FOX News Podcasts+ just released its latest investigative audio series: Alchemy of Violence: Narcos, Reapers and Survival. And it’s hosted by a bad-ass Marine veteran, of course.
Retired Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Johnny Joey Jones is a familiar face. A frequent FOX News contributor, speaker and FOX Nation host — now viewers can listen in on his no-nonsense journalistic approach with this latest podcast series created by the news media company. Though the service is subscription based, episode one is available completely free to all listeners on FOXNewsPodcasts.com.
The premium audio series brings listeners behind the curtain and into the lives of Mexican law enforcement officials tasked with targeting the violent cartels terrorizing the country. For Jones, it was an important project to be a part of.
“I think we view the ‘drug cartels’ sometimes as if it’s this romanticized Scarface movie or a godfather-like group of gangsters. Much like the ‘honor among thieves’ farce we get in movies,” he explained. “The truth is, these are evil vicious groups who terrorize innocent people and operate in our own backyard. I hope this helps Americans see the truth about this dangerous problem.”
In Mexico, the cartels are known to hunt down police officers and kill them in their own homes. Since 2006 over 300,000 individuals have lost their lives to cartel violence.
In the first episode listeners will be introduced to former Mexican parliamentary law enforcement officer, Ed Calderon. The in-depth first-hand account of the skills he was required to learn and use in order to survive would make most special operatives nervous.
The intensity of what Calderon had to do was a surprise, even for Jones. “I think It’s really amazing how Ed not only survived his time in the Narco world but learned tactics and techniques out of pure necessity for survival that some of our most highly trained warriors have adopted,” he said.
Despite Calderon’s dedication to taking down the dangerous cartels and serving his country, the rampant corruption would lead to him running for his life. The former law-enforcement officer takes listeners in and through his new journey of survival.
After making it out alive, the former law enforcement officer re-committed his life to serving others who’d experienced similar traumas. Using his own experiences, he now educates on the importance of understanding the cartel mindset and how they can infiltrate cities so easily. Calderon also instructs those who attend his courses on how to stay alive.
The 11-episode podcast series will bring listeners on an extraordinary journey through life south of the border. Unlike the excitement of blockbuster Hollywood movies, living through cartel control is somber and deadly reality for millions. Calderon’s commitment to justice, grit and unwavering determination promise to be an inspiration.
For the combat-wounded host, it’s an interview the nation itself needs to listen to. “I think Ed’s message is really timely for most Americans,” Jones said. “No matter how dire a situation is or how unlikely success may seem, surviving and thriving starts with believing and preparing. That’s powerful.”
The McDonnell-Douglas F-4 Phantom acquired many nicknames over its storied career: Snoopy, Old Smokey, St. Louis Slugger, the Flying Anvil, and many more. The best, by far, came from the sheer number of Soviet-built MiGs taken down by the plane.
The F-4 was truly an amazing aircraft. Even at the end of its service life, it was winning simulated air battles against the United States’ latest and greatest airframes, including the F-15 Eagle, which is still in service today. Even though it was considered an ugly aircraft by pilots of the time, it’s hard to argue with 280 enemy MiG kills — which is how it acquired its best nickname, “The World’s Leading Distributor of MiG Parts.”
After being introduced in 1960, it was acquired by the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Marine Corps, and U.S. Navy as an interceptor and fighter-bomber. In Vietnam, the Phantom was used as a close-air support aircraft and also fulfilled roles as aerial reconnaissance and as an air superiority fighter.
All of the last American pilots, weapon systems officers, and radar intercept officers to attain ace status did so in F-4 Phantom II fighters over Vietnam — against MiGs.
And the MiG fighters flown by the North Vietnamese were no joke, either. The Navy’s Top Gun school was founded because of the loss rate attributed to VPAF pilots — and that’s only the opposition in the air. North Vietnam’s air defenses were incredibly tight, using precise, effective doctrine to thwart American air power whenever possible. Air Force Col. Robin Olds used this doctrine against them in Operation Bolo, the first offensive fighter sweep of the war and a brilliant air victory.
Olds found the loss rate to VPAF MiG-21s to be unacceptable when taking command of the 8th TFW in Ubon. With the F-4’s success in Operation Bolo, Olds and the 8th TFW grounded the entire Vietnamese People’s Air Force for months.
