During the Cold War, the Soviets made a new type of vehicle called a ground effect vehicle (GEV). These vehicles earned their own classification because they aren’t quite airplanes or hovercrafts but something in between.
Ground effect is the aerodynamic interaction between the wings and the surface of the Earth, which reduce the drag and lead to greater cruise efficiency, according to AVweb. Pilots simply describe it as “floating.”
Although the Soviets didn’t discover the ground effect phenomenon, they did take full advantage of it by making these behemoth low-flying vehicles.
The strike on Shayrat Air Base was intended to take out a number of targets, but one plane in particular was top of the list: The Su-22 Fitter.
According to Scramble.nl, two squadrons of this plane were based at the Shayrat air base that absorbed 59 T-LAMs. But why was this plane the primary target, as opposed to the squadron of MiG-23 Floggers? The answer is that the versions of the MiG-23 that were reportedly based there were primarily in the air-to-air role. The MiG-23MLD is known as the “Flogger K” by NATO. The two squadrons of Su-22 Fitters, though, specialized in the ground attack mission.
According to militaryfactory.com, the Su-22 is one of two export versions of the Su-17, which first entered service in 1969. Since then, it has received progressive improvements, and was widely exported to not only Warsaw Pact countries but to Soviet allies in the Middle East and to Peru. The Russians and French teamed up to modernize many of the Fitters still in service – and over 2,600 of these planes were built.
According to the Encyclopaedia of Modern Aircraft Armament, the Su-17/Su-20/Su-22 Fitter has eight hardpoints capable of carrying up to 11,000 pounds of munitions. It also has a pair of MR-30 30mm cannon. It is capable of a top speed of 624 knots, according to militaryfactory.com.
The Fitter has seen a fair bit of combat action, including during the Iran-Iraq War, the Yom Kippur War, Desert Storm, Afghanistan, and the Russian wars in Chechnya.
Recently, it saw action in the Libyan Civil War as well as the Syrian Civil War.
While it has performed well in ground-attack missions, it was famously misused by then-Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi to challenge U.S. Navy F-14 Tomcats over the Gulf of Sidra in 1981. Both Fitters were shot down after an ineffectual attack on the Tomcats.
During Desert Storm, the Iraqi Air Force lost two Su-22s, then two more during Operation Provide Comfort.
The Fitter did get one moment in the cinematic sun, though. In the Vin Diesel action movie “XXX,” two Czech air force Fitters made a cameo during the climactic sequence.
Lawmakers want Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to submit a report to Congress on whether the U.S. military services have the equipment and training they need to survive in cold-weather combat.
The proposal appeared in the House Armed Services Committee’s latest version of the “John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019.”
(U.S. Air Force photo by Justin Connaher)
Conferees want Mattis to submit a report to the congressional defense committees “not later than 180 days after the date of enactment of this Act on current cold weather capabilities and readiness of the United States Armed Forces,” the document states.
The report should include:
A description of current cold weather capabilities and training to support United States military operations in cold climates across the joint force;
A description of anticipated requirements for United States military operations in cold and extreme cold weather in the Arctic, Northeast Asia, and Northern and Eastern Europe;
A description of the current cold weather readiness of the joint force, the ability to increase cold weather training across the joint force, and any equipment, infrastructure, personnel, or resource limitations or gaps that may exist;
An analysis of potential opportunities to expand cold weather training for the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, and the Marine Corps and the resources or infrastructure required for such expansion;
An analysis of potential partnerships with state, local, tribal, and private entities to maximize training potential and to utilize local expertise, including traditional indigenous knowledge.
If the proposal makes it to President Donald Trump for approval, it could lead to improvements in cold-weather equipment and training U.S. troops receive.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
The Navy SEAL community is arguably the best-known special operations organization in the U.S. military, if not the world. But there is a smaller community within the SEAL Teams you may have never heard of that specializes in some old-school commando-style missions: the SEAL Delivery Vehicle (SDV) Teams.
Inspired by the Italian frogmen of World War Two, who sunk or damaged several Allied ships in daring special operations, the SEAL Delivery Vehicle Teams operate a fleet of mini-submarines that can strike or carry special operators clandestinely behind enemy lines.
A Unique Capability
SEAL Delivery Vehicle Teams specialize in three primary mission sets: underwater insertion and extraction of special operations troops, underwater special operations, and underwater special reconnaissance.
