As the Syrian military begins its push to take back opposition-held areas in northwestern Syria, Russia has provided backing through an intensifying aerial campaign.
Among the planes Moscow has used to back the Syrian military’s attempted advance is a Russian combat aircraft that some have compared to the US’s venerated A-10 Warthog.
The Russian Su-25 Frogfoot is a low-flying tank-like plane that specializes in providing aerial cover and attacking ground targets.
The Frogfoot is a sturdy plane, and according to The National Interest, the plane can keep flying after suffering damage while striking targets with precision-guided munitions.
These systems make it ideal for the kind of operation that the Assad regime and its Russian partners are trying to launch against the opposition.
“The Russian air force will use the Frogfoots to support the Assad regime in the same way the USAF is using the A-10 Warthog to support the Iraqi government,” a former US Air Force aviator told The National Interest.
Russian state-owned media outlet RT reports that since Tuesday Kremlin forces have carried out 40 airstrikes against rebel and ISIS forces throughout five Syrian provinces. The majority of these strikes occurred around the city of Aleppo and in the neighboring province of Idlib, which is completely under opposition control.
At the same time as these airstrikes, the Assad regime is massing a large counter-attack against rebel forces in Idlib, Hama, and Aleppo. The regime offensive initially stalled last week after rebels armed with anti-tank missiles destroyed several Syrian armored vehicles.
Russia launched airstrikes ahead of the Syrian military advance. Iran has also sent additional soldiers to Syria to help bolster the government around Hama, and to prepare for a possible offensive against Aleppo, Syria’s largest city.
In the past, Saudi Arabia and other US allies have suggested funneling man-portable air-defense systems (MANPADs) to the Syrian rebels to help shoot down Syrian, and now Russian, fighter jets.
MANPADs are relatively easy-to-use shoulder-launched missiles that could prove to be of pivotal importance against low-flying aircraft, like Russia’s Su-25s.
During the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the CIA provided Stinger missiles to anti-Soviet forces, weapons that allowed the mujahedeen to down enemy transport planes and attack helicopters. The use of the missiles bogged down Soviet forces and led to an eventual Soviet withdrawal from the country.
The US has consistently opposed the idea of providing MANPADs and other anti-aircraft weaponry to Syrian rebels, as the weapons could conceivably end up in the hands of al Qaeda or its affiliates and could be used to down a civilian airliner or a US military aircraft.
At least for now, the Frogfoots are largely uncontested in Syria’s skies.
The Navy is modernizing its destroyers and cruisers with Aegis technology equipped with new multi-mission signal processors, kill assessment systems, radio frequency upgrades and various on-board circuits, service officials said.
The upgrades are part of an intense service effort to better arm its fleet of destroyers and cruisers with modernized Aegis radar technologies engineered to both help the ships better attack adversaries and defend against enemy missiles.
Aegis radar, a technology now on destroyers and cruisers, is aimed at providing terminal phase ballistic missile defense and an ability to knock out or intercept attacking enemy cruise missiles.
Raytheon has been awarded a $20 million deal extension to perform these Aegis upgrades.
The Navy is both modernizing current Aegis technology on board existing ships and also building upgrades into ships now under construction. These new upgrades are designed to build upon the most current iteration of Aegis technology, called Baseline 9.
The Aegis modernization program hope to achieve combat system upgrades that will enhance the anti-air warfare and ballistic missile defense capabilities of Aegis-equipped DDG 51 Arleigh Burke-class destroyers and CG 47 Ticonderoga-class cruisers.
“Over the years, we’ve added capabilities (helicopters, increased VLS – vertical launch systems -lethality, improved Aegis weapon system performance, SeaRAM) without the need for a new ship program and associated delays,” Rear Adm. Ronald Boxall, director of surface warfare, said in a statement.
The next step in this continuum of modernization is equipping the next-generation DDG Flight III destroyers with the SPY-6 Air and Missile Defense Radar, Boxall added.
The Navy’s new SPY-6 is 35-times more powerful than existing ship-based radar.
Compared to the legacy SPY-1 radar, Air and Missile Defense Radar will be able to see an airborne object half as big and twice as far – and testing is proceeding apace at Pacific Missile Range Facility, where we have radiated at full power and cycle, Boxall added.
Boxall added that all new construction DDG Flight IIA ships, beginning with DDG-113, will be delivered with Aegis Baseline 9C.
This includes “identification Friend or Foe Mode 5, Close-In Weapons System Block 1B, Surface Electronic Warfare Improvement Program Block II, and the SQQ-89A (V) 15 Integrated Undersea Warfare Combat System Suite. Delivery of these capabilities will extend into the mid-term (2020-2030) and beyond,” Boxall said.
NIFC-CA New Navy Destroyers
Baseline 9 Aegis radar also includes a new fire-control system, called Naval Integrated Fire Control – Counter Air, or NIFC-CA. It has already been deployed on a Navy cruiser serving as part of the Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group in the Arabian Gulf, Navy officials told Scout Warrior.
