The Merchant Marine in World War II was supposed to just tool around the world’s oceans, delivering supplies to ports and troops in Europe, Africa, and the Pacific while the real fighting was done by sailors, soldiers, and Marines. But due to German U-boats and other attackers, the mariners actually operated in an extremely dangerous niche.
A U-boat reloads new torpedoes during World War II.
Regardless of when the attack came, most merchant vessels didn’t have any kind of sonar or radar, not even all Navy vessels had those detection systems in World War II. So, unless your ship was in a large convoy with a naval escort, you won’t know a U-boat was there until it attacked.
German sailors manning deck gun in preparation for attack in North Atlantic Sea. HD Stock Footage
When the U-boat attack got under way, it played out in one of two ways. If there were no threats of a U-boat in the area, you would find out you were under attack when a black hulk slowly surfaced in the nearby waves, a few sailors poured out of it, and the deck gun began firing on your ship.
These were often capable of sending 3.5-inch rounds into the hull of your thin-skinned cargo vessel, allowing water to pour into the lower decks and slowly send you deep into the sea. And since the attacking vessel is a tiny U-boat and not an enemy destroyer or cruiser, there’s no way to get rescued. You have to paddle your lifeboats through a sea filling with oil from the sinking ship, potentially as it’s on fire.
And, believe it or not, that’s, by far, the preferred option.
That’s because the other likely method of attack from a U-boat comes via its torpedo tubes, which means there’s no surfacing ship, no scramble of sailors to warn you. You might, might notice a darkness in the water before a stream bubbles starts racing towards your ship.
If you look a few feet ahead of this stream of bubbles, you’ll see the 21-inch diameter, almost-24-foot-long metal tube barreling towards your ship at nearly 35 mph. It will reach you. It will hit you. And its 600-pound (or heavier) warhead will rip apart the hull.
What happens next depends almost entirely on what cargo is being carried. Got a bunch of foodstuffs like grain and fruit? The boat will sink fairly slowly, and you’ll have a chance to escape. But if you were carrying lots of heavy war materiel, like tanks and planes or, worse, industrial goods like iron and coal, you’re pretty much screwed. The weight and density will take the ship down in minutes.
But the worst came when the ship was carrying fuel or oil. The massive explosion from the torpedo warhead would often rupture any tanks on the targeted vessel, providing a massive burst of heat as the pressure wave mixed the targeted fuel with the outside air, virtually guaranteeing massive fireballs and explosions as the torpedo exploded.
The Allied tanker Dixie Arrow sinks after being torpedoed in the Atlantic Ocean by a German submarine.
When you’re on a tanker and the tanks suddenly explode, there’s not a lot to be done. The steel around you has likely been twisted, the decks are burning hot and searing your flesh, and the blast wave has likely scrambled your brain. If you’re lucky enough to survive, you now have to overcome your scrambled brains, make it through the burning corridors, and then try to get in a boat and get away from the deck before the suction takes you under.
If you did make it out of a shipping ship, your ordeal isn’t over. Traditionally, combat ships would rescue survivors from enemy vessels once hostilities were over. If a cruiser sinks a destroyer, then once the destroyer crew surrenders the cruiser crew would begin taking on the survivors and would later take them to POW camps.
But U-boats barely have enough room for the crews. They can’t take on survivors. So, after sinking anything from a fishing trawler to a destroyer to a passenger ship, the U-boat crew typically can’t do much more than offer some loaves of bread or water before sailing away. They wouldn’t even tell other Allied ships where to pick up the survivors, at least not at first, since that would give away the location of the subs.
Surrender of German U-boat, U-858, 700 miles off the New England Coast to two destroyer escorts, May 10, 1945.
Even if your ship was in a convoy, there was no guarantee that you could be picked up by friendly ships since a U-boat wolf pack could sink the entire convoy, leaving dozens of life boats in its wake, filled with slowly dying soldiers desperate for water or food.
To add insult to injury, Merchant Marine members were rarely paid for any period where they weren’t actively crewing a ship, and no, lifeboats don’t count. So their harrowing trial to survive at sea is performed for free, solely for the hope that they’ll survive.
And throughout all of this, the U.S. would often keep the sinkings of ships secret, reporting just a couple of ship losses every week while dozens might have gone down.
Russia and the Syrian regime warned the US in early September 2018 that they planned to carry out counterterrorism operations near a key US garrison in southeastern Syria known as al-Tanf, where several hundred Marines have been stationed since at least 2016.
In fact, the al-Tanf garrison has long drawn the ire of Moscow, Tehran and the Syrian regime — but all they’ve been able to do is complain about it.
The US is “gathering the remnants of the Islamic State at this base in order to later send them wage war on the Syrian army,” Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said in late September 2018, according to Sputnik, a Russian state-owned media outlet.
“According to satellite and other surveillance data, terrorist squads are stationed [at al-Tanf],” Russian General Valery Gerasimov told Russia’s Pravda in late 2017. “[Terrorists] are effectively training there.”
Iran’s Press TV also cited Gerasimov’s quote a June 2018 article titled, “US forces training terrorists at 19 camps inside Syria: Russian expert.”
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem
Without any real evidence, US adversaries have lobbed many rhetorical attacks against the US forces for supposedly harboring or training terrorists at al-Tanf.
Damascus and Russian state-owned media even claimed in June 2018 that the US was preparing a “false flag” chemical attack “identical to the kind that took place in Douma” at al-Tanf.
“The U.S. led Coalition is here to defeat ISIS, first and foremost, and that is the objective of the presence in at al-Tanf,” US Army Colonel Sean Ryan, a spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve, told Business Insider in an email.
“No U.S. troops have trained ISIS and that is just incorrect and misinformation, it is truly amazing some people think that,” Ryan said.
The US has trained Syrian rebels at al-Tanf, namely a group called Maghawir al Thawra, which “is fairly secular by regional standards and has been at the forefront of the fight against ISIS,” Omar Lamrani, a senior military analyst at Stratfor, told Business Insider.
