The 9 best war movies of 2018 - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY MOVIES

The 9 best war movies of 2018

It was a good year for the war-military movie genre. There weren’t many of them made this year, but the quality was much, much better than in years past. There could be many reasons for this; the rise in military veterans wanting a say in how their lives are depicted onscreen, Hollywood looking to real-world stories for source material, or just a general focus on what works and what doesn’t in filmmaking.

Whatever the reason, it was a good year. To show our appreciation, we’re presenting to you nine of our favorites. After all, a good, old-fashioned war movie marathon is the perfect New Year’s Day recovery tactic.


9. ‘7 Days in Entebbe’

This film recreates the hijacking that led to one of the most daring rescue operations of all time, Israel’s now-famous Raid on Entebbe. 7 Days In Entebbe is a story set from the point of view of the hijackers. It’s not a great film for its depiction of what it’s like to be a hijacker or hostage, but the action is good, and the film really brings the era to life.

Related: 6 miraculous operations of the Israel Defense Forces

8. ‘Overlord’

World War II is a great setting for any film of any genre. You can set any story in any place on Earth, and it will be slightly believable because Nazis are the ultimate insane, evil villains. While everyone loves a great WWII drama, every now and then, someone gives the World War II sub-drama a spin and adds an element that is surprising and fun. This time, it’s zombie horror.

Now Read: Why we’re pumped about the new ‘Overlord’ film

Paul Rudd stars a baseball legend Moe Berg in the WWII drama “The Catcher Was A Spy.”

7. ‘The Catcher Was A Spy’

By now, America knows what to expect from a Paul Rudd movie. The Marvel alum’s wry smile and sharp wit are fun and appealing in comedies and action-adventure movies. But The Catcher Was A Spy is a dramatic take on the life of Red Sox legend Moe Berg, who famously supplied information to the Allied war effort in Japan and Eastern Europe.

A great cast backs up Rudd, whose depiction of the anti-heroic Berg in this film based on Berg’s real exploits.

Related: This Boston Red Sox catcher changed the course of World War II

6. ‘Hunter Killer’

This is one of only two movies on the list that isn’t based on a true story, but much of what went into making the film was real. For example, Butler and crew really lived on a submarine with U.S. sailors. In the movie, a submarine commander assembles a team of SEALs to prevent a coup in Russia and prevent a potential World War III. What’s the most fun about this movie though, is the way the producers drummed up buzz for it. Gerard Butler visited troops, gave a Pentagon press briefing, and even played Battleship with We Are The Mighty.

Next: Gerard Butler totally gets why troops hate military movie mistakes

5. ‘A Private War’

A Private War is the story of war correspondent Marie Colvin, one of the world’s best war photographers. She had seen action in Chechnya, Kosovo, Sri Lanka, Sierra Leone, and more. She is famous in the world of journalism for repeatedly coming under attack for just being a journalist. Colvin was one of the last journalists to interview Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi as she covered the Syrian Civil War.

4. ‘Operation Finale’

Operation Finale was the name the Israeli intelligence agency, Mossad, gave to the capture, imprisonment, and extraction of Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann from Argentina. He hid there as a factory worker at a local Mercedes-Benz plant under the name Ricardo Klement. Once the Mossad found out where he was hiding, it wasn’t long before they hatched a daring plan to put “The Architect of the Holocaust” on trial in Israel.

Now Read: How ‘the most dangerous man in Europe’ hunted his fellow Nazis for Israel

3. ‘Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero’

This year was the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I and Hollywood did not miss the chance to remember the brave men — and canines — who fought it. Stubby was a stray who also happened to have fought in 17 major battles, saved an entire regiment from a chemical attack, and then pulled everyone out of an artillery barrage before he went back to find the missing and wounded.

No — you’re crying!

Related: A stray dog named ‘Stubby’ was the most decorated dog of WWI

2. ‘They Shall Not Grow Old’

World War I had quite the effect on author JRR Tolkien. His most legendary works, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings are based on his time there, a way for the veteran to make sense of the horrible killing. So, it makes sense that the director who brought those works to the silver screen also brings a bit of Tolkien’s own experiences along with it. Though They Shall Not Grow Old has nothing to do with Tolkien, Jackson’s closeness to the material is apparent in this documentary film, as his grandfather served in the Great War.

The critically-acclaimed documentary uses previously unseen film reels from the archives of the UK’s Imperial War Museum.

Read On: After 100 years World War I battlefields are poisoned and uninhabitable

1. ’12 Strong: The Declassified Story of the Horse Soldiers’

In the days following the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the U.S. sent its most capable insurgent-wrangling troops into Afghanistan with the intent of supplying and coordinating those who were already aligned against al-Qaeda and the Taliban. These Special Forces troops provided air cover and strategic planning to the Afghan Warlord-led Northern Alliance who had been struggling to oust the Taliban since they took control of Kabul in 1994.

But to get there and be effective, the Green Berets had to adapt to the environment and technology available to them, and their success came at a real cost.

Full Story: The Special Forces who avenged 9/11 on horseback

MIGHTY CULTURE

Navy SEAL brains are trained to alter how they process fear

Imagine how long it takes to reprogram millions of years of evolution in the human brain, trying to snuff out the instincts that kept early humans alive. Forcibly changing those instincts to instead train an individual to put themselves in harm’s way. If you ask a Navy SEAL, he’ll tell it takes about about six months, give or take — the amount of time you need to get through BUD/S.


If it ever seemed like SEALs and SEAL veterans just tend to think differently than most other civilians and veterans, then you’re on to something. Their brains have actually been reprogrammed, specifically within the amygdala, to process fear differently from everyone else.

Fear is a primal instinct that kept a lot of early humans from becoming food for dire wolves and cave hyenas. These days, humans have fewer cave hyenas to worry about, but that instinct still keeps us from walking down a dark alley in a tough neighborhood at night. Fear helps us manage risk and book it out of a situation that overwhelms us. The part of the brain that processes fear is the amygdala, which actually processes all emotions.

With fear present, the amygdala alerts the brain stem, which causes you to sweat, causes your heart to race, and initiates your body’s “fight or flight” response. The amygdala’s emotional response process is twice as fast as the frontal lobe’s logical decision-making processes.

Humans, as it turns out, are emotional creatures. The Navy takes full advantage of that.

“We introduce our students, on day one, to absolute chaos,” Capt. Roger Herbert, then-commander of the SEAL training program at Coronado Island, told the History Channel. “When you look at historic mistakes on the battlefield, they’re almost always associated with fear and panic. So, the capacity to control these impulses is extremely important.”
The 9 best war movies of 2018

Petty Officer 1st Class Zack Schaffer, U.S. Navy SEAL and an advanced training instructor, engages targets during a close quarters defense hooded-box drill at Naval Special Warfare Advanced Training Command. The drill tests operators’ ability to quickly react to lethal and non-lethal threats with the appropriate use of force. Individual augmentees are used as role players during each scenario.

(U.S. Navy Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Michelle Kapica)

Navy SEAL recruits are put through special training to change how their brains react to fear. The Navy wanted to know why lifelong athletes could fail BUD/S training while some kids who never saw the ocean before the Navy could succeed.

One close-quarters combat exercise, the hooded box drill, involves putting a hood on a SEAL candidate that renders them blind and deaf, and then putting them in a combat situation. The hood is then ripped off and the candidate has to respond in seconds.

Sometimes, the response needs to be lethal and sometimes it needs to be nonviolent. Panic is not an option. Constant exposure to fear results in experiencing suppressed emotional responses and less lag time between the fear response and the frontal lobe logic process.

A gap between the two responses could leave a special operator standing frozen, unable to respond, not knowing what to do next. Navy SEALs do not have this problem.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The legendary tanker that refuels planes in flight

While it may sound cliché, it’s a common motto within the tanker community. For more than 60 years of continuous service, the KC-135 Stratotanker has been the core aerial refueling capability for U.S. operations around the world.

The KC-135 provides the Air Force with its primary mission of global reach, but it also supports the Navy, Marine Corps and allied nations in assisting training, combat and humanitarian engagements.


The aircraft is also capable of transporting litters and ambulatory patients using patient support pallets during aeromedical evacuations.

The 9 best war movies of 2018

A Cold War-era image of B-52D refueling from a KC-135A.

(U.S. Air Force photo)

The stratotanker was the Air Force’s first jet-powered refueling tanker, replacing the KC-97 Stratofreighter. It was originally designed and tasked to support strategic bombers, but has been heavily used in all major conflicts since its development, extending the range and endurance of U.S. tactical fighters and bombers.

The KC-135 is a mid-air refueling aircraft with a telescoping “flying boom” tube located on the rear of the plane. A boom operator lays prone and guides the boom insert into a receptacle on the receiving aircraft. With a single boom, aircraft refuel one at a time.

The mid-air refueling capability changed the landscape of air dominance during the Vietnam War and enabled tactical fighter-bombers of the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps to stay on the front lines for hours rather than minutes due to their limited fuel reserves and high fuel consumption.

