The Navy relies on these awesome missiles to stop China's 'carrier killer' - We Are The Mighty
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The Navy relies on these awesome missiles to stop China’s ‘carrier killer’

China’s Dong Feng-21D medium-range ballistic missile — otherwise known as the “carrier killer” — looms large in people’s minds as a weapon of ultimate destruction.


It’s designed to do exactly what the name implies: kill American and allied carriers, sending thousands of sailors to a watery grave.

But the Navy has been working to protect carriers from enemy ballistic missiles for decades. Here are three missiles that could stop a DF-21D in its tracks.

1. The Standard Missile-3

The Navy relies on these awesome missiles to stop China’s ‘carrier killer’
The Japanese navy ship JS KONGO launches a Standard Missile-3 against a ballistic missile during a Dec. 18, 2007, test. (Photo:

The SM-3 is the Navy’s preferred tool for defeating an incoming ballistic missile. The system is deployed on Aegis ballistic missile defense ships in the U.S. Navy and KONGO-class destroyers in Japan’s navy.

These missiles primarily engage their targets in space at the height of the ballistic missile’s flight path. To hit a DF-21D, the Aegis system will need to be on or near the projected flight path. Keeping carriers safe may require keeping an Aegis ship equipped with SM-3s permanently co-located with the carrier.

2. Standard Missile-6

The Navy relies on these awesome missiles to stop China’s ‘carrier killer’
The Arleigh-Burke class guided-missile destroyer USS John Paul Jones (DDG 53) launches a Standard Missile 6 (SM-6) during a live-fire test of the ship’s aegis weapons system. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

The SM-6 is really designed to take down cruise missiles and perhaps the occasional jet, but the Navy has been testing its capability when pressed into an anti-ballistic missile role. In a Dec. 14 test, an updated SM-6 fired from an aegis destroyer successfully struck down a medium-range ballistic missile.

These are much cheaper than SM-3s, but the SM-6 is a final, last-ditch defense while the SM-3 is still the first call. That’s because SM-6s engage targeted missiles during their terminal phase, the final moments before the incoming missile kills its target. If the SM-6 misses, there isn’t time to do anything else.

3. The Army’s THAAD missile

The Navy relies on these awesome missiles to stop China’s ‘carrier killer’
A Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) interceptor is launched from a THAAD battery located on Wake Island during Flight Test Operational (FTO)-02 Event 2a, conducted Nov. 1, 2015. (Photo: Missile Defense Agency Ben Listerman)

The Terminal, High-Altitude Air Defense missile is a radar-guided, hit-to-kill missile that engages ballistic missiles either in the edge of space or soon after they enter the atmosphere. It might be capable of engaging a DF-21D after it begins its descent to the carrier.

The system is rapidly deployable and the Army has already stood up five air defense artillery batteries with the new missiles. One battery is deployed to Guam and plans are ongoing to deploy another to South Korea.

The main problem for the Navy when using THAAD to protect its ships is that the THAAD system is deployed on trucks, not ships. It’s hard to keep land-based missiles in position to protect ships sailing on the open sea.

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The top 5 weapons the US Navy needs right now

The Navy relies on these awesome missiles to stop China’s ‘carrier killer’


As weaponeers, budgeteers, and lawmakers wage their annual death match over the defense budget, here’s some input from the margins of Fight Club. And yes, I know the first and second rules of Fight Club. But no one obeys them inside the Beltway, and they yield to the seventh and eighth rules anyway.

It’s tough to winnow the U.S. Navy’s priorities list down to five weapon systems. However, I applied a secret method to come up with the definitive, incontrovertible list of the Top 5 Weapons the U.S. Navy Needs Now. The list employs such metrics as a system’s national-level importance, its capacity to multiply the fleet’s offensive and defensive fighting power, and its ability to exploit enduring enemy weaknesses at manageable cost to the United States. This is science, remember. Don’t be a science denier!!!

One caveat: exotic weaponry like lasers and railguns is conspicuously absent from this list. These prospective game-changers will doubtless qualify—once they stop hovering along the frontiers of science fiction and start fulfilling their promise at fleet air and missile defense. It feels a wee bit premature to jump on that bandwagon—the potential of ray guns and other golly-gee armaments notwithstanding. Now, onward. In reverse order:

5. Offensive minelayers. We make much of the U.S. Navy’s vulnerability to sea mines, but rivals are acutely vulnerable as well. As mine-warfare expert Scott Truver aptly notes, mine countermeasures is an orphan in want of a champion. Offensive mine warfare is an orphan of an orphan. That’s a shame, as the option of closing straits, harbors, and other narrow seas at low cost could come in handy in a host of contingencies. Manifold airborne, surface, and subsurface platforms can lay mines. Mine warfare should find its champion soonest—and provide that champion with the implements to make life tough for prospective foes.

4. Long-range combat aircraft. We may exaggerate the range problem, whereby shore-based aircraft can smite aircraft-carrier strike groups long before these groups close within reach of enemy shores. No one assumed carrier task forces would pound away at the Japanese home islands during World War II while remaining safely out of harm’s way. U.S. forces had to fight their way into the theater, wresting control of sea and sky from Japan before exploiting that control to strike at the island empire.

Still, long range opens up new tactical and operational vistas for American commanders while attenuating the effectiveness of enemy counterbattery fire. Maximum effective firing range isn’t the same as maximum firing range. Weapons typically start to lose accuracy at extreme range. The capacity to operate around the outer limits of, say, Chinese anti-access weaponry would buttress deterrence in peacetime and combat power in wartime—a net bonus for U.S. commanders.

Long range also lets airmen turn geography to advantage. If U.S. Navy and Marine warbirds can operate from temporary “lilypad” airfields erected on islands around the Asian periphery, they can convert these islands into unsinkable—though also immobile—aircraft carriers. Let’s harness maritime geography for operational gain.