Members of Maghawir al Thawra and a US Army soldier repair a water well in an-Tanf.
But the “claim that the US is training ISIS and like-minded groups at al Tanf is certainly absurd,” Lamrani said.
“To the Russians and Iranians, almost any group fighting against the Syrian government can be labeled a terrorist group,” Lamrani said.
So why do Russia, Iran and the Syrian regime care so much about this garrison?
“I’d say that the primary reasons why Iran cares about it so much is, again, it blocks the Bagdhad-Damascus highway,” Lamrani said, which Tehran uses to transport weapons to Damascus, where the Syrian regime is based.
“The reason they want the land route is that it’s easier to bring [weapons] across land in greater quantities, and the shipping route is very vulnerable to Israeli interception, and the air route is expensive and often gets hit by Israeli airstrikes,” Lamrani added.
Moscow, on the other hand, is upset about al-Tanf because “it’s the last area in Syria where the United States is involved with rebels on the ground that are not Syrian Democratic Forces,” Lamrani said.
The Russians and Syrian regime have “open channels” with the SDF, and want to negotiate — not fight — with them, Lamrani added.
But Moscow, Tehran and the Syrian regime’s ire might go beyond just styming the flow of weapons to Damascus and training rebels.
“There’s a history at that garrison at al-Tanf,” Max Markusen, associate director and an associate fellow of the Transnational Threats Project at CSIS, told Business Insider.
“I think that the Syrian regime, the Russians and Iranians, would see it as a [symbolic] victory if the United States pulled out of there than just sort of tactical level objectives,” Markusen said, adding that there’s much resentment for the US having trained rebels at al-Tanf too.
But they’re not foolish enough to kinetically force US troops out because “the costs of escalation are too high,” Markusen said.
So they’re relegated to discrediting the al-Tanf garrison.
Going forward, “we will continue to see an escalation of rhetoric,” Markusen said, but “I don’t there’s going to be a major outbreak of conflict.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
WHITE SANDS MISSILE RANGE, N.M. — The day to honor civil rights activist, Martin Luther King Jr.’s life, and promote service through volunteerism was on Jan. 20. White Sands Missile Range observed the holiday at an event on Jan. 16.
At the event, Nicholas P. Charles, who has been working at WSMR for four years and served 20 years in the Army, spoke to attendees about King’s life and shared his personal experiences.
Charles remembers the events surrounding the assassination of King on April 4, 1968. He was a young child living in Washington, D.C., and did not recognize the impact this event would have on his life. But it was immediate and close to home, as he recalled his two older brothers returned home that night, “I remember these two coming out of the chaos that night, smelling of smoke, with anger and full of hate.”
The day after King’s assassination, amidst the disarray, it created a “mental memory in my mind that influenced me as an Army officer and now as an Army civilian,” said Charles.
He saw D.C. National Guardsmen, amongst others in uniform, maintaining and restoring peace in his neighborhood.
For him, the memories reinforce “the Army values of loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity, and personal courage.”
Charles went on to recognize King’s predecessors in the civil rights movement, such as Fredrick Douglas and Harriet Tubman. He also acknowledged a significant era in history that affected King’s activism; this was the 1902’s Harlem Renaissance. A moment in time that took place in New York and put a spotlight on the struggles of African Americans through intellectual, artistic and social movements.
“I’ll add that, with respect to timing, it was after World War II, and those Soldiers returned to a racist country after fighting fascism and imperialism,” said Charles. “This stoked the flames of equality and enabled Dr. King to move forward with the civil rights struggle.”
At the time, kids grew up witnessing the discrimination that their parents faced, and as education became more attainable for African Americans, attempts at breaking the cycle of oppression and inequality became more widespread.
“The strength of the civil rights movement was made up of people from the greatest generation and the youth of that time, tired of the oppression and unethical treatment of fellow American citizens,” said Charles. “The media showed a different picture and exposed the blatant racism occurring in this great nation, which really showed the actions taking place in Montgomery, Ala., with protests and how they were treating African Americans.”
While media exposed the treatment of African Americans to the world, it also perpetuated stereotypes. Throughout history, people of color have been depicted as subhuman in the entertainment industry and through various types of propaganda, said Charles.
“Sadly, the current politics, the antics of a few in Charlottesville, the shooting in El Paso, and other acts of violence around the country show that the United States continues to suffer issues with race,” said Charles. “The actions, behavior and attitudes seen on social media and validated in Virginia remind us that racism is alive and well in 2020, a sad reality.”
In 2017, Charlottesville, Va., was the site of a white nationalist rally which became deadly, killing one woman and leaving dozens injured. While in 2019, a shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, left 22 dead and 24 wounded. Authorities said the shooter targeted people of Mexican descent.
“Now, more than ever, service to our nation and communities is paramount,” said Charles. “Therefore, us coming together despite political affiliation to denounce injustice, immoral and illegal behavior is what is needed to mend the tears we currently have in our moral fragment as a nation.”
For over 70 years, the Department of Defense has been racially integrated, and continues to be at the forefront of these efforts. Charles shared that raising kids in the military, amongst diverse cultures, allowed them to grow up without seeing color.
“The military remains the bedrock of social equality,” said Charles. “I believe that Dr. King would be proud of the military achievements in respect to race relations. But we are a microcosm in society, and sadly some of these attitudes still find its way into our ranks.”
Charles shared a famous quote by King, ‘everyone has the power for greatness, not for fame – but greatness, because greatness is determined by service.’
In 1994, Congress designated the Martin King Luther Jr. holiday as a day of service. While the main objective is for people to go out and serve their communities, people are also encouraged to serve together and connect, despite the color of their skin, gender, age, or background.
The president greets firefighters, police and rescue personnel, Sept. 14, 2001, while touring the site of the World Trade Center terrorist attack in New York. (Photo by Eric Draper, Courtesy of the George W. Bush Presidential Library)
When we think about September 11, we picture where we were, what we saw and how it felt. Iconic images and video from the moments before, during and after the attacks sit in our hearts and minds.
