Articles

This awesome ‘trench broom’ terrified Germans in both World Wars

A single weapon used predominantly in World War I and with a limited deployment in World War II was so effective and so terrifying that Germany lodged a diplomatic protest against its use by American forces. It wasn’t the flamethrower or the machine gun. It was shotguns, especially the Winchester Models 1897 and 1912.


A World War II Marine carries a Winchester Model 1897 shotgun. (Photo: U.S. Department of Defense)

The two shotguns were first entered into combat after America realized how brutal trench warfare really was. The soldiers and Marines serving on the Western Front needed a way to clear attackers from the American trenches as well as to quickly clear defenders from enemy trenches during assaults.

The spread of a shotgun was perfect for this mission, but the Americans didn’t stop at just buying off-the-shelf weapons. The War Department contracted for standard, trench, and riot versions of most shotguns.

Standard shotguns were civilian versions of the weapon, often with a sling added for easy carrying. Riot guns were similar but with shorter barrels. The most heavily modified versions were the trench guns which featured shorter barrels — usually 20 inches or shorter, heat shields, and bayonet lugs.

The Trench Winchester Model 1897 shotgun features a cut-down barrel, sling, heat shield, and a bayonet lug. (Catalog Illustration: Public Domain)

The Model 97 quickly became one of the most popular shotguns issued, partially because of how well it stood up to the rigorous conditions on the Western Front. Operators could quickly clean mud and water from the weapons and get them ready to fire after a mishap, and the weapon continued to function even if it was dropped or slammed against trenchworks.

But the big reason that the Model 97 became so popular was that it could be “slamfired.” Typically, an operator readies a pump-action shotgun by pumping it to feed a round into the chamber and eject any empty casing currently in it. Then, they pull the trigger while aimed at their target to fire. Repeat.

But when slamfiring, they keep the trigger held back while pumping the weapon. When the new round feeds into the chamber, it will automatically fire. This meant the weapon could be fired as quickly as the operator could pump the handle.

A standard pump-action Winchester Model 1897 lacks military features like the heat shield and bayonet lug. (Photo: Public Domain)

The Model 97 held six rounds of 00 buckshot, each shell of which held nine pellets. A trained soldier slamfiring could fire all six rounds, 54 total lead pellets, in approximately two seconds. At the close ranges in many World War I trenches, the effect was devastating.

Shotgunners would rapidly clear German trenches, cutting away the defenders. The tactic was so effective that Model 97s picked up the nicknames “trench brooms” and “trench sweepers.”

The German government lobbed an official protest against the weapon, saying that the weapon inflicted unnecessary cruelty. America responded that the claim was hollow coming from the nation that introduced chemical weapons and flamethrowers into warfare.

There are even reports that American soldiers skilled in skeet shooting were placed along the front trenches to shoot enemy hand grenades from the air, deflecting or destroying the devices before they could hurt American troops.

The Winchester Model 97 and Model 1912 would go on to serve similar functions in World War II, again clearing German defenders from trenches and bunkers as well as operating in the Pacific. The two Winchester shotguns were deployed to Korea and Vietnam, though the U.S. was slowly transitioning to newer shotguns by that point.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Meet the ‘deadliest recruit’ ever to pass through Parris Island

On Thursday, Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island issued a press release identifying Marine Recruit Austin Farrell as the deadliest recruit ever to pass through the Corps’ infamously difficult rifle qualification course. Farrell grew up building and shooting rifles with his father, and when it came time to qualify on his M16A4 service rifle, the young recruit managed a near-perfect score of 248 out of a maximum possible 250 points on Table One.

“I grew up with a rifle in my hand; from the time I was six I was shooting and building firearms with my dad, he was the one that introduced me to shooting, and when I got to Parris Island, what he taught me was the reason I shot like I did,” said Farrell.

The Marine Corps is renown for its approach to training each and every Marine to serve as a rifleman prior to going on to attend follow-on schools for one’s intended occupational specialty. As a result, Table One of the Marine Corps’ Rifle Qualification Course is widely recognized as the most difficult basic rifle course anywhere in the America’s Armed Forces.

All Marines, regardless of ultimate occupation, must master engaging targets from the standing, kneeling, and prone positions at ranges extending as far as 500 yards. In recent years, the Corps has shifted to utilizing RCOs, or Rifle Combat Optics, which aid in accuracy, but still require a firm grasp of marksmanship fundamentals in order to pass.

While no other military branch expects all of its members to be deadly at such long distances, for Farrell, 500 yards wasn’t all that far at all. While new to the Corps, this young shooter is no stranger to long-distance shooting.

“I would go out to a family friend’s range five days a week and practice shooting from distances of up to a mile, it’s a great pastime and teaches you lessons that stay with you past the range.”

Recruit Austin Ferrell with Kilo Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion fires his M16A4 Service Rifle during the Table One course of fire on Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island S.C. July 30, 2020. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Shane Manson)

As all recruits come to learn, being a good shooter isn’t just about nailing the physical aspects of stabilizing yourself, acquiring good sight picture, and practicing trigger control along with your breathing. Being a good shooter is as much a mental activity as it is a physical one. As Farrell points out, being accurate at a distance is about getting your head in the right the place. Of course, getting relaxed and staying relaxed is one thing… doing it during Recruit Training is another.

