Here are 6 foreign weapons systems the Pentagon should buy now - We Are The Mighty
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Here are 6 foreign weapons systems the Pentagon should buy now

America has had a long tradition of picking up some foreign weapons. Whether it was getting military aid from France during the Revolutionary War to borrowing Spitfires from England in World War II to using Israeli Kfirs as aggressors in the 1980s, our troops have put foreign-designed systems to good use. This idea makes even more sense in the face of the Pentagon being forced to tighten the belt while global threats proliferate.


So here are six foreign warfighting platforms that DoD should buy now:

1. Spain’s Alvaro de Bazan-class frigates

Here are 6 foreign weapons systems the Pentagon should buy now

With the retirement of the Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates, the United States could use some additional hulls in the water. The Littoral Combat Ship has had some good moments (like USS Freedom making four drug busts in seven weeks during a 2010 SOUTHCOM deployment), but that ship is still wrestling with teething problems, not the least of which is the fact that the missionized software packages that were supposed to make the LCS unique aren’t working.

The Navy plans to buy 20 frigates in the future, but perhaps they ought to look at getting Spain’s Alvaro de Bazan-class frigates instead. With a SPY-1 radar, a five-inch gun, and a 48-cell Mk 41 VLS that can fire Standard surface-to-air missiles, Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles, and Vertical-Launch ASROCs, it would be a direct replacement for the Perry-class ships.

2. Denmark’s Absalon-class multi-role ships

Here are 6 foreign weapons systems the Pentagon should buy now

Denmark’s been building flexible warships for decades, thanks to the use of Stanflex technology. One of the more intriguing designs to emerge from this philosophy is the Absalon, a 4,500-ton ship that has a five-inch gun, and five “flexible” stations. These stations can carry a variety of weapons – usually 36 RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow missiles and 16 RGM-84 Harpoons.

But the real secret is that the Absalon also can serve as a small roll-on/roll-off vessel, a supply ship, or even as a treatment point for casualties. With a top speed of 24 knots, the ship can keep up with the large-deck amphibious assault ships like the Wasp and America classes. Also, at $225 million per hull, they are about five-eighths the cost of a Freedom-class littoral combat ship.

3. Ukraine’s BTMP-84

Here are 6 foreign weapons systems the Pentagon should buy now

Infantry has a tough job on the conventional battlefield. They can’t keep up with the tanks, but they are needed to support the tanks. They also, of course, need some support on the battlefield. But how to get troops to the battlefield, yet still get them some support? Ukraine’s BTMP-84 may be the answer to that.

The Ukrainians stretched a T-84, added some road wheels, and got a vehicle with the T-84’s firepower (a 125mm main gun with as many as 36 rounds of ammunition, a 12.7mm heavy machine gun, and a 7.62mm coaxial machine gun), plus the ability to carry five infantrymen. While it doesn’t carry as many troops as a Bradley or LAV-25, its firepower more than makes up for that.

4. Brazil’s EE-9 Cascavel Armored Car

Here are 6 foreign weapons systems the Pentagon should buy now

With the retirement of the M551 Sheridan in the mid-1990s, the 82nd Airborne is in need of some armored firepower. That two-decade search could end with the EE-9 Cascavel.

With a 90mm main gun and 44 rounds, this 13-ton vehicle can keep up with Strykers, and it can provide much more sustained fire support (Stryker Mobile Gun Systems only carry 18 rounds for their 105mm main guns). The vehicle, about the size of an M113 armored personnel carrier, could be carried by a C-130.

5. UK’s Systems Hawk 200

Here are 6 foreign weapons systems the Pentagon should buy now

Combat aircraft are expensive these days. Both the F-22 and F-35 cost over $100 million per airframe – and billions in RD. Yet having a lot of airframes is not a bad idea. The Hawk 200 is a possible solution.

With the same APG-66 radar used on the F-16, the Hawk can fire Sidewinders and AMRAAMs, making it a solid choice for air-defense. It also can carry almost 7,000 pounds of bombs or air-to-surface weapons. The U.S. Navy already operates the similar T-45 Goshawk, which means that some logistical support capability already exists. The Hawk 200 could be America’s lightweight joint strike fighter.

6. Israeli Sa’ar 6-class corvettes

Here are 6 foreign weapons systems the Pentagon should buy now

The United States has made use of Israeli weapons in the not-so-distant past. The Marines’ Shoulder-launched Multi-purpose Assault Weapon is one such weapon. So was the RQ-2 Pioneer, best known as a spotter for naval gunfire from Iowa-class battleships during Desert Storm.

Now, Israel’s new Sa’ar 6 corvettes might be something to look at. With a 76mm gun, 16 anti-ship missiles, and 32 surface-to-air missiles, these vessels could enable the U.S. Navy to counter Russia’s Buyan-class corvettes and Gepard-class light frigates.

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New North Korean propaganda video features nuclear attack on Washington

On March 26, North Korea’s YouTube channel released a dramatic propaganda video that features a nuclear attack near the Lincoln Memorial:


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DbOYRLlhIP4
The video is four minutes long and contains a montage of U.S. defeats throughout history set to background music reminiscent of a ’70s-era TV show .

“If the American imperialists provoke us a bit, we will not hesitate to slap them with a pre-emptive nuclear strike,” read the Korean subtitles in the video, according to The New York Times. “The United States must choose! It’s up to you whether the nation called the United States exists on this planet or not.”

The North Korean propaganda video comes amid a string of nuclear and rocket testing, which resulted in further sanctions of the Kim regime. Most recently, the Pyongyang threatened a direct attack on the South Korean presidential palace, the Blue House, unless its demand are met.

North Korea, sometimes called “The Hermit Kingdom” for its reclusiveness and closed borders, is known to rattle its saber when it needs something, be it food aid or cash, in order to elicit a bribe or assistance in order to return tensions to normal.

The North also often does this in March, around the time of annually planned joint military exercises between the United States and South Korea. In March 2010, the North sank the South Korean submarine Cheonan in the South’s territorial waters. In 2012, they announced planned rocket launches. In 2013, they conducted a nuclear test during the U.S.-ROK exercises, this prompted the U.S. to respond by flying B-2 Stealth Bombers and B-52 Stratofortresses over the demilitarized zone, to remind the North of U.S. bomber capabilities in the region. In response, Kim Jong-Un declared a “state of war” between the North and South, but no actual attacks ever materialized.

