Into the eye of the storm with the Hurricane Hunters - We Are The Mighty
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Into the eye of the storm with the Hurricane Hunters

Hurricane season has officially begun, and if 2020 was any indication of what is to come, the members of the Air Force’s 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron — known as the Hurricane Hunters — will be busy.

Based at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Mississippi, the squadron collects data about potentially dangerous weather systems from the Atlantic to the Pacific and the Gulf of Mexico to the Caribbean by flying into the literal eye of the storm. 

Into the eye of the storm with the Hurricane Hunters
Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunter Pilot 1st Lt. Ryan Smithies finalizes mission planning before departing July 24, 2020, into Hurricane Douglas to collect weather data to assist the Central Pacific Hurricane Center with their forecasts. The 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, assigned to the 403rd Wing at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, departed July 22 to conduct operations out of Barbers Point Kapolie Airport, Hawaii. (U.S. Air Force photo by Lt. Col. Marnee A.C. Losurdo)

Critical mission

“There’s no substitute for going directly into the storm system,” Capt. Ryan Smithies, a pilot with the 53rd, said. When NOAA’s National Hurricane Center in Miami needs more information about a tropical storm or hurricane, it calls the squadron. They stand by ready to take the call.

While the weather industry includes numerous methods of collecting data, Smithies said many critical measurements are only attainable by taking one of the squadron’s WC-130J Super Hercules planes directly into the weather system.

Once the squadron relays the data, NOAA then issues forecasts and any necessary warnings. 

Weather and families

Smithies says there’s an immediacy to the tasks and end result of the Hurricane Hunters’ daily efforts. “When we land, we can see the work that we’ve done being played out in real time” in forecasts and potentially life-saving decisions, he says.

“Our mission is something that can hit home, so that’s always one of the concerns,” Lt. Col. Mark Withee, a navigator in the 53rd and Chief of Plans for the 403rd Wing, said. 

If severe weather threatens the Biloxi area and aircraft evacuations are necessary — all while the squadron continues to fly into the very weather that looms — Withee said the 53rd does all it can to have one plane ready to fly the crews back to take care of their families.  

“No matter where a storm goes, it seems like there’s usually someone that has some family member that is impacted like that. It’s really something where we can see the impact both for the country as a whole but then in many cases, we have specific close family ties.”

Into the eye of the storm with the Hurricane Hunters
An Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunter aircrew flies into Hurricane Douglas July 24, 2020, to collect weather data to assist the Central Pacific Hurricane Center with their forecasts. The 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, assigned to the 403rd Wing at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, departed July 22 to conduct operations out of Barbers Point Kapolie Airport, Hawaii. (U.S. Air Force photo by Lt. Col. Marnee A.C. Losurdo)

According to Smithies, 2020 was the third busiest season in terms of flight hours flown on mission-related flights into tropical systems. 

“We evacuated the airplanes four times from Keesler, and I don’t think anybody’s been able to find a year where we did that or more,” he said.

Dr. David Nolan, chair of the Department of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Miami, says there has indeed been an uptick in the type of weather events the 53rd encounters, which helps to explain its recent demanding schedule.

“It’s pretty clear that the number of tropical storms and hurricanes in the Atlantic has increased in the last 30 years,” he said, adding the National Hurricane Center just updated the official yearly average (which is tallied every several decades) from 11 to 12.

It’s not that simple

Although there’s an upward trend, Nolan said the increase likely isn’t related to global warming but instead to other factors in the Atlantic. 

“There’s an idea that in the future, there will be more hurricanes because of global warming and that is just not correct,” he explains. “It’s not that simple.”

What is evident, he said, is that as the planet grows warmer, hurricanes are stronger and wetter and potentially more dangerous.

“As for the strength of the hurricanes, it is consistent with the science of global warming and what’s been going on this idea that hurricanes will get stronger,” said Nolan. “When the atmosphere is warmer, it holds more water, so the storm systems carry more water, and they can produce more rain.”

Into the eye of the storm with the Hurricane Hunters
Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunters use dropsondes to collect weather data such as wind speed, wind direction, pressure and temperature. Several of these were dropped into Hurricane Douglas July 24, 2020, The data the Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunters collect is send to the Central Pacific Hurricane Center to assist with their forecasts. The 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, assigned to the 403rd Wing at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, departed July 22 and started conducting operations out of Barbers Point Kapolie Airport, Hawaii, July 24, 2020. (U.S. Air Force photo by Lt. Col. Marnee A.C. Losurdo)

Going forward

So, what does it mean for the Hurricane Hunters if the pace and intensity of storms continue to ramp up? 

There’s no doubt that the 53rd can field any challenges that come its way, said Smithies. 

“We’re going to fly what we’re tasked to fly with the resources we have available regardless of whether that means a single flight in a slow season or multiple storm systems operating at the same time.”

After all, as the pilot says, “that’s why we’re here.”


-Feature image: USAF photo by Lt. Col. Brad Boudreaux

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The famed Olympic torch relay was actually created by the Nazis for propaganda

On August 1, 1936, Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler opened the 11th Olympic Games in Berlin, Germany.


