History's 6 greatest sniper duels - We Are The Mighty
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History’s 6 greatest sniper duels

Sniper duels are common in movies, but they’re actually pretty rare in real life. Snipers spend most of their time protecting friendly troops and engaging enemy riflemen.


Still, snipers have faced off in tense, life and death battles. Here are 6 legendary cases where snipers hunted one another.

1. Carlos Hathcock and his hunter

Marine legend Gunnery Sgt. Carlos Hathcock fought a few sniper battles during his time in Vietnam as the North Vietnamese sent sniper after sniper to hunt him.

In one sniper duel, Hathcock found the trail of an NVA sniper hunting him. While following the sniper, Hathcock tripped over a tree and gave away his position. The NVA sniper took a shot but hit Hathcock’s spotter’s canteen.

The men maneuvered against each other and Hathcock eventually caught sight of a glint in the brush. He fired and then moved forward to investigate. As Hathcock had suspected, the glint was from the enemy scope. Hathcock’s round had gone straight through the tube and through the sniper’s eye.

2. Australian Billy Sing vs. Abdul the Terrible

History’s 6 greatest sniper duels
Photo: Australian War Museum

Trooper Billy Sing was an Australian who volunteered for service in World War I and found himself in Gallipoli fighting the Turks. Most days, he and a spotter would find a spot in the trees overlooking the enemy’s trench and then kill a soldier or two.

By the time he had amassed 200 kills, he was well known to the Turks who sent their own sniper, Abdul the Terrible. Abdul managed to kill Sing’s spotter, Tom Sheehan. Sing later spotted Abdul and avenged Sheehan. The Turks then attempted to shell Sing’s hiding place, but the sniper had already withdrawn to the trenches.

3. Simo Häyhä and the Soviet snipers sent to kill him

History’s 6 greatest sniper duels
Photos: Wikipedia

Simo Häyhä, a Finnish sniper from World War II who was known for scoring more than 500 Soviet kills in only 100 days. Of course, the Russians weren’t okay with this and sent sniper after sniper to kill him.

Häyhä picked them all off one by one until March 1940 when an unidentified Soviet sniper shot him through the face. Häyhä survived the shot and the war. He was promoted straight from corporal to lieutenant for his success on the battlefield.

4. Hathcock and the Apache

History’s 6 greatest sniper duels
Photo: Marine Corps Archives

In another Carlos Hathcock battle, Hathcock hunted “Apache.” She was a sniper and interrogator who tortured Marines to death within earshot of the base that Hathcock stayed at.

After one Marine was tortured, skinned alive, and castrated, Hathcock watched for weeks for his target. He was watching an NVA patrol from 700 yards away when he saw her.

“We were in the midst of switching rifles,” he said. “We saw them. I saw a group coming, five of them. I saw her squat to pee, that’s how I knew it was her. They tried to get her to stop, but she didn’t stop. I stopped her. I put one extra in her for good measure.”

5. Adelbert Waldron takes out a sniper in a coconut tree from 900 meters.

Staff Sgt. Adelbert Waldron had a confirmed 109 kills during the Vietnam War. One of them was a stunning shot from the back of a boat as he took fire from an enemy sniper.

As the riverine patrol took fire, Waldron scanned the area for the sniper and spotted him nearly 1,000 yards away in a tree. While bobbing in the river water, Waldron dropped his attacker with a single shot.

6. The “Enemy at the Gates” battle for Stalingrad

During the Battle for Stalingrad, top Soviet sniper Vassili Zaitsev had over 400 confirmed kills, a number he was adding to throughout the battle. The Germans also had a top sniper there, Maj. Konig.

Zaitsev studied the battlefield and Konig’s kills until he deduced Zaitsev was hiding under a sheet of metal in a pile of bricks. Zaitsev used a friend as bait to draw out Konig and then picked off the German sniper when he exposed himself.

The story was adapted for the Hollywood movie “Enemy At The Gates,” but some have called the historical battle a piece of fiction as well. The story is good, but it may have just been Soviet propaganda.

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This is the story behind the failed hostage rescue in Iran

On the night of April 1, 1980, two CIA officers flew Major John T. Carney Jr., a U.S. Air Force Combat Controller, to a small strip of road in the South Khorasan Province, Iran.


This location would live in special operations infamy forever, by its code name – Desert One.

Maj. Carney installed infrared lights, a strobe for use as landing lights, and tested the ground, which was hard-packed sand. By this time, Iranian students had held 52 American diplomats and other embassy personnel hostage for 149 days.

The U.S. military was going to get them out.

This final, very complex mission was supposed to take two nights. Colonel James Kyle, commanding officer at Desert One and planner for Eagle Claw called it “the most colossal episode of hope, despair, and tragedy I had experienced in nearly three decades of military service.”

