When the Army asked industry about three years ago if they could come up with a new, lightweight scout vehicle that could move in and out of enemy territory quickly but carry a deadly bite if backed into a corner, several companies answered the call.
But one of the most badass options offered up to Army commanders was the Northrop Grumman Hellhound.
It’s like a dune buggy and a Humvee met and had a baby. (Photo from Northtrop Grumman)
Just looking at the thing makes you say “hooah,” and it was the star of the show at this year’s Association of the U.S. Army convention in Washington.
With a top speed of 70 mph and a crew compartment that fits six fully-equipped soldiers, the Hellhound is still small enough to fit in the belly of a CH-47 Chinook transport helicopter. The vehicle is designed with enough power and room inside the crew compartment to accommodate a remote control weapon system and a host of high-tech defense and protective equipment, the company says.
It’s like a dune buggy and a Humvee met and had a baby.
“The high performance, highly mobile Hellhound is designed to allow users to easily gain access to highly restrictive terrain and capable of operating worldwide on primary and secondary roads, as well as trails and cross country in weather extremes,” the company says. “The Hellhound also introduces the capability of providing expeditionary power generation as well as an unparalleled capacity for powering on-board equipment.”
The Hellhound features a roof-mounted M230LF 30mm cannon, and designers also showed off a high-energy laser equipped one on the AUSA show floor. The cannon stows inside the vehicle for transport and the suspension can be lowered and raised based on terrain.
It is unclear whether the Army will ever buy the Hellhound, but clearly the company has pushed the envelope for all-terrain capabilities with a heck of a ballistic punch.
Russia has unveiled a new military base as part of its buildup in the Arctic region, and has provided a tour — albeit a virtual one on your computer.
According to a report from FoxNews.com, the base is located on Franz Josef Land — an archipelago north of Novaya Zemlya that the Soviet Union seized from Norway in 1926 — and is known as the “Arctic Trefoil” due to its tricorne shape.
The base covers roughly 14,000 square miles and can house up to 150 people for a year and a half. The National Interest has reported that Russia has developed new versions of several systems for a cold weather fight, including the SA-15 Gauntlet, the T-72 main battle tank, and an artillery system known as Pantsir-SA. A version of the SA-10 modified for Arctic conditions is also being developed.
The Arctic Trefoil is the second base Russia has opened in the Arctic. The first one, called Northern Clover, is located on Kotelny Island, north of Siberia. According to a 2014 report by the Russian news agency TASS, its runway is capable of landing Il-76 Candid cargo planes, which are comparable to the retired C-141 Starlifter, year-round.
The SA-15 Gauntlet is a short-range, radar-guided missile. According to ArmyRecognition.com, the missile has a maximum range of about eight miles and a speed of Mach 2.8. A version of this missile is also used on Russian naval vessels, like the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov as a point-defense system.
The Pantsir-SA is a modified version of the SA-22 Greyhound. ArmyRecognition.com notes that this is a truck-mounted system that holds 12 missiles with a maximum range of almost 12.5 miles and two 30mm autocannons that can hit targets 2.5 miles away. The system reported scored its first kill against a Turkish RF-4 Phantom in 2012.
Russia has been pushing to build up its bases in the Arctic in recent years, prompting the United States to carry out a buildup of its own, including the replacement of its aging icebreakers.
Two Marine veterans playing “Pokemon Go” in a Los Angeles suburb on Jul. 12 ended up catching an attempted murder suspect instead of a Pikachu.
Javier Soch and Seth Ortega were hunting Pokemon near a museum when they saw a man who appeared to be scaring a woman and her three sons, according to reporting in the Los Angeles Times. The Marines talked to the man, who was agitated but coherent. He asked for cigarettes and shelter and the Marines told him to check the local police station for help.
The Marines kept their eyes on the man as he walked off. “We kept our distance. We didn’t want to alert the guy and escalate the situation,” Soch told reporter Matt Hamilton.
The man interacted with two more families. He continued to act suspiciously but did not do anything illegal — at first.
“[We] walked across the street and the gentleman actually walks up and touches one of the children, one of the boys, his toe, and starts walking his way up to the knee,” Ortega told an ABC affiliate.
The veterans sprung into action. Soch stayed with the family while Ortega sprinted after the man. The man attempted to flee, but he couldn’t get away from the Marine.