In doing so, he  inaugurated what is now a famed ritual of a lone runner bearing a torch carried from the site of the ancient games in Olympia, Greece into the stadium.

“The sportive, knightly battle awakens the best human characteristics. It doesn’t separate, but unites the combatants in understanding and respect. It also helps to connect the countries in the spirit of peace. That’s why the Olympic Flame should never die,” he reportedly said.

If that sounds like PR for the Nazi Party, that’s because it was.

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Crowds give the Nazi salute as Hitler enters the stadium. | Bundesarchiv

The relay “was planned with immense care by the Nazi leadership to project the image of the Third Reich as a modern, economically dynamic state with growing international influence,”according to the BBC.

Or, in other words, Hitler wanted the games to impress foreigners visiting Germany.

The organizer of the 1936 Games, Carl Diem, even based the relay off the one Ancient Greeks did in 80 BC in an attempt to connect the ancient Olympics to the present Nazi party.

“The idea chimed perfectly with the Nazi belief that classical Greece was an Aryan forerunner of the modern German Reich,” according to the BBC. “And the event blended perfectly the perversion of history with publicity for contemporary German power.”

And according to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, Hitler’s torch run, “perfectly suited Nazi propagandists, who used torch-lit parades and rallies to attract Germans, especially youth, to the Nazi movement.”

The torch itself was made by Krupp Industries, which was a major supplier of Nazi arms.

Here’s a view of one of the Olympic torch bearers:

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National Archives and Records Administration

And here’s a view of the last bearer ahead of lighting the Olympic flame:

Into the eye of the storm with the Hurricane Hunters
The last of the runners who carried the Olympic torch arriving in Berlin to light the Olympic Flame, marking the start of the 11th Summer Olympic Games. Berlin, Germany, August 1, 1936. | National Archives and Records Administration

Unsurprisingly, the 1936 Olympic Games were not without controversy.

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Jesse Owens, who won four gold medals in Berlin — despite the racist ideology. | Wikimedia

Despite Hitler’s aforementioned pitch that “the sportive, knightly battle … unites the combatants in understanding and respect,” the Nazis tried to keep Jews and blacks from competing in the games.

The official Nazi Party paper, the Völkischer Beobachter , even put out a statement saying that it was “a disgrace and degradation of the Olympic idea” that blacks and whites could compete together. “Blacks must be excluded. … We demand it,” it said, according to Andrew Nagorski, who cited the article in his book “Hitlerland.”

Various groups and activists in the US and other countries pushed to boycott the games in response.

The Nazis eventually capitulated, saying that they would welcome “competitors of all races,” but added that the make-up of the German team was up to the host country. (They added Helene Mayer, whose father was Jewish, as their “token Jew” participant. She won the silver medal.)

During the games, Hitler reportedly cheered loudly for German winners, but showed poor sportsmanship when others won, including track and field star Jesse Owens (who won 4 gold medals) and other black American athletes. According to Nagorski, he also said: “It was unfair of the United States to send these flatfooted specimens to compete with the noble products of Germany. … I am going to vote against Negro participation in the future.”

Ultimately, the most disconcerting thing about the 1936 Olympics is that the Nazis’ propaganda push was actually effective on visitors and athletes — despite all the racism and anti-Semitism.

William L. Shirer, an American journalist living in Berlin at the time, and later known for his book “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich,” noted his disappointment with the fact that tourists responded positively to the whole affair. And according to Nagorski, an older American woman even managed to kiss Hitler on the cheek when he visited the swimming stadium.

But perhaps the most chilling line cited by Nagorski came from Rudi Josten, a German staffer in the AP bureau who wrote: “Everything was free and all dance halls were reopened. … They played American music and whatnot. Anyway, everybody thought: ‘Well, so Hitler can’t be so bad.'”

World War II officially started a little over three years later in 1939.

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Israel’s F-35s may have already flown a combat mission against Russian air defenses in Syria

Israel received three F-35s from the US on Tuesday, bringing its total inventory of the revolutionary fighter up to five, but according to a French journalist citing French intelligence reports, Israeli F-35s have already carried out combat missions in Syria.


In the Air Forces Monthly, Thomas Newdick summarized a report from Georges Malbrunot at France’s Le Figaro newspaper saying Israel took its F-35s out on a combat mission just one month after receiving them from the US.

Malbrunot reported that on January 12 Israeli F-35s took out a Russian-made S-300 air defense system around Syrian President Bashar Assad’s palace in Damascus and another Russian-made Pantsir-S1 mobile surface-to-air missile system set for delivery to Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Related: F-35s will take part in NATO drills

Israel has repeatedly and firmly asserted its goal to make sure weapons cannot reach Hezbollah, a terror group sworn to seek the destruction of Israel.

In March, Israel admitted to an airstrike in Syria. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said “when we know about an attempt to smuggle weapons to Hezbollah, we do whatever we can to prevent this from happening, provided we have sufficient information and capabilities to react,” according to Russian state-run media.

However, the other details of the story seem unlikely. The only known S-300 system in Syria is operated by the Russians near their naval base, so hitting that would mean killing Russian servicemen, which has not been reported at all.