The technology enables ship-based radar to connect with an airborne sensor platform to detect approaching enemy anti-ship cruise missiles from beyond the horizon and, if needed, launch an SM-6 missile to intercept and destroy the incoming threat, Navy officials said.
“NIFC-CA presents the ability to extend the range of your missile and extend the reach of your sensors by netting different sensors of different platforms — both sea-based and air-based together into one fire control system,” a senior Navy official said.
So far, NIFC-CA has been integrated and successful in testing with both E2-D Hawkeye surveillance aircraft and F-35 Joint Strike Fighters.
The Navy’s current plan is to build 11 Flight IIA destroyers and then shift toward building new, Flight III Arleigh Burke-class destroyers with the new SPY-6 massively more powerful radar system. Flight III Arleigh Burke destroyers are slated to be operational by 2023, Navy officials said.
There are at least Flight IIA DDG 51 Arleigh Burke-class destroyers currently under construction. DDG 113, DDG 114, DDG 117 and DDG 119 have been underway at a Huntington Ingalls Industries shipbuilding facility in Pascagoula, Mississippi and DDG 115, DDG 116 and DDG 118 are being built at a Bath Iron Works shipyard in Bath, Maine.
Existing destroyers, such as the USS John Finn and all follow-on destroyers, will receive the Aegis Baseline 9 upgrade, which includes NIFC-CA and other enabling technologies. Baseline 9 contains an upgraded computer system with common software components and processors, service officials said.
In addition, some future Arleigh Burke-class destroyers such as DDG 116 and follow-on ships will receive new electronic warfare technologies and a data multiplexing system which controls a ship’s engines and air compressors, Navy developers have said.
The NIFC-CA technology can, in concept, be used for both defensive and offensive operations, Navy officials have said.
Having this capability could impact Pentagon discussion about how potential adversaries could use long-range weapons to threaten the U.S. military and prevent its ships from operating in certain areas — such as closer to the coastline.
Having NIFC-CA could enable surface ships, for example, to operate more successfully closer to the shore of potential enemy coastlines without being deterred by the threat of long-range missiles.
Defensive applications of NIFC-CA would involve detecting and knocking down an approaching enemy anti-ship missile, whereas offensive uses might include efforts to detect and strike high-value targets from farther distances than previous technologies could.
The possibility for offensive use parallels with the Navy’s emerging “distributed lethality” strategy, wherein surface ships are increasingly being outfitted with new or upgraded weapons.
The new strategy hinges upon the realization that the U.S. Navy no longer enjoys the unchallenged maritime dominance it had during the post-Cold War years.
During the years following the collapse of the former Soviet Union, the U.S. Navy shifted its focus from possibly waging blue-water combat against a near-peer rival to focusing on things such as counter-terrorism, anti-piracy and Visit, Board Search and Seizure, or VBSS, techniques.
More recently, the Navy is again shifting its focus toward near-peer adversaries and seeking to arm its fleet of destroyers, cruisers and Littoral Combat Ships with upgraded or new weapons designed to increase its offensive fire power.
Afghan pilots will soon be attacking Taliban forces with machine guns and 20mm cannons firing from airplanes in Afghanistan — flying U.S.-provided A-29 Super Tucano aircraft, Air Force officials said.
Loaded with weapons to attack Taliban forces and engineered for “close air support,” the A-29s are turboprop planes armed with one 20mm cannon below the fuselage able to shoot 650 rounds per minute, one 12.7mm machine gun (FN Herstal) under each wing and up to four 7.62mm Dillion Aero M134 Miniguns able to shoot up to 3,000 rounds per minute.
Super Tucanos are also equipped with 70mm rockets, air-to-air missiles such as the AIM-9L Sidewinder, air-to-ground weapons such as the AGM-65 Maverick and precision-guided bombs. It can also use a laser rangefinder and laser-guided weapons.
Four A-29s have been delivered so far as part of an effort to equip the Afghan Army with up to 20 aircraft, Heidi Grant, Under Secretary of the Air Force, International Affairs, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
“Afghan pilots have been training here and learning English in the U.S. A class of eight pilots recently graduated a class at Moody AFB. They are back in Afghanistan. My hope is that in the next month or so you are going to see them doing some close air support for their Army,” Grant added.
Close air support will enable the Afghan Army to better target and destroy groups of Taliban fighters in close-proximity to their forces, giving them a decisive lethal advantage from the air.
The Super Tucano is a highly maneuverable light attack aircraft able to operate in high temperatures and rugged terrain. It is 11.38 meters long and has a wingspan of 11.14 meters; its maximum take-off weight is 5,400 kilograms. The aircraft has a combat radius of 300 nautical miles, can reach speeds up to 367 mph and hits ranges up to 720 nautical miles.
The U.S. is buying them for the Afghans through a special Afghan Security Forces fund that Congress has appropriated, she explained. They are being built by Sierra Nevada out of Jacksonville, Fla. – an effort which brings jobs to the U.S., she added.