He was arrested on suspicion of child annoyance, but the police then learned that the man had a warrant out for attempted murder in Sonoma, California. He will be extradited to face charges there.
At first, concentration camp guards during the Nazi regime of World War II were male. However, with the introduction of female guards to Auschwitz and Majdanek, a new era began and German officials soon learned that these incoming women were quite good at their jobs. By the end of the war, more than 3,500 women acted as camp guards, making up almost 7 percent of all Nazi guards employed.
With no special training or particular background, these women either volunteered or were recruited through shrewd marketing techniques. Mostly young women and unmarried, or possibly married to a man who worked in the camp. Many felt they were doing their duty to their country.
1. Maria Mandl
Maria Mandl was one of the head guards at Auschwitz, despite her gender, and was known for her cruelty, which aptly earned her the nickname “The Beast”. It’s supposed that she had her hand in up to half a million deaths. While she was unable to climb the ladder in her field to the very top as a woman, she had absolute control over all the female prisoners and the rest of the female employees. She was only forced to answer to one man. Her tactics vary, but tales of her behavior resonated with prisoners.
Many say she would stand at the entry gate and, if any inmate happened to look over at her, that individual would be taken away, never to be heard from again. She also put together an orchestra at the camp and, after regular work hours were over, the prisoners would be forced to march in time to the music. The orchestra often coincided with executions.
After Auschwitz was liberated, Mandl fled to Bavaria. After her capture, she underwent interrogations, and showed high levels of intelligence. She was turned over to Poland, and was sentenced to death by hanging.
2. Irma Grese
Grese was one of Mandl’s inferiors, who also worked at Auschwitz and served as a warden for female prisoners. Her reign, however, was short and she only made it to the age of 22 before being executed for her war crimes. This was still plenty of time for her to earn her own nickname, just like “The Beast” — her boss. Grese became known as the “Hyena of Auschwitz”.
She managed to earn the second-highest rank available to females, and routinely participated in picking which of the prisoners would go to the gas chamber.
Greece’s actions are immortalized in a memoir that was written by one of the camp prisoners. It says that Grese loved to terrify the women in the camps, and that she specifically picked women who were remotely beautiful, sick, or weak.
During her trial, witnesses said she would allow half-starved dogs to attack prisoners; she also enjoyed shooting prisoners and would beat them to death with a whip. In addition, Grese also had several love affairs at the camp, one of which resulted in a surprise pregnancy; she then entrusted one of the prisoners to give her an abortion. After the war was over, she had hoped to pursue a career in acting.
3. Hermine Braunsteiner
Braunsteines was the first Nazi war criminal extradited from the United States. Working at Majdanek, she was known as the “Stomping Mare”.
Her most infamous actions include lifting children by the hair to throw them onto trucks headed to the gas chambers, hanging young girls, and stomping women to death. She became known for her crazy tantrums and could be expected to lash out with a riding whip at the slightest provocation.
As the Soviets approached, Braunsteiner fled to Vienna, then remained jailed for a year. She was later granted amnesty and lived in Austria, under the radar, until she met an American on vacation. They married, moved to Canada and then later to the United States.
No one knew of her past and she became known as a friendly housewife. A Nazi hunter and a reporter ran across her in Queens and exposed her actions. While her husband said he knew of her work, he did not know exactly to what extent her cruelty ranged.
4. Margot Dreschel
Dreschel headed to Poland in 1942 for the new Auschwitz II-Birkenau concentration camp. She headed up all the camp offices and soon became known as a horrific sight for most prisoners. She often disguised herself as a doctor and went to conduct indoor selections within the camp. With a trained dog in tow, she would make all prisoners undress, take their shoes and then make them stand for hours, naked.
She frequently went to and from various camps to help with the selection of women and children for the chambers. She fled the camp after Germany’s surrender, and while in the Russian zone, several former prisoners abducted her and took her to the Russian Military Police. She was executed by hanging within the month.
5. Ilse Koch
Koch worked at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp and later at Buchenwald. She is mostly known for her participation in an experiment during which she picked out prisoners with tattoos to be murdered and then skinned. The skins would then be used for study, as one of her colleagues was writing a paper on the relation between tattoos and criminality.
She was arrested in 1943 by the Germans for charges of enrichment and embezzlement, then acquitted in 1944; however, she was arrested again by the U.S. in 1945.
The trial process was not easy, though. During her first trial, she announced that she was eight months pregnant, from one of her many affairs. She was given life in prison and then served two years, before her sentence was lessened to four years, due to lack of evidence. However, she was re-arrested and tried again. Witnesses stated they saw her with human-skin lampshades made from the tattooed skin.
She was delusional and thought that her victims were coming back to harm her. Eventually, Koch committed suicide in her jail cell at the age of 60. Her son, who regularly visited her after being born in prison, was shocked by the news. Now, her body rests in an unmarked grave.
Gary Villalobos left his civilian life to join the United States Army. By 2005, he found himself in Tal Afar, Iraq, as Sgt. First Class Villalobos. It was there he learned the true meaning of fear — and what it takes to overcome that fear to try and save one of his own.
“What I think about when I think about my four deployments in Iraq, I’m glad I was part of it,” Villalobos says. “I took part in something greater than myself, something significant. But most importantly, you know what I think about is the hundreds of people, the hundreds of soldiers that I connected with at a different level. Shared hardships really bring people together.”
(Courtesy Gary Villalobos)
Now-Master Sgt. Gary Villalobos came to the U.S. from Mexico in 1970, moving into a small shack near the beach behind his grandmother’s house in California. By the time he graduated from high school, he had a job that wasn’t going anywhere. It was just after the 1991 Gulf War and young Gary watched as that war’s heroes were greeted triumphantly upon their return to the U.S.
So, he went to an Army recruiter. Twelve years later, the United States invaded Iraq and, in 2005, Villalobos was in Tal Afar for only a month before he found himself directing Iraqi soldiers with the U.S. Army’s 3rd Armored Cavalry to take on an insurgent group and capture their leaders.
Villalobos and Army officer Lt. Col. Terrence Crowe took 14 Iraqi Army troops on a patrol to capture those leaders, stepping into an alleyway — an alleyway that was also an ambush killzone.
The Army officer took the full brunt of at least four AK-47s, not one shot hitting above his waist. .
Villalobos tried to suppress their fire but the incoming sounded like it was coming from all sides. Gunfire poured in on Villalobos and the patrol as he tried to make sense of the ambush. He suddenly realized he had an edge and chucked his only grenade as hard as he could into the ambush. The firing stopped and he was able to pull his officer out.
The enemy melted away.
Back to FOB Sykes, Villalobos learned Col. Crowe didn’t make it.
Crowe and Villalobos went on numerous patrols together and became quite close. They went on nearly every mission together. Crowe was a native of Upstate New York and was a talented carpenter in his civilian life.
“He treated me with dignity and respect,” Villalobos says. “Part of the reason I feel guilty is because I was not in the front, where I should have been. He should have been in the rear, or at least the middle… but not point man.”
Villalobos was awarded the Silver Star for making sure he pulled Crowe out of the ambush. To him, it’s the most important award, representing the sacrifice that Colonel Crowe made.
“I don’t see it as something I earned… I just wanted to get Colonel Crowe out of there,” he says.
In 2006, University of California at Davis psychology professor Dean Simonton completed a comprehensive study examining the “intellectual brilliance” of 42 US presidents.
The top 15 who appear on this list were compiled by Libb Thims — an American engineer who compiles high IQ scores as a hobby — using the results of Simonton’s study.
Because IQ scores weren’t available for all of the presidents, Simonton estimated their scores based on certain personality traits noted in their biographies that would indicate a higher-than-average level of intelligence, such as “wise,” “inventive,” “artistic,” “curious,” sophisticated,” “complicated,” and “insightful.”
Simonton then gave each president a score based on his personality traits, which he then interpreted as a measure of the chief executives’ “Intellectual Brilliance.”
In honor of President’s Day, here are America’s 15 brightest commander in chiefs.
15. Franklin Pierce
Franklin Pierce was the 14th president and served between 1853 and 1857. By Simonton’s estimates, Pierce had an IQ of 141.
After graduating from Bowdoin College, Pierce was elected to the New Hampshire legislature at the age of 24 and became its speaker two years later.
14. John Tyler
John Tyler served as the 10th US president after his predecessor, William Henry Harrison, died in April 1841.
