This is why 'Hue 1968' is 'Black Hawk Down' for the Vietnam War - We Are The Mighty
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This is why ‘Hue 1968’ is ‘Black Hawk Down’ for the Vietnam War

Mark Bowden is one of the greatest investigative reporters of our age.


“Black Hawk Down,” his exhaustive work on the experience of U.S. troops in Mogadishu, brought renewed attention to the oft-forgotten story. It also resulted in the film, which remains a favorite of the military-veteran community.

His most recent book, “Hué 1968: A Turning Point of the American War in Vietnam,” is just as exhaustive and compelling. The book is a master work, five years in the making.

This is why ‘Hue 1968’ is ‘Black Hawk Down’ for the Vietnam War
Mark Bowden signs books while visiting the U.S. Air Force Academy. (U.S. Air Force photo by Mike Kaplan)

The Battle of Hué was the longest and costliest fight of the entire Tet Offensive. On the morning of Jan. 31, 1968, a coordinated attack from 8,000 North Vietnamese Army Regulars, Viet Cong infiltrators, and Vietnamese civilians quickly captured much of the city in a single night.

American and South Vietnamese troops were woefully outnumbered in Hué. Facing the Communist forces there were the ARVN 1st Infantry Division and 200 of their American and Australian advisors at the MACV compound. By the time the sun came up that day, the Communists controlled the city south of the Huong River – except the MACV compound.

This is why ‘Hue 1968’ is ‘Black Hawk Down’ for the Vietnam War
A view from a Marine machine gun position on the outer Citadel wall of Hué City during the 1968 Tet Offensive.

The Marines from MACV would have to go on the offensive, fighting their way across the river to rescue the brilliant and highly-respected ARVN General Ngô Quang Truong and what remained of his 1st Infantry. Then they had to expel the Communists from the area.

Hué would become a case study in urban combat, the first time since the Korean War the Marines would fight in a city like that. The battle lasted almost a month, turning 40 percent of the city’s buildings to rubble and costing the lives of 380 ARVN troops, 147 Marines, 74 U.S. Army soldiers, 8,000 Communists, and more than 5,800 civilians.

It was also the turning point in American popular support for the war.

Bowden’s book covers the history of the war until that point, especially from 30,000-foot view from the White House and General William Westmoreland’s MACV Headquarters. What’s truly unique and fascinating about Bowden’s style is the personal narratives that drive the history of the story.

This is why ‘Hue 1968’ is ‘Black Hawk Down’ for the Vietnam War
Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara was the architect of early Vietnam War strategy.

“Hué 1968” is a gripping tapestry of nonfiction storytelling, with personal stories of people on the ground woven into the history and politics of the war. The enemy is no longer a nameless, faceless mass of targets; the NVA and VC are characters in the story of the war in Vietnam, with names, families, and lives. With these stories comes the understanding of why the McNamara doctrine of “limited warfare” would never have worked against the Vietnamese.

The book gives the eyewitness account of a young Vietnamese girl who turns on the southern regime and becomes a Viet Cong operative just as much as it follows the junior enlisted Marine radio operator Jim Coolican, who was stationed at the MACV compound. Personal narratives from every side of the conflict continue like this throughout the book.

Bowden traces the details of a young VC as he traverses the Ho Chi Minh trail and moves to infiltrate the city. He even painstakingly documents the “logistics miracle” – as one U.S. Navy captain called it – of the Tet Offensive’s movement of men and weapons into South Vietnam.

This is why ‘Hue 1968’ is ‘Black Hawk Down’ for the Vietnam War
NVA and VC soldiers assault the city of Hué in South Vietnam, January 1968.

If you know the history of the Vietnam War, you know what’s coming in the Tet Offensive and it keeps you turning pages. No matter how familiar you are, you get to see the war from all sides – the NVA, the VC, ARVN leadership, American troops, American leadership, even Ho Chi Minh and North Vietnamese General Vo Nguyen Giap’s points of view are covered in remarkable detail.

The fall of Hué was the most successful attack of the entire Tet Offensive and even then the city was retaken by Feb. 24. Both sides bought into their own propaganda. The Communists believed that the South was ready to rise against the despotic Thieu regime and expel the Americans — they just needed a hand to get started.

This is why ‘Hue 1968’ is ‘Black Hawk Down’ for the Vietnam War
Viet Cong forces climb on an abandoned U.S.-built Marine Armored Vehicle during the Battle of Hué.

The north came to depend on that uprising for the long-term success of the Offensive. The Americans and South Vietnamese were caught off guard because they thought the enemy was weak and could not launch an attack on that scale, let alone capture a city like Hué.

Until the Tet Offensive, a majority of Americans believed the war was going well and believed government officials who used statistics and body counts to insist that American involvement could soon come to an end. Body counts weren’t the metric used by the Communists. For the north, their success was defined by killing or wounding as many Americans as possible, destroying the ARVN, and inciting a popular uprising in the South.

This is why ‘Hue 1968’ is ‘Black Hawk Down’ for the Vietnam War
Marines hold a Viet Cong flag they ripped down from the provincial headquarters in Hué.

The United States claimed a military victory in Hué but Hanoi would never be intimidated by a limited war. The prolonged violence and media bias against the war after the Tet Offensive eroded public support for it as well.

The U.S. began a strategic withdrawal from Vietnam the next year and left completely in 1973. South Vietnam fell to the Communists just two years later. Hué was just the beginning of the end.

