This WWII-era ship got new life fixing helicopters in Vietnam - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

This WWII-era ship got new life fixing helicopters in Vietnam

One side effect of the end of World War II was that the United States Navy was left with a lot of extra ships lying around. In fact, the Americans found themselves with so many extra hulls, they couldn’t even give some away. Decades later, that inability to offload ships worked in our nation’s favor — especially during the Vietnam War. Some of these old ships ended up learning new tricks, like the USS Albemarle (AV 5).

During World War II, USS Albemarle served as a seaplane tender, mostly with the Atlantic Fleet. She undertook a variety of missions in the 1950s and was slated to handle the P6M Martin Seamaster flying boat when it was introduced into service. Unfortunately, the P6M never saw the light of day and, in 1962, USS Albemarle was stricken from the Naval Register of Vessels.


USS Albemarle in World War II, where she mostly served with the Atlantic Fleet.

(U.S. Navy)

Two years later, however, she was re-instated — but under a new name, USNS Corpus Christi Bay (T-ARVH 1). The military was facing a big problem and the former-USS Albemarle was the solution. The Vietnam War saw the first wide-scale use of helicopters in just about every facet of combat. Some served as gunships while others hauled troops. Some evacuated the wounded and others delivered supplies. Many them, however, got shot up in the process and needed repairs.

America had over 12,000 helicopters in Vietnam. With so many helicopters, transporting the damaged ones back to the United States for repairs would’ve been a logistical nightmare. So, instead of bringing helicopters to the repair facility, America brought the repair facility to the helicopters, in the form of USNS Corpus Christi Bay.

After two years of work, USS Albemarle (AV 5) became USNS Corpus Christi Bay (T-ARVH 1), a floating helicopter repair shop.

(U.S. Navy)

From 1966 to the end of the Vietnam War, USNS Corpus Christi Bay served as a floating repair depot for helicopters. Damaged choppers were brought in by barge, where they were fixed and returned to the front lines. USNS Corpus Christi Bay was again stricken in 1974 and scrapped, but she had served America honorably in two wars.

Learn more about her Vietnam-era service in the video below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Em1s7-Ph2wI

www.youtube.com

MIGHTY HISTORY

There was a special word for Confederates who joined the US Army

Being a POW was not a great way to spend your enlistment in the Civil War, no matter which side you fought on. Depending on which POW camp you ended up locked into, your chances of survival were only slightly better. And if you did die, you probably died of some terrible disease.

So it makes a little sense why some Confederate troops had no problem turning around and joining the U.S. Army. They were called “Galvanized Yankees.”


By 1863, Union lines were becoming stricken by desertions. Coupled with the death rate and the number of wounded and missing men, the U.S. Army in 1863 needed a solution for this coming manpower shortage in a hurry. But with draft riots already happening and enlistments drying up, where could the Union Army find a source of able-bodied men who could fight but were just sitting around, waiting? In the POW camps. And it wasn’t just the Army fighting the Civil War who needed the help. Troops fighting Indian bands in the West needed augmentees as well.

So the Union formed the 1st Volunteer Infantry Regiment; former Confederate soldiers who had been captured, taken the oath of loyalty to the United States, and enlisted in the U.S. Army. It sure beat dying of dysentery or exposure at Camp Douglas.

Camp Douglas, Ill. where 17 percent of inmates never returned.

Starting in 1863, the former Confederates stared down the Sioux tribe in Missouri while the war back home raged on. But they weren’t the only ones who were needed. Ultimately four regiments of Confederate volunteers were formed for the Union. When the Confederates heard of this, they dubbed the POWs who took the deal “Galvanized Yankees,” covering themselves and their deeds in the blue of the Union, the way a metal object is galvanized with a coating of zinc.

For most Southern troops, the choice wasn’t all that hard – and it wasn’t just about the conditions in POW camps. Many average Southern men weren’t too keen on the strict Confederate class distinctions in the South, where poor whites were little more regarded than slaves. Add on the desire for the war to end, and the terrible conditions for Confederate troops, and the choice becomes more and more clear.

Gen. Benjamin Butler raised two regiments of Confederate POWs to invade Bermuda, but it never came to be.

