The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion

During the Cold War, an Army Special Forces unit was tasked with sabotaging Soviet infrastructure and crippling an invasion force to buy NATO time should war break out. The mission was so secret that the entire thing was almost forgotten — until a few veterans of the unit stepped forward.

We spoke to two of these veterans to find out what it was like serving as clandestine soldiers in an occupied city on what was likely a suicide mission if the seemingly-imminent war ever started


The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion

U.S. and Soviet forces standoff across Checkpoint Charlie in 1961, one of the many Cold War flare-ups that occurred in occupied Berlin after World War II.

(U.S. Army)

Master Sgt. Robert Charest is a veteran of Detachment A who has started the push for recording the unit’s history. Chief Warrant Officer 4 James Stejskal is the man who literally wrote the book on Detachment A.

The specific mission of Detachment A changed over the years, but the overarching goal was always preparing to counter and stall a Soviet invasion.

“If the Soviets decided to come across Checkpoint Charlie, we would just try to slow them down so that the rest of the folks, they’d get out of Berlin and all that stuff,” said Charest while describing the mission.

This meant that Charest, Stejskal, and others assigned to the unit — which had about 90 people in it for most of its existence — had to know what infrastructure to hit and how best to reach it. They also had to maintain all of the materials and weapons needed to complete their mission.

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion

Berlin was criss-crossed by a network of trains, like this train for travelers on the U-Bahn. Another railway ran around the outside of the city carrying heavy freight, and Detachment A members were prepared to blow up train engines on the railway in case of war.

Some of the targets were obvious, like the railroad that ran around divided Berlin.

“Around Berlin, there was a railway network, basically called the Berliner Ring,” said Stejskal. “It was that railway network that would carry the majority of the Russian forces from east to west. So, you got the guys that are on the ground already and then you got all these troops that are going to be coming from Poland and the Czech Republic and then you’re heading for the Fulda Gap.”

Shutting down the railroad would slow the Soviet advance, but the teams that made up Detachment A needed a way to do it without getting caught. The more stuff they could break before getting captured and killed, the better chance NATO forces would have in building a defensive line and eventually launching a counter attack.

So, they rigged up pieces of coal, filled with explosives. Were these ever loaded into a train, the engineer would eventually blow up his own engine, blocking the rail line with a shattered train until authorities could clean up the mess, drastically slowing reinforcements.

Other targets included factories and other centers of manufacturing, transportation, and command and control.

To supply these missions, Detachment A relied on a series of spy-like gadgets and hidden caches of conventional weapons buried deep all over West Berlin. But the targets were in East Berlin, and Detachment A had to plan on how to strike across the city and, later in the war, across the Berlin Wall, to hit targets.

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion

Special Forces sergeant Robert Charest while assigned to operation in Berlin, clearly rocking a different grooming standard than most soldiers in the Cold War.

(Photo courtesy of Bob Charest)

This required missions deep into Soviet-held Berlin. While Detachment A members usually enjoyed relaxed grooming standards and wore civilian clothes, spying across the wall was done in uniform surprisingly often.

“You put on a uniform, shaved your hair, got in the military vehicles, went through Checkpoint Charlie, and you had access to East Berlin,” Charest said, “Alexanderplatz and stuff like this. You drove around and that was your cover story. The Russians would do the same thing in West Berlin. They had their little system. That was how we conducted surveillance of our targets.”

The men had a huge advantage when spying on the East, though. Thanks to the 1950 Lodge Act, foreign nationals could obtain U.S. citizenship after a five-year stint in the military. This allowed Detachment A to recruit people from the neighborhoods and areas where their targets were without rousing suspicions. These recruits and leaders proved invaluable.

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion

Soviet workers build the Berlin Wall, breaking up the city and reducing Detachment A’s ability to surveil its targets.

(U.S. National Archives)

“Our commander was great,” said Stejskal. “Our commander was Czech Officer who had served in the Resistance during World War II. Our Sergeant Major was a German who had served in the German Army, sort of, at the end of World War II. Just, nothing like you could imagine.”

“… several of the guys that reconned these targets were the actual Lodge Act people that lived in Berlin and had come from Berlin,” said Charest. “They knew where these targets were and the intel, G2 and above, knew what targets would be best to slow the Soviets down if they decided to come across.”

Detachment A practiced crossing the wall, swimming through deep canals with SCUBA gear, or making their way through sewer and water pipes under the city. One recon of the sewer pipes even got a senior officer in trouble.

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion

Allied troops in West Berlin were deep behind Soviet lines. When the Soviets attempted to cut off re-supply to those troops, America launched the massive “Berlin Airlift” to keep them alive. The airlift was a success, but it drove home for many just how vulnerable West Berlin was.

(U.S. Air Force)

“He, along with somebody else, went into the sewer system to check the situation out for crossing points, okay,” Charest said. “Well, little did he know that the CIA had these things monitored with all kinds of stuff. They triggered the alarms.”

While the plans were well laid, they still relied on brave men willing to take on huge risks to make the mission a success. After all, West Berlin was still deep inside East Germany.

“It’s a strange feeling,” said Stejskal. “We were 110 miles behind the East German border, about 12,000 allied troops inside West Berlin surrounded by close to a million Russian and Warsaw Pact soldiers. Oddly enough, I think most of us were very energized to be where we were.”

And the men had a good idea of how dangerous that situation was.

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion

Soviet forces prepare to leave Hungary. If the Cold War had gone hot, Detachment A members, like the rest of the allied troops in Berlin, would have been outnumbered and outgunned over 100 miles from friendly forces.

