Lithuania adds armored vehicles to inventory as Russian threat looms - We Are The Mighty
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Lithuania adds armored vehicles to inventory as Russian threat looms

Lithuania adds armored vehicles to inventory as Russian threat looms
(Photo: ARTEC)


Lithuania is boosting its military by purchasing 88 “Boxer” infantry fighting vehicles (IFV) from Germany. The purchase comes amid increasing concern about Russian intentions towards Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia.

The Boxer is an eight-wheeled vehicle with a three-man crew that can hold eight infantrymen. The version procured by Lithuania will include Israeli gear, notably the Samson Mk II turret, which has a 30mm autocannon and Spike-LR anti-tank missiles. The Spike-LR is a fire-and-forget anti-tank missile that has a range of roughly 2.5 miles, and can defeat most main battle tanks. The Boxers will join about 200 M113 armored personnel carriers currently serving in the Lithuanian Land Forces.

The Boxer is in service with the Dutch and German armies, with the Dutch using it to replace M577 command vehicles and  YPR-765 infantry fighting vehicles in support roles. The  Germans are using the Boxer to replace the M113 and the Fuchs armored car. The two countries have purchased or plan to purchase over 700 Boxers, and the total may well increase.

The purchase of 88 vehicles seems small, but the Lithuanian Land Forces consist of a single full-strength mechanized infantry brigade with a “motorized infantry” brigade currently forming. This force does not have any heavy armor, and is also very short on artillery, featuring a grand total of 54 M101 105mm howitzers and 42 M113 120mm mortar carriers. Lithuania has purchased 21 PzH 2000 self-propelled howitzers and a few dozen 120mm mortars that can be carried by infantry. Lithuania has a couple hundred FGM-148 Javelin fire-and-forget anti-tank missiles with a range of just over 1.5 miles, joining older 90mm towed recoilless rifles and Carl Gustav shoulder-fired recoilless rifles.

Despite the modernization program, when facing a formation like the newly-reformed 1st Guards Tank Army, the Lithuanian Land Forces will be facing some very long odds, particularly when they are dependent on a four-plane detachment in Lithuania proper for air cover (the Baltic Air Policing program also has a four-plane detachment in Estonia). The Lithuanian Air Force has one L-39 trainer/light attack plane in service.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The OV-10 Bronco is alive and well in the Philippines

The OV-10 Bronco had a long service career with the United States. It first saw action in Vietnam and stuck around through Desert Storm. Just a few years ago, the idea of bringing the Bronco back was floated — the OV-10 flew 82 sorties against ISIS targets and performed quite well. Despite that, the Bronco didn’t make a comeback in America. The DOD instead pursued the OA-X program.

But just because the Bronco won’t be serving with the U.S. military doesn’t mean its career is over.


Currently, eight Broncos are serving in the Philippines as light attack planes specializing in counter-insurgency operations. The OV-10 is very well-equipped. The World Encyclopedia of Modern Aircraft Armament notes that it packs four 7.62mm machine guns and can haul four 500-pound bombs or rocket pods.

A proposed OV-10X modification would see the Bronco equipped with AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, a glass cockpit, improved sensors, and precision-guided bombs, like the Paveway laser-guided bombs or GPS-guided Joint Direct Attack Munitions. The OV-10X would also feature up to four .50-caliber machine guns, replacing the 7.62mm machine guns. It was rumored that this souped-up version of the Bronco would compete in the OA-X program a few years ago, but it’s looking unlikely that this variant will see the light of day.

Lithuania adds armored vehicles to inventory as Russian threat looms

An OV-10 Bronco takes off from USS Nassau (LHA 4).

(US Navy)

The Bronco has a top speed of 288 miles per hour and a range of 1,400 miles. By contrast, some of the competitors for the OA-X program, like the AT-6, AT-802, and AT-29, are not quite as long-legged. Furthermore, the OV-10 also has the advantage of having two engines, giving it far more staying power if hit.

The OV-10X was a heavily upgraded version of the Bronco.

​(Greg Goebel)

The Broncos currently in service with the Philippines are hand-me-downs from both the United States and Thailand. According to Janes.com, four more OV-10, two OV-10A, and two OV-10G+, are headed to the Philippines to help hold the line until the AT-29 Super Tucano comes online next year.

Until then, the Bronco will bucking.