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Navy standout safety says he’s transferring a month after pro policy change

An about-face from the Department of Defense appears to have been a factor in Navy losing a top player.


Safety Alohi Gilman announced he was transferring from Annapolis, Md., earlier this month on Twitter.

“We wish Alohi the best in his pursuit of his childhood dream to play in the NFL,” Midshipmen coach Ken Niumatalolo told the Capital Gazette, which reported Gilman’s departure.

A direct path to the NFL was possible when Gilman entered Navy this past summer after spending a year at its prep school. But during the NFL draft in late April, the Department of Defense shifted its policy to again require service academy graduates to serve two years on active duty before applying for a shift in status to pursue professional sport. That two-year requirement had been removed in the summer of 2016.

Here are 6 foreign weapons systems the Pentagon should buy now
US Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Stan Parker

The shift was felt heavily at Air Force, where baseball player Griffin Jax had given up eligibility as a senior after last year’s MLB draft and several players had NFL aspirations. Most notable among them was receiver Jalen Robinette, who expected to be a mid-round draft selection. Robinette was not drafted and after spending time in mini-camps with the Bills and Patriots his future is further clouded by what his representatives call an ongoing discipline situation at the academy that prevented him from graduating with his class.

Gilman didn’t specifically cite the policy change in his social media post announcing his intentions to leave Navy.

“Presently, I find that my goals and passions are not the best fit with the Naval Academy,” he wrote.

Gilman was an honorable mention all- American Athletic Conference pick as a freshman this past season after finishing second at Navy with 76 tackles. He made six stops, including three solo, in a 28-14 loss at Air Force on Oct. 1.

Here are 6 foreign weapons systems the Pentagon should buy now
US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Michael Russell

It is not unique for players to leave service academies during their first two years before their commitment becomes binding. And it can be even more tempting for players who have enjoyed on-field success immediately to consider boosting their stock in less-restrictive environments.

Air Force basketball, for example, has lost standout players Tre’ Coggins and Matt Mooney in recent years as they transferred after excelling early. Coggins left for Cal-State Fullerton after averaging 16 points as a sophomore in 2013-14. Mooney transferred to South Dakota after his freshman campaign in 2014-15.

So, while Gilman’s path isn’t new, its timing is certainly noteworthy in that it came a month after the DOD reversed course on an athletic-friendly policy.

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That time the United States invaded Russia

The forced abdication of the Russian Tsar Nicolas II in 1917  sparked a civil war between the Bolshevik “Red” army fighting for Communism and various factions known as the “White” army, generally fighting against the Communists. In an effort to stop the Bolsheviks from taking control of the country, the World War I-era Allied forces invaded Russia near the end of the Great War.


 

Here are 6 foreign weapons systems the Pentagon should buy now

For its part, America provided two contingents. The American North Russia Expeditionary Force was deployed to Arkhangelsk, while the second, called the American Expeditionary Force Siberia, was deployed to Vladivostok. The American North Russia Expeditionary force consisted of soldiers from the 85th Division’s 339th Infantry Regiment,consisting of about 5,000 Americans who were originally en route to France to fight on the Western Front. Due to the extreme climate in which they operated, they came to be known as the Polar Bears.

Here are 6 foreign weapons systems the Pentagon should buy now

 

The 339th began arriving in Russia in September 1918, shortly before the armistice would end World War I. Upon their arrival it was discovered that the allied war materiel supposedly stored at Arkhangelsk had been moved away by the Bolsheviks. Instead, ‘Detroit’s Own’, as the 339th was often known, went on the offensive against Bolshevik forces along the Dvina River and Vologda Railroad. The Americans advanced quickly and for nearly six weeks drove the Red Army back. By late October, the American force was holding two fronts well over 100 miles apart which created great logistical difficulties. To make matters worse, the brutal Russian winter was beginning. In order to hold their gains, the Americans turned to the defensive and set in for the winter.

 

Here are 6 foreign weapons systems the Pentagon should buy now

 

The Red Army, accustomed to the icy winters of Russia, had no intention of letting up and began a winter offensive against the Allied forces. Though the Americans fought viciously, they were pushed back along the Dvina. Furthermore, the hope that the presence of the Allies would assist in raising local anti-communist forces turned out to be unfounded so the force began to find itself with little support.

 

Here are 6 foreign weapons systems the Pentagon should buy now

 

When the war ended in Europe on November 11 of that year, the soldiers in Russia began to question why they were still fighting. As the winter went on, their willingness to fight deteriorated. The New York Times ran a scathing review of the expedition in February 1919. Combined with rumors of mutiny, this led to President Woodrow Wilson to order the unit’s withdrawal. On April 17, 1919 Brig. Gen. Wilds P. Richardson arrived in Arkhangelsk with orders to withdraw the Polar Bear Expedition. They were gone by June.

During their time in Russia, the Polar Bears suffered over 500 casualties. Due to the nature of warfare at the time, over 100 bodies were not recovered. A significant effort by veterans of the 339th led to the repatriation of nearly all lost or buried in Russia in the coming decades.

 

Here are 6 foreign weapons systems the Pentagon should buy now
The Polar Bear Expedition’s unit patch.

 

Although the campaign did not meet its stated goals, it’s an interesting bit of history considering the United States and Russia would spend much of the 20th Century facing off against one another in the Cold War.

 

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The Pentagon’s inside info on North Korea’s true military strength

It’s almost springtime, that special time of year where the weather starts to turn, the flowers bloom, and the United States and South Korea hold the massive combined Foal Eagle and Key Resolve (formerly known as “Reception, Staging, Onward movement, and Integration” or RSOI). The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) rattles its saber for two reasons. First, it will raise tensions whenever it needs something; money, food aid, or concessions from the United Nations, things of that nature. The second reason is the Foal Eagle/Key Resolve exercise.