Tyler attended the College of William and Mary and studied law. Although he had an (estimated) IQ of 142, his peers often didn’t take him seriously because he was the first vice president to become president without having been elected.
Despite his detractors, Tyler passed a lot of positive legislation throughout his term, including a tariff bill meant to protect northern manufacturers.
13. Millard Fillmore
Millard Fillmore was the 13th president and the last Whig president.
He had an IQ of 143, according to Simonton’s estimates, and lived the quintessential American dream. Born in a log cabin in the Finger Lakes country of New York in 1800, Fillmore became a lawyer in 1823 and was elected to the House of Representatives soon after.
When Zachary Taylor died, Fillmore was thrust into the presidency, serving from 1850 to 1853.
12. Franklin D. Roosevelt
Franklin Delano Roosevelt took office during the Great Depression, serving an unprecedented four terms as the nation’s 32nd president from 1933 from 1945.
With an estimated IQ of 146, Roosevelt attended Harvard University and Columbia Law School before entering politics as a Democrat and winning election to the New York Senate in 1910.
Roosevelt was diagnosed with polio in 1921 but that didn’t stop him from winning the presidency in 1932. He’s perhaps best remembered for his New Deal program, a sweeping economic overhaul enacted shortly after he took office that aimed to bring recovery to businesses and provide relief to the unemployed.
The son of a Kentucky frontiersman, Lincoln worked on a farm and split rails for fences while teaching himself to read and write. He had an IQ of 148, according to Simonton’s estimates, and was the only president to have a patent after inventing a device to free steamboats that ran aground.
He is best remembered for keeping the Union intact during the Civil War, and for his 1863 signing of the Emancipation Proclamation that forever freed slaves within the Confederacy.
10. Chester Arthur
Chester Arthur succeeded James Garfield as America’s 21st president after Garfield was assassinated in 1881. He had an IQ of 148, according to Simonton’s estimates.
Arthur graduated from Union College in 1848 and practiced law in New York City before being elected vice president on the Republican ticket in 1880.
When he assumed the presidency a little over a year later, he distinguished himself as a reformer and devoted much of his term to overhauling the civil service.
9. James Garfield
James Garfield was the 20th US president, serving for less than a year before being assassinated in 1882.
A graduate of Williams College, Garfield had an IQ of 148, according to Simonton’s estimates. Although his presidency was short, Garfield had a big impact. He re-energized the US Navy, did away with corruption in the Post Office Department, and appointed several African-Americans to prominent federal positions, according to White House records.
He was assassinated by Charles J. Guiteau on July 2, 1881, just 200 days after taking office.
Roosevelt graduated Phi Betta Keppa from Harvard in 1880, according to the White House. He then went to Columbia to study law, which he disliked and found to be irrational. Instead of studying, he spent most of his time writing a book about the War of 1812.
Roosevelt dropped out to run for public office, ultimately becoming a two-term President best known for his motto, “Speak softly and carry a big stick.”
7. Woodrow Wilson
Woodrow Wilson was the 28th president and leader of the Progressive Movement. He had an estimated IQ of 152.
Wilson was the president of Princeton University from 1902 to 1910 before serving as the governor of New Jersey from 1911 to 1913. After he was elected President, Wilson began pushing for anti-trust legislation which culminated in the signing of the Federal Trade Commission Act in September 1914.
He is perhaps best remembered for his speech, “Fourteen Points,” which he presented to Congress towards the end of World War I. The speech articulated Wilson’s long-term war objectives, one of the most famous being the establishment of a League of Nations — a preliminary version of today’s United Nations.
6. Jimmy Carter
James Earl “Jimmy” Carter, Jr. served as the 39th president of the US from 1977 to 1981. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002 for his work in advancing human rights around the world and has an IQ of 153 by Simonton’s estimates.
Carter graduated from the Naval Academy in 1946 and was elected Governor of Georgia in 1970. After he was elected president — beating Gerald Ford by 56 electoral votes — he enacted a number of important policies throughout his four years, including a national energy policy and civil service reform.
5. James Madison
Hailed as one of the fathers of the Constitution, James Madison had an IQ of 155, according to Simonton’s estimates.
