Special mission faceoff: Delta Force versus Spetsnaz - We Are The Mighty
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Special mission faceoff: Delta Force versus Spetsnaz

There’s a nasty villain who’s holed himself up in a compound somewhere in BadGuyLand. Both the United States and Russia want to nab this guy – and get him bad. Then, there is a need to rescue some hostages being held at a second compound.


The United States will send elements of the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment – Delta, better known as “Delta Force.” Russia will send elite spetsnaz troops. Who do you send where?

Let’s put the movies starring Chuck Norris aside (even if they were pretty awesome – and where can I get that motorcycle?). The real Delta Force is filled with very deadly operators.

Founded in 1977, and taking over for an interim unit known as Blue Light. Some Delta operators have risen to great heights: Gen. Peter Schoomaker became Army Chief of Staff, while Lt. Gen. William G. “Jerry” Boykin rose to command Army Special Operations Command and the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center.

Delta operators are recruited from across the military, but the 75th Ranger Regiment seems to be a primary source, according to a 2006 statement during a Congressional testimony.

Special mission faceoff: Delta Force versus Spetsnaz
Delta Force is part of Joint Special Operations Command, which targets high value individuals and terrorist groups. (Photo from U.S. Army)

Delta was primarily a counter-terrorist group, but has since evolved to carry out a variety of missions, including the capture of high-value targets.

One such operation in 1993 turned into the Battle of Mogadishu. The unit was also involved in the capture of an ISIS chemical weapons expert this year, and reportedly also helped capture the Mexican drug lord known as “El Chapo” this past Janaury.

During Operation Just Cause, Delta operatives rescued Kurt Muse from one of Noriega’s prisons. Delta also carried out a major raid on an ISIS prison in Oct. 2015 that freed seven prisoners. Sergeant 1st Class Josh Wheeler was killed in the raid.

Russia’s spetsnaz were created for a different purpose.

Founded by the Soviet Union, they worked for the Main Intelligence Directorate, known as the GRU. Their mission was to track down and destroy American tactical and theater nuclear systems like the MGR-3 Little John and the MGM-31 Pershing missile.

But their mission evolved into hunting other targets.

When the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, spetsznaz took out the Afghan president. Spetsnaz have also seen action in Russia’s intervention in the Ukraine, the 2008 Russo-Georgian War, and the Syrian civil war. Russia trained a lot of them – according to Viktor Suvarov, a defecting Soviet officer, there were 20 brigades and 41 companies of spetsnaz in 1978.

That number went up after the invasion of Afghanistan.

Special mission faceoff: Delta Force versus Spetsnaz
Russian Spetsnaz in small arms training.

Spetsnaz and Delta each boast the usual small arms (assault rifles and pistols). The spetsznaz have some unique specialized gear, like the NRS-2 survival knife that can fire a pistol round, and the VSS Vintorez sniper rifle that is capable of select-fire. The large size of spetsnaz – 12 formations of brigade or regimental size in 2012 – means that they are not as selective as Delta.

So, who do you send where? Since the spetsnaz are almost mass-produced, it makes more sense to send them after the high-value target. If the guy lives to be turned over to people like Jose Rodriguez and James Mitchell who can… encourage him to talk, fine.

But Delta Force will be needed for the hostage rescue mission, since they have performed it very well in the past.

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General briefs Congress that fight against ISIS is a total mess

Last week, the head of the United States Central Command, Gen. Lloyd Austin III, testified to Congress about the status of the U.S.’ $500 million dollar plan to arm and train “moderate” Syrian rebels. CENTCOM, which oversees U.S. military operations in the Middle East, provided a surprising report. Of the 5,400 rebels planned to be in Syria fighting ISIS this year, there were only “four or five” active fighters in country. He went on to say there is no way the goal could be reached in 2015.


“It’s taking a bit longer,” Gen. Austin said during his testimony. “But it must be this way if we are to achieve lasting and positive effects.”

It’s going to take a lot longer. The first round of American-trained Syrian fighters made their way into the country recently. They were quickly routed by or defected to the al-Qaeda affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra Front, a Sunni Islamist group. Al-Nusra stormed the rebel headquarters and took some of the fighters hostage.

Special mission faceoff: Delta Force versus Spetsnaz

Lt. Col. Mohammad al-Dhaher, the chief of staff of Division 30, the rebel group favored by the United States,  resigned. He told the Telegraph the training program was “not serious,” and he complained of insufficient numbers of trainees and fighters, inadequate supplies, and even “a lack of accuracy and method in the selection of Division 30’s cadres.”

That didn’t stop the U.S. plan. On Sunday, 75 more American-trained Syrian rebels entered the country via Turkey, where the majority of the training takes place. Almost immediately, those U.S.-backed fighters surrendered to the al-Nusra front. The “vetted” U.S.-backed leader, Anas Obaid, told al-Nusra he intentionally deceived the U.S. to get the weapons.

Special mission faceoff: Delta Force versus Spetsnaz

The reason for the repeated betrayals of Syrian fighters is as fractured as the country itself. Division 30 fighters are only allowed to engage ISIS fighters, but the primary enemy of Nusra in Syria is the Asad government forces. Every group has their own aim.

Special mission faceoff: Delta Force versus Spetsnaz

Nusra’s enemies include the the Kurdish YPG, ISIS, and the Free Syrian Army but mostly the Iran-allied Asad regime and its Shia Hezbollah allies.