So maybe that’s why these lesser-seen photos have so much power. They serve as reminders of both what we lost that day and the resolve we gained.
On September 11 we pause and remember where we were, what we saw and how it felt.
Where were you when the towers fell? When the Pentagon burned? When heroes forced the plane to the ground in Pennsylvania, sacrificing themselves and saving others?
These photos are reminders of those moments and the patriotic fervor that welled inside us in the days that followed.
President George W. Bush turns around to watch television coverage of the attacks on the World Trade Center Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001, as he is briefed in a classroom at Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida. (Photo by Eric Draper, courtesy of the George W. Bush Presidential Library)
The aftermath in Washington of the terrorist attack on the Pentagon, Sept. 11, 2001. (Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Robert Houlihan)
An aerial view of the damage at the Pentagon two days after Sept. 11, 2001. On that day, five members of al-Qaida, a group of fundamentalist Islamic Muslims, hijacked American Airlines Flight 77, a Boeing 757-200, from Dulles International Airport just outside Washington and flew the aircraft and its 64 passengers into the side of the Pentagon. (Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Cedric H. Rudisill)
View of a damaged office on the fifth floor of the Pentagon. (Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Larry A. Simmons)
President George W. Bush talks with Vice President Dick Cheney, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice and other advisors during meetings at the President’s Emergency Operations Center, Sept. 11, 2001. (National Archives)
A clock, frozen at the time of impact, inside the Pentagon. (Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Larry A. Simmons)
Vice President Dick Cheney sits with National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice in the President’s Emergency Operations Center during meetings on the day of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. (National Archives)
Smoke rises from the site of the World Trade Center, Sept. 11, 2001. (Photo by Paul Morse, courtesy of the George W. Bush Presidential Library)
Burned and melted items sit atop an office desk inside the fifth floor of the Pentagon. (Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Larry A. Simmons)
President George W. Bush talks on the telephone Sept. 11, 2001, as senior staff huddle aboard Air Force One. (Photo by Eric Draper, Courtesy of the George W. Bush Presidential Library)
Secretary of State Colin Powell gets briefed inside the President’s Emergency Operations Center, Sept. 11, 2001. (National Archives)
Wearing a gas mask, a New York National Guard soldier from the “Fighting” 69th Infantry Division pauses amid the rubble at ground zero. (New York National Guard)
President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney meet in the President’s Emergency Operations Center during the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. (National Archives)
New York National Guard soldiers from the 69th Infantry Division and New York City firefighters band together to remove rubble from ground zero at the World Trade Center in downtown Manhattan following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. (New York National Guard)
President George W. Bush grasps the hand of his father, former President George H. W. Bush, after speaking at the service for America’s National Day of Prayer and Remembrance at the National Cathedral in Washington, Sept. 14, 2001. (Photo by Eric Draper, Courtesy of the George W. Bush Presidential Library)
The president greets firefighters, police and rescue personnel, Sept. 14, 2001, while touring the site of the World Trade Center terrorist attack in New York. (Photo by Eric Draper, Courtesy of the George W. Bush Presidential Library)
Vice President Dick Cheney and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice look on inside the President’s Emergency Operations Center during meetings on the day of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. (National Archives)
President George W. Bush greets rescue workers, firefighters and military personnel, Sept. 12, 2001, while surveying damage caused by the previous day’s terrorist attacks on the Pentagon. (Photo by Eric Draper, Courtesy of the George W. Bush Presidential Library)
Soldiers from the 3rd Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) render honors as firefighters and rescue workers unfurl a huge American flag over the side of the Pentagon while rescue and recovery efforts continued following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack. The garrison flag, sent from the U.S. Army Band at nearby Fort Myer, Virginia, is the largest authorized flag for the military. (Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Michael Pendergrass)
Sandra Dahl, left, is the widow of Jason Dahl, the pilot of United Airlines Flight 93, which went down in Somerset, Pennsylvania, on Sept. 11, 2001. The plane was believed to have been en route to the White House. Here, she holds an American flag along with Air Force Lt. Col. Mike Low after flying in the back seat of his F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter. (Air Force photo by Tech Sgt. Darin Overstreet)
As reported by CBC, the Canadian Armed Forces will now authorize their troops to grow a beard — within certain limits, of course. Canadian service members’ beards must not exceed two centimeters (roughly 3/4th of an inch) in length, must be kept off the neck and cheekbones, and may not be in any non-traditional, trendy style.
This puts our brothers to the north in league with the UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands, and most of our other NATO allies in realizing that beards aren’t as detrimental to troops as once believed. This leaves the United States and Turkey as the last two beardless, major US powers — but the Turkish Armed Forces haven’t yet taken the debate off the agenda.
With the Global War on Terrorism winding down and garrison life becoming an ever-growing aspect of a troop’s career, it’s about time the Pentagon at least entertains the idea of allowing conventional troops some leeway on facial hair grooming standards.
Even a tiny bit of stubble will stop a gas mask from completely sealing and let all that nastiness inside.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kate Thornton)
The current policy that requires U.S. troops to be clean-shaven comes from the need to properly seal a gas mask in the event of a chemical attack. In World War I and II, such a policy made absolute sense. Chemical weapons were used extensively against Allied troops and anyone fighting in areas where the enemy was known to use them kept their mask close by.
Today, the use of chemical weapons against US troops is not a complete impossibility. After all, Saddam Hussein used nerve gas against Iranian troops and the Kurds in 1987, sarin gas was used in 2013 during the Syrian Civil War, and many terrorist organization — including ISIS, Aum Shinrikyo, and Al-Qaeda — have been known to use chemical weapons in their attacks.
While a chemical weapons attack against U.S. service members could happen, today aren’t taking gas masks with them on patrol. Ounces make pounds and any additional weight slows troops down — especially when the odds of needing a mask are so slight. So, most troops opt to leave their mask back at the tent, unless mission dictated.
