10 lethal special operations units from around the world - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

10 lethal special operations units from around the world

Special operations forces are the most highly disciplined, mission-capable, and formidable units in the world. They go through rigorous selection processes and training in order to conduct unconventional warfare tasks that are beyond the means of standard military forces.

The truth is, the world may never know exactly what these teams have accomplished, but their public records contain enough to earn global respect. In no particular order, these are ten lethal special operations units from around the world.


Snow Wolf Commando Unit patch.

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10. China’s Snow Leopard Commando Unit

Formerly known as the Snow Wolf Commando Unit, named for the tenacity of arctic wolves and their ability to survive in harsh conditions, this is a specops unit of the People’s Republic of China. At their inception, they spent five years training in secret to conduct counter-terrorism, riot control, anti-hijacking, and bomb disposal for the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.

They’ve trained alongside Russian special task force units during joint anti-terror exercises with the primary mission of maintaining peace and stability.

The unit prides itself on the speed and accuracy of their marksmanship, their strength and stamina, and their spirit of self-sacrifice. Each recruit must serve in the People’s Armed Police for 1-2 years before undergoing physical and psychological tests. Perhaps where they excel the most is in martial arts and close quarter battles, but their sniper squadron shouldn’t be discounted.

Moving on, the next group made the news when one of their operators drowned an ISIS terrorist in a puddle. Yeah. Let’s talk about:

10 lethal special operations units from around the world

SBS with U.S. Delta Force at the Battle of Tora Bora.

9. Britain’s Special Boat Service

“Not by strength, by guile” is the motto of the Royal Navy’s Special Boat Service, one of the United Kingdom’s most secretive and elite military units.

The SBS is the UK’s equivalent of the US Navy SEALs. The selection process for the elite team has a 90% failure rate and includes a grueling 4-week endurance test that grows increasingly more challenging and concludes with a 40 kilometer march — that’s 24.8 miles for my fellow Yankees — which must be completed in under 20 hours.

And that’s just Stage 2 of training.

Graduates will master weapons handling, jungle training, complex fighting, and combat survival before they are officially inducted into the elite unit.

Born out of World War II, today, the SBS remains one of the most well-respected units in the world. Since 9/11, the Special Boat Service has been deployed against Al Qaeda, ISIS, and the Taliban, as well as on rescue missions around the globe, including in Sierra Leone and Libya.

10 lethal special operations units from around the world

Soldier in the Polish Naval Special Forces Unit GROM during NATO exercise Trident Juncture 15.

(Polish SOF, Lisbon, NATO Trident Juncture 15)

8. Polish GROM

GROM is an acronym that loosely translates to the Group for Operational Maneuvering Response.

More poignantly, however, grom means “thunder” in Polish. It’s a unit that can trace its lineage to the exiled Polish paratroopers of World War II known as “the Silent Unseen.” 315 men — and one woman — trained for months in Great Britain before jumping into occupied Poland to oppose the Nazi hold there.

In 1990, the GROM unit was organized after Operation Bridge, a mission to help Soviet Jews enter Israel. Intelligence reports indicated a significant Hezbollah threat in the area of operations, so the elite counter-terrorist force was approved. It remained a secret from the public until 1994, when they deployed to Haiti for Operation Restore Democracy.

GROM performs rescue operations, including hostage recovery, as well as counter-insurgency missions. They have extensive weapons and medical expertise and have mastered a variety of military disciplines, including parachuting, amphibious insertion, diving, pyrotechnics, and vehicle handling.

Whether fighting terrorists or war criminals, GROM more than lives up to its name.

10 lethal special operations units from around the world

Pakistan Special Services Group.

(Photo by Wikipedia user Hbtila)

7. The Special Services Group in Pakistan

Business Insider reported that training for the Pakistani Special Services Group requires a 36-mile march done in 12 hours and a five-mile run in full kit in 20 minutes — if that’s true… then holy s***.

Created to combat terrorism, extremism, and separatism, SSG training consists of grueling physical conditioning, airborne school, a 25-week commando course, and hand-to-hand combat training. Reportedly, only 5% of recruits complete the rigorous training.

Due to their location, they are kept actively engaged in counter-terror missions. From hotspots along the India-Pakistan border to the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan to Operation Zarb-e-Azb, a joint military offensive targeting terrorist organizations, the SSG goes where the fire is hot.

10 lethal special operations units from around the world

Delta Force and soldiers pictured deep behind Iraqi lines during the 1991 Gulf War

6. Delta Force

Delta Force is the U.S. Army’s elite counter-terrorism unit, with Army Rangers and Green Berets among its numbers, but it also has operators from the Navy and Air Force. It’s been called many things — Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, the Combat Applications Group, and now the Army Compartmented Elements, but throughout its short history, it has maintained its superior ability to capture or kill high value targets, dismantle terrorist cells, and conduct covert missions in any area of operations.

Most of the missions executed by Delta Force remain classified — and it’s rare to find an official document that even acknowledges the unit — but one of its most notable accomplishments includes Operation Red Dawn, the capture of Saddam Hussein.

A leaked recruiting video gave a glimpse at different training methods for Delta Force, including tactical driving, vehicle takedowns, and assaulter team tactics. A testament to their precision, one of their final exams includes breaching operations with fellow team members playing the hostage as his brothers live fire against targets nearby. The operation builds trust within the team and provides the shooter a sober reminder not to hit the hostage.

10 lethal special operations units from around the world

GIGN troops.

(Photo by Wikipedia user Domenjod)

5. France’s National Gendarmerie Intervention Group

The Group D’Intervention de la Gendarmerie Nationale is one of the world’s most combat-experienced counter-terrorist organizations. Somewhere between a SWAT team and Delta Force, the French GIGN responds to terrorist threats or domestic attacks.

The enemy has evolved — and so, too, has the GIGN. Their mission is to get access to the scene of an attack as quickly as possible, then capture or kill the assailants before they can inflict more carnage.

Their training program is notoriously brutal and lasts fourteen months — if recruits can make it that long. One documentary team followed a group of potential recruits and saw 120 of them whittled down to 18 in two weeks. It includes one of the best marksmanship schools in the world, weapons handling, airborne courses including HALO jumps, hand-to-hand combat, diving, survival training, and explosive ordnance disposal.

These guys are lethal, but they value fire discipline. Rumor has it that they’re just issued a 6-shot .357 revolver as their official sidearm — with only 6 rounds, you bet they’re going to make each one count.

10 lethal special operations units from around the world

Sayeret Matkal operator.

(Israeli Defense Forces)

​4. The Sayeret Matkal of Israel

Also known as “Unit 269,” Israel’s Sayeret Matkal is a highly secretive special-operations brigade with almost legendary status. Since its inception in 1957, Sayeret Matkal has gained a reputation for its deep reconnaissance capabilities and counter-terrorism and hostage recovery missions.

They rely on secrecy, attacking in small numbers and in disguise, then fading away before the enemy realizes what happened.

One of its most notable operations is perhaps the Entebbe rescue in 1976, when an Air France plane carrying 250 passengers to Paris from Tel Aviv was hijacked by terrorists. The non-Israeli passengers were released, but 106 hostages remained. The rescue mission took a week to plan and a little over an hour to execute.

The disguised task force was airlifted in with Land Rovers and a Mercedes-Benz. They managed to infiltrate the local army, kill the terrorists, and rescue all but four of the hostages. Only one Israeli soldier was killed in the attack.

That’s the thing with Sayeret Matkal — once you know it’s there, you’re already out of time.

10 lethal special operations units from around the world

Spanish Special Operations Forces (SOF) soldiers partner with a U.S. Marine during a mock non-compliant boarding as part of exercise Sea Saber 2004.

(U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class Jeffrey Lehrberg)

3. Spain’s Special Naval Warfare Force

Spain’s Special Naval Warfare Force was created in 2009 when the country merged different units of the Spanish Navy into one combatastic entity. The “Fuerza” is comprised of the Special Combat Divers Unit, Special Explosive Diffusers Unit, and the Special Operations Unit — its main tactical predecessor.

The Special Operations Unit was responsible for maritime counter-terrorism, combat diving, air and amphibious insertion, combat search and rescue, and ship-boarding — today’s elite unit carries on the fight.

They have a strong history of utilizing those tactics in hostage rescue and pirate confrontation. In 2002, the hombres rana supported Operation Enduring Freedom in the Indian Ocean when they stormed a North Korean vessel transporting SCUD missiles to Yemen. Then, in 2011, they rescued a French hostage from Somali pirates.

And that’s just what’s known to the public — like the other elite units on this list, most of their missions remain classified.

10 lethal special operations units from around the world

Russian Spetsnaz.

(Photo by Wikipedia user Aleksey Yermolov)

2. Russian Spetsnaz

Russia’s badass Spetsnaz is shrouded in mystery, but it dates back to the Red Bolshevik Guard, a paramilitary force organized during the height of the Russian Revolution in the early 20th century. Most of its members are comparable to U.S. Army Rangers, but an elite few train like Delta Force.

They had a traditional background of battlefield reconnaissance, shattering enemy chains of command and lines of supply, and targeting the enemy’s tactical weapons and advantages, but one thing that makes them different from U.S. operators, however, is their freedom to “mix and match” their weapons.

Recently, Russia has been increasingly modeling its Spetsnaz off American counterparts.

To a casual observer, they can appear difficult to distinguish from one another, but at the end of the day, there’s a reason Russia is trying to keep up with the United States.

10 lethal special operations units from around the world

Members of U.S. Navy Seal Team One move down the Bassac River in a SEAL Team Assault Boat (STAB) during operations along the river south of Saigon. November 1967.

1. U.S. Navy SEALs

I lied. I saved this one for last. Because, come on.

United States Navy SEALs are perhaps the finest special operations forces in the world. The competitive standard to even be considered for BUD/S training is to swim 500 yards in 10:30, 79 push-ups, 79 sit-ups, 11 pull-ups, and a 10:20 1.5 mile run. That’s just to get in.

Preparation to become a SEAL consists of Basic Underwater Demolition, Parachute Jump school, and SEAL Qualification Training — which have all been described lightly as “brutal” — then they do another 18 months of pre-deployment training.

SEALs deliver highly specialized, intensely challenging tactical capabilities including direct action warfare, special reconnaissance, counterterrorism, and foreign internal defense.

From the Korean War and the Vietnam War to Somalia to Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, to Operation Inherent Resolve, and, of course, the death of international terrorist Osama bin Laden, Navy SEALs have made their mark.

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time the Air Force lost four nuclear bombs in a single crash

This Day In History: January 17, 1966

On this day in history, 1966, at around 10:30 a.m. a B-52G Bomber collided with a KC-135 Stratotanker, accidentally scattering its payload of four nuclear bombs, 70-kilotons each. Three of the bombs fell near the fishing village of Palomares, Spain, and the fourth landed in the Mediterranean Sea, taking a full 80 days to locate and recover.

The B-52G had been attempting to refuel from the KC-135, but came in too fast. Normally, if a collision might appear to be imminent, the boom operator on the refueling tanker is supposed to notify the other plane to break away immediately, which they will then do. However, in this case, for whatever reason, the boom operator said nothing, which ended up costing himself and the rest of the Stratotanker crew their lives as the B-52G collided with the refueling boom. This resulted in the KC-135’s fuel payload exploding and the B-52G breaking apart shortly thereafter. It also resulted in three of the seven aboard the B-52 bomber dying, with the other four managing to parachute to safety. One of them managed to make it to land, but three of them landed in the sea and were later picked up by fishing boats at sea.


Aside from losing the two aircraft and the destruction of four nuclear bombs valued at around billion each (according to the Secretary of Defense’ valuation at the time), the area around Palomares was also subjected to high levels of ionizing radiation. While the nuclear bombs didn’t detonate fully, the traditional explosives (the high explosive igniters) in the bombs did detonate with two of the bombs when they hit the ground. This resulted in their core radioactive materials being spread about in the air and contaminating an area around 1-2 square miles. The third bomb was found mostly in-tact in a river bed nearby.

10 lethal special operations units from around the world

A B-52 Stratofortress approaches the refueling boom of a KC-135 Stratotanker.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Zach Anderson)

The fourth was significantly harder to locate due to the fact that its parachute had deployed (the parachute tail plate was all that was initially found, which led them to believe it had deployed) and so they presumed it had landed somewhere in the Mediterranean. After 80 days of searching, it was finally located and, after a botched first attempt at recovery resulting in them losing it again for a time, it was successfully recovered. Interestingly, salvage rights for it were claimed by Simó Orts. This customarily grants the locator of the item 1-2% of the value of that which was found. Given that the bomb was valued at around billion, Orts asked for the lower 1% amount of million. It isn’t known how much he actually ended up getting, but the Air Force did eventually settle with him, paying him an undisclosed amount of money.

Incidentally, one of the divers who was working on finding and recovering the missing nuke, Carl Brashear, lost his leg when it was crushed in an accident during the search. Apart from being an important event for the unlucky Carl Brashear, this was also the inspiration for the movie “Men of Honor” starring Cuba Gooding Jr., Robert De Niro, and Charlize Theron.

Also of interest is that the Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker line of aircraft has now been in service for 55 years. What’s even more impressive about these planes is that they are projected to still be fully operational up until around 2040, giving them a total service life of around 83 years, at which point they will be phased out in favor of the Boeing KC-46. These planes currently cost the U.S. government in maintenance and operations cost around – billion per year and rising every year as they age and maintenance costs go up.

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.

Humor

7 of the top surprises veterans face going to school

It’s time to go home. You’ve honorably separated or retired from service, you’ve got your DD214 in hand, and you’re likely itching to get on with the next chapter of your life.


Chances are, you’ve already got some school under your belt, but you likely need to get a little bit more to make the career move you see for yourself.

Yup, you are heading full-speed ahead, right for the thing you probably joined the service to avoid: college. Below are 7 of the top surprises every veteran faces going back to college.

Also Read: 5 things we wish we had while we were deployed

7. Homework? Yes, that’s a thing

No doubt you knew homework was involved in the school process, but the amount and the frequency might just surprise you.

No way you expected Mrs. Robinson to assign an essay the first day of basket-weaving class…

10 lethal special operations units from around the world
When the professor tells you on Thursday that there’s a quiz on Friday. (Image from Comedy Central)

6. Think high school drama stays in high school? Nope

The drama that you left behind to serve Uncle Sam and this great nation didn’t go anywhere while you were gone.

It is waiting right where you left it, ready to infuriate your overly mature sensibilities.

10 lethal special operations units from around the world
The Drama Continues. (Image from Disney’s High School Musical)

5. Lack of structure

College does have structure, obviously, but it can’t begin to compete with the structure we grew accustomed to in the military.

Sure, you’re an adult with lots of life experience and you’re fully capable of completing tasks without supervision, but having the structure suddenly go missing is jarring for many of us.

10 lethal special operations units from around the world
When you realize you miss the structure. (Image courtesy of Military.com)

4. Irritability… also a thing

By being in the military, you to get used to dealing with competent individuals. This is because, typically, an incompetent individual doesn’t make it very long — if at all.

Furthermore, if individuals begin to show incompetence, especially if you outrank them, it is perfectly fine and expected that you correct them. That type of behavior is frowned upon in most collegiate settings. It’s something that takes some getting used to.

The adjustment curve is typically worse for those with more time in service.

10 lethal special operations units from around the world

3. Yes, you’re the old guy/gal

This is a just a fact of life. The armed forces, as a whole, only make up about a half of one percent of the total population. This means that most of your classmates are civilians who probably came right from high school.

Truth be told, there’s a good chance that you’re older than at least one of your professors.

2. Your military experience may or may not apply

Depending on how different your scholastic endeavor is from your military service, what you did in uniform may or may not matter. This is a bitter pill to swallow for many of us, as we are extremely proud of our service and accomplishments.

This leaves us with a decision. We can become that guy/girl that always brings up their service, or try to find a new place to fit in. Good news though, a lot of schools will take your service and give you scholastic credit for it.

10 lethal special operations units from around the world
That look you give when you’re told your years of service don’t apply. (Image from STX Entertainment’s The Foreigner)

Related: 5 reasons MPs hate on firefighters

1. The Billy Madison effect

This is a bit different than just being older. Even if you went to school while in service, those studies often mirror your military duty. Breaking away from that causes you to have to learn and relearn the basics of whatever you’re studying.

This makes you Billy.

Not only are you older, but the subject matter is super entry-level.

Yup, you’re definitely Billy.

10 lethal special operations units from around the world
Trying to understand something brand new with your new classmates. (Image from Universal Pictures’ Billy Madison)

MIGHTY TRENDING

The UN finds missiles fired from Yemen were made by Iran

The United Nations has determined that debris from five ballistic missiles launched from Yemen into Saudi Arabia since July 2018, contained components manufactured in Iran and shared key design features with an Iranian missile, a new report says.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in the report to the UN Security Council, which was seen by media on June 14, 2018, that — while the missile parts are Iranian — the United Nations has been unable to determine whether they were transferred from Iran after UN restrictions went into force in January 2016.


Guterres said the UN was also “confident” that some arms seized by Bahrain and recovered by the United Arab Emirates from an unmanned vessel laden with explosives were manufactured in Iran.

But he said, once again, investigators could not determine whether the arms were transferred from Iran after UN restrictions took effect.

The secretary-general was reporting on the implementation of a 2015 Security Council resolution that endorsed the Iran nuclear deal. The resolution includes restrictions on transfers to or from Iran of nuclear and ballistic missile material as well as other arms.

10 lethal special operations units from around the world
Secretary Kerry shakes hands with minister Zarif in front of Federica Mogherini at the end of negotiations of nuclear program of Iran. These negotiations concluded to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action agreement onu00a0July 14,u00a02015, between Iran and the P5+1.

The latest UN findings are less conclusive than those of a separate UN panel of experts, which reported in January 2018, that Iran was in violation of the arms embargo on Yemen for failing to block supplies of its missiles to allied Huthi rebels in the war-torn country.

The inconclusiveness of the report could deal a setback to the United States, which has repeatedly called on the UN Security Council to take action against Iran over illegal arms transfers to Yemen and elsewhere in the region.

Iran has strongly denied arming the Huthis.

In other key findings, Guterres said the UN is looking into reports from two unnamed countries that Iran received “dual-use items, materials, equipment, goods, and technology” in violation of UN restrictions.

Guterres also said the UN hasn’t had an opportunity to examine a drone that Israel intercepted and downed after it entered its airspace. Israel said it was Iranian.

The secretary-general noted that Iranian media had reported that “various Iranian unmanned aerial vehicles” have been deployed in Syria.

Guterres reported that the Hamas leader in Gaza said on TV on May 21, 2018, that Iran provided the Al-Qassam Brigades with “money, (military) equipment and expertise.” Guterres said any such arms transfers might violate UN restrictions.

He also reported receiving a letter dated May 15, 2018, from Ukraine’s UN ambassador indicating that its security service “prevented an attempt by two Iranian nationals to procure and transfer” to Iran components of a Kh-31 air-to-surface missile and related technical documents.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

10 questions with Army veteran and entertainment icon Lou Pitt

Manager/producer and former Agent at ICM Lou Pitt shares about his life and experiences in the entertainment industry. His current clients include Oscar winning actor Christopher Plummer, New York Times best-selling authors Brad Meltzer, Lorenzo Carcaterra. Tilar Mazzeo, A.J. Hartley, Visual Effect Oscar winner John Bruno and Director Jason Ensler.

Former clients include Arnold Schwarzenegger, Gale Anne Hurd, Dudley Moore, Bruce Lee, Rod Serling, Nick Nolte, Blake Edwards, Howie Mandel, Paul W.S. Anderson and Jessica Lange.


WATM: Tell me about your family and your life growing up?

Pitt: I was born in Brooklyn, NY, where I spent the first six years, but my growing up years were in Miami Beach and Sarasota, Florida, until I moved to Los Angeles the summer of 1957. At 14, my single working mother wanted me to go to Kentucky Military Academy (KMI) which had its winter quarters in Venice, Florida, some 18 miles south of Sarasota. The Fall/Spring terms were in Lyndon, Kentucky, adjacent to Louisville. I spent all four years there. One of my roommates went on to West Point and retired as a Lt. Colonel after serving two tours in Vietnam. All the regimentation was on preparing teens for the military with a full ROTC program recognized by the Army with dedicated instruction by active military officers. Upon my initial arrival at KMI as a freshman, I found that my best friend from Sarasota, Jay Lundstrom had also committed to going there. We had become great friends and played Little League and Pony League together. In fact, it was really because of him that got me on my first team after badgering one of the coaches that I should be selected. Nobody should be left out, he reasoned. A classy gesture from a 9-year-old that became a life lesson about friendship in its purest form. We roomed together for most of the 4 years we were there and have remained good friends to this day. When I was chosen to be Captain of the KMI baseball team in my senior year, I said, “not without Jay.” We served as co-captains of the team.

10 lethal special operations units from around the world

Lou (left) with his buddy Jay (right) on the KMI baseball team where they were both co-captains.

WATM: Were you involved in any sports?

Pitt: I loved baseball and played shortstop. I continued playing throughout my years at KMI and beyond. My mother and I moved to California at the end of my junior year and returned to KY for my senior year in ’58. My dream was to play professional baseball where I was invited for a tryout with the Dodgers during the Christmas period 1957. It apparently went well with follow ups meant to happen following graduation. However, the rubber met road once in college following a pre-season workout with the start of season, a week away. The truth was, I came to the realization that I didn’t want to live out of a suitcase in pursuit of a dream. Went cold turkey and never picked up a baseball again until I played in a few Hollywood Stars games at Dodger Stadium thanks to my friend Jack Gilardi. I wanted to stay rooted in one place which had been absent most of my life. It was a decision I never looked back on or regretted. I went to Cal State Northridge and graduated in 1962 with a degree in theatre and a minor in English.

Fun fact: Famous actors Jim Bacchus (Gilligan’s Island, Mr. Magoo, Rebel Without a Cause), Fred Willard (Best in Show, Modern Family, Spinal Tap), and Vic Mature (Kiss of Death, The Robe, My Darling Clementine) attended and/or graduated from KMI as well.

10 lethal special operations units from around the world

Lou as a senior cadet at KMI in 1958.

WATM: Did you serve in the military?

Pitt: Yes, I was actually drafted into the Army but was fortunate to find a Reserve unit in Van Nuys in the nick of time. I was against the war and fortunate this option materialized given the dramatic escalation of the war. I did my Army Basic at Fort Ord and MOS school at Fort Gordon, GA. My MOS was a Military Policeman (MP).

While at Fort Gordon, a high security post at the time, I auditioned for a play that was being done on the base. I figured this would keep me out of trouble and away from the “lifers” (career EM’s and Officers). The play was “Look Homeward, Angel” and starred Army personnel and people from off-base. It was a great escape and I made a lot of friends from the local town along the way. One of them turned out to be Lt. Col. David Warfield who, as it turned out, was not one of the city folk, but the Adjutant General of Fort Gordon, the second man in charge of the base.

At the time, I didn’t know who he was as we were in “civvies” during rehearsals. He said if I ever needed anything, to let him know and gave me his card. Covered! The night of the first tech rehearsal, our barracks was subjected to a surprise inspection for drugs and each soldier was required to be sequestered by their bunks for however long it took. I knew I’d never make it to the theatre. Unexpectedly, he showed up at my barracks looking for me. His big black car rolled up outside of our building and heard determined footsteps that got louder and louder with each step. I was called out to the front of the barracks and he opened the car door himself. I had never seen a car that big in my whole life. The Col. said, ‘We can’t be doing this all the time, but hop in. I assume you’re not hiding drugs.’. I thought I was living in a Neil Simon play and it wasn’t going to end well after the final curtain.

10 lethal special operations units from around the world

Lou on stage in his role as Ben Gant in the stage production of “Look Homeward, Angel”

10 lethal special operations units from around the world

A newspaper clipping from the play “Look Homeward, Angel”. Lou is at the top.

WATM: How did you get involved in the entertainment industry?

Pitt: With an introduction by a friend’s dad, I secured my first job at Creative Management Agency (CMA) mailroom in 1964 predecessor of ICM Partners. At the time, it was the “Tiffany” of agencies with no more than 60 clients at the time and all of them big stars. The size of the mailroom was the average size of a closet. I was in the mailroom for about six months and then went to train on the desk of Alan Ladd Jr (Producer/Studio Executive; Star Wars, Blade Runner and Braveheart). Alan was my mentor along with Marty Elfand (Agent/Producer; Dog Day Afternoon, An Officer and a Gentleman).

While the agency was primarily motion picture focused, they sold variety shows and packaged Gilligan’s Island which made more for the agency than any star they represented. In the mid to late 60’s, I went to the Arthur Kennard Agency who represented TV stars (Raymond Burr-Perry Mason) and many stars of horror films like Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Vincent Price, Lon Chaney, Christopher Lee, and Richard Kiley who was starring on Broadway in “Man of La Mancha.” It was there, I signed Bruce Lee who was in the series, Green Hornet. At nights, he taught classes in martial arts. Bruce introduced me to Kung Fu. Among his clients were Steve McQueen, James Coburn, Mike Ovitz (CAA), Marvin Josephson (CEO International Famous Agency) and Tom Tannenbaum (Universal TV Studio Executive;) and many other Hollywood luminaries.

Bruce charged a minimum of 0 an hour, which was a lot of money in those days. The Silent Flute (later produced in 1978 as the Circle of Iron) was a script that Bruce wanted desperately to put together but couldn’t get anybody in Hollywood to take an interest. Coburn did his best to bring it to life in LA. We were together for about two or three years when Bruce said, “I will never be a star here, and the only way I will get this made is in Hong Kong.” Off he went. The rest is history as they say. Bruce died before making the film where the produced 1978 version starred David Carradine. In 1971, I went to work at IFA who, in 1975 merged with CMA to become ICM and remained there until 1998.

10 lethal special operations units from around the world

A picture of a friend, James Coburn, Chuck Norris, and Bruce Lee.

WATM: What values have you carried over from the Army and military school into Hollywood?

Pitt: KMI’s motto was, “Character makes the man.” That to me, defined the traits which mattered most to me in life. Responsibility, honesty, discipline and keeping one’s word. Promises made and promises kept. The centerpiece at KMI was always about the team effort and found it so applicable in a business so dependent on others for success.

10 lethal special operations units from around the world

KMI Insignia.

10 lethal special operations units from around the world

Graduation Day 1958 from KMI.

WATM: What are some of your favorite memories with your clients both past or present?

Pitt: Meeting Princess Diana a few years after she married Prince Charles, that came about when I represented Dudley Moore. He did a film in 1985, “Santa Clause, the Movie,” that had a Royal Premiere during the Christmas holidays in London. Dudley’s girlfriend, my wife Berta and I met the Royal Family before the screen presentation. The filmmakers were positioned in a circle for the prince and princess’ arrival. When introduced, they walked inside the circle and greeted everyone individually moving from one to the other. Princess Diana spent a lot of time with each person and was interested in chatting about the movie. She asked a lot of questions and was truly engaged. In truth, Princess Diana weakened my knees. She was extraordinary, as anyone who ever met her could attest. I remember she was still in conversation with the first person while Prince Charles was pretty much done with the group…while encouraging her to “move it along.”

The other that comes to mind was the July 4 holiday opening weekend of “Terminator 2.” At the time, it earned a box office record million over the five day holiday. Having put all the pieces of the film together that included the rights, which were overly complicated as they were jointly held by Gale and Hemdale (who needed to be bought out if it was to ever work), the financing (Carolco) with three high-profile stars; Arnold, Gale Anne Hurd and James Cameron, each with their own schedules that needed to marry organically. It took four and a half years to put that film together and its success was a career game changer for everyone involved.

10 lethal special operations units from around the world

Lou with Arnold in Budapest, Hungary.

WATM: What was/is it like to represent Rod Serling, Gale Anne Hurd, Bruce Lee, Christopher Plummer, Gena Rowlands and Arnold Schwarzenegger?

Pitt: Rod was my first writer client and I was working with him during the latter part of his career. It was after the Twilight Zone and the Night Gallery series. Rod was a straight-forward, clear headed thinker and smoked a lot. He was a great storyteller with a distinctive voice and an incredible mind. Someone you could listen to for hours. Rod was a WWII veteran as well. He walked the walk.

Bruce was intense and serious but couldn’t have been more grounded at the same time. But mostly, self- assured about his career and looking to break new ground. I can still see Bruce’s smile. His frustration was that he couldn’t get the buyers in Hollywood to take the martial arts action genre seriously enough. By the late 70s it was obvious Bruce was ahead of his time and the martial art films exploded. I never doubted Bruce’s eventual success because he was so centered and full of confidence, talented and focused. It was not a question of if, it was a question of when and how. I really liked him and can tell you he was not that character portrayed in Quentin Tarantino’s movie.

Christopher is simply a very classy man grounded in empathy…especially among other actors regardless of their profile and standing in the business. A man of mischief when it’s playtime but utter discipline when it’s time to prepare and go to work…in fact, obsessively so in a good way. He literally and figuratively never walks in front of you, always behind whether on the red carpet or to a restaurant. “What can I get you” precedes “Hello.” Maybe the greatest storyteller I’ve ever met. He is dedicated to his work and truly loves his profession. Chris inhales the work and the most prepared person I’ve ever met. He has old fashioned manners in a good way. Prefers writing letters then sending emails. Behavior matters and thoughtfulness matters. He’s the first to the set and the first to be “off the book”. We’ve worked together for 45 years and he is a truly special friend.

Love Gale! Her first agent. Smart and I always felt like a partner in “how do we make this work”. She has such a strength, determination and intelligence about her that’s inspiring. She was like a teammate and that we were on an adventure together. There was great trust between us and an unusual giver of herself for others. She’s a “get it done” person that was always open to ideas. A wonderful inner sensitivity that was never far below the surface. We created a “no frills” concept for film budgets that were below a certain level in addition to films she made with or without Jim as a way to introduce new talent or stories that needed special handling.

Arnold is simply one of a kind. 24/7 was not just a descriptive phrase, it was a lifestyle. He defined the word, “commitment” and made a believer that anything is possible. The challenges were exciting because he broke ground that was transformative that defined a movie culture for the 80’s and 90’s. He defied gravity.

Gena Rowlands –What an extraordinary, graceful person she is. Never one to “work the room”, read the trades or lay judgement on anyone’s work in idle chatting. In the 45 years together, she never asked me what she was up for or when she was going to work. She figured if I had something to say, I’d let her know. As warm on screen as she was in her living room. Legendary and an elegant person that’s simply comfortable to just be around whether on a set or in the kitchen. Her career with John was a family centric of gifted actors that spilled into a comfort zone for others that followed. She and John rolled the dice on how to make movies that didn’t have any rules. She just makes you feel you want to kick off your shoes and just chat about stuff.

10 lethal special operations units from around the world

Lou, Berta, Dudley Moore, Brogan Lane, Peter Sarah Bellwood in Bora, Bora

WATM: What was it like working your way up in the industry in the 60s and 70s?

Pitt: The 60s broke the ground for what the system is today. No longer exclusive contract players, writers, directors, make-up, casting, etc. that could be controlled, and contracted out to other studios or disciplined for whatever infraction the studio bosses captiously inflicted on their talent. The emergence of stars making films away from the studio system and putting together the films they wanted to make as Producers. The emergence of Kirk Douglas, Burt Lancaster, Gregory Peck and others opened the door to an independent way of thinking, putting movies together and taking them to studios became the new norm…a new freedom with new rules to play by.

10 lethal special operations units from around the world

Mr. Plummer as Kaiser Wilhelm – “The Exception” which Lou produced.

WATM: What are words that you live by?

Pitt: “There are no bad meetings”

Character Makes The Man

Respect for all no matter the rank or position

Mark Twain’s quote about, “If you tell the truth, you never have to remember what you said.”

I remember when I was learning to type, there was a sentence designed for a speed test that stuck with me. “Do all that you can do as quickly and as quietly as when you were told to do it.” For me it was about “get it done” and don’t waste a lot of time getting there. Keep your eye on the ball.

WATM: What are you most proud of in life and your career?

Pitt: I have a remarkable family who’ve been loving, emotionally supportive and inclusive. I’m immensely proud to work in a business that I really love. To have worked with so many extraordinary gifted clients and colleagues who challenged the world every day with their ideas, their talent and trust, has been inspiring and exhilarating. Everyone has been a gift to me.

10 lethal special operations units from around the world

Lou on stage in “Look Homeward, Angel”.

10 lethal special operations units from around the world
FNA

By the numbers: 6 most battle-proven weapons in the arsenal

This post was sponsored by FN.

When your slogan is “World’s most battle-proven firearms,” you had better be able to back it up, right? While introducing the question of what company actually has that to a random set of gun guys might yield a lot of answers, most of them would be wrong. Like cars and shoes, people tend to be brand loyal with their firearms without actually crunching the data. But the data in this case leaves only one answer: FN.


FN Herstal, and its subsidiary FN America, have made the weapons that were carried across the beaches of Normandy all the way to the mountains of Afghanistan. While we could have chosen from many arms best suited to back up FN’s claim, these top 6 are absolutely stunning in depth. Any one of them could be number one, so consider these in no particular order. A great amount of FN’s contributions to this list come from the brilliant mind of John Moses Browning. Later in his life, Fabrique Nationale, now known simply as FN, became the go-to for Browning and is also the owner of his namesake company, Browning.

So here we go, in an order that no one could call descending, 6 guns that are battle-proven and stunning:

Browning High Power

The very first iteration of this pistol was called the GP 35 or Grand Puissance and was completed by Dieudonne Saive, a protege of John M. Browning, who took over the design when JMB died at their factory in 1926.

Saive is also the engineer that developed the modern double-stacked magazine, first introduced on the FN High Power.

Known as the High Power (and, later, the “Hi Power”) because when it was created it carried 13 rounds of 9mm, when most handguns carried 7, the High Power was ahead of its time. It has been used in conflicts from 1935 to the present, from WW2 to the Falklands to Syria. It was the classic favorite of not only the SAS but many Commando Units from across the world. These guns are still highly prized.

Canadian military still uses the High Power. They have an interesting connection to the design after the plans were secreted out of Belgium before the German occupation of FN’s factory. The Canadians, under the Inglis brand, produced their own.

10 lethal special operations units from around the world

A version of the FN FAL used by West German soldiers in 1960.

FN FAL, aka “ The Right Arm of the Free World”

Right Arm of the Free World is not an easy nickname to get, but it is well earned with the FN FAL. FAL stands for Fusil Automatique Leger, which is French for “Light Automatic Rifle.” Prototyped in 7.92x33mm Kurz and again in 280 British, most examples historically are 308 (7.62x51mm). At a time the world was recovering from WW2, and in desperate need of a new rifle, the FAL entered service in an eventual 90 nations as their service rifle.

The British called it the L1A1, and it stood across the Cold War from the AK-47. So many FAL’s were produced that on occasion, opposing armies have both been carrying them. It was a favorite worldwide and is still in use today. I had a captured Paratrooper model in Iraq that I was absolutely in love with, and sadly had to leave behind due to its auto switch.

M2 50 Caliber BMG, aka The Ma Deuce

This is a weird one, because it isn’t an FN exclusive design, nor does FN currently hold the contract for the M2. Due to World War requirements, dozens of companies made M2 machine guns, much the same way Singer sewing machines made 1911’s. But, FN has been producing M2’s since the 1930s, and you may have actually used one in the service. Arguably the longest serving weapon in U.S. history, the M2 needs no introduction. From an anti-aircraft role in WW2, to Kandahar last week, the M2 has served on every battlefield imaginable.

FN currently produces the M2 in a Quick Change Barrel or QCB model for vehicle or boat pintle mounts. They also produce the FN M3M designated as the GAU-21 which is in service with the U.S. Navy.

M-16/M-4/M16A4

I am counting this as one weapon, though it is a family of weapons. Something that may surprise you: If you were in the military after 1988, odds are pretty good that your service rifle was an FN. FN first won the contract, beating out Colt, for M-16 production in 1988. They created the M16A4 for the USMC in the Global War on Terror out of whole cloth, and again beat Colt for the M-4 contract in 2013. In addition to serving the U.S. military, FN has armed what can only be called a metric grundle of other nations with M-16/4 weapons over the decades. FN’s production tops one million units of M16/M4 carbines for DoD.

10 lethal special operations units from around the world

FN America on Facebook

M240/M249

Again this could count as multiple weapons, but I’m considering it one since the M249 is basically a scaled down M240. It might surprise you to learn it has been in service (240 version) since 1958. It is issued in 80 militaries, and has been made under license by FN in Canada, India, Egypt and the United Kingdom. It has many names, such as the GPMG for you Brits, and sets the standard across the globe as the medium machine gun of choice. While the M240 (7.62x51mm) is older, the smaller M249 (5.56x45mm) has actually been around for some time as well. It was designed in 1976, and entered US service in 1984.

It is well known enough to also have many names, such as “Minimi” to our cousins across the pond. It has been used in every U.S. conflict since the invasion of Panama in 1989, and was a personal favorite of mine in the GWOT. I think a great many of us GWOT veterans, including myself, can say this. I came home on my feet instead of in a body bag more than once because I was carrying an FNH machine gun.

10 lethal special operations units from around the world

U.S. Navy SEAL with a SCAR.

SCAR- aka “ Special (operations forces) Combat Assault Rifle”

This one hasn’t seen quite as many conflicts, having been only produced in 2004. But it does represent the future for FN. Available in either 5.56 (Light Variant) or 7.62×51 (Heavy Variant), and as of January 2020, 6.5 Creedmoor, the SCAR has been a rising star. It won the SOCOM service trials for the U.S., and entered service in 2009. The Heavy version became very popular among troops headed to Afghanistan, and has entered the service of 20 nations. Rapidly user configurable for various mission roles, the SCAR continues to evolve. Considering FN’s previous reputation, I think we can expect this one to be around for a good long time.

Living up to a slogan that proclaims the world’s most anything might be tough to do, until you’ve held an FN product.

This post was sponsored by FN.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This was the Marine exercise in Syria to deter Russian attacks

Over 100 US Marines sent a “strong message” to Russia with a live-fire exercise in Syria after the Russians threatened to conduct strikes near a key US-led coalition base. US Central Command has released several combat photos of that message to a rival power.


10 lethal special operations units from around the world

U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jorge Castrosamaniego, an assault man with 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, attached to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force, Crisis Response-Central Command, learns how to utilize an 84 mm Carl Gustaf recoilless rifle near At-Tanf Garrison, Syria Sept. 9, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Roderick Jacquote)

Russia told the US it wanted to launch strikes near a key US-led coalition base, but the US Marines demonstrated that it would be better for Russia to keep out.

Russia warned the US twice in early September 2018 that Russian, Syrian, and pro-regime forces planned to conduct operations and launch strikes in the deconfliction zone around the At Tanf garrison, accusing the US and its coalition partners of failing to adequately combat terrorists in the area. The US military, together with its regional partners, responded by holding a live-fire exercise reportedly involving air assets, artillery, and other heavy weaponry meant to send the clear message that it is more than capable of taking on any and all threats.

10 lethal special operations units from around the world

U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Carter Sampson, an anti-tank missile gunner with 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, attached to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force, Crisis Response-Central Command, fires a FGM-148 Javelin, a shoulder-fired anti-tank missile, at his target during a live fire demonstration near At-Tanf Garrison, Syria, Sept. 7, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Roderick Jacquote)

“The US does not require any assistance in our efforts to destroy ISIS in the At Tanf deconfliction zone and we advised the Russians to remain clear,” CENTCOM spokesman Lt. Col. Earl Brown told Business Insider, adding, “Coalition partners are in the At Tanf deconfliction zone for the fight to destroy ISIS. Any claim that the US is harboring or assisting ISIS is grossly inaccurate.”

10 lethal special operations units from around the world

U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Dave Lawless, an assault man with 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, attached to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force, Crisis Response-Central Command, instructs others how to utilize the Mk 153 shoulder-launch multipurpose assault weapon during operations near At-Tanf Garrison, Syria Sept. 9, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Roderick Jacquote)

10 lethal special operations units from around the world

A U.S. Marine with 3d Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, attached to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force, Crisis Response-Central Command, fires at a target with an M240B machine gun during a live fire demonstration near At Tanf Garrison, Syria September 7, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Carlos Lopez)

The US military informed the Russians that it is not looking for a fight, but it is more than ready should anyone come looking for one.

“The United States does not seek to fight the Russians, the government of Syria or any groups that may be providing support to Syria in the Syrian civil war,” Brown previously told BI in an emailed statement.

“However,” he added, “the United States will not hesitate to use necessary and proportionate force to defend US, coalition or partner forces, as we have clearly demonstrated in past instances.”

10 lethal special operations units from around the world

U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Fabian Castro (right), an infantry rifleman with 3d Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, attached to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force, Crisis Response-Central Command, provides security at a position near At Tanf Garrison, Syria September 7, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Roderick Jacquote)

The At Tanf garrison in Syria serves as a base for US operations against the Islamic State, as well as an obstacle for broader Russian, Syrian, and Iranian interests in the region.

Russia’s interest in the deconfliction zone has little to nothing to do with combating terrorism in the region, a US defense official told BI. The At Tanf deconfliction zone sits in the middle of a major connection between Tehran and Damascus.

Moscow remains critical of the US military presence in Syria. Nonetheless, Russia agreed to a 55-kilometer deconfliction zone around the At Tanf garrison, and the US military continues to expect the Russians to continue to abide by this agreement.

The US military has previously engaged foreign forces that attempted to enter the deconfliction zone. For instance, last summer, coalition troops “destroyed” pro-regime forces that “advanced inside the well-established deconfliction zone,” CENTCOM said in a statement.

10 lethal special operations units from around the world

U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. James Gordon, a machine gunner with 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, attached to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force, Crisis Response-Central Command, fires at his target with an M240B machine gun during a live fire demonstration near At-Tanf Garrison, Syria, Sept. 7, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Roderick Jacquote)

10 lethal special operations units from around the world

U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Philip Russell, a machine gun squad leader with 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, attached to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force, Crisis Response-Central Command, provides security at a position near At-Tanf Garrison, Syria Sept. 7, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Roderick Jacquote)

10 lethal special operations units from around the world

U.S. Marines with 3d Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, attached to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force, Crisis Response-Central Command, prepare to board an MV-22 Osprey on to a site near At-Tanf Garrison, Syria, Sept. 7, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Carlos Lopez)

The exercise came as Russia gathered its naval forces in the Mediterranean to assist Syrian and pro-regime troops as they began a major assault on Idlib, the last stronghold of the Syrian rebels.

The United Nations has stressed that a full-scale assault on Idlib would result in a humanitarian catastrophe. Tens of thousands of people have already begun fleeing the area.

The US has warned the Syrian regime led by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that any use of chemical weapons will be met with a strong, swift response. “The president expects us to have military options in the event that chemical weapons are used,’ Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford said over the weekend, adding, “We have provided updates to him on the development of those military options.”

US strikes on Syria in response to the use of chemical weapons run contrary to Russian interests and have resulted in criticism from Moscow.

Tensions between the US and Russia, however, extend beyond the Syrian battlegrounds

Russia is currently holding major war games with China in the eastern part of the country, and these exercises are expected to be held on a “regular basis” going forward. The Pentagon is watching closely as the two US rivals strive to strengthen military ties.

During the drills, Russian Tu-95 Bear bombers escorted by Su-35 Flanker fighter jets were intercepted by F-22 stealth fighters near Alaska. It was the second time this month that American military aircraft have intercepted Russian bombers near the state.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

14 nuclear weapons terms and what they mean

Nuclear weapons are humankind’s most fearsome creations.

In a matter of minutes, one nuclear-armed nation can level dozens of cities, spread radioactive fallout for hundreds or thousands of miles, and wreck Earth’s climate.

Most people are familiar with the basics: Slap together enough uranium or plutonium and — kaboom! — you have a nuclear blast. But the details of how these complex devices are made, delivered, and controlled can make the difference between keeping the peace and sparking a cataclysm.


It doesn’t help that there’s more than 60 years’ worth of convoluted terminology surrounding the complex policies and politics of nuclear weapons. There are words like isotopes, tritium, and yellowcake; abbreviations such as HEU, LEU, SSBN, and CVID; and the subtle yet striking difference between uranium-235 and uranium-238.

As US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo resumes talks with North Korea over its nuclear weapons program, we’ve defined some of the most important (and misunderstood) words, phrases, and acronyms here.

That effort could take years to pan out, and it’s guaranteed to get very, very complicated.

10 lethal special operations units from around the world

A mockup of the Fat Man nuclear device.

(U.S. Department of Defense photo)

1. Nuclear weapon

A conventional explosive device rapidly burns up a chemical to cause a blast. A nuclear weapon, meanwhile — such as a bomb or warhead — splits atoms to release thousands of times more energy.

Yet the term “nuclear weapon” can also refer to a vehicle that’s able to deliver a nuclear attack, such as missiles, fighter jets, stealth bombers, and truck-like mobile launchers. (If flying dinosaurs were alive today and trained to drop nuclear bombs, the creatures may be considered nuclear weapons.)

During weapons inspections like the ones between the US and Russia, nuclear warheads are actually concealed with a piece of cloth; it’s the vehicles, missiles, and launch or bombing bays that are the focus. Without them, a warhead can’t get anywhere quickly.

10 lethal special operations units from around the world

A Hwasong-14 intercontinental ballistic missile, or ICBM, launching from North Korea.

(KCNA)

2. Intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM)

An ICBM is a space rocket that can launch a destructive device on top and carry it from one nation to another in a high arc.

Technically speaking, an ICBM is any missile capable of delivering a warhead from more than 3,415 miles away. The missile silos in the US in which they’re stored are sprinkled around the country, with most stationed in middle America.

As of 2018, the US has 800 ICBMs in its stockpile, and Russia has nearly 1,140 ICBMs.

3. Fallout

Fallout describes the dangerous leftovers of a nuclear weapon: a cloud of dust, dirt, sand, pebbles, and bits of debris that an explosion has irradiated.

Bombs or warheads detonated near the ground vastly increase the amount of fallout by sucking up soil and debris, irradiating it, and spreading it for dozens if not hundreds of miles. Very fine particles can circle the globe and be detected by special airplanes.

10 lethal special operations units from around the world

Part of CNO cycle diagram, made just to be illustrative for nuclear reactions in general.

4. Isotopes

Each element on the Periodic Table has a unique chemical identity but can have different weights, or isotopes.

For example, hydrogen is the smallest atom and is usually made of just one positively-charged proton in its nucleus, or core. Its shorthand name, H-1, specifies its atomic weight. If a chargeless neutron gets added, you get the isotope deuterium, or H-2. Add two neutrons and you have the isotope tritium, or H-3.

All three forms of hydrogen have nearly identical chemistry and can, say, bond with oxygen to form water. But their nuclear properties differ significantly: deuterium and tritium can fuel thermonuclear explosions because their extra neutrons can encourage helium atoms (which have two protons) to fuse together far more easily than H-1 alone.

5. Uranium — including U-238, U-235, and U-233

Uranium is a dense element and a key ingredient in nuclear weapons production. It occurs naturally in ores and minerals and has a few important isotopes.

U-238 makes up about 99.27% of natural uranium and is inert. Less than 1% of the uranium in ore is U-235 — the “active ingredient” that can be used for nuclear reactor fuel or bombs.

U-235 is special because it becomes very unstable when it catches a flying neutron. This capture causes it to split (known as fission), release a huge amount of energy, and shoot out more neutrons. Those neutrons can then split other atoms of U-235 in a chain reaction.

Although plutonium (which we’ll describe in a moment) is now the favored bomb-making material, U-235 was used in the Little Boy bomb that the US dropped on Hiroshima in 1945.

U-233 is another isotope that’s weapons-ready, but it’s only made inside special reactors that no longer exist (for now).

6. Plutonium, including Pu-238, Pu-239, and Pu-240

Plutonium is a metallic element that doesn’t occur in nature, and it most often refers to the isotope Pu-239: the go-to material for modern nuclear weapons.

Only nuclear reactors can make Pu-239. They do so by irradiating U-238 with neutrons. The plutonium can then be separated from the uranium, concentrated, and formed into weapons pits — the cores of nuclear weapons.

Pu-239 can more easily trigger a nuclear explosion than uranium, and with less material; as little as about 10 lbs can be enough.

Plutonium-240 is an unwanted and pretty radioactive byproduct of making Pu-239. It can make bombs prematurely explode and fizzle because it’s fairly radioactive. Pu-238 is a byproduct of Cold War weapons production that generates a lot of warmth and powers NASA’s most adventurous robots in the cold, dark depths of space.

10 lethal special operations units from around the world

Yellowcake uranium

7. Yellowcake uranium

Yellowcake is a powder of uranium oxide that’s made by leaching uranium from natural ores and chemically treating it. Despite its name, it’s most often brown or black in color.

The powder is a concentrated form of natural uranium — about 99.72% U-238 and 0.72% U-235. It’s an important commodity because it can be stockpiled and later processed to extract and enrich U-235.

8. Centrifuge

The U-235 and U-238 isotopes are chemically identical and nearly the same weight — so they’re very hard to separate. However, one of the easiest ways to separate uranium is a centrifuge.

The process starts with converting yellowcake into uranium hexafluoride (UF 6), then heating the compound into a gas. The gas then enters a centrifuge: a tall, hollow tube that spins faster than the speed of sound. The rotation pulls heavier U-238 toward the centrifuge’s outer wall while leaving more U-235 near the middle.

Cascades of centrifuges — one linked to another in long chains — further separate and concentrate each isotope. U-235-rich gas moves through an “upstream” line of centrifuges, growing until a desired level of concentration is reached. Meanwhile, U-238 moves “downstream” until it’s mostly depleted of U-235.

It can take thousands of centrifuges spinning for an entire year to enrich enough U-235 for a weapon.

9. Highly enriched uranium (HEU) and low-enriched uranium (LEU)

Highly enriched uranium is any amount of uranium with 20% or more U-235 — the kind that can spur a nuclear detonation.

HEU with a concentration of 85% or more U-235 is considered “weapons-grade,” since that is enough to cause a large and efficient nuclear explosion. But it’s rarely used anymore: It most often goes into special reactors that power naval ships and submarines, can make plutonium, or create medically important isotopes (such as molybdenum-99, which can help diagnose certain heart diseases and cancers).

Low-enriched uranium has less than 20% U-235, and is most often used for nuclear reactor fuel in commercial power plants.

10. Lithium deuteride (sometimes called lithium hydride)

Lithium deuteride is a whitish salt made of one lithium atom and one deuterium atom (hydrogen-2).

It’s a key ingredient in thermonuclear weapons, also called hydrogen bombs — the most powerful type of nuclear arms. (Russia’s Tzar Bomba thermonuclear weapon, detonated in 1961, was about 3,300 times as powerful as the Hiroshima bomb in 1945.)

A thermonuclear weapon is actually two bombs in one. Energy from the first explosion is absorbed by and “ignites” the lithium deuteride, leading to fusion — where two atoms combine — and creating a plasma many times hotter than the sun.

The process also creates a lot of neutrons. These bullet-like particles can then ram into and split a lot of nearby U-238 in the bomb, vastly multiplying the weapon’s destructive energy.

10 lethal special operations units from around the world

A UGM-96 Trident I clears the water after launch from a US Navy submarine in 1984

11. Submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM)


An SLBM is a nuclear-tipped rocket that shoots out of launch tubes in an underwater attack submarine.

As of 2018, the US has 1,920 SLBMs in its stockpile, and Russia has nearly 770 SLBMs.

Unlike most land-based missiles, SLBMs are mobile and very difficult to track. Some models can fly nearly 7,500 miles, which is about 30% of Earth’s circumference. That’s plenty of range to strike any inland target from a coast.

12. Ballistic-missile submarines (SSBN or SSB)

Attack submarines that can launch ballistic missiles are known as SSBs or SSBNs. The “SS” stands for “submersible ship,” the “B” for ballistic” (as in ballistic missile), and the “N,” if present, means “nuclear” (as in powered by a nuclear reactor).

These vessels can stay underwater for 90 days and carry more than a dozen nuclear-warhead-tipped SLBMs — each of which can strike targets thousands of miles inland.

Russia has about 11 nuclear-armed subs and the US has about 14.

13. Complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization (CVID)

CVID is the strategy that was pursued in disarming Libya of its nuclear weapons. The Trump administration pursued it in initial talks with Kim Jong Un and North Korea.

The approach allows inspectors into a country to count weapons, witness their destruction, disable nuclear reactors, prevent the development of missiles, and perform other watchdog work.

Weapons experts think North Korea will reject CVID, mostly because it’d bar the use of nuclear reactors to produce energy and rule out the development of rockets, which can launch satellites and people into space.

Experts also point out that the strategy has a nasty historical precedent: Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddafi followed through on a US-led CVID program but ultimately ended up dead in the streets.

The Trump administration is reportedly changing its mind about CVID, though, and may push a plan that’s more acceptable to North Korea.

14. Deterrence

Deterrence is the idea that if countries have nuclear weapons, the threat of an overwhelming retaliation in response to an attack will keep the peace.

In 1995, a few years after the Cold War ended, Reagan-era government officials wrote:

“Deterrence must create fear in the mind of the adversary — fear that he will not achieve his objectives, fear that his losses and pain will far outweigh any potential gains, fear that he will be punished. It should ultimately create the fear of extinction — extinction of either the adversary’s leaders themselves or their national independence, or both. Yet, there must always appear to be a ‘door to salvation’ open to them should they reverse course.”

Some nuclear weapons experts worry that deterrence will only keep the peace for so long. They also think belief in deterrence encourages the development and spread of nuclear weapons— so if and when nuclear conflict does break out, the catastrophe will be much worse.

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

Articles

This new camouflage could make troops totally invisible

For centuries, militaries have been trying to devise ways to disguise their troops and gear.


Sure, there was a time there where cladding your soldiers in the gaudiest of uniforms was considered more sporting than slapping on the face paint, but we all know how those Redcoats were sent packing by a guerrillas who slipped through the trees wearing green.

10 lethal special operations units from around the world
Can you see me now? (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Today’s militaries spend billions on camo patterns in hopes they’ll give their troops the edge. But a company that’s been on the forefront of concealment technology is about to one-up the industry and make all those fancy patterns out there obsolete.

Canada-based Hyperstealth Biotechnology Corp. has developed a material that its inventor claims can bend light around a subject, literally making it invisible.

Dubbed “Quantum Stealth,” the material has reportedly evolved from its introduction in 2012 to be flexible enough for uniforms and clothing. And it requires no power to operate.

It reportedly works by bending the visible light around the material, a feat even some of the world’s best material scientists and physicists can’t seem to get right.

But Hyperstealth’s Guy Cramer claims he’s nailed it.

Can you see the Predator? (Photo from theiaplois.com) Can you see the Predator? (Photo from theiaplois.com)

“We’re bending the entire spectrum of light—infrared, ultraviolet, thermal,” Cramer told The Atlantic. “People are disappearing. It doesn’t use cameras or mirrors or require power.”

Cramer did not respond to a WATM request for comment on this story.

10 lethal special operations units from around the world
What am I really seeing here?

For years Cramer had been flirting with the U.S. military and special operations community to adopt the technology for real-world applications. But according to a statement on his website from May, diplomatic hurdles got in the way of a technology transfer and the Army cancelled its search for “adaptive” camouflage.

But that hasn’t stopped Cramer from continuing his pitch for Quantum Stealth. And while he’s been cagey about how it works, people who’ve seen it are convinced it’s legit.

“As I viewed several other videos, it was interesting to see that environmental conditions appear to effect how well Quantum Stealth works,” wrote Special Forces veteran Jack Murphy for Business Insider. “With different background colors and poor lighting, you could sometimes make something out moving around behind the material.  However, even under these adverse conditions, Cramer’s invention appeared to deliver the goods: rendering the person or object 95-98 percent invisible with just a few flashes of color moving from behind the blind.”

10 lethal special operations units from around the world
Hyperstealth Biotechnology Corporation president Guy Cramer. (Photo from Hyperstealth Facebook)

Cramer claims he was given permission by the U.S. and Canadian governments to develop a commercial version of Quantum Stealth for hunters and outdoorsmen.

Dubbed “INVISIB,” the material will have versions designed for law enforcement agencies, another for sportsmen and a more advanced version for military units.

“This material cannot be seen visually (nor the target it is hiding) and current optical technology is not going to help you find them either in the day or night,” Cramer said in a statement.

MIGHTY HISTORY

10 odd jobs of World War II

Today’s military has some jobs that might surprise you — for example, did you know the Army and Marine Corps have instrument repair technicians? These troops repair musical instruments for the military bands.

But during World War II, there were a lot of jobs that would seem strange in today’s technologically focused military. Over the course of the war, technological advances reduced or eliminated the need for many manual occupations. This transition is captured in the War Department’s list of military jobs from 1944, where entries like ”horse artillery driver” appear just a page away from ”remote control turret repairman.”


10 lethal special operations units from around the world

1. Blacksmith

During World War II, blacksmiths still made many of the items needed to repair equipment and machinery. They would make metal tools and parts, by hand, in coal or coke forges. They also made shoes for some of the tens of thousands of horses and mules that saw service during the war.

10 lethal special operations units from around the world

2. Meat Cutter

Does what it says on the label: cuts meat. These troops were responsible for preparing whole carcassas, such as beef and lamb, for distribution to various units around the world.

10 lethal special operations units from around the world

3. Horsebreaker

Horsebreakers would train horses and mules so they could be issued to mounted units. They also trained them to carry packs and to be hitched to wagons and carts.

Although they weren’t used in World War II to the extent they were used in the First World War, troops still relied on horses and mules to cross terrain impassable to mechanized units. For example, the 5332nd Brigade, a long range patrol group created for service in the mountains of Burma, was largely self-sufficient due to the 3,000 mules assigned to it — all shipped from the United States.

10 lethal special operations units from around the world

4. Artist and Animation Artist

Today’s military has jobs for skilled multimedia illustrators, but in World War II, military artists and animation artists created paintings, illustrations, films, charts and maps by hand. A number of successful artists served in World War II, including Bill Maudlin, who drew Willie and Joe, archetypes for infantrymen on the front line; and Bill Keane, who went on to draw Family Circus after his military service ended.

The military’s animation artists were quite busy during World War II. The Army even stationed soldiers at Walt Disney’s studios for the duration of the war to make patriotic films for the public and instructional or training films for service members.

10 lethal special operations units from around the world

5. Crystal Grinder

During World War II, many radios still required crystals to operate, usually galena. Crystal grinders would grind and calibrate these crystals to pick up specific frequencies.

Personal radios were forbidden on the front lines, but crystal radio sets lacked external power sources, so they couldn’t be detected by the enemy. For this reason, troops often improvised crystal radios from a variety of materials — including pencils and razor blades — in order to listen to music and news. These contraband radio sets were dubbed ”foxhole radios.”

6. Cooper

Troops who worked as coopers built and repaired the wooden buckets, barrels, casks and kegs used to pack, store and ship supplies and equipment. They used hand tools to plug holes with wood and salvage damaged barrels.

Wood was used to package a wide range of goods for transport all the way through World War II, but improvements in metal and cardboard packaging technology marked the beginning of the end for wooden barrels and crates.

10 lethal special operations units from around the world

7. Model Maker

Military model makers were charged with creating scale models of military equipment, terrain and other objects to be used in movies, as training aids and for operational planning. The models built by these troops were used in what was perhaps one of the greatest examples of wartime deception, Operation Fortitude.

Operation Fortitude was aimed at convincing the Germans that Allied troops heading to France for the D-Day invasion would land in Pas de Calais in July, rather than Normandy in June. Dummy buildings, aircraft and landing craft were constructed by model makers and positioned near Dover, England, in a camp built for the fictitious First U.S. Army Group. The deception was so complete that Hitler held troops in reserve for two weeks after D-Day because he believed another invasion was coming via the Dover Strait.

10 lethal special operations units from around the world

8. Pigeoneer

Pigeoneers were responsible for all aspects of their birds’ lives. They would breed, train and care for pigeons that were used to deliver messages. Some birds would be trained specifically for night flying, while others learned that food could be found at one location and water at another. According to the U.S. Army Communications Electronics Museum, more than 90% of the messages carried by pigeons were successfully delivered.

10 lethal special operations units from around the world

9. Field Artillery Sound Recorder

These troops had the sickest beats. Until the development of radar, sound ranging was one of the most effective ways to locate enemy artillery, mortars and rockets. The process was first developed in World War I, and continued to be used in combat through the Korean War.

From a forward operating post, a field artillery sound recorder would monitor an oscillograph and recorder connected to several microphones. When the sound of an enemy gun reached a microphone, the information would be recorded on sound film and the data from several microphones could be analyzed to locate the enemy gun. The technology is still in use today by many countries, which often use sound ranging in concert with radar.

10 lethal special operations units from around the world

10. Airplane Woodworker

Although wood was largely phased out in favor of tubular steel in aircraft construction by the time World War II started, there was still a need for airplane woodworkers to repair and maintain existing aircraft — especially gliders and some training aircraft.

Wooden gliders like the Waco CG-4A — the most widely used American troop/cargo military glider of World War II — played critical parts in the war. The CG-4A was first used in the invasion of Sicily in July 1943. They most commonly flew airborne troops into battle, most famously for the D-Day assault on France on June 6, 1944, and Operation Market Garden in September 1944. They were also used in the China-Burma-India Theater.

This article originally appeared on Department of Defense.

MIGHTY CULTURE

What happens to coins on military headstones?

Coins have long been used to honor fallen warriors. In ancient Greece, it was customary to leave coins either on the eyes or in the mouths of the fallen. It was said that the spirits of the deceased would use these coins to pay Charon the Ferryman to carry their soul across the River Styx and into the afterlife. Many other cultures have taken on some variation of this tradition — and they’ve persisted. Today, many people still leave coins on military headstones, and on the headstones of other dearly departed loved ones.

While it’s not exclusively a military tradition, this is common at the resting places of fallen troops. But the thoughtfully placed coins can’t just be left to pile up indefinitely — and the fallen don’t have much use for them. Eventually, someone has to collect these coins and put them to good use.

So, what happens?


10 lethal special operations units from around the world
Now, I can’t say for certain that the grave of “Texas Jack” Omohundro wasn’t visited by 27 people who were there when he was killed over 130 years ago, but if it was, he must’ve had a lot of vampire friends.

 

(Photo by Peter Greenburg)

There’s an often-shared chain email that suggests that the type of coins on military headstones impart different meanings — a sort of hidden message left to be interpreted by other veterans who visit the grave. A penny is used to simply honor the dead, a nickel means you went to boot camp or basic training with the fallen, a dime means you served with them in some capacity, and a quarter means you were there when they died.

This multi-coin theory is suspect at best. The first documentation of such a tradition is only as old as 2009, and you’ll often find nickels, dimes, and quarters on gravestones from World War I and earlier — which just doesn’t make physical sense. Still, this idea has been spread around enough that it carries at least some degree of significance.

10 lethal special operations units from around the world
One fallen veteran’s coins being used to honor another veteran’s life is a noble act.
(American Battle Monuments Commission)

 

When too many coins pile up at a gravesite, a caretaker collects the money and puts it in a separate fund to help pay for cemetery upkeep. The coins are put towards things like washing graves, mowing the lawn, and killing pesky weeds if the state or local government doesn’t already allocate funds for such things.

The same fund also contributes toward the burial of an indigent veteran who cannot otherwise pay for the process. The VA and other charitable funds may help cover some of the costs, but if the veteran (or the veteran’s estate) still cannot afford the difference, the coins left on the graves of their brothers- and sisters-in-arms will help.

10 lethal special operations units from around the world
What? You didn’t think it was odd that were so many perfectly sized rocks just feet away from nearly every grave?
(U.S. Army photo by Rachel Larue)
 

While coins are most common — most people reading this article probably have a spare coin sitting in their pocket right now — other mementos are also placed on veterans’ graves.

In nearly every case, caretakers will remove these tokens in order to keep the area in pristine condition. Rocks are also commonly used, but they’ll more like likely be removed and placed nearby, for another visitor to “happen upon.” Military challenge coins, however, are often left on the stone for years.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia just tested an ICBM near deadly nuclear missile accident site

The Russian military successfully launched an intercontinental ballistic missile from its new Borei A-class submarine, the nuclear-powered Knyaz Vladimir, or Prince Vladimir, according to TASS, Russia’s state-run news agency.

The missile, the RSM-56 Bulava, has a range of 8,000 to 9,000 kilometers, or more than 5,000 miles, can carry six to 10 150-kiloton nuclear warheads, and has a yield of 1,150 kilograms. While its speed is unknown, Michael Duitsman, a research associate specializing in Russian missile technology at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at Middlebury College, estimates it’s in the range of Mach 16 to Mach 20. The Bulava has been in operational use since 2013, and it was fired for the first time from the nuclear-powered submarine on Oct. 29, 2019.


The Prince Vladimir is the first of the Borei A-class submarine, which has better noise reduction and improved communication equipment over the Borei class, Duitsman told Insider via email.

10 lethal special operations units from around the world

Russian Borei class nuclear ballistic missile submarine Alexander Nevsky.

According to the Moscow Times, the missile was launched from the Arkhangelsk region and traveled thousands of miles to the Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia’s Far East — across the entire country.

Once it enters service — it is expected to in December — the Borei A-class strategic submarine will carry up to 16 of the Bulava missiles with four to six nuclear warheads each, according to the Moscow Times.

The missile was launched from a submerged position in the White Sea — the same place a devastating nuclear accident occurred in August 2019. In that instance, Russian engineers were attempting to recover a “Skyfall” missile from the bed of the White Sea when the weapon’s nuclear reactor exploded, causing the deaths of at least seven Russians. Russia’s handling of the incident has been referred to as a cover-up by a senior official at the State Department’s Bureau of Arms Control, Verification, and Compliance.

Russia’s Prince Vladimir submarine fires a Bulava missile into north Atlantic

www.youtube.com

The Bulava is understood to have a devastating payload — 50 to 60 times as powerful as the bomb the US dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. But just because it’s powerful, that doesn’t mean the Russian Navy is using the missile to menace its adversaries — in fact, it’s a defensive weapon.

The Bulava “forms part of Russia’s strategic deterrent force; the missiles are not for use in normal combat,” Duitsman told Insider. “Submarine-launched ballistic missiles, and ballistic missile submarines, deter an enemy from attacking you with nuclear weapons, because it is very difficult to find and destroy all of the submarines.”

The US counterparts to the Borei and the Bulava — the Ohio-class submarines and Trident II missiles — are more powerful in combination than the Russian offerings. The Ohio-class can carry 24 Trident II missiles, which have a longer range at 12,000 kilometers, a speed of Mach 24, and a payload of 2,800 kilograms. But, as Duitsman notes, the Ohio-class is 20 years old, and its replacement, the Columbia-class, isn’t scheduled to be in service until 2031.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why the US severely sanctioned Venezuela and not others

The Trump administration announced a new round of sanctions on Venezuela on May 21, 2018, further limiting government officials there from selling debt and other assets “at fire-sale prices at the expense of the Venezuelan people,” a senior administration official said.

The new restrictions come hours after a presidential election that President Nicolas Maduro was expected to win through illegitimate means and which the US said it would not recognize before the first ballot was cast.


President Donald Trump’s stance on Venezuela and its embattled president has appeared at odds with his attitude toward the leaders of other authoritarian regimes and his administration’s response to disputed elections in those countries.

In April 2017, Trump congratulated Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan after a referendum that expanded Erdogan’s powers, differing from the State Department, which cited international observers’ reports of election irregularities and called on Turkey to respect the rights of its citizens.

And in a March 2018 phone call, Trump reportedly congratulated Russian President Vladimir Putin on his reelection, despite guidance from his national-security team not do so.

Some leaders have been reluctant to offer Putin similar compliments, given the state’s control of much of the media in Russia as well as restrictions on opposition candidates. Election monitors said the most recent contest was “overly controlled” and “lacked genuine competition.” (President Barack Obama congratulated Putin after the latter’s 2012 election victory, though his administration also publicly expressed concerns about that vote.)

10 lethal special operations units from around the world
Russian President Vladimir Putin

A few days later, when asked whether Russia’s election was free and fair, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, “We’re focused on our elections. We don’t get to dictate how other countries operate.”

“What we do know is Putin has been elected in their country, and that’s not something that we can dictate to them, how they operate,” she added at the time. “We can only focus on the freeness and the fairness of our elections.”

Asked May 21, 2018, about the seeming disparity between Trump’s approach to the election in Venezuela and elections under similar conditions elsewhere, senior administration officials pointed to the intensity of the economic and political turmoil in the South American country as a distinguishing feature.

“The region has never seen a kleptocracy like this,” the official said. “We’ve never seen a country as wealthy — in terms of natural resources and in human capital — as Venezuela is, driven into such an economic death spiral so quickly by such a small group of individuals determined to enrich themselves at the expense of millions of people.”

“The humanitarian suffering in this country is on a scale that we really don’t see in other places. The exodus of the migrants is something paralleling Syria at this stage,” the official added, referring to the masses of Venezuelan migrants fleeing to neighboring countries.

“The effect on a close ally of the United States, Colombia, is enormous and is threatening to drag that country into the abyss from an economic standpoint as well,” the official said. “So this is a true catastrophe in every sense of the word, within the region.”

The US is not the only country that has reproved Maduro and his government.

The Lima Group — made up of 14 countries in Latin America — rebuked the Maduro government over the election when it was announced in January 2018, and said on May 21, 2018, that it did not recognize May 20, 2018’s vote as legitimate.

Canada has sanctioned Venezuelan officials, including Maduro, as has the European Union, which also has an arms embargo in place on the country.

The US has reportedly offered lawyers and policy experts to help other Latin American countries draft similar measures.

Venezuela experts have warned that sanctions themselves are unlikely to force Maduro out and cautioned that harsher sanctions — such as ones against the oil industry on which the country is heavily reliant — could only cause additional pain for the Venezuelans.

“If you added up the 12 nations in the Lima Group and the United States together, it’s about 95% of the hemisphere,” another senior administration official said. “So everybody is truly together on this, and it’s a unity in the hemisphere, frankly, that is almost unprecedented in approaching a crisis of democracy.”

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

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