Air Force special ops can't afford the AC-130 gunship lasers - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

Air Force special ops can’t afford the AC-130 gunship lasers

The Air Force is short of funding to speed development of a laser weapon for what is already one of the most lethal platforms in the U.S. arsenal — the Special Operations AC-130J Ghostrider gunship, Air Force Lt. Gen. Marshall Webb testified April 11, 2018.

“We’re $58 million short of having a full program that would get us a 60-kilowatt laser flying on an AC-130 by 2022,” Webb, commander of Air Force Special Operations Command, said at a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Emerging threats.


Webb was responding to questions from Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-New Mexico, who said at the current pace of testing, and funding, a laser weapon for the AC-130 would not be operational until 2030.

“I’m quite concerned with the crawl-walk-run approach when I think we’re reaching a point in the technology where we could literally jump from crawl to run” on the laser weapon, Heinrich said.

Heinrich said the current plan called for progressive demonstration steps in moving from a four-kilowatt laser to a 30-kilowatt version, “which really isn’t operationally relevant.”

If the previous steps were successful, the Air Force would then move to a 60-kilowatt device, and “at that rate the system would not be fieldable until 2030,” Heinrich said.

“What’s wrong with skipping the 30-kilowatt demo entirely and moving to something that could be used in the field?”

Air Force special ops can’t afford the AC-130 gunship lasers
An AC-130.
(Photo by Josh Beasley)

“I would couch this as a semi-good news story,” Webb said. “I don’t disagree with your assessment at all,” he told Heinrich, adding that “we’re starting to see funding that would accelerate what you’re talking about” but there was still a $58 million shortfall.

Webb earlier pointed to the funding problem in a February 2018 roundtable discussion with reporters at the Air Force Association’s Air Warfare Symposium in Orlando, Florida.

Military.com reported then that Webb said “The challenge on having the laser is funding.”

“And then, of course, you have the end-all, be-all laser questions. Are you going to be able to focus a beam, with the appropriate amount of energy for the appropriate amount of time for an effect?” Webb said.

“We can hypothesize about that all we want,” he continued. “My petition is, ‘Let’s get it on the plane. Let’s do it, let’s say we can — or we can’t,”

The AC-130J Ghostrider’s current suite of armaments led retired Lt. Gen. Bradley Heithold, the former commander of Air Force Special Operations, to dub it “the ultimate battle plane.”

In 2015, a 105mm howitzer was added to the existing arsenal of AGM-176A Griffin missiles, GBU-30 bombs, and a 30mm cannon.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Dunford speaks on how to maintain US military advantage

It is a dangerous and unpredictable time, and the United States must reverse any erosion in its military capabilities and capacities, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said at the Military Reporters and Editors conference Oct. 26, 2018.

Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford is confident the U.S. military can protect the homeland and fulfill its alliance commitments today, but he must also look at the long-term competitive advantage and that causes concern.

He said the competitive advantage the U.S. military had a decade ago has eroded. “This is why our focus is very much on making sure we get the right balance between today’s capabilities and tomorrow’s capabilities so we can maintain that competitive advantage,” Dunford said.


Strategic alliances provide strength

The greatest advantage the United States has — the center of gravity, he said — is the system of alliances and partners America maintains around the world.

“That is what I would describe as our strategic source of strength,” he said.

This network is at the heart of the U.S. defense and security strategy, Dunford said. “We really revalidated, I think, what our threat assessors have known for many years, is that that network of allies and partners is truly unique to the United States of America and it is truly something that makes us different,” the general said.

Air Force special ops can’t afford the AC-130 gunship lasers

Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, describes the global strategic environment during a presentation at the Military Reporters and Editors Conference in Arlington, Va., Oct. 26, 2018.

(DOD photo by Jim Garamone)

A related aspect is the U.S. ability to project and maintain power “when and where necessary to advance our national interests,” Dunford said.

“We have had a competitive advantage on being able to go virtually any place in the world,” he said, “and deliver the men and women and materiel and equipment, and put it together in that capability and be able to accomplish the mission.”

This is what is at the heart of great power competition, the general said. “When Russia and China look at us, I think they also recognize that it is our network of allies and partners that makes us strong,” he said.

Challenges posed by Russia, China

Broadly, Russia is doing what it can to undermine the North Atlantic Alliance and China is doing what it can to separate the United States from its Pacific allies. Strategically, Russia and China are working to sow doubt about the United States’ commitment to allies. Operationally, these two countries are developing capabilities to counter the U.S. advantages. These are the seeds to the anti-access/area denial capabilities the countries are developing. “I prefer to look at this problem less as them defending against us and more as what we need to do to assure our ability to project power where necessary to advance our interests,” Dunford said.

These are real threats and include maritime capabilities, offensive cyber capabilities, electromagnetic spectrum, anti-space capabilities, and modernization of the nuclear enterprise and strike capabilities. These capabilities are aimed at hitting areas of vulnerability in the American military or in striking at the seams between the warfighting domains.

“In order for us to be successful as the U.S. military, we’ve got to be able to project power to an area … and then once we’re there we’ve got to be able to freely maneuver across all domains … sea, air, land, space, and cyberspace,” the chairman said.