The Galvanized Yankees were sent to the American Plains, the Dakotas, Minnesota, and Missouri. The winters were not kind to the Southerners, who suffered from frostbite, scurvy, and other forms of malnutrition. To make matters worse, on top of enduring temperatures as cold a minus 29 degrees, the Lakota suddenly attacked on Nov. 27, 1863. The natives killed and wounded the new Army members throughout the winter and into the Spring of 1864. They would be able to hold out until the war’s end, however.

In 1865, the men had held their soldiers’ discipline, followed orders, and remained true to their oaths. Even after constant Indian attacks, brutal winters, and poor food, the Galvanized Yankees stayed at their posts. After two years, however, they were at their wits’ end. The war was over, and so was their enlistment. They demanded to be mustered out. Two years after arriving in the Missouri region, they finally were.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Marines print barracks in 40 hours with expeditionary setup

The Marine Corps is leading the way in employing advanced technologies and robotic construction.

In early August 2018, the Additive Manufacturing Team at Marine Corps Systems Command teamed up with Marines from I Marine Expeditionary Force to operate the world’s largest concrete 3D printer at the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center in Champaign, Illinois. As a joint effort between the Marine Corps, Army and Navy Seabees, an expeditionary concrete 3D printer was used to print a 500-square-foot barracks hut in 40 hours.


The Marine Corps is currently staffing a deliberate urgent needs statement and concept of employment for this technology. The results of the field user evaluation will inform future requirements to give the Corps a concrete construction additive manufacturing program of record.

“This exercise had never been done before,” said Capt. Matthew Friedell, AM project officer in MCSC’s Operations and Programs/G-3. “People have printed buildings and large structures, but they haven’t done it onsite and all at once. This is the first-in-the-world, onsite continuous concrete print.”

Marines from I Marine Expeditionary Force learn how to operate the world’s largest concrete 3D printer as it constructs a 500-square-foot barracks hut at the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center in Champaign, Illinois.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo)

The team started with a computer-aided design model on a 10-year old computer, concrete and a 3D printer. Once they hit print, the concrete was pushed through the print head and layered repeatedly to build the walls. In total, the job took 40 hours because Marines had to monitor progress and continually fill the printer with concrete. However, if there was a robot to do the mixing and pumping, the building could easily be created in one day, Friedell said.

“In 2016, the commandant said robots should be doing everything that is dull, dangerous and dirty, and a construction site on the battlefield is all of those things,” Friedell said.

The ability to build structures and bases while putting fewer Marines in danger would be a significant accomplishment, he said.

“In active or simulated combat environments, we don’t want Marines out there swinging hammers and holding plywood up,” said Friedell. “Having a concrete printer that can make buildings on demand is a huge advantage for Marines operating down range.”

It normally takes 10 Marines five days to construct a barracks hut out of wood. With this FUE, the Marine Corps proved four Marines with a concrete printer can build a strong structure in less than two days. Ideally, the Corps’ use of concrete printers will span the full range of military operations, from combat environments to humanitarian aid and disaster relief missions.

The world’s largest concrete 3D printer constructs a 500-square-foot barracks hut at the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center in mid-August in Champaign, Illinois.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo)

As the first military services on site in natural disasters, the Navy and Marine Corps are great at providing food and water, but struggle to provide shelter, Friedell said. In many locations, cement is easier to acquire than wood. During humanitarian or disaster relief missions, Marines could safely and quickly print houses, schools and community buildings to replace those destroyed.

“This capability would enable a great partnership with the local community because it is low cost, easy to use, and robotics could print the buildings,” Friedell said. “We can bring forward better structures, houses and forward operating bases with less manpower and fewer Marines in harm’s way.”

The AM Team plans to conduct further testing and wants to get the capability into the hands of more Marines to inform future requirements for cutting-edge technology and autonomous systems.

“Our future operating environment is going to be very kinetic and dangerous because we don’t necessarily know what we’re going into,” said Friedell. “The more we can pull Marines out of those potentially dangerous situations — whether it’s active combat or natural disaster — and place robotics there instead, it helps us accomplish the mission more efficiently.”

