The 1st Air Cavalry Division was the most lethal assault force assembled in Vietnam. The pilots were the first to fully harness the power of helicopters and their soldier’s combat record was second to none. Steven E Warren served a year in the infantry in Vietnam, but then returned home to train to fly helicopters at Fort Rucker. Soon he returned to the conflict, as a Huey helicopter pilot in the 1st Air Cavalry. We spoke with him about his combat experiences, helping to perfect this new kind of warfare.
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The US and its European allies have been boosting their presence in Eastern Europe in recent months, responding to a period of tense relations with Russia. Now, NATO forces are looking for ways to reestablish military capabilities that have eroded since the end of the Cold War.
US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and other NATO military leaders are set to review changes to the military bloc’s command structure next month, with an eye on enhancing their rapid-deployment abilities and reinforcing their supply lines.
“Fast-evolving security challenges mean new demands on our command,” NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu told Stars and Stripes. “So work is underway to ensure that the NATO command structure remains robust, agile, and fit for purpose.”
A NATO internal report seen by German news outlet Der Spiegel concluded that the bloc’s ability to rapidly deploy throughout Europe has “atrophied since the end of the Cold War.”
According to the report, even the alliance’s designated response force was not up to standard. It found that NATO would be unable to move troops fast enough and lacks sufficient officers and supplies in Europe.
Neither military officials nor the NATO report see hostilities with Russia as imminent, but, after Russia’s 2014 annexation of the Crimean Peninsula, NATO members regard an enhanced military presence as a way to deter aggression from Moscow, which has called NATO’s moves provocations.
“The alliance has to move as quick or quicker than Russian Federation forces for our deterrent to be effective,” Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, the top US Army commander in Europe, said this month. Recent months have seen close encounters between Russian and NATO aircraft over Eastern Europe and between Russian and NATO ships in the waters around Europe.
The report, citing the need to reorganize supply procedures, recommends setting up two new command centers. One, based in the US and modeled on the Cold War-era Supreme Allied Command, would oversee the shipment of personnel and supplies to Europe. The other, which could end up in Germany or Poland, would oversee logistics operations on the continent, particularly between Central and Eastern Europe.
NATO members in Europe are also working on legislation to bolster infrastructure and to allow military equipment to move across national borders faster. The latter problem has hindered military exercises in Europe in recent months.
While NATO has the ability to suspend civilian laws on transportation and travel in the case of war, preparations for combat would need to be done before hostilities break out. The bloc must also find ways to maintain an eastern flank that now extends beyond its Cold War boundaries, running right up to Russia’s borders in some places.
NATO forces have been gathering information about infrastructure in Eastern Europe, like bridge and rail networks. Many roadways and bridges have weight restrictions that limit which NATO vehicles that can use them, and some railways cannot move heavy equipment.
“We are also looking at making sure air, rail, and sea lift is readily available and in sufficient numbers,” a NATO official told Stars and Stripes. In 2016, US A-10 Thunderbolts practiced landing and taking off on an Estonia highway for the first time since 1984. And US troops in Europe have started making preparations like painting tanks and vehicles with green color schemes — reminiscent of Cold War camouflage.
An A-10 Thunderbolt II from the 127th Wing, Michigan Air National Guard, lands on a remote highway strip near Jägala, Estonia, June 20, 2016. Photo by Tech. Sgt. Amy Lovgren.
The US Marine Corps in particular is looking to boost its capabilities in Europe in response to potential conflict with Russia. The Corps now wants to restore combat functions to the Marine Expeditionary Force — the largest Marine combat unit, which can have up to 25,000 Marines.
“The MEF command element will have to be ready to support a warfighting effort in Europe,” Lt. Gen. Robert Hedelund, commander of II Marine Expeditionary Force, said this week.
The decision follows other increases in the Marine presence in Europe. US Marines have deployed a rotational force to Romania and have conducted back-to-back deployments in Norway, positioning gear and doing exercises near the Russian border. The rotational force’s arrival in Norway was the first time a foreign force had been posted there since World War II.
The US deployed dozens of helicopters and thousands of pieces of military equipment to Germany this spring, and another detachment of US helicopters are headed to Eastern Europe this week.
While these preparations come at the direction of senior military leadership, a shift to Eastern Europe is one that many US troops believe necessary.
A recent Military Times poll of US servicemembers found that, even though many troops don’t think a military fight is likely, 42% think the US military should increase its activities in Eastern Europe to counter Russia. The poll also found that troops rated Russia the fifth biggest threat to US national security — behind cyberterrorism, North Korea, and domestic and foreign terrorism tied to Islam.
