Navy SEALs writing books about their craft is a common trope shared within the military community, and apparently it’s not too far from the truth.
In the wake of former SEALs Matt Bissonnette and Robert O’Neill sharing details of their involvement in the Osama bin Laden raid, the special operations elite have a spotlight on them. And while it doesn’t look like any other military unit is going to come close to that level of attention, a search of books published about special operations forces shows that SEALs indeed take the top prize.
“A critical tenant of our Ethos is ‘I do not advertise the nature of my work, nor seek recognition for my actions.’ Our Ethos is a life-long commitment and obligation, both in and out of the service. Violators of our Ethos are neither teammates in good standing, nor teammates who represent Naval Special Warfare,” reads recent letter from Naval Special Warfare.
But that certainly hasn’t stopped the presses.
Using the non-scientific method of Amazon.com book search for common terms to describe America’s elite units, we found the tallies for books by or about:
To be clear, there is plenty of room for error here. “Delta Force” sometimes shows up when searching for “Special Forces” and vice versa. And books with “Navy SEAL” can have anything from a firsthand account of a mission to a cheesy romance novel.
But the numbers certainly show one thing: Recon Marines really need to step it up with their writing.
An Austrian firm has just debuted a new big-bore, bolt action rifle that could become a player in a new program to outfit U.S. special operations troops with an updated long-range sniper rifle.
A new company in the market, Ritter Stark is making precision modular rifles from the ground up, using an innovative rifling technology and a barrel attachment system that virtually guarantees zero with optics matched to the caliber. Its SX-1 MTR chambered in .338 Lapua Magnum answers Special Operations Command’s original call to provide commandos with a new “Advanced Sniper Rifle” that could be quickly reconfigured to several calibers and be deadly accurate each time.
The Ritter Stark SX-1 MTR is built from the ground up for precision. It’s modular barrel system includes chamberings in .338 Lapua Magnum, .300 WinMag and .308. (Photo from Ritter Stark)
What sets Ritter Stark apart from the competition is the novel way in which its SX-1 changes caliber. Most manufacturers have an interchangeable barrel that slides into the receiver and is attached to the action with a barrel nut or similar method. Ritter Stark built theirs with the barrel attached to the Picatinny-railed upper receiver and it’s secured to the lower through simple hex bolts on the handguard.
“The caliber change takes a maximum of three minutes and you don’t have to take it to a gunsmith to do it, you can just use a hex wrench,” said Ritter Stark Deputy Managing Director Ekaterina Trakham during the 2016 Association of the U.S. Army conference in Washington, D.C.
The SX-1 can be switched to a .300 WinMag chambering, a .308 chambering and the .338 Lapua Magnum option. Reports indicate, however, that SOCOM has modified its ASR requirement for a .300 Norma Magnum chambering.
Like other high-end military sniper rifles, the SX-1’s bolt locks inside the barrel for increased accuracy. And the company uses a proprietary “electrochemical” process to rifle its barrels, with company officials saying a .338 barrel is good for 5,000 rounds and a .308 can take 10,000 rounds before needing a replacement.
The SX-1 also has a three-position safety that’s optimized for military and police applications, with two standard “fire” and “safe” positions, and a third one that not only blocks the firing pin but locks the bold handle down.
“We have a lot of experience working with security detail snipers who patrol the perimeter, and they’re usually asked to engage the safety when they’re on target,” said Ritter Stark sales director Alexandr Chikin.
The SX-1 trigger also has a flip safety located under the trigger guard to limit movement that could give away a sniper’s position and also blocks it when the rifle needs to be safed.
Company officials say the rifle should be commercially available within the next few months and cost around $6,000 for the .338 variant and $5,000 for the .308 one.
Drinking in the military is rather common (and always in moderation), as anyone who’s served long enough to make it to the barracks knows.
Everyone has their own reasons to imbibe (fun, tradition, bets, etc.), but perhaps the most important reason is for health reasons. Here are five alcoholic beverages with little-known health benefits.
