This was the badass predecessor to the AC-130 Spooky gunship - We Are The Mighty
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This was the badass predecessor to the AC-130 Spooky gunship

The C-47 fulfilled a number of roles in World War II and Korea. It was a supply plane, a plane for dropping paratroopers, and a tow for gliders.


But it was in the Vietnam War that the “Gooney Bird” would get its greatest mission — flying three 7.62mm miniguns through the night to devastate North Vietnamese and Viet Cong forces.

This was the badass predecessor to the AC-130 Spooky gunship
Night attack of a U.S. Air Force Douglas AC-47D Spooky gunship over the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV) Team 21 compound at Pleiku in May 1969. This time-lapse photo shows the tracer round trajectories. (Photo: U.S. Army Spec. 5 Thomas A. Zangla)

The idea for a side-firing gunship had been floating around military circles since at least 1926. In fact, the technique had been tested successfully in 1927 when 1st Lt. Fred Nelson flew a DH-4 with a mounted .30-cal machine gun and destroyed a target on the ground.

But the Army Air Corps and the Army Air Forces never came around to the idea. It was 1963 before the idea of a side-firing aircraft got another serious test. A C-131B modified with gunsights and a minigun was successful in early tests and the experiment was repeated with a C-47.

This was the badass predecessor to the AC-130 Spooky gunship
The U.S. Air Force AC-47 Dragon aircraft flies missions over South Vietnam in support of allied outposts. (Photo: Public Domain)

The C-47 performed swimmingly as well, and Air Force leader Gen. Curtis LeMay approved the modification of two planes in 1964.

The final combat variant of the AC-47 consisted of the cargo plane with three 7.62mm miniguns mounted on the left side — two in modified portholes near the cargo door and one in the cargo door itself. The triggers for the three guns were connected to a button in the pilot’s compartment.

The pilots would take off with a 7-man crew and seek out small bases and villages under fire by North Vietnamese forces. When fighting popped off, the crew would drop flares out of the open door and the pilot would fly a race track pattern over the target, pouring fire on it the whole time.

This was the badass predecessor to the AC-130 Spooky gunship
Night attack of a U.S. Air Force Douglas AC-47D Spooky gunship over Saigon in 1968. This time lapse photo shows the tracer round trajectories. (Photo: Public Domain)

If the threat was too large for the AC-47, the flares it dropped would light up the target for follow-on fighters. The AC-47 would stay in the area, directing the attacks by other aircraft.

The AC-47, dubbed “Puff, the Magic Dragon,” by an officer who saw it at work, was so effective that the Air Force launched Project Gunship II, the program which resulted in the AC-130 still in service today.

This was the badass predecessor to the AC-130 Spooky gunship
The AC-47D contained three miniguns mounted in the cargo hold. (Photo: Office of Air Force History)

A number of AC-47 pilots and crew members were cited for bravery while serving aboard the plane, including Medal of Honor recipient Sgt. John L. Levitow. Levitow was on an AC-47 that was struck by a mortar round.

Though he was peppered by approximately 40 pieces of shrapnel in the blast, he noticed that a flare — activated by another crewmember just before the blast — was rolling around the cargo area.

The flare had yet to fully ignite, but it was only a matter of time before it would, possibly killing the crew on its own and almost certainly causing the cargo hold of ammunition to go off. Levitow crawled to the flare, held the burning implement against his already wounded body, and moved to the door with it.

He was able to throw it out just before the flare ignited.

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How to make a gas mask completely from scratch

Whether you’re making a survival-themed short film on a budget or you’re attempting to survive an alien attack, gas masks are an expensive item on your long list of lifesaving tools.

However, with some ingenuity, you can construct a perfectly operational, filtered breathing apparatus using a few items you probably already have around the house.


You’ll need the following: an empty two-liter bottle, an aluminum can, rubber bands, cotton rounds, duct tape, and activated charcoal (which you can find in the aquarium aisle).

This was the badass predecessor to the AC-130 Spooky gunship
Your homemade gas mask inventory
(Black Scout Survival)

First, you’ll need to cut a U-shape out of the two-liter bottle — this will be the mask’s face. Once you’ve cut out the shape, seal the edges with duct tape. The tape will also act as a buffer against cutting your face on the jagged plastic edges.

Next, hold the taped plastic in front of your face to make sure it’s a good size.

This was the badass predecessor to the AC-130 Spooky gunship
Fits perfectly.
(Black Scout Survival)

Carefully pop a few holes in the bottom of the aluminum can before cutting it in half. After that, place a single layer of cotton rounds inside the cut can. Then, pour in a layer of activated charcoal to cover the bottom. To make sure the activated charcoal remains secure, place another cotton round on top.

You’ve just built yourself a makeshift air filter.

This was the badass predecessor to the AC-130 Spooky gunship
The activated charcoal is secured and covered.
(Black Scout Survival)

Before duct taping the filter onto the bottle’s open spout, secure one last cotton round to the top of the can — acting as a lid.
Pop a hole in that cotton and then stick the open spout of the two-liter bottle into the slot.

Next, tape the aluminum can to the modified bottle. You can use the rubber bands to help keep the mask on your face as you battle hordes of zombies.

Check out Black Scout Survival‘s video below to get a breakdown of how to put together this clever lifesaver.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Operation Red Wings through the eyes of the Night Stalkers

The sun was fading behind Afghanistan’s Hindu Kush mountains the evening of June 27, 2005, as a team of four U.S. Navy SEALs walked up the ramp and into the back of U.S. Army Captain Matt Brady’s MH-47 Chinook helicopter on Bagram Air Base.

Tasked with inserting the SEAL special reconnaissance (SR) team deep into enemy territory in unforgiving terrain, Brady knew the SEALs — Lieutenant Michael Murphy, Petty Officer 2nd Class Danny Dietz, Petty Officer 2nd Class Marcus Luttrell, and Petty Officer 2nd Class Matthew Axelson — had a difficult mission ahead. Marines in the area knew it was an extremely dangerous place filled with Taliban fighters.


Brady had no way of knowing at the time, but it would be the last time anyone at Bagram would ever see three of those four Americans alive.

This was the badass predecessor to the AC-130 Spooky gunship

The Afghanistan mountains and forest from the valley where soldiers searched for the remains of the three SEALs who were killed in action. Photo courtesy of Steven Smith.

The Army’s elite 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR) is known for having some of the most skilled aviators in the world, who fly the most elite special operators into some of the most austere environments on earth using the most advanced aircraft in the U.S. military inventory. They are famous for the roles they played in both the Battle of Mogadishu and the mission to kill Usama Bin Laden but are revered throughout the special operations community for acts of valor that often never see the light of day due to the classified nature of their work.

As a pilot in the 160th, Brady was the air mission commander for the operation. He and some of his fellow “Night Stalkers” felt the SEALs’ plan was too risky.

The mission was to capture or kill Ahmad Shah, a Taliban commander. The three-phase plan called for inserting a four-man SR team the first night, then inserting the second element of SEALs the following night to establish an isolation zone around Shah. Finally, 150 U.S. Marines would come in to establish blocking positions for the SEALs’ assault on Shah’s compound.

The Night Stalkers’ job was to insert the SEALs on a ridgeline where the terrain left few options for landing zones. The commandos would have to descend from a rope — fast-rope — while the helos hovered high above the trees. That meant if the SEALs got into trouble, extraction would potentially require the use of a hoist to pull the SEALs out, which was a time-consuming and dangerous option.

As he approached the insertion site, Brady could see lights dotting the mountains below through his night-vision goggles.

This was the badass predecessor to the AC-130 Spooky gunship

An MH-47 Chinook with 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment and a KC-130J Super Hercules with Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 152 conduct aerial refueling during Exercise Yuma Horizon 19. Photo by Lance Cpl. Seth Rosenberg, courtesy of DVIDS.

“This was a desolate part of the Hindu Kush, and at night, you wouldn’t really expect to see much,” Brady told Coffee or Die. “Not really sure who they were, but there was more activity than I expected.”

As the pilots climbed the last 1,000 feet of elevation, the AC-130 crew providing overwatch on their destination radioed to say they had to leave their position due to a mechanical issue. Brady knew that surveillance aircraft going off station without backup was supposed to result in aborting the mission.

He asked the AC-130 crew for one final report on the four potential landing zones the Night Stalkers had identified for the mission.

“We’ve got two military-aged males, possibly armed, on the northernmost LZ,” the crew reported. “Primary and secondary zones appear to be clear of potential threats.”

