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 HISTORY

The man who saved North Carolina from nukes speaks out

Jack ReVelle, an Air Force munitions expert during the Cold War, recently went to a sound booth to record an interview with his daughter where the pair discussed one of the most harrowing moments of Jack’s life: That time he was called to North Carolina to defuse two hydrogen bombs that had plummeted to earth with a combined potential explosive power equivalent to 500 Hiroshima bombs.


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

A Mark 39 nuclear bomb rests with its nose buried in the mud near Goldsboro, North Carolina, in 1961 after a B-52 broke up in mid-air.

(U.S. Air Force)

In 1961, a B-52 bomber was flying over the great state of North Carolina when it began to break apart. Its entire right wing failed and the plane began falling towards earth. The order was given to abandon the plane, and eight crewmembers attempted to escape. Five survived.

But two other objects joined the crew in the air with parachutes. Two Mark 39 nuclear bombs, one with a successfully deployed parachute and one with a failed chute, fell from the sky. The Air Force sent a team out relatively quietly to find and defuse the nukes. Jack ReVelle told his daughter about getting the mission:

“One night, I get a phone call from my squadron commander. And instead of using all the code words that we had rehearsed, he says, ‘Jack, I got a real one for you.’ You don’t often have two hydrogen bombs falling out of aircraft onto U.S. property.”
The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion

Air Force technicians dig through the mud near Goldsboro, North Carolina, in 1961 after a B-52 broke up in mid-air.

(U.S. Air Force)

There was precious little preparation done for such an insane mission, and the airmen found themselves scrambling to get everything they needed to do the mission:

“Ten – we call them the Terrible 10. I knew all of them very well. But nobody was cracking jokes like they usually did. And the first couple of days there, they didn’t even have food for us – nothing. It was snowing. It was raining. It was frozen. That’s why we worked in shifts, sometimes on our hands and knees.”

The first bomb was quickly found hanging from a tree. The parachute had kept its descent reasonable, and it had stuck vertically in the ground, buried only partially in the dirt. The team found that three of its four safeguards had either failed or triggered. Only one safety, the actual safe/arm switch, had prevented a nuclear explosion.

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

Air Force explosive ordnance disposal technicians remove components of a Mark 39 nuclear bomb from the deep hole that the bomb buried itself in.

(U.S. Air Force)

But the second bomb, the one with an improperly deployed parachute, had hit the ground at 700 mph and plunged 18 feet into the ground. It was Jack and his men’s job to dig in, find as many of the 92 detonators as they could, and recover the warhead.

Most of the detonators were found and recovered, one at a time. But the team got a horrendous surprise when they found the safe/arm switch:

“And as we started digging down, trying to find the second bomb, one of my sergeants says, “hey, Lieutenant, I found the arm safe switch.” And I said, “great.” He says, “no, not great. It’s on arm.” But we all knew what we were there for and the hazards that we were facing. So, we pulled it up out of the mud and brought it up over this wooden rickety ladder that we had, to the surface of the ground, in a safe condition.”

Yeah, the switch had been the only thing that prevented the first bomb from detonating. It had failed on the second bomb. As they recovered the rest of it, they found no safeguards that had properly survived. The bomb should’ve exploded. Engineers wrote in a classified report in 1969 that a single electrical jolt could’ve triggered a weapon. The lead on the study, Parker F. Jones, recommended that Mark 39 bombs no longer be used in an airborne role since they almost gave us Goldsboro Bay.

But Jack and his team were able, through painstaking work, to recover most of the bomb, including the nuclear core. If even one of them had gone off, it could have killed approximately 28,000 people. 60,000 live there today and would, obviously, not be able to live there if the bombs had irradiated the whole area in 1961.

Jack ReVelle’s interview is available on StoryCorps and NPR.

(This article was updated on Feb. 4, 2019. The article originally stated that seven of the eight steps needed to detonate a Mark 39 bomb had been taken and cited a Stanford paper from 2018. But the Stanford paper cites a Guardian article for that claim, and the Guardian article only supports that three of the four major safeguards had failed. This post was changed to reflect this more solid information.)