But even if the worst should happen, the Canadian military developed a gas mask that fits over the entire face and chin and is designed specifically with beards in mind. In the absence of such a mask, troops can just slather a bunch of Vaseline on their beard before putting the mask on — believe it or not, that does the trick, too.
Shaving while deployed also runs into the issue of wasting a valuable resource — water — on an arbitrary task.
(U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Rosalie Chang)
The next argument against beards is that they’re not in line with a “professional appearance.” The problem here is that there’s no real, defined standard as to what’s considered “professional.” That being said, we all know there’s a fine line between having a well-kept beard and looking like a bum.
On the same side of the coin, certain Special Operations Command units have turned a blind eye toward facial hair standards. You’d have to be very firm in your convictions if you’re going to call out a Green Beret, a quiet professional, for being unprofessional.
The two loudest voices on the matter are that of Command Sgt. Maj. John Troxell, the senior enlisted advisor to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who opposes beards as he believes it would loosen discipline standards in the ranks, and the Command Sergeant Major of the Army Dan Dailey, who is in favor of beards as long as they are kept to a strict standard. And Dailey supports a caveat that would revoke beard privileges in environments with a high risk of chemical attacks.
There are pros and cons on either sides of the facial hair debate but, as it stands now, the need for a clean-shaven face simply isn’t as dire as it once was. And, as shown in an informal study done by Military Times, a vast majority of troops and veterans are in favor of loosening the grip on facial hair standards now that troops are spending more and more time in-garrison.
Hamilton and Burr are now friends. More accurately, the descendants of Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr are. Burr shot Hamilton in what has become probably the most famous duel in American history — and now you can watch their five-time great-grandchildren reenact the event.
The two Founding Fathers of the United States drew down on each other on July 11, 1804 in Weehawken, New Jersey. It was rumored that Hamilton, formerly the first Secretary of the Treasury, said some disparaging things about Burr during a society dinner. After a series of strongly-worded letters were exchanged and Hamilton refused to apologize, the two decided to settle it the very old-fashioned way.
Burr wasn’t the same after that.
Burr, a former Vice-President, fled the site and infamously tried to raise a personal army and cut out a piece of the nascent United States for himself after sparking a war with Spain in Florida. President Jefferson got wind of the scheme and had him arrested for treason. Burr was acquitted and lived in self-imposed exile in Europe for awhile. Alexander Hamilton died the day after the duel.
And Vice-Presidents stopped shooting people.
If you’re ever interested in seeing just how the Hamilton-Burr Duel went down, the good news is that now you can. In 2004, 200 years later, Douglas Hamilton, a fifth-great-grandson of Alexander Hamilton and Antonio Burr, a descendant of Aaron Burr’s cousin, met to re-enact the famous duel.
When the USS Wahoo sailed into Pear Harbor on Feb. 7, 1943, she had an odd ornament on her periscope: a common broom. But that broom was one of the most impressive symbols a crew could aspire to earn because it symbolized that the boat had destroyed an entire enemy convoy, sweeping it from the seas.
Flush with torpedoes and no other threats in sight, the Wahoo decided to engage. It fired a spread of three torpedoes but had underestimated the destroyer’s speed. The Wahoo fired another torpedo with the speed taken into account, but the destroyer turned out of the weapon’s path.
And then it bore down on the Wahoo, seeking to destroy the American sub. The crew played a high-stakes game of chicken by holding the sub in position. When the destroyer reached 1,200 yards, the crew fired the fifth torpedo, which the destroyer again avoided.
At 800 yards they fired their sixth and last forward torpedo, barely enough range for the torpedo to arm. The risk of failure was so great that Lt. Cmdr. Dudley Morton ordered a crash dive immediately after firing, putting as much water in the way of enemy depth charges as possible.
But the last torpedo swam true and hit the Japanese ship in the middle, breaking its keel and causing its boilers to burst.
The next day, Jan. 25, was relatively uneventful, but Jan. 26 would be the Wahoo’s date with destiny. Just over an hour after sunrise, the third officer spotted smoke over the horizon and Morton ordered an intercept course.
They found a four-ship convoy consisting of a tanker, a troop transport, and two freighters. All four were valuable targets, but sinking the troop transport could save thousands of lives and sinking tankers would slow the Japanese war machine by starving ships of fuel.
There was no escort, but the Wahoo still had to watch for enemy deck guns and ramming maneuvers. The sub fired a four-torpedo spread at the two freighters, scoring three hits. The first target sank and the second was wounded. Wahoo then turned its attention to the tanker and the troop transport.
The troop transport attempted a ram, sailing straight at the Wahoo. Morton ordered a risky gambit, firing a torpedo at the transport after it drew close rather than taking evasive actions.
After the torpedo was launched, the transport took its own evasive action and abandoned its ramming maneuver. In doing so, the transport presented the sub with its broad sides, a prime target.
The Wahoo fired two more torpedoes and dove to avoid another attack. It was still diving when both torpedoes struck home. Eight minutes later, the Wahoo surfaced and saw that the transport was dead in the water. It fired a torpedo that failed to detonate and then a carefully aimed final shot that triggered a massive explosion and doomed the Japanese vessel.
A few hours later, the Wahoo was able to find and re-engage the two survivors of her earlier action. The tanker and the wounded freighter had steamed north but couldn’t move fast enough to escape the American sub.
The Wahoo waited for nightfall and then fired two torpedoes at the undamaged tanker. One hit, but the ship was still able to sail quickly. With only four torpedoes left and the Japanese ships taking evasive action, Wahoo waited and studied their movements.
When certain they could predict the Japanese ships, the crew attacked again. The first pair of torpedoes were fired at the tanker just after it turned. One of them slammed into its middle, breaking the keel and quickly sending it to the depths.
The crippled freighter was firing what weapons it had at the sub and almost hit it with a shell, forcing it to dive. Then, a searchlight appeared from over the horizon, possibly signaling a Japanese warship that could save the freighter.
The Wahoo carefully lined up its final shot at 2,900 and fired both torpedoes at once with no spread, a sort of final Hail-Mary to try and sink the freighter before it could find safety with the warship.
