“You are there for your brothers, and that’s all that really matters.”
It was that one line from the trailer of the upcoming movie “Last Flag Flying” that caught my attention and transported me back to another place and another time — Al Anbar province, September 2005.
At the time, I was a Marine staff sergeant on my third combat tour in three years. I had just returned to Iraq after being wounded by an IED the year prior.
On this deployment, I was to be the top NCO for all Mortuary Affairs operations in and around Al Taqaddum Air Base, Iraq. My job was to recover our fallen warriors from the battlefields and return them home with honor.
As unassuming as that movie quote may be for anyone else, for me, those words ignited a spark. They instantly connected me to how my Marines and I felt about the fallen who were in our care back then. We would stop at nothing to return them home — because they were one of us, they were our brothers, and in the end, that was all that really mattered.
“Last Flag Flying,” which will be released in select theaters Nov. 3 and hit theaters nationwide on Nov. 22, stars Steve Carell who takes a departure from his normal funny-man roles by portraying former Navy Corpsman Larry “Doc” Shepherd who tracks down two of his Marine buddies he hasn’t seen in 30 years (played by Laurence Fishburne and Bryan Cranston). Shepherd reveals he had been notified two days prior that his son, a Marine, was killed in Iraq.
He asks his friends for their help to lay his son to rest.
A story like this automatically kicks me square in the feels. In the short two minute trailer, I immediately recognized the two sides to this parable. One is a story of old warriors coming together to honor a son killed at war. The other is rarely depicted in movies in a time of strife. It is the human cost of warfare, the cost beyond the obvious war dead. It is the sacrifices made by their families and communities.
This is a truth that has replayed across our country close to 7,000 times over the last 16 years. The movie takes a look at this cost that has spared few communities in some way or fashion by our recent conflicts.
During my time in Iraq, my Marines and I would go to vast extremes to recover our fallen warriors. The thoughts of those families pushed us to work harder — no matter what it took or how difficult it was, we were going to get them home to their families.
Through helo crash scenes we crawled on our hands and knees, combing through the desert sands in search of remains and personal effects. We spent countless hours swinging sledge hammers to break apart the solidified parts of melted vehicles to recover the minutest fragments of DNA.
Repeatedly we put ourselves directly into harm’s way to gather our fallen brothers from the battlefields to get them home. We believed we actually worked for the families of the fallen. They would want us to go that extra mile to ensure that their loved ones were taken care of the best way we could, and we did exactly that, no matter the cost.
The connection between “The Last Flag Flying” and my experiences extends to how today we honor our fallen warriors with flags. In Iraq, my Marines and I changed the way we flagged the transfer cases of our fallen to pay them a deeper honor.
Before our tour in 2005, flags were merely taken out of a cardboard box, placed upon the transfer case, and tied down with a white cord. It just was how things were done going all the way back to whenever they first started flagging caskets. Realizing these flags were eventually given to the families, I knew we could do better. Instead we ironed and starched every flag so that they were crisp and sharp.
We also implemented a new technique so there was zero chance of the flag touching the ground. These procedures were eventually adopted by the military.
The common thread between my experience and “The Last Flag Flying” is that in our own ways, the director and I were trying to reveal the same narrative.
Quietly and largely unseen, brothers go to great lengths to care for their fallen brothers. And the story of sacrifice doesn’t just end on battlefields, it continues into the homes of our Gold Star families. It is felt on the everyday streets of our communities, and it is remembered in the resting places of our honored fallen.
Have you ever sat around wondering how Spongebob learned to tie a Windsor knot, how Squidward acquired his affinity for the arts, or how Plankton became perceptive enough to develop a Napoleon complex? Well, here’s a theory that should simultaneously quell your curiosity while fulfilling the core function of the internet: robbing you of your childhood innocence.
Basically, this unique aquatic society was the result of U.S. nuclear testing in the South Pacific Ocean, and that all of your childhood pals, from Mr. Krabs to Mrs. Puff, are radioactively mutated fish.
History seems to support this claim. The nuclear testing site that the theory refers to is BikiniAtoll, a group of islands in Micronesia. After World War II, the U.S. military detonated 23 nuclear devices on the islands as it geared up for an arms race with the Soviet Union. Remember that island that appears at the beginning of every SpongeBob episode? Well, that’s what remains of Bikini Atoll. The creators of the show left other clues to this radioactive origin story, such as Squidward’s Easter Island head residence (a hint of the town’s South Pacific locale), the popular Bikini Bottom magazine Toxic Waste Monthly, and the mushroom cloud that seems to rise from every explosion in the show.