The Kurdish fighters from the Syrian Kurdish YPG and Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga are mainly fighting ISIS, but the West is worried they will try to carve out an independent Kurdistan from areas of Iraq and Syria (and maybe Turkey).

Turkey is especially concerned about the rise of Kurdish power and had conducted air strikes on Kurdish forces fighting ISIS as part of a greater conflict with Kurds and their PKK allies (a Communist terror organization in Turkey).

ISIS is fighting to implement their very strict brand of Sunni Islamist government, a new Islamic caliphate based in Syria and extending throughout the Islamic world. ISIS fighters are as well-funded and well-armed as the Asad regime and nearly captured Baghdad last year.

The U.S. and Iran are backing Iraqi forces (and there are even hints of cooperation between the two longtime enemies.

And last week, the Russians started sending weapons and advisers to Damascus.

Did you get all that?

Special mission faceoff: Delta Force versus Spetsnaz

CENTCOM may be doing the best it can with the information it actually gets. The New York Times discovered overly negative intelligence reports were being tossed back to their analysts to be rewritten in a more positive light, essentially manipulating and distorting the information given to lawmakers.

NOW: An American has died fighting ISIS in Syria

OR: This video follows an ISIS recruit’s journey to Syria

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How this super-fast Russian torpedo could be a US carrier killer

new, super-fast Russian torpedo may tip the scales decisively in underwater warfare.


It is a successor to the 1970’s Shkval (Russian for ‘Squall’), which has an impressive speed of over 200 knots, far faster than any NATO torpedo, making it difficult to stop. However, it has range of less than ten miles compared to more than 30 for the US Mk 48. Shkval is also limited by the fact that it cannot use sonar guidance when travelling at speed. Western analysts have tended to be scathing about the Shkval, calling it a suicide weapon because of its short range. One Russian commentator described it as “amusing but useless.”

However, a new Russian torpedo is likely to see the Shkval’s defects remedied. The Khishchnik (“Predator”) is a new supercavitating torpedo at an advanced stage of development. Unlike various supposed super-weapons which they boast about publicly, the Russians are keeping very quiet about Predator.

High-speed underwater projectiles rely on a principle called supercavitation. Rather than being streamlined, Shkval’s nose is blunt, ending in a flat disc. This creates a low-pressure area in its wake – the pressure is so low that a bubble of water vapor forms. This cavitation effect is well known; propellers are designed to minimize it because it reduces contact with the water and causes damage. In supercavitation, the bubble is large enough to enclose the entire torpedo except for its steering fins. By travelling inside the bubble, the torpedo experiences far less drag than a normal torpedo in contact with the water. The low drag means it can reach phenomenal speeds.

Special mission faceoff: Delta Force versus Spetsnaz
A 3D computer graphic showing the effect of supercavitation by means of a superpenetrator. As the object travels left, the blunt nose creates a pocket of air vapor (represented in light blue). Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Russia has long been the leader in supercavitating weapons. These include the bullets fired by the APS underwater assault rifle, effective at a range of thirty meters underwater – several times greater than any other firearm.

Torpedoes like Shkval use a more advanced version of the effect in which the cavity is ‘ventilated,’ sustained by an injection of exhaust gases. Shkval is not rocket-propelled as many sources assume; there’s a good description (in Russian) here. A rocket boosts the torpedo up to cavitation speed, but after that, a hydrojet takes over, burning magnesium-based fuel and using seawater as the oxidizer.

Western efforts to copy Russian supercavitating technology have not so far been successful. There have been great successes in the lab, but these have not translated into deployed hardware.  DARPA had an ambitious plan for a 100 mph+ supercavitating submarine called the Underwater Express. They had a three-year contact with sub makers Electric Boat from 2006-2009, but it came to nothing.  The US Navy RAMICS project involved busting underwater mines with a supsercavitating projectile fired from a helicopter, the project ran from 1997 to 2011 before funding was terminated without the system being fielded. The US Navy’s supercavitating torpedo project has been on hold since 2012; a spokesman says that improved understanding of the basic physics of supercavitation is needed.

Special mission faceoff: Delta Force versus Spetsnaz
The APS Underwater Assault Rifle. Photo from Wikimedia Commons user REMOV.

The Western work may give us some insight into how the Russians are improving on Shkval. The reason why it cannot carry sonar is because the cavitating disc is much too small for a sonar system, and the engine is too noisy. General Dynamics patented a new type of cavitator in the early 2000’s. Rather than being flat, this is a parabolic curve, giving gives enough surface area for the sonar receiver. In the GD design, the sonar emitters are mounted separately on the fin tips, and filters block out engine noise.

This suggests that a guided supercavitating torpedo is now feasible; a 2015 article on the Shkval suggested that one was under development.

The other issue with the Shkval is its short range.  Georgiy Savchenko of the Institute of Hydromechanics at Ukraine’s National Academy of Sciences works on supercavitating designs and says that improved fuel will make a dramatic difference – he estimates that the range could be improved by a factor of ten.

Khishchnik may also be significantly faster than the 1970s Shkval. Very high speeds underwater are certainly possible. A US Navy lab succeeded in firing an underwater projectile at an incredible 1500 meters per second, and the Chinese have talked about supersonic underwater vehicles, though there is no evidence they have achieved this.

Special mission faceoff: Delta Force versus Spetsnaz
The supercavitating head of the Shkval torpedo. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Very little information is being released on Khishchnik apart from the fact that it is being developed by Elektropribor, a design bureau which makes instruments for ships and subs as well as aviation components. Its existence was revealed in documents uncovered by Russian defense blog BMPD, which revealed that the company had been working on Khishchnik since 2013 and that launch tests were expected in 2016 as part of a contract worth 3 billion rubles ($53m).  There have been no official comments or announcements.

