The drones hunting ISIS have grown more lethal - We Are The Mighty
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The drones hunting ISIS have grown more lethal

The Air Force Special Operations Command runs 37 Reaper drones that have just been upgraded with better sensors, upgraded weapons software, and extra fuel tanks so they can kill more targets and watch more objectives on missions against ISIS and other enemies.


The drones hunting ISIS have grown more lethal
An MQ-9 Reaper prepares to land after a mission in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Photo: US Air Force Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson

Identifying ISIS targets often requires a long information-collection period, and killing them takes a rapid engagement once the kill order is given. The upgraded drones are better at both stages of the hunt.

The sensor ball from the original MQ-9 Reapers was replaced with a high-definition camera. The software that controls the camera was also upgraded to enable automatic detection of threats and the ability to track 12 moving targets at once. Better communications gear was installed to allow ground controllers and others to see the higher quality video coming from the drones.

Reapers can carry up to 14 AGM-114 Hellfire missiles. The upgraded version carries the same munitions but can now fire them in a “super ripple,” firing a missile every 0.32 seconds. The external fuel tanks give the Reaper pilots more time to identify targets, track them, and plan the engagement before firing.

The drones hunting ISIS have grown more lethal
An MQ-9 Reaper on the flightline. Photo: US Air Force Staff Sgt. John Bainter

All this comes at a cost to weight. To increase thrust and improve takeoff performance, a system to inject alcohol and water into the engine was added and a four-bladed propeller was incorporated. The landing gear was also improved.

American drones have already had a lot of success in the fight against ISIS. Jihadi John, the British-born militant who conducted many of the Islamic State’s early, high-profile executions, was killed by two Hellfire missiles fired from a drone.

A drone strike in Jul. 2015 killed 31 insurgents including Hafiz Saeed, the man thought to have led ISIS in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The drones were upgraded under a $34 million Medium Altitude Long Endurance Tactical (MALET) Lead-Off Hitter (LOH) contract.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How the US is falling behind Russia in anti-air defense tech

Just before the end of January 2018, Russia announced that its Pantsir-S1 mobile surface-to-air missile and anti-aircraft artillery weapons system would be equipped with a new type of missile to help it defend against smaller, low-flying targets.


Called the “gvozd” (the Russian word for “nail”), the missile is a small armament designed to take out small targets like drones. The Pantsir will reportedly be able to carry 4 gvozds in one canister, which means a fully armed system can have up to 48 missiles.

The issue of how to combat small and cheap drones that can carry small payloads or carry out kamikaze-style attacks continues to vex global militaries. The terrorist group ISIS has found them to be particularly useful, and in January 2017 saw a swarm of drones attack a Russian air base in Syria, reportedly damaging seven jets.

The drones hunting ISIS have grown more lethal
Russian S-400 long-range air defense missile systems are deployed at Hemeimeem air base in Syria. (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service)

The Pantsir, known to NATO as the SA-22 Greyhound, entered service in the Russian Military in 2012. Its primary role is that of point-defense, meaning it can defend from low-flying aerial targets within a certain area.

Also read: Why Russia’s new missile ships aren’t really all that powerful

It is armed with two 2A38M 30 mm autocannons that have a maximum fire rate of 5,000 rounds per minute, and twelve AA missiles in twelve launch canisters. The system’s weapons have an effective range of 10 to 20 kilometers.

Conversely, Russia’s S-400 missile system is intended to deal with long-range targets. The system can be armed with four different missiles, the longest of which has a claimed range of 400 kilometers, while the most common missile has a range of 250 kilometers.

The drones hunting ISIS have grown more lethal
S-400 missile system. (Photo by Vitaly Kuzmin)

The two systems working in tandem provide a “layered defense,” with the S-400 providing long-ranged protection against bombers, fighter jets, and ballistic missiles, and the Pantsir providing medium-ranged protection against cruise missiles, low-flying strike aircraft, and drones.

This explains why the systems have been deployed together in Syria, which Russian President Vladimir Putin has said “guaranteed the superiority of our Aerospace Forces in Syrian air space.”

The Pantsir has also reportedly been seen in Ukraine’s Donbas region, no doubt helping separatists defend against attacks from the Ukrainian Air Force.

Russian air defense strategy

“It certainly makes the system more robust,” Jeffrey Edmonds, a research scientist and expert on the Russian military and foreign policy at the Center for Naval Analyses told Business Insider. “A layered defense is always better than a single defense layer.”

Compared to Russia, the US does not have a point-defense system. Its air defense strategy relies primarily on the Patriot Missile System, the Avenger Air Defense System, and shoulder launched FIM-92 Stingers.

The drones hunting ISIS have grown more lethal
U.S. Army Capt. Richard Tran, trains with an FIM-92 Stinger at the Hohenfels Training Area, Hohenfels, Germany, Jan. 10, 2018. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. David Overson)

Edmonds says that the reason the Russians have been able to achieve these gains in aerial defense over the West is because the US has not had to face an adversary with advanced air capabilities, and because Russia’s air defense strategy is made specifically to counter America’s aerial superiority.