Although not a primary mission-set, SDVs can also support Naval Special Warfare Development Group, the Tier 1 SEAL Team that specializes in counterterrorism and hostage rescue, in maritime counterterrorism scenarios by clandestinely transporting assaulters close to a target. That unit is more commonly known among those outside the SEAL community as SEAL Team 6.
SDV Teams offer a niche but highly valuable capability to commanders. As competition with China heats up and tensions with Russia continue to increase, the SDVs are becoming increasingly valuable at both tactical and strategic levels.
In the event of a conflict with China, for example, SDV Teams could transport SEAL operators close to enemy harbors or to other strategic targets, such as the Anti-Access/Area Denial (A2/AD) batteries that can prevent U.S. Navy aircraft carriers from getting within range. Also, SDVs could unilaterally attack enemy warships in harbor by placing limpet mines on ships or detonating other devices that would block the entrance and stop or stall traffic. Finally, SDVs could operate close to enemy shores, emplace sensors, and reconnoiter before sending vital intelligence back to headquarters to inform commanders.
“SDVs aren’t sexy. They are uncomfortable and a lot of work, but they fill a critical and unique capability. The guys that do get to work with the SDVs are a strategic national asset,” a former Navy SEAL operator told Sandboxx News.
SDVs have two crew members: a pilot and a navigator. Traditionally, the pilot has been an enlisted operator, while the navigator is an officer. But the roles aren’t set in stone and depend on both manpower and skill.
Becoming an SDV SEAL, however, isn’t easy or (one might argue) even desirable.
A Special Community
After a Sailor has finished the SEAL pipeline, which is composed of the Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training and the SEAL Qualification Training (SQT) course, and has earned the SEAL Trident, he (or in the future, she) gets assigned to a SEAL Team.
There are nine active duty regular SEAL Teams, two SEAL Delivery Vehicle Teams, and three Special Boat Teams. The units are divided between the West and East Coasts. There is an additional Tier 1 SEAL Team, the DEVGRU, previously and colloquially known as SEAL Team 6, that recruits the best SEALs from the other teams and specializes in hostage rescue and counterterrorism operations.
“Most Team guys actively try to avoid getting assigned to an SDV Team. Believe it or not, SEALs don’t really like the water, despite the fact that we’re America’s dedicated underwater special operations force,” the former Navy SEAL said.
“When you’ve spent so much time being cold and miserable in BUD/S [Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training], the last thing you want is spending eight plus hours in a wet coffin in the bottom of the cold ocean.”
If a newly minted SEAL is selected or volunteers for SDV duty, he has to go through additional training, namely the SEAL Delivery Vehicle School, before he gets to his team. And often, SEALs will receive additional training, called Advanced Operator Training (AOT), once they arrive on the team. That’s another reason for the unpopularity of SDV teams within the SEAL community. By the time a new SEAL has finished with all of his SDV training and is fully qualified, a classmate of his from BUD/S would be finishing his first platoon or beginning his second.
Although a minority, there are some SEALs who actually prefer the SDVs and volunteer for duty in one of the Teams. As with all military assignments, SEALs rotate through units throughout their careers, and though an operator might begin his journey in an SDV team, he might end it in a regular SEAL team.
“[Guys] also think getting shipped to an SDV Team means fewer opportunities to deploy in an operational role and see some action—really what we signed up for. That’s not very accurate. Take the Red Wings guys, for example, they were SDV SEALs but deployed to Afghanistan and were conducting a special reconnaissance mission when it happened. But truth be told, that was another age, where everyone and their mom saw combat,” the former SEAL added.
“Today, opportunities to see combat outside the tier 1 level [Naval Special Warfare Development Group] are very few, and, in a perverse twist of roles, SDVs are the place to be right now because of the attention to China in the Pacific.”
At the headquarters of SEAL Delivery Vehicle Team Two, there is a plaque hanging with a simple question: “Are you just a SEAL or are you an SDV SEAL?”
The U.S. military first used submersibles for special operations with the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the predecessor of the CIA and the Army Green Berets, during World War Two. OSS’ maritime branch had a primitive submersible capability in the form of underwater canoes. The British had developed more advanced technology, which the OSS was able to study and pave the road for the modern-day SDVs.
The workhorse of the SDV Teams today is the Mark 8 SEAL Delivery Vehicle. However, the days of the aging Mark 8s are almost over, with the Mark 11 Shallow Water Combat Submersible (SWCS) currently going through final operational trials.
The future of the Naval Special Warfare’s SDV capability is focused on two submersible platforms: The Mark 11 (SWCS) and the Dry Combat Submersible (DCS).
