Iran’s talking tough again, threatening to close the Strait of Hormuz in the event of an attack. This is not the first time such threats have been made. Furthermore, when Iran mined USS Samuel B. Roberts (FFG 58) during Operation Earnest Will, the United States delivered quite the beat-down to the mullahs’ military forces in Operation Praying Mantis. But it raises the question of whether Iran could carry out its threats. Iran’s threat cannot be treated as idle, given that they did try to shut down the Strait of Hormuz during the Iran-Iraq War.
Currently, the Iranian Navy has at least five frigates, three Kilo-class submarines, fifty-four guided-missile patrol boats, and at least sixteen mini-submarines. It is a force that could be beaten by the United States Navy – much as was done in 1988 – but that task may be tougher now than it was back then. To understand why just take a look at the map.
At less than sixty miles wide for most of its length, Iran can not only count on its naval forces to attack tankers in the Strait of Hormuz, but also truck-mounted and fixed-position anti-ship missile batteries on the coast, primarily consisting of the C-802 and C-201 missiles. Iran’s control of Qeshm and Larak Islands adds further reach to shore-based missiles as well. These bases could also be protected with surface-to-air missiles like the SA-10 “Grumble” that Iran has been trying to buy from Russia for years.
With missiles flying in at 685 miles per hour, even an Aegis vessel will have some problems protecting a supertanker from being hit by an anti-ship missile. The good news is that supertankers are very big, and as a result, they are very tough. Even an 1100-pound warhead from a C-201 won’t sink a supertanker. But it will create one hell of a mess. The hit will cause a fire, and it will send oil spilling out. In the “Tanker War” that took place during the Iran-Iraq War, over 500 commercial vessels were hit.
Iran’s other traditional weapon for closing the Strait of Hormuz would be mines. The shallow depth of the Strait of Hormuz (less than 300 feet deep) makes it a prime ground for moored contact mines and bottom mines. The most insidious thing about a minefield is, to paraphrase Tom Clancy, the fact that all you really need to create one is a press release. In fact, in the last thirty years, mines damaged three of the five United States warships damaged by hostile action – and the 2000 attack on USS Cole (DDG 67) was done with a makeshift mine.
What makes Iran even more capable, though, is its submarine arm. The three Kilo-class submarines are bad enough. Capable of holding 18 533mm torpedoes, they could sink a supertanker in the Strait of Hormuz, but they also are constrained by the shallow depths of the Strait of Hormuz.
Less constrained are the 16 Ghadir-class mini-subs. These subs can carry the same acoustic homing torpedoes as a Kilo-class sub, there would be a lot of them out in the Strait of Hormuz. In essence, these are mobile minefields, and a lot more dangerous than their size would lead you to believe. A North Korean sub similar to Iran’s Ghadir-class minisubs sank the South Korean corvette Cheonan, killing 46 officers and men.
In short, Iran has a lot more options to close down the Strait of Hormuz if they want to. Re-opening that important chokepoint (through which over a third of the world’s oil production transits) is likely to be a very dangerous undertaking.
The three US Marines who were killed in an Osprey crash off the coast of Australia on the evening of August 5 have been identified.
First Lt. Benjamin R. Cross, 26, of Maine; Cpl. Nathaniel F. Ordway, 21, of Kansas; and Pfc. Ruben P. Velasco, 19, of Los Angeles were killed after the MV-22B Osprey tiltrotor aircraft in which they were riding crashed, according to a Marine Corps press statement.
The Osprey was trying to land on the USS Green Bay about 18 miles off the Shoalwater Bay Training Area, in Queensland, Australia, when it crashed, the Marine Corps and CBS said. The 23 other Marines on board the aircraft were saved.
The US Navy and Marine Corps, with help from the Australian Defense Force, unsuccessfully searched for the three Marines until 3 am on the morning of August 6, the Marine Corps said.
Cross had been awarded with National Defense Service Medal and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.
He was described by his brother as having “the highest moral character — just the most caring, compassionate, empathetic individual I’ve ever met. He would do anything for anybody that needed it, so selfless, devoted to his family, and devoted to his duty in the Marine Corps, ” according to the Oxford Hills Sun Journal.
Velasco had been awarded with the National Defense Service Medal and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, and was said to have loved his family, girlfriend, and being a Marine, according to the San Gabriel Valley Tribune.
