Between colloquial humor and slang, the military says some weird stuff (don’t even get me started on acronyms), but some of the lingo has origins in so-called “voice procedure” and actually kind of makes sense.
Voice procedure is a set of techniques, protocols, and phrases used in two-way radio communications to reduce confusion and maximize clarity.
Here are a few of the big ones:
Saying “Roger” over the radio is shorthand for “I have received your message or transmission.”
If you’ve ever tried spelling your last name over the phone with someone, you know that the English alphabet has letters that sound the same, so phonetic or spelling alphabets were created to convey letters.
I wonder why they got rid of ‘Nuts’…
In the ’50s, this alphabet was standardized to the alphabet NATO militaries use today (Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, etc), but when the radio use in the military became prevalent, the word ‘Roger’ was used for “R.”
The “R” in “received” was conveyed with “Roger” — and even though today “Romeo” stands for “R,” good ol’ “Roger” stuck.
At the time, much of the radio communication was between French and English speakers, so Mockford needed a word that would be understood in both languages and wouldn’t be commonly spoken.
“Mayday” is a rather unique phrase in English, but is also similar to the French word for “help me.”
This is an appropriate time for the use of ‘Mayday.’ (Painting by Pierre Dénys de Montfort, 1801)
To further reduce confusion, “Mayday” is used three times in the beginning of a distress call. It is reserved for incidents where loss of life or craft is imminent — misuse is considered a serious crime.
“Copy” has its origins in Morse Code communications. Morse Code operators would listen to transmissions and write down each letter or number immediately, a technique called “copying.”
-.– — ..- / .- .-. . / -. . .- – (Image via Public Domain)
Once voice communications became possible, ‘copy’ was used to confirm whether a transmission was received. Today it still means “I heard what you said” or “got it,” similar to “roger.”
The infamous Romanian hacker known as “Guccifer” has been sentenced to 52 months in prison for a string of high-profile hacks he carried out against people including former Secretary of State Colin Powell to family and friends of former President George W. Bush.
He also exposed Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was secretary of state, after he gained access to the email account of Sidney Blumenthal, a Clinton confidant.
The hacker, whose real name is Marcel Lehel Lazar, gained unauthorized access to personal email and social media accounts of roughly 100 Americans over a two-year period, according to the Department of Justice.
Many of those hacks led to the release of financial information, embarrassing correspondence, or personal photographs. For example, an email break-in of a Bush family member led to the release of artwork created by the president, and leaked emails between Secretary of State Colin Powell and a European Parliament member led Powell to deny an affair.
Lazar was extradited from Romania after being arrested in January 2014. He pleaded guilty to charges of accessing a protected computer without authorization and aggravated identity theft.
As The New York Times has noted, Lazar was not a computer expert. He operated on a cheap laptop and a cellphone, and used tools readily available on the web. Many of his “hacks” were the result of social engineering skill and months of guessing security questions until he got in.
“He was not really a hacker but just a smart guy who was very patient and persistent,” Viorel Badea, the Romanian prosecutor who directed the case against him, told The Times.
He claimed in May that he accessed Clinton’s private email server twice — a charge the Clinton campaign has denied and that has not been verified by the FBI, which investigated the use of the server — but found the contents “not interesting” at the time.
You ever seen those Google Translate music videos? Where singers or other entertainers sing songs that have gone through Google translate or another “machine translation” program? Whelp, it turns out, that’s how Moscow often creates its lower-tier propaganda. It either uses Google Translate or low-rent translators who are not especially proficient in the target language, leading to a problem where anyone who can read at a middle school level or better is largely resistant to it.
Google Translate Sings: “Shape of You” by Ed Sheeran
In a similar situation last year, when Google Translate repeatedly translated “Rossiyskaya Federatsiya” (Russia’s official name in Russian) into Ukrainian as “Mordor” and “Lavrov” (the Russian foreign minister’s last name) as “sad little horse,” Google said it was just a glitch. That’s highly unlikely.
Basically, old machine translation was horrible because languages change too often and break their own rules constantly, so it’s impossible to translate living text with the rigid rules that computers follow. So Google and other mass translators switched to neural AI, where machine learning is used to look at entire passages of text in multiple languages.
Over time, the AI gets better and better at translating according to how the language is actually used. But it is always limited by the quality of the text it receives. And pranksters, bad actors, and others can throw off the translation of any rarely used word, such as a proper name, by suggesting a specific alternate translation repeatedly.
But of course, Russia can just drag in a couple of top-tier translators and fix the issue, right? There are native speakers in Russia. That’s where Edward Snowden ran off to and where he can still be found when he needs to promote his new book.
