How the Marines and the Navy work together on the high seas - We Are The Mighty
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How the Marines and the Navy work together on the high seas

The seven-month odyssey of a “blue-green” flotilla that saw combat in Yemen and Syria and conducted training exercises across a large swath of the globe demonstrates the enduring importance of the Navy-Marine Corps team overseas, commanders of the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit said May 24.


Departing San Diego on Oct. 14, the 11th MEU and the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group reportedly supported a Jan. 29 raid in Yemen in which a Navy SEAL — Chief Petty Officer William “Ryan” Owens — was killed. They also brought artillery and infantry troops to Kuwait for later duty, providing firepower to Kurdish partners besieging Raqqa, the Syrian city that doubles as the capital for the terrorist Islamic State.

How the Marines and the Navy work together on the high seas
U.S. Marines with Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 369 (HMLA-369), 3d Marine Aircraft Wing, exits a CH-53E Super Stallion upon return from a deployment with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., May 12, 2017. Friends and family members welcomed home Marines from the 11th MEU’s Command Element during a homecoming ceremony. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Clare J. Shaffer/Released)

The howitzers manned by the Marines conducted more than 400 fire-support missions in Syria, firing more than 4,500 shells at ISIS targets, according to the 11th MEU.

“It was the right Marine air-ground task force to provide supportability, mobility, and lethality,” 11th MEU spokesman Maj. Craig Thomas said during a news conference May 24 at Camp Pendleton. “The Marines supported local Syrians who are fighting to rid ISIS from their country.”

Also read: Marines arrive in Syria to support assault on ISIS capital

Citing the classified nature of the Yemen operations, Thomas said he couldn’t comment on that raid.

His report card for the MEU comes during a series of debates not only about America’s policies toward Yemen and Syria but also grumbling concerns about the future of Marine expeditionary units.

Experts continue to fret about how Marine battalions will conduct their amphibious missions in an age of super-fast and precise, long-range anti-ship-air missiles, plus Pentagon budget woes that appear to prioritize submarines and destroyers over amphibious assault ships like the Makin Island.

How the Marines and the Navy work together on the high seas
Sailors man the rails aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD 8) in 2012. | (Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Dominique Pineiro/Navy)

That flagship vessel returned to San Diego on May 15. It and the fellow amphibious assault ships Somerset and Comstock combined to carry more than 4,500 sailors and Marines, spending three months in the Pacific Ocean and four months in the waters off the Middle East and Africa.

Beyond the combat operations in Syria, the group held exercises in Hawaii, Guam, Papua New Guinea, Malaysia, Djibouti, Oman, and the Persian Gulf. Marines also stood ready to evacuate the embassy in the South Sudanese capital of Juba during hostilities there — the sort of mission that makes an amphibious ready group and Marine expeditionary unit “the 9-1-1 organization from the sea,” 11th MEU commander Col. Clay Tipton said.

Retired Marine Col. Mark Cancian — a senior adviser with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a nonpartisan think tank based in Washington, D.C. — echoed Tipton’s perspective that the MEU remains a lasting example of flexible armed response from the sea.

“What makes a Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force so valuable is the ability of the Marines to mix and match capabilities,” Cancian said. “That’s what they’re doing and that’s what they should be doing.”

And that’s particularly important for Syria because how the Marines were used dovetails with President Donald Trump’s foreign policy goals — defeat the Islamic State without putting too many boots on the ground, he added.

How the Marines and the Navy work together on the high seas
U.S. Marines with Fox Company, Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines (BLT 2/1), 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), conduct a Table 3 combat marksmanship course of fire as a part of sustainment training on the flight deck of the USS San Diego (LPD 22). (U.S. Marine Corps photos by Gunnery Sgt. Rome M. Lazarus)

“The thing that the Marine Corps can provide that’s really needed is fire power for allies like the Kurds or Iraqis — artillery, mortars, aircraft,” Cancian said. “So far, Trump’s policy has been adamant about not using infantry, except in a limited role to protect artillery and other units that are on the ground to add firepower for allies.”

If the mission in Syria grows, Cancian could envision Marine and Navy logistical heft toting more supplies to Kurdish militias or the Free Syrian Army, perhaps even occupying an airfield and using it as a forward operating base. The Corps also could deploy more artillery observers and so called “Joint Terminal Attack Controllers” who call in airstrikes, but Cancian doubts the White House would land a large number of “boots on the ground.”

“The tough question on Syria is the same as the one in Iraq: What happens next, after ISIS is defeated? … That’s a huge fork in the road for the Trump administration, but it’s still months away,” he predicted.

Potential rivals at sea such as Russia, China, and Iran increasingly field anti-ship and surface-to-air missiles that can be fired from hundreds of miles away. Large amphibs, their hovercraft and lumbering armored troop carriers that take hours to wade ashore and unload, would be punished by precision missiles, experts contend.

How the Marines and the Navy work together on the high seas
Marines assigned to the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) board an MV-22 Osprey, assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 163 (Reinforced) on the flight deck of the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD 8). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Devin M. Langer)

The Makin Island is one of the world’s largest amphibs. But it’s also considered a transitional vessel, with similar but superior high-tech “Big Deck Amphibs” like the San Diego-based America poised to share space in the piers.

The America, and up to 10 of its planned sister warships, will feature bigger fuel tanks and storage capacity along with hardened decks to support the F-35B Joint Strike Fighter, the next-generation aircraft that takes off and lands vertically. In other navies, those ships would be considered aircraft carriers — a point that has sparked questions about whether the Navy favors that capability over its traditional mission of putting Marines ashore.

“The answer, to me, is that we had better prepare to fight for command of the sea,” said James Holmes, a professor of strategy at the U.S. Naval War College and a former Navy surface warfare officer who is widely considered one of the world’s top experts on maritime battle. “As the greats of sea power tell us, you have to be able to win command of the sea if you want to use the sea to do things like conduct amphibious landings.

“So we need to be ready to do these things, but chances are there will be delays while we fight our way into the theater, reduce shore-based missile batteries and on and on. Sea power is no longer just about navies,” he added.

How the Marines and the Navy work together on the high seas
Assault amphibious vehicles (AAVs) with the AAV platoon, Echo Company, Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines, 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), leave the well deck of the dock landing ship USS Comstock (LSD 45). (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Melissa Wenger/Released)

Holmes believes the Marines might fret about the future of the amphibious fleet because ongoing studies have called for converting some assault ships into light aircraft carriers and replacing them with other vessels when they’re retired, but the Navy must strike the right balance.

“As far as priorities, certainly the types of ships we need to defeat our enemies and take command of the sea must take precedence,” he said, adding that it’s “a lot easier to improvise a fleet of amphibious transports than it would to improvise destroyers or nuclear-powered attack submarines.”

In a major war, like a potential Pacific-wide bout with China, the traditional mission of the amphibs likely wouldn’t end.

Holmes said Marines could be called to seize islands, much as they did in World War II. Cancian added that the Corps also might return to traditional missions like coastal artillery batteries, working alongside the Army and other services to to defend anti-ship missile batteries on the islands and shoals peppering the Pacific Ocean.

