Here's what the Saudi military is buying from the US - We Are The Mighty
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Here’s what the Saudi military is buying from the US

While in Saudi Arabia, President Donald Trump signed a deal that will provide Saudi Arabia over $110 billion in weapons, marking what is the largest weapons deal in American history.


According to a report by ynetnews.com, the package includes four frigates based on the Littoral Combat Ship, 115 M1A2S Abrams tanks, the MIM-104F Patriot PAC-3 missile system, the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system, 48 CH-47 Chinook helicopters, 150 Blackhawk helicopters, and a number of other systems.

Here’s what the Saudi military is buying from the US
AiirSource Military | YouTube

The frigates are slated to replace the four Al-Madinah-class frigates that Saudi Arabia acquired from France in the 1980s. One of these frigates was damaged by Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen this past January.

Bloomberg News reports that the deal was originally for two ships based on USS Freedom (LCS 1), which is currently in service with the United States Navy, but was increased to four, and there is an option for four more vessels. This is the first export order for the LCS hull.

Here’s what the Saudi military is buying from the US
The littoral combat ship USS Freedom (LCS 1) is underway conducting sea trials off the coast of Southern California. A modified version of this ship is slated to be sold to Saudi Arabia. (U.S. Navy photo)

The Lockheed Martin website notes that this ship adds remotely-operated 20mm cannon, the RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow missile, long-range surface-to-surface missiles, and the AN/SLQ-25 “Nixie,” a decoy intended to draw torpedoes away from a ship.

A separate deal could include up to 16,000 kits for the Paveway series of laser-guided bombs. These weapons are used on Saudi jets, including the F-15S Strike Eagle, the Tornado IDS, and the Eurofighter Typhoon.

Here’s what the Saudi military is buying from the US
A Royal Saudi Air Force F-15S in its hangar. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Many of the weapons deals had been initiated during the Obama Administration, but had been placed on hold due to concerns about civilian casualties in the Yemeni Civil War. The Saudi Arabian military has been launching strikes against the Houthi rebels to back the Yemeni government.

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This Navy SEAL unit was ‘the most hard luck platoon’ to fight in Vietnam

The last time a Navy SEAL team used x-ray as an identifier was when the unit deployed to the Mekong Delta area in late 1970. Lt. Cmdr. Mike Walsh was a SEAL in Vietnam during the war. He was wounded at Ben Tre while serving with SEAL Platoon X-Ray in February 1971. In an interview with Vietnam Magazine, Walsh called X-Ray “the most hard-luck SEAL platoon to serve in Vietnam.”


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X-Ray Platoon: Jim Ritter (KIA) took the picture. From left to right top row – Rick Hetzell, Irving Brown, Harold Birkey (KIA), Doc Caplenor, Frank Bowmar (KIA), Clint Majors, Mike Collins (KIA), Lou Decrose. Middle – Alan Vader. Bottom Row left to right – Mike Trigg, Dave Shadnaw, Gordon Clisham, Awe (the scout).

Immediately after their arrival, things started to go awry. A SEAL team inserted near Truc Giap was ambushed that same month, December 1970. The squad leader and another SEAL were killed while the radioman and Kit Carson scout (former VC who turned on the Communists and act as scouts for U.S. infantry units) were hit. If it weren’t for the rear security man, the unit would have been wiped out entirely.

Radioman 2nd Class Harold Baker ran into a river to get out of the kill zone. He fished out the body of a fellow SEAL as well as an M-60, and then fought his way through the ambush until backup from X-Ray could arrive.

Here’s what the Saudi military is buying from the US

An operation in Ben Tre, the one where Walsh was injured, saw the unit lose a couple of SEALs and a number of limbs. It was during a patrol led by a “Hoi Chanh” or a defector from the Viet Cong (VC), similar to the Kit Carson scouts who was leading the way. He led the SEALs on a sweep and destroy mission, and then into a trap.

“I did not trust him at all. He was there to get us killed,” Welsh said. “And he almost did it. I didn’t like it; I had a bad feeling about it. But we went on patrol with this guy leading the way.”

The defector had come to the SEALs by way of the Chieu Hoi amnesty program. Chieu hoi, which loosely translates into “open arms,” was an effort by the South Vietnamese government to get VC members to defect to the South and offer information against the Viet Cong. It was essentially an amnesty program. An estimated 75,000 defection occurred by 1967,  but less than a quarter of those were deemed genuine. Some did genuinely contribute to the war effort with some earning medals as high as a Silver Star, but the defector with X-Ray was not one of those achievers.

The SEALs on the patrol at Ben Tre found and destroyed some bunkers before being extracted by a light SEAL support craft (LSSC). As the boat was leaving, the VC attacked the SEALs, hitting the LSSC with a B-40 rocket. One of the boatmen lost a leg, and a South Vietnamese interpreter lost both. Lt. Cmdr. Walsh was lifted off the boat and stuck with shrapnel. Another SEAL’s grenades went off while strapped to his body, taking the man’s right glute. One SEAL, Ed Jones, fired a .50 cal into the VC position and they took off. Walsh found the defector injured by shrapnel.

“He looked at me and smiled,” Walsh remembered. “He knew he had led us into an ambush and he had succeeded. I finished him off with my Gerber knife.”

The team had to be extracted by helicopter, where one of the SEALs died from his wounds.

Finally, on March 4th, 1971, the unit commander, Lieutenant Michael Collins, an Annapolis graduate who had never taken SEAL cadre training, was killed in Kien Hoa province. The unit was deactivated after that, with all of its members either killed or wounded.

The reason for the high cost of X-Ray is considered to be operational security. Experts believe the unit’s tactical operations center was compromised by one of its South Vietnamese commandos who had been giving information to the Communists. The enemy knew of all of X-Ray’s movements well in advance.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is the definitive history of the world’s most advanced fighter jet

The F-22A Raptor is a fifth-generation fighter incorporating fourth-generation stealth technology, radical maneuvering capabilities, the ability to fly at supersonic speed without afterburners and unprecedented pilot situational awareness, making it the most dominant and advanced air superiority fighter in the world.


Here’s what the Saudi military is buying from the US

The Raptor’s sophisticated aerodynamic design, advanced flight controls and thrust vectoring allows it to outmaneuver any known aircraft. A combination of sensor capability, integrated avionics, situational awareness and weapons provides F-22 pilots with a first-look, first-shot, first-kill advantage over adversaries.

The F-22 possesses a sophisticated sensor suite allowing the pilot to track, identify, shoot and kill air-to-air threats before being detected. Significant advances in cockpit design and sensor fusion improve the pilot’s situational awareness.

The F-22A Raptor was introduced Dec. 15, 2005, and a total of 187 operational aircraft were built. The last airframe was delivered to the Air Force in 2012.

