After Russia’s incursion into Georgia several years ago and the covert operation to take over the Crimea in Ukraine in 2014, the former Soviet Republics along the Baltic coast view the Russian bear as an increasing threat.
More fearful than ever that a replay of Sevastopol could happen in Vilnius or Tallinn, troops from the Baltic states have been working ever closer with the American military to hone their skills, forge stronger bonds and develop tactics and protocols to defend themselves if the Spetsnaz drops in on their doorstep.
While American troops have been deploying recently for joint exercises with NATO’s northern allies in Europe, some of the Baltic countries’ most specialized troops have been coming to the U.S. for real-world training.
In February a joint team of U.S. special operators from the 10th Special Forces Group, National Guard soldiers and commandos from Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia infiltrated a 500,000 acre range in the mountains of West Virginia to practice covert ops, kick in some doors and do some snake-eater sh*t.
Dubbed Range Runner 2017, the exercise includes all the facets of special operations warfare, including counterterrorism, counterinsurgency, stability operations, foreign internal defense and unconventional warfare and allows for dynamic infiltration routes, including water, air and land with support from fixed wing, rotary wing and water rescue groups, the military says.
So how awesome was this joint commando exercise? Take a look.
1. Special operators get some assaulter practice
2. The joint commando teams work on infiltration via horseback
A U.S. Army Special Operations Forces Soldier assigned to 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne), conducts an infiltration movement on horseback during Exercise Ridge Runner Feb. 12, 2017 in West Virginia. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Connor Mendez)
3. The special operators work together on sensitive sight exploitation methods
U.S. Army Special Operations Forces Soldiers assigned to 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne), search through a cabin room as they conduct sensitive sight exploitation training during Exercise Ridge Runner Feb. 18, 2017 in West Virginia. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Connor Mendez)
4. They even go through the bad guy’s trash…
5. The special operations troops are hounded by local forces who track their movement
6. The Special Forces soldiers use old-school methods to pass messages without radios
7. Once they’ve gotten what they wanted, the commandos exfil via helicopter
Choi Son Hui, director general for North American Affairs at the Foreign Ministry, spoke briefly to reporters in Beijing en route to Pyongyang. She was traveling from Norway, where she led a delegation that held an informal meeting with former U.S. officials and scholars.
Choi did not elaborate on what the North’s conditions are, but her comments raise the possibility of North Korea and the U.S. returning to negotiations for the first time since 2008, when six-nation talks over Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program fell apart.
Tensions have mounted in recent months after the Trump administration said it would keep “all options on the table” to halt North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, including a military strike. The North responded by pledging to retaliate with a devastating nuclear counterattack, a threat it has made in the past.
In recent weeks, North Korea has arrested two American university instructors and laid out what it claimed to be a CIA-backed plot to assassinate Kim. Choi did not address the matter of the detained Americans on Saturday.
In Norway, Choi met with former U.S. officials and scholars for what are known as “track 2” talks. The talks, which cover a range of nuclear, security and bilateral issues, are held intermittently, and are an informal opportunity for the two sides to exchange opinions and concerns.
Filmmakers would love just to pick up a camera, press record, and film the most realistic performances from their hired actors. In many cases that is considered possible (after a few takes), but not when you’re dealing with military-based movies. Winning over the veteran audiences is a struggle; comments about how Hollywood “got it wrong” tend to start flying as the end credits roll.
Veterans critique the hell out of any movie that contains our troops — most of the time they have issues with uniforms and tactics. Face it — we have every right to.
However, there are a few films out there (like “Platoon,” “Saving Private Ryan,” and “Blackhawk Down”) that, for the most part, won over even those tough-to-reach veterans. That’s not to say they didn’t have their fair share of issues, but they had well-written scripts supported by research and outstanding technical advisors.
Since replicating the real-life grittiness of war is next to impossible, it’s the technical advisor’s job to train the actors on how to make their combat maneuvering authentic and feel like they’re really in the thick of battle. That means putting the cast through some extreme training scenarios before heading to set.