This requires a more flexible strategy, he said. During the Cold War, the existential threat to the United States emanated from the Soviet Union and strategy concentrated on that. Twenty years ago, this was different. The National Security Strategy of 1998 didn’t address nations threatening the U.S. homeland.

“To the extent that we talked about terrorism in 1998, we talked about the possible linkage between terrorism and weapons of mass destruction,” Dunford said. “For the most part, what we talked about were regional challenges that could be addressed regionally with coherent action within a region, not transregional challenges.”

Different threats

Transregional threats are a fact of life today and must be addressed, the general said. “What I’m suggesting to you, is in addition to the competitive advantage having eroded, the character of war has fundamentally changed in my regard in two ways,” he said. “Number one, I believe any conflict … is going to be transregional — meaning, it’s going to cut across multiple geographic areas, and in our case, multiple combatant commanders.”

Another characteristic of the character of war today is speed and speed of change, he said. “If you’re uncomfortable with change, you’re going to be very uncomfortable being involved in information technology today,” the general said. “And if you’re uncomfortable with change, you’re going to be uncomfortable with the profession of arms today because of the pace of change. It’s virtually every aspect of our profession is changing at a rate that far exceeds any other time in my career.”

Air Force special ops can’t afford the AC-130 gunship lasers

U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

(DoD Photo by U.S. Army Sgt. James K. McCann)

He noted that when he entered the military in 1977, the tactics he used with his first platoon would have been familiar to veterans of World War II or the Korean War. The equipment and tactics really hadn’t changed much in 40 years.

But take a lieutenant from 2000 and put that person in a platoon “and there’s virtually nothing in that organization that hasn’t changed in the past 16 or 17 years,” Dunford said. “This has profound impacts on our equipment, our training, the education of our people.”

This leads, he said, to the necessity of global integration. “When we think about the employment of the U.S. military, number one we’ve got to be informed by the fact that we have great power competition and we’re going to have to address that globally,” he said.

The Russian challenge is not isolated to the plains of Europe. It is a global one, he said.

“China is a global challenge” as well, Dunford added.

Global context

American plans have historically zeroed-in on a specific geographic area as a contingency, the general said. “Our development of plans is more about the process of planning and developing a common understanding and having the flexibility to deal with the problem as it arises than it is with a predictable tool that assumes things will unfold a certain way in a contingency,” he said. “So we’ve had to change our planning from a focus on a narrow geographic area to the development of global campaign plans that actually look at these problem sets in a global context. When we think about contingency planning, we have to think about contingencies that might unfold in a global context.”

This has profound implications for resource allocation, Dunford said. Forces are a limited resource and must be parceled out with the global environment in mind. “The way we prioritize and allocate forces has kind of changed from a bottom-up to a top-down process as a result of focusing on the strategy with an inventory that is not what it was relative to the challenges we faced back in the 1990s,” he said.

In the past, the defense secretary’s means of establishing priorities came through total obligation authority. The secretary would assign a portion of the budget to each one of the service departments and the services would develop capabilities informed by general standards of interoperability. At the time, this meant the American military had sufficient forces that would allow it to maintain a competitive advantage.

“Because the competitive advantage has eroded, in my judgment, the secretary is going to have to be much more focused on the guidance he gives,” Dunford said. “He not only has to prioritize the allocation of resources as we execute the budget, but he’s got to five, seven or 10 years before that, make sure that the collective efforts of the services to develop the capabilities that we need tomorrow are going to result in us having a competitive advantage on the backside.”

This fundamentally changes the force development/force design process, he said. “This is not changing because of a change in personalities. It’s not changing because different leaders are in place,” the general said. “It’s changing because the character of war has changed, the strategic environment … within which we are operating today and expect to be operating in five to seven years from now, will change. Frankly, were we to not change the fundamental processes that we have in place inside the department, we would not be able to maintain a competitive advantage five or seven years from now.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Defense. Follow @DeptofDefense on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This ship is so lethal because of its primary weapon – US Marines

One look at the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1), and you know you are looking at a powerful vessel. Just the size alone – about 40,000 tons – makes it a significant asset. But much of what makes the Wasp such a lethal ship isn’t so easy to see when you just look at her from the outside. In this case, what’s on the inside matters more.

One of the biggest changes between the Wasp-class vessels and their predecessors, the Tarawa-class amphibious assault ships, is the fact that they can operate three air-cushion landing craft, known as LCACs. Tarawas can only operate one. This is because when the Tarawa-class was being designed, the LCAC wasn’t even in the fleet.


The Wasp, of course, was able to be designed to operate more LCACs. As such, while these ships are the same size, the Wasp is able to unload the Marines on board with much more speed. Since Marines and their gear are her primary weapons, this makes her much more lethal. It doesn’t stop there.

Air Force special ops can’t afford the AC-130 gunship lasers

Despite both displacing about 40,000 tons, USS Wasp (LHD 1), the fatter ship on the left, is far more capable than USS Saipan (LHA 2).