“They are right now doing top off tactics training. They trained here in the U.S. but they needed to get into country to do the top-off tactics training,” Grant said.
The presence of armed “close air support” aircraft for the Afghan Army could have a substantial combat impact upon ongoing war with the Taliban – who have no aircraft.
Also, the arrival of the air support comes at a time when some observers, military leaders and lawmakers are concerned about combat progress in Afghanistan, openly questioning President Obama’s plan to reduce U.S. forces from 9,800 to 5,500 by 2017. Outgoing CentCom Commander Gen. Lloyd Austin III and Sen. John McCain have been among those expressing concern.
At the same time, the presence of combat-changing air-attack ability for Afghan forces could engender a circumstance wherein the U.S. could reduce its presence without compromising ongoing progress in the war against the Taliban.
1. Legionnaires are instilled with a “fight to the death” attitude. Giving up is not really an option.
In April 1863, a battle between the French Foreign Legion and the Mexican army showed how effective and ballsy legionnaires really could be. With a total of just 65 men, the legionnaires fought back against a force of approximately 3,000 at the Battle of Camarón. Despite the overwhelming odds, the small patrol of legionnaires inflicted terrible losses on the Mexican forces and they refused to surrender.
Instead, their French officers actually called on the larger Mexican force to surrender multiple times. Holed up inside of a hacienda, only five men remained able to fight (most were killed or wounded) — and incredibly — mounted a bayonet charge against the opposing force, until they were ultimately surrounded and forced to surrender.
“Is this all of them? Is this all of the men who are left?” a Mexican Major said at the time, according to the book Camerone by James W. Ryan. “These are not men! They are demons!”
The Legion still celebrates and commemorates the battle today — and the wooden hand of their slain commander, Capt. Danjou, is the most prized possession at the Legion’s museum in Aubagne, writes Max Hastings.
2. Legionnaires who are wounded are granted automatic French citizenship.
Though troops serving the Legion hail from 138 different countries, they can become French citizens eventually. After serving at least three years honorably, they can apply to be citizens. But they also have a much quicker path: If they are wounded on the battlefield, they can become citizens through a provision called “Français par le sang versé” (“French by spilled blood”), according to The Telegraph.
The French government allowed this automatic citizenship provision in 1999.
3. More than 35,000 foreigners have been killed in action while serving with the Legion.
Throughout its history, the French Foreign Legion — and the fighters who make up its ranks — were seen as expendable. The foreigners who continue to join do so accepting the possibility of their death in a far-off place, in exchange for a new life with some sense of purpose. But meaningless sacrifice has gradually become a virtue in itself, according to a Vanity Fair article about the Legion.
“It’s like this,” an old legionnaire told William Langeweische of Vanity Fair. “There is no point in trying to understand. Time is unimportant. We are dust from the stars. We are nothing at all. Whether you die at age 15 or 79, in a thousand years there is no significance to it. So f–k off with your worries about war.”
4. The Legion used to accept anyone — criminals and misfits especially — with no questions, but now there is a thorough screening process.
Since its founding in 1831, the Legion has become the one place of escape for those with haunted pasts. Men with criminal records, shady business dealings, or deserters from their home country’s armies were accepted into the ranks, with no questions asked. Stripped of their old identity and given a new one, the new legionnaires are able to begin their new life with the slate wiped clean.
The legion will still accept deserters and other minor miscreants, but it’s not as easy as it once was. New recruits are given a battery of physical, intelligence, and psychological tests before they even get any kind of training. Later on in the process, recruits are screened for “motivation” in order to weed out those who don’t have the drive to make it in the ranks.
Finally, after countless hours spent lingering in uncomfortable conditions, the only thing standing between us and a spot with the Legion was what was referred to as the “Gestapo.” Rumor had it that at this point, the Legion knew everything about you. The word Interpol is thrown around a lot—any financial, criminal, family, and employment background information is supposedly fair game. Call it a hunch, but I think that’s bullshit. Make no mistake, I believe someone, somewhere has access to all of that information. But a sweaty, apathetic French administration in a run-down, quasi-bureaucratic shithole in suburban Marseille isn’t that someone or somewhere. In any case, they called me in for an interrogation.
While they may not necessarily be running from their past when they join the Legion these days, all new legionnaires are still stripped of their old identities and given new ones, which they maintain for at least their first year of service.
“Legionnaires begin a new life when they join,” a legionnaire named Capt. Michel told NBC News. “Each and every one of them is allowed to keep his past a secret.”
5. The pay is terrible, and so are the benefits.
Legion recruiters could easily steal the infamous U.S. Marine Corps recruiting poster with the slogan, “We don’t promise you a rose garden.” The pay is terrible, as are the benefits, but that doesn’t seem to matter. Despite the promise of a very rough life and the possibility of being sent to fight anywhere, thousands continue to show up each year.
Legionnaires can expect deployments to austere environments and/or see plenty of combat. The Legion is currently in Afghanistan and Mali, for example.
