s air forces are flying nondescript, ulta-secret spy missions in what appear to be the swankiest luxury aircraft on the market. In April 2021, Sweden flew a pair of luxury airplanes off the coast of Russia, where Russian military signals and radar were highly active.
It looked like a luxury private jet that could have belonged to any corporate officer from anywhere in the world. The converted Gulfstream IV was nothing of the sort; it was filled with the latest and greatest in signals intelligence collection equipment.
This isn’t the first time Sweden has employed its sleek fleet of Gulfstream spy planes over the past few years. They’ve been seen flying around Syria and the Mediterranean Sea. Sweden isn’t alone in employing them – other governments are bringing a demand for converted luxury aircraft.
According to Reuters, the market for selling special mission business jets to intelligence agencies is worth more than $3 billion worldwide. Using converted luxury aircraft is apparently a lower-cost alternative to converting larger passenger planes or military aircraft.
One defense and military analyst believes the shift is coming from the advanced listening and intelligence systems. As they get smaller and more powerful, the size of the aircraft needed to house them also gets smaller.
These special missions can vary from passive radar detection, communications interception, and early-warning systems. Countries from South Korea to France to the Israel Defense Forces are looking for more inexpensive ways to continue these missions using advanced equipment and smaller planes.
A private corporate jet can cost anywhere from $20 million to $60 million, the Reuters report says. Conversion to a spy plane with the latest technology could run state actors upwards of another $200 million.
The new demand for smaller aircraft is a boon to the private aviation industry, according to industry executives, who saw a drop off in demand from the civilian sector. A focus on military conversion means the companies will be more dedicated to that sector.
Although using luxury private aircraft as spy planes is a tradition that dates back to the Cold War, the breakthroughs in signals intelligence technology mean that smaller planes can be as effective as larger ones in singular “special mission” roles. The only threat to this new, emerging marketplace for corporate aircraft: special mission drones.
Unmanned aerial vehicles can be a slightly cheaper alternative for some countries looking for so-called “special mission aircraft,” but they aren’t that much cheaper. The Northrop Grumman Global Hawk UAV will still run about $130 million.
But converted executive aircraft are a good investment. The U.S. military purchased a number of Grumman Gulfstream I planes in the early 1960s, converting many to long-range command and control aircraft. They remained in service until 2001.
The Army is now engineering a far-superior M1A2 SEP v4 Abrams tank variant for the 2020s and beyond –designed to be more lethal, faster, lighter weight, better protected, equipped with new sensors and armed with upgraded, more effective weapons, service officials said.
Advanced networking technology with next-generation sights, sensors, targeting systems and digital networking technology — are all key elements of an ongoing upgrade to position the platform to successfully engage in combat against rapidly emerging threats, such as the prospect of confronting a Russian T-14 Armata or Chinese 3rd generation Type 99 tank.
The SEP v4 variant, slated to begin testing in 2021, will include new laser rangefinder technology, color cameras, integrated on-board networks, new slip-rings, advanced meteorological sensors, ammunition data links, laser warning receivers and a far more lethal, multi-purpose 120mm tank round, Maj. Gen. David Bassett, Program Executive Officer, Ground Combat Systems, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
While Army officials explain that many of the details of the next-gen systems for the future tanks are not available for security reasons, Basset did explain that the lethality upgrade, referred to as an Engineering Change Proposal, or ECP, is centered around the integration of a higher-tech 3rd generation FLIR – Forward Looking Infrared imaging sensor.
The advanced FLIR uses higher resolution and digital imaging along with an increased ability to detect enemy signatures at farther ranges through various obscurants such as rain, dust or fog, Bassett said.
“A combination of mid-wave and long-wave sensors allow for better target identification at long ranges and better resolution at shorter ranges,” Bassett explained. Higher-definition sensors allow Army crews to, for instance, better distinguish an enemy fighter or militant carrying an AK 47.
Improved FLIR technologies also help tank crews better recognize light and heat signatures emerging from targets such as enemy sensors, electronic signals or enemy vehicles. This enhancement provides an additional asset to a tank commander’s independent thermal viewer.
Rear view sensors and laser detection systems are part of these upgrades as well. Also, newly configured meteorological sensors will better enable Abrams tanks to anticipate and adapt to changing weather or combat conditions more quickly, Bassett explained.
“You do not have to manually put meteorological variables into the fire control system. It will detect the density of the air, relative humidity and wind speed and integrate it directly into the platform,” Basset explained.
The emerging M1A2 SEP v4 will also be configured with a new slip-ring leading to the turret and on-board ethernet switch to reduce the number of needed “boxes” by networking sensors to one another in a single vehicle. Also, some of the current electronics, called Line Replaceable Units, will be replaced with new Line Replaceable Modules including a commander’s display unit, driver’s control panel, gunner’s control panel, turret control unit and a common high-resolution display, information from General Dynamics Land Systems states.
