Since the end of World War II, the British Army has developed a number of outstanding tanks, starting with the Centurion. The Challenger 1 proved itself during Operation Desert Storm, where it recorded the longest-distance kill of another tank, while the Chieftain held the line for NATO during much of the later part of the Cold War.
The latest in this line of tanks is the Challenger 2. While it entered the fray too late for Desert Storm, it served in the Balkans and during Operation Iraqi Freedom. To date, its service has been just as outstanding as its predecessors.
Like the Challenger 1, the Challenger 2 features a 120mm rifled gun, very different from the smoothbore guns used on American M1 Abrams and German Leopard 2 main battle tanks. This gun provides the Challenger 2 with a greater range than its American and German counterparts.
The Challenger 2 is also equipped with a new version of the revolutionary Chobham armor. In one incident during Operation Iraqi Freedom, a Challenger 2 took over 70 hits from RPGs. Another incident involved the tank being hit on its normally-vulnerable underside with a RPG-29 and yet it still managed to drive back to base on its own power. While the press reported the latter incident as a failure, it should be noted that the tank kept its crew alive and was likely able to keep fighting.
And since then, the tank’s armor has been upgraded.
Unfortunately, it has a glaring weakness — it’s very slow when compared to the American Abrams and the German Leopard, with a top speed of just 37 miles per hour. Should a Challenger 2 face off against an American tank, the Abrams would use its speed to its advantage.
Learn more about the Challenger 2 in the video below!
At one time, the U.S, Air Force’s now-retired F-22 program was the most-expensive and most-advanced fighter in the world. It was eclipsed only the USAF’s fifth-generation system, the F-35. But even during its development, the United States Congress ensured the U.S. military couldn’t share the technology with anyone – even allies. Yet, American allies were the first to use the more advanced F-35 fighter in combat.
What’s the difference?
The $62 billion F-22 program would have certainly had some of the research and development costs alleviated had the sale of the fighter been approved for American allies, but the Obey Amendment to the 1998 Department of Defense Appropriations Act very specifically prevents the sale of the F-22 Raptor to any foreign government — and they were lining up to buy.
F-22A Raptor Demonstration Team aircraft maintainers prepare to launch out Maj. Paul “Max” Moga, the first F-22A Raptor demonstration team pilot.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Christopher L. Ingersoll)
Developing the kind of technology that makes the F-22’s radar signature closer to that of a bumblebee would take billions of dollars and untold years to develop independently. Why would a country allied with the United States want to make that kind of military effort when they could just purchase the tech? Well, until they received the F-35, they simply couldn’t.
Israel wanted the F-22. Japan was very interested in obtaining some F-22s for its Self-Defense Forces. If Japan was able to buy, South Korea would have wanted parity, then Singapore, then Australia. Even China would have expressed an interest. Despite the passage of time, Japan’s neighbors are still worried about the rebirth of militarism in the island nation.
In case you thought the U.S. was the only country who can’t forget World War II.
And now that China’s own air forces are developing advanced stealth fighters of their own, the need for stealth fighters in the hands of and skies of American allies is more important than ever. And this was true, even in the 1990s.
But Congressman Dave Obey wasn’t having any of it. The Congressman worried that the stealth technology on the F-22 (which still makes a smaller radar cross section than even the F-35) would end up in the hands of China or Russia if sold to allies – especially Israel. It seems Congress was worried the Israelis would leak U.S. tech to China the way American intelligence believes Israel aided China in the development of its J-10 fighter.
Obey spent 40 years in Congress and retired in 2011.
Since then, the House of Representatives has had a number of debates and discussions about whether or not they should repeal the law. The Department of Defense remains neutral on the subject but critics of the Obey Amendment argue that critical American industries would stand to benefit from parts and continued production of the F-22.
Parts of the plane are made in plants from Marietta, Ga. to Palmdale, Calif. and a few places in between. American manufacturing centers have had to sink the costs of research and development as well as advanced manufacturing techniques since the production of the fighter ended.
An F-22 Raptor in full afterburner during flight testing at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.
(U.S. Air Force)
Ultimately, the F-22 program was ended because it was very costly and the need for an air-to-air fighter to counter Soviet fighters just wasn’t the U.S. military’s priority any longer. The U.S. military purchased 183 Raptors, well short of the proposed 381. But then China and Russia began producing next-generation fighters anyway, so the U.S. doubled down on the Joint Strike Fighter.
So, why can our allies, like Israel and Japan, get the world’s most-advanced multirole fighter? The F-35 was always intended to be an internationally developed fighter system. U.S. allies were always supposed to have access to it and help bear the costs of developing all that mighty tech — much of which was developed in the quest for the F-22.
There are some battlecruisers that might have lasted for a bit, but all too often, battlecruisers had a very short combat career — usually ending in a spectacular fashion.
They had originally been designed to carry a set of big guns to blast apart enemy cruisers, but they also had a very high top speed, so they could outrun anything that could give them a fair fight.
The Royal Navy was familiar with battlecruisers blowing up when hit. They saw it happen at Jutland and the Denmark Strait. But Japan had its own bad experience with battlecruisers. Here are three case studies.
1. HIJMS Akagi
Okay, technically, this is an aircraft carrier, but she was converted from a battle cruiser. Akagi was impressive – ww2db.com notes she displaced 36,500 tons and was over 850 feet long. She carried as many as 90 planes.
She went down because of one bomb. Granted, it was a 1,000-pound bomb, but it was still just one conventional bomb.
According to the book “Shattered Sword” by Jon Parshall and Anthony Tully, that bomb (plus the presence of aircraft being armed and fueled) lead to catastrophic fires that eventually forced Isoroku Yamamoto to order his old command to be scuttled.
Akagi had packed a powerful punch in six months of combat – including credit for wrecking the battleship USS Oklahoma (BB 37) and damaging the USS West Virginia (BB 48). But she proved to have a glass jaw.
2. HIJMS Hiei
On paper, the HIJMS Hiei (along with her sister ship HIJMS Kirishima) should have torn through Daniel Callaghan’s force at Guadalcanal like a kid through Christmas presents. They were two of the four Kongo-class battlecruisers, and brought the biggest guns to the fight.
But instead, it was Dan Callaghan who triumphed that night (at the cost of his life). As for Hiei? She took an 8-inch armor-piercing shell in the steering compartment, and was left a cripple. The next morning, planes from Henderson Field finished her off.
Crippled by a cruiser, then sunk by planes from the airfield she was supposed to bombard, makes Hiei a classic loser.
Her sister, Kirishima, didn’t fare much better. She went toe-to-toe with the USS Washington (BB 56) two nights later, and was reduced to a wreck before she was scuttled.
3. HIJMS Kongo
The lead Kongo-class battlecruiser lasted longer, mostly because during World War II, carriers were rightly seen as the more valuable targets. But when the USS Sealion (SS 315), commanded by Lt. Cdr. Eli Thomas Reich, got her in its sights, Kongo ended up as just another battlecruiser statistic.
Here sources disagree on how many hits she took. Anthony Tully notes at CombinedFleet.com that the Kongo took at least two hits, leading to an eventual capsizing and explosion.
Rear Adm. Samuel Eliot Morison said in the “History of United States Naval Operations in World War II” that a single hit lead to the explosive end of Kongo.
So, there you have it. Three more reasons why battlecruisers are losers — provided by the Japanese Navy.
Planespotters found a Russian Mig-31 Foxhound taking off with a never-before-seen mystery weapon that could likely have an anti-satellite role, meaning it’s a nightmare for the US military.
The Foxhound is a 1980s Soviet fighter that remains one of the fastest and highest flying jets ever built. It’s ability to push Mach 3 near the edge of space with large weapons payloads makes it an ideal platform for firing anti-satellite missiles, which Russia appears to have tested in September 2018.
The War Zone noticed Russian aviation photographer ShipSash snapping photos of the Mig-31 armed with a massive missile taking off from the Russian aviation industry’s test center in Zhukovsky near Moscow on Sept. 14, 2018.
Pictures of the Mig-31 at Zhukovsky with the mystery missile can be seen here and here.
The Mig-31 has enjoyed somewhat of a rebirth in recent years as a platform for new Russian super weapons, like the Kinzhal hypersonic anti-surface missile that Russian President Vladimir Putin said could evade any US defenses.
The Mig-31 has a history of use in anti-satellite programs, but the new missile appears to show a renewed effort in that direction.
Two Russian MiG-31 Foxhounds with Kinzhal hypersonic missiles photographed over Moscow, May 5, 2018.
(Russian Defense Ministry)
The US, Russia, and China have all demonstrated anti-satellite capabilities in the past, and as war increasingly relies on information shared via satellite, attacking these critical nodes increasingly makes sense.
It’s unknown if the Mig-31 spotted in September 2018 carried an anti-satellite missile or some kind of satellite launcher, though they both serve a purpose in space-based warfare. Since both sides can destroy satellites, a space-based war would likely involve the downing of old satellites and launching of new satellites at a fast pace.
But that’s where space warfare meets its extreme environmental limit. Space debris orbiting the earth at many times the speed of sound could eventually threaten all existing satellites, plunging the earth back to a pre-Cold War state of relying entirely on terrestrial communications.
While many Russian and Chinese planes still have analog controls and gauges, the US relies most heavily on space assets and GPS, meaning space war would be more of a nightmare for Washington than Moscow.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
North Korea’s military escapades were back in the headlines in December, after state media in the secretive country reported news of two large-scale military drills involving rocket launchers and fighter jets.
In either case, the country’s missile development and huge artillery stocks pose a significant danger to South Korea and the rest of the world.
It is one of the world’s most secretive countries, so the information largely comes from other sources, but the state’s propaganda efforts mean there are plenty of pictures of the country’s colossal military capacity. Take a look.
*Mike Bird contributed reporting to an earlier version of this article.
When dismounted troops need a robot to look over or handle a dangerous situation, that robot both needs to be able to be portable and capable. The FirstLook handles the portable side, and can be an excellent scout, but sometimes, it doesn’t have the “strength” to deal with improvised explosive devices.
Well, according to a handout from Endeavor Robotics that was available at the Association of the United States Army expo, there is a `bot for that job. The SUGV offers both man-portability, and the ability to do some lifting.
The SUGV comes in at just over 30 pounds, eight ounces – including manipulator arm and batteries. The arm can lift up to 22 pounds of weight. The robot comes with six hours of runtime, a top speed of just over six miles per hour, and the ability to literally turn on a dime.
Now, the SUGV robot is not as capable of lifting objects like the Kobra, nor can you toss it like the FirstLook, but it does fit into a nine-inch by 28-inch space – in other words, it fits in a grunt’s pack. That is very useful, even if the 30 pounds is a bit on the heavy side. Well, life’s about compromise sometimes.
The SUGV carries four cameras, and also features the ability to carry various disruptors for use in neutralizing IEDs. The robot can scale 12-inch obstacles and is also capable of climbing or descending a 40-degree slope. You can see more about this robot in the video below.
Red dot sights are becoming as ubiquitous on handguns as they are these days on rifles. And the cool thing is they’re getting smaller and cheaper for the everyday shooter and operators on a budget.
Shield is a company based in the U.K. that manufactures high performance military proven red dot sights, and we’re gonna have a little chat about two of them.
For your hand blaster (snicker): the Shield Sights RMS
Remember: At the risk of sounding orgulous, we must remind you – this is just a gear porn notification; a public service if you will, letting you know these things exist and might be of interest. It’s no more a review, endorsement, or denunciation than it is an episiotomy.
It’s built of aerospace aluminum (pronounce that the way the Brits do), with a side accessible battery drawer. Shield, who has been building Red Dots for 20 years, describes it as the ‘next evolution in mini red dots’, and while it’s designed for a pistol, you could just as easily throw it on a rifle or a shotgun.
They’re available in 4 MOA or 8 MOA versions. MSRP is £275.99 to £312.00 depending on which one you get, or if you purchase a package deal. Not sure what that is in US dollars? LMGTFY.
Shield says with their Glock MOS plate you won’t need suppressor sights to co-witness, explaining, “On all Glock MOSs the interchangeable plate screws directly into the slide, and the sight then screws into the plate. All we’ve done is created a plate with two posts that the sight goes over and the screws go into the pillars securing the sight in place. This allowed us to make the plate considerably thinner…with our mounting plate, which is sold separately, you can co-witness without suppressor sights.”
Learn more right here, or check their social media for an announcement of domestic distributors (links below).
For your long gun: the Shield Sights Switchable Interface Sight (SIS)
This is a red-dot reflex descendant of the JPoint and then the CQB (Close Quarters Battlesight) built for the U.K.’s MoD, which is the British version of the DoD. Shield says the new SIS is just as reliable, and will take just as much of a beating, as the Brit CQB. If that’s true, it’s likely to be a sight worth having.
There are over 50,000 of those out there “serving”. And if you remember, it earned the Best Target Acquisition Product for the Soldier at the 2013 Soldier Technology Awards.
The SIS features 4 switchable reticles and an automatic light meter to dial the reticle up or down to adjust to your environment, so you won’t have any flaring. (Note: you might think flaring is a term that belongs in the same lexicon as JOI or merkin, but you’d be wrong.)
It has 3 automatic levels and 12 manual levels as well. It’s powered by a single CR2032 lithium battery and weighs just a smidge more than 2 oz. Reticle is a 1 MOA dot or an 8 MOA dot in a 65 MOA ring.
As Shield tells it,
“The SIS CD (Center Dot) reticule was designed to offer the user the best of both worlds. With the touch of a button the dot can go from 8MOA down to 1MOA and back again. The 8MOA was found to be the best choice for UK Soldiers as it made them much faster and accurate in close quarter environments and the 1MOA now gives that same Soldier the ability to hit targets out to far greater distances than believe possible by a red dot.”
Remington Model 1100 Sporting 28 (Remington Arms Co.)
On July 28, 2020, the Remington Arms Co. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in an Alabama federal court. Seeking to restructure amid legal and financial hardships, this is the second time since 2018 that Remington has filed for bankruptcy.
At 204 years old, Remington bills itself as America’s oldest gun maker and claims to be America’s oldest factory that still makes its original product. Remington has also developed and adopted more cartridges than any other firearm or ammunition manufacturer in the world.
During its long history, Remington has churned out classic sporting shotguns like the Model 31 slide-action, Model 1100 autoloading and the Model 3200 over/under. Remington rifles have also been the favorites of familiar names like George Armstrong Custer, Buffalo Bill and even Annie Oakley.
Remington has also had a long history of manufacturing military weapons under contract. In addition to the famous M1903 and Rolling Block rifles, Model 10 trench shotguns and 1911 pistols, Remington was contracted in WWI to make .303 British Pattern 14 rifles for England and Mosin-Nagant rifles for Russia. For the United States, Remington also made modified U.S. Model 1903 rifles with Pedersen devices.
A soldier takes aim with an M1903 Mark I fitted with a Pedersen device (U.S. Army Ordnance Department)
During WWII, Remington continued to manufacture the M1903 rifle, including the 1903A4 sniper rifle variant, the first mass-produced sniper rifle manufactured in the United States. The company also produced nearly 3 million rounds of .30 and .50 caliber ammunition.
In more recent years, Remington has continued to supply the U.S. military with firearms like the Model 870 shotgun, Model 700/M24 rifle, MSR, and even the first batch of M4A1 carbines.
A U.S. Navy SEAL with a Remington 870 during a training exercise in the early 1990s (U.S. Navy)
In March 2018, Remington filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, having accumulated over 0 million of debt. In May of that same year, Remington was able to exit bankruptcy thanks to a pre-approved restructuring plan that was supported by 97% of its creditors.
In 2019, the Supreme Court denied Remington’s bid to block a lawsuit filed by the families of victims of the Sandy Hook massacre. The families filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Remington as the manufacturer and marketer of the Bushmaster AR-15 rifle used in the shooting.
In June 2020, the FBI reported that it conducted 3.9 million firearms background checks, eclipsing the previous March record of 3.7 million. Despite a surge in firearms sales across the nation, Remington has found itself in financial hardship. According to its bankruptcy filing, the company owes its two largest creditors, St. Marks Powder and Eco-Bat Indiana, a combined total of .5 million. The filing also listed the states of Alabama, Arkansas and Missouri, as well as the city of Huntsville, as creditors with undetermined claims since the company took development incentives in each jurisdiction.
As the company tries to find a buyer to keep it alive, its future remains uncertain. Whatever its fate, the Remington name will continue to stand as one of America’s most iconic and prolific manufacturers of firearms.
The most secretive parts of America’s defense apparatus have a missile covered in swords, and they’re using it to take out terrorists in Syria.
One significant change to warfare that’s come about in recent decades has been the advent of precision guided munitions and the resulting shift in the way America, and the world at large, sees collateral damage. During World War II, massive fleets of heavy bombers dotted the skies above Europe, laying waste to vast areas of territory in an effort to damage a nation’s industrial infrastructure and force submission.
While there is still a use for this method of ordnance delivery, precision guided munitions have become the common platforms of choice for commanders in theater. (US Air Force Photo)
Thousands died in these large scale bombing campaigns, and today, many of those deaths would be considered unacceptable by the international community. Precision guided munitions with ever greater range and accuracy have replaced the carpet-bombing doctrine with the more cost effective and civilian friendly precision strike mindset. Today, collateral damage is not a thing of the past, but its metrics have shifted significantly. While carpet bombing raids may have killed hundreds or even thousands, the loss of a dozen civilian lives is now often considered too big a price to pay to engage many dangerous targets.
All that remained of the German town of Wesel after allied bombing. (WikiMedia Commons)
This shift is undoubtedly a good thing from the macro perspective for humanity, but it raises a number of new challenges for America’s defense apparatus that’s tasked with engaging terrorists outside of America’s borders. It takes weeks, months, even years to gather all the necessary intelligence on a target before you might have an opportunity to take him out, and if the target is surrounded by civilians (as they tend to do for protection from air strikes), there’s a chance the U.S. military may miss its opportunity to strike.
That’s where the AGM-114R9X comes in. While it’s official name may be a mouthful, the missile itself utilizes a fairly simplistic approach to killing specific targets while minimizing the chances that anyone nearby will be hurt.
The AGM-114R9X is, at its most simplistic levels, a Hellfire missile with the explosive warhead removed from the center portion of its body. In the warhead’s place are six extendable blades that bear a striking resemblance to swords. As brutal as this method of engaging a target may seem, the use of this missile actually makes going after these high value targets significantly safer for the civilians in the area.
Rather than utilizing explosive force or shrapnel from the missile’s body to kill its target and anyone else in the vicinity, the AGM-114R9X deploys its six swords upon impact with a target. Each blade is approximately 18 inches long, giving the missile a “kill radius” of only about three feet. Couple that with the Hellfire missile’s extremely accurate targeting capabilities, and you have a weapon that can take out the bad guys without worrying about a large explosion that could potentially hurt others.
The weapon’s development began under the CIA during the Obama Administration, and to date, has only been used in combat a handful of times. In each of these instances, these precision weapons appear to have been employed by the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command, or JSOC, though it’s not entirely clear as to whether or not there is any overlap between CIA and JSOC operations in terms of leveraging the AGM-114R9X in combat.
Charles Lister on Twitter
The “ninja sword” Hellfire missile saw a sharp uptick in press late last year after it was used twice in less than a week to kill different terrorists in Syria. The first strike took place on December 3, when an AGM-114R9X was used to engage the passenger seat specifically of a minivan in the Syrian city of Atmeh. The second took place somewhere between Afrin and Azaz, once again killing its target without injuring any bystanders. As pictures of the strikes and their aftermath hit social media, the U.S. government’s sword-wielding missile was introduced to the world, despite the general lack of formal acknowledgement from the Pentagon.
All told, this missile covered in swords is believed to have only seen use a half a dozen times, which coupled with the small amount of information released about the platform suggests that the missile is a limited production run that may be the result of modifying existing Hellfire platforms. Either that, or JSOC would just prefer to keep this secret close to the chest.
In any regard, it just got a little bit tougher to be a terrorist, and that’s always good news.
In fact, the U.S. Air Force’s 555th Fighter Squadron, now based at Aviano Air Base and part of the 31st Fighter Wing, was once famous as the “World’s Largest Distributor of MiG Parts” due to shooting down 39 MiGs during the Vietnam War.
But some MiGs weren’t exactly slouches. In 1971, the Soviet Union put the MiG-23 Flogger into service. The Flogger was a variable-geometry aircraft, which meant that its wings were capable of being swept or extended, depending on the situation.
According to MilitaryFactory.com, the Flogger was capable of a top speed of 1,553 miles per hour, a range of 1,752 miles, and it was capable of carrying AA-7 Apex radar-guided missiles, AA-8 Aphid missiles (either radar-guided or infra-red guided), and it had a twin 23mm cannon with 200 rounds of ammo.
In essence, it was intended to be an answer to America’s wildly successful F-4 Phantom.
Like the Phantom, it was widely exported, mostly to Warsaw Pact countries and to Soviet allies in the Middle East. Like past MiGs, the parts were often forcefully distributed – albeit this time by the Israeli Air Force in the 1982 Bekaa Valley Turkey Shoot. The United States Air Force got into the business of distributing Flogger parts during Operation Desert Storm, and Navy F-14s shot down two Libyan MiG-23s in 1989 over the Gulf of Sidra.
Some MiG-23s did find their way to the United States during the Cold War. Egypt had purchased about 20 Floggers in the 1970s, but eventually sold a dozen to the United States Air Force, which took them somewhere in Nevada for testing.
Today, the MiG-23, like the F-4 Phantom, is fading away as the last airframes are being retired. The Flogger, though, holds a place in history as one of the Soviet Union’s first swing-wing fighters. You can see a video on this plane below.
The US Air Force is ordering more hypersonic weapons as the competition with Russia and China heats up.
The service awarded a contract to Lockheed Martin Missiles & Fire Control Monday to develop the Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW), a hypersonic weapon prototype expected to cost no more than $480 million to design, according to an Air Force press release.
“We are going to go fast and leverage the best technology available to get hypersonic capability to the warfighter as soon as possible,” Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson said in an official statement.
The request is the second such request for hypersonic weapons from the Air Force in 2018.
The service awarded Lockheed Martin a contract for a Hypersonic Conventional Strike Weapon (HCSW) in April 2018, just a few weeks after Russian President Vladimir Putin boasted about some of the hypersonic systems Russia is presently developing, such as the Avangard hypersonic boost-glide vehicle expected to be mounted on the country’s Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile.
The latest request from the US Air Force comes about one week after China tested a new hypersonic aircraft, a high-speed strike platform that some expert observers say could evade air and missile defenses to obliterate enemy targets with both conventional and nuclear payloads.
The Xingkong-2 (Starry Sky-2) hypersonic experimental waverider vehicle designed by the China Academy of Aerospace Aerodynamics in Beijing can reportedly travel at six times the speed of sound (Mach 6). The waverider is a type of hypersonic aircraft that rides the shock waves generated during hypersonic flight.
The speed, as well as the unpredictable flight trajectories, of these vehicles make them particularly difficult for existing defense systems to intercept. Chinese military experts suspect that the system is still three to five years away from being weaponized.
Senior leadership from the Department of Defense, Missile Defense Agency, Air Force, Navy, and Army all signed a memorandum of agreement in late June to strengthen American hypersonic capabilities.
“The Joint Team requires the right mix of agile capabilities to compete, deter and win across the spectrum of competition and conflict,” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein said in an official statement. “We must push the boundaries of technology and own the high ground in this era of great power competition and beyond.”
While the Air Force is pursuing hypersonic weapons of its own, US Strategic Command and the Missile Defense Agency are trying to figure out how to bolster American defenses to protect the homeland against the growing hypersonic threat.
“If you can’t see it, you can’t shoot it,” Missile Defense Agency director Lt. Gen. Samuel Greaves said in March 2018. “We have globally deployed sensors today, but — just look at the globe — there are gaps. What we are looking towards is to move the sensor architecture to space and use that advantage of space, in coordination with our ground assets, to remove the gaps.”
“Why is that important? The hypersonic threat,” he asked and answered.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The C-130 is a very valuable transport – and a legend. It’s hauled cargo and troops since December, 1956. That gives it almost 61 years of service — a most impressive run.
And the plane is still rolling off the Lockheed Martin assembly line today.
That description of this amazing plane’s longevity still sells the Hercules short. It’s not only been in the air a long time, it’s been modified for a crazy amount of different missions, including as a gunship.
But one of the less-well known versions is the EC-130J Commando Solo II. This Hercules doesn’t haul stuff or blow stuff up. Instead, like the 1930s-era comic book detective The Shadow, it has the power to cloud the mind of the enemy.
The Commando Solo is a very rare version of the Hercules. According to an Air Force fact sheet, only three airframes are in service, all with the 193rd Special Operations Wing of the Pennsylvania Air National Guard. It is equipped as a flying radio and TV station, capable of broadcasting AM radio, FM radio, and color television.
The plane has seen action a number of times, including during the liberation of Grenada (Operation Urgent Fury), Operation Just Cause, Desert Storm, the 1994 intervention in Haiti, the Balkans, and in the War on Terror. The planes usually operate at night, so as to not be detected. Even then, they carry what the Air Force calls “self-protection equipment.”
The EC-130J has been in service since 2004. It has a crew of nine (pilot, copilot, combat systems officer, mission crew supervisor, three electronic communications systems operators and two loadmasters), a range of 2,300 nautical miles (without aerial refueling), and usually cruises at a speed of 335 miles per hour.
You can see a video of a training mission on the Commando Solo below.
At least one US special forces soldier was killed and four US service members were wounded after an enemy attack in Jubaland, Somalia, according to a statement from US Africa Command (AFRICOM).
One US service member reportedly received sufficient medical care at the scene and three others were transported out of the area to receive treatment.
A coalition comprised of around 800 US, Somalian, and Kenyan forces came under attack by mortar and small-arms fire at around 2:45 p.m. local time, AFRICOM said. One coalition service member was wounded.
The coalition forces were conducting a “multi-day operation” to clear al-Shabaab — an Islamist militant group — from villages and establish a “permanent combat outpost” around 217 miles southwest of Mogadishu.
The role of US troops during the operation was to provide aerial surveillance and to provide other assistance to the coalition group. The US’s role in AFRICOM’s area of responsibility has come under heavy scrutiny following an October 2017 ambush in Niger that left four soldiers dead.
According to a military source, the slain Green Beret provided intelligence during a mission to build a joint base for Somali forces, The Daily Beast reported.
President Donald Trump offered his condolences following the announcement: “My thoughts and prayers are with the families of our serviceman who was killed and his fellow servicemen who were wounded in [Somalia],” Trump said in a tweet. “They are truly all HEROES.”
On June 11, 2018, the US military said it killed 49 members of al-Shabaab in three separate airstrike over a period of 12 days. The US said no civilians were killed during the strikes.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.