From greeting a superior officer, showing homage to the American flag, or paying respect to a fallen comrade — saluting is a powerful non-verbal communication gesture for showing proper respect.
With no real written record of how or where the tradition began, the salute dates back far in history when troops would raise their right hand (or their weapon hand) as a signal of friendship.
Back in the days, the subordinate person hand-gestured first in the presence of a superior who would then respond accordingly, which is the same practice used today — lower-ranking personnel salute higher ranking first.
Recruits learn how to hand salute in boot camp and demonstrate it hundreds of times before heading out to active duty. The gesture becomes instant as muscle memory takes over.
But many civilians nowadays salute as a form of celebration — and they get it so so wrong.
A recent Navy Times article notes that the crew of the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Ross (DDG 71) joined the “Order of the Blue Nose” — a distinction reserved for ships and crew that crossing the Arctic Circle.
That list includes both well-known orders and not-so-well known orders. They are for notable feats — and in some cases, dubious ones.
Perhaps the most well-known is the “Order of the Shellback,” given to those sailors who have crossed the equator. The “Crossing the Line” ceremony has been portrayed both in the PBS documentary series “Carrier,” as well as being the plot point for an episode of “JAG” in the 1990s.
But there is more than one kind of shellback.
If you cross the equator at the International Date Line (about 900 miles east of Nauru), you become a “Golden Shellback” (since those who cross the International Date Line are called Golden Dragons).
If you cross the equator at the Prime Meridian (a position about 460 miles to the west of Sao Tome and Principe), you become an “Emerald Shellback.”
Now, we can move to some lesser-known, and even dubious orders.
The “Order of the Caterpillar” is awarded to anyone who has to leave a plane on the spur of the moment due to the plane being unable to continue flying. You even get a golden caterpillar pin.
The eyes of the caterpillar will then explain the circumstances of said departure. The Naval History and Heritage Command, for instance, notes that ruby red eyes denote a midair collision.
Then, there is the becoming a member of the “Goldfish Club.” That involves spending time in a life raft. If you’re in the raft for more than 24 hours, you become a “Sea Squatter.”
Using the Panama Canal makes you a member of the “Order of the Ditch.”
Oh, and in case you are wondering, crossing the Antarctic Circle makes you a “Red Nose.”
Thousands of active-duty and National Guard troops are using amphibious vehicles and search-and-rescue aircraft to move people and equipment after Hurricane Florence battered the East Coast, even as some of their own bases were damaged by the storm.
Rainfall and rising water levels continue to threaten areas of North and South Carolina four days after Florence made landfall as a Category 1 storm.
Air Force Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy, head of U.S. Northern Command, said the military has been able to work seamlessly with state and federal authorities leading relief efforts; 13,000 service members are responding to some of those agencies’ requests, including 6,000 active-duty forces and about 7,000 National Guard members, he said Tuesday from Raleigh, North Carolina.
In coordination with local, state and federal authorities, the Defense Department not only pre-staged meals and water, but also vehicles that could operate in floodwaters and helicopters for search-and-rescue and transport missions.
“As it turns out, that’s exactly what we needed to have,” O’Shaughnessy said.
Members of the 106th Rescue Squadron, 106th Rescue Wing, New York Air National Guard, drop from an HH-60 Pavehawk during a rescue mission during Hurricane Florence, Sept. 17, 2018.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kyle Hagan)
Army personnel in high-water vehicles have helped evacuate about 300 people. And Marines from Camp Lejeune used amphibious vehicles to assist people stranded by floodwaters. In one mission, they were able to rescue 20 people at once, O’Shaughnessy said.
Cherry Point was also turned into a makeshift shelter after another nearby began to flood.
“A local state center was flooding so we took them to Cherry Point where we could house them overnight and feed them,” he added.
The storm didn’t bring the damaging winds initially feared, but it hovered over land for days, moving at just 2 mph and dumping about 3 feet of rain in some of the hardest-hit areas. That has caused rivers and streams to swell and spill over. In some areas where waterways haven’t crested yet, the threat still exists.
“The concern has turned to flooding, and that’s still the concern over the next 48 hours,” O’Shaughnessy said.
That threat even led the Defense Department to move some of its own supplies and equipment out of the danger zone, he added, since some of the trucks and food were stored at Fort Bragg, which was affected by the storm.