So, it seems likely that the bombing of Bikini Atoll created Bikini Bottom, a nightmarish seascape where a sponge is economically extorted by a crab, who somehow fathered a sperm whale. But maybe it was all for the best. Bikini Bottom seems like a pleasant enough city, and the residents certainly have less mundane lives than your average fish or sponge. All’s well that ends well, right?
Maybe not. Because before U.S. nukes created one of America’s most beloved children’s shows, there were real, non-animated people living on Bikini Atoll: 167 to be exact. Bikini Atoll is part of the Marshall Islands, which has its own distinctive language, culture, and society. Leading a subsistence based lifestyle, Bikinians were a subset of this society.
In 1946 the people of Bikini Atoll were compelled to “temporarily relocate” by the United States, who wanted to begin nuclear testing on the islands. They were told they had to leave “for the good of mankind” and were subsequently sent to Rongerik Atoll, an uninhabited group of islands one-sixth the size of Bikini that lacked adequate sources of food and water. The U.S. navy dropped them on the shore with several weeks of food supplies and left. Soon, the Bikinians had a serious malnutrition problem, with most living on the brink of starvation. Within two months of relocation, they were begging the U.S. to allow them to return to Bikini, not knowing about the nuclear devastation being brought down upon their home. Their calls were ignored, and they were left on the island for two years. “We were dying, but they didn’t listen to us,” commented one of the inhabitants of Rongerik.
Eventually, the government began the process of moving the Bikinians to Ujelang Atoll. A handful Bikinians were sent to Ujelang to begin construction of their new society. But two months later, the plans fell through. The U.S. had chosen a second location for nuclear testing, Enewetak Atoll, and decided that the Enewetak people, instead of the Bikinians, would be relocated to Ujelang.
In 1948, The Bikini natives were finally liberated from Rongerik and sent to Kwajalein Atoll, where they lived in tents next to a concrete military airstrip. Six months later they were relocated once again to Kili Island, a .36-square-mile island where most Bikinians still live today. The island greatly differed from the Atolls they were accustomed to, making their traditional methods of fishing and food cultivation far less effective. Starvation once again became a daily concern and the Bikinians had to rely on USDA rice and canned goods to survive. The island was also prone to flooding, making them vulnerable to hurricanes and typhoons. They soon began referring to Kili as “Prison Island.”
Meanwhile, nuclear tests continued on Bikini Atoll, culminating in the 1954 “Castle Bravo” test, which detonated a nuclear weapon 1,000-times more powerful than the atom bomb dropped on Hiroshima. The blast was larger than the U.S. government expected and the resulting radioactive fallout spread throughout the Marshall Islands, blanketing inhabited islands and contaminating their residents. The subsequent health effects still plague Marshall Islanders today.
Decades passed, and in 1969, President Lyndon B. Johnson announced that the now 540 Bikinians would be able to resettle their home islands. The Atomic Energy Commission issued a statement saying “There’s virtually no radiation left and we can find no discernible effect on either plant or animal life.” Feeling confident in these assurances, Bikinians began to resettle in 1972. But in 1978, tests by U.S. physicians revealed that the radiation levels in the 139 people on Bikini Atoll were well above the permissible level. They were evacuated.
Today, the native inhabitants of Bikini Atoll continue to seek compensation from the U.S. government for the devastation of their home. Many demand that the U.S. clean up the mess they made in Bikini so they might return home. Some have more modest claims, like Simon Jamore, who wants access to better healthcare for four of his family members who have developed cancer. The islands remain almost entirely uninhabited, excluding the marine citizens of Bikini Bottom. For now, the only thing fit to live in Bikini Atoll is a radioactive fry-cook sponge.
In the final six months of World War II, the 104th Division — “The Frontier Division” — launched a series of night attacks against German troops while equipped with only empty rifles, bayonets, and grenades, slicing and exploding their way through enemy lines on the drive to Berlin.
The 104th Division was stood up in Oregon on Sep. 15, 1942, around the same time that its future commander, Maj. Gen. Terry “Terrible Terry” Allen, was loading the 1st Inf. Division into ships for the invasion of North Africa.
