A-7E Corsair II aircraft line the bow of the aircraft carrier USS Independence (CV 62) about the time of the air strike against Syrian gun emplacements in Lebanon. (Photo: U.S. Navy)
American air power going against targets in the Middle East didn’t start with Operation Enduring Freedom or even Desert Storm. The first significant strike was conducted in December of 1983 by carrier-based assets against Syrian anti-aircraft positions in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, and it was in many respects a disaster, one that radically changed the way the U.S. Navy conducted strike warfare.
The Bekaa Valley strike was supposed to be in direct retaliation for the Beirut barracks bombing that killed 241 Marines on October 23, but the mission was delayed for months by lawmakers in Washington and the operational planners at the European Command in Germany. Finally Syrians firing SAMs at F-14 reconnaissance flights over Lebanon compelled decision-makers to action.
The strike planning process was cumbersome and not tactically agile. Pentagon and EUCOM higher-ups made the call on strike composition, weapons loadouts, ingress and egress routes, and times on target. As a result, aviators who would ultimately fly the mission had little say in how it would be carried out.
The 28-plane strike package launched from two carriers – Kennedy and Independence (both decommissioned now) – on the morning of December 4, which proved to be the perfectly wrong time as the metrological conditions made it hard for the attack aircraft to see their targets (remember, these were the days before smart bombs, when pilots had to actually maneuver their airplanes toward the ground and pickle their bombs with a high level of skill). At the same time the weather and sun angle highlighted the American airplanes in the sky for Syrian anti-aircraft gunners. The strike package also flew toward their targets along the same route, which made it easy for gunners to train their weapons.
The Syrians managed to shoot down two A-7E Corsairs and an A-6E Intruder. One of the A-7 pilots and the A-6 pilot were killed. The other A-7 pilot – who also happened to be the Air Wing commander aboard the Independence – managed to get his jet over the Mediterranean before he ejected. He was picked up by Lebanese fisherman and eventually returned to the Americans unharmed.
The A-6 bombardier/navigator, Lt. Robert Goodman, was captured by Syrian troops and taken as a hostage. The month-long stalemate between governments on his release was finally broken by Jesse Jackson, who took an interest in the young aviator because he was an African-American.
As a result of this fiasco the U.S. Navy established the Naval Strike and Air Warfare Center at the air station in Fallon, Nevada, basically taking a page from the Top Gun playbook a decade or so earlier when that school was created to fix the problem of fighters getting shot out of the skies over North Vietnam because of inferior tactics. The staff at NSAWC studied better ways of getting bombs on target while surviving intense SAM environments, and their research yielded more thorough mission planning processes (including streamlining strike coordination up and down the chain of command), off-axis attack profiles, and the improved use of jammers to better suppress the SAM threat.
Although times have changed in recent years with the advent of stealth technology and precision-guided munitions, many of the lessons learned from Bekaa Valley are still relevant today.
We Are The Mighty is excited to partner with Paramount Pictures on #AlliedStories, a digital program inspired by the new Robert Zemeckis film Allied, starring Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard – in theaters November 23rd. Within #AlliedStories users can upload photos of their family from the 1940s, including your military photos, war letters, personal stories…anything 1940s. Below is an amazing story about how one Army veteran got back his wallet and personal photos 70 years after he lost it in France. Submit your own stories and photos at alliedstories.com or post on your social channels using #AlliedStories!
Eligio Ramos was an Army private making his way across Europe with the 250th Field Artillery Unit in 1945. During a night in an Austrian farmhouse, he lost his wallet filled with receipts, photos, and his identification.
Seventy years later, his daughter was surprised to read a letter from an Austrian doctor looking to re-unite the wallet with its owner. Dr. Josef Ruckhofer told the Department of Veterans Affairs how he found the wallet while cleaning out his farmhouse.
“It was in June this year, we removed some of the old wooden planks from the backside wall,” said Ruckhofer. “When I looked to the bottom, I found this old leather wallet, a little bit dirty, but still okay. I opened the wallet and found a lot of old photographs, stamps, papers and an American Soldier’s ID card from 1945 with his name, birth year and hometown in Harlingen, Texas.”
Ruckhofer had to do some internet sleuthing to find the original owner, but Ramos finally got his wallet back in June. On August 4, he shared the stories behind the photos with his family and others at a ceremony at the Fresno VA Hospital.
The wallet contained a lot of photos and memories, from pictures of his unit and newborn babies to receipts from his time in Europe.
Ramos was in the Army from 1942 to 1945.
“He fought with the 250th Artillery helping to liberate starving prisoners,” said his son, Rosando Ramos.
One of the photos was of the farmhouse the platoon stayed in where Ramos left the wallet.
