Situated between Area 51 and the Nevada Test and Training Range is a place called “Coyote Summit” which offers a perfect spot for watching air traffic coming out of Nellis Air Force Base.
Photographer Eric Bowen went to the spot in August for Red Flag, the Air Force-sponsored exercise which simulates an air war between aggressors and aircraft from the U.S. Air Force, Navy, Marines, Air National Guard, and Royal Air Force units.
A typical RED FLAG exercise involves a variety of attack, fighter and bomber aircraft (F-15E, F-16, F/A-18, A-10, B-1, B-2, etc.), reconnaissance aircraft (Predator, Global Hawk, RC-135, U-2), electronic warfare aircraft (EC-130s, EA-6Bs and F-16CJs), air superiority aircraft (F-22, F-15C, etc), airlift support (C-130, C-17), search and rescue aircraft (HH-60, HC-130, CH-47), aerial refueling aircraft (KC-130, KC-135, KC-10, etc), Command and Control aircraft (E-3, E-8C, E-2C, etc) as well as ground based Command and Control, Space, and Cyber Forces.
Bowen spent a few nights at the Summit filming at night, and produced this awesome video. Watch:
With the help of U.S. special forces, the Armed Forces of the Philippines have been battling radical Islamic terrorists in the south Pacific island chain since 2002. The Philippines, a former Spanish colony, is a predominantly Christian nation. However, its southern islands are home to a large Muslim population. Since the late 60s, there has been some form of push, political or terrorist, to create an independent Muslim state in the southern Philippines. The most prominent terror organization in Philippines since the early 2000s is the Abu Sayyaf Group.
Known officially by their ISIS counterparts as Islamic State — East Asia Province, ASG first had ties to Al-Qaeda. They operated extensively throughout southeast Asia, especially in Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines. ASG conducted bombings, kidnappings, assassinations, and drug trafficking to further their cause for an Islamic caliphate. Under the leadership of Isnilon Hapilon, who swore allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, ASG began conducting kidnappings and killings in the name of ISIS in 2014.
Simultaneously, brothers Omar and Abdullah Maute, founded their own Islamic terrorist organization in their hometown of Marawi in the southern Philippines. The brothers were educated in Muslim nations overseas where they were radicalized. Bringing this ideology back to the Philippines, they recruited other Muslim Filipinos to their cause. Working alongside Hapilon, Maute group and ASG stockpiled weapons and ammo in Marawi for a planned offensive. It would be their opening attack to establish an Islamic caliphate in the Philippines.
By May 2017, Maute group and ASG had amassed a huge stockpile of arms in Marawi. However, their planned offensive was forced to be accelerated. Working with the Philippine National Police, AFP Intelligence learned that Hapilon, who was on the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorists list with a reward of $5 million, was in Marawi. A surgical operation was launched on May 23, 2017 to capture the ASG leader. However, when Philippine special forces entered the city, they found much more than they bargained for.
Prepping for the planned offensive, roughly 1,000 militants had amassed in Marawi, some of whom came from foreign countries. Heavily armed, they quickly took over the city, burning churches, homes, and executing known Christians on sight. As civilians fled, some Muslims harbored their Christian neighbors who could not get out and hid them from the extremists. ASG and Maute group blocked all roads in and out of the city and took hostages demanding that the AFP cease all military operations in and around Marawi. At the same time, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte declared a state of martial law for the entire island of Mindanao.
The next day, additional military forces arrived and 120 hostages at the hospital were freed. Key buildings like city hall and a university were recaptured by AFP forces who established command posts in preparation for the coming operations. The Philippine Air Force began airstrikes on Marawi. Army units pushed into the city and battled against heavy resistance. Although AFP ground troops were able to re-secure much of Marawi by May 31, the sections of the city under militant control were a maze of tight alleys and closely packed buildings. It would require Fallujah-style house-to-house room-by-room clearing to secure the rest of the city.
Moreover, Hapilon and the Maute brothers were still at large. Even if the majority of the militants were killed or captured, the escape of the terrorist leaders would be a major victory for ISIS. Heavy street fighting raged through the contested areas of the city as AFP troops rooted out pockets of resistance in search of the high value targets. To complicate the already arduous task of urban combat, the militants dug tunnels throughout the city. Like the Vietcong in Vietnam or the Soviets in Stalingrad, this allowed them to escape quickly and covertly from an engagement and reappear in an unexpected location.
