Let's talk about how many US troops are really in Afghanistan - We Are The Mighty
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Let’s talk about how many US troops are really in Afghanistan

The Pentagon, on Aug. 30, sharply raised its estimate of the number of US troops currently in Afghanistan, ahead of a decision on adding thousands more under President Donald Trump’s new strategy for the war-wracked country.


Pentagon Joint Staff Director Lieutenant General Kenneth McKenzie said a comprehensive review showed that there were approximately 11,000 uniformed US servicemen and women in Afghanistan.

The Pentagon has said previously that there were roughly 8,400 US troops in Afghanistan, under a cap set during former President Barack Obama’s administration.

Let’s talk about how many US troops are really in Afghanistan
Army Reserve photo by Tulara McCauley

Military officials have long quietly acknowledged there were far more forces in the country than the cap allowed, but commanders shuffled troops in and out, labeled many “temporary,” and used other personnel-accounting tactics to artificially keep the public count low.

“This is not a troop increase,” but rather an effort to be more transparent about the total size of the US force, Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said.

The new count, which includes temporary and covert units as well as regular forces, was made to establish the basis for an increase in troops — possibly by around 4,000 — under Trump’s revised strategy to better support Afghan troops in the fight against the Taliban.

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Watch this crazy video of an unconscious pilot saved by his plane’s computer

If you’ve ever been driving on a long road trip, you might know the horrifying feeling of being drowsy and nodding off behind the wheel — even for a moment.


Your heart drops into your stomach when you realize what happened. Now imagine waking up in an F-16 flying straight to the ground while approaching supersonic speed.

A trainee pilot conducting basic fighter maneuver training with the Arizona Air National Guard suffered G-LOC, or gravity-induced loss of consciousness, while in a roll. The student hit 8.3 Gs and passed out.

Related: Watch as flight students gut out high G training

The Air Force released this newly declassified video from the aircraft’s heads-up display on September 13th, which shows the plane’s Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance System kick on to save the pilot, who was still unconscious after 22 seconds.

The video is harrowing as the worried instructor repeatedly yells at the pilot, almost begging him to recover.

According to Aviation Week’s Guy Norris, this is the fourth save from the Auto-GCAS since it was introduced to the Air Force in 2014. The computer uses pre-programmed terrain info against a prediction of the plane’s trajectory. The GCAS autopilot takes over when the prediction touches the ground.

In this case, the GCAS took over at just 8,760 feet. The student then wakes back up and retakes control at 4,370 feet.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why troops love and hate aluminum vehicles

Aluminum has served in war since ancient times, but its most common application today is as armor, allowing for well-protected but light vehicles that can tear through rough terrain where steel would get bogged down. But aluminum has an unearned reputation for burning, so troops don’t line up to ride in them under fire.


Let’s talk about how many US troops are really in Afghanistan

Crewmen in the coupla of an M-2 Bradley infantry fighting vehicle elevate the barrel during a 1987 exercise.

(U.S. Army Pfc. Prince Hearns)

Aluminum got its start in war as alum, a salt composed of aluminum and potassium. This was one of the earliest uses of aluminum in military history. Ancient commanders learned you could apply a solution of the stuff to wood and reduce the chances it would burn when an enemy hit it with fire.

As chemists and scientists learned how to create pure aluminum in the 1800s, some military leaders looked to it for a new age of weaponry. At the time, extracting and smelting aluminum was challenging and super expensive, but Napoleon sponsored research as he sought to create aluminum artillery.

Because aluminum is so much lighter than steel, it could’ve given rise to more mobile artillery units, capable of navigating muddy lanes that would stop heavier units. Napoleon’s scientists could never get the process right to mass produce the metal, so the ideas never came to fruition.

But aluminum has some drawbacks when it comes to weapon barrels. It’s soft, and it has a relatively low melting point. So, start churning out cannon balls from aluminum guns, and you run the risk of warping the barrels right when you need them.

Instead, the modern military uses aluminum, now relatively cheap to mine and refine, to serve as armor. It’s light, and it can take a hit, making it perfect for protection. The softness isn’t ideal for all purposes, but it does mean that the armor isn’t prone to spalling when hit.

But aluminum’s differences from steel extend deep into the thermal sphere. While aluminum does have a lower melting point than steel, it also has a higher thermal conductivity and specific energy (basically, it takes more heat to heat up aluminum than it does to heat up steel). So it can take plenty of localized heat without melting away.

Let’s talk about how many US troops are really in Afghanistan

An armored personnel carrier burns in the streets of Egypt during 2011 protests.

