This is the Army's precision 'sniper rifle' howitzer - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is the Army’s precision ‘sniper rifle’ howitzer

Okay, when you first saw the headline, you were probably wondering how the heck a howitzer can be a sniper rifle. Sniper rifles are precision instruments, designed to dish out extremely concentrated hurt while howitzers are meant to do big damage — it seems like a contradiction, right? Wrong.

With the right ammo, there’s a howitzer out capable of being a giant sniper rifle with an extremely long reach. How long? Try 22 miles.

The M777 Ultralight Field Howitzer is a towed 155-millimeter gun that’s been in service since 2005 and is capable of hitting targets from remarkable distances. Over the last decade, it’s been slowly replacing the M198 towed 155-millimeter howitzer.


But here’s where the M77 has the M198 beat: It weighs in at just 8,256 pounds, according to MilitaryFactory.com. That might sound like a lot, but it’s nothing next to the 15,792 pounds of the M198. That’s a nearly 50 percent reduction in weight, making the M777 a superb option for units like the 82nd Airborne Division and the Marines.

This is the Army’s precision ‘sniper rifle’ howitzer

Marines fire a M777 howitzer at 29 Palms to prepare for the real thing.

(USMC photo by Sgt. Jose E. Guillen)

Now, to achieve that 22-mile reach and sniper-rifle accuracy, the shell of choice is the M982 Excalibur round. This GPS-guided round can hit within about 30 feet of the aim point — a level of precision that’s proved extremely useful.

This is the Army’s precision ‘sniper rifle’ howitzer

Australian troops fire their M777 to support Marines during a training mission.

(USMC photo by Sgt. Sarah Anderson)

In 2012, the Marines manning a M777 howitzer received word that some Taliban were up to no good. So, the artillery crew fired a round from their base, which was in Helmand Province, and hit the Taliban who were in Musa Qala. The Taliban were accurately dispatched from miles away before any of their plans could take root.

This is the Army’s precision ‘sniper rifle’ howitzer

Soldiers with Battery C, 1st Battalion, 321st Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, 18th Fires Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division from Fort Bragg, N.C., fire 155mm rounds using an M777 Howitzer.

(US Army photo by Specialist Evan D. Marcy)

The M777 is currently in service with the United States Army and United States Marine Corps. Saudi Arabia, Canada, Australia, and India have all bought this cannon as well.

Learn more about this over-sized sniper rifle in the video below!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wSgjzhNRtY4

www.youtube.com

popular

How R. Lee Ermey’s Hollywood break is an inspiration to us all

While there have been many outstanding actors and celebrities who have raised their right hand, there has never been a veteran who could finger point his way to the top of Hollywood stardom quite like the late great Gunnery Sergeant R. Lee Ermey.


Ronald Lee Ermey, like many of us, was a mischievous kid and teenager. At the age of 17, the judge gave him a choice that would forever change him: Juvenile Detention or military service. The Corps did him right and he did right by the Corps, eventually becoming a Drill Instructor at Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego and deploying to Vietnam with the Marine Wing Support Group 17.

 

This is the Army’s precision ‘sniper rifle’ howitzer
Actor and Retired Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. R. Lee Ermey (center on right) with his 1966 Marine recruits at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego. (U.S. Marine Corps)

 

After being medically retired for injuries incurred during service, Ermey attended the University of Manilla to study drama where he met his future wife, Nila Ermey. He also had his first taste of Hollywood with a bit role in the Sidney J. Furie film The Boys from Company C, which was a precursor to and inspiration for Full Metal Jacket where he would also be cast as a Drill Instructor.

His acumen capturing the warrior on film led him to be called directly on set for Apocalypse Now.

Frances Ford Coppola had filmed his Vietnam War-era epic not too far from Ermey’s university in The Philippines. Ermey became the technical advisor to the man who directed The Godfather; Ermey let Coppola know how things were actually done in Vietnam.

He also scored his next acting role as a blink-and-you’ll-miss-him helicopter pilot during the famous “Ride of the Valkyries” scene.

 

Once you see it’s him, you’ll recognize his voice on the intercom through the scene.

He would continue to act in other films that fit his range, like a Jaws knock-off called Up from the Depths and a sappy Vietnam War romance film called Purple Hearts. Neither would go down as cinematic masterpieces — but it was his passion. He kept busy until he was offered to be the technical advisor for Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket.

For the non-cinema buffs who are unaware of Kubrick’s directing style, he wasn’t the easiest man to work with. The script had to be followed to a “T” and improv was strictly forbidden. The infamous scene in The Shining where Wendy frantically swings a baseball bat at Jack took 127 takes to get right — that was the level of perfection Kubrick worked with.

 

This is the Army’s precision ‘sniper rifle’ howitzer
Needless to say, his sets can be intense. (Warner Bros.)

None of that threw Ermey. The story goes that while filming, Ermey had worked extensively with the original Gunny Hartman, portrayed by Tim Colceri. Ermey had written 150 pages of insults that would naturally flow out of a Drill Instructor’s mouth — and nearly none of them were used. The few that were chosen came across as weak and nonthreatening.

Ermey did what every good Devil Dog would do in a situation like this. He bulldogged Colceri (would eventually be recast as the door gunner who screams “Get some!“) off camera. He barked insults at the scared actors while channeling his real Drill Instructor past. And he did everything off the cuff.

Kubrick was so impressed he kept Ermey as Gunny Hartman, despite being contrary to every directing technique he used.

Ermey would be nominated at the 1988 Golden Globes for his role of Gunny Hartman and would become a main stay in pop culture icon and the first impression many have of military life.


Feature image: Warner Bros.

