The man in charge of waging war on ISIS explained during a teleconference with reporters Oct. 26 that Islamic State militants “make extensive use” of unmanned aircraft in their fight to keep territory in Iraq and the key city of Mosul.
Behold the dawn on Trojan Horse drones. (Photo from Friends of YPG YPJ)
The head of Combined Joint Task Force Inherent Resolve Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend said the terrorists use the drones to video suicide strikes on Peshmerga and Iraqi forces, fly in unmanned planes to help target coalition positions and even use the drones to direct fires from mortars and rockets.
ISIS use of drones is “not episodic or sporadic, it’s relatively constant,” Townsend said. “We’ve seen them using drones to control and adjust indirect fires.”
Townsend added that the bad guys are also getting into the armed drone game, with ISIS dropping “small explosive devices” from the UAVs over coalition bases and other targets.
“Those fortunately haven’t had great effect,” he said.
But what’s really bugging him is a new more dastardly way ISIS is using drones.
“Recently we have seen what we think is a Trojan Horse kind of UAV or drone,” Townsend said.
He went on to explain that Islamic State militants landed a UAV inside coalition lines. Thinking they’d gotten an intelligence boon. When the allied forces went out to recover the drone it was detonated remotely, injuring the troops.
“We expect to see more of this, and we’ve put out procedures for our forces to be on guard for this,” Townsend said, adding that U.S. troops and others have downed many drones harassing coalition troops with small arms fire and electronic means, “with varying levels of success.”
“We’re working to try to find better solutions to this pretty thorny problem,” he said.
Today I found out the actor who played “Scotty” on Star Trek, James Doohan, was shot six times storming Juno beach on D-Day.
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.
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.
As you walk out of a late movie with your date, a shady character steps into your path about ten feet in front of you. He produces a switchblade and demands your wallet. You know that in order to reach your wallet, your hand will swipe right past the concealed carry holster your trusty Glock 19 is nestled into, but could you level the weapon and fire before the assailant pokes you full of holes?
Chances are, you couldn’t.
There’s always room for debate within the tactical training community, as experienced (and often inexperienced) gunslingers develop their own unique approaches to engaging armed opponents. While many opinionated enthusiasts will subscribe to the idea that there’s only one right way to train or fight, the truth is that the right approach is often dictated by the user’s ability, training, and nerves.
Military and law enforcement train frequently to ensure they can act quickly in life-or-death situations.
(US Air Force)
Put simply, two different people could be put into the same set of circumstances and may use the same approach to try to get themselves back out of it, but because of the innumerable variables at play in any fight (whether we’re talking fists or nuclear missiles), placing bets on a winner can be a crapshoot. That’s why, when it comes to training to survive a fight for your life, it’s often better to operate within training guidelines rather than the rules you may see published by those who assume it’s their way or the highway (to hell).
One such rule that is really more of a guideline is the often-debated “21-foot rule.” This rule was first posited by Salt Lake City police officer Dennis Tueller in an article he wrote entitled, “How Close is too Close?” Put simply, Tueller determined that an assailant armed with a knife or club could cover 21 feet in about 1.5 seconds, which is faster than most police officers could draw, aim, and fire their weapons from their hip holsters. This assessment produced two important tactical norms in the minds of many: the first is that a person may be justified in shooting an opponent armed with a knife or club within that distance, because there may not be time to adequately react if they chose to attack. The second is that once you’re inside that 21-foot radius, your approach to survival will need to shift.
This dude probably should have drawn his pistol a while ago.
In the years since Tueller’s article was published back in 1983, this rule has been debated, “debunked,” re-debated, and incorporated into many training regimens… but it’s important not to get too caught up in the figures. That 21-foot figure was really meant to be a rule of thumb, rather than a hard-and-fast rule, because shooters of different skill levels respond at different rates of speed, opponents aren’t all the same speed either, and countless variables regarding the officer’s equipment and the environment the altercation takes place in can all affect how quickly and accurately a shooter can respond with deadly force.
Likewise, for those of us that aren’t members of law enforcement, relying on the idea that the rule is 21 feet can be pretty dangerous. Most casual shooters don’t have the same training and experience with their firearms as police officers tend to, and it often takes longer to draw a weapon from a concealed holster than it does from the open-carry hip holster position employed by most police officers.
So does that mean the rule is bunk? Absolutely not — it just means you need to use a bit of common sense in the way you employ it.
If you pride yourself on your Wild West quick-draw skills, your safe engagement distance might be notably shorter than 21 feet. If you do most of your shooting at a relaxed pace inside your local gun range with a stationary sheet of paper standing in as your opponent, your safe distance may actually be quite a bit greater than 21 feet.
Casual range shooters are rarely as quick on the draw as trained police officers.
The exact distance isn’t as important as the understanding that a gun isn’t a guarantee of victory against knife-wielding attackers. In fact, inside the distance it takes to get a first down playing football, a knife can often be the deadlier option.
That information can help inform your approach to dangerous situations — like just handing over your wallet to that mugger that was inside of ten feet of you and your date. It can also help you prioritize targets in a multiple assailant situation.
If you want to know what your own equivalent of the “21-foot rule” is, it’s simple: have a friend time you the next time you’re training for rapid deployment of your firearm from its holster (in a safe and controlled environment). Slower than 1.5 seconds? Then your rule is further than 21 feet.