On the first night, three Air Force C-130s would bring 6000 gallons of fuel in bladders to Desert One. Then three EC-130Es would carry 120 Delta Force operators, 12 U.S. Army Rangers, and 15 Farsi-speaking Americans and Iranians. Three MC-130E Combat Talon aircraft would also carry supplies.

All would enter Iran from the Southern coast of the Gulf of Oman. Eight Navy Sea Stallion helicopters would fly in from the USS Nimitz, refuel, and carry the Deltas to Desert Two, a location 52 miles from Tehran. All would hide during the day.

The second night commenced the rescue operation.

The CIA was supposed to bring trucks to Desert Two and drive the operators into the capital. Other troops were to cut the power to the area around the embassy as the Rangers captured the abandoned Manzariyeh Air Base. This would give arriving USAF C-141 Starlifter aircraft a suitable place to land. Maj. Carney would command the Air Force combat-control team to provide ground control to the temporary airfield.

An Army Special Forces team would hit the foreign ministry to free the top three diplomats who were held separately. Meanwhile, Delta Force would storm the embassy, kill the guards, move the hostages to the stadium across the street where the helicopters would pick everyone up, and take them to the air base where the Starlifters would take them home.

Wikimedia Commons

U.S. forces, fuel, and supplies were delivered as planned. Everything else was a debacle. Ranger roadblock teams securing the deserted road blew up a tanker smuggling fuel and detained a civilian bus and its passengers.

On the way to Desert One, one of the Sea Stallions had to be abandoned on the ground because of a cracked rotor blade. Its crew was picked up by one of the other Sea Stallions.

The other six ran into an intense sandstorm known as a haboob – a windy mix of suspended sand and dust, moving at up to 60 mph. One of the remaining Sea Stallions had to return to base because of the storm while the rest took an extra 90 minutes getting to Desert One, one sustaining damage to its hydraulic system.

This left five total helicopters. The mission minimum was four – U.S. Army Col. Charles Beckwith, commander of the Delta Force, requested the okay to abort this mission, which President Carter granted.

Back at Desert One, the evacuation began in haste. The extra 90 minutes on the ground expended more fuel than planned.

When one of the Sea Stallion helicopters attempted to move into a position to refuel, it blew up a cloud of dust the road collected in the previous three weeks. Unable to see properly, the RH-53 crashed into the EC-130 carrying troops and fuel, killing eight, five of the 14 Airmen in the EC-130, and three of the five Marines in the RH-53.

History’s 6 greatest sniper duels
U.S. Air Force Photo

All five remaining helicopters were left on the ground in the subsequent evacuation (two of them are still in active service with the Iranian Navy). The bodies of all eight Airmen and Marines were found by the Iranians the next day.

The failure of communications between branches during Eagle Claw is the reason each services’ special operations commands now fall under USSOCOM. Many further changes in structure resulted after intense scrutiny, research and a Congressional Committee.

Plans for a second rescue operation continued under the code name Project Honey Badger, but ended with the election of President Ronald Reagan and the hostages’ subsequent release.

Reagan sent Carter to greet the hostages as they arrived in Germany. When asked what he would do differently during his Presidency, Carter remarked “I would have sent one more helicopter, which would have meant that we could have brought out all the hostages and also the rescue team.”

Bruce Laingen, hostage and former charge d’affaires to the embassy in Iran on the operation:

“While no day hurts more — than today and always — than the day when these brave men lost their lives in an attempt to reach us, no day makes us more proud as well, because of the way in which they stood for that cause of human freedom. For that, all of us (former hostages) will be forever grateful.”

The men who died at Desert One:

Capt. Harold L. Lewis Jr., U.S. Air Force, Capt. Lyn D. McIntosh, U.S. Air Force, Capt. Richard L. Bakke, U.S. Air Force, Capt. Charles McMillian, U.S. Air Force, Tech. Sgt. Joel C. Mayo, U.S. Air Force, Staff Sgt. Dewey Johnson, U.S. Marine Corps, Sgt. John D. Harvey, U.S. Marine Corps, Cpl. George N. Homes, U.S. Marine Corps.

History’s 6 greatest sniper duels
Arlington National Cemetery

Their remains were not recovered, but a memorial dedicated to their memory stands in Arlington National Cemetery.

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Here are the best military photos of the week

The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:


AIR FORCE:

A C-17 Globemaster III, assigned to the 535th Airlift Squadron, 15th Wing, glides past Waianae Range as it prepares to land at Wheeler Army Airfield, Hawaii, Oct. 24, 2016. The C-17 made a rare landing at Wheeler Army Airfield to pick up Soldiers from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division and transport them to the island of Hawaii in preparation for exercise Lightning Forge 17.

History’s 6 greatest sniper duels
U.S. Army photo/Staff Sgt. Armando R. Limon

Zombies emerge from the forest as the sun begins to set at the annual Zombie Stomp run Oct. 29, 2016, at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. More than 100 runners participated in ducking, dodging and evading hungry zombies over the 5K course.

History’s 6 greatest sniper duels
U.S. Air Force photo/Samuel King Jr.

