MIGHTY HISTORY

This is what ‘eternal patrol’ means for submarines

As of this writing, it appears there is little hope for an actual rescue of the crew of the Argentinean submarine ARA San Juan. Some reports indicate an explosion was picked up by both American and United Nations underwater acoustic sensors.


USS Thresher (SSN 593) in 1961. (U.S. Navy photo)

When submarines are lost, they are said to be “on eternal patrol.” This comes from the fact that many times, the term submariners use for deployment is “patrol,” a term that predates World War II (a 1938 movie focusing on a subchaser was called Submarine Patrol). A combat deployment is often called a “war patrol,” and American ballistic missile submarines are on “deterrent patrols.”

These patrols begin when a sub leaves port, and end on their return. When a sub sinks, and doesn’t make it home, the patrol is “eternal.”

USS Scorpion (SSN 589) in 1960. (US Navy photo)

The loss of a peacetime submarine is not unheard of. Since the end of World War II, the United States lost four submarines. Two, the nuclear-powered attack submarines USS Thresher (SSN 593) and USS Scorpion (SSN 589), were lost with all hands. In the late 1940s, two Balao-class diesel-electric submarines, USS Cochino (SS 345) and USS Stickleback (SS 415) also sank as the result of accidents.

An Oscar-class submarine similar to the Kursk, which sank after an accidental explosion in 2000. (DOD photo)

The United States has not been alone in losing submarines. Most famously, in 2000, the Russian nuclear-powered guided-missile submarine Kursk, an Oscar-class vessel, suffered an on-board explosion and sank with all hands. The Soviet Union had five nuclear-powered submarines sink, albeit one, a Charlie-class nuclear-powered guided-missile submarine, was raised, and they lost other subs as well, including one in a spectacular explosion pierside.

A Whiskey Twin Cylinder-class submarine. One sank after an accident, and was not found for over seven years. (DOD photo)

It sometimes can take a long time to find those subs. A Whiskey “Twin Cylinder”-class guided-missile submarine that sank in 1961 took over seven years to find. The Soviets never did locate the Golf-class ballistic missile submarine K-129 until investigative reporter Jack Anderson revealed the existence of Project Azorian.

A photo of the Golf-class ballistic-missile submarine K-129, which sank in 1968, and was later salvaged by the CIA. (CIA photo)

While the cause of the explosion that has apparently sent the San Juan and her crew of 44 to the bottom of the South Atlantic may never be known, what is beyond dispute is that submariners face a great deal of danger – even when carrying out routine peacetime operations.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

USS Ford accepts new weapons elevator to speed up attacks

The Navy’s newest aircraft carrier, USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), closed out 2018 on a high note with the acceptance of the ship’s first advanced weapons elevator (AWE), setting the tone for more positive developments in the year ahead.

AWE Upper Stage #1 was turned over to the ship on Dec. 21, 2018, following testing and certification by engineers at Huntington Ingalls Industries-Newport News Shipbuilding, where the ship is currently working through its post-shakedown availability (PSA). The acceptance marks a major milestone for the ship and the Ford-class of aircraft carriers to follow.


USS Gerald R. Ford is the first Ford-class aircraft carrier and is the first new carrier design in over 40 years. Unlike Nimitz-class carrier elevators that utilize cables for movement, the Ford class elevators are commanded via electromagnetic, linear synchronous motors allowing for greater capacities and a faster movement of weapons.

The new design will allow the ship to be able to move up to 24,000 pounds of ordnance at 150 feet-per-minute. This is in contrast to the 10,500 pounds at up to 100 feet-per-minute on a Nimitz-class carrier.

Chief Machinist’s Mate Franklin Pollydore, second from left, from Georgetown, Guyana, goes over safety procedures for the Upper Stage 1 advanced weapons elevator with sailors from USS Gerald R. Ford’s (CVN 78) weapons department.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Jeff Troutman)

“This will allow us to load more aircraft faster, and in the long run, increase our overall sortie generation rates,” said Lt. Cmdr. Chabonnie Alexander, Ford’s ordnance handling officer.

But aside from the advantages of the new AWE, the new ship design also offered a chance to streamline the overall movement and assembly of weapons to allow for even greater efficiencies. Ford features three upper stage elevators that move ordnance between the main deck and flight deck, and seven lower stage elevators that move ordnance between the main deck and the lower levels of the ship. Ford also features a dedicated weapons handling area between the hangar bay and the flight deck, on the 02 level, that eliminates several horizontal and vertical movements to various staging and build-up locations. This ultimately offers a 75% reduction in distance traveled from magazine to aircraft.

An additional benefit of the ship’s design is a separate utility elevator that can serve as a dedicated elevator to move both ordnance and supplies, and also serve as a means to medically evacuate (MEDEVAC) injured personnel from the flight deck to the hangar bay. This allows the 10 main AWEs and Ford’s three aircraft elevators to be dedicated to their primary missions of ordnance and aircraft movement during real-world operations.

To keep up with the new technologies and radical changes that the AWEs offer, Ford sailors recently completed newly developed familiarization, operations and maintenance training in Newport News to become better educated on how to work with and maintain the elevators. The crew is now conducting hands-on training where they will validate technical manuals and maintenance requirements cards against the elevator’s actual operation. Their feedback and observations will ultimately inform future sailors how to properly and safely operate the elevators.

Chief Machinist’s Mate Franklin Pollydore, second from left, from Georgetown, Guyana, goes over safety procedures for the Upper Stage 1 advanced weapons elevator with sailors from USS Gerald R. Ford’s (CVN 78) weapons department.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Jeff Troutman)

Alexander said sailors are now training with the elevator which will complement the classroom instruction they have received to this point.

“Getting this elevator turned over to the ship and allowing our sailors to get hands-on training on the elevator will help in two ways,” said Alexander. “One, it will help in the training and understanding of the system itself, and two, to work out any bugs that remain with the system during our PSA.”