The F-4 Phantom II was eventually replaced, but it took a number of different planes to compensate for the absence of this versatile airframe. It was replaced by the F-15 Eagle, F-16 Fighting Falcon, F/A-18 Hornet, and F-14 Tomcat. The F-14 was also the most widely produced aircraft, with more than 5,000 built.
Today, the Phantom still out there with the air forces of Japan, Turkey, South Korea, and Iran, and was last seen blowing up ISIS fighters in a close-air support role.
Ongoing U.S. and allied drone, helicopter and aircraft attacks against ISIS have led the Army to massively rev up its production of air-launched HELLFIRE missiles, a weapon regularly used to destroy Islamic State buildings, bunkers, armored vehicles, fighter positions and equipment.
The war against ISIS has depleted existing inventory of the weapon and generated a fast-growing national and international demand for HELLFIRE missiles, Army officials told Scout Warrior.
“Production of HELLFIRE has increased for quantities ordered in Fiscal Year 14 and Fiscal Year 15,” Dan O’Boyle, spokesman for Program Executive Office Missiles and Space, said in a written statement.
As the principle manufacturer of HELLFIRE missiles, the Army provides the weapon to national and international entities to include the Marine Corps, Air Force and Navy arsenals, among others. Overall, there as many as 15 or more international customers using HELLFIRE missiles, many of them partners in the U.S.-led coalition to destroy ISIS.
While Army officials did not provide specific numbers of production increases or plans to provide particular allied nations with HELLFIREs, the Pentagon has requested $1.8 billion in its 2017 budget for munitions, bombs and missiles needed to replenish or maintain stockpiles and sustain the attacks against ISIS.
As part of a separate effort, the Air Force did request and receive $400 million in reprogrammed dollars to address an air-to-ground munitions shortage, particularly with Hellfire missiles.
“The Air Force worked with the Army to re-prioritize HELLFIRE missile deliveries to the Air Force, requested additional funding for HELLFIRE missiles, reduced aircrew training expenditures, and is working a procurement plan to increase production to reconstitute munitions stocks as quickly as possible,” an Air Force official told Scout Warrior.
While precision-guided air-to-ground weapons are typically needed during aerial bombing efforts, they are of particular urgent value in the ongoing attacks on ISIS. ISIS fighters regularly hide among civilians and at times use women and children as human shields, making the need for precision all the more pressing.
In service since the 1970s, HELLFIRE missiles originated as 100-pound tank-killing, armor piercing weapons engineered to fire from helicopters to destroy enemy armored vehicles, bunkers and other fortifications.
In more recent years, the emergence of news sensors, platforms and guidance technologies have enabled the missile to launch strikes with greater precision against a wider envelope of potential enemy targets.
HELLFIRE Missile Technologies and Platforms
These days, the weapon is primarily fired from attack drones such as the Air Force Predator and Reaper and the Army’s Gray Eagle; naturally, the HELLFIRE is also used by the Army’s AH-64 Apache Attack helicopter, OH-58 Kiowa Warriors and AH-1 Marine Corps Super Cobras, among others. Although not much is known about when, where or who — HELLFIREs are also regularly used in U.S. drone strikes using Air Force Predators and Reapers against terrorist targets around the globe.
The HELLFIRE missile can use radio frequency, RF, guidance – referred to as “fire and forget” – or semi-active laser technology. A ground target can be designated or “painted” by a laser spot from the aircraft firing the weapon, another aircraft or ground spotter illuminating the target for the weapon to destroy.
There are multiple kinds of HELLFIRE warheads to include a High-Explosive Anti-Tank, or HEAT, weapon and a Blast-Fragmentation explosive along with several others. The HEAT round uses what’s called a “tandem warhead” with both a smaller and larger shaped charge; the idea is to achieve the initial requisite effect before detonating a larger explosion to maximize damage to the target.
The “Blast-Frag” warhead is a laser-guided penetrator weapon with a hardened steel casing, incendiary pellets designed for enemy ships, bunkers, patrol boats and things like communications infrastructure, Army documents explain.
The “Metal Augmented Charge” warhead improves upon the “Blast-Frag” weapon by adding metal fuel to the missile designed to increase the blast overpressure inside bunkers, ships and multi-room targets, Army information says. The “Metal Augmented Charge” is penetrating, laser-guided and also used for attacks on bridges, air defenses and oil rigs. The missile uses blast effects, fragmentation and overpressure to destroy targets.
