Watch a missile ricochet off a Syrian rebel tank - We Are The Mighty
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Watch a missile ricochet off a Syrian rebel tank

Watch a missile ricochet off a Syrian rebel tank
The moment before impact. Saif Al Sham Brigades capture via YouTube


A dramatic video released by the Saif Al Sham Brigades fighting in southern Syria shows an Islamic State guided missile ricocheting off a T-55 tank with a hard metallic smack.

It was close … seriously close. For whatever reason — a dud or a bad shot — the ISIS missile failed to explode. Had it, the blast could have blown up the tank, killed the crew and the rebel filming the incident. The camera operator, stunned by the blast, captures the tank backing off. The T-55 later returns and fires its cannon in a “shoot and scoot” maneuver.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=68s-QtYNnNw

The tank — almost certainly captured from the Syrian army — had no discernible “active protection” systems which can scramble a missile’s guidance systems. The ISIS missile was almost certainly captured … but the origin is unknown.

The Saif Al Sham Brigades is a Free Syrian Army group active in southern Syria and has appeared on lists of CIA-vetted rebel factions. Saif Al Sham counts itself as part of the Southern Front coalition of rebel groups, but this is a loosely-knit organization at the best of times.

The Front has also received support from Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. It’s unclear if Saif Al Sham specifically has received any funding or weapons from any of these nations.

What the video does demonstrate is the intense pressure anti-tank guided missiles can put on armed combatants in the Syrian civil war. Despite failing to knock out the tank, which was quickly back in action, the close call was enough for the rebels to back up — fast.

Tank-killing missiles have proliferated so much, they’ve effectively halted armored breakthroughs and contributed to a five-year-old stalemate.

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Hitler’s last gasp against the Soviets turned into an 8-day butcher fest

The Battle of Kursk in World War II was Adolph Hitler’s last great attempt to take down the Soviet Union. With his army struggling around the world and slowly losing ground to the Russians, the Führer ordered his armies to hold the line at Kursk in the western Soviet Union. Additionally, they were to launch a massive offensive to reverse the tides and serve as a beacon to German forces around the world.


Operation Citadel, as it was named, called for two German Army groups with hundreds of thousands of troops and hundreds of tanks to use a pincer attack to cut off a large Russian salient, a 100-mile deep and 160-mile wide section of Soviet territory that jutted into the German lines. This would give the Germans control of important rail lines and hopefully destroy five Soviet Armies, about 30 divisions worth of soldiers.

Watch a missile ricochet off a Syrian rebel tank
A German Tiger tank rolls forward in the Battle of Kursk. (Photo: German Army archives)

The leader of the operation, Field Marshal Erick von Manstein, wanted to launch the offensive as quickly as possible because he believed the Russians would see it coming. Hitler went to the battlefield to personally discuss the plans with Kluge and insisted that the operation be halted until more Tiger tanks were available.

So the calendar crawled forward from February to July of 1943 with no offensive actions from the Germans. Meanwhile, the Soviets turned the lines into some of the most well-defended territories in the war. They planted over 2,200 anti-tank mines and 2,500 anti-personnel mines per mile of the front while citizens and soldiers dug 3,000 miles worth of trenches and positioned 20,000 artillery pieces. Soviet tanks arrived as well, bringing Soviet armor up to 5,000 or so.

Watch a missile ricochet off a Syrian rebel tank
Soviet soldiers man an anti-tank rifle in the chaos of the Battle of Kursk. (Photo: RIA Novosti archive)

On July 5, 1943, 38 German divisions with approximately 570,000 soldiers, 3,000 tanks, and thousands of planes finally headed east for the counteroffensive. Soviet planes with inexperienced pilots were on their way to attack German airfields and the two forces stumbled into each hour in the early morning. The Battle of Kursk was on.

Historians debate the exact numbers of troops and vehicles in the battle due to the fact that military leaders on each side exaggerated their numbers, but by almost every count Kursk was the largest tank battle ever fought.

The Germans had much to celebrate in the first four days. They quickly established air superiority and, despite the heavy defenses at Kursk, both the north and south advances in the pincer attack were moving forward slowly but steadily.

Josef Stalin himself was concerned about the air situation at Kursk and became agitated when he learned that the Germans still held the advantage. Both sides used dive bombers and other ground attack planes to hit enemy tanks on the ground as well as help direct artillery and conduct reconnaissance.

