WATM rocks the red carpet with the stars of the hit shows “You’re the Worst” and “The League.” Join us as they render their best hand salutes and vote for their favorite branches of the military.
WATM rocks the red carpet with the stars of the hit shows “You’re the Worst” and “The League.” Join us as they render their best hand salutes and vote for their favorite branches of the military.
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.
During the Cold War, the Soviets made a new type of vehicle called a ground effect vehicle (GEV). These vehicles earned their own classification because they aren’t quite airplanes or hovercrafts but something in between.
Ground effect is the aerodynamic interaction between the wings and the surface of the Earth, which reduce the drag and lead to greater cruise efficiency, according to AVweb. Pilots simply describe it as “floating.”
Although the Soviets didn’t discover the ground effect phenomenon, they did take full advantage of it by making these behemoth low-flying vehicles.
The Cold War prompted the space race, the nuclear arms race and other weapons races that yielded forward-thinking innovations like fixed-wing planes that can take off vertically—VTOL (Vertical Take-Off and Landing) — from any platform or surface.
The technology was already being tinkered with by the Germans before the Nazi collapse and further developed by other nations, including the Brits and the Soviets. The U.S. Navy saw its potential and became interested in high-performance fighter aircraft capable of taking off from small ships.
Lockheed and Convair were awarded contracts in May 1951 to develop VTOL fighters suitable for the military. But the project was canned in 1955 after it became clear that VTOL fighters were too slow and only the most experienced pilots could fly them. So much for the notion of having tactical aircraft on every ship.
The following is video footage of Convair’s XFY Pogo’s takeoff and landing test on May 18, 1955.
Jeff Quitney, YouTube
Although economic sanctions have all but neutered much of the nation’s military modernization efforts, Russia has managed to keep itself relevant in the 21st century by fielding headline-grabbing exotic weapons, including massive nukes far greater in scale than anything Uncle Sam has to offer. With nuclear weapons like the RS-28 Sarmat ICBM and the Status-6 Oceanic Multipurpose System submersible drone, Russia can cause greater devastation to its targets today than at any point during the Cold War. The thing is… that just doesn’t really matter anymore.
While the fighting during the Cold War was largely relegated to comparably small proxy conflicts, the Cold War eclipsed even World War II in terms of stakes. A Nazi victory in World War II would have changed life as we know it worldwide… but a nuclear exchange in the Cold War could have literally ended it. With stakes that high, it wasn’t difficult for both the United States and Soviet Union to convince lawmakers and taxpayers to pour funding into weapons development. The result was nuclear stockpiles so vast and broadly capable that a doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction became the only effective means of deterring large scale war between superpowers.
The concept of Mutually Assured Destruction was originally coined in 1962 by Donald Brennan, a strategist working in Herman Kahn’s Hudson Institute. After the Soviet Union tested their first nuclear weapon in August of 1949, tensions between the World War II allies became significantly more pressing, prompting renewed interest and funding into America’s own weapons of mass destruction. Predictably, the more the United States poured money into defense programs, the more the Soviets did in turn. The result was a cycle of nuclear weapon production and development that found its peak in the 1980s, when the two nation’s combined stockpiles of nuclear weapons exceeded 60,000 (or about six times the combined stockpiles of these nations today).
This arm’s race also extended well beyond the nukes themselves. Each nation also needed broadly distributed means of delivering these weapons to their targets, so no nuclear first-strike could completely eliminate a nation’s ability to respond in kind. In order to accomplish this, the United States began distributing nuclear weapon capabilities across the methods of delivery and service branches. Today, we’ve come to know this distribution as the nuclear triad. While nuclear weapons of varying uses and sizes emerged as a part of this effort, the backbone of America’s nuclear triad emerged as a combination of land-based ICBMs, aircraft-based bombs, and submarine-based missiles. The Soviets soon fielded a comparable triad, matching America’s ability to respond to any nuclear attack.
The doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction remains a prominent part of America’s nuclear deterrence strategy for the Soviet Union’s successor, the Russian government. Today, both nations maintain nuclear stockpiles that are significantly smaller than they did at the height of the Cold War. However, while America has allowed a good portion of its nuclear weapon infrastructure to age toward obsolescence, Russia has continued to lean on its nukes as a means of geopolitical showmanship.
Today, the United States maintains approximately 5,800 nuclear weapons, with 3,800 considered active. Within that stockpile are at least 400 LGM-30 Minuteman III land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). The Minuteman III has been in service since 1970, has an operational range of more than 6,000 miles, and is accurate to within 800 feet. These missiles can carry between one and three nuclear warheads, each with a maximum explosive yield of 475 kilotons, giving this weapon a maximum yield of 1.425 megatons. To put it another way, that means each American ICBM can deliver about 95 times the destructive capability of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima.
