These are the aircraft used by the Army's Night Stalkers - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

These are the aircraft used by the Army’s Night Stalkers

Some know them as Task Force Brown, others fear them as thunderous ghosts who approach in the darkest hours of the night. To the public, they’re the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR), but to the US Army and the special operations community, they’re known only as the legendary Night Stalkers.


Their motto, “Death Waits in The Dark,” tells you all you need to know. The Night Stalkers operate after sunset, flying through the blackness in some of the craziest scenarios and environments known to man. These are the best and most highly trained pilots the Army has to offer, undergoing months upon months of rigorous training until they are fully mission-qualified.

When the 160th deems its newest pilots and crew ready, Night Stalkers get sent on top-secret missions all across the world, from the deserts of the Middle East to the jungles of tropical Asia and everywhere in between, supporting American special operations units. Because of the nature of their missions, Night Stalkers rely on their helicopters to function well, even in extreme conditions.

These are the four helos they operate: unique, kitted out, and highly unlike any other in the US military today.

The Night Stalkers love the MH-60LM Black Hawk

 

These are the aircraft used by the Army’s Night Stalkers
MARSOC personnel fast rope from an MH-60L Black Hawk (US Marine Corps)

The Black Hawk is the backbone of Army Aviation, having replaced the Huey in 1980s as the Army’s go-to medium lift utility helo. Highly adaptable, rugged, and dependable, it’s no surprise that the 160th would choose this aircraft as the core of their fleet.

Known as the MH-60 to Night Stalkers, these helos are refitted with a sensor suite, high-tech communications gear, a refueling probe for longer missions, forward-looking infrared radar systems, and terrain-following radars among a few other things. They can also be converted to an up-gunned attack variant as needed.

During the 2011 raid on Abbottabad, Pakistan, which saw the death of Osama bin Laden, Night Stalkers used a “stealthed out” version of the MH-60, fitted with a radar-defeating shell and other bells and whistles.

MH-60L Direct Action Penetrator

 

 

The Night Stalkers don’t fly the Army’s legendary gunship, the AH-64D/E Apache. Instead, they fly something just as fearsome, but slightly more versatile. Known as the Direct Action Penetator (or DAP), it’s been a staple of 160th missions worldwide since the early ’90s.

According to former Night Stalker CW4 Michael Durant (and recounted in his book, In the Company of Heroes), the DAP was developed in-house by the 160th using existing Black Hawks. After adding removable wing stubs to the sides of the helo and setting up a firing link to the cockpit, Night Stalkers managed to turn the MH-60 into a gunship.

The DAP comes with the ability to field Hydra rocket pods, Hellfire and Stinger missiles, 30 mm M230 chain guns (the same used by the Apache), and .50 caliber Gatling gun pods for some serious shock and awe. Unlike the Apache, the DAP has a refueling probe, giving it greater endurance and range.

Any MH-60 can be converted into a DAP using the kits created by the 160th, but it loses its ability to carry troops upon conversion.

MH-47G Chinook is one of the Night Stalkers’ favorites

 

These are the aircraft used by the Army’s Night Stalkers
An MH-47 Chinook picks up a special operations boat crew during training.

 

The mighty Chinook heavy-lift helo has served Army Aviation well from Vietnam to Afghanistan and beyond. Because of its ability to carry tons of cargo, fly longer missions, and survive in austere conditions, the Chinook was one of the first aircraft inducted into Night Stalker service in the 1980s.

When the 160th first got its hands on CH-47s, they added a refueling probe, a fast-rope system for troop insertion, and a host of other features to bring them up to operational standards. Dubbed the MH-47D, these beasts were put to work right away. In a testament to the Chinook’s durability and heavy-lift capabilities, the 160th even used these tandem-rotor helos to “steal” a large, abandoned Libyan attack helicopter in the late ’80s during a sandstorm.

MH/AH-6M Little Bird

 

These are the aircraft used by the Army’s Night Stalkers
MH-6M Little Birds during a training exercise (US Army)

 

There’s a popular saying in the special operations community: “Six guns don’t miss.” This has nothing to do with revolvers and everything to do with the Night Stalkers’ Little Birds, sometimes referred to as “Killer Eggs” because of their shape. While the MH-6 is typically outfitted with outboard bench seats on either side of the aircraft for troop carriage, the AH-6 instead carries miniguns, rocket pods, and missiles.

The first Little Birds to enter service with the 160th were actually OH-6A Cayuses, small helos that were already on their way out of the Army and National Guard by the time SOAR was created. Because of their size, agility, and ability to be quickly disassembled and reassembled, these small aircraft were considered ideal for urban operations in tight spaces. From the early 1980s onward, the 160th has used the Little Bird in nearly every major conflict.

