North Korea snubs the US and returns to China’s warm embrace - We Are The Mighty
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North Korea snubs the US and returns to China’s warm embrace

The year 2020 was a good year for almost no one, especially anyone in North Korea. Despite overtures from the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump, reconciliation between North and South Korea never materialized. Rapprochement with the U.S. never fully took hold, either. 

Then the global COVID-19 pandemic hit. North Korea needed help, and for a country like the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, there’s only one game in town: China. 

According to the Korean Central News Agency, the DPRK’s state-run and only media outlet, North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un marked the 60th Anniversary of its mutual defense treaty with a warm message.

North Korea snubs the US and returns to China’s warm embrace
“China, we’re still cool… right…?” (Wikimedia Commons)

He told Chinese Leader Xi Jinping that his government is taking a “fixed stand” to “ceaselessly develop the friendly and cooperative relations” between his government and that of China, according to KCNA. 

The Chinese president responded like anyone who’s dealing with a stage-5 clinger, acknowledging that his country and North Korea have “always supported each other,” according to Chinese state-run media agency Xinhua. 

North Korea snubs the US and returns to China’s warm embrace

“The world has recently seen accelerating changes unprecedented over the past century… I wish to lead bilateral relations to unceasingly rise to new levels to the benefit of the two countries and their peoples.”

Translation: “We have always supported North Korea for whatever reason and we like their money, so we’ll keep on until they collapse under their own weight.”

For North Korea, its relationship with China is essentially a lifeline in times of crisis. Despite claims of self-sufficiency, the DPRK relies heavily on Chinese aid and support. North Korea has been hit particularly hard in recent years by crippling U.S. sanctions. 

North Korea snubs the US and returns to China’s warm embrace

Although the country has released no information on how hard it was hit by the coronavirus, experts believe the pandemic only exacerbated the desperation inside the world’s last Stalinist communist state. 

Relations between the two communist countries date back to the 1930s and the mutual war against Japanese occupation. After World War II, the North was bisected from the South by the Soviet Union. When the People’s Republic of China was finally established in 1949, the two officially established diplomatic relations. 

Western Allies occupied South Korea. During the Korean War, Chinese soldiers intervened on the side of North Korea in order to maintain the North’s presence as a buffer against western aggression on its Yalu River border. Keeping western troops from having a foothold on its doorstep is China’s primary national security concern with North Korea. 

North Korea snubs the US and returns to China’s warm embrace
“This Kim Jong Un is a real pain in my ass. You’ve got my back if we annex them, right?” (Wikimedia Commons)

Although the United States maintains a deterrent presence in South Korea, especially along the demilitarized border with North Korea, China does not deploy troops to North Korea. 

In 1961, the two countries signed the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance, promising to again go to war together in case either one was attacked from the outside. North Korea was not always the worldwide pariah state it is today. Under the protection and aid of the Soviet Union, the North flourished. When the USSR collapsed in the early 1990s, North Korea’s decline began in full. 

The North has suffered from food shortages, widespread famine and crippling sanctions since 1994. With the rise of its nuclear weapons program, those sanctions have only increased and its reliance on China has become more important than ever. 

Feature image: Screen capture from YouTube

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Amazon could soon deliver its own version of MREs

Amazon is planning to make a foray into delivering ready-to-eat meals based on a technology program pioneered by the Army to improve the infamous MRE field rations.


According to a report by Reuters, the online retailer currently trying to acquire Whole Foods is also looking to sell food items like beef stew and vegetable frittatas that would be shelf stable for at least a year.

This is done using a preparation technique called microwave assisted thermal sterilization, or “MATS,” which was developed by 915 Labs, a start-up in the Denver area.

North Korea snubs the US and returns to China’s warm embrace
Imagine what Amazon can do with MREs. (WATM Archives)

MATS came about as the Army was seeking to improve its Meals Ready to Eat for troops in the field. Traditional methods of preparing shelf-stable foods involve using pressure cookers, which also remove nutrients and alter the food’s flavor and texture. This requires the use of additive, including sodium and artificial flavors, according to reports.

The new technology involves putting sealed packages of food into water and using microwaves to heat them. Currently, machines can produce about 1,800 meals per hour, but some machines could produce as many as 225 meals a minute.

North Korea snubs the US and returns to China’s warm embrace
Could MATS mean nobody has to have this any more? (WATM Archive)

The shelf-stable foods would be ideal for Amazon’s current delivery system, which involves warehouses to store products that are later delivered to customers. Shelf-stable food that is ready-to-eat is seen as a potential “disruptor” in the industry.