(Photo by U.S. Navy)

The Wasp is surprisingly versatile. In Tom Clancy’s non-fiction book Marine, he noted that the Wasp-class ships in the Atlantic Fleet that are not at sea are part of the Commonwealth of Virginia’s emergency planning. The reason? These vessels can be configured as hospitals with six operating rooms and as many as 578 hospital beds.

Air Force special ops can’t afford the AC-130 gunship lasers

Yeah, she has helos, but she can also haul a couple dozen Harriers. So, pick the method of your ass-kicking: Air strikes, or 2,000 ticked-off Marines.

(Photo by U.S. Navy)

These ships can also carry MH-53E Super Stallion and MH-60S Seahawk helicopters configured for the aerial minesweeping role. During Operation Iraqi Freedom, two of the Wasp’s sister ships operated a couple of dozen AV-8B Harriers each as “Harrier carriers.”

Air Force special ops can’t afford the AC-130 gunship lasers

In a pinch, the Wasp can even refuel her escorts. Why risk a tanker when the amphibious assault ship can top off a tank?

(Photo by U.S. Navy)

The eight ships in the Wasp class will be around for a while. According to the Federation of American Scientists USS Wasp is slated to be in service until as late as 2039! Learn more about this versatile and lethal ship in the video below!

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

www.youtube.com

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This infantry fighting vehicle has the firepower of a tank

When it entered service in 1966 with the Soviet Red Army, the BMP-1 infantry fighting vehicle was revolutionary.


Like most armored personnel carriers, it could carry a squad of troops. However, it changed the game of armored warfare by adding what was at the time considered heavy armament for a troop carrier, including a 73mm gun with 40 rounds, and the AT-3 Sagger anti-tank missile.

This configuration created what may have been one of the first true infantry fighting vehicles.

The BMP became the means of carrying infantry for the Soviet Union’s tank divisions, while partially displacing the BTR armored personnel carriers in the motor rifle divisions. In the last years of the Cold War, the Soviets unveiled the BMP-3, the latest in the BMP series.

Air Force special ops can’t afford the AC-130 gunship lasers
A BMP-3 in Moscow, prior to a 2008 parade. (Wikimedia Commons)

According to MilitaryFactory.com, the BMP-3 can carry seven infantrymen and has a crew of three. However, this infantry fighting vehicle has the firepower of the T-55 main battle tank, as its primary armament is a 100mm rifled gun with 40 rounds. It still retains the capability to fire anti-tank missiles, this time the AT-10 Stabber through that 100mm gun. It also retained the 30mm autocannon on the BMP-2.

The end of the Cold War and the fall of the Soviet Union, though, meant that the BMP-3 did not get the wide production run of the BMP-1 and BMP-2. Analysts note that roughly 700 BMP-3s were built, as compared to 26,000 BMP-1s.

Air Force special ops can’t afford the AC-130 gunship lasers
The United Arab Emirates, a GCC member, offloads a BMP-3 infantry fighting vehicle at a Kuwaiti port facility from its Elbahia L62 landing craft. (U.S. Navy photo by Journalist 1st Class Joseph Krypel).

Like the earlier BMPs, the BMP-3 has been exported to Russian partner countries. The biggest non-Russian user is currently the United Arab Emirates, which has purchased over 400 of the vehicles. Others include Venezuela, Kuwait, the Ukraine, and Indonesia. Ironically, South Korea has bought some of these vehicles as well, meaning that if the crisis with North Korea goes hot, BMP-3s could be facing off against one another.

You can see a video about the BMP-3 below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=osshVnWpTkQ
MIGHTY TACTICAL

How the 65-year old B-52 Stratofortress just keeps getting better with age

Usually as planes get older, they become less capable. The Boeing B-52 Stratofortress has been a decided exception to that rule.


In fact, as it gets older it get even more deadly.

Part of this venerable bomber’s ascent to a new level of combat capability is new electronics. The short version: The B-52 is becoming “smarter” through the addition of the Combat Network Communication Technology package, or CONECT.

Air Force special ops can’t afford the AC-130 gunship lasers
Airmen assigned to the 36th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron load an inert AGM-158 Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile onto a B-52H Stratofortress during a munitions loading exercise July 13, 2016, at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Alexa Ann Henderson)

According to a 2014 Boeing release, CONECT allows a B-52 to use intelligence in real time on moving map displays, the re-targeting of weapons in flight, and also gives the BUFF a state-of-the-art computing network. This makes the B-52 a much more flexible asset, meaning ordnance doesn’t have to be brought back if the target is gone for one reason or another.

The Air Force, though, has also been tinkering with the bomb bays on the 76 B-52s in service to add the ability to carry more weapons, according to a 2014 announcement by the service. This would not be the first time such a modification was done on B-52 bomb bays.

Air Force special ops can’t afford the AC-130 gunship lasers
B-52D dropping 500-lb bombs – it was able to carry 84 internally and 24 on the wings. (Image: Wikimedia)

In 1965, the Air Force modified most of the B-52D versions of the Stratofortress to carry a lot of conventional bombs. The modifications increased the number of bombs from 27 to either 84 Mk 82 500-pound bombs or 42 750-pound M117 bombs. These bombers proved effective, first in the bombing missions in support of ground troops, then during Operation Linebacker II.

