The kukri, with its iconic downward curved blade, is a chopping, piercing, slashing, and smashing annihilator. It’s the traditional utility knife of the Nepalese people but most commonly known for its association with the Gurkhas. Some even call it the “Gurkha blade” or “Gurkha knife.”
The weapon became known to the Western world during the Anglo-Nepalese War—or Gurkha War—of 1814 between the East India Company and the Kingdom of Nepal. The conflict started as a border dispute and lasted until 1816. The British company was the invading force, while the Nepalese maintained a defensive position.
During the peace signing Treaty of Sugauli, the British added a clause that allowed them to recruit Gurkha warriors and Himalayan men into its military ranks, and the Gurkhas have been part of the British forces ever since. But the knife—in its current design—can be traced to 13th century Nepal. Some historians place the weapon even further back to around the time of Alexander the Great (356 – 323 BC), making it one of the oldest weapon designs in the world.
Till this day, all Gurkha troops are issued a kukri knife, and for good reason; it’s great for what it does:
The multipurpose tool is used for chopping…
… carving …
… digging …
… slaughtering …
… severely hurting opponents …
… and of course, killing your enemies.
On September 2, 2010, a lone Gurkha warrior was returning home after retiring from the Indian Army when he faced off against 40 armed robbers. He took out his kukri and fought the entire group single-handedly, killing three of them and injuring eight others.
This Cold Steel video shows the effectiveness of the Gurkha kukri knife:
The Pentagon has announced plans to replace the Afghan air force’s inventory of Russian-built Mi-17 “Hip” utility helicopters with American ones, stating that the purchase has turned out to be a bad deal.
According to a report by the Washington Times, the Hips will be replaced by UH-60 Blackhawks. The Russian-built helicopters reportedly were maintenance nightmares, with the Afghan Air Force unable to keep up with the logistical supported needed to address constant breakdowns.
The Hips were initially chosen because defense planners thought Afghan pilots would be more familiar with the Russian-built helicopters. The Obama Administration had praised the Mi-17 in its last report on operations in Afghanistan, calling it the “workhorse” of the Afghan air force. The report noted that 56 Hips were authorized, and 47 were available.
According to Militaryfactory.com, the Mi-17 “Hip” has a crew of three and can carry a wide variety of offensive loads, including rocket pods, 23mm gun pods, and even anti-tank missiles. Army-Technology.com notes that the Russian-built helicopter can carry up to 30 troops.
Over 17,000 Mi-17s and the earlier version, the Mi-8, have been built since the Mi-8 first flew in 1961. The Hip has also been widely exported across the globe, being used by over 20 countries, including China, Argentina, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Iraq.
By comparison, the UH-60 Blackhawk, which also has a crew of three, can only carry 11 troops, according to manufacturer Lockheed Martin. However, the 13th Edition of the Combat Leader’s Field Guide notes that with the seats removed, a Blackhawk can carry up to 22 troops.
The Blackhawk is limited to door guns as its armament. Militaryfactory.com notes that the Blackhawk is used by 26 countries, including Poland, South Korea, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Argentina, Thailand, and Israel.
Some countries have both the UH-60 and Mi-17 in their inventories, notably Iraq, Argentina, China, Thailand, and Mexico.
After creating successful inventions like the mouse trap and the curling iron, inventor Sir Hiram Stevens Maxim would construct a device so lethal, every country couldn’t wait to get their hands on it.
In 1883, Maxim was enjoying an afternoon of shooting his rifle with his friends in Savannah, Georgia, when an idea literally hit him. As Maxim was firing, the recoil was continuously jabbing into his shoulder causing him discomfort and fatigue.
Then it suddenly occurred to him, use one problem to fix the another.
Maxim went to his workshop and drew up plans that would allow the force of the rifle’s recoil to reload the weapon automatically. He discovered that when the round his fired, the bolt can be pushed backward by the recoil. When the barrel is then pushed forward by a spring, it will discharge the spent shell and chambering another round without assistance.