It was an air victory on July 9 that allowed the Soviets to first gain the initiative. The Soviets had been picking away at German pilots for the first few days and finally were able to force the Stukas to drop below 500 sorties, half of what they launched on the first day of fighting. Importantly, many of those killed were heroes of the Third Reich like Karl Fitzner and Bernhard Wutka, both Knight’s Cross holders.

Watch a missile ricochet off a Syrian rebel tank
Soviet soldiers advance behind a T-34 tank through thick smoke. (Photo: public domain)

On the ground, the fighting was truly hellish. Columns of oily smoke rose from burnt out wrecks as shells and bombs burst among the tanks on both sides. Russian infantrymen were known to launch near-suicidal attacks through the smoke, running up to German tanks with mines in their hands and hurling them under the enemy treads.

While the Soviets were losing more men and material than the Germans, the Germans were running out of fuel and men more quickly. When von Manstein asked for reinforcements, Hitler finally decided that they were losing too many men to reclaim too little territory.

He ordered the Panzer units to withdraw on July 13 and the Soviets resumed their own march west towards Berlin. While the German tanks that survived the battle were able to delay Soviet advances, they were never able to regain the initiative. The Allies invaded Italy the next month, and by the next summer, they were knocking down the doors of Fortress Europe.

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13 radio calls troops really love to hear

Troops on the ground spend a lot of time talking on the radio to a variety of commands and assets: planes and helicopters overhead, their headquarters, and artillery lines, and as they do, they use certain brevity codes and calls to make these communications fast and clear.


Here are 13 of the codes troops really love to hear when they’re outside the wire:

1. “Attack”/”Attacking”

Ground controllers give an aircraft the go-ahead to drop bombs or fire other munitions on the ground with the word “Attack,” and the pilot replies with “attacking.” Troops love to hear this exchange because it means a fireworks show is about to start on the enemy’s position.

2. “Bird”

Watch a missile ricochet off a Syrian rebel tank
Photo: US Army

The official meaning of “bird” is a surface-to-air missile, but troops sometimes use it to mean a helicopter. Since helicopters bring missiles and supplies and evacuate wounded troops, this is always welcome.

3. Bomber/CAS/CCA callsigns

While these callsigns change depending on which air unit is providing them assistance, troops love to hear any callsign from a good bomber, close air support, or close combat air pilot. These are the guys who drop bombs and fire missiles.

4. “Cleared hot”/”Cleared to engage”

Watch a missile ricochet off a Syrian rebel tank
Photo: US Air Force

The ground controller has cleared an air asset to drop bombs or other munitions on their next pass.

5. “Danger close”

The term means that bombs, artillery, or other big booms are being fired in support of ground troops but that the weapons will fall near friendly forces.

While danger close missions are exciting to see in movies and troops are happy to receive the assistance, soldiers in the field usually have mixed feelings about “danger close” since an enemy that is nearly on top of them is about to die, but they’ll also be near the blast.

6. Dustoff

Watch a missile ricochet off a Syrian rebel tank
Photo: Staff Sgt. Corey J. Hook/USAF

Service members on the ground don’t like needing a medical evacuation, but they love it when the “Dustoff” bird is en route and when it finally lands. It’ll take their wounded buddy off the battlefield and will typically replenish the medical supplies of their corpsman or medic, making everyone safer.

7. “Engage”

Fire control uses “Engage” to let operators of a weapons system know that they’ve been cleared to fire. This could open up the mortar section, gun line, or other firing unit to attack the enemy.

8. “Good effects on target”

A bomb or artillery rounds have struck the target and destroyed it, meaning something that needed to die has, in fact, died.

9. “Hit”

This is said by the ground controller or artillery observer to let a plane, artillery section, or other weapons platform know that it successfully dropped its munitions within a lethal distance of the target. If the target survived anyway, the ground controller may say “Repeat,” to get more rounds dropped or may give new firing directions instead.

10. “RTB”

Watch a missile ricochet off a Syrian rebel tank
Photo: US Navy Lt. Chad A. Dulac

It stands for “return to base” and troops love it because it means they get to head home and take their armor and packs off.

11. “Shot”

The artillery line uses “shot” to say that they’ve fired the rounds requested by the forward observer. The FO will reply with “shot out” and listen for the word “splash,” discussed below.

12. “Speedball”

This is the unofficial term for a small resupply dropped from a plane or helicopter, typically in a body bag. Troops short on ammo, water, batteries, etc. will request them. Medical supplies aren’t generally included in a speedball since the helicopter can just kick a normal aid bag out the door.

