With a distinguished history dating back to the end of American Civil War, the men and women of the elite Secret Service take on one of the world’s toughest tasks — protecting the U.S. president and other government officials from assassination attempts.
Originally designated to control the issue of combating US currency counterfeiting, it wasn’t until after the assassination of former President William McKinley when the Service Secret was assigned to protect the POTUS in 1901.
The Secret Service’s mission is to prevent life-threatening incidents well before they occur. They scope out meeting locations days before their clients show up and map out vantage points and escape routes if the situation goes pear shaped.
In the sniper world, the mission is the same. Highly-trained sharpshooters are always on the alert, completely focused and ready to strike at all times.
Working in teams of two, you can usually spot them posted on the White House’s rooftop examining your every move.
Usually armed with high-powered rifles, each team is equipped with a shooter and a spotter. These snipers go through intense training learning how to react to any situation that they may face.
Remarkably, no sniper team has ever had to fire a shot since the unit was formed in 1971.
Turkey and the US-backed YPG forces — which have been helping the coalition fight ISIS in Syria — have been clashing off and on since at least April.
At the end of that month, the two sides exchanged rocket fire, which Turkey says killed 11 YPG fighters. In early July, Turkey deployed troops to the Kurdish-held border in northwest Syria, which the YPG commander called “a declaration of war.”
YPG and Turkish-backed rebels — who the YPG call mercenaries — clashed in northwest Syria on July 17, Reuters reported. The YPG said it killed three Turkish-backed rebels and wounded four more.
Turkey views the YPG as a terrorist group and extension of the PKK, which has been trying to set up its own Kurdish state within Turkey for decades. And the US has placed itself right between the two sides.
Turkey is the third-largest purchaser of US weapons, and in early May, the US began supplying weapons to the YPG to help in the coalition’s fight against ISIS.
The latter move has angered Turkey even more than the US’s unwillingness to extradite Fethullah Gulen, according to Kemal Kirisci, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. Gulen is a Muslim cleric who lives in Pennsylvania and has been accused by Turkey of organizing the attempted coup in 2016.
These developments have coincided with Turkey’s gradual drift toward Russia. Ankara and Moscow recently agreed to build a pipeline through Turkey, which allows Moscow to bypass Ukraine, and last week, Turkey signed an agreement with Russia for the $2.5 billion purchase of Moscow’s advanced S-400 missile-defense system.
Turkey is also one of the three guarantors, along with Russia and Iran, of the Syrian de-escalation zones.
Kirisci told Business Insider that he can’t prove there is a direct connection between Turkey moving closer to Russia and the US supplying the YPG with weapons, but he did say, “You don’t need to be escorted to a village that you can see in the distance.”
“[Turkey] has been pissed off at the US for a long time,” Aaron Stein, a senior fellow with the Atlantic Council, told Business Insider. “They’re not leaving NATO, but they’re trying to show everyone that they have options.”
Stein added that “the US is partly to blame” for increased tensions between Turkey and YPG, but, he said, “all sides have blood on their hands in this thing.”
Kirisci also said that “the Pentagon is running its own show,” and the US State Department doesn’t appear to be checking its decisions.
“We are concerned [about increased tensions between Turkey and YPG] but doing everything we can to defuse the situation,” Marine Corps Maj. Adrian J.T. Rankine-Galloway, a Pentagon spokesman, told Business Insider.
Rankine-Galloway said that the weapons, which are tracked with serial numbers, will be collected from the YPG after the fight with ISIS concludes.
But Kirisci and Stein both said they were doubtful that the US will be able to collect the weapons from the YPG. “They’ll try, but it won’t happen,” Stein said.
It’s “to be determined” if a full-scale war will break out between Turkey and the YPG once the fight against ISIS is over, Stein said. The US probably won’t leave northwest Syria for a while, and its presence will help deter fighting between the two sides.
The skirmishes that have happened between Turkey and the YPG have happened in areas where there is no US troop presence.
Creating a fool-proof selection program as well as finding the right entry requirements to test candidates is something the military, police, special ops, and fire fighter worlds constantly seek to perfect. I recently was asked the following question by a few friends who are either active duty or former Tactical Professionals (aka military, special ops, police, swat, and fire fighters):
Do you think there will ever be a measurable test or metric to predict the success of a candidate in Special Ops programs?