Here are 6 foreign weapons systems the Pentagon should buy now
U.S. Army Soldiers assigned to 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, 2nd SBCT, 25th Infantry Division, fire M795 projectile 155 mm rounds on Rodriguez Live Fire Complex, South Korea, March 22, 2015. U.S. Army Solders run a live-fire exercise during joint training exercise Foal Eagle 2015. (U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Samantha Van Winkle)

These exercises serve the dual purpose of preparing for a potential North Korean invasion while reminding the North of just how devastating an invasion would be for them. This reminder has become more important than ever in recent years, as the North nullified its agreement to the 1953 armistice, which ended the Korean War. Since then, it had grown its military force and nuclear arsenal and become ever more belligerent toward the West. The war never ended, only the shooting. Now the North claims it has the authority to start shooting again.

Related: The ten worst armies in the world

Here are 6 foreign weapons systems the Pentagon should buy now

The isolated North lives (ostensibly) under Songun, a policy of putting their limited resources toward the military first, before any other person or institution. It also prioritizes the military in the affairs of state, which is a partial explanation of why they accept the sanctions that come with their development of nuclear weapons. The DPRK currently boasts the fourth largest army on Earth, but is that really a formidable force? Ask Saddam Hussein if a large army makes the difference between winning and losing a war.

Related: 21 Facts about the First Gulf War

A 2015 Congressional report from the Pentagon says the Korean People’s Army (the land component of the North Korean Armed Forces) fields 950,000 troops, 4,200 tanks, 2,200 armored vehicles, 8,600 pieces of field artillery, and 5,500 multiple rocket launchers. The report reads “North Korea fields a large, conventional, forward-deployed military that retains the capability to inflict serious damage on the ROK, despite significant resource shortfalls and aging hardware.” Simply put, the North can rain death and destruction on the South, and it doesn’t even have to cross the 38th Parallel (the current land border) to hit the South Korean capital.

Korean People’s Army

Here are 6 foreign weapons systems the Pentagon should buy now

4-5% of the DPRK’s 24 million people are in the Korean People’s Army, with another 25 to 30 percent are assigned to a reserve or paramilitary unit. 70% of its ground forces and 50% of its air and naval forces are deployed within 100 kilometers of the demilitarized zone (DMZ). The report says that few of its weapons systems are modern and some are as old as the 1950s.

Korean People’s Navy

Here are 6 foreign weapons systems the Pentagon should buy now

The North Korean Navy floats  60,000 sailors, 430 patrol combatant ships, 260 amphibious landing craft, 20 mine warfare vessels, about 70 submarines, 40 support ships between two seas, the Yellow Sea to the West and the Sea of Japan to the East. Its specialty is amphibious landings and the DPRK has the largest submarine force in the world as well, though many are coastal subs and midget subs. The DPRK is working on developing a homegrown design for a ballistic missile submarine.

It’s also important to note that North Korea does not have a blue water navy. The navy is centered around an aging fleet of coastal defense forces. They might still be a little nervous about the Inchon Landing, also known as General MacArthur’s Rope-A-Dope.

Korean People’s Air Force

Here are 6 foreign weapons systems the Pentagon should buy now
Glorious People’s Revolutionary Top Gun.

With 110,000 troops, over 800 combat aircraft, 300 helicopters, and more than 300 transport planes North Korea boasts the OLDEST fleet of aircraft in the world. Its fighters are 1980s MiG-29s bought from the Soviet Union and some MiG-23 and SU-25 ground attack aircraft. The pilots are not well trained because training burns fuel and fuel is definitely one thing North Korea does not have. Its oldest aircraft are 1940s An-2 COLT aircraft, a single-engine biplane.

Its air defense systems are mostly aging but with the deteriorating air force, the North relies on its ground-base air defense systems. In a 2010 military parade, it showed off a surface-to-air SAM system that looked a lot like the formidable Russian s-300, which Iran sought so desperately to bolster its own air defense systems.

Related: Here’s how a war with Iran would go

Here are 6 foreign weapons systems the Pentagon should buy now

Special Forces

The most highly trained, most well-equipped, best fed forces the Korean People’s Army can muster (only with North Korea would you have to mention how well-fed they are). Asymmetric warfare will grow to be a cornerstone of the DPRK’s armed forces, especially as its conventional forces continue to decline in strength and quality.

Nuclear Weapons and Ballistic Missiles

As previously mentioned, the North wants the ability to launch ballistic missiles from its submarine fleet, but so far those attempts have failed. Still, the North also pursues intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching the continental U.S. Those two types are the Hwasong- 13 and Taepodong-2. Testing on these missiles is forbidden by UN Security Council Resolution 1718, which forbids the country from using ballistic missile technology. The North is likely using satellite launches to cover for its missile testing, its most recent test was February 7th, 2016, launching a Kwangmyongsong satellite into orbit.

North Korea also fields a cyber army as a cost-effective, low-risk way to disrupt enemy operations.

Here are 6 foreign weapons systems the Pentagon should buy now
Or to stop bad movies from being released. Where were you when Eagle Eye was coming to theaters, North Korea??

They have extensive external and internal intelligence and security agencies, as well as special units that infiltrate the South to establish pro-North Korea groups and political parties to foment unrest.

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Military officials confirm US special operators are fighting in Raqqa

US military advisers are operating inside the city of Raqqa, Daesh’s last major bastion in Syria, a US official said July 12. The troops, many of them Special Operations Forces, are working in an “advise, assist, and accompany” role to support local fighters from the Syrian Democratic Forces as they battle Daesh, said Col. Ryan Dillon, a military spokesman.


The troops are not in a direct combat role but are calling in airstrikes and are working closer to the fight than did US forces supporting the Iraqi military in Mosul.

“They are much more exposed to enemy contact than those in Iraq,” Dillon said, adding that the numbers of US forces in Raqqa were “not hundreds.”

The operation to capture Raqqa began in November and on June 6 the SDF entered the city. With help from the US-led coalition, the SDF this month breached an ancient wall by Raqqa’s Old City, where die-hard militants are making a last stand.

Here are 6 foreign weapons systems the Pentagon should buy now
SDF fighters among rubble in Raqqa. Photo from VOA.

Dillon said the coalition had seen Daesh increasingly using commercial drones that have been rigged with explosives. The militants employed a similar tactic in Mosul.

“Over the course over the last week or two, it has increased as we’ve continued to push in closer inside of Raqqa city center,” he said.