Articles

4 crimes you learn to commit in the military

We’re not saying everyone in the military does these things, just that it’s almost impossible to complete an enlistment without someone either encouraging you, or even teaching you, to:


1. Commit petty theft

Lithuania adds armored vehicles to inventory as Russian threat looms
(Photo: U.S. Navy)

“Gear adrift is a gift” and similar maxims are just cute ways of saying that it’s sometimes okay to steal. But it’s not. There’s no law that says it stops being government property or someone else’s personal property if they forgot to lock it up or post a guard.

This includes “acquiring” needed items for the squad by snatching up unsecured gear or trading for someone’s off-the-books printer. We know you have to get your CLP, but at least try to get some from the armorer before turning to theft.

2. Smuggle alcohol through the mail

Lithuania adds armored vehicles to inventory as Russian threat looms
If their breath never smells minty fresh, maybe get suspicious of their constant mouthwash use.

It’s only legal to ship alcohol through the United States Postal System if you have a license or if it’s in a product like mouthwash. Of course, that mouthwash isn’t supposed to be 80 proof.

But every time a unit gets ready for deployment, the veterans start talking about the super illegal practice of asking family members to pour vodka into empty mouthwash bottles, mix in a few drops of blue and green food coloring, and send it to the base in the mail. Many of the old timers are just making jokes, but it still spreads the knowledge of the tactic. (Which this article also does. Crap.)

3. Lie on federal forms

Lithuania adds armored vehicles to inventory as Russian threat looms
The Defense Travel System is reasons 1-3 that no one should ever re-enlist. (Photo: U.S. Air National Guard Master Sgt. Christopher Botzum)

Let’s be honest, perfectly filled out Defense Travel System vouchers and unit packing lists are the exception to the rule. Sometimes, this is because it’s hard to track every little change in a connex’s contents or a trip. But other times, it’s because units on their way out the door on an exercise or deployment are willing to put whatever they need to on the paperwork to get it approved.

It’s an expedient way to get the mission done, but it’s also a violation of Title 18 United States Code 1001, which prohibits false claims to the federal government. Of course, no one is going to prosecute when a connex shows up with three more cots than were on the list, but don’t listen to the barracks attorney telling you that the per diem is higher if you just change this one thing in DTS.

4. Abuse prescription medication

Lithuania adds armored vehicles to inventory as Russian threat looms
Perfectly legal in training and combat, actually a crime when using it to avoid a hangover with a prescription. (Photo: U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Nicholas Farina)

Most troops aren’t out there injecting illegally acquired morphine, but most people would probably be surprised to learn that intravenous saline is a prescription medical device (yeah, saltwater in a bag). So are those 800mg Motrins.

And teaching a bunch of troops to give saline injections to each other does help them save lives in combat, but it also prepares them to tack an extra criminal charge onto their alcohol-fueled bender when they get home and stick themselves with a needle to try to avoid getting hungover (which, seriously guys, stop giving yourselves IVs while drunk).

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This is why cancer isn’t the toughest fight John McCain has faced

The announcement that Senator John McCain (R-AZ) is fighting brain cancer was stunning. The news was flooded with statements, most of which offered thoughts and prayers for McCain and his family, although many also noted that John McCain was a fighter.


However, this has not been the only time John McCain’s had to fight through a situation.

His lengthy time in captivity during the Vietnam War was notable, not only due to the fact he was awarded the Silver Star for his heroism, but also for his refusal to return home early.

McCain served as a chaplain among the POWs, per his Legion of Merit citation. McCain also cheated death when his plane was shot down on Oct. 26, 1967.

Lithuania adds armored vehicles to inventory as Russian threat looms
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Prior to his Vietnam War service, he survived three mishaps, including a collision with power lines in an A-1 Skyraider. McCain had another close brush with death before his shootdown, when his jet was among those caught up in the massive fire on the carrier USS Forrestal (CV 59).

Despite suffering shrapnel wounds, he volunteered to transfer to the Essex-class carrier USS Oriskany (CV 34).

Lithuania adds armored vehicles to inventory as Russian threat looms
YouTube: We Are The Mighty

The cancer Senator McCain is fighting, a brain tumor known as glioblastoma, is a very aggressive form of cancer that was discovered after an operation to remove a blood clot near his eye.

It’s not his first go-round with “the big C,” either. McCain fought a battle with malignant melanoma in 2000.

Lithuania adds armored vehicles to inventory as Russian threat looms
McCain in Vietnam (Library of Congress photo)

As of this writing, Senator McCain is considering treatment options, but he is also still at work. When President Trump canceled a program to arm some Syrian rebels, McCain issued a statement condemning the decision, proving once again that you can’t keep a hero down.