13. “Splash”

Watch a missile ricochet off a Syrian rebel tank
Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Jon Cupp

The firing line tells an observer “splash” five seconds before a round is expected to hit the target. When the observer sees the detonation from the round, they reply with “splash out” to let the artillery unit know the round hit and exploded. The FO will then give the firing line adjustments needed to hit the target or confirm that the target was hit.

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New Army vehicle protection system may instantly destroy enemy fire

Watch a missile ricochet off a Syrian rebel tank
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.

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North Korea’s ballistic missiles aren’t as scary as you might think (yet)

North Korea’s inter-continental ballistic missiles still have a lot of work to do in order to be ready for prime time, the Defense Intelligence Agency claims. North Korea in the past has had problems getting its missiles up – but that technological hitch may not last long.


According to a report by Bloomberg News, North Korea still faces a number of “important shortfalls” in its longer-range missiles like the Taepo-dong 2 and the KN-08 inter-continental ballistic missiles. Last month, North Korea saw a failure when it attempted to launch a missile during a test.

Watch a missile ricochet off a Syrian rebel tank
The test-fire of Pukguksong-2. This photo was released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency on February 13. (KCNA/Handout)

That said, senior American intelligence officials note with concern that North Korea is not letting the failures prevent a push toward developing a reliable ICBM inventory.

“North Korea has also expanded the size and sophistication of its ballistic missile forces—from close-range ballistic missiles (CRBMs) to ICBMs—and continues to conduct test launches. In 2016, North Korea conducted an unprecedented number of ballistic missile tests. Pyongyang is committed to developing a long-range, nuclear-armed missile that is capable of posing a direct threat to the United States; it has publicly displayed its road-mobile ICBMs on multiple occasions. We assess that North Korea has taken steps toward fielding an ICBM but has not flight-tested it,” Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said in a written statement to the Senate Intelligence Committee prior to a May 11, 2017 hearing.

Watch a missile ricochet off a Syrian rebel tank
Hwasong missile (North Korean variant). (Photo: KCNA)

“North Korea is poised to conduct its first ICBM flight test in 2017 based on public comments that preparations to do so are almost complete and would serve as a milestone toward a more reliable threat to the US mainland,” Coats added later in the statement.

The United States has currently deployed a Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense missile battery to South Korea, and also operates MIM-104 Patriot missile batteries – systems also owned by South Korea and Japan. All three countries also have Aegis warships, capable of launching SIM-66 Standard SM-2 and RIM-161 Standard SM-3 missiles.

Watch a missile ricochet off a Syrian rebel tank
USS Hopper (DDG 70) fires a RIM-161 SM-3 missile in 2009. (US Navy photo)

The United States has deployed a carrier strike group to the area around North Korea as tensions have increased.

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Here’s what it’s like dodging six missiles in an F-16

It was in the opening days of Operation Desert Storm on Jan. 19, 1991 when fighter jets were roaring through Iraqi airspace, and anti-aircraft crews were waiting for them with surface-to-air missiles (SAM). For Air Force Maj. ET Tullia, it was an unforgettable mission that saw him cheating death not once, but six times.


Also Read: The AC-130 ‘Ultimate Battle Plane’ Is Getting Even More Firepower

According to Lucky-Devils, a military website that recounts much of the engagement, U.S. F-16s were trying to attack a rocket production facility north of Baghdad. The account continues:

As the flight approached the Baghdad IP, AAA [Anti-Aircraft Artillery] began firing at tremendous rates. Most of the AAA was at 10-12,000ft (3,658m), but there were some very heavy, large calibre explosions up to 27,000ft (8,230m). Low altitude AAA became so thick it appeared to be an undercast. At this time, the 388th TFW F-16’s were hitting the Nuclear Research Centre outside of the city, and the Weasels had fired off all their HARMs in support of initial parts of the strike and warnings to the 614th F-16’s going further into downtown went unheard.

Many of the F-16 pilots that day had to deal with SAM missiles locking on to them, and were forced to take evasive maneuvers. Maj. Tullia (Callsign: Stroke 3) had to dodge six of those missiles, at times banking and breathing so hard that he was losing his vision.

Again, via Lucky-Devils:

Meanwhile, ET became separated from the rest of the package because of his missile defensive break turns. As he defeats the missiles coming off the target, additional missiles are fired, this time, from either side of the rear quadrants of his aircraft. Training for SAM launches up to this point had been more or less book learning, recommending a pull to an orthogonal flight path 4 seconds prior to missile impact to overshoot the missile and create sufficient miss distance to negate the effects of the detonating warhead. Well, it works. The hard part though, is to see the missile early enough to make all the mental calculations.