Believing the gunship could make it back on station in time for the insertion, Brady made the call to continue the mission.

This was the badass predecessor to the AC-130 Spooky gunship

From left, SGT Carlos Pacheco (3/160 medic, former 3/75), SFC Marcus V. Muralles (Legend – 3/160 medic), MAJ Sam Sauer (3/160 flight surgeon), SFC L.E. Shroades (medic R/160), SGT Dan Bell (E Co/160) during during the timeframe of Operation Red Wings. Photo courtesy of Daniel Bell.

Approaching the insertion point, the pilots flared the Chinook and came into a hover. As the lead aircraft descended, it became clear the LZ was on a steep slope of the mountain, making descent difficult due to the front rotors approaching the mountainside faster than the rear of the aircraft.

“Hold your right and left; hold your front and rear,” came the internal radio traffic from the flight engineer to Brady.

There were 100-foot-tall trees on all sides of the Chinook, and they were so close the pilots had no room to sway as they descended.

“When you hear all four directions, everyone gets pretty tense,” Brady said. “It means you can’t drift any direction without crashing.”

The pilots descended to the point where the Chinook’s front rotor was just a few feet away from the mountainside with tall trees all around the aircraft. The flight crew kicked out the ropes, and the SEALs fast-roped down.

When the crew chief tried to pull the rope up, they found it was entangled below. After several tense moments of struggling to bring in the rope, they decided to cut it loose. The odds of enemy fighters hearing the echo of the dual-rotor helicopter increased every second it remained in a hover. The SEALs did their best to hide the rope and keep their presence on the ridgeline hidden from enemy fighters.

It wasn’t an ideal insertion, but the Night Stalkers had accomplished their mission. They ascended and flew back to Jalalabad to link up with another group of SEALs and standby as a quick reaction force (QRF) in case the SR team was compromised.

At Jalalabad, Brady was approached by SEAL Commander Erik Kristensen in the command operations center. Kristensen confronted him about the decision to cut the rope at the LZ and asked if the Night Stalkers would go back and retrieve it.

This was the badass predecessor to the AC-130 Spooky gunship

A UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter from 1-228th Aviation Regiment conducting hoist operations. Photo by Spc. Steven K. Young, courtesy of DVIDS.

“We would have to drop a man down with a hoist in that hole of an LZ,” Brady explained. “Hoisting a man at that altitude on that kind of terrain at night is a dangerous operation. Once on the ground, they’d have to pick up the rope, hook it to themselves, and get hoisted back up. Hovering for that long over the same spot would burn the LZ and likely alert the enemy to the SR team’s presence.”

Kristensen agreed with Brady’s evaluation, and after the SR team radioed that they would be laying down for the day in their hide site, Brady and Kristensen called it a night.

Walking toward the flight line, the SEAL commander quipped, “What made you want to fly such ugly helicopters?”

“They’re not much to look at, but they get the job done,” Brady fired back. “Kind of like SEALs.”

They shared a laugh as they loaded up for the flight back to Bagram.

At the Bagram operations center, Major Stephen Reich approached Brady urgently, asking why he didn’t follow abort criteria and fly back with the SR team after the AC-130 had to leave the airspace.

Brady said he estimated the AC-130 would only be off station briefly and that the crew had reported no hostile activity on the LZ. He told Reich pushing the mission back would allow Shah to continue his terrorist activities, likely leading to the death of locals and U.S. military in the area.

“Good,” Brady recalled Reich saying. “I’m glad you’re a thinking air mission commander and not simply one that takes a black-and-white view of the situation.”

With that, they retired to their rooms to rest for phase two of the operation the following night.

This was the badass predecessor to the AC-130 Spooky gunship

Some of the Night Stalkers hanging out in the B huts they slept in, enjoying much needed down time. Photo courtesy of Matt Rogie.

As the Night Stalkers slept, the SR team was discovered by a numerically superior force of enemy fighters. They engaged in a fierce firefight, and at some point the task force lost contact with them.

Brady’s maintenance officer woke him and said the SR team was in trouble and the Night Stalkers had orders to spin up and pull the team out.

“That’s not possible,” Brady replied, confused at how quickly the SEALs had become compromised. “They’ve got their own quick reaction force. We’re completely separate commands. It doesn’t make sense.”

But he knew and lived by the Night Stalkers’ promise to every customer: “If we put you in, we’ll stop at nothing to get you out — even if it’s technically someone else’s job.”

Brady rushed to the operations center where Chief Warrant Officer 4 Chris Eicher was telling the task force commander that they should wait until dark before sending the QRF because going in during daylight would subject them to more danger. The 160th had only lost helicopters during daylight missions at that point — they’re called Night Stalkers for a reason.

The commander explained that the ground force commander had already rejected that plan and didn’t want to wait any longer.

Brady ran over to where his platoon sergeant, Sergeant First Class Mike Russell, was sleeping and updated him on what had unfolded.

“Are you serious?” Russell replied.

Russell went to work right away getting the crews together to prep the aircraft for the mission.

This was the badass predecessor to the AC-130 Spooky gunship

Three of the 160th’s MH-47D Chinooks on the flight line in Bagram, Afghanistan. Photo courtesy of Matt Rogie.

Back in the operations center, leaders were busy trying to figure out the SEALs’ last known location and calculating how many soldiers each helicopter could fly with. They finalized plans and sent the Night Stalkers on their way.

As Brady approached the Chinook he’d be flying, he noticed the tail number: 1-4-6. The bird’s call sign was Turbine 33. Kristensen and his SEALs were waiting on the ramp, standing in a circle.

“Our plan of action is for you to get us to the high ground as close to the troops in contact as you can, and we’re going to fight our way downhill,” Brady recalled Kristensen saying.

Since the SEALs weren’t sure where exactly the compromised team was located, Kristensen believed inserting at a position of tactical advantage was the best option.

“Drop us on the high ground, and we’ll make our way to our swim buddies,” Kristensen told Brady.

This was the badass predecessor to the AC-130 Spooky gunship

Navy SEALs operating in Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. From left to right, sonar technician (surface) Petty Officer 2nd Class Matthew G. Axelson, of Cupertino, California; Senior Chief information systems technician Daniel R. Healy, of Exeter, New Hampshire; quartermaster Petty Officer 2nd Class James Suh, of Deerfield Beach, Florida; hospital corpsman Petty Officer 2nd Class Marcus Luttrell; machinists mate Petty Officer 2nd Class Eric S. Patton, of Boulder City, Nevada; and Lt. Michael P. Murphy, of Patchogue, New York With the exception of Luttrell, all were killed June 28, 2005, by enemy forces while supporting Operation Red Wing. Photo courtesy of DVIDS.

As Brady climbed into Turbine 33 and started strapping in, Reich tapped his shoulder and asked what the plan was. Reich, who had been designated mission commander for phase two of the operation, felt the QRF was his responsibility.

“We argued for what seemed like 10 minutes but was actually about 30 seconds,” Brady recalled.

But Reich cut the debate short. “I don’t really care, Matt,” he told Brady, “just get your stuff and get off the airplane. This is my mission.”

Brady said he pleaded with Reich to at least let him come with and act as an extra gun and set of eyes.

“Nope, I want you to take my spot as the operations officer and monitor from here,” Reich replied.

Disappointed, Brady followed the order and got off the aircraft. As he watched the two Chinooks taxiing onto the runway, he locked eyes with Russell, his platoon sergeant.

“He had a look of competence and professionalism — like he was ready to live out the Night Stalker creed,” Brady said.

He walked back to the operations center to monitor the situation and provide support from Bagram.

This was the badass predecessor to the AC-130 Spooky gunship

Matt Rogie, left, and Matt Brady having jovial conversation in Bagram. Photo courtesy of Matt Rogie.

The two Chinooks — Turbine 33 and Turbine 34 — were packed with 16 SEALs each, plus the Night Stalker pilots and crewman. Flying toward Jalalabad en route to the last known position of the SEALs, they received word from Bagram on the number of men they could have on board each aircraft and still fly at the extreme elevation. They would have to offload eight SEALs from each helicopter before continuing.

“A lot of guys really wanted to stay on the mission,” recalled Chief Warrant Officer 3 Tim Graham, one of the pilots on Turbine 34.

The plan was for the SEALs to fast-rope onto the ridgeline above the original LZ. The Night Stalkers would then circle back and pick up the remaining SEALs who offloaded at Jalalabad.