Though the first elevator has been accepted, work still remains on the remaining 10. Currently, all shipboard installation and testing activities of the AWEs are due to be completed prior to the end of Ford’s PSA, scheduled for July 2019. However, some remaining certification documentation will be performed for five of the 11 elevators after PSA completion.

According to Alexander, while there was sense of accomplishment and satisfaction in having the first elevator turned over, the team working on the elevators can’t rest on this single event.

“We’re all 100 percent invested in this, but there’s still work left to do,” Alexander explained. “We’re all one big team with the same goal in mind: to get these systems operational and turned over to the ship.

“I think it was a greater sense of accomplishment to my sailors that have been working on these systems for the last 4-to-5 years,” he said. “To be able to finally push the buttons and watch it operate like it’s designed to do was a great feeling. Once these systems are proven, they are going to pay huge dividends for naval strike capability.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Navy. Follow @USNavy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

12 intense photos of the Army’s grueling sniper school

At the U.S. Army’s Sniper School at Fort Benning in Georgia, students undergo some of the most grueling training the force offers.


“Sniper school is one of the hardest schools in the military, not physically, but mentally,” Staff Sgt. Brian Moran, one of the 11 instructors who oversees the training, told the Army News Service.

Army snipers face demanding missions and often operate with little or no support, and the training at Fort Benning tests their ability to work in isolation and under pressure.

Below, you can see some of the rigorous and, for many, overwhelming training that Army sniper candidates endure:

12. Over 300 candidates start the seven-week Sniper School course at Fort Benning each year. In early August, 46 soldiers were on hand for the first day. Each had already met demanding criteria, including navigation and marksmanship evaluations, physical-fitness tests, and psychological examinations.

Students listen to their instructor at the US Army Sniper School at Fort Benning, Georgia. (U.S. Army photo by Don Wagner)

11. “Snipers are often deployed in small two-man teams, which requires a great deal of mental fortitude to remain focused on the task at hand,” said Moran, the Sniper School instructor. “If individuals have difficulty being isolated, there is a potential for mission failure.”

During the first week of training, sniper students at the U.S. Army School at Fort Benning, Georgia, are given demanding physical training tests. (U.S. Army photo by Don Wagner)

10. After a battery of physical-fitness tests on the first day, candidates are taught to make a ghillie suit — a camouflage suit that uses foliage to break up the outline of the soldier’s body.

A sniper school instructor at Fort Benning, Georgia, inspects camouflage after students prepared the top of their ghillie suits. (U.S. Army photo by Don Wagner)

9. The first test of their new concealment comes hours later, crawling hundreds of feet through tall grass and a ditch filled with water, mud, rocks, and vegetation.

Students are taught camouflage and concealment techniques at the U.S. Army Sniper School at Fort Benning, Georgia. They learned to weather a ghillie suit by crawling through ditches filled with water, mud, rocks, vegetation and fallen tree branches. (U.S. Army photo by Don Wagner)

8. Part of the exercise requires students to carry and drag one another — testing their ability to help their comrades if one is wounded or incapacitated in the field. “The object of this training is to teach students that being a sniper can be a difficult and dirty job,” Moran said. “These are the conditions that snipers will often find themselves in.”

Students learn that being a sniper can be a difficult and dirty job during training at the U.S. Army Sniper School, Fort Benning, Georgia. (U.S. Army photo by Don Wagner)

7. The second week of training sends them into the field to stalk a target, putting students’ patience and camouflage to the test. The Georgia heat and a variety of critters combine with instructors using high-powered optics to suss out prospective snipers. Stalking requires close attention to detail and “a high tolerance for discomfort,” Moran said. “Most of the students who are dropped from the sniper course have failed because of their lack of discipline.”

Students at the U.S. Army Sniper School endure a constant supply of stressors; some physical, but mostly mental stressors. Students must pay attention to the smallest details in every subject of the sniper course. (U.S. Army photo by Don Wagner)

6. Also during the second week, sniper candidates are taught to do reconnaissance, which is part of their secondary mission to collect and report battlefield information. Snipers who can operate with little support and carry out those missions, Moran said, can aid commanders at every level. “Snipers are force multipliers,” he told Army News Service.

Sniper instructor Staff Sgt. Brian Moran explains the importance of proper camouflage techniques at the U.S. Army Sniper School at Fort Benning, Georgia. (U.S. Army photo by Don Wagner)

5. The third week mixes classroom work with firing on a range. Students are taught how to communicate with spotters, and they fire 80 to 120 rounds a day at targets ranging from 300 meters to 800 meters away. Starting in week three, students are paired up and alternate turns as sniper and as spotter. The duos are trained to work in tandem to track targets and defend themselves.

Specialist Adrian Leatherman, a sniper team leader with 1-23 Infantry, waits to proceed through a stalking lane during the International Sniper Competition at Fort Benning, Georgia. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Army)

4. After the soldier’s third week, the trials turn from physical to mental. The fourth week adds night-fire and limited-visibility firing scenarios. Record-fire tests see snipers paired with spotters and given five targets and a seven-minute time limit. The pressure becomes too much for some, and three students were sent home.

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Shelman Spencer)

3. Week five challenges sniper candidates to hit targets at unknown distances, as well as moving targets. “Students must learn how to properly lead their target so the round will impact a given position when the target will be there,” Moran said. Two more students were sent home.

U.S. Soldiers with 2nd Cavalry Regiment master the Rough Terrain Run task during the European Best Sniper Squad Competition at the 7th Army Training Command’s, Grafenwoehr Training Area, Bavaria, Germany, Oct. 26, 2016. (U.S. Army photo by Visual Information Specialist Gertrud Zach)

2. The demands do not slack in week six. They are taught to use new weapons, like the M9 pistol or the M107 .50-caliber sniper rifle, and to fire from unstable platforms or other positions. The seventh week, known as the “employment phase,” challenges students to plan and carry out a mission after receiving an operational order.