The following video apparently shows footage through the view of Tullia’s heads-up display that day, and around the 3:00 mark, you can hear the warning beeps that a missile is locked on. Although the video is a bit grainy, the real focus should be on the hair-raising radio chatter, which, coupled with his heavy breathing, makes you realize that fighter pilots need to be in peak physical condition to do what they do.

YouTube, Scott Jackson

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4 signs it’s time for your Staff NCO to get out

Staff non-commissioned officers (SNCOs), particularly staff sergeants, are known to have a bite worse than their bark. In the military, it is necessary to have someone who can be the hammer when it calls for it. The good ones bring balance by reward and punishment to incentivize mission accomplishment. However, there are some SNCOs who are all stick and no carrot. At a time when the military retention rate exceeds expectations, it is more important now than ever to keep leaders who want to lead and phase out those that don’t.

Here are four of the best signs that we can think of that your Staff NCO has drifted into the latter:

They’re always angry

Staff Sergeant is on the warpath, again. For some reason, SNCOs are always angry. Maybe it’s all the years of seeing preventable dumb sh*t. They tend to ease up when they’ve been promoted to gunny or higher. Maybe it’s the pay jump from E6 to E7 or the change of role to company gunnery sergeant, where it’s more logistical than tactical. If your E6 gets promoted to E7 and is still a grouch, it’s time for them to start thinking about retirement.

Watch a missile ricochet off a Syrian rebel tank
Unless they’ve got some recon Marines to whip into shape first… (Warner Bros.)

They forgot where they came from

This is one of my biggest pet peeves. It always rubbed me the wrong way when a SNCO is committed to NJPing (Non-Judicial Punishment) a Marine for a mistake I well know they themselves have made. They took advantage of the ‘boys will be boys’ when they were young to get out of trouble but will crucify the lower enlisted at any chance. When a SNCO or officer gets in trouble, the whole command protects their own. It gets swept under the rug. Their platoons may not know the truth, but everyone at Battalion does.

When I was in operations, everyone’s records were at my fingertips. As the scheduling NCO, I had to know your record to decide what training to send you to next between major ops. I saw that they have plenty of dirt on them, too. So, when a SNCO is battling to destroy another troop’s career but that SNCO has no problem utilizing the ‘Good Ol’ Boy’ network to protect themselves, they need to GTFO.

Watch a missile ricochet off a Syrian rebel tank

They stay late at work on purpose

They won’t dismiss their troops, even when their counterparts in other platoons have already gone home. Just because they do not want to spend time with their family, that doesn’t mean the corporal with a brand new baby doesn’t want to spend time with his. These types of SNCOs maxed out their leave days. For some reason, they believe it’s a good thing and brag. It’s not. Go fishing or kick rocks, go relax.

Watch a missile ricochet off a Syrian rebel tank

It’s been over 25+ years

When your SNCO has been around since before Osama Bin Laden was on the run, it’s time to get out. Okay, that’s an exaggeration, but still. Any SNCO that has been in longer than 25+ years that is angry all the time, exists only to punish and not train. They choose to be around the most amount of time possible to spread negativity, and anyone with that mentality has to go. The military is supposed to be a meritocracy, where leaders are supposed to inspire the troops and use their experience to lead the next generation of warfighters.

A SNCO exists to provide expertise and guidance to officers and facilitate training amongst the lower ranks. They’re the logistical side of the enlisted chevron to reduce bureaucracy and keep our military lethal. If a Staff Non-Commissioned Officer has lost sight of the mission over the course of 20+ years, it’s time to lead, follow, or get out of the way.

Feature image: U.S. Army

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The British and Germans built these deadly hollowed-out trees in WWI

As if the lowly soldier of World War I didn’t have enough to worry about on the hellish battlefields of France — from massive flamethrowers, to giant artillery guns to poison gas — there was a lot of nastiness that could kill you in no-man’s land.


But killer trees? Come on, is there no decency?

Watch a missile ricochet off a Syrian rebel tank
(Gif: AllMovieVideos via YouTube)

Not quite the nightmare scenario of living, walking Ents from “Lord of the Rings,” the British and later the Germans nevertheless disguised sniper hides and observation posts in positions designed to look like trees destroyed on the battlefield made from steel drums and camouflaged to look like an everyday arbor.

In the constant game of cat and mouse that marked the stalemate of the Western Front, diabolical designers looked to the splintered wreckage of the pock-marked battlescape to hide their positions. According to a story about the deadly hollowed-out trees in the London Daily Mail, the Brits found wrecked trees they could use to construct what they called “O.P. Trees” for observation posts.

