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Russia is about to launch this massive military exercise as tensions with west simmer

Russia is preparing to mount what could be one of its biggest military exercises since the Cold War, a display of power that will be watched warily by NATO against a backdrop of east-west tensions.


Western officials and analysts estimate up to 100,000 military personnel and logistical support troops could participate in the Zapad (West) 17 exercise, which will take place next month in Belarus, Kaliningrad, and Russia itself. Moscow puts the number significantly lower.

The exercise, to be held from Sept. 14-20, comes against a backdrop of strained relations between Russia and the US. Congress recently imposed a fresh round of sanctions on Moscow in response to allegations of interference in the 2016 US election.

The first of the Russian troops are scheduled to arrive in Belarus in mid-August.

Putin meets with Chief of the General Staff of Russia’s Armed Forces and First Deputy Defence Minister Valery Gerasimov and Belarusian Defence Minister Yury Zhadobin, 2013. Photo from Russian Kremlin.

Moscow has portrayed Zapad 17 as a regular exercise, held every four years, planned long ago and not a reaction to the latest round of sanctions.

NATO headquarters in Brussels said it had no plans to respond to the maneuvers by deploying more troops along the Russian border.

A NATO official said: “NATO will closely monitor exercise Zapad 17, but we are not planning any large exercises during Zapad 17. Our exercises are planned long in advance and are not related to the Russian exercise.”

The US vice-president, Mike Pence, discussed Zapad 17 during a visit to Estonia in July and raised the possibility of deploying the US Patriot missile defense system in the country. The US may deploy extra troops to eastern Europe during the course of the exercise and delay the planned rotation of others.

Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, commander, US Army Europe, is awarded the German Federal Armed Forces Golden Cross of Honor by German Lt. Gen. Joerg Vollmer, the chief of staff of the German Army. Photo courtesy of US Army.

The commander of US Army Europe, Lt Gen Ben Hodges, told a press conference in Hungary in July: “Everybody that lives close to the western military district is a little bit worried because they hear about the size of the exercise.”

The Russian armed forces have undergone rapid modernisation over the last decade and Zapad offers them a chance to train en masse.

Moscow blames growing west-east tensions on the expansion of NATO eastwards and in recent years the deployment of more NATO forces in countries bordering Russia. NATO says the increased deployments are in response to the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2013.

Russia has not said how many troops will participate in Zapad 17, but the Russian ambassador to NATO , Aleksander Grushko, said it was not envisioned that any of the maneuvers would involve more than 13,000 troops, the limit at which Russia – under an international agreement – would be obliged to allow military from other countries to observe the exercise.

Zapad 13. Photo from Russian Kremlin.

Russia could, theoretically, divide the exercise into separate parts in order to keep below the 13,000 limit. Western analysts said the last Zapad exercise in 2013 involved an estimated 70,000 military and support personnel, even though Russia informed NATO in the run-up it would not exceed 13,000.

Igor Sutyagin, co-author of Russia’s New Ground Forces, to be officially published on September 20 said, “unfortunately, you can’t trust what the Russians say.” He said, “one hundred thousand is probably exaggerated, but 18,000 is absolutely realistic.”

He did not envisage an attack on the Baltic states, given they are members of NATO . “Well, there are easier ways to commit suicide,” he said. But Putin is a master at doing the unexpected, he said, and Russia could take action elsewhere, such as taking more land in Georgia.

Zapad 13. Photo from Russian Kremlin.

In a joint paper published in May, Col Tomasz Kowalik, a former special assistant to the chairman of NATO’s military committee and a director at the Polish ministry of national defense, and Dominik Jankowski, a senior official at the Polish ministry of foreign affairs, wrote that Russia had ordered 4,000 rail cars to transport its troops to Belarus and estimated that could amount to 30,000 military personnel.

Adding in troops already in place in Belarus and the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad as well as troops arriving by air, it might be the largest Russian exercise since 1991.

NATO said its biggest exercise this year, Trident Javelin 17, running from Nov. 8-17, would involve only 3,000 troops. Trident Javelin 17 is to prepare for next year’s bigger exercise, Trident Juncture 2018, which will involve an estimated 35,000 troops.

Zapad 13. Photo from Russian Kremlin.

The NATO official added: “We have increased our military presence in the eastern part of the alliance in response to Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea and its military buildup in the region. We have four multinational NATO battle-groups in place in the Baltic states and Poland, a concrete reminder that an attack on one ally is an an attack on all. However, NATO’s force posture is not in reaction to Zapad 17.”

During the Cold War, Zapad was the biggest training exercise of the Soviet Union and involved an estimated 100,000 to 150,000 personnel. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, it was resurrected in 1999 and has been held every four years since.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Meet the Marine Corps’ first female Amtrac officer

There’s a saying in the Marine Corps assault amphibious vehicle community: “You ain’t tracks, you ain’t s—.”


It was in part that sense of bonding and pride that drew 2nd Lt. Mariah Klenke to the career field.

Tuesday morning, the 24-year-old became the first female officer to graduate from the Marines’ Assault Amphibian Officer course and the first to earn the military occupational specialty of 1803, qualifying her to command a platoon of AAVs, or Amtracks.

Klenke, whose hometown is St. Rose, Illinois, had to complete a series of physical requirements in addition to the 12-week course: She had to prove she could do a 115-pound clean-and-press and a 150-pound deadlift; she had to lift a MK-19 machine gun, weighing nearly 78 pounds, above her head; and she had to complete a 50-yard “buddy drag” with a 215-pound dummy to simulate a wounded comrade.

That buddy drag proved to be the most physically demanding element of the whole course, said Klenke, who played a variety of team sports while at Illinois’ Highland High School, and went to college on a soccer scholarship. She would graduate from the University of Tennessee at Martin with an accounting degree.