1. Gin and Tonic
Health Benefit: Anti-malarial
The Gin and Tonic was created by the army of the British East India Company to give to soldiers serving in India and other tropical locations where malaria was common. The tonic of the time had large quantities of quinine, a malaria preventative, dissolved in it and thus tasted terribly bitter. To compensate, the soldiers mixed their daily gin ration with sugar and lime into the tonic water to make it more palatable. Unfortunately, the quinine levels of tonic have been severely reduced so Gin and Tonics won’t be making a comeback as a replacement for the dreaded malaria pills.
2. Red Wine
Health Benefit: Anti-Radiation
Well ahead of their time, the Soviet Navy issued a ration of red wine to its sailors onboard nuclear submarines because it decreased radiation absorption (or more likely calmed the nerves and stomachs of sailors being exposed to radiation on their shoddy submarines… remember K-19?) As it turns out, they were correct to give the sailors red wine. The results of a 2008 study show that resveratrol, a natural anti-oxidant in red wine, can protect cells from radiation damage. So talk to your CBRNE NCO to see if he has any anti-radiation medicine stashed in his office.
Health Benefit: Mental Well-Being
Anyone who has ever served aboard a ship at sea knows life can be tough, but todays modern amenities make things much more bearable. For early sailing ships heading out over the horizon, this was not the case. Enter alcohol. Originally the sailors were served beer but it had a tendency to spoil, so it was replaced by spirits, in particular, rum.
To help the sailors cope with the tough life of sailing they were given a daily ration of rum (known to the British Empire as a ‘tot‘). It is also likely that sailors were given the rum to steady their nerves before a battle. Much to the dismay of sailors, rum rations were discontinued some time ago, with the Royal New Zealand Navy being the last to do so in 1990.
Health Benefit: Surviving life in the military
While this may sound like either a no brainer or a stretch, the benefits of beer for troops are numerous. First of all, beer has been shown to decrease the risk of heart disease and lower blood pressure. While all the PT troops do helps, the beer helps relieve stress, which is a major cause of high blood pressure and every service member knows the military is a stressful place. Speaking of PT, drinking beer can help prevent fractures and improve bone density, relieve joint pain, and has been shown to be a better post-workout recovery than water. Beer can also help fight colds and infections. Finally, drinking beer has been shown to decrease the risk for Alzheimer’s and dementia and can improve creativity. But remember: all of this is when consumed in moderation, so take it easy on the case in your wall locker.
Health Benefit: Weight loss
Have you been enjoying the health benefits of beer a little too much, noticed that your run time is suffering and you are having trouble passing height and weight? Have no fear, whiskey is here to save the day! Whiskey, already a favorite of American troops, has many of the same health benefits of beer without the calories or cholesterol. Whiskey also has the added benefit of containing antioxidants, which fight cancer and aging. So if you need to get back into fighting shape, pass on the beer and get some good old fashioned American whiskey.
The F-35 program has hit another snag, this time not an expensive production mishap or overrun, but the strength of the dollar itself.
At Lockheed Martin’s 2017 Media Day, Jeff Babione, general manager of the F-35 program, laid out the “blueprint for affordability,” or the defense giant’s plan to bring down the cost of the Joint Strike Fighter to below $85 million in the coming batches.
But therein lies a problem.
With about half of the F-35s Lockheed Martin intends to build in the next five years heading out to foreign countries, even in house belt-tightening and big initial investments to help ramp up to economies of scale can’t offset the strong dollar.
Asked by a Wall Street Journal reporter if the dollar’s high exchange rate with foreign currencies is a problem for the most expensive weapons system in the history of the world, Babione said, “I think it is.”
“We’ve had some of our customers come up and raise the concern that this may potentially hurt their buys,” said Babione, who noted that some elements of production cannot move outside of the country to help mitigate costs for foreign buyers.
“We have some 1,700 suppliers in seven countries around the world. Many of the countries that are buying the F-35 produce parts for the F-35,” said Babione. But still, Babione concluded that currency exchange rates not withstanding, the best tactic is just to get the F-35’s price down, period.
A pilot takes the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter aircraft up for its first night flight near Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., Jan. 18, 2012. (U.S. Air Force photo)
“What I think I can do is drive the price down so whatever the exchange rate is, it’s affordable,” Babione said.