Development and Design

The Raptor was developed through the Advanced Tactical Fighter program, which was initially requested by the Air Force in the 1970s to produce conceptual designs of an air-to-ground fighter to complement the air-to-air F-15 Eagle.

The Air Force needed the F-22 as a solution to emerging threats of the Soviet Su-27 Flanker, MiG 29 Fulcrum and the Chinese Shenyang J-11 multi-role fighter aircraft, to maintain air superiority after the Cold War and into the future.

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Lt. Col. James Hecker flies over Fort Monroe before delivering the first operational F/A-22 Raptor to its permanent home at Langley Air Force Base, Va., on May 12, 2005. This is the first of 26 Raptors to be delivered to the 27th Fighter Squadron. The Raptor program is managed by the F/A-22 System Program Office at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio. Colonel Hecker is the squadron’s commander. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Ben Bloker)

Thus, the request was amended with the advancements in stealth technology and the ATF program was then charged with creating a fighter with the capabilities of speed, agility, electronic warfare and signal intelligence into a stealth airframe which could also provide precision long-rage air-to-air and air-to-ground weaponry.

The Air Force selected the two proposals of contract teams Lockheed/Boeing/General Dynamics and Northrop/McDonnell Douglas, to produce prototypes for flight testing, the YF-22 and the YF-23. The Lockheed YF-22 was ultimately selected in 1991 with the first F-22A being delivered for flight testing in 1997.

 

The Raptor is equipped with two Pratt Whitney F119-PW-100 afterburning turbofan engines producing 35,000 pounds of thrust each, more than any current fighter. The jet is capable of Mach 1.82 during supercruise, or sustained supersonic flight without afterburners, and able to reach speeds over Mach 2 with afterburners.

In the air-to-air configuration the Raptor carries six AIM-120 AMRAAMs and two AIM-9 Sidewinders. The Raptor also has an internally mounted M61A Vulcan 20 mm-rotary canon embedded inside the right wing.

The Raptor’s ability to collect and share tactical information with legacy aircraft enables U.S. and allied forces to engage targets with unmatched battlespace awareness. With the data processed with the Raptor’s advanced avionics sensors and radars, the aircraft can even designate targets for allies.

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A 1st Fighter Wing’s F-22 Raptor from Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va. pulls into position to accept fuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker with the 756th Air Refueling Squadron, Joint Base Andrews Naval Air Facility, Md. off the east coast on May 10, 2012. The first Raptor assigned to the Wing arrived Jan. 7, 2005. This aircraft was allocated as a trainer, and was docked in a hanger for maintenance personnel to familiarize themselves with its complex systems. The second Raptor, designated for flying operations, arrived Jan. 18, 2005. On Dec. 15, 2005, Air Combat Command commander, along with the 1 FW commander, announced the 27th Fighter Squadron as fully operational capable to fly, fight and win with the F-22. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Master Sgt. Jeremy Lock)

During the F-22’s first Operational Readiness Inspection the aircraft was rated excellent in all categories with a 221-0 kill ratio against opposing aircraft.

The F-22 has a significant capability to attack surface targets from high cruise speeds and altitudes. In the air-to-ground configuration the aircraft can carry two 1,000-pound GBU-32 Joint Direct Attack Munitions internally.

The Raptor has the ability to deploy 1,000-pound bombs from 50,000 feet while cruising at Mach 1.5, and can strike a moving target 24 miles away.

Operation and Deployment

Air Force units that operate the F-22 Raptor include:

  • The 27th Fighter Squadron, Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia
  • The 94th Fighter Squadron, JB Langley-Eustis, Virginia
  • The 149th Fighter Squadron, Virginia Air National Guard
  • The 19th Fighter Squadron, JB Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii
  • The 199th Fighter Squadron, Hawaii Air National Guard
  • The 43rd Fighter Squadron, Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida
  • The 95th Fighter Squadron, Tyndall AFB, Florida
  • The 301st Fighter Squadron, Tyndall AFB, Florida
  • The 90th Fighter Squadron, JB Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska
  • The 302nd Fighter Squadron, JB Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska
  • The 525th Fighter Squadron, JB Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska
  • The 433rd Weapons Squadron, Nellis AFB, Nevada

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    An Air Force F-22 Raptor executes a supersonic flyby over the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74). John C. Stennis is participating in Northern Edge 2009, a joint exercise focusing on detecting and tracking units at sea, in the air and on land. (U.S. Navy photo by Sonar Technician (Surface) 1st Class Ronald Dejarnett)

The first overseas deployment of F-22s was to Kadena Air Base, Japan in February 2007.

F-22s participated in combat sorties for the first time during Operation Inherent Resolve, dropping 1,000-pound GPS-guided bombs on Islamic State of Iraq and Syria targets during the American-led intervention in Syria.

From September 2014 to July 2015, F-22s flew 204 sorties, dropping 270 bombs on 60 different locations.

On June 23, 2015, two F-22s performed the aircraft’s first close air support mission conducting airstrikes protecting friendly forces in Syria.

Did you know?

– The F-22 Raptor has a radar cross-section smaller than a bumblebee, making it nearly undetectable.

– An F-22B two-seat variant was planned in 1996, but cancelled to save development costs.

– The radar on the F-22 changes frequencies over 1,000 times per second to deter detection by enemy forces.

F-22A Raptor Fact Sheet:

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  • Primary function: air dominance, multi-role fighter
  • Contractor: Lockheed-Martin, Boeing
  • Power plant: two Pratt Whitney F119-PW-100 turbofan engines with afterburners and two-dimensional thrust vectoring nozzles.
  • Thrust: 35,000-pound class (each engine)
  • Wingspan: 44 feet, 6 inches (13.6 meters)
  • Length: 62 feet, 1 inch (18.9 meters)
  • Height: 16 feet, 8 inches (5.1 meters)
  • Weight: 43,340 pounds (19,700 kilograms)
  • Maximum takeoff weight: 83,500 pounds (38,000 kilograms)
  • Fuel capacity: internal: 18,000 pounds (8,200 kilograms); with 2 external wing fuel tanks: 26,000 pounds (11,900 kilograms)
  • Payload: same as armament air-to-air or air-to-ground loadouts; with or without two external wing fuel tanks.
  • Speed: mach two class with supercruise capability
  • Range: more than 1,850 miles ferry range with two external wing fuel tanks (1,600 nautical miles)
  • Ceiling: above 50,000 feet (15 kilometers)
  • Armament: one M61A2 20-millimeter cannon with 480 rounds, internal side weapon bays carriage of two AIM-9 infrared (heat seeking) air-to-air missiles and internal main weapon bays carriage of six AIM-120 radar-guided air-to-air missiles (air-to-air loadout) or two 1,000-pound GBU-32 JDAMs and two AIM-120 radar-guided air-to-air missiles (air-to-ground loadout)
  • Crew: one
  • Unit cost: $143 million
  • Initial operating capability: December 2005
  • Inventory: total force, 183
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Air Force experimenting on a 6th generation fighter to come after the F-35

The Air Force has begun experimenting and conceptual planning for a 6th generation fighter aircraft to emerge in coming years as a technological step beyond the F-35, service leaders said.


