A US Air Force general said this week that the US needs a lot more bombers if it is going to stand up to great power rivals like China and Russia.
Speaking at the Air Force Association’s Air-Space and Cyber Conference, Gen. Timothy Ray, an Air Force four-star who heads Global Strike Command, said that the number of US bombers needs to increase from 156 to at least 225, although he says the number probably actually needs to be much higher.
“The number is north of 225,” Ray revealed at the conference, according to the Warrior Maven, a defense publication.
“There are currently only 156 US strategic bombers,” the general explained, according to a Department of Defense news report. “But, studies have shown that between 225 and 386 are needed to get the US to the low-risk posture.”
An Air Force B-2 Spirit bomber performs a touch-and-go maneuver at Royal Air Base Fairford, England, Sept. 11, 2019.
(Photo by Air Force Senior Airman Thomas Barley)
Last fall, the Air Force announced plans to increase the number of squadrons from 312 to 386, with each squadron consisting of eight to 24 planes depending on the airframe.
“The Air Force is too small for what the nation is asking us to do,” former Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson said. “We have 312 operational squadrons today. The Air Force we need has 386 operational squadrons by 2030.”
At the end of the Cold War, the Air Force had 401 squadrons, but that number shrank as the US focused its attention on the counterinsurgency fight. As the US shifts its focus back to great power competition, the service is pushing for a larger fighting force.
“Certainly,” Ray said, according to Breaking Defense, “that means good growth for the bombers. “The plan would see the addition of at least five more bomber squadrons.
Under this plan, Defense News reported this week, the force size requirement for bomber aircraft is 225 planes. But, the retirement of aging bomber aircraft, even with new bombers like the B-21 coming online in a few years, is expected to keep numbers below 200.
U.S. Air Force artist rendering of the Northrop Grumman B-21 bomber.
(U.S. Air Force Graphic)
The US has also had trouble maintaining its bomber fleet.
In July 2019, it was revealed that while the US has a total of 61 B-1B Lancers, only six of the supersonic heavy bombers are fully mission capable, meaning that this aircraft has an abysmal readiness rate of only 11 percent.
“Unfortunately, the Air Force has been consistently under-resourced for over 20 years. As a result, the U.S. Air Force is the oldest, smallest, and least ready in the entire history of its existence,” retired Lt. Gen. David Deptula, Dean of the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies, told Warrior Maven. “We are no longer facing near-peers, but peers given the advancements in the Chinese and Russian military.”
In addition to calling attention to the need for a more robust bomber force, Ray also expressed concern about other elements of the nuclear triad outside of the bomber force, noting the ages of the US Minuteman intercontinental ballistic missiles and submarines that carry ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Eight Ivy Division snipers with the 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team field tested an upgrade to the Army’s sniper rifle in the shadows of the fabled Rocky Mountains.
Engineered as an upgrade to the M110 Semi-Automatic Sniper System, the Compact, Semi-Automatic Sniper Rifle (CSASS) was redesigned to enhance a sniper’s capability to perform missions with greater lethality and survivability, according to Maj. Mindy Brown, CSASS test officer with the Fort Hood, Texas-based U.S. Army Operational test Command.
Upgrades being tested include increased accuracy, plus other ergonomic features like reduced weight and operations with or without a suppressor.
A sniper team fires the M110E1 Compact, Semi-Automatic Sniper Rifle (CSASS) in Mission Oriented Protective Posture (MOPP) gear during operational testing at Fort Carson, Colo.
(Photo by Maj. Michael P. Brabner)
Brown said the purpose of the operational test is to collect performance data and soldier feedback to inform the Army’s procurement decision regarding the rifle.
“We do this by having the snipers employ the system in the manner and the environment they would in combat,” Brown said.
“In doing this, we achieve a twofold benefit for the Army as we test modernization efforts while simultaneously building unit — or in this case — sniper readiness.”
She went on to explain how the 2nd IBCT snipers stressed the rifles as only operators can, during the 10-day record test.
The snipers fired 8,000 rounds from various positions while wearing individual protective and tactical equipment as well as their Ghillie suits and cold weather gear.
A sniper engages targets from behind a barrier during the short-range tactical scenario of the Compact, Semi-Automatic Sniper Rifle (CSASS) operational test at Fort Carson, Colo.
(Photo by Maj. Michael P. Brabner)
To also test how the CSASS allowed snipers to shoot, move, and communicate in a realistic combat environment, they also executed Situational Training Exercise (STX) force-on-force missions in what they described as, “the best sniper training they’d received since attending Sniper School at Fort Benning, Ga.”
The 2nd IBCT snipers really pushed each other, testing the CSASS in what evolved into a competitive environment on the ranges.
“Despite single-digit frigid temperatures, gusting winds, and wet snow, the snipers really impressed me with their levels of motivation and competitive drive to outshoot each other,” said Sgt. 1st Class Isidro Pardo, CSASS Test Team NCOIC with OTC’s Maneuver Test Directorate.
