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These are the best military photos for the week of August 26th

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


Air Force:

A U.S. Air Force F-16 “Thunderbird” sits on the flight line during sunrise at the 177th Fighter Wing, Air National Guard Base in Atlantic City, N.J., Aug. 23, 2017. The Thunderbirds, an Aerial Demonstration Squadron, performed at the Atlantic City Air Show, Thunder over the Boardwalk, in Atlantic City, N.J., Aug. 22-23, 2017.

U.S. Air National Guard photo by Airman 1st Class Cristina J. Allen

The propellers of a WC-130J Super Hercules aircraft spin in the center of Hurricane Harvey during a flight into the storm Aug. 24, 2017 out of Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi.

U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Heather Heiney

Army:

U.S. Army Paratroopers assigned to 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade, and Italian Army Paratroopers Folgore Brigade, descend onto Juliet Drop Zone in Pordenone, Italy, August 23, 2017. The combined exercise demonstrates the multinational capacity building of the airborne community and the airborne allied nations collectively. The 173rd Airborne Brigade is the U.S. Army Contingency Response Force in Europe, capable of projecting ready forces anywhere in the U.S. European, Africa or Central Commands’ areas of responsibility within 18 hours.

U.S. Army Photos by Visual Information Specialist Paolo Bovo

Soldiers selected by 1st Battalion, 153rd Infantry Regiment, as Soldiers of the month while deployed with the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa in Djibouti, were offered the opportunity to participate in a limited AT4 live-fire exercise at a range along the southern coast of the Gulf of Tadjoura, Aug. 22, 2017. The AT4 is a shoulder-fired anti-tank weapon which is disposable after just one use, making it a special opportunity to fire one.

U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Joe Harwood

Navy:

USS Constitution fires off a 40 mm 200 gram round from one of her saluting batteries. Constitution fires one round from her saluting battery twice a day to signify morning and evening colors.

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Joshua Hammond

Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technicians, assigned to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit Five (EODMU 5), dive in Apra Harbor, Guam, Aug. 20, 2017. EODMU-5 conducts mine countermeasures, improvised explosive device operations, renders safe explosive hazards, and disarms underwater explosives such as mines.

U.S. Navy Combat Camera photo by Mass Communications Specialist 1st Class Arthurgwain L. Marquez

Marine Corps:

U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Matthew Flanagan, a cannoneer, attached with 3rd Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment, Kilo Battery, Gun 3, fires the M777A2 Howitzer at Yausubetsu Training Area, Japan, August 23, 2017. The purpose of the Northern Viper training exercise is to maintain interoperability and combat readiness within the Indo-Asia-Pacific Region.

U.S. Marine Corps photo by MCIPAC Combat Camera Lance Cpl. André T. Peterson

Marines with 1st Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company (ANGLICO) rappel from a Bell UH-1 Iroquois on Camp Pendleton, Calif., August 24, 2017. 1st ANGLICO is conducting training to prepare Marines for future deployments.

U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Pfc. Dalton S. Swanbeck

Coast Guard:

An MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew medevac a man experiencing symptoms of heart failure approximately 60 miles south of Grand Isle, Louisiana, August 24, 2017. The helicopter crew arrived on scene at approximately 11:30 a.m., hoisted the man and transported him to West Jefferson Medical Center in Marrero in stable condition.

U.S. Coast Guard photo courtesy of Coast Guard Air Station New Orleans

Three people were rescued by a boatcrew from Coast Guard Station Sandy Hook near Highlands, New Jersey, on August 19, 2017. Their nine-foot John boat capsized sending them into the water.

U.S. Coast Guard photo courtesy of Station Sandy Hook

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A California company wants the Air Force to bomb wildfires

Smokey the Bear never warned anyone about the danger of bombing wildfires with a few JDAMs – that would be crazy.


But what if the Air Force had giant water balloons to drop on these fires — a super-hydrating daisy cutter to give out of control fires a taste of shock and awe.

Now that’s an idea just crazy enough to work.

Pictured: Refreshment. (YouTube video via Discovery)

Flexible Attack Innovations is a California-based company that’s come up with an idea it calls Precision Container Aerial Delivery System, or “PCADS,” which it says can deliver cases of 250 gallons of fire retardant – a ton of liquid apiece – onto a target from 300 feet.

The Flexible Attack fire-killing method takes advantage of something that looks pretty close to the Container Delivery System that the military has used to airdrop supplies to troops on the ground since the 1950s.

(YouTube video via FLEXALTPCADS)

The video shows a 4,000-gallon drop from a C-130. When the containers of liquid hit the airstream behind the plane, the containers fall apart and the liquid forms a rain effect.

The addition of the PCADS would be significant support for the Forest Service, whose aging air fleet is ill-equipped to fight the number of wildfires they unit faces. A 2015 ABC News report found the Forest Service’s fleet is down to 11 planes from 44 a decade ago.

Since no plane has ever been designed specifically to fight wildfires, a package designed to integrate into the CDS is a distinct step forward.

The U.S military’s current efforts to augment Forest Service firefighting efforts is the Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System. Reserve and National Guard components put these in C-130s to convert them into tankers.

The palletized MAFFS tanks carry as much as 3,400 gallons of fire retardant, whereas the PCADS can carry up to 12,000 gallons. The MAFFS also act as more of a spray effect than a localized rain.

A U.S. Air Force C-130 equipped with a MAFFS system sprays retardant over the Black Crater Fire in Oregon, July 2006. (U.S. Forestry Service photo by Thomas Iraci )

The problem is, the MAFFS takes 24 hours to spool up for a mission and get the plane on the scene. That’s a lot of time for a fire to go from manageable to out of control.

Reading this, you might be a little disappointed that the Air Force isn’t using actual explosives to extinguish wildfires. Luckily, there are some Australians working on that method.