Articles

The Air Force wants to sentence an airman to 130 years for sexual harassment

Technical Sergeant Aaron Allmon is a decorated combat photographer. He is one of the Air Force’s best, having served multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and was named 2008 Military Photographer of the Year. He documented all branches of the United States military, regular forces and special operations alike, during his tenure in the Air Force’s 1st Combat Camera Squadron. After his combat tours, he went to Hawaii to recover remains of the U.S. war dead in Asia.


Lithuania adds armored vehicles to inventory as Russian threat looms

As he fought post-traumatic stress and debilitating back pain, the Air Force sent him to Minot, North Dakota in 2012 to train airmen there on the skills he mastered so well. He struggles to this day. After 19 years in service, the Air Force wants to send him up the river. He faces 130 years in prison in an ongoing court martial trial.

His crimes are not theft, rape, murder, arson, or anything close to violence. The Washington Times found his trespasses against fellow airmen in the Minot public affairs office amount to “three kisses and six touches, plus a series of reported inappropriate comments of a sexual nature.”  All are unwelcome personal contact. The report also alleges Allmon touched knees and a woman’s back, kissed someone’s forehead and shoulders, and made the aforementioned inappropriate remarks.

If Allmon did what the Air Force alleges, he should certainly face punishment for it. No one is questioning the women who came forward to accuse the Minot NCO. What is in question is the severity of the punishment he faces if convicted.

Allmon’s sister Lisa Roper is a San Antonio business executive. She is mounting her brother’s defense to the tune of what she believes will be $200,000. The court martial is a felony court, which came as a surprise to one of the accused’s legal defense attorneys, Jeffrey Addicott, a former Army judge advocate and now law professor at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio.

“Even assuming all the charges are true, which they are not, this conduct as charged would warrant nonjudicial punishment, not the highest level of action at a general court-martial where Aaron could lose all his retirement benefits and go to jail,” Addicott told the Washington Times.

The presiding officer at Allmon’s Article 32 pretrial hearing in December 2014 was Lt. Col. Bendon Tukey. He questioned the prosecution’s stacking of charges and sentences during a post-trial recommendation.

“In many of the individual specifications,” Tukey wrote, “it could be argued that the accused was not so much motivated by sex or a desire to humiliate or degrade as simply being socially maladroit and crass.”

How did the sentencing get so far out of hand? How did a case like this even come so far? An experienced former agent of the Air Force Office of Special Investigations (OSI) told WATM a few important things to remember to clarify Allmon’s situation. Agents are not identified because of the nature of their work.

The first thing to remember is Allmon is not charged with any Article 120 offenses (rape, sexual assault, other sexual misconduct). The only physical contact violation is an Article 128 violation for Simple Assault. When OSI opens an investigation of this type, it is usually because the victim or victims contacted the base Sexual Assault Response Coordinator or Special Victims Counsel.

On the sentence of 130 years, the agent told us initial allegations can differ greatly from what is actually charged for the court martial. OSI consistently disproves allegations or finds additional misconduct in the course of these cases. OSI has to investigate any other potential victims. The standard procedure in a sexual assault case to identify behavioral indicators that the subject may be a serial sex offender. They will talk to anyone who may possibly have been victimized. They certainly would have talked to anyone with whom Allmon worked.

What is charged in the docket is what he will be tried on. However, the docket doesn’t list all of the specifications. You could have one charge of assault, but four specifications of different actions that all count as assault. When lawyers continue to add up the specifications, then that can be called “piling on.” There could have been a rape allegation that was disproved, but other issues could still justify the preferral of charges. No one ever gets the maximum sentence, but there is certainly some strategy in piling on the charges. It allows for negotiation for a pre-trial agreement, the military version of a plea deal.

If the Air Force  couldn’t get a court martial, they wouldn’t offer him an Article 15 for demotion. The Air Force would keep reprimanding Allmon until he was forced to get out as a Technical Sergeant (E-6). The agent believes this case is going to be about a few months to maybe a year in jail, but definitely a bad conduct discharge or possible a dishonorable.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

F-22 extends its reach with new missiles and software

The Air Force and Lockheed Martin have now “validated” several new weapons on the F-22 Raptor to equip the stealth fighter with more long-range precision attack technology, a wider targeting envelope or “field of regard,” and new networking technology enabling improved, real-time “collaborative targeting” between aircraft.