An agreed upon highlight of the test among the snipers was the force-on-force day and night STX Lanes.
A test sniper occupies an observation post and conducts counter-sniper operations on a dismounted Situational Tactical Exercise Lane at Fort Carson, Colo..
(Photo by Maj. Michael P. Brabner)
Sniper teams were pitted against one another on tactical lanes in natural environmental and Urban Terrain to see who could infiltrate, detect, and engage whom first.
Staff Sgt. Cameron Canales, from Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment said, “The force-on-force STX lanes were an extremely fantastic way for us as snipers to hone our field craft.”
One other sniper, Sgt. 1st Class Cecil Sherwood, from Headquarters Troop, 3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment said he really enjoyed all the “trigger time” with the CSASS.
A test sniper engages targets identified by his spotter while wearing a Ghillie suit during the Compact, Semi-Automatic Sniper Rifle (CSASS) operational test at Fort Carson, Colo.
(Photo by Maj. Michael P. Brabner)
Sherwood said he was able to learn from the other test snipers and improve his field craft.
“In a regular sniper section, I would never get this much trigger time with a sniper rifle or be issued nearly as much ammunition to train with in a fiscal year, let alone a 10-day period,” he said.
While OTC celebrates its 50th Anniversary, 2nd IBCT snipers and OTC’s CSASS Test Team are a testament to the importance of the half century relationship between the Operational Force and the test community.
“As we move into a period of focused modernization, now, more than ever, that relationship is decisive to ensuring only the best materiel capability solutions make it into the hands of the men and women in uniform serving on the front lines around the world and at home,” Brown said.
In 1986, the Naval Institute Press published Flight of the Intruder, the debut novel of Vietnam veteran Stephen Coonts. The book was an immediate hit. It held a place on the New York Times Bestsellers list for weeks on end, just as Tom Clancy’s debut thriller, The Hunt for Red October, had done a couple years earlier, in 1984. The true star of that novel (apologies to Jake Grafton, the leading human in the story) was the Grumman A-6 Intruder, an all-weather attack plane.
The Hunt for Red October was made into a film and it was a smash hit. So, it seemed only natural that the movie adaption of Flight of the Intruder was a sure thing, too. It hit theaters in January, 1991. It cost $30 million to make and grossed less than half of that at the box office, managing a paltry $14,587,732. Top Gun, it was not.
From that moment on, airmen had a new motto: “Fighter pilots make movies, attack pilots make… sh*tty movies.”
But it’s not right to assume that a sh*tty movie is the lasting legacy of the A-6. In fact, it’s downright unfair. The Intruder had a long, distinguished, and honorable career as an all-weather, carrier-based attack plane, that spanned 37 years. It took flight for the first time during the last year of the Eisenhower administration (1960) and coasted into retirement by 1997.
An A-6 prepares to launch from USS Enterprise (CVN 65).
The A-6 Intruder was intended to replace a legend, the A-1 Skyraider — and it was equipped for the job.
The A-6 had a top speed of 644 miles per hour, a maximum range of 1,081 miles, and five hardpoints capable of carrying up to 18,000 pounds of bombs. The Intruder, at various times, also packed laser-guided bombs, like the GBU-12 and GBU-10, AGM-45 Shrike anti-radar missiles, AGM-78 Standard ARM anti-radar missiles, AGM-65 Maverick air-to-ground missiles, and AGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missiles.
The upgraded A-F made it to the prototype stage, but met the big bad budget axe.
However, by the time Flight of the Intruder hit theaters, the A-6 was on its way out the door. The A-12 Avenger had been cancelled by then-Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney, but not before he had also axed the A-6F and A-6G, improved versions of the Intruder. The plane was retired in 1997 and replaced by the F/A-18 Hornet.
Learn more about this all-weather attack plane that went on to bomb at the box office in the video below.
When things get squirrely, military vets have several advantages over career civilians. Vets, of course, have the benefit of combat and tactical training, but they’ve also learned to develop a formidable mental game.
Former Green Beret Mike Glover used this notion as inspiration and a jumping off point when he founded Fieldcraft Survival, his school for disaster preparedness.
With 18 years of deep operational experience, certifications out the wazoo (just check his founder’s bio), and a doomsday sense of humor that would make Mad Max proud, Glover is uniquely qualified to teach civilians to keep their heads and preserve their lives as the worst case scenario unfolds.
“At Fieldcraft, our whole basic motto is we’re teaching mindset over hard skills.”
Things, of course, got extra squirrely when Oscar Mike host Ryan Curtis dropped in for a visit.
Glover hustled Curtis right into training, first in the classroom to reinforce the importance of developing a strong mental game and then in the field, where the two ran through the O.P.S. Course, which stands for Observe, Prepare, Survive.