Klenke decided at The Basic School that she was interested in pursuing AAVs as a career field.

“Tracks keep the Marine Corps amphibious; I really like that part about them,” she said. “And it gives you the ability to work with the infantry and be in the battle if there ever was a battle.”

What she didn’t realize at the time was that there had never been a female officer in the field.

Since all ground combat jobs opened to women for the first time in 2016, the Marine Corps has welcomed its first female artillery and tanks officers.

Mariah Klenke poses in front of an American flag in this undated Facebook photo.

In late September, the first female Marine graduated the infantry officer’s course in a much-anticipated milestone.

There have also been two enlisted female Marines to complete required training and enter the AAV community. But until now, a female officer has not attempted the AAV officers’ course.

“Whenever my captain told me that was the MOS I was getting, he said, ‘You’re 1803 and you’re going to be the first female officer.’ I was kind of surprised and [it was] a little nerve-wracking being the first female, and it puts more pressure on yourself there,” Klenke said.

But, she added, she had no second thoughts. With her competitive sports background, she began to prepare mentally to face the challenge.

The assault amphibian officers course itself proved to be small, with only seven students in total, she said.

Other students would joke about her being the first woman in the course, but Klenke said the atmosphere was friendly, and she never felt singled out or ostracized because she was a woman.

“We were all good friends in the class, so it was just friendly jokes about everything,” she said.

She got a taste of the close bonds the tracks community shares during one of the most mentally challenging elements of the course: a week at Camp Pendleton staging AAV missions from the shoreline to inland objectives.

“We were doing three to four missions a day. It involved a lot of planning, and then operating too,” she said. “We were working on a couple of hours of sleep a night.”

The training made her more confident that she had chosen the right field, she said.

Mariah Klenke. (Facebook)

“You get the sense that it’s a very close-knit community and anybody will do anything for you, everyone works hard out there,” Klenke said. “Frankly, the Marines in the MOS, they’re very hard-working and they’ll have your back if they need to.”

For the AAV course, graduation is a quiet ceremony where certificates are distributed. In fewer than 48 hours, Klenke expects to be at her new unit: 3rd Assault Amphibian Battalion, at Camp Pendleton.

And she can’t wait.

“After a year of training, I’m finally just excited to get my platoon and start working for them, training them,” she said.

Articles

This Spitfire shot down near Dunkirk just flew again

During the famed and perilous evacuation of Dunkirk in World War II, brave pilots, sailors, and citizens fought tooth and nail to rescue soldiers trapped on the French beach from the German Luftwaffe as it attempted to wipe them out.


One of the pilots, Squadron Leader Geoffrey Stephenson, was shot down in a Spitfire MK1 N3200 on May 26, 1940, the opening hours of Operation Dynamo. Stephenson spent most of the war as a prisoner of the Germans, eventually staying at the famous Colditz Castle after numerous escape attempts from other prisons.

A Spitfire Mk. 1A flies in 1937. (Photo: Royal Air Force)

But his aircraft, hit through the radiator and with other damage to the body, was left on the beach near Calais, France. The Spitfire plane became a popular photo destination for German soldiers who would often take small parts of the aircraft with them as souvenirs.

By the time the Allies liberated Calais in 1944, no one was too worried about digging what scrap remained out of the beach. And so the plane continued to sit, slowly becoming more and more buried by the mud and sand on the beach.

The restored Spitfire Mk. 1A taxis to the runway at an air show in England. (Photo: YouTube/Imperial War Museums)

It wasn’t until 1986, over 40 years after the war ended, that the plane was recovered — and it wasn’t until the new millennium that someone decided to actually restore the old bird.

Thomas Kaplan, an American investor and philanthropist, backed the 14-year restoration project and gifted the plane, now back in flying condition, to the Imperial War Museum.

Now the plane is housed at the same hangar on the same base that it flew from that fateful day in 1940, but it has a much different mission. It serves as a flying history exhibit for the museum, soaring over air shows and allowing visitors to hear what the original Spitfires sounded like in combat.

Learn more about the history of the plane and see it in flight in the video below:

Articles

12 Airmen may get Air Force Cross or Medal of Honor upgrades

The Air Force is recommending upgrading the awards of a dozen airmen to the Medal of Honor or the Air Force Cross, the service announced Friday.


The upgrades to the service’s two highest valor medals stem from review boards that met in May, according to Brooke Brzozowske, a spokeswoman for the Air Force.

Also read: This airman saved 23 wounded troops during an insider attack

“The boards were charged with reviewing [Global War on Terrorism] Air Force Cross and Silver Star nominations for possible upgrade,” she said in an email. “Specifically, [the] Air Force Cross Review Board reviewed all Air Force Cross nominations [and] Silver Star Review Board reviewed all Silver Star nominations.”

The recommendations have been forwarded to Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James for further action.

U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Veronica Salgado

Another service spokesman, Maj. Bryan Lewis, said he couldn’t disclose how many of the recommendations were upgraded from Silver Star to Air Force Cross and from Air Force Cross to Medal of Honor — the highest military award for combat action.

The service’s review was part of the Defense Department’s push to audit more than 1,100 post-9/11 valor citations to determine if they warrant a higher award such as the Medal of Honor, officials announced last year.

The Air Force review of awards continues and is expected to be completed this spring, Lewis told Military.com in December. “We are reviewing 147 cases, which consists of 135 Silver Stars and 12 Air Force Crosses,” he said at the time.

The Air Force is also continuing to review additional cases in which airmen were recommended for but didn’t ultimately receive a Silver Star, he said. It wasn’t immediately clear how many airmen may be upgraded to the third-highest valor award.

Simultaneously, the Army is reviewing 785 Silver Star and Distinguished Service Cross awards; and the Navy, including the Marine Corps, is looking at 425 Navy Cross and Silver Star medals.