When the modification program is complete, the B-52H bombers in service will be able to carry a dozen missiles like the AGM-158 Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile on the wing pylons and eight in the bomb bay. In essence, each B-52 will be able to carry 20 weapons, as opposed to 12 — that’s a 66 percent increase in targeting capability.

It means fewer sorties, and less strain on a force that has just turned 65 years old.

Air Force special ops can’t afford the AC-130 gunship lasers
Once the modifications are done, imagine this happening 20 times per B-52. (YouTube: Lockheed Martin)

That’s not a bad thing. You can see a video about the upgrades to the B-52 below.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This ugly plane blinded enemy radar after 45 years

The naked eye can only see so far and it can’t track the really fast stuff. Radar makes up for that natural shortcoming and has become a necessity in warfare. In fact, it’s arguably the main reason that the British won the Battle of Britain.


Ever since the Battle of Britain, folks who wanted — or needed — to put bombs on target in enemy territory needed to disable enemy radar first. Blowing up enemy radar is no easy task as most military forces keep them well guarded. Thankfully, you don’t need to blow up the enemy radar — you just need to make sure it can’t see. During World War II, specialized units, like No. 100 Group of the Royal Air Force, flew a variety of planes modified with jammers with the sole purpose of disrupting radar.

 

Air Force special ops can’t afford the AC-130 gunship lasers

A U.S. Navy EA-6B Prowler from the Electronic Attack Squadron-133 out of Woodby Island, Washington, takes off from Eielson Air Force Base (AFB), Alaska, in support of exercise Northern Edge 2002. (USAF photo)

After World War II, the United States military decided they needed two planes for the job: the EF-111 Raven and the EA-6B Prowler. The Prowler entered service in 1971, replacing the EKA-3B Skywarrior, which was better known as the “Whale.”

Although both the Raven and the Prowler were modified attack planes, the Prowler hardly resembled its original after modifications. The A-6 had a crew of two while the EA-6B Prowler had a crew of four. The Prowler carries up to five pods for the ALQ-99 electronic countermeasures system. The ALQ-99 carries out what is known as “soft kills” of enemy radars and missiles. A “soft kill” doesn’t do physical damage, but instead confuses targeted systems by sending false signals, jamming enemy systems with static, or even turning displays blank.

Air Force special ops can’t afford the AC-130 gunship lasers
An EA-6B Prowler assigned to the Garudas of Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 134 lands on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Brian Stephens)

 

The EA-6B could also do the “hard-kill” work, using AGM-88 High-speed Anti-Radiation Missiles. This plane is still in service today with the United States Marine Corps and ended a 44-years term with the United States Navy in 2015.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How the Gurkhas are set to protect the Trump-Kim summit

After much back and forth, it looks like the summit between President Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un is back on schedule. The details are starting to emerge about the quickly-approaching June 12 conference, including expected talking points, the venue, and the extensive security measures in place.

Each leader is responsible for bringing their own security detail from their own nation, but the overall security is going to be overseen by none other than the world’s most intense fighting force: the Nepalese Gurkhas.

Related video:

Gurkhas have earned a reputation for being the hardest and most well-trained mercenaries in the world. They’ve formed a strong bond with the United Kingdom’s forces in East Asia and used Hong Kong as a base of operations until 1997. Today, they’re based out of the UK and are still the premier fighting force in East Asia.

Air Force special ops can’t afford the AC-130 gunship lasers
That also makes them extremely close American allies.
(Photo by William B. King)

They maintain a relatively low profile considering their legendary status in law enforcement. Recently, they watched over a security conference between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, and other East Asian ministers in Singapore.

They’ll be at it again when President Trump and Kim Jong-un meet for the first time.


Each Gurkha is rigorously trained and outfitted with some of the best armor and weaponry in the world. In addition to this high-tech armory, each Gurkha is armed with their signature khukuri knife. It’s said that this knife must draw blood each time it’s unsheathed.

Air Force special ops can’t afford the AC-130 gunship lasers
And their blades are thirsty.
(Courtesy Photo)

As Tim Huxley, an expert on Singapore’s armed forces, told Business Insider,

“They remain very much a substantial and frontline force, and the demands of this kind of event are precisely the sort of special operation that the Gurkhas are trained to handle.”

It is unknown how many Gurkhas will be deployed for the conference but the International Institute for Strategic Studies lists the total number of Gurkhas in the Singapore police at 1,800, divided among six different paramilitary companies.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Navy’s next ship will be named for this Korean War hero

On December 1, the Navy will commission a new Arleigh Burke-class destroyer named for Capt. Thomas Hudner, a pilot who landed his plane in contested territory to save his wingman who was shot down during the Battle of Chosin Reservoir.


Air Force special ops can’t afford the AC-130 gunship lasers

A Corsair fires rockets at Okinawa in World War II.