“For the Russians, in any conflict with the United States, the primary concern is going to be a massive aerospace attack,” Edmonds said.

Operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Yugoslavia, and elsewhere have shown that the Americans prefer to use what the Russians refer to as non-contact or new-model warfare — the use of effective airpower to destroy a large amount of targets and winning wars without invading a country.

“Their layered defenses are designed around that threat,” Edmonds said.

Related: Extremists and cheap drones are changing asymmetrical warfare

As a result, Russia’s air defenses are much more advanced than anything that the US and its allies currently field.

But that may not necessarily spell doom for the US and its allies, Edmonds said.

“Do we need the same kind of systems as the Russians? That’s not necessarily the case because the threat they pose to us is different than the threat we pose to them,” Edmonds said.

More: The treaty-busting missile the Russians use to threaten NATO

Edmonds pointed out that aircraft take a more active and aggressive role in American and NATO strategy than Russian strategy.

“The way we fight, our aircraft are out front. They prep the battlespace for follow-on units,” he said. “It’s almost the opposite for the Russians. Fighter aircraft will be fighting kind of behind the line, not venturing far out front.”

Edmonds also noted that defense against an aerospace happens “across domains.”

“That’s counter-space, that’s GPS jamming, that’s missiles, dispersion, camouflage — there’s a whole host of things that they practice, and capabilities they developed to counter a massive aerospace attack,” Edmonds said.

Articles

Top general says US commandos and Arab allies squeezing ISIS in Syria

American special operators teamed with Arab fighters in Syria are poised to take a key town north of the Islamic State stronghold in Raqqah. If they succeed it would be an important blow to the Islamic insurgency and assist the government of Iraq in taking back its second largest city.


Since late June, jets from the United States, France, and Australia have been pounding ISIS positions in the city of Manbij, a key northern crossroads town north of the ISIS-held town of Raqqah in Syria. Kurdish and Syrian-Arab fighters who make up the Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF, are squeezing hundreds of ISIS fighters in the town, said to be a key transit point for bootleg oil and illicit arms for the terrorist group.

“I’ve been extraordinarily pleased with the performance of our partner forces, the Syrian-Arab coalition, in particular,” said Central Command chief Army Gen. Joseph Votel during a press conference at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland.

“This has been a very difficult fight. This is an area that the Islamic State is trying to hold onto,” he added.

Pentagon chief Ash Carter said the campaign in Manbij is part of an effort to squeeze ISIS into Raqqah in Syria and Mosul in Iraq. Defense officials have hinted that a full-on assault on Iraq’s second largest city is imminent, with regional leaders meeting July 20 at Andrews to flesh out a post-takeover plan.

“In play after play, town after town, from every direction and in every domain, our campaign has accelerated further, squeezing ISIL and rolling it back towards Raqqah and Mosul,” Carter said. “By isolating these two cities, we’re effectively setting the stage to collapse ISIL’s control over them.”

Al Jazeera reports that ISIS has lost nearly 500 fighters in Manbij as SDF fighters with American help have squeezed the terrorist enclave. The SDF has suffered less than 100 dead.

The success in Manbij comes as an opposition watchdog group claimed a U.S.-led airstrike on the town killed 56 civilians July 19. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights report, the dead include 11 children.

Carter said the anti-ISIS coalition, dubbed Operation Inherent Resolve, is looking into the allegations.

“We’re aware of reports of civilian casualties that may be related to recent coalition airstrikes near Manbij city in Syria,” Carter said. “We’ll investigate these reports and continue to do all we can to protect civilians from harm.”

The drones hunting ISIS have grown more lethal
A Peshmerga soldier fires at a target from his foxhole during a live-fire exercise near Erbil, Iraq, Feb. 8, 2016. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Jessica Hurst/Released)

Votel added that Kurdish and Syrian-Arab parters are working to keep the 70,000 civilians in Manbij out of harms way.

“What I’ve been most impressed with is the deliberateness and the discipline with which our partner forces have conducted themselves,” Votel said. “They are moving slowly, they are moving very deliberately, mostly because they’re concerned about the civilians that still remain in the city.”

“And I think that that speaks very highly of their values and it speaks very highly of what they’re about here. We’ve picked the right partners for this operation,” he said.

 

MIGHTY TRENDING

China prepares forces in contested waters for war

China’s commander-in-chief has ordered the military command overseeing the contested South China Sea to “concentrate preparations for fighting a war,” according to the South China Morning Post.

Chinese President Xi Jinping inspected the Southern Theater Command Oct. 25, 2018, again stressing the need build a force that can “fight and win wars” in the modern age. “We have to step up combat readiness exercises, joint exercises and confrontational exercises to enhance servicemen’s capabilities and preparation for war,” he explained, adding that the command has a “heavy military responsibility” to “take all complex situations into consideration and make emergency plans accordingly.”


