How Desert Storm changed air warfare - We Are The Mighty
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How Desert Storm changed air warfare

How Desert Storm changed air warfare
Wikimedia


As laser-guided bombs incinerated Iraqi tanks from the sky, surveillance aircraft monitored enemy troop movements and stealth bombers eluded radar tracking from air defenses in the opening days of Operation Desert Storm decades ago – very few of those involved were likely considering how their attacks signified a new era in modern warfare.

Now, as veterans, historians and analysts commemorate the 25th anniversary of the first Gulf War in the early 90s, many regard the military effort as a substantial turning point in the trajectory or evolution of modern warfare.

Operation Desert Storm involved the combat debut of stealth technology, GPS for navigation, missile warning systems, more advanced surveillance plane radar, and large amounts of precision-focused laser-guided bombs, Maj. Gen. Paul Johnson, Director of Requirements for the Deputy Chief of Staff for Strategic Plans and Requirements, told Scout Warrior in a special interview.

“We saw the first glimpses in Desert Storm of what would become the transformation of air power,” he said.

The five-to-six-week air war, designed to clear the way for what ultimately became a 100-hour ground invasion, began with cruise missiles and Air Force and Army helicopters launching a high-risk mission behind enemy lines to knock out Iraqi early warning radar sites.  Two Air Force MH-53 Pave Low helicopters led AH-64 Apache Attack helicopter into Iraqi territory, Johnson explained.

The idea of the mission was to completely destroy the early warning radar in order to open up an air corridor for planes to fly through safely and attack Iraqi targets. The mission was successful.

“This was the dawn of GPS – the ability to precisely navigate anywhere anytime without any other navigation systems. The Pave Lows had it and the Apaches did not – so the Pave Low was there to navigate the Apache’s deep into Iraq to find the early warning radar sites,” he recalled. “Now, everybody has it on their iPhone but at that day and time it was truly revolutionary.”

How Desert Storm changed air warfare
Wikimedia

Johnson explained the priority targets during the air war consisted of Iraqi artillery designed to knock out any potential ability for Iraq to launch chemical weapons. Other priority targets of course included Iraqi air defenses, troop formations, armored vehicles and command and control locations.

The air attack involved F-117 Night Hawk stealth bombers, B-52s, F-15 Eagles and low-flying A-10 Warthog aircraft, among other assets.

Desert Storm Heroism

At one point during the Air War, Johnson’s A-10 Warthog plane was hit by an Iraqi shoulder-fired missile while attempting to attack enemy surface-to-air missile sites over Iraqi territory.

“I found myself below the weather trying to pull off an attack that failed. I got hit in the right wing. I yelled out and finally keyed the mic and decided to tell everyone else that I was hit. I safely got the airplane back. They fixed the airplane in about 30-days. The enemy fire hit the right wing of the airplane and the wing was pretty messed up, but I had sufficient control authority to keep the wings level,” Johnson said.

On the way back from the mission, while flying a severely damaged airplane, Johnson received in-flight refueling from a KC-10 aircraft at about 25,000 feet. Johnson received the Air Force Cross for his heroism.

The Combat Debut of New Technology

While there was not much air-to-air combat during Desert Storm, the Iraqis did try to field a few Mig-29 fighter jets. However, upon being noticed by U.S. Air Force F-15E radar – they took off, Johnson said.

The advent of much great air-fired precision weaponry, aided by overhead surveillance and GPS for navigation is largely referred to as the 2nd Offset – a moment in the evolution of warfare marked by significant technological leaps forward.  Johnson explained that the 2nd Offset fully came to fruition in the late 90s during Operation Allied Force in Kosovo.

GPS guided bombs, called Joint Direct Attack Munitions, or JDAMs, did not yet exist at the time of the first Gulf War – but GPS technology for navigation greatly improve the ability of pilots and ground forces to know exactly where they were in relation to surrounding territory and enemy force movements.

This was particularly valuable in Iraq due to the terrain, Johnson explained. There was no terrain or mountainous areas as landmarks from which to navigate. The landscape was entirely desert with no roads, no terrain and no rivers.

In addition, massive use of laser guided weaponry allowed air assets to pinpoint Iraqi targets from a laser-spot – thereby increasing accuracy and mission efficiency while reducing collateral damage.

“Laser weapons had been around since Vietnam but we expended laser guided bombs in numbers that we had never done before,” he explained.

Some of the weapons dropped included Maverick missiles, the 2,000-pound Mk 84 penetrator and a 500-pound Mk 82 along with cluster weaponry.  The Maverick missile is an anti-armor precision weapon which uses electro-optical precision weaponry to destroy targets.

“The Maverick has a camera in the front of the missile that would lock on and guide itself to the target. It is old technology but very precise,” Johnson added.

Also, airborne surveillance, in the form of the Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System, or JSTARS, provided attacking forces with an unprecedented view from the sky, Johnson said.

The aircraft used Ground Moving Target Indicator and Synthetic Aperture Radar, or SAR, to deliver a “rendering” or painted picture of ground activity below.

“This allowed us to monitor the battlefield day or night regardless of the weather and detect movement of enemy ground formations. The Iraqi forces tried to make a movement on the village of Khafji. It was a large-scale movement by the Iraqi Army in the middle of the night because they thought we could not see them. We saw them,” Johnson explained.

Due to this surveillance technology, the commander of the air war moved an entire theater’s worth of air power to attack the Iraqi formation.

“In Desert Storm you had the ability to dynamically see what was going on in the battlespace and perform command and control in real time and divert assets in real time. You had the ability to navigate incredibly precisely and then the ability to apply precision weapons – one weapon kills one target at a time,” he added.

Desert Storm also involved the combat debut of beyond line-of-sight satellite communications which, among other things, provide missile warning systems, Johnson said.