Advanced Multi-Purpose Round
The M1A2 SEP v4 will carry Advanced Multi-Purpose 120mm ammunition round able to combine a variety of different rounds into a single tank round.
The AMP round will replace four tank rounds now in use. The first two are the M830, High Explosive Anti-Tank, or HEAT, round and the M830A1, Multi-Purpose Anti -Tank, or MPAT, round.
The latter round was introduced in 1993 to engage and defeat enemy helicopters, specifically the Russian Hind helicopter, Army developers explained. The MPAT round has a two-position fuse, ground and air, that must be manually set, an Army statement said.
The M1028 Canister round is the third tank round being replaced. The Canister round was first introduced in 2005 by the Army to engage and defeat dismounted Infantry, specifically to defeat close-in human-wave assaults. Canister rounds disperse a wide-range of scattering small projectiles to increase anti-personnel lethality and, for example, destroy groups of individual enemy fighters.
The M908, Obstacle Reduction round, is the fourth that the AMP round will replace; it was designed to assist in destroying large obstacles positioned on roads by the enemy to block advancing mounted forces, Army statements report.
AMP also provides two additional capabilities: defeat of enemy dismounts, especially enemy anti-tank guided missile, or ATMG, teams at a distance, and breaching walls in support of dismounted Infantry operations.
Bassett explained that a new ammunition data link will help tank crews determine which round is best suited for a particular given attack.
“Rather than having to carry different rounds, you can communicate with the round before firing it,” Bassett explained.
Engineering Change Proposal 1
Some of the upgrades woven into the lethality enhancement for the M1A2 SEP v4 have their origins in a prior upgrades now underway for the platform.
Accordingly, the lethality upgrade is designed to follow on to a current mobility and power upgrade referred to as an earlier or initial ECP. Among other things, this upgrade adds a stronger auxiliary power unit for fuel efficiency and on-board electrical systems, improved armor materials, upgraded engines and transmission and a 28-volt upgraded drive system. This first ECP, slated to begin production by 2017, is called the M1A2 SEP v3 variant.
This ECP 1 effort also initiates the integration of upgraded ammunition data links and electronic warfare devices such as the Counter Remote Controlled Improvised Explosive Device – Electronic Warfare – CREW. An increased AMPs alternator is also part of this upgrade, along with Ethernet cables designed to better network vehicle sensors together.
The Abrams is also expected to get an advanced force-tracking system which uses GPS technology to rapidly update digital moving map displays with icons showing friendly and enemy force positions.
The system, called Joint Battle Command Platform, uses an extremely fast Blue Force Tracker 2 Satcom network able to reduce latency and massively shorten refresh time. Having rapid force-position updates in a fast-moving combat circumstance, quite naturally, could bring decisive advantages in both mechanized and counterinsurgency warfare.
Active Protection Systems
The Army is fast-tracking an emerging technology for Abrams tanks designed to give combat vehicles an opportunity to identify, track and destroy approaching enemy rocket-propelled grenades in a matter of milliseconds, service officials said.
Called Active Protection Systems, or APS, the technology uses sensors and radar, computer processing, fire control technology and interceptors to find, target and knock down or intercept incoming enemy fire such as RPGs and Anti-Tank Guided Missiles, or ATGMs. Systems of this kind have been in development for many years, however the rapid technological progress of enemy tank rounds, missiles and RPGs is leading the Army to more rapidly test and develop APS for its fleet of Abrams tanks.
The Army is looking at a range of domestically produced and allied international solutions from companies participating in the Army’s Modular Active Protection Systems (MAPS) program, an Army official told Scout Warrior.
General Dynamics Land Systems, maker of Abrams tanks, is working with the Army to better integrate APS into the subsystems of the Abrams tank, as opposed to merely using an applique system, Mike Peck, Business Development Manager, General Dynamics Land Systems, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
Peck said General Dynamics plans to test an APS system called Trophy on the Abrams tank next year.
Using a 360-degree radar, processor and on-board computer, Trophy is designed to locate, track and destroy approaching fire coming from a range of weapons such as Anti-Tank-Guided-Missiles, or ATGMs, or Rocket Propelled Grenades, or RPGs.
The interceptor consists of a series of small, shaped charges attached to a gimbal on top of the vehicle. The small explosives are sent to a precise point in space to intercept and destroy the approaching round, he added.
Radar scans the entire perimeter of the platform out to a known range. When a threat penetrates that range, the system then detects and classifies that threat and tells the on-board computer which determines the optical kill point in space, a DRS official said.
Along with Rafael’s Trophy system, the Army is also looking at Artis Corporation’s Iron Curtain, Israeli Military Industry’s Iron Fist, and UBT/Rheinmetall’s ADS system, among others.
Overall, these lethality and mobility upgrades represent the best effort by the Army to maximize effectiveness and lethality of its current Abrams tank platform. The idea is to leverage the best possible modernization upgrades able to integrate into the existing vehicle. Early conceptual discussion and planning is already underway to build models for a new future tank platform to emerge by the 2030s – stay with Scout Warrior for an upcoming report on this effort.