(RIA Novosti Archive, CC-BY-SA 3.0)

“Well, it was basically a suicide mission,” Charest said. “If we got in and hit anything and then we had to face escape and evasion, all right? You were on your own. There was nothing set up, formally, for escape and evasion, yet. You were on your own. That’s why you spoke the language, that’s why you were familiar with the countryside. You knew, essentially, you had to get to the coast or wherever NATO withdrew to and stuff like this. But, you had nothing formal, you were on your own.”

“I think we would’ve been hard-pressed to survive more than 72 hours, but you never can tell,” Stejskal said. “How did the OSS agents feel when they parachuted France or into Yugoslavia during World War II? Same kind of feeling. You’re anticipating that you’re going in to a very bad situation, but you got the best tools, the best cover, and everything else.”

Luckily, Detachment A never had to slow a Soviet invasion, despite flare-ups, like the tank standoff at Checkpoint Charlie. Instead, they spent their time training and conducting surveillance, preparing to save American forces in a war that never came and quietly saving American lives while building the framework and doctrine for units that followed them, like SEAL Team 6 and Delta Force.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Vietnam claims a Chinese ship rammed and sank their fishing boat

Vietnam claims that a Chinese ship rammed and sank a fishing boat near the disputed Parcel Islands in the South China Sea, while Beijing tells an entirely different story.

The Vietnamese ship was struck by a Chinese vessel marked 44101 near Discovery Reef on March 6, 2019, Vietnam’s official Tuoi Tre newspaper reported March 7, 2019, citing Vietnamese authorities. The Vietnamese National Committee for Incident, Natural Disaster Response and Search and Rescue told VN Express, another Vietnamese outlet the same thing.


The five crew members reportedly clung to the bow of the sinking fishing boat until they were rescued roughly two hours later by another Vietnamese fishing boat.

An Vietnamese official speaking on background confirmed the report to the Associated Press.

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion

Vietnamese fishing boats.

(Flickr photo by Joe Gatling)

Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman argued that China detected a distress signal from a Vietnamese fishing vessel and dispatched a ship to assist, explaining that upon arrival, the Chinese ship discovered a vessel that was already sinking, the Chinese-language version of the Global Times reported.

Rather than provide assistance, the Chinese vessel reportedly contacted the Chinese Maritime Search and Rescue Center. Chinese media reports that the five fishermen were rescued, without providing any details on who rescued them.

None of the crew were injured in the incident.

The Paracels are a sore spot in bilateral ties between China and Vietnam. China seized these territories by force in the 1970s and has since constructed military outposts on a number of the features in this area.

In recent years, there have been several confrontations.

For example, Vietnam claimed in 2014 Chinese vessels encircled a Vietnamese fishing boat before ramming and sinking it. China argued that the Vietnamese ship was harassing the Chinese vessels. A similar incident occurred two years later.

China has clashed with other countries as well, including the US. In September 2018, a Chinese destroyer challenged a US Navy vessel during a routine freedom-of-navigation operation in the Spratlys, forcing the US warship off course and risking a collision.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

9 college scholarships for military children

If you have a high school senior graduating in 2019, then it’s the perfect time to start thinking about college.

If you haven’t planned on using the GI BILL for them, there are many scholarships for military children that they can apply for.

I’ve done some digging and have come up with 10 that you can consider. They range from offering $1000 a year for 4 years to a total award of $10,000 covering housing, tuition, and academic expenses.


1. AMVETS Scholarship

00 is awarded annually for 4yrs to those awarded with this scholarship. It’s specifically for children AND grandchildren of Veterans, Active Duty members and Guard/Reserves. Students also must currently be High School seniors. The next cycle for this scholarship will start in January 2019.

2. Scholarships for Military Children

This scholarship is awarded by the Commissary and funded by its contributors. It is currently closed for the 2018 year but will reopen between December 2018 and the beginning of 2019.

3. Chief Petty Officer Scholarship Fund

This scholarship will open for applicants in January 2019. Be prepared to apply. All children of active duty, retired or reserve Chief Petty Officers are eligible rather they are natural born, adopted or step children.

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion

Chief petty officers from Naval Air Station Jacksonville.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Gulianna Mandigo)

4. Frederick C. Branch Scholarship Program

Named after the Marine Corps’ first black officer, this NROTC scholarship is awarded to military children who plan on attending one of 17 black historical colleges. You can find the list here for more information!

5. Hero’s Legacy Scholarship

This is specific to children of a parent who has fallen in battle or have100% disability compensation. The Hero’s Legacy application process will open in mid-December.

6. Society of Daughters of United States Army Scholarship Program

Daughters AND granddaughters of US Army Officer’s (career or commissioned) are eligible for this scholarship. There is a small window to apply which only lasts from March 15th-March 31st.

7. Bonsai Finance Veterans Scholarship

Students will be rewarded with a one time 00 payment if chosen. Application consists of submitting a short essay in response to their questions. Applications are due September 28th.

8. Memorial Foundation Scholarship

The Enlisted Association Memorial Foundations Scholarship Program can be awarded to those children or grandchildren of good standing members of TREA (The Retired Enlisted Association). Applicants must submit a 300 word essay on a question posed by the organization.

9. VA Mortgage Center Scholarship

Recipients of this scholarship will be rewarded with id=”listicle-2631535261″,500 bi-yearly in May and November for five years. It’s a part of their Military Education Scholarship Program. For more information call their Scholarship Director at 800-973-4954.

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Active duty women are being denied birth control while deployed

Military leaders say that General Order 1, which limits alcohol consumption and cohabitation for troops deployed to war zones, reinforces good order and discipline. Advocates and troops say it’s an antiquated “ban on sex” — and may in reality be harming women’s health.

Women troops said in some cases that their doctors cited this controversial order to deny them access to birth control while deployed, a fact that was revealed in a survey conducted by the Service Women’s Action Network advocacy group.