“We did not shoot at every Scud that came in because we know where it was going to go,” Johnson recalled.

Johnson explained that the Gulf War changed the paradigm for the strategic use of air power by allowing one plane to precisely hit multiple targets instead of using un-guided bombs to blanket an area.

“We began a change in calculus. Since the dawn of air power, the calculus has always been – ‘How many airplanes does it take to destroy a target?’ A-10s can put a string of bombs through the target area and hopefully one of the bombs hits the target. By the end of the 90s, the calculus was – ‘How many targets can a single airplane destroy?’ Johnson said.

Desert Storm Ground War

The 100-hour ground war was both effective and successful due to the air war and the use of tactical deception. U.S. amphibious forces had been practicing maneuvers demonstrating shore attacks along the Kuwaiti coastline as a way to give the Iraqis the impression that that is how they would attack.

“The Iraqis saw these amphibious maneuvers because that is what we wanted them to see,” Johnson explained.

However, using a famous “left hook” maneuver, U.S. coalition forces actually attacked much further inland and were able to quickly advance with few casualties through thinner Iraqi defenses.

How Desert Storm changed air warfare
Wikimedia

There were, however, some famous tank battles in the open desert during the ground attack. U.S. Army tanks destroyed large numbers or Iraqi tanks and fighting positions – in part because advanced thermal infrared imagers inside U.S. Army M1 Abrams battle tanks enable crews to detect the signature of Iraqi tanks without needing ambient light.

Although this gave U.S. forces and an advantage – and the U.S. Army was overwhelmingly victorious in Desert Storm tank battles – there were some tough engagement such as the Battle of Medina Ridge between the Army’s 1st Armored Division and Iraqi Republican Guard forces.

Effects Based Warfare – Changing Air Attacks

The use of such precision from the air marked the debut of what is commonly referred to as “effects based warfare,” a strategic air attack technique aimed at attacking specific targets from the air without needing to destroy the infrastructure of the attack area.

As a result, targets included command and control centers, moving ground troops or armored forces, supply lines and other strategic and tactical targets. Effects-Based warfare experts describe this as a “strategic rings” approach with command and control at the center of the inner circle and other enemy assets in the so-called outer rings.

One idea, among others, was to use precision weaponry from the air to cut off communication and supply lines between the command and control centers and outer forces on the move — in order to paralyze and destroy mobile enemy forces.

How Desert Storm changed air warfare
Wikimedia

This approach was successfully used in Desert Storm, marking a historic shift in the strategic use of air power.  In fact, a similar conceptual framework was used more than 10 years later in the opening attacks of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

“There once was a time when we thought we had to go into the layers sequentially where we had to start at the out layers and peel it back to get into the inner layers. Desert Storm indicated that this is not the case. The first ordnance to hit the ground was at the inner layer,” Johnson explained.

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This article originally appeared at Warrior Scout. Copyright 2016.

Follow @warrior_mag on Twitter.

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That time the Air Force landed bombers on tank treads

During the Cold War, the U.S. Air Force experimented with a seemingly crazy idea for dispersing the weight of their heaviest bomber across the tarmac of airports and bases. They would fit the bombers with tank tread-inspired landing gear.


The B-36 Peacemaker was the largest plane ever built by America. Originally designed before the Pearl Harbor attacks, the B-36 was supposed to be a cross-ocean bomber that could drop 10,000 pounds of ordnance on Berlin or Japan while taking off and landing in the U.S.

How Desert Storm changed air warfare
Convair XB-36 takeoff during its first flight on March 29, 1950. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

When flying shorter routes, the plane could carry as much as 86,000 pounds.

The massive B-36 was slowly developed throughout World War II but was finished too late for the war. The first bomber rolled off the line six days after the Japanese surrender. But the plane’s capabilities, carrying 10,000 pounds of ordnance to targets thousands of miles away, made the plane perfect for a nuclear strike role in the Cold War.

There was one big problem, though. The B-36 was extremely heavy, about 419,000 pounds when fully armed. And all that weight initially sat on two smaller tires in the front and two larger ones under the wings.

How Desert Storm changed air warfare
Convair XB-36 in flight. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The weight on each tire was so great, the Peacemakers risked sinking into the concrete if they were parked for too long on most airstrips.

So the Air Force tried out a novel solution. They installed tank tread landing gear under the nose and both wings of the plane, allowing the weight to be spread over a much larger area.

How Desert Storm changed air warfare
Side view of Convair XB-36. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

How Desert Storm changed air warfare
(Photo: U.S. Air Force)

Initial tests of the system were successful, but the Air Force scrapped it anyway. It focused on improving more airstrips rather than putting the bulky system on production B-36s. It did start buying the planes with four smaller wheels under each wing instead of the single large one, which also helped with the pressure per square inch on airfields.

The weight-to-surface-area problem would come up again with the B-47, the Peacemaker’s successor. B-47s dispersed during the Cuban Missile crisis sunk into the concrete of Logan Airport in Boston, Massachusetts and pilots had to hire a tow truck driver to pull them out of the holes they created.

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Yes, World War II soldiers could throw mortar rounds like grenades

A few World War II movies feature incredible scenes of troops — usually soldiers or Marines — fighting tooth and nail against an enemy until they’ve expended most of their ammo, all of their grenades, and are stuck in their final defensive position.


That’s when someone does something crazy and starts throwing mortar rounds at the oncoming onslaught. The huge bursts of shrapnel wipe out groups of the enemy forces, breaking up the attack and allowing the heroes to emerge victorious.

Skip ahead to 0:28 in this clip to see this happen:

“Saving Private Ryan” was called out by some for this scene as many thought it impossible, and “Hacksaw Ridge” features a similar scene that caused a few raised eyebrows.

