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Mars: The matchless warship that sank during its first battle

Jacob_Hägg,_Makalös_eller_Mars_(1909) Photo: Wikipedia


With irony equal to that of the unsinkable Titanic drowning on her maiden voyage, the Swedish warship, Mars, called “the Matchless,” was set afire, her armament exploded, and she sank during her first major sea battle. Lost for nearly 450 years, Marshas recently been found in the Baltic Sea, and archaeologists are giddy with the discovery.

In the 1560s, several of the Baltic states were at war, with Sweden on one side, and Denmark and Lübeck (of the Hanseatic League in Northern Germany) on the other. Continuing a practice begun years earlier, Sweden’s king, Erik XIV, funded his campaigns, at least in part, by confiscating Catholic church treasures.

Naval powerhouses, the warring states required strong fleets, and there was a push toward ever-larger ships. In 1563, as part of his drive to have the best navy, Erik commissioned the Mars, one of Europe’s first large, three-masted ships.

At 48 meters long and 13 wide, and displacing 1,800 tons, the Mars held an impressive array of armament. Spanning three decks as well as the crow’s nest, this included 53 canons and 50 smaller guns, an arsenal of incendiary grenades, round balls, chain shots and fire-balls. The ship also boasted a crew of nearly 700. Of course, there was a massive amount of gunpowder on board, as well, for use in the canons and other weapons.

According to legend, to make many of these canons, bells were taken from the Catholic churches in Swedish controlled lands and melted down and forged into the ship’s guns.

Regardless of the truth of that, this ship was launched in 1564 and shortly thereafter, on May 29, 1564, the Mars embarked on its first and only sea battle at Öland. After two days of fighting, the Mars had earned its nickname, the Matchless, as it led the fight against Denmark and Lübeck, who lost 16 ships and approximately 7,000 men in the battle.

The enemy rallied, and on May 31, 1564,  so many fireballs were lobbed onto the Mars’deck that it was soon disabled sufficiently for the German’s to board. Of course, beyond the 350 or so sailors aboard the Mars, anyone boarding it also had to contend with its full compliment of about 450 soldiers. Unfortunately for both sides, a short time after being boarded, the Matchless’ gunpowder stores ignited, creating a heat so intense it reportedly caused the warship’s loaded canons to explode. The result of all of this was enough damage to the most powerful ship in the world that it sank, killing between 800 and 900 Swedish and Lübeckian sailors in the process.

Slaget_vid_Öland_Claus_Møinichen_1686-Kronan The warship Kronan explodes during a battle. Kronan was destroyed by a fire similar to the one that claimed the Mars. Photo: Wikipedia

Slipping into the Baltic in 75 meters of cold water, many Catholics at the time blamed the disaster on the supposed theft and re-use of the church bells.

For over four centuries, the Mars remained lost.

At between 50N and 65N latitude, the Baltic Sea is cold, and at the place where the Marssank, just east of Öland Island, the currents are slow, the water brackish but with little sediment, and the mollusk typically responsible for rapidly destroying shipwrecks, the shipworm, is absent. The combination of all these factors is that, despite its long slumber in Davy Jones’ locker, the Mars is remarkably well preserved.

Discovered in 2011 by a group of divers, given the age and fragility of the Mars and its remaining contents, archaeologists have been hesitant to raise the ship. Rather, they have focused on photographing and digitally scanning the wreck with an eye toward producing 3-D reconstructions that are accurate to within 2 millimeters.

The Mars has been called by some “the missing link” because it marked the shift in Europe toward the massive, much more well-known warships of the 17th century; evidence for this is seen in the fact that, shortly after meeting the Mars at Öland, the Danes and Lübeckians were building their own massive, heavily armed ships, including the 2,100 displacement ton Fortuna and Grosse Adler (1567), and the nearly 3,500 displacement ton,St. Oluf (1573).

Note, however, that these Matchless champions of the time are tiny by today’s standards. In fact, the largest warships on the sea today, the United States Nimitz class super carriers, are over 330 meters long and 40 meters wide, sport flight decks of just over 75 meters, and displace approximately 97,000 tons when fully loaded.

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US Army denies Ranger School was ‘fixed’ so women could pass

Mars: The matchless warship that sank during its first battle
Photo Credit: US Army


The U.S. Army issued a blistering denial late Friday that the recent Ranger school course was “fixed” to allow women to pass and earn the coveted Ranger tab.

In a statement, Brig. Gen. Malcom B. Frost, the Army’s chief of public affairs, said that a People Magazine article charging that Army Capt. Kristen Griest and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver were given special treatment was “flat-out wrong” and “pure fiction.”

The article by Susan Katz Keating was headlined: “Was It Fixed? Army General Told Subordinates: ‘A Woman Will Graduate Ranger School,’ Sources Say.”

The magazine’s report went on to cite the repercussions of the unnamed general’s influence on subordinates at Fort Benning, Ga., involved in conducting the first Ranger school course open to women that began earlier this year.

‘”It had a ripple effect'” at Fort Benning, where Ranger School is based, says a source with knowledge of events at the sprawling Georgia Army post,” the magazine article said.

“Even though this was supposed to be just an assessment, everyone knew. The results were planned in advance,” the article quoted the source as saying.

In his statement for the Army, Frost ran through a list of allegations in the article that he said were untrue.