Well, apparently it can’t. Because while the Russian military hacking network “Guccifer 2.0” was legendarily successful at hacking the U.S. political apparatus and leaking data through WikiLeaks, it has also operated in Europe and elsewhere. Its ability to break into computers is impressive; its language skills are laughable. (Also, amusingly enough, its ability to prevent incursions on itself was also bad, according to reports in VICE.)
The obvious question is why Russian military intelligence approves these operations at high levels and recruits high-level hackers to break into the targeted computers but then fails to hire sufficiently skilled translators. There are a few potential explanations for this.
First, talent is expensive, and Russia needs translators that are fluent in foreign languages in a lot of places that are arguably more important than undermining Romanian support for a particular candidate. Russia’s economy is heavily reliant on oil. In 2017, 60 percent of its GDP came directly from oil exports. Since it’s selling across Europe through pipelines and the rest of the world through shipping, translators can make more money in that sector.
But worse, there appears to be a bit of a problem holding on to talent in the military if it becomes sufficiently proficient. Avid military news readers know that the U.S. military is struggling to retain pilots as civilian airlines scoop them up. Well, Russian-English translators can get easy work by joining the military. But the constant experience sometimes makes them better translators, allowing them to break into a new income bracket by leaving a few years later.
Back to Cheravitch’s paper for a moment, this brain drain may give digital forensic teams and U.S. policymakers a chance to catch these Russian influencers and create new programs to limit their effect:
Tipped off partly by linguistic mistakes, researchers with the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensics Lab were able to piece together a distinct influence effort attributed to Russian military intelligence following the 2016 election-meddling effort. This sort of work could have obvious benefits for policymakers, who can more appropriately respond to this activity with a better understanding of the actors behind it.
Russia deployed some of its best air defenses to Syria to keep US missiles and jets at bay as the US military’s immense air and naval power fought ISIS in close proximity — but the supposedly airtight defenses are routinely defeated by Israel.
In February 2017, a Syrian-manned Russian-made S-200 missile defense system shot down an Israel F-16 returning from a massive raid targeting Iranian forces in Syria.
In response, Israel launched another raid that it claimed took out half of Syria’s air defenses, of which older Russian systems comprised the majority.
In April 2018, Syria got rocked by a missile attack that appeared to ignite a munitions depot hard enough to register as a 2.6 magnitude earthquake and is believed to have killed dozens of Iranians.
Reported image of a strike on Iranian soldiers in Syria.
Russia accused Israel of purposefully flying under the Il-20 to confuse the Syrian air defenses into shooting down a friendly plane and quickly shipped the more advanced S-300 missile defenses to Syrian hands.
Somehow Israel has continued to hit targets in Syria at will with F-16s, non-stealthy fourth-generation fighter-bombers.
On Jan. 14, 2019, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu acknowledged that his country’s air force had carried out hundreds of raids in Syria, with a recent one hitting Iranian weapons near Damascus International Airport.
Russia initially deployed air defenses to Syria to keep powerful countries like the US from attacking Syrian President Bashar Assad, and later to protect its own air force fighters stationed there.
The US has long opposed Assad, as he violently shut down peaceful protesters in 2011 and has stood accused of torture, war crimes, and using chemical weapons against civilians during the country’s maddening 7-year-long civil war.
According to experts, there’s two likely reasons why Syria’s Russian-made air defenses can’t get the job done: 1. Israel is good at beating Syrian air defenses. 2. Syria is bad at beating Israeli jets.
Israel is good at this
“One of the Israeli hallmarks when they do these sort of fairly bold strikes within the coverage of the Syrian air defenses is heavy electronic warfare and jamming,” Justin Bronk, an aerial combat expert at the Royal United Services Institute told Business Insider.
Bronk said that Israel, a close US ally that takes part in major training events in the US, has become adept at knocking over Syrian air defenses.
Israel sees Iranian arms shipments through Syria as an existential threat. Although Israel has relationships to maintain with the US and Russia — both key players in the Syrian quagmire — Netanyahu has said resolutely that Israel will stop at nothing to beat back Iran.
Israel’s air force.
In more than 100 raids admitted by Netanyahu, Israel has only lost a single aircraft. Bronk attributes this to “many, many tricks developed over decades” for the suppression of enemy air defenses developed by Israel.
Finally, Syria shooting down a friendly Russian plane evidences a lack of coordination or situational awareness, whether due to old hardware, Israeli electronic warfare, or simply poor execution.
Israel’s most recent attacks in Syria took place smack in the middle of Damascus, Russian and Syrian air defenses make for some of the world’s most challenging airspace.