Researchers at the University of New South Wales are woking to harness blast waves from high explosives to put out fires, preventing their spread while moving the fire away from its fuel source.

(YouTube video via UNSWTV)

The researchers’ next step is to scale up the concept of a directional explosive. A similar technique was used by coalition troops during Desert Storm to cap oil well fires set by retreating Iraqis.

(YouTube Video via Extreme World and Engineering)

The Hungarians strapped MiG-21 jet engines onto a Russian T-34 tank. When it came time to put out the fire, water is put into the jet stream and they open the throttle. The “Big Wind,” as the tank is called, blows the fire out like a candle.

So the Forest Service may not only get air cover in the near future, they might get some armor as well.

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This battleship went from Pearl Harbor to D-Day to nuclear tests

The D-Day landings featured an immense fleet – including seven battleships.


One, HMS Rodney, was notable for being the only battleship to torpedo another battleship. However, one of the American battleships came to Normandy via Pearl Harbor, where she was run aground.

That ship was the battleship USS Nevada (BB 36). The Nevada was the lead ship in her class, the other being USS Oklahoma (BB 37). According to the Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships, when she was built, she had ten 14-inch guns (two triple turrets, two double turrets), 21 five-inch guns (many in casemates), and four 21-inch torpedo tubes.

USS Nevada (BB 36) shortly after she was built. (U.S. Navy photo)

The Nevada did not see much action at all (although nine sailors died from the influenza pandemic that hit in 1918) in World War I. In the 1920s and 1930s, she carried out normal peacetime operations.

On Dec. 7, 1941, she was moored alone on Battleship Row. When Kido Butai launched the sneak attack on Oahu, the battleship was hit by a torpedo, but her crew managed to get her engines running, and she made a break for the open ocean.

As she did so, the second wave from the six Japanese carriers arrived. The Nevada took anywhere from six to ten bomb hits, and the decision was made to run her aground.

The Nevada suffered 50 dead and over 100 wounded, but Pearl Harbor would claim two more casualties. In “Pearl Harbor: Why, How, Fleet Salvage and Final Appraisal,” it was reported that two men were killed by hydrogen sulfide on Feb. 7, 1942, while working to salvage the Nevada.

Damage to USS Nevada after the attack on Pearl Harbor. (U.S. Navy photo)

Nevada would return to Puget Sound for permanent repairs and refitting, gaining a new dual-purpose batter of eight twin five-inch gun mounts. She took part in operations to re-take the Aleutian Islands of Attu and Kiska from the Japanese, then she went to the Atlantic.

On June 6, 1944, she was part of the armada that took part in Operation Overlord, and continued to provide fire support until American troops moved further inland. In August of that year, she took part in Operation Dragoon, the landings in southern France.

She then returned to the Pacific, taking part in the invasions of Iwo Jima and Okinawa. Off Okinawa, she suffered damage from a kamikaze and from Japanese shore batteries.

The ship remained mission-capable, and she would later return to Pearl Harbor for repairs before re-joining the fleet to prepare for the invasion of Japan, stopping to pay a visit to a bypassed Japanese-held island.

USS Nevada fires on Nazi positions during D-Day. (U.S. Navy photo)

After Japan surrendered, the Nevada was sent back to the West Coast, and prepared for Operation Crossroads. Painted a bright orange color to serve as an aiming point for the B-29 crew assigned to drop an atomic bomb, she got lucky.

According to the book “Final Voyages,” the B-29 crew missed her by about a mile — and she survived both the Able and Baker tests. She was later used as a target and sunk, with the final blow being an aerial torpedo according to the Naval Vessel Register.

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7 of the best ‘so-crazy-it-will-work’ plans that actually worked

Most anything can be overcome with a good, well thought out, reasonable plan.


But if you can’t think of anything good, just be like these guys and do something crazy. You’ll at least get a good story out of it.

1. The U.S. Coast Guard’s predecessor saved hundreds of sailors by herding reindeer to them

(Photo: U.S. Coast Guard)

When eight whaling ships and 265 sailors were trapped by early Arctic ice in 1897, President William McKinley asked the Revenue Cutter Service if they had any way to get supplies to the ships.

The RCS, a predecessor to the Coast Guard, responded by forming a unit of volunteers who traveled 1,600 miles from Dec. 1897 to Mar. 1898, buying reindeer along the way and herding them to Alaska where the sailors were trapped. They arrived with 382 reindeer just in time for most of the survivors. Three people died of starvation, but the rest were rescued during the spring thaw.

2. Army PSYOPS troops pretended they were vampires

Photo: US Air Force Airman 1st Class William Johnson

American psychological operations soldiers were sent to the Philippines in 1950 to help destroy a Communist rebellion in the country. When the commander learned that the local fighters were superstitious and believed in a shapeshifting vampire known as the “asuang,” he came up with a Scooby Doo-esque plan.

First, he had friendly locals spread a rumor that an asuang was living in the hills. Then, the Americans and their allies set up an ambush in the hills, waited for the last man in a patrol to pass them, and abducted him. They poked two holes in his neck, drained him of his blood, and put his body back on the trail. The rebels bought the ruse and fled the area, allowing government forces to reclaim it.

3. Four Royal Marines rode Apaches into a Taliban fort

Photo: Youtube

Long story short, a British attack on the Taliban base of Jugroom Fort went bad quickly, and British forces quickly withdrew. But, they accidentally left wounded Royal Marine Lance Cpl. Mathew Ford behind. With the Taliban in the fort already on high alert, a daring plan was needed to recover him.

So, some Royal Marines volunteered to strap themselves to the outside of two Apaches, ride into the fort, recover Ford, and ride back out. The daring plan worked, but Ford had unfortunately been rendered brain dead at the time of injury.