One of Allen’s big takeaways from commanding the 1st in Tunisia was that night attacks were generally less costly than daytime assaults, especially against fortifications and massed guns. So, when he handed the 1st over to Maj. Gen. Clarence R. Huebner and was sent to take over the 104th, he insisted that the Frontier Division learn to fight at night.
According to a 1946 news article about the Division, Allen required the men to train 30-35 hours a week at night, well above the Army standard of eight to 12 hours.
After training in the U.S. and England, the 104th finally landed in France in September 1944 and was sent to Antwerp a month later to help capture the port there. In two weeks of bloody fighting that included multiple night assaults, the Timberwolves worked with the Canadians and British to eliminate Nazi defenses.
Even when the “Nightfighters” had rifle ammunition and permission to use it, they seemed to prefer their bayonets and explosives, likely in a bid to reduce tell-tale muzzle flashes that would give away their position.
During the Battle of the Dykes near Antwerp, then-1st Lt. Cecil Bolton tried to use mortars to knock out enemy machine gun positions raining fire on his unit. After being knocked unconscious by German artillery, he awoke and led a two-man volunteer bazooka team against the German lines by sneaking through chest-deep, nearly frozen water in the canals to the enemy positions.
The night attacks were usually reserved for positions in relatively open terrain, but were sometimes conducted against cities. The city of Eschweiler was captured in November thanks to a pre-dawn insertion of troops into the city center. Those men raised hell inside German lines at sunrise while the rest of their unit attacked from the outside.
The second phase, involving the crossing of the Inde River and the advance to the Roer, was even more difficult, but with characteristic skill and dash, in a series of brilliant night attacks, the 104th Division forced a crossing of the Inde, and in a few days had cleared its entire sector to the Roer River. I regard the operation which involved the seizure of Lamersdorf-Inden-Luchererg as one of the finest single pieces of work accomplished by any unit of the 7th Corps since D Day.
On April 26, the 104th met up with Russian troops that had been pushing the Germans west from Moscow. The Allied forces continued to hunt German units until May 5 when they ran out of Nazis to fight. Thus ended 195 days and nights of continuous combat, some of it conducted at night against machinegun nests and artillery positions by attackers armed only with blades and grenades.
A Chinese firm has reportedly developed next-generation radar technology with the ability to see through American stealth defenses.
The Intelligent Perception Technology Laboratory successfully developed China’s first quantum radar system in August, several Chinese media outlets reported Sept. 8. The Laboratory is run by the 14th Institute of China Electronics Technology Group Corporation, a defense and electronic technology firm.
During real-world tests of China’s new quantum radar system, it was able to detect targets 100 kilometers (62.1 miles) away.
Quantum radar systems offer unjammable aircraft detection.
The B-2 Spirit bomber is one of the most sophisticated military aircraft ever built. China says it has developed a radar that can help shoot it down. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)
Older radar systems can be rendered ineffective in a number of different ways. For instance, white noise can be used to drown out the radar frequency, or aircraft can deploy chaff countermeasures to create a false reflection and confuse the radar system. Newer radar systems can skirt these defenses; however, it is now possible to intercept the radar signal and send back false images.
If electromagnetic and stealth countermeasures are deployed effectively, traditional radar systems can’t tell the difference between a floating piece of tin foil and a stealth fighter. Quantum radar systems cannot be so easily compromised though.
Mehul Malik, Omar S. Magana-Loaiza, and Robert W. Boyd, three researchers in the Institute of Optics at the University of Rochester in New York, determined in December 2012 that quantum-secured imaging could be used to develop an unjammable radar system.
“In order to jam our imaging system, the object must disturb the delicate quantum state of the imaging photons, thus introducing statistical errors that reveal its activity,” explained the three-man research team in a report. If a stealth aircraft attempts to jam a quantum radar system by intercepting the photons and sending back a false image, it will destabilize the signal and reveal an error, indicating that an enemy is trying to jam it.
China’s KJ-2000 early warning and control aircraft, which uses X-band radar technology and Beidou satellites, can reportedly spot the F-22, but it is difficult for the KJ-2000 to lock onto stealth aircraft.