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Is that a German Baumbeobachter behind me? (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

“The ideal tree was dead and often it was bomb blasted,” the MailOnline story said. “The photographs and sketches were then sent to a workshop where artists constructed an artificial tree of hollow steel cylinders.”

“It contained an internal scaffolding for reinforcement, to allow a sniper or observer to ascend within the structure,” the story added.

The trees were built to look exactly like the ruined ones in no-man’s land, so troops would sneak between the lines in the dark and replace the real tree with the fake one. Manned by a British Tommy, the O.P. Trees gave a better view of the battlefield than peering over the trench line.

Historians say a soldier perched within the tree would relay his observation to another trooper posted below, who’d carry the information back to the lines for an attack.

Watch a missile ricochet off a Syrian rebel tank
An O.P. Tree being installed on a World War I battlefield by British troops. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

“As far as we know the trees were surprisingly successful and none of them were detected by the enemy,” a historian with the Imperial War Museum in Kensington, England, told MailOnline. “In 1916 the Germans had captured a lot of the higher ground on the Western Front and even the elevation of a few feet through one of these trees could prove crucial.”

The Germans later caught on to the tactic and built their own, calling them Baumbeobachter (which means “tree observer”) and used them throughout the war. The Brits are said to have used their first O.P. Trees during the battle of Ypres in Belgium in 1915, and historians estimate around 45 were deployed to the Western front.

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US aircraft carrier is heading back to Med to hammer ISIS


After a brief absence of US aircraft carrier presence in the eastern Mediterranean, the USS George H. W. Bush will be returning to Syria’s coast to hammer ISIS forces in the region.

This marks the first time the US Navy has had a carrier in the region since US guided-missile destroyers struck Syrian President Bashar Assad’s air force after his regime carried out a deadly chemical weapon attack on civilians.

In the immediate aftermath of that strike on April 6, Russia, Assad’s stalwart ally, sent two corvettes of their own.

The US has dispatched the Bush and four guided-missile destroyers as part of a carrier strike group.

The carrier arrives at a time when US and coalition forces have all but stomped out the last remaining ISIS strongholds in Iraq and Syria, though they increasingly find themselves under attack from new adversaries — Iranian-backed pro-Assad forces.

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A Scan Eagle unmanned aerial vehicle launches from the amphibious dock landing ship USS Comstock. (Photo by: Department of Defense)

Iran recently released footage of one of its drones scoping out a US drone, and the very next day the Pentagon announced a US aircraft had shot down a pro-Syrian drone.

Increasingly, US-led coalition forces find themselves bombing pro-Syrian and Iranian-backed forces that threaten US troops in deconfliction zones.

With the addition of the aircraft carrier, the US will have an additional few dozen F/A-18s handy to police the skies.

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The Marines ditch crunches, go to planks for their annual fitness test

More articles from Military.com:

The Marine Corps has announced it will be phasing out crunches as part of its annual physical fitness test as part of a larger overhaul of the assessment.

Crunches will be replaced by planks — which were added as an option in 2019 — as the mandatory abdominal strength test in 2023, the service announced in a message Thursday.

The Marines will join the Navy in phasing out crunches as part of its fitness testing regimen. The Navy eliminated the exercise for the 2021 cycle of its test.

The exercise was first introduced in 1997 as part of the fitness test, though the test itself goes back to the early 1900s.

According to Marine Corps spokesman Capt. Sam Stephenson, injury prevention is a major force behind the change.Advertisement

“Research has shown that crunches with the feet restrained require significant hip flexor activation,” Stephenson explained in a statement.

“This has been linked to an increased risk of injury, including lower back pain,” he added.

Marines will be expected to perform a forearm plank – an exercise where the body is held in a push-up-like position while being supported by the forearms, elbows, and toes.

Additionally, the plank has “numerous advantages as an abdominal exercise,” according to the Marines. The exercise “activates almost twice as many muscles as the crunch and has been proven to be most reliable in measuring the true endurance required for daily activity function,” Stephenson said.

The changes announced Thursday also tweak the minimum and maximum times for the plank exercise. The maximum time will go from 4:20 to 3:45, while the minimum will change from 1:03 to 1:10. This change will take effect in 2022.

The Marines said its “human performance policies and standards are in a constant state of analysis, assessment, and modification, if necessary, to ensure that they best support the overall readiness of the force” in a message announcing the new standards.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

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One of NATO’s most deployed anti-air missiles is getting a major upgrade

The ground-based version of the AIM-120 Sparrow air-to-air missile just got a major upgrade as Raytheon announced that it has successfully tested a new engine and enhanced fire distribution center that gives the system a much longer range and higher maximum altitude, according to a company press release.