A so-called “rocket expert” member of ISIS responsible for recently killing a Marine has been killed by a U.S. drone strike, officials told reporters.
U.S. Marines protecting Iraqi Security Forces at a firebase in Northern Iraq recently came under fire by an ISIS rocket attack, resulting in the death of Staff. Sgt. Louis Cardin and the wounding of eight other marines.
“Several hours ago we killed an ISIL (ISIS) member believed responsible for the rocket attack that resulted in the death of Staff. Sgt. Cardin,” Col. Steve Warren, Operation Inherent Resolve spokesman, said.
Pentagon officials named the member of ISIS as Jasim Khadijah, an ISIS member and former Iraqi officer believed directly connected to the recent rocket attack.
Officials added that the strike killed at least ISIS fighters and destroyed one UAV and 2 vehicles.
Col. Warren also stressed that Jasim Khadijah was not a HVI (Highly Valued Individual) and expressed condolences to the family of Staff Sgt. Cardin for their loss.
Women led armies and nations, won battles, and fought wars to their very end. From Boudica’s repeated victories over Roman legions and Joan of Arc’s relief of Orléans to Mary Walker joining Sherman’s March to the Sea, women have a military legacy as old and storied as any. Here are a few modern women who stood up when the call came.
1. Margarita Neri – Mexico
Neri was a soldadera, a female soldier of the Mexican Revolution who traveled alongside the men. Most of the soldaderas only traveled with their husbands and didn’t fight, instead tending to the needs of their husbands. Margarita Neri was not one of these women.
She commanded more than 1,000 women in 1910 as her unit swept through Tabasco and Chiapas looting, burning, and killing. These were not unusual events in such a war, except this group’s commander was a woman who carried a bloody machete and vowed to decapitate longtime dictator Porfirio Díaz.
After a while, her bloody reputation would come to precede her. The ruthless nature of that reputation prompted the governor of Guerrero to smuggle himself out of town once he heard she was approaching.
After the war ended, the soldaderas returned to their homes without recognition of their contributions or pensions for the veterans. Many died homeless and destitute.
2. Marie Marvingt – France
If ever there were a Jane Of All Trades, it was Marie Marvingt. Raised in the Lorraine area of France, she was a champion shooter, athlete, and aviation pioneer. She is the godmother of aeromedical evacuation, developing the concept of air ambulances before World War I.
When World War I broke out, she disguised herself as a man and served as a front line soldier in France. After being discovered and sent home, she was requested by Marshal Ferdinand Foch to join an Italian mountain regiment in the Southern Alps.
In 1915, she became the first female combat pilot ever when she began flying bombing missions on German bases and in German-held territory. The interwar years saw her working as a journalist and war correspondent. While in Morocco, she invented a metal ski method for landing airplanes on sand.
During WWII, she formed a nurses parachute unit, who would drop nurses into combat zones when weather wouldn’t permit air ambulances to land. When France fell, she became a member of the Maquis – the core of the French Resistance.
3. Sabiha Gökçen – Turkey
Gökçen was the first Turkish female combat pilot, and some believe she was the first female combat pilot, though that claim is disputed. What isn’t disputed is her childhood as one of eight adopted children of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, father of modern Turkey.
As such, she was able to learn to fly in Russia. Though she was not able to attend the Turkish War College, Kemal, as her patron, ensured she received an education in combat operations anyway at the Turkish Military Aviation Academy.
Gökçen later wrote “Atatürk tested her by asking her to press a gun against her head and pull the trigger” and “she did not flinch.” It was this unflinching devotion which put her in the Easter regions of the country. She provided close air support to Turkish troops suppressing what would come to be called the Dersim Rebellion. Gökçen personally bombed the home of the insurgent leader, killing him and many of his lieutenants.
She would spend much of her career training pilots as an officer in the Turkish Air Force.
4. Lyudmila Pavlichenko – Soviet Union (Ukraine)
Hell hath no fury like a Ukrainian woman scorned by Nazis. When Germany invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, a senior at Kiev University volunteered to join the Red Army infantry, declined being placed as a nurse, and opted to be a sniper instead, despite the staggering 75 percent loss rate for female snipers.
In her audition to be a sniper, she had to target two Romanians aiding Germans on a hill near the front. After she picked the two off, she was accepted, but did not tally the Romanians into her final kill count because “they were test shots.”
By the end of 1942, Pavilchenko had 309 confirmed kills, including 36 counter-sniper wins. She was wounded four times, including shrapnel wounds to the face. She was so successful, the Germans tried to bribe her with chocolate and a commission to defect and join the German army. When that didn’t work, they threatened to tear her to 309 pieces.
She wasn’t afraid. Pavilchenko was elated to know the Germans were keeping track. On a tour in the US to foster public opinion for the allies opening a second European front, Pavilchenko described her feelings on her daily life as a sniper as “uncomplicated,” remarking: “dead Germans are harmless.”