Articles

How China’s navy rapidly modernized to rival the US’s

A recent report from the US Congressional Research Service details how China’s navy, the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN), has undergone a stunning modernization push that puts it near parity with the US.


In fact, China’s military posture and prowess in the Western Pacific presents the US with a challenge unseen since the end of the Cold War.

By perfecting deadly ballistic and cruise missiles, by buying and designing submarines, planes, and surface ships, by cracking down on corruption and improving internal organization and logistics, the PLAN presents US naval planners with plenty to think about going forward.

Though few expect a military conflict to emerge between the world’s two biggest economies, China’s brinkmanship in the South China Sea has lead observers to describe their strategy of escalation as a kind of “salami-slicing,” or steadily taking small steps to militarize the region without taking any one step that could be viewed as a cause to go to war.

However, the US military, with its global network of allies, doesn’t have the luxury of choosing which conflicts to get involved in, and therefore must take every threat seriously.

In the slides below, see how the PLAN has shaped into a world-class navy capable of dominating the South China Sea, and even the entire Western Pacific, if left unchecked.

China’s naval mission

Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy recruits | Xinhua

Those who observe China’s specific modernization goals, as well as their expressed intents in their actions, have determined that the PLAN’s mission most likely focuses on the following goals:

1. To possibly curb Taiwan’s continued attempts at independence militarily.

2.  Asserting or defending China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea and East China Sea and generally exercising more control over the South China Sea, through which trillions of dollars of trade passes every year.

3.  Enforcing China’s assertion that it has a legal right to regulate foreign military activities in its 200-mile maritime exclusive economic zone, despite the protestations of their neighbors in the region.

4. Defending China’s commercial sea lines of communication with military and trading partners.

5. Usurping the US as the dominant regional power in the Western Pacific, and promoting China as a major world power.

Source: Congressional Research Service

Ballistic missiles

The DF-21D rolls through China’s 2015 military parade. | William Ide via Wikimedia Commons

China’s DF-21D “Carrier Killer” ballistic missile is the cause of much concern for US naval planners. The missile has a tremendous range of about 810 nautical miles, far beyond the range of a US aircraft carriers’ highest-endurance planes, effectively denying them the luxury of lurking off China’s coast in the Western Pacific while in striking range.

The DF-21D uses a range of sensors to adjust its course during firing. This means that it can hit a moving target at sea in sub-optimal conditions and presents difficulties to any missile trying to intercept it. The DF-21D can deliver a high-explosive, radio-frequency, or even cluster warheads, which all but guarantee a kill, even against a formidable target such as a US aircraft carrier.

Source: Congressional Research Service

Submarines

China’s Yuan-class attack submarine. | Congressional Research Service

The PLAN’s submarine fleet continues to undergo a modernization push that focuses on “counter-intervention” tactics against a modern adversary. The force has acquired 12 of Russia’s Kilo-class diesel-electric submarines and launched no fewer than four new classes of indigenously made submarines, all of which are vastly more capable than the Cold-War era vessels they’re replacing.

The PLAN has launched two diesel-electric (Song and Yuan class), and two nuclear classes (Jin and Shang class). But the Shang class was stopped after only two hulls were produced, which led the DOD to speculate that the PLAN may be exploring an updated version of this class.

As the DOD states:

Over the next decade, China may construct a new Type 095 nuclear powered, guided-missile attack submarine (SSBN), which not only would improve the PLA Navy’s anti-surface warfare capability, but might also provide it with a more clandestine, land-attack option.

Additionally, the Jin class can be armed with 12 JL-2 nuclear-armed submarine-launched ballistic missiles, which, given the submarine’s range, could potentially hit any of the 50 states in the US from locations in the Pacific.

Source: Congressional Research Service

Submarine capabilities

A graph showing the relative difficulty of detecting different classes of Chinese and Russian submarines. | Congressional Research Service

The PLAN’s Russian-bought submarines remain some of the most capable in the fleet. Eight of the 12 Kilo classes (presumably the newer ones) carry the Russian-made SS-N-27 Sizzler cruise missiles, with a range of over 180 miles.

Source: Congressional Research Service

Cruise missiles

The PLAN possesses a large, varied inventory of cruise missiles. Some of their most capable missiles are Russian made, like the SS-N-22 Sunburn and the SS-N-27 Sizzler, but their indigenously made missiles are also rated highly.

China’s YJ-18 cruise missile goes into a supersonic-sprint phase when approaching a target, making it harder to stop. Other rangy platforms like the YJ-62, fired from surface ships, and the YJ-12, that can be fired from bombers, complicate the US’s naval plans with their versatility.

Source: Congressional Research Service

The Liaoning

China’s carrier Liaoning. | PLAN

The PLAN’s sole carrier, the Liaoning, has been referred to as a “starter” carrier, as its limited range and capabilities have made it primarily useful as a training craft. Having an aircraft carrier allows the PLAN to test carrier-launched aircraft and carrier-strike-group procedures in a realistic way.

The Liaoning has a displacement of about 50,000 tons and can support about 30 aircraft. US Nimitz-class carriers double both of those figures, and also provide catapults to launch planes with heavier weapons and fuel loads, increasing their range.

As the Liaoning is conventionally powered, and not nuclear-powered like the US carriers, it’s ability for long-range power projection is greatly diminished.

Source: Congressional Research Service

Future carriers

By late October 2015, with the installation of the 7.5-meter tall hangar below the soon to be flight deck, it’s pretty certain that this hull is going to be China’s first domestically built aircraft carrier. | Congressional Research Service

China is thought to be making rapid progress toward building additional aircraft carriers. Little is known of China’s future carriers, but they will most likely also feature the ski-jump platform of the Liaoning.

Source: Congressional Research Service

Carrier-based aircraft

With the help of the Liaoning, the PLAN has succeeded in fielding the J-15 “Flying Shark” carrier-based aircraft.

The J-15 is modeled after Russia’s Su-33 “Flanker,” just as much of China’s military hardware borrows from Russian designs. On land, the J-15 has a range of about 745 miles, but launching the plane from a ski-jump-style carrier platform means that it cannot carry as much fuel, and therefore has a reduced range. Only eight production J-15s are known to be flying at this time.

