The Taliban surrendered after hearing this female airman's voice (and getting hit with high explosives) - We Are The Mighty
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The Taliban surrendered after hearing this female airman’s voice (and getting hit with high explosives)


Lt. Col. Allison Black, commander of the 319th Special Operations Squadron, became the first woman in her special ops navigator field. Now younger generations of airmen can take the same path while embarking on their own journey in the Air Force. (U.S. Air Force video // Jimmy D. Shea)

Under the cover of night, then-1st Lt. Allison Black left her tent in Uzbekistan to walk to a preflight brief. Hours later, she’d be making history.

On this November night in 2001, the United States was hoping to bring to justice those responsible for the attacks two months earlier in New York City and Pennsylvania, and at the Pentagon.

Flying over the skies of Afghanistan, Black, who is now a lieutenant colonel and the commander of the 319th Special Operations Squadron at Hurlburt Field, Florida, was the navigator on the AC-130H Spectre. As the navigator, she was charged with several duties, one of which was to be the single voice communicating from the aircraft to troops on the ground.

The Taliban surrendered after hearing this female airman’s voice (and getting hit with high explosives)
AC-130U Gunship(U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Jeremy T. Lock)

As the gunship fired everything it had upon the Taliban, expending 400 40 mm rounds and 100 105 mm rounds, the Northern Alliance leader, Gen. Abdurrashid Dostum (often referred in the media and around camp fires as “Dostum the Taliban killer”) heard Black’s voice communicating to the joint terminal attack controller on the ground to better understand where rounds need to be fired.

“He heard my voice and asked the special ops guys ‘Is that a woman?’ and they said ‘Yeah, it is,'” Black recalled. “He couldn’t believe it. So he’s laughing and says, ‘America is so determined, they’ve brought their women to kill Taliban.’ He calls the guys we’re shooting and says ‘You guys need to surrender now. American women are killing you … you need to surrender now.'”

The morning after that first mission, those remaining Taliban members surrendered.

The Taliban surrendered after hearing this female airman’s voice (and getting hit with high explosives)
Lt. Col. Allison Black, commander, 319th Special Operations Squadron at Hurlburt Field, Florida. (Photo by Master Sgt. Jeffrey Allen)

“My first combat mission began the collapse of Taliban in the north,” said Black, who became the first female to be awarded the Air Force Combat Action Medal.

This operation would have looked different in 1992.

Challenge accepted

When Black joined the Air Force in 1992, females weren’t allowed to fly combat missions. That didn’t change until 1993, as the Air Force opened all but less than 1 percent of career fields to women, with the remainder scheduled to open up by early 2016.

At just over 5 feet tall, the Long Island, New York, native seeks and embraces challenges and doesn’t play for second place — a mindset that led her to the Air Force.

“The Air Force seemed to be the hardest service to get into. That got my attention,” Black said. Arriving at basic military training as an enlisted Airman, she was guaranteed a job in the medical career field. But her plans changed when a survival, evasion, resistance and escape specialist briefed Black’s flight on his career field and challenged the group of trainees to join SERE.

“I didn’t know how to chop down a tree, didn’t know how to kill a rabbit, didn’t know how to set a snare, but I was willing,” Black said. “It sounded challenging.”

After more than four years as a SERE instructor, including time as an arctic survival instructor, Black wanted another challenge.

Upon finishing her degree, Black earned a commission as a second lieutenant and headed off to become a navigator — a career field available on several airframes, including bombers and fighters.

The Taliban surrendered after hearing this female airman’s voice (and getting hit with high explosives)
U.S. Air Force pilot and co-pilot from the 73rd Special Operations Squadron (Photo by: U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Cory D. Payne)

There was just one airframe Black wanted: the gunship — specifically, the AC-130H gunship — so she could be on the main flight deck with the pilot, right in the thick of things.

But becoming an Airman, a SERE specialist, an officer and a navigator wasn’t enough — she wanted to join the elite Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC).

“It was exciting. It’s special operations command. You’re in a small force, asked to do tough missions — missions that operate in the gray,” Black said.

Black didn’t realize it at the time, but when she arrived at the 16th Special Operations Squadron, then stationed at Hurlburt Field, she became the first female navigator in that unit and on the AC-130H.

“The thought of being the first was the furthest thing on my mind,” she said. “At that time, I was so focused on being really good at my job and not letting any naysayers get in my way.”

Not only was the milestone the furthest thing from her mind, but it was also something she didn’t want to be on anyone else’s mind either.

“I wasn’t trying to change anyone’s opinion on whether I should or shouldn’t be in a job,” Black said. “I wanted to be an asset. I wanted to be sought after. I wanted to be really good at what I did. I didn’t want to come in second; I wanted to be first.”

Each person defines success differently.

Black doesn’t define success by the medals on her chest or the oak sleeves on her shoulders.

“By not trying to make a statement, I think I found success. I didn’t have an agenda. I didn’t join the Air Force, I didn’t join SERE, and I didn’t join AFSOC to prove that women can do a job,” Black said. “I joined all those things because of the challenge and the career field and the sexy mission. And I just happen to be a woman doing it. And, fortunately, because of my successes, it brought more visibility to ‘Hey, it doesn’t matter if it’s a guy or a girl.'”

Paying it forward

“It wasn’t until years later … when I’d have young female or male Airmen tell me that my story was inspiring, that hearing what I was able to do in AFSOC gave them the confidence to raise their hands and go forward. It was humbling,” Black said.

Black remembers vividly a point in her career where it was clear that she needed to pay it forward.

After a speech to members from base, a female senior airman approached her and referenced the part of the presentation when Black said it has been possible to mother children while also being an Airman. The senior airman was about to get out of the Air Force because she didn’t have anyone telling her the same thing.

The Taliban surrendered after hearing this female airman’s voice (and getting hit with high explosives)
AC-130U Gunship(U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Julianne Showalter)

“She’s a senior master sergeant now, and we still keep in contact,” Black said.

Seeing these tangible results from telling her story, Black began to reach out even more.

“It’s second and third order effect that just at the virtue of me doing my job, it highlighted that women can succeed. It highlighted the opportunity for women: ‘Hey you’re going to be accepted. They’re going to respect what you bring to the fight,'” Black said.

