Anyone who drives up to a military base’s front gates trying to gain access can expect some kind of inspection. The process can be as simple as getting your ID checked, but other times you’ll be instructed to drive into the vehicle examination lane, where MPs, or military police, bust out the undercarriage mirror and drug-sniffing dogs.
Most people don’t care because they have nothing to hide, but on some occasions, MPs make some interesting discoveries.
Some servicemembers have to work as duty drivers, and they log several hours in government vehicles. They, too, are subject to inspections. If the servicemember is under time constraints and making a pit stop isn’t on the schedule, an empty bottle of Gatorade works just as well.
On April 6, 2008, two Special Forces operational detachments and more than 100 Afghan commandos began an air assault into a mountain fortress above the Shok Valley.
Six and a half hours later, two members of the assault were killed and nine seriously wounded, over 100 enemy fighters were dead or captured, and eleven men had earned some of the nation’s highest awards for valor. This is what happened.
Entering Shok Valley
The assault was to capture leaders in Hezeb Islami al Gulbadin, a regional insurgent group in Afghanistan. The targets were holed up in a mountain top village surrounded by farm terraces and tall cliffs, providing tough ground for an assaulting force to cover. The village itself was made of strong, multistory buildings that would provide defenders cover while allowing them to fire out.
The American and Afghan force flew to the valley in helicopters. Their initial plan called for a quick insertion close to the village so they could assault while they still had the element of surprise. Their first landing zone was no good though, and so they were dropped into a nearby river and forced to climb up from there. The delay allowed insurgent forces to set up an ambush from the high ground.
Combat breaks out
After the helicopters departed, enemy fighters directed automatic weapon and rocket fire on the American and Afghan National Army soldiers. Their interpreter was killed almost immediately and the communications sergeant, Staff Sgt. Dillon Behr, received a life-threatening wound to his leg. He continued fighting, attempting to suppress some of the incoming fire.
Meanwhile, the assault team had already reached the village, and so found themselves cut off when the forces behind them began taking fire. Despite the precarious position he and the lead Afghan commandos were in, Sgt. David Sanders began relaying the sources of incoming fire to the Air Force joint tactical air controller on the mission.
The mission commander, Capt. Kyle Walton, told an Army journalist later that year about the initial bombings on the target. They were all danger close, meaning friendly forces were within range of the bombs’ blast.
“I was standing next to the combat controller, and when we got to a place where we could talk, he called in close air support, and the F-15s rolled in immediately. I knew my guys were up there, and I know that when you call in danger close air, you are probably going to get injured or killed. I called back to Sanders and asked if he was too close. He said, ‘Bring it anyway.’ Bombs started exploding everywhere. When I called to see if he was still alive, all I could hear him saying was, ‘Hit them again.’ ”
The Air Force JTAC, Airman Zachary Rhyner, would go on to call over 70 danger close missions that day, using eight Air Force planes and four Army attack helicopters to achieve effects on the target.
Three-story explosion and sniper warfare
As the battle continued to rage, both sides were using controlled, focused fire to wound and kill enemies. But a massive explosion after an American bomb hit a three-story building in the village brought on a brief lull in the fighting.
“Good guy or bad guy, you’re going to stop when you see that,” Staff Sgt. Luis Morales, a Special Forces intelligence sergeant, told the Army. “It reminded me of the videos from 9/11 — everything starts flushing at you, debris starts falling — and everything gets darker.”
The Americans and Afghan commandos used this time to consolidate some of their forces.
Both before and after the explosion, snipers on each side were playing a key role. For the Americans, one of their top assets was Staff Sgt. Seth E. Howard, a Special Forces weapons sergeant.
Near the command node, Howard was well-positioned to see the enemy fighters draw close to Walton and the JTAC. To prevent them being killed or captured, Walton stepped away from his position and moved into the open to engage the advancing fighters. He halted their advance, allowing Rhyner to continue calling in bombs.
Rhyner’s bombs would also be instrumental in protecting the command node. He sometimes had to order bombs within 100 meters of his and Walton’s position.
Planning to leave
American forces and Afghan commandos had more problems as the day wore on. The weather at the outset of the mission had been tricky, but the team was getting reports that a dust storm was getting worse and would stop air support before nightfall. That would leave them without bombs, helicopters, or an exit strategy. Meanwhile, surveillance platforms showed another 200 enemy fighters moving to the battlefield.
Walton had requested medical evacuation multiple times, but enemy fire made it impossible. And with six seriously wounded men, a closing window to exit the battlefield, and the serious danger of being overrun, Walton began looking at pulling the team out. But there was a problem. The initial plans had called for the team to leave by descending back down the terraces, a route now closed due to intense enemy fire.
Sanders had managed to break out of his besieged position in the village when another green beret forced a route open. Now, Walton asked him to recon a route down the sheer cliffs to the north of the village.
Sanders told the commander that the route was bad and it was possible that some climbers might break their backs or necks attempting it, but they’d probably live. The situation was so dire, Walton approved it as an exit strategy.