Standard documents from Army life in World War II, like ID cards and a rations receipt, were also in the wallet.
And don’t forget to share your photos and stories at alliedstories.com or post on your social channels using #AlliedStories.
“Allied” is the story of intelligence officer Max Vatan (Pitt), who in 1942 North Africa encounters French Resistance fighter Marianne Beausejour (Cotillard) on a deadly mission behind enemy lines. Reunited in London, their relationship is threatened by the extreme pressures of the war.
In a little-known operation during the opening days of the Iranian Islamic revolution, a Texas billionaire — who would later run for president twice as an Independent — put together a daring rescue mission for two employees imprisoned by revolutionaries.
Through cunning, guile, persistence — and a little luck — the Americans were secreted out of the country in the midst of a violent revolution that would see 52 other Americans held for 444 days and a failed rescue attempt that ended in the deaths of eight U.S. troops and a deeply wounded presidency.
A full year before the American embassy in Iran was seized by revolutionaries, militants resisting supreme leader Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi captured two employees of a Texas computer company who were in the country helping put together information systems for the government. Their boss, a Texas billionaire H. Ross Perot, was determined to get them out — by skill or by force.
Perot founded IT equipment company Electronic Data Systems in 1962. Within six years, Perot became what Forbes called “the fastest, richest Texan.” He would sell EDS to General Motors for $2.4 billion in 1984 — but in 1978, he was still the man in charge. He made a deal with the Shah to install EDS social security computer systems in Iran and sent Paul J. Chiapparone and William Gaylord to fulfill the contract.
In December 1978, Chiapparone and Gaylord were denied their passports to leave the country. When the two Americans went to negotiate their exit from Iran, they were thrown in jail by Islamic revolutionaries.
With bail set at $12.7 million, it was a good thing Ross Perot was their boss.
Perot was appointed by Secretary of the Navy John Warner to report on the conditions of Americans in Vietnamese and Laotian POW camps for four years until the prisoners were released in 1972 at the end of the Vietnam War.
The very next month the Shah abdicated his throne and fled the country, leaving a power vacuum that would eventually be filled by Islamic revolutionaries led by the cleric Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
Americans all over Iran would be persecuted and some held prisoner, including 52 U.S. embassy personnel held for 444 days. But Perot refused to let his men suffer the same fate. And though he was willing to pay the ransom, there was concern that the captors might not receive the funds.
The original plan called for Simons’ team of former Green Berets to storm the Ministry of Justice building and walk out with the two employees. But the rescuers later learned Chiapparone and Gaylord were moved to Qasr Prison just outside Tehran.
Perot snuck into Iran on January 13 via a series of courier jets that moved news footage in and out of the country to try a negotiated release of his men. Coming up empty on a peaceful resolution, Perot lost patience.
Simons and his team picked up the prisoners and moved them to Tehran, where they began the 500-mile journey to an EDS rescue team waiting in Turkey. Despite being arrested in almost every town they fled through, Rashid kept them from the executioner and guided their escape from Iran.
On February 17 — after 46 days in Iran — all of Perot’s EDS employees and every member of his rescue team — including Rashid — arrived at his hotel room in Istanbul, and the next day were home safe in the United States.
Perot’s men made it out of Iran in two Land Rovers in two days. By November 1979, almost a full year after the EDS employees were captured, 52 American Embassy workers would be held hostage while the world’s most powerful military held its breath.
“My dad’s name is Chad J. Simon, he was a staff sergeant, and I can’t say I can remember anything about him, I just wonder if he was the one who taught me how to tie my shoes,” said Dylan, who lost his father when he was too young to remember. Also on the boat were three sisters, Alexis, Starr and Kylee, who lost their dad, Spc. Grant Dampier.
Camp Hometown Heroes is a non-profit organization dedicated to counseling kids ages 7 through 17 who’ve lost loved ones while serving in the military. According to Dylan, the week-long camp is raising money to spread the organization to other locations where it can continue to serve kids for free.
John W. “Jack” Hinson was a man who found himself firmly on both sides at the outset of the Civil War. He claimed neutrality and achieved it by giving intelligence reports to both sides, including one report to then-Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant.
Hinson was a farmer on the Tennessee-Kentucky border who seemed to be trying to just get through the war intact. He owned slaves but had opposed secession. One son joined the Confederate Army and another joined a militia, but the family hosted Grant after his victory at Fort Donelson.
But Hinson lived in a region that was fiercely contested by the North and South, and the Hinsons were caught in the crosshairs.
An Army lieutenant ordered the boys tied to a tree and shot. After the execution, the officer cut off their heads and ordered them placed on gate posts at the Hinson plantation.