The AGM-114L HELLFIRE is designed for the Longbow Apache attack helicopter platform; the weapon uses millimeter-wave technology, radar, digital signal processing and inertial measurement units to “lock-on” to a target before or after launch.
The AGM-114R warhead is described as a “Multi-Purpose” explosive used for anti-armor, anti-personnel and urban targets; the weapon uses a Micro-Electro Mechanical System Inertial Measurement Unit for additional flight guidance along with a delayed fuse in order to penetrate a target before exploding in order to maximize damage inside an area.
The AGM-114R or “Romeo” variant, which is the most modern in the arsenal, integrates a few additional technologies such as all-weather millimeter wave guidance technology and a fragmentation-increasing metal sleeve configured around the outside of the missile.
The “Multi-Purpose” warhead is a dual mode weapon able to use both a shaped charge along with a fragmentation sleeve. The additional casing is designed to further disperse “blast-effects” with greater fragmentation in order to be more effective against small groups of enemy fighters.
“The “Romeo” variant is an example of how these efforts result in a more capable missile that will maintain fire superiority for the foreseeable future,” O’Boyle said.
Additional HELLFIRE Uses
Although the HELLFIRE began as an air-to-ground weapon, the missile has been fired in a variety of different respects in recent years. The Navy has fired a Longbow HELLFIRE from a Littoral Combat Ship, or LCS, to increase its lethality; the Navy’s 2017 budget request asks for Longbow HELLFIRE missiles, beginning with the LCS surface-to-surface mission module, Navy officials told Scout Warrior. Also, the Army has fired the weapon at drone targets in the air from a truck-mounted Multi-Mission Launcher on the ground and international U.S. allies have fired the HELLFIRE mounted on a ground-stationed tripod.
This is perhaps the oldest of the UAV-mounted weapons, making its debut off the MQ-1 Predator. With a range of five miles and a 20-pound high-explosive warhead, the Hellfire proved to be very capable at killing high-ranking terrorists — after its use from the Apache proved to be the bane of enemy tanks.
2. GBU-12 Paveway II
While the 2,000-pound GBU-24 and GBU-10 got much more press, the GBU-12 is a very important member of the Paveway laser-guided bomb family. Its most well-known application came when it was used for what was called “tank plinking” in Desert Storm. GBU-12s, though, proved very valuable in the War on Terror, largely because they caused much less collateral damage than the larger bombs.
3. GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM)
This is the 500-pound version of the JDAM family. While it has a larger error zone than the laser-guided bombs, it still comes close enough to ruin an insurgent’s day. The GPS system provides a precision option when weather — or battlefield smoke — makes laser guidance impractical.
4. AGM-176 Griffin
This missile has longer range and a smaller warhead, but it still packs enough punch to kill some bad guys. The Griffin has both a laser seeker and GPS guidance. In addition to blasting insurgents out of positions with minimal collateral damage, Griffin is also seen as an option to dealing with swarms of small boats, like Iranian Boghammers.
On June 24, 1970, the U.S. Senate repealed the Tonkin Gulf Resolution.
The Gulf of Tonkin Incident was the catalyst for the escalation of American action in Vietnam. It refers to two incidents in August 1964. On Aug. 2, the destroyer USS Maddox was shelled by NVA torpedo boats. The Maddox responded by firing over 280 rounds in return. There was no official response from the Johnson Administration.
The pressure mounted however, with members of the military, both in and out of uniform, implying Johnson was a coward. On Aug. 4, the second incident was said to have happened, but Secretary McNamara admitted in Errol Morris’ 2003 documentary The Fog of War the second attack never occurred. The Pentagon Papers even implied that Maddox fired first in an effort to keep the Communists a certain distance away.
The resulting Gulf of Tonkin resolution passed by the U.S. Congress gave President Johnson – and subsequently, Nixon – the authority to strike back in southeast Asia against Communist aggression, even without a declaration of war from the Senate.
On June 24, 1970, the Senate voted to repeal the resolution as part of an amendment to the Foreign Military Sales Act. However, the Nixon Administration continued to fight the war on the legal grounds that Nixon had the inherent authority as Commander-in-Chief, until the United States withdrew in 1973.