“You’re constantly working at the front line, and playing key roles in protecting national territorial sovereignty and maritime interests,” Xi said, according to the China Daily, “I hope you can fulfill such sacred and solemn missions.”

The powerful Chinese leader has made strengthening and modernizing the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) a top priority.

As Xi delivered his speech in Guangdong province, Chinese Minister of Defense Wei Fenghe warned that China will not give up “one single piece” of its territorial holdings, adding that “challenges” to its sovereignty over Taiwan could lead China to use military force.

The drones hunting ISIS have grown more lethal

Chinese President Xi Jinping.

(DOD photo by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Dominique A. Pineiro)

The US Navy recently sent two warships through the Taiwan Strait, a move that, like the US military’s frequent bomber overflights and freedom-of-navigation operations in the South China Sea, angered Beijing.

Tensions have been running particularly high in the South China Sea in recent months, with regular US B-52 bomber flights through the region and Chinese PLA Navy warships challenging American military ships and aircraft that venture too close to Chinese-occupied territories in the disputed waterway.

US Navy Adm. John Richardson, chief of naval operations, said Oct. 29, 2018, that the US Navy will continue to carry out freedom-of-navigation operations and challenge “illegitimate maritime claims.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Check out these great camo patterns from around the world

Militaries around the world use camouflage to evade detection by the enemy in all kinds of environments, from jungle and desert to city streets.

Avoiding detection is often a matter of life and death, and the patterns and colors are dictated by the environment where troops expect to operate.

Some work better than others, but all patterns are designed to help troops blend in with their surroundings.


The drones hunting ISIS have grown more lethal

British Soldiers use a compound as shelter during an operation in Afghanistan.

(Photo by Cpl. Daniel Wiepen)

1. Desert camouflage

Desert camouflage has gone through a host of updates since the war in Iraq began, in an effort to make troops harder to spot in sandy and dusty environments there.

The drones hunting ISIS have grown more lethal

Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert B. Neller speaks to Marines during a town hall in Shorab, Afghanistan, June 28, 2018.

(Photo by Sgt. Olivia G. Ortiz)

2. US Marines wear a digital pattern with small pixels.

MARPAT, as the camo pattern is known, is widely viewed as one of the best concealment patterns because of the small, digitized pixels.

The drones hunting ISIS have grown more lethal

US and Romanian soldiers discuss an operation during a multinational exercise in Poland in June 2018.

(Photo by Spc. Hubert Delany)

The drones hunting ISIS have grown more lethal

A Russian soldier participates in an exercise in February 2018 in Belarus.

(Russian Ministry of Defense)

The drones hunting ISIS have grown more lethal

Dutch troops pictured during NATO exercise Trident Juncture.

(Photo by Hille Hillinga)

The drones hunting ISIS have grown more lethal

Belgian and German soldiers conduct weapons proficiency training in Norway during Exercise Trident Juncture.

(Allied Joint Force Command Naples)

The drones hunting ISIS have grown more lethal

Sailors from the HMAS Warramunga pictured during an interception of a suspect vessel in the Arabian Sea, where they seized approximately 100kg, or 220 pounds, of heroin.

(LSIS Tom Gibson Royal Australian Navy)

The drones hunting ISIS have grown more lethal

Sailors attached to the USS Blue Ridge fire M16 rifles during qualification training at Camp Fuji.

(Photo by Mass Communications Specialist Seaman Ethan Carter)

The drones hunting ISIS have grown more lethal

Army students in a cold weather operations course prepare for training in Wisconsin.

(Photo by Scott T. Sturkol)

The drones hunting ISIS have grown more lethal

Army students in cold weather operations course prepare for training in Wisconsin.

(Photo by Scott T. Sturkol)

The drones hunting ISIS have grown more lethal

A camouflaged Stryker Infantry Carrier Vehicle sits under a tree in Poland.

(Photo by Spc. CaShaunta Williams)

11. Militaries have creative ways of concealing vehicles, like this infantry carrier.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The US Navy announced its first Black female fighter pilot in its history

The US Navy has its first Black female tactical fighter pilot in its history, according to a Thursday tweet from the Chief of Naval Air Training announcing Lt. j.g. Madeline Swegle will receive her “wings of gold” later in July.

“BZ to Lt. j.g. Madeline Swegle on completing the Tactical Air (Strike) aviator syllabus,” read the tweet. “Swegle is the @USNavy’s first known Black female TACAIR pilot and will receive her Wings of Gold later this month. HOOYAH!”


Swegle is a native of Burke, Virginia, and graduated from the US Naval Academy in 2017, Stars and Stripes first reported. She is assigned to the Redhawks of Training Squadron 21 in Kingsville, Texas, according to the report.

Swegle will earn her wings at a ceremony on July 31, The Navy Times reported. The US Navy shared the news, tweeting “MAKING HISTORY!”

Twitter

twitter.com

“Very proud of LTJG Swegle. Go forth and kick butt,” Paula Dunn, Navy’s vice chief of information, tweeted Thursday.

Others, including Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and former NASA astronaut Scott Kelly, also congratulated Swegle.

“You make the @USNavy and our country stronger,” Warren said.

Twitter

twitter.com

Twitter

twitter.com

According to January 2019 data, the US Navy is approximately 80% male and 62% white. Black women make up about 5% of the US Navy, according to the data.

As Stars and Stripes reported, Brenda E. Robinson became the first Black female pilot in the Navy, earning her wings on June 6, 1980. Arizona Sen. Martha McSally, who retired from the Air Force in 2010, was the first woman to fly in combat the US military while serving in the Air Force in January 1995. She became the first woman to command a fighter squadron in 2004, according to the US Air Force.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

Chinese citizens are furious at the death of the whistleblower doctor censored for talking about the coronavirus

Chinese citizens are furious after the death of Li Wenliang, the whistleblower doctor who was censored for warning about the beginning of the coronavirus, and his mother said she wasn’t able to say goodbye.


Li died of the coronavirus at 2:58 a.m. local time on Friday, the Wuhan Central Hospital, where he also worked, said in a statement on the microblogging site Weibo.

“During the fight against the novel coronavirus outbreak, Li Wenliang, an ophthalmologist at our hospital, was infected. Efforts to save him were ineffective. He died at 2:58 a.m. on Feb. 7. We deeply regret and mourn his death,” the post said.

Li had warned some of his medical-school colleagues about the virus on December 30, about three weeks after the outbreak started but shortly before the government officially acknowledged it. The virus has now killed more than 630 people, mostly in China, and spread to more than 20 countries.

Li had said that some patients at his hospital were quarantined with a respiratory illness that seemed like SARS. But he was reprimanded and silenced by the police in Wuhan, made to sign a letter that said he was “making false comments.”

People’s Daily, the official newspaper of China’s Communist Party, reported that he said on social media before his death: “After I recover from the disease, I will work on the front line of the battle. The virus is still spreading, and I don’t want to be a deserter.”

Li is now being hailed as a hero in China, with posts seeking justice for him and calling for freedom of speech trending on Weibo. Many were removed from the site, which often complies with government demands to censor politically sensitive content.

The top two trending hashtags on Weibo on Friday were “Wuhan government owes Dr. Li Wenliang an apology” and “We want freedom of speech,” the BBC reported. It said that hours later those hashtags had been removed and “hundreds of thousands of comments had been wiped.”

According to the BBC, one comment on Weibo said: “This is not the death of a whistleblower. This is the death of a hero.”

Li’s death was the most-read topic on Weibo on Friday, with more than 1.5 billion views, The Guardian reported.

Li’s death was also widely discussed in private messaging groups on WeChat, the instant-messaging sister app to Weibo, The Guardian said.

CNN called the response “overwhelming, near-universal public fury.”

One image shared on Weibo showed that someone had carved “farewell Li Wenliang” into the snow in Beijing.

People’s Daily wrote on Friday: “At present, China has entered a critical stage of epidemic prevention and control work. The country needs solidarity more than ever to jointly win a battle that it cannot lose, so that its people can be protected against disaster and patients around the country can return to health.

“No one can make an accurate prediction about when the battle will end, but everyone knows that only with sufficient confidence can the people win the battle against the novel coronavirus.”

His parents ‘never, never, never saw’ him

In a heartbreaking interview with the Chinese news site Pear Video on Friday after Li’s death, Li’s mother said she never got to say goodbye to her son in his final days.

She said the hospital sent a car to pick up her and Li’s father, “then they sent his body to the crematorium.”

She said they “never, never, never saw” him for the last time.

“Thirty-four years old. He had so much potential, so much talent. He’s not the kind of person who would lie,” she said, alluding to Li’s reprimand by the police in Wuhan.

Li had a wife, who is pregnant, and a 5-year-old son, his mother said. Shortly after the outbreak, Li sent them to Xiangyang, a city about 200 miles from Wuhan.

The Chinese government has been accused of covering up the virus

Chinese authorities have been criticized as responding slowly to the virus. Officials have arrested citizens accused of spreading rumors online and detained journalists covering the virus.

The announcement of Li’s death also came amid conflicting statements in which state media reported that he had died, then that he was still alive, and then again that he had died.

China’s Communist Party has sent investigators to Wuhan to do “a comprehensive investigation into the problems reported by the public concerning Dr. Li Wenliang,” state media reported Friday.

Earlier this month, the Chinese government issued a rare statement acknowledging that its response to the virus had “shortcomings and deficiencies.”

The World Health Organization has largely defended China’s response, saying it has been much more open with the world about this virus than it was in the early 2000s with the SARS outbreak, which it tried to cover up.

President Donald Trump also tweeted his support for Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday, calling him “strong, sharp and powerfully focused on leading the counterattack on the Coronavirus.”