In 2014, then-Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered a review of all decorations and awards programs “to ensure that after 13 years of combat the awards system appropriately recognizes the service, sacrifices and action of our service members,” officials told USA Today at the time.

Military.com this week asked the service if James would announce additional upgrades after Marine Corps officials revealed on Wednesday that her counterpart, outgoing Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, would present four Marines and a sailor with upgraded awards for their service.

Mabus will present the upgraded awards in a ceremony aboard Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina, on Friday.

However, it’s unclear if James will coordinate a medals ceremony in the next few days. The secretary, who had her formal farewell ceremony on Wednesday, is expected to leave the Pentagon next week.

RELATED: Airman to Get Silver Star for Leading River Evacuation Under Fire

Most recently — but separate from the Air Force review — Airman First Class Benjamin Hutchins, a tactical air control party airman supporting the 82nd Airborne Division’s 4th Brigade Combat Team, was approved for the Silver Star in April. Hutchins received his award Nov. 4 during a ceremony at the 18th Air Support Operations Group at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

The Air Force previously said Hutchins had been submitted for the Bronze Star Medal with Valor. However, the service later clarified Hutchins had instead been submitted for two Bronze Star Medals for his actions, which instead were combined into one Silver Star award.

Articles

Upgrades to the CH-47 Chinook will allow it to serve for 100 years

U.S. Army photo by Sgt. William Tanner


The Army plans to fly its Vietnam-era workhorse CH-47 Chinook cargo helicopter for 100 years by continuously upgrading the platform through a series of ongoing technological adjustments designed to improve lift, weight, avionics and cargo handling, among other things.

The Army goal is to allow the helicopter, which was first produced in the early 1960s, to serve all the way into the 2060s – allowing the aircraft service life to span an entire century.

“Our primary goal is maintaining the CH-47F’s relevance to the warfighter,” Lt. Col. Ricard Bratt said in a special statement to Scout Warrior.

The latest model, called the Chinook F helicopter, represents the latest iteration of technological advancement in what is a long and distinguished history for the workhorse cargo aircraft, often tasked with delivering food, troops and supplies at high altitudes in mountainous Afghan terrain.

Able to travel at speeds up to 170 knots, the Chinook has a range of 400 nautical miles and can reach altitudes greater than 18,000-feet. Its high-altitude performance capability has been a substantial enabling factor in the mountainous regions of Afghanistan.

The aircraft is 52-feet long, 18-feet high and able to take off with 50,000 pounds. The helicopter can fly with a loaded weight of 26,000 pounds. In addition, the aircraft can mount at least three machine guns; one from each window and another from the back cargo opening.

U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Freeman

The Chinook F is in the process of receiving a number of enhancements to its digital cockpit called the Common Avionics Architecture System, or CAAS, such improved avionics, digital displays, Line Replacement Units, navigational technology, multi-mode radios, software and emerging systems referred to as pilot-vehicle interface. Pilot-vehicle interface involves improved computing technology where faster processor and new software are able to better organize and display information to the crew, allowing them to make informed decisions faster.

By 2018, the Army plans to have a pure fleet of 473 F-model Chinooks. By 2021, the Army plans to field a new “Block 2” upgraded Chinook F which will increase the aircraft’s ability to function in what’s called “high-hot” conditions of 6,000 feet/95-degrees Fahrenheit where lower air pressure makes it more difficult to operate and maneuver a helicopter.

The Block 2 Chinook will also be engineered to accommodate a larger take-off maximum weight of 54,000 pounds, allowing it to sling-load the Army’s new Joint Light Tactical Vehicle underneath. This provides the Army with what it calls a “mounted maneuver” capability wherein it can reposition vehicles and other key combat-relevant assets around the battlefield in a tactically-significant manner without need to drive on roads. This will be particularly helpful in places such as Afghanistan where mountainous terrain and lacking infrastructure can make combat necessary movements much more challenged.

A Chinook lands at Forward Operating Base Kala Gush. Photo: US Army Maj. Christopher Thomas

The Chinook F is also in the process of getting new rotorblades engineered with composites and other materials designed to give the helicopter an additional 1,500 pounds of lift capability, Army officials explained.

Another key upgrade to the helicopter is a technology called Cargo-On/Off-Loading-System, or COOLS, which places rollers on the floor of the airframe designed to quickly on and off-load pallets of equipment and supplies.  This technology also has the added benefit of increasing ballistic protection on the helicopter by better protecting it from small arms fire.

“The COOLS system has been added to the current production configuration and continues to be retrofitted to the existing F fleet. We have completed approximately 50-percent of the retrofit efforts. Since its fielding we made very minor design changes to improve maintainability.

The helicopter will also get improved gun-mounts and crew chief seating, along with a new vibration control system.

“We are finalizing design efforts on an improved vibration control system that, in testing, has produced significant reduction in vibration levels in the cockpit area,” Bratt said.

The F-model includes an automated flight system enabling the aircraft to fly and avoid obstacles in the event that a pilot is injured.

Additional adjustments include the use of a more monolithic airframe engineered to replace many of the rivets build into the aircraft, Army officials said.

“The program is looking at some significant airframe improvements like incorporating the nose and aft sections of the MH-47G (Special Operations Variant) on to the CH-47F. In addition, the program office has conducted an in depth structural analysis with the intent of setting the stage for increased growth capacity of the airframe for future upgrades,” Bratt said.

The CH-47 F program is also planning to add Conditioned-Based Maintenance to the aircraft – small, portable diagnostic devices, which enable aircraft engineers to better predict maintenance needs and potential mechanical failures, service officials said.

