The Navy's most successful World War II sub also killed an enemy train - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

The Navy’s most successful World War II sub also killed an enemy train

The Gato-class, diesel-powered US Navy submarine USS Barb is known for a lot of things. In 12 war patrols, she sank the third most tonnage in World War II, had eight battle stars, and fired the first submarine-based ballistic missiles on Japan. It earned her crew a Presidential Unit Citation, among numerous other awards and decorations.

But one of its proudest moments was also its most daring. Crewmembers aboard the Barb were also the first American combatants to set foot on Japanese home soil — in order to “sink” an enemy train.

They did all of this without losing a single man.


On Jul. 23, 1945, eight members of Barb‘s crew landed on mainland Japan under intense cloud cover and a dark moon. Their mission was to rig a Japanese train track to explode when a train crossed a switch between two railroad ties. Immediately, their best-laid plans went right out the window, forcing the crew to improvise.

The Navy’s most successful World War II sub also killed an enemy train

The USS Barb off the coast of Pearl Harbor, 1945.

The mission of the USS Barb was to cut the Japanese fleet’s supply lines by sinking enemy ships out of the island of Karafuto in the Sea of Okhotsk. This was the ship’s 12th war patrol, and the fifth for her skipper, then-Commander Eugene Fluckey. They could see as Japanese shipments moved from trains on the island to the ships. Once the ships were at sea, they were easy pickings for crews like the Barb’s.

But why, Fluckey thought, wait for the ships to get to sea? Why not just take them out before the trains ever reach the port? That’s exactly what Fluckey and his crew set out to do.

They couldn’t just place charges on the tracks, it would be too dangerous for the shore party once the Japanese were alerted. Instead, the U.S. Naval Institute tells us how Engineman 3rd Class Billy Hatfield devised a switch trigger for an explosive that, when set between the rails, would go off as the train passed over it.

That was the goal as the crew manned their boats and made it ashore that night, but they accidentally landed in the backyard of a Japanese civilian. So, they ended up having to struggle through thick bulrushes, cross a freeway, and even fall down drainage ditches on their way to the railway. Once there, a crewman climbed to the top of a water tower — only to discover it was a manned lookout post. Luckily, the guard was asleep and their work continued.

They dug holes for the 55-pound bomb as quickly and as quietly as possible, even having to stop as a freight train rumbled by. But they did it, put the pressure switch into place, and booked it back to the ship as fast as possible. At 1:47 am, a 16-car train hit their planted explosive and was shot into the sky. Five minutes after that, the crew was back aboard the Barb.

The Navy’s most successful World War II sub also killed an enemy train

The Battle Flag of USS Barb, the train is located bottom middle.

Barb’s battle flag could now boast one enemy train “sunk” in combat, along with six Navy Crosses, 23 Silver Stars, 23 Bronze Stars, and a Medal of Honor earned by members of its crew.


Articles

Nuclear trains may be coming back

Tensions between the U.S. and Russia are dangerously high. Both sides are complaining that the other has ignored military norms in international airspace and at sea, both have accused the other of violating treaties designed to prevent large-scale war, and both are developing systems to counter the other’s strength.


But, while Russia works on new tanks and bombers and the U.S. tries to get its second fifth-generation fighter fully operational, each side is also looking to a nearly forgotten technology from the Cold War, nuclear-armed trains.

The idea is to construct a train that looks normal to satellite feeds, aerial surveillance and, if possible, observers on the ground, but carries one or more intercontinental ballistic missiles armed with nuclear warheads.

The Navy’s most successful World War II sub also killed an enemy train
Concept art of the Soviet Union’s first nuclear-armed train, the RS-23 Molodets. (Image: Defenseimagery.mil)

These trains would remain in a fortified depot during normal operations. During periods of nuclear brinksmanship, though, they would be dispersed across the country to provide a credible counterstrike if the enemy fires their nukes first.

The trains, if properly camouflaged, would be nearly impossible to target and could launch their payloads within minutes.

Russia got the missile cars to work first and fielded an operational version in 1991. In the early 1990s, America built prototype rail cars for the Peacekeeper Rail Garrison missile system and tested them, but then the Soviet Union collapsed and the project was cancelled.

The Navy’s most successful World War II sub also killed an enemy train
One of Russia’s first nuclear-armed trains on display in the Saint Petersburg railway museum. Photo: CC BY-SA 2.5 Panther

Now, Russia has leaked that it is designing and fielding a new version of the trains. The Barguzin missile trains, named for a fierce wind that comes off of Russia’s Lake Baikal, will carry six RS-24 Yars missiles each. Yars missiles can carry up to six independently-targetable warheads with 100-300 kilotons of explosive power each.

The missile cars and fuel tanks are to be disguised as refrigeration cars and will be indistinguishable from regular trains if the weapons live up to the hype. Each will be able to deploy with its own security force and missile personnel for up to 28 days without resupply.

America has been flirting with restarting its nuclear trains, but it doesn’t seem likely. The Air Force awarded study contracts in 2013 to look at the feasibility of a “nuclear subway” system where missile launching trains would have dedicated tracks underground.

The Navy’s most successful World War II sub also killed an enemy train
Concept art for the U.S. Peacekeeper Rail Garrison missile system. Image: San Diego Air Space Museum

But, budget problems that were biting at the Pentagon then have continued to hound it, and mobile launchers are expensive. Plus, most Americans don’t like the idea of nuclear trains running under their feet any more than they like the idea of nuclear trucks driving through their local streets.

The feasibility of Russia’s plans is also suspect. After all, the Russian Defense Ministry is running into worse budget problems than the Pentagon. It’s ability to fund a nuclear-armed train while oil prices are low and its economy is in shambles is questionable at best.

Right now, America’s main counter to Russian nuclear trains, and any other intercontinental ballistic missile launchers, appears to be its missile shields in Europe which could intercept many outbound nuclear missiles.

China has also flirted with nuclear trains. In 2013, Chinese media – whether accidentally or on purpose – leaked footage of a train modified to hold DF-31 and DF-31A missiles which can carry a single 1-megaton nuclear warhead. There were some questions at the times about whether or not the system was truly operational.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Harry Humphries is a Hollywood legend. But did you know he was a Navy SEAL?

Harry Humphries has lived an amazing life, first as a highly decorated Navy SEAL in the Vietnam War then to partnering alongside fellow SEAL Richard Marcinko in business, and, most recently, to working on Hollywood blockbuster films such as The Rock, Black Hawk Down, The Transformers films, Lone Survivor and most recently Da 5 Bloods. He shares leadership and character traits that have served him across his diverse and storied career.


WATM: Tell me about your family and your life growing up?

Born in New Jersey and raised on the Jersey Shore. The Atlantic Ocean was my playground where I became skilled in most things aquatic. Under the tutelage of strong family leadership, specifically from my grandparents, the concept of Love of nation, Pride of Family and God was deeply instilled in my psyche.

This was during and shortly after World War Two, as with most Americans, my pride of country was deeply instilled. My four uncles fought in Europe — all came home safely….naturally, at this early age in my life I knew I would serve as well.