“They will test these products with their consumers, and get a sense of where they would go,” Greg Spragg, the President and CEO of Solve for Food, told Reuters. The company is based in Arkansas, near the headquarters of Wal-Mart.

North Korea snubs the US and returns to China’s warm embrace
MATS could make the MRE look like this K-ration above. (US Army photo)

One bottleneck had been getting approval from the Food and Drug Administration for dishes prepared with MATS. 915 Labs has developed dishes, but is awaiting the go-ahead. Meanwhile, the Australian military has acquired the technology, and several countries in Asia that lack refrigerated supply chains are also purchasing machines.

Oh, and MATS could also be used on MREs, providing the same five-year shelf life that the current versions get as well.

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Watch a 20mm Lahti anti-tank rifle rip through steel plates

The Lahti anti-tank rifle looks a little unusual, showing a pair of skis on the front. But then again, it does come from Finland.


According to Modernfirearms.net, the Lahti L-39, also known as the Norsupyssy — or “elephant gun” — fired a 20x138mm round and had a 10-shot clip. While not effective against the most modern tanks, like the Russian T-34, the rifle proved to be useful against bunkers and other material targets. One variant was a full-auto version used as an anti-aircraft gun.

North Korea snubs the US and returns to China’s warm embrace
Lahti L-39 anti-tank rifle. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Don’t laugh. According to the 25th Infantry Division Association’s website, American personnel used the Browning Automatic Rifle — or BAR — against the Japanese planes during the attack on Pearl Harbor.

This semi-auto rifle was kept in Finnish military stocks until the 1980s, when many were scrapped. This makes the M107 Barrett used by the United States military look like a mousegun.

A number of these rifles, though, were declared surplus and sold in the United States in the early 1960s. The Gun Control Act of 1968, though, placed these rifles under some very heavy controls — even though none were ever used in crimes.

North Korea snubs the US and returns to China’s warm embrace
A Lahti L-39 anti-tank rifle used during World War II. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

In this video, the punch this rifle packed is very apparent. The people who set up the test put up 16 quarter-inch steel plates. You can see what that shell does to the plates in this GIF.

via GIPHY

For a real in-depth look at this awesome gun — and the way they set up this firepower demonstration — look at the whole video below:

FullMag, YouTube

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Russia, Pakistan join together in first-time anti-terrorism exercises

North Korea snubs the US and returns to China’s warm embrace
(Photo: indialivetoday.com)


Former Cold War rivals Russia and Pakistan are moving forward with their first-ever joint military exercises, an event that signals the two nations are working more closely together to combat terrorism in their respective countries.

The exercise is small in size – only 70 Russian soldiers and officers joining 130 Pakistani counterparts. But the implications are huge.

Called Friendship 2016, the Russian troops arrived in Rawalpindi on Friday aboard an Ilyushin Il-76 military transport plane, according to Radio Pakistan. The exercise will continue through October 10.

“It is planned that the Russian and Pakistani military servicemen will share their experience and employ teamwork in fighting in mountainous areas, particularly destroying illegal armed groups,” the Russian news service TASS reported.

TASS also reported that personnel from a mechanized infantry unit of the Russian Southern Military Command’s Mountain Mobile Brigade are part of the exercise.

“The Southern Military Command’s mechanized infantry servicemen are fully equipped and have their mountain gear with them, as well as ammunition for their standard weapons,” TASS stated, quoting the military command’s media service.

The exercise’s name is symbolic, indicating a lessening of tensions between Moscow and Islamabad that started last year when Russia lifted its arms ban against Pakistan.

The result was the sale of four MiG Mi-35 attack helicopters – the first sale of its kind between the two countries – to help replace Pakistan’s aging fleet of U.S.-made AH-1 Cobras. In addition, Pakistani army, navy, and air force representatives visited Russia during the last year to consult with their opposite numbers.

This is in stark contrast from the days when Pakistan under the leadership Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq was an ally of the United States that helped transport arms and men into the fight against Soviet forces after the 1979 invasion of Afghanistan.  In recent years, the relationship between the U.S. and Pakistan cooled after Washington accused Islamabad of turning a blind eye to Taliban fighters using Pakistan as a refuge.

Pakistan denies that it is sheltering the Taliban. In the meantime, the United States improved ties with India, Pakistan’s bitter enemy.

At first, the location of at least some of the war games was both in doubt and controversial. Initial reports indicated that the exercises would be held in what the United Nation’s calls Pakistan-administered Kashmir, an area on the border between India and Pakistan marked by tension since 1947.