Many other doctors have caught the virus in Wuhan, where the health system has become overwhelmed and supplies are running low.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

Articles

This Ukrainian tank crew made a video using the world’s most lethal selfie stick

A Ukrainian tank crew fighting Russian-backed separatists created a video diary of their experiences.


The video doesn’t show any up-close combat, but it does feature the world’s most lethal selfie stick:

The drones hunting ISIS have grown more lethal
GIF: Youtbe/Oleh Kapral

The main gun gets in the show too:

The drones hunting ISIS have grown more lethal
GIF: Youtbe/Oleh Kapral

Check out the video below to see the crew hamming it up on patrol, firing and loading the tank, and driving through the hostile countryside:

Articles

This athlete left the NFL to serve. Now he wants back in

Glen Coffee was a superstar at Alabama — an SEC First Team running back in 2008, Coffee decided to skip his senior year with the Crimson Tide and throw his name into the NFL draft.


He was picked up by the San Francisco 49ers in 2009 in the third round of the draft and played a decent season there, rushing for 226 yards with 11 receptions for 76 yards and one touchdown.


But according to a Washington Post profile, Coffee quickly fell out of love with the gridiron and wanted to something more with his life.

“I just felt like the league and that path wasn’t for me,” he told the Washington Post. “I just knew that I didn’t want to waste, for me, my younger years doing something that I didn’t want to do. That was kind of my viewpoint on the situation.”

In 2013, Coffee enlisted in the Army with the intent to become a Ranger. He didn’t make it into special operations, but he was assigned to the 6th Ranger Training Battalion in Florida to help America’s commandos hone their craft. But now Coffee wants back into the NFL — a tall task for a player who’s been out of the game for nearly a decade.

The drones hunting ISIS have grown more lethal
Glen Coffee during parachute training. (Photo from AL.com)

The closest analogy would be Deion Sanders, who sat out four NFL seasons before returning to the Baltimore Ravens in 2004.

“I can tell you, he’s in great shape,” Coffee’s agent Ray Oubre told a Bay Area news outlet. “The man doesn’t have a six-pack, he’s got a 12-pack. He’s been waiting for the right time to hopefully get a workout with someone and show what he can do.”

The 30-year-old free agent might have a tough time attracting a team given this year’s crop of talented young running backs who are eligible for the draft on April 30. But with his Army training and military focus, this “squared away” soldier might have what it takes to get back in.

“My cardio and endurance is definitely a lot better right now,” Coffee said during an interview with The Post in 2015. “Because in football, you’re not really in shape. People think you’re in shape, but you’re really not. Not like that.”

 

Articles

Did this British soldier have 9 lives?

How many times can a person come close to death, without actually succumbing to that ill fate? In the case of one British soldier, the number grew until it was almost unbelievably impressive. Adrian Carton de Wiart, lieutenant-general in the Royal Army was uncommonly lucky. 

He fought in both World Wars, as well as the second Boer War, survived being shot no less than seven times, lived through two plane crashes, escaped when captured as a prisoner of war and amputated his own fingers when a doctor refused to help the ailing soldier. 

And that’s not even all of it — seriously, why is this guy not the star of a movie and a household name?! 

Take a deeper look at all that Carton de Wiart went through and how he came to make it to old age, with plenty of stories to tell. 

“The unkillable soldier”

The drones hunting ISIS have grown more lethal
Carton de Wiart as a lieutenant colonel in World War I (Imperial War Museum)

Carton de Wiart’s tales were so prolific that he earned the nickname of the “unkillable soldier” in his native Britain. Here is an outline of his most noteworthy — and often unbelievable — accomplishments.

  • Over six decades, he fought in three major international conflicts, the Boer War (between Britain and South Africa), World War I and World War II.
  • Carton de Wiart made it to the Boer war in 1899, having left school and using a fake name. Because he was not yet of age, and did not have his father’s consent to fight, he created an alter ego. During this war, he was shot on two occassions — in the stomach and groin — sending him back to Britain. 
  • In WWI alone, he was send on six assignments and wounded eight times. He was shot in the arm and face, which took his left eye and most of the ear. The wound earned him a Distinguished Service Order (DSO).
    • After the shooting, Carton de Wiart was sent to recover in Park Lane. The infirmary was so used to seeing him that it became a running joke where they kept a personal pair of his pajamas at the ready. 
    • He was also fitted for a glass eye, but citing extreme discomfort, he threw it from a moving taxi and opted to sport an eye patch instead. 
    • Also during WWI, Carton de Wiart’s hand was shattered by German artillery. Supossedly, the doctor refused to amputate his fingers, causing Carton de Wiart himself to tear off two of them. Later that year, his entire hand was taken by a surgeon. 
The drones hunting ISIS have grown more lethal
A photo taken during the Cairo Conference in 1943 between China, the UK and USA. Carton de Wiart is standing at the far right, with Winston Churchill is sitting, second from the right. (Wikimedia Commons)

From there, he had to convince a board that he was still fit to fight. Undeterred by his injuries, Carton de Wiart led men into battle during WWII with intensity. He soon became famous for his signature look (black eye patch, thick mustache, empty uniform sleeve) and incredible courage — almost to the point of being reckless. He is said to have calmed the fear of young soldiers, rushing and yelling as he led the pack. 

In fact, he was frequently seen pulling grenade pins with his teeth, then tossing the bomb with his remaining arm. These efforts were said to provide him with the Victoria Cross. Not that he took credit for it, he was stated as saying, “every man has done as much as I have.”

  • During WWII, he flew in a plane that was shot down in the Mediterranean. He swam to shore, where he was taken as a prisoner by Italians. By now, Carton de Wiart was in his 60s and hell-bent on escaping. He attempted many times, even tunneling out of the POW camp and traveling for eight days, before he was recaptured. 
  • Two years later he was released and sent to work in China as a representative, a post that was personally assigned by Winston Churchill. 

Throughout his military career Carton de Wiart was also involved in a second plane crash and shot four more times. Carton de Wiart can say his life was anything but boring. He finally passed in 1963 when he was 83 years old. Read more about his tales in his autobiography, “Happy Odyssey.”

The drones hunting ISIS have grown more lethal
Which includes a chapter on his transformation to a Bond villain (maybe)(Imperial War Museum)
MIGHTY SPORTS

How this soldier pushed himself to the max to make fitness team

Sgt. 1st Class Carlos Zayas wiped the sweat off his brow as he glared at the box on the floor in front of him. Listening to the loud music that echoed throughout the gym, Zayas took a deep breath as he anticipated his next set of exercises.

During a typical high-intensity workout, Zayas would be surrounded by other fitness enthusiasts, but not today. Alone at the Army Warrior Fitness Center, Zayas had one thing motivating him — the clock.

“Training by yourself is OK — you need it sometimes,” he said. “However, you always want somebody right next to you to try to beat you in a workout and give you that extra push.”


With a loud beep, the gym’s timer went off launching the former detentions noncommissioned officer into a fury of movements. For the next 20 to 25 minutes, Zayas would complete a series of box jumps, pushups, rows, wall-ball shots, and kipping pullups.

This was his first of three workouts that day.

High-intensity training started as a way to get back into shape and later evolved into a means to compete, he said. As a member of the Army Warrior Fitness Team, Zayas is determined to represent himself and the Army at high-level competitions, all while encouraging others to join the service he admires.

The drones hunting ISIS have grown more lethal

Sgt. 1st Class Carlos Zayas is determined to represent himself and the Army at high-level competitions, all while encouraging others to join the service he admires.

(Photo by Zachary Welch)

Finding his path

Born and raised in Puerto Rico, Zayas was the first in his family to join the military. During the early years of his career, Zayas served as an 88H cargo specialist, but later re-classed to become a 31E internment/resettlement specialist.

Zayas married shortly after joining the military and his family grew, he said. At the same time, the family lifestyle took over. Zayas started to put on excess weight through poor eating habits and an ineffective fitness routine.

“I was back and forth between being in and out of shape,” he said. “I was on the border of getting kicked out of the Army.”

In 2011, Zayas deployed to Afghanistan and saw this as an opportunity to reset. He quickly locked down his diet, engaged in a rigorous fitness routine, and got back into shape.

Zayas returned home to Fort Bliss, Texas, with a healthier mindset and desire to help others. Upon his arrival, Zayas’ wife announced that she was pregnant with the couple’s second child. With a newborn on the way, he did what was necessary to balance his work, family, and fitness schedules.

Shortly after the birth of his second daughter, Zayas and his wife joined a CrossFit gym to help her get back into shape, he said. This was his first introduction to CrossFit.

“I was hooked,” he said. “But, the workout wasn’t much. I would go for one hour like everybody, and then I would work out again [later on].”

The drones hunting ISIS have grown more lethal

Sgt. 1st Class Carlos Zayas is determined to represent himself and the Army at high-level competitions, all while encouraging others to join the service he admires.

(Photo by Zachary Welch)

Competition

Zayas continued to dedicate much of his free time to his fitness routine, all while helping other soldiers with their PT performance, he said. The family eventually moved on to their next assignment at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Zayas was quick to find a local CrossFit gym.

“I met two guys over there that were really competitive,” he said. “I started training with them. That’s what got me into the [competitive scene]. It gave me a purpose.”

Determined to break into the competitive-fitness circuit, Zayas allocated what little free time he had toward his diet and workouts. As a detentions NCO, Zayas was responsible for many of the inmates at the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks on Leavenworth.

The USDB is a maximum-security facility for male service members convicted of crimes under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

“I would work eight- to 12-hour shifts, to include physical training, and NCO [tasks],” he said. “It was stressful. You have to deal with different personalities and expected the worst.”