The 150 TAP was a creative and cost-effective vehicle for a post-WWII French Army. (Photo from ridingvintage.com)
In the struggle of armed conflict, victory is best achieved by stacking the odds in your favor. In the effort to constantly outdo each other, militaries around the world have innovated and invented some strange contraptions. We give you seven of the strangest vehicles from seven different categories that were actually built:
The 150 TAP was a creative and cost-effective vehicle for a post-WWII French Army. (Photo from ridingvintage.com)
1. Vespa 150 TAP
Representing motorbikes, the Vespa 150 TAP was an anti-tank scooter designed for use by French paratroopers. First introduced in 1956, the scooter was built by Ateliers de Construction de Motocycles et Automobiles, the licensed assembler of Vespa scooters in France. The scooters were equipped with a U.S.-made M20 75mm recoilless rifle, capable of penetrating 100mm of armor out to its maximum range of 3.9 miles.
Designed for airborne operations, the scooters would be dropped in pairs along with a two-man team—one scooter carried the gun while the other carried the ammo. Without any sights, the gun was not designed to be fired from the scooter. Instead, it was designed to be mounted on an M1917 Browning machine gun tripod which was also carried on the scooter. In an emergency, and ideally at close range, the gun could be fired while the scooter was moving. The scooters were cheap, costing only 0 at the time. 600 150 TAP’s were built between 1956 and 1959.
A Mini Moke aboard H.M.S. Aurora(Photo from shipsnostalgia.com)
2. Mini Moke
Representing four-wheeled vehicles, the Mini Moke was a small utility and recreational vehicle. Prototyped as a lightweight military vehicle, the British Motor Company hoped to take a portion of Land Rover’s military vehicle profits. The Moke was pitched to the British Army and US Army as a parachute-droppable vehicle. However, its low ground-clearance and underpowered engine led to the Moke’s rejection. Instead, it was adopted by the British and New Zealand Royal Navies. The Moke’s small size (10 feet long and 4 ¼ feet wide) made it ideal for driving on the deck of an aircraft carrier and around crowded docks.
Some concepts are best left unbuilt. (Photo by Alan Wilson/Posted on worldwarwings.com)
Representing tanks, the Kugelpanzer translates literally to “spherical tank.” A derivative of the 1917 Treffas-Wagen, the Kugelpanzer was a German solution to the problem of crossing the open killing fields of No-Man’s land. Following the adoption of Blitzkrieg and the evolution of maneuver warfare, the Germans abandoned the concept. Measuring at 5 x 5.5 ft, the tank had a top speed of 8 kph via its two hemispherical wheels and was stabilized by a single rear wheel. Having only 5mm of armor at its thickest point and carrying just one machine gun, the tank would not have fared well in WWII. The exact circumstances regarding the capture of the only surviving example remains unknown. It was captured in 1945 by the Soviets either in Manchuria after it was sent by the Germans to the Japanese, or at the Kummesdorf testing grounds where the Soviets also captured the Maus tank (ironically, the heaviest fully-enclosed armored fighting vehicle ever built). The Kugelpanzer is on display at the Kubinka Tank Museum in Russia.
The XCH-62 between a CH-47 Chinook (left) and Soviet Mi-24 Hind. (Photo from xenophon-mil.org)
4. BV XCH-62
Representing rotary-wing aircraft, the Boeing Vertol XCH-62 was an experimental aircraft built from the existing CH-47 Chinook heavy-lift helicopter. The Chinook’s lift capacity of 28,800 lbs was dwarfed by the Soviet Mi-26 and Mi-12 helicopters (44,000 lbs and 88,000 lbs respectively). In an effort to catch up to the Soviets, Boeing added a third engine to the Chinook, larger rotors, and converted its fuselage to a flying crane to create the XCH-62. These modifications allowed the helicopter to straddle heavier cargoes like armored vehicles while still carrying up to twelve troops in its slender fuselage.
One example was built in 1974, but challenges in harnessing the torque of the three engines led to delays—Congress cut the program’s funding the next year. The XCH-62 remains the largest helicopter ever built in a western country. The prototype was displayed at the U.S. Army Aviation Museum at Fort Rucker, Alabama until it was scrapped in 2005.
The VVA-14 used detachable, inflatable pontoons at one point. (Photo from warhistoryonline.com)
5. Bartini Beriev VVA-14
Representing fixed-wing aircraft, the VVA-14 was a Soviet wing-in-ground-effect aircraft built in the early 1970s. The VVA-14 was designed to take off from water and fly at high speed just above the water over long distances. Its mission was to skim the surface of the ocean in order to detect and destroy U.S. submarines. Two prototypes were built, though development was marred by flotation problems, engine issues, and the death of the aircraft’s designer. The project was scrapped after 107 flights and 103 flight hours. One example survives today in a dismantled state at the Soviet Central Air Force Museum in Moscow.
The last surviving example of the VVA-14. (Photos from warhistoryonline.com)
Sailors of the USS Supply load a camel. (Illustration by U.S. War Department)
6. USS Supply
Representing surface ships, the USS Supply initially appears to be an error on this list—the fully-rigged ship looked like most other warships that sailed in the latter half of the 19th century. The story that makes the Supply an oddity begins in 1855, when Secretary of War Jefferson Davis (yes, that Jefferson Davis) conceived the bright idea for the U.S. Army to use camels during operations in the Southwest. In order to bring the humped creatures to America, Supply was converted into the U.S. Navy’s first and only camel carrier. She was refitted with special hatches, stables, hoists, and a camel car in order to load and unload the dromedaries.
Supply picked up a herd of camels in North Africa, where it was discovered that she still could not accommodate the towering camel humps. In order to fit the camels in the hold, the crew had to cut away sections of the deck where the humps could stick out. Supply accomplished her mission, delivering the camels to Indianola, Texas in 1856. The camel cavalry concept was scrapped at the onset of the Civil War and Supply‘s service as a camel carrier ended.