The American experience in Vietnam was a long and painful one for the nation. For those against the war, it appeared to be a meat grinder for draftees, unfairly targeting the poor, the uneducated and minorities. For those in favor of the war and those who served in the military at the time, the American public and media were (and still are) misled about what happened during the war and so feel betrayed by many at home (Jane Fonda is the enduring symbol of the cultural schism).
The facts not in dispute by either side are just as harrowing: Over 20 years, more than 58,000 Americans were killed in Vietnam and more than 150,000 wounded, not to mention the emotional toll the war took on American culture. The war ended the Presidency of Lyndon Johnson and left a lasting impression on Richard Nixon’s. It was the backbone to the most tumultuous period in American history since before the Civil War one century prior.
The officer who’s running a massive Marine Corps and Navy war game in April that’ll test around 50 new technologies for storming beaches actually wants things to go wrong.
Navy Capt. Chris Mercer, a top tester for the service’s future concepts and technologies office, went so far as to say during a March 23 meeting with reporters: “If we don’t fail, I haven’t done my job.”
Now, before you start measuring Mercer for a new white coat with a very snug fit, think about this. With the upcoming Ship To Shore Maneuver Exploration and Experimentation Advanced Naval Technology Exercise 2017 in April, the Marines are looking to change how they carry out forced-entry operations. Forget what you saw in “The Pacific” – the renowned HBO series actually presents an outdated view on such operations. It’s not going to be sending hundreds of Higgins boats to storm a beach under heavy fire. Instead, the Marines, rather than storming a surveyed beach, will be looking for what Doug King of the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory called a “gap in the mangroves.”
But how will they find that gap? The answer lies in new technology – and this is what ANTX 2017 is intended to evaluate. With over 50 dynamic demonstrations planned for the 11-day exercise and another 50 static displays, ANTX 2017’s purpose is to find out what the state of today’s technology is – and to turn “unknown unknowns” into” known unknowns” or “known knowns” — to borrow from the logic former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld made popular.
“In these early stages of prototype demonstrations and experimentation, the intent is to push the envelope and take on higher risk technologies,” Mercer told We Are The Mighty. “We expect to find systems that perform well technically, but score low in the operational assessment and vice versa.”
“If everything is performing well and going exactly as planned, then we were probably not aggressive enough in our efforts to advance.”
So, that’s why Mercer is hoping to see failures during ANTX 2017 — if you don’t fail, you don’t learn.
Three KC-10 Extenders flew from Hawaii and Wake Island Airfield to refuel five C-17 Globemaster IIIs carrying over 300 coalition paratroopers across the Pacific Ocean July 13.
Having received the gas they needed, the C-17s continued to Australia to successfully conduct Exercise Ultimate Reach, a strategic airdrop mission. The airdrop displayed US capabilities throughout the region, reassured allies, and improved combat readiness between joint and coalition personnel.
The aerial refueling also supported Exercise Talisman Saber, a month-long training exercise in Australia between US, Canadian, and Australian forces that began once paratroopers landed Down Under. The training focused on improving interoperability and relations between the three allies.
The KC-10s seamlessly refueled various aircraft over the Pacific Ocean supporting Talisman Saber. Some of those aircraft include Navy F/A-18 Super Hornets and Air Force KC-10s, among others.
“This is the bread and butter of what we do in the KC-10 world,” said Lt. Col. Stew Welch, the 9th Air Refueling Squadron commander and the Ultimate Reach tanker mission commander. “We’re practicing mobility, air refueling, and interoperability. This is practice for how we go to war.”
Though participation in such a large and complex exercise may seem like a unique occurrence for the aircraft and their aircrews, in actuality, this is done every day, all over the world.
For members of the 6th and the 9th ARSs at Travis Air Force Base, California, the global mission of the KC-10 is evident each time they step onto the tanker. For the rest of the world, it was on full display at Talisman Saber.
Ultimate Reach was the most prominent piece of the KC-10’s efforts during Talisman Saber. Despite that demand, the crews continued a full schedule of refueling sorties after landing in Australia, allowing other participating aircraft to complete their missions.