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An AMRAAM-Extended Range missile is shot from a NASAMS launcher. The missile successfully engaged and destroyed a target drone during a flight test at the Andoya Space Center in Norway. (Photo: courtesy Raytheon Company)

Used by militaries around the world, the system is designed to bring down helicopters, jets, and even cruise missiles. Basically, it’s an oozlefinch with an “If it flies, it dies” mentality.

The National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System uses the AIM-120 air-to-air missile, also known as the Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile, but fires it from tubes parked on the ground. The new version of the missile borrows the engine from the Navy’s Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile.

This new engine, combined with better flight control, allows the AMRAAM-Extended Range to engage targets at a 50 percent longer range and 70 percent higher altitude than it used to be capable of. The exact range of AMRAAM-ER has not been released, but the Evolved Sea Sparrow can engage targets at over 30 miles away when fired from a ship.

Already popular in NATO, the NASAMS is designed for low and medium-altitude air defense. Norway was the first adopter and helped develop it under the name “Norwegian Advanced Surface to Air Missile System,” and the system is deployed by U.S. forces and five other countries.

The U.S. uses NASAMS to defend Washington D.C. from aerial attack and typically deploys Patriots, Stingers, and other air defense assets elsewhere in the world.

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7 things Marine Corps recruits complain about at boot camp

The Marine Corps doesn’t promise you a rose garden.


When potential recruits show up to boot camp, they quickly realize what they are in for. While standing on the yellow footprints at either Parris Island, South Carolina or San Diego, California, young men and women are lined up, berated by drill instructors, and then go through a 36-hour whirlwind of receiving.

And then they have three more months to go. It’s a huge culture shock for civilians who have little idea of Marine culture or what happens at boot camp. The shock leads to some complaints, though they will likely never dare mention it to the drill instructors.

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Photo: Cpl. Octavia Davis

1. These drill instructors are literally insane.

They scream, use wild gestures, throw things, and run around a room and back again. In the eyes of a recruit, a drill instructor is an insane person, hell-bent on making his or her life a living hell. They kind of have a point.

During the first three days or so of boot camp, receiving drill instructors take recruits to supply, get their uniforms, feed them, and house them, before taking them to their actual DIs that will have them over a period of three months. As trained professionals, the DIs put on a front of being upset about basically everything a recruit does, right or wrong.

2. There’s no way I can put on this uniform in less than 10 seconds.

One of the “insane” things that drill instructors constantly stress is that recruits move fast. Impossibly fast. DIs will give countdowns of everything — from tying your right boot to brushing your teeth — that usually start from very small numbers like 20 seconds that rapidly dwindle depending on how hard the DI wants to make it.

The countdowns induce a level of stress in recruits that are used to completing tasks at a leisurely pace. When a DI says you have ten seconds to put on your camouflage blouse and bottoms, you better not still be buttoning at 11.

3. How are there no freaking doors on these bathroom stalls right now?

Who needs privacy when you are trying to forge a brotherhood of Marines? Walk into any male recruit “head” (aka the bathroom) at the depot and you’ll notice a couple of things: There is a big trough-like urinal with no dividers, and bathroom stalls have no doors on them.

Even during the times when a recruit is used to having maximum privacy, at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot, there is none. Thankfully, once they are Marines, they will earn their Eagle, Globe, Anchor — and the right to have a bathroom door.

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Photo: Lance Cpl. Vaniah Temple/USMC

4. This recruit really wishes he were treated like a human being.

The moment boot camp begins, drill instructors are teaching recruits that they are pretty much worthless, and they have a long way to go before they earn the title of Marine. Being the “worthless scum” of recruit means not even being able to speak in the first person anymore, and having to ask to do basic human functions, like using the bathroom (often refused on the first request).

No longer can recruits use “I,” “me,” or “my.” Instead, they must say “this recruit” in its place. “Sir, this recruit requests permission to make a sit-down head call,” is the way you ask to go #2. Three months later, it’ll be a bit weird at first when a new Marine can just walk into a bathroom and go.

5. What the hell is fire-watch?

Though it may not seem like it, recruits at boot camp usually get around seven to eight hours of sleep per night. But most will have to pull “fire-watch” during the night. Fire watch, put simply, is guard duty. But unlike a guard duty they may pull in Iraq or Afghanistan behind a machine-gun, guard duty at boot camp means recruits walk around aimlessly in the squad bay for an hour.