Other companies may also be working on the project. In 2016, Boris Obnosov, CEO of Russian company Tactical Missiles Corp, mentioned work in this area to Rambler News Service

“Take, for instance, the well-known unique Shkval underwater missile. We are working on upgrading it heavily.”

The ‘heavily upgraded’ Shkval seems likely to be the Khishchnik.

Shkval has been upgraded several times previously, with improvements in range and guidance. A new name suggests a more significant upgrade. An export version of the Shkval, the Shkval-E was produced in 1999. There would be a big market for an unstoppable, carrier-killing torpedo.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Russia is developing this answer to the newest Air Force bomber

With the announcement of the B-21 Raider, the United States has begun the process of developing a replacement for the B-1B Lancer and the B-52 Stratofortress. But the United States is not the only country looking for a new bomber. Russia wants to get one, too.


According to a Facebook post by Scramble Magazine, the Tupolev design bureau is making major progress on the PAK-DA program. PAK-DA stands for, “perspektivnyi aviatsionnyi kompleks dal’ney aviatsii,” which is Russian for, “prospective aviation complex for long-range aviation.”

The magazine noted that Tupolev has reportedly already delivered a number of production models, including smaller-sized replicas for wind-tunnel tests and a full-scale mock-up. The PAK-DA will reportedly be a flying wing design similar to the B-2 Spirit, which first flew in 1990, with advanced features, like stealth technology and carrying all of its weaponry in internal bays.

Special mission faceoff: Delta Force versus Spetsnaz
The Russian United Aircraft Corporation showed this model of the proposed PAK-DA the acronym for Prospective Aviation Complex for Long-Range Aviation, the future Russian bomber.

According to Russian news, the Kremlin sees this as a potential replacement for the Tu-95 “Bear,” Tu-160 “Blackjack,” and Tu-22M3 “Backfire” bombers in service. Some estimates speculate that Russia is planning to introduce the plane into service as early as 2025, while others estimate 2030. The B-21 Raider is expected to have an initial capability in the 2020s, according to a 2016 Air Force release.

Special mission faceoff: Delta Force versus Spetsnaz
A Tu-160 launches a Kh-101 missile against a target in Syria. (Russian Ministry of Defense photo)

However, the upgraded Tu-160M2 version of the Blackjack will enter serial production in 2020, with the first flight scheduled to take place this year. 50 Tu-160s are on order for Russia, according to World Air Force 2018. The document also notes that the Russian Air Force has a total of 68 Tu-22M3 Backfires, 42 Tu-95 Bears, and 16 Tu-160 Blackjacks currently in service.

Compare these numbers to the United States Air Force’s bomber count. The USAF has a total of 75 B-52H Stratofortresses, 60 B-1B Lancers, and 20 B-2 Spirits on inventory. The Air Force plans to order 100 B-21s.

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New legislation could provide mental health care to combat veterans

Recent investigations show that the Department of Defense has issued thousands of other-than-honorable discharges to veterans with mental health and behavioral health diagnoses.


U.S. Sens. Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal and seven other senators introduced legislation to change that.

On April 3, Murphy, veterans, and advocates for veterans held a press conference in Connecticut and called upon Congress to take action.

“I can’t stand the idea of a veteran risking her or his life for this country, suffering the wounds of battle, and then being kicked to the curb as a result of those wounds,” Murphy said. “But that is exactly what has happened to tens of thousands of men and women who have fought and bled for our country.”

“This is common sense,” Murphy added. “We are breaking our promise to those who served.”

Special mission faceoff: Delta Force versus Spetsnaz
In 2014, 6 of the 20 veterans per day committing suicide were users of VA services.

Murphy said there is also a stigma that comes with an other-than-honorable discharge that is a heavy burden for veterans to live with. “A lot of these so-called offenses are very minor,” Murphy said.

The legislation Murphy helped introduce would require the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to provide mental health and behavioral health services to diagnosed former combat veterans who have been other-than-honorably discharged. The bill would also ensure that veterans receive a decision in a timely manner and requires the VA to justify to Congress any denial of benefits that they issue to a veteran.

Up until recently, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Murphy said, denied it had the legal authority to provide any care to former combat veterans who received OTH or Bad Paper discharges.

The VA has reversed course on the matter, Murphy said, adding that now it’s time for Congress to act to ensure mental health and behavioral health services are provided to these veterans.

Since January 2009, the Army has “separated” at least 22,000 soldiers for misconduct after they came back from Iraq and Afghanistan, said Murphy.

“These soldiers who fought for our country suffered serious mental health problems or traumatic brain injury as a cost of their service. And we turned our back on them,” Murphy said, adding that they also return home from combat with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

But instead of being directed to the care and treatment they need, they’re being given other-than-honorable discharges or so-called “bad paper discharges,” disqualifying them from VA care, especially the mental and behavioral health services many of them desperately need, said the senator.

Murphy’s strong support for the bill was echoed by Blumenthal, who is a sponsor but was not at Monday’s press conference.

“This bill will make crystal clear that all combat veterans should have access to the full array of mental and behavioral health care they need and deserve,” Blumenthal said. “We cannot wait for a crisis to provide essential mental health to veterans suffering from the terrible invisible wounds of war.”

He said 20 veterans per day are lost to suicide.