My unqualified short answer is… maybe? I think there are far too many variables to test to create a measurable metric to predict success in selection programs or advanced special operations training. Now, this does not mean we should stop looking and creating statistical analyses of those who succeed and fail, or testing out new ideas to improve student success. There is no doubt that finding better prepared students will save money, time, and effort, and it’s worth remembering that much of the entry standards are based on those studies. The ability to measure someone’s mental toughness (aka heart or passion) may be impossible, but there are groups making great strides with quantifying such intangibles.
Recently, Naval Special Warfare Center (BUD/S) did a three-year study on their SEAL candidates attending Basic Underwater Demolition / SEAL Training. If you are looking for the physical predictors to success, this is about as thorough of a study as I have ever seen to date.
The CSORT — Computerized Special Operations Resiliency Test is another method of pre-testing candidates prior to SEAL Training — while still in the recruiting phase. The CSORT is part of the entry process and has become a decent predictor of success and failure with a candidate’s future training. Together with the combined run and swim times of the BUD/S PST (500yd swim, pushups, situps, pullups, and 1.5 mile run), a candidate is compared to previous statistics of candidates who successfully graduated.
Can You Even Measure Mental Toughness?
This is a debate that those in the business of creating Special Operators still have. In my opinion, the “test” is BUD/S, SFAS, Selection, SWAT Training, or whatever training that makes a student endure daily challenges for a long period of time. The body’s stamina and endurance is equally tested for several days and weeks, as is one’s mental stamina and endurance (toughness) in these schools. The school IS the test. Finding the best student — now that is the challenge.
US military commanders deeply appreciate the autonomy and hands off approach the Trump administration takes to battlefield operations, Operation Inherent Resolve commander Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend told Pentagon reporters Aug. 31.
Townsend explained that the Trump administration has “pushed decision making into the military chain of command,” as opposed to the widespread micromanagement of military operations seen under the Obama administration. “I don’t know of a commander in our armed forces who doesn’t appreciate that,” he said.
“Our judgment here on the battlefield in the forward areas is trusted. And we don’t get twenty questions with every action that happens on the battlefield and every action that we take,” Townsend said. “I think every commander that I know of appreciates being given the authority and responsibility, and then the trust and backing to implement that.”
US Special Envoy to the counter-Islamic State coalition Ambassador Brett McGurk told reporters in early August that gains against ISIS have “dramatically accelerated” under the Trump administration, highlighting the terror group’s loss of territory.
President Donald Trump repeatedly emphasized that US rules of engagement were too restrictive in the ISIS fight during the 2016 campaign. Throughout the early months of his presidency he has loosened rules of engagement and launched dozens of drone strikes under looser authorities.
“There is a sense among these commanders that they are able to do a bit more — and so they are,” a US defense official told the Wall Street Journal in April in the midst of high tempo operations against the terrorist group.
Technically defined as a “supergun”, a term given to guns of such comically large size they need to be categorised separately, the V-3 was 430 feet long (131 metres). This massive size meant that the gun had to be built already aiming at its target and could only reliably hit a target the size of a city, a fairly minor trade-off considering the weapon’s nigh-unparalleled range for a non-rocket based weapon.
The V-3 was able to achieve the incredible projectile range due to a rather unique firing mechanism that utilized multiple smaller explosions, rather than one big one, along the length of its barrel set to go off just as the projectile passed these side chambers. This allowed the supergun to fire its payload at extreme distances without damaging the barrel, which had proved to be a problem for other, similarly massive guns.
Notable here, for reasons we’ll get to in a minute, is the so-called Kaiser Wilhelm Geschütz (quite literally, Emperor Wilhelm Gun). This was a 200 ton, 111 foot long gun used by the German’s to shell Paris during WW1. It could only fire around 60 rounds before its entire barrel needed to be replaced due to damage from the explosions used to launch its 106 kilo or 236 pound shells. The projectiles also had to be numbered and fired in a specific order, with each one slightly bigger than the previous one to account for the increasing diameter of the barrel as the massive cannon was fired each time.