MIGHTY HISTORY

The American truck that received France’s top valor award

During World War I, France created the Croix de Guerre to decorate its bravest troops, and it gave the decoration to members of foreign armies who took great risks or who achieved great things in service of liberating France from German occupation.


In the years following the Battle of Verdun, France issued the Croix de Guerre to units with 2,500 White Company trucks and named the vice president of the company, Walter C. White, as a Chevalier in the Legion of Honor in recognition of how important a humble truck was in France’s ultimate victory over Germany, especially at Verdun.

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

White Motor Company trucks at Fort Riley. Full panoramic image available here.

(Records of the Office of the Quartermaster General)

The story of the White Motor Company is a strange one. In 1902, it was the White Sewing Machine Company, and the Surgeon General proposed that the Army Quartermasters purchase a motor vehicle to serve as an Army ambulance in future conflicts. R. H. White, already looking to diversify the company’s offerings, pushed the company to take part in the competition.

But the competition never happened, because the quartermasters didn’t embrace it. But the company decided to develop an ambulance anyway, debuting a steam-powered design in 1906 that the War Department later purchased. It could carry four litter patients at a time and hit 40 miles an hour on smooth roads. But, best of all, it was reliable. According to a 1906 article, it had traveled over 1,600 miles in testing with zero mechanical failures or breakdowns.

But the company wasn’t done. They developed more truck designs and, in 1916, one of their trucks was upgraded with armor and sent on the Mexican Punitive Expedition. By the time World War I rolled around, White trucks were trusted by plenty of military men.

The automotive business proved to be a great investment for the company, and the White Sewing Machine Company opened itself a second company, the White Truck Company. This particular confederation of engineers and businessmen found themselves a ready market for reliable trucks and sold thousands of Model A trucks to France and other allied militaries.

From 1914 onward, France was sending these “Little trucks” into combat and seemed to have been more than pleased with the trucks’ performance. In the 1916 Battle of Verdun, the trucks were used to transport supplies and troops. At the Battle of Château-Thierry in 1918, the trucks moved U.S. troops into position in time to stop a German advance.

But it was at the 1918 Battle of Verdun, when many of the same trucks returned to that blood-soaked stretch of land, that the trucks earned their major laurels.

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

White Trucks of Cleveland advertisement

(Thoth God of Knowledge)

It was there that France needed to move hundreds of thousands of troops to the front over a stretch of just a few days, and they turned to the 2,500 Model A trucks of Great Headquarters Reserve No. 1. The drivers and trucks carried 200,000 troops to the front, some for over 100-mile stretches.

According to a 1919 issue of Better Road and Streets:

The task was tremendous, the crisis very grave. A supreme effort was necessary to stop the German advance last March on the British front. Without this unprecedented movement of French reserves right into the teeth of the fighting, the issue might have been serious indeed for the Allies.

According to the same article, drivers often drove for 24 hours straight. One unit averaged driving 20 hours a day, and another pulled 60 hours straight of duty.

It was the only time that a motor convoy unit would be awarded the medal, and some chalked it up to the service of the trucks. According to Time Magazine in 1932, the only White trucks to break down in the battle were those disabled by shells and so, “The result was that 2,500 of them received the distinction of France’s Croix de Guerre.”

While this notation, implying that the trucks themselves had received the award, is obviously wrong, it remained a fairly common way of describing the success of the Great Headquarters Reserve No. 1. And, Walter C. White, then the vice president of the White Company, was inducted into the Legion of Honor as a Chevalier in 1919, in recognition of the company’s contributions to France’s war efforts.

This all worked out well for the company after the war. They posted record profits in 1917 and again in 1918. They suspended, forever, their automobile construction and focused on trucks. And they advertised the ruggedness of their vehicles with ads featuring the Croix de Guerre. They would create plenty for the U.S. and its allies in World War II, as well as half-tracks and other vehicles.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This Medal of Honor recipient directed a counterattack his first time in combat

Soon after graduating high school, Harvey “Barney” Barnum, Jr. joined the Marine Corp Platoon Leaders Course, where he learned various military infantry tactics. Once Barnum earned his degree, he was given an officer’s commission in the Marine Corps Reserves and sent to the gritty jungles of Vietnam in 1965.

