Troops in contact with the enemy have a few awesome weapons that they like to hear firing in support. Any weapon firing on the enemy is a good weapon, but these 9 have become hallowed in military culture.
1. M2 .50 cal machine gun
Quite possible the favorite weapon of troops from World War II to today, the .50 Cal is largely unchanged after over 90 years of service. It fires half-inch rounds at up to 550 rounds per minute, taking down low-flying aircraft, hostile infantry, and light vehicles.
One of the world’s premier attack helicopters, the AH-64 Apache can fly at over 173 mph, climb at 2,000 feet per minute, and carries Hellfire missiles, 30mm grenades, and 70mm rockets. Designed for an anti-tank role, Apaches are also great at covering and supporting infantry on the ground.
3. TOW Missile
Tube-launched, optically tracked, wire-guided or wireless-guided missiles are great against armored and fortified targets at a range of nearly three miles. There are portable launchers that can be carried by infantry, and the missiles can also be mounted on helicopters and vehicles.
4. Carl Gustav
The M3 Carl Gustav Recoilless Rifle can fire a number of different rounds to destroy tanks, bunkers, or infantry formations. Originally fielded in the U.S. by Special Operations Command, the Army bought it for conventional units because it had better range and firepower than the more common AT-4.
Seriously, troops love the Warthog. This flying tank-buster operated by the Air Force was built around a 30mm gatling gun, but it can also carry and precisely deliver bombs, mines, rockets, and missiles. The A-10 is so popular that airmen secretly made a video praising it to help save it from the Air Force chopping block.
When infantry soldiers are under attack, they don’t want to wait for close air support or artillery strikes. Mortars give infantry units the opportunity to drop 60mm and 81mm rounds directly on the enemy without calling for help. Army efforts to reduce mortar weight are making them even more popular.
7. Mk. 19
The Mk. 19 automatic grenade launcher fires 40mm grenades at targets nearly a mile away. Against infantry, each grenade kills targets within 5 meters of its impact and wounds people within 15 meters. It can even punch through some armored personnel carriers and many light vehicles.
8. M-134 minigun
Adopted during the Vietnam War, the M-134 fires between 2,000 and 6,000 7.62mm rounds per minute through six barrels. It was designed for helicopters to use in suppressing enemy troops, and it still chews through infantry formations today.
9. M1 Abrams
The M1 Abrams is the main battle tank of the U.S. Marines and U.S. Army. It carries a 120mm smoothbore main gun and can be fitted with machine guns from 5.56mm up to .50 cal. The almost 70-ton tank can race across the battlefield at over 40 miles per hour.
Two Army infantrymen and U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit instructors competed in the double trap shotgun event on Aug. 10 in Rio de Janeiro where they placed seventh and 14th, failing to advance to the medal round.
Sergeants 1st Class Joshua Richmond and Glenn Eller are shotgun instructors for the USAMU and prior Olympians. Eller won gold in the Olympic double trap event in Beijing in 2008. Both NCOs competed in the Rio 2016 Qualifiers Aug. 10.
Double trap is a shotgun shooting sport where two clay targets are fired into the air at the same time, and the shooter has two shots to hit them.
Both athletes struggled in the early rounds of Rio qualification, but Richmond fought his way back up to seventh with a score of 135, just barely missing his chance to shoot in the semi-finals. Eller finished in 14th position with a score of 131.
While the result is disappointing for U.S. military fans, they still have a lot to look forward to over the next few days. SEAL training graduate and Navy officer Edward King will compete in the rowing finals on Aug. 11.
Marine Corps 2nd Lt. David Higgins, Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael McPhail, and Sgt. 1st Class Nathan Sanderson will compete in shooting events Aug. 12, while Naval Academy Cadet Regine Tugade will race in the 100-meter dash.
All sailors, from the “old salts” to the newly initiated are familiar with the following terms:
A chit in the Navy refers to any piece of paper from a form to a pass and even currency. According to the Navy history museum, the word chit was carried over from the days of Hindu traders when they used slips of paper called “citthi” for money.