The Emperor gun was so powerful, it was noted for being the first man-made invention to launch an object into the stratosphere, with the shells it launched peaking at an altitude of around 40 kilometres during flight. The range of the gun was so unthinkably extreme for such a weapon that the 80 man team in charge of firing it had to aim a little under a kilometre “to the left” of the target to account for the Coriolis effect. The French military genuinely suspected for a time that these projectiles were being launched from super-high Zeppelins hiding behind clouds because the idea of them being fired from a gun up to 75 miles (120 km) away was deemed to be too absurd.
Virtually all records of this gun’s existence and how it was constructed were destroyed towards the close of WW1. Nonetheless, it was known to the French and in response they drafted plans for an even bigger gun that utilised multiple explosions to launch projectiles a similar distance.
Sound familiar? These plans were ultimately archived by the French after WW1 and were found by German soldiers in 1940 who then passed them onto August Cönders, the guy who designed the V-3 cannon… In other words, the only reason the V-3 cannon was even invented is because the Germans found plans at the start of WW2 explicitly drafted to counter another giant gun they’d used during WW1.
In any event, beyond its massive range, a battery of V-3 cannons could fire close to 300 shells an hour, or roughly one shell every 12 seconds. This is a fact that piqued the interest of Hitler himself, who enthusiastically granted the project near unlimited support when existence of a prototype was brought to his attention in 1943 by his advisor, Albert Speer, even though said prototype had yet to fire a single shell.
With Hitler throwing everything the German military had at its disposal behind the project in mid-1943, the V-3 cannon, dubbed the “Hochdruckpumpe” or “High-Pressure Pump” during construction to hide its purpose from spies, went from the idea phase to construction almost immediately. Since Hitler wanted to use the gun to shell London, and the gun had to be built aiming at its target, the location had to be somewhere in Northern France. The gun also needed to be built within close proximity to a railway (due to the size of its ammunition which could only be transported effectively via rail).
Luckily for the Nazis, an ideal location was found in the form of limestone hill located in the French hamlet of Mimoyecques in Landrethun-le-Nord. The location was deemed ideal as the chalk that made up most of the hill would be easy to excavate but was ultimately strong enough to tunnel through to create the underground infrastructure needed for the weapon.
Construction of 50, V-3 guns began in earnest in September of 1943 utilising a combination of drafted German engineers and Soviet POWs. The initial plan was for two separate facilities to be constructed roughly 1000 metres apart, each housing 25 V-3 cannons built into drifts dug into the hillside. They also planned to build tunnels connecting each facility that would be used for storing the shells, which in turn would be transported to the guns via an underground railway.
Amazingly, construction of most of the underground tunnels was completed. However, construction of the guns themselves was severely hampered when the allies learned of a German plan to attack London using an unknown superweapon in the latter stages of 1943. Knowing that the German’s were planning something at Mimoyecques, and putting two and two together, the RAF doggedly attacked it throughout the last few months of 1943 and the first half of 1944. This led to the proposed number of V-3 cannons dropping from 50 to 25 when the RAF destroyed the Western-most site. This was further reduced to 5 following a bombing run utilising “tallboy” bombs specifically designed to destroy fortified bunkers on July 6, 1944. Plans were dropped altogether in on July 30th that same year due to the advance of allied ground troops.
The allies wouldn’t actually learn about the existence of the V-3 cannons until after the war, at which point then Prime Minister Winston Churchill was reported as saying that the site could have been responsible for the “most devastating attack of all on London”.
Although the Nazis never got a full-size V-3 cannon working during WW2, they did manage to construct two much smaller versions of the weapon with which they shelled the recently liberated Luxembourg from a somewhat less impressive distance of 43 kilometres (26 miles) away in late 1944. Smaller, but still impressively powered, these mini V-3’s were capable of shooting off their deadly projectiles at speeds of over 2,000 mph or 3300 km/h.
Despite the impressive specs, and with the guns firing hundreds of rounds (142 of which hit Luxembourg), only 10 people were killed and 35 wounded as a result. While the Nazis tried desperately to use the gun again, even deploying one during their last major offensive of WW2, Operation Nordwind, they never actually successfully fired another version of the V-3 again during the entire war, giving these guns a laughably low kill rate given the resources put into them.