Jack Hinson did not respond well to this. He buried the bodies and then cleared the plantation, sending away his family and slaves.
He ordered a custom sniper rifle. Like the Whitworth Rifle that achieved the longest sniper shot in the Civil War, Hinson’s rifle fired hexagonal rounds through a rifled barrel. Unlike the Whitworth, the rifle weighed 17 pounds and fired .50-caliber rounds accurately to 880 yards.
After that he began searching out targets of opportunity, focusing his attacks on the vital river trade up and down the Tennessee River.
In one instance, a gunboat attacked by Hinson even surrendered under the belief that they were under fire by a large rebel force. Hinson couldn’t accept the surrender because, again, he was on his own in the woods of Tennessee with a single rifle.
Hinson is also believed to have killed a group of pro-Southern renegades who attacked a neighbor, so he carried some of his “neutrality” into his single-man campaign against the North.
On Dec. 8, 2012, Byers was part of a SEAL Team Six unit deep in the Taliban-controlled mountains of Afghanistan on a mission to rescue Dr. Dilip Josheph when all hell broke loose. According to the MoH citation, Byers distinguished himself that night by showing extreme courage and disregard for his life when he shielded the hostage with his body while simultaneously taking out two insurgents.
In this Navy video, Byers shares the story of that evening, as well as his reaction to the news that he would be receiving the Medal of Honor.
An epic military parade earlier this month showed off some of the Chinese military’s new toys, unveiling heavy vehicles in maritime camouflage as the country’s island-building in the South China Sea sits in US military planners’ minds.
So how does China stack up to other world powers when it comes to aircraft carriers, one of the biggest factors in air and sea dominance?
Take a look at the photos and graphics below to get an idea of China’s naval power:
This is China’s only aircraft carrier, the Liaoning. Like much of China’s military hardware, the Liaoning is a reworking of an older Russian-made model.
The Admiral Kuznetsov, which the Liaoning is based on, is Russia’s sole aircraft carrier. The ships have the same size and speed, and they both feature the “ski jump” platform.
The Kuznetsov, like the Liaoning, lacks the catapults used by US vessels to launch heavier planes, but it carries offensive weapons of its own.
China’s southern neighbor India operates two smaller aircraft carriers, but they are much more reliable. In 2014, the Liaoning experienced unexpected power failures while at sea.
The USS Abraham Lincoln, one of the US Navy’s 10 Nimitz-class aircraft carriers, is larger and carries more planes, and it features catapults to launch heavier planes, thus the flat runway.
The US leads the world in aircraft carriers by far, and it is developing an even larger class of aircraft carrier to replace aging members of the fleet.
To put things in perspective, this graphic shows the relative sizes of aircraft carriers from around the world.
The global proliferation of Russian and Chinese weapons massively increases the likelihood that US Army forces will confront tanks, drones, electronic warfare systems, precision munitions, armored vehicles and artillery made by near-peer competitors.
Although the prospect of major-power mechanized ground war between the US and Russia or China may not seem likely, the US Army is tasked with the need to be ready for any ground-combat scenario. What this means, Army leaders explained, is that the current and future combat environment the globe is both increasingly urban and armed with Russian and Chinese-made tanks and weapons.
Russian-built T-72 and T-90 tanks, Chinese drones, fighters, and missiles are now part of Armies around the world who might wind up in conflict with the US. In particular, Pakistan is armed with Type 85-IIAP Chinese-built tanks and Iran is equipped with Russian-made T-72s. Even smaller countries, such as Bangladesh, have Chinese tanks. In addition, a far greater number of smaller countries such as Cuba, India and Lybia have Russian tanks. North Korea, not surprisingly, has both Russian and Chinese tanks.
Also, senior Army officials explained that if US Army ground forces wind up on the ground in Syria, they will definitely wind up confronting Russian-built weapons. Although such a scenario may or may not happen, the prospect presents a very real threat to Army analysts and trainers.
“If the Army goes into ground combat in the Middle East, we will face equipment from Russia, Iran and in some cases China,” a senior Army official told Scout Warrior.
Re-focused Army Training
The Army’s “live-fire” combat exercises involve large-scale battalion-on-battalion war scenarios wherein mechanized forces often clash with make-shift, “near-peer” enemies or enemy weapons using new technologies, drones, tanks, artillery, missiles and armored vehicles.
The Army is expanding its training and “live-fire” weapons focus to include a renewed ability to fight a massive, enemy force in an effort to transition from its decade-and-a-half of tested combat experience with dismounted infantry and counterinsurgency.