Meanwhile, U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Chris Bogdan told reporters that Lockheed Martin’s blueprint for affordability was “just ok,” and suggested revisiting the supply chain instead of simply seeking bigger upfront investments, as Defense News notes.
Marine Corps legend Gen. James Mattis sat down to answer questions about his 40 years of military service with the USMC news service, and his replies should be essential viewing.
He shares personal anecdotes, like how a SAW gunner displayed what is great about the Marine Corps after Mattis was forced to pull him from Fallujah, or why he walked to the opposite side of Camp Rhino in Afghanistan when mortars started coming in during a battle in 2001.
(In true Mad Dog fashion, it turns out that he had walked to that side of the perimeter because he thought there was a good chance of another, potentially larger fight on that side.)
He also reveals that his knifehand can kill enemies within hundreds of miles.
The general describes ways to become a better leader, how to become a better Marine, and what to do to become a better warfighter. It’s a long video, but the entire 16:36 is worthy of your time.
On Monday, Politico reported that Michael Flynn, the retired general and national security adviser to President Donald Trump, would advise the Trump administration to back Montenegro’s entrance into NATO — a move sure to infuriate Russia.
Flynn has longstanding ties to Russia — most notably, he received payment to attend a gala event for Russia Today, a Russian propaganda outlet. On that occasion, he dined with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Despite that, the US backs Montenegro’s bid to join NATO, and the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee has backed its bid for over a year. During this time, the small Balkan nation faced increasing pressure from Russia — including a failed coup in October that may be tied back to Moscow.
A special prosecutor in Montenegro said in November that Russian nationalists tried to sway the country’s October election with a plot to kill Milo Djukanovic, the Western-leaning prime minister.
“The organizers of this criminal group were nationalists from Russia whose initial premise and conclusion was that the government in Montenegro led by Milo Djukanovic cannot be changed in election and that it should be toppled by force,” Milivoje Katnic, special prosecutor for organized crime in Montenegro, said at the time.
Flynn’s backing of Montenegro’s entrance into NATO would seemingly fly in the face of Trump’s proposal to try to befriend Russia, as Russia sees NATO expansion as aggression against its interests.
Jorge Benitez, a senior fellow and NATO expert at the Atlantic Council, told Politico, “No NATO candidate country has ever faced such a dire attack or threat in the process of finishing its membership into the alliance.”
However, Flynn is not alone among Trump appointees in striking a more hawkish tone toward Moscow. UN Ambassador Nikki Haley also signaled a hawkish approach, saying that “the dire situation in eastern Ukraine is one that demands clear and strong condemnation of Russian actions.” Russia officially denies a military presence in Eastern Ukraine, where fighting has recently reignited.
Before Montenegro can join NATO, it’s accession bid must be approved by all 28 current NATO states and two-thirds of the US Senate.
An Iranian unmanned aerial vehicle nearly collided with a Navy F/A-18E Super Hornet preparing to land on the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68). The incident occurred Aug. 8.
According to a report by the Washington Times, the Iranian QOM-1 drone came within 100 yards of the Super Hornet assigned to the “Argonauts” of Strike Fighter Squadron 147 (VFA 147), forcing the pilot to take evasive action. That squadron is assigned to the Nimitz, which has been on deployment to the Persian Gulf where it has been supporting anti-ISIS operations.
“The dangerous maneuver by the QOM-1 in the known vicinity of fixed wing flight operations and at coincident altitude with operating aircraft created a collision hazard and is not in keeping with international maritime customs and laws,” U.S. Naval Forces Central Command said in a post on their Facebook page.
The A-10 Thunderbolt II is the undisputed king of close-air support.
But what you may not know is that the plane nearly wasn’t picked to handle close-air support – it had to compete with the Northrop A-9.
And that plane looks a heck of a lot like the one the Soviets picked to bust American tanks if the Cold War went hot.
So how does the Su-25 “Frogfoot” in service with Russia stack up against the A-10? Let’s take a look.
