As a colonel in the Syrian Air Force, Muhammed Faris joined a Soviet mission to the space station Mir in 1987. He was the first (and only) Syrian in space. The Soviets awarded Faris its Order of Lenin and Hero of the Soviet Union medals upon his return. After going back home to Syria, the cosmonaut rejoined Syria’s Air Force under dictator Hafiz al-Asad, father of current dictator, Bashar al-Asad.
Eventually, Faris became a general, but when the uprisings in Syria started, he and his wife joined the opposition protests in Damascus. As the regime got more brutal, he decided to flee to Turkey the next year.
“It was a choice,” he toldthe Daily Sabah, a Turkish newspaper. “Instead of living there as a ‘hero’ while my people were suffering, I preferred to live in tough conditions in exile with my honor.” Today he lives in Istanbul with his wife and children.
Despite receiving the highest awards the Soviet Union could give, Faris openly criticized the Russian intervention in his home country. He wants Western leaders to recognize that the only way to end the violence and stem the flow of refugees is to oust Asad.
“I tell Europe if you don’t want refugees, then you should help us get rid of this regime,” he told The Associated Press.
Russia and Syria have a long history of cooperation, extending way back to the founding of modern Syria after World War II. Russia supported Syrian independence from France. Since then, the Russians have provided the various Syrian regimes with aid and military assistance. This aid continued throughout the Cold War and through the elder Asad’s regime.
Everyone has to start somewhere. It’s not as if a young boy from Tikrit woke up one day and decided he would be known as “the Butcher of Baghdad.” It’s far more likely such a boy would just become a butcher. (And for the record, Saddam Hussein was trained to be a lawyer.)
Dictators are just like the rest of us (at least, at first). If they’re not born into powerful families, they will likely need to help their families make extra cash to survive or just make a living on their own until circumstances afford them the chance to take hold of the state’s coffers while stomping on the necks of their enemies real and perceived.
Here are the ways a few brutal dictators made ends meet while waiting for their big breaks:
Ho Chi Minh – Baker
The leader of the Vietnamese independence movement that liberated his home country from colonial France, as well as the figurehead for the North Vietnamese who fought the United States during the 1960s and 1970s also brought a brutal form of Communism to Vietnam. 50,000 to 100,000 people are thought to have been killed in his rise to power. He once said: “Anyone who does not follow the line determined by me will be smashed.”
Ho Chi Minh in 1921 (French National Library photo)
Before that, he claimed to be a baker at the Parker House Hotel while living in Boston in the early years of the 20th Century. He also spent time living in New York City, working in a series of menial labor jobs.
Pol Pot – Teacher
Born Saloth Sar, Pol Pot studied a number of disciplines as young man, but proved as capable a student as he was a capable leader, which is to say, not at all. He failed as a student in both France and his native Cambodia. When he came back, he taught at a school in the capital of Phnom Penh until he was forced out by the government.
In response, he changed his name to Pol Pot and took charge of the Khmer Rouge, ousting the government and installing himself as leader in 1975. He ruled for four years, presiding over the deaths of a million Cambodians after implementing disastrous economic, agricultural, and cultural reforms. Luckily for the average Cambodian, Vietnam invaded in 1979 to overthrow the regime.
Adolf Hitler – Artist
The boy who was all set to become a priest dropped out of the seminary in 1903 to be come a professional painter. His works were exact, unremarkable, unemotional landscapes that “was ripe for instruction he never received.” He moved to Vienna in 1908 and struggled there as a poor artist while the city’s culture incubated his racist and anti-Semitic ideas.
He left Vienna to dodge the Austro-Hungarian Empire’s draft for World War I. He was deemed unfit for service later anyway. He did volunteer in the Bavarian Army as a dispatch runner.
François Duvalier – Doctor
Haiti’s 40th president was a democratically elected black nationalist and classically trained doctor, which made him an excellent butcher of 30,000-60,000 Haitians. His education also earned him the nickname “Papa Doc.”