But most mortar rounds in World War II could be thrown this way. It was just incredibly dangerous and rarely done.

While new proximity fuzes — those which detonate a specified distance from the surface — were developed during World War II, most mortar rounds carried impact fuzes that used the physical force of the mortar striking a rock or something to trigger the charge.

How Desert Storm changed air warfare
World War II mortarmen attack German positions in 1944. (Photo: National Archives and Records Administration)

This caused surface bursts, and most mortarmen wanted their rounds that were detonating against the surface to explode immediately. The further the main charge makes it into the ground before it explodes, the greater amount of the explosion that will be absorbed by the mud and dirt.

So weapon designers made fuzes that were very sensitive. To prevent the fuzes from exploding prematurely, designers incorporated impact fuzes with a two-step arming process. This meant a safety pin had to be removed followed by a sudden force such as the propellant exploding to fire the round from the tube.

For soldiers looking to use these mortar rounds as a grenade, they had to remove the safety pin and slam the tail of the mortar round against something solid to simulate the force of the weapon firing. After that, the round would explode from any sudden force applied to the fuze.

How Desert Storm changed air warfare
An American mortar crew attacks German positions on the Rhine in 1945. (Photo: National Archives and Records Administration)

This method of triggering, combined with the greater explosive force of a mortar, made them way more deadly than grenades.

Most grenades work using a timer, meaning that a soldier throws it and hopes that the enemy can’t grab the weapon and throw it back before it detonates.

But a hand-thrown mortar round will usually explode as soon as it hits the ground or a solid object, making it nearly impossible to throw back.

At least two soldiers used this to their advantage in World War II. Technical Sgt. Beauford T. Anderson threw mortar rounds to drive off a Japanese attack on Okinawa, and Cpl. Charles E. Kelly used mortar ammunition during his final defense of a storehouse being overwhelmed by the Germans in Italy.

This procedure comes with high risks. A round that falls short of the intended throw will almost certainly go off, potentially killing friendly troops and the thrower, and a round that is dropped after arming could go off, killing the operators. Still, for a happy few, the risk was worth the reward.

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VA begins awarding compensation for C-123 agent orange claims

How Desert Storm changed air warfare
Photo: Wikimedia


In 1997, 10 years after retiring from a 34-year career in the Army Reserve and Air Force Reserve, Edward Kosakoski was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Though his last assignment in the Reserve was as commander of the 74th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron at Westover Air Force Base in Massachusetts, it was during the mid-1970s and early 1980s that Lt. Col. K was exposed to Agent Orange while flying training missions on several C-123 aircraft previously used for spraying the chemical defoliant in Vietnam.

Last week, VA service connected Col. K’s prostate cancer, awarding him compensation for his C-123 Agent Orange claim.

How Desert Storm changed air warfare
Photo: Wikimedia

I’ve never met Col. K, but his story is captured in the claim file that his wife, Ingrid Kosakoski, filed on his behalf. That file shows a man who was drafted into the Army in 1953 and, after serving two years in France, had joined the Army Reserve, and who had received a commission in the Air Force Reserve after graduating from the University of Connecticut Pharmacy School in 1959. That file also shows that VA received Col. K’s claim prior to the recent regulation change.

After spending decades searching for proof of a connection between C-123s and the conditions known to be caused by Agent Orange, the Institute of Medicine issued a review that provided the supporting evidence VA needed to provide care and compensation to the Air Force and Air Force Reserve personnel who were exposed to Agent Orange through regular and repeated contact with contaminated C-123s and who also developed an Agent Orange-related disability.

When the regulation change took effect earlier this summer, it took VA just 16 days to grant Col. K’s claim. Granting this claim represents a welcomed success for hundreds of flight, ground maintenance, and medical crew members who were assigned to certain Air Force and Air Force Reserve units from 1969 to 1986.

“I have only praise for the VA personnel who handled Ed’s claim in Baltimore and St. Paul,” Ingrid said. “They were professional and compassionate, and I would urge others exposed to Agent Orange with known disabilities to file claims as soon as possible.”

In a recent phone conversation, longtime C-123 advocate and close friend of Col. K, Wes Carter, also stressed the importance of not waiting.

“The Secretary and his staff have worked hard, along with C-123 veterans in getting to this point,” said Carter, who also chairs the C-123 Veterans Association. “VA is ready and eager, already reaching out and helping our aircrews and maintenance personnel who are ill.

“This is the time for C-123 Veterans to get their claims to VA if affected by any of the Agent Orange-associated illnesses. Call the C-123 hotline at 1-800-749-8387 for any questions. I also recommend that vets ask their local VA medical center’s environmental health coordinator for an Agent Orange Registry exam.”

If you or someone you know was exposed to Agent Orange (whether in in Vietnam or its inland waterways, an area the Department of Defense has confirmed use of AO, or as in Col. K’s case aboard a C-123) AND you have a condition presumed to be related to AO, please file a claim for compensation.

If you need help filing a claim or want to talk to someone, you have many options:

  • Speak with an accredited Veterans Service Officer who can help you gather records and file a claim online
  • Call VA at 1-800-827-1000 for advice
  • If you want the fastest decision possible, consider filing a Fully Developed Claim through ebenefits.va.gov. An FDC allows you to submit all your evidence up front, identify any federal records for VA to obtain, and certifies that you have no other evidence to submit.

If you (or your loved one) meet certain conditions, such as financial hardship, advanced age, or terminal illness, VA can expedite your claim – just make sure we are aware of your situation. You or your VSO can notify us in writing, or by calling 1-800-827-1000. If your situation is dire, don’t wait!

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This article originally appeared at VAntage Point Copyright 2015. Follow VAntage Point on Twitter.

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7 undeniable signs you’re a super POG

Look, not everyone can be a hardcore, red-blooded meat eater. Someone has to man the phones at the big bases and that’s just the job for you. You’re a vital part of the American war machine, and you should be proud of yourself.