The Mark 11 comes with several upgrades over its Mark 8 predecessor, including increased operational range, more advanced sensors, better navigation systems, a new command-and-control structure that allows for the easy integration of new technologies, and an increased payload. It is approximately 23 feet long and is designed to carry two crew members, a pilot and navigator, along with a four-person combat diver team.
Both the Mark 8 and Mark 11 are flooded, meaning that the combat swimmers are exposed to the water, using the vehicle’s compressed air supply to breath during the transit and shifting to their Drager breathing apparatuses once close to the target.
At 40 feet, the DCS is almost twice the size of the SWCS and also four times heavier. But the increased size and weight come with a much longer operational range and payload, in addition to being more comfortable for the operators. While comfort may not sound essential, it becomes imperative when SEALs have to accomplish their mission after an eight-hour plus dive. The DCS can hold two crew members and eight combat divers, twice that of the Mark 11.
SDVs are quiet, hard to detect, and clandestine, making them the perfect chariot for covert and clandestine special operations. They can be launched from the water (both via surface ships and submarines), from land, and even from the air via helicopter. The most optimal launch method for stealth is underwater via a submarine’s Dry Dock Shelter (DDS), which is attached on top of a submarine.
However, SDVs aren’t a magic bullet for getting operators ashore without arousing suspicion. They’re limited by their low speed and short operational range and can be affected by environmental factors, such as water temperature and sea conditions.
The U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) is placing increasing emphasis on the SDV capability. In 2019, Naval Special Warfare Command reactivated SEAL Vehicle Delivery Team Two (SDVT-2) in Little Creek, Virginia. SDVT-2 is the dedicated East Coast SDV team, while SEAL Delivery Team One (SDVT-1), based in Hawaii, is responsible for the West Coast. The SDV teams were first activated in the early 1980s.
AK-variant rifles are among the most reliable and easy-to-use rifles in the world, and this mesmerizing video of one firing in slow motion helps explain the reason why.
The strength of the AK is in its simplicity and its ability to fire in just about any environment. Smaller in size and weight than its AK-47 big brother, the AK-74 fires a 5.45x39mm cartridge instead of the 7.62x39mm. But just like the AK-47, the 74 has very few parts, has simple functionality, and is very easy to use.
This video from Vickers Tactical shows you what it’s like firing in extremely slow motion:
It’s been years since knights were last sent into battle wearing insanely heavy and uncomfortable metal suits for protection against swords and arrows.
But as it turns out, while knights are now a thing of the past, their armor is still in use today with at least one special operations police unit in Germany. That’s right… Germany’s elite “SEK” Spezialeinsatzkommandos (Special Deployment Commandos in English) are sometimes sent into sticky situations wearing chain mail suits of armor.
Though they’ve traded in long swords and sabers years ago for Heckler Koch submachine guns and Sig pistols, these German cops still utilize chain mail armor to protect themselves in close quarters missions against terrorists, hostage takers, or even just your run-of-the-mill deranged knife-wielder.
While chain mail armor isn’t enough to stop bullets or anything that can penetrate at high velocities, it’s still pretty effective against close-in attacks using blades or sharp objects. Mail consists of small metal ringlets woven together to form a mesh-like sheet. These sheets are then fashioned into wearable coats and pants which still allow the wearer a fair degree of movement.
Last year, SEK operatives were spotted wearing chain mail while responding to a mentally-disturbed 21 year-old threatening to kill randomly with a pruning saw. Later on, images began surfacing of commandos donning mail shirts and hoods in urban settings, wearing a weird blend of modern tactical gear and the ancient mesh armor.
These German commandos have been known to wear their mail suits above or beneath their gear, depending on the scenario they face and their role in resolving it. Hostage or suicide negotiations would generally prompt the wearing of the armor above a Kevlar bulletproof vest and radio, for example.
According to Stefan Schubert in his book, “Inside Police: The Unknown Side of Everyday Police,” the SEK are easily some of the most high-speed special operations police units in the world, having been formed in the 1970s in West Germany to tackle hostage situations, provide protection for dignitaries, and rapid armed response to terrorist threats.
Around the same time, a similar East German police force known as Service Unit 9 was also established. Both were merged under the SEK name and mission after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of Germany at the end of the Cold War.
SEK teams are more like highly-developed SWAT teams in the US, attached to German state police agencies across the country. Their federal counterpart is the legendary GSG 9 of the Bundespolizei, home to some of the best counterterrorist operatives today.