3. More attack submarines. This one may seem like a cop-out, but the undersea fleet desperately needs more attack boats. Joseph Stalin isn’t one of my go-to sources of strategic wisdom, but he was correct to note that quantity boasts a quality all its own. A simple differential equation tells the tale: Cold War-era Los Angeles-class subs are being retired faster than new-build Virginia-class boats replace them. As a result the submarine fleet may dwindle to as few as 41 boats in the coming years. That may sound like a lot, but under the prevailing maintenance and training cycle, it means commanders can count on something like 28 boats at any time…to police the entire globe and face down aggression.

That’s a serious shortfall. Like mine countermeasures, antisubmarine warfare is an enduring weakness of potential antagonists like China’s navy. By all means let’s build more Virginias. Or, let’s go back to the U.S. Navy’s conventional submarining past. Japan’s navy operates a fleet of diesel boats acclaimed the world’s finest. They’re eminently suitable for patrol grounds in crucial theaters like, well, Asia. To add numbers of hulls, why not buy some of these relatively inexpensive craft and use them to constitute a permanent, forward-deployed allied squadron alongside Japanese boats. Let’s buy American—and Japanese.

2. Modern anti-ship cruise missiles. Our navy suffers from a severe deficit of cruise-missile firepower. Cruise missiles of the anti-ship variety, I mean. The navy ditched an anti-ship variant of the Tomahawk cruise missile two decades ago, going all-in on land attack, while the elderly Harpoon missile finds itself outranged by virtually every serious foe out there. That means missile-armed enemy ships, subs, and planes can lob missiles at U.S. naval task forces long before American units can reply. U.S. forces will have to close to missile range under fire, in all likelihood taking losses as they do. That’s a perilous position for any fleet—and one that demands to be remedied.

Surface-fleet chieftains are saying the right things. They’ve started talking about “distributed lethality,” meaning arming as many ships as possible—not just cruisers and destroyers but amphibious transports, and even logistics vessels—for defensive and offensive purposes. A fine aspiration—provided we have something to arm surface vessels, subs, aircraft and even bodies of Marines ashore with. Distributed lethality is a worthy concept. Whether it’s a neo-Tomahawk anti-ship missile, a newfangled long-range anti-ship missile, or something else, fielding a new “bird”—and thus righting the range imbalance—must top fleet designers’ tactical to-do list.

1. Replacement ballistic-missile subs. Which leaves top honors on this list to a replacement for navy’s aging Ohio-class nuclear-powered ballistic-missile submarines (SSBNs). Nuclear deterrence is a matter of national survival, and the undersea component of the U.S. “second-strike” capability remains its most survivable—and thus credible—component. SSBNs are strategic assets of utmost importance.

Small wonder top navy leaders have designated the replacement “boomer” now on the drawing board the nation’s foremost shipbuilding priority. They have warned, moreover, that all other procurements may have to yield to submarine construction unless Congress funds the new SSBNs through a special account outside the normal shipbuilding budget. Yet anchoring the nuclear deterrent is that critical. That makes the Ohio successor #1 on my—and probably anyone’s—list of U.S. Navy acquisitions.

James Holmes is Professor of Strategy at the Naval War College and coauthor of Red Star over the Pacific, an Atlantic Monthly Best Book of 2010. He is RCD’s new national security columnist. The views voiced here are his alone.

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This article originally appeared at Real Clear Defense Copyright 2015. Follow Real Clear Defense on Twitter.

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Meet the world’s deadliest female sniper who terrorized Hitler’s Nazi army

The Navy relies on these awesome missiles to stop China’s ‘carrier killer’


In early 1941, Lyudmila Pavlichenko was studying history at Kiev University, but within a year, she had become one of the best snipers of all time, credited with 309 confirmed kills, 36 of which were German snipers.

Pavlichenko was born in 1916 in a small town in Ukraine.

She was described as an independent, opinionated tomboy who was “unruly in the classroom,” as the Smithsonian notes.

At the age of 14, Pavlichenko’s family had relocated to Kiev, where she worked as a metal grinder in a munitions factory.

Like many young people in the Soviet Union at that time, Pavlichenko participated in OSOAVIAKhIM, a paramilitary sporting organization which taught youths weapons skills and etiquette.

“When a neighbor’s boy boasted of his exploits at a shooting range,” said Pavlichenko according to the Smithsonian.

“I set out to show that a girl could do as well. So I practiced a lot.”

On June 22, 1941, Hitler broke ties with Joseph Stalin and German troops poured into the Soviet Union. Pavlichenko rushed to join the Soviet army and defend her homeland, but she was initially denied entry into the army due to gender.

“She looked like a model, with well-manicured nails, fashionable clothes, and hairstyle. Pavlichenko told the recruiter that she wanted to carry a rifle and fight. The man just laughed and asked her if she knew anything about rifles,” Soviet-Awards.com wrote of Pavlichenko’s effort to join the military.

Even after Pavlichenko presented her  marksman certificate and a sharpshooter badge from OSOAVIAKhIM, officials still urged her to work as a nurse.

“They wouldn’t take girls in the army, so I had to resort to all kinds of tricks to get in,” explained Pavlichenko.

Eventually, the Red Army gave her an “audition” by giving her a rifle and showed her two Romanians downrange who were working with the Germans. She shot down the two soldiers with ease, and was then accepted into the Red Army’s 25th Chapayev Rifle Division.

Pavlichenko then shipped out to the battle lines in Greece and Moldova. In very little time she distinguished herself as a fearsome sniper, killing 187 Germans in her first 75 days at war.