Special mission faceoff: Delta Force versus Spetsnaz
Chiefs and chief selects do pushups for the 22Kill Challenge aboard the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77). 22Kill is a veterans’ advocacy group that brings awareness to the daily veterans’ suicide rate. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Tristan Lotz/Released)

One of those in attendance at the press conference Monday was Conley Monk, a Vietnam veteran from New Haven who developed PTSD as a result of his military service.

In 2014, Monk and four other plaintiffs brought a class action lawsuit because they were issued OTH discharges. They won the suit, which was brought on their behalf by the Veterans Legal Services Clinic at Yale Law School and the Pentagon agreed to upgrade their discharges to honorable.

Another veteran to speak Monday was was Tom Burke, president of the Yale Student Veterans Council and a U.S. Marine corps veteran.

In 2009, Burke was a Marine infantryman in Afghanistan.

It was when he was in the Helmand Province that he witnessed deaths of many young children who were killed by an unexploded rocket-propelled grenade. One of Burke’s responsibilities was to cart away the dismembered bodies.

“I began smoking hash,” Burke said, adding that in a matter of weeks he was charged for misconduct for his drug use and was told he would be kicked out of the Marines.

Burke said he “tried to commit suicide a few times.”

He said he was later locked in a psychiatric hospital and subsequently given an OTH discharge later in 2009.

In 2014, Burke said he applied for an honorable discharge, but was denied.

Burke tells his story often, these days, not to elicit empathy for his own case, but to try and draw attention to the bigger issue of the thousands like him who are being denied benefits.

“Veterans are dying,” Burke said. “These aren’t men and women who are trying to take advantage of the system.”

Margaret Middleton, executive director of the Connecticut Veterans Legal Center, said veterans need relief.

Under the current system, a veteran trying to get an honorable discharge often “requires the expertise and cost of an attorney and lengthy research,” something that veterans returning from combat shouldn’t be forced to endure, she said.

Murphy concluded: “Our veterans made a commitment to our country when they signed up. I introduced this legislation to make sure that the VA keeps its commitment to help veterans with mental and behavioral health issues. I won’t stop fighting until they get the care and benefits they deserve.”

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13 funniest memes for the week of Sept. 30

We scrolled through miles of the Internet to find and present these funny military memes. Please enjoy them.


1. This was a surprise (via Coast Guard Memes).

Special mission faceoff: Delta Force versus Spetsnaz

2. Ugh, I still get the ghost weapon panic every once in a while (via The Salty Soldier).

Special mission faceoff: Delta Force versus Spetsnaz

3. “Welcome to the advancement exam. There’s a good chance you’ll make sergeant this time.”

(via Sh-t my LPO says)

Special mission faceoff: Delta Force versus Spetsnaz
They should’ve made him walk into an Army promotion board like that.

4. Always be ready to lay waste to your enemies, especially at PTA meetings (via Pop Smoke).

Special mission faceoff: Delta Force versus Spetsnaz
Now you have to have a few kids so that you can properly crew the weapon.

5. The perfect cream to help with Navy service (via Sh-t my LPO says).

Special mission faceoff: Delta Force versus Spetsnaz
Might want to buy it out of pocket, though. Chief will get suspicious if he notices someone ordered it through the Navy.

6. “That’s it? All of it?”

Special mission faceoff: Delta Force versus Spetsnaz

7. OMG, Navy. If you lifted more, you would be able to get out (via Pop Smoke).

Special mission faceoff: Delta Force versus Spetsnaz
Never go on land alone, sailors.

8. He has lots of sensitive parts, mostly areas of soft tissue and cartilage (via Military Memes).

Special mission faceoff: Delta Force versus Spetsnaz
Don’t try to get away. It’ll only get worse.

9. We have all sorts of games and prizes (via Pop Smoke).

Special mission faceoff: Delta Force versus Spetsnaz

10. Speak softly and carry a few nuclear reactor-powered sticks.

Special mission faceoff: Delta Force versus Spetsnaz
Prepare the be #wrekt.

11. The Air Force needs luggage, not rucks (via Military Memes).

Special mission faceoff: Delta Force versus Spetsnaz

12. Funny thing is, she’ll probably still reenlist (via Hey Shipmate).

Special mission faceoff: Delta Force versus Spetsnaz

13. “This is a training program, right?”

Special mission faceoff: Delta Force versus Spetsnaz

MIGHTY TACTICAL

New M240 Machine Gun suppressor gets rave reviews from Army maneuver in test

U.S. Army maneuver officials are testing a new sound suppressor that can quiet the M240 machine gun enough for gunners to easily hear fire commands.

The Maneuver Battle Lab at Fort Benning, Georgia has been live-fire testing the suppressor from Maxim Defense during Army Expeditionary Warrior Experiment (AEWE) 2021, which began in late October.

“Suppressors have always had liability in the past,” said Ed Davis, director of the Battle Lab, who has seen suppressors cycle through the AEWE for the past decade.

“This is the first year that I would say most of the Maneuver Center [of Excellence] has gotten excited about a suppressor.”

The Battle Lab is only evaluating the Maxim Defense suppressor during this year’s AEWE. Other suppressors in past tests have not been able to stand up to the heat and roar produced by the 7.62mm M240.

“Some of them, they got way too hot and … would glow red hot,” Davis said. “Some of them wouldn’t last very long; most of them really didn’t dampen the noise of any significance that was worthwhile.”

Battle Lab officials and soldiers have fired “a fair amount of rounds” through M240s equipped with the Maxim Defense suppressor, enough to put it in the “sweet spot” to recommend it for further evaluation, Davis said.