When she arrived at AFSOC, she didn’t have a cadre of female navigators to offer her mentorship. What she did have were those she refers to as her everything: her husband, Ryan, who was also a SERE instructor, and a supply of male mentors who were all willing to help a teammate grow, regardless of which bathroom stall they use.

“All of the gentlemen I’ve worked for have equipped me with the skills to be a good leader. They gave me that opportunity to shine and to step up,” she said. “You’re judged on game day. You can practice every day of the week, but it’s what you do on Sunday that counts. And I don’t believe in ‘Everyone gets a trophy.”

A new generation

When Black joined the Air Force in 1992, her options looked a lot different than they do for female Airmen today. However, because of her success and the success of many others like her, there are more options in the Air Force for females than in any other service.

This success gave people like 1st Lt. Margaret Courtney many options and paths to walk — or even fly.

The Taliban surrendered after hearing this female airman’s voice (and getting hit with high explosives)
1st Lt. Margaret Courtney (Photo by: Master Sgt. Jeffrey Allen)

Just over two years ago, Courtney had the world on a string, with options in droves. The Baylor University graduate, who majored in neuroscience, managed to pass the Law School Admission Test while working at a mental health institution helping to rehabilitate individuals with drug dependencies. Her potential career paths were in no way limited.

But she wanted more. She wanted a bigger challenge even than graduating with a neuroscience degree and going to law school.

After talking to recruiters from three different branches of the military, and after pinging several friends and family members, Courtney noticed a trend.

“It’s funny — everyone who wasn’t in the Air Force recommended the Air Force,” Courtney said.

After commissioning as an officer and going through training to become a navigator, Courtney faced a decision — what airframe did she want to work on for the remainder of her Air Force career?

“I remember going through (navigator) training, and there are several airframes that require (combat systems officers). You’re going through those aircraft and imagining your life three to 10 years down the road,” Courtney said. “How different would my life look if I joined this community or that community?”

The number of opportunities the Air Force has given Courtney caught her off guard.

The Taliban surrendered after hearing this female airman’s voice (and getting hit with high explosives)
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jonathan Snyder)

“It’s not too bad to be in your young 20’s and have basically limitless possibilities laid out in front of you. I’m like ‘Goodness gracious, let me look into it all,'” Courtney said. “I feel like I’m hitting this whole job and career at the sweet spot. I’ve had plenty of people ahead of me pave the way.”

Knowing what’s ahead for Courtney, Black is excited, and almost proud of the options female Airmen now have.

“It’s exciting — hearing about Lieutenant Courtney,” Black said. “I can’t help but to reflect on when I was a lieutenant and how excited I was to come to the mission, then, after 9/11, to go and fight. I’m excited for her, because I know she’s going to find the reward.”

Black doesn’t just see the past and the present, but the future keeps her motivation high, knowing the possibilities now out there for females in the Air Force.

“The success is that we don’t hear about it because they’re blended in,” said Black said of current female aircrew members. “They’re just people doing great things – male and female. That’s success.”

When Black arrived at Hurlburt in 2000, she was wide-eyed and ready to take on the world. She saw a fork in the road and committed to a direction, not knowing the path. Now that she’s traveled that path, she feels she has a responsibility to people like Courtney and other female Airmen.

“She doesn’t know what she doesn’t know,” said Black of Courtney, who’s even more wide-eyed than the prior-enlisted Black was at this stage in her AFSOC career. “That’s where people like me come in. Lt. Col. Megan Ripple is the director of (operations) at the 4th Special Operations Squadron. We arrived here at Hurlburt together. We are taking the initiative to reach out to these women to prepare them for deployment, to teach them all the things we didn’t know.”

Considering Courtney’s only job up until this point has been to learn and receive training, she’s growing more and more excited to fly this new path.

“I’m still trying to figure out how everything works,” said Courtney, who was recently assigned to the 4th SOS. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I can’t wait to actually partake in it, and do what I’ve been training for. They want you to learn, they want you to train; they want to set you up for success. No one really cares where you’ve come from, what your rank is. They care about how much work you put into your job every day. If you’re competent and put forth the work, you get rewarded.”

The Taliban surrendered after hearing this female airman’s voice (and getting hit with high explosives)
US Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Jeremy T. Lock

Though there are some years between Black and Courtney, they noted a common mentality present when they joined the AFSOC community.

“I haven’t noticed if anyone cares about me being a girl or not,” Courtney said. “They care about how good you are at what you do, and if you care or not, and if you take pride in your work.”

Letting your work speak for itself is a welcome reality for Courtney.

“It’s definitely a relief that you’re judged based on the quality of your work, and nothing else,” Courtney said, pointing out that the impact of the mission is way too important to care about the irrelevant. “AFSOC is pretty open about it. The game we play is life or death.”

NOW: ‘107 feet of fire-breathing titanium’: A US Air Force major describes flying the fastest plane in history

OR: This ill-fated PR flight kept the B-70 Valkyrie from changing Air Force history

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An anonymous administration official just gave an incoherent defense of Obama’s Middle East policy

The Middle East is teetering on the edge of full-blown intra-Arab war, ISIS still controls a Belgium-sized slice of the region’s heart, chlorine barrel bombs are still falling over Syria, and the US is threatening to “evaluate” one of its firmest and oldest Middle Eastern alliances.


It’s a flummoxing state of play for any US administration to face, especially one that’s invested so much effort in reorienting US policy in the region.

And no amount of brilliant policymaking can stave off disaster: the US is a superpower, but it isn’t all-powerful, and no modern president has managed to get the region completely right.

But a quote from an Obama administration official in a March 27 New York Times article about the region’s turmoil seems to sum up the US’s frustration in the region — as well as demonstrate how the Middle East seems to be drifting beyond any meaningful US influence.

“We’re trying to beat ISIL — and there are complications,” the official told the Times. “We have a partner who is collapsing in Yemen and we’re trying to support that. And we’re trying to get a nuclear deal with Iran. Is this all part of some grand strategy? Unfortunately, the world gets a vote.”