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

Articles

The Navy plans to buy this new Super Hornet with a deadlier sting

The F/A-18E/F Super Hornet has been the backbone of the US Navy’s carrier air wings for just over a decade, following the retirement of the legendary F-14 Tomcat. Reliable, versatile and thoroughly adaptable, the Super Hornet is everything the Navy hoped for in a multirole fighter and more.


But its age is starting to show quickly, especially thanks to increasing deployment rates due to a need to fill in for unavailable older “legacy” Hornets being put through service life extension programs. This has resulted in more wear and tear on these big fighters than the Navy originally projected.

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Christopher Gaines

So to keep its fighter fleet relevant and as sharp as ever, the Navy has finally decided to give the go-ahead on picking up brand new Super Hornets from Boeing’s St. Louis, MO plant, while simultaneously upgrading older Super Hornets currently serving. However, these new fighters will come with a few new features that their predecessors don’t have, making them even more potent than ever before in the hands of the Navy’s best and brightest.

While Boeing previously pushed the Navy to consider buying a smaller amount of F-35C Lightning II stealth strike fighters in favor of more F/A-18E/Fs, the aviation manufacturer’s new plan is to develop a Super Hornet that’s capable of seamlessly integrating with the F-35C, making the combination extremely deadly and a huge asset in the hands of any Navy task force commander while underway.

Though the Super Hornet was originally designed in the 1990s to be able to fly against comparable 4th generation fighters, this new update, known as the Advanced Super Hornet or the Block III upgrade, will keep this aircraft relevant against even modern foreign 5th generation fighters today.

Boeing has hinted at the Block III upgrade for the past few years, pitching it constantly with mixed results. Earlier this week, Navy brass confirmed that a plan to buy 80 more Super Hornets was in the works, fleshed out over the next five years.

These new fighters will likely be the first to carry the Block III upgrade, while older Super Hornets will enter overhaul depots between 2019 and 2022, returning to the fleet upon completion of their updating.

Among the most drastic changes these new Super Hornets will come with, as compared to the ones the Navy currently flies, is a completely revamped cockpit, similar to the one used in the F-35. Instead of smaller screens, a jumble of buttons, switches and instrument clusters, Advanced Super Hornets will have a “large-area display” which pulls up every bit of critical information each pilot needs to successfully operate the aircraft onto one big screen, reducing workload and strain.

Additionally, a new networking system will allow Advanced Super Hornets to communicate data more efficiently with Lightning IIs, EA-18 Growler electronic attack jets, and E-2D Advanced Hawkeye airborne early warning aircraft.

It’s likely that the Advanced Super Hornet will include some kind of stealth coating, painted on the surfaces of the aircraft to absorb or deflect radar waves. (Photo from Boeing)

Block III will also include new infrared search and track (IRST) sensors that’ll allow Super Hornets to detect and engage low-observable threats from longer distances. Given that stealth has become an important factor in modern fighter design, it’s likely that the Block III update will also include some kind of stealth coating, painted on the surfaces of the aircraft to absorb or deflect radar waves. The US Air Force and Marine Corps already use similar coatings on F-22 Raptors, F-35s, and select groups of F-16 Fighting Falcons.

The upgrade will also give Super Hornets the ability to fly with Conformal Fuel  Tanks (CFT) for the very first time, providing an extension in operating range without sacrificing space on weapons pylons beneath the aircraft’s wings. With more flexibility in terms of weapons carriage, the Navy hopes that Super Hornets will not only be able to fly air superiority missions, but will also function as a flying arsenal for F-35s, which (through data links) could launch and deploy munitions from F/A-18E/Fs while on mission.

The program cost for upgrading currently-active Super Hornets will be around $265.9 million, between 2018 and 2022, while the cost of the 80-strong order for new Super Hornets will come to around $7.1 billion. This massive upgrade also signals the Navy’s interest in investing more into assets it currently fields over developing brand new next-generation fighters as broader replacements, generally to save costs while still maintaining the ability to deal with a variety of potential threats America’s enemies pose today.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This was the first successful carrier raid

In July 1918, militaries were experimenting with aircraft carriers, especially the American and British navies. But, as far as any of the Central Powers knew, carrier operations were an experiment that had borne only limited fruit. No carrier raids had significantly damaged targets ashore. And that was true until July 19, when a flight of Sopwith Camels took off from the HMS Furious and attacked German Zeppelin facilities at Tondern, Denmark.