A military policeman pulls security as other soldiers load a CH-47 during non-combatant evacuation training. (Photo: U.S. Army Spc. Thomas Scaggs)

Protecting Helicopters

The CIRCM system is an improved, lighter-weight version of Advanced Threat Infrared Countermeasures, called ATIRCM, — a high-tech laser jammer that is able to thwart guided-missile attacks on helicopters by using an infrared sensor designed to track an approaching missile. The system fires a multiband heat laser to intercept the missile and throw it off course,

ATIRCM has been fielded now on helicopters over Iraq and Afghanistan. CIRCM, its replacement, lowers the weight of the system and therefore brings with it the opportunity to deploy this kind of laser counter-measure across a wider portion of the fleet.

Chinooks are also equipped with a combat-proven protective technology called Common Missile Warning System, or CMWS; this uses an ultraviolet sensor to locate approaching enemy fire before sending out a flare to divert the incoming fire from its course.

Finally, over the years there have been several efforts to engineer a small-arms detection system designed to locate the source of incoming enemy small-arms fire to better protect the aircraft and crew.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Does this picture show the US covertly moving SEALs into Korea?

The US Navy maintains that the USS Michigan, a submarine known for carrying special-ops teams, stopped in the South Korean city of Busan for a “routine port visit,” but pictures of the event suggest a more clandestine purpose that may involve US Navy SEALs.


On top of the Michigan as it arrived in Busan appeared to be two silos for SEAL Delivery Vehicles, the tiny submarines used to transport US Navy SEALs and their equipment for their most covert missions deep in enemy territory.

The Navy confirmed to Business Insider that these pods are used by Naval Special Warfare units, but as a rule it does not disclose deployments of Navy SEALs.

A member of SEAL Delivery Vehicle Team Two prepares to launch one of the team’s SEAL Delivery Vehicles from the back of the Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Philadelphia on a training exercise. Navy photo by Chief Photographer’s Mate Andrew McKaskle.

In April, when the Michigan last visited Busan, South Korean media reported that it carried SEALs to train with South Korean forces for a “decapitation” mission, in which the US and South Korea would work together to kill North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and take out North Korea’s nuclear command structure.

The US military, however, maintains it does not train for attempts at regime change, and it does not typically comment on SEAL deployments.

Now, as the US and North Korea trade nuclear threats and the US and South Korea gear up for another round of military drills, the Michigan has returned, sending a powerful message. The Michigan, a nuclear-powered submarine, used to carry nuclear missiles but now carries 150 Tomahawk precision-guided missiles.

The US operates only four such submarines, known as SSGNs, and rarely discusses their whereabouts.

The guided-missile submarine USS Ohio (SSGN 726) transits the Puget Sound on its way to Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility to commence a Major Maintenance Period. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Paul Seeber.

In 2011 it was the USS Florida, a fellow SSGN, that kicked off US operations in Libya by launching more than 90 Tomahawks at targets there, beating down Libyan defenses before airpower and surface ships took control of the situation.

With not one but two SEAL Delivery Vehicle silos attached, the Michigan could deliver a considerable number of highly mobile SEALs to South Korea. Silos add drag and decrease the stealthiness of the Michigan, suggesting they were included for a reason.

Additionally, as the US continues efforts to put “maximum pressure” on North Korea, South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency posted pictures of F-22 Raptor stealth jets training for an air show in South Korea.

Experts have told Business insider that the F-22 fits the profile of the type of weapon the US would use in the early salvos of fighting with North Korea.

An F-22 deploys flares. Photo by USAF.

On Oct. 15, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the US would continue diplomatic efforts with North Korea “until the first bomb drops,” as President Donald Trump repeatedly hints at using force to solve the crisis.

Despite the outward appearance of war preparations, the Trump administration’s aggressive approach to North Korea has yielded economic and diplomatic results. China has gone further than ever before in sanctioning North Korea, and a handful of other important nations have also cut or reduced ties.

Trump is scheduled to visit South Korea in November.

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US may put more weapons in the South China Sea

Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Daniel Love


Senior Army and Pentagon strategists and planners are considering ways to fire existing weapons platforms in new ways around the globe – including the possible placement of mobile artillery units in areas of the South China Sea to, if necessary, function as air-defense weapons to knock incoming rockets and cruise missiles out of the sky.

Alongside the South China Sea, more mobile artillery weapons used for air defense could also prove useful in areas such as the Middle East and Eastern Europe, officials said. Having mobile counter-air weapons such as the M109 Paladin, able to fire 155m precision rounds on-the-move, could prove to be an effective air-defense deterrent against Russian missiles, aircraft and rockets in Eastern Europe, a senior Army official told Scout Warrior.

Regarding the South China Sea, the U.S. has a nuanced or complicated relationship with China involving both rivalry and cooperation; the recent Chinese move to put surface-to-air missiles on claimed territory in the South China Sea has escalated tensions and led Pentagon planners to consider various options.

Officials are clear to emphasize that no decisions have been made along these lines, yet it is one of the things being considered. Pentagon officials have opposed further militarization of the area and emphasized that the territorial disputes in the South China Sea need to be resolved peacefully and diplomatically.

At the same time, Pentagon officials have publicly stated the U.S. will continue “freedom of navigation” exercises wherein Navy ships sail within 12 miles of territory claimed by the Chinese – and tensions are clearly on the rise.  In addition to these activities, it is entirely possible the U.S. could also find ways to deploy more offensive and defensive weapons to the region.

Naturally, a move of this kind would need to involve close coordination with U.S. allies in the region, as the U.S. claims no territory in the South China Sea. However, this would involve the deployment of a weapons system which has historically been used for offensive attacks on land. The effort could use an M777 Howitzer or Paladin, weapons able to fire 155m rounds.

Photo:  US Army Spc. Gregory Gieske

“We could use existing Howitzers and that type of munition (155m shells) to knock out incoming threats when people try to hit us from the air at long ranges using rockets and cruise missiles,” a senior Army official said.