Thus the Maxim machine gun was born.
With his latest creation in hand, Maxim found himself in the machine gun business and on his way to London to released his newest invention.
After his arrival and a few widespread publicity stunts, his machine gun made a serious impact around the world with countries preparing to enter World War I.
Although many men were training with bolt action rifles and fixed bayonets, those who were in the company of the Maxim machine gun without a doubt had the upper hand.
The bear stood about 20 feet to our left on the hillside. In that instant the world around us became still, the river didn’t seem so loud, and, for the first time in my life, I drew my sidearm from its holster. We stood there — me, my father, and a lone cinnamon black bear — for only a few seconds. The bear huffed at us, seemingly unphased by our presence on the trail, and then it was over; the bear walked away, leaving us alone and a bit confused on the trail. We were not far from the Eagle River Nature Center in south-central Alaska, and when the bear was finally gone, I returned my pistol to my Diamond D Chest Holster.
I’ve owned and used three of these holsters over the years, one for each sidearm I’ve carried, and now these holsters are in my closet, sweat-stained and scratched but in perfect functional condition. Made of thick leather, these holsters are meant to withstand a serious beating out in the field. I have never seen one fail in any way, and to be totally honest, I can’t think of any real improvements on the design. The holster body fits snugly, even after hard use softens the leather. The holsters made for semi-automatic handguns come with a small snap to secure the firearm, while revolver holsters have a small leather thong to fit over the hammer.
Photo courtesy of Diamond D Custom Leather.
Diamond D Custom Leather, based in Wasilla, Alaska, makes these holsters by hand, and of the three I’ve owned, I’ve never found a single defect in manufacturing — not a single bad stitch or badly cut edge on the leather. This quality comes at a cost though. The chest holster retails for 5 or more, depending on options like a magazine or speed loader pouch.
And then there’s comfort. I have used this holster for long backpacking expeditions into the wilderness, and after a few miles on the first day, I no longer feel the weight of the holster. The shoulder strap is wide and distributes weight well. Also, I make sure to properly adjust the holster to my frame before setting out, making sure the holster is snug but not too tight. The best holster is the one you don’t notice, and this holster passes that test in spades.
When drawing, the holster is smooth and graceful. The holster body covers the entire trigger guard for safety, and the holster is one of the safest I’ve ever used. Just be careful not to muzzle yourself as you reholster, but that’s a concern with most every holster on the market. With practice, I found that I can draw and fire faster from this holster than from anything else I’ve used — though I’ve admittedly never tried out a 3-Gun race holster.
Diamond D chest holsters withstand abuse, comfortably and safely secure a sidearm, and stand out as one of my favorite pieces of gear while backpacking. This is one piece of kit that I highly recommend if you plan to venture into the wilder places … the places that put you a little lower on the food chain.
(Photo by Garland Kennedy/Coffee, or Die Magazine)
It’s an airframe that dates back to the Vietnam War, but it’s served for nearly 50 years and is still a comforting presence for those protected by its missiles, guns, and rockets: Meet the AH-1 SuperCobra.
Pilots aboard an AH-1W SuperCobra helicopter fly into a forward arming and refueling point at Marine Corps Training Area Bellows, Hawaii, May 6, 2014.
(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Matthew Bragg)
The AH-1 Cobra was the first dedicated attack helicopter, though it was technically an interim solution, filling a gap in capabilities until the AH-56 could make it to the field. The AH-56, however, was never constructed, so the Army stuck with the AH-1.
The Marine Corps, meanwhile, was looking for an attack helicopter of their own, and they were interested in what the Army had to offer. There was one glaring problem, though: The Army AH-1 had only one engine. The Marine Corps wasn’t comfortable with this since their helicopters might have to fly dozens of miles across open ocean to reach beachheads. If you lose an engine six miles from the ship or the shore, you really want a second engine to close the gap.
And so the Marine Corps asked Bell helicopters for an AH-1 with two engines, thus creating the AH-1 SeaCobra, which later became the SuperCobra. It first went into service in 1971, which the math nerds will note is 47 years ago.