That concept is still a work in progress.

“The bottom line is that there’s no answer about the ultimate future of the ships and the marine expeditionary units, but we do know that in peacetime they’re very useful,” Cancian said. “You’re seeing in the Middle East just how useful they are.”

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How Iran-backed militias are running around in M-1 Abrams tanks

Several years ago, the United States debated supplying Syrian rebels with high-tech armaments such as anti-tank and surface-to-air missiles. Critics contended that the weapons might fall into the hands of US-designated “terrorist organizations.”


But it is in Iraq that the fear has become real: the US has armed American-killing Iranian proxies and terrorist groups with its best tank, the M1 Abrams.

The Popular Mobilization Forces, an umbrella organization of Iranian-backed Shia militias fighting the Islamic State group, have acquired M1 Abrams tanks given to the Iraqi army. Two PMF militias – the Badr Organization and Kataib Hezbollah – have posted pictures and videos of their fighters alongside M1 Abrams tanks draped with their banners and flags.

How the Marines and the Navy work together on the high seas
A US-made M1 Abrams tank can be seen with the flag of the Iranian-backed militia Kata’ib Sayyid al Shuhada. Image from the Long War Journal.

The tanks once belonged to the 9th Armored Division, the only Iraqi Army unit that operates the M1 Abrams. It remains ambiguous whether the militiamen in the videos are controlling the tanks themselves or just posing with them under the supervision of tank crews from the 9th.

“In the videos, the passengers in the tanks are wearing the 9th’s uniforms,” Iraqi Army spokesman Colonel Muhammad Baidani told The New Arab. “Taking pictures and placing flags on the tank alone is not proof of ownership.”

Baidani added that the Iraqi Armed Forces and the PMF conduct combined operations “in most battles,” calling allegations that the 9th had loaned the M1 Abrams to the PMF “untrue.”

But sources in the PMF told The New Arab a different story, explaining that the militias obtained the M1 Abrams in two ways: “Sometimes, the PMF asks for American tanks from the Iraqi Army, if Russian-made tanks are unavailable,” said Hussam al-Mayahi, a Badr engineer specializing in military technology and remote weapons stations.

How the Marines and the Navy work together on the high seas
Logo of Popular Mobilization Forces. Photo from Wikimedia Commons

“The PMF also seized some after the fall of Mosul and the second Battle of Tikrit, taking them from IS.”

During IS’ campaign across the east and north of Iraq, the militants managed to seize numerous M1 Abrams tanks, including at least ten during the Battle of Ramadi in 2015.

Jafar al-Husseini, a spokesman for Kataib Hezbollah, confirmed this story: “We captured the American tanks and other military vehicles from IS, who, in turn, [had] seized them from what was left by the Iraqi army. Now, they are under our control, and we are seeking more.”

He claimed that Kataib Hezbollah and other Shia militias now held all IS’ M1 Abrams tanks.

How the Marines and the Navy work together on the high seas
USAF Airmen load an M1A1 Abrams Tank into an Air Force C-5M Super Galaxy cargo aircraft. USAF photo by Roland Balik.

Other tanks appear to come straight from the 9th: “Tanks are provided to us according to the circumstances of the battles and offensives, before being returned to the Defense Ministry,” Karim al-Nuri, a ranking Badr commander, told The New Arab.

Al-Nuri says he has never seen the PMF directly use an American tank but, when shown the pictures and videos that Badr had posted, replied: “It’s important to take any tanks – whether Russian or American.”

If the US delivered M1 Abrams tanks to Iraq’s Defense Ministry despite knowing that they could be given to the PMF, the Pentagon might have violated the Leahy Law – which prohibits the US Defense and State Departments from providing military aid to security forces guilty of abusing human rights.

How the Marines and the Navy work together on the high seas
Army photo by Sgt. Aaron Ellerman

Human rights defenders accuse the PMF, including Badr and Kataib Hezbollah, of ethnic cleansing, summary executions, and other war crimes.

Iraq remains on the State Department’s list of countries with the most child soldiers, because of these militias who continue to recruit minors.

Kataib Hezbollah presents a wider dilemma. In 2009, the State Department designated it a “terrorist organization” for killing American soldiers, and the US Treasury Department labelled its founder, the Iraqi warlord Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, a “specially designated global terrorist.”

Al-Muhandis works as an operative for the Quds Force, the sub-unit of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps responsible for extraterritorial operations on Iran’s behalf.

How the Marines and the Navy work together on the high seas
Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Photo from CounterExtremism.com

“We have heard these reports and we are looking into them,” said a spokesman for the US-led anti-IS coalition, who emphasized in an email, “Department of Defense policies on the provision of military assistance to foreign military forces require that Iraqi Security Forces receiving equipment or training are strictly vetted in accordance with the Leahy Act as well as for associations with terrorist organizations and/or the government of Iran.”

These policies appear to have failed.

A State Department official admitted, “not all US-provided defense articles are under the control of the intended recipient ministry/unit. We are concerned that a small number of M1A1 tanks may be in the possession of forces other than the Ministry of Defense and Iraqi Army.”

“The United States has not provided these or other defense articles to the PMF.”

“Nevertheless, we understand that some equipment has come into the possession of the PMF, which are part of the Iraqi Security Forces by law, and have been used in the fight against ISIS. We will continue to press the Government of Iraq to act as quickly as possible to return these defense articles to their intended recipient ministry/units.”

How the Marines and the Navy work together on the high seas
US Army photo by Sgt. Aaron Ellerma

Despite acknowledging that the PMF had seized many M1 Abrams tanks in one way or another, the State Department declined to estimate just how many. It could not confirm whether it had lost track of how many tanks may be under the militias’ control.

The ranking Democrats and Republicans on the US House Committee on Foreign Affairs and the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, which oversee the sale of M1 Abrams tanks and other weapons to Iraq, failed to reply to repeated requests for comment by email and phone for this article.

In December 2014, several months after the Iraqi army had lost many of its M1 Abrams tanks to IS, the State Department agreed to sell it another 175, once the Defense Department notified the US Congress, which has spent much more time deliberating over tanks sold to Saudi Arabia than to Iraq.

For now at least, Iraq appears to have a continuous supply of the M1 Abrams for years to come. Al-Husseini, the Kataib Hezbollah spokesman, may just get his wish.

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Here are the five finalists competing to design the World War I Memorial

The World War One Centennial Commission was created in January 2013 and is responsible for planning, developing, and executing programs to commemorate the centennial of World War I, including a national memorial to the soldiers who fought the war.


Unfortunately, none of the veterans of the Great War are alive today to see their honor, but despite bad weather, the Centennial Commission will formally announce the winning design team for the national World War I Memorial design competition on January 26, 2016.

Below are the five finalists for the memorial competition. Just click on the photo to get a closer look of the full-size proposal. The designs are open to public comment. Contact the World War I Centennial Commission here.