So check out how these advisors turned their actors into military operators:
In 1986’s “Platoon” directed by Vietnam Veteran Oliver Stone, retired Marine Captain Dale Dye took his cast of actors into the jungle, 85 miles away from all communications with only an entrenching tool so they could acquire a thousand yard stare.
Marine veteran Capt. Dye stands with actors Tom Berenger, Willem Dafoe, and Mark Moses on the set of “Platoon” deep in the Philippines jungle (Source: Orion Pictures | Screenshot)
2. “Saving Private Ryan”
Capt. Dye would repeat a similar practice for director Steven Spielberg in 1998’s “Saving Private Ryan” as he led the A-list cast on a six-day field training exercise, conducting land nav, physical training, and weapons training just to name a few.
Tom Hanks (left) stands with Capt. Dye (right) on the set of “Saving Private Ryan” (Source: Dream Works | Screenshot)
3. “Black Hawk Down”
Not all movies use this method to nail the combatant mind-set.
In 2001’s “Black Hawk Down,” producers chose a different approach by sending actors such as Josh Harnett, Ewan McGregor, and Orlando Bloom on a civilian mission to Fort Benning to attend a crash course orientation class of intense physical training, intro to demolition, and ground fighting led by the elite Army Rangers.
The cast of Black Hawk Down receives a few some words of instruction before raiding an M.O.U.T. or Military Operations Urban Terrain. War Games! (Source: Sony | Screenshot)
The cast also got to listen to words from the veterans of the Mogadishu raid, including Chief Warrant Officer 4 Michael Durant, who is famously known for piloting one of the Black Hawks that was shot down during the raid and was taken prisoner but was released 11 days later.
Comment below on how you’d like to see Hollywood represent your branch of service.
The fall of Custer and five of the companies under his command at the Battle of Little Bighorn on June 25, 1876, known by the Sioux Nation as the Battle of Greasy Grass, was as much a failure of reconnaissance and intelligence as of strategy and tactics, and a modern battle between the 7th Cavalry and the Sioux Nation would play out differently.
First and foremost, modern military formations have better intelligence gathering assets. While Gen. George A. Custer labored under the false impression that Sitting Bull, the Lakota leader, had only 800 warriors with him, it’s more likely that he had well over 1,000 and possibly as many as 2,500.
When Custer first spotted the signs of the camp on June 25, he wanted to spend time scouting and resting his men before attacking but thought his presence had been detected by Sioux forces and would soon be reported. So, he ordered hasty preparations for an attack.
But modern drones and listening devices would have let him know that the fighters who spotted his men were actually leaving the encampment and not reporting to Sitting Bull. Once Custer knew that and was able to spend time gathering intelligence, he would have learned of the size of the enemy force and at least hesitated to attack with his 647 men without getting reinforcements.
But if he did press the attack anyway, that battle would be most similar to a clash between uneven forces of cavalry and mounted infantry. While Custer’s men would likely have enjoyed a technological advantage, the four-to-one numerical advantage of the Lakota, Dakota, Sioux, and Northern Cheyenne forces would have been too much to overcome.
While Custer tried in 1876 to break through to the civilian parts of the camp to force the enemy to either fire in the direction of their loved ones or surrender, a modern Custer would likely try to draw out the enemy forces instead.
To help overcome his shortage of manpower, Custer would likely do this with a careful attack, trying to minimize civilian casualties while inflicting maximum damage on enemy vehicles.
Custer’s best chance would likely have been to send anti-armor missile teams into cover and concealment near the Sioux while one or two mechanized infantry companies deployed their Strykers just below the peak on nearby ridge lines.
Then, at a prearranged signal, the Strykers would roar over the ridge and fire TOW missiles at the Sioux vehicles. To keep the technological gap between the U.S. and Sioux forces, we’ll say the Sioux predominantly have Bradleys and HMMWVs.
The mortars embedded in the infantry companies could then start laying it on thick, slamming rounds into the top armor of enemy vehicles and hitting treads and tires with shrapnel to get mobility kills.
