Our hearts go out to the lives lost and to everyone who were displaced and had their lives affected by Hurricane Harvey. I would like to dedicate this ‘Photos of the Week’ to all of the brave service members in Houston and the Texas Gulf Coast.
Of course, our troops are always training and are still fighting. This week, we will highlight how each branch is doing its part to aid in these troubling times.
Personnel from the 59th Medical Wing, Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, prepare their equipment to accept patients at George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, Texas, in response to the devestation caused by Hurricane Harvey, August 30, 2017. The 59th MDW is part of a larger Department of Defense presence in an effort to aid eastern Texas following a record amount of rainfall and flooding.
Brian Archibald, a rescue specialist assigned to the South Carolina Helicopter Aquatic Rescue Team Delta in McEntire Joint National Guard Base, S.C., points to a someone who may need help August 31, 2017 in Port Arthur, Texas. The SC-HART are specialized in search and rescue and are capable of recovering people in distress.
Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Class Richard Call and members of New Jersey Task Force 1, assist evacuees into a Light Medium Tactical Vehicle (LMTV) to during water rescue operations in Wharton, Texas, Aug. 31, 2017, due to devastating effects caused by Hurricane Harvey’s aftermath. Harvey made landfall into the Texas coast last week as a category 4 hurricane.
U.S. Army Sgt. Daniel Carnahan (front) and Staff Sgt. Tym Larson, Detachment 2, Golf Company, 2nd Battalion, 238th Regiment, crew members of a UH-60 “Blackhawk”, strap down cargo, Seguin Artillery Airfield, Tx., Aug. 30, 2017. This crew is taking Meals-Ready-to-Eat to those affected by Hurricane Harvey.
An MH-53E Sea Dragon assigned to the HM-15, Naval Station Norfolk, Va, flies over Houston, Texas, Aug. 31, 2017. Hurricane Harvey formed in the Gulf of Mexico and made landfall in southeastern Texas, bringing record flooding and destruction to the region. U.S. military assets supported FEMA as well as state and local authorities in rescue and relief efforts.
U.S. Navy AWSC Phillip Freer, assigned to the HM-14, Naval Station Norfolk, Va, guides a forklift loading a pallet of water onto an MH-53E Sea Dragon for Hurricane Harvey relief support at Katy, Texas, Aug. 31, 2017. Hurricane Harvey formed in the Gulf of Mexico and made landfall in southeastern Texas, bringing record flooding and destruction to the region. U.S. military assets supported FEMA as well as state and local authorities in rescue and relief efforts.
A Marine with Charlie Company, 4th Reconnaissance Battalion, 4th Marine Division, Marine Forces Reserve, along with a member of the Texas Highway Patrol and Texas State Guard, escort a man to higher ground, Houston, Texas, Aug. 31, 2017. Hurricane Harvey landed Aug. 25, 2017, flooding thousands of homes and displaced over 30,000 people.
Marines with Company C, 4th Assault Amphibian Battalion, 4th Marine Division, load Hurricane Harvey victims aboard Amphibious Assault Vehicles during rescue operations and immediate response missions in response to Hurricane Harvey at Galveston, Texas, Aug. 31, 2017. The Marines and Sailors with Marine Forces Reserve are posturing ground, air and logistical assets as part of the Department of Defense support to FEMA, state and local response efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.
Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Evan Gallant, a rescue swimmer from Air Station Miami, carries a boy away from an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter in Beaumont, Texas, Aug. 31, 2017. An aircraft crew working out of Air Station Houston transported a group of people from a shelter to Jack Brooks Regional Airport in Beaumont, Texas.
Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Evan Gallant, a rescue swimmer working out of Air Station Houston, prepares to deploy and rescue stranded people in Vidor, Texas, Aug. 31, 2017. Anderson Cooper, anchor with CNN, accompanied the aircraft crew on their rescue missions Thursday.
Andy Stumpf is a former Navy SEAL who hasn’t lost one iota of his drive since he took off the uniform. The same motivation that took him to harm’s way and back is now pushing him to break the wing suit overland distance record of 17.83 miles. At the same time he’s putting it all on the line to accomplish an even more important feat: raising $1 million for the Navy SEAL Foundation, a non-profit that supports the families of fallen SEALs.
You can help Andy raise 1$ million for the Navy SEAL Foundation by donating to his GoFundMe page.
Andy will attempt the jump on November 1.
Here’s an infographic of Andy’s (planned) profile:
And check out this video about Andy’s motivation and the jump:
Bad news, folks. If the U.S. had to muscle its way into regions choked with ice to deal with a recalcitrant foe, it’d have hard time.
The fact of the matter is that the U.S. Coast Guard’s icebreaker capability has dwindled big time, and the Navy has no icebreakers in its fleet.