(Amr Farouq Mohammed, CC BY-SA 2.0)

So why don’t troops love the stuff? It has a reputation for burning, for one. It’s not fair to the material. Aluminum actually doesn’t burn in combat conditions, needing temperatures of over 3300 Fahrenheit to burn and lots of surface area exposed to keep the reaction going.

(In industrial applications that rely on aluminum burning, the process is usually started by burning another metal, like magnesium, which burns more easily and releases enough heat, and the aluminum is crushed into a fine powder and mixed with oxygen so that the soot doesn’t halt the reaction.)

But that hasn’t stopped detractors from blaming the metal for all sorts of vehicles that were lost. The Royal Navy lost nine ships in the Falklands War, and three of them had aluminum superstructures. Aluminum detractors at the time claimed it was because the ships’ aluminum hulls burned in the extreme heat after being hit, even though the ships had steel hulls and aluminum does not burn outside of very certain conditions.

Let’s talk about how many US troops are really in Afghanistan

U.S. Army armored vehicles leave Samarra, Iraq, after conducting an assault on Oct. 1, 2004.

(U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Shane A. Cuomo)

All these reports of burning aluminum were spurred on in the ’80s and ’90s by a very public fight between Army Col. James G. Burton, a man who didn’t like the M113 in Vietnam and hated the M2 Bradley while it was under development. He repeatedly claimed that the Army was rigging tests in the Bradley’s favor, tests that he said would prove that the vehicles would burn and kill the crew in combat.

In a book published in 1993, after the Bradley became one of the heroes of Desert Storm, he claimed that the vehicles survived because of changes made after those tests. But while the Army might have switched the locations where ammo was stored and other design details, they didn’t change the hull material.

But, again, aluminum does melt. And the few Bradley’s that did suffer extended ammo fires did melt quite extensively, sometimes resulting in puddles of aluminum with the steel frame sitting on top of it. This spurred on the belief that the aluminum, itself, had burnt.

Let’s talk about how many US troops are really in Afghanistan

The M2A3 Bradley is capable, but troops don’t love its aluminum hull.

(Winifred Brown, U.S. Army)

But aluminum melts at over 1,200 Fahrenheit, hot enough that any crew in a melting aluminum vehicle would’ve died long before the armor plates drip off. Aluminum is great at normal temperatures, providing protection at light weights.

And so aluminum protects vehicles like the M2 Bradley and the M113 armored personnel carrier. The new Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle that is slated to replace the M113 has, you guessed it, an aluminum hull. But while troops might enjoy the increased space, they’ll probably leave off any discussion of the vehicle’s material while bragging.

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This artist brought together Iraq refugees and war veterans for a pretty cool radio project

In 2016, an Iraqi-American artist sat down with Bahjat Abdulwahed — the so-called “Walter Cronkite of Baghdad” — with the idea of launching a radio project that would be part documentary, part radio play, and part variety show.


Abdulwahed was the voice of Iraqi radio from the late 1950s to the early 1990s, but came to Philadelphia as a refugee in 2009 after receiving death threats from insurgents.

“He represented authority and respectability in relationship to the news through many different political changes,” said Elizabeth Thomas, curator of “Radio Silence,” a public art piece that resulted from the meeting with Abdulwahed.

Thomas had invited artist Michael Rakowitz to Philadelphia to create a project for Mural Arts Philadelphia, which has been expanding its public art reach from murals into new and innovative spaces.

Let’s talk about how many US troops are really in Afghanistan
Bahjat Abdulwahed, Michael Rakowitz, and Hayfaa Ibrahem Abdulqader. Courtesy photo via VOA News.

After nearly five years of research, Rakowitz distilled his project into a radio broadcast that would involve putting the vivacious and caramel-voiced Abdulwahed back on the air, and using Philadelphia-area Iraqi refugees, and local Iraq war veterans as his field reporters. It would feature Iraqi music, remembrances of the country and vintage weather reports from a happier time in Iraq.

“One of the many initial titles was “Desert Home Companion,” Rakowitz said, riffing on “A Prairie Home Companion,” the radio variety show created by Garrison Keillor.

Rakowitz recorded an initial and very informal session with Abdulwahed in his living room in January 2016. Two weeks later, Abdulwahed collapsed. He had to have an emergency tracheostomy and was on life support until he died seven months later.

At Abdulwahed’s funeral, his friends urged Rakowitz to continue with the project, to show how much of the country they left behind was slipping away and to help fight cultural amnesia.

