Marine Gen. James Mattis is something of a legend in the US military. Looked at as a warrior among Marines, and well-respected by members of other services, he’s been at the forefront of a number of engagements.
He led his battalion of Marines in the assault during the first Gulf war in 1991, and commanded the task force charging into Afghanistan in 2001. In 2003, as a Major General, he once again took up the task of motivating his young Marines to go into battle.
One day before beginning the assault into Iraq, on March 19, 2003, every member of 1st Marine Division received this letter, written in Mattis’ own hand.
In the letter, he tells them, “on your young shoulders rest the hopes of mankind.” He conveys a sense of staying together and working as a team, writing, “keep faith in your comrades on your left and right and Marine Air overhead. Fight with a happy heart and a strong spirit.”
He finally signs off with the motto of 1st Marines: “No Better Friend, No Worse Enemy.”
October 2016 signals the end of the six-second social video service Vine. Six seconds was not a lot of time, but it was just enough time for Vine to burrow its way into our hearts – but just not far enough to stay in business.
Members of the military used Vine to offer a glimpse into military life and culture. These are 11 perfect examples of the military humor on Vine.
1. This is probably how all Marines feel when dealing with airmen.
Paratroopers assigned to Company A, 3rd Battalion, 509th Infantry Regiment prepare to conduct security checks near the Pakistan border at Combat Outpost Dand Patan in Afghanistan’s Paktya province in 2012. | U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Jason Epperson
President Obama once again altered his withdrawal plan for Afghanistan on Thursday, announcing that 8,400 U.S. troops would remain in the country next year rather than the 5,500 he initially authorized.
The announcement by Obama at the White House, with Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford flanking him, left decisions on future U.S. commitments to Afghanistan to the next president and essentially scuttled Obama’s dream of leaving office after ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“The decision I’m making today ensures that my successor has a solid foundation for progress in Afghanistan, as well as the flexibility to address the threat of terrorism as it evolves,” Obama said. “I firmly believe the decision I’m announcing is the right thing to do.”
Currently, there are about 9,800 U.S. troops authorized for Afghanistan. Obama had earlier agreed to alter his plan to begin reducing that number to 5,500 by January 2017 by keeping the 9,800 in Afghanistan through the rest of this year, as recommended by his generals.
In a statement, Sen. John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee who just returned from a fact-finding trip to Afghanistan, said “the decision to retain 8,400 U.S. troops in Afghanistan into next year is certainly preferable to cutting those forces by nearly half. That said, when the president himself describes the security situation in Afghanistan as ‘precarious,’ it is difficult to discern any strategic rationale for withdrawing 1,400 U.S. troops by the end of the year.”
For a number of centuries, the battleship and its predecessor, the ship of the line, ruled the oceans. They were big, heavily armed, and were able to take a lot of punishment. But battleships haven’t sailed on the high seas for nearly a quarter-century, since the 1992 retirement of USS Missouri (BB 63).
In fact, the only capital ship in active service (outside of aircraft carriers), the Petr Velikiy (Peter the Great), is in the Russian Navy.
Officially, Russia refers to the Kirov-class battlecruisers as “heavy nuclear-powered guided missile cruisers.” But at 24,500 tons, and with a top speed of 32 knots, these ships are powerful. The Soviets started five of these vessels, and in the 1980s, completed three of them before the fall of the Soviet Union.
Those three were named Kirov, Frunze, and Kalinin. The fourth vessel under construction, Yuri Andropov, and the planned fifth, October Revolution, were placed on hold.
The ships were renamed by then-Russian President Boris Yeltsin in 1992 to Admiral Ushakov (ex-Kirov), Admiral Lazarev (ex-Frunze), Admiral Nakhimov (ex-Kalinin), Petr Yelikiy (ex-Yuri Andropov), and Admiral Kuznetsov (ex-October Revolution). The Admiral Kuznetsov was cancelled, and the name went to Russia’s troubled carrier. The Petr Velikiy was eventually put into service in 1998. But during that time, the Admiral Ushakov, the Admiral Lazarev, and the Admiral Nakhimov went into “operational reserve.”