Members of Coast Guard Maritime Safety and Security Team Miami and Coast Guard Tactical Law Enforcement Team South rescue an elderly woman
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Trevor Lilburn)
There are MV-22B Ospreys aboard the Kearsarge, O’Shaughnessy said, which can help move people and materials in hard-to-reach areas.
Overall, the coordination between the states, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Defense Department has been “executed exactly as designed,” he said. “My hat is off to the first responders, the local counties. The collaboration between the state and FEMA and FEMA and the Department of Defense has been phenomenal.
“That’s what has allowed us … to have such a strong response,” he added.
Featured image: Staff Sgt. Nick Carey from the 102nd Rescue squadron, New York Air National Guard, scans for people in need of rescue over Kinston, North Carolina, Sept. 16, 2018.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Several US Air Force B-52H Stratofortress heavy long-range bombers have flown through the contested East and South China Seas multiple times in August 2018, sending an unmistakable message to potential challengers.
Four flights involving no more than two bombers each time were carried out in the disputed seas as part of US Indo-Pacific Command’s Continuous Bomber Presence (CBP) mission. Two B-52s assigned to the 96th Expeditionary Bomber Squadron (EBS) participated in joint anti-submarine training exercises with two US Navy P-8 Poseidon aircraft on Aug. 1, 2018, in the East China Sea, US Pacific Air Forces (PACAF) said in an official statement.
“Ultimately, it increased our readiness to serve as a credible deterrent force and presence within the theater,” Maj. John Radtke, 96th EBS mission planner, explained.
One B-52 bomber out of Andersen Air Force Base on Guam participated in a CBP training mission in the East China Sea on Aug. 22, 2018, PACAF public affairs told Business Insider, adding that two more B-52s with the 96th EBS conducted CBP operations in the South China Sea on Aug. 27, 2018. It is unclear if the bombers flew past Chinese occupied territories in the area, as PACAF refused to provide the information, citing “operational security concerns.”
The flights were initially detected by Aircraft Spots, on online military aircraft tracking site.
The site’s latest flight tracking data suggested that two more B-52s conducted exercises in the South China Sea on Aug. 30, 2018, which would mean that American heavy bombers have been active in the disputed waterway twice in a week. PACAF confirmed in a public statement the Aug. 30, 2018 flight following queries from Business Insider.
“Is the US trying to exert more pressure on China’s trade by sending a B-52 bombers to the South China Sea?” China’s nationalist state-affiliated tabloid Global Times asked in an editorial Aug. 30, 2018.
The CBP flights are “flown in accordance with international law” and are consistent with America’s “long-standing and well-known freedom of navigation policies,” PACAF public affairs said. China has often expressed frustration with the US position on this particular matter.
In early June 2018, a pair of B-52s ripped across the South China Sea, causing the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs to accuse the US of “running amok” in the region. China foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at the time, “We will only even more staunchly take all necessary steps to defend the country’s sovereignty and security, to protect the peace and stability of the South China Sea region.”
The US Air Force similarly sent B-52s into the South China Sea in late April 2018.
In response to questions about a possible B-52 overflight in the East China Sea in August 2018, foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said, “We hope that actions taken in this region by any country could help enhance mutual trust and show respect for the legitimate security interests of regional countries. Nothing that undermines mutual trust and regional security and stability shall happen.”
The Chinese Ministry of National Defense has warned repeatedly that China “will firmly defend the sovereign security and territorial integrity of the country.”
News of the recent bomber flights in the East and South China Sea comes just after the Department of Defense released its annual report on Chinese military power. The report specifically noted that Chinese bombers were operating with increased frequency in flashpoint zones in the region.
“The [People’s Liberation Army] has rapidly expanded its overwater bomber operating areas, gaining experience in critical maritime regions and likely training for strikes against US and allied targets,” the report explained. “The PLA may continue to extend its operations beyond the first island chain, demonstrating the capability to strike US and allied forces and military bases in the western Pacific Ocean, including Guam.”
The Pentagon has noted that the Chinese air force is pushing to become a “strategic” force capable of power projection.T
his article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
China’s first indigenous aircraft carriers are currently undergoing sea trials and are getting a good amount of international buzz. There is one crucial thing to remember about these large, powerful vessels, however. Their primary weapon, for both offensive and defensive operations, is the aircraft they carry on board. Building the carriers is just half of the answer to the question of naval dominance.