Into the eye of the storm with the Hurricane Hunters
Land-based S-300 surface-to-air missile launchers | Creative Commons photo

Also, as Tyler Rogoway of The Drive points out, the Pantsir-S1 air defenses would certainly bolster Hezbollah in Lebanon, but Israel wouldn’t be under immediate pressure to destroy this system. Their jets have advanced air defense suppression and electronic warfare capabilities that limit the threat posed by the Pantsir-S1, and make it unlikely that they would risk F-35s to attack them.

Also read: 3 reasons why Airwolf is more badass than the F-35

But parts of the French report hold up. There was an airstrike on January 12 at Mezzeh air base, where the French report said it took place. The BBC reports that the Syrian government accused Israel of a strike at that time and place.

Jeff Halper, author of War Against the People, a book that looks at the military ties between Israel and the US, told Al Jazeera that Israeli pilots may be the first to see combat action in the F-35.

“Israel serves as the test-bed for the development of these kinds of new weapons,” said Halper. “The F-35 will be tested in the field, in real time by Israel. The likelihood is that the first time the plane is used in combat will be with Israeli pilots flying it.”

Into the eye of the storm with the Hurricane Hunters
Israeli Air Force

Indeed the F-35’s stealth abilities remain untested, and only in a heavily contested environment could the F-35 really meet its match. In the past, F-35 pilots have complained that surface-to-air threats are not advanced enough to provide realistic training, and the Air Force has run short on adversary services to provide enough competition to really prove the F-35’s capabilities.

In the case of the S-300, experts have told Business Insider that it would take a stealth jet like the F-35 to safely take them out.

While the details remain sketchy and wholly unverifiable, Halper’s “test-bed” assertion has certainly been true of US-Israeli defense projects, like missile defenses, in the past. Rogoway also noted Israel’s history of rushing new platforms to the front lines as possible supporting evidence.

Into the eye of the storm with the Hurricane Hunters
Could Israel have flown combat missions in the F-35 one month after receiving it? | U.S. Air Force photo/R. Nial Bradshaw

On Wednesday night, Syria’s government again accused Israel of an airstrike near Damascus International airport.

Short of taking responsibility for the attack, Israeli officials said it was a strike on Hezbollah targets, which they support.

Israeli Intelligence Minister Israel Katz told Israeli Army Radio: “I can confirm that the incident in Syria corresponds completely with Israel’s policy to act to prevent Iran’s smuggling of advanced weapons via Syria to Hezbollah in Iran. Naturally, I don’t want to elaborate on this,” according to the BBC.

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Four exotic weapons that will make you rethink ancient warfare

When most think of ancient warfare, nothing more sophisticated than spears, bows, and maybe catapults come to mind. But like in modern warfare, few things breed ingenuity more than the need to outgun the enemy. Here are some of the more elaborate examples:


1. Claw of Archimedes

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Archimedes, the famed Greek mathematician and inventor, developed a variety of weapons to aid in the defense of his home city of Syracuse, Sicily. This included improved versions of conventional artillery like catapults and ballistas, but he also designed more exotic devices to defend Syracuse’s seawall from attacking Roman ships during the Second Punic War.

Though the exact design of the Claw of Archimedes is not known, it is believed to have been a large crane fitted with a gigantic grappling hook. As Roman ships approached the wall, it would be deployed over them, snagging them with the hook, and then lifting the ship at least partially out of the water. When released, the ship would capsize or at least be dropped violently back into the water, damaging the vessel and throwing crewmen overboard.

The Roman historian Livy contended that the Roman fleet suffered terrible casualties from this device. A team working for the Discovery Channel recreated the device using technology that would have been available at the time and used it to capsize a replica of a Roman galley, proving that the device could have been effective.

2. Heat Ray

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Another of Archimedes inventions–far more controversial and shrouded in mystery–is a form of heat ray designed to set enemy ships on fire. A strategically placed series of mirrors would focus the sun’s rays onto a single point on an enemy ship and ignite it, like a magnifying glass used to ignite paper. Most Roman ships of the era were coated with pitch as a sealant, which would only make the target more flammable.

Though some ancient historians record that such a weapon was used during the 212 B.C. siege of Syracuse, attempted recreations conducted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and others concluded that the weapon was almost ridiculously impractical. It was completely dependent on the position of the sun and a utter lack of cloud cover, and could only function on a completely stationary target due to the time required for it to achieve ignition.

Even if it succeeded, at best it could create small, easily extinguishable fires. Regular flaming arrows and catapult ammunition would have far more range and effectiveness, not to mention being easier to deploy.The only practical function such a weapon would have is to use its rays to temporarily blind the crews and marines of the attacking ships. Despite its shortcomings, the novel concept of using light as a lethal weapon presages modern laser technology that is still under development to this day.

3. Biological Warfare

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After a series of disputes, the Mongolian Golden Horde laid siege to the Genoese trading city of Caffa in 1346, in what is in the modern day Crimea. The bubonic plague had already started to ravage Crimea, and it rapidly spread to the besieging Mongolian forces, killing thousands.