Army:

A U.S. Army Soldier, assigned to 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, defends an objective during training at the National Training Center, located at Fort Irwin, Calif., Oct. 29, 2016.

History’s 6 greatest sniper duels
U.S. Army photo by Pvt. Guy Mingo

A 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) Soldier talks on a radio during an air-mobile exercise, part of a defense support of civil authorities training mission at Joint Base Myer – Henderson Hall, Va., Nov. 1st, 2016.

History’s 6 greatest sniper duels
U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Cody W. Torkelson

Navy:

BREMERTON, Washington (Nov. 2, 2016) Seaman Aaron Thompson, from Columbia, S.C., and Seaman Jake Ridley, from Oklahoma City, raise the ensign during morning colors aboard the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74). John C. Stennis is conducting a scheduled maintenance availability at Naval Base Kitsap-Bremerton.

History’s 6 greatest sniper duels
U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Dakota Rayburn

PACIFIC OCEAN (Oct. 30, 2016) Two F-35B Lightning II aircraft land on the flight deck of amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6). The F-35B short takeoff/vertical landing (STOVL) variant is the worldâs first supersonic STOVL stealth aircraft. America, with Marine Operational Test and Evaluation Squadron 1 (VMX-1), Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 211 (VMFA-211) and Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 23 (VX-23) embarked, are underway conducting operational testing and the third phase of developmental testing for the F-35B Lightning II aircraft, respectively. The tests will evaluate the full spectrum of joint strike fighter measures of suitability and effectiveness in an at-sea environment.

History’s 6 greatest sniper duels

History’s 6 greatest sniper duels
U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Kyle Goldberg

Marine Corps:

Marines with Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, conduct a company attack range in Twentynine Palms, Calif., Oct. 21, 2016. Bravo Company is participating in Integrated Training Exercise (ITX) 1-17 and preparing to support Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force.

History’s 6 greatest sniper duels
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Sarah N. Petrock

Marines with Jump Platoon, 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, inspect gear prior to a mission during a field exercise aboard Camp Pendleton, Calif., Oct. 19, 2016. 1st Marine Division is employed as the ground combat element of I Marine Expeditionary Force and provides the ground combat forces necessary for ship to shore forcible entry operations.

History’s 6 greatest sniper duels
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Joseph Prado

USCG Station Point Judith, R.I., crews conduct tactical boat training on a 29-foot response boat. Station Judith has 35 members and operates two 45-foot Motor Life Boats and a 29-foot Response Boat – Small.

History’s 6 greatest sniper duels
USCG photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Nicole Groll

The crew of USCG Cutter Waesche marked the end of a record year in counterdrug operations offloading more than 39,000 pounds of seized cocaine, worth over $531 million, in San Diego.

History’s 6 greatest sniper duels
U.S. Coast Guard photo

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The American Legion just elected its first female national commander

A retired University of Wisconsin administrator was elected national commander of the nation’s largest veterans organization today during The American Legion’s 99th national convention.


Denise H. Rohan, a Vietnam-era veteran of the US Army, is the first woman to be elected to the top position of the 2 million member American Legion.

“Women were allowed to vote for national commander of The American Legion back in 1919, before they could vote for the president of the United States,” Rohan said. “The American Legion has always believed that a veteran is a veteran regardless of gender, race, or religion. If I can offer a different perspective than other Legionnaires, that’s great. But I am excited to build on the great programs, dedicated service and proud legacy of the many Legionnaires who came before me.”

Rohan has served The American Legion since 1984. While commander of Post 333 in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, she established Sons of the American Legion Squadron 333 and chartered Boy Scout Troop 333. She has also served as the department (state) commander of the Wisconsin American Legion.

History’s 6 greatest sniper duels
Denise H. Rohan. Image from American Legion.

She was employed with the University of Wisconsin Madison as the assistant bursar of student loans until her retirement in 2012. She managed the University of Wisconsin Madison, University of Wisconsin Green Bay, and University of Wisconsin Colleges’ $120 million loan portfolio made up of approximately 200 different federal, institutional and state programs in compliance with all laws, regulations, and policy.

Rohan was responsible for the efficiency and design of the computerized student loan accounts-receivable system.

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Pentagon expects ISIS to use mustard gas in Mosul fight

History’s 6 greatest sniper duels
U.S. Army Soldiers put their gas masks on for a simulated chemical attack during a training mission near Camp Ramadi, Iraq, Sept. 25, 2007. | U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Andrew D. Pendracki


The Islamic State is “dead set” on using chemical weapons attacks, including sulfur-mustard gas, to endanger U.S. troops and blunt or delay the long-planned offensive to retake Mosul in northwestern Iraq, a Pentagon spokesman said Monday.

“I think we can fully expect, as this road toward Mosul progresses, ISIL is likely to try to use it again,” Navy Capt. Jeff Davis said, using another acronym for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS. “They are dead set on it.”