The Navy relies on these awesome missiles to stop China’s ‘carrier killer’

Snipers in these battles fought between the enemy lines, often far from their companies. It was extremely dangerous and careful work, as she had to sit perfectly still for hours on end to avoid detection from enemy snipers. After making a name for herself in Odessa and Moldova, Pavlichenko was moved to Crimea to fight in the battle of Sevastopol.

Her reputation earned her more dangerous assignments, eventually facing off one on one with enemy snipers. The Smithsonian reports that she dueled and killed 36 enemy snipers, some of whom were highly decorated themselves.

“That was one of the tensest experiences of my life,” Pavlichenko reportedly said.

Pavlichenko’s gun, the Mosin Nagant, held only five shots, was bolt-action, fired a .30 calibre round, and kicked like a mule.

She spent eight months fighting in Stevastopol, where she earned a praise from the Red Army and was promoted. On several occasions she was wounded, but she was only removed from battle after taking shrapnel to the face when her position was bombed by Germans who were desperate to stem the tide of her mounting kill count.

She had become a well known figure in the war, as a protagonist in the Red Army’s domestic propaganda, and the scourge of German soldiers all over the Eastern front. The Germans even went so far as to address her over loud speakers, offering her comfort and candy should she defect and join their ranks.

Pavlichenko became a sniper instructor and was soon invited to the White House.

She became the first Soviet soldier to visit the White House, where she met with President Franklin Roosevelt and first lady, Eleanor Roosevelt.

The Navy relies on these awesome missiles to stop China’s ‘carrier killer’
Photo: Library of Congress

Pavlichenko became angry at the US media for the blatantly sexist way they questioned her about the war. Her look and dress was criticized. When she was asked if she wore make up to battle she responded, “There is no rule against it, but who has time to think of her shiny nose when a battle is going on?”

“I wear my uniform with honor. It has the Order of Lenin on it. It has been covered with blood in battle. It is plain to see that with American women what is important is whether they wear silk underwear under their uniforms. What the uniform stands for, they have yet to learn,” she told Time Magazine in 1942.

Pavlichenko was one of 2,000 female snipers who fought for the Red Army in World War II, and one of the 500 who survived.

Her score of 309 kills likely places her within the top five snipers of all time, but her kills are likely much more numerous, as a confirmed kill has to be witnessed by a third party.

After the war, Pavlichenko went back to finish her Master’s Degree at Kiev University.

In April of this year, Pavlichenko’s story was immortalized in a film called “Battle for Sevastopol” in Russia and “Indestructible” in the Ukraine.

The film was shot during the 2013 EuroMaidan protests in Ukraine, and financed by both Russian and Ukrainian backers at the start of a conflict that would become bloody and divisive, however the film is a testament to the outstanding career of Pavlichenko, a common hero among both parties.

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Here’s a look at the likely finalists for the new XM17 modular handgun

For over a year, the U.S. military has been looking at options for replacing the decades-old Beretta M9 handgun. As with most DoD programs, the so-called “Modular Handgun System” program is a sprawling, multi-million dollar plan to find a new pistol that takes advantage of innovations in the current firearms market and delivers a sidearm that works well for a variety of missions and troops.


Listen to the WATM podcast to hear the author and our veteran hosts discuss what the XM17 modular handgun program means to the military:

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The M9 is a solid performer and is still popular among many in the U.S. military. But over the last 20 years, handgun technology — especially the use of polymers in handgun construction — has advanced well beyond the all-metal, one-size-fits-all frame of the flagship Beretta sidearm.

Both the Army and Air Force are running the search for an M9 replacement, dubbed the XM17, and have called for a do-all pistol that will fit in the hands of a wide range of troops, be more accurate and reliable than the Beretta and, most importantly, be configurable for different missions.

An ambitious goal to be sure, and some high-ranking officials in the Pentagon have argued it’s one that’ll wind up being too expensive and take too long to field, with the Army estimating it’ll take $17 million and 2 years to test the final version of the XM17.

“We’re not exactly redesigning how to go to the moon. This is a pistol,” Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley said in March. “You give me $17 million on a credit card, and I’ll call Cabela’s tonight, and I’ll outfit every soldier, sailor, airman and Marine with a pistol for $17 million. And I’ll get a discount on a bulk buy.”

Despite Milley’s frustration, the program is set for a so-called “downselect” next month to three competitor designs to move into field testing. The safe money is that the Army will settle on options from Sig Sauer, Glock and a team composed of General Dynamics and Smith Wesson.

So what do each of these companies bring to the table for a modular handgun?

Glock

By far the most popular handgun among law enforcement, military special operations and a huge swath of civilian shooters, the Glock series of polymer-framed pistols has been considered the gold standard of modern handguns since its introduction in the 1980s.

In fact, the Glock 19 is the standard-issue handgun for Army special operations troops, Air Force special operations Airmen and has recently been chosen to replace Naval Special Warfare Sig Sauer P226 pistols. Sources say the company submitted versions of its G17 (a 5-inch barreled, 9mm handgun) and the G22 (a 4.5-inch barreled, .40 caliber handgun) to the MHS program.

The Navy relies on these awesome missiles to stop China’s ‘carrier killer’
A Special Forces soldier fires a Glock 19 pistol at a range during joint training with Hungarian special operations forces. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Tyler Placie)

While Glock doesn’t have a so-called “modular” gun, the pistol uses so few parts that swapping a barrel or switching the backstrap of the grip for smaller-handed shooters takes no time. Glock offers several handguns that look and operate the same as the G17 and G22 — namely the G19, G43 and G21 — that are more compact or are optimized for different shooting situations.

Smith Wesson

Long a close second to the Glock family of polymer pistols, Smith Wesson’s MP series of handguns have made serious inroads in the law enforcement and civilian markets.