But there are some things you’re doing that open you up to a bit of ridicule. Sure, not everyone is going to be a combat arms bubba, embracing the suck and praying they’ll get stomped on by the Army just one more time today. But some of us POGs are taking our personal comfort a little too far and failing to to properly embrace the Army lifestyle.

Here are seven signs that you’re not only a POG but a super POG:

1. You’re more likely to bring your “luggage” than a duffel bag and rucksack

How Desert Storm changed air warfare
(via NavyMemes.com)

There are some semi-famous photos of this phenomenon that show support soldiers laughing in frustration as they try to roll wheeled bags across the crushed gravel and thick mud of Kandahar and other major bases.

This is a uniquely POG problem, as any infantryman — and most support soldiers worth their salt — know that they’re going to be on unforgiving terrain and that they’ll need their hands free to use their weapon while carrying weight at some point. Both of those factors make rolling bags a ridiculous choice.

2. You actually enjoy collecting command coins

How Desert Storm changed air warfare
(Photo: WATM)

Seriously, what is it about these cheap pieces of unit “swag” that makes them so coveted. I mean, sure, back when those coins could get you free drinks, it made some sense. But now? It’s the military version of crappy tourist trinkets.

Anyone who wants to remember the unit instead of their squad mates was clearly doing the whole “deployment” thing wrong. And challenge coins don’t help you remember your squad; selfies while drunk in the barracks or photos of the whole platoon making stupid faces while pointing their weapons in the air do.

3. You don’t understand why everyone makes such a big deal about MREs (just go to TGI Fridays if you’re tired of them!)

How Desert Storm changed air warfare
(via Valhalla Wear)

More than once I’ve heard POGs say that MREs aren’t that bad and you can always go to the DFAC or Green Beans or, according to one POG on Kandahar Air Field, down to TGI Friday’s when you’re tired of MREs. And I’m going to need those people to check their POG privilege.

Look, not every base can get an American restaurant. Not every base has a DFAC. A few bases couldn’t even get regular mermite deliveries. Those soldiers, unfortunately, were restricted to MREs and their big brother, UGRs (Unitized Group Rations), both of which have limited, repetitive menus and are not great for one meal, let alone meals for a year.

So please, send care packages.

4. You think of jet engines as those things that interrupt your sleep

How Desert Storm changed air warfare
Afterburners lit while an F-22 of the 95th Fighter Squadron takes off. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

I know, it’s super annoying when you’re settling into a warm bed on one of the airfields and, just as you drift off, an ear-splitting roar announces that a jet is taking off, filling your belly with adrenaline and guaranteeing that you’ll be awake another hour.

But please remember that those jets are headed to help troops in contact who won’t be getting any sleep until their enemies retreat or are rooted out. A fast, low flyover by a loud jet sometimes gets the job done, and a JDAM strike usually does.

So let the jets fly and invest in a white noise machine. The multiple 120-volt outlets in your room aren’t just for show.

5. You’ve broken in more office chairs than combat boots

How Desert Storm changed air warfare

Pretty obvious. POGs spend hours per day in office chairs, protecting their boots from any serious work, while infantryman are more likely to be laying out equipment in the motor pool, marching, or conducting field problems, all of which get their boots covered in grease and mud while wearing out the soles and seams.

6. You still handle your rifle like it’s a dead fish or a live snake

How Desert Storm changed air warfare
No, POGs, you don’t.

While most troops work with their weapons a few times a year and combat arms soldiers are likely to carry it at least a few times a month on some kind of an exercise, true super POGs MIGHT see their M4 or M16 once a year. And many of them are too lazy to even name it. (I miss you, Rachel.)

Because of this, they still treat their weapon as some sort of foreign object, holding it at arms length like it’s a smelly fish that could get them dirty or a live snake that could bite them. Seriously, go cuddle up to the thing and get used to it. It’ll only kill the things you point it at, and only if you learn to actually use it.

7. You’re offended by the word “POG”

How Desert Storm changed air warfare

Yes, it’s rude for the mean old infantry to call you names, but come on. All military service is important, and it’s perfectly honorable to be a POG (seriously, I wrote a column all about that), but the infantry is usually calling you a POG to tease you or to pat themselves on the back.

And why shouldn’t they? Yes, all service counts, but the burdens of service aren’t shared evenly. While the combat arms guys are likely to sleep in the dirt many nights and are almost assured that they’ll have to engage in combat at some point, the troops who network satellites will rarely experience a day without air conditioning.

Is it too much to let the grunts lob a cheap insult every once in a while?

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Navy ship defense weapon upgraded to destroy small boats

How Desert Storm changed air warfare
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The U.S. Navy is pursuing a massive, fleet-wide upgrade of a shipboard defensive weapon designed to intercept and destroy approaching or nearby threats such as enemy small boats, cruise missiles and even low-flying drones and aircraft, service officials said.

The Phalanx Close in Weapons System, or CIWS, is an area weapon engineered to use a high rate of fire and ammunition to blanket a given area, destroying or knocking enemy fire out of the sky before it can reach a ship. The Phalanx CIWS, which can fire up to 4,500 rounds per minute, has been protecting ship platforms for decades.

The weapon is designed to counter incoming enemy attacks from missiles, small arms fire, drones, enemy aircraft and small boats, among other things. It functions as part of an integrated, layered defense system in order to intercept closest-in threats, service officials explained.

“Phalanx provides a ‘last ditch’ gun-based, close-in defense to the Navy’s concept of layered defense,” Navy spokesman Dale Eng told Scout Warrior.

The weapon is currently on Navy cruisers, destroyers, aircraft carriers and amphibious assault ships, among other vessels. The upgrades are designed to substantially increase capability and ensure that the system remains viable in the face of a fast-changing and increasingly complex threat environment, Navy officials said.