Only one-quarter of respondents approved of Trump’s handling of relations with Moscow, but their feelings about Trump’s dealings with NATO were more mixed: 32% said US relations with NATO were good, 35% said poor, and 30% said average.
The deployment will include the use of the Remus 600 Unmanned Underwater Vehicles, or UUVs, performing undersea missions in strategic locations around the globe, Rear Adm. Joseph Tofalo, told Military.com at the Navy League’s Sea Air Space annual symposium at National Harbor, Md.
“Now you are talking about a submarine CO who can essentially be in two places at the same time – with a UUV out deployed which can do dull, dirty and dangerous type missions. This allows the submarine to be doing something else at the same time,” Tofalo said. “UUVs can help us better meet our combatant command demand signal. Right now, we only meet about two-thirds of our combatant commanders demand signals and having unmanned systems is a huge force multiplier.”
The Remus 600 is a 500-pound, 3.25-meter long UUV equipped with dual-frequency side-scanning sonar technology, synthetic aperture sonar, acoustic imaging, video cameras and GPS devices, according to information from its maker, Hyrdoid.
The Remus 600 is similar to the BLUEFIN Robotics UUVs, such as the BLUEFIN 21, that were used to scan the ocean floor in search of the wreckage of the downed Malaysian airliner last year.
The upcoming deployment of the Remus 600 is part of a larger Navy effort to use existing commercial off-the-shelf technology, Tofalo explained.
“We’re using commercial off-the-shelf technologies to do real world missions for the combatant commander. The oil and gas industry uses these things for all kinds of functions. The submarine force will be adapting this. The sensors are similar to the sensors that the oil and gas industry might use. They might be surveying where their oil pipes are, whereas we might want to be looking for a mine field,” Tofalo said.
The Remus 600s will launch from a 11-meter long module on the Virginia-class submarines called the dry deck shelter which can launch divers and UUVs while submerged.
Sonar technology uses acoustic or sound-wave technology to bounce signals off an object and analyze their return to learn the size, shape, distance and dimensions, Tofalo explained.
“It is similar to radar (electromagnetic) except from an acoustic standpoint. Sonar sensors use acoustics to create a picture that a trained operator can use to discern what they are looking at. It has gotten so good that it is almost like looking at a picture,” he added.
Alongside efforts to make preparations for the first deployment of commercially available UUVs from the Virginia-class attack submarines, the Navy is also planning at-sea tests this year of a UUV launching technology which uses the boat’s torpedo tubes. The at-sea test will examine the technological interface between a UUV and the missile tube as a launcher, Tofalo explained.
The Navy has been working on developing an 85-foot long section of the Virginia-class submarines called the Virginia Payload Modules. This would help submarines launch both missiles and UUVs from the submarine.
“For the large diameter UUV itself, what we want to have is an interface that allows it to come out of that Virginia Payload Module tube. To do that we need an arm that can extend itself with a little platform that can extend itself and go to the vertical,” Tofalo said.
At the same time, the Office of Naval Research is preparing to unveil a new autonomous 30-foot UUV prototype called the Large Displacement Unmanned Undersea Vehicle, or LDUUV.
The LDUUV is a prototype which may take a variety of different forms in coming years as the technology evolves, said Bob Freeman, ONR spokesman. The LDUUV is being engineered for greater endurance and energy, he added. It will also be autonomous and able to navigate itself through the undersea domain.
Alongside UUVs, the Navy is also experimenting with launching aerial drones from submarines as well, Tofalo said.
The service is testing the Switchblade, which can launch from a small signal injector tube from the side of the submarine. The Switchblade, built by AeroVironment, is a battery-powered unmanned aerial vehicle that can carry three pounds worth of explosives, Tofalo added.
He added that the Navy is also testing a longer-endurance submarine-launched UAV called XFC, an acronym for experimental fuel cell. XFC, which can be launched from a torpedo tube, can stay in the air for nine to ten hours.
“These are ways that a submarine can extend its horizon. They have been tested and we’re continuing to work on making them more definitive programs of record,” Tofalo said.
Here’s the Remus 600 being deployed from a surface ship:
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Toward the end of December 1944 it was clear the Germans were losing WWII. Low on fuel, munitions and morale, the ability of the rogue nation was slipping by the hour. Still with 6,000,000 men under arms, Hitler burned with a passion for one more mad drive into the Allied lines. In December, 1944 with the Russians closing in from the east and the Allies chipping away at the western front, the Nazis made their move. 600,000 Germans in 29 divisions with 11 armored panzer divisions, surged into the Allied front. The stage was set for total Allied defeat, but Hitler had failed to calculate the most important element of all. He could count the thousands of guns, the tons of munitions and the hundreds of tanks, but he could never grasp the unfailing courage and valor of the American fighting man.