Howitzers or Paladins could be used as a mobile, direct countermeasures to incoming rockets, he said.  A key advantage to using a Paladin is that it is a mobile platform which could adjust to moving or fast-changing approaching enemy fire.

“A Howitzer can go where it has to go. It is a way of changing an offensive weapon and using it in dual capacity,” the official explained. “This opens the door to opportunities and options we have not had before with mobile defensive platforms and offensive capabilities.

Mobile air defenses such as an Army M777 or Paladin Howitzer weapon could use precision rounds and advancing fire-control technology to destroy threatening air assets such as enemy aircraft, drones or incoming artillery fire.

They would bring a mobile tactical advantage to existing Army air defenses such as the Patriot and Theater High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, which primarily function as fixed-defense locations, the senior Army officials said.

The M777 artillery weapon, often used over the years in Iraq and Afghanistan, can fire the precision GPS-guided Excalibur artillery round able to destroy targets within one meter from up to 30-kilometers or more away.  Naturally, given this technology, it could potentially be applied as an air-defense weapon as well.

Using a Howitzer or Paladin could also decrease expenses, officials said.

“Can a munition itself be cheaper so we are not making million dollar missiles to shoot down $100,000 dollar incoming weapons,” The Army official said.

While Pentagon officials did not formally confirm the prospect of working with allies to place weapons, such as Howitzers, in the South China Sea, they did say the U.S. was stepping up its coordination with allies in the region.

“We continue work with our partners and allies to develop their maritime security capabilities,” Cmdr. Bill Urban, Pentagon spokesman, told Scout Warrior.

Strategic Capabilities Office

The potential use of existing weapons in new ways is entirely consistent with an existing Pentagon office which was, for the first time, recently announced publically.  It is called the Strategic Capabilities Office, or SCO, stood up to look at integrating innovating technologies with existing weapons platforms – or simply adapting or modifying existing weapons for a wider range of applications.

“I created the SCO in 2012 when I was deputy secretary of defense to help us to re-imagine existing DOD and intelligence community and commercial systems by giving them new roles and game-changing capabilities to confound potential enemies — the emphasis here was on rapidity of fielding, not 10 and 15-year programs.  Getting stuff in the field quickly,” Carter said.

Photo: U.S. Navy by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Joshua Adam Nuzzo

Senior Army officials say the SCO office is a key part of what provides the conceptual framework for the ongoing considerations of placing new weaponry in different locations throughout the Pacific theater.  An Army consideration to place Paladin artillery weapons in the South China Sea would be one example of how to execute this strategic framework.

In fact, the Pentagon is vigorously stepping up its support to allies in the Pacific theater. A 2016 defense law, called the Southeast Asia Maritme Security Initiative, provides new funding to authorize a Department of Defense effort to train, equip, and provide other support to the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand, Urban explained.

“The Secretary (Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter) has committed $425M over Fiscal Years 2016-2020 for MSI (Maritime Security Initiative), with an initial investment of $50M available in fiscal year 2016 toward this effort,” Urban said.

Army Rebalance to the Pacific

While the Army is naturally immersed in activities with NATO to deter Russian movements in Eastern Europe and maintaining missions in Iraq and Afghanistan – the service has not forsaken its commitment to pursuing a substantial Army component to the Pentagon’s Pacific rebalance.

Among other things, this involves stepped up military-to-military activities with allies in the region, coordinating with other leaders and land armies, and efforts to move or re-posture some weapons in the area.”The re-balance to the Pacific is more than military, it is an economic question. the Army has its hands full with the Middle East and with Europe and is dealing with a resurgent problem in Europe and North Africa,” an Army official said. “We have been able to cycle multiple units through different countries,” the senior official said.

Also, the pentagon has made the Commander of Army Pacific a 4-star General, a move which enables him to have direct one-to-one correspondence with his Chinese counterpart and other leaders in the region, he added.

As of several years ago, the Army had 18,500 Soldier stationed in Korea, 2,400 in Japan, 2,000 in Guam, 480 in the Philippines, 22,300 in Hawaii and 13,500 in Alaska. The service continues to support the national defense strategy by strengthening partnerships with existing allies in the region and conduction numerous joint exercises, service officials said.

“The ground element of the Pacific rebalance is important to ensure the stability in the region,” senior officials have said. Many of the world’s largest ground armies are based in the Pacific.

Also, in recent years Army documents have emphasized the need for the service to increase fire power in the Pacific to increased fielding of THAAD, Patriot and the Army Tactical Missile System, or ATACMS in the Pacific region. ATACMS is a technology which delivers precision fires against stationary or slow-moving targets at ranges up to 300 km., Army officials have said. In 2013, the Army did deploy THAAD missile systems to Guam.

Army officials have also called for the development of a land-based anti-ship ballistic missile, directed energy capability, and additional land-based anti-ship fires capabilities such as the Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System.

Army officials have also said man support a potential adaptation of the RGM-84 Harpoon and calls for the development of boost-glide entry warheads able to deploy “to hold adversary shipping at risk all without ever striking targets inland.

Boost-glide weapons use rocket-boosted payload delivery vehicles that glide at hypersonic speeds in the atmosphere. An increase in the Army’s investment in boost-glide technology now could fast track the Army’s impact in the Air-Sea Battle fight in the near term, Army papers have stated.

Articles

This man in Georgia restores WWII airplane turrets in his garage

Plane turrets got their combat debut in World War II but were nearly obsolete by the time the war ended as jet planes could fly too fast for most gunners to hit them.


Most turrets were scrapped after the war, but one enthusiast in Georgia is collecting those that survived and restoring them to working conditions.

In his workshop in Georgia, Fred Bieser has thousands of turret parts and, as of 2013 when this video was shot, had restored seven turrets. Most of them are kept in his workshop, but some have gone on display at military museums.