Pakistan calls the area Azad Kashmir; India refers to the area as Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

According to a clarification issued by the Russians, “The Russia-Pakistan anti-terror exercise is not being held and will not be held in any point of so-called ‘Azad Kashmir’ or in any other sensitive or problematic areas like Gilgit and Baltistan. The only venue of the exercise is Cherat.”

Cherat is about 34 miles southeast of Peshawar and located at about 4,500 feet in the Khattak Range. It serves as a base for the Special Services Group, the primary special operations force of the Pakistan Army.

Meanwhile, Russia is still moving forward with long-standing joint exercises with India called Indra 2016, hosting more than 500 Indian soldiers in Vladivostok. Russia and India have held the counterterrorism exercises together since 2003.

Articles

This group has launched a fellowship program to put more veterans in Congress

North Korea snubs the US and returns to China’s warm embrace


HillVets has announced a new Congressional Fellowship program exclusively for veterans seeking to begin careers in Washington, called HillVets House. Phase I of the program will feature six Congressional Fellows to be hosted and placed in staff positions on Capitol Hill and is set to begin with the first cohort in July 2016.

HillVets is a bipartisan group of veterans, service members, and supporters focused on empowerment through networking, community involvement, and education. HillVets strives to increase veterans involvement in government and advocacy. This is the first time the effort is being made to get more veterans onto Capitol Hill.

The program is the result of a survey taken by the organization in 2014 in an effort to connect vets on Capitol Hill. The surveyors found that not many veterans were active in Congress. The veterans organization says if they were to rank agencies by number of veterans, the Federal legislative body would be dead last. They are making this effort to change that with the help of the Atlantic Council and the Bob Woodruff Foundation.

Capitol Hill experience is largely considered a key component and invaluable experience for a long-term career in government and politics. Currently, less than three percent of staff members working for the United States Congress are military veterans. As hundreds of veterans continue to come to the Washington, D.C. area, they are often frustrated by an inability to quickly build an adequate network and open the initial doors necessary for long-term success.

North Korea snubs the US and returns to China’s warm embrace

HillVets House is designed to help veterans overcome the many challenges they face beginning second careers by providing a comprehensive introduction to government, politics, and advocacy. HillVets says this program will provide the first premiere access point for veterans wishing to continue their service in unique roles across all government agencies and branches.

Veterans with honorable discharges, Bachelor’s degrees, or who will be in their final semester at the time of the fellowship, and are ready and able to take permanent employment will receive preference. HillVets will focus on recently-separated vets or those who just completed school.

The HillVets Fellowships will start twice a year, with the first class to start in July 2016 and the second in January 2017. Fellows will have a mandatory commitment to their host offices for a period of three months, the second three month period is to focus on finding a permanent, paid position on Capitol Hill, while continuing to work in the Congressional Host office. The placement will be sensitive to the individual’s political party affiliation.

In addition to full-time placement, Fellows will receive housing and/or a living stipend, educational and career development programs, and extensive networking opportunities.

Look for the program application on the HillVets House website by November 17, 2015. All applications are due by March 25, 2016 and should be sent to contact@hillvets.org.

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Video: The Indian frigate INS Betwa just took a spill in drydock

Well, things just got very awkward in the Indian Navy.


The INS Betwa, a Brahamuptra-class frigate, ended up capsizing onto her port side.

North Korea snubs the US and returns to China’s warm embrace
INS Betwa (F39) before she tipped over in the drydock. (Photo from Indian Navy via Wikimedia Commons)

According to a report by the Times of India, the incident occurred Dec. 5 as the 3,850-ton vessel was being prepared for removal from drydock after a refit that started in April.

Two sailors were killed, and 14 injured during the incident. The Indian Navy has declared its intention to salvage the vessel, which cost roughly 60 billion Indian rupees ($885 million) to build.

In addition to having to get the vessel right-side-up, the Indian Navy will have to also repair the ship’s sonar dome. The vessel also suffered damage when it ran aground this past January.

The Brahamuptra-class frigates are versions of India’s Godavari-class frigates. They are armed with 16 SS-N-25 “Switchblade” anti-ship missiles, 24 Barak surface-to-air missiles, a 76mm gun from OTO Melara, four AK-630 close-in weapon systems, and two triple 324mm torpedo tubes. The first ship, INS Brahamuptra, entered service in 2000, followed by the INS Betwa in 2004. A third ship, the INS Beas, was commissioned in 2005.

 

The Indian Navy has had several bad accidents in recent years. In one of the more spectacular mishaps, the Kilo-class submarine INS Sindhurakshak sank after an explosion while docked at a pier in 2013. Prior to the capsizing of INS Betwa, there had been five other accidents involving the Indian Navy this year, two of which involved fatalities.