The US military is secretive about exactly how big its footprint is in Syria, but has previously said about 500 Special Operations fighters are there to train and assist the SDF, an Arab-Kurdish alliance.

Additionally, Marines are operating an artillery battery to help in the Raqqa offensive.

Here are 6 foreign weapons systems the Pentagon should buy now
The United States Marine Corps provide fire support to the SDF during the Battle of Raqqa. Photo from USMC.

The UN said July 12 it is using newly opened land routes in Syria to expand food deliveries to areas around Raqqa.

The new access has allowed the World Food Program to deliver food to rural areas north of the city for the first time in three years.

More than 190,000 people have been displaced from and within Raqqa province since April 1, according to the UN refugee agency. In the past 48 hours, hundreds of civilians managed to flee areas under Daesh control and cross to territory seized by SDF, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. As the map of control changes, so is the access and WFP said it is now delivering food every month to nearly 200,000 people in eight hard-to-reach locations inside Raqqa province as well as other areas in a neighboring province.

Here are 6 foreign weapons systems the Pentagon should buy now
USMC photo by Sgt. Justin T. Updegraff.

Prior to the reopening of the road linking Aleppo in the west to Hassakeh in the east, the WFP relied on airlifts.

“Replacing airlifts with road deliveries will save an estimated $19 million per year, as each truck on the road carries the equivalent of a planeload of food at a significantly lower cost,” said Jakob Kern, the WFP country representative in Syria. “With these cost savings and improved access, we are now reaching more families and people returning to their homes who need our help with regular food deliveries.”

One area that is now reachable is the town of Tabqa, which was taken from Daesh by the US-backed SDF in May. WFP said it was able this month to double the number of people it reaches, delivering monthly food rations to 25,000 people, many of whom have returned to their original homes and are now working to rebuild their lives.

In Homs eastern countryside, meanwhile, a Syrian military source said the army recaptured the Al-Hayl oil field, south of Al-Sukhneh city, from Daesh militants, the state-run news agency SANA reported.

Here are 6 foreign weapons systems the Pentagon should buy now
SDF in Tabqa. Photo from VOA.

The fight against Daesh is only one facet of the war in Syria, which is now in its seventh year. Six rounds of UN-brokered peace talks in Geneva have failed to bring the warring sides closer to a political settlement.

A seventh round is now underway in the Swiss city, but expectations for a breakthrough are almost non-existent.

July 12, the head of the Syrian opposition delegation accused President Bashar Assad’s regime of refusing to engage in political discussions.

Here are 6 foreign weapons systems the Pentagon should buy now
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Photo courtesy of Moscow Kremlin.

Nasr al-Hariri of the High Negotiations Committee also challenged the UN Security Council to “uphold its responsibilities” and maintain pressure on Assad to honor resolutions that the council has passed. He spoke to reporters after emerging from talks with the UN envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, in the latest round of indirect peace talks. Hariri cited the “continuous refusing” of Assad’s government to participate in political negotiations.

Security Council Resolution 2254 from December 2015 called on top UN officials to convene the two sides “to engage in formal negotiations on a political transition process.”

Also July 12, a human rights group said Syrian-Russian airstrikes and artillery attacks on a town in southern Syria last month killed 10 civilians in and near a school. Human Rights Watch said one of the airstrikes hit the courtyard of a middle school in the town of Tafas in the southern province of Deraa, killing eight people, including a child. It says most of those killed were members of a family who had been displaced from another town. It said two other civilians, including a child, were killed an hour earlier by artillery attacks near the school.

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This declassified US intelligence report from 1990 is one of the most terrifying things you’ll ever read

The 1983 US-Soviet “war scare” is one of the most controversial episodes of the Cold War.


Now we finally know it was also one of the most dangerous, thanks to a February 1990 reportpublished by the National Security Archive at George Washington University this week after a 12-year Freedom of Information Act battle.

Here are 6 foreign weapons systems the Pentagon should buy now
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The US and Soviets were dangerously close to going to war in November 1983, the bombshell report found, and the Cold War-era US national-security apparatus missed many warning signs.

That 1983 “war scare” was spurred by a large-scale US military exercise in Eastern Europe called Able Archer that the Soviets apparently believed was part of allied preparation for a real war.

The Soviet military mobilized in response.

US-Soviet relations had definitely plunged in the early 1980s, but since then experts have debated how close the US and Soviets had come to the abyss during Able Archer.

Had the Soviets really believed Able Archer was preparation for a preemptive strike? Was the intensifying rhetoric of high-ranking Soviet leaders in the run-up to Able Archer meant for domestic consumption, or was it a reflection of actual fears? Was the 1983 Soviet military mobilization intended as internal and external political messaging, or as sincere preparation for war?

Most important, would the Soviets ever have struck first — and were their conditions for a first strike close to being satisfied during Able Archer?

We now have some of the answers.

On October 24, the National Security Archive published the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board report on the war scare. The 1990 study is the US intelligence apparatus’ final word on just how close the world came to war in 1983, and how aware American decision-makers were of the state of play.

Its conclusions are chilling, even 32 years later.

It turns out the Soviets believed the US wanted to launch a nuclear first strike. The US fell victim to the inverse error and didn’t think the Soviets were serious about preparing for war, partly because they didn’t think the Soviets thought the US wanted to launch a nuclear first strike. As a result, US military and intelligence decision-makers didn’t believe that anything out of the ordinary was happening during Able Archer.

They couldn’t have been more wrong. Following are the main findings in the report.

Here are 6 foreign weapons systems the Pentagon should buy now
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The Soviet leadership and intelligence agencies thought the US was planning to fight and win a nuclear war. In the early 1980s, in response to a US nuclear-modernization drive, “Soviet analysts calculated that the US intended [new generations of ballistic missiles] as a means for developing a first-strike force.” The Soviets may also have “calculated that NATO’s decision to field 600 Pershing IIs and cruise missiles was not to counter their SS-20 [intermediate-range missile] force, but yet another step towards a first-strike capability.”