Madison graduated from what is now Princeton University in 1771 and went on to study law. He collaborated with fellow Federalists Alexander Hamilton and John Jay to produce the Federalist Papers in 1788. Madison also championed and co-authored the Bill of Rights during the drafting of the Constitution, and served as Thomas Jefferson’s Secretary of State from 1801–1809.
4. Bill Clinton
William Jefferson “Bill” Clinton was the 42nd President, serving from 1993-2001. He has an IQ of 156 by Simonton’s estimates.
After graduating from Georgetown, winning a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University, and earning a law degree from Yale in 1973, Clinton was elected governor of Arkansas in 1978.
He went on to win the presidency with Al Gore as his running mate in 1992 and is perhaps best remembered for his efforts brokering peace in Ireland and the Balkans.
3. John F. Kennedy
John Fitzgerald Kennedy was the 35th president of the US, serving less than 3 years before he was assassinated in 1963. He had an IQ of 158, according to Simonton’s estimates.
Kennedy graduated from Harvard in 1940 and joined the Navy shortly thereafter, suffering grave injuries while serving in World War II.
He was elected president in 1960 and gave one of the most memorable inaugural addresses in recent memory, saying, “Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.”
He is perhaps best remembered for his successful fiscal programs which greatly expanded the US economy and his push for civil rights legislation that would enhance equal rights.
2. Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson was an American Founding Father and served as the country’s third president between 1801–1809. He had an IQ of 160, according to Simonton’s estimates.
Jefferson graduated from the College of William and Mary before going on to study law. He was a notably bad public speaker, according to White House records. He reluctantly ran for president after gradually assuming leadership of the Republican party.
As a staunch federalist and advocate of states’ rights, Jefferson strongly opposed a strong centralized Government. One of his first policy initiatives after becoming President was to eliminate a highly unpopular tax on Whiskey.
1. John Adams
John Adams was the second president from 1797 to 1801, after serving as the nation’s first vice president under George Washington. He had an IQ of 173, according to Simonton’s estimates.
Adams studied law at Harvard and was an early supporter of the movement for US independence from the British. Ambitious and intellectual — if not a little vain — he frequently complained to his wife that the office of Vice President was insignificant.
He is perhaps best remembered for his skills in diplomacy, helping to negotiate a peace treaty during the Revolutionary War and avoiding a war with France during his Presidency.
Legendary retired Army Lt. Gen. Harold “Hal” Moore of “We Were Soldiers” fame died Feb. 10. The commander of 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment at the Battle of Ia Drang was days short of his 95th birthday.
According to a report by the Opelika-Auburn Tribune, Lt. Gen. Moore had suffered a stroke on the evening of Feb. 9 and was “hanging tough,” according to a family member.
Moore gained immortality from the book, “We Were Soldiers Once, and Young,” co-written with reporter Joe Galloway, about the battle of the Ia Drang Valley in Vietnam. The book was used as the basis for the 2002 film “We Were Soldiers,” in which Academy Award-winning actor Mel Gibson portrayed Moore.
Moore served 32 years in the Army after graduating from West Point, and his decorations included the Distinguished Service Cross and four Bronze Stars.
According to an official after-action report, the three-day battle left 79 Americans killed in action, and another 121 wounded. None were left behind or missing after the battle. American forces killed 634 enemy troops, and wounded at least 1,200.
While preparing to film the epic movie — which made over $78 million at the United States box office, according to Box Office Mojo — Gibson would develop a deep friendship with Moore. This past summer, while headlines noted that Gibson and Vince Vaughn had eaten at Hamilton’s, an Auburn-area restaurant, what hadn’t been known then was that Moore’s family had recommended the eatery to the A-list superstars.
Below, here are some of the more iconic moments from “We Were Soldiers,” starring Mel Gibson as Hal Moore.
In August 2015, Staten Island attorney Richard A. Luthmann motioned a New York State court to allow “Game of Thrones” style trial by combat to decide one of his cases. During a lawsuit, Luthmann allegedly advised a client to liquidate his assets and move the funds to where the people suing him couldn’t get to them.
His intent was to settle the civil case in “a fight to the death between either party or champions of the party” while highlighting how silly the plaintiff’s lawyers were. And less than six months later, the right to a trial by combat was upheld by the New York State Supreme Court.