Check out the utility belt of a local cop or stroll down the shooting bays of your local range, and you’re bound to see a bunch of MP 9s in holsters or on the bench. Similar to the Glock, the MP pistol is simple to operate, has few parts and fits a wide range of shooters with replaceable backstraps on its grip.

Smith  Wesson has teamed with General Dynamics to compete for the Army XM17 Modular Handgun System program. Smith Wesson MP 9. (Photo from Smith Wesson)

And, like Glock, Smith Wesson doesn’t have a truly modular handgun system. But the company makes a longer barrel MP in a variety of calibers and the wildly popular MP Shield for concealed carry. All are based on the same design as the MP 9 and have the same ergonomics — so troops shifting from the 5-inch MP 5-inch CORE on one mission to the MP Shield on another won’t have to deal with a learning curve.

Sig Sauer

Sig Sauer has been most widely known for its double action handguns (ones that have hammers instead of strikers), and the P226 is perhaps the most famous gun the company makes since it’s been the go-to pistol for Naval Special Warfare’s sailors for years.

That changed this year when the SEAL community let slip that it would be replacing its inventory of P226s with Glock 19s — in line with other special operations units in the U.S. military. In 2014, Sig announced its newest handgun, dubbed the “P320,” which uses a similar polymer frame and striker fire system as the Glock and MP.

But what makes the P320 unique among its closest competitors is that it is truly modular. Buy a stock P320 and a shooter can purchase new frames and barrels in different sizes and calibers; you can literally change the P320 from a 4.7-inch combat handgun into a 3.6-inch subcompact concealed carry gun in about a minute with a new frame, slide and barrel.

The Navy relies on these awesome missiles to stop China’s ‘carrier killer’
Photo from Sig Sauer

You can even switch out a 9mm to a .40 with ease. The only common part of the Sig P320 is the “fire control group” which includes the trigger and internal safety module.

And it’s this off-the-shelf modularity that leads many to believe the P320 is the odds-on favorite to win the XM17 handgun program.

Will it happen?

The problem is the Army (and other services) don’t have a great track record of making solid decisions on new weapons that take advantage of modern technology.

For several years in the early 2000s, the Army spent a lot of time and money looking into a replacement for the M4 carbine — a rifle that derives from a pre-Vietnam design. Despite test reports that showed other options performed better than the M4, the Army decided it wasn’t enough of an improvement over the existing rifle, and the service shelved the program.

Likewise, the Mk-16 and Mk-17 SOCOM Combat Assault Rifle — or SCAR — program was originally billed as a modular rifle program, one that would eventually see a combat rifle capable of switching from, say, a short-barreled entry gun into a longer-barreled one for more distant engagements. That program was also shelved, with special ops forces mostly using the .308 caliber Mk-17 on some missions as a battle rifle.

It’s still unclear whether the XM17 program will suffer a similar fate. But it’s there’s no argument that the Beretta M9 is facing an age problem and is increasingly causing armorers headaches.

So whether it’s a Glock 19 from Cabela’s or a futuristic, modular pistol, U.S. troops should see some kind of new handgun in their armory within a few years.

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5 heroic movie acts a military officer would never do

Hollywood loves to use the military in its movies. You can’t blame Tinsel Town because they’re awesome. But on occasion, film directors and screenwriters tend not to identify the fine line between theatrical and practical.


Americans thrive on celebrating the actions of a war hero that saves the day (in slow motion of course) with the perfect Hans Zimmer underscore playing over the calibrated speakers. It’s emotionally driving.

Veterans can see through the bulls*** and know when our favorite characters go a little too far. So check out these heroic movie acts that an officer would never do (probably).

1.  Rhodey finds Tony

In Jon Favreau’s 2008 “Ironman” Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is kidnapped by a terrorist group and forced to build one of his deadly signature missiles the “Jericho.” Instead, the brilliant engineer creates the Mark 1 suit, defeats the first act villain and escapes.

 

Then, Rhodey (Terrance Howard) just so happens to show up finding Tony walking out and about in what appears to be a very large desolate area after spending three months in captivity. That’s quite a lot of missions he’d have to fly to save his missing bestie. With the odds that this was his first search and rescue mission, he should buy a lottery ticket.

2. Leave no man behind

Owen Wilson stars as a jokester Naval aviator who gets shot down and must fight to stay alive as he’s pursued by some pretty bad boys in Bosnia. Then, Rear Adm. Reigart, played Lex Luthor (I mean  Gene Hackman) risks everything — including his command — to fly out and rescue one of his men in “Behind Enemy Lines.”

That’s what we call heroic.

3. “You can’t handle the truth!”

Audiences love courtroom dramas and that’s why Hollywood continues to produce them.

In Rob Reiner’s 1992 hit “A Few Good Men,”  Lt. Daniel Kaffee (Tom Cruise) and Col. Nathan Jessup (Jack Nicholson) go toe-to-toe in the climatic third act of discovering the truth of who ordered the “code red.”

Let’s face it – real or not, it’s a freakin’ awesome scene!

4.  Engage – Engage!

2005’s “Rules of Engagement” stars Samuel L. Jackson playing Terry Childers, a Marine colonel who after successfully evacuating an American ambassador and his family in Yemen from an invading crowd orders his men to turn their sights on the invaders to end the fight — which contained women and children.

 

Also read: 35 technical errors in ‘Rules of Engagement’

5. Buzzing the tower

Tom Cruise plays Maverick in Tony Scott‘s “Topgun,” which was a hugely successful film in 1986 and helped sell tons of aviator sunglass. Admit it, you bought a pair.

After an epic battle with a Topgun instructor named Jester (played by Michael Ironside), Maverick gets a hair up his a** and decides to buzz the air control tower.