According to the memoirs of the Italian Gabriele de’ Mussi, the Mongolian Khan Janibeg had ordered the bodies of his soldiers killed by the plague hurled over Caffa’s walls. De’ Mussi wrote: “Soon the rotting corpses tainted the air and poisoned the water supply, and the stench was so overwhelming that hardly one in several thousand was in a position to flee the remains of the Tartar army. Moreover one infected man could carry the poison to others, and infect people and places with the disease by look alone. No one knew, or could discover, a means of defense.”

It has been theorized that Italian ships fleeing the city helped spread the bubonic plague to Europe and start the Black Death, which may have killed more than a quarter of the continent’s population. Considering how many other sources there were for the plague, however, the siege at Caffa may have only played a small role in the ghastly pandemic.

4. Flamethrowers

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Various flaming liquids and incendiary weapons are known to have been in use since antiquity, but it was the Byzantine Empire that created what could be considered an ancient precursor to napalm, though its exact composition has been lost. The substance known as naptha, or Greek fire, was typically used in clay pots thrown by hand or catapult to ignite enemy ships, siege engines, and troops, but it also was used in some the first flamethrowers.

When used on ships, large brass tubes mounted on the prow were filled with naptha, and large blacksmith’s bellows were rapidly pumped to spray the flaming liquid onto enemy ships. Naptha reputedly could only be extinguished with sand, and water would only spread it about and make the fire worse.

Small hand units, called cheiroseiphon, were scaled down versions of the ones used by ships. They were typically used to ignite enemy siege towers, but some ancient Byzantine strategists recommended its use on the battlefield to terrify enemy formations. It may have only been used to spray the liquid before a secondary fire source ignited it, but contemporary Byzantine illuminations show it being used to directly shoot fire.

 

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This is why the US must win the ‘Cyberspace Race’

The cyber threat is now our greatest national security challenge, a 21st Century “weapon of mass destruction” that is currently having serious impacts on America and is getting worse – militarily and economically – across public and private sectors, and socially across all segments of society.


Our adversaries around the globe, from rivals like Russia and China to belligerents including ISIS, Iran, and North Korea, have developed significant cyber capabilities.  This “global cyber proliferation” is serious and growing worse by the minute.  In the late 1950s and early 1960s, the emerging Cold War’s battlefront included the Space Race with the Russians, and eventually a symbolic American on the moon. Today, we have a similar situation: A “Cyber Space Race” which will represent the dominant high ground for decades to come.

Into the eye of the storm with the Hurricane Hunters
Louisiana Army National Guard photo by Spc. Garrett L. Dipuma

We are being hacked and attacked every day in America. Our personal accounts and lives, our critical infrastructures, and there are undoubtedly many serious incursions that we have not detected or have gone unreported.  A few recent examples illustrate this point: State-backed Iranian hackers conducted a denial of service attack against US banks to attack United States infrastructure, and not just the banks themselves.

Russian-backed hackers sought to influence elections in the United StatesFrance, and throughout Europe.  The Chinese military has carried out cyber-espionage attacks against US companies, hacking intellectual property from US public and private entities, including sensitive military IP worth billions. North Korea foreshadowed their cyber capabilities when hacking Sony Pictures, but has recently demonstrated a far more robust cyber arsenal, an alarming threat to the public and private sectors of America and its allies. Equally alarming is the Islamic State’s recruiting of jihadists who are then connected to encrypted sites for further radicalization and operational instructions.

The worst-case scenario is a potential “Cyber Pearl Harbor” or a “Cyber 9/11.” While once found only in doomsday thrillers, a massive cyber threat is now very real.

Related: Get hacking! America’s cyber warfare force is now operational

While America’s public and private sector cyber defenses have grown since the mid-1990s, the threat to all elements of national power has grown even more rapidly. America is at high risk. Of particular concern is our soft commercial-sector underbelly, which comprises 85% of Internet use in the United States.  Cyber breaches present an unprecedented and often disastrous risk to the value of commercial entities.

Consider the Target, Home Depot, Sony, and Equifax cyber intrusions. Each cost the companies billions in market valuation, lost revenue, employee productivity, reputation, and expenses. While it is harder to quantify than a stock price, companies and institutions are successful in large part due to trust. An individual company violating that trust with their customers can have devastating effects for that company, but the magnitude of recent data breeches strikes fear in the hearts of all Americans and undermines trust in the fundamental institutions of our society.

Into the eye of the storm with the Hurricane Hunters
Cadets, pay attention — our future could be in your hands. (U.S. AF photo by Raymond McCoy)

Just as techniques and technology developed in America’s space program resulted in innovations benefitting the full range of American life, so, too, can military-grade cyber capabilities be leveraged to harden vulnerable government and commercial entities. Techniques and technologies such as the commercial sector onboarding of military-grade technologies, implementing network segmentation to protect sensitive information, applying advanced encryption techniques to protect large databases, ensuring protection from insider threats, and using advanced analytics to uncover risks to commercial internal or external networks.