The overhaul in recent years has consisted of numerous upgrades to the weapon itself, converting the existing systems into what’s called the Phalanx 1B configuration. At the same time, the CIWS overhaul also includes the development and ongoing integration of a new, next-generation radar for the system called the CIWS Phalanx Block IB Baseline 2, Navy officials explained.

The Block 1B configuration provides defense against asymmetric threats such as small, fast surface craft, slow-flying fixed and rotary-winged aircraft, and unmanned aerial vehicles through the addition of an integrated Forward-Looking Infra-Red (FLIR) sensor.

The Navy is now upgrading all fleet Phalanx Block 1B Baseline 0 and 1 Close-In Weapon Systems to the latest Phalanx Block IB Baseline 2 configuration, Eng said. The plan is to have an all CIWS Phalanx Block IB Baseline 2 fleet by fiscal year 2019, he added.

The Navy has also embarked on a series of planned reliability improvements (known as Reliability-Maintainability-Availability Kits) in order to keep the CIWS fleet population viable and affordable for the next several decades, Eng said.

An upgrade and conversion of an older CIWS Phalanx configuration to Phalanx Block IB averages around $4.5 million per unit and a Block IB Baseline 2 radar upgrade kit averages $931,000 per unit, Navy officials said.

The Phalanx Block IB configuration incorporates a stabilized Forward-Looking Infra-Red sensor, an automatic acquisition video tracker, optimized gun barrels (OBG) and the Enhanced Lethality Cartridges (ELC), service officials added.

Navy officials said Block IB provides ships the additional capability for defense against asymmetric threats such as small, high speed, maneuvering surface craft, slow-flying fixed and rotary-winged aircraft, and unmanned aerial vehicles.

The FLIR also improves performance against anti-ship cruise missiles by providing more accurate angle tracking information to the fire control computer, officials added.

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Top general says US commandos and Arab allies squeezing ISIS in Syria

American special operators teamed with Arab fighters in Syria are poised to take a key town north of the Islamic State stronghold in Raqqah. If they succeed it would be an important blow to the Islamic insurgency and assist the government of Iraq in taking back its second largest city.


Since late June, jets from the United States, France, and Australia have been pounding ISIS positions in the city of Manbij, a key northern crossroads town north of the ISIS-held town of Raqqah in Syria. Kurdish and Syrian-Arab fighters who make up the Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF, are squeezing hundreds of ISIS fighters in the town, said to be a key transit point for bootleg oil and illicit arms for the terrorist group.

“I’ve been extraordinarily pleased with the performance of our partner forces, the Syrian-Arab coalition, in particular,” said Central Command chief Army Gen. Joseph Votel during a press conference at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland.

“This has been a very difficult fight. This is an area that the Islamic State is trying to hold onto,” he added.

Pentagon chief Ash Carter said the campaign in Manbij is part of an effort to squeeze ISIS into Raqqah in Syria and Mosul in Iraq. Defense officials have hinted that a full-on assault on Iraq’s second largest city is imminent, with regional leaders meeting July 20 at Andrews to flesh out a post-takeover plan.

“In play after play, town after town, from every direction and in every domain, our campaign has accelerated further, squeezing ISIL and rolling it back towards Raqqah and Mosul,” Carter said. “By isolating these two cities, we’re effectively setting the stage to collapse ISIL’s control over them.”

Al Jazeera reports that ISIS has lost nearly 500 fighters in Manbij as SDF fighters with American help have squeezed the terrorist enclave. The SDF has suffered less than 100 dead.

The success in Manbij comes as an opposition watchdog group claimed a U.S.-led airstrike on the town killed 56 civilians July 19. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights report, the dead include 11 children.

Carter said the anti-ISIS coalition, dubbed Operation Inherent Resolve, is looking into the allegations.

“We’re aware of reports of civilian casualties that may be related to recent coalition airstrikes near Manbij city in Syria,” Carter said. “We’ll investigate these reports and continue to do all we can to protect civilians from harm.”

How Desert Storm changed air warfare
A Peshmerga soldier fires at a target from his foxhole during a live-fire exercise near Erbil, Iraq, Feb. 8, 2016. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Jessica Hurst/Released)

Votel added that Kurdish and Syrian-Arab parters are working to keep the 70,000 civilians in Manbij out of harms way.

“What I’ve been most impressed with is the deliberateness and the discipline with which our partner forces have conducted themselves,” Votel said. “They are moving slowly, they are moving very deliberately, mostly because they’re concerned about the civilians that still remain in the city.”

“And I think that that speaks very highly of their values and it speaks very highly of what they’re about here. We’ve picked the right partners for this operation,” he said.

 

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US-backed forces were supposed to assault ISIS capital two weeks ago

The start date of the offensive to oust Islamic State fighters from the city of Raqqa and end the terror group’s state-building project has been announced several times in the past few months, often with great fanfare by commanders in the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, the United States’ ground ally in northern Syria.


The last announcement came in March when Kurdish commanders said an assault on the city would begin April 1.

Two weeks later that start date, like many others, has come and gone, prompting the months-long question: when will the U.S.-backed SDF offensive shift gears from isolating Raqqa, which is hemmed in on three sides now, to mounting an assault to retake the capital of the jihadists’ self-styled caliphate?

How Desert Storm changed air warfare
A Marine directs an F/A-18D Hornet returning to an undisclosed location in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, the operation to eliminate the ISIL terrorist group and the threat they pose to Iraq, Syria, and the wider international community, June 9, 2016. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Donald Holbert)

Over the weekend, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad told the French news agency AFP he would support whomever wants to oust Islamic State militants from Raqqa, but mocked the delay in an assault on the city, which U.S. officials believe is being defended by around 4,000 IS fighters.