Let’s talk about how many US troops are really in Afghanistan
Michael Rakowitz. Courtesy photo via VOA News.

Rakowitz recalibrated the project, which became “Radio Silence,” a 10-part radio broadcast with each episode focusing on a synonym of silence, in homage to Abdulwahed.

“The voice of Baghdad had lost his voice,” Rakowitz said, calling him a “narrator of Iraq’s history.”

It will be hosted by Rakowitz and features fragments of that first recording session with Abdulwahed, as well as interviews with his wife and other Iraqi refugees living in Philadelphia.

Rakowitz and Thomas also worked with Warrior Writers, a nonprofit based in Philadelphia that helps war veterans work through their experiences using writing and art.

The first episode, on speechlessness, will launch Aug. 6. It will be broadcast on community radio stations across the country through Prometheus Radio Project.

One participant is Jawad Al Amiri, an Iraqi refugee who came to the United States in the 1980s. He said silence in Iraq has been a way of life for many decades.

Let’s talk about how many US troops are really in Afghanistan
Radio Silence Session with Michael Rakowitz, April 2017, Philadelphia, PA. Photo via Warrior Writers.

“Silence is a way of survival. Silence is a decree by the Baath regime, not to tell what you see in front of your eyes. Silence is synonymous with fear. If you tell, you will be put through agony,” he said at a preview July 25 of the live broadcast. He said he saw his own sister poisoned and die and wasn’t allowed to speak of it.

When he came to the US in 1981, his father told him: “We send you here for education and to speak for the millions of Iraqis in the land where freedom of speech is practiced.”

Lawrence Davidson is an Army veteran who served during the Iraq War and works with Warrior Writers also contributed to the project. He said the project is a place to exchange ideas and honestly share feelings with refugees and other veterans.

The project kicks off on July 29 with a live broadcast performance on Philadelphia’s Independence Mall — what Rakowitz calls the symbolic home of American democracy. It will feature storytelling, food from refugees and discussions from the veterans with Warrior Writers.

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MARSOC chooses Glock 19s over .45s for Raiders

Let’s talk about how many US troops are really in Afghanistan
The Glock 19 pistol | Wikimedia Commons


Marine Corps Special Operations Command has decided to shelve its custom .45 pistols and outfit its elite Raiders with Glock 19s.

MARSOC has not yet responded to Military.com’s questions for the story, but a source familiar the effort said the command made the decision within the last month.

The move, first reported by Jeff Schogol of Marine Corps Times, follows a Marine Corps decision in February that a MARSOC operators to carry Glock pistols, since many of the elite outfit’s members prefer the popular Glock 19 9mm handgun over the custom .45 pistols the service bought them in 2012.

Also read: Here’s why it’s a good thing the US military is getting rid of the M14

The reliable, easy-to-maintain 9mm pistol features a polymer frame and a 15-round magazine.

The Marine Corps just completed an exhaustive search for a new MARSOC pistol in 2012. The service awarded a $22.5 million contract to Colt Defense LLC., for up to 10,000 Close Quarter Battle Pistols.

The custom, 1911 design replaced the fleet of worn-out MARSOC M45 pistols. It features a rail for mounting lights, a custom trigger, a manual safety, improved ergonomics and glowing Tritium sights for low-light conditions.

The new .45s are nice, but many MARSOC troops prefer to carry Glock 19s instead.

One reason for the change is that 9mm ammunition and Glock replacement parts are available almost anywhere in the world, the source said.

The decision is not that surprising since U.S. Army Special Operations Command has also chosen the Glock 19 for its elite units such as the 75th Ranger Regiment, the source said.

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Where Are They Now? An update on the “Taliban 5” exchanged for Bowe Bergdahl

The Taliban Five are not the reigning champions of Afghanistan’s Got Talent. They are five long-term prisoners held by the United States at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. In a controversial move, the Obama administration released the five in exchange for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl in a deal struck by the Emir of Qatar in 2014. Bergdahl had been held by the Taliban for five years.


The Taliban Five were among those the Administration deemed too hot to transfer to prison on the U.S. mainland, but not hot enough to remain in Gitmo. This is our rundown on where they came from, and an update on where they are these days.