In a 10-page brief, Luthmann details the rights of trial by combat in Medieval England and England’s American colonies. The motion to ban the practice was blocked by Parliament in 1774 and was not restricted by the Constitution.
Luthman also contends the practice is protected by the Ninth Amendment, which protects the rights mentioned specifically elsewhere in the Constitution.
Luthmann wrote in a brief to the New York State Supreme Court:
“The allegations made by plaintiffs, aided and abetted by their counsel, border upon the criminal, as such, the undersigned respectfully requests that the court permit the undersigned to dispatch plaintiffs and their counsel to the Divine Providence of the Maker for Him to exact His divine judgment once the undersigned has released the souls of the plaintiffs and their counsel from their corporeal bodies, personally and or by way of a champion.”
The idea of the request was to initially highlight how ridiculous it was for the party suing Luthmann’s client to then sue the counsel for his client for offering legal advice for $500,000.
Sadly for the entertainment world, Justice Minardo resolved that Luthmann’s civil suit would be settled in court, either by a judge or jury.
“I believe that the court’s ruling is based upon my adversaries’ unequivocal statement that they would not fight me,” Luthmann told Staten Island Live. “Under my reading of the law, the other side has forfeited because they have not met the call of battle. They have declared themselves as cowards in the face of my honorable challenge, and I should go to inquest on my claims.”
Two calls to 911 had reported a man firing shots, and a police-run listening system had located the sound of gunfire in Chicago’s West Douglas Boulevard, about 5 miles west of downtown. Within minutes, officers found a man matching caller descriptions in a nearby alleyway. As two officers followed the man, identified as 45-year-old Bruce Lua, on foot, Garcia and Nakayama pull into the alley ahead of him, cutting him off and leaving him surrounded.
Garcia and Lua are a few feet apart as they fire at each other, almost simultaneously. One frame from Garcia’s camera appears to capture the exact moment that he both fires his weapon and is hit by Lua’s shot. In the frame, a brass casing is ejecting from Garcia’s weapon as he fires, but his hand appears to be deflected by Lua’s bullet.
Following the shooting, Garcia can be seen with blood dripping down his right arm and hand. He then almost immediately switches his weapon from his right hand to his left, covering Lua.
This officer body camera video includes graphic images of three shootings including the shooting of two police officers.
Nakayama — who on his body camera footage can be heard telling other officers he is shot in the leg — falls but appears to fire at least one shot that strikes Lua, causing him to fall as well.
Garcia covers Lua until other officers arrive who disarm and cuff Lua and begin to treat Nakayama.
At one point, a fellow officer can be heard yelling, “Where the f*ck is that ambulance?”
Both officers and Lua were transported to the hospital and released. The CPD Case Incident Report lists the officers’ injuries as “serious,” with Garcia shot once and Nakayama shot twice. Lua is being held on $10 million bail and charged with two counts of attempted murder.
Let’s face it – some planes are tough to fly. The F4U Corsair that served in World War II and Korea was called the “Ensign Eliminator.” The F-104 Starfighter and AV-8B+ Harrier have both been called the “Widow Maker.”
So. too, was the Martin B-26 Marauder.
The B-26 Marauder was a medium bomber with two engines. According to MilitaryFactory.com, it had a crew of seven, a top speed of 282 miles per hour, a range of 675 miles, and the ability to carry up to 5,200 pounds of bombs.
It also had a bad reputation early in World War II for crashing and killing its crews. In fact, according to aviation historian Joe Baugher, the B-26 was nearly cancelled because of all the crashes. But experienced crews went to bat for it, convincing Sen. Harry Truman to relent.
The bomber ultimately flew over 110,000 sorties, and dropped over 150,000 tons of bombs on the Axis.
One of those who helped prove the B-26 wasn’t a killer was Jimmy Doolittle, fresh from leading the Tokyo raid. He soon realized that many of the instructors were almost as inexperienced as the pilots they were training. Worse, the mechanics were not experienced, and weren’t maintaining the engines properly.
To top it off, a switch in the type of gasoline used had been causing damaged to the carburetors.
Doolittle soon took the plane up – in the type of lead-from-the-front leadership that would later get him in hot water with Gen. Eisenhower on more than one occasion. He would fly the plane with one engine shut down on takeoff, then he would make inverted passes at low level. But the Army also began to work harder on training the crews properly, and the manufacturer sent crews out to train the mechanics.