Concept 1: Plaza to the Forgotten War

How the Marines and the Navy work together on the high seas
Submitted by the design team of Brian Johnsen, AIA; Sebastian Schmaling, AIA, LEEP AP; and Andrew Cesarz, at Johnsen Schmaling Architects, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Situated on a seam between the National Mall and the dense urbanity of downtown DC, the Plaza to the Forgotten War commemorates the service of World War I American Forces by creating a place that devotedly holds onto the memory of the tragic losses endured by the United States. The concept is simple, elegant and open with a strong and integrated form and meaning that reveals itself in layers. The memorial message is clear and there is great potential for the creation of an outstanding park. The field of lights presents a technological challenge that will need to be resolved and the Pershing Statue and walls will need to be integrated into the evolving design.

Concept 2: Grotto of Remembrance

How the Marines and the Navy work together on the high seas
Submitted by Devin Kimmel, Principal at Kimmel Studio, LLC in Annapolis, Maryland

The style of the monument is inspired by the time of the Great War. It is neoclassical in form and concept, the space and elements combine to create a narrative about the current condition and the historic precedent of monuments. The plan develops a strong park concept and includes a number of elements that add interest and focus. The challenge in evolving the design will be creating a sense of openness balanced against the enclosure of the central space, a continued evaluation of the scale of the elements, and relationships of non-traditional elements (like the grotto) with memorable historic forms.

Concept 3: The Weight of Sacrifice

How the Marines and the Navy work together on the high seas
Submitted Joseph Weishaar of Chicago, Illinois

A simple intervention of a platform into the existing landscape of Pershing Park provides a quietly elegant place within the park. Relocation of the walls and statue of the Pershing complex give new meaning to the individual elements. The result is an integral expression of park and memorial. The subtleness and art of the sculpted relief walls will enhance the narrative of the place—utilizing art as architecture. To execute a memorial and park that maintains the inherent elegance of the concept, a strong collaboration between designer and artist will be the key.

Concept 4: An American Family Portrait

How the Marines and the Navy work together on the high seas
Submitted by STL Architects in Chicago, Illinois

The design concept is founded on paying tribute to the American men and women who participated in World War I through a memorial collage of photographs integrated into the park design. By seamlessly blending framed memories into the landscape, it provides an experience that is both park and memorial, open and inviting exploration. The park is organized by a northwest-southeast axis visually connecting it to the Capitol. While this concept has the potential of a truly unique park, the thematic, technical, and curatorial issues of the story boxes will require resolution. The statuary design, scale, and execution will need to be an integral part of the interpretive and memorial experience.

Concept 5: Heroes’ Green

How the Marines and the Navy work together on the high seas
Submitted by Maria Counts of Counts Studio in Brooklyn, New York

The concept seamlessly blends memorial, park and garden into a new type of public space. There is a strong sense of movement through the space, balancing park-like qualities with memorial episodes and providing opportunities for integration of art as an integral part of the memorial experience. The sculptural landscape in itself is symbolic and will provide a welcome respite to the visitor. The inherent potential of “inventing” a new typology of civic space that works well as a memorial is the challenge.

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Here’s how the team behind ‘John Wick: Chapter 2’ made reloading cool

Professional pain-factory John Wick (Keanu Reeves) is back for a sequel. And once again, there’s a whole cadre of well-dressed people who want him dead.


In anticipation of the film’s release on Feb. 10, We Are The Mighty talked to director Chad Stahelski and stunt coordinator and Army vet J.J. Perry about John Wick’s gunplay style, and how they made mag changes cool.

Watch the trailer for “John Wick: Chapter 2” here.

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An Army sergeant is about to get booted for trying to block info on bin Laden raid

The Army has rejected an appeal from a 13-year public affairs sergeant and is kicking him out in a case tied to the Osama bin Laden raid, President Obama’s speech about it, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s mishandling of classified information.


Staff Sgt. Ricardo Branch told The Washington Times that he must leave the Army by Aug. 1. His crime was mentioning in an internal military email the name of the aviation unit that flew Navy SEALs inside Pakistan airspace to kill the al Qaeda leader.

The irony: He was trying to keep that fact out of a proposed article in an industry newsletter.

How the Marines and the Navy work together on the high seas
Former President Barack Obama and members of the national security team receive updates on Operation Neptune’s Spear, a target and kill operation against Osama bin Laden in the White House Situation Room, May 1, 2011 (White House photo)

The Times featured Sgt. Branch’s plight in March, noting his excellent performance evaluations since the 2014 incident. His last chance resided with the Army Board for Correction of Military Records, which Sgt. Branch said rejected his plea.

The sergeant said he was “floored” by the decision.

“With honor and with integrity I fought this battle and even took it into the realm of public court/discussion in my Times story and it was for one reason only to let everyone know, like my commander said when giving me my notice May 10, 2016, that the Army is getting this one wrong,” he said July 19 in an email to the board.

“Moving forward, I would love to give this one last go round; however, I know now that without the military-level support I received for my third appeal I’m in a realm of hurt in that it will take forever to get another answer.”

How the Marines and the Navy work together on the high seas
Robert O’Neill, US Navy SEAL, claims to have shot Osama bin Laden in 2011. (Photo via Facebook)

His attorney, Jeffrey Addicott, who runs the Center for Terrorism Law at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, said the married sergeant, with one child, did all he could to maintain his career.

He said Mr. Obama singled out the unit, the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, and that Mrs. Clinton did far worse in handling secrets and received no punishment.

Mr. Addicott told The Times on July 19: “The good news is that your story pushed the Army to move off its criminal investigation that he was facing when I took his case. We then also got the Army to consider his request to stay on active duty, and he was retained for many months while his appeal was considered. They have now denied his appeal to stay, but he will leave with an honorable discharge. Not a complete satisfaction for Branch but far better than it could have been. There is no inherent right for the Army to retain him. I know he is disappointed, but we accomplished all that could reasonably be expected. This is a win.”

Sgt. Branch’s problems began in February 2014 while he was stationed at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, doing public relations work for the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment. He was fact-checking a proposed article by the Boeing Co. for its internal news site that told of regiment personnel visiting a contractor facility. It mentioned that the regiment conducted the bin Laden raid.

How the Marines and the Navy work together on the high seas
Photo courtesy of DoD.

Sgt. Branch sent an email to his boss recommending that the bin Laden reference be stricken because the Pentagon never officially acknowledged its role.

That was his crime: repeating the Boeing sentence in an official, internal email.

A higher-up saw the email thread and reported Sgt. Branch to Army intelligence. Instead of facing a court-marital, he opted for nonjudicial punishment and received an oral reprimand.

Mr. Addicott, who did not represent the sergeant at that time, said no court-martial jury would have convicted the sergeant because his motives were pure.

Part of Sgt. Branch’s defense was that Mr. Obama all but said that the aviation regiment conducted the raid by visiting the soldiers at Fort Campbell right after the successful operation.

How the Marines and the Navy work together on the high seas
President Barack Obama, flanked by Vice President Joe Biden, addresses Soldiers with the 101st Airborne Division during a visit to Fort Campbell, Ky., May 6, 2011. Photo from Fort Campbell Courier.

The Army officially disclosed the regiment’s role in news stories.

