The U.S. military's actual plan for a moon base - We Are The Mighty
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The U.S. military’s actual plan for a moon base

Everyone is up a tizzy now about the possibility of an actual Space Corps, the sixth branch of the military. But this isn’t America’s first pass at space occupation. The Army and Air Force launched two separate studies in the late 1950s about establishing a base on the moon and permanently occupying it.


The U.S. military’s actual plan for a moon base
The proposed U.S. Army Moon base in 1965, near the end of construction. (Illustration: U.S. Army Project Horizon)

Since America ultimately won the first round of the Space Race, it’s easy to forget that the Soviet Union spent years firmly in the lead. It launched the first man-made satellite in 1957 and landed the first man-made object on the moon in 1959.

So the U.S. looked quickly for a way to catch up. The CIA was stealing technology as quickly as it could, Eisenhower ordered the creation of the Advanced Research Projects Agency (now DARPA), and the Army and Air Force got to work planning moon bases.

While it may sound odd today, both military studies took it as a given that someone would occupy the moon relatively soon and that it should be America — even if there wasn’t a firm plan yet on what to do with it.

The U.S. military’s actual plan for a moon base
(Illustration: U.S. Army Project Horizon)

The Army said:

The primary objective is to establish the first permanent manned installation on the moon. Incidental to this mission will be the investigation of the scientific, commercial, and military potential of the moon.

The Air Force was more direct, saying, “The decision on the types of military forces to be installed at the lunar base can be safely deferred for 3 to 4 years provided a military lunar base program is initiated immediately.”

But both services did have their own plans on what to do with it, even if they were relatively hazy ideas in the far future.

Both services wanted to use the moon base as a point for intercepting Soviet signals, an idea partially proven by the 1948 detection of air defense radar signals bouncing off the moon and later by “ELINT” which detected cutting-edge Soviet radar technology via lunar reflection.

The U.S. military’s actual plan for a moon base
A space station would serve as a midway point for many missions to the moon under the Army plan. The Air Force plan called for direct flights from the Earth to lunar surface. (Illustration: U.S. Army Project Horizon)

The Army and Air Force were both interested in using the moon as an observation platform from which to watch activity in the Soviet Union.

But the most surprising proposed use of the moon base came from the Air Force, which twice mentioned the possibility of a “Lunar Based Earth Bombardment System,” a weapon projected to be accurate within 2-5 nautical miles.

The study doesn’t go into detail on what ordnance the LBEBS would use, but…pretty much the only weapon that can destroy an enemy installation by landing within five miles of it is a nuke.

When it came to planning the construction of the base, both services focused on their strong points.

The U.S. military’s actual plan for a moon base
(Illustration: U.S. Army Project Horizon)

The Army, used to building large and complex bases around the world while under fire or during other adverse conditions, wrote up a detailed plan on how a 12-man team could bury modular containers three feet under the surface to establish a base for them to live in. They would use a special tractor and other excavation equipment to do so. It even planned out potential meals.

The Army does spend a few dozen pages discussing how to get everything to the moon, but is counting on nuclear-powered Saturn rockets to carry the heavy payloads. While the U.S. has tested nuclear-powered rocket engines a few times, it’s never made the jump to actually constructing one.

The Air Force, meanwhile, spends a lot of time and energy discussing how to send automated rocket flights with equipment payloads to specific points on the surface for later construction. But the study essentially kicks the can down the road when it comes to assembling those payloads into a functioning base.

A nuclear power plant was slated to power each base.

The U.S. military’s actual plan for a moon base
The Army’s plan called for regular flights to and from the moon in cramped capsules. (Illustration: U.S. Army Project Horizon)

The timelines for the projects were ambitious, to say the least. The Air Force called for an operational lunar base by June 1969. In reality, Neil Armstrong first stepped foot on the moon a month later, almost two years after the Air Force’s projection for the first manned mission.

The Army was even more optimistic, envisioning that the first people would reach the moon in 1965 and that the first outpost would be fully-functioning by the end of 1966.

Instead, here we are in the new millennium without a single moon base. The Space Corps is going to be busy playing catch up if it ever actually gets formed.

You can see all the studies at the links below:

Air Force Lunar Expedition Plan

Air Force Military Lunar Base Program

Army Lunar Outpost Summary and Supporting Consideration

Army Lunar Outpost Technical Considerations Plans

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This C-130 landing on an aircraft carrier will make you rethink physics

An F/A-18 Hornet next to a C-130 Hercules is like comparing a Ferrari to a big yellow school bus — there’s a huge difference.


The U.S. military’s actual plan for a moon base

With that in mind, a big yellow school bus has no business in a compact parking space, but that’s precisely what Lt. James H. Flatley III did when he landed the 85,000-pound behemoth on the USS Forrestal (CVA-59). He parked a bus in a compact space. And he made it look easy.

At first, he thought the assignment was a joke. “Operate a C-130 off an aircraft carrier? Somebody’s got to be kidding,” he said, according to Joseph Earl Dabney in his book “Hero of the Skies.”

But no, in fact, the orders came from the top. The Chief of Naval Operations — the most senior naval officer in the Department of the Navy — himself ordered a feasibility study to find out whether they could employ the Hercules as a “Super COD” — or Carrier Onboard Delivery — aircraft. At the time, the task belonged to the Grumman C-1 Trader, which, in the spirit of continuing the car analogy, was like driving your mom’s minivan.

The small twin-engine aircraft had a 300-mile range, which was a problem for delivering emergency items to a carrier operating in the middle of the ocean. On the other hand, the Hercules was stable, reliable, and capable of delivering large payloads over a much longer distance.

On October 8, 1963, the Navy received a KC-130F refueler on loan from the Marine Corps. Lockheed’s only modifications included the plane’s nose landing gear, anti-skid braking system, and the removal of the underwing refueling pods.

By October 30, 1963, Flatley and crew successfully proceeded to perform 29 touch-and-go landings, 21 unarrested full-stop landings, and 21 unassisted takeoffs at 85,000 pounds up to 121,000 pounds.

The result went beyond anyone’s expectations.

The test revealed that the C-130 could lift 25,000 pounds (12.5 tons) of cargo and transport it 2,500 miles and land safely on the carrier, according to the video below. Still, the Navy considered it too risky and defaulted to the smaller COD. Flatley received the Distinguished Flying Cross for his effort.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uM5AI3YSV3M

1720cox, YouTube

MIGHTY HISTORY

When the enemy brought the war to America

Imagine the following scenario: A bloody war rages overseas as a fanatical, totalitarian ideology conquers entire countries. The U.S. government announces it will send military forces abroad to stem the tide of the aggression. Despite increasingly dire news headlines, however, life in America proceeds uneventfully.

After all, America is thousands of miles from the battlefields and surely far beyond the enemy’s immediate reach.

That sense of security abruptly ends only weeks later when the enemy suddenly launches a fearsome assault against the U.S. homeland itself. Thousands die as American cities witness explosions and raging infernos. Worse yet, the U.S. military seems powerless to stop the assault.


If that story sounds far-fetched, it shouldn’t. It isn’t the plot of Call of Duty– the scenario described above actually happened during World War II. December 1941 saw the U.S. finally join the war against Germany, Japan, and Italy. Many Americans understandably assumed that geography insulated them from any direct threat.

However, while U.S. leaders in Washington debated how to deploy their forces overseas, Adolf Hitler made the first move. In January 1942, Hitler’s forces began a massive naval offensive against the U.S. east coast.

The German navy, or Kriegsmarine, lacked a formidable surface fleet. What the Kriegsmarine did possess, however, was a technologically and tactically sophisticated submarine force: the infamous unterseeboots, or “U-boats.”

The U-boats had proven deadly in World War I, to include a limited number of attacks near the U.S. east coast, but the scale of the U-boat offensive against America in 1942 was without precedent. Only weeks after Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor, war had come to the American homeland.

The U.S. military’s actual plan for a moon base

Rendition of the U-995

(oil painting by Augusto Ferrer-Dalmau)

Cargo ships and even U.S. Navy warships began going down in flames. Many vessels were torpedoed within sight of coastal cities. Coastal residents saw the ships burning off the Jersey Shore and the Outer Banks. Debris and bodies washed ashore for months as the U-boats struck from New England to Texas.

U-boat commanders returning to port in occupied Europe reported that U.S. waters offered more targets than the U-boats had the means to attack. The easy hunting lead German crews to dub 1942 die glückliche zeit: “the happy time.”

The U.S. military’s actual plan for a moon base

(Alamy Stock Photos)

Compounding the fear and destruction was America’s apparent inability to stop it. A combination of factors limited the U.S. military’s ability to stop the U-boats. These included a shortage of warships suited to anti-submarine operations, a lack of convoy procedures, and a reluctance to implement nighttime blackouts of coastal cities to deny U-boat commanders the benefit of ship silhouettes to target.

While U.S. leaders debated how to stem the onslaught, the Kriegsmarine dispatched more waves of U-boats to North America. Hundreds of ships were sunk, and thousands died as desperately needed war material was sent to the bottom of the Atlantic.

The U.S. military’s actual plan for a moon base

The U-123, one of the German subs that prowled the American coast in 1942.

(German Federal Archives)

Fortunately, 1942 would prove to be the apex of Hitler’s U-boat assault against America. The Allies began implementing convoys, and more American air and naval assets were allocated to anti-submarine duties.

These changes eventually led the Kriegsmarine to shift its priorities away from American coasts towards the mid-Atlantic. U-boats would continue to strike in American waters until the end of the war, but the scope and effectiveness of their operations steadily decreased. U-boat losses mounted too as the hunters eventually became the prey.

The U-boat fleet, considered one of the most prestigious assignments for a German serviceman, ultimately suffered the German military’s highest casualties: 3 out of 4 U-boat crewmen did not survive the war.

The U.S. military’s actual plan for a moon base

The crew of the U-550 abandons ship after being crippled by a U.S. Coast Guard attack off Massachusetts in April 1944.

(U.S. Coast Guard photo)

U.S. waters today are littered with the wrecks of U-boats and their victims. Many of these wrecks have become popular sites amongst scuba divers. This chapter of World War II, however, has mostly disappeared from American public memory.

This is to our discredit, as the memory of Hitler’s naval assault against America bears several important lessons for a post-9/11 world. These lessons include the naiveté of assuming that large oceans can be counted on to deter foreign aggression and a sobering reminder of what a small but motivated and capable force can inflict on a much larger power.

The thousands of men lost during this forgotten campaign is a testament to the human cost of global conflict and its ramifications for national security in the 21st century.

Articles

The Secret Air Force Program That Hid An Even More Secret Program

The U.S. military’s actual plan for a moon base
MiG-21 over Nevada (Photo: USAF)


During the Cold War air-to-air warfare was alive and well. The Soviets had a huge air force, and their fighters were a viable threat to NATO aircraft. As a result, American fighter crews trained extensively in matters pertaining to shooting down other airplanes.

Also Read: 17 Signs That You Might Be A Military Aviator 

We trained using Top Gun’s “defense in depth” theory that was built around the idea that no matter how many forward-quarter, long-range missiles a fighter was carrying, there was a good chance the threat would make it into the visual arena. This arena had many nicknames – “getting into the phone booth” or “putting the knife in your teeth” – but was (and still is) best-known as “dogfighting.”

The first trick of a dogfight is getting sight of your opponent.  The oft-repeated maxim is “You can’t shoot what you don’t see.” That trick gets trickier when fighting multiple aircraft at the same time, what we call a “many v. many” or “Battle of Britain” scenario.

I was a Tomcat radar intercept officer (the guy in the backseat like “Goose” in the movie “Top Gun”). The problem of dogfighting multiple aircraft at once was made easier in the F-14 because there were two of us in the airplane. Good crew coordination allowed the pilot to go after one bandit while the RIO made sure no other threats were in a position to take a shot.

Dogfighting is the most exhilarating part of tactical aviation.  The hard turns, the crush of the G forces, and the intensity of the comms over the radio between wingmen make it a wild, heart-pounding experience.  And because of the variables – different pilots flying different airplanes in different conditions – every dogfight is unique.

To simulate the threat aggressor squadrons existed at all the major fighter bases. The squadrons flew American assets that supposedly replicated the flying qualities of Russian airplanes. For instance, an F-5’s characteristics were a lot like those of a MiG-23, and the A-4 was somewhat like a subsonic MiG-21.

Those of us in fighter commands at the time – the mid-1980s – dreamed of going up against the real thing. And one day while conducting training out of Naval Air Station Fallon in Nevada we found out that our dream was going to come true – sort of.

We were scheduled to participate in a secret program called “Constant Peg.” In the late ’70s the U.S. Air Force had come into the possession of a few Soviet aircraft that Israel had captured from Syria. Over the years that inventory grew to more than a dozen airplanes acquired from places like Pakistan and China.

The Constant Peg aircraft were assigned to the 4477th Test and Evaluation Squadron – “The Red Eagles” – based at Tonopah in the Nevada desert, a place I’d never heard of until the day of our first missions when pilots from the Red Eagles came to Fallon to brief us.

The Red Eagle reps reviewed the performance characteristics of the aircraft we’d be flying against.  In our case that day we were doing 1 v 1s against a MiG-23 (what they had designated the YF-113 for OPSEC purposes) and a MiG-21 (what Constant Peg designated the YF-110).

As much as the brief focused on the dogfights it emphasized the admin around the mission, specifically the fact that, although we would be dogfighting closer to Tonopah than Fallon, in case of an aircraft emergency in no case were we to consider Tonopah a suitable divert field unless the emergency was so serious that not landing at Tonopah meant we’d crash. And if we would end up landing at Tonopah we were warned that we’d wind up spending at least two weeks there before we’d be allowed to fly back.

These rules struck us as pretty intense, but we figured it was what a secret program like Constant Peg demanded.

A few hours later we launched and flew south until we rendezvoused with the MiG-23. It was surreal to see an airplane we’d only seen in photographs for years before that, and the airplane looked smaller than we’d expected.

The U.S. military’s actual plan for a moon base
MiG-23 (Photo: Bill Paisley)

We went through the choreography of the dogfight as we’d planned, taking advantage of the fact that the MiG-23 was a “bleeder” in terms of turn rate, which meant that the airplane lost a lot of airspeed (compared to the Tomcat) when attempting hard turns.  We also did a speed demo that showed us trying to outrun the MiG-23 was potentially a bad idea.

Then we joined up with the MiG-21 and did another dogfight, this one quicker than the first because we needed to conserve some gas to get back to Fallon. Again, it was surreal to fly formation on an enemy aircraft, studying the details that the Red Eagle pilot pointed out to us (in cryptic terms for OPSEC purposes) over the radio. The MiG-21 wasn’t as fast as the MiG-23, but it had a better turn rate.

When we got back from the flight my pilot and I debriefed over a classified phone with the Red Eagle pilots we’d flown against. After we hung up, we went over the high points with each other, both remarking that it had been very cool to go against the real airplanes for once.

Then my pilot, who was the squadron operations officer and senior to me, said something that struck me as curious: “I’ll bet Constant Peg isn’t the only thing going on at Tonopah,” he said.  “There’s something else there they care about more than MiGs.”

I didn’t give the comment another thought until months later when the Air Force finally admitted that “the secret test aircraft” that had crashed in the middle of the Nevada desert in 1984 killing the pilot who also happened to be a three-star general – too senior for normal test flights – had actually been a MiG-23.

I asked my operations officer what he thought about the Air Force admission, and again he hinted at the idea that there was something else bigger going on a Tonopah. “They would’ve stuck with the original story otherwise,” he said. “I’m pretty sure they offered up the MiGs hoping the press would stop digging beyond that.” I asked him to put a finer point on the thought, but he just shrugged and said he didn’t know anything more.

Just less than three years later the operations officer’s hunch was proved correct as the U.S. Air Force introduced the F-117 Nighthawk – the first stealth fighter – to the world. It turned out that the Air Force had been developing that amazing new capability since the late 1970s conducting test flights mostly at night out of Tonopah.  Those involved with the program were stationed hundreds of miles away at Nellis Air Force Base outside of Las Vegas and would fly in on a special airliner at the beginning of the work week and fly back home at the end of it. Families had no idea what their service members did during that tour.

The U.S. military’s actual plan for a moon base
F-117s taxi to runway (Photo: USAF)

The F-117 carried the day during Desert Storm in ’91, and the world watched in wonder as DoD released the cockpit footage that showed bombs hitting exactly where the crosshairs were placed while the airplanes penetrated enemy defenses totally unseen by radars.

Even more amazing, especially when considering how information flows in today’s internet age, is how the Air Force managed to keep the Stealth Fighter a secret all those years. (There were a couple of reports of UFOs made by locals over the years, but the Air Force managed to dismiss those.)

Not only was Constant Peg great training for American fighter crews, it provided a cover for the super-secret development of the F-117 – a stroke in sneaky brilliance that saw to the success of a platform that is arguably the most effective and revolutionary in the history of highly classified programs.

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Here’s the history behind ‘Reveille’

We’ve all heard the familiar tune being blared over the intercom or performed live bright and early as the American flag is raised for the beginning of the day.


For other troops stationed on a military base, it’s the bugle call that made them dash for cover so they wouldn’t have to stand outside and salute on a cold morning or throw your pillow at the window in your barracks like it’s going to get the signal to stop — you get the point.

But the motivation behind the “Reveille” tune isn’t to just wake us up, but instead is to remind us of those who have served in remembrance.

The U.S. military’s actual plan for a moon base
Airmen salute the flag during reveille at the Eglin Professional Development Center. (Photo: Tech. Sgt. Jasmin Taylor)

Reveille comes from the French word “réveiller” or in English to “to wake up.

In 1812, U.S. forces designated the iconic melody to call service members to muster up for roll call to start the work day.

It appears there is no official composer of the tune, which is used by about six countries like Denmark, Ireland, and Sweden to mark the start of the day.

The notes for each country do vary and they all have written different lyrics as well.

“Reveille” lyrics

“Out on a hike all day, dear

Part of the army grind

Weary and long the way, dear

But really I don’t mind

I’m getting tired so I can sleep

I want to sleep so I can dream

I want to dream so I can be with you

I’ve got your picture by my bed

‘Twill soon be placed beneath my head

To keep me company the whole night through

For a little while, whatever befalls

I will see your smile till reveille calls

I hope you’re tired enough to sleep

And please sleep long enough to dream

And look for me for I’ll be dreaming too”

Click play on the video below and try to sing along.

(United States Air Force Band – Topic, YouTube)Fun fact: Reveille is also the official name of the Texas A&M mascot in the ROTC program — a dog. That is all.
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The 13 funniest military memes of the week

Did everyone enjoy their freebies on Veteran’s Day? Congrats! Now enjoy these memes for free!


1. What’s better than getting a bunch of free food on Veteran’s Day?

(via Coast Guard Memes).

The U.S. military’s actual plan for a moon base
Getting free food while collecting a bunch of Facebook love.

2. Seriously. ‘Merica.

The U.S. military’s actual plan for a moon base
But remember: If it’s burning but doesn’t shoot a rocket, go see the corpsman.

3. Sorry, F-35. No one cares (via Air Force Nation).

The U.S. military’s actual plan for a moon base
We love you, Warthog.

SEE ALSO: The best A-10 memes on the internet

4. Adapt your equipment for your users’ knowledge level (via U.S Army W.T.F! moments).

The U.S. military’s actual plan for a moon base
This was probably the work of a bored staff duty runner.

5. It’s not easy to find talented snipers. You gotta take them where you can get them.

The U.S. military’s actual plan for a moon base
Sometimes he shoots birds and sends those humans to fetch them.

6. #InsideThatCounts (via Sh-t My LPO Says)

The U.S. military’s actual plan for a moon base
#SafetyFirst

7. Poor Coast Guard (via Coast Guard Memes).

The U.S. military’s actual plan for a moon base

8. This last name must be so much fun at each new unit (via Devil Dog Nation).

The U.S. military’s actual plan for a moon base
But he will likely be the scariest first sergeant.

9. Those awkward questions your child asks:

The U.S. military’s actual plan for a moon base

10. Air Force operators are hardcore (via Air Force Nation).

The U.S. military’s actual plan for a moon base
Still a nonner.

11. If you wanted good food, you should’ve joined the Air Force (via Sh-t My LPO Says).

The U.S. military’s actual plan for a moon base
It’s kind of shaped like a heart though, so you got that going for ya.

12. Air Force saving Marines in the one event they’re good at.

The U.S. military’s actual plan for a moon base
If the enemy could combine gunfire and standardized testing, America would fall.

13. “Really, you waited until right now?”

(via Pop Smoke)

The U.S. military’s actual plan for a moon base
Enjoy your weekend. We’re sure your release formation is right around the corner. Just one more tasking first …

NOW: 7 features that would make military games more realistic

OR: 9 times when troops said what they really felt

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Here’s how to get real about the ISIS threat

ISIS has made alarming gains in Iraq and Syria over the past week.


On May 17, ISIS fighters took Ramadi, a city just 70 west of Baghdad, after a battle in which the jihadist group advanced into the city behind a wave of suicide bombers. Capturing Palmyra, a former Assad regime bastion in Syria, proved easier, as a collapsing Syrian military essentially vacated the city in the face of the ISIS advance.

And an 11-month US-led bombing campaign hasn’t prevented ISIS from taking and holding additional territory. This week, ISIS has looked formidable, while the US’s strategy has seemed particularly ineffective and aimless. On May 21st, reports began circulating that ISIS controlled half of Syrian territory.

But such claims about ISIS’s degree of territorial control obscures how and why the group has been successful so far — and how it might eventually be defeated. ISIS doesn’t really “control” half of Syria.

As these maps from the Institute for the Study of War demonstrates, ISIS has a sliver-shaped core of direct administrative control, insulated by hundreds of square miles of desert where the jihadist group and other militant forces maintain a degree of operational capability.

There are gradients of ISIS control in Syria, and understanding them hints at how the group can be successfully countered.

The U.S. military’s actual plan for a moon base

“ISIS’s fighters are likely clustered in key defensible terrain,” Jennifer Cafarella, a Syria conflict analyst at the Institute for the Study of War, told Business Insider. Cafarella explained that ISIS focuses its efforts and manpower around the populated and strategic areas along the Euphrates river.

“There’s little actual human terrain in close proximity to ISIS in eastern Syria that ISIS does not already control,” she said. “Beyond that is the vast Homs Desert, where ISIS has been able to operate with impunity.

“But it’s too inhospitable for any military to decisively hold and of low enough strategic value that is can’t be considered an exclusively ISIS-governed area.”

As Cafarella says, the desert in the east of the country is at least “maneuverable terrain by really all military forces.”

The issue is that ISIS currently has free reign there — the Assad regime, for instance, doesn’t have on the ground intelligence, the capacity, of perhaps the willingness to discover and then bomb ISIS convoys traveling across Syria’s desert east.

“We still don’t have the ground partner necessary to contest ISIS-held terrain inside of Syria in any meaningful sense,” says Cafarella.

In Syria, ISIS has a small core area of control, a wider area of operational freedom, and no real ground-level counter-force pressuring the group.

What it doesn’t have is an administrative entity that actually comprises half of the country’s territory.

In other areas, over-emphasis on ISIS’s territorial control can have an even more distorting impact on the group’s actual reach. In Libya, it’s been frequently reported that ISIS rules over territory, with The New York Times reporting in March that ISIS had a foothold in Sirte, along the Mediterranean coast. On May 21st, Reuters reported that ISIS had captured the city.

The U.S. military’s actual plan for a moon base
ISIS trucks driving around Mosul, Iraq. (Photo: ISIS sources on the web)

In reality, ISIS doesn’t really control any territory in Libya, or at least not in the same sense as in Iraq and Syria.

“The places they’re said to be in control of are heavily contested,” Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told Business Insider. “It hasn’t captured cities and imposed an administrative structure.”

The idea that ISIS has territorial control in Libya “directly feeds into ISIS propaganda,” says Gartenstein-Ross. It shows that the “caliphate” has spread beyond Iraq and Syria, and that he group can fight and hold territory far beyond its center of power. An exaggerated sense of ISIS’s Libya capabilities may have been part of what convinced the Nigerian jihadist group Boko Haram to pledge allegiance to ISIS in March.

Understanding the nature and extent of ISIS’s territorial control is especially important amidst growing criticism of the US’s strategy against the group. Gartentstein-Ross explained that ISIS has adjusted its own battlefield approach, opting for small-scale attacks over vulnerable large-scale mobilizations. Furthermore, the group is only opening fronts against forces they are relatively certain they can defeat, like the Iraqi military.

The U.S. military’s actual plan for a moon base
Photo Credit: Vice News/screenshot

“They’re using smaller and more mobile units that are better at evading the air campaign,” says Gartenstein-Ross.

ISIS’s tactics are adjusting to the US’s now 11-month-old air campaign, but this doesn’t mean the group is invincible. ISIS took Palmyra because the Syrian regime fled, and it took Ramadi because the Iraqi Security Forces aren’t a viable or a competent fighting force.

On the other hand, ISIS has an apparent unwillingness to contest areas held by battle-hardened Iranian-supported Shi’ite militia groups in both Iraq and Syria, and has made little progress against Kurdish forces in either country.

So even as the group expands, it’s clear that it isn’t on an inevitable victory march across Iraq and Syria.

“I don’t think their capability should be overstated vis a vis the full range of their opponents,” says Gartenstein-Ross.

More from Business Insider:

This article originally appeared at Business Insider Defense Copyright 2015. Follow BI Defense on Twitter.

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Here are the best military photos of the week

The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:


AIR FORCE:

Oklahoma Air National Guard Airmen from the 138th Maintenance Squadron perform routine maintenance on an F-16 Fighting Falcon Oct. 6, 2016, in Tulsa, Okla.

The U.S. military’s actual plan for a moon base
U.S. Air National Guard photo/Tech. Sgt. Drew A. Egnoske

U.S. Air Force Col. David Mineau, the 354th Fighter Wing commander, prepares to take off in an F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft after finishing end of runway checks Oct. 10, 2016, during RED FLAG-Alaska (RF-A) 17-1 at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. RF-A simulates the first 10 combat sorties of an initial surge during a conflict, enabling pilots to better understand the stresses of the environment.