Let’s talk about how many US troops are really in Afghanistan

Mohammed Fazl: Deputy Defense Minister in Afghanistan under the Taliban and senior military commander in the North during the American invasion. He was outside of Mazar-e Sharif when the prisoners of war held there revolted against their Northern Alliance captors. The Obama administration’s review of his case in 2010 says he may have been responsible for CIA agent Mike Spann’s death at Mazar-e Sharif. Spann was the first American killed in Afghanistan. Fazl is also responsible for killing ethnic minorities in the country and is connected to the killing of Iranian diplomats.

Let’s talk about how many US troops are really in Afghanistan

Norullah Nori: Nori was with Mohammed Fazl at a fortress near Mazar-e Sharif in Northern Afghanistan and may have been involved in Spann’s death. He is also responsible for massacring Shia Afghans, something he admitted to while at Gitmo.

Let’s talk about how many US troops are really in Afghanistan
Abdul Haq Wasiq: Wasiq was the head of Taliban intelligence and is responsible for torturing and murdering Afghan civilians. He is connected to al-Qaeda.

Let’s talk about how many US troops are really in Afghanistan

Khirullah Khairkhwa: Khairkhwa was the governor of Herat province under Taliban rule and was in close contact with Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar. It is believed he helped found the Taliban in 1994. He met with officials from Iran and was a friend of former Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

Let’s talk about how many US troops are really in Afghanistan

Mohammed Nabi Omari: A Taliban official who helped smuggle weapons into Afghanistan after the American invasion, Omari is connected to both the Taliban and the Pakistan-based terror group the Haqqani Network. While in captivity, Omari was deemed a risk to his captors.

In 2014, the five were transferred to Qatar in exchange for Bergdahl and are being monitored by the Qatari and U.S. security services, according to the Omani Tribune. The Obama Administration demanded strict monitoring as part of the deal because the first time the U.S. released a Taliban POW, Abdul Qayyum Zakir (released by the Bush administration in 2007), he returned to Afghanistan to continue fighting Coalition forces, eventually becoming the overall Taliban military commander.

He has not yet received his reward of a U.S. military drone strike.

Let’s talk about how many US troops are really in Afghanistan
Yet.

The five are also currently fighting a travel ban with the government of Qatar, who are under pressure from the United States to help keep the five men from posing a threat to Americans or American interests.

According to CNN, the men will remain in Qatar under house arrest, until long-term solutions can be made. Where they want to go is unclear, as neither Pakistan or Afghanistan will take them. Some believe Fazl would likely attempt to join ISIS if he leaves Qatar, while two others want to rejoin the insurgency in Afghanistan.

Taliban negotiators and other representatives of the Afghanistan-based insurgent group are based in Qatar, where their every need is met in wealth and splendor. Until the world figures out what to do with the five, they will remain in Doha’s lap of luxury, with other Taliban diplomats.

NOW: 17 Laws every Taliban militant needs to follow

OR: 4 of the most famous deserters in U.S. military history

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia thanks Trump for the CIA tip that foiled a terror attack

Russian President Vladimir Putin phoned President Trump Dec. 16 to thank him for a CIA tip that helped thwart bombings in St. Petersburg, the Kremlin and the White House said — letting Trump show the benefit of better relations despite the ongoing Russia collusion probe, one expert said.


Putin expressed gratitude for the CIA information. The Kremlin said it led Russia’s top domestic security agency to a group of suspects that planned to bomb St. Petersburg’s Kazan Cathedral and other sites.

“The information received from the CIA proved sufficient to find and detain the criminal suspects,” the Kremlin said.

Also Read: Goodbye Ivan! US expels 35 Russians, shutters 2 spy stations over hacking allegations

Putin extended his thanks to the CIA. Trump then called CIA Director Mike Pompeo “to congratulate him, his very talented people, and the entire intelligence community on a job well done!”

“President Trump appreciated the call and told President Putin that he and the entire United States intelligence community were pleased to have helped save so many lives,” a White House statement said. “President Trump stressed the importance of intelligence cooperation to defeat terrorists wherever they may be. Both leaders agreed that this serves as an example of the positive things that can occur when our countries work together.”

The Kremlin said Putin assured Trump that “if the Russian intelligence agencies receive information about potential terror threats against the United States and its citizens, they will immediately hand it over to their U.S. counterparts.”

Let’s talk about how many US troops are really in Afghanistan
Putin and Trump meet in Hamburg, Germany. July 7, 2017. (Photo from Moscow Kremlin.)

Christopher Preble of the Cato Institute said, “Donald Trump was on the record for the better part of his campaign about wanting to have a better relationship with Russia. The trouble is that credible allegations of interference in the 2016 election have made it very difficult, if not impossible, for Trump to improve relations with Russia without being accused of being too close to the Russians.