Sounds pretty big, right? America’s dated Minuteman III missiles certainly pack a punch, but even when carrying three of its most potent warheads, these missiles are utterly dwarfed by Russia’s most advanced (and powerful) ICBM coming into service this year: The RS-28 Sarmat.
The RS-28, sometimes known as the “Satan II,” has been in development since 2014, and was famously described as “capable of wiping out parts of the earth the size of Texas or France,” by Russia’s state-owned media. The missile has a range of 6,385 miles and carries a warhead jam-packed with Multiple Independent Reentry Vehicles (MIRV) that boast a combined destructive yield of 50 megatons. In other words, the RS-28 Sarmat carries a destructive yield greater than 35 times that of the Minuteman III.
America’s most powerful nuclear bomb in service, the B83, also boasts just a 1.2 megaton yield, and even the most powerful nuclear weapon in American history, the 9 megaton B53, rings in at less than 1/5 the yield of the mighty Sarmat.
But if a missile dubbed the “Satan II” and marketed as a way to remove Texas from the map isn’t massive enough, Russia also boasts another doomsday nuke–one said to match or even double the nuclear yield of the Sarmat, while bolstering its destructive capacity by creating an unnatural, natural disaster.
The Status-6 Oceanic Multipurpose System has gone by a number of names in Western analysis over the years, in part because this weapon was considered something of an urban legend for a long time. Rumors about the Status-6 first bubbled to the surface years ago, largely through vague mentions in Russian news reports, but its existence was confirmed within the past few years–first in a leaked image of a Pentagon intelligence report, and then through official announcements from the Kremlin.
Unlike the submarine-launched nuclear missiles both Russia and the United States maintain as a part of their nuclear triads, the Status-6 (sometimes called “Poseidon” or by its NATO designation of “Kanyon”) is actually a submersible drone. Once deployed by a Russian Navy submarine, the drone can travel autonomously toward its target, covering more than 5,400 miles at depths as low as 3,300 feet. Once it finds its target, the Status-6 simply parks and waits for the command to detonate.
Onboard this submersible drone is an absolutely massive warhead–with some claims saying it carries the same nuclear yield as the RS-28, and others claiming twice that. According to some Russian officials, the Status-6 can be equipped with a 100 megaton weapon… which is two times more powerful than the largest nuclear weapon ever even tested.
A detonation of that magnitude would not only destroy and irradiate a massive area, its positioning under water would result in a radioactive tsunami that would reach far further inland than the blast itself. In no uncertain terms, the Status-6 is intended to serve as a doomsday weapon. It’s the sort of weapon you build not to win wars, but to end them.
America is amid an arguably overdue effort to modernize its ICBM arsenal in Northrop Grumman’s Ground Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) platform expected to enter service later this decade. Although the weapon’s W87 Mod 0 thermonuclear warhead’s destructive capacity has not been revealed just yet, it stands to reason that these new missiles will still offer significantly less firepower than Russia’s mighty Sarmat, let alone the terrifying 100 megaton capacity claimed by the Status-6.
To some maintaining the Cold War’s mindset of matching capability to deter war, this may seem like an egregious failure on the part of America’s defense infrastructure. After all, how do you hope to deter a 100 megaton weapon if your own most powerful weapons are tiny by comparison? Well, the truth is, you simply don’t have to.
Way back in 1962, when Donald Brennan first coined the term “Mutually Assured Destruction,” the Soviet Union had only successfully tested their first hydrogen bomb (or thermonuclear weapon) some seven years prior. The Soviets didn’t possess any nuclear tsunami drones as they do today, and yet, as far as America was concerned, a nuclear exchange with the Soviets would all but certainly wipe out life on earth as we know it. It’s almost like you don’t need Bond villain-esque nukes to be scary when run-of-the-mill nukes will do the same job.
And therein lies the practical failing of Russia’s massive nukes: They may be good for a bit of geopolitical theater, but strategically they change nearly nothing about the nuclear deterrence mission or the comparative military standing of each nation. Just like during the Cold War, both Russia and the United States are aware that the launch of a single nuclear weapon is all it takes to start a cascade of retaliatory strikes that, once begun, will usher in a nuclear apocalypse most citizens of each nation (and all others) likely won’t survive. When the result is the end of the world, it really doesn’t matter how big that first explosion might be.
So what value is there in a 50 or 100 megaton weapon like those found in Russia’s arsenal? While they don’t actually offer much in the way of strategic value in a nuclear war, they do however play an important role in helping Russia maintain its global reputation as a force to be reckoned with. That reputation is essential, not only for Russia’s aggressive approach to foreign policy, but also to maintain its footing as the arms dealer of choice for nations on America’s naughty list.