Their starting pay is roughly $1450 per month for at least the first couple of years in. That’s a pretty small paycheck compared to the lowest-ranking U.S. Army soldier making $1546, which is guaranteed to go up to $1733 after being automatically promoted six months later (if they don’t get in trouble of course).
There is at least one bonus to the Legion if you fancy yourself a drinker: There’s plenty of booze. Even in a combat zone, legionnaires are drinking in their off time, and their culture of heavy drinking would make any frat-boy blush.
When Harold Berg stepped onto the white beach of Guadalcanal in late July, he carried memories of the battle he participated in 75 years ago, and also of his buddies he left behind.
“That to me, is the greatest thing. I didn’t know the men who died, but I’ll be representing the Marines that should be there. I feel that I am doing that,” he said. “I feel that I am representing the Marines who should be there.”
Berg, 91, is among the last of the World War II Raiders, an elite unit that was the precursor of special operations in the US military. And this soft-spoken, former insurance salesman from Central Peoria is the only veteran of that battle able to make the trip to the Solomon Islands for the dedication of a new memorial to honor the Raiders who fought and died there.
And what a trip. He flew from Peoria to Los Angeles to a small airport in the Fiji Islands. From there, he caught a connecting flight to Guadalcanal, a mere five hours away. Also to be present were members of the modern Raiders, the Marines with the US Marine Corps Special Operations Command, which carries on the namesake of their World War II brethren.
Berg was asked to participate because he is among the last of those who served in the original Raider battalions, which were based upon British commando units. The two-year experiment was a way to bring the fight more quickly to the Japanese who, until Guadalcanal, had ridden roughshod across the Pacific. Raiders weren’t designed to win big battles.
They conducted small unit raids. Essentially, they were to land on Japanese-held islands before the main force of Marines, disrupt the beach defenses, and to cause as many casualties and as much destruction as they could. They were on their own, without much support.
Berg dropped out of Woodruff High School as a junior and enlisted in the Marines when he was 17. “It might not be politically correct, but I wanted to fight the Japanese,” he told the Journal Star late last year.
And he did, participating in Guadalcanal, where he waded ashore in early 1943. The bulk of the fighting was over, but thousands of Japanese soldiers still were on the island looking to kill as many GIs as they could. He also was wounded in Guam and participated in the battles for Saipan, Bouganville, and New Georgia.
After the Raiders were folded into the 4th Marine Regiment, he participated in Okinawa as a squad leader. All 12 of his men were killed or wounded during the fighting. He, too, was injured in the Pacific’s last big campaign.
Berg wants to go not just to honor his fallen Marines but also to bring history to life for the younger generation. For many, he says, the war has become nothing more than words on paper. By talking at memorials or reunions or functions, Berg shows a more human side and that it was, indeed, real.
“I have a lot of friends that I meet every week and I tell them what I see,” he said of his frequent outings with area veterans. And his son, Brad Berg, agrees.
“This is a chance to tell his story and for others to hear it. Am I nervous? Yes, he’s going a long way, but he’s going back there to help and to honor the Marines and others,” his son said. “I am proud of him.”
A US air attack in Northern Syria appears to have killed a very senior member of al-Qaeda along with other terrorists on Sunday, Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook told reporters.
The strike targeted a senior operational al-Qaeda meeting in Northwest Syria and resulted in several enemy kills, he added.
“We assess that al-Qaida’s senior leader, Abu Firas al-Suri, was in that meeting, and we are working to confirm his death. Al-suri is a Syrian national and legacy al-Qaeda member. He fought in Afghanistan in the 80s and 90s and worked with Osama Bin Laden – another founding al Qadea members to train terrorist and conduct attacks globally,” Cook said.
Cook added that no additional details of the attack would be available.
Senior Member of al Qaeda Killed in Somalia
The Defense Department has also confirmed that al-Shabab senior leader Hassan Ali Dhoore was killed in a March 31 U.S. military airstrike in Somalia. As one of the top leaders of al-Qaida’s Somalian affiliate, Dhoore was a member of al-Shabaab’s security and intelligence wing and was heavily involved in high-profile attack planning in Mogadishu, Cook said in a Pentagon statement.
“He has planned and overseen attacks resulting in the death of at least three U.S. citizens,” Cook explained.
While shopping privileges exclude the purchase of uniforms, alcohol and tobacco products, it includes the Exchange Services’ dynamic online retail environment known so well to service members and their families. This policy change follows careful analysis, coordination and strong public support.
“We are excited to provide these benefits to honorably discharged veterans to recognize their service and welcome them home to their military family,” said Peter Levine, performing the duties for the under secretary of defense for personnel and readiness.
“In addition, this initiative represents a low-risk, low-cost opportunity to help fund Morale, Welfare and Recreation programs in support of service members’ and their families’ quality of life. And it’s just the right thing to do,” Levine added.
The online benefit will also strengthen the exchanges’ online businesses to better serve current patrons. Inclusion of honorably discharged veterans would conservatively double the exchanges’ online presence, thereby improving the experience for all patrons through improved vendor terms, more competitive merchandise assortments, and improved efficiencies, according to DoD officials.