Fitness quickly became an outlet for Zayas to relieve stress, he said. During the worst of days, he would return home, change his clothes, and immediately go into his garage gym to unwind.

“I don’t like lifting angry,” he said. “Once I started training, I forgot what I was mad about.”

All of the long days and nights paid off, making him a better soldier, NCO, and competitive athlete.

For instance, Zayas put on three ranks in five years, and continuously was recognized for his exemplary PT performance. He served as the post-partum PT coordinator for his unit and helped soldiers get back into shape after childbirth. Lastly, Zayas went on to compete in several individual and team competitions throughout Kansas and Missouri.

More importantly, Zayas was selected to join the Army Warrior Fitness Program and PCS to Fort Knox, he added.

The drones hunting ISIS have grown more lethal

Sgt. 1st Class Carlos Zayas and other members of the U.S. Army Warrior Fitness Team attended the 2019 CrossFit Games to support their teammates, Capt. Chandler Smith and Lt. Col. Anthony Kurz, participating in the event. During their visit, the team engaged with the fitness community to share the Army’s story. In the photo, from left to right: Capt. Deanna Clegg, Capt. Kaci Clark, Capt. Allison Brager, 1st Sgt. Glenn Grabs, Capt. Ashley Shepard, Command Sgt. Major. Jan Vermeulen, Capt. Rachel Schreiber, Staff Sgt. Neil French, Spc. Jacob Pfaff, Staff Sgt. Gabriele Burgholzer.

(Photo by Devon L. Suits)

Army Warrior Fitness Program

The Army Warrior Fitness Program is an Army Recruiting Command engagement and outreach initiative. Through this initiative, the Army has an opportunity to connect the soldier community to the “fittest people in the American population,” said Master Sgt. Glenn Grabs, first sergeant of the Outreach and Recruiting Company.

“The Warrior Fitness Team started in the fall of 2018,” Grabs said. “The decision was made to organize a competitive team that could display the strength of the American soldier to the public.”

In February 2019, Zayas and 14 others were selected for the program. The team is a combination of strongman and woman competitors and functional fitness athletes who can participate in a wide range of competitions.

In general, functional fitness focuses on the body’s ability to do basic fundamental movements, such as squatting, bending, moving, jumping, and lifting, Grabs said.

“That’s the great thing about functional fitness,” he said. “These soldiers have the skills to compete at a high level. They can use some [fitness] components to pursue powerlifting, obstacle course races, and other competitions.”

Thus far, the feedback the team has received has been “overwhelmingly positive,” Grabs said.

During many of the competitions, former and current soldiers have asked how they can support the program. Several athletes have also commented on the team’s professional demeanor and overall humble attitude.

Moving forward, Zayas is determined to make the CrossFit Games, a national-level competition showcasing the most elite functional-fitness athletes from around the world, he said. Capt. Chandler Smith and Lt. Col. Anthony Kurz, members of the Warrior Fitness Team, recently represented the Army at the 2019 CrossFit Games.

“I think every athlete would like to get there,” Zayas said. “We are looking to go to the CrossFit Games as a team. I think we have a pretty good shot.

“I am grateful for the opportunity,” Zayas said about joining the functional fitness team. “I never saw it coming. I am grateful to my leadership, which allowed me to participate. We are building something new in the Army [and] it’s going to be here for a long time.”

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

Articles

The tactics to achieve victory in Iraq are changing

Although training of the Iraqi forces and Kurdish Peshmerga is a major part of the operation, the overall narrative has changed; the U.S. is more humble and modest in its approach than a decade ago.


The tactical assembly area for U.S. forces south of Mosul is as nondescript as could possibly be. In a nearby field the M109 Paladin howitzers, mobile artillery that drives around on tank treads, nestle amid earthen berms. Their supply vehicles are dug in behind them.

The field is full of mud, odd for northern Iraq, but it had been raining a lot in late March.

Lt. Micah Thompson, a platoon leader, says “We have the capability to address all targets; the point of the Paladin is a mobile artillery system. The fight that we bring is the precision munition capability. We are able to program and set those fuses and provide those rounds downrange in rapid time in order to accomplish [our task].”

He’s one of the recent generation of U.S. Army soldiers serving in Iraq, and he’s enthusiastic about providing fire support to the Iraqi security personnel who are slowly clearing Mosul of Islamic State fighters.

The drones hunting ISIS have grown more lethal
An AH-64D Apache Longbow attack helicopter flies over the desert terrain between Tall’Afar and Mosul, Iraq. | US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Ryan Matson

Behind the muddy field, the rest of the quiet U.S. Army base goes about its business in close proximity with the Iraqi Federal Police and Emergency Response Division, two Iraqi units leading the battle for Mosul.

This is the tip of America’s spear in the battle against ISIS, but in contrast to previous U.S. campaigns in Iraq, the Americans are letting the Iraqis set the tempo. Lt.-Col. John Hawbaker, a commander in the 73rd Cavalry Regiment of the 82nd Airborne Division, joined the army in 1998 and served in Iraq in 2005-2006.