Pulling security and protecting your team of Marines is a basic function that recruits need to learn. But it’s also incredibly boring, and seems pretty pointless. And then, sometimes this happens in the middle of it:

6. Going to the head? ‘El Marko’? What language are these people speaking?

The Marine Corps has its own language, and recruits get their first taste of how weird it is during boot camp. There’s naval terminology mixed in with other terms that seem to not make any sense, and it takes a while to pick up. The bathroom is referred to as “the head,” a black Sharpie is now called an “El Marko,” the “quarterdeck” is where the drill instructor “smokes/kills/destroys” recruits.

Suck it up, buttercup. There are plenty more phrases you’ll need to learn in the years to come.

7. These flies are the devil (Parris Island recruit) — or — These airplanes are the devil (San Diego recruit).

The Marine Corps Recruit Depots on the east and west coasts follow similar training programs, so it’s hard to call either one easier or harder than the other. But they do have their own unique quirks. For recruits on the east coast, Parris Island is known for sand fleas, which make their home in the infamous sand pits and humid air of South Carolina. While recruits are getting “thrashed” — doing strenuous exercise — in the pits, sand fleas provide another terrible annoyance. But don’t dare swat one. If you are caught, a drill instructor is likely to scream about an undisciplined recruit and make you hold a funeral for the fallen creature.

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Meanwhile, San Diego recruits live right by the busy airport downtown. Throughout their time there, they will hear airplanes taking off and landing, and it’s usually not a morale boost. While PI recruits are isolated, San Diego recruits often daydream about being on one of those flights taking off from the nation’s busiest single runway airport.

MORE: Here’s what the first 36 hours of Marine boot camp is like

ALSO: 23 terms only US Marines will understand

OR WATCH: Life in the U.S. Marine Corps Infantry

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How WWII submarine commander Roy Davenport was awarded 5 Navy Crosses

World War II was the golden age of American submarine warfare. By war’s end, seven submarine commanders and one enlisted crew member had received the Medal of Honor. The US submarine fleet, often referred to as the “Silent Service” for its secretive undersea missions, operated independently and in wolf packs while patrolling contested sea lanes in the Pacific.

During war patrols beyond the range of American airpower, US submarines exacted a heavy toll on Japanese naval forces, sinking four fleet carriers, four escort carriers, one battleship, four heavy cruisers, nine light cruisers, 38 destroyers, and 23 submarines. 

Although Rear Adm. Roy Davenport was never awarded the Medal of Honor, he was the first and only US Navy sailor to be awarded five Navy Cross medals, an honor Davenport shares with US Marine Corps legend Chesty Puller. Even though the submarine commander is one of the most decorated sailors from World War II, the heroic exploits that made him so remain largely unknown.

FIRST NAVY CROSS: CAROLINE ISLANDS

Before he assumed command of the USS Haddock, Davenport had four submarine war patrols under his belt, having served as an executive officer on the USS Silversides under the command of Lt. Cmdr. Creed Burlingame. As the Haddock’s lieutenant commander, Davenport was awarded his first Navy Cross for conducting numerous hazardous missions into enemy-infested waters off the Caroline Islands between June 30 and Aug. 10, 1943. 

During a patrol near Palau, an island country that connects the western chain of the Caroline Islands with Micronesia, Davenport torpedoed and sank the 5,533-ton Saipan Maru, a Japanese transport ship. On July 26, 1943, Davenport fired a total of 15 Mark XIV torpedoes at ranges between 2,000 and 4,000 yards in four separate attacks. 

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The crew of the USS Haddock (SS-231) pose for a group photo. Photo courtesy of navsource.org.

Davenport “pressed home his attacks with cool and courageous determination and despite intense and persistent hostile opposition, succeeded in sinking over 10,500 tons of enemy shipping and damaging over 35,500 tons,” his citation states.

SECOND NAVY CROSS: CAROLINE ISLANDS

Davenport was awarded his second Navy Cross while serving as the commanding officer on the sixth war patrol of the USS Haddock between Sept. 2 and Sept. 28, 1943. Over the course of the 27-day war patrol, Davenport engaged with four different Japanese ships. On Sept. 15, he fired four torpedoes, claiming two hits and a fire aboard the target vessel. When the enemy ship attempted to ram Davenport’s submarine, Davenport released two more torpedoes “down the throat.”