“As a nation, we are grateful for the contributions of our service members. Offering this lifetime online benefit is one small, tangible way the nation can say, ‘Thank you’ to those who served with honor,” Levine said.
NOW WATCH: Pentagon considers lifetime access to Exchange system for vets
Lt. Col. Megan A. Brogden was handed a flag today that was full of symbolism.
It marked her new position as a battalion commander and all the responsibilities associated with that job.
It marked the pinnacle of her U.S. Army career so far.
And it marked a milestone in the continued diversification of Army special operations.
Brogden, who assumed command of the Group Support Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group, is the first woman to assume command of a battalion within any of the Army’s seven Special Forces groups.
“It was a very humbling moment,” she said after the ceremony on Fort Bragg’s Meadows Field. “It’s such a great organization.”
But while happy to take on the challenges and proud of her accomplishments, Brogden is hesitant to mark herself as breaking new ground or smashing through any so-called glass ceilings.
“I don’t necessarily see it as much of a milestone,” she said. “I didn’t go to Ranger school or selection. It’s a lot about timing.”
Officials have called Brogden’s assuming command a historic moment for 3rd Group and the rest of the Special Forces Regiment. But during the change of command, leaders made clear that she was chosen for her expertise and leadership, not because she is a woman.
“She is without a doubt the right choice to assume command of this great unit at this time,” said Col. Bradley D. Moses, the 3rd Special Forces Group commander who passed the battalion colors to Brogden, symbolically starting her time in command.
Moses said Brogden has an unwavering dedication to soldiers, and a long history of supporting and leading special operations soldiers and maintaining the force.
“You’re a great officer, Megan. Smart, humble and full of energy. It’s an honor to serve with you again,” he said. “Lead from the front. Focus on the mission and take care of your soldiers and their families. I look forward to working with you in the days ahead.”
Brogden said the Group Support Battalion has a noteworthy reputation. It’s the largest, most diverse of five battalions within the 3rd Special Forces Group, charged with supporting Special Forces teams deployed to remote and austere environments in Africa and the Middle East.
“They have an awesome reputation,” she said.
And for the next two years, she said, she’ll work to build on that reputation and innovate to better support soldiers and their missions.
In taking command, Brogden said she feels no added pressure due to her gender. She said her selection as battalion commander shows the continuing growth of women within the special operations community.
“I think the doors are already opening, and if females want to be in the Special Forces community, the opportunities are there,” Brogden said.
She noted that women are already assigned within the Group Support Battalion, have served within U.S. Army Special Operations Command as civil affairs and psychological operations soldiers for nearly two decades and have served in cultural support teams with Army Rangers and as part of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment.
Capt. Christopher Webb, a spokesman for the 3rd Special Forces Group, said the percentage of women serving in special operations is comparable to the active Army. The first female service members served alongside the predecessors of today’s special operations soldiers as early as World War II, he said.
But there’s little doubt that the role of women in special operations is changing. In addition to filling more leadership roles, USASOC continues to integrate women into previously closed military jobs, officials said, stressing that standards have and will remain high for any position.
Brogden took command from Lt. Col. Chris Paone, who had led the Group Support Battalion, also known as the Nomads, for two years.
Moses honored the work the battalion has done under Paone’s command, praising his role in a massive shift that saw the 3rd Group’s mission focus move from Afghanistan to Africa.
Along the way, Paone and the battalion had to adjust from the resource-rich Central Command area of operations to a more austere environment, often hours away from supply lines.
The Group Support Battalion, on any given day, has soldiers deployed to about 12 countries in North and West Africa. It also has soldiers in Afghanistan, working alongside local partners.
The battalion, formed more than a decade ago, has more than 400 soldiers assigned to more than 35 military occupational specialties, and nine officer branches. The soldiers provide communications and electronics support, military intelligence, food service, chemical reconnaissance, supply and services, transportation, maintenance, water purification, medical support, engineering, water purification, parachute rigging, unmanned aerial reconnaissance, contracting support and more.
Paone praised the soldiers and battalion leaders. The special operations community needs leaders to be team-builders, Paone said. And there’s no doubt Brogden is uniquely qualified.
“The battalion can only benefit from your strong sustainment experience,” he said. “Best of luck.”
Brogden is a native of Myrtle Creek, Oregon, and was commissioned as a quartermaster officer from Oregon State University. She has served in Korea, within the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois, and at Fort Lewis in Washington.
With the 82nd Airborne, she was executive officer for Headquarters and Headquarters Company, deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan. She also served in other Fort Bragg units including as J4 plans chief at Joint Special Operations Command and, most recently, as secretary of the general staff for the 3rd Expeditionary Sustainment Command.
According to her Army bio, Brogden served two tours with a Joint Special Operations Task Force in Afghanistan and Kuwait.
She said her past experiences have molded her into the leader she is today and will help guide her in the future.
In words of advice to younger female officers, Brogden said they will need to challenge themselves as officers and take the tough jobs that will develop them into leaders.