An AH-1W SuperCobra, with Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 775, Marine Aircraft Group 41, 4th Marine Aircraft Wing, performs a break turn after conducting a close air support mission in an exercise at Twentynine Palms, California, June 18, 2018.
(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Samantha Schwoch)
The reason the AH-1 SuperCobra has lasted so long — and the reason that it’s being replaced by the AH-1Z Viper, which is basically just an upgraded version — is that it’s very effective. The first Marine variant, the AH-1J SeaCobra, was originally fielded with a three-barrel 20mm cannon in 1969. But the Marines wanted more power and weapons, and they’ve upgraded the helicopter multiple times over the decades since.
Now, the AH-1W can carry everything from from TOW missiles and Hellfires, both of which are very good at killing enemy tanks. The AGM-114 Hellfire is a potent weapon, carrying an up to 20-pound warhead. It uses either a shaped charge warhead, tandem warhead, or a HEAT warhead. The tandem warhead is the most effective and is thought to be able to defeat all current tanks and armored vehicles.
The TOW, meanwhile, is heavier and has even more variants, but can also open up pretty much any armored threat in the world today.
U.S. Marines assigned to Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron 1 load a 2.75-inch rocket configured with Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System II, a hydra 70 rocket motor and M282 High Explosive Incendiary Multipurpose Penetrator Warhead onto an AH-1Z Viper at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., March 29, 2018
(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Ashley McLaughlin/Released)
The helicopters can also fire rockets in support of the Marines on the ground, sending out Hydras against troop and vehicle concentrations. These rockets were historically unguided, but kits are now available when necessary. The rockets can carry fast-flying flechettes, small darts that shred enemy combatants, as well as explosive warheads, infrared flares, or smoke.
Zuni rockets, meanwhile, are technically an air-to-air or air-to-ground weapon, but since they’re unguided, the U.S. uses them pretty much only against the ground and ships nowadays. The rockets can carry warheads of almost 50 pounds, and can be sued to rip apart tanks, personnel, or pretty much any target that isn’t heavily fortified.
The rockets can also deploy chaff to throw off enemy radar-guided munitions.
U.S. Marine Cpl. Michael Michehl, a line noncommissioned officer with Marine Wing Support Detachment 24, controls forward arming and refueling point operations during a field test for the Expeditionary Mobile Fuel Additization Capability system at Pohakuloa Training Area, Hawaii, July 18, 2018.
(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Adam Montera)
Finally, the SuperCobras can fire Stinger Missiles, a potent, short-range air defense missile that can send shrapnel flying through enemy helicopters and planes, shredding the engines, wings, or cockpits of the target.
All of this combines to make the SuperCobra a Marine’s deadly big brother in the sky. They can tackle slow-moving air threats, armor, and personnel, protecting Marines under attack from nearly anything, though the helicopters can be made vulnerable themselves by enemy air defenses or air interdiction.
Of course, that doesn’t stop the pilots from laying waste, even when the enemy has their own weapons in play. Marine Capt. John Patrick Giguere earned the Silver Star for flying his AH-1T, a TOW-equipped variant, over enemy air defenses while protecting a downed aircrew in Grenada.
An AH-1W SuperCobra, attached to Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 167, takes off from the flight deck of the amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima, March 8, 2017.
(U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Andrew Murray)
First Lt. Sydney Baker also earned a Silver Star. His came while flying an AH-1G supporting the insertion of Marines in Vietnam. Despite ground fire so fierce that it knocked out his communications gear and threatened to down the bird, he kept up a heavy volume of fire to protect Marines on the ground.
So, while their younger, sexier AH-64 Apache counterparts get all the love, the AH-1 SuperCobras and Vipers are out there saving Marines every day, so raise a glass for these old school infantrymen of the sky. They’ll be happy to save you if you’re ever in trouble.
Boeing Co. has unveiled a new concept for an unmanned fighter that would work autonomously alongside fourth- and fifth-generation fighter aircraft.
Dubbed the Airpower Teaming System, the drone-jet hybrid would be a multi-mission craft using artificial intelligence to conduct intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions to supply pilots with more information during a conflict, according to the company.
The aircraft, which Boeing is co-developing with the government of Australia for that country, was unveiled at the Avalon Airshow.
The jet is 38 feet long and can fly more than 2,000 nautical miles, the company said. It uses A.I. “to fly independently or in support of manned aircraft while maintaining safe distance between other aircraft,” according to its fact sheet.
Boeing intends to hold its maiden flight sometime in 2020.
The concept is similar to an ongoing U.S. military effort.
A full-scale model of the Boeing Airpower Teaming System air vehicle.
The concept is part of the service’s Air Superiority 2030 road map, which the Air Force debuted in 2016. The road map outlines next-generation air dominance, defined as advanced fighter aircraft, sensors or weapons — or all of the above — in a growing and unpredictable threat environment.
Among members of the Air Force, there’s a tendency to be interested in aircraft. More than just aircraft, though, aircraft in aircraft is the type of idea that has the potential to harken back to the science fiction imaginings of many early childhoods. But true to form, science fiction in the military scarcely stays fiction for long.
From Jan. 11 to 13, 2019, it was the job of the C-5M Super Galaxy aircrew and aerial port specialists at Travis Air Force, California to join in efforts with the Army to transport four UH-60 Black Hawks from California to the helicopters’ home base at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska.
“Accomplishing the feat took no small measure of cooperation between the two sister services,” said Staff Sgt. Bradley Chase, 60th Aerial Port Squadron special handling supervisor. “You figure some of the C-5M aircrew who are transporting the Black Hawks have never even seen one before,” Chase said. “It’s because of that, having the Army here and participating in this training with us is so important. Coming together with our own expertise on our respective aircraft is what’s vital to the success of a mission like this.”
Chase went on to explain that in a deployed environment, Black Hawks are usually ferried around on C-17 Globemaster IIIs because of their tactical versatility.
US Air Force C-17A Globemaster III.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jacob N. Bailey)
Which is great, he said, but in respect to total force readiness, sometimes a C-5M is the better choice for airlift.
“Our job as a military isn’t only to practice the tried and true formula — it’s to also blaze and refine new trails in the event we ever need to,” he said. “By allowing us to train on mobilizing these Black Hawks, the Army is giving us the opportunity to utilize not only the C-17s in our fleet, but also our C-5Ms. As it pertains to our base’s mission, that difference can mean everything.”
The difference Chase speaks of is one of 18 aircraft — over five million more pounds of cargo weight in addition to the 2,221,700 afforded to Travis AFB’s mission by the C-17. In terms of “rapidly projecting American power anytime, anywhere,” those numbers are not insignificant.
The Army, likewise, used the training as an opportunity to reinforce its own mission set.
“The decision to come to Travis mostly had to do with our needing a (strategic air) asset to facilitate our own deployment readiness exercise to Elmendorf,” said Capt. Scott Amarucci, 2-158th Assault Helicopter Battalion, C Company platoon leader. “Travis was the first base to offer up their C-5M to get the job done, so that’s where we went.”
Amarucci’s seven-man team supervised the Travis AFB C-5M personnel in safe loading techniques as well as educated the aircrew on the Black Hawks’ basic functionality to ensure the load-up and transport was as seamless as possible.
Amid all the technical training and shoring up of various workplace competencies, the joint operation allowed for an unexpected, though welcomed, benefit: cross-culture interactions.
“It’s definitely been interesting being on such an aviation-centric base,” said Private 1st Class Donald Randall, 2-158th AHB, 15 T Black Hawk repair. “Experiencing the Air Force mission
Airmen and soldiers offload a UH-60 Black Hawk from a C-5 Galaxy at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan.
(U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. Henry Chan)
definitely lends to the understanding of what everyone’s specialties and capabilities are when we’re deployed.”
“Plus, the Air Force’s food is better,” he laughed.
Chase also acknowledged the push to bring the Air Force and Army’s similar, yet subtly different cultures to a broader mutual understanding during the times socializing was possible, an admittedly infrequent opportunity, he said.
“Outside of theater, there aren’t too many opportunities to hang out with members from other branches,” he said. “So when the chance to do so kind of falls into your lap, there’s this urge to make the most out of it. A lot of the differences between branches are very nuanced, like how the Army likes to be called by their full rank and stuff like that, but knowing them and making an effort to be sensitive to those differences can pay huge dividends when it comes time to rely on them during deployments.”
Along with finding room in our demeanors to give space for cross-cultural interactions, Chase also underscored the importance of a positive mindset to ensure successful interoperability.
“It’s the idea of taking an opportunity like this that was very sudden and probably pretty inconvenient for a few people’s weekend plans and asking, ‘Well, I’m here, so how can I help — what lessons can I learn to help benefit my team and take what I’m doing to new heights?'”
The sailing frigate USS Constitution (ex-IX 21) was re-floated on July 23 in an event overshadowed by the commissioning of the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78).
The ship has been around for 220 years. But here are a few things you may not have known about this ship.
1. Paul Revere provided some crucial materials for the ship’s construction
According to the Copper Development Association, Paul Revere, best known for his midnight ride prior to the Battles of Lexington and Concord, provided a number of copper bolts and a copper bell for USS Constitution.
2. The Constitution had a hull number
In 1941, the Constitution was given the hull number IX 21, along with a number of other vessels. According to Samuel Eliot Morison’s History of United States Naval Operations in World War II, the list included the prize USS Reina Mercedes (IX 25), the sloop USS Constellation (IX 20), the cruiser USS Olympia (IX 40), and the training carriers USS Wolverine (IX 64) and USS Sable (IX 81).
The hull number was rescinded in 1975 at the suggestion of the ship’s commanding officer, Tyrone G. Martin, who instituted a number of traditions that carry on to this day.
3. She is the only survivor of her class
Of the first six frigates, the Constitution is the only survivor. Sister ship USS Constellation was thought to have been converted to a sloop and preserved in Baltimore, but later research determined the Navy had scrapped the original vessel. The frigates USS Chesapeake and USS President were captured by the British. USS United States was captured by the Confederates, but eventually scuttled and scrapped.
Few weapons are more closely associated with World War II than the M3 Submachine Gun – also known as the “Grease Gun” for its distinctive shape. The Grease Gun actually saw service for decades after the war, becoming the standard-issue weapon for crews manning the M-48 through M-60 battle tanks. It was the longest-serving SMG, from 1942 to 1992.
Its World War II use of the .45 round, already in use by the Thompson submachine gun and the M1911 pistol, made it a weapon that could be easily adapted for more situations and more troops. Sadly, it was also the weapon’s ultimate undoing.
A U.S. soldier from the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division fires an M3 submachine gun during a training exercise.
By many accounts, the M3 was still in use by the 1990s. Unlike many of its contemporary weapons, the Grease Gun did not have adjustable sights and was mainly intended for tank crews to use in close quarters so they could get back in the tank and continue firing the big gun. The stopping power of a spray of .45-caliber rounds will go a long way toward making that possible.
Its main competitor was the Thompson submachine gun, but the Thompson had problems of its own. It was heavy and expensive to build. The U.S. wanted a more lightweight model for tankers and paratroopers, but didn’t want to spend all the money per item. The M3 was the answer, despite a few shortcomings.
A U.S. troop in Vietnam carrying the M3 SMG.
The short barrel, while making it possible for crews to carry around the cramped quarters of a tank, also added to its inaccuracy. The real trouble comes after a tanker has to expend all of his pre-loaded magazines. The M3 submachine gun has a magazine that appears to be longer than its barrel. A large magazine is a great thing for a fully-automatic weapon like the Grease Gun, but as anyone who’s sprayed an automatic before knows, the bullets run out really fast.