The British carrier HMS Furious with its split deck.

(Imperial War Museums)

America was the first country to experiment with aircraft carriers after civilian pilot Eugene Ely flew a plane off the USS Birmingham, a modified cruiser, in 1911. But as World War I broke out, the naval power of Britain decided that it wanted to build its own carrier operations, allowing it to float airfields along the coasts of wartime Europe and other continents.

This required a lot of experimentation, and British aviators died while establishing best practices for taking off, landing, and running the decks of carriers. One of the ship experiments was the HMS Furious, a ship originally laid down as a light battlecruiser. It was partially converted during construction into a semi-aircraft carrier that still had an 18-inch gun, then converted the rest of the way into a carrier.

After its full conversion, the Furious had a landing-on deck and a flying-off deck split by the ship’s superstructure. This, combined with the ship’s exhaust that flowed over the decks, made landing tricky.

The Furious and other carriers and sea-based planes had scored victories against enemies at sea. But in 1918, the Royal Navy decided it was time to try the Furious in a raid on land.

Sopwtih Camels prepare to take off from the HMS Furious to attack German Zeppelin sheds in July 1918.

(Imperial War Museums)

On July 19, 1918, two flights of Sopwith Camels launched from the decks with bombs. There were three aircraft in the first wave, and four in the second wave. Even these takeoffs were tricky in the early days, and the second wave of aircraft suffered three losses as it was just getting going. One plane’s engine failed at takeoff, one crashed, and one made a forced landing in Denmark.

But the first wave was still strong, and the fourth bomber in the second wave was still ready and willing to get the job done.

So they proceeded to Tondern where German Zeppelin sheds housed the airships and crews that bombed London and British troops, and conducted reconnaissance over Allied powers. These airships were real weapons of terror against Britain and its subjects, and the military wanted them gone.

Building housing German Zeppelins burns at Tondern in July 1918.

(Public domain)

Hitting Tondern was especially valuable as it was a convenient place from which to attack London. So the four remaining pilots flew over German defenses and attacked the Zeppelins there, successfully hitting two sheds which burst into flames.

Luckily, each of those housed an airship at the time, and the flames consumed them both. They were L.54 and L.60. The Zeppelin L.54 had conducted numerous reconnaissance missions and dropped over 12,000 pounds in two bombing missions over England. The Zeppelin L.60 had dropped almost 7,000 pounds of bombs on England in one mission.

While the destruction of two Zeppelins, especially ones that had already bombed England and so loomed in the British imagination, was valuable on its own, the real victory for England came in making exposed bases much less valuable.

The Western-most bases had been the best for bombing England, especially Tondern which was protected from land-based bombers by its position on the peninsula, but they were now highly vulnerable to more carrier raids. And the HMS Furious wasn’t Britain’s only carrier out there.

Germany was forced to pull its Zeppelins back to better protected bases, and it maintained Tondern as an emergency base, only there to recover Zeppelins that couldn’t make it all the way back home after a mission.

Germany lost another airship to a navy-based fighter in August, this time in a crazy aerial attack after Royal Air Force Flight sub-lieutenant Stuart Culley launched from a barge and flew his plane to the maximum altitude he could reach that day, a little over 18,000 feet, and shot down a Zeppelin with incendiary rounds.

This wasn’t the first or only time a fighter had caught a Zeppelin in the air, but it was one of the highest fights that had succeeded against a Zeppelin, and it meant that sea-based fighters had taken out three Zeppelins in less than a month, and all three losses had taken place in facilities or at an altitude where Germany thought they were safe.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Pound for pound, these were the deadliest boats of World War II

They were made of wood, carried no heavy guns, and would sink at the drop of a hat. But they were fast, hard to hit, and could kill nearly anything afloat. Pound for pound, the deadliest boats of World War II weren’t the carriers or the legendary battleships, they were the humble patrol torpedo boats.


Battle Stations: PT Boats (War History Documentary)

youtu.be

America invested heavily in capital ships in the inter-war years, concentrating on battleships and carriers that could project power across the deep oceans. Combined with destroyers and cruisers to protect them, this resulted in fleets that could move thousands of miles across the ocean and pummel enemy shores. It was a good, solid investment.

But these large ships were expensive and relatively slow, and building them required lots of metal and manpower. There was still an open niche for a fast attack craft like the Italian motor torpedo boats that had famously sunk the SMS Szent Istvan in World War I.

Boat builders who had made their name in racing lined up to compete for Navy contracts. They held demonstrations and sea trials in 1940 and 1941, culminating in the “Pinewood Derbies” of July 1941.

PT-658 transits the water at the Portland Rose Festival in 2006. The boat was restored by volunteers and features its full armament and original engines.

(U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Ralph Radford)

These were essentially races between different boats with either weapons or copper weights installed to mimic combat armament, allowing the Navy to see what designs were fastest, most nimble, and could survive the quick turns with a combat load.

Not all the vessels made it through. Some experienced hull and deck failures, but others zipped through the course at up to 46 miles per hour. A few boats impressed the Navy, especially what would become the ELCO Patrol Torpedo Boat. Higgins and Hulkins also showed off impressive designs, and all three contractors were given orders for Navy boats.

The Navy standardized the overall designs and armament, though the contractors took some liberties, especially Higgins. They were all to be approximately 50 tons, made of mahogany, and carry two .50-cal. machine guns. Many got up to four torpedo tubes and a 20mm anti-aircraft gun, while a few even got mortars or rockets.

They were powered by aviation fuel and three powerful engines.

U.S. Navy patrol boats zip through the water during exercises of the U.S. east coast on July 12, 1942.

(U.S. Navy)

All of this combined to create a light, powerful craft that was fast as hell. Two gunners on a PT boat at Pearl Harbor were credited with the first Japanese kill by the U.S. in World War II when they downed an enemy plane.

The little boats would distinguish themselves over and over again, even though there were only 29 in the Navy at the start of the war. Gen. Douglas MacArthur slipped out of the Philippines on a two-day trip through the enemy fleet with Lt. John D. Bulkeley on a PT boat. Bulkeley would earn a Medal of Honor for his actions.

The boats launched constant attacks against Japanese ships, hitting them with Mk. 8 torpedoes. The Coast Guard used 83-foot designs for their submarine hunters and patrol boats, many of which saw service at D-Day where they served as the “Matchstick Fleet” that rescued drowning soldiers.

Also at D-Day, similar landing craft made by Higgins were modified to fire rockets at the shore to suppress shore positions.

Navy Lt. j.g. John F. Kennedy on PT-109.

(U.S. Navy)

But it was during island hopping across the Pacific where the torpedo boats really earned their fame. As Japan’s fleet took heavy losses in 1942 and 1943, it relied on its army to try and hold islands against the U.S. advance, and the Navy’s “Mosquito Fleet” was sent to prey on the ships of the “Tokyo Express.”

Japan’s destroyers and similar vessels could slaughter torpedo boats when they could hit them, but the U.S. patrols generally operated at night and would hit the larger ships with their deadly torpedoes, using their speed to escape danger. It wasn’t perfect, though, as Lt. j.g. John F. Kennedy would learn when PT-109 was rammed by a Japanese destroyer, forcing Kennedy and 11 survivors to swim through shark-infested water for hours.

The patrol boats served across the world, from the Pacific to the Atlantic to the Mediterranean, and thousands of sailors from the Coast Guard and Navy served on these small vessels, downing tens of thousands of tons of enemy shipping.

MIGHTY TRENDING

President Trump issued a stern warning to North Korea’s dictator

President Donald Trump said he was going to “remain flexible” and left open the possibility of shelving highly anticipated talks between the US and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

“We’ve never been in a position like this with that regime,” Trump said during a joint press conference with Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe on April 18, 2018. “I hope to have a very successful meeting. If we don’t think that it’s going to be successful … we won’t have it. We won’t have it.”