And while things might be going well at sea, according to a report by the South China Morning Post, the Chinese are having a problem — or, more accurately, a lot of problems — in the sky, specifically with the Shenyang J-15 Flanker. This aircraft isn’t quite original, it’s a copy of the Su-33, a plane that Russia is currently phasing out in favor of a modified MiG-29.
So far, there have been four crashes involving the J-15. At least two pilots have been killed trying to save planes that have suffered serious mechanical failures in flight. A third pilot was badly injured, taking over a year to recover.
The J-15 is a Chinese copy of the Su-33 Flanker.
(Photo by Dimitri Tarakhov)
So, what’s China to do? Currently, there are plans to replace the J-15 with a version of the J-31, a Chinese fifth-generation fighter that’s currently in development. The J-31 made its first flight in 2012. The US struggled to get a true fifth-generation fighter in the air — there was more than a decade-long gap between the F-35’s first flight and introduction to service. While there’s no guarantee than the Chinese will run into the same delays the US, it does look as though they’re at risk of fielding aircraft carriers well before their primary armaments are ready.
A model of the J-15.
(Photo by Nacht Eule)
Communist China currently has one carrier, the Liaoning, a Russian Kuznetsov-class aircraft carrier (and we know the track record of the Kuznetsov), in service. A refined copy of that carrier, known as the Type 001A, is China’s first home-built carrier. Meanwhile, the Chinese are also developing two new carrier classes, the Type 002 and Type 003. The former is said to be a conventionally-powered design in the 85,000-ton range while the latter is reported to be a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier.
The Chinese are turning to the J-31 to replace the J-15.
(Photo by wc)
Of course, the effectiveness of these carriers will depend on whether the Chinese Communists can get workable planes. Otherwise, the carriers will be practically useless.
In October of 1944, a shortage of planes led Japan to use their carriers as decoys at Leyte Gulf. Unless the Chinese get to manufacturing solid aircraft for their carriers, they might find themselves in the same boat.
1. Pfc. Charles Barker slowed an enemy advance with hand-to-hand fighting.
Army Pfc. Charles Barker was part of a platoon in Korea that came upon enemy soldiers digging emplacements on a slope June 4, 1953. The patrol engaged the diggers but found itself facing heavy enemy resistance. As mortars began to fall on the platoon, the platoon leader ordered a withdrawal. Barker volunteered to cover the platoon move and was last seen engaged in hand-to-hand combat.
2. Pfc. William McWhorter absorbed an explosive blast to save his assistant gunner.
Army Pfc. William McWhorter was manning a heavy machine gunner in combat on Leyte Island in the Philippines on Dec. 5, 1944 when an enemy demolitions squad rushed his position. McWhorter and his assistant gunner successfully killed some of the attackers, but one managed to throw a fused demolition charge into the trench. McWhorter grabbed it and pulled it into his body just before it exploded. His actions saved the life of the assistant gunner who was able to continue fighting.
3. Lance Cpl. James “Donnie” Howe jumped on a grenade to save another Marine.
Marine Lance Cpl. James “Donnie” Howe was in a defensive position on a beach bordering bamboo thickets in Vietnam on May 6, 1970. A group of enemy sappers crept unnoticed to the position in the dark of early morning and launched a grenade attack. Howe and two others moved to a better position and began suppressing the enemy. When another grenade landed in the middle of the group, Howe jumped on it and saved the others.
4. Pvt. Furman Smith single-handedly held off an enemy counterattack.
During the Allied advance in Italy in World War II, Army Pvt. Furman Smith was part of an infantry company attack on a strong point. Smith was in the lead element when an attack by 80 Germans succeeded in wounding two men. While the rest of the lead element pulled back to the company’s position, Smith rushed forward. He recovered the wounded and placed them in shell craters that provided some cover. He then took a position nearby and held off the Germans with rifle fire until he was ultimately overrun.
Although the perfect movie doesn’t exist, 1994’s Forrest Gump gets pretty damn close. Directed by legendary filmmaker, Robert Zemeckis, the film chronicles the fictional life of a man who lacks social intelligence but makes up for it with an incredible amount of heart.
Out of all the outstanding characters the film showcases, outside of Forrest, many moviegoers wanted to see “Lt. Dan” overcome his demons and succeed at life, but we only catch a glimpse of it.