American ball turret gunner Alan Magee poses in his station. (Photo: U.S. Army Air Force)

In this video from Tested, Bieser takes a video crew through his workshop and shows the guts of turrets and how they worked.

The video includes a lot of cool history on turrets, like how pilots worked with gunners to ensure accuracy and how Britain and America used different technologies for power and control.

Check out the full video below:

Articles

Meet the most decorated working dog of World War II

Chips, a German shepherd, collie, husky mix, was the most famous and decorated sentry dog in World War II, one of 10,425 dogs that saw service in the Quartermaster Corps’ new “K-9 Corps.” Prior to the K-9 Corps, dogs such as Admiral Wags on the carrier Lexington and World War I canine hero Sergeant Stubby were mascots without any official function.


The K-9 Corps was the culmination of a program begun by the Dogs for Defense, a civilian organization created in January 1942 by a group of notable dog experts and the American Kennel Club. Concerned about the vulnerability of America’s long coastline to infiltration by enemy saboteurs, it offered to provide the Army and Coast Guard with trained sentry dogs. After some initial resistance, the Army authorized an experimental program using 200 dogs. The success of that program caused the Quartermaster General to authorize the acquisition of 125,000 dogs (later reduced). Of the 10,425 dogs that served in the military during the war, most conducted sentry duty along America’s coastline and at military installations. But roughly 1,000 dogs were trained as scout dogs. Chips was one of those dogs.

Also read: A brief history of dogs in warfare

Chips’ owner was Edward J. Wren of Pleasantville, New York, who enlisted Chips in the Army in August 1942. After training at the War Dog Training Center in Front Royal, Va., he was assigned to Pvt. Rowell. Chips participated in Operation Torch, and was one of three dogs assigned guard duty for the Roosevelt/Churchill Casablanca Conference.

In the predawn hours of July 10, 1943, the 3rd Infantry Division under the command of Maj. Gen. Lucian Truscott landed on the shore of southern Sicily near Licata in Operation Husky. Among the troops that hit the beach was the 3rd Military Police Platoon, 30th Infantry Regiment, containing Pvt. John R. Rowell of Arkansas and his sentry dog, Chips. As dawn broke, the platoon was working its way inland when a machine gun nest hidden in what appeared to be a nearby peasant hut opened fire. Rowell and the rest of the platoon immediately hit the ground. But Chips broke free from his handler and, snarling, raced into the hut. Pvt. Rowell later said, “Then there was an awful lot of noise and the firing stopped.” The soldiers heard someone inside the hut fire a pistol. Roswell said he then “saw one Italian soldier come out with Chips at his throat. I called him off before he could kill the man. Three others followed, holding their hands above their heads.”

Chips suffered powder burns and a scalp wound from the pistol fired at close range. Medics treated Chips and released him to Rowell later that day. That night, while on guard duty Chips alerted Rowell of an infiltration attempt by ten Italian soldiers. Together they captured all ten.

Within days the story of Chips’ heroics had swept through the division. Chips was awarded the Purple Heart and Silver Star. More was to come. The platoon’s commander, Capt. Edward G. Parr put in a recommendation that Chips receive the Distinguished Service Cross for “courageous action in single-handedly eliminating a dangerous machine gun nest and causing surrender of its crew.”

War Department regulations prohibited the awarding of decorations to animals. But in the case of Chips, Truscott’s attitude was “regulations be damned.” He waived them and on November 19 in Italy he personally awarded Chips the Distinguished Service Cross.

U.S. National Archives

The people back home learned of Chips’ heroism in newspaper stories published on July 14, 1944. While most people were thrilled, acclaim was not universal. The next day the War Department released a statement that it was conducting an investigation, noting the War Department regulations. In addition, William Thomas, the national commander of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, angrily wrote letters to the president, secretary of war, and adjutant general of the U.S. Army protesting that the Purple Heart was a decoration for humans, not animals. Then Congress got into the act. After a debate lasting three months, it decided no more decorations were to be awarded to non-humans adding “appropriate citations may be published in unit general orders.” This meant that at least they would receive honorable discharges.

Though they took away his medals, that didn’t make Chips any less a hero. Among those who honored Chips was Supreme Commander Gen. Dwight Eisenhower. But, when Eisenhower leaned down to pet him, Chips, only knowing that Eisenhower was a stranger and possibly stressed from the attention he had been receiving, nipped the general’s hand.

Chips remained with the 3rd Infantry Division throughout the war. Shortly before he was honorably discharged, the men in his platoon unofficially awarded him a Theater Ribbon with arrowhead for an assault landing and eight battle stars. He returned home to the Wren family in December 1945.

Chips died seven months after coming home from complications of his war injuries at the age of 6. He is buried in the Hartsdale Pet Cemetery in Westchester County, United States of America.

Articles

Japan’s greatest aircraft carrier was sank by a tiny sub

The Imperial Japanese Navy aircraft carrier Shinano was, at the time of its completion, the largest aircraft carrier in history to that point. It was heavily armored for a carrier, a 72,000-ton behemoth.


A behemoth that sank not only without sinking an enemy ship or engaging in a major battle, but that never even launched a plane.

The IJN Shinano was the largest aircraft carrier in history in 1944, but she was doomed to sink without ever launching a plane. (Photo: Marine engineer Hiroshi Arakawa, Public Domain)

On Dec. 7, 1941, Japan had a much larger and stronger fleet than the U.S. and early Japanese victories after Pearl Harbor made it seem undefeatable. But America’s industrial might and intelligence breakthroughs allowed the U.S. to reverse the tides.

The tipping point came at the Battle of Midway when American forces sank four fleet carriers and a heavy cruiser.

The Imperial brass had to make tough decisions quickly to protect the Japanese Navy and regain the initiative. Admirals turned to a Yamato-class battleship still under construction, the Shinano, and made the decision to finish it as an aircraft carrier instead.