The Army also made a training film for prospective pilots of the Marauder, which you can watch below.
When thousands of Russian troops wheeled and maneuvered through the steppes of southern Siberia two years ago, as part of massive military exercises known as Tsentr, Western experts spotted something unusual.
Amid Defense Ministry orders for tank brigades, paratrooper battalions, motorized rifle divisions, and railroad cars carrying howitzers, there were orders for the federal fisheries agency.
“And I wondered, ‘What the hell is the fisheries ministry doing?'” recalls Johan Norberg, senior military analyst at the Swedish Defense Research Agency. The eventual conclusion, he says, was that the Russian fisheries fleet was seen by military planners as an intelligence asset, playing a small role in national defense.
It’s an example offering a small window into not only how Russian commanders approach large-scale military games. It’s also the kind of insight that Western analysts hope to gain beginning next week when one of the largest exercises Moscow has conducted on its western borders since the Cold War get under way: a real-world, real-time glimpse at what Russia’s military is truly capable of, after years of institutional reforms.
The Zapad drills, taking place in Belarus and the regions east of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania are formally kicking off on Sept. 14. They’re the first to be held in close proximity to NATO member countries since Russia seized Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014.
For that and many other reasons, they are giving heartburn to NATO allies from the Baltic to the Black Sea, with some observers predicting that the number of participating personnel could exceed 100,000, along with tanks, artillery units, aircraft, and other equipment.
Though few, if any, Western planners anticipate any outbreak of hostilities with Russia, NATO states have taken steps to reassure their populaces and to show they are taking the Russians seriously. US Air Force fighter jets are now patrolling Baltic airspace; Poland is closing its airspace near Russia’s Baltic exclave of Kaliningrad; and four NATO battle groups, featuring 4,500 troops, are on alert in the Baltics and Poland.
That said, as much as anything, the Zapad exercises serve as a midterm exam for Russian armed forces and military planners, a measure of reforms made over the past decade.
“The exercise is actually a very good opportunity for us to… get a better sense of what the Russian military is actually capable of: how it can handle logistics, move different units, or, in an operation, exercise command and control over combined armed formations in the Baltic theater, which is the one we’re principally concerned with, right?” says Michael Kofman, a senior research scientist at CNA Corporation and a fellow at the Kennan Institute in Washington.
“This one is a lot more interesting to us because we don’t plan on fighting Russia in Central Asia,” Kofman says.
Preparations have been ongoing for weeks, with large numbers of railroad cars shipping heavy weaponry and vehicles into Belarus and civilians mobilized at some large state-owned enterprises in Kaliningrad and elsewhere.
“As we’ve seen before, Russians train exactly as they intend to fight,” Kristjan Prikk, undersecretary for policy at the Estonian Defense Ministry, said during a July event at the Atlantic Council, a Washington-based think tank. “Thus, Zapad will give ample information on their military development and certainly on their political thinking, as it is right now.”
In 2008, when Russia invaded its former Soviet neighbor Georgia, its armed forces easily overcame Georgia’s defenses and some of its US-trained personnel, but the five-day war showcased significant weaknesses. For example, some Russian officers were reportedly unable to communicate with others over existing radio frequencies and were forced to use regular mobile phones. Russian surveillance drones performed poorly.
Other reforms already under way at the time included a shift from the Soviet military structure, organized around divisions, to a smaller brigade structure and the increased use of contract, rather than conscripted, soldiers.
Reforms also included a substantial increase in defense budgets, something made possible by high world oil prices that stuffed Russia’s coffers. A 10-year plan to upgrade weaponry and other equipment originally called for Russia to spend $650 billion between 2011 and 2020, according to NATO figures, though Western sanctions, plummeting oil prices, and the economic downturn in 2015-16 are believed to have slowed some purchases.
“They’ve had now, say, eight or nine years with plenty of money and the willingness to train, and they have a new organization that they want to test,” Norberg says.
While the Defense Ministry conducts a cycle of exercises roughly every year, alternating among four of the country’s primary military districts, Western analysts got a surprise lesson in early 2014 when Russian special forces helped lead a stealth invasion of Crimea and paved the way for the Black Sea region’s illegal annexation by Moscow in March.