This Episode tells the tale of two American pilots of World War II. One, R.T. Smith, was a fighter ace in Burma flying P-40s with the legendary Flying Tigers. He recorded 9 confirmed victories, aiding the Chinese in their conflict with Japan. The other, Al Freiburger, was a bomber pilot in Europe flying B-26 Marauders with his unit, the Silver Streaks. He logged numerous missions in the twin engine, medium bomber including key bombing runs on D-Day. Both men were engaging characters with very unique and dramatic war time experiences.
The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:
U.S. Air Force Capt. Raymond Whisenhunt, 379th Air Expeditionary Wing chief of protocol, tumbles to the ground as a military working dog locks onto the bite suit he is wearing at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, Dec. 30, 2016. MWD’s are highly motivated canines utilized for patrol, drug and explosive detection, and other specialized mission functions.
An F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot assigned to the 134th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron performs preflight checks at the 407th Air Expeditionary Group, Dec. 29, 2016. The 134th EFS is flying combat missions for Operation Inherent Resolve to support and enable Iraqi Security Forces’ efforts with the unique capabilities provided by the fighter squadron.
Nevada National Guard soldiers patrol the Las Vegas Strip last night as part of Operation Night Watch, an annual law enforcement mission supporting the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department during the annual New Year’s Eve celebration.
U.S. Army U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps, United States Air Force and U.S. Coast Guard Service members conduct an Armed Forces Full Honor Farewell Ceremony for for the departing commander-in-chief, President Barack Obama at Comny Hall on Joint Base Myer – Henderson Hall, Va., Jan. 4, 2016.
NORFOLK (Dec. 30, 2016) Sailors man the rails aboard the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) as it returns to homeport. Dwight D. Eisenhower and its carrier strike group conducted a 7-month deployment to the U.S. 5th and 6th Fleet areas of operation in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts.
VENICE, Italy (Jan. 3, 2017) Sailors man the helm aboard the guided missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) as it departs Venice, Italy. Porter, forward-deployed to Rota, Spain, is conducting naval operations in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe.
Marines with Alpha Battery, Battalion Landing Team 1st Bn., 4th Marines, conduct an M777 Howitzer live-fire night fire mission during Exercise Alligator Dagger, Dec. 18. This nightscape was taken as a single, long exposure photograph. The chaos of different colored lights are red-lensed headlamps worn by the artillery Marines moving and operating the different gun positions around the M777. The unilateral exercise provides an opportunity for the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group and 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) to train in amphibious operations within the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations.
Marines with Tank Platoon, Battalion Landing Team 1st Bn., 4th Marines, 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, conduct tank maintenance during Exercise Alligator Dagger, Dec. 8, 2016. Maintenance checks are done around the clock to ensure equipment is operating safely and efficiently and to ensure the safe conduct of training. The unilateral exercise provides an opportunity for the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group and 11th MEU to train in amphibious operations within the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations. The 11th MEU is currently supporting the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operation’s mission to promote and maintain stability and security in the region.
Two kayakers recover from the seas and weather aboard a Coast Guard Station Maui 45-foot Response Boat-Medium Dec. 15, 2016. Coast Guard crews responded to a call for assistance from the kayakers when they were beset by weather off Maui.
Members of the Coast Guard Ceremonial Honor Guard stand at parade rest during the Pearl Harbor Remembrance ceremony on Coast Guard cutter Taney in Baltimore Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016. This year marks the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.
One of the most revered military leaders of our time, Admiral James Stavridis served for thirty-seven years in the United States Navy, including his last four as Supreme Allied Commander of NATO. Admiral Stavridis joins Adam to share the best lessons he has learned over the course of his illustrious career, from how to lead and inspire others to how to lead your own day and life. Admiral Stavridis and Adam discuss the Admiral’s core leadership principles, misconceptions about military leaders, and job interviews with Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.
This episode features the dramatic role of the U.S Rangers on D-Day during World War II. Leonard Lomell and Sidney Salomon, from the 2nd Ranger Battalion, were among those who comprised America’s first Special Forces group. They were part of the first wave landing on Omaha Beach on June 6th, 1944.
With the tensions in the South China Sea rising, there’s always a chance that things could explode into open warfare. But how would the first major naval battle between the United States and China go?
For starters, let’s assume that China has deployed the Liaoning and one of its home-built copies of that carrier, and that each has a single Type 55 destroyer, two Luyang II-class destroyers, and a Lyuang I-class destroyer as escorts.