Fighting continued through June with the AFP announcing that it had killed over 200 militants. Still, resistance in the city was stiff and Marawi seemed no closer to being secured. Additionally, an estimated 2,000 civilians remained trapped in the city. On the morning of June 25, a unilateral ceasefire began in recognition of the Islamic holiday of Eid. This allowed Muslims on both sides of the fighting to observe the end of the month-long period of Ramadan. It also gave many civilians the opportunity to escape. Despite the ceasefire, militant snipers continued to engage AFP positions. At the end of the ceasefire, combat operations resumed in full.
In addition to technical support from the United States in hunting the wanted terrorist leaders, the Philippines accepted the aid of the Australians. Two AP-3C Orion surveillance planes were sent to the Philippines to support the battle. By July, AFP reported nearly 400 militants had been killed and over 700 civilians had been rescued. Still, 93 AFP service members were KIA and at least 45 civilians were dead.
On July 20, AFP forces scored a major strategic victory. Mapandi bridge, which provides access to Marawi’s commercial center, was retaken. This allowed AFP armored vehicles to push further into the city. Intense close-quarter fighting continued in the city’s rubble. IEDs and militant snipers made progress slow and deadly. However, AFP forces scored a major victory when Abdullah Maute was killed in an airstrike on August 7. His death was a morale boost for the weary Filipino troops who had been engaged in heavy and constant combat for months.
On August 18, the AFP announced that the combat zone had been reduced to an area covering 800×600 meters. Still, this section of the city contained 400 buildings which would have to be cleared one-by-one in search of Hapilon and Omar Maute.
By September, the combat zone had been reduced to an area of 500 square meters. However, these gains came at a high cost. Hundreds of Filipino troops had been wounded and dozens killed. On September 24, the last key bridge in Marawi was captured by the AFP, effectively isolating the remaining militants. Although Islamic representatives lobbied for a peace agreement, the Philippine government rejected them, saying that it was too little, too late. They would accept nothing less than total victory over the terrorists. In October, a major development occurred that would help bring the fighting to an end.
A hostage who had been held by Hapilon and Maute managed to escape to AFP lines and informed them of the location of the terrorist leaders. Army Special Forces Command quickly planned a top-tier operation. Elements of the 1st Scout Ranger Regiment and the Light Reaction Regiment, modeled after the 75th Ranger Regiment and Delta Force respectively, were tasked with clearing the suspected location and killing or capturing Hapilon and Maute. Trained by their American counterparts, these were the best men for the job. Supported by armored fighting vehicles, the commandos executed the operation on October 16.
As the special forces troops assaulted the target building, Hapilon and Maute escaped out the back. However, they were engaged by the remainder of the commandos and the armored vehicles who had secured the rear of the building. Maute was almost immediately killed by the .50-cal gunner in one of the vehicles. However, the gunner was unable it identify the fleeing militant as Maute through his thermal sight. Meanwhile, Hapilon was engaged by Ranger sniper teams who struck him three times in the chest. Despite going down, Hapilon harmlessly returned fire until he succumbed to his wounds.
The commandos killed a further 8 militants in securing the target building. 17 hostages including women, children, and a 2-month-old baby, were rescued. There were no AFP or civilian casualties. Once the target area was secure, the commandos went through the bodies and identified Hapilon and Maute. The announcement of their deaths was met with celebration across Marawi. DNA samples were sent to the FBI in the United States who confirmed the identities of the terrorist leaders.
The next day, President Duterte flew down to Marawi and declared the city’s liberation from the Islamic state. Fighting continued until October 23, exactly five months from the start of the battle, when the last pockets of ASG and Maute fighters were eliminated. The victory was hard-won. 168 Philippine service members were killed and over 1,400 were wounded. Sadly, 87 civilians also lost their lives during the five months of fighting. Still, 978 militants were killed and 12 were captured. The Battle of Marawi dealt a major blow to ASG and all but eliminated Maute group.