Tankers were issued four magazine for the tank’s two grease guns. Once they were out, the magazines would have to be reloaded. Now imagine trying to fully reload an M3 submachine gun magazine, especially when it’s almost full.
The M3 cost around .00 to produce in 1942, equal to about 0.00 today.
Eventually, the M3 was phased out by more efficient weapons for anyone who might need a personal weapon on the battlefield as the .45 round gave way to the 5.56 and 9mm standards.
After the 1991 Gulf War, the M3 began to disappear from the U.S. Military altogether after some 50 years in service.
Turkey’s purchase of Russia’s top-of-the-line S-400 missile defense system has caused a diplomatic spat between Ankara and Washington and led NATO’s southernmost member to miss out on the F-35 stealth fighter jet, but it could actually prove fatal to Moscow’s plans to take on US F-22s and F-35s.
Articles on the threat posed to the F-35 program by the S-400 are a dime a dozen, with experts across the board agreeing that networking Russian systems into NATO’s air defenses spells a near death sentence for allied air power.
Additionally, scores of US experts have argued that Turkey’s S-400 could get a peak at the F-35’s stealth technology and glean important intelligence on the new plane meant to serve as the backbone of US airpower for decades to come.
But something weird is going on with the US’s laser focus on F-35’s security. Michael Kofman, a senior research scientist at CNA, a nonprofit research and analysis organization, told Defense One this should be cause for concern.
An F-35A Lightning II.
“For some reason coverage tends not to ask the question of how are Russians planning to deal with the potential problem of US intelligence being all over their system in Turkey,” he said.
“Russians are not crying about selling their best tech to a NATO country, despite the obvious implications for technology access. That should make us wonder,” he continued.
Basically, while Russia’s installation and support for S-400 systems in Turkey may give it intel on the F-35, Turkey, a NATO country, having Russia’s best weapon against against US airpower could spell doom for the system.
If the US cracks the S-400, Russia is in trouble
Russia relies on its missile defenses to keep its assets at home and abroad safe as it pursues increasingly risky military escalations in theaters like Ukraine and Syria. Defeating these systems, potentially, could leave Russia vulnerable to attack.
But if the US can take a look at Russia’s S-400 “depends entirely on what conditions the Russians manage to hold the Turks to in terms of allowing NATO (US) access to inspect the system,” Justin Bronk, an aerial combat expert at the Royal United Services Institute, told Business Insider.
Russian S-400 batteries in Syria.
(Russian Defense Ministry)
“It’s potentially a very valuable source of previously unavailable information about a threat system which is a specific priority for the alliance and the US has never come into possession of an S-400 before,” Bronk said. However, “it may be that the system is actually operated by and guarded by Russian personnel in Turkey which could complicate things,” he continued.
Also, Russia’s export version of the S-400 doesn’t exactly match the version they use at home, but a former top US Air Force official told Business Insider that the US already has insight into Russia’s anti-air capabilities, and that the export version isn’t too far off from the genuine article.
Russia needs the money?
“Russia will sell them to whomever will give them the cash,” the source continued, pointing to Russia’s weak economy as a potential explanation for making the risky move of selling S-400 systems to a NATO country.
So while Russia may get some intelligence on the F-35 through its relationship with Turkey, that road runs both ways.
Furthermore, while US stealth aircraft represent individual systems, Russia’s missile defenses serve as an answer to multiple US platforms, including naval missiles. Therefore, Russia having its S-400 mechanics exposed may prove a worse proposition than the F-35 being somewhat exposed to Russian eyes.
“Getting a look at the system architecture and the hardware would still be extremely valuable for NATO,” Bronk concluded.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Holding over 12-million gallons of water, the “MASK” — which stands for “maneuvering and seakeeping” — is one of the largest man-made indoor oceans in the world. It is located at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Maryland.
The massive water containment measures 240-feet wide and 360-feet long and houses the ability to recreate real oceanic-like characteristics to help design future Naval vessels.