“This is an example of him taking advantage of an incident like this to call attention to the potential for better relations, but for many Americans the concern of Russian interference in the 2016 election is greater,” Preble said.

The CIA’s tip to Russia comes even as Russia-U.S. ties have plunged to their lowest level since the Cold War era — first over Russia’s annexation of Crimea and support for pro-Russia separatists in Ukraine, more recently over allegations that Moscow interfered in the U.S. presidential election to help Trump.

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What North Koreans really think of their supreme leader

Let’s talk about how many US troops are really in Afghanistan
Why does it always look overcast in North Korea?


The Center for Strategic and International Studies‘s Beyond Parallel released new polls that shed light on one of the most obscure areas in global studies — the opinions of ordinary North Korean citizens.

North Korea’s 25 million citizens live under an oppressive, totalitarian government that freely detains or even puts to death citizens that stray from official messaging in any way. Simply listening to outside media not sanctioned by the state can result in death.

But the small survey, which gives a voice to those living under unimaginable scrutiny, reveals what many in the international community believe to be true — North Koreans are unhappy with their state and risk severe punishments to cope with it in their personal lives.

Also read: What you need to know about North Korean threats

“This is the first time we’re hearing directly from people inside the country,” Dr. Victor Cha, head of Korea studies at CSIS, told The Washington Post.

Beyond Parallel carried out the survey so that it would present minimal risk to those involved. Ultimately, they wound up with a small sample size that nonetheless conveyed a sentiment with near unanimity: North Koreans know that their government does not work, and they criticize it privately at extreme personal peril.

Let’s talk about how many US troops are really in Afghanistan

Out of the 36 people polled, zero said that the country’s public distribution system of goods provides what they want for a good life.

Out of the 36, only one said they do not joke in private about the government.

While it may not seem like a big deal to those in the West who enjoy free speech and can readily make jokes about their government, consider this 2014 finding from the United Nations on the state of free speech in North Korea:

State surveillance permeates the private lives of all citizens to ensure that virtually no expression critical of the political system or of its leadership goes undetected. Citizens are punished for any “anti-State” activities or expressions of dissent. They are rewarded for reporting on fellow citizens suspected of committing such “crimes”.

Beyond Parallel reports that formal state-organized neighborhood watches “regularly monitor their members” and report any behavior that deviates from what the state deems appropriate.

The picture painted by Beyond Parallel’s research paints a picture starkly in contrast with the images we see flowing out of North Korea’s state media, which usually feature Kim Jong Un smiling broadly while touring military or commercial facilities.

The US and international community have long tried to lobby North Korea’s greatest ally, China, to exert some influence on the isolated dictatorship to ease the suffering of the North Korean people, and protect the region from Pyongyang’s nuclear belligerence.

Let’s talk about how many US troops are really in Afghanistan

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This Navy mom served on the homefront after losing all 5 sons in World War II

(This story was provided courtesy of the Naval History and Heritage Command, Communication and Outreach Division)


Mother’s Day 1943 was not a day of celebration in the Sullivan house in Waterloo, Iowa.  Just four months earlier, Alleta Sullivan along with her husband Tom, her daughter Genevieve, and her grandson James received official word that all five of her sons had been lost after the ship on which they all served, USS Juneau, was sunk Nov. 13, 1942, during the Battle of Guadalcanal.

News spread across the country of the enormous sacrifice made by the Sullivans and honors were heaped onto Alleta and her family including posters honoring the brothers’ sacrifice, extensive media coverage and even a 1944 motion picture based on their story.

Alleta became an important figure in the war effort. She volunteered at the United Serviceman’s Organization (USO) to help make life easier for troops stateside and abroad. With her husband and daughter, Alleta visited more than 200 manufacturing plants and shipyards offering encouragement to employees in the hopes their efforts would bring the war to an end sooner. By January 1944, Alleta and her family had spoken to more than a million workers in 65 cities and reached millions of others over the radio.

On Sept. 30, 1943, Alleta was present as the ship’s sponsor when the Navy commissioned USS The Sullivans (DD 537). The ship served the Navy until final decommissioning on Jan. 7, 1965. In 1977, the destroyer was donated to the city of Buffalo, N.Y., as a memorial in the Buffalo and Erie County Naval and Servicemen’s Park.

The second ship to be called The Sullivans (DDG 68) was commissioned April 19, 1997, and was sponsored by Kelly Sullivan Loughren, Alleta’s great granddaughter.  The ship’s motto is “We Stick Together.”  Today the ship, which returned home from a six month deployment just in time for the holidays on Dec. 22, 2013, is based at Naval Station Mayport, Fla.