Although the movie does feature his character arch, seeing his unique journey, start to finish, would have been awesome.
These are four reasons why we think Lt. Dan should have gotten his own freakin’ sequel.
4. He knew his sh*t
We first meet Lt. Dan as Forrest and Bubba wrongfully salute him in the field. He quickly corrects their saluting and just as quickly explains why.
To other veterans, this is an excellent detail. We’ve seen many films where enlisted troops salute an officer in a war zone, and they don’t get briefed on why they shouldn’t do that.
Lt. Dan knows his sh*t, plus, he told them to take care of their feet, which is huge in the infantry and often left out of movies.
Lt. Dan Taylor informs Forrest and Bubba of a few of the “what-nots” to surviving in Vietnam. (Image from Paramount Pictures’ Forrest Gump)
3. Focus on Lt. Dan before Forrest shows up
We get a pretty comedic backstory of Lt. Dan’s family members fighting and dying in previous wars. However, we don’t know too much of what he’s done in Vietnam other than he’s probably been “in-country” for a while when we meet him.
We think it would be pretty awesome to see him when he was just a boot.
Maybe he looked a lot like this? (Image from Columbia Tristar Home Video’s A Midnight Clear)
2. What happened to Lt. Dan after he left the war?
We were all a little surprised when Forrest tried to give Lt. Dan some ice cream, only to find out he was transported back to the States. For the most part, we know how sh*tty Vietnam vets were treated after they returned from the war, which f*cking sucks.
“Lt. Dan, ice cream.” (Image from Paramount Pictures’ Forrest Gump)
Personally, we would love to have seen Lt. Dan bark back at some of the Vietnam protestors when he encounters them on the street… or something like that.
Lt. Dan was a yeller — we all know that. He yelled at Forrest when he had legs, and even more after he’d lost them. But, toward the end of the film, we see a cleaned up version of Lt. Dan, married, and sporting new, magic legs.
As veterans, we all know the struggle of overcoming adversity, and to see Lt. Dan clean up his life up — that’s impressive. But, we’d like to see how it all happened in a sequel.
Lt. Dan all cleaned up with his new magic legs at his best friend’s wedding. (Image from Paramount Pictures’ Forrest Gump)
With their deployment coming to an end, they decided to properly send off the women that provided temporary release from their sexual repression, according to the video. The ceremony and obituary are pure comedy, check it out:
We gather here today to honor the eternal memory of the women that have sacrificed services for the good of those that have suffered sexual repression through geographic isolation, mainly: us.
These ladies of the periodical, queens of the center fold have inspired our imaginations and other parts that should not be mentioned at this time.
Though these many months have been long and hard, they provided us with a means for us to have a temporary release.
Your undying patriotism and service to those who serve has not been in vain and though our time together may have come to an end, you will forever live on in our hearts.
We salute you oh princess of the page, you will never be forgotten.
Now we will sound off a few of the names of those who have inspired us …
L3 Technologies and Harris Corporation rallied on Oct. 15, 2018, after the two companies agreed to merge in an all-stock deal. The new company will have a market capitalization of $33.5 billion, making it the sixth-largest defense company in the US, according to the company release.
Following the news, L3 Technologies climbed 9.8% and Harris Corporation jumped 8.6%.
Under the terms of the merger agreement, each L3 Technologies shareholder will receive 1.30 Harris Corp shares for each L3 share they owned, the company said. After completion of the deal, Harris shareholders will own approximately 54% of the company while L3 shareholders will own the remaining 46%.
The combined company, called L3 Technologies, is expected to generate net revenue of approximately billion, earnings before interest and taxes of .4 billion, and free cash flow of id=”listicle-2612680907″.9 billion. The company will employ 48,000 people and will have its headquarters in Melbourne, Florida, where Harris is based.
The all-stock deal will create the country’s sixth-largest defense contractor.
“This merger creates greater benefits and growth opportunities than either company could have achieved alone,” said Christopher E. Kubasik, L3 chairman, president and chief executive officer.
“The companies were on similar growth trajectories and this combination accelerates the journey to becoming a more agile, integrated and innovative non-traditional 6th Prime focused on investing in important, next-generation technologies.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Kadena Air Base, Japan (AFNS) — Providing the base and various other units on the island with cryogenic products – whether it be in a liquid or gaseous form – is the plant’s priority.