The two new weapons, which have been under testing and development for several years now, are advanced variants of existing weapons — the AIM-9X air-to-air missile and the AIM 120-D. Upgraded variants of each are slated to be operational by as soon as 2019.

The new AIM-9X will shoot farther and reach a much larger targeting envelope for pilots. Working with a variety of helmets and display systems, Lockheed developers have added “off-boresight” targeting ability enabling pilots to attack enemies from a wide range of new angles.


“It is a much more agile missile with an improved seeker and a better field of regard. You can shoot over your shoulder. If enemies get behind me in a close-in fight, I have the right targeting on the plane to shoot them,” Ken Merchant, Vice President, F-22, Lockheed, told Warrior Maven in an interview.

Raytheon AIM-9X weapons developers have told Warrior that the Block 2 variant adds a redesigned fuze and a digital ignition safety device that enhances ground handling and in-flight safety. Block II also features updated electronics that enable significant enhancements, including lock-on-after-launch capability using a new weapon datalink to support beyond visual range engagements, a Raytheon statement said.

Another part of the weapons upgrade includes engineering the F-22 to fire the AIM-120D, a beyond visual range Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM), designed for all weather day-and-night attacks; it is a “fire and forget” missile with active transmit radar guidance, Raytheon data states.

Lithuania adds armored vehicles to inventory as Russian threat looms

An F-22 flyover.

(US Air Force photo)

The AIM-120D is built with upgrades to previous AMRAAM missiles by increasing attack range, GPS navigation, inertial measurement units, and a two-way data link, Raytheon statements explain.

“The new AIM-120D uses a better seeker and is more maneuverable with better countermeasures,” Merchant said.

As the Air Force and Lockheed Martin move forward with weapons envelope expansions and enhancements for the F-22, there is of course a commensurate need to upgrade software and its on-board sensors to adjust to emerging future threats, industry developers explained. Ultimately, this effort will lead the Air Force to draft up requirements for new F-22 sensors.

F-22 lethality is also getting vastly improved through integration of new two-way LINK 16 data link connectivity between aircraft, something which will help expedite real-time airborne “collaborative targeting.”

“We have had LINK 16 receive, but we have not been able to share what is on the Raptor digitally. We have been doing it all through voice,” Merchant explained.

Having a digital ability to transmit fast-changing, combat relevant targeting information from an F-22 cockpit — without needing voice radios — lessens the risk associated with more “jammable” or “hackable” communications.

F-22 Technologies

Newer F-22s have a technology called Synthetic Aperture Radar, or SAR, which uses electromagnetic signals or “pings” to deliver a picture or rendering of the terrain below, allowing better target identification.

The SAR technology sends a ping to the ground and then analyzes the return signal to calculate the contours, distance and characteristics of the ground below.

Lithuania adds armored vehicles to inventory as Russian threat looms

An F-22A Raptor from the 27th Fighter Squadron “Fighting Eagles” located at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, fires an AIM-120 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile and an AIM-9M sidewinder heat-seeking air-to-air missile at an BQM-34P “Fire-bee” subscale aerial target drone over the Gulf of Mexico during a Combat Archer mission.

(US Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Michael Ammons)

The F-22 is also known for its “super cruise” technology which enables the fighter to reach speeds of Mach 1.5 without needing to turn on its after burners. This enables the fighter to travel faster and farther on less fuel, a scenario which expands its time for combat missions.

The fighter jet fires a 20mm cannon and has the ability to carry and fire all the air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons including precision-guided ground bombs, such Joint Direct Attack Munitions called the GBU 32 and GBU 39.

It also uses what’s called a radar-warning receiver — a technology with an updateable database called “mission data files” designed to recognize a wide-range of enemy fighters, much like the F-35.

Made by Lockheed Martin and Boeing, the F-22 uses two Pratt Whitney F119-PW-100 turbofan engines with afterburners and two-dimensional thrust vectoring nozzles, an Air Force statement said. It is 16-feet tall, 62-feet long and weighs 43,340 pounds. Its maximum take-off weight is 83,500.

The aircraft was first introduced in December of 2005; the F-22 Raptor fighter jet delivered some of the first strikes in the U.S.-led attacks on the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, when aerial bombing began in 2014, service officials told Warrior.

After delivering some of the first strikes in the U.S. Coalition-led military action against ISIS, the F-22 began to shift its focus from an air-dominance mission to one more focused on supporting attacks on the ground.