The 41st President of Haiti was his son, Jean-Claude Duvalier, who was handed the name “Baby Doc,” despite not being a doctor at all. Baby Doc fled Haiti after a 1986 rebellion toppled the government.
Benito Mussolini – Author
Many dictators penned books. Chairman Mao’s Little Red Book is one of the bestselling books of all time. Hitler wrote Mein Kampf. Mussolini wrote romance novels. That’s right, romance novels.
The Cardinal’s Mistress tells the tragic story of,a 17th-century Catholic clergyman and his mistress. Lines like “cast a ray of your light into my darkened soul,” do much toward explaining why he was made to take the other fork in the career road, the one marked “dictator.”
Bashar al-Asad – Opthalmologist
A graduate of Damascus University, Asad spent time as a doctor in his father’s (Syrian “President” Hafez al-Asad) army. He studied ophthalmology at London’s Western Eye Hospital. He returned to Syria when his brother Bassel was killed in a car crash to be groomed to take over for his father as “President” of Syria. Before ascending to leadership, his only administrative role ever, was head of the Syrian Computer Society.
Than Shwe – Mailman
The man who shipped almost a million Burmese people off to jungle gulags and work camps led one of the most repressive, autocratic regimes in the history of Earth. The military junta led by Than Shwe even executed Buddhist monks by the hundreds, dumping their bodies in the wilds and countrysides of Burma.
As a younger man, fresh from school, Than Shwe worked at the Meikhtila Post Office as a postal clerk before enlisting in the Burmese Army and becoming an officer who would later be Prime Minister.
Muammar Qaddafi – Goat Herder
No one knows exactly when Qaddafi was born, but it’s widely known his family comes from a Bedouin tribe of nomads who were illiterate and didn’t maintain birth records. His father was a camel and goat herder who wanted his son to attend school.
Qaddafi would seize power in 1969 while the pro-Western King Idris was away on state business. Qaddafi increased the Libyan quality of life at the cost of mass political repression and extrajudicial killings. In the early days of the Civil War that would lead to his overthrow and death, he ordered his army to starve the citizens of his own cities and kill any government troops who surrendered to the rebels.
Stalin – Weatherman
Joseph Stalin, the brutal Russian dictator and one of the deadliest dictators in history was actually born Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili, a Georgian seminary student with webbed toes. He dropped out of the seminary and worked as a meteorological clerk before joining Vladimir Lenin’s Bolshevik Movement. He started using the name Stalin around 1912.
The estimated number of people killed by Stalin’s regime and its policies range between three and sixty million Soviet citizens, with the higher victim estimates being more common among experts.
Yes, the movie has uniform errors and some technical mistakes. But, for a film about space aliens and government conspiracies, “Independence Day” actually represents the modern American military pretty accurately.
1. (1:00) America’s next great enemy begins its attack by waltzing past former U.S. military positions unopposed.
Seriously, the moon used to be America’s playground, then we abandoned it. If we had just left a residual force on the moon, we could’ve caught the alien menace and rooted it out before it got a foothold. Thanks, Obama.
2. (7:15) America’s problems start with the enemy attacking satellites.
Whether it’s China shooting a satellite with a missile or the aliens crashing into satellites, America suddenly faces some serious competition in orbit.
3. (9:25) U.S. communications equipment is quietly sabotaged.
China steals data, the aliens quietly broadcast data to control a countdown. It’s different sides of the same coin.
4. (12:20) Washington splits into Hawks and Doves before anyone has any idea what’s going on. Marine general rolls his eyes.
One civilian: Let’s just ignore it.
Another civilian: Lets kill it with missiles!
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs: You’re all idiots.
5. (14:53) The U.S. has no clue what is happening in Russia until it shows up on the news.
Guy: Mr. President! You might want to see this!
Cut to T.V. screen showing spaceship over Moscow.
Guy: There are aliens over Moscow?
Um, did you not know those spaceships were there before? They’re kilometers wide and you watched them enter earth’s atmosphere, headed that direction. And you didn’t realize where they went until it showed up on the news? You have spies and embassies and stuff right?
6. (17:30) Plan for the alien threat is “God help us” until someone can think of something better. No need to put together a working group or anything.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs: And what happens if the aliens do become hostile?
President: Then god help us.
Chairman: Oh, well. It’ll just be IEDs all over again, then. A huge threat that we just hope will go away until a few thousand people or more are dead.
7. (24:30) Marine assumes everyone around him is running because they’re cowards. Doesn’t even entertain the thought that they may know something he doesn’t.
8. (35:43) The Marine’s girlfriend is a stripper.
9. (53:00) Marines are too busy cutting jokes to pay attention to the mission briefing.
This is despite the fact that the enemy has already destroyed three cities and the Marines are about to fight an enemy that neither they nor any other human has ever faced.
10. (1:09:00) The Air Force and CIA were collecting intelligence on aliens for decades but didn’t share information with any decision makers when aliens showed up.
11. (1:44:00) All the other world militaries have consolidated their forces into mobile, international strike groups that can hide from alien incursions. America has kept their troops segregated from foreign forces and consolidated on fixed military installations.
12. (1:44:15) Other militaries of the world let America take the lead. Because, ‘Murica and apple pie.
O.K., this scene is obviously super ‘Murica. But it seems like at least one or two of the other countries would have doubted the American plan or been reluctant to follow the U.S. into a questionable scheme. And they certainly would have been working on their own plans that may be better than, “We’ll use a human computer to infect an alien computer because we don’t know how computer code works.”
13. (1:51:04) Combat pilot won’t start the world-saving mission until he gets his cigars, fulfilling his superstitions.
14. (2:12:30) Americans celebrate their victory without reservation, ignoring the fact that it came at the cost of dozens of American pilots’ lives. They also conveniently forget that there could be smaller alien ships still flying around the world. Those fighters you just parked would probably be useful in presence patrols to protect the very limited number of survivors.
Happy Independence Day, folks. Now watch one of the most motivating speeches in military movie history:
The Army is known for its ability to fight on land, and most people know it has plenty of helicopters. But the Army also has an impressive fleet of watercraft that it uses for transportation, engineering, and even special operations platforms. Here are the watercraft that hardly anyone knows the Army has.
1. The landing craft that can be a floating base for special operators
Most people know landing crafts from World War II movies where ramps dropped, and soldiers rushed out and onto the beaches. Landing craft are still largely the same, with advances in technology allowing for larger, more resilient ships. The Army currently fields 34 Landing Craft, Utility 2000s.
The LCU works by pulling close to a shore, dock, or pier and dropping a ramp to form a bridge for vehicles. Supplies are then carried off by forklift while transported vehicles can roll off under their own power. The LCU-2000 can carry up to 350 tons into water as shallow as 9 feet, meaning it can drop 5 Abrams tanks directly onto a beach.
The LCU-2000s have been historically used as transportation platforms for supplies and armored vehicles, but they also saw service with special operators in Haiti and Operation Iraqi Freedom. In Haiti, the ships were used to transport operators to different fights while avoiding the heavily defended road network. In Iraq, they were used as floating staging bases for operators assaulting offshore oil platforms.
2. The landing craft that can assault beaches, fight fires, and act as a command center
The Landing Craft, Mechanized 8 is primarily a supply transport ship like the LCU-2000. It is smaller and carries only 53 tons, meaning it can’t lift a single heavy tank. It can carry smaller vehicles though and can operate in waters as shallow as 5 ft.
It is highly customizable though, and it’s used for a variety of purposes. Its shallow draft allows it to operate inland, far away from deep water. It can be fitted with firefighting equipment, diver support equipment, or communications relays. It especially shines in disaster relief since it can deliver to an unimproved beach or damaged dock as much cargo as a C-17 can carry.
The Army has 40 LCM-8s, but it’s looking to replace them. The Maneuver Support Vessel (Light) program calls for a new ship with capabilities above and beyond the LCM-8. It would carry more cargo, be more survivable under attack, and have both fore and aft ramps so vehicles could drive on and off faster.
3. Logistics support vessels that can deploy 24 combat-ready tanks
Though the Army has only eight Logistics Support Vessels, they are heavy lifters. The LSV is capable of carrying 2,000 tons from deepwater boats to shore. Though it needs 12 feet of water to float, it has a longer ramp that allows it to reach the shore on beaches the LCM-8 and LCU-2000 can’t reach.
Its larger deck surface and greater capacity means it can carry 24 M1 tanks directly to a beach and the tanks can roll off, ready to fight. That’s almost enough space to carry an entire armored cavalry troop in one lift.
4. Dredges and cranes for re-shaping the coast
Army engineers are in charge of U.S. dredging operations. That’s the removal of silt from the ocean floor to lay communications cable, open clogged shipping lanes, or deepen waterways for larger ships. To accomplish this mission, they maintain 11 dredging vessels that remove silt and sand and dump it out to sea or in pre-planned sites.
The engineers also keep a small fleet of floating cranes used to assist with dredging, repair or build ports, and move supplies onto and off of ships.
5. Tugs that can pull aircraft carriers
Army tugs are used primarily to maneuver friendly ships in tricky ports or waterways just like civilian tugs. They are also useful for repositioning cranes and moving floating piers or barges into position.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) demonstrated a new Android tablet app where an Air Force Joint Terminal Attack Controller — the guy on the ground who is an expert at calling in air strikes — was able to call in multiple close air support (CAS) strikes with an A-10, using only three strokes of a finger.
Conducted at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, the test was the first set of tests with U.S. Air Force aircraft. Earlier this year, the test were successfully conducted with Marine Corps Osprey aircraft. The Air Force tests used a mixture of laser and GPS-guided weapons, with a 100% success rate, all within the six minute test time frame.
The app — called Persistent Close Air Support — allows the JTAC on the ground to link directly with aircraft pilots, pick targets, and locate friendly forces for the inbound CAS. And you thought the Blue Force Tracker was awesome.
Watch DARPA’s PCAS video below:
It’s not science fiction. It’s what they do every day.
The men were calling in bomb after bomb — pinpointing al Qaeda positions in the hills and ridges of Tora Bora, miles from support and operating on their own for days.
In the end, the special operators from the Army’s elite Delta Force did all they could in the face of intense danger, feckless allies and brutal conditions to kill America’s public enemy number one. But to no avail.
The man who led those elite teams of Delta Force soldiers in the earliest days of the war in Afghanistan later wrote a book under the pen name Dalton Fury. Titled “Kill bin Laden: A Delta Commander’s Account of the Hunt for the World’s Most Wanted Man” it told in granular detail the risks this highly trained counterterrorism unit took to infiltrate the jagged mountains where Osama bin Laden was believed to be hiding and stitch together an ever-fraying patchwork of Afghan allies to help block his escape.
“We went into a hellish land that was considered impregnable and controlled by al Qaeda leaders who had helped defeat the Soviet Union,” Fury wrote. “We killed them by the dozen. Many more surrendered. … And we heard the demoralized — bin Laden speak on the radio, pleading for women and children to fight for him.”
“Then he abandoned them all and ran from the battlefield,” Fury added with some satisfaction. “Yes. He ran away.”
Fury was savaged by many in his former Delta and Special Forces community when the 2008 book was released, with many arguing he’d broken a code of silence on the secretive unit’s operations. His former colleagues outed his real name, Maj. Tom Greer, but he kept using Dalton Fury as his nomme de plume for a later series of popular fiction books about door kickers and contractors who hunted the world’s worst.
With the passage of time, the special ops community has settled down and Fury became Greer again. But despite his success in the world of fiction and his survival of many dangerous missions in Iraq, Afghanistan and the former Yugoslavia, among others, Greer is now fighting a battle he may not win.
According to friends and other sources, Greer recently has been diagnosed with terminal Pancreatic Cancer. His supporters have established a Facebook page in hopes of helping his family in their time of need.
Greer is a true warrior and decorated combat veteran of the world’s most deadly counterterrorism unit, doubtless he’ll fight this battle with the same grit and tenacity he did against America’s most dangerous enemies.
It’s a question that has lasted as long as the Selective Service debate: Should every American serve for a year or two before entering the work force or pursuing higher education?
Arguments have been made for both sides of the case since the last draft in 1973, though the pro-service cause may have just found their strongest and most vocal ally yet — former Joint Special Operations Command chief Stanley McChrystal. Though McChrystal has largely stayed out of the spotlight since his retirement in 2010, he has still been very vocal about this concept, recently penning an op-ed for Time Magazine on the value of national service.
In his article, McChrystal says that the time is ripe for the country to come together to institute a mandatory year of paid national service for young Americans aged 18-28 years. A yearlong commitment would not only instill the values of accountability and responsibility towards citizenship, but will also develop character and leadership traits, he argues.
The retired general does stress, however, that national service should not be directed entirely towards the military. He feels that an open choice between different service organizations needs to exist, allowing for hundreds of thousands of young Americans to have a positive impact beginning in their communities, and resulting in progress on a national level.
This is a view seemingly very common among military veterans, a number of whom have gone on record to discuss the merits of a year of service. It also isn’t the first time McChyrstal has promoted a year of compulsory national service. In 2016, he urged candidates participating in the 2016 presidential race to consider making this idea a reality, and in 2012, the former special operations chief gave a speech to Harvard University on the same topic.
McChyrstal himself is no stranger to service, having joined the Army in 1976 after graduating from West Point. Born into a military family, he rose through the ranks, serving with regular infantry units, on a Special Forces “A-Team”, and eventually the 75th Ranger Regiment, prior to taking command of JSOC in 2003.
Described by former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates as “perhaps the finest warrior and leader of men in combat [he] had ever met,” McChrystal is easily a soldier’s soldier, known for his willingness to be on the frontlines instead of an air conditioned office stateside. His career in the Army ended in 2010 with a truncated stint as the command of US and coalition forces in Afghanistan.
A national service commitment isn’t exactly anything new, especially with many European and Asian nations. Israel and Switzerland are two of the most notable examples, with both countries mandating by law that youth of a certain age are required to register with the military or with a civil service body for a predetermined term. In both countries, the commitment ranges from a year to two years, though some decide to stay around and build a career out of their service terms.
Switzerland, in particular, has utilized conscription to staff its military for decades by having conscripts report for a 260-day service period upon reaching the age of majority. Recruits can choose to serve their entire commitment in 300 continuous days, or train in periods throughout the year, somewhat similar to the National Guard and various branch reserves in the United Sates.
However, should a recruit decide that military service isn’t for them, they can elect to join the country’s civil service as a paid employee for a 390-day period.
Currently, the national year of service topic has yet to be brought up by the White House or Congress, though it still remains a talking point for many, including McChrystal and Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain, a retired Navy attack pilot.
Until meaningful discourse on the subject arises, the retired general and the sitting Senator have worked together to sponsor efforts to afford military veterans and civilian volunteers more opportunities to voluntarily serve their countries in various civil organizations.
It’s so obvious that many wonder why they didn’t think of it.
And it’s so difficult, most have shied away from even trying.
But it looks as if new veteran-owned gun company has cracked the code with one a new pistol that’s causing big buzz at this year’s Shooting, Hunting, Outdoor Trade show in Las Vegas.
Made by Hudson Manufacturing, the new H9 is a double-stack 9mm that incorporates the straight-pulling 1911-style trigger with a striker-fired operating system. No other handgun has been able to incorporate the two sought-after features in one.
And the coolest part is that the company is run by a husband and wife Cy and Lauren Hudson who both deployed to southern Afghanistan in 2011 — one as a military contractor with the intelligence community, the other as an infantry officer with the 25th Infantry Division.
“In 2013 we began to research our favorite weapon systems and asked the question, ‘why can’t someone combine striker fired reliability with a 1911 trigger?’ ” the company said. “We were often met with skepticism and sometimes even discouraged from pursuing our vision. With a crude drawing and a knowledge base, the idea began to take shape.”
