This is not the armor, but it is made of spiderweb.
Ten years from now, you might be on patrol with new super lightweight body armor. If you feel something tingling, cool it – you aren’t Spider-Man, but your vest might be made from spider silk – and you probably just need to drink more water. The latest armor under consideration by the U.S. Army isn’t a new kind of porcelain or chemical composition over kevlar. It’s spider stuff.
Making clothing from spider stuff isn’t necessarily new, but mass-producing it might be. The photo above is of a vest made of silk from the Golden Orb Spider, native to Madagascar. It took the designers eight years and a million spiders to make the vest, but the designers of the new body armor aren’t going for anything so intricate.
Ballistic spider silk panels.
Spider silk is a protein-rich liquid that dries into a solid filament that can vary in composition depending on what the spider is doing with the web, such as weaving a web for food or creating an egg sac. It’s flexible, able to stretch well beyond its original length, stronger than steel, and most importantly, can create a mesh able to stop a bullet. But until recently, no one has been able to create enough of the stuff to actually make and test viable options for stopping bullets.
Researchers from Utah State University were able to program the DNA of silkworms to integrate spider proteins into their own silk. Silkworms even spin the silk into threads on their own. The result is twice as strong and elastic as silkworm silk and can be created on an industrial scale. The result was able to stop a slow-moving .22-caliber round with only four layers. Standard Kevlar armor uses 33 layers.
A bullet can penetrate 29 layers of kevlar.
In 2018 Kraig Biocraft Laboratories announced it was creating panels like those shown above in large quantities for the United States Army. The fabric, called “Dragon Silk,” was also created without using entire colonies of spiders, who were more likely to eat one another than live in peace and create fabric. Kraig Biocraft created silkworms similar to those created at Utah State, using patented genetic proteins. Beyond standard body armor, the company may be the first to create real, popular protection for the groin area.
“After years of research and investment, developing this ground-breaking technology, we are very excited to now see it in the hands of the U.S. Army,” stated Jon Rice, COO. “For me, personally, and for the Company, the opportunity to help protect the brave men and women whom dedicate themselves to our protection is a great honor.”
As military spouses, we are all too familiar with the phrase “hurry up and wait.” When it comes to the health and safety of our families in our homes, enough is enough.
When we heard from our network that families were struggling with the safety and deterioration of their military homes, we mobilized the Military Family Advisory Network’s research process so that we could learn more. Our goal was simple: understand what is happening through scientific data. Good data can be powerful and hard to ignore.
We created a survey that allowed us to take a deep dive into the issue, and we shared what we learned with the Department of Defense, Congress, and the general public. We made sure our data was actionable, because our priority is shortening the time between the identification of an issue and the deployment of a solution.
Sadly, it has been one year and one week since we released findings from our Privatized Military Housing Survey, and families are still struggling. It should not have taken a survey with nearly 17,000 military families sharing their experiences with us – many of which were severe – to drive change. The entire country heard about what was happening in military housing in the nightly news, in the paper, and on social media. Despite the overwhelming number of heartbreaking stories, the brave testimonies from military spouses, the news coverage, and the compelling data, families are still struggling.
Based on what we hear, we believe that those who are entrusted with fixing this issue are on the right path, but we also know that there is a long way to go. We understand that for the military families who have spent months in temporary housing or hotels, who have thrown away thousands of dollars’ worth of furniture due to water damage, have lived with pests, and worst of all, who are struggled with the health-implications that can be associated with mold or lead, actions speak louder than words. We understand that the trust between military families and housing offices (and those charged with oversight) continues to erode as families wait for a Tenant Bill of Rights and increased accountability.
We commit to keeping the pressure up and continuing to learn from families who share their experiences with us, and we commit to doing so in collaboration with everyone who has a vested interest in supporting our community. That is why MFAN created the Military Housing Roundtable. During our first meeting, we took a step back to answer a few key questions: What is happening that is causing families to choose to live in military housing? Do military families have other safe and affordable options? Or, do they feel stuck? Based on these questions, here’s what we know:
We need to bring together public and private agencies to ensure that military families have a central hub where they can get the information they need.
We need to explore what is happening in housing and rental markets near installations.
We need to educate families on the Service Member Civil Relief act, so they know their rights when they are signing a lease or need to move.
We need to teach families the dangers of mold and lead, show them where to look, how to safely navigate these hazards, and where to turn for help if they discover them in their homes.
Most importantly, we need to elevate the voices of military families, because as the last year has shown us, their experiences matter. MFAN is proud to have provided the microphone for these families through our research. We are honored to be able to create collaborative solutions with Roundtable attendees – which included nonprofits, military and veteran service organizations, subject matter experts on environmental risks, the Department of Defense, the military services, and businesses with a mission of supporting military families.
We are committed to rallying together to fix this because we all know one thing for certain: military families deserve a safe place to live, raise their families, and call home.
It may take up to five years to finalize the standards for the Army Combat Fitness Test as the service struggles to address the performance gap between male and female soldiers on the service’s first-ever gender-neutral fitness assessment.
The Army just completed in late September 2019 a year-long field test of the ACFT, involving about 60 battalions of soldiers. And as of Oct. 1, 2019, soldiers in Basic Combat Training, advanced Individual training and one station unit training began to take the ACFT as a graduation requirement.
So far, the data is showing “about a 100 to a 110-point difference between men and women, on average,” Maj. Gen. Lonnie Hibbard, commander of the Center for Initial Military Training, told Military.com.