(U.S. Navy Lt. David D. Duncan)

Hudner would later receive the Medal of Honor for his actions, and now an entire destroyer crew will serve on a ship named for him.

Hudner’s wingman was Ens. Jesse L. Brown, the Navy’s first black aviator. They were piloting F4U Corsairs in support of Marines on the ground during the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir. Chinese forces had joined the war after the U.S. and democratic Koreans had nearly won it. And so, previously victorious U.S. forces were conducting a fighting withdrawal south.

Aviators had to fight tooth and nail to buy time for the withdrawing ground forces. Corsairs and other planes were sent to drop bombs and fire rockets at enemy armor and formations, then strafe for as long as they could, then re-arm, re-fuel, and re-attack.

Air Force special ops can’t afford the AC-130 gunship lasers

Ensign Jesse L. Brown, the Navy’s first black aviator, died after being shot down in December, 1950.

(U.S. Navy)

On December 4, 1950, Hudner, Brown, and four other pilots were searching for camouflaged Chinese troops in the snowy mountains. They finally found them when the snow started blinking with the muzzle flashes of Chinese riflemen firing at them.

With the Corsairs flying so low, the rifles were actually an effective anti-aircraft weapon, and Brown’s Corsair started streaming vapor. It was oil from the damaged engine, and Brown’s plane wasn’t going to make it. The ensign was going down 17 miles behind enemy lines.

The crash was rough, and the pilots in the air were worried that Brown died on impact. That was, until they saw him move. Still, Hudner was worried about Brown on the ground, exposed to the elements, especially when Brown didn’t emerge from the cockpit.

So, Hudner crash-landed his own plane.

Air Force special ops can’t afford the AC-130 gunship lasers

Lt. j.g. Thomas Hudner received the Medal of Honor from President Harry S. Truman for his attempted rescue of Ens. Jesse Brown.

(U.S. Navy)

Hudner rushed to Brown’s Corsair, only to find him trapped inside. He attempted to get him out while taking breaks to pack snow around the engine and prevent a fire. When he was unable to get Brown out, he radioed for a rescue, but even then, they couldn’t save him.

Brown died in the cockpit, and Hudner was nominated for the Medal of Honor, which he would later receive for his efforts.

The new destroyer which will bear his name is of the Arleigh Burke Class. These guided-missile destroyers use the Aegis Combat System, which can fire all sorts of missiles and rockets to target enemies on land, on the sea, under the water, and in the air. They often pop up in the news during ballistic missile tests because they can shoot down missiles in flight and even hit satellites in space.

Air Force special ops can’t afford the AC-130 gunship lasers

Members of the 1804 Concord Independent Battery render honors as the future Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Thomas Hudner (DDG 116) arrives in Boston, Massachusetts on November 26, 2018..

(U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Joshua Hammond)

But they’re also often used in Tomahawk missile strikes. The USS Higgins, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, fired 23 missiles from the North Arabian Gulf into Syria during that large strike in April.

While the destroyers cost over four times as much as littoral combat ships, smaller vessels with a similar mission set and armament, the destroyers’ eye-watering billion cost per ship is generally considered well worth the price. That’s partially because the Aegis system on the destroyer is so much more capable, but also because the Arleigh Burkes are thought to be much more survivable than the LCS variants.

The USS Thomas Hudner will be the 66th Arleigh Burke-class destroyer in the U.S. Navy.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Sorry Marines, these apps are banned from your government phones

Bitcoin, gaming and dating apps are now officially banned from government-issued Marine Corps phones. The ruling came down in mid-August that Marines are now no longer allowed to use gambling and dating apps, along with cryptocurrency applications or anything that attempts to override and bypass tools or download rules.

One of the reasons for the ban is because, like all things tech-related, the possibility of these phones become targets is very real. Smartphones are part of most Marines’ professional life, which means they’re full of compromising information. In turn, that makes them a very real target.


This order extends beyond unit issued phones to include personal cell phones. Marines are cautioned not to use any apps that the government has already deemed a risk, like TikTok and WeChat, which has already been banned by the Pentagon.

TikTok and WeChat

TikTok is a popular social media platform that allows users to upload short videos. Pentagon officials worry that the app could be used to spread misinformation and propaganda. The moderators of the platform are censoring content to appease the app’s owners in China.

TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, is based in China. There are fears that the company might share user data with the Chinese government, either intentionally through data requests or unintentionally through surveillance software.

Like TikTok, WeChat is a Chinese owned company that’s considered a ‘super-app’ because it combines the functions of financial services, travel, food delivery, ride-sharing, social media, messaging, and more. Its popularity is due in part to the fact that the Chinese government shuts out other foreign tech companies and penalizes people who try to override the laws. WeChat is known to censor and surveil their users on behalf of the government and turn over the government’s information when “sensitive information” is discovered.

This concern over American military members using Chinese-owned apps is nothing new. In fact, concerns about these two applications have been brewing for over a year. Both Microsoft and Twitter are currently in talks to acquire TikTok, but a sale could be far off and incredibly messy. Microsoft wants to buy TikTok in the US, Canada, New Zealand and Australia, but so far in the history of social media, no company has ever split up a social network along regional lines.