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time Germany scuttled its own navy in sneaky scheme

In June 1919, the bulk of the German High Seas Fleet was sitting at anchor at Scapa Flow in the Orkney Islands. The cruiser Emden sent out the message, “Paragraph 11; confirm.” Then, all 74 of the warships in the natural harbor attempted to scuttle themselves en masse, and 52 successfully destroyed themselves before British sailors were able to beach them or stop their sinking.


21st June 1919: The German fleet is scuttled at Scapa Flow

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It’s important to remember for this story that wars have two ending points. There’s the armistice that stops the actual fighting, and then a lengthy peace process will usually result in a full treaty ending the war. After the armistice ended World War I fighting on Nov. 11, 1918, a large portion of the German navy was interned for the treaty process.

The navy had been largely sidelined during the war thanks to a British blockade, so it was largely intact that November. And the Allied powers, in order to ensure that Germany went through with the peace process, demanded that the nation’s most powerful and modern fleet be sequestered at a neutral port.

But, no nearby neutral port agreed to accept the ships, and so 70 of Germany’s best vessels were sent to the British harbor at Scapa Flow, a natural harbor that housed one of the British fleets. Four other German ships would later meet them there.

This is the Army’s precision ‘sniper rifle’ howitzer

Three German ships, the Emden, Frankfurt, and Bremse, enter Scapa Flow on November 24, 1918.

(Royal Navy)

When the German ships were officially handed over on November 21, literally hundreds of ships and thousands of people were present to watch the event. Over 190 Allied ships escorted the first batch of 70 German ships to surrender, making that day the largest concentration of naval power in the history of mankind, even if 70 of the ships had breech blocks in their guns to prevent a sudden return to hostilities.

But the fleet languished there for months. Morale on the German ships was bad during the war and worse while they were confined to ships on short rations in British territory. And the German commander had an order from his superiors to prevent the seizure of the ships by any means necessary.

The German navy seems to have believed that the ships would eventually be returned, Britain wanted to see them scrapped, and the rest of the Allies wanted to divvy them up. But as the negotiations in France made it clear that Germany would not get the ships back, German Adm. Ludwig von Reuter planned for how to destroy his own fleet.

A German destroyer largely flooded at Scapa Flow in 1919.

(Royal Navy)

He knew that the deadline for Germany to sign the treaty or face a resumption of hostilities was June 21, 1919. So, at 10:30 a.m., after he saw the bulk of the British fleet at Scapa Flow depart for maneuvers, he sent out the innocuous-sounding signal to scuttle the fleet, “Paragraph 11; confirm.”

He didn’t know that the deadline had been extended to June 23, but this actually worked out well for him. The British commander had plans to seize the German ships on June 23 if the German diplomats still hadn’t signed the treaty by then.

And so the ships suddenly began to sink. The German sailors raised their German navy flags from their masts for the first time since they had arrived in the harbor. British sailors in the harbor quickly alerted their own fleet as to what was happening, and the fleet rushed back to save what it could.

The sight they met when they re-entered the harbor was surreal. As Sub-Lieutenant Edward Hugh Markham David said when he wrote to his mother of the events:

A good half of the German fleet had already disappeared, the water was one mass of wreckage of every description, boats, carley floats, chairs, tables and human beings, and the ‘Bayern’ the largest German battleship, her bow reared vertically out of the water was in the act of crashing finally bottomwards, which she did a few seconds later, in a cloud of smoke bursting her boilers as she went.

The German admiral proceeded to the British flagship and declared that he had “come to surrender my men and myself. I have nudding else.”

British sailors were quickly dispatched to the sinking ships to re-close the valves and pump water out. Some British sailors nearly drowned in this endeavor, but they saved 22 of the ships as 52 settled into the mud at the bottom.

This is the Army’s precision ‘sniper rifle’ howitzer

A salvage crew works on the largely underwater German battleship Baden after the Scuttling at Scapa Flow. The partially submerged ship at the left is the cruiser Frankfurt.

(Royal Navy)

The British sailors were under orders to only kill those Germans who refused to close valves when ordered or who resisted British actions to save the vessels. Nine German sailors were killed, but there is some controversy over whether all these sailors had resisted or not.

Still, it was the single largest loss of naval power in one day in human history, even though it was a calm day and no battle had actually taken place.

Salvage operators bought some of the ships in the later decades. One man, Ernest Cox, successfully ran the salvage of 30 ships before calling it quits. But many of the vessels sunk that day still remain on the harbor floor where they are now popular spots for divers.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The insane story of a Russian aircrew’s daring escape from a Taliban prison

In August, 1995, a series of events occurred that would just seem implausible today. A Taliban MiG fighter intercepted a Russian Airstan Ilyushin Il-76TD, forcing it to land at Kandahar International Airport in the middle of a nationwide Civil War. The crew and its passengers were taken prisoner by the Taliban. They were held for a year while the Russian government tried to negotiate their release with the help of a U.S. senator

The 1990s were a crazy time. Even with our post-9/11 goggles off, it seems inconceivable that any number of the above could happen – just try to imagine these crazy things:

  • A Taliban MiG fighter
  • Forcing a Russian plane to land
  • Russian government negotiating
  • A U.S. Senator helping Russia

It’s all true, of course. In 1994, the Taliban exploded out of Kandahar and, by the time of this incident, controlled much of the country south of Kabul. When the Airstan plane was flying over, the Taliban were still deadlocked against the Afghan government of the time, led by Burhanuddin Rabbani.

It must have been an awkward ask for Rabbani, who spent years fighting the Russians in Afghanistan, only to ask them for weapons in trying to keep it away from other Afghans.

This is the Army’s precision ‘sniper rifle’ howitzer
TFW you lose Afghanistan and have to ask for help from the people you took it from.

This is the Army’s precision ‘sniper rifle’ howitzer

Even Jiffy Lube makes you keep the keys on the dashboard, guys.

