When it comes to missiles, France’s anti-ship Exocet is one of the most notorious. And this is for good reason.
The Falklands War put this ship-killer on the map after it sank the destroyer HMS Sheffield and the Atlantic Conveyor. In 1987, the Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate USS Stark (FFG 31) survived two Exocet hits from an Iraqi plane.
But while the Exocet is easily France’s most recognizable missile, it is not the most deadly. That honor belongs to a missile known as the M51, which is carried aboard the four Le Triomphant-class ballistic missile submarines serving in the French Navy.
According to the Nuclear Weapons Archive, the TN-75 has a yield of 100 kilotons. Using the NUKEMAP from NuclearSecrecy.org, is a TN-75 were detonated 500 feet over the La Brea tar pits, it would kill nearly 150,000 people and injure just under 495,000.
The fireball would wipe out the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, while the blast wave would destroy the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust. Cedars Sinai Medical Center, one of the most well-known hospitals in the country, would be seriously damaged. That’s just from one warhead. The other five would likely impact other parts of Los Angeles.
In short, a city the size of LA could be wiped off the map by the pattern of French warheads. Each of France’s Le Triomphant-class submarines can carry 16 M51s.
Find out more about this missile in the video below.
The Navy is firing weapons, engaging in combat scenarios, and refining warfighting tactics through a rigorous training regiment aimed at better preparing the sea service for massive warfare on the open ocean.
Described by Navy officials as “high-velocity learning,” Surface Warfare Advanced Tactical Training (SWATT) is focused on speeding up combat decision making and responding in real time to emerging high-tech enemy weapons such as missiles, lasers, sea mines, long-range anti-ship missiles, and torpedoes, among others.
“We are focused on the high-end fight” Cmdr. Emily Royse, SWATT leader, told Warrior Maven in an interview.
The emphasis also has a heavy academic focus, lead by specially prepared Warfare Tactics Instructors, aimed at briefing — and then debriefing — a range of operational maritime warfare scenarios.
“For each training type we focus on sea control type events. Warfare units are presented with a scenario and we are there to help them through the decision making process to help them fight that scenario. For surface warfare, for instance, they might plan how they are going to get all their ships through narrow, high-risk straights or how to respond to small boat threats,” Royse added.
The training crosses a wide swath of maritime combat missions, to include mine countermeasures, Amphibious Ready Groups, Carrier Strike Groups, and other elements of surface warfare. The idea is to further establish and refine tactics, techniques, and procedures needed for major warfare against high-tech enemies.
“Sea control objective is to ensure that our forces are able to move freely within the sea lanes and ensure that they are free from threats or able to counter threats,” Royse said.
U.S. Navy ships assigned to the USS George Washington Carrier Strike Group sail in formation for a strike group photo in the Caribbean Sea.
Some of the particular kinds of enemy weapons these courses anticipate for the future include a range of emerging new systems — to include lasers, rail-guns, and long-range missiles, among other technologies.
Not surprisingly, these courses appear as somewhat of a linear outgrowth or tactical manifestation of the Navy’s 2016 Surface Force Strategy document. Tilted “Return to Sea Control,” the strategy paper lists a number of specific enemy threat areas of concern focused upon by course trainers.
Examples of threats cited by the strategy paper include “anti-ship ballistic and cruise missiles, integrated and layered sensor systems, targeting networks, long-range bombers, advanced fighter aircraft, submarines, mines, advanced integrated air defenses, electronic warfare, and cyber and space technologies.”
Much like the training courses and the Surface Force Strategy, the Navy’s Distributed Maritime Operations Concept also builds upon the Navy’s much-discussed “distributed lethality” strategy, in place now for a number of years. This strategic approach emphasizes the need to more fully arm the fleet with offensive and defensive weapons and disperse forces as needed.
Having cyber, space, and missile weapons — along with over-the-horizon ship and air-launched weapons — are relevant to offensive attack as well as the “distributed” portion of the strategy. Having an ability to defend against a wider range of attacks and strike from long-distances enables the fleet to spread out and conduct dis-aggregated operations, making US Navy forces less vulnerable to enemy firepower.
Interestingly, the pressing need to emphasize offensive attack in the Navy fleet appears to have roots in previous Navy strategic thinking.
The U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Enterprise, the world’s first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, steams alongside the French nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Charles De Gaulle.
(U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate Airman Doug Pearlman)
Part of the overall strategic rationale is to move the force back toward open or “blue water” combat capability against near peer competitors, such as that which was emphasized during the Cold War. While the importance of this kind of strategic and tactical thinking never disappeared, these things were emphasized less during the last 15-plus years of ground wars wherein the Navy focused on counter-terrorism, securing the international waterways, counter-piracy and things like Visit Board Search and Seizure.
