The options, really, are as limitless as what regular planes can carry. Here are some cool things that could be dropped from a UAV.
1. Mk 54 MAKO Lightweight Hybrid Torpedoes
The United States has deployed an anti-submarine warfare UCAV before. The QH-50 Drone Anti-Submarine Helicopter was deployed for a few years off smaller vessels before being retired. They were carrying weapons long before the CIA put Hellfires on Predators.
So, which UAVs would be using the Mk 54? The Navy’s MQ-8 Fire Scouts come to mind, but the MQ-9 Reaper and MQ-4C Triton also could do it. Seeing as both Iran and North Korea have lots of mini-subs, UAVs, with their long endurance and advanced sensor suites, could be very helpful.
2. Cluster bombs
Many of the weapons UAVs carry are precision-guided systems that are intended to reduce collateral damage as much as possible. But there are some things JDAMs and Hellfires can’t do that a cluster bomb can. Since the MQ-9 Reaper already can carry 500-pound bombs, it would seem pretty easy to add something like the CBU-100 Rockeye to its arsenal.
3. Iron Bombs
Along a similar vein, the Mk 82 iron bomb, which is the basis for the GBU-12 Paveway II laser-guided bomb and GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munition, would make sense for the MQ-9.
4. Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System
This is a laser-guided 70mm Hydra rocket. When it comes to reducing collateral damage, this is probably the best system one could add to the MQ-9. Furthermore, they come in pods of seven or 19. This allows the Reaper to kill a lot more targets.
5. GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb
Sometimes, a target can be pretty far off. In this case, the Small Diameter Bomb could not only allow a MQ-9 to hit more targets, but to do so from outside the range of many air defense systems. That helps the UAV survive a fight – which will make the accountants happy.
Allow us to direct your attention his extensive line of tasty craft beers.
Since dropping his first batch of Pukwudgie American Pale Ale in April 2015, Bailey has been quietly deepening his alchemical mastery of the hops, malts, and yeasts. (That’s Boston’s version of the breaks, rhymes, and beats.)
He cuts his love of European craft brewing tradition with a fiendish need to iterate and remix. As a result, the Down The Road brew line-up is a veritable mix-tape of innovative, sample-heavy, world heritage beers. DTR very literally has something for everyone.
And as of Nov. 3 of this year, they now have their very own 2,500-square-foot taproom in Everett, MA, complete with 35′ bar, retro-pinball lounge and food trucks-a-go-go.
If you live in the Northeast, grab your Grinch and treat him to a few tasting rounds at the taproom. Or present him with a case of Queequeg’s Revenge New England IPA and see if he doesn’t crack a smile as he cracks himself a cold one.
Because beer is full of many wonderful ingredients, not the least of which are millions of tiny, alcoholic fun bubbles that just want you to lighten the hell up for the Holidays.
The 2017 We Are The Mighty Holiday Gift Guide is sponsored by Propper, a tactical apparel and gear company dedicated to equipping those who commit their lives to serving others. All views are our own.
Speaking of Propper, they’re giving away twelve tactical packs filled with gear from our Holiday Gift Guide. Click this link to enter.
Obscure historical ways to slice, dice, and fry your opponents.
1. The Fire Lance
First find a spear. Now fill a bamboo tube with gunpowder and sharp objects and tie the tube to the end of your spear. Next, aim this contraption at someone who has seriously pissed you off and ignite the gunpowder by way of a fuse. Congratulations, you’ve just made and discharged a Chinese Fire Lance.
Considered one of the earliest gunpowder weapons, the Fire Lance was invented in the 10th century and was used throughout the Ming dynasty, often deployed in the defense of fortified cities when an invading or marauding army appeared at the gates. While these were unpredictable one-off weapons, Fire Lances were cheap, very effective at short ranges, and psychologically terrifying for enemy soldiers.
If the initial shrapnel volley didn’t kill you, you were now dealing with a guy more or less wielding a flamethrower. The Fire Lance and other early Chinese gunpowder weapons are the direct precursor for more advanced Middle Eastern and European firearms that would come to dominate warfare in the following centuries.