“This may be one that we recommend that a unit buy and do some sort of evaluation long-term,” Davis said. “We do know thatm with the gun firing, it brings the noise down. … You can fire the M240 and have a conversation right next to it.”

Finding a durable, affordable suppressor that can dampen the sound signature of an M240 would make it more difficult for the enemy to locate and target machine gun teams from a distance, Davis said.

The M240 can engage targets as far as 1,100 meters away, “so if you can suppress the noise to that level, that means the position is relatively concealed during employment,” Davis said.

“It adds a great degree of protection to your machine gun teams, which are priority targets on the battlefield,” he added.

“It also helps you in command and control because now you can give fire commands and so forth without having hearing protection and the voice of the gun causing confusion and things like that.”

When the AEWE concludes in early March, Battle Lab officials will compile a report detailing the performance of equipment tested, which will include recommendations for further study.

“Our evaluations for AEWE are not complete by any means,” Davis said, adding that Maxim Defense suppressor could go to a unit for further evaluation.

“Or it could come back to the Battle Lab as a separate event for a more comprehensive evaluation,” Davis said. “You want to look at barrel wear, you want to look at how long the suppressor is going to last and you want to see how long it takes to gum these systems up.”

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why everyone feels better with a SuperCobra overhead

It’s an airframe that dates back to the Vietnam War, but it’s served for nearly 50 years and is still a comforting presence for those protected by its missiles, guns, and rockets: Meet the AH-1 SuperCobra.


Special mission faceoff: Delta Force versus Spetsnaz

Pilots aboard an AH-1W SuperCobra helicopter fly into a forward arming and refueling point at Marine Corps Training Area Bellows, Hawaii, May 6, 2014.

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Matthew Bragg)

The AH-1 Cobra was the first dedicated attack helicopter, though it was technically an interim solution, filling a gap in capabilities until the AH-56 could make it to the field. The AH-56, however, was never constructed, so the Army stuck with the AH-1.

The Marine Corps, meanwhile, was looking for an attack helicopter of their own, and they were interested in what the Army had to offer. There was one glaring problem, though: The Army AH-1 had only one engine. The Marine Corps wasn’t comfortable with this since their helicopters might have to fly dozens of miles across open ocean to reach beachheads. If you lose an engine six miles from the ship or the shore, you really want a second engine to close the gap.

And so the Marine Corps asked Bell helicopters for an AH-1 with two engines, thus creating the AH-1 SeaCobra, which later became the SuperCobra. It first went into service in 1971, which the math nerds will note is 47 years ago.

Special mission faceoff: Delta Force versus Spetsnaz

An AH-1W SuperCobra, with Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 775, Marine Aircraft Group 41, 4th Marine Aircraft Wing, performs a break turn after conducting a close air support mission in an exercise at Twentynine Palms, California, June 18, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Samantha Schwoch)

The reason the AH-1 SuperCobra has lasted so long — and the reason that it’s being replaced by the AH-1Z Viper, which is basically just an upgraded version — is that it’s very effective. The first Marine variant, the AH-1J SeaCobra, was originally fielded with a three-barrel 20mm cannon in 1969. But the Marines wanted more power and weapons, and they’ve upgraded the helicopter multiple times over the decades since.

Now, the AH-1W can carry everything from from TOW missiles and Hellfires, both of which are very good at killing enemy tanks. The AGM-114 Hellfire is a potent weapon, carrying an up to 20-pound warhead. It uses either a shaped charge warhead, tandem warhead, or a HEAT warhead. The tandem warhead is the most effective and is thought to be able to defeat all current tanks and armored vehicles.

The TOW, meanwhile, is heavier and has even more variants, but can also open up pretty much any armored threat in the world today.

Special mission faceoff: Delta Force versus Spetsnaz

U.S. Marines assigned to Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron 1 load a 2.75-inch rocket configured with Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System II, a hydra 70 rocket motor and M282 High Explosive Incendiary Multipurpose Penetrator Warhead onto an AH-1Z Viper at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., March 29, 2018

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Ashley McLaughlin/Released)

The helicopters can also fire rockets in support of the Marines on the ground, sending out Hydras against troop and vehicle concentrations. These rockets were historically unguided, but kits are now available when necessary. The rockets can carry fast-flying flechettes, small darts that shred enemy combatants, as well as explosive warheads, infrared flares, or smoke.

Zuni rockets, meanwhile, are technically an air-to-air or air-to-ground weapon, but since they’re unguided, the U.S. uses them pretty much only against the ground and ships nowadays. The rockets can carry warheads of almost 50 pounds, and can be sued to rip apart tanks, personnel, or pretty much any target that isn’t heavily fortified.

The rockets can also deploy chaff to throw off enemy radar-guided munitions.

Special mission faceoff: Delta Force versus Spetsnaz

U.S. Marine Cpl. Michael Michehl, a line noncommissioned officer with Marine Wing Support Detachment 24, controls forward arming and refueling point operations during a field test for the Expeditionary Mobile Fuel Additization Capability system at Pohakuloa Training Area, Hawaii, July 18, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Adam Montera)

Finally, the SuperCobras can fire Stinger Missiles, a potent, short-range air defense missile that can send shrapnel flying through enemy helicopters and planes, shredding the engines, wings, or cockpits of the target.

All of this combines to make the SuperCobra a Marine’s deadly big brother in the sky. They can tackle slow-moving air threats, armor, and personnel, protecting Marines under attack from nearly anything, though the helicopters can be made vulnerable themselves by enemy air defenses or air interdiction.