Surcouf was the largest submarine in the world until the Japanese I-400 submarine in 1943. (Photo from warhistoryonline.com)
Representing submarines, the French cruiser submarine Surcouf was built as a loophole in the Washington Naval Treaty. Following WWI, strict limits were placed on the warships of the world’s major naval powers like displacement and gun caliber. However, these restrictions were applied to battleships and cruisers, not submarines. Intended to be the lead ship in her class, Surcouf was the only cruiser submarine built by France. Commissioned in 1934, Surcouf was equipped with ten torpedo tubes, six anti-aircraft guns, and two 8″ guns, the largest placed on any cruiser submarine. She also featured a hangar which housed an observation float plane used for gun calibration. Surcouf escaped Nazi capture, but sunk in the Caribbean Sea after a collision with an unknown ship in February 1942.
If not for a twist of fate, the 1948 VC-121A Lockheed Constellation that once transported the nation’s 34thpresident might have become a crop duster or turned into scrap metal.
The Columbine II was the first plane to fly with the call sign “Air Force One” when it carried President Dwight D. Eisenhower for the first two years of his administration. However, the aircraft would have been lost to history without the intervention of three men – one who bought the plane almost 50 years ago, the friend who helped save it from the scrap heap, and the man whose aviation company purchased it two decades later with plans to restore it to its 1950s glory.
“I didn’t want to see somebody drinking a beer and wonder if the metal from that can came from that plane,” said Karl D. Stoltzfus, whose Dynamic Aviation Company purchased the “Connie,” as Lockheed Constellations are commonly called, in 2015.
In March, Stoltzfus had the aircraft flown for the first time in 13 years, except for a brief test flight a few days earlier, to Dynamic Aviation in Bridgewater, Virginia. Lockie Christler, son of the late Mel Christler, who bought the plane from the Air Force in 1970, flew the Columbine II from Marana Regional Airport, Arizona, where it had sat since 2003, to Virginia. The almost 60-year-old plane made a stop at the Mid-America Flight Museum in Mount Pleasant, Texas, before Christler made the final four-hour flight to Bridgewater, with Stoltzfus piloting the chase plane, a Beechcraft King Air.
Christler gives most of the credit for the Columbine II’s restoration to his father, who died in 2005, Stoltzfus and Harry Oliver, who emphasized the importance of saving the plane and was the majority owner when it was sold.
“If it weren’t for men like my father, Harry and Karl, along with others, a lot of these airplanes wouldn’t be around,” Christler said. “Once we realized this was Eisenhower’s airplane, we couldn’t let it be scrapped.”
The plane was built as a C-121A at Burbank, California, and converted to a VC-121A-LO to carry VIPs in 1953. The Columbine II, named after the Colorado state flower by first lady Mamie Eisenhower, became the official presidential aircraft later that year. Over New Charlotte, North Carolina the following year, an Eastern Airlines flight had the same call numbers as the Columbine II, and confusion ensued when both planes shared the same airspace. Because of the incident, the “Air Force One” call sign became used for any plane the president was on board.
The plane, while hardly resembling the Air Force One flown by presidents from John F. Kennedy to Barack Obama, included marble floors and a mahogany desk where Eisenhower wrote the “Atoms for Peace” speech he gave to the U.N. General Assembly in 1953. The Columbine II also took him to Korea, both as a president-elect and during his administration.
In 1954, the aircraft was replaced by the Columbine III, which Eisenhower used for the remainder of his presidency. The Columbine II continued in service as a VIP transport for Eisenhower’s vice president, Richard M. Nixon, and others, such as Queen Elizabeth II, before it was finally retired to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, in 1968. The Air Force stripped the aircraft and fitted it with mismatched landing gear, an error that, in an odd twist of fate, led to the aircraft being spared from destruction long enough for its historical value to be discovered by its new owners.
Up for auction
The Columbine II was sold to Christler as part of a package lot with four other Connies for $35,000 in a surplus auction at the Davis-Monthan AFB aircraft “boneyard.” He didn’t know one of the five planes had a presidential past and planned to make it part of his crop-dusting operation. Christler rebuilt the other four VC-121s for spraying operations, but didn’t convert the Columbine II because its starboard main gear had been replaced with the wrong part from a Lockheed 1049 Super Constellation. The incorrect landing gear, again, saved the Columbine II from being converted to a crop-duster. Instead, it was used for supplying the other four Connies with parts.
Mel Christler was considering cutting the aircraft up as scrap when Robert Mikesh of the Smithsonian Institution contacted him in 1980 and informed him that his Connie with the serial number 48-610 was a former presidential aircraft.
“The first time we saw it, we obviously didn’t realize whose plane it was,” Lockie Christler said, “but when you find out it was Eisenhower’s, now you’re stuck with it. You have a presidential plane you can’t melt up because people wouldn’t think very highly of you. So, for all of these years, it’s kind of been a liability, and it finally turned into an asset.”
Christler tried to find a buyer who could restore the Columbine II, but couldn’t find one. He was struggling to decide what to do with the plane when Oliver visited him at his Greybull, Wyoming, home in August 1989, and asked about his plans for the Columbine II. Oliver said Christler planned to send the plane to the smelter if he didn’t have a buyer by November.
“I just said, ‘Now we can’t do that,'” Oliver said. “‘It’s a little bit of history, and it should be saved.”
At Christler’s request, Oliver drove to Tucson, Arizona, with a friend to look at the plane and saw the damage, but thought it wasn’t anything that couldn’t be repaired. The two men completed a $150,000 functional restoration of the Columbine II in 1990 and had it flown to Abilene, Kansas for Eisenhower’s centennial celebration. Afterward, they moved the Connie to Roswell and Santa Fe, New Mexico, before it was flown to Marana, where it remained under a lease agreement until it was sold to Stoltzfus in 2015.
Stoltzfus, a self-proclaimed history buff, learned about the Columbine II from an article in an aviation magazine and wanted to see the plane restored to its 1950s condition so he asked one person what he should do – his then-8-year-old grandson. “I think we should buy it,” the boy told him.
Then Stoltzfus asked his twin brother Ken to check out the plane in Arizona. After hearing that there wasn’t any damage that couldn’t be overcome, he sent Dynamic Aviation mechanics to begin repairs. When he first saw the plane, it was in rough condition.
“Every hose, I mean every piece of rubber was bad,” Stoltzfus said. “There were a lot of things about the airplane that gave you reason to say this was going to be a lot of work. They hadn’t really run the engines, but you knew there was going to be a lot of trouble with them, and there was. But the good part was it didn’t have any corrosion. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have bought the airplane.”
Although he can’t divulge the actual price he paid, Stoltzfus said it was less than the $1.5 million listing price. Dynamic Aviation will begin a full restoration project on the Columbine II in three to six months, which Stoltzfus expects to be completed in two to three years. He has obtained drawings and documentation that he hopes will help him restore the plane to its original color codes and original manufacturer materials.
“I think the airplane can be used to educate people on the 1950s, not just about Air Force One and not just about Eisenhower,” he said. “These were generally considered to be good years in America. They weren’t perfect, but they were generally good. We got out of the Korean War, so it was a peaceful time, and it was a good time economically and was when we started to build the interstate. So it was just a good time in American history.”
When it’s fully restored, Stoltzfus hopes to take the historic aircraft to air shows and display it for the public at the company’s airport in Bridgewater. In the meantime, he’s looking for anyone who might have aircraft parts or stories to share from the Connie’s era.
Oliver is grateful that somebody was interested enough in saving the plane.
“When I started this project, I was 52 years old, and I’m 77 now,” he said. “I don’t have the energy to do it anymore, and I’m just glad that somebody does. It is a piece of history, and now it’s going to be where people can see it, smell it and touch it.”
Once the silver Connie with the purple flower on its nose is restored to its Air Force One glory, it will have three men to credit for saving this piece of American history for future generations.
Even though one of the three didn’t live to see the Columbine II’s restoration, his son thinks it would have made him proud.
“Oh, he’s got a big smile on his face right now,” Christler said. “I know he’s proud that it has a great home where it’s supposed to be. It’s within a hundred miles of Washington, D.C, where it had some important flying to do.”
On Dec. 4, 1950, Ensign Jesse Brown, the Navy’s first black aviator, was leading a six-plane reconnaissance patrol over North Korea near the Chosin Reservoir. Marines and soldiers on the ground were conducting a fighting retreat and Navy aviators were covering their withdrawal.
The Korean and Chinese soldiers were well-camouflaged, so Brown’s flight of F4U Corsairs from Fighter Squadron 32 flew at low altitudes to try and spot the enemy infantry. The noise of the engines prevented the pilots from hearing ground fire, but muzzle flashes began blinking against the snow.
Immediately after the shots, Lt. j.g. Thomas Hudner, a friend of Brown’s and a member of the flight, spotted vapor streaming from Brown’s engine. Hudner radioed Brown, who confirmed that he was quickly losing oil pressure. 17 miles behind enemy lines, Brown was going to crash.
Hudner pointed out an open expanse of snow where Brown could land with relative safety, but the crash was still violent enough that the cockpit buckled in. Hudner worried that Brown was dead until he began moving. Knowing that Brown wouldn’t survive long in the extreme winter cold of the Korean mountains, Hudner crash-landed his own plane near Brown’s.
He jumped from his cockpit and rushed to Brown. He attempted to free his friend, but saw that his leg was pinned down by the instrument panel.
Hudner began alternating between trying to free Brown and packing snow around the smoking engine to keep it from bursting into flames. When he got a chance, he returned to his plane and requested a rescue helicopter with an ax and fire extinguisher.
When the helicopter arrived, Hudner and the helicopter pilot, 1st Lt. Charles Ward, continued to try and free Brown. It became clear that they would need more equipment, and Hudner asked his friend to hold on.
“I told Jesse we couldn’t get him out without more equipment, and we were going to get more,” Hudner told The New York Times in 2013. “He didn’t respond. I think he died while we were talking to him.”
Hudner and Ward flew back to the USS Leyte Gulf. A few days later, Fighter Squadron 32 decided that they wouldn’t be able to secure the crash site and recover Brown’s remains, so they conducted a napalm run to burn them rather than allow their capture.
Hudner and Brown had been unlikely friends. They met in the locker room of Fighter Squadron 32 in Dec. 1949, a year before the events at the Chosin Reservoir.
“Shortly after I joined the squadron, I was changing into flight gear and he came in and nodded ‘Hello,” Hudner said in The New York Times interview. “I introduced myself, but he made no gesture to shake hands. I think he did not want to embarrass me and have me not shake his hand. I think I forced my hand into his.”
Brown was the son of a Mississippi sharecropper who knew he wanted to be a Navy aviator since he was a child. He fought tooth-and-nail to overcome racial barriers and become one of the first African-American Navy officers and the first Navy’s first black aviator. Hudner was the privileged son of a Massachusetts business owner and a graduate of the Naval Academy.
The story of Brown and Hudner is the subject of “Devotion,” a new book by New York Times bestselling author Adam Makos. Hear Hudner tell the story in his own words in the video below.
Seventy lawmakers asked House appropriators to fund 11 additional F-35 Lightning IIs in a letter on October 4 as “events around the globe continue to demonstrate the urgent need for” the Joint Strike Fighter.
The letter, penned by the House Joint Strike Fighter Caucus, argues that at this “critical juncture” in the F-35 program Congress should fund more of the planes to keep down production costs and address current and future threats around the world.
The caucus asked to fund five Air Force F-35As, four carrier-based F-35Cs for the Navy, and two F-35Bs that can take off vertically for the Marine Corps.