Leaving Shok Valley under heavy fire
Team Sergeant Master Sgt. Scott Ford led the organization at the top of the cliffs. He had less wounded team members carry the more seriously wounded down. One team member made the climb while carrying his leg that had been amputated by a sniper round early in the battle. Others were nursing wounds sustained from both insurgent fire and the effects of all the “danger close” bomb drops.
Ford was defending the top of the cliff other soldiers were climbing down when he was struck in the chest plate by a sniper round. He jumped up and continued fighting, but he was struck again. This time, his left arm was nearly amputated. Ford then finally began his own climb down the mountain, continuing to lead his men as he did so.
Howard, the sniper from above, stayed until all the other Americans and the Afghan commandos had left the mountain. He defended the top of the cliffs with his last magazine before pulling out.
One Afghan commando and an interpreter died, but all of the Americans survived the battle. The Army estimated the insurgents suffered over 150 dead and an untold number of wounded, according to an Army article. Eight insurgents were captured.
After the battle
Many of the wounded members of the team returned to service, including Ford and Sgt. 1st Class John Walding, the team member who lost his leg early on and carried it down the cliffs. Walding is attempting to return to his team, an ambition he describes near the end of this Army video about the battle. He later became the first amputee to graduate the Special Forces Sniper Course.
In a ceremony on Dec. 12, 2008, 10 members of the team were awarded Silver Stars. Rhyner was awarded the Air Force Cross during a separate ceremony in 2009.
To support the ongoing efforts to reduce the number of non-deployable soldiers, Army leaders released a new directive designed to encourage soldiers to reach deployable standards outlined in the directive.
If standards are not met within six months, a soldier could face separation.
Secretary of the Army Mark T. Esper and Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Mark A. Milley prepared the directive, which took effect Oct. 1, 2018.
Maj. Gen. Joseph Calloway, director of military personnel management, Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff, presented the new directive Nov. 15, 2018, in a media briefing at the Pentagon.
The number of soldiers in non-deployable status has been reduced from 121,000 (roughly 15 percent of the total force) to less than 60,000 this past year. In October 2018 alone, the Army posted a reduction of 7,000 non-deployable members.
Calloway said the separated members came from across the force, including unsatisfactory soldiers in the Army Reserve and National Guard and some who were pending separation.
The effort followed the release of a new directive by Defense Secretary James Mattis February 2018 to raise standards for deployable troops across the four military branches, improving readiness and lethality.
The directive highlights two distinctions: for the first time, the Army defines deployability plainly in written form. And the directive marks a culture change that encourages greater accountability among soldiers to maintain readiness and empower commanders.
Deployers from Headquarters Company, 89th Military Police Brigade, unload their equipment into their temporary lodging quarters at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, in support of Operation Faithful Patriot, Oct. 29, 2018.
(Photo by Senior Airman Alexandra Minor)
“The culture change is particularly important,” Calloway said. “We’re not only defining the deployability and the directive, it’s the first time we’ve ever put on paper what constitutes deployability.”
The directive enables commanders to closely examine non-deployable soldiers on a case-by-case basis.
“The first actions that senior leaders are taking is to ensure commanders understand their authorities; how to use them and that they are supported by senior leadership,” said Diane Randon, principal deputy assistant secretary of the Army for manpower and reserve affairs.
To be certified as deployable, Soldiers must be:
legally, administratively and medically cleared for employment in any environment;
able to operate in harsh environments or areas with extreme temperatures;
able to carry and employ an assigned weapon;
able to execute the Army’s warrior tasks;
able to operate their duties while donning protective equipment such as body armor, helmets, eye protection gloves and chemical or biological equipment.
Finally, soldiers must pass the physical fitness test or be able to meet the physical demands of a specific deployment.
Soldiers who do not meet the standards of the new criteria, or soldiers who become permanently non-deployable after the date of the new directive, will be considered unqualified to serve in any military branch. Soldiers who remain in non-deployable status because of administrative reasons have six months to meet the requirements or face separation.
Calloway noted that the new directive does not apply to all of the remaining 60,000, including those who remain in non-deployable status due to medical reasons. The general estimated about 70-80 percent of the 60,000 remain non-deployable for medical reasons, and another portion for legal reasons.
Wounded warriors who have continued active duty and those on certain types of medical profiles will not be subject to the new directive. Only commanders at the O-6 level and above in a soldier’s chain of command can waive one or more of the six requirements.
Exemptions to the requirements include ex-prisoners of war who were deferred from serving in a country where they were held captive, trainees or cadets who have not completed initial entry training, and Soldiers who are temporarily non-deployable because they received a compassionate reassignment or stabilization to move them closer to an ill family member.
To help soldiers meet deployability standards, Calloway said, the service already has measures in place to reduce non-deployables and injured soldiers beginning in basic training.
U.S. Army recruits practice patrol tactics while marching during U.S. Army basic training at Fort Jackson.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Shawn Weismiller)
Soldiers must meet physical and psychological standards based on their desired career fields. The Army has also began to implement holistic health and fitness measures in its training.