2. The Mancatcher
Have you ever seriously considered kidnapping an armored nobleman on horseback in order to ransom him back to his vassals? No? Well you really should and if you do, your best bet is the bizarrely designed Mancatcher.
This weapon is described by Wikipedia as an “esoteric pole-arm,” probably because it looks like something out of a Terry Gilliam film. The mancatcher’s primary purpose was the non-lethal dismounting and capture of high value targets on the battlefield. Those spikes on the inside of the collar pictured above are predicated on the assumption that anyone you’re trying to catch with the mancatcher is wearing armor, or else I suspect there would have been some severe neck injuries to explain during the ransom negotiations.
The Japanese have a similar weapon called the sasumata which is interestingly still in use today (albeit with a very different design) as a non-lethal way to apprehend criminals and troublemakers.
3. The Bagh Naka
Anyone with a Wolverine fetish should appreciate this Indian hand-claw, which was a favorite among thieves and assassins of the 15th and 16th centuries. The Bagh Naka (tiger claw in Hindi) consists of a crossbar with four or five sharp blades and two finger-holes for the wearer’s thumb and pinky finger.
The weapon could be worn so that the blades extend over the knuckle, functionally turning one’s hand into a mauling device, or worn so that the blades are hidden in the palm of the hand, for a more, shall we say, sneaky approach. Some models, such as the one pictured above, had additional blades jutting out from the side to add to the Bagh Naka’s versatility and carnage dealing capabilities.
4. The Ballista
Photo: Wikipedia/Ronald Preuß
This early artillery siege weapon makes the list not only because of its pretty badass name but also because it hurtles spears the size of tree trunks at opposing armies.
Developed by the Ancient Greeks, the Ballista is basically a very large crossbow that discharged an ordinance capable of flattening enemy troop formations at a distance of up to 500 yards. They were often placed at the top of large siege towers and moved within range of enemy fortifications to lighten a besieged city’s defenses. A smaller model, called the Scorpio, was one of the first sniper rifles to see extended action in war and probably deserves its own entry on this list. Perhaps most impressive, the Ballista remained in use for more than a thousand years which is pretty rare for such a specialized siege weapon.
5. The Macuahuitl
The Macuahuitl was a meso-american club which was affixed with numerous obsidian blades on its sides. It could be used to lacerate opponents or bludgeon them into unconsciousness.
The conquistadors were greatly impressed with the effectiveness of this weapon during their conquests and we have multiple reports of Macuahuitl being used to decapitate horses with a single swing. They were also reportedly used by the Aztecs to knock out targets during raids to acquire sacrificial victims.
There are surprisingly no known authentic Macuahuitl left, however reconstructions such as the one pictured above have been extensively tested and confirm the weapon’s deadly effects. It is the only obsidian based weapon I am aware of and that makes it pretty badass in my book.
According to a pair of memos produced in during Theodore Roosevelt’s administration, the Union and the Confederacy combined for roughly one thousand generals during the Civil War. Of those hundreds of generals, only one was a Native American — and he fought for the South.
Brigadier General Stand Watie isn’t that well-known, mostly because he was fighting in what the Confederates called the Trans-Mississippi Department. This region did not see battles on the scale of Antietam, Gettysburg, or Shiloh. Instead, the Civil War was more a collection of raids or guerilla warfare – and it wasn’t always the nicest of affairs.
Stand Watie was familiar with violence. As a major leader of the Cherokee Nation, he had seen family members killed and had himself been attacked in the aftermath of the removal of the Cherokee to Indian Territory in what is now Oklahoma. Many of the Cherokee owned slaves, and took them west during that removal. This lead a majority of the Cherokee to support the Confederacy when the Civil War started.
The Oklahoma Historical Society notes that Stand Watie was commissioned as a colonel in the Confederate Army after he had raised a cavalry regiment. He was involved in a number of actions, including the Battle of Pea Ridge.
The Cherokee soon were divided in the Civil War, and a number began defecting to the Union. Watie and his forces were involved in actions against pro-Union Cherokee. Watie was promoted to brigadier general, and his command would encompass two regiments of cavalry as well as some sub-regimental infantry units. His best known action was the capture of the Union vessel J. R. Williams in 1864 and the Second Battle of Cabin Creek.