It has been previously reported that the PLAN seeks to create a short takeoff, vertical-landing plane for carrier-based use in the future. However, they still lack carrier-based reconnaissance plane like the US’s E-2 Hawkeye.

Source: Congressional Research Service

Land-based aircraft and drones

Kevin A. McGill | Wikimedia Commons

The PLAN’s Air Force has been steadily developing new aircraft for “missions including offshore air defense, maritime strike, maritime patrol, antisubmarine warfare, and, in the not too distant future, carrier-based operations.”

The PLAN has been replacing their aging Chengdu J-7 variants and Shenyang J-8B/Ds with 24 Su-30MK2s, which were purchased from Russia in 2002.

Additionally, the PLAN has a licensed copy of Russia’s Tu-16 Badger bomber, the H-6 Badger, of which they likely have 30. The bombers are escorted by JH-7 Flounder fighter/bombers.

The PLAN, like most modern navies, is also pouring money into drones.

“Some estimates indicate China plans to produce upwards of 41,800 land- and sea-based unmanned systems, worth about $10.5 billion, between 2014 and 2023,” according to the DOD.

Source: Congressional Research Service

Surface combatants

China’s Houbei-class (Type 022) fast-attack craft. | Congressional Research Service

Much like the submarine program, the PLAN’s fleet of surface combatants has grown rapidly since 1990, with the purchase of four Sovremenny-class destroyers from Russia and the launch of 10 new classes of indigenously built destroyers and frigates, as well as a new class of corvettes.

US naval planners consider several of the newer frigate classes to be nearly as capable as Western models, and note that shipboard air defense have notably improved in the newer classes.

China’s coast guard, which it wields as a sort of paramilitary force for enforcing their maritime claims, has also benefited from a large number of new cutters.

The newer ships have sophisticated radar and missile capabilities across the board, and future vessels are expected to truly rival the systems used by the US.

Source: Congressional Research Service

Amphibious ships

An unconfirmed conceptual rendering of a possible design for China’s Type 081 amphibious-assault craft. | Global Times Forum

According to the DOD:

China has built four large YUZHAO class amphibious transport docks, which provide a considerably greater and more flexible capability than the older landing ships, signaling China’s development of an expeditionary warfare and OTH (over the horizon/long range) amphibious assault capability, as well as inherent humanitarian assistance/disaster relief and counter piracy capabilities.

The Yuzhao class vessels carry helicopters as well as two Russian-designed Zubr class cushioned landing ships, the largest military hovercraft of its kind.

However, after conflicts in Africa, the PLAN was unsatisfied with the firepower aboard the Yuzhao class and reportedly thought to create a new vessel, the Type 081 (pictured above).

Source: Congressional Research Service

Floating sea bases

A notional artist’s rendering of a very large floating structure. | Liang Jun, People’s Daily China

Perhaps one of the more novel ideas being explored by the PLAN is very large floating sea bases. Only in the concept stage currently, these floating bases could host airstrips, barracks, docks, helipads, or security bases across their massive proposed 2-mile-long surface.

But experts on the topic speculate that these platforms would have ample peacetime uses, like supporting offshore oil rigs or even tourist destinations with duty-free shops.

Source: Congressional Research Service

Nuclear and EMP capabilities

China’s Jin class-ballistic-missile nuclear-powered submarine. | Congressional Research Service

The DOD cites Bill Gertz, writing for The Washington Times, as saying the following:

China’s military is developing electromagnetic pulse weapons that Beijing plans to use against US aircraft carriers in any future conflict over Taiwan, according to an intelligence report made public on Thursday [July 21]…. The report, produced in 2005 and once labeled “secret,” stated that Chinese military writings have discussed building low yield EMP warheads, but “it is not known whether [the Chinese] have actually done so.”

China also possesses a nuclear triad, or the ability to launch nuclear-armed warheads from submarines, land-bases silos, and bomber aircraft.

Source: Congressional Research Service

Maritime surveillance and targeting systems

CSIS ASIA MARITIME TRANSPARENCY INITIATIVE

China’s development and deployment of advanced and long-range radars in the South China Sea is well documented.

The PLAN can use these sensors, which “reportedly include land-based over-the-horizon backscatter (OTH-B) radars, land-based over-the-horizon surface wave (OTH-SW) radars, electro-optical satellites, radar satellites, and seabed sonar networks,” to guide their ballistic and cruise missiles, as well as more conventional forces.

Source: Congressional Research Service

Naval cyber warfare

Wikimedia Commons

China’s military writing does not specify how they would use cyberwarfare in a naval conflict, but it should be assumed that network warfare would be part of any sea battle. The PLAN is known to have invested heavily in cyberwarfare.

Source: Congressional Research Service

Limits and weaknesses

Lamar Salter

Though the PLAN has made major strides toward modernization and world-power status, they still lack in the following four key areas:

1. Joint operations with other parts of China’s military,

2. Antisubmarine warfare,

3. Dependence on foreign suppliers for some ship components,

4. Long-range targeting.

Source: Congressional Research Service

Conclusion

Public domain

The PLAN and the other branches of China’s massive military have made impressive progress in modernizing they forces, but they still lag behind in some key areas.

The US Navy, unlike the PLAN, has commitments around the world. Currently two carrier-strike groups are stationed in the Mediterranean as the fight against ISIS rages on and Russia continues to threaten NATO territory and personnel.

The US would face extreme difficulties in abandoning their posts worldwide to focus on the Pacific, whereas China would leverage every possible dimension of warfare (psychological, informational, legal, cyber, conventional, and possibly even nuclear or electromagnetic) to assert their dominance in their immediate region.

However, the US has a built-in advantage that the Chinese cannot hope to design or buy — alliances. Through the US’s solid support of democratic and Western-leaning nations in the region, they have built a network of strong and determined allies that can band together against a rising authoritarian power like China.