These missions are, of course, still important, however the Navy seeks to substantially increase its offensive “lethality” given that rivals such as Russia and China have precision-guided anti-ship missiles able to hit targets at ranges greater than 900 miles in some cases. The advent of new cyber and electronic warfare attack technologies, enemy drones and the rapid global proliferation of sea mines all present uniquely modern nuances when compared to previous Cold-War strategic paradigms.
Nevertheless, the most current Naval Surface Warfare Strategy does, by design, appear to be somewhat of a higher-tech, modern adaptation of some fundamental elements of the Navy’s Cold-War-era approach — a time when major naval warfare against a Soviet force was envisioned as a realistic contingency.
A 1987 essay titled “Strategy Concept of the US Navy,” published by Naval History and Heritage Command, cites the importance of long-range offensive firepower and targeting sensors in a geographically dispersed or expansive open ocean warfare environment. The paper goes so far as to say the very survivability of US Naval Forces and the accomplishment of their missions depends upon offensive firepower.
“Integrated forces may be geographically distant, but their movements, sensors, and weapons are coordinated to provide maximum mutual support and offensive capability,” the paper writes.
The Cold War-era Strategic Concepts document also specifies that “Naval defensive capability should include long-range detection systems such as airborne early warning, quick reacting command and control systems and effective defensive weapons systems.”
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.
CAMP PENDLETON, California — US Marine Corps 60 mm mortar teams can drop explosive rounds on their enemies from over 1,000 meters away, and Insider recently had the opportunity to watch them do it.
During a visit to Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Insider observed a mortar crew firing off multiple rounds using an M224 60 mm light mortar, which is a high-angle-of-fire weapon that can be drop- or trigger-fired.
The training was carried out as part of the latest iteration of Iron Fist, an exercise that involves various training evolutions leading up to a large amphibious assault.
Cpl. Kevin Rodriguez, an experienced mortarman who said he chose the mortar because he wanted to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps, walked Insider through the ins and outs of firing a mortar and what it takes.
60 mm mortars are typically handled by a crew of Marines.
Mortar crews have a gunner, an assisting gunner (squad leader), and an ammunition man. The crew is often supported by a forward observer and a fire direction center.
When they’re on the move, the three main crew members divide the weapon components, like the gun, the bipod, the sight, and the baseplate, among themselves with no one person carrying the entire weapon.
A crew can set up or tear down a mortar in two minutes.
In combat, the team works together to put fire down range. Standard operating procedure is that the fire direction center first passes range data to the gunner, who puts that into the sight and manipulates the weapon accordingly.
The ammo bearer then hands a prepared round to the assisting gunner, who drops the live round on command. Teams practice every day for months to develop a flawless rhythm.
The 60 mm mortar can be fired on the ground or in a handheld configuration.
A lot of different considerations go into firing this weapon.
There is the gun. “You can breathe on it the wrong way, and it will be completely off,” Rodriguez told Insider.
There is the round. Mortar crews can set it to burst in the air, explode on impact, or detonate a few seconds after impact, giving it the ability to penetrate a bunker.
Then there is figuring out exactly how to get the round to the target, and that involves different range calculations, as well as considerations like temperature, wind speed, and drift, among other things.
Weather is also an important factor. Rain, even light rain, for example, can result in wet charges, making a misfire or the firing of a short round more likely and risking a friendly-fire situation. There are covers to help protect the weapon and the rounds from the elements.
There are two different methods Marine mortar teams use to effectively target an enemy.
Range calculations are estimations at best. An experienced mortarman can eyeball the distance to his target, but it tends to take a few shots to get rounds falling in the right spot.
The quickest and most effective targeting approach is called bracketing. Mortar crews fire behind or in front of a target and then split the distance in half until rounds are coming down on the target.
Or, as Insider watched a crew do at Camp Pendleton, Marine mortar crews can use creeping fire to target an enemy, inching closer to the target with each round. This is not as fast as bracketing and requires more rounds, about five or six.
But creeping fire can be a pretty good option when you’re dealing with a lot of dead space, terrain features that make range estimates harder.
A mortar section usually has three guns delivering damage to a large area.
Mortars set the conditions for other units by keeping bigger threats at bay.
The mortar crews are tasked with “taking out the bigger targets, or at least keeping their heads down long enough for the machine guns to start suppressing enemies,” Rodriguez said. “The [other infantry units] are more the cleanup. They can move from one place to another.”
During the training at Camp Pendleton, the mortars practiced pinning down light armor while crews with M240 machine guns put fire on targets from a nearby ridge.
The mortars and the machine guns cleared the way for several infantry squads to maneuver into position. Each mortar round has a casualty radius of about 25 meters.