 

A pilot could totally lose his flight status for this prank.

Can you think of any others? Comment below.

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The US is sending some BRRRRRT! to Putin’s backyard

US European Command announced August 4 that 10 A-10 Thunderbolt IIs, an MC-130J Commando II, and approximately 270 Air Force personnel will deploy to Estonia to train with allied air forces.


“We are strong members of the NATO Alliance and remain prepared with credible force to assure, deter, and defend our Allies,” Maj. Gen. Jon K. Kelk, Air National Guard assistant to the commander, US Air Forces in Europe Air Forces Africa, said in an August 4 EUCOM press release. “When we have the opportunity to train with coalition air forces, everyone benefits.”

The airmen and aircraft will deploy from bases in the US and Europe to Amari Air Base from August 4 to 20 to participate in the Forward Training Deployment, or FTD.

The Navy relies on these awesome missiles to stop China’s ‘carrier killer’
A-10C Thunderbolt II with the 188th Fighter Wing, Arkansas Air National Guard conduct close-air support training Nov. 21, 2013, near Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz. (U.S. Air Force photo/Jim Haseltine)

The A-10s are from the 175th Wing, Warfield Air National Guard Base, Maryland. The MC-130J is from the 352nd Special Operations Wing, RAF Mildenhall, United Kingdom.

While deployed, the A-10s are scheduled to train with Finnish air force F/A-18 Hornets in Finland, Spanish air force F/A-18 Hornets in Estonia, and multinational joint terminal air controllers in Latvia, according the release.

Known officially as the Thunderbolt II and more commonly as the Warthog, the A-10 entered military service in the late 1970s and has flown in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya.

The twin-engine aircraft is designed to decimate tanks, vehicles, and other ground targets with its GAU-8 Avenger, a 30mm seven-barrel gatling gun, and up to 16,000 pounds of ordnance, including Mk-82 and Mk-84 bombs, AGM-65 Maverick missiles, and laser-guided munitions.

The Navy relies on these awesome missiles to stop China’s ‘carrier killer’
US Air Force MC-130J Commando IIs. USAF photo by Senior Airman John Linzmeier.

The Air Force has made several attempts to retire the decades-old aircraft beginning in fiscal 2015 in an effort to save money, but congressional opposition has forced the service to reset the date for the earliest possible retirement of the A-10 to 2021.

The MC-130J Commando II is designed to fly clandestine, or low visibility, single, or multi-ship low-level air refueling missions for special operations helicopters and tiltrotor aircraft.

It can perform infiltration, exfiltration, and resupply missions for special operations forces in hostile territories.

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That one time England recruited a magician to trick Hitler

The Navy relies on these awesome missiles to stop China’s ‘carrier killer’


The history of WWII is brimming with legends of incredible heroism, death-defying bravery and sometimes, stories that are just too ridiculous to be true.

The tale of Jasper Maskelyne, the British magician who joined the Royal Engineers once the King declared war on Germany, dances on the line of the third category.

Many people believe that Maskelyne’s “war contributions” are mostly tall tales that have grown more and more fantastical over time, while others contest that his feats of deception are completely factual and actually happened. We may never know for sure how much of history’s account of Maskelyne’s contributions are folklore because there are very few pictures detailing his accomplishments, which is exactly why so many people are skeptical.

Whether or not the illusionist was the real deal or just smoke and mirrors, the story of his contributions to the Allied war effort are too incredible to ignore.

Maskelyne had magic in his blood — he was a third-generation illusionist, so you could say that being awesome ran in his family. He also really, really hated Hitler. Because of this, rather than enlist as a common foot soldier or sailor when Britain began to gear up for WWII, he wanted to offer a flashier form of service: military magician. For whatever reason, the Allies thought that they could actually benefit from having a magic man amongst their ranks, and promoted Maskelyne to major.

But they didn’t stop there — Maskelyne was allowed to assemble a team of the best artists, tricksters, engineers and illusionists around to help him pull off his stunts. The team’s official title was the A-Force, nicknamed “The Magic Gang,” as if The A-Force wasn’t cool enough.

The one and only objective of the A-Force was simple: take down Hitler and the Axis powers in the coolest way possible. Or, to put it simply, to win the war with magic.

And we’re not talking the lame sleight-of-hand card trick stuff you saw on a cruise that one time with your mom. Though, that is apparently what British command was expecting when they brought him on the team. At first Maskelyne was merely used as a troop entertainer, a cheap way to boost morale between training sessions and military operations.

Maskelyne was not down with this. And here is where the first instance of did-he-or-didn’t-he history comes into play. According to history, Maskelyne convinced the Allies to use him for bigger and better things by creating a fake version of the German battleship Admiral Graf Spee and floating it down the river Thames for everyone to see.

The Navy relies on these awesome missiles to stop China’s ‘carrier killer’

How did he do it? Reportedly with an inflatable model and mirrors situated to enlarge the fake ship, making it appear as if it were really as big as the German watercraft. The Allies were apparently impressed, and decided to actually let Maskelyne do what they had promised him in the first place. This piece of history is particularly questionable because there are no photos of the model, but is one of the more entertaining pieces of Maskelyne’s repertoire.

Once he was formally accepted by his higher-ups, it was time to dazzle them with his first and arguably biggest trick for the Allied war effort: hiding the Suez Canal.

If you think this sounds impossible then you’re pretty much correct — the landmark is so recognizable and large that it wouldn’t be possible to actually hide the canal with tarps or create a faux canal as a decoy.

The Navy relies on these awesome missiles to stop China’s ‘carrier killer’
The Suez Canal in WWII

The Navy relies on these awesome missiles to stop China’s ‘carrier killer’
A more recent look at the landmark

In order to protect this vital body of water from German bombers, they would need a much flashier strategy — literally. Knowing that the Germans carried out their air raids at night, Maskelyne decided that the best means of distracting the bombers would be to try and blind them, or, more realistically, at least make it more difficult for them to find their target.