WATM: What is the most distinct memory of your mother and your father?

My parental experiences resulting from their divorce was a split upbringing for my sister and myself. Actually, our grandparents filled that role, however, that is not to say that my mother wasn’t a wonderful mom, a very strong woman, and extremely supportive of me through my mistakes and successes. Her remarriage was a blessing, as my stepfather became my first athletic coach and as a former college athlete and 101st Airborne Master Sergeant who made all five combat jumps in Europe became my mentor. Fairness on the athletic field and a pursuit of excellence in athletics was deeply ingrained in me as a result.

WATM: What values were stressed at home?

Faith, pride in self and pride in family, a strong sense of determination, tenacity, whatever you start finish, if it gets dark look towards your faith and most importantly, never quitting and finishing what was started.

WATM: What influenced you to join the US Navy and SEALs, what was your experience and what lessons did you take away from your service?

I joined the Naval Reserve as a Prep School senior, 1st classman at Admiral Farragut Academy in Pine Beach, New Jersey. My goal was to attend the Naval Academy, the reserve program at Farragut guaranteed an appointment, however the goal was not to be achieved. After attending Rutgers and Monmouth College for a few years, my reserve unit was called to active duty. I chose to serve out my two-year active obligation at that time which ultimately led to me extending several years in order to get Underwater Demolition Training UDT/R at Little Creek VA. Class 29 where I graduated as class Honor Man. Clearly my most treasured achievement.

I received orders to Underwater Demolition Team 22, UDT 22, where I made several Platoon deployments to the Caribbean after which a billet became available for an enlisted slot in the new command, SEAL TEAM 2. Again, another excellent achievement which changed my life. Reporting aboard was an experience I shall never forget, the quality of personnel, professionalism, all the attributes of becoming part of this outstanding organization was life changing to me.

The early days of the SEAL program were extremely secretive, not as publicized as today’s teams. One didn’t volunteer to punch a ticket and get out. The incentive was to operate with personnel at a level of professionalism not equaled in most commands.

My period was pre, during and some post-Vietnam. Having made two tours, one with Dick Marcinko’s 8th Platoon, ST2 when we were heavily engaged in the TET Offensive of 68 operating on the Cambodian Border supporting the CHAU DOC PRU led by DREW DIX MEDAL OF HONOR recipient for these actions. The 8th Platoon performed excellently going into the city seeking, engaging with the VC. I went with DREW and a fellow SEAL, Frank Thornton into the city on a “company” vehicle armed with an M-2 HMG in the rear. Our mission was to rescue some USAID Medical Personnel who were held captive in their villa by the insurgent VC. After several intensive firefights, the mission was successful, but unfortunately we lost one of our SEALs later in the day, Ted Risher, Frank and I were with Ted on a rooftop prepping a 57 recoilless rifle position overlooking the VC Command Center when Ted took a round in the head.

After several days operating in and around Chau Doc with Drew and his PRU, the platoon was ordered back to Can Tho base. The VC had been killed, captured or melded back into the local population. The city was free.

I returned to country, assigned to MACVSOG operating as a detached SEAL working for the CIA’s Phoenix program as The PRU Advisor in CAN THO Province. I remember this assignment as a dream job, working undercover, if you will, as an enlisted guy telling O-5s and 6s how we were going to execute our battle plans. I split my 150-man team into smaller units and spread them around the province. The plan worked very well increasing our operational tempo many fold.

My last action leading my PRU team was on a VIP Capture Kill mission for a high-ranking VC Commander when I was wounded in both legs. I’m here today only because of my troops. We fought our way out of the ambush and coordinated an air assault on the VC forces covered in a tree line. The UH-1 “POP POP” sounds are truly magnificent to hear, and the sight of WP rockets (no longer in the inventory) hitting as directed is beautiful to see in such times as these.

I eventually wound up in YOKOSUKA Naval Hospital recovering from leg wounds. It was during this time I spent weeks in a ward filled with young Marines ages 18 to 21ish. Mostly amputees. As the senior enlisted guy on the floor, I became their Gunny, sometimes maintaining discipline, sometimes feeding those who had no limbs to feed themselves, sometimes coaching those who needed a prod to get up and rehab their abilities to walk. Truth be told here; it was them who gave me the drive to get up and walk from bed to bed initially until I was able to get around to help them.

The lessons I learned here are immense but simply put, all warriors have a mutual respect for one another. I swore I would never forget these troops, a memory which has instilled a burning passion in me to help my fellow veterans, a passion which lives on to this day.

The Navy’s most successful World War II sub also killed an enemy train

Dick Marcinko (left) and Harry Humphries (right) in Vietnam, 1968. Photo credit unknown.

WATM: What values have you carried over from the SEALs into advising and producing?

Whether factual or fantasy, the characters playing military or law enforcement rolls must be as realistic as possible, we owe that to them.

I see my role as the reality conscience of the Writer, Director, Producer and HODs. Then on to the training of talent enabling them to appropriately play a role in many cases totally unfamiliar to them.

The Navy’s most successful World War II sub also killed an enemy train

A shot of the SEAL Team (actors and real SEALs) in The Rock. Photo credit IMDB.com.

WATM: What is the most fulfilling project you have done and why?

Without hesitation I can say that BLACK HAWK DOWN was my thesis as an advisor and Co-Producer. My role entailed acquisition of period correct Equipment; Weapons, and to some extent Costume, assisting the departments in accuracy as pertained to their areas. My role as liaisons to DOD was immense. Jerry Bruckheimer and Ridley wanted the training to be as realistic as possible, once we had DOD’s Production Assist Agreement in place all specific training was provided by USASOC components, the commands being portrayed; the 75th Ranger Regiment provided a gentlemen’s RIP program, the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment DELTA actors were trained at Bragg blowing and kicking doors, etc. the 160th SOAR provided UH-60 training on the simulators at FT. Campbell, etc.

USASOC stood up a detachment of Rangers, 160th Black Hawks and Little Birds, AIRSOC provided transport of all personnel and equipment to Morocco. A remarkable support effort, probably never to be repeated.

Most importantly, I was blessed to have Colonels Tom Mathews (OIC of the 160th element in Mogadishu) and Lee Van Arsdale, ( the C Squadron Commander of the CAG unit). As part of the Military department with me.
The Navy’s most successful World War II sub also killed an enemy train

Bruce Willis, Paul Francis, Cole Hauser, Johnny Messner, and Eamonn Walker in Tears of the Sun. Photo credit IMDB.com

The Navy’s most successful World War II sub also killed an enemy train

Taylor Kitsch, Mark Wahlberg, Ben Foster and Emile Hirsch in Lone Survivor. Photo credit IMDB.com

The Navy’s most successful World War II sub also killed an enemy train

David Denman, John Krasinski, Pablo Schreiber and Dominic Fumusa in 13 Hours. Photo credit IMDB.com.

The Navy’s most successful World War II sub also killed an enemy train

Thad Luckinbill, Chris Hemsworth and Navid Negahban in 12 Strong. Photo credit IMDB.com.