So, let’s get to the good stuff: the firepower. Petr Velikiy can handle any threat in the wild blue yonder (that’s the sky, for those of you who don’t sing the Air Force song regularly). She carries 96 SA-N-6 “Grumble” surface-to-air missiles, 20 SS-N-19 “Shipwreck” anti-ship missiles, 16 eight-round launchers for the SA-N-9 “Gauntlet” point-defense surface-to-air missile, six CADS-N-1 point-defense systems (each with eight SA-N-11 “Grison” surface-to-air missiles and two 30mm Gatling guns), a twin 130mm gun mount, and two quintuple 533mm (21-inch) torpedo tube mounts. The ship can also carry two Ka-27 “Helix” helicopters.
Russia is planning to bring at least one of the non-operational ships back into service. Currently Admiral Nakhimov is being upgraded with plans to return her to service in 2018. The Petr Velikiy would then receive a four-year modernization. Whether the Admiral Ushakov or Admiral Lazarev follow suit remains to be seen, with conflictingreports among those who follow the Russian Navy. Admiral Ushakov reportedly suffered a reactor accident in 1990 that was never repaired. Both ships are said to be in bad condition.
Technically, the United States Navy is required to be able to reactivate two of its Iowa-class battleships. USS Iowa (BB 61 ) and USS Wisconsin (BB 64) were designated as such under Section 1014 of the National Defense Authorization Act 2006. But barring a major national emergency for the United States, it looks as if the Petr Velikiy and the Admiral Nakhimov will remain the last of their kind.
The British knew the attack was coming, they just weren’t sure when. For months Hitler had made his intentions clear: He was going to invade the United Kingdom, and that invasion would start with an air assault.
And on July 10, 1940 that assault began. Phase One — known as Kanalkampf, German for “channel war” — focused on taking out shipping in the English Channel. The Royal Air Force was there to meet the Luftwaffe, and after the first day the box score was 13 to 7 in favor of the British — a surprising result for the outnumbered RAF. That day set the tone for the eventual outcome.
The Germans had more qualified fighter pilots than the British, and their front line fighter, the Bf-109 Messerschmidt, was superior to the RAF’s Hurricane (which outnumbered the Spitfire in the inventory at the time) in speed and climb performance. However, the Hurricane had a superior turn rate and better firepower, and the British pilots used those elements to their advantage.
The air war wore on for several months, working it’s way over land as German bombers attacked both military and civilian targets. When it was finally over the RAF had lost 544 aircrew to the Luftwaffe’s 2,500. The damage to population centers like London took decades to repair, and the British repaid the favor by bombing civilian centers when the war moved east over Germany.
Overall, by preventing Germany from gaining air superiority, the British forced Hitler cancel Operation Sea Lion, the planned invasion of Britain.
After a ceremonial “flypast” today over London, Squadron Leader Duncan Mason who participated in the flight told the BBC: “When you think of the Battle of Britain it was one of those pivotal moments of history, it ranks up there with Trafalgar, Waterloo.
“It’s actually not just about the RAF but the resilience of the nation showed in the face of enormous adversity.”
Prime Minister Winston Churchill famously summed up the Battle of Britain with this quote: “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.” In the same speech to the House of Commons he also said, “”… if the British Empire and its Commonwealth lasts for a thousand years, men will still say, ‘This was their finest hour.'”
The U.S. government put 271 Syrian chemists and other officials on its financial blacklist April 24, punishing them for their presumed role in the deadly chemical weapons attack on a rebel-held town in early April.
In one of its largest-ever sanctions announcements, the Treasury Department took aim at the Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center (SSRC), which it said was responsible for developing the alleged sarin gas weapon used in the April 4 attack.
Note that when writing “Veterans Day,” there is no apostrophe. It’s not a day that belongs to veterans, it’s a day for the country to recognize veterans – all of them.