“What we hear is only allegations about liberating Raqqa. We’ve been hearing that for nearly a year now, or less than a year, but nothing happened on the ground,” he said. “It’s not clear who is going to liberate Raqqa…It’s not clear yet.”

No firm answer about a new start date was forthcoming on April 15 from U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis when he met in Washington with his Turkish counterpart, Fikri Isik.

The Turkish defense minister again complicated the U.S. effort to choreograph an agreement among multiple local and international players about a Raqqa offensive by pressing Ankara’s long-standing demand for the U.S. to end its alliance with the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, or YPG, whose fighters dominate the ranks of the SDF.

There were no signs that the Turkish request made persistently by Ankara in recent months, and relayed by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during a February phone call with U.S. President Donald Trump, will be heeded.

U.S. officials say they envisage the Raqqa battle will resemble the fight in neighboring Iraq, where local indigenous forces have been waging the struggle to retake the northern city of Mosul, the last IS major urban stronghold in that country.

Also read: Defeating ISIS is hard; preventing ISIS 3.0 could be harder

Some 500 U.S. special forces soldiers deployed in northern Syria are helping to train and advise SDF units.

Mattis later said at a press conference the U.S. remains in solidarity with Ankara when it comes to fighting Islamic State militants and Turkey’s outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, but he made no mention of discontinuing the alliance with the YPG, the armed wing of Syria’s Democratic Union Party, or PYD.

The Turks, who fear the emergence of a Kurdish state in north Syria, maintain there’s no real distinction between the PYD and the PKK, which has been waging an insurgency in Turkey for more than three decades.

How Desert Storm changed air warfare
A U.S. Army M109A6 Paladin deployed in support of Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve. (Photo: U.S. Army Spc. Christopher Brecht)

Mattis cited the long security relationship between the U.S. and Turkey, dating back to 1952 when Turkey joined NATO; but, in the wake of the April 16 constitutional referendum that greatly enhances the Turkish president’s powers, analysts say it is unclear how much Erdogan values his country’s alliance with the West, and whether his slim victory will embolden him to disrupt a Raqqa assault by the SDF.

Earlier in April, Erdogan ramped up the pressure on Washington, saying his government is planning new offensives in northern Syria this spring against groups deemed terrorist organizations by Ankara, including IS and the PYD’s militia.

In March, Turkish forces escalated attacks on the YPG in northern Syria, forcing the U.S. to deploy a small number of forces in and around the town of Manbij to the northwest of Raqqa to “deter” Turkish-SDF clashes and ensure the focus remains on Islamic State.

Meanwhile, Raqqa is being pummeled by airstrikes mounted by U.S.-led coalition forces and Syrian warplanes.

Local anti-IS activists say the air raids fail to distinguish between military and non-military targets; however, with IS fighters seeded throughout the city and surrounding villages, being able to draw a distinction is become increasingly challenging, say U.S. officials.

How Desert Storm changed air warfare
U.S. Airmen load pallets of nonlethal aid for the Syrian Opposition Coalition onto a C-17 Globemaster III aircraft at an undisclosed base May 9, 2013. U.S. forces provided humanitarian aid to refugees of the Syrian civil war. (Dept. of Defense photo by Staff Sgt. Nicole Manzanares, U.S. Air Force)

“Civilians are now [caught] between the criminal terrorists on one side and the international coalition’s indiscriminate bombing on the other side,” said Hamoud Almousa, a founding member of the activist network Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently, which is opposed to an assault on the city being led by the YPG.

“Liberating [Raqqa] does not come by burning it and destroying it over its people who have suffered a lot from the terrorist group’s violations,” he added.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a London-based monitoring group that relies on a network of activists for its information, said that four civilians — two women and two children — were killed April 17 in an airstrike believed to have been carried out by coalition warplanes on the Teshreen Farmarea north of Raqqa.

The Observatory says between March 1 and April 10, airstrikes killed 224 civilians. They included 38 children under the age of 18, and 37 women.

Another mainly Arab anti-IS activist network, Eye on the Homeland, complains at the lack of international condemnation about the civilian casualties from the airstrikes, arguing civilians caught in the conflict are being treated inhumanely.

“We assert that the liberation of civilians from all forms of terrorism requires that military forces acting in the area avoid civilian killing, displacement, and the destruction of their properties whenever possible,” the network said recently on its website.

It warned the deaths will “be used to by terrorist organizations in their propaganda to convince civilians that these military forces do not have their interests at heart” and will “only further fuel radicalization.”

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Here’s why North Korea’s latest type of missile would be a nightmare to stop

On Sunday, North Korea launched a missile into the Sea of Japan for the first time since US President Donald Trump took office.


South Korean officials told Reuters that the missile, a land-based adaptation of the submarine-launched KN-11, doesn’t have the range to strike the US but has another trait that’s just as troubling, if not more: solid fuel.

Related: Mattis threatens ‘overwhelming’ response if North Korea ever uses nukes

North Korean missiles usually rely on liquid fuel and have to be gassed up similar to how you’d fill up a car.

North Korea, like many nuclear powers, mounts its nuclear-capable missiles on trucks.

How Desert Storm changed air warfare
The test-fire of Pukguksong-2. This photo was released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency on February 13. | KCNA/Handout

Road-mobile missile launchers can hide easier, launch from almost anywhere, and take an enemy by surprise — but liquid fuel complicates all that.

To launch a liquid-fueled missile, a giant convoy of military trucks must drive out to a location, fuel up the rocket with the multiple types of fuel for the different stages of launch, and then fire away. This requires dozens of trucks and associated military personnel. Such a large-scale deployment is much harder to conceal from a vigilant foe.