Commander, Submarine Force, US Pacific Fleet (COMSUBPAC) in partnership with the University of Hawaii, tested their unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) capabilities by delivering supplies onto a submarine off the coast of Oahu, Hawaii, Oct. 10, 2019.
The UAV took a 5-pound payload consisting of circuit cards, medical supplies, and food to the Virginia-class fast-attack submarine USS Hawaii (SSN 776) while it was underway.
“What started as an innovative idea has come to fruition as a potentially radical new submarine logistics delivery capability,” said Lt. Cmdr. Christopher Keithley, assigned to COMSUBPAC. “A large percentage of parts that are needed on submarines weigh less than 5 pounds, so this capability could alleviate the need for boats to pull into ports for parts or medical supplies.”
An unmanned aerial vehicle delivers a 5-pound package to the USS Hawaii during an exercise off the coast of Oahu, Oct. 10, 2019.
(US Navy photo by Mass Comm Specialist 1st Class Michael B. Zingaro)
The concept itself came from the Commander, Submarine Force Innovation Lab (iLab) one year ago. Since then the iLab, in partnership with the University of Hawaii Applied Research Lab, has worked on developing the means to make it possible.
“Our sailors are visionaries. Their ideas benefit the submarine force, making an incredible difference,” said Rear Adm. Blake Converse, commander, Submarine Force, US Pacific Fleet. “We are already seeing the impact that this one idea can have on the entire fleet. The joint effort between the sailors at COMSUBPAC and the University of Hawaii has resulted in delivering necessary supplies to submarines that can save time and money, allowing us to stay in the fight.”
This idea led to the creation of the Submarine Force’s first UAV squadron at CSP. Submarine sailors stationed at Pearl Harbor volunteered to attend weekly training at Bellows Air Force Station, in Waimanalo, Hawaii, to become proficient drone pilots and to develop the concept of converting a UAV and a submarine sail into a package delivery and receiving platform.
Outrigger Canoe Club members escort the USS Hawaii as it arrives at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, June 6, 2019.
(Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Charles Oki)
“Members of University of Hawaii Applied Research Lab worked alongside COMSUBPAC sailors to develop a ‘snag’ pole and payload release mechanism from the drone, practicing the concept using the prototypes on the back of trucks and jeeps,” said Keithley. “As the training progressed and the drone innovations became more reliable, the team was able to demonstrate the capability onto a small patrol boat out of Pearl Harbor.”
After final adjustments and last-minute training, the team assembled on the shore of western Oahu and flew a small 5-pound payload over a mile offshore to USS Hawaii.
“The snag pole and drone delivery mechanisms performed perfectly as the payload of parts was safely delivered onboard the submarine, making history as the first ever drone delivery onboard an underway submarine,” said Keithley.
“I am very proud of the joint effort and the capability they have created out of nearly thin air. The success of this project is a true testament to the ingenuity of our team and I am very thankful for them and our submarine sailors, who volunteered their time to make it a success.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The Littoral Combat Ship program has had a rocky history, characterized by many ups and downs. USS Freedom (LCS 1), a variant designed by a team led by Lockheed, notched one of the highs during a 2010 deployment to Southern Command, during which it quickly racked up four drug busts. Unfortunately for the LCS, for every high, there have been many lows.
Both the Freedom- and Independence-class vessels experienced many breakdowns. Last year, one ship got iced in. Additionally, the basic armament suite just doesn’t pack that much of a punch — the littoral combat ships have a single 57mm gun, a launcher for the RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile, a few M2 .50-caliber machine guns, and an MH-60R Seahawk.
The littoral combat ship USS Freedom (LCS 1) conducts flight deck certification with an MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter assigned to the Sea Knights of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 22.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Nathan Laird)
That kind of firepower isn’t bad for a Coast Guard cutter, but for a warship, it’s just wimpy. By comparison, Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates (which the littoral combat ships were to replace) pack a Mk 13 missile launcher that typically carries 36 RIM-66 Standard SM-1 surface-to-air missiles and four RGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missiles, a 76mm gun, two triple 324mm torpedo tube mounts, and a Mk 15 Phalanx close-in weapon system in addition to an MH-60 helicopter.
As a result, the Navy has cut the LCS program from 52 vessels down to 40. Now, the Navy wants to buy guided-missile frigates. To that end, Lockheed is putting forth a version of the Freedom, called the “Freedom Frigate.” In essence, this is a LCS that will have a lot more firepower.
For starters, it will pack at least 16 cells in a Mk 41 vertical launch system and be able to fire RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles, the Standard family of surface-to-air missiles, RUM-139 Vertical Launch ASROCs, and BGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missiles. Not only that, the new FFG(X) will also pack eight anti-ship missiles and countermeasures against enemy missiles and torpedoes.