The Navy’s most successful World War II sub also killed an enemy train

Delroy Lindo, Norm Lewis, Clarke Peters, Isiah Whitlock Jr., and Jonathan Majors in Da 5 Bloods. Photo credit IMDB.com.

WATM: What was your experience like in working with such talents as Ridley Scott, Michael Bay, Antoine Fuqua, Tony Scott and Dominic Sena on projects like The Rock, Con Air, Armageddon, Pearl Harbor, Gone in 60 Seconds, Tears of the Sun, GI Jane, Bad Boys 2 and the like?

This is a tough question, all you mention have been great to have worked with. I’d have to say my projects with Ridley Scott all were excellent experiences. Ridley is without question one of the finest gentlemen I have ever known. As a director, few can compare with his talent, to call him friend is a blessing.

Mike Bay is a loyal friend, working with Mike is like an uncle/nephew experience. I understand and respect his drive for excellence, he truly stands out as a master of the work he does in the action genre. Not only is he truly a friend but also the guy who has worked me the most throughout our careers.

Working with Mike, thanks to Jerry Bruckheimer, on The Rock stands out to be more than just my first project but has to be the most enjoyable yet to be surpassed. Additionally, 13 HOURS stands out to me as my second favorite film. It tells an action story that had to be told accurately.

My projects with Tony Scott stand out in my mind as another exceptional talent and friend, may he rest in peace. We truly lost a great one with him leaving us.

Pete Berg, another friend for life. Working with Pete has always been a pleasure. His work on Lone Survivor was outstanding. I was proud to have played a small role in that project as military Liaison, consultant and Co Producer. Pete is the only director I’ve worked with who shoots as fast as Mike Bay, a joy to watch.

Antoine Fuqua, another artist in his field was also a pleasure to work with on Tears of the Sun. Working with Bruce Willis, we had an outstanding time both shooting and training. Hawaii locations weren’t shabby either.

Most recently Kevin Kent, (my #2 and SEAL war hero) and I had the pleasure of working with SPIKE LEE on DA 5 BLOODS, in retrospect, a Vietnam War period film. Spike was the consummate professional knowing what he wanted and how to get it. The recent loss of Chadwick Boseman, the lead, was a shock to us all. His athletic performance always at top speed was no indication of his condition. An excellent actor, another loss to the world.
The Navy’s most successful World War II sub also killed an enemy train

Ridley Scott on the set of Black Hawk Down. Photo credit directorseries.net.

The Navy’s most successful World War II sub also killed an enemy train

Eric Bana and Harry on set for Black Hawk Down. Photo credit Harry Humphries.

The Navy’s most successful World War II sub also killed an enemy train

Mike Moriarty, Harry Humphries and Kevin Kent on set, 13 HOURS. Photo credit IMDB.com

WATM: What leadership lessons in life and from the SEALs have helped you most in your career?

The most important element of leadership is to create a team and to love the members of that team. The rest will follow if you do that right. Without the team there is no success.

The Navy’s most successful World War II sub also killed an enemy train

Bruce Willis and Harry Humphries on (HS TRUMAN CVN 75) set for Tears of the Sun. Photo credit Wikipedia.

WATM: As a veteran, how do we get more veteran stories told in Hollywood?

Veterans in Media and Entertainment is probably the best source of veterans in the industry. I did a talk with them several years back. Since The Rock I have put over a 100 SEALs, Marines and Rangers as special skills extras or talent in films and projects. I have been able to help a bunch of veterans in the industry.

WATM: What are you most proud of in life and your career?

My greatest pride resides in assisting veterans as with the VETNET program with Jerri Rosen, who started Working Wardrobes in Orange County offering dress clothing and job training for people who couldn’t afford them. Many veterans were coming through Working Wardrobes for suits and/or dress clothes for work and interviews, so VETNET was created to focus more directly on veterans.

Many of the California veterans are poverty stricken or homeless where they need help restarting in the civilian world. With VETNET we help them write resumes and get prepared for job interviews. We focus on the transitioning veterans as well as those that have come upon hard landings. The core of our program stresses that Veterans having fallen on hard times need to remember who they are and where they came from. It is imperative they believe that and then the pride in self returns. It makes no difference if you came from a high-speed combat unit or support. We all took the same oath essentially offering our lives to support and defend The Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic…..

The Navy’s most successful World War II sub also killed an enemy train

Jerri Rosen, Harry Humphries and the Plank Owners of the VETNET team. Photo credit Harry Humphries.

MIGHTY HISTORY

8 things you didn’t know about the Solomons campaign

After the fighting around Guadalcanal, which was the stage for several epic naval battles, clashes continued in the South Pacific. These battles don’t get as much coverage today, but they were just as important. In fact, it was the Allied move up the Solomon Islands that arguably broke Japan’s back in the Pacific.

The Battle of Midway is justifiably celebrated as a decisive Allied victory that turned the tide of the war. Guadalcanal is known as a slugging match that, although bloody for both sides, put the initiative in Allied hands. It was through the Solomon Islands campaign, however, that put the Allies eventually into a position where they could neutralize the Japanese base at Rabaul and make General Douglas MacArthur’s return to the Philippines happen.


Here are a few things you might not have known about this crucial campaign:

The Navy’s most successful World War II sub also killed an enemy train

What ultimately emerged as the Allied plan for dealing with Rabaul: Surrounding it, then bombing the hell out of it.

(US Army)

The original plan called for taking Rabaul

MacArthur originally wanted to take Rabaul, which was a superb harbor (the reason why Japan had taken it in early 1942). It had proven extremely useful as a forward base for the Japanese, and MacArthur figured it could work just as well for Allied forces. But heavy fighting at Guadalcanal and the “Europe-first” strategy led to bypassing Rabaul as part of the “island hopping” campaign.

Bypassing worked out pretty well, don’t you think?

The Navy’s most successful World War II sub also killed an enemy train

A Vought F4U Corsair from Marine Fighter Squadron 215 (VMF-215) lands at Munda Point.

(USMC)

The New Georgia invasion cost Japan in the skies

The Japanese had built an airfield at Munda Point on the New Georgia Islands. This became an important objective in the campaign to the neutralize the Pacific. It took about three and a half months to take the islands, and cost the Allies almost 1,200 personnel — about 15 percent of the losses suffered at Guadalcanal. Japan lost 1,671 personnel, but the real discrepancy was in the air: 356 Japanese planes were downed compared to only 93 Allied losses.

The Navy’s most successful World War II sub also killed an enemy train

New Zealand Coastwatcher Donald G. Kennedy with a Marine officer.

The invasion of New Georgia was launched nine days early to save one man

According to Volume VI of Samuel Eliot Morison’s History of United States Naval Operations in World War II, after Japan took the Solomon Islands, a coastwatcher from New Zealand, Donald G. Kennedy, courageously went from village to village, vowing that the Allies would return. During the Guadalcanal campaign, he sent warnings of air raids to the Marines. After he was wounded in a firefight with a Japanese patrol boat, the 4th Marine Raider Battalion went in to protect his outpost while the invasion started. Kennedy later received the Navy Cross for his actions.