Mars: The matchless warship that sank during its first battle

“The latest attack on the integrity of the United States Army by People magazine’s Susan Keating is more than inaccurate, it is pure fiction,” Frost said. “She claimed that women were allowed to repeat a Ranger training class until they passed, while men were held to a strict pass/fail standard. That is false.”

Traditionally, only 25 percent make it through Ranger School without having to recycle, or repeat, one or more phases, according to leaders from the Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade.

“She charged that women regularly practiced on Ranger School’s land navigation course while men saw it for the first time when they went to the school. Again, false.”

“She accused an Army general of calling female candidates together to tell them they could not quit the course. Yet again, false.”

In Twitter responses, Keating defended her article and said that “Both Big Army and Benning refused repeated requests to speak to Gen. Miller (Maj. Gen. Scott Miller, commander of the Army’s Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning.)”

“More importantly, they refused my requests to speak to Ranger Instructors, cadre, and medics alone and without fear of retribution,” Keating said.

Last week, Rep. Steve Russell, R-Okla., a retired Army lieutenant colonel and Ranger qualified veteran of Iraq, requested documentation from Army Secretary John McHugh on whether the two women who passed Ranger school “got special treatment and played by different rules.”

Sue Fulton, one of the first women to graduate from West Point, quickly filed a Freedom of Information request on behalf of a group of women West Point graduates asking to view Russell’s own Ranger school records.

Mars: The matchless warship that sank during its first battle

The debate on the Ranger school standards came as the services were to report to the Pentagon by Sept. 30 on whether they would seek “exceptions” for certain billets to the 2013 directive issued by then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to open up all Military Occupational Specialties to women who can qualify.

In an op-ed Saturday for the Washington Post under the headline: “Combat-Ready Is Not About Gender,” Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said that MOSs should be open to anyone who can meet the standards, regardless of gender.

He questioned the methodology of Marine Corps studies and tests showing that women were more prone to be injured, and that mixed units failed to perform as well as all-male units.

“Through the extensive work the Corps has done, it is clear that there are justifications for excluding someone who does not meet the standards for a position,” Mabus said. “There are none that justify excluding someone who meets all of the standards because that person is a woman,” he said.

Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@military.com.

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This article originally appeared at Military.com Copyright 2015. Follow Military.com on Twitter.

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Satellites show N. Korea is amping up nuke program

In a revelation that has strategic implications for Japan, analysis of satellite imagery shows the existence of North Korea’s second submersible test-stand barge — a sign that the nuclear-armed country could be ramping up development of its submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) program.


According to the analysis released May 1 by the 38 North website, a project of the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University, the barge was identified in commercial satellite images taken April 19 of the Nampo Naval Shipyard on the country’s west coast.

The isolated nation already operates one barge on the country’s eastern coast, at the Sinpo South Shipyard, from where it has conducted at least four — but as many as six — test-launches of the Pukguksong-1, or KN-11, SLBM since 2014, when that barge was first seen.

Mars: The matchless warship that sank during its first battle

According to the report, the newly detected barge appears to be identical in size and layout to the original. Such barges are used by navies to test underwater new and modified submarine missile launch tubes and systems, and to conduct initial test-launches before the systems are installed in submarines.

“The discovery of a second missile test barge may have a number of implications for the future of North Korea’s SLBM program that appears to be an important priority for Kim Jong Un,” the report said, adding that the timing of the barges’ acquisition could help reveal the direction of the program.

Also read: The tension between North Korea and the US is not good

If both were acquired at the same time, the report said, it would imply that Pyongyang is planning a more extensive test program than it has conducted so far.

It is unclear if the new barge was acquired or manufactured by the North, but since there have been no indications of barge construction work at the North’s west coast naval shipyards over the past year, that suggests the vessel had been acquired from abroad.

“Since the second barge seems to have been acquired three years after the first, this could mean that North Korea is planning to accelerate its SLBM test program to include a west coast component or develop new SLBM designs, or that it may deploy a ballistic missile submarine with the West Sea Fleet,” the report said. “None of these possibilities are mutually exclusive.”

The Pukguksong-1 would give the reclusive state a credible sea-based nuclear deterrent since the threat of a retaliatory second-strike would throw a wrench into any scenario where the U.S., South Korea, and Japan attempt to preemptively destroy North Korea’s nuclear capabilities.

Related: US pushes ‘enhanced deterrence’ approach to North Korea

According to David Wright of the Union of Concerned Scientists, the Pukguksong-1 has a maximum range similar to the North’s Rodong missile of about 1,250 km, allowing it reach most or all of Japan from a submarine located near the Korean coast.

However, the North’s submarine fleet remains limited in range as it is undergoing a modernization revamp, and would currently be easily detectable by superior U.S., South Korean, and Japanese anti-submarine warfare technology.

Experts say any scenario involving an attempted firing of a Pukguksong-1 from the Sea of Japan by submarine would effectively be a suicide mission for the North.

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7 awesome airpower quotes from General Curtis LeMay

The most powerful weapon in the United States’ Cold War arsenal was likely not its hundreds of nuclear warheads — it was the man whose job it was to deploy them.