An SEK commando covering an assault during a demonstration in Dortmund, circa 2013 (Photo Wikimedia Commons)
The recruitment process to join an SEK team is extremely strenuous, and the ensuing selection phase has a high attrition rate. Candidates typically face between 6 to 8 months of physical, tactical and environment-specific training before being declared operational. Additional training includes skiing, snowmobiling and scuba diving.
When placed on active status, an SEK commando can choose virtually any tactical loadout that fits their preferences and mission. Operatives are also given a lot of leeway in uniforms, often choosing to be in plainclothes in order to blend into crowds and work unnoticed.
However, when on mission, you can generally tell an SEK commando apart from a regular police officer by the fact that they always cover their faces with balaclavas to protect their identities — standard procedure for all SEK teams throughout Germany.
But if ever the balaclava isn’t enough to give away their presence, just look for the guy toting a tricked-out carbine wearing Medieval armor and tennis shoes.
On Dec. 30, 1968, Robert Howard was the platoon sergeant for a joint unit of U.S. Army Special Forces and South Vietnamese forces. Their mission was to rescue soldiers who were missing in action behind enemy lines. As they moved out onto their objective, they were attacked by what had to be two companies of enemy troops. 1st. Lt. Howard was wounded by an enemy grenade almost immediately. He lost his weapon to the explosion, and his platoon leader was down.
His luck only got worse from there.
This is how Robert Howard earned his Medal of Honor. It was one of three for which he was nominated. The men who fought with him fervently believed he deserved all three. The battle for which he received the nation’s highest military honor was one hell of a slugfest.
At Kon Tum, South Vietnam, that day in 1968, things went awry from the get-go.
“We took casualties on the insert,” Howard said. “I finally got with the platoon leader and said we need to secure this LZ… I got three men behind me, I remember being fired at and I fell backward and they killed three men behind me.”
One of the helicopters had even been shot down with troops still aboard it. The platoon began taking fire from the flanks, and Howard knew he had to tell his lieutenant the landing zone was hotter than they thought. Just as he got close to his officer, however, the unit was ambushed.
“When I come to, I was blown up in a crump on the ground,” Howard recalled. “My weapon was blown out of may hand, I remember seeing red, and saying a prayer hoping I wasn’t blind. I couldn’t see and I was in a lot of pain.”
When he got his vision back, he realized he was seeing blood. All he could see was flames, and all he could hear was people screaming. He realized the enemy was burning his friends with a flamethrower. His lieutenant was down. For reasons unknown, the flamethrower didn’t burn Howard or his platoon leader, he just walked away.
His hands hurting and bleeding, Howard moved to help get his leader out of there. As he drug his platoon leader out, a round struck his ammo pouch, detonating it. He was hit 15-20 times as he worked to get his lieutenant out. He fought off charging Vietnamese soldiers, dodging bullets and bayonets while protecting his leader.
His platoon was in complete disarray, and he knew he had to get everyone back in order, lest they be overrun and killed.
He dragged his officer out of the area, and once under cover, reorganized the whole unit. Once a firing line was set up, he bounded from position to position, aiding the wounded and directing their fire. For four hours, his effort kept them from being surrounded and killed.
Soon, friendly aircraft were able to join the fight and rescue the wounded. Then the Americans were hit with another wave of attackers. Robert Howard had to direct the U.S. Air Force to strike his own position. As the Air Force hit his position, Howard watched as the aircraft rounds hit the area around him. Thankfully, the attack craft eventually faded into rescue helicopters.
Lieutenant Howard personally kept overwatch until everyone else was aboard. Out of 37 friendly troops, only six survived unharmed.
In all, Robert Howard fought in Vietnam for 54 months, where he was wounded 14 times. For eight of those wounds, he received a Purple Heart. He also earned the Distinguished Service Cross, a Silver Star, and four Bronze Stars. When he retired, he was the most decorated soldier in the Army and was the most decorated of the entire Vietnam War. He remains the only soldier to be nominated for the Medal of Honor three times for three separate actions, all in a 13-month span.
The only thing that could kill Robert Howard was pancreatic cancer, to which he succumbed in 2009, one of the lesser-known heroes of the war in Vietnam.
Compared to previous American conflicts U.S. military medicine drastically reduced the number deaths due to injury during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But that success doesn’t mean the profession is done innovating. Here are eight ways military medicine is trying to improve the ability to save lives:
1. Wound-stabilizing foam that reduces bleeding
Bleeding out is still the number one killer on the battlefield, according to the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research. So, DARPA has worked multiple programs to treat this major killer in combat.