Like their token fleet of a dozen or so fifth-generation fighters, or their frequent claims about robot soldiers or invisibility cloaks, Russia depends on foreign press coverage to help advance the perception that Russia is a cutting edge weapons designer and producer. Russia needs the influx of money from foreign sales if they ever hope to secure adequate funding for their notably promising (but sorely under-funded) programs like their T-14 Armata main battle tank.
Put simply: Russia’s massive nukes aren’t really about strategic capability, so much as they’re about perception, intimidation, and economics. Whether or not this effort will be successful, however, is yet to be determined.
The Armata is billed as Russia’s deadliest battle tank and is based on a universal combat platform that serves as the chassis for other military vehicles.
T-14 Armata, Wikimedia
The Armata platform has been under development since 2009 and began trials in Feb. 2015. Large deliveries of the tank will start in 2017 or 2018, according to Interfax. Here is the latest video showing the capabilities of the tank, including shots of its interior.
The military command responsible for defending the the US and Canada from attack responded to more Russian military flights near Alaska last year than any year since the end of the Cold War, the four-star general leading the command said Tuesday.
US Air Force Gen. Glen VanHerck, head of North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), told the Senate Armed Services Committee in written testimony that “Russia continues to conduct frequent military operations in the approaches to North America.”
“Last year,” the general told lawmakers Tuesday, “NORAD responded to more Russian military flights off the coast of Alaska than we’ve seen in any year since the end of the Cold War.” These flights involved heavy bombers, anti-submarine aircraft, and intelligence assets.
VanHerck said that the Russian military flights near Alaska “show both Russia’s military reach and how they rehearse potential strikes on our homeland.”
The Russian military aircraft, which include Tu-160 and Tu-95 long-range bombers, Tu-142 anti-submarine warfare aircraft, Il-38 maritime patrol aircraft, and A-50 early warning and control planes that are regularly accompanied by Su-35 fighters, are typically intercepted by US Air Force F-22 Raptors assigned to NORAD whenever they fly into the Alaskan Air Defense Identification Zone.
No Russian military aircraft has at any point breached US or Canadian airspace, which extends out to 12 nautical miles from the US coastline.
Russian long-range air patrols were fairly common during the Cold War but became less frequent in the aftermath. In recent years, these flights have again become frequent occurrences.
The US military also conducts bomber flights near Russia, which have prompted the Russian military to scramble interceptor aircraft in response.
In addition to frequent military flights near Alaska, the Russian Navy also conducted exercises focused on maritime approaches in the Arctic and Pacific. The drills also involved anti-submarine patrols and anti-ship cruise missile launches in the US exclusive economic zone, an area that extends out 200 miles from a country’s coastline.
In his written testimony, VanHerck asserted that “Russia presents a persistent, proximate threat to the United States and Canada and remains the most acute challenge to our homeland defense mission.”
VanHerck argued that Russian leaders “seek to erode our influence, assert their regional dominance, and reclaim their status as a global power through a whole-of-government strategy that includes information operations, deception, economic coercion, and the threat of military force.”
The general said that should the US wind up in conflict with Russia, “we should expect Russia to employ its broad range of advanced capabilities—nonkinetic, conventional, and nuclear—to threaten our critical infrastructure in an attempt to limit our ability to project forces and to attempt to compel de-escalation.”
He also called attention to Russian newer offensive capabilities such as advanced cyber and counterspace weapons, as well as hypersonic weapons.
VanHerck told the Senate Armed Services Committee in the coming years, “Russia hopes to field a series of even more advanced weapons intended to ensure its ability to deliver nuclear weapons to the United States,” pointing to the Poseidon torpedo, one of several “doomsday” weapons Russian President Vladimir Putin touted a few years ago.
The general’s comments come as the US military focuses intently on China, which Department of Defense leadership has called “the pacing challenge” for the US. The Biden administration has repeatedly made a point of identifying China as the priority challenge.
After years of “Will they, won’t they?” the Marine Corps finally made it official with their main squeeze, the M4 Carbine. It’s the new standard weapon for Marines, replacing the M16A4.
Before officially adopting it, the Corps put the M4 through extensive testing with a new round, the 5.56mm AB49 Special Operations Science and Technology cartridge.
Listen to the WATM podcast to hear the author and our veteran hosts discuss what the M4 means to the Corps:
“We found out that the M4 actually outshoots the A4 at all ranges out to 600 meters with the new ammunition,” Chris Woodburn, the deputy Maneuver Branch head for the Fires and Maneuver Integration Division of Marine Corps Combat Development Command, told Marine Corps Times.