4. The Air Force used actual bears to test ejection seats

GIF: U.S. Air Force Archives

The Air Force struggled in the late 50s and early 60s with a simple but challenging problem. Crew who had to eject from supersonic planes were subjected to extreme and sometimes lethal strain. So the Air Force began testing experimental ejection devices — on bears.

To be fair, the Air Force didn’t start with bears. It started with unemployed humans. But the public thought it was messed up for the government to conduct dangerous experiments on unemployed Americans, so the Air Force strapped bears into experimental ejection devices on the B-58 Hustler.

The pod was proven safe and nearly all of the test animals returned to the ground safely. Unfortunately, the Air Force needed to check for potentially hidden injuries and ordered autopsies on all animal subjects.

5. Union soldiers stole a train and wreaked havoc across Georgia and Tennessee

The great locomotive chase of 1862. (Photo: Public Domain)

What’s the best way to cut off your enemy’s lines of communication? Apparently, in Apr. 1862 Georgia, the answer was to steal on train and go on a GTA: V-type crime spree with it. The operation was led by a civilian but was conducted with the help of 18 Union soldiers.

The party stole a train in Marietta, Georgia, and drove it towards Chattanooga, Tennessee, destroying track and telegraph lines as they went and evading a pursuing party of Confederate soldiers and the original train owner. The men didn’t quite make it to Chattanooga but did cause extensive damage to Confederate logistics and communication networks.

The men were eventually caught. Eight of them were executed and the rest lived out the war as POWs.

6. American troops used a payphone to call for air support in Grenada

82nd Airborne artillery personnel load and fire M102 105 mm howitzers during Operation Urgent Fury. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. M.J. Creen)

During the invasion of Grenada in 1983, the American communication network was so bad that almost no one on the island could talk to any fighters from another branch. This led to the legend that U.S. troops called for fire support using a credit card and a payphone.

Vice President Dick Cheney heard the story while he was a Congressman and was told that an Army officer could see naval artillery out at sea but couldn’t get them on the radio. So he pulled out his credit card and used a payphone to call the Pentagon who relayed his request.

The Navy SEALs have their own version of the story that said the frogmen were holed up in the governor’s mansion and used a credit card to call the Pentagon and get help from an Air Force AC-130.

7. American and Nazi troops teamed up to defeat an SS attack during World War II

Schloss Itter (Itter Castle) in July 1979. (Photo: S.J. Morgan. CC BY-SA 3.0)

In the closing days of World War II, a group of American and German troops teamed up and fought side-by-side against a murderous SS battalion. The Americans had accepted the surrender of the Germans just before both sides saw the slightly drunk and very fanatical group of SS soldiers climbing the hill towards them.

The two groups quickly set aside their difference and conducted a joint defense of Itter Castle with some of the prisoners helping them out. The 150 SS troops outnumbered the defenders and fought until the allies were about to run out of ammunition when American reinforcements showed up. Many of the SS were captured and the freed prisoners were able to testify against the Nazis.

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This is what the Army’s top general wants in a future tank, and it’s straight out of ‘Starship Troopers’

The tank is far from obsolete and the US will need a new armored vehicle to replace its 1980-vintage M1 Abrams, the Army Chief of Staff said here this afternoon. But what kind of tank, on what kind of timeline? Gen. Mark Milley made clear he was looking for a “breakthrough,” not incremental evolution – which probably means that the new tank will take a long time.


“Are we sort of at that point in history where perhaps mechanized vehicles are going the way of horse cavalry and going the way of the dinosaur?” Milley asked. “I don’t think so — but I’m skeptical enough to continue to ask that.”

“We have a good, solid tank today,” Milley said of the M1. “Having said that, we do need a new ground armored platform for our mechanized infantry and our tanks, because it’s my belief that, at least in the foreseeable future — and you can follow that out to 25 years or so — there is a role for those type of formations.”

Army photo by Sgt. Aaron Ellerman

“What are some of the technologies?” Milley said. “There’s Active Protection Systems” – electronic jammers and mini-missiles to stop incoming anti-tank weapons – “(and) there’s reduced crews with automated turrets” – as found on Russia’s new T-14 Armata, which Milley said the Army is studying closely – “but the real sort of holy grail of technologies that I’m trying to find on this thing is material, is the armor itself…. If we can discover a material that is significantly lighter in weight that gives you the same armor protection, that would be a real significant breakthrough.

“There’s a lot of research and development going into it,” Milley said. That’s true, but in all my conversations with Army and industry experts in recent years, no one believes we’re close to a “breakthrough.” Modest improvements in armor materials are in the works, but nothing that would change the fundamental calculus that makes protection heavy.

The trend, in fact, has been for everything to get heavier. The M1 tank started out in 1980 weighing about 60 tons, enough to stop most Soviet anti-tank shells and missiles of the day, but has grown to almost 70. The M2 Bradley, a heavily armed troop carrier called an Infantry Fighting Vehicle, grew from a fairly fragile 25 tons to a robust 40, with contractor BAE now proposing a 45-ton model. Some designs for a Bradley replacement, the proposed Ground Combat Vehicle, grew as heavy as 84 tons before the cash-strapped Army cancelled the program.

Russian T-14 Armata. Wikimedia Commons photo by Vitaly V. Kuzmin.

While the Army is now looking at lighter vehicles, the experts I’ve talked to are not counting on lighter armor. Instead, they’re contemplating trade-offs once deemed heretical, like building an air-droppable light tank to support paratroops, or having the Bradley replacement only carry half an infantry squad.

Such smaller vehicles would be lighter, as well as more maneuverable on narrow city streets – a key consideration because many Army leaders, including Milley, expect future warfare to be fought increasingly in urban settings. Mosul is a brutal but ultimately small-scale “preview” of future city fights in sprawling megacities, Milley said July 28. In Mosul – as in Fallujah in 2004 and Sadr City in 2008 – it took tanks to retake the city, working closely with regular infantry and special forces, he noted.