Recent ground wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have created an experienced and combat-tested force able to track, attack and kill small groups of enemies — often blended into civilian populations, speeding in pick-up trucks or hiding within different types of terrain to stage ambushes.
“The Army has a tremendous amount of experience right now. It has depth but needs more breadth. We’re good at counterinsurgency and operations employing wide area security. Now, we may have to focus on ‘Mounted Maneuver’ operations over larger distances,” Rickey Smith, Deputy Chief of Staff, Training and Doctrine Command, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
While senior Army leaders are quick to emphasize that counterinsurgency is of course still important and the service plans to be ready for the widest possible range of conflict scenarios, there is nonetheless a marked and visible shift toward being ready to fight and win against a large-scale modernized enemy such as Russia or China.
The Army, naturally, does not single out these countries as enemies, train specifically to fight them or necessarily expect to go to war with them. However, recognizing the current and fast-changing threat environment, which includes existing tensions and rivalries with the aforementioned great powers, Army training is increasingly focused on ensuring they are ready for a mechanized force-on-force type engagement.
At the same time, while large-scale mechanized warfare is quite different than counterinsurgency, there are some areas of potential overlap between recent warfare and potential future great power conflict in a few key respects. The ground wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, over a period of more than a decade, involved the combat debut of various precision-guided land attack weapons such as GPS guided artillery and rocket weapons.
Weapons such as Excalibur, a GPS-guided 155m artillery round able to precisely destroy enemy targets at ranges greater than 30-kilometers, gave ground commanders an ability to pinpoint insurgent targets such as small gatherings of fighters, buildings and bomb-making locations. Guided Multiple-Launch Rocket System, or GLMRS, is another example; this precision guided long-range rocket, which can hit ranges up to 70-kilometers, was successful in killing Taliban targets in Afghanistan from great distances, among other things.
These kinds of precision munitions, first used in Iraq and Afghanistan, are the kind of weapon which would greatly assist land attack efforts in a massive force-on-force land war as well. They could target key locations behind enemy lines such as supplies, forces and mechanized vehicles.
Drones are another area of potential overlap. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan featured a veritable explosion in drone technology and drone use. For example, the Army had merely a handful of drones at the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Now, the service operates thousands and has repeatedly relied upon them to find enemy locations, spot upcoming ambushes and save lives in combat. These are the kinds of platforms which would also be of great utility in a major land war. However, they would likely be used differently incorporating new tactics, techniques and procedures in a great power engagement.
“This is not back to the future…this is moving towards the future where Army forces will face adaptive enemies with greater lethality. This generation of Army leaders will orchestrate simultaneous Combined ArmsManeuver and Wide Area Security” Smith said.
Nevertheless, many Army leaders now experienced with counterinsurgency tactics will need to reexamine tactics needed for major conventional warfare.
“You have a generation of leaders who have to expand learning to conduct simultaneous ‘Combined Arms’ and ‘Wide Area Security” Smith said.
“The Army has to be prepared across the entire range of military operations. One of these would be ‘near-peer’ operations, which is what we have not been fighting in recent years,” Smith explained.
Massive Land War “Decisive Action”
The new approach to this emerging integrated training is called “Decisive Action,”senior Army leaders explained.
Live-fire combat at Riley, Kan., affords an opportunity to put these new strategies into effect, service officials said.
“Every morning I could put a battalion on the north side and a battalion on the south side – and just joust working “Combined Arms Maneuver.” I can do battalion-on-battalion and it does involve “Combined Arms” live fire,” a senior Army official said. “Because of the airspace that we have here – and use the UAS – I can synchronize from 0-to-18,000 feet and do maneuver indirect fire.”
This includes the use of drones, Air Force air assets, Army attack aviation along with armored vehicles, artillery, tanks and infantry units equipped for small arms fire, the official explained.
Some of the main tactics and techniques explored during “Decisive Action” live fire exercises include things like “kill what you shoot at,” “move to contact,” “synchronize indirect fire,” and “call-in 9-line,” (providing aircraft with attack coordinates from the ground), Army leaders said.
Army developers explained that “live-fire” combat exercises now work to incorporate a wide range of emerging technologies so as to better anticipate the tactics, weapons and systems a future enemy is likely to employ; this includes the greater use of drones or unmanned systems, swarms of mini-drones in the future, emerging computing technology, tank-on-tank warfare tactics, electronic warfare, enemy aircraft and longer-range precision weaponry including anti-tank missiles, guided artillery, and missiles.
In order to execute this kind of combat approach, the Army is adapting to more “Combined Arms Maneuver.” This warfare competency seeks to synchronize a wide range of weapons, technologies and war assets in order to overwhelm, confuse and destroy an enemy force.