“Practice before I got here was definitely a big part of it, but getting into a relaxed state of mind is what helped me shoot… after I shot a 248 everyone was congratulating me, but when I got back to the squad bay my drill instructors gave me a hard time for dropping those two points,” Farell laughed.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Shane Manson)

The young recruit is expected to graduate from Recruit Training on September 4, 2020 and while it’s safe to say most parents are proud to see their sons and daughters earn the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor, Farrell’s father George is already celebrating his son’s success.

“I’m so proud of him, no matter what I’m proud of him but this is above what I expected,” said George. “I always told him to strive to be number one, and the fact that he was able to accomplish that is just a testament to his hard work.”

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Navy child with leukemia inspires others to be the match

Ailani Myers wasn’t even three years old when she was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), an aggressive cancer of the blood. Although her battle is far from over, she and her family are focusing on something else too: saving other children.

Giggett Johnson is the sister of Ailani’s mom, Princecine Johnson, a 23-year veteran of the Navy.


“Ailani was born without complications and was healthy up until her second year, when they came to visit the family in Texas. We noticed she was acting different. She had a rash and an odd spot on her head so we rushed her to the hospital,” Johnson said.

It wasn’t long after that first hospital visit that Ailani received her diagnosis of ALL. The family quickly dove into treating her cancer and tried desperately to find a blood stem cell donor. But there wasn’t one on the registry. One barrier to finding a match that Ailani and many children like her face is being of mixed race. Her mother is black and her father white, which greatly reduced her chances of finding a transplant match.

Without a readily-available match, the family made the decision to bring Ailani to Johns Hopkins. It is one of the world’s leading experts in treating pediatric cancer and specifically doing haploidentical bone marrow transplants — a half-match transplant usually from a mother or father.In part because of her ethnicity, it was her greatest chance at a cure.

Ailani with her dad.

Ailani’s father, Kurt Myers, is an active-duty chief warrant officer in the Navy. The Navy gave the family orders to Fort Meade, Maryland, to allow the family to be close to the hospital. Ailani received a haploidentical transplant from her father in 2019 which was successful. But three days before her one-year transplant anniversary, a scheduled bone marrow biopsy indicated her leukemia had relapsed. Despite the devastating setback, she and her family remain committed to a cure.

Beth Carrion is the family’s Be The Match representative and she is imploring the public to register to be a possible donor, especially those with diverse ethnic backgrounds.

“We have to end the healthcare disparity and bridge that gap. We need help to do that,” Carrion said.

According to the Be The Match website, for over 30 years it has managed the largest and most-diverse marrow registry in the world. In the years since its founding, the nonprofit has helped lead the way for innovative advancements in transplants — and in the process, saved countless lives. But they need more people to register to donate, as there are thousands of children waiting.

Learn more about joining the bone marrow registry

Only 20% of patients will actually require a marrow transplant, with most of them being children under 10 years old. The rest desperately need parts of your blood for treatment. Unfortunately, medical television shows have dramatized the process and led potential donors away in fear. The donation is not as painful as it is portrayed in television and you are asleep while they do the procedure.

“I think when people hear the word ‘registry’ they think organ donation and that isn’t what it is. This is just a blood product and your body will replenish it,” Carrion explained.

The giving of blood and blood products is lifesaving. Ailani recently underwent a new treatment called CAR-T cell therapy where her own T-cells were filtered from her blood and re-engineered in a laboratory to target her leukemia. She then had to receive extensive chemotherapy to prepare her body to receive those re-engineered T-cells. Through it all, Ailani has remained positive – even as she continued to lose her hair yet again, something that broke her heart the first time she went through it.

If this treatment is unsuccessful, they will be going with another half-match transplant with her mother.

Although all seemed poised to be heading in the right direction, the family had another setback.

“She fell and scraped her knee and because she was immunocompromised from chemotherapy, she ended up with a fungal infection in the scrape. The fungus disseminated throughout her whole body resulting in several major complications. They had to give her white blood cell transfusions, extensive antifungals, and do surgery to clear the infection,” Carrion shared.

According to Ailani’s aunt, she was terrified when she got up from falling.

“When she fell, she said ‘Uh oh, uh oh. I fell I fell.’ She knew that something devastating could come out of a fall,” she said.

But even with the additional challenges Ailani is facing on top of battling her cancer, she hasn’t lost her happy disposition and sweet personality.

“Sometimes when my sister calls me to tell me how Ailani is, I’m at a loss for words. I don’t know what to say other than we’re praying and trying to be strong for her,” Johnson said through tears.

Her family describes Ailani as a fighter, a beacon of light and good. It is their hope that by sharing their story more people will raise their hands and register for Be The Match. Registration is simple, easy and painless. For the potential children matched with prospective donors it’s a scientific miracle. It will also save their lives.

To learn more about how you can register for Be The Match and get your cheek swab, please click here or text “saveailani” to 61474.

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How one Russian truck can shoot down an entire squadron in a full-scale war

While the United States has let its short-range air defense systems decline since the end of the Cold War, Russia’s been very active in bolstering theirs. Of course, this can be explained in part by the different situations the two countries face.