Figure China will also have some nuclear submarines, land-based H-6 “Badger” bombers, and a number of the DF-21D anti-ship ballistic missiles. China will also have the use of island bases in the South China Sea, including Mischief Reef and Fiery Cross Reef.
The United States would probably deploy the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), currently the forward-deployed carrier based in Japan, escorted by two Ticonderoga-class cruisers and four Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers, with a pair of Virginia-class submarines and a pair of Improved 688-class submarines in support, along with land-based bombers out of Andersen Air Force Base (eight B-1B Lancers, four B-2A Spirits, and eight B-52H Stratofortesses).
This first battle will possibly be fought after China makes an aggressive move against the Philippines in the South China Sea. China would then seek to consolidate the gains. The United States would hope to inflict a significant reverse on China, which would be putting all of its carriers eggs into the fight. The Type 001 Liaoning and Type 001A would each be able to carry a small air wing of roughly 18 J-15 Flankers and a dozen helicopters for anti-submarine warfare.
By way of comparison, the Reagan will be operating 12 F-35C Lightings, 24 F/A-18E Super Hornets, 12 F/A-18F Super Hornets, and more importantly, support aircraft like EA-18G Growlers, E-2C Hawkeyes, and MQ-25 Stingray UAVs. Furthermore, this may not include Marine F-35Bs and Air Force F-16s, F-15s, and F-35s operating out of Okinawa.
China will try to get a targeting solution for the DF-21D anti-ship ballistic missiles. However, both the length of time to target and send orders to fire the missiles mean that their biggest effect will be virtual attrition. However, the United States will make its own play – and inflict real attrition on the Chinese.
First, the U.S. will use its edge in maritime patrol to locate the enemy groups. Then, the Reagan will launch what appears to be a massive Alpha Strike targeting the carriers. The Chinese carriers will scramble their ready planes… only to find out that the “strike” is really a sea-going version of Operation Bolo.
The Flankers will be shot out of the sky in a flurry of AMRAAMs.
Then, the Amercian submarines will target and sink the Chinese air-defense destroyers with torpedoes. Even though the Kuznetsov design has a lot of problems, at 65,000 tons, it will still take punishment. But killing some of the destroyers will set the stage for the B-1B bombers to launch AGM-158C Long-Range Anti-Ship Missiles.
Each B-1B can carry up to 24 of those weapons, and soon, each carrier and its surviving escorts will be facing up to 96 of these stealthy missiles closing in. They might get some of the missiles, but enough will get through to sink or cripple the Chinese carriers.
With that, the United States would then proceed to take out the island bases.
In short, China’s first major naval battle against America could very well be the last one.
Instead of a reindeer-powered sleigh, Santa delivers Christmas from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam to more than 20,000 Pacific islanders by C-130 Hercules drops from the air.
For the first time in the 63-year history of Operation Christmas Drop, the 374th Airlift Wing at Yokota Air Base, Japan, has two partners in support personnel from Japan Air Self-Defense Force and the Royal Australian Air Force in delivering donated goods to more than 56 of the Pacific’s most remote and populated islands. Each nation provided one C-130 for the trilateral operation.
Not only is Operation Christmas Drop the Defense Department’s longest running humanitarian airlift mission, but it also gives the 374th AW an opportunity to practice humanitarian aid and disaster relief. C-130 aircrews deliver almost 40,000 pounds of supplies by executing more than 20 low-cost, low-altitude airdrop training missions to islanders throughout the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands, Federated States of Micronesia and Republic of Palau. The airdrop missions allow aircrews to practice essential combat skills and demonstrate commitment throughout the Indo-Asia-Pacific region while helping the U.S. strengthen cooperation with two allies.
“Members of our community consider all Micronesians brothers and sisters, and we are happy to share this unique tradition in bridging the distance,” said Brig. Gen. Andrew Toth, the 36th Wing commander. “That’s the beauty of this operation – its impact goes beyond the coastline of Guam.”
The exact origin of Operation Christmas Drop isn’t known, but according to 36th Wing history, the first supplies were dropped during Christmas in 1952. An aircrew, assigned to the 54th Weather Squadron at Andersen AFB, flew a WB-29 Superfortress over Kapingamarangi in the Federated States of Micronesia, south of Guam, and saw villagers waving at them from the ground. The crew packed items on the plane in a box and dropped it on a parachute used for weather buoys. The drops continued each year until the name Operation Christmas Drop was officially named six years later.