By today’s standards, his unit also committed some grave war crimes, including the massacre of Union troops from the First Colored Kansas Infantry and the Second Kansas Cavalry regiments in September 1864.
Watie would later be given command of the Indian Division in Indian Territory, but never mounted any operations. By 1865, he would release his troops. He would be the last Confederate general to surrender his forces, doing so on June 23, 1865. After the war, Watie tried to operate a tobacco factory, but it was seized in a dispute over taxes.
According to retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, a former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency and a potential vice-president pick for Donald Trump, the hard drives of ISIS fighters are largely filled with porn.
“We looked a ruthless enemy in the eye – women and children, girls and boys, raped and exploited, the beheadings stored on a laptop next to pornography,” he said in his new book. “At one point we actually had determined that the material on the laptops was up to 80 percent pornography.”
This isn’t the first time a western leader has leveled charges of a pornography epidemic at ISIS forces. Former London mayor British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson accused them of favoring adult material as well.
“If you look at all the psychological profiling about bombers, they typically will look at porn,” he said in 2015. “They are literally wankers. Severe onanists.”
Carrying identification into battle isn’t something new, but that doesn’t mean Americans haven’t put our own unique spin on it.
Ancient Spartan warriors each designed their own shields so that if they fell in battle, the shield could be retrieved and given to family, which sounds really touching, except imagine having to create a shield from scratch? Sounds like a lot of work that no one has time to do.
Then, the Roman Legionnaires started wearing thin lead disks in pouches around their necks called signalculum. These discs are the first recorded history of what we now know as a dog tag. The disc included the name of the Legionnaire and the legion to which he was a part.
More recently, identification tags were issued to members of the Chinese military in the middle 19th century. These tags were wooden, worn at the belt, and included the servicemember’s age, birthplace, unit, and enlistment date.
A look back at the history of dog tags
During the Civil War, some soldiers pinned identification information onto their uniforms with their names and home addresses. Others wrote identifying info on their rucksacks or scratched it into their belt buckles. Seeing a demand for battlefield identification tags, manufacturers began advertising and marketing to soldiers and service members’ families. These identification tags were often pins in the shape of a branch of service and were engraved with the service member’s name and unit. Machine stamped tags were made from brass or lead and usually had an eagle or a shield on one side, with a list of battles on the other side. However, these tags had to be purchased by the service member or their family, which meant that not everyone had them.
It wasn’t until the early 1900s that tags became a standard part of the American military uniform. In 1906, General Order No. 204 was issued from the War Department, which mandated an aluminum tag be worn at all times. GO 204 stated that the tag could be worn around the neck, underneath clothing, by a cord or throng passed through a small hole in the tab and detailed the tag’s place as part of the standard-issue military uniform. Tags were issued for free to enlisted personnel and at a cost to officers.
By 1916, the Army changed the regulation to include the issuance of two tags – one to stay with a service member and one that would be sent to the person in charge of record keeping. Two years later, the Army adopted the service member system, which we know today as the DoD ID. That didn’t last too long, though. Today’s tags have social security numbers on them instead of DoD identification numbers.
In WWII, the circular discs were replaced with the oval shape still in use today. And that’s where most historians think that the tags got their moniker since the tag looks like a dog collar tag.
What’s on the tag?
Over the years, the information stamped on the tag has changed, and each branch of the military puts different information on them, even now. What’s remained consistent is the name of the service member, religion, and blood type.
During WWII, there were only three religious options a service member could choose – P for Protestant, C for Catholic and H for Hebrew (Jewish). Now, current options are also basically endless, ranging from NRP (No Religious Preference) to D for Druid. There’s no list of approved/official religions.
Marine Corps dog tags also include the size of the gas mask that the Marine wears. Current tags still utilize the historic two-tag system, with one long chain that can be worn around the neck and a tag interlinked with a smaller chain. The dog tags we know today are largely unchanged since the Vietnam War, but there are some talks in place about changing the information shown on a tag, including adding additional tags for soldier data, medical information, and carry records.
New dog tags are expected to contain microchip technology that will also hold a service member’s medical and dental records. That’s a far cry from the ancient Spartan shields, for sure.