Also read: What the alleged mustard gas attack on US troops in Iraq could mean

Last week, ISIS fighters fired an artillery shell near U.S. troops at the Qayyarah West airfield, about 40 miles southeast of Mosul, that was initially suspected of having traces of sulfur-mustard blistering agent. There were no deaths or injuries in the incident.

In a briefing from Baghdad to the Pentagon last Friday, Army Col. John Dorrian, the spokesman for Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve, said that first test of an oily substance on shell fragments was positive, a second test was negative, and a third was inconclusive.

“We have no conclusive evidence” that mustard gas was used, Dorrian said. He said more tests were being conducted.

However, Kurdish peshmerga forces participating in the “shaping operations” for the Mosul offensive said last year that ISIS fired mortar shells suspected of containing mustard gas at their positions about 20 miles east of the Qayyarah airfield. ISIS is also suspected of using chlorine gas in Syria.

Earlier this month, U.S. and coalition aircraft carried out strikes against a former pharmaceutical factory in Mosul that ISIS was suspected of having turned into a chemical weapons complex.

At the Pentagon, Davis said ISIS “would love to use chemical weapons against us and against the Iraqis as they move forward, and we are making every effort to make sure we are ready for it.”

U.S. troops in Iraq have access to gas masks and Mission Oriented Protective Posture (MOPP) gear to protect against chemical attacks.

History’s 6 greatest sniper duels
A U.S. Soldier with the 76th Army Reserve Operational Response Command decontaminates a vehicle after a simulated chemical weapons attack during a base defense drill in Camp Taji, Iraq, July 23, 2016. | U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. Daniel Johnson

In the 2003 invasion of Iraq, troops carried masks and MOPP suits with them at all times and frequently had to don them as alarms went off on the possibility that chemical weapons were in the area.

Later U.S. inspections and reports found that Iraq had stopped producing and stockpiling weapons of mass destruction before the invasion.

“We fully recognize that this is something that ISIL has done before,” Davis said of the possibility of chemical attacks. “They have done it many times, at least a couple of dozen that we know of, where they have launched crude, makeshift munitions that are filled with this mustard agent.”

“That is not something we view as militarily significant, but obviously it is further evidence that ISIL knows no boundaries when it comes to their conduct on the battlefield,” he said.

In addition to U.S. troops having access to gas masks and MOPP gear, Davis said the U.S. has distributed more than 50,000 kits of personal protective gear for Iraqi and Kurdish forces.

In the Mosul offensive, American advisers are expected to move closer to the battlefront. The Defense Department has authorized U.S. commanders to place advisers with the Iraqi Security Forces and Kurdish peshmerga at the battalion level.

In his briefing last Friday, Dorrian said eight to 12 brigades of the Iraqi Security Forces were “ready to go” against Mosul, where ISIS has had nearly two years to build up defenses. The U.S. estimates that the group “no longer is able to mass enough forces to stop the advance” on the city, and its fighters are experiencing “flagging morale” from the loss of territory and the unrelenting coalition airstrikes, Dorrian said.

U.S. airstrikes recently destroyed an estimated 29 ISIS boats on the Tigris River and also blew up a bridge over which the group’s vehicles were attempting to escape, he said.

To defend Mosul, ISIS has built “intricate defenses,” including elaborate tunnel networks and interconnected layers of improvised explosive devices along likely “avenues of approach” to the city, Dorrian said.

The U.S. has also seen reports that ISIS has dug trenches and filled them with oil to be set on fire once the offensive begins. “They’ve built a hell on earth around themselves,” he said.

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The US is considering ‘all options’ to stop North Korea

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made waves on Friday when he expressed his dissatisfaction with decades of failed diplomacy towards North Korea and mentioned that the US would consider “all options,” including military strikes.


To be fair, the US has always considered all options.

If any nation in the world threatens another, the US, with its global reach, considers a range of diplomatic, economic, and even kinetic options to shape the situation.

Related: Here’s what would happen in a war between North and South Korea

But defense experts say a military strike against North Korea is unlikely for a number of reasons.

“There is no plausible military option,” Jeffrey Lewis, founding publisher of Arms Control Wonk told Business Insider. “To remove the North Korean government is general war.”

History’s 6 greatest sniper duels
North Korea has a large amount of massive fixed guns trained on South Korea. | KCNA

Because North Korea has missiles hidden all across the country, there’s simply no way to quickly and cleanly remove the Kim regime from power or even neutralize the nuclear threat, according to Lewis.

“This is not a case where you’re striking a nuclear program in its early stages,” said Lewis, who noted that North Korea has been testing nuclear weapons for more than a decade. “The time to do a preemptive attack was like 20 years ago.”

Last month, North Korea tested a land-based nuclear-capable ballistic missile that could be launched off a tank-like truck in a matter of minutes. And though the country’s nuclear arsenal is still in its early phases, the country reportedly commands 100 missile launchers with several missiles for each.

