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.
“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.
“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.
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.
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.
Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri was with Saddam from the very beginning and on through to the very end when the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 spread him and his compatriots to the winds. The next thing he knew, he was the King of Clubs on the U.S. military’s now-famous most-wanted Baathist decks of cards.
Unlike most of the people who appeared on the deck, Al-Douri was one of seven figures who managed to completely evade capture. Also unlike most of his fellow Baathists, the 77-year-old Baath party chairman also kept fighting the fight for Saddam’s Iraq – a fight he continues to this day.
He was said to have helped the rise of ISIS.
The United States left Iraq as a ruling force back in 2011. By then, most of the people featured on the deck of cards were either captured, killed, or some combination of the two. The only exceptions were seven individuals who managed to flee the invasion and then evade capture somehow. Al-Douri was one of these evaders. Not only did he manage to evade capture for the entire duration of the Iraq War, but he also launched his own insurgency against the Americans, calling it the Naqshbandi Army.
Its full name is the Army Men of the Naqshbandi Order, and its ideology is a blend of pan-Arab nationalism (like the Baath party before it) and fundamentalist Islamic beliefs. They clashed with other Sunni groups like al-Qaeda in Iraq while fighting a guerrilla war against the Americans. The entire group operated in independent cells of seven to ten men. Al-Douri was said to be leading this group from neighboring Syria.
In April 2015, it was believed Al-Douri was killed by a Shia paramilitary group in Iraq’s Salahuddin Province, but DNA testing was inconclusive, and his insurgent group denied the reports. Al-Douri appeared on television and other media later, discussing events that took place after his death, so it was soon widely accepted that the body found was not Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri. With the Americans (mostly) gone from Iraq, Al-Douri and his fighters have started to turn their attention to Iranian forces in the country, troops Al-Douri fought as a Baathist for years during the Iran-Iraq War.
He has since declared that Iranians will be the groups next targets in the coming years, blaming Iran for “directly invading” Iraq, Syria, and Yemen. Iraqi Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has promised to form a special team to kill or capture Al-Douri, but one has yet to materialize.
Troops headed into combat know that an entire medical chain exists to keep them alive and as healthy as possible for as long as possible if they’re hit. The goal is to get them out of harm’s way within the “Golden Hour,” the first hour after injury, to maximize their odds of survival and recovery. But while medics and corpsmen are the backbone of that chain, the Air Force has teams of specially trained personnel who exist solely to put their lives on the line to save others in the most dire of combat medical crises.
These Air Force pararescue personnel deploy forward with other elite forces and fly into combat to save troops already under fire. They live by the motto, “that others may live.”
William Pitsenbarger embodied service. He volunteered for service in Vietnam, he volunteered to be lowered into a minefield to save a Vietnamese soldier, and, in April 1966, he volunteered his way into a massive firefight that would claim his life.
Still, he stayed on the ground, running ammo to American positions under fire. Sadly, due to at least two gunshot wounds, he was killed. He was credited with directly saving nine lives and with medical aid and battlefield actions that may have helped save dozens more.
His award was upgraded to the Medal of Honor, making him the first airman to earn the award.
His first Purple Hearts came almost immediately after he arrived in Vietnam. A .30-caliber round struck him in the leg and he got a fellow pararescueman to treat it so he could stay in the fight. He was awarded the Air Force Cross for extracting a downed pilot from a fierce firefight, immediately getting shot out of his helicopter during extraction, and then doubling back to the crashed helicopter to check for survivors before finally evacuating again. He received that award in a ceremony where he also got the Silver Star for bravery during a completely unrelated rocket attack. In short, he’s built one hell of a resume.
Despite surviving a combat tour of Vietnam that started with a Purple Heart and ended with an Air Force Cross, Hackney volunteered to stay for another three years.
(From left to right) Tech. Sgt. Keary Miller, Senior Airman Jason Cunningham and Staff Sgt. Gabe Brown pose for a photo just weeks before March 4, 2002, where Miller and Cunningham would earn the Air Force Cross and Brown would earn a Silver Star.
(U.S. Air Force)
3. Tech. Sgt. Keary Miller
Pararescue specialist Tech. Sgt. Keary Miller was involved in the Battle of Takur Ghar in Paktia Province, Afghanistan. On March 4, 2002, he was inserting with an Air Force Combat Search and Rescue Team to rescue two service members that had become separated after their helicopter was shot up on the ridge. Miller’s team faced heavy fire while landing and was forced down, crashing onto the mountain.
Senior Airman Jason Cunningham was on the same MH-47E helicotper as Tech Sgt. Miller when it was shot down. Cunningham immediately began treating the wounded when they hit the ground and moved injured personnel from the burning helicopter. He was critically wounded while defending patients, but he kept doing everything he could to save others.
He directed the disposition of the wounded and handed their care over to a medic before succumbing to his injuries. He was posthumously awarded the Air Force Cross on Sept. 13, 2002.
(Video Still by Air Force Senior Airman Stephen Ellis)
5. Master Sgt. Ivan Ruiz
On Dec. 10, 2013, pararescue craftsman Master Sgt. Ivan Ruiz was attached to an Army Special Forces and Afghan Commando team for a raid in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan. The nighttime operation met enemy contact almost immediately, and Ruiz’s team took out four insurgents. Ruiz moved forward with two others into a courtyard where the others were hit.
He’s credited with saving their lives and helping to pin down and kill 11 enemy insurgents.
(U.S. Air Force)
6. Staff Sgt. Thomas Culpepper
Pararescueman Staff Sgt. Thomas Culpepper was part of a call to rescue three members of an Army Pathfinder team trapped in an IED belt on May 26, 2011. One Pathfinder was severely injured and the other two were trying to keep him alive, but extracting them from what was essentially a minefield would be tricky.
As Culpepper was raising the second soldier to the helicopter, it suddenly lost power and entered free fall. Culpepper kept control of his casualty and the helicopter came to a stop just a few feet from the ground. They escaped the IED belt and made it home — the injured soldier, tragically, did not survive his wounds.
The Civil War was a revolutionary conflict for the planet with steam power, repeating rifles, and improved cannons all changing the face of warfare. European powers sent observers to see how battles were fought, and how the rules of combat evolved as the conflict wore on.
A cannon sits on Powers Hill at Gettysburg National Military Park.
The exchange came on the morning of July 3, 1863. Two days earlier, on July 1, Confederate scouts had pushed against Union forces near the crossroads at the center of the small town of Gettysburg. Neither side’s generals had chosen the ground, but they both reinforced their men in contact and stumbled into one of the most iconic and deadly battles of the war.
On July 2, Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee attacked Union positions on hilltops near the city, attempting to push them off the high ground before more Union reinforcements arrived. Confederate troops were in Union territory, and the balance of power would shift against them more and more the longer the battle wore on.
Civil War reenactors play as Confederate artillery crews in 2008.
By July 3, it was clear that Lee’s invasion of the north would have to either succeed on this day or likely fail altogether. The Union troops, on the other hand, despite some missteps, had improved their positions, and it would take great skill and a bit of luck to dislodge them.
Union forces under Maj. Gen. George Meade were arrayed on a series of ridges, and attackers were able to push Confederate troops out of a nearby field in the early hours of the morning. In a bid to re-seize the initiative and soften Union defenses in the early afternoon, Lee ordered a massive artillery bombardment of the Union troops, focused on Seminary and Cemetery ridges where he hoped to attack and pierce the lines.
When the afternoon artillery duel began, guns on each side began a disciplined but heavy bombardment of the opposing forces. For over 90 minutes, Confederate artillery tried to pick off Union guns and crews as the men ran back and forth from the caissons and ammo dumps to the guns to keep the rate of fire up. Good crews on either side could fire two rounds per minute. Thousands of rounds crisscrossed the field.
It’s the largest artillery barrage ever in the western hemisphere. The Union leaders ordered many of their crews to cease fire in an attempt to fool the Confederates into thinking the Union cannon crews were broken.
If the Confederate bombardment were successful, it would create a temporary gap in the Union defenses, an area where battered riflemen and depleted artillery crews would be hard-pressed to hold the line while reinforcements were moved in.
Union artillery holds its position at the Battle of Gettysburg.
Lee prepared a massive infantry column, the core of the assault coming from Maj. Gen. George Pickett’s 4,500-man division, with about 10,000 more men coming from other brigades, for an attack directly into the Union center. This would break the Army of the Potomac in half and force Union Maj. Gen. George C. Meade to withdraw or allow his men to be cut apart.
Despite the quiet Union guns, despite the massive infantry column, some of the Confederate generals still believed that the infantrymen could not possibly capture the hill. Lt. Gen. James Longstreet was one of the top detractors of the plan, respectfully telling Lee that he didn’t think 15,000 men existed who could take the hill.
He would be proven right. The Union guns had been mostly sheltered by trees and fortifications during the exchange, and they survived the Confederate artillery attack in good order. Many of the guns on Cemetery Ridge were still in perfect order with ready crews manning them.
The 15,000 Confederate troops faced a march with .75 miles of open ground between the last spot of cover and the first Union defenses. For the entire distance, the Union cannon crews could hit them with balls and shot.
In what would become known as Pickett’s Charge, the Confederates came anyway. The artillery shredded their lines, but still, the Confederates advanced. Units faltered and were slaughtered wholesale on the open field, but the Confederates were undeterred. Fences at the start and end of the march had to be climbed or dismantled under fire, but the Confederates came anyway.
Union troops who had suffered devastating losses the year before at the Battle of Fredericksburg were merciless as the Confederate troops fell, yelling “Fredericksburg” at the fallen.
The Confederate troops did make it into infantry range, once charging at Union lines from only 80 yards away, but Union troops behind stone walls, fallen timbers, or raised terrain slaughtered even these attackers.
In total, Union forces lost 1,500 soldiers. The Confederate losses are estimated to have been over 6,000. The day featured what was, by some measurements, the greatest artillery exchange in Western Hemisphere history. It was an easy contender, by most measures, as the top exchange of the Civil War.
But it had failed to carry the day, failed to achieve its objective.
Marvel officially announced its massive upcoming slate that will kick off phase 4 of the MCU starting with “The Black Widow” solo movie coming to theaters May 1, 2020. Black Widow finally getting her own movie should come as no surprise, as the superspy is one of the OG Avengers and is played by Scarlett Johansson, one of the biggest actresses in the world.
However, there is one big potential problem: Black Widow is, for lack of a better word, dead, as she sacrificed herself to help the other Avengers get a hold of the Soul Stone. Obviously, this means that “The Black Widow” will be an origin story set in the past but it also begs the question: could “Black Widow” being the first movie in phase 4 mean that the MCU is finally ready to embrace the multiverse?
Confused? Well, it’s possible that “The Black Widow” could just be a standalone origin film but given the interconnectivity of the MCU, that feels unlikely. “Captain Marvel,” the last movie before “Endgame,” took place in the 90s but it still managed to connect itself to the larger narrative (“Captain America” did the same thing). This makes it feel highly unlikely that “Black Widow” will be a stand-alone story that marks the end of Johansson’s time with Marvel, especially considering the fact that it has been chosen as the movie to start the post-Iron Man and Captain America era of the MCU.
This is where the multiverse comes into play because it could potentially allow the titular secret agent to find her way back into the story while also finally opening up the MCU to other universes. The MCU has been hinting at the multiverse theory for a long time, most recently via Mysterio in “Spider-Man: Far From Home,” but so far, it has only dipped its toes into the complex tapestry of parallel realities.
The multiverse theory makes even more sense when you look down the rest of the phase 4 schedule, as a lot of the upcoming shows and movies seem to suggest the possibility of alternative universes, as they are packed with dead members of the MCU. Loki, who died in “Infinity War,” will be getting his own show in 2021, while Vision, who was murdered by Thanos, is set to have a major role in “WandaVision,” another show set to air on Disney+.
Is Marvel just getting really into prequels? Maybe (although Vision and Wanda don’t meet until Ultron so that doesn’t really make sense) but how would that explain “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness?” At this point, Marvel is basically winking at comic book fans with its seeming embrace of the multiverse.
So when “Black Widow” hits theaters next year, don’t be surprised if its a badass espionage flick that also sets the foundation of the Avengers diving deep into the wonderfully weird world of the multiverse. This would open it up to infinite possibilities, including rebooting storylines and bringing back characters who are currently dead.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
To some, the rise of India as a modern military power is a little surprising. The country that gave the world Mahatma Gandhi and his teachings of nonviolence has arguably built up the second-most-powerful military in Asia.
One of the reasons India arguably ranks so highly is the fact that they’ve developed a number of weapons, either completely on their own or in cooperation with other nations. One of India’s closest partners in development is Russia.
At the end of the Cold War, Russia’s economy was in the dumps. India, meanwhile, was looking to modernize. The two countries came up with an exchange: India would help finance development and, in return, received access to modern weapons at what turned out to be bargain-basement prices. One of those weapons was the BrahMos cruise missile.
The BrahMos is a variant of the SS-N-26 Sapless cruise missile (also known as the P-800 Oniks) used by the Russian Navy. The BrahMos, like the Sapless, can be launched from ships, submarines, or land bases. It packs a 661-pound warhead, has a maximum range of 180 miles, and is capable of operating as a “sea-skimmer,” flying within 50 feet of the surface of the ocean. It has a top speed of Mach 3.
In short, this is a missile that can go unseen until it’s very close, at which point you have very little time to react. According to an official website for the missile, the BrahMos is operated on Indian Navy ships and by three Indian Army regiments. The Indian Air Force is also testing the Brahmos for its force of Su-30 MKI Flankers, giving them more options for deploying this devastating ordnance.
Learn more about this Mach 3 missile in the video below!
The two Tu-160 nuclear-capable bombers in Venezuela “conducted a flight in the airspace over the Caribbean Sea. The flight lasted for about 10 hours,” the ministry’s press service said, according to state-media outlet Tass.
“In certain parts of the route, the flight of Russian bombers was conducted together with Su-30 and F-16 fighter jets of the Venezuelan National Bolivarian Military Aviation. The pilots from the two countries practiced air cooperation when fulfilling air tasks,” it added.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
It is not the first time Tu-160 supersonic bombers have been to Venezuela. They visited in 2013 and in 2008. The earlier occasion came during a period of heightened tensions stoked by Russia’s brief war with Georgia that year.
The latest trip, which comes during heightened tensions over Russia’s meddling the 2016 US election and recent clash with Ukraine, prompted sharp words from all sides.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also chastised Caracas and Moscow, saying on Dec. 10, 2018, that people in Russia and Venezuela “should see this for what it is: two corrupt governments squandering public funds, and squelching liberty and freedom while their people suffer.”
The Pentagon also chimed in, saying that while the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro sought visits from Russian aircraft, the US was working with “regional partners and international organizations to provide humanitarian aid to Venezuelans fleeing their crisis-racked nation.”
The Organization of American States also expressed “the greatest concern” about the visit, saying it was not authorized by Venezuela’s national assembly, as required by the constitution.
Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza on Dec. 11, 2018, called Pompeo’s comments “disrespectful,” and, like Peskov, described them as “cynical” in light of the US’s own military activity abroad.
Arreaza also said it was “outrageous” for the US to question Venezuela’s defense cooperation with other countries after President Donald Trump “threatened us publicly with a military intervention,” referring to Trump’s references to the possibility of military action to oust Maduro.
“One thing is to call for the devil and other is to see him coming,” Cabello said.
The Trump administration has cast Venezuela as the US’s most significant foe in the region and sought to isolate the Maduro government, largely through sanctions on Maduro and officials around him.
The US and other countries in the region have condemned Maduro for ongoing political strife and economic deterioration in his country — turmoil that has prompted some 3 million Venezuelans to flee, straining resources and prompting backlash in the neighboring countries that have received many of them.
On Dec. 11, 2018, after speaking with Russian officials, the White House said the bombers currently in Venezuela would depart on Dec. 14, 2018 and return to Russia.
Russian officials wanted to deploy “strategic aircraft” to a Venezuelan base in the Caribbean, to which Maduro not object, according to the report. They could go a base on La Orchila island, northeast of Caracas. (Russia said at the end of 2014 it would conduct long-range air patrols in the Caribbean.)
A military expert quoted by the paper said such a deployment would remove the need for those aircraft to return to Russia and for aerial refueling during “patrol missions in the Americas.” The aircraft could conduct missions in the region and be replaced on a rotating basis, the expert said.
While Venezuelan law prohibits foreign military bases, military aircraft could be hosted temporarily, the Russian newspaper said.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
In a bipartisan move, House Representatives just approved an amendment that would create the new Space Force as a department under the Air Force, moving the new military service one step closer to reality. Reps. Jim Cooper and Mike Rogers say the amendment approved is nearly identical to the Space Corps proposal they made in 2017, something they proposed because they felt the Air Force was underperforming in the realm of space.
The move was part of the week’s blitz to mark up the House’s version of the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act.
The NDAA markup process basically determines the size of the Pentagon’s budget for the coming year.
The amendment was approved by the House Armed Services Committee as a better option than a billion plan presented to Congress by former Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson. The Senate’s vision of the Space Force will run taxpayers .4 million but will have to reconcile in some way with the house version of the branch.
Under the Cooper-Rogers proposal, the Space Force will be commanded by a Commandant, a four-star Air Force general who will sit on the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Their Space Force is less about creating a new system from scratch and more focused on reorganizing existing space assets to clear out the bureaucracy and function in a more efficient, cost-effective way than previous proposals.
Because if the USAF knows anything, it’s cost-effective efficiency, like these 00 coffee mugs.
The White House’s original plan called for the Space Force to be an entirely separate branch of the military but run into significant opposition in both Congress and the Pentagon, due to the potential cost of creating such a force. In February 2019, President Trump signed a directive that called for the formation of the Space Force inside the Air Force, much the same way the Marine Corps is a department of the Navy.
Few in Washington argue that a more robust plan for the United States military’s role in space is necessary, but they do argue about the best way to create such a force, how to operate it, and how much it should cost. The Cooper-Rogers amendment could remove one of the most significant roadblocks to the creation of the service.
In the wake of President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the nuclear deal signed with Iran and five other countries in 2015, Tehran has responded with one of its most frequent threats: closing the Strait of Hormuz, a narrow channel in the Persian Gulf through which roughly 30% of world’s oil flows.
“If Iran’s oil exports are to be prevented, we will not give permission for oil to be exported to the world through the Strait of Hormuz,” a Revolutionary Guards commander said in July 2018.
Coastal defenses and naval vessels would have a big role in that effort, but it would most likely revolve around one of Iran’s favorite military assets: sea mines, a vicious weapon that presents an acute challenge for a US Navy that is shifting between old and new mine-countermeasure systems.
Iran has laid mines at sea in past conflicts, and even these much less sophisticated weapons have disabled and nearly sunk US Navy warships.
The guided-missile destroyer USS Porter transits the Strait of Hormuz in May 2012.
(Photo by Alex R. Forster)
An asymmetric threat
“As far back as the early 1980s, Iran was mining waters in the Gulf to prevent oil tankers from coming in or out of ports in the Arab part of the Gulf — Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, etc. — and it has extensive experience in trying to also menace warships,” said Scott Savitz, a senior engineer at the Rand Corporation.
Sea mines remain “a big part of the Iranian approach,” said Bryan Clark, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.
The sea mines Iran used at that time were relatively unsophisticated — the mine that almost sank the frigate USS Samuel B. Roberts in 1988 was a World War I-era device — but mines it can deploy now are more advanced and more dangerous, with some warheads weighing nearly 2,500 pounds.
As of 2012, Iran was believed to have grown its supply of sea mines from about 1,500 during the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s to more than 6,000, according to a report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
That stockpile is not as vast as those of North Korea, China, or Russia, which also rely on anti-access or area-denial approaches to limit movement in contested areas, but it includes an array of mines, such as cheap, conventional ones and more advanced “smart mines,” which may be able to track multiple targets, discern different types of ships, and avoid detection by lurking on or near the seafloor.
Advanced mines can be triggered by sound, pressure, or magnetic influence. But even conventional ones that require contact to detonate are a threat to US warships and other commercial vessels. Iran also has an array of ships to lay them — some can even be deployed through submarine torpedo tubes.
Iran’s naval forces are no match for the US Navy, but sea mines are asymmetric weapons that a weaker side can use to foil a stronger opponent — even one with the world’s strongest navy. They can be deployed to deny access or freedom of movement and can be used to escalate tensions more incrementally than would a cruise-missile attack on an enemy warship.
“The Iranians see [mines] as a good tool for them to be able to threaten to close the strait and do it in a way that they can threaten it and you don’t know that the mines are really there,” Clark said, “and then if they do have some mines out there, the damage they’re going to inflict is going to be more in terms of preventing people from freely going back and forth rather than having to kill a lot of people to make a point.”
“You can threaten the use of mines and actually not have any out there,” Clark added. “However, a very small number of mines … in a place where someone’s likely to run into one, and then that damages a ship, and then you can say that you’ve got a much larger field, even though you may not.”
The USS Avenger off the coast of Hawaii during the Rim of the Pacific exercise in 2004.
(U.S. Navy photo)
Speed and scope
The US has previously said attempts to deploy mines would draw a military response, but the Navy also has means to counter mines.
The service keeps several of its 14 Avenger-class ships stationed in Bahrain all year.
The ships are designed for anti-mine warfare, using sonar and video systems, cable cutters, and a mine-detonating device to neutralize mines. Their hulls are made of wood covered with fiberglass for lower magnetic resonance. The engines are also designed to lower the ships’ magnetic and acoustic signatures. This is exceedingly dangerous work for these ships and their explosive ordnance disposal teams, which involves getting close to lurking mines to find and neutralize them.
The Avenger-class ships based in Bahrain are “immensely capable” and have multiple capabilities for and approaches to mine warfare, Rand’s Savitz said. They are lightly armed, however, and would require escorts.
But the Avenger class is aging, and the problem for the US Navy is that the mine threat looms as it struggles to move from those ships and the MH-53E Sea Dragon helicopters that often accompany them to a newer platform that uses unmanned systems deployed aboard littoral combat ships.”
The US is in this transition from a more traditional minesweeping approach, where a minesweeper goes out and either drags minesweeping equipment behind it that physically entangles the mines or sets them off by magnetic influence,” Clark said.
“Now they’re transitioning to the use of unmanned vehicles to do a lot of this,” he added. “So they’ll have an unmanned ship drive out … sweep gear behind it to pick up mines, and they’ll have unmanned vehicles go around and hunt for mines that might be on the seafloor” or otherwise submerged.
But other cost overruns, delays, and malfunctions — like the cancellation of the Remote Minehunting System after nearly a billion dollars and almost two decades of work — have hindered the mine-countermeasure program.
Mine-countermeasure systems in general “don’t get as much attention as they need,” Clark said. “It’s not a sexy part of the Navy.” Older systems, he said, “could’ve been replaced a long time ago, or at least improved before this became an issue.”
The shift between older platforms and newer systems with limited capabilities is “a huge liability” for the Navy, Clark said.
“They’re in the middle of this transition, so they don’t have these unmanned systems really completely tested out and fully fielded, and so there’s still a lot of the traditional sweep gear and traditional approaches,” he said.
The Sea Dragon, which is the Navy’s oldest helicopter in service, was supposed to retire in 2005. But the service has yet to find a replacement for the heavy-lift helicopter, which can haul a variety of minesweeping gear and deploy anywhere in the world within 72 hours. The Avengers, introduced in the early 1990s, have also had their service lives extended, requiring upgrades.
Those ships and helicopters remain capable, but they aren’t “scalable,” meaning they “can’t ramp it up when there’s a minefield,” Clark said. Those systems aren’t necessarily a problem because they’re old, he added, they’re “just limited in speed and scope.”
The Remote Minehunting System and an AN/AQS-20 mine-hunting sonar being brought aboard the littoral combat ship USS Independence during testing of the mine-warfare mission module package in 2012.
Timelines and risks
The issues facing US mine-countermeasure systems do not mean Iran has a clear advantage, however.
“While the Persian Gulf is not wide, it’s big enough that Iran would have to cover a swath in order to prevent ships from going through it without encountering mines,” Savitz said. “So it would be challenging for them.”
Moreover, because it lacks refining capacity, Iran needs to be able to ship oil and refined products in and out.
“It would be cutting its own throat if it tried to shut down all traffic in the Gulf,” Savitz said. “If it leaves open a significant pathway, then others can potentially use it too.”
If Iranian ships start behaving in ways that indicate they’re laying mines, “that can be interdicted,” Savitz added. And the US would watch closely for any effort to reseed minefields that had been cleared.
“That’s the best mine-countermeasure solution of all, is to catch the adversary laying the mines or to detect roughly where the mines are laid,” to focus mine-countermeasure efforts, Savitz said.
A naval aircrewman preparing a Q-24 sonar side-looking vehicle to be lowered into the Persian Gulf from an MH-53E Sea Dragon during mine-countermeasure training on May 18, 2017.
(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 1st Class Joshua Bryce Bruns)
But the scalability issue would loom over any effort to track down and clear mines from the area.
“Mine countermeasures is also typically a slow area of warfare that requires intense attention to detail, so it also entails thinking about trade-offs between timelines and risk,” Savitz said. “How quickly a water space can be opened up after … mine countermeasures have begun depends on what level of risk is acceptable.”
Former Adm. James Stavridis, who was the supreme allied commander in Europe before retiring in 2013, told CNBC in July 2018 that, should Iran try to use its military to close the Strait of Hormuz, the US and its partners “would be able to open it in a matter of days.”
That time frame is not so certain. It depends on how large the Navy and its partners believe the affected minefield to be.
“If it’s the whole Strait of Hormuz, the Navy says that could take weeks,” Clark said. While many modern tankers have features like double hulls that could mitigate some mine risks, closing or restricting access to the Gulf would upend the global economy.
Stavridis may have meant the US and its partners could clear a “very narrow channel” through a minefield during that period, Clark added, but that would slow down traffic, and each ship would need an escort. There would be “much less access than was previously available,” he said.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Sikorsky’s SB-1 Defiant, an aircraft that uses a modified helicopter design to achieve great speed and fuel-efficiency as well as maneuverability, took its first flight on March 21, 2019, exciting military aviation fans who hope that it’s selected for the Army’s Future Vertical Lift Program.
Sikorsky-Boeing #SB1 Defiant Completes First Flight
The SB-1 Defiant is one of two top contenders for the Future Vertical Lift program, the Army’s effort to replace its aging helicopter fleet. The Army will select a new utility helicopter, likely either the SB-1 Defiant or the V-280 Valor from Bell, that will ferry troops and lighter loads, carry out the wounded in MEDEVAC missions, and fill the rest of the roles currently carried out by the UH-60 Black Hawk.
The current aviation debate is interesting for military aviation aficionados for a few reasons. One is that this sort of contest only occurs every few decades. Another is that neither of the top contenders for the program is a conventional helicopter. The SB-1 Defiant is an evolution of Sikorsky’s X-2 demonstrator. It has two rotor blades similar to a conventional helicopter, but it’s pushed forward by a rear propeller and has no conventional rear rotor.
This makes it much more efficient and faster than a conventional helicopter while retaining all the versatility and maneuverability.
The Sikorsky SB-1 Defiant takes its first flight. It’s a strong contender for the Army’s Future Vertical Lift program.
Its primary contender, meanwhile, is of a tiltrotor design. It can fly fast and far, even farther than the Defiant, but is not as maneuverable or able to fit in as small of places and landing zones. It’s also a direct successor to the controversial V-22 Osprey, a plane that had a horrible safety record during testing. The V-22 did do well with the Marine Corps in the field for a few years, but has run into trouble again recently, suffering four catastrophic crashes from 2015 to 2017.
So, yeah, soldiers care who wins because it decides what will carry them into battle in the 2030s, 2040s, and beyond. And whatever aircraft the Army chooses will instantly have thousands of orders, allowing it to be produced at scale, meaning the manufacturer can offer additional copies to the other services for cheap.
So, the Army’s choice will impact what aircraft the Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps can afford to buy for their own services, heavily pushing them to use the same aircraft in at least some roles. (The U.S. Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, and Marine Corps all bought UH-60 variants after the Army did, though the Marine Corps bought very few and placed them only in specialty roles.)
With all this competition and the long-term impact of the decision, it was a mark in the V-280 Valor’s favor that its aircraft had been flying since December 2017 while the SB-1 Defiant was still limited to ground tests until the March 21 test. Now that both aircraft have flown without shaking themselves apart, the manufacturers will have to prove whether each aircraft can live up to the hype.
And then the Army will begin to make its choice, setting the tone of military aviation for the next few decades.
Hollywood works hard to produce great movies, there’s no doubt about that. Plenty of industry professionals are working around the clock, 7 days per week, to provide top-shelf entertainment to the masses. And while (most) studios try their best to depict military tactics as accurately as possible, they often fall short. One area in particular where they always seem to get things wrong is urban combat — specifically, the most fundamental component: clearing buildings.
Now, don’t get us wrong — there are plenty of movies that nail it perfectly (typically the ones with a good military adviser, hint hint) but we’ve seen plenty of mistakes make it all the way to the silver screen. After all, there’s a reason I’m writing this article.
Here are some of the most basic rules that get broken consistently in movies.
If you’ve got someone watching your back, no worries.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Melanie A Wolf)
Never enter a room alone
It’s the cardinal rule of military operations in urban terrain (or, MOUT): You should never, under any circumstances, enter a room by yourself. At minimum, you need to bring one other person with you. If you enter a room alone, you could get cut down by an enemy and there’d be nobody to back you up.
Time and time again, we’ll see brazen heroes kick down doors solo — even when they’ve got teammates available.
Drop your gun, enemy drops you.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Jesus Sepulveda Torres)
Keep your gun up
Keep your gun up; keep your guard up. If a building hasn’t been cleared yet (we’ll get to that in a minute), your gun should remain ready to go. If you drop it in an unclear house, you could be caught off guard at the wrong moment — and it could mean the end of you.
We can’t tell you how many times we’ve seen characters walk through houses with their muzzles pointed at the dirt.
You better yell like someone’s life depends on it.
Everything you see, everything you hear, and everything in between needs to be communicated or repeated. No one can see every space of the room, so it’s your job to tell everyone else what you see. This way, if you find enemies, everyone in your unit knows immediately.
We’ve seen plenty of shows and movies that feature silent warriors that rely on hand signals. In fact, one of the only times we’ve seen it done right was in Sons of Anarchy. In the second episode of the third season, the Sons close in on the location of the leader of a rival gang. As they move through the house, they communicate every little thing loudly and clearly. Leave it to the lawless to abide by the rules of war.
Make sure to maintain muzzle awareness as well.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Jesus Sepulveda Torres)
Move your muzzle with your eyes
If you turn your head, your gun goes with it. If your gun isn’t locked with your eyes, you’ll need an extra second to get it there if things go south. Needless to say, your enemy doesn’t want to give you that extra second.
Characters in movies are always looking around without their gun, even when the character is supposed to be some Special Ops badass.
You never know when an enemy is hiding in a corner or under a table.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Garrett White)
Check every space
A building can only be declared “clear” when every space has been observed. If a building has a basement, attic, or both — you better check ’em. Drawers, cabinets, closets, shelves, holes in the walls — it all gets inspected. If it doesn’t, that one drawer you decided was okay could have a f*cking bomb in it.
Funnily enough, in movies, when a character doesn’t follow this rule, they’ll often been made an example for the rest of the squad.
The purpose of combat is to deny the enemy control an area by inflicting the largest loss of life possible. When a friendly troop is wounded on the battlefield, the first step in first aid is to remove the enemy through violence or repel them long enough to retrieve the Marine and bring them to safety. This is the primary reason why Corpsmen have a rifle – to protect their patient during Tactical Field Care. The best thing a Marine can do to immediately help a casualty is kill the aggressor.
An Individual First Aid Kit (IFAK) is to be used on yourself, not for others. Therefore, every troop is issued an IFAK and must wear them consistent with their battalion’s Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). First Aid and Combat Life Saver drills are regularly trained in the infantry to the point where they can be done in the dark. Additional items can be added but these essentials cannot be taken out.
Marines across all ranks are trained in the use of these items, considerations and prevention of common mistakes when employing these medical devices. Certified training and practical application are supervised to prevent injury from improper use in training. So, if you are a civilian, do not just grab an IFAK and start practicing on your family.
This typically applies to life threatening bleeding from an extremity. Amputations, severe lacerations, gunshot wounds can all be treated quickly and effectively using a tourniquet. This is the only medical treatment performed if there is still a threat present. If there is no threat present, junctional wounds can be packed with gauze or a hemostatic agent to control bleeding.
To help keep the wound clean and minimize contamination, gloves are provided in all IFAKs to be used by the person treating the owner of the IFAK.
For sterilization and cleaning of an area.
To treat minor wounds.
Used to secure other items provided in an IFAK.
When applied to a wound, causes the wound to develop a clot that will stop the flow of blood and will remain within the wound until removed by medical personnel…Combat Gauze is a 3×4 inch roll of sterile gauze that is impregnated with kaolin, which helps promote blood clotting…The combination of sterile gauze and proprietary inorganic material allows Combat Gauze to be non-allergenic.
Field Medical Training Battalion, Camp Pendleton, CA, Combat Lifesaver/Tactical Combat Casualty Care Student Handout
Back in 2009 when I first entered the fleet, IFAKs contained Quickclot, which was used to heat seal open wounds in conjunction with bandages. I remember my Corpsman saying that it caused additional problems during surgery for the casualty. The controversial use of Quickclot also brought up chemical concerns. By 2010, Quickclot was phased out and Combat Gauze was used to stop the bleeding by packing a wound with as many as needed to create a clot. Combat Gauze can also be used to make a pressure dressing.
A Triangular Bandage can be used as a sling or improvised as a tourniquet. It can be adapted to be used as the Combat Life Saver Handout states “The only limitations are on the CLS’s (Combat Life Saver) imagination.”
Used to treat burn injuries
The H bandage is used to treat bleeding wounds and abdominal wounds. It has a bigger pad and a longer dressing to be able to wrap around the patient. It has a H shaped clasp to allow better cinching to provide pressure, thus the name.
Used for cleaning and water purification.
Additional supplies not provided in an IFAK:
You read that right. Corpsman are known to carry around tampons because they are really good at absorbing blood. The first time a Marine sees a Corpsman pull one out there is usually a giggle. That is, until the Corpsman tells said Marine it’s for bullet wounds. No more giggles.
Feature image: U.S. Marine Corps/ Sgt. Justin Huffy
One of the most effective hand-to-hand combat techniques taught today — and one that has become closely identified with the Jewish state that embraced it — Krav Maga – was a product of the Nazi-era streets of pre-World War II Czechoslovakia.
The martial art’s inventor, Imi Lichtenfeld was quite the athlete. Born in Budapest in 1910, he spent his early years training to be a boxer, wrestler and gymnast with his father. The elder Lichtenfeld was also a policeman who taught self-defense. Under his father’s tutelage, Imi won championships in all his athletic disciplines. But fighting in a ring required both people to follow certain rules. Street fights don’t have rules, Imi Lichtenfeld thought, and he wanted to be prepared for that.
At the end of the 1930s, anti-Semitic riots struck Bratislava, Czechoslovakia, where Imi and his family were then living. Like many large cities in the region, the rise of National Socialism, or Nazism, created an anti-Jewish fervor that took young men to the streets to assault innocent and often unsuspecting Jews.
When the streets of his neighborhood became increasingly violent, Lichtenfeld decided to teach a group of his Jewish neighbors some self-defense moves. It came in the form of a technique that would help them protect themselves while attacking their opponent – a method that showed no mercy for those trying to kill the Chosen People.
Young Imi taught his friends what would later be called “Krav Maga.”
Translated as “contact-combat” in Hebrew, Krav Maga is designed to prepare the user for real-world situations. The martial art efficiently attacks an opponent’s most vulnerable areas to neutralize him as quickly as possible, uses everything in arm’s reach as a weapon, and teaches the user to be aware of every potential threat in the area. It developed into one of the most effective hand-to-hand techniques ever devised.
Krav Maga’s widespread use began in the Israel Defence Force, who still train in the martial art. These days, Krav Maga is a go-to fighting style widely used by various military and law enforcement agencies. In 1930s Europe, it was a godsend. Lichtenfeld’s technique taught Bratislava’s Jews how to simultaneously attack and defend themselves while delivering maximum pain and punishment on their attackers.
Imi Lichtenfeld escaped Europe in 1940 after the Nazis marched into Czechoslovakia. He arrived in the British Mandate of Palestine in 1942 (after considerable struggles along the way) and was quickly inducted into the Free Czech Legion of the British Army in North Africa. He served admirably and the Haganah and Palmach – Jewish paramilitary organizations that were forerunners of what we call today the Israel Defence Forces – noticed his combat skill right away.
After Israel won its independence, Lichtenfeld gave his now-perfected martial art of Krav Maga to the IDF and became the Israeli Army’s chief hand-to-hand combat instructor. He even modified it for law enforcement and civilians.
Lichtenfeld taught Krav Maga until 1987 when he retired from the IDF. He died in 1998, after essentially teaching the world’s Jewish population how to defend themselves when no one would do it for them.