For bombers, all targets were now within reach without the need of hopping from base to base until striking their targets. No longer are lives at stake to build airstrips to support bombing campaigns, as they were in WWII.

Development and design

The Boeing Company’s model 367-80 jet transport, commonly called the “Dash-80,” was the basic design for the commercial 707 passenger plane as well as the KC-135A Stratotanker.

In 1954, the Air Force purchased the first 29 of its future 803 aerial refueling tanker fleet. The first aircraft flew in August 1956, and the initial production Stratotanker was delivered to Castle Air Force Base, California, in June 1957. The last KC-135 was delivered to the Air Force in 1965.

The aircraft’s KC identifier stands for (K) tanker (C) transport.

The aircraft is powered by four turbofan engines mounted on 35-degree swept wings, has a flight speed of more than 500 mph and a flight range of nearly 1,500 miles when loaded with 150,000 lbs. of fuel.

The KC-135 has been modified and retrofitted through the years with each update providing stronger engines, fuel management and avionics systems. The recent Block 45 update added a new glass cockpit digital display, radio altimeter, digital autopilot, digital flight director and computer updates.

Of the original KC-135As, more than 417 were modified with new CFM-56 engines.

The re-engined tanker, designated either the KC-135R or KC-135T, can offload 50 percent more fuel, is 25 percent more fuel efficient, costs 25 percent less to operate and is 96 percent quieter than the KC-135A.

In 1981 the KC-10 Extender was introduced to supplement the KC-135. The KC-10 doubles the fuel carrying capacity of the KC-135, which is critical in supporting mobility operations of large cargo aircraft like the C-5 Galaxy and the C-17 Globemaster III.

The 9 best war movies of 2018

Airmen of the 86th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron perform lifesaving procedures to a patient in a KC-135 Stratotanker, at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, March 26, 2015. Aircrew and a KC-135 from Royal Air Force Mildenhall, England, spent multiple days at Ramstein performing aerial refueling missions, which also gave AES Airmen the opportunity to train on their mission inside a different airframe.

(Photo by Damon Kasberg)

Through the years, the KC-135 has been altered to do other jobs ranging from flying command post missions to reconnaissance. RC-135s are used for special reconnaissance and Air Force Materiel Command’s NKC-135As are flown in test programs. Air Combat Command operates the OC-135 as an observation platform in compliance with the Open Skies Treaty.

The KC-135R and KC-135T aircraft continue to undergo life-cycle upgrades to expand their capabilities and improve reliability. Among these are improved communications, navigation and surveillance equipment to meet future civil air traffic control needs.

There have been 11 variants or models through the years of the C-135 family.

The aircraft carries a basic crew of three, a pilot, co-pilot and boom operator. Some missions require the addition of a navigator.

The 9 best war movies of 2018

An A-10C Thunderbolt II receives fuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker over Afghanistan Oct. 2, 2013. The A-10 is deployed from Moody Air Force Base, Ga., to the 74th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. The KC-135 is assigned to the 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron.

(Photo by Stephany Richards)

Nearly all internal fuel can be pumped through the flying boom. A special shuttlecock-shaped drogue attached to and trailing behind the flying boom may be used to refuel aircraft fitted with probes. Some aircraft have been configured with the multipoint refueling system, which consists of special pods mounted on the wingtips. These KC-135s are capable of refueling two receiver aircraft at the same time.

In 2007 the Air Force announced plans for the KC-X tanker replacement program for the KC-135. In 2011, the Boeing KC-46 Pegasus was selected as the winner of the program.

The first 18 combat-ready Pegasus tankers are expected for delivery by 2019.

The KC-135 E and R models are expected to continue service until 2040 when they will be nearly 80 years old.

The 9 best war movies of 2018

A KC-135 Stratotanker flies through storm clouds on its way to refuel a C-17 Globemaster III off Florida’s east coast, July 12, 2012. The KC-135 was the Air Force’s first jet-powered refueling tanker and replaced the KC-97L Stratofreighter.

(Photo by Jeremy Lock)

Operation and deployment

Air Mobility Command manages the current inventory of 396 Stratotankers, of which the Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard fly 243 aircraft in support of AMC’s mission.

While AMC gained the control of the aerial refueling mission, a small number of KC-135s were also assigned directly to U.S. Air Forces in Europe, Pacific Air Forces and the Air Education and Training Command.

All Air Force Reserve Command KC-135s and most of the Air National Guard KC-135 fleet are operationally controlled by AMC, while Alaska Air National Guard and Hawaii Air National Guard KC-135s are operationally controlled by PACAF.

Did you know?

  • The Stratotanker is constructed with almost 500,000 rivets. The installed cost of these rivets range from 14 cents to id=”listicle-2595814234″.50 each.
  • The KC-135 as 23 windows, nearly all of which are heated electrically or with hot air to prevent fogging.
  • The tanker has a cargo area easily capable of holding a bowling alley, with enough room left over for a gallery of spectators. The cargo area is almost 11 feet wide, 86 feet long and 7 feet high: the equivalent of 220 automobile trunks.
  • The KC-135 transfers enough fuel through the refueling boom in one minute to operate the average family car for more than one year.
  • It can transfer more fuel in 8 minutes than a gas station could pump in 24 hours.
The 9 best war movies of 2018

A U.S. Air Force B-52 Stratofortress leads a formation of aircraft including two Polish air force F-16 Fighting Falcons, four U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons, two German Eurofighter Typhoons and four Swedish Gripens over the Baltic Sea, June 9, 2016. The formation was captured from a KC-135 from the 434th Air Refueling Wing, Grissom Air Force Base, Indiana as part of exercise BALTOPS 2016.

(Photo by Erin Babis)

KC-135 Stratotanker fact sheet:

General characteristics

  • Primary function: Aerial refueling and airlift
  • Builder: The Boeing Company
  • Power plant: CFM International CFM-56 turbofan engines
  • Thrust: 21,634 pounds of thrust in each engine
  • Wingspan: 130 feet, 10 inches (39.88 meters)
  • Length: 136 feet, 3 inches (41.53 meters)
  • Height: 41 feet, 8 inches (12.7 meters)
  • Speed: 530 mph at 30,000 feet (9,144)
  • Range: 1,500 miles (2,419 kilometers) with 150,000 pounds (68, 039 kilograms) of transfer fuel; ferry mission, up to 11,015 miles (17,766 kilometers)
  • Ceiling: 50,000 feet (15,240 meters)
  • Maximum takeoff weight: 322,500 pounds (146, 285 kilograms)
  • Maximum Transfer Fuel Load: 200,000 pounds (90,719 kilograms)
  • Maximum Cargo Capability: 83,000 pounds (37,648 kilograms), 37 passengers
  • Crew: 3 (pilot, co-pilot and boom operator. Some KC-135 missions require the addition of a navigator. The Air Force has a limited number of navigator suites that can be installed for unique missions.)
  • Aeromedical Evacuation Crew: A basic crew of five (two flight nurses and three medical technicians) is added for aeromedical evacuation missions. Medical crew may be altered as required by the needs of patients.
  • Initial operating capability: 1956
  • Unit cost: .6 million

This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Army is trying to decide what, exactly, the next tank should look like

Could there be a lightweight armored attack vehicle able to speed across bridges, deploy quickly from the air, detect enemies at very long ranges, control nearby robots, and fire the most advanced weapons in the world — all while maintaining the unprecedented protection and survivability of an Abrams tank?

Such questions form the principle basis of rigorous Army analysis and exploration of just what, exactly, a future tank should look like? The question is fast taking-on increased urgency as potential adversaries continue to present very serious, technologically advanced weapons and attack platforms.



“I believe that a complete replacement of the Abrams would not make sense, unless we had a breakthrough…with much lighter armor which allows us to re-architect the vehicle,” Col. Jim Schirmer, Program Manager for the Next Generation Combat Vehicle, told reporters at the Association of the United States Army Annual Symposium.

There are currently a range of possibilities being analyzed by the Army, most of which hang in the balance of just how quickly certain technologies can mature.

Newer lightweight armor composites or Active Protection Systems may not evolve fast enough to address the most advanced emerging threats, Schirmer explained.

The 9 best war movies of 2018

Soldiers conduct a live-fire exercise with M1A2 Abrams tanks.

(Army photo by Gertrud Zach)

While many Army weapons developers often acknowledge that there are limitations to just how much a 1980s-era Abrams tank can be upgraded, the platform has made quantum leaps in technological sophistication and combat technology.

“Until technology matures we are going to mature the Abrams platform,” Schirmer said. We would need an APS that could defeat long-rod penetrators.(kinetic energy armor penetrating weapons) — that might enable us to go lighter,” Schirmer said.

A 2014 essay from the Institute for Defense Analysis called “M1 Abrams, Today and Tomorrow,” reinforces Schirmer’s point by detailing the rapid evolution of advanced armor-piercing anti-tank weapons. The research points out that, for instance, hybrid forces such as Hezbollah had some success against Israeli Merkava tanks in 2006.