He says ISIS represents the “same barbarism, evil and cruelty” that the U.S. faced back then, but is “a much larger and conventional threat. We were doing counter-insurgency with U.S. leadership, the difference now is the Iraqi Security Forces conduct a fight not as a counter-insurgency but against a conventional force.”

This is a key difference in the U.S. outlook. In 2006, Gen. David Petreaus played a role in crafting a U.S. field manual on Counterinsurgency, later referred to as COIN, or counter-insurgency strategy.

In those days the U.S. Army was dealing with a “comprehensive civilian and military effort taken to simultaneously defeat and contain insurgency and address its root causes,” as the FM 3-24 Insurgencies and Countering Insurgencies manual of May 2014 described it.

H.R McMaster, now the national security adviser, but then a colonel, trained his regiment to deal with manning checkpoints and treating Iraqi civilians with dignity, to prepare to fight in Tal Afar, northwest of Mosul. George Packer in a 2006 piece in The New Yorker described not only how McMaster led Iraqis in rooting out insurgents, but how “Americans are not just training an Iraqi Army, they are trying to build an institution of national unity.”

Ten years later, the U.S. has given up some of these grandiose pretensions, with a much smaller footprint on the ground and a reduced visible presence. U.S. Army vehicles I saw don’t fly the U.S. flag and the only way you know they are U.S. vehicles, according to one local Iraqi, was that they use old MRAPs (Mine Resistant, Ambush Protected vehicles).

“We have multiple ways we assist,” says Hawbaker. “You saw the artillery in direct fire, mortars, and we also help coordinate air strikes, and we also help coordinate intelligence sharing, so we give them a lot of info on disposition and what he [ISIS] is doing and what he [ISIS] is thinking and intelligence for them to better array their operations.”

The drones hunting ISIS have grown more lethal
The Kurdish Peshmerga platoon of the Joint Iraqi Security Company marches to class, Mosul, Iraq. (Dept. of Defense photo)

Everything is focused on aiding the Iraqis, not leading them. The Iraqi Army sets the tempo and the goals, and the U.S. advises. For instance, on April 12, the Department of Defense noted that the U.S. carried out eight air strikes in Iraq, hitting vehicles, mortars, snipers, and bomb factories.

Although training of the Iraqi forces and Kurdish Peshmerga is a major part of the operation, the overall narrative has changed; the U.S. is more humble and modest in its approach than a decade ago.

Instead of trying to rebuild the Iraqi Army as an institution — which the U.S. was struggling with in the wake of the 2003 invasion when the army was disbanded and competent, but Ba’athist officers were sent packing — the U.S. continually stresses that it “supports” the Iraqi Army.

This has allowed Iraq to take ownership of the war, and to make the mistakes and climb the learning curve that inevitably results in their soldiers improving.

This strategy has been effective at fighting ISIS over the last two years, but it has also been slow. The battle for Mosul has taken six months, and will likely take more, even as question marks are raised about what comes next in ISIS-held Tal Afar, Hawija, and parts of Sinjar and Anbar.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

A Chinese destroyer fired a weapons-grade laser at a US surveillance aircraft, US Navy says

A Chinese destroyer used a weapons-grade laser to target a US Navy P-8A surveillance aircraft flying above the Pacific last week, US Pacific Fleet said Thursday.

In a statement, the US accused the People’s Liberation Army Navy destroyer of “unsafe and unprofessional” actions over the incident, said to have occurred about 380 miles from Guam, where the US has a significant military presence.


The laser appeared to be part of the destroyer’s close-in weapon system, a Pacific Fleet spokeswoman told Insider.

The drones hunting ISIS have grown more lethal

“The laser, which was not visible to the naked eye, was captured by a sensor onboard the P-8A,” Pacific Fleet said. “Weapons-grade lasers could potentially cause serious harm to aircrew and mariners, as well as ship and aircraft systems.”

The Chinese destroyer, hull No. 161, appears to have been the Type 052D Luyang III-class destroyer Hohot.

US Pacific Fleet accused the Chinese warship of violating international rules and regulations, including agreements on conduct at sea, by targeting the aircraft, which was operating in airspace above international waters, with a laser.

The latest incident is not the first time the US military has accused the Chinese military of using lasers against US assets and personnel.

In 2018, the Department of Defense accused the Chinese military, specifically personnel stationed at the country’s first overseas military base, in Djibouti, of using lasers to target US aircraft operating nearby, CNN reported at the time.

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www.hoa.africom.mil

A notice to airmen issued at the time urged pilots “to exercise caution when flying in certain areas in Djibouti,” saying the call for caution was “due to lasers being directed at US aircraft.”

“During one incident, there were two minor eye injuries of aircrew flying in a C-130 that resulted from exposure to military-grade laser beams, which were reported to have originated from the nearby Chinese base,” the notice said.

The Pentagon said the activity posed “a true threat to our airmen.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

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