While its primary mission is aerial refueling, the KC-10 can also carry up to 75 passengers and nearly 170,000 pounds of cargo. This enables the aircraft to airlift personnel and equipment while refueling supporting aircraft along the way. Though it can go 4,400 miles on its own without refueling, its versatility allows it to mid-air refuel from other KC-10s and extend its range.
“With that endurance ability, we can go up first and come home last and give as much gas as everybody else,” said Maj. Peter Mallow, a 6th ARS pilot. “That’s our role is to go up and bat first and then bat last.”
The tanker’s combined six fuel tanks carry more than 356,000 pounds of fuel in-flight, allowing it to complete missions like Ultimate Reach where over 4,000 pounds of fuel was offloaded in a short time to the five waiting C-17s. The amount is almost twice as much as the KC-135 Stratotanker.
“KC-10s are critical to delivering fuel to our partners,” said Welch. “Not only can we get gas, but we have a huge cargo compartment capability as well. KC-10’s can bring everything mobility represents to the table.”
“The KC-10 is essential to the Air Force because we can transport any piece of cargo, equipment, and personnel to anywhere in the world… any continent, any country,” said Tech. Sgt. Kenneth Cook, a 6th ARS instructor boom operator. “We’re able to refuel those jets who have to go answer the mission whatever it may be, or (engage in) humanitarian response.”
Additionally, the tanker’s ability to switch between using an advanced aerial refueling boom or a hose and drogue centerline refueling system allows it to refuel a variety of US and allied military aircraft interchangeably, as it demonstrated during Talisman Saber.
“KC-10s were able to provide force-extending air refueling,” said Mallow. “We were able to provide the capability to the C-17s that other platforms can’t. Because we can carry so much gas, we have more flexibility simply because we can provide the same amount of gas over multiple receivers. That inherently is the KC-10’s duty.”
“When we refueled the C-17s, it helped them get to their location and drop those paratroopers so the world can see them flying out of the aircraft and see those angels coming down,” said Cook. “It’s a good feeling, knowing the KC-10 is a part of that.”
Ultimate Reach and Talisman Saber highlighted the KC-10 fleet as a fighting force, demonstrating the aircraft’s unique warfighting capabilities over a wide-array of locations, receivers, and flying patterns.
“Not only does this kind of exercise demonstrate what we can do, it demonstrates how we do it,” said Welch. “Our own interoperability — not just with the Air Force and the Army but with our coalition partners as well — sends a great message to our allies and those who are not our allies that we can get troops on the ground where and when we please.”
The tankers’ performance during the exercise proved its unwavering support to combatant commanders and allies. It showed versatility in meeting unique mission requirements and reassured people around the world that the Air Force will always have a presence in the sky.
“Maybe one of those kids seeing a paratrooper come down will take an interest and maybe become the next Technical Sergeant Cook,” mused Cook.
The White House has lifted a major obstacle long standing in the way of studies into the use of pot to treat victims of post-traumatic stress disorder and other ailments.
The Health and Human Services Department has published in the Federal Register its announcement eliminating Public Health Service reviews of marijuana research projects not funded by the government.
“The significance is that the Obama Administration is making formal a decision that they made informally more than a year ago,” said Rick Doblin, executive director of Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, which plans to conduct a study whose test subjects include 76 veterans.
The Public Health Service granted review approval to the association in March 2014, but also noted in its letter that what it had previously set down as requirements for approval were now suggestions.
The latest move, Doblin said, signals “the Obama Administration is open to ending federal obstruction of privately-funded medical marijuana drug development research.”
HHS in a statement said it was aware that the Public Health Service review “is perceived to be an obstacle to non-federally funded research” and so eliminated it as a requirement.
“The Department expects the action … will help facilitate further research to advance our understanding about the health risks and any potential benefits of medications using marijuana or its components or derivatives, as well as the health implications of other uses of marijuana,” the statement said.
HHS took the step after its officials, along with those of the National Institutes of Health and the Food and Drug Administration, concluded that there was enough “overlap” between the two reviews as to make unnecessary the Public Health Service requirement, which has been in place since 1999.
According to Doblin, the reviews offered nothing to advance the kinds of studies his association and others might undertake.
“The PHS reviewers come from the world of basic science, seeking knowledge about how things work. The FDA reviewers come from the perspective of drug development, where you don’t need to know how things work, you just have to prove safety and efficacy,” Doblin said. “There was a mismatch between the approaches of the different reviewers which ended up with the PHS reviewers rejecting multiple FDA-approved protocols.”