Therefore, GD and Army developers continue to upgrade the Abrams and pursue innovations which will enable the Abrams to address these kinds of evolving threats — such as the long-range kinetic energy penetrator rods Schirmer mentioned; one of the key areas of emphasis for this would be to develop a more expansive Active Protection System able to knock out a much wider range of attack possibilities — beyond RPGs and certain Anti-Tank Guided Missiles.

The essay goes on to emphasize that the armored main battle tank bring unparalleled advantages to combat, in part by bringing powerful land-attack options in threat environments where advanced air defenses might make it difficult for air assets to operate.

Using computer algorithms, fire control technology, sensors, and an interceptor of some kind, Active Protection Systems are engineered to detect, track and destroy incoming enemy fire in a matter of milliseconds. Many Abrams tanks are already equipped with a system known as “Trophy” which tracks and knocks out incoming enemy fire.

A next-gen APS technology that can take out the most sophisticated enemy threats could enable the Army to engineer a much lighter weight tank, while still maintaining the requisite protection.

For these and other reasons, the combat-tested Abrams weapons, armor and attack technology will be extremely difficult to replicate or match in a new platform. Furthermore, the current Abrams is almost an entirely new platform these days — in light of how much it has been upgraded to address modern combat challenges.

The 9 best war movies of 2018

U.S. Soldiers load the .50-caliber machine gun of an M1A2 SEPv2 Abrams main battle tank during a combined arms live-fire exercise.

(U.S. Army photo by Markus Rauchenberger)

In short, regardless which future path is arrived upon by the Army — the Abrams is not going anywhere for many years to come. In fact, the Army and General Dynamics Land Systems have already engineered and delivered a new, massively improved, M1A2 SEP v3 Abrams. Concurrently, service and industry developers are progressing with an even more advanced v4 model — featuring a massive “lethality upgrade.”

All this being the case, when it comes to a future tank platform — all options are still on the table.

“Abrams will be out there for some time. We are funded from the v3 through the v4, but there is a thought in mind that we may need to shift gears,” David Marck, Program manager for the Main Battle Tank, told a small group of reporters at the Association of the United States Army Annual Symposium. “I have no requirements for a replacement tank.”

Accordingly, some of the details, technologies, and applications intended for the v4, are still in flux.

“The Army has some decisions to make. Will the v4 be an improved v3 with 3rd-Gen FLIR, or will the Army remove the turret and build in an autoloader — reduce the crew size?” Michael Peck, Director, Enterprise Business Development, GD, told Warrior Maven in an interview.

Also, ongoing work on NGCV could, to a large extent, be integrated with Abrams v4 exploration, Peck explained. GD is preparing options to present to the Army for input — such as options using a common lighter-weight chassis with interchangeable elements such as different turrets or an auto-loader, depending upon the threat.

“There are some things that we think we would do to make the current chassis lighter more nimble when it comes to crew size and electronics — eventually it may go on a 55-ton platform. We have a couple different interchangeable turrets, which we could swap as needed,” Peck asked.

Despite the speed, mobility and transportable power challenges known to encumber the current Abrams, the vehicle continues to be impactful in combat circumstances — and developers have sought to retain the technical sophistication designed to outmatch or counter adversaries.

“Today’s tank is so different than the tanks that took Baghdad. They were not digitized, did not have 1st-Gen FLIR and did not have commander’s independent viewers,” Marck said.

Next-Generation Combat Vehicle

The massive acceleration of the Army future armored platform — the Next Generation Combat Vehicle — is also informing the fast-moving calculus regarding future tank possibilities.

Maj. Gen. Brian Cummings, Program Executive Officer for Ground Combat, told Warrior Maven in an interview the Army developers are working on both near-term and longer term plans; he said it was entirely possible that a future tank or tank-like combat vehicle could emerge out of the NGCV program.

“We want to get as much capability as quickly as we can, to stay above parity with our adversaries,” Cummings said.

The program, which has now been moved forward by nearly a decade, could likely evolve into a family of vehicles and will definitely have unmanned technology.

“Right now we are trying to get the replacement for the Bradley to be the first optionally manned fighting vehicle. As we get that capability we may look at technology that we are getting in the future and insert them into current platforms,” Cummings said.

Any new tank will be specifically engineered with additional space for automotive systems, people, and ammunition. Also, as computer algorithms rapidly advance to allow for greater levels of autonomy, the Abrams tank will be able to control

Unmanned “wing-man” type drones could fortify attacking ground forces by firing weapons, testing enemy defenses, carrying suppliers or performing forward reconnaissance and reconnaissance missions.

The 9 best war movies of 2018

General Dynamics Land Systems Griffin III.

However, while clearly emphasizing the importance of unmanned technology, Schirmer did say there was still room for growth and technological advanced necessary to replicate or come close to many human functions.

“It is not impossible — but it is a long way away,” Schirmer said.

The most advanced algorithms enabling autonomy are, certain in the nearer term, are likely to succeed in performing procedural functions able to ease the “cognitive burden” of manned crews who would then be freed up to focus on more pressing combat-oriented tasks. Essentially, the ability of human cognition to make dynamic decisions amid fast-changing variable, and make more subjective determinations less calculable by computer technology. Nonetheless, autonomy, particularly when enabled by AI, can condense and organize combat-essential data such as sensor information, targeting technology or certain crucial maintenance functions.

“Typically a vehicle commander is still looking through multiple soda straws. If no one has their screen turned to that view, that information is not of use to the crew, AI can process all those streams of ones and zeroes and bring the crews’ attention to threats they may not otherwise see,” Schirmer said.

Abrams v3 and v4 upgrades

Meanwhile, the Army is now building the next versions of the Abrams tank — an effort which advances on-board power, electronics, computing, sensors, weapons, and protection to address the prospect of massive, mechanized, force-on-force great power land war in coming decades, officials with the Army’s Program Executive Office Ground Combat Systems told Warrior Maven.

The first MIA2 SEP v3 tank, which includes a massive electronics, mobility and sensor upgrades, was delivered by General Dynamics Land Systems in 2017.

“The Army’s ultimate intent is to upgrade the entire fleet of M1A2 vehicles — at this time, over 1,500 tanks,” an Army official told Warrior.

The first v3 pilot vehicles will feature technological advancements in communications, reliability, sustainment and fuel efficiency and upgraded armor.

This current mobility and power upgrade, among other things, adds an auxiliary power unit for fuel efficiency and on-board electrical systems, improved armor materials, upgraded engines and transmission and a 28-volt upgraded drive system, GDLS developers said.

In addition to receiving a common high-resolution display for gunner and commander stations, some of the current electronics, called Line Replaceable Units, were replaced with new Line Replaceable Modules. This includes a commander’s display unit, driver’s control panel, gunner’s control panel, turret control unit and a common high-resolution display, developers from General Dynamics Land Systems say.

Facilitating continued upgrades, innovations and modernization efforts for the Abrams in years to come is the principle rationale upon which the Line Replacement Modules is based. It encompasses the much-discussed “open architecture” approach wherein computing standards, electronics, hardware, and software systems can efficiently be integrated with new technologies as they emerge.

This M1A2 SEP v3 effort also initiates the integration of upgraded ammunition data links and electronic warfare devices such as the Counter Remote Controlled Improvised Explosive Device – Electronic Warfare – CREW. An increased AMPs alternator is also part of this upgrade, along with Ethernet cables designed to better network vehicle sensors together.

The Abrams is also expected to get an advanced force-tracking system which uses GPS technology to rapidly update digital moving map displays with icons showing friendly and enemy force positions.

The system, called Joint Battle Command Platform, uses an extremely fast Blue Force Tracker 2 Satcom network able to reduce latency and massively shorten refresh time. Having rapid force-position updates in a fast-moving combat circumstance, quite naturally, could bring decisive advantages in both mechanized and counterinsurgency warfare.

Using a moving digital map display, JBCP shows blue and red icons, indicating where friendly and enemy forces are operating in relation to the surrounding battle space and terrain. JBCP also include an intelligence database, called TIGR, which contains essential information about threats and prior incidents in specific combat ares.

Current GD development deals also advances a commensurate effort to design and construct and even more advanced M1A2 SEP v4 Abrams tank variant for the 2020s and beyond.

The v4 is designed to be more lethal, better protected, equipped with new sensors and armed with upgraded, more effective weapons, service officials said.

SEPv4 upgrades include the Commander’s Primary Sight, an improved Gunner’s Primary Sight and enhancements to sensors, lethality and survivability.

Advanced networking technology with next-generation sights, sensors, targeting systems and digital networking technology — are all key elements of an ongoing upgrade to position the platform to successfully engage in combat against rapidly emerging threats, such as the prospect of confronting a Russian T-14 Armata or Chinese 3rd generation Type 99 tank.

The 9 best war movies of 2018

A Russian T-14 Armata.