The big reason the A-10 won the A-X competition in 1973 was due to the fact that Fairchild had the design pretty well locked down. The plane was merged with the GAU-8 30mm Avenger cannon, given a very powerful bomb load (up to 16,000 pounds of cluster bombs, laser-guided bombs, iron bombs, AGM-65 Maverick missiles, and rockets). The A-10C, which entered service in 2005, added the ability to use Joint Direct Attack Munitions (GPS-guided smart bombs) and the Wind-Corrected Munition Dispensers (cluster bombs with GPS-guidance and a range of over 12 miles). The plane even carries AIM-9 Sidewinders for self-defense (although, Desert Storm proved that the GAU-8 can take down aircraft, too). In short, this is a plane that is designed to kill enemy tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, armored personnel carriers, and grunts.
The A-10 can not only dish out punishment, it can take it. Like the P-47 Thunderbolt, there are tales of terribly damaged A-10s bringing their pilots home. Perhaps the most famous example was the 2003 incident where Air Force Capt. Kim “Killer Chick” Campbell brought her A-10 home on manual reversion. The A-10 was designed to come home with serious battle damage – and it has.
The Su-25, though, is an interesting beast. The Soviets followed the A-X competition and decided they needed a plane like that of their own.
That said, they picked the loser of the competition to copy. The Su-25 carries about 9,000 pounds of bombs, rockets and missiles, including the AA-8 Aphid. It is a bit faster, hitting Mach .8 as opposed to the A-10’s Mach .56, and has a longer range (750 nautical miles to the A-10’s 695). Like the A-10, it, too, has a 30mm Gatling gun.
So, which plane is the better option? Let’s be very blunt here: The A-10 brings more payload and is tougher. The Frogfoot might be 40% faster than the Warthog, but it can’t outrun a Sidewinder, while an AA-8 is likely to just annoy the Warthog’s pilot and really infuriate the crew chief.
Let’s be honest, the Soviets made a knock-off of the losing design, and it would probably lose in a fight with an A-10, too.
The new head of Air Force Special Operations Command has said he’s bullish on outfitting part of his fearsome AC-130 gunship fleet with lasers to blast ground targets and is even considering placing such weapons on CV-22 Osprey tiltrotors for his air commandos.
Admittedly a high-energy laser cannon on an airplane as small as a C-130 Hercules (others have fit on Navy ships and 747-sized airplanes) is still in the research phase, but that hasn’t kept AFSOC from pursuing the technology since 2015.
“I absolutely do not intend to take the foot off the gas with respect to the development of a high energy laser. … I am absolutely on board with that,” said AFSOC commander Lt. Gen. Brad Webb. “I think that while it’s a gunship effort now, we have to keep our eye on what technologies continue to develop that would place that and any other types of these technologies on other airframes as well.”
Webb added during an interview with reporters at the 2016 Air Force Association Air, Space, Cyber conference Sep. 21 that a laser cannon could even be included on CV-22s as the weapon matures.
The former commander of AFSOC, Lt. Gen. Bradley Heithold launched a program last year to accelerate the development of a laser cannon for his gunship fleet, as well as a number of other advanced technologies to make the AC-130 more survivable and deadly on the battlefield. The Air Force has teamed with Navy researchers who helped deploy a laser aboard the USS Ponce and other think tanks to develop tactics for using a laser cannon on the battlefield.
he Afloat Forward Staging Base (Interim) USS Ponce (ASB(I) 15) conducts an operational demonstration of the Office of Naval Research (ONR)-sponsored Laser Weapon System (LaWS) while deployed to the Arabian Gulf. (U.S. Navy photo by John F. Williams/Released)
New AFSOC commander Webb said he’s also working closely with the Marine Corps — which has outfitted several of its KC-130Js with air-to-ground weapons and designated them “Harvest Hawk” — on deploying a laser cannon on their planes.
“That kind of spirit is going to apply on a number of the programs that the Marines and SOF see that are mutually supported going forward,” Webb said.
A private in the Army’s 34th Company of the Philippine Scouts, he became severely wounded while fighting off rebel forces in the Philippine Islands in 1911. With only one hand, he fought the enemy until they retreated, saving the many lives of those with whom he served.
Nísperos was the first Filipino to receive the Medal of Honor for his heroics in battle.
2. Telesforo Trinidad
In January 1915, a boiler exploded aboard the USS San Diego, violently knocking Trinidad backward and forcing him to abandon the ship. He gathered himself and returned to save two of his fellow men, despite suffering from his own burns.