This quote may warrant some unpacking: just what are these “complications” the official refers to? And who is this partner that’s “collapsing” in Yemen? After all, the state is essentially defunct, and the country’s recognized president just fled the country by boat. Is this a part of a grand strategy, and what is the “this” the official refers to? Both questions are pointedly left unanswered.

The official is right about one thing: the rest of the world does “get a vote.” That’s true at all times, and the challenge for the US relates to what it can and should do in light of its lack of total control regarding areas that impact vital security and economic interests.

Based on this quote, that’s a question the Obama administration is still struggling to answer.

Although a different anonymous official who spoke with Politico had one possible route to US strategic clarity: a nuclear deal with Iran.

“The truth is, you can dwell on Yemen, or you can recognize that we’re one agreement away from a game-changing, legacy-setting nuclear accord on Iran that tackles what every one agrees is the biggest threat to the region,” an unnamed official told Politico on March 26.

More From Business Insider:

This article originally appeared at Business Insider Defense Copyright 2015. Follow BI Defense on Twitter.

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Mattis speaks out on Marine Corps’ nude photo scandal

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis released a statement condemning alleged sharing of nude photos by US military personnel, saying such behavior is “unacceptable and counter to unit cohesion.”


“The purported actions of civilian and military personnel on social media websites, including some associated with the Marines United group and possibly others, represent egregious violations of the fundamental values we uphold at the Department of Defense,” Mattis said, according to a statement obtained by Andrew deGrandpre at Military Times.

Related: Marines’ nude photo scandal is even worse than first realized

The statement comes just one day after Business Insider reported that every military branch had been affected by the nude-photo-sharing scandal, not just the Marine Corps.

Mattis added that the Pentagon was “taking all appropriate action” to investigate any wrongful behavior carried out by active-duty service members.

“Lack of respect for the dignity and humanity of fellow service members of the Department of Defense is unacceptable and counter to unit cohesion,” Mattis said. “We will not excuse or tolerate such behavior if we are to uphold our values and maintain our ability to defeat the enemy on the battlefield.”

The Taliban surrendered after hearing this female airman’s voice (and getting hit with high explosives)
Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis answers questions from the press during a flight to South Korea., Feb. 1, 2017. | US Army photo by Sgt. Amber I. Smith

Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller similarly condemned such behavior on Tuesday, saying in a video, “When I hear allegations of Marines denigrating their fellow Marines, I don’t think such behavior is that of true warriors or warfighters.”

The Pentagon has come under fire from the media and congressional leaders in recent days, especially after Business Insider reported that the scandal that prompted an investigation into hundreds of Marines who were accused of sharing naked photographs of their colleagues in a private Facebook group was found to be much larger than previously thought.

Also read: US troops may take prominent role in attacking ISIS capital

The practice of sharing such photos goes beyond the Marine Corps and one Facebook group. Hundreds of nude photos of female service members from every military branch have been posted to an image-sharing message board that dates back to at least May. A source informed Business Insider of the site’s existence on Tuesday.

The site, called AnonIB, has a dedicated board for military personnel that features dozens of threaded conversations among men, many of whom ask for “wins” — naked photographs — of specific female service members, often identifying the women by name or where they are stationed.

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This charity helps troops beat Halo when they’re not beating the Taliban

Operation Supply Drop (OSD) is the kind of organization that sounds very simple at first. They collect donated video games, console systems, and cash to send gaming care packages to troops overseas and here in the United States. The nonprofit calls these care packages “supply drops.”


As anyone who’s been deployed can attest, the periods of excitement and fear are interspersed with long periods of monotony. OSD began in a garage with an Iraq War vet boxing up donations to help his peers enjoy the same hobby he loved: gaming.

From those humble roots, OSD has now grown into a charity that does a lot more. While they still generate care packages for deployed service members, they’ve expanded into creating unique experiences for veterans, fighting veteran joblessness, and other causes which affect warriors.

The expansion had some growing pains. The founder publicly split and created his own new organization. But the CEO, Glen Banton, is excited for all the ways OSD’s expanded mission has let them serve veterans.

“We’re in the business of helping veterans,” he said in an interview with WATM. “Unfortunately, the video game thing sometimes overshadows the other things we do. But essentially, it needs to be about putting veterans first. How can we keep supporting as many vets as possible. That’s while you’re deployed and need something to spend your time with, or when you get home and have other needs.”

The Taliban surrendered after hearing this female airman’s voice (and getting hit with high explosives)
Photo: Courtesy Army Maj. Erik Johnson

OSD began by enlarging the supply drop program, and then adding on new programs.

“The supply drops increased in size and scope. We started going to bases themselves, rec centers, mess halls, day rooms, hospitals, events, Halloween and Christmas parties… Anywhere we can impact a lot of troops per day and have fun.”

In a recent supply drop at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, OSD worked with Army occupational therapist Maj. Eric Johnson who has used video games to help wounded warriors progress in their therapy. But the center had just an old Nintendo Wii with which to work.

Johnson gave a wish list to OSD who was able to get the medical center six new video game consoles and almost 100 games plus peripherals like steering wheels. It was OSD’s largest supply drop yet.

“Glen and his team, they came with OSD last week and, blew me away,” Johnson said. “Way more than I had asked for, way more than I anticipated.”

The Taliban surrendered after hearing this female airman’s voice (and getting hit with high explosives)
Wounded warriors play video games at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas after a the Operation Supply Drops largest drop. Photo: Courtesy Operation Supply Drop

Then there are “Thank You Deployments,” where a veteran or a small group of veterans get to participate in a special event or outing, usually by working with corporate or non-profit partners.

“There are VIP outings, genuinely relevant to the veteran,” Banton said. “So, we might take them to a gaming conference or on a trip to a studio. But there might be other stuff.

“We’ve had race car experiences. We met a driver who worked for Forza and is a vet. He helps get them full access, a ride in the pace car, access to the lounge. It’s really amazing.

“And as the community grows, it continues to get broader and broader. It doesn’t take us away from gaming. It takes us to people who are gamers and do other stuff.”

OSD also has a “Teams” program. The teams encourage people to get locally connected with active duty service members and veterans so everyone can engage at the local level on big issues like veteran suicide, depression, homelessness, and unemployment.