North Carolina National Guard Fitness Manager Bobby Wheeler explain the proper lifting technique of the ACFT deadlift event to the students of the Master Fitness Trainers Level II Certification Course, Sept. 25, 2019, at Joint Forces Headquarters in Raleigh, North Carolina.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Alonzo Clark)
Final test-score averages taken from soldiers in the active forces, National Guard and Reserve who participated in the ACFT field test illustrate the performance gap that currently exists between male and female soldiers.
Maximum deadlift: Male soldiers deadlifted an average of 238 pounds; females lifted an average of 160 pounds.
Standing power throw: Male soldiers threw an average of 9 feet; female soldiers three average of 5.5 feet.
Hand release pushups: Male soldiers performed an average of 34 pushups; female soldiers performed an average of 20.
Sprint-drag-carry: Male soldiers completed the SDC in an average of 1 minute, 51 seconds; female soldiers completed the event in an average of 2 minutes, 28 seconds.
Leg tuck: Male soldiers completed 8.3 leg tucks; female soldiers completed 1.9 leg tucks.
Two-mile run: Male soldiers completed the run in an average of 16 minutes, 45 seconds; female soldiers completed it in an average of 18 minutes, 59 seconds.
U.S. Army soldiers participate in a 2.35-mile run.
(U.S. Army photo by Senior Airman Rylan Albright)
All of the test-score averages are high enough to pass the ACFT, data that contrasts dramatically with that shown on a set of leaked slides posted on U.S. Army W.T.F! Moments in late September. Those slides showed an 84% failure rate for some female soldiers participating in the ACFT field test, compared to a 30% failure rate among male soldiers.
CIMT officials said the slides were not official documents. Hibbard said the field test showed that soldiers’ scores improved significantly between the first time they took the ACFT and after they were given time to work on their problem areas.
Currently, female soldiers at the start of Basic Combat Training taking the ACFT average about “a third of a leg tuck,” Hibbard said.
“If you have 144 women in basic training, the average is .3; by the end of it they are doing one leg tuck,” Hibbard said, who added that that is all that is required to pass the ACFT in that event. “So, in 10 weeks, I can get from a soldier not being able to do a leg tuck on average to doing one leg tuck.”
Hibbard said there are critics that say, “it’s too hard; females are never going to do well on it.”
“Well, we have had women max every single category, [but] we haven’t had a female max all six categories at once.”
Hibbard said the Army would be in the same position if it tried to create a gender-neutral standard for the current Army Physical Fitness Test.
U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Danny Gonzalez, Recruiting and Retention Command, New Jersey Army National Guard, carries two 40-pound kettlebells during the Army Combat Fitness Test, Dec. 19, 2018.
(New Jersey National Guard photo by Mark C. Olsen)
“We would still have challenges, because you have to make the low end low enough that 95% of the women can pass,” Hibbard said, adding that the Army will likely have to make small adjustments to the standard over time as soldiers improve their performance in each event.
“It’s going to be three to five years, like we did the current PT test.”
The Army first introduced the APFT in 1980 and made adjustments over time, Hibbard said.
“Once the Army began to train and understand how to do the test, we looked at the scores and we looked at everybody was doing and we rebased-lined,” Hibbard said.
The next key step for implementing the ACFT by Oct. 1, 2020, will be to have active duty soldiers take two diagnostic ACFT tests and National Guard and Reserve soldiers take one to establish to get a better sense of the force’s ability to pass the test.
“I don’t think it is going to be hard for the Army to pass; what have to figure out as an Army is how do we incentivize excellence,” he said. “The goal of this is we change our culture so that we incentivize and motive our soldiers to be in better physical shape.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Hollywood has always found a way to connect music with visuals. This seamless blending is an art that has constantly evolved alongside filmmaking.
Legends by likes of James Cameron and Martin Scorsese have used hit songs like “Bad to the Bone” in
Terminator 2: Judgement Day and “Stardust” in Casino to enhance the audiences’ experiences and bring their films to life.
Recently, a young director by the name of Edgar Wright has changed cinema with his revolutionary take on how to perfectly mold film editing with one’s favorite tune in Baby Driver.
Once we see this kid start bumping “Bellbottoms” by The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion on his iPod, there’s no stopping him.
Baby Driver definitely had the moves, but the military has always had the attitude. The songs on this list capture the attention of audiences and pull them into the on-screen battles, parties and periods of mourning.
So, let’s kick the tires and light the fires, because this list is sure to have you on your feet.
Let’s kick off this list with a classic. Kenny Loggins’ Danger Zone set the tone for Tony Scott’s high-octane blockbuster and the song’s never been the same since. Now, when you hear Loggins start to croon, you immediately conjure up images of Maverick taking to the skies in Top Gun.
“Can’t Do Nuttin’ For Ya Man” by Public Enemy in ‘Three Kings’
Nothing starts a party like the hip-hop group with attitude by the name of Public Enemy. When the music starts bumping and the whiskey starts flowing, the soldiers in this film show that the military can party just as hard as anyone.
Jarhead is a rendition of the Anthony Swafford’s 2003 memoir about the Gulf War that gives viewers a (slightly exaggerated) glimpse at the lesser-known elements of the Marine Corps.
The truth is, there are no better orders then the ones that get you home, which is why Public Enemy makes this list again. As “Fight the Power” blares on screen and the ground pounders fire rounds into the night air, the audience gets a taste of that sweet, sweet freedom.
Topping off the list is the true story of the Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrel, the sole survivor of Operation Red Wings. Lone Survivor revisits the unfortunate events of that day and reminds us of a grim reality: we are never truly out of the fight.
At the end of the film, as the credits role and the audience is shown a series of photographs of the real troops who gave their lives for the mission, “Heroes” by Peter Gabriel plays — and nothing else could’ve fit better.
After nearly two decades of counter-terror operations the world over, the United States military is now shifting its focus back toward great power competition with the likes of China and Russia. Unfortunately, as is so often the case, the past two decades have left the U.S. military particularly well suited for the war at hand, but not very well positioned for the wars that are feasibly to come.
During this era of counter-terror operations, China has had the opportunity to seek higher degrees of technological and tactical parity, while having the benefit of not being actively engaged in expensive combat operations on the same scale. That has allowed China’s sea-faring power to grow at an exponential rate in recent years, with an active fleet of more than 770 vessels sailing under the banners of the People’s Liberation Army-Navy, their militarized Coast Guard, and a maritime miitia that takes its orders from the Chinese military as well.
Chinese Navy on parade (Chinese state television)
The addition of China’s massive ballistic missile stockpile, including hypersonic anti-ship platforms the U.S. Navy currently has no means to defend against, has further established China’s advantage in the Pacific. Even if the U.S. Navy leveraged every vessel in its 293-ship fleet, American forces would still be outnumbered by Chinese ships by more than two to one. Importantly, however, the United States likely couldn’t devote its entire fleet to any single conflict due to its global commitments to security and stability, especially regarding essential shipping lanes.
Today, the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps are both actively seeking ways to mitigate China’s numbers advantage, as well as the area-denial bubble created by China’s anti-ship platforms. Multiple possible solutions are being explored, ranging from hot-loading Marine Corps F-35Bs on austere airstrips on captured islands in the case of the Marines, to the Navy’s ongoing development of the MQ-25 aerial refueling drone that aims to extend the reach of America’s carrier-based fighters. Still, thus far, there has been no magic bullet. In fact, concerns about a near-peer conflict with China has even prompted several high-ranking defense officials to question the practicality of America’s fleet of super-carriers, both because of their immense cost, and because of the likelihood that they could be sunk by China’s hypersonic missiles long before they could get close enough to Chinese shores to begin launching sorties of F-35Cs and F/A-18 Super Hornets.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Mohamed Labanieh/Released)
The fundamental challenges a war with China would present are clear: Finding a way to mitigate the risks posed by advanced anti-ship missiles and offsetting the significant numbers advantage Chinese forces would have within the region. In the past, we’ve discussed the possibility of arming commercial cargo ships with modular weapons systems in a “missile barge” fleet as a means to bolster American numbers and capabilities. Another feasible option that could even work in conjunction with this strategy would be issuing “letters of marque” to private operations, effectively allowing non-military forces to serve as privateers for the U.S. government.
The Capture of a French Ship by Royal Family Privateers by Charles Brooking
American Privateers or Pirates?
The concept of issuing letters of marque to American privateers was recently discussed by retired Marine Colonel Mark Cancian and Brandon Schwartz in the U.S. Naval Institute’s publication, “Proceedings.” Although the idea seems almost ridiculous in the 21st Century, the legal framework outlined by Cancian and Schwartz is sound, and one could argue that their assertions about the viability and strategic value of privateer fleets are as well.
Cancian and Schwartz argue that privateering is not piracy, as there are laws governing it and precedent for the practice established in past U.S. conflicts, including the American Revolutionary War and the War of 1812.
“Privateering is not piracy—there are rules and commissions, called letters of marque, that governments issue to civilians, allowing them to capture or destroy enemy ships. The U.S. Constitution expressly grants Congress the power to issue them (Article I, section 8, clause 11).” -“Unleash the Privateers!” In Proceedings
However, despite their argument being technically right, it’s difficult to dismiss how the piracy narrative would almost certainly affect public perception of the use of privateers, and potentially even the conflict at large.
While the United States could argue that privateers operate with specifically outlined rules and commissions, even the American public would likely see American privateers as pirates. And because America has found itself trailing behind nations like China and Russia in terms of manipulating public narratives, that narrative could indeed hurt not only public support for the conflict; it could even jeopardize some international relationships.
The Pride of Baltimore, left, and the Lynx, two privateer vessels, reenact a battle of the War of 1812 in Boston Harbor during Boston Navy Week 2012. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Elisandro T. Diaz/Released)
Privateers are not pirates in the literal sense only because a government is sanctioning their piracy. In the eyes of those who don’t recognize America’s authority to grant such permissions in far-flung waterways, the two terms would be interchangeable.
Regardless of vernacular, the United States has used this approach to great success in the past. Although the last time American privateers set sale was more than 200 years ago, their approach was modern enough to set precedent for a return to the concept.
“The privateering business was thoroughly modern and capitalistic, with ownership consortiums to split investment costs and profits or losses, and a group contract to incentivize the crew, who were paid only if their ship made profits. A sophisticated set of laws ensured that the capture was ‘good prize,’ and not fraud or robbery. After the courts determined that a merchant ship was a legitimate capture, auctioneers sold off her cargo of coffee, rum, wine, food, hardware, china, or similar consumer goods, which ultimately were bought and consumed by Americans.” -Frederick C. Leiner in “Yes, Privateers Mattered“
In the event of a large-scale conflict with a nation like China, that potential narrative blowback may be a necessary evil. However, the ramifications of that evil could be mitigated through a concerted narrative effort to frame privateer actions in the minds of the populous as an essential part of a broader war effort that has the American people’s best interests in mind.
In the War of 1812, privateering saw such public support (in large part thanks to the profits it drove) that some took to calling the conflict the “War of the People.” Managing the narrative surrounding American privateers could make the concept far more palatable to the American people.
As for the legal aspects of privateering, you can read a thorough legal justification for the practice in a separate piece written by Schwartz called “U.S. Privateering is legal.”
(Italian Center for International Studies)
The role of American privateers at war
China’s massive fleet of vessels in the Pacific can be broken down into their three command groups, all of which ultimately answer to China’s People’s Liberation Army. China’s maritime militia accounts for approximately 300 vessels, the militarized Coast Guard has 135 more, and the PLA-Navy itself boasts an ever-growing roster expected to reach 450 surface vessels by the end of the decade.
In the event of a war with China, the American Navy would have more than its hands full engaging with such a massive force, limiting its ability to cut China off from one of its most significant revenue sources, overseas trade. China’s reliance on shipping products to other nations has helped its economy grow rapidly, but it also represents a strategic disadvantage, as Cancian and Schwartz point out, if America can find the means to disrupt this exchange.
“Thirty-eight percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) comes from trade, against only 9 percent of U.S. GDP. Chinese social stability is built on a trade-off: The Chinese Communist Party has told the people they will not have democratic institutions, but they will receive economic prosperity.” -“Unleash the Privateers!” In Proceedings
In 2018, China’s merchant fleet was already approaching 2,200 total vessels, thanks to massive external demand for inexpensive Chinese exports. America’s Navy would likely be stretched too thin to actually blockade such an expansive merchant fleet. Like with aircraft, America’s preference for large and expensive ships that are capable of fulfilling multiple roles has offered increased capability but significantly decreased numbers. At its peak during World War II, the U.S. Navy boasted more than 6,000 ships. Today, the Navy has 293 far more capable vessels, but none can be in more than one place at a time.
American Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers, for instance, are too big and expensive to task with waiting out Chinese ships hiding in foreign ports, and would likely largely be assigned to Aegis missile defense operations. This is where American privateers could offer an important service.
American privateers wouldn’t be tasked with engaging the Chinese Navy or even with sinking merchant ships. Instead, they would be tasked with capturing Chinese cargo vessels, offering them a multi-million dollar bounty on each, and quickly compromising China’s ability to sustain its export sales.
“Since the goal is to capture the hulls and cargo, privateers do not want to sink the vessel, just convince the crew to surrender. How many merchant crews would be inclined to fight rather than surrender and spend the war in comfortable internment?” -“Unleash the Privateers!” In Proceedings
Of course, despite Cancian and Schwartz’ dismissive take on how apt Chinese crews would be to fight to maintain control of their ships, it’s important to remember that these privateers would likely be engaging in close quarters fighting with Chinese crews or security on board. As American privateers proved more costly to the Chinese government, an increased emphasis on protecting these cargo ships would almost certainly follow.
This begs an essential question: Where do you find privateer crews?
Private security contractors in Iraq (DoD photo)
Private infrastructure already exists
While the concept of American privateers seems borderline fantastical, the truth is, the United States has already leveraged the premise of using non-military personnel for security and defensive operations the world over. American security firm Blackwater (now Academi) is perhaps the highest-profile example of America’s use of private military contractors. In fact, contractors in Iraq have reached numbers as high as 160,000 at some points, nearly equaling the total number of U.S. military personnel in the region. At least 20,000 of those private contractors filled armed security roles.
So while the term “privateer” or even pirate suggests an entirely unconventional approach to modern warfare, the premise is already in play. Terminology may dictate perception to a significant degree, but in practice, privateering wouldn’t be all that different from existing relationships the United States maintains with private security outfits. Further, private security firms, including Blackwater, have already operated at sea in a similar manner to privateers, from Blackwater’s armed patrol craft policing Somali pirates off the Horn of Africa to countless armed and privately owned boats patrolling the Indian Ocean today.
In 2007, Blackwater acquired the McArther from the NOAAS. (WikiMedia Commons)
Many such organizations, with existing infrastructure and established relationships with the U.S. government, would likely seek and win contracts, or letters of marque, in the early days of a burgeoning Sino-American war, and stand up their own forces far more quickly than the United States could expand its naval force in the same volume. Rather than building ships and enlisting crews, the United States could simply authorize existing ships with existing crews to go on the offensive against China’s commercial fleets.
The American government’s experience with military contractors throughout the War on Terror means these relationships would not be as without precedent as they may seem, and the existing private military industry would make American privateers a quick and effective means to grow America’s offensive capabilities.
China claims sovereignty over much of the South China Sea (shown in red). A conflict with China would undoubtedly play out here. (WikiMedia Commons)
A complicated solution to a complex problem
Of course, there are many variables at play when discussing a future conflict with China. Incorporating privateers into such a strategy admittedly seems rather extreme from our vantage point in 2020, but it’s important to note that there is no precedent for what something like a 21st Century Sino-American war might look like. The massive sea battles of World War II may offer some sense of scale, but the rapid advancement of technology in the intervening decades creates a hypothetical war that is simply incongruous with the World War II models.
America does boast the largest and most powerful military in the world, but China’s rapidly expanding and modernizing force has not been growing in a vacuum. From space operations to warship construction, China has been developing its war-fighting apparatus with America specifically in mind. China isn’t interested in competing with the United States on its terms and instead has been focused on identifying potential American vulnerabilities and tailoring new capabilities to leverage those flaws.
China’s Type 002 Aircraft carrier (Tyg728 on WikiMedia Commons)
Large scale warfare between technological and economic giants would play out differently than any conflict we’ve ever seen. In order to emerge from such a conflict successfully, America has to do much more than win. Once the price of victory begins to compromise America’s ability to sustain its way of life thereafter, that victory becomes less pronounced.
In order to win in such a conflict, the United States will need to dig deep into its bag of tricks. On the home front, it would mean finding ways to rapidly expand America’s industrial base to replenish vehicles, supplies, and equipment as they’re expended or destroyed on the front lines. The U.S. Navy, Marine Corps, Army, Air Force, and Space Force will all be required to communicate and rely on one another in ways never before accomplished on a battlefield.
And China’s massive numbers advantage would have to be mitigated somehow. American privateers, or pirates as the press would surely call them, might just do the trick.
On July 6, at the Naval Air Station at Patuxent River, Maryland, US Marines carried out the first successful test of the F-35B’s GAU-22 gun pod, Business Insider has confirmed.
Five days later, the gun pod fired it’s first 80-round burst. Both tests were resoundingly successful, and the video is posted below.
Business Insider previously reported on the first test of the F-35A’s integrated gun, but the gun pod, which will be used on the F-35B and C variants, is an entirely different animal.
Instead of the integrated design of the US Air Force’s F-35A, the Marine Corps’ F-35B and the US Navy’s F-35C will feature a 220-round, 25 mm gun in a modular pod.
This means that the Navy and Marine variants, which launch from aircraft carriers or amphibious assault vessels, will have the option of excluding the gun to save weight and increase fuel efficiency.
Here’s the GAU-22 ripping a target with pinpoint accuracy:
While the F-35 has fielded some criticism for its gun, which at 55 rounds per second can empty its entire magazine in under four seconds, the gun actually makes sense for the type of close air-support environment that the F-35 is expected to operate in.
The much-loved A-10 Warthog, which holds 1,350 rounds, is ideal for flying low and slow, loitering in the sky, and delivering its precise fire to provide close air support. But this makes sense in only uncontested air space.
The F-35’s smaller magazine capacity reflects the future of close air support as military planners envision it. The F-35 will usher in an era of quick and precise strikes that leverage a suite of sensors, electronic-warfare capabilities, and stealth.
Watch the full video of the GAU-22 gun pod firing an 80-round burst for the first time below:
The United States wasn’t the most dominant country on Earth from the get-go. For most of our nearly 243-year history, in fact, we lived by the skin of our teeth. It’s a relatively recent development where some other country can call out for the blood of Americans to fill the streets, and we at home barely seem to notice. That’s the chief benefit of U.S. military. In the olden days, someone threatening the United States might have actually had a chance.
Those days are gone.
This list is about more than just how many Americans an enemy could kill. This is about being able to really take down the United States at a time when we weren’t able to topple the enemy government or wipe out their infrastructure without missing a single episode of The Bachelor.
Radical terrorism is nothing new. Just like insurgent groups, extremists, and jihadis attacking Americans in the name of their gods, other militants have been picking at the U.S. for centuries. ISIS and al-Qaeda are just the latest flash in the pan. Anarchists, organized labor, and other saboteurs were bombing American facilities well before Osama bin Laden thought of it. The U.S. Marine Corps even established its reputation by walking 500 miles through the North African desert just to rescue hostages and kill terrorists… in 1805.
What terrorists have been able to do is force tough changes in defense and foreign policy – but as an existential threat, the Macarena captured more Americans than global terrorism ever will.
The Soviet Union
The Cold War was a hot war, we all know that by now. It had the potential to kill millions of people worldwide and throw the American system into total disarray. It definitely had potential. Unfortunately, they were much better at killing their own people than killing Americans. In the end, their deadliest weapon was food shortages, which they used to great effect… on the Soviet Union.
But thanks for all the cool 1980s movie villains.
It may surprise you all to see Mexico ranked higher on this list than our primary Cold War adversary, but before the United States could take on pretty much the rest of the world in a war, a threat from Mexico carried some heft. Until James K. Polk came to office.
Even though the Mexican-American War was a pretty lopsided victory for the United States, it was hard-won. More than 16 percent of the Americans who joined to fight it never came home. And imagine if the U.S. had lost to Mexico – California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, Texas, and parts of New Mexico, Colorado, and Wyoming could still be Mexican today.
The 19th Century and the first part of the 20th Century didn’t look good for China, but they sure managed to turn things around. While, like their Soviet counterparts, the Chinese were (and still are) better at killing Chinese people than Americans, they sure had their share of fun at our expense. The Chinese fueled the Korean War, the war in Vietnam, and the ongoing struggle with Taiwan and they continue their current military buildup to be able to face threats from the U.S.
While not an existential threat right now, China could very well be one day.
At a time when our nation’s growth and survival demanded it stretch from sea to shining sea, the principal stumbling block was that there were many, many other nations already taking that space between the U.S. east coast and west coast. Predictably, the Native American tribes fought back, making the American frontier manifest much more than destiny, it manifested death and destruction.
While the native tribes had very little chance of conquering the young United States, the Indians were key allies for those who could and for many decades, did keep the two parts of the U.S. separated by a massive, natural border.
The United States would be very, very difficult to invade, sure, but what if your armed forces were already on American soil and all you had to do was just keep those colonists from revolting while still paying their taxes? The only way anyone could ever have killed off the fledgling United States would be to kill it in its cradle and the British came very, very close. And just a few years later, they would have another opportunity.
In round two, British and Canadian forces burned down the White House and have been the envy of every American enemy ever since.
Japan had the might and the means to be able to take down the United States. Their only problem was poor planning and even worse execution. The problem started long before Pearl Harbor. Japanese hubris after beating Russia and China one after the other turned them into a monster – a slow, dumb monster that had trouble communicating. Japan’s head was so far up its own ass with its warrior culture that they became enamored with the process of being a warrior, rather than focusing on the prize: finishing the war it started.
There’s a reason the Nazis are America’s number one movie and TV-show enemy. The Germans were not only big and bad on paper; they were even worse in real life. Even though the World War I Germany was vastly different from the genocidal, meth-addled master race bent on world domination, in 1916, it sure didn’t seem that way. But the threat didn’t stop with the Treaty of Versailles.
The interwar years were just as dangerous for the United States. The Great Depression hit the U.S. as hard as anyone else. Pro-Hitler agitators and American Nazi groups weren’t just a product of German immigrants or Nazi intelligence agencies – some Americans really believed National Socialism was the way forward. Even after the end of World War II, East Germans were still trying to kill Americans.
After all, who fights harder or better than an American?
Like many countries before the United States and many countries since no one is better at killing us than ourselves. But this isn’t in the same way the governments of China, the Soviet Union, and countless others decide to systematically kill scores of their own citizens. No, the closest the United States ever came to departing this world was when Americans decided to start fighting Americans.
After testing revealed problems with how standard-issued magazines load certain ammunition into Marine rifles, the Corps has ordered Leathernecks to use the wildly popular polymer-made Magpul PMAG.
“The Magpul GenM3 PMag was the only magazine to perform to acceptable levels across all combinations of Marine Corps 5.56mm rifles and ammunition during testing,” the Marine Corps’ top gear buying office told WATM.
In a Corpswide message released in mid December, Marine Corps Systems Command issued guidance ordering Marines to use the Magpul Industries-made PMAG Gen. M3 with M-16, M-4 and M-27 rifles, as well as the M-249 machine gun.
Industry sources say the issue stems from how the Army’s new M855A1 Enhanced Performance Round feeds from government issued magazines, causing damage to the internal components of the Marine Corps’ M27 — a version of the Heckler Koch 416 rifle.
“It was damaging the feed ramps and the chamber face of the 416,” an industry source told WATM. “It was presenting the M855A1 round at a lower angle and damaging the upper barrel extension.”
In fact, the Army was having its own problems with the standard magazine and the M855A1 round, so it developed a new magazine, dubbed the “Enhanced Performance Magazine” to deal with the issue.
But that one didn’t work for the Corps either.
“The legacy metal 30-round magazines are no longer manufactured and their replacement, the Enhanced Performance Magazine (EPM), does not perform to acceptable levels with all combinations of the Marine Corps’ 5.56mm rifle platforms and ammunition,” the Corps told WATM.
The Corps — along with the Army — had reportedly banned use of after-market magazines, including the PMAG, in 2012 after troops were having problems with poorly-made knockoffs.
Magpul was one of the first companies to introduce polymer-built magazines for M-16s, and M-4s and the PMAG became increasingly popular among soldiers and Marines fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The new PMAG GenM3 takes advantage of 10 years of experience building magazines for a variety of rifles and calibers, incorporating enhanced geometry, better followers and an optimized round-count window, Magpul officials said.
“We haven’t had a single stoppage in any testing of the PMAG GenM3,” a Magpul official told WATM. “We’re happy to help the Marine Corps in a way that enhances the warfighter.”
The Corps is not buying PMAGs to replace all its current magazines, but is instead giving units the option to buy their own.
“There are currently no procurements for any of the 5.56 rifle platforms and as we normally only issue magazines with a new weapon fielding, there are no plans to issue Magpul magazines at the service-level,” the Corps said. “Unit procurement through Defense Logistics Agency is expected to be comparable to current commercial cost on the open market.”
As the cyber realm evolves, effects from cyberattacks are moving from the digital world to the physical one.
Just three years ago, nearly 225,000 energy customers in Ukraine woke to a powerless city after regional electrical companies were hacked and shut down by malicious Russian cyber actors. In 2018, the city of Atlanta had to suspend many of its services while ransomware ran rampant through government computers.
To ready the Air Force’s Cyber Protection Teams, which defend priority Department of Defense networks and systems against such malicious cyber-physical acts, the 90th Cyberspace Operations Squadron has developed an innovative new training tool.
“‘Bricks in the Loop’ helps cyber airmen conceptualize and understand the relationship between the network and physical domains in operational technology infrastructures,” said Christopher De La Rosa, 90th COS cyber modeling and simulation environments lead. “Significant differences exist between information technology and OT networks, necessitating different approaches to training our airmen in IT and OT cyber defense.”
In other words, BIL links cyber (IT) and physical (OT) resources to afford airmen the opportunity to see how a cyber action can effect a physical asset. Unfortunately, any cyber-physical training option using life-size training assets would be too costly to create, so current options are predominantly virtual-based, according to De La Rosa.
The “Bricks in the Loop” cyber-physical training platform at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, helps 90th Cyberspace Operations Squadron members ready the Air Force’s Cyber Protection Teams.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. R.J. Biermann)
To remedy this, his team created a scaled, physical training environment made of toy, plastic bricks purchased off-the-shelf. They combined this with an IT network built from open source or low-cost, and easy-to-use software options. The build cost less than ,000 and took only four months.
The “loop” serves as a simulated Air Force installation with assets such as a fire station, police station, airport, airport passenger terminal, jets, tanker trucks, and other vehicles. Many of these elements can purposefully be hacked and made to light up, move forward or backward, spin, alarm or stop working all together, all to alert the trainee a cyber action has taken place. The toy bricks are built on 15×15 inch tiles so they can be easily transported and re-built to support on-demand training or to model service-level exercises.
“The look and functionality of the environment allows the trainee to easily translate the model to critical missions on most bases, and the potential damage that could occur from a malicious cyber-physical attack on those missions,” De La Rosa said. “There are many more scenarios relevant to Air Force bases that, if disrupted, may have a critical impact on assigned missions.”
The “Bricks in the Loop” cyber-physical training platform at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, helps 90th Cyberspace Operations Squadron members ready the Air Force’s Cyber Protection Teams.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. R.J. Biermann)
In the future, the team hopes to include additional assets that will lend to more training scenarios, including fuel operations, security, water filtration, and fire alarm and suppression systems. The team is also seeking to incorporate a remote access and control feature providing trainees the opportunity to connect from anywhere.
Training cyber airmen isn’t new to the 90th COS. In the last two years alone, the squadron has developed 110 cyber capabilities comprising real-time operations and innovation efforts, CMF support efforts, and additional supporting capabilities and enabling efforts, including BIL.
As AFCYBER airmen continue to deliver full-spectrum global cyberspace capabilities and outcomes to the Air Force, joint force and nation, so will the 90th COS in its endeavor to keep them proficiently trained and ready.
House lawmakers have introduced legislative amendments to promote two military pilots who made great contributions to aerial battles during World War II.
Reps. Matt Gaetz, R-Florida, and Ruben Gallego, D-Arizona, recently created an amendment to the Fiscal 2020 National Defense Authorization legislation that would posthumously promote Richard “Dick” Cole from lieutenant colonel to colonel.
Cole, who died in April 2019 at age 103, was the last surviving Doolittle Raider and flew alongside then-Lt. Col. James “Jimmy” Doolittle. The raid was famously named after Doolittle, who led 16 B-25 bombers and 80 crew members from the aircraft carrier Hornet in the western Pacific on a strike targeting factories and military installations in and around Tokyo on April 18, 1942.
Cole, a lieutenant at the time, received the Distinguished Flying Cross for his role in the bombing.
Rep. Chip Roy, a Republican from Texas, introduced similar legislation. The news was first reported by Air Force Magazine on July 10, 2019.
Separately, Rep. Anthony Brown, a Democrat from Maryland, created a measure to promote retired Air Force colonel and distinguished combat aviator Charles McGee to brigadier general. McGee, who was a member of the Tuskegee Airmen, flew 409 fighter combat missions in World War II, Korea and Vietnam.
Retired Col. Elmer Jones and retired Col. Charles McGee address an audience during an open forum at the 2009 Air Force Association Air Space Conference and Technology Exposition Sept. 15, 2009.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Andy Morataya)
“This distinguished, decades-long career in the Air Force, which saw Col. McGee become the first African-American to command a stateside Air Force wing and base, serves as an inspirational legacy to hundreds of African-American service members and aviators,” Brown told Military.com in a statement July 10, 2019. “This honorary promotion would be well-deserved recognition of a dedicated patriot.”
Both McGee and Cole spoke to Military.com in recent years about their service.
“The flight was designed to do two things: One, to let the Japanese people know that they could be struck by air. And the other thing was the morale, and we did that, so we were very proud of that,” Cole told Military.com in 2016.
That year, the Air Force announced it would name its next-generation B-21 Long Range Strike Bomber the Raider after the Doolittle Raiders. Cole made the announcement for the service.
(U.S. Air Force graphic)
The experience was much different for the Tuskegee Airmen: They were the first African-American pilots, navigators and support personnel to serve during World War II, often escorting and protecting bombers.
McGee said he was just doing his job.
“It came from the basis of doing something for our country — for me, doing something I liked, knowing that’s what I’d pass on to young people now,” he said during an interview in 2017.
“We accomplished something that helped lead the country,” McGee said. “We didn’t call this civil rights. It was American opportunity.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
In some ways, the National Guard Bureau’s State Partnership Program — which pairs National Guard elements with partner nations worldwide — started with a tuba.
“The Latvian military band needed a big tuba,” said retired Air Force Maj. Gen. John Conaway, the 22nd chief of the NGB and “father” of the SPP. “And we hauled a tuba over there.”
The trip with the tuba was part of the early planning stages for the program, which turns 25 in 2018.
“We delivered that tuba to the Latvian band and they were amazed to get it,” said Conaway. “That started the program with the first, initial visit.”
That first visit lead the way to a program that now has 74 partnerships with countries throughout the world. But it all started with three: Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.
“We were received in grand fashion in all three places,” said Conaway, referring to that initial trip. Where it would go from there, he added, was then still unknown.
“We didn’t know what was going to happen,” he said. “But, we had the visit. That was the start.”
That first visit was the result of a simple directive from Army Gen. John Shalikashvili, then-supreme allied commander in Europe with NATO, and who would be appointed chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1993.
“He called me up and said “we’ve got to help these new emerging democracies [in the Baltics],'” said Conaway, adding that after additional planning with Pentagon officials, he formed a small team and they started working with the State Department. That led to meeting with the presidents of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, as well as military officials in those countries.
“It looked like they wanted our help and we started talking about putting liaison officers from the National Guard on orders with them,” said Conaway. “Our role was to help make the transition [to democracy] as smooth as we could.”
The idea of liaison officers grew into tying specific Guard elements with specific countries.
“The [team] and I huddled and thought, “We’ve got tons of Lithuanians and Lithuanian-Americans living in Pennsylvania,'” Conaway said. “It fit. We’ll tie Lithuania to the Pennsylvania National Guard.”
(U.S. Army photo by Master Sgt. Mark C. Olsen)
The idea grew from there.
“There were a lot of Latvian-Americans in Michigan, so we got with the adjutant general [of the Michigan National Guard] and tied them together with Latvia,” said Conaway. “There are Estonian-Americans in Baltimore, and so we tied [Estonia] together with the Maryland National Guard.”
Conaway added there was little precedent to follow while developing the program.
“We were doing this off the back of an envelope back then,” he said. “It was happening so fast.”
By the time Conaway retired in November 1993, the SPP had 13 partnerships, primarily with former Eastern Bloc countries in Europe.
The following years saw new partnerships added from across the globe.
“It’s grown to 74 partnerships and that’s been an incremental growth of about two to three partnerships a year,” said Air Force Col. Donald McGuire, chief of the international affairs branch at the NGB.
As the program has expanded, the process for adding new partnerships has become more refined.
First, the country has to request to be a member of the program, said McGuire, adding that input from the State Department and the combatant command — the U.S. military command element overseeing specific geographic regions — goes along with that request.
“They collectively decide that this is a good country we want to nominate for selection into the program,” said McGuire, adding that from there staff work is done to determine the best course of action with pairing up elements for a partnership.
“It’s very analytical what the staff here does,” said McGuire. “They put a lot of hard work and brain cells against making sure they’re doing a good analysis to give the chief [of the NGB] the best recommendation they can.”
The long-term success of the program has come about, in part, from that intrinsic relationship with both the State Department and the combatant command, said McGuire. The SPP is nested with the command’s theater security cooperation plan and the State Department’s country study plan.
“It’s in tune with the combatant commanders, therefore, it’s in tune or synchronized with the National Defense Strategy,” McGuire said.
Building relationships, said McGuire, is one of the hallmarks of the program.
“This provides, perhaps, the most well-known and established international partnership capability the National Guard is involved with,” he said. “These are relationships that have grown over the course of time and continue to grow.”
Those relationships have not only seen partners in the program train together, but also work together in the wake of natural disasters and large-scale emergencies.
It’s also seen co-deployments to Iraq, Afghanistan and other areas.
“You wouldn’t have these countries and units deploying together, necessarily, if they didn’t already have this relationship.”
McGuire added that’s a significant element.
“That tells you a lot about the program,” he said. “These co-deployments are real-world operations, named contingencies that represent the next level of collaboration and coordination.”
Building collaboration and coordination is also key to building greater regional security, said Army Brig. Gen. Christopher F. Lawson, the NGB’s vice director of strategy, policy, plans and international affairs.
“In order to promote greater peace and stability in the world long into the future, we will need a program like the SPP because it helps nations transition from security consumers to security providers,” he said.
For Conaway, the continued growth of the program is more than he imagined 25 years ago.
“It is beyond my wildest dreams and imagination that it would be this passionate and this popular and the good the National Guard has done,” he said. “Here we are, 25 years after it started and the National Guard is just as enthusiastic as ever.”
The pairing of the West Virginia National Guard with Qatar was announced in April 2018, and McGuire said additional partnerships are in the coordination phase.
“We have a few more partnerships in the queue,” he said, adding he sees continued growth of the program over the next 25 years and beyond.
“It really is the entry point to a lot of good things that happen,” McGuire said.
When people think hovercraft, the Landing Craft Air Cushion (also known as the LCAC) comes to mind. Understandably so — that hovercraft has been a vital piece of gear for the Navy and Marine Corps when it comes to projecting power ashore. But these are not the first hovercraft to be used in service. In fact, hovercraft saw action with both the Navy and Army during the Vietnam War.
In 1966, the Navy acquired four Patrol Air Cushion Vehicles, or PACVs (pronounced “Pack-Vees”), for test purposes and deployed them to Vietnam. The hovercraft quickly proved very potent, delivering a lot of firepower and speed and reaching areas inaccessible to traditional tracked or wheeled vehicles.
Patrol Air Cushion Vehicles packed a lot of firepower and were fast — but they never got past an operational test.
A PACV was equipped with a turret that held one or two M2 .50-caliber machine guns mounted on top of the cabin, which held a crew of four. There were also two M60 general-purpose machine guns, one mounted to port and the other to starboard. Additionally, there were two remote-controlled emplacements for either M60s or Mk 19 automatic grenade launchers.
The hovercraft could reach a top speed of 35 knots and had a maximum range of 165 nautical miles. But as maintenance and training proved problematic, especially given the trans-Pacific supply lines, the Navy decided to pull the plug. The Army, however, remained interested. The hovercraft operated primarily from a land base, but could also be deployed from amphibious ships (like today’s LCACs).
PACVs worked with the Navy’s Light Attack Helicopter Squadron Three (HAL-3), providing a fast response to enemy activity.
The Army acquired three Air-Cushion Vehicles, which operated within the 9th Infantry Division. Two were configured for attack missions and both were destroyed in 1970. The other, which was tooled as a transport, was shipped back to the United States.
Learn more about these early hovercraft that did some damage in Vietnam in the video below.