MIT technology could reduce the number of nukes in the world - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

MIT technology could reduce the number of nukes in the world

Even in peaceful times, stockpiled warheads can pose a danger if they’re accidentally set off or fall into the wrong hands. Plus, there’s always a chance conflict could escalate, which is why many experts support dismantling nuclear warheads around the world.

But most arms-control treaties don’t require warheads to be inspected, since the process could reveal military secrets. And even if inspections were required, nuclear experts worry that nations could try to fool inspectors by offering imitation warheads.

To eliminate the risk that countries would lie about this, two MIT researchers have come up with a novel way to verify that a warhead is authentic — all without revealing how the weapon was built.


The scientists describe the new technology in a paper published in the journal Nature Communications. Their method uses neutron beams: streams of neutrons that can plunge deep into a warhead and reveal its internal structure and composition, down to the atomic level.

The technology, if implemented, could encourage countries like Russia and US to allow their warheads to be inspected and verified as real before they get dismantled.

Nations typically don’t inspect warheads 

The US and Russia recently dissolved the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which kept both countries from possessing, producing, or testing thousands of land-based missiles. Shortly after, each nation conducted a missile test, stoking fears of a nuclear arms race similar to the Cold War.

MIT technology could reduce the number of nukes in the world

(Defense Ministry)

During the Cold War era, the US and Russia built up their arsenals of nuclear warheads. By 1967, the US had acquired the most warheads in its history — around 30,000. The Soviet Union reached its peak warhead supply in 1986, when it had around 45,000.

When the Cold War ended in 1991, the nations agreed to dismantle some of these weapons, but they didn’t allow each other to inspect the actual warheads. Instead, they showed proof that the devices that carried these warheads, such as missiles and aircrafts, had been torn apart — which meant that the warheads couldn’t be deployed.

The US, for instance, cut off the wings of B-52 bombers and splayed them out in a “boneyard” in the Arizona desert. Russian officials could then verify via satellite that the planes were out of commission.

MIT technology could reduce the number of nukes in the world

A B-52 bomber.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Sarah E. Shaw)

Today, the US and Russia each have around 4,000 warheads left in their military stockpiles, in addition to around 2,000 warheads each that are “retired,” or ready to be dismantled. The Federation of American Scientists estimates that Russia is dismantling up to 300 retired warheads per year, but confirming that number isn’t easy.

That’s where the technology from the MIT researchers comes in.

The tool captures a warhead’s unique shadow, not classified details

The MIT researchers’ tool can detect isotopes like plutonium, which are found in the core of a warhead, since those atoms release specific wavelengths of light. These measurements then pass through a filter that scrambles and encrypts them. This allows a warhead’s unique structure to get probed without any resulting 3D image of its exact geometry. (It’s kind of like looking at a shadow of the warhead rather than the object itself.)

MIT technology could reduce the number of nukes in the world

W80 nuclear warhead.

(Public domain)

The researchers estimate that the scan can be completed in less than a hour.

The test’s encryption process is more secure than encrypting information on a computer, which can be hacked.

If nations are confident that their military secrets are safe, the researchers said, they could be more inclined to allow their warheads to be inspected. Of course, the method would need to be more thoroughly vetted before it could be implemented, they added.

But eventually, they said, it could help to “reduce the large stockpiles of the nuclear weapons that constitute one of the biggest dangers to the world.”

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

MIGHTY MOVIES

This milspouse made the latest cut on ‘American Idol’

American Idol is back this year on ABC with Ryan Seacrest and new judges Katy Perry, Lionel Richie, and Luke Bryan. They’ve just announced the Top 24 and there’s a military spouse who’s made it this far in the competition.

Jurnee (just one name and she says it’s real) is an 18-year-old hostess from Denver, CO. Her wife, Ashley, serves in the U.S. Army.


Check out Jurnee’s audition video below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=01XhRdvPZxY

www.youtube.com

After Hollywood Week, Jurnee learned she made it to the Top 24 and performed Never Enough for her Idol Showcase. Ashley, who’s soon to be deployed, made it to Los Angeles for the performance.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JRMBMs6ZLPw

www.youtube.com

Longtime Idol viewers will notice the way that the producers are presenting her (ahem) journey means that they’re setting up Jurnee to have a long run on the show (if she continues to perform with the ability she’s demonstrated so far). We’ll be tuning in and following her progress in the weeks to come.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

US Army to use Israeli defense missiles instead of Patriots

The US Army on Feb. 6, 2019, announced that it would buy an Israeli missile-defense system to protect its soldiers in a de facto admission that existing US missile defenses just don’t work.

“The U.S. Army has announced its intent to procure a limited number of Iron Dome weapon systems to fill its short-term need for an interim Indirect Fire Protection Capability (IFPC),” a US Army statement sent to Business Insider read.


Israel’s Iron Dome missile-defense system, indigenously designed with a 9 million US investment backing it, represents the world’s only example of working missile defense.

While the US, Russia, and China work on high-end missile systems meant to shoot down stealth aircraft in ultra-high-tech wars with electronic and cyber warfare raging along the sidelines, none of these countries’ systems actually block many missiles, rockets, or mortars.

MIT technology could reduce the number of nukes in the world

Iron Dome launches during operation Pillar of Defense, November 2012.

On the other hand, Israel’s Iron Dome has shot down more than 1,200 projectiles since going operational in 2011. Constant and sporadic attacks from Hezbollah in Lebanon and Iranian-aligned forces in Syria have turned Israel into a hotbed of rocket and mortar activity, and the system just plain works.

Not only do the sensors and shooters track and hit targets reliably, the Iron Dome, unlike other systems, can tell if a projectile is going to miss a target and thereby save a 0,000 interceptor fire.

While the system does not run entirely without error, US and Israeli officials consistently rate the dome as having a 90% success rate on the Gaza border, one of the most active places in the world for ballistic projectiles.