The Airstan Ilyushin Il-76TD was carrying a load of 30 tons of weapons from Albania bound for the legitimate Afghan government when it was intercepted by a Taliban MiG-21. It was an old fighter, even in the 1990s, but was still enough to bring down the Ilyushin II.

Upon landing, the crew of seven was taken into custody by the Taliban — but the story doesn’t end there. As negotiations between the Russians and the terrorist group began to stall, American Senator Hank Brown stepped in to facilitate the talks, not only buying the Russians time, but also the crew. It didn’t hurt that the Taliban wanted some of their people freed in exchange for their prisoners.

For over a year, the Russian aircrew prepared for their daring escape. Brown managed to get the Taliban to agree to let the Russian Airstan crew maintain their captured aircraft to ensure it was in working order when the time to take off finally came. Brown visited the crew and let them know they would be maintaining it.

But not only did the crew perform its routine maintenance, they also slowly but surely prepared it for their flight home. They finally got their big chance one day, just over a year after being captured. When half of the Taliban who regularly guarded them left the group to attend evening prayers, the crew tricked the others into leaving their weapons outside the plane.

They overpowered the remaining three guards and started the engines.

By the time the Taliban noticed the plane was getting ready for take off, it was already taxiing down the runway. They tried to block their takeoff using a fire truck, but to no avail, the Russians were airborne well ahead of the truck’s position on the runway. The Taliban missed catching the escaping Russians by a mere three to five seconds.

The crew had done the impossible and the Taliban were not able to scramble intercepting aircraft in time to catch them.


They left Taliban airspace as fast as possible and set course for the UAE. By the time they landed, Russian President Boris Yeltsin was waiting by the phone to congratulate them. They made it home to Russia shortly after. The crew is said to celebrate their escape from the terrible event like a second birthday. The Taliban are brutal to prisoners, and the crew of the Airstan Ilyushin Il considered the entire country a prisoner of the terror group.

“My heart really goes out to these people. I’ve seen what a poverty-stricken and miserable standard of living they have. They’re still fighting because they’ve nothing left to lose,” a member of the crew told the BBC.

Their daring escape was the subject of a Russian film, Kandagar, in 2010.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How Army aircrews save the lives of desperate hikers

In the early morning of July 16, 2019, an Army UH-60 Black Hawk rescue crew was alerted to a severely injured hiker who had fallen 500 feet down one of Colorado’s tallest peaks.

The hiker, a retired astronaut, had broken both of his legs and one arm in the fall and needed emergency care fast. But to get to a hospital for his injuries, the former Navy captain had to rely on the Army to pluck him from the unforgiving terrain.

It was the height of summer, a time when hikers flock to the state’s mountain ranges and when operations at the High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site ramp up.


The site has a dual-hatted role. Primarily, it teaches helicopter crews how to fly and land in high altitudes. It also is a search and rescue outfit with experienced crews that can reach difficult spots where most civilian aircraft cannot.

This is the Army’s precision ‘sniper rifle’ howitzer

A UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crew from the High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site drops off a civilian rescue technician near the North Maroon Bells Peak near Aspen, Colo., July 24, 2018.

(Photo by Tyler McCready)

Each year, full-time Colorado Guardsmen at the site rescue about 20 people — mainly desperate hikers who have fallen or suffered from altitude sickness or a heart attack.

With two pilots and two crew chiefs, the Black Hawk crews will also pick up two rescue technicians, who are civilian volunteers that they train with, on their way out.

After already topping their annual average for saves, 2019 has proven to be a busy year.

“It’s nice that we’re able to take what we teach, the power management techniques, and apply them on the weekend or during the week when we’re making these critical saves,” said Lt. Col. Britt Reed, the HAATS commander.

For many, the July 16 mission is one of the recent missions that stands out. While climbing La Plata Peak, which pierces the sky at over 14,000 feet near Leadville, Jeff Ashby quickly became in need of help from the air.

The day before, Ashby, 65, who had flown to space three times, had just reached the summit of the mountain. During his descent, he lost his footing and slipped, hurtling down the mountainside before large boulders stopped him.

Hours later, a local search and rescue team member managed to navigate to the former astronaut and stayed with him overnight.

At first light, Chief Warrant Officer 5 Pat Gates and his aircrew, along with two rescue technicians, flew out to Ashby’s location.

This is the Army’s precision ‘sniper rifle’ howitzer

A UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crew from the High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site lowers a member of Mountain Rescue Aspen down to an injured hiker near the North Maroon Bells Peak near Aspen, Colo., July 24, 2018.

(Photo by Tyler McCready)

Once overhead, the crew used a hoist to lower the technicians, who prepped Ashby before he was pulled up into the helicopter. The aircraft then landed at a transfer site, where Ashby was taken to the hospital in a civilian medical transport helicopter.

While a collection of emergency responders helped out, the HAATS crew had the hoist capability to get Ashby out of danger.

“It’s great knowing that you have that kind of impact on somebody,” Gates said.

After being released from the hospital, Ashby wrote an email to Gates and the rest of the aircrew, thanking them for their efforts.

“He was very appreciative of everything, for the fact that the Army came to help out a Navy guy,” Gates said, smiling. “But, all in all, having a result like that is always the best case.”

Risky missions

Gates estimates he has helped with at least five rescues per year since he came to HAATS in 2009. And the total number of missions continues to increase, he said, almost quadrupling compared to when he first started.

Some of them even test the most experienced pilots, like Gates, who serves as the training site’s senior standardization instructor pilot.

This is the Army’s precision ‘sniper rifle’ howitzer

A UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crew from the High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site prepares to lower a civilian rescue technician near the North Maroon Bells Peak near Aspen, Colo., July 24, 2018.

(Photo by Tyler McCready)

A hairy rescue he still remembers was in 2015 at Crestone Needle, another mountain over 14,000 feet.