This model at the SeaAirSpace expo in National Harbor, Maryland shows some of the upgraded firepower that the FFG(X) variant of the Freedom-class littoral combat ship will pack.
The Navy plans to pick its new FFG in 2020. The Freedom is facing off against four other contenders, including one from Spain.
The U.S. Department of Defense is exploring options that would see drones fitted with lasers that could shoot down incoming enemy missiles.
The U.S. Missile Defense Agency tested a “directed-energy airborne laser” that can be fired from a drone, according to a report by the Last Vegas Review-Journal. Theoretically, the new weapon would allow the U.S. to fly drones over suspected enemy ballistic missile launch sites, allowing them to shoot down any missiles shortly after launch.
“Our vision is to shift the calculus of our potential adversaries by introducing directed energy into the ballistic missile defense architecture,” agency spokesman Christopher Johnson told the Review-Journal. “This could revolutionize missile defense, dramatically reducing the role of kinetic interceptors.”
The laser-mounted drones would add another layer of missile defense to U.S. capabilities. The drones offer an advantage over current missile defense systems, which rely on an intricate system of radars and satellites that guide a missile interceptor to a target. The laser drones would be much simpler and possibly just as effective, as they could loiter in a potential launch area and take out an enemy missile before it gets too far in its course. Current systems require an enemy missile to be in mid-course or descent phases before a traditional interceptor can be deployed.
North Korea would be a likely potential deployment for such a system. North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un has engaged in more than 20 missile tests, the most recent of which occurred Feb. 12. The missile tested was propelled by solid fuel, as opposed to combustible liquid, marking a major advance in missile technology. Solid fuel missiles are more dangerous, as they can be concealed on mobile launchers.
The idea for drones armed with lasers originated with former President Ronald Reagan’s “Star Wars” missile defense shield, part of which envisioned using space-based lasers to shoot down incoming Soviet missiles. While Reagan’s contemporary critics scoffed at the project, it helped spawn missile defense systems used today.
Laser-armed drones as an effective missile deterrent is still in the planning stages. The top major defense contractors — including Boeing, General Atomics, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Raytheon — are all currently involved in a $230 million, five year-long demonstration program at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. The Pentagon will engage in the first official demonstrations of laser-armed drones in 2020 and 2021, according to Johnson.
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When you hear the word Jaguar in conjunction with England, your first reaction might be to think about the brand of luxury cars. Can’t blame you, they do look very nice. However, there is a Jaguar that took to the skies, and the British designed and built it (with a little help from the French).
To understand how this flying Jaguar came about, we need to go back to the time when the Beatles were spearheading the British invasion. According to militaryfactory.com, the British and French both needed new planes. The British were trying to replace the Folland Gnat, while the French needed to replace T-33 and Magister training jets, as well as the Dassault Mystere fighters.
The two countries decided to team up, and in 1966 formed the Société Européenne de Production de l’avion Ecole de Combat et d’Appui Tactique, or SEPECAT. The first prototypes took to the air three years later, and in 1972, the Jaguar entered French service as a strike aircraft and trainer, while the British GR.1 version entered service in 1974.
The Jaguar specialized in low-level operations, presaging those of the multi-national Tornado in the 1980s and 1990s. It was also fast, capable of a top speed of 1,056 miles per hour. It could carry up to 10,000 pounds of bombs, and British Jaguars could carry the AIM-9 Sidewinder missile on unique over-wing rails. Ecuador, Nigeria, and Oman all bought export versions of the Jaguar, but one export customer really outdid the original.
The Indian Air Force bought the Jaguar to supplement its MiG-27 Flogger ground attack planes. Just as India did with the Flogger, the Jaguar, which India calls Shamsher, was improved beyond the original specs. According to bharat-rakshak.com, when India was offered a degraded internal navigation system, they came up with one superior to the original model. India’s Jaguars also feature more powerful engines and are capable of firing the Sea Eagle anti-ship missile.
Fittingly, while all other users of this aircraft have retired this plane, Globalsecurity.org reports that India’s Jaguars are expected to remain in service for another 20 years with continued upgrades. You can see a video about this plane below.
Helicopters have been very versatile, serving as anything from transports to gunships. But they haven’t been all that fast. According to AirForce-Technology.com, the fastest helicopter in military service is the CH-47F Chinook, which has a top speed of 195 mph.
That could change if the Sikorsky S-97 enters service with the U.S. Army. With a top speed of at least 253 mph, it blows the competition away — even if it isn’t quite as fast as Airwolf.
But hey, the technology is getting pretty close.