During the flight, the Night Stalkers passed two Apache gunships whose pilots asked if they wanted to slow down so they could provide surveillance and support for the operation. Not wanting to burn valuable time waiting on approval from the task force commander for the audible, the Night Stalkers continued on without the Apaches.

This was the badass predecessor to the AC-130 Spooky gunship

Tim Graham standing by in Bagram. Photo courtesy of Matt Rogie.

Arriving at the insertion point on the ridgeline, Turbine 33 descended into a hover. Graham watched from Turbine 34 as Turbine 33’s ramp lowered and the crewman walked onto it to observe the landing zone below. Graham’s aircraft pulled off to the right to circle around and insert their payload of SEALs after Turbine 33 moved off to allow their entrance.

That’s when Staff Sergeant Steven Smith, the flight engineer in the rear of Turbine 34, saw a smoke trail emerge from the tree line directly toward Turbine 33. The projectile flew through the open ramp of the Chinook and exploded inside. Turbine 33’s nose dipped down, and the aircraft slid to the left, appearing to almost recover. Then the helo’s blades started hitting each other, and the aircraft rolled to the right before inverting as it descended to the mountainous terrain below.

Smith and the others in Turbine 34 watched helplessly as the Chinook full of their fellow aviators — their friends — crashed into the mountain and erupted in a ball of flames.

“Al and Kip were on the ramp when the RPG impacted,” Smith, who witnessed the horrific event, recalled. “They rode it all the way in that way.”

This was the badass predecessor to the AC-130 Spooky gunship

Soldiers sit on the rear deck of a CH-47 Chinook helicopter while flying over southern Afghanistan Oct. 19, 2010. Photo by Cpl. Robert Thaler, courtesy of DVIDS.

Graham and his co-pilot whipped their Chinook around to look for survivors. As they were turning around, Graham saw five Black hawks performing a star-cluster evasion. Turbine 34 started taking heavy gunfire from unseen fighters below. They broke off and flew out of reach of the enemy fire.

Graham reported the situation back to Bagram. Receiving the transmission, Brady couldn’t believe it. He would have been on that bird were it not for the last minute change. He asked Graham to repeat, unable to register what he had just heard.

One of Brady’s soldiers in the operations center was asking him a question, but Brady was momentarily frozen with shock. Then the realization hit: He was now in charge.

Brady told his operations NCO to give him a minute to gather more information to get the next plan of action in place. He walked out of the operations center and found Eicher.

“Chris, Turbine 33 has just been shot down,” he told Eicher, who earned the nickname “Iceman” for his always cool demeanor.

Eicher looked at Brady and said, “Nah, they probably put down for maintenance.”

Brady persisted with the details. He and Eicher hurried back to the operations center.

The two Apaches had arrived on station, drawing heavy gunfire, but nonetheless giving Turbine 34’s crew back in the operations center a good look at the crash site.

“It didn’t look like there was any way anybody could have survived,” Graham said. “You hope they could. It just didn’t look good.”

This was the badass predecessor to the AC-130 Spooky gunship

The crash site of Turbine 33. Photo courtesy of Steven Smith.

They ascended back into orbit and remained there for an hour until the task force commander ordered them back to Jalalabad. Not wanting to leave their brothers, the SEAL team commander hatched a plan with the Night Stalkers to insert higher up on the ridgeline and fight their way down to the crash site so Turbine 34 could fly back to Jalalabad, pick up as many SEALs as he could, and fly back to reinforce the eight SEALs. The task force commander denied the request and ordered Turbine 34 back to Jalalabad. Frustrated and angry, Graham followed the order.

Smith said everyone on the Chinook was angry. One of the SEALs even drew his pistol and attempted unsuccessfully to force the Chinook to land so they could try to save their friends.

Graham made a stop at a Forward Arming and Refueling Point (FARP) just outside of Jalalabad. After landing, Graham saw the same five Black Hawks that had peeled off earlier parked on the runway. He didn’t think much of it at the time, but many years later he found out a new platoon leader came into their company within the 160th and was responsible for those Black Hawks.

Each of the five Black Hawks was loaded with Marines and had flown out thinking they were the QRF for the SR team. When Turbine 33 was shot down, they received orders to fly back along with Turbine 34 and the Apache gunships until the next phase of the mission was developed.

This was the badass predecessor to the AC-130 Spooky gunship

Flight line view of U.S. Army UH-60L Black Hawk helicopters. Photo by Mark C. Olsen, courtesy of DVIDS.

After refueling, he continued on to Jalalabad and off-loaded.

“When I met him there on the ground in Jalalabad, Graham was fairly shaken to say the least,” Brady recalled.

The task force commander debriefed the men and then focused on planning their next steps.

Smith said he saw a line of armored vehicles full of troops.

“I could see a lot of vehicles with troops armed to the damn teeth,” Smith recalled. “They rolled out with a convoy and with some vengeance, and they fought their way up that mountainside, all the way up to the crash site.”

The remaining Night Stalkers prepared for a rescue operation. Navy SEALs, Army Rangers, and other Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) personnel loaded onto five Chinooks. All the men were anxious, angry, and ready to retrieve their brothers in arms.

The Chinooks took off toward the mountains once again, but as they climbed in elevation, severe weather rolled in. Thunder boomed as lightning struck all around them.

“So the enemy is one factor, but the terrain and weather are now a huge factor, and they’re starting to overtake the enemy in terms of danger to the force,” Brady said.

He said visibility got so bad that he couldn’t see the heat glow of the engines from the Chinook in front of him. The order was given to again abort the mission and return to base. It was a gut-wrenching decision for everyone on the mission, as they knew the original SEALs on the SR team were fighting for their lives and one of their own aircraft and crew was burning on the side of a mountain.

Back at Jalalabad, the commanders decided they had no choice but to wait for better weather and try again the next night.

This was the badass predecessor to the AC-130 Spooky gunship

Troops searching for the KIA and survivors. Photo courtesy of Matt Rogie.

As the storm raged, the members of the task force — haunted with thoughts of their brothers on the mountain — tried to sleep.

As the next night approached, the task force went to work, planning another insertion onto the deadly ridgeline. The Night Stalkers again loaded their Chinooks with Rangers and SEALs and took off toward the mountains.

Arriving on site, the task force members fast-roped in. The extreme height of the trees made the full length of rope — approximately 90 feet — necessary. Many of the men suffered scorched hands from gripping the rope through gloves for such a long descent.

Once on the ground, they started their search for casualties, potential survivors, and sensitive equipment.

As the Night Stalkers flew back to Bagram, the JSOC ground force that had convoyed to the crash radioed to the task force that they had secured the site. There were no survivors.

The JSOC troops, along with their newly arrived reinforcements, went to work recovering those killed in action as well as sensitive equipment that could not fall into enemy hands. They then used explosives to clear out a large enough area for Chinooks to land when they came back.

This was the badass predecessor to the AC-130 Spooky gunship

Explosives were used to chop down trees due to width of the trees being too big for chainsaws. Photo courtesy of Steven Smith.

Chief Warrant Officer 4 Matt Rogie arrived in Bagram just before the Night Stalkers came back after dropping off the recovery force. Assigned to replace Eicher as senior flight lead, he was trying to learn as much as he could before hopping into an aircraft and joining the mission.

Rogie met Eicher on the flight line when he landed after returning from the mission.

“I’m glad you’re here because I am spent,” Eicher told him.

The Night Stalkers flew back to their newly forged landing zone the following night. The weather was turning bad again as they offloaded Marines to assist with security.

“I could see the grass being blown by the rotor wash and all the remains bags being lined up in a row — 16 of them,” Rogie recalled. “There was still some smoldering from the crash site, and I could see the glow from the heat through my night vision.”

This was the badass predecessor to the AC-130 Spooky gunship

Some of the fallen members of Turbine 33 prior to being flown out. Photo courtesy of Steven Smith.

One by one, the Rangers and SEALs loaded the fallen onto the Chinooks and headed back to Bagram with their brothers. The flight back was pure silence. The loss weighed heavy on the men.

As the Night Stalkers approached Bagram they could see what looked like everyone on base standing outside, showing their respect for the fallen.

“When we landed, we just saw a row of Night Stalkers and Rangers and SEALs for as far as I could see, lined up and ready to help transport the remains off and take them to the mortuary affairs section,” Brady recalled.

When the ramp lowered, the Night Stalkers on the Chinooks stood tall and proud for their fallen brethren as task force members boarded and began solemnly moving each remains bag to the mortuary affairs building.