Interestingly, when asked about specific US Army concerns regarding the much-hyped high-tech Russian T-14 Armata, Schirmer said the Army would pursue its current modernization plan regardless of the existence of the Armata. That being said, it is certainly a safe assumption to recognize that the US Army is acutely aware, to the best of its ability, of the most advanced tanks in existence.

The SEP v4 variant, slated to being testing in 2021, will include new laser rangefinder technology, color cameras, integrated on-board networks, new slip-rings, advanced meteorological sensors, ammunition data links, laser warning receivers and a far more lethal, multi-purpose 120mm tank round, Army developers told Warrior.

While Army officials explain that many of the details of the next-gen systems for the future tanks are not available for security reasons, Army developers did explain that the lethality upgrade, referred to as an Engineering Change Proposal, or ECP, is centered around the integration of a higher-tech 3rd generation FLIR – Forward Looking Infrared imaging sensor.

The advanced FLIR uses higher resolution and digital imaging along with an increased ability to detect enemy signatures at farther ranges through various obscurants such as rain, dust or fog, Army official said.

Improved FLIR technologies help tank crews better recognize light and heat signatures emerging from targets such as enemy sensors, electronic signals or enemy vehicles. This enhancement provides an additional asset to a tank commander’s independent thermal viewer.

Rear view sensors and laser detection systems are part of these v4 upgrades as well. Also, newly configured meteorological sensors will better enable Abrams tanks to anticipate and adapt to changing weather or combat conditions more quickly, Army officials said.

The emerging M1A2 SEP v4 will also be configured with a new slip-ring leading to the turret and on-board ethernet switch to reduce the number of needed “boxes” by networking sensors to one another in a single vehicle.

Advanced Multi-Purpose Round

The M1A2 SEP v4 will carry Advanced Multi-Purpose 120mm ammunition round able to combine a variety of different rounds into a single tank round.

The AMP round will replace four tank rounds now in use. The first two are the M830, High Explosive Anti-Tank, or HEAT, round and the M830A1, Multi-Purpose Anti -Tank, or MPAT, round.

The latter round was introduced in 1993 to engage and defeat enemy helicopters, specifically the Russian Hind helicopter, Army developers explained. The MPAT round has a two-position fuse, ground and air, that must be manually set, an Army statement said.

The M1028 Canister round is the third tank round being replaced. The Canister round was first introduced in 2005 by the Army to engage and defeat dismounted Infantry, specifically to defeat close-in human-wave assaults. Canister rounds disperse a wide-range of scattering small projectiles to increase anti-personnel lethality and, for example, destroy groups of individual enemy fighters.

The M908, Obstacle Reduction round, is the fourth that the AMP round will replace; it was designed to assist in destroying large obstacles positioned on roads by the enemy to block advancing mounted forces, Army statements report.

AMP also provides two additional capabilities: defeat of enemy dismounts, especially enemy anti-tank guided missile, or ATMG, teams at a distance, and breaching walls in support of dismounted Infantry operations

A new ammunition data link will help tank crews determine which round is best suited for a particular given attack.

The Institute for Defense Analysis report also makes the case for the continued relevance and combat necessity for a main battle tank. The Abrams tank proven effective both as a deterrent in the Fulda Gap during the Cold War, waged war with great success in Iraq in 1991 and 2003 — but it has also expanded it sphere of operational utility by proving valuable in counterinsurgency operations as well.

The IDA essay goes on to emphasize that the armored main battle tank brings unparalleled advantages to combat, in part by bringing powerful land-attack options in threat environments where advanced air defenses might make it difficult for air assets to operate and conduct attacks.

This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Marine dog is honored for combat valor

Bass, a Belgian Malinois, served more than six years in Marine Corps special operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Somalia. During his time in Iraq, Bass conducted more than 350 explosive detections with his handler, Staff Sgt. Alex Schnell.

On Nov. 14, 2019, Bass was awarded the Medal of Bravery on Capitol Hill for his work with the Marines. The award, the first of its kind, was issued by Angels Without Wings, a nonprofit aiming to formally acknowledge valor of working animals at home and abroad. The Medal of Bravery was inspired by the Dickin Medal, a British award introduced in WWII to honor brave animals who served in combat.


The efforts of dogs in the military has received greater attention in recent weeks since Conan, another Belgian Malinois, helped hunt down Islamic State leader Abū Bakr al-Baghdadi — the most wanted terrorist in the world. But Bass and Conan are two of many military working dogs who sniff out bombs, track down bad guys and assist troops on a wide range of missions overseas. Dogs and other animals have always supported troops in combat.

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Staff Sgt. Alex Schnell, with Bass on patrol in Somalia.

(Courtesy photo)

Bass was joined Thursday by Bucca, a dog that served with the New York City Fire Department. Bucca also received the Medal of Bravery and six posthumous medals were awarded to Cher Ami, a pigeon [WWI]; Chips, a dog, and GI Joe, a pigeon [WWII]; Sgt. Reckless, a horse [Korean War]; Stormy, a dog [Vietnam War], and Lucca, a dog [Iraq and Afghanistan wars].

In Somalia, Bass was involved in at least a dozen operations for high-value targets. Special operations units relied heavily on Bass to detect explosives. In Afghanistan, Bass was used to conduct 34 raids for high-profile individuals and lead troops during dangerous building clearings. Through Bass’ four deployments across three countries, there were no Marine fatalities on his missions, according to the dog’s award citation.

When special operators clear a building, the dog can be the first one through the door to attack and make it safer for troops to enter quickly to kill or detain enemies.

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Staff Sgt. Alex Schnell kneels next to Bass, after the dog was awarded the Medal of Bravery for valor in combat.

(Steve Beynon/Stars and Stripes)

“The dog is often used like a flashbang,” Schnell said. “The dog will enter first because a lot of times it’ll distract the enemy. Especially if it’s dark, it’s hard for them [the enemy] to pick up on the dog. It gives you those seconds that are really valuable in that dangerous situation.”

Beyond attacking terrorists, Bass has also routed out enemy fighters from hiding spots.

“His nose isn’t just for finding stuff [explosives, drugs], it’s for finding personnel,” Schnell said. “They [enemies] have hiding holes and tunnels in these buildings. It’s an awesome capability.”

Bass retired from active duty in October 2019 and was adopted by Schnell. However, bringing a military working dog home isn’t for everyone, and Belgian Malinois is a tough high energy breed that Schnell doesn’t recommend as a family pet.

“They are definitely not chihuahuas,” he said. “They are not for your average homeowners, especially for those that don’t know anything about dog training. If you’re going to buy one of these animals definitely research fully trained ones and that you know a bit about dog training yourself, or these dogs will control your whole life and possibly lead you to euthanize or get rid of them. That isn’t good for anyone or the dog.”

Here are some of the efforts of the military animals who received awards other than dogs:

  • During World War I, hundreds of American troops were trapped behind enemy lines without food or ammunition and were beginning to receive friendly fire from artillery units that didn’t know their location. A pigeon named Cher Ami was able to carry a message to stop the artillery despite being shot by German troops. The bird was blinded in one eye and lost a leg.
  • During World War II, another pigeon known as GI Joe carried a message that prevented a potentially devastating friendly fire tragedy. Allied forces planned a bombing campaign on an Italian town. However, it was occupied by British troops. GI Joe flew 20 miles in about 20 minutes to rely the message friendly forces occupied the town just before bombing planes took off.
  • Staff Sgt. Reckless, a pack horse for Marines during the Korean War, quickly became as well treated as the troops. She roamed freely around camp and would even sleep in tents with Marines on cold nights. In one battle, the horse made 51 solo trips, covering more than 30 miles, to resupply front-line units with ammunition. Reckless was wounded twice by shrapnel.

This article originally appeared on Stars and Stripes. Follow @starsandstripes on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Army made this 1950s film to try and make MPs cool

In 1955, the Army made a video about the the two most handsome military police officers in the history of the Army and their foot patrols through U.S. town, providing “moral guidance” for soldiers and interrupting all sorts of trouble before it starts.

Oddly, they don’t write a single speeding ticket, but they do snatch a staff sergeant for driving recklessly.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w_-UbRxlxCk

www.youtube.com

The military police are moving on foot through the town, learning all the local haunts off base and providing services ranging from giving bus route advice to providing first aid to injured soldiers. They interrupt fights before they happen and let troops know what areas are off limits.

A much wider portfolio than the speed traps they’re known for today.

And the video specifically highlights the “moral services” of the military police officers, which is pretty surprising information for anyone who’s partied with MPs.

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The dangerous gunmen that the MPs stop from shooting up Augusta, Georgia.

(YouTube/Jeff Quitney)

But even in ’50s propaganda, the MPs get into some blue falcon shenanigans, waking up a soldier waiting on a bus to get onto him about his uniform, then detaining a soldier on pass for looking slightly shady.

They even find an idiot boot playing pool in his G.I. boots.