Of course, that doesn’t stop the pilots from laying waste, even when the enemy has their own weapons in play. Marine Capt. John Patrick Giguere earned the Silver Star for flying his AH-1T, a TOW-equipped variant, over enemy air defenses while protecting a downed aircrew in Grenada.

Special mission faceoff: Delta Force versus Spetsnaz

An AH-1W SuperCobra, attached to Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 167, takes off from the flight deck of the amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima, March 8, 2017.

(U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Andrew Murray)

First Lt. Sydney Baker also earned a Silver Star. His came while flying an AH-1G supporting the insertion of Marines in Vietnam. Despite ground fire so fierce that it knocked out his communications gear and threatened to down the bird, he kept up a heavy volume of fire to protect Marines on the ground.

So, while their younger, sexier AH-64 Apache counterparts get all the love, the AH-1 SuperCobras and Vipers are out there saving Marines every day, so raise a glass for these old school infantrymen of the sky. They’ll be happy to save you if you’re ever in trouble.

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5 warheads the USS Zumwalt could shoot besides Nerf darts

Though the Navy is dancing in the end zone over its newest destroyer, the USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000), the futuristic ship has already lost one of the major pieces of its arsenal.


To be more precise, the 155mm Advanced Gun Systems will need a new round to fire.

Special mission faceoff: Delta Force versus Spetsnaz
The future guided-missile destroyer USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000) transits the Atlantic Ocean during acceptance trials April 21, 2016 with the Navy’s Board of Inspection and Survey (INSURV). The U.S. Navy accepted delivery of DDG 1000, the future guided-missile destroyer USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000). Following a crew certification period and October commissioning ceremony in Baltimore, Zumwalt will transit to its homeport in San Diego for a Post Delivery Availability and Mission Systems Activation. DDG 1000 is the lead ship of the Zumwalt-class destroyers, next-generation, multi-mission surface combatants, tailored for land attack and littoral dominance. (U.S. Navy/Released)

According to a report by Popular Mechanics, the Navy has cancelled the Long Range Land Attack Projectile (LRLAP). This round, guided by GPS satellites, was to have been used to hit targets as far away as 60 miles. One of the biggest issues came about because of the cut in the buy of the Zumwalt – from 32 ships to only three. The Daily Caller noted that cutting the size of the Zumwalt buy caused the per-unit cost to go up from $4.1 billion to $7 billion. That meant that the cost per shell went up to $800,000, largely because the RD cost is being borne by far fewer rounds than originally thought. As a result, the program met the Pentagon chopping block.

Read More: Add Zumwalt Class to list of new Navy ships having engineering problems

Now, this does not mean that the Zumwalt’s AGS is reduced to an ornament. The good news about the 155 round is that there are a host of options aside from the proverbial spitballs. Here are a few:

M107 High-Explosive: This is a conventional round – but there are a lot of them in stock, and it can still do a lot of damage. The M549 adds rocket assistance to increase range. Newer shells like the XM1113 and XM1128 will provide longer range and near-precision capability.

M864 Dual-Purpose Improved Conventional Munitions (DPICM): Think of this as a very small cluster bomb. The bomblets can take out armor or infantry, and it allows room for error. On a ship, these rounds could do a lot of damage to exposed antennas for radars and radios.

M712 “Copperhead”: This is a laser-guided artillery round. And a lot of UAVs have laser designators, including the MQ-8 Fire Scout (which can be operated off ships). While intended for land use, it should be noted that the Navy has used laser-guided weapons at sea, notably AGM-123 Skippers against the Iranian frigate Sahand during Operation Praying Mantis.

Special mission faceoff: Delta Force versus Spetsnaz
The M982 Excalibur 155mm round leaves the barrel of an M777 Howitzer during a live fire shoot conducted by Soldiers of the 4th Battalion, 27th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, at Oro Grande Range Complex, N.M., Dec. 5. The shoot was the first of its kind conducted outside of the National Training Center, Fort Irwin, Calif., and combat. (US Army photo by Sgt. Sean Harriman, 2nd BCT, 1st AD, Public Affairs)

M982 “Excalibur”: This is a GPS guided shell already in service with the Army. Costing $68,000 a shell, it doesn’t have the range that LRLAP would have brought to the table, but it is combat-proven in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Special mission faceoff: Delta Force versus Spetsnaz
Free to enter. 5 will win. Ends November 30, 2016

Vulcano: The Vulcano from OTO Melara uses infra-red guidance to hit its targets at ranges of about 50 miles. The Italian firm offers this shell in 76mm and 127mm versions as well as its 155mm version. Laser guidance is also an option for these shells. Vulcano might be a better bargain than LRLAP, since it is also capable of being used as an anti-ship weapon.

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Today in military history: Charles Lindbergh flies across the Atlantic

On May 20, 1927, Charles Lindbergh became a legend by making the first nonstop trans-Atlantic flight.

In 1925, New York hotel owner Raymond Orteig offered a  $25,000 prize (that’s over $350,000 today!) to the pilot who could successfully fly from New York to Paris. Trans-Atlantic flights were risky with the technology of the day – six pilots had already died in attempting the flight.

Born in 1902, Lindbergh learned to fly at the age of 20, getting his start as a “barnstormer” — pilots who traveled the country performing aerobatic stunts and selling joyrides. He joined the United States Army Air Service in 1924, but the Army didn’t need active-duty pilots at the time, so he returned to civilian aviation.