At this time, the Coast Guard has one heavy icebreaker, the Polar Star (WAGB 10) and one medium icebreaker, the Healy (WAGB 20) in service. According to a 2016 Congressional Research Service report, the Polar Star’s sister ship, the Polar Sea (WAGB 11), has been inoperable since 2010 after five of its diesel engines failed.
As a result, the United States has a very big problem. The Polar Star is down at the South Pole, resupplying the McMurdo Research Station. That means that the Healy is the only icebreaker available for operations in the Arctic.
The Polar Sea? Right now, it is being cannibalized to keep the Polar Star operable, according to a report from USNI News.
According to the “16th Edition of Combat Fleets of the World,” the Polar Sea was commissioned in 1976, while the Polar Star was commissioned in 1977. USNI noted that plans do not include beginning construction of new icebreakers until 2020, with them entering service in 2024 at the earliest.
If you’ve followed ship programs like the Littoral Combat Ship, the Zumwalt-class destroyers, or the Gerald R. Ford, that date could be a best-case scenario. The Polar Sea’s operational life is expected to last until 2022, two years prior to the earliest date the new icebreakers would enter service.
Russia, on the other hand, has 41 icebreakers. In addition to maintaining a large fleet of icebreakers, Russia has been trying to winterize modern interceptors like the MiG-31 Foxhound and strike aircraft like the Su-34 Fullback, and its new icebreaker construction push includes nuclear-powered icebreakers.
Boeing just announced that the U.S. Navy awarded the company a more than $12 million contract for “non-recurring design and development engineering for an engineering change proposal” to transition the Blue Angels from Hornets to Super Hornets. This prospect is exciting for aviation aficionados and air show fans nationwide — not to mention the Blue Angels pilots themselves — so how soon will the change happen?
To find out WATM spoke with Navy Capt. David Kindley, the Naval Air System Command’s program manager for both Hornets and Super Hornets. Not only is Kindley the man in charge of supporting the Navy’s Hornet and Super Hornet fleets with engineering updates and maintenance improvements, during his Navy flying career he amassed almost 3,400 flight hours in both the old and new versions of the airplane.
Kindley started the conversation by making it clear that the contract “is by no means the transition taking place. We don’t have a specific date. It could take years.”
However, he explained that the genesis of the current effort was a desire from Radm. Del Bull, the Chief of Naval Air Training (the Blue Angels’ parent command), to “move the transition to the left,” as Kindley put it.
“There’s a perception in the fleet that NAVAIR moves too slowly,” Kindley said. “We see this as an opportunity to show we can go faster.”
The first challenge for the program office and relevant fleet commands is to identify 11 Super Hornets (including a couple of two-seat F/A-18Fs) that can be turned into Blue Angel assets. (The Blue Angels only take 7 airplanes — not including “Fat Albert,” the C-130 they use to ferry parts and support personnel — on the road with them, but they have 11 in their possession.) Boeing isn’t manufacturing new Super Hornets specifically for the demonstration team, so the Navy will have to “rob Peter to pay Paul,” as the old saying goes, to make it happen.
“Super Hornets are a precious commodity,” Kindley said. “This transition is competing with the fact that the fleet is desperate for them.”
Kindley explained that the early version of the Super Hornet didn’t incorporate the advanced mission software used by fleet squadrons, and therefore those jets are only good for training new pilots on basic handling and not the full warfighting capability of the airplane. That makes them good candidates for use by the Blue Angels who don’t need drop bombs and shoot missiles while they’re flying their air show routine.
Kindley isn’t concerned about the basics of transitioning a squadron from “legacy” Hornets to Super Hornets. “We do this all the time,” he said. “This isn’t hard.”
But he allows that the Blue Angels aren’t just another Navy squadron, and he sums up their specific challenges to NAVAIR as “springs, smoke, and paint.”
“Springs” refers to the mechanical device that Blue Angels jets have attached to the control stick that creates 7 pounds of forward pressure, which allows pilots more positive control and allows them to fly smoother. However, there’s an air conditioning duct in the Super Hornet cockpit that doesn’t exist in the regular Hornet right where the spring should attach, so the engineers have to figure out a workaround.
During the show, Blue Angels jets do something other fleet jets don’t do under normal circumstances: They trail smoke. That dramatic effect is created when special chemicals mix with the air behind the plane. Creating that effect is the “smoke” part of Kindley’s concerns.
The real estate required to make smoke is realized by taking the gun out of the nose and replacing it with a tank. After conducting the initial engineering investigation, NAVAIR engineers discovered two things: The subcontractor’s production line for making the tanks is shut down, and it doesn’t matter anyway because the old tank won’t correctly fit into the Super Hornet’s nose, so they have to have new ones made.