“We produce the liquid oxygen and the liquid nitrogen here for our organizations across the island to make sure they get the product they need to make the mission happen,” said Tech. Sgt. Mark Pannell, 18th Logistics Readiness Squadron assistant noncommissioned office in charge of cryogenic productions.
The production plant provides services for a range of reasons, whether it be for pilots or patients, the plant handles it all and can also be the difference in life or death in some instances.
“We manufacture liquid oxygen and liquid nitrogen for various organizations to use…Breathable oxygen at high altitudes for aircraft, liquid nitrogen to fill tires for the aircraft so they don’t explode if they hit the ground too hard and the hospital has various uses for oxygen and nitrogen as you could imagine…It’s important,” said Senior Airman Christopher Tallan, 18th LRS cryogenic production operator.
While other bases have to purchase their liquid oxygen and nitrogen from external providers, Kadena Air Base is able to support the mission directly as well as save money.
A beaker of liquid oxygen sits filled July 27, 2018, at Kadena Air Base, Japan.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jessica H. Smith)
“I don’t like to solely rely on other people because I know if we do it ourselves, it’s going to be done the right way and I think this is really valuable for the Air Force because we’re always looking for new and innovative ways to save money,” Pannell said. “We should really strive to be innovative and this is something I push down to my Airmen – to be innovative and think of new ways to do things.”
With innovation comes plenty of learning opportunities – and growing pains.
“It’s been challenging at times because everyone is learning a new plant,” Pannell explained. “We have to learn the ins and outs; everyone here is growing.”
Providing these services can prove to be rather complex. From separation of atmospheric air to expansion and cooling, the job is chemically impossible to do without machines.
The machine – production plant – typically runs one week at a time for 24 hours a day and enables the production of about 50 gallons an hour.
While the machine is doing its job, the rest of the team is ensuring it works properly.
“We have to do hourly checks to make sure nothing is malfunctioning,” Tallan said. “We’re responsible for knowing what’s supposed to be going on. With such a big plant and so many pipes, we have to make sure that nothing is in a pipe that shouldn’t be in it, and make sure things are at the right temperature in the pipes they’re supposed to be in.”
With such a unique and vital mission role, working at the only operational cryogenic production plant in the Air Force seems to be a great source of pride and inspiration for those in the career field.
Senior Airmen Michael Hall and Christopher Tallan, both 18th Logistics Readiness Squadron cryogenic production operators, prepare to fill a cart with liquid oxygen July 27, 2018, at Kadena Air Base, Japan.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jessica H. Smith)
“I love my job; I love coming to work. I work in a cryogenic facility – it’s insane,” Tallan laughed. “I always thought about the cryo guys and how badly I wanted to go for one day and see…It’s different when every single day you’re holding a sample of liquid oxygen and you can feel it boil inside the beaker…I love it.
Along with the job being cool – literally and figuratively – it also demonstrates the importance of smart investment and innovation with promises of bettering the success of the Air Force mission as a whole.
“I take it as a personal challenge to myself and my team to do our best and actually show higher leadership that this is a legitimate plant and it could benefit not just Pacific Air Force, but other areas – especially overseas,” Pannell said.
Featured image: Senior Airman Michael Hall, 18th Logistics Readiness Squadron cryogenic production operator, fill a cart with liquid oxygen July 27, 2018, at Kadena Air Base, Japan.
The White House is warning the public to ignore rumors of a national quarantine for the novel coronavirus, which were circulated by erroneous text messages.
“Text message rumors of a national #quarantine are FAKE,” according to a March 15 tweet posted on the Twitter page of the National Security Council. “There is no national lockdown.”
Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman told defense reporters Monday that he “was not familiar” with any plans of using the U.S. military to enforce a national quarantine to contain the spread of coronavirus, officially known as COVID-19.
“I think the White House put out a statement that that was untrue and is not something that is under consideration at this time,” he said.
Social media has been flooded with virus-related rumors, many of which are being perpetrated by cybercriminals, according to U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command.
CID officials are warning the Army community to be aware of “phishing campaigns that prey on would-be victims’ fear, while others capitalize on the opportunity created by hot topics in the news cycle,” according to a recent CID news release.
“The COVID-19 pandemic presents cybercriminals with a way to combine both into a dangerous one-two punch,” the release states.