Marawi itself suffered greatly. 95% of structures in the 4 square kilometer combat zone were damaged, if not completely destroyed. This left 200,000 civilians displaced. The battle was the most intense and destructive in the Philippines since WWII. Rehabilitation and recovery efforts continue to this day.
The Battle of Marawi was the ultimate failure for ISIS in southeast Asia and a display of strength and unity for the Filipino people. ASG and Maute group were unable to establish their caliphate. Moreover, the Filipino people, Muslims, Christians, soldiers, and civilians alike, stood side-by-side against the violence and terror brought upon them and prevailed.
Top U.S. and United Kingdom defense officials signed an agreement this week to merge some military forces in 2021 to form a combined carrier strike group.
Marine CorpsF-35B Joint Strike Fighter aircraft and the Navy destroyer The Sullivans will deploy as part of the strike group, former Acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller announced Monday. The U.K.-U.S. combined strike group will be led by the U.K. aircraft carrier Queen Elizabeth.
The agreement was signed by Miller and U.K. Secretary of State for Defence Ben Wallace. The strike group is scheduled to sail out of Portsmouth, U.K., later this year.
“This deployment underscores the strength of our bilateral ties and demonstrates U.S.-U.K. interoperability, both of which are key tenets of the U.S. National Defense Strategy,” the Pentagon’s announcement on the agreement states.Advertisement
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in November that the task force will operate in the Mediterranean Sea, Indian Ocean and East Asia.
“Next year, HMS Queen Elizabeth will lead a British and allied task group on our most ambitious deployment for two decades,” he said. “… We shall forward-deploy more of our naval assets in the world’s most important regions, protecting the shipping lanes that supply our nation.”
Ten Marine F-35B Lightning II fighter jets embarked on the Queen Elizabeth in September as part of a training deployment. The embark was in preparation for this year’s full-length deployment, Marine officials said last year.
Lt. Gen. Steven Rudder, the former head of Marine Corps aviation, said in 2019 that the F-35 embark would serve as a “new norm” for how the U.S. will conduct operations with maritime partners.
Wallace said the deployment embodies the strength of bilateral ties between the U.S. and U.K., and reflects the depth of the vital defense and security partnership.
“I am delighted that the U.K. now possesses a 21st-century carrier strike capability, which has been greatly assisted by the unswerving support and cooperation of the United States at all levels over the past decade,” he said.
Anticipating a deployment is at once stressful, exhilarating, and boring as hell. Here are the 8 basic steps:
The announcement comes down from the Pentagon that your unit is headed overseas at some point. Everyone will respond to this differently. Newer troops will walk with a swagger as they think about becoming combat veterans. Actual combat veterans will sigh heavily.
2. Keeping it a secret (while telling everyone)
Sure, operational security and all that. But you have to tell your family. And your best buddies need to know. Also, those guys at the bar won’t buy you drinks just for sitting there. Is that hot girl over there into deploying troops?
3. First stage of training
“Time for pre-deployment training! Time to become the most elite, modern warriors in the world!” you think for the first 15 minutes of the first training session.
4. The rest of training
“Oh my god, how much of this is done via PowerPoint?” Also, your weapon will be completely caked in carbon from those blanks.
5. Culmination exercise
Suddenly, it’s exciting again. Pyrotechnics, laser tag, a bunch of awesome pictures that can become your Facebook cover photo so those girls from high school can see them. Someone in your squad can edit out the blank firing adapters.
6. Packing (and packing, and packing …)
That brief adrenaline rush at the final culmination exercise will not last. You will realize you still have to clean and pack the gear to go home. Then pack the connexes to send to country. Then pack your bags to go into other connexes. Then pack the …
7. Pre-deployment leave
Finally! After months of hard work, a brief rest before more months of hard work. Also, a chance to “not” tell more hometown girls that you’re deploying.
8. Getting on the plane (or ship or whatever)
Time to go somewhere really “fun” and live there for a year or so. But hey, only [balance of deployment] left until redeployment.