“The Teams Program is the action arm of OSD,” Banton said. “They’re local chapters with veteran and civilian members who address things like veteran suicide or homelessness. Really, what we look at with the teams is, how do we create within Seattle, L.A., Muncie, Indiana, how do we engage in a way that helps?”

While it may seem like this is OSD straying from their roots as a gamer-veteran focused charity, Banton and his team don’t see it that way.

Glenn explained, “If someone asks, ‘Hey, OSD, I need some help and don’t know where to go. I think I can get this job but I don’t have the clothes,’ or ‘I don’t have the home base to do the interview,’ we can help with that.

“So we can, for a thousand dollars, get them housed for six months and get them help through this community, then they become a big part of the community.

“That individual doesn’t have space to enjoy an XBox if he wanted to. to us, it’s very clear and it’s easy. We know exactly what we’re supposed to be doing: Inspiring veterans and other civilian supporters to give back to those around them.”

For those interested in getting involved helping veterans through OSD, head to “The Teams” page, make a donation, or learn about the 8-bit Salute where gamers can play to raise money for future supply drops and other events.

Articles

This artist brought together Iraq refugees and war veterans for a pretty cool radio project

In 2016, an Iraqi-American artist sat down with Bahjat Abdulwahed — the so-called “Walter Cronkite of Baghdad” — with the idea of launching a radio project that would be part documentary, part radio play, and part variety show.


Abdulwahed was the voice of Iraqi radio from the late 1950s to the early 1990s, but came to Philadelphia as a refugee in 2009 after receiving death threats from insurgents.

“He represented authority and respectability in relationship to the news through many different political changes,” said Elizabeth Thomas, curator of “Radio Silence,” a public art piece that resulted from the meeting with Abdulwahed.

Thomas had invited artist Michael Rakowitz to Philadelphia to create a project for Mural Arts Philadelphia, which has been expanding its public art reach from murals into new and innovative spaces.

The Taliban surrendered after hearing this female airman’s voice (and getting hit with high explosives)
Bahjat Abdulwahed, Michael Rakowitz, and Hayfaa Ibrahem Abdulqader. Courtesy photo via VOA News.

After nearly five years of research, Rakowitz distilled his project into a radio broadcast that would involve putting the vivacious and caramel-voiced Abdulwahed back on the air, and using Philadelphia-area Iraqi refugees, and local Iraq war veterans as his field reporters. It would feature Iraqi music, remembrances of the country and vintage weather reports from a happier time in Iraq.

“One of the many initial titles was “Desert Home Companion,” Rakowitz said, riffing on “A Prairie Home Companion,” the radio variety show created by Garrison Keillor.

Rakowitz recorded an initial and very informal session with Abdulwahed in his living room in January 2016. Two weeks later, Abdulwahed collapsed. He had to have an emergency tracheostomy and was on life support until he died seven months later.

At Abdulwahed’s funeral, his friends urged Rakowitz to continue with the project, to show how much of the country they left behind was slipping away and to help fight cultural amnesia.

The Taliban surrendered after hearing this female airman’s voice (and getting hit with high explosives)
Michael Rakowitz. Courtesy photo via VOA News.

Rakowitz recalibrated the project, which became “Radio Silence,” a 10-part radio broadcast with each episode focusing on a synonym of silence, in homage to Abdulwahed.

“The voice of Baghdad had lost his voice,” Rakowitz said, calling him a “narrator of Iraq’s history.”

It will be hosted by Rakowitz and features fragments of that first recording session with Abdulwahed, as well as interviews with his wife and other Iraqi refugees living in Philadelphia.

Rakowitz and Thomas also worked with Warrior Writers, a nonprofit based in Philadelphia that helps war veterans work through their experiences using writing and art.

The first episode, on speechlessness, will launch Aug. 6. It will be broadcast on community radio stations across the country through Prometheus Radio Project.

One participant is Jawad Al Amiri, an Iraqi refugee who came to the United States in the 1980s. He said silence in Iraq has been a way of life for many decades.

The Taliban surrendered after hearing this female airman’s voice (and getting hit with high explosives)
Radio Silence Session with Michael Rakowitz, April 2017, Philadelphia, PA. Photo via Warrior Writers.

“Silence is a way of survival. Silence is a decree by the Baath regime, not to tell what you see in front of your eyes. Silence is synonymous with fear. If you tell, you will be put through agony,” he said at a preview July 25 of the live broadcast. He said he saw his own sister poisoned and die and wasn’t allowed to speak of it.

When he came to the US in 1981, his father told him: “We send you here for education and to speak for the millions of Iraqis in the land where freedom of speech is practiced.”

Lawrence Davidson is an Army veteran who served during the Iraq War and works with Warrior Writers also contributed to the project. He said the project is a place to exchange ideas and honestly share feelings with refugees and other veterans.

The project kicks off on July 29 with a live broadcast performance on Philadelphia’s Independence Mall — what Rakowitz calls the symbolic home of American democracy. It will feature storytelling, food from refugees and discussions from the veterans with Warrior Writers.

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This sniper rifle company is trying to lighten the M240 medium machine gun

Let’s face it, today’s soldiers and Marines have a lot weighing on them.


Between gear, ammo, and weapons, some are carrying over 100 pounds. But how do you reduce that burden?

Barrett Firearms, which created the mighty M82A1 and M107 .50-caliber sniper rifles, has managed to do just that by improving the M240 medium machine gun. Now, the M240 is based on the FN MAG, which is is a classic machine gun used by many NATO allies.

This gun even replaced the M-60, which was the backbone of squad firepower for the U.S. military through Vietnam and Desert Storm.

The Taliban surrendered after hearing this female airman’s voice (and getting hit with high explosives)
Lance Corporal Kendall S. Boyd (left) and PFC Ryan J. Jones (right), combat engineers, Combat Assault Battalion, 3rd Marine Division, hone their machine gunnery skills by firing the M240G medium machine gun in 2004. Note the rivets on the receiver. (USMC photo)

The question comes: How do you improve a machine gun used by just about all of the Western world? The Army has developed the M240L, which uses titanium to lighten the gun, but they kept the riveted design, albeit with a 5-pound weight reduction.

However, Barrett managed make its 240LW medium machine gun five and half pounds lighter than the M240B without the use of exotic materials. The secret was in how they made the receiver. Barrett machined the receiver from forgings and welded them together, according to a brochure handed out at the National Defense Industry Association’s 2017 Armament Systems Forum.

The Taliban surrendered after hearing this female airman’s voice (and getting hit with high explosives)
This is the receiver of the Barrett 240LW – note that there are no rivets. (Photo from Barrett.net)

Not only did this reduce the number of components from 64 to two, it also helped take about five and half pounds off the machine gun. The change also has boosted the reliability of the gun – by removing the rivets – which can be shaken loose by firing thousands of rounds.

There’s also less metal, due to the fact that there is no need to overlap the metal components.

Will the 240LW make an impact with the United States military? That remains to be seen, but it does show how Barrett manages to be very innovative when it comes to designing – or improving – small arms.

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Navy study recommends smaller, more agile carriers

The Pentagon and the U.S. Navy must increase submarines, strengthen the surface fleet size and build new smaller, more agile carrier-type ships — as as part of a broader effort to rethink the way it constructs the American fleet for future conflicts and operations, the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessment (CSBA) contends in a just-released report.


“Today’s approach of using large, high-end platforms such as aircraft carriers to support the whole range of naval operations will not be effective at providing the prompt, survivable, high-capacity firepower that might be required to deter aggression in the South or East China Seas,” CSBA says in its report, CSBA “Restoring American Seapower, A New Fleet Architecture for The United States Navy,” released Feb. 9.

Related: Chinese play chicken with a US P-3 Orion over South China Sea

The CSBA does not recommend the U.S. abandon its carrier-centric force altogether, but says the Navy needs to focus more on submarines and calls for a resurgence of the surface fleet. The report also calls for a new smaller carrier-sized ship.

“It may be better to rely upon submarines and surface combatants as the primary instruments of deterrence and reassurance and deploy aircraft carriers from the open ocean where they can maneuver to engage the enemy once aggression occurs,” CSBA says.

While the study does not call for a decrease in the current numbers of carriers, it does maintain that smaller, more maneuverable type carriers might make certain high-risk missions more plausible in light of emerging threats such as long-range anti-ship missiles and enemy coastal defenses.

The report cites growing international naval competition as a reason for altered strategy.

The Taliban surrendered after hearing this female airman’s voice (and getting hit with high explosives)
China’s sole aircraft carrier, the Liaoning. | PLA

“Today the PLA (People’s Liberation Army) Navy (PLAN) boasts the second largest fleet in the world, with a large portion of ships built in the last decade. The PLA includes a rapidly modernizing air force in addition to a Rocket Force (formerly the Second Artillery Corps) that deploys a wide array of conventional land-attack and anti-ship ballistic missiles (ASBM) as well as the country’s nuclear arsenal,” CSBA notes.

“Combined with China’s long-range surveillance network of satellites and shore-based radars and sensors, these forces create a formidable reconnaissance-strike complex that can threaten U.S. and allied forces on or above the water hundreds of miles from China’s borders,” the report says.

The old nuclear trump card may come up short now, too.

“An American nuclear response would likely further damage the international and political systems upon which American prosperity depends,” CSBA says.

“Therefore, adversaries may no longer find U.S. nuclear deterrence to be credible in these situations, making effective conventional deterrence necessary.”

A return, the CSBA says, to the “deny-and-punish” approach used during the Cold War to deterrence will increase America’s reliance on forward-postured forces—particularly naval forces.

“American aircraft, troops, ships, sensors, and weapons would need to be postured in proximity to a likely area of confrontation,” CSBA says. “The United States, and U.S. naval forces in particular, will need to return to their Cold War deterrence concept of denying an aggressor’s success or immediately punishing the aggressor to compel it to stop. Compared to the Cold War, however, naval forces in the 2030s will face a more challenging threat environment and more constrained timelines. They will have to adopt new operational approaches to deter under these conditions.”

The Taliban surrendered after hearing this female airman’s voice (and getting hit with high explosives)
The U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN-65), the world’s first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, steams alongside the French aircraft carrier Charles De Gaulle (R 91). One of these carriers could launch aircraft equipped with a long-range nuclear-tipped missile – and it isn’t the Big E. (US Navy photo)

But, CSBA says, the current strategy remains focused on “efficiently sustaining forward presence rather than posturing and preparing forces to deter and respond to great power aggression.”

A new course will require more than just altered thinking.

And some others are on board. For example, in a recent white paper, Sen. John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, recommends a “$640 billion base national defense budget (including Department of Energy nuclear activities) in Fiscal Year 2018, which is $54 billion above (former) President Obama’s planned budget. Over five years, this plan represents a $430 billion increase above current plans/”

McCain says, “These recommendations should be regarded as reasoned estimates.

Today, the U.S. Navy is 274 ships. This was already short of the joint force requirement of 308 ships. And that was before the Chief of Naval Operations announced that the Navy should grow to 355 ships to address the growing fleet sizes and capabilities of our adversaries.”

Whatever the right fleet size ultimately is, McCain says, the “key objective for the next five years is the same: The Navy must ramp up shipbuilding. It is unrealistic to deliver 81 ships by 2022.”

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How the military uses video games to get better at killing

Troops go through seemingly endless amounts of training that can be expensive, boring, and even dangerous. In an effort to make training cheaper, safer, and more effective, the service branches have turned increasingly to video games and simulators.


Possibly the most immersive system in use today, the VIRTSIM system from Raytheon allows users to operate in an open area the size of a basketball court. Trainees wear a set of sensors and feedback gear that records their every action and feeds it into the simulator. Virtual reality goggles show them a simulated world that they move through as a team.

The system doesn’t use wires or tethers to power the suits or transmit data, so participants can move like they would in the real world.

Similarly, the Army’s Dismounted Soldier Training System allows troops to train as a squad in virtual reality. The system allows for customizable missions and incorporates all of a trainee’s movements except for actually walking. Because of the high cost of treadmills, each soldier stands on a rubber pad and moves through the environment with a controller mounted on their weapon, meaning they can’t train the muscle memory of leaping to cover or learn as well to operate with muscle fatigue.

The Taliban surrendered after hearing this female airman’s voice (and getting hit with high explosives)
The Dismounted Solder Training System allows soldiers to train as a squad. Photo: US Army Maj. Penny Zamora

Still, the DSTS provides the chance for soldiers to respond to a mortar attack, react to a near ambush, or any number of dangerous situations that are impossible to train on in the real world.

One of the older simulators, the Engagement Skills Trainer 2000, has even more limitations. Troops are confined to a room and can’t move their character through the simulation at all. Instead of looking through goggles to see the virtual world, a projection of the simulated battle is displayed on one or more walls and trainees engage targets in it.

The EST 2000 does have weapons that closely simulate actual M4s, M9s, and other commons systems. The weapons keep track of how the soldier aims and fires, catching even small actions like trigger squeeze. This allows marksmanship trainers to collect detailed information about what a service member is doing right or wrong.

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Soldiers train in the Engagement Skills Trainer 2000 April 6, 2015 in before heading to live-fire training at Saber Junction 15. Photo: US Army Sgt. 1st Class Caleb Barrieau

The military branches use simulators similar to the ESTS 2000 to train pilots and vehicle crew members. While not being able to walk limits training opportunities for ground troops, people in vehicles don’t have to worry about that. Warrior Hall at Fort Rucker allows new Army pilots to train on different helicopter airframes. The Navy and Air Force have similar programs for jet pilots.

While the simulators are great, the goal isn’t to replace the standard training but to augment. Troops can use the simulator to practice rifle fundamentals before heading to the range, experience hitting a building with their squad before their first visit to a shoot house.

And the military still has even more ambitious plans for simulations. The Future Holistic Training Environment Live Synthetic program would tie together different simulations and allow players to participate in massive exercises. Pilots training in New Mexico could fly support for infantrymen training in California while battle staff commanded from North Carolina.

Until then, there’s always video games.

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The time the U.S. Navy unloaded on the Iranians in the most explosive surface battle since WWII

No love affair ever ended with more animosity than that of Iran and the United States. To this day, the two countries are constantly antagonizing each other.

Since the 1979 Iranian Revolution that led to the holding of 52 American hostages for 444 days, nearly a dozen incidents painted the relationship between the two countries. None was more violent than Operation Praying Mantis, the U.S. response to the USS Samuel B. Roberts striking an Iranian mine.

The Taliban surrendered after hearing this female airman’s voice (and getting hit with high explosives)

The Samuel B. Roberts deployed to the Persian Gulf as part of Operation Earnest Will, ordered by President Reagan to protect freedom of movement and international shipping in the Persian Gulf and Strait of Hormuz.


When the ship hit the mine, it became the catalyst for one of the largest American surface confrontations since WWII. At 105 km east of Bahrain, it was close to Iran’s maritime boundary but still well outside. The mine blew a 15-foot hole in the ship’s hull, injuring ten sailors. Luckily, the crew saved the Samuel B. Roberts, and it was towed to Dubai two days later.

For four years leading up to this event, Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein planned to bring the U.S. into the ongoing Iran-Iraq War – on his side. In 1984, Iraq started attacking Iranian oil tankers and platforms to provoke the Iranians into taking extreme measures to protect its interests.

The Taliban surrendered after hearing this female airman’s voice (and getting hit with high explosives)

The Iranians responded as Hussein hoped, attacking Kuwaiti-flagged oil tankers moving Iraqi oil. Kuwait, though officially Iraq’s ally, was also a non-combatant and a key U.S. ally in the region. The Iranians were also illegally mining the Gulf’s international shipping lanes. Laying mines was an extreme measure Hussein hoped the Iranians would take and a move the United States didn’t take lightly.

In April 1988, Iran was caught mining international waters when U.S. Army Night Stalker MH-6 and AH-6 helicopters forced the crew of the minelayer Iran Ajr by to abandon ship. Navy SEALs then captured the Iran Ajr, finding mines and a log book on the ship’s mine placements. The Navy scuttled the ship the next day.

The Taliban surrendered after hearing this female airman’s voice (and getting hit with high explosives)

That’s when the Samuel B. Roberts hit a mine. The U.S. response was overwhelming. Aircraft from the USS Enterprise, along with two Surface Action Groups (SAG), moved on the Iranians on April 18, 1988.

The first SAG attacked the Sassan oil platform with two destroyers, an amphibious transport, and multiple helicopter detachments. Cobra helicopters cleared all resistance. Marines captured the platform and destroyed it as they left.

The other SAG, consisting of a guided missile cruiser and two frigates attacked the Sirri oil platform. The plan called for SEALs to capture the platform, but the pre-attack naval bombardment was so intense the SEAL mission wasn’t necessary.

The Taliban surrendered after hearing this female airman’s voice (and getting hit with high explosives)

Iran responded by sending speedboats to attack shipping in the region. American A-6E Intruders sank one and chased the rest back into Iranian territory.

One Iranian fast attack ship, Joshan, challenged the entire second SAG by itself. It got one harpoon missile off before the other ships, the USS Wainwright, the USS Bagley and the USS Simpson hit it with four Standard missiles, then finishing it off with their guns. Chaff countermeasures diverted the Iranian harpoon missile. It did no damage.

An Iranian frigate, Sahand, attacked the USS Joseph Strauss and its A-6E overwatch, who all returned fire with missiles of their own. The American missiles started a fire aboard the Sahand, which reached her munitions magazine. The frigate exploded and sank.

The Taliban surrendered after hearing this female airman’s voice (and getting hit with high explosives)

Another frigate, the Sabalan, moved to attack A-6Es from the Enterprise. One naval aviator dropped a Mark 82 laser-guided bomb on the Sabalan’s deck, crippling her and leaving her burning. As the Sabalan was towed away, the A-6Es were ordered to cut off the attack in an effort to keep the situation from escalating. The U.S. cut off all attacks in the region and offered Iran a way out of the situation, which it promptly took.

The U.S. retaliation operation, called Praying Mantis, cost the lives of three service members, Marines whose AH-1T Sea Cobra helicopter gunship crashed in the dark during a recon mission.

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The first man to die in the Space Race cursed the USSR the whole way down

The story of Soyuz I does not have a happy ending. A flight launched by the space program of the Soviet Union, the craft carried Cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov in what was the first manned flight of the Soyuz line of spacecraft.


After a series of technical issues with the capsule, it came plummeting back to earth, killing Komarov, who used the time it took for his out of control capsule to make the long trip back to Earth to curse his malfunctioning space ship and the people who put him in it.

The Taliban surrendered after hearing this female airman’s voice (and getting hit with high explosives)
A stamp commemorating Vladimir Mikhailovich Komarov’s career.

The Soviet Union wanted to launch Soyuz 1 as part of a more complex space mission. It would link up with another craft, Soyuz 2, exchange crew members, and then return to Earth. But the Soyuz system was full of problems.

Previous, unmanned tests found serious issues with the spacecraft, and Soyuz 1 engineers themselves documented 203 design errors in the days before launch. Soviet Premier Leonid Brezhnev ordered them to go ahead with the flight anyway, as he wanted it to be part of a celebration of the National Day of Worker Solidarity.

“I’m not going to make it back from this flight,” Koramov told his friend, KGB agent Venyamin Russayev, but he would man the mission anyway because his backup was Soviet hero Yuri Gagarin, the first human in space. If Komarov refused to fly in the craft, Gagarin would be flying in the unsafe craft and would most certainly die.

Gagarin was a close friend of Komarov’s, so he agreed to the flight so Gagarin wouldn’t be put in that position.

The Taliban surrendered after hearing this female airman’s voice (and getting hit with high explosives)
Gagarin and Komarov

The mission launched April 23, 1967. There were immediate issues. One of the solar panels did not deploy, so his craft only had half of its needed power supply. The panel in its stuck position disrupted the craft’s guidance system. It blocked a number of necessary instruments, including attitude control, spin stabilization, and engine firing. Frustrated, he even tried kicking it.

After 26 hours, the craft began to return to Earth. With only one panel, the capsule started spinning uncontrollably. Chairman of the Council of Ministers Alexei Kosygin spoke to Komarov and told him he was a hero. Komarov was also able to talk to his wife, say goodbye, and tell her what she should say to their children.

U.S.National Security Agency listening posts in Turkey recorded him crying in a rage, “cursing the people who had put him inside a botched spaceship.”

Soyuz I entered the atmosphere completely out of control, as the malfunctions included the parachutes, which would not deploy even though the parachutes tested perfectly. They didn’t deploy because the chutes were either packed improperly or accidentally glued in. Despite all the other  malfunctions, functioning parachutes might have saved Koramov’s life.

The Taliban surrendered after hearing this female airman’s voice (and getting hit with high explosives)
The Soyuz 1 crash site

The capsule landed with the force of a 2.8-ton meteorite and was immediately flattened. The largest, most recognizable piece of the Cosmonaut the Soviets could retrieve was his heel bone.

After the official investigation, Yuri Gagarin’s sadness turned to anger. Rumor has it that Gagarin threw a drink in Brezhnev’s face over the incident. When he died testing a MiG-15 in 1968, conspiracy theorists started a rumor that Brezhnev had ordered Gagarin killed in retaliation or jealousy. Only 40 years later, new evidence emerged indicating that the jet had, in fact, crashed.

The Taliban surrendered after hearing this female airman’s voice (and getting hit with high explosives)
Valentina Komarov, the widow of Soviet cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov, kisses a photograph of her dead husband during his official funeral, held in Moscow’s Red Square on April 26, 1967. (Soviet Photo)

Koramov was given a state funeral and his name is included on the Fallen Astronauts plaque commemorating the 14 U.S. and Soviet astronauts who died during the Space Race. The plaque was left on the moon by Apollo 15 crew members.

The Taliban surrendered after hearing this female airman’s voice (and getting hit with high explosives)
A close-up view of a commemorative plaque left on the Moon at the Hadley-Apennine landing site in memory of 14 NASA astronauts and USSR cosmonauts. (NASA Photo)

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US may have to consider firing on Iranian boats after latest attack

On Monday, Iranian-backed Houthi rebels off the coast of Yemen launched an attack on a Saudi Arabian naval vessel using suicide boats, or fast attack craft laden with explosives.


According to Fordham University maritime law professor and former US Navy Commander Lawrence Brennan, “this attack is likely to impact US naval operations and rules of engagement (ROE) in nearby waters.”

The year 2016 saw an unprecedented spike in the number of incidents at sea between the US Navy and fast-attack craft of the Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), at least one of which required the US Navy to open fire with warning shots.

Meanwhile, Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen had a blockbuster year in 2016, using an anti-ship missile to hit an Emirati naval vessel and then firing a salvo of missiles at US Navy ships in October.

Related: A Saudi frigate was targeted by Iran-backed rebels off the Yemeni coast

The US Navy successfully fended off the Houthi missile attack and retaliated by destroying three radar sites in Houthi-controlled Yemen. At the time, US officials and experts contacted by Business Insider concluded that Iran likely supplied the missiles to the Houthis.

But the latest attack on the Saudis may give the US Navy pause in the future.

In a questionable video released of the attack, people near the camera can be heard shouting slogans like “death to America,” “death to Israel,” and “death to Jews!” One Pentagon official told the Washington Examiner that the Houthis may have mistaken the Saudi ship they attacked for a US Navy ship, though another official denied it.

In any case, the US Navy frequently deals with Iranian fast-attack craft swarming its vessels and approaching very closely. In one case last year, Iranian fast-attack craft got within 300 yards of a US Navy vessel.

The Taliban surrendered after hearing this female airman’s voice (and getting hit with high explosives)
Iranian fast-attack boats during a naval exercise in 2015. | Wikimedia photo by Sayyed Shahaboddin Vajedi

At the time, the US Navy responded by attempting to contact the Iranians, maneuvering evasively, blowing the horn, then finally firing warning shots.

But according to Brennan, the US may not allow hostile, unresponsive ships to get so close to Navy vessels after a force associated with Iran used suicide boats to kill two Saudi sailors.

“The overarching duty of self-defense mandates revision of the ROE to provide a sufficient ‘bubble’ to prevent the risk of a suicide attack, particularly from swarming boats,” said Brennan in an email to Business Insider.

The Taliban surrendered after hearing this female airman’s voice (and getting hit with high explosives)

President Donald Trump has already signaled his intention to respond more forcefully.

“With Iran,” Trump said while campaigning in Florida, “when they circle our beautiful destroyers with their little boats, and they make gestures at our people that they shouldn’t be allowed to make, they will be shot out of the water.”

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These 5 World War II jobs were more dangerous than being an infantryman

If you jumped into a time machine and found yourself at a recruiting office during World War II, what job would be safest to sign up for? While most people hoping to stay alive would just pick “anything but infantry,” there were actually other jobs that proved to be even more dangerous. Here are a few examples:


1. Ball turret gunners

 

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Photo: US Army Air Force

Ball turret gunners flying over enemy targets had one of the war’s most dangerous jobs. In addition to the standard fears of being shot down, these gunners had to deal with the fact that they were dangling beneath the aircraft without any armor and were a favored target of enemy fighters.

Worse, their parachute didn’t fit in the ball and so they would have to climb into the plane and don the chute if the crew was forced to bail out. They were also more exposed to the elements than other aircrew members. Turret gunners oxygen lines could freeze from the extremely low temperatures.

2. Everyone else in the airplane

The Taliban surrendered after hearing this female airman’s voice (and getting hit with high explosives)
This Boeing B-17F had its left wing blown off by an Me-262 over Crantenburg, Germany. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Of course, all aircrews over enemy territory had it bad. While planes are often thought of us a safe, cush assignment these days, it was one of the most dangerous jobs in World War II. Deadly accurate flak tore through bomber formations while fighters picked apart aircraft on their own.

And crews had limited options when things went wrong. First aid was so limited that severely injured crewmembers were sometimes thrown from the plane with their parachute in the hopes that Nazi soldiers would patch them up and send them to a POW camp. Flying over enemy territory in any aircraft was so dangerous that paratroopers actually counted down until they could jump out and become safer.

3. Merchant mariners

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A Merchant Marine ship burns after a torpedo attack in the Atlantic. Photo: US Navy

The military branch that took the worst losses in World War II is barely considered a military branch. The Merchant Marine was tasked with moving all the needed materiel from America to Britain, Russia, and the Pacific. While U.S. papers often announced that two Merchant Marine ships were lost the previous week, the actual losses averaged 33 ships per week.

One out of every 26 mariners died in the war, a loss rate of 3.85 percent. The next closest service is the Marine Corps which lost 3.66 percent of its force to battle and noncombat deaths. If the Air Force had been a separate service in World War II, it would likely have been the only service to suffer as horrible losses as the guys who were delivering the mail.

4. Submariners

The Taliban surrendered after hearing this female airman’s voice (and getting hit with high explosives)
The USS Squalus, which sank due to mechanical failure during a test run, breaches the surface during one of the attempts to raise it. Photo: courtesy Boston Public Library

Submariners had to descend beneath the surface of the ocean in overpacked steel tubes, so how could the job be any more dangerous than you would already expect? First of all, torpedoes were prone to what is called a “circle run.” It happens when a torpedo drifts to one side and so goes in a full circle, striking the sub that fired it.

If that didn’t happen, the sailors still had to worry about diesel fumes not venting or the batteries catching fire. Both scenarios would end with the crew asphyxiating. That’s not even counting the numerous mechanical or crew failures that could suddenly sink the vessel, something the crew of the USS Squalus learned the hard way.

5. Field-telephone layers and radio teams

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Photo: US Army

Most soldiers know you should aim for the antennas on the battlefield, and that made a common POG job one of the most dangerous on the front lines in World War II. The antennas belonged to forward observers and commanders, so snipers homed in on them.

Similarly, cable was laid so leaders could speak without fear of the enemy listening in. The “cable dogs” tasked with running the telephone wires would frequently be shot by snipers hoping to stop enemy communications. Similarly, both radio carriers and cable dogs were targeted by planes and artillery units.

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Former US Navy vessel attacked by Yemeni rebels in Indian Ocean

The Taliban surrendered after hearing this female airman’s voice (and getting hit with high explosives)


HSV-2 Swift came under attack off the coast of Yemen this past weekend and suffered serious damage from what appears to be multiple hits from RPG rockets. Photos released by Emirates News Agency show at least two hits from rockets that penetrated HSV-2 Swift’s bow, in addition to substantial fire damage.

According to media reports, HSV-2 Swift is being assisted by the Arleigh Burke-class destroyers USS Mason (DDG 87) and USS Nitze (DDG 94) as well as USS Ponce (AFSB(I)-15). The vessel is currently being towed away from Yemen.

The Taliban surrendered after hearing this female airman’s voice (and getting hit with high explosives)

HSV-2 Swift was acquired by the Navy from Incat, a shipbuilder in Tasmania, in 2003, where it served for a number of years in Pacific Command, European Command, and Southern Command until 2013, when the first Joint High-Speed Vessel, USS Spearhead (JSHV 1) replaced it. During its deployments, HSV-2 Swift primarily carried out humanitarian missions, including for relief efforts in the wake of the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004, Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and the 2006 Israel-Lebanon War. The vessel also took part in a number of deployments, like Southern Partnership Station while in U.S. service.

The Taliban surrendered after hearing this female airman’s voice (and getting hit with high explosives)
HSV-2 Swift in happier times. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

In 2013, the vessel was returned to Incom, where it was refitted and then acquired by the National Marine Dredging Company in the United Arab Emirates, where the ship was used to deliver humanitarian aid. HSV-2 Swift was on such a mission to not only deliver medical supplies but to extract wounded civilians when it was attacked this past weekend. Houthi rebels, backed by Iran, claimed to have sunk the vessel.

HSV-2 Swift displaces 955 tons of water, has a top speed of 45 knots, and has a crew of 35. The vessel can carry over 600 tons of cargo on  nearly 29,000 square foot deck.