Mobile apps like WeChat, which have so obviously been created to be the third arm of government surveillance, pose immediate risks to military members. OPSEC becomes harder and harder to control and maintain in the digital world, and users can inadvertently give away too much information.

A Lance Corporal Learns the Ultimate Lesson

Last year, during a mock training exercise in California, a Maine lance corporal took a selfie that gave up his location, which resulted in his entire artillery unit being taken out by the mock enemy force. More than ten thousand Marines were at Twentynine Palms for an air-ground combat training mission, which was the biggest training event of its kind in decades. IN addition to Marines being present, sailors and NATO forces participated in the event.

The selfie allowed the mock enemy to geo-locate the lance corporal and his unit, which resulted in his ‘death’ and the ‘death’ of the rest of his unit. While the lance corporal learned this lesson without loss of life, others might not be so fortunate, which is one of the many reasons military leaders consistently stress the need for digital OPSEC.

The Marine Corps won’t issue numbers that show just how many Marines have tried to put dating apps, games and cryptocurrency apps on their government phones. Now, any app that can be classified into these categories is blocked from the Apple Store and Google Play. The only applications Marines can access are those that the Marine Corps has determined necessary to conduct authorized activities.

As with other branches of the military, the Marine Corps has the final say in which apps can be installed on official mobile devices.

MIGHTY MOVIES

New show takes viewers behind the scenes of Coast Guard missions

A new series follows the Coast Guard on patrols of the U.S. coastline for drug runners, smugglers, human traffickers, and those in need of rescue.

Coast Guard: Mission Critical features real missions throughout the country. It is produced by Rumline for the History channel and it’s making waves; pun intended.


Watch episode 2

The Coast Guard has been involved in other shows in the past, but this one is different. Viewers will see multiple areas of responsibility and various unique Coast Guard missions throughout its six episodes. The average day in the life of a coastie includes search and rescue operations, drug interdictions, law enforcement, security boardings, and more. The show gives a glimpse into what it’s like.

According to Commander Steven Youde, who currently serves in the Coast Guard Motion Picture and Television office, the executive producer had been wanting to create this show for years.

“I think he has had this planned all along. He wanted to go a little further and make it more diverse by including not just one location but make it Coast Guard wide,” he shared.

“A doc-series like this is really great exposure to what happens behind the scenes in the Coast Guard,” Youde explained.

He added that big drug interdictions and counter narcotic missions aren’t witnessed just for the simple fact that they happen so far out at sea. Thanks to this show, the public will get to see how it all goes down.

Air Force special ops can’t afford the AC-130 gunship lasers

Photo credit: Credit Rumline Productions

Maritime Enforcement Specialist Second Class Michael Bashe is currently a part of the Tactical Law Enforcement Team (TACLET) in Miami. These detachments are highly specialized and deployable law enforcement teams. Their mission is to conduct and support maritime law enforcement, interdiction, or security operations. He was deployed to the Coast Guard Cutter Munro in the Pacific to assist with drug interdictions and the film crew came along for the ride.

“My dad was a police officer for 25 years and was a prior Marine. He told me, ‘Coast Guard is where it’s at.’ The ME rating just came out and I knew that’s what I wanted to do. The different missions that we do as ME’s and leadership responsibilities and roles that we have is incredible,” Bashe shared.

He’s spent his entire career on ships focusing on counter narcotics. Bashe has also been deployed overseas with Patrol Forces Southwest Asia (PATFORSWA) in Bahrain to support the U.S. Navy. When Bashe returned stateside his number one pick was TACLET South in Miami.

“The rewarding feeling that you get when you have a successful interdiction is indescribable,” Bashe said.

He appears in the first three episodes when he and another TACLET member safely and successfully apprehend suspected drug smugglers. Bashe says he loves that the public gets to see this important aspect of what the Coast Guard does, but that there’s so much more.

“I like that they get to see what we do at TACLET, but I really like that they were able to integrate the small boat stations and air stations. They are such crucial parts of any coastal city,” he said.

Air Force special ops can’t afford the AC-130 gunship lasers

BM2 Hillary Burtnett. Photo credit: MK2 David Wiegman

The Coast Guard has small boat and air stations all over the country. US Coast Guard Station Marathon is located in the Florida keys and the film crew spent almost four months following coasties on their missions there. Boatswain’s Mate Second Class Hillary Burtnett was a part of the show and although she found it cumbersome to have the camera crew underfoot, she’s glad the public will get to see some of what they do.

As a female BM, Burtnett is definitely part of a heavily male dominated rate or job.

“It’s different, but the guys are very respectful. We are all a team, we are out there to get it done and work together,” she said.

Although her shipmates treat her equally, it doesn’t always happen everywhere she goes. Burtnett shared that in one of the episodes, a man they rescued became very inappropriate onboard with her.

“There was a whole bunch of stuff that they didn’t show. It was tough because I was just out there trying to do my job and he was borderline harassing me but I maintained professionalism,” Burtnett shared.

She doesn’t let it get to her though and instead chooses to focus on the mission.