The trenches and battlefields of World War I are some of the last places one would expect to read about women who were decorated for valor. Yet, in the “War to End All Wars,” six women received medals for valor. Three received the Citation Star, the forerunner to the Silver Star, and three others received the Distinguished Service Cross – second only to the Medal of Honor in recognizing valor in action.
All were with the Army Nurse Corps at the time, one of the very few outlets women had to serve in the military. While medical units weren’t supposed to come under fire, these six women were among the nurses who did come under fire – and would distinguish themselves.
According to Military Medical, the first woman to earn a Silver Star (known as the Citation Star in World War I), was Jane I. Rignel. At 7:30 AM on July 15, 1918, Mobile Hospital 2 came under attack. Rignel aided in the evacuation of the patients while under artillery fire – and kept going until the hospital itself was shelled by the Germans.
5. 6. Linnie E. Lecknore Irene Robel
Military Medical reports that these two nurses received the Citation Star for their actions while part of an ad hoc unit known as Shock 134, attached to Field Hospital 127. When the hospital came under fire on July 29, 1918, they continued to treat wounded soldiers who were brought in.
The tale of the Silver Star recipients takes an ironic turn. While the recipients of the Distinguished Service Cross got recognition at the time in publications like the Journal of Nursing, the Citation Star recipients slipped through the cracks. The Silver Stars were eventually presented to the families of Jane Rignel and Linnie Lecknore.
No relatives of Irene Robel have come forward – and her Silver Star remains unclaimed.
At 0105 hours on May 31, 1967, two Sikorsky HH-3E Jolly Green Giant helicopters took off from Floyd Bennett Field, New York. Serial numbers 66-13280 and 66-13281, the two helos were crewed by airmen of the 48th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron. Their mission: to make the first non-stop transatlantic helicopter flight.
Majors Herbert Zehnder and Donald B. Murras commanded the two HH-3Es and each aircraft had a crew of five. The 4,271-mile flight took 30 hours and 46 minutes. To perform the non-stop flight, the helos had to perform nine in-flight refuelings. During the flight, Zehnder set an FAI World Record for Speed Over a Recognized Course for helicopters with an average speed of 118.3 mph (189.395 kph). His record still stands to this day. At 1351 hours on June 1, both helicopters landed safely at the Paris Air Show at Le Bourget, France.
Despite their accomplishment, both HH-3Es remained in active Air Force service. They were reassigned to the 37th Air Rescue and Recovery Squadron. Both aircraft were lost in combat during the Vietnam War. 66-13281 was shot down over Laos on October 24, 1969. The pararescueman, Tech. Sgt. Donald G. Smith, was awarded the Air Force Cross for successfully rescuing the downed pilot of “Misty 11.” All airmen were recovered and the HH-3E was destroyed to prevent its capture. 66-13280 crashed at Kontum on April 15, 1970. Pilot Capt. Travis H. Scott Jr. was killed and flight engineer Gerald E. Hartzel later died of his wounds. Co-pilot Maj. Travis Wofford rescued the surviving crew members from the burning aircraft. Both he and Scott were awarded the Air Force Cross.
Zehnder went on to volunteer to fly during the Son Tay Prison Camp raid. During the Special Forces operation, the raiders came under heavy anti-aircraft fire as they flew in. Although Zehnder skillfully evaded the enemy fire, he knew that the prison guards may have been alerted to the raiders’ approach. To speed up the insertion, he intentionally crash-landed his helicopter inside the camp in an area too small for a safe landing. Zehnder then assisted the assault group in the ground mission. He was awarded the Silver Star for his actions.
The achievement of the Jolly Green Giants and the airmen who crewed them is an incredible feat. Their historic flight displayed the versatility and endurance of the helicopter. Incredibly, the first helicopter flight was made just 28 years prior by Igor Sikorsky himself.
Featured photo: Flight crews of the two 48th ARRS Sikorsky HH-3E Jolly Green Giant helicopters at Le Bourget after a non-stop transatlantic flight, 1 June 1967. Maj. Zehnder is in the back row on the left (U.S. Air Force)
For an elite band of US Marines known as the Raiders, the fiery military plane crash this week in Mississippi represents a second devastating blow during training in less than three years. Six Marines and a Navy corpsman from a Raider unit died July 10 on their way to training exercises, linking them in tragedy with seven members of the same North Carolina-based command who died in a March 2015 helicopter crash off Florida.