For Brogden, those jobs have often put her in contact with leaders who have become mentors. On Friday, many of those mentors were by her side. They included retired generals, such as Lt. Gen. Kathy Gainey, Brig. Gen. Ed Donnelly and Maj. Gen. Jim Hodge; and other leaders, including Col. Kathy Graef, Col. Geoff Kent and her most recent former commander, Brig. Gen. Chris Sharpsten.
Brogden’s military awards and decorations include the Bronze Star medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters and numerous other honors. She is also authorized to wear the Combat Action Badge, Parachutist Badge, Rigger Badge, German Parachutist Wings and a Joint Meritorious Unit Achievement Medal.
Few generals have had the lasting impact that Gen. George S. Patton has had.
Patton, who commanded the US’s 7th Army in Europe and the Mediterranean during World War II, is perhaps just as well known for his amazing insight into what makes for excellent and successful leadership.
Here’s a few of our favorites quotes from America’s “Ol’ Blood and Guts.”
“Do everything you ask of those you command.”
Sgt. Maj. Scott T. Pile speaks to 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit Marines and sailors embarked aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island parked pierside at Naval Base San Diego Aug. 9. | US Marine Corps
“No good decision was ever made in a swivel chair.”
US Marine Corps
“Any man who thinks he’s indispensable, ain’t.”
US Army Photo
“As long as man exists, there will be war.”
US Marine Corps
“Do more than is required of you.”
“Take calculated risks.”
US Marine Corps
“Do not make excuses, whether it’s your fault or not.”
Drill Instructor Sgt. Jonathan B. Reeves inspects and disciplines recruits with Platoon 1085, Charlie Company, 1st Recruit Training Battalion, at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina. | US Marine Corps
“Fame never yet found a man who waited to be found.”
US Air Force
“A pint of sweat will save a gallon of blood.”
“You’re never beaten until you admit it.”
Sgt. William Wickett, 2nd Radio Battalion, performs a rescue drill during the Marine Corps Instructor of Water Survival Course at Marine Corps Base Camp Johnson, N.C., March 5, 2013. | US Marine Corps
“It’s the unconquerable soul of man, and not the nature of the weapon he uses, that ensures victory.”
“Genius comes from the ability to pay attention to the smallest detail.”
US Marine Corps
“Do your duty as you see it and damn the consequences.”
A US Marine with the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), Battalion Landing Team, Alpha Company 1/4, throws a training grenade during a live fire and movement grenade training exercise at Arta Range, Djibouti, Feb. 18, 2014. | US Marine Corps
“It’s better to fight for something in life than to die for nothing.”
US Marine Corps
“Success is how you bounce on the bottom.”
US Marines and Sailors competed in the 2015 Commanding General’s Cup Mud Run at Camp Pendleton, California, June 12, 2015. | US Marine Corps
“Know what you know, and know what you don’t know.”
“Never make a decision too early or too late.”
US Marine Corps
“No one is thinking if everyone is thinking alike.”
US Marine Lance Cpl. Michael Farris, an Artillery Cannoneer assigned to 1st Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment, Alpha Battery, carries a round back to his gun to resupply before a fire mission aboard Pohakuloa Training Are, Hawaii, Sept. 5, 2014. | US Marine Corps
It’s not just about air shows or conferences anymore for defense aerospace companies.
Firms are showcasing their goods for US military leaders outside the usual weapons buying process, facing off with one another to prove who has the best platform — and who could win the big contracts.
“We’re experimenting and innovating, and we’re doing it in new and faster ways,” Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said August 9 during a media day for the service’s “light attack experiment” at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico, the most recent opportunity for plane-makers to strut their stuff.
She also gave a sneak peek into the service’s plans for more rapid acquisition experiments in the future, including an upcoming drone battle dubbed, “Thunderdrone.”
Wilson said the service wants to look at drone swarm data and performance, and other ways small unmanned aerial surveillance vehicles can be used on the battlefield and beyond.
The Thunderdrone drone-battle event, to be held September 5 through November 3, will take place in a “state-of-the-art, 7,000 square-foot, indoor drone test range for drone experimentation, prototyping, and testing,” according to its host, Tampa-based SOFWERX.
SOFWERX is a partnership between US Special Operations Command and the Doolittle Institute, a rapid innovation office that works to bring service members collaborative solutions by connecting private companies with the Defense Department.
Thunderdrone will bring together defense, industry, and academia to test “drones (sea, land, air, and space), tactical swarms, payloads (kinetic/non-kinetic), and their associated data science applications for the Special Operations community,” SOFWERX says.
Part of the “rapid prototyping event” aims to apply innovative thinking to “existing or envisioned voids” warfighters may face and come up with solutions, the organization’s website says.
How a drone’s performance will be measured has not been disclosed, but the special operationscommunity will give feedback, the site says.
In addition, “using SOF and USSOCOM feedback, Thunderdrone may also pick and fund a select few technologies for further development following the [rapid prototyping event],” SOFWERX says.