And then there’s the paint. “Painting an airplane isn’t hard,” Kindley said. “But un-painting an airplane can be really hard.”
What he means is as Boeing strips a Super Hornet to bare metal, corrosion could be discovered. That sort of discovery demands that the contractor reach back out to NAVAIR with a “request for engineering investigation.” That potential makes it hard to scope a contract because there’s no way to know exactly how much corrosion an airplane might have until the paint comes off. And, of even greater concern to Kindley, it’s tough to predict how much time the entire process of repainting 11 jets might take.
And when it gets down to the nitty-gritty of transitioning the Blue Angels to new jets, time will matter a lot. The team’s show season ends each year in early November. The pilots, maintainers, and other support personnel have a few weeks off over the holidays, and then they start training for the next season the follow February, operating out of NAF El Centro in California’s Imperial Valley about an hour east of San Diego. That means whatever refresher training pilots and maintainers need has to occur before the show routine training starts — basically, the time between Thanksgiving and Valentines Day.
While the justification for all of this effort is that Super Hornets are easier to maintain and cheaper to fly than legacy Hornets, anyone who’s flown both types, like Kindley, knows that the Super Hornet has a lot more thrust available. That performance improvement alone should make for a more dynamic Blue Angels show in the future with faster climbs and tighter high-G turns.
But before they push the current show’s envelope, Blue Angels pilots wanted to see how the Super Hornet performed doing the current routine. Last year the team’s commanding officer, Capt. Tom Frosch, and the opposing solo pilot, Marine Capt. Jeff Kuss (who was killed in a mishap while launching on a practice sortie out of Nashville two months ago), successfully flew their parts of the routine using a Super Hornet simulator.
“The Super Hornet was designed to fly inverted for twice as long as the legacy Hornet can,” Kindley explained. “There was only one move — “the double Farvel” — that we were concerned about, but we found we won’t have to modify the airplane at all.”
Kindley would also like to see the crowd-pleasing “high alpha pass,” where the lead and opposing solo planes fly down the show line at very slow speed while cocked up at an extreme angle, flown even slower and more cocked up.
“The Super Hornet flies slower better than any airplane I’ve ever seen,” Kindley said. The legacy Hornet flies with about 60 knots of forward airspeed at 25 alpha (the angle between the line of the fuselage and the direction of the airplane’s travel); the Super Hornet can fly even slower at 60 alpha. But, Kindley warns, the engines on a Super Hornet are spread farther apart than a legacy Hornet and so flying in a maximum alpha regime close to the ground could cause a controllability problem if a Super Hornet pilot loses an engine.
Kindley also described the legacy Hornet’s flight control response as “crisper,” meaning the airplane took fewer control inputs to get exactly where the pilot wanted it — obviously an important detail considering how close together the Blue Angels fly in the diamond formation — but he said that would be a training issue for the team and not something that required NAVAIR engineers to rewrite the Super Hornet’s flight control laws.
Overall, Kindley characterized the Blue Angels approach to modifying the show with Super Hornets as “walk before you run.”
“I don’t speak for them, but I imagine they’d start by flying the current routine and then, once they got comfortable, seeing how the show could be adjusted to accommodate the Super Hornet’s performance,” he said.
When asked by WATM what the current Blue Angels pilots thought about the potential for Super Hornets, Lt. Joe Hontz, the team’s public affairs officer, said in an email, “We know there are discussions about the possibility of an upgrade down the road. Until a decision is made, we will continue to fly a safe demonstration on the reliable F/A-18 Hornet, which has been a strong platform for the team since 1986.”
World War II veterans are widely regarded as “The Greatest Generation.” Interviews with the surviving veterans are sacred but one man felt like something was missing. We’d forgotten to tell the stories of the 416,000 heroes who didn’t make it home.
“It always bothered me a little bit that coverage goes to those who survived but we don’t get a lot of attention on those who never made it back,” Don Milne, Founder and Director of Stories Behind the Stars said. He began by using his free time to research and tell the stories of those fallen World War II heroes who’d be celebrating their 100th birthday, if they’d survived.
Milne started with those who died in the attacks on Pearl Harbor, thinking he’d stop there. “I thought that could be my contribution as a memorial to remember these people,” he shared.
But it didn’t end there. When he announced he’d be stopping, those following and reading his stories implored him to keep going. Through research Milne learned about Fold 3, an Ancestry company that saves the stories and records of America’s military. “So we said, why don’t we start saving the stories here and invite other people to do the same,” he explained.
Not long after that, his 30-year role at a bank had been eliminated and he was given a generous severance package. The pandemic had just hit the United States and opportunities for employment were slim. With a year on his hands, Milne knew what he wanted to do with it.