For the long term, given that the Air Force plans to fly the F-22 well into the 2060s, these weapons upgrades are engineered to build the technical foundation needed to help integrate a new generation of air-to-air missiles as they emerge in coming years.

“Our intent is to make sure we keep our first look, first shot, first kill mantra,” Merchant said.

This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is what an F-35 looks like when it drops a nuclear bomb

The Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is frequently touted as the most advanced fighter ever to take to the skies, and soon it will be certified to carry nuclear bombs.

Like all fifth generation fighters, the F-35 is a stealth platform designed to avoid detection and engagement from air defense systems. As a result, the aircraft must carry its weapons payload internally, in the belly of the aircraft, rather than on external pylons like we’ve all come to expect on fourth generation jets like F-16 Fighting Falcon or the F/A-18 Super Hornet.


Lithuania adds armored vehicles to inventory as Russian threat looms

Fourth generation fighters like this F-16 carry their bombs, missiles, and external fuel tanks under their wings. (Air Force photo by Tom Reynolds)

Lithuania adds armored vehicles to inventory as Russian threat looms

(F-35 Joint Program Office)

External pylons allow fighters to carry far more ordnance into a fight than the F-35 can internally (and indeed, even the F-35 has external pylons that can be used when detection is not a concern).

Lithuania adds armored vehicles to inventory as Russian threat looms

(F-35 Joint Program Office)

The F-35 goes nuclear

While most people tend to think of heavy payload bombers like the B-2 Spirit and B-52 Stratofortress when talking about the airborne leg of America’s nuclear triad, the role of dual purpose “nuclear fighters” has long been a part of the strategy. Currently, both the F-15E Strike Eagle and F-16 Fighting Falcon fill the role of “nuclear fighter” in America’s stable, alongside their aforementioned nuclear bomber sister platforms.

Americans’ nuclear triad, for those who aren’t aware, is comprised of nuclear ICBMs on the ground, nuclear missile subs in the water, and nuclear-capable aircraft in the air. The premise of maintaining this triad is simple: by keeping America’s nuclear weapons dispersed and utilizing multiple forms of delivery, it makes it all but impossible to stop American from launching a nuclear counter-attack against an aggressive state that started lobbing nukes America’s way. In other words, America’s nuclear triad is the backbone of Uncle Sam’s part in the “mutually assured destruction” doctrine.

For now, the “nuclear” title is going to remain with the F-15s and F-16s, but the U.S. intends to certify the F-35 for nuclear duty by 2023 and it will likely carry that title well beyond the retirement dates for its two nuclear predecessors.

But before it can be certified, the Air Force needs to test the F-35’s ability to deploy these weapons thoroughly, and that’s where these incredible new photos come in. Ever since last June, the F-35 Joint Program Office has been overseeing drops of inert B61-12 nuclear bombs. These bombs have already seen testing with the F-15E, and will soon replace a number of older nuclear bomb variants.

Lithuania adds armored vehicles to inventory as Russian threat looms

(F-35 Joint Program Office)

These bombs may be inert, but they are designed to look and act like the real thing, giving the Pentagon all the information it needs to assess the F-35’s capabilities as a nuclear strike platform.

These tests are all being conducted with an F-35A, which is the standard takeoff and landing variant of the platform utilized primarily by the United States Air Force. The Navy’s F-35Cs are designed to take off and land on the deck of aircraft carriers, and the F-35B employed by the Marine Corps can take off on extremely short runways and even land vertically on the decks of ships. At least to date, it appears that the Pentagon has no intentions of mounting nuclear weapons in the F-35B or C variants.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

Articles

The snowball fight with snipers I’ll never forget

It was a typical winter morning in northern Afghanistan. The sky was clear, and the blinding sun slowly climbed into it. The sun was bright, but it didn’t do much to fight the biting cold that pumped down the turret opening in our Humvee and chilled us all.


I was in a light infantry reconnaissance platoon, made up of an almost even split of snipers and recon guys. We were on our way to a large forward operating base just south of Kabul. Our specific skill set had been requested by the commander there so we crammed into our cold Humvees and headed into the unknown.

Related: 19 pictures of troops braving the cold that will make you thankful to be indoors

We pulled into the base later that morning and were shown to the tent that we’d call home for at least a day or two. After unloading all of our gear and equipment, me and the other lower enlisted guys made ourselves at home while our senior leaders went to work out the specifics of the mission we’d be supporting.