Today the failed location of the French battery has been converted to a museum containing what remains of the guns.
In what the participants call a “unique” collaboration, government agencies and aerospace corporations are working together to develop advanced platforms and technologies for vertical lift that are intended to replace virtually all the current rotary wing and tilt-rotor aircraft being used by the four U.S. military services.
The results of those efforts are likely to also influence future civilian and international vertical lift programs.
The ultimate goal is to produce a family of vertical lift aircraft that can serve as transports for personnel and cargo and perform attack, scout, search and rescue, anti-submarine and anti-surface ship missions from land or sea at speeds and ranges far exceeding existing capabilities.
During a forum at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., Sept. 23, the industry and government representatives said the focus was on achieving the maximum commonality of aircraft components and open architecture in mission systems to reduce production and sustainment costs and promote interoperability among individual aircraft and services.
The coalition of talent is working on two separate but closely related programs: Future Vertical Lift and Joint Multi-role Technology Demonstration, which are managed by the Army with participation by the Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force.
Under the FVL part of the effort, Bell Helicopter is working on an advanced tilt-rotor aircraft called the V-280 Valor, which advances the technologies produced for the V-22 Ospreys that are operated by the Marines and Air Force Special Operations Command and in the future by the Navy.
For FVL, Boeing-Sikorsky team is building a “coaxial” helicopter called the SB-1 Defiant, which uses counter-rotating rotors for vertical operations and a rear-mounted propeller for high-speed level flight. It builds on technology demonstrated by Sikorsky’s X-2 that hit speeds of 260 knots, or 300 miles an hour.
At CSIS, Chris Van Buiten, vice president of Sikorsky Innovations, and Vince Tobin, VP for advanced tilt-rotor systems at Bell, said their aircraft will fly next year in preparation for a competitive “fly off” for the FVL program.
Both of those firms, Rockwell Collins and other companies are participating in the JMR program, which is focused on developing a new generation of mission systems and avionics that would go into any future vertical lift aircraft and, the panelist said, could be retrofitted into some of the legacy platforms that are likely to remain in service for decades.
The Rockwell Collins officials said the advanced computer systems being developed in the JMR effort would allow the future vertical lift platforms to be “optionally manned,” meaning they could be operated as unmanned systems as well as flown by humans.
Bell has also introduced an unmanned tilt-rotor proposal, the V-247 Vigilant, with a folding wing and rotor for the Marines.
Dan Bailey, program director of JMR/FVL for the Army, said the technology demonstration program is expected to culminate in 2020, and will “set the conditions for the future” as they seek to replace all the military’s vertical lift systems over decades.
The FVL competition for the air frame should conclude in 2019, he said.
Bailey said the vertical lift “airframe designs we have today are very limited on what we can get out of them.” And the ability to increase efficiency in those platforms “is limited.”
“We need new platforms,” he said.
Bailey and the others stressed the importance of pushing open architecture capabilities in the systems developed under JMR. Open architecture generally means the software within mission systems and other aircraft avionics is independent of the hardware. That allows rapid and relatively inexpensive changes in the systems as technology improves or mission requirements change.
Bailey said the FVL/JMR program provides the ability to partner with industry “that is unique” and will allow the government “to do this efficiently.”
To meet the multi-service requirements of the FVL program, Van Buiten and Tobin said their aircraft could be produced with the rotor and wing folding capabilities that the Navy and Marines require for shipboard operations.
In 2014, actor Steven Lang took a trip around the world to tell the stories of America’s bravest troops to their brothers in arms — a one-man road show that artfully recounted the stories of eight servicemembers from World War II, Korea and Vietnam who were bestowed with America’s highest honor for valor.
During the trip — which saw Lang perform in front of troops in Afghanistan, at bases in the U.S., and aboard ships at sea — Lang documented his time before the audience and tells that story in his new film Beyond Glory.
Combining the intimacy of stage with state-of-the-art computer graphics, Beyond Glory is a synthesis of cinema and theater, giving moviegoers the experience of watching a live performance from the best seat in the house.