“You can never get 100 percent on [reducing the number of non-deployables],” Calloway said. “But the goal is … to get it as low as possible.”
In the past, Calloway said Army leaders used a conservative approach to reporting non-deployables. By upholding stricter standards and holding Soldiers accountable to maintain qualifications for deployability will not only change culture but raise morale and enthusiasm to uphold standards.
In recent selection boards for officers competing to be battalion and brigade commanders, candidates were required to certify that they are deployable and had to pass a physical fitness test. Randon hopes soldiers will see the increased standards at those levels of command as motivation.
“It really is a mindset of inspiring and motivating soldiers to be accountable and to be classified as deployable,” she said.
The biggest threat facing the United States in its unending showdown with the Islamic Republic of Iran are the naval forces in the Persian Gulf that could try to shut off access to the Strait of Hormuz. Ensuring worldwide freedom of navigation in the world’s sea lanes is just one of the missions of the U.S. Navy, but never before has America’s sea service encountered such a threat in this part of the world.
HMS Sheffield burns from a direct hit by an Argentinian exocet anti-ship missile.
Anti-ship missiles are a very dangerous game changer in modern naval warfare. They can bring an inferior opposing force into parity with the world’s biggest naval powers. Exocet missiles were used to great effect against the United Kingdom’s Royal Navy in the 1980s Falklands War, sinking the destroyer HMS Sheffield and the Atlantic Conveyor, a critical cargo ship carrying men and materiel. They also nearly sunk the destroyer HMS Glamorgan, killing 14 sailors.
Argentina had just eight Exocet anti-ship missiles for the entire war, and four of them were used efficiently. If the missiles had destroyed just one of Britain’s aircraft carriers, HMS Hermes or HMS Invincible, the entire war might have been lost for Britain and the Falklands would now be known as the Malvinas.
The Iranian missile test, conducted Feb. 24, 2019.
On Sunday, Feb. 24, 2019, the Islamic Republic’s navy in the Persian Gulf successfully tested its first submarine-launched, short-range anti-ship cruise missile – near the Strait of Hormuz. If a showdown with the United States ever came to pass, the first move Iran’s navy would make is an attempt to block that strait. Iran says all of its subs, Ghadir, Tareq, and Fateh-class Iranian navy submarines now have the capability to fire these cruise missiles.
While Iran reportedly exaggerates its missile capabilities, there is real concern surrounding this latest development. More than 100 Iranian navy ships were performing military exercises from the Persian Gulf to the Indian Ocean as the new missile was test fired. In 2017, the Office of Naval Intelligence issued a warning about Iran developing this capability, as the new subs allow Iranian ships to get dangerously close to American ships before firing at them.
An Iranian Ghadir-class submarine.
Iran’s best chance at taking down the American naval presence in the Persian Gulf is to swarm the ships with small, fast attack craft, hitting them with every weapon they possibly can as early in the conflict as possible. The idea is to cause maximum damage and kill as many Americans as possible in order to break the will of the American people to fight.
“The doctrine manifests itself as hit-and-run style, surprise attacks, or the amassing of large numbers of unsophisticated weapons to overwhelm the enemies’ defenses,” Naval Analyst Chris Carlson told the U.S. Naval Institute. “The amassing of naval forces is often described as a swarm of small boats.”
While working on a completely different project I discovered something curious on Amazon. That product was moldable thermoplastic pellets.
Shaped in balls like smaller-than-usual airsoft pellets, moldable thermoplastic melts at just 140F, can be formed like clay, and then increases in hardness as it approaches room temperature.
There are seemingly endless uses for this product, but I had a pet one in mind for the test: a US Optics turret tool.
With most scopes (several of them being US Optics) a simple hex wrench can be used to float turrets back to zero after obtaining a physical zero.
But no, not the case with the USO BT-10.
While official instructions say to press down with your palm on the top and rotate, the reality meant several friends and I tried in vain to accomplish this for about an hour.
And once you get it, it has to be pushed back in the same way.
Either way you cut it, it sucked on both ends.
So, a US Optics BT-10 tool it would be.
Firstly, you heat up some water at a medium temperature. Then drop some thermoplastic in place. Once it’s clear, then it’s pliable.
Then all you have to do is mold it around an object. I have found that it does not stick to treated metal but may to plastics (so use a release agent like PAM). As it comes to temperature, it becomes opaque again.
[Note that I did attempt to add texture which is why it looks so rough]
Does it work?
The extra area and easier grip makes floating turrets a HELLUVA lot easier with this scope.
The best part is, if you muck it up it can be re-melted and reused.
This article originally appeared on Recoilweb. Follow @RecoilMag on Twitter.
The South Carolina National Guard just put out a request for folks to come up with the command’s new motto (because apparently “Trusted at home, proven abroad” is no good). Here are the guidelines:
Other organizations have attempted to involve their communities in similar fashion in recent months, most notably Britain’s Natural Environmental Research Council that wound up with “Boaty McBoatface” as the winner of a “name this ship” contest back in April.