Let’s talk about how many US troops are really in Afghanistan
Alleta Sullivan works alongside actress Marlene Dietrich as they serve servicemen in the USO Hollywood Canteen, Calif., Feb. 9, 1944. (Photo: Navy Historical Center)

Kelly obviously admires her great-grandmother’s courage and continued service to the nation in the face of the most devastating loss a mother can suffer. But the story that sticks with her the most is that long after the war, after the movie, the media and the ceremonies had faded, Alleta would receive house calls from Sailors that either knew her sons or who just wanted to stop by and extend their condolences. Kelly said her great-grandmother would often cook them a hot meal and offer them a place to stay for the evening or the weekend.

On this Mother’s Day, America’s Navy salutes the quintessential Navy Mom – Alleta Sullivan, as well as all the mothers who have served, or who have stood on the shore as their sons and daughters went down to the sea in ships.

MIGHTY MOVIES

7 amazing war books written by the men who fought there

We regularly read about wars both past and present. Yet there are few of us who truly know what it’s like to be there. The accounts below are told by the brave men and women who fought on the front lines, as well as those intrepid reporters who documented war in person. From World War II to the battlefields of Vietnam, these seven works provide insight into the triumphs and terrors of armed conflict.


7. We Were Soldiers Once… and Young

Let’s talk about how many US troops are really in Afghanistan
We Were Soldiers Once… and Young examines Ia Drang, one of the most significant and brutal battles of the Vietnam War. Written by Lt. Col. Harold Moore, with the help of journalist Joseph L. Galloway—the only journalist on the ground at la Drang—the book tells the harrowing tale of the American soldiers who never gave up, despite the devastation that surrounded them.

6. This Kind of War

Let’s talk about how many US troops are really in Afghanistan
The book that Defense Secretary James Mattis recently recommended in response to rising tensions in North Korea, This Kind of War analyzes the Korean War—as told by a man who was there. Often referred to as “the forgotten war,” Fehrenbach, who served as a U.S. Army officer during the war, provides a powerful reflection on its destruction and how unpreparedness led to the loss of so many lives.

5. Valor in Vietnam

Let’s talk about how many US troops are really in Afghanistan
Looking at the Vietnam War through the lens of those who were there, Valor in Vietnam offers 19 different stories of triumph and tragedy. Presented in chronological order, the accounts are emotional, intense, and personal.

4. Goodbye Vietnam

Let’s talk about how many US troops are really in Afghanistan
William Broyles’ memoir covers his life from the time he was a college student—hoping not to be drafted—to his service in Vietnam and his return to the country years later, in an attempt to come to terms with the bloody war. Though he was enrolled at Oxford when the Vietnam War began, Broyles realized he could not let his class or education stand in the way of his civic duty. He subsequently enrolled in the marines. And while he survived, he wasn’t able to move on until he confronted his past and returned to the former battlefields of Vietnam.

3. Eyewitness to World War II

Let’s talk about how many US troops are really in Afghanistan
This military bundle includes three books from Richard Tregaskis, a World War II reporter who bridged the gap between the soldiers on the front lines and those waiting at home. Including Guadalcanal Diary, Invasion Diary, and, John F. Kennedy and PT-109, Tregaskis, who travelled with the Allies during WWII, recounts the bravery and sacrifice he witnessed.

2. Special Ops

Let’s talk about how many US troops are really in Afghanistan
Orr Kelly, a journalist who served as a war correspondent in Vietnam, tells the stories of the military’s elite forces. The bundle includes Brave Men, Dark Waters; Never Fight Fair!; Hornet; and, From a Dark Sky. From the Navy SEALs to the US Air Force Special Operations, Kelly details the courage and resilience of these unique fighters. In Never Fight Fair!, the Navy SEALs tell us, in their own words, about the history of their special force and what it takes to be one of the elite.

1. In Pharaoh’s Army

Let’s talk about how many US troops are really in Afghanistan
A National Book Award finalist, In Pharaoh’s Army chronicles Tobias Wolff’s experiences as an army officer in the Vietnam War. Present during the Tet Offensive, one of the largest military campaigns that took place during the war, Wolff tells his story and how it has affected him both in and out of Vietnam.
MIGHTY TACTICAL

The last camouflage is up to the scientists

A camouflaged soldier almost invisible to the naked eye may light up like a Christmas tree on a high-end thermal imaging device, which is why advanced thermal detection capabilities are among the greatest threats to the concealed warfighter.