“All of us were pretty broken up at that point,” Rogie said.

This was the badass predecessor to the AC-130 Spooky gunship

Pastors from the task force lead the caskets onto the C-17. Photo courtesy of Daniel Bell.

The C-17 sat on the runway with the ramp down, waiting to receive the 16 interment cases containing the fallen warriors. Brady stood next to a SEAL commander — both had to take command of their respective units when Reich and Kristensen were killed on Turbine 33. Their war-weary faces were chiseled stone as they watched the task force solemnly load 16 flag-draped internment cases into the C-17.

Brady said it seemed like the whole base turned out to give the fallen a proper sendoff. As the cases were being loaded, a SEAL ran up to the new SEAL commander and placed a written note in his hand. The note said that Marcus Luttrell was alive at a nearby village. The SEAL commander broke down and cried at the desperately needed positive news.

The fallen Night Stalkers of the 160th SOAR included:

Staff Sergeant Shamus O. Goare

Chief Warrant Officer Corey J. Goodnature

Sergeant Kip A. Jacoby

Sergeant First Class Marcus V. Muralles

Major Stephen C. Reich

Sergeant First Class Michael L. Russell

Chief Warrant Officer Chris J. Scherkenbach

Master Sergeant James W. Ponder III

This was the badass predecessor to the AC-130 Spooky gunship

Soldiers and Sailors from the Task Force saying their final goodbyes. Photo courtesy of Daniel Bell.

The members of the task force said their final goodbyes. The C-17 closed its ramp and taxied down the runway and took flight. The fallen warriors were now on their way home.

The lone C-17 aircraft lumbered through the sky after departing Germany, a necessary stop on the way back to the United States. The back of the aircraft contained the flag-draped coffins of 16 great Americans: the fallen Night Stalkers and SEALs from Turbine 33.

Children of varying ages ran around the coffins, playing and yelling, not yet old enough to understand the sacrifices these warriors made. A Taliban high-value target (HVT) sat tucked into the corner away from them all, guarded by other soldiers.

Three war-weary escorts — one of them a SEAL and the other two Night Stalkers Daniel Bell and Chris Eicher — sat off to the sides, grimly staring off into space. They were exhausted and angry with the mistake the U.S. Air Force had made when they allowed Space-A seating to be filled on this leg of the flight home.

This was the badass predecessor to the AC-130 Spooky gunship

The men of the task force saying their final goodbyes to the fallen before they are flown home to their final resting place. Photo courtesy of Matt Rogie.

The rescue operation, known as Operation Red Wings II, continued for weeks. Almost every variety of special operations troops in the U.S. military inventory participated in a coordinated effort through some of Afghanistan’s most dangerous and austere terrain during the search for their brothers — both alive and fallen.

Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell was the only survivor from the initial four-man SEAL reconnaissance element.

For the Night Stalkers of the famed 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, the war on terror continued.

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.


Articles

Previously removed pages of 9-11 report show possible link between terrorists and Saudi government

This was the badass predecessor to the AC-130 Spooky gunship


New documents released by the White House July 15 show both the FBI and CIA found substantial evidence that several of the 9/11 hijackers received assistance from officers with the Saudi Arabian intelligence service while preparing for their attacks on Washington and New York.

While the intelligence described in the documents leaves some doubt on how strong the link between the 19 terrorists and the Saudi government was, it is the first time since 2003 that information on any ties between al Qaida and Saudi Arabian intelligence connected to the 9/11 attacks has been made public.

“While in the United States, some of the September 11 hijackers were in contact with and received support or assistance from individuals who may be connected to the Saudi government,” the report says. “There is information … that at least two of those individuals were alleged by some to be Saudi intelligence officers.”

The newly-released documents are 28 pages from the so-called “9/11 Report” ordered by Congress in the wake of the terrorist attacks that were removed from the final draft in an effort that some say was intended to shield one of America’s most important Middle East allies from embarrassment.

But pressure has been mounting on the Obama Administration to release the formerly classified pages by some in Congress and by attorneys for the families of 9/11 victims who are suing the Saudi government for its alleged role in the attacks.

The documents describe tactical help several of the attackers received from suspected Saudi intelligence operatives here in the U.S., including housing assistance, meetings with local imams and even one case where officials believed a Saudi operative was testing airline security during a flight to Washington, D.C.

“According to an FBI agent in Phoenix, the FBI suspects Mohammed al-Qudhaeen of being [REDACTED],” the report says. “Al-Qudhaeen was involved in a 1999 incident aboard an America West flight, which the FBI’s Phoenix office now suspects may have been a ‘dry run’ to test airline security.”

While the newly-released pages paint a detailed picture of how some suspected Saudi government officials and intelligence agents had ties to the al Qaida attackers and may have helped them plan and execute the attack, it’s unclear whether the effort was officially sanctioned by the Saudi royal family.

Congressional investigators “confirmed that the intelligence community also has information … indicating that individuals associated with the Saudi government in the United States may have other ties to al Qaida and other terrorist groups,” the report says. “Neither CIA nor FBI witnesses were able to identify definitively the extent of Saudi support for terrorist activity globally or within the United States and the extent to which such support, if it exists, is knowing or inadvertent in nature.”

While not necessarily a “smoking gun,” the most damning evidence in the pages deals with Omar al-Bayoumi and Osama Bassnan, alleged Saudi intelligence officers who provided direct assistance to “hijackers-to-be” Kahlid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi after they arrived in San Diego in 2000. Both men were financed by a Saudi company affiliated with the Saudi Ministry of Defense and they used those funds to secure housing and other incidentals for the future hijackers.

Along with illustrating how protracted the terrorists’ 9/11 planning was — taking place over several years — this newly-released section of the report also shows that the FBI dropped the ball on several occasions, failing to share intelligence between headquarters and the San Diego field office and summarily ending an investigation into the suspicious funding of a mosque construction — an investigation that — in hindsight — may have allowed the FBI to stymie the chain of events that eventually led to the horrific attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Editor-in-chief Ward Carroll contributed to this report.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Review: The Daniel Defense Delta 5 is a bolt-action rifle with AR modularity

The AR rifle platform is popular among gun enthusiasts because of its customization. The modular platform allows gun owners the freedom to accessorize or even create their own build from the comfort of their own homes — the epitome of user friendly in the rifle world. Now, thanks to Daniel Defense, that modularity has spread to the much-loved bolt gun with the Delta 5 long-range precision rifle.

Daniel Defense is known for their AR rifles, parts, and accessories, so the Delta 5 is a first for them in the realm of precision rifles. The modular bolt gun features out-of-the-box customization that would typically require professional gunsmithing. From the user-configurable stock to the interchangeable cold-hammer forged barrel, the user can tailor this rifle to fit their personal preferences without the wait.


Daniel Defense didn’t just “manufacture” a rifle, they designed this gun with the user in mind. Except for the Timney trigger, the entire rifle — from the buttstock to the barrel — was carefully designed and engineered in-house by Daniel Defense.

This was the badass predecessor to the AC-130 Spooky gunship

The author takes aim with the first bolt-gun offering from Daniel Defense, the Delta 5.

(Photo by Karen Hunter/Coffee or Die)

The rifle I tested was chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor, but it’s also available in .308 Winchester and 7mm-08 Remington. After firing more than 500 rounds through the Delta 5, ringing steal at 1,000 yards and beyond, it’s evident that this gun is a fast-cycling tack driver.

The mechanically bedded stainless steel action of the Delta 5 is unique, and the design plays a huge part in the rifle’s accuracy. The three-lug bolt with 60-degree bolt throw and floating bolt head provides excellent lock-up and enables the shooter to get shots off faster. Combined with the integral recoil lug, this enables consistent performance for the shooter. A 20 MOA/5.8 MRAD Picatinny scope base requires fewer adjustments for long-distance shots.

However, where the Delta 5 really changes the game is the barrel, which is interchangeable at the user’s level. The fact that changing the barrel does not require a gunsmith makes moving between calibers dramatically easier and something the user can do at home. The barrels are made from stainless CHF steel, which provides longer life and requires no break-in time. These exceptional barrels are cold-hammered forged, providing a greater potential for accuracy compared to others, and the heavy Palma contour reduces the weight to 64 percent of that of other precision barrels.

This was the badass predecessor to the AC-130 Spooky gunship

The length of pull of the Delta 5 is adjustable by inserting or removing quarter- and half-inch spacers between the stock and the buttpad.