“The leaders’ first stop after landing was to the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment compound where the distinguished guests spoke privately with the 160th SOAR leadership and Soldiers,” said the Army’s official story on the visit, found on its web address, Army.mil.

On Army.mil, a May 9, 2011, Army News Service story on the Obama visit said, “It was the Night Stalkers who are credited with flying the mission in Pakistan that transported the Navy’s SEAL Team 6 on an operation that resulted in the capture and kill of terrorist Osama bin Laden.”

“I love the Army,” Sgt. Branch told The Times in March. “I like my job. The reason I’m so in love with the Army is I’m a career soldier. I’ve done three tours in Iraq. I’ve survived cancer twice. The Army is my career. It’s what I know. It is my life. My dad was a soldier. My brother’s a soldier. My grandfather was a soldier. I like telling the Army story because I’m a writer. That’s what I do.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

The F-35 could shoot down ballistic missiles — with one catch

As the US military begins deploying the F-35, which brings with it the promise of revolutionizing aerial combat, it may also be deploying a ballistic-missile defense asset.


US jet fighters have spent decades trying to master the air-to-air kill. In the days of “Top Gun” and the F-14 Tomcat, that meant turning dogfights, with a mix of guns and missiles to outfox the other pilot.

But today a new threat has taken aim at the US, and it’s more dangerous than any fighter jet.

As North Korea works toward building out its missile technology to put the US mainland in range of its nuclear arsenal, the F-35’s new air target may be a missile, not a fighter.

According to Justin Bronk, an expert on aerial combat at the Royal United Services Institute, the missiles already aboard the F-35 just need a slight tweak to start taking on missiles.

“By changing the firmware a bit, tweaking it a bit, you could gain a theoretical” capability to engage ballistic missiles, Bronk told Business Insider.

A source involved in ballistic-missile defense at the Pentagon confirmed Bronk’s statement. Basically, the F-35 and its AIM-120 air-to-air missile stand a few wires away from potentially being able to disrupt North Korea’s next missile test, but there’s a catch.

Burnout

How the Marines and the Navy work together on the high seas
An F-35 Lightning II assigned to Hill Air Force Base, Utah, flies alongside a 100th Air Refueling Wing KC-135 Stratotanker during a flight to Estonia on April 25, 2017. The F-35s are participating in their first-ever flying training deployment to Europe. (U.S. Air Force photo /Senior Airman Christine Groening)

Perhaps the reason the F-35 doesn’t already come equipped to shoot down ballistic missiles is that doing so still presents a logistical nightmare.

North Korea often launches from unexpected locations, at strange times, and from mobile launchers. This all adds up to a very unpredictable launch, which an F-35 would have limited time to position itself against.

“You’d have to be impractically close to their launch area,” Bronk said. The problem then comes down to the missile itself.

“Given that an AIM-120 burns for seven to nine seconds and then coasts, and a ballistic missile does the opposite, all while climbing,” Bronk explained, the F-35 would have to engage the missile from very close.

As a ballistic missile blasts upward, quickly gaining speed, the AIM-120’s short burn time means the missile has only precious few seconds to catch its target before slowing down. During those seconds, the ballistic missile only gets higher and faster.

F-35 as the quarterback, not a tackle

How the Marines and the Navy work together on the high seas
An AIM-120 AMRAAM being loaded onto an F-16CJ. | US Air Force

A more likely ballistic-missile defense situation spearheaded by the F-35 could capitalize on what the US military does best: networking complicated systems and getting support from linked assets.

The F-35’s AIM-120 is just 12 feet long, undersize for this role. But the US Navy’s Arleigh-Burke guided-missile destroyers carry several 21-foot-long interceptor missiles.

The F-35’s designers built it to integrate easily with the Navy’s targeting system, so the F-35 can find, track, and provide targeting info to missiles fired from ships or even other jets.

“If you had F-35 loitering as close as possible but not in the airspace, with its sensor package is tuned to pick up a ballistic missile’s infrared signature,” Bronk said, it could function as a “forward part of the warning chain.”

This approach would allow the F-35 to stay out of North Korean airspace, which could be seen as an act of war. Instead, the F-35 simply tracks the ballistic missile, and a US Navy destroyer shoots it down.

Perhaps sooner rather than later

How the Marines and the Navy work together on the high seas
Weapons dropped from U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer bombers and U.S. Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II practicing attack capabilities impact the Pilsung Range, Republic of Korea. The F-35Bs, assigned to Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, conducted a sequenced bilateral mission with South Korean F-15K and Koku Jieitai (Japan Air Self-Defense Force) F-2 fighters. This mission is in direct response to North Korea’s intermediate range ballistic missile launch and emphasizes the combined ironclad commitment to regional allies and partners. (Republic of Korea Air Force photo)

The F-35’s deployment to Japan and its involvement in the ballistic-missile-defense discussion comes at a time of extreme tensions between the US and North Korea, with both sides reportedly announcing intentions to escalate further.

Last week, sources from President Donald Trump’s administration reportedly said they were planning a “bloody nose” attack to damage North Korea’s missile program and humiliate the country.

South Korean media reported on Thursday that North Korea may be planning a satellite launch, which looks very much like a missile launch but instead deposits a satellite in space.

In North Korea, missile launches are key propaganda events and vital to the military’s research and development. For the US, the F-35 is the most expensive weapons system ever made and one that has yet to deliver on its promise of changing the game in aerial warfare.

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Report blames Boeing mechanics for Air Force One oxygen problems

Contractor mechanics failed to follow proper maintenance procedures leading to the contamination of the oxygen system on an Air Force VC-25A aircraft undergoing regular heavy maintenance, according to an Accident Investigation Board report compiled by Air Force Materiel Command.


The contamination occurred in April 2016 while the plane was at Boeing’s Port San Antonio facility in Texas. The mishap resulted in approximately $4 million in damage, which Boeing repaired at its own expense.

How the Marines and the Navy work together on the high seas
Air Force One, carrying President Barack Obama, lands aboard Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., Sept. 26. Obama flew into MCAS Miramar before a presidential campaign stop in La Jolla, Calif.

The VC-25A, one of two specially configured Boeing 747-200B aircraft, is flown by the 89th Airlift Wing at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, and is used to transport the President. When the President is on board, the plane is referred to as Air Force One.

According to the report, three Boeing mechanics contaminated the aircraft’s oxygen system by using tools, parts, and components that did not comply with cleanliness standards while checking oxygen lines for leaks. The contamination was discovered after an unapproved regulator was found connected to the passenger oxygen system.

The report also identified other contributing factors to the mishap, including the failure of a Boeing maintenance technician to observe explicit cautions and warnings when working on oxygen systems, Boeing’s failure to exercise adequate oversight of the quality of maintenance being performed on the VC-25, and the failure of mechanics to “absorb and retain” training received on oxygen systems.

Gen. Ellen M. Pawlikowski, Air Force Materiel Command commander, convened the AIB. Brig. Gen. Carl Buhler was the AIB president. The primary purpose of the board was to investigate the cause and substantially contributing factors of the mishap and provide a publicly releasable report of the facts and circumstances surrounding the incident.