Quantum radar technology rectifies this problem. Chinese military experts suggest that once a stealth aircraft is detected by a quantum radar system, it won’t be able to escape elimination by air defense missiles, reports the People’s Daily. China argues that its new quantum radar system will make stealth fighters like America’s F-22 and Russia’s T-50 completely visible to Chinese defense systems. Theoretically, this technology could also be used against a vast array of other stealth aircraft, including the F-35 and B-2.
China launched an unhackable quantum satellite last month. The launch was hailed as a breakthrough in quantum technology. China’s development of a quantum radar system represents another great leap forward in Chinese quantum technology.
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Deep within the mountains of Gifu Prefecture, in a small farming village hidden away from the fast-paced city life, the family of a fallen Japanese soldier eagerly waited for the return of a precious heirloom. For the first time in 73 years, the Yasue family can finally receive closure for the brother that never came home from war.
World War II veteran Marvin Strombo traveled 10,000 miles from his quiet home in Montana to the land of the rising sun to personally return a Japanese flag he had taken from Sadao Yasue during the Battle of Saipan in June 1944.
The USMC veteran carried the flag with him decades after his time serving as a scout sniper with 6th Marine Regiment, Second Marine Division. He cared for the flag meticulously and never once forgot the promise he made to Yasue as he took the flag from him in the midst of war.
As a young corporal, Strombo looked up from his position on the battlefield, he noticed he became separated from his squad behind enemy lines. As he started heading in the direction of the squad’s rally point, he came across a Japanese soldier that lay motionless on the ground.
“I remember walking up to him,” said Strombo. “He was laying on his back, slightly more turned to one side. There were no visible wounds and it made it look almost as if he was just asleep. I could see the corner of the flag folded up against his heart. As I reached for it, my body didn’t let me grab it at first. I knew it meant a lot to him but I knew if I left it there someone else might come by and take it. The flag could be lost forever. I made myself promise him, that one day, I would give back the flag after the war was over.”
As years went on, Strombo kept true to his promise to one day deliver the heirloom. It was not until the fateful day he acquainted himself with the Obon Society of Astoria, Oregon, that he found a way to Yasue’s family.
Through the coordination of the Obon Society, both families received the opportunity to meet face-to-face to bring what remained of the Yasue home.
Sadao’s younger brother, Tatsuya Yasue, said his brother was a young man with a future to live. When Sadao was called upon to go to war, his family gave him this flag as a symbol of good fortune to bring him back to them. Getting this flag back means more to them than just receiving an heirloom. It’s like bringing Sadao’s spirit back home.
Tatsuya was accompanied by his elder sister Sayoko Furuta and younger sister Miyako Yasue to formally accept the flag. As Tatsuya spoke about what his brother meant to not only his family, but the other members of the community, he reminisced over the last moments he had with him before his departure.
Tatsuya said his family received permission to see Sadao one last time, so they went to him. He came down from his living quarters and sat with them in the grass, just talking. When they were told they had five more minutes, Sadao turned to his family and told them that it seemed like they were sending him to somewhere in the Pacific. He told them he probably wasn’t coming back and to make sure they took good care of their parents. That was the last time Tatsuya ever spoke to his brother.
As Strombo and Yasue exchanged this simple piece of cloth from one pair of hands to the next, Strombo said he felt a sense of relief knowing that after all these years, he was able to keep the promise he made on the battlegrounds of Saipan.
The reunion also held more emotional pull as it took place during the Obon holiday, a time where Japanese families travel back to their place of origin to spend time with loved ones.
Although Strombo never fought alongside Yasue, he regarded him almost as a brother. They were both young men fighting a war far from home. He felt an obligation to see his brother make it home, back to his family, as he had made it back to his own. Strombo stayed true to his word and honored the genuine Marine spirit to never leave a man behind.
No other aircraft or air defense system in the world can touch it.
Stealthy, fast, incomparably lethal, the F-22 Raptor is without a doubt the deadliest and most advanced fighter jet ever built. And the Air Force, after a lengthy congressional-backed review, will not be getting any new Raptors to supplement its undersized fleet.
The Raptor, built by Lockheed Martin, was originally created as a follow-on to the F-15 Eagle, the previous mainstay of the Air Force’s fighter fleet. Taking in the strengths of the Eagle and improving vastly with new capabilities such as thrust vectoring for supermaneuverability built into a platform optimized for stealth, the Raptor was everything fighter pilots hoped for and dreamed of.