In their survey of nearly 800 women serving or who have served in the US military, SWAN found that 26% of active-duty women do not have access to birth control while deployed. That number jumps even higher for other communities: 41% of women veterans reported limited access during their time in uniform.

While several reasons were provided to account for these numbers, including the inability to refill prescriptions far enough in advance, advocates were shocked to find that a limitation on sexual activity would be used to deny access to birth control.

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion

A U.S. Army Pvt. pulls her way to the top of the slide to victory obstacle during the confidence course phase of basic combat training at Fort Jackson.

(U.S. Army photo)

“Isn’t that ridiculous,” Ellen Haring, chief executive of SWAN, told Business Insider. “It astounds me that people would be denied for that reason.”

It’s astounding, Haring said, because birth control is not just used as a contraceptive. One of the survey’s respondents said she was dismayed when she could not get enough refills to last through her deployments because she primarily used birth control to regulate, and even skip, her menstrual cycle.

Along with safely skipping a period, Planned Parenthood lists a range of medical benefits to using birth control — from reduction of acne to prevention of endometrial or ovarian cancers.

These benefits are not being ignored by the Department of Defense, which said it would be a violation of service members’ privacy if their commander denied them access to birth control.

“Birth control … is not just indicated for pregnancy prevention, it is also indicated for menstrual regulation, including menstrual suppression,” Jessica Maxwell, spokeswoman for the Defense Department, said in an emailed statement to Business Insider.

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Twila Stone readies her weapon during a Memorial Day ceremony.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jonathan Stefanko)

It would be a privacy violation for a commander to deny birth control, Maxwell wrote, because taking birth control would not limit a woman’s ability to perform her duties. But she could not publicly comment whether a doctor’s refusal to prescribe the medication would trigger a violation of any military regulation or whether the Pentagon was investigating any reports of this occurring.

Her statement emphasized that emergency contraception, which can be obtained over-the-counter, is readily available even for service members in deployed locations.

But emergency contraceptives are singular in their purpose; these remedies do not satisfy the host of alternate uses filled by prescription birth control.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

These vets hunt down paranormal forces on Army posts

Logically speaking, there’s almost always a valid explanation for those bumps in the night — but there’s a sense of adventure that comes along with investigating the unexplained. The thrill of finding an explanation for the unexplainable (even if that explanation is otherworldly) is what brings together paranormal enthusiasts in the hunt for answers.

Veterans tend to be strong-willed people who have long immersed themselves in a culture in which death is never far from the mind. From battlefields to bases, many locales in the military world are home to the world’s most ghostly tales — and if you’ve ever been on an installation at night, you know there’s something undeniably eerie at work.

These veterans banded together over their love of the paranormal and have decided to look into the many oft-ignored (and never explained) supernatural military mysteries.


The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion

Yep. Still looks exactly like pretty much every S-6 shop in the Army.

(Courtesy of Military Veterans Paranormal)

The Military Veterans Paranormal (or MVP) are based out of Fort Campbell, Kentucky. The group came together over a shared love for all things spooky and, today, have a legitimate operation going on. They catch word of possible paranormal activity, plan an investigation as if it were a conventional military operation, and then head out to find answers.

But to them, it’s far more than just the pursuit of ghosts — it’s also about the camaraderie that comes with operating as a unit. Founding member of the Military Veterans Paranormal, Mellanie Ramsey, told We Are The Mighty,

“We hope to show other veterans that there are other ways we can deal with PTSD and that just because you’re no longer in the military, it doesn’t mean you’re alone. Find a hobby, the more unique the better. We found a hobby that enables us to use the tools and skills we learned in the military and apply it to paranormal investigation. You can still have a mission, though it may no longer be combat related. We still matter and as long as we stick together to support one another, we can work to reduce the number of veteran suicides while still helping others and having fun. We’re proof the mission doesn’t have to be over just because you get out of service. It just changed.”
The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion

(Courtesy of Military Veterans Paranormal)

One of their recent investigations brought them to “The Birdcage” at Fort Campbell. It’s a part of the base that’s been abandoned since the Cold War — and if you believe the rumors, it’s the Army’s equivalent to Area 51. Of course, they don’t do anything without getting proper permission from the authorities and they do plenty of historical research ahead of time.

On record, The Birdcage was where the Army stored nuclear warheads — but countless paranormal sightings have been reported in the area. Everything from ghosts to aliens to magical forces have been attributed to this site. Naturally, the paranormal investigators had to check it out.

While there, they spotted a something in OD Green running. The description of their sighting exactly matches reports from a member of 5th Special Forces Group, who saw that very same something while running through the area. After a little more digging, MVP learned that a convicted soldier had died there while trying to escape the brig. During his escape, he accidentally crossed into The Birdcage, where a highly-electrified barricade ended his attempt — and his life.

Could the spirit of this convict still be roaming the area, long after his death? It’s hard to say for sure.

The group is very serious about their hobby, but they don’t pocket any of the money they raise through the investigations. To date, they’ve raised over ,000 for the Wounded Warrior Foundation.

If you’re interested in joining a paranormal investigation group — or if there’s something you think warrants checking out, visit Military Veterans Paranormal’s website.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

6 Chinese weapons that are direct rip-offs of American ones

China’s military has surged in capability and size in the recent decades, but that rise has come, partially, as a result of stealing, copying, or imitating technology developed by the U.S. and other countries. From drones to ships, here are six of the most recent copies:


The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion

A Chinese Type 726 landing craft.

LCAC / Type 726

The Chinese Type 726A Landing Craft, Air Cushioned is a near carbon copy of the Navy LCAC, the hovercraft used by the U.S. Navy uses to deliver everything, from bullets to tanks, to bare enemy beaches. The two vessels even have similar capabilities — both can carry 60 tons, but the U.S. LCAC can “overload” to 75 tons.