Thermal imaging systems have the ability to detect a soldier’s infrared heat signature, light or electromagnetic radiation outside the visible spectrum emitted by a warm body. These sensors can distinguish between a person’s body heat and the ambient temperature of their surroundings.

“Defeating a thermal signature is probably the hardest thing,” an Army sniper previously told Business Insider, adding that “emerging technology by our near-peer enemies” is making it increasingly difficult for soldiers to hide.


Thermal detection “is dangerous to a sniper because you can’t hide from that,” he explained.

Agreeing with the sniper’s assessment, two masters of modern camouflage explained to BI why this particular threat is so difficult to defeat.

Let’s talk about how many US troops are really in Afghanistan

How a human being appears to the naked eye vs how they appear to a thermal sensor.

(Youtube Screenshot)

“The big thing here is physics,” retired Army Lt. Col. Timothy O’Neill, a consultant for HyperStealth Biotechnology Corp. and the inventor of digital camouflage, said. “For a thermal signature, you are talking about energy at one end of the electromagnetic spectrum. It’s energy. Energy, we recall, cannot be created or destroyed.”

This principle, known as the First Law of Thermodynamics, complicates everything.

“You can put a soldier inside a suit that traps the heat inside so that he can’t be seen, but he gets roasted inside,” O’Neill, who did his doctoral dissertation on camouflage, added. “The heat’s there.” The problem is figuring out what to do with the heat energy.

“It has to go somewhere somehow,” Guy Cramer, president and CEO of HyperStealth, told BI. “You either need to vent it or convert it to a non-detectable signal.” There are certain fabrics that will actually cool the body down, but it doesn’t eliminate the person’s heat signature altogether.

“It’s not an easy thing to do,” he said.

“You get outside the visible spectrum, and you do have problems,” O’Neill added. “Right now, almost all of the threats that we face have late-generation image intensification and thermal detection. It’s not an easy fix.”

Let’s talk about how many US troops are really in Afghanistan

How a human being appears to the naked eye vs how they appear to a thermal sensor.

(YouTube Screenshot)

“There are things you can do, but you are still up against physics,” the father of digital camouflage said. “So, almost anything you do to reduce a thermal signature is going to be high-tech and a little difficult for the soldier.” He said that there are some strides being made in this area, but it’s difficult to know what, if anything, will be a game-changer.

US Army scientists, for example, are researching new infrared obscurants, aerosol particles that block infrared light to obscure the warfighter on the battlefield. The service also put in a multi-million dollar order for Fibrotex’s Ultra-Light Camouflage Netting System (ULCANS), a new kind of advanced camouflage specifically designed to conceal troops from night vision, thermal imaging, radar, and more.

Cramer told BI that he is currently patenting an idea known as “quantum stealth,” a light-bending camouflage material able to bend the electromagnetic spectrum around a target to achieve multi-spectral invisibility. This technology has not yet been publicly demonstrated.

Let’s talk about how many US troops are really in Afghanistan

How a human being appears to the naked eye vs how they appear to a thermal sensor.

(YouTube Screenshot)

The Army’s top general revealed earlier this month that the service is pursuing new camouflage systems to better protect soldiers waging war on future battlefields, and thermal is a priority.

“Advanced camouflage technologies are critical,” Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley explained to lawmakers. “We are putting a fair amount of money into advanced camouflage systems, both individual, unit, vehicle, etc.”

“We know that adversary [target] acquisition systems are very capable in that, if you can see a target, with precision munitions, you can hit a target, so camouflage systems that break up electronic signatures and break up heat signatures are critical.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

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These 4 books show the inner workings of Delta Force

As the wars have raged on, America’s interest in Tier One special operators like Delta Force and SEAL Team Six has increased. Delta Force has managed to stay largely in the shadows in spite of this, keeping their missions and accomplishments relatively secret. They hunted Osama bin Laden, were part of the capture of Saddam Hussein, and have operated in dozens of countries around the world, but little is known about the outfit.


But there is a body of work out there about Delta Force. Here are four books by former operatives that give a glimpse behind the curtain:

1. “Delta Force: A Memoir by the Founder of the U.S. Military’s Most Secretive Special Operations Unit”

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Col. Charlie A. Beckwith was the creator of Delta Force. He fought from 1962 to 1977 to get the unit after serving as an exchange officer with the British SAS. He was finally given permission to found the unit and describes the process in “Delta Force.” He also goes into detail of the rigorous training and selection process that continues today. Beckwith led the unit through the failed Operation Eagle Claw, an attempt to rescue the American hostages in Iran.