Burtnett recently left US Coast Guard Station Marathon for a new adventure. She’ll be on a national security cutter headed to Bahrain. She is excited to head to a big boat again, explaining that there’s nothing like the comradery of being on one. Another aspect of the service that isn’t typically known by the public or other branches of the service: you can find coasties serving all over the world.

This show gives the public a rare, honest glimpse into the Coast Guard. Cork Friedman, Executive Producer of Rumline Productions, wants to show you even more.

“Quite honestly, most folks don’t know a fraction of what the US Coast Guard does, so my passion for creating this series is directed by three principle objectives, to show the world the diversity of missions that the Coast Guard performs each and every day, to deliver the most robust, accurate docuseries ever produced featuring the real life stories of our United States Coast Guard, and to capture the intrinsic character possessed by the men and women who wear the US Coast Guard uniform,” Friedman said.

Coast Guard: Mission Critical airs on the History channel every Saturday at 6 am or on demand through the app. It can also be viewed Sundays at 5 pm on FYI.

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.


Articles

Special mission faceoff: Delta Force versus Spetsnaz

There’s a nasty villain who’s holed himself up in a compound somewhere in BadGuyLand. Both the United States and Russia want to nab this guy – and get him bad. Then, there is a need to rescue some hostages being held at a second compound.


The United States will send elements of the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment – Delta, better known as “Delta Force.” Russia will send elite spetsnaz troops. Who do you send where?

Let’s put the movies starring Chuck Norris aside (even if they were pretty awesome – and where can I get that motorcycle?). The real Delta Force is filled with very deadly operators.

Founded in 1977, and taking over for an interim unit known as Blue Light. Some Delta operators have risen to great heights: Gen. Peter Schoomaker became Army Chief of Staff, while Lt. Gen. William G. “Jerry” Boykin rose to command Army Special Operations Command and the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center.

Delta operators are recruited from across the military, but the 75th Ranger Regiment seems to be a primary source, according to a 2006 statement during a Congressional testimony.

Air Force special ops can’t afford the AC-130 gunship lasers
Delta Force is part of Joint Special Operations Command, which targets high value individuals and terrorist groups. (Photo from U.S. Army)

Delta was primarily a counter-terrorist group, but has since evolved to carry out a variety of missions, including the capture of high-value targets.

One such operation in 1993 turned into the Battle of Mogadishu. The unit was also involved in the capture of an ISIS chemical weapons expert this year, and reportedly also helped capture the Mexican drug lord known as “El Chapo” this past Janaury.

During Operation Just Cause, Delta operatives rescued Kurt Muse from one of Noriega’s prisons. Delta also carried out a major raid on an ISIS prison in Oct. 2015 that freed seven prisoners. Sergeant 1st Class Josh Wheeler was killed in the raid.

Russia’s spetsnaz were created for a different purpose.

Founded by the Soviet Union, they worked for the Main Intelligence Directorate, known as the GRU. Their mission was to track down and destroy American tactical and theater nuclear systems like the MGR-3 Little John and the MGM-31 Pershing missile.

But their mission evolved into hunting other targets.

When the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, spetsznaz took out the Afghan president. Spetsnaz have also seen action in Russia’s intervention in the Ukraine, the 2008 Russo-Georgian War, and the Syrian civil war. Russia trained a lot of them – according to Viktor Suvarov, a defecting Soviet officer, there were 20 brigades and 41 companies of spetsnaz in 1978.

That number went up after the invasion of Afghanistan.

Air Force special ops can’t afford the AC-130 gunship lasers
Russian Spetsnaz in small arms training.

Spetsnaz and Delta each boast the usual small arms (assault rifles and pistols). The spetsznaz have some unique specialized gear, like the NRS-2 survival knife that can fire a pistol round, and the VSS Vintorez sniper rifle that is capable of select-fire. The large size of spetsnaz – 12 formations of brigade or regimental size in 2012 – means that they are not as selective as Delta.

So, who do you send where? Since the spetsnaz are almost mass-produced, it makes more sense to send them after the high-value target. If the guy lives to be turned over to people like Jose Rodriguez and James Mitchell who can… encourage him to talk, fine.

But Delta Force will be needed for the hostage rescue mission, since they have performed it very well in the past.

MIGHTY MOVIES

5 supporting characters you’d want in your squad

War movies are known for their big explosions, epic firefights, and fearless heroes who save the day against an overwhelming, opposing force.


The main characters receive 99.9% of the credit for winning battles, leaving very little recognition for others in the squad, who efficiently executed the orders given to them while under insane pressure.

This article pays homage to those supporting troops.

Related: 7 reasons why you’d want ‘Pvt. Pyle’ in your infantry squad

These are the five supporting characters you’d want in your squad.

5. Rhah (Platoon)

Although we don’t get much of his backstory, as soon as he takes the screen, we know Rhah is someone the troops can trust. Hell, he’s the one who tells us just how hardcore Sgt. Barnes can be.