And the Air Force did the same thing with this tweet:
Dean Ivan Lamb was many things in his life, but first and foremost, he was an accomplished aviator. Having (more or less) dueled one of his best friends in the world’s first-ever dogfight during the Mexican Revolution, he went on to serve in many more air forces in his time behind the stick.
But his most lasting contribution to the world has a little more kick – the Pisco Sour.
Dogfighting in these would make anyone thirsty.
Lamb had been flying almost as long as men had invented heavier-than-air flying machines, attending an aviation school in 1912, less than a decade after the Wright Brothers’ first flight. Before he even graduated, he made his way down to Mexico as an airman for hire, coming into the employ of Mexican General Benjamin G. Hill. He was ordered to take down the opposing pilot, another American mercenary airman named Phil Rader. This was the first-ever dogfight between planes, but the men didn’t really try too hard to kill each other, eventually both made their ways back home. But Lamb continued the aviator-for-hire business, making his way to England in time for World War I.
In the Great War, Lamb allegedly performed wonders for Britain’s Royal Flying Corps, becoming an ace before the war’s end. After the war, he started running letters for the post office by airmail. But postwar life was a little boring for Lamb, as it can be for many veterans, so he went down south. Way down south. To South America.
Dean Lamb traveled around the continent, helping establish the Air Force of Honduras and flying missions in conflicts in Paraguay, Brazil, and Uruguay in his time there. From Panama to Bolivia, the southern hemisphere knew the name of Dean Ivan Lamb. But his most enduring accomplishment has nothing to do with war or death, unless you have too much. Lamb, it turns out, was an avid drinker.
The pilot enjoyed good ol’ American whiskey and fine French champagne when it was available in mass quantities. He loved rum and cokes at a time when Coke was something entirely new, and he always sampled the local liquors. Ten-year-old tequila was his favorite in Mexico, in Brazil it was cachaça, and in Lima, he drank Pisco. He may not have created the Pisco Sour, but he certainly helped it find an audience in the United States.
Which should include everyone.
When the skies were too overcast to take to the air, Lamb would take to the bar. The bar serving the strongest Pisco Sours in Peru, the honor of which belonged to a place called Morris’ Bar in the Hotel Maury, according to Lamb’s autobiography, The Incurable Filibuster: Adventures of Col. Dean Ivan Lamb. The cocktails at the Hotel Maury – especially the Pisco Sour, where the drink was first created – were allegedly so strong the bartenders weren’t allowed to pour more than one for anybody. When Lamb argued his way to another round, he got so belligerent he had to leave Peru the next day.
“I have hazy recollections of an argument about another one, something of a fight in a Chinese restaurant, police, soldiers, more battles and crowds of people waking in the hotel with a guard of soldiers holding off people with bills for damages,” he wrote.
And with that, Lamb was on his way back to the United States, fueled by a drink that can only get you kicked out of the Peruvian Air Force.
A Russian cruise missile that the country touted as having “practically unlimited” range appears to be falling short, sources with knowledge of a US intelligence report told CNBC.
The cruise missile, which Russian President Vladimir Putin unveiled at a Russian Federal Assembly in March 2018, only flew for around two minutes and traveled 22 miles before it lost control and crashed, CNBC reported May 21, 2018. Another missile test reportedly lasted just four seconds with a distance of five miles.
Russia tested the missile four times between November 2017, and February 2018, at the behest of senior officials, even though engineers voiced doubt over the program, according to CNBC’s sources.
Putin previously touted a new generation of weapons in a presentation that displayed missile trajectories going from Russia to the US. In addition to the cruise missile, Putin teased unmanned underwater drones purportedly capable of carrying a nuclear warhead, and a hypersonic glide vehicle.
“I want to tell all those who have fueled the arms race over the last 15 years, sought to win unilateral advantages over Russia, introduced unlawful sanctions aimed to contain our country’s development: All what you wanted to impede with your policies have already happened,” Putin said in a speech. “You have failed to contain Russia.”
Russia’s cruise missile capabilities may have missed the mark, but sources said it succeeded in other aspects. The hypersonic glide vehicle, which is believed to be able to travel five times the speed of sound, would render US countermeasures useless and could become operational by 2020, according to CNBC.
“We don’t have any defense that could deny the employment of such a weapon against us,” US Air Force General John Hyten, the commander of US Strategic Command, said at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing in March 2018.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
When Egypt bought the two Mistral-class amphibious assault ships that France declined to sell to Russia, one thing that didn’t come with those vessels was the armament.
According to the “16th Edition of Combat Fleets of the World,” Russia had planned to install a mix of SA-N-8 missiles and AK-630 Gatling guns on the vessels if France has sold them to the Kremlin. But no such luck for Egypt, which had two valuable vessels that were unarmed – or, in the vernacular, sitting ducks.