“We have started experimentation, developmental planning and technology investment,” said Lt. Gen. Arnold Bunch, Military Deputy, Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force, Acquisition.

The new aircraft, engineered to succeed the 5th-generation F-35 Joint StrikeFighter and explode onto the scene by the mid 2030s, is now in the earliest stages of conceptual development with the Air Force and Navy. The two services are now working together on early conceptual discussions about the types of technologies and capabilities the aircraft will contain. While the Air Force has not yet identified a platform for the new aircraft. The Air Force characterizes the effort in terms of a future capability called Next-Gen Air Dominance.

While Bunch did not elaborate on the specifics of ongoing early efforts, he did make reference to the Air Superiority 2030 Flight Plan which delineates some key elements of the service’s strategy for a future platform.

Fighter jets in 20-years may likely contain the next-generation of stealth technology, electronic warfare, sophisticated computer processing and algorithms, increased autonomy, hypersonic weapons and so-called “smart-skins” where sensors are built into the side of the aircraft itself.

Some of these characteristics may have been on display more than a year ago when Northrop Grumman’s Super Bowl ad revealed a flashy first look at its rendering of a new 6th-generation fighter jet.

Related: The first Marine F-35 squadron is gearing up for a Pacific deployment

Northrop is one of a number of major defense industry manufacturers who will bid for a contract to build the new plane – when the time is right. While there are not many details available on this work, it is safe to assume Northrop is advancing concepts, technology and early design work toward this end. Boeing is also in the early phases of development of a 6th-gen design, according to a report in Defense News.

The Navy’s new aircraft will, at least in part, replace the existing inventory of F/A-18 Super Hornets which will start to retire by 2035, Navy officials said.

The Navy vision for a future carrier air wing in 2040 and beyond is comprised of the carrier-launched variant of the Joint Strike Fighter, the F-35C, and legacy aircraft such as the EA-18G Growler electronic jamming aircraft.

Also, around this time is when Navy planners envision its 6th generation aircraft to be ready, an aircraft which will likely be engineered for both manned and unmanned missions.

Technologies are rapidly advancing in coatings, electromagnetic spectrum issues, artificial intelligence, maneuvering, superiority in sensing the battlespace, communications and data links, Navy leaders have said.

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Northrop Grumman

Navy officials also add that the Navy is likely to develop new carrier-launched unmanned air vehicles in coming years as well. For instance, Northrop’s historic X-47B demonstrator aircraft was the first unmanned system to successfully launch and land on the deck of an aircraft carrier.

Analysts have speculated that as 6th generation developers seek to engineer a sixth-generation aircraft, they will likely explore a range of next-generation technologies such as maximum sensor connectivity, super cruise ability and an aircraft with electronically configured “smart skins.”

Super cruise technology would enable the new fighter jet to cruise at supersonic speeds without needing afterburner, analysts have explained. As a result, super cruise brings a substantial tactical advantage because it allows for high-speed maneuvering without needing afterburner, therefore enable much longer on-location mission time. Such a scenario provides a time advantage as the aircraft would likely outlast a rival aircraft likely to run out of fuel earlier. The Air Force F-22 has a version of super-cruise technology.

Also read: This is the fastest American bomber that ever took to the skies

Maximum connectivity would mean massively increased communications and sensor technology such as having an ability to achieve real-time connectivity with satellites, other aircraft and anything that could provide relevant battlefield information.The new aircraft might also seek to develop the ability to fire hypersonic weapons, however such a development would hinge upon successful progress with yet-to-be-proven technologies such as scramjets traveling at hypersonic speeds. Some tests of early renderings of this technology have been tested successfully and yet other attempts have failed.

The Air Force Chief Scientist, Dr. Geoffrey Zacharias, has told Scout Warrior that the US anticipates having hypersonic weapons by the 2020s, hypersonic drones by the 2030s and recoverable hypersonic drone aircraft by the 2040s. There is little doubt that hypersonic technology, whether it be weaponry or propulsion, or both, will figure prominently into future aircraft designs.

Smart aircraft skins would involve dispersing certain technologies or sensors across the fuselage and further integrating them into the aircraft itself, using next-generation computer algorithms to organize and display information for the pilot. We see some of this already in the F-35; the aircraft sensor fusion uses advanced computer technology to collect, organize and display combat relevant information from a variety of otherwise disparate sensors onto a single screen for pilots. In addition, Northrop’s Distributed Aperture System is engineered to provide F-35 pilots with a 360-degree view of the battlespace. Cameras on the DAS are engineered into parts of the F-35 fuselage itself to reduce drag and lower the aircraft’s radar signature.

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Northrop Grumman

Smart skins with distributed electronics means that instead of having systems mounted on the aircraft, you would have apertures integrated on the skin of the aircraft, analysts have said.

This could reduce drag, increase speed and maneuverability while increasing the technological ability of the sensors.

It is also possible that the new 6th-generation fighter could use advanced, futuristic stealth technology able to enable newer, more capable air defenses. The air defenses of potential adversaries are increasingly using faster computing processing power and are better networked together, more digital, able to detect a wider range of frequencies and able to detect stealthy aircraft at farther distances.

The new 6th-generation fighter will also likely fire lasers and have the ability to launch offensive electronic attacks.

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The Marines are ditching their desert cammies for everyday wear

The Marine Corps will now require most of its troops to wear a single camouflage uniform during both summer and winter months, changing a post-9/11-era rule that allowed Marines the option to don either a desert pattern uniform or a woodland one.


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Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller addresses Marines wearing the woodland MARPAT cammie uniform. (Photo from U.S. Marine Corps)

In a Corpswide administrative message issued Dec. 8, Marine Commandant Gen. Robert Neller ordered most Marines at bases and stations in the U.S. and overseas to wear the green, brown and black woodland pattern camouflage uniform in all seasons.

Neller said in All Marine Corps Message 038/16 that Marines must wear their uniforms with the sleeves rolled down in the winter — marked by the end of daylight savings time — and rolled up in the warmer months when the clocks change again.

“This ALMAR prescribes the seasonal uniform change and applies to all Marines and Navy personnel serving with Marine Corps units,” Neller said. “The seasonal uniform transitions will occur semi-annually on the weekend in the Fall and Spring concurrent with change to and from Daylight Saving Time.”