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This is why the Air Force is replacing JSTARS

When the B-52 is over 60 years old, and a large number of F-15 Eagles are over 30, it seems surprising that the Air Force is looking to replace a plane that won’t even be in service for twenty years until later this year.


However, according to an Air Force News Service article, the Air Force is looking to replace the E-8 Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System, which didn’t achieve its initial operating capability until December 1997 according to an Air Force fact sheet. This plane is an all-seeing eye that looks for and tracks ground targets, using the AN/APY-7, a 24-foot long synthetic aperture radar, according to a Northrop Grumman data sheet.

North Korea snubs the US and returns to China’s warm embrace
The E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System is a joint Air Force – Army program. The Joint STARS uses a multi-mode side looking radar to detect, track, and classify moving ground vehicles in all conditions deep behind enemy lines. The aircraft is the only airborne platform in operation that can maintain realtime surveillance over a corps-sized area of the battlefield. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Shane Cuomo)

So, why is this system, which isn’t even old enough to drink, suddenly planned for replacement? The answer is in the airframe.

The E-8, like the E-3 Sentry, is based on the Boeing 707, a jet that first flew just over 59 years ago. With the exception of Omega Aerial Refueling Services, nobody operates this aircraft commercially.

Furthermore, according to a 2015 FlightGlobal.com report, the E-8s were produced by acquiring second-hand 707s. A September 2016 Air Force report noted that those second-hand 707s had as many as 60,000 flight hours before they had been purchased for conversion.

One JSTARS that had to be written off was built in 1967, according to DefenseTech.org.

North Korea snubs the US and returns to China’s warm embrace
Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron conduct a post-flight systems check on an E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System Oct. 20, 2016, following a mission supporting Operation Inherent Resolve. JSTARS uses its communications and radar systems to support ground attack units and direct air support throughout the area of responsibility. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Miles Wilson)

In other words, these are old airframes and they’ve had a lot of use – even before the Air Force gave the 16-plane fleet over 1 million flight hours collectively (as of this past September). That is an average of 62,500 flight hours per plane — meaning that some of the E-8 aircraft could have in excess of 120,000 total flight hours.

That’s the equivalent of 5,000 days in the air.

What is the Air Force looking towards in replacing the E-8C? The JSTARS recapitalization project is likely to involve a smaller jet. According to a 2014 report by Aviation Week and Space Technology, Northrop Grumman is testing a new JSTARS based off a Gulfstream V business jet.

Boeing’s web site is touting a version of the 737 jet as its entry, attempting to partially piggyback on experience with the Navy’s P-8 Poseidon.

Reports indicate the Air Force plans to start retiring the JSTARS in 2019.

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Here is how the US military would fight ‘Power Rangers’ villains

There have been many iterations of the Power Rangers, but the upcoming film from Lionsgate is packing some punch, not only in it’s killer cast (Elizabeth Banks and Bryan Cranston? Say no more!), but it’s progressive inclusion of an LGBQT superhero — the first for a blockbuster film.


With a new film comes new bad guys, so let’s take a look at how the military would combat the evil Rita Repulsa and her minions. The usual terrain will be the fictional city of Angel Grove, which was located in California (where early seasons of the TV show were filmed).

1. When Rita’s minions are normal size

In this case, Rita’s minions will have a lot of problems. If the present-day United States military has had a lot of experience in anything during the Global War on Terror, it’s what they call MOUT — military operation in urban terrain.

That’s a fancy way of saying, “full-scale street fire-fights.”

North Korea snubs the US and returns to China’s warm embrace
Photo: U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Johancharles Van Boers

The California location means that the closest active-duty units on the scene would be the 1st Marine Division at Camp Pendleton and the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment at Fort Irwin, plus whatever brigade is at the National Training Center.

These units would be springing into action, looking to evacuate civilians from the city while trying to inflict casualties on the invaders.

Here, they would also have the advantage of armored support from M1 Abrams tanks, M2 and M3 Bradley Fighting Vehicles, artillery support from M777 and M109 howitzers, and close-air support.

North Korea snubs the US and returns to China’s warm embrace
Photo: Spc. Evan D. Marcy | U.S. Army

This is one fight that Rita’s minions would have no hope of winning. The experience of American troops in this sort of combat in places like Fallujah, Baghdad, and Ramadi would come through very quickly.

2. When the bad guys are kaiju size

Of course, when the fight goes badly, Rita often had her monsters grow into kaiju-size robots (call it about 300 feet tall, roughly the same height as Godzilla in most of his film appearances).