A U.S. Army Paratrooper, assigned to 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade, engages targets during a recon and sniper break contact live fire exercise at Grafenwoehr Training Area, Germany, Feb. 6, 2017. The 173rd Airborne Brigade is the U.S. Army’s Contingency Response Force in Europe, providing rapid forces to the United States European, Africa and Central Commands areas of responsibilities. (U.S. Army photo by Visual Information Specialist Gerhard Seuffert)

1. The course culminates in week seven with time-limited road march to a range for a “final shot.” Given two bullets and one target, students must calculate range and engage, with their scores determining honor graduate and “top gun” status for graduation. At graduation on September 22, just four of the 46 students remained. “The training in sniper school is hands down the best I’ve received in the Army,” said Sgt. Stephen Ray, a member of the 1st Armored Brigade who graduated No. 1 in the class — Top Gun.

Sgt. Ian Rivera-Aponte, a U.S. Army Reserve sniper and infantryman with the 100th Infantry Battalion, Honolulu, Hawaii, poses for a promotional photo shoot for Army Reserve recruiting at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, July 26, 2017. (U.S. Army Reserve photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret)

popular

This pilot landed her shot-up A-10 by pulling cables

On April 7, 2003, three weeks into the Invasion of Iraq and day four of the nine-day Battle of Baghdad, twenty-eight year-old Captain Kim Campbell (callsign “Killer Chick”) of the 75th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron was on her way in from Kuwait on a close air support mission when she got a call for immediate assistance from the U.S. 3rd Infantry Division.


The 3rd Infantry was attempting to take the North Baghdad Bridge, which was an essential maneuver for capturing the city and cutting off reinforcements, when they found themselves in a desperate Rebel Guard situation.

Killer Chick and her hog. (Staff Sgt. Jason Haag, United States Air Force)

Upon receiving the call, Campbell and her A-10 Warthog (no need for “Thunderbolt II” pleasantries here) re-routed and readied the BRRRRT.

“We were originally tasked to target some Iraqi tanks and vehicles in the city that were acting as a command post, but on the way to the target area we received a call from the ground forward air controller or FAC, saying they were taking fire and needed immediate assistance,” she told Women’s History Month Luncheon guests.

With only seconds to identify the enemy location and — friendly troops — in a blazing war zone, she unleashed bullets on the enemy from the 19-foot long GAU-8 Avenger Gatling gun strapped to the nose of her A-10, followed by 2.75-inch high-explosive rockets.

She immediately became a target for Iraqi anti-aircraft weapons and she took heavy fire.

Also read: This Warthog pilot will receive the Silver Star 14 years after saving troops in battle

The Warthog’s tail was struck by a missile, impairing both hydraulic systems and sending it spiraling towards the city of Baghdad. Campbell had to react quickly.

She switched the jet into manual reversion (which basically looks like one of those old “Flying Machine” Da Vinci sketches – just a bunch of hand-cranking cables and wires rigged to the flaps and rudders of the aircraft).

She manually wrangled her mighty steed and mechanically regained control like some sort of god d*mn puppet master.

Yeah. She flew this thing. (Staff Sgt. Jason Haag, United States Air Force)

Heading back to her base in Kuwait, Campbell had the option of ejecting from the aircraft but decided to manually land the A-10 instead, hoping to keep the rig in one piece.

Only twice before this had manual landings like this been attempted: the first time ended with the pilot crashing to his demise, and the second time the pilot had to be rescued by fire crews after the plane broke in half and caught fire…

Related: 6 awesome photos that show A-10 Warthogs landing in Putin’s backyard

Crash recovery teams surrounded the base as Campbell made her descent, but against all odds, she landed her battered up beast.

“I was impressed,” said Lt. Col. Mike Millen, chief of the 355th Fighter Wing Commander’s Action Group and a fellow A-10 pilot. “Kim landed that jet with no hydraulics better than I land the A-10 every day with all systems operational.”

Despite this near fatal mission, the very next day Campbell was up and running on another rescue mission over Baghdad, completely unfazed by the events that had only just transpired.

“I never really had time to think about the fact that I was going back to Baghdad where just the day before I had escaped a possible shoot down,” she shared. “In my mind, the only thing that I could think about was that I had a job to do. I knew that the search and rescue alert crews were there for me the day before and I was going to do the same for this pilot.”

In honor of her heroic feat, Campbell was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross — a medal awarded in support of operations by “heroism or extraordinary achievement while participating in an aerial flight.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

‘We would have lost’: Did U.S. lend-lease aid tip the balance in Soviet fight against Nazi Germany?

On February 24, 1943, a Douglas C-47 Skytrain transport aircraft with serial number 42-32892 rolled out of a factory in Long Beach, California, and was handed over to the U.S. Air Force.

On March 12, 1943, the plane was given to the Soviet Air Force in Fairbanks, Alaska, and given the registration USSR-N238. From there, it flew 5,650 kilometers to the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk, one of some 14,000 aircraft sent by the United States to the Soviet Union during World War II under the massive Lend-Lease program.


This particular C-47 was sent to the Far North and spent the war conducting reconnaissance and weather-monitoring missions over the Kara Sea. After the war, it was transferred to civilian aviation, carrying passengers over the frozen tundra above the Arctic Circle. On April 23, 1947, it was forced to make an emergency landing with 36 people on board near the village of Volochanka on the Taimyr Peninsula.

On May 11, 1947, 27 people were rescued, having spent nearly three weeks in the icebound wreck. The captain, two crew members, and six passengers had left earlier in an ill-fated effort to get help. The body of the captain, Maksim Tyurikov, was found by local hunters about 120 kilometers from the wreck in 1953. The others were never found.

The plane spent 69 years on the tundra before a Russian Geographical Society expedition rescued it in 2016 and returned the wreckage to Krasnoyarsk.

“I knew that its place was in a museum,” Vyacheslav Filippov, a colonel in the Russian Air Force reserve who has written extensively about the Lend-Lease program’s Siberian connection, told RFE/RL at the time. “It was not just some piece of scrap metal. It is our living history. This Douglas is the only Lend-Lease aircraft that remains in Russia.”

An estimated 25 million Soviet citizens perished in the titanic conflict with Nazi Germany between June 1941 and May 1945. Overcoming massive defeats and colossal losses over the first 18 months of the war, the Red Army was able to reorganize and rebuild to form a juggernaut that marched all the way to Berlin. But the Soviet Union was never alone: Months before the United States formally entered the war, it had already begun providing massive military and economic assistance to its Soviet ally through the Lend-Lease program.

From the depths of the Cold War to the present day, many Soviet and Russian politicians have ignored or downplayed the impact of American assistance to the Soviets, as well as the impact of the entire U.S.-British war against the Nazis.

A Soviet report by Politburo member Nikolai Voznesensky in 1948 asserted that the United States, described as “the head of the antidemocratic camp and the warrior of imperialist expansion around the world,” contributed materiel during the war that amounted to just 4.8 percent of the Soviet Union’s own wartime production.

A map of lend-lease shipments from the United States to the U.S.S.R. from 1941-45.

The Short History Of The Great Patriotic War, also from 1948, acknowledged the Lend-Lease shipments, but concluded: “Overall this assistance was not significant enough to in any way exert a decisive influence over the course of the Great Patriotic War.”

Nikolai Ryzhkov, the last head of the government of the Soviet Union, wrote in 2015 that “it can be confidently stated that [Lend-Lease assistance] did not play a decisive role in the Great Victory.”

Such assessments, however, are contradicted by the opinions of Soviet war participants. Most famously, Soviet dictator Josef Stalin raised a toast to the Lend-Lease program at the November 1943 Tehran conference with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt.

“I want to tell you what, from the Russian point of view, the president and the United States have done for victory in this war,” Stalin said. “The most important things in this war are the machines…. The United States is a country of machines. Without the machines we received through Lend-Lease, we would have lost the war.”

Nikita Khrushchev offered the same opinion.

“If the United States had not helped us, we would not have won the war,” he wrote in his memoirs. “One-on-one against Hitler’s Germany, we would not have withstood its onslaught and would have lost the war. No one talks about this officially, and Stalin never, I think, left any written traces of his opinion, but I can say that he expressed this view several times in conversations with me.”

U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs the Lend-Lease Act on March 11, 1941.

The Lend-Lease act was enacted in March 1941 and authorized the United States to provide weapons, provisions, and raw materials to strategically important countries fighting Germany and Japan — primarily, the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union, and China. In all, the United States shipped billion (8 billion in 2020 money) worth of materiel under the program, including .3 billion to the Soviet Union. In addition, much of the billion worth of aid sent to the United Kingdom was also passed on to the Soviet Union via convoys through the Barents Sea to Murmansk.

Most visibly, the United States provided the Soviet Union with more than 400,000 jeeps and trucks, 14,000 aircraft, 8,000 tractors and construction vehicles, and 13,000 battle tanks.

However, the real significance of Lend-Lease for the Soviet war effort was that it covered the “sensitive points” of Soviet production — gasoline, explosives, aluminum, nonferrous metals, radio communications, and so on, says historian Boris Sokolov.

“In a hypothetical battle one-on-one between the U.S.S.R and Germany, without the help of Lend-Lease and without the diversion of significant forces of the Luftwaffe and the German Navy and the diversion of more than one-quarter of its land forces in the fight against Britain and the United States, Stalin could hardly have beaten Hitler,” Sokolov wrote in an essay for RFE/RL’s Russian Service.

British Matilda tanks are loaded onto a ship for transportation to the U.S.S.R. as part of the Lend-Lease program.

Under Lend-Lease, the United States provided more than one-third of all the explosives used by the Soviet Union during the war. The United States and the British Commonwealth provided 55 percent of all the aluminum the Soviet Union used during the war and more than 80 percent of the copper.

Lend-Lease also sent aviation fuel equivalent to 57 percent of what the Soviet Union itself produced. Much of the American fuel was added to lower-grade Soviet fuel to produce the high-octane fuel needed by modern military aircraft.

The Lend-Lease program also provided more than 35,000 radio sets and 32,000 motorcycles. When the war ended, almost 33 percent of all the Red Army’s vehicles had been provided through Lend-Lease. More than 20,000 Katyusha mobile multiple-rocket launchers were mounted on the chassis of American Studebaker trucks.

In addition, the Lend-Lease program propped up the Soviet railway system, which played a fundamental role in moving and supplying troops. The program sent nearly 2,000 locomotives and innumerable boxcars to the Soviet Union. In addition, almost half of all the rails used by the Soviet Union during the war came through Lend-Lease.

A monument in Fairbanks, Alaska, to the American pilots who flew almost 8,000 U.S. planes to Alaska and to the Soviet pilots who flew them on to Siberia as part of Lend-Lease.

“It should be remembered that during World War I, the transportation crisis in Russia in 1916-17 that did a lot to facilitate the February Revolution [which lead to the abdication of the tsar] was caused by a shortage in the production of railway rails, engines, and freight cars because industrial production had been diverted to munitions,” Sokolov wrote. “During World War II, only the supplies brought in by Lend-Lease prevented the paralysis of rail transport in the Soviet Union.”

The Lend-Lease program also sent tons of factory equipment and machine tools to the Soviet Union, including more than 38,000 lathes and other metal-working tools. Such machines were of higher quality than analogues produced in the Soviet Union, which made a significant contribution to boosting Soviet industrial production.