And then, all of a sudden, they weren’t unarmed anymore. A video released by the Egyptian Ministry of Defense celebrating the Cleopatra 2017 exercise with the French navy shows that the Egyptians have channeled MacGyver — the famed improviser most famously played by Richard Dean Anderson — to fix the problem.
Scenes from the video show at least two AN/TWQ-1 Avenger air-defense vehicles — better known as the M1097 — tied down securely on the deck of one of the vessels, which have been named after Egyptian leaders Gamel Abdel Nasser and Anwar Sadat. The Humvee-based vehicles carry up to eight FIM-92 Stinger anti-air missiles and also have a M3P .50-caliber machine gun capable of firing up to 1200 rounds a minute.
The Mistral-class ships in service with the French navy are typically equipped with the Simbad point-defense system. Ironically, the missile used in the Simbad is a man-portable SAM also called Mistral. The vessels displace 16,800 tons, have a top speed of 18.8 knots and can hold up to 16 helicopters and 900 troops.
You can see the Egyptian Ministry of Defense video below, showing the tied-down Avengers serving as air-defense assets for the Egyptian navy’s Mistrals.
The 64th anniversary of the U-2 spy plane’s historic, and accidental, first flight came in early August 2019.
While much about the Dragon Lady has changed in the past six decades — most of the 30 or so in use now were built in the 1980s, and they no longer do overflights of hostile territory, as in the 1960 flight in which Francis Gary Powers was shot down over the Soviet Union — the U-2 is still at the front of the military’s intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance mission, lurking off coastlines and above battlefields.
The U-2 is probably best known for what pilots call “the optical bar camera,” Maj. Travis “Lefty” Patterson, a U-2 pilot, said at an Air Force event in New York City in May 2019.
“It’s effectively a giant wet film camera,” about the size of a projector screen, that fits in the belly of the aircraft and carries 10,500 feet of film, Patterson said during a panel discussion about the U-2 and its mission.
The camera has improved greatly since the 1950s. “What we can do with that, for instance, in about eight hours, we can take off and we can map the entire state of California,” Patterson said. “The fidelity is such that if somebody is holding a newspaper out … you can probably read the headlines.”
US Air Force Senior Airman Charlie Lorenzo loading test film into an onboard camera for a test in preparation for a U-2 mission at a base in Southwest Asia in 2008.
(Air Force photo by Senior Airman Levi Riendeau)
The aircraft’s size and power allow it to carry a lot of hardware, earning it the nickname “Mr. Potato Head.”
“We can take the nose off, and we can put a giant radar on the nose, and you could actually image … out to the horizon, which, if you think about it, from 70,000 feet, is about 300 miles,” Patterson said. “So if you’re looking 360 degrees, you can see 600 miles in any direction.”
Another option is “like a big digital camera,” Patterson said. “It’s got a lens about the size of a pizza platter, and it has multiple spectral capabilities, which means it’s imaging across different pieces of the light spectrum at any given time, so you can actually pull specific data that these intel analysts need to actually identify what is this material made out of.”
“We also carry what’s called signals payloads, so we can listen to different radars, different communications,” Patterson said. “We have a number of antennas all across the aircraft [with which] we’re able to just pick up what other people are doing.”
“Some of these sensors can see hundreds and hundreds of miles, so even if we’re not overflying, you can get a real deep look at what you actually want to see,” Maj. Matt “Top” Nauman, also a U-2 pilot, said at the event.
99th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron airmen preparing a U-2 pilot for a mission at Al Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates on March 13, 2019.
(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Gracie I. Lee)
‘Just a sensor’
The U-2 is “just a sensor in a broader grid that the United States has all over the world … feeding data to these professionals,” Patterson said.
Whether it’s radar imagery or signals intercepts, “We bring all that on board the aircraft, and we pipe it over a data link to a satellite and then down to the ground somewhere else in the world where we have a team of almost 300 intel analysts,” Patterson said.
“So while we’re sitting by ourselves over a weird part of the world doing that ISR mission, all the information we’re collecting is going back down to multiple teams around the globe,” he added. “They’re … distilling it, turning it into usable reports for the decision makers, and [getting] that information disseminated.”
Capt. Joseph Siler, the chief of intelligence training with the 492nd Special Operations Support Squadron, was tasked leading those efforts.
“I loved talking to the [U-2] pilots, and … having that pilot [who] is actually understanding the context of where they’re at and is able to dynamically change direction and help us, it just brings something to the fight,” especially when sudden changes require a new plan, Siler said at the same event, during a panel discussion about the mental and physical strain of Air Force operations.
A U-2 pilot signaling flight-line personnel while taxiing at Beale Air Force Base in California on Sep. 20, 2019.
(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Valentina Viglianco)
“I got more of the quick-time, actionable intelligence” from U-2s, Siler said. “It’s all going into this common picture, but that’s where they fit into it.”
That doesn’t mean the U-2 can’t play a role in the action on the ground as it unfolds.