(Photo courtesy of Daniel Defense)

During my range session, the feature that stood out to me the most was the Timney Elite Hunter trigger. This is a single-stage trigger with a two-position safety and is adjustable from 1.5 to 4 pounds, enabling a smooth pull and crisp reset.

Running the bolt is an easy and smooth pull, and if the bolt knob isn’t a good fit for your hand, the threaded bolt handle makes it easy for the user to install an aftermarket knob. What took some getting used to was the long stroke required when running the bolt. If you run it by memory, you’ll come up short, resulting in an empty chamber click. After spending some time with the gun, you start to become accustomed to the longer stroke, making it much easier and a little more automatic.

The stock of the Delta 5 brings more to the table than aesthetics alone. The eye-catching design is not only ergonomic, but also the carbon-fiber-reinforced polymer construction aids in longer life and lighter weight. The Delta 5 is also configurable for length of pull, shipping with quarter-inch and half-inch spacers, and the cheek riser is adjustable for preferred height, yaw, and drift. There is a total of 14 M-LOK points along the forend, one at the bottom of the stock and three M-LOK QD sling points.

I paired the Delta 5 with the Bushnell Forge Optic. Together, this duo has the power to make anyone feel like a sharpshooter with minimal effort. If you’re a fan of long-range precision shooting, the Delta 5 is worth testing. Daniel Defense didn’t enter the precision rifle game with a cookie-cutter product — they combined cutting-edge technology with in-house manufacturing, and wrapped it in a user-friendly, modular package.

This was the badass predecessor to the AC-130 Spooky gunship

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

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4 times the US military won by tricking the enemy

Wars are never fought fair and square.


In order to win, militaries try to beef up their own numbers, acquire better technology, or in some cases: totally bullsh-t the other side into thinking they are going to do something they aren’t really doing.

It’s called a feint. In a nutshell, a military feint is a tactic employed in order to deceive the other side. A military might feint that it’s going to attack Town A so the enemy shifts all its forces there, only to later attack Town B.

Here are four times the U.S. military pulled it off to great effect:

1. Both sides made fake guns out of painted logs in the Civil War.

Since photography wasn’t as widespread and there weren’t any reconnaissance planes, feints were arguably easier to pull off during the Civil War. That was definitely the case for the both sides, which sometimes used fake guns to trick each other into thinking they were going to attack somewhere else, or the place they were defending was heavily-fortified.

This was the badass predecessor to the AC-130 Spooky gunship

Known as “Quaker Guns,” soldiers would take wooden logs, paint them black, and then prop them up on a fence or in a mount, making them look like artillery pieces from a distance. From the official US Army magazine:

When Confederate forces advanced on Munson’s Hill after the first Battle of Manassas, they held the hill for three months, but when Federal troops gained the hill in October of 1861, they discovered they had been tricked. There was nothing on the hill except Quaker guns.

Quaker Guns were used before and after the Civil War. But the tactic saw extensive use by the Confederates, to make up for their lack of actually artillery.

2. The Allies misled the Germans so well in World War II, Nazi leaders thought the real D-Day invasion was a feint.

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Troops in an LCVP landing craft approach Omaha Beach on D-Day, June 6, 1944.Photo: Wiki Commons

In what is perhaps the best feint ever, Allied forces during World War II confused the Nazis so well that they didn’t even know what was happening when the real D-Day landings began.

The deceit goes back to a plan developed prior to the June 6, 1944 landings called Operation Fortitude. Split into two parts — North and South — Fortitude had the goal of convincing the Nazis that the Allies wanted to invade occupied Norway, and Pas de Calais in France. They really wanted to invade Normandy, but the Germans had no clue.

The Allies literally created a fake army consisting of inflatable tanks and trucks, and broadcast hours-long transmissions about troop movements that the Germans would intercept.

When the landings finally came at Normandy, German commanders thought it was a smaller force, and the much larger attack was happening later.

“North of Seine quiet so far. No landings from sea. Pas de Calais sector: nothing to report,” a German message on June 6 reads. Then about a day after invasion, forces were warned: “Further enemy landings are to be expected in the entire coastal area. Enemy landings for a thrust toward Belgium to be expected.”

The Allies were pretty awesome at this deception game. Just one year prior, they fooled the Germans using a uniformed corpse with “top secret” documents into preparing for an invasion in the wrong place, when the Allies instead invaded Sicily.

3. The US Army built a fake base to fool Saddam Hussein, and it worked.

The ground war of the Persian Gulf War was over pretty quickly, thanks to Gen. Schwarzkopf’s extensive planning and leadership. Schwarzkopf wanted to use a “left hook” or “Hail Mary” play of his forces, effectively cutting off Iraqi forces in Kuwait by going behind their lines.

This was the badass predecessor to the AC-130 Spooky gunship
Photo: US Army

But in order to achieve it, Schwarzkopf needed to trick the Iraqi Army. Instead of Iraq thinking they would get hit with a “left hook,” Army planners wanted them to think the U.S. would invade near Kuwait’s “boot heel.” FOB Weasel was how they did it.

It was eerily similar to Operation Fortitude. From a previous article by our own Blake Stilwell:

FOB Weasel was what Rick Atkinson, author of Crusade: The Untold Story of the Persian Gulf War called “a Potemkin base… giving the impression of 130,000 troops across a hundred square kilometers.” Army truck drivers wearing the red berets of paratroopers would shuttle vehicles between FOB Weasel and logistic bases.

The U.S. army’s XVIII Airborne Corps established FOB Weasel near the phony invasion area. They set up a network of small, fake camps with a few dozen soldiers using radios operated by computers to create radio traffic, fake messages between fake headquarters, as well as smoke generators and loudspeakers blasting fake Humvee, tank, and truck noises to simulate movement. Inflatable tanks with PVC turrets and helicopters with fiberglass rotors were lined up on the ground as well. Inflatable fuel bladders, Camo netting, and heat strips to fool infrared cameras completed the illusion. The Americans even taped “Egyptian” radio traffic messages about the supposed American presence to be intercepted by the Iraqis.

As Stilwell notes, even well after the Iraqi Army was expelled from Kuwait on Feb. 21 1991, Iraqi intelligence still thought American forces were near the “boot heel.”

4. The insurgents knew US troops were coming before the Second Battle of Fallujah, but they had no idea of when or where.

Before the Second Battle of Fallujah in 2004, insurgents were well aware that an attack was on the horizon. The city had become completely lawless, swept up by a large number of insurgents, who were spending their time building up defenses in the city.

This was the badass predecessor to the AC-130 Spooky gunship
Photo: USMC

On the outskirts, Fallujah was completely cut off by U.S. troops surrounding it. Insurgents inside the city knew they would eventually be attacked, but a series of feint attacks made it hard to pinpoint from where or when. And beyond deceit, the feints allowed troops to test out enemy capabilities before the main effort.

From the Marine Corps Gazette:

Marine battalions manning vehicle checkpoints (VCPs) or participating in feints were extremely successful in targeting fixed enemy defenses and degrading insurgent command and control capabilities. A series of feints conducted by 1st Marine Division (1st MarDiv) deceived the insurgents as to the time and location of our main attack. They knew we were coming, but they didn’t know when or from where. The feints also allowed us to develop actionable intelligence on their positions for targeting in Phase II. The Commanding Officer, 3d Battalion, 1st Marines, whose Marines manned the southern VCPs around Fallujah, described this period as a real-world fire support coordination exercise that provided a valuable opportunity for his fire support coordinator and company fire support teams to work tactics, techniques, and procedures and to practice coordinating surface and air-delivered fires.

In an interesting example from a grunt on the ground, a feint attack from Lima Co. 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines tested enemy defenses and helped planners realize the spot they feint attacked wasn’t the best for the real thing.

“Had we decided to attack from the south, the battle would have been hellacious from day one,” one Marine recalls in the book “We Were One.” “The thing we discovered after the battle was they oriented a lot of their defenses to the south.”

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New ‘Dunkirk’ trailer focuses on pilots, civilians who saved thousands

The main trailer for ‘Dunkirk’ is out, and it seems that Christopher Nolan will be telling the amazing story of Operation Dynamo from all angles as weekend sailors, Royal Air Force pilots, nurses, fishermen, and others appear in the footage.


Operation Dynamo, often called “The Miracle at Dunkirk,” was the evacuation of nearly 400,000 British and allied troops from the coast of France in 1940 after the German blitzkrieg cut through Allied defenses much faster than anyone anticipated.