The 2015 Operation Christmas Drop officially kicked off Dec. 8 at Andersen AFB, with a celebratory “push ceremony.” Military members from the 374th AW, 36th Wing, 734th Air Mobility Squadron, 515th Air Mobility Operations Wing, all from Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, and international partners from Australia and Japan gathered for the opening ceremony celebrating the first ever trilateral execution of Operation Christmas Drop.
Addressing the Japan Air Self-Defense Force and the Royal Australian Air Force, Col. Douglas C. DeLaMater, the 374th AW commander, said, “Your participation in the coming days highlights our dedication and commitment to modernizing our alliances, reinforcing our shared values, and deepening our partnerships across the region.
“Operation Christmas Drop is a prime example of the depth airpower brings to the Indo-Asia-Pacific region,” he said. “In addition to delivering critical supplies to those in need, Operation Christmas Drop provides specific training to U.S. and allied aircrews, enabling theater-wide airpower.”
Throughout the week after the ceremony, the joint teams trained together on low-cost, low-altitude airdrop tactics and procedures. The crews will drop more than 100 bundles filled with humanitarian aid donations and critical supplies, such as books, canned goods, construction materials, clothing, coolers, fishing nets, powdered milk, shoes, school supplies, and toys.
“This coalition training results in a more robust force that is better enabled to execute rapid (humanitarian aid and disaster response) and resupply missions at a moment’s notice throughout the region and around the world,” DeLaMater said.
During almost seven months of planning, service members at Andersen raised money and solicited donations for the critical supplies, educational materials and toys that are delivered during Operation Christmas Drop. Andersen AFB collected, sorted and prepared the donations for the joint bundle build with U.S. Air Force, RAAF and JASDF combat mobility flight riggers.
“An event of this magnitude could not have been sustained for 64 years without the dedication and support from a variety of agencies across the board,” Toth said. “While the training missions are conducted by the Air Force, it is important to understand that this amazing joint endeavor has donations that come from a strong community right here on the island of Guam.”
From military personnel to local community members, there was island-wide participation in the preparation for the big event. Donation boxes were left at both military installations and Government of Guam facilities for people to make contributions in support of Operation Christmas Drop.
“We had members of the Air Force, Navy, Coast Guard and local community help out to make this year’s Operation Christmas Drop possible,” said Master Sgt. Martinez-Andino, the 734th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron superintendent and Operation Christmas Drop organization president. “We began this process for the event in March, and we have come a long way, we’re all excited to see the outcome.”
Last year, the Pacific Air Forces delivered 50,000 pounds of supplies to 56 Micronesian Islands.
The HH-65 Dolphin is the Coast Guard’s most ubiquitous helicopter. The search and rescue aircraft is certified for operation in all-weather conditions and at night. While typically deployed from shore, HH-65s can also be operated from Coast Guard cutters and polar icebreakers.
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The Royal Navy has a carrier again. HMS Queen Elizabeth, the first of a two-ship class (the second will be HMS Prince of Wales), was commissioned today in a ceremony attended by Queen Elizabeth II and a number of other members of the Royal Family.
Her Majesty The Queen takes the salute at the commissioning of HMS Queen Elizabeth. The Queen spoke at a ceremony in Portsmouth’s Naval base this morning, attended by Her Royal Highness Princess Anne, Prime Minister Theresa May, Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson, military chiefs and former Prime Ministers (Ministry of Defense Photo)
According to a release from the British government, the vessel will conduct helicopter trials early in 2018 before heading off to the United States to carry out trials with the F-35 Lightning. The carrier will be able to perform a number of missions, ranging from high-end warfighting to humanitarian relief.
“The Queen Elizabeth-class carriers will sit at the heart of a modernized and emboldened Royal Navy, capable of projecting power and influence at sea, in the air, over the land and in cyberspace, and offering our nation military and political choice in an uncertain world,” Admiral Sir Philip Jones, First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff, said during the ceremony.
At 64,600 tons, this carrier is the largest ship to ever serve in the Royal Navy. Previously, that title belonged to the battleship HMS Vanguard, which served from 1946 to 1960. In a June 2017 report, The Sun noted that this ship left the builders’ yard in Fife with just 14 inches to spare on either side.
“Our new aircraft carrier is the epitome of British design and dexterity, at the core of our efforts to build an Armed Forces fit for the future. For the next half a century, both carriers will advance our interests around the globe, providing the most visible symbol of our intent and commitment to protect the UK from intensifying threats, wherever they may come from,” Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson said during the ceremony.
It should be noted the ship is still years from being fully operational. The British are reportedly considering using United States Marine Corps F-35s on HMS Queen Elizabeth’s first deployment, which might require some adjustments.