Their finest moment comes when they catch a wanted soldier carrying the world’s most adorable pistol while loitering near an art studio. Of course, our intrepid heroes catch the ne’er-do-well without a shot fired after drawing on him in the mean streets of Augusta, Georgia.

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Actual line in this scene: “Punishment? Well, the sergeant’s company commander will take care of that.” Um, yeah, of course the commander makes the decision, because MPs have all the punitive powers of a Boy Scout.

(YouTube/Jeff Quitney)

Hint: If you want to make a group of soldiers look awesome, give them a more forgiving challenge than rolling boots in one of the safest cities in the Union. Maybe highlight their role in maneuver warfare or the way they breach buildings and fight gunmen inside.

The worst infraction the MPs find in this video, outside of the miniature gunfighter, is a stolen valor major at 25:30.

The video is almost 30 minutes long, but has plenty of unintentional humor to keep you chuckling. Check it out up top, and be sure to share it with any MP buddies who get too big for their britches.

MIGHTY HISTORY

10 reasons everyone in the military community should watch Hamilton

Hamilton, the phenomenal Broadway musical, landed on Disney’s streaming service, Disney+ on Friday. Here are 10 reasons why every service member and veteran should watch it.


1. It tells the story of an unlikely American Hero

How does a bastard, orphan, son of a whore
And a Scotsman, dropped in the middle of a forgotten spot
In the Caribbean by providence impoverished
In squalor, grow up to be a hero and a scholar?

The ten-dollar founding father without a father
Got a lot farther by working a lot harder
By being a lot smarter By being a self-starter
By fourteen, they placed him in charge of a trading charter

(Song: Alexander Hamilton)

The opening lyrics to the now legendary Broadway musical call out to all history buffs, patriotic Americans, hip-hop fans and lovers of culture and just takes off from there.

When Lin-Manuel Miranda first floated the idea of doing a hip-hop concept album about Alexander Hamilton, people scoffed. There is even a famous video of him performing the opening (and only song at that point) at the White House for President Barack Obama. Everyone laughs, but by the end he got a standing ovation.

Lin-Manuel Miranda Performs at the White House Poetry Jam: (8 of 8)

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Miranda likened Hamilton to a hip-hop artist. A young man who came from an impoverished background and worked his way to the top. Growing up in the Caribbean, he worked his way off the British West Indies and ended up in New York City.

2. If you love American history, you will love Hamilton

Raise a glass to freedom

Something they can never take away
No matter what they tell you
Raise a glass to the four of us

Tomorrow there’ll be more of us

Telling the story of tonight

(Song: The Story of Tonight)

The play starts off while America is in the throes of Revolutionary fervor. Hamilton meets several men that will be his brothers during the Revolution (Aaron Burr, Marquis de Lafayette, John Lawrence and Hercules Mulligan). He also meets the women that will shape his life (Eliza, Angelica…. And Peggy)

The songs that follow take us on the journey that Americans felt while championing for their rights to be free.

3. You like to poke fun at the British

Oceans rise, empires fall

We have seen each other through it all
And when push comes to shove
I will send a fully armed battalion to remind you of my love!

(Song: You’ll Be Back)

Yeah, there are a lot of jokes at England’s expense, especially the Monarch we despise; King George III. Hamilton makes him a fool instead of a villain, a king from afar that is very out of touch with his colonies. He comes off like a bad boyfriend and just to make sure we know the English are different; he sings his songs in a Beatles-like style.

4. It’s got a great love story

So, so, so
So this is what it feels like
To match wits with someone at your level
What the hell is the catch?
It’s the feeling of freedom
Of seein’ the light
It’s Ben Franklin with a key and a kite!
You see it, right?

(Song: Satisfied)

Hamilton takes on its namesake’s love story by being as honest as possible. His love for his wife Eliza, his connection with her sister Angelica and his affair with Maria Reynolds. That affair was one of the first political scandals in the young United States’ history and would be pivotal in shaping Hamilton’s career and his marriage to Eliza.

5. We win our independence

We negotiate the terms of surrender.

I see George Washington smile.
We escort their men out of Yorktown.
They stagger home single file.
Tens of thousands of people flood the streets.
There are screams and church bells ringing.
And as our fallen foes retreat
I hear the drinking song they’re singing

The world turned upside down

(Song: Yorktown – The World Turned Upside Down)

The play’s most thrilling moment is the Battle of Yorktown. Hamilton and his buddies rally together and beat the British, under the leadership of General George Washington. The thrill of victory and, later King George’s agony of defeat, make this such an amazing moment.

6. You love politics

Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness

We fought for these ideals we shouldn’t settle for less
These are wise words, enterprising men quote ’em
Don’t act surprised, you guys, ’cause I wrote ’em (ow)

(Song: Cabinet Battle #1)

In the second act, we meet two of the men that would be a thorn in Hamilton’s side as a new country finds its footing. Thomas Jefferson and James Madison make their appearance and Miranda famously portrays their bitter Cabinet arguments as rap battles. Nothing like learning about big government vs small government with two men spitting lyrics at each other.

7. If you want to know why our country is set up the way it is

No one else was in

The room where it happened
The room where it happened
The room where it happened

My God

In God we trust
But we’ll never really know what got discussed
Click-boom then it happened

And no one else was in the room where it happened

(Song: The Room Where it Happened)

Ever wonder why we had a strong central bank? Ever wonder why Washington D.C. ended up being the capitol instead of New York? Ever wonder who made those decisions? Hamilton does an amazing job of bringing up political intrigue and quid pro quo. Hamilton has a closed-door meeting with Jefferson and Madison to discuss how the country should be organized. The event spurs Hamilton’s acquaintance Aaron Burr to seek more political power as he now wants to be “In the room where it happens”.

8. It has heartbreak

There are moments that the words don’t reach

There is suffering too terrible to name
You hold your child as tight as you can
And push away the unimaginable
The moments when you’re in so deep
It feels easier to just swim down

(Song: It’s Quiet Uptown)

In a precursor to his own fate, Hamilton deals with the death of his son Philip who dies after a duel while defending his father’s reputation. Hamilton and his wife (who were on the rocks after his affair) find solace with each other as they grieve for their son together.

9. It has duels

It’s the Ten Duel Commandments
Number one

The challenge, demand satisfaction
If they apologize, no need for further action

Number two

If they don’t, grab a friend, that’s your second

Your lieutenant when there’s reckoning to be reckoned

Number three
Have your seconds meet face to face

Negotiate a peace

Or negotiate a time and place

This is commonplace, ‘specially ‘tween recruits

Most disputes die, and no one shoots

(Song: The Ten Duel Commandments)

Of course, you know that Alexander Hamilton, our first Secretary of the Treasury, and Aaron Burr, a Vice President under Thomas Jefferson, have a duel which results in Hamilton’s untimely death. Can you imagine if Timothy Geithner dueled with Dick Cheney? Yeah, crazy times back then. Miranda, over the course of the whole play builds up the relationship with Burr and Hamilton from their days pre-Revolution to political rivals. Unfair of not, it makes Hamilton to be Mozart while Burr is his Salieri. It comes to a head on that fateful day in New Jersey.

10. It is our story and we shouldn’t forget it

President Jefferson:

I’ll give him this: his financial system is a work of genius
I couldn’t undo it if I tried
And I’ve tried

Who lives, who dies, who tells your story?

President Madison:
He took our country from bankruptcy to prosperity
I hate to admit it
But he doesn’t get enough credit for all the credit he gave us

(Song: Who lives, Who dies, Who Tells Your Story)

Before the play Hamilton came out, there was actually a movement to replace Hamilton on the bill as many didn’t know the impact he had on our country’s foundation. That plan was scrapped after the play was released as Miranda did bring awareness to the complexities of our Founding Fathers. They weren’t perfect, they weren’t without sin and they were perfectly human. But when you hear their words, you find that regardless of your background, political beliefs, race, religion, gender or sexual orientation, you have a lot in common with the men that founded the United States. There is a reason why many younger people have been inspired by the musical.

Check it out on Disney+ and let us know what you think!


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How a solar storm detonated Navy mines in the Vietnam War

On Aug. 4, 1972 dozens of naval mines exploded suddenly in the water south of Hai Phong, North Vietnam. The incident was witnessed by U.S. military pilots, and there was no apparent reason why the mines detonated. They had only been there for a few months and there was nothing in the waters around them. The detonations took all of 30 seconds.

For decades, the event remained a mystery – mostly because the U.S. government classified the investigation of the detonation until 1990. Delores Knipp, an Air Force veteran and Colorado University engineering professor began looking into it.

She was speaking to a colleague who was working at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Space Weather Prediction Center in 1972, when he was visited by a group of Navy officials in uniform. He couldn’t remember what they wanted to talk about exactly, but the visit piqued Knipp’s curiosity.

Knipp began looking into what might have happened around that time frame in 1972. That’s how she came upon the declassified report of mysteriously exploding naval mines in North Vietnam, linked to Operation Pocket Money. The operation was intended to prevent the movement of supplies from the North to the South by sea during the Easter Offensive. 