And just as the word “challenge” was leaving Curtis’ mouth a distant cry of distress told our heroes it was time to oil up for action.
What happened next pretty much sums up the whole series.
Watch as Glover teaches this wannabe Martin Riggs the real meaning of the word “squirrely”, in the video embedded at the top.
By the time May 1, 2019, rolls around, American troops will have rolled out of Syria entirely, according to the Wall Street Journal. The plan calls for a complete American withdrawal from the country after the last vestiges of ISIS territory have been captured by the various anti-ISIS factions in the country.
As of February, the remaining Islamic State fighters and their families are fleeing whatever strips of territory still under its control in Syria as President Donald Trump doubled down on his assertion that the Islamic State had been defeated in Syria and the time is right for American troops to return to their home bases.
Anti-ISIS Kurdish fighters pose with a captured ISIS flag.
The United States did not break the back of ISIS over the past five years on its own. Kurdish forces from Syria and Iraq, along with fighters from other various factions were led by U.S. forces in Syria, either through air cover, artillery support, and direction from American special operations troops. As of yet, there is no plan in place to secure these Syrian fighters, known as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), once their American support is gone.
President Trump’s current timeline is set to pull a significant number of American troops out of Syria by mid-March, 2019, with a full withdrawal coming by the end of April. After that time, Kurdish fighters on the ground will be open to retaliation from Turkish forces operating in Syria, who consider the Kurds terrorists in their own right. Also fighting the Kurds will be other Islamic militant groups still operating, as well as Russian-backed Syrian government troops.
A U.S. armored vehicle in Al-Hasakah meets with Kurdish YPG fighters in Kurdish-held territory in Northern Syria, May, 2017.
The United States is trying to reach a political agreement with the Turkish government to protect the Kurdish fighters, who did the bulk of the fighting against ISIS on the ground. Given the current timetable for withdrawal, an agreement seems unlikely unless the U.S. military slows its process. Kurdish allies will no doubt express alarm at the removal of the 2,000 Americans in Syria.
Pentagon spokespeople and the United States Central Command have all expressed that there is no official timeline for withdrawal, and no conditions are fixed for a removal of Americans from the country, but equipment and materiel support for the troops has already begun to move out of Syria.
The air war over Vietnam saw some incredible dog fights, but it still may surprise you to learn that the mighty B-52 heavy bomber successfully shot down not one but two Vietnamese Mig 21 fighter jets near the tail end of the conflict.
The venerable Boeing B-52 Stratofortress has been flying since 1952, and thanks to a series of upgrades, will continue to for decades to come. The massive jet bomber may have been designed in the 1940s (in fact, it was designed almost entirely in a single weekend), but its massive airframe and eight jet engine-design have proven so capable over the years that the B-52 is now expected to outlast newer bombers that were developed to replace it. As the B-21 Raider inches toward production, both America’s B-2 Spirit (stealth bomber) and B-1B Lancer (supersonic bomber) are expected to be put out to pasture, while the legendary B-52 keeps right on flying.
The B-52 BUFF (as service members tend to call it) has been flying combat missions for so long that it actually used to come equipped with a tail gunner position to defend the slow and steady bomber against encroaching fighters. Of course, as fighter technology continued to improve, the United States moved away from manning guns on their heavy payload bombers and toward flying with their own fighter escorts. While most people tend to think of World War II when they imagine gun turrets on a bomber, the most recent enemy fighter to be shot down by a B-52’s guns was actually in the 1970s.
It was Christmas eve in 1972, and the B-52D bomber known as Diamond Lil was flying a bombing run over Thai Nguyen when its tail gunner, Airman 1st Class Albert Moore, spotted a Soviet-built Vietnamese Mig-21 closing with them fast.
“I observed a target in my radar scope 8:30 o’clock, low at 8 miles,” Moore wrote six days later in a formal statement. “I immediately notified the crew, and the bogie started closing rapidly. It stabilized at 4,000 yards 6:30 o’clock. I called the pilot for evasive action and the EWO (electronic warfare officer) for chaff and flares.”
For Moore, it had to be a nerve-racking moment. Only one other B-52 tail gunner had scored a successful kill against a Vietnamese fighter, though more than 30 B-52s had been shot down throughout the conflict. In fact, the first time a B-52 had ever shot down a Mig had only happened a few days prior. In other words, the odds seemed pretty squarely stacked against Moore and his crew.
“When the target got to 2,000 yards, I notified the crew that I was firing. I fired at the bandit until it ballooned to 3 times in intensity then suddenly disappeared from my radar scope at approximately 1,200 yards, 6:30 low. I expended 800 rounds in 3 bursts.”
Those 800 rounds poured out of Moore’s four .50 caliber M3 Machine Guns. The kill was confirmed by another tail gunner named Tech. Sgt. Clarence Chute, who was aboard a nearby B-52 called Ruby 2.