Lang brings alive the heroism, bravery, and courage of past war heroes in a way few artists have been able to capture on stage.
Written by Steven Lang and produced by James Cameron, Jon Landau, Jim Carpenter and Ross Satterwhite, Beyond Glory is set for release October 4.
Third, it has the Multifunction Advanced Data Link (MADL), a system originally devised to communicate between F-35s that has now been expanded to participate in the NIFC-CA.
MADL provides significant advantages over traditional systems of transmission, namely that it’s very difficult to jam. Adversaries have never seen anything like the MADL, and if they ever do figure out how to disrupt it, it will certainly take some time.
When the F-35 program reaches its maturation point about a dozen US allies will be flying the Joint Strike Fighter. They will all have the ability to contribute targeting data to their own fleets as well as that of allied nations. So an Australian F-35 could transmit data to a nearby South Korean Aegis-equipped destroyer and take out a distant target, no problem.
The applications and versatility of the F-35’s MADL has surprised even those close to the program.
“Originally we didn’t think F-35s would use through datalinks directly to ships… This gives them the ability to talk directly to the ship with a very hard to detect very hard to jam MADL link,” retired Navy officer Bran Clark told USNI News.
Underneath layers of holiday ads and last-minute shopping, family remains the steadily beating heart of the holidays. This year, the pandemic has given families around the globe a taste of what military families have gone through for years; separation. For civilians, this may be the first year spent apart from parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and good friends. For military spouses, the pandemic means something more.
If your loved one is deployed, this is likely the first time you have to deal with a holiday deployment in isolation. While being kept apart from loved ones is never easy, you’re not alone- even if it feels that way. Drawn from the experiences of fellow military families, these tips can help restore your holiday cheer this winter.
Embrace the tissue box Grab the tissues or a roll of tp from the economy pack you bought back in March. Go on, we’ll wait. Feeling emotional when you’re separated from your favorite person in the world over the holidays is normal. Don’t bottle it up! If you’re feeling sad, express those feelings. Call a friend who has been there. Talking it out won’t erase the sadness, but a good friend can help shoulder some of the weight. You don’t have to carry difficult feelings alone!
If you have children, you don’t have to put on a happy face. By being open about your own feelings, you’re letting your kids know that it’s healthy to share their own. Bring out the tissue box and talk. Even if you don’t feel like it, trust us. It helps.
Stay connected however you can Let’s face it; the irritating Mariah Carey song is true. All your partner wants for Christmas is you. While care packages are always welcome, the most meaningful gifts are the ones that are personal and thoughtful. Get the kids together to write love notes, record a song or video, or design a picture book. Fill the pages with drawings, hand prints, happy memories, and anything else that will remind your deployed partner how much they are loved.
Video chat whenever you can, too. Try to include your partner on special days by sharing a meal together or letting them watch while they kids open their gifts. That way, they’re still a part of the experience even if they’re miles away.
Practice mindfulness As much as you miss your partner, there is a day in front of you waiting to be lived. Whether it’s the day you want or not, it’s the one you have. Instead of pining after the people you miss, cherish the time you have with the people you’re actually with. Focus on bringing joy to those around you, and look for the happiness in the simple things. Siblings taking a break from fighting to read a book together. A call to a relative you haven’t had time to catch up with in years. A hot cup of coffee with extra cream and sugar. Ordinary moments are often the ones that stand out in memory, so don’t miss the ones happening right under your nose.
Look to the future Living in the moment doesn’t mean you have to leave your partner out of the celebration. Turn your wishes into memories. With the whole family, write down what you can’t wait to do with your loved one when they return home. You can put your wishes in a jar or on a garland, or write them on ornaments to hang on the tree. Next year, you can read those wishes together and make them come true.
Give If the season feeling a little cold and dark this year, giving to others is one of the easiest ways to make your heart feel a little warmer. While extra precautions should be taken with any in-person visits, simple, safe gestures can make brighten someone’s day- and your own!