The order does allow for commands to adapt to weather and missions that would make the desert cammies more appropriate for Marines to wear, including for Leathernecks in boot camp, in officer training or readying for deployment.

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Recruits of Kilo Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, salute the nation’s colors during an emblem ceremony Oct. 25, 2014, on Parris Island, S.C. (Photo by Cpl. Caitlin Brink)

“MARFOR Commanders, due to the breadth of their area of responsibility, are authorized to set policy/guidance that may vary throughout their region, to include the adjustment of dates of transition and the respective [Marine combat uniform] for wear,” Neller said.

The new policy reverses a trend that began after Operation Iraqi Freedom and was officially adopted in 2008 to switch between the tan desert MARPAT uniform in the summer and the woodland green MARPAT in the winter months. Many Marines saw wearing the desert uniform on bases on installations in the U.S. and overseas as a tribute to their deployed brethren in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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The order also says Marines will wear the Service “B” uniform with long-sleeve shirt in the cooler months, with Service “C” short-sleeve uniform in the warmer months.

The order was to take effect for all Marine commands Dec. 8.

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Here’s how the Cactus Air Force made all the difference at Guadalcanal

The fight for Guadalcanal was a brutal first step in driving back the Japanese in the Pacific. The main objective for the campaign was to deny them use of the Solomon Islands. They threatened U.S. supply lines to Australia and the U.S. wanted to use the islands as a starting point for the larger war in the Pacific. The battle was fought on land, at sea, and in the air and involved every branch of the U.S. military. The aerial battle was fought mostly by the “Cactus Air Force” flying out of Henderson Field.


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Cactus Air Force Aircrew Roster Meeting

The Cactus Air Force was a conglomeration of Marine, Navy, and Army Air Corps assets operating in some of the worst conditions imaginable. Although the Marines jokingly referred to the campaign as ‘Operation Shoestring’ because of the lack of the supplies, the Cactus Air Force was actually named after the codename for Guadalcanal.

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Henderson Field getting hit by Japanese aerial attacks.

The 1st Marine Division attacked the Solomon Islands on the night of August 6th and morning of August 7, 1942 with the bulk of the division landing unopposed on Guadalcanal. The Marines captured the airfield on August 8th and immediately set to work completing the airstrip. The airfield was ready for use by August 18, and the first two Marine squadrons, one of F4F Hellcats and one of SBD Dauntless dive bombers, arrived on the 20th to begin combat operations the next day.

Two days later the Marine aviators were joined by five U.S. Army Air Force P-39 Airacobras. On August 24, eleven more Dauntless dive bombers landed at Henderson Field after being unable to return to the USS Enterprise due to damage it received during the Battle of the Eastern Solomons. By the end of August, another Marine fighter squadron and another dive bomber squadron had also arrived on the island.

This assortment of men and planes were the beginning of the Cactus Air Force, and they were in for a hell of a time.

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At the time of the Guadalcanal campaign, the Japanese Empire was at its peak and, aside from being denied at the Battles of Coral Sea and Midway, had yet to lose any territory they gained and were loath to do so. As such, the American airfield and its inhabitants were under near constant bombardment and attack. The Imperial Japanese Navy would shell Henderson Field from the sea while the Japanese Air Force sent daily bombing missions against the Americans. The constant bombardment continually damaged the runway, destroyed valuable aircraft, and inflicted numerous casualties.

To make matters worse, the island was not yet secure and the Japanese were continually attacking the perimeter attempting to dislodge the Americans from Guadalcanal. The 1st Marine Division reinforced by the 164th Infantry Regiment of the newly formed Americal Division held the line against Japanese assaults. During the Battle of Henderson Field, 1st Battalion, 7th Marines held out against some of the worst attacks, and it was during this action John Basilone earned the Medal of Honor and Lt. Col. Chesty Puller earned his third Navy Cross.

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If the constant attacks on Henderson Field wasn’t bad enough, the living conditions were terrible as well. When the Americans captured the airfield it was far from complete and had no permanent living quarters. The pilots and mechanics were housed in mud-floored tents in a flooded coconut grove they referred to as “Mosquito Grove.” The squalid living conditions led to many diseases, including malaria, dysentery, dengue fever, and fungal infections.

The local climate contributed to the misery too. In the heat, black volcanic dust covered everything and when it rained the ground turned into a quagmire. Major Marion Carl, a Marine aviator stationed at Henderson Field, commented that it was “the only place on Earth where you could stand up to your knees in mud and still get dust in your eyes.”

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Just surviving at Henderson Field was difficult enough, but the Marines, sailors, and soldiers still had to fly and fight. The dust fouled the engines of the planes, the mud kept them from moving, and the Japanese bombardment destroyed the planes and the runway. The runway was in such poor condition in the early stages of the battle that nearly as many Cactus Air Force planes were damaged just using it as they were in fighting against the Japanese. There were also no facilities for the aircraft: no hangers, no fuel trucks, and no bomb hoists. Damaged aircraft were cannibalized where they stood for their spare parts. Bombs had to be loaded by hand as did the fuel. Without fuel trucks the only way to fuel the planes was to hand pump it out of 55 gallon drums.

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Despite all of these challenges, the Cactus Air Force fought tenaciously and was successful in helping the U.S. achieve victory. Six different airmen were awarded the Medal of Honor for their actions while serving with the Cactus Air Force. An even greater number of pilots became aces during the campaign. Though total victories for the Cactus Air Force cannot be confirmed for the six months they were involved in combat, they claimed over 250 aerial victories. The dive and torpedo bombers from Henderson Field sank seventeen large Japanese naval vessels and damaged another eighteen. Most importantly, they sank transport ships that were attempting to deliver supplies and reinforcements to the Japanese on the island. These victories came at the price of 94 pilots killed or missing and a further 177 wounded or evacuated due to illness plus numerous ground crew killed or wounded. After the Guadalcanal campaign, the Cactus Air Force was consolidated with other allied air units under Aircraft, Solomons (or AirSols) which continued to support Allied operations in the Solomon Islands and Southern Pacific.

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4 Badass Conscientious Objectors

The controversy surrounding Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl continues to mount as rumors of a possible desertion charge against him spread — rumors as cloudy as the stories that surround his 2009 disappearance and capture.


Despite the fact that the Pentagon concluded in a 2010 investigation that he had simply walked away from his unit while serving at Combat Outpost Mest-Lalak in Paktika Province, Afghanistan, the truth behind the circumstances of his capture remains murky.

Some of his fellow soldiers call him a deserter, saying he planned to walk away the whole time.  They also blame him for the deaths of soldiers killed while looking for him in the days following his disappearance.