The facility can custom manufacture mini-ships for on-site testing. (Images via Giphy)
You’ve heard about the men who come in the night, the badasses, the snake eaters. These are the rough and tumble soldiers who spill out of helicopters and kick in doors, neutralizing a high-value target and egressing before locals get a clue. These are the gritty recon Marines who stalk through the underbrush before taking down a terrorist camp. But special ops isn’t one thing; it’s a bunch of different things. Operators from different units conduct missions in very different ways.
Check out this handy WATM guide that covers the basics of special ops:
Along with SEAL Team 6, Delta Force is one of the most famous and capable anti-terrorism teams in the world. It’s members are pulled from all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces, primarily from the Army’s Special Forces and Rangers (more on them in a minute). As an anti-terrorism task force, Delta is tasked with hunting down some of America’s worst threats- the most intense special ops around. They were sent after Osama bin Laden in 2001 and more recently killed Abu Sayyaf, a key figure in ISIS. They specialize in “direct action.”
Special Forces (The Green Berets)
Special Forces soldiers focus on supporting foreign allies by training with and fighting beside their military and police forces. Special Forces also engage in reconnaissance and direct action missions. The multi-tool of special ops, SF soldiers are sometimes tasked with peacekeeping, combat search and rescue, humanitarian, and counter narcotic missions.
The modern 75th Ranger Regiment was established with three Ranger battalions in 1986, though it has roots dating back to World War II. The Rangers form three infantry battalions that focus on moving fast and striking hard. They are deployable to anywhere in the world within 18 hours. Rangers are primarily a direct action force, entering an area forcibly and engaging whatever enemies they find.
The Night Stalkers (160th Special Operations Air Regiment)
The 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR) flies helicopters in support of other special ops units, especially the Army units discussed above. They fly modified Chinook and Blackhawk helicopters as well as the MH/AH-6M Little Bird. The Night Stalkers can drop off combatants on a battlefield and provide air support to fighters already on the ground.
SEAL Team 6 (DEVGRU)
Like Delta, SEAL Team 6 is a top-tier anti-terrorism force. Officially named United States Special Warfare Development Group and sometimes called DevGru, SEAL Team 6 specializes in arriving violently and killing bad guys. They recruit their members from the Navy SEAL community (discussed below). Though they train to operate anywhere in the world, they specialize in fighting on the waters and the coast.
SEALs are named for their ability to fight in the sea, air, and on land. Though designed to conduct operations that begin and end in the water, modern teams routinely operate far from water. They primarily conduct reconnaissance and perform direct attack missions but are capable of training with and fighting beside foreign militaries like U.S. Army Special Forces soldiers do. They are also the operators most known for working with the CIA’s Special Activities Division.
SWCC, pronounced “swick,” provide covert insertions in coastal areas, most notably for the Navy SEALS. They operate small boats which they can use to drop off operators as well as provide heavy weapons support when necessary. They can drop their boats from planes or helicopters and can be picked up with a helicopter extraction. Additionally, SWCC teams have their own medics who provide care for special operators when evacuating patients, and they get at least 12 weeks of language training.
Marine Special Operations Regiment (Raiders)
Similarly to the Army Special Forces, Marine Raiders specialize in training, advising, and assisting friendly foreign forces. They can also conduct direct action missions: Kicking down doors and targeting the bad guys. They receive more training in maritime operations as well as fighting on oil and gas platforms than their Army counterparts.
Some of the world’s best reconnaissance troops, Recon Marines primarily support other Marine units, though they can provide intelligence to other branches. They move forward of other troops, getting near or behind enemy lines, where they survey the area and report back to commanders. They can also engage in assaults when ordered, though that mission has been transferred in part to the Marine Special Operations Regiment discussed above.
Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company
This Marine Corps ANGLICO’s primary mission is to link up with friendly units and direct fires assets from different branches. That means they have to be able to tell helicopters, jets, cannons, and rockets which targets to hit and when during large firefights. They support other U.S. military branches as well as foreign militaries, so they have to train for many different operations and be able to keep up with everyone from Army Special Forces to British Commandoes to the Iraqi Army.