Bake cookies or make care packages with your kids to deliver to elderly neighbors. Surprise them with a hot meal, shovel their driveway, or offer to run errands for them. Put together boxes for your closest friends and relatives filled with small gifts and photos. Donate to military families in need, or volunteer virtually.
Whether you’re cheering up a friend or helping a complete stranger, giving to others is one of the most heartwarming gifts you can give yourself.
If you need extra support this year, the military community is ready to help. For a list of resources to help you along your journey as a military fam, click here.
A military K-9 injured in a bomb explosion in Afghanistan along with his military police officer partner now has a lot of support after a photo of the dog wearing a Purple Heart Medal in a hospital in Germany has gone viral, the Killeen Daily Herald reports.
Spc. Andrew Brown, 22, and his military dog, Rocky, were searching a structure for explosive materials in southern Afghanistan’s Helmand Province Dec. 3 when the bomb exploded, the Texas newspaper reported Friday.
“They were working with Special Operations Forces in an effort to identify explosive materials,” Army spokesman Sgt. Michal Garrett told the paper.
Brown and Rocky survived the blast and were taken to a military hospital in Germany. There, a photo was taken of Rocky wearing the Purple Heart and posted on the Facebook page of Fort Hood’s 89th Military Police Brigade. Brown is assigned to the brigade.
The photo had more than 89,000 likes, 118,000 shares and more than 9,500 comments as of Sunday morning.
“The Army typically does not process awards for our working dogs the same way we do for our other soldiers,” Garrett told the Daily Herald. “The Purple Heart in the photo was placed on Rocky as a sign of respect and solidarity between him and Brown during their recovery.”
Two days ago the brigade posted another photo of Brown and Rocky in a hospital room on Facebook that said, “They are both very thankful for your thoughts and prayers and are in the process of heading back home.
The post said Brown had arrived earlier Friday at Walter Reed Army Medical Center Hospital in Washington where he was met by his waiting family.
The Daily Herald reported that Brown, of Eliot, Maine, suffered non-life threatening injuries and will undergo a series of tests for traumatic brain injury. The tests are routine for soldiers injured by roadside bombs.
Rocky is expected to return to Fort Hood in the coming weeks. The canine suffered shrapnel wounds and a broken leg.
Marine Corps Chief Warrant Officer 5 Christian P. Wade, the 2nd Marine Division Gunner as well as the personality behind that video of cooking bacon on a suppressor, has a new video where he tests the resilience of the Marine Corps’ new reinforced pack frame.
Despite long falls, getting dragged behind a Jeep, and about 51 Kalashnikov rounds, the new pack proves itself to be surprisingly tough. You can see what finally destroys the pack in the video below:
Loose lips sink ships, the old saying goes. Nothing could be more true. And the combination of an international audience with highly classified intelligence along with a complete lack of understanding for what’s important and what’s not can be disastrous. It should come to no surprise for anyone reading that a Congressman learned this the hard way.
Back then, at least, it was enough to cost him the next election.
This f*cking guy.
In the early days of World War II, the Japanese didn’t really understand Allied submarine technology. Most importantly, they had no idea American and British submarines could dive so deep. When fighting Allied subs, the Japanese set their depth charge fuses to explode at a depth roughly equivalent to what their submarines could handle, which was a lot more shallow than American and British subs could dive. As a result, the survival rate of Allied submarines encountering Japanese ships was amazingly high.
For the first year or so of the war, the Americans enjoyed this advantage in the Pacific. Japanese anti-submarine warfare was never sophisticated enough to realize its fatal flaws, and American sailors’ lives were saved as a result. Then Kentucky Congressman Andrew J. May made a visit to the Pacific Theater and changed all that.
Droppin’ charges, droppin’ bodies
The Balao-class submarines of the time could dive to depths of some 400 feet, much deeper than the depth Japanese ships set their depth charges to explode. Congressman May was informed of this during his visit, along with a ton of other sensitive war-related information. Upon returning from his junket in the war zone, May held a press conference where he revealed this fact to the world, informing the press wires that American sailors were surviving in incredible numbers because the charges were set too shallow. The press reported his quotes, and eventually, it got back to the Japanese.
Who promptly changed their depth charge fuses.
A depth charge-damaged submarine.