An A-10C Thunderbolt II assigned to the 75th Fighter Squadron performs a low-angle strafe using its 30mm GAU-8 rotary cannon. Planes like the A-10 have usually operated unimpeded over battlefields, to the benefit of American troops. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Chris Drzazgowski)

Generally, the United States controls the skies over the battlefield, often to the detriment of gear that the Russians have sold to countries like Iraq, Libya, and Yugoslavia. This makes other countries that either bought or licensed Russian designs nervous. So, Russia’s been working hard to come up with more effective defenses, especially for battlefield forces, like tank and infantry divisions.

The latest in this series is a system called Pantsir. It is an advanced, self-propelled combined gun/missile system that is used on 8×8 trucks. On these trucks are 12 SA-22 “Greyhound” surface-to-air missiles and a pair of 30mm cannon. This is a higher capacity than the previous state-of-the-art Russian tactical defense system, the 2S6 Tunguska, which had eight SA-19 “Grison” missiles and two 30mm cannon on a tracked vehicle. To put it bluntly, one of these truck-mounted systems has enough missiles to kill an entire Navy or Marine squadron of F/A-18 Hornets.

The heart of Pantsir: 12 SA-22 Greyhound missiles and two 30mm cannon. (Photo form Wikimedia Commons)

The SA-22 Greyhound missiles have a maximum range of just over 11 miles, according to GlobalSecurity.org, but Deagel.com reports that an advanced version of this missile could have a range of nearly 25 miles – well in excess of many precision-guided bombs in the American inventory.

The scary thing is that Russia is already exporting this advanced air-defense system. So far, buyers have included the United Arab Emirates, Iraq, and, ominously, Syria. In short, American combat planes could very well be facing a Russian truck that could blow them out of the sky

Articles

This is what happened when the Navy banned alcohol on its ships

On July 1, 1914, infamous buzzkill and then-Navy Secretary Josephus Daniels implemented General Order No. 99:


“The use or introduction for drinking purposes of alcoholic liquors on board any naval vessel, or within any navy yard or station, is strictly prohibited, and commanding officers will be held directly responsible for the enforcement of this order.”

Daniels was a supporter of the Temperance Movement, a turn-of-the-century social movement which supported a nationwide alcohol ban and actively worked to pass legislation against the beverage. Some of those laws are still in effect.

Hampering Sunday Funday for a century.

The U.S. Navy used to honor the grand tradition of giving their sailors a daily portion of grog, which started out as a half-pint of rum and then later, good ol’ American whiskey. If a sailor didn’t drink, they earned an extra per diem for it, the 2016 equivalent of around $1.44. The ration was reduced to a gill (quarter-pint) in 1842 and then eliminated during the Civil War (but the Confederate Navy kept the tradition in an effort to recruit sailors from other countries).

Coffee is almost the same… right?

American sailors were allowed to keep their own stores of liquor and beer on board until 1899 when their sale was restricted. The new rules barred “enlisted men, either on board ship, or within the limits of navy yards, naval stations, or Marine barracks, except in the medical department.” When Daniels issued General Order No. 99, the only alcohol aboard U.S. ships was reserved for the officers of the wardroom and the Captain’s Mess.

You think Ray Mabus is persona non grata? Sailors used to boo this guy on the street.

A creative reader can probably imagine what happened when the sailors learned about the ban. Daniels was not a popular guy but commanders rushed to sell what they had left – and they had a lot left. The Navy decided each ship should hold one last blowout to say fair winds and following seas to their beloved drink.

U.S. ships the world over moved to comply with the order. Many ships held banquets with food, others had theme parties, and some held funeral processions for their departing friend. A few ships just poured whatever they had left into a giant bowl. Pictures of these parties are hard to find– not only because cameras were rare in 1914. Presumably, the sailors didn’t want to make every American party for the next 60 years seem lame by comparison.

And Cher wouldn’t board the Battleship Missouri for another 75 years.

The Navy banned alcohol entirely for a total of six years. Selling booze on shore and in clubs was reinstated after Congress passed the 21st Amendment, repealing Prohibition. President Jimmy Carter’s Secretary of the Navy Edward Hidalgo (himself a WWII-era Navy veteran) changed the rules to allow the sailors two beers a day to sailors at sea for 45 days or more.

If there’s a direct opposite of a Blue Falcon, this shipmate is it.

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 tips for leading during COVID-19, from the Sergeant Major of the Army

Across the military, service members and their families are working through the new normal brought about by COVID-19. Everyone is dealing with a fair amount of stress and we understand how important great leadership is right now. So, we reached out to the Sergeant Major of the Army Michael Grinston (socially distanced, of course) to get his advice for leaders while we work through this pandemic.

He opened up his green notebook and provided the following insights.


Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Grinston, senior enlisted leader for Army Forces Command, presents the FORSCOM Eagle Award during a ceremony Jan. 9, 2019.

Department of Defense

1. Lead differently

Leadership matters right now. This isn’t harder than what is required of leaders in combat, but it is a very difficult time. In combat, you can physically bring everyone together. Now, how do you lead during this time of uncertainty? How do you get the information out? How do you make sure they stay the course? How do you make sure your soldiers are following orders –- which in some cases may be to stay at home and keep everyone healthy?

Everyone agrees that face-to-face leadership is the best and leaders can tell a lot about someone’s emotional condition by looking them in the eyes. We still have to do it. Don’t fall in the trap of relying on text messages to communicate. I recommend leaders develop a communications PACE plan. Make video chats your primary means of communication. If that isn’t available, make a phone call so you can hear their voice. Finally, leaders can use text and email to keep the lines of communication open.