“Increasing the production rate is the single most important factor in reducing future aircraft unit costs,” the letter read.
“Additionally, significantly increasing production is critical to fielding F-35s in the numbers needed to meet the expected threats in the mid-2020s.”
The letter implores Congress “to provide the funding necessary to continue increasing F-35 production at a rate sufficient to meet future threats and to reach full rate production of at least 120 US aircraft per year as quickly as possible.”
This effort mirrors a Senate push to add $100 million to the budget to increase the Air Force’s advanced procurement, the Washington Examiner notes.
The US-led coalition fighting ISIS in Syria launched its third strike in as many weeks on pro-regime forces inside a deconfliction zone around al Tanf, near a border crossing in Syria’s southeast desert.
Two US officials told CNN that the June 8 strike came after three vehicles were seen entering the deconfliction zone, and two of the vehicles were hit when they were 24 miles from the base at al Tanf.
“The pro-regime UAV, similar in size to a US MQ-1 Predator, was shot down by a US aircraft after it dropped one of several weapons it was carrying near a position occupied by Coalition personnel who are training and advising partner ground forces in the fight against ISIS,” US Central Command said in a statement.
The “munition did not have an effect on coalition forces,” according to coalition spokesman Col. Ryan Dillon.
US and other coalition personnel are at the al Tanf garrison, near the border crossing, to train local partner forces, who captured the area earlier this year. (US personnel and local partners repulsed an intense attack by ISIS soon after.)
The first such strike in the al Tanf area came on May 18, when coalition forces targeted pro-Assad forces “that were advancing well inside an established deconfliction zone” spreading 34 miles around al Tanf, US Central Command said in a release at the time.
The strike came after unsuccessful Russian efforts to stop the movements, a show of force by coalition aircraft, and warning shots.
Christopher Woody/Google Maps
Earlier this week, pro-regime and coalition aircraft both conducted strikes against opposition forces in the vicinity of al Tanf.
On Tuesday, Iranian-backed Shia militia fighters came under attack on the ground just inside the deconfliction zone boundary, according to CNN. In response to that attack, Washington and Moscow communicated on a deconfliction line set up previously. Russia shared a request from the Syrian government to launch a strike in support of the militia, to which the US agreed.
Hours later, pro-Assad forces were observed entering the deconfliction zone with vehicles and weaponry, including a tank and artillery, as well as over 60 fighters. The US then launched its own airstrike on those forces after they refused to withdraw from the area.
The coalition said it issued several warnings before “destroying two artillery pieces, an anti-aircraft weapon, and damaging a tank.”
The US-led strike, carried out by a F/A-18 fighter, dropped four bombs and “killed an estimated 10 fighters,” according to CNN.
June 8th’s engagements add to a string of encounters that could lead to greater conflict in Syria between the US-led coalition and its local partners and pro-regime forces and their backers, Iran and Russia.
“The Coalition does not seek to fight Syrian regime, Russian, or pro-regime forces partnered with them,” CentCom said in its statement.
“The demonstrated hostile intent and actions of pro-regime forces near Coalition and partner forces in southern Syria, however, continue to concern us and the Coalition will take appropriate measures to protect our forces,” the statement said.
The strategic value of the al Tanf area — through which a highway connecting Damascus to Baghdad runs — as well as the direction of events elsewhere in Syria makes clashes between coalition forces and pro-regime forces a continuing possibility.
ISIS’ eroding control of territory in Syria, and the likelihood that Kurdish forces — who’ve signaled a willingness to negotiate with Assad for autonomy — will soon take control of the area around Raqqa in northeast Syria make territory in the southeast of the country increasingly valuable.
Recent events in Syria indicate that “the United States [is] seemingly looking to cement a north-south ‘Sunni axis’ from the Gulf states and Jordan to Turkey,” Fabrice Balanche, a French expert on Syria and a visiting fellow at The Washington institute for Near East Policy, wrote recently.
“The challenge is that Iran and its proxies would very much like to establish some sort of land bridge from Iraq into Syria and they have had designs on this for quite some time,” a former Pentagon official told The Christian Science Monitor.
Capturing al Tanf and the nearby border crossing would allow Tehran to link Iraq to the Mediterranean coast through Syria, facilitating the movement of men and material.
But doing so would also isolate coalition-backed forces fighting ISIS and their special-forces advisers.
Intelligence sources have told Reuters that the coalition’s presence near al Tanf is meant to prevent such a route from opening.
“Initially, the United States and the coalition had planned this unconventional warfare campaign to pressure the middle Euphrates River valley and cut off [ISIS communications lines],” the former Pentagon official said. “Now, ironically, it’s not just threatening [ISIS], it’s also threatening Iran’s designs for the area.”
Russia has also become involved in the confrontations around al Tanf.
Earlier this month, coalition-backed Syrian forces attacked Shia militias that had moved down the highway toward the Iraqi border. They forced the militias, which are backed by Iran, to retreat, but Russian jets soon launched strikes against the coalition-backed fighters, forcing them back as well.
Hezbollah, a Lebanon-based Shia militant group backed by Iran and heavily involved in the pro-regime fight in Syria, has entered the fray as well. The group’s military-news unit issued a statement this week warning that the “self-restraint” it had about US-led airstrikes would end if the US crossed “red lines.”
“America knows well that the blood of the sons of Syria, the Syrian Arab Army, and its allies is not cheap, and the capacity to strike their positions in Syria, and their surroundings, is available when circumstances will it,” the statement said.
Observers have noted that the Trump administration would likely be much less hesitant about attacking Hezbollah in Syria. Given the web of alliances that now ensnare forces in Syria, such attacks would likely have broader repercussions.
“American unwillingness to confront Iran and its proxies in Syria, if obliged by circumstances, is a thing of the past,” Frederic Hof, director of the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East and a former State Department liaison to Syrian opposition forces, told The Christian Science Monitor.
“And Moscow would now have to anticipate with high likelihood aerial combat with US forces should it elect to provide tactical air support to Iran and its proxies on the ground,” Hof added.
“Our people are gathering in the Tanf area right now, so a clash is definitely coming,” a Hezbollah unit commander in Beirut, speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Monitor.
Four speedboats from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps harassed the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Nitze (DDG 94) during a transit of the Strait of Hormuz earlier this week. The incident comes a month after Iranian officials talked tough about closing the maritime chokepoint if Iran was attacked.
According to a report from FoxNews.com, at least two of the speedboats came within 300 yards of the destroyer. The Nitze reportedly tried to communicate with the Iranian vessels a dozen times but received no response before the close pass. The destroyer fired warning flares and sounded its whistle five times in an effort to warn off the Iranian vessels, which approached with uncovered weapons. The speedboats in question appeared to have heavy machine guns mounted forward, and had them turned towards the destroyer.
“The Iranian high rate of closure on a United States ship operating in accordance with international law while transiting in international waters along with the disregard of multiple warning attempts created a dangerous, harassing situation that could have led to further escalation including additional defensive measures by Nitze,” an unidentified defense official told USNI’s blog.
The guided missile destroyer USS Mason (DDG 87), a sister ship of the Nitze, was also making a transit of the Strait of Hormuz during the incident. The two 9,200-ton vessels are Flight IIA Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, with a single five-inch gun, a 32-cell Mk 41 VLS, a 64-cell VLS, a Mk 15 Close-In Weapon System, and two triple 324mm torpedo tube mounts.
The IRGC has been involved in past incidents, including the 2015 seizure of a Marshall Islands-flagged merchant vessel and the temporary detention of U.S. Navy sailors who strayed into Iranian waters this past January. That force also was involved in incidents in December 2007 and January 2008 where U.S. Navy ships were harassed in a similar manner during a transit of the Strait of Hormuz.
The US military wants a missile that can carry explosive-packed drones to a target hundreds of miles away, according to a contract solicitation from the Pentagon.
Earlier this month, the DoD announced it was soliciting proposals for this new missile system, which would be fired by the Army’s existing MGM-140 Tactical Missile System or the M-270 Multiple Launch Rocket System. But unlike traditional armaments, the Army wants this missile packed with unmanned quad-copters that will be released, fly to their target, land, and blow themselves up.
“The ultimate goal is to produce a missile deployable, long range [unmanned aerial system] swarm that can deliver small [explosively formed penetrators] to a variety of targets,” the solicitation reads. “This will serve as a smart augmentation to the standard missile warhead.”
The payload seems to be meant for hard targets, which the Army says could potentially mean tanks, large guns, fuel storage barrels, and vehicle roofs. The contract doesn’t mention exactly how many drones should be packed inside a missile.
Still, it could potentially mean hundreds of drones being deployed to a target, if a test of a “drone swarm” made public earlier this month is any guide. During that test, three F/A-18 Super Hornets spit out more than 100 tiny Perdix drones, which then linked up with each other to collectively make decisions and fly in formation.
The Pentagon’s emerging “Arsenal Plane” or “flying bomb truck” is likely to be a modified, high-tech adaptation of the iconic B-52 bomber designed to fire air-to-air weapons, release swarms of mini-drones and provide additional fire-power to 5th generation stealth fighters such as the F-35 and F-22, Pentagon officials and analysts said.
Using a B-52, which is already being modernized with new radios and an expanded internal weapons bay, would provide an existing “militarized” platform already engineered with electronic warfare ability and countermeasures designed to thwart enemy air defenses.
“You are using a jet that already has a military capability. The B-52 is a military asset, whereas all the alternatives would have to be created. It has already been weaponized and has less of a radar cross-section compared to a large Air Force cargo plane. It is not a penetrating bomber, but it does have some kind of jamming and countermeasures meant to cope with enemy air defenses. It is wired for a combat mission,” said Richard Aboulafia, Vice President of analysis at the Teal Group, a Virginia-based consultancy.
Flying as a large, non-stealthy bomber airplane, a B-52 would still present a large target to potential adversaries; however, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said part of the rationale for the “Arsenal Plane” would be to work closely with stealthy fighter jets such as an F-22 and F-35, with increased networking technology designed to increase their firepower and weapons load.
Such a scenario would likely rely upon now-in-development manned-unmanned teaming wherein emerging algorithms and computer technology enable fighter jets to control the sensor payload and weapons capability of nearby drones from the cockpit of the aircraft. This would enable Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance assets to more quickly relay strategic or targeting information between fighter jets, drones and “Arsenal Planes.”
Aboulafia explained that air fighters being developed by potential adversaries, such as the Chinese J-20 and other fighters, could exist in larger numbers than a U.S. force, underscoring the current U.S. strategy to maintain a technological edge even if their conventional forces are smaller. An “Arsenal Plane” could extend range and lethality for U.S. fighters, in the event they were facing an enemy force with more sheer numbers of assets.
“There is a concern about numbers of potential enemies and range. When you are dealing with a potential adversary with thousands of jets and you’ve got limited assets with limited weapons payloads, you have got to be concerned about the numbers,” he said.
An effort to be more high-tech, if smaller in terms of sheer numbers, than rival militaries is a key part of the current Pentagon force modernization strategy.
“In practice, the “Arsenal Plane” will function as a very large airborne magazine, networked to fifth generation aircraft that act as forward sensor and targeting nodes, essentially combining different systems already in our inventory to create wholly new capabilities,” Carter told reporters. Aboulafia added that an idea for an “Arsenal Plane” emerged in the 1980s as a Cold War strategy designed to have large jets carry missiles able to attack Soviet targets.