The present incarnation of the Marine Raiders was formed in 2006 amid the global war on terror — making it the newest of the military’s counterterrorism forces that also include the Army’s Special Forces and Navy SEALs. The group was officially named the Marine Raiders in 2015 to link its heritage to World War II commando units made famous in movies.
The Raiders’ command now has about 2,700 troops, including those in intelligence and support roles, according to spokesman Maj. Nick Mannweiler.
Tragedy also struck the close-knit command in March 2015 when seven of its Marines died with four soldiers in a helicopter crash during training off Florida. Mannweiler said he knows of no other significant training losses in the decade-long existence of the Marine Special Operations Command, or MARSOC. At least 31 members of MARSOC have died in combat, Mannweiler said.
The Marines killed this week were headed to Yuma, Arizona, with guns, ammunition, radios, and body armor to participate in training for an eventual deployment somewhere in the Middle East. Mannweiler said such pre-deployment training in the desert would have likely ranged from urban combat to language skills.
Mannweiler said the Raiders’ flight aboard a Marine Corps Reserve airplane wasn’t an unusual arrangement because the command doesn’t have its own planes.
“Marine Corps aircraft are always our personal preference,” Mannweiler said in an interview. “We’ll catch a ride however it makes the most sense.”
Mannweiler said the crash in Mississippi will be felt acutely in the tight-knit group of Marine Raiders and their families.
“This is a closed-loop community,” he said. “The loss of seven Marines from a battalion literally impacts the entire organization.”
The Raider name was made famous by World War II Marine units that carried out risky amphibious and guerrilla operations that were dramatized in books and movies such as “Gung Ho!” in 1943 and “Marine Raiders” in 1944.
The original Marine Raiders were organized in response to President Franklin Roosevelt’s desire to have a commando-style force that could conduct amphibious raids and operate behind enemy lines. Raider leaders studied unconventional warfare tactics and were credited with beating larger Japanese forces on difficult terrain in the Pacific. Their name wasn’t used in an official capacity by the Marine Corps for decades after World War II.
When the Raider name was re-adopted in 2015, the Marine Corps said the moniker offered its elite personnel special shorthand similar to Army Green Berets or Navy SEALs. Marines in MARSOC must pass a selection process that includes grueling swims and hikes, as well as specialized combat training.
While the training has some similarities to special units in the Army and Navy, retired Navy officer Dick Couch wrote in a 2015 book that members of MARSOC are known for their marksmanship and maturity, when compared with other branches’ elite. In “Always Faithful, Always Forward,” Couch wrote that he was “in awe” of how the Marines Corps needed so little time to develop an effective training program to make its “brotherhood within a brotherhood” ready for combat.
“They’re an excellent addition to the special operations mix,” Couch said in a phone interview July 12. “I’m sorry to see they lost some people. They’re in a risky business. It can happen in training or in combat.”
It’s not the most glamorous Air Force mission, but arguably it’s the most important because without transports troops and gear don’t make it to the war. (And it’s hard to win a war without troops and gear.) Here are the top seven transport planes that have served the U.S. Air Force over the years:
1. C-47 Skytrain
The C-47 has gone by many nicknames — “Gooney Bird,” “Dakota” (a riff on Douglas Aircraft Company Transport Aircraft), and “Spooky” among others. The military version of the popular airliner was first manufactured in 1940, and ultimately 9,348 were built by the end of World War II. The C-47 saw a lot of action over Europe, most notably during the D-Day invasion where they were used to drop paratroopers behind the German lines. The C-47 continued service through the Vietnam War, including an attack variant nicknamed “Puff the Magic Dragon” because of the firing rate of the guns out of the sides of the aircraft.
2. C-119 Flying Boxcar
Fairchild built 1,150 Boxcars for the USAF. The aircraft could carry 62 combat-equipped troops or 30,000 pounds of cargo. The Flying Boxcar saw extensive service during the Korean War. Like the C-47, the airplane also had an attack variant — known as “The Stinger — that was armed with guns that could fire 6,000 rounds per minute. The Flying Boxcar was used until the early 1960s.