Smith likened “Combined Arms” to being almost like a symphony orchestra where each instrument is geared toward blending and contributing to an integrated overall musical effect.
In warfare, this would mean using tank-on-tank attacks, indirect fire or artillery, air defenses, air assets, networking technologies, drones, rockets, missiles and mortar all together to create a singular effect able to dominate the battlespace, Smith explained.
For example, air assets and artillery could be used to attack enemy tank or armored vehicle positions in order to allow tank units and infantry fighting vehicles to reposition for attack. The idea to create an integrated offensive attack — using things like Apache attack helicopters and drones from the air, long-range precision artillery on the ground joined by Abrams tanks and infantry fighting vehicles in a coordinated fashion.
Smith also explained how preparing for anticipated future threats also means fully understanding logistics and sustainment — so that supplies, ammunition, and other essentials can continue to fortify the war effort.
Current “Decisive Action” live fire training includes an emerging emphasis on “expeditionary” capability wherein the Army is ready to fight by tonight by rapidly deploying over large distances with an integrated force consisting of weapons, infantry, armored vehicles and other combat-relevant assets.
At the same time, this strategy relies, to some extent, on an ability to leverage a technological edge with a “Combined Arms” approach as well, networking systems and precision weapons able to destroy enemies from farther distances.
In order to incorporate these dynamics into live-fire training, Army trainers said the battalion -on-battalion combat exercises practice a “move to contact” over very large 620 kilometer distances.
“This builds that expeditionary mindset,” he explained.
The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:
Senior Airman Daniel Lasal, a 455th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, performs a post-flight inspection on an F-16 Fighting Falcon Nov. 15, 2016, at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. Aircraft maintainers perform six hours or more of post-flight inspections after each sortie.
Tech. Sgt. Alan Greene, a 70th Air Refueling Squadron boom operator, lowers the boom to an F-16 Fighting Falcon during an aerial refueling mission out of Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., Nov. 16, 2016. F-16 pilots train on refueling operations to be prepared for longer mission requirements.
U.S. Army paratroopers paratroopers leave Malemute drop zone after conducting an airborne insertion and M119 howitzer live fire at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, Nov. 22, 2016.
173rd Airborne Brigade paratroopers clear the floor of a building at an urban operations training facility in Wedrzyn, Poland, during bi-lateral training with the Polish Army’s 6th Airborne Battalion, 16th Airborne Brigade, Nov. 21, 2016.
The training closes out the unit’s rotation in Poland and their continued support of Operation Atlantic Resolve and our NATO Allies.
ATLANTIC OCEAN (Nov. 26, 2016) Sailors fire the first of three volleys to honor the deceased during a burial at sea ceremony aboard the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Mahan. The ship is in the U.S. 6th fleet area of operations in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Mickey Waldron, assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68), stands near the safe shot line as an F/A-18C Hornet, from the Death Rattlers of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 323, launches from the ship’s flight deck. Nimitz is currently underway conducting Tailored Ship’s Training Availability and Final Evaluation Problem (TSTA/FEP), which evaluates the crew on their performance during training drills and real-world scenarios. Once Nimitz completes TSTA/FEP they will begin Board of Inspection and Survey (INSURV) and Composite Training Unit Exercise (COMPTUEX) in preparation for an upcoming 2017 deployment.
Marines suppress simulated objectives at Range 410A Marine Corps Air-Ground Combat Center Twenty-nine Palms, California, Oct. 21, 2016. The exercise is part of a qualification for deployment in which Marines with 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment are slated to integrate as a Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force.
Marines with Maritime Raid Force, 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, fire their M4A1 rifles at targets during a live-fire deck shoot aboard the USS Makin Island (LHD 8) while afloat in the Pacific Ocean, November 2, 2016. During the range, the MRF Marines conducted shooting drills, such as maneuvering while firing, and engaging multiple targets. The 11th MEU, part of the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group, is operating in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility in support security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.
Members of Coast Guard Sector and Base Los Angeles-Long Beach joined together for the observance of Colors in honor of Senior Chief Terrell E. Horne III Friday, December 2, 2016. Horne was killed in the line of duty while intercepting smugglers on December 2, 2012.
A Coast Guard crew members aboard an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter from Air Station Clearwater, Florida, arrive at the air station with three people rescued from a sunken fishing vessel approximately 35 miles southwest of Cape San Blas, Florida, Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2016. The fishermen were flown to Air Station Clearwater and met with EMS; no injuries to report.
Tokyo delivered a humiliating public protest to Beijing for the intrusion of a vast Chinese “fishing fleet” escorted by more than a dozen coast guard and other law-enforcement vessels in or near waters of the disputed Senkaku islands.