This is particularly bad news for Taiwan, the democratic island stronghold separated from mainland China by a thin strip of water that the Type 726 can cross while carrying a Chinese main battle tank.

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion

A Chinese Star Shadow stealth attack drone at the Singapore Airshow.

(Photo via Gallery Military YouTube)

X-47B / Star Shadow

The Chinese Star Shadow is a promising drone, under development by Star UAV System Co. Ltd. The Chengdu, China-based company is looking at exporting the revolutionary drone that is definitely based on America’s existing X-47B. In addition to access to the public photos of the X-47B, the designers could easily have received access to technology taken from a crashed American RQ-170 drone in Iran and papers on stealth technology sent to China by a U.S. spy.

It’s unclear whether Star UAV System gained intel as a result of cyber espionage or through the Chinese government, if at all, but the similarities between the X-47B and the Star Shadow are hard to ignore.

www.youtube.com

MQ-1 Predator / CH-4

The Chinese CH-4B long endurance drone bears a strong resemblance to the American MQ-1 Predator drone, and actually has a similar mission… and altitude range… and armament. Yeah, the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation didn’t really pull this design out of thin air.

But, they do manufacture it more cheaply, leading to an edge in exports. An answer to the MQ-9 Reaper drone also exists, the CH-5, but it lacks the altitude of the proper Reaper. It can reach a paltry 9,000 meters, compared to the 15,000 meters of the Reaper.

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion

The Chinese heavy lift Y-20 aircraft at the Zhuhai Airshow in 2014.

(Photo by Airliners.net, CC BY-SA 4.0)

Y-20 / C-17

Rolling off the line in June, 2016, the Y-20 is slightly smaller and carries slightly less weight than the American C-17, to which it appears to be a close cousin. Despite its relative smallness, it’s still a massive transport aircraft capable of carrying Chinese main battle tanks and other gear across the planet.

A former Boeing employee was convicted of selling C-17 technical details to China in 2009, while the Y-20 was still in early development. We’re sure that’s just a coincidence — right?

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion

A U.S. UH-60

(US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Vernell Hall)

UH-60 / Z-20

China purchased Sikorsky S-70 helicopters, the civilian variant of the UH-60 Black Hawk, back in the 1980s. Eventually, they wore out, so China created the “homegrown Z-20,” which are basically UH-60s. They’re so closely related that commentators took to calling the Z-20 the “Copy Hawk.”

The helicopter features a fifth blade that’s not found on Black Hawks, and the Z-20 is thought to carry slightly more weight than its ancestor, the UH-60.

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion

The Chinese Type 052 destroyer is an imitation of the U.S. Navy Arleigh-Burke class. The Chinese Haribing (DDG 112) is pictured above.

(U.S. Department of Defense)

Arleigh-Burke / Type 052

China’s Type 052 guided-missile destroyers have large radars, vertical missile tubes that can attack everything from submarines to enemy missiles, and a helicopter hanger, just like the rival Arleigh-Burke class in the U.S. arsenal — and their designs and appearances are very similar.

This is one case, though, where the technology appears to be more imitation than theft. Unlike the drones, the Y-20, and other programs, there’s little evidence that China gained direct access to Arleigh-Burke designs or technology. More likely, Chinese leaders observed the capability of the destroyer, tried to steal it, but figured they could approximate much of the system with their own engineers if necessary.

MIGHTY TRENDING

It’s official: China is building a third aircraft carrier

A third Chinese aircraft carrier is in development at a domestic shipyard, Chinese state media revealed Nov. 25, 2018, confirming for the first time long-held suspicions.

The state-run Xinhua News Agency explained that while the country’s first domestically-produced carrier — the Type 001A — is going through sea trials, an unnamed “new-generation carrier” is being built and is on schedule, the government-controlled China Daily reported Nov. 26, 2018.


China’s first aircraft carrier — the Type 001 Liaoning — is a Soviet “heavy aircraft-carrying cruiser” that China acquired in the late 1990s, upgraded and refitted over roughly a decade, and commissioned into the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) in 2012.

The flagship of the Chinese navy was declared combat ready in 2016. It has since sailed around Taiwan, through the disputed East and South China Seas, and into the Western Pacific.

The Liaoning, primarily a training vessel as China attempts to better understand complex carrier operations, also served as a template for China’s second carrier.

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion

Chinese Aircraft Carrier Liaoning.

While the Type 001A is improved in certain places, it is decidedly similar to its Soviet predecessor. The vessel does, however, feature a new radar, a slightly larger flight deck, and a smaller island. The ship also includes a number of technological upgrades.

The carrier has undergone at least two sea trials, possibly a third. Observers expect the carrier to be commissioned into the PLAN in October 2019 for the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China.

There is speculation among expert observers that China’s newest aircraft carrier, which some refer to as the Type 002, will be a marked improvement over the Type 001 and Type 001A.

While the first two use ski jump-assisted short take-off but arrested recovery (STOBAR) launch systems, which are less effective, the new carrier may be a ship with a flat flight deck and a catapult-assisted take-off but arrested recovery (CATOBAR) launch system, as this is certainly something China aims to eventually achieve.

The development of a carrier with a CATOBAR launch system would be a significant step forward for the Chinese navy, as it would improve the operational effectiveness of the ship. Leaked images from the company tasked with building China’s carriers suggested that this may be where China is heading.

An advanced fleet of aircraft carriers supported by new Type 055 Renhai destroyers and other upgraded escort ships would greatly improve China’s ability to project power in its neighborhood.