Vice-Admiral Charles Lockwood was understandably livid when he heard the news, not just because a Congressman had leaked sensitive information to the press for seemingly no reason, but because he knew what the tactical outcome of the reveal would be. And Admiral Lockwood was right. When the Japanese changed their fuses, it began to take its toll on American submarines, which might have normally survived such an attack. He estimated the slip cost ten submarines and 800 crewmen killed in action.
“I hear Congressman May said the Jap depth charges are not set deep enough,” Lockwood reportedly told the press. “He would be pleased to know that the Japs set them deeper now.”
When the time came for May’s re-election campaign after the war in 1946, the reveal (which became known as The May Incident) along with corruption allegations became too much for the Kentucky voters, and May lost his seat in the House of Representatives. May served nine months in a federal prison for corruption.
This article by Stephen Carlson was originally published on Task Purpose, news and culture site for the next great generation of American veterans.
During the height of the Cold War, the U.S. Army deployed a nuclear-tipped rocket launcher that could be carried by a fire team.
Davy Crockett was a renowned frontier hero steeped in myth and legend, much of it probably based on tales invented by himself. Supposedly Crockett was such a crack shot he could split a bullet on an axe blade using a musket.
The Cold War weapon that bore his name was many things, but dead accuracy wasn’t one of them. The M28/29 Davy Crockett Weapon System was a man-portable recoilless rifle that could fire a 76-pound W54 nuclear warhead up to two and half miles, and provided the terrible power of fission in a system that could be carried and operated by three men.
Developed in the 1950s, the Davy Crockett was envisioned for use at the Fulda Gap, considered a prime invasion route for Soviet army divisions driving into West Germany and widely anticipated as where the first big battles of World War III would be fought.
Faced with overwhelming numbers of Soviet tanks, it was hoped weapons like the Crockett and the W48 shell could devastate large armored formations and keep the Soviet Union bottled up in the Fulda Gap. This even included nuclear landmines such as the Special Atomic Demolition Munition, which could also be used by Special Forces parachuting behind enemy lines to destroy key infrastructure.
By nuclear standards, the W54 warhead used by the Davy Crockett was tiny, with an explosive yield of .01-.02 kilotons, or the equivalent of 10 to 20 tons of TNT. By comparison, the bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima had a yield of 15 kilotons, or 15,000 tons of TNT, nearly a thousand times more powerful.
But though a shrimp compared to most nukes, the warhead still carried plenty of bang. The largest conventional bomb fielded by the U.S. military, the GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast, or MOAB, weighs 22,600 pounds and has a blast yield of 11 tons of TNT. The Crockett could deliver double that with a bomb .3% of the mass.
The blast was powerful enough to collapse buildings and cause third-degree burns hundreds of feet away, but the real lethality of the weapon lay in its radiation effects, which could be fatal over a quarter of a mile away. Residual fallout would contaminate the area and make it dangerous for any exposed personnel to pass through, making it a potent barrier weapon.
But the Davy Crockett had a number of problems that seem obvious in retrospect. The weapon was highly inaccurate, often hundreds of feet off target, and its limited range made it highly probable that users could be exposed to radioactive fallout. Though designed primarily to engage Soviet tank formations, the slow setup and inaccuracy of the weapon made targeting fast-moving tanks problematic.
The fact that mass use of the weapon could contaminate huge areas of land for years to come also made it dubious as a defensive weapon, since it would effectively deny territory to either side. It would also create a huge risk of escalation that could lead to a world-destroying nuclear exchange between the United States and the Soviet Union.
With its many deficiencies in mind, and perhaps a glimpse of sanity among military planners, it was phased out of use by 1971 and not replaced.
The United States nuclear stockpile has declined from its horrifying height in 1967 to a little over 70,000 today. A little over 2,000 of those are actually deployed, with the rest being held in reserve or awaiting dismantlement.
We may be past the days where the military fielded nuclear weapons on the scale seen in Western Germany during the Cold War, and the nuclear forces of the U.S. are aging and suffering from a long period of neglect from the Pentagon. But it is worth remembering that nuclear weapons were once so prevalent it was thought necessary to turn them into an infantry weapon.