But Custer’s force of almost 650 troops would find it nearly impossible to keep over 2,000 enemies penned in for long, and the Sioux vehicles would make it into the open sooner or later. Once they did, their superiority in numbers would quickly turn the tide.
Custer could claim a victory at this point, satisfy himself with the large losses already inflicted and conduct an orderly withdrawal while radioing other U.S. government forces to be ready to attack the Sioux forces if they dispersed across the area.
If the Sioux followed him as a large group, he would be able to draw them to a larger government force and wipe them out.
If, instead, he pressed his luck, and continued to fight near the Little Bighorn River, it’s likely that the final result would once again be a victory for the Sioux. Once the government anti-tank Strykers and anti-armor teams had expended their missiles, attempts to take the Bradleys out with the Stryker guns would take much longer.
Sitting Bull would be able to get a force assembled, likely by staging it behind one of the hills that dominate the area, and then launch it from behind cover and into the American flank.
Once the American lines were properly disrupted, more and more Sioux vehicles would be able to escape from the camp and launch additional attacks against the beleaguered 7th Cavalry.
While the Sioux would have suffered much heavier losses than in the actual 1876 battle, the end result of a standing battle between the 7th Cavalry and the Sioux nation would always be subject to the huge numbers disparity on the ground.
The Arctic could become the location of the next phase of an arms race between the United States and Russia – and the Russians have taken an early lead.
According to a report by Reuters, Russian military assets, including Cold War-era bases in the Arctic, are being brought back into service as Vladimir Putin makes a play to control what could be massive reserves of oil. The Russian build-up reportedly includes effort to winterize modern weapons, like the Su-34 “Fullback” strike aircraft and the MiG-31 “Foxhound” interceptor.
According to Globalsecurity.org, the Su-34 is capable of carrying up to eight tons of weapons or a dozen air-to-air missiles, has a crew of two, and saw some combat action over Syria. The Fullback is slated to replace Su-24 Fencers currently serving with the Russian Air Force and Russian Naval Aviation. That site also notes that the MiG-31, an improved development of the MiG-25 Foxbat interceptor, also has a two-person crew, and is capable of firing the AA-9 “Amos” air-to-air missile, which has a range of just under 100 miles. The Foxhound has been upgraded with a new radar.
Also included in the buildup are new icebreakers – including three nuclear-powered icebreakers according to a 2014 World Nuclear News report. In 2015, Port News reported that construction had started on two conventionally-powered icebreakers, while the Barents Observer reported in 2014 that the LK-25 would be delayed by up to two years from a planned delivery date of 2015.
Port News reported in December 2016 that the vessel, now named Viktor Chernomyrdin, wouldn’t be completed until sometime in 2018.
The British news agency noted that the push comes even though a combination of economic sanctions and low oil prices have shelved Russian plans to explore for some of the massive oil and natural gas reserves in the Arctic.
The Navy is engineering a new, more powerful, high-tech electronic warfare jamming technology designed to allow strike aircraft to destroy enemy targets without being detected by modern surface-to-air missile defenses.
“The whole idea is to get the enemy air defense systems from seeing the strike package. It does not matter what type of aircraft we are protecting. Our mission is to suppress enemy air defenses and allow the mission to continue. This is not just designed to allow the aircraft to survive but also allow it to continue the mission – deliver ordnance and return home,” Cmdr. Earnest Winston, Electronic Attack Requirements Officer, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
The Next-Generation Jammer consists of two 15-foot long PODs beneath the EA-18G Growler aircraft designed to emit radar-jamming electronic signals; one jammer goes on each side of the aircraft.
“It is able to jam multiple frequencies at the same time — more quickly and more efficiently,” he said.
The emerging system uses a high-powered radar technology called Active Electronic Scanned Array, or AESA.
“It will be the only AESA-based carrier offensive electronic attack jamming pod it DoD. What it is really going to bring to the fleet is increased power, increased flexibility and more capacity to jam more radars at one time,” Winston added.
The NGJ, slated to be operational by 2021, is intended to replace the existing ALQ 99 electronic warfare jammer currently on Navy Growler aircraft.