“I went visual and saw the bandit on fire and falling away,” wrote Sergeant Chute. “Several pieces of the aircraft exploded, and the fire-ball disappeared in the undercast at my 6:30 position.”
Moore would go down in history as not only the second B-52 gunner to score a kill against a Mig, but also as the last bomber-gunner to ever engage enemy fighters in American service, despite tail guns surviving on the B-52 until the 1990s.
Today, the B-52 remains in service as an essential part of America’s nuclear triad, and believe it or not, as a close air support aircraft in uncontested airspace. The B-52’s long loiter time and massive payload magazine make it an excellent choice for precision strikes against ground targets, where it’s seen use in both Iraq and Afghanistan in recent years. Thanks to a slew of cockpit upgrades and improved weapon system storage, the Air Force intends to keep flying the mighty BUFF past the century mark, with some B-52s expected to remain in service as late as 2060.
Since man was first able to attach weapons and reconnaissance equipment to planes, the U.S. and its allies have been deploying them into enemy airspace. Known for maintaining air superiority, the U.S. has developed some outstanding aerial technology that has long given allied forces the edge in conflicts.
Sure, not all the planes that we’ve developed over the years have earned a place in the history books, but these well-designed aircraft are so badass that they’ve become household names — or soon will be.
This mass-produced, single-pilot fighter was an essential component in maintaining aerial dominance throughout World War II. This unique plane saw incredible action at the hands of some epic pilots and is responsible for taking down several enemy aircraft during the Battle of Britain.
Powered by a Merlin engine and capable of reaching a maximum speed of 360 miles per hour, the Spitfire could blaze its eight wing-mounted, 0.303-inch machine guns at the touch of a button.
Famous for its central role in Tony Scott’s Top Gun, the F-14 was the Navy’s go-to jet fighter for several decades. Designed as a long-range interceptor, the Tomcat is capable of speeds in excess of Mach 2.
The Tomcat was so well-designed and capable that the Navy had to expressly prohibit pilots from performing five aerial maneuvers. This list of forbidden stunts includes some negative-G maneuvers and rolling with an angle of bank change more significant than 360 degrees — all made possible by the Tomcat’s extreme performance.
This twin-engine, all-weather plane hit top speeds faster than twice the speed of sound using two General Electric J79-GE-17 engines, making it one of the most versatile fighters ever built. Introduced in 1960, the Phantom became famous as it completed missions over the jungles of Vietnam.
The Air Force, the Navy, and the Marine Corps all used the Phantom to test various missile systems due to its well-manufactured configuration.
When a mission requires that the opponent’s air-defense systems be rendered useless so that allied forces can get in undetected, the EA-18G Growler gets called up. This sentinel of the skies is equipped with receivers on each wing tip, which give it the ability to search for radar signals and locate an enemy’s surface-to-air missile systems.
If a threat is detected, the Growler activates one of three jamming pods stored underneath the jet’s centerline. This overwhelms ground radar by sending out electronic noise, allowing coalition aircraft to sneak by undetected.
The Nighthawk was the first aircraft designed to exploit low-observable stealth technology. This sneaky aerial marvel first arrived on the market in 1982 and was discreetly utilized during the Gulf War.
The well-designed aircraft was equipped with a payload of two 2,000-pound GBU-27 laser-guided bombs that crippled Iraqi electrical power stations, military headquarters, and biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons plants.
Lockheed Martin developed the SR-71 Blackbird as a long-range reconnaissance aircraft that could hit air speeds of over Mach 3.2 (2,455 mph) and climb to an altitude of 85,000 feet. In March, 1968, the first operational Blackbird was flown out of Kadena AFB in Japan.
With the Vietnam war in full swing, Blackbird was to conduct stealth missions by gathering photographs and electronic intelligence against the enemy.
The Arena active protection system is a Russian tanker’s answer to rocket-propelled grenades and anti-tank missiles.
Unlike reactive armor which neutralizes impacts with an outward blast of its own, the Arena system aims to avoid impacts altogether by intercepting incoming threats with projectiles. It’s also more technical in that it uses a multi-function Doppler radar and digital computer scans that arc around the tank like an invisible forcefield. Its computer system has a reaction time of 0.05 seconds and protects most of the tank except for the area behind the turret.
Here’s the step-by-step explanation of how the system works:
The Arena active protection system forms an invisible protection barrier around the perimeter of the tank.
Once a weapon crosses its perimeter, the Arena system deploys its projectiles to intercept the threat.
The Arena’s weak spot is the area behind the turret, which could be the front or the back of the tank depending on the gun’s position.
The entire sequence literally takes place in a blink of the eye.
Here’s the same shot from a different angle.
Here is the entire sequence in super slow-motion.
Watch the Arena active protection system test video:
Wondering what it takes to cut the mustard in Special Forces selection?