The report documents how this fear of an American first-strike morphed into a kind of corrosive conventional wisdom. In 1981, the KGB formally sent out instructions to monitor possible NATO war preparations, noting that it is “of special importance to discover the adversaries’ concrete plans and measures linked with his preparation for a surprise nuclear-missile attack on the USSR and other Soviet countries.”

Here are 6 foreign weapons systems the Pentagon should buy now
Photo: flickr/mightyohm

The report flatly states that “KGB bosses seemed already convinced that US war plans were real.”

“KGB officers in [Moscow] agreed that the United States might initiate a nuclear strike if it achieved a level of overall strength markedly greater than that of the Soviet Union. And many agreed that events were leading in that direction,” the report added.

In reality, the US was never contemplating a first-strike. One of the more worrying aspects for the Able Archer incident, in the report’s view, is that “Soviet leaders, despite our open society, might be capable of a fundamental misunderstanding of US strategic motives.”

Here are 6 foreign weapons systems the Pentagon should buy now
Photo: Department of Defense

The Soviets realized they were becoming weaker and thought they’d probably lose the nuclear war they believed the US might be planning. Once the Soviets started thinking in terms of a possible nuclear war, they began to realize they didn’t stand much of a chance of winning it.

As the report states, “There was common concern that the Soviet domestic situation, as well as Moscow’s hold on Eastern Europe, was deteriorating, further weakening Soviet capacity to compete strategically with the US.”

Moscow was in a seemingly weak position for a number of reasons, including an economic slowdown, political unrest in Soviet-dominated Poland, the deployment of the Pershings to Eastern Europe, and the diplomatic fallout from the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979.

Intriguingly, the report describes a Soviet computer system that analyzed thousands of strategic variables to determine the Soviet Union’s strength relative to the US. The Soviet leadership would reportedly consider a preemptive nuclear strike if the computer ever found that Soviet power had fallen to 40% or below of US power. It reached 45% at points during the run-up to Able Archer.

The Soviets also determined that growing US missile strength would decimate the Soviet nuclear capabilities in a first strike to the point that a second strike would soon become ineffectual or even impossible. As this chart from the report demonstrates, the adversaries’ nuclear strike capabilities were drifting ever further apart:

Here are 6 foreign weapons systems the Pentagon should buy now
Photo: National Security Archive

 

The Soviets responded by moving to cut the launch preparation time of second strike nuclear platforms like submarines and battleships from several hours to just 20 or 30 minutes. After a point, second-strike nuclear missions became the primary focus of Soviet bomber-crew training, according to the report. In the conventional realm, the Soviets began calling up reservists, sending Spetsnaz paramilitaries to the Eastern European front line, deploying nuclear-capable artillery pieces in Eastern Europe, and even converting tractor factories for tank production.

In the psychological realm, Soviet leaders grew paranoid, realizing the balance of power that had defined their country’s entire strategic outlook would soon be a thing of the past.

It was in this context that the US’s Able Archer exercise began in November 1983.

There were some odd things about Able Archer, and the Soviets’ response to it.The Soviets’ concern about Able Archer is understandable, at least in the context of their lager paranoia. Able Archer included the airlift of tens of thousands of US troops to Central European front-line areas. The operation had a notable nuclear component to it as well.

“We are told that some US aircraft practiced the nuclear warhead handling procedures, including taxiing out of hangars carrying realistic-looking dummy warheads,” the report states.

The Soviets responded as if war was imminent. As the National Security Archive summary of the document puts it, “Warsaw Pact military reactions to Able Archer 83 were … ‘unparalleled in scale’ and included ‘transporting nuclear weapons from storage sites to delivery units by helicopter,’ suspension of all flight operations except intelligence collection flights from 4 to 10 November, ‘probably to have available as many aircraft as possible for combat.'”

Here are 6 foreign weapons systems the Pentagon should buy now
Photo: US Archives

In the US, everybody missed everything. The Soviets were serious about preparing for a possible impending nuclear war, and the US didn’t even know it.

Soviet activities around the “war scare” didn’t make a single presidential daily briefing. The US military realized the Soviets were at a higher state of alert but didn’t change their defense posture in response. Two later intelligence community reports on the incident also misinterpreted Soviet actions.

Indeed, one of the heroes of the war scare is Lt. Gen. Leonard Perroots, the US Air Force’s assistant chief of staff for intelligence in Europe during Able Archer. Perroots did nothing to change the US military’s alert status or readiness even as the Soviets were acting on a deep-seated fear of a possible US first strike. This, of course, was because Perroots wasn’t receiving any intelligence suggesting this fear was underlying Soviet mobilizations. The US had missed just about every clue.

The report calls Perroots’ inertia “fortuitous, if ill-informed.” Had the US military changed its operating procedure in Eastern Europe, it would only have escalated tensions and enhanced the chances of an accidental war.

The phrase “fortuitous, if ill-informed” sums up the entire 1983 war scare. The two sides misunderstood the other’s intentions, actions — indeed, their entire worldview — so badly that war nearly broke out.

The superpowers created a situation where simply doing nothing was an unwitting and perhaps civilization-rescuing act of courage.

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VA Secretary about to sign draft master plan for West LA campus

Here are 6 foreign weapons systems the Pentagon should buy now
(Photo: LA Times)


The Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert McDonald is traveling to Los Angeles to sign the draft master plan for the West LA VA campus on January 28 after months of advocacy by local veteran leaders to get their peers’ voices heard against a backdrop of wrangling between the city’s power brokers and politicians. The action comes nearly a year after the VA won a ruling to reassume control of the sprawling campus near Santa Monica that has suffered several decades worth of encroachment by non-VA organizations and inattention by the VA itself.

In 1888 John P. Jones and Arcadia B. de Baker signed a deed donating 300 Acres of West Los Angeles land to be used by the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers (the precursor to the Department of Veterans Affairs) as their Pacific branch home. Over the next 127 years, the property lost it’s original focus and suffered at the hands of ineffectual government authorities who let the facility fall into disrepair and conniving interlopers from a host of organizations including a major university, an elite parochial school, and even other government agencies who wrangled large parcels for their own use (and nothing to do with veterans healthcare or well-being).