One of the drawbacks to ALQ 99 is that it was initially designed 40-years ago and is challenged to keep up with modern threats and digital threats with phased array radars, increased power, increased processing and more advanced wave forms, Winston explained.
The Next-Generation Jammer is being engineered with what’s called “open architecture,” meaning it is built with open computing software and hardware standards such that it can quickly integrate new technologies as threats emerge.
For example, threat libraries or data-bases incorporated into a radar warning receiver can inform pilots of specific threats such as enemy fighter aircraft or air defenses. If new adversary aircraft become operational, the system can be upgraded to incorporate that information.
“We use threat libraries in our receivers as well as our jammers to be able to jam the new threat radars. As new threats emerge, we will be able to devise new jamming techniques. Those are programmable through the mission planning system through the mission planning system of the EA-18G Growler,” Winston explained.
While radar warning receivers are purely defensive technologies, the NGJ is configured with offensive jamming capabilities in support of strike aircraft such as an F/A-18 Super Hornet or F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
The jammer is intended to preemptively jam enemy radars and protect aircraft by preventing air defenses from engaging.
“With surface-to-air missile systems, we want to deny that track an engagement opportunity. We try to work with the aircraft to jam enemy radar signals,” Winston added.
The NGJ could be particularly helpful when it comes to protecting fighter aircraft and stealth platforms like the B-2 bomber, now-in-development Long Range Strike-Bomber and the F-35 multi-role stealth fighter. The technology is designed to block, jam, thwart or “blind” enemy radar systems such as ground-based integrated air defenses – so as to allow attack aircraft to enter a target area, conduct strikes and then safely exit.
This is useful in today’s modern environment because radar-evading stealth configurations, by themselves, are no longer as dominant or effective against current and emerging air-defense technologies.
Today’s modern air defenses, such as the Russian-made S-300 and multi-function S-400 surface-to-air missiles, will increasingly be able to detect stealth aircraft at longer distances and on a wider range of frequencies. Today’s most cutting edge systems, and those being engineered for the future, use much faster computer processors, use more digital technology and network more to one another.
“Multi-function radars become much more difficult because you have a single radar source that is doing almost everything with phased array capability. However, with the increased power of the next-generation jammer we can go after those,” Winston said.
“It is a constant cat and mouse game between the shooter and the strike aircraft. We develop stealth and they develop counter-stealth technologies. We then counter it with increased jamming capabilities.”
The NGJ is engineered to jam and defeat both surveillance radar technology which can alert defenses that an enemy aircraft is in the area as well as higher-frequency “engagement” radar which allow air defenses to target, track and destroy attacking aircraft.
“The target engagement radar or control radar has a very narrow scope, so enemy defenses are trying to search the sky. We are making enemies search the sky looking through a soda straw. When the only aperture of the world is through a soda straw, we can force them into a very narrow scope so they will never see aircraft going in to deliver ordnance,” Winston said.
Winston would not elaborate on whether the NGJ’s offensive strike capabilities would allow it to offensively attack enemy radio communications, antennas or other kinds of electronic signals.
“It can jam anything that emits or receives and RF frequency in the frequency range of NGJ — it could jam anything that is RF capable,” he explained.
The U.S. Navy recently awarded Raytheon Company a $1 billion sole source contract for Engineering and Manufacturing Development (EMD) for Increment 1 of the Next Generation Jammer (NGJ), the advanced electronic attack technology that combines high-powered, agile, beam-jamming techniques with cutting-edge, solid-state electronics,” a Raytheon statement said.
Raytheon will deliver 15 Engineering Development Model pods for mission systems testing and qualification, and 14 aeromechanical pods for airworthiness certification.
The NGJ contract also covers designing and delivering simulators and prime hardware to government labs and support for flight testing and government system integration, Raytheon officials said.
Overall, the Navy plans to buy as many as 135 sets of NGJs for the Growler. At the same time, Winston did say it is possible that the NGJ will be integrated onto other aircraft in the future.
“This is a significant milestone for electronic warfare,” said Rick Yuse, president of Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems. “NGJ is a smart pod that provides today’s most advanced electronic attack technology, one that can easily be adapted to changing threat environments. That level of sophistication provides our warfighters with the technological advantage required to successfully prosecute their mission and return home safely.”
There’s no doubt the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was a devastating blow to the U.S. military and its capabilities in the Pacific Ocean. It wasn’t the crippling blow it was supposed to be, but with just one more attack, it could have been.
A full 21 of the Navy’s ships were damaged or destroyed in the attack, with three battleships being taken out permanently. Most were able to be repaired, re-floated, and re-entered into service. Much of the installation’s facilities, storage and infrastructure survived, however. Japanese officers wanted a third wave of attacks (and one even called for an invasion) to destroy those parts of the bases.
The third wave never came, but if it had, it would have been much more damaging to the U.S. war effort than attacking the ships. Admiral Chester Nimitz later noted that getting the American fleet operational would have taken more than a year if it had been destroyed, and the war would have lasted two more years than it did.
Here’s why they decided not to.
1. The Americans were no longer surprised.
The first wave came early in the morning, and despite a couple of warnings that something was amiss, the Japanese caught the American troops completely by surprise. The first wave of attacks were devastating, targeting the high-value capital ships in the harbor. It contained most of the bombers carrying specially modified shallow-water torpedoes. Dive bombers also attacked targets on shore and fighters strafed parked aircraft.
Japanese losses in the first wave numbered just nine planes. By the time the second wave came in, Americans had gotten to what defenses they could muster and were putting up a fight. The second wave suffered more significant losses than the first, with 20 downed planes and 74 more damaged. A third wave might have been devastating to the Japanese carriers’ defenses and they still needed to sail home.
2. American aircraft carriers were not in Pearl Harbor.
Even though the first wave of Japanese fighters were fitted to destroy the capital ships while they lay at anchor, it was the second wave’s primary objective to hit the American aircraft carriers as much as possible. As we know now, the U.S. Navy’s carriers were not at Pearl Harbor that morning, they were all away on separate missions.
The Japanese did know that the American carriers were not at Pearl Harbor that day, but decided to proceed with the attack anyway. They believed it would be valuable to destroy all eight battleships, even if they didn’t know where the three operational carriers were. If on their way back to Japan, they had encountered the USS Saratoga, Enterprise, or Lexington with depleted aircraft, they would be risking their own carriers and airplanes.
3. They couldn’t land at night.
Even though the attacks began early in the morning, aircraft and crews had to work substantially to land, rearm, refuel, and repair aircraft during the first and second waves. A third wave would have required a lot of preparation and effort. Turnaround times for the aircraft crews would have been substantial as well.
By the time the planes were re-armed and ready, flew out to unload their third attacks, and returned to the Japanese carriers, they would have to be landing at night. In 1941, only the British Royal Navy had the ability to land aircraft at night.
4. The Japanese fleet would have been low on fuel.
Japanese Admiral Chūichi Nagumo positioned his fleet north of Pearl Harbor. The USS Enterprise sent its aircraft looking for Nagumo’s fleet south of Pearl Harbor. This was fortunate for the Japanese, because having to move too much or escape a pursuit would have left it low on fuel. Staying put would have risked his fuel situation. Actually, anything not in the plan would have.
The time it would take to mount a third wave, no matter how destructive or necessary, in his eyes meant risking the fleet’s fuel supplies. If he ran dangerously low on the way home, he would have had to abandon some ships — ships that were now necessary to the war they just started.
5. Nagumo thought he was finished.
It’s easy for armchair historians to question what the Japanese were thinking by not pressing their advantage. But the Japanese military had been wildly successful in combat up until this point. Its military doctrine said it should save its strength for the next battle after achieving its objective, rather than completely destroy an enemy force. It would come back to bite them in the coming days, all over the Pacific Theater.
Nagumo believed the U.S. Pacific Fleet had been knocked out, and knowing the Japanese were advancing all over the Pacific area that very day, he knew they would need every man and plane. He was not willing to risk those men and planes on a battle he’d already won.
Cops love doughnuts. That’s the stereotype at least. Being caught in uniform with one of the delicious but unhealthy confections has long carried a certain stigma, but the real history behind the close relationship cops have with doughnuts is much more interesting and complex than the negative caricatures often put forth in American media.
In some places, the cop-doughnut relationship was symbiotic. In others, it was necessary. But the reason cops and doughnuts are like peas and carrots in our collective cultural memory is because the doughnut shop was the only game in town.
Cops have a lot to do during their shifts, no matter how long those shifts might be. When not actively responding to calls, patrolling their areas of responsibility, or doing the myriad things cops have to do during a typical 10-hour shift, police officers have to find a place to do the bulk of police work: writing reports.
To outsiders, police work has always been about walking the beat — the daily business of protecting and serving. For actual police officers, writing reports is a duty as old as walking any beat. And back in the day, cops didn’t have a lot of options for where they could post up and get some paperwork done.
Even by the late 1970s, the idea of a 24-hour convenience store seemed insane to most people. Gas stations didn’t always have stores and weren’t as ubiquitous as they are today. They also closed at a decent hour. The same goes for grocery stores. Outside of major cities, all-night diners were rare, and even in the 1960s, only 10% of restaurants were open all night, catering mainly to truckers.
If a police officer’s beat wasn’t near one of these small handfuls of all-night spots, they were out of luck. But there was one place a tired, hungry peace officer could go to grab a cup of coffee, some food, and maybe get some work done — the good ol’ doughnut shop.
What was good for the police was also good for the doughnut shop. Being open late in small cities and towns meant they were a target for criminals looking for an easy payday. Having the local police force using your doughnut shop as a staging area meant built-in security as you got up in the early morning hours to make doughnuts.
The symbiotic relationship spread all over the country, even as more and more establishments began to stay open late. When the interstate highway system ramped up construction in the 1960s and 1970s, the country became more connected, and some rural areas became significantly less rural.
Doughnut shops even became late-night chains such as Krispy Kreme and Dunkin’ Donuts. The cop-doughnut relationship held fast, and some stores set aside space for police officers to get their work done. Dunkin’ Donuts even had a companywide policy of catering to police. Its founder, William Rosenberg, credited the relationship with the company’s early success in his autobiography.
A doughnut is a decent snack for a graveyard shift. It’s a fresh, easily obtained source of calories that a busy officer might need for a night of busting punks. When the action dies down, coffee offers a burst of caffeinated energy to help cops get through their shifts. And coffee and doughnuts are relatively cheap, which is great for anyone working as a city or state employee.
Despite the rotund appearance of police Chief Clancy Wiggum on The Simpsons, doughnuts aren’t to blame for the image of the overweight cop. In The Donut: History, Recipes, and Lore from Boston to Berlin, author Michael Krondl interviews police officers who recall their sweet treats giving them just the right amount of food needed to do the job.
“You got out there, walked around, rolled in the streets with criminals [and burned] the calories off,” Frank Rizzo, former Philadelphia police chief, told Krondl.
Somewhere along the way, American popular culture began to notice, and the image of the local police officer began to shift into a caricature, fueled by the cop-doughnut relationship. Cops in film and television became less Andy Griffith and more Chief Wiggum.
What started with a wholesome beginning eventually became derogatory. Everyone from stand-up comics to punk bands and rappers began to make fun of the cop-doughnut dynamic. For some, there’s nothing worse than being caught with one of those sweet fried treats or being seen parked at a Krispy Kreme.
Today, cops can generally post up anywhere to catch up on paperwork. Police cruisers have come a long way and have everything an officer needs during a shift. If they need a meal or a break, there are often many options open to them.
But doughnuts and coffee still provide excellent fuel for the thin blue line, and late-night and early morning bakers appreciate the added security of having cops around. So the next time you see a cruiser parked at Dunkin’, cut your local police force a break and don’t cast shade. If you were in that uniform, you might be right there with them.
The first American service member to die while fighting ISIS “fearlessly exposed himself” to heavy small arms fire during a raid on a militant prison complex in October 2015, according to the citation for his Silver Star award.