Before the advent of stealth technology, the variable that mattered more than any other in terms of tactical aircraft survivability and lethality was speed. So in 1955 the U.S. Air Force issued a request for a high-altitude, long-range bomber that could go Mach 3 while carrying either a conventional or nuclear payload. After a few trips to the drawing board and some mods to the Air Force’s requirements, North American Aviation was awarded a developmental contract based on their submission.
Enter the B-70 Valkyrie, a revolutionary scream-machine that was nearly four times as fast as the legacy B-52s it was designed to replace. The Valkyrie was huge — 185 feet long and 30 feet tall with a maximum takeoff weight at a whopping 542,000 pounds. The bomber was powered by six General Electric J-93GE turbojet engines that could each deliver 30,000 pounds of thrust in full afterburner. But it’s massive size and power was belied by sleek lines that made it arguably the most aesthetically-pleasing aircraft ever built.
The B-70 had a crew of four — a pilot, co-pilot, bombardier, and defense systems operator each seated in comfortable cocoons with clamshell doors. In the event of an emergency each cocoon could rocket away from the aircraft individually.
The Valkyrie used “compression lift” — a phenomenon that occurs when a conical body (the fuselage) under the center of a wing pushes air to the sides, which increases pressure and therefore lift — to travel upwards of 7,500 nautical miles supersonic. At takeoff the wingtips were straight, but a high speeds they’d angle down as much as 65 degrees to create the necessary compression.
The bomber had a number of unorthodox moving parts including movable canards on the nose and a ramp in front of the windscreen that would raise at high speed to create a more aerodynamic airframe (and it also gave the pilot very poor visibility in that regime).
Mach 3 creates a lot of air friction, and friction creates heat, so the Valkyrie was built with honeycomb stainless steel and (sparingly, like 9 percent) titanium, which was expensive and in short supply back in those days.
North American was funded to built a single test aircraft — designated the XB-70 — at a cost of $750 million. The inaugural test flight was delayed by maintenance and other technical issues by three years. All of the Valkyrie’s revolutionary subsystems came with their own problems — honeycomb structures broke, hydraulic systems hemorrhaged fluid, and control surfaces didn’t fit right.
At the same time the tactical world began to change. Better ICBMs made Air Force planners wonder whether they needed long-range bombers at all. And the introduction of the Soviet-made SA-2 surface-to-air missile rendered even the speedy B-70 vulnerable. Based on these factors as well as the projected cost of the Valkyrie, the Eisenhower administration grew sour on the program. The Air Force reduced the program funding to a single asset that would be used for experimental research testing only.
But the presidential election of 1960 changed the landscape. President Kennedy believed the Valkyrie was important in the arms race. The program budget was upped by $265 million and the test plan was reworked to include warfare capabilities and not just research.
A year later the Kennedy administration understood the Eisenhower administration’s issues with the airplane, and the Valkyrie was once again relegated to a research program — however the requirement was reworded with the caveat that if the Air Force requirement necessitated the need for the B-70 the program would be quickly modified to also test for combat operational capabilities.
The Valkyrie’s maiden flight occurred on May 11, 1964 out of Edwards Air Force Base. The plan was to take the airplane supersonic on the first flight, but a landing gear problem kept them subsonic. The XB-70 also had a minor hydraulic fire but managed to land safely.
North American XB-70A Valkyrie in flight. (Official USAF photo)
The airplane finally went supersonic on it’s third test flight and eventually broke a number of speed records including 70 sustained minutes of supersonic flight, 50 of them at greater than Mach 2.
But the test team also discovered that extended supersonic flight punished the airframe beyond its existing design limits, and they had to modify parts of the intake system and fuselage as the test plan went forward.
The first XB-70 reached Mach 3 only once — on it’s 18th test flight on October 14, 1965 — and that speed did substantial damage to the leading edge of one of the wings. (Luckily nothing was sucked into the intakes.) After that the airplane was limited to no greater than Mach 2.5.
A second XB-70 was built after comprehensive wind tunnel testing that yielded a modified design of the intake system, the hydraulics, and the wings. The new design made the airplane more stable, especially at high speeds. On May 19, 1966 the second Valkyrie flew Mach 3 for 33 minutes.
But test problems persisted. One flight forced test pilot Joe Cotton to jump a circuit breaker with a paper clip to get the landing gear to come down. (Basically, a $750 million airplane was saved with a 39 cent paperclip.)
Then one of the contractors pushed the notion of a “family photo,” an idea that proved to be the true beginning of the end for the Valkyrie. General Electric wanted to use a private Learjet to shoot both film and still photos of the XB-70 flying in formation with a T-38, F-4, F-104, and an F-5 — all GE-powered jets.
The requisite approvals were obtained, and on June 8, 1966 the four Air Force test jets launched to rendezvous with the XB-70 at the end of a test event. The five-jet formation flew around the Edwards AFB airspace for about 40 minutes without incident while the Learjet got the desired footage and photos. But as the formation was breaking up to return to base, disaster struck.