Lindbergh began his historical attempt with take off from Roosevelt Field in Long Island, New York. Lindbergh chose took off knowing that the day’s weather was questionable, and that only 12 days before, World War I aces Charles Nungesser and Francois Coli went missing in their own attempt.

Lindbergh flew a customized plane, retrofitted from a Ryan M-2 aircraft powered by a Wright (yes, that Wright) Jf-C engine and a longer fuselage, longer wingspan, and extra struts to accommodate the weight of the fuel needed to cross the Atlantic. 

The now-famous monoplane, The Spirit of St. Louis, successfully carried Lindbergh for over 33 hours before landing in Paris to a hero’s welcome. He became an instant celebrity and received the Distinguished Flying Cross from President Calvin Coolidge. 

Featured Image: (Left) Charles Lindbergh, with Spirit of St. Louis in the background. (Right) The Spirit of St. Louis on display at the National Air and Space Museum.

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These simple luxuries can make your next deployment tolerable


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In this episode of the Mandatory Fun podcast, Blake, Tim, and Chase speak with stand-up comedian Mitch Burrow about what simple luxuries we wished we had while on deployment.

Mitch is a Marine Corps veteran that served in Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003. He then started a career in manufacturing before realizing that it sucked. Now, Mitch has found his true calling in acting silly on a stage in front of strangers on a nightly basis.

Related: Dale Dye wants to make this epic World War II movie with veterans

Being forward deployed without the amenities that service members are used to from back home can suck. While some military branches have chow halls with an all-you-can-eat menu, others are forced to eat highly-processed foods from heavy duty plastic bags — a.k.a. MREs.

Although we wish for the most part that our livelihood will remain the same while on deployment, it’s the simple things service members miss the most.

Also Read: This is how drunken shenanigans influence pilot callsigns

So what unique and simple amenity would Marine veteran and stand-up comedian Mitch Burrow liked to have had while deployed? His answer was simple.

“A data plan.” — Mitch

To follow Mitch or check out one of his shows visit his website: Mitchburrow.com.

Hosted By:

Blake Stilwell: Air Force veteran

Tim Kirkpatrick: Navy veteran

Orvelin Valle (AKA O.V.): Navy veteran

Chase Millsap: Marine veteran

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NATO is boosting deployments after Russian threats

Amid increased Russian aggression, including the Kremlin’s unveiling a new “Satan 2” nuclear missile, NATO forces announced on Oct. 27 that they were increasing deployments of troops to nations most likely to suffer an attack if Russia goes on the offensive.


Most of the forces are being sent to NATO’s eastern flank, according to a report out of a meeting between the NATO defense ministers who just wrapped up two days of talks in Brussels.

Special mission faceoff: Delta Force versus Spetsnaz
A Romanian soldier of the 33rd Mountain Battalion Posada fires a semi-auto PKM while conducting a simulated attack during exercise Combined Resolve VII on Sept. 11, 2016. (Photo and cutline: U.S. Army Spc. Nathaniel Nichols)

Russia has consolidated its military control and NATO believes it has 330,000 troops massed near Moscow. NATO has described its new deployments as a measured response. NATO’s new deployments consist of only about 4,000 soldiers.

The alliance will send a previously agreed upon four multinational battalions to its borders with Russia. A German-led battalion is headed to reinforce Lithuania, a Canadian-led battalion is reporting to Latvia, a British-led battalion is deploying to Estonia, and a U.S.-led battalion is protecting Poland. Most of the forces will arrive at their destinations in 2017.

Special mission faceoff: Delta Force versus Spetsnaz
U.S. Soldiers with 2nd Cavalry Regiment master the Rough Terrain Run task during the European Best Sniper Squad Competition at the 7th Army Training Command’s, Grafenwoehr Training Area, Bavaria, Germany, Oct. 26, 2016. (Photo and cutline: U.S. Army Visual Information Specialist Gertrud Zach)

Britain had originally pledged 650 men for the battalion in Estonia, enough for a headquarters and a few companies of frontline fighters. But the British Secretary of State for Defence, Sir Michael Fallon, announced on Oct. 26 that Britain would deploy 800 troops instead. Those 800 soldiers will sport tactical drones and Challenger 2 main battle tanks.

All of the NATO battalions being deployed are made up of multinational forces led by a battalion headquarters from a single nation, according to IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly. The U.S.-led battalion going to Poland is the largest force planned in the agreement.

Special mission faceoff: Delta Force versus Spetsnaz
Polish soldiers of 17th Wielkopolska Mechanized Brigade move a simulated wounded soldier during a react to contact scenario during exercise Combined Resolve VII at the U.S. Army’s Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Hohenfels Germany, Sept. 12, 2016. (Photo: U.S. Army Spc. Gage Hull)

The U.S. also agreed to a deal with Norway that calls for 330 Marines to deploy to that country. The Marines have previously cooperated with Norway in NATO training exercises set in that country, says CNN.

America has pledged $3.4 billion to increasing defensive measures in Europe in 2017. A portion of the money will go to staging more military equipment near vulnerable NATO areas.

All of this activity comes amid continuously heightening tensions in Europe. Russia has continued to invest heavily in military infrastructure and exercises despite tightening budgets in Moscow.

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These are 6 of the worst places American troops fought during Christmas

American troops have never shied away from taking the fight to the nation’s enemies, no matter the season.


But it’s a particular downer when U.S. forces are deployed to battlefields during the holidays. Here are six of the worst places the American military had to fight during Christmas.

1. Valley Forge (1777)

Just a year earlier, on Christmas Day 1776, Washington had led his troops across the Delaware and won a decisive victory at the Battle of Trenton.