Doblin said another important step that must be taken is to end the National Institute of Drug Abuse’s monopoly on the production of Drug Enforcement Agency-licensed marijuana that can be used in FDA-regulated research.
The move helps clear the way for an oft-delayed study into the use of marijuana in treating veterans with PTSD, Doblin said.
The administration’s decision also comes one month after a bipartisan group of lawmakers wrote Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell demanding an end to the requirement for a review by the Public Health Service.
Marijuana is the only Schedule 1 drug for which independent research had required such a review, according to Americans for Safe Access, a group dedicated to ensuring safe and legal access to pot for medical research.
Though the government approved the MAPS study well over a year ago, research has been delayed, in part because the University of Arizona, designated as one of two testing sites, without explanation fired lead researcher, Dr. Suzanne Sisley shortly after it won approval.
The university reportedly terminated Sisley under pressure from Arizona lawmakers opposed to the study.
In a statement released on Monday, Sisley said the government “has systemically impeded marijuana efficacy research, and the PHS review has played a large role in that stonewalling … To see the government finally eliminate this waste of taxpayer dollars is a triumph and hopefully represents another historic shift in drug policy reform.”
Doblin said there is still one more hurdle: ending the National Institute of Drug Abuse’s “monopoly” on the production of marijuana that can be used in Food and Drug Administration-regulated research.
He said the marijuana made available by NIDA can be used for research, “but not for prescription use,” which means the pot will not meet FDA requirement that “studies be conducted with the exact same drug for which marketing approval is being sought.”
He said MAPS will soon begin working in July with Lyle Craker, a professor in the Department of Plant, Soil and Insect Sciences at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, to apply to the DEA for a license to grow marijuana specifically for federally regulated research purposes.
Craker has been trying for about a decade to get that permission from the DEA, so far without success.
A major strategic think-tank suggested that assuring US victory in a space war requires the military to develop a network of small satellites capable of rapidly replacing destroyed space assets.
During a discussion at the Center for Strategic and International Studies that took place on June 22nd, military experts and space industry representatives suggested the US invest in the technology to launch swarms of small satellites into orbit as an insurance policy for larger military satellites in the event of a conflict in space.
Developing the capacity to rapidly launch small and cheap satellites would create a “layer of resiliency,” preventing any disruption to space assets by quickly replacing any destroyed satellites.
The current network of large US military and intelligence satellites provide a major war-winning advantage over other countries, but “was really built in an uncontested environment,” Steve Nixon, vice president for strategic development for the satellite firm Stratolaunch, told SpaceNews. “It’s no longer resilient to threats and probably cannot operate through a contested military environment.”
The military relies on a network of Global Positioning System satellites to provide precision navigation, communications, weather monitoring, and to find intelligence assets. But those satellites could be vulnerable to Chinese and Russian weapons, according to General John Hyten, commander of US Strategic Command.
“We believe that for just one percent of what we spend on national security space, you could add this layer, both in terms of satellites and launch systems,” Nixon said. “One percent is your insurance or deterrent capability that preserves the rest of your architecture. It seems like a really good deal.”
Nixon’s company is developing technology to launch satellites into space from small aircraft, which could be done much more rapidly than a full rocket launch.
A map of currently tracked satellite objects. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.
China successfully destroyed one of its own satellites in 2007 and likely tested a ground-based missile launch system to destroy orbiting objects in 2013.
“Despite world interest in avoiding militarization of space, potential adversaries have identified the use of space as an advantage for US military forces, and are actively fielding systems to deny our use of space in a conflict,” Hyten wrote in a white paper published in July.
The Trump administration seems interested in maintaining space dominance. The Air Force requested $7.75 billion, a 20 percent increase, in their space budget from last year. The service could spend upwards of $10 billion on space operations from combined public and classified budgets last year, according to The Air Force Times.
A longtime saying in war is that artillery is the king of the battlefield.
But some artillery are better than others, but the best are those that can drive themselves to battle.
For a long time, all artillery was towed. First the towing as done by horses, then by trucks or other vehicles. But there was a problem. The artillery took a while to set up, then, when the battery had to move — either because troops advanced or retreated – or the enemy found out where the artillery was located, it took time to do that.