In that one, a hiker also slipped and broke his leg on top of other injuries. Since the hiker was stranded in a tight area, the aircrew had to lower a hoist 200 feet as winds kicked up to 25 knots and a thunderstorm loomed nearby.

“That was very interesting,” he said. “It required a lot that day to get the [helicopter rescue team] all the way down there to the injured party.”

The mission was taxing for the crew since they had to keep the helicopter as still as possible. At that height, Gates said, the hoist can sway about 10 feet on the ground to every 1 foot the aircraft moves in the air.

Pilots may also decide to quickly do a one-wheeled landing, one of which was conducted this summer, if there is enough room that the rotors will not chop into the mountain side.

“If they feel the safest way is to land the aircraft [is] by putting one wheel down or two wheels down or using the hoist,” Reed said, “then we’ll figure out what the best way is and we’ll do it.”

And then there are the “what ifs” every difficult mission presents, Gates said, which can be mentally draining when the crew is trying to prevent them all.

Hoist ops

Other than a similar National Guard unit at Buckley Air Force Base, Colorado, that handles rescues on the front range of the Rocky Mountains, no state entity can replicate the landings and hoists of the HAATS crews.

“If we didn’t have these two organizations, then the [hikers] that got stuck would be in a lot of trouble,” Reed said, “because there is nobody else that can provide the resources that we can provide.”

This is the Army’s precision ‘sniper rifle’ howitzer

Civilian rescue technicians treat an injured hiker before he is hoisted up into a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crew from the High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site near Aspen, Colo., July 24, 2018.

(Photo by Tyler McCready)

As a crew chief, Staff Sgt. Greg Yost typically operates the hoist during rescues.

In June 2019, he lowered a hoist about 100 feet to save a skier who suffered cuts and an ankle injury after a small avalanche knocked him down, causing him to hit some rocks.

Hovering above 13,000 feet in that mission, the aircrew had to deal with strong winds in a narrow valley that drastically affected the power margin of the heavy helicopter.

“We were basically at our limit in power,” Yost recalled.

While tough at times, the missions do bring Yost back to a job he never wanted to leave. Before coming to Colorado, he served on a medical evacuation aircrew in Afghanistan, picking up wounded troops in sometimes hot landing zones.

This is the Army’s precision ‘sniper rifle’ howitzer

In this video still image, a UH-60 Black Hawk crew from the Colorado National Guard’s High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site perform a one-wheeled landing at or above 13,000 feet to rescue an injured hiker from Maroon Bells, Sept. 21, 2013.

(US Army photo)

“That wasn’t something that I really wanted to give up,” he said. “So the fact that HAATS regularly conducted those kinds of missions was a big driving force in me wanting to come to this unit so I could continue helping people.”

The work HAATS crews have done with hoist operations has led the Army to develop a standardized hoist training program last year, Gates said.

The training site also creates scenario-based evaluations from the rescue flights to teach students during its weeklong course. The lessons even give the students an opportunity to discuss how the flight could have gone smoother.

“That’s one thing we don’t do, is rest on our laurels,” Gates said. “We take information in from everybody that comes through here.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

China just launched a massive show of force in the South China Sea

Chinese President Xi Jinping presided over China’s largest-ever naval parade in the South China Sea on April 12, 2018, according to Reuters.

The parade involved more than 10,000 naval officers, and dozens of naval ships, and aircraft, according to CGTN.


Xi told his troops that it “has never been more pressing than today” for China to have a world-leading navy, Reuters reported, telling them to devote their undying loyalty to the party.

China’s military, the People’s Liberation Army, is the world’s largest armed forces. The PLA is currently trying to modernize its forces, investing heavily in new technology and equipment, and unnerving its neighbors, Reuters reported.

Here’s what the parade looked like:

48 naval vessels took part in China’s naval parade in the South China Sea on Thursday.

This is the Army’s precision ‘sniper rifle’ howitzer
(CNR)

Including submarines.

This is the Army’s precision ‘sniper rifle’ howitzer
(CCTV)

As well as China’s first and only aircraft carrier, the Liaoning.

This is the Army’s precision ‘sniper rifle’ howitzer
(CGTN)

76 aircraft also took part in the parade.

This is the Army’s precision ‘sniper rifle’ howitzer
(CGTN)

Such as J-15s.

This is the Army’s precision ‘sniper rifle’ howitzer
(CGTN)

And even helicopters.

This is the Army’s precision ‘sniper rifle’ howitzer
(CGTN)

Xi himself was onboard a destroyer called the Changsha.

This is the Army’s precision ‘sniper rifle’ howitzer
(CGTN)

Where he watched four J-15s take off from the Liaoning.

This is the Army’s precision ‘sniper rifle’ howitzer
(CGTN)

While addressing his troops, Xi told them to devote their loyalty to the party.

This is the Army’s precision ‘sniper rifle’ howitzer
(CGTN)

You can watch the video from CGTN below:

MIGHTY HISTORY

The Merchant Marine suffered the worst losses of World War II

It may sound crazy, but an organization suffered worse losses in World War II than the Army, the Marine Corps, or even the Navy that was in charge of guarding it: The Merchant Marine, the sailors who crewed ships carrying goods from U.S. factories to European battlefields, lost nearly 4 percent of its members in the war.


This is the Army’s precision ‘sniper rifle’ howitzer

Merchant Marine officers and crew members were in high demand in World War II, but it was a dangerous and largely thankless service.

(National Archives and Records Administration)

The Merchant Marine was never designed for front-line combat on the battlefield or on the ocean. It’s made up of mostly civilian members who conduct almost any type of maritime trade in peacetime, from fishing tours to oil shipping. During a war, the federal government can make these sailors into an auxiliary of the U.S. Navy.

And during World War II, these men went through light training before crewing ships that had to brave not only the seas and storms, but German U-boats that were organized into wolfpacks and ordered to hunt the Merchant Marine.

This forced these men into the worst of the fighting, despite their largely non-combat role. And it made sense for both sides. Logistics moves supplies and, along with the industry that creates those supplies, wins wars. Germany had a weak industrial base and needed to keep American industry out of the war as much as possible. But one of America’s greatest roles in the war was that of “Arsenal of Democracy,” and it couldn’t afford to keep the Merchant Marine at port.

This is the Army’s precision ‘sniper rifle’ howitzer

German U-boats sank ships flying under Allied colors and didn’t have the ability to recover and rescue the people imperiled by the sinking.

(Willy Stower, public domain)

And so German U-boats patrolled the American coasts, sinking ships — sometimes within view of their ports. Whenever possible, German U-boats operated on the surface, drawing oxygen to run their diesel motors and attacking with deck guns that could punch holes in ships’ hulls and doom them. When that was too dangerous, they would hunt underwater and attack with torpedoes.

For the sailors of the Merchant Marine, this was terrifying. They were under threat of German attack from the moment they left the range of the shore guns until they reached European ports. American waters were actually some of the most dangerous as U-boats hunted the coast at night, looking for U.S. ship silhouettes blocking out lights from shore. Once they had the target, the subs could attack and disappear.

Counting the waters around the American Philippines, Alaska, and the Gulf of Mexico, the Merchant Marine lost approximately 196 ships in U.S. waters. Meanwhile in the Caribbean, our backyard, we lost another 180 ships. Officially, the U.S. lost 1,554 ships in the war. Approximately 8,000 to 12,000 Merchant Marine sailors were killed.

A ship sinks during World War II.

And the situations during the sinkings were terrifying. When ships were struck, sailors would have only minutes or seconds to get off the boat and to safety. Fires and the twisted hull could block passageways and make escape impossible. Jump into the water too early from too high and you could die from striking the water. Wait too long and the suction of the ship would pull you under to drown. Sharks, oil fires, and starvation could kill even those who made it out safely.

And, oddly enough, since the crews were often still technically civilians even when under Navy control, their pay stopped whenever they weren’t actively serving on a ship. That included when the ships were sunk under them and they had to spend weeks trying to reach a safe port.

The worst year, by far, was 1942, when approximately 500 ships were lost or captured in a single year. When the U.S. and the Axis Powers exchanged declarations of war in December 1941, U.S. ships sunk or otherwise lost skyrocketed from an average of 1 per month from January to November to about 55 in December, not counting Navy warships destroyed at Pearl Harbor.

This is the Army’s precision ‘sniper rifle’ howitzer

“Victory” and “Liberty” ships under construction during World War II. These ships allowed American arms and supplies to be shipped en masse to Africa, Europe, and the Pacific.

(War Shipping Administration)

The U.S. rushed the convoy system from World War I back into service. Merchant ships were encouraged to sail in planned convoys with U.S. and British naval escort, and ships that took part were much safer than those who went it alone. Less than 30 percent of U.S. and allied ships lost to U-boat attacks were in a convoy while they were sunk.

This was due to a number of factors, the darkest of which was that, even when U-boats had the edge against Navy vessels, they needed to remain underwater. Since they couldn’t use their deck guns without surfacing, that meant they could only sink as many ships as they had torpedoes.

But British technological advances and the large American industrial base began giving potent sub-hunting weapons to the U.S. and Allied navies and, suddenly, the U-boats had a lot more to worry about when facing convoys than just their limited arsenals. By May, 1943, sonar, radar, improved depth charges, and other tools had tipped the battle in the Atlantic and across most of the oceans.

This is the Army’s precision ‘sniper rifle’ howitzer

An illustration of the sinking of the Lusitania commissioned by the London Illustrated News. The ship was sank by U-boats, leading to America’s direct involvement in World War I.

(London Illustrated News)

Subs were on the run, and the Merchant Marine could sail with less worry. Still, the Merchant Marine lost between 9,000 and 12,000 sailors during the war, depending on whose numbers you use. The National World War Two museum puts the number of dead and presumed dead at 11,324, a loss rate of almost 4 percent. Meanwhile, the Marines took losses of almost 3.7 percent with 24,500 killed out of 669,000 people who served throughout the war.

Yes, joining World War II as the crewman on a merchant ship was more dangerous than joining as a Marine, and the Marines had it the worst of all the Department of Defense branches in the war, suffering 10 percent of all U.S. casualties despite being only 5 percent of the total force.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The time and place for the Putin-Trump summit is set

U.S. national security adviser John Bolton has confirmed that an announcement will be made on June 28, 2018, regarding a planned summit between Presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin.

“There will be an announcement on that tomorrow simultaneously in Moscow and Washington on the date and the time of that meeting,” Bolton said after holding talks on June 27, 2018, with the Russian president in Moscow.

Trump will raise a full range of issues with Putin, Bolton said, including alleged Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, something Putin has denied.


The adviser said he did not rule out concrete results to come out of the summit, adding that the leaders believe it is important to meet, despite their differences.

Earlier, a Kremlin aide said the summit — the first full-fledged meeting between the two presidents since Trump took office in January 2017 — will be held in a third country that is convenient for both sides. He said several more weeks were needed for preparations.

At the start of their meeting in the Kremlin, Putin said that Bolton’s visit “instills hope” that steps can be taken to improve badly strained relations between Moscow and Washington.

Putin said he regretted that ties between the former Cold War foes are “not in the best shape” and suggested their dire state is due in large part to what he called “the internal political struggle” in the United States — indicating he does not blame Trump.


“Russia has never sought confrontation, and I hope that we can talk today about what can be done by both sides to restore full-format relations on the basis of equality and respect,” Putin said.

Bolton said he was looking forward to discussing “how to improve Russia-U.S. relations and find areas where we can agree and make progress together.”

When Moscow and Washington had differences in the past, Russian and U.S. leaders met and that was “good for both countries, good for stability in the world,” Bolton said. “President Trump feels very strongly on that subject.”

Bolton also said he would like to hear Putin’s account of “how you handled the World Cup so successfully.” The United States will co-host the 2026 World Cup with Mexico and Canada.

Bolton met with Putin after holding separate talks with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and a senior member of Putin’s Security Council, Yury Averyanov.

At least part of the meeting between Bolton and Putin was also attended by others including Lavrov, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, U.S. Ambassador Jon Huntsman, and Fiona Hill, senior director for Europe and Russia on the National Security Council.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders tweeted that Bolton was meeting with Putin and other Russian officials “to discuss United States-Russia relations, as well the potential for a Presidential meeting.’


The Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that in addition to bilateral ties, Lavrov and Bolton discussed current global issues including Syria and Ukraine — where Moscow’s involvement in military conflicts is a source of U.S.-Russian tension.

Bolton traveled to Moscow after meetings with U.S. allies in London and Rome on June 25-26, 2018.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a television interview over the weekend that Trump is likely to meet Putin “in the not-too-distant future.”

Ushakov’s comments suggested that the summit is likely to take place at some point after Trump attends a NATO summit in Brussels on July 11-12 and visits Britain on July 13, 2018. Vienna and Helsinki have been cited as possible venues.

An Austrian newspaper earlier this week said teams from the United States and Russia were already in Vienna preparing for a July 15, 2018 meeting between the two leaders.

However, a senior U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters on June 26, 2018, that Finland’s capital, Helsinki, was the likeliest choice, but the final decision depended on the outcome of Bolton’s talks.

Trump and Putin have met twice on the sidelines of international summits and they have spoken at least eight times by telephone. Trump telephoned Putin to congratulate him in March 2018 after the Russian president’s reelection and said the two would meet soon.

This is the Army’s precision ‘sniper rifle’ howitzer
President Donald Trump

However, Russian officials have since complained about the difficulty of setting up such a meeting, as ties between Washington and Moscow have further deteriorated over issues including the war in Syria and the poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain, which the West blames on Moscow.

Relations were already severely strained by tension over issues including Russia’s seizure of Crimea, its role in wars in Syria and eastern Ukraine, and what U.S. intelligence agencies concluded was an “influence campaign” ordered by Putin in an attempt to affect the U.S. presidential election, in part by bolstering Trump and discrediting his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton.

Democrats and some Republicans have accused Trump of being soft on Russia. Trump made clear during his campaign and into his presidency that he wants better relations with Russia and Putin, and has often praised the Russian president.

Bolton’s trip and the movement toward a Trump-Putin summit comes after Trump unnerved allies by calling for Russia to be readmitted to the G7, the group of industrialized nations it was ejected from in 2014 over its interference in Ukraine.

Trump has also sharply criticized a U.S. Justice Department investigation into the alleged Russian meddling and whether his associates colluded with Moscow. Russia denies it interfered, despite substantial evidence, and Trump says there was no collusion.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Marine Corps plans to replace LAV with new ‘transformational ARV’

The Marine Corps plans to begin replacing its legacy Light Armored Vehicle with modern Armored Reconnaissance Vehicle late in the next decade.

The ARV will be highly mobile, networked, transportable, protected and lethal. The capability will provide, sensors, communication systems and lethality options to overmatch threats that have historically been addressed with more heavily armored systems.

“The ARV will be an advanced combat vehicle system, capable of fighting for information that balances competing capability demands to sense, shoot, move, communicate and remain transportable as part of the naval expeditionary force,” said John “Steve” Myers, program manager for MCSC’s LAV portfolio.


Since the 1980s, the LAV has supported Marine Air-Ground Task Force missions on the battlefield. While the LAV remains operationally effective, the life cycle of this system is set to expire in the mid-2030s. The Corps aims to replace the vehicle before then.

Marine Corps Systems Command has been tasked with replacing the vehicle with a next-generation, more capable ground combat vehicle system. In June 2016, the Corps established an LAV Way-Ahead, which included the option to initiate an LAV Replacement Program to field a next-generation capability in the 2030s.

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U.S. Marine Corps Light Armored Vehicle.

Preliminary planning, successful resourcing in the program objectives memorandum and the creation of an Office of Naval Research science and technology program have set the conditions to begin replacing the legacy LAV with the ARV in the late-2020s.

“The Marine Corps is examining different threats,” said Kimberly Bowen, deputy program manager of Light Armored Vehicles. “The ARV helps the Corps maintain an overmatched peer-to-peer capability.”

The Office of Naval Research has begun researching advanced technologies to inform requirements, technology readiness assessments and competitive prototyping efforts for the next-generation ARV.

The office is amid a science and technology phase that allows them to conduct advanced technology research and development, modeling and simulation, whole system trade studies and a full-scale technology demonstrator fabrication and evaluation.

These efforts will inform the requirements development process, jump-start industry and reduce risk in the acquisition program.

The office is also supporting the Ground Combat Element Division of the Capabilities Development Directorate by performing a trade study through the U.S. Army Ground Vehicle Systems Center in Michigan. This work will help to ensure ARV requirements are feasible and to highlight the capability trade space.

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U.S. Marine Corps Light Armored Vehicles with 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, 2nd Marine Division standby to be armed with ammunition to conduct a platoon level gunnery range at Fort Irwin, California, March 22, 2019.

(U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Sgt. Justin M. Smith)

ONR has partnered with industry to build two technology demonstrator vehicles for evaluation. The first is a base platform that will comprise current, state-of-the-art technologies and standard weapons systems designed around a notional price point. The second is an “at-the-edge” vehicle that demonstrates advanced capabilities.

“The purpose of those vehicles is to understand the technology and the trades,” said Myers.

In support of acquisition activities, PM LAV anticipates the release of an acquisition program Request for Information in May 2019 and an Industry Day later in the year to support a competitive prototyping effort. The Corps expects a Material Development Decision before fiscal year 2020.

“We will take what we’ve learned in competitive prototyping,” said Myers. “Prior to a Milestone B decision, we’ll be working to inform trade space, inform requirements and reduce risk.”

The Corps believes the ARV will support the capability demands of the next generation of armored reconnaissance.

“This vehicle will equip the Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion within the Marine Divisions to perform combined arms, all-weather, sustained reconnaissance and security missions in support of the ground combat element,” said Myers. “It’s expected to be a transformational capability for the Marine Corps.”

This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

China apparently built world’s first stealth amphibious assault drone

China has built the world’s first stealth amphibious assault drone boat for island warfare, the developer revealed recently, and Chinese military experts believe it could eventually be headed to the disputed South China Sea.

Built for island assault operations and capable of operating on land and at sea, the “Marine Lizard” amphibious drone ship was developed by the Wuhan-based Wuchang Shipbuilding Industry Group, a subsidiary of the state-owned China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation (CSIC).

The 40-foot drone ship operates as a trimaran hydrojet in the water but switches to tracked propulsion as it treads ashore. The company claims it can maintain stealth at speeds up to 50 knots in the maritime domain. On land, though, the assault vehicle is limited to a little over 12 mph. Modifications, specifically increasing the size of the tracks, could offer improved mobility on land.


The vessel’s capabilities have not been publicly demonstrated.

The Marine Lizard, which carries its own onboard radar system, is equipped with two machine guns and vertical launch system cells capable of firing anti-ship and anti-aircraft missiles.

It is capable of “rapid assault and beach landings in accordance with operational requirements,” CSIC explained, adding that it is able to “complete missions such as special operations troop transport, border patrol, near-shore warning operations, and island/reef airport protection.”

The Chinese military has eyes fixed on island warfare, be it a future fight for Taiwan or the contested islands and reefs in the East and South China Seas.

China’s Global Times, citing a Chinese military expert, wrote recently that “this amphibious drone boat is suitable for island assault operations as a swarm of such drone ships could lead an attack following a first wave of artillery and air strikes.”

Observers suspect the Marine Lizard could play a key role in a regional conflict. “In the South China Sea, it can be used to either seize a reef or guard a reef, both offensive and defensive,” Chinese military analyst Song Zhongping told the South China Morning Post.

He added that the craft could be used to launch a surprise attack on an enemy island outpost.

CSIC claims that its new stealth amphibious assault drone, which has an operational range of 745 miles, has the unique ability to lie dormant for up to eight months, activated remotely at ranges of up to 30 miles, and immediately called into action.

The Marine Lizard can also, according to the developers, integrate into Chinese networks for combined arms operations with other unmanned systems relying on China’s Beidou satellite navigation system.

Much like the US, China is preparing for the possibility of high-end conflict. But while Chinese warfighting has traditionally been characterized by the sacrificing of waves of Chinese troops in hopes of overwhelming an enemy, the country is now investing heavily in long-range weapons and unmanned combat systems, challenges that the American armed forces are actively working to counter.

Recently, US and Philippines troops participating in the annual Balikatan exercises practiced repelling an attempt by a foreign military power to seize an airfield on a small island, a not unfathomable possibility given persistent tensions in the South China Sea.

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

MIGHTY GAMING

You’re gonna need a strong internet connection to run Google’s new gaming service

When Netflix transitioned from its original business of mailing customers physical DVDs and became a company primarily focused on streaming movies over the internet, customers had reservations.

There were questions about the smaller library of content available through Netflix’s digital service, and there were concerns about the viability of streaming videos to a public that hadn’t fully embraced broadband internet speeds.

“What if I live somewhere that doesn’t have strong enough internet speeds?” people wondered.


More than a decade later, that’s the same question at the heart of Google’s new video game platform, Stadia.

This is the Army’s precision ‘sniper rifle’ howitzer

Google VP Phil Harrison introduced Stadia at the annual Game Developers Conference in San Francisco on March 19, 2019.

(Google / YouTube)

The idea with Stadia is simple: High-end, blockbuster games are streamed through Stadia to whatever device you’re using.

With Stadia, Google says, you can stream the same game to your smartphone that you stream to your home television, running at the same resolution and framerate. No game console required.

It’s a bold, ambitious promise, and it’s one that depends on strong, stable internet to function.

“When we launch,” Google VP Phil Harrison told Kotaku in an interview this week, “we will be able to get to 4K but only raise that bandwidth to about 30 megabits per second.”

What that means for the average person is that, based on current LTE and home broadband speeds, you’ll probably be able to run Stadia.

The big unknown, however, is stability.

More than just having strong internet, Stadia relies on steady internet connection speeds. If you’ve ever experienced buffering on Netflix, you’re already familiar with this phenomenon: Your internet speed dips, or tanks completely, and the video you’re watching stops playing while it struggles to load.

This is the Army’s precision ‘sniper rifle’ howitzer

The sell points for Google Stadia.

(Google)

This is an inconvenience when you’re watching a video, but it could be outright game-breaking if it happens in the middle of, say, a crucial moment in a boss fight.

You’re just one hit away from finally crushing Lady Maria in “Bloodborne” when — uh oh! — the internet drops speed just enough for the game not to register your button press in time. And just like that, she’s won again.

Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do to ensure a steady internet connection. Playing during off-peak hours, when fewer people are online in your area, will help. And, if you’re on a mobile device, playing in a part of your house with thinner walls will help maintain a better signal.

But for the most part, this part of the gaming experience is beyond your control.

Harrison said that, should your internet speed dip while playing, the first result is something pretty similar to what Netflix does: A drop in visual fidelity.

“If you have less bandwidth, we’ll give you a lower resolution. We do a lot of that for you in the background, and we will only offer up the appropriate bandwidth for the infrastructure that you have,” he said.

A sharper drop, of course, could result in the stream outright freezing up; whether Stadia recognizes that issue in enough time to stop something unintended from happening in the game you’re playing remains to be seen.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Trump calls Putin out for chemical attack in Syria

After months of praise — calling him “smart”, congratulating his reelection, floating forming a “Cyber Security unit” — President Donald Trump finally called out Russian President Vladimir Putin by name on Twitter April 8, 2018, for the first time since taking office.

Trump placed part of the blame on Putin for the suspected chemical attack that killed at least 40 people in Douma, Syria on April 7, 2018. Putin’s government has backed Syrian government forces for years, while the US has sided with the opposition rebels.


“President Putin, Russia and Iran are responsible for backing Animal Assad,” Trump tweeted, referring to Russia’s support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. “Big price … to pay.”

Ian Bremmer, president of geopolitical-risk firm Eurasia Group, said that if the US can get confirmation that chemical weapons were indeed used, Trump will probably order a strike like he did in April 2017 after the US concluded Assad’s regime was behind another chemical attack.

“I think he’s probably going to engage in strikes against Syria,” Bremmer told Business Insider on April 8, 2018. “He’s made very clear both then and now that he’s not going to tolerate use of chemical weapons by Assad’s regime.”

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Children are treated for suspected chemical gas poisoning in Douma, Syria on April 8, 2018.
(The White Helmets / Screenshot)

Lawmakers from both parties have encouraged Trump to make the call. Sen. John McCain of Arizona went so far as to say that Trump’s pledge to withdraw US troops from Syria “emboldened Assad.”

“Trump was quick to call out Assad, along with the Russian and Iranian governments, on Twitter. The question now is whether he will do anything about it,” McCain said in a statement. “The President responded decisively when Assad used chemical weapons in 2017. He should do so again, and demonstrate that Assad will pay a price for his war crimes.”

‘A defining moment’

Bremmer said Trump’s “strange” unwillingness to criticize Putin, and Russia in general, finally changed on April 8, 2018.

“None of us know why it is that Trump decided he was going to be so nice individually to Putin. It’s not like he cares about being nice to people,” Bremmer said. “Why was he being nice to Putin, and why is he suddenly shifting? Anyone that tells you they know the answer to that question is lying.”

The Trump administration is already imposing sanctions on Russian oligarchs and entities, and has expelled dozens of Russian diplomats. Bremmer said the US could decide to impose harsher sanctions on the country, conduct cyber attacks, or even release embarrassing information on Putin.

Former President Barack Obama didn’t escalate into this territory, Bremmer said, because Obama “recognized there was a potential for escalation that was quite dangerous.”

Trump also criticized Obama in a follow-up tweet on April 8, 2018, saying that his predecessor should have “Drawn A Red Line In The Sand.”

“There’s one thing we know is that Trump absolutely wants to show that he is the opposite of Obama,” Bremmer said.

Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said on ABC’s “This Week” that Trump has the opportunity to “reset the table” in Syria, and suggested bombing Assad’s air force and setting up so-called safe zones to achieve peace.

“If it becomes a tweet without meaning, then he has hurt himself in North Korea. If he doesn’t follow through and live up to that tweet, he’s going to look weak in the eyes of Russia and Iran,” Graham said. “So this is a defining moment, Mr. President. You need to follow through with that tweet. Show a resolve that Obama never did to get this right.”

What the international community plans to do about Assad

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A view of the missiles the US launched to strike a Syrian military infrastructure on April 7, 2017.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ford Williams)

“One of the few things that Trump has done in foreign policy that really the international community widely supported was the strikes that he engaged in April 2017,” Bremmer said.

The US, along with France, the UK and other nations called for an emergency UN Security Council meeting to be held on April 9, 2018, “in reference to the horrible chemical weapons attack on innocent civilians in Syria,” UN Ambassador Nikki Haley tweeted April 8, 2018.

“This is becoming all too common,” Haley wrote. “Strong action is needed.”

The US could partner with France in the strike directly. Bremmer said French President Emmanuel Macron “recently put out his own red lines against Assad, saying that he would strike any base that lethal chemical attacks were launched from. He said he’d do it by himself.”

Bremmer said “given that Macron and Trump have both made those statements, I think strikes against Assad do make sense,” adding that the US would need to be careful not to hit Russian forces.

One potential downside is that Russia could execute more cyber attacks in response, Bremmer said, which could further deteriorate relations between the US and Russia.

“We’re not heading to a nuclear war with the Russians, but this is a dangerous period,” Bremmer said. “If the Americans engage in direct strikes against Assad given their direct support by the Russians and the Iranians — it is a dangerous thing to do, but I do think that it’s an appropriate thing to do in this environment.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Someone just tried to send poison to Mattis in the mail

Two letters sent to the Pentagon, including one addressed to Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, have tested positive for ricin, a defense official told VOA on Oct. 2, 2018.

The envelopes containing a suspicious substance were taken by the FBI on Oct. 2, 2018, for further testing, according to Pentagon spokesman Army Colonel Rob Manning.


The two letters arrived at an off-site Pentagon mail distribution center on Oct. 1, 2018. One was addressed to Mattis, the other was addressed to Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral John Richardson, an official told VOA on condition of anonymity.

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The Pentagon, headquarters of the US Department of Defense.

The Pentagon Force Protection Agency detected the substance during mail screening, so the letters never entered the Pentagon building, officials said.

“All USPS (United States Postal Service) mail received at the Pentagon mail screening facility [Oct. 1, 2018] is currently under quarantine and poses no threat to Pentagon personnel,” according to Manning.

Ricin is a highly toxic poison found in castor beans.

This article originally appeared on Voice of America. Follow @VOANews on Twitter.

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