The United States has a tradition of recognizing those who fight in its wars. Memorial Day began as a way for Union soldiers who fought in the Civil War to decorate the graves of their fallen comrades (the day was originally called Decoration Day). Eventually, it would come to recognize all Americans troops killed in action.
Veterans Day was born from the trenches of World War I. The horrors of that war spurred not just Americans but most combatants to recognize those who fought in that terrible conflict.
In America, the anniversary of the war’s end became known as Armistice Day. After the brutal fighting of World War II and Korea, Armistice Day became Veterans Day.
The United States certainly isn’t the only country to experience the devastation a war can take on its population (and especially on those who fight that war). A few others take a day to recognize the significance of those who serve.
1. Australia and New Zealand
The land down under celebrates it veterans on what is known as ANZAC Day, on April 25. The day marks the anniversary of the first major military action from Australia and New Zealand Army Corps during World War I, the Battle of Gallipoli, against the Ottoman Turks. The first ANZAC Day was in 1926 and was later expanded to include the World War II veterans.
These days, ANZAC Day begins at dawn, with commemorations at war memorials and reflections on the meanings of war.
Since 1928, Belgium recognized its fallen on Armistice Day with the “Last Post” ceremony. A bugler calls out the “Last Post,” noting the end of the day (a British song, similar in effect to the modern U.S. Army “retreat”). Poppies are spread out from the tops of the Menin Gate in Ypres, Belgium.
The French also recognize Armistice Day on Nov. 11. The country throws military parades and its people wear black or dark clothing.
While Denmark was officially a neutral country in WWI, it doesn’t share the Nov. 11 remembrance with other Western European countries. Instead, Denmark honors living and dead troops from any conflict on its Flag Day, Sep. 5th.
Volkstrauertag is a day honoring the nation’s war dead on the Sunday closest to Nov. 16. The German president speaks to the assembled government and then the national anthem is played just before “Ichhatt’ einen Kameraden” (“I had a comrade”).
Since 1963, Yom Hazikaron, or “Day of the Memory,” has been Israel’s day for celebrating its fallen troops and for those who died in terrorist attacks and politically-motivated violence. It’s traditionally held on the 5th of Ivar (on the Hebrew calendar) but will be held in the preceding days to avoid falling on Shabbat.
Italy also celebrates its veterans with the marking of the end of World War I. Since Italy spent the bulk of the war fighting the Austro-Hungarian Empire and peace on the Italian Front was separate from the rest of the Western Front, the end of the war – and Italy’s veterans – are celebrated on Nov. 4.
8. The Netherlands
Veteranendag, recognizing everyone who served in the country’s military, happens on the last Saturday in June. The celebration has gained importance since the country began deploying to Afghanistan. Celebrations include a ceremony in front of the King of the Netherlands in the Hall of Knights, a parade in The Hague, and a meeting between veterans and civilians at the Malieveld, a National Mall-type area in The Hague.
As a member of the Commonwealth, Nigeria originally shared Nov. 11 as Remembrance Day but changed it to Jan. 15th to commemorate the end of the Nigerian Civil War in 1970.
Veterandagen is celebrated every May 8, coinciding with the World War II Victory in Europe Day. Norway’s observation of the day is recent, as they’ve only been celebratingit since 2011.
The Swede celebrate their veterans and those who served as UN Peacekeepers every May 29 with a large ceremony in Stockholm, attended by the Swedish Royal Family.
12. The United Kingdom and the Commonwealth
Those watching the news or sporting events on BBC or CBC may have noticed a red, flower-looking device on the lapels of the announcers. Those are poppies worn for Remembrance Sunday. For the month or so leading up to Nov. 11, Great Britain and the Commonwealth countries wear poppies to remember those who died in war. Wear of the poppy actually started with an American school teacher, but became a symbol of WWI because of the poem “In Flanders Field” by John McCrae.
“Forward, the Light Brigade! ‘Charge for the guns!’ he said: Into the valley of Death. Rode the six hundred.”