Such protests are common in the ongoing cat and mouse game in the East and South China Seas, but they are usually delivered in private. In this case, Tokyo decided to turn its protest into political theater.
China’s Ambassador to Japan, Cheng Yonghua, was summoned to the foreign ministry, where news and television camera were waiting to film the encounter. Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida kept Cheng waiting for ten minutes then entered, a stern look on his face, gesturing Cheng to sit down.
“Relations with China are becoming noticeably wors[e] because China is trying to change the status quo,” Kishida lectured Cheng, who looked embarrassed by the media presence. He said the Diaoyu, as China calls them, were Chinese territory and the two nations should “strive to reach a solution.”
Japan has become used to Chinese Coast Guard intrusions into its claimed territorial waters. On the average of once every two weeks, two or three Chinese ships slip into Senkaku waters. They stay for a couple hours then leave.
But there had been nothing like what happened August 8 when a flotilla of more than 230 “fishing boats” escorted by up to 28 Chinese Coast Guard and other law enforcement vessels virtually surrounded the Senkaku islands for several days.
It was not immediately clear exactly what message the Chinese were trying to convey, although Tokyo has been very vocal in supporting the Philippines in its legal action against China resulting in the July 11 ruling that confirmed all of Manila’s charges.
Was the latest intrusion a dress rehearsal for war?
The various scenarios for war in the East China Sea, and possibly in the South China Sea, usually fall into two main categories. There is the “accidental” fight scenario. A Chinese destroyer’s radar locks onto a Japanese warship. The Japanese captain fires back in self-defense and the incident spirals out of control.
That is one scenario. Another, possibly more realistic, is the “swarm” scenario: Several hundred “fishing boats” sail from ports in Zhejiang province for the Senkaku, where they overwhelm the Japanese Coast Guard by their sheer numbers.
This time, the fishing boats land some 200 or so commandoes disguised as fishermen or “settlers.” The Senkakus are not garrisoned by Japanese troops, so no shots are fired. The Chinese side says it is not using force, merely taking possession of what it claims to be its sovereign territory.
Tokyo feels obliged to respond, although the Chinese landing force is too large to dislodge by ordinary policing methods, such as those that have been used in the past when a handful of activists – Chinese and Japanese – tried to land on the disputed islands and plant their flags.
That would put Japan in the position of being the first party to fire shots, possibly landing elements of the Western Infantry Regiment, which was created and trained specifically to recapture islands. Meanwhile, Tokyo hurriedly consults with Washington seeking assurance that it will honor its commitments to defend Japan.
On more than one occasion, including in remarks from President Barack Obama himself, the United States has stated that the Senkaku come under the provisions of the joint security treaty as they are administered by Japan.
In the most recent incident, the estimated 230 Chinese fishing vessels escorted by Chinese law enforcement vessels made no effort to land anyone, though the Japanese Coast Guard shadowing the vessels kept a sharp eye out for any sign of it.
China boasts the world’s largest fishing fleet, but it is a matter of debate among security analysts as to extent to which China’s fishing fleet constitutes a paramilitary force, or as they sometimes say, a “maritime militia.” Somehow, a swarm of Chinese Fishing boats always seem to materialize on cue in disputes in the East and South China Sea.
The use of fishing boats, not to mention the nominally civilian coast guard, tends to blur the distinctions between what is civilian and what is military. In any conflict, the Japan and the U.S. would have to deal with ostensibly civilian boats that could flood the battlefield turning it into a confusing melee.
“China’s fishing fleet is being encouraged to fish in disputed waters . . . and are being encouraged to do so for geopolitical as well as commercial reasons,” says Alan Duport, a security analyst at the University of New South Wales.
Swarm tactics have been used often in the South China Sea. Hundreds of boats converged in the Gulf of Tonkin in 2014 in the dispute over the oil-drilling rig that the Chinese erected in Vietnam’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
Beijing has dispatched swarms of fishing boats to Laconia Shoals off the coast of Sarawak to fish in Malaysia’s EEZ, with escorts of coast guard vessels to protect them should Kuala Lumpur try to arrest them. Similar confrontations have taken place in Indonesia’s South Chia Sea EEZ.
China has been commissioning new coast guard vessels, either converted navy frigates or purpose-built cutters, at an astonishing rate to the extent that it can now deploy ships in various corners of the contested waters simultaneously.
It may be better that principle actors in the unfolding conflict are civilian vessels. But certainly lurking nearby and ready to respond are the warships of the regular Chinese, Japanese, and America navies.
On March 5th, Airmen from all over the US converged on Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona for the 20th annual Heritage Flight, showcasing 70 years of US air superiority.