The Navy awarded Trinidad the Medal of Honor and a $100 gratuity.
3. Kurt Chew-Een Lee
Lt. Lee was the first Asian-American Marine Officer in American military history and a freaking hero.
On the night of Nov. 2, 1950, Lee saved thousands of men during an attack while serving in the Korean War. He ventured out on a single man reconnaissance mission to locate the enemy and eventually confused them using a weapon none of his other Marines possessed — the ability to speak Mandarin.
In 1939, the U.S. Coast Guard had been turning away recruits for years during the Great Depression. But, the Seattle office found itself with seven openings in September of that year and admitted seven new men to the force. One of them was future Signalman First Class Douglas Munro who would go on to earn a Medal of Honor at the Battle of Guadalcanal. He is the only Coast Guardsman to earn the award to date.
Douglas Munro was born to American parents in Vancouver, Canada in 1919, but grew up in Washington State. After one year of college, he enlisted in the Coast Guard. He volunteered for service aboard a Coast Guard cutter and was promoted. When President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered the Coast Guard to man certain positions on Navy ships, Munro volunteered for service on the USS Hunter Liggett.
Munro saw service on different Navy ships, gaining rank and changing commands until becoming a signalman first class aboard the USS McCawley. Meanwhile, U.S. military planners had their eyes set on Guadalcanal, a strategic island chain in the Pacific that was part of the Solomon Islands. Guadalcanal was especially important because Japanese forces were building an airstrip on the island.
The Marines began their campaign on August 7, 1942. The airstrip was quickly captured but Japanese defenders maintained control of the westernmost portion of the island. A river separated most of the U.S. and Japanese territory. Repeated attempts by the Marines to cross the river were rebuffed by Japanese forces.
The Marines adopted a new plan, commanded by none other than then-Lt. Col. Chesty Puller, for three companies of Puller’s Marines to land at Port Cruz, a position north of the Japanese forces, and push their way south.
Munro commanded the ships for the assault, and things initially went smoothly. The Marines landed with no resistance and quickly pushed 500 yards inland without major incident. After dropping off the Marines, all but one ship returned to the American base.
But the Marines had walked past hidden Japanese positions, and their counterattack was brutal. A friend of Munro was in the landing craft that remained at the beach. Then-Signalman Raymond Evans described what happened next in a Coast Guard video.
“In the meantime, all our boats had gone back to the base except the major had requested we leave one boat behind, for immediate casualties. And so I stayed, I elected to stay behind and I had a coxswain named Sam Roberts from Portland, and the two of us were laying to in this LCP. Unfortunately, we laid too close to the beach and the Japanese fired an automatic weapon at us and hit Roberts, hit all the controls, the vacuum controls on the boat. I slammed it into “full-ahead” and we tore out of there and I tore back to the, to the base, four miles, and when I got to the base, I pulled it out of gear, but it wouldn’t come out of gear, so we ran up on the beach, which is a long sloping sand beach. Ran up on the beach the full length of the boat before it stopped.”
Roberts died during a medical evacuation. Soon after Evans returned to the American base, word came down that the Marines at Port Cruz were to be evacuated. Puller headed out to sea to personally supervise the Naval artillery fire covering the evacuation while the Coast Guard hopped into their boats to go and pick up the Marines. Evans moved into Munro’s boat for the return mission.
When the Coast Guard arrived at the beach, it was clear that the Marines were in a desperate position. They had 25 wounded and were under heavy fire. The beach was only five to six feet wide from the water to the jungle, and the Japanese were using the jungle for cover and concealment while firing on the Marines.
All of the Coast Guard boats were made of plywood and were susceptible to enemy fire. To allow the other ships time to load Marines and move out, Munro and Evans began laying cover fire with the .30-cal. machine guns, the heaviest weapons the small landing force had. Under the cover of the Naval bombardment and the Coast Guard machine guns, the Marines were able to scramble onto the small craft.
When the other ships were clear, Munro and Evans began their own slog back to the American parts of the island. On their way, they saw one of the landing craft stuck on a sand bar. Munro again ordered the ship stopped to assist the beached craft even though the nearby shoreline was controlled by Japanese forces.