But the US already has missile defenses for its forces.

The 2019 Missile Defense Review said the US’s Patriot Advanced Capability-3 missile-defense system has a “proven combat record,” though US officials inflated its success rate during Operation Desert Storm.

The US, unlike Israel, which is surrounded by enemies bent on its ultimate destruction, doesn’t get many enemies firing ballistic missiles at its forces. Still, to protect its soldiers, the Army typically deploys Patriot defenses to its bases to protect against short-range missile attacks. In Iraq, the US Army also experimented with a Phalanx gun system that would rapid fire 20mm rounds at incoming rockets and mortars.

But Saudi Arabia, a weaker US ally, has put its Patriot defenses to the test and found them severely wanting either through user error or failings of the system itself.

In repeated missile strikes from Houthi rebels using relatively unsophisticated Iranian ballistic missiles, the Patriot missile defenses have failed, sometimes spectacularly.

MIT technology could reduce the number of nukes in the world

MIM-104 Patriot.

Despite Saudi Arabia claiming a high success rate for the missile system, it proceeded to talk to Russia about obtaining advanced S-400 missile defenses after the Patriot failures. NATO allies such as Turkey have also sought to augment their defenses with the Russian system, causing friction with the US and others.

Overall, the US Army’s statement announcing the Iron Dome purchase made it clear that this would just be a short-term buy while the US assesses its options.

“The Iron Dome will be assessed and experimented as a system that is currently available to protect deployed U.S. military service members against a wide variety of indirect fire threats and aerial threats… it should be noted that the U.S. Army will assess a variety of options for” the long term, the statement continued.

But the Army is well aware of its own Patriot system and any planned or possible updates.

By buying an Israel system with a great track record and overlooking a US system with a checkered past, the US may have finally admitted its shortcomings in missile defense.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

U.S. and Russian astronauts forced to conduct emergency landing

A space capsule carrying a two-man Russian-American crew that malfunctioned after liftoff has landed safely in the steppes of central Kazakhstan, the Russian and U.S. space agencies say.

Russian cosmonaut Aleksei Ovchinin and U.S. astronaut Nick Hague returned to Earth on Oct. 11, 2018, in their Soyuz capsule for an emergency landing following a problem with the booster rocket shortly after a launch bound for the International Space Station (ISS).

Both NASA, the U.S. space agency, and Roskosmos, the Russian equivalent, said the astronauts were in good condition after their capsule landed about 20 kilometers east of the Kazakh city of Zhezqazghan.


“The search and rescue teams have reached the Soyuz spacecraft landing site and report that the two crew members are in good condition and are out of the capsule,” NASA said.

MIT technology could reduce the number of nukes in the world

(RFE/RL Graphic)

“The cosmonauts are alive. They have landed. They have been found,” according to a source at the Russia-leased Baikonur launch facility in Kazakhstan.

The crew had to return in “ballistic descent mode,” NASA earlier had said, which it explained was “a sharper angle of landing compared to normal.”

Following their emergency landing, NASA published pictures of Hague and Ovchinin undergoing a medical checkup and relaxing on sofas in Zhezqazghan. The two were expected to be flown to Baikonur and then on to the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center outside Moscow.

Roskosmos chief Dmitry Rogozin said he had ordered a state commission to be set up to investigate the causes of the malfunction, while Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov announced that manned space flights would be suspended until the probe is completed.

The Soyuz capsule automatically jettisoned from the booster when it failed 123 seconds after the launch from Baikonur, Borisov said, according to the Interfax news agency.

The minister added that the problem occurred when the first and second stages of the booster rocket were in the process of separating.

Footage from inside the spacecraft showed the crew being shaken around at the moment the failure occurred.

In a statement, NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said that a “thorough investigation into the cause of the incident will be conducted.”

Hague and Ovchinin were due to spend six months on the ISS, which is orbiting 400 kilometers above the Earth.

Relations between Moscow and Washington have plunged to the lowest level since the end of the Cold War over the wars in Ukraine and Syria, allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential, and other issues, but Russia and the United States have maintained cooperation in space.

The Russian-built Soyuz spacecraft is currently the only vehicle for ferrying crews to the ISS following the retirement of the U.S. space shuttle fleet in 2011.

The Oct. 11, 2018, booster failure led to what is said to be the first emergency landing for the Soyuz since 1975, when it failed to separate between stages during an ascent and triggered the abort system. The crew survived.

In 1983, a Soyuz exploded on the launchpad soon after the two cosmonauts it was carrying jettisoned. The crew also survived without injuries.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Check out this spooky ‘No Time to Die’ trailer teaser

The first full trailer for the next James Bond film, No Time To Die, will be released on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019. But for now, the official 007 Twitter account has teased the very first footage from Daniel Craig’s final outing as Bond. And, honestly, the movie looks a little spooky. But, it also confirms a huge reference to the Sean Connery years.

Featuring Bond walking in the shadows, and a mysterious monster-ish face behind glass, No Time To Die is keeping its thriller secrets close to its finely-tailored vest right now. The style and ominous tone of the trailer will also probably remind everyone a little bit that the new Bond film is directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga, the same guy who directed the thrilling first season of True Detective. Here’s the brief tease:


Obviously, there’s a lot to love about this trailer. Perhaps the best thing is the fact that Bond’s Aston Martin DB5 is, once again, sporting some guns. And, this appears to be, for the most part, exactly the same spot where Sean Connery’s secret guns were hidden in his Aston Martin; right behind the headlights.

It should be noted, however, that so far, there are at least two separate classic cars confirmed for No Time To Die: the Aston Martin DB-5, but also, the Aston Martin V8, last driven by Timothy Dalton in The Living Daylights

Expect a ton more Bond references in the new trailer in a few days. We’ll update this space with all the new info as our spies report back.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The A-10 has been bringing the pain for nearly five decades

We all love the A-10 Thunderbolt II, commonly known as the “Warthog.” For years now, this airframe has brought the BRRRRRRT and provided close air support to grunts on the ground. But the A-10 is actually older than many think.