Chinese state media has confirmed that a third carrier is in the works, but it has yet to provide any specific details on the new ship.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

A-10 unit claims unprecedented readiness levels

For the first time, Moody’s 23rd Maintenance Squadron’s propulsion flight accomplished an unprecedented feat by ensuring every TF34 engine in their fleet is repaired to serviceable status.

This readiness level relinquishes the need for the flight to perform maintenance on their current A-10C Thunderbolt II engine assets. While they normally maintain the 74th and 75th Aircraft Maintenance Unit’s engines in support of Moody’s close-air support mission, the backshop will now centralize their TF34 repair efforts to assist other bases and Major Commands to include Reserve and National Guard units.

This has allowed the 23rd MXS to play a vital role in helping secure an Air Force-wide 200 percent ‘war-ready’ engine status, the highest in the TF34’s 40-year history.


“I’m excited for every member of this team,” said Master Sgt. Cevin Medley, 23rd MXS propulsion flight chief. “This is my third base and engine backshop. Repairing an entire TF34 engine fleet to serviceable status (with zero required maintenance) is something I have only “heard” about in my 17 years.

“This (accomplishment) is important because it not only allows us to meet our minimum deployment requirements, but we also can support other operations if every (Moody AFB) A-10 aircraft were to be tasked to deploy,” Medley added. “Since our ‘war-ready’ engine levels have been so high, we have been able to help the rest of the Air Force’s TF34 community with their due engine repairs.”

The 23rd MXS propulsion flight manages WREs, which are engines that are ready to be installed on the A-10. Of their entire fleet, 14 are spare WREs, which surpasses Air Combat Command’s required level of five spare WREs. The flight’s 280 percent spare WRE rate has enabled the backshop to currently perform no current maintenance on their assets and have rebuilt seven engines in total from outside Moody.

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion

Airman 1st Class Jordan Vasquez, 23rd Maintenance Squadron aerospace propulsion technician, inspects the fuel lines of an A-10C Thunderbolt II TF34 engine, May 16, 2018, at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Eugene Oliver)

The road to pursue this challenge wasn’t easy. An innovative process, known as the Continuous Process Improvement, positioned the flight to have a chance at history. In 2017, approximately 20 civilians and Airmen from almost every enlisted rank implemented ideas to help the flight better maintain the TF34 engine.

“(2017’s) Continuous Process Improvement event allowed us to identify waste in our streamline,” said Medley. “This enabled us to shave an average of 58 work hours off each engine visit. This allowed us to go from six awaiting maintenance engines, which is the amount of engines we didn’t have the manning to work because we were repairing other engines in 2016, to where we are today.”

In order to reach new heights in maintenance proficiency, many small changes were made. The flight refocused training for new Airmen on common problems, began pre-ordering commonly needed engine parts, enhanced cross-unit and internal communication and even added updated photos to technical orders.

For Senior Airman Dakota Gunter, 23rd MXS aerospace propulsion technician, these new improvements paid big dividends for the backshop’s operations.

“The Continuous Process Improvement not only helped us (reduce) time on engine rebuilds, it also made the job a lot easier,” said Gunter. “Our processes have gone a lot smoother with everything from checking out tools to (performing) and documenting maintenance. Teamwork has been key during all of this, with everyone playing a key part to ensure the job is complete.”

According to Medley, the cohesion and continued support of not only the 23rd MXS, but the 23rd Maintenance Group supervision proved invaluable. He hopes to sustain their achievements and continue to assist in getting the rest of the Air Force’s TF34 fleet to match Moody’s readiness.

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How Arlington Cemetery will expand next year

For its second act of expansion, Arlington National Cemetery plans to grow southward onto property formerly occupied by the Navy Annex. Work there will begin in 2020, said the cemetery’s executive director.

Karen Durham-Aguilera spoke March 12, 2019, before the House Appropriations Committee’s subcommittee on military construction, veterans affairs and related agencies. She told lawmakers the cemetery plans to break ground on the first phase of the project in 2020. She also thanked them for providing the appropriate funding to make it happen.


“With Congress’s support, the Defense Access Road project is fully funded with million and the Southern Expansion is partially funded with 9.1 million dollars no-year funding, toward a 0 million requirement,” she said.

Both projects, which include a plan to reroute Columbia Pike, which runs alongside the cemetery to the south; and a plan to develop reclaimed land and bring it up to the standards of the cemetery, are currently underway.

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. James K. McCann)

The road project should finish by 2022, Durham-Aguilera said. The second phase of the project should begin in 2022, and complete in 2025.

“Southern Expansion will add 37 acres of burial space and extend the cemetery’s active life,” Durham-Aguilera said. “We will continue to provide quarterly report to Congress, outlining the progress of these important projects.”

To move forward on the project, Durham-Aguilera said the Army is working with Arlington County, the Commonwealth of Virginia and the Federal Highway Administration.

Other Progress

Durham-Aguilera also told lawmakers about additional projects that have either been completed at the cemetery, which are underway, or which are currently in the planning stages. Since 2013, she said, 70 infrastructure projects have been completed. Today, an additional 25 are underway.

“We have completed or are currently rebuilding more than eight miles of roadways, with approximately ten additional miles in planning or design,” she said. “We have replaced about one-third of the cemetery’s storm sewer lines … since 2013, we have replaced over 1,000 feet of sanitary line, typically, as an emergency repair. We plan to replace or rehabilitate an additional 5,000 feet to prevent further failures.”

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion

The Arlington National Cemetery Southern Expansion Plan will add more space to ANC in a location near the existing Air Force Memorial and former Navy Annex. Plans include rerouting portions of the existing Columbia Pike.

(Army illustration)

In submitted testimony, Durham-Aguilera said the cemetery will also do work on its administrative building where families gather in advance of a funeral.

Eligibility criteria

In fiscal year 2018, ANC buried nearly 6,500 service members, veterans and eligible family members, Durham-Aguilera said. While the expansions will extend how long the cemetery can remain active, it will not be enough, she said.