That, plus the outbreak of fighting in eastern Ukraine in the following months, offered a real-world laboratory for testing new tactics and equipment for Russian forces, including new drones, some manufactured with help from Israeli firms.
The Crimea invasion was preceded by the months of civil unrest in Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, which culminated in deadly violence and the ousting of President Viktor Yanukovych.
For many Kremlin and defense thinkers, that was just the latest in a series of popular uprisings, fomented by Western governments, that toppled regimes and governments stretching back to Georgia in 2003 and lasting through the Arab Spring beginning in 2010.
The scenario that Russian and Belarusian commanders have announced ahead of Zapad 2017 hints at that thinking: The theoretical adversary is one seeking to undermine the government in Minsk and set up a separatist government in western Belarus.
Inside Russia, the thinking that NATO and Western governments used the popular uprisings as a strategy led to the reorganization of internal security forces, such as riot police and Interior Ministry special troops into a specialized National Guard under the command of President Vladimir Putin’s former bodyguard. Some parts of that force, whose overall numbers are estimated at 180,000, are expected to participate in the Zapad exercises.
That, Kofman says, should yield insight into “how Russia will mobilize and deploy internal security forces to suppress protest and instability…basically how the regime will protect itself and defend itself against popular unrest.”
In World War I, there was a need to hit targets either pretty far off, or which were very hard to destroy.
At the time, aircraft weren’t much of an option – in fact, they really had a hard time carrying big bombs. Often, an aircrewman would drop mortar rounds from a cockpit. So, how does one take out a hard target? They used naval guns mounted on railway cars.
Many of these guns came from obsolete armored cruisers – the most common of the rail guns was the BL 12-inch railway Howitzer. The British pressed 81 of these guns into service, and many lasted into World War II. These guns are obsolete now, rendered useless by the development of better aircraft for tactical strikes, from World War II’s P-47 Thunderbolt to today’s A-10 Thunderbolt II, as well as tactical missile and rocket systems like the ATACMS, Scud, and MGM-52 Lance.
The gun the British were moving didn’t actually serve in World War I. According to a release by the British Ministry of Defence, the BL 18-inch howitzer just missed the Great War, but it did serve in World War II as a coastal defense gun – albeit it never fired a shot in anger, since the Nazis never were able to pull off Operation Sea Lion. The gun was used for RD purposes until 1959, when it was retired and sent to the Royal Artillery headquarters.
In 2013, it was briefly loaded to the Dutch railway museum. Later that year, it went to the Royal Armouries artillery museum. It is one of 12 railway guns that survive. The video below from the Smithsonian channel shows how the British Army – with the help of some contractors – moved this gigantic gun.
After having as many as 24 of its planes destroyed in a salvo of 59 cruise missiles from US Navy ships in the Mediterranean Sea on April 7, Syria has repositioned its jets to bases protected by Russian missile defenses, according to CNN.
“The Syrian air force is not in good shape,” Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told reporters at the Pentagon, according to CNN. “It’s been worn down by years of combat plus some … significant maintenance problems.”
Still, combined with the dozens of planes from his Russian backers, Syrian President Bashar Assad has an asymmetrical air advantage over his adversaries — rebel groups that have little more than a few anti-aircraft missile launchers.
The move to bases near Russian missile defenses provides Syria with a clear deterrent against further US strikes. Experts say Russia’s S-300 and S-400 anti-air defenses can knock down Tomahawk cruise missiles, which were used in the April 7 strike.
US officials have repeatedly stressed that they are “prepared to do more” against Assad’s regime should more evidence of the use of chemical weapons in Syria appear, but the recent developments on the battlefield mean an engagement would be much more dangerous.
“One air defense battalion with an S-300 has 32 missiles,” Sutyagin said. “They will fire these against 16 targets — maybe against cruise missiles they would fire a one-to-one ratio — but to prevent the target from evading, you always launch two … but what if there are 50 targets?”
To further avoid detection, the US could use stealth aircraft like F-22s currently stationed in the theater.
Although the US could still carry out an attack against Syrian and Russian military targets, it would run a huge risk of killing Russian service members. The US warned Moscow ahead of the April 7 strike on Shayrat air base.
In this situation, where the target is Russian air defenses or planes on Russian bases, it’s unclear if the Russians would back away from their hardware, and killing Russian service members would risk massive escalation.