This was part of Lord Alfred Tennyson’s poem about how much of a cluster f*** the Battle of Balaclava truly ended up being. It is also the subject of Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper.”
The song directly states, “And as I lay forgotten and alone. Without a tear I draw my parting groan,” as a tribute to unnamed troops who were killed that day. In the many years that have since passed, letters have been discovered of first hand testimony of the ill-fated battle.
From 1853-1856, French, British, and Ottoman forces fought against the Russian Empire in the Crimean War. Conflict began after the Russians occupied Ottoman territory in modern day Romania. Within this war, the most infamous battle was at Balaclava where “The Charge of the Light Brigade” took place.
Under the command of Maj. General James Brudenell, 7th Earl of Cardigan, the light cavalry brigade consisted of roughly 670 men. Lord Raglan, the Commander of the British forces, intended to prevent Russian troops from maintaining their guns on Ottoman positions.
There are many historical discrepancies on who ordered the actual charge, but the fact remains: the cavalrymen charged directly into enemy cannons, killing roughly a sixth of brigade and another sixth wounded, totaling 271 casualties.
It was later discovered that the Russians numbered 5,240 strong.
An unknown officer of the 17th Lancers wrote in a recently discovered letter, “We all knew the thing was desperate before we started, and it was even worse than we thought. However there was no hesitation, down our fellows went at a gallop — through a fire in front and on both flanks, which emptied our saddles and knocked over our horses by scores. I do not think that one man flinched in the whole Brigade — though every one allows that so hot a fire was hardly ever seen.”
The loyalty of the British cavalry became well respected. The London Gazette wrote of the charge weeks after. While the commanders became despised, the troops were revered for their courage in the face of certain death.
Private Pearson of the 4th Light Dragoons wrote to his parents, “I shall never forget the 25th of October — shells, bullets, cannonballs, and swords kept flying around us. Dear Mother, every time I think of my poor comrades it makes my blood run cold, to think how we had to gallop over the poor wounded fellows lying on the field of battle, with anxious looks for assistance — what a sickening scene!”
Roger Fenton is regarded as one of the first war photographers and was present at the charge. Fenton refused to photograph dead or wounded as to not upset Victorian Era sensibilities, but he did capture troops and many moments after.
This photo that J. Paul Getty Museum called “one of the most well-known images of war” shows the aftermath of cannonballs that littered the landscape. The photograph titled “Valley of the Shadow of Death” has been on exhibition with the over 300 other images of the Crimean War
Today, the Light Brigade is remembered in the song “The Trooper.” Bruce Dickinson frequently on tour wears the British “red coat” smock as he waves a war-torn Union Jack. There has never been a more appropriate time to form a wall of death in the mosh pit.
Check out Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper” here, in all its glory:
For more than 100 years, troops have been zipping around combat zones on motorcycles. From early uses as transports for messengers plying the scarred landscape of Flanders in World War I, to steeds shuttling reconnaissance troops maneuvering for a low-profile look-see in Europe to today’s special operations troops using specially-designed all-terrain dirt bikes in search of America’s enemies, the military uses motorcycles for its specialized missions more than ever.
In fact, one of the first times U.S. troops used motorcycles in combat was when Gen. George “Blackjack” Pershing ordered Harley-Davidson J Series bikes to hunt down Poncho Villa in Mexico in 1914.
With their relatively light weight, high speed and endurance and energy efficiency, military motorcycles were proven time and again to be able to get troops to an objective when no other vehicle could — and get them out fast when things go sideways.
These stealthy steeds were used in some novel ways during World War I, with the U.S. military fielding nearly 100,000 to troops fighting in Europe. These bikes were loaded with machine guns for attacking enemy trenches, deployed with gurneys to transport wounded and used as messenger and reconnaissance vehicles to pass vital information and spy on enemy formations.
World War II saw even more use for military motorcycles, with Harley Davidson dominating the market for U.S. troops. This time vehicle technology had progressed so much that the Jeep Willy eventually eclipsed the motorcycle for go-anywhere transport and the two-wheelers were used primarily for message delivery and scouting.