The final pair of torpedoes both hit, their warheads tearing open the freighter and quickly sinking it before the Japanese ship, which turned out to be a destroyer, cleared the horizon.
The American crew escaped and continued their patrol, attempting to attack another convoy with just their deck guns on Jan. 27 and mapping a Japanese explosives facility on Jan. 28 before returning to Pearl Harbor with the triumphant broom flying high on Feb. 7.
When you need help, there’s nothing embarrassing about asking for it. Especially when the pressure is on to get it right as soon as possible.
Rifles are no different. And if you have to call an arms manufacturer for a problem there, it’s probably a big deal.
That’s why Barrett Firearms Manufacturing provides service for its products long after they enter military service. Most notably, the beloved Barrett M-107 .50-caliber rifle.
Don Cook is a Marine Corps veteran who has been working at Barrett for 17 years. In an interview with National Geographic, he recalled the time he received an interesting call on the customer service line — a call from troops in an active firefight.
“It’s probably one of the biggest highlights in my life to be able to help a Marine unit in a firefight,” Cook told NatGeo.
He picked up the phone and heard what was happening in the background. Without being able to see the weapon, he was able to diagnose the problem.
The Marines bent the ears of the weapon’s lower receiver up during the previous night’s maintenance. When they saw action the next day, the rifle wouldn’t fire every time they pulled the trigger.
Cook told them they needed to bend the ears back down. Given the lack of tools and time, he suggested the Marines use the bottom of the carrier as leverage to bend the ears back and get the weapon firing again.
Within 30 seconds, the Marines had their rifle back in action. They thanked Cook for his help and got back in the fight.
I’m sure that after going on incredible journeys to far-out places, like Mount Everest or the Moon, that everyday life would seem a little… meh. Which is probably why, in 1985, the first man to walk on the Moon, Neil Armstrong, and the first man to reach the summit of Mount Everest, Sir Edmund Hillary, agreed to go to the North Pole.
The idea for the ultimate guys’ trip was the brainchild of professional explorer, Mike Dunn, who wanted to enlist the greatest explorers of the time to go to the North Pole. Dunn was known to be outgoing, so no one thought twice about him calling up famous astronauts and mountaineers saying, “wanna go to the North Pole?”
The adventurous group also included Steve Fossett, the first man to fly a balloon around the world, and Patrick Morrow, the first person to climb the highest peaks of all seven continents. Sir Edmund’s son, Peter Hillary, who himself forged a new route to the South Pole among other feats, was there, too.
The explorers ran into few issues as they puddle-hopped their way up north with the help of Canadian bush pilots, and, on April 6, 1985, they touched down at the North Pole. Safely sitting at True North, they popped a bottle of champagne — which immediately froze, but that did nothing to dampen anyone’s spirits. In particular, Edmund Hillary, who had just become the first person to stand at both poles (he went to the South Pole in 1958) as well as the summit of Everest.
The trek south, was a different story, however. White-out blizzard conditions and temperatures below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, stranded the group for three days in a Quonset hut on Ellesmere Island (approximately 700 miles from the pole). Luckily, this was a group that definitely had great stories to tell around a fire.
Peter Hillary said it was ”thrilling” and ”incredible” to hear the stories, but the most exciting stuff came from Armstrong, who was famously shy and intensely private. He didn’t open up easily to his new friends, but the two weeks out in the wilderness had forged a bond, and he soon took part in philosophical discussions about the nature of exploration and shared mind-blowing stories about his time in space.
Patrick Morrow later recalled that Armstrong read aloud the account of Salomon Andree of his attempt to reach the North Pole by balloon in 1897:
Is it not a little strange to be floating here above the Polar Sea, to be the first to have floated here in a hydrogen-filled balloon? How soon, I wonder, shall we have successors? Shall we be thought mad, or will our example be followed? I cannot deny but that all three of us are dominated by a feeling of pride. We think we can well face death, having known what we have done is not the whole, perhaps the expression of an extremely strong sense of individuality which cannot bear the thought of living and dying like a man within the ranks, forgotten by the coming generations? Is this ambition?
Morrow said that the quote was an “eerie coda” for this adventure, but what better way to cap off what was the ultimate man’s-man getaway?
Victor Bondarev, head of the Russian Parliament’s Upper House Committee on Defense and Security, on June 19, 2018, said, “If the United States withdraws from the 1967 treaty banning nuclear weapons in outer space, then, of course, not only ours, but also other states, will follow with a tough response aimed at ensuring world security.”
Bondarev was seemingly referring to the 1967 Outer Space Treaty.
According to the US State Department, the treaty “contains an undertaking not to place in orbit around the Earth, install on the moon or any other celestial body, or otherwise station in outer space, nuclear or any other weapons of mass destruction.”
Bondarev also said the militarization of outer space is a “path to disaster,” adding that he hopes “the American political elite still have the remnants of reason and common sense.”
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova also expressed concern regarding Trump’s announcement of the creation of a US space force.
“A military buildup in space, in particular, after the deployment of weapons there, would have destabilizing effects on strategic stability and international security,” Zakharova said. She also defended the fact Russia already has a space force, contending it’s a “purely defensive” entity.
Trump on June 18, 2018, directed the Pentagon to establish the space force, which he said would create more jobs and be great for the country’s “psyche.”
“Our destiny beyond the Earth is not only a matter of national identity, but a matter of national security,” Trump said at the White House. “When it comes to defending America it is not enough to merely have an American presence in space. We must have American dominance in space.”
In order for a sixth military branch to be created — joining the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard — Congress has to get involved. Some members of Congress have already expressed opposition to Trump’s space force and Defense Secretary James Mattis has also exhibited skepticism on the subject.
“At a time when we are trying to integrate the department’s joint war-fighting functions, I do not wish to add a separate service that would likely present a narrower and even parochial approach to space operations,” Mattis wrote in a letter to Republican Rep. Mike Turner of Ohio in 2017.