Remember, these are difficult times and leadership is what is going to make the difference for the people in your formation.

2. Get innovative

There are so many opportunities right now for leaders to get innovative with how they maintain readiness and keep their soldiers motivated.

For example, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, a battalion conducted an individual 6-mile foot march competition. Everyone used either cell phone apps or GPS watches to track their progress and then posted their times online. The winner with the fastest time received an Army Achievement Medal.

Another unit in Poland conducted EIB training, but included hand-washing and social distancing enforcement during the event.

At the Department of Army level, we are looking for ways to maintain readiness. We started running the Basic Army Leader Course via distance learning. I expect the same of our leaders down at the unit level — look for innovative ways to accomplish the mission.

Sgt. Maj. of the Army Michael Grinston visited the U.S. Army Medical Center of Excellence at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston Jan. 15.

Department of Defense

3. Stay ready

We all have a responsibility to maintain our fitness and stay focused on personal readiness during this period.

We also have a responsibility and a great opportunity to focus on the operational readiness rate of our equipment so that when we come back to train, our vehicles and weapons are ready to go. Leaders can take advantage of this pause in training to bring mechanics and crews in to bring equipment up to 10/20 standard.

4. Stay informed

Besides company-level leadership keeping soldiers and their families informed, there are also plenty of opportunities to stay up-to-date on the latest news by Department of the Army and Garrison Commands.

I know that unit-level leaders are doing weekly virtual town halls, most garrisons are doing them several times a week and we have done a few at the Army level. Don’t rely on hearsay to get your information; tune-in and stay informed with facts.

5. Set goals

Treat this period like a deployment. We not only want to survive it, we also want to thrive in it. A great way to do this is to set personal and professional goals.

Gyms are closed and many of the conditions we had pre-coronavirus have changed. So, we need to reassess our goals. While we can’t go to gyms, there are workouts we can do in our living rooms to stay fit. Look for opportunities; there might be online courses or credentialing classes that you can take advantage of to achieve professional goals.

I recommend everyone try to figure out some kind of routine to work toward your goals. Don’t wake up everyday and muddle through it — keep moving forward.

A Proud SMA

At the end of our interview, SMA Grinston shared how proud he was of our Army’s efforts to #KilltheVirus; from researching a vaccine to preventative measures and treatment efforts. He also applauded the efforts of our National Guard and Reserve forces who are bearing a large burden of the response efforts across the country.

Articles

This is the legend of the Knights of the Round Table

According to medieval legend, King Arthur lived in the late 5th and early 6th centuries where he fought off the Anglo-Saxons with his legendary sword, Excalibur. He lived in Camelot, and his life long mission became the quest for the Holy Grail.


While Arthur would attend festivals, his noble knights often got into violent brawls over who should be sitting at the head of the table — granting them power over those in attendance. The other war-hardened Knights just couldn’t figure out a resolution to the issue.

Therefore, King Arthur used his wisdom had a round table constructed, making all his men feel equal. It was a good leadership move and created what we all know today as the “Knights of the Round Table.”

The Knights of the Round Table (Source: Wikipedia Commons)

The Knights embodied a unique code of chivalry like righteousness, honor, and gallantry towards women — but one of them was bound to carry it too far.

Sir Lancelot was King Arthur’s closest friend, the best swordsman and knight in all the land. He was also known for sleeping with a lot of women. He even started a romantic affair with Arthur’s wife, Queen Guinevere. This action sparked a civil war, which led to the death of King Arthur and the dissolution of his knights.

But the legacy of the Knights of the Round Table lives on forever. Learn more in the video above.

Watch more Elite Forces:

This is how piracy became totally legal during wartime

Here’s what you didn’t know about the Queen’s Guards

This is why Cossacks are Russia’s legendary fighting force

These are the slave soldiers that defeated the Mongols

4 awesome facts about Shaolin Kung Fu

MIGHTY HISTORY

Russia wants AI revolution, but its robots are people in costumes

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has been teasing a Russian artificial intelligence plan for months, promising to unveil it by “mid-June.” The first details have finally been announced, and the plan is surprisingly modest. But since this is a country whose state media thought a man in a costume was a real robot, it’s really not clear how Russia takes the lead where China and the U.S. are already humming along.


The U.S. and China are in an AI arms race that, coincidentally, is going on at the same time as our 5G race. But Putin is wise to the game going on, saying in 2017 that whoever leads artificial intelligence “will become the ruler of the world,” and he’s thrown his country into the race.

On June 20, Russia released the first details of its AI strategy, including a 0 million pledge in support for their 14 centers of study based at universities and scientific organizations. If 0 mil sounds like a lot, realize that America has OpenAI which was launched with id=”listicle-2638945543″ billion, DARPA launched the AI Next Campaign with billion, and venture capitalists in the U.S. dropped .3 billion on AI investments.

Meanwhile, Russia hasn’t announced any government research on the level of DARPA, and its private investment is paltry, possibly because Russia has little to no protections for private property, so the state can take any AI products created there at any time for its own use.

Russian President Vladimir Putin Speaks with Chinese President Xi Jinping June 5, 2019, during a series of Russian-Chinese talks.