Articles

5 times criminals changed the course of wars

Crime doesn’t pay… except when it helps decide the course of a war. Here are five cases of criminals joining the war effort:


1. The Jewish Mafia opened the New York docks to the Navy so Nazis there could be caught

The Normandie lies in the New York harbor after a suspect fire damaged her. Photo: US Navy National Museum of Naval Aviation

During World War II, Nazi U-Boats were a major threat on the East Coast and the Navy suspected Nazi saboteurs and sympathizers to be behind a few incidents such as the sinking of the cruise ship Normandie.

Jewish mobster Meyer Lansky wanted to help European Jews, and that meant helping the Navy. He got them past longshoremen blockades at the docks, had his men violently break up gatherings of Nazi sympathizers, and even helped capture a group of Nazi saboteurs who holed up in a New York hotel.

2. The mobster “Lucky Luciano” aided Operation Husky from a cell in New York.

Troops and equipment come ashore on the first day of the invasion of Sicily. Photo: Royal Navy C. H. Parnall

Lansky wasn’t the only mobster to help the Navy. Charlie “Lucky” Luciano was in prison but volunteered to jump into Europe to rally friends and associates in Sicily and Italy to help the Allies invasion of the “soft underbelly of Europe.”

The Navy turned him down for frontline duty, but did allow him to contact his associates in the area. They responded with photos, maps, and other reconnaissance, aiding the risky Operation Husky.

RELATED: This top-secret operation was the World War II version of ‘Weekend at Bernie’s’

3. A single vigilante in the Civil War crippled Union shipping on the Tennessee River.

Jack Hinson. Photo: Public Domain via Wikipedia

Jack Hinson was a dutiful informant for both sides during the American Civil War, but he spent most of his time trying to stay out of the whole thing and just run his farm. But then the Union executed and beheaded two of his sons on suspicion of Confederate activity.

Hinson went nuts. He had a custom sniper rifle made and began straight murdering any and every Union soldier he could get a shot off at, starting with the lieutenant and sergeant who led the execution of his sons.

4. D-Day was made possible by boats popularized by smugglers.

Troops in an LCVP landing craft approach Omaha Beach on D-Day, June 6, 1944.Photo: Wiki Commons

Andrew J. Higgins was a successful businessman who began building boats for trappers and lumbermen in Louisiana operating in the bayou. There is speculation that he may have ran booze himself, which may or may not have been true, but his boat business was definitely fueled by bootleggers.

That ended up being good for the Marine Corps and Army, because that booming boat business provided the armored boats that landed troops across the Pacific and on the Normandy beaches.

5. A Pirate queen won a war against the Chinese, British and Portuguese navies.

鄭一嫂-Ching-Shih-Pirate-queen Photo: Public Domain via Wikipedia

In the early 1800s Ching Shih was a Chinese prostitute that a pirate lord was in love with. He married her and the two grew his fleet from 200 to 600 ships before he died in a storm. Shih then built an entire pirate nation with a code of laws and a fleet of 1,800 ships. The Chinese emperor raised a force to bring her down, but that failed and so he asked for help from the British and Portuguese.

After the trilateral alliance failed to defeat her in over two years of war, she offered the Chinese government to disband her fleet if her leaders were offered positions in the Chinese navy, she was given a royal position, and the Chinese paid for the pirates to transition to a life on land. The government agreed and the war ended.

Articles

These remarkable photos show the physical toll a war takes on the Commander-In-Chief

Statistically, the American Presidency is the deadliest job in the world. Over 18 percent of those who’ve held the job have died in office.  It’s also arguably the most stressful in the world. Don’t think so? Well, check out these paintings and photos of America’s wartime Presidents before and after their wars:


George Washington – Revolutionary War

Even in a painting, the toll a war takes on the Commander-In-Chief is evident. The first painting was made in 1772. The second was just after the Revolution in 1783. Wigs notwithstanding, the differences between the two men are stark.

Thomas Jefferson – War with the Barbary Pirates

Sure Jefferson was already well-aged by the time he ran for president. He had to go against many of his core beliefs to defend the rights of Americans abroad and to rescue captured U.S. sailors.

James Madison – War of 1812

Unlike earlier engravings of Madison, the portrait on the right was painted to highlight the toll the War of 1812 (then derisively called “Mr. Madison’s War”) took on the president.

James K. Polk – Mexican-American War

The left painting of Polk was done in 1846, just before the start of the war. The daguerreotype on the right was taken just before the end of his presidency. Even though the war had been over for a year, President Polk’s health never recovered from the stress.

Abraham Lincoln – Civil War

The 1860 photo on the left was taken just before Lincoln’s inauguration. On the right, an 1865 photo reveals the strain of leading the Union in the Civil War for four years.

William McKinley – Spanish-American War

The Spanish-American War lasted just a few weeks of 1898. McKinley was President from 1897 until his assassination in 1901. Still, the two photos of the him before and toward the end of his term show that even in 1900, just being the American President takes its toll.

Woodrow Wilson – World War I

President Wilson famously “kept us out of war” in his first term, but events in his second led to the formation of the American Expeditionary Force and U.S. entry into the Great War. Toward the end of his term, while pushing for the Treaty of Versailles, he became unresponsive and suffered a stroke. He was incapacitated for much of 1919.

Franklin D. Roosevelt – World War II

FDR served four consecutive terms, guiding America through the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl, and World War II. It could be argued that he gave his life to the cause. The photo on the left shows Roosevelt as a presidential candidate in 1932, the one on the right was taken the day before his death in 1945.

Harry S. Truman – Korean War

President Truman was 61 when he took office after Roosevelt’s death. He finished WWII and served as President for most of the Korean War, but except for a few more age lines (aka wrinkles), the job didn’t seem to take as much out of the Missouri native. He lived to be 88 and was present when LBJ signed Medicare into law.

Lyndon B. Johnson – Vietnam War

LBJ was in his 60s when he took over for the assassinated President John F. Kennedy in 1963 but just like many before him, the wartime Presidency did a number on him. The photo on the left is from LBJ’s “midnight address,” where he discussed the Gulf of Tonkin incident that would lead America to war in Vietnam. The second is LBJ in 1972, five months before he died. After he left office in 1969, he went into a self-destructive spiral.