Carter unveiled the “Arsenal Plane” concept during a recent 2017 budget drop discussion at the Pentagon wherein he, for the first time, revealed the existence of a “Strategic Capabilities Office” aimed at connecting and leveraging emerging weapons and technology with existing platforms. This effort is aimed at saving money, increasing the military’s high-tech lethality and bringing new assets to the force faster than the many years it would take to engineer entirely new technologies.
“I created the SCO (Strategic Capabilities Office) in 2012, when I was Deputy Secretary of defense to help us to re-imagine existing DOD and intelligence community and commercial systems by giving them new roles and game-changing capabilities to confound potential enemies — the emphasis here was on rapidity of fielding, not 10 and 15-year programs,” he said.
Carter said “Arsenal Plane” development would be funded through a $71 billion research and development 2017 budget request.
While Carter did not specify a B-52 during his public discussion of the new asset now in-development, he did say it would likely be an “older” aircraft designed to function as a “flying launchpad.”
“The last project I want to highlight is one that we’re calling the “Arsenal Plane,” which takes one of our oldest aircraft platforms and turns it into a flying launchpad for all sorts of different conventional payloads,” Carter added.
The Air Force is already surging forward with a massive, fleet-wide modernization overhaul of the battle-tested, Vietnam-era B-52 bomber, an iconic airborne workhorse for the U.S. military dating back to the 1960s.
Engineers are now equipping all 76 of the Air Force B-52s with digital data-links, moving-map displays, next-generation avionics, new radios and an ability to both carry more weapons internally and integrate new, high-tech weapons as they emerge, service officials said.
The technical structure and durability of the B-52 airframes in the Air Force fleet are described as extremely robust and able to keep flying well into the 2040s and beyond – so the service is taking steps to ensure the platform stays viable by receiving the most current and effective avionics, weapons and technologies
Aboulafia said the new B-52 “Arsenal Plane” could, for the first time, configure a primarily air-to-ground bomber as a platform able to fire air-to-air weapons as well – such as the Advanced Medium Range Air to Air Missile, or AMRAAM.
The integration of air-to-air weapons on the B-52 does not seem inconceivable given the weapons upgrades already underway with the aircraft. Air Force is also making progress with a technology-inspired effort to increase the weapons payload for the workhorse bomber, Eric Single, Chief of the Global Strike Division, Acquisition, told Scout Warrior in an interview several months ago.
The 1760 Internal Weapons Bay Upgrade, or IWBU, will allow the B-52 to internally carry up to eight of the newest “J-Series” bombs in addition to carrying six on pylons under each wing, he explained.
B-52s have previously been able to carry JDAM weapons externally, but with the IWBU the aircraft will be able to internally house some of the most cutting edge precision-guided Joint Direct Attack Munitions and Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles, among others.
“It is about a 66 percent increase in carriage capability for the B-52, which is huge. You can imagine the increased number of targets you can reach, and you can strike the same number of targets with significantly less sorties,” said Single.
Single also added that having an increased internal weapons bay capability affords an opportunity to increase fuel-efficiency by removing bombs from beneath the wings and reducing drag.
The first increment of IWBU, slated to be finished by 2017, will integrate an internal weapons bay ability to fire a laser-guided JDAM. A second increment, to finish by 2022, will integrate more modern or cutting-edge weapons such as the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile, or JASSM, JASSM Extended Range (ER) and a technology called Miniature Air Launched Decoy, or MALD. A MALD-J “jammer” variant, which will also be integrated into the B-52, can be used to jam enemy radar technologies as well, Single said.
IWBU, which uses a digital interface and a rotary launcher to increase the weapons payload, is expected to cost roughly $313 million, service officials said.
The B-52 has a massive, 185-foot wingspan, a weight of about 185,000 pounds and an ability to reach high sub-sonic speeds and altitudes of 50,000 feet, Air Force officials said.
Communications, Avionics Upgrades
Two distinct, yet interwoven B-52 modernization efforts will increase the electronics, communications technology, computing and avionics available in the cockpit while simultaneously configuring the aircraft with the ability to carry up to eight of the newest “J-Series” precision-guided weapons internally – in addition to carrying six weapons on each wing, Single said.
Eight B-52s have already received a communications (coms systems) upgrade called Combat Network Communication Technology, or CONECT – a radio, electronics and data-link upgrade which, among other things, allows aircraft crews to transfer mission and targeting data directly to aircraft systems while in flight (machine to machine), Single explained.
“It installs a digital architecture in the airplane,” Single explained. “Instead of using data that was captured during the mission planning phase prior to your take off 15 to 20 hours ago – you are getting near real-time intelligence updates in flight.”
Single described it key attribute in terms of “machine-to-machine” data-transfer technology which allows for more efficient, seamless and rapid communication of combat-relevant information.
Using what’s called an ARC 210 Warrior software-programmable voice and data radio, pilots can now send and receive targeting data, mapping information or intelligence with ground stations, command centers and other aircraft.
“The crew gets the ability to communicate digitally outside the airplane which enables you to import not just voice but data for mission changes, threat notifications, targeting….all those different types of things you would need to get,” Single said.
An ability to receive real-time targeting updates is of great relevance to the B-52s close-air-support mission because fluid, fast-moving or dynamic combat situations often mean ground targets appear, change or disappear quickly.
Capt. Jeff Rogers (left) and 1st Lt. Patrick Applegate are ready in the lower deck of a B-52 Stratofortress at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., on Aug. 21. The officers are with the 5th Bomb Wing at Minot AFB. | Photo: Master Sgt. Lance Cheung/U.S. Air Force
Alongside moving much of the avionics from analogue to digital technology, CONECT also integrates new servers, modems, colored display screens in place of old green monochrome and provides pilots with digital moving-map displays which can be populated with real-time threat and mission data, Single said.