There are few men in Air Force history as noteworthy and controversial as Gen. Curtis LeMay. He earned the nickname “Iron Ass” for his stubbornness and shortness once his mind was made up. When he did speak, the stout, cigar-chomping, stone-faced general had a reputation for his outspoken manner. Though not always remembered fondly by history, some of his image as a shoot-first-ask-questions-later, caveman may be undeserved.

He was the youngest general to wear a fourth star. When he retired, he had served as a four-star general longer than anyone in American history; a big deal for a general who didn’t go to a service academy, instead graduating from Ohio State. At the height of his career, he was the symbol of American military might. A bit more about one of the U.S. Air Force’s most influential founding generals can be gleaned through his more noteworthy quotes.

1. “We should always avoid armed conflict. But if you get in it, get in with both feet and get out as soon as possible.”

Mars: The matchless warship that sank during its first battle

Despite his gruff, cold image, every operational goal, in LeMay’s mind, was a means to an end. Ending a war quickly meant saving American lives. During World War II, LeMay was responsible for the firebombing of Japanese cities which completely destroyed most major Japanese cities. It was his command that dropped the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Official estimates from the United States Strategic Bombing Survey determined at least 330,000 killed, 476,000 injured, 8.5 million people made homeless, and 2.5 million buildings destroyed. Almost half of 64 Japanese mainland cities were completely destroyed. The destruction was not lost on LeMay. He acknowledged that if the Japanese had won the war, he would have been tried as a war criminal.

Later he would reveal that dropping the atomic bombs was totally unnecessary, given the level of destruction he had already waged on Japan. He said he only dropped them because of President Truman’s authority. After the war, Japan’s former Prime Minister Fumimaro Konoe confirmed that the decision to surrender was based on the prolonged bombing wrought by General LeMay’s Marianas-based air forces. LeMay took command of the Marianas in January 1945. The Japanese surrendered in August of 1945.

2. “War is never cost-effective. People are killed. To them, the war is total.”

Mars: The matchless warship that sank during its first battle

He was known as a tough commander, but a fair one. He earned a reputation for being stone-faced, uncaring about the needs of his men but LeMay actually suffered from Bell’s Palsey, which literally immobilized his face. When a Harvard study found Army pilots were aborting bombing missions over Germany out of fear, LeMay personally led every bombing sortie and ordered any crew who didn’t go over the target be court martialed.

The gruff general took combat losses to heart, knowing he’d sent men to die, but firmly believed if the death of one American could save a thousand, then it was the right decision to make. In The Fog of War, a documentary about the life of former Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, McNamara quoted LeMay: “Why are we here? Why are we here? You lost your wingman. It hurts me as much as it does you. I sent him there. And I’ve been there, I know what it is.  But you lost one wingman, and we destroyed Tokyo.”

3. “Successful offense brings victory. Successful defense can now only lessen defeat.”

Mars: The matchless warship that sank during its first battle

This is an “extremely belligerent, many thought brutal” man who believed in the power, threat and use of nuclear weapons. He wanted SAC to be able to deliver every nuclear warhead in the American arsenal on the Soviet Union at once. This military rationale earned LeMay the image of a cold man who was obsessed with starting any kind of war with the Russians.

It was Gen. LeMay who inspired the character of Buck Turgidson in “Doctor Strangelove,” willing to pay for a victory over the Soviet Union with unlimited American lives. As a bomber pilot, LeMay’s point of view was one of overwhelming force. At its height, the SAC had 1600 bombers and 800 missiles in its arsenal.

4. “We can haul anything.”

Mars: The matchless warship that sank during its first battle

As the commander of U.S. Air Forces In Europe, LeMay was asked by the Commander of all U.S. forces in Europe, Lucius D. Clay, about the feasibility of an airlift (later known as the “Berlin Airlift”) to break the Soviet blockade of West Berlin.

Gen. Clay asked LeMay “Can you haul coal?” Even though he preferred the more aggressive response of an armed convoy backed by bomber aircraft, Gen. LeMay enthusiastically began the 5,000 ton per day airlift operation within weeks. He was so instrumental in its startup, it was initially called “The LeMay Coal and Feed Delivery Service.” LeMay’s response to Clay’s hauling question represents the can-do attitude and spirit of the U.S. Air Force.

5. “If I see that the Russians are amassing their planes for an attack, I’m going to knock the shit out of them before they take off the ground.”

Mars: The matchless warship that sank during its first battle

Robert McNamara, who served under LeMay during WWII and over him as Secretary of Defense during the Kennedy Administration, called him the finest combat commander there ever was. While he was convinced a war would happen at some point and believe the U.S. should fight it on the grounds most favorable to it, LeMay’s military upbringing taught him that true readiness required constant training and this readiness was to be in place when the civilian leaders of the military deemed it necessary to use them.

His solution was to create a force so powerful no one would dare sneak an attack. He would always advocate for a heavy military response, most notably during the thirteen-day Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, but always loyally and diligently carried out the orders and policy of his civilian superiors.

6. “To err is human, to forgive is not SAC policy”

Mars: The matchless warship that sank during its first battle

When he took control of Strategic Air Command in 1948, most of his bomber crews couldn’t hit Ohio with a mock atomic bomb during exercises. The SAC under Gen. LeMay became one of the most effective military units in the world on the basis of relentless training.

One officer was quoted as saying: “Training in SAC is harder than war … it might be a relief to go to war.” Within two years, the procedures, checklists, and training implemented by General LeMay gave SAC one of the best safety records in U.S. military history.