The Navy term for water fountain. The Navy History Museum describes the term as a combination of “scuttle,” to make a hole in the ship’s side causing her to sink, and “butt,” a cask or hogshead used in the days of wooden ships to hold drinking water; thus the term scuttlebutt means a cask with a hole in it.
The term used to describe a mess deck worker, typically a new transferee assigned to the mess decks while qualifying for regular watch.
This is the term used to describe a mop bucket with wheels and a ringer. When sailors are assigned to cleaning duties, they prefer the luxurious Cadillac over the bucket.
A knee-knocker refers to the bottom portion of a watertight door’s frame. They are notorious for causing shin injuries and drunken sailors hate them.
The term used when obtaining something outside of official channels or payment, usually by trading or bartering. For example, sailors on a deployed ship got pizza in exchange for doing the laundry of the C-2 Greyhound crew that flew it in.
*Younger sailors may use the term “drug deal” instead of comshaw.
7. Gear adrift
The term used to describe items that are not properly stowed away. The shoes in this picture would be considered gear adrift. Also sometimes phrased as “gear adrift is a gift.”
The term sailors use for vending machine and junk food.
The term used to describe sailors that work below decks, usually those that are assigned to engineering rates, such as Machinists Mates, Boilermen, Enginemen, Hull Technicians, and more.
These are sailors assigned to the air wing — everyone from pilots down to the airplane maintenance crew.
11. Bubble head
The term sailors use to describe submariners.
12. Gun decking
Filling out a log or form with imaginary data, usually done out of laziness or to satisfy an inspection.
The term sailors use interchangeably for meeting and roll call.
The chemical used for washing airplanes.
15. Pad eye
These are the hook points on a ship’s surface used to tie down airplanes with chains.
Short for mid rations. The food line open from midnight to 6:00 a.m. that usually consists of leftovers and easy-to-make food like hamburgers, sandwich fixings, and weenies.
17. Roach coach
The snack or lunch truck that stops by the pier.
18. Bomb farm
Areas on the ship where aviation ordnancemen men store their bombs.
19. Nuke it
The term used when a sailor is overthinking a simple task. Here’s how the Navy publication, All Hands describes the term:
“The phrase is often used by sailors as a way to say stop over thinking things in the way a nuclear officer might. Don’t dissect everything down to its nuts and bolts. Just stop thinking. But that’s the thing; sailors who are part of the nuclear Navy can’t stop. They have no choice but to nuke it.”
Relatively little is known about Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the jihadist group Islamic State (also known as ISIS and ISIL). However, newly declassified military documents obtained by Business Insider on Wednesday reveal several new details about the ISIS leader.
The records come from time Baghdadi spent in US Army custody in Iraq. They were released through a Freedom of Information Act request. In these files, Baghdadi was identified by his birth name, Ibrahim Awad Ibrahim Al Badry.
There have been conflicting reports about the time Baghdadi spent as a US detainee. These files identify his “capture date” as Feb. 4, 2004 and the date of his “release in place” as Dec. 8, 2004. According to the records, Baghdadi was captured in Fallujah and held at multiple prison facilities including Camp Bucca and Camp Adder.
In the book “ISIS: Inside The Army of Terror,” Michael Weiss and Hassan Hassan relay an account of Baghdadi’s capture from ISIS expert Dr. Hisham al-Hashimi. In the interview, al-Hashimi said Baghdadi was captured by US military intelligence while visiting a friend in Fallujah named Nessayif Numan Nessayif.
“Baghdadi was not the target — it was Nessayif,” said al-Hashimi, who consults with the Iraqi government and claims to have met the ISIS leader in the 1990s.
Baghdadi’s detainee I.D. card lists him as a “civilian detainee,” which means he was not a member of a foreign armed force or militia, but was still held for security reasons. His “civilian occupation” was identified as “ADMINISTRATIVE WORK (SECRETARY).” As of 2014, he was listed as being 43 years old though his birth date was redacted. Baghdadi’s birthplace was identified as Fallujah.
These records also provide some details about Baghdadi’s family. His file identifies him as married and his next of kin was an uncle. The names of his family members were redacted from the records.