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This is who wins in a dogfight between the French Rafale and the Eurofighter

While the F-35 has been in the headlines and the F-22 is perhaps the most dominant jet in the sky, there are some other advanced jets in the air that are not from the U.S., Russia or China. Two of them are the French-designed Dassault Rafale and the multi-national Eurofighter Typhoon.


These are the aircraft used by the Army’s Night Stalkers
A Royal Air Force Typhoon in 2012. Peter Gronemann/Flickr photo

The Rafale is a purely French design. The French did face the challenge of coming up with a fighter meant to not only replace older Mirage fighters for the French air force, it also had to operate from the French navy’s aircraft carrier, the Charles De Gaulle, replacing aging F-8 Crusaders and the venerable Super Etendard.

According to MilitaryFactory.com, the Rafale has a top speed of 1,190 miles per hour, a range of 1,150 miles, can carry almost 21,000 pounds of ordnance, and is equipped with a 30mm cannon. Among the ordnance it can carry are Mica air-to-air missiles, the ASMP nuclear cruise missile, the Exocet anti-ship missile, laser-guided bombs, rocket pods, and various dumb bombs.

These are the aircraft used by the Army’s Night Stalkers
A French Dassault Rafale performs a touch-and-go landing. (Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Denny Cantrell)

The Eurofighter Typhoon, on the other hand, is a joint design primarily from the United Kingdom, Germany, and Italy. Those same countries teamed up to create the Panavia Tornado, an aircraft that had air-defense, strike, and “Wild Weasel” versions. The Eurofighter team was a bit larger as this time, Spain joined in.

MilitaryFactory.com notes that the Typhoon has a range of 1,802 miles and a top speed of 1,550 miles per hour. It can carry 16,500 pounds of ordnance, and has a 27mm cannon. It carries a very wide array of weapons, including the AIM-120 AMRAAM, the AIM-132 ASRAAM, the IRIS-T air-to-air missile, the MDBA Meteor air-to-air missile, the S-225 air-to-air missile, the Brimstone anti-tank missile, the AGM-88 HARM, the ALARM, laser-guided bombs, dumb bombs, and even land-attack missiles like the Storm Shadow and KEPD 350.

Perhaps the only thing the Eurofighter can’t carry is the kitchen sink.

These are the aircraft used by the Army’s Night Stalkers
A bomb-laden Royal Air Force Typhoon F.2 fighter takes off for an evening mission here June 3 during Green Flag 08-07. During Green Flag, the RAF proved the Typhoons’ air-to-ground capabilities and combat readiness. (U.S. Air Force photo by Chief Master Sgt. Gary Emery)

Which plane is more likely to win in a head-to-head fight? Given the wider variety of ordnance, including long-range air-to-air missiles like the S-225 and Meteor, the Eurofighter has an edge – at least when it comes to land bases. The Rafale, though, can operate from an aircraft carrier, and that gives France a very potent naval aviation arm.

Check out the video below to see how these planes stack up.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How a Marine Corps scout sniper managed to sneak up on his enemy naked

An expert sniper can sneak up on an enemy naked as the day he was born. It’s not particularly advised, but one top sharpshooter did exactly that just to prove a point, Marine snipers told Insider.

“Ghillie suits make people feel like they are invisible,” a Marine Corps scout sniper instructor at Marine Corps Base Quantico in Virginia explained of the full-body uniforms that snipers are trained to adorn with grass and other materials to blend into their environment.

“The vegetation and the camouflage, that’s only one part of it,” the instructor added. “It’s more route selection and movement. It’s about what you are putting between you and the target.”


One top sniper proved that to be true by completing stalking training — an exercise where snipers are asked to sneak into position and fire on a target without getting caught by observers using high-powered optics — in nothing but his boots, two Marines told Insider.

These are the aircraft used by the Army’s Night Stalkers

A Marine undergoing the 2nd Marine Division Combat Skills Center’s Pre-Scout Sniper Course prepares to move during a stalking exercise at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Paul S. Martinez)

“He was one of our instructors, and he wanted to show up his fellow HOGs on the glass,” a schoolhouse instructor said, referring to the observers (nicknamed “Hunters of Gunmen” or HOGs) searching for the PIGs (Professionally Instructed Gunmen) in the field with monocular or binocular devices.

“I’m going to do this naked, and you’re not going to catch me,” the legendary sniper supposedly said. “I’m going to go out there and burn you guys down naked except for boots on.”

And, he did, Insider learned from the Marines.

No clothes. No ghillie suit. No vegetation. The sniper went into the field with nothing but a painted face and a pair of boots. Insider recently observed a stalking exercise at Quantico, where snipers in training worked their way down a lane filled with snakes, various bugs, and quite a few thorns. It was not an environment for someone to crawl around in nude. It’s unclear what type of stalking lane the naked Marine was on.