By the Cold War, communications technology and armored designs made tooling around the battlefield on a motorcycle a dicey proposition. But that’s when America’s secret warriors started casting their gaze toward the technology for low-viz operations.
It’s well known that the Marine Corps had a unit of motorcycle troops for decades and that Air Force Special Tactics troops like Combat Controller Teams used the two-wheelers for remote landing strip surveys and long-range transport. The commandos (and Marines) tended toward offroad or Enduro-style bikes, with all-terrain capability and durable suspensions.
Today’s special operators are emphasizing hybrid technology that allows the bike to run on quiet electricity and recharge with a gas-fueled motor when stealth isn’t as important. Two prototype bikes, the Silent Hawk by Logos and the Nightmare from LSA Autonomy, are part of an ongoing program run by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, to deliver commandos a truly flex-fueled motorcycle.
These high-tech bikes can run on just about any kind of fuel, including JP-8 jet fuel and propane, and can switch to a quiet electric motor for silent insertions. When the motor’s running, the engine purrs at a whispery 80 decibels, about the same amount of noise as a vacuum cleaner.
While these bikes may still be a few years off before they’re deployed to worldwide combat zones, special operations units are setting their sights on today’s motorcycles that can go anywhere and are much easier to operate than standard ones.
A recent solicitation for industry from Air Force Special Operations Command calls for an order of Christini All-wheel Drive motorcycles for its special tactics teams. The Christini’s AWD capability “adds an element of control and capability that is not available on other motorcycles with the exact same overall weight,” the Air Force says.
The 450cc motorcycle uses a so-called “Rekluse” automatic clutch that allows the commando to stop at a moment’s notice without stalling and continue on without going through restart procedures, delivering “the operator an extreme tactical advantage on the battlefield.”
The Christini also has flex-foam run-flat tires that can take bullets and keep going “making a flat tire impossible,” the Air Force says.
Clearly, from the pre-World War I Army to the most elite special operators of today, the motorcycle is here to stay as an option for stealthy, all-terrain transport to get troops where they’re needed in any clime and place.
NOW WATCH: We take a ride with Navy vet and motocross machine Jacqueline Carrizosa:
Lee was a veteran of World War I when he was sent with other American troops to Nicaragua in 1927 to assist the Nicaraguan National Guard in a long-running fight against a leftist rebellion.
The Marines, including Lee, took command of small groups of local soldiers, trained them, and led them in combat.
In 1930, Lee was a gunnery sergeant who led the Nicaraguans against superior enemy forces six times between Mar. 20 and Aug. 19, forcing the enemy to retreat each time. Lee’s men were thought to have killed at least 10 enemy fighters and wounded many more over the span of the ten battles. Lee was awarded his first Navy Cross for his leadership and valor.
In December of the same year, Lee led a 10-day patrol through the jungle and engaged in three heavy fights with the rebels. His men defeated the rebels in each of the firefights, twice while fighting against rebel forces with superior numbers. This action netted Lee his second Navy Cross.
Automatic weapons fire rained down on the Marines and Nicaraguans as rebels fired their rifles and threw grenades. Lee was hit in the arm and head almost immediately at the start of the fight. Puller led the Nicaraguans against the enemy to achieve fire superiority without knowing if Lee was alive or dead.
Luckily for them all, Lee was only unconscious and awoke approximately 15 minutes later as the battle continued. Despite his grievous wounds, he clawed his way to the Nicaraguans’ machine gun, moved it to a good firing position, and started raining hell on the rebels. He then returned to the main element and resumed his duties as the second in command on the final attack.
U.S. Marines holding the Nicaraguan rebel leader Augusto César Sandino’s Flag. Nicaragua, 1932. (Marine Corps photo)
The Marines and Nicaraguans then conducting a fighting withdrawal back to their base, engaging the enemy multiple times and defeating more ambushes.