But in January 2015, VA Secretary Bob McDonald signed a settlement agreement in a class action lawsuit (Valentini v Shinseki) regarding encroachment on the campus of the facility. The agreement established a nonprofit, Vets Advocacy, to serve as a partner in the West LA VA master planning process. As the first step of that process, Vets Advocacy petitioned the veteran community for inputs on how they’d like to see VA services provided.

Vets Advocacy created a website, www.vatherightway.org, as the primary tool behind their mission.  The site allows veterans to find out about the history of the West LA VA campus, see the schedule of local town hall events, watch video testimonials of other vets, and — most importantly — take the survey regarding how the campus should be modified to better serve patients and the veteran community at large. In the period leading up to the creation of the draft master plan, more than 1,300 surveys were completed.

“The vets stepped up to the plate,” said Mike Dowling, We Are The Mighty’s director of outreach and a major force behind organizing veteran inputs on the master plan.

“The master plan is wholly informed by vet input,” said Vets Advocacy’s Dr. Jon Sherin, who ran mental health services for the West Los Angeles VA hospital. “Now Secretary McDonald is signing into law the guideposts by which all decisions regarding that land will be made.”

“The plan is not just historic for the amount of comments, but for what this represents,” Army vet Michael Cummings writes on his blog. “This plan represents the possibility to change the VA from being a hospital or housing shelter into a community that brings veterans together. The veteran leaders I’m working with don’t just want to make the VA function better, we want to build a community of veterans and work with the VA to improve the lives of the people who fought and sacrificed for our country.

“Even better, we know that we are creating a model for the whole country. Our efforts in Los Angeles are providing a blueprint for other VA campuses around the country for how to to turn from being simply a hospital into a community.”

Although getting Secretary McDonald’s signature on the draft master plan is an important milestone, the work towards realizing the promise of the document is far from over, and veteran input remains fundamental to the effort.

“The core theme among vets taking the survey was the need for a vet-driven governance structure for the community being developed on that land,” Dr. Sherin said. “We have to keep the vets’ voices alive and clear.”

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Mattis tells NATO to pay its fair share

Secretary of Defense James Mattis warned NATO defense ministers in a speech that the “impatience Secretary Gates predicted is now a governmental reality” when it came to America’s share of the military burden of the alliance. “Americans cannot care more for your children’s future security than you do,” he added.


According to a report by the European edition of Politico, Mattis was passing on a warning from President Donald Trump, who had been critical of the lack of defense spending by NATO allies.

Here are 6 foreign weapons systems the Pentagon should buy now
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis talks with British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon during a North Atlantic Council meeting at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Feb. 15, 2017. (DoD photo by Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brigitte N. Brantley)

“Disregard for military readiness demonstrates a lack of respect for ourselves, for the alliance, and for the freedoms we inherited, which are now clearly threatened,” Mattis told the assembled ministers according to the Defense Media Activity. Mattis particularly mentioned the events of 2014, including Russia’s seizure of the Crimean peninsula from the Ukraine.

Mattis wasn’t only there to spank NATO for being defense-spending cheapskates, though. Referring to the alliance as “my second home,” he noted that NATO “remains a fundamental bedrock for the United States and for all the transatlantic community” in his opening remarks.

Here are 6 foreign weapons systems the Pentagon should buy now
M1A2 Abrams Tanks belonging to 1st Battalion, 68th Armored Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade, 4th Infantry Division fires off a round Jan. 26, 2017 during a gunnery range. The Soldiers are completing gunnery ranges before taking part in combined exercises with their NATO counterparts later this year. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Corinna Baltos)

In remarks welcoming Secretary Mattis, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg cited Secretary Mattis’s past service as Supreme Allied Commander for Transformation, saying, “You made sure that NATO adapted to a new and more demanding security environment.  But NATO has to continue to adapt and that’s exactly what we’re going to address at our meeting today, how NATO continues to adapt to a new security environment.”

Stoltenberg also addressed concerns about NATO members paying their fair share, saying, “Our latest figures, which we published yesterday, show that defense spending among European allies and Canada increased by 3.8 percent in real terms in 2016.  That is roughly $10 billion U.S. dollars.  This is significant, but it is not enough. We have to continue to increase defense spending across Europe and Canada.”

Here are 6 foreign weapons systems the Pentagon should buy now
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, front row, center right, and fellow defense ministers pose for a photo at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Feb. 15, 2017. (DoD photo by Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brigitte N. Brantley)

Politico noted that NATO has set a benchmark of 2 percent of GDP as the minimum size of a defense budget. An April 2016 report by CNN.com noted that only five NATO countries met that benchmark.

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That time the United States Navy lost three cruisers in one night

The United States Navy had some of its greatest moments in World War II — the Battle of Midway is the most notable. But about two months after that “Incredible Victory,” the Navy had a very bad night.


The Battle of Savo Island was not one of the Navy’s shining moments. In fact, it was downright awful.

The United States Navy had transported elements of the 1st Marine Division to Guadalcanal – and the initial invasion went pretty well. Samuel Eliot Morison noted in “The Struggle for Guadalcanal” that, despite the rapid progress in the first two days, August 7-8, 1942, which included taking the partially-complete Henderson Field, seeds for the upcoming disaster were being sown.

Here are 6 foreign weapons systems the Pentagon should buy now
Frank Jack Fletcher. (U.S. Navy photo)

Air strikes the day of the attack sank a transport and a destroyer. Then, Vice Adm. Frank Jack Fletcher pulled the carriers back.

This time, the invasion force was left high and dry – and nobody noticed that five heavy cruisers (HIJMS Chokai, HIJMS Aoba, HIJMS Kako, HIJMS Furutaka and HIJMS Kinugasa), two light cruisers (HIJMS Tenryu and HIJMS Yubari), and a destroyer were en route.

Disaster struck in the early morning hours of August 9. The Allies had two picket forces, one north of Savo Island, one to the south. The one to the north had the cruisers USS Astoria (CA 34), USS Quincy (CA 39), and USS Vincennes (CA 44) with two destroyers. To the south were the cruisers HMAS Canberra and USS Chicago (CA 29).

Here are 6 foreign weapons systems the Pentagon should buy now
(Wikimedia Commons)

In the early morning hours, the Japanese first hit the southern group.

The Chicago was hit by a torpedo and damaged. HMA Canberra took it worse: At least two dozen major-caliber hits left her badly damaged and unable to fight.