The sniper is said to have used screens, natural features on the stalking lane that shield the sniper from view, to avoid the watchful eyes of his training enemy.

He was also very careful and deliberate with his movements.

These are the aircraft used by the Army’s Night Stalkers

A Marine scout sniper candidate with Scout Sniper Platoon, Weapons Company, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment looks through the scope of his rifle during a stalking exercise.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Austin Long)

“That’s the art of invisibility,” an instructor told Insider. “It’s all about movement. Some animals are phenomenal at it.” Lions, for example, will crawl low and burn through the grass until they get in range of their target.

That’s a hard skill to learn though. “When you are crawling on the ground, it’s hard to understand where you are at. It’s like being an ant,” a second instructor explained. “It’s the weirdest thing in the world when you get that low to the earth and you start crawling. It makes people uncomfortable.”

When Insider visited the base last month, we watched a group of trainees go through stalking training for the first time. Several of them were spotted in the lane because they raised their heads to see their target more clearly.

“They love to raise up. They love to look up,” an instructor explained. “It’s such a natural human instinct, to think that to see something you need 180 degrees.”

“Human beings are so uncomfortable when they can’t see what is going on around them,” another instructor told Insider. “You have to fight that uncomfortable feeling. You have to force yourself to act unnaturally to be an effective stalker.”

The naked Marine, whose fully clothed picture hangs in the scout sniper schoolhouse at Quantico, seems to have a great grasp of that concept.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

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The Marines are getting these sweet new 4-wheelers for high-speed ops

Infantry Marines will soon receive ultralight off-road vehicles that will improve mission readiness by providing rapid logistics support in the field.


Program Executive Officer Land Systems, the Corps’ acquisition arm for major land programs, is expected to deliver 144 Utility Task Vehicles to the regiment-level starting later this month — a mere six months from contract award.

These are the aircraft used by the Army’s Night Stalkers
The Marine Corps Program Executive Officer Land Systems is expected to deliver 144 Utility Task Vehicles to the regiment-level starting in February 2017. The rugged all-terrain vehicle can carry up to four Marines or be converted to haul 1,500 pounds of supplies. With minimal armor and size, the UTV can quickly haul extra ammunition and provisions, or injured Marines, while preserving energy and stealth. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Private 1st Class Rhita Daniel)

The rugged all-terrain vehicle can carry up to four Marines or be converted to haul 1,500 pounds of supplies. With minimal armor, the UTV can quickly haul extra ammunition and provisions, or injured Marines, while preserving energy and stealth.

“The Marine’s pack is getting heavier, and they are carrying more gear than ever down range,” said Jessica Turner, team lead for Internally Transportable Vehicles/Utility Task Vehicles at PEO LS. “Infantry Marines were looking for a capability that would lessen the load while increasing the area of operation, and the UTV is that solution.”

Read More: Fast Attack Vehicles might be exactly what the Army needs to stop ISIS

The UTV is a new capability for the fleet. Measuring roughly 12 feet long, the commercially acquired diesel vehicle is modular, with back seats that convert into a small cargo bed.  Thanks to its small size, the UTV fits inside MV-22 Ospreys and CH-53E helicopters for easy transport to remote locations and greater tactical support.

PEO LS joined a Marine Corps Special Operations Command contract to deliver the capability to Marines in such a short amount of time.

“We have taken an off-the-shelf capability and leveraged it with other commands to maximize the effort,” said Eugene Morin, product manager for Legacy Light Tactical Vehicles at PEO LS. “The continued challenge for the Marine Corps is finding commercial-off-the-shelf items that satisfy the needs of Marines. Through partnerships like this, we can find the solutions we need.”

In exchange, MARSOC partnered with the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory to run field user evaluations on the UTV to ensure it met the needs of the warfighter.

“One key takeaway from the MCWL testing was user feedback from Infantry Marines,” said Mark Godfrey, vehicle capabilities integration officer at Marine Corps Combat Development and Integration. “MCWL did demonstrations such as casualty evacuation and maximum payload, and were able to tell us Marines’ thoughts on the value of the vehicle.”

The UTV program also satisfies the infantry’s requirement to maneuver more rapidly and deeply throughout the battlespace.

Much like larger tactical vehicles, Marines authorized to drive the UTV will be required to complete operator training as well as additional off-road vehicle safety procedures.

“One reason for the driving course is the UTV is an off-road vehicle,” Turner said. “The UTV’s suspension, handling and the way it distributes power is a lot different than a regular vehicle.”

Eighteen vehicles will be delivered to specific infantry regiments, with the first shipment going to I and II Marine Expeditionary Force in February, and III MEF in March and April. The Marine Corps will continue to seek ways to leverage partnerships and speed acquisition for Marines.