Cybercriminals recently hacked the COVID-19 interactive map created by Johns Hopkins University, according to the release. “The hackers are selling copies of the interactive map as a malware tool used to steal passwords and user data,” it added.
CID officials recommend individuals avoid clicking on links in unsolicited emails, instant messages or text messages related to information on COVID-19.
One example came in an email with the subject line “Singapore Specialists: Coronavirus Safety Measures,” according to a story on Wired.com.
The email reads: “Dear Sir, Go through the attached document on safety measures regarding the spreading of corona virus. This little measure can save you,” according to the story.
The attached link is labeled “Safety Measures.pdf.”
CID officials put out a list of websites that have recently shown signs of malicious behavior detected by anti-virus software:
CID officials are reminding people to be alert and suspicious and take extra steps to verify the source before releasing any personal or financial information.
Cybercriminals may use a variety of approaches, such as claiming to represent the health department and offering vaccination or other testing against COVID-19, according to the release.
“The health department will not do this,” the release states. “This is a dangerous scam. If this happens, call your local police department immediately.”
The Federal Trade Commission has also identified scams that involve emails “claiming to be from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or experts saying that have information about the virus,” according to the FTC website.
Any online offers for COVID-19 vaccines should be ignored, according to the FTC.
“There currently are no vaccines, pills, potions, lotions, lozenges or other prescription or over-the-counter products available to treat or cure Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) — online or in stores,” it states.
Other hoax tactics will sound silly to most people, but the CID advises caution if an individual claiming to be from computer support “tells you your computer is infected with corona virus and offers to repair it.”
“Your computer cannot be infected by corona virus,” the CID release states.
“Individuals should be suspicious of anyone who approaches or initiates contact regarding coronavirus; anyone not known, or with whom conversation was not initiated, who offers advice on prevention, protection or recovery — especially if they ask for money,” it adds.
The Littoral Combat Ship has been nothing short of problematic for the US Navy. Engineering and mechanical issues have repeatedly sidelined a number of active LCS warships, sometimes in foreign ports for months at a time. Oddly enough, as much as the LCS has been a pain in the figurative neck, it’s far from the worst frigate-type vessel afloat in today’s modern navies.
In fact, that dubious distinction goes to the yet-to-be-accepted F125 series of “super frigates” commissioned by the German Navy.
Though the first of the F125 ships, the Baden-Württemberg, has already been built and has sailed under its own power, it was returned to its builder by the German government — which isn’t a very good sign.
The German military originally sought a replacement for its Bremen-class frigates in the early 2000s. While the Bremen boats were still fairly young at the time, they were rapidly walking down the path toward obsolescence. With operational costs steadily climbing at a time when the German military planned to make deeps cut in spending, a plan formed in the minds of the country’s highest-ranking civilian and uniformed defense officials.
Instead of ordering frigates that could fulfill just one or two types of missions, they would order and commission the largest frigates in the world to serve as multi-mission platforms. They would, hypothetically, be able to operate away from their German home ports for up to 24 months at a time, function using a smaller crew, and serve on humanitarian and peacekeeping operations around the world as needed.
Additionally, similar to the LCS frigates, these new surface combatants would be able to field modules for various missions, quickly swapped out in port as varying objectives demanded. Special operations forces could also use the new ships as floating staging areas, with the ability to carry four smaller boats and two medium-lift NH90 helicopters.
In 2007, the first contracts for the new frigates — dubbed the F125 class — were inked, outlining an order for a batch of four ships with the potential for more in the future. The deal tallied up to nearly $3 billion USD with an expected delivery date of 2015-2016.
During the construction program, problems began to manifest, and with them came delays and cost overruns. By the time of the lead ship’s christening in 2013, German officials anticipated a commissioning date in 2016 or 2017 at the latest. However, by 2017, the situation had worsened when scores of defects were discovered during testing and evaluation.
The F125 class is far closer in size and constitution to a destroyer than a frigate. Coming in at around 7200 tons, the weight of the vessel (which includes its mission systems, propulsion, machinery, etc.) makes for a major speed disadvantage. The Baden-Württemberg can’t go faster than 26 knots (30 miles per hour) while underway. By comparison, Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, which are just 15 feet longer than the F125s and are in a similar weight class, has been known to achieve speeds in excess of 30 knots (+35 miles per hour) with its engines are cranked up.