The P-38 Lightnings, P-40 Warhawks, P-47 Thunderbolts, and P-51 Mustangs, that ruled the skies during World War II flew alongside the F-16s, F-22s, and the F-35 in this moving tribute to the US’s military aviation.
“The best thing about being a part of Heritage Flight is the impact that is has on people when they see us at an airshow,” said Dan Friedkin, the founder of the Air Force Heritage Flight Foundation and demonstration pilot, Airman Magazine reports.
“The music, the sound of the airplanes, and the visuals, inspire great feelings. It makes people proud to be an American, proud of the US Air Force and happy to see others inspired.”
See the highlights of the flights below:
The aircraft, old and new, have to be meticulously maintained by the airmen.
U.S. Air Force photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.
Senior Airman Anthony Naugle, right, an A-10 crew chief with the 357th Fighter Squadron, 355th Fighter Group based at Davis-Monthan AFB, Tucson, Ariz., gets a lesson in the maintenance of one of the two 1,000 hp (746 kW), turbo-supercharged, 12-cylinder Allison V-1710 engines on a P-38 “Lightning” from Doug Abshier after the day’s practice flights at the Heritage Flight Training Course, Mar 5, 2016.
93-year-old Fred Roberts, a World War II P-51 Mustang pilot who took it to the Luftwaffe, was a hit at the event. “I love joking with young pilots and talking about our ventures,” Roberts said. “It truly puts a visual to the lineage of the aircraft.”
U.S. Air Force photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.
Fred Roberts, 93, second from right, a former P-51D pilot during WWII with the 354th Fighter Squadron, 355th Fighter Group in England, talks with Lt. Gen. Mark C. “Chris” Nowland, Commander, 12th Air Force, Air Combat Command, and Commander, Air Forces Southern, US Southern Command, Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz. during the Heritage Flight Training Course at Davis-Monthan AFB, Tucson, Ariz., Mar 6, 2016. Roberts was tasked with destroying 57 P-51s after the cease of hostilities in Europe; including one of the planes he flew in combat.
Here’s a view from inside the Mustang’s cockpit with the pilot who flew in the Heritage Flight.
U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Brandon Shapiro
Vlado Lenoch, a pilot with Air Combat Command’s Heritage Flight program, taxis the runway at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base on March 5, 2016.
A look at the F-86’s cockpit. The Sabre was a staple of the Korean War.
U.S. Air Force photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.
A Heritage Flight pilot taxis an F-86 “Sabre” to join with a P-51D, F-16 and an F-22 for formation practice during the Heritage Flight Training Course at Davis-Monthan AFB, Tucson, Ariz., Mar 4, 2016.
An airman and his son take in the sights.
U.S. Air Force photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.
Brad Balazs, an F-16 pilot with the 162nd Air National Guard points out WWII-era fighters to his son Whitt Balazs, 2, on the flight line of the Heritage Flight Training Course at Davis-Monthan AFB, Tucson, Ariz., Mar 3, 2016.
The P-40 was first produced in 1939, but thanks to the maintainers at the Air Force Heritage Flight Foundation, this cockpit looks like it just rolled off the line.
U.S. Air Force photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.
The cockpit of a vintage P-40 fighter on the flight line of the Heritage Flight Training Course at Davis-Monthan AFB, Tucson, Ariz., Mar 6, 2016.
An F-16 gets ready to join the formation.
U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Brandon Shapiro
An F-16 Fighting Falcon is marshaled into position at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base on March 4, 2016.
Here an F-22 Raptor leads the pack of heritage fighters, but there is an even newer aircraft at the show …
U.S. Air Force photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.
Four generations and over 70 years of US Army Air Corps / US Air Force air superiority, and the technological leaps that maintained it, are represented by a single formation of an F-22 “Raptor”, F-86 “Sabre”, F-16 “Fighting Falcon” and a P-51D “Mustang” during the Heritage Flight Training Course at Davis-Monthan AFB, Tucson, Ariz., Mar 5, 2016.
… the F-35 Lightning II.
U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Brandon Shapiro
An F-35 Lightning II flies around the airspace of Davis-Monthan Air Force Base on March 5, 2016.
Here’s the business end of the F-35’s namesake, the F-38 Lightning.
U.S. Air Force photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.
Replicas of four Browning M2 machine guns and one Hispano 20mm canon are mounted in nose of a P-38 “Lightning” participating in the Heritage Flight Training Course at Davis-Monthan AFB, Tucson, Ariz., Mar 3, 2016.
Here they are flying together …
U.S. Air Force photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.
The Lockheed F-35 “Lightning II” flies in formation for the first time with its namesake, the WWII-era Lockheed P-38 “Lightning” during formation practice flights at the Heritage Flight Training Course at Davis-Monthan AFB, Tucson, Ariz., Mar 4, 2016.
… and side by side.
U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Brandon Shapiro
An F-38 Lightning and an F-35 Lightning II fly side-by-side for the first time at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base on March 4, 2016.
Army engineers at Picatinny Arsenal are working on a new hand grenade design that will allow soldiers to choose between fragmentation or concussion effects.
It also features some other updates like an electronic fuse and an ambidextrous design that’s easier to throw.
The Enhanced Tactical Multi-Purpose grenade will be the Army’s first new hand grenade design in 40 years. It’s also the first time that soldiers will get a concussion grenade in about the same amount of time.
The ET-MP will feature a fragmentation setting which will work similarly to the current design, the M67, where an explosive charge creates shrapnel that flies at high speeds into enemy fighters.
A concussion mode will work in a similar way to the Army’s old MK3A2 concussion grenade. Concussion grenades work by overpressuring the surrounding air, causing a blast wave that can kill enemies in bunkers. The Mk3A2 also served in a limited role for blasting and demolition, a role the new grenade could be capable of as well.
The MK3A2 was retired in 1975 because of asbestos used in the design.
Concussion grenades are also good for killing enemies in the open. Concussion grenades usually have a 2 to 3-meter kill radius in the open while a fragmentation grenade is usually lethal for 5 meters or more.
The ET-MP will also feature a new, electronic fuse which provides a much more accurate timing mechanism, allowing the fuze to be accurate to microseconds. The M213 fuze used in current grenades is timed for 4-5 seconds but, due to variances in how long it takes the internal powder train to burn, can actually detonate in as little as 3 seconds.
As an added bonus, the grenade will work the same way for left and right-handed throwers. The M67 requires that left-handed soldiers prepare the grenade and throw it upside down.
The requirements for the new grenade were developed with input from active-duty troops and training cadre who instruct service members on how to use grenades.
The U.S. Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center is leading the research into the new design. The Project Manager Close Combat Systems, an agency that fields munitions and equipment for use by troops, is expected to receive the final grenade in 2020.
When it debuted as a prototype a couple years ago, what was billed as the world’s first integrally-suppressed handgun available to the everyday Joe seemed a bit far fetched.
It was a Rube Goldberg contraption — with a Smith Wesson MP 9mm frame and this weird chunk of metal bolted onto the front, a crazy action and mismatched parts. But the thing was quiet and functional and promised to change the way shooters thought about the art of the possible.
Fast forward two years, and suppressor giant SilencerCo is poised to release its new Maxim 9 handgun to the commercial market. And by the looks of it, Omni Consumer Products would be proud. And heck, maybe the Detroit PD would be interested in picking a few up even if RoboCop is still a thing of science fiction.
“This gun is disruptive by design; it is the future of firearms,” says SilencerCo CEO Joshua Waldron. “Additionally, the Maxim 9 is just the beginning, as we intend to make more integrally suppressed platforms so all types of firearms can be quiet out of the box.”
Now more than a combination of prototype parts, the Maxim 9 is a handgun built from the ground up by SilencerCo, which holds about 75 percent of the U.S. market in suppressors but has strayed into the high-tech shooting accessory market and now the pistol-making world. With a 4.38-inch barrel and an overall length of just over 9.5-inches in its shortened configuration, the Maxim 9 is just 2-inches longer than a Glock 17 — but shoots with a bark under 140 dB (an unsuppressed 9mm comes in at around 160 dB).
Think about that. Most suppressors add on another 4-to-6 inches to the length of a handgun, so a Glock 19, for example, would stretch out to a whopping 12 inches or more. Not something you could carry every day and draw at a moment’s notice.
But SilencerCo hopes to make the Maxim 9 an everyday carry gun for law enforcement, teaming with holster makers to build off-the-shelf options for the men and women in blue.
“The Maxim 9 solves a dilemma that customers have had for decades: do they choose a short, loud pistol or a quiet, yet longer pistol with a sound suppressor attached to the muzzle,” SilencerCo says. “Now, consumers can have the best of all worlds in this short-but-quiet firearm that retails for less than a quality pistol and quality silencer combined.”
And now the Maxim 9 has all the bells and whistles of today’s state-of-the-art handguns, including an under-barrel KeyMod accessory rail, a slide cut for a pistol optic and aggressive stippling.
Sure, its suggested retail price is around $1,400, but SilencerCo has a point. A handgun and silencer all in one and not having to deal with pistons, threaded barrels and all that? And come on, who wouldn’t want to look like RoboCop at the range or on the job?