The Magic Gang supposedly built a system of rotating searchlights and mirrors that created beams of light that were nearly ten miles across, washing whatever came into its path with blinding white light. However, many still debate whether or not this event was actually carried out, or if Maskelyne was even directly involved with the project itself.

Still, the story is pretty dang awesome, and there are several other accounts of Maskelyne’s hijinks during the war that have been recorded.

Now when’s the movie coming out?

NOW: The crazy story of the man who fought for Finland, the Nazis, and US Army Special Forces

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9 times when troops said what they really felt

Your average civilian may look at the military and think it’s like the movies, with highly-motivated soldiers doing their job without complaint, saluting smartly, and marching around a lot.


But of course, that’s not really the case. Just like with any other job, military members have good days and bad days, and often air those grievances with each other. Sometimes, they let it slip in public, and tell everyone how they really feel.

Here are 9 of those times.

1. When a soldier tells you how he really feels about his post, through Wikipedia edits.

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via Reddit

2. This soldier on Yelp doesn’t really like the “Great Place” of Fort Hood, either.

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3. A Marine writing a review on Amazon challenges your manhood if you don’t want to wear ultra-short “silkie” shorts.

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via Amazon

4. The British Marine who makes a hilarious video poking fun at his officers.

5. When a sailor on Glassdoor compares Navy life to drinking sour milk.

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6. This anonymous service member using Whisper to confess his or her love for marijuana.

The Navy relies on these awesome missiles to stop China’s ‘carrier killer’

7. The Marine who tells you over Yelp that Marine Corps Base 29 Palms will definitely steal your soul.

The Navy relies on these awesome missiles to stop China’s ‘carrier killer’

8. The British soldiers in World War I who printed a mock newspaper filled with gallows humor satirizing life in the trenches.

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Photo: Wikimedia Commons

9. When real-life Armed Force Radio DJ Adrian Cronauer (portrayed by Robin Williams in “Good Morning Vietnam”) gives the troop version of a weather report in Vietnam.

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Here are the best military photos of the week

The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:


AIR FORCE:

Oklahoma Air National Guard Airmen from the 138th Maintenance Squadron perform routine maintenance on an F-16 Fighting Falcon Oct. 6, 2016, in Tulsa, Okla.

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U.S. Air National Guard photo/Tech. Sgt. Drew A. Egnoske

U.S. Air Force Col. David Mineau, the 354th Fighter Wing commander, prepares to take off in an F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft after finishing end of runway checks Oct. 10, 2016, during RED FLAG-Alaska (RF-A) 17-1 at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. RF-A simulates the first 10 combat sorties of an initial surge during a conflict, enabling pilots to better understand the stresses of the environment.

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U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Shawn Nickel

 

ARMY:

A U.S. Army Soldier attending Ranger School simulates being wounded and yells for help while lying in the river during a mass casualty exercise at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla, Sept. 28, 2016.

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U.S. Air Force photo by Samuel King Jr.

Florida National Guard Soldiers, assigned to Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, cross a rope bridge during a mountain obstacle course, part of the final day of the French Marines Desert Survival Course at Arta Plage, Djibouti, Oct. 10, 2016.

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United States Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Tiffany DeNault

NAVY:

CHESAPEAKE BAY, Md. (Oct. 17, 2016) Aircraft CF-02, an F-35 Lightning II Carrier Variant attached to the F-35 Pax River Integrated Test Force (ITF) assigned to Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 23 completes a flyover of the guided-missile destroyer USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000).

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U.S. Navy photo by Andy Wolfe

MARINE CORPS:

U.S. Marines and Soldiers from the Singapore Armed Forces stage their vehicles in preparation for the final exercise of Exercise Valiant Mark 2016 Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, California Oct. 11, 2016.

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U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Akeel Austin

Marines with 2nd Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company (2d ANGLICO) prepare for tactical beach landing drills with 148 (Meiktila) Commando Forward Observation Battery, as part of exercise Joint Warrior on Cape Wrath, Scotland, Oct. 13, 2016. Joint Warrior is a multinational exercise which increases 2d ANGLICO’s capacity to operate and integrate with Joint, International, Interagency, and Multinational (JIIM) partnerships.

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U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Sgt. Rebecca L. Floto

COAST GUARD:

A U.S. Coast Guard H-60 Jayhawk departs Coast Guard Base Portsmouth, in Portsmouth, Va., on Oct. 10, 2016, following a a damage assessment of North Carolina. Coast Guard personnel have been working with numerous state and local agencies in response to the storm damage.

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U.S. Coast Guard photograph by Coast Guard Aux. Trey Clifton

USCG Cutter Thetis crewmembers assisted the Royal Netherlands Navy (RNLN) HNLMS Holland crew, Dutch Marines and American Red Cross with loading supplies for the World Food Program USA at the Haitian Coast Guard station in Les Cayes, Haiti, this week.

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U.S. Coast Guard photo

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The 9 most badass unit mottos in the Marine Corps

There are some units in the U.S. Marine Corps that really know how to make an impression.

Like the rest of the military, Marine units have unit crests, nicknames, and of course, mottos. And in quite a few cases, those elements are pretty badass.


These are our picks for the units with the coolest unit mottos, along with a brief explanation of what they do.

1. “Whatever It Takes”

1st Battalion, 4th Marines: Stationed at Camp Pendleton, California, 1/4 is an infantry battalion that has been fighting battles since its first combat operation in the Dominican Republic in 1916. That’s also where 1st Lt. Ernest Williams earned the Medal of Honor, the first for the battalion.