One program success is ClotFoam. The foam works by seeking out damaged tissue, especially cut tissue fibers, and binding to it. It forms a scaffold that the body’s natural clotting agents can then latch to as they would with a cotton bandage. Different formulations of ClotFoam have been tested with the best reducing blood loss in mice by 66 percent when compared to a control group. DARPA is now looking to test delivery mechanisms for ClotFoam.
The Army wants systems that can be mounted inside vehicles and hooked up to existing radios, allowing patient information to go directly to the doctor who will receive them at the hospital. The doctor will also be able to call to the medic, advising on treatment while the patient is evacuated off the battlefield. This could allow for better care for patients en route to the hospital as well as a smoother handoff between the medic and the doctor. Prototypes have already been tested.
3. A chair that monitors vitals
Of course, beaming the information from patients to doctors with telemedicine is great, but currently it would require a medic to speak or type the information into a computer. The Army is looking to take that task off medics’ hands by adapting the LifeBed into a chair for military air and ground ambulances. The chair would track patients’ respiratory and heart rates and alert a medic if they showed signs of trouble. The medic would be able to spend less time checking on already stable soldiers and more time treating new patients as they evacuate casualties.
4. Active bandages that reduce scaring and improve recovery
Navy researchers are looking at bandages that would actively assist in the recovery process. The bandages would contain antibiotics, growth factors, and other agents to reduce scar tissue formation, recovery time, and the chance of infection.
5. Reducing pressure ulcers
Pressure ulcers, more often known as bed sores, develop when skin is under pressure or rubbed for an extended period of time. Patients immobilized for transport will likely develop pressure ulcers if restrained against a hard surface like a backboard. The Army is beginning a study to see how to mitigate the infliction.
Service members evacuated from combat are commonly at risk for spinal damage, and so are often immobilized for transport. Understanding pressure ulcer formation will allow the military to reduce the number of ulcers that form and cut down on the resulting infections and discomfort.
6. Better treatments following shock from blood loss
The exact problem valproic acid therapy treats is kind of complicated, so bear with this very dumbed down explanation. There is a stage of treatment following major blood loss where the return of normal blood pressure leads to major medical complications. Tissue that has been starved of blood and oxygen can quickly inflame and release toxins when blood flow is restored. Currently, this is mitigated by the timing of how blood and other fluids are returned to the body.
The significance of new vaccines is obvious. New vaccines allow humans to be made resistant to more potential killers. The Army currently has three new vaccines in its sights, one each for malaria, norovirus, and dengue.
Following brain trauma or damage to the skull, some patients have to have a portion of skull removed and later replaced by an implant made of titanium or polymers. Currently, these implants are prone to infection.
The Navy is looking to reduce the number of infections after implantation by developing new surface materials that have different textures and nano particle coatings that release chemicals to prevent infection. This would reduce the number of follow-up surgeries a patient would need and lower recovery time.
The company that makes the Army’s new handgun is in hot water over concerns that the pistol the new M17 is based on has a potentially serious safety flaw.
About a week ago, news trickled out that the Dallas Police Department had banned its officers from carrying the Sig Sauer P320 pistol after one of them had discharged a shot after it was dropped. Other reports disputed that claim, suggesting the department banned the P320 for carry because of a legal disclaimer in the user manual that stated a discharge could happen if the gun is dropped in extreme situations — a legal ass covering common to most handgun user manuals.
A photo taken by Soldier Systems Daily at a recent briefing by Sig officials on the -30 degree drop tests. (Photo linked from SSD)
The P320 is Sig’s first so-called “striker-fired” handgun, which uses an internal firing pin to impact a round rather than an external hammer. Various internal safeties are supposed to keep this type of handgun “drop safe,” making it suitable for duty carry where an officer or service member might accidentally fumble it out of a holster or during a shot.
While at first Sig denied it had a safety problem, later tests showed some of the company’s P320s could discharge a round when dropped at a -30 degree angle from a certain height onto concrete. The company says such a condition is extremely rare and that under typical U.S. government standards, the P320 will not discharge if dropped.
“Recent events indicate that dropping the P320 beyond US standards for safety may cause an unintentional discharge,” Sig said in a statement. “As a result of input from law enforcement, government and military customers, SIG has developed a number of enhancements in function, reliability, and overall safety including drop performance.”