3. C-124 Globemaster II
“Old Shaky” (so-called because of its handling characteristics in flight) was the first USAF transport built specifically to carry bulky cargo like tanks, field guns, bulldozers, and trucks. The airplane had “clamshell” doors and hydraulic ramps in the front and an elevator in the back — revolutionary technology at the time. The Globemaster II could carry 200 fully-equipped troops, and as a result it was used heavily in the early part of the Vietnam War. The airplane was also used extensively in resupply missions to the military missions in Antartica and during relief efforts to far-flung parts of the world like the Congo and Chile.
4. C-130 Hercules
The USAF originally ordered 219 C-130s in the mid-1950, and fifty-some years later more than 900 “Herks” have been delivered, logging over 20 million flight hours in the process. The C-130 has defined “workhorse” primarily by virtue of it’s versatility. The Hercules was originally designed as an assault transport but was adapted for a variety of missions, including special operations, close air support and air interdiction, mid-air space capsule recovery, search and rescue, aerial refueling of helicopters, weather mapping and reconnaissance, electronic surveillance, fire fighting, aerial spraying, Arctic/Antarctic ice resupply and natural disaster relief missions.
5. C-141 Starlifter
The C-141 was the first jet transport to deliver paratroopers and the first to land in the Antarctic. Lockheed manufactured 284 Starlifters for the USAF, and the transport flew from 1963 until 2006, participating in every contingency and major conflict during that period including the Vietnam War and Desert Storm. Several years into the C-141’s service life the aircraft underwent a major modification: the fuselage was lengthened by nearly 24 feet to give it aerial refueling capability. The mod also increased cargo capacity by over 30 percent, which had the net effect of increasing the fleet by 90 aircraft.
6. C-5 Galaxy
The C-5 defines “massive.” This huge transport can carry six Apache helicopters or five Bradley Fighting Vehicles at one time, a capability no other American military transport possesses. But the Galaxy’s size has come with a number of engineering challenges, most notably wing cracks that kept cargo capacity to a fraction of what it was designed to haul. However, the USAF remains bullish on the airframe and intends to use the upgraded C-5M model for decades to come.
7. C-17 Globemaster III
Boeing built a total of 279 C-17s since production started in 1990, 223 of which went to the U.S. Air Force. (On Nov. 29, 2015 the last C-17 Globemaster III manufactured at Boeing’s Long Beach facility took off headed for Qatar to join that nation’s air force.) The C-17 was designed with digital age technology like fly-by-wire flight controls, high-bypass engines, and composite wings that gave it ideal flight characteristics for operating off of short and unprepared runways. Operationally the Globemaster III has been heavily utilized since 9-11 including a record-breaking mission on March 26, 2003 where 15 USAF C-17s did a night-time airdrop of 1,000 paratroopers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade over Bashur, Iraq.
After storming the beaches of Normandy and fighting through the hedgerows of the French countryside, the Allied forces invading Nazi-occupied Europe came across one problem they hadn’t anticipated: outrunning their own supply lines.
By July 1944, the Allied advance nearly ground to a halt. Every operation was decided by one major factor, which was how much supply it required versus how much could be delivered. It would be almost three months before French railways could be repaired and portable gas pipelines could be installed.
To move the necessary supplies and keep the pressure on the German army, Allied war planners created a massive, truck-based supply convoy run primarily by Black soldiers. It became known as the “Red Ball Express.”
The Allies need a continuous supply of necessary fuel, ammunition, ordnance and food to keep running to the front. After breaking out of the Normandy area, the infrastructure the Allies damaged to hamper the German response needed repair to be used for the German defeat.
There had to be a way to move 750 tons of supplies from the port of Antwerp to multiple locations across the front every day. Just one armored division alone required 350 tons of gasoline.
After brainstorming for 36 hours straight, planners came up with a solution: a convoy of thousands and thousands of trucks, constantly streaming to and from the front lines.