“Expansion alone will not keep ANC open well into the future — defined as 150 years,” Durham-Aguilera said. “The [fiscal year 2019] National Defense Authorization Act requires the secretary of the Army, in consultation with the secretary of defense, by Sept. 30, 2019, to prescribe and establish revised criteria for interment that preserves ANC as an active burial ground. Evaluation of multiple options is ongoing to inform the secretary of the Army’s decision.”

To help inform that decision about eligibility criteria, Durham-Aguilera said, ANC has, among other things, conducted two public surveys of nearly 260,000 respondents and held meetings and listening sessions with key stakeholders — including more than 25 veteran and military service organizations.

“Arlington National Cemetery’s enduring mission is to represent the American people for the past, present and future generations by laying to rest those few who have served our nation with dignity and honor, while immersing guests in the cemetery’s living history,” Durham-Aguilera said. “We are committed to ensuring confident graveside accountability, our cemetery maintenance, our fiscal stewardship, and preserving the iconic look and feel of the cemetery.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why the Army’s powerful new tanks might be drones

Next Generation Combat Vehicle

The Army is now seeking to finesse a careful and combat-relevant balance between upgrading the current Abrams and Bradley to the maximum degree while also recognizing limitations and beginning conceptual work on a new platform called Next-Generation Combat Vehicle.


While the Army is only now in the early stages of concept development for this technology, Maj. Gen. David Bassett, Program Executive Officer, Ground Combat Systems, told Scout Warrior that it may indeed evolve into a family of vehicles.

A fleet of similarly engineered vehicles would be designed to allow each vehicle to be tailored and distinct, while simultaneously improving maintenance, logistics, and sustainment by using many common parts; the objective would, of course, be to lower long-term lifecycle costs and extend the service life of the vehicles. However, of potentially much greater significance, similar engineering, vehicle structures, and configurations could definitely expedite upgrades across the fleet as enabled by new technology. This could include new sensors, sights, electronics, force tracking systems, and a range of C4ISR technology.

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion
M1A1 Abrams firing its massive main cannon. (Photo from USMC)

Many Army comments have indicated that the configuration of the new vehicles may resemble hull forms of an Abrams, Mobile Protected Firepower vehicle, Bradley, or even elements of a Stryker vehicle. However, it is without question that, whatever NGCV evolves into, it will be built to consistently accommodate the best emerging technologies available.

For instance, Army developers explained that some early developmental work inolved assessing lighter weight armor and hull materials able to provide the same protection as the current vehicle at a much lower weight.

“We could look at some novel material, such as lightweight tracks or a hull replacement,” Lt. Col. Justin Shell, the Army’s product manager for Abrams, told Scout Warrior in an interview.

Key parameters for the NGCV will, among other things, include building a lighter-weight, more mobile and deployable vehicle. Weight, speed, and mobility characteristics are deemed essential for a tank’s ability to support infantry units, mechanized armored units, and dismounted soldiers by virtue of being able to cross bridges, rigorous terrain, and other combat areas less accessible to existing 70-ton Abrams tanks.

Bassett explained that specific cross-functional team leads have begun to explore concepts and early requirements for the NGCV effort to, among other things, look for common, cross-fleet technologies and build in flexibility.

“Cross functional teams are defining the art of the possible as we look at what technologies are available,” Bassett said in an interview with Scout Warrior. “We could change some assumptions. We want to give the Army some flexibility.”

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion
The M2 Bradley has seen a lot of desert miles. (National War College Military Image Collection)

One possibility now receiving some attention, Army senior leaders say, is that the NGCV may implement a lightweight 120mm cannon previously developed for one of the Manned-Ground Vehicles developed for the now-cancelled Future Combat Systems program. The vehicle, called the Mounted Combat System, was built with a two-ton 120mm cannon roughly one-half the weight of the current Abrams cannon.

The Army’s MCS program developed and test-fired a super lightweight 120mm cannon, called the XM360, able to fire existing and emerging next-generation tank rounds.

The MCS was to have had a crew of two, a .50 caliber machine gun, and a 40mm automatic grenade launcher.

The Army’s recent Combat Vehicle Modernization Strategy specifically mentions the value of adapting the XM360 for future use.

“Next-Generation Large Caliber Cannon Technology. The XM360 next-generation 120mm tank cannon integrated with the AAHS will provide the M1 Abrams a capability to fire the next generation of high-energy and smart-tank ammunition at beyond line-of-sight (LOS) ranges. The XM360 could also incorporate remote control operation technologies to allow its integration on autonomous vehicles and vehicles with reduced crew size. For lighter weight vehicles, recoil limitations are overcome by incorporating the larger caliber rarefaction wave gun technology while providing guided, stabilized LOS, course-corrected LOS, and beyond LOS accuracy.”

Special new technology was needed for the XM360 in order to allow a lighter-weight cannon and muzzle to accommodate the blast from a powerful 120mm tank round.

Elements of the XM360 include a combined thermal and environmental shroud, blast deflector, a composite-built overwrapped gun, tube-modular gun-mount, independent recoil brakes, gas-charged recuperators, and a multi-slug slide block breech with an electric actuator, Army MCS developmental documents describe.

Read More: This new, more deadly version of the M1 Abrams tank is on its way to the fight

Abrams Robotic Wingmen

While not specifically referring to a T-14 Armata’s unmanned turret or Russian plans for an autonomous capability, Basset did say it is conceivable that future armored vehicles may indeed include an unmanned turret as well as various level of autonomy, tele-operation, and manned-unmanned teaming. The prospect of integrating “autonomous vehicles” into future armored platforms is, as noted above, also specified in the Army’s Combat Vehicle Modernization strategy.