(Office of the President of Russia)

That’s not to say there’s no development going on in Russia. Alphabet, Google’s parent company, recently bought one Russian AI company, implying it must have had some tech worth shelling out cash for. But it now belongs to an American company, and Alphabet has purchased dozens of competitors around the world but only found something worth scooping in Russia once.

America does have a major rival for AI supremacy though, and it might actually be in first place. China spends more on AI research than the U.S. does. According to Thomas Davenport, a government-run venture capital firm in China has promised over billion in research money for AI. And individual cities have dropped huge money as well. Tianjin, a port, has slated billion in research monies.

America has many more groups investing in AI than China, but China is likely investing more overall—even on the venture capital side—than the U.S., according to Davenport.

So, yeah, the idea of a come-from-behind victory for Russia seems far-fetched, but the fight at ranks 1 and 2 is still undecided, and victory is important. Artificial intelligence will likely give a massive advantage in every aspect of war as well as in a lot of industrial and economic applications.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Why the new ‘John Wick 3’ trailer has us pumped

It’s rare for a film franchise to come out of nowhere and blow everyone away to the magnitude of Summit Entertainment’s John Wick. It’s a masterclass in storytelling through a character’s actions as opposed to pointless, exposition-heavy dialogue. The beautiful cinematography and the use of color to tell a story is, frankly, mind-blowing. But all of those elements pale in comparison to the breathtaking action sequences that make up the bulk of the series.

Today, the first trailer for the third installment dropped and it looks like it’s going to be an insane ride from the very beginning. In true John Wick fashion, the trailer doesn’t outright tell you what’s happening, but if you know what you’re looking for, you can piece together everything.


Even the poster basically tells you everything about the film if you’ve paid enough attention.

(Lionsgate)

We last saw Keanu Reeves’ John Wick running away from the Bethesda Terrace in New York City’s Central Park. He had a -million bounty on his head after being forced into a hit-job he didn’t want to take. Eventually, Wick kills his mark, but does so in the Continental Hotel, a place designed to be a safe space for assassins. Suddenly, that -million bounty on his head doubled in value.

Now, he’s got to outrun every hitman looking to score a cool million and he no longer has access to any of the amenities offered by the Continental Hotel. The final film will take place moments after he was given a one-hour head start. In this hour, John Wick has to bandage up his wounds and get ready to fight (almost literally) everyone in the underworld.

In the freshly released trailer, John Wick is seen talking to Anjelica Huston’s character, simply known as The Director, who holds a presumably important position on the High Table (basically the UN for crime bosses). Wick asks for safe passage and is, of course, denied. The important detail to note here is that John is wearing the same outfit as he was when he was taking out every assassin in New York, so we can assume he’s still in the Big Apple, and he’s holding a rosary.

Next, we see him running into the New York Public Library and places that rosary along with his marker (a coin that can grant any desire, in the vein of asking a don on the day of his daughter’s wedding), several gold coins, and a photo of he and his wife inside a hollowed-out book. Wick knows he’s about to go to war, but this shows us he intends to return and claim his cache of prized possessions — and we all know that when Wick returns, he does so with a vengeance.

The clock strikes 6 P.M. and all hell breaks loose. The text, “If you want peace, prepare for war” flashes on screen between intense action shots and John Wick arrives in Morocco, where he meets Halle Berry’s character, Sophia, before the action rolls on.

To watch the trailer for yourself, check out the video below:

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Pentagon has plans for its own mini-space station. Here’s what it would do

Among defense experts the world over, there’s little doubt that warfare in the 21st century will be an orbital affair. From communications and reconnaissance to navigation and logistics, you’ll be hard-pressed to find an element of any modern nation’s military that operates without the use of space-born satellites, and as such, many nations are developing weapons aimed specifically at causing trouble high above our heads.

While the U.S. government may be no exception, as the reigning space-race champ, America has the lead, and as such, much more to lose in orbit than its national competitors. At least one element of the Pentagon has a plan to help keep it that way: an orbiting space station purpose-built to support a fleet of defensive space drones.


Which beats out my proposal to just start dropping bombs from the ISS, I suppose.

(NASA Image)

You might be imagining a space station equipped with the latest defense gadgets, science experiments meant to usher in the next era of orbital weapons, and of course, enough utility to support a wide variety of Pentagon directives in the dark skies around our pale blue dot… and you’d be right on all counts… but where this new initiative breaks from fantasy is in its size. The Pentagon’s proposed space station wouldn’t be built to sustain any kind of manned presence whatsoever, at least for now.

The proposed orbital outpost received a great deal of media attention recently thanks to an industry solicitation posted by the Pentagon’s Defense Innovation Unit (DIU). Put simply, the solicitation is seeking companies that want to compete for a chance to help launch a self-contained orbital facility that’s “capable of supporting space assembly, microgravity experimentation, logistics and storage, manufacturing, training, test and evaluation, hosting payloads, and other functions.”

“Rock, paper, scissors. Winner gets a new space station.”

(Courtesy of NASA)

The DIU envisions an orbital outpost that’s equipped with robotic arms to manage assembly and even potentially repair duties for other orbital assets. That means this unmanned installation could feasibly be used to build autonomous satellite drones in space meant to help protect America’s large and rather undefended constellation of satellites.

The tiny outpost would have a payload capacity of just 176 pounds (or 80 kilograms if you live in a nation that’s never sent people to the moon), and would offer only a small 3 foot by 3 foot by 4 foot enclosure. That may not be enough room to house any members of the space infantry, but it would be enough to work on things like cube-sats, which are small, inexpensive satellites built to serve specific purposes in orbit and beyond.

Because the reality of war in space could be as mundane as simply nudging a satellite out of its orbit, cube-sats and other small platforms could actually play a massive role in orbital combat operations. A fleet of inexpensive satellites could provide system redundancy by temporarily filling service gaps as other assets are destroyed or interfered with by enemy platforms. They could also engage with or deter enemy systems (be they satellites or weapons themselves).

The X-37B sits on the Vandenberg Air Force base runway after spending months in space without any grubby human mitts changing the radio station.

(U.S. Air Force photo/ Michael Stonecypher)

Thanks to advances in 3-D printing and a rash of commercial interest in orbital manufacturing in recent years, it seems entirely possible that an orbital outpost like the one proposed by the DIU could eventually support a broader space defense initiative, but it also seems unlikely that this specific enterprise would ever expand far enough to add human support to the equation, but then, humans may need to be present anyway.

Russia and China are both already believed to operate orbital weapons platforms that behave like autonomous satellites and the Air Force’s secretive space plane known as the X-37B operates in orbit for months at a time without any use for human hands. Star Wars may indeed eventually come to fruition, but at least for now, it looks like the fighting will be up to R2-D2, with all of us Skywalkers just watching anxiously from the ground.

Articles

The 13 funniest military memes of the week

Memesday! Thirteen of our favorites are below. Feel free to plaster your favorites all over our Facebook page.


1. That’s the sergeant major’s grass and you’re just lucky you won’t have to guard it.

But once it comes in a little more, you will be grooming it.

2. Mk-19s are for when you don’t like an entire geographic area.

It will occasionally take care of buildings you don’t like, too.

SEE ALSO: 17 photos that show why troops absolutely love the .50 caliber machine gun

3. Armories makes no sense to airmen (via Military Memes).

4. Sailors are the world’s most glorified travel agents (via OutOfRegs.com).

The anchors sail away while the Marines go to play.

5. The Devil Doge (via Marine Corps Memes).

Prepare to be bit.

6. You train like you fight …

(Via Coast Guard Memes)

… in ankle deep water.

7. When you learn your last unit was f-cked up (via Marine Corps Memes).

8. It’s a time-honored tradition (via Military Memes).

It’s not comfortable, but it’s time-honored.

9. Give your driver dip and energy drinks.

But, choose the energy drinks carefully.

10. How you know your unit needs more range time (via Sh*t My LPO says).

They may need a new range safety first though. The old one had a heart attack.

11. Why you get up at zero-dark-thirty for an afternoon mission (via Marine Corps Memes).

There will be a few more delays before anyone actually steps off.

 12. When “personalizing” your vehicle, don’t use military patterns (via Sh*t My LPO says).

That’s as bad as putting your entire military career in stickers on your back window.

13. The Air Force has so many sprinkles you can shower food in them (via OutOfRegs.com).

But, they’re totally a military branch and not a kid’s birthday party. Totally.

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Captured Western ISIS recruits confess anti-drone strategies

ISIS terrorists recruited from western countries like the US and UK always kept their distance from each other because of the threat of drone strikes, according to a captured member of the terror group.

“A lot of the westerners were kept distances from one another because one of the primary affairs was targeted drone strikes,” captured ISIS member and ex-police cadet from London, Hamza Parvez, told the BBC from a Kurdish prison in Syria.


Parvez left the UK to join ISIS in 2014 but was captured in Baghuz, the final ISIS bastion in Syria, according to the BBC. The government has stripped him of citizenship.

In an interview from prison he described the extreme fear among western members about being killed by drones.

An MQ-1 Predator drone over southern Afghanistan.

“So, people wouldn’t want to be associated with one another just in case.”

“Because we didn’t actually have the list of who’s on the drone list or not. So we’d really be scared of, OK, this guy might be, and this guy might be.”

“So it’s better I just keep to myself,” he said.

A number of key ISIS figures have been killed in drone strikes.

They include media director Abu Anas al-Faransi in March 2019, British ISIS fighter Mohammed Emwazi, known as “Jihadi John,” in December 2015, and British defector Sally Jones in October 2017.

Parvez also told BBC reporter Quentin Sommerville that he regrets joining, wants to come home, and never knew the “realities” of being part of ISIS.

“I didn’t know there was something waiting for me like that so most of the foreign fighters, when you do talk to them, the first thing they say to you is that we would never ever have come if we had known the realities of ISIS,” he said.

Hamza Parvez.

(BBC)

“There was many times where I thought ‘time to pack up and leave,’ and there’s many times I did try to pack up and leave but the reality was that it wasn’t as easy as it sounds.”

ISIS forces in Syria were declared defeated by joint US and Kurdish forces on March 23, 2019. Since then a number of western recruits have spoken to media about the caliphate’s final days from prison.

General Mazloum Kobani, the commander-in-chief of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, said that his forces liberated the last ISIS stronghold in the village of Baghuz, ending the terror cell’s presence in Syria.

ISIS is still active in Iraq, and parts of Africa.

In recent weeks, apologetic ISIS brides from the US, Europe, and Canada have attempted to secure their safe return to the west after defecting to ISIS.

The Syrian government has called for western countries to take back their ISIS members.

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

Articles

Here’s how a war with Iran would go

Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei released an incendiary video this week, describing the “humiliation” the U.S. would experience if it were to invade Iran. The video reminds the viewer of the protracted American wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and of Hezbollah’s perceived “victory” over Israel in 2006.


The video is as meaningful as any propaganda produced by any government – dubious at best. Iran has never started a war in the modern era. Its standing orders are to never launch a first strike and the success of the Iranian nuclear deal means we will likely not go to war with Iran anytime soon.

That does not keep Iran from trolling the United States more than any country, group, or individual (and we tend to remember that kind of sh*t talk).

Also, that hostage crisis. Old habits die hard.

Iran is the industrial, military, and economic Shia counterweight to Saudi Arabia, the preeminent Sunni monarchy in the Middle East. Iran considers the Middle East their backyard: sending money, weapons, and supplies to Shia Islamic groups in neighboring countries in an attempt to destabilize or undermine the Sunni (or secular) leadership there.

The Islamic Republic is currently projecting power all over the region, well beyond the borders of the old Persian Empire: they assist Houthi rebels in Yemen, fund and supply paramilitary organizations like Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army in Iraq and Hezbollah in Syria and Lebanon as well as others, all fighting Sunni paramilitary organizations funded by members of the Gulf Cooperation Council, such as the al-Nusra Front. These Iranian-funded and Saudi-funded groups both fought U.S. troops during the Iraq War (though likely not side-by-side). The goal is to keep the fighting there, and not in Iran.

Those are the bare basics of the Sunni-Shia religious civil war everyone is always talking about. The promise of military support from the United States is one of the pillars of Saudi (and global oil market) security. Israel is the U.S.’ eternal ally. America has made promises in to fight ISIS in the region, alongside (but not with) Iranian-backed Iraqi militias, Syrian rebels, and Sunni-funded al-Qaeda groups. Now the Russians are sending more advisors and weapons to the Asad regime (which is also an Iranian client state). All this means we could be right back to where we started.

This really isn’t that far off.

The nuclear deal also doesn’t rule out a military strike from Israel. Israel has long depended on security and defense guarantees from the United States and is not averse to starting wars with countries it deems a threat to their long-term survival. As an added bonus, Israel already has nuclear weapons.

Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition government depends on a motley mixture of right-wing political parties and ultra-orthodox Jewish parties, who are convinced Iranian leaders want to wipe Israel off the face of the Earth, despite the fact that this phrase is a misquote from a bad translation.

And a surprise from Israel is not unheard of.

Much of Iran’s military hardware predates the 1979 Islamic Revolution and the resulting arms embargo. Because of that embargo, a lot of the Iranian defense industry is homegrown, which means the Iranians are not limited to arms deals with foreign powers.

They can build their own tanks, fighters, and subs. Anything not built in Iran or coming from Russia is likely aging very poorly. Overall defense spending is relatively minuscule, especially in comparison to the GCC.

Keep in mind, U.S. defense spending wouldn’t even fit on the scale above.

Iran has about a half million troops on active duty, not including the 125,000 in the Revolutionary Guard Corps. As the name suggests, the IRGC are the most devoted members of the Iranian military. All Iranian forces take men as young as 18, but the Basij Forces (meaning “Mobilization of the Oppressed”) will take a male as young as 15.

The Basij mainly acted as human minesweepers and led human wave attacks to great effect during the Iran-Iraq War.

Yep. Pretty Much.

The Iranian conventional forces have 4 branches: The Islamic Republic of Iran Army (IRIA), Navy (IRIN), Air Force (IRIAF), and Air Defense Force (IRIADF). Iran’s conventional military are considered “severely limited, relying heavily on obsolescent and low quality weaponry.”

The IRIA has a large tank force of over 1600 but as with other materiel, it’s aging rapidly. They are able to make their own tanks (the most recent based on the design of the M47M Patton), but not in significant numbers and the U.S. has effective anti-armor tactics.

You all know what I’m talking about.

The Iranian Air Force is currently inconsequential. 60 percent of it was purchased by the Shah before he was forced into exile in 1979 and then augmented by Iraqi fighter pilots fleeing to Iran during Desert Storm. It’s a mess, a mishmash of American, Russian, and Chinese planes with some homemade ones thrown in the mix.

The lack of spare parts for these planes caused the development of a robust aerospace industry in Iran, along with their own fighter planes, which the Iranians say can evade radar (good thing the U.S. Air Force created the ultimate dogfighter). With the sanctions being lifted, the government is already putting feelers out to modernize their aging air forces.

The Iranian Navy and Missile forces are the most important branches in its arsenal. If a war ever did break out, Iran’s first tactic would likely be to attempt to close the Strait of Hormuz in an attempt to wreak havoc on the world economy.

The Air Defense Forces consists of ground-based air defenses, using American, Italian, and Chinese surface-to-air missiles, built on Chinese Radar and electronic warfare technology. The deployment and number of Iranian SAM and other Air Defense forces is not entirely known, but reports range from porous to a “significant issue.”

The Iranian Navy is traditionally the smallest branch, numbering some 18,000, including some 2,600 naval Marines, and 2,600 naval aviation forces (but has not carriers) and boasts naval elements from China, North Korea, the former Soviet Union. It has no capital ships and the bulk of its warships are corvettes and destroyers, all heavily armed with anti-ship missiles.

They dp have home-built frigates, however, with up-to-date radar systems, arms, and electronic warfare equipment as well as many helicopters, either Italian, French, or Russian built. They even have some captured from the United States after the failure of Operation Eagle Claw.

The IRIN is augmented with Chinese fast attack ships, Russian Kilo submarines, some home-grown midget submarines which act as torpedo ships and mine layers. The Iranian fleets of patrol boats, missile ships, and mine layers could close the Strait of Hormuz for up to ten days under full attack by the U.S. military.

Much of Iranian military spending is on thousands of missiles for air defense or for attacking ships in neighboring waters. The Iranian surface-to-air missile defense system is also a mixture of American, Russian, and Chinese weapons systems. The SAM system is considered “unlikely to pose a significant threat to American or Israeli aircraft as a long-range air-denial weapon.” The entire system is vulnerable to Stealth-equipped aircraft and would need to be advanced ballistic missile systems like the Russian S-300 (which Iran claims to have).

Here are the four weapons that would cause the most trouble for the U.S. military:

1. Ghadir Midget Submarines

Built with North Korean designs, the oldest finished in 2007, the Ghadir submarine fleet was designed to be sonar evading and carry a heavy load of torpedoes and Shkval rocket torpedoes, which travel through the water at more than 370 mph. The Ghadir submarines are produced by Iran in Iran and are unaffected by the arms embargoes. The Ghadir class can also fire anti-ship missiles at the same time.

2. Sejjil Missiles

Sejil missiles are a homemade, two-stage missile, capable of hitting targets from 2,000 km (almost 1,250 miles). No one knows the exact humber of missiles in the Iranian arsenal, but numbers are estimated in the hundreds and thousands.

The Sejil is another weapon the Iranians produce in Iran which is unlikely to be affected by sanctions or arms embargoes. The solid fuel allows a shorter prep time prior to launch and since they are launched from mobile units, a massive first strike from an attacking country is unlikely to neutralize the Sejil threat.

3. Khalij-e Fars Anti-Ship Ballistic Missile

This is also a self-produced weapon of Iranian design. The Khalij-e Fars Missile has a 350 kilometer range and delivers a payload similar to that of the Sejil missile. The homemade mobile missile also features the quickness of a solid fuel missile on a mobile launch system, but has the added benefit of being able to hit a maneuvering target (such as an aircraft carrier) within ten meters.

Uzi Rubin, the designer of the Israel’s Arrow missile defense system calls this Iranian missile “a total game changer.”

4. Hezbollah

Hezbollah is no longer just a ragtag group of terrorists bent on Israel’s destruction. They are a legitimate political party in Lebanon, with a well-trained, well-equipped and well-funded paramilitary organization. They are trained by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force, the Islamic Republic’s special operations and unconventional warfare units, operating exclusively outside of Iran’s borders. The Quds Force was responsible for training most Shia militias to fight U.S. forces during the 2003-2011 Iraq War but also helped topple the Taliban government in Afghanistan in the wake of 9/11. They operate from North America to India and Scandinavia to Sub-Saharan Africa and answer directly to the Supreme Leader of Iran.

The United States considers the Quds Force and Hezbollah to be terror organizations. Hezbollah is currently bolstering the government forces of Bashar al-Asad in the ongoing Syrian Civil War. Their primary opponents are ISIS and its affiliates.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BP6lXPBTZMk
Supporting the Asad government means Hezbollah is also fighting the Free Syrian Army, U.S.-backed “moderate” rebel groups, the al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Nusra Front, and the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG). Hezbollah is such a capable force, they are able to project significant strength all the way into Iraq from its power base in Lebanon’s Beqaa Valley.

It is important to remember that although the Iranian government’s extraterritorial forces have attacked U.S. forces and U.S. allies in the past, the Iranian state has never started an offensive war. Iranian military strategy is designed mainly for home defense and the direction of Quds Force operation is usually designed to keep potential threats to the Iranian regime fighting those forces as far away from Iran as possible.

Even a surgical strike against Iranian nuclear targets is likely to light the powder keg and trigger a greater regional war. A full-scale invasion of Iran would be necessary to forcefully curb the nuclear program. Iran is larger and more populous than Iraq and may require up to 75,000 troops to invade, could kill up to 15,000 U.S. troops and would cost $5.1 trillion. For the Iranians, troop casualties estimate from 300,000 to a million killed and up to 12 million people displaced. Even Israel’s own defense chiefs recommend against it. Only total war would keep Iran from getting the bomb if they wanted to.

A nuke is not what the Iranians were after. The regime’s best reason to obtain a nuclear weapon is to ensure the survival of the Revolutionary regime, for the government’s longevity to be more akin to North Korea’s rather than Ba’athist Iraq’s in the scope of the “Axis of Evil.” The Iran Deal gives the Ayatollah that longevity (and a lifting of greater sanctions) without having to expend the money and resources to build and secure a nuclear weapon, something it likely didn’t want to do in the first place.

 

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