Mattis has shifted on this somewhat more recently and in May 2018 said, “But to look now at the problem, means we have to look afresh at it, and where are the specific problems, break them down, and if an organizational construct has to change, then I’m wide open to it.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Since at least 2015, the Air Force has been talking about mounting lasers on planes and jets, such as AC-130s and F-15s and F-16s. Lockheed Martin was recently awarded a $26.3 million contract to develop lasers for fighter jets.
It’s unclear what capabilities a sixth-generation fighter would have, but some have speculated it could have longer range, larger payloads, and an ability to switch between a manned and an unmanned aircraft. It might also be able to travel at hypersonic speeds, carry hypersonic weapons, and more.
Defense News reports that the Air Force hasn’t selected a developer for the F-X, also known as Next-Generation Air Dominance or Penetrating Counter Air, but hopes to put it into service around 2030.
The AFRL says it will “listen and learn from the scientific community, higher education and business professionals through a series of conversations and outreach events” at universities across the US this spring and summer.
“In order to defend America, we need your help to innovate smarter and faster,” the AFRL’s website says. “Our warfighters depend on us to keep the fight unfair and we will deliver.”
In addition to the F-X, the AFRL video features the Air Force’s Loyal Wingman initiative, in which a manned fighter jet commands and controls a swarm of attack and surveillance drones.
It also showcases the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s Gremlins program and the Air Force’s Counter-electronics High Power Microwave Advanced Missile Project, known as Champ, a conceptual missile designed to cause electronic blackouts.
For decades, snipers have been a dominating instrument of warfare striking fear in the heart of their enemies — scoring record kill shots from distances up to two miles away.
With Hollywood tapping into the sniper lifestyle with such films as “American Sniper” and the “Sniper” franchise, many young troops get a misconception of what it’s like to be one.
So we asked a few veteran snipers what would they want young troops to know before embarking on the intense journey to become a sniper. Here’s what they said:
1. It’s not like in the movies
Hollywood often showcases a sniper as a single-man force tracking down that perfect location to take that most concealed shot possible.
In modern day, scout sniper teams typically consist of 4-8 man teams consisting of a shooter, spotter, radioman, and additional troops to provide security.
2. Shooting is only a fraction of what a sniper does
A sniper needs to properly plan the mission, insert and quietly maneuver to a well-concealed firing location, stalk his prey, complete the math calculation before firing his weapon accordingly, then safely egress out.
A mission could last days.
3. Have mental conditioning
Being sniper isn’t just about being an excellent marksman — although that’s important. But when you’re in an operational status, a sniper has to overcome many mental constraints like lack of sleep and sometimes limited rations. The teams typically only leave the wire with what supplies they can carry — and that’s it.
The teams are usually outnumbered by the enemy and must maintain discipline throughout the mission. If the sniper has a mental breakdown in the field, the mission could be lost.
4. Patience is a virtue
Making a mistake because the sniper is in a hurry is unacceptable and can get him killed. A sniper’s hyperactive moment could result in death.
5. The selection
Completing sniper indoctrination doesn’t guarantee a spot in the platoon. Sniper teams look for the guy who is not only capable of firing that perfect shot but has an outgoing personality. Once a troop is selected, they will go on to the next phase of intense sniper training.
6. It’s constant training and learning
Battlefield tactics change and evolve based on the environment the shooter is facing. That said, a sniper team must be able to adapt and overcome any situation that presents itself.
If the wind keeps up or the sniper is forced to relocate, he will more than likely have to reconfigure his sight alignment within moments.
7. It’s not a way out of the infantry
Young troops tend to believe that going through the sniper pipeline is an easy way out of the grunt lifestyle. To outsiders, life in the scout sniper platoons can appear more glamorous because of the modernized gear they train with and operate.
The truth is, that’s just additional heavy gear they must haul during their missions.
Could there be a lightweight armored attack vehicle able to speed across bridges, deploy quickly from the air, detect enemies at very long ranges, control nearby robots, and fire the most advanced weapons in the world — all while maintaining the unprecedented protection and survivability of an Abrams tank?
Such questions form the principle basis of rigorous Army analysis and exploration of just what, exactly, a future tank should look like? The question is fast taking-on increased urgency as potential adversaries continue to present very serious, technologically advanced weapons and attack platforms.
“I believe that a complete replacement of the Abrams would not make sense, unless we had a breakthrough…with much lighter armor which allows us to re-architect the vehicle,” Col. Jim Schirmer, Program Manager for the Next Generation Combat Vehicle, told reporters at the Association of the United States Army Annual Symposium.
There are currently a range of possibilities being analyzed by the Army, most of which hang in the balance of just how quickly certain technologies can mature.
Newer lightweight armor composites or Active Protection Systems may not evolve fast enough to address the most advanced emerging threats, Schirmer explained.
Soldiers conduct a live-fire exercise with M1A2 Abrams tanks.
(Army photo by Gertrud Zach)
While many Army weapons developers often acknowledge that there are limitations to just how much a 1980s-era Abrams tank can be upgraded, the platform has made quantum leaps in technological sophistication and combat technology.
“Until technology matures we are going to mature the Abrams platform,” Schirmer said. We would need an APS that could defeat long-rod penetrators.(kinetic energy armor penetrating weapons) — that might enable us to go lighter,” Schirmer said.
A 2014 essay from the Institute for Defense Analysis called “M1 Abrams, Today and Tomorrow,” reinforces Schirmer’s point by detailing the rapid evolution of advanced armor-piercing anti-tank weapons. The research points out that, for instance, hybrid forces such as Hezbollah had some success against Israeli Merkava tanks in 2006.
Therefore, GD and Army developers continue to upgrade the Abrams and pursue innovations which will enable the Abrams to address these kinds of evolving threats — such as the long-range kinetic energy penetrator rods Schirmer mentioned; one of the key areas of emphasis for this would be to develop a more expansive Active Protection System able to knock out a much wider range of attack possibilities — beyond RPGs and certain Anti-Tank Guided Missiles.
The essay goes on to emphasize that the armored main battle tank bring unparalleled advantages to combat, in part by bringing powerful land-attack options in threat environments where advanced air defenses might make it difficult for air assets to operate.
Using computer algorithms, fire control technology, sensors, and an interceptor of some kind, Active Protection Systems are engineered to detect, track and destroy incoming enemy fire in a matter of milliseconds. Many Abrams tanks are already equipped with a system known as “Trophy” which tracks and knocks out incoming enemy fire.
A next-gen APS technology that can take out the most sophisticated enemy threats could enable the Army to engineer a much lighter weight tank, while still maintaining the requisite protection.
For these and other reasons, the combat-tested Abrams weapons, armor and attack technology will be extremely difficult to replicate or match in a new platform. Furthermore, the current Abrams is almost an entirely new platform these days — in light of how much it has been upgraded to address modern combat challenges.
U.S. Soldiers load the .50-caliber machine gun of an M1A2 SEPv2 Abrams main battle tank during a combined arms live-fire exercise.
(U.S. Army photo by Markus Rauchenberger)
In short, regardless which future path is arrived upon by the Army — the Abrams is not going anywhere for many years to come. In fact, the Army and General Dynamics Land Systems have already engineered and delivered a new, massively improved, M1A2 SEP v3 Abrams. Concurrently, service and industry developers are progressing with an even more advanced v4 model — featuring a massive “lethality upgrade.”
All this being the case, when it comes to a future tank platform — all options are still on the table.
“Abrams will be out there for some time. We are funded from the v3 through the v4, but there is a thought in mind that we may need to shift gears,” David Marck, Program manager for the Main Battle Tank, told a small group of reporters at the Association of the United States Army Annual Symposium. “I have no requirements for a replacement tank.”
Accordingly, some of the details, technologies, and applications intended for the v4, are still in flux.
“The Army has some decisions to make. Will the v4 be an improved v3 with 3rd-Gen FLIR, or will the Army remove the turret and build in an autoloader — reduce the crew size?” Michael Peck, Director, Enterprise Business Development, GD, told Warrior Maven in an interview.
Also, ongoing work on NGCV could, to a large extent, be integrated with Abrams v4 exploration, Peck explained. GD is preparing options to present to the Army for input — such as options using a common lighter-weight chassis with interchangeable elements such as different turrets or an auto-loader, depending upon the threat.
“There are some things that we think we would do to make the current chassis lighter more nimble when it comes to crew size and electronics — eventually it may go on a 55-ton platform. We have a couple different interchangeable turrets, which we could swap as needed,” Peck asked.
Despite the speed, mobility and transportable power challenges known to encumber the current Abrams, the vehicle continues to be impactful in combat circumstances — and developers have sought to retain the technical sophistication designed to outmatch or counter adversaries.
“Today’s tank is so different than the tanks that took Baghdad. They were not digitized, did not have 1st-Gen FLIR and did not have commander’s independent viewers,” Marck said.
Next-Generation Combat Vehicle
The massive acceleration of the Army future armored platform — the Next Generation Combat Vehicle — is also informing the fast-moving calculus regarding future tank possibilities.
Maj. Gen. Brian Cummings, Program Executive Officer for Ground Combat, told Warrior Maven in an interview the Army developers are working on both near-term and longer term plans; he said it was entirely possible that a future tank or tank-like combat vehicle could emerge out of the NGCV program.
“We want to get as much capability as quickly as we can, to stay above parity with our adversaries,” Cummings said.
The program, which has now been moved forward by nearly a decade, could likely evolve into a family of vehicles and will definitely have unmanned technology.
“Right now we are trying to get the replacement for the Bradley to be the first optionally manned fighting vehicle. As we get that capability we may look at technology that we are getting in the future and insert them into current platforms,” Cummings said.
Any new tank will be specifically engineered with additional space for automotive systems, people, and ammunition. Also, as computer algorithms rapidly advance to allow for greater levels of autonomy, the Abrams tank will be able to control
Unmanned “wing-man” type drones could fortify attacking ground forces by firing weapons, testing enemy defenses, carrying suppliers or performing forward reconnaissance and reconnaissance missions.
General Dynamics Land Systems Griffin III.
However, while clearly emphasizing the importance of unmanned technology, Schirmer did say there was still room for growth and technological advanced necessary to replicate or come close to many human functions.
“It is not impossible — but it is a long way away,” Schirmer said.
The most advanced algorithms enabling autonomy are, certain in the nearer term, are likely to succeed in performing procedural functions able to ease the “cognitive burden” of manned crews who would then be freed up to focus on more pressing combat-oriented tasks. Essentially, the ability of human cognition to make dynamic decisions amid fast-changing variable, and make more subjective determinations less calculable by computer technology. Nonetheless, autonomy, particularly when enabled by AI, can condense and organize combat-essential data such as sensor information, targeting technology or certain crucial maintenance functions.
“Typically a vehicle commander is still looking through multiple soda straws. If no one has their screen turned to that view, that information is not of use to the crew, AI can process all those streams of ones and zeroes and bring the crews’ attention to threats they may not otherwise see,” Schirmer said.
Abrams v3 and v4 upgrades
Meanwhile, the Army is now building the next versions of the Abrams tank — an effort which advances on-board power, electronics, computing, sensors, weapons, and protection to address the prospect of massive, mechanized, force-on-force great power land war in coming decades, officials with the Army’s Program Executive Office Ground Combat Systems told Warrior Maven.
The first MIA2 SEP v3 tank, which includes a massive electronics, mobility and sensor upgrades, was delivered by General Dynamics Land Systems in 2017.
“The Army’s ultimate intent is to upgrade the entire fleet of M1A2 vehicles — at this time, over 1,500 tanks,” an Army official told Warrior.
The first v3 pilot vehicles will feature technological advancements in communications, reliability, sustainment and fuel efficiency and upgraded armor.
This current mobility and power upgrade, among other things, adds an auxiliary power unit for fuel efficiency and on-board electrical systems, improved armor materials, upgraded engines and transmission and a 28-volt upgraded drive system, GDLS developers said.
In addition to receiving a common high-resolution display for gunner and commander stations, some of the current electronics, called Line Replaceable Units, were replaced with new Line Replaceable Modules. This includes a commander’s display unit, driver’s control panel, gunner’s control panel, turret control unit and a common high-resolution display, developers from General Dynamics Land Systems say.
Facilitating continued upgrades, innovations and modernization efforts for the Abrams in years to come is the principle rationale upon which the Line Replacement Modules is based. It encompasses the much-discussed “open architecture” approach wherein computing standards, electronics, hardware, and software systems can efficiently be integrated with new technologies as they emerge.
This M1A2 SEP v3 effort also initiates the integration of upgraded ammunition data links and electronic warfare devices such as the Counter Remote Controlled Improvised Explosive Device – Electronic Warfare – CREW. An increased AMPs alternator is also part of this upgrade, along with Ethernet cables designed to better network vehicle sensors together.
The Abrams is also expected to get an advanced force-tracking system which uses GPS technology to rapidly update digital moving map displays with icons showing friendly and enemy force positions.
The system, called Joint Battle Command Platform, uses an extremely fast Blue Force Tracker 2 Satcom network able to reduce latency and massively shorten refresh time. Having rapid force-position updates in a fast-moving combat circumstance, quite naturally, could bring decisive advantages in both mechanized and counterinsurgency warfare.
Using a moving digital map display, JBCP shows blue and red icons, indicating where friendly and enemy forces are operating in relation to the surrounding battle space and terrain. JBCP also include an intelligence database, called TIGR, which contains essential information about threats and prior incidents in specific combat ares.
Current GD development deals also advances a commensurate effort to design and construct and even more advanced M1A2 SEP v4 Abrams tank variant for the 2020s and beyond.
The v4 is designed to be more lethal, better protected, equipped with new sensors and armed with upgraded, more effective weapons, service officials said.
SEPv4 upgrades include the Commander’s Primary Sight, an improved Gunner’s Primary Sight and enhancements to sensors, lethality and survivability.
Advanced networking technology with next-generation sights, sensors, targeting systems and digital networking technology — are all key elements of an ongoing upgrade to position the platform to successfully engage in combat against rapidly emerging threats, such as the prospect of confronting a Russian T-14 Armata or Chinese 3rd generation Type 99 tank.
A Russian T-14 Armata.
Interestingly, when asked about specific US Army concerns regarding the much-hyped high-tech Russian T-14 Armata, Schirmer said the Army would pursue its current modernization plan regardless of the existence of the Armata. That being said, it is certainly a safe assumption to recognize that the US Army is acutely aware, to the best of its ability, of the most advanced tanks in existence.
The SEP v4 variant, slated to being testing in 2021, will include new laser rangefinder technology, color cameras, integrated on-board networks, new slip-rings, advanced meteorological sensors, ammunition data links, laser warning receivers and a far more lethal, multi-purpose 120mm tank round, Army developers told Warrior.
While Army officials explain that many of the details of the next-gen systems for the future tanks are not available for security reasons, Army developers did explain that the lethality upgrade, referred to as an Engineering Change Proposal, or ECP, is centered around the integration of a higher-tech 3rd generation FLIR – Forward Looking Infrared imaging sensor.
The advanced FLIR uses higher resolution and digital imaging along with an increased ability to detect enemy signatures at farther ranges through various obscurants such as rain, dust or fog, Army official said.
Improved FLIR technologies help tank crews better recognize light and heat signatures emerging from targets such as enemy sensors, electronic signals or enemy vehicles. This enhancement provides an additional asset to a tank commander’s independent thermal viewer.
Rear view sensors and laser detection systems are part of these v4 upgrades as well. Also, newly configured meteorological sensors will better enable Abrams tanks to anticipate and adapt to changing weather or combat conditions more quickly, Army officials said.
The emerging M1A2 SEP v4 will also be configured with a new slip-ring leading to the turret and on-board ethernet switch to reduce the number of needed “boxes” by networking sensors to one another in a single vehicle.
Advanced Multi-Purpose Round
The M1A2 SEP v4 will carry Advanced Multi-Purpose 120mm ammunition round able to combine a variety of different rounds into a single tank round.
The AMP round will replace four tank rounds now in use. The first two are the M830, High Explosive Anti-Tank, or HEAT, round and the M830A1, Multi-Purpose Anti -Tank, or MPAT, round.
The latter round was introduced in 1993 to engage and defeat enemy helicopters, specifically the Russian Hind helicopter, Army developers explained. The MPAT round has a two-position fuse, ground and air, that must be manually set, an Army statement said.
The M1028 Canister round is the third tank round being replaced. The Canister round was first introduced in 2005 by the Army to engage and defeat dismounted Infantry, specifically to defeat close-in human-wave assaults. Canister rounds disperse a wide-range of scattering small projectiles to increase anti-personnel lethality and, for example, destroy groups of individual enemy fighters.
The M908, Obstacle Reduction round, is the fourth that the AMP round will replace; it was designed to assist in destroying large obstacles positioned on roads by the enemy to block advancing mounted forces, Army statements report.
AMP also provides two additional capabilities: defeat of enemy dismounts, especially enemy anti-tank guided missile, or ATMG, teams at a distance, and breaching walls in support of dismounted Infantry operations
A new ammunition data link will help tank crews determine which round is best suited for a particular given attack.
The Institute for Defense Analysis report also makes the case for the continued relevance and combat necessity for a main battle tank. The Abrams tank proven effective both as a deterrent in the Fulda Gap during the Cold War, waged war with great success in Iraq in 1991 and 2003 — but it has also expanded it sphere of operational utility by proving valuable in counterinsurgency operations as well.
The IDA essay goes on to emphasize that the armored main battle tank brings unparalleled advantages to combat, in part by bringing powerful land-attack options in threat environments where advanced air defenses might make it difficult for air assets to operate and conduct attacks.
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.