Articles

The Rhodesian Fireforce took airborne operations to a whole new level

By the 1970's, the Rhodesian Security Forces were facing a growing and determined insurgency in the civil war known as the "Rhodesian Bush War." Faced with increased threats, manpower and equipment shortages, and a large territory to cover, they needed a new tactic to deal effectively with rebel groups. This led the Rhodesian Light Infantry to the development of the fireforce, a vertical envelopment technique involving light infantry, helicopters, and paratroopers in a rapidly deployable posture.


A fireforce was equipped with four helicopters, one C-47 Dakota transport aircraft, and a light attack aircraft. The helicopters were of two types; the K-Car and the G-Car. The K-Car was so called because it was the 'killer' with its 20mm cannon and functioned as the command and control aircraft. The G-Cars served as gunships with machine guns and as transports for heliborne troops, though they were only capable of carrying four combat loaded troops at a time. The unit was also supported by vehicles, called the 'Landtail' that supported the deployment of the airborne component. Weapons were standard for Africa at the time – FN FALs and FN MAG machine guns.

A unit set to a fireforce mission was distinctly organized from standard infantry units. Instead of fire teams, squads, and platoons, the Fire Force was composed of 'waves' that were broken down into stops, also known as sticks, each consisting of four men, due to the space constraints on the G-Cars. Each stop had a stick leader, machine gunner, and two riflemen, one of which was also trained as a medic. The fireforce airborne component was composed of eight stops. Stops one through three were assigned to the G-Cars while stops four through eight were assigned as paratroopers. These forces, along with the light attack aircraft, constituted the first wave. The remaining men assigned to the fireforce were in vehicles as the 'Landtail,' or second wave.

There were three main fireforce units located at three bases throughout the country, ready to respond to a contact or sighting of enemy forces by the Selous Scouts. That's when the excitement began. Once contact was reported, a siren would sound alerting the fireforce. The first three stops would board helicopters while the rest would quickly don parachutes with the help of off-duty team members. The airborne component would rush to the objective where the fireforce commander would determine a drop zone and position the heliborne stops to encircle the rebels. Once on the ground, the stops would attempt to stop the enemy. They would act as blocking positions for the sweep element, usually paratroopers, creating the classic hammer and anvil movement. Combined with circling gunships and close-air support, this method proved deadly effective, resulting in a kill ratio of better than 80:1.

The fireforce became the primary tactic of the Rhodesian security forces. By 1977, all infantrymen would be trained as paratroopers. While on a 'bush trip' – usually lasting about six weeks – the men on a fireforce would rotate between heliborne insertion, paratrooper, landtail, and off-duty. After a bush trip, the men were given ten days rest before returning to the field. This allowed for a very high ops tempo. As the fireforce was perfected and the insurgency gained strength, this meant that Rhodesian soldiers were called on more and more to conduct missions. In his book Fireforce: One Man's War in the Rhodesian Light Infantry Chris Cocks tells of men making three combat jumps in a single day. This led to a truly staggering number of jumps for many members of the Rhodesian Light Infantry, unmatched by any other unit in the world.

The fireforce was not enough to keep the Rhodesians from losing the war and the method was never adopted by other militaries. The French had used paratroopers extensively in Indochina while the Americans preferred to use only helicopters. With Rhodesia turning over to majority African control and becoming Zimbabwe, the Rhodesian Light Infantry and fireforces were disbanded. Though it would go down in history as one of the most effective counter-insurgency forces ever conceived.

How this new Russian doomsday device can create huge tidal waves

During Vladimir Putin's address to the Russian Federal Assembly on March 1, 2018, he described a plethora of nuclear weapons Russia is developing.

One of these proposed weapons — an autonomous submarine — stood out among the depictions of falling warheads and nuclear-powered cruise missiles.

Keep reading... Show less
Articles

How R. Lee Ermey's Hollywood break is an inspiration to us all

While there have been many outstanding actors and celebrities who have raised their right hand, there has never been a veteran who could finger point his way to the top of Hollywood stardom quite like the late great Gunnery Sergeant R. Lee Ermey.

Keep reading... Show less

A dog adopted by coalition troops fighting ISIS is finally home

U.S. Army Reserve Sgt. Tracy McKithern loves dogs. She loves her dog, she loves other peoples' dogs, she loves dogs she sees in memes and on TV shows. When she found a dirty little white stray sniffing around the camp she was stationed at during a one-year deployment in Iraq, only one thing was going to happen.

"I fell in love with her immediately."

Keep reading... Show less
Entertainment

6 of the best tank scenes, ranked

Hollywood filmmakers go to extreme lengths to produce bouts of nail-biting hand-to-hand combat and on-screen firefights. These sequences are exceptionally thrilling and, with the right choreography and camera movements, can be lifelike and intense.

Now, add in a monstrous armored vehicle, like a tank or two, and you've officially kicked your movie up a notch. Sure, some films do a great job of showing a tank destroying everything in its path, but few are able to tell a story in a way that makes the well-protected vehicle into its own unique character.

Keep reading... Show less

The unintended consequences of denuclearizing North Korea

North Korea's Kim Jong Un has bought his way in to talks with China's President Xi Jinping, South Korea's President Moon Jae-in, and US President Donald Trump with a commitment to denuclearize his country — but doing so could open up the world to the tremendous risk of loose nukes and loose nuclear scientists.

Though Kim has repeatedly vowed to rid his country of nuclear weapons, the promises remain totally one-sided as no one knows how many, or where, North Korea's nuclear arsenal is.

Keep reading... Show less
GEAR & TECH

The Scalpel missile was designed for a precision cut

Cluster bombs and napalm are two of the most underappreciated yet effective types of munition that a plane can drop on the bad guys, but they're not suited for every purpose. Yes, cluster bombs can do thing JDAMs can't and yes, napalm does provide the age-old "smell of victory," but when the bad guys are using local civilians as human shields, precision is paramount.

Keep reading... Show less
History

5 times the Army Reserve made a difference in a century of war

From brutal trench warfare in World War I to fighting the Nazis and challenging Soviet Russia during the Berlin Airlift, Army Reserve forces have faced the perils of combat for more than 100 years.

The Army Reserve started as a medical force designed to fortify the Army's shortfall of combat doctors. In 1902, Secretary of War Elihu Root proposed the creation of a volunteer reserve to augment the regular Army and National Guard in wartime, and on April 23, 1908, the Medical Reserve Corps, with 160 medical professionals, was launched, with one simple mission: keep Soldiers alive.

Keep reading... Show less

4 components to the success of a total penis transplant on a wounded veteran

Doctors at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Maryland announced the first-ever successful total penis and scrotum transplant was performed on an Afghanistan veteran recently. The recipient was wounded in an IED attack that left him without sexual or urinary function but left his internal organs unharmed.

The procedure was performed on March 26th and the unidentified "sergeant" will have urinary function by the end of the week.

Keep reading... Show less