The H9 has a 4.28-inch barrel with an overall length of just over 5 inches. It’s remarkably slim at 1.25 inches and has a very low bore axis due in part to its reengineered nose that allows the barrel and recoil spring to sit lower on the frame.
The H9 has a 1911-style grip with G10 inserts and a Hogue backstrap. The handgun ships with a Trijicon front sight and packs a 15-round magazine.
But all that high-end engineering doesn’t come cheap, at an MSRP of more than $1,000, the Hudson H9 will appeal to those who want it all in a single handgun.
In the 1970s, the Soviet Union designed the MiG-27 Flogger as a dedicated ground-attack plane based on the MiG-23 Flogger, an air-superiority fighter turned multi-role fighter. It was well-built for that mission, able to haul just over 8,800 pounds of ordinance, according to globalaircraft.org.
It also could bring two varieties of BRRRRRT! Airforce-Technology.com reports that the MiG-27 had a 30mm Gatling gun, the GSh-6-30, with 260 rounds that could kill tanks. In addition to the 30mm gun, this Flogger also packed twin-barrel 23mm gun with 200 rounds that the MiG-23 had. Double the BRRRRRT!, double the fun?
The F-15 Eagle made a similar transition in the late 1980s, going from an air-superiority plane to a deadly ground-attack bird (albeit still with powerful air-to-air capabilities). For the MiG-27, though, its only mission was to be ground attack. The Soviets removed the radars but did armor up the cockpit. The MiG-27 stayed in production until 1986 in the Soviet Union, but India then got a license to build the plane.
In Indian service, the MiG-27 is known as the Bahadur. India acquired a production license for the MiG-27, starting with 80 kits from Russia. Then, India began to build MiG-27s from scratch – eventually acquiring a total of 165 in that manner. India also imported MiG-27. According to FlightGlobal.com, India has 84 MiG-27s in service.
But these are not the Cold War MiG-27s.
GlobalSecurity.org noted that India carried out one upgrade starting in 2002, which included new navigation systems, improved target tracking systems, and a cockpit that made things easier for the pilot. That was finished by 2009. But a more advanced MiG-27 has been designed by India
MilitaryFactory.com reports that this advanced version of the MiG-27, known as the MiG-27H, would take it beyond a ground attack machine. The MiG-27H not only lightened the plane, but added multi-function displays to the cockpit, and a multi-mode radar that would enable the Flogger to fight aircraft and carry out anti-shipping missions.
The Vietnam War was the first American war broadcast on TV, something that profoundly changed the way we see expeditionary warfare. For the first time ever, Americans at home saw young men crawling through dense jungles thousands of miles away. And it wasn’t like the newsreel footage of the ’40s, scrubbed clean and careful to show the good guys fighting the good fight. The news coverage in Vietnam showed young American men out on patrol in a strange, foreign land in what was a bitterly controversial war back at home. But less well-known are the paintings created by dedicated teams of army painters tasked with depicting the war in Vietnam as they saw it, with unlimited creative license and no travel restrictions.
“Swamp Patrol” – Roger Blum, 1966
The Vietnam Combat Art Program was created in 1966 as a way to create a record of the war as seen through soldiers’ eyes (a similar program existed in WWII). Applications were solicited from soldiers through the U.S. Army Arts and Crafts Program, a separate program originally set up to boost morale in the mobilization leading up to WWII. But unlike the Arts and Crafts Program, which decorated barracks, hosted art classes and sought to fill the long periods of downtime of a life at war, this new Combat Art Program dedicated artist teams to observe and depict the war in Vietnam.
“Wounded” – Robert C. Knight, 1966
In a departure from the army’s caginess towards news media coverage of the war, the program sought out artists looking to depict scenes in Vietnam that were both honest and compelling. In the U.S. Army’s announcement of the program, it called for “competent artist-illustrators who have a sound foundation in life drawing, composition and color. They must be able to record military events and experiences pictorially and with strong emotional impact.” The teams were to spend 60 days traveling through Vietnam, following units on patrol while making sketches and doing preliminary research. The teams would later finish their work during a 75-day stay in Hawaii.