We hadn’t been there long before sudden pounding winds seemed to threaten the integrity of our tent. One soldier leapt up from his cot and ripped open the door flap of our tent. The clear sunbathed sky had faded behind a thick sheet of dark clouds and snow was collecting quickly on the ground outside.

The soldier fastened the door flap shut as we all looked at each other in amazement. “This mission has got to be scrapped” quipped one soldier. “There’s no way we’re going out in this” added another. Assuming the mission was a no-go, we settled back into our cots and pulled out our books, iPods, magazines and other essentials needed to ride out the storm.

Just as we were all getting comfortable and cozy in our sleeping bags, a red-faced and snow covered staff sergeant barreled into our tent. “Get your cold-weather gear on and get outside”. The staff sergeant stormed out of the tent just as rapidly as he’d come in.

We tossed our creature comforts to the side and began tearing through our bags for heavy jackets, pants and beanies. Questions and confusion filled the frantic tent. Once suited up, we all funneled out of the tiny tent opening into the storm and lined up in front of the two stone-faced staff sergeants.

We stood there silently as they divided us up between them. Reading our confused expressions, the staff sergeants laughed and explained what was about to happen.

“You guys go with him” he said gesturing at the other staff sergeant and his group. “And you guys come with me. We’ll have 15 minutes to build up our arsenal of snowballs and then it’s on. If you get hit, you’re out. You can be revived by a teammate once, but if you’re hit again, you’re out until the next round”.

Lithuania adds armored vehicles to inventory as Russian threat looms
Image for illustration use, not from the author’s experience. U.S. Army photo by Spc. Ken Scar

Before our shock could fade, we were elbows deep in snow mounds, hastily and inefficiently shaping snowballs with our gloved hands. The 15 minutes were up and my group had established three separate caches of snowballs in case one were to be compromised. Our hodgepodge of recon and sniper guys made it difficult to establish a quick plan of attack. Me and the other recon guys suggested we move between tents to find a good ambush point. The snipers suggested we push to a small hill top and take advantage of the high ground. The infighting put us at a disadvantage.

When the other team started lobbing snowballs, strategy turned into self-preservation and it was every man for himself.

A number of my recon teammates had been taken out of the game so I retreated to the hill top where a few snipers were dug in. The high ground gave us the upper hand, and the continuing snowfall guaranteed we wouldn’t run out of ammo. We had the other team pinned down and just when we thought we had the game won, we were flanked and wiped out.

Lithuania adds armored vehicles to inventory as Russian threat looms
Image for illustration use, not from the author’s experience. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Christopher McCullough

The snowball fight went a few more rounds and the longer we were out in the storm the more exhausted we got. Our honed military training and tactics gradually devolved into a laughter filled display of “soldiers on ice” as we slipped and fell endlessly.

When the snowball fight was over, we sluggishly made our way back to our tent, shed our cold weather gear and collapsed onto our cots.

The mission we came for had officially been scrapped, so we quietly retrieved the creature comforts we had discarded earlier and tucked ourselves into our sleeping bags. The next morning the bright sun rose and melted most of the snow. We gathered all of our equipment crammed ourselves back into our cold Humvees, and headed to the next outpost.

That day was rarely talked about in the months that followed. It was as if we were all safeguarding a cherished memory and if we spoke about it, the day would somehow seem less special.

I’m sure the snowball fight meant something different for everyone on the battlefield that day. For me, its meaning has evolved over the years. What was once just another story from my time in Afghanistan has grown into a meaningful narrative about the human moments soldiers often experience while deployed but are rarely reported.

For me this day was important because it helps me show that not every war story is a tale of heroism or tragedy.

When the winter months creep by here at home, I look forward to an impromptu moment where I’ll look out on a large snow covered field, and I’ll tell whoever will listen, about my snowball fight with snipers.

Articles

What the alleged mustard gas attack on US troops in Iraq could mean

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria has allegedly launched a chemical weapons attack on a base used by American military forces to support Iraqi efforts to retake the city of Mosul. The Sept. 21 artillery attack on Qayyara Air Base that reportedly contained a chemical shell caused no casualties, but some American troops underwent decontamination procedures as a precaution.


The attack, which Pentagon chief Gen. Joseph Dunford said is suspected to have used mustard gas, is the first time American troops have faced hostile chemical weapons since World War I. A 1984 paper for the United States Army Command and Staff General College noted that the United States suffered over 70,000 casualties from German chemical weapons in that conflict, of which just over 1,400 were fatal.

Lithuania adds armored vehicles to inventory as Russian threat looms
A U.S. Soldier with the 76th Army Reserve Operational Response Command decontaminates a vehicle after a simulated chemical weapons attack during a base defense drill in Camp Taji, Iraq, July 23, 2016. This drill is one way Coalition forces maintain readiness and practice security procedures. Camp Taji is one of four Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve build partner capacity locations dedicated to training Iraqi security forces. (U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. Daniel Johnson/Released)

Military officials said a massive aerial attack on a former pharmaceutical plant near mosul Sept. 13 destroyed what they believe was an ISIS chemical weapons production facility.

Mustard gas, a liquid that is properly called “sulfur mustard,” is a blister agent that not only can be inhaled, but also takes effect when it contacts the skin. This nasty chemical agent causes large blisters on the skin or in the lungs when inhaled. The agent can last a long time – unexploded shells filled with sulfur mustard have caused casualties in France and Belgium decades after the German surrender in World War I.

Chemical weapons were widely used in the Iran-Iraq War, most notoriously by Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq during the Al-Anfar Offensive. The 1988 attack on the Kurdish town of Halabja, using nerve gas, gained world attention, particularly due to the casualties suffered by civilians. Chemical weapons use was widely feared during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. After Desert Storm, Saddam Hussein’s regime was supposed to end its chemical weapons program, but played a shell game for over a decade.

In the wake of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, concerns about Saddam Hussein’s apparent non-compliance with the terms of the 1991 cease-fire and United Nations Security Council Resolutions lead the United States to launch Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003.

While no large stockpiles of chemical weapons were found, coalition forces did encounter sarin nerve gas and sulfur mustard that had not been accounted for in pre-war inspections, and a 2014 report by the New York Times reported that over 5,000 shells filled with chemical weapons were found by American and Coalition forces during the Iraq War.

ISIS has been reported to use sulfur mustard against Iraqi and Syrian forces.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

F-35s train in ‘beast mode’ in response to China’s ‘carrier killers’

US Marine Corps F-35B pilots aboard the USS Wasp, an amphibious assault ship, took off with externally stored missiles in the Philippine Sea, which suggests they trained for all-out aerial combat with China.

The move came just days after China deployed its DF-26 missiles that experts say can take down US aircraft carriers from thousands of miles away.


The Wasp regularly patrols the western Pacific and became the first ship to host combat-ready F-35s, the first-ever carrier-launched stealth jets. The F-35B is a short-landing and short-take-off version of the aircraft designed for Marine pilots.

Lithuania adds armored vehicles to inventory as Russian threat looms

An F-35B Lightning II makes the first vertical landing on a flight deck at sea aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Seaman Natasha R. Chalk)

Because of the F-35’s stealth design, it usually stores weapons in an internal bay to preserve its radar-evading shape.

So when the F-35 flies with weapons outside the bay, it’s flying in what Lockheed Martin calls “beast mode.”

The F-35 holds only four air-to-air missiles on combat-focused air missions, and just two when it splits the mission between air-to-ground and air-to-air.

But with weapons pylons attached, Lockheed Martin has pitched the F-35 as an all-out bomb truck with 18,000 pounds’ worth of bombs and missiles in and under the wings.

While the F-35 has never actually tested this extensive loadout, the F-35Bs aboard the Wasp in January 2019 took off with two weapons pylons and at least one dummy air-to-air missile.

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A fully loaded F-35A.

(Frank Crebas via YouTube)

Other pictures of the F-35s on the Wasp showed guided bombs being loaded up into the jets.

Flying with dummy missiles and pylons under the wings trains F-35 pilots on how the aircraft handles under increased strain, and demonstrates what it’s like to have a deeper magazine in combat scenarios.

Lockheed Martin previously told Business Insider that F-35s are meant to fly in stealth mode on the first day of a war when the jets need to sneak behind enemy defenses and take out surface-to-air missiles.

After the initial salvos, F-35s can throw stealth to the wind and load up on missiles and bombs, Lockheed Martin said.

“When we don’t necessarily need to be stealthy, we can carry up to 18,000 pounds of bombs,” Jeff Babione, general manager of the F-35 program, told Business Insider in 2017.

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Marines load a Captive Air Training Missile (CATM) 9X onto an F-35B Lightning II aircraft.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Sean Galbreath)

China is seeking air-to-air dominance

But the theoretical implications of the F-35’s loadout take on a new importance in the Pacific, where China has increasingly sought to impose its will on international waters.

China has increasingly threatened US ships in the region, with one admiral even calling for the sinking of US aircraft carriers.

China has responded to US stealth fighters with a stealth jet of its own, the J-20, a long-range platform with the stated goal of winning air superiority.

But experts recently told Business Insider that the J-20, as designed, would likely lose in air-to-air combat to almost any US or European air superiority fighter.

While the US may be able to contain China’s air power for now, Beijing recently deployed “carrier-killer” missiles to the country’s northwest. The US, in its recent Missile Defense Review, suggested F-35s could shoot down these missiles in flight.

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

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Japan bombed the US mainland during World War II hoping to start a forest fire

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Japan conducted a surprise attack at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on Dec. 7, 1941 that ultimately brought the United States into World War II.

What most people don’t know is that Japan conducted two surprise attacks on the U.S. mainland less than a year later, with the goal of starting wildfires. Now known as the Lookout Air Raids, beginning on Sep. 9, 1942, a Japanese submarine surfaced off the coast of Oregon, assembled a seaplane, and pilot Nobuo Fujita took off toward the Oregon forests.

Here’s what happened next, according to the Los Angeles Times:

At 6:24 a.m. Mr. Howard Gardner, a forestry service observer on Mt. Emily reported seeing an unidentified seaplane come from the west, circle and return toward the sea. He described the plane as a single-motored biplane with a single float and small floats on the wing tips. The plane appeared to be small and of slow speed. It had no lights, no distinct color and no insignia was visible. It is possible that a plane of this type might have been carried on a submarine.

Fortunately, it wasn’t the best time to start a fire since the area was so damp. While Fujita did successfully drop his bombs and start a small fire, it didn’t turn into the hoped-for wildfires that would take valuable resources away from the war effort.

Three weeks later, Fujita gave it another try with two more bombs, and once again, he was unsuccessful.

In his obituary in 1997, The New York Times wrote:

A quiet, humble man who in his later years was deeply ashamed of his air raids on the United States, Mr. Fujita eventually forged a remarkable bond of friendship with the people of Brookings, the small logging town whose surrounding forests he had bombed. Last week, as he lay dying, the town council of Brookings hailed Mr. Fujita an ”ambassador of good will” and proclaimed him an ”honorary citizen” of the town.

His mission was unsuccessful but he was hailed as a hero back in Japan. And Fujita did earn his place in history as the pilot flying the only enemy aircraft that has ever bombed the U.S. mainland.

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Here’s why Gen. Stanley McChrystal only eats one meal per day

 


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Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

 

Even while he was working long hours at the Joint Special Operations Command and then later overseeing all NATO forces in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal was eating just one meal per day.

The 60-year-old retired general continues to maintain the strict diet as a civilian, but why? He likes the “reward” of food at the end of the day, as he explained on “The Tim Ferriss Show” podcast.

“When I was a lieutenant in Special Forces many many years ago, I thought I was getting fat,” said McChrystal, who cofounded The McCrystal Group and recently penned the book “Team of Teams.” “And I started running, and I started running distance which I enjoyed. But I also found that my personality is such that I’m not real good at eating three or four small disciplined meals. I’m better to defer gratification and then eat one meal.”

For McChrystal, the one meal he eats is dinner after he’s finished with work, which he said was usually around 8 to 8:30 p.m.

“I sort of push myself hard all day, try to get everything done, and [then] sort of reward myself with dinner at night.”

Still, he doesn’t cut out everything during the day. He drinks coffee and water throughout, and he admitted to grabbing a snack during especially strenuous times, like when he’s on a road march. On certain days “your body says eat and eat right now,” McCrystal said. During those times, he grabs a handful of pretzels or some small snack to keep him going.

His unusual diet ended up rubbing off on some of his soldiers while he was in Afghanistan, explained his aide-de-camp Chris Fussell, while noting that he would warn soldiers about the diet.

“He doesn’t do this as a demonstration of personal strength,” he would say. “Don’t think you’re impressing him by not eating lunch or whatever.”

But since he was always with him, McChrystal’s command sergeant major ate just one meal per day like his boss. Then about a year later, he found pretzels in his quarters in Afghanistan and completely lost it.

“I almost whipped out my gun and shot him,” Fussell recalled the sergeant major saying. “You’ve been eating pretzels? I’ve been eating one meal a day for a year and you had pretzels in your room?!”

You can listen to the full podcast here.