It would be able to fly the air superiority mission like no other, while also being able to carry out air-to-ground strikes with ease.
Initially, the Air Force planned on buying over 750 units to replace its massive Eagle fleet. Over time, that number was drawn down significantly, thanks to evolving missions and changing threat scenarios. By 2009, Congress voted to cap the Raptor’s overall production run at 187, severely below the minimum figure of 381 units the Air Force projected it would need to fulfill the air superiority mission.
According to Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson, the sheer costs alone makes restarting the Raptor production line, defunct since 2012, completely unfeasible. Revamping manufacturing spaces in addition to rebuilding and redesigning jigs and the tooling necessary to build further Raptors would cost anywhere between $7 to $10 billion, and that’s only the tally on the infrastructure required. Estimates on each Raptor’s flyaway price rang up a whopping $200 million per unit cost, a $60 million jump over the aircraft’s unit cost when its production run ended. The study on bringing the F-22 line back to life was ordered by Congress in April 2016.
Though not wholly unexpected, the recommendation to not pursue a restart of the Raptor line will reduce the Air Force’s options in retaining dominance in its air superiority mission. Earlier this year, the service let on that the F-15C/D Eagle will more than likely face an early demise by the mid-2020s, thanks to an expensive fuselage refurbishment deemed impractical by its brass.
Eagles have long served the Air Force as its dedicated air supremacy fighter, excelling in the mission in the 1990s where it first tasted combat in the Persian Gulf, and later in the Balkans. The Eagle fleet was originally to be overhauled and kept in service until the early 2040s, when it would be replaced by a new 6th generation fighter.
Instead, the Air Force will move on with its plan to refurbish and extend the lives of its F-16 Fighting Falcons, multirole fighters which can also fly the air superiority mission with a considerable degree of success. Critics, however, argue that the F-16 is unequal to the aircraft it seeks to supplant. Smaller, shorter-range, and limited in terms of the amount of munitions it is able to carry, the Fighting Falcon has still served the Air Force and Air National Guard faithfully since the late 1970s and beyond.
A possible byproduct of this news could be the Air Force’s push to develop its 6th generation fighter on an accelerated timeline, bringing it into service earlier than expected. This would minimize the reliance the service would have to place on its aging F-16s, while bringing online a fighter built to work in tandem with incoming next-generation assets like the F-35 Lightning II. This would also potentially reduce the burden placed on the F-22 to shoulder more of the Eagle’s prior workload once it is retired, keeping the small Raptor fleet viable and in service longer.
The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:
The sun rises behind an F-35A Lightning II Aug. 2, 2016, at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. The F-35A is the latest deployable fifth-generation aircraft capable of providing air superiority, interdiction, suppression of enemy air defenses and close air support, as well as great command and control functions through fused sensors, and will provide pilots with unprecedented situational awareness of the battlespace.
Staff Sgt. Corey Blanar, 455th Expeditionary Communications Squadron, cable and antenna maintenance noncommissioned officer in charge and Patrick Casket, 455th Expeditionary Communications Squadron, cable and antenna maintenance technician, roll a cable reel, Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, July 30, 2016. The cable team ensures that all cable and wireless systems are installed and maintained and provide command and control (C2) capabilities throughout the base.
Soldiers assigned to 4th Brigade Combat Team move to an assembly area after executing a joint forcible entry exercise at Malemute Drop Zone on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson JBER, Alaska, Aug. 23, 2016.
A soldier currently deployed to Kosovo with the KFOR Multinational Battle Group-East, fires at a target during the stress shoot portion of the MNBG-E Best Warrior Competition, Aug. 28, 2016.
PACIFIC OCEAN (Aug. 29, 2016) Marines, assigned to the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), depart the well deck of the amphibious transport dock ship USS Green Bay (LPD 20) in a combat rubber raiding craft (CRRC). Green Bay, part of the Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group, is operating in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations in support of security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.
PACIFIC OCEAN (Aug. 30, 2016) Sailors on board the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) render passing honors to the fast-attack submarine USS Pasadena (SSN 752) as it transits the San Diego Bay. Carl Vinson is currently underway in preparation for an upcoming deployment.
The sun sets over the USS Green Bay (LPD-20) at White Beach Naval Base, Okinawa, Japan, August 21, 2016. Marines of the 31st MEU are currently embarked on ships of the USS Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group for a scheduled fall patrol of the Asia-Pacific Region.