The German invasion was expected to take months, but Nazi forces slashed a corridor through France to the English Channel in just over two weeks before they halted their advance. But the Nazis hadn’t been stopped by force of arms.

This was the badass predecessor to the AC-130 Spooky gunship
French troops fill a ship evacuating Dunkirk. (Photo: Public Domain)

Rather, the high command decided that they didn’t want to risk panzers in pitched fighting near Dunkirk. So the German army kept the expeditionary force pinned down on the beach and sent the Luftwaffe to kill British ships in the English channel and strafe and bomb survivors on the beaches.

On May 26, the British launched Operation Dynamo, a Hail Mary attempt to rescue those dying troops through Royal Navy assets and, when those proved to be too few, hundreds of small fishing and pleasure boats piloted by civilians. Nearly 340,000 troops were evacuated from May 26 to June 4.

This was the badass predecessor to the AC-130 Spooky gunship

Previous trailers for Nolan’s movie about the event have focused on the plight of soldiers on the beach who waited for days, sometimes in shoulder-deep water while under fire from the Luftwaffe, for rescue. The new trailer shows them, but it also spends a lot of time on a father crossing the channel with his sons, as well as the nurses and pilots who made the mission possible.

It looks like World War II buffs may get to see one of the war’s most miraculous moments played out on the screen through perspectives of everyone who made it possible. Many of the troops rescued from the beaches went on to fight in North Africa, the D-Day landings, and on to Berlin.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This was the Army’s fixed-wing recon plane

United States Army Aviation Branch is perhaps best known for revolutionizing the use of helicopters in combat. Whether it’s the highly versatile UH-60 Blackhawk, the extremely lethal AH-64 Apache, or the logistically mighty CH-47 Chinook, Army Aviation seems to be all about the choppers.

But that’s not all they fly. Despite being known for its rotorcraft, the Army has operated fixed-wing aircraft for the last seven decades, including the CV-2/C-7 Caribou and the C-23 Sherpa.

The Army’s operation of fixed-wing aircraft has been a touchy subject ever since the Army-Air Force divorce that followed World War II. Ultimately, this split led to the Key West Agreement of 1948. This agreement laid out the responsibilities of each branch of the United States Armed Forces. In brief, it left airborne combat in the capable hands of the US Air Force, while the US Army would only take to the seas or skies to support the troops on the ground.

But this agreement didn’t leave the Army solely with transports.


This was the badass predecessor to the AC-130 Spooky gunship

Three of the variants of the Mohawk.

(Graphic by Greg Goebel)

The Army also needed aircraft to provide reconnaissance for troops in the fight. The fact was, in the late 1950s, helicopters were fairly fragile and weren’t yet capable of carrying a significant payload. So, the Army turned to fixed-wing planes that could operate from rudimentary conditions.

One such plane was the OV-1 Mohawk, which came in three variants. The OV-1A was intended to operate with regular cameras. The OV-1B used a side-looking aerial radar to locate enemy vehicles. The OV-1C was equipped with infrared sensors to detect enemy forces (both vehicles and personnel) in all weather conditions. Later, the OV-1D was developed, capable of handling any of these systems.

This was the badass predecessor to the AC-130 Spooky gunship

An OV-1D prepares to take off during Operation Desert Storm. Note the side-looking radar underneath the fuselage.

(DOD photo)

The OV-1 entered service in 1959. It had a top speed of 297 miles per hour, a maximum range of 1,678 miles, and a crew of two. It also had a provision for rocket pods and gun pods under the wings. That last provision caused a stir — the Air Force claimed it violated the Key West Agreement. Ultimately, the Army agreed not to arm planes like the Mohawk in return for not having limits on the performance of helicopters.

The Mohawk served for an impressive 35 years, finally retiring in 1996. Some surplus Mohawks are flown at air shows or with private companies, while other have gone to museums.

Watch the Army introduce this historically significant recon plane in the video below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cK591X5oEQs

www.youtube.com

Lists

6 fictional armies that would suck to fight against

When a writer needs to think up some great, imposing force to pit against their protagonist, sometimes they go a little overboard. Yeah, it’s great to see some young farmboy find the strength within needed to lead a rebellion against an evil, galactic empire, but most times, the troops fighting alongside the protagonist don’t have magic space powers (we’re looking at you, Luke).


This was the badass predecessor to the AC-130 Spooky gunship

And yet anyone who’s never seen the show will still think they’re just silly little robots…

(BBC)

The Daleks (Doctor Who)

At first glance, the Daleks are kind of silly. A rolling pepper shaker with two sticks for arms might not seem imposing — until you realize they’re almost impossible to kill inside their shells.

Fighting a near-undying force that’s backed by a ridiculous amount of troops hellbent on your extermination isn’t ideal — it doesn’t matter that you could just put a hat over their eyestalk.

This was the badass predecessor to the AC-130 Spooky gunship

Yep. And the other villains in the game try to capture these things — doesn’t work like that.

(Bioware)

The Reapers (Mass Effect)

Normally, giant, spacefaring warships are hard to kill. They’re even harder to kill if they’re sentient and are capable indoctrinating entire galaxies under their control.

Reapers are massive beings often confused with space ships. They dominate entire star systems by slowly brainwashing their inhabitants. Or, if that takes too long and they just need some troops fast, they can shoot out robot appendages to turn anyone fighting them into lifeless, obedient husks. Every conquered world joins their ranks, becoming a new enemy that our heroes must fight physically and psychologically.

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A rocket launcher may be overkill, but you don’t want to take any chances.

(Bungie)

The Flood (Halo)

What’s worse than fighting zombies? Fighting space zombies. One of the most deadly things about the Flood is that they can destroy their enemies with a single touch.

They cover battlefields in disease, meaning any step may lead to infection. The Flood is so terrifying that it takes two great armies, the humans and the Covenant, to band together and defeat them.

This was the badass predecessor to the AC-130 Spooky gunship

Poor bug. No one ever takes them seriously.

(TriStar Pictures)

The Arachnid (Starship Troopers)

No good military satire is complete without an insane enemy that comes in insane numbers and is armed with insane psychic abilities.

One of the most deadly things about the Arachnids was how mindless they seem. Everyone who initially thought, “oh, just a giant bug” was in for a rude awakening when they discovered they can communicate telepathically and shoot down spaceships in orbit.
This was the badass predecessor to the AC-130 Spooky gunship

The Borg even managed to assimilate the great Captain Jean-Luc Picard. And adding Picard to their ranks definitely gives them an edge.

(Paramount Television)

The Borg (Star Trek)

These guys are the culmination of all the terrifying things on this list. Put together highly advanced technology, overwhelming numbers, near invulnerability, and mass assimilation and you end up with the Borg.

With most sci-fi hiveminds, destroying their leader usually means the destruction of their entire force. But with the Borg, it just means another Queen must take their place.

This was the badass predecessor to the AC-130 Spooky gunship

Who would win: 40 millenia of technological advancements or one Orky boy?

(Games Workshop)

The Orks (Warhammer 40k)

To be fair, every army in Warhammer 40k is a force to be reckoned with. But even in a universe filled with futuristic demons, robot zombies, and blood-thirsty elves, the Orks are considered the most successful intergalactic conquerors.

When the space savages aren’t fighting among themselves, they’ll band together to overwhelm their foes — even if those foes are Chaos gods, alien samurai, or whatever the hell Tyranids are.

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New Army vehicle protection system may instantly destroy enemy fire

This was the badass predecessor to the AC-130 Spooky gunship
Raytheon


The Army is fast-tracking an emerging technology which gives combat vehicles an opportunity identify, track and destroy approaching enemy rocket-propelled grenades in a matter of milliseconds, service officials said.

Called Active Protection Systems, or APS, the technology uses sensors and radar, computer processing, fire control technology and interceptors to find, target and knock down or intercept incoming enemy fire such as RPGs and Anti-Tank Guided Missiles, or ATGMs.

“The Army is looking at a range of domestically produced and allied international solutions from companies participating in the Army’s Modular Active Protection Systems (MAPS) program,” an Army official told Scout Warrior.

The idea is to arm armored combat vehicles and tactical wheeled vehicles with additional protective technology to secure platforms and soldiers from enemy fire; vehicles slated for use of APS systems are infantry fighting vehicles such as Bradleys along with Stykers, Abrams tanks and even tactical vehicles such as transport trucks and the emerging Humvee replacement, the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle.

“The Army’s expedited APS effort is being managed by a coordinated team of Tank Automotive Research, Development Engineering Center engineers, acquisition professionals, and industry; and is intended to assess current APS state-of-the art by installing and characterizing some existing non-developmental APS systems on Army combat vehicles,” the Army official said.

A challenge with the technology is to develop the proper protocol or tactics, techniques and procedures such that soldiers walking in proximity to a vehicle are not vulnerable to shrapnel, debris or fragments from the explosion between an interceptor and approaching enemy fire.

“The expedited activity will inform future decisions and trade-space for the Army’s overarching APS strategy which uses the MAPS program to develop a modular capability that can be integrated on any platform,” the Army official said.

Rafael’s Trophy system, Artis Corporation’s Iron Curtain, Israeli Military Industry’s Iron Fist, UBT/Rheinmetall’s ADS system, and others.

Trophy

DRS Technologies and Israeli-based Rafael Advanced Defense Systems are asking the U.S. Army to consider acquiring their recently combat-tested Trophy Active Protection System, a vehicle-mounted technology engineered to instantly locate and destroy incoming enemy fire.

Using a 360-degree radar, processor and on-board computer, Trophy is designed to locate, track and destroy approaching fire coming from a range of weapons such as Anti-Tank-Guided-Missiles, or ATGMs, or Rocket Propelled Grenades, or RPGs,

The interceptor consists of a series of small, shaped charges attached to a gimbal on top of the vehicle. The small explosives are sent to a precise point in space to intercept and destroy the approaching round, he added.

Radar scans the entire perimeter of the platform out to a known range. When a threat penetrates that range, the system then detects and classifies that threat and tells the on-board computer which determines the optical kill point in space, a DRS official said.

Trophy was recently deployed in combat in Gaza on Israeli Defense Forces’ Merkava tanks. A brigade’s worth of tanks used Trophy to destroy approaching enemy fire such as RPGs in a high-clutter urban environment, he added.

“Dozens of threats were launched at these platforms, many of which would have been lethal to these vehicles. Trophy engaged those threats and defeated them in all cases with no collateral injury and no danger to the dismounts and no false engagement,” the DRS official said.

While the Trophy system was primarily designed to track and destroy approaching enemy fire, it also provides the additional benefit of locating the position of an enemy shooter.

“Trophy will not only knock an RPG out of the sky but it will also calculate the shooter’s location. It will enable what we call slew-to-cue. At the same time that the system is defeating the threat that is coming at it, it will enable the main gun or sensor or weapons station to vector with sights to where the threat came from and engage, identify or call in fire. At very least you will get an early warning to enable you to take some kind of action,” he explained. “I am no longer on the defensive with Trophy. Israeli commanders will tell you ‘I am taking the fight to the enemy.’

The Israelis developed Trophy upon realizing that tanks could not simply be given more armor without greatly minimizing their maneuverability and deployability, DRS officials said.

Trophy APS was selected by the Israel Defense Forces as the Active Protection System designed to protect the Namer heavy infantry fighting vehicle.

Artis Corporation’s Iron Curtain

A Virginia-based defense firm known as Artis, developer of the Iron Curtain APS system, uses two independent sensors, radar and optical, along with high-speed computing and counter munitions to detect and intercept approaching fire, according to multiple reports.

Iron Curtain began in 2005 with the Pentagon’s research arm known as DARPA; the APS system is engineered to defeat enemy fire at extremely close ranges.

The systems developers and multiple reports – such as an account from Defense Review — say that Iron Curtain defeats threats inches from their target, which separates the system from many others which intercept threats several meters out. The aim is to engineer a dependable system with minimal risk of collateral damage to dismounted troops or civilians.

The Defense Review report also says that Iron Curtain’s sensors can target destroy approaching RPG fire to within one-meter of accuracy.

Iron Curtain’s radar was developed by the Mustang Technology Group in Plano, Texas.

“Iron Curtain has already been successfully demonstrated in the field. They installed the system on an up-armored HMMWV (Humvee), and Iron Curtain protected the vehicle against an RPG. Apparently, the countermeasure deflagrates the RPG’s warhead without detonating it, leaving the “dudded” RPG fragments to just bounce off the vehicle’s side. Iron Curtain is supposed to be low weight and low cost, with a minimal false alarm rate and minimal internal footprint,” the Defense Review report states.

Israel’s IRON FIST

Israel’s IMISystems has also developed an APS system which uses a multi-sensor early warning system with both infrared and radar sensors.

“Electro-optical jammers, Instantaneous smoke screens and, if necessary, an interceptor-based hard kill Active Protection System,” IMISystems officials state.

IRON FIST capability demonstrators underwent full end-to-end interception tests, against all threat types, operating on the move and in urban scenarios. These tests included both heavy and lightly armored vehicles.

“In these installations, IRON FIST proved highly effective, with its wide angle protection, minimal weight penalty and modest integration requirements,” company officials said.

UBT/Rheinmetall’s Active Defense System

German defense firms called Rheinmetall and IBD Deisenroth, Germany, joined forces to develop active vehicle protection systems; Rheinmetall AG owns a 74% share, with the remainder held by IBD Deisenroth GmbH.

Described as a system which operates on the “hard kill” principle, the ADS is engineered for vehicles of every weight class; it purports to defend against light antitank weapons, guided missiles and certain improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

“The sensor system detects an incoming projectile as it draws close to the vehicle, e.g. a shaped charge or antitank missile. Then, in a matter of microseconds, the system activates a protection sector, applying directed pyrotechnic energy to destroy the projectile in the immediate vicinity of the vehicle. Owing to its downward trajectory, ADS minimizes collateral damage in the zone surrounding the vehicle,” the company’s website states.

Articles

Here’s how this USMC vet became a political consultant and RNC delegate

This was the badass predecessor to the AC-130 Spooky gunship
Marine Corps veteran Adrian Bruneau at the RNC in Cleveland as a Louisiana delegate. (Photo: Ward Carroll)


CLEVELAND, Ohio — After getting a taste of wearing uniforms and drilling while attached to a JROTC unit in high school, New Orleans native Adrian Bruneau joined the Marine Corps on his eighteenth birthday.

“My father was a colonel in the Air Force and he was not very happy about that,” he recalls. “He came straight home and said, ‘Son, don’t you know people get killed in the Marine Corps? I said, ‘Dad, I’m pretty sure people get killed in the Air Force flying and whatever too.'”

Bruneau wound up spending 15 years in the Corps — 8 on active duty and 7 in the reserves — primarily working as an avionics technician. “If it had an electronic heartbeat in an aircraft I could work on it,” he says. “Whether it was nav gear, satellite gear . . . anything that was electronic — not electric, but electronic — that needed to be fixed I could fix it.”

But while Bruneau got a lot of satisfaction out of his military service, his real passion was politics, largely because his father had been in the Louisiana state legislature for 32 years. As soon as he got off of active duty, he walked into the State House and found a job as an aide to a state senator. After working as a staffer at the state level for awhile, he decided he wanted to try his hand at working on political campaigns.

“I asked Ron Forman — a candidate for mayor of New Orleans and a longtime mentor — if I could have a job on his campaign even though I was a Republican and he was a Democrat — a conservative one, but still,” Bruneau remembers. “It was an interesting race for mayor because it was right after Hurricane Katrina and there were a lot of issues to figure out for the people there. After that, things just kind of snowballed.”

He formed a corporation — “BHC” — to give him some business and legal protections. Bruneau says, “My dad told me, ‘Somebody’s going to blame you for something at some point in time, so you’d better have the legal protection to back it up.’ ”

He followed that race (that was won by high-profile figure Ray Nagin) with a pivot into judicial elections — “popularity contests for lawyers,” as he puts it. And he made it a point to work on both Republican and Democratic campaigns.

“New Orleans is a little blue dot in a sea of red,” Bruneau says as a way to justify his bi-partisan track record. But as his network and impact grew along with his desire to work beyond the border of New Orleans, a trusted friend who worked at the national level told him he had to pick a side.

Bruneau focused on the Republican Party, and his first job was working on the campaign of Ilario Pantano, another Marine Corps veteran, who was running to fill North Carolina’s Second District congressional seat. Pantano, who first came to national prominence after being accused of murdering innocent civilians in Haditha, Iraq, while serving as a platoon leader — an allegation for which he was ultimately not charged — lost the race. But that didn’t deter Bruneau from jumping right back on the campaign trail with another hopeful.

“It’s just like a military campaign, really,” Bruneau says while describing the nuts-and-bolts of running political campaigns. “You got your ground game, your air game, and your logistics. Air game is your media, your television. On the ground side, you organize people and get the fire going, which I actually enjoy better.”

He doesn’t enjoy the fundraising part of the process. “Not my space,” he says. “I just stay away from that. I’m a Marine. Go stick me in the ground and let me do my thing.”

Bruneau admits the political world can be frustrating at times. “You serve two masters,” he says. “The candidate always has a group of insiders — his ‘kitchen cabinet,’ people he’s had around him his whole life. Sometimes those people were helpful, but other times they’d get the candidate’s ear and I’d have to spend hours talking him out of a bad idea. I’ve seen good people lose because they listened to the wrong people and I’ve seen candidates who I never thought could win do so because they formed a good team and listened to them.”

This week, Bruneau is in Cleveland because he has another role in politics beyond running Gulf South Strategies, the current name of his consulting firm. He’s an RNC delegate from Louisiana.

“Back in 2012 my business partner and I reached out to the Trump campaign through the state party chairman, but soon thereafter we were told that Trump was going to endorse Mitt Romney,” he says. “This time, the Trump campaign came to us and said, ‘Hey, fellas, we think we’re going to do this again.’ ”

Bruneau advised the Trump campaign on who should be part of their team in Louisiana, and because of that effort, he was asked if he was willing to be an at-large delegate. He jumped at the opportunity.

“A lot of people have said, ‘Gee whiz, Adrian, you’re crazy supporting Trump,’ ” he admits. “I said, ‘Nope, I read his book when I was a junior in high school and I’ve been fascinated by his business every since.’ ”

Bruneau admits that his path has been unorthodox, but he thinks politics is a viable follow-on career for those leaving the military.

“I tell former servicemembers that getting into politics is a relatively easy transition to make,” Bruneau says. “Politicians naturally have an appreciation for military service and are inclined to hire vets.”

Articles

Did China just develop a radar that can see through stealth technology?

A Chinese firm has reportedly developed next-generation radar technology with the ability to see through American stealth defenses.


The Intelligent Perception Technology Laboratory successfully developed China’s first quantum radar system in August, several Chinese media outlets reported Sept. 8. The Laboratory is run by the 14th Institute of China Electronics Technology Group Corporation, a defense and electronic technology firm.

During real-world tests of China’s new quantum radar system, it was able to detect targets 100 kilometers (62.1 miles) away.

Quantum radar systems offer unjammable aircraft detection.

This was the badass predecessor to the AC-130 Spooky gunship
The B-2 Spirit bomber is one of the most sophisticated military aircraft ever built. China says it has developed a radar that can help shoot it down. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

Older radar systems can be rendered ineffective in a number of different ways. For instance, white noise can be used to drown out the radar frequency, or aircraft can deploy chaff countermeasures to create a false reflection and confuse the radar system. Newer radar systems can skirt these defenses; however, it is now possible to intercept the radar signal and send back false images.

If electromagnetic and stealth countermeasures are deployed effectively, traditional radar systems can’t tell the difference between a floating piece of tin foil and a stealth fighter. Quantum radar systems cannot be so easily compromised though.

Mehul Malik, Omar S. Magana-Loaiza, and Robert W. Boyd, three researchers in the Institute of Optics at the University of Rochester in New York, determined in December 2012 that quantum-secured imaging could be used to develop an unjammable radar system.

“In order to jam our imaging system, the object must disturb the delicate quantum state of the imaging photons, thus introducing statistical errors that reveal its activity,” explained the three-man research team in a report. If a stealth aircraft attempts to jam a quantum radar system by intercepting the photons and sending back a false image, it will destabilize the signal and reveal an error, indicating that an enemy is trying to jam it.

China’s KJ-2000 early warning and control aircraft, which uses X-band radar technology and Beidou satellites, can reportedly spot the F-22, but it is difficult for the KJ-2000 to lock onto stealth aircraft.

Quantum radar technology rectifies this problem. Chinese military experts suggest that once a stealth aircraft is detected by a quantum radar system, it won’t be able to escape elimination by air defense missiles, reports the People’s Daily. China argues that its new quantum radar system will make stealth fighters like America’s F-22 and Russia’s T-50 completely visible to Chinese defense systems. Theoretically, this technology could also be used against a vast array of other stealth aircraft, including the F-35 and B-2.

China launched an unhackable quantum satellite last month. The launch was hailed as a breakthrough in quantum technology. China’s development of a quantum radar system represents another great leap forward in Chinese quantum technology.

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Articles

The F-35 may have big problems fighting at long range

This was the badass predecessor to the AC-130 Spooky gunship
Photo: Lance Cpl. Remington Hall/USMC


The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) was supposed to fill multiple roles for the Air Force, Navy, Marines, and US foreign partners.

The jet — the most expensive US weapons project of all time — was designed to have aerial combat, close-air support, and long-range-strike capabilities.

But that’s not how the plane’s turned out so far. A string of damning reports have seriously called the $1.5 trillion plane into question, specifically it’s “dogfighting” ability when matched against less sophisticated aircraft. And now, one expert has made a convincing case that the fighter’s long-range capabilities don’t measure up to expectations either.

In a report for War Is Boring, military analyst Joseph Trevithick writes that in a long-distance engagement, the F-35 would have to rely on stealth to avoid enemy-radar detection while maneuvering close enough to engage enemy air and ground targets.

In an ideal situation, the F-35 would eliminate its targets before detection and leave. But as Trevithick notes, Russian and Chinese fifth-generation fighters have been outfitted with infrared sensors that can pinpoint a plane’s heat signature over fairly vast distances. The F-35 has a single, large rounded engine nozzle that leaves a larger heat signature than the flat nozzles of other stealth aircraft, such as the F-22 or the B-2.

This infrared signature could tip off enemy fighters to the F-35’s location, negating any benefit it may have from its stealth design.

Stealth may offer diminishing returns anyway. The technology isn’t foolproof, and radar technology is improving around the world.

“You can only go so fast, and you know that stealth may be overrated,” Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jon Greenert said during a speech in February. “Let’s face it, if something moves fast through the air, disrupts molecules and puts out heat — I don’t care how cool the engine can be, it’s going to be detectable. You get my point.”

The F-35 may be more detectable at distance than the plane’s advocates claim, meaning the plane might have questionable utility during long-range aerial combat and attack runs. On top of that, the F-35 could find itself outgunned in a potential missile engagement with rival Russian or Chinese fighters.

This was the badass predecessor to the AC-130 Spooky gunship
Photo: Lockheed Martin

The F-35 is supposed to be outfitted with AIM-120 Slammer missiles, which have a comparable range to Russian and Chinese air-to-air missiles.

However, as Trevithick notes, the F-35 may actually turn out to be slower than its Russian and Chinese rivals. It’s lagging speed means that it cannot launch the missiles with as much force as enemy jets. Moving at supercruising speed, a sustained speed exceeding the sound barrier, an enemy aircraft could “potentially fling its missiles farther than a missile’s advertised range.”

The difference in missile range might not actually be that important. If the F-35’s stealth capabilities are as good as advertised, or if enemy aircraft don’t have the weight load or sophistication to carry longer-range missiles, the plane will be able to maintain its expected supremacy over other fifth-generation models. Additionally, in a war gameconducted by the Royal Aeronautical Society, the F-35 beat the advanced Russian Su-35s in a long-range aerial engagement.

This was the badass predecessor to the AC-130 Spooky gunship

But in that simulation, the F-35 wasn’t armed with the AIM-120 but with the Meteor Beyond-Visual-Range Air-to-Air Missile (BVRAAM). No concrete figures have been released on the BVRAAM’s range, but it is thought to be greater than that of the AIM-120 and any current air-to-air missile in either the Chinese or Russian arsenal.

Unfortunately, as a different War is Boring article notes, any integration of the BVRAAM with the F-35 is years off. The F-35 will not be able to use the BVRAAM until Lockheed releases its next software update for the F-35, which is still in early development. Until that time, the F-35 may find itself in a challenging position relative to Russia and China’s own upcoming fifth-generation fighters.

The F-35 has questionable abilities at shorter range, too. A leaked report from an F-35 test pilot obtained by War is Boring noted that the aircraft was incapable of outmaneuvering and besting an F-16 in a simulated dogfight. The F-16 first entered service in 1978 and is one of the planes that the F-35 is being built to replace.

In response, Lockheed Martin wrote in a July 1 press release that “the F-35’s technology is designed to engage, shoot and kill its enemy from long distances.”

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

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