The USS Yorktown during the fierce air battle at Midway in 1942. The Yorktown was lost, but it helped sink three Japanese carriers. Japan also lost a fourth carrier and a cruiser in the battle. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

The Yamato-class battleships were the largest in history, greater even than the famed German Bismarck. But as American success had proven, the age of the battleship had closed and the age of the carrier had begun.

Converting the Shinano to a carrier took a lot of work and design compromises. The battleship armor was reduced but was still thicker than what most aircraft carriers boasted. Even the Japanese armored carrier Taiho got by with less.

The Japanese battleship Yamato was the largest in the world. One of its planned sister ships, the Shinano, was completed as an aircraft carrier. (Photo: Public Domain)

All the extra armor limited the Shinano’s potential air fleet to 47 planes compared to the Taiho’s 63 operational planes and 15 reserve spares. But the Shinano held lots of fuel and ammo and was expected to act as a support carrier, launching its own planes and resupplying all nearby aircraft during battle.

But that wasn’t in the cards for the massive ship. It was launched on Oct. 8, 1944, and was sent from Yokosuka, Japan, to Kure, where it was scheduled to receive its aircraft.

On Nov. 29, 1944, the ship was hit by four torpedoes from the American submarine USS Archerfish. The Archerfish had been sent to the area to rescue aircrews downed during bombing runs on Tokyo, but began conducting normal patrols when the bombing missions were called off on Nov. 11.

The USS Archerfish sank the world’s largest aircraft carrier with a single torpedo spread in 1944. (Photo: Public Domain)

The Archerfish first spotted the Shinano while surfaced at night on Nov. 28. A lookout reported seeing a large mass and the captain referenced his nautical charts and told the lookout that the mass was an island. The radar officer responded, “Captain, your island is moving.”

The Shinano spotted the Archerfish following it and, probably suspecting that the sub was one member of a wolf pack, began zig-zagging across the water to avoid shots from other subs.

This was a mistake.

The Archerfish was alone and wouldn’t have been able to catch the Shinano if it had fled or dispatched one of its destroyers to hunt the sub.

Instead, the carrier’s evasive maneuvers allowed the sub to slowly get in range and launch a spread of 6 torpedoes over 40 seconds. Four of them smashed in the Shimano just above the carrier’s thick anti-torpedo protections.

The USS Mississinewa sinking after being struck by a Keitan torpedo. World War II torpedoes punched massive holes in the sides of ships, allowing water to rush in and sometimes igniting fuel or exploding ammunition. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

The Japanese destroyers finally turned to fight and the Archerfish was forced to dive to avoid the depth charges that followed.

The torpedo damage to the Shimano caused it to slowly list. The Japanese captain attempted to flood the opposite side to keep the ship level, but the ship had rolled too far and the water inlets were exposed to the air. Unable to correct the list, the captain gave the order to abandon ship. It rolled and sank a few hours later.

The Archerfish was originally credited with sinking a light carrier. The Shimano’s silhouette was unique, and U.S. naval intelligence had to make its best guess as to what sank. After the war, the Japanese acknowledged the battle and alerted the U.S. to the size of the ship they sank.

The Archerfish crew was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation. It was present in Tokyo Bay when the articles of surrender were signed on the deck of the USS Missouri on Sept. 2, 1945.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Watch as an E-2C Hawkeye nearly crashes off a carrier deck

It’s the kind of video that puts a lump in your throat.


But it’s also a crystal clear demonstration of the training that teaches Naval aviators to keep their cool.

In this incredible clip from the USS Eisenhower, a Navy E-2C Hawkeye surveillance plane coasts into what seems like a textbook landing during a calm day at sea off the coast of Virginia.

As the Hawkeye traps the number four wire, it seems as if the plane made a good arrest. But while the twin turboprop airplane strains to a stop, the cable suddenly snaps, sending sailors on the flight deck scrambling and the plane plunging off the end of the flight deck. It takes a heart-stopping 6 seconds for the plane to pull out of the dive and into view above the line of the flight deck.

According to the Virginian Pilot newspaper which obtained the investigation report into the March 18 incident, the arresting gear was misprogrammed for the Hawkeye’s landing, causing the cable to snap. While the aircrew landed the plane safely ashore, eight sailors were injured on the flight deck.
MIGHTY CULTURE

Last of his unit, Army vet shares history of firefighting during WWII

“I am 95 years old,” said James Davis. “I am a World War II veteran, and I’m the last of my unit.”

Davis sat stoically in the chair, his head cocked to one side due to his poor hearing. His hands folded over the grip of his walking stick and his experienced eyes were surveying the room of soldiers and the distinguished guests in attendance who had come to hear him speak.

Davis spoke confidently, not fazed by Maj. Gen. Arthur “Joe” Logan, Hawaii State, Adjutant General and Brigadier General Kenneth Hara, Hawaii State, Deputy Adjutant General, and along with the Senior Enlisted Leader Command Sgt. Maj. Dana Wingad who attended to hear Davis speak.


“I was in one of the first ten firefighting units created,” Davis said. “We were one of four units to deploy overseas to Africa. I made the landing on D-Day plus one on the southern French coast, but not Normandy.”

Hawaii Army National Guard soldiers with 297th Engineer Detachment Fire Fighting Team attend a professional development seminar with James G. Davis, Member, Historian and last living member of the 1204th Army Engineer Fire Fighting Platoon, May 4, 2019 at the 103D Troop Command Headquarters, Pearl City, Hawaii.

(Photo by Matthew Foster)

Davis, a Firefighter Historian, and last surviving member of the 1204th Army Engineer Firefighting Platoon, had come to the Hawaii Army National Guard’s 103rd Troop Command Armory in Pearl City, Hawaii to provide a professional development seminar to the 297th Engineer Fire Fighting Team. Davis became the Historian of his unit 30 years ago.