She then began to look into scientific events that might be able to explain the phenomenon. On that day, observatories noted a series of solar flares, one of them “gigantic” that would have an effect on the Earth, one of the largest solar flares ever recorded. 

While it normally takes a matter of days for a solar flare to travel the distance to Earth, the 1972 flare reached Earth in 14.6 hours and people noticed, even if they didn’t realize what was happening. 

All over the planet, people were bombarded with X-ray emissions, an aurora was visible from the southern coast of England that could be seen from Spain, and Canada’s power grid experienced fluctuations. The flare also damaged the solar panels on orbiting satellites.

It also set off a naval minefield placed in North Vietnamese waters. The mines, the report says, were magnetic sensor mines. The Navy began to look for better ways to prevent an unintended detonation caused by magnetic interference from space.

solar storm set off mines
An American naval mine explodes in North Vietnams Haiphong Harbor during Operation End Sweep, photographed by the automatic mine locator camera aboard an American CH-53A Sea Stallion helicopter.

The Navy also didn’t tell the global scientific community about its conclusions. Since the Navy didn’t address it, neither did most of the scientific community. But Knipp believes the event was much more important than the Navy realized. 

Knipp said that the 1972 solar storm was an event on par with the 1859 Carrington Event, one of the largest geospacial storms ever recorded. A coronal mass ejection bombarded earth, displaying strong auroras from the Rocky Mountains to the Caribbean Sea. It was also big enough to disrupt telegraph transmissions all over the world. 

If a solar storm like that hit Earth today, it would cause widespread blackouts and damage worldwide electrical grids. The damage it would cause has been estimated to cost as much as $2.6 trillion to repair. 

Given the U.S. Navy’s relatively recent experience with solar flares and the lessons learned from the 1972 solar storm, there’s no telling if another Carrington Event would set off magnetic naval mines, but by then, it might be the least of our problems. 

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Air Force lab on Mars-like island is straight out of sci-fi movie

Space has been the center of conversation in the news and entertainment. There was even a movie about future human inhabitants on Mars! But how would that happen? How would we be able to sustain growing food? Mars, a dry and dusty planet, would not be able to support human life organically.

And just like the case would be on Mars, the food choices on Ascension are very limited and depend completely on what supplies are flown to the island.

“If you’ve ever been to Ascension Island, or even looked at photos online, the island doesn’t differ much from Mars,” said Cathy Little, Ascension Island Auxiliary Airfield agricultural specialist.


Supplies, including food, are flown to the island because Ascension’s water cycle, soil and topography make it very difficult for anything to grow on the island — what does grow, you cannot or would not want to eat, until recently.

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The 45th Space Wing’s Ascension Island Auxiliary Airfield looks quite similar to Mars, per its physical characteristics. Food must be flown in because the topography of the island isn’t able to grow food organically. However, a team from the 45th Mission Support Group’s Detachment 2 has revamped the hydroponics lab so that fresh vegetables can be grown and consumed by the 700 inhabitants of the volcanic island.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Cathy Little)

Introducing Ascension Island’s own personal ‘garden’, the hydroponics laboratory.

Hydroponics, or the process of growing plants in sand, gravel or liquid instead of soil, can be seen in the movie “The Martian.” Though it seems like something only a screenwriter could come up with, the agricultural team on Ascension Island has taken the idea and run with it.

“The hydroponics lab isn’t a laboratory in the traditional sense,” Little said. “Our facility is an 8,721 square foot greenhouse that has two vine crop bays and one leaf crop bay.”

In the greenhouse, the team on Ascension uses two different systems to grow fresh produce on the volcanic island. For vining crops, like tomatoes and peppers, they use a nutrient injection system, bucket system and Perlite, which is a naturally occurring volcanic glass that has a relatively high water content. For leafy crops, like lettuce and herbs, they use a nutrient film technique, where a very shallow stream of nutrient-filled water is re-circulated past the bare roots of the plants.

The 9 best war movies of 2018

The 45th Space Wing’s Ascension Island Auxiliary Airfield looks quite similar to Mars, per its physical characteristics. Food must be flown in because the topography of the island isn’t able to grow food organically. However, a team from the 45th Mission Support Group’s Detachment 2 has revamped the hydroponics lab so that fresh vegetables can be grown and consumed by the 700 inhabitants of the volcanic island.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Cathy Little)

Though the lab has grown over the years, hydroponics is not new to Ascension Island.

“During World War II, the shipping of fresh vegetables overseas was not practical and remote islands where troops were stationed were not a place where they could be grown in the soil,” said Rick Simmons, hydroponics expert, in a 2008 article. “In 1945, the U.S. Air Force built one of the first large hydroponic farms on Ascension Island, using crushed volcanic rock as a growing medium.”

“Growing conditions haven’t changed since World War II; therefore, the need for hydroponics still exists,” Little said. “Just as it was in 1945, shipping fresh vegetables to a remote island is not cost effective and with the lack of arable soil on the island. We face the same dilemma as our forebears — how to reduce costs and meet the nutritional needs of the troops and contractor personnel stationed here.”

With the revitalization of the hydroponics lab, Little thinks a shift could be on the horizon for Ascension Island.

The 9 best war movies of 2018

The 45th Space Wing’s Ascension Island Auxiliary Airfield looks quite similar to Mars, per its physical characteristics. Food must be flown in because the topography of the island isn’t able to grow food organically. However, a team from the 45th Mission Support Group’s Detachment 2 has revamped the hydroponics lab so that fresh vegetables can be grown and consumed by the 700 inhabitants of the volcanic island.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Cathy Little)

“In addition to having a virtually limitless supply of fresh produce and reducing the cost of transportation, morale is greatly improved knowing that produce, picked that very day, is awaiting everyone in the base dining hall,” Little said. “Hydroponics allows us to meet demands, reduce costs and provide nutritional value for our personnel.”

As the team continues to experiment with different crops, they hope to expand the size of the lab and the list of what they’re able to grow.

“If we were to operate at a full greenhouse capacity, we could produce enough fresh produce to feed the entire population of Ascension Island,” Little said. “That’s about 700 people.”

For the 45th Space Wing’s Ascension Island Auxiliary Airfield, neither the sky, nor Mars, is the limit.

This article originally appeared on United States Air Force. Follow @USAF on Twitter.

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5 military technologies that are way older than people think

Modern wars are defined by a number of technologies like guided missiles, helicopters, and submarines.


Except all three of those military technologies have been in service for hundreds of years. Here’s the story behind 5 modern weapons that have been in service for hundreds of years.

1. Submarines

 

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Photo: Wikipedia/Kyriaki

The ink had barely dried on the U.S. Declaration of Independence when an American launched the first submarine attack in history. Ezra Lee piloted the submarine, dubbed the Turtle, against the HMS Eagle but failed to sink it.

The Turtle was sent against a number of other ships but never claimed a kill before sinking in 1776.

2. Drones

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A BQ-8 takes off. Photo: US Army Air Force

The first drone missions were conducted in World War II and President John F. Kennedy’s older brother was killed in one. These early drones were modified bombers taken into the air by a pilot who then bailed out. The plane would then be remotely operated by a pilot in another bomber.

The drones were all suicide vehicles that would be steered into enemy targets. The program had its roots in a World War I program that created the first guided missiles.

3. Guided missiles

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Photo: Wikimedia Commons

That’s right, the first guided missiles were tested in World War I. Orville Wright and Charles F. Kettering invented the Kettering Bug, a modified plane that used gyroscopes to monitor and adjust its flight to a pre-designated target.

Once the Kettering reached it’s target, its wings would fall off, the engine would stop, and the craft would fall to the ground with a 180-pound explosive. But the missile had a lot issues and the war ended before it saw combat.

4. Hand grenades

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Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Daderot

When grenades became a staple of World War I trench warfare, it was actually a revival of the weapon. They had already made a big splash in the 700s when soldiers in the Byzantine Empire figured out they could pack Greek Fire into stone, glass, and ceramic jars.

5. Helicopters

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Photo: US Coast Guard

An iconic weapon of the Vietnam War actually saw combat in World War II. The first helicopter rescue was in Burma in Word War II and the Germans flew a number of helicopter designs. The British had flying cars that used helicopter-type rotor blades to stay in the air.

MIGHTY SPORTS

USAA has a special lounge at every Super Bowl for the military

The Super Bowl is known for a lot of things, but giving out free access isn’t one of them. For military members, veterans, and their families, the experience might be a little different. USAA, as a financial institution, isn’t just a major partner of the NFL — they’re integral to the league’s Salute to Service every November, and USAA is determined to give its members a chance to take part.


For those who have never been to the NFL’s biggest game, part of the experience is literally The NFL Experience. For days prior to Super Bowl Sunday, the league puts on a huge, open forum featuring player appearances, giveaways, games, food, and fun, along with a chance to kick a field goal, throw a touchdown pass, run the 40-meter dash (or the entire combine), and even play as an actual player through virtual reality.