The time of my first (just) two-year enlistment in the Army was coming to an end. I originally enlisted for the shortest amount of time in the Army in the event that if I really hated it too much I only ever had two years to endure. There were two things that I was positively certain of:
I really DID want to stay in the Army
I really did NOT want to stay right where I was in the Army
It wasn’t a matter of being so fervent about wanting to excel into the ranks of Special Forces soldiers at that time; rather, it was the matter of getting away — far away — from the attitudes and caliber of persons I was serving with at the time in the peace- time Army as it was. I understood, so I thought, that the way to ensure I could distance myself from the regular army aura was to go into Special Forces, namely the Green Berets.
(Special Forces Regimental insignia)
That was a great path forward, but with a near insurmountable obstacle — you had to be a paratrooper! Jumping from an airplane in flight was fine by me, the problem associated with that was that most airplanes had to be really high up before you jumped out of them. I was then as I am still horrendously terrified of heights — woe is me! My fear of altitudes was keeping me from going to Airborne Jump School and stuck in my current morass of resolve.
Well, just two short years in the regular “go nowhere, do nothing” Army and I was ready to jump out of high-in-the-sky airplanes parachute or no parachute. I was ready to jump ship!
Jump School was indeed terrifying despite the small number of jumps, just five, that we were required to make. All of the jumps were in the daytime though mine were all night jumps. All that is required to qualify as a night jump is to simply close one’s eyes. I did. I figured there was nothing so pressing to see while falling and waiting for the intense tug of the opening of the parachute, so I just closed my eyes.
(Every jump can potentially be a night jump, so says I — Wikipedia commons)
There were 25 of us paratroops headed to the Special Forces Qualification Course (SFQC) upon graduation from Jump School. I was the highest ranking man even as an E-4 in the group, so I was designated the person in charge of the charter bus ride from Jump School to Ft. Bragg, NC for the course — of course! I imagined that duty would not entail much on a bus ride of just a few hours. I was shocked when approached by two men from my group who wished to terminate their status as Green Beret candidates.
Well, the course certainly MUST be hard if men are quitting already on the bus ride to the course.
“Sure fellows, but can you at least wait until we get to Bragg to quit?” I pleaded.
Once at Ft. Bragg, it was our understanding that we were on a two-week wait for our SFQC class to begin. Our first week we tooled about doing essentially nothing but dodging work details like cutting grass and picking up pine cones. The second week was an event that the instructors called “Pre-Phase,” a term that I didn’t like the sound of and braced for impact.
“Pre-Phase,” in my (humble) opinion, was a pointless and disorganized suck-athon. It was a non-stop hazing with back-breaking, butt-kicking, physical events determined to crush the weak and eliminate the faint of heart. In the end we had a fraction of the number of candidates that we started with. I noted that of the 25 men I brought over from Jump School, only me and one other very reserved soldier survived. We nodded at each other and shook hands at the culmination of the mysterious Pre-Phase.
“Good job, brother-man!” I praised him.
“Thank you; my name is Gabrial, you can call me Gabe,” he introduced.
“Great job, Gabe — George is my name — please, call me Geo!” I invited.
The documented entry-level criteria included the ability to pass the standard Army Physical Readiness Fitness Test (APRFT) in a lofty percentile, though one I am loath to admit I do not remember. There was also a swim test that was required of us to perform wearing combat fatigues, combat boots, and carrying an M-16 assault rifle.
We did it in the post swimming pool. It was a bit of a challenge but by no means a threat to my status as a candidate. I was nonetheless dismayed at several men who were not able to pass it after having gone through all they had. It was sad.
(Special Forces have a charter for conducting surface and subsurface water operations — Wikipedia commons)
The first month of the SFQC was very impressive to me as a young man barely 20 years old. It was all conducted at a remote camp in the woods where we lived in structures made of wood frames and tar paper — barely a departure at all from the outdoor environment. We endured many (MANY) surprise forced marches of unknown distance, very heavy loads, and extreme speed that were hardly distinguishable from a full run.
Aside from the more didactic classroom environment learning skills of every sort, there were the constant largely physical strength and endurance events like hand-to-hand combat training, combat patrolling, rope bridge construction with river crossings, obstacle course negotiating, living and operating in heavily wooded environments. We learned to kill and prepare wild game for meals: rabbits, squirrels, goats, and snakes. Hence the age-old term for Special Forces soldiers — “Snake Eaters,” a moniker I bore with proud distinction.
(Survival skills are essential in Special Forces — Wikipedia Commons)
We all had to endure a survival exercise of several days alone. There were dozens of tasks associated with that exercise that we had to accomplish in those days: building shelter, starting and maintaining a fire for heat and cooking, building snares and traps to catch animals for food, and building an apparatus to determine time of day and cardinal directions.