Because the M4 has already been deployed in units across the Marine Corps, the switch is expected to take place with very little cost to taxpayers. Units will report their number of rifles to Marine Corps Logistics Command which should be able to shuffle weapons between units.
The Marines believe they can equip the entire force with the weapon without buying any new units.
See the full story at Marine Corps Times
The U.S. Army celebrated 240 years of existence last month, and the Independent Journal Review put together a cool video of how its uniforms have evolved over that time.
From the Revolutionary War all the way up to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, soldiers have gone through numerous changes to their uniforms and gear. In fact, just this month the Army began its transition to its new Operational Camouflage Pattern, Army Times reports.
This video shows what soldiers wore into battle since 1775.
Jumping out of an airplane can get kind of boring, so sometimes you need to bring along something to keep your mind occupied during the parachute ride down.
That’s what happened in a video posted to YouTube last month, which appears to show an airborne soldier solving a Rubik’s cube while under canopy. It’s strangely mesmerizing to watch as the ground nears, and the soldier manages to figure it out seconds before touching down.
The video description has very little detail however, so it’s hard to say where this came from or whether it’s even legit.
In the Washington Post, Dan Lamothe writes:
The video has generated a lot of questions. On the Facebook page “Do You Even Jump?” users questioned whether it actually could have been a jump by an active-duty U.S. soldier, considering he stays airborne for about 2 1/2 minutes. A traditional static-line jump carried out from a C-130 military transport plane from a height of about 2,100 or 2,200 feet would have been over much faster, they said. The jumper also appears to jump from a civilian plane using a European parachute, raising the prospect he isn’t American, others added.
The video also appeared on Reddit and YouTube, where one person questioned whether the video is fake.
Over in this Reddit thread, the poster says it was a British paratrooper. Whether that’s true or not, we’re not sure.
Either way, it’s a cool video. Watch (and learn):
The ‘Frozen Chosin’ is one of the most revered campaigns in the U.S. Marine Corps’ proud history. Outnumbered 10 to 1 behind enemy lines and nearly overwhelmed by wave after wave of fierce attacks, the Marines fought their way to victory.
Seventeen Medals of Honor, 70 Navy Crosses, and over 20 Distinguished Service Crosses were bestowed to the troops of this campaign, making it one of the most decorated battles in American history.
Marine veterans turned entrepreneurs Brian Iglesias and Anton Sattler have made it their mission to bring attention to this harrowing true story through the cartoon medium. The animated short Chosin: Baptized by Fire is an adaptation of the graphic novel Hold the Line, which was inspired by the true story of Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines during the Korean War.
The story follows 17-year-old Private First Class Billy French delivering mail to the grunts of Fox Company when he becomes trapped in a massive surprise attack launched by the Chinese.
The US Navy has successfully altered a Raytheon Tomahawk land attack missile (TLAM) to be able to hit a moving target at sea, USNI News reports.
In a Jan. 27 test off of San Niolas Island, California, the Navy launched a TLAM which was guided into a moving maritime target through directions given by a Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet flying overhead. TLAMs are capable of changing their direction mid-course.
Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work, the Pentagon’s second-highest-ranked civilian, praised the successful test of the missile during a keynote speech at the WEST 2015 conference. He said the missiles were part of the Pentagon’s “Third Offset Strategy,” an initiative focused on research into new long-range weapons.
“A big part of the Third Offset Strategies is to find new and innovative ways to deploy promising technologies,” Work said. “This is potentially a game changing capability for not a lot of cost. It’s a 1000 mile anti-ship cruise missile.”
TLAMs are already used for land attack missions against static targets. By converting TLAMs into missiles capable of penetrating thickly-armored vessels at sea, the Navy plugs a serious gap in its current weapons capabilities. According to USNI News, TLAMs that have been converted into anti-ship missiles that could be used aboard the Navy’s newer guided-missile destroyers, which cannot currently use the service’s antiquated RGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missile.
The new converted TLAMs would have a range of almost 1,000 nautical miles, allowing the US to maintain a considerable edge over rival naval powers. One of China’s most threatening new military advancements is its development of its own advanced anti-ship cruise missiles. However, these missiles would only have half the range of a converted TLAM.
If fully adapted, the newest iteration of the TLAM will function as a stop-gap measure until the Navy’s next-generation Long Range Anti-Ship missile is ready for action.
Here is a video of the converted TLAM in action.
Navy Rear Adm. Dave Thomas took part in an “Undercover Boss”-like segment for a local news channel where he dressed up as a junior enlisted seaman.
When the world’s saltiest “E-3” arrives with a camera crew, it’s like a “Hello, my name is Matt” moment, but the sailors play along. The admiral attempts to scrape rust and load an amphibious landing vehicle under the careful watch of petty officers before the big reveal.
Check out the video below: