In 1966, the U.S. Army’s Sgt. 1st Class Bennie Adkins fought the North Vietnamese Army for almost four days, using whatever was at his disposal: mortars, machine guns, small arms, and hand grenades. He killed as many as 175 enemy troops and was wounded 18 times. Over the course of the battle all of the men of his unit were either killed or wounded.
For his gallantry and bravery, the Army presented him with … the Distinguished Service Cross.
The Distinguished Service Cross, the U.S. military’s second highest military honor, is no small award, but after all was said and done, after all the participants were interviewed and the communications during the fighting were scrutinized, Adkins actions that day in Vietnam called for the highest honor the U.S. can bestow on its armed forces. Why he did not receive the Medal of Honor back then is unclear.
After a lot of lobbying by Alabama Congressman Mike Rogers and then-Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, the award was upgraded in 2014. Adkins, having achieved the rank of Army Command Sergeant Major, was presented with the Medal of Honor by President Barack Obama in a White House ceremony.
Here’s an excerpt from Adkins’ Medal of Honor citation:
When Adkins’ camp was attacked by a large North Vietnamese and Viet Cong force in the early morning hours of March 9, 1966, Sergeant First Class Adkins rushed through intense enemy fire and manned a mortar position continually adjusting fire for the camp, despite incurring wounds as the mortar pit received several direct hits from enemy mortars.
Upon learning that several soldiers were wounded near the center of camp, he temporarily turned the mortar over to another soldier, ran through exploding mortar rounds and dragged several comrades to safety. As the hostile fire subsided, Adkins exposed himself to sporadic sniper fire while carrying his wounded comrades to the camp dispensary.
When Adkins and his group of defenders came under heavy small arms fire from members of the Civilian Irregular Defense Group that had defected to fight with the North Vietnamese, he maneuvered outside the camp to evacuate a seriously wounded American and draw fire all the while successfully covering the rescue.
When a resupply air drop landed outside of the camp perimeter, Adkins, again, moved outside of the camp walls to retrieve the much needed supplies.
During the early morning hours of March 10, 1966, enemy forces launched their main attack and within two hours, Adkins was the only man firing a mortar weapon. When all mortar rounds were expended, Adkins began placing effective recoilless rifle fire upon enemy positions. Despite receiving additional wounds from enemy rounds exploding on his position, Adkins fought off intense waves of attacking Viet Cong.
Adkins eliminated numerous insurgents with small arms fire after withdrawing to a communications bunker with several soldiers. Running extremely low on ammunition, he returned to the mortar pit, gathered vital ammunition and ran through intense fire back to the bunker. After being ordered to evacuate the camp, Adkins and a small group of soldiers destroyed all signal equipment and classified documents, dug their way out of the rear of the bunker, and fought their way out of the camp.
While carrying a wounded soldier to the extraction point he learned that the last helicopter had already departed. Adkins led the group while evading the enemy until they were rescued by helicopter on March 12, 1966.
Adkins is now 82 and walks with a cane. During the ceremony he stood at attention, unassisted, as the President put the Medal of Honor around his collar. He saluted the crowd and then walked off stage.
“This Medal of Honor belongs to the other 16 Special Forces soldiers with me,” he said.
Sometimes you want to give up. Why does everything have to be so, so hard? Other times, you wish someone would just give you a manual for dealing with the whole thing. Surely there’s a way to know how to handle this disease?
Like the rest of marriage, loving someone who suffers from PTSD or who is trying to work through the ghosts of combat doesn’t come with a guidebook. And although the whole thing can feel very isolating (everyone else seems fine! Is my marriage the only one in trouble?) that doesn’t mean you’re alone.
Therapists who specialize in PTSD know that while some couples may put on a good show for the outside world, dealing with trauma is hard work and, no, everything is not perfect.
If you’re dealing with PTSD at home, you are not alone.
Husband and wife team Marc and Sonja Raciti are working to help military couples work through how PTSD can impact their marriages. Marc, a veteran, has written a book on the subject, “I Just Want To See Trees: A Journey Through PTSD.” Sonja is a licensed professional counselor.