America must win the 21st Century “Cyber Space Race.” We must mobilize the entire spectrum of American enterprise, from the cyber education of our children to the highest levels of academia, business, and government. The US commercial sector must do everything possible to protect themselves, their customers, and this nation. This includes using military-grade cyber defense capabilities to ensure commercial viability, thus securing America’s increasingly vulnerable economic engine.

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Here’s the bizarre way Saddam Hussein spent his last days in power

Former CIA Senior Analyst John Nixon’s new book “Debriefing the President: The Interrogation of Saddam Hussein” provides never-before-seen details into the daily life of Iraq’s deposed dictator in the months before the 2003 US invasion wrenched him from power.


Also read: The 9 day jobs of brutal dictators

Nixon, who wrote his master’s thesis on Hussein, and whose full-time job at the CIA was to study him, was shocked to find out that common intelligence on Hussein had been wrong.

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Iraqi-American, Samir, 34, pinning deposed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein to the ground during his capture in Tikrit, on Saturday, December 13, 2003. | US Army photo

From The New York Times review of Nixon’s book:

His most astonishing discovery was that by the time of the United States-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003, Hussein had turned over the day-to-day running of the Iraqi government to his aides and was spending most of his time writing a novel. Hussein described himself to Mr. Nixon as both president of Iraq and a writer, and complained to Mr. Nixon that the United States military had taken away his writing materials, preventing him from finishing his book. Hussein was certainly a brutal dictator, but the man described by Mr. Nixon was not on a mission to blow up the world, as George W. Bush’s administration had claimed to justify the invasion.

Hussein’s own abdication of authority in lieu of his more artistic pursuits did little to make up for his prior brutal actions as the leader of Iraq. However, it did call into question the overall value of removing the dictator from power in the first place.

“Was Saddam worth removing from power?”  Nixon asked himself in the book. “I can speak only for myself when I say that the answer must be no. Saddam was busy writing novels in 2003. He was no longer running the government.”

Since 2003, the mainstream political consensus in the US has turned on George W. Bush’s 2003 decision to invade Iraq, with both major party presidential candidates this election cycle condemning the invasion and ensuing occupation of Iraq.

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SecNav Ray Mabus takes a parting swing at a major Pentagon rival

During a meeting Wednesday with a number of defense reporters and experts, outgoing Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus defended the Littoral Combat Ship against criticism.


The LCS has been noted for a series of engineering problems that has laid up a number of the early ships. The problems have called the program into question even though the USS Freedom (LCS 1) had a very successful 2010 deployment to Southern Command’s area of operations, while the USS Coronado (LCS 4) successfully defeated a simulated attack by a swarm of speedboats in a 2015 test of the surface warfare package.

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The future USS Detroit (LCS 7) conducts acceptance trials. Acceptance trials are the last significant milestone before delivery of the ship to the Navy. (U.S. Navy Photo courtesy of Lockheed Martin-Michael Rote)

Mabus particularly aimed his ire at the Pentagon’s Office of Test and Evaluation, or DOTE, which has been part of an ongoing verbal fight between Pentagon testers and the Navy.

“My reaction is that I’ve been there almost eight years,” Mabus, who was confirmed in 2009, groused to the gathered reporters. “And I’m pretty sure that [DOTE director] Michael Gilmore has never found a weapon system that’s effective, ever.”

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“I know what this ship can do. I know what the fleet thinks of it,” Mabus added, citing how the office was also highly critical of the P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft, claiming it didn’t work or do what the Navy said it would do. The DOTE criticism came even though the plane had already entered the fleet and was drawing rave reviews from operators.

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P-8A Poseidon aircraft No. 760 takes off from a Boeing facility in Seattle, Wash., for delivery to fleet operators in Jacksonville, Fla., marking the 20th overall production P-8A aircraft for the U.S. Navy. This 20th overall delivery will help the U.S. Navy prepare the next squadron transition to the P-8A from the P-3C Orion. The second fully operational P-8A squadron is deployed to the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility. (U.S. Navy photo courtesy of Boeing Defense)

The Littoral Combat Ship covered 20 pages in the DOTE FY2016 Annual Report, which claimed the Navy “has not yet demonstrated effective capability for LCS equipped with the MCM [mine counter-measures], SUW [surface warfare], or ASW [anti-submarine warfare] mission packages.”

The report also cited the 2015 cancellation of the Remote Minehunting System, and even claimed that the USS Coronado had flunked the 2015 test.

“The final thing I’ll say is, it does what we want it to do, not what you think it ought to do which is one of the things [Gilmore] does,” Mabus concluded.

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10 military units that define ‘the tip of the spear’

When America needs to break its way into an enemy country, these are the people who slip, kick, or explode their way past the defenses and blaze the way for follow-on forces.


1. Marine Raiders

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Photo: US Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Robert M. Storm

Marine Raiders are the rank and file of the Marine Special Operations Command. MARSOC fields three Raider battalions that conduct special reconnaissance, counterinsurgency, and direct action missions. The Raiders trace their lineage to World War II where Marine Raiders led beach assaults, conducted raids, and used guerrilla tactics against Japanese defenders.

2. Green Berets

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Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Steve Hebert

The Army’s special forces soldiers were famously some of the first troops in Afghanistan where they rode horses to get to the enemy. They guarded Hamid Karzai when he was an unknown politician putting together a militia to aid an American invasion, and they’ve served in dozens of unpublicized conflicts around the world.

3. Delta Force

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Photo: Department of Defense

Composed of the Army’s best green berets as well as operators from around the Department of Defense, Delta Force takes on high-stakes missions far ahead of the rest of the military. It was Delta Force that led the hunt for Osama Bin Laden in the Tora Bora mountains in 2001.

4. Navy SEALS

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Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class William S. Parker

They got Bin Laden in Pakistan, saved Capt. Richard Phillips from Somali pirates, and produced “American Sniper” legend Chief Petty Officer Chris Kyle. Navy SEALs are the sea services’ most capable fighters on terra firma.

5. Army Rangers

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Photo: USASOC Public Affairs Trish Harris

U.S. Army Rangers first led the way into combat in 1775. These elite infantrymen took out key positions on D-Day, led the way into Panama in Operation Just Cause, played a huge role in Somalia, and conducted airborne assaults into both Afghanistan and Iraq.

6. Force Recon Marines

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Photo: US Marine Corps Cpl. Anna Albrecht

Recon Marines work for Marine ground commanders, moving ahead of other forces into any area where the commander needs “eyes on” but can’t otherwise get them.

The popular miniseries “Generation Kill” followed a group of these Marines spearheading the invasion of Iraq and feeding information up the chain to Gen. James “Mad Dog” Mattis and other senior leaders.

7. Carrier-based aircraft

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Photo: US Navy

The Navy’s carrier groups provide an awesome platform for launching jets against American enemies, quickly conducting air strikes when the wars opened in Afghanistan, Iraq, and then Syria. This is done primarily by Navy Super Hornet air wings, though Marine Corps Harriers fly missions from carriers as well.

8. F-22 fighter wings

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Image: US Air Force Staff Sgt. Jim Araos

While the F-22 has not yet fought in the first wave of an invasion, it’s proven that it’s capable in Syria. When it entered the fight about a month after airstrikes against ISIS began, it slipped past enemy air defenses to take out protected targets. It now escorts other jets past enemy air defenses, using its sensors to detect threats and targets.

9. Naval ships

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Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jonathan Sunderman

While U.S. ships rarely get to mix it up with enemy navies these days, they still get to launch the opening blows in a fight by using long range cruise missiles, especially the Tomahawk Block IV. Navy destroyers, cruisers, and submarines have launched Tomahawks against Syria, Libya, Iraq, Sudan, Afghanistan, Kosovo … ( actually, just see the full list at the Naval History Blog).

10. 509th Bomb Wing

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Photo: U.S. Air Force Tech Sgt. Cecilio Ricardo

The 509th Bomb Wing operates most of America’s B-2s, the stealth bomber that can slip into enemy airspace, destroy air defenses and runways, and then leave without the enemy knowing what happened. The B-2 has been used in strikes in Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq and flew many of its missions from Missouri to the target and back, taking about 30 hours for each mission.

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This former SEAL Team 6 member is climbing Everest for vets

A former member of SEAL Team 6 and founder of Frogman Charities is headed to Mount Everest to try and become the first Navy SEAL to summit the world’s highest peak.


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Former Navy SEAL and adventure racer Don Mann. Photo: Will Ramos Photography

Don Mann is an accomplished athlete and climber with the goal of standing on top of the tallest summit on each continent. He’s starting with a climb up Everest, and at the same time he hopes to draw attention to the challenges that the military community faces every day.

“The challenge seems almost insurmountable with the conditioning required, the funding required, and the non-stop worries of altitude mountain sickness, avalanches, crevices, hypothermia, frostbite, etc.,” Mann said in a press release. “But the prize, to have an opportunity to stand on top of the world while raising awareness for the needs of our military personnel and their families, is beyond description.”

Mann has proved that he has the athletic chops for such a climb. Besides being selected as a member of SEAL Team 6, he was once rated as the 38th best triathlete in the world and has been climbing mountains for years.

Still, he acknowledges that weather and the mountain often decide who will and will not survive the climb. In 1996, a record eight people died in a single day on the mountain when a sudden blizzard descended on the mountain. Dozens have died attempting to climb the mountain since 1922.

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Adventure racer and former Navy SEAL Team 6 member Don Mann poses on Mount Denali, Alaska, a mountain with a 20,310-foot summit. Photo: Courtesy Don Mann

During his attempt, Frogman Charities, a nonprofit organization that hosts virtual run and walk events to raise money for Navy SEAL charities, will be updating their Facebook page and website every day with stories from veterans and with organizations that support veterans and service members.

After the Everest climb, Mann wants to climb the rest of the continent’s highest peaks and to bring other veterans with him on the climbs. As with his Everest attempt, he hopes to raise public awareness of veterans’ causes.

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Don Mann will be carrying a custom flag from a business sponsor during his climb. Photo: Courtesy Don Mann

The team that Mann will be climbing with aims to summit between May 13 and 25 but the buildup to the final summit attempt starts in early April. The climbers will trek to base camp from Apr. 3 to Apr. 12 and then begin the process of acclimating and climbing

Mann’s climb is being financially supported through business sponsorships and a GoFundMe page.

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This is how the President can legally suspend the other branches of government indefinitely

As long as any of us have been alive, we’ve known our government is comprised of three distinct, equal branches that are designed with a system of checks and balances to keep that equality in place.


But the American Republic can become the American Empire a lot easier than one might think. Palpatine is palpable.

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Whatever, philistines. That joke killed on Corscant.

All kidding aside, a presidential directive signed by George W. Bush on May 9, 2007 gives the President of the United States the authority to take over all government functions and all private sector activities in the event of a “catastrophic emergency.”

The idea is to ensure American democracy survives after such an event occurs and that we will come out the other end with an “enduring constitutional government.” The directive is National Security and Homeland Security Presidential Directive 51 or simply “Directive 51.”

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I thought it was Order 66.

The directive defines this event as “any incident, regardless of location, that results in extraordinary levels of mass casualties, damage, or disruption severely affecting the U.S. population, infrastructure, environment, economy, or government functions.”

At the time, it didn’t make much of a splash in the media, despite handing all of the power of federal, state, local, and tribal governments, not to mention the keys to the American economy to just one man. Those who did write about Directive 51 were none too pleased.

One of those writers was Jerome Corsi, who is definitely not a typical Bush-basher. Corsi is actually a hardcore Republican and author of “Unfit for Command,” a book that attacked the reputation and Vietnam service of then-Senator John Kerry during his 2004 Presidential bid.

Corsi described the directive as a “power grab” and  the powers it gave the president as “dictatorial.” And who gets to decide when a catastrophic emergency just took place? The President of the United States.

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My guess is half of you are mortified by this pic placed here while the other half are sightly aroused. (White House photo)

To make matters worse, the 2007 Defense Appropriations Bill changed the Insurrection Act so POTUS can deploy the U.S. military inside the United States to act as a police force in the event of natural disasters, epidemics, or other serious public health emergencies, terrorist attacks or incidents, or other conditions.

This move was opposed by all 50 sitting governors.

Here we are, ten years later, and these laws are still the law of the land.

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9 of the most legendary heroes in US Army history

U.S. Army life has created a lot of heroes in its 243 years of service. Here are 9 of the most legendary soldiers to have ever shot, bayoneted, and blown up America’s enemies:


1. Gen. George Washington

 

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Photo: Public Domain

The legendary standard, George Washington began as a militia officer working for the British Crown but later commanded all American forces both as the top general in the Revolutionary War and later the first commander in chief.

2. Sgt. John Lincoln Clem

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John Lincoln Clem as a young drummer boy. Photo: Library of Congress

John Lincoln Clem changed his own middle name from Joseph to Lincoln sometime before he tried to enlist in the Union Army at the outbreak of the Civil War when he was 9. After being rejected by another unit, he made it into the 22nd Michigan Volunteer Infantry who sawed down the musket he later used to kill a Confederate officer who demanded his surrender.

He was promoted to sergeant and became a national hero before being discharged in 1864. He returned in 1871 and rose to major general before retiring in 1915.

3. Sgt. Alvin York

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Photo: US Army

Sgt. Alvin York tried to stay out of World War I as a conscientious objector. When his plea was denied, he followed orders and went to war where he captured 132 German soldiers almost single-handedly. He then escorted those prisoners through German lines, marching them past their own comrades.

4. Sgt. Henry Johnson

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Photo: Public Domain via US Army

Sgt. Henry Johnson was a “Harlem Hellfighter” of World War I. During a fight in the Argonne Forest, Johnson and a buddy came under attack by a dozen Germans. Johnson held them off with grenades and rifle fire until he ran out of ammo, then he finished the job with a knife, saving the rest of his unit.

5. Sgt. Audie Murphy

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Photo: US Army

One of the most decorated service members in history, Sgt. Audie Murphy was initially too small to enlist after Pearl Harbor and had to fight to get into the Army. Once in Europe, he engaged in a series of heroics including jumping onto a burning tank to hold off waves of infantry and six enemy tanks.

6. Gen. George S. Patton

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Photo: Wikipedia/US Army

The Olympian and West Point graduate Gen. George S. Patton is most known for his role in creating the Armored Corps, leading tanks in World War II, and coining a collection of inspirational quotes, but he also served in World War I and the American expedition to capture Pancho Villa in Mexico.

7. Gen. Douglas MacArthur

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Photo: US Army Signal Corps Gaetano Faillace

Gen. Douglas MacArthur led the Army as the chief of staff through the early years of Great Depression. He retired but was recalled to active duty in 1941. He led Pacific Forces in World War II and then ran the war in Korea until he was relieved of command for openly criticizing President Harry S. Truman.

8. Cpl. Tibor Rubin

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Photo: Department of Defense

 

Tibor Rubin survived the Mauthausen, Austria concentration camp and joined the U.S. Army to how his appreciation for them liberating him. In Korea, he held a hilltop on his own for 24 hours while his unit retreated using the road he was guarding. When he was finally captured, he refused offers by the Chinese to send him to his native Hungary, instead staying as a prisoner and stealing food for others.

9. Col. Lewis Millett

 

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Photo: US Army Al Chang

Lewis Millett joined the Army in 1941 but got tired of waiting for the U.S. to invade someone, so he deserted to Canada and got himself deployed to London. When America entered the war, he jumped back under the Stars and Tripes and twice saved men in his unit from certain death before his desertion charges caught up with him.

He was convicted and then promoted to second lieutenant within weeks. When Korea rolled around, he was an infantry captain who received a Distinguished Service Cross for a bayonet charge he led on Feb. 4, 1951 and a Medal of Honor for another bayonet charge on Feb. 7. He later served in Vietnam and retired as a colonel.

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Today in military history: 14th Amendment defines citizenship

“All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” — United States Constitution

On July 28, 1868, the 14th Amendment to the U-S Constitution was adopted, finally guaranteeing citizenship to Black Americans.

The 1865 Union victory in the Civil War may have won over 4 million enslaved Africans their freedom, but the path to equality and the process of rebuilding the South was wrought with obstacles.

The period known as Radical Reconstruction saw the passing of the 14th Amendment, which stated that “all persons born or naturalized in the United States are citizens of the United States,” and was meant to grant every citizen “equal protection of the laws.” 

Segregation, racial discrimination, and white supremacist organizations like the Ku Klux Klan would inhibit true equality for another century, when Black people would raise their voices in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, demanding the political, economic, and social equality they deserve.

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The actor who played “Scotty” on ‘Star Trek’ was shot six times on D-Day

Today I found out the actor who played “Scotty” on Star Trek, James Doohan, was shot six times storming Juno beach on D-Day.


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Photo: Wikipedia

Doohan, a Canadian, after leading his men through a mine field on Juno beach and personally taking out two German snipers in the process, eventually took four rounds in one of his legs; one in his hand, which ultimately resulted in him losing his middle finger; and one in the chest.  The shot to the chest likely would have been fatal except that he had a silver cigarette case there, given to him by his brother, which deflected the bullet.  He would later give up smoking, but at least he could say that being a smoker actually saved his life.

Ironically, the shots he took were not fired by the enemy, but rather by an overzealous Canadian gunman.  After his unit was secured in their position for the night, Doohan was crossing between command posts, when a Canadian gunman spotted him and opened fire.

Doohan originally joined the Canadian Forces at the age of 19, eventually being commissioned a Lieutenant in the Royal Canadian Artillery.  D-Day was the first and last action he saw in the war.  After recovering from his injuries, he became a pilot in the Canadian Air Force, but never saw action.  Despite not ever flying in combat, he was once called “the craziest pilot in the Canadian Air Force” when he flew a plane through two telegraph poles after “slaloming” down a mountainside, just to prove it could be done.  This act was not looked upon highly by his superiors, but earned him a reputation among the pilots of the Canadian Air Force.

Bonus Facts:

  • As mentioned, contrary to what many people think, Doohan was not Scottish.  He was Canadian.  When he was auditioning for the role of the ship’s engineer, he went over various accents for Gene Roddenberry for the character.  After he finished, Roddenberry asked him which he liked best and he responded: “Well, if you want an engineer, he better be a Scotsman because, in my experience, all the world’s best engineers have been Scottish.”
  • Although he wasn’t Scottish, Doohan described the character of Scotty as: “99% James Doohan and 1% accent.”  “It was a natural. When I opened my mouth, there was Scotty.  Scotty is the closest to Jimmy Doohan that I’ve ever done.”
  • The name Montgomery Scott was chosen because Montgomery was Doohan’s middle name and the character was portrayed as Scottish.
  • Both the Klingon language and the Vulcan language were initially very crudely developed by Doohan.  Later, these languages were expanded and refined by professional linguists, primarily by Marc Okrand.
  • While great pains were taken in Star Trek to conceal the fact the Doohan was missing a middle finger, there are several episodes where this can be observed.  These include: Cat’s Paw; Day of the Dove; and The Lights of Zetar.  This can also be observed in a scene in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock and In Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.  In the former, it can be observed when he hands McCoy parts for the Transwarp Drive and in the latter when he’s holding a plastic bag dinner which was given to him by Lt. Uhura.
  • Doohan not only played the character Scotty in Star Trek, but also did the voice for many different parts including: The M-5 from The Ultimate Computer and Sargon from Return to Tomorrow, among many others.
  • Before landing the role as Scotty, Doohan did over 4000 radio shows and 400 TV shows in Canada and was particularly noted for his great versatility in voice acting.
  • Shortly before his death, Doohan was suffering from Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, lung fibrosis, Alzheimer’s, and, eventually, pneumonia.  His official cause of death was listed as pneumonia and Alzheimer’s.
  • Doohan was married three times in his life and fathered four children.  He met his final wife, Wende Braunberger, when she was just 17 and he was 54, marrying her very shortly after their first meeting.  The two had three children, the last in 2000, and remained married for 31 years until Doohan’s death in 2005 at the age of 85.
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