View the Baghdadi files below. According to Army Corrections Command, some of the records requested by Business Insider remain classified. We are working to obtain all possible files from Baghdadi’s detention.
This diagnosis is a broad term that refers to having pain in the front of the knee or, specifically, the patella. It’s a common issue among those who undergo high-impact activities, like running while wearing a heavy pack. Those who have patellofemoral pain syndrome will typically have problems kneeling down and maneuvering through uneven terrain and experience soreness during long platoon runs.
Patellofemoral pain syndrome is caused by the roughening or softening of the cartilage under the kneecap. The typical treatment involves giving the patient two straws (to suck it up), a decent dose of ibuprofen or naproxen, taping the kneecap in place, and getting better PT shoes.
2. Hamstring pulls
You know that muscle in the back of your thigh? That’s your hamstring and it’s one of the thickest muscles in the human body. Pulling a hammy is a common injury in grunts who have to run fast but aren’t properly warmed up.
The hamstring helps flex and straighten the knee joint. So, if an infantryman hurts this important muscle, they might be out of the fight for a while.
This medical term merely refers to pain located in the lower back. Grunts have to shift through various fighting positions, like prone and kneeling, while wearing heavy gear on their backs for several hours throughout the day, making this a common ailment for infantrymen in training.
4. Shin splints
Shin splints are likely the most common type of lower-leg ailment across the entire military — and it’s especially common among the infantry. Also known as medial tibial stress syndrome, the disorder is caused by putting extreme stress on the shinbone and other connective tissues in the area.
The problem develops as a result of having flat feet, not warming up with proper stretches, and weak lower-torso joints.
5. IT band syndrome
You know that pain on the side of your knee that flares up after a mandatory 12-mile run? It’s probably not a ligament — but it could be your iliotibial band. This slab of connective tissue runs down from the side of your hip and latches onto the outside part of your knee.
Straining this band will likely cause you to limp or even sideline you on crutches for an extended period of time.
Commonly known as a “twisted ankle,” this is one of the most highly diagnosed injuries to the lower leg due to inversion. This structure in the distal part of your leg can only bend and flex so far before sustaining damage. Ankle sprains can be just as nasty as some minor fractures due to the amount of time it can take to fully heal.
Since ligaments receive limited blood supply, a high-level sprain can take weeks to properly heal.
In March 1942, the U.S. was fully engaged in the second World War, fighting against Japan and Germany. The Pearl Harbor attack had happened just months prior, and now there was a U-boat war happening right off the eastern seaboard of the United States.
Americans were understandably nervous. Then Life Magazine scared the heck out of its readers with an article about what would happen if the Nazis and the Japanese decided to invade.
In an article titled “Now the US must fight for its life,” Life shared maps of a potential invasion that must have been pretty terrifying to John Q. Public in the early days of the war.
The magazine, fortunately, was way, way off. The Germans did investigate a potential invasion of the U.S., aided by the the long-range Amerika bomber, but they eventually found such an endeavor too costly, especially as the war continued to go poorly for them.
Though German U-boats were sinking some ships off the American coast, fielding a long-range bomber against the U.S. needed a nuclear bomb underneath it to be truly effective, which the Germans never figured out. And Berlin simply didn’t have the resources or manpower to stage a feasible land invasion — a point nailed home by the fact that Germany had previously scrapped an invasion plan for England in 1941.
Regardless, it was a scary time for Americans in March 1942, and it was the heyday of military propaganda. So here is how Life imagined such an operation:
A rose, by any other name, would smell as sweet. That’s a lesson the military has taken to heart, changing the names for plenty of items that civilians all know by another name.
1. “100 mph tape” and “Tape, adhesive cloth, 2 in.” are both Duct tape/Duck tape
Oddly enough, duct tape was originally a military item that the troops called “duck tape” for its ability to repel water. But, since “Duck tape” is now a brand name and duct tape was trademarked, the military calls its tape 100 mph tape. The rumor was that it could stick to things moving 100 mph.
Interestingly, airplane maintainers and race car crews eventually did need tape that could stick at well over 100 mph, and so they created speed tape. Speed tape is similar to duck tape in use, but it’s much stronger both in terms of stickiness and tensile strength.
2. “Hook and loop fasteners” and “hook pile tape” are Velcro.
3. “Slide fastener (and tab thong)” is a zipper
4. “Elastic retention strap” is just a rubber band.
5. Chem lights are glow sticks.
6. Most candy in an MRE is called by a made-up name.
MMs are called pan coated discs, Skittles are fruit discs, and Combos are called filled pretzels or filled crackers.
7. Don’t dare call uniform items by civilian names
Hats are covers or patrol caps. Rain jackets and waterproof pants are called wet weather gear or foul weather gear. The outer shirt on most combat uniforms is called the jacket or blouse.
A sixth branch of the United States Armed Forces may be a reality soon. But it will likely still be decades before “Star Trek’s” Starfleet becomes a thing.
On June 21, The House Armed Services Committeeproposed forming the U.S. Space Corps. Both Republican and Democrat representatives suggested cleaving the current Air Force Space Command away from Big Blue and forming its own branch of service.
Alabama Republican Rep. Mike Rogers is spearheading the Space Corps into the 2018 Defense Authorization Bill. Rogers spoke with NPR and said “Russia and China have become near peers. They’re close to surpassing us. What we’re proposing would change that.”
Opposition to the Space Corps comes from the confusion that it would create at the Pentagon. Both Air Force Sec. Heather Wilson and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein argued against the proposal. Gen. Goldfein said in May “I would say that we keep that dialog open, but right now I think it would actually move us backwards.”
The formation of new branches of the military isn’t new. The Air Force was of course part of the Army when it was the U.S. Army Air Corps. Even still, the Marine Corps is still a subdivision of the Navy.
Funding for the Space Corps would be coming from the Air Force. The budget for the existing Air Force Space Command would increase before it would become its own branch.
With the ever growing sophistication of war, the “red-headed step children” of the Air Force would be in the spotlight. The Space Corps would most likely be absorb The Navy’s space arm of the Naval Network Warfare Command into its broader mission.
There has not been a proposed official designation for Space Corps personnel yet. Air Force personnel are Airmen so it would be logical for Space Corps troops to be called spacemen.
To crush the dreams of every child, the fighting would mostly be take place at a desk instead of space. It costs way too much to send things and people into space. Until there’s a great need to send troops into space, Spacemen won’t be living out any “Halo,”“Starship Troopers,” or “Star Wars” fantasies.
In all likelihood, spacemen would focus their efforts on the threats against cyber-security, detection of intercontinental ballistic missiles, and maintenance of satellites in the early days. No major changes from what currently exists today, but the Space Corps would have more prestige and precedent in future conflicts.
The Coast Guard may not have a lot of hulls, but what they have, they make very good use of. In fact, they were able to keep old ships in service for a long time, and they even bring in some unique systems. Here’s some of the cool stuff they’ve used over the years.
1. Casco-class high-endurance cutters
After World War II, the Navy had a lot of leftover vessels. The Coast Guard took in 18 Barnegat-class small seaplane tenders and used them as high-endurance cutters for over two decades.
While many were scrapped or sunk, the USCGC Unimak (WHEC 379), stayed in active service until 1988. One ship, the former USCGC Absecon (WHEC 374) may have remained through the 1990s after being captured by North Vietnam.
The Barnegats had a five-inch gun, two twin 40mm mounts, two twin 20mm mounts, and were even fitted with 324mm torpedo tubes.
The 1987-1988 version of Combat Fleets of the World noted that the North Vietnamese had fitted launchers for the SS-N-2 Styx anti-ship missile on the former Absecon.
2. HU-16 Albatross
Helicopters took a while to develop. Before that, the best search-and-rescue assets were flying boats and amphibian aircraft.
The Grumman HU-16 was one asset that handled this mission after World War II. The Air Force put it to use during the Korean War, and it also saw action in the Vietnam War.
In Coast Guard service, the survivors of a 91-plane purchase of HU-16s stuck around until 1983 – and civilian versions still operate today.
It’s not surprising the plane lasted so long. According to specifications at GlobalSecurity.org, the Albatross had a range of over 1600 miles and a top speed of 240 miles per hour. Let’s see a helicopter do that!
3. HH-52 Seaguard
This amphibious helicopter was the epitome of the specialized aircraft the Coast Guard bought when it could.
Imagine being able to land on the water to retrieve a survivor, but not needing to make a long takeoff run.
According to a Coast Guard fact sheet on this helo, the capability was necessary because there was no rescue swimmer program at the time. That omission was rectified in the 1980s, and in 1989, the last HH-52 was retired. By that time the fleet of 99 helos had saved over 15,000 lives.
4. Boeing PB-1G Flying Fortress
After World War II, the Army Air Force had a lot of planes lying around – many of which had been built too late for them to see action.
The legendary bomber served as a search-and-rescue asset for 14 years, using a lifeboat slung underneath for that mission. The Coast Guard’s fact sheet notes that another legendary plane, the C-130, eventually replaced the Flying Fortress in their service.
5. MH-68A Stingray
The Coast Guard once had a specialized unit, HITRON 10 (Helicopter Interdiction Squadron 10), that specialized in stopping the flow of drugs into the U.S. To do that, the service got a special helicopter, the MH-68A Stingray — a version of the Agusta A109.
With a forward-looking infrared system, an M240 machine gun, a M82A1 Barrett sniper rifle, and other high-tech avionics, this helo was a lethal hunter. According to Helis.com, the eight-plane force was retired in 2008, and the Coast Guard modified 10 MH-65s to the MH-65C standard to replace them.
6. Sea Bird-class Surface Effect Ships
This three-ship class was fast (25-knot cruising speed), and they were perfectly suited for the drug interdiction mission in the Caribbean.
Air Force F-35A Joint Strike Fighters coordinated close air support with Navy SEALs, trained with F-15Es and A-10s, dropped laser-guided bombs and practiced key mission sets and tactics in Idaho as part of initial preparations for what will likely be its first deployment within several years, senior service officials said.
“We are practicing taking what would be a smaller contingent of jets and moving them to another location and then having them employ out of that location,” Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian, Director, F-35 Integration Office told Scout Warrior in an interview.
While the Marine Corps has publically said it plans to deploy its Short-Take-off-and-Landing F-35B aboard an amphibious assault ship by 2017, the Air Force has been reluctant thus far to specify a deployment date for its F-35A variant.
However, Harrigian did say the Air Force plane would likely deploy within several years and pointed to recent mini-deployments of 6 F-35As from Edwards AFB in Calif., to Mountain Home AFB in Idaho as key evidence of its ongoing preparations.
“They dropped 30-bombs – 20 laser-guided bombs and 10 JDAMS (Joint Direct Attack Munitions). All of them were effective. We are trying to understand not only how we understand the airplane in terms of ordnance but also those tactics, techniques and procedures we need to prepare,” Harrigian explained.
During the exercises at Mountain Home AFB, the F-35A also practiced coordinating communications such as target identification, radio and other command and control functions with 4th-generation aircraft such as the F-15E, he added.
The training exercises in Idaho were also the first “real” occasion to test the airplane’s ability to use its computer system called the Autonomic Logistic Information System, or ALIS. The Air Force brought servers up to Mountain Home AFB to practice maintaining data from the computer system.
A report in the Air Force Times indicated that lawmakers have expressed some concerns about the development of ALIS, which has been plagued with developmental problems such as maintenance issues and problems referred to as “false positives.”
“This is a new piece of the weapons system. It has been challenging and hard. You have all this data about your airplanes. We learned some things that we were able to do in a reasonable amount of time,” Harrigian said.
F-35A “Sensor Fusion”
The computer system is essential to what F-35 proponents refer to as “sensor fusion,” a next-generation technology which combines and integrates information from a variety of sensors onto a single screen. As a result, a pilot does not have to look at separate displays to calculate mapping information, targeting data, sensor input and results from a radar warning receiver.