Even if you don’t have tickets to the Big Game, the NFL experience is only , half that for USAA members. Best of all, military service members get a little something extra from their experience – all for free.

USAA has its own little corner of the NFL Experience called the Salute to Service Lounge, and it’s open to anyone with a Department of Defense or Veterans Affairs identification card. In this special room, attendees can sit, relax, enjoy free snacks and drinks.

Oh, and they get to listen to current and former NFL players talk about their time on the gridiron, answer any and all questions from their military fans, and even pose for photos, sign autographs, and shake hands — all at no cost. They all just want to do the most for the U.S. Military and its NFL fans, and they show it all year long, not just during Salute to Service Month.

Almost all the players who came to visit USAA’s Salute to Service Lounge also teamed up with USAA and other partners to donate tickets to the big game to a service member or their family.

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NFL legend Roger Staubach (left) chats with WATM’s own August Dannehl

The 2019 Salute to Service Lounge saw NFL legend and Naval Academy graduate Roger Staubach come by and spend time with fans. Current Falcons Coach Dan Quinn and Atlanta Falcons Guard Ben Garland stopped by the lounge to talk about highlighting the military community and what it’s like to host a Super Bowl without being part of it.

Quinn and USAA teamed up to get tickets to the big game for the family of Marine Corps Pvt. 1st Class Zachary R. Boland, who died in 2016 during training at Parris Island. Garland, a former player for the Air Force Falcons, was this year’s Salute to Service Winner.

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Colorado Air National Guardsman and Atlanta Falcons Guard, Ben Garland.

Also visiting the USAA Salute to Service lounge this year (who also visited USAA’s Super Bowl LII Salute to Service Lounge in Minneapolis in 2018) was the Arizona Cardinals’ future Hall of Famer Larry Fitzgerald. This year, Fitzgerald honored fellow Cardinal Pat Tillman during the NFL’s “My Cause, My Cleats” Campaign, which benefited the Tillman Foundation. He has a very close connection to the military, as he comes from a military family and wanted something to reflect his family’s service as well as Tillman’s.

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Kirk Cousins answers some fans’ questions at the USAA Salute to Service Lounge

Other visitors to the lounge were Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins, Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce, Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey, Denver Broncos quarterback Case Keenum, and former Cleveland Browns offensive tackle Joe Thomas.

These NFL players and the many, many others like them are regular faces at USAA’s annual Super Bowl Salute to Service Lounge. They spend all season honoring military members past and present but make it a big point to show their military fans how much they’re appreciated.

Articles

The 9 most badass unit mottos in the Marine Corps

There are some units in the U.S. Marine Corps that really know how to make an impression.

Like the rest of the military, Marine units have unit crests, nicknames, and of course, mottos. And in quite a few cases, those elements are pretty badass.


These are our picks for the units with the coolest unit mottos, along with a brief explanation of what they do.

1. “Whatever It Takes”

1st Battalion, 4th Marines: Stationed at Camp Pendleton, California, 1/4 is an infantry battalion that has been fighting battles since its first combat operation in the Dominican Republic in 1916. That’s also where 1st Lt. Ernest Williams earned the Medal of Honor, the first for the battalion.

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2. “Get Some”

3rd Battalion, 5th Marines: Based at the northern edge of Camp Pendleton, California, the “Dark Horse” battalion is one of the most-decorated battalions in the Marine Corps.

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3. “Balls of the Corps”

3rd Battalion, 1st Marines: “The Thundering Third” is stationed at Camp Pendleton, California, and has a notable former member in Gen. Joseph Dunford.

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4. “We Quell the Storm, and Ride the Thunder”

3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines: “The Betio Bastards” of 3/2 are based at Camp Lejeune, and have been heavily involved in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. The battalion is perhaps best known for its fight on Tarawa in 1943.

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5. “Retreat Hell”

2nd Battalion, 5th Marines: It was in the trenches of World War I where 2/5 got its motto. When told by a French officer that his unit should retreat from the defensive line, Capt. Lloyd Williams replied, “Retreat? Hell, we just got here!” With combat service going back to 1914, 2/5 is the most decorated battalion in Marine history.

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6. “Ready for All, Yielding to None”

2nd Battalion, 7th Marines: Stationed at Twentynine Palms, California, the battalion’s current motto is a slight variation on its Vietnam-era one: “Ready for Anything, Counting on Nothing.”

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7. “Semper Malus” — Latin for “Always Ugly”

Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 362 (HMH-362): This helicopter unit nicknamed “Ugly Angels,” is stationed at Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii and holds the proud distinction of being the first aircraft unit ashore in Vietnam.

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8. “Swift, Silent, Deadly”

1st, 2nd, and 3rd Recon Battalions: Reconnaissance Marines are trained for special missions, raids, and you guessed it: reconnaissance. For these three battalions, stationed at Camps Lejeune, Pendleton, and Schwab, the motto pretty much sums up what they can do.

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9. “Make Peace or Die”

1st Battalion, 5th Marines: Nicknamed “Geronimo,” the Camp Pendleton based 1/5 has been involved in every major U.S. engagement since World War I. Most recently, the battalion has been deployed to Darwin, Australia as the Corps tries to “pivot to the Pacific.”

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MIGHTY HISTORY

How the Taliban went from international pariah to U.S. peace partner in Afghanistan

In the mid-1990s, U.S. oil company Unocal attempted to secure a gas-pipeline deal with the Taliban, which had seized control of the Afghan capital, Kabul, after a devastating civil war.


It was the United States’ first attempt to forge a partnership with the fundamentalist Taliban regime, which was not recognized by the international community.

Unocal even flew senior Taliban members to Texas in 1997 in an attempt to come to an agreement.

Zalmay Khalilzad, who had served as a State Department official when Ronald Reagan was president, worked as a consultant for the now-defunct company.

Khalilzad, who met with the Taliban members in the city of Houston, publicly voiced support for the radical Islamists at the time. The “Taliban does not practice the anti-U.S. style of fundamentalism practiced by Iran — it is closer to the Saudi model,” Khalilzad wrote in a 1996 op-ed for The Washington Post. “The group upholds a mix of traditional Pashtun values and an orthodox interpretation of Islam.”

Negotiations over the pipeline collapsed in 1998, when Al-Qaeda bombed two U.S. embassies in Africa. By then, the terrorist group, led by Osama bin Laden, had relocated from Sudan to Afghanistan, where it was offered safe harbor by the Taliban.

Suddenly, the Taliban went from a potential U.S. economic partner to an international pariah that was hit by U.S. sanctions and air strikes.

Three years later, the United States invaded Afghanistan and toppled the Taliban regime after Al-Qaeda carried out the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania that killed nearly 3,000 people.

But now, after waging a deadly, nearly 19-year insurgency that has killed several thousand U.S. troops, the Taliban has regained its status as a potential U.S. partner.

On February 29, the United States and the Taliban signed an agreement aimed at ending the United States’ longest military action. The deal lays out a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan in return for various security commitments from the insurgents and a pledge to hold talks over a political settlement with the Afghan government — which it so far has refused to do.

The deal — signed before a bevy of international officials and diplomats in Doha, Qatar — has given the Taliban what it has craved for years: international legitimacy and recognition.

Meanwhile, the agreement has undermined the internationally recognized government in Kabul, which was not a party to the accord.

The architect of the deal was Khalilzad, the U.S. special peace envoy for Afghanistan, who secured a deal following 18 months of grueling negotiations with the militants in Qatar. The Afghan-born Khalilzad had served as the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan and Iraq in the intervening years since working as a Unocal adviser.

“There’s a 20-year bell curve, from 1998 to 2018, when the Taliban went from partner to peak pariah and now back to partner,” says Ted Callahan, a security expert on Afghanistan. But the “changes that have occurred have been less within the Taliban movement and more based on U.S. instrumentalism and war fatigue.”

The extremist group’s transformation to a potential U.S. ally was considered unthinkable until recently.

During its brutal rule from 1996 to 2001, the Taliban oppressed women, massacred ethnic and religious minorities, and harbored Al-Qaeda.

Since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001, the Taliban has killed tens of thousands of Afghan civilians, fueled the illicit opium trade, and sheltered several terrorist groups.

“U.S. officials are selling the Taliban as a partner when it is anything but,” says Bill Roggio, a senior fellow at a Washington-based think tank, the Foundation for Defense Of Democracies, and editor of the Long War Journal. “This is a fiction made up by U.S. officials who are desperate for a deal that will cover the military withdrawal from Afghanistan.”

Radicalized In Pakistan

The Taliban, which means “students” in Pashto, emerged in 1994 in northwestern Pakistan following the end of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.

The predominantly ethnic Pashtun group first appeared in ultraconservative Islamic madrasahs, or religious schools, in Pakistan, where millions of Afghans had fled as refugees. Funded by Saudi Arabia, the madrasahs radicalized thousands of Afghans who joined the mujahedin, the U.S.-backed Islamist rebels who fought the Soviets.