For a combat plane, 46 is pretty old. Now, it’s not the grumpy, “get-off-my-lawn” level of old — the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress claims that honor. It entered service in 1952, making it old enough now to collect Medicare.


MIT technology could reduce the number of nukes in the world

A number of A-10 Thunderbolts were painted green, but these days, they’re a plain gray.

(USAF)

At the time of the A-10’s introduction, NATO nations had half the tanks of signatories of the Warsaw Pact. The Warthog was intended to fight off those huge, armored hordes. The A-10’s GAU-8 30mm Gatling gun (that provides its signature BRRRRRT), was only part of the solution. The plane is also able to haul over eight tons of bombs, rockets, and missiles.

One missile is of particular note: The AGM-65 Maverick. The A-10 has been loaded up with several variants of this powerful weapon, mostly the AGM-65D and AGM-65G. These variants use imaging infra-red seekers and are able to hit targets in any condition, day or night, clear skies or bad weather.

MIT technology could reduce the number of nukes in the world

The A-10 has been in service for over 40 years and, still, no plane has been able to truly replace it.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Melanie Norman)

The Maverick has a maximum range of 17 miles and packs either a 125-pound, shaped-charge warhead or a 300-pound, blast-fragmentation warhead. With this missile, the A-10 can pick off enemy anti-aircraft guns, like the ZSU-23, before closing in to drop bombs and give enemy tanks the BRRRRT.

Despite its age, the A-10 is slated to remain in service for a while. The Air Force is currently running the OA-X program in hopes of finding a true replacement, but the real solution may be to simply build more of this classic plane.

See how the Air Force introduced the A-10 back in ’72 in the video below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-q2T6M_pzes

www.youtube.com

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 truths about the drill life

Whether you’re about to live it or are wondering if it’s a viable personal move (as well as a great professional move), there are many questions surrounding drill life. Known as being “on the trail,” drill sergeants and their families deal with a schedule and a lifestyle that differs from the rest of the military world. (And the rest of training units for that matter.)


Here are 5 truths of what it’s like to live on the trail, and what you can expect as a military spouse or dependent of an incoming drill.

It’s not like “regular” military life

If you’re a milspouse, you think “been there, done that,” right? Perhaps your spouse has been deployed, you’ve experienced several TDYs apart, and more. So if going drill is on the table you might be thinking, NBD. But the truth is, the life of a drill family greatly differs from the rest of the military.

Training units in general are a whole new world, but add in trainees that – at least for a portion of time – have to be supervised at all hours, and you’re looking at a schedule that’s spotty at best, and an unequal balance of parenting and household responsibilities. Be ready to pick up the slack; life on the trail is by far a family effort.

MIT technology could reduce the number of nukes in the world

The hours are long

Military spouses are often left to handle things at home for days on end. Middle of the night calls when they have to go into work? Check. Last-minute overnights? Also a yep. Because trainees are involved, planning days ahead doesn’t always work. Everything could be listed out in excruciating detail, then something goes incredibly wrong, and drill sergeants have to return to work. Is that always the case? Of course not. Units do their best to keep hours low, but it’s always a possibility.

Experience depends on unit

Drill schedules take this to a new level. For instance, each MOS has its own timeline for basic and AIT scheduling. Each also comes with various rules on if/when weekends are non-work days, how many drills have to be present at each time, etc. But even furthermore, each individual company has its own rundown for days off, long weekends, especially in OSUT scenarios. (BCT and AIT in one location.)

If you have orders, the best source of information will be those who have been there first.

MIT technology could reduce the number of nukes in the world

Stephen Colbert learns how “mean” drill instructors can be.

They’re loud, but not “in-the-movies” mean

When the “brown round” goes on, the voice escalates. Privates are talked down to, they’re encouraged to learn respect, and quickly. Being a drill means your spouse will have to, from time to time, be mean. But don’t freak out, either; it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. Yes, drill school teaches how to break and build incoming soldiers, but personality plays into this, too. Each drill will have their owner leadership style, their own way of being heard. Donning the same headgear as Smokey the Bear won’t suddenly make your spouse a screaming, demanding individual.

Drills don’t like being gone either

It won’t take long for most military spouses to wish they had more time with their always-working spouse. But while they’re gone for hours, sometimes days, remember that they don’t like the schedule, either. They are likely getting little sleep and training round-the-clock.

Being married to a drill is definitely a grind, but with a solid effort, it’s also a great way to fast-track a military career.

Keep in mind that there’s light at the end of the tunnel, and incredible honor involved with life on the trail. It’s a great way for families to become tight-knit and rely on one another, even with crazy schedules.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Having your own personal APC makes sense when things to haywire

In 2010, a standoff with police in Hoonah, Alaska, on the northeast shore of Chichagof Island led to a shootout that resulted in two officers being killed and the suspect barricading himself inside a house. Alaska State Trooper Rodney Dial responded to the call that day and came to a sobering realization — local law enforcement needed an armored vehicle. Alas, not one could be found in the entire state. After the situation came to an end, his search began for a platform that could be used to respond to similar confrontations in the future.


Rodney took it upon himself to research this category of vehicles and quickly discovered how cost prohibitive it’d be to get a modern one with all the bells and whistles better-funded departments had. That led to scouring forums and websites dedicated to surplus military vehicles that could be purchased for considerably less. After poking around the interweb for a while, Rodney found this six-wheeled beast owned by a militia member in the Midwest who had a brush with the law and was forced to sell it. Upon dropping around $22,000 for the vehicle itself, and then about another $5,000 having it shipped to Alaska, he was now the proud owner of a 1956 Alvis Saracen FV603 Mark V.