Harrigian added that his “fusion” technology allows F-35A pilots to process information and therefore make decisions faster than a potential enemy. He explained how this bears upon the historic and often referred to OODA Loop – a term to connote the Observation Orientation, Decision, Action cycle that fighter pilots need to go through in a dogfight or combat engagement in order to successfully destroy the enemy. The OODA-Loop concept was developed by former Air Force strategist Col. John Boyd; it has been a benchmark of fighter pilot training, preparation and tactical mission execution.
“As we go in and start to target the enemy, we are maximizing the capabilities of our jets. The F-35 takes all that sensor input and gives it to you in one picture. Your ability to make decisions quicker that the enemy is exponentially better than when we were trying to put it all together in a 4th generation airplane. You are arriving already in a position of advantage,” Harrigian explained.
Also, the F-35 is able to fire weapons such as the AIM-9X Sidewinder air-to-air missile “off boresight,” meaning it can destroy enemy targets at different angles of approach that are not necessarily directly in front of the aircraft.
“Before you get into an engagement you will have likely already shot a few missiles at the enemy,” Harrigian said.
The F-35s Electro-Optical Targeting System, or EOTS, combines forward-looking infrared and infrared search and track sensor technology for pilots – allowing them to find and track targets before attacking with laser and GPS-guided precision weapons.
The EOTs system is engineered to work in tandem with a technology called the Distributed Aperture System, or DAS, a collection of six cameras strategically mounted around the aircraft to give the pilot a 360-degree view.
The DAS includes precision tracking, fire control capabilities and the ability to warn the pilot of an approaching threat or missile.
An F-35B dropping a GBU-12 during a developmental test flight. | U.S. Air Force photo
The F-35 is also engineered with an Active Electronically Scanned Array Radar which is able to track a host of electromagnetic signals, including returns from Synthetic Aperture Radar, or SAR. This paints a picture of the contours of the ground or surrounding terrain and, along with Ground Moving Target Indicator, or GMTI, locates something on-the-move on the ground and airborne objects or threats.
F-35A Joint Strike Fighter Deployment
The Air Force plans to announce what’s called Initial Operational Capability, or IOC, of its F-35A at some point between August and December of this year; seven F-35As are preparing for this at Hill AFB, Utah.
There is an operational unit at Hill AFB which, this coming June, is slated to go to Mountain Home for its training and preparation. They are the 34th Fighter Squadron
“All of this is part of a robust schedule of activities,” Harrigian added.
Following this development, the F-35A will be ready for deployment, Harrigian explained.
Once deployed, the F-35 will operate with an advanced software drop known as “3F” which will give the aircraft an ability to destroy enemy air defenses and employ a wide range of weapons.
Full operational capability will come with Block 3F, service officials said.
Block 3F will increase the weapons delivery capacity of the JSF as well, giving it the ability to drop a Small Diameter Bomb, 500-pound JDAM and AIM 9X short-range air-to-air missile, Air Force officials said.
As per where the initial squadron might deploy, Harrigian said that would be determined by Air Combat Command depending upon operational needs at that time. He did, however, mention the Pacific theater and Middle East as distinct possibilities.
“Within a couple years, I would envision they will take the squadron down range. Now, whether they go to Pacific Command or go to the Middle East – the operational environment and what happens in the world will drive this. If there is a situation where we need this capability and they are IOC – then Air Combat Command is going to take a hard look at using these aircraft,” he said.
Let’s face some harsh reality, folks. While we won World War II in the European Theater, infantry anti-tank weapons were not one of the big reasons why. The sad fact of the matter is that the M1 and M9 bazookas were…well…GlobalSecurity.org notes that they “could not penetrate the heavy front armor of the German tanks.”
Suppose, though, that the GIs had perhaps the most modern anti-tank missile in the world. One that could reach out and touch the German tanks at a much safer range for the anti-tank specialists. In other words, imagine they had the FGM-148 Javelin. How might the Battle of the Bulge changed?
Let’s look at the Javelin to understand how the battle would change. According to militaryfactory.com, the Javelin uses imaging infra-red guidance. By contrast, the bazooka rounds were unguided. This meant that the Javelin missiles have a much better chance of hitting their targets.