The Navy’s most successful World War II sub also killed an enemy train

USS Helena (CL 50) firing on Japanese ships during the Battle of Kula Gulf.

(US Navy)

Two naval battles early in the campaign came out roughly even

In the Battle of Kula Gulf, the U.S. Navy lost a light cruiser, but sank two destroyers. At the Battle of Kolombangara, the Japanese lost a light cruiser and the Allies lost a destroyer and had three light cruisers damaged in what was a tactical victory for Japan.

The Navy’s most successful World War II sub also killed an enemy train

Future President John F. Kennedy and the crew of PT-109.

(US Navy)

John F. Kennedy earned his heroic reputation in this campaign

John F. Kennedy’s heroism in the wake of the loss of PT 109 came during the fighting around the New Georgia Islands. His PT boat was with others in the Blackett Strait in August, about two months after the invasion started. His boat was rammed by HIJMS Amagiri, and the rest was history.

The Navy’s most successful World War II sub also killed an enemy train

Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto on April 18, 1943 – hours before he was shot down by Thomas G. Lanphier, Jr.

(Imperial Japanese Navy)

The Pacific Theater’s “Zero Dark Thirty” mission took place just before the Solomons campaign

Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto was carrying out an inspection tour in April, 1943, when his place was intercepted by P-38 Lightnings. Capt. Thomas G. Lanphier would shoot down Yamamoto’s Mitsubishi G4M Betty while Rex Barber downed another that was carrying members of Yamamoto’s staff. The Japanese Navy didn’t have a new Commander-in-Chief Combined Fleet until a month before the invasion of New Georgia.

The Navy’s most successful World War II sub also killed an enemy train

Australian troops patrolling on Bougainville in January, 1945. Japanese troops on the island held out until August 21 of that year.

(Australian War Memorial)

The Solomons Campaign technically lasted throughout the war

The northernmost of the Solomon Islands, Bougainville, wasn’t fully under Allied control until the Japanese forces there surrendered on August 21, 1945. The United States pulled out in 1944, handing the fighting over to Australian troops, who carried out operations for about a year and a half.

The Navy’s most successful World War II sub also killed an enemy train

USS Vella Gulf (CG 72) is named for an escort carrier that was named after a battle of the Solomons campaign.

(US Navy)

Several Navy ships get their names from the Solomon Islands campaign

During World War II, a number of escort carriers — the Casablanca-class vessels USS Lunga Point (CVE 94), USS Bougainville (CVE 100), USS Munda (CVE 104) and the Commencement Bay-class ships USS Kula Gulf (CVE 108), USS Vella Gulf (CVE 111), USS Rendova (CVE 114), and USS Bairoko (CVE 115) were all named after battles in the Solomons campaign. Two other ships, the Casablanca-class escort carrier USS Solomons (CVE 67) and the Commencement Bay-class USS Rabaul (CVE 121), were named for the campaign and the ultimate objective, respectively.

Today, the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Vella Gulf (CG 72) carries on the name of one of those escort carriers, and an America-class amphibious assault ship will be named USS Bougainville (LHA 8).

MIGHTY CULTURE

How the 75th Ranger Regiment has fun

This past summer, the 75th Ranger Regiment found an innovative way to entertain and ensure the wellbeing of its single troops.

Throughout the summer months, the 75th Ranger Regiment’s Unit Ministry Team (UMT) organized and led 24-hour retreats for over 100 single Rangers. Some of the events that the troops participated in include hiking, rock climbing, kayaking, biking, and camping.


Army UMTs assist commanders with morale and provide religious and informal psychological support to troops.

“It was so encouraging to hear these guys go deep, and get real, and just talk about how they are really doing and the struggles they are currently dealing with or have dealt with in their past,” said Captain Bo Waldo, the 75th Ranger Regiment’s Deputy Regimental Chaplain, in a press release.
“It really is a privilege for me to care for these Rangers. The single Rangers are such a critical component of our force, and they are having to deal with this crazy season of isolation in some very challenging ways. This trip was well worth the effort to put it together.”
The Navy’s most successful World War II sub also killed an enemy train

A Ranger participating in a river kayaking event (U.S. Army)

The Coronavirus pandemic isn’t the only thing Rangers have to worry about on a daily basis. There is always the ever-present fear of messing up and getting released for standards (RFU), the 75th Ranger Regiment’s internal mechanism to cycle out Soldiers who aren’t suitable to serve in the unit. Consequently, even a brief break from the rigors of the job can be revitalizing and ensure sustainability.

“Just the chance to get away from the barracks and spend time with friends, to think about what I want my life and legacy to be, is a phenomenal opportunity,” said an anonymous Ranger from 3rd Battalion.

The 75th Ranger Regiment is the world’s premier light infantry special operations force. It’s one of the few units in the entire US military to have been continuously deployed since the start of the Global War on Terror (GWOT) after 9/11. Specializing in direct action missions and airfield seizures, the 75th Ranger Regiment is comprised of a headquarters, three infantry battalions (1st, 2nd, and 3rd), a Military Intelligence battalion, and Special Troops battalion.

The Navy’s most successful World War II sub also killed an enemy train

Rangers preparing to launch their kayaks into the ocean (U.S. Army).

“I have never been on a trip like this before, but I really liked it. It was fun to jump in and find ways I could help,” said Specialist Adam Gathercole, from the Military Intelligence battalion.

But the retreats aren’t the only initiative that the unit is taking to ensure the well-being of its Rangers. Recently, the 75th Ranger Regiment launched PHALANX, an innovative program that aims to enhance the combat capabilities, careers, and education opportunities of Rangers. The logic behind the initiative is that well-educated, superb-trained, and physically and mentally healthy troops will be a more productive member of the team. Additionally, by investing in the education and wellbeing of its Rangers, the 75th Ranger Regiment aims to improve its retention levels, and indeed its investment as hundreds of thousands of dollars are spent in training just one Ranger.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.


MIGHTY TACTICAL

US Navy’s best sub-hunting aircraft has some persisting problems

The P-8A Poseidon, introduced in 2013 to replace the P-3 Orion, has quickly become one of the most highly regarded maritime-patrol aircraft in service, fielded by the Navy and sought after by partner countries all over the world.

But the P-8A is dealing with some lingering issues that could affect the force as a whole, according to the fiscal year 2018 annual report produced by the Pentagon’s Office of the Director of Operational Test and Evaluation.


The Navy’s most successful World War II sub also killed an enemy train

US Navy crew members on board a P-8A Poseidon.

(US Navy photo)

The Poseidon’s capabilities now include receiver air refueling, employment of the AGM-84D Harpoon Block I anti-ship missile, and several upgrades to its communications systems.

But, the report said, “despite significant efforts to improve P-8A intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) sensors, overall P-8A ISR mission capabilities remain limited by sensor performance shortfalls.”

Moreover, the report found, data from the operational testing and evaluation of the P-8A’s latest software engineering upgrade as well as metrics from the Navy “show consistently negative trends in fleet-wide aircraft operational availability due to a shortage of spare parts and increased maintenance requirements.”

The Navy’s most successful World War II sub also killed an enemy train

A Boeing and a Raytheon employee complete installation of an APY-10 radar antenna on P-8A Poseidon test aircraft T2.

(Boeing)

Forward-deployed P-8A units have reported “relatively high mission capable rates” when they have access to enough spare parts, sufficient logistic supply support, and priority maintenance.

However, the report said, focusing on supporting forward-deployed units “frequently reduces aircraft availability and increases part cannibalization rates at other fleet operating locations.”

Shortages in spare parts for the Poseidon are exacerbated by the nature of the contracting and delivery system for the P-8A, according to the report.

The Navy’s most successful World War II sub also killed an enemy train

Naval aircrewman (Operator) 2nd Class Karl Shinn unloads a sonobuoy on a P-8A Poseidon.

(US Navy photo by Chief Mass Comm. Specialist Keith DeVinney)

The use of engineering model predictions rather than reliability data from the fleet itself, “ensures that some mission critical spare part contracts lag actual fleet needs,” lengthening the already long six- to nine-month contracting process.

These delays are exacerbated by consumable-item processes at the Defense Logistics Agency, which requires depleting stocks and back orders before starting to procure new items, according to the report.

“These delays are a major contributing factor to the observed increases in aircraft downtime awaiting parts and higher part cannibalization,” it added, saying that the P-8A program is working with Naval Supply Systems Command to procure parts on a more flexible and proactive basis and to start basing procurement on fleet-reliability data.

Keeping an eye on things

More than 60 P-8As are in service for the US Navy. The plane is based on Boeing’s 737 airliner but built to withstand more stress and outfitted with a suite of electronic gear to allow it to detect and track ships and subs — even just their periscopes — across wide swaths of ocean, as well as to conduct surveillance of ports and coastlines.

“I went up on a training flight, and basically … they could read the insignia on a sailor’s hat from thousands of feet above,” Michael Fabey, author of the 2017 book “Crashback,” about China-US tensions in the Pacific, told Business Insider in early 2018. “It’s not the aircraft itself of course,” he added, but “all the goodies they put in there.”

The Navy plans to improve the aircraft’s capability going forward by adding the Advanced Airborne Sensor radar and by integrating the AGM-84 Harpoon Block II+ missile and the High Altitude Anti-Submarine Warfare Weapon Capability MK 54 torpedo.

Interest in the P-8A continues to grow.

The Navy’s most successful World War II sub also killed an enemy train

US Navy aircrew members on a P-8A Poseidon.

(US Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Keith DeVinney)

India has bought 12 of the P-8I variant, and the country’s navy chief has said it’s looking to buy more. Australia is buying eight and has an option for four more.

Other countries in the Asian-Pacific region are looking to buy, too, including South Korea, to which the US State Department approved the sale of six in 2018.

NATO countries are also looking to reinvigorate their airborne anti-submarine-warfare capabilities, including the UK and Norway, which are adjacent to the Greenland-Iceland-UK gap, a chokepoint for submarines traveling between the Atlantic and the Arctic, where Russia’s Northern Fleet and nuclear forces are based. The US recently sent P-8As back to the Keflavik airbase in Iceland, though it does not plan to reestablish a permanent presence.

At the end of January 2019, Boeing was awarded a .46 billion modification to an existing contract for the production and delivery of 19 P-8A Poseidons — 10 for the US Navy, four for the UK, and five for Norway.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

6 ways the new Army PT test will affect almost everything in the Army

Just as the Army has been saying for almost thirty years, they are finally working out the details of what will be the replacement for the current push-ups/sit-ups/2-mile-run version of the Army Physical Fitness Test. For a quick primer on what the new test will entail, read our previous article — but know that, if implemented, this new test is going to fundamentally change how the Army operates.

Obviously, the Army Combat Readiness Test (this is what they’re calling the new test) will demand new capability from troops, but it’s more than that. Everything from how the test is conducted to the way it’s graded and the overall logistical nightmares that it will bring are going to have wide-reaching ramifications.

Now, that’s not to say that the new test is a bad thing — but this one small change will ripple into the rest of life in the Army. Here’s how:


The Navy’s most successful World War II sub also killed an enemy train

Fridays will always be run days. How else is the commander going to listen to ‘Thunderstruck’ by AC/DC?

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Steven Lopez)

New PT schedules

The current APFT makes sure that three elements of a soldier’s fitness are up to standard: upper body, core, and endurance. Morning PT schedules created by NCOs reflect these requirements. Regardless of your unit, you’ll almost always go on a long run on Mondays, work your upper body on Tuesdays, do sprints on Wednesdays, enjoy core or leg days on Thursdays, and finally, have unit “fun runs” on Fridays.

The new test will include a two-mile run, so you can expect to keep logging the “fun run” alongside the officers who want to claim they work out with their guys. The other five events required by the ACRT, however, will have to be worked into the other four days, which may mean cutting down on Monday runs.

The Navy’s most successful World War II sub also killed an enemy train

Let’s play a game: Spot all the problems in this picture that make it unsafe…

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Jason Hull)

A considerable amount of training

Mark my words: This new PT test is going to be the sole cause of some serious injuries to good soldiers.

Soldiers will likely blow out their backs by improperly deadlifting, toss a medicine ball on someone’s head, jack up their wrists by doing the “hand release push-up” wrong, or incur some type of injury during sprint-drag-carry mishaps — with so many technically demanding events, it’s going to be impossible to ensure that nobody gets hurt.

The fact is that deadlifts aren’t something that beginners or overly cocky soldiers can just pick up. If the powers that be insist on inserting deadlifts into the PT test and younger soldiers aren’t given the training required to do them properly, well… Expect many more visits to sick call among soldiers with bad backs.

The Navy’s most successful World War II sub also killed an enemy train

Motrin and a bottle of water isn’t going to solve this problem, doc.

(U.S. Army photo)

How we view sick call

That being said, there is no way to mitigate the risk of injury entirely. No amount of training can eliminate the possibility ofunintentionally harming oneself. Training and the initialadjustment period will likelysee most of the accidents,but there will be soldiers years from now who bend in a way the human body isn’t meant to be bent.

The Army is fairly good at putting precautions in placeto mitigate risks,but there will need to be an overhaul in the way that aid stations see and treatsoldiers. As of rightnow, countless soldiers “suck it up” and deal with the pain instead of visiting sick call, but one can only stoically endure so much before beingtruly broken.

A major problem thatvetsruninto when theyseekhelp from the VA stems from alack of kept records. In the absence ofdocumentation specifically referencing an ailment, the VA often assertsthat a givenproblem “wasn’t military related.” Unless there’s a major change in how sick call is viewedby soldiers, the many accidents that will likely befall takers of the new ACRT will cause unaddressed problems down the line.

The Navy’s most successful World War II sub also killed an enemy train

Supply NCOs are wizards, but you can’t expect the impossible from them all the time.

(U.S. Army photo by Cpt. Kristoffer Sibbaluca)

Logistics behind the equipment

The new test makes use of plenty of specialized equipment. To successfully administer a PT test, units will need:

  • Deadlift bars plus weights,
  • 10-lbs medicine balls,
  • Weighted sleds,
  • 40-lbs kettle bells,
  • Pull-up bars,
  • and a steady track on which to do the run.

From here, things will go one of two ways: Either the Army is going to have to shell out a load of cash to get every unit enough equipment to facilitate the test in an organized manner (and pay for somewhere to store all that equipment and someone to maintain it) or there will be a dedicated gym for every Brigade-level that contains the equipment and sends it out on request.

In either case, there will be an entirely new level of logistics involved in connecting troops with the gear.

The Navy’s most successful World War II sub also killed an enemy train

There are some running tracks on bigger installations in the Kuwait and Afghanistan, but installing one on FOB Out-in-the-middle-of-f*ck-nowhere just won’t happen.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Angela Lorden)

PT on deployments

As it stands at this instant, PT tests are a required for active duty soldiers twice per year. There are rare exceptions, but in most cases, your commander will insist that tests be administered, even if you’re overseas. All you need is ground to do the test on.

Much to the dismay of that sergeant with muscles so big that he can’t stand at parade rest, this, too, will change. All that equipment won’t be making its way into a shipping container since the Army needs to send mission-relevant gear (and the test would be null and void without the previously-mentioned steady track anyway).

Without the need to maintain fitness standards in order to pass PT tests administered during deployments, soldiers just won’t. That negates the entire purpose of fielding a “combat-oriented” PT test — unless, you know, the Army is willing to stubbornly handle that insane logistical nightmare just to prove a point.

The Navy’s most successful World War II sub also killed an enemy train

Which basically means the only way lower-demand MOS’s will get close to 798 points is if they spend all their time outside work doing college courses.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Raquel Villalona)

Promotion points

The current version of the PT test is simple. Your performance in each event gives you a certain amount of points. Max out at a perfect 300 and you’ve netted yourself 180 promotion points — which comes in handy if you’re looking to be a sergeant. It’s stupid simple math that can be easily printed out and posted in any training room.

But the new test isn’t like that at all. It’s now a “Go/No Go” system. Each event is simply measured: You can either do it or you can’t. You can either run a 2-mile in 20 minutes or you can’t (which, by today’s standards, would award just 3 points to a 17-year-old male but 85 points to a 47-year-old female). Ripping these potential 180 points out of the current promotion system means that soldiers in a lower-demand MOS will lose the easiest way to pad their points.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US Marines practice maneuvers that should keep China on its toes

Everything that is old may indeed be new again.

During World War II, US Marines moved from island to island, fighting bloody battles against entrenched Japanese forces determined to dominate the Pacific. Now, as the possibility of conflict with China looms, the Marine Corps is dusting off this island-hopping strategy.


Last week, US Marines from the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit led a series of simulated small-island assaults in Japan, the Corps announced March 21, 2019.

The Navy’s most successful World War II sub also killed an enemy train

Marines with Charlie Company, Battalion Landing Team, 1st Battalion, 4th Marines, during a live-fire range as part of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit’s simulated Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations at Camp Schwab in Okinawa, Japan, on March 13, 2019.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Gunnery Sgt. T. T. Parish)

The 31st MEU, supported by elements of the 3rd Marine Division, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, and 1st Marine Aircraft Wing; members of the Air Force 353rd Special Operations Group; and Army soldiers with 1st Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group, practiced seizing Ie Shima Island.

After the Marines seized the island’s airfield, US troops quickly established a Forward Arming and Refueling Point. Additional force assets, such as Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters and C-130J Super Hercules transport aircraft, then moved in to deliver extra firepower.

The Navy’s most successful World War II sub also killed an enemy train

An F-35B Lightning II fighter aircraft with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 being refueled at a Forward Arming and Refueling Point during simulated Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations at Ie Shima Training Facility on March 14, 2019.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Dylan Hess)

Rocket artillery units brought in aboard the C-130Js carried out simulated long-range precision-fire missions while the stealth fighters conducted expeditionary strikes with precision-guided munitions.

“This entire mission profile simulated the process of securing advanced footholds for follow-on forces to conduct further military operations, with rapid redeployment,” the Corps said in a statement. The exercise was part of the Corps’ efforts to refine the Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations concept, which is the modern version of the World War II-era island-hopping strategy.

The Navy’s most successful World War II sub also killed an enemy train

A Marine with Charlie Company, Battalion Landing Team, 1st Battalion, 4th Marines, bounding toward a defensive position during a live-fire range as part of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit’s simulated Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations at Camp Schwab.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Gunnery Sgt. T. T. Parish)

“It is critical for us to be able to project power in the context of China, and one of the traditional missions of the Marine Corps is seizing advanced bases,” Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate Armed Services Committee last week. “If you look at the island chains and so forth in the Pacific as platforms from which we can project power, that would be a historical mission for the Marine Corps and one that is very relevant in a China scenario.”

As its National Defense Strategy makes clear, the US military is facing greater challenges from near-peer threats in an age of renewed great-power competition. In the Pacific, China is establishing military outposts on occupied islands in the South China Sea while seeking to extend its reach beyond the first island chain.

With the US and Chinese militaries operating in close proximity, often with conflicting objectives, there have been confrontations. A close US ally recently expressed concern that the two powers might one day find themselves in a shooting war in the South China Sea.

The Navy’s most successful World War II sub also killed an enemy train

Marines with Charlie Company, Battalion Landing Team, 1st Battalion, 4th Marines, engaging targets while assaulting a defensive position during a live-fire range as part of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit’s simulated Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations at Camp Schwab.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Gunnery Sgt. T. T. Parish)

“We continue to seek areas to cooperate with China where we can, but where we can’t we’re prepared to certainly protect both US and allied interest in the region,” Kenneth McKenzie, the director of the Joint Staff, said at the Pentagon in May 2018.

“The United States military has had a lot of experience in the Western Pacific taking down small islands,” he said when asked whether the US had the ability to “blow apart” China’s outposts in the South China Sea. “We had a lot of experience in the Second World War taking down small islands that are isolated, so that’s a core competency of the US military that we’ve done before.”

It’s just a “historical fact,” he said.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Chinese and Australian warships had a standoff in the South China Sea

Three of Australia’s warships were “challenged” by the Chinese navy in the South China Sea early April, 2018, according to an ABC report.

Defense sources told ABC that Australia’s navy was en route to Vietnam when it encountered polite but “robust” challenges from the People’s Liberation Army, but the specific nature of the challenges is not described. HMAS Toowoomba had departed from Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia, while HMAS Anzac and HMAS Success travelled through the South China Sea after leaving the Philippines.


It’s believed the interaction happened around the same time China was conducting its largest-ever naval parade on April 12, 2018. The massive show of force involved 10,000 naval officers, 48 naval vessels, submarines, the country’s only aircraft carrier.

During the event President Xi Jinping was on board one of the destroyers, overseeing the parade.

The Navy’s most successful World War II sub also killed an enemy train
(CGTN)

When questioned about the incident, Australia’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull wouldn’t reveal any details.

“All I can say to you is we maintain and practice the right of freedom of navigation and overflight throughout the world,” Turnbull said. “In this context, you’re talking about naval vessels on the world’s oceans including the South China Sea, as is our perfect right in accordance with international law.”

The South China Sea is a highly contested and valuable region. It is a major shipping route and some claim it has more oil reserves thany any other area on the planet, except Saudi Arabia.

Numerous countries — including China, Brunei, Taiwan, Malaysia, Vietnam, and the Philippines — have territorial claims, making the South China Sea one of the most disputed places on the planet. For its part, China has been criticized for building artificial islands in the region and militarizing them with missile sites and air bases.

This isn’t the only problem Turnbull has faced with China of late.

In 2017, Turnbull proposed a new law to target and broaden the definition of foreign interference, after a wave of claims regarding China’s influence campaigns in Australia. The laws have been derided in China and since then the two countries have been sparring over strained diplomatic relations and China’s growing influence in the Pacific.

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

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

Watch this EOD guy dismantle an IED with a pickaxe and pliers

We’re spending a lot of time on the internet these days watching plenty of useless information — cat videos, TikToks, Tiger King all the Netflix in the land. Finally, here’s something useful, with a heart-stopping, compelling element: an EOD badass dismantling IEDs with only a pickaxe and pliers and no protective equipment. DISCLAIMER: DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME. OR ANYWHERE.


Forget everything you thought you knew about dismantling IEDs. As this Peshmerga EOD guy clearly shows, all you need is a pickaxe and a pair of pliers.pic.twitter.com/hZOoP9m291

twitter.com

Researcher Hugo Kaaman posted a clip of a “Peshmerga EOD guy” dismantling IEDs with only a pickaxe and a pair of pliers (Did we mention? Do not try this!). After a little more digging, another Twitter user cited that the subject was Major Jamal Bawari who is/was a part of a Peshmerga EOD unit.

BBC Four, Storyville did a documentary on ‘Crazy Fakhir’, a Kurdish colonel in the Iraqi army and legendary bomb disposal expert, who was in the same unit as Jamal, titled “Hurt Locker Hero” in 2018.

The description of the documentary on BBC Four is: The heart-stopping story of ‘Crazy Fakhir’, a Kurdish colonel in the Iraqi army and legendary bomb disposal expert who single-handedly disarmed thousands of landmines across the country with just a pocket knife and a pair of wire clippers.

Between the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003 and the chaos and destruction wreaked by IS ten years later, Fahkir’s unwavering bravery saved thousands of lives throughout Iraq. ‘Hurt Locker Hero’ tells Fakhir’s story through the raw and visceral amateur footage captured by his soldiers on a camcorder intended for filming family occasions. Instead, it records Fakhir endlessly snipping wires, searching family homes and digging out roadside IEDs, insisting it’s too dangerous to wait hours for the highly trained American bomb disposal teams to arrive.

Whilst their father and husband becomes a hero, Fahkir’s wife and eight children struggle to make ends meet and worry endlessly about his safety. Fakhir will be remembered as the man who risked his life to save others -‘If I fail, only I die, but if I succeed, I can save hundreds of people.’.

This is definitely better than cat videos.

Articles

Here’s when the F-15 outperforms the F-22 or an F-35

In a recent interview with Business Insider, Justin Bronk, a research fellow specializing in combat airpower at the Royal United Services Institute, revealed why the F-15, originally introduced four decades ago, is still more useful than either the F-22 or the F-35 in certain situations.


The F-15 is a traditional air-superiority fighter of the fourth generation. It’s big, fast, agile, and carriers lots of weapons under the wing where everyone can see them. For that last reason, it’s terrible at stealth, but the other side of the coin is that it’s perfect for intercepting enemy aircraft.

The Navy’s most successful World War II sub also killed an enemy train
An air-to-air view of two F-15 Eagle aircraft armed with AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles and AIM-120 advanced medium-range air-to-air missiles. | McDonnell Douglas, St. Louis

Bronk says that when it comes to interception, a plane must “get up right next to the aircraft, fly alongside, show weapons, go on guard frequency, tell them they’re being intercepted, that they’re on course to violate airspace, and to turn back immediately.”

An F-22 or F-35 shouldn’t, and in some cases, can’t do that.

The major advantage of fifth-generation aircraft is their stealth abilities and situational awareness. Even the best aircraft in the world would be lucky to lay eyes on any fifth-generation fighter, which means they can set up and control the engagement entirely on their terms.

But while this paradigm lends itself ideally to fighting and killing, interception is a different beast.

The advantages of the F-22, and particularly of the F-35, diminish greatly once planes get within visual range of one another. Also, fifth-gens usually carry their munitions inside internal bomb bays, which is great for stealth but doesn’t really strike the same note that staring down an AIM-9 Sidewinder missile on the side of an F-15 would.

Simply put, a fifth-gen revealing itself to a legacy fighter would be akin to a hunter laying down his gun before confronting a wild beast.

The Navy’s most successful World War II sub also killed an enemy train
An F-22 Raptor | US Air Force photo

“Fifth-gen fighters are not really necessary for that … other, cheaper interceptors can do the job,” Bronk said.

Furthermore, interception happens way more frequently than air-to-air combat. A US Air Force fighter most recently shot down an enemy plane in 2009 — and it was the Air Force’s own wayward drone over Afghanistan. Interceptions happen all the time, with the Baltics and the South China Sea being particular hot spots.

The fifth-gens, however, make sense for entering contested airspace. If the US wanted to enter North Korean or Iranian airspace, it wouldn’t just be to show off, and according to Bronk, the aircraft’s stealth and situational awareness would afford them the opportunity to slip in, hit their marks, and slip out undetected, unlike an F-15.

The Navy’s most successful World War II sub also killed an enemy train
F-35s are incredible aircraft, but within visual range confrontations are not their fight. | U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Remington Hall

In interception situations, it makes no sense to offer up an F-22 or an F-35 as a handicapped target to an older legacy plane. F-15s are more than capable of delivering the message themselves, and whoever they intercept will know that the full force of the US Air Force, including fifth-gens, stands behind them.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Russians are messing with global GPS

On May 15, 2018, under a sunny sky, Russian President Vladimir Putin drove a bright-orange truck in a convoy of construction vehicles for the opening of the Kerch Strait Bridge from Russia to Crimea. At 11 miles long, it is now the longest bridge in Europe or Russia.

As Putin drove across the bridge, something weird happened. The satellite navigation systems in the control rooms of more than 24 ships anchored nearby suddenly started displaying false information about their location. Their GPS systems told their captains they were anchored more than 65 kilometers away — on land, at the Anapa Airport.


This was not a random glitch, according to the Center for Advanced Defense Studies, a security think tank known as C4ADS. It was a deliberate plan to make it difficult for anyone nearby to track or navigate around the presence of Putin, it said.