“Liquid-fueled missiles are more vulnerable to tracking and preemptive strikes. Solid-fueled ballistic missiles are not fueled on site and therefore pose more of a threat, because solid-fueled ballistic missiles require less support and can be deployed more quickly,” Kelsey Davenport, the director of nonproliferation policy and a North Korea expert at the Arms Control Association, told Business Insider.

With a missile like the one tested on Sunday, North Korea could simply park a truck and let it fly.

That’s exactly what the video of its latest launch shows:

“Another striking feature of the test was the transport erector launcher that was used to launch the missile. Images indicate that it ran on treads rather than wheels,” Davenport said. “This allows North Korea to move its missiles through more difficult terrains.”

To counter such a sneaky launcher, an adversary would have to spend extensively on surveillance and recon technology.

So while North Korea remains without an ICBM to directly threaten the US mainland, its successful launch of a solid-fueled missile means it has developed a destabilizing technology that could strike US military bases, South Korea, or Japan with a moment’s notice.

Articles

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of May 20

Don’t drink and drive, don’t touch anything that doesn’t want you to, and don’t end up on sergeant major’s rug.


Alright. Tell your first sergeants that you’ve already gotten your safety brief, read these 13 funny military memes, and everyone is released to the barracks.

Editor’s note: The writer is not in your chain of command and has no authority to release you.

1. Never expect anything and you’ll never be let down (via Standby to Standby).

How Desert Storm changed air warfare
Well, sh-t.

2. “Please stop, please stop, please stop.”

(via Sh-t my LPO says)

How Desert Storm changed air warfare
It’s like the barbers are collecting bribes from the first sergeants.

SEE ALSO: The US Navy’s new, game-changing defensive weapon

3. Now coming to a patrol near you, Military Wrecking Dogs (via Military Memes).

How Desert Storm changed air warfare
Even the dog hates Carl.

4. Stock photo model isn’t afraid of sergeant major.

How Desert Storm changed air warfare
Seriously, how do photographers not know to pick shaved models at this point?

5. It’s going to happen. It’s up to you whether you correct people or not (via Air Force Nation).

How Desert Storm changed air warfare

6. Sounds about right:

(via Air Force amn/nco/snco)

How Desert Storm changed air warfare
Don’t be afraid to break alliances. Only one airman can win.

7. It’s about all that level one combatives is good for (via The Salty Soldier).

How Desert Storm changed air warfare
This duffel has way too much slack for that private to be struggling that hard.

8. That face belongs to a sailor that has seen some serious stuff (via Sh-t my LPO says).

How Desert Storm changed air warfare
But he better get his hair cleaned up before chief sees it.

9. Meanwhile, Coast Guard toddlers officers are out with their men (via Coast Guard Memes).

How Desert Storm changed air warfare
Just guarding some coast. From this high chair. In this bar.

10. The courage that propelled him to five Navy Crosses must’ve been in his pockets (via Military Nations).

How Desert Storm changed air warfare
But modern Marines aren’t even allowed to look there.

11. The best Marines are the ones with more deployments than rank (via Marine Corps Memes).

How Desert Storm changed air warfare
Ninja punches are a hell of a drug.

12. Actual Coast Guard training materials, maybe (via Coast Guard Memes).

How Desert Storm changed air warfare
I wonder how long it took for the illustrator to get tired of drawing that many life vests.

13. This might be because you rarely get in trouble with a wrench and a jet, but constantly get in trouble with beer and free time:

(via Air Force Nation)

How Desert Storm changed air warfare
Which, coincidentally, is why chief keeps delaying release formation. Hang in there, guys.

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Mars: The matchless warship that sank during its first battle

Jacob_Hägg,_Makalös_eller_Mars_(1909) Photo: Wikipedia


With irony equal to that of the unsinkable Titanic drowning on her maiden voyage, the Swedish warship, Mars, called “the Matchless,” was set afire, her armament exploded, and she sank during her first major sea battle. Lost for nearly 450 years, Marshas recently been found in the Baltic Sea, and archaeologists are giddy with the discovery.

In the 1560s, several of the Baltic states were at war, with Sweden on one side, and Denmark and Lübeck (of the Hanseatic League in Northern Germany) on the other. Continuing a practice begun years earlier, Sweden’s king, Erik XIV, funded his campaigns, at least in part, by confiscating Catholic church treasures.

Naval powerhouses, the warring states required strong fleets, and there was a push toward ever-larger ships. In 1563, as part of his drive to have the best navy, Erik commissioned the Mars, one of Europe’s first large, three-masted ships.

At 48 meters long and 13 wide, and displacing 1,800 tons, the Mars held an impressive array of armament. Spanning three decks as well as the crow’s nest, this included 53 canons and 50 smaller guns, an arsenal of incendiary grenades, round balls, chain shots and fire-balls. The ship also boasted a crew of nearly 700. Of course, there was a massive amount of gunpowder on board, as well, for use in the canons and other weapons.

According to legend, to make many of these canons, bells were taken from the Catholic churches in Swedish controlled lands and melted down and forged into the ship’s guns.

Regardless of the truth of that, this ship was launched in 1564 and shortly thereafter, on May 29, 1564, the Mars embarked on its first and only sea battle at Öland. After two days of fighting, the Mars had earned its nickname, the Matchless, as it led the fight against Denmark and Lübeck, who lost 16 ships and approximately 7,000 men in the battle.

The enemy rallied, and on May 31, 1564,  so many fireballs were lobbed onto the Mars’deck that it was soon disabled sufficiently for the German’s to board. Of course, beyond the 350 or so sailors aboard the Mars, anyone boarding it also had to contend with its full compliment of about 450 soldiers. Unfortunately for both sides, a short time after being boarded, the Matchless’ gunpowder stores ignited, creating a heat so intense it reportedly caused the warship’s loaded canons to explode. The result of all of this was enough damage to the most powerful ship in the world that it sank, killing between 800 and 900 Swedish and Lübeckian sailors in the process.