That Israel can still fight in Syria among top Russian air defenses shows either that their force has its tactics down pat, that Syria can’t field decent air defense regimes, or that Russia has turned a blind eye to Israel pounding on Iranian advances in the region.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Infantry have long been looking for a way to deal with tanks. Today, missiles like the FGM-148 Javelin and BGM-71 Tube-launched, Optically-tracked, Wire-guided (TOW) can give even the lightest of infantry forces the ability to give an armored unit a bloody nose.
In World War II, those lethal tank-killers weren’t around, but the need for a tank-killer a grunt could carry was obvious. After all, the Nazis used the blitzkrieg tactic across Europe to great effect. The Americans had an decent anti-tank grenade, but it was so heavy that the effective range made using it like a grenade suicidal.
Then someone had the bright idea to make the grenade a rocket. The M1 bazooka entered service in 1942. According to modernfirearms.net, the M1 fired a 60mm M6 anti-tank rocket that had an effective range of about 300 yards. It could do a number on a Nazi tank – and many Nazi tank crews were unavailable for comment about the bazooka’s effectiveness.
Like the modern FGM-148 Javelin, the bazooka had a two-man crew. But while the Javelin has a range of just over one and half miles, the bazooka couldn’t even reach one-fifth of a mile. Still, though, it was a major improvement over nothing.
The crews had to be well-trained to handle this weapon. Part of the problem was that for a simple-looking weapon, the bazooka was complex. Among things crews had to be careful of were broken wires (the weapon fired electically), drained batteries (the ones shown in the film seem to be AA batteries like you’d use in a remote), or a dirty trigger mechanism.
The bazooka served in World War II and the Korean War. By the end of World War II, it had shifted from a tank-killer to being used as a light infantry support weapon, largely because tanks like the German Tiger and the Russian T-34 were shrugging off the rockets.
There’re certain things that come down the chain of command that hurt your very soul when you, the lowest “link,” hear about them. Of course, “deployment extended” and “Dear John” have firmly secured their place on the podium of most-hated phrases, but these ones burn the ears, regardless of circumstance.
Nothing good ever comes from these 7 phrases.
7. “Make it happen.”
Every now and then, an impossible task becomes an imperative in someone’s eyes. This leads to the phrase that shuts down all conversation.
Doesn’t matter. You’ll have to beg, borrow, or steal whatever you need to, well, “make it happen.”
6. “We’re expecting little-to-no resistance.”
While you’re deployed, this one sentence seems to jinx everything.
The platoon could just be out doing ‘atmosphericals’ (basically, you roll around an area of operations and just poke around to see if anyone wants to come play) for months and nothing will happen. The moment your platoon leader says this phrase, every enemy decides to make an appearance.
5. “Why didn’t you square away your battle buddy?”
This is always uttered when your squadmate does something stupid, unsafe, criminal, or a combination of the three.
And yet, blame gets shifted from the one who’s actually at fault or the NCO in charge on to the battle buddy who was probably in their barracks playing video games.
4. “It’s time to embrace the suck.”
Things are about to get real and the sh*t is about to hit the fan.
Oddly enough, and not to pass judgment or anything, but the staff officer who jokes about the imminent sh*tstorm usually seems to make it out squeaky clean.
3. “This shouldn’t take that long.”
This has two different meanings depending on when it’s said.
If it’s used when you’re told to go empty a shipping container (connex), that means they don’t understand shipping containers. If it’s while you’re sweating your ass off while emptying that Connex and they come out of nowhere to say it, they’re as**oles.
2. “Weapons draw at zero too-f*cking early hundred.”
This always comes down the moment before the range, field op, or something similar.
Sure, weapons draw may be at 0400, but the armorer won’t show until 0635, you won’t get to the Motor Pool until 0830, and, just to put a bit more salt on that wound, the command team already planned on SPing out at 1030. All the while, you probably didn’t roll into bed around midnight and didn’t get a lick of sleep.
1. Anything involving “100% accountability” when off-duty.
This means that something terrible happened or that someone did something terribly stupid.
It comes in all shapes and sizes — “Ladi dadi, everybody” and “All-hands on deck.” This always sucks because your leadership probably aren’t heartless machines. They enjoy weekends and time off, too.
Ongoing U.S.-China tensions in the South China Sea regarding Chinese artificial island-building are leading many at the Pentagon to sharpen their focus upon the rapid pace of Chinese Naval modernization and expansion.
While Chinese naval technology may still be substantially behind current U.S. platforms, the equation could change dramatically over the next several decades because the Chinese are reportedly working on a handful of high-tech next-generation ships, weapons and naval systems.