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2. “Get Some”

3rd Battalion, 5th Marines: Based at the northern edge of Camp Pendleton, California, the “Dark Horse” battalion is one of the most-decorated battalions in the Marine Corps.

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3. “Balls of the Corps”

3rd Battalion, 1st Marines: “The Thundering Third” is stationed at Camp Pendleton, California, and has a notable former member in Gen. Joseph Dunford.

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4. “We Quell the Storm, and Ride the Thunder”

3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines: “The Betio Bastards” of 3/2 are based at Camp Lejeune, and have been heavily involved in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. The battalion is perhaps best known for its fight on Tarawa in 1943.

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5. “Retreat Hell”

2nd Battalion, 5th Marines: It was in the trenches of World War I where 2/5 got its motto. When told by a French officer that his unit should retreat from the defensive line, Capt. Lloyd Williams replied, “Retreat? Hell, we just got here!” With combat service going back to 1914, 2/5 is the most decorated battalion in Marine history.

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6. “Ready for All, Yielding to None”

2nd Battalion, 7th Marines: Stationed at Twentynine Palms, California, the battalion’s current motto is a slight variation on its Vietnam-era one: “Ready for Anything, Counting on Nothing.”

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7. “Semper Malus” — Latin for “Always Ugly”

Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 362 (HMH-362): This helicopter unit nicknamed “Ugly Angels,” is stationed at Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii and holds the proud distinction of being the first aircraft unit ashore in Vietnam.

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8. “Swift, Silent, Deadly”

1st, 2nd, and 3rd Recon Battalions: Reconnaissance Marines are trained for special missions, raids, and you guessed it: reconnaissance. For these three battalions, stationed at Camps Lejeune, Pendleton, and Schwab, the motto pretty much sums up what they can do.

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9. “Make Peace or Die”

1st Battalion, 5th Marines: Nicknamed “Geronimo,” the Camp Pendleton based 1/5 has been involved in every major U.S. engagement since World War I. Most recently, the battalion has been deployed to Darwin, Australia as the Corps tries to “pivot to the Pacific.”

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Articles

Defense budget spotlight: What do weapons really cost?

Editor’s note: With news of the Air Force potentially awarding the contract for the next-generation bomber and Congressional Republicans reaching an agreement with the White House on the defense budget, WATM presents a short primer by our friend Winslow Wheeler on how the Pentagon tends to complicate how much things actually cost.


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On Wednesday March 25, 2009, an F-22 crashed near Edwards Air Force Base in California. Sadly, the pilot was killed. The news articles surrounding this event contained some strange assertions about the cost of the crashed airplane. Based on the price asserted in the Air Force’s “fact” sheet on the F-22 that was linked to a Pentagon news release on the crash, the press articles on the crash cited the cost per aircraft at $143 million.

It was incomplete, to put it charitably, but the media passed it on nevertheless. The extant “Selected Acquisition Report” (SAR) from the Defense Department is the definitive DOD data available to the public on the costs for the F-22. The SAR showed a “Current Estimate” for the F-22 program in “Then-Year” dollars of $64.540 billion. That $64.5 billion was for 184 aircraft.

Do the arithmetic: $64.540/184 = $350.1. Total program unit price for one F-22 calculates to $350 million per copy. So, where does the $143 million unit cost come from? Many will recognize that as the “flyaway” cost: the amount we pay today, just for the ongoing production costs of an F-22. (Note, however, the “flyaway” cost does not include the pilot, fuel and other consumables needed to fly the aircraft away.)

The SAR cost includes not just procurement costs, but research and development (RD) and some military construction, as well. At about the same time as the crash, a massive lobbying effort had started to buy more F-22s, to reverse Secretary of Defense Robert Gates impending announcement (in April 2009) that he wanted no more. F-22 advocates were asserting the aircraft could be had for this bargain $143 million unit price. That was, they argued, the “cost to go” for buying new models, which would not include the RD and other initially high production costs already sunk into the program.

Congressional appropriations bills and their accompanying reports are not user-friendly documents, but having plowed through them for decades, I know many of the places and methods that Appropriations Committee staff like to use to hide and obscure what Congress and the Pentagon are actually spending. Let’s check through the 2009 congressional appropriations for the F-22. Most – but not all – of the required information is contained in HR 2638, which contained the Department of Defense Appropriations Act for fiscal year 2009.

In the “Joint Explanatory Statement” accompanying the bill, the House and Senate appropriators specified that $2.907 billion was to be appropriated for 20 F-22s in 2009. The math comes to just about what the Air Force said, $145 million per copy. So, what’s the problem?

Flipping down to the section on “modification of aircraft” we find another $327 million for the F-22 program. Switching over to the Research and Development section, we find another $607 million for the F-22 under the title “Operational System Development.” Some will know it is typical for DOD to provide “advance procurement” money in previous appropriations bills to support the subsequent year’s purchase.

In the case of the 2009 buy of 20 F-22’s, the previous 2008 appropriations act provided “advance procurement” for “long lead” F-22 items to enable the 2009 buy. The amount was $427 million.  Here’s the math: $2.907 + $.327 + $.607 + $.427 = $4.268 billion for 20 aircraft. That’s $213 million each.

Do not think these data represent an exceptional year. If you check any of the annual buys of F-22s, you will find the same pattern: in addition to the annual “procurement” amount, there is additional “modification,” RD” and advance procurement.

A few weeks later, F-22 advocate Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R–Ga., attempted to amend the 2010 DOD “authorization” bill coming out of the Senate Armed Services Committee to buy seven more F-22s for $1.75 billion, or $250 million each. The Chambliss effort, almost certainly worked out in close association with Lockheed Martin – a major F-22 plant is in Marietta, Ga. – surely sought to pay Lockheed the full amount to procure more aircraft: not $143 million each, but $250 million.