“Killed In Action” – Burdell Moody, 1967
The army assembled nine Combat Artist Teams (CATs) from 1966-1970. Each team consisted of about 5 artists who were given the freedom to travel wherever they wished in Vietnam. “We had open Category Z Air and Military Travel orders, which meant we could hitch a ride anywhere in Vietnam. It was a letter-sized sheet of paper with written and signed orders,” explained James Pollack, who was a member of CAT IV, which operated in late 1967. “We usually just walked up to a pilot or someone in charge and flashed the orders. We guarded these papers closely – if we lost them it would have been difficult trying to explain why we were hitchhiking around Vietnam.” Pollack described his experiences in the Vietnam Combat Art Program in an essay published in 2009 in War, Literature the Arts: An International Journal of the Humanities.
More than seven decades after the start of World War II, Germany and Japan have begun to rearm.
These days, the countries are two of America’s closest allies. But they can’t singlehandedly project military power outside of their own borders.
In fact, the building of an offensive army is prohibited by the post-WWII constitutions of both Germany and Japan. And when the Cold War ended, it took a lot of the emphasis on building a strong military away from those vanquished nations.
There just wasn’t an enemy to fight that rivaled the threat posed by the Soviet Union.
The rise of transnational terrorism sparked renewed efforts in developing Germany and Japan’s defense capabilities. The two countries’ defensive posture was designed around limited self-defense capabilities.
The U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 after the terror attacks on Sept. 11 was the first time NATO allies rallied and mobilized for mutual offensive action. Now, the threat of ISIS has made the need for an expanded military capacity even more pressing.
With tensions in the South China Sea simmering — and getting hotter (the People’s Liberation Army Navy stole an American underwater drone) — the chances that America and China could come to blows are increasing. The fight could very likely be a naval-air fight, but there could also be the need for something not really seen since the Korean War: amphibious assaults.
The United States has the world’s preeminent military force in that capacity: The United States Marine Corps.
The People’s Republic of China turns to the People’s Liberation Army Navy Marine Corps for its needs in this area. These two forces are similar in that both have a mission to deploy by sea to carry out operations on land.
The Chinese force, though, consists of two brigades in the South China Sea area, totaling 12,000 active-duty personnel, according to GlobalSecurity.org. Calling up reserves could boost the force to 28,000.
That force is arguably outmatched by the USMC’s III Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF), based out of Okinawa. A typical MEF has over 50,000 Marines, and features both a division and an air wing.
U.S. and Chinese Marines shoot the type-95 rifle in a joint training exercise. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Jeremy J. Harper)
The Chinese Marines are equipped with armored vehicles, notably the Type 59 main battle tank and the Type 63A amphibious tank. The former is a knockoff of the Soviet T-55, carrying a 100mm gun.
The latter is an interesting design, equipped with a 105mm main gun, which holds 45 rounds, but capable of swimming to shore. China also has large stocks of Soviet-era PT-76 and indigenous Type 63 amphibious tanks in its inventory as well.
The Marines have the M1A1 Abrams tank, which is not amphibious. That said, this is a very tough tank that has deflected shells from more powerful tank guns from 400 yards. Against the Type 63A, it would easily survive a hit and then dispatch the tank that shot at it.
While the Type 63A can swim to a battlefield, it trades protection for that ability. The result is that its thin armor can be easily penetrated, and that is bad news for its crew.
The tank disparity is not all that would hamper the Chinese Marines. The People’s Liberation Army Navy did not see fit to provide the Chinese Marines with any organic aviation. III Marine Expeditionary Force has the 1st Marine Air Wing, a powerful force that includes a squadron of F/A-18D Hornets, KC-130J tankers, and AH-1Z attack helicopters. That does not include units that rotate in from the United States, including AV-8B Harriers and F/A-18C Hornets.
In short, the United States Marine Corps brings in over 240 years of tradition, as well as far greater manpower, resources and capabilities. At present, if the United States wants China off of its unsinkable aircraft carriers, the American leathernecks would, in all likelihood, succeed.