But the S-97 isn’t just fast. According to Lockheed, this futuristic helo, with contra-rotating main rotors and a pusher in the tail, can carry AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, Hydra 2.75-inch rockets, and will shoot a 7.62mm machine gun or a .50-caliber machine gun. Four can fit inside a C-17 Globemaster transport. Lockheed notes that the S-97 can also carry up to six troops in its cabin.
Lockheed says that the S-97 could fill other roles besides the armed reconnaissance role that the AH-64 Apache has taken over, including as a search and rescue helicopter, a multi-mission special operations helicopter — and there’s even a proposed unmanned variant. The S-97 can also be refueled in flight.
One area the helicopter could excels is in the so-called “high and hot” climates that have often limited other helicopters. Lockheed claims the helicopter can hover at 10,000 feet in an air temperature of 95 degrees.
Lockheed is marketing the S-97 Raider to not just the Army and Special Operations Command, but states that the S-97 could also fill missions for the Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force. You can see a video about this futuristic helicopter below.
A $110 million Nigerien air base constructed by the US will finally begin counterterrorism operations using intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) drones after delays due to inclement weather conditions, the military announced on Nov. 1, 2019.
“We are working with our African and international partners to counter security threats in West Africa,” US Africa Command (AFRICOM), the combatant command overseeing US operations in the continent, said in a statement. “The construction of this base demonstrates our investment in our African partners and mutual security interests in the region.”
The base is called Nigerien Air Base 201, and is located in the desert region of Agadez, a strategic transit area for migrants. Both US and Nigerien aircraft will use the runways to launch armed and unarmed air assets against extremists operating in West and North Africa, the military said.
While the US-constructed base will be under Nigerien control, American forces will have exclusive use of around 20% of the roughly 9-mile base, military officials previously said to Stars and Stripes.
The base was expected to be operational in 2018, but the rainy season and other “environmental complexities” caused a delay, a US official said to The Air Force Times.
Here’s are some key details about Nigerien Air Base 201:
An Airman from the 724th Expeditionary Air Base Squadron marshals a C-130J Super Hercules at Nigerien Air Base 201, Agadez, Niger, August 3, 2019. This was the first C-130 to take-off at Air Base 201, marking the beginning of limited Visual Flight Rules operations at the base.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Devin Boyer)
Around 600 US Air Force Airmen are estimated to deploy for six-month tours.
The construction process of the base proved to be a challenge for around 350 service members involved in the project. Dry conditions caused concrete to dry and crack freshly-poured concrete.
“We’re building a base from nothing, from scratch,” US Air Force Lt. Col. Brad Harbaugh said in 2018. “This was all historically nomadic land.”
A US Air Force air advisor gives instructions to a Niger Armed Forces member while an interpreter translates the instructions during a training exercise at Nigerien Air Base 201 in Agadez, Niger, July 10, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Devin Boyer)
Numerous terrorist group operate within the region.
In a new report released by the State Department on Friday, US officials say terrorist groups like Boko Haram and ISIS continue to operate in the region. US analysts say that terrorist elements have proliferated due to Niger’s limited military and budget.
Niger Armed Forces members clear a corridor during a training exercise with the US military at the Nigerien Air Base 201 in Agadez, Niger, July 10, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Devin Boyer)
Four US troops and four Nigerien soldiers were killed in a 2017 terrorist ambush.
On October 4, 2017, 11 US troops and 30 Nigerien forces were ambushed by ISIS-related militants near the Niger-Mali border.
Four US troops were killed, in addition to four Nigerien partner forces, in a battle against overwhelming terrorist forces. The US military awarded six medals to the Nigerien soldiers who fought in the battle, including two Bronze Stars.
A US-led investigation found that US’s ISR assets did not have enough fuel to provide cover for American forces, in addition to inadequate rest for the troops. Roughly an hour and a half after the battle began, two French fighter jets responded by driving the enemy forces away.
US Airmen load a C-130J Super Hercules at Nigerien Air Base 201, Agadez, Niger, Aug. 3, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Lexie West)
Since 2013, the number of US troops in Niger has risen.
In 2013, President Barack Obama announced that 100 US service members would deploy to Niger for “intelligence collection.”
Roughly 800 US troops were operating in Niger by 2018. The terrain and its borders with Chad and Mali make the country an optimal transit route for terrorist militants seeking to travel to Europe, according to the State Department.
In 2018, AFRICOM publicly announced it had started deploying armed drones in a separate Nigerien base, dubbed Air Base 101, near the capital of Niamey.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
To observe the 75th anniversary of D-Day, the US Air Force’s 48th Fighter Wing took 3 F-15 Eagles and gave them incredible paint jobs, reminiscent of the colorful and squadron-specific adornments featured on American fighters during the Second World War.