The Racitis said there are five things that a spouse dealing with PTSD in marriage should know.
1. It’s normal for PTSD to impact the whole family.
If you feel like your life has changed since PTSD came to your home, you’re probably right. The habits that might help your spouse get through the day, like avoiding crowded spaces, may become your habits too.
“PTSD is a disease of avoidance — so you avoid those triggers that the person with PTSD has — but as the partner you begin to do the same thing,” Sonja Raciti said.
Remember that marriage is a team sport, and it’s OK to tackle together the things that impact it.
2. Get professional help
. The avoidance that comes with PTSD doesn’t just mean avoiding certain activities — it can also mean avoiding dealing with the trauma head on. But trying to handle PTSD alone is a mistake, the Racitis said.
“We both are really big into seeking treatment, getting a professional to really help you and see what treatment you’re going to benefit from,” Sonja said. “Finding a clinician who you meet with, and click with and really specializes in PTSD is so, so important.”
3. No, you’re not the one with PTSD. But you may have symptoms anyway.
The Racitis said it is very common for the spouses of those dealing with PTSD to have trouble sleeping or battle depression, just like their service member. That’s why it’s important for everyone in the family to be on the same page tackling the disease — because it impacts them too.
4. Be there.
As with so many issues in marriage, communication is key, the Racitis said. But also important is being supportive and adapting to whatever life built around living with PTSD looks like for you.
“You have to adapt — the original man you married has changed. The experience has changed him and that’s part of life,” Sonja says. “He has gone through something that has been horrific, and life altering and life changing, and together you’re going to adapt to that and you’re going to help support each other in that.”
5. Don’t give up.
It can seem very tempting to just give up and walk away, they said. After all, the person you married may have changed dramatically. And while splitting may ultimately be the right answer for you, it doesn’t have to be only solution on the table.
“Don’t give up,” Marc said. “It’s so easy to do. It’s the path of least resistance. But people who engage, people who actively engage — these are the marriages that survive.”
In a deployed environment, adequate medical care is crucial to ensuring that people can execute the mission. Our airmen need to be physically and mentally healthy or the mission could suffer. The 386th Expeditionary Medical Group boasts a medical clinic, physical therapist, mental health team, and dental clinic as just some of the available services paramount to keeping our airmen mission ready, and in the fight.
But what do you do when an airman needs medical attention and isn’t a person?
This was a riddle that Army Capt. Margot Boucher, Officer-in-Charge of the base Veterinary Treatment Facility had to solve recently when military working dog Arthur, a military asset valued at almost $200K, was brought to her clinic with a fractured tooth.
“Arthur was doing bite training, bit the wrong way and tore part of his canine tooth off, so he had a fracture to the gum line on one of his strong biting teeth,” explained Boucher, a doctor of veterinary medicine with the 358th Medical Detachment here. “The big concern with that, in addition to being a painful condition, is that they can become infected if bacteria were to travel down the tooth canal.”
Boucher, a reservist deployed from the 993rd Medical Detachment of Fitzsimons Army Reserve Center in Aroura, Colorado, is employed as an emergency room veterinarian as a civilian. While she is well-versed in the medical side of veterinary medicine, she knew she wasn’t an expert in veterinary dentistry. In order to get Arthur the care he needed, Boucher reached out to her Air Force counterparts here at the 386th Expeditionary Medical Group for help.
“In this environment, I’m kind of all they’ve got,” said Air Force Lt. Col. Brent Waldman, the 386th Medical Operations Flight Commander and dentist here. “I’ve done four or five of these on dogs, but I don’t do these often. I felt very comfortable doing it, because dentistry on a human tooth versus a dog tooth is kind of the same, if you know the internal anatomy of the tooth.”
Waldman performed a root canal on Arthur, a Belgian Malinois. This procedure involved drilling into the tooth and removing soft tissues, such as nerves and blood vessels, to hollow the tooth out, according to Waldman. After the tooth was hollowed out, and a canal was created, it was filled and sealed with a silver filling. The procedure for Arthur was the same that Waldman would do on a human patient.
“The reason why you do a root canal is because the likelihood of there being an infection or other issue with that tooth is significantly decreased,” said Waldman, who is deployed from the 21st Medical Squadron at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado. “This is crucial for a military working dog because without his teeth, Arthur may be removed from duty.”
Military working dogs are trained to detect and perform patrol missions. The patrol missions can involve biting a suspect to detain them or protect their handler. This is why dental health is crucial to a military working dog.
“Those canine teeth are their main defensive and offensive tools,” said Waldman. “A dog with bad teeth…It’s like a sniper having a broken trigger finger.”
While Waldman had experience doing dental procedures on military working dogs, he still needed the expertise Boucher had in veterinary medicine.
“Typically when we collaborate with human providers, we’ll still manage the anesthesia and the medical side of the procedure,” said Boucher, who has four years of experience as a vet. “Usually if they are unfamiliar with the anatomical differences, we’ll talk them through that and familiarize them with the differences between animal and human anatomy, but in terms of dentistry, it’s very similar. The procedure is the same, but the tooth is shaped a little differently.”
Prior to the procedure, Boucher conducted pre-anesthetic blood tests to make sure 6-year-old Arthur didn’t have any pre-existing conditions that anesthesia would complicate. During the root canal, Boucher watched Arthur closely, and monitored his heart rate and blood oxygen saturation while making minor adjustments to his sedation as needed.
The procedure was successful, and Arthur returned to his deployed location with his handler a few days after. Were it not for the inter-service and inter-discipline teamwork of Boucher and Waldman, Arthur and his handler may have had to travel back to the United States to get the medical care needed.
“It’s a great service to be able to do,” said Waldman. “If we couldn’t do this, Arthur and his handler would have probably had to be taken out of theater, to a location where they had the capability to do this procedure. It saved a ton of time to be able to do this here, and get Arthur back to protecting our war fighters.”
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un supervised the test of a new ballistic missile controlled by a precision guidance system and ordered the development of more powerful strategic weapons, the North’s official KCNA news agency reported on May 30.
The missile launched on May 29 was equipped with an advanced automated pre-launch sequence compared with previous versions of the “Hwasong” rockets, North Korea’s name for its Scud-class missiles, KCNA said. That indicated the North had launched a modified Scud-class missile, as South Korea’s military has said.
The North’s test launch of a short-range ballistic missile landed in the sea off its east coast and was the latest in a fast-paced series of missile tests defying international pressure and threats of more sanctions.
Kim said the reclusive state would develop more powerful weapons in multiple phases in accordance with its timetable to defend North Korea against the United States.
“He expressed the conviction that it would make a greater leap forward in this spirit to send a bigger ‘gift package’ to the Yankees” in retaliation for American military provocation, KCNA quoted Kim as saying.
South Korea said it had conducted a joint drill with a US supersonic B-1B Lancer bomber on May 29. North Korea’s state media earlier accused the United States of staging a drill to practice dropping nuclear bombs on the Korean peninsula.
The US Navy said its aircraft carrier strike group, led by the USS Carl Vinson, also planned a drill with another US nuclear carrier, the USS Ronald Reagan, in waters near the Korean peninsula.
A US Navy spokesman in South Korea did not give specific timing for the strike group’s planned drill.
North Korea calls such drills a preparation for war.
They also pose one of the greatest security challenges for US President Donald Trump, who portrayed the latest missile test as an affront to China.
“North Korea has shown great disrespect for their neighbor, China, by shooting off yet another ballistic missile … but China is trying hard!” Trump said on Twitter.
Japan has also urged China to play a bigger role in restraining North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s top national security adviser, Shotaro Yachi, met China’s top diplomat, State Councillor Yang Jiechi, for five hours of talks near Tokyo on May 29 after the North’s latest test.
Yachi told Yang that North Korea’s actions had reached a new level of provocation.
“Japan and China need to work together to strongly urge North Korea to avoid further provocative actions and obey things like United Nations resolutions,” Yachi was quoted as telling Yang in a statement by Japan’s foreign ministry.
A statement from China’s foreign ministry after the meeting made no mention of North Korea.
North Korea has claimed major advances with its rapid series of launches, claims that outside experts and officials believe may be at least partially true but are difficult to verify independently.
A South Korean military official said the North fired one missile on Monday, clarifying an earlier assessment that there may have been more than one launch.
The test was aimed at verifying a new type of precision guidance system and the reliability of a new mobile launch vehicle under different operational conditions, KCNA said.
However, South Korea’s military and experts questioned the claim because the North had technical constraints, such as a lack of satellites, to operate a terminal-stage missile guidance system properly.
“Whenever news of our valuable victory is broadcast recently, the Yankees would be very much worried about it and the gangsters of the south Korean puppet army would be dispirited more and more,” KCNA cited leader Kim as saying.
That’s quite a jump from the kw AN/SEQ-3(XN-1) Laser Weapon System (LaWS), which deployed in 2014 on the amphibious transport dock USS Ponce.
And the kind of power needed to power such a weapon won’t come with a simple flip of a switch.
“The Navy will be looking at ships’ servers to provide three times that much power,” says Donald Klick, director of business development, for DRS Power and Control Technologies. “To be putting out 150 kws, they (the laser systems) will be consuming 450 kws.”
That is more than most currently operational ships are designed to accommodate, at least when they are conducting other tasks. “Few power systems onboard ships can support sustained usage of a high-powered laser without additional energy storage,” noted a recent Naval Postgraduate School paper titled “Power Systems and Energy Storage Modeling for Directed Energy Weapons”.
The paper said, “The new DDG-1000 may have enough electrical energy, but other platforms … may require some type of ‘energy magazine.’ This magazine stores energy for on-demand usage by the laser. It can be made up of batteries, capacitors, or flywheels, and would recharge between laser pulses. The energy magazine should allow for sustained usage against a swarm of targets in an engagement lasting up to twenty minutes.
The ship’s integrated power system, which includes its electric propulsion, helps generate up to 78 megawatts of on-board electrical power, something seen as key to the future when it comes to ship technologies and the application of anticipated future weapons systems such as laser weapons and rail guns. The ship’s electric drive uses two main turbine generations with two auxiliary turbine generators which power up two 35-megawatt advanced induction motors, developers explained.
Ideally, it would charge up as fast as it discharges, allowing for indefinite use (as long as there is ship’s fuel to expend). Low maintenance, high safety, and long lifespan are other desirable characteristics.
DRS Power and Control Technologies is one of the companies which is developing a specialized energy source. “We have enough for well over 100 shots before we go to recharge,” DRS’s Klick said during a break at SNA, pointing out there’s even a mode for continuous recharge. “If you’ve got power this kind of power, you don’t go Winchester.”
The DRS system uses a Li-Ion battery subsystem designed and provided by Lithiumstart housed in three distributed steel, welded cabinets that are 48″ x 66″ x 100″ – although they are modular, Klick says, and can be arranged for a tailored fit. Each cabinet contains 18 drawers with 480 Li-Ion phosphate cells in each drawer.
The redundant power modules can provide 465 k each for a total of 930 kw. It can hold that full-power mark for about three minutes, Klick says – although most “lases” are normally of relatively short duration.
An at-sea demonstration of the magazine is slated for 2018, Klick says, mostly with the 150-kw laser being developed by Northrop Grumman for the Office of Naval Research.
The system still must go through rigorous Navy certification testing, Klick says.
He also sees the energy magazine as a candidate for other U.S. military units. “We’re looking at Air Force Special Forces on a C-130. You have to strike a car, but you’re worried about collateral damage. With that pinpoint accuracy, you don’t have to worry about collateral damage. You can just cause a car to stop running. There’s a lot more capability.”
The Navy has already been working with Northrop Grumman on a three-year deal to develop a ship-board laser weapon engineered to quickly incinerate enemy drones, small boats, aircraft, ships and missiles, service officials told Scout Warrior.
“This system employs multi-spectral target detection and track capabilities as well as an advanced off-axis beam director with improved fiber laser technologies to provide extended target engagement ranges. Improvements of high power fiber lasers used to form the laser beam enable the increased power levels and extended range capabilities. Lessons learned, operating procedures, updated hardware and software derived from previous systems will be incorporated in this demonstration,” Dr. Tom Beutner, director of the Air Warfare and Weapons branch, Office of Naval Research, told Scout Warrior in a written statement at the time of the contract announcement.
A previously established 12-month, $53-million deal between Northrop and the Office of Naval Research will develop a Laser Weapon System Demonstrator through three phases; the phases include an initial design phase, ground-testing phase and then weapons testing at sea aboard a Navy Self Defense test ship, a Northrop statement said.
“The company will design, produce, integrate, and support the shipboard testing of a 150-kilowatt-class solid state (electric) laser weapon system,” the Northrop statement added. “The contract could grow to a total value of $91 million over 34 months if ONR exercises all of its contract options.”
Office of Naval Research officials told Scout Warrior an aim of the developmental program is to engineer a prototype weapons for further analysis.
“The possibilities can become integrated prototypes — and the prototypes become reality when they become acquisition programs,” an ONR official said.
It is not yet clear when this weapon might be operational but the intention seems to be to arm surface ships such as destroyers, cruisers and possibly even carriers or an LCS with inexpensive offensive or defensive laser weapons technology.
“It is way too early to determine if this system will ever become operational. Northrop Grumman has been funded to set-up a demo to “demonstrate” the capabilities to senior leadership, who will then determine whether it is an asset worth further funding and turning into a program of record,” a Navy official told Scout Warrior.
Both Navy and Northrop Grumman officials often talk about the cost advantages of firing laser weapons to incinerate incoming enemy attacks or destroy enemy targets without having to expend an interceptor missile worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Navy officials describe this as getting ahead of the cost curve.
“For about the price of a gallon of diesel fuel per shot, we’re offering the Navy a high-precision defensive approach that will protect not only its sailors, but also its wallet,” said Guy Renard, director and program manager, directed energy, Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems.
As mentioned, the Navy has already deployed one laser system, called the Laser Weapons System, or LaWS, which has been operational for months.
LaWS uses heat energy from lasers to disable or destroy targets fast, slow, stationary and moving targets. The system has successfully incinerated UAVs and other targets in tests shots, and has been operational aboard an amphibious transport dock in the Persian Gulf, the USS Ponce.
The scalable weapon is designed to destroy threats for about $59-cents per shot, an amount that is exponentially lower that the hundreds of thousands or millions needed to fire an interceptor missile such as the Standard Missile-2, Navy officials explained.
While at sea, sailors have been using the LaWS for targeting and training exercises every day and the weapon has even been used to disable and destroy some targets, service officials said.
Navy sailors and engineers have discovered some unanticipated intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance value from the laser weapons system by using its long-range telescope to scan for targets as well, Navy officials said.
Laser weapons are expected to figure prominently in the Navy’s future plans in several respects. New Navy platforms such as the high-tech destroyer, the DDG 1000 or USS Zumwalt, is engineered with an electric drive propulsion system and extra on-board electrical power called an Integraed Power System. This system is in part designed to power-up ship electrical systems and accommodate emerging future weapons systems such as lasers and rail guns.
“Laser weapons provide deep magazines, low cost per shot, and precision engagement capabilities with variable effects that range from dazzling to structural defeat against asymmetric threats that are facing the US Naval force,” Beutner added.
In addition, laser weapons integrate fully into the Navy’s emerging “distributed lethality” strategy aimed at better arming the surface fleet with a wide array of offensive and defensive weapons.
Dating in the military is tough. There are rules against fraternization: no dating within your unit, no public displays of affection, and no dating of subordinate. On top of all of these rules, troops work long hours and have myriad duty responsibilities, so there’s very little time to get off base and meet someone.
So when liberty arrives, service members have to maximize their chances. This is where the a good wingman can come in handy.
Five other members of the Bounty crew were rescued by other helicopters. The captain and one crew member died.
5. A pilot twice braved volatile ice to pull out stranded allies
Coast Guard Lt. John A . Pritchard was assigned to duties on the USCGC Northland in 1942 when the ship was operating near the Greenland Ice Cap.
On Nov. 23, he led a motorboat crew through the ice, under a shelf liable to collapse at any moment, onto the shore, and across a dangerous glacier in the middle of the night to rescue three Canadian airmen. He would posthumously receive the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for his actions.
Later that same month, he flew onto the ice cap to rescue downed American airmen. On Nov. 28, he landed on the ice and then took off with two Army fliers, saving them both.
3. The coxswain who navigated an exploding ship to rescue survivors
When the USNS Potomac caught fire in 1961 while discharging aviation fuel, the sea quickly became a hellscape. Explosions on the ship repeatedly sent shrapnel across the surface of the water and burning fuel heated the surrounding air and filled it with noxious gasses.
Coast Guard Boatswain’s Mate First Class Howard R. Jones piloted a lifeboat under the stern of the Potomac and rescued five crew members. He delivered those to a nearby hospital and then returned to the still-burning vessel where he searched for other survivors, finding another missing crew member.
The reserves of fuel on the ship kept it burning for five days before it sank.
2. Three Coasties volunteer to rescue over 30 survivors in a horrendous storm
The Coast Guard often refers to the events of Feb. 18, 1952, as their “Finest Hours,” and a movie based on the events came out in 2016. Two 520-foot ships, the Fort Mercer and the Pendleton, broke apart in a massive nor’easter. The Pendleton broke first, but a short circuit stopped it from reporting the damage.
The Fort Mercer crew was rescued and the crews finally spotted the beleaguered Pendleton. A crew of four volunteers motored past the sandbars off Massachusetts and made it to the bow section of the Pendleton.
1. Two signalmen save Marines under fire at Guadalcanal
Chief Signalman Raymond Evans and Signalman First Class Douglas Munro were attached to the 1st Marine Division in 1942 when they were sent to Guadalcanal as part of the invasion. The two men were there on different missions, but both were asked to pilot boats to land Marines on another part of the island.
The initial landings were uneventful, but soon after the Coasties returned, they heard that the Marines were under heavy fire and were signaling for help. They both volunteered to return in Higgins boats, a few panels of slapped together plywood filled with gasoline and ammunition, and rescue the Marines.
Miraculously, the Coasties were able to suppress many of the Japanese guns as the Marine withdrew to the boats, but Munro was tragically hit in the head by a Japanese machine gun burst while helping a beached craft en route back to the beach.
He survived just long enough to famously ask, “Did the Marines get off?” before succumbing to his wounds.
The Pentagon announced Wednesday that they need hackers to attack the Pentagon’s digital systems in order to identify weak points and train how to respond, according to Reuters.
“I am confident that this innovative initiative will strengthen our digital defenses and ultimately enhance our national security,” Defense Secretary Ash Carter said.
Hackers who participate may even be awarded monetary prizes, but there are a few rules. Hackers must be U.S. citizens, they must be vetted experts in computer hacking, and they must register their intent to test the systems.
Also, the Pentagon has identified certain public-facing computer systems to be tested. Hackers who attempt to access any other systems, presumably all the sensitive ones that control classified data or nuclear weapons, would still be subject to criminal charges.
“The goal is not to comprise any aspect of our critical systems, but to still challenge our cybersecurity in a new and innovative way,” a defense official told Reuters.
Inviting hackers to attack a network has been done before in the commercial sector, but this is a first for the Pentagon. Typically, the Pentagon tests its systems by establishing “red teams” composed of Department of Defense employees who attack the system rather than recruiting hordes of outsiders.
The M1A2 SEP Abrams has ruled the world of armor since Operation Desert Storm. But that was over 25 years ago – and tank design innovation hasn’t stood still.
In fact, everyone is trying to get a better tank — particularly the Russians. Well, if a major tank in your inventory had a very poor performance like the T-72 did in Desert Storm, you’d be looking to upgrade, too.
Russia’s first effort at an upgrade was the T-90 main battle tank. According to Globalsecurity.org, the T-90 is an evolutionary development of the T-72. It has the same gun as the tank that flopped during Desert Storm, but it did feature some new survivability enhancements, like the TShU-1-7 Shtora-1 optronic countermeasures system.
The tank saw a lot of exports, most notably to India, which has plans to buy up to 1,600 of these tanks, according to Sputnik International. Syria used T-90s acquired from Russia in 2015, according to Al-Masdar News, and Algeria also has a substantial arsenal of T-90s, according to a report from Russia’s Interfax news agency.
The T-90, though, is not quite capable of standing up to the Abrams, largely due to the fact it is still an evolved T-72.
The T-14 Armata, though, is a very different beast. According to Globalsecurity.org, it bears more of a resemblance to the Abrams and Leopard 2 and has a remote-controlled gun in an unmanned turret. Specs on that site note that it not only has a new 125mm gun, but also carries two AT-14 anti-tank missiles. According to the London Telegraph, British intelligence has claimed that “Armata represents the most revolutionary step change in tank design in the last half century.”
Ben Barry of the International Institute for Strategic Studies noted that the combination of the Armata’s ability to take a larger gun in the future and its active protection system could be game-changers.
T-14 Armata (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)
“This has the potential to greatly reduce the firepower of Nato infantry. Of course, there are few Armata yet, and it is not clear how rapidly they will enter service,” an IISS land warfare specialist and former British army brigadier told the Telegraph. “But as they do, they will increase the effectiveness of Russian armoured forces.”
Could the Armata take down the Abrams? That remains to be seen. It’s not like the Abrams has stood still since it was introduced in 1980. And an M1A3 version is reportedly in development, according to a 2009 Army Times report.
The United States Special Operations Command just tested a high-energy laser on the AH-64 Apache attack helicopter, marking the first time such a weapon has been deployed aboard a rotary-wing aircraft.
According to a press release from defense company Raytheon, the test was a complete success, “providing solid experimental evidence for the feasibility of high resolution, multi-band targeting sensor performance and beam propagation supportive of High Energy Laser capability for the rotary-wing attack mission.”
“This data collection shows we’re on the right track. By combining combat proven sensors, like the MTS, with multiple laser technologies, we can bring this capability to the battlefield sooner rather than later,” the release quoted Raytheon vice president of Advanced Concept and Technologies for Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems Art Morrish as saying.
The Apache used a HEL mated with a version of Raytheon’s Multi-Spectral Targeting System, which combined electro-optical and infrared sensors, against a number of targets. The data from this test will be used to future HEL systems to address unique challenges that stem from their installation on rotary-wing aircraft, including the effects of vibration, downwash, and dust.
The Apache has had laser systems since it entered service in 1984, but the lasers were low-power systems that are used to guide AGM-114 Hellfire air-to-ground missiles. A HEL will have the ability to destroy targets.
An Army release noted that the service has also tested lasers on the Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck in April 2016 and the Stryker this past February and March. In both cases, the lasers downed a number of unmanned aerial vehicles. The Navy has a laser on board USS Ponce (AFSB(I) 15, formerly LPD 15), which is currently operating in the Persian Gulf.
Lasers offer a number of advantages over artillery and missiles. Notably, they are invisible, and the power of the weapon can be adjusted to handle a specific material, like steel plating or Kevlar. HELs can even be set for non-lethal effects on people.
To say that Amber Smith comes from a military family is an understatement. Her great-grandfather was in World War I, her grandfather was in World War II, and her father was a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne. Both of her parents were pilots. Both of her sisters are military pilots.
Her parents’ love of flying sparked her interest, and she started flying private planes at a young age. As she got older she started considering a career in aviation, specifically military aviation. Then in 2003, she was introduced to a future she didn’t know was possible.
“I talked to the Marines, I talked to the Air Force, and I talked to the Navy because I didn’t even know the Army had aviation,” Smith says. “I grew up in fixed wings. Never once did the thought of helicopters cross my mind.”
The other three branches told her the same thing: get a college degree and then come talk. But Smith just wanted to join the military as an aviator. When she spoke to the Army they told her could still be a pilot, just flying helicopters instead of planes. Smith’s experience as a civilian pilot allowed her to join before finishing her degree through the Warrant Officer Flight Training Program.
While still in college and before joining the Army, Smith met her parents at an air show where helicopter rides were offered. She hopped in to see if a helicopter was really something she wanted.
“I went on this helicopter flight and I was immediately hooked,” she remembers. “I was like, ‘this is for me. I love it!’ I didn’t even want planes anymore, give me a helicopter.”
After basic training and Warrant Officer Candidate School, she went to flight school where she met her bird: the OH58 Kiowa Warrior Helicopter. The Kiowa Warrior is a light attack reconnaissance helicopter; a two-seater carrying a fifty cal machine gun and 7-shot 2.75 in (70 mm) Hydra-70 rocket pods, configurable for Hellfire missiles.
“I loved my time flying the Kiowa,” Smith recalls. “I knew that was the best and most bad ass flying I would ever do in my life.”
Her mission was direct support for ground forces, looking for IEDs, providing aerial security for convoys, and responding to troops in combat (TICs). Smith deployed with her unit, the 101st Airborne Division, to Iraq from 2005, where she made Pilot in Command. She went to Afghanistan in 2008, where she made Air Mission Commander, seeing combat in a combat arms role years before the ban on women in combat ended.
“Before they lifted the restriction, aviation was the only branch within what was called Combat Arms – now it’s maneuvers, fire, and effects – but it was the only Combat Arms branch that allowed women,” Smith says.
Her views on women in combat is simple: there needs to be a mission standard, not a gender standard.
“As long as the standards remain the exact same as today, I think women should be given the opportunity to try it,” Smith says. “I don’t believe in quotas or lowering standards but I don’t think it should matter if you’re a man or a woman. If you can do the job and contribute to the mission that’s what matters.”
The Army’s proposed integration plan includes first adding female officers to leadership roles within combat units. Amber Smith think it’s a smart move but the plan for and acceptance of women in combat jobs will take time.
“Reducing the standards creates resentment,” she says. “When I got to my unit in 2004, women were very rare in the Kiowa Warrior community. I worked very hard to do my job and contribute to the mission. As soon as they realized that, I was a part of the team.”
Smith left the military in 2010, but while she was in, she completed a Bachelor’s in Professional Aeronautics from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. After transitioning, she earned her Master of Science in Safety, Security, and Emergency Management with a specialization in Homeland Security from Eastern Kentucky University.
While in graduate school, she noticed that too often the media lacked a credible veteran’s point of view.
“It’s important the American people need to hear the perspective of people who have been on the operational side of national security,” she says. “People who have been to war and have seen the enemy everyone talks about on TV every day.”
Smith started a blog and got published wherever she could. Within three months, the calls for television appearances started. Her career just took off from there. She just completed her first book, Danger Close: One’s Woman’s Epic Journey as a Combat Helicopter Pilot in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“2015 was the year of my book,” Smith says. “I wrote it myself, I didn’t have a ghostwriter or anything. I wanted to preserve my voice. The Kiowa Warrior is an incredibly effective tool on the battlefield, essential in the two theaters of war. Nobody knows about it, all anybody knows about is the Apache. So I want people to know who we are and what we did.”
Smith is now a Senior Fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum and Senior Military Advisor for Concerned Veterans for America. She is also a writer and television commentator on national security issues, foreign policy, and military operations. She regularly appears on Fox News, Fox Business, CNN, and MSNBC.