Fighter pilots say, speed is life.” Artillerymen would not disagree. Towed artillery had another minus: It had a hard time keeping up with tanks and other armored fighting vehicles.
The way to cut the time down was to find a way a howitzer could propel itself. The advantage was that these guns not only could support tanks and other armored units, but these guns often had an easier time setting up to fire. They could also be ready to move much faster, as well.
This ability to “shoot and scoot” made them much harder to locate.
Most self-propelled howitzers fire either a 152mm round (usually from Russia and China, but also from former communist countries like Serbia) or a 155mm round (NATO and most other countries). Often these guns are tracked, but some have been mounted on truck chassis, gaining a higher top speed as a result.
Some of the world’s best self-propelled howitzers include the American-designed M109A6 Paladin, the Russian 2S19, the South Korean K9 Thunder, and the German PzH-2000.
You can see the full list of the ten deadliest self-propelled howitzers in the video below.
Three veterans of the war in Afghanistan are returning to the country later this month with the hopes of unifying Afghans around international competition.
While working as a civilian contractor in 2008, Jeremy Piasecki — who grew up playing water polo in Fallbrook, California — took on the nearly impossible task of establishing a men’s national water polo team in Afghanistan. It wasn’t easy, especially considering most Afghans don’t know how to swim and there are just 12 pools in the entire country.
Water polo is a physically aggressive game. Teams work to throw a ball into their opponent’s goal, while preventing their opponent from doing likewise. Piasecki first got the idea to teach locals about it while working near Kabul as a civilian about seven years ago.
While aboard a military base, he recalled seeing a swimming pool devoid of water and filled with trash. He convinced the Afghan base commander to clean it up, and began teaching Afghans how to swim and play the game.
“It was the first ever water polo team in Afghanistan,” Piasecki told The Times.
Today, the team is officially sanctioned by the Afghanistan Olympic Committee and is currently training under American coaches. They continue to train and “will take their first steps toward representing their country — one deserving of more positive athlete role models — in international competition,” according to its official website.
Afghanistan was banned from the Olympics in 1999 while under Taliban rule. It was reinstated in 2002, but has had only a few athletes make it onto the world stage since, where they have competed in sprinting and Taekwondo (Afghan Rohullah Nikpai won Bronze in 2008 and 2012).
In 2010, Piasecki met Dan Huvane and Lydia Davey while on joint duty in Stuttgart, Germany for U.S. Marine Corps Forces Europe, and bonded over a shared desire to help the Afghan people. Now all three are trying to bring together a new team — of Afghan women.
“I promised myself that someday we would launch a women’s team,” Piasecki said in a statement. “I’m glad to start delivering on that promise.”
Joined by American Water Polo Coach Robbie Bova, the three Marine veterans will fly to Kabul next week and hold tryouts for 125 Afghan women, select and begin training a core group of 30 promising athletes, and — if all goes to plan — establish a network of teams throughout Afghanistan while building a team that can compete internationally by 2020.
The group faces a variety of challenges. Kabul only has one pool that women can use, and the country is still very dangerous, especially for women wanting to engage in any kind of sport.
“During my deployments in Afghanistan, I have witnessed sport played out on the international stage serve as a tremendous rally point for the people of all factions and ethnicities – a desperately needed sign of hope and pride,” Dan Huvane, a U.S. Marine reserve lieutenant colonel and communications consultant who is participating in the project, said in a statement. “Alongside those stories, I have seen the women of Afghanistan defy systematic oppression and outright death threats in order to be bold pioneers.”
To fund travel for coaches, provide uniforms and equipment, and help with weekly training sessions, the team established an IndieGoGo campaign. You can check it out here.
Airborne soldiers have some particular fears that most other troops don’t have to worry about. Total malfunctions of the parachute like a “cigarette roll” can cause them to hurtle into the earth at terminal velocity while mid-air entanglements can leave them with broken bones or worse.
One of their most unique fears is that of becoming a “towed jumper,” something that happens when their chute fails to separate from their static line and they are literally towed behind the plane like the pet dog from “National Lampoon’s Vacation.”
(Younger readers should not Google that reference. Instead, just imagine the worst possible version of parasailing.)
For Army Ranger Spc. Brian Hanson, the nightmare became a reality during a training jump under the stars of Fort Benning, Georgia. He and the rest of his company were under strict orders to conduct the perfect nighttime jump, to include not losing any gear.