Once the battle reaches this stage, the infantry will shift to evacuating civilians almost exclusively.

North Korea snubs the US and returns to China’s warm embrace
Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Julio McGraw

From the ground, artillery systems like MLRS and HIMARS would be used to hammer the skyscraper-sized bad guy, along with fire from the M1 tanks.

The Navy would also get involved, using Tomahawk cruise missiles from submarines and surface vessels. Naval gunfire would also be used in the fight.

North Korea snubs the US and returns to China’s warm embrace
A U.S. Marine Corps F/A-18C Hornet aircraft from Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 232 out of Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., takes off. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Karen J. Tomasik)

But the main attack would come from aircraft. While Navy and Marine Corps units around San Diego would be the closest, Air Force units in Utah and Arizona would also be capable of quickly responding, as would any active units carrying out a Red Flag exercise at Nellis Air Force Base.

Here, the best weapons would be laser-guided bombs, hoping to score a penetrating hit that would put the monster down.

North Korea snubs the US and returns to China’s warm embrace
A U.S. Air Force F-16 flies over Iraq in support of Operation Inherent Resolve April 5, 2016. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Corey Hook/Released)

The United States military might not succeed in actually killing the monster with conventional systems, but it would distract it long enough to carry out an evacuation of civilians. To actually kill the monster, it might come down to a B61 tactical nuclear weapon.

North Korea snubs the US and returns to China’s warm embrace
Could this be the only option to defeat one of Rita Repulsa’s monsters?

In either case, the United States military would be able to give Rita Repulsa one hell of a headache.

Check out the new trailer from Lionsgate below:

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5 everyday items with military roots

These items make our lives easier every day, but none of them would exist without their military beginnings.


1. Duct Tape

The miracle tool was invented in 1942 as a way to waterproof ammunition cases. Soldiers fighting World War II quickly realized the tape they used to seal their ammo had a number of other uses.

For better or for worse. And for the record, it was originally known as “duck tape,” because the tape was adhesive stuck to waterproof duck cloth. The strength and durability make it the ideal tape for hilarious pranks.

2. EpiPen

North Korea snubs the US and returns to China’s warm embrace

The autoinjector pen used to help fight off allergic reactions has its design roots in U.S. military Nuclear-Biological-Chemical warfare operations. The same technology which injects epinephrine into a bee-sting victim was developed to quickly give a troop a dose of something to counter a chemical nerve agent.

3. Beer Keg Tap

North Korea snubs the US and returns to China’s warm embrace
Tap that. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

This one is actually kind of backwards. Richard Spikes was an inventor with a number of successful creations by the time he invented the multiple-barreled machine gun in 1940. He invented the weapon using the same principles as his first invention, the beer keg tap.

4. The Bikini

The inspiration for this one is more for the name than the item itself. In the late 1940s, a car engineer name Louis Réard developed a swimsuit he was sure would be the smallest bathing suit in the world. Expecting the spread of his design to be an explosive one, he called the suit the Bikini, after Bikini Atoll, the lonely Pacific Island where the West conducted nuclear weapons tests.

North Korea snubs the US and returns to China’s warm embrace
The bikini might also be a mind control device to get you to do things you don’t want to do. Like eat lettuce.

5. WD-40

Meaning “Water Displacement, 40th Formula,” WD-40 was first developed to keep the very thin “balloon” tank of Atlas Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles from rusting and otherwise corroding. The tanks had to be inflated with nitrogen to keep them from collapsing.

North Korea snubs the US and returns to China’s warm embrace

WD-40 remembers its roots: last year the company led a fundraising and awareness campaign, using its can to help fight veteran unemployment through the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Hire Our Heroes initiative to help find meaningful employment for transitioning veterans.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This Marine survived a shot from a .50-cal at point-blank range

After volunteering to deploy to Iraq four times, the Marine Corps finally sent Cpl. Jared Foster to Baghdad in February 2005. He was assigned as a personal security detail driver for VIPs in the Baghdad area when tragedy struck.


Just a month later after being sent to Iraq, Foster was just sitting down in his tent after a fire watch when a weapon discharged. With all the smoke in the tent, Foster thought a grenade had gone off. He was wrong.

“I saw smoke,” he told AZCentral in a 2007 interview. “Then I looked down because I felt something really cold, and when I lifted my hand up, it had blood all over it.”

Foster couldn’t move and couldn’t hear, but tried to yell for help. A .50-caliber rifle discharged from just five feet behind him. The shot should have torn him in half. Instead, it missed his spine and exited through his stomach.