Richard Nixon – Vietnam War

Granted, Nixon had a lot more to worry about than just Vietnam, but five years in the White House still aged the President considerably.

Ronald Reagan – Cold War

President Reagan lived and worked the Cold War for every day of his 1981-1989 term. In his 1980 campaign poster, pictured left, he uses a slogan that is all too familiar for 2016’s presidential election. On the right, in a 1988 photo at the White House, the man who took office in his seventies is significantly more gray but sports the exact same smile.

George H.W. Bush – Panama, Gulf War

Bush 41 came into the office past middle age as well. But the elder Bush had a lot of experience in Washington and in international affairs. He handled the invasion of Panama and the Gulf War so well, it seems like he’s the only one who actually looked better after the Presidency.

George W. Bush – Global War on Terror

The present-day brings us to presidents who spent almost their entire terms at war. President Bush was in office only a few months before the September 11, 2001 attacks altered his plan to preside over the United States. The resulting War on Terror lasted until well after his successor took over. The photo below shows President-elect Bush in 2000 and former President Bush in 2009, after 8 years of war.

Barack Obama – Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, War on ISIL

President Obama spent his entire presidency managing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He campaigned on ending the war in Iraq, then ended up having to send U.S. troops back to fight the Islamic State terrorist organization that rose up there. The War in Afghanistan will be inherited by his successor as well. The photos below show Obama on the campaign trail in late 2008 and at the March 2016 Chief of Missions conference.

 

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Here are 3 early attempts at automatic weapons

The search for an effective rapid-fire weapon, particularly in the latter 19th century, took on some innovative designs, most of them of dubious battlefield utility and rarely employed. All this changed when the U.S. Army adopted the famed Gatling gun in 1866, which could reliably fire up to 400 rounds a minute and had already proven itself in small quantities during the Civil War. John Gatling — ironically a physician — had suddenly made warfare far more deadly.


Here is a look at some early attempts at automatic weapons before Gatling turned them into the staples of warfare they are today.

1. Repeating Crossbows

Chu Ko Nu crossbow

The Polybolos was a large repeating ballista dating back to the 3rd century B.C. It was supposedly the invention of a Greek engineer named Dionysus, who worked at the large arsenal on the island of Rhodes. Fed by a large wooden magazine holding several dozen bolts of the weapon’s cradle, it allowed its crew to crank a large windlass back and forth, allowing it to achieve a far greater rate of fire than conventional ballistics.

A replica built by the Discovery show “MythBusters” proved that it could have been a very feasible weapon, but would have suffered from severe reliability problems.

A device similar in concept called the Chu Ko Nu was in use by Chinese soldiers as early as the 4th century B.C., but it was conceived more as a rapid fire light crossbow. Holding up to 10 bolts, the soldier could rapidly crank a handle and fire every couple of seconds, an astonishing rate of fire for a weapon at the time. The bolts were light and its range was short, but it was intended for mass formations and made up for its lack of power with volume of fire. To increase lethality, its bolts were sometimes coated in poison.

2. Coffee mill gun

Agar or ‘coffee mill’ gun

The American Civil War saw widespread experimentation in weaponry, and among the most sought was a rapid fire battlefield gun that could support the infantry. The “coffee mill,” or Agar gun, the namesake of it’s inventor Wilson Agar and mounted on a light artillery carriage, was one such attempt. Standard .58 rifle cartridges were loaded in special steel tubes and were placed in a large hopper on top of the weapon. A hand crank fed the cartridges and allowed a rate of fire of up to 120 rounds per minute. The feeding mechanism resembled an old-fashioned coffee mill, giving it its nickname. President Abraham Lincoln witnessed a demonstration and was very impressed by the weapon’s performance, and a small number were purchased by the Union Army.

Despite its impressive rate of fire, the weapon had serious disadvantages. Reloading the steel tubes was cumbersome, making keeping up the rate of fire difficult, and their loss made the weapon useless. The feed mechanism was vulnerable to jamming, and the weapon was highly prone to overheating. Its range was no greater than a standard rifled musket. Though it saw some action, its flaws, and the few number purchased ensured it played only a minor role in the war, and it was quickly replaced by the far more effective Gatling gun.

3. Mitrailleuse

Mitrailleuse

One approach to rapid fire was the clustering of large numbers of single-shot barrels together that were fed by a single large breach, firing in sequence before being loaded in again. The Mitrailleuse, from the French word for grapeshot, was the pinnacle of this concept. The original design came from it’s Belgian inventor Captain Fafchamps in 1851, but many variants saw service in the French Army leading up to the Franco-Prussian war.

Carrying up to 50 barrels and mounted on an artillery carriage, the weapon was breech loaded using large steel blocks studded with ammunition. A small crank was then turned to manually fire each round. A skilled gunner on some types could achieve over 100 rounds a minute. The Reffye variant which was most commonly used by the French used 13mm rounds with a range of over 2,000 yards. Unlike a modern machine gun, it was used more as artillery, with all its ammunition being expended on a single point target.

By the time the Franco-Prussian war broke out, the French had slightly more than 200 Mitrailleuses in service. The Prussians, despite having few rapid fire weapons of their own, were not particularly impressed by their enemies wonder weapon. It’s inability to be targeted quickly, and it’s rapid expenditure of ammunition onto a single target, rendered it tactically inflexible and redundant to conventional artillery. The small numbers deployed also limited the weapon’s effectiveness. After losing the war, the French phased the Mitrailleuse out.

 

 

Articles

Here’s why Russia’s humongous new missile is worth worrying about

RS-28 Sarmat ICBM wheeling out of a bunker.


Russia is testing an intercontinental ballistic missile that is so large and powerful it could hit any strategic target in the United States or NATO with independently targeted warheads possibly capable of penetrating ballistic missile defenses.

According to a TASS report on May 6, Col.-Gen. Sergei Karakayev, commander of the Russian Strategic Missile Forces, said Russia will move their new RS-28 Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missiles to bases at Uzhurskogo and Dombarovsky.

The first location is near Krasnoyarsk in Siberia; the second is located in the Urals in the Orenburg Oblast and is a major ICBM base first built by the Soviets during the 1960s. In particular, Dombarovsky is a site associated with missile training exercises.

For example, in the early 2000s the SMF held as many as seven launches from the Dombarovsky site using decommissioned missiles that delivered commercial payloads.

The bases also are ideal for launching the new missile toward targets either in the United States or in NATO countries such as Germany, France, or the United Kingdom once it becomes operational.

In the report, Karakayev also said a “completed missile complex” will hold the Sarmat as a “silo-based heavy missile” intended to replace the venerable SS-18 ICBM.

The Soviets first deployed the SS-18 in 1977 – the missile in its Cold War SS-18 MOD 4 configuration carried 10 multiple independently targeted reentry vehicles each with up to a 750 kiloton yield. An individual warhead had more than 20 times the destructive power of the Hiroshima bomb.

It was specifically designed to attack and destroy American ICBM silos and other hardened targets.

Code named Satan by NATO, the SS-18 MOD 6 version of the ICBM currently deployed by Russia has a single 20-megaton warhead.

Russian sources say Sarmat will be operational by 2018.

However, not much else is known about Sarmat. Various Russian reports indicate that it is a two-stage liquid-fuel missile with an estimated operational range of 6,200 miles weighing about 220,000 pounds and capable of hefting perhaps a dozen heavy warheads, each individually steerable during reentry.

There is no information on the yield of each warhead. However, the hypersonic speed and increased maneuverability of the warheads apparently is an effort to thwart U.S. anti-ballistic missile systems.

On Thursday, the Kremlin said Russia is taking protective measures against the Aegis Ashore anti-missile systems deployed in Romania by the United States. Dmitri Peskov, spokesman for Russian Pres. Vladimir Putin, told reporters while commenting on the anti-missile system “the question is not whether measures will be taken or not; measures are being taken to maintain Russia’s security at the necessary level.”

“From the very outset we kept saying that in the opinion of our experts the deployment of an anti-missile defense poses a threat to Russia,” Peskov said.

Despite economic hardships and Western criticism, Russia has aggressively worked on improving its strategic missile inventory and the destructive power of its ICBMs. Recently, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said revamping the nation’s strategic missile forces is a No. 1 priority.

Last year, Gen. Valery Gerasimov, chief of the Russian Armed Forces general staff, said the United States and its NATO allies are developing the means to strike Russia precisely and effectively with strategic weapons. The Kremlin intends to introduce weapons that can penetrate the American missile defense shield and thwart this increased capability, Gerasimov said.

Russian writers for Sputnik, a Russian propaganda publication aligned with the Kremlin, have published reports touting the capabilities of the Sarmat. They claim the missile will “determine which direction nuclear deterrence will develop in the world.”

The story even claimed that Sarmat’s warheads could wipe out territory equivalent to a landmass the size of Texas.

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WATM Podcast: What if the US took on the rest of the world?


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Just imagine the shocking scenario where the U.S. angered China, Russia, Iran, and its traditional allies like the UK and France. Now imagine if these countries formed a unified coalition to attack the U.S. How long would the U.S. be able to hold them off? Which tactics would it deploy? What role will its citizens play?

In this debut episode of the WATM podcast, the boys of the editorial team discuss how this idea might play out.

The podcast is hosted by bunch of vets who live and breathe all things weapons, tactics, and mil-tech. Here’s who they are:

Selected links and show notes from the episode

• Reader comments on the WATM Facebook page

• VICE article: We asked a military expert if all the world’s armies could shut down the US

• How long the US military would last in a war against the rest of the world

• IMDb: Red Dawn (1984)

• The top 10 militaries in the world, ranked [9:20]

• Russia’s only carrier is a floating hell for the crew [9:45]

• China’s new carrier will be an updated version of its first one [10:20]

• Here is why the US is the most powerful country that has ever existed [12:35]

• Swamp Fox Memorial: The legend of the Swamp Fox (General Francis Marion is credited as the Father of Guerilla Warfare) [18:35]

• Mining Everyday Technologies to Anticipate Possibilities:

DARPA’s “Improv” effort asks the innovation community to identify commercial products and processes that could yield unanticipated threats [19:35]

• This was the most powerful explosion ever . . . by a lot [22:15]

• These are the boats you didn’t know the Army had [34:00]

• Cracked article: 6 Powerful Groups You Didn’t Know Have Post-Apocalypse Plans

If The USA Falls, Wyoming Will Pick Up The Pieces [31:10]

• America’s ‘concrete battleship’ defended Manila Bay until the very end [32:15]

• For fun: Articles about the F-35 [36:00]

Music license by Jingle Punks

  • Drum March
  • Beat Meat
Articles

Air Force concerned that VIP helicopters are dangerously old

Gen. Abidin Ünal, Turkey’s Air Force Chief of Staff, waves during takeoff in a UH-1N Iroquois at Joint Base Andrews, Md., April 6, 2016. Ünal flew with the 1st Helicopter Squadron during a U.S. visit to build U.S. – Turkey relations. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Ryan J. Sonnier)


On Apr. 6, Turkish Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Abidin Ünal smiled and waved as the U.S. Air Force’s 1st Helicopter Squadron took him on an aerial tour of the Washington, D.C. area. What Ünal’s hosts probably never mentioned was that their “White Top” UH-1N Twin Hueys are getting dangerously old.

The flying branch bought their first Twin Hueys nearly five decades ago. Despite numerous attempts to replace the choppers, the UH-1Ns continue to fly security missions around nuclear missile fields, shuttle dignitaries around the nation’s capital and stand ready to help out after a disaster or other emergency.

“[The] UH-1N doesn’t satisfy many assigned mission requirements,” Air Force officials wrote in a presentation for defense contractors in August 2015. “Emphasis is on expedited fielding of replacement aircraft.”

We Are The Mighty obtained a redacted copy of this document through the Freedom of Information Act. According to the “rules of engagement” section, the hosts banned attendees from recording the industry day gathering or taking photographs.

First flown in 1969, the Bell UH-1N has a top speed just shy of 150 miles per hour and a range of over 300 miles. Compared to earlier Hueys, the N models have twin Pratt and Whitney T400-CP-400 turboshafts – hence the “Twin” nickname.

Depending on the internal configuration, the Twin Huey can carry up to 13 passengers in addition to its crew of three, at least on paper. Unfortunately, temperature and other weather conditions can dramatically change how much any helicopter can lift.

The briefing highlights three missions that were driving the push to replace the choppers. The first two were convoy escort and security response operations around missiles silos and related sites. The third, but equally important mission was carrying “distinguished visitors” like Ünal in and around Washington, D.C.

So, since the release of the Pentagon’s latest budget in February, and with serious concerns about these limits and overall age of the Air Force’s UH-1N fleet, American lawmakers have begun to demand action. But the safety of the country’s nuclear missiles has been at the center of the outcry.

“I look at the helicopters and I see glaring weaknesses and vulnerabilities which put our nation and … the mission at stake,” Ryan Zinke, a former Navy SEAL and Republic congressman for Montana, said in a statement on Mar. 9. “This is not a mission that can fail. Our nuclear triad is at stake.”

Armed with fast-firing miniguns and rocket pods, the Air Force originally rushed the UH-1Ns to Southeast Asia to schlep commandos around South Vietnam and Laos during the final years of the Vietnam War. By the end of the 1980s, the flying branch had largely replaced them in the special operations role with the more powerful HH-60G Pave Hawk.

Of the 62 UH-1Ns, 25 eventually wound up serving with squadrons guarding nuclear sites across the western U.S. The 582d Helicopter Group at F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming oversees those units and their missions.

However, nearly as many Twin Hueys are busy transporting “distinguished visitors” at home and abroad. The 1st Helicopter Squadron at Joint Base Andrews owns 20 of the choppers, while the 459th Airlift Squadron at Yokota Air Base in Japan has another four aircraft.

Commonly known as “White Tops” because of their striking blue and white paint jobs, the 1st Helicopter Squadron’s choppers fly foreign officials like Turkey’s Ünal around on a regular basis. On top of that, the unit is prepared to act if a natural disaster or major terrorist attack threatens the most powerful city in the free world.

In 2011, the 479th‘s white and gray UH-1Ns got put the test after the Tōhoku earthquake and resulting tsunami hit Japan. The choppers and their crews help moved critical American and Japanese personnel around the disaster area – including near the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant – to survey and assess the situation.

On Feb. 29, the Air Force announced that two of the Twin Hueys in Japan had gotten new hoists to help rescue trapped or injured individuals in a crisis. Unfortunately, on the same day, the service admitted that one of the UH-1Ns had made a “precautionary” landing at Chofu Airport in Tokyo after experiencing engine trouble.

“They’ve run an exercise, a couple of them, and every time they use the Hueys, they fail,” Zinke said in an interview with Congressional Quarterly in February, referring to some of the 582d’s aircraft stateside.

If a UH-1N were to crash while carrying an American or foreign government official, it would be a major embarrassment for the Air Force and Washington as a whole, if nothing else. Depending on who was involved and if there were any fatalities, the fallout could be just as devastating as a breach of nuclear security.

Unfortunately, Pentagon and the Air Force have had serious problems trying to fix the problem. Since 2004, the service has repeated pushed back the plans due to budget cuts, competing priorities and delays with other projects.

Had these sailors saved this Huey in ’75 (pushed overboard to make room on the flight deck during the evacuation of Saigon) it might still be flying VIPs around DC today. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

In 2009, the Pentagon dealt one of the biggest blows to the plan by canceling the program to replace the HH-60G rescue choppers. Three years earlier, the flying branch had hired Boeing to supply new HH-47 Chinooks.

Other competitors quickly filed official complaints accusing the service of mismanaging the contracting process. After the Government Accountability Office sided with the protesting companies, the Air Force tried and failed twice more to jump-start the program.

Ultimately, the flying branch inked a deal with Sikorsky to supply an updated HH-60W version of their iconic Black Hawk. But the Connecticut-based company, now part of Lockheed Martin, doesn’t expect to deliver any of those aircraft to the Air Force before 2019.

There’s no guarantee that these new aircraft would free up any of the older Pave Hawks either. In their 2015 briefing, the flying branch was willing to consider upgrading the choppers as a possible solution.

The Air Force made it clear that they wanted a single, common replacement for all the UH-1Ns scattered across the service, including another dozen assigned to training and test units. But, at the time, the presenters added that there was no program of record or funding stream for any replacements for the aging choppers.

On Feb. 26, Zinke and 13 other legislators co-signed letters to the House Armed Services Committee and the House Appropriations Committee asking them to put money for new helicopters in the 2017 budget. Their proposal would involve adding to an existing U.S. Army plan to purchase HH-60M Black Hawks, but sending the extra aircraft to the Air Force.

“By adding Black Hawks … we can address the problem immediately rather than more delayed action,” the messages explained. “Not only does the Huey create security vulnerabilities, it has been proven inefficient and costly to operate and maintain.”

Neither congress nor the Pentagon has made a final decision on how best to proceed. In the meantime, foreign officials like Ünal will have to continue riding in the old Twin Hueys when they visit Washington.

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5 Army myths that just won’t die

The rumor mill is one of the most amazing things about Army service. Conjecture seems to travel through the Private News Network at speeds rivaling any military vehicle. Unfortunately, the PNN is not the most accurate place to get news and there are certain urban legends that show up time and again. Here are five of the rumors that just won’t die.


1. “These soft new soldiers could get a break in basic by just raising their stress cards.”

It seems like every time the Army graduates a class of basic trainees, the rumor pops up that this class was issued the fabled “stress cards.” These legendary pieces of paper would allow soldiers to take a time out if basic was getting too stressful and challenging, but the cards were never supposed to provide a break.

Snopes researched this myth and found an example of cards referencing stress in Navy recruits, while Stars and Stripes found a card that was issued to new soldiers. Neither card allowed for a time out though. The Navy card listed resources stressed sailors could turn to instead of running away or committing suicide. The Army cards served as a reminder to training cadre that recruit stress was real and should be managed.

For both services, there are reports of recruits trying to get out of training by raising the card, but training cadre were not obliged to provide a time out. A 1997 federal advisory committee recommended the use of the cards end due to the widespread misconception that they could be used to take a break.

2. “The Army was drugging us in basic. That’s why we didn’t want to have sex.”

Photo: US Air Force Tech. Sgt. Michael R. Holzworth

Soldiers in basic may be surprised to find they can go months without sex and not miss it during training. In whispered conversations over dining facility tables, this is blamed on the Army lacing the food or water with saltpeter or other anti-libido drugs.

Stars and Stripes addressed this rumor and every branch of service provided an enthusiastic denial of the myth. In the article, a spokeswoman for the Kinsey Institute addressed the likely cause of soldiers’ lowered sex drive.

“Most people when they are under stress are not interested in sex,” Jennifer Bass told Stars and Stripes. “There are other things going on that are more important that they have to take care of physically and emotionally, and usually those two have to be working together for sexual response to happen.”

The rumor sometimes manifests as the Army drugging deployed soldiers, but the real cause of the dampened libido overseas is probably the physical and emotional stress of combat.

3. “Really, my granddad’s uncle had an M-16 with Mattel right on the grips.”

Photo: US Army Visual Information Specialist Markus Rauchenberger

The story goes that the first shipments of M-16s to U.S. troops in Vietnam had handgrips stamped with the Mattel logo, since Mattel had been subcontracted to make the parts in the first few runs of the new rifles.

While a great story, it’s not true. Snopes thinks the rumor started due to a joke among service members. The M-16 was plagued with problems when it first debuted with U.S. troops. Since it was made of plastic and did not function well as a weapon, troops joked that it was a toy using the tagline of the largest toy manufacturer of the time, “You Can Tell It’s Mattel… It’s Swell!” Mattel also manufactured a toy version of the weapon, likely adding to the myth.

The rifle was originally created by Armalite, and it had been producing the M-16 for export for over three years before the U.S. placed an order in 1962. Armalite had supplied an order to the Federation of Malaysia in late 1959, followed by orders for testing in India and fielding by the South Vietnamese. Manufacturing of the design was licensed out in 1962 to Colt who made the weapons finally delivered to U.S. troops in Vietnam in 1965. Colt, Armalite, and yes, even Mattel, have all denied involvement the toymaker had any part in manufacturing parts for the M-16.

4. “Hollywood doesn’t get our uniforms right because it would be against the law.”

Military movies are filled with annoying inaccuracies, something WATM has been happy to point out on multiple occasions. The rumor when it comes to uniform errors is that federal law prohibits civilians from wearing military uniforms, so Hollywood changes aspects of the uniform to get around the law.

First, the law exists but it applies whenever someone fraudulently wears the uniform, even if they intentionally get details wrong. Also, there are exceptions written into the law to protect artistic performances.

Since actors are allowed to wear the uniform while performing, Hollywood could legally portray the uniform properly just as easily as they display it incorrectly. Typically, movies gets the uniforms wrong because the crew doesn’t know better or doesn’t care. At the end of the day, it’s a costume designer outfitting the actors, not military technical advisors.

5. “Starbucks doesn’t support the troops!”

Photo: US Army Sgt. Carmen Gibson

Many companies have been accused of not supporting the troops for various reasons, but Starbucks seems to be the one who gets criticized the most due to a myth that they openly voiced a lack of support to the Marines. The origin of the Starbucks myth is actually well established. A Marine Corps sergeant heard that some of his peers had requested free Starbucks coffee and been turned down.

The sergeant blasted out an email requesting true patriots boycott Starbucks. Starbucks addressed the accusations, saying that the corporation doesn’t provide free coffee to any organization besides non-profit charities, and the policy wasn’t meant as a comment on military service members. Starbucks employees receive free coffee from the company, and Starbucks allowed its employees to donate this coffee to troops deployed. The company itself just didn’t directly donate any beans.

The originator of the email later apologized, but the myth that Starbucks once voiced opposition to war veterans persists. Starbucks has made a few large overtures to the military community to prove its loyalty. They’ve sent care packages to troops, introduced programs to hire more veterans, and used profits from stores in military areas to fund local veteran charities. In 2014, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz announced a $30 million donation to support research into PTSD and brain trauma.

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‘Hunter Troop’ is Norway’s all-female special operations unit

Norway has established the Jegertroppen, or the “Hunter Troop,” the world’s first all-female special operations unit with the goal of improving the country’s effectiveness in international operations.


“In Afghanistan, one of our big challenges was that we would enter houses and not be able to speak to the women” Capt. Ole Vidar Krogsaeter, an officer with the Norwegian Special Operations Forces, told Foreign Affairs. “In urban warfare, you have to be able to interact with women as well. Adding female soldiers was an operational need.”

Photo: Norwegian Armed Forces

The training program is extremely challenging. The Norwegian Special Operations Forces Command reported that only 88 of the 317 candidates passed the initial admissions test and only 13 trainees made it to the end of Jegertroppen‘s yearlong course. The high dropout rate is similar to male Special Operations Forces units.

Photo: Norwegian Armed Forces

Graduates of the course are expected to conduct special reconnaissance missions and are trained on parachute operations, weapons, survival, and patrol skills, according to the Norwegian military’s recruitment page for the unit.

Jegertroppen‘s soldiers displayed superior shooting and observational skills, Colonel Frode Kristoffersen, commander of the Norwegian Special Forces, told Foreign Affairs.

Photo: Norwegian Armed Forces

Hunter Troop soldiers do carry less weight than their male counterparts, a minimum of 60-pound rucks instead of the 88 pounds for male operators. But otherwise they complete the same training with long trips through the snow, days of limited food supplies, and operations on little or no sleep.

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This is what ‘Black Friday’ is like for new Marine recruits

Every year, millions of Americans rush out of their homes to the local retailers the day after Thanksgiving — aka Black Friday — for incredible, once-in-a-year deals.


Marine recruits also have a Black Friday — but it’s nowhere near as fun as getting a bunch of cool stuff.

Black Friday is the term Marines use when they finally come face-to-face with their hard-charging drill instructors who will train them up for the next 90 days.

Related: The Corps just added this new phase to help recruits practice being Marines

It’s Black Friday! Welcome to the bottom of the food chain, boot. (Source: USMC YouTube Screenshot)

Typically, once recruits meet their DIs, they will receive a barrage of easy-to-follow instructions under extreme stress, which causes them to have “brain farts” and screw up.

“I wanted to go home,” a former Marine joked, recalling that first meeting.

Once a recruit gets through the receiving phase of boot camp to Black Friday, it’s easier to make it all the way through the intense training and earn the title of Marine (versus getting sent back home on request).

The classic aftermath of Black Friday at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island.

For many drill instructors, the experience is just as intense, but their training incentive is to produce the best possible Marines before sending them off to their units.

“Here goes another 90-days,” former Marine DI Mark Hamett recalls. “Let’s do this!”

Here we go.

Typically, after the physically demanding introduction, the drill instructors will use their outside voices inside to introduce themselves and inform the recruits, as a whole, what exactly will be expected from them.

Also Read: The 5 scariest things most recruits don’t know about the Army

Check out the Marines’ video below to watch the intense first meeting between recruits and their drill instructors. Then relish in the fact that you’re not in their shoes.

(Marines, YouTube)
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Pentagon to send nearly 4,000 more troops to America’s longest war in Afghanistan

The Pentagon is preparing to send nearly 4,000 troops to Afghanistan to fight in America’s longest war in an effort to turn the tide against the Taliban.


A Trump administration official told the Associated Press that Secretary of Defense James Mattis is likely to make the troop deployment announcement in mid-June.

This expected decision follows on the heels of President Donald Trump’s move to grant Mattis the authority to set troops levels in Afghanistan.

“We are not winning in Afghanistan right now,” Mattis told the Senate Armed Services Committee on June 13. “And we will correct this as soon as possible.”

A resurgent Taliban coupled with Islamic State militants have challenged U.S. forces in the region and are taking back territory formerly under control of U.S. and Afghan troops. As of February, the Afghan government controls 59 percent of all districts in the country, which is down 11 percentage points from the same time period in 2016.

Four months ago, Army Gen. John Nicholson, who commands U.S. and international forces in Afghanistan, said he needed several thousand more troops.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. (DOD photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)

Most of the new troops heading to Afghanistan will play the role of training and advising Afghan troops. A small minority will directly participate in counter-terrorism operations against Taliban and ISIS fighters.

Afghanistan is America’s longest war, beginning in 2001. More than 2,300 Americans have been killed so far and 17,000 more wounded.

As such, Mattis is looking to end the war as soon as possible.

“We’re not looking at a purely military strategy,” Mattis told a House Appropriations panel June 15. “All wars come to an end. Our job is to end it as quickly as possible without losing the very mission that we’ve recognized, through several administrations, that was worth putting those young Americans on the line for.”

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Pentagon To Send Nearly 4,000 More Troops To America’s Longest War In Afghanistan

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That time a soldier used a payphone to call back to the US to get artillery support in Grenada

In October 1983 the Caribbean nation of Grenada experienced a series of bloody coups over the course of a week, threatening U.S. interests as well as U.S. citizens on the island. In a controversial move, President Reagan decided to launch Operation Urgent Fury, an invasion of the island nation (and the first real-world test of the all-volunteer force in combat).


The Grenadian forces were bolstered by Communist troops from the Soviet Union, North Korea, Cuba, and Bulgaria. The U.S. rapid deployment force was more or less an all-star team of the 1st and 2nd Ranger Battalions, the 82nd Airborne, U.S. Marines, Delta Force, and Navy SEALs. Despite the strength of the invasion force, planning, intelligence, communication and coordination issues plagued their interoperability (and led to Congress reorganizing the entire Department of Defense). Army helicopters couldn’t refuel on Navy ships. There was zero intelligence information coming from the CIA. Army Rangers were landed on the island in the middle of the day.

The list of Urgent Fury mistakes is a long one, but one snafu was so huge it became legend. The basic story is that a unit on the island was pinned down by Communist forces. Interoperability and communications were so bad, they were unable to call for support from anywhere. A member of the unit pulled out his credit card and made a long-distance call by commercial phone lines to their home base, which patched it through to the Urgent Fury command, who passed the order down to the requested support.

The devil is in the details. The Navy SEALs Museum says the caller was from a group of Navy SEALs in the governor’s mansion. He called Fort Bragg for support from an AC-130 gunship overhead. The gunship’s support allowed the SEALs to stay in position until relieved by a force of Recon Marines the next day. Some on the ground with the SEALs in Grenada said it was for naval fire support from nearby ships.

The story is recounted in Mark Adkins’ Urgent Fury: the Battle for Grenada. Another report says it was a U.S. Army “trooper” (presumably meaning “paratrooper”) who called his wife to request air support from the Navy. Screenwriter and Vietnam veteran James Carabatsos incorporated the event into his script for “Heartbreak Ridge” after reading about an account from members of the 82nd Airborne. In that version, paratroopers used a payphone and calling card to call Fort Bragg to request fire support.

In his 2011 memoir, “In My Time: A Personal and Political Memoir,” former Vice President Dick Cheney recalls visiting the island as a congressman and listening to an Army officer tell the story. 

“An army officer who had needed artillery support… could look out to sea and see naval vessels on the horizon, but he had no way to talk to them. So he used his personal credit card in a payphone, placed a call to Fort Bragg, asked Bragg to contact the Pentagon, had the Pentagon contact the Navy, who in turn told the commander off the coast to get this poor guy some artillery support. Clearly a new system was needed.”

The story has a happy ending from an American POV. These days, the U.S. invasion is remembered by the Grenadian people as an overwhelmingly good thing, as bloody Communist revolutions ended with the elections following the invasion. Grenada marks the anniversary of the U.S. intervention with a national holiday, its own Thanksgiving Day.