MIT technology could reduce the number of nukes in the world

The owner fabricated a one-piece removable front cowling with extra armor and ballistic glass.

Courtesy of Recoilweb

To provide a little background, the Saracen FV600 series was an armored personnel carrier (APC) produced by British manufacturer Alvis from the early ’50s up to the mid ’70s. Many of them are still in use today throughout the globe. This model of APC was often seen during the Troubles in Northern Ireland, and you may have also recognized a few of them in Stallone’s Judge Dredd movie. The Mark V is an up-armored variant of the FV603 model and, according to Rodney, can withstand a 20-pound landmine as well as .50-caliber armor-piercing rounds. The factory ballistic glass is around 6 inches thick. The vehicle can hold 10 people including the driver and gunner, but it isn’t amphibious.

After taking delivery of the vehicle, it quickly became a maintenance nightmare. The startup procedure required checking dozens of fluid levels, and the amount of oil it leaked rivaled the Exxon Valdez. The recurring mechanical issues, coupled with the fact that parts had to be shipped over from Europe, consistently sidelined it. The original Rolls-Royce powertrain with its fluid flywheel system was only getting a top speed of about 40 mph — when it ran.

Some additional research, and the good fortune of being located near one of the best diesel mechanics in the state, led to swapping out the drivetrain with a Navistar DT 466 six-cylinder diesel engine with an Allison automatic transmission, which was sourced from a dump truck. With the addition of a handmade gas tank, KN custom intake, and specially made exhaust system, the performance was dramatically improved. Top speed is now about 70 mph, and mileage is up to a surprising average of 15 mpg (not bad for 11 tons).

Rodney also installed a new bumper system, reinforced deck plating on the sides, custom front armor, interior gun mounts, a ladder for the turret, additional lighting, and a police radio, among other touches. Although Rodney has retired from active duty and is currently mayor of Ketchikan, the vehicle is still available to local law enforcement if needed. Operating it is similar to driving a heavy truck, although visibility is understandably limited.

MIT technology could reduce the number of nukes in the world

www.recoilweb.com

Like any heavy-duty commercial vehicle, it uses air brakes. Currently, the vehicle is only two-wheel drive but can be made 4WD — at the moment Rodney has it disconnected. The independent center wheels serve as backup to keep the vehicle stable and driving in case the others are destroyed and function on a hydraulic system that can be raised to make tighter turns. Rodney tells us it has a better turning radius than his pickup.

You might be asking yourself how it’s possible to own one of these unless your golfing buddies work for the State Department. It’s actually easier than you might think. Rodney tells us no special permitting was required to purchase it because it was shipped over as “demilitarized,” meaning the grenade launchers and guns are disabled. The main armament was originally a Browning .30 cal, but Rodney replaced the barrel with one from a 20mm Vulcan cannon, which is merely for looks. Rodney does have a .50-cal BMG that he could use in the periscope-equipped turret if needed.

“People interested in purchasing a vehicle like this should search the military forums online,” Rodney says. “There’s a few different companies that sell military surplus vehicles. It’s not easy to find one like this for sale in the country, but you can definitely find one in Europe and import it. Sometimes they have similar ones on eBay under the military vehicles section. If you buy one, you have to do one of two things: Understand that it’s something you can just drive on a limited basis because they break down periodically, or you’re going to have to modernize it with a current drivetrain and other components.”

As was the case with Rodney, owning one will require finding a specialized mechanic who knows how (and is willing) to service it, upgrade it, and can possibly fabricate parts. Given the inflated weight, if you get it stuck somewhere you better have the number for a big-rig tow truck company saved on your phone.

To comply with the formalities for street legality, Rodney had to get it inspected, pay for a surety bond, and register it as a special-use vehicle. Believe it or not, it’s insured through a well-known insurance provider and only costs him about 0 annually. “People need to make sure they get a vehicle like this titled so they can register it,” Rodney says. “Every state is different on what they’ll allow and consider ‘special use,’ but I registered it in a similar manner as companies that take old amphibious WWII vehicles and use them for tourists.”

MIT technology could reduce the number of nukes in the world

www.recoilweb.com

If you’re part of the thin blue line and having trouble convincing the tribal elders why they should appropriate funds to acquire a vehicle like this, be sure and remind them about the situation that prompted Rodney to purchase his. If that doesn’t work, try mentioning Shawn Nelson, who stole an M60A3 Patton tank from a National Guard armory in 1995 and went on a rampage in San Diego, California. You could also relay the “killdozer” case of Marvin Heemeyer, who rigged up his D355A bulldozer with extra armor before deciding to go out and demolish several buildings in Granby, Colorado, in reaction to his ongoing disputes with city officials.

Rodney’s vehicle might’ve already looked familiar to you, as it’s also been featured on an episode of Doomsday Preppers. If you’re looking to get one for a SHTF situation, it’s perfectly legal (and we think commendable) for private citizens to procure a Saracen and vehicles of the same ilk. See the sidebar for used military vehicle resources. Just like having an AR, though, you’re bound to get resistance from the local yokels who want to undermine your ability to own it on the grounds that it’s impractical, threatening, and that you “don’t need it.” We’re sure you’ve heard all these arguments before. Anyone who thinks the worst examples of human nature only exist in third-world countries is clearly well on their way to Mensa membership. Think we’re immune to a failed state? Go repeat remedial world history. Go directly to remedial world history. Do not pass “Go.” Do not collect 0.

At this point Rodney estimates he has about 0,000 of his own money sunk into the Saracen, but has it out on the road regularly and might even be spotted in a local drive-thru. Something about a politician who owns an APC makes us want to reach deep into our pockets to help him with his future campaign endeavors. Hopefully, his next step is running for Congress.

1956 Alvis Saracen FV603 Mark V

Motor: DT 466 six-cylinder diesel
Transmission: Allison automatic
Length: Approx. 15 feet
Width: Approx. 8 feet
Height: Approx. 9 feet, 5 inches
Weight: Approx. 22,000 pounds

Top speed: Approx. 70 mph

This article originally appeared on Recoilweb. Follow @RecoilMag on Twitter.