Not only does this have an impact on the F125’s performance, it also makes the ship considerably more expensive to operate in the long term.
Hardware and software woes are among the most damning issues plaguing the F125s. Defective mission-critical systems means that the ship is unreliable when at sea and probably completely unusable in combat situations. At this point, the F125s are more like extremely expensive military yachts than they are warships.
To top it off, the Baden-Württemberg has a consistent list to starboard, meaning that the ship is on a permanent lean to the right side.
In late December, 2017, the German military refused to accept the Baden-Württemberg for active service, citing the above flaws and defects. This is the very first time in German history where a warship was actually returned to its builder because it didn’t meet minimum operating standards and requirements.
There is no timeline on when the German Navy will finally accept the F125s into its surface fleet. That won’t happen until all four ships have been refitted and repaired to the satisfaction of German defense officials. Before that, millions of dollars will have to be reinvested into the already highly-expensive program.
The AK-47 and the AK-74 assault rifles have long been associated with the remnants of the Soviet Union. In fact, the two iconic weapons still see service within the USSR’s former satellite republics. But if all goes according to plan, Ukraine weapons will get a facelift. Once the arsenal and munitions capital of the USSR — will be swapping out its AKs for a western rifle.
Instead of fielding more modern variants of the AK platform, Ukrainian defense officials have instead opted to field test a derivative of the American M-16 family of rifles to equip their ground forces. Choosing an American weapon to become the basis of their small arms complement is just the latest in a series of moves through which the country hopes to achieve full membership with NATO.
The past decade has seen Ukraine’s relationship with Russia steadily sour, culminating in an armed conflict in 2014 that saw thousands of troops on both the Russian and Ukrainian sides perish in combat. Part of what has wedged a divide between Russia and its former puppet republic is Ukraine’s NATO aspirations.
Ukraine, like a number of other post-Soviet states, has sought membership with NATO for years, which would give the embattled country considerable military support from European nations and the United States. It would also afford the Ukrainian military the opportunity upgrade and revamp, phasing out older weapons and vehicles in favor of modern warfighting systems and gear.
Uniformity and standardization happen to be large parts of acquiring NATO membership. All member nations use similar calibers for their weaponry, integrated communications systems, etc. Moving away from primarily using gear of Russian origin would quickly allow allied troops in the region to replenish their munitions while fighting alongside personnel from other NATO states.
(USMC photo by Corporal Thomas J. Griffith)
While NATO member states use 5.56x45mm rounds for their rifles, Ukraine still utilizes the Soviet-era 5.45x39mm and 7.62x39mm rounds for their service weapons. This is partly because Ukraine is still home to munitions factories that produced these bullets in large quantities for the Soviet military and other Warsaw Pact nations during the Cold War.
A potential solution to moving the Ukrainian ground forces away from these calibers comes in the form of the WAC-47, designed and produced by Aeroscraft, an American firm. Though it looks just like the standard rifle of the US military on the surface, the WAC-47 is unlike any M-16 or M4 you’ve ever seen or used before.
While it has the same features as the M-16/M4 rifles, including a charging handle above the receiver, a rail mounting system, a retractable stock, etc., it’s designed to fire both the 7.62 Soviet and 5.45mm rounds. This is made possible by an exchangeable upper receiver and barrel, allowing the user to switch between round types in a matter of minutes without the use of any tools or jigs.
But that’s hardly the best part.
The WAC-47 can later be retooled in a similar way to accept and fire 5.56 NATO rounds, helping to pave the path towards NATO commonality for Ukraine’s ground forces. This helps the Ukrainian military avoid having to go through the process of finding and buying new rifles once they phase out the older AK derivatives — the weapons will be available and ready for a simple modification.
For now, Ukraine weapons will stick to 7.62 Soviet and 5.45mm, only because of the massive stockpiles it currently possesses of these rounds. As its plans to join NATO move ahead, the Ukrainian military has already begun the process of incorporating western equipment and machinery into common use with the ground forces.
It’s unclear when exactly NATO will offer full membership to Ukraine, with some estimating the process taking as long as 20 years. When it does happen, however, it’s very likely that the former Soviet state’s military will be rolling around in western vehicles, with Ukraine weapons being western rifles like the WAC-47, having shed all remnants of its former Soviet military identity.