Mark Bowden is an award-winning author and correspondent for The Atlantic. He is also a contributing editor for Vanity Fair. Filmmakers Michael Mann and Michael De Luca (who produced the 1995 heist movie “Heat”) purchased the rights to “Hué 1968” and plan to turn the book into a miniseries.

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7 tips to make your free Veterans Day food more epic

On Veteran’s Day, America’s bastions of consumer consumables give back to the defenders of The Republic by conspicuously offering copious amounts of free food. They know the target audience well – no one loves a discount like service members and veterans.


This is why ‘Hue 1968’ is ‘Black Hawk Down’ for the Vietnam War
A pie-eating contest on the USS Maryland, 1922.

So here’s your chance to get out of the house, go dutch with one of the barracks rats, or just take Veteran’s Day for all its worth. Here are a few tips to help you make the most of your limited time.

1. Get every last calorie out of it with a “max out meal” on the 10th.

There are a lot of restaurants giving away free stuff. You’ll never be able to make the most of it if you have full meals the day before. At least a day before you start eating is when you have what competitive eaters call the “max out meal.” You are essentially expanding your stomach as much as possible and allowing that food to get through your system in time for Veteran’s Day. This is your last solid food until you arrive at Denny’s at 0030, so keep the water and coffee handy.

This is why ‘Hue 1968’ is ‘Black Hawk Down’ for the Vietnam War
This diet won Michael Phelps 22 gold medals. Think how it could work for you.

Another tip: I did an intense workout the morning I attempted a 72-oz steak and ended up having room for dessert. Try that and you’ll be ready to go all Shock n’ Awe at the Shoney’s on the 11th.

2. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.

Design a battle plan for this. Some places open early, some are open later. Come up with a scheme that maximizes your food intake while limiting the time spent in line. The line might move fast at Wienerschnitzel – pick up your chili dogs on the way to Famous Dave’s and save them for later.

This is why ‘Hue 1968’ is ‘Black Hawk Down’ for the Vietnam War
That’s not D-Day. They’re seeing how far Max Erma’s is from the Bonefish Grill.

If someone offers breakfast all day, counterprogram: have breakfast for a mid-rats snack! Also, Bob Evans will give you free pancakes for signing up for their email newsletter, why waste the time in line on Veteran’s Day when you could be getting French Toast at Friendly’s?

3. Avoid Carbs. That’s how they f*ck you.

As satisfying as those IHOP Red, White, and Blue Pancakes might be, they fill you up too much, too fast. This is why you shouldn’t eat the curly fries that come with Hooter’s unlimited wings night – they’re a distraction (the unlimited wings are not an option for Hooters’ Veteran’s Day menu, by the way. Sorry).

This is why ‘Hue 1968’ is ‘Black Hawk Down’ for the Vietnam War
Also, fats are good before the workout you’ll have… tomorrow.

This is a marathon, not a sprint. Try taking the buns off your All-American Burger, avoid the tortillas with the Chevy’s fajitas, and wait a day to get the Chocolate Wave cake from Red Lobster… they’ll let you have it for free on the 12th.

4. Use your medal citation as proof of service.

Some places – like Applebee’s and On the Border Mexican Grill– allow veterans to self-identify using their medal citations. What could be more awesome than dragging out the padded green plastic cover of your ARCOM medal? Not only are you a veteran, now your actions reflect great credit on yourself and the United States Army.

This is why ‘Hue 1968’ is ‘Black Hawk Down’ for the Vietnam War
Some medal citations earn free meals year-round and country-wide, along with drinks, hugs, and sometimes the waitress’ phone number. (U.S. Army Photo by Spc. David M. Sharp)

5. Shorten the line by hiring an actor.

If there’s one thing post-9/11 veterans love more than free stuff, it’s recording stolen valor videos. Pay someone to walk by  the restaurant wearing a poorly-designed uniform combination from a local thrift store, and you’re guaranteed to cut that long line in half. Pro tip: this may not work at Cracker Barrel, Golden Corral, or anywhere else dominated by Vietnam-era veterans. Those guys care more about the food. People used to dress all kinds of stupid in the 60s and 70s.

This is why ‘Hue 1968’ is ‘Black Hawk Down’ for the Vietnam War

6. Hit up the places you can’t afford.

This is why ‘Hue 1968’ is ‘Black Hawk Down’ for the Vietnam War
(FXX)

If you’re hitting up Golden Corral and the Sizzler on the reg because a steak house is just out of your price range, Veteran’s Day is the day to take off your IR flag hat and Ranger Up shirt and slap on a collared shirt to take your battle to McCormick and Schmick’s, Bar Louie, and/or one of CentraArchy’s nicer steakhouses. Running shoes are still perfectly acceptable attire if two of these restaurants are within jogging distance of one another.

7. Deploy to the local Olive Garden.

The VA taught you how to wait all day just to be disappointed. You know how to entertain yourself while waiting around for hours on end. If running around isn’t your thing, the Olive Garden is giving away a Veteran’s Day meal plus unlimited soup, salad, and breadsticks. Bring a laptop to binge watch your favorite show while camping at a booth on FOB Garden all day.

This is why ‘Hue 1968’ is ‘Black Hawk Down’ for the Vietnam War

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Now the White House has to respond to a petition calling for Navy ratings reversal

A petition lobbying the White House to reinstate the official Navy rating titles removed in late September gained more than 100,000 signatures on We the People, a website created by the Obama administration to allow large groups of Americans to directly request changes to public policy.


Petitions that cross the threshold are guaranteed an official response from the administration, but activists are not guaranteed that it will be a “yes” response.

This is why ‘Hue 1968’ is ‘Black Hawk Down’ for the Vietnam War

Ratings were essentially job titles in the Navy and they were incorporated into the method of address for most enlisted leaders. Some of the ratings, like those for gunner’s or boatswain’s mates, have remained the same since the Continental Navy instituted them over 240 years ago. Other rates, such as special warfare boat operator, are newer.

Navy officials say that they removed the rating structure to allow sailors to more easily cross-train between jobs or switch career tracks entirely. This increased flexibility in job choices would also, according to comments given to the Navy Times, make it easier for sailors to get specific duty stations.

But the move was deeply unpopular with sailors. The petition to bring that dissatisfaction to the attention of the White House gained 102,614 signatures. The petition description highlights the tradition and history of the rating system.

For 241 Years Navy personnel have been identified by their Job specialty, known as a “Rating.” The oldest rates such as Boatswain Mates, and Gunners Mate predate the founding of this country. Being known by your job title was a sense of pride. A sign of accomplishment. The Secretary of the Navy and Chief of Naval Operations just senselessly erased this tradition.

While the White House promises an official response to successful petitions, it does so by putting the petition in front of the proper policy makers. According to the program’s “about” section:

With We the People, you can easily create a petition online, share it, and collect signatures. If you gather 100,000 signature in 30 days, we’ll review your petition, make sure it gets in front of the appropriate policy experts, and issue an official response.

In this case, that could mean that the petition would land on the desk of Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus or someone on his staff. But Mabus and his staff were the ones who made the decision to get rid of Navy ratings in the first place.

The petition could encourage senior Navy leadership to take sailor feedback more seriously moving forward and possibly even find a plan that accomplishes the leadership’s goals while preserving Navy tradition.

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The fascinating story behind the military’s use of the 21-gun salute

Becky R. asks: Why do they use 21 guns in the 21 gun salute?


The 21-gun salute that we know today has its roots in the ancient tradition of warriors demonstrating their peaceful intentions by resting the point of their weapons on the ground.

The notion of making a soldier’s weapons useless to show that he came in peace continued even as warfare changed over the centuries. Gunpowder and cannons became commonplace among militaries and private forces, both on land and at sea around the 14th century. In order for a ship entering a foreign port to show those on shore that they came in peace, the captain would have his crew fire the guns. This rendered the weapons inoperable for a period of time, with early guns only being capable of firing a single shot before crews needed to reload them.

This is why ‘Hue 1968’ is ‘Black Hawk Down’ for the Vietnam War

Traditionally when a British ship entered into a foreign port, it would fire its guns seven times. The reason for the seven shots is widely debated to this day. One theory states that the majority of the British ships at this point only carried seven guns and so firing seven shots became the standard to signal those on shore that the ship was now unarmed. Ships carried enough gunpowder and ammunition to reload multiple times, but beyond symbolism, the idea here was that the lengthy process of reloading would allow the soldiers onshore more than enough time to disable the ship with their own weapons if needs be.

Another proposed theory for the number seven relates to the Bible. After creating the world, the Bible states that God rested on the seventh day (or for the seventh “event”- there is some debate over the “day” vs. “event” translation). So it has been theorized that the number could have been chosen in reference to its Biblical significance, perhaps of resting with the ship coming to port after a long journey. Yet another theory stems from the pervasive superstitious nature of sailors combined with the historic notion in certain regions that the number 7 is sacred, and that odd numbers are lucky and even unlucky. In fact, for a time it was common to use an even number of shots to signify the death of a ship captain when returning from the voyage the death occurred on.

Whatever the underlying reason, the guns onshore would return fire as a form of welcome once the incoming ship finished firing the seven rounds. However, the shore bound guns fired three rounds for every one fired by the incoming ships, putting the total number of shots fired at twenty-one in these cases. As with the “7” number, it’s not known precisely why in the regions that used this number scheme that they chose a 3 to 1 ratio.  What is known is that as time went on where this was practiced, it became traditional for the ships themselves to start firing off 21 shots as well, perhaps due to the ships becoming larger and being equipped with more guns, with the captains ostensibly preferring a 1 to 1 salute.

This is why ‘Hue 1968’ is ‘Black Hawk Down’ for the Vietnam War
Photo: Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Oscar L Olive IV

This then brings us to when firing the 21 shots became considered a type of official salute, rather than a symbolic way to indicate peaceful intentions.  This seems to have started around 1730 when it became a recognized salute to British government officials. Specifically, the British Navy allowed its ships and captains the option to perform the 21-gun salute as a way to honor members of the British Royal Family during select anniversaries. About eighty years later, in 1808, the 21-gun salute officially became the standard salute to honor British Royalty.

While the British Navy adopted the 21-gun salute in 1808 as the standard, other nations, such as the United States, didn’t adopt it until much later. In fact, the United States War Department decided in 1810 to define the “national salute” as having the same number of shots as there were states in the nation. That number grew every year that a new state joined the Union.  Needless to say, this quickly became a cumbersome way to salute the United States and its dignitaries.

That said, the United States did make the “Presidential Salute” a 21-gun salute in 1842, and in 1890 officially accepted the 21-gun salute as the “national salute.” This followed the 1875 British proposal to the United States of a “Gun for Gun Salute” of 21-guns to honor visiting dignitaries.  Essentially, the British and French, among other nations, at this point were all using 21 guns for their salutes, but the U.S. system required many more shots for their dignitaries.  Besides needing to fire off more cannons, this also potentially signified greater honor to the U.S. dignitaries than to those of other nations. Thus, the British proposed a 1 for 1 shot, with 21 being the number, which was accepted by the U.S. on August 18, 1875.

The 21-gun salute still represents a significant honor today. In the United States, the 21-gun salute occurs to honor a President, former president, or the head of foreign state. It can also be fired in order to honor the United States Flag. The salute also occurs at noon on the day of the funeral of a President, former President, or President-elect along with on Memorial Day.

This is why ‘Hue 1968’ is ‘Black Hawk Down’ for the Vietnam War
Photo: US Navy

You may have noticed that there’s no mention of the 21-gun salute occurring during military funerals and that’s a common misconception. Known as the “3 Volleys,” the salute that occurs during soldiers’ funerals follows a battlefield tradition where both sides stopped fighting so that they could remove their dead from the field. The series of three shots, or volleys, let the other side know that the dead had been taken care of and that that battle could resume. Therefore the number of volleys is more important than the actual number of shots. Even the United States Army Manuel’s section on the Ceremonial Firing Party at a funeral named the number of riflemen as between five and eight, rather than an exact number.

Bonus Facts:

  • When ships were engaged in battle during the 14th century, the common practice was that the captured or defeated ship needed to expend all of its ammunition in order to make it helpless in the presence of the other ship and signify surrender.
  • A 62-gun salute was fired upon the birth of Prince George of England. The 21-gun salute was increased to 41-guns because the guns were fired from a royal park or residence and an additional 21-guns were added in order to pay respect to the city of London.

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This article originally appeared at Today I Found Out. Copyright 2015. Like Today I Found Out on Facebook.

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Coalition launches 84 strikes against ISIS as Iraqi army squeezes Mosul

Coalition air power had a busy Veterans’ Day Weekend while attacking the Islamic State of Iraqi and Syria, also known as ISIS.


This is why ‘Hue 1968’ is ‘Black Hawk Down’ for the Vietnam War
A U.S. Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker from the 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron refuels a F-15 Strike Eagle in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Nathan Lipscomb)

Across Iraq and Syria, 84 airstrikes were carried out against the terrorist group, 27 of which were around the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, which Iraqi forces have been trying to liberate from ISIS since October.

The attacks took place as Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, visited the region. Iraqi forces are moving towards the city, in an offensive expected to take months, according to a DOD News article.

“In my judgment, what Mosul does is reduce ISIL inside of Iraq back to an insurgency with terrorist actions and get them to a level where Iraqi security forces with a minimum level of outside support will be able to manage the violence inside Iraq,” Dunford said. “It denies ISIL freedom of movement and sanctuary inside Iraq.”

The terrorist group was in retreat as their eastern defenses around Mosul collapsed, and the Iraqi Army claimed to have secured the Intisar district of the city, and was moving into the neighborhood of Salaam.

As Coalition forces move in, there have been reports of increasing atrocities carried out by ISIS. According to VOA news, one video released by the terrorist group showed four children — none older than 14 — being forced to execute alleged spies. ISIS had developed “hand grenade” drones and was using them around Mosul.

In other news about the fight against ISIS, the BBC reported that ISIS carried out a half-dozen bombings around Baghdad, and a tweet from CombatAir reported that a Russian MiG-29K Fulcrum operating from the Admiral Kuznetsov was lost.

According to a Nov. 11 release, 24 air strikes were carried out by coalition forces, seven of which took place near Mosul. The Mosul-area strikes destroyed or damaged seven mortar systems, an artillery system, three vehicles, and two weapon caches. Other targets hit that day included a command and control node, oil production facilities, three supply routes, fighting positions, heavy machine guns, a storage container, and a bulldozer.

A Department of Defense release on Nov. 12 reported that five out of 23 strikes that day took place near Mosul. Those five strikes hit a fighting position; five mortar systems; two tunnel entrances; two heavy machines guns; four vehicles; a vehicle bomb; and a weapons cache. The other 18 strikes blasted a number of other targets, including a headquarters building; six oil wellheads; five fighting positions; and six ISIS “tactical units.

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RNC goes vet heavy for its ‘Make America Safe Again’ theme

This is why ‘Hue 1968’ is ‘Black Hawk Down’ for the Vietnam War


CLEVELAND, Ohio — The Republican National Convention started here Monday tapping into the ill-ease of the American public in the wake of terrorist attacks across the globe and domestic unrest. The theme for the first of four days was “Make America Safe Again,” a play on Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” tagline that he’s used from the beginning of his current run for president.

The prime time slate of speakers who took the stage at the Quicken Loans Arena started with Willie Robertson, one of the stars of the “Duck Dynasty” reality show, and television actor Scott Biao. They were followed by the first veteran in the lineup, former SEAL Marcus Luttrell, author of Lone Survivor.

Luttrell started his remarks by stating that he was born into a patriotic family that taught him “to die for any woman and to fight beside any man.” He said his father, who served in Vietnam, was “shamed out of his uniform” but instilled in his sons to “love this country and its people more than we loved ourselves.”

Luttrell was followed by Patricia Smith, the mother of Sean Smith, one of the four Americans killed during the attack on the consulate in Benghazi in 2012. “For all of this loss, for all of this grief, for all of the cynicism the tragedy in Benghazi has wrought upon America, I blame Hillary Clinton,” she said, which elicited a passionate response from the delegates on the convention floor, many of whom launched into a “lock her up” chant.

The topic of Clinton’s responsibility for the failure and tragedy of Benghazi continued with Mark Geist and John Teigen, two security contractors who fought off the attacks that night. The two men, who helped write 13 Hours, a book criticizing the State Department’s response to the attacks that was made into a Michael Bay movie last year, offered the crowd a lengthy, machismo-infused version of their experiences that night and left no doubt that they believe the lives of their comrades were lost because of the inaction of then-Sec. Clinton.

Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, a U.S. Army veteran who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan as a platoon leader with the 101st Airborne Division, jabbed at President Obama’s unwillingness to use the term “fundamentalist Islamic terrorist” when referring to ISIS and the associated network of lone wolves, saying that if Donald Trump was made commander-in-chief he would “call the enemy by its name.”

The energy in the building shifted into the next gear as former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani took the stage and proclaimed that “the vast majority of Americans today do not feel safe. They fear for their children; they fear for themselves; they fear for our police officers who are being targeted, with a target on their back.”

Giuliani also hit Obama for his apparent reticence around labeling the terrorist threat in religious terms, saying, “Failing to identify them properly maligns all those good Muslims around the world who are being killed by them. They are killing more Muslims than anyone else.”

The lights faded to black as Giuliani left the stage, and the classic Queen hit “We are the Champions” boomed through the PA system. Donald Trump appeared as a backlit silhouette, and when the lights came back on he stepped to the podium and announced, “We are going to win so big,” and then introduced his wife Melania, who was the keynote speaker for the evening.

Mrs. Trump’s remarks, delivered with her heavy Eastern European accent, hit a number of general themes, including the fact that she was an immigrant who went through the naturalization process and became a citizen in 2006 and that her husband wasn’t one to give up on anything in life. (Media pundits were quick to point out that parts of her speech mirrored one given by First Lady Michelle Obama at the DNC in Denver in 2008, an accusation that Trump allies dismissed. “There’s no way that Melania Trump was plagiarizing Michelle Obama’s speech,” New Jersey Gov. and Trump proxy Chris Christie said.)

Donald Trump retook the stage at the end of his wife’s speech, and the two walked off to raucous applause from the delegates and other faithful in attendance. And, in what has to be viewed as a case of bad showmanship planning by either the RNC or the Trump team, retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency and a vocal critic of the Obama administration in spite of the fact that he’s a registered Democrat, walked to the podium to speak as a large majority of the audience streamed for the exits, assuming they’d seen the most important part of the program.

“The destructive pattern of putting the interests of other nations ahead of our own will end when Donald Trump is president,” Flynn said. “From this day forward, we must stand tougher and stronger together, with an unrelenting goal to not draw red lines and then retreat and to never be satisfied with reckless rhetoric from an Obama clone like Hillary Clinton.”

Flynn was followed Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst, another Army veteran, who told the dwindling crowd, “Our allies see us shrinking from our place as a leader in the world as we have failed time and again to address threats. They are looking for American leaders who are willing to stand up and say ‘enough is enough.'”

And by the time Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick brought the first day’s proceedings to a close, Quicken Loans Arena was nearly empty.

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The US Navy is upgrading these Cold War-era cruise missiles to hit enemy ships at sea

The US Navy today faces a devastating missile gap between its two biggest rivals, Russia and China, but a new upgrade could quite literally blow the two competitors out of the water.


The US Navy’s destroyers and cruisers field advanced missile defenses and far-reaching land-attack cruise missiles, but the Harpoon, the current anti-ship missile first fielded in 1977, has been thoroughly out-ranged by more advanced Chinese and Russian systems.

China’s YJ-18 and YJ-12 each can fly over 240 miles just meters above the surface of the ocean. When the YJ-18 gets close to the target, it jolts into supersonic speed, at about Mach 3. When the YJ-12, also supersonic, approaches a target, it executes a corkscrew turn to evade close-in ship defenses.

Russia’s anti-ship Club missiles can reach 186 miles and boosts into supersonic speeds when nearing a target.

This is why ‘Hue 1968’ is ‘Black Hawk Down’ for the Vietnam War
USS Princeton fires an RGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missile. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Jason Noble.

The US Navy’s Harpoon missile is subsonic and travels just 77 miles. Simply put, these missiles would chew up a US carrier strike group, with destroyers and cruisers protecting an aircraft carrier. Launching F/A-18s off a carrier could out-range and beat back a Russian or Chinese attack, but the missile gap remains palpable and a threat to the US Navy’s highest-value assets.

Recognizing this serious shortfall, the US Navy will sign a deal with Raytheon to upgrade the Block IV Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles aboard destroyers and cruisers to hit moving targets at sea, US Naval Institute News reports.

This is why ‘Hue 1968’ is ‘Black Hawk Down’ for the Vietnam War
USS Ross (DDG 71) fires a tomahawk land attack missile April 7, 2017. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Robert S. Price/Released)

“This is potentially a game-changing capability for not a lot of cost. It’s a 1,000-mile anti-ship cruise missile,” Bob Work, the deputy secretary of defense, said after a successful test of the upgraded TLAM in 2015, USNI News reported at the time. “It can be used by practically our entire surface and submarine fleet.”

With missiles out-ranging China and Russia’s fleets many times over, the US could engage with targets and hold them at risk far beyond the horizon. Similarly, this could help break down anti-access and area-denial zones established by Russia in the Baltics and the Black Sea, and China in the South China Sea.

While China and Russia have the US beat on offensive range, don’t expect their ship-based missile defenses to hold a candle to the US’s Aegis system in the face of a Tomahawk attack.

This is why ‘Hue 1968’ is ‘Black Hawk Down’ for the Vietnam War
A UGM-109 Tomahawk missile detonates above a test target, 1986. Photo courtesy of US Navy.

But also don’t expect the upgrade to change the balance of power soon.

“We’re signing the contract now, there will be a couple of year development effort to determine the configuration of the seeker to go into the missile and a couple of years to take it out and test it to accurately know what the performance is so the fleet will have confidence in the system,” Capt. Mark Johnson of Naval Air Systems Command told USNI News.

USNI News estimates the game-changing missiles could be in service by the early 2020s.

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Meet ‘Viper’ – the newest F-16 Fighter

This is why ‘Hue 1968’ is ‘Black Hawk Down’ for the Vietnam War
Photo: Lockheed Martin


Meet the F-16V ‘Viper’ – the newest, most advanced fighter in the F-16 family that has just made its maiden flight.

The latest version of the F-16 introduces numerous cutting-edge enhancements.

Made by Lockheed Martin, the fourth-generation aircraft is often referred to as the Fighting Falcon. The F-16 can travel speeds faster than Mach 2 – that’s more than 1,500 mph. The aircraft is just under 50 feet long and has a wingspan of about 31 feet.

The F-16V flew with Northrop Grumman’s advanced APG-83 Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) and Northrop’s Scalable Agile Beam Radar (SABR) for the first time last week.

Northrop’s SABR AESA fire control radar provides next-gen air-to-ground and air-to-air radar capability. The technology supports countering advanced threats. These AESA radars are also used by the F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning II.

SABR works by scanning electronically, rather than mechanically. This helps reduce the need for moving parts. The receiver, exciter, and processor functions are all contained in one replaceable unit. According to Northrop calculations, their advances produce three to five times greater reliability than current fire control radar systems.

SABR’s electronically scanned beams mean faster area searches. This also means earlier detecting, tracking and identification of targets at longer ranges. All-weather targeting and situational awareness have all been enhanced.

“BIG SAR” is SABR’s Synthetic Aperture Radar capability for larger areas and high definition. This mode gives pilots remarkable detail of their target areas. The digital map displays can be tailored with slew and zoom.

The tech automatically scans SAR maps to exactly locate and classify targets.

Viper also features a new cockpit Center Pedestal Display, a more advanced mission computer and other mission systems enhancements. This tech is expected to give the aircraft a big leap in capability.

There are more than 4,550 F-16s supporting the U.S. military and its allies.

Ballet dancer turned defense specialist Allison Barrie has traveled around the world covering the military, terrorism, weapons advancements and life on the front line. You can reach her at wargames@foxnews.com or follow her on Twitter@Allison_Barrie.

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Did Iraq just build a knockoff of a secret US drone?

The Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps has unveiled a new unmanned combat air vehicle that has reportedly been based on the Lockheed Martin RQ-170. The report comes nearly five years after one of the secret drones went down in Iranian territory.


According to reports from Arutz Sheva, the UCAV is called “Saegheh” and has been modified from the RQ-170 to carry up to four smart bombs underneath its fuselage. Reports of an Iranian version of the American UAV have been controversial ever since Iran unveiled footage of a purported copy in 2014.

This is reportedly a photo of the Saegheh drone copied from a captured US RQ-170 Sentinel. (Photo from Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps via AP) This is reportedly a photo of the Saegheh drone copied from a captured US RQ-170 Sentinel. (Photo from Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps via AP)

Despite the skepticism, Iran has developed a formidable military industry to cope with sanctions and a cutoff of American support since the mullahs took over in 1979. Among the systems the regime has built on its own include the Bavar 373 surface-to-air missile system, based on the SA-10 Grumble, the Jamaran-class frigates, and Peykan-class missile boats. The regime has also copied numerous high-tech systems, including the C-802 anti-ship missile and SM-1 surface-to-air missile, and has managed to improve its force of M47 and Chieftain main battle tanks.

Iran has also been acting very aggressively towards American ships in the Persian Gulf, including threats to American maritime patrol and surveillance aircraft and incidents with American surface warships.

The RQ-170 is operated by the United States Air Force’s 30th Reconnaissance Squadron, part of the 432nd Air Expeditionary Wing based out of Creech Air Force Base and the Tonopah Test Range in Nevada.

Very few performance details have been released, and the only hard data is an apparent operational ceiling of 50,000 feet. A released Iranian video of the UAV captured in 2011 indicated the plane had a wingspan of 85 feet. The RQ-170 first emerged in 2007, and was known as the “Beast of Kandahar” when it was spotted in photos of Kandahar Air Base.

According to a 2012 estimate, around 20 RQ-170s are in service with the United States military and it is rumored the RQ-170 was used to keep an eye on SEALs during the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.

MIGHTY MOVIES

How a comedian can go from Hollywood to Kabul


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“It was like walking onto the surface of the moon,” Graham Elwood says of his first experience walking off of a C-17 in Afghanistan.

His experience was not unlike many of our own first times deploying to a far-off edge of the world. We take a long, long C-17 (or god help you, C-130) ride for seemingly endless hours. There are no windows. The plane is packed. Forget about an in-flight movie or looking out the window. And when you walk off, it’s invariably the middle of the night and you and the hundred or so people you’re with walk off the flightline in a single file.

From there, who knows? There’s a good chance the “hurry up and wait” has just begun. For civilians visiting war zones for the first time, it’s no different – except they have no idea how to speak the acronym language.

“They said ‘When your bird hits the LZ, find your POC, they’ll take you to the MWR tent then you can go to the DFAC,'” he jokes. “It’s like… what are you saying to me right now, man?”

Elwood is a Los Angeles-based comedian with appearances in comedy clubs across America, on college campuses, and even CBS’ Late Late Show. He’s also a veteran podcaster with shows like Comedy Film Nerds, and The Political Vigilante, and he’s a co-creator of the Los Angeles Podcast Festival.

This is why ‘Hue 1968’ is ‘Black Hawk Down’ for the Vietnam War

None of that prepared him for performing for U.S. troops deployed in combat zones. His first documentary, LaffghanistanComedy Down Range, is about his first time volunteering to go do just that. It’s amazing how fast you can go from playing the Hollywood Improv to playing Bagram Air Base.

Elwood’s film documents his personal journey from the sunny beaches of Southern California to the sun-baked moonscape of Afghanistan, where the military’s Department of Morale, Welfare and Recreation enlisted him to entertain the troops. Elwood’s psychedelic travels through a war zone are simultaneously hilarious, harrowing, and heartbreaking. His journey becomes unpredictably personal, creating a documentary that no one expected, least of all Graham.

For someone who admits he’s pretty far removed from the Global War on Terror, it all came home to him when went around the small firebases of Afghanistan. It was his first time in helicopters, driving in unarmored vehicles on the ground in Afghanistan, and seeing minefields. It got real for him for him real fast.

“What was said to me and what I’ve said to other comedians,” he says. “Well don’t go over there if you don’t want to be changed. It will change you. You have no idea. This is no joke.”

Now that Elwood has done a number of these shows and tours around deployed military bases, he looks back at his first experience in this episode of Mandatory Fun.

Nothing could adequately prepare him for performing a comedy act in Afghanistan. All the dive bars and sh*t holes he played as a young comedian is the best thing he could do to prepare. He was still freaking out but couldn’t help but put himself in the shoes of young troops.

“I’m here for two weeks,” Elwood says, “and MY family is freaking out. Imagine them and  their families and how much they’re freaking out.”

But they quickly realized that they need to be the comics. They were there for a reason: to give American troops fighting overseas a few laughs, a taste of a normal night, and a show to help ease their tension, even if it was only for a short time.

Mandatory Fun guest: Graham Elwood has been a stand-up comic for over 20 years working comedy clubs, colleges, TV shows, Holiday Inn Lounges, war zones, dive bars, and one time on the top of a double-decker tour bus in Chicago (not joking)

. You’ve probably seen him on the TV as the host of the socially relevant game shows “Cram” (GSN) and “Strip Poker” (USA), along with making the world a better place by appearing on shows like “Best Bodies Ever” on VH1. Don’t forget the time when he told jokes on “The Late Late Show” (CBS). He has also starred in the theatrical plays Speed the Plow, Light Sensitive, and Cash Flow, and co-wrote the one act play Brothers. Learn more about Elwood:

Mandatory Fun is hosted By:

Blake Stilwell: Air Force veteran and Managing Editor

Tim Kirkpatrick: Navy veteran and Editorial Coordinator

Orvelin Valle (aka O.V.): Navy veteran and Podcast Producer

Catch the show on Twitter at: @MandoFun and on our Facebook group.

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Search continues for four missing soldiers at Fort Hood

This is why ‘Hue 1968’ is ‘Black Hawk Down’ for the Vietnam War
In this image released June 3, 2016, law enforcement officials at Fort Hood discuss the search operations for four soldiers missing after their truck overturned in a rain-swollen creek. Five soldiers died in the incident. | U.S. Army photo


Emergency rescue workers on Friday continued their search for four soldiers who went missing after their truck overturned in a rain-swollen creek at Fort Hood, an official said.

Five soldiers died in the vehicle accident at the sprawling Texas base and three others were rescued and taken to an Army medical center, where they were listed in stable condition and expected to be released later in the day.

That’s according to Maj. Gen. John Uberti, deputy commanding general III Corps and Fort Hood, who held a press conference Friday morning in front of a main gate to the base, one of the service’s largest installations and home to more than 41,000 active-duty soldiers.

“Our priority has been, since the first report of this incident and continues to be, the search for our four missing teammates,” Uberti said.

Due to the storm, commanders were in the process of closing roads on the post on Thursday when a 2.5-ton truck known as a Light Medium Tactical Vehicle overturned in a fast-flowing creek during a training exercise, according to The Associated Press. The flatbed truck is regularly used to carry troops.

The portion of road on the northern edge of the base near Owl Creek where the truck overturned hadn’t flooded in previous storms, Fort Hood spokesman Chris Haug told reporters, according to AP. A “swift-water rescue call” came in around 11:20 a.m. local time.

Three bodies were recovered during initial rescue operations and two more were located later in the night. The Army hasn’t yet identified the victims, pending notification of next of kin.

The four missing soldiers were from the 3rd Battalion, 16th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division. The search for them continues and involves ground, air and dog teams from base, local and state agencies.

“I’d also like to thank the many emergency services personnel, not only Fort Hood emergency services, but the state and local community emergency services personnel who have so willingly come forward and have professionally been searching for our soldiers,” Uberti said.