The award for Master Sgt. Joshua Wheeler, a team leader with the Army’s elite Delta Force, was released in response to a Freedom of Information Act request from Business Insider.
The Army released few details of the circumstances of Wheeler’s death in 2015, and the Pentagon’s website listing valor awards was quietly updated to reflect a Silver Star award, which he received posthumously the following month.
Wheeler, 39, was part of a raid at a prison in Hawijah, Iraq on Oct. 22, 2015 that was carried out by US-backed Kurdish forces. The mission saved roughly 70 prisoners the US feared would be executed the next day, according to The Washington Post.
Though the citation gives a broad overview of Wheeler’s heroism, it does not delve into specifics. Still, it said, “Wheeler fearlessly exposed himself to heavy small arms fire from barricaded enemy positions. His selfless actions were critical in achieving the initiative during the most dangerous portion of the raid.”
It also said that Wheeler’s actions saved the lives of the partner force, better known as the Kurdish Peshmerga. He was killed at some point during the raid by small arms fire. Three Kurdish soldiers were wounded.
“This is someone who saw the team that he was advising and assisting coming under attack,” then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter told reporters the day after his death. “And he rushed to … to help them and made it possible for them to be effective. And in doing that, lost his own life. That’s why I’m proud of him.”
Wheeler was the first US service member killed in action against the self-proclaimed Islamic State, challenging the narrative put forth by the Obama administration that American troops would not be put on the ground in Iraq or Syria.
The 20-year Army veteran had deployed a whopping 14 times over his career, first as a Ranger, then later as a Special Forces soldier assigned to US Special Operations Command. In addition to receiving the Silver Star and Purple Heart after his death, Wheeler was the recipient of 11 Bronze Star medals — four for valor in combat — the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the Joint Service Commendation Medal (also for valor), and many others.
So far, there have been 10 US deaths attributed to hostile fire in the campaign against ISIS, known as Operation Inherent Resolve. Another 48 troops have been wounded in action.
Anti-submarine warfare is something that the Royal Navy takes very seriously. Historically, there’s good reason for it: German U-boats have twice tried to blockade Great Britain and each attempt brought about great peril.
Once upon a time, anti-submarine warfare involved ships deploying depth charges but, now, the most effective weapons come from the sky – dropped by helicopters. Choppers are versatile and can be deployed on a variety of sea-faring vessels, which, in essence, makes every destroyer, frigate, and cruiser currently serving into a capable anti-submarine system. Helicopters aboard these ships can fly a fair distance and carry a couple of anti-submarine torpedoes each.
To fill this role today, the Royal Navy relies on the AgustaWestland AW159, officially designated the Wildcat HMA.2. This chopper is a highly evolved version of the Westland Lynx that has served on the Royal Navy’s ships since 1971. But today’s Wildcat has come a long way.
The Wildcat HMA.2 entered service in 2014. It has a top speed of 184 miles per hour, making it one of the fastest helicopters in the world. It has a range of 483 miles and is armed with a pair of either 7.62mm or .50-caliber machine guns.
In terms of anti-submarine armament, the Wildcat uses a pair of Stingray torpedoes. These torpedoes have been around since 1983. They travel at 45 nautical miles per hour and have a roughly five-mile range. It’s warhead packs nearly 100 pounds of high explosive, which is enough to punch a hole in most submarines.
The Wildcat, though, is not limited to carrying torpedoes. It can also carry anti-ship missiles, like the Sea Skua, which saw action in the Falklands and during Desert Storm, making it a formidable tool in nearly any naval scenario.
Learn more about this rotary-wing Wildcat that’s hotter than Sandra Bullock’s character in Speed in the video below.
Since ISIS exploded onto the scene in Iraq in June 2014, the group has managed to overrun cities garrisoned by contingents of the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) that were multiple times larger than the attacking militant forces.
In May, ISIS seized control of Ramadi after months of battles against the ISF, Iraqi police, and members of Sunni tribes who opposed ISIS.
Altogether, the ISF had assembled a force of about 2,000 soldiers in Ramadi who were fighting against between 400 and 800 militants. Despite having many more troops, ISIS still managed to take control of the city due to their devastating and insane tactic of using waves of multiton suicide car bombs.
According to The Soufan Group, ISIS used upward of 30 car bombs in its Ramadi offensive. At least some of those bombs were large enough to level an entire city block. In multiple instances, the car bombs were preceded by ISIS-manned construction equipment that could barrel through concrete blast barriers to open the way for the suicide operatives.
“There is little defense against a multi-ton car bomb; there is none against multiple such car bombs. … the Islamic State is able to overwhelm once-thought formidable static defenses through a calculated and concentrated use of suicide bombers,” The Soufan Group notes. “The Islamic State has neither a shortage of such explosives nor a shortage of volunteers eager to partake in suicide attacks.”
ISIS’ penchant for massively powerful suicide bombings has been a hallmark of the group since it first seized Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, in June 2014. During that attack, ISIS detonated a water tanker filled with explosives outside of the Mosul Hotel in the center of the city where the ISF were based. The resulting explosion led to mass desertions and the withdrawal of ISF troops from the western portion of the city.
The militant organization’s frequent employment of construction equipment and other large vehicles in suicide operations has led to the US-led aerial coalition to frequently target them in air strikes. However, air strikes are not a panacea against car bombs and can do little to fully mitigate the threat of these weapons in urban environments.
The anti-ISIS coalition would be much better off if ground forces in Iraq were better equipped to deal with suicide vehicles before they are able to break static defenses. This would require, in addition to a larger troop presence, an increased number of antitank weapons in ISF hands that could be used to destroy ISIS-operated construction equipment and car bombs before they reach their targets, The Soufan Group states.
And even then, ISIS could still carry out devastating bombings for the express goal of terrorizing civilians and provoking sectarian strife without the follow-up goal of overrunning a city’s defenses. The recent twin hotel bombings in Baghdad, for instance, served to demoralize residents and members of the ISF even though the blasts were on a significantly smaller scale than those undertaken in Ramadi.
As long as ISIS has room to operate and controls territory within the Middle East, the militant group will be able to coordinate and execute suicide bombings of various sizes throughout the region. Within the past week alone, ISIS has managed to successfully carry out two suicide bombings against Shiites in Saudi Arabia.
Although attacks like that do not foreshadow a full ISIS assault on the country, it does hint at the group’s ominous use of suicide attacks to spread sectarian strife between Sunnis and Shiites throughout the Muslim world.
Some artillery pieces become very famous. Some of the most notable are the French 75 of World War I, or the Napoleons used during the Civil War, or the German 88. But some are less well-known, but packed a big punch – or long range – of their own.
One such artillery piece is the M107 self-propelled howitzer. This 175mm artillery piece entered service in 1962, alongside the M110, an eight-inch self-propelled howitzer. It could fire shells as far as 25 miles away – and this long range proved very handy during the Vietnam War.
The M107 is not like the M109 self-propelled howitzer in that it is open, and lacks both a turret and on-board ammunition storage. As such, it needed its ammo vehicles nearby to provide shells. The M107 was fast for an armored vehicle, with a top speed of 50 miles per hour, and could go almost 450 miles on a single tank of fuel.
The M107s used the same chassis as the M110s. In fact, Olive-Drab.com reported that the two self-propelled howitzers could exchange guns, thus a M107 could become a M110, and vice versa. This was used to good effect in Vietnam, where the barrels could be swapped as needed at firebases. Israel also used the M017 for decisive effect in the 1973 Yom Kippur War, destroying a number of Syrian and Egyptian surface-to-air missile batteries, and even shelling Damascus.
According to GlobalSecurity.org, the M107 fired only one type of conventional round, the M347 high-explosive round. The gun didn’t see service long past the Vietnam War. The M107 had a long reach, but it was not accurate – rounds like the laser-guided Copperhead or the GPS-guided Excalibur had not been developed yet.
An extended barrel for the M110 was developed, and in the late 1970s many M107s were converted to the M110A2 standard. The M110s eventually were replaced by the M207 MLRS.