7. “The price of failure might be paid with national survival.”

Mars: The matchless warship that sank during its first battle

After retiring from the Air Force in 1965, LeMay ran with George Wallace on his segregationist party ticket. It led many to conclude that LeMay agreed with Wallace’s racial views. In truth, LeMay agreed to run with Wallace because he believed in a hard line against Communism, and an end to the War in Vietnam, and didn’t see any of the potential candidates doing these things.

LeMay was no racist. During his tenure as a commander in the Air Force, he had actually promoted the integration of units well before Truman’s executive order. Protesters would attend Wallace rallies shouting “Sieg heil” at the man who designed the bombing plans that crippled Nazi war production, even personally leading the most dangerous missions.

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This was the world’s longest-serving modern military rifle in active service

In 2015, the standard issue service rifle for the Canadian Rangers got a much-needed upgrade. They were finally able to put away their well-worn Lee-Enfield No. 4 rifles, which were first issued in 1941.


Mars: The matchless warship that sank during its first battle
A Canadian Ranger protecting mining facilities. (Department of National Defence photo)

Canada’s Rangers are a reserve unit that operates in the Canadian Arctic. It’s made up of 5,000 of Canada’s finest outdoorsmen and features a roster of heavily Inuit and other First Nations peoples. They conduct sovereignty patrols and maintain early warning system sites, giving Canada a military presence in the increasingly militarized (but still desolate) Arctic areas.

Mars: The matchless warship that sank during its first battle
Star Marualik, a Canadian Ranger with 1 Canadian Ranger Patrol Group coaches a soldier from the Arctic Response Company Group’s 2 Platoon during range day in Resolute Bay, Nunavut, for Operation Nanook 10 on Aug. 15, 2010. Operation NANOOK is one of three major recurring sovereignty operations conducted annually by the Canadian Forces (CF) in Canada’s Arctic. (Department of National Defence photo)

Related: How the US is losing the war in the Arctic before it even begins

Naturally, the wilderness areas of the frozen north aren’t the safest places in which to be casually hiking around. That’s why the Canadian Rangers exist.

In their day-to-day mission, they need a service weapon that can handle temperatures below -58 degrees, resist saltwater corrosion, and still take down a polar bear from 300 meters.

Mars: The matchless warship that sank during its first battle
(Radio Canada photo by Levon Sevunts)

That’s why it took 68 years to replace their Lee-Enfields.

First formed in 1947, the Canadian Rangers’ intimate knowledge of their home turf allows them to act as guides and trainers for special forces units. During World War II, the Lee-Enfield was the standard issue rifle for British and Commonwealth troops. After the war, the abundance of the rifles made it easy to equip new units with the rifle.

Other firearms can make similar claims. The U.S. Marines still use the M1911 pistol. Taliban weapons caches have been found to contain Lee-Enfield bolt action rifles from 1915. Mosin-Nagant rifles used by insurgents from Chechnya to Syria to Iraq were made by the Tsarist Russian Empire in 1882. But the Lee-Enfield No. 4 was the longest-serving modern military rifle issued by a government for its armed forces.

See Also: Rebels in Syria fought with rare, expensive Nazi-made rifles

Now that the Lee-Enfield No.4 has been replaced, they will be offered to the public for sale, donated to museums, and individual Rangers will even be allowed to purchase their service rifle.

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American and Kurdish fighters advance on the ISIS capital in Syria

Photos released this week by Agence France-Presse feature American special operations troops wearing the patches of the Syrian Kurdish YPG. The YPG, or People’s Protection Units, are part of the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces who are rapidly advancing toward the de facto ISIS capital at Raqqa.


That campaign was launched last week from the Kurdish stronghold at Ayn Issa, some 35 miles from Raqqa. That’s also where the special operators were photographed.

 

While friendly forces’ proximity to Raqqa should delight those fighting against ISIS, one ally is not at all pleased with the photos. The Turkish government sees the YPG as the Syrian arm of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). The PKK is an internationally-recognized terrorist organization and has been fighting the Turkish government for independence since 1984.

While the United States recognizes the PKK as a terror group, it disputes Turkey’s claim that the YPG is a Syrian extension. Still, Tukish President Erdoğan was probably surprised to see photos of U.S. forces wearing the YPG insignia. The U.S. spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve wrote it off as esprit de corps:

 

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told the BBC the U.S. is “two-faced” and said the patches were “unacceptable.”

The U.S. military has 300 troops in Syria in an advisory capacity, 50 of those are special operations forces.

On June 1st, the SDF seized nine villages in an effort to cut off ISIS-held territory from Turkey, closing the last pathway for foreign fighters traveling to fight for the terror group.

 

 

In the meantime, the White House maintains that American special operations troops are not in direct combat.

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Here’s a friendly reminder of how big the A-10 Warthog’s gun is

Mars: The matchless warship that sank during its first battle
The GAU-8/A Avenger Gatling gun next to a VW Type 1. Removing an installed GAU-8 from an A-10 requires first installing a jack under the aircraft’s tail to prevent it from tipping, as the cannon makes up most of the aircraft’s forward weight. | US Air Force photo


On Thursday, we saw for the first time the brand new F-35B/C variant’s GAU-22 25 mm gun pod firing, and as impressive as it was, it’s not even close to the best gun on the force.

What you’re looking at above is the biggest asset for, and the biggest argument against, the A-10 Warthog. You can plainly see how the massive, 4,000 pound (including ammo), almost 20-foot long GAU-8 Avenger dwarfs the classic VW bug next to it. The firepower of that gun has become the stuff of legend over the last decades.

But that’s the problem; this picture was taken in the late 1970s. As big and awesome as this gun is, much has changed in aviation, in the battle space, and in the world since it was first fielded. Case in point — you just don’t see VW bugs on the road anymore.

So while the A-10 still holds the title of best and biggest gun, the close air support of the future makes different demands on a weapons system. Even though it may still have useful days ahead, the A-10’s days at the top are numbered.

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The Navy relies on these awesome missiles to stop China’s ‘carrier killer’

China’s Dong Feng-21D medium-range ballistic missile — otherwise known as the “carrier killer” — looms large in people’s minds as a weapon of ultimate destruction.


It’s designed to do exactly what the name implies: kill American and allied carriers, sending thousands of sailors to a watery grave.

But the Navy has been working to protect carriers from enemy ballistic missiles for decades. Here are three missiles that could stop a DF-21D in its tracks.

1. The Standard Missile-3

Mars: The matchless warship that sank during its first battle
The Japanese navy ship JS KONGO launches a Standard Missile-3 against a ballistic missile during a Dec. 18, 2007, test. (Photo:

The SM-3 is the Navy’s preferred tool for defeating an incoming ballistic missile. The system is deployed on Aegis ballistic missile defense ships in the U.S. Navy and KONGO-class destroyers in Japan’s navy.

These missiles primarily engage their targets in space at the height of the ballistic missile’s flight path. To hit a DF-21D, the Aegis system will need to be on or near the projected flight path. Keeping carriers safe may require keeping an Aegis ship equipped with SM-3s permanently co-located with the carrier.

2. Standard Missile-6

Mars: The matchless warship that sank during its first battle
The Arleigh-Burke class guided-missile destroyer USS John Paul Jones (DDG 53) launches a Standard Missile 6 (SM-6) during a live-fire test of the ship’s aegis weapons system. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

The SM-6 is really designed to take down cruise missiles and perhaps the occasional jet, but the Navy has been testing its capability when pressed into an anti-ballistic missile role. In a Dec. 14 test, an updated SM-6 fired from an aegis destroyer successfully struck down a medium-range ballistic missile.

These are much cheaper than SM-3s, but the SM-6 is a final, last-ditch defense while the SM-3 is still the first call. That’s because SM-6s engage targeted missiles during their terminal phase, the final moments before the incoming missile kills its target. If the SM-6 misses, there isn’t time to do anything else.

3. The Army’s THAAD missile

Mars: The matchless warship that sank during its first battle
A Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) interceptor is launched from a THAAD battery located on Wake Island during Flight Test Operational (FTO)-02 Event 2a, conducted Nov. 1, 2015. (Photo: Missile Defense Agency Ben Listerman)

The Terminal, High-Altitude Air Defense missile is a radar-guided, hit-to-kill missile that engages ballistic missiles either in the edge of space or soon after they enter the atmosphere. It might be capable of engaging a DF-21D after it begins its descent to the carrier.

The system is rapidly deployable and the Army has already stood up five air defense artillery batteries with the new missiles. One battery is deployed to Guam and plans are ongoing to deploy another to South Korea.

The main problem for the Navy when using THAAD to protect its ships is that the THAAD system is deployed on trucks, not ships. It’s hard to keep land-based missiles in position to protect ships sailing on the open sea.

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ISIS came this close to making a radioactive ‘dirty bomb’

The Islamic State came dangerously close to obtaining a radioactive dirty bomb, in fact the ingredients were readily available to the group for more than three years, but an apparent lack of knowledge or know-how prevented a disaster.


ISIS gained a military treasure trove after its seizure of Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, in June 2014. Everything from tanks to guns were spoils of war, many of them American-made. But the most valuable prize the group unwittingly obtained were two supplies of cobalt-60, a highly radioactive substance used in cancer treatment which is also perfect for a dirty bomb, according to a report by Joby Warrick of The Washington Post published on July 22.

ISIS apparently stumbled upon the radioactive substance possibly without even know what they had. It was locked away in a storage room on a college campus contained in heavy shielding when ISIS took over the area. When Iraq Security Forces retook the campus earlier this year, they found the cobalt-60 still in storage, providing a major relief to security officials and experts who had been tracking its location.

Mars: The matchless warship that sank during its first battle
Raw cobalt. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

“We are very relieved that these two, older albeit still dangerous, cobalt-60 sources were not found and used by Daesh. They were recovered intact recently,” said the Institute for Science and International Security, a think tank which compiled a dossier on the substance’s whereabouts beginning in 2015, in a report published July 22.

The Institute provided its final report to the US and other “friendly governments,” and ultimately decided not to publish the report at the time out of concern that ISIS could use it.

A dirty bomb is essentially a terrorist’s ideal weapon. It uses a traditional explosive to spread radioactive material across a given area, in an attempt to incite panic and chaos. It is not necessarily difficult to obtain the ingredients for a dirty bomb; highly radioactive material is used in a multitude of civilian applications. A terrorist would need only to gain a suitable amount of material, combine it with a traditional explosive, and unleash it on a target area. While the death toll from the detonation of such a device would likely be low, it is the resulting fear among the targeted population that worries officials.

Mars: The matchless warship that sank during its first battle
A 20th Civil Engineer Squadron firefighter engages a simulated radioactive attack. USAF photo by Senior Airman Matt Davis

Thankfully, ISIS either was not able or aware of the cobalt-60 in Mosul.

“They are not that smart,” a health ministry official told WaPo.

It is possible that ISIS was aware of the caches of cobalt-60, but did not have the know-how to remove it from its casing without exposing its own forces to the deadly radiation. It is equally possible they simply had no idea what they had. The Institute also speculated that “courageous hospital and university staff” may have worked to keep the cobalt-60 a secret from the terror group.

The cobalt-60 is not the first time ISIS has had a chance at a weapon of mass destruction. US forces conducted air strikes against two chemical weapons factories in Mosul in March 2016. Officials had been concerned that the group was possibly stolen using chemistry equipment from Mosul University, though it is unclear if that equipment was being used in the weapons factories. Despite the strikes, ISIS is known to have used chlorine and mustard gas against its enemies in Iraq and Syria.

Mars: The matchless warship that sank during its first battle
Navy photo by Chief Photographer’s Mate Johnny Bivera

ISIS’s failure to use the cobalt-60 was fortunate, but there are lessons to be learned.

“This case should lead to reinvigorated efforts to inventory and adequately protect radioactive sources throughout the world. However, as this case highlights, improving physical protection may not be enough,” said the Institute’s report. “It is also important for the United States and its allies to accelerate programs to identify, consolidate, and remove dangerous radioactive sources, particularly in regions of tension or where terrorists are active.”

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Israel looking to buy most advanced version of F-15 Eagle

The Israeli Air Force (IAF) has Boeing’s latest and most powerful version of the highly successful F-15 Eagle air superiority fighter on its wishlist, according to the Jerusalem Post.


Funding for this potential purchase will come directly from the new Memorandum of Understanding reached with Israel in September, 2016 that spans 2019 to 2028, allotting $3.8 billion USD  every year for that period. Signed under the Obama administration, this new memorandum which begins when the old one (worth $30 billion over its lifetime versus the new one which is worth $38 billion) expires in 2018, maintains provisions that allow for funding to be used specifically for the acquisition of F-35 Lightning II fifth generation stealth strike fighters, and to update the Israeli Air Force’s slowly-aging fleet.

Related: Watch the F-22 take on 5 F-15s — and dominate

Israel aims to have two squadrons of F-35I Adirs (its own designation for the Lightning II) by 2022, but the Adir is aimed more so towards eventually replacing the F-16C/D/I Barak-2020/Sufa multirole fighters which have formed the backbone of the IAF since the 1980s.

Mars: The matchless warship that sank during its first battle
A digital rendering of an F-15 Advanced. (Boeing image, 2017)

There are no planned successors to the F-15 Eagles and F-15I Ra’ams (essentially modified F-15E Strike Eagles) that the IAF currently operates in the air superiority and strike roles, however, and that’s probably where the push for newer, updated F-15s come in. The War Zone reported last February that the IAF was slated to receive 10 F-15Ds (two-seater Eagles) from the United States, all of which were retired US Air Force fleet types.

At the time, Israel had taken delivery of eight of those jets in the deal. But older fighters with significant usage in their airframes are definitely no match for newer freshly-built fighters.

Mars: The matchless warship that sank during its first battle
(Boeing photograph, 2017)

What this could possibly mean is Boeing finding its first customer for the most advanced version of its Strike Eagle, based off the F-15B/D two-seater model. Marketed as the F-15 Advanced (very original and creative name, as you can see), it comes with a number of upgrades and new features that the Strike Eagle didn’t originally come with. This includes a Raytheon AN/APG-63(V)3 active synthetically scanned array (AESA) radar, a long-range infrared search and track (IRST) sensor system, allowing for a “first sigh-first shot-first kill” capability, when squaring off against enemy fighters, and a revamped cockpit with large area displays (LAD) with helmet cueing system integration.

Also read: This F-15E scored an air-to-air kill by dropping a bomb on an Iraqi helicopter

Also included in the F-15 Advanced is a fly-by-wire flight control system (FCS), which completely replaces the original electro-mechanical FCS which used to be the standard for all F-15s McDonnell Douglas (and later, Boeing) produced. Conformal Fuel Tanks (CFTs), known as FAST Packs on F-15Es, would be a part of the package, extending operational range without taking up vital space on weapons stations under the wings or belly of the aircraft. “Quad Packs”, attached to said weapons stations, would also allow for expanded weaponry carriage.

Mars: The matchless warship that sank during its first battle
Youtube Screenshot from Boeing video

Boeing previously offered Israel, along with a number of other customers, the F-15SE Silent Eagle, an export-only stealth version of the F-15E with internal weapons carriage and a considerably-reduced radar profile, though not much interested was generated. Eventually, this led Boeing to shelve the project and invest more time in the F-15 Advanced, while incorporating technologies and hardware used in the SE into the Advanced.

Boeing also developed the 2040C upgrade package, which it proposed to the US Air Force last year, though 2040C is meant to be an upgrade for existing F-15Cs, adding in all of the hardware mentioned above as well as the ability to sling 16 air-to-air missiles, virtually doubling the Eagle’s combat payload. There’s no word on whether or not Boeing will offer the 2040C package to Israel as well, for its single-seater F-15s still in service with the IAF.

Below is a commercial Boeing produced to market the 2040C, just last year. It’s pretty badass.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xGY2JBuSCU0

Israel’s defense minister, Avigdor Liberman, will more than likely bring up the subject of buying new F-15s when meeting with US defense officials this week, when he visits Washington DC. The F-15 production line recently just got a lifespan boost from Qatar in the form of an order for 70+ Eagles.

A further order from Israel would keep the line active even longer. Additionally, also using funding from the aforementioned Memorandum of Understanding, the Israeli Defense Ministry has also expressed interest in buying new helicopters to replace its Sikorsky CH-53 Yas’urs (Sea Stallions) heavy-lift helicopters, the oldest of which are just a few years away from reaching 50 years of continuous service with the IAF. The US government would probably put the CH-53K King Stallion, the successor to the Sea Stallion, on the table to replace the Yas’ur.

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This is why the US could leave Al Udeid

The sudden move by a coalition of Arab states, led by Saudi Arabia, in early June to cut ties with and blockade Qatar perplexed US military officials and policymakers.


The Saudi-led coalition has made a series of demands of Doha for dropping the blockade, to which Qatar has shown no sign of assenting.

The spike in tension concerns US officials because of the massive Al Udeid military base in Qatar, where some 11,000 US personnel are stationed and from which US Central Command has run much of the war against ISIS in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

According to President Donald Trump, who has publicly backed the Saudi-led effort and criticized Qatar, relocating from Al Udeid would be no significant obstacle.

Mars: The matchless warship that sank during its first battle
President Donald Trump and King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia sign a Joint Strategic Vision Statement. (Photo from The White House Flickr.)

Trump was asked about the effect of the crisis on Al Udeid during an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network that aired on July 12.

“If we ever have to leave” Al Udeid, he said, “we would have 10 countries willing to build us another one, believe me, and they will pay for it.”

Trump did try to downplay potential conflict with Doha, saying, “We are going to have a good relationship with Qatar. We are not going to have problems with the military base.” But, he said, “if we ever needed another military base, you have other countries that would gladly build it.”

When asked this week about the situation around Al Udeid, Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis said the US has weighed other basing options as part of what he described has standard operational planning.

Mars: The matchless warship that sank during its first battle
The sun sets over Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar. (USAF photo by Tech. Sgt. Amy M. Lovgren)

“I think any time you are doing military operations, you are always thinking ahead to Plan Bs and Plan Cs … we would be remiss if we didn’t do that,” he said, according to Military Times. “In this case, we have confidence that our base in Qatar is still able to be used.”

The break between Qatar and its neighbors was a departure from the relative stability seen in that part of the Middle East. The Saudi-led bloc’s initial condemnation of Doha came days after Trump left a friendly meeting with Arab leaders in Saudi Arabia, and the US president appears to have thrown his weight behind Riyadh’s efforts — accusing Qatar of backing terrorism on several occasions, including during his remarks to CBN.

Trump has also joined with the Saudi-led coalition in rebuking Iran for what they see as Tehran’s meddling in the region. But the the conflict with Qatar appears to have strengthened Tehran’s position.

And since Al Udeid would be the jumping-off point for any anti-Iran operations in the region, deteriorating relations between Qatar and its neighbors and the US could affect their plans to contain Iran.

Mars: The matchless warship that sank during its first battle
B-52 Stratofortress aircraft arrive at Al Udeid Air Base. (USAF photo by Tech. Sgt. Nathan Lipscomb)

Despite the tensions, the US has kept up operations at Al Udeid and with Qatar.

The US and Qatari navies completed exercises in the waters east of Qatar in mid-June, running air-defense and surface-missile drills. The US also signed off on a weapons deal with Qatar less than a week after Trump spoke approvingly of Saudi-led action against Doha.

Pentagon officials have said tensions around Qatar were affecting their long-term planning ability, echoing comments made by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson prior to Trump’s first remarks supporting the blockade.

But Davis, the Pentagon spokesman, said operations there are continuing as before.

“Despite the situation going on with Qatar, we continue to have full use and access of the base there,” he told Military Times. “We are able to re-supply it, we’re able to conduct operations.”

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Test shows that A-10 can obliterate Iran’s small boat swarms with ease

About 35 local boat captains simulated swarming attack maneuvers in fishing boats rigged with machine guns while fighter jets, attack helicopters, and the A-10 “Warthog” simulated attacks from above in the Choctawatchee Bay, Florida.


The Air Force at Eglin Air Force Base organized the simulation, called Combat Hammer, to address one of the more pressing threats to the US navy — attacks from swarming fast-attack craft.

Also read: The ‘Chopper Popper’ scored the A-10’s first air-to-air kill…against an Iraqi helicopter

In the Persian Gulf, Iran has repeatedly used small, agile attack craft to harass US Navy ships in dangerous encounters that could lead to a broader conflict in a moment’s notice.

US Navy ships have had to go as far as firing warning shots at approaching vessels, but that was before Iranian-backed Houthi militants used a suicide boat laden with explosives to kill two aboard a Saudi Arabian Navy vessel off the coast of Yemen.

Mars: The matchless warship that sank during its first battle
An A-10 Thunderbolt IIs with the 74th Fighter Squadron from Moody Air Force Base, Ga., flies over the Gulf of Mexico Feb. 7 during Combat Hammer. The 86th Fighter Weapons Squadron’s Combat Hammer is a weapons system evaluation program at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. | US Air Force photo by Ilka Cole

The Navy was already aware of the threat posed to their large, multi-million dollar ships by small, cheap ships — but the January Houthi attack demonstrated the threat was even more acute.

The Air Force’s annual Combat Hammer exercise sought in part to answer the question of how the Navy would deal with a large mass of erratic attack craft — and that involved A-10 Warthogs firing inert 30-millimeter rounds at unmanned ships.

The exercise also included attack helicopters, multi-role fighter jets, and Canadian F-18s dropping simulated guided munitions.

Mars: The matchless warship that sank during its first battle
Local boat captains and mariners operate fishing boats equipped with makeshift guns and weapons invaded the Choctawatchee Bay area Feb. 6 during the 86th Fighter Weapons Squadron exercise, Combat Hammer. The boat swarms helped create a realistic environment to provide exercise participants an opportunity to train like they fight. | US Air Force photo by Ilka Cole

“We evaluate precision guided munitions against realistic targets with realistic enemy defenses,” said Lt. Col. Sean Neitzke, the 86th Fighter Weapons Squadron commander in an Air Force statement. “There are plenty of places in the world where low-tech adversaries can mount 50-caliber machine guns and rocket launchers on small boats for use against us. They could also use other types of shoulder launched weapons, all of which could be a threat to American assets.”

Related: A-10 vs. F-35 flyoff may begin next year

The situation described by Neitzke bears eerily similarities to the situation with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy.

Patrick Megahan, an expert on Iran’s military with the Foundation for Defense of Democracy, told Business Insider that even without the Air Force, the US Navy has plenty of ways to counter the threat posed by Iranian-style swarm attacks.

“US Army Apache attack helicopters also frequently drill aboard US Navy vessels in the Persian Gulf for countering exactly this threat,” Megahan said of the swarming boats.

Mars: The matchless warship that sank during its first battle
An MH-60 Seahawk. | US Navy

“This doesn’t include the Navy’s own Hellfire-equipped Seahawk helicopters or the Marine Corps’s very capable attack helicopter squadrons that maintain an almost constant presence in the waters off the Persian Gulf and Arabian Sea. In fact, two fully-load American attack helicopters would likely wreak havoc on an Iranian small boat swarm.”

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These 74 dead sailors from the Vietnam War are not honored on the Wall

The most notable part of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C. is “The Wall,” which features a list of 58,315 personnel killed during the Vietnam War. An effort to add the names of 74 sailors, though, has been rebuffed by the Navy.


According to a report by FoxNews.com, the 74 sailors were killed when the Allen M. Sumner-class destroyer USS Frank E. Evans (DD 754) was rammed by the Australian aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne (R 21) during a South East Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) exercise.

The destroyer was cut in half, with the bow sinking in a matter of minutes, taking 73 sailors with it. A single body was recovered from the South China Sea, bringing the total to 74 lives lost.

Mars: The matchless warship that sank during its first battle
The Wall, the most prominent part of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Among the dead were the three Sage brothers from Niobrara, Nebraska – the worst loss any family had suffered since the Sullivan brothers were killed when the anti-aircraft cruiser USS Juneau (CL 52) was sunk during the Guadalcanal campaign.

The portion of the Frank E. Evans that remained afloat was taken to Subic Bay, where it was decommissioned on July 1, 1969. On Oct. 10, 1969, the ship was sunk as a target.

The Navy’s initial refusal to place those 74 names on the Wall was due to the fact that the destroyer was outside the “Vietnam combat zone.”

According to U.S. Navy criteria, “Vietnam and contiguous waters” was defined as “an area which includes Vietnam and the water adjacent thereto within the following specified limits: From a point on the East Coast of Vietnam at the juncture of Vietnam with China southeastward to 21 N. Latitude, 108° 15’E. Longitude; thence, southward to 18° N. Latitude, 108° 15’E. Longitude; thence southeastward to 17° 30’N. Latitude, 111° E. Longitude; thence southward to 11° N. Latitude; 111° E. Longitude, thence southwestward to 7° N. Latitude, 105° E. Longitude; thence westward to 7° N. Latitude, 103° E. longitude, thence northward to 9° 30’N. Latitude, 103° E. Longitude, thence northeastward to 10° 15’N. Latitude, 104° 27’E. Longitude, thence northward to a point on the West Coast of Vietnam at the juncture of Vietnam with Cambodia.”

Mars: The matchless warship that sank during its first battle
The aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne (R21), which rammed US Frank E. Evans (DD 754). (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

According to the website of the Frank E. Evans Association, the accident occurred 110 miles from the Vietnam Combat Zone.

FoxNews.com reported that the Navy has offered to place an exhibit about the collision in a planned Vietnam Veterans Memorial educational center, but many families are skeptical due to lagging efforts at fundraising for the proposed $130 million project.

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