Last September, the country tested a nuclear weapon some estimates suggest was more powerful than the bomb the US dropped on Hiroshima.

While North Korea’s nuclear threat has grown, according to Lewis, massive artillery installations hidden in the hills and trained on South Korea’s capital and most populous city, Seoul have long been a problem.

But artillery and shelling is nowhere near as destructive as nuclear weapons. If North Korean artillery fired on Seoul, South Korea would counter attack and suppress fire.

History’s 6 greatest sniper duels
KM-101 105mm artillery firing exercise of Republic of Korea Army 6th Division (ROK photo)

“It would kill a lot of people and be a humanitarian disaster,” Lewis said of a North Korean artillery strike on Seoul. “But that’s nothing like putting a nuclear weapon on Seoul, Busan, or Tokyo. North Korea’s ability to inflict damage has gone way up.”

As Tillerson accurately stated, diplomatic efforts to quash North Korea’s nuclear ambitions have failed for decades. The US’s patience has been understandably tried by the recent missile launches clearly intended as a saturation attack, where a large volume of missiles would overwhelm US and allied missile defenses.

History’s 6 greatest sniper duels
Stratfor

However, there is a way out. China recently floated a North Korean-backed proposal for the US to end their annual military drills with South Korea and, in return, North Korea would stop working on nukes. The US flat out rejected the offer, as they have in the past.

Related: How China could potentially stop a US strike on North Korea — without starting World War III

“The onus is on North Korea to take meaningful actions toward denuclearization and refrain from provocations,” Mark Toner, the acting spokesman for the State Department, said at a press briefing on Wednesday.

Toner suggested that comparing the US’s transparent, planned, defensive, and 40-year-old military drills in South Korea with North Korea’s 24 ballistic missile launches in 2016 was a case of “apples to oranges.”

North Korea’s position is “not crazy,” according to Lewis. There is a long history of serious military conflicts beginning under the pretense of military exercises, as Russia’s 2008 invasion of Georgia did.

“The reality is that the US forces are there, we say they’re there for an exercise, but you can’t take that as a promise, you have to treat it as an invasion,” said Lewis.

History’s 6 greatest sniper duels
Marines wait for the command to advance after rushing out of a Republic of Korea Marine amphibious assault vehicle March 31, 2014, during Ssang Yong 2014 at Dokseok-ri beach in Pohang, Republic of Korea. | U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Cedric R. Haller II

Instead, Lewis suggested that part of the purpose of the military exercises has always been to make sure the US and South Korea can capably execute their war plans, but the other purpose has always been political — to reassure South Korea.

Meanwhile, each year the Foal Eagle exercises, where the US and South Korea rehearse their war plan for conflict with North Korea, grow in size. Lewis said that reducing the exercises could go a long way towards calming down North Korea.

Related: New study says North Korea uses war games as an excuse to be difficult

If diplomacy and sanctions continue to fail, the consequences could be disastrous.

“North Korea wants an ICBM with a thermonuclear weapon. They’re not going to stop cause they get bored,” Lewis said.

The US and North Korea are currently locked in strategies to “maximize pain” on the other party, according to Lewis. The US holds massive drills in part to scare North Korea, while North Korea tests nukes to scare the west.

Without some form of cooperation between the two sides soon, diplomacy will continue to fail until it fails catastrophically. And that makes military confrontations, though unlikely, more viable every day.

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These are the massive ships that can transport other ships for repairs

After colliding with a civilian cargo ship earlier this year, the USS Fitzgerald sustained over $500 million worth of damage to its structure and systems.


Though the Arleigh Burke-class warship was brought back to port at Yokosuka, Japan, it will likely be unable to transit the ocean in its current condition, officials say.

However, as the Navy and its contractors don’t maintain large maintenance facilities and dry docks in Japan capable of carrying out the repairs the Fitzgerald needs, it will have to somehow be delivered to the United States for fixing.

To bring the Fitzgerald home, the Navy will make use of massive heavy-lift ships, designed to hoist smaller vessels onto a platform and carry them across the world’s waterways. The alternate name of these unique ships — float on/float offs (FLO/FLO) — hints at how they’re able to load and carry ships weighing thousands of tons.

History’s 6 greatest sniper duels
MV Blue Marlin hauling the Navy’s Sea-Based X-Band Radar into Pearl Harbor (Photo US Navy)

To load a vessel aboard a heavy-lift ship, it takes on water into ballast tanks, submerging its main deck area enough that its cargo can be floated into position, sometimes onto a cradle which will keep it stabilized during transport. When its cargo is in place, the ship releases its ballast and is now able to move under its own power.

This won’t be the first time the Navy has had to use a civilian heavy-lift ship to bring one of its own back to American shores.

In 1988, the USS Samuel B. Roberts, an Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate, was struck by an Iranian mine during Operation Earnest Will. The Roberts was marred with a 15-foot gash in its hull, and its engines were rendered inoperable.

To return the Roberts back to the US, the Navy contracted Dutch shipping firm Wijsmuller Transport to the tune of $1.3 million to provide a heavy-lift ship — MV Mighty Servant 2 —  that would carry the stricken frigate back to Newport, RI, where further damage assessments would take place.

History’s 6 greatest sniper duels
The USS Samuel B. Roberts aboard MV Mighty Servant 2 in 1988 (Photo US Navy)

Years later, in 2000, the USS Cole, another Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, was damaged on its port side at the waterline during a suicide attack which claimed the lives of 17 sailors and injured 39 more. Though the ship was still afloat in the aftermath of the attack, it was quickly determined that it would not be able to proceed back to mainland America under its own power for repairs.

As such, the Navy contracted a Norwegian company, Offshore Heavy Transport, to sail a heavy-lift vessel to Yemen where the Cole remained after the attack, in order to bring the warship home.

Offshore Heavy Transport provided the Navy with the MV Blue Marlin as part of the $4.5 million contract to bring the Cole stateside.

In addition to carting damaged warships around the globe, the Navy’s Military Sealift Command also charters heavy-lift ships to carry its smaller craft to various operating locations in foreign seas, including minesweepers and patrol boats.

A number of these heavy-lift ships are still in service today, save for the Mighty Servant 2, which was lost at sea near Indonesia in 1999. It’s possible that the vessel which brought the Cole back to the United States — the Blue Marlin — could be the same one to return Cole’s sister ship, the Fitzgerald, to America to begin the repair process.

It was recently reported that the move could begin as early as September, depending on when the contract for transport is issued and inked.

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Watch the Coast Guard capture a sub stuffed with 6 tons of cocaine

Guardians with the USCGC Bertholf captured a semi-submersible boat on Mar. 3 with 12,800 pounds cocaine worth nearly $203 million dollars in its hold. The boat was moving up the Central American Pacific Coast when it was spotted by a Customs and Border Protection aircraft who radioed the Coast Guard cutter.


The bust happened 300 miles southwest of Panama. The U.S. Coast Guard is generally thought of as operating only on the U.S. coast but actually deploys around the world to assist other maritime forces and enforce international law.

See video from the capture below:

(h/t Los Angeles Times)

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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.


History’s 6 greatest sniper duels
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.

History’s 6 greatest sniper duels
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.

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US defenses get pressured by North Korean missile advances

North Korea’s newly demonstrated missile muscle puts Alaska within range of potential attack and stresses the Pentagon’s missile defenses like never before. Even more worrisome, it may be only a matter of time before North Korea makes an even longer-range ICBM with a nuclear warhead, putting all of the United States at risk.


The Pentagon has spent tens of billions to develop what it calls a limited defense against missiles capable of reaching US soil. The system has never faced combat or been fully tested. The system succeeded May 30 in its first attempted intercept of a mock ICBM, but it hasn’t faced more realistic conditions.

Although Russia and China have long been capable of targeting the US with a nuclear weapon, North Korea is seen as the bigger, more troubling threat. Its opaque, unpredictable government often confounds US intelligence assessments. And North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un, has openly threatened to strike the US, while showing no interest in nuclear or missile negotiations.

History’s 6 greatest sniper duels

“We should be worried,” said Philip E. Coyle III, a former head of the Pentagon’s test and evaluation office. North Korea’s latest success, he said, “shows that time is not on our side.”

US officials believe North Korea is still short of being able to miniaturize a nuclear warhead to fit atop an intercontinental missile. And it’s unclear whether it has developed the technology and expertise to sufficiently shield such a warhead from the extreme heat experienced when it re-enters Earth’s atmosphere en route to a target.

A Pentagon spokesman, Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, said July 5, “We’ve still not seen a number of things that would indicate a full-up threat,” including a demonstrated ability to mate a nuclear warhead to an ICBM. “But clearly they are working on it. Clearly they seek to do it. This is an aggressive research and development program on their part.”

Davis said the US defensive system is limited but effective.

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The THAAD missile system. | Lockheed Martin photo

“We do have confidence in it,” he said. “That’s why we’ve developed it.”

The Trump administration, like its recent predecessors, has put its money on finding a diplomatic path to halting and reversing North Korea’s nuclear program. While the Pentagon has highly developed plans if military force is ordered, the approach is seen as untenable because it would put millions of South Korean civilians at risk.

But diplomacy has failed so far. That’s why US missile defenses may soon come into play.

The Pentagon has a total of 36 missile interceptors in underground silos on military bases in Alaska and California, due to increase to 44 by year’s end. These interceptors can be launched upon notice of a missile headed toward the United States. An interceptor soars toward its target based on tracking data from radars and other electronic sensors, and is supposed to destroy the target by sheer force of impact outside the Earth’s atmosphere. Sometimes likened to hitting a bullet with a bullet, the collision is meant to incinerate the targeted warhead, neutralizing its nuclear explosive power.

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A long-range ground-based interceptor launches from Vandenberg Air Force Base, CA. DoD photo by Senior Airman Robert J. Volio

This so-called hit-to-kill technology has been in development for decades. For all its advances, the Pentagon is not satisfied that the current defensive system is adequate for North Korea’s accelerating missile advances.

“The pace of the threat is advancing faster than I think was considered when we did the first ballistic missile defense review back in 2010,” Rob Soofer, who is helping review missile defenses, told a Senate Armed Service subcommittee last month. Beyond what US officials have said publicly about the North Korean nuclear threat, he said the classified picture “is even more dire.” Soofer didn’t provide details.

The escalating danger has led the administration to consider alternative concepts for missile defense, including what is known as “boost phase” defense. This approach involves destroying a hostile missile shortly after its launch, before the warhead separates from the missile body and decoys can be deployed. One proposed tactic would be to develop a drone capable of long-endurance flight and armed with a solid-state laser to destroy or disable a missile in flight.

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USAF photo by Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson

These and other possible new approaches would add to budget strains already felt in the missile defense program.

President Donald Trump’s proposed 2018 budget would cut $340 million from missile defense programs intended to deter a potential strike by North Korea, Iran or other countries. The Republican-led Congress has taken the first steps in rejecting the reduction. Rep. Mac Thornberry, R- Texas, the House Armed Services Committee chairman, declared last month that he was “astonished” Trump would propose trimming missile defense.

Thornberry’s committee voted last week to provide about $12.5 billion for missile defense in the 2018 fiscal year that begins in October, nearly $2.5 billion more than Trump’s request. The Senate Armed Services Committee also called for millions more than Trump requested. The full House and Senate are expected to consider the committees’ legislation, and the boost in missile defense money, later this month.

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That time a Marine mechanic took a joyride in a stolen A4M Skyhawk

How much could a Marine Corps fighter cost? That was probably one of the questions running through 21-year-old Lance Cpl. Howard Foote’s mind as the enlisted flight mechanic climbed into an unarmed A4M Skyhawk in the middle of a July night.


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An A4M Skyhawk taking off in 1989. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

In case you were wondering, the cost is roughly $18 million. Rather, that was the cost back in 1984, when Foote stole one of them from Marine Corps Air Station El Toro. Today, that would be the equivalent of $41 million, adjusted for inflation.

Sentries tried to stop Foote as he taxied the aircraft for takeoff, but they just couldn’t get his attention.

“Foote joined the Marines to go the Corps’ Enlisted Commissioning Program, hoping to attend flight school,” Lt. Tim Hoyle, an El Toro public affairs officer, told the Los Angeles Times. “However, while flying at 42,500 feet in a glider he suffered an aerial embolism similar to the bends suffered by divers.”

The bends is the divers’ term for decompression sickness, where gasses in the body (like nitrogen in the compressed oxygen tanks used by divers) come out of the blood in bubbles because the body doesn’t have time to adjust to the pressure around it.

Flight school was not going to happen. Foote became a mechanic instead. Still, he had to realize his dream of going up at the helm of a fighter.

“I had worked my entire life for this flight,” Foote told the LA Times, four years later. “There was nothing else.”

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An LA Times Clipping of the incident. (Tactical Air Network)

The young Marine drove up to the plane in a vehicle used to take pilots to their aircraft. He even wore a flight suit to dress the part.

He flew the fighter for 50 miles, roughly a half hour, doing loops and barrel rolls over the Pacific Ocean. He then landed it after making five passes of the runway.

No one tracked the plane. They didn’t send any other fighters to intercept it. Foote brought it back all on his own.

That’s integrity.

Foote was sent to the stockade at Camp Pendleton. He served four and a half months of confinement and was served an other-than-honorable discharge.

He tried to fly for Israel and for Honduras after his discharge. Foote later qualified as a test pilot in more than 20 different military and civilian aircraft, and became a contractor to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. He holds patents in aviation design and engineering technology.

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This is what it’s like to feel zero G aboard NASA’s ‘Vomit Comet’

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Way back in the early ’90s, when I was a U.S. Navy lieutenant serving as the editor of Approach magazine (Naval Aviation’s Safety review), I was invited by NASA astronaut Bill Shepherd to come down to Houston for a hands-on tour. Along with suiting up in full astronaut gear and flying the shuttle simulator in all regimes of flight, I had the opportunity to ride in NASA’s “reduced gravity aircraft,” better known as the “vomit comet” (because of its tendency to cause passengers to throw up during the zero-G missions).

In those days NASA used a couple of KC-135 Stratotankers as the Vomit Comets, which were big ol’ beasts relative to the contract Airbus 300s and 727s they used later. We launched out of Ellington Field at headed over the Gulf of Mexico. There were about a dozen passengers in the compartment with me, mostly engineers who were testing exercise equipment for future use on the space station.