One jet from each of the 48th’s fast mover units — the 492d, the 493d, and the 494th Fighter Squadrons — was briefly pulled from service to be spruced up with a custom color scheme selected by members of the 48th Equipment Maintenance Squadron.
Both the 492d “Madhatters” and the 494th “Panthers” fly F-15E Strike Eagles, the Air Force’s premier all-weather multirole strike fighter, while the 493d “Grim Reapers” flies the F-15C/D Eagle.
An F-15E Strike Eagle of the 492d Fighter Squadron in WWII paint (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Matthew Plew)
The first jet to receive the planned makeover is a Strike Eagle of the 492d, painted with “invasion stripes” used to distinguish friendly Allied from enemy Axis aircraft, a red checkerboard pattern on the nose similar to those found on WWII-era P-47 Thunderbolts, as well as a Statue of Liberty on the vertical stabilizers.
According to Stars Stripes, the repaint operation on a single F-15 took 640 man hours, spread between 10 airmen, and required just around ,000 worth of supplies to complete.
The 48th Fighter Wing is one of a number of modern American fighter units which can trace its lineage back to the Second World War. Back during the 1940s, the unit was officially designated the 48th Fighter Group, and its subordinate squadrons played an important part in Operation Overlord.
The repainted 492d F-15E parked next to a P-47 with its period-accurate WWII scheme (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Matthew Plew)
On June 6, 1944, the 48th’s three squadrons of P-47s took to the skies above Normandy, France as part of a larger flight of hundreds upon hundreds of other Allied combat aircraft. In the blistering aerial campaign that ensued, the 48th’s pilots flew over 2000 sorties, attacking scores of German military targets in support of the ground invasion force.
By the end of the invasion, the 48th had expended almost 500 tons of bombs, destroying German supply routes including bridges and rail lines, gun and artillery emplacements, and hardened German infantry positions.
The P-47s, popularly known as “Jugs” because they looked similar to a milk jug at the time, were fearsome fighter-bombers in their heyday. The Eagles and Strike Eagles that the 48th flies today would be just as worthy of carrying the same markings as their predecessors, serving as some of the most advanced and deadliest military aircraft in existence today.
The repainted F-15s will be just one of many upcoming segments the 48th will use to commemorate D-Day, which historians unequivocally agree was the turning point in the European Theater during WWII.
On July 9, a female National Guard soldier became the first woman to graduate from U.S. Army Special Forces training since Capt. Katie Wilder did so in 1980, earning the coveted Green Beret. The woman, whose identity the Army is withholding for personnel security purposes, joins more than a dozen women who have completed elite schools that were only available to men until the Pentagon opened all combat jobs, including special operations positions, to women in 2016.
Coffee or Die spoke with several men who served in special operations units alongside women in combat to get their thoughts on the historic event.
Special Forces soldiers from the U.S. Army’s 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) conduct an AAR after Counter Improvised Explosive Device training at Panzer Local Training area near Stuttgart, Germany, June. 10, 2020. Photo by Patrik Orcutt/U.S. Army.
Luke Ryan, right, served as a team leader with 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment. Photo courtesy of Luke Ryan/Coffee or Die.
Retired Army Master Sergeant Jariko Denman served with the 75th Ranger Regiment for 16 years.
“In Afghanistan, women in Cultural Support Teams (CSTs) attached to us and other special operations forces, including Green Berets and [U.S. Navy] SEALs. CSTs were enablers, just like explosive ordnance disposal techs or others whose specialties we needed to support our missions.
“On my last four deployments as a task force senior enlisted advisor, we had CSTs with us, so I’ve been in firefights with women, chasing down bad guys alongside them. There was never a case in my experience of women weighing us down. I can’t say that for every other enabler who attached to us. Women coming into that job realized they were going into that hyperkinetic environment, and they brought their ‘A’ game. They knew they could not be a weak link, so they came in shape, and they were very successful.
“For any leader building a team, we know the team isn’t as strong if everybody looks and thinks the same. You want a diversity of skills and backgrounds because that diversity reflects your needs. High-performing individuals who have vastly different life experiences are an asset in SOF.
“As long as we maintain the same SOF qualification standards for everyone, I think women in SOF are just as capable as men, and I’m glad to see more women joining our ranks and getting the same special designations men have always had the opportunity to attain.”
Joe and Shannon Kent with their sons. Photo courtesy of Joe Kent/Coffee or Die.
Luke Ryan served as an Army Ranger and team leader with 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment.
“I was on the mission where Captain Jenny Moreno was killed in action in October 2013. She was a nurse by trade but was attached to my Ranger platoon as a Cultural Support Team (CST) member. When she saw that several of my Ranger buddies had been seriously wounded, she moved to help them without regard for her own safety. She was killed in the process. That kind of selfless bravery is something I will never forget. I hold her in the same high regard as I hold my Ranger brethren who were killed doing the same thing.
“Women have already been fighting in special operations components for years. That part isn’t new. They were attached to our unit for my four deployments, and I will never doubt the ability of a woman to be courageous and effective on the battlefield. Moreno didn’t have a Ranger scroll, but in my opinion, she earned one. If I see her in the next life, I’ll give her mine.
“As far as integrating into traditional special operations units, I’ve seen the courage of women in SOF tested on the battlefield, and I’m in full support of it. As long as standards are maintained, allowing women in SOF will be a non-issue.”
Rob Garnett in Eastern Afghanistan on his last deployment in 2010. Photo courtesy of Rob Garnett/One More Wave.
Retired Chief Warrant Officer 3 Joe Kent served as a Ranger and Special Forces operator. His wife, Senior Chief Petty Officer Shannon Kent, was killed while serving on a special operations task force in the fight against ISIS in 2019.
“My wife trained as an Arabic linguist and signals intelligence collector. In Iraq, special operations forces relied heavily on intelligence professionals who had to work with local Iraqis to develop informants and gather intelligence for our missions. Iraqi women often had intelligence we needed, and women like Shannon stepped up to provide a capability that none of us had. Her contributions gave us a more complete picture of whatever situation we were heading into, which was invaluable.
“As years went on, Shannon gained more and more trust in the SOF community, and her performance in special operations opened doors for other intelligence professionals to try out for special operations forces.
“Anyone who has served alongside women in special operations should know it was just a matter of time before a woman would wear the Green Beret and Special Forces long tab.
“As Americans, our country has decided we’re going to have this all-volunteer force, so we get the military that shows up and volunteers to go fight. Plenty of women have fought and died, and to say they can’t go be combat arms or special operators is wrong. My wife was good enough to die alongside SEALs and operators on her fifth deployment but not have the same opportunity to prove herself in SOF qualification courses? That’s ridiculous.
“I’m very glad the ban on women serving in combat arms and special operations was lifted, and my hat’s off to the woman who completed Special Forces qualification.”
Nolan Peterson has covered conflict around the world. Photo courtesy of Nolan Peterson/Coffee or Die.
Rob Garnett served as a Navy SEAL for almost 23 years.
“In Baghdad in 2003, I was waiting with an Iraqi Interpreter at one of the entrances to the Green Zone to escort an Iraqi National inside. As vehicles moved through the ‘s curves’ of the base access point, we heard the guards start shouting ‘Stop!’ at a small car approaching the gate. When the vehicle didn’t stop, the soldier standing next to me began firing at the approaching vehicle, and I began to fire as well. The vehicle slowly came to a stop after the driver was killed. As the soldiers moved to inspect the vehicle, they found the trunk was full of 155 rounds made into an IED.
“When I walked over to the soldier who had first engaged the vehicle to say ‘great job,’ I realized this person was not a soldier but an airman, as well as a female. I remember joking with her and saying, ‘No females in combat, right?’ She just smiled and said, ‘Fuck off.’ She told me she didn’t plan on letting anyone inside that wasn’t supposed to be there.
“From my perspective, we aren’t getting female commandos in SOF now; we are getting MORE commandos. We can engage with more of the population when we include females in SOF operations, and I feel like most folks wouldn’t be as concerned about someone’s gender but more about a new team member’s performance.
“I would guess the soldier who completed SF training doesn’t want to be known as the first female SF soldier; she just wants to be a commando like everyone else.”
Nolan Peterson is a former Air Force special operations pilot who served with the 34th Special Operations Squadron.
“On my first deployment to Afghanistan, I served alongside a woman pilot whose impact I’ll never forget. On a long night mission, orbiting above a Taliban compound, helping good guys kill bad guys, I was pretty stressed and anxious. My greatest fear was I’d screw up somehow and get Americans hurt, or worse.
“They measure a pilot’s worth in hours flown because experience matters most. And, lucky for me, I was copilot to a woman who had years of combat experience. She had actually been one of my instructor pilots and played a big role in training me, and I was able to do my job that night in spite of the nervousness — thanks in no small part to the steady leadership and proficient skills of my pilot. It’s easy to do your job well when you’ve got a good example to follow.
“As we left station and started flying back to Bagram, we could see meteors streaking overhead through our night-vision goggles. Then the sun began to peak over the Hindu Kush.
“‘Pretty cool, isn’t it?’ I remember her saying. Then, as if granted permission, I suddenly stopped being so afraid of screwing up and took a moment to appreciate that, yes, this was, in fact, pretty damn cool. Then she told me I’d done well that night and had turned out to be a fine pilot. She was confident I’d go on and make her proud. Since she’d played a key role in training me, my performance was a reflection on her too. That small compliment she gave me was worth more than any medal.