Rhah is tough enough to survive the film’s final firefight, holding just his rifle and that barbed-wire rod thingy. He even manages to victoriously celebrate with a loud grunt as he sees his pal, Chris Taylor, evacuated alive from the war zone.

Air Force special ops can’t afford the AC-130 gunship lasers
One of our favorite war movie characters, Rhah. (Image from Orion Pictures)

4. Hoot (Black Hawk Down)

Considered the real hero of the film, Hoot believes bringing home all your men is the most critical aspect of any mission. He heroically dismounts his vehicle in the middle of a rescue mission, knowing that moving into the overrun city on foot is the most productive way to save his allies.

Never once does the audience suspect he has any fear in his heart, nor would he ever lost his cool during a firefight. For those reasons, we’d want him in our squad.

Air Force special ops can’t afford the AC-130 gunship lasers
Oh! Let’s not forget that his trigger finger is his safety. (Image from Columbia Pictures)

3. Tania Chernova (Enemy at the Gates)

Women have played a huge part in fighting their nations’ wars. That being said, they’ve gone uncredited for many outstanding military achievements in combat roles for a long time now.

Many people don’t know that Chernova was a real Soviet troop who effectively targeted her German enemies. Reportedly, she had 40 confirmed kills during her time serving in World War II. We’d love to bring Chernova’s sniping skills into our squad as we continue to fight the War on Terror.

Air Force special ops can’t afford the AC-130 gunship lasers
Tania Chernova, a talented sniper. (Image from Paramount Pictures)

2. Animal Mother (Full Metal Jacket)

Animal Mother is one of our all-time favorite war movie characters, as he has no problem busting out his M60 during a firefight. This big Marine is known for running into the face of danger for his brothers without hesitation.

For that reason alone, we’d want him in our squad.

Air Force special ops can’t afford the AC-130 gunship lasers

Also Read: 6 things you’d never hear a Marine recruiter say

1. Pvt. Jackson (Saving Private Ryan)

Who doesn’t want a talented sniper with a heart of gold in their squad? This praying man and talented shot nailed another German sniper right through his scope while it was raining cats and dogs.

Not only could he successfully aim under extreme pressure, but he also took orders like a champ as he ran out in the open, on his own and with little covering fire, to set up a small, strategic shooting post on D-Day.

Air Force special ops can’t afford the AC-130 gunship lasers
Pvt. Jackson as he shoots down his German enemies from a bell tower in Saving Private Ryan. (Image from DreamWorks)

Can you think of any others? Let us know.

Humor

5 things infantrymen love about the ‘woobie’

Though only a select few civilians even know of its existence, the “woobie” is cherished by all Marine and Army infantrymen, enlisted/commissioned, from Vietnam to the present.


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There are two kinds of infantry: Those who gladly pay the embarrassingly undervalued $42.95 reimbursement fee to TMO so they can keep their precious, and those who live with shame and regret for the rest of their days.

This is for the rest of you, not yet acquainted with absolute benevolence.

Related: 5 ways Marines are like ancient Spartans

5. The woobie maintains perfect homeostasis

From the frigid mountains of Afghanistan to the jungles of Vietnam, the U.S. infantry fight our country’s battles in the air, on land, and at sea, but not without that one piece of military-issued comfort: the woobie.

She keeps you warm when it’s cold out, and cool in the hot summer — we freakin’ love that.

Air Force special ops can’t afford the AC-130 gunship lasers
For casual comfort!

4. It can conceal you while you sleep

Originally olive drab, the woobie has evolved into some of the best camouflage around for the infantry warrior. The woobie is currently sporting digital camouflage, appropriate to whichever branch it honorably serves.

Air Force special ops can’t afford the AC-130 gunship lasers
Sleep tight, buddy.

3. It dries quickly when wet

Not everyone knows how truly miserable it is being wet for long stretches of time, but all infantrymen do. Google the term “trench foot” and you’ll quickly see that there’s nothing good about staying wet.

The woobie dries fast, and all infantry grunts praise her for it.

Air Force special ops can’t afford the AC-130 gunship lasers
Air dry!

2. Don’t forget, it provides shelter when there is none

No shelter? No problem. If you have two packs and two poncho liners, you’re good to go. In fact, the more infantrymen, the more elaborate the structure you can construct by tieing them together. The woobie comes equipped with lashings on each corner and the sides, allowing for creative architecture.

Remember when you were a kid and blanket forts were a thing? It’s the same in the military, except with full-grown men and their arsenal huddled inside.

Air Force special ops can’t afford the AC-130 gunship lasers
A home away from home.

Also Read: The 7 best things about Air Force bases, according to a Marine

1. Plus, it’s green!

And not just the color green, though it usually is. The original woobies were fielded by special forces in 1962, and around 1963, the second generation of woobie was created utilizing WWII duck-hunter-patterned parachute fabric. The fabric entrusted with soldiers’ lives was recycled, reshaped, and repurposed to continue its contributions to a more substantial demographic.

The woobie is a staple of any infantryman’s loadout, and though it may follow the poncho on gear lists, the woobie follows nothing in infantrymen’s hearts. Warriors unite over its capabilities, and we honor woobie for all that it does.

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