The base’s Directorate of Family, Morale, Welfare and Recreation and the American Red Cross are accepting donations to assist Fort Hood families affected by the tragedy. For more information, call the center at Fort Hood Family Assistance Center at (254) 288-7570 or (866) 836-2751 or contact the Red Cross at (254) 200-4400.

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The King Of Jordan Sent Out This Badass Photo In Response To ISIL

This is why ‘Hue 1968’ is ‘Black Hawk Down’ for the Vietnam War
Jordan’s King Abdullah II (Photo: The Royal Hashemite Court, Facebook)


Jordan’s King Abdullah II, a former commander of his country’s special forces, vowed to bombard the Islamic State until his military runs “out of fuel and bullets” after the release of a grisly video showing a captured Jordanian airman being burned alive in a cage.

The official Facebook page of The Royal Hashemite Court published a photo showing Jordan’s leader dressed in military fatigues. The same photo was published on the king’s instagram account eight months ago.

Jordan has carried out airstrikes against the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS or ISIL, in Mosul.

The Jordanian government has denied rumors the king flew any aerial attacks.

Dubbed the “Warrior King,” Jordan’s leader has served in the military for 35 years.

According to the King’s bio, he enrolled in the UK’s Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst in 1980 and went on to become an attack helicopter pilot.

The Washington Examiner carried this amazing snippet from US congressmen who visited Abdullah in Jordan as part of an official trip:

“He said there is going to be retribution like ISIS hasn’t seen,” said Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter Jr., a Marine Corps veteran of two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan, who was in the meeting with the king. “He mentioned ‘Unforgiven’ and he mentioned Clint Eastwood, and he actually quoted a part of the movie.”

Hunter would not say which part of “Unforgiven” the King quoted, but noted it was where Eastwood’s character describes how he is going to deliver his retribution. There is a scene in the picture in which Eastwood’s character, William Munny, says, “Any man I see out there, I’m gonna kill him. Any son of a bitch takes a shot at me, I’m not only going to kill him, I’m going to kill his wife and all his friends and burn his damn house down.”

Beyond airstrikes, Jordan could further contribute to the fight against ISIS through the use of its extremely effective special forces units.

Jordan’s special forces team, grouped under Jordan’s Joint Special Operations Command, is 14,000 strong and is one of the most effective fighting and intelligence forces in the region. Jordanian special forces frequently train alongside US forces.

More from Business Insider:

This article originally appeared at Business Insider Defense Copyright 2015. Follow BI Defense on Twitter.

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Here’s how the Army plans to knock drones out of the sky

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — People are buying drones in droves — from cheapo low-rez toys from Amazon to high-end unmanned planes for commercial surveillance and mapping.


And the Pentagon is following suit, with several companies offering new models of unmanned systems for everything from relaying radio signals to targeting bad guys.

But in a constant cat-and-mouse game, the military is also looking into technologies that will help it find, track, and potentially destroy unmanned planes that are just as easily obtained by America’s enemies as they are by its friends.

The Silent Archer counter-drone system uses radar, and EO/IR scope and jammer technology to target, track and fix small UAVs and their operators. (Photo from SRC Inc.) The Silent Archer counter-drone system uses radar, and EO/IR scope and jammer technology to target, track and fix small UAVs and their operators. (Photo from SRC Inc.)

One system the Army is testing for its air defense units uses a portable mortar tracking radar and some repurposed improvised explosive device jammers to find and target small drones for gunners to shoot down. In fact, the system works so well, it’s manufacturer says, that it can find the location of the drone’s operator and send that targeting information to Army artillery for the kill.

Dubbed the “Silent Archer,” parts of the counter-drone system have already been used for high-level meetings like the G-8 Summit and for the 2012 Olympics in the United Kingdom, company officials said during the 2016 Air Force Association Air and Space Conference here.

“We can provide targeting information to laser systems, miniguns to artillery — whatever your weapon of choice is,” said Thomas Wilson, VP for radar and sensors business development with Silent Archer maker SRC Inc. “We can also disrupt the control signals, the telemetry signals, the video signals — we can intercept those, we can analyze them, we can jam them in a variety of ways,”

“With those lines of bearing, you can use indirect fires and rain steel on the operator. Which is one of my preferred choices,” he added.

Most of the threats come from unauthorized surveillance of key meetings and military sites. But there’s also a military threat, Wilson said.

“The Army is watching very carefully what’s going on in the Ukraine. Because the Russians are using small UAS for targeting,” Wilson said. “The Ukrainians know that when they see a UAS flying over that very shortly they’re going to get bombarded.”

“So from an Army point of view, in a near-peer kind of a fight, they’re looking at ways to counter those,” he added.

The system works using a radar that’s normally used to detect incoming mortars. Once a suspected UAV is targeted, Silent Archer operators spot the drone through a sophisticated targeting scope. This helps distinguish if the target is actually a drone or a bird, Wilson said. Once it’s determined that the Silent Archer has a drone in its sights, an IED-detecting electronic warfare system tracks the drone’s controlling signal and can jam it or send targeting information back to artillery for a strike.

While the Silent Archer’s range is limited, the system is portable, with the Army testing most of the components on a Stryker armored combat vehicle, Wilson said. So the counter-drone system can move with the troops.

“There’s a lot of security threats from small UASs — we’re talking commercial stuff — flying over a facility and it’s making everybody nervous,” Wilson said. “Are they surveilling it for an attack? … That’s one that’s got everybody fired up right now.”

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