Sig said the version of the P320 that’s being deployed with the Army and other U.S. troops has a new trigger assembly that make discharges from a drop at any height and angle impossible.
That’s why the company is issuing a “voluntary” upgrade of some of its P320s to install the so-called “enhanced trigger” that comes directly from the Army’s new M17 handgun.
“The M17 variant of the P320, selected by the U.S. government as the U.S. Army’s Modular Handgun System, is not affected by the voluntary upgrade,” Sig said.
In films and in comics, combat robots have caught our imaginations for years. Whether it’s the Terminator, Optimus Prime, or giant Gundams, robots with serious firepower draw big crowds to the box office. But such mechanical marvels haven’t yet emerged on the real battlefield.
That may soon change — at least for Russia, who recently demonstrated the Uran-9 unmanned ground combat vehicle (UGCV) at the 2018 Victory Day Parade on May 8.
Now, this vehicle isn’t some mech out of Robotech. According to Rosoboronexport’s website, this system is designed to provide “remote reconnaissance and fire support to combined arms, recon, and counter-terror units.”
Since it doesn’t need to haul any crew or grunts, the Uran-9 is a very compact vehicle that can hide and ambush the enemy.
The system consists of a control station, a truck, and two remote-controlled tankettes. It might not sound like much, but this small tank (it weighs about 11 tons) can punch way above its weight. In fact, its armament suite is comparable to some full-sized Russian infantry fighting vehicles.
The main weapon on the Uran-9 is a 30mm autocannon, similar to those used on the BMP-2, BTR-90, BTR-80A, and BMP-3 IFVs. It also carries four AT-9 Spiral 2 anti-tank missiles, six RPO thermobaric rockets, and a 7.62mm PKT machine gun.
A look at the 30mm autocannon and two AT-9 Spiral 2 anti-tank missiles used on the Uran-9.
(Vitaly V. Kuzmin)
The Uran-9 is a versatile system and can swap out and add weapons to better suit the mission. For example, it’s capable of using the SA-16/SA-18 man-portable, surface-to-air missiles for stronger anti-aircraft capability. While its diverse arsenal makes it very capable fighter, it also carries sensors and tracking gear to find the enemy.
The United States doesn’t have a similar system, but has used packbots and larger robots for clearing explosives and urban recon.
Learn more about this super-lethal, unmanned Russian tankette in the video below!
In these days of compulsive social media scrolling, email refreshing, and COVID-19 news updating, most of us are on our phones a bit more than we really want to be. Here to save us from ourselves and our over-connected online lives is the Light Phone II, an elevated offering in the so-called “dumb phone” product space.
Billed as “the phone that actually respects you,” this second iteration of the Light Phone is designed to give you back some of your time and attention. It’s incompatible with apps that have anything resembling a feed (email, social media, YouTube). What you can do with it is what some would argue is all you need to do: receive and make text messages and calls from your imported contacts, use a calculator, set alarms, and use it as a hotspot. (The company is developing tools to enable users to play music or hail a cab.) In partially disconnecting you from your digital world and its distractions, the idea goes, it can help you simplify your life.
Unlike the first Light Phone, which was a pared-down phone designed to be a secondary, feature-free device, the update includes a few more bells and whistles so that you can use it as your primary — and potentially only — device. Imagine a life without push notifications, invasive ads, and constant headlines. It’s like a mental detox. Alternatively, it can still be used as a secondary device if you want to balance out your desire to be present with your need to update your socials.
The most minimalist smartphone you can buy.
If you have T-Mobile, Verizon, or ATT service, you can switch the SIM card from your smartphone to the Light Phone II and you’re all set (the phone runs on 4G LTE connectivity). For others, you can subscribe for service through Light itself for a low monthly fee, though your Light Phone will have a different phone number from the one on your primary device. Note that the Light Phone II is an unlocked phone and ships to you without a SIM card.
In never serving up feeds, social media, ads, news, or email, the phone effectively discourages you from using it. That frees parents up to, well, talk to our kids. Or read a book. Or take a walk without being tethered to Instagram. By short-circuiting your screen time through the Light Phone II, you can focus on being present with your partner and children right now. Which is truly a bright idea.
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.
The Army is celebrating it’s 240th birthday today (June 14). Formed in 1775 by an act of the Continental Congress, the Army has grown from a ragtag group of state militias to one of the strongest combat forces in history. Check out this video to learn more about how the Army began and what its missions are today: