How French special forces rescued the holiest site in Islam - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

How French special forces rescued the holiest site in Islam

It may surprise the younger counterterrorism buffs out there to know that France maintains one of the oldest and most experienced counterterror units in the world, the Group D’Intervention de la Gendarmerie Nationale. If you don’t speak French, all you need to know is that they’re gendarmes, soldiers who can arrest you and – when asked – will come to find you outside of France to arrest you.

This is not something you want to happen to you, as some foolish terrorists found out when they seized the holiest site in Islam at gunpoint.


Islam’s version of the end of the world has a number of minor and major signs to look out for. The major part begins with the appearance of the Mahdi, Islam’s redeemer, who brings the world’s Muslim community back to the religion, helps kill the anti-Christ, and paves the way for the rule of Jesus (yes, Christianity’s Jesus, same guy) on Earth.

Over the years, many people have come forward claiming to be the Mahdi. There was Dia Abdul Zahra Kadim, the leader of an Iraqi insurgent group, killed near Najaf in 2003. The founder of the Nation of Islam, W. Fard Mohammed, claimed to be the Mahdi as many of the Nation’s followers do. Others have followers make the claim for them, like a leader of a Turkish sex cult.

How French special forces rescued the holiest site in Islam

“Listen, I never said I am the redeemer of Islam, I just didn’t say you were wrong to say I am.”

But no one in recent memory left quite the impression on history like Muhammad bin abd Allah al-Qahtani, who led his personal army, al-Ikhwan, to capture the Grand Mosque in Mecca at gunpoint. The Grand Mosque is home to the Kabaa, the holiest site in Islam and destination for all the world’s Islamic pilgrims, a voyage every Muslim must make once in their lifetime. There are a number of other important holy sites contained within.

And in 1979, Mohammed Abdullah al-Qahtani and an estimated 300-600 followers took it over, along with the tens of thousands of people inside. They actually let most of them go, but not before killing the poorly-armed security guards, cutting the phone lines, and sealing themselves in. They were well-armed, well-trained, and well-funded. The Saudis were going to need some help.

How French special forces rescued the holiest site in Islam

“I choose Pierre.”

That’s where GIGN comes in. While the truly ignorant can laugh about how “French commandos” sounds when the only history they know is from World War II, the rest of you need to know these guys wear ski masks and carry .357 Magnums as their sidearm. When the GIGN come to kill you, they want to make sure the job is done. Their training course has an astonishing 95 percent washout rate. While the US was toying with the idea of a special counterterrorism force, GIGN was probably retaking a cargo container ship somewhere.

Their job in Saudi Arabia would be no different, except they would also be training the Saudi and Pakistani special forces who would be going into the Grand Mosque with them.

How French special forces rescued the holiest site in Islam

Somewhere out there is a group of Pakistani commandos who pronounce “flashbang” with a little French accent. Fear those people.

The terrorists weren’t a bunch of desperate weirdos with a fundamentalist ideology. These guys were prepared to bring down the entire Saudi Kingdom while inciting other anti-Saud citizens to do the same. The terrorists immediately repelled the government’s counterattack and waited for whatever the King would throw at them next. GIGN is what came next. France sent three of their finest GIGN men who immediately began training their counterparts on how to effectively clear buildings of pesky terrorists. When the men were ready, they all prepared to storm the gates.

But there was a hitch. Muslim Saudi and Pakistani troops would be going in there alone because the Grand Mosque is forbidden to non-Muslims. Even when they’re trying to retake the mosque. Their GIGN mentors would have to sit back and wait to see how well they trained these men.

How French special forces rescued the holiest site in Islam

This photo of the captured militants doesn’t do justice to how well-trained they were.

Some 50 Pakistani SSG commandos and 10,000 Saudi National Guardsmen stormed the Grand Mosque after two weeks or so of being held by the terrorists. On Dec. 4, 1979, the militants were disbursed from the mosque and forced to hide about in the now-evacuated city of Mecca. The guardsmen and SSG men fared well against the terrorists, killing roughly 560 of them while others fled the scene into Mecca and the countryside, where most were captured.

After the Frenchmen left Saudi Arabia, the hubbub surrounding the Grand Mosque seizure didn’t die. Instead of crackdowns of unruly citizens, the King of Saudi Arabia opted instead to implement many the famous “sharia” laws Saudi Arabia suffered through for decades; the restrictions on women, powerful religious police, and more. Only in the 2010s has the kingdom seen a loosening of these religious laws.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Lockheed Martin actually bottled the ‘smell of space’ for April Fools Day

Lockheed Martin, a major US defense contractor, has bottled the smell of space, purportedly creating “a scent that transcends our planet and brings the essence of space down to Earth.”

The new scent “blends metallic notes to create a clean scent with a sterile feel, balanced by subtle, fiery undertones that burn off like vapor in the atmosphere,” the company explained on its website, adding that now “men, women and children everywhere [can] smell like they’re floating through the cosmos.”


Vector by Lockheed Martin

www.youtube.com

Vector, “the preferred fragrance for tomorrow’s explorers,” was announced just in time for April Fools’ Day and is the company’s first foray into the holiday.

You won’t be seeing this strange new fragrance at your local department store, but the scent does exist, a Lockheed Martin spokesman told Business Insider.

In the remarkably high-quality video Lockheed produced for its big April Fools’ Day prank, Tony Antonelli, a retired NASA astronaut who now leads the Orion spacecraft mission, describes his first encounter with the smell of space.

Vector: An Origin Story

www.youtube.com

While working on the assembly of the international space station, he opened the hatch for a group of astronauts who had just completed a spacewalk, and it was then that he discovered that space actually has a smell.

“I was completely blown away. After over a decade of training, no one had told me that space smells,” Antonelli says in the video.

“The smell was strong and unique, nothing like anything I had ever smelled on Earth before,” he said, describing the scent as “some kind of metallic mixture of other things that I just didn’t know how to describe.”

That part of the story is actually true, Alex Walker, a spokesman for Lockheed Martin Space, told Business Insider.

How French special forces rescued the holiest site in Islam

A sample of Vector.

(Lockheed Martin Space)

Antonelli may have never made it his mission to recreate and bottle the scent — basically the smell of burnt metal — for public consumption, as the video claims, but, with his help, Lockheed did manage to develop a scent similar to what Antonelli encountered.

“We actually developed fragrance samples based on Tony’s guidance,” Walker said. “His whole story of the smell of space, we took his guidance down to a local perfumery in Denver and bottled it.”

The company created three different scents, and then Lockheed excitedly determined which one most closely matched the smell described by the former Space Shuttle pilot.

How French special forces rescued the holiest site in Islam

Inside the Vector sample’s packaging.

(Lockheed Martin)

“It’s like one of those fragrance samples you’d get at the mall,” Walker said, adding that the company produced roughly 2,000 sample bottles to hand out at next week’s Space Symposium in Colorado.

So Lockheed successfully bottled the so-called “smell of space,” an unbelievable feat done as part of a very elaborate joke.

“The reason we did this was to remind that the men and women of Lockheed Martin Space have been building spacecraft for more than sixty years,” Walker told Business Insider.

“We thought it was a great time to remind people of that. It is a reminder of unmatched expertise in the space industry, but also, it’s a reminder that we’re humans.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

This US firebase in Syria is a message to the Iranian military

The U.S. base near southern Syria’s al-Tanf border crossing was set up to train local Syrians to fight Islamic State militants, but it also serves as a counterweight to Iranian activities in the war-torn country, U.S. officials and experts tell VOA.

“Our mere presence there accomplishes that, whether it’s a goal or not,” Army Maj. Josh Jacques, a spokesman for U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), said.

The U.S. military’s primary focus across Syria has been the defeat of Islamic State fighters, and to serve that mission, U.S. soldiers at al-Tanf are training a Syrian group called Maghawir al-Thawra (MaT), Jaques said.


While the military is not directly focused on Iran in Syria, it can still indirectly impede Iran’s “destabilizing acts” in the country, according to CENTCOM commander U.S. Army Gen. Joseph Votel.

“There are opportunities for us to indirectly influence their [Iran’s] activities by our presence, by the pursuit of our ongoing operations, that I think disrupt and make it difficult for them to pursue their unilateral objectives,” Votel told reporters during a July 19, 2018 briefing.

How French special forces rescued the holiest site in Islam

Land bridge

Jordan, Iraq, and Syria all meet in the area surrounding the U.S. base, a potential space, officials say, through which Iran could create a continuous land bridge that would stretch to the Mediterranean.

But the U.S. has established a so-called “deconfliction zone” in the area that spans about 55 kilometers around the base. The zone is meant to protect the United States and its allies as they battle the Islamic State militant group, and it essentially prevents any non-U.S. ally from entering the area.

“One quiet rationale for maintaining a presence there is to at least monitor and then perhaps deter some of the Iranian forces, or Iranian-backed forces that may have used that part of the country to transit into Syria,” said Brian Katulis with the Center for American Progress.

The base is not meant to completely block Iran’s involvement in Syria because much of its engagement comes via airplanes.

The U.S. post does, however, protect American military assets, giving the U.S. the ability to mount drone operations, conduct surveillance, and perhaps even create human intelligence networks.

It also helps to reassure U.S. ally Jordan, whose officials have expressed concerns about how secure its border would be if Americans weren’t in southern Syria.

“As small as that [U.S.] presence is, I think it sends a signal,” Katulis said.

How French special forces rescued the holiest site in Islam

5th Special Forces Group (A) Operation Detachment Bravo 5310 arrives to meet Major General James Jarrard at the Landing Zone at base camp Al Tanf Garrison in southern Syria.

(DoD photo by Staff Sgt. Jacob Connor)

‘Shades of gray’

Michael O’Hanlon, a senior defense fellow at the Brookings Institution, says defeating IS is the “black and white” goal for American forces at al-Tanf, while all the ways that the U.S. indirectly influences Iran in Syria are “shades of gray.”

He says the base also allows the U.S. to “exercise some influence on parts of the country so that Iran isn’t the only important foreign actor.”

“In the short term, you want to create some alternative power centers,” said O’Hanlon.

Once IS is defeated, however, the United States will need a long-term political transition strategy that clearly explains why the military would stay in Syria.

“We’re sort of in a transition phase, where you can still sustain the current effort on the grounds of it being anti-ISIS, but everyone recognizes that the days of that argument carrying the day are numbered,” O’Hanlon said, using an acronym for the Islamic State terror group.

“Just staying for presence sake is not a good enough reason,” he said.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Cyber airmen engage in persistent contact with adversaries

In October 2018, Airman Magazine sat down for a conversation with Maj. Gen. Robert J. Skinner, Twenty-fourth Air Force commander; Air Forces Cyber commander and Joint Force Headquarters-Cyber commander, Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas. He is responsible for providing Air Force component and combatant commanders with trained and ready cyber forces to plan, direct and execute global cyberspace operations.


Airman Magazine: In July, the Twenty-fourth AF moved from Air Force Space Command to Air Combat Command. At the same time you moved from AFSPC to ACC. What are the reasons for that restructuring?

Maj. Gen. Skinner: This allows Gen. Raymond, as the Air Force Space Command commander, to truly focus on space operations. The other thing is this brings cyber within Air Combat Command, which has intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; command and control and the air domain. Bringing all these forces together under one four-star MAJCOM (major command) commander, Gen. Holmes, allows him some more flexibility to be able to present forces across the spectrum of operations.

The networks for those operations need to be resilient and they need to be protected. When you bring together the ISR, cyber, information operations, electronic warfare and command and control, that’s a lot under one hat. But it allows us greater integration as we move forward. At the end of the day, this is about multi-domain operations and the more we can bring those together, the more successful we’ll be.

Airman Magazine: How are your responsibilities divided between your three commands? It seems that just the information technology portion alone would be a huge demand on your resources.

Maj. Gen. Skinner: Cyber operations have four or five different lines of effort. One is to actually build the networks, build the applications and build the systems.

Another is to operate and maintain the networks, but also secure and protect them from vulnerability to adversaries. We also defend networks for our maneuver forces and then we have full spectrum operations, which is on the offensive side.

We also have combat communications airmen and engineering installation airmen who extend the network out to a multitude of places, whether that’s tactical basing or at the forward battle edge.

With that said, information technology is still a key part of the cyberspace domain and we are moving forward in the Enterprise IT as a service. We are going to utilize things industry does very well as a commodity type of action activity.

We are going to leverage what industry does great, providing some services and network infrastructure, and re-mission our airmen to do core Air Force missions on the defensive and offensive side, while providing assurance for the many missions the Air Force presents to the combatant commanders on the joint side.

The bottom line is we’re in the cyber operations business — information technology, networks, both operating and defending — and we provide full spectrum operations in this thing we call the cyberspace domain.

How French special forces rescued the holiest site in Islam

Tech. Sgt. Wyatt Bloom uses a spectrum analyzer to check television broadcast network routers at the Defense Media Activity, Fort Meade, Md., July 18, 2012. Bloom is a cyber-transport technician assigned to DMA.

Airman Magazine: Would you explain your duties as commander of the Air Force component at Cyber Command? How is that different from the hat you wear as commander of Twenty-fourth AF and Air Force Cyber?

Maj. Gen. Skinner: This could actually be a dissertation. To break it down a little bit, the Twenty-fourth AF is where we organize, train and equip our airmen. The perfect example is we have an organization down at Hurlburt Field — they train almost every cyber professional. Now we do a lot more than that, but that’s one example of the Twenty-fourth AF piece.

In the Air Force cyber piece, I am charged by the Air Force to present forces to Gen. Paul Nakasone, the U.S. Cyber Command commander, for his missions and functions as the combatant commander.

We provide offensive forces and defensive forces, DODIN (Department of Defense Information Networks) ops cyber professionals and ISR professionals to Gen. Nakasone, so he can perform his mission.

Then the third area is the Joint Force Headquarters side. That’s where Gen. Nakasone has asked us to align to three different combatant commanders to provide additional joint support for their missions.

We have planning elements that are aligned to these three combatant commanders, as well as some cyber teams supporting the commanders’ efforts in defense of the mission. Our teams are able to deploy and employ forces against a particular adversary at the time and place of the combatant command commanders’ choosing.

Our job within Twenty-fourth AF, AF Cyber JFHQC and Cyber Command, is to be ready at a moment’s notice to protect our systems and defend the networks and defend the core missions of our military and our joint war fighters. Then deter, disrupt and degrade an enemy’s ability to perform those functions against us. Part of that goes into making sure that we have persistent engagement, a persistent presence, and a persistent innovation as we continue to move forward.

Airman Magazine: Across the Air Force, joint force, partner agencies and nations, do cyber operations equate to kinetic operations or is that a completely different animal?

Maj. Gen. Skinner: I would say it is not a completely different animal. To be successful in cyber operations and have cyberspace superiority at the time and place of our choosing, we need a team of teams that is internal to the Air Force.

Every single airman in our Air Force needs to be a cyber sentinel. We need every airman to be very conscious of cyber security, cyber hygiene and things that are going on within the cyberspace domain.

We have branched out and are part of several joint organizations that perform functions and missions within the cyber domain. The National Security Agency is a huge partner with us as we perform these missions, as well as the Central Intelligence Agency, Defense Information Systems Agency and Department of Homeland Security — a lot of different agencies across the board.

We are also great partners with commercial industry and academia because we’re all in the same field and in the same cyber domain.

Within Twenty-fourth AF, we have a United Kingdom representative and an Australian liaison officer, but most of our allies and partners are really up at the Cyber Command level. We leverage those partners through U.S. Cyber Command, NATO and other organizations.

How French special forces rescued the holiest site in Islam

Capt. Taiwan Veney, cyber warfare operations officer, watches members of the 175th Cyberspace Operations Group, from left, Capt. Adelia McClain, Staff Sgt. Wendell Myler, Senior Airman Paul Pearson and Staff Sgt. Thacious Freeman, analyze log files and provide a cyber threat update utilizing a Kibana visualization on the large data wall in the Hunter’s Den at Warfield Air National Guard Base.

(Photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.)

Airman Magazine: What is it that makes your cyber airmen “cyber warriors”?

Maj. Gen. Skinner: Our airmen are absolutely warriors. We have teams in the fight operating constantly: 7 days a week, 365 days a year, Christmas and New Year’s.

If you’ve heard Gen. Nakasone speak recently you’ve heard him say we’re no longer solely responding to network intrusions, we have cyber forces persistently engaged against state and non-state adversaries, actively identifying and countering threats in the cyber domain.

This achieves several benefits at once: first and foremost, it gives us control over the cyber terrain that serves as the foundation for superiority in cyberspace. It also keeps our operators ready and their skills honed and imposes cost on the adversary so they can no longer operate freely without repercussion. There’s already a massive demand signal for our cyber operators that will only increase, so we have to ensure we’re fielding proficient, ready and lethal operators at scale.

Because of this, we are investing not only the readiness of our mission, but also in the readiness of our people. This means examining everything within our scope of control, including the effect the operational tempo of our 24/7/365 mission has on our operators.

Just like you see within the (remotely piloted aircraft) field, cyber can mean long periods away from the sunlight and abnormal sleep hours, and that can absolutely have an effect on people. Any leader will tell you—if you take care of the people, they will take care of the mission.

Airman Magazine: What part does the total force play in cyber operations and defense?

Maj. Gen. Skinner: I will tell you, we could not do our job on a day-to-day basis without the total force. The majority of the forces within Twenty-fourth AF are guard and reserve components.

Our engineering installation mission is 85 to 90 percent within the guard. More than 50 percent of our combat communications capability, which extends and expands our capabilities to the tactical edge, is in the guard. We have guard organizations up in Washington. We have some in Rhode Island. We have some here in Texas. I will tell you they provide great day-to-day work.

What’s even more important is the expertise that they bring from their civilian jobs. We have vice presidents of some corporations who are part of our total force as well. Bringing that expertise, leadership, things that the public is good at and things that industry is focused on benefits the military and vice versa. They take lessons learned from the military and take it to their company. So it’s a great yin-yang relationship.

Whether it’s an offensive operation or a defensive operation or even DODIN ops, there has to be a tight tie between all of those as we move forward because the defense learns from the offense and the offense learns from the defense. DODIN ops learn from defense to figure it out where we need to be resilient, where some of our mission critical assets are and how to defend them.

All the computer networks, email, applications and systems in the cyberspace domain are what we call the Department of Defense Information Networks. There are pay applications that we have in the Air Force that are part of DODIN. If you get paid electronically within the Air Force that’s part of the DoD information network.

Airman Magazine: Is it an advantage that those reserve and National Guard personnel tend to have long histories with one unit?

Maj. Gen. Skinner: I would say sometimes it’s an advantage and sometimes it’s not. In some places having continuity is good. I would say having too much continuity isn’t necessarily good in cyber because you want some fresh blood, some fresh ideas.

Airman Magazine: Would a technical track for active-duty cyber operators benefit the force?

Maj. Gen. Skinner: Similar to other domains and weapon systems, we have to be proficient to be effective. Since cyber is a technical domain we do need technical expertise.

However as our people gain that expertise and increase in rank and responsibility, we need them to be leaders and lead teams to success while still maintaining credibility in their profession. We, ACC and Headquarters Air Force are working closely together to determine what the right “path to greatness” will look like, in order to build a force that generates maximum lethality.

How French special forces rescued the holiest site in Islam

Cyber warfare operators assigned to the 275th Cyber Operations Squadron of the 175th Cyberspace Operations Group of the Maryland Air National Guard configure a threat intelligence feed for daily watch in the Hunter’s Den at Warfield Air National Guard Base.

(Photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.)

Airman Magazine: As cyber tools and methods seem to change constantly, ow can the acquisitions process be altered to make sure the Air Force has the best technologies and practices in the cyber domain?

Maj. Gen. Skinner: The Air Force and DoD leadership are laser-like focused on our ability to acquire things in a more agile, fast and relevant way. We have leveraging other authorities, like 804 authorities, to bring on the future faster and to bring innovation faster.

As an Air Force we are becoming more of a software force than a hardware force. The ability to bring the new wave of agile software development operations, DevOps, is going to be key in maintaining our superiority and operating within the enemy’s OODA loop (time it takes to observe, orient, decide, and act).

We’re bringing in individuals who understand the old waterfall model is not the right model because by the time that you set the requirements and start developing to those requirements, the environment, threats and priorities have changed.

If you’re spending weeks, months and years identifying and defining hundreds or thousands of requirements, you definitely can’t meet those requirements in a timely manner. So leverage industry, leverage developers who are innovative, define the left and right limits or requirements.

So you get a three to five-page requirements document, which is much better than a 100 to 200-page document. Let them innovate and come back with a solution and in a much more timely manner—days and weeks versus months and years. Then you iterate and you continue to iterate on that minimum viable product.

Then also leverage some of those techniques to buy the right hardware in a timely fashion and focus on the approval top rate process, to reduce the amount of time to approve either software or hardware for connecting to the network. I know that Dr. Roper, Air Force Acquisition and the chief and secretary are very focused on bringing the future faster.

Airman Magazine: The Air Force is considering launching a cyber rapid capabilities office. How would that benefit the Twenty-fourth AF and the cyber community as a whole?

Maj. Gen. Skinner: The traditional slow-and-steady acquisition model is great for buying a fleet of fifth-generation aircraft, but it isn’t ideal for cyberspace where the landscape is changing constantly and where the state-of-the-art is available to anyone interested in buying. We need to get faster.

The DNA of the Air Force RCO brings agility and flexibility, which drives down timelines and increases capability. Right now we can’t say what form a cyber RCO would take, but will benefit us by getting the right capabilities and weapons at the right time to our operators. We need to respond to malicious cyber activity with greater speed and tempo employing a calculated, “spectrum of risk” framework which is properly delegated at echelon to enable responsible and responsive cyberspace operations in support of assigned missions.

How French special forces rescued the holiest site in Islam

The concept of Fusion Warfare gathers all intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance data across all Air Force platforms into the “combat cloud” through and autonomous process where it’s analyzed and combined to create a real time big picture for commanders.

(Photo by Airman 1st Class Kevin Sommer Giron)

Airman Magazine: What effect will advances in big data research have on cyber operations?

Maj. Gen. Skinner: Data is the game changer in our business. If I own the data battle space, then I will definitely be within the OODA loop of the adversary. Being able to leverage quantum computing, artificial intelligence and analysis of big data platforms is really the future of our mission.

There is so much data out there in today’s environment there is no way that you can get through all of it (manually). So you may miss a key data point that would help you make a decision. In a future conflict, being able to have the right data at the right time analyzed at the right tempo is key to success.

We’re putting a lot of effort into better understanding the data, not just from cyber standpoint, but also in logistics, in intelligence and even in personnel. The more we can analyze the data, the better that we can perform education and training, perform timely logistics, perform ISR operations. Every single Air Force core mission is reliant on data to be more effective, more efficient and more successful.

Airman Magazine: Can you talk about Hack the Air Force and its value to the force?

Maj. Gen. Skinner: The first Hack the Air Force iteration was in late 2017, after the successful Hack the Pentagon initiative by Defense Digital Services. When the first hackathon sprint kicked off it took less than a minute for a hacker to find a valid vulnerability. By the end, over 200 holes in our boundary had been patched—and that was just the first iteration.

Hack the Air Force gets after two important focus areas: first, it builds capacity for the Air Force by leveraging expertise from a multitude of places, and second, it leverages innovative thinking to find vulnerabilities we otherwise might not uncover.

Take, for example, the person who won the first hackathon sprint, a 17-year-old high school student from Chicago. Maybe his path won’t lead him to the Air Force, but we were still able to use his talents to make ourselves more resilient. To me that’s a win.

How French special forces rescued the holiest site in Islam

Quynh Tran, right, a Raytheon Corporation software engineer, talks with Capt. Nick Lundin, Product Management lead, about a software coding project May 30, 2018 at Kessel Run, a program within the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental, a United States Department of Defense organization, in Boston.

(Photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.)

Airman Magazine: What lessons can be learned from commercial companies about practices that enable those fresh ideas to come forward?

Maj. Gen. Skinner: There are a lot of great lessons learned from Silicon Valley and I would offer Silicon Valley has also learned from the Department of Defense.

As I’ve said many times over my 33-year career to date, if I came into the military today, compared with a talent level of the individuals that we have now, I would not be as successful as I have been.

The talent today is amazing and our job as senior leaders is how do we unleash that talent? How do we have the right policies and the right directives leveraging the right acquisition authorities and unleash this talent on the hard problems that our force and our nation face today.

The key is getting the right people in the room to determine how best to provide solutions, whether it’s software development, hardware acquisition or cyberspace operations. It’s getting the right people in the room and getting through the bureaucracy, pushing the bureaucracy to the side and being able to unleash the talent.

Airman Magazine: How can, especially when it comes to the cyber domain, the Air Force compete with civilian industry to attract more STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) talent?

Maj. Gen. Skinner: There was always a competition between academia, research labs, commercial industry and the military. We as a military cannot compete from a dollar standpoint.

But where we can compete is with the great things you can do within the DoD, that you probably can’t do within the commercial world. We have great missions coming from the research we’re doing.

Some of the operations we’re doing on a day-to-day basis, you can’t do that on the commercial side. We have opportunities for individuals at a variety of levels to perform things they couldn’t do outside of the military. That’s our calling card.

Airman Magazine: Peer and near-peer competitors have been going to school on us since World War II; how do we offset that advantage?

Maj. Gen. Skinner: I would say every threat is an opportunity. While we have been focused over the last 10 to 15 years on the violent extremist, the latest National Defense Strategy, National Security Strategy and National Cyber Strategy outline strategic competition, peer competitors, and has turned the focus there.

You’ll hear a lot about readiness. Readiness is very important to our chief, very important to our secretary and very important to the secretary of defense. We need to make sure that we have a lethal force. In order to do that, you need to have a ready force.

In order to be ready, you need to have a disciplined force. Especially when there is strategic competition out there and adversaries who on a day-to-day basis are performing actions and operations that are probably right below the level of conflict.

But, I would not want to go and do a mission against a threat with anyone else but the airmen we have in our service today. Our airmen, with our joint partners in the other services, still have the most critical, credible and lethal force in the world.

How French special forces rescued the holiest site in Islam

Airmen with the 68th Network Warfare Squadron monitor Air Force communications to analyze disclosures of critical information and perform data loss prevention at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, Oct. 25, 2018.

(Photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.)

Airman Magazine: You talked about having a disciplined force in order to be lethal. What constitutes discipline in the cyber world?

Maj. Gen. Skinner: Discipline is key. I’m not talking about discipline from a uniform code of military justice aspect. This is discipline in processes, discipline in procedures and discipline in command and control. We spent a lot of time going back and trying to figure out what happened on something because there was an undisciplined tactic, technique, procedure or process. We’re trying to leverage discipline to make our force more effective and more capable and build capacity.

Then we come to a readiness standpoint. Readiness, as you know, is made up of personnel, equipment, procedures and training. We are continually leveraging our innovative airmen to improve the training they receive, how we purchase equipment, how we educate our airmen.

Part of all this is proficiency. Proficiency against a violent extremist organization is much different than proficiency against strategic competitors. Our focus continues to be how to maintain and improve the readiness and proficiency against strategic competitors.

We are also leveraging our airmen and technology to be more efficient and more effective.

Leveraging artificial intelligence can decrease the amount of time that our airmen spend doing manual work so they can focus on the higher end discussions of cognitive actions and activities.

For example, manually looking through thousands of pages of data takes a very long time. We have airmen who are leveraging technology, whether it’s using keywords or bringing a couple of technologies together, that can take those thousands of documents and run through them in minutes versus hours, days or weeks.

Then taking what the technology has given you and put the human eye on it — are there any other needles in the haystack?

That’s what our airmen are doing on a day-to-day basis. Whether it’s from a data collection standpoint, whether it’s from a cyber operation standpoint, whether it’s looking through logs to see if we have an adversary presence on our networks. Looking through logs to make sure that our user experience is where it needs to be on a daily basis, but leveraging technology to reduce the amount of manual steps.

Airman Magazine: With a kinetic weapon, the effects are apparent and there is an inherent process to be able to determine origin, intent and purpose. The very nature of cyber is to hide the hand that dealt the cards. What kind of challenges does determining attribution pose for a commander?

Maj. Gen. Skinner: So attribution is a very significant challenge. There are not as well defined international norms in the cyberspace domain and therefore a multitude of nations and multitude of criminals and the multitude of other individuals are continuing to push the limits.

It is often very apparent in the other domains, from an effect or an outcome, who the actors are. In the cyber domain, you can have the same type of effects in as in other domains, but it is harder to determine the source, which is really important when you start talking about multi-domain operations.

Cyber is a critical enabler while also a critical operation because cyber can be both supporting and supported within multi-domain operations. As we continue to refine our operations, to refine our tactics, techniques and procedures, we will continue to get better at understanding attribution, understanding the outcomes, and making sure that we refine and define those outcomes and bound the outcomes to meet our mission objectives.

As cyber continues to get more profound and more pronounced in the day-to-day operations, attribution is going to become that much harder.

How French special forces rescued the holiest site in Islam

U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Robert Skinner, then Deputy Commander of Air Force Space Command, speaks at the 2018 Rocky Mountain Cyberspace Symposium in Colorado Springs, Colorado, March 6, 2018.

(Photo by Dave Grim)

Airman Magazine: How do you convince people that cyber and space have become foundational to everything that the Air Force, and our society as a whole, does on a daily basis?

Maj. Gen. Skinner: I’ll give you a perfect example, the Global Positioning System is operated by Air Force Space Command: not only for the nation, but the whole world. The U.S. Air Force supplies and supports the system and satellites that enable the GPS navigation we use in our cars and on our phones every day, millions of times around the world.

It also provides timing. Every financial transaction is supported by the GPS system. So when you purchase something and put your credit card into that reader, there’s a timing aspect that is being supported by GPS. So the Air Force is supporting billions of activities and actions all the time.

Airman Magazine: The chief of staff and secretary have made it a priority to push command level decisions down to the lowest level possible. How is that manifested in your command?

Maj. Gen. Skinner: Its not only because the chief and the secretary say they want it done. We have the greatest airmen in the world and we have the greatest commanders in the world—pushing authorities and responsibility down to the lowest level really enables them to unleash the talent around them and enables us to unleash their talent.

You don’t need higher headquarters micromanaging and directing things on a daily basis. Our commanders are boarded. We have a tradition of great commanders in our Air Force and we need to let them run. We need to let them determine how best to run their organizations and how best to be effective. The more that we can push decision authority down, the more bureaucracy we can eliminate and the more agile, lethal and effective we can be as an Air Force.

From a higher headquarters level and higher commander level, our responsibility is to give the left and right limits to those organizations and then let them run.

If we are in a conflict, especially against a peer competitor, the amount of time it would take to micromanage our tactical-level units would not allow us to be inside the OODA loop of our adversary.

We need to allow our commanders, in peacetime, to train like they are going to fight. To have that authority to perform the mission as they see fit. With more guidance, directives and limitations to that commander, there’s going to be some negative learning, first and foremost, but secondly, the safety of our airmen will be put in jeopardy.

How French special forces rescued the holiest site in Islam

Participants in the joint, multinational exercise Cyber Guard 2016 work through a training scenario during the nine-day event in Suffolk, Va., on June 16, 2016.

(Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Jesse A. Hyatt)

Airman Magazine: As commander of Joint Force Headquarters Cyber, you’re responsible for cyber affects in campaign plans from U.S. Central Command to U.S. Transportation Command. How does that integration take place?

Maj. Gen. Skinner: Aligned to each of those combatant commanders we have an element called the Cyber Operations Integrated Planning Element. We are just now standing those up and they are at the combatant commanders’ headquarters.

They’re kind of our picture window into that combatant commander to enable cyber operations planning to be part of their overall plan. Each combatant commander has either a function or a region they’re responsible for and they have what we call a scheme of maneuver, which is either day-to-day or in conflict. It is the commander’s plan of how to ensure sure we are successful in that campaign.

These planning elements are aligned there so we can be part of that plan and make sure that cyber isn’t just bolted on, but integrated into that plan. Cyber will be one of the first options that are available to that combatant commander below the level of conflict to make sure that we are meeting our objectives.

Airman Magazine: How do you get everyone with a piece of the huge cyber puzzle speaking the same language? How do you communicate capabilities and vulnerabilities to leadership, agency partners and airmen who are not cyber experts?

Maj. Gen. Skinner: I would say today we have the best understanding and the best alignment from the cyber domain standpoint that we’ve ever had with all the strategy documents – the National Defense Strategy, which is underneath the National Security Strategy, the National Cyber Policy and Strategy, the DoD Cyber Strategy and the Cyber Posture Review.

All of these documents are perfectly aligned and it’s a great understanding of the capabilities that we provide, but also the importance of cyber to the multi-domain operations. The education is continual, but I offer that our Air Force leadership understands the cyber domain. They understand how important the cyber domain is to multi-domain operations.

We continue to educate the entire forest. We’re continuing the education process of all of our airmen, from the highest level to the most junior airman and the joint community, but from a joint standpoint and a national standpoint cyber is more understood than it ever has been.

How French special forces rescued the holiest site in Islam

Proposed content viewing page on the Cyber Education Hub, which is being developed at the Center for Cyberspace Research in the Air Force Institute of Technology, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.

(AFIT CCR photo)

Airman Magazine: Do you see the Continuum of Learning concept and applications like the Cyber Learning Hub being developed by the Center for Cyberspace Research, Air Force Cyber College and U.S Air Force Academy’s CyberWorx, as aiding in that effort?

Maj. Gen. Skinner: There are a lot of great opportunities with that as cyber continues to be more and more integrated into the day-to-day operations.

We currently have the Air Force Warfare Center where we bring a lot of different mission systems together, integrate them, exercise and train and cyber is a significant part of that.

From an education standpoint we send people to the Air Force Institute of Technology. They not only have general education classes, but we they have Cyber 100, Cyber 200, Cyber 300 and Cyber 400 courses.

We have the 39th Information Operations Squadron, which does our cyber training. Keesler Air Force Base has a lot of our cyber courses. Just as Gen. Raymond over the last year has been working with Air University to make sure we have more space in our professional military education, we’re doing the same thing from a cyber standpoint.

We’re working with Gen. Cotton at Air University and Gen. Kwast at Air Education and Training Command to make sure that we continue to improve the amount of cyber and relevant topics in cyber education in basic military training through professional military education and to highlight cyber, both from a professional and a personal standpoint, because it impacts every part of your life.

Airman Magazine: In that vein, what would you like every airman to be aware of in their daily connectivity?

Maj. Gen. Skinner: One of the biggest vectors that our adversaries use to get into our networks is email. It’s called spear phishing. You can get those at your home and at the office. We continue to educate that you should know who the sender of an email is, that you do not click on links that you’re not certain are good links. If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.

If you get an email offering a free vacation, there’s probably not a free vacation. That’s probably someone trying to gain access to your personal information or gain access into our Air Force systems to cause havoc and disrupt our ability to do our missions.

Additionally, be aware that our adversaries can put different pieces of unclassified information together, which in the aggregate actually become classified. So you always have to be careful when you’re outside of work, or even inside work, of what you talk about in the open.

You have to monitor your computer systems. Make sure your systems are patched, especially at home, because that is the quickest way for an adversary to exploit your system. Some vulnerabilities have been out there for years. We find that both on the commercial side and the government side — there are systems out there that have not been patched in a long time, even though a patch has been out there.

We’re continuing to leverage technology to make that a little easier, to make sure that we’re updating and protecting all those systems.

How French special forces rescued the holiest site in Islam

Maj. Gen. Robert J. Skinner, Commander, 24th Air Force; Commander, Air Forces Cyber and Commander, Joint Force Headquarters-Cyber is photographed at his headquarters at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, Oct. 26, 2018.

(Photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.)

Airman Magazine: The Air Force places a premium on building leaders. What twists and turns has your career taken that culminated in command of the Twenty-fourth AF?

Maj. Gen. Skinner: I’ve had multiple mentors who have taken a special interest in my career. They have said you need to go to this position. I questioned it. I didn’t understand it. But it turns out that developed a place in my leadership that was not refined well enough. We spend a lot of time and energy on managing our talent. What differentiates us from other nations and other militaries is our airmen, whether officer, enlisted or civilian.

Our Airmen are our most precious asset. It is our solemn duty to professionally develop our airmen to the best extent possible. We take special interest in placing them where they professionally develop, while making sure our missions continue to be successful.

This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

These are the worst weapons an army could buy

People like to talk about the best tanks, rifles, and tactical gear. It’s a great discussion — there are many sophisticated pieces of tech in the military world, each with various strengths and weaknesses. That said, we rarely talk about the flip side of this coin: What are some of the worst pieces of gear out there?

There are some weapon systems out there whose sole purpose in existence is to act as an example of what not to do. So, let’s dive in, without restraint, and take a look at the very worst the world has to offer across several gear categories.


How French special forces rescued the holiest site in Islam

U.S. Army soldiers train with the G36, which had a lot of problems in hot weather — or after firing a lot of rounds.

(US Army)

Worst Rifle: Heckler and Koch G36

Heckler and Koch usually makes good guns. The MP5 is a classic submachine gun that’s still in service around the world. The G3 rifle was second only to the FN FAL. But then there’s the G36.

Intended to replace the G3, the G36 was to be Germany’s new service rifle in the 5.56mm NATO caliber. Well, the gun had many problems. First and most importantly, the gun was horribly inaccurate when hot. In temperatures above 86 degrees Fahrenheit or after firing many rounds, the gun was liable to miss a target 500 meters away by as many as 6 meters. Spray and pray is not a tactic known to successfully defeat an enemy.

How French special forces rescued the holiest site in Islam

It would help if the MG5 could hit the broad side of the barn…

(Heckler and Koch)

Worst Machine Gun: Heckler and Koch MG5

Heckler and Koch has the dubious distinction of owning two items on this list. HK made the under-appreciated G8, which could serve as anything from a designated marksman rifle to a light machine gun in 7.62 NATO. The company’s MG4 is a solid 5.56mm belt-fed machine gun — again, the company knows how to make good weapons. Unfortunately, they also made the MG5.

This is a gun that can’t shoot straight. Granted, when you’re using a machine gun, the task usually involves laying down suppressive fire, but it’d probably help to hit the bad guys occasionally.

How French special forces rescued the holiest site in Islam

The crew of this T-72 was smart and abandoned it rather than try to face the United States.

(USMC photo by Cpl. Mace M. Gratz)

Worst Tank: T-72

Two words: Desert Storm. This tank’s poor performance speaks volumes. When it fired its main gun at a M1A1 Abrams tank from 400 yards, the round bounced off. Read that again: The. Round. Bounced. Off.

You can’t get worse than that. In general, the best anti-tank weapon is another tank, but the T-72 is simply useless. Any crew you send out in this vehicle should be immediately considered lost.

How French special forces rescued the holiest site in Islam

The Koksan self-propelled howitzer has long range, but that may be its only virtue.

(USMC photo by Albert F. Hunt)

Worst Artillery: Koksan self-propelled howitzer

This thing has a long range (it hits targets up to 37 miles away) but, for everything other than that, this gun is impractical. The rate of fire is not measured in rounds per minute, but rather by minutes per round — to be precise, two and half minutes per round.

Yes, it is self-propelled, but it has a very slow top speed (25 miles per hour) and it doesn’t carry much in the way of ammo.

How French special forces rescued the holiest site in Islam

It’s had a good career, but the AAV-7 is not able to handle modern threats.

(DoD photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Daniel E. Smith)

Worst APC/IFV: AAV-7

First, let’s talk about the good of this vehicle: it can carry a lot of troops (21 grunts and a crew of three) and it has some amphibious capability. Unfortunately, those benefits are outweighed by the huge size, relatively puny armament (a .50-caliber machine gun and a 40mm automatic grenade launcher), and light armor.

The design is 45 years old and ready for retirement yesterday.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why this million RPM machine gun is too awesome to be fielded

It’s called the Metal Storm. This Australian-made, U.S.-funded behemoth of a cannon uses the same idea behind a Roman candle to fire round after round out of its 36 barrels. The prototype managed to achieve a maximum rate of fire of 1.62 million rounds per minute as it fired 180 rounds in a 0.01 second burst. At its peak, it can send, almost literally, a wall of 24,000 9mm rounds moving at Mach 5 that can eat through any armor it faces.

In 2007, the U.S. Navy announced that it would buy the Metal Storm grenade variant, but shy of that… nothing. The first prototype was created in June, 1997. It’s been over 20 years now and it’s never been fielded in combat.

Why?


How French special forces rescued the holiest site in Islam

These could revolutionize drone warfare.

(Metal Storm Limited)

In short, the reason why this potential game-changer has never seen combat is mostly tied to legal issues surrounding contracts. But there’s also the rarely-brought-up question of, “how would we use it?”

Originally developed by J. Mike O’Dwyer under a company of the same name, Metal Storm Limited, the technology behind how the gun electronically fires caseless rounds has been tossed between several countries’ governments and many more companies, acquiring the intellectual property and trademark claims along the way. The rights ultimately landed in the hands of Australian-owned DefendTex.

Owning this patent not only keeps the original Metal Storm under their corporate thumb, but also any variations, including the 3GL grenade launcher, which fires three rounds from one of its four barrels in seconds, and the MAUL (Multi-shot Accessory Under-barrel Launcher), an under-barrel 5-round shotgun using the same technology.

How French special forces rescued the holiest site in Islam

On the bright side, if you were turned to paste by this thing, you’d be obliterated in milliseconds and wouldn’t even have a chance to blink.

(Screengrab via YouTube)

Outside of legal issues, there are some very obvious downsides: cost and weight. Its applications, as is, are very circumstantial. It’s extremely heavy and requires plenty of prep time to set up effectively just for a single use. Then, there’s the insane amount of money that goes into fully loading it, only to have it waste nearly all of its ammunition.

Aiming this thing is also a challenge. It was originally conceived to remain stationary and to be used in setting up ambushes. Anything in its line of fire would be effectively turned into a paste, but by stepping a few feet to either side, the target remains fully composed solid.

These extreme limitations aren’t factors for the easier-to-sell versions, the MAUL and the 3GL, which can all easily be manned, moved, and loaded. The MAUL can easily be modified to fire less-lethal rounds and has been issued to Papau New Guinean prison guards while the 3GL has been fitted onto the Cerberus UAV with 3 rounds in a single barrel.

There is still hope for the Metal Storm’s technology. The caseless, electronically fired, multi-stacked rounds will change future wars. But, for now, don’t hold your breath on getting your hands on one of the 9mm versions.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Armistead was Marquis de Lafayette’s slave. He was also his friend – and a spy.

James Armistead was an enslaved African-American man who was born in Virginia. Different historical sources put his birth in either 1748 or 1760. He was owned by William Armistead of New Kent County, Virginia. However, being born into slavery, Armistead would play a crucial role in securing America’s freedom during the Revolutionary War.

With his master’s consent, Armistead volunteered to join the Continental Army in early 1781. He was placed under the command of the Marquis de Lafayette who saw his potential in specialized military service. Posing as a runaway slave, Armistead was sent to link up with Brigadier General Benedict Arnold’s camp. Arnold, whose treachery had already been exposed, was leading an outfit of Redcoats in Virginia. Armistead gained Arnold’s trust and worked as a double agent against the British. Armistead guided the British along local roads and fed them misinformation while secretly reporting back to Lafayette on their movements.

How French special forces rescued the holiest site in Islam
James Armistead Lafayette in his later years (U.S. Army)

In the spring of 1781, Arnold departed for the north. Meanwhile, Armistead linked up with the camp of Lord Charles Cornwallis and continued his work as a double agent. Because of his status, British officers would speak openly about plans, logistics, and troop movements in front of him. He documented all the information that he could and sent it back to Lafayette in writing through a network of other Patriot spies. This intelligence gathering proved to be instrumental in the British defeat at Yorktown in October of that year.

Although Virginia passed a manumission act in 1782 that allowed slaves who fought in the Revolution to be freed, Armistead remained in bondage. A 1783 law specifically freed slaves only if they had served in their master’s stead as a soldier during the war. Because he served as a spy, he did not qualify. However, in 1786, Armistead petitioned the Viriginia Assembly for his freedom. With the support of his master, himself a member of the House of Delegates, and a written testimony from the Marquis himself, Armistead was finally granted his freedom in 1787. On January 9, Armistead became a free man and added “Lafayette” to his name in honor of the Marquis.

James Armistead Lafayette remained in New Kent County where he married, started a family, and became a wealthy farmer. He also received financial aid and a pension for his service during the war. In 1824, the Marquis de Lafayette returned to the United States to tour the 24 states. During his tour of Richmond, the Marquis spotted Armistead Lafayette in the crowd. He abruptly ordered his carriage stopped and ran out into the crowd to embrace his wartime friend. As with his birth, historians disagree on both the year and location of his death. He died either in Baltimore in 1830 or in Virginia in 1832.

Intelligence is the driving force of any war and James Armistead Lafayette’s work in the field was crucial to securing America’s independence. His legacy is the free country and the liberties that we enjoy today.

How French special forces rescued the holiest site in Islam
The Marquis de Lafayette with James Armistead Lafayette (U.S. Army)
MIGHTY TRENDING

B-52 deploys devastating sea mines from 50 miles away

America’s longest-serving bomber recently demonstrated the ability to lay down a devastating minefield at sea without putting itself and its crew in harm’s way, a game-changing capability should the US suddenly find itself in conflict with another naval power.

A US Air Force B-52H Stratofortress heavy long-range bomber out of Andersen Air Force Base on Guam dropped what appear to be new 2,000-pound derivatives of the Quickstrike-ER (extended range) sea mine during the Valiant Shield exercises in the Pacific, The Drive first reported Sept. 19, 2018, noting that the mine is powerful enough to bring down even the largest of naval vessels.


The weapons used during the drills were, in fact, new one-ton Quickstrike-ER naval mines, Lt. Cmdr. Darin Russell, the Valiant Shield Joint Information Bureau director, confirmed to Business Insider, and the test Sept. 17, 2018, was the first tactical test of the previously-unseen configuration. Valiant Shield is an exercise designed to strengthen interoperability and communication between the service branches, making it an ideal opportunity to test an asset like the Quickstrike mine, which is deployed from the air for use at sea.

The B-52 carried a total of four Quickstrike mines into testing and fired three, Russell revealed, identifying the fourth one as a spare. He indicated that the testing was successful.

The iconic bomber can lay down an entire minefield in a single pass without putting itself in the firing range of certain enemy anti-aircraft systems. The mines, general purpose bombs modified to serve as sea mines, are launched from great distances and typically deployed to relatively shallow waters where they could be used to render strategic waterways and ports impassable or inaccessible, as well as prevent amphibious assaults.

www.youtube.com

Using aircraft to lay mines is a concept that dates back to World War II, but at that time it was difficult to create adequate minefields with any real accuracy at high-altitudes. During Vietnam and the Gulf War, mines were dropped into position from lower altitudes with reduce airspeeds, putting aircrews at risk.

The first tactical test of a precision, standoff air-dropped mine occured during an iteration of the Valiant Shield exercise in September 2014, when a B-52H dropped a Quickstrike-ER, a sea mine variation of the 500-pound Joint Direct Attack Munition Extended Range (JDAM-ER). Known as Flounders, these mines can be put down by aircraft operating more than 40 miles away, an ability made possible by the extended range wing kit, the Diplomat introduced in 2017.

In 2016, the weapon was test-fired from an F/A-18 during that year’s iteration of Valiant Shield.

There is another short-range variant called the Skipjack which packs more explosive punch. The 2,000-pound Quickstrike-J can be deployed by any aircraft capable of carrying a JDAM. While it was first tested on a B-52, testing has continued with B-1 bombers and F/A-18 fighters, according to Defense One.

Whereas the older generation Quickstrike mines required aircraft to fly at lower altitudes and lower speeds over the target area, putting US aircraft in danger, the newer generation systems can be deployed by planes flying at the same tactical airspeeds and altitudes as those required for the JDAMs.

A 2,000-pound variant of the Quickstrike-ER offers the same explosive power of the Slipjack combined with the range of the Flounder. While the mine is being tested on the B-52, the weapon could presumably be deployed on any aicraft able to carry a JDAM, including the stealth B-2 Spirit bomber. US air assets could penetrate strategic areas and seal off shipping lanes and blockade ports with fewer mines.

American B-52 crews have actually practiced dropping older versions of the Quickstrike mines in Russia’s backyard, most recently in 2015 during the Baltops exercises in the Baltic Sea.

The ability to lay powerful mines from a distance would likely come in handy in a number of flashpoint areas, such as the contested South China Sea, where China is fortifying man-made islands. In recent months, US Air Force B-52s have made regular flights through the region, sending an unmistakable message to a rival.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How artillery actually kills you

Artillery fires are the kind of big, thundering fireworks shows that look awesome in movies. That being said, there’s always that crazy scene where Nicholas Cage (or some another action hero) runs through multiple explosions from mortars and artillery, remaining miraculously unscathed as every extra around them is cut down instantly.

So, which is real? Does artillery slaughter indiscriminately or can you get lucky and walk through a storm unscathed?


How French special forces rescued the holiest site in Islam

Marines carry rounds for an M777 howitzer during an exercise in Australia on August 8, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Daniel Wetzel)

Well, the actual story is much more complicated. It is possible, even on flat, featureless ground, to survive an artillery strike with little visible injury. But it’s nearly just as possible that you’ll be killed even with an inch of steel between you and the blast when one goes off.

It actually all comes down to fairly basic physics, and the British did extensive research during World War II to figure out how this plays out on the battlefield.

There are three ways that artillery most often claims its victims. The most common is through fragmentation of the shell, when the metal casing is split into many smaller bits and hurled at high speed in all directions. The next most common cause of death and injury is the blast wave; the sudden increase in pressure can damage soft tissue and shatter buildings and vehicles if the round is close enough.

How French special forces rescued the holiest site in Islam

A white phosphorous round busts far over the earth as artillerymen create a screen during an exercise at Fort Stewart, Georgia, on May 22, 2016.

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Scott Linblom)

The least common cause of death and injury is the heat wave, where the sudden increase in temperature causes burns on flesh or starts fires.

Whether a given soldier will survive or not is basically a question of whether they are seriously affected by one or more of these lethal effects. So, let’s look at them one by one.

First, the fragmentation, also commonly known as shrapnel. Most artillery rounds are designed to create some kind of shrapnel when they explode. Shrapnel works kind of like a bullet. It’s a piece of metal flying at high speed through the air, hopefully catching an enemy soldier along its path.

How French special forces rescued the holiest site in Islam

​An M109 Paladin fires a 155mm high-explosive round during a combined armslive fires exercise on September 9, 2018.

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Matthew Keeler)

When it hits flesh, the shrapnel shreds the tissue it passes through, just like a bullet. But, also like a bullet, the biggest factor in lethality is the amount of energy imparted by the munition into the flesh.

Basically, physics tells us that no energy or mass is created or destroyed except in nuclear reactions. So, a piece of metal flying at high speeds has a lot of energy that is imparted to the flesh it passes through, causing cell death and destroying tissue in a larger area than just what the piece of metal actually touches. According to the British estimates, approximately 43 percent of the front of a human (or 36 percent of a human’s surface area in total) accounts for areas in which shrapnel is likely to cause a lethal wound.

So, if a piece of shrapnel hits any of those spots, it will likely cause cell death and then human death. But, shrapnel dispersion is its own, odd beast. When an artillery shell goes off, it’s easy to imagine that the shrapnel explodes in 360 degrees, creating a sphere of destruction.

How French special forces rescued the holiest site in Islam

Lance Cpl. Miguel Rios, field artillery cannoneer with Mike Battery, 3rd Battalion, 11 Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, arms 155mm rounds for an M777 Howitzer in preparation to fire during training Aug. 9, 2018, at Mount Bundey, Northern Territory, Australia.

(U.S. Marines Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Daniel Wetzel)

But shrapnel still carries a lot of momentum from its flight. As the round explodes, the force of the explosion propels the shrapnel out, but the metal fragments still carry a lot of the momentum from when they were crashing down towards the earth.

So, if the artillery round was flying straight down, the shrapnel would hit in a near-perfect circle, as if a giant had fired directly downwards with a shotgun. But the rounds are always flying at some sort of angle, sometimes quite shallow, meaning they’re still flying across the ground as much as falling towards it.

In that case, the shrapnel takes on a “butterfly wing” pattern, where a little shrapnel lands behind the round and a little shrapnel lands ahead of the round, but the vast majority lands on the left and the right.

How French special forces rescued the holiest site in Islam

A howitzer crew with 2nd Battalion, 12th Field Artillery Regiment, Alpha Battery, 2nd Platoon fires artillery in Afghanistan in support of Operation Freedom Sentinel, July 23 2018.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Elliot Hughes)

The momentum of the round and the force of the explosion combine to form what’s referred to as a “butterfly wings” pattern where shrapnel is flying at high speed as it hits people and the ground. But, in a likely surprise to most people, even this most lethal area typically only injures or kills just over half the time..

That’s right, even if you’re standing under an artillery round as it goes off, you still have a chance of surviving (but we still don’t recommend it).

But what if you have a nice thick steel plate or concrete wall protecting you? Well, that’ll protect you from most of the effects of shrapnel, but an artillery round that detonates closely enough to your concrete or steel will kill you a different way: the blast wave.

How French special forces rescued the holiest site in Islam

An artillery crewman from Alpha Battery, 2nd Battalion, 114th Field Artillery Regiment, 155th Armored Brigade Combat Team, Task Force Spartan, uses a tool to secure the fuse to the 155mm round during a combined arms live fire exercise on September 11, 2018.

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Matthew Keeler)

See, the explosion at the heart of the an artillery round creates lots of shrapnel because of the sudden expansion of air as the explosive is consumed. But, the blast wave keeps going and can break apart other things, like the concrete or steel protecting you, or even your own body. After all, a blast wave that hits you hard enough will crush your skull much more easily than steel.

The blast wave is most effective at extremely close ranges, measured in feet or inches, not yards. This is what is likely to kill a tank or destroy a bunker, both of which typically require a direct hit or multiple direct hits.

The final lethal effect, the heat wave, is most effective at short ranges and against flammable materials. Think thin-skinned vehicles filled with gas or the flesh of your enemies.

So, if nearly all artillery shells kill you with the same three mechanics, why are there so many types and why are artillerymen so into things like fuses and powder?

Well, remember that quick note about “angles” when it came to shrapnel patterns? Different targets are susceptible to different artillery effects. And changing out fuses and changing the gun’s angle and number of powder bags allows an artilleryman to change how the round flies and where it explodes.

How French special forces rescued the holiest site in Islam

Troopers from the Field Artillery Support Squadron “Steel,” 3d Cavalry Regiment “Brave Rifles,” support Iraqi army operations with artillery fires from their M777A2 Howitzers, Aug. 12, 2018

(U.s. Army photo by 2nd Lt. Jamie Douglas)

For vehicles, especially armored ones, the best way to kill them is to get the explosive to happen as close to the vehicle as possible, preferably while the round is touching the target. That requires an impact fuse that cases a detonation when the round reaches the target or the ground.

But, if you want to cut down hordes of infantry or shred tents and wooden buildings, you want to maximize lethal shrapnel dispersion. The British studied the problem and recommended the rounds go off at 30 feet above the surface. This was traditionally accomplished with timed rounds; the fire direction center did all the math to figure out how long it would take the round to fly and then set the times for when the rounds was near 30 feet off the ground.

But the fuses were imperfect and the math was tricky, so the U.S. eventually figured out proximity fuses, which detonated a set distance from an object or surface.

So, how do poor Joe and Josephine Snuffy try to survive the steel rain? Well, by minimizing their susceptibility to the three effects.

Even just laying down in the dirt reduces the chances that you’ll catch lethal shrapnel — face down is best. That’ll cut your chances of death or major injury down by over 60 percent. Firing from trenches or fox holes can take your chances down to under 5 percent, and lying or crouching in those same trenches or foxholes can get you into the 2-percent range.

Dig some tunnels into the mountain, and you’ll be nearly impossible to kill. That’s why so many troops were able to survive on Japanese islands despite hours or days of bombardment.

If you’re stuck on the move, opt for cover and concealment. Walking or driving through the trees can drastically increase your chances of survival since most shrapnel can make it through one inch of wood or less — but watch out for falling limbs. The blast waves and shrapnel damage can knock massive branches off of trees and drop them onto troops.

If you’re in a vehicle, reduce the amount of flammables on the outside.

This is actually why artillerymen try to hit with as many rounds as possible in the first blast, using methods like “time on target” to get all of their first wave of rounds to land at the same moment. This maximizes the amount of destruction done before the targets can rush for cover or hop into trenches.

So, you know, heads on a swivel, and all that.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Japan has built a baby Globemaster

The C-17 Globemaster III is arguably the most capable transport in the Air Force inventory. This is understandable – according to an Air Force fact sheet, it can carry up to 171,000 tons of cargo, or 85.5 tons. It has a range of 2,400 nautical miles without aerial refueling, but it still has a receptacle for a boom from a tanker like the KC-46, KC-10, or KC-135. It has a top speed of 450 knots, almost three-fourths the speed of sound.


How French special forces rescued the holiest site in Islam
U.S. Army photo/Staff Sgt. Armando R. Limon

Not a bad plane at all. If you have $202.3 million, you can buy one from Boeing. But suppose you only had about $120 million. Well, you’re in luck, because Kawasaki has built a mini-C-17.

How French special forces rescued the holiest site in Islam
The first production and first prototype C-2s in formation. (Japanese Ministry of Defense photo)

This is known as the Kawasaki C-2, and according to the Kawasaki web site, it’s equipped with a host of new systems. A handout distributed at Kawasaki’s booth at the AirSpaceCyber expo held at the Gaylord Convention Center in National Harbor Maryland noted that the C-2 is able to carry 66,000 pounds, has a range of 3,100 nautical miles without aerial refueling while carrying its maximum payload, and can cruise at Mach .8, or 529 knots.

How French special forces rescued the holiest site in Islam
A cutaway model of the Kawasaki C-2 showing it carrying two construction vehicles. (Photo by Harold Hutchison/WATM)

Its cargo hold is 51.5 feet long, roughly 13 feet high, and 13 feet wide. While it is not able to carry main battle tanks or infantry fighting vehicles, it could carry JLTVs, HMMWVs, or other lighter vehicles. It is also capable of moving a H-60 series helicopter.

You can see a video of this plane’s first flight below.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The UK’s ‘Unknown Warrior’ lies among the most historic kings of Britain

The United Kingdom’s Unknown Warrior, much like the United States’ Unknown Soldier, arose from a movement to honor the unknown war dead who perished on the battlefields of World War I. When he was laid to rest in Westminster Abbey, he was surrounded by a throng of women whose only uniting thread was that they had lost their husbands and all their sons in the Great War.


When the British Empire decided to bury its war dead with France, the Commissioner for the Imperial War Graves encountered a shoddy battlefield grave. On its hastily-constructed wooden cross were just the words, “An Unknown British Soldier,” crudely written in pencil. The Commissioner took it upon himself to take the matter of unknown war dead first to the Prime Minister and later, King George V himself. He wanted to create a national memorial to the scores of unknown war dead killed in the service of their country.

As the Empire’s new Tomb of the Unknown Warrior was born, other countries began to honor their unknown dead with symbolic tombs of their own. France followed suit, as did the United States, and a number of other countries. In England, the Unknown Warrior was buried in one of the most revered places in British history.

How French special forces rescued the holiest site in Islam

Westminster Abbey is more than just a church, it is the burial site of more than 3,300 famous Britishers – from Prime Minister and Royals to artists and scientists – and has been the site of every coronation for the English throne since William the Conqueror captured the country in 1066. It also houses hundreds of priceless works of art and historical documents.

It is truly “Britain’s Valhalla.”

The Abbey also houses Britain’s Tomb of the Unknown Warrior, who was entombed here on Nov. 20, 1920, at the same time as his French counterpart was entombed at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. After being chosen from four possible Unknown Warrior candidates, the current Unknown Warrior was guarded by the French 8th Infantry throughout the night. King George chose a Medieval Crusader sword to affix to the lid of the specially-made casket, along with an iron shield bearing the words: “A British Warrior who fell in the Great War 1914–1918 for King and Country.”

The next day, a military procession a mile long escorted the warrior to the harbor, where it was loaded aboard the HMS Verdun and set sail for London.

How French special forces rescued the holiest site in Islam

“Burial of The Unknown Warrior in Westminster Abbey.” 1920.

After landing at Dover, the remains were carried by rail to London, where its new, British military parade received a Field Marshal’s salute in front of an otherwise silent crowd. Eventually, the funeral procession was met by the King at Whitehall, who, along with the Royal Family and other government ministers, walked with the procession to Westminster. There, it was protected by an honor guard of 100 Victoria Cross recipients. After a ceremony, the body was interred in the floors and covered with a black marble slab.

To this day, it’s the only part of the floor visitors cannot walk over.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is why the US Army had a Camel Corps

Camels have been used as beasts of burden for millennia and the creature is, in many ways, vastly more suited to the task than even the sturdiest of equids. For example, a typical camel can carry in excess of 300 kilos (661 lbs) of supplies without issue, more than twice the weight an average horse or mule could carry with similar distances/speeds. In addition, camels are also largely indifferent to relatively extreme heat, can go for days without needing to take in additional water, and can happily chow down on many desert plants horses and mules wouldn’t eat if they were starving (meaning more of what they can carry can be cargo instead of food for the animals). When not under heavy load, camels can also run as fast as 40 mph in short bursts as well as sustain a speed of around 25 mph for even as much as an hour. They are also extremely sure footed and can travel in weather conditions that would make wagon use impractical.


For this reason a small, but nonetheless dedicated group within the American military in the mid 19th century was positively obsessed with the idea of using camels as pack animals, and even potentially as cavalry.

It’s noted that the largest proponent of camel power at the time was the then Secretary of War, Jefferson Davis — yes, THAT, Jefferson Davis. Davis particularly thought the camel would be useful in southern states where the army was having trouble transporting supplies owing to the desert-like conditions in some of the regions.

To solve the problem, Davis continually pushed for importing camels, including in a report to congress he wrote in 1854 where he stated, “I again invite attention to the advantages to be anticipated from the use of camels… for military and other purposes, and for reasons set forth in my last annual report, recommend that an appropriation be made to introduce a small number of the several varieties of this animal, to test their adaptation to our country…”

How French special forces rescued the holiest site in Islam
Camel at Drum Barracks, San Pedro, California (1863 or earlier)

Finally, in early 1855, Congress listened, setting a $30,000 (about $800,000 today) budget for just such an experiment. One Major Henry C. Wayne was then tasked with travelling all the way across the world to buy several dozen camels to bring back to America, with Wayne setting out on this trip on June 4, 1855.

Besides going to places like Egypt and other such regions known for their camel stock, Wayne also took a detour through Europe where he grilled various camel aficionados and zoological experts on how to best take care of the animal.

After several months, Wayne returned to America with a few dozen camels and a fair amount of arrogance about his new endeavor. On that note, only about four months after taking a crash course in camel care, Wayne proudly boasted that Americans would “manage camels not only as well, but better than Arabs as they will do it with more humanity and with far greater intelligence.” Of course, when initial efforts on that front demonstrated a little more experience was needed, various Arab immigrants who had experience managing the beasts were hired to head up the task.

The newly formed United States Camel Corps quickly proved its worth, such as early on managing to carry supplies from San Antonio, Texas to Camp Verde, Arizona during a severe rainstorm that made using wagons practically impossible. In another expedition, the man in charge of the trip, Edward Fitzgerald Beale, afterwards reported back that just one camel was worth four of the best mules on that trip.

How French special forces rescued the holiest site in Islam
Gwinn Heap’s illustration for Jefferson Davis’ (at that time Secretary of War) report to the U.S. Congress in 1857. The drawingu00a0illustrated the journey of the camels to the United States.

Robert E. Lee would later state after another expedition where conditions saw some of the mules die along the journey, the camels “endurance, docility and sagacity will not fail to attract attention of the Secretary of War, and but for whose reliable services the reconnaissance would have failed.”

Despite the glowing reviews, there were various complaints such as the camel’s legendary reputation for stubbornness and frequent temper tantrums and that horses were nervous around them. Of course, horses could be trained to put up with camels. The real issue seems to have been the human factor- soldiers just preferred to deal with more familiar horses and mules, despite the disadvantages compared to camels in certain situations. As Gen. David Twigg matter of factly stated: “I prefer mules for packing.”

Later, just as big of an issue was the fact that it was Jefferson Davis who championed the idea in the first place. As you might imagine, during and after the Civil War, ideas he’d previously prominently pushed for were not always viewed in the best light in the North.

Unsurprisingly from all this, the Camel Corps idea was quietly dropped within a year of the end of the Civil War and later, largely forgotten by history. However, some of the imported camels, including thousands imported by businesses around this same time that were rendered mostly useless with the establishment of the transcontinental railroad in the late 1860s, were simply set free, with sightings of wild camel still a thing in the South going all the way up to around the mid-20th century.

Bonus Facts:

  • Male Arabian camels begin courtship via more or less inflating a portion of his soft palate called a dulla with air to the point that it protrudes up to a foot out of his mouth. The result is something that looks somewhat akin to an inflated scrotum hanging out of its mouth. On top of this, they use their spit to then make a low gurgling sound, with the result being the camel also appearing to foam at the mouth at the same time. If this isn’t sexy enough for the lady camels, they also rub their necks (where they have poll glands that produce a foul, brown goo) anywhere they can and even pee on their own tails to increase their lady-attracting stench.
  • Even though today Camels can only naturally be found in parts of Asia, the Middle East, and Africa, Camels are actually thought to have originated in the Americas around 40 million years ago. It’s thought that they migrated to Asia shortly before the last Ice Age, though there were still Camels in North America as recently as 15,000 years ago.
  • America isn’t the only place that imported camels. Australia also imported up to 20,000 camels from India in the 19th century to help with exploring the country, much of which is desert. Ultimately many camels were set free and, unlike in the US, the camel population in Australia flourished. Today, Australia is estimated to have one of the largest feral camel populations in the world (estimated at 750,000 camels in 2009), which has since been deemed something of an environmental problem. As such, the government has set up a program to cull the camels, with around a couple hundred thousand being killed in the last several years in an attempt to control the population.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Air Force increases B-52 patrols in clear signal to China

Several US Air Force B-52H Stratofortress heavy long-range bombers have flown through the contested East and South China Seas multiple times in August 2018, sending an unmistakable message to potential challengers.

Four flights involving no more than two bombers each time were carried out in the disputed seas as part of US Indo-Pacific Command’s Continuous Bomber Presence (CBP) mission. Two B-52s assigned to the 96th Expeditionary Bomber Squadron (EBS) participated in joint anti-submarine training exercises with two US Navy P-8 Poseidon aircraft on Aug. 1, 2018, in the East China Sea, US Pacific Air Forces (PACAF) said in an official statement.

“Ultimately, it increased our readiness to serve as a credible deterrent force and presence within the theater,” Maj. John Radtke, 96th EBS mission planner, explained.


One B-52 bomber out of Andersen Air Force Base on Guam participated in a CBP training mission in the East China Sea on Aug. 22, 2018, PACAF public affairs told Business Insider, adding that two more B-52s with the 96th EBS conducted CBP operations in the South China Sea on Aug. 27, 2018. It is unclear if the bombers flew past Chinese occupied territories in the area, as PACAF refused to provide the information, citing “operational security concerns.”

The flights were initially detected by Aircraft Spots, on online military aircraft tracking site.

The site’s latest flight tracking data suggested that two more B-52s conducted exercises in the South China Sea on Aug. 30, 2018, which would mean that American heavy bombers have been active in the disputed waterway twice in a week. PACAF confirmed in a public statement the Aug. 30, 2018 flight following queries from Business Insider.

“Is the US trying to exert more pressure on China’s trade by sending a B-52 bombers to the South China Sea?” China’s nationalist state-affiliated tabloid Global Times asked in an editorial Aug. 30, 2018.

The CBP flights are “flown in accordance with international law” and are consistent with America’s “long-standing and well-known freedom of navigation policies,” PACAF public affairs said. China has often expressed frustration with the US position on this particular matter.

In early June 2018, a pair of B-52s ripped across the South China Sea, causing the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs to accuse the US of “running amok” in the region. China foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at the time, “We will only even more staunchly take all necessary steps to defend the country’s sovereignty and security, to protect the peace and stability of the South China Sea region.”

The US Air Force similarly sent B-52s into the South China Sea in late April 2018.

In response to questions about a possible B-52 overflight in the East China Sea in August 2018, foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said, “We hope that actions taken in this region by any country could help enhance mutual trust and show respect for the legitimate security interests of regional countries. Nothing that undermines mutual trust and regional security and stability shall happen.”

The Chinese Ministry of National Defense has warned repeatedly that China “will firmly defend the sovereign security and territorial integrity of the country.”

News of the recent bomber flights in the East and South China Sea comes just after the Department of Defense released its annual report on Chinese military power. The report specifically noted that Chinese bombers were operating with increased frequency in flashpoint zones in the region.

“The [People’s Liberation Army] has rapidly expanded its overwater bomber operating areas, gaining experience in critical maritime regions and likely training for strikes against US and allied targets,” the report explained. “The PLA may continue to extend its operations beyond the first island chain, demonstrating the capability to strike US and allied forces and military bases in the western Pacific Ocean, including Guam.”

The Pentagon has noted that the Chinese air force is pushing to become a “strategic” force capable of power projection.T

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

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