Combat controllers, like ANGLICO Marines, support all the other branches and so have to be able to keep up with all special operators. They deploy forward, whether in support of another mission or on their own, and take over control of air traffic in an area. They direct flight paths for different classes of planes and helicopters to ensure all aircraft attacking an objective can fly safely. They also target artillery and rocket attacks. In peacetime missions, they can set up air traffic control in areas where it’s needed.
The day after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, combat controllers began directing air traffic control from a card table with hand radios. They directed the landing of over 2,500 flights and 4 million pounds of supplies with no incidents.
Pararescumen are some of the world’s best search and rescue experts. They move forward into areas a plane has crashed or there is a risk of planes being shot down. Once a plane has hit the ground, they search for the pilots and crew and attempt to recover them. In addition, they perform medical evacuations of injured personnel and civilians. To reach downed crews, they train extensively in deploying from helicopters and planes. In order to save injured personnel after recovery, they become medical experts, especially in trauma care.
Maritime Security Response Team
The Coast Guard’s Maritime Security Response Team from Virginia participates trains on tactical boardings-at-sea, active shooter scenarios, and detection of radiological material in a 2015 exercise. (Photo: U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Ross Ruddell)
The MSRT focuses on counter-terrorism and law enforcement against well-armed adversaries. They are like a SWAT team that can also deal with chemical, biological, and nuclear threats on the open water.
Though this list focused on operators who engage in combat with the enemy, there are members of the special operations community who provide support in other ways.
The Army has military information-support operations which seek to spread propaganda and demoralize the enemy and civil affairs soldiers who serve as liaisons between the Army and friendly governments. The Air Force has special operations weather technicians who deploy into enemy environments to conduct weather analysis in support of other military operations. The Marine Corps has the Chemical Biological Incident Response Force which responds to possible attacks by chemical, biological, or nuclear means.
For many years, U.S. troops have hunted our nation’s enemies under the blanket of complete darkness, scoring some impressive kills due, in part, to our outstanding ability to see at night — just ask Osama bin Laden.
Oh, wait. You can’t.
Today, you can head to a tactical store and pick up a relatively inexpensive set of NVGs for a few hundred bucks. Although many models seem to have issues with depth-of-field, cheaper night optics can still get you from A to B on a somewhat clear night.
Although this impressive piece of tech can be used by anybody, not many people look into how this technology works or how it came to be. Let’s fix that.
Despite the fact that we defeated the Germans in WWII, they can still claim credit over many important technological advancements. For example, they manufactured the first nighttime image enhancer. The concept was worked on as early as 1935 but wasn’t put in the hands of German soldiers until 1939.
However, only the most highly trained soldiers were issued this new technology to employ in night attacks. By the end of the war, Hitler’s army had also equipped nearly 50 Panther tanks with this tech. These tanks saw combat on both the Western and Eastern Fronts.
When you look into a set of NVGs, you’ll immediately notice the green display. This isn’t some arbitrary color choice on the part of the manufacturer — your eyes are more sensitive to that particular color.
When we say “sensitive,” we’re not referring to your current emotional status. It means our eyes detect this color naturally, making it easier to pick out shapes in the otherwise dark. In short, it’s easy on the eyes.
How NVGs work
The device detects low levels of light and amplifies them. You want a little more of a breakdown? Okay, let’s get scientific.
When dim light enters the NVGs, it hits an internal layer, called the “photocathode,” which releases electrons. These electrons then hit a second layer called a “micro-channel plate,” where they get multiplied before hitting the third layer, called the phosphor screen.
After passing through that layer, the electrons are converted back into light. The more electrons the device produces, the higher the image quality. Check out the video below for a full breakdown.
You can build your own set at home
Although high-quality NVGs require some real ingenuity and tech to produce, Superhero Armory built a rudimentary set using a pair of LCD sunglasses, a small night-vision camera, and some LED lights.