2. “Inside Delta Force: The Story of America’s Elite Counterterrorist Unit”

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Written by a founding member of Delta Force,  “Inside Delta Force” takes a reader through the training and earliest missions of the elite unit. Retired Command Sgt. Maj. Eric L. Haney describes his personal experiences in Beirut, the Sudan, and Honduras.

3. “Kill Bin Laden: A Delta Force Commander’s Account of the Hunt for the World’s Most Wanted Man”

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Kill Bin Laden” looks at the earliest attempts to capture or kill Bin Laden immediately after the September 11 attacks. The book shows the inner workings of Delta Force on the ground conducting operations. The operators work with local forces to hunt through the Tora Bora mountains and are able to listen in on bin Laden’s communications before ultimately losing him.

The author uses the pseudonym Dalton Fury and has also written a series of novels about Delta Force.

4. “The Mission, the Men, and Me: Lessons from a Former Delta Force Commander”

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Pete Blaber, a former Delta Force commander, takes readers through his own physical and mental training as he joined Delta Force before discussing his missions in Columbia, Somalia, Bosnia, Afghanistan, and Iraq.

The Mission, the Men, and Me” has a few distinguishing characteristics. First, this book discusses more operations in the Post-9/11 world than any other on this list. Also, Blaber distills the lessons he learned in Delta Force and helps readers apply them to their lives in modern America.

NOW: There have been nearly as many Navy SEAL books written as all other special ops combined

OR: 5 key differences between Delta Force and SEAL Team 6

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4 things that made the F-16 years ahead of its time

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Three U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon Block 30 aircraft from the 80th Fighter Squadron fly in formation over South Korea during a training mission on Jan. 9, 2008. (DoD photo by Tech. Sgt. Quinton T. Burris, U.S. Air Force)


The F-16 Fighting Falcon was originally designed to be a daytime air superiority fighter, but over the decades of its service life it has evolved into a all-weather multi-role attack platform.  The first F-16 rolled off the manufacturing line in 1976, and ultimately over 4,500 aircraft followed it.

The Fighting Falcon (a.k.a. the “Viper” in aggressor squadron circles) remains technologically advanced and lethal throughout its full range of mission areas, which is remarkable considering the legendary Col. John Boyd and his “fighter mafia” first conceived of the airplane in the late ’60s.

Here are four design features that were years ahead of their time when they first hit the fleet and remain so today:

1. Fly-by-wire flight controls and side-stick controller

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Unlike every airplane built before it, the F-16 was designed to be aerodynamically unstable until it reaches supersonic airspeeds. As a result there is no mechanical linkage between the stick and the moving parts of the airplane. A computer interface is required to interpret pilot inputs and move the flight controls accordingly, technology known as “fly-by-wire.” Because the F-16 is designed for high-G loading, the stick is mounted on the side of the cockpit instead of in the center to make it easier on the pilot’s right arm.  It barely moves; full throw is only one-eighth of an inch.

2. Bubble canopy

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The pilot sits up very high relative to the canopy rail in the F-16, giving him superior visibility in all quadrants, including at six o’clock. The bubble canopy is designed to enhance this feature, and new pilots talk about feeling like they’re going to fall out of the airplane at first. Unlike other fighters there is no canopy bow forward of the pilot, so the forward view is completely unobstructed. The net result is a fighter that gives pilots an advantage in the dogfighting arena where “lost sight means lost fight.”

3. Reclined ejection seat

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Because the F-16 is designed to pull 9 Gs or more (compared to 6.5 for most other American fighters) the ejection seat is tilted 30 degrees back (compared to around 12 degrees other ejection seat aircraft) for superior G tolerance by the pilot. Pilots sit almost like their riding a reclining bicycle, with knees up high, which makes for a very comfortable ride while killing MiGs and other bad guys.

4. Multi-function displays

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The F-16 was one of the first military aircraft with a “glass” cockpit instead of the legacy “steam gauges,” which allows a pilot to tailor his displays for a particular mission as well as personal preference. MFDs also allow software upgrades with very little trouble, which has helped to keep the Fighting Falcon relevant and in the fight for decades.

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The F-16 isn’t just used by the Air Force. The Navy uses F-16Ns as aggressor aircraft at Top Gun.

Now: 6 superheroes who were also Air Force officers

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