“We have multiple radios on board,” Patterson said. “So let’s say you’re flying a mission over a desert somewhere and we have troops on the ground that are in contact. We’ll be talking directly to them sometimes, providing imagery.”
That imagery isn’t going straight from the U-2 to the troops, but “they can tell me what they need to listen to, where they need to look, and we’ll move the sensors to that spot, snap an image, kick it back over whatever data links we need to get it to the intel professionals,” he said. “They will do their rapid analysis and send that, again, to the forward edge, where those folks can take a look at it.”
“You can see troop movements. You can see things like that,” Patterson said. “We’ve spent a lot of time looking for [improvised explosive devices] and providing [that information] real-time to convoys and things like that. I’ve done that personally.”
US Air Force Maj. Sean Gallagher greeting his ground support crew before a mission in a U-2, at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia in 2010.
(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Eric Harris)
‘Constant, constant stress’
Patterson analogized the relay of information to a game of telephone.
It’s on “the airmen that are receiving that to be able to make that decipherable and useful,” Siler said of intelligence gathered by U-2s. “When I was in there, in that environment, receiving all that information and how that work, it’s just such a weird place. It’s different from traditional conflict.”
The waves of incoming information are a source of “constant, constant stress,” added Siler, who has spoken about his recovery from post-traumatic stress disorder.
“I’m getting information from the U-2. I’m getting information from satellites. I’m getting information from an MQ-9, and I have an Army task force that’s about to go in, and there’s people’s lives that are going to be tested,” Siler said.
“What the intelligence community does is we look at all the information we can get, from whatever sensor it is, we pipe that together, and then we say, ‘All right, based upon what the U-2 is saying and what the Global Hawk is saying and what the satellites are saying, we believe this is the best route, this is the best time.'”
Final decisions about when and where to go are made by operators. But, Siler said, “you can imagine the sense of responsibility that these young airmen, 19, 20 years old, feel as they make those calls, and we say, ‘is that the bad guy or is that his 16-year-old son?'”
A U-2 pilot driving a high-performance chase car on the runway to catch a U-2 during a low-flight touch-and-go at Al Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates on March 15, 2019.
(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Gracie I. Lee)
The reason the U-2 funnels that intelligence back to crew members on the ground is that “it’s so much data that we just simply can’t process all of it on board,” Patterson said.
A U-2 pilot can key on an interesting signal picked up by a sensor, sending imagery to intelligence analysts on the ground. Those analysts can decide to look into it, routing a satellite to take a look or sending a drone to get photos and video.
The process can run the other way as well. A tip from social media can lead an analyst on the ground to send in a U-2 to gather photos and other imagery. If necessary, assets like a drone or an F-16 with video capability can be sent in for a closer look.
“As you start networking [these assets], using these algorithms and using these processing capabilities, if I hear a signal here, and somebody hears the same signal but they’re over here, you can instantly refine that” if the assets are in sync, Patterson said. “We’re able to map down some pretty interesting stuff pretty quick.”
A U-2 high above the earth.
(US Air Force)
But the goal is do it quicker, and the Air Force has been looking at artificial intelligence and machine learning to sort through all the data gathered by U-2s and other aircraft and sensors and make sense of it.
Integrating that into the broader intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance mission is still in its “infancy,” Nauman said.
“We know the capability’s there. We know the commercial sector is really doing a lot of development on that. They’re ahead on that frankly,” Nauman said. “We’re trying to figure out, A) how to catch up and be as good, and then Part B is what do we do with that, how do we make ourselves more effective with that.”
“Processing is getting really good, really fast, so there are a number of efforts to actually take a lot … of the stuff that we collect, running it through an algorithm at … what we call the forward edge — like right on board the aircraft — [and] disseminate that information to the fight real-time, without having to reach back, and those some of the projects that we’re working right now,” Patterson said, describing what senior leaders have called “algorithmic warfare.”
“It’s easier to put racks and racks of servers and [graphics processing units] on the ground, obviously, to do the processing, but how do we take a piece of that and move that to the air?” Nauman said. “I think that’s going to be kind of the follow-on step.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Secretary of Defense James Mattis goes by many badass nicknames, including “Mad Dog,” “Warrior Monk,” and “Chaos.”
So it’s only fitting that the aircraft he usually flies on while functioning his official capacity is known by an equally badass name — “Nightwatch.” Its name hints at its original mission — a doomsday plane, equipped to provide the president and high-ranking members of the military with the ability to retain control of America’s offensive forces in the event of an all-out nuclear war or cataclysmic event.
Nightwatch now serves as an airborne command post for the SECDEF, allowing him to remain in touch with the U.S. military he oversees while traveling anywhere in the world, especially useful should the unthinkable occur.
The Air Force possesses four Nightwatch aircraft — converted Boeing 747-200 jumbo jet airliners. Like their civilian counterparts, these airplanes come with a considerable operating range and internal carriage capacity. However, that, and a passing external resemblance, is where all similarities end. Underneath the hood, these are completely different aircraft with unique systems and sensors that allow it to do what no other aircraft in the Air Force can.