Slaget_vid_Öland_Claus_Møinichen_1686-Kronan The warship Kronan explodes during a battle. Kronan was destroyed by a fire similar to the one that claimed the Mars. Photo: Wikipedia

Slipping into the Baltic in 75 meters of cold water, many Catholics at the time blamed the disaster on the supposed theft and re-use of the church bells.

For over four centuries, the Mars remained lost.

At between 50N and 65N latitude, the Baltic Sea is cold, and at the place where the Marssank, just east of Öland Island, the currents are slow, the water brackish but with little sediment, and the mollusk typically responsible for rapidly destroying shipwrecks, the shipworm, is absent. The combination of all these factors is that, despite its long slumber in Davy Jones’ locker, the Mars is remarkably well preserved.

Discovered in 2011 by a group of divers, given the age and fragility of the Mars and its remaining contents, archaeologists have been hesitant to raise the ship. Rather, they have focused on photographing and digitally scanning the wreck with an eye toward producing 3-D reconstructions that are accurate to within 2 millimeters.

The Mars has been called by some “the missing link” because it marked the shift in Europe toward the massive, much more well-known warships of the 17th century; evidence for this is seen in the fact that, shortly after meeting the Mars at Öland, the Danes and Lübeckians were building their own massive, heavily armed ships, including the 2,100 displacement ton Fortuna and Grosse Adler (1567), and the nearly 3,500 displacement ton,St. Oluf (1573).

Note, however, that these Matchless champions of the time are tiny by today’s standards. In fact, the largest warships on the sea today, the United States Nimitz class super carriers, are over 330 meters long and 40 meters wide, sport flight decks of just over 75 meters, and displace approximately 97,000 tons when fully loaded.

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Coast Guard food specialists will make you want to switch branches

Culinary Specialist 2nd Class Arianna Gunn is relentless. Yes, that’s a rating in the Coast Guard. And it’s no joke to the men and women who work that job. The Coast Guard, like any force in history, runs on its stomach.

Gunn’s drive to serve fresh, delicious, inventive, bar-raising gourmet meals to the crew members of her Coast Guard Cutter, Cochito, powers that vessel as surely as the twin diesels in its engine room. As it conducts long patrols of U.S. coastal waters, searching, rescuing and advancing the mission of the Department of Homeland Security, Gunn’s role in maintaining operational morale cannot be overstated.


Like Meals Ready to Eat host August Dannehl learned when he joined the Cochito on patrol, as far as ship’s cooks go, FS2 Gunn is in a class of her own.

She’s not a recipe follower so much as a recipe pioneer. She gathers her ingredients at local markets and farm stands. She joyfully invents dishes working in a galley the size of a closet. She defines the rhythm of the Cochito’s days at sea by the anticipation and delivery of each of her remarkable meals.

“There are times during this job, during a search and rescue case off shore, we don’t sleep, it’s too rough to eat, it’s almost unbearable. And coming back into calmer waters, looking forward to that amazing home cooked meal, that just brings everybody together,” said Master Chief Petty Officer Stephen Atchley, Coast Guard Cutter Cochito.

We could wax on about the culinary virtuosity of FS2 Gunn, but instead, we’ll hit you with some optics as an appetizer.

How Desert Storm changed air warfare
Yeah… (Meals Ready To Eat screenshot)

How Desert Storm changed air warfare
Oh yeah… (Meals Ready To Eat screenshot)

How Desert Storm changed air warfare
Uncle Jesse would say “Have mercy.” (Meals Ready To Eat screenshot)

How Desert Storm changed air warfare
The Chef herself in her uncanny galley. (Meals Ready To Eat screenshot)

Watch more Meals Ready To Eat:

These military chefs will make you want to re-enlist

This veteran farmer will make you celebrate your meat

This is why soldiers belong in the kitchen

What happens when a firefighter’s secret identity is revealed

This is the food Japanese chefs invented after their nation surrendered to the Allies

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A cut-rate Gaston taught U.S. infantry how to kill tanks

The U.S. Army made a lot of training videos for World War II. Think of them as the PowerPoints of yesteryear. And when it was time to teach infantry to fight tanks, the Army hired an actor that looks suspiciously like the character Gaston and then filmed him drinking beer in a hunting lodge.


How Desert Storm changed air warfare
(GIF: YouTube/PeriscopeFilm)

Seriously, even the lights hanging from the ceiling are similar. He’s one dentally-challenged sidekick away from being this guy…

How Desert Storm changed air warfare
(Screenshot: YouTube/Theano Sakalidou)

Considering the fact that the new Beauty and the Beast revealed that Gaston was a veteran, it’s starting to look like Disney based their character on an old War Department training film.

But while Gaston is known for being an idiot, the staff sergeant in the training film knows his stuff. He’s a tanker who takes a little time out to teach infantryman how best to destroy armor.

He starts with how small arms can be used to force tankers to “button up,” diving into their hatches. Once the tanks are buttoned, they can be completely blinded by rounds hitting the view slits and periscopes:

How Desert Storm changed air warfare
(GIF: YouTube/PeriscopeFilm)

Then, it’s time for grenadiers to try and shoot the crew through the armor with anti-tank rifle grenades:

How Desert Storm changed air warfare
(GIF: YouTube/PeriscopeFilm)

But if the tanks make it past the grenadiers, the rest of the riflemen can throw Molotov Cocktails at the fleeing armor:

How Desert Storm changed air warfare
(GIF: YouTube/PeriscopeFilm)

All of these were real weapons and tactics in the fight against German armor, and Gaston helped make it happen.

You can see the whole clip — and learn how to destroy Axis tanks — below:

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