No truck could travel alone, they had to travel in a convoy of at least five total trucks and each was marked with a number indicating its position in the line of trucks. To mitigate the risks of high speed driving or of a truck pile up in an accident, trucks were ordered to drive just 35 miles per hour and maintain a specific clear distance from each other. The order to drive slower was rarely followed, many drove at twice that speed.
When they implemented the plan, there weren’t enough trucks and there weren’t enough drivers. The Army began vulturing trucks from units who weren’t using them and began taking people with non-combat functions and training them to be truck drivers. The vast majority of these men were Black soldiers.
Without these soldiers at the wheel, World War II in Europe might have dragged on for another full year. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower saw the Red Ball Express as the most critical lifeline to the advancing armies, just as important as the combat units themselves.
Of course, these early trucks got stuck in traffic, both civilian and military. So the Allies created two priority roads just for the supply trucks, which became known as the Red Ball Line, named for the red spots marking the trucks and the routes that were closed to civilians.
At its height, the Red Ball Express was operating almost 6,000 trucks per day to move 12,500 tons of various supplies, fuel, and ammunition. Since the German Luftwaffe was almost nonexistent by this point in the war, the biggest problems facing the convoys were maintenance of the trucks and the overworked drivers.
Eventually, the rail lines were repaired and the Red Ball Express was no longer necessary. After more than 80 days of continuous operation, the convoy drivers had delivered more than 400,000 tons of supplies to the Allies in combat.
A missile defense test went awry last month after a Navy sailor accidentally pressed the wrong button, an investigation into the matter revealed.
The Missile Defense Agency conducted a test of the SM-3 Block IIA missile interceptor in late June. A medium-range ballistic missile was launched from the Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai, Hawaii, the MDA explained in a statement at the time. The Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS John Paul Jones detected and tracked the missile using the on-board radars and launched an SM-3 Block IIA interceptor, which ultimately failed to intercept the target.
An MDA investigation into the failure revealed that a sailor pressed the wrong button, causing the missile to self-destruct. The MDA reported that there were no problems with either the SM-3 Block IIA interceptor or the Navy’s Aegis combat system, according to Defense News.
A tactical datalink controller mistakenly identified the incoming ballistic missile as friendly, causing the missile to unexpectedly self-destruct mid-flight, according to sources familiar with the recent missile intercept test.
The test in late June was the fourth flight test of the SM-3 Block IIA interceptor, which is being developed by Raytheon and is a joint missile defense project between the US and Japan. The new interceptor was developed to counter the rising ballistic missile threat from North Korea.
North Korea has tested a batch of new short-, medium-, intermediate-, and long-range missiles this year, increasing the threat to its neighbors and extending the danger to targets in the US.
The failed test was preceded by a successful test in May of the ground-based, mid-course defense system, which defends the US against intercontinental ballistic missiles. An interceptor launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California eliminated a mock long-range missile fired from the Reagan Test Site on Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands in the Pacific. Earlier this month, the US successfully tested the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system against an intermediate-range ballistic missile, with a THAAD unit in Alaska eliminating a target missile launched from an Air Force Cargo plane to the north of Hawaii.
The failure of the SM-3 Block IIA, which was tested successfully in February, initially represented a setback. That the cause of the failure was likely human error may come as a relief for those involved in the weapon’s development.
Several years ago, the United States debated supplying Syrian rebels with high-tech armaments such as anti-tank and surface-to-air missiles. Critics contended that the weapons might fall into the hands of US-designated “terrorist organizations.”
But it is in Iraq that the fear has become real: the US has armed American-killing Iranian proxies and terrorist groups with its best tank, the M1 Abrams.
The Popular Mobilization Forces, an umbrella organization of Iranian-backed Shia militias fighting the Islamic State group, have acquired M1 Abrams tanks given to the Iraqi army. Two PMF militias – the Badr Organization and Kataib Hezbollah – have posted pictures and videos of their fighters alongside M1 Abrams tanks draped with their banners and flags.
The tanks once belonged to the 9th Armored Division, the only Iraqi Army unit that operates the M1 Abrams. It remains ambiguous whether the militiamen in the videos are controlling the tanks themselves or just posing with them under the supervision of tank crews from the 9th.