‘All critical national infrastructures rely on GNSS to some extent’ — and the Russians have started hacking it

The Russians have started hacking into the global navigation satellite system on a mass scale to confuse thousands of ships and airplanes about where they are, a study of false GNSS signals by C4ADS found.

The Navy’s most successful World War II sub also killed an enemy train

Putin driving two construction workers across the Kerch Strait Bridge.

GNSS comprises the constellation of international satellites that orbit Earth. The US’s Global Positioning System, China’s BeiDou, Russia’s Glonass, and Europe’s Galileo program are all part of GNSS.

Your phone, law enforcement, shipping, airlines, and power stations — anything dependent on GPS time and location synchronization — are all vulnerable to GNSS hacking. A 2017 report commissioned by the UK Space Agency said that “all critical national infrastructures rely on GNSS to some extent, with Communications, Emergency Services, Finance, and Transport identified as particularly intensive users.” An attack that disabled GNSS in Britain would cost about £1 billion every day the system was down, the report said.

The jamming, blocking, or spoofing of GNSS signals by the Russian government is “more indiscriminate and persistent, larger in scope, and more geographically diverse than previous public reporting suggested,” said a recent Weekly Intelligence Summary from Digital Shadows, a cybersecurity-monitoring service.

The Navy’s most successful World War II sub also killed an enemy train

This diagram shows GPS signals for a ship jumping between the accurate location at sea and a false location at a nearby airport.

(C4ADS)

Nearly 10,000 incidents of ships being sent bad location data

The C4ADS study found that:

  • 1,311 civilian ships have been affected.
  • 9,883 incidents were reported or detected.

Until the past couple of years, C4ADS thought the Russians used GNSS jamming or spoofing mostly to disguise Putin’s whereabouts.

For instance, a large area over Cape Idokopas, near Gelendzhik on the Black Sea coast of Russia, appears to be within a permanent GNSS-spoofing zone. The cape, believed to be Putin’s summer home, or dacha, contains a vast and lavish private residence — “a large Italianate palace, several helicopter pads, an amphitheatre, and a small port,” C4ADS said. It is the only private home in Russia that enjoys the same level of airspace protection and GNSS interference as the Kremlin.

The Navy’s most successful World War II sub also killed an enemy train

C4ADS thinks Putin’s summer home is protected by a permanent GNSS-spoofing zone.

(C4ADS)

‘Russian forces had developed mobile GNSS jamming units to provide protection for the Russian president’

“The geographical placement of the spoofing incidents closely aligns with places where Vladimir Putin was making overseas and domestic visits, suggesting that Russian forces had developed mobile GNSS jamming units to provide protection for the Russian president,” Digital Shadows said. “The incidents also align with the locations of Russian military and government resources. Although in some areas the motive was likely to restrict access to or obstruct foreign military.”

Ships sailing near Gelendzhik have reported receiving bogus navigation data on their satellite systems.

“In June 2017, the captain of the merchant vessel Atria provided direct evidence of GNSS spoofing activities off the coast of Gelendzhik, Russia, when the vessel’s on-board navigation systems indicated it was located in the middle of the Gelendzhik Airport, about 20km away. More than two dozen other vessels reported similar disruptions in the region on that day,” C4ADS said.

An million superyacht was sent off course by a device the size of a briefcase

Most of the incidents were recorded in Crimea, the Black Sea, Syria, and Russia.

Perhaps more disturbingly, GNSS-spoofing equipment is available to almost anyone for just a few hundred dollars.

“In the summer of 2013, a research team from The University of Texas at Austin successfully hijacked the GPS navigation systems onboard an million superyacht using a ,000 device the size of a small briefcase,” C4ADS said. “The experimental attack forced the ship’s navigation systems to relay false positioning information to the vessel’s captain, who subsequently made slight course corrections to keep the ship seemingly on track.”

Since then, the cost of a GNSS-spoofing device has fallen to about 0, C4ADS said, and some people have used them to cheat at “Pokémon Go.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

From mascots to maps: 5 obscure military facts

The next time you’re stuck in a conversation that feels as awkward as an FRG meeting, try inserting one of these random and obscure military facts. They’re just weird enough to help divert a boring conversation into something a little livelier (no guarantee that they’ll work though since FRG meetings are notoriously rough).


The ultimate Commanders-in-Chief

How many US presidents served in the Army? Thirty Presidents have served, with 24 serving during war. Bonus fact: Two have earned the rank of 5-star General (Washington and more recently, Eisenhower). One earned the Medal of Honor (T. Roosevelt).

Speaking of presidents, only one served as an enlisted soldier. James Buchanan didn’t go on to become an officer, either.

Only two presidents served as airmen. Ronald Reagan served in the USAF when it was still known as the Army Air Force, and George W. Bush served in the Texas Air National Guard before being transferred to the Air Force Reserve.

The Navy’s most successful World War II sub also killed an enemy train

Mascots for the win

The Legend of Bill the Goat

Every great military academy needs a solid mascot. Bill the Goat has been the Naval Academy mascot since the early 1900s. Legend says that way back in its history, a Navy ship used to keep a goat on board as a pet. On the way back to port, the goat unfortunately died, so two ensigns were supposed to have the goat stuffed. As ensigns are known to do, the pair got distracted by a football game. Sometime before halftime, one of the ensigns dressed up in the goatskin that was supposed to be stuffed. The crowd loved the new mascot, and Bill the Goat has been around ever since.

For their part, the USMC has an English bulldog named Chesty as their mascot. Chesty was named after Marine Lt. Gen. Louis “Chesty” Puller. Puller was the only Marine to earn five Navy Crosses.

Honorary Titles

The Marines have issued the title of “Honorary Marine” to less than 100 people. This honor can only be bestowed by the Commandant of the USMC and comes with rank. Notable people to receive the title include Chuck Norris and Bob Hope.

Female Marines recently got an update to their wardrobe in the way of authorization to wear small, polished gold or silver-colored round or ball earrings. Earrings can only be worn when the women are dressed in uniform, but this is still a big change of policy for the USMC.

Speaking of Marines, now both male and female Marines are authorized to carry umbrellas while in uniform. This recent 2019 change allows for a small black umbrella to be carried with either a dress or service uniform. This update to policy took 200 years!

The Navy’s most successful World War II sub also killed an enemy train

Maps, maps and more maps

The Army was tasked with mapping out the entire continental United States, and that started with Lewis and Clark’s expedition. Army officers were some of the very first to explore and see places like the Grand Canyon and Pike’s Peak.

Unlucky Eating

Marines are a superstitious bunch. Take, for example, their avoidance of certain foods.

Marines won’t eat the Charms that come in MRE because they think they’re bad luck. The multi-flavored fruit candy has routinely been tossed from MREs since 2003. Even more spooky is the Marine rating system for Charms. Lemon Charms spell vehicle disaster, and lime ones mean rain is going to be on its way.

So there you have it. Ten random facts that probably won’t ever help you win Jeopardy but might keep you entertained the next time you’re stuck in a “voluntold” meeting.

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