Lee would go on to fight in China during the lead up to World War II. Soon after the war broke out, he and his men were captured by Japanese forces and taken as prisoners of war and tortured. Lee survived the ordeal and continued serving in the Marine Corps until his retirement in 1950. He died of cancer in 1998.
The military has very talented photographers in its ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. This is the best of what they shot this week:
Soldiers and United States Air Force Airmen unload an AH-64 Apache helicopter, for the soon to be activated 1st Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, 25th Aviation Regiment, 25th Infantry Division, from a C-5 Galaxy at Fort Wainwright, Alaska, Aug. 20, 2015. TheU.S. Army Alaska battalion will receive a total of 24 Apaches by April 2016.
Soldiers, assigned to 2nd “Black Jack” Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, secure a landing zone after exiting UH-60 Black Hawks, from 2nd Combat Aviation Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division (Official Page), during a training exercise at Rodriguez Live Fire Range, Republic of Korea, Aug. 20, 2015.
A Soldier, assigned to the The 75th Ranger Regiment, conducts a simulated assault during Exercise Swift Response 15 at JMRC, in Hohenfels, Germany, Aug. 23, 2015. Swift Response 15 is aUnited States Army Europe – USAREUR-led, combined airborne training event with participation from more than 4,800 service members from 11 NATO nations.
PACIFIC OCEAN (Aug. 20, 2015) Sailors receive cargo in hangar bay of the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) during an underway replenishment with the Military Sealift Command fleet replenishment oiler USNS Henry J. Kaiser (T-AO 187). The John C. Stennis Strike Group is undergoing a composite training unit exercise and joint task force exercise, the final step in certifying to deploy.
ARABIAN GULF (Aug. 26, 2015) An MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter assigned to the Sea Knights of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 22 delivers cargo from the Military Sealift Command fast combat support ship USNS Arctic (T-AOE 8) to the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) during a vertical replenishment.
PORT HUENEME, Calif. (Aug. 24, 2015) Chief Utilitiesman Philip Anderton, assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 3, musters his platoon as his daughter hugs him before departing on a scheduled deployment to the Pacific region. NMCB-3 will support construction operations throughout the U.S. Pacific Fleet, sustain interoperability with regional governments, and provide fleet construction support.
INDIAN OCEAN (Aug. 25, 2015) Gunner’s Mate 3rd Class Alyssa Wynn fires the forward .50-caliber machine gun during a surface warfare live-fire exercise aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS Bainbridge (DDG 96).
Lance Cpl. Noah Soliz fires his M240-B medium machine gun during a live-fire squad attack course August 22, 2015, during Exercise Crocodile Strike at Mount Bundey Training Area, Northern Territory, Australia.
Marines assigned 1st Marine Division, run along hills during the Dark Horse Ajax Challenge aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, Aug. 20, 2015. The eight-mile course tested the Marines’ and Sailors’ endurance and leadership skills with trials spread across the San Mateo area.
Lance Cpl. Riley Remoket, with 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, fills a water bull at a water distribution site during typhoon relief efforts in Saipan, Aug. 19, 2015. The Marines and sailors of the 31st MEU were redirected to Saipan after the island was struck by Typhoon Soudelor Aug. 2-3.
U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Spencer Stone meets Lt. Gen. Timothy M. Ray, 3rd Air Force commander and 17th Expeditionary Air Force commander, upon his arrival to Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Aug. 24. 2015. Stone, along with childhood friends, Aleksander Skarlatos and Anthony Sadler, were recently honored by French President François Hollande for subduing an armed gunman when he entered their train carrying an assault rifle, a handgun and a box cutter.
An F-22A Raptor from the 95th Fighter Squadron at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., flies over the Nevada Test and Training Range during Red Flag 15-3 at Nellis AFB, Nev., July 31, 2015.
Maj. Jason Curtis, Thunderbird 5, and Capt. Nicholas Eberling, Thunderbird 6, fly back from Minden, Nev., Aug. 25, 2015.
Paratroopers assigned to 1st Battalion (Airborne), 501st Infantry Regiment descend after jumping out of a C-130 Hercules, assigned to the 374th Wing from Yokota Air Base, Japan, over the Malemute drop zone at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, Aug. 24, 2015.