American aid also provided 4.5 million tons of food, 1.5 million blankets, and 15 million pairs of boots.

“In order to really assess the significance of Lend-Lease for the Soviet victory, you only have to imagine how the Soviet Union would have had to fight if there had been no Lend-Lease aid,” Sokolov wrote. “Without Lend-Lease, the Red Army would not have had about one-third of its ammunition, half of its aircraft, or half of its tanks. In addition, there would have been constant shortages of transportation and fuel. The railroads would have periodically come to a halt. And Soviet forces would have been much more poorly coordinated with a constant lack of radio equipment. And they would have been perpetually hungry without American canned meat and fats.”

In 1963, KGB monitoring recorded Soviet Marshal Georgy Zhukov saying: “People say that the allies didn’t help us. But it cannot be denied that the Americans sent us materiel without which we could not have formed our reserves or continued the war. The Americans provided vital explosives and gunpowder. And how much steel! Could we really have set up the production of our tanks without American steel? And now they are saying that we had plenty of everything on our own.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Israeli fighters dominating Russian-made defenses in Syria

Russia deployed some of its best air defenses to Syria to keep US missiles and jets at bay as the US military’s immense air and naval power fought ISIS in close proximity — but the supposedly airtight defenses are routinely defeated by Israel.

In February 2017, a Syrian-manned Russian-made S-200 missile defense system shot down an Israel F-16 returning from a massive raid targeting Iranian forces in Syria.


In response, Israel launched another raid that it claimed took out half of Syria’s air defenses, of which older Russian systems comprised the majority.

In April 2018, Syria got rocked by a missile attack that appeared to ignite a munitions depot hard enough to register as a 2.6 magnitude earthquake and is believed to have killed dozens of Iranians.

Reported image of a strike on Iranian soldiers in Syria.

(Danny Makki/Twitter)

In May 2018, Israel released video of one of its bombs destroying a Russian air defense system, Russian media offered excuses as to why it failed to stop the incoming missile.

Israel rarely confirms individual airstrikes, and either confirmed or didn’t deny these attacks.

In September 2018, another Israeli raid on Iranian weapons stockpiles in Syria saw a Russian Il-20 surveillance and control plane downed by Russian-made air defenses fired off in error by Syrian air defense units, killing 15.

Russia accused Israel of purposefully flying under the Il-20 to confuse the Syrian air defenses into shooting down a friendly plane and quickly shipped the more advanced S-300 missile defenses to Syrian hands.

Russia thinks highly of its S-300 and other missile defenses, and has publicly mocked the US over its stealth jets, implying it could shoot them down. At the time, Russia said it would shut down satellite navigation in the region and that it expected its new defenses would preclude further Israeli attacks. So far, they were wrong.

Somehow Israel has continued to hit targets in Syria at will with F-16s, non-stealthy fourth-generation fighter-bombers.

On Jan. 14, 2019, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu acknowledged that his country’s air force had carried out hundreds of raids in Syria, with a recent one hitting Iranian weapons near Damascus International Airport.

Russia initially deployed air defenses to Syria to keep powerful countries like the US from attacking Syrian President Bashar Assad, and later to protect its own air force fighters stationed there.

The US has long opposed Assad, as he violently shut down peaceful protesters in 2011 and has stood accused of torture, war crimes, and using chemical weapons against civilians during the country’s maddening 7-year-long civil war.

But the US has attacked Syria twice with cruise missiles, and Syria has never proven a single missile intercept.

According to experts, there’s two likely reasons why Syria’s Russian-made air defenses can’t get the job done: 1. Israel is good at beating Syrian air defenses. 2. Syria is bad at beating Israeli jets.

Israel is good at this

“One of the Israeli hallmarks when they do these sort of fairly bold strikes within the coverage of the Syrian air defenses is heavy electronic warfare and jamming,” Justin Bronk, an aerial combat expert at the Royal United Services Institute told Business Insider.

Bronk said that Israel, a close US ally that takes part in major training events in the US, has become adept at knocking over Syrian air defenses.

Israel sees Iranian arms shipments through Syria as an existential threat. Although Israel has relationships to maintain with the US and Russia — both key players in the Syrian quagmire — Netanyahu has said resolutely that Israel will stop at nothing to beat back Iran.

Israel’s air force.

In more than 100 raids admitted by Netanyahu, Israel has only lost a single aircraft. Bronk attributes this to “many, many tricks developed over decades” for the suppression of enemy air defenses developed by Israel.

Retired US Marine Corps Lt. Col. David Berke, a former F-35, F-22, and F-18 pilot, told Business Insider that Israel finds “innovative, creative, and aggressive ways to maximize the capability of every weapons systems they’ve ever used.”

Syria is bad at this

Syria has demonstrably failed on many occasions to stop air attacks on its territory. While Russia’s air defenses do give US military planners serious pause, Syria’s have yet to prove themselves.

With US Tomahawk cruise missile strikes in consecutive Aprils in 2017 and 2018, Syria claimed both times to have blocked a significant portion of the attack, but never provided any evidence of an intercept.

Additionally, photos from the second US Tomahawk strike on Syria show Syrian air defenses firing interceptor missiles on ballistic trajectories.

This strongly indicates that the Syrians simply fired blindly into the night sky, unable to detect a thing as US missiles rocked targets across the countryside.

Finally, Syria shooting down a friendly Russian plane evidences a lack of coordination or situational awareness, whether due to old hardware, Israeli electronic warfare, or simply poor execution.

Israel’s most recent attacks in Syria took place smack in the middle of Damascus, Russian and Syrian air defenses make for some of the world’s most challenging airspace.

That Israel can still fight in Syria among top Russian air defenses shows either that their force has its tactics down pat, that Syria can’t field decent air defense regimes, or that Russia has turned a blind eye to Israel pounding on Iranian advances in the region.

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

Articles

This little-known disaster was the first to be called the ‘Second Pearl Harbor’

Often dubbed the “Second Pearl Harbor,” the West Loch disaster in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, saw six large landing ships explode, burn, and sink on May 21, 1944, after their cargoes of ammunition and fuel caught fire. The LSTs were moored in a large formation of 34 ships preparing to take part in the invasion of Saipan in the Marianas Islands. LSTs were designed to deliver 10 fully combat-ready tanks onto beaches during amphibious landings and could carry hundreds of tons of supplies.


The LST-742 loads supplies in Korea in October 1950. The ship design was created in World War II to allow the ships to rapidly deploy tanks and other supplies on landing beaches. (Photo: National Archives)

At Pearl Harbor, the ships were carrying mostly fuel and ammunition, including mortar rounds from a failed test to employ LSTs and their smaller cousins, landing craft tanks, as mortar platforms to support beach assaults.

Soldiers were unloading mortar shells from LCT-963 and onto trucks on LST-353 on May 21 when a fireball suddenly erupted from LST-353.

Navy ships continue to burn on May 22, 1944, following the West Loch disaster the previous day at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The center plume of smoke is coming from LST-480 whose wreckage is still present at West Loch. (Photo: U.S. Army Signal Corps)

The Navy was never able to identify a definite cause, but an accident with a cigarette or a mortar round going off and igniting the gasoline fumes have been advanced as probable causes.

Regardless of how the first fire started, its progress through LST-353 was fierce, and the rising heat triggered a second, larger explosion that filled nearby ships with hot shrapnel and spread flaming debris through the docking area.

The other ships, also filled with fuel, ammunition, and other supplies, began trying to get clear while rescue vehicles rushed in to try to save sailors, Marines, and soldiers and put out the flames.

The flames consumed LST-353 and five other ships. The Army unit that was removing the mortar ammunition from LCT-963, the all-Black 29th Chemical Decontamination Company, lost 58 of its men. In total, 163 service members were killed and 396 wounded by the fires and explosions that raged for most of the day.

The LST-39 burns on May 21, 1944, during the West Loch disaster at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. (Photo: U.S. Army Signal Corps)

The military also lost three LCTs, 17 tracked vehicles, and eight artillery pieces.

The Navy rallied after the incident, finding new ships and men to take over the mission. The LST fleet for the invasion of Saipan launched only one day late and made it to the Marianas quickly enough to invade on schedule on June 15, 1944.

A media blackout kept most of America from hearing about the incident until it was declassified in 1960. Even today, it remains relatively unknown.

One ship, LST-480, still rests on the beach at West Loch. The Navy and Army has worked in recent years to remember those lost and call attention to the sacrifices of those killed and wounded.

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Guess which branch of the military a new poll shows Americans like best

All five branches of the U.S. military have earned high marks from American adults, according to a Gallup poll.


More than three in four of Americans surveyed who know something about the branches have overall favorable views of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, or Coast Guard, according to Gallup. More than half have a strongly favorable opinion.

Photo from Wikimedia Commons

In Gallup’s annual Confidence in Institutions poll released May 26, at least 72 percent of participants expressed “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in the military in the past eight years.

“This Memorial Day, Americans will once again have the opportunity to honor those who fought and died in service of their country,” Gallup’s Jim Norman said. “It comes at a time when the percentage of Americans who are military veterans continues to shrink, even as the nation moves through the 15th year of the Afghanistan War — the longest war in U.S. history.”

Broken down by branch, Air Force had the highest favorability rating of 81 percent — 57 percent “very favorable” and 24 percent “somewhat favorable” rating. Other branches were Navy and Marines each at 78 percent, Army at 77 percent, and Coast Guard at 76 percent.

Differences exist by political party, race, and age.

The Air Force had the highest ratings according to the Gallup poll – US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jason Couillard

The biggest gap is among Republicans and Democrats with about a 30 percentage point difference. The largest is for the Navy with 74 percent favorability rating by Republicans and 39 percent among Democrats.

Republicans, non-Hispanic whites, and those aged 55 have more favorable views of each of the five branches than Democrats, non-whites, or those younger than 35.

Those surveys also were asked to list the most important branch. Air Force was No. 1 (27 percent) followed by the Army (21 percent), Navy and Marines (20 percent each), and 4 percent say the Coast Guard is the most important branch to national defense.

Gallup conducted telephone interviews April 24-May 2 with a random sample of 1,026 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. The margin of error is 4 percentage points.

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Here’s What Life Is Like For US Army Tankers

With a 68-ton armored vehicle packing a 120mm cannon, U.S. Army tankers can take the fight to the enemy in just about any environment.


Tankers consider themselves part of a brotherhood with roots in World War I. Now driving the M1 Abrams tank, these soldiers continue that legacy today. Here is a taste of what their life is like.

Photo: US Army Sgt Sarah Dietz

Also Read: These Crazy Photos Show 30+ Ton Tanks In Flight 

The Abrams can fire different rounds for different purposes, and tank crews have to train in a variety of environments. That means they get a lot of time on the range.

Photo: US Army Sgt. Kim Browne

The crews are tested at twelve different levels, referred to as tables. The tables demand crews prove they can drive, fire, and coordinate together in battle in a variety of conditions.

Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Patrick Caldwell

The main gun is what most people think of when it comes to tanks, but crews also have to certify on the machine guns mounted outside, as well as the M9 pistols and M4 carbines they’re equipped with.

Photo Credit: Gertrud Zach/US Army

Crews generally have four members. There is a tank commander, a gunner, a driver, and a loader.

Photo: US Army Spc. Marcus A. Floyd

 The inside of the tank can be a little cramped with equipment and crew.

Photo: US Army Spc. Luke Thornberry

The driver sits in a small hole in the front of the tank. His control panel is located immediately in front of him.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Tankers sometimes bring their family to see the “office.”

Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Ruth Pagan

Much of the maintenance for the tank is done by the crew.

Photo: US Army Spc. Marcus A. Floyd

Considering everything the M1 is designed to withstand, it can be surprising that tanks sometimes break down because of soft sand or loose soil pushing a track out of place.

Photo: US Army Sgt. Richard Andrade

When tanks break down and have to be towed out, it takes specialized equipment. The main recovery vehicle for an Abrams tank is the M88. Here, an M88 rolls up the tread from a damaged Abrams before towing the Abrams to a maintenance area.

Photo: Us Army Sgt. Richard Andrade

Transporting tanks can also be problematic due to the tank’s weight. Crews will generally take their tanks to railways …

Photo: US Army Spc. Marcus A. Floyd

… or Naval ports for transport for deployments or exercises. Here, an Abrams tank is driven off of a ship.

Photo: US Navy

When the mission calls for it, M1 tanks can also be flown on the Air Force’s largest planes.

Photo: US Air Force Courtesy Photo

Air Force C-17s, like the one in the following photo, can carry one tank while C-5s can carry two.

Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Richard Wrigley

While on deployment, tankers can end up working for 20-hour days.

Photo: US Army

U.S. tank crews are commonly called on to train foreign allies. Recently, the Iraqi Army got a large number of Abrams tanks and U.S. soldiers provided training.

Photo: US Army Sgt. Chad Menegay

Sometimes the mission calls for tankers to operate on foot or from other vehicles. Here, tank crews conduct a patrol in Humvees.

Photo: US Army Sgt. Eric Rutherford

The tanker tradition dates back to WWI when the first combat cars and tanks took to the battlefield with tank crews leading the way into mechanized warfare.

Photo: Poster by J.P. Wharton, Public Domain

 Today, US crews continue the tradition, carrying armored combat into the future.

Photo: US Army Sgt. Aaron Braddy

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Philippine Navy just tested anti-tank missiles at sea

The Philippine Navy has successfully test-fired its first ever ship-borne missile, making it a much more capable force in tense regional waters.

Navy personnel aboard a multipurpose attack craft, or MPAC, operating in waters off Lamao Point in Bataan launched a Spike Extended Range missile at a target six kilometers away, the Inquirer, a local outlet, reported Aug. 9, 2018, citing an announcement by the Philippine Navy.


“The target was hit dead center even if the sea state condition was moderately rough with a wave of at least one meter high but within the normal firing conditions of the missile,” Navy public affairs chief Commander Jonathan Zata told reporters.

The test was part of a Sea Acceptance Test for the missile system first acquired in early 2018.

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The Philippines purchased the Spike ER missile system, which launches short-range surface-to-surface missiles, from Israel in late April 2018 for .6 million. The systems are expected to be installed on three fast MPAC gunboats, while its warships will be armed with longer-range missiles.

“It will be a deterrent because, this time, we have a credible armament that can strike a punch whether the target is a small or large ship,” a Philippine commander told Reuters in early May 2018.

The Philippines faces threats ranging from China’s militarization of the South China Sea to pirates in its southern waters. The country is preparing to spend .41 billion over the next five years to obtain warships, drones, fighter jets, radar systems, helicopters, and surveillance planes to bolster its capabilities.

The test-firing of the Spike ER missile system comes just a few weeks after Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte vowed to “defend our interest” in the South China Sea. China has expanded its military presence there, despite an international arbitration ruling two years ago that discredited China’s vast claims to the highly contested waterway.

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

MIGHTY MOVIES

The ‘most Russian movie possible’ has a machine gun toting bear

What makes a movie “the most Russian movie possible?” In this case, it isn’t the long takes and subtle camera movement that trademarked films of the late Soviet Union. It instead features modern-day Soviet-level superheroes drawn together from all corners of the former USSR in order to fight an evil super villain who destroys Moscow and wants to take on the whole of Russia.

One of them is a military-trained, literal Russian Bear who mows down robotic drones with a minigun.


In the Russian action flick “Zaschitniki” (which translates to “Guardians“), the bear and other Russian superheroes are formed as an Guardians of the Galaxy-meets-Suicide Squad super unit who must take down a force of robots and henchmen who threaten all of Russia after they destroy the Russian Army and burn Moscow to the ground. The Guardians are superheroes formed through science during the Cold War, intended to protect the USSR from invaders.

Xenia has the power of invisibility and can change her body into water, Lernik can control Earth and rocks with his mind. Temirkhan has super speed and kills people with curved swords, and Arseniy turns into a giant bear-man who wields an equally giant machine gun. The creator of a subsequent superhero creation program flees the Soviet government and hides in Siberia, continuing his experiments and turning himself into a cyborg and creating clones of himself.

All of the heroes hide for decades after the fall of the USSR, emerging only because the Russian government wants to restart the program.

You see where this is going.

To shots like this.

The Guardians are quickly captured by the evil cyborg doctor. While he’s off controlling an army of robots and tanks to gain control of all the Russian satellites in orbit so he can control all the technology in the world. Somehow, a Russian officer frees the Guardians. She trains them to fight and gives them special suits and weapons. An all-out Avengers-level brawl takes place in Moscow with the Guardians just murdering the other side.

Eventually they have to come together to defeat the villain. They touch each other and release a blast of energy, which the Russian officer forgets to tell them while they’re training for this big battle.

Listen, what you need to know is that Guardians isn’t a great movie, even by international action flick standards. What it does have is an awesome werebear and some other cool action scenes, which is all we ever really wanted. It also has a setup for a sequel which will be the worst movie I ever watch from start to finish.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This crazy photo shows the power of the Carl Gustaf M4 bazooka

The above photo is of an 82nd Airborne Division paratrooper, Spc. Michael Tagalog, firing an 84mm Carl Gustaf recoilless rifle from an observation post in Afghanistan’s Nangahar Province in September 2017.