The Stories Behind the Stars was founded as an official nonprofit and he was all in on honoring the fallen of World War II, beginning right at home. “I reached out to the media in Utah and explained what I was doing and my hope to tell the stories of all the World War II fallen in the state,” Milne explained. “I got some good help and ended up with 126 volunteers. Over a six month period we ended up doing all 2,100 stories.”
After that, Milne connected with the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Virginia. “We got their list of the 2,502 Americans who died on day one of D-Day. I put the word out for more volunteers…since January until now, these 130 people have been taking time out of their day writing these stories,” he said. “It’s a way to raise awareness…we are hoping enough people will see this and think it’s a fun project to be a part of.”
He hopes that this will reach young people in particular. “As they walk through these fields and scan these graves, they’ll find that many of them are around their age,” Milne said.
A trip to Gettysburg National Ceremony with his grandson would lead to a life-changing teaching moment. Milne said he found the grave of a fallen World War II veteran he’d written about and asked his grandson to figure out how old he was when he passed away.
“He did the math and said ‘He was 16 years old, that’s how old I am!’ and I think that touched him more than more than most because that was an individual that had to lie to get into the Navy, probably because he wanted to support the effort to bring freedom here and around the world,” he shared. “Stories like this will not be forgotten.”
What’s unique about this project and all of these stories is that they aren’t just going on the internet. “We are going to have a smartphone app so that you can find any of these people from World War II and scan their headstone to find and learn their stories,” Milne said. “There’s no reason why we can’t bring the vast knowledge that we have on the internet and make every grave a portal to the stories of the fallen.”
Although covering all of the World War II fallen is a lofty goal, Milne feels confident in being able to do it with enough volunteers. “If we can get a couple thousand volunteers and write one story a week…we can have them all done by the 80th anniversary of the end of World War II in September of 2025,” he said.
Signing up to volunteer is easy and it’s done through their website. As we approach Memorial Day, this is a true way to honor and remember America’s fallen heroes. By telling and sharing their stories, we can ensure that the willing ultimate sacrifice of their lives will never be forgotten.
It’s always a bad idea for payday to come on a Friday. Here’s hoping that everyone makes it to Monday without any recall formations because some lance corporal stole a car and crashed it into the general’s house.
In the meantime, here are 13 funny military memes:
1. You can just hear that lead fellow yelling, “To the strip clubs!”
Congratulations, you’ve just become a parent. In order to survive basic training, you must now not only cover your own ass, but watch out for this guy’s as well. Because if you don’t, your platoon is going to get slapped with mass punishment, and no one wants that. Bryan somehow managed to make it through his young life without developing skills of any kind. He’s the kind of guy who hesitates when you ask him how to spell his own name.
You will watch him struggle to make his bed with his gangly 18-year-old arms and be torn between the desire to help him or to strangle him with his own sheets. But you will help Bryan, because he needs you. And because if you don’t, he will forget his kit, wear white socks to inspection, and make your life a living hell. And who knows, maybe after a few days he’ll start to pick up on things. Totally kidding — you’re probably stuck with this kid for the long haul.
Something Bryan might say: “Hey … hey guys? Can somebody show me how to shave?”
2. Renaissance Richard
The antithesis of Baby-Faced Bryan, Renaissance Richard is a super-smart, talented, and accomplished guy. Unfortunately for you, this also makes him a bit of an annoying a–hole. Richard is usually around 30, and he won’t let you forget how he managed to be the valedictorian at his private college, build his own house, and become a brain surgeon in the time between high school graduation and now.
Richard can do anything — except keep his mouth shut. He’s the guy who makes a big show of “helping” recruits, and letting everyone know how he would do something. No one asked you, Richard. He’s also notorious for crashing your conversations so he can chime in on things like his opinions on Syria, when all you were discussing is what’s for dinner. Rich is a fine recruit, but your drill sergeant will hate him. Why? The same reason you do: he’s a pretentious a–hole. Nobody wants to work with someone who can’t accept rank and needs his ego stroked.
Something Richard might say: “Sure it would be interesting to invade Easter Island, but you need to consider the political ramifications … ”
3. The Dreamer
The Dreamer has wanted to join the military since he first saw “Saving Private Ryan” at an elementary school sleepover. He dreams of not only becoming a great soldier, but the greatest soldier America — and the world — has ever seen. Just a teenager, he’s the guy who gets too distracted by his daydream of running through battle in slow-motion to shine his shoes, and can be heard quoting “Top Gun” and “Band of Brothers” in the DFAC.
The Dreamer’s all talk, and has no real-world experience when it comes to surviving anything more than a Hot Pocket shortage. Because of this, he will often take on tasks that are way too much for him to handle, bringing down your drill sergeant’s wrath on all of you when he fails. Think of him as Baby-Faced Bryan’s annoying half-brother. Eventually he should focus a little more on the task at hand instead of his “military destiny,” but until then you’ll just have to tune him out.