On December 18, Barnum and the rest of the Marines were patrolling in the Quảng Tín Province of South Vietnam. Unbeknownst to Barnum and his men, as the Marines moved deep into the enemy territory, they were walking into a vicious trap. The Vietnamese troops had dug themselves into the nearby terrain and waiting as nearly three companies of Marines walked by, headed toward a small village.

Then, a firefight broke out, first striking the Marine’s rear position and moving to the front of the patrol as the grunts entered the enemy-infested village. What happened next, no first-timer would ever expect.


The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion
Barnum takes a moment for a quick photo op while stationed in Vietnam.

The initial attack severely injured the company commander and the radio operator. This deadly wave was Barnum’s first taste of real combat — and his training kicked in immediately. He went and retrieved the radio, calling for heavy fire support.

Barnum also dashed out of his position to recover the company commander and move him to safety. Moments later, Barnum’s commanding officer died in his arms. With all the men looking for guidance, the young Marine knew it was up to him to assume control and direct a counterattack.

After passing out orders, the Marines laid a curtain of gunfire onto the trench line from which the enemy had so much success earlier. Barnum picked up a rocket launcher and fired it three times at the enemy position. That was the signal the attack Hueys needed.

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion
U.S. troops load up on a Huey during the Vietnam War.

After running out of rockets, the Marine officer directed the Hueys above towards targets to nail — and that’s just what they did. This airborne attack freed up some terrain, allowing the wounded and the dead to be transported out. Although still surrounded by enemy troops, Barnum choreographed each squad as they moved from the hot zone.

In roughly 45 minutes, the men found safety.

1st Lt. Harvey “Barney” Barnum, Jr. was presented with the Medal of Honor on February 27, 1967, surrounded by his fellow Marines at the barracks.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How Florent Groberg earned his Medal of Honor

Just shy of twenty years ago, Florent Groberg was getting ready to graduate from high school. He was a newly-minted American, an immigrant from France. Like many Americans, he went on to college and studied things he was passionate about while playing college sports in his spare time.

Unlike many Americans, Groberg didn’t go off to work in the civilian sector after graduating. Groberg joined the U.S. Army and became an officer in 2008. That decision would alter the course of his life forever.


The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion
President Barack Obama presents the Medal of Honor to retired U.S. Army Capt. Florent Groberg

Since entering the Army in 2008, Groberg has had some 33 surgeries and was retired from the service. His time in the Army was, of course, consequential for many, not just himself. His second tour in Afghanistan would be the defining event of his service.

He was a Personal Security Detachment Commander for Task Force Mountain Warrior in Afghanistan’s Kunar Province in August 2012. One day, while escorting high-ranking senior American and Afghan leaders to the provincial governor’s compound, Groberg noticed one person making a beeline for their protected formation. Noticing a significant bulge in the man’s clothing, the Army officer didn’t just shout at the man, he ran toward him.

Before anyone else could react, Capt. Groberg used his body to push the would-be suicide bomber away from the formation, not once but twice before he could detonate his vest. The blast killed four members of the formation but it could have been a lot worse – Groberg managed to push the man well outside the formation’s perimeter, limiting the damage to the group, while taking the brunt of it himself. The blast detonated a second vest nearby, which blew up almost harmlessly.

For Groberg, the first explosion was anything but harmless. The blast took off half of his calf leg muscle while damaging his nervous system, blowing his eardrums, and delivering a traumatic brain injury – but it could have been a whole lot worse.

You can catch Florent Groberg speak at the 2019 Military Influencer Conference in the Washington, D.C. area on Sept. 8-10, 2019, courtesy of Caliber Home Loans.

MIGHTY CULTURE

‘What do snipers think when they miss’ & other dumb military questions

“Which U.S. military branch has the nicest looking uniforms?”

This is one where we actually all came together as one. Say it with me now: Navy Marines.

We are back in another installment of “Vets Answer Dumb Military Questions” where the premise is simple: people asked dumb military questions and, well, vets answer them. I guess I didn’t need to explain that.