Special mission faceoff: Delta Force versus Spetsnaz
Washington at Valley Forge. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

When Washington marched that same army into Valley Forge on December 19, 1777, the 12,000 Continentals were weary, under-fed, and under-equipped. Only about one in four still had shoes after the many long marches had literally worn them right off their feet.

The weather was also bitterly cold, which combined with the other problems facing the army led to over 2,500 soldiers dying due to starvation, disease, and exposure.

The bright spot of the army’s stay at Valley Forge was the training received by the Prussian drill master Baron Von Steuben. Thanks to his efforts, the Continentals began 1778 a much more professional fighting force than they had been.

2. The Winter Line (1943)

Central Italy may not be known to most for terrible winters. But for the American and Allied troops facing the German Winter Line at the end of 1943, it was far from favorable.

Special mission faceoff: Delta Force versus Spetsnaz
Fighting in the Italian Alps during Christmas during World War II. (Photo from 10th Mountain Division history page)

Stiff German defenses in the Apennine Mountains had brought the Allied advance to a standstill with tremendous numbers of casualties. To make matters worse, bitter winter weather had moved in dumping snow on the weary troops and dropping visibility to near zero.

Despite the weather conditions and determined German resistance the men of the 36th Infantry Division, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, and the 1st Special Service Force fought on — particularly on Christmas Day, when the 1st Special Service Force captured a strategic hill on the Winter Line with heavy casualties.

3. Bastogne (1944)

When American troops think of a terrible Christmas this one usually tops the list.

Special mission faceoff: Delta Force versus Spetsnaz
Photo: US Army

The Battered Bastards of Bastogne (the 101st Airborne Division, elements of the 9th and 10th Armored Divisions, and other support elements) had arrived to hold the key crossroads against the German onslaught just in time for Christmas 1944.

As the Battle of the Bulge progressed, the paratroopers and soldiers were surrounded, short of supplies, and desperately lacking in winter gear to battle the freezing temperatures they had to endure. Despite the conditions they faced when the Germans requested the Americans’ surrender Gen. Anthony McAuliffe simply responded with “Nuts!”

After fending off a German attack on Christmas Day the defenders were relieved by elements of Patton’s Third Army.

4. Basically anywhere in Korea (1950)

Christmas 1950 in Korea was an ignominious affair. After the brilliant victory at Inchon and the drive towards the Yalu River, China had entered the fray and handed the UN Forces their first defeat since breakout of Pusan.

Special mission faceoff: Delta Force versus Spetsnaz

In response, MacArthur launched the Home-by-Christmas Offensive to bring a quick conclusion to the war. But the Chinese were ready for it and decisively defeated American forces.  The 1st Marine Division had narrowly avoided annihilation at the Chosin Reservoir, but many other units weren’t so lucky.

For the Eighth Army in Korea morale was low and the temperatures were even lower. Not only were they not going to be home by Christmas, but New Year’s didn’t bring better tidings either.

Another Chinese offensive sent the demoralized Americans reeling and recaptured the South Korean capital of Seoul. Christmas 1950 was one of the lowest points in the war for the Americans.

5. Operation Linebacker II (1972)

By the end of 1972 the war in Vietnam was supposed to be all but over. President Richard Nixon’s program of Vietnamization had allowed large numbers of U.S. troops to withdraw from the country.

Special mission faceoff: Delta Force versus Spetsnaz
A U.S. Air Force Boeing B-52F Stratofortress drops bombs over Vietnam. (U.S. Air Force photo))

However, negotiations in Paris were not going well for the Americans, so Nixon ordered a massive bombing campaign against the North in order to extract concessions from North Vietnam. Massive formations of B-52’s escorted by fighters took to the skies over North Vietnam in what became known as the Christmas Bombings.

From December 19 to December 29, 1972 the bombers flew 729 sorties against targets around Hanoi and Haiphong.

Unfortunately these bombings claimed 16 B-52s and numerous fighter aircraft, with the surviving crewmembers being interred as POWs just in time for Christmas. In all 43 airmen were killed and another 49 captured with a total of 28 aircraft lost to enemy action in the span of just over a week.

For a war that was drawing to a close flying into highly-contested airspace was a miserable way to spend the war’s last Christmas.

6. The lonely Combat Outposts of Afghanistan and Iraq (2001 – present)

As the War on Terror approaches its 15th Christmas with who knows how many more ahead, the soldiers stationed in the remote reaches of those war torn countries have to be included on any list of worst places to spend Christmas.

Special mission faceoff: Delta Force versus Spetsnaz
Gilliand Hudson, a carpenter with FLOUR, acts as Santa Claus and poses alongside U.S. soldiers with 4th Battalion, 25th Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, on Forward Operating Base Clark, Afghanistan, Dec. 25, 2013. Hudson dressed as Santa Claus to spread holiday cheer for soldiers away from home for the holidays. (U.S. Army photo by Cpl. Amber Stephens / Released)

With the unprecedented length of these wars, there are likely American troops spending yet another Christmas overseas. In World War II even the first units to deploy would have only spent three Christmas’s in a combat zone; there is a good chance that thousands of troops have spent more than that at this point since 9/11.

Those holidays are even more difficult at the tiny combat outposts in the middle of nowhere. If the troops are lucky, there might have been something resembling a Christmas dinner flown in that they can eat while standing guard in a cold little shack or tower.

If they aren’t so lucky, Christmas dinner is just another MRE and the best gift they can hope for is a quiet day.

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