The Japanese ships went around Savo Island, then hit the northern group. The Astoria and Quincy were both hit bad in quick order, taking many shell hits. The cruiser Vincennes followed shortly afterward, taking at least 85 hits from enemy gunfire, and three torpedo hits.

Quincy and Vincennes sank by 3:00 a.m. The Canberra was ordered scuttled after it was obvious her engines could not be repaired, and it took over 200 more five-inch shells and four torpedoes to put her down. The Astoria sank a little after noon.

Here are 6 foreign weapons systems the Pentagon should buy now
HMAS Canberra prior to being scuttled on Aug. 9, 1942. (U.S. Navy photo)

The Battle of Savo Island served as a wake-up call. During 1942, four more major surface battles would be fought off Guadalcanal before the end of November. But none were as bad as the night the United States Navy lost three cruisers.

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7 struggles these veterans know all too well about humping gear

SAPI plates, hundreds of rounds of ammo, and as much water as you can haul is just a fraction of the gear our ground troops carry on their back as they move through their objectives every day.


Related: This is why grunt gear isn’t for the average man

Not too long ago, WATM ran a story featuring a TV show host who wanted to know what it felt like to carry the typical combat load a Vietnam War GI would haul. If you didn’t get a chance to see it, click here: This is why grunt gear isn’t for the average man

Many members of our loyal audience took the opportunity to chime in after reading the article and commented about what the heavy equipment they had to lug around during their time serving “in the suck” and here’s what they had to say.

1. The veteran grunt

Here are 6 foreign weapons systems the Pentagon should buy now

2. The motivated Corpsman

Here are 6 foreign weapons systems the Pentagon should buy now

3. The usual checklist of gear for this grunt was…

Here are 6 foreign weapons systems the Pentagon should buy now

 

Related: 8 things Marines love to carry other than their weapon

4. The proud and seasoned machine gunner

Here are 6 foreign weapons systems the Pentagon should buy now

5. Packing some major heat

Here are 6 foreign weapons systems the Pentagon should buy now

6. He’s down to do it all over again

Here are 6 foreign weapons systems the Pentagon should buy now

7. Ready for just about anything

Here are 6 foreign weapons systems the Pentagon should buy now

 

What gear did you carry? Comment below.

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These are the differences between Airborne and Air Assault

Short answer: One is still used as a tactically viable way of getting troops into the fray and the other is more ceremonial.


Benjamin Franklin once said “Where is the prince who can afford to cover his country with troops for its defense, so that ten thousand men descending from the clouds might not, in many places, do an infinite deal of mischief before a force could be brought together to repel them?”

Both of these troops fit that bill over two hundred years later.

Out of all of the current military rivalries, this one still ranks pretty high on the list. As someone who’s Air Assault and let his personal rivalry simmer a bit, there’s no reason to keep it up. The differences between the two just keeps growing with each conflict.

Here are 6 foreign weapons systems the Pentagon should buy now
(U.S. Army photo by Master Sgt. Sean McCollum, 29th Infantry Division Public Affairs)

By World War II, many forces developed their own form of Airborne infantry that soared into combat. Allied forces captivated folks back home with the tales of jumping into the European theater. Over the years, airborne operations can be performed in essentially two ways: static jumps (think of the age-old cadence “Stand up, Hook up, Shuffle to the door! Jump right out on the count of Four!”) and HALO/HAHO, or High Altitude, Low Opening and High Opening (free-falling).

Air Assault rose in the Cold War and became more prominent in the Vietnam War. There are usually two means for getting troops into combat, FRIES, or Fast Rope Insertion/Extraction, where you grab a piece of rope and slide out of a hovering helicopter and just Air Insertion, where the helicopter lands on the ground and troops hop out. Technically, there’s also Sling Load operations, where you attach things underneath a helicopter, but that’s more of a special task that’s assigned to Air Assault qualified troops.

Here are 6 foreign weapons systems the Pentagon should buy now
There’s several more ways of leaving a helicopter. Like SPIES and Helocasting, as seen above (U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Codie Mendenhall)

But in the wars since 9/11, you can count on one hand the number of combat jumps performed by US troops. They were done twice in Iraq and once in Afghanistan — and all three to command and control airfields.

Making a combat jump authorizes you to wear a Combat Jump Device. It’s a gold star that adorns the Parachutist Badge and is often referred to as a “mustard stain.” Finding one of these bad asses outside of Jump School is like finding a CW5 — you know they have to exist somewhere because you’ve seen the badges at the PX, but it still sounds as plausible as any other barracks rumor.

There isn’t as comprehensive list on total Air Assault missions because it’s far more common. It’s just another way to get around.

Many combat arms guys can tell you that they never went to Air Assault school, but still do Air Assault operations in country. The only Air Assault task restricted to someone who actually went to the school is the previously mentioned sling load operations. Even that has its “volun-told” feel to it. Sling loading has a risk to it that could be deadly if not done properly. Only Airborne school qualified personnel are allowed to complete airborne jumps (because of the weeks they spend just learning how to fall properly).

Here are 6 foreign weapons systems the Pentagon should buy now
(U.S. Army photo by Visual Information Specialist Jason Johnston)

Sure. We have our disagreements and will probably flame each other in the comment section. They’re both ways to get men out of a perfectly good aircraft.

We both deal with a heavy amount of prop / rotor wash that training can never prepare you for. And both of our badges are still highly sought after by badge-hunters — usually a staff lieutenant or junior NCO. And they both will probably correct you by saying “well actually, according to Army regulation…”

Wear your blood wings proud, my brothers and sisters.

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Historic AC-130 gunship gets more lethal

The historic, lethal and combat-tested AC-130 gunship — known for attacking ISIS and Taliban fighters during close-air support high-risk combat missions — is getting a massive technological upgrade with newer weapons and avionics to increase the effectiveness of the attack platform and extend its service life into future decades, service officials said.


“AC-130 gunship work involves upgrading the plane with weapons, targeting systems and sensor packages,” Col. Robert Toth, Chief of Tactical Aircraft, Special Operations and Combat Search and Rescue Division, told Scout Warrior in an interview.

Early variants of the AC-130 gunship first entered combat in the late 1960s during the Vietnam war. Later variants served in the Gulf War, War on Terror and war in Afghanistan, among other missions.

The gunships, operated by Special Operations Command, are often used to support Special Operations fighters on the ground engaged in combat.

The aircraft is known for its 105mm side-firing cannons which enable it fire from a side-axis position during close-in combat supporting ground troops. The AC-130 Gunship also has a 25mm Gatling gun and a 40mm weapon, according to Air Force statements.

Here are 6 foreign weapons systems the Pentagon should buy now
An air-to-air front view of an AC-130A Hercules gunship aircraft. The aircraft is from the 919th Special Operations Group (AFRESO), Eglin Air Force Base Auxiliary Field) 3 (Duke Field) Florida | Airman Magazine, December 1984.

The Lockheed-Boeing built aircraft uses four Allison T56-A-15 turboprop engines, each with 4,300 shaft horsepower; the 155,000-pound aircraft has a 132-foot wingspan and hits speeds of 300 miles per hour. Its crew consists of a pilot, co-pilot, navigator, fire control officer, electronic warfare officers, flight engineer, TV operator, infrared detection operator, loadmaster and four aerial gunners.

The AC-130  gunship is a C-130 aircraft engineered for close-air support combat. Its variants include versions of a 105mm gun, called a M102 Howitzer, fires 33-pound high explosive shells at a firing rate of 10-round a minute. The weapon has a range up to seven miles and is the largest gun ever operated from a US Air Force aircraft, reports have said.

Air Force Special Operators ultimately plan to operate 37 of the newest version of the aircraft, the AC-130J Ghostrider, service officials said.

The aircraft’s 25-millimeter Gatling Gun, the GAU-12, is the same weapon now on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter; the weapon fires both High-Explosive-Incendiary and Armor Piercing-Incendiary rounds against enemy fighters, buildings and light vehicles, Air Force officials confirm.

In a recent attack, AC-130 gunships and A-10 Warthog close-air support aircraft together destroyed an ISIS fuel convoy of more than 100 vehicles.

 C-130 Fleet

The AC-130 gunships make up a small portion of a fleet of roughly 500 C-130 planes throughout the Air Force and Special Operations Command, Toth explained.

The cargo planes are used to airdrop supplies, equipment, weapons and troops in forward deployed locations.

As a propeller-driven aircraft, the C-130s are able to fly and land in more rugged conditions and withstand harsh weather such as obscurants. The propellers make the aircraft’s engines less susceptible to debris flying in and causing operational problems for the engines.

“It really allows you to do that tactical movement of equipment and personnel to take the airplane to the last tactical mile. A lot of our transport strategic airlifters are meant to go to a hard runway to a hard runway somewhere and then they turn over the cargo to be moved to the forward areas to a C-130 or a vehicle. The C-130 allows you to take that cargo and land on a smaller runway or an unimproved airfield,” Toth added.

C-130s are used for domestic, international and warzone transport including homeland security, disaster relief and supply deliveries, among other things.

“There are probably missions that have yet to be dreamed up for the C-130,” Toth said.

The fleet consists of 135 more modern C-130J aircraft and 165 older C-130Hs which have been around since the 80s, Toth explained.

Here are 6 foreign weapons systems the Pentagon should buy now
A C-130E from the 2nd Airlift Squadron, Pope AFB, N.C., flies over the Atlantic Ocean along the North Carolina coast. The C-130 Hercules primarily performs the intratheater portion of the airlift mission. The aircraft is capable of operating from rough, dirt strips and is the prime transport for paradropping troops and equipment into hostile areas. | U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Howard Blair

Also, MC-130Js are specially modified airlifters engineered to transport Army Green Berets, Navy SEALs and Army Rangers.

“They are essentially a C-130J further modified with defensive systems with radar countermeasures and infrared radar and advanced sensors for specialized missions. They also can perform in-flight refueling,” Toth explained.

C-130 Modernization

The Air Force remains vigilant about its C-130 fleet to ensure the airframes, wingboxes, avionics and communication systems remain safe and operational. This is particularly true of the older 1980s-era C-130Hs, Toth added.

“The thing that causes the greatest risk to the airplane is the life of the wing. We monitor the wing of the aircraft and as the wings get past their service life, we bring the airplanes back in and bring in new structures — with the primary focus being the center wingbox which is the area where the wings mount to the fuselage,” Toth said.

As for when a C-130 is in need of a maintenance upgrade to preserve and maintain service life, the Air Force uses an assessment metric referred to as “equivalent baseline hours.” The wing-boxes are changed once the aircraft reaches a certain “severity factor” in its operational service time. This is necessary because the wear and tear or impact of missions upon and airplane can vary greatly depending upon a range of factors such as the altitude at which a plane is flying, Toth said.

“Low-level flight may be three to four times the severity factor of flying at a higher level,” he said.

Also, by January of 2020 the entire fleet of C-130s will need to comply with an FAA mandate and be equipped with systems that will relay aircraft position to a greater fidelity back and forth between the airplane and the air traffic management authorities, he added. This will allow them to sequence more aircraft closer together and enhance an ability to move commerce.

Avionics Modernization Program, Increment 1 involves adding new 8.33 radios to the aircraft to improve communication along with initiatives to upgrade cockpit voice recorders and digital data recorders. C-130s will also receive new collision-avoidance technology designed to prevent the planes from hitting terrain or colliding with one another mid-air.  Inc. 1 is currently ongoing and is slated to complete by 2019.

AMP Inc. 2 involves a larger-scale effort to integrate digital avionics throughout the airplane. Inc. 2 will require nine-months to one year of work and be completed by 2028, Toth explained.

“This will allow us to bring the airplane from analog to digital, integrate a glass cockpit and use touchscreen displays. We will get away from the old systems of avionics where we had dial-driven instrumentation to where it is all digital. This makes us able to process a lot more information,” Toth said.

As part of the C-130 modernization calculus, the Air Force will consider retiring some C-130Hs and replace them with newly-built C-130Js; the service has authority to acquire an additional 20 C-130Js, Toth added.

“We continue to evaluate where it makes sense to retire and older airplane and instead put that money into buying new airplanes,” he said.

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