The new digital screens also show colored graphics highlighting the aircraft’s flight path, he added.
Single explained that being able to update key combat-relevant information while in transit will substantially help the aircraft more effectively travel longer distances for missions, as needed.
“The key to this is that this is part of the long-range strike family of systems — so if you take off out of Barksdale Air Force Base and you go to your target area, it could take 15 or 16 hours to get there. By the time you get there, all the threat information has changed,” said Single. “Things move, pop up or go away and the targeting data may be different.”
The upgrades will also improve the ability of the airplane to receive key intelligence information through a data link called the Intelligence Broadcast Receiver. In addition, the B-52s will be able to receive information through a LINK-16-like high-speed digital data link able to transmit targeting and Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance, or ISR information.
The CONECT effort, slated to cost $1.1 billion overall, will continue to unfold over the next several years, Single explained.
Twelve B-52 will be operational with CONECT by the end of this year and the entire fleet will be ready by 2021, Single said.
Known for massive bombing missions during the Vietnam War, the 159-foot long B-52s have in recent years been operating over Afghanistan in support of military actions there from a base in Guam.
The B-52 also served in Operation Desert Storm, Air Force statements said. “B-52s struck wide-area troop concentrations, fixed installations and bunkers, and decimated the morale of Iraq’s Republican Guard,” an Air Force statement said.
In 2001, the B-52 provided close-air support to forces in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom, service officials said. The B-52 also played a role in Operation Iraqi Freedom. On March 21, 2003, B-52Hs launched approximately 100 CALCMs (Conventional Air Launched Cruise Missiles) during a night mission.
Given the B-52s historic role in precision-bombing and close air support, next-generation avionics and technologies are expected to greatly increase potential missions for the platform in coming years, service officials said.
The first Joint Light Tactical Vehicles (JLTVs) fielded in the Army began arriving on Fort Stewart in January 2019 and the first six trucks were delivered to their respective battalions Jan. 28, 2019.
“This program has been working towards fielding trucks to soldiers for ten years,” said Col. Shane Fullmer, Project Manager for the Joint Program Office, Joint Light Tactical Vehicles. “The entire program office has been focused on getting soldiers improved tactical mobility, with better off road, better cross country, higher reliability, more comfort inside the vehicle, and significantly higher protection.”
Before the first of the brigade’s trucks arrived, Raider soldiers were already learning how to take care of and drive the Army’s newest vehicle during Field Level Maintenance and Operator New Equipment Training.
Soldiers from the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division and the team from Oshkosh Defense pose in front of the first Joint Light Tactical Vehicles (JLTV) that were delivered to the battalions, Jan. 28, 2019.
(Photo by Maj. Pete Bogart)
Sgt. Brian Wise, from B Company, 1st Battalion, 41st Field Artillery Regiment, was one of the first soldiers in the brigade to go through the operator training and said he enjoys the new features and capabilities of the JLTV and is looking forward to training the rest of his company.
“It will be different for soldiers, it’s something new and unique,” said Wise. “I see us getting stuck in the mud way less than we usually do.”
The JLTV program is a U.S. Army-led, joint modernization program to replace many existing HMMWVs. The JLTV family of vehicles is designed to provide a leap ahead in protection, payload, and performance to meet the warfighters needs.
Sgt. 1st Class Randall Archie, the JLTV fielding lead for the 10th Engineer Battalion, said he especially likes being able to adjust the vehicle ride height on the move to adapt to different terrain. Archie was also impressed by the numerous comfort features that make it easier for operators to focus on doing their job.
The first of six Joint Light Tactical Vehicles (JLTV) to be delivered to Soldiers from the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, departs for the 1st Battalion, 41st Field Artillery Regiment motorpool.
(Photo by Maj. Pete Bogart)
“There is a ton of leg room and head room and it’s easier to get in and out of the vehicle,” said Archie. “You also don’t have to lean forward in the seat when you wear a CamelBak since the seat is designed with a spot cut out for it.”
A team from Oshkosh Defense has been working with Raider Brigade soldiers harvesting communication equipment from turn-in vehicles and installing them into the JLTVs. The first six to complete the process were signed over to battalion representatives after the final inventories and paperwork were completed.
While the fielding will continue through spring, Fullmer said that seeing the first JLTV in the unit’s hand was a significant moment that his team has been working towards for quite a while.
“We’re just so glad we’re finally going to have these in the hands of soldiers so we can improve some of their ability to do their job.”
To observe Purple Heart Day, WATM is celebrating some of the heroes we’ve featured on the site who kept fighting after they were wounded:
1. Air Force combat controller Robert Gutierrez thought he would die within three minutes after being shot through the lung in Afghanistan, but he kept calling in air strikes, saving his element and earning himself the Air Force Cross.
2. Joe Pinder left professional baseball to volunteer for the Army in World War II. He was wounded almost immediately after leaving his boat on D-Day, but refused medical aid and searched through the surf and chaos to find missing radio equipment. He finished finding and assembling the missing equipment right before he was killed.
5. Nine Green Berets and Afghan Commandos were seriously wounded but kept fighting in the Battle of Shok Valley, including Staff Sgt. Daniel Behr who had his leg nearly amputated by enemy fire at the start of the conflict but stayed in the fight for another 6 hours.
7. The possible first casualty on D-Day was an airborne lieutenant who was mortally wounded before jumping into Normandy, meaning he could have stayed on the plane and sought medical attention. He led his paratroopers out the door anyway.
8. 2nd Lt. Daniel Inouye was shot just before he took out two German machine gun nests with grenades and a Thompson submachine gun. Then, after his arm was nearly severed by an enemy grenade, he took out a third machine gun nest.