There was a crew chief who was charged with making sure nobody got hurt, and he explained during his safety brief that the main way to avoid injury was to make sure you had a hand on the padded floor during the transition from zero-G back to 1-G.  He said that passengers had sprained ankles and wrists or twisted neck muscles by getting disoriented while weightless and hitting the deck in an awkward fashion once G came back on the airplane.

The pilot announced “starting the pull,” which meant he was commencing a 1.8 G pull until the aircraft’s nose was pointed 45 degrees up. At that point he pushed the nose forward until the aircraft was right at zero G and held it there until the aircraft was pointed 45 degrees nose down, which resulted in about 30 seconds of weightlessness. At that point he’s start another 1.8 G pull back to 45 degrees nose up into another zero G pushover . . . over and over again.  Each cycle was known as a “parabola,” and a mission consisted of 40 of them – 20 headed eastbound and 20 headed back to the base, westbound.

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My host Navy Captain Bill Shepherd, a SEAL by warfare specialty who later broke the record for days on the International Space Station, had done the Vomit Comet missions many times. He’d admitted before the mission that he’d become airsick every time and predicted he’d do so on that day’s mission as well.

I was a Tomcat Radar Intercept Officer with more than 1,000 tactical jet hours under my belt at the time, so high-G flight was nothing new to me.  In fact, the parabola profile seemed pretty mild compared to the way a fighter maneuvered during a dogfight. But the engineers weren’t as experienced, and Capt. Shepherd instructed me to watch them as the flight went along.

“Everybody will do the first 10 parabolas very giddy,” he said.  “They’ll flip around and laugh and high five each other.”

The next ten parabolas would have fewer spins and less laughter, he predicted.  The 10 after that would consist of people fighting the urge to throw up. And the last 10 would be a bunch of miserable people wishing the flight would end as they floated for 30 seconds at a time after getting sick.

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And that’s pretty much what happened. At some point in the flight everybody’s joy wore off as their inner ears said “WTF?” with all the gyrating and weird sensations. Along with Capt. Shepherd the majority of those in the compartment got airsick, and about three-quarters of the way through the mission all of the engineers were so incapacitated that they were unable to test the fitness equipment.  According to former Reduced Gravity Research Program director John Yaniec, anxiety contributes most to passengers’ airsickness. The stress on their bodies creates a sense of panic and therefor causes the passenger to vomit.

The crew chief noticed that I seemed to be doing okay, so he asked if I would jump in and try out the reclined bicycle and the stepper. I did, and we were able to flag that the stepper had a tendency to stick on the down-stroke during zero G.

I’d experience zero G many times before that, but never for 30 seconds at a time. The sensation of being weightless for that long was very cool, relaxing even. Although those suffering airsickness among us certainly didn’t feel the same way, before I knew it we’d done 40 parabolas and we were back on deck at Ellington Field.

My flight on the Vomit Comet was among the most memorable experiences of my 20-year Navy career, and I’m glad I got to do it before the “reduced gravity” program was cancelled in 2014, another casualty of NASA’s dwindling budget.

Now: 17 Signs That You Might Be A Military Aviator

And: 10 Things That Will Remind You About NASA’s Amazing Legacy

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The US seems to have ended its CIA program to arm anti-Assad militias in Syria

President Donald Trump appears to have confirmed ending a CIA program to arm and train rebels battling the government of President Bashar al-Assad.


In a post on Twitter criticizing a Washington Post report, the president said late July 14, ” The Amazon Washington Post fabricated the facts on my ending massive, dangerous, and wasteful payments to Syrian rebels fighting Assad.”

Trump didn’t specify what was wrong with report by the newspaper, which is owned by Amazon founder Jeffrey P. Bezos.

The Washington Post had reported Trump decided to end the aid almost a month ago after meeting with CIA Director Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster in the Oval Office. It was before the G20 Summit in Germany when met on July 7 with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

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Photo courtesy of Kurdish YPG Fighters Flickr.

The Russian government, which backs the Assad regime, has opposed the program, which was begun by President Barack Obama in 2013.

Officials said the CIA program will likely be phased out “over a period of months.” US ally Jordan, which has hosted training sites for the Syrian rebels, backs the move, according to the newspaper report.

The White House did not dispute the story last week.

A spokesman for the CIA declined to comment on Trump’s tweet.

On July 21, the leader of US special forces appeared to confirm the end of the program.

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“At least from what I know about that program and the decision to end it, absolutely not a sop to the Russians,” Army Gen. Raymond Thomas said at a national security forum in Colorado. “It was, I think, based on an assessment of the nature of the program, what we’re trying to accomplish, the viability going forward.”

He said it was a “tough, tough decision.”

“It is so much more complex than even I can describe, that’s not necessarily an organization that I’ve been affiliated with but a sister, parallel activity that had a tough, and some would argue, impossible mission based on the approach we took.”

After his speech, he told reporters he hadn’t confirmed anything and was referring only to “public reporting.”

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