Since the same land was used time after time by the survival training, it was understood by the cadre that the land was pretty much hunted out, leaving no animals to speak of for food. Therefore there was a set day and time that a truck was scheduled to drive by each candidate’s camp to throw an animal off of the back. When the animal hit the ground it became stunned and disoriented. We had just seconds to profit from the animal’s stupor to spring in and catch it before it ran away… or go hungry for the duration.
Hence the sundial I built and my track of the days, to have myself in position to capture my animal when the time came. The time and the truck came. I crouched along the side of the terrain road. The cadre slung a thing that was white from the truck. It hit the ground and was stunned. I pounced on what turned out to be a white bunny rabbit.
“Oh… my God!” I lamented earnestly in my weakened physical and mental capacity, “I’ve stumbled into Alice in Wonderland’s enchanted forest… I can’t eat the White Rabbit!”
(He’s late, he’s late, for a very important date — Wikipedia Commons)
Some men were unfortunately unable to capture their rabbits in time before they ran away. One man was overcome by grief at the prospect of killing his rabbit — his only source of companionship. He rather built a cage for it and graced it with a share of the paltry source of food that he had. Me, I was a loner and swung my Cheshire rabbit by the hind legs head-first into a tree. I ate that night in solace and in the company of just myself.
Men who could no longer continue sat on the roadside each morning and waited for a truck, one that I referred to in disdain as the hearse, to be picked up and removed from the course. One of them was carrying a cage lovingly constructed from sticks and vines in which sat therein a nibbling white rabbit. The man was washed out of the course for failing tasks, backed up by quitting. There was no potential for a man to return for a second time if he had quit on his first try — quitting was not an option.
The event that cut the greatest swath through the candidate numbers was the individual land navigation event. It lasted a week or so with some hands-on cadre-lead instruction, some time for individual practice, culminating in a period of several days and nights of individual tests. The movements were long, the terrain difficult, the stress level very high. Every leg of the navigation course was measured on time and accuracy — we had to be totally accurate on every move, and within the speed standard.
(SF troop candidate during Land Navigation Phase of SFQC moves quickly with heavy loads — DVIDS)
I recall a particular night when all of us lay in our pup tents waiting for our release time to begin our night movements. Just as the hour was on us a monumental torrent of rain began to gush down. The men scrambled and clambered back to their tents like wet alley cats. I performed a simple mathematical equation in my head:
time equals distance
hiding in a tent for an undetermined period equals zero time
zero time equals zero distance
choosing one’s personal comfort over time equals failure
I had a Grandma Whipple’s rum-soaked cigar clenched tightly in my teeth; it was lit before the rain but no more, and I assure you most fervently that it was never in any way Cuban! Plowing through the vegetation for many minutes I came to a modest clearing that I came to be very familiar with over the days. It told me that I was thankfully on course for the moment. The rain was tapering off generously and I felt a leg up on the navigation for the night.
I reached for my cigar but there was none there save the mere butt that remained clenched in my teach. To my disgust the waterlogged cigar had collapsed under its weight and lay in a mushy black track down my chin and neck edging glacially toward my chest. There would be no comfort of the smoke, nor deterrence of mosquitoes by the smoke of the Grandma Whipple’s rum-soaked positively non-cuban cigar that night.
More than five months later I sat on my rucksack (backpack) of some 50 lbs just having completed a timed 12-mile forced ruck march, nothing any longer between me and graduation from the SFQC course. There were plenty of things to think of that had happened or did not happen to me over the nearly half-year, though I somehow chose the bus ride from Jump School to Ft. Bragg to ponder. How rowdy and arrogant the crowd had been, all pompously sporting green berets that they hadn’t even earned yet. Me, I had chosen to wear my Army garrison cap — nothing fancy.
I filtered through the events that had taken each man who had not already quit from that arduous bus ride from Jump School. I remember how they had all failed or quit one by one except that one brother whose hand I shook at the end of pre-phase.
Buses pulled up to move us back to some nice barracks for the night, some barrack at least 12 miles away by my calculation. Usually everyone snatched up his own rucksack by his damned self, but on this occasion the brother next to me pulled up my rucksack to shoulder height for me in a congratulatory gesture of kindness.
I in turn grabbed his rucksack in the same manner though with a deep admiration and respect for the man who had come all the way with me from Jump School through the SFQC fueled by reserved professionalism. His name was Gabriel, but I just called him Gabe.
For the last three years, engineers and project officers from Marine Corps Systems Command have descended on the island of Oahu to put new technology to the test.
In the fall, MCSC — along with Marines from the 3rd Marine Regiment and partner organizations from the requirements community — conducted the “Island Marauder” technology demonstration to integrate and evaluate emerging technologies with existing Marine Corps gear to help inform future capability decisions for the Corps.
“We conducted the Island Marauder technology demo to see if mature but leading edge command and control technologies work when we integrate them with our fielded systems,” said Basil Moncrief, Networking-on-the-Move team leader at MCSC. “We also wanted to see what fleet Marines thought about the emerging technology. [Island Marauder] helps Headquarters Marine Corps and the Marine Corps Tactics and Operations Group validate that the emerging technology supports or enhances the latest warfighting tactics and strategies they want to pursue.”
Marines use an armored vehicle equipped with the Networking-on-the-Move satellite communication system during the Island Marauder Technology Demonstration.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo)
The demonstration included one week of intensive, hands-on field engineering and system integration, and a second week of VIP demonstrations. Most of the tactical command and control — or C2 — capability was integrated into a battlefield network controlled through the 3rd Marines’ Networking-on-the-Move Systems. NOTM is a vehicle-mounted satellite communication system that extends C2 for commanders and their staffs while on the move and beyond line of site at the tactical edge.
Developed by MCSC, NOTM has been fielded to all three Marine Expeditionary Forces.
“One of the powerful elements of the Island Marauder demonstration is a challenging tactical scenario that requires insertion of new technology and warfighting approaches while using currently-fielded equipment and fleet Marine operators,” Moncrief said. “The 3rd Marine Regiment gives us extremely useful information during Island Marauder that influences engineering, sustainment and user interface. This, in turn, assists HQMC with advanced concepts and out-year planning.”
During one demo, Marines on the ground used NOTM to simulate calling in air strikes and a medical evacuation — a feat that had not been successfully performed with live aircraft in past demonstrations.
Island Marauder also enables MCSC to perform integration engineering, troubleshoot any related issues and train Marines on how to use new equipment, Moncrief said.
“This year, we brought in some other MCSC programs that have a direct relationship with NOTM,” he said. “For example, the project officer for Identity Dominance Systems-Marine Corps recognized early on that NOTM could be a game changer for that program.”
“When Marines downrange encounter a person of interest, they use IDS-MC to collect biometric data,” said Teresa Sedlacek, lead engineer for Identity Operations at MCSC.
A Marine from the 3rd Marine Regiment uses a Marine Air-Ground Task Force Common Handheld to call for simulated casualty evacuation during the Island Marauder Technology Demonstration.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Jesus Sepulveda Torres)
Typically, Marines then have to get to a forward operating base or Combat Operations Center to download the information to receive feedback on submissions, she said. During Island Marauder, the demonstration team successfully connected IDS-MC wirelessly with NOTM, which enabled them to receive data retrieval and feedback almost immediately.
“That’s the kind of thing that’s important to us on the Island Marauder Team because it improves combat capability for other programs and for the Marine operating forces,” Moncrief said.
The command also demonstrated the ability to integrate the Marine Air-Ground Task Force Common Handheld — or MCH — with NOTM, the Joint Tactical Common Operating Picture Workstation and Target Handoff System II. The MCH is a handheld C2 program that enables dismounted Marines to use tactical software applications on commercial handheld computing devices while securely accessing higher-level C2 systems for data, services and tactical sharing.
“Island Marauder 2018 was invaluable in generating user feedback for follow-on development and helping to inform future programmatic purchases,” said Maj. Travis Beeson, MCH project officer at MCSC. “Island Marauder continues to be MCH’s go-to event to demonstrate interoperability with other MCSC systems and to assess innovative developments in a tactical relevant environment.”
Other programs and technologies that were part of the Island Marauder demonstration included the Secure Tactical Terminal and secure wireless networking techniques.
“Since the beginning, Island Marauder has been super useful in helping us push the envelope for technology exploitation,” Moncrief said. “As C2 technology continues to accelerate and Marine warfighting strategies adapt to new challenges, we need to show decision-makers some potential match-ups demonstrated together. In this way, Island Marauder enables a better understanding of the near-term possibilities by integrating new technologies with existing capabilities.”
Planning for Island Marauder 2019 is already in progress with the focus on joint C2 and disconnected operations.
“They hug the cliff too much,” Herman Stein said as he approached a waiting crowd on an overcast day in June 1984. Stein was a former Army Ranger with Dog Company who landed at Pointe du Hoc during World War II. He was slightly older than 60, but he had just beaten a dozen Special Forces soldiers up the cliffside.
“All these younger guys will be alright if they just stick with it,” Stein said.
Stein was one of 225 Rangers of the 2d Ranger Battaltion who landed there on D-Day, Jun. 6, 1944, to scale the cliff face and take out the Nazi guns. Some 40 years later, the climb was re-enacted for onlookers celebrating the 40th anniversary of the operation, the largest amphibious landing ever performed, which led to the end of the war.
The original recreation was supposed to consist of a dozen Ranger-qualified Green Berets, but Herman Stein wasn’t about to let them go alone. Stein, a roofer back in the United States, was still in top shape for the job. Despite the worries of his fellow veterans, he not only made the climb, but left the much-younger Special Forces in the dust.
The first time he went to scale the cliffs of Normandy, they were part of Hitler’s “Atlantic Wall,” and time was of the essence. Although the Nazis believed the Americans weren’t crazy enough to attempt a landing at the cliff face, They were wrong. Stein and Dog Company landed on the West side of Pointe du Hoc and scaled the 90-foot cliff under heavy fire.
As President Ronald Reagan would remark at the 40th Anniversary event:
“The American Rangers began to climb. They shot rope ladders over the face of these cliffs and began to pull themselves up. When one Ranger fell, another would take his place. When one rope was cut, a Ranger would grab another and begin his climb again. They climbed, shot back, and held their footing. Soon, one by one, the Rangers pulled themselves over the top, and in seizing the firm land at the top of these cliffs, they began to seize back the continent of Europe. Two hundred and twenty-five came here. After two days of fighting, only ninety could still bear arms.”
The Rangers were successful in neutralizing the guns and other Nazi positions at the top of the cliffs but they face stiff resistance and a harsh counterattack throughout the rest of the day and into the night. By the time a large relief column arrived for them, they had suffered a 70 percent casualty rate.
Later, Stein would recall meeting President Reagan during the event. He said the President was visibly inspired by Stein’s performance in climbing the cliff face and outdoing the Special Forces.
“Reagan was all over the moon about my climbing to the top of Pointe du Hoc,” Stein said. “I think he wished he could have done it with me.”
The AK-47 is the most accessible firearm in the world. It’s affordability and reliability have made it the weapon of choice for militaries and terrorists groups alike, which is why you’re more likely to find ammo for the AK-47 than an M4. Knowing your way around the rifle may get you out of a pinch, test your weapon knowledge with this quiz.
Did you know that the makers of the AK-47 want to rebrand the firearm as a “weapon of peace?” Read the article
There’s a decades-old argument about which pistol round is better that stems from a more basic argument about terminal ballistics – which is just a fancy term for what happens when bullets hit living things.
The two sides of the argument are between those who believe fast, lightweight rounds do more damage, and those who believe heavy, lower-moving rounds impart more energy and “stopping power” on the target.
Listen to the WATM podcast to hear our veteran hosts and a weapons expert discuss the M9 and why ammo matters:
Given its history of weapon adoption, it seems the Army is a proponent of the fast, lightweight department. First it swapped out the 7.62mm M14 for the 5.56mm M16, then the .45 1911 for the 9mm M9. While many agree with the first change (sorry M14 lovers) some still think the M9 should never have been adopted without changing the ammunition recipe beforehand.
Full metal jacket ammo is really great for sending rounds through paper, but its aerodynamic and hydrodynamic design makes it zip through tissue without dumping most of the energy behind it into the target. Shot placement can compensate for this by hitting harder stuff like bones or vital organs, but under the stress of returning fire, that’s damn tough for even the seasoned Delta operator to land perfect hits with a sidearm.
Ideally, a round will dump all of its energy into a target, which reduces the need for shot placement at the cost of reduced penetration. On a rifle, this is a big drawback. It means if Johnny-Jihad is hiding behind a plywood shack, the rounds will expand in the wooden walls and lose most of their power. With a sidearm, most shooters aren’t trying to blast bad guys through walls – it’s a weapon of last resort.
So when a trooper needs to draw his M9, he shouldn’t have to worry about the bullets failing to stop his attacker.
If the military wants to put the M9 on even-footing with the M1911’s fight-stopping power, it might only need to swap out the M882 round with the good stuff being issued to American law enforcement officers.
Heck, Rangers have been running heavier, jacketed hollow-points for years. This isn’t news to the brass.
In fact, one recommendation is to replace the lightweight 112gr M882 FMJ cartridges with heavier 147gr expanding hollow-point rounds like those employed by Ranger elements during combat operations. These heavier rounds don’t just expand better in their targets, they’re also subsonic.
This has two major advantageous. First, it makes them better suited to pistols and submachine guns equipped with sound suppressors. And second, it provides a more consistent flight path since the bullet doesn’t go transonic.
That all said, many agree the M9 does have some serious mechanical shortcomings. Slides cracking, junk magazines in the early days of the G-WOT, and the gun’s open-slide gobbling up sand all contribute to a pistol clearly not at home in desert warfare.
But with new magazines that work much better, reinforced slides and a proper maintenance schedule, many experts say the M9 beats the hell out of the 1911 it replaced — but only with proper ammo. Hague convention be damned, expanding ammunition isn’t designed to cruelly maim soldiers but to drop them more reliability. Plus, these same rounds are nearly always stopped by walls, putting fewer civilians at risk in adjacent rooms.
Lastly, if you’re worried about our guys getting hit with these types of rounds, don’t be. Expanding ammunition amplifies the effectiveness of body armor, since both are designed to dissipate force. So as long as Joe has his body armor on, hollow points won’t do any more than a standard pistol round.