From 1988-89, there was a video series on T.V. called “Ethics in America” where leaders in different fields were asked to debate ethical dilemmas. In the seventh episode, senators, military officers, and journalists discussed a hypothetical situation where an American journalist is embedded with enemy troops and finds themselves watching the enemy troops prepare an ambush against American soldiers.
Peter Jennings and Michael Wallace debate their roles as journalists and Americans while military leaders like Gen. William Westmoreland debate their bravery, obligations, and moral duty in the situation. It cuts to the heart of what it means to be a war correspondent, trying to balance duty to their country and their occupation while safeguarding their own lives. An edited version of the conversation is embedded below.
If you want to see the original video, with better quality and more discussion from more people, go to this archive and watch episode 7. This particular discussion starts at 31:30 in the full episode.
Creed Bratton is mostly known for playing a fictional version of himself on NBC’s “The Office,” but more recently he’s been getting back to his roots: Music. Bratton, whose father died during World War II, showcased his guitar playing and singing chops recently before a live veteran audience in Hollywood, California.
The private concert was a “thank you” treat for veterans who worked on public service announcements highlighting the benefits of hiring former troops — resulting in short videos covering “What to Wear,” “Morning Routine,” and “The Bank” — comprised almost entirely of veterans in the entertainment industry. These productions gained nationwide attention and were made possible by CKD and The Easter Seals in partnership with Veterans in Film and Television.
DARPA has been hard at work on the Mission Adaptive Rotor program, a system allowing helicopters to land on sloping, uneven, craggy, or moving surfaces by lowering robotic legs that bend to accommodate the terrain.
While helicopters can already land in plenty of locations other aircraft can’t, there are still a lot of places where landing is tricky or impossible because of the terrain.
The system worked successfully in a recent flight demonstration, but engineers at the Georgia Institute of Technology will continue working on it. Beyond allowing for easier and safer takeoffs and landings, the gear is expected to reduce the damages from a hard landing by as much as 80 percent, according to a DARPA press release.
To see the system in action, check out the video below:
U.S. Marines have been engaging in combat against the Taliban since 2001. While the scenery has changed a bit as Marines have moved to different areas of operation, the fight has remained the same. From small arms to rocket-propelled grenades, the Taliban has continued to attack U.S. forces, and they have responded, often with intense and overwhelming fire.
This video from Funker 530 gives a good look at what it’s like for Marines engaging against the Taliban. With a compilation of regular camera and GoPro footage, this gives a look at what happens in a firefight.
As retired Marine Gen. James Mattis said, “there is nothing better than getting shot at and missed.” We definitely agree.
From the comedy group Cannibal Milkshake comes this parody trailer for “Canadian Sniper” which, the group writes, is based on the premise of “a deadly domestic moose attack [spurring] an unlikely hero into action in this parody based on that trailer for that movie based on that book.”
Military video site Funker 530 points out that it’s ok to laugh. It’s not making fun of Chris Kyle, but instead, a cheesy Hollywood adaptation of a book. And it does a pretty good job, with plenty of denim, accents, moose, and even a fake baby being fed pure maple syrup. That’s what they do in Canada, right?
And it’s not the heat, boredom, mortars, IEDs, lack of running water or anything else associated with roughing it that they miss — they can do that on a camping trip. In this clip, war correspondent Sebastian Junger nails the reason why.
Nazi Germany produced some of the nastiest people the world has ever seen.
The atrocities they committed remain hard to believe. Mega thugs like Gerhard Sommer allegedly helped massacre 560 civilians, Alfred Stark executed 117 Italian prisoners of war, and Oskar Groening was charged with 300,000 counts of accessory to murder as the “Bookkeeper of Auschwitz.”
Movies have portrayed some Nazi bad guys, as well, and here are 10 of the most memorable:
AK-variant rifles are among the most reliable and easy-to-use rifles in the world, and this mesmerizing video of one firing in slow motion helps explain the reason why.
The strength of the AK is in its simplicity and its ability to fire in just about any environment. Smaller in size and weight than its AK-47 big brother, the AK-74 fires a 5.45x39mm cartridge instead of the 7.62x39mm. But just like the AK-47, the 74 has very few parts, has simple functionality, and is very easy to use.
This video from Vickers Tactical shows you what it’s like firing in extremely slow motion: