Laser-guided bombs have been a mainstay of the United States military for almost 50 years, but they’re not without their downsides. Yes, they provide great accuracy, but you need to keep the target painted for maximum effect and bad weather makes laser-guidance less reliable.
Additionally, many laser-guided bombs currently in use, like the Paveway II, have a relatively short range and must be used at high altitude, meaning the plane can’t hide from radar. With improved defense systems out there, like the Russian Pantsir, keeping a target painted at close range may spell disaster for a pilot.
The GBU-12, like other Paveway II systems, has relatively short range — not a good thing when advanced air defense systems can reach out and touch a plane.
(USAF photo by Tech. Sgt. Matt Hecht)
The Paveway III system was designed to address those shortcomings. It has a longer range and can be used from lower altitudes, but the United States only bought the GBU-24, which is based off 2,000-pound bombs like the Mark 84 and BLU-109. They make a big bang, but as we’ve learned, a big bang isn’t always the best solution.
So, to bridge that gap in capabilities, Lockheed has developed Paragon, which is based off the GBU-12, a 500-pound bomb. Paragon essentially takes a laser-guided bomb and adds a combination of an internal navigation systems and global positioning system guidance, extending range and allowing for more flexibility in how a plane approaches its target.
Lockheed-Martin’s New Paragon direct attack bomb
The Paragon has a larger “launch acceptable region” than many legacy systems. This is, in essence, the area of the sky above a target within which a pilot can drop the munition and hit their target. Older laser-guided bombs have a narrow acceptable region, making it easier to predict a plane’s approach path and fire off defense systems. The Paragon, which is capable of hitting targets on land or sea, allows for more dynamic approaches.
Of course, Paragon is also easy to integrate into the stuff professionals think about: Logistics. It uses the same test gear as JDAMs and laser-guided bombs. Integration costs, therefore, are minimized, and it is a good way to improve operational flexibility on a budget. The Paragon may prove to be a paragon of lethality.
Imagine you’re in the Air Force, working the flightline during a war with China when, suddenly, a Chinese J-20 is seen nearby. It’s about to come rain death on your base and — most importantly — you. Luckily, the ground-based laser defenses zap it out of the sky before the dorm rats even get a chance to raid the Burger King.
The Air Force probably never saw its High-Energy Laser Flexible Prototype that way, but it’s definitely how it could have played out. But we’ll never know, because the lasers are gone for now.
Artist rendering of the High-Energy Laser Flexible Prototype in action.
The military isn’t giving up on lasers entirely, despite the recent cancellations of laser weapons systems by both the Air Force and Army. The Pentagon just isn’t sure where the focus of directed energy should be right now. The purpose of the original High-Energy Laser Flexible Prototype was to build a ground-based defense system, then scale it to individual aircraft defenses. The Air Force is no longer interested in that direction.
“We’re trying to understand where we actually want to go,” Michael Jirjis, who oversees the Air Force strategic development, planning, and experimentation office’s directed-energy efforts, told Air Force magazine. “Internally to the Air Force, we’ll hold another DE summit sometime later in the spring to understand senior leader investment and where they want to go for the community at large.”
Firms like Lockheed-Martin are still developing laser defenses for tactical aircraft.
But developing lasers and microwave systems will continue, just not with the HEL, which would have been operational around March 2020 if everything went as planned. The scrapping of the program took little more than a month after requests for proposals were sent out.
When Royal Air Force pilot Sydney Cohen crash landed on the Italian-controlled island of Lampedusa in 1943, he thought he would be in for the fight of his life. Lampedusa was the home of more than 4,000 Italian troops in garrison, and all Cohen had was his service weapon to fight them.
Instead, he was in for the surprise of his life, and was crowned King of Lampedusa shortly after.
A biplane similar to the one flown by Syd Cohen.
Cohen was supposed to be headed back to his home base on Malta in a Swordfish biplane but never quite made it. The pilot was flying with his two-man crew, Sgt. Peter Tait, the navigator, and Sgt. Les Wright, the wireless operator and gunner, on a search and rescue mission over the Mediterranean Sea. Their instruments failed mid-flight and they got turned around, only to run out of fuel before realizing the island below was not Malta.
The plane had a “fit of gremlins,” as Cohen later described it. The only place he could land was on the Axis-held island of Lampedusa.
Luckily for the RAF pilot, there were no Nazis on Lampedusa, only Italians. The island had a big runway and the crew saw no option but to go in and land on it, consequence be damned. They could never reach Malta in their condition and it was better than crashing into the ocean. They also didn’t know that the Allies ran heavy bombing missions on the island. So when he crash landed on the island, it made for incredible headlines back in London. Not because of a terrific battle – it was the mass surrender of 4,300 Italians.
“As we came down on a ropey landing ground we saw a burnt hangar and burnt aircraft around us,” Cohen said. “A crowd of Italians came out to meet us and we put our hands up to surrender but then we saw they were all waving white sheets shouting, `No, no. We surrender.’ The whole island was surrendering to us.”
It’s good to be the king.
Cohen got bold and asked to see the island’s commandant. As they moved toward the commandant’s villa, another Allied air raid began. The RAF pilot began to surmise the Italians were sick of getting bombed and really were ready to surrender.
“They asked me to return to Malta and inform the authorities of their offer to surrender,” he said. “They gave me a scrap of paper with a signature on it.”
So Cohen refueled and took off for the Allied base in Tunis to give the RAF the news. Upon hearing it, the RAF, the newspapers, London society, and even the British Jewish population raved about the new “King of Lampedusa.”
The play “The King of Lampedusa” performed in London’s East End.
Cohen’s story was immediately picked up and turned into a play and a musical. Hollywood even wanted to make a movie of the event as soon as possible. News of the debacle even reached the ears of Nazi propagandists in Berlin, who threatened to give the Jews in London’s East End “a visit from the Luftwaffe.”
The real life of Sydney Cohen doesn’t have a happy ending, no matter how the play, musical, and/or feature film turned out. Cohen disappeared while flying a mission near the Straits of Dover in August 1946. Neither his body nor the wreckage of his plane were ever located and no one knows exactly what happened to him.
Families that are made of generations of proud military service members are one of the reasons why this country is so great.
Many troops join the service because their father, cousin, or even grandpa had served before them — which is badass. Now that the youngest generation is old enough, they want to carry on the family tradition of service.
It feels honorable — as it should — but coming from a large military family can have plenty of downsides, too.
When you join the military, it becomes immediately clear how much competition goes on between branches. The Army and the Marines are constantly talking trash about who has won the most battles. The Navy and the Air Force will constantly debate over who has the better fighter pilots. The list goes on.
Now, imagine what Thanksgiving dinner will be like after two new, motivated service members from different branches have a few drinks — honestly, it sounds like the perfect setting for reality TV.
2. The grunt-POG divide
Grunts and POGs typically don’t get along. However, when two siblings are from the different occupations, they’ll put a ceasefire on any shit talking… for a while. The subject will arise in conversation eventually.
3. Bragging rights
The military is full of braggers. Although we might not openly say what we’ve done throughout our career, our “chest candy,” or ribbon rack, tells the story. Many siblings, however, will admit to their brothers or sisters what they’ve done to earn those ribbons.
Others might keep their stores to themselves, but if you’re family, you’re going to tell those tales.
4. Higher standards
It’s no secret that the military holds its troops to a higher standard in all things. Sure, some branches have more competitive rules than the others (Marines were looking at you), but when you run into your Army-infantry cousin, we guarantee that you two will conduct a quick inspection of one another before moving on with any conversation.
Time and time again, we hear stories from veterans about how hard life was during war. In modern day, troops’ living conditions are like a five-star hotel when compared to our grandparents’ experiences in the Vietnam or Korean Wars.
So, when you tell grandpa about how you don’t have WiFi in certain spots of the barracks, don’t expect him to give a sh*t.
Regardless of what branch your recruit is in, basic training can be mentally and physically tough. Here are some inspirational bible verses, with motivational graphics, for you to send your recruit at basic training to help uplift their spirits and keep them motivated to graduate.
Basic training is never easy, recruits will be mentally and physically demanding. Your recruit will need your support and motivation to help keep their spirits high.
Save or screenshot our bible verse graphics to include in your next Sandboxx Letter.
With your help I can advance against a troop; with my God I can scale a wall. It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect. The LORD lives! Praise be to my Rock! Exalted be God, the Rock, my Savior!
2 Samuel 22:30, 33, 47
So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
Isaiah 41: 10
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise—in God I trust and am not afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?
The Lord is my strength and my shield; my hear trust in Him, and He helps me.
For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways;
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.
I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.
If fighting the well-defended Viet Cong on their home turf wasn’t dangerous enough, imagine having to crawl your way through a series of extremely tight and narrow underground tunnels to capture or kill them.
Armed with only a flashlight, a single pistol, or maybe just a knife, a “Tunnel Rat” didn’t have much in the way of defense.
“The most dangerous part would be psyching up to get into the tunnel,” Carl Cory says, a former 25th Infantry Div Tunnel Rat. “That was the part that was most frightening because you didn’t what you were getting into.”
It was the duty of the brave Tunnel Rat to slide alone into the tunnel’s entrance then search for the enemy and other valuable intelligence. Due to the intense and dangerous nature of the job, many Tunnel Rats became so emotionally desensitized that entering a spider hole was just another day at the office — no big deal.
With danger lurking around every corner, the Tunnel Rat not only had to dodge the various savage booby traps set by the Viet Cong, but typically only carried 6-7 rounds of ammunition with him even though the tunnels were commonly used to house up to a few dozen enemy combatants.
With all those physical dangers to consider, the courageous troop still needed to maintain a clear and precise mental state of mind and not let the fear get the best of him.
After completing a search, many American and South Vietnamese units would rig the tunnels with C-4 explosives or bring in the always productive flamethrowers to flush out or kill any remaining hostiles.
You and your family sacrifice a lot in serving the country. Missing big events like graduations, birthdays, and even births themselves are not uncommon after you raise your hand and swear to protect and defend the Constitution. Private businesses recognize the sacrifices made by American service members, and often give special discounts to the men and women of the armed forces. Here are some of the best discounts out there to save you and your family some dough.
1. Disney Parks
While the Disney parks offer a small discount on regular ticket prices, the real deal here is Disney’s Armed Forces Salute ticket. The Salute ticket is a special offer that has been offered yearly since 2009. In previous years, the Salute ticket has been offered at both Disneyland in California and Walt Disney World in Florida.
However, with Disneyland still closed as of the writing of this article, Disney is only selling 2020 Salute tickets for Disney World. That said, when they were available, 3 and 4-day Park Hopper Salute Tickets were sold for 4 and 4 respectively. Compared to the standard prices of 5 and 5 respectively, that’s one heck of a salute from the mouse. At Disney World, 4, 5, and 6-day Park Hopper Tickets are available for 5, 3 and 1 respectively, whereas regular prices for these tickets are in the 0 range. Take note that, though the ticket is sold as a Park Hopper, park hopping is not currently allowed in Disney World. Normally, Park Hopper Plus Tickets are also available under the Salute ticket and give guests access to other Disney locations like the Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon Water Parks. However, like the Disneyland Tickets, Park Hopper Plus Tickets are not currently being offered. While there is no guarantee that Disney will continue the Salute Ticket for 2021, 2020 Salute Tickets can be purchased until December 18, 2020 and are valid until September 26, 2021.
Best known for its yoga apparel, the Canadian-based athletic wear retailer shows its appreciation for service in a big way. Though the prices of their products can run a bit high, Lululemon offers a whopping 25 percent for military service members and spouses. It’s worth noting that this discount also applies to first responders. Unfortunately, this discount cannot be applied online. However, it is valid on sale and clearance items…and Lululemon outlets. Trust us, there are some serious deals to be had there.
It’s surprising how many service members walking around on base wearing Nike products don’t know about the company’s military discount, especially since it’s double the more common discount of 10 percent. That’s right, your next pair of Nikes could be 20 percent off with your military ID. Like with Lululemon, the discount is still valid on sale and clearance items as well as outlets. However, unlike Lululemon, Nike offers the discount online as well through SheerID verification. After verifying your service, you’ll get a one-time code that you can apply to your online order, and the process can be repeated for future orders. Yes, it’s an extra step, but not a terrible sacrifice of time for 20 percent off. Like with in-store purchases, the discount can also be applied to sale and clearance items online. Whether you’re looking for new running shoes or a pair of Coyote Brown SFB Tactical Boots, don’t forget to apply your military discount when you’re shopping for something with the Swoosh.
(SeaWorld Parks Entertainment)
4. SeaWorld/Busch Gardens
Through the Waves of Honor program, SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment offers service members free admission to any of their parks. The annual offer also includes free tickets for up to three dependents. Tickets are acquired online and verification is done through ID.me. The offer applies to SeaWorld San Diego, SeaWorld San Antonio, SeaWorld Orlando, Busch Gardens Tampa, Sesame Place Langhorne, and Discovery Cove.
While this discount isn’t substantial, it made the list because of its relative obscurity. Apple offers a veterans and military purchase program through an exclusive online storefront. After verifying your service through ID.me, you’ll be granted access to a separate online store with the 10 percent discount applied to all items available for purchase. Since many military bases are a few hours’ drive from an Apple store, an online purchase may be more convenient.
This list is by no means all-inclusive and the discounts and offers mentioned are subject to change. Whatever you’re in the market for, be sure to see if there’s a military discount or offer that you can take advantage of. Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to inquire about it. After all, any discount or offer is in appreciation of service.
The 13th Demi-Brigade is one of the legendary units of the French Foreign Legion. During World War II, it was the only formation to immediately join Gen. Charles de Gaulle and the Free French Forces when France capitulated to to the Nazis.
From the creation of Vichy France to the country’s eventual liberation, the 13th Demi-Brigade carried the Legion’s honor in battles across the world. The 13th fought in Norway and across Africa, Syria, Italy, and France before victory was achieved.
Allied soldiers during the Battle of Narvik where French legionnaires with the 13th Demi-Brigade and other forces liberated Norwegian ports from Nazi occupation.
The 13th took part in two landings in Norway, both aimed at the port town of Narvik. The first was on May 6 at a point seven miles north of the city, and the second was on May 26 from a position to the south. Conditions during the fight were brutal. Temperatures fell as low as minus 60 degrees Fahrenheit and the legionnaires were attacking a force three times their size.
While the German’s conquest was ultimately successful, the victory wouldn’t matter. The legionnaires fought through vicious machine-gun fire, Luftwaffe attacks, and artillery bombardment, finally pushing the Germans out of Narvik and into the surrounding country. The Legion was pursuing the Germans across the snow and were only 10 miles from the Swedish border when the call came in to return home.
The Germans had invaded France, and all hands were needed to defend Paris.
France surrenders to Germany following the fall of Paris.
But it was too late. The brutal blitzkrieg laid France low before the legionnaires could get back. They landed in France only to learn that it was now German territory. After a brief debate about whether to continue fighting, the force’s commander executed a lieutenant who wanted to abandon the mission, and the bulk of the force went to England.
It was here that the 13th, answering the call of de Gaulle, joined the Free French Forces, the only legion able and willing to do so. As the rest of the Legion decided how much to cooperate with German authorities assigned to watch them per the armistice, the 13th was deciding how many Germans each of them would kill.
They first got their chance when they were sent to North Africa in the end of 1940. There, they captured Gabon and the Cameroons essentially unopposed and helped the British during vicious battles against Italian forces to secure territory in East Africa. In June 1941, they were sent to Syria where they would fight their own — Legion forces loyal to Vichy France.
The 6th Foreign Legion Infantry was garrisoned in Syria, an area under French mandate. Vichy France was allowing German forces to use their ports and airfields in Syria, posing a threat to the Suez Canal and British oil fields in the Middle East. The situation could not stand, and legionnaire was doomed to fight legionnaire.
The 13th, for their part, took a risk in the hopes that a legion civil war could be avoided. They fought through other French forces, at one point using outdated artillery in direct-fire mode as improvised anti-tank guns. When they had fought through to the Legion forces, they sent a small patrol to the outpost.
The outpost sent out a guard who presented the patrol with a salute and then arrested the patrol’s members. The fight was on.
Free French Forces legionnaires, likely members of the 13th Demi-Brigade, maneuver during the Battle of Bir Hacheim.
(Photo by Sgt. Chetwyn Len)
Luckily for the 13th, the 6th and other forces under Vichy control had been stripped of most of their serious weapons and were suffering severe morale problems. But the fight was fierce but brief. The 13th Demi-Brigade won the battle, a fight that included bayonet charges and grenade assaults, and it marched into Damascus in triumph eight days later.
They allowed all members of the 6th to join the 13th if they so wished. Less than 700 of nearly 3,000 did so.
Instead, the French forces destroyed 33 tanks in the first hour and held out for another two weeks. When the defenders finally gave in, they did so on their terms, conducting a nighttime breakout through German lines with the walking wounded and healthy troops marching and providing cover fire for the wounded on litters.
Allied forces celebrate at the end of their successful evacuation out of Bir Hacheim.
They made it through the desert to El Alamein where the commander, the legendary prince and Lt. Col. Dmitri Amilakhvari, reportedly had a dream where he was hit with a mortal wound and the last rites were administered by someone other than his chaplain.
During the first morning of the Battle of El Alamein, a German counterattack with tanks and air support felled the brave prince when a shell fragment pierced the iconic legion white kepi that he wore instead of a helmet. His last rites were administered by a French chaplain.
The 13th failed to take their objective, and the British command sidelined them for the next year.
While the end of their time in Africa was less than glorious, they were still heroes of fighting in multiple countries, and they were still needed to continue the war. Their next chance at glory was in Italy in April, 1944, during fighting that would be brief but bloody.
The legionnaires, with two infantry battalions, an artillery battery, and an anti-tank company, were sent against Italian troops dug into the mountainsides and fortresses of Italy. They were tasked in some areas with climbing rock faces and castle walls under fire. In one case, six troops climbed a wall with bags of grenades and managed to take the high ground from the enemy and rain the explosives down on the enemy in a daring coup.
Italy cost the legionnaires over 450 killed and wounded, but the war wasn’t over. The D-Day invasions of Normandy were underway, and the French Foreign Legion wasn’t about to sit out the liberation of France.
13th Demi-Brigade troops parade during a ceremony in the 1950s or ’60s.
(Private collection of Lieutenant-colonel Paul Lucien Paschal)
Paris was liberated on August 25, but the legionnaires were to the south and east, continuing to push the invaders from the southern French coast north past Switzerland and east, back towards Germany. The 13th, unfortunately, was not allowed to follow.
It had suffered over 40 percent losses in the fighting in France and western Italy as they pushed the Germans back. The unit was put on other duties as newly revived Legion units and Free French Forces drove with the rest of the Allied forces into Germany.
Facial recognition is being widely embraced as a security tool — law enforcement and corporations alike are rolling it out to keep tabs on who’s accessing airports, stores, and smartphones.
As it turns out, the technology is fallible. Researchers with the artificial-intelligence firm Kneron announced that they were able to fool some facial-recognition systems using a printed mask depicting a different person’s face.
The researchers, who tested systems across three continents, said they fooled payment tablets run by the Chinese companies Alipay and WeChat, as well as a system at a border checkpoint in China. In Amsterdam, a printed mask fooled facial recognition at a passport-control gate at Schiphol Airport, they said.
The researchers said their findings suggested that a person who prints a lifelike mask resembling someone else could bypass security checkpoints to fly or shop on their behalf.
“Technology providers should be held accountable if they do not safeguard users to the highest standards,” Kneron CEO Albert Liu said in a statement. “There are so many companies involved that it highlights an industry-wide issue with substandard facial recognition tech.”
Some facial-recognition software proved impervious to the printed-mask test, however. The researchers said Apple’s Face ID and Huawei’s system passed; both use more sophisticated technology known as structured light imaging. Kneron said its own facial recognition software also passes the test.
Researchers said that tests at security checkpoints were carried out with the permission of security guards supervising them — suggesting that as long as humans are present to notice the mask, facial-recognition checkpoints aren’t entirely unsecured.
In the month after its mask study went viral, Kneron announced that it raised million from investors including Alibaba, Qualcomm, and Horizons Ventures.
“We are excited to continue our journey with partners like Horizons Ventures who share our passion and dedication towards our mission to enable AI on any device [and] democratize AI,” Liu told Business Insider after the fundraising was announced.
Here’s the pitch deck Kneron used to raise million.
The littoral combat ship was intended to replace the Oliver Hazard Perry-class guided missile frigates. However, despite a promising 2010 deployment in the Southern Command area of operations by USS Freedom (LCS 1), the littoral combat ship (LCS) has struggled, mostly due to breakdowns.
That said, one major problem with the littoral combat ship was the fact that it is arguably underarmed. Both the Freedom-class and Independence-class littoral combat ships have an armament suite that consists of a 57mm gun, a number of .50-caliber machine guns, a launcher for the RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile, and a pair of MH-60 helicopters. While both ships have test-fired Harpoon and NSM anti-ship missiles, they haven’t been equipped with them.
USS Coronado (LCS 4) fires a RGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missile in the Philippine Sea.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kaleb R. Staples)
Among the systems added to the guided-missile frigate version of the Independence-class would be a Mk41 vertical-launch system that would allow it to fire a wide variety of missiles, including the RIM-174 Standard SM-6 Extended Range Active Missile, the RIM-66 Standard SM-2, the BGM-109 Tomahawk, the RUM-139 Vertical-Launch ASROC, and the RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile. Anti-ship missiles like the Harpoon and NSM could also be installed on the new frigate, along with anti-submarine torpedoes.
The littoral combat ship PCU Omaha (LCS 12) in the Gulf of Mexico. The vessel has a light armament suite more suited for a Coast Guard cutter.
(U.S. Navy photo courtesy of Austal USA)
The Navy is planning to select one of the five designs as the basis for a 20-ship class in 2020. The ships will have the responsibility of escorting convoys and carrying out a host of other missions that the littoral combat ships lack the firepower to handle.
Somewhere in southern Afghanistan, an explosive ordnance disposal technician spots a glint in the soft dirt. He moves deliberately, but steadily, as he tries to determine if it’s a harmless piece of trash or a bomb. In the back of his mind, the technician can’t help but wonder if this will be the improvised explosive device that kills him.
Since 2003 similar missions have taken the lives of 20 Air Force EOD technicians, when Airmen began diffusing bombs in Iraq and Afghanistan.
With combat missions winding down, EOD is now able to divert attention to its nine other mission sets: aerospace systems and vehicle conventional munitions, weapons of mass destruction, nuclear inventory, UXOs, operational range clearances, mortuary services, defense support for civil authorities, irregular warfare (where EOD teams serve as combat enablers for general forces or special operations), and VIP support.
As the career field shifts into a post-war posture they’re refocusing on these other skill sets. One of these they used to support the Secret Service when two teams from the 325th Civil Engineer Squadron’s EOD flight at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, worked President Barack Obama’s trip to Orlando, Florida, after the nightclub massacre where 49 people were killed in June. The Secret Service tasked EOD teams to sweep venues for explosives, areas en route to the venues, or on any person or object that could be used to harm the president or VIPs they’re protecting.
“For so many years, we have been going 150 mph,” said Senior Master Sgt. Robert K. Brown, 325th CES EOD superintendent, “so when you slow down to 85 mph, you feel like you’re crawling, even though you’re still going faster than most other people on the highway. We’d been doing that for the 12 years of combat operations, and now I think we feel we’re at a snail’s pace.”
Post-war life at the Tyndall AFB flight, one of 52 active-duty EOD flights Air Force-wide, ranges from responding to flares that wash up on the beach after being dropped by the Navy to mark items in the ocean to the occasional unexploded ordnance. The flight is responsible for assessing, rendering inert or safely destroying everything from small arms to guided missiles, although any EOD flight could be called upon to handle anything explosive in nature up to and including a nuclear incident.
The 325th EOD flight’s primary mission is flightline support for the wing’s four fighter squadrons, but it also provides counter-IED support for several tenant organizations.
By the time EOD Airmen left Afghanistan in 2014, they had completed almost 20,000 missions, responded to over 6,500 IEDs, and received more than 150 Purple Hearts for their actions and service in Iraq and Afghanistan. They also deployed often, with a third of the service’s 1,000 EOD members overseas and another third in pre-deployment training preparing to replace them, Brown said. At times the pace was so heavy that EOD Airmen would often be replaced by the same person who replaced them on their last deployment.
“For some of us old-timers in this particular generation, we’ve had a chance to kind of breathe,” Brown said. “In doing so, that’s given us the opportunity to regroup, restock and prepare for the next iteration of conflict that may or may not be coming. So right now is the best time to share the experiences and prepare the next generation for the hard lessons that we’ve had over these past 12 years.”
The two wars might be over, but EOD remains one of the Air Force’s most dangerous jobs. In addition to the 20 EOD technicians lost in the two wars, about 150 have suffered extensive injuries. It is a continuing evolving because of the constantly changing tactics of the enemy.
“The enemy is always going to try to continually be better than us, so we have to ensure that we never sleep in preparation for any force that we’re going to encounter,” said Chief Master Sgt. Neil C. Jones, the EOD operations and training program manager with the Air Force Civil Engineer Center at Tyndall AFB. “We don’t have the opportunity to make a mistake, so we train relentlessly to never get it wrong.”
During the transition, which has begun gradually in the past couple of years, the focus has been on getting everyone back from deployments and training them in the other nine skill sets to reestablish pre-OIF levels of proficiency. But equally important is the challenge of reducing attrition rates during EOD technical training without lowering the standards, Jones said.
EOD students first attend a 20-day preliminary school at Sheppard AFB, Texas, before they go through the Naval School EOD at Eglin AFB, Florida. An average school day is more than 13 hours, and it takes several years for a student to become a fully functional EOD member and a couple of years longer to be a team leader. About 75 percent of students fail to make it through the course.
Two recent changes to reduce attrition rates are the use of computer tablets for rehabilitation training and the addition of a couple of wounded warrior EOD technicians to help students at the school.
Derrick Victor, a retired technical sergeant who was wounded in his last deployment to Afghanistan when a bomb blast killed one Airman and hurt four others, is one of the new instructors. He’s seen the career field evolve through the wars and is now part of its post-war transition.
“Those two wars obviously changed the way that wars are fought as far as being on the ground and in third-world countries where they have to improvise,” Victor said. “It created a bit of a change from being based on supporting aircraft to things that were improvised. We got very good at that skill set, using robotics and working out all of that kind of stuff.
“Even though those two wars have dwindled down, we know that threat is not going to go away,” he continued. “So, as a whole, the career field is trying to keep that skill set rolling through the generations from those of us for who all we knew was Iraq and Afghanistan to all of these young kids coming fresh out of school, so they don’t have to learn on the fly like we did.”
EOD leadership is also placing a priority on training when Airmen get to their flights after graduation. Because the consequences of mistakes are so severe, the goal is to have those mistakes made in training, Brown said.
“I often refer to it as ‘the good, the bad, the ugly and the stupid,'” he said. “That just refers to what went right, what went wrong, what worked that probably shouldn’t have and what did we do that was just plain dumb, which happens in training. That’s OK as long as we learn lessons from it. But it’s not OK if it’s unsafe. Those are sometimes the hardest parts to learn. We want to make sure that if these guys (make a mistake) in training, they don’t do it when it’s for real. Explosives don’t care about peacetime or wartime.”
Another factor that’s evolving is the way the EOD field trains to recover from both emotional and physical trauma. More emphasis is being placed on instilling resiliency before something happens to an EOD technician in the field, Jones said.
Along with the cultural shift from the war years, the field has also been making major transitions in technology. The robot EOD technicians used in Afghanistan has been replaced by, among others, the Micro Tactical Ground Robot. The world’s lightest EOD robot can be carried by a single Airman, travel at 2 mph, climb stairs and see beyond 1,000 feet. Airmen previously carried 100-pound robots attached to their rucksacks. The new 25-pound robot can be carried on their backs.
“The technology advances that we have out there with the global economy, and more importantly, being able to make things lighter, faster and stronger, have allowed us to develop new tools and techniques and robotic platforms that are much smaller, lighter and leaner than what we had 14 years ago,” Jones said.
Technological progress hasn’t just been in robotics. There has also been a dramatic change in treating traumatic injuries downrange.
“I think one of the biggest things that we’ve seen as far as technology has been in the medical arena. We have changed the way we treat people for trauma,” Jones said. “If we can stop the bleeding downrange and get that Airman alive into a helo and back to a field surgical team, we’re running about a 98 percent success rate of saving their lives. So as our enemy continues to develop with technology to use against us, we will continually use our technology to develop a better way to take care of that threat.”
As much as life changes after years of war, one area that remains constant is the role tragic events play in training new EOD technicians. As sobering as the memories are of losing members of the EOD family, their sacrifice provided important training lessons.
“What our fallen have done is the same as our World War II EOD bomb disposal predecessors – with very brave men going down and disarming German rockets and bombs,” Brown said. “If they made a mistake, we would then know not to take that step, that last step. Unfortunately, a lot of bomb disposal techs died that way, but our fallen have taught us how to be better at this craft; they have never failed.”
India has the second-largest military in the world with about 1,444,000 active personnel. By comparison, the United States is the third-largest with about 1,400,000. The nation with the largest military in the world, and a not-so-friendly neighbor to India, is China at 2,183,000. In recent years and months, skirmishes along the border with China have prompted modernization efforts throughout India’s military forces.
Since 1998, the standard-issue infantry rifle of the Indian Army has been the domestically produced Indian Small Arms System rifle. The INSAS is chambered in 5.56x45mm NATO like the M4/M16 family and includes carbine and light machine gun variants. However, the INSAS received poor reviews from Indian and Nepali soldiers. In battle, the weapon was prone to jams, the magazines were prone to cracking, and the 5.56x45mm NATO round lacked stopping power.
In March 2019, the Indian military announced that the INSAS family would be retired. The light machine gun variants were replaced by the Negev Ng7 produced by Israel Weapon Industries. Conversely, the rifles would be replaced by the domestically-manufactured AK-203. Chambered in the venerable 7.62x39mm and based on the AK-74M, the AK-203 was designed in Russia and produced at the Amethi ordnance factory in India under license.
The same year, India announced a deal with Sig Sauer to purchase 72,400 rifles chambered in 7.62x51mm NATO. “We are very proud, and honored that the SIG716 was chosen for use by the fighting forces of the Indian Army, and we are looking forward to developing a strong partnership with India’s Ministry of Defence,” said Ron Cohen, President and CEO of Sig Sauer. The New Hampshire-based company is hot on government contracts as it continues to supply the U.S. military with its new sidearm, the M17/M18 pistol. Sig Sauer also recently won a contract to provide the U.S. Army with a new combat rifle optic.
Although, the exact specifications of the Indian SIG716 rifles was not released, the weapon does appear to differ slightly from the off-the-shelf variant. Though the rifle is offered in direct-impingement and short-stroke piston gas systems, the Indian model appears to use the former. Additionally, the Indian model features 1913 rails on the 12 and 6 o’clock of the handguard, a feature not found on commercial variants of the SIG716. The rifle uses standard AR-15 controls like the charging handle, bolt catch/release, and magazine release. It features an ambidextrous selector switch and accepts AR10/SR25-style magazines. The rifles purchased by India also include a full-auto fire mode, although the practicality of an automatic infantry rifle chambered in 7.62x51mm NATO is up for debate.
The first shipments of the SIG716 have already been issued to the troops of the Indian Army’s Northern Command. Moreover, in July 2020, India doubled down on their purchase. “We are going to place an order for 72,000 more of these rifles under the financial powers granted to the armed forces,” Defence sources told Asian News International. The exact reason for the return purchase is unknown. However, slow production of the Russian-licensed AK-203s may be to blame. Whatever the reason, India has seen a need to equip more soldiers with better rifles, and fast.
During his trip to India in February 2020, President Trump addressed a crowd in Ahmedabad at the world’s largest cricket stadium on the economic partnership between India and the United States. “India is now a major market for American exports,” the President said, “and the United States is India’s largest export market.” With over 140,000 rifles on order to India and an indefinite quantity contract with the U.S. military for the M17/M18 pistol, the folks in Sig Sauer’s defense contracting department are surely due for a hefty Christmas bonus this year.
A YouTuber has come out as a former member of the Army Testing and Evaluation Campaign and revealed that, as he departed the command, he was allowed to film all the events surrounding his last mission including the U.S. Army and Navy and the Japanese Self-Defense Force slamming a ship with missiles, rockets, torpedoes, and grenades.
The Future of War, and How It Affects YOU (Torpedo/Missiles vs Ship) – Smarter Every Day 211
The YouTube channel SmarterEveryDay is ran by Destin Sandlin, and he’s best known for videos about things like how tattoo guns work, how Houdini died, and how an AK-47 works underwater. If that sounds like a broad portfolio, the stated mission is to “explore the world using science. That’s pretty much all there is to it.”
He hasn’t talked about his Army connection on the channel much in the past, so most viewers were probably surprised when they saw the new video titled The Future of War, and How It Affects YOU. Destin revealed at the start of the video that he’s a member of ATEC and that U.S. Army Pacific Commanding General Gen. Robert B. Brown wanted to talk with him after the sinking exercise to discuss “Multi-Domain Operations.”
If you just want to see the former USS Racine get hit by explosives, the video above is linked to start just a little before the fireworks. Harpoon anti-ship missiles give way to rockets, a Naval Strike Missile, an Apache strike, and finally a Mk-48 torpedo.
After that, Destin has a short talk with a member of the Army’s Asymmetric Working Group about how engagements like the sinking reflect these multi-domain operations, fighting that starts in at least one domain, like the sea, but quickly comes to incorporate assets from the other domains: land, air, space, and cyber.
In the case of the ship sinking, missile launchers on the land engaged the ship on the sea by firing their weapons through the air. And the Japanese Self-Defense Force linked into U.S. sensors and systems through links in the cyber domain. In actual combat, the former USS Racine would’ve been tracked from satellites in space.
Brown, true to the promises at the beginning of the video, has his own extended conversation with Destin about how the U.S. needs to prepare for multi-domain operations to shoot, move, and communicate into the future.