Accordingly, Basset also emphasized that the future NGCV vehicles will be designed to incorporate advanced digital signal processing and machine-learning, such as AI technologies.

Computer algorithms enabling autonomous combat functions are progressing at an alarming rate, inspiring Army and General Dynamics Land Systems developers to explore the prospect of future manned-unmanned collaboration with tank platforms. It is certainly within the realm of the technically feasible for a future tank to simultaneously control a small fleet of unmanned robotic “wing man” vehicles designed to penetrate enemy lines while minimizing risk to soldiers, transporting ammunition, or performing long-range reconnaissance and scout missions.

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion
CINCU, Romania – Tanks and Bradley Fighting Vehicles from 1st Battalion, 163rd Infantry Regiment, Montana Army National Guard, take up defensive while participating in Exercise Saber Guardian 16 at the Romanian Land Force Combat Training Center. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Corey Baltos, 24th Press Camp Headquarters).

“The Chief has stated that all future vehicles will be tele-operated. We take those things into account and we’re are going to get some great experimentation in this area,” Bassett said. “There are things you can do in a next-gen vehicle which you cannot do in a current vehicle due to physical requirements.”

Levels of autonomy for air vehicles, in particular, have progressed to a very advanced degree – in part because there are, quite naturally, fewer obstacles in the air precluding autonomous navigation. GPS-enabled waypoint technology already facilitates both ground and air autonomous movement; however, developing algorithms for land-based autonomous navigation is far more challenging given that a vehicle will need to quickly adjust to a fast-moving, dynamic, and quickly-changing ground combat environment.

“There is a dramatic difference in size, weight, and power performance if you make something tele-operated,” Bassett said.

Lists

6 planes the Air Force should bring back

We’ve talked about some planes that the United States Navy would probably want to have back in service. Well, the Air Force has a few planes they’d probably want back as well.


Let’s take a look at a few of them.

6. F-117 Nighthawk

The first operational stealth fighter was really more along the lines of a light bomber. They were retired in the mid-2000s as the F-22 Raptor came online. F-22 production, however, was stopped at 187 airframes by the Obama Administration. The Raptor has been called on to carry out attack missions in Syria and Afghanistan — F-117s could do those jobs instead.

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion
F-117s on a flight line in Saudi Arabia after returning from a strike mission during the Persian Gulf War (U.S. Air Force photo)

5. A-37 Dragonfly

It’s interesting to see programs, like OA-X, that are arguably trying to re-invent the wheel. The A-37 was a good counter-insurgency plane that carried a decent payload and was used as a forward air control plane. Equipped with some modern weapons, like the AGM-114 Hellfire, it’d do the job of a Light Air Support aircraft, and the RD costs will be lower.

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion
OA-37B Dragonfly, the FAC version of the A-37. (U.S. Air Force photo)

4. F-111 Aardvark/FB-111 Switchblade

The Air Force has a small bomber force: 76 B-52H Stratofortresses, 62 B-1B Lancers, and 20 B-2A Sprits. Having only 158 aircraft for a job can result in a force being spread very thin. Thankfully, there’s be an option for supplementing that force. The F-111 and FB-111 didn’t have the long range of these heavy bombers, but they can carry one heck of a payload — just the thing to deal with a horde of Russian tanks.

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion
General Dynamics F-111F at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

3. MH-53 Pave Low

The V-22 Osprey is a very nice aircraft and marked a huge leap in technology. That being said, the MH-53 Pave Low had its own advantages as well. The Air Force had 41 of these helicopters, and currently has 46 CV-22 Ospreys. The Osprey was introduced to replace the Pave Low, but maybe it would have been better to have as a complement. We know this technically isn’t a “plane,” but it’s hard to deny this fantastic airframe.

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion
A U.S. Air Force MH-53 Pave Low. Thomas J. Task flew a similar helicopter within 30 miles of Baghdad to rescue a downed pilot. (U.S. Air Force photo)

2. A-7D Corsair

This little-known Air Force variant of a Navy attack plane could also be used to free up existing long-range bombers. The A-7D can carry up to 15,000 pounds of bombs and a M61 cannon with over a thousand rounds of ammo.

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion
Three USAF A-7Ds in formation. Air Force Corsairs flew thousands of sorties with only four losses. (U.S. Air Force photo)

1. OV-10D Bronco

If you think the OA-X program brings about good planes, take a look at what the OV-10 Bronco can do. It can carry four machine guns and 3,600 pounds of ordnance. Plus, it had a top speed of 244 knots and a maximum range of 1,200 nautical miles, according to Boeing.

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion
OV-10G+ operated by SEAL Team 6. (U.S. Navy photo)

Which planes from the Air Force’s past would you like to see make a comeback?

MIGHTY HISTORY

4 famous lines from legendary speeches that were made up on the spot

A good speech from a great leader can change the world. After the Battle of Gettysburg, Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address, a speech that strengthened the resolve of the Union to continue fighting battles like that for another two years. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, President Franklin Roosevelt told the American people that day would live in infamy, and it has ever since.

But it might surprise you to discover that some of history’s greatest lines were improvised by the speaker, instead of written into the script of the age.


President Bush’s Ground Zero “Bullhorn Speech”

George W. Bush has been accused of a lot of things, but being one of history’s greatest orators is not one of them. Still, in the days following the Sept. 11 attacks, the United States needed its fearless leader to show up at the center of it all and encourage the nation to stand tall, and George W. Bush was able to do that. What started out as an impromptu, unprepared remark about empathy turned into one of the most memorable speeches of modern presidential history when a worker in the back shouted, “we can’t hear you,” referring to the president’s bullhorn.

President Bush, contrary to what some might believe, is quick on his feet and responded with the legendary line “I can hear you. The whole world hears you. And whoever knocked down these buildings will hear all of us real soon.”

Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” Speech

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. walked to the podium on Aug. 28, 1963, intent on sticking to the script. His prepared remarks mentioned nothing about the dream King had. He’d mentioned the dream speech before, but was convinced the speech wouldn’t have the same effect on such a gathered crowd for such a long speech. In the middle of the speech, Gospel singer Mahalia Jackson shouted to Dr. King, telling him to use the “dream” line.

At around 12:00 above, you can see the shift in Dr. King’s face. He stops looking down at his notes as he had for the previous 12 minutes and begins to address the crowd directly, flawlessly delivering the “dream” portion of the speech. This part of the speech is much less measured and more emotional than a banking analogy.

Winston Churchill’s “The Few” Speech

By August 1940, Britain stood alone in Europe against the Nazi war machine. Poland and France had already fallen, and the only things protecting England was the English Channel and the Royal Air Force. British airmen were giving everything they had to defend the island nation from the relentless attacks of the Nazi Luftwaffe, day and night, and they were running low on planes and pilots. Churchill was moved by the pilots who survived the bombing of an RAF airfield just days before and told the assembled men that ‘never in the history of mankind has so much been owed by so many to so few.’

He delivered a speech on that to Parliament on Aug. 20, 1940.

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion

(Smithsonian Institution)

George Washington “Grows Blind”

The Continental Army was growing restless in 1783. Victory in independence was just around the corner, but they didn’t know that. They were upset at having not been paid by Congress. Officers and soldiers of the army decided to meet in Newburgh, N.Y. to draw up a letter to Congress. Their demand was to be paid or warn the body of a coming mutiny. When George Washington heard about it, he decided to address the men on a day of his choosing.

When he entered the hall, he entered through a side door instead of the main door and proceeded to give a nine-page speech warning them against such a mutiny. He also expressed support for their sentiments and went to share a letter from a Congressman who shared it too. As he pulled out the letter, he also pulled out his glasses and said the immortal words:

“Gentlemen, you must pardon me. I have grown gray in your service and now find myself growing blind.”

It was that improvised line that prevented the mutiny, reaffirmed their loyalty to their graying commander, and won the war.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The British trained ex-slaves to fight the US in the War of 1812

If there was a real weakness in the system of the early United States, it was slavery. The practice of slavery kept a lot of American ideals just out of reach and was used against the young country on multiple occasions. During the War of 1812, the British attempted to exploit this weakness by training a group of former slaves to fight for a country that needed them to fight as free men.


The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion

War of 1812 re-enactors, bring the Battle of Pensacola back to life, using the British Colonial Marines.

These days when we think of Colonial Marines, we’re thinking of the gung-ho Space Warriors from the movie Alien. But back when Lord Cochrane decided to resurrect his Corps of Colonial Marines, he was set on fighting the Americans on their home turf.

Cochrane first formed his Colonial Marines in response to a lack of proper Redcoats on British-held Caribbean territories. He believed a fighting force made up of men born and raised in the islands of the Caribbean would be hardier than importing British regulars from overseas. Having grown up around the tropics (and the diseases that come with the region) the men would be less prone to illness, a major problem with armed forces of the time.

For the slaves, enlistment meant instant freedom. Cochrane’s Marines served admirably from 1808 until they were disbanded two years later.

It was during this time Great Britain was fighting one of her greatest wars, the war against French Emperor Napoleon. Napoleon was considered by many in the British service to be an existential threat to the home islands, and as such, Britain drew on a large number of imperial troops, manpower, and resources to fight Napoleon in Europe. The problem was they also drew on resources that didn’t belong to the Empire, namely, American sailors. Since many of the American sailors were born in Britain, they rationalized, they could be impressed into the Royal Navy from American merchant ships.

This didn’t sit well with the Americans. For that (and a host of other reasons, many of which were less than noble) the United States declared war on its old mother country. For Cochrane, Britain was now fighting a world war. When appointed commander of the North American station, Cochrane realized the immediate need for more men, so he resurrected his Colonial Marines.

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion

Cochrane, creator of the Colonial Marines, also masterminded the burning of the White House.

Cochrane raised his new Colonial Marines in Florida, which served a strategic purpose, being so close to the former colonies. There, the unit was able to bolster the strength of British positions so close to Georgia and South Carolina. Its proximity to the land border of the U.S. also served to help raise men for the unit, taking in as many escaped slaves as it could train. The idea of an armed band of former slaves so close to the slaveholding South alarmed many in the former colonies.

The former slaves were lauded for their performance in combat by the Admiralty, who marveled at their discipline and ferocity. Colonial Marines participated in the Chesapeake Campaign during the War of 1812, which saw some of the heaviest fighting between the British and the Americans. This campaign included the Battles of Bladensburg, Baltimore, and Fort McHenry, as well as the burning of Washington. The Colonial Marines fought so well, it was said that Admiral George Cockburn preferred the Colonial Marines to regular Royal Navy Marines.

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion

Francis Scott Key may have made references to Britain’s Colonial Marine force at Fort McHenry in “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

The Colonial Marines were largely disbanded after the war’s end, but they weren’t abandoned. Some were still in the King’s service, being sent back to Britain or to Canada. Those who opted to leave the continental United States with the British forces were either in service on the island of Bermuda, or became civilian farmers, maintaining their status as free men.

For those who stayed in Florida after the war, the British allowed them to keep their fortifications and their arms, along with a substantial sum of money. But now that the war was over, Southern American slaveholders, still unhappy about the presence of a trained military force of armed former slaves so close to their homes decided to move on them. Under the command of Gen. Andrew Jackson, the Americans invaded Spanish Florida and burned the fort.