Bergdahl was freed by the Taliban in May 2014 in exchange for five Guantanamo Bay detainees, a swap that only added to the controversy in that the Obama administration seemed to be negotiating with terrorists and also seemed to be attempting to make a feel-good story out of something that had dubious elements.

A smattering of detail emerged – some of it courtesy of his parents who ended their silence at a high-profile Rose Garden ceremony heralding his release – including a notion that as Bowe Bergdahl’s enlistment went along, he increasingly viewed himself as a conscientious objector.

But there’s a big difference between a conscientious objector and a deserter.  In fact, military history shows that true conscientious observers would never desert.

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Desmond Doss receives the Medal of Honor from President Harry S. Truman. (Photo: U.S. Army)

Earning valid conscientious objector status in the U.S. military has always been a tough thing to accomplish. During the Civil War, the first American war to introduce forced conscription, objectors, like anyone else, could pay a $300 fine to hire a substitute.

During World War One, objectors were able to serve in noncombat roles. Those who refused were imprisoned in military facilities. The World War Two-era United States military was slightly more accommodating, allowing conscientious objectors to serve in the numerous, various New Deal work programs that were still necessary to the war effort.

Most of these programs were gone by the time of the Vietnam War, but COs could still find other ways to serve without violating their religious or social beliefs.

And some have demonstrated that being a conscientious objector doesn’t make you a slacker or a coward. In their stories one can see that true followers of their consciences would never use CO status as an excuse to shirk their duties.

Here are four examples of conscientious objectors who made their way to the front and served with valor:

1. Sergeant Alvin York

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Alvin C. York (aka “Sergeant York”) had to fight to get conscientious objector status. His subsequent acceptance of the Army’s decision is an integral part of the mythos of the man.

After a life of drinking and fighting, a religious experience led York to renounce his lifestyle and turn to fundamentalist Christianity. The doctrine of his newfound faith included a rejection of secular politics and a devout pacifism. He even began to lead the prayers of his local church.

Three years later, the United States would enter World War One and Alvin York would register for the draft, as any dutiful American did. He applied for conscientious objector status, even appealing after his first request was denied.

By the time he arrived in France, York had come to believe God meant for him to fight and to win and that God would protect him as long as was necessary. One night, he and three other NCOs led thirteen privates to infiltrate the German lines and take out the machine guns. Somewhere along the way, one machine gun opened up on York and his compatriots, killing or wounding nine of the sixteen men. York didn’t even have time to take cover. He stood his ground and picked off the whole crew.

While he was taking out the German gun, another six Germans went over the top of their trench and charged at the lone American with fixed bayonets. York, having exhausted his rifle’s ammunition, pulled his sidearm and dropped all six before they could reach him. The German commander surrendered his entire unit to York. 132 men in total were led back to the American lines by York and his six surviving privates. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for this action.

York became one of the most decorated doughboys of the Great War and returned home a hero. A movie was made about his exploits, for which Gary Cooper would win an Oscar for the title role of “Sergeant York.”

York attempted to re-enlist in World War Two, but was too old for combat duty, instead becoming a Major in the Army Signal Corps.

2. Desmond Doss

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If ever there was an example more different from Sergeant York’s, it’s the story of Desmond Doss.  Drafted as a medic during World War II, Doss was a devout Seventh Day Adventist.

In today’s military, he might not ever have made it past basic training. He refused to train or work on Saturdays.  He wouldn’t eat meat. He wouldn’t carry a weapon. Even in the face of taunts and threats from other members of his unit, he stood fast to his beliefs.  His commanding officer tried to get him a section eight discharge, meaning he was unsuitable for military service, but Doss refused to accept this discharge because it amounted to being called “crazy” due to his beliefs.

But Doss wasn’t useless. He wanted to serve; he just wasn’t willing to kill to do it. He even worked overtime hours to make up for his Saturday Sabbath. Still, his fellow soldiers threatened to kill him as soon as they got into action.  It was Doss’ dedication to saving lives that would earn him the love and respect of his unit.  Doss would do anything to save his men, from going into the open field, braving snipers, or dodging machine gun fire. From Guam to Leyte to Okinawa, Doss repeatedly braved anything the Japanese could muster to pull the injured to the rear.

It was at Okinawa where Doss entered Army history. As his unit climbed a vertical cliffside the Japanese opened up with artillery, mortars, and machine guns, turning his unit back and killing or wounding 75 men. Doss retrieved them one by one, loading them onto a litter and down the cliff.

A few days later, in the mouth of a cave, he braved a shower of grenades thrown from eight yards away, dressing wounds, and making four trips to pull his soldiers out. The last time, a grenade critically injured him. He treated his own wounds and waited five hours for a litter to carry him off.

On the way back, the three men had to take cover from a tank attack. While waiting, Doss crawled off his litter, treated a more injured man, and told the litter bearers to take the other man. While waiting for them to come back, he was hit in the arm by a sniper and crawled 300 yards to an aid station. He was the first true conscientious objector to earn the Medal of Honor.

3. Thomas Bennett
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Bennett was a student at West Virginia University in the Fall of 1967 as the war in Vietnam was heating up. He was committed to his country but was also deeply religious. His Southern Baptist beliefs kept him from killing even in the name of patriotism. Still, Bennett enlisted as a combat medic in 1968 to save the lives of his countrymen who would fight as he couldn’t.

He arrived in South Vietnam in 1969. A month later, Bennett’s bravery earned him a recommendation for a Silver Star. Two days after that, his platoon was dispatched to assist an ambushed patrol. They immediately came under fire from an entrenched enemy column with automatic weapons, mortars, and rockets.

As the point men fell wounded, he ran toward them and tended their wounds as he pulled each of them to relative safety. For the rest of the night and into the following day, he ran from position to position, aiding the wounded and pulling them back to safety. He ran just a bit too far trying to get to a man wounded ahead of the unit and was killed by an enemy sniper.

He received the Medal of Honor, the second conscientious objector to receive the U.S. military’s highest level of recognition.

4. Joseph LaPointe, Jr.

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Joseph LaPointe, Jr. was an average guy from Ohio, a mailman who got married at twenty years old. He was also a devout Baptist. Drafted in 1968, he declared himself a conscientious objector, but still opted to serve in the Army, taking the role of field medic with the 101st Airborne.

He arrived in Vietnam in June of 1968. By the next year, he was in the area of Quang Tin, having earned a Bronze Star and a Silver Star. On June 2, he landed on a cavalry patrol as they came under heavy fire from a nearby bunker. Two men in the lead were wounded immediately.

As the patrol took cover, LaPointe ran forward to help. He shielded the men with his body as he performed first aid. He was injured twice before dragging the men to cover. He continued to protect the two men with his own body until a grenade killed all three.

He also received the Medal of Honor.

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American rebels returned this British general’s dog after a crushing defeat

Going up against the most powerful army in the world wasn’t easy. And the Continental Army knew all too well the smell of defeat at the hands of British regulars during their war for independence.


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What’s this!? A British general’s dog? (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Bitterness at suffering a loss could drive most troops to lash out at the victor in any way they could — even to hold a British general’s dog hostage to snub the victorious commander.

But fortunately for the American rebels, their commander had the moral fortitude — and an abiding appreciation for man’s best friend — to do the right thing.

And there’s even a book about the exchange.

After losing the American revolutionary capital at Philadelphia to British forces lead by Gen. William Howe in September 1777, Washington tried to knock out part of the Red Coat force camped at nearby Germantown. The attack launched Oct. 4 collapsed under its own complexity and the Continental troops were driven from the field by Howe’s forces.

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General Howe beat the pants off of Washington, but he lived the rest of his life fighting criticism of his conduct of the war in America. (Photo Wikimedia Commons)

The Continentals lost an estimated 1,000 men to Britain’s 500 and it was the second defeat of the American army under Washington’s leadership.

But it turns out the rebels captured an important asset of the British general who just dealt them a crushing blow.

“A dog … which by collar appears to belong to [Howe] accidentally fell into the hands” of Washington’s army.

Washington was well known as a dog lover, with a host of precarious pooches kenneled on his estate at Mount Vernon in Virginia. And though his men were inclined to keep Howe’s dog in retribution, Washington would have none of it.

He ordered a courier to take the dog through British lines and deliver him to Howe with a note written by his aide-de-camp Alexander Hamilton.

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General Washington’s letter to British Gen. William Howe accompanying his recently-returned dog.(Photo from US government)

“General Washington’s compliments to General Howe, does himself the pleasure to return [to] him a Dog, which accidentally fell into his hands, and by the inscription on the Collar appears to belong to General Howe,” the note reads.

It turned out Washington’s good karma paid off, as Howe resigned as Britain’s top general of the Colonial Army not long after his victory at Germantown and spent the rest of his life fighting off criticism of his conduct of the war in America.

 

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russian propaganda has one surprising shortcoming

You ever seen those Google Translate music videos? Where singers or other entertainers sing songs that have gone through Google translate or another “machine translation” program? Whelp, it turns out, that’s how Moscow often creates its lower-tier propaganda. It either uses Google Translate or low-rent translators who are not especially proficient in the target language, leading to a problem where anyone who can read at a middle school level or better is largely resistant to it.


Google Translate Sings: “Shape of You” by Ed Sheeran

www.youtube.com

(Side note: How is Ed Sheeran just as catchy when the lyrics become total nonsense? I’m in love with your system, baby.)

RAND Researcher Joe Cheravitch has a new paper in the Small Wars Journal and on the RAND Blog that discusses the problem in great detail, but it’s not new. In 2017, BloombergOpinion published a piece about how people are intentionally throwing off the machine learning of translators like Bing and Google to get funny results.

For instance:

In a similar situation last year, when Google Translate repeatedly translated “Rossiyskaya Federatsiya” (Russia’s official name in Russian) into Ukrainian as “Mordor” and “Lavrov” (the Russian foreign minister’s last name) as “sad little horse,” Google said it was just a glitch. That’s highly unlikely.

Basically, old machine translation was horrible because languages change too often and break their own rules constantly, so it’s impossible to translate living text with the rigid rules that computers follow. So Google and other mass translators switched to neural AI, where machine learning is used to look at entire passages of text in multiple languages.

Over time, the AI gets better and better at translating according to how the language is actually used. But it is always limited by the quality of the text it receives. And pranksters, bad actors, and others can throw off the translation of any rarely used word, such as a proper name, by suggesting a specific alternate translation repeatedly.

But of course, Russia can just drag in a couple of top-tier translators and fix the issue, right? There are native speakers in Russia. That’s where Edward Snowden ran off to and where he can still be found when he needs to promote his new book.

Well, apparently it can’t. Because while the Russian military hacking network “Guccifer 2.0” was legendarily successful at hacking the U.S. political apparatus and leaking data through WikiLeaks, it has also operated in Europe and elsewhere. Its ability to break into computers is impressive; its language skills are laughable. (Also, amusingly enough, its ability to prevent incursions on itself was also bad, according to reports in VICE.)

The obvious question is why Russian military intelligence approves these operations at high levels and recruits high-level hackers to break into the targeted computers but then fails to hire sufficiently skilled translators. There are a few potential explanations for this.

First, talent is expensive, and Russia needs translators that are fluent in foreign languages in a lot of places that are arguably more important than undermining Romanian support for a particular candidate. Russia’s economy is heavily reliant on oil. In 2017, 60 percent of its GDP came directly from oil exports. Since it’s selling across Europe through pipelines and the rest of the world through shipping, translators can make more money in that sector.

But worse, there appears to be a bit of a problem holding on to talent in the military if it becomes sufficiently proficient. Avid military news readers know that the U.S. military is struggling to retain pilots as civilian airlines scoop them up. Well, Russian-English translators can get easy work by joining the military. But the constant experience sometimes makes them better translators, allowing them to break into a new income bracket by leaving a few years later.

Back to Cheravitch’s paper for a moment, this brain drain may give digital forensic teams and U.S. policymakers a chance to catch these Russian influencers and create new programs to limit their effect:

Tipped off partly by linguistic mistakes, researchers with the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensics Lab were able to piece together a distinct influence effort attributed to Russian military intelligence following the 2016 election-meddling effort. This sort of work could have obvious benefits for policymakers, who can more appropriately respond to this activity with a better understanding of the actors behind it.
MIGHTY TRENDING

Russian subs can strike European capitals

NATO naval officials have repeatedly warned about Russia’s submarines — a force they say is more sophisticated and active.

US Navy officials have said several times that Russian subs are doing more now than at any time since the Cold War, though intelligence estimates from that time indicate they’re still far below Cold War peaks.

They’re also worried about where those subs are going. US officials have suggested more than once that Russian subs are lurking around vital undersea cables. (The US did something similar during the Cold War.)


But the most significant capability Russian subs have added may be what they can do on land.

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Long-range Kalibr cruise missiles are launched by a Russian Navy ship in the eastern Mediterranean.

(Russian Defense Ministry photo)

Asked about the best example of growth by Russia’s submarines, Adm. James Foggo, the head of US Naval Forces in Europe and Africa, pointed to their missiles, which offer relatively newfound land-attack capability.

“The Kalibr class cruise missile, for example, has been launched from coastal-defense systems, long-range aircraft, and submarines off the coast of Syria,” Foggo said on the latest edition of his command’s podcast, “On the Horizon.”

“They’ve shown the capability to be able to reach pretty much all the capitals in Europe from any of the bodies of water that surround Europe,” he added.

The Kalibr family of missiles — which includes anti-ship, land-attack, and anti-submarine variants — has been around since the 1990s.

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Ranges of Russia’s Kalibr missiles when fired from seas around Europe. Light red circles are the land-attack version. Dark red circles indicate the anti-ship version.

(CSIS Missile Defense Project)

The land-attack version can be fired from subs and surface ships and can carry a 1,000-pound warhead to targets between 930 miles and 1,200 miles away, according to CSIS’ Missile Defense Project. It is said to fly 65 feet above the sea and at 164 to 492 feet over land.

After the first strikes in Syria, the Russian Defense Ministry said the Kalibr was accurate to “a few meters” — giving them a capability not unlike the US’s Tomahawk cruise missiles.

In 2011, the US Office of Naval Intelligence quoted a Russian defense industry official as saying Moscow planned to put the Kalibr on all new nuclear and non-nuclear subs, frigates, and larger ships and that it was likely to be retrofitted on older vessels.

But the system wasn’t used in combat until 2015.

In October that year, Russian warships in the Caspian Sea fired 26 Kalibr missiles at ISIS targets in Syria. The submarine Veliky Novgorod fired three Kalibrs from the eastern Mediterranean at ISIS targets in eastern Syria later that month, and that December a Russian sub fired four Kalibrs while en route to its home port on the Black Sea.

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A Russian Navy ship launches Kalibr cruise missiles from the Caspian sea at targets over 1000 miles away in Syria.

(IN THE NOW / Youtube)

Russian surface ships and subs have fired Kalibr missiles at targets in Syria numerous times since. But their use may be more about sending a message to Western foes than gaining an edge in Syria.

“There’s no operational or tactical requirement to do it,” NORTHCOM Commander Adm. William Gortney told Congress in early 2016. “They’re messaging us that they have this capability.”

Russia has used “Syria as a bit of a test bed for showing off its new submarine capabilities and the ability to shoot cruise missiles from submarines,” Magnus Nordenman, the director of the Transatlantic Security Initiative at the Atlantic Council, told Business Insider in early 2018.

A 2015 Office of Naval Intelligence report cited by Jane’s noted that the “Kalibr provides even modest platforms … with significant offensive capability and, with the use of the land attack missile, all platforms have a significant ability to hold distant fixed ground targets at risk using conventional warheads.”

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A long-range Kalibr cruise missile is launched from the Krasnodar submarine in the Mediterranean.

(Russian Defense Ministry photo)

“The proliferation of this capability within the new Russian Navy is profoundly changing its ability to deter, [or to] threaten or destroy adversary targets,” the report said.

While Russia’s submarine force is still smaller than its Soviet predecessor, that cruise-missile capability has led some to argue NATO needs to look farther north, beyond the Greenland-Iceland-UK Gap that was a chokepoint for Russian submarines entering the Atlantic during the Cold War.

Today’s Russian subs “don’t have to go very far out in order to hit ports and airports and command and control centers in Europe, so they don’t have to approach the GIUK Gap,” Nordenman said in a recent interview. “In that sense the GIUK Gap is not as important as it used to be.”

Foggo said US submarines still have the edge, but the subs Russia can deploy “are perhaps some of the most silent and lethal in the world.”

Concerns about land-attack missiles now mix with NATO’s concern about bringing reinforcements and supplies from the US to Europe during a conflict.

“That’s why Russian submarines are a concern,” Nordenman said in ealry 2018. “One, because they can obviously sink ships and so on, but related, you can use cruise missiles to shoot at ports and airfields and so on.”

“We know that Russian submarines are in the Atlantic, testing our defenses, confronting our command of the seas, and preparing a very complex underwater battle space to try to give them the edge in any future conflict,” Foggo said. “We need to deny that edge.”

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US Navy crew members on board a P-8A Poseidon assisting in search and rescue operations for Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 in the in the Indian Ocean, March 16, 2014.

(US Navy photo)

This has led to more emphasis on anti-submarine warfare, a facet of naval combat that NATO forces focused on less after the Cold War.

The US Navy has asked for more money to buy sonobuoys, supplies of which fell critically short after an “unexpected high anti-submarine warfare operational tempo in 2017.” NATO members also plan to buy more US-made P-8A Poseidons, widely considered to be the best sub-hunting aircraft on the market.

But the Kalibr’s anti-ship capability has also raises questions about whether ASW itself needs to change.

At a conference in early 2017, Lt. Cmdr. Ian Varley, deputy commander of the Royal Navy’s Merlin helicopter force, said anti-ship missiles were pushing ASW away from “traditional … close-in, cloak and-dagger fighting” to situations where an enemy submarine “sits 200 miles away and launches a missile at you.”

“That becomes an air war,” he said. “We need to stop it becoming an air war. We need to be able to have the ability to defend against that.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

Articles

How a band of locals helped American Rangers save 500 prisoners of war

American soldiers moving north during the liberation of the Philippines in 1944-1945 faced a real problem. Their men stranded on the islands at the outbreak of the war had been subjected to years of mistreatment, malnourishment, and disease. They needed to be liberated as soon as possible.


The Japanese had implemented a “kill-all policy,” ordering the deaths of any prisoner attempting escape or about to be liberated. On Jan. 7, 1945, the Army learned about the Palawan Massacre where 135 of the 146 prisoners on a work project were brutally murdered. The other 11 men escaped, most with serious injuries.

So the American forces wanted to rescue the prisoners as quickly as possible but couldn’t advance too quickly or the prisoners would be killed.

North of the advancing American soldiers was a camp near Cabanatuan, Philippines, where 512 American, Canadian, and British troops were held. Lt. Col. Henry Mucci, commander of the Sixth Ranger Battalion, moved with his Rangers and Alamo Scouts to work with Filipino guerillas to raid the camp and rescue the prisoners before the Japanese forces could repeat the Palawan Massacre.

The Americans slipped behind enemy lines on Jan. 28, 1945. The Alamo scouts split off and moved north of the camp to begin reconnaissance. Capt. Robert Prince, one of the Rangers, moved to a Filipino guerilla camp to meet Capt. Juan Pajota, a commander of local forces resisting the Japanese.

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Lt. Col. Henry Mucci and Capt. Robert Prince discuss the raid plans. Photo: US Army Signal Corps

They devised a bold strategy where the 121 Rangers would assault the camp while the 275 guerillas would hold off a large Japanese force camped within earshot of the prison camp. They scheduled the attack for the evening of Jan. 29, only 24 hours after they had slipped behind enemy lines and begun reconnaissance.

Due to increased Japanese activity in the area, the assault was delayed another day. Late on Jan. 30, the Rangers and the guerillas began their assault.

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Capt. Juan Pajota’s geurilla forces. Photo: US Army Signal Corps

The guerillas slipped up to blocking positions near the camp. Seventy-five of them set up a position to watch for forces that might come from nearby Cabanatuan while the other 200 others planted themselves firmly between the main Japanese encampment and the prison camp.

Meanwhile, the Rangers began a slow crawl across the open ground around the prison. To prevent them from being spotted, Pajota had suggested a plane fake distress near the camp.

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Photo: Department of Defense

A Navy P-61 flew over the camp and began shutting off and restarting one of his engines, causing it to backfire. Then, still simulating engine distress, he allowed the plane to lose altitude and dropped behind a nearby ridge. The Japanese focused on the plane while the attackers moved in.

The assault was scheduled for 7:30, but the main force of Rangers were surprised when the attack didn’t begin. The Rangers of Fox Company were ten minutes late in reaching their position.

At 7:40, the attack began. Fox company assaulted the camp from the rear while the main force, Charlie Company, slipped up to the front. Bazooka teams quickly eliminated enemy machine gun nests. One platoon of Charlie company began searching out guards and killing them while the other immediately began evacuating prisoners.

Within five minutes, Pajota and his guerillas began taking fire from suicidal Japanese forces. But they held the Japanese back, allowing the evacuation to continue.

Soon after 8 p.m., Prince searched through all the buildings to ensure all the prisoners had made it out. He then fired a flare to signal the all clear at 8:15, barely 35 minutes after the assault began. The prisoners and the Rangers began moving along their escape route to American lines. The scouts and the guerillas stayed behind to block Japanese forces.

All 512 prisoners were successfully rescued and more than 500 Japanese were killed. Two Rangers also died in the battle.

For their parts in the raid, Mucci and Prince were awarded Distinguished Service Crosses and the rest of the Americans were awarded Silver and Bronze Stars.

NOW: The 10 most daring commando raids in history

Articles

This is how the Reaper could be Guam’s first line of defense

Guam’s first line of defense from an incoming North Korean ballistic missile could very well be MQ-9 Reaper drones. This sounds very counter-intuitive, since ballistic missiles go very fast, and the normal cruising speed of the MQ-9 Reaper is 230 miles per hour.


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The MQ-9 Reaper is an armed, multi-mission, medium-altitude, long-endurance remotely piloted aircraft that is employed primarily as an intelligence-collection asset and secondarily against dynamic execution targets. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Cory D. Payne/Not Reviewed)

But according to a report from DefenseOne.com, the secret was not in what the drones could shoot or drop, but instead in what the drones could see. In a June 2016 multi-lateral exercise involving Japan, the United States, and South Korea, two MQ-9 Reapers equipped with Raytheon Multi-Spectral Targeting System C were able to give Aegis ships armed with SM-3s more precise targeting data on the ballistic missile.

The Missile Defense Agency is hoping to reduce the number of drones needed by adding a targeting laser to the Reaper.

According to the Raytheon web site, the Multi-Spectral Targeting System, or MTS, is a combined electro-optical/infra-red system that also adds a laser designator. Various versions of the MTS have been used on platforms ranging from the C-130 Hercules cargo plane to the MQ-9 Reaper. The United States military has two general versions, the AN/AAS-52, or the MTS-A, and the AN/DAS-1, the MTS-B. The Air Force is also buying another Raytheon MTS system, designating it the AN/DAS-4.

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The test-fire of Pukguksong-2. (KCNA/Handout)

One possibility to improve these airborne eyes could center around a jet-powered version of the Reaper called the Avenger. According to the General Atomics web site, the Avengr has a top speed of 400 nautical miles per hour, and can stay airborne for as many as 20 hours, depending on the version.

The Avenger could have the option of not just watching a launch, but maybe even hitting an enemy missile. According to a 2015 report from BreakingDefense.com, the Avenger could also carry the HELLADS, a high-energy laser system. Earlier this year, the Army tested a high-energy laser on the AH-64 Apache, combined with Raytheon’s MTS.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US warship loaded with F-35s spotted near disputed reef in South China Sea

The US appears to have sailed a warship armed with stealth fighters near a disputed reef in the South China Sea.

Filipino fishermen spotted an “aircraft carrier” launching stealth fighters near the contested Scarborough Shoal, a tiny speck of land in the South China Sea, the local media outlet ABS-CBN reported on April 9, 2019. The video report shows what looks like a US amphibious assault ship, most likely the USS Wasp.

The Wasp “has been training with Philippine Navy ships in Subic Bay and in international waters of the South China Sea … for several days,” a US military spokeswoman told The Japan Times, refusing to confirm the Wasp’s presence near Scarborough Shoal for “force protection and security” reasons.


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Screenshot of the warship spotted by Filipino fishermen.

(ABS-CBN)

The Marine Corps told Business Insider that they were aware of the video but were unable to confirm when and where it was taken. It is also unclear how close the vessel in the video was to the shoal.

The ship has been conducting flight operations in the area as part of ongoing Balikatan exercises with the Armed Forces of the Philippines, according to US Pacific Fleet.

The US Navy warship ship sailed into Subic Bay last week with a heavy configuration of 10 F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters, significantly more than it normally carries. “We have a lot of capability on this ship,” Capt. Jim McGovern, commodore of Amphibious Squadron 11, said of the Wasp, Stars and Stripes reported. The F-35B is a jump jet that has directional engines that allow it take off from and land on short runways.

A US Marine Corps spokesperson told Business Insider that the Wasp has been operating in international waters and Philippine territory during the joint exercises. “Philippine territory” means different things to different countries in the region.

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USS Wasp with heavy F-35 configuration in the South China Sea.

(US Navy/USS Wasp/Facebook)

China seized Scarborough Shoal, a potential powder keg in the South China Sea, from the Philippines after a tense standoff in 2012. The Philippines took the dispute before an international arbitration tribunal in 2016 and won. Beijing, however, rejected the ruling, as well as the tribunal’s authority.

China has not militarized the shoal as it has the Paracels and Spratlys, the other two corners of what is commonly referred to as the “strategic triangle.”

The US routinely conducts freedom-of-navigation operations, as well as bomber overflights, in the South China Sea as a challenge to Beijing’s sovereignty claims. These operations usually take place in the Paracels and Spratlys.

The last freedom-of-navigation operation near the Scarborough Shoal took place in January 2018, when the US Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Hopper sailed within 12 nautical miles of the shoal. China accused the US of violating its sovereignty and security interests.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.