The specialist apparently fired the Multi-Role Anti-Armor, Anti-Personnel Weapons System, or Carl Gustaf, in defense of a US base in Afghanistan. Originally used by special operators, the US Army began issuing the Gustaf to soldiers in 1991 in response to an Operational Needs Statement from Afghanistan.


The Saab-made bazooka is 42 inches long, weighs about 25 pounds and can hit targets from 1,300 meters away, according to army-technology.com.

It fires a variety of munitions, including high explosive anti-tank, high explosive dual purpose, and high explosive rounds. The Gustaf can even fire smoke and illumination rounds.

Army and industry weapons developers are also currently working with the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency to develop a guided-munitions round for the Gustaf.

The US is quietly ramping up the nearly 17-year war in Afghanistan that has been criticized by many as a “forever war” and a game of “whack-a-mole.”

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Here are 10 things everyone experiences in jump school

The U.S. Army Airborne School at Fort Benning, Georgia is where U.S. military members of all branches go to become military parachutists. The school is three weeks of intense physical drills, training on towers, and of course, “jumping out of a perfectly good airplane” five times to earn the coveted silver parachute badge (also known as “jump wings”).


Here are 10 things Airborne students will encounter when going through Jump School:

1. Black Hats

Airborne Instructors in 1977

An Airborne instructor’s nametag may read “Jones” but students will address him or her as “Sergeant Airborne.” New Airborne trainees are received by the school’s instructors known as “Black Hats,” because of their headgear, a simple black baseball cap with their rank and wings display on the cap.

The instructors are mostly Army personnel, but the Marine Corps Air Force, and Navy also provide instructors since the school is open to all eligible DOD service members. Black Hats are skilled parachutists who are responsible for training Airborne students, and they do with ‘tough love. They will make their students repeat physical drills and exercises over and over until they get it right.

No matter how exhausting, they won’t stop until a student gets it right. They are doing it for the trainees own well-being.

2. The Airborne Shuffle

Army 2nd Lt. Nelson Lalli runs with an Airborne School classmate to report in after his first jump.

Not to be confused with the popular dance the ‘Cupid shuffle’ or the Chicago Bears Super Bowl shuffle, the Airborne shuffle is not a dance nor is it fun. This shuffle refers to the pace or speed of a formation run during Airborne school. It is typically about a 9-minute mile.

The shuffle is meant to build stamina, not speed. At Airborne School, trainees run everywhere especially in combat boots or with their equipment. The Airborne shuffle is also commonly known for the short choppy steps students take on the aircraft before the jump out, just like the cadence “Stand up, Hook up, Shuffle to the door.”

3. Wearing Helmets all day

At Jump School, aspiring paratroopers will wear their helmet everywhere they go. Students will run and train with it on every day. The chin strip and helmet pads will reek so bad after the first week of training that a squirt of Febreze is simply not enough to contain the smell of sweat and bacteria.

4. Falling all day

Airborne students will spend a lot of time hitting the ground during Jump School. Learning how to properly fall during a parachute landing is a core fundamental taught at the Basic Airborne Course. This is especially true when doing parachute landing fall (PLF) drills. Trainees will jump off platforms of different heights into large pits over and over until they get it right. Airborne students can expect to do hundreds of PLFs before they leave the school.

Along with PLFs, trainees will jump from tall towers like the 34-foot tower to learn proper aircraft exiting techniques and the iconic 250-foot tower, although not all Airborne class get to do the tower.

Just remember to “keep your feet and knees together!”

5. The smell of Bengay in the morning

Week one, ground week, focuses on the proper landing fall techniques, emphasizing the importance of keeping feet and knees together during a landing to prevent injuries. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Kuande Hall)

Before long, the smell of Bengay, the over-the-counter analgesic cream used to relieve muscle and joint pain, will fill the barracks each morning to help students with their joint and muscle pain.

6. Swing Landing Trainer

A student practices proper landing techniques on the Swing Landing Trainer.

The Swing Landing Trainer is not fun. Students are strapped into a harness to step off a platform and swing back and forth. The discomfort experienced on this device when swinging, especially for male students, is terrible. Students will continue to swing on the harness until they are released by the Black Hats. Trainees must perform several proper PLFs to pass this stage of training.

Most hit the ground like a stack of potatoes.

7. “Hurry up and wait” goes to a whole new level

Airborne Students wait to board an aircraft.

Finally, it’s jump week… but the wait isn’t over. Students will wake up early, run to the chute shed, rig up, and just wait and wait for many hours. Students are not allowed to sleep or talk as they wait. It’s the ultimate example of “hurry up and wait.”

8. A mix of emotions

Time to jump! There’s certainly level of excitement and fear at this point, as jumpers hook up to the static line and prepare to jump. Some people question their judgement at this point, as butterflies flutter in their stomachs and thoughts of “why the hell am I doing this” circle in their head. For others, this is the best moment of their life!

9. Jumping Out

Paratroopers with 1st Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division (Advise and Assist Brigade), exit a C-130 aircraft Feb. 12, 2010, at Al Asad Airbase, Iraq, as part of the largest airborne training exercise conducted by U.S. forces in Iraq since the beginning of the war. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Michael J. MacLeod)

Probably the two most common reactions: “This is awesome” or “Holy Shit!”

10. Pinning of the Wings

After completing five parachute jumps, Lt. Col. Kay Wakatake has her wings pinned on by Sgt. 1st Class Raymond Richardson at Fort Benning, Georgia. (Photo by Captain Greg Peterson)

The pinning of parachute wings is the crowning achievement of three weeks of training. The badge is pinned (or slammed) on the graduate’s chest. This rite of passage solidifies an individual as a member of the Airborne family. The best part of all of this: You’re no longer a leg!