Light armored vehicles with Task Force 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, Regimental Combat Team 8 traverse the rocky terrain of the Sinjar Mountains. Photo by Sgt. Eric Schwartz.

Lasers, Railguns, Robotics

While Milley put lighter-weight protection as priority number one, he also highlighted two other technologies that could revolutionize armored vehicle design. One is electrically-powered weapons, such as railguns – which use electromagnets to accelerate a solid metal slug to supersonic speeds – and lasers – which fire pure energy at the speed of light. “We’ve been using kinetic or powder-based munitions for five centuries,” Milley noted, but there are now major advances in alternative forms of firepower.

So far, lasers and railguns are being developed primarily as defensive weapons, able to shoot down drones or cruise missiles more quickly and cheaply than surface-to-air missiles. However, Air Force Special Operations Command plans to put a 150-kilowatt laser on its AC-130 gunships to disable enemy vehicles by silently burning through key components. It’s not too far from an offensive laser that can fit in a big airplane to one that can fit in a big ground vehicle.

A target truck disabled by Lockheed’s ATHENA laser. Photo from Lockheed Martin.

The other potential breakthrough Milley mentioned was the “revolution in robotics.” The land is harder to navigate than empty sky or open sea, he emphasized, so ground robots will lag drones or unmanned ships, “but eventually we will see the introduction of wide-scale robotics.” Many of those will be small and relatively expendable scouts, designed to carry sensors or weapons ahead of the human force. Milley also wants his future tank to have enough automation not just to reduce the human crew required, but to optionally leave out the humans altogether, depending on the mission.

“Every vehicle that we develop, we probably need sure it’s dual use, so the commander on the battlefield at the time has the option of having that vehicle manned or unmanned,” Milley said. “They can flip a switch and have it be a robot.”

Building these future warbots will take a lot of thought. If you make an artificial intelligence smart enough to operate the tank some of the time, can you et the AI drive all the time and leave the human crew safe at home, where they can’t get killed or screw things up? If the humans aren’t inside the tank, do you let the AI pick targets and make the decision to kill them on its own? Pentagon policy says “never,” but if our robots have to wait for a human to say (or just think) “fire,” less scrupulous adversaries will be quicker on the draw. It’s a hornet’s nest of difficult questions that the Army – and the nation – will have to answer.

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Court tosses suit alleging sexual aggression at West Point

A former US Military Academy at West Point cadet who sought judicial relief from what she described as a sexually oppressive culture that included crude chants during campus marches was told Aug. 30 by an appeals court to seek help from Congress instead.


The 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals in a 2-1 ruling cited past court decisions, some decades old, in saying “civilian courts are ill-equipped” to second-guess military decisions regarding the discipline, supervision, and control of military members.

Circuit Judge Debra Ann Livingston wrote that the former cadet, identified only as Jane Doe, couldn’t pursue damages from two former superior officers she claimed ignored or condoned a sexually hostile culture before her alleged 2010 rape by another cadet. She requested and was granted an honorable discharge two years after entering West Point with 200 women in a class of 1,300 cadets. She later graduated from a civilian college.

US Army photo by Stephen Standifird

In her 2013 lawsuit, the woman alleged that the men, a lieutenant general and a brigadier general, created a culture that marginalized female cadets, subjecting them to routine harassment and pressure to conform to male norms.

The 2nd Circuit said it did not “discount the seriousness” of the woman’s allegations nor their potential significance to West Point’s administration.

“As the Supreme Court has made clear, however, it is for Congress to determine whether affording a money damages remedy is appropriate for a claim of the sort that Doe asserts,” the court said.

Dissenting Circuit Judge Denny Chin said the lawsuit should proceed, noting West Point promotes itself as one of the nation’s top-ranked colleges.

Circuit Judge Denny Chin. Wikimedia Commons photo from user Sue Kim.

“While West Point is indeed a military facility, it is quintessentially an educational institution,” Chin said. “When she was subjected to a pattern of discrimination, and when she was raped, she was not in military combat or acting as a soldier or performing military service. Rather, she was simply a student.”

The lawsuit sought unspecified damages, claiming West Point’s leaders failed to protect women or punish rapists after accepting women in 1976. It said West Point officials openly joked with male cadets about sexual exploits and faculty members routinely expressed sympathy with male cadets over a perceived lack of sexual opportunities, urging them to seize any chance.

Female cadets coped with a misogynistic culture that included cadets marching to sexually demeaning verses in view and earshot of faculty members and administrators, the lawsuit said.

It said West Point officials required mandatory annual sexually transmitted disease testing only for female cadets, saying diseases harmed women more than men and it was the responsibility of women to prevent their spread.

Photo by Mike Strasser, US Military Academy Public Affairs

A spokeswoman for lawyers for the officers declined comment. West Point didn’t comment.

A spokeswoman for Yale Law School, representing the ex-cadet, said the woman was disappointed and didn’t know if she will appeal.

Sandra Park, an American Civil Liberties Union attorney, said the judges stretched the meaning of prior court rulings to cover service academy cadets.

“It raises a question whether students in effect are waiving their constitutional rights when they decide to join a military academy,” she said.

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The time a teenager stowed away on a Navy destroyer

A teenager (or kid) running away from home happens all too often, and not just in light-hearted film plots; while most real-world cases never get much further than the best friend’s house, there can be severe consequences to such a flight.


In 1988, 16 year-old Suzanne Twomey of Cork, Ireland, took it to an extreme by stowing away on board a United States Navy warship.

According to a 1988 AP report, Twomey hid on board the guided-missile destroyer USS Conyngham (DDG 17), a Charles F. Adams-class vessel, after a port visit to the city of Cobh following some NATO exercises.

A UPI report from the time noted that Twomey had previously run away from her home in the Emerald Isle to Spain, from which she returned just ten days prior to stowing away on the Conyngham. She’d also run away to London in the past, “living on her wits” according to Irish authorities interviewed by the Washington Post.

USS Conyngham underway in 1975. (U.S. Navy photo)

Twomey was found the day before the Conyngham arrived in her home port of Norfolk. She was suffering from seasickness and dehydration after hiding away for nearly ten days. The Post reported she was found in a 30-inch wide, 15-foot long, and three-foot high compartment that also had pipes and electrical wiring.

Eight sailors were ultimately disciplined for aiding Twomey, either helping her get on board or stay hidden for that timeframe. The AP reported that six sailors received non-judicial punishment at a captain’s mast. Seaman Apprentice Paul D. Davidson received 30 days in the brig and was forced to forfeit two-thirds of his pay for a month.

Navy authorities ultimately charged Seaman Apprentice David G. Peters with hiding an illegal alien and aiding her entry into the United States. He pled guilty at a court-martial and received 70 days in the brig, in addition to a suspended bad conduct discharge.

As for Miss Twomey? She was returned to Ireland after two brief hospital stays (one to treat her dehydration and seasickness, one after she had convulsions on a flight), escorted by two agents of the Naval Investigative Service — the forerunner to NCIS. According to a 2012 discussion thread on the forums at PeoplesRepublicofCork.com, she had died “some years back.”

As for the Conyngham, she suffered a major fire in her engine room on May 8, 1990, that killed one sailor and injured 18. The ship was decommissioned later that year, then sold for scrap in 1994.

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Trump widens potential rift with Mattis over NATO

President-elect Donald Trump’s renewed criticism of NATO widened a potential rift with Defense Secretary-designate James Mattis on the need to shore up the alliance against the threats of Russian President Vladimir Putin.


In a joint interview Sunday with The London Times and Germany’s Bild publication, Trump recycled charges from his campaign that NATO is “obsolete,” questioned the worth of the European Union and said that Germany was wrong to admit refugees fleeing Syria’s civil war.

Also read: 6 new changes to expect at the Pentagon with Mattis as SECDEF

In his Senate confirmation hearing last week, retired Marine Gen. Mattis said, “If we didn’t have NATO today, we’d need to create it. NATO is vital to our interests.”

“I think right now the most important thing is that we recognize the reality of what we deal with [in] Mr. Putin,” Mattis said. “We recognize that he is trying to break the North Atlantic alliance, and that we take the steps — the integrated steps, diplomatic, economic, military and the alliance steps — working with our allies to defend ourselves where we must.”

“There’s a decreasing number of areas where we can engage cooperatively and an increasing number of areas where we’re going to have to confront Russia,” he said.

Mattis also suggested that Trump is willing to hear opposing arguments on NATO. “I have had discussions with him on this issue,” he said. “He has shown himself open, even to the point of asking more questions, going deeper into the issue.”

Retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, the former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency and Trump’s choice to become national security adviser, also supports bolstering NATO and other U.S. global commitments.

In a speech last week at the U.S. Institute of peace, Flynn said, “Alliances are one of the great tools that we have, and the strength of those alliances magnifies our own strengths.

“As we examine and potentially re-baseline our relationships around the globe, we will keep in mind the sacrifices and deep commitments that many of our allies have made on behalf of our security and our prosperity,” Flynn said.

‘It’s Obsolete’

After meetings at NATO headquarters in Brussels on Monday, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said Trump’s criticism of NATO is “in contradiction” of Mattis’ vision of a strengthened alliance and U.S. support of NATO’s Article 5, which considers an attack on any member as an attack against all.

“Obviously, the comments from President-elect Trump that he views NATO as obsolete were viewed with anxiety,” Steinmeier said.

In his remarks to The London Times and Bild, Trump said of NATO: “It’s obsolete, first because it was designed many, many years ago.” He renewed his charges that most members of the 28-nation alliance are not living up to their responsibilities under the treaty.

The U.S. provides about 70 percent of the funding for NATO while other nations “aren’t paying their fair share, so we’re supposed to protect countries,” Trump said. “There’s five countries that are paying what they’re supposed to — five. It’s not much.”

Under agreements reached in 2014, when Russian-backed separatists launched attacks in eastern Ukraine, NATO members pledged to devote at least two percent of their budgets to defense and outlined steps to reach that goal.

Despite the criticism of NATO, Trump’s remarks could also be seen as a prod to get members to pay their dues. “NATO is very important to me,” he said.

However, Trump’s views that NATO is obsolete are in line with those of Putin, who has for years denounced NATO’s expansion to Russia’s borders. In response to Trump’s remarks, Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said that “NATO is indeed a vestige of the past and we agree with that.”

A Deal With Putin

Trump also expressed interest in a deal with Putin that would lift sanctions against Russia in return for a mutual reduction of nuclear arsenals.

“They have sanctions on Russia — let’s see if we can make some good deals with Russia,” Trump said, according to the Times. “For one thing, I think nuclear weapons should be way down and reduced very substantially; that’s part of it.”

The Trump interview came as U.S. troops and tanks were arriving in the Polish town of Zagan in a historic move to shore up NATO’s eastern flank that has infuriated Putin. In addition, 300 U.S. Marines landed in Norway on Monday to join in training exercises.

In a ceremony as snow fell over the weekend, Polish Defense Minister Antoni Macierewicz told the first contingents of the 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team out of Fort Carson, Colorado, “We have waited for you for a very long time.”

“We waited for decades, sometimes feeling we had been left alone, sometimes almost losing hope, sometimes feeling that we were the only one who protected civilization from aggression that came from the east,” Macierewicz said.

Reassuring Europe

To counter Russia, the Obama administration, with the support of Congress in the recently passed National Defense Authorization Act, recommended boosting the budget for the European Reassurance Initiative from $789 million to $3.4 billion.

ERI was established in the fiscal 2015 budget to “reassure allies of the U.S. commitment to their security and territorial integrity as members of the NATO alliance.” It supported increased U.S. investment across five categories: presence, training and exercises, infrastructure, pre-positioned equipment, and building partner capacity.

To expand presence across the region, the U.S. Army began periodic rotations of armored and airborne brigades to Poland and the Baltic states; the Air Force added additional F-15 Eagles to NATO’s Baltic Air Policing mission; and the Navy cycled ships through the Black Sea. The U.S. also spent $250 million to improve bases in Europe.

In a welcoming ceremony in Germany earlier this month for the 4,000 troops of the 3rd ABCT, Air Force Lt. Gen. Tim Ray, the deputy commander of U.S. European Command, said that its presence showed that the U.S. commitment to NATO is “rock solid.”

“I can assure you, this [ABCT] does not stand alone — it is integrated and combined with forces and other equipment in space, cyberspace, the air, land and sea, with our allies and partners,” Ray said. “A joint persistent rotational presence of American land, sea and air is in the region as a show of support to our allies and in response to Russia’s actions in Ukraine.”

“Let me be very clear — this is one part of our efforts to deter Russian aggression, ensure the territorial integrity of our allies, and maintain a Europe that is whole, free, prosperous and at peace.”

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The Air Force wants to replace ‘terps with tech

As anyone who’s ever deployed with a unit that required an interpreter knows, language barriers make a tough mission tougher. And considering how the U.S. military has treated the locals hired to do interpretation for U.S. ground forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, it’s a wonder we’re able to recruit ‘terps’ at all.


“He says: ‘So… this is the guy we kill when you leave yeah’?” (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

Also Read: Afghan Interpreters Risked Their Lives For Us — Now We’re Abandoning Them

So it makes sense the Pentagon would have a need for something that provides real-time translation to the boots on the ground. It should come to no surprise to anyone who regularly shops around on FedBizOpps.gov (the U.S. government’s business opportunities site with a name as legit as any Cash4Gold site), to see the Air Force Research Laboratory posting a need for what it calls “human language technologies.”

Meanwhile, the Navy continues to pursue its strange obsession with dolphin language . (U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 1st Class Brien Aho RELEASED)

The Air Force wants to conduct research and development in “automatic speech recognition, machine translation, natural language processing, information extraction, information retrieval, text-to-speech synthesis, and other speech and language processing technologies.” Maybe the military should just ask Skype how they made theirs.

The Air Force’s mind-blowing rationale is that “much of the information needed to effectively understand, anticipate, manage, and operate in the global environment is found in foreign language speech, text, videos, and images” and the military is especially interested in “lesser spoken languages that have high military interest but lack sufficient linguists and automated language processing capabilities.”

Basically, everything we want to know for via signals intelligence and human intelligence is another language and we don’t have enough people who will help us translate it and the Air Force will spend $10 million over a five-year span to develop the technology to do it without human help.

 

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F-35 trains with A-10s, F-15s & Navy SEALs

We wanted to put Navy SEALs into this image too, but it looked weird since they can’t fly (yet). | USAF/WATM


Air Force F-35A Joint Strike Fighters coordinated close air support with Navy SEALs, trained with F-15Es and A-10s, dropped laser-guided bombs and practiced key mission sets and tactics in Idaho as part of initial preparations for what will likely be its first deployment within several years, senior service officials said.

“We are practicing taking what would be a smaller contingent of jets and moving them to another location and then having them employ out of that location,” Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian, former Director, F-35 Integration Office told Scout Warrior in an interview several months ago.

Also read: Beyond the F-35: Air Force and Navy already working on 6th generation fighter

Harrigian said the Air Force plane would likely deploy within several years and pointed to mini-deployments of 6 F-35As from Edwards AFB in Calif., to Mountain Home AFB in Idaho as key evidence of its ongoing preparations for combat.

“They dropped 30-bombs – 20 laser-guided bombs and 10 JDAMS (Joint Direct Attack Munitions). All of them were effective. We are trying to understand not only how we understand the airplane in terms of ordnance but also those tactics, techniques and procedures we need to prepare,” Harrigian explained.

During the exercises at Mountain Home AFB, the F-35A also practiced coordinating communications such as target identification, radio and other command and control functions with 4th-generation aircraft such as the F-15E, he added.

The training exercises in Idaho were also the first “real” occasion to test the airplane’s ability to use its computer system called the Autonomic Logistic Information System, or ALIS. The Air Force brought servers up to Mountain Home AFB to practice maintaining data from the computer system.

A report in the Air Force Times indicated that lawmakers have expressed some concerns about the development of ALIS, which has been plagued with developmental problems such as maintenance issues and problems referred to as “false positives.”

All three F-35 variants at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. Left to right: F-35C carrier variant, F-35B short takeoff/vertical landing variant, F-35A conventional takeoff and landing variant. | Lockheed Martin

“This is a new piece of the weapons system. It has been challenging and hard. You have all this data about your airplanes. We learned some things that we were able to do in a reasonable amount of time,” Harrigian said.

F-35A “Sensor Fusion”

The computer system is essential to what F-35 proponents refer to as “sensor fusion,” a next-generation technology which combines and integrates information from a variety of sensors onto a single screen. As a result, a pilot does not have to look at separate displays to calculate mapping information, targeting data, sensor input and results from a radar warning receiver.

Harrigian added that his “fusion” technology allows F-35A pilots to process information and therefore make decisions faster than a potential enemy. He explained how this bears upon the historic and often referred to OODA Loop – a term to connote the Observation Orientation, Decision, Action cycle that fighter pilots need to go through in a dogfight or combat engagement in order to successfully destroy the enemy. The OODA-Loop concept was developed by former Air Force strategist Col. John Boyd; it has been a benchmark of fighter pilot training, preparation and tactical mission execution.

“As we go in and start to target the enemy, we are maximizing the capabilities of our jets. The F-35 takes all that sensor input and gives it to you in one picture. Your ability to make decisions quicker that the enemy is exponentially better than when we were trying to put it all together in a 4th generation airplane.  You are arriving already in a position of advantage,” Harrigian explained.

Also, the F-35 is able to fire weapons such as the AIM-9X Sidewinder air-to-air missile “off boresight,” meaning it can destroy enemy targets at different angles of approach that are not necessarily directly in front of the aircraft.

“Before you get into an engagement you will have likely already shot a few missiles at the enemy,” Harrigian said.

The F-35s Electro-Optical Targeting System, or EOTS, combines forward-looking infrared and infrared search and track sensor technology for pilots – allowing them to find and track targets before attacking with laser and GPS-guided precision weapons.

The EOTs system is engineered to work in tandem with a technology called the Distributed Aperture System, or DAS, a collection of six cameras strategically mounted around the aircraft to give the pilot a 360-degree view.

The DAS includes precision tracking, fire control capabilities and the ability to warn the pilot of an approaching threat or missile.

An F-35B dropping a GBU-12 during a developmental test flight. | U.S. Air Force photo

The F-35 is also engineered with an Active Electronically Scanned Array Radar which is able to track a host of electromagnetic signals, including returns from Synthetic Aperture Radar, or SAR. This paints a picture of the contours of the ground or surrounding terrain and, along with Ground Moving Target Indicator, or GMTI, locates something on-the-move on the ground and airborne objects or threats.

F-35A Joint Strike Fighter Deployment

Once deployed, the F-35 will operate with an advanced software drop known as “3F” which will give the aircraft an ability to destroy enemy air defenses and employ a wide range of weapons.

Full operational capability will come with Block 3F, service officials said.

Block 3F will increase the weapons delivery capacity of the JSF as well, giving it the ability to drop a Small Diameter Bomb, 500-pound JDAM and AIM 9X short-range air-to-air missile, Air Force officials said.

As per where the initial squadron might deploy, Harrigian said that would be determined by Air Combat Command depending upon operational needs at that time. He did, however, mention the Pacific theater and Middle East as distinct possibilities.

“Within a couple years, I would envision they will take the squadron down range. Now, whether they go to Pacific Command or go to the Middle East – the operational environment and what happens in the world will drive this. If there is a situation where we need this capability and they are IOC – then Air Combat Command is going to take a hard look at using these aircraft,” he said.

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These WW2 commandos marched over 1,000 miles fighting the Japanese and the jungle

Merrill’s Marauders trudging through the Burmese jungle. (Photo: Life Magazine)


When it comes to sheer hardship under appalling combat conditions, it is hard to match what the 5307th Composite Unit (provisional), better known as Merrill’s Marauders, endured in the China-India-Burma campaign.

When the Japanese had overrun and taken Burma from its colonial master Great Britain in 1942, it had cut the only real overland route for military supplies heading to Chinese forces fighting the Japanese in mainland China. The famed Allied air transport route “over the hump” of the Himalayas was no substitute for a reliable road considering the amount of supplies needed.

U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt and U.K. Prime Minister Winston Churchill decided at a conference in August 1943 to form special American units for infiltrating Burma, modeled after the British Army Chindits, a long-range penetration unit that had already operated in Burma under Brigadier Ord Wingate. The plan was to disrupt Japanese communications and supply lines and capturing key points, the reopening of the Burma Road could be accelerated.

An Army-wide call for those interested in volunteering was put out under presidential authority, drawing about 3,000 recruits from stateside units. Many were specifically drawn from soldiers who already had experience in jungle fighting from earlier in the war. After assembly in India, they received months of intensive training in jungle warfare under the instruction of Wingate, including extended exercises with the Chindits. The 5307th was placed under the command of Brig. General Frank Merrill, the source of the name ‘Merrill’s Marauders’ eventually given to the unit by the press.

Conceived as a mobile raiding force, the Marauders were lightly equipped by conventional infantry standards, with no heavy weapons beyond light mortars, bazookas, and machine guns. Dense jungle and mountains made ground vehicles impossible, so supplies were to be carried by the soldiers themselves and hundreds of mules and horses. Resupply was limited to airdrops and whatever the unit could forage off the countryside in trade with indigenous locals.

Embarking on Feb. 24, 1944, the Marauders mission began with 2,750 men marching over a thousand miles through the Patkai region of the Himalayas, in order to get behind Japanese lines in Burma. Operating with indigenous Kachin scouts and Chinese forces, they began a series of raids against Japanese patrols, supply lines, and garrisons. Their ultimate goal was to capture the strategic Burmese town of Myitkynia, which had an important airfield and was along the route for an alternate road to China.

Brig. Gen. Merrill accepts a goat from village elders. (Photo: Nat’l WW2 Museum)

The Marauders were almost always outnumbered and outgunned by the Japanese 18th Division, which formed their primary opposition. Lacking artillery and out of range of any serious air support, they had to rely on surprise, training, and mobility to outfight the Japanese regulars, and they often found themselves on the defense because they were ill-equipped for fighting against larger forces.

But their greatest enemy, which inflicted more damage than even superior Japanese forces could, was the jungle. Malaria, amoebic dysentery, and typhus took an awful toll, inflicting more casualties than Japanese fire did. Soldiers shaking from fever and tormented by diarrhea had to force themselves through dense jungle and intense close quarters combat. Torrential rains, stinging insects, and snakes only added to their misery.

The issued K-rations were relatively light and compact, but at 2,900 calories per day were wholly inadequate for heavily loaded men marching, sweating, and fighting in the jungle. Even for men facing hunger, many components of the rations were so widely detested that they were often thrown away, and failed air drops only made the situation worse. Malnourishment and its accompanying weakness and exhaustion made the troops more vulnerable to already endemic diseases, and many of them were reduced to little more than walking skeletons.

Despite the enormous challenges, the Marauders managed to inflict far greater casualties on the Japanese then they suffered, and used their mobility and seeming ability to strike anywhere to throw Japanese forces into confusion. After dozens of skirmishes and several major actions, the 5307th managed to take the airfield at Myitkynia in August 1944 alongside elements of the Chinese Army, and the town itself after reinforcements arrived.

So decimated were the Marauders by disease and combat that only 200 men of the original task force were still present at the end of the campaign. Frank Merrill, who suffered a heart attack before being stricken with malaria by the end of the mission. Every last member was evacuated to hospitals to recuperate from months of hunger, disease, and exhaustion.

The 5307th was disbanded shortly thereafter, and in a very rare distinction every single member of the commando force received the Bronze Star for staying and fighting. They fought five major actions and dozens of smaller ones while marching over 750 miles through enemy territory, all the while fighting a different but even more deadly battle against hunger and disease. The unit was eventually redesignated as the 75th Infantry Regiment, from which today’s 75th Ranger Regiment descended.

 

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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:

Tech. Sgt. Jeremy Rarang, Senior Airman Tormod Lillekroken and Staff Sgt. Seth Hunt, all 2nd Air Support Operations Squadron joint terminal attack controllers, walk along a road as part of a training scenario during exercise Serpentex 16 in Corsica, France, March 15, 2016. JTACs are considered qualified service members who direct the action of air and surfaced-based fires at the tactical level. They are the Airmen on the ground with the authority to control and call in airstrikes on target.

U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Sara Keller)

Airman 1st Class Anthony Mahon, of the 436th Airlift Wing, performs a visual inspection on a C-17 Globemaster III during thick fog prior to the aircraft’s launch from Dover Air Force Base, Del., March 17, 2016. Experienced reservists from the 512th Airlift Wing frequently train active-duty Airmen in various career field tasks.

U.S. Air Force photo/Capt. Bernie Kale

ARMY:

Soldiers assigned to 2d Cavalry Regiment, with support from a 12th Combat Aviation Brigade (Griffins) CH-47 Chinook helicopter crew, conduct sling load training with a M777 towed 155mm howitzer during an exercise at the 7th Army JMTC’s Grafenwoehr Training Area, Germany, March 22, 2016.

U.S. Army photo by Sgt. William Tanner

Soldiers, assigned to Joint Task Force-Bravo, conduct pre-flight checks on a U.S. Army South UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter at Soto Cano Air Base, Honduras, March 10, 2016.

U.S. Army photo by Martin Chahin

NAVY:

WATERS SURROUNDING THE KOREAN PENINSULA (March 23, 2016) Sailors clean an F/A-18F Super Hornet assigned to the Black Aces of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 41 on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74). Providing a ready force supporting security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific, John C. Stennis is operating as part of the Great Green Fleet on a regularly scheduled U.S. 7th Fleet deployment.

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Andre T. Richard

ATLANTIC OCEAN (March 20, 2016) An F/A-18E Super Hornet assigned to the Gunslingers of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 105 takes off from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69), the flagship of the Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group. Dwight D. Eisenhower is underway conducting a composite training unit exercise (COMPTUEX) with the Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group in preparation for a future deployment.

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class J. Alexander Delgado

MARINE CORPS:

Marines assigned to Marine Air Control Group 28, conduct an underwater gear shed during a basic swim qualification course at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina, March 16, 2016. Marines are required to demonstrate proficient combat water survival skills to complete the basic qualification.

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Jered T. Stone

A candidate assigned to Delta Company, Officer Candidates Class-221, breaks the surface of the murky water of ‘The Quigley’ at Brown Field, Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, on March 15, 2016. The mission of Officer Candidates School (OCS) is to “educate and train officer candidates in Marine Corps knowledge and skills within a controlled, challenging, and chaotic environment in order to evaluate and screen individuals for the leadership, moral, mental, and physical qualities required for commissioning as a Marine Corps officer.”

U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Cpl. Patrick H. Owens

COAST GUARD:

Seaman Anthony Fritz conducts firefighting training aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Albacore in Bristol Bay, Rhode Island, Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2015. The Albacore is an 87-foot cutter home ported in New London, Connecticut.

U.S. Coast Guard Photo by Chief Petty Officer Armando Medina

Two MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crews from Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point conduct a practice formation flight around the Island of Oahu, March 4, 2016. The Dolphin aircrews along with an HC-130 Hercules aircrew practice proficiency with multiple aircraft flying at once.

U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Tara Molle

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This Guy Digitally Paints US Presidents Into Totally Badass Situations

If you’ve ever wondered what President Ronald Reagan would look like while riding a velociraptor, San Francisco artist Jason Heuser has you covered.


With creations ranging from Reagan shooting from the saddle of a dinosaur to Nixon fighting a sabertooth tiger, Heuser has built an impressive art collection of U.S. Presidents being, well, total badasses.

The digital artist goes by the name Sharpwriter on the DeviantArt website, where he posts his creations for people to view or print out and enjoy. He also sells full-size prints. We gathered up some of our favorites here, but he has many more at his DA gallery, which you should definitely check out.

Photo Credit: Jason Heuser (Sharpwriter)/DeviantArt

Photo Credit: Jason Heuser (Sharpwriter)/DeviantArt

Photo Credit: Jason Heuser (Sharpwriter)/DeviantArt

Photo Credit: Jason Heuser (Sharpwriter)/DeviantArt

Photo Credit: Jason Heuser (Sharpwriter)/DeviantArt

Photo Credit: Jason Heuser (Sharpwriter)/DeviantArt

Photo Credit: Jason Heuser (Sharpwriter)/DeviantArt