Orday had also been decorated with National Defense Service Medal and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, as well as the Sea Service Deployment Ribbon.
“The loss of every Marine is felt across our entire Marine Corps family. To the families of the brave Marines we lost – there is no way for us to understand what you are going through,” Col. Tye R. Wallace said in the press statement.
“What we do know is that your Marines left a lasting impression on the 31st MEU, the Marine Corps, and the world. They will live on forever in our thoughts and our hearts. You will always be a part of the Marine Corps family, and you will remain in our prayers.”
At least 34 people were reported killed and dozens more wounded after explosions ripped through Zaventem Airport and a metro station in Brussels on Tuesday morning.
The attacks came days after Saleh Abdeslam, a suspect in last year’s Paris attacks, was arrested in the Belgian capital, which is also the de facto capital of the European Union.
Clint Watts, a senior fellow at the George Washington University Center for Cyber and Homeland Security, said on Tuesday that the Brussels attacks were in line with an “iceberg” theory of terrorist plots.
That theory purports that, just as for every iceberg seen above water, the underlying mass of a terror network and its plots are not immediately visible — or, “for every attacker, there are usually three to four additional people who helped facilitate the plot.”
“That the eight attackers in Paris used more explosive belts than ever before seen in the West suggests a sizeable European terrorist facilitation network,”Watts wrote for War on the Rocks in November.
He added: “The iceberg theory of terrorist plots suggests we should look for two, three, or possibly four dozen extremist facilitators and supporters between Syria and France. This same network is likely already supporting other attacks in the planning phase.”
Belgian officials have long been aware of the existence of an ISIS-linked terrorist cell in Brussels, believed to be centered in the district of Molenbeek. Belgium’s interior minister, Jan Jambon, has called Molenbeek “the capital of political Islam in continental Europe,” and multiple suspects have been arrested there in connection to the Paris attacks.
Outside Belgium, at least 18 people have been detained across Europe since November for their alleged roles in the Paris attacks, The New York Times reported last weekend.
‘Considerable planning and coordination’
Tuesday’s attacks in Brussels bear a shocking similarity to the methods employed by ISIS in Paris on November 13, experts said. Those attacks are believed to have been coordinated by ISIS’ external operations wing, using multiple attacks across the city to overwhelm the police and evade capture.
Just as the Paris attackers planned their assault for at least three months prior to the attack, experts believe the attacks that rocked Brussels on Tuesday morning were most likely months in the making, the timing driven more by a desire to act before being disrupted than by revenge for Abdeslam’s arrest.
“Twin coordinated attacks on Belgian transport sites. Maybe revenge for Abdelslam, but planned and prepped ages ago,” ISIS expert Michael Weiss, author of “ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror,” tweeted on Tuesday.
“Plots like this take weeks or months to put in motion,” McCants told Business Insider on Tuesday. “If the attackers are associates of Abdeslam, then they probably moved up the timetable of a preexisting plot to avoid capture.”
Significantly, traces of explosives were found in a Brussels apartment rented by the terrorists weeks before they carried out the terrorist attacks, The New York Times reported, suggesting the existence of a makeshift bomb factory in the heart of Belgium’s capital.
Terrorism expert Mia Bloom, professor of communication at Georgia State University and author of two books on terrorist-recruitment methods, told Business Insider “a plot of this caliber requires considerable planning and coordination.”
“It is likely that Abdeslam’s cell has been plotting this prior to his arrest (there was a substantial arms cache found),” Bloom said.
She added: “Coordinated attacks (multiple attacks in the same location, happening around the same time) tend to require the most planning. While it’s impossible to know for certain, in my humble opinion, it is highly unlikely that these attacks took only a few days.”
Geopolitical and security analyst Michael Horowitz largely echoed this sentiment in a statement to Business Insider.
“I think that more than a retaliation, the attacks (likely planned months ago), were in reaction to it: The cell was likely concerned that Abdeslam would talk and his capture eventually lead to dismantling of their own cell.”
JM Berger, coauthor of “ISIS: The State of Terror,” said in an email to Business Insider that while it was “very early to draw any major conclusions,” it was “certainly possible this attack had already been planned and the timetable was moved up after the arrest.”