Trump went further, and floated the possibility of leaving Kim during the summit.

“If the meeting when I’m there is not fruitful, I will respectfully leave the meeting,” he said.

The exact location and date of the proposed Trump-Kim summit is not yet clear, but Trump reportedly said it could happen by early June 2018. The president said five locations were being considered, but added that the US is not one of them

Kim Jong Un

US officials confirmed that CIA director Mike Pompeo made a secret trip to North Korea during Easter weekend 2018, to meet with Kim. Pompeo visited the country as part of Trump’s advance envoy to lay the groundwork for the proposed summit, during which the two leaders are expected to discuss the regime’s nuclear weapons program.

“I like always remaining flexible,” Trump said. “And we’ll remain flexible here. I’ve gotten it to this point.

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

Articles

Why the FAL is one of the most popular modern military battle rifles of all time

It’s no secret that there are solid arguments against the American M4 rifle. Its “varmint” caliber chambering and fouling-prone gas impingement operating system have formed the foundation of complaints against the platform for decades.


In fact, U.S. Special Operations Command responded to those concerns in the early 2000s with the SOCOM Combat Assault Rifle program, which sought to replace aging M4 carbines with something more powerful and reliable. The one that was ultimately fielded turned out to be the Mk-17 SCAR Heavy battle rifle.

An Army Special Forces soldier armed with a Mk-17 SCAR-H, America’s modern variant of a classic battle rifle. (Photo: USASOC via Flickr)

Chambered in 7.62×51 and feeding from detachable box-type magazines, the SCAR-H took the world-class ergonomics of the M4 and married them to a harder-hitting round and a more reliable operating method — a short-stroke, piston-driven action. The SCAR is an awesome weapon; literally every unit fielded with it raves about its performance, reliability, and incredibly-light recoil.

Plus, the short-stroke piston system is adjustable, so shooters can crank the gas to high if their SCAR becomes too dirty or fouled up in a prolonged firefight. This same system makes the platform more modular as well, since unlike the M4 it doesn’t require a different buffer or spring with different barrel lengths.

With all the inherent advantages of the SCAR, it’s hard not to wonder how someone didn’t invent something like it before.

Except they did. In fact, the same company responsible for the SCAR’s production and development designed a rifle with many of the same features more than 70 years ago – the FN FAL.

Irish soldiers armed with the FN FAL rifle in The Congo. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

For the uninitiated, the FAL or Fusil Automatique Leger (light automatic rifle), isn’t some unknown prototype that never saw action. It was fielded by more than 90 countries, many of which belonged to NATO, earning it the nickname, “The Right Arm of the Free World.”

Having seen more than 60 years of combat use, the FAL also holds the distinction of being one of the few rifles to be fielded by two opposing armies, including during the Falklands War where Argentine and British forces both wielded FALs. Hell, the FAL has been fired in anger on nearly every continent on Earth, cementing its reputation as a die-hard reliable battle rifle.

Given that much of America’s war on terror groups takes place in the Middle East, it’s important to note that Israel’s armed forces, the IDF, equipped its soldiers with the FAL before replacing it with American-donated M-16 rifles.

In all fairness, some in the IDF claimed issues with the FAL in dusty and sandy conditions led to its replacement by the M-16. This claim should be viewed with heavy skepticism for several reasons, the largest being that no politician wants to be seen as the impetus behind equipping their military with, ‘cheaper’ equipment. Plus, the FAL served all over Africa without similar concerns emerging.

In fact, many believe the FAL should have been the rifle America adopted as its DMR for use in both the plains of Europe, and the Middle East.

British troops modified the receiver to accommodate optics. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Truth be told, the FAL isn’t perfectly suited for the role as it ships from the factory. If it were to see even a small fraction of the developmental evolution of the M16, it would have been a world-class fighting rifle in no time.

For instance, as it arrives from the factory, the FAL lacks an optics rail, and the available solutions aren’t suited to hard, combat use. However, the receiver itself could easily be modified by a competent engineer to incorporate a full-length, integral optics rail — much like the A3 version of the M4.