China has plans to grow its navy to 351 ships by 2020 as the Chinese continue to develop their military’s ability to strike global targets, according to a recent Congressional report.
The 2014 U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission recommended to Congress that the U.S. Navy respond by building more ships and increase its presence in the Pacific region – a strategy the U.S. military has already started.
Opponents of this strategy point out that the U.S. has 11 aircraft carriers, the Chinese have one and China’s one carrier still lacks an aircraft wing capable of operating off of a carrier deck. However, several recent reports have cited satellite photos showing that China is now building its own indigenous aircraft carriers. Ultimately, the Chinese plan to acquire four aircraft carriers, the reports say.
The commission cites platforms and weapons systems the Chinese are developing, which change the strategic calculus regarding how U.S. carriers and surface ships might need to operate in the region.
These include the LUYANG III, a new class of Chinese destroyer slated to enter the fleet this year. These ships are being engineered with vertically-launched, long-range anti-ship cruise missiles, the commission said. The new destroyer will carry an extended-range variant of the HHQ-9 surface-to-air missile, among other weapons, the report says.
Furthermore, the Chinese may already be beginning construction on several of their own indigenous aircraft carriers. China currently has one carrier, the Ukranian-built Liaoning. It is not expected to have an operational carrier air wing until sometime this year, according to the report.
The Chinese are currently testing and developing a new, carrier-based fighter aircraft called the J-15.
Regarding amphibious assault ships, the Chinese are planning to add several more YUZHAO LPDs, amphibs which can carry 800 troops, four helicopters and up to 20 armored vehicles, the report said.
The Chinese are also working on development of a new Type 055 cruiser equipped with land-attack missiles, lasers and rail-gun weapons, according to the review.
China’s surface fleet is also bolstered by production of at least 60 smaller, fast-moving HOBEI-glass guided missile patrol boats and ongoing deliveries of JIANGDAO light frigates armed with naval guns, torpedoes and anti-ship cruise missiles.
The commission also says Chinese modernization plans call for a sharp increase in attack submarines and nuclear-armed submarines or SSBNs. Chinese SSBNs are now able to patrol with nuclear-armed JL-2 missiles able to strike targets more than 4,500 nautical miles.
The Chinese are currently working on a new, modernized SSBN platform as well as a long-range missile, the JL-3, the commission says.
While the commission says the exact amount of Chinese military spending is difficult to identify, China’s projected defense spending for 2014 is cited at $131 billion, approximately 12.2 percent greater than 2013. This figure is about one sixth of what the U.S. spends annually.
The Chinese defense budget has increased by double digits since 1989, the commission states, resulting in annual defense spending doubling since 2008, according to the report.
Some members of Congress, including the House Armed Services Committee’s Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Va., are advocating for both a larger U.S. Navy and a stronger U.S. posture toward China’s behavior in the region.
Fighting holes have been used as effective defensive positions for decades, stymieing the enemy’s deadly offensive movements. Some branches of service refer to these dug-in positions as “foxholes,” but both terms refer to the exact same thing.
How a fighting hole is constructed depends greatly on the amount of time a troop intends to spend occupying a position. If a troop intends on staying in the fight from a single position for a prolonged period of time, it might be outfitted with entertainment options to stave off the boredom that comes from long hours of waiting. In this case, it’s not uncommon to find things left behind by a previous occupant for the next troop to enjoy.
But, when a fighting hole is constructed and is only going to be occupied for a short period, the troops within need to get clever with killing time. So, if living in a fighting hole is in your near future, learn from the troops before you.
Here’s few ways troops have killed time while dug-in on the front lines.
Then-Lt. Micheal “Spicy” Dorsey with a smile on his face while in the COC at OP Taylor, Sangin, Afghanistan, 2011.
(U.S. Navy photo by HM3 (FMF) Tim Kirkpatrick)
Continuously listen in on the radio
Although there’s always someone monitoring the comm gear to relay important messages as they come through, military radios can also be pretty entertaining if you listen closely enough. Communications between various units sometimes plays out like a military soap opera.
Troops request various items, get denied those items, and, if you’re lucky, they’ll hold down the “push to talk” button on the handset as they talk sh*t after being rejected.
We call these epic fails “hot mics.”
Smoke cigarettes until the sun goes down
In Afghanistan, Pine cigarettes run about a id=”listicle-2581849130″ per pack. Ground troops bring a little cash with them to the front line, so they’ll often buy smokes off the locals. When there’s nothing else to do, they’ll chain smoke ’em for entertainment. The only problem is, once the sun goes down, smoking a cigarette is a violation of force protection.
No one wants to bring danger to their brothers just to get a nicotine fix.
HM3 (FMF) Tim Kirkpatrick thinks about the beautiful Southern California warm weather while freezing his ass off in Sangin, Afghanistan, 2011.
(U.S. Marine photo by Lt. Micheal “Spicy” Dorsey)
Think about the sh*t you’re going to do when you get home
While you’re stationed in a desolate area with virtually nothing to look at but a handful of villagers doing their laundry, troops’ minds start to wander, thinking about what they’ll do once they get home. Whether it’s going surfing, registering for school, or just going out to drink a cold beer, plenty of ideas drift through a troop’s mind as they man their defensive position.
Pvt. Codi Hoffman waits in a fighting position that he and a few fellow Soldiers built during a battalion-wide field training exercise.
(Photo by Sgt. Christopher M. Gaylord)
Build narratives of imaginary firefights
When troops are positioned in fighting holes, there’s a strong chance they’ll take incoming fire — it’s less a matter of ‘if’ and more a matter of ‘when.’ So, they stay close to their rifles and predict where a threat may come from. They develop a narrative in their head of what actions they might take in order to fight off the bad guys — and maybe score a cool kill shot in the process.
Screw watching Hollywood movies, grunts create their own fiction while they’ve got nothing but time on their hands.
Many siblings serve together in the military, but not many are able to leverage their family ties to give back and further their units. For the Vetere brothers, they are leveraging each other’s experience in their different units to initiate and implement additive manufacturing, commonly known as 3D printing, to their respective units.
Twin brothers, U.S. Navy Lt. Adam Vetere and U.S. Marine Corps 1st Lt. Mark Vetere, are natives of Andover, Massachusetts. Adam, currently serving as a Civil Engineer Corps officer assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 1, is working with Chief Utilitiesman Justin Walker and Electronics Technician 1st Class James Merryman to implement additive manufacturing into daily battalion operations.
Mark, currently assigned to Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 31, has been implementing additive manufacturing to his unit for nearly two years. Now Adam is planning to implement the technology into NMCB-1 operations.
“At first I volunteered for the position because of my personal interest in learning about 3D printing; I think it has great potential in the Naval Construction Force,” said Adam. “Knowing my brother was the 3D printing representative for his command made it easier to get involved because I knew from the start I could learn a lot from him.”
With Mark and his team’s experience, the opportunity presented itself for NMCB-1 to send their additive manufacturing team to Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, South Carolina, to discuss best practices, learn about printing capabilities, training programs and new policy being implemented into the different services.
“We were able to leverage our close relationship as twins to be able to skip passed a lot of the formalities and get straight to business,” said Adam. “It was easy to have full and open conversations about program strengths, weaknesses, policy shortfalls, lessons learned and areas of improvement. It was extremely beneficial.”
“It was eye-opening,” said Walker. “It gave us ideas on how we can implement this technology into our processes by seeing how they are currently operating. This opens up great potential for future interoperability.”
For the twin brothers, the military first drew their attention back in high school.
“I wanted to join the military, and our parents wanted us to go to college,” said Adam. “I feel like we made a good compromise and decided to apply for one of the service academies.”
Both brothers graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy (USNA) in Annapolis, Maryland, in 2015, though Adam was initially denied when he first applied.
U.S. Naval Academy.
“I just knew it was somewhere I wanted to go,” said Adam. “Knowing my brother would be there with me was the great part of it.”
Adam describes serving in the military as a lifestyle he and his brother enjoy sharing.
“We both love serving and love the lifestyle that is the military so we hope to continue it,” said Adam. “It’s nice to be able to have such a close relationship with someone that knows all the acronyms, jargon, processes and challenges that go into the military lifestyle. That certainly has made things easier.”
When asked about his parents and their thoughts on both him and his brother serving together, Adam chuckles with his response.
“I think they are proud of us, or at least I hope,” said Adam.
The twin brother’s decision to join the military came about in part because of a visit their parents took them on to New York City in 2001.
“Our parents took us to Ground Zero in 2001 around Thanksgiving time,” said Adam. “I was only nine at the time but I still have an image burned into my head of the rubble I saw from the end of the street that day. At the time I imagine I had little idea of what I was looking at, but as I got older growing up in a post 9/11 United States certainly played a role in being drawn to the military.”
Both brothers look forward to their future assignments in their respective branches. Mark was selected to attend Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, and Adam recently accepted orders to Naval Special Warfare Group 1 Logistics Support Unit 1 in Coronado, California.
1. That time French soldiers hid inside papier-mâché horse carcasses
Looking back, trench warfare has to be one of the most insane methods of warfare ever carried out. Between the torrential mud, staggering levels of trench foot, and other diseases that ran rampant, it’s a wonder that everyone didn’t just give up and get the hell out of the ground.
But World War I was still, in some respects, a gentleman’s war. And gentlemen don’t let mud get them down. Gentlemen also don’t complain about their lack of protective cover — at least not if you’re France. While other platoons were bemoaning the crumbling, barren landscape that made up infamous “No Man’s Land” — a stretch of charred earth, tangled barbed wire and broken bodies between opposing trenches — a few French soldiers set up camp right in the middle of it.
They weren’t alone, though. They were using a very special kind of shelter … the hooved kind. Don’t worry, no one was actually crawling inside of dead horse bodies to hide from enemy artillery fire. Though a dead horse is what started this whole thing.
Horses were a huge part of combat in WWI. They pulled ambulances, carried soldiers into cavalry charges, and were the primary means of transporting weapons, ammunition and food supplies for each nation involved. They were also large, bulky and loud, making them primary targets for enemy scopes.
This, as you can imagine, left a lot of dead horses everywhere. Eventually, someone searching for shelter in No Man’s Land probably cuddled up next to one in what he thought were his final moments, only to realize that this decaying Seabiscuit actually made for a pretty awesome barrier.
Enter France’s big idea: hollow, papier-mâché horses large enough for a man to crawl inside and aim his gun through.
Once night fell, the French drug away the dead horses that lay right in front of the German trenches and replaced them with the dummies. Then they ran a telephone wire from inside the horse back to the French trenches, so the sniper who would hide inside the horse would be able to report back on German movements.
This worked for a few days. Then a German soldier spotted a French sniper climbing out of one of the dead horses, and the jig was up. The method quickly became popular though, and “dummy horses” would appear on battlefields throughout Europe for the duration of the war.
2. The sailors who cross-dressed and pretended their warship was a cruise liner
World War II had its share of out-of-the-box camouflage as well. While a Dutch warship was busy disguising itself as an island to hide from Japanese bombers, the British fleet was brainstorming its own method of deception.
German U-boats were becoming more and more of a problem for the Allied merchant fleet. With little means of fighting back, the small ships were sitting ducks for the German watercraft, who could pluck them off easily with their superior weapons and speed. This gave England an idea: if the King’s warships disguised themselves as merchant boats, they could lure them into an ambush, destroying the German U-boats and the submarines that surfaced alongside them during their attacks.
But England wasn’t about to do this deception halfway. If they were going to pull this off, their disguise would have to be elaborate, reflective of the other (hijinks) they had pulled off earlier in the war. So the sailors got creative, and boy did they deliver.
Not only did the British officers don civilian costumes, some dressed in drag, pretending to be ladies sunning themselves on the deck of a cruise liner. When the Germans looked through their periscopes to take in the ship, they would see men and “women” flirting aboard a civilian ocean liner, walking around the deck and taking in the views over the rail.
They would also have to act the part. When a German U-boat was spotted, some ships went as far as pretending to panic, running around the deck and tripping over themselves for the benefit of the German’s view. There are even accounts of sailors haphazardly deploying their lifeboats and “accidentally” leaving one of their own behind, then scrambling to retrieve them as the unlucky “civilian” screamed for help.
The ship, of course, was actually outfitted with plenty of hidden weapons. When the U-boats would close in, the ruse would be over, and they would destroy the enemy ships and submarines as they began to close in.
3. The German soldier who hid inside of a fake tree
Man-sized horse piñatas weren’t the only thing soldiers were hiding inside of during WWI. In 1917, a platoon of German soldiers in Belgium needed to find a way to gain visibility through a small patch of dead trees that blocked their view of the Allies on the other side.
The cluster of dry wood was optimistically named the Oosttaverne Wood, one of the last clumps of nature left in the battlegrounds near Messines. It actually looked like a bunch post-apacolyptic metal posts, which gave the Germans an idea. They couldn’t send a sniper in to hide amongst the trees because there weren’t enough branches to cover him, but they could send them inside their own tree.
A plan was set into motion. The Germans would build a 25-foot-tall tree out of steel pipe, painting it so it looked like it had bark. Then a solider would hide inside, using a small hidden window to spy on the British forces in what was probably one of the most cramped snipers’ nests ever.
Just like the French horse-creators did, the Germans waited until nightfall to get things moving. With artillery fire ringing out to disguise the sounds of sawing and chopping wood, they cut down the real tree and set up their new steel lookout, hoping it wouldn’t draw any unwanted attention.
It didn’t. For several months the Germans were able to spy from their wartime treehouse, with the tree-spy crawling out of his post under cover of darkness each evening to report on his findings. It wasn’t until the British tunneled under the German lines and destroyed their trenches from the ground up in the Battle of Messines that the tree was abandoned. Once they had captured the trenches, the British lived and worked alongside the fake tree for several months before discovering it was a fake. The steel tree can now be found in The Australian War Memorial.
4. Israeli special forces used fake boobs to trick the PLO
Thus far, all of our disguise contenders have been relatively believable. When you have shells exploding next to your trench and artillery fire screaming in your ears, you’re probably not going to spend much time debating the validity of a slightly iron-looking tree, or a particularly limp dead horse. No one has time for that kind of daydream. And even though the cross-dressing sailors were doubly ridiculous, they had the advantage of distance from enemy scopes.
This story, however, is just plain insane. In 1973, a group of Israeli special forces commandos entered Beirut on a mission to take out three key leaders of the [Palestine Liberation Organization] who were responsible for the Munich massacre of the 1972 Olympics. The mission, dubbed “The Spring of Youth,” was incredibly risky, and the operatives knew that some deception would be in order if they were to get in and out of the area safely.
So, the Israeli commandos did the logical thing — they dressed up as women. Besides being confident in their ability to infiltrate the PLO, they were also apparently confident that their enemies had never seen a woman before. Or that they could really rock a pair of heels, who knows.
With wigs, fake boobs and matching shoes all in place, the muscled members of the Israeli special forces strolled down the street on the arms of other members of their secret group, who were normally-dressed men.
The fake couples were able to pass right by bodyguards and police without inciting any suspicions, and the hidden team was able to walk up to the apartment building of the PLO leaders and wait right outside their doors. Once safely inside, the men and “women” burst through the doors and pulled out their hidden guns and explosives, shooting and killing the stunned PLO members and avenging the deaths of their murdered countrymen.
The story gets even crazier from here. One of the femme fatales who carried out the high stakes mission was Ehud Barak, who would eventually serve as Prime Minister of Israel and currently serves as Defense Minister. Just goes to show you that dressing in drag could help you make it to the top.
Drug testing for all applicants for military service is expanding to include the same 26-drug panel used for active military members, the Defense Department’s director of drug testing and program policy said.
The change, effective April 3, 2017, is due to the level of illicit and prescription medication abuse among civilians, as well as the increase in heroin and synthetic drug use within the civilian population, Army Col. Tom Martin explained.
Currently, military applicants are tested for marijuana; cocaine; amphetamines, including methamphetamine; and designer amphetamines such as MDMA —also known as “Molly” or “Ecstasy” — and MDA, also known as “Adam,” he said.
The expanded testing will include those drugs as well as heroin, codeine, morphine, hydrocodone, oxycodone, hydromorphone, oxymorphone, and a number of synthetic cannabinoids and benzodiazepine sedatives, Martin said.
The new standards apply to all military applicants, including recruits entering through military entrance processing stations, as well as appointees to the service academies, incoming members of the ROTC, and officer candidates undergoing initial training in an enlisted status.
Ensuring the Best Enter Military
With drug use incompatible with military service, the expanded testing is meant to ensure readiness by admitting only the most qualified people, Martin said. Incoming service members will be held to the same standards as current military members, who are subject to random drug testing up to three times a year, he added.
“Military applicants currently are tested on a small subset of drugs that military members are tested on,” Martin said. “Applicants need to be aware of the standard we hold our service members to when they join the service.”
About 279,400 applicants are processed for entry into military service each year, with roughly 2,400 of them testing positive for drugs, Martin said. Data indicates that about 450 additional people will test positive using the expanded testing, he said.
The updated policy allows applicants who test positive to reapply after 90 days, if the particular service allows it, Martin said. Any individual who tests positive on the second test is permanently disqualified from military service, he said, but he noted that the services have the discretion to apply stricter measures and can disqualify someone after one positive test.
Current policy allows for different standards for reapplication depending on the type of drug, Martin said. The updated policy is universal and allows only one opportunity to reapply for military service regardless of drug type, he said.
The Army wants its mortar systems to be even more mobile, accurate, and quick to fire. Moreover, they want mortar crews to be able to park a Humvee with a tube mounted to it and then get out of there.
The Advanced Direct Indirect Fire Mortar system gives them all of that and a direct-fire capability too.
The ADIMs is currently being tested and displayed as an 81mm system on a Humvee, but it could be adapted to other calibers and light tactical vehicles. A “soft-recoil” system allows larger mortars — historically limited to larger, heavy vehicles like the Stryker — to be mounted on the Humvee or its replacement, the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle.
Humvees are able to reach a lot of places Strykers and other larger vehicles can’t, allowing the mortars to quickly reach parts of the battlefield they otherwise couldn’t.
Once the mortar is in position, it can be manually worked by a standard mortar crew or remotely operated by a fire direction center. In theory, this would allow the weapon to be dropped or driven into position and then fired without a human mortar crew. Someone would still have to secure it though, since it’s a powerful, advanced weapons system.
But then mortarmen could just emplace the weapon and play spades while the FDC worries about firing it. Once the weapon is fired, it’s capable of being moved within 50 seconds to avoid enemy counter fire.
Of course, the ADIM only really matters if it makes it to the battlefield. The ADIM shares a lot of traits with the Marine Corps Dragon Fire and Dragon Fire II mortar systems.
The Dragon Fire was tested by the Marine Corps, upgraded to the Dragon Fire II, and then shelved. Instead, the Marine Corps adopted the M327, a highly-mobile, rifled mortar without the automation of the ADIM or Dragon Fire systems.
When the US Air Force took delivery of its four E-4B Nightwatch ‘doomsday’ jets, they made sure the small fleet was capable of surviving a nuclear holocaust, its occupants safe and sound within its protective cocoons as they carried out their mission of directing the US military in the aftermath of the end of the world.
As it turns out, the Nightwatch may be able to survive a nuclear blast in the air, but the forces of nature are a different matter altogether.
On June 16, a pair of E-4Bs, currently known as “Advanced Airborne Command Posts,” found themselves sitting in the path of a tornado while parked at Offutt AFB in Nebraska. Though both aircraft were pulled into hangars, their tailplanes still sat somewhat exposed and suffered the wrath of the tornado, taking enough damage to keep them grounded and inoperable.
A number of RC-135 reconnaissance aircraft, also parked at Offutt at the time, were affected by the storm but were quickly repaired and returned to service.
The extent of the damage is unclear, though it’s probable that these two aircraft will be out of service for the time being as the Air Force and Boeing both evaluate and determine a course of action to repair them. The two remaining Nightwatches were away from Offutt at the time — one undergoing an overhaul, while the other is currently operational.
The tailplane of the Nightwatch does house one of its mission systems — a 5-mile long antenna which can be spooled out the rear of the aircraft while in-flight. This antenna allows the battle staff aboard the E-4B to communicate with the US Navy’s ballistic missile submarines while they’re underway. It’s definitely likely that this part of the aircraft, known as the Trailing Wire Antenna, sustained some damage during the storm.
The E-4B, formerly known as the National Airborne Operations Center, entered service with the Air Force in the 1970s, replacing older EC-135J “Looking Glass” aircraft, as “doomsday planes” — command posts that allow members of the US National Command Authority to stay in touch with the military during a catastrophic event. Each Nightwatch is equipped with an advanced communications suite that facilitates this, allowing it to virtually contact anything connected to a phone line in the entire world.
Today, Nightawtch serves as the Secretary of Defense’s official transport, ferrying him across the world on state-sponsored trips to foster good relationships with American military partners. Because of its communications abilities, the E-4B allows the SECDEF to remain constantly up-to-date on US military activity no matter where he is, even while flying.
The Air Force recently tendered a $73 million contract to support the E-4B’s expansive communications systems over the next seven years, though it’s possible that the service could potentially consider retiring all Nightwatch jets in the coming years in favor replacing them with newer aircraft with lower operating costs. The current hourly operating figure for a single E-4B is estimated to be at least $159,529 per hour.
Above the heavy financial burdens of flying these converted Boeing 747s, the small fleet is getting harder to support due to its age. The Air Force projects that by 2039, all E-4Bs will have maxed out their lifetime flying hours, necessitating a follow-on aircraft to carry out the same mission on behalf of the Air Force and NCA.
In May, the Air Force announced it would spearhead a joint program with the Navy to seek a replacement for the E-4B and the Navy’s E-6 Mercury. The E-6 is a continuation of the Looking Glass program, and shares a similar role with the Nightwatch fleet, though its mission is more popularly known as TACAMO, short for “Take Charge And Move Out.”
This project will see the Air Force and Navy unite their airborne command post assets under a fleet of identical nuclear-proof aircraft with next-generation communication and sensor systems. There’s no word just yet on whether or not America’s upcoming fleet of doomsday aircraft will be tornado-proof as well, however.