But apparently there is much that does need to be explained. So let’s get to it:


Do soldiers ever name their weapons? | Dumb Military Questions 106

www.youtube.com

Do soldiers ever name their weapons? | Dumb Military Questions 106

Our cast of veterans this week includes: August Dannehl (Navy), Jennifer Brofer (Marine Corps), Rosario Eléna (Army), Mark Harper (Air Force), Graham Pulliam (Marine Corps), Donna Callaway (Marine Corps), Jennifer Campbell (Army), Tara Batesole (Air Force), Chase Millsap (Green Beret — no branch required), and of course yours truly (Air Force).

Oh! And Megan Miller, our token civilian. And Ding Dong. Can’t forget about Ding Dong.

“Why do soldiers not use suitcases with wheels for loaded marches?”

Because wheels are for…

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

Get it?

“Who would win if the United States Navy and Marines fought a war against the United States Army and Air Force?”

Millsap made a solid argument: “It happens every year. It’s called the Army Navy Game. Navy usually wins.”

But on the other hand, Campbell has a point: “Army and Air Force. Marines are dumb and then the navies transport them. So you have dumb people transporting dumb people.” ZING.

Harper argues that no one wins. “It’s just like Aliens vs. Predator.”

But if we’re all being really honest with ourselves, Pulliam has the correct answer:

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

“Coasties because everyone else would be f***ing dead.”

And let’s just face it: the Coast Guard really has won, right? They get to be by the water, saving lives every day, stopping drugs, hanging out with whales. My grandpa told me to join the Coast Guard and he was right.

You hear that, Gramps?? YOU WERE RIGHT.

“Are special forces-trained fighters more efficient at taking out attackers in unarmed combat than civilian martial artists?”

Guess what our answers were. Go on. Guess.

“What were the weird things you did when extremely bored while you were in the military?”

Hahaha, no one would make eye contact after reading this question.

“Do soldiers ever name their weapons and equipment? What’s the funniest or strangest you’ve heard?”

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

“Tits McGee” courtesy of Brofer’s battle buddies.

Voltrex. Pedro? Fart sack. Fluffy. Cher. Starfish Puckerbutt (and it has a story involved).

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

You didn’t forget about Ding Dong, did you?

“What do snipers think when they miss?”

The answers to this question are worth sticking around to the end of the video. Trust me.

Watch the video above then check out more funny videos from our military experts:

Vets answer dumb military questions – part one

Vets answer dumb military questions – part two

Vets answer EVEN MOAR dumb military questions

How to get posted at Area 51′ other dumb military questions answered

‘What happens if you refuse to shower’ other dumb questions



MIGHTY HISTORY

How the Army tried to explore ancient Mars with a psychic

In 1984, the Army was studying all sorts of paranormal phenomena, from men trying to walk through walls and move objects with their mind to killing goats from 100 feet away. One of the lesser-known experiments was in “astral projection” with soldiers trying to move their consciousness to a different time and space. And the most exotic locale they tried to reach was a million years ago on Mars.


On May 22, 1984, the Army gave one of their psychic soldiers, like the ones depicted in The Men Who Stare at Goats, an envelope. They told this test subject to focus his mind on “the information in the envelope.” Then they told him to focus on specific coordinates and report what he saw.

They didn’t let him read the information in the envelope. So he didn’t know he was being asked to focus on the planet Mars in the year 1 million B.C.

His reports get pretty weird, pretty fast though. At the first set of coordinates, the subject claims to see a pyramid and the “after effect of a major geologic problem.” When told to go back to a time before the geologic event, he starts describing an entire ancient civilization.

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

(NASA)

I just keep seeing very large people. They appear thin and tall, but they’re very large. Ah…wearing some kind of strange clothes.

These thin and tall people lived in a series of structures built in the walls of massive canyons.

…it’s like a rabbit warren, corners of rooms, they’re really huge, I don’t, feel like I’m standing in one it’s just really huge. Perception is that the ceiling is very high, walls very wide.

The best part is how the guide responds to this. Remember, he’s hearing a “psychic” describe what ancient Mars was like. And when he hears that the rooms are large and laid out like a rabbit warren, he responds, “Yes that would be correct.”

Yeah, the dude asking psychics to describe an ancient Martian civilization was pretty sure what the rooms should look like.

The subject goes on to describe aqueducts, pyramid-shaped storm shelters, and more.