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10 leadership lessons to live by, straight from the Army’s top enlisted leader

Prior Sergeant Major of the Army Dailey offered some powerful guidance for the “backbone of the Army,” the non-commissioned officers’ corps. In case you missed it the first time we posted it, here it is:


No. 1. Yelling doesn’t make you skinny. PT does.

If you’re not out there saluting the flag every morning at 6:30, you can automatically assume your soldiers are not. Soldiers don’t care if you’re in first place. They just want to see you out there. This is a team sport. PT might not be the most important thing you do that day, but it is the most important thing you do every day in the United States Army. The bottom line is, wars are won between 6:30 and 9.

No. 2. Think about what you’re going to say before you say it.

I’ve never regretted taking the distinct opportunity to keep my mouth shut. You’re the sergeant major. People are going to listen to you. By all means, if you have something important or something informative to add to the discussion, then say it. But don’t just talk so people can hear you. For goodness sake, you’re embarrassing the rest of us. Sit down and listen. Sometimes you might just learn something.

How the Marines and the Navy work together on the high seas
DoD Photo by Cpl. Christopher Mendoza

No. 3. If you find yourself having to remind everyone all of the time that you’re the sergeant major and you’re in charge, you’re probably not.

That one’s pretty self-explanatory.

No. 4. You have to work very hard at being more informed and less emotional.

Sergeants major, I’ll put it in simple terms: Nobody likes a dumb loudmouth. They don’t. Take the time to do the research. Learn how to be brief. Listen to people, and give everyone the time of day. Everyone makes mistakes, even sergeants major, and you will make less of them if you have time to be more informed.

No. 5. If you can’t have fun every day, then you need to go home.

You are the morale officer. You don’t have to be everyone’s friend, but you do have to be positive all the time. The sergeant major is the one everyone looks to when it’s cold, when it’s hot, when it’s raining, or things are just going south. Your job is to keep the unit together. That’s why you’re there. The first place they will look when things go bad is you, and they will watch your reaction.

How the Marines and the Navy work together on the high seas
DoD Photo by Lance Cpl. Joseph Abrego

No. 6. Don’t be the feared leader. It doesn’t work.

If soldiers run the other way when you show up, that’s absolutely not cool. Most leaders who yell all the time, they’re in fact hiding behind their inability to effectively lead. Soldiers and leaders should be seeking you, looking for your guidance, asking you to be their mentors on their Army career track, not posting jokes about you on the ‘Dufflebag blog’. That’s not cool. Funny, but it’s not cool.

No. 7. Don’t do anything — and I mean anything — negative over email.

You have to call them. Go see them in person. Email’s just a tool. It’s not a substitute for leadership. It’s also permanent. You’ve all heard it. Once you hit ‘send,’ it’s official, and you can never bring it back. Automatically assume that whatever you write on email will be on the cover of the Army Times and all over Facebook by the end of the week. Trust me, I know this personally.

No. 8. It’s OK to be nervous. All of us are.

This happens to be my favorite. It came from my mother. My mom always used to tell me that if you’re not nervous on the first day of school, then you’re either not telling the truth, you either don’t care, or you’re just plain stupid. [Being nervous] makes you try harder. That’s what makes you care more.  Once that feeling is gone, once you feel like you have everything figured out, it’s time to go home, because the care stops.  Don’t do this alone. You need a battle buddy. You need someone you can call, a mentor you can confide in. Don’t make the same mistakes someone else has made. Those are the dumb mistakes. Don’t do this alone.

How the Marines and the Navy work together on the high seas
Sergeant Major Dailey. DoD Photo by Timothy Hale

No. 9. If your own justification for being an expert in everything you do is your 28 years of military experience, then it’s time to fill out your 4187 [form requesting personnel action] and end your military experience.

Not everything gets better with age, sergeants major. You have to work at it every day. Remember, you are the walking textbook. You are the information portal. Take the time to keep yourself relevant.

No. 10. Never forget that you’re just a soldier.

That’s all you are. No better than any other, but just one of them. You may get paid a little more, but when the time comes, your job is to treat them all fair, take care of them as if they were your own children, and expect no more from them of that of which you expect from yourself.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of February 8th

The Super Bowl came and went. If you’re a Patriots fan, good going. Now your boy has enough Super Bowl rings to snap half of all life out of existence. Tom Brady was somehow the “underdog” that game… because reasons? The Rams didn’t do anything spectacular after being given a free touchdown via a no-call against the Saints and they got flag after flag for seemingly pointless reasons, and they they still couldn’t… You know what? Whatever. I’m a Detroit Lions fan. We’re used to terrible calls and disappointment.

The real military highlight on Sunday was the Google Ad that inspired everyone to search for civilian jobs for their given MOS for the hell of it. Sometimes, the algorithm was hilariously off. Other times, to be honest, we all kinda knew what the results would be: Aircraft repair guys got told to repair aircraft, commo guys got system admin jobs, water dogs got water treatment jobs, and so on.

On that note, here’re some memes to help soothe over the pain of knowing you could be getting paid six figures for doing a less-stressful version of what you’re doing now.


How the Marines and the Navy work together on the high seas

(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

How the Marines and the Navy work together on the high seas

(Meme via Military Memes)

How the Marines and the Navy work together on the high seas

(Meme via Hooah My Ass Off)

How the Marines and the Navy work together on the high seas

(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)

How the Marines and the Navy work together on the high seas

(Meme via Sh*t My LPO Says)

How the Marines and the Navy work together on the high seas
How the Marines and the Navy work together on the high seas

(Meme via PNN)

How the Marines and the Navy work together on the high seas

(Meme via Lost in the Sauce)

How the Marines and the Navy work together on the high seas

(Meme via Army as F*ck)

How the Marines and the Navy work together on the high seas

(Meme via Pop Smoke)

How the Marines and the Navy work together on the high seas

​(Meme via Air Force Nation Humor)

How the Marines and the Navy work together on the high seas

​(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

How the Marines and the Navy work together on the high seas

(Meme via Five Bravo)

Articles

Sailing saved this Marine Corps vet’s life

Sailing saved Ronnie Simpson’s life. He was an 18 year old high school senior in Atlanta, Georgia when the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq began in March 2003. Drawn to service by the events of September 11, Ronnie joined the Marine Corps Infantry the day after the war started.


Less than a year later in March 2004, he deployed to Iraq with the 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marines.

“I was a .50 cal gunner on top of a Humvee,” he recalls. “Four months into my deployment, we were ambushed during a night-time convoy, and an RPG hit the ground near my Humvee. The rocket bounced up and exploded in the air one meter from me. I had broken ribs, detached retinas, a bleeding brain which created sub-retinal fluid, a traumatic brain injury (TBI), a blown-out left lung and my tongue was blown into my airway. I was temporarily knocked unconscious. Because I wasn’t breathing and was unresponsive, Marines in my truck thought I was dead. It was actually a textbook blast injury. The Corpsman in my Humvee, Doc David Segundo, was injured too but he got up, cleared my airway, and saved my life.”

Simpson, now 30 years old, spent a lot of time recovering both physically and mentally. Most of his TBI symptoms weren’t permanent (he credits the helmet technology for that). Despite having burns over 10 percent of his body, many of those scars aren’t visible.

“It fucked me up pretty good,” he says. “Unless you knew me though, you’d never know I’m hurt. I have no visible scars unless I take my shirt off. Then I have many.”

Simpson is legally blind and can’t obtain a driver’s license. Though his body healed, his mental state took much longer. He reevaluated his life and experiences through a 9,000-mile bike trek across Europe and Asia in 2009 and more than 50,000 miles at sea, both healing counterpoints to his experiences in Iraq.

“My time in theater and my travels have shaped my perspective,” Simpson says. “There’s a lot of good and beauty in this world, and I want to add to that. Our program is about helping the men and women that are coming back – the veterans – the people we should be looking out for. We in the veteran community have these experiences and while we may interpret them differently, this shared experience can bring us together. We can come together to create profound and impactful programs to help the veterans from these two wars as well as something permanent and sustainable for veterans of future conflicts.”

Sailing is the catalyst for Simpson’s initiative. Not only his love for sailing but how he changed his life and how he aims to change the lives of others.

“I joined the Marines at 18, was injured in combat at 19, my dad died four months after I got hurt, and by 20 I was medically retired,” Simpson says. “By 22 I was a lost soul. I had reached my deepest, darkest point. I’m fearful of what would have happened if I hadn’t flipped the script. I broke off an engagement, sold my house, and moved from Texas to California. That move was my re-birth as a new person.”

On the California coast, he found his calling. After living so recklessly, he became completely focused on becoming a racing sailor and making the most of his life. Seven years later, Simpson now travels the world as a professional sailor and sailing writer.

“It helped me heal,” Simpson says. “These adventures help you positively adrenalize yourself in a sustainable manner. Guys who come back from places like Fallujah have experienced adrenaline like most will never know, and again need to achieve that heightened state of existence. But where will they find it? Drugs, alcohol, or doping the pain away with pills? I can put you on the helm of a racing sailboat in the middle of the night and it will rock your world. This is a healthy way to get that fix.”

It’s not just about giving people the fix of adrenaline they were accustomed to while in combat. For Simpson and his sailing nonprofit – Coastal and Offshore Recalibration Experience, or CORE (www.medicinalmissions.com/CORE), that community of veterans is the most important result.

“Because that’s what it is: a Community,” he says. “On a sailboat you can put anyone into a job they can do, regardless of their injury. It’s a sport that doesn’t care if you have arms or legs. That’s a big part of it. Everyone has an assigned, defined role. There’s a chain of command, a defined mission, teamwork is critical and constant risk management is all part of the game. The parallels between racing sailboats and combat are incredible. When you combine that with the peacefulness and serenity of heading to sea with your brothers and sisters, it’s a powerful experience.”

Simpson and his best friend Army veteran Walter Kotecki, created a sailing program within an existing wounded-veteran nonprofit, raised $50,000 through yacht clubs and private donors, and gave a sailing experience to 30 veterans over the course of four clinics in 2012 and 2013.

“There’s always a steep learning curve when you start your own thing. We flew vets to San Francisco,” he says. “They had the whole range of injuries from PTSD to multiple amputees to blindness. We used sailing, surfing, yoga, nature walks, kayaking, art and more to help these guys look past their injuries and realize that anything is possible, no matter their injury, while re-establishing that sense of camaraderie and community that so many have lost since leaving the service.”

It was so successful and the veterans so responsive Simpson and Kotecki decided to strike out on their own earlier this year, forming CORE.

“I had a Vietnam vet hook me up with a racing sailboat and an opportunity,” says Simpson. “He passed that torch to me and told me to pay it forward. Here’s my chance to hook somebody else up. Let’s re-build that community and keep that torch going.”

CORE is seeking veterans of the recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan to participate in more sailing clinics throughout California, with the first being in San Francisco in October of this year. They will be accepting applications until August 31. For 2016, CORE is planning six to eight clinics up and down the California coast.

The most ambitious plan for CORE is participating in the 2017 Transpacific Yacht Race – where they will train a full crew of combat-wounded veterans to sail from Los Angeles to Honolulu, the first time ever that such a crew would be assembled.

“Our goal is to help reduce the rate of veteran suicide in this country. Sailing is one of the tools that we use,” he says.

Simpson is now featured in a series of short films produced by Craftsman, We Are The Mighty, and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), showing how IAVA empowers veterans as they transition back to civilian life.

“It’s admirable for companies like Craftsman to reach out to veterans groups to benefit the guys and girls that are coming back,” Simpson says. “I see a positive shift in awareness about issues that affect veterans, how we can improve the care of veterans, and how we can achieve a more holistic healing approach instead of pumping them full of drugs.”

Craftsman is donating $250,000 to IAVA and from May 25 – July 4, for every new follower of @Craftsman on Instagram, Craftsman will donate an additional $1 to IAVA (with a minimum donation of $5,000).

“I am honored to be part of this and stoked that a big corporation is out to make a difference of stemming the tide of 22 veterans a day,” Simpson says. “I’m excited that they believe in what we’re doing, and to work on this next mission of saving lives by reaching out to the veteran community.”

Now: Artist takes his craft to war and back again

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This is the real, hard-luck story of SEAL platoon X-Ray

Legend has it that no SEAL platoon will use the designation “X-Ray” anymore. The story goes that the last platoon to use the literal nom de guerre had the worst luck — that is to say, a high casualty rate — of any platoon before or since.


How the Marines and the Navy work together on the high seas
(U.S. Navy photo)

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

“That’s what I’ve heard,” says Gordon Clisham, a member of SEAL platoon X-Ray stationed in Vietnam during its hard-luck run there. “I don’t know if that’s true or not … the platoon lost four men — killed — and everyone was injured at least once.”

Clisham reached out to We Are The Mighty after reading our story about X-Ray in May 2016. He wanted to clear up some facts that he claims might not be as clear cut.

Specifically, Clisham wanted to set us straight on the counterinsurgency operation the SEALs conducted at Ben Tre which was lead by one of the team’s Vietnamese scouts.

“His name was Tong,” Clisham recalls. “I think he was dirty and I couldn’t prove it.” 

During the operation, X-Ray was ambushed by the Viet Cong. One story says a SEAL’s own grenades blew up while still on his belt. The explosion blew his glute off. Clisham says that’s not what happened.

A B-40 (a type of rocket-propelled grenade) hit the SEALs Mobile Support Team, Clisham says. The SEAL who supposedly lost a glute was actually P.K. Barnes, and he lost his leg from the knee down as a result of the explosion.

Clisham thinks it was their scout feeding intel to the enemy.

How the Marines and the Navy work together on the high seas
X-Ray Platoon in Vietnam. Jim Ritter (KIA) took the picture. From left to right top row – Rick Hetzell, Irving Brown, Harold Birkey (KIA), Doc Caplenor, Frank Bowmar (KIA), Clint Majors, Mike Collins (KIA), Lou Decrose. Middle – Alan Vader. Bottom Row left to right – Mike Trigg, Dave Shadnaw, Gordon Clisham, Ah (the scout). (Navy SEAL Museum photo)

Ben Tre was just one operation among many that went wrong. Clisham estimates that about half the missions conducted by SEAL platoon X-Ray were compromised. They were just walking into one trap after another.

The reason? OPSEC.

Clisham suspects someone, maybe not just Tong, was feeding information to the enemy.

“I even went to Lt. Mike Collins [the unit commander] and said ‘We should get rid of this guy because we’re going on ops without him and we’re getting ambushed, and we go on ops with him, and he walks through the jungle like he’s walking through the park and we never get hit,'” Clisham says. “The boss didn’t want to shoot him, so we didn’t do it.”

What we had to do before we went out at night or any operation, was to get a clearance,” Clisham, who was the unit intel petty officer at the time, explains. “I would go up to the S2 center, give them our location –  never the exact location, we would ask for a ten grid square clearance, so they didn’t know exactly where we were at because a lot of the people working S2 center were VNs [South Vietnamese officers].” 

The Army wanted the exact location, but with the Vietnamese working in the intelligence, the SEALs were not willing to give up the coordinates. Lieutenant Collins struck a deal with the Army: SEAL platoon X-Ray would put the location of their ops in a sealed envelope before their mission. If necessary, the Army could open the envelope and provide support. If not, the location remained a secret.

How the Marines and the Navy work together on the high seas
Standing, left to right: PK Barnes, Kit Carson Scout, Happy Baker, Mike Collins, Tong, Randal Clayton, Jim McCarthy, Ah, Mike Capelnor, Lou DiCroce, Kneeling: Allen Vader, Clint Majors, David Shadnaw. (Navy SEAL Museum)

After the first op, Clisham returned to the S2 to find the envelope opened. No one knew who opened it or why.

“There was a lot of hoopla raised about that,” Clisham recalls. “I don’t think anything was ever rectified, but we knew that somebody there was getting in on our intel or information of our location.”

To this day, as certain as he is that Tong, their scout was dirty, Clisham is sure it was a Vietnamese officer in the intel center who was giving their locations to the Viet Cong. To my surprise, he countered the May 2016 story’s claim that VC defectors who turned themselves in for amnesty – called “Chieu Hoi” – were untrustworthy.

“Now, we had a guy that worked with us that was ex-VC,” says Clisham. “That was Ah. He was a good man. He was on our side one hundred percent.”

There’s no exact reason why some veterans remember the details differently. As Clisham says, it was 45 years ago. When he and his fellow SEALs sit down for reunions, they don’t usually talk about what happened. They prefer to tell dirty jokes over cold beers.

But at least now history has a clearer picture of the “hard luck” that surrounded SEAL platoon X-Ray.

Articles

5 times ‘outdated’ weapons saved the day

Soldiers and commanders are usually stuck with whatever equipment the procurement officers and civilian leaders are willing to buy for them, sometimes forcing troops to go into combat with outdated and inferior equipment.


But sometimes, those “outdated” weapons are actually just perfect for the fight. Here are five times that a supposedly obsolete weapon system saved the lives of its users:

1. Bayonets in Afghanistan and Iraq

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A British soldier with fixed bayonet. (Photo: U.K. Ministry of Defence)

Bayonets, most often associated with fighting in the Civil and Revolutionary Wars, actually played a key role in battles during the modern Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts.

The most famous probably came in 2004 when 20 British troops were trying to push insurgents from a series of trenches. The fire from the U.K. vehicles was doing little and ammunition was running low, so the commander ordered his men to dismount and fix bayonets.

The British killed approximately 20 of the enemy with their bayonets at a cost of three men injured. Overall, the enemy lost 28 men in the fight.

2. Mortars in World War I

How the Marines and the Navy work together on the high seas
Mortars are still a thing, as are hand grenades. (Photo: U.S. Army Spc. Timothy Jackson).

It may sound insane today since mortars are still common weapons, but naysayers in the first years of World War I thought that the mortar was relatively unimportant and was no longer necessary. It was already hundreds of years old and had seen reduced deployments in western militaries in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

But Germany had seen mortars and grenades used in the Russo-Japanese War and stockpiled them before the war as a way to break French defenses. The Allies had to play catch up, developing their own mortars as the war continued. A British design, the Stokes trench mortar, was highly portable and lethal and gave rise to the modern mortar system.

3. OV-10 Bronco

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An OV-10G+ operated by SEAL Team 6. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

The OV-10 Bronco is an observation and ground attack plane that first flew in 1965 and served in the U.S. military from Vietnam through Desert Storm before accepting a quiet retirement in 1995. Boeing, the plane’s manufacturer, touts its historical performance in counter-insurgency, forward air control, and armed reconnaissance missions.

Well, the OV-10 Bronco flew out of history and into the fight against ISIS when CENTCOM deployed two of them in anti-insurgency reconnaissance and ground attack missions. The planes performed 132 sorties in 2015 with a whopping 99 percent completion rate, including 120 combat missions.

4. Pretty much anywhere the A-10 has ever fought

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The A-10 shows off its non-BRRRRRT related talents. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Tech Sgt. Bob Sommer)

The A-10 Warthog (or the Thunderbolt, if you’re into that) has been “outdated” since 1973 when the Yom Kippur War saw low and slow close air support platforms like the A-4 Skyhawk slaughtered while fast and high-flying planes like the F-4 Phantom largely survived.

But the A-10, a low and slow platform, made its operational debut in 1976, three years after the Yom Kippur War supposedly closed the books on them. Despite that, the A-10 has fought and survived in a number of contested environments, most notably Iraq where it has twice been a key part of American forces breaking the back of armored and anti-aircraft ground forces.

In Afghanistan alone, A-10 pilots saved a Special Forces team from five ground assaults against them; conducted forward air control and numerous attack missions to ensure the success of an 8-hour, no notice mission to capture a senior enemy officer; and prevented an accidental fratricide event before annihilating Taliban forces at Jugroom Fort.

5. The Night Witches and their plywood biplanes

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The Po-2 bomber was woefully outdated in World War II, but the women of the 588th made it work. (Photo: Creative Commons BY-SA 3.0 Douzeff)

The women of Soviet Russia’s 588th Night Bomber Regiment, the Night Witches, flew in plywood and canvas biplanes through the best defenses that Nazi Germany had to offer, conducting multiple bombing missions per night to break up attacks against Soviet ground forces.

Their planes, the Polikarpov U-2 biplane, were underpowered and outgunned compared to the Luftwaffe’s modern air force. But the Night Witches used the biplanes to fly over German defenses nearly silently and drop bombs — they could only carry two at a time per plane — on Nazi positions.

They conducted 30,000 missions during World War II and dropped 23,000 tons of bombs.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Everything you need to know about the AC-130 Gunship

The AC-130 gunship is a devastating display of force and firepower. Through the years, the aircraft has been equipped with an array of side-fired canons, howitzers, mini-guns, wing-mounted missiles and bombs, and laser guided-missiles launched from the rear cargo door, earning it the moniker the “Angel of Death.”


The primary missions of the gunship are close air support, air interdiction, and armed reconnaissance.

The heavily armed aircraft is outfitted with sophisticated sensor, navigation, and fire control systems, allowing it to track and target multiple targets using multiple munitions with surgical precision.

Another strength of the gunship is the ability to loiter in the air for extended periods of time, providing aerial protection at night and during adverse weather.

The AC-130 relies heavily on visual targeting at low altitudes and punishes enemy targets while performing pylon turns around a fixed point on the ground during attack.

The Air Force is the only operator of the AC-130 and the gunship has been providing close air support for special operators for the last 50 years.

Development and Design

During the Vietnam War, the C-130 Hercules airframe was selected to replace the original gunship, the Douglas AC-47 Spooky (Project Gunship I). The Hercules cargo airframe was converted into AC-130A (Project Gunship II) because it could fly faster, longer, higher, and with increased munitions load capabilities.

The gunship’s AC identifier stands for attack-cargo.

The aircraft is powered by four turboprop engines and has a flight speed of 300 mph and a flight range of 1,300 miles, depending on weight.

How the Marines and the Navy work together on the high seas
The AC-130 gunship’s primary missions are close air support, air interdiction and force protection. Missions in close air support are troops in contact, convoy escort and urban operations. Air interdiction missions are conducted against preplanned targets or targets of opportunity. Force protection missions include air base defense and facilities defense. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The AC-130A was equipped with down facing Gatling guns affixed to the left side of the aircraft with an analog fire control system. In 1969, the AC-130 received the Surprise Package, which included 20mm rotary autocannons and a 40mm Bofors cannon configuration.

The gunships have been modified with multiple configurations through the years with each update providing stronger avionics systems, radars and more powerful armament.

Currently, Air Force special operations groups operate the AC-130U Spooky II and the AC-130W Stinger II.

The Spooky II became operational in 1994, revitalizing the special operations gunship fleet as a replacement for the AC-130A aircraft, and to supplement the workhorse AC-130H Spectre, which was retired in 2015.

The Spooky II is armed with a 25mm GAU-12/U Gatling gun (1800 rpm), a 40mm L60 Bofors cannon (120 rpm), and a 10mm M102 howitzer (6-10 rpm). The AC-130Us have a pressurized cabin, allowing them to operate 5,000 feet higher than the H models, which results in greater range.

The AC-130W was converted from the MC-130W Dragon Spear, a special operations mobility aircraft and are armed with precision strike packages to relieve the high operational demands on AC-130U gunships until new AC-130Js enter combat-ready status.

Over the past four decades, AC-130s have deployed constantly to hotspots throughout the world in support of special operations and conventional forces. In South America, Africa, Europe and throughout the Middle East, gunships have significantly contributed to mission success.

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An AC-130W Stinger II fires its weapon over Melrose Air Force Range, N.M., Jan. 10, 2013. The AC-130W is one of the newest aircraft being flown at Cannon Air Force Base, N.M. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Ericka Engblom)

As of Sept. 19, 2017, the AC-130J Ghostrider, the Air Force’s next-generation gunship, achieved Initial Operating Capability and will be tested and prepared for combat deployment in the next few years. The AC-130J is the fourth generation gunship replacing the aging fleet of AC-130U/W gunships.

The Ghostrider is outfitted with a Precision Strike Package, which includes 30mm and 105 mm cannons and precision guided munitions of GBU-39 Small Diameter Bombs and AGM-176 Griffin missiles. The 105mm M102 howitzer system is a devastating weapon that can fire off 10 50lbs shells per minute with precision accuracy.

There are 10 Ghostrider gunships in the current fleet and the Air Force plans on purchasing 27 more by fiscal year 2021.

Operation and Deployment

The AC-130 Gunship operational history includes:

  • 1960s/70s – Vietnam/Laos
  • 1983 – Grenada – Operation Urgent Fury
  • 1989 – Panama – Operation Just Cause
  • 1991 – Persian Gulf – Operation Desert Storm
  • 1993 – Somalia – Operation Restore Hope
  • 1995 – Bosnia – Operation Deliberate Force
  • 2001 – Present – Afghanistan – Operation Enduring Freedom
  • 2003 – Present – Iraq – Operation Iraqi Freedom

How the Marines and the Navy work together on the high seas
An AC-130U Gunship aircraft from the 4th Special Operation Squadron jettisons flares over an area near Hurlburt Field, Fla., on Aug. 20, 2008. The flares are used as a countermeasure to heat-seeking missiles that can track aircraft during real-world missions. (Air Force photo/Senior Airman Julianne Showalter)

Air Force units that operate the current fleet of AC-130Us and AC-130Ws include:

AC-130U Spooky – 1st Special Operations Group, Hurlburt Field, Florida

AC-130W Stinger II – 27th Special Operations Group, Canon Air Force Base, New Mexico

VARIANTS:

AC-130A Spectre (Project Gunship II, Surprise Package, Pave Pronto)

Conversions of C-130As; 19 completed; transferred to the Air Force Reserve in 1975, retired in 1995

AC-130E Spectre (Pave Spectre, Pave Aegis)

Conversions of C-130Es; 11 completed; 10 upgraded to AC-130H configuration

AC-130H Spectre

Upgraded AC-130E aircraft; eight completed; last aircraft retired in 2015

AC-130U Spooky

Operational aircraft (active duty USAF); 17 in service

AC-130J Ghostrider

Based on MC-130J; 32 aircraft to be procured to replace AC-130H

AC-130W Stinger II (former MC-130W Dragon Spear)

Conversions of MC-130Ws (active duty USAF)

Also Read: This was the badass predecessor to the AC-130 Spooky gunship

Did you know?

– The original and unofficial nickname for the AC-130 gunship was “Puff the Magic Dragon” or “Puff.”

– The AC-130H Spectre was introduced in 1969 and was used for 46 years in service; the longest service time of any AC gunship.

– Air Force Special Operations Command plans to install combat lasers on AC-130 gunships within a year.

How the Marines and the Navy work together on the high seas

AC-130U Spooky Fact Sheet:

Primary function: Close air support, air interdiction and force protection

Builder: Lockheed/Boeing Corp.

Power plant: Four Allison T56-A-15 turboprop engines

Thrust: 4,300 shaft horsepower each engine

Wingspan: 132 feet, 7 inches (40.4 meters)

Length: 97 feet, 9 inches (29.8 meters)

Height: 38 feet, 6 inches (11.7 meters)

Speed: 300 mph (Mach .4) at sea level

Range: Approximately 1,300 nautical miles; limited by crew duty day with air refueling

Ceiling: 25,000 feet (7,576 meters)

Maximum takeoff weight: 155,000 pounds (69,750 kilograms)

Armament: 40mm, 105mm cannons and 25mm Gatling gun

Crew: AC-130U – pilot, co-pilot, navigator, fire control officer, electronic warfare officer (five officers) and flight engineer, TV operator, infrared detection set operator, loadmaster, and four aerial gunners (eight enlisted)

Deployment date:  1995

Unit cost:  $210 million

Inventory: Active duty, 17; reserve, 0; Air National Guard, 0

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