The Javelin also has longer range, a little over a mile and a half, compared to the bazooka’s two-tenths of a mile, allowing the anti-tank teams to move out of the way — or reload.
But how would World War II GIs have used the Javelin? While some infantry units might have these missiles, it is far more likely that they would have been used for blocking and delaying the armored thrusts. The best vehicle for that purpose would have been the classic Jeep.
According to militaryfactory.com, this vehicle could carry a driver and four troops. Or, a two-man Javelin team and, say, six to eight of the 33-pound missiles and a 14-pound launch unit. A section of two vehicles could easily be expected to take out a company of German tanks.
Their most likely use would be in ambushes, using hit and run tactics to weaken German units and to buy time for reinforcements of heavy units (like Patton’s Third Army) to prepare a devastating counter attack.
But its sheer effectiveness may even have ended that battle much sooner simply because the initial attacks would likely have been blunted — and the German tanks would have required infantry to move ahead to clear likely ambush sites, and that would have made it impossible to achieve the objective of capturing Antwerp.
That said, while tactically this alternate Battle of the Bulge would have been a quicker win for the Allies, strategically German resources might not have been depleted so badly. This would mean a longer war and potentially more casualties — and the first atomic bomb may have been dropped on a city in Germany, not Japan.
Ants vs termites –the rivalry that predates human language — is fought on a global scale. Although termites and ants are both considered pests, many people do not understand that termites and ants are mortal enemies. If nested close, ants and termites engage in war. When it comes to battles of insect proportions, the larger bug doesn’t always win.
Colony vs colony
Milligram for milligram, termites would easily emerge as the winner on a one-on-one fight. They’re larger than ants and have strong, coordinated soldiers as well. Scientists have identified that most termites are two to three times bigger than ants. Also, termites have heads that appear to be built for combat. However, the aspect does not apply when ants and termites wage war. When termites lock horns (no, not literally) with ants, it is usually not close to a fair fight. Termites get annihilated by ants. Despite their size and weight, ants tend to be more aggressive than termites. Termite colonies are numerically inferior ant colonies.
Termites are, in fact, defensive creatures and have no reason to attack ants: they are not interested in the ants’ food; whereas ants will happily use termites AS food and appropriate their tunnels.
In most cases, ants invade termites’ nests and kill the warriors and the queen on sight. The death of a queen virtually is the end of the termite colony. For this reason, some ant species have been known to specifically prey on termites for food.
Termite soldiers last stand
Although ants are generally superior in combat, termites also have an ace up their sleeve. There are unique, blocky adaptations that have been identified among termites’ heads. The heads are defensive, and there are cases where termites throw them up as they try to stop ant attacks. Some species also use them to intimidate intruders and warn the nest. As a last resort, some termites will use their heads to block tunnels into the colony in an attempt to buy the workers time to collapse passages. In most cases, this allows the termite defenders to hold the ant assault and pave new ways for the queen to escape. This last stand sacrifice is the only effective way to keep the queen alive when all else fails.
Lesser of the two evils
Most ants are less damaging to human habitation compared to termites. If you had to choose one or the other, most people would pick the one that doesn’t destroy your property value. People who have studied wars against these pests have been trying to use ants to get rid of termites. However, the practice is not recommended as one would require a supercolony of ants to get rid of all the termites. Using ants to destroy termites’ colonies by killing their queen is not feasible – yet.
Studies have identified that wars cull the old male and female termites from a colony as well. They are used as front-line soldiers when fighting against ants or any other enemy. The senior termites take a colony gate position and prevent enemies such as ants from accessing their queen. In most cases, the female soldiers are sailed forth while engaging ants. The younger soldiers usually stick to the nest and act as the final line of defense while engaging invaders. This aspect indicates that termite soldiers have an age-based task allocation that makes it more difficult for them to be over-powered by ants.
Regardless of the genetic advances termites make, they are no match for the ant. The desire to dominate and get more food is the major reason why ants and termites declare war on each other on sight. To ants, termites are the food.
Feature image: WATM composite, images via Wikimedia Commons