But Hanson’s chute failed to separate and he became a towed jumper.
This left Hanson flying through the night sky as he fervently tried to keep all of his gear as close as possible despite the wind rushing over him while he dangled 1,200 feet above the surface of Benning. Watch the video above to learn how he made peace with these developments as well as the moment when he realized he was truly screwed.
Vice Adm. Mike Shoemaker, Commander, Naval Air Forces, is visiting T-45C training commands across the fleet April 6 to April 8 to address recent concerns.
Shoemaker is visiting Naval Air Station Kingsville, Texas, NAS Pensacola, Florida, and NAS Meridian, Mississippi, to talk face-to-face with instructor pilots and student pilots about their physiological episodes experienced in the cockpits of T-45C training aircraft. Shoemaker will listen to their concerns and communicate the ongoing efforts to tackle the problem.
On Friday, March 31, roughly 40 percent of flights in the T-45C training commands in Meridian, Pensacola and Kingsville were canceled because of the operational risk management issues raised by local IPs.
“Our instructor pilots were implementing a risk management practice we require they do prior to all flights,” Shoemaker explained. “It was important for me to come talk with my aviation team members and hear their concerns as we work this challenging issue together. We ask a lot of our pilots, and we owe it to them to ensure they understand we are doing everything we can to fix this problem and that they have access to top leadership.”
“This will remain our top safety priority until we fully understand all causal factors and have eliminated PEs as a risk to our flight operations,” Shoemaker continued. “The NAE [Naval Aviation Enterprise] has been directed to expedite solutions for PEs and to prioritize those efforts.”
Engaging with aircrew face-to-face at their home stations is only the most recent in a series of activities undertaken by CNAF and the NAE to deal with PEs. Even before the concerns were raised by the pilots, CNATRA had scheduled expert engineers to visit the training sites and educate them on the ongoing efforts to fix the machines, and to enable the engineers to hear pilot feedback directly. The Navy implemented an operational pause for its T-45C fleet Wednesday at the direction of Shoemaker in response to the T-45C pilots’ feedback about the potential for PEs. That operational pause has been extended to allow Naval Aviation Leadership time to review the engineering data and developing a path forward for the fleet that will ensure the safety of its aircrew.
“We have the right team of NAVAIR [Naval Air Systems Command] program managers, engineers and maintenance experts in conjunction with Type Commander Staffs, medical and physiological experts immersed in this effort working with the same sense of urgency to determine the root causes of PEs,” Shoemaker said.” To tackle this as effectively as possible, we are using an ‘unconstrained resources’ approach to the problem, meaning we have not been nor will we be limited by money or manpower as we diligently work toward solutions.”
As far back as 2010, NAVAIR established a Physiological Episode Team (PET) to collect data, investigate occurrences of PEs and coordinates with technical experts to identify and develop solutions based on root cause determinations. Naval Aviation has provided training and encouraged reporting of PEs since the development of the PET.
Finding the causes is a challenging problem on a complex, highly sophisticated platform. Though the number of components and configurations of the aircraft make finding “smoking guns” difficult, Naval Aviation has continued to implement multiple lines of effort across over the past couple years to mitigate the risks. Naval Aviation requires pilots train in the simulator using a Reduced Oxygen Breathing Device to improve aircrew recognition of physiological symptoms related to hypoxia.
The improved On Board Oxygen Generating System material, known sieve bed (filter) material has been installed in all T-45, and new oxygen monitors are being fielded as part of an operational test in Pensacola. Sorbent tubes, devices that detect contaminants in breathing gas air, are also are being provided to pilots and, as soon as our inventory supports, will be required on every flight to help ensure we capture any PE event that might yield clues to the contamination agent.
Other mitigating efforts in place include: refinements to aircrew procedures; improved maintenance practices and procedures for better system reliability; releasing Air Frame Bulletin (AFB)-794, which changes inspection intervals to improve the rate of component failure detection; procurement of a cockpit pressurization warning system.
In one of his many previous messages to the Force, Shoemaker explained that, “Our aviators must be able to operate with confidence in our platforms and in their ability to safely execute their mission. To help ensure we eliminate this risk, collection and reporting of event data and your continued leadership is critical.”