Munro, Evans, and an engineer managed to pull the ship back into the water so it could make good its escape. Once Munro’s craft was finally headed out, Evans spotted Japanese forces placing a machine gun. He yelled a warning to Munro, but the engines drowned out his yell. Munro was struck in the base of the skull by a single bullet and died before reaching the operating base.
After storming the beaches of Normandy and fighting through the hedgerows of the French countryside, the Allied forces invading Nazi-occupied Europe came across one problem they hadn’t anticipated: outrunning their own supply lines.
By July 1944, the Allied advance nearly ground to a halt. Every operation was decided by one major factor, which was how much supply it required versus how much could be delivered. It would be almost three months before French railways could be repaired and portable gas pipelines could be installed.
To move the necessary supplies and keep the pressure on the German army, Allied war planners created a massive, truck-based supply convoy run primarily by Black soldiers. It became known as the “Red Ball Express.”
The Allies need a continuous supply of necessary fuel, ammunition, ordnance and food to keep running to the front. After breaking out of the Normandy area, the infrastructure the Allies damaged to hamper the German response needed repair to be used for the German defeat.
There had to be a way to move 750 tons of supplies from the port of Antwerp to multiple locations across the front every day. Just one armored division alone required 350 tons of gasoline.
After brainstorming for 36 hours straight, planners came up with a solution: a convoy of thousands and thousands of trucks, constantly streaming to and from the front lines.
No truck could travel alone, they had to travel in a convoy of at least five total trucks and each was marked with a number indicating its position in the line of trucks. To mitigate the risks of high speed driving or of a truck pile up in an accident, trucks were ordered to drive just 35 miles per hour and maintain a specific clear distance from each other. The order to drive slower was rarely followed, many drove at twice that speed.
When they implemented the plan, there weren’t enough trucks and there weren’t enough drivers. The Army began vulturing trucks from units who weren’t using them and began taking people with non-combat functions and training them to be truck drivers. The vast majority of these men were Black soldiers.
Without these soldiers at the wheel, World War II in Europe might have dragged on for another full year. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower saw the Red Ball Express as the most critical lifeline to the advancing armies, just as important as the combat units themselves.
Of course, these early trucks got stuck in traffic, both civilian and military. So the Allies created two priority roads just for the supply trucks, which became known as the Red Ball Line, named for the red spots marking the trucks and the routes that were closed to civilians.
At its height, the Red Ball Express was operating almost 6,000 trucks per day to move 12,500 tons of various supplies, fuel, and ammunition. Since the German Luftwaffe was almost nonexistent by this point in the war, the biggest problems facing the convoys were maintenance of the trucks and the overworked drivers.
Eventually, the rail lines were repaired and the Red Ball Express was no longer necessary. After more than 80 days of continuous operation, the convoy drivers had delivered more than 400,000 tons of supplies to the Allies in combat.
As violence in Mexico raged with intense competition between rival drug cartels and the Mexican government, the cartels came up with a radical solution for improving their capabilities in the street.
Through ingenious engineering, and by taking a page out of “Mad Max,” cartels created so-called narco tanks.
These home-made armored vehicles, also known in Spanish as “monstruo” for their hulking size, reached peak popularity in 2011 as the Mexican military seized a garage from the Los Zetas that was being used to construct the vehicles. Four narco tanks were seized in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas in addition to an additional 23 trucks that were awaiting modification.
The Mexican military’s subsequent crack-down on the creation of monstrous forced the practice to go underground. Narco tanks are still produced, but today’s versions have their armored paneling on the inside so as to not draw unwanted attention from rival cartels and the military.
Below are some of the most impressive narco tanks from the vehicles heyday.
The behemoth versions of narco tanks were created from modified semi trucks.
Dump trucks were also modified into massive steel-plated monsters.
Even smaller narco tanks were armored almost completely with steel plates that could be upwards of 2 inches thick.
As part of further defensive measures, the tanks were usually equipped with double wheels.
Offensively, narco tanks had armored turrets and weapon bays on the side, out of which cartel members could point assault rifles.
Some vehicles were equipped with battering rams to plow through traffic and any potential roadblocks.