The U.S. military’s actual plan for a moon base
U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Shawn Nickel

 

ARMY:

A U.S. Army Soldier attending Ranger School simulates being wounded and yells for help while lying in the river during a mass casualty exercise at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla, Sept. 28, 2016.

The U.S. military’s actual plan for a moon base
U.S. Air Force photo by Samuel King Jr.

Florida National Guard Soldiers, assigned to Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, cross a rope bridge during a mountain obstacle course, part of the final day of the French Marines Desert Survival Course at Arta Plage, Djibouti, Oct. 10, 2016.

The U.S. military’s actual plan for a moon base
United States Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Tiffany DeNault

NAVY:

CHESAPEAKE BAY, Md. (Oct. 17, 2016) Aircraft CF-02, an F-35 Lightning II Carrier Variant attached to the F-35 Pax River Integrated Test Force (ITF) assigned to Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 23 completes a flyover of the guided-missile destroyer USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000).

The U.S. military’s actual plan for a moon base
U.S. Navy photo by Andy Wolfe

MARINE CORPS:

U.S. Marines and Soldiers from the Singapore Armed Forces stage their vehicles in preparation for the final exercise of Exercise Valiant Mark 2016 Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, California Oct. 11, 2016.

The U.S. military’s actual plan for a moon base
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Akeel Austin

Marines with 2nd Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company (2d ANGLICO) prepare for tactical beach landing drills with 148 (Meiktila) Commando Forward Observation Battery, as part of exercise Joint Warrior on Cape Wrath, Scotland, Oct. 13, 2016. Joint Warrior is a multinational exercise which increases 2d ANGLICO’s capacity to operate and integrate with Joint, International, Interagency, and Multinational (JIIM) partnerships.

The U.S. military’s actual plan for a moon base
U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Sgt. Rebecca L. Floto

COAST GUARD:

A U.S. Coast Guard H-60 Jayhawk departs Coast Guard Base Portsmouth, in Portsmouth, Va., on Oct. 10, 2016, following a a damage assessment of North Carolina. Coast Guard personnel have been working with numerous state and local agencies in response to the storm damage.

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U.S. Coast Guard photograph by Coast Guard Aux. Trey Clifton

USCG Cutter Thetis crewmembers assisted the Royal Netherlands Navy (RNLN) HNLMS Holland crew, Dutch Marines and American Red Cross with loading supplies for the World Food Program USA at the Haitian Coast Guard station in Les Cayes, Haiti, this week.

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U.S. Coast Guard photo

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is the toolkit spies carried in their butts

Spies have had all sorts of great tools and gadgets, from self-inflating blow-up dolls during the Cold War to special listening devices deployed around the world today. But perhaps one of the most surprising devices was the rectal toolkit issued to some CIA officers deployed into Soviet-era Europe.


A CIA-Issued Rectal Tool Kit For Spies

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As more and more CIA officers were sent into dangerous places in Europe, including the democratic enclave of West Berlin, the dark times called for dark solutions that could be stored in a dark place — a place so dark the sun don’t shine.

Talkin’ about butts. The CIA turned to officers’ butts.

There was a high chance that CIA officers and assets could and would be jailed by secret police, even if it was just on suspicion of being aligned with the U.S. or other western countries. So, the CIA wanted to give these people the best possible chance of escaping custody. But since assets would likely be strip searched, there was really only a couple places left to hide the tools.

And so the large capsule was created, filled with tiny tools that would help officers pick locks and cut through fine materials. The exact tools and materials used varied between different “rectal toolkits,” but all of them were made with materials that were thought unlikely to splinter. They were also very carefully made to prevent leaks that would allow, uh, outside materials into the capsule.

If an officer were captured, he would go through the search, hopefully retain his toolkit, and then fish it out after the guards had left. Not exactly the moment that anyone dreams about when joining an espionage service, but still way better suffering a prolonged hostile interrogation.

Searches of the CIA history archives have not shown a specific case where a U.S. asset fished out this toolkit and used it to make good their escape, so it’s not clear if it saved any specific person’s life or government secrets from Soviet spies.

Articles

Unexploded German WWII bomb found in British port

Germany dropped a lot of bombs on England (not to mention the rest of the United Kingdom) during World War II. Not all of them exploded – and unexploded ordnance, or UXO, has been an ongoing issue.


According to a report by NavalToday.com, war’s gift that keeps on giving turned up in Portsmouth, England. This is where the Royal Navy is planning to base the 65,000-ton Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers.

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The Royal Navy’s largest ever warship HMS Queen Elizabeth is gently floated out of her dock for the first time in Rosyth, Scotland in July 2014. (Photo from U.K. MOD)

The report said that the German SC250 bomb, which weighed 500 pounds and had 290 pounds of high explosive, was discovered while dredging was underway as part of a program to improve the Royal Navy base’s infrastructure. The London Guardian reported on a past UXO find in Portsmouth in November that was rendered safe in a controlled detonation. The Guardian report also mentioned a bomb discovered in September.

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U.S. Air Force Explosive Ordnance Disposal technicians work with local law enforcement bomb squad members to transport Civil War cannonballs washed ashore from Hurricane Matthew to a safe location at Folly Beach, S.C., Oct. 9, 2016. After the discovery of ordnance on the beach, local law enforcement and Air Force personnel worked together to properly dispose of the hazards. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Sean Carnes)

UXO has been a long-running problem after wars. In fact, last October saw EOD personnel in the United States tasked to deal with Civil War cannonballs that were unearthed by Hurricane Matthew. UXO from World War I and World War II has been very common in Europe, including poison gas shells.

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U.S. Marines with Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) platoon, Chemical Biological Incident Response Force (CBRIF) participate in a final training exercise with Fire Department of New York (FDNY) responding to and deactivating a notional explosive threat found at a steam plant on Randall’s Island, N.Y., Sept. 15, 2016. (Official U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Maverick S. Mejia)

In 2009, a U.S. Navy release reported that a number of leftover mines and a British torpedo from World War II were discovered during a mine countermeasures exercise during that year’s BALTOPS. Three years later, during that same exercise, an unexploded aerial bomb was discovered according to another U.S. Navy release.

A 2011 Navy release estimates that in the Baltic Sea alone, there are over 200,000 pieces of UXO from not only conflicts, but training exercises dating back to the Russian Revolution.

MIGHTY HISTORY

These strange WWII forts are eerily abandoned today

Naval fortifications aren’t unusual in themselves. Land-based coastal artillery and forts to block enemy landings and bombardments have existed for centuries. In England, dozens still exist from the Napoleonic Wars and before, although they are now put to more peaceful uses. During World War II, British engineer Guy Maunsell gave this old idea a makeover. His forts were designed to destroy incoming enemy aircraft and, contrary to standard practice, they’d be sited out at sea. At a time of limited resources and unprecedented demand, the Maunsell sea forts could have been regarded as expensive white elephants of doubtful military value. They soon proved their worth.


Also read: How Marines get an official history lesson on Iwo Jima

The location of the forts was unusual: the Thames Estuary to protect London and the Mersey Estuary, guarding the vital convoy port of Liverpool. Unusual, perhaps, but entirely sound. Liverpool received countless convoys delivering the goods that Britain needed and that Roosevelt’s “great arsenal of democracy” could provide. Because of its location, Liverpool was quite vulnerable to bombers flying across England, then turning and attacking from the West. The Thames Estuary forts were directly on the Luftwaffe’s flight path to bomb London and industrial centers like the city of Birmingham.

Maunsell designed two types of fort, which would be built on the coast and moved, virtually intact, to carefully chosen spots guaranteed to provide maximum protection. Innovative in concept and design, they were also heavily armed. Searchlights, heavy 3.75-inch quick-firing guns, and Bofors 40mm cannon initially gave Luftwaffe crews a nasty surprise, as they were located in the water, where no guns were expected. The Thames Estuary forts proved particularly effective.

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The Thames forts

Granted, the forts couldn’t completely stop mass raids, but by their installation in 1942, raids of that style were increasingly rare. The Germans’ defeat in the Battle of Britain and the worsening situation on the Eastern Front were becoming a sinkhole into which Luftwaffe resources, now increasingly scarce, disappeared. Luftwaffe commander Hermann Goering was also falling out of favor with Hitler for failing to defeat the RAF in 1940. Losing the Battle of Britain and then invading the Soviet Union forced Hitler into what he’d most wanted to avoid, fighting on two fronts. He was loath to forgive Goering’s failure and the resulting crisis.

Maunsell’s designs were innovative and came in two forms: Army and Navy. Navy forts were smaller and, as you’d expect, crewed by sailors. The Army forts had a more complicated design, comprising separate platforms linked by catwalks and carrying more guns than their naval counterparts. Most of the Army forts were concentrated off Liverpool while most Navy forts guarded against bombers attempting to use the Thames Estuary as a landmark for attacking London.

More: 5 of the world’s strongest fortifications ever

The forts depended on supplies coming from the sea. Without regular deliveries of food, water, ammunition and rotating crewmen on and off duty, they’d have been useless. The Thames estuary forts also did far more than destroy incoming bombers. At the time, London had one of the largest dock complexes, making the Channel the world’s busiest shipping lane. German aircraft routinely tried to lay minefields in the area, but the Thames Estuary forts were there to hinder them.

Later in the war, Hitler’s Vergeltungswaffen (“vengeance weapons”) often flew over the forts toward London. Their guns could do nothing about the V2, a supersonic rocket and the world’s first ballistic missile. They could, however, pick off the slower, pulsejet-powered V1s nicknamed “buzz bombs” and “doodlebugs”. Efforts to stop V1s raining down on Central London were a top priority and the Thames forts destroyed over 30 of them along with 22 enemy aircraft. One fort’s gunners even destroyed an E-boat, despite not being designed to handle enemy torpedo boats.

With the war over, the forts became redundant. One by one, they were decommissioned and abandoned to crumble into the sea. Many were damaged by under-scouring, time and tide eroding the bedrock and steel legs supporting them. Saltwater steadily corroded the metal. One fort was demolished after a ship collided with it. One by one throughout the 1950s, the Maunsell sea forts were abandoned and mostly destroyed, but their story didn’t quite end there.

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The Red Sands Forts were used as pirate radio bases in the 1960s.

In the 1960s, pirate radio stations used some of the old forts as broadcasting stations. Pirate radio broadcasted their (usually rock) music illegally, without the proper licensing needed. Annoyed though the authorities were, there was nothing they could do as the forts were in international waters. That is, until the British territorial waters were extended – from including three miles offshore to a full 12. With the extension, the pirates lost their advantage and were quickly shut down.

The Liverpool forts were demolished in the 1950s, considered a danger to the shipping they’d once protected. Most of the surviving Thames forts are extremely hazardous to board, as they’re simply too badly damaged by the ravages of time and tide. Only a couple of the forts remain, and one of them, Fort Roughs (just outside British territorial waters) was taken over by pirate radio in the 1960s. It later declared itself an independent nation named Sealand. Granted, no government has ever recognized Sealand as an independent state and probably never will, but technically at least, it remains the world’s smallest independent island state.

Related: This is how the War of Independence was won in the trenches

In 2005, an artist named Stephen Turner took on a strange project. He decided to live in one of the remaining sea forts, Shivering Sands Fort, for 36 days — the length of a typical tour of duty during World War II. Turner posted updates during his time to a website and later wrote a book about his experience alone on the waters.

Maunsell’s forts are long gone, as are most of the troops who once manned them. But they served their purpose well. They destroyed almost two full squadrons of bombers before they could hit London. Nearly thirty V1’s that would have caused great destruction (and killed countless Londoners) never reached their targets. Today the V2s, bombers, buzz bombs, and most of the Maunsell sea forts reside permanently on the ocean bottom.

All told, they did far more than merely boost morale.

MIGHTY HISTORY

A flamethrower is the last living Medal of Honor recipient from the Pacific

The average life expectancy of a Marine with a flamethrower on any given battlefield is about five minutes, according to Medal of Honor recipient and U.S. Marine Corps veteran Herschel “Woody” Williams. Those tanks made tempting targets – and they weren’t bulletproof.


Woody Williams was one such flamethrower. He not only earned his Medal of Honor, he’s the last surviving Medal of Honor recipient from the Pacific War.

Williams was on the battlefields of Iwo Jima, an all-out slugfest that took place near the end of the war. But just because the end was nigh, that didn’t mean the Japanese were going to make it easy on the Americans. By the time Woody Williams began torching Japanese pillboxes on the island, the Marines had been fighting for days. Williams had the idea to form a five-man team with him bearing the flamethrower and four Marines providing cover for him as he moved.

The idea was a brilliant success, one he repeated many times over the course of four hours, much longer than the five minutes he would have normally given himself.

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He had a lot going against him. The fuel inside a flamethrower weapon will give its user just a few blasts, lasting a couple of seconds at best, so he had to be judicious with his targets; Moreover, the fuel tank weighed roughly 70 pounds, so running with the clunky behemoth would be a challenge. On top of that, he would have to get in close, as the range of the weapon was severely limited. As if that weren’t bad enough, if he wasn’t killed outright and was instead captured by the Japanese, he would be executed as a criminal immediately.

It was not a rosy outlook but time and again Woody crept up on the enemy positions, cooked them very quickly, and returned to base to take up a new, fully loaded flamethrower. To the young Marine, he was just doing his job, even when a bullet ricocheted off his fuel tank. To the Marine Corps, he was a hero.

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Woody Williams careful bravery on the battlefields of Iwo Jima allowed the Marines to advance inland after days of being stymied by enemy fortifications and bayonet charges that had begun to take its toll. Within a few weeks, Iwo Jima belonged to the Marines. Corporal Williams would soon receive the Medal of Honor from President Truman himself.

“You go in automatic drive when something like that happens, I think,” Williams told Stars and Stripes. “Much of that four hours, I don’t remember. I attribute that to fear. Because to say I wasn’t scared would be the biggest lie that’s ever been told. Because you do experience fear.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is why some Civil War battles have two names

The Battle of Antietam is also known as Sharpsburg. Bull Run is also called Manassas. Shiloh is also Pittsburg Landing. Some of these may be familiar to you, some of them may sound weird. But there is a reason for it, and it’s mainly because of the Soldiers who fought the War Between the States.


History class is difficult enough without having to remember two names for each event. If you grew up around Murfreesboro, chances are good that’s how you (or the older members of your family) refer to the battle. You’d cock your head in bewilderment when someone calls it, “Stone’s River.” Well sorry, Tennessean; there were two American sides to this war and your side lost.

There is a system in place for this duopoly. And it’s not like calling Janet Jackson “Miss Jackson” just because you’re nasty.

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Have some respect for the Commander in Chief of Rhythm Nation.

When the battles of the ‘War of Southern Independence” were fought, the troops gave them names after what stood out most. The bulk of Union troops, being city dwellers and townspeople, remarked on the natural features of a battlefield. Confederates, by and large from rural areas, remembered the manufactured, populated, or otherwise man-made features of the area. So, where Northerners saw Bull Run, a tributary to the Occoquan River, Southerners thought about the local railroad station nearby in Manassas, Virginia.

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It was also convenient to their final resting places.

So, now the battle had two names.

Many battles are well-known by just one name, however. And for the ones that do have two names, one is typically more known than the other. The reason for that is simple, too: history is written by the victors, and the War of the Rebellion is no different. With a few notable exceptions, the battles were named by the victor.

The National Park Service is a little more conciliatory in this regard. When memorializing major battles of the War of Secession that were fought in the South, the NPS will sometimes use the Southern name of the battle, regardless of the victor.