 

North Korea snubs the US and returns to China’s warm embrace
U.S. Marines man an M2 Browning .50-cal machine gun. (U.S. Marine Corps)

His friends cut off his blouse to tend to his wounds and his intestines fell out. When they told him he was shot by a .50-cal, he didn’t believe them.

“Nah, that would rip your head off, he told them.” He lost consciousness shortly after.

What kind of BMG round went through Foster’s body isn’t clear but the various types of 50-caliber ammunition are commonly used to penetrate vehicle armor or chew through protective cover – like concrete.

Two years later, the Marine told AZCentral that he was evacuated to the Bethesda Naval Medical Center and subsequently underwent some 45 surgeries. He lost his tailbone and suffered damage to his large and small intestines. He was even told he would never walk again.

“I say I don’t have a butt to sit on now, and I really don’t,” Foster is quoted as saying in a Marine Corps Safety Corner. “The only thing that saved my life is I was maybe five to 10 feet away from the .50-cal when it went off, and it didn’t have time to tumble and pick up speed and velocity. It went through me, three feet of wood, four feet of a dirt berm, went another 300 yards and hit another dirt berm.”

Not only did Foster survive the wound, but he was also on his feet and walking within two years of being shot.

“The doctors said they didn’t know if they could save me,” he told the Marine Corps Safety Corner. “They didn’t know how to put me back together because they’d never seen anyone shot by a .50-caliber. The hole in my back was huge. But whatever they did worked.”

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Here’s who’d win if an Airborne brigade fought a MEU

Author’s note: This is a very hypothetical look at how a fight between two of America’s greatest expeditionary units could play out. Obviously, this battle would never actually happen since paratroopers and Marines rarely fight outside of bars. Both sides can only use their indigenous assets and their rides to the fight, no requesting Patriot missile support or a carrier strike group.


During the short War of Alaskan Secession in 2017, one brutal battle pitted an Army Airborne Brigade Combat Team against a Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU).

The fight centered on Fort Glenn, an abandoned World War II airfield on Umnak Island in the center of Alaska’s Aleutian Island Chain. The 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division attempted to take the fort for the Alaskan Independence Forces while the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit steamed north to capture it for the Federal Forces.

North Korea snubs the US and returns to China’s warm embrace
Map data: Google, DigitalGlobe, TerraMetrics, Data SIO, MOAA, US Navy, NGA, GEBCO. Graphics: WATM Logan Nye

The Alaskans wanted the base to act as an early-warning installation and a platform for controlling Arctic traffic while the Federal Forces needed it as a marshaling and power projection platform for the invasion of Alaska.

The soldiers and Marines raced to the island, each unaware of the other’s plans. 4th Brigade caught a ride from Alaskan Air National Guard C-17s while the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit rode in on their dedicated Navy ships, the USS Peleliu and the USS Germantown, from where they were already steaming in the northern Pacific.

The paratroopers arrived first, jumping into the grass and wildflowers covering Fort Glenn. After Army pathfinders walked the runway and declared it safe for airland operations, C-17s began ferrying the unit’s heavy equipment onto the base.

North Korea snubs the US and returns to China’s warm embrace
Photo: US Army Sgt. Joseph Guenther

It was at this critical moment that the Army colonel learned from one of his UAV operators that the 31st MEU was south of the island and steaming towards Deer Bay, a natural beach that sat at the foot of Fort Glenn.

This was a crisis for the airborne unit. A surprise winter storm approaching mainland Alaska had grounded the F-22s and other fighters captured as the war began, but the commander knew the MEU would still be able to launch its eight Harriers and four attack helicopters with the Navy’s ships safely out of the storm’s path.

The Army had limited options. They could attempt to defend Fort Glenn with what static defenses could be emplaced quickly, hide and set up an ambush at the beaches for when the Marines landed, or withdraw to the nearby high ground at Mount Okmok, a volcano that rarely erupts.

The Army decided to make its stand at the beach. Soldiers from the two battalion weapons companies rushed their Humvees, complete with TOW missile launchers, Mk. 19s, and .50-cals, away from the airfield and down to areas of dead space on the shore.

North Korea snubs the US and returns to China’s warm embrace
Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Micah VanDyke

Javelin missile teams jumped out and positioned their launchers to screen for aircraft flying low and slow. Riflemen grabbed their assault packs and began setting up their own positions.

The soldiers waited and watched as the Marines’ amphibious assault vehicles crept into view. It wasn’t until the first of the Ospreys and SuperCobras neared the beach and spotted the humvees that the Javelin crews began firing.

The first missiles streaked toward the aircraft, but they had only limited anti-air capabilities. Two SuperCobras and two Ospreys came down, but the rest of the aircraft began evasive maneuvers.