“The UTV is a perfect example of how we can do acquisition faster and more efficiently,” said Godfrey. “It may be a model for obtaining items from industry quicker in the future.”

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This missile could make the Army’s grenade launcher more deadly

Everyone who’s fired one knows that the M320 grenade launcher isn’t the most accurate weapon in the infantry arsenal.


Propelled with a standard charge, the 40mm grenade follows a ballistic arc that forces a trooper to lob the projectile onto its target rather than shoot it straight in.

But new technology has allowed some weapons makers to miniaturize the same guidance systems housed in air-dropped missiles into ones that can be easily carried by ground troops.

These are the aircraft used by the Army’s Night Stalkers
The Pike™ munition measures 40 mm in diameter, only a half-inch larger than the 25 mm rounds fired by some military machine guns. (Photo from Raytheon)

That’s resulted in a missile small enough to be fired from an M320 or FN Mk-13 grenade launcher but with near pinpoint accuracy up to two miles away.

Built by defense manufacturer Raytheon, the Pike missile is only 16 inches long and weighs less than two pounds. The missile is guided to its target by following a laser pointed by a second shooter.

“Pike uses a digital, semi-active laser seeker to engage both fixed and slow-moving, mid-range targets,” said J. R. Smith, Raytheon’s Advanced Land Warfare Systems director. “This new guided munition can provide the warfighter with precision, extended-range capability never before seen in a hand-held weapon on the battlefield.”

These are the aircraft used by the Army’s Night Stalkers
The Pike munition is the world’s only hand-launched precision-guided weapon. (Photo from Raytheon)

The missile ejects 10 feet from the shooter before the rocket motor ignites and is smokeless in order to reduce the missile’s signature and keep the shooters concealed.

The system was successfully tested in 2015 and weapons experts in the Army and special operations units are looking hard at using the system in combat, documents show.

Raytheon says future developments include giving Pike the ability to network with other missiles so more than one can ride the same laser, and company officials say the missile is being adapted for UAVs and small boats.

“Pike will become smarter and smarter as we continue to develop its capabilities,” said Smith. “In the current configuration, the warfighter will enter programmable laser codes prior to loading Pike into its launcher. Spiral development calls for multiple-round simultaneous programming and targeting with data link capabilities.”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

DARPA prepares to test ‘Gremlins’ with C-130s next year

US Air Force F-22s and F-35s will soon launch and control recoverable attack drones from the cockpit of the plane to expand air-combat operations, test enemy air defenses, conduct long-range ISR, and even deliver weapons.

This fast-approaching technology, which calls upon advanced levels of autonomous navigation, is closer to reality due of DARPA’s Gremlins program which plans to break new ground by launching — and recovering — four drones from an in-flight C-130 in 2019.

Air recoverable drones, slated to become operational over just the next few years, will bring a new phase of mission options enabling longer ranges, improved sensor payloads, advanced weapons, and active command and control from the air.


“The team looked at how fifth generation aircraft systems like the F-35 and F-22 respond to threats, and how they could incorporate Gremlins in higher risk areas,” a DARPA statement said.

For years, it has been possible to launch expendable drones from the air, without needing a ground control station, provided they do not return to an aircraft. Gremlins, by contrast, is a technical effort to engineer specially configured aerial drones able to both launch and return to a host aircraft.

The program is now moving into a phase three, according to DARPA statements, which cite a new demonstration and development deal with Dynetics to execute the upcoming launch and recovery C-130 flight.

These are the aircraft used by the Army’s Night Stalkers

A C-130E Hercules from the 43rd Airlift Wing, Pope Air Force Base, N.C., flies over the Atlantic Ocean.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Howard Blair)

“DARPA is progressing toward its plan to demonstrate airborne launch and recovery of multiple unmanned aerial systems, targeted for late 2019. Now in its third and final phase, the goal for the Gremlins program is to develop a full-scale technology demonstration featuring the air recovery of multiple low-cost, reusable UASs, or “Gremlins,” a DARPA announcement said in early 2018

This technology, which hinges upon higher levels of autonomous navigation, brings a wide swath of improved mission possibilities. These include much longer attack and mission reach, because drones can begin missions while in the air much closer to an objective, without having to travel longer distances from a ground location or forward operating base. Furthermore, perhaps of even greater significance, air-launched returnable drones can be equipped with more advanced sensor payloads able to conduct ISR or even attack missions.

A flight test at Yuma Proving Ground in early 2018 provided an opportunity to conduct safe separation and captive flight tests of the hard dock and recovery system.

“Early flight tests have given us confidence we can meet our objective to recover four gremlins in 30 minutes,” Scott Wierzbanowski, program manager in DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office, said in a written statement in early 2018.

Gremlins also can incorporate several types of sensors up to 150 pounds, DARPA statements said.

These are the aircraft used by the Army’s Night Stalkers

Artist’s concept.

(Dynetics)

Maturing a full-scale operational capability for this technology has force engineers to confront a range of technical challenges, Dynetics engineers told Warrior Maven. Safely docking a returning drone aboard a moving C-130 requires an as-of-yet unprecedented level of technical sophistication.

“The key technological advance is achieving increased safety through software redundancies to be able to operate a vehicle of this size in close proximity to a C-130 and tether it to stabilize the vehicle,” Tim Keeter, Deputy Program Manager and Chief Engineer, Gremlins, Dynetics, told Warrior Maven in a 2018 interview.

Once stabilized, the drone can then be stowed safety in the cargo bay of the C-130, Keeter added.

“This certainly involves precision navigation and we need the structure of the airframe to bear the burden,” he said.

In preparation for the upcoming drone air-recovery demonstration, Dynetics conducted a safe separation flight test from a mock air vehicle.

“We are ready to fabricate,” Keeter said.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Soviets ripped off this strange Boeing transport plane

The Soviet Union has had a history of ripping off American designs. The Tu-4 “Bull” was pretty much an unlicensed bolt-for-bolt copy of the Boeing B-29 Superfortress. The Su-25 “Frogfoot” was a knockoff of the Northrop A-9. Russia’s AA-2 “Atoll” air-to-air missile was pretty much a reverse-engineered Sidewinder.


But the Soviets haven’t just kept to swiping combat designs. They’ve also stolen civilian aircraft data (albeit, one report claims theft of Concorde data used for the Tu-144 “Concordeski” went very wrong). They also apparently knocked off an American transport design.

These are the aircraft used by the Army’s Night Stalkers
Boeing YC-14 in flight. This transport was able to haul a main battle tank. (U.S. Air Force photo)

In the early 1970s, the United States considered replacing the C-130 Hercules transport plane. Two contenders engaged in a flyoff. Boeing sent in the YC-14, and McDonnell-Douglas went for the YC-15. Boeing’s plane was unusual in that its engines were placed above the wings. This creates what’s known as the Coanda effect, and as a result, the plane has great short-takeoff and landing (STOL) performance. TheAviationZone.com notes that the YC-14 had a top speed of 504 miles per hour, and a range of 3,190 miles.

Both the YC-14 and YC-15 did well in the flyoff, greatly exceeding the specs. The YC-14 even proved it could haul a main battle tank! But the need for more strategic airlift meant that neither plane would enter service. The Air Force instead bought what became the C-130H Hercules. Later, a modified version of the YC-15 became the C-17 Globemaster.

These are the aircraft used by the Army’s Night Stalkers
A Russian Navy An-72 Coaler. (Wikimedia Commons)

But the Soviet Union also needed a new tactical transport. The Antonov design bureau used the same method that Boeing used to get good STOL performance from the An-72 “Coaler.” However, TheAviationZone.com notes that the Coaler has a top speed of only 472 miles per hour, and a maximum range of 2,050 nautical miles. It also can’t haul a tank.

You can see a video about the YC-14 below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wPAXgIsQLys
MIGHTY CULTURE

This Green Beret’s kid wrote a book on coping with deployments

When his father deploys, 9-year-old Davidson considers himself “man of the house” — it’s a role he’s filled eight times.

Davidson’s father, Dave Whetstone — the surname is a pseudonym for security reasons — is a Green Beret currently on his tenth deployment. Dave has deployed nearly every year of Davidson’s life, and each time, Davidson “puts on a brave face,” he said.

To help other military families also be brave, the father and son duo recently published a children’s book, “Brave for my Family,” written by Davidson and illustrated by Dave, with some proceeds going to military charities.


The book was released on Veteran’s Day under pen names to protect their identities, and recounts the family’s experience with one of Dave’s deployments after a life-threatening battlefield injury, recovery, and Dave’s return to war — all through Davidson’s eyes.

These are the aircraft used by the Army’s Night Stalkers

“Brave For My Family”

While deployed, Dave tries to stay in touch with his family, he said. In the past, he’s recorded videos of himself — reading bedtime stories, praying, etc. — for his wife, Elizabeth, to replay for their children.

“While Americans are grateful for the sacrifices service members make for our country, it’s the sacrifices they don’t see that are the hardest,” Dave wrote in an email.

Story behind the story

While deployed to Afghanistan in late 2013 — four days shy of Christmas — Dave was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade.

During the explosion, shrapnel pierced the Green Beret’s face and tore through the right side of his body. It missed his carotid artery by a few millimeters.

Meanwhile, in Massachusetts, the Whetstones were with family over the holidays and carried on with their lives, unaware the patriarch of their family was fighting for his.

After the blast, the Special Forces officer suffered life-threatening injuries. He was triaged on the battlefield, and subsequently airlifted to Germany and briefly hospitalized there.

From Germany, Dave returned to the United States and underwent multiple surgeries at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, where he eventually stayed for three-weeks.

Once the Whetstones received the terrible news, they also flew to Washington, D.C., and were reunited with their soldier on Christmas, Davidson said.

Davidson — who was 3 years old at the time — writes about this moment in the book.

“My mom cried, and I was pretty scared my dad was going to die,” he wrote.

These are the aircraft used by the Army’s Night Stalkers

An illustration from “Brave for My Family.”

In the book, Dave’s illustration depicts this moment, too. The wounded soldier is in the hospital — he’s battered, with multiple wounds and bandages — but embraced his son.

To this day, the illustration is hard for Elizabeth to see without reliving the memory, she said, because the artwork looks so real.

Also on Christmas day that year, Dave and his family were greeted by then-Vice President Joe Biden. The former VP, who visited wounded troops and their families at the hospital, invited the Whetstones to his home for lunch — an offer they took him up on the following year.

As he recovered, Dave learned his close friend — while also deployed in Afghanistan — was killed in combat. Although he was on convalescent leave, Dave requested special permission to return to Afghanistan and complete his deployment.

The blast claimed the peripheral vision from his right eye, and left parts of the shrapnel lodged in his body. However, Dave doesn’t believe the scars of war are the most painful thing a soldier can experience.

“I have been wounded in combat, I have lost close friends,” Dave wrote. “But, for me some of the toughest pills to swallow are not being there for first words, first steps, first Christmases, first birthdays, and all of the moments that I’ll never see again. The hardest thing is watching my kids grow up in pictures.”

Father and son share their story

Years later — during the summer before Davidson started school — the father and son duo started the foundation for their book. Together, they decided to produce something “that could help kids not be scared if their parents deploy,” Davidson said.

“I know what it’s like to have your dad deployed to a scary place,” Davidson added.

For nearly two years, and in-between deployments, the pair would spend the Sunday afternoons they had, usually after church, being creative together, Elizabeth said.

These are the aircraft used by the Army’s Night Stalkers

An illustration from “Brave for My Family.”

“Creating the book was therapeutic for them both,” she added.

For Dave, drawing is a way to organize his thoughts, and a passion that dates back to childhood, he said.

“Illustrating Davidson’s story gave me a strong motivation to create meaningful representation of our family’s sacrifice and courage,” Dave wrote. “It also allowed me to spend time recalling and appreciating the details of our family’s experience, and come to terms with some things.”

Part of the proceeds from the book will go toward charities like the Green Beret Foundation and help support military families and wounded warriors.

“I can’t express how proud I am of my family, and how immeasurably blessed I am to have each of them in my life,” Dave wrote. “I am so proud of Davidson for writing this book. But, if I’m being honest, this is only a snapshot of his talents and passion as a good young man.”

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

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Russia glosses over ‘Kuznetsov Follies’ in new tribute video

Russia recently announced that it would begin drawing down its deployment to Syria. One of the first major assets to depart will be its lone aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, according to a report by Agence France Press.


The Russian government produced a slick tribute video that harkens back to the 1950s Soviet Union, where the same M-4 Bison bombers were flown past the reviewing stands of the 1955 Aviation Day parade several times to make it look like the Soviets had tons of planes.

The new Kuznetsov video showed crewmen standing watch – some on the carrier’s flight deck with an assault rifle, as well as Su-33 Flankers taking off from the ship.

These are the aircraft used by the Army’s Night Stalkers
The Admiral Kuznetsov in drydock — a place it should never leave.

That said, there is a whole lot of stuff this video has left out. Regular readers of this site are familiar with the Kuznetsov Follies, coverage of the many… shortcomings, this carrier displayed on the deployment.

The highlight of these follies — well, let just say the term lowlight might be more accurate — would be the splash landings Russian Navy fighters made. In November, a MiG-29K made a splash landing shortly after takeoff. The next month, a Su-33 Flanker made its own splash landing. The Flanker wasn’t to blame – an arresting cable on the craptastic carrier snapped.

These are the aircraft used by the Army’s Night Stalkers
Sukhoi Su-33 launching from the Admiral Kuznetsov in 2012. | Russian MoD Photo

The carrier has been known to have breakdowns, too, and as a result, deploys with tugboats. Other problems include a central heating system that doesn’t heat, a busted ventilation system, broken latrines, and a lot of mold and mildew.

So, with all that in mind, here is the Russian video:

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Here is how the United States Navy gets SIGINT

Russia has a “tattletale” (spy ship) operating off the East Coast of the United States, but they’re not the only ones collecting Signals Intelligence (SIGINT). Here’s how the U.S. does spying of its own.


These are the aircraft used by the Army’s Night Stalkers
The Karelia, a Vishnya-class intelligence ship, sails near the nuclear-powered guided missile cruiser USS Texas (CGN 39). (Dept. of Defense photo)

The Viktor Leonov’s snooping has drawn headlines this year – although a similar 2015 operation didn’t draw as much hoopla. It is one of a class of seven vessels in service with the Russian Navy, and is armed with a mix of SA-N-8 missiles and AK-630 close-in weapon systems.

These are the aircraft used by the Army’s Night Stalkers
USS Pueblo (AGER 2).

The United States has not operated similar vessels ever since the environmental research vessel USS Pueblo (AGER 2) was captured off the coast of North Korea in 1968 and the technical research vessel USS Liberty (AGTR 5) was attacked by Israeli forces that mistook her for an enemy vessel in 1967, during the Six-Day War.

These are the aircraft used by the Army’s Night Stalkers
EP-3E Aries II electronic surveillance plane. (U.S. Navy photo)

Still, the Navy needs to carry out collection missions and it does have options.

One is the use of aircraft like the EP-3E Aries II electronic intelligence aircraft. Based on the P-3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft, a Navy fact file notes that a dozen were purchased in the 1990s.

The plane was involved in a 2001 mid-air collision with a People’s Liberation Army Navy Air Force J-8 Finback. The EP-3E made an emergency landing at Hainan Island and the Chinese pilot was killed.

These are the aircraft used by the Army’s Night Stalkers
An antenna for the AN/SLQ-32 system on board USS Nicholson (DD 982). (U.S. Navy photo)

The Navy also uses its ships and submarines to gather signals intelligence.

According to the 16th Edition of Combat Fleets of the World, many of its top-of-the-line surface combatants, like the Ticonderoga-class cruisers and the Arleigh Burke-class destroyers are equipped with the AN/SLQ-32 electronic support measures system for SIGINT collection.

According to the Raytheon web site, this system also has the capability to jam enemy systems in addition to detecting and classifying enemy radars.

These are the aircraft used by the Army’s Night Stalkers
Sailors aboard the Virginia-class attack submarine USS Texas (SSN 775) moor the boat to the pier. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Brian G. Reynolds)

U.S. Navy submarines also have a sophisticated SIGINT suite, the AN/BLQ-10.

According to the Federation of American Scientists website, this system is capable of detecting, processing, and analyzing radar signals and other electronic transmissions. It is standard on all Virginia-class submarines and is being backfitted onto Seawolf and Los Angeles-class ships.

In other words, every American sub and surface combatant is able to carry out signals intelligence missions.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is how naval mines take down ships of war

Mines are some of the most dangerous weapons used on the battlefield. They are the unseen enemy that can totally wreck an army or a navy. While still destructive, land mines are often stuck in one place, easily found, removed, or bypassed once made aware of their presence. Naval mines have come a long way in a short time, and are able to count the number of enemy ships that pass before attacking and can even swarm oncoming warships.

How they take down warships starts with a bang.


These are the aircraft used by the Army’s Night Stalkers

A Polish Mina Morska naval mine used between 1908-1939.

The damage a ship takes depends on the power of the mine and its initial explosiveness versus how far away from the ship’s hull the mine is when it explodes. The closer to the ship the mine is, the more direct damage the ship will take. But the direct damage isn’t the only type of damage a mine does to a ship. Other types of damage occur from the bubble created by the underwater explosion as well as the resulting shock wave from the explosives themselves.

Direct damage can be exacted by using more and more high explosives in mines. This will also affect the bubble jet and shock wave. The bubble jet removes water from the area of the explosion temporarily, but when the water comes rushing back in under the surface, it does so at such high velocity that it can penetrate a ship’s hull. The shock wave from a naval mine is enough to tear out the engines from a ship, toss around the crew, and kill divers.

Each kind of damage can do incredibly grievous harm to the ship and its crew. Results from mine detonations can be seen in incidents around the world. When the USS Samuel B. Roberts hit a mine, for example, the U.S. Navy stunned Iran with its response.

Read: The time the U.S. Navy unloaded on the Iranians in the most explosive surface battle since WWII

Modern mines are simple devices that are designed much like bombs. There is an explosive case surrounding an arming device and explosive train that will detonate the mine when it’s supposed to go off. When mines are deployed, the arming device activates the mine. When the train is aligned with the arming device, the target detecting device activates. This is the trigger that senses when it should go off. There are many kinds of detection devices: magnetic, seismic, acoustic, and pressure mines.

Different kinds of ships generate a different response from different mines, and the mine is smart enough to know when to explode. When it does, the resulting explosion, bubble jet, and shock wave can literally tear a ship in two.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

5 best weapons from this famous calculator manufacturer

Texas Instruments is probably best known for making those graphing calculators that every student complains about using and every parent complains about buying. But, before Texas Instruments was making TI-83s and TI-89s, they made other stuff, like missiles and bombs, before selling their defense operations to Raytheon in 1997 for $2.95 billion.

Here are 5 of their masterpieces that, typically, aren’t issued to high schoolers:


These are the aircraft used by the Army’s Night Stalkers

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Scott Henshaw, a 35th Maintenance Squadron load crew member, ensures all parts are correctly in place on the AGM-88 high speed anti-radiation missile at Misawa Air Base, Japan, Sept. 19, 2017.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Xiomara M. Martinez)

High-Speed Anti-Radiation Missile

The High-Speed Anti-Radiation Missile is a pretty brilliant weapon for taking out enemy air defenses. Defenders on the ground typically run mobile radar dishes to find and target enemy planes. Planes carrying this type of missile search for such radar signals and then fire the HARM, which rides the radar signals back to their source — which is, you know, the radar dish.

There are multiple warhead options, but the big two have 25,000 pre-formed steel fragments that are propelled out by the explosive, sending fragments through the radar and antenna.

These are the aircraft used by the Army’s Night Stalkers

Airmen prepare a 2,000-pound Paveway-III laser-guided bomb for the Combat Ammunition Production Exercise in July 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Matthew Plew)

Paveway Guided Bomb

The Paveway laser-guided bomb is sort of like the JDAM in that it’s really a kit that’s added to old, dumb bombs to convert them to guided, smart bombs. In the case of the Paveway, the missiles are guided by laser designaters, wielded by ground troops or pilots.

The Paveway can be fitted to bombs packed with up to a couple thousand pounds of explosives and can be carried by anything from fighter jets and bombers to the MQ-9 Reaper drone.

These are the aircraft used by the Army’s Night Stalkers

An F-35 with the Pax River Integrated Test Force conducts a test with a a Joint Stand-Off Weapon in 2016.

(U.S. Navy photo by Dane Wiedmann)

Joint Stand-Off Weapon

The Joint Stand-Off Weapon is a glide bomb that can fly as far as 63 nautical miles from the point at which it’s dropped, allowing Navy and Air Force ground attack and bomber planes to target anti-aircraft weapons or other enemy structures and emplacements from far outside of the enemy’s range.

The 1,065-pound weapon carries up to a 500-pound warhead but can also carry smaller bomblets and submunitions for dispersal over a wide area.

These are the aircraft used by the Army’s Night Stalkers

A Marine with Weapons Company, 3rd Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, fires an FGM-148 Javelin Missile during Exercise Northern Strike at Camp Grayling, Mich., Aug. 14, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Niles Lee)

Javelin

The Javelin missile is one of the premiere anti-armor missiles with guidance so good that it has a limited anti-aircraft capability and a warhead so powerful that it can kill most any tank in the field today, usually by flying up high and then going straight down through the tank’s turret. It can also be used against bunkers and other fortifications.

When fired against a tank’s hull, its two-charge warhead first initiates any explosive reactive armor, and the second charge penetrates the hull, killing the crew and potentially detonating stored explosives or fuel.

These are the aircraft used by the Army’s Night Stalkers

Texas Instruments pioneered the forward-looking, infrared camera used on everything from fighters and bombers to helicopters to ground vehicles to rifles. Here, the FLIR on a MH-60S helicopter is used to keep track of a rescue off Guam in 2017.

(U.S. Navy photo by Lt. j.g. Chris Kimbrough)

FLIR for tanks, fighting vehicles, the F-117, and F-18

Forward-Looking Infrared is exactly what it sounds like, sensors that allow jet, tank, and vehicle crews to see what’s ahead of them in infrared. Infrared, radiation with a wavelength just greater than the color red on the visible light spectrum that’s invisible to the naked eye, is put off by nearly any heat source. Sources of infrared include human bodies, vehicle engines, and all sorts of other targets.

So, tanks and jets can use these systems to find and target enemies at night, whether they just want to observe or think it’s time to drop bombs or fire rounds.

popular

This attack plane made a bomb of a movie

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.

These are the aircraft used by the Army’s Night Stalkers
An A-6 prepares to launch from USS Enterprise (CVN 65). (US Navy)

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.

These are the aircraft used by the Army’s Night Stalkers
The upgraded A-F made it to the prototype stage, but met the big bad budget axe. (DOD)

 

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.

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