4. Shady Steve
Steve’s a little older than some of the guys in basic training, but you’re never positive what this dude’s age is — and that’s just the way Steve likes it. When pressed about his past, his stories never quite match up, leaving you wondering just what is true (hold up, did he say that he was a parole officer, or was he talking about his own parole?).
You don’t know him at all, but he just seems like the type of guy who decided to enlist because his meth ring went south. One thing you do know for sure is the fact that any outing with Steve quickly devolves into “Hangover”-level catastrophe, so you better steer clear of that. He’s not a bad trainee. And he’s probably not a bad guy — but he’s got your drill sergeant keeping an eye on him, so you probably should too.
5. The Old Dude
This salt and pepper recruit may not actually be that old by civilian standards, but 34 is pretty ancient in basic. And since it took a colonel to approve his age waiver, maybe he should have just stayed home and played Risk instead. Whether he enlisted because the Army’s his last chance to retire before 65 or because of a mid-life crisis is anyone’s guess, but don’t write this guy off right away.
The Old Dude is usually in surprisingly great shape, and that’s because he’s old school. While most of the recruits in their twenties have spent their pre-military lives playing Call of Duty and chowing down on Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, he’s been downing raw eggs for breakfast and running five miles a day. Also, The Old Dude has lived a lot longer than you — he’s seen things, and he’s wiser for it. When you need some advice or perspective on life, he’s the person you’ll want to turn to.
6. Gun-Happy Garret
Garret is a simple man. He joined the military because it allowed him to pursue his three passions: shooting, chewing dip, and spitting. Garret does not know that tobacco isn’t allowed in basic. He is furious when he finds out. Garret barely managed to complete his GED, and it shows. You are not confident that he can spell America, and are terrified of the day this neanderthal gets his hands on an automatic weapon.
To your surprise, however, Garret is actually kind of a genius when it comes to weapons. He can disassemble and reassemble his weapon with his eyes closed. He can tell you every part of his rifle and how it works, and help you with your own. Your rifle will never shine quite like his does. He is a weapons savant, and you start to wonder if there’s more to Garret than meets the eye. Trust us, there isn’t. He’s the best mark in the platoon because he spent his childhood shooting mice and raccoons behind a trailer park, not because he’s the chosen one.
7. The Blue Falcon
This guy. This guy is the absolute worst. If you could combine a weasel and that stoner kid from your Spanish class who would constantly beg you for test answers, you’d have something close to a Blue Falcon. The Blue Falcon of your platoon is lazy, disloyal, and just a textbook pain in the ass. Can’t find your extra pair of socks? Did part of someone’s kit go missing? Check the Blue Falcon’s nest. And God forbid you screw up in front of this guy — he’ll rat you out to your drill sergeant faster than you’ll know what’s happening.
The Blue Falcon’s sneaky, so it sometimes takes a while to know who yours will be. But every unit has one, and they will become the bane of your existence.
Something The Blue Falcon would say: “First sergeant, first sergeant! Private Snuffy is … ”
Associate Editor David Nye contributed to this article.
Now that terrorism is finally taking a back seat to great power conflict, the United States military is working to catch up to those other great (but not as great) powers. The wonder weapons they developed while we were making the world safe for democracy may give them a strategic edge in some critical areas.
The United States has to protect its surface ships, the nuclear triad and its command and control capabilities to retain its global reach and remain the world’s top military power. Here are five technologies the US is supposedly working on that will help us start at the top.
1. Directed Energy Weapons
The principle of directed energy weapons is just like it sounds, the weapon focuses energy in a single beam toward a target. Depending on what kind of energy or the amount of energy being focused, the beam may be invisible and is most likely fired without a sound.
The most prevalent of these kinds of directed energy weapons is the high-energy laser, which can completely destroy targets from hundreds of miles away, with little to no degradation in the beam.
While Russia was busy creating missiles and missile systems capable of flying at multiple times the speed of sound, the United States put some of its hypersonic weapons testing on hold. But that doesn’t mean it didn’t have any hypersonic efforts. For years, the U.S. military has been working on developing the Railgun.
Railguns use electromagnetism to fire a projectile at speeds of up to seven times the speed of sound, uses non-explosive rounds, and causes more destruction than traditional naval gunfire. Currently, only two ships can muster up the energy required to fire them, but who knows what future developments can occur?
3. PHASR Rifles
The PHASR is a directed energy weapon that gets a special mention because it’s carried in rifle form. Before any Star Trek nerds get excited about ordering their men how to set their PHASRs, these weapons are always set to stun. “PHASR” is an acronym for personnel halting and stimulation response rifle.
This weapon temporarily blinds a target using a low intensity laser. Since the effect of the PHASR is only temporary, it’s still a legal weapon under the UN’s 1995 Protocol on BLindling Laser Weapons.
4. The Laser Avenger
While it’s only number four on this list, the name puts it at number one in our hearts. The Laser Avenger is a truck-mounted anti-aircraft system that uses infrared lasers to knock out drones and other small aircraft. The potential for increased power increases the potential for combat use. Boeing, which is also funding the project itself, can also mount traditional machine gun weapons to the Avenger system.
5. Modular Advanced Armed Robotic System (MAARS)
This 400-pound robot carries a 12-hour battery (with sleep mode), moves at 7 miles per hour, can operate 1,000 meters from its controller and can be fitted with any combination of lethal and nonlethal weaponry. On top of that it has a full 360-degree turret, seven mounted cameras for its controller and a host of possible ammunition sizes.
On top of all that, it also has a siren, laser dazzler mount, gunfire detection system and an optional working arm that can carry more than 300 pounds. A few more of these and we won’t even need infantry anymore.
Featured photo: Lockheed Martin/Directed Energy Weapons
Every Coastie has at least once been called a sailor, asked if they aren’t just a part of the Navy, or otherwise been compared to the Navy. Just as siblings don’t care to be compared to one another, the Coast Guard works to set itself apart in many ways, from uniforms to missions to rates.
In case you were wondering, here are 15 very important differences between the seaborne branches.
1. They have different bosses
The major difference between the Navy and the Coast Guard comes from the very top of either branch – the Navy is part of the Department of Defense, while the Coast Guard falls under the Department of Homeland Security. This allows the missions and structure of both branches to best serve the needs the country.
2. Their roster sizes are significantly different
U.S. Coast Guard Ensign Joshua Kitenko, boarding officer from the Coast Guard Cutter Forward, climbs down a ladder to board the cutter’s small boat, after a joint U.S. and Sierra Leone law enforcement boarding on a fishing vessel in the Atlantic Ocean. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Annie R. B. Elis.)
In the battle of Navy vs. Coast Guard, the Navy wins the heavyweight title. The Navy boasts 325,000 active duty and 107,000 reserve sailors, while the Coast Guard has just over 40,000 active duty personnel and 7,600 reservists.
3. Comparatively speaking, it rains money at the Navy Department
The Coast Guard’s entire budget for Fiscal Year 2015 was $9.8 billion, while the Navy’s was $148 billion.
4. They have different roles in combat
The Coast Guard’s role in combat has changed vastly over time. Since the early 1990’a and during the Gulf War, the Coast Guard’s combat role evolved to mostly port, maritime, and other asset security, as well as search and rescue. The Navy has a primarily defensive mission, prepared to fight back against a land-based or maritime enemy when called on.
5. The Coast Guard has more ships than you’d think (and more than the Navy)
The Coast Guard has nearly 200 cutters and 1400 small boats, while the Navy has 272 ships.
6. The Coast Guard paints operational aircraft orange
The Coast Guard is proud of its more than 200 aircraft, mainly consisting of the iconic orange and white helicopters. The Navy, on the other hand, has a fleet of more than 3,700 aircraft, making it the second largest air force in the world, second only to the US Air Force. (And the only orange Navy airplanes are trainers.)
7. If the Coast Guard’s missions make them ‘jacks of all trades,’ the Navy is a master of one
While the Navy serves to “maintain, train, and equip combat-ready naval forces capable of winning wars, deterring aggression and maintaining freedom of the seas.” The Coast Guard, on the other hand, has eleven missions ranging from marine safety to drug and migrant interdiction to icebreaking. Their missions range from saving someone in a sinking boat on the shores of San Diego to defense readiness in Bahrain.
8. USCG Rescue Swimmers are busier
While both the Coast Guard and Navy have a rate for rescue swimmers, the Coast Guard takes pride in having the unique ability for their Aviation Survival Technicians, also known as rescue swimmers, to save lives on a daily basis. ASTs serve with Coast Guard air stations, deploying with search and rescue operations to recover civilians from dangerous situations.
9. Coasties actually have more uniforms than the Navy
You can tell the difference just in looking at personnel – the Navy’s NWU are often made fun of for blending a sailor into the water, but the Coast Guard’s ODUs are no better. The Navy’s dress uniforms are also universally known, complete with the “Dixie Cup” cover, but the Coast Guard’s are primarily based off of the Air Forces, with a few exceptions including Officer Whites, based on the Navy’s. There are even Coast Guard units who wear the Navy’s Type IIIs.
10. Coasties are bit more specialized
Every branch has a different names for its occupational specialty – whether MOS, AFSC, or rate. The Coast Guard and Navy both share the name “rating” for their specialities. The Navy has nearly 90 specialized ratings, while the Coast Guard lumps theirs into just 21.
11. Basic Training for the Coast Guard is a lot harder than you think
Located on the shores of Lake Michigan, Great Lakes Training Center relies on a process called “Sailorization” to turn civilians into sailors over the course of eight weeks. The Coast Guard’s boot camp was based on Marine Corps boot camp, but shortened from twelve to eight weeks. Recruits are purposefully stressed to the maximum they can handle through intense and constant time pressure, sleep deprivation, and physical training. The process allows recruits to learn how to make the best decisions under the most pressure – something necessary when attempting to save a life on a sinking ship in foul weather.
12. The Coast Guard filled in for the Navy after it was disbanded
The history of the branches isn’t what it always seems – While the Coast Guard’s history occasionally seems to be shrouded in mystery, it was founded as the Revenue Cutter Service on August 4, 1790. It has since been the longest continuous sea service in the United States. “But isn’t the Navy’s founding in 1775?” you might ask – and you would be correct. But shortly after the Revolutionary War ended, the Navy was disbanded, and was not reestablished until 1799, leaving the USRCS to serve the newly formed nation.
13. The USCG gets passed around a lot
The Navy has also been steadfastly its own branch of the military, as well as under the Department of Defense. The Coast Guard, on the other hand, has been under the Department of the Treasury, the Department of Transportation, Department of the Interior, the Department of Homeland Security, and yes, even under the Department of the Navy – five times.
14. Everyone has a chance to go to the Coast Guard Academy
Shown is an aerial view of the Coast Guard Academy with Hamilton Hall in center. (USCG photo by PA1 David Santos)
To apply to the U.S. Naval Academy, as well as the other service academies, a prospective student must be appointed by a member of the US Congress in addition to applying to USNA. The Coast Guard Academy, on the other hand, does not require congressional nomination, instead opening the applications to anyone and letting applicants be admitted solely on their own merit – both personal and academic.
15. Navy ships keep a supply of Coasties to maintain civil law and order
On many Navy ships throughout the world, a small Coast Guard contingent is placed with the crew to do maritime law enforcement. Because of the Posse Comitatus Act, the Department of Defense may not do any kind of civilian law enforcement. The Coast Guard, thanks to the 1790 Tariff Act and the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act of 2006, may conduct boardings of vessels both foreign and domestic without a warrant. On Navy ships stationed in waters where illegal drugs and migrants are common, the Coast Guard serves to assist the Navy where it cannot serve.
The war in Syria is now five years old. In that time, there have been so many factions vying for power and battlefield superiority, some under-equipped group was bound to have to get creative with their weapons tech. Enter the Hell Cannon.
First rigged up in the rural areas near Idlib, the Hell Cannon is an improvised, muzzle-loaded cannon, built by the Ahrar al-Shamal Brigade, then a member force of the Free Syrian Army. The homegrown howitzer caught on and was soon produced in and around Aleppo. The cannon’s popularity is responsible for a grassroots weapons industry in the area.
The weapon is essentially a barrel mounted to wheels and towed to where it needs to go. It’s entirely muzzle-loaded like an old timey powder smoothbore cannon. The powder is an explosive, usually ammonium nitrate (the explosive used by Timothy McVeigh in the 1996 Oklahoma City Bombing), which is ramrodded with a wooden stick. The round is a gas cylinder (commonly used in the region for cooking stoves) filled with explosives and shrapnel, and welded to a pipe with some stabilizing fins.The cylinder forms a tight seal in the cannon.
Improvised Hell Cannon rounds made of cooking gas canisters and mortar ammo seized by Syrian government forces (SAA) in Latakia (Twitter Photo)
Each round weighs roughly 88 pounds and will fly 1.5 kilometers (just under a mile). Some variants of the weapon will have multiple barrels, from two to seven. Others are welded to vehicles like cars and bulldozers.
Want to see where in Syria that Russia is parking its surface-to-air missile batteries? If you do, you may think that you are out of luck by not being in the military or part of the intelligence community. Guess again – you just have to go to Twitter.
A person going by the username “Rambo54” – Twitter handle @reutersanders – has been posting some images from Google Earth showing where the Russians are parking their air-defense systems.
Among the sites that Rambo54 is pinpointing for any interested parties are two with the S-300 surface-to-air missile system (also known as the SA-10 Grumble), five of the SA-8 Gecko (a short-range radar-guided system), one of the Buk-M2 (also known as the SA-11 “Gadfly”), one of the SA-6 “Gainful” surface-to-air missile system (best known as the missile that shot down Scott O’Grady over Bosnia in 1995), one site for the S-200 (the SA-5 “Gammon”), and one for the Pechora (the SA-3 “Goa,” known as the missile that shot down a F-117 Nighthawk over Serbia). Pretty impressive work.
This Twitter feed also has satellite-eye views of various aircraft and air bases in the region, including photos of an Il-28 “Beagle” (a Soviet-era bomber) in Aleppo, and photos of MiG-21s and MiG-23s, among other planes. This Twitter feed even features photos of an air base overrun by ISIS.
Rambo54 has posted other images as well, including moon landing sites (to refute those who claim the moon landings were faked), as well as submarines (he had photos of an Indian Kilo-class sub and a Type 212), and air bases. And that’s just in the last 48 hours.
America has had a long tradition of picking up some foreign weapons. Whether it was getting military aid from France during the Revolutionary War to borrowing Spitfires from England in World War II to using Israeli Kfirs as aggressors in the 1980s, our troops have put foreign-designed systems to good use. This idea makes even more sense in the face of the Pentagon being forced to tighten the belt while global threats proliferate.
So here are six foreign warfighting platforms that DoD should buy now:
1. Spain’s Alvaro de Bazan-class frigates
With the retirement of the Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates, the United States could use some additional hulls in the water. The Littoral Combat Ship has had some good moments (like USS Freedom making four drug busts in seven weeks during a 2010 SOUTHCOM deployment), but that ship is still wrestling with teething problems, not the least of which is the fact that the missionized software packages that were supposed to make the LCS unique aren’t working.
The Navy plans to buy 20 frigates in the future, but perhaps they ought to look at getting Spain’s Alvaro de Bazan-class frigates instead. With a SPY-1 radar, a five-inch gun, and a 48-cell Mk 41 VLS that can fire Standard surface-to-air missiles, Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles, and Vertical-Launch ASROCs, it would be a direct replacement for the Perry-class ships.
2. Denmark’s Absalon-class multi-role ships
Denmark’s been building flexible warships for decades, thanks to the use of Stanflex technology. One of the more intriguing designs to emerge from this philosophy is the Absalon, a 4,500-ton ship that has a five-inch gun, and five “flexible” stations. These stations can carry a variety of weapons – usually 36 RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow missiles and 16 RGM-84 Harpoons.
But the real secret is that the Absalon also can serve as a small roll-on/roll-off vessel, a supply ship, or even as a treatment point for casualties. With a top speed of 24 knots, the ship can keep up with the large-deck amphibious assault ships like the Wasp and America classes. Also, at $225 million per hull, they are about five-eighths the cost of a Freedom-class littoral combat ship.
3. Ukraine’s BTMP-84
Infantry has a tough job on the conventional battlefield. They can’t keep up with the tanks, but they are needed to support the tanks. They also, of course, need some support on the battlefield. But how to get troops to the battlefield, yet still get them some support? Ukraine’s BTMP-84 may be the answer to that.
The Ukrainians stretched a T-84, added some road wheels, and got a vehicle with the T-84’s firepower (a 125mm main gun with as many as 36 rounds of ammunition, a 12.7mm heavy machine gun, and a 7.62mm coaxial machine gun), plus the ability to carry five infantrymen. While it doesn’t carry as many troops as a Bradley or LAV-25, its firepower more than makes up for that.
4. Brazil’s EE-9 Cascavel Armored Car
With the retirement of the M551 Sheridan in the mid-1990s, the 82nd Airborne is in need of some armored firepower. That two-decade search could end with the EE-9 Cascavel.
With a 90mm main gun and 44 rounds, this 13-ton vehicle can keep up with Strykers, and it can provide much more sustained fire support (Stryker Mobile Gun Systems only carry 18 rounds for their 105mm main guns). The vehicle, about the size of an M113 armored personnel carrier, could be carried by a C-130.
5. UK’s Systems Hawk 200
Combat aircraft are expensive these days. Both the F-22 and F-35 cost over $100 million per airframe – and billions in RD. Yet having a lot of airframes is not a bad idea. The Hawk 200 is a possible solution.
With the same APG-66 radar used on the F-16, the Hawk can fire Sidewinders and AMRAAMs, making it a solid choice for air-defense. It also can carry almost 7,000 pounds of bombs or air-to-surface weapons. The U.S. Navy already operates the similar T-45 Goshawk, which means that some logistical support capability already exists. The Hawk 200 could be America’s lightweight joint strike fighter.
6. Israeli Sa’ar 6-class corvettes
The United States has made use of Israeli weapons in the not-so-distant past. The Marines’ Shoulder-launched Multi-purpose Assault Weapon is one such weapon. So was the RQ-2 Pioneer, best known as a spotter for naval gunfire from Iowa-class battleships during Desert Storm.
Now, Israel’s new Sa’ar 6 corvettes might be something to look at. With a 76mm gun, 16 anti-ship missiles, and 32 surface-to-air missiles, these vessels could enable the U.S. Navy to counter Russia’s Buyan-class corvettes and Gepard-class light frigates.