North Korea snubs the US and returns to China’s warm embrace
Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Ashlee J. Lolkus Sherrill

The Humvees moved up from the dead space to give their gunners a shot at the Marines coming in. TOW missiles and 40mm grenades began striking the AAVs making their way to the beach while .50-cal gunners targeted the Marines Combat Rubber Raiding Crafts.

The Marines, though surprised to find the beach occupied, were masters of amphibious warfare. The command quickly ordered the landers to turn south where the terrain around Deer Bay would protect them from the missiles. The AAVs began suppressive fire to cover the movement.

A few TOWs were launched at the Navy ships, but the Phalanx Close-In Weapons Systems destroyed them and the Navy pulled out of range.

Then the Marines began readying the Harriers. While the nearly 4,000 soldiers of an Airborne Brigade Combat Team vastly outnumber the 2,200 in a MEU, the MEU brings 7 acres of U.S. territory and 8 ground attack jets with them.

North Korea snubs the US and returns to China’s warm embrace
Photo: US Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Claudia Palacios

The Marines knew that since the Army fired Javelins, an anti-tank missile that is a risky choice against helicopters, the Javelin was their only anti-air missile. So the Harriers were free to fly just a little too fast and a little too high for the Javelins, and therefore they were able to rain destruction.

Once the Harriers were airborne, it was over for the Army’s heavy weapons platforms. After destroying the Humvees, they went after the Army howitzers and the few M1135 Strykers on the island.

The Army attempted an organized withdrawal to the mountain as the two remaining SuperCobras returned with the Harriers. The LCACs and Landing Craft Units offloaded the Marines’ six Light-Armored Vehicles and 120 humvees. The surviving AAVs swam onto the shores.

Army mortar crews, riflemen, and the surviving Javelin firers fought a valiant delaying action, but the island provided little cover and concealment and they were destroyed.

By the time the storm had passed over the Alaskan mainland and the governor could send reinforcements, the resistance on Umnak Island had been essentially wiped out. There was simply too little cover and concealment for the paratroopers to defend themselves against the air and armored support of a MEU once the Marines knew that they were there.

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Pentagon expects ISIS to use mustard gas in Mosul fight

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U.S. Army Soldiers put their gas masks on for a simulated chemical attack during a training mission near Camp Ramadi, Iraq, Sept. 25, 2007. | U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Andrew D. Pendracki


The Islamic State is “dead set” on using chemical weapons attacks, including sulfur-mustard gas, to endanger U.S. troops and blunt or delay the long-planned offensive to retake Mosul in northwestern Iraq, a Pentagon spokesman said Monday.

“I think we can fully expect, as this road toward Mosul progresses, ISIL is likely to try to use it again,” Navy Capt. Jeff Davis said, using another acronym for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS. “They are dead set on it.”

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

Last week, ISIS fighters fired an artillery shell near U.S. troops at the Qayyarah West airfield, about 40 miles southeast of Mosul, that was initially suspected of having traces of sulfur-mustard blistering agent. There were no deaths or injuries in the incident.

In a briefing from Baghdad to the Pentagon last Friday, Army Col. John Dorrian, the spokesman for Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve, said that first test of an oily substance on shell fragments was positive, a second test was negative, and a third was inconclusive.

“We have no conclusive evidence” that mustard gas was used, Dorrian said. He said more tests were being conducted.

However, Kurdish peshmerga forces participating in the “shaping operations” for the Mosul offensive said last year that ISIS fired mortar shells suspected of containing mustard gas at their positions about 20 miles east of the Qayyarah airfield. ISIS is also suspected of using chlorine gas in Syria.

Earlier this month, U.S. and coalition aircraft carried out strikes against a former pharmaceutical factory in Mosul that ISIS was suspected of having turned into a chemical weapons complex.

At the Pentagon, Davis said ISIS “would love to use chemical weapons against us and against the Iraqis as they move forward, and we are making every effort to make sure we are ready for it.”

U.S. troops in Iraq have access to gas masks and Mission Oriented Protective Posture (MOPP) gear to protect against chemical attacks.

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A U.S. Soldier with the 76th Army Reserve Operational Response Command decontaminates a vehicle after a simulated chemical weapons attack during a base defense drill in Camp Taji, Iraq, July 23, 2016. | U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. Daniel Johnson

In the 2003 invasion of Iraq, troops carried masks and MOPP suits with them at all times and frequently had to don them as alarms went off on the possibility that chemical weapons were in the area.

Later U.S. inspections and reports found that Iraq had stopped producing and stockpiling weapons of mass destruction before the invasion.

“We fully recognize that this is something that ISIL has done before,” Davis said of the possibility of chemical attacks. “They have done it many times, at least a couple of dozen that we know of, where they have launched crude, makeshift munitions that are filled with this mustard agent.”

“That is not something we view as militarily significant, but obviously it is further evidence that ISIL knows no boundaries when it comes to their conduct on the battlefield,” he said.

In addition to U.S. troops having access to gas masks and MOPP gear, Davis said the U.S. has distributed more than 50,000 kits of personal protective gear for Iraqi and Kurdish forces.

In the Mosul offensive, American advisers are expected to move closer to the battlefront. The Defense Department has authorized U.S. commanders to place advisers with the Iraqi Security Forces and Kurdish peshmerga at the battalion level.

In his briefing last Friday, Dorrian said eight to 12 brigades of the Iraqi Security Forces were “ready to go” against Mosul, where ISIS has had nearly two years to build up defenses. The U.S. estimates that the group “no longer is able to mass enough forces to stop the advance” on the city, and its fighters are experiencing “flagging morale” from the loss of territory and the unrelenting coalition airstrikes, Dorrian said.

U.S. airstrikes recently destroyed an estimated 29 ISIS boats on the Tigris River and also blew up a bridge over which the group’s vehicles were attempting to escape, he said.

To defend Mosul, ISIS has built “intricate defenses,” including elaborate tunnel networks and interconnected layers of improvised explosive devices along likely “avenues of approach” to the city, Dorrian said.

The U.S. has also seen reports that ISIS has dug trenches and filled them with oil to be set on fire once the offensive begins. “They’ve built a hell on earth around themselves,” he said.

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The US military’s first digital camo was a weird one

As the US military entered the 21st century, its uniforms went digital. The Desert Combat Uniform and Battle Dress Uniform, which were worn by all branches, were replaced with new service-specific pixelated uniforms. The Marine Corps adopted MARPAT, the Army got UCP (ACU is the uniform, UCP is the pattern), the Air Force went to a digital tiger stripe on their ABU, and the Navy adopted the often hated NWU Type I. While these digital camouflage patterns came to represent the military at the turn of the century and into the Global War on Terror, they were not the first digital camos.

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Only the Marines still wear their digital camouflage, MARPAT (USMC)

A major battlefield technology that evolved during the Cold War was night vision. Although relatively primitive at the time, infrared optics allowed a soldier to easily pick out enemy troops in the dark. In 1967, the Army decided to create a new type of camouflage to defeat Soviet night optical/observation devices.

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William Wright from Natick chats with a 3CR soldier wearing a DNC parka at Fort Bliss, 1976 (U.S. Army)

In the midst of the Cold War, night vision technology advanced rapidly. As a result, solving the problem of how to beat it proved to be quite a challenge to the Clothing Equipment and Materials Engineering Laboratory at Natick, Massachusetts. Testing continued throughout the 70s with emphasis placed on the arid desert environment, where warm-bodied troops stood out in the cold nights like sore thumbs under NODs.

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Even modern uniforms provide only minimal concealment from NODs (USMC)

In the early 1980s, the military finally introduced the Desert Night Camouflage pattern. It featured a base color over-dyed with two screens to form a two-color grid pattern with irregular blots. With its odd camouflage, DNC supposedly lived up to its name and was optimized for concealing troops from enemy NODs in the desert. The pattern was used on a parka and trousers intended to be worn at night over the Desert Battle Dress Uniform, also known as 6-color desert or chocolate chips.

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A Marine wearing DNC, second from the right (USMC)

It took nearly a decade for DNC to be put to the test in combat. Beginning in 1990, soldiers, Marines, and Special Forces were issued DNC for use in Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Initially, the uniform was well-received because it kept the troops warm during the cold desert nights. However, the camouflage itself was outdated by then and no longer effective against the more advanced NODs being fielded in the late 20th century. In fact, one Marine scout sniper section reported that DNC was more easily visible than the DBDU or winter overwhites when viewed through AN/PVS-5 night-vision goggles.

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A DNC parka sold as a vintage parka jacket (Urban Outfitters)

Following this failure, DNC was discontinued in 1991. Still, the camouflage was historical for the military. It was the first pattern designed to defeat artificial imaging technology, the first pattern designed specifically for nighttime use, and of course, the first digital camo. Today, the military uses infrared and thermal treatments on uniforms to reduce their signature when viewed through NODs. Although DNC was ultimately a military failure, the unusual pattern has seen a resurgence in popularity on the private market in both outdoor and fashion circles.

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