“More than anything, on that debut deployment I’d wanted to prove myself to the people who’d mattered most — that’s to say, the people who’d been to war before me. And that pilot had been to war a lot. Hell, she’d spent most of the best years of her life either in war zones or training for them. She was a warrior, a professional, a mentor, and a damn good pilot. And getting her stamp of approval was one of my proudest moments.
“So when it comes to the recent news of a woman graduating the Special Forces Qualification Course, I think it’s long overdue. Women have been serving in combat and in special operations forces for years. They volunteer for the same risks, assume the same responsibilities and have had to uphold the same standards as their male counterparts. Once the bullets are flying, all that matters is that you’re good at your job. And without a doubt, to make it through the Green Beret selection process, that woman has clearly proven herself to be among the best of the best.”
Disclosure: Nolan Peterson is a senior staff writer for Coffee or Die; Luke Ryan is an associate editor, and Jariko Denman is a contributing writer.
Navy planners have for years been working on ways to make its battle groups less vulnerable to threats from long-range missiles, developing sophisticated radars, close-in defense and using aircraft to keep the bad guys far enough away that a launch would be futile.
But what hasn’t changed is the size and relative lack of maneuverability a Navy ship — especially an aircraft carrier — would have in the open sea.
So China has reportedly developed a specialized anti-ship ballistic missile that it could fire from the mainland and target a specific ship over 1,000 miles away. Dubbed the Dong-Feng-21D, the missile is a two-stage, solid rocket booster with a maneuverable warhead that is reported to be able to avoid ballistic countermeasures.
While Navy analysts are nervous about the missile’s ability to destroy a carrier with one hit screaming out of the atmosphere at Mach 10, others argue that China still has a long way to go before it can find and target a ship over 1,000 miles away and continue updating the DF-21D warhead’s guidance in an electronic countermeasure environment.
The 1950s was a game-changing decade for the world of military aviation, especially with the rise of jet propulsion in place of propeller engines. It was in this decade that the U.S. Air Force came close to fielding one of the most advanced (for its time) “super fighters” ever conceived.
Known as the XF-108 Rapier, and designed by North American – also known for producing the widely successful P-51 Mustang – it was equipped to fly at more than three times the speed of sound for long distances, hunting down and destroying marauding Soviet bombers out to drop nuclear weapons on the US and its allies during the Cold War.
The XF-108 would also be able to complement its larger sibling, the XB-70 Valkyrie bomber, which itself was capable of achieving speeds in the Mach 3 range. Though the Valkyrie’s insane speed would be too much for Soviet air defense systems to handle, it wouldn’t hurt having a smaller fighter escort nearby which could keep up with the bomber, just in case enemy fighters made it too close for comfort.
North American sought to make its newest fighter extremely deadly, adding a Hughes AN/ASG-18 radar that was coupled to an infrared search and tracking system. Together, this sensor suite would be able to lock onto and track targets at long ranges with solid accuracy.
The XF-108’s primary weapon was the GAR-9 missile, which had a range of over 100 miles, and could fly at more than six times the speed of sound on its way to its target. The Rapier would carry three of these on an internal rotary launcher in its belly.
To give it speed, the XF-108 would use two General Electric afterburning turbojets that could pump out over 29,300 pounds of force apiece with the afterburners lit. In comparison, an F/A-18 Super Hornet’s two GE F414 turbofan engines can put out only 22,000 pounds of force apiece in burner!
However, the Rapier lost its mission rapidly with the advent of intercontinental ballistic missiles and guided cruise missiles — the latter of which could be launched from surface warships and submarines floating off the coast of the United States. Instead of sending swarms of bombers, all of which could hypothetically be shot down if responded to quickly enough, the USSR could mail nuclear weapons to the US with ICBMs, which were much more difficult to destroy.
Sadly, the Rapier never had a chance to even fly.
In late 1959, by the end of the decade, the program was shelved altogether, having only made it to the mockup stage. In a matter of months, the XF-108 was no more. Its sister plane, the XB-70 would meet a somewhat similar fate in the next decade, and would be retired from flight testing after a fatal and highly publicized accident.
Some of the technology and lessons learned in designing the XF-108 were put to use with a later North American product – the A-5/RA-5 Vigilante, which bears a considerable resemblance to its predecessor. The GAR-9 was also developed further into the AIM-47 Falcon missile, which would later be matured into the AIM-54 Phoenix, deployed with the F-14 Tomcat.
Mach 3-capable fighter jets have long since been relegated to the history books as an unnecessary hope of the past, but with improvements in propulsion technology, it’s very possible that future fighters fielded by the US military might be blessed with such incredible speed.