Coast Guard Station Yaquina Bay is preparing for heavy weather this weekend. The coastal forecast is calling for 10-15 ft swells and winds up to 45 knots on Saturday. The Coast Guard defines heavy weather as seas greater than 8ft and winds greater than 30 knots.
Coast Guard Station Yaquina Bay has two 47 foot motor life boats. These boats have the ability to roll over and return to the upright position in 8-12 seconds.
Despite these many successful tests, the two weapons aren’t currently operational, Bob Freeman, a spokesman for the Office of Naval Research, told Business Insider, notwithstanding CNN’s recent story claiming that the laser aboard the Ponce is “ready to be fired at targets today and every day by Capt. Christopher Wells and his crew.”
The laser aboard the Ponce is “not the final product,” Freeman said. It is a low-energy laser that has been tested to shoot down drones. If the Ponce is threatened, they’ll still use conventional weapons.
So questions remain about when the weapons will be operational, how they will be used, and which will be used more.
“They both have unique capabilities,” but, Freeman said, “it seems to me you have less options with rail guns.”
Lasers have more capabilities in that they can be set to different energy levels, giving the operators the option to deter or take out targets.
For example, if a US ship perceives an aircraft as a threat, “you can put [the laser] on low-power and scintillate the cockpit” and make the pilot turn around, Freeman said. He wasn’t exactly sure what the enemy pilot would experience but said he or she would see the laser and probably wouldn’t be injured.
Or, if needed, the operators could turn the energy levels up and destroy the enemy target, either by melting precision holes through the craft or “cutting across” it, he said.
High-energy lasers, he added, are “still in development.”
But for larger targets, such as enemy ships, rail guns would probably be the best weapon.
“It packs a punch … and can go through steel walls,” Freeman said.
Once they are both operational, the US military will use them along with conventional weapons, and it’ll take years of evolution for one to make the other, or even conventional weapons, obsolete, Freeman said.
“They both have challenges to go through,” he told Business Insider, including where to get the power needed to fuel them. But they also offer other benefits in addition to their lethality: They’re cheaper and can even be safer for sailors, as they don’t require stores of ammunition that can explode.
As for exact tactics regarding how and when to use rail guns and lasers, the Navy and other branches employing them will decide once they’re operational, Freeman said.
Benjamin Holt was a proud industrialist creating tractors and other farming equipment when World War I broke out. While he prided himself on innovation, he stuck to creating better and better farming equipment rather than trying to create arms for the war effort.
That’s because Holt had developed a new tractor design in 1904, the “Caterpillar,” which used treads instead of wheels, allowing it to stay above the mud of the San Joaquin River Delta near Sacramento, California.
Holt replaced the steam engines of his original design with gasoline power ones in 1908, and the design took off. When World War I opened, horses butchered in front line fighting were slowly replaced with tractors, including Holt’s.
His design was actually a favorite on the front lines because the amazing grip of his caterpillar treads allowed the tractor to operate in heavy mud and to pull itself out of shell craters.
But when those same tractors rolled onto the battlefield, there was plenty of reason for German soldiers to sh-t their pants.
That’s because those tractors had undergone the “Mad Max” treatment courtesy of the Royal Navy, who covered them in thick metal plates, packed them with machine guns and cannon, and sent them crawling across the battlefield at a whopping 4 mph.
Behind them, infantrymen poured through the gaps created by the tanks and quickly seized German trenches and territory.
While the first attack at Flers Courcellette had its issues — mostly that the tanks broke down and were too slow to reposition themselves after the advance to prepare for the German counterattack — their rapid drive toward the objective served as their proof of concept.
British Gen. Douglas Haig, the commander of Allied forces at the Somme, requested hundreds more of the makeshift tanks, and armored warfare quickly became a new standard.
Better French and British tank designs soon followed the Mark 1, but it was an American tractor that carried the first tanks to fight in war.