The Taliban first appeared in the southern city of Kandahar, Afghanistan’s second-largest city, in 1994, two years after the mujahedin seized power in the country. Infighting among mujahedin factions fueled a devastating civil war that killed more than 100,000 people in Kabul.

The Taliban promised to restore security and enforce its ultraconservative brand of Islam. It captured Kabul in 1996 and two years later controlled some 90 percent of the country.

Neighboring Pakistan is widely credited with forming the Taliban, an allegation it has long denied. Islamabad was among only three countries — including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — to recognize the Taliban regime when it ruled Afghanistan.

The Taliban was led by its spiritual leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar, the reclusive, one-eyed cleric who was a mujahedin. Omar died of natural causes at a hospital in Pakistan in 2013, with the group’s leadership covering up his death for two years. He was believed to be leading the Afghan Taliban insurgency from within Pakistan.

War-weary Afghans initially welcomed the Taliban, which cracked down on corruption and lawlessness and brought stability across much of the country.

But the welcome was short-lived. The religious zealots enforced strict edicts based on their extreme interpretation of Shari’a law — banning TV and music, forcing men to pray and grow beards, making women cover themselves from head to toe, and preventing women and girls from working or going to school.

The Taliban amputated the hands of thieves, publicly flogged people for drinking alcohol, and stoned to death those who engage in adultery. Executions were common.

Besides its notorious treatment of women, the Taliban also attracted international condemnation when in 2001 it demolished the 1,500-year-old Buddhas of Bamiyan, in central Afghanistan, a testament to the country’s pre-Islamic history and a treasured, unique world cultural monument.

‘We Were All Scared’

Orzala Nemat is a leading women’s rights activist in Afghanistan. Under Taliban rule, she risked her life by creating a network of underground girls schools across the country. Classes were held secretly in living rooms, tents, and abandoned buildings. The teachers were often older girls or educated women.

Girls attending the classes would often come in twos to avoid suspicion and carry a Koran, Islam’s holy book, in case they were stopped by the Taliban.

“We were all scared,” says Nemat, who now heads a leading Kabul think tank. “They would probably flog us, put us in prison, and punish us [if we were caught].”

Under the Taliban, Isaq Ahmadi earned a living by playing soccer for one of the dozen teams created and funded by various Taliban leaders in Kabul. While the Taliban banned many sports and other forms of public entertainment, soccer and cricket thrived.

“It was a very difficult and dark time,” he says. “There were no jobs, food shortages, and no public services.”

During Taliban rule, the United Nations said 7.5 million Afghans faced starvation. Even then, the Taliban restricted the presence of aid groups in Afghanistan.

The Taliban regime generated most of its money from Islamic taxes on citizens and handouts from Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, its only allies. The Taliban failed to provide basic needs and Kabul lay in tatters after the brutal civil war of 1992-96.

U.S.-Led Invasion

The Taliban attracted the world’s attention after the September 11 attacks on the United States. The regime had harbored bin Laden and other Al-Qaeda leaders responsible for the terrorist attacks. But the Taliban steadfastly refused to hand over Al-Qaeda leaders for prosecution and, in October 2001, the United States invaded Afghanistan.

By December, the Taliban regime was toppled with help from the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance. Most Taliban leaders, including Al-Qaeda founder bin Laden, evaded capture and resettled in Pakistan’s tribal areas and the southwestern city of Quetta, where its leadership is still based.

By 2005, the Taliban had reorganized and unleashed a deadly insurgency against foreign troops and the new democratically elected government in Kabul. Despite U.S.-led surges in troops and an escalation in air strikes, international and Afghan forces were unable to stop the Taliban from extending its influence in the vast countryside.

The Taliban enjoyed safe havens and backing from Pakistan, a claim Islamabad has denied. The insurgency was also funded by the billions of dollars the group made from the illicit opium trade.

Today, the militants control or contest more territory — around half of the country — than at any other time since 2001.

Meanwhile, the Kabul government is unpopular, corrupt, bitterly divided, and heavily dependent on foreign assistance. Government forces have suffered devastatingly high numbers of casualties against the Taliban.

Negotiating An End To War

In the fall of 2010, U.S. officials secretly met a young Taliban representative outside the southern German city of Munich. It was the first time the Taliban and the United States showed they were open to talks over a negotiated end to the war.

But in the intervening years, meaningful U.S.-Taliban talks failed to take off, hampered by mutual distrust, missed opportunities, protests by the Afghan government, and the deaths of two successive Taliban leaders.

For years, U.S. policy was to facilitate an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned peace process between the Kabul government and the Taliban. But with the Taliban refusing to negotiate with state officials — whom they view as illegitimate — the peace process was deadlocked.

Controversially, U.S. policy changed in 2018 when Khalilzad was appointed as special envoy for peace and he opened direct negotiations with the Taliban in Qatar without the presence of the Afghan government. Eighteen months later, the sides signed the landmark deal aimed at ending the war.

“The U.S. has been sidelining the Afghan government for years, first by refusing to allow it to be involved with negotiations, then by signing the deal without the Afghan government as a partner,” Roggio says.

“The Taliban maintains the Afghan government is merely a ‘puppet’ of the U.S,” he adds. “The U.S. has done everything in its power to prove this point.”

Road Map For Afghanistan

The prospect of the Taliban returning to the fold as part of a future power-sharing agreement has fueled angst among Afghans, many of whom consider the militants to be terrorists and remember the strict, backward societal rules they enforced when they were in power.

More than 85 percent of Afghans have no sympathy for the Taliban, according to the Asia Foundation’s 2019 survey. Urban respondents (88.6 percent) were more inclined than rural respondents (83.9 percent) to have no sympathy for the militants.

But the Taliban’s adherence to ultraconservative Islam and the Pashtun tribal code has struck a chord with some currently living under the movement’s thumb in rural Afghanistan, which has borne the brunt of the war and where life has improved little. But those ideas are largely alien in major urban centers that have witnessed major social, economic, and democratic gains over the past 18 years.

“The main difference is that the Taliban of today, like Afghans generally, are more worldly in terms of their exposure to media, their increased engagement with various international actors and, at least for the leadership, the greater wealth they command, both individually and as a movement,” Callahan says.

But the Taliban’s “fundamental approach to governing, which is very maximalist and involves the imposition of a uniform moral order, stands in stark contrast to the more liberal norms that have evolved since 2001, mainly in urban areas.”

Since the fall of the Taliban in 2001, millions of girls have gone to school and continue to study, women have joined the workforce in meaningful numbers, and dozens of women are members of parliament and work in the government or diplomatic corps.

Afghanistan also has a thriving independent media scene in an area of the world where press freedoms are severely limited. Under the Taliban, all forms of independently reported news were banned.

There was only state-owned radio, the Taliban’s Voice of Sharia, which was dominated by calls to prayer and religious teachings.

The independent media have come under constant attack and pressure from the Taliban and Islamic State militants, which have killed dozens of reporters. The attacks have made Afghanistan one of the deadliest countries in the world for journalists.

The Taliban has been projecting itself as a more moderate force, pledging not to monopolize power in Afghanistan. But few believe that the militants have changed.

“There is little difference between the Taliban of 1994 and the Taliban of today,” Roggio says. “If anything, the group has become more sophisticated in its communications and negotiations. Its ideology has not changed. Its leadership has naturally changed with the deaths of its leaders [over the years], but this hasn’t changed how it operates.”

Red Lines

The Taliban has said it will protect women’s rights, but only if they don’t violate Islam or Afghan values, suggesting it will curtail some of the fragile freedoms gained by women in the past two decades.

Many Afghan women fear that their rights enshrined in the constitution will be given away as part of a peace settlement with the Taliban. The constitution guarantees the same rights to women as men, although in practice women still face heavy discrimination in society, particularly in rural areas.

But the Taliban has demanded a new constitution based on “Islamic principles,” prompting concern among Afghan rights campaigners. As an Islamic republic, Afghanistan’s laws and constitution are based on Islam, although there are more liberal and democratic elements within it.

Farahnaz Forotan launched an online campaign, #MyRedLine, in March 2018. Hundreds of thousands of Afghan women have joined the campaign to speak about the freedoms and rights they are not willing to give up in the name of peace with the Taliban.

Forotan, a journalist, says she wanted to let Afghan decision-makers know that peace cannot be achieved at the expense of the rights and freedoms of the country’s women.

“Almost everything has changed from that time,” she says, referring to Taliban rule. “We have made a lot of progress. We have a civil society, an independent press, and freedoms. People are more aware of their social and political rights.”

Many Afghans support a negotiated end to the decades-old war in Afghanistan, but not at any price.

“I support the peace process with the Taliban, but only if women’s freedoms are safeguarded,” says Ekram, a high-school student from the northern city of Mazar-e Sharif, a relatively peaceful and prosperous region near the border with Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan.

“Under no circumstances do we want a peace deal that sacrifices our freedoms and democracy,” Ekram says. “That wouldn’t be peace at all.”

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

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