Five days later, Davenport came into contact with the Tonan Maru II, a 19,000-ton tanker. He fired six torpedoes from 3,700 yards; half of the volley impacted its target. Between Sept. 21 and Sept. 23, the Haddock engaged two more ships, missing the first with two torpedoes from 3,000 yards. However, the US submarine later claimed three confirmed hits on the second ship after releasing at least eight torpedoes. 

“He conducted daring attacks during this patrol which resulted in sinking over 39,000 tons of enemy shipping and damaging over 4,000 tons,” Davenport’s citation reads. “By skillful maneuvering, he successfully evaded enemy counter-attacks and brought his submarine through with no damage.”

THIRD NAVY CROSS: CAROLINE ISLANDS

Davenport was awarded his third Navy Cross while serving as commanding officer of the USS Haddock on its seventh war patrol from Oct. 20 to Nov. 15, 1943. The Haddock patrolled off the coast of the Truk Islands (now called Chuuk Islands), a cluster of 16 volcanic islands, which form part of the eastern Caroline Islands. From Nov. 1 to Nov. 2, Davenport attacked a freighter and a troopship with five torpedoes. The freighter was destroyed, while the troopship survived after catching fire.

“He skillfully conducted a surface torpedo attack against an enemy destroyer search group,” Davenport’s citation reads. “One destroyer was sunk and he thereafter conducted a successful surface retirement during the ensuing confusion. During the patrol, he also delivered highly successful attacks against two heavily escorted enemy convoys which resulted in sinking over 32,000 tons of enemy shipping.” 

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The ship’s sponsor, Mrs. R. M. Davenport, with a champagne bottle for christening; Lt. Cmdr. Roy Davenport; and the matron of honor, Mrs. Garvey, with roses, are seen before the launching at Mare Island, March 23, 1944. Photo courtesy of the Vallejo Naval and Historical Museum/navsource.org.

FOURTH NAVY CROSS: HONSHU, JAPAN

After returning from the Caroline Islands, Davenport requested a transfer and became the first skipper of the USS Trepang, a brand-new, Balao-class submarine. Davenport led the first war patrol of the USS Trepang into enemy-controlled waters south of Honshu, Japan. On his first engagement, he fired six torpedoes at two large tankers, a freighter, and an escort. The engagement sunk the Takunan Maru, a 750-ton freighter.

“By excellent judgment, outstanding skill and aggressiveness, he closed and launched intelligently planned and smartly executed torpedo attacks,” Davenport’s fourth Navy Cross citation reads. “His skillful evasive tactics enabled his ship to escape enemy countermeasures and return to port safely.”

Between Sept. 13 and Oct. 23, 1944, Davenport was credited with sinking three ships and inflicting damage to a Yamashiro-class battleship. According to the Military Hall of Honor: “Davenport weathered a typhoon and, on 10-11 October, picked up a convoy of two tankers and one escort. Firing four stern tubes, he claimed three hits but no sinkings were confirmed in Japanese records. The next night, he fired four torpedoes at a Japanese landing craft, believing all missed. Postwar, he was credited with the 1,000-ton Transport No. 5.” 

FIFTH NAVY CROSS: LUZON STRAIT

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Lt. Cmdr. Roy M. Davenport of Los Angeles, Calif., wears the Navy Cross recently presented to him for sinking “many thousands of tons” of enemy shipping. Davenport stands beside his vessel’s conning tower, on which are painted Japanese flags, indicating the enemy victims. Photo courtesy of navsource.org.

On Nov. 16, 1944, the USS Trepang departed for its second war patrol from Majuro, a chain of the Marshall Islands in the western Pacific Ocean. On his 10th war patrol, Davenport braved the hazardous waters of the Luzon Strait, which is located between Taiwan and the Philippines’ Luzon Islands.

During the 34-day patrol, Davenport led a wolf pack comprising three American submarines called “Roy’s Rangers.” The US submarines fired 22 torpedoes and destroyed four enemy ships, totaling 35,000 tons. However, the postwar Joint Army-Navy Assessment Committee — the US interservice agency that determined Japanese naval and merchant marine shipping losses during the war — reduced the tally from four to three ships sunk, for a revised total of 13,000 tons.

According to his fifth Navy Cross citation, “Daringly penetrating a strong hostile escort screen to deliver a series of night surface attacks, Commander Davenport launched his torpedoes into an escorted convoy, holding to his targets grimly in the face of heavy countermeasures and sinking an important amount of Japanese tonnage.

“During this excellently planned and brilliantly executed engagement, the TREPANG effectively coordinated her efforts with other submarines and, as a result of the combined firepower of these gallant ships, contributed to the destruction of the entire convoy within a period of three hours.”

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

Feature image: navsource.org

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