“I was born blind in one eye,” Davis said. “So, I figured the Army wouldn’t want me. But I registered with the selective service as was required by law. A few months later, the Army said, ‘We want you!'” The room laughed, as Davis chuckled.

Davis entered the United States Army as a selective service limited service inductee early of 1943. Due to his limitations, Davis was not permitted to deploy into combat.

Davis would not initially serve as a firefighter for the Army.

Hawaii Army National Guard soldiers 103D command staff attend a professional development seminar with James G. Davis, Member, Historian and last living member of the 1204th Army Engineer Fire Fighting Platoon, May 4, 2019 at the 103D Troop Command Headquarters, Pearl City, Hawaii.

(Photo by Matthew Foster)

“I started in another Corps,” Davis said. “The Army came looking for people like me that had had experience in wild land fires. Which I had had from the National Park Service. There weren’t many with firefighting experience. We had some training and some the job training. That was typically how we learned how to fight fires, ‘OJT.’ Between the end of World War I and Dec. 7, 1941 there was no class of Army firefighter, they didn’t exist.”

Six months later, he was deployed to Noran, Algeria.

“One year later, I’m hitting the beach on D-Day plus one,” Davis said. “We are very proud of what we did, in many respects. We were by in large, selective service inductees with no fire experience.”

Davis would go on to tell the role of the Army firefighter during World War II

Hawaii Army National Guard soldiers with 297th Engineer Detachment Fire Fighting Team attend a professional development seminar with James G. Davis, Member, Historian and last living member of the 1204th Army Engineer Fire Fighting Platoon, May 4, 2019 at the 103D Troop Command Headquarters, Pearl City, Hawaii.

(Photo by Matthew Foster)

“When we went to shore in France, we had 37 men and five fire trucks,” Davis said. “We had engineer firefighting platoons that fought anything that burned, military or civilian.”

The 1204th Army Engineer Firefighting Platoon served a number of roles from supporting engineering missions as well as supporting combat operations. They were able to utilize their equipment to accomplish missions that normal military equipment could not accomplish.

The Army firefighter was also called upon to directly support combat operations on the front lines of the war.

“When we went into the forward areas, we worked behind the artillery,” Davis said. “Because the adversary would be throwing incendiary rounds, trying to burn the guns out, and would set fire in the process.”

Davis’ history and connected to the lineage and the roots of the 297th FFT Command.

Hawaii Army National Guard soldiers with 297th Engineer Detachment Fire Fighting Team attend a professional development seminar with James G. Davis, Member, Historian and last living member of the 1204th Army Engineer Fire Fighting Platoon, May 4, 2019 at the 103D Troop Command Headquarters, Pearl City, Hawaii.

(Photo by Matthew Foster)

“He loves firefighting,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Thomas Odoardi, 103 Troop Command Sergeant Major. “He loved the job. He’s sharing that history with our guys, sharing their roots. In regards to professional development, it was an opportunity for our small firefighter group to learn from somebody who did it in World War II. It was amazing. We have such a diverse set of Military Occupational Specialties, anytime we can capture history from the past, especially from a veteran, it’s invaluable”

“We got to learn our history,” said Staff Sgt. Julius Fajotina, Readiness Non-Commissioned Officer for the 297th FFT. “I didn’t think firefighting went back to the Legions of Rome. Knowing where we came from and knowing what we equipment we have now, it’s amazing what firefighter Davis accomplished.”

Davis is the last surviving member of his unit and his story will continue on through the soldiers of the 297th FFT.

“We did what we could, with what we had,” Davis said. “It wasn’t adequate, but we are proud of what we did.”

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

Articles

2500 more US troops will deploy to fight ISIS

The U.S. is sending 2,500 additional forces to Kuwait to serve in a reserve capacity in the fight against the Islamic State, Army Times reports.


U.S. Army 1st Lt. Branden Quintana, left, and Sgt. Cory Ballentine pull security with an M4 carbines on the roof of an Iraqi police station in Habaniyah, Anbar province, Iraq, July 13, 2011. Ballentine is a forward observer and Quintana is a platoon leader, both with Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment, 2nd Advise and Assist Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Kissta Feldner/Released)

The forces will largely be drawn from the 82nd Airborne division and will be used at the discretion of ground commanders in the ISIS fight. The announcement is the latest in a series of escalations by the Trump administration in the war against ISIS which could signal a prolonged U.S. presence in Syria and Iraq.

A spokesman for U.S. Central Command would not comment to The Daily Caller News Foundation on the role these forces may play in Syria. The additional personnel will be “postured there to do all things Mosul, Raqqa, all in between,” Army Lt. Gen. Joseph Anderson told Congress Wednesday.

U.S. conventional forces could be used in stabilization operations in Syria after the initial local force assault on ISIS’s capital of Raqqa, Army Gen. Joseph Votel intimated to Congress Thursday. The Trump administration is also significantly increasing the number of U.S. personnel inside Syria to support the assault.

The Pentagon confirmed Wednesday it deployed nearly 400 additional troops to Syria to serve in a support capacity for the Syrian Democratic Force’s assault. The troops include U.S. marines to provide artillery support who will set up a firing base just 20 miles away from the terrorist group’s headquarters.

The additional personnel to Syria and Kuwait, are likely part of a larger facet of a new Pentagon plan to “eradicate” ISIS. Trump campaigned heavily on a promise to defeat the terrorist group and ordered Secretary of Defense James Mattis to deliver a series of options to the White House to get rid of the group.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford told a think tank audience in late February it would be “a political-military plan.”

“The grievances of the [Syrian] civil war have to be addressed, the safety and humanitarian assistance that needs to be provided to people have to be addressed, and the multiple divergent stakeholders’ views need to be addressed,” Dunford continued.

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