The F-104 drifted left until its left wing hit the XB-70’s right wing. At that point the Starfighter flipped over and rolled inverted over the top of the Valkyrie, striking the vertical stabilizers and left wing of the bomber. The F-104 exploded, destroying the Valkyrie’s rudders and damaging its left wing. With the loss of both rudders and damage to the wings, the Valkyrie entered an uncontrollable spin and crashed into the ground north of Barstow, California. NASA Chief Test Pilot Joe Walker (who was flying the F-104) and Carl Cross (the XB-70’s co-pilot who was on his first Valkyrie flight) were killed. Al White (XB-70 pilot) ejected, sustaining serious injuries, including one arm crushed by the closing clamshell-like escape crew capsule moments prior to ejection.
The investigation concluded that Walker was unable to properly perceive his motion relative to the Valkyrie, leading to his aircraft drifting into contact with the XB-70’s wing. The accident investigation also pointed to the wake vortex off the XB-70’s right wingtip as the reason for the F-104’s sudden roll over and into the bomber. There was also a lot of CYA and finger-pointing among Air Force leadership regarding who had actually approved the “family photo,” and ultimately the punishment for improperly vetting the event fell to the lowest levels of the chain of command.
Although the remaining Valkyrie continued to fly test events, the mishap crushed any chance of the airplane being used as an operational asset. On February 4, 1969 the XB-70 flew to Wright-Patterson AFB to be made into an exhibit at the National Museum of the United States Air Force — the final flight for a powerful and visually stunning airplane the likes of which will never be seen again.
The F-35B Marine variant just completed important developmental tests designed to push the joint strike fighter to its limits aboard the US’s newest aircraft carrier, the USS America.
The F-35B proved it can perform its short takeoffs with a variety of weapons loadouts, some of which can be asymmetrical. These tests had been done on land before, but carrier takeoffs are a different beast.
“There is no way to recreate the conditions that come with being out to sea,” than going out there and testing onboard a carrier, said Gabriella Spehn, an F-35 weapons engineer from the Pax River Integrated Test Force in a Navy statement.
But even at sea aboard the America, which can get up to 25 mph, the F-35B performed as expected.
“As we all know, we can’t choose the battle and the location of the battle, so sometimes we have to go into rough seas with heavy swells, heave, roll, pitch, and crosswinds,” said Royal Air Force squadron leader and F-35 test pilot Andy Edgell.
International partners, like Edgell, participated in the testing onboard. While other nations lack the large deck aircraft carriers that the US has, several other nations, like the UK and Japan, operate smaller carriers that await the F-35B.
“The last couple of days we went and purposely found those nasty conditions and put the jets through those places, and the jet handled fantastically well. So now the external weapons testing should be able to give the fleet a clearance to carry weapons with the rough seas and rough conditions,” Edgell said.
“We know the jet can handle it. A fleet clearance will come — then they can go forth and conduct battle in whatever environment.”
However, another first occurred on board. The America’s weapons department assembled over 100 bombs for the F-35B to carry.
For many of the sailors in the Weapon’s Department of the America, part of a new class of US carriers meant specifically to accommodate the F-35, this was their first chance at actually handling and assembling ordnance.
“Being able to do this feels like we are supporting the overall scope of what the ship is trying to achieve. Without ordnance, to us, this ship isn’t a warship. This is what we do,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Hung Lee.
According to sailors on board, the team went from building one bomb in four hours, to building 16 in three hours.
Nestled inside infantry units moving against the enemy is often a single artilleryman who is arguably one of the most lethal fighters on the battlefield — the forward observer.
These soldiers, usually assigned to a Forward Support Team (the FiST), are known as “FiSTers” and are the eyes and ears for naval artillery and artillery gun lines across the world.
The fisters carry inside their helmets knowledge of every gun capable of reaching their areas of operation, including how fast the weapon can fire, what kinds of rounds it has at its disposal, and what effects those rounds have on targets.
They use this knowledge to support the infantry and other maneuver units. When the friendly element finds and engages the enemy, the fister gets to work figuring out how to best bring artillery to bear.
Often, this involves getting the machine gunners and riflemen to corral the enemy into a tight box that can easily be hit with airburst artillery, causing shrapnel to rain down on the enemy dismounts.
If enemy armored vehicles are rolling towards the line, the forward observers can call down specific rounds for penetrating a tank’s top turret armor or for creating a smoke screen to block friendly vehicles from view.
Many observers go through training to learn how to best use weapons deployed from helicopters, jets, and other aerial platforms. This allows them to start targeting enemies with hellfire missiles and the 30mm cannons of A-10s and AH-64s.
Marine observers and Army observers trained in joint fires can call for help from naval ships. While the Navy has decommissioned its massive battleships, there are still plenty of cruisers and destroyers packing missiles and 5-inch guns that are pretty useful for troops ashore.
It’s the forward observers that get those missiles and shells on target.
Forward observers direct the fires of all the big guns that can’t see their targets. And that’s what makes them so lethal.