“In the videos, the passengers in the tanks are wearing the 9th’s uniforms,” Iraqi Army spokesman Colonel Muhammad Baidani told The New Arab. “Taking pictures and placing flags on the tank alone is not proof of ownership.”
Baidani added that the Iraqi Armed Forces and the PMF conduct combined operations “in most battles,” calling allegations that the 9th had loaned the M1 Abrams to the PMF “untrue.”
But sources in the PMF told The New Arab a different story, explaining that the militias obtained the M1 Abrams in two ways: “Sometimes, the PMF asks for American tanks from the Iraqi Army, if Russian-made tanks are unavailable,” said Hussam al-Mayahi, a Badr engineer specializing in military technology and remote weapons stations.
“The PMF also seized some after the fall of Mosul and the second Battle of Tikrit, taking them from IS.”
During IS’ campaign across the east and north of Iraq, the militants managed to seize numerous M1 Abrams tanks, including at least ten during the Battle of Ramadi in 2015.
Jafar al-Husseini, a spokesman for Kataib Hezbollah, confirmed this story: “We captured the American tanks and other military vehicles from IS, who, in turn, [had] seized them from what was left by the Iraqi army. Now, they are under our control, and we are seeking more.”
He claimed that Kataib Hezbollah and other Shia militias now held all IS’ M1 Abrams tanks.
Other tanks appear to come straight from the 9th: “Tanks are provided to us according to the circumstances of the battles and offensives, before being returned to the Defense Ministry,” Karim al-Nuri, a ranking Badr commander, told The New Arab.
Al-Nuri says he has never seen the PMF directly use an American tank but, when shown the pictures and videos that Badr had posted, replied: “It’s important to take any tanks – whether Russian or American.”
If the US delivered M1 Abrams tanks to Iraq’s Defense Ministry despite knowing that they could be given to the PMF, the Pentagon might have violated the Leahy Law – which prohibits the US Defense and State Departments from providing military aid to security forces guilty of abusing human rights.
Iraq remains on the State Department’s list of countries with the most child soldiers, because of these militias who continue to recruit minors.
Kataib Hezbollah presents a wider dilemma. In 2009, the State Department designated it a “terrorist organization” for killing American soldiers, and the US Treasury Department labelled its founder, the Iraqi warlord Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, a “specially designated global terrorist.”
Al-Muhandis works as an operative for the Quds Force, the sub-unit of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps responsible for extraterritorial operations on Iran’s behalf.
“We have heard these reports and we are looking into them,” said a spokesman for the US-led anti-IS coalition, who emphasized in an email, “Department of Defense policies on the provision of military assistance to foreign military forces require that Iraqi Security Forces receiving equipment or training are strictly vetted in accordance with the Leahy Act as well as for associations with terrorist organizations and/or the government of Iran.”
These policies appear to have failed.
A State Department official admitted, “not all US-provided defense articles are under the control of the intended recipient ministry/unit. We are concerned that a small number of M1A1 tanks may be in the possession of forces other than the Ministry of Defense and Iraqi Army.”
“The United States has not provided these or other defense articles to the PMF.”
“Nevertheless, we understand that some equipment has come into the possession of the PMF, which are part of the Iraqi Security Forces by law, and have been used in the fight against ISIS. We will continue to press the Government of Iraq to act as quickly as possible to return these defense articles to their intended recipient ministry/units.”
Despite acknowledging that the PMF had seized many M1 Abrams tanks in one way or another, the State Department declined to estimate just how many. It could not confirm whether it had lost track of how many tanks may be under the militias’ control.
The ranking Democrats and Republicans on the US House Committee on Foreign Affairs and the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, which oversee the sale of M1 Abrams tanks and other weapons to Iraq, failed to reply to repeated requests for comment by email and phone for this article.
In December 2014, several months after the Iraqi army had lost many of its M1 Abrams tanks to IS, the State Department agreed to sell it another 175, once the Defense Department notified the US Congress, which has spent much more time deliberating over tanks sold to Saudi Arabia than to Iraq.
For now at least, Iraq appears to have a continuous supply of the M1 Abrams for years to come. Al-Husseini, the Kataib Hezbollah spokesman, may just get his wish.