Marines with Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 4th Marines and Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 163 (Reinforced), set up security around the back of an MV-22 Osprey during the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s Composite Training Unit Exercise aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, August 23, 2016. TRAP is one of the standing missions a MEU must be capable of executing during its deployment.
Red Man training held during our in-port time helps keep our law enforcement personnel proficient and trains new members on Coast Guard law enforcement techniques.
On April 1, 1967, the Coast Guard was transferred from the Treasury Department to the newly-formed Department of Transportation, and then to the Department of Homeland Security in 2003, but we have continued our wartime roles in modern conflicts as well.
UPDATE: According to a Navy release this morning, search and rescue efforts are underway for the seven sailors now confirmed missing. A total of five sailors, including the ship’s commanding officer, Cmdr. Bryce Benson, have been medevaced to Yokosuka. Three Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force vessels, the Ohnami, Hamagiri, and Enshu, have arrived to provide assistance, and a Navy P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft is assisting in the search for the missing sailors.
“I am humbled by the bravery and tenacity of the Fitzgerald crew. Now that the ship is in Yokosuka, I ask that you help the families by maintaining their privacy as we continue the search for our shipmates,” Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin, the 7th Fleet’s commanding officer said.
The Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) has been involved in a collision at sea with a Philippine merchant vessel. At the time of this writing, two Japanese Coast Guard cutters, the Izunami and Kano, are on the scene.
The collision put a hole in the starboard side of the destroyer, and caused a number of casualties, including one that is requiring a medevac, which is being coordinated as of this writing.
The Navy release stated that the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Dewey (DDG 105) and two tugs have been sent to assist USS Fitzgerald, which is steaming back to Yokosuka under its own power, but is limited to a speed of three knots.
The destroyer has suffered flooding due to the collision.
The Navy reported that the full extent of damage and casualties were still being assessed. A Richmond Times-Dispatch e-mail alert citing the Associated Press claimed that seven sailors were missing after the collision.
Official U.S. Navy releases have not yet confirmed that any sailors are missing, and a Navy spokesman refused to comment on the reports to WATM when contacted via phone.
A tweet by Commander Naval Forces Japan stated that a family information center has been opened at Yokosuka.
An information center is open at CFAY for USS Fitzgerald families, counselors on scene. CAPT Kim, CFAY CO will address families at 0945.
The Fitzgerald was commissioned in 1995 and is the 12th Arleigh Burke-class destroyer. It is equipped with a five-inch gun, two Mk 41 Vertical Launch Systems with a total of 90 cells, a Mk 15 Phalanx Close-In Weapon System, and two triple Mk 32 torpedo tubes. She has a crew of 303 according to a U.S. Navy fact sheet.
In this day and age, the F-111 Aardvark and its larger variant, the FB-111 Switchblade, are often forgotten. That shouldn’t be the case. Here are four reasons that these planes could still kick a lot of ass.
The F-111 was fast – with a top speed of Mach 2.5, according to GlobalSecurity.org. The FB-111 was also capable of going fast, according to aviation historian Joe Baugher. Not just at high altitudes, but also on the deck. In fact, these planes were designed to deliver a knockout punch at treetop level.
The B-2, B-1B, and B-52 get a lot of press for their huge payloads — anywhere from 51 to 84 Mk 82 500-pound bombs. But the F-111 and FB-111 could each carry 36 Mk 82s. That is nothing to sneeze at. During the Vietnam War, Baugher noted that four F-111s were delivering as many bombs as 20 F-4s.
Baugher notes that the FB-111 could fly over 2,500 miles with four AGM-69 Short-Range Attack Missiles and internal fuel. That is a long reach – without tying up tankers like the KC-135, KC-46, or KC-10. While the AGM-69 is no longer in service, imagine what sort of distant targets could be hit by a squadron of FB-111s carrying AGM-158 JASSMs based at Aviano Air Base in Italy.
The F-111F demonstrated this range in an operational context during Operation El Dorado Canyon, when 18 planes from the 48th Tactical Fighter Wing flew from bases in England around Spain to hit targets around Tripoli. Aviation historian Joe Baugher noted that the mission was about 6,400 miles — the longest fighter mission in history.
The F-111 was very capable with laser-guided bombs, but the planes could also deliver unguided bombs accurately. During Desert Storm, that the F-111Es from the 20th Fighter Wing carried out attacks with conventional “dumb” bombs — and suffered no combat losses doing so.
In short, the Aardvark and the Switchblade had a lot of life left when they were sent to the boneyard in the 1990s. One could imagine that with upgrades to carry JDAMs, AGM-154 JSOWs, and even the AGM-84H/K SLAM-ER systems, that these planes would certainly be a huge assets in today’s global hotspots.
Not only do Americans love these gadgets, but gosh darn it, the little drones are cool, inexpensive tech toys that provide a platform for everything and anything the user can think up.
But they’re not always used for wholesome activities. Besides their legitimate uses (package delivery, filming, photography, and even firefighting) they’re perfect for illegal activities like spying, theft, drug distribution, prison breaks, IEDs, and even murder (a teen recently test fired a 9mm from a drone successfully and scared the beejesus out of the internet).
Adding to the problem for law enforcement is the fact that drones are practically untraceable. Tracking a signal from the drone to the user is virtually impossible with the billions of signals flying around our atmosphere at any given time. So using drones for crime or terrorism is a cheap, effective means with little chance of being caught (drones don’t talk in interrogation rooms).
Add a chem-bio weapon to the mix and things get downright scary.
The age of the drone and all the ways it can benefit or interfere with your life is upon us, so the next question is, what can we do to defeat them, both on the battlefield and on Main Street? And if you do take one out of the sky, how do you prove the drone was spying on you and not the neighbors? And if you destroyed it, do you have to pay for it? What if you shoot down a police drone? Even worse — what if you shoot down a drone that crashed into a house, a playground, or a car and caused casualties?
Most people turn to one obvious solution for drones – guns. But besides being illegal, shooting blindly into the air can cause casualties when the rounds return to earth. Fortunately some drone defeating technologies are making their way to the average consumer.
Geofencing programs a set of coordinates into the drone’s software that prevents it from taking off or entering restricted airspace. NoFlyZone.org allows anyone to register an address in a database so drones will avoid flying over it.
If done right, the drone basically refuses to fly into restricted airspace, but this service is voluntary and doesn’t do anything to block the drone’s camera. It can still spy on you from a distance.
2. Acoustic Shields
Several companies use acoustic technology to separate the sounds of birds and other flying objects and alert the user when a drone enters the airspace. But this technology is restricted in the sense that it only detects drones. It doesn’t do anything to defeat them.
Some businesses offer malware that infects approaching drones and drops them out of the air like a bag of hammers. The problem is getting the virus into the onboard computer, which is not that easy.
4. Drones to kill drones
What better way to take out a drone than with a killer drone? Fight fire with a bigger fire. Want a drone with a cattle prod attached to it to zap weaker drones? It’s coming.
On the military front, several technologies are being developed. Battelle’s Drone Defender looks like an M-16 from Flash Gordon and has the ability to disrupt the user’s control link to their drone as well as an ability to sync with a GPS network. It has been deployed in Iraq by US forces.
Openworks Engineering developed Skywall, a bazooka-like shoulder-fired weapon that casts a large net around the drone to capture it. Airbus has developed a sophisticated jamming system to protect their customers in flight, but jamming is illegal in the U.S., so don’t hold your breath that it will be available here anytime soon.
Dutch police have developed a truly innovative (and badass) way to take out drones – trained eagles.
Obviously there are a lot of legitimate and good uses for UAVs, not just for the hobbyist or the filmmaker, but for law enforcement as well. Police could use UAVs to provide intelligence on dangerous situations, pursue felons, or disseminate riot control agents against violent crowds. Commercial companies can use them to paint houses, deliver aid to injured hikers, spray crops, wash windows on skyscrapers, deliver water or foam to high level fires, and even perform high altitude repairs. Virtually any application you can think of can be accomplished by a drone and a little creativity.
But with that ingenuity comes a price – the evildoer with an equal amount of creativity and a nefarious cause. The drone market is here; hopefully the counter-drone market will catch up soon.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
Chalk up yet another win for Yankee rifle designs.
It turns out the culturally protective French military is set to ditch its iconic FAMAS rifle for a German-made M4 variant that’s a favorite among U.S. special operations forces and is based on the popular Stoner design American troops have used since the Vietnam War.
It’s easy to ID French troops using their unique, French-made FAMAS rifle. With its distinctive carry handguard, top-mounted charging handle, integral bipod, and bullpup action the FAMAS has become as Gallic as the Citroen automobile. But that’s about to change as its military is set to outfit troops with the Heckler Koch 416.
A Marine with Marine Rotational Force – Darwin and French Army soldiers with 92nd Infantry Regiment practice close quarters battles during a French Armed Forces Nautical Commando Course at Quartier Gribeauval, New Caledonia, August 15, 2016. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Carlos Cruz Jr.)
The FAMAS came in two versions: The original version, the FAMAS F1, fired the 5.56x45mm NATO round. Its proprietary 25-round magazine was mounted to the rear of the bolt, which allowed the rifle to be more compact but still have the ballistic advantage of a rifle-length barrel.
The FAMAS weighs just under 8 pounds, and had options for safe, single-shots, three-round burst, or full-auto (“Rock and roll”). It also came with an integral bipod. In the 1990s, the FAMAS was upgraded to the G2 standard. The biggest improvement was replacing the proprietary 25-round magazine with a NATO standard 30-round one. This made the French rifle interoperable with other NATO allies. The G2 was about eight ounces heavier than the F1.
The FAMAS had some export success, notably to the United Arab Emirates and Djibouti, but it also has seen service with the Tunisian Presidential Guard, Indonesian special operations forces, and the Philippine National Police. Over 700,000 FAMAS rifles were built.
But few militaries use the so-called “bullpup” design, most notably the U.K. and Australia with their L85 and Styer AUG rifles and the Israeli Defence Force with its Tavor.
The rifle replacing the FAMAS in French service will be the HK 416. This firearm is best known for being what members of the United States Naval Special Warfare Development Group (DEVGRU), formerly known as SEAL Team Six, carried on the mission to kill Osama bin Laden. The Army’s Delta Force (now known as the Combat Applications Group, or CAG) also is said to prefer this rifle for most of its operations.
The HK-416 is a conventional M4-style rifle design, featuring an adjustable stock with a standard rifle action in front of the grip and trigger. The rifle fires the 5.56x45mm NATO round, has a 30-shot mag, and weighs about 7 pounds. The advantage of the HK 416 as compared to the M4, for example, is that it uses a piston operating system, making it less susceptible to fouling and cooler running.
The HK-416 has been more widely exported. American units aside from DEVGRU and CAG that use versions of this rifle include the U.S. Border Patrol and the Marine Corps, which replaced some M249 Squad Automatic Weapons with M27 Infantry Automatic Rifles.
The German rifle is also used by French Air Force commandos, the Norwegian military, and many special operations units across the globe, including Germany’s GSG9 and KSK, the Army Ranger Wing of the Irish Defense Forces, and the Comando Raggruppamento Subacquei e Incursori Teseo Tesei of the Italian Navy.
Walter Chalaire was an American newspaper reporter turned British pilot during World War I whose life was saved while he was being shot down thanks to the enemy bullet becoming lodged in a round on Chalaire’s cartridge belt.
The lucky pilot was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, in 1895 and went to college in New York. During school, he made money as a reporter while studying law before graduating in 1916. That was just in time to head to Europe and fight the Germans.
Cadet Walter Chalaire, at right, later became a Royal Air Force lieutenant and was saved during a pitched aerial fight when this cartridge belt stopped a German round. (Photo: PhotoBucket/njaviator)
On August 14, 1918, Chalaire was piloting a De Havilland DH-4 on a mission near Ostend, Belgium, and got separated from the other observation plane. Chalaire and his observer, a British sergeant, were alone in contested skies when they spotted two flights of German planes. The first was above them and the second was below and behind.
The Germans turned on the sole English plane and started peppering it with fire. Chalaire and his observer returned fire, downing two of the enemy. But the Allied crew was outgunned and rounds flew through the plane, cutting cables, puncturing the tank, and wounding the observer seven times.
Chalaire was still trying to fight his way east when a German burst hit him. One round went into his shoulder but the other was caught by his cartridge belt, driving its way into one of Chalaire’s unused rounds.
Royal Air Force Lt. Walter Chalaire’s cartridge belt and goggles were photographed after he returned to friendly lines. (Photo: National Archives and Records Administration)
That was when the American finally bugged out as hard as he could, sending the plane into a steep dive and praying that the damaged plane didn’t collapse as the air rushed over it.