Unlike a commercial Boeing 747, these aircraft, officially designated E-4B Advanced Airborne Command Posts, lack the rows of plush seats, fold-out meal trays and entertainment screens. Instead, each E-4B is divided up into compartments for its Battle Staff, a joint services team of controllers and coordinators ready to interface with various military units should they be called into action.
Nightwatch crew quite literally have the ability to call virtually connect to any phone number in the world, thanks to a complex satellite communications suite aboard the aircraft. It’s this suite that allows them to also relay commands and orders to America’s nuclear arsenal, forward-deployed submarines and Navy battle groups operating around the globe, or even to speak directly with the President at secured locations.
Because Nightwatch was designed during the Cold War, where nuclear war was still a distinct possibility, it was built to fly with incredible endurance. Defense analysts estimate that each E-4B could spend up to seven days flying continuously with the help of aerial refueling, though the Air Force has only actually flown its E-4Bs up to 35 hours in testing thus far.
The cockpit of the aircraft looks just as it would in the 1980s, with a few modifications. Instead of LCD screens and touch-pads, the Air Force has kept the original analog gauge-type flight instruments, as they’re less susceptible to failing after experiencing an electromagnetic pulse blast from a nuclear explosion.
That’s right… the E-4B is built to be able to fly through the immediate aftermath of a nuclear detonation without sustaining any damage to its systems. The entire aircraft is sealed off and pressurized with special “scrubbers” in its air conditioning system constantly filtering out harmful particles that may find their way inside the cabin. Should an E-4B actually fly through nuclear radiation, its crew inside will be completely safe and sound. The aircraft also carries a considerable amount of rations and potable water for its crew, as well as sleeping berths and its own troubleshooting staff, ready to assist with technical malfunctions and glitches as needed.
However, flying theses monsters isn’t very cheap at all – each Nightwatch costs an average of around $159,529 per hour to fly. Sourcing parts for the fleet isn’t easy either, especially considering that Boeing ceased production of the 747-200 platform decades ago.
It’s estimated that by 2039, all four E-4Bs will have served out their entire useful lifespans, and will have to be replaced, this time with an even more capable long-range aircraft that will assume the mantle of being America’s doomsday plane. Until that day comes, Nightwatch still serves at the Secretary of Defense’s pleasure, ferrying him around on official trips and visits as a visible sign of American military power.
Dear John is great movie, but how many times can you watch it? Instead, soak up some real-life military love stories. From the Revolutionary War to a WWII couple that reunited in 2016, these stories will give you a little hope that love is alive and well.
The stories of the GI Brides
During World War II, many of the American soldiers, or GIs, who were stationed overseas didn’t return alone. Many of them fell in love with young European women who followed them back to the States to live an entirely new life.
These women, known as the GI Brides, were walking into unknown territory, saying goodbye to their homeland and culture for love. Their marriages weren’t all perfect, but their stories go to show just how far people will go for their partners.
2. The Civil War soldier who would have died without his wife.
Frank and Arabella Barlow were married on April 20th, 1861. Frank enlisted in the Union Army the very same day. He quickly became an accomplished soldier while Arabella became a nurse. She visited him when she could, but danger often kept them apart. Then came the Battle of Gettysburg. During the conflict, Frank was shot multiple times in the back and side.
A Confederate general, General John Brown Gordon, found him barely alive on the field and took pity on him, offering him some water. Frank told Gordon that his wife, a nurse, was volunteering nearby, and asked if he would pass along a message to her. Despite fighting on opposite sides of the war, Gordon found Arabella and escorted her past enemy lines to her dying husband. She, however, had no intentions of allowing him to die.
She was able to treat his wounds and nurse him back to health, and they remained happily married until she herself succumbed to typhus just a few months later. Tragic as it was, there’s a silver lining. Frank Barlow and John Gordon reunited years later and struck up an unexpected friendship, which lasted until Barlow passed away in 1896. It just goes to show that respect and kindness can cross surprising divides.
3. A vet from America’s first war had the world’s longest marriage
One of the oldest ever vets fought in the Revolutionary War and lived all the way through the conclusion of the Civil War- he lived a remarkable 109 years! His name was Daniel Bakeman, and his marriage is one of the oldest marriages on record. He and his wife Susan married when they were essentially children, around the ages of 12 and 14.
Despite enduring 10 years of war, multiple house fires, and many moves, they raised eight happy children together and remained married until Susan died at 105. Lasting through two major wars and 91 years, their love lasted longer than most lives!
4. This couple who were reunited after being separated by war for 11 years.
An American man named Woodford McClellan met his future wife, Irina, in Russia in 1972. He was just a tourist and was planning on returning back to the states right after his vacation, but he was instantly taken with her. He was able to acquire a visa, and by 1975 the couple was married. Sadly, his visa was only temporary. A few months after they said their vows, he was forced to return to the US.