Articles

MACV-SOG: The covert special operations unit you’ve never heard of

If a conflict in U.S. history ever came with baggage, it has to be the Vietnam War. Although the service and actions of the millions of Americans who fought in Southeast Asia have been slowly recognized, the unpopularity of the war at the time, and for many years after, left a scar in American society. This unpopularity also meant that extraordinary men and units, such as the Military Assistance Command Vietnam-Studies and Observations Group (MACV-SOG), have fallen through the cracks of America’s consciousness, and are only known to a few old comrades, their families, and a handful of military history enthusiasts.

The innocuous-sounding MACV-SOG is such an organization, although its obscurity also has to do with its highly secretive nature.

SOG operators pulled off some of the most impressive special operations of the entire war; including some that seemed to defy logic itself. As successive U.S. administrations claimed that no American troops were outside South Vietnam, several hundreds of special operations troops fought against all odds, and against an enemy who always enjoyed a numerical advantage that sometimes exceeded a ratio of 1:1000.  

The most secret unit you’ve never heard of

Activated in 1964, MACV-SOG was a covert joint special operations organization that conducted cross-border operations in Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, and North Vietnam.

Composed of Army Special Forces operators, Navy SEALs, Recon Marines, and Air Commandos, SOG also worked closely with the Intelligence Community, often running missions at the request of the CIA.

MIT technology could reduce the number of nukes in the world
The unofficial logo of MACV-SOG (USASOC).

During its eight-year secret war (1964-1972), SOG conducted some of the most daring special operations in U.S. history and planted the seed for the creation of the U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) and Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC).

Related: ST IDAHO: THE SPECIAL FORCES TEAM THAT VANISHED IN THE JUNGLE

SOG’s main battleground and focus was the infamous Ho Chi Minh Trail, a complex stretching for hundreds of miles above and below ground, from North Vietnam through Laos and Cambodia into South Vietnam, which the North Vietnamese and Vietcong used to fuel their fight in the south.

What was peculiar about SOG operations was the fact that they happened where U.S. troops weren’t supposed to be. Successive U.S. administrations had insisted that no American troops were operating outside South Vietnam.

SOG commandos, thus, wore no name tags, rank, or any other insignia that might identify them as Americans. Even their weapons had no serial numbers.

MIT technology could reduce the number of nukes in the world
The Ho Chi Minh Trail slithered throughout Indochina and supplied the insurgency in South Vietnam (USASOC).

Duty in SOG was voluntary and strictly confidential. SOG troops weren’t allowed to disclose their location, missions, or any other details surrounding their covert outfit and they couldn’t take photographs—like all good commandos. However, SOG broke that rule frequently, as the numerous pictures from the time suggest. But as far as the general public was concerned, they were each just another American soldier fighting Communism in Vietnam.

SOG was commanded by an Army colonel, called “Chief SOG,” reflecting the predominance of Green Berets in the organization, and divided into three geographical sections: Command and Control North (CCN), Command and Control Central (CCC), and Command and Control South (CCS).

Service in the unit was highly selective. Not only did it recruit solely from special operations units, but the inherent risk required that everyone had to be a volunteer. Approximately 3.2 million Americans served in Vietnam. Of that number, about 20,000 were Green Berets, of those, only 2,000 served in SOG, with just 400 to 600 running recon and direct action operations.

Service at SOG came with an unspoken agreement that you’d receive either a Purple Heart or body bag. SOG had a casualty rate of 100 percent—everyone who served in SOG was either wounded, most multiple times, or killed.

MIT technology could reduce the number of nukes in the world
In Laos, a MACV-SOG team reconnoiters the Ho Chi Minh Trail for installations and pipelines (Wikimedia.org).

Our “Little People

What enabled SOG operations was a steady supply of loyal and fierce local fighters who passionately hated the North Vietnamese—and sometimes each other. These local warfighters worked with the American commandos as mercenaries. The “Little People,” as the Americans affectionally called them, proved their worth on the field, against impossible odds time and again.

These local partner forces included Montagnards, South Vietnamese, and Chinese Nungs, among other tribes and ethnicities. Indeed, local mercenaries made up most of SOG recon teams and Hatchet Forces (more on them later). For example, most recon teams would run cross-border operations with between two and four Americans and four to nine local mercenaries. Locals had an uncanny ability—some SOG operators would say a sixth sense—to detect danger. This ability made them perfect point men during recon operations.  

MIT technology could reduce the number of nukes in the world
An American commando surrounded by local mercenaries (USASOC).

Usually, when launching a cross-border recon operation, SOG teams would enter a pre-mission “quarantine,” much like modern-day Army Special Forces operational detachments do before deploying. During this quarantine period, they would eat the same food as the North Vietnamese, that is mostly rice and fish, so they—and their human waste—could smell like the enemy while in the jungle.

Related: COWBOY, A LEGANDARY COMMANDO

Today, where pre-workout and energy drinks are borderline mandatory, even on active operations, such measures might sound extravagant. But in a moonless night, in the middle of the Cambodian jungle, surrounded by thousands of North Vietnamese trackers and troops, something as trivial-seeming as your smell could mean the difference between a SOG team getting wiped out or making it home.

The local troops, having a great understanding of the operational environment, were crucial in the survival of many SOG recon teams. When the war ended, some of them, such as the legendary “Cowboy,” managed to escape to the West and come to the U.S.

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MACV-SOG Recon Team Alabama, including legendary local commando Cowboy. Notice the extended magazines for the CAR-15 rifle (Courtesy picture).

Death-defying special operations

SOG specialized mainly in strategic reconnaissance, direct-action, sabotage, and combat search-and-rescue.

Although SOG’s primary mission-set was strategic reconnaissance through its recon teams, it also specialized in direct-action operations, such as raids and ambushes. For these larger operations, there were different outfits within SOG.

The “Hatchet Forces” specialized in raids and ambushes, but also acted as a quick-reaction force for recon teams. Usually, Hatchet Forces were platoon-size and composed of five Americans and 30 indigenous troops. Sometimes, several Hatchet Forces would combine to create a company-size element, called either “Havoc” or “Hornet,” that could be very effective against known enemy logistical hubs or headquarters.

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MACV-SOG operators Lynne Black Jr. (left) and John Stryker Meyer (left) on the range (Courtesy Picture).

In addition to the Hatchet Forces, there were also the “SLAM” companies, standing for Search, Locate, Annihilate, Monitor/Mission, which were full-sized SOG companies with a few dozen Americans in leadership roles and a few hundred indigenous mercenaries who SOG had recruited.  

The first SOG recon teams were called “Spike Teams” (ST), for example, ST Idaho, with the term “Recon Teams” (RT), for instance, RT Ohio, becoming more popular later in the war. Usually, SOG commandos named teams after U.S. States, but they also used other titles, such as “Bushmaster,” “Adder,” and “Viper.” The number of active recon teams fluctuated throughout the war, reflecting casualties and increasing demand. For example, at one point, CCC ran almost 30 recon teams.

Related: ELDON BARGEWELL, AN AMERICAN SPECIAL OPERATIONS LEGEND

Some notable SOG missions include Operation Tailwind, a Hatchet Force operation in Thailand and one of the most successful missions in SOG’s history; the Thanksgiving operation, when SOG operator John Stryker Meyer’s six-man team encountered and evaded 30,000 North Vietnamese; the Christmas mission, when Meyer’s team went into Laos to destroy a fuel pipeline but almost got burned alive by North Vietnamese trackers who lit the jungle on fire; Operation Thundercloud, in which SOG recruited and trained captured North Vietnamese troops and sent them to recon operations across the border dressed like their former comrades; and Recon Team Alabama’s October 1968 mission that accounted fora whopping 9,000 North Vietnamese killed or wounded in action.

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MACV-SOG commandos training on the obstacle course. Fitness meant survival (USASOC).

What stands out about SOG is how much responsibility was placed on its young operators. Legendary SOG operator John Stryker Meyer, for example, was running recon as a One-Zero (team leader) at the age of 22 and just an E-4. And rules of engagement were quite different, with less bureaucracy impeding the guys on the ground.

“The Bright Light missions [combat search-and-rescue] would seldom be deployed under today’s Rules of Engagement,” Meyer told Sandboxx News.

“And, today, they call can’t believe lowly E-4s were directing air strikes, total control on the ground, and experienced troops had final say on teams, regardless of rank. Experience over rank.”

Meyer has written extensively about SOG and his hair-raising experiences in the unit.

Although techniques, tactics, and procedures were generally the same among the three SOG subcommands, SOG teams adjusted their approaches according to their geographical area. Laos, for example, has more mountains and jungle than Cambodia, which is flatter and more open.

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A MACV-SOG Hatchet Force boards a CH-53 Sea Stallion during Operation Tailwind (Wikimedia.org).

Saviors from above: SOG’s Air Commandos

Pivotal to the success and effectiveness of MACV-SOG operations across the border were several aircraft squadrons from across the services and also South Vietnam.

The Air Force’s 20th Special Operations Squadron was dubbed the “Green Hornets.” They flew the Sikorsky CH-3C and CH-3E and Bell UH-1F/P Huey. First Lieutenant James P. Fleming, a Green Hornet pilot, earned the Medal of Honor for saving a SOG recon team from certain death in 1968.

The Green Hornets’ Hueys came packed with an assortment of weapons, including M-60 machine guns, GAU-2B/A miniguns, and 2.75-inch rocket pods. If ammo ran out, door gunners would lob grenades or shoot their individual rifles.

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Alfonso Rivero, a Green Hornet gunner, on his work desk (Courtesy Picture).

In addition to the Green Hornets, the South Vietnamese Air Force 219th Squadron, which flew H-34 Kingbees, was a dedicated supporter of SOG operations. These South Vietnamese pilots and crews were truly fearless, always coming to the rescue of compromised recon teams regardless of the danger. Captain Nguyen Van Tuong, a legendary pilot, stands out for his coolness and steady hand under fire.

Related: THE GHOST FIGHTER ACE OF THE VIETNAM WAR

Other notable rotary-wing units that supported SOG missions were the USMC Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 367, which flew the AH-1 Viper attack and the UH-1 Venom transport helicopters; the 189th Assault Helicopter Company “Ghost Riders,” which flew assault and transport variants of the UH-1 Huey helicopter.  

SOG commandos on the ground could also rely on fixed-wing close air support, with the turboprop A-1 Skyraider being a favorite platform for close air support and the F-4 Phantom a good choice on any given day.

“Military politics always interfered, and our leadership had to fight from close air support assets, such as the A-1 Skyraider squadrons,” Meyer told Sandboxx News.

“For example, SOG brass had to fight to keep the 56th Special Operations Wing, operating from Location Alpha in Da Nang.

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Captain Nguyen Van Tuong of the 219th South Vietnamese Special Operations Squadron in his H-34 Kingbee supporting MACV-SOG operations (Courtesy Picture).

“That unit’s SPADs [A-1 Skyraiders] were consistent and fearless and were considered the backbone of CAS during Operation Tailwind. On day 4, for example, the NVA were about to overrun the HF [Hatchet Force] when Tom Stump made devastating gun runs that broke the back of those frontal attacks, giving McCarley time to get them off the LZ and out of the target as weather closed in.”

Close air support was vital and probably the most important factor in the survival of numerous SOG teams. However, although SOG commandos enjoyed air superiority and North Vietnamese aircraft never posed a danger, the Air Commandos supporting SOG had to face the extremely potent anti-aircraft capabilities of the North Vietnamese, which included anything from light machine guns to heavy anti-aircraft cannons to surface-to-air missiles. Every hot extraction forced a penalty of downed helicopters and fighters/ or bombers, or at least a few riddled with bullets.

SOG commandos called in close air support themselves, usually by using a compass and smoke canisters. Forward air controllers, nicknamed “Covey,” flew overhead and assisted in coordinating with the team on the ground and controlling all air assets and close air support. In CCS, Covey usually flew solo, doing both tasks while also flying his plane. In CCN, however, Covey was a two-man affair, usually entailing an experienced SOG operator joining the pilot and helping out with his unique experience, having been on the receiving end of close air support numerous teams.

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Some never made it back, dead or alive. MACV-SOG operator Master Sergeant Jerry “Mad dog” Shriver, still missing in action (Courtesy picture).

Years after the Vietnam War ended, it was discovered that there was a mole at the SOG headquarters in Saigon who had been passing information on team missions and locations to the enemy.

SOG operators, including special operations legends like Colonel Robert Howard and Master Sergeant Roy Benavidez, earned 12 Medals of Honor throughout the conflict.

Although service at SOG came with the unspoken agreement of a perilous life full of danger and risk, it also came with an unbreakable sense of loyalty and trust between the men who served there. A sense of loyalty and trust that time and again SOG operators proved through their commitment to leave no man behind, dead or alive. That effort, that commitment, continues to this day.


This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Coasties get limited assistance from Legion during shutdown

The American Legion has stepped in with offers of limited assistance for Coast Guard personnel working without pay should the partial government shutdown continue.

In a statement on Jan. 7, 2019, Legion National Commander Brett Reistad also called on members of Congress to back the “Pay Our Coast Guard Act” introduced by Sen. John Thune, R-South Dakota.

The bill would exempt the Coast Guard from the shutdown funding cutoff affecting its parent agency, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).


The proposed exemption would also cover Coast Guard retiree benefits, death gratuities, and other related payouts.

Currently, about 42,000 Coast Guard personnel are working without pay. DHS and the Coast Guard were able to find funding for members’ last paychecks, which went out Dec. 31, 2018. The next paychecks for Coast Guardsmen are due Jan. 15, 2019.

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U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class John Cantu, with the Coast Guard Maritime Safety and Security Team mans a mounted machine gun on a 25-foot Response Boat-Small in front of the Washington Monument in Washington.

(DoD photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Lisa Ferdinando, U.S. Coast Guard)

Reistad said the Legion backs the Thune bill legislation, “which will guarantee that these heroes who guarantee our safety and security will be paid on time and not miss a single paycheck.”

“Just because a Washington flowchart structures the Coast Guard under Homeland Security does not mean they should not be paid,” he added.

The Legion is prepared to offer financial assistance to some Coast Guardsmen.

“In the event that there is a delay in paying our Coast Guard, I have directed administrators of the American Legion Temporary Financial Assistance program to stand by and quickly administer requests made by active-duty Coast Guard members with children who need help with living expenses,” Reistad said.

However, he noted, “As a nonprofit, the American Legion is not capable of funding the entire Coast Guard payroll.”

The Veterans of Foreign Wars also called Congress to find a way to keep paying Coast Guard personnel.

“Our country needs this Congress and this White House to push through the rhetoric and take care of those who are on the front lines protecting our country,” B.J. Lawrence, VFW national commander, said in a statement. “What the Coast Guard and DHS do daily allows the rest of us to sleep easier at night. No one should ever take that for granted.”

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Everybody missed this ‘Spider-Man’ easter egg

We all know the line: “With great power comes great responsibility,” but what about the person who said it? For most fans of the character of Spider-Man, that line comes from Ben Parker, better known as “Uncle Ben,” the guy who raised Peter Parker in most versions of the backstory, and most famously, the Sam Raimi films starring Tobey Maguire. However, since the reintroduction of Tom Holland as Spidey into the Marvel Cinematic Universe in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War, Uncle Ben hasn’t been around. That is, until now! There’s a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it Easter egg that references Uncle Ben in Spider-Man: Far From Home. Here’s the deal.

Mild spoilers ahead.


As Peter is packing for his school “science trip” to Europe, the initials on his briefcase are seen very clear: BFP. We’re not sure what the “F” stands for, but it’s pretty clear the “B” and the “P” can only mean Ben Parker. Thematically, this is interesting because in the new Marvel movies Tony Stark has effectively become Peter’s Uncle Ben-figure; an older male mentor who dies and passes along wisdom to Peter. (Note: this scene was in the trailers! So this really isn’t a spoiler!)

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(Sony/Marvel)

This presents a strange question: what happened to this Uncle Ben? The suitcase could just be a fun visual reference, but this is the Marvel Cinematic Universe we’re talking about here. Random, throwaway lines can have huge implications in later movies. And, because Far From Home brought back J.K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson from the Tobey Maguire movies, it seems like a bunch of stuff from older superhero movies is suddenly on the table.

In fact, it wasn’t that long ago that Andrew Garfield’s Spider-Man went in search of his biological parents in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, which makes you wonder how long it’s going to take for Tom Holland’s version of the web crawler to do the same.

Uncle Ben- With Great Power Comes Great responsiblities–HD

www.youtube.com

Still, between Aunt May, Tony Stark, Happy Hogan, and this specter of Uncle Ben, it seems like Peter Parker has more than enough parental figures for the time being.

Spider-Man: Far From Home is out everywhere in theaters.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Marines just hit the beach in large war games

The 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit conducted an amphibious landing in Alvund, Norway, Oct. 29, 2018, during Exercise Trident Juncture 18. The exercise allowed the MEU to rehearse their amphibious and expeditionary capabilities in a unique environment in support of partner nations.

Norway is a NATO Ally and hosted this year’s exercise which provided challenging terrain and weather for the participating Marines. Training in challenging conditions helps acclimate the forces to the elements and enhances their combat readiness.


The amphibious landing consisted of a surface assault and an air assault to display the MEU’s ability to rapidly project combat power ashore. Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Division arrived ashore with roughly 700 Marines, 12 Amphibious Assault Vehicles, six Light Armored Vehicles, and 21 High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles, all designed to increase the lethality of the infantry Marines. Marines arrived at the beach landing site and transitioned to follow on operations at subsequent objectives around Alvund. All operations were conducted within the exercise scenario against mock enemy forces which required the Marines to make decisions in real time.

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Marines establish a bivouac location during Trident Juncture 18 on Alvund Beach, Oct. 29, 2018 after being delivered ashore from USS Iwo Jima.

“We came to the North Atlantic looking for a challenge and Trident Juncture delivered; throughout the exercise the environment forced us to be flexible and adaptive,” said Maj. Anthony Bariletti, the 24th MEU operations officer.

“It is the adaptability that makes Marine Expeditionary Units such a lethal crisis response force. As Marines, we gain our lethality from the ability to operate as part of a naval integrated team. The ability to conduct amphibious operations in the premier core competency of our service and this exercise provided an outstanding opportunity for the 24th MEU to hone its skills and prepare for combat as a forward deployed, sea-based Marine Air-Ground Task Force.”

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A landing craft air cushion lands on Alvund Beach, Norway during an amphibious landing in support of Trident Juncture 18, Oct. 29, 2018.

Throughout the training exercise, the MEU was able to provide strategic speed and agility while operating in international waters and retaining flexibility in support of NATO Allies and partners. Trident Juncture allowed the Marines to operate from the sea with their Navy counterparts and increase interoperability. The success of Trident Juncture will lead to more combat-ready forces capable of proficiently supporting combat operations and humanitarian activities across the globe.

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A Marine guides vehicles off of a landing craft air cushion during an amphibious landing in support of Trident Juncture 18 on Alvund Beach, Norway, Oct. 29, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Margaret Gale)

“I’m extremely proud of how hard the Marines and sailors have been working throughout the exercise,” said Sgt. Maj. Christopher Garza, the 24th MEU sergeant major.

“They have endured the challenging cold weather conditions and long work days. It’s great to come together and display our capabilities as a MEU and the Marines and sailors are the ones who make it happen. All the training and preparation they put in has paid off and my hat’s off to them on a job well done up to this point.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Marine Corps. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Navy gears up for ‘leaner, agile’ operations in Arctic

This is not your grandfather’s 2nd Fleet.

The Navy‘s newest combatant command will be “leaner, agile and more expeditionary” than the U.S. 2nd Fleet that was deactivated in 2011, Rear Adm. John Mustin, the fleet’s deputy commander, told attendants Jan. 16, 2019, at the Surface Navy Association’s annual symposium.


The 2nd Fleet, which the Navy re-established in May 2018, is designed to assert U.S. presence in the Atlantic and support operations in the North Atlantic and Arctic. While its actual makeup is still in the works, it is expected to reach initial operational capability summer 2019.

When it does, it will be a small fighting force that has taken lessons from the service’s overseas fleets and II Marine Expeditionary Force, Mustin said.

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(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Nathan Laird)

“The focus of 2nd Fleet is to develop and dynamically employ maritime forces ready to fight across multiple domains in the Atlantic and Arctic,” he said.

According to the service, the fleet will serve as the maneuver arm for U.S. Navy North in the Western Atlantic, “ensuring freedom of the sea, lines of communication and executing operational missions and exercises as assigned.”

It also will serve as a maneuver arm for U.S. Naval Forces Europe in the Eastern and North Atlantic.

The idea is that the fleet will focus on force employment, capable of deploying rapidly, regardless of area of operations.

“When I say lean, what does that mean? The staff complement is organized and billeted to be operational. The majority of staff will focus on operations, intelligence, plans and training,” Mustin said.

The Navy first established the 2nd Fleet in the 1950s, a response to deter Soviet interest in the Atlantic, especially Europe. It was disbanded in 2011, and most of its assets and personnel were folded into Fleet Forces Command.

But growing concern over potential Russian dominance in the North Atlantic and Arctic prompted Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson to reactivate the unit.

2nd Fleet version 2.0, however, won’t look much like its historic predecessor.

Mustin said the command staff will be small, currently consisting of 85 members. The full number is still being determined, a 2nd Fleet spokeswoman said.

And while technically it will be headquartered in Norfolk, Virginia, Mustin said sailors can expect that it will have the ability to deploy its command-and-control element forward, with a small team operating forward from a command ship or “austere offshore location.”

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Naval Station Norfolk.

(Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ernest R. Scott)

The command also will integrate reserve forces on an as-needed basis and bolster its staff with personnel from allied nations, he added.

“This is not your grandfather’s 2nd Fleet or, as my staff likes to point out, my father’s 2nd Fleet,” Mustin said.

It will resemble overseas fleets, he said, which means it will become responsible for forces entering the integrated phase of composite unit training exercises, and “we will own them through deployment and sustainment.”

The ships will fall under operational control of U.S. Fleet Forces Command, but tactical control will be delegated to 2nd Fleet.

Standing up a fleet within a year has been a challenge, Mustin said, but there’s excitement surrounding the concept. He noted that many surface warfare officers interested in being assigned to the command had approached him at the symposium.

“It’s fast and furious, but we are getting there,” he said.

At the symposium, some observers questioned how integration will work with other naval fleets with overlapping areas of responsibility.

Vice Adm. Lisa Franchetti, commander of 6th Fleet, said the integration will be seamless.

“Our idea is not to make a line in the water. When you make lines, adversaries exploit them. Our idea is to figure out how to flow forces and how to address anything that flows our way,” she said.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

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