And in the storm shelters, the test subject actually spoke with these massive Martians. It turns out, their society was dying, and massive storms were destroying the planet. The Martians that the subject was speaking to were waiting for it all to collapse. But they had sent a group to populate somewhere new.

It’s like I’m getting all kinds of overwhelming input of the….corruption of their environment. It’s failing very rapidly, and this group went somewhere, like a long way to find another place to live.

No one says that this party of ancient Martians were the first humans. But we all get it, right?

According to a Slate article, retired Army Chief Warrant Officer Joseph McMoneagle claims to have been the test subject. He believes that the experiments were real and that he was really seeing the surface of an ancient planet. But he also says that such exotic requests were rare. He also said that he didn’t like studying Mars or UFOs or anything similar because “there’s no real way to validate the information.”

The Army’s remote-viewing program supposedly shut down in the 1990s because it “failed to produce the concrete, specific information valued in intelligence gathering.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Mattis again accuses Russia of violating a key nuclear treaty

The U.S. defense secretary has again accused Russia of violating a key Cold War arms control treaty, calling the unresolved and increasingly tense dispute with Moscow “untenable.”

Jim Mattis’s remarks on Oct. 4, 2018 after a meeting of NATO military leaders were the latest in a series of increasingly blunt statements by U.S. officials regarding the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty.

Russia has repeatedly denied U.S. assertions, first made publicly in 2014, that a ground-launched cruise missile Moscow has developed, and reportedly deployed, is in violation of the agreement, known as the INF treaty.


After years of public criticism of Moscow, U.S. officials in 2017 started becoming more aggressive in their approach. And Russia acknowledged the existence of a missile identified by Washington, but denied that it had violated the treaty.

In early October 2018, the U.S. ambassador to NATO, Kay Bailey Hutchison, said U.S. forces might have to “take out” the Russian missiles if the dispute continues. She later clarified that she wasn’t referring to an actual U.S. military attack.

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

Defense Secretary James N. Mattis speaks with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and Ambassador Kay Bailey Hutchison, the U.S. Ambassador to NATO at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Feb. 14, 2018.

(NATO photo)

“Russia must return to compliance with the INF treaty or the U.S. will need to respond to its cavalier disregard for the treaty’s specific limits,” Mattis said in Brussels.

“The current situation with Russia in blatant violation of this treaty is untenable,” he said.

Congress has backed funding for a new missile program to counter the Russian weapon, and Mattis said in early 2018 that defense planners were working on new low-yield nuclear weapons to force Russia back into compliance.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg echoed Mattis’s comments, saying Russia was imperiling the treaty, which is widely considered a “cornerstone” of European security.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Air Force unveils the X-60A, its hypersonic research vehicle

The Air Force has designated the GOLauncher1 hypersonic flight research vehicle as X-60A. The vehicle is being developed by Generation Orbit Launch Services, Inc. under contract to the Air Force Research Laboratory, Aerospace Systems Directorate, High Speed Systems Division.

It is an air-dropped liquid rocket, specifically designed for hypersonic flight research to mature technologies including scramjet propulsion, high temperature materials, and autonomous control.


“The X-60A is like a flying wind tunnel to capture data that complements our current ground test capability,” said Col. Colin Tucker, Military Deputy, office of the deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force for science, technology, and engineering. “We’ve long needed this type of test vehicle to better understand how materials and other technologies behave while flying at more than 5 times the speed of sound. It enables faster development of both our current hypersonic weapon rapid prototypes and evolving future systems.”

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

(Generation Orbit Launch Services)

AFRL’s motivation for the X-60A program is to increase the frequency of flight testing while lowering the cost of maturing hypersonic technologies in relevant flight conditions. While hypersonic ground test facilities are vital in technology development, those technologies must also be tested with actual hypersonic flight conditions.

Utilizing new space commercial development, licensing, and operations practices, X-60A is envisioned to provide the Air Force, other U.S. Government agencies, and industry with a platform to more rapidly mature technologies.

The X-60A rocket vehicle propulsion system is the Hadley liquid rocket engine, which utilizes liquid oxygen and kerosene propellants. The system is designed to provide affordable and regular access to high dynamic pressure flight conditions between Mach 5 and Mach 8.

This is the first Air Force Small Business Innovative Research program to receive an experimental “X” designation.

Featured image: An artist’s sketch of an X-60A launch.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Russia’s new stealth attack drone just leaked

Russia’s new heavy attack drone, called the Okhotnik (Russian for “hunter”), just made its visual debut as a flying wing stealth platform intended to fight Moscow’s enemies from the air and inform the next generation of jet fighters.

The picture of the Okhotnik, posted on a Russian aviation blog and first reported at Aviation Week, shows a drone on a snowy runway with a flat flying wing design like the B-2 Spirit bomber of the US Air Force.


The B-2 represents the US’s stealthiest plane despite being originally built in the early 1980s, which owes to the flying wing design.

Fighter jets which hit supersonic speeds and maneuver tightly need vertical fins, meaning Russia’s Okhotnik likely places stealth above turning and air-to-air combat.

In July 2018, Russian media quoted a defense industry source as saying the Okhotnik could perform “any combat task in an autonomous regime,” but that the drone would require a human pilot to pull the trigger.

US drones only perform in an air-to-ground role, as they’re subsonic aircraft that would be sitting ducks to enemy fighters.

But the defense industry source claimed the “Okhotnik will become the prototype of the sixth generation fighter jet,” further suggesting some air-to-air role.

Recent pictures of Russia’s Su-57 fighter jet, billed as a stealth fifth-generation answer to the US F-22 and F-35 fighters, showed the manned fighter jet with a flying wing aircraft painted on its vertical stabilizer next to a silhouette of the Su-57.

Again, this seems to suggest a connection between the combat drone and air superiority fighters, though Russia’s own media describes the drone as having a takeoff weight of 20 tons and an airspeed in the high subsonic range.

Russia frequently makes unverified and dubious claims about its combat aircraft. Russia dubbed the Su-57, meant to fight F-22 and F-35 fighter s or beat top-end air defenses, “combat proven” after a few days of dropping bombs on militants in Syria who had no anti-air capabilities.

Additionally, a senior scientist working on stealth aircraft in the West told previously Business Insider that Russia’s Su-57 lacks any serious stealth treatment in a few painfully obvious ways.

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

Russia’s Okhotnik stealth attack drone revealed.

(Fighter_Bomber_ /Instagram)

But the sixth generation of fighter aircraft, or even the true purpose of the current, fifth generation of fighter aircraft, remains an open question. Many top military strategists and planners have floated the possibility of pairing advanced manned fighter jets with swarms of drones or legacy aircraft to act as bomb trucks or decoys.

By incorporating stealth drones into the operational plan for the Su-57, Russia may have considerably complicated the picture for US pilots and military planners who speak as though they have Russia’s jet fighters figured out.

Russia has a number of drones in operation, but typically has shied away from combat drones, as it still uses an affordable fleet of older Sukhoi fighter/bombers to drop bombs in Syria.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Here are the best meme pages for each branch

It’s hard to pin down when, exactly, memes got their start. Some say they began with the original rage comics, others say the very first were painted on cave walls. Regardless, the beautiful internet memes of today allow anyone, anywhere to be a comedian. They give people a setup and a punchline — all you’ve got to do is change the text (and maybe photoshop a face on there).

When 2011 rolled around and the popularity of Facebook grew like the boot population at the off-base strip club, meme pages started cropping up, watermarks started getting slapped on, and entire brands have been built on shoddy internet graphics. Over time, people from the different branches of the U.S. Armed Forces started making memes to share their own experiences — and thus, the military meme page was born.

Initially, these pages were run by active-duty service members who were disgruntled about working conditions, but have since become mostly veteran-operated pages. If you thought the inter-service branch rivalries were rough, just wait until you take a look at the fight for the title of best military memes page.

Here’s the best each branch has to offer:


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

(Air Force Memes)

Air Force — Air Force Nation & Humor

The Air Force may not be the toughest, but they’ve certainly got brains — and that’s an essential asset in the world of memes. For memes of premium quality, check out Air Force Nation Humor.

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

(The Salty Soldier)

Army — The Salty Soldier

The Army has some of the best memes on the internet right now and this is one that is relevant across the board, in all branches.

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

(Pop Smoke)

Marine Corps — Pop Smoke

There are plenty of great meme pages run by Marine Corps veterans, but Pop Smoke has, bar far, the best content. One of the best things about Pop Smoke is that the page’s main admin makes memes out of his own personal photos and doesn’t keep his identity a secret.

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

(Decelerate Your Life)

Navy — Decelerate Your Life

A lot of the best memes on Decelerate Your Life are actually about the Coast Guard, but here’s one that’ll make you laugh — especially if you’ve been on a float before.

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

(Coast Guard)

Coast Guard — Coast Guard Memes

If you didn’t think the Coast Guard itself was enough of a meme, this page just gives everyone more to laugh about.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The gloves are coming off for cyber warfare

President Donald Trump has reportedly removed restraints on how and when the US can launch cyberattacks on its adversaries — and it could make attacks on other countries more likely.

Trump signed an order Aug. 15, 2018, reversing a series of Obama-era rules, which outlined a process of interagency approval before the US could launch cyberoffensives, people familiar with the matter told The Wall Street Journal.


The Journal said one administration official briefed on the decision described the change as an “offensive step forward.” The change is meant to support military operations and deter foreign interference in US elections. The Trump administration is under pressure to show it is taking threats of foreign interference seriously in light of mounting evidence that Russia meddled in the 2016 US election.

The Obama-era rules, known as Presidential Policy Directive 20, meant agencies that wanted to launch a cyberattack had to gain approval from groups across the federal government. This was to ensure that existing defense operations were not harmed by the launch of a new attack.

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

Former President Barack Obama.

(Marc Nozell)

Michael Daniel, who served as the White House’s cybersecurity coordinator under President Barack Obama, said the change could do more harm than good. “You could end up having an operation wreck a carefully crafted multiyear espionage operation to gain access to a foreign computer system,” he told The Journal.

The new policy applies to the Defense Department as well as other federal agencies, an administration official told The Journal. The person declined to say which other agencies would be affected.

Sources did not tell The Journal which rules were replacing the Obama-era directive, citing the classified nature of the process; as The Journal pointed out, the Obama-era rules were classified as well and were made public only in the 2013 Edward Snowden leaks.

Read the full report in The Wall Street Journal.

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

popular

Why Argentina’s new French weapons will be a headache for the UK

You would think that, as NATO allies with the United Kingdom, France wouldn’t do anything to make the lives of British forces harder. Unfortunately, the French may have done just that with a small arms sale that didn’t really make much of a blip.


According to Scramble Magazine, the French sold Argentina five Dassault Super Etendard carrier-based attack planes. Now, you may wonder how this makes the life of the U.K.’s Royal Navy harder, especially since the Argentinean Navy hasn’t had a carrier since the Veinticinco de Mayo was decommissioned and sold for scrap in 1997.

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion
A Super Etendard refuels four other planes. (U.S. Navy photo)

For that answer, we need to go back roughly 36 years, to the Falklands War, when Argentina had seized the Islands. At the time, among their potent aircraft were some newly-purchased Super Etendards, armed with the Aerospatiale AM.39 Exocet anti-ship missiles. At the time, they had a grand total of five planes and five missiles but were waiting on delivery of several more aircraft, according to The National Interest. Despite that very limited inventory, the Super Etendards carried out two successful strikes that sank the Type 42 guided-missile destroyer, HMS Sheffield, and the merchant vessel, Atlantic Conveyor.

While the British eventually liberated the Falkland Islands from Argentina, the Etendard had left its mark.

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion
The Type 42 guided-missile destroyer HMS Sheffield, sunk by an Exocet fired by an Argentinean Super Etendard. (Wikimedia Commons photo by Nathalmad)

Argentina eventually got the full delivery of 14 Super Etendards. They also, presumably, had a good stock of Exocets. But in the 1990s and 2000s, the Argentinean military got hit with budget cuts after the country’s economy suffered serious problems. The Super Etendard force had declined to a lone operational plane in 2014, according to Scramble, with nine reserves in storage.

This sale of five planes will push Argentina to a minimum of six operational planes and, if the other nine return to service, the British could once again have to prepare for a fight near the Falklands.