A sophisticated ‘foreign infrastructure’
Analysts say the terrorist network’s ability to evade law enforcement after the Paris attacks long enough to plan and execute a major attack in the heart of the EU, even if its timeline was disrupted by Abdeslam’s arrest, is testament to the deep networks jihadists have consolidated across Europe.
“The CT [counter-terrorism] federal police are actually very good,” Ben Taub, freelance contributor for The New Yorker on jihadism in Europe, tweeted on Tuesday. “It’s a numbers issue. Can’t keep up. Networks too deep.”
Jacob Miller was shot in the head at the Battle of Chickamagua on 19 September 1863. Never heard of it? The most significant Union defeat in the Western Theater of the American Civil War, the battle resulted in the second-highest number of casualties after the Battle of Gettysburg. Everyone in Miller’s unit assumed he was one of them.
The Union soldier ended up living for another 54 years. His survival was nothing short of miraculous. Why’s that? Because he had a giant bullet hole in his forehead. Left for dead on the battle field, Miller regained consciousness hours later. His firsthand account of the battle was published by The JolietDaily News in 1911. It’s a riveting read.
When I came to my senses some time after I found I was in the rear of the confederate line. So not to become a prisoner I made up my mind to make an effort to get around their line and back on my own side. I got up with the help of my gun as a staff, then went back some distance, then started parallel with the line of battle. I suppose I was so covered with blood that those that I met, did not notice that I was a Yank, (at least our Major, my former captain did not recognize me when I met him after passing to our own side).
The wound never really healed, but it’s pretty safe to assume it saved his life. What happened next?
I suffered for nine months then I got a furlough home to Logansport and got Drs. Fitch and Colman to operate on my wound. They took out the musket ball. After the operation a few days, I returned to the hospital at Madison and stayed there till the expiration of my enlistment, Sept. 17, 1864. Seventeen years after I was wounded a buck shot dropped out of my wound and thirty one years after two pieces of lead came out.
Let that sink in for a moment. Miller walked around with a bullet in his forehead for 31 years. Was he bitter? Hardly.
Some ask how it is I can describe so minutely my getting wounded and getting off the battle field after so many years. My answer is I have an everyday reminder of it in my wound and constant pain in the head, never free of it while not asleep. The whole scene is imprinted on my brain as with a steel engraving. I haven’t written this to complain of any one being in fault for my misfortune and suffering all these years, the government is good to me and gives me $40.00 per month pension.
Notice how he’s wearing a Medal of Honor? It has nothing to do with the hole in his head. Miller was awarded the medal in recognition of his gallantry in the charge of a “volunteer storming party” on 22 May 1863. Pretty inspiring stuff.
The Luftwaffe terrorized Europe during WWII. Blitzkrieg attacks by panzers and motorized infantry were supported by German fighters and bombers. Bearing the names of their designers, Junkers, Heinkel, and Messerschmitt became infamous among the Allied nations. Messerschmitt was best known for its fighter planes including the Luftwaffe’s primary fighter, the Bf 109, and the jet-powered Me 262. Although the company survived the war, it was barred from producing aircraft for ten years.
The war left Germany in a poor state. Its economy was in shambles, infrastructure was badly damaged, and manufacturing was nearly nonexistent. As the country and the continent rebuilt, fears of roadway congestion weighed heavy on people’s minds. Coupled with the scarcity and high cost of resources, European engineers turned to a radical new automobile design: the micro car.
Fritz Fend was a former Luftwaffe aeronautical engineer and technical officer. In 1948, he began building invalid carriages for disabled people. He noticed that his most popular model, the gasoline-powered Fend Fitzler tricycle, was also being purchased by able-bodied people for personal transport. Fend concluded that a two-seater model would be even more popular and adapted his design. He struck a deal with Messerschmitt to produce his new micro car at their Regensburg factory.
In 1953, Messerschmitt introduced the Kabinenroller, or “Cabin Scooter.” Based on the Flitzer, the Kabinenroller featured a monocoque chassis and a bubble canopy. Contrary to popular belief and despite their design similarities, the Kabinenroller canopies were not surplus Messerschmitt fighter canopies. The Kabinenroller platform was used to make the Messerschmitt KR175, the more powerful KR200, and the KR201 roadster. In 1956, another German company named FMR took over Kabinenroller production from Messerschmitt. Although the KR series micro cars still bore the Messerschmitt name and logo, Fend later adapted the platform into a sports car that was badged FMR.
Introduced in 1958, the Tg500 featured the same monocoque chassis, tandem seating, and bubble canopy as the Kabinenroller tricycles. However, it was fitted with a larger engine for increased speed and four wheels for improved performance. Unofficially, the “Tg” stood for Tiger, a name that stuck with the car. Confusingly, the name “Tiger” was not only the name of the most feared German tank of WWII, but also the name of a post-war truck produced by former tank maker Krupp. Despite being manufactured by FMR, the micro car Tiger is sometimes referred to as the Messerschmitt Tiger, a name that can confuse even the most ardent of WWII enthusiasts.
Because three-wheeled cars could be driven with a more affordable motorcycle license, Kabinrollers were extremely popular in Britain where they still maintain a loyal following. Overall though, the Kabinenroller was not a commercial success. Today, Kabinenroller examples are novelties that can fetch tens of thousands of dollars depending on their condition.
On July 7, 1917, the British Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps was formally established, allowing women to directly support the war by serving in France.
Due to labor demands, women were already working in weapons and munitions factories throughout Britain, but the establishment of the WAAC meant females could officially enlist in the army to perform non-combat support tasks — for a smaller salary than their male counterparts…
The harsh conditions in the factories contributed to dozens of deaths from poisoning, accidents, or explosions. Nonetheless, women weren’t deterred from doing their part. By 1917, the campaign to approve the formation of the WAAC meant that women could aid in the war effort more directly by fulfilling roles such as cookery, mechanics and clerical work, freeing up men to serve in the trenches.
By the summer of 1917, women were serving in France on the war front, even if they were restricted to menial work. The female volunteers were prohibited from becoming officers, but did rise in the ranks as “controllers” or “administrators.”
By the end of World War I, nearly 80,000 women wore the uniform as non-combatants, significantly contributing to the Allied war effort against the Central Powers in the three British women’s forces — the WAAC, the Women’s Relief Defense Corps and the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry.
China’s military is fast approaching “near parity” with western nations, according to a new report from the International Institute for Strategic Studies.
In its 2017 Military Balance report, which focuses on global military capabilities and defense spending, IISS experts say that China has made significant progress in research and development and improved its military capabilities, putting it close to on par with the US and other allies.
“Western military technological superiority, once taken for granted, is increasingly challenged,” Dr. John Chipman, Director-General and Chief Executive of IISS, said in a statement. “We now judge that in some capability areas, particularly in the air domain, China appears to be reaching near-parity with the West.”
Instead of its usual practice of working on systems that imitate Soviet and Russian technology, China has shifted its efforts (and budget) to domestic research and development. Its Navy is currently working on three new advanced cruisers, 13 destroyers, and outfitting other ships with better radar.
But China’s efforts on new aircraft have been the most effective.
“Seen on exercise last year and estimated at near-six meters in length, this developmental missile likely has the task of engaging large high-value and non-maneuvering targets,” Chapman said. “With a lofted trajectory, an engagement range around 300 kilometers would appear feasible.”
That long range makes that kind of missile particularly deadly to aircraft that supports short range fighters, such as aerial tankers and AWACS, which provide an airborne radar platform.
Interestingly, the report notes, China’s progress is “now the single most important driver for US defense developments.”
After that, an intense arms race erupted to counter this devastating threat to ships.
The Styx is a primitive missile. According to GlobalSecurity.org, it has a range of up to 54 nautical miles, based on the variant, and travels at 90 percent of the speed of sound, or around 600 miles per hour. It is radar-guided. While primitive, it can carry a 1,000-pound warhead, or roughly the same amount of high-explosives in a Mk 84 2,000-pound bomb.
The Styx is perhaps the most common of the early Russian-style anti-ship missiles out there. Versions have been made in China and North Korea.
The best way to kill the Styx – or any anti-ship missile – is to kill the platform carrying them before the missiles are launched. Second-best is to use missiles to kill the other missiles far away.
But sometimes, you don’t get to choose one of those options. Sometimes, the missile gets too close to use missiles.
That is where the Mk 15 Phalanx Close-In Weapon System comes in. This is essentially a self-contained package containing the targeting system, ammo, and a M61 Gatling gun – the same gun used on legendary warplanes like the F-4 Phantom, F-15 Eagle, F/A-18 Hornet, and F-16 Fighting Falcon.
A version is also used by the Army to shoot down rockets and mortar rounds.
The Phalanx has a top range of just under three and a half miles, but it is really only effective for just under a mile. In essence, it has six seconds to kill the target.
Fortunately, the M61 can spew out a lot of bullets in a very short period of time — up to 75 a second. Killing the missile will protect a ship from the worst of the impact, but the ship will be hurt.
However, fragment damage beats having a huge hole blown into a ship. And a damaged ship can be fixed and return to the front. Ships that are sunk are lost forever. You can see the Phalanx do its thing in the video below.
In 1948, the state of Israel was a new nation without a unified military and without sufficient weapons.
The one thing it did not lack was enemies. Surrounding Arab nations attacked Israel almost immediately, precipitating the War of Independence. The fledgling military that would eventually become the Israeli Defense Forces was desperate for weapons.
So desperate they were willing to use arms once destined for the soldiers of the Third Reich.
One of the little known facts of 1948 Arab-Israeli war is Nazi weapons armed Jewish freedom fighters, many of whom had faced the same armaments in the hands of their German oppressors during World War II and the Holocaust.
Before independence, both Great Britain and the United States embargoed weapons sales to the Yishuv, the Jewish settlers who lived in Palestine under the control of the British Mandate.
Thanks to one of the most unlikely arms deals in history, the Israeli government circumvented the embargo. The deal was part of Operation Balak, named after the biblical king of the Moabites whose name meant “he who lays waste to an enemy.”
The deal included hundreds of MG34 general purpose machine guns, which first saw action when the Germans fought in the Spanish Civil War. There were thousands of Karabiner 98 bolt-action rifles – the basic infantrymen’s weapon of the Wehrmacht.
The young Israeli Air Force even flew Czech-built Avia S-199 fighter planes, which was really the German Messerschmitt Bf 109. In fact, the Israeli pilots even called the planes “Messerschmitts.”
Even the MP-40 submachine gun – a weapons favored by Waffen-SS troops during World War II – was in the hands of the various Jewish militias that Ben-Gurion ordered absorbed into the early IDF.
Make no mistake – Israelis were happy to have the weapons, even if some the firearms still had Nazi proof marks.
“The feeling in those crucial days in Israel was that any way it could defend itself against the Arab armies attacking the young state was justified,” said Uzi Eilam, a senior research fellow with the Israel-based Institute for National Security Studies and a retired brigadier general in the IDF.
The genesis of what might qualify as the world’s most ironic arms deal is a decision made by one of the Third Reich’s leading strongmen and an unrepentant anti-Semite: Hermann Göring.
In 1938, Göring was in charge of administering the Nazi’s Four Year Plan, a program of economic development and increased arms production in violation of the Versailles Treaty. At the same time, Hitler’s goal of taking European territory without firing a shot was moving along briskly, including the annexation of part of Czechoslovakia under the terms of the Munich Agreement – the infamous treaty that British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain said granted “peace for our time.”
What it really did was place Czech heavy-industry under Nazi control. Göring later ordered the Skoda works transformed into weapons production plants – the Hermann Göring Werke complex that became one of the leading arms production plants for the Reich.
The plant made thousands of rifles and machine guns for German use throughout World War II. After World War II when Czechoslovakia was occupied by the Red Army, the Soviets captured the German weapons and the plants.
By 1947, Jewish political leaders knew independence could only be achieved through warfare. Surprisingly, Communist-controlled Czechoslovakia was open to a deal.
“The Czech government agreed because they had a huge surplus of German weapons, some of which had been produced in Czechoslovakia during the war, and because they got paid – in dollars,” said Martin van Creveld, an Israeli military historian and theorist. “By the summer of 1948, the IDF had enough (weapons) to arm all its troops, so no more imports were needed.”
Czechoslovakia sold the weapons to Israel with Joseph Stalin’s blessing, no less, probably in the hope that the deal might persuade the new Israeli government to lean toward a close relationship with the U.S.S.R. That didn’t happen, and eventually the Soviet Union adopted a staunchly pro-Arab foreign policy.
Eventually, Israel would eventually acquire weapons from other sources, including British Sten guns, French 65-millimeter howitzers and other leftovers from World War II.
But Nazi weapons stayed in Israel’s arsenals. The Israelis dubbed the Karabiner 98 bolt-action rifle the P-18. Re-chambered in Israeli arsenals for the 7.62 x 51 millimeter NATO round, it saw active service during the 1956 Suez Crisis before designated a weapon for reservists by the IDF.
Many of those German rifles remained in use through the 1970s.
The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they’re always capturing what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:
Air Force Emergency Medical Technicians hop over a barrier during the ‘Commando Challenge’ for the 27th Special Operations Medical Group’s EMT Rodeo Aug. 9, 2017, at Melrose Air Force Range, New Mexico. Twenty-one teams from Air Force bases around the world visited MAFR and Cannon Air Force Base, New Mexico, to participate in the EMT Rodeo, giving the technicians a wide assortment of scenarios to test their knowledge and training in the medical field.
Two combat controllers with the 321st Special Tactics Squadron observe an A-10 Thunderbolt II landing on Jägala-Käravete Highway, Aug. 10, in Jägala, Estonia. A small force of eight Special Tactics combat controllers from the 321st STS surveyed the two-lane highway, deconflicted airspace and exercised command and control on the ground and in the air to land A-10s from Maryland Air National Guard’s 104th Fighter Squadron on the highway.
A Soldier with 23rd Brigade Engineer Battalion, 1-2 Stryker Brigade Combat team, 7th Infantry Division reaches for her drink tube during an operational test of the Integrated Head Protection System (IHPS) and Tactical Communication and Protective System Lite (TCAPS-L) hearing protection on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, August 8, 2017. Soldiers put the IHPS and TCAPS-L to the test while conducting training and gave feedback to data collectors about how the new equipment performed.
Soldiers from A Battery, 1st Battalion, 37th Field Artillery Regiment, provide the 15-gun salute during the Honors Ceremony, Aug. 8, 2017, held for the outgoing I Corps Deputy Commanding General, Maj. Gen. Mark Stammer, in Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington. During the ceremony Stammer received the Legion of Merit and his wife, Donna, was awarded The Outstanding Civilian Service Medal.
U.S. Navy Sailors direct an aircraft aboard the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68), Aug. 9, 2017, in the Arabian Gulf. Nimitz is deployed in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. While in this region, the ship and strike group are conducting maritime security operations to reassure allies and partners, preserve freedom of navigation, and maintain the free flow of commerce.
The Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Philippine Sea (CG 58) fires its 5-inch gun during a live-fire exercise as a part of exercise Saxon Warrior 2017. The U.S. and United Kingdom co-hosted carrier strike group exercise demonstrates interoperability and capability to respond to crises and deter potential threats.
U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Eric M. Smith, left, commanding general of 1st Marine Division, and Maj. Rich Mackenzie, infantry officer with U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific, hike to Alligator Creek, Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands, Aug. 9, 2017. The tour was used to teach the Marines about Alligator Creek and the Battle of Guadalcanal, which took place from Aug. 7, 1942 to Feb. 9, 1943.
Sgt. Kyle H. Csizmar, a squad leader with India Company, Battalion Landing Team, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, takes point during close-quarters battle training aboard the USS Ashland (LSD 48) while underway in the Pacific Ocean, August 7, 2017. Marines with India Company, the mechanized raid company for the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, train regularly to enhance their understanding and capabilities for battle at close quarters. The 31st MEU partners with the Navy’s Amphibious Squadron 11 to form the Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group. The 31st MEU and PHIBRON 11 combine to provide a cohesive blue-green team capable of accomplishing a variety of missions across the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.
The Coast Guard Cutter Eagle, “America’s Tall Ship,” arrives in New York City, August 11, 2017. The summer 2017 deployment spans five months and 14 ports, including multiple ports along the Eastern Seaboard, Canada, and Bermuda
Petty Officer 2nd Class Evan Staph, an aviation survival technician at Coast Guard Air Station Cape Cod, is hoisted from a Station Boston 45-foot rescue boat to an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter, during a training exercise, Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2017, in Boston Harbor. Shortly after the training completed, the aircrew was diverted to hoist an injured fisherman off the coast of Gloucester.
The Dec. 13 crash of a MV-22B Osprey off the coast of Okinawa is the eighth involving this plane – and the fourth since the plane was introduced into service in 2007. Over its lengthy RD process and its operational career, 39 people have been killed in accidents involving the V-22 Osprey.
Sounds bad, right?
Well, the Osprey is not the first revolutionary aircraft to have high-profile crashes. The top American ace of World War II, Richard Bong, was killed while carrying out a test flight of a Lockheed YP-80, America’s first operational jet fighter.
The top American ace of the Korean War, Joseph McConnell, died when the F-86H he was flying crashed.
That said, the V-22 came close to cancellation numerous times during the 1990s, and killing it was a priority of then-Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney. He failed, and the United States got a game-changing aircraft.
It should be noted that most of the 39 fatalities happened during the RD phase of the Osprey program.
The July 2000 crash was the worst, with 19 Marines killed when the V-22 they were on crashed during a simulated night assault mission. According to an article in the September 2004 issue of Proceedings, the Osprey involved crashed due to a phenomenon known as “vortex ring state.”
The December 2000 Osprey crash that killed all four on board had a more mundane cause. The plane suffered a failure in its hydraulic system, causing the tiltrotor to start an uncontrolled descent.
Wired.com reported in 2005 that a software glitch caused the plane to reset on each of the eight occasions that the crew tried to reset the Primary Flight Control System. The Osprey’s 1,600-foot fall ended in a forest.
Since entering service in July 2007, the Osprey’s track record has been much stronger.
Counting the most recent crash, there have been four Osprey accidents in the nine years and four months the V-22 has been operational. Two of those crashes, one in April 2010 that involved a special operations CV-22 in Afghanistan and an MV-22 in Morocco that crashed in April 2012, killed six personnel.
The crashes in December 2012 and the one earlier this week, resulted in no fatalities.
Three other personnel died in accidents: A Marine died in October 2014 when a life preserver failed, according to the San Diego Union Tribune. In May 2015, a fire after an Osprey “went down” killed two Marines per an Associated Press report.
Despite the recent incidents, the V-22 has been remarkably safe, particularly in combat.
None have been lost to enemy fire, a distinction that many helicopters cannot boast. The CH-53 series of helicopters, saw over 200 personnel killed in crashes by the time of a 1990 Los Angeles Times report, which came 15 years before a January 2005 crash that killed 31 personnel.
The BBC reported at the time that the helicopter was on a mission near Rutbah, Iraq.
American tankers were slightly late to the armored game, historically. Britain first rolled out the tank in the Battle of the Somme in 1916, before America even joined the war. In fact, America wasn’t even able to get its first tank, the M1917, to production in time to fight in World War I.
But America came roaring back in World War II with pioneers of armored doctrine, including the first American tank officer, George S. Patton. Since then, tanks have had a respected place in the pantheon of American combat arms. Today, tankers drive the M1 Abrams tanks into battle. Here’s what makes them so lethal.
Abrams tanks are highly mobile, capable of propelling themselves at speeds of over 40 mph despite their approximately 68 short tons of weight. That weight goes even higher if the tank is equipped with protection kits like the Tank Urban Survival Kit (TUSK).
Once it gets within range of its target, the Abrams crew can fire their 120mm smoothbore cannon, the M256A1. The cannon can use a variety of ammunition including high-explosive, anti-tank (HEAT) ammo; canister rounds that are basically tank-sized shotgun shells; and sabot rounds, depleted uranium darts that shoot through armor and turn into a fast-moving cloud of razor-sharp, white-hot bits of metal inside the enemy tank.
Marines with 1st Tank Battalion fire the M1A1 Abrams tank during the 11th Annual Tank Gunnery Competition at Range 500, Feb. 20, 2016. The competition was divided into six segments to test the skills of the tank crewmen. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Ali Azimi)
These tank rounds make short work of most enemy tanks, but they’re also heavy. Loaders have to move them from storage racks to the gun by hand, and each round weighs between 40 and 51 pounds.
A pallet full of 120mm rounds sit waiting to be loaded and fired from the M1A2 tanks during gunnery. Considering that just one 120mm round weighs roughly 50 pounds, an entire 14-tank company is a force to be reckoned with. (Photo: U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Leah Kilpatrick)
While Abrams can survive open warfare, crews prefer to hide and maneuver their tanks into better position as often as possible to protect the tank from enemy infantry, armor, and air assets. Covering the tank in local camouflage is a good first step, and using the terrain to mask movement is important as well.
Concealment is tricky in a tank, but it increases survivability and allows the tanks to conduct ambushes.
Army and Marine Corps logistics officers have to work hard to ensure the heavy tanks can always be deployed where they are needed. While Abrams can be airlifted, its much cheaper to ship them by boat.
When it would be dangerous or too expensive to drive the tanks to their objective, they can be loaded onto trains or special trucks for delivery.
But the most impressive way to deliver an Abrams is still definitely driving it off a plane.
The tanks can operate in most environments, everything from snow-covered plains…
An M1A2 Abrams Tanks belonging to 1st Battalion, 68th Armored Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade, 4th Infantry Division fires off a round Jan. 26, 2017 in Trzebien, Poland. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Corinna Baltos)
…to scrub-covered plains…
Marines with Company A, 4th Tank Battalion, 4th Marine Division, Marine Forces Reserve, fire a M1A1 Abrams Main Battle Tank during their annual training at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., July 19, 2016. Marines fired the tanks to adjust their battle sight zero before the main event of their annual training. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Gabrielle Quire)
…to sandy deserts.
An M1A2 Abrams Main Battle Tank fires suppressive rounds at targets during Hammer Strike, a brigade level live-fire exercise conducted by the 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, at the Udairi Range Complex near Camp Buehring, Kuwait. (Photo: U.S. Army Sgt. Christopher Johnston)
To make sure they can always get to the target, tank units sometimes bring specially equipped engineers with them. The Assault Breacher Vehicle is built on the M1 chassis but features a number of tools for breaking through enemy obstacles rather than a large number of offensive weapons.
The front of the breacher is a plow that can cut through enemy berms, creating a path for tanks.
An Assault Breacher Vehicle drives through a lane in a berm during breaching exercises aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Dec. 8, 2016. Marines with 2nd Tank Battalion along with 2nd CEB worked together to conduct breaching exercises in which they provided support fire while Assault Breacher Vehicles eliminated tank pits and created a lane in which tanks may safely travel, aboard Camp Lejeune, Dec. 8-10, 2016. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Preston McDonald)
The main purpose of the plow is to scoop up and either detonate or remove enemy mines. Mines that don’t go off are channeles to the sides of the path, creating a clear lane for following tanks.
An Assault Breacher Vehicle uses its mine plow in order to scan the surrounding area for potential threats during breaching exercises aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Dec. 8, 2016. Marines with 2nd ank Battalion along with 2nd CEB worked together to conduct breaching exercises in which they provided support fire while Assault Breacher Vehicles eliminated tank pits and created a lane in which tanks may safely travel, aboard Camp Lejeune, Dec. 8-10, 2016. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Preston McDonald)
The breacher vehicles can quickly create a lane through IEDs by firing one of their Mine-Clearing Line Charges, a rocket-towed rope of explosive cord that explodes approximately 7,000 pounds of C4, triggering IEDs and mines.
The M1 Abrams is still a titan of the battlefield, allowing tankers to be some of the most lethal soldiers and Marines in any conflict.
Marines from Company C, 1st Tank Battalion, prepare their tank for the day’s attack on Range 210 Dec. 11, 2012, during Steel Knight 13. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. D. J. Wu)
An Air Force B-1B Lancer strategic bomber taking part in a training exercise with South Korean forces was threatened by the Chinese while in international airspace.
According to a report by FoxNews.com, the threat came while the Lancer was over the East China Sea. China set up an air-defense identification zone over the East China Sea in 2013, according to the state news agency Xinhua.
The B-1B Lancer carried out its training mission despite the threat. The United States and South Korea are carrying out Foal Eagle, an annual joint exercise held with South Korea. The exercises have long been protested by North Korea. According to a DOD release from earlier this month notes that over 30,000 American and South Korean troops are taking part.
China has had a history of harassing American aircraft and naval vessels in the South China Sea, including the 2001 EP-3 incident, when an EP-3E Aries II electronic surveillance plane collided with a People’s Liberation Army Navy J-8 Finback fighter. The Chinese pilot was killed in the collision, while the EP-3E made an emergency landing. The crew was held for ten days by the Chinese.
While the South China Sea is a well-known flashpoint, the East China Sea is also the location of maritime disputes, including one between China and Japan over the Senkaku Islands.