One would think that a legal marriage would make it simple for the couple to reconnect, but Russia’s harsh policies during the Cold War made it impossible. He wasn’t permitted to visit her in Russia, and she wasn’t allowed to move to America. Plenty of people would have given up and moved on, but they waited it out. After 11 years, she was finally given permission to emigrate and resume her life with her long lost love. She even wrote a book about it after.
5. Possibly the most surprising military love story, one couple reconnected after 70 years because of a Google search.
During World War II, an American soldier named Norwood Thomas was stationed in London. He fell in love with a local named Joyce, and they proceeded to send love letters to each other for the rest of the war. Still, they were young and war proved to be chaotic. Norwood joined the 101st Airborne when they parachuted into Normandy on D-Day, and after that, he went home.
Meanwhile, Joyce moved to Australia. The two didn’t speak for years and moved on with their lives. They each married someone else, but they never forgot each other. Eventually, Norwood lost his wife and Joyce separated from her husband. Out of curiosity, she looked up her old flame and found him on the internet. They began chatting over Skype and soon realized they still had feelings after 70 long years. They launched a GoFundMe to help them raise the money to meet in person. The campaign was a success, and Norwood flew to meet Joyce in Australia on Valentine’s Day.
6. Last but not least, a different kind of military love story; that of a man and his dog.
Not all kinds of love stories are romantic. Some are about brotherhood. After an Airman named Robert Bozdech was shot down, he came across a tiny, orphaned German Shepherd puppy. He escaped with the pup and named him Ant. Over the course of WWII, the pair became inseparable. They saved each other’s lives countless times, and Ant was eventually awarded the Dickin Medal for his remarkable loyalty.
The moral of this story? Love conquers all, even war. But if you’re single on Valentine’s Day, don’t sweat it. Just adopt a dog.
South Carolina is no stranger to hurricanes and each one takes its toll on shorelines and beach communities located across the Atlantic coastal region.
After each significant storm, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers personnel assess erosion impacts, work hand-in-hand with state and local partners to determine mitigation measures for erosion damage to shoreline projects and take authorized measures to rehabilitate effected areas.
According to USACE Deputy Commanding General for Civil and Emergency Operations, Maj. Gen. Scott A. Spellmon, these efforts are extremely beneficial to both local communities and nationwide efforts to protect the environment and foster economic growth.
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers beach renourishment operations underway along Myrtle Beach, S.C., following Hurricane Florence, Sept. 22, 2018.
(Photo by Edward Johnson)
“Our scientists venture out and measure where shoreline erosion has occurred,” said Spellmon. “At Myrtle Beach, it appears the impacts of Hurricane Florence were enough that we’re adding additional quantities of sand to an existing contract underway to address damages from Hurricanes Matthew and Irma.”
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Deputy Commanding General for Civil and Emergency Operations, Maj. Gen. Scott Spellmon (left), discusses beach renourishment operations with Chris Promfret, a USACE contractor with the Great Lakes Dredge and Dock LLC, following Hurricane Florence, Sept. 22, 2018.
(Photo by Edward Johnson)
Work was paused because dredging craft were moved to safe harbor during the storm, but has since resumed.
“We’re deploying high-tech equipment to quantify the losses and then utilizing dredging vessels and ship-to-shore pipelines to rehabilitate the federal project, thus ensuring beaches and dunes are ready to provide their full benefits whenever the next storm may impact the area,” added Spellmon.
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers beach renourishment operations underway along Myrtle Beach, S.C. (lower left), following Hurricane Florence, Sept. 22, 2018.
(Photo by Edward Johnson)
Great Lakes Dredge Dock LLC, contracted to complete this project, utilizes hopper dredges to vacuum sand from the sea floor through drag arms from a location approximately three miles from the impacted shoreline.
Chris Promfret, a USACE contractor with the Great Lakes Dredge and Dock LLC, says the sand being pumped to the beach comes from an underwater area about 30 feet below the Atlantic ocean’s surface.
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Deputy Commanding General for Civil and Emergency Operations, Maj. Gen. Scott Spellmon, points out beach renourishment operations to local government officials, USACE personnel and contractors along Myrtle Beach, S.C., following Hurricane Florence, Sept. 22, 2018.
(Photo by Edward Johnson)
The renourished shoreline beaches and dunes serve to reduce the impacts of future hurricanes and other coastal storms to communities and infrastructure. With that in mind, USACE partners with state and municipal officials on shoreline restoration initiatives.
A hopper dredge vessel uses a ship-to-shore pipeline to transfer sand from the ocean flood to the shoreline as part of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers beach renourishment operations underway along Myrtle Beach, S.C., following Hurricane Florence, Sept. 27, 2018.
(Photo by Edward Johnson)
Chief of Programs and Civil Project Management for USACE, Charleston District, Brian Williams, says this project covers more than 25 miles of beach shoreline.
“Under normal conditions, we cost-share 65 percent of this work at the federal level,” said Williams. “But in emergency situations like the one following Hurricane Florence, we fully fund all rehabilitation operations, subject to Congressional appropriations, in support of our state and municipal partners.”