Clearly, Chambliss and Lockheed knew about some additional F-22 costs not included in my estimate of $213 million. The pathology of low-balling a weapon’s costs goes far beyond the F-22 example cited here; it is a basic tenet of bureaucratic behavior; it helps a program acquire support by top DOD management and Congress.

Understatement of cost does not occur in isolation in the Pentagon; it is accompanied by an overstatement of the performance the program will bring, and the schedule articulated will be unrealistically optimistic. Once the hook is set in the form of an approved program in the Pentagon (based on optimistic numbers) and an annual funding stream for it from Congress (based on local jobs and campaign contributions), the reality of actual cost, schedule and performance will come too late to generate anything but a few pesky newspaper articles.

(This post was excerpted from The Pentagon Labyrinth: 10 Short Essays to Help You Through It.)

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About the author: Winslow T. Wheeler focuses on the defense budget, why some weapons work and others don’t, congressional oversight, and the politics of Pentagon spending. Before joining the Center for Defense Information in 2002, he worked on Capitol Hill for four U.S. Senators from both political parties and for the Government Accountability Office. At GAO and the Senate, Wheeler focused on Pentagon budget issues, weapons testing, the performance of U.S. systems in actual combat, and the U.S. strategic “triad” of nuclear weapons.

Articles

8 signs you might be a military brat

Sure, we all know that kids with military parents have to move around a lot. It’s a bummer making friends in school since in a couple years you’re going to be bouncing off to another base and have to start all over again.


So, aside from the obvious fact that you can pack your house up in a day and fit most of it on the roof of a minivan, here are some other signs you might be a military brat.

 

1. You don’t have a hometown

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Having to move every 3 years or so makes it hard to really get comfortable in any one place too long. The military lifestyle exposes military kids to new places and foreign cultures, but it can also be hard to have lasting friendships.

2. You know military time

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Military brats actually know what 1600 hours means. But they need to be careful since using military time could confuse some of their non-military friends.

3. You have MREs in your house

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Military brats have grown up having Meals Ready to Eat in their house. Many actually grow to like them and may even have their favorite meal.

4. The PX/BX is everything

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Marine Staff Sgt. Lawrence Battiste and his son Jonathan, natives of Grand Blanc, Mich., greet Santa during a visit to their local Exchange on Okinawa, Japan, Dec. 23, 2013. (photo by Staff Sgt. Robert DeDeaux, Exchange Pacific Region Public Affairs)

The Post Exchange is where you go when you need new clothes and shoes. Why go to Walmart when you have the PX/BX within walking distance from your house?

5. You wake up early

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Headquarter U.S. Army Pacific started the Suicide Prevention Stand Down with Reveille followed by a resilience run/walk.  (Photo Credit: Russell K. Dodson)

Military brats don’t need an alarm clock to wake up in the morning. The bugle sounds of Reveille, which normally occurs at 0630 on military installations, will get those kids up faster than mom or dad ever could.

6. You know the importance of a promotion

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The daughter of Lt. Cdr. Terry Fellows pins a new collar device on her father’s uniform during a promotion ceremony at Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet Headquarters. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Michael Hight)

Unlike other kids, military children get to take part in their parent’s promotion ceremonies. This teaches military brats the value of hard work and makes them appreciate their parents even more.

7. You get to do cool stuff

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Military brats get to do all kinds of cool stuff like ride in military vehicles, learn the basics of military parachuting, fly around in military aircraft and much more. Often this makes them the envy of their non-military friends.

8. It’s hard to say good-bye

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Saying good-bye to your parents when they go on deployment is never easy. You worry about them every day and hope they are alright. You can’t wait to be reunited with them again.

 

Follow Alex Licea on Twitter @alexlicea82

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Russia wants to develop search-and-rescue robots for the Arctic

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As Russia focuses on militarizing its Arctic region, the Kremlin is trying to develop military technology needed to operate in one of the world’s harshest environments. Russian military planners are now setting their sights on the development of Arctic rescue robots.

Admiral Victor Chirkov, the head of the Russian Navy, has called for the development and construction of “Arctic underwater search and rescue robots,” Newsweek reports citing Itar-Tass, a state-owned Russian media organization. The robots would be designed to withstand difficult Arctic conditions and cold temperatures.

“We have formulated our requirements and set the task for manufacturers to create both manned and unmanned underwater vehicles, which can be used to provide search and rescue support with proper effectiveness in the harsh conditions of the Arctic seas,” Chirkov said.

The robots would be kept aboard Russian icebreakers and other maritime vessels to assist in search-and-rescue missions. They would save human rescuers from having to operate in waters whose temperates average a chilly (and deadly) 28-29 degrees Fahrenheit.

Chirkov’s urging for robot development coincides with Russia’s Arctic militarization push and the Kremlin’s efforts to develop autonomous robotic technology. In January, Russia premiered a prototype for a robotic biker, proof that Russia was interested in developing humanoid robots with possible military applications.

Russia’s new military doctrine designates the Arctic as one of three geopolitical areas that could serve as strategic beachheads. To achieve this goal, Moscow has increasingly deployed advanced weaponry along its northern coast, created a unified military command for the region, and planned a construction blitz through the region that would include a series of ports, airfields, and military bases.

Moscow has also announced that it plans on sending a drone fleet to the eastern reaches of the Arctic region.

Russia’s focus on the Arctic stems from unclaimed natural resources under the ice. The US estimates that a possible 15% of the earth’s remaining oil, 30% of its natural gas, and 20% of its liquefied natural gas are stored within the Arctic sea bed.

Currently, Russia, Denmark, Norway, Canada, and the US all have partial claims to the Arctic Circle.

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