Just like the SCAR-H, the FAL features an adjustable gas block, similar heavy-duty box-type magazines and a robust, piston-driven action. The biggest difference between the FAL and the SCAR-H is the FAL’s lack of a railed receiver and its weight.

The SCAR utilizes extruded aluminum to reduce both cost and overall weight. The FAL, however, uses steel stampings and a milled receiver. The FAL’s use of all-steel components makes it very durable but also vastly heavier than the SCAR. Still, the mothballed M-14s that were pressed back into service post-9/11 were even heavier (especially with some of the accurizing chassis that were attached to them later).

Talk about harsh conditions…The FAL has also been the chosen weapons of many of the world’s insurgent armies. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Another advantage of the FAL over the M14 is its ability to retain proper zero under harsh conditions. The M14 and its civilian counterpart, the M1A, both have a bad reputation for losing battle zero if the upper handguard is disturbed. Plus, since the rifle uses a hunting-style stock, the action needs to be bedded (essentially a fancy term for glued) into the stock to ensure it doesn’t shift inside it.

Overall, the FAL is objectively a superior combat arm than the M14; one designed for harder use, while offering similar performance. The FAL isn’t an ideal designated marksman rifle in its current form. But it could have been an incredible asset to infantry dealing with distant treats and priority targets.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

A simmering crisis between 2 allies could create a new headache for the US in a volatile region

In the last month, Greece and Turkey, two US and NATO allies, have repeatedly come close to a military clash over a piece of the Eastern Mediterranean Sea.


Background

The latest tension ignited after Turkey reserved an area in the Eastern Mediterranean to survey for underwater natural resources. But the area is within the exclusive economic zones of Cyprus and Greece (though Greece hasn’t formally declared an EEZ due to tensions with Turkey).

Turkey disputes Greek sovereignty and has deployed the research vessel Oruç Reis to the region with a fleet of warships to guard it. Greece has responded by sending its fleet.

The survey ship Oruc Reis sailing with Turkish warships. Turkish Ministry of Defense

Despite the Turkish claims, and according to international law, the area of sea in question and the seabed under it belong to Greece because of the small island of Kastellorizo.

Although the island is about 2 miles from Turkey, it is inhabited and part of Greece. Thus, according to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), Kastellorizo has the same rights as any other part of Greece.

Although the US acknowledges the validity of the Greek position, it will not take sides in the dispute because of its close relationship with both countries.

Kastellorizo, Greece’s easternmost island, is just 2 miles from mainland Turkey. Google Maps

The two fleets have been circling one another as tensions simmer, threatening to explode with the slightest accident, such as one a few days ago when Turkish frigate Kemal Reis tried to overtake Greek frigate Limnos.

Due to poor seamanship, however, the Turkish vessel did not calculate its path correctly and was rammed by the Greek warship. Although the damage was not life-threatening, the Turkish ship had to go into port for immediate repairs.

The Turkish frigate Kemal Reis after colliding with Greek frigate Limnos. Hellenic Ministry of Defense

Geopolitical situation

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has calculated that this is the opportune time to act. Indeed, the international stars seem to be aligned in his country’s favor.

First, the US is heading toward a heated presidential election, which has historically distracted American attention from foreign affairs.

Second, Erdogan has a close relationship with the White House and has used it to reassure its ally.

Third, Ankara is shrewdly using Germany’s current presidency of the EU Council, which rotates between EU members every six months.

Germany and Turkey share a lucrative trade partnership. According to the World Bank, in 2018, Germany exported almost .5 billion worth of goods to Turkey and imported just over billion, making Berlin third in both imports and exports among Ankara’s trading partners. There is also a significant ethnic Turkish population in Germany that influences German politicians’ decision-making.

Despite its relatively weak global voice, Berlin is a leader in Europe, mostly because of its powerful economy, and has assumed the role of an umpire in this dispute.

The Greek position is to abide by international law, which is on its side, and meet every Turkish provocation with determination and force. Meanwhile, Greek diplomacy has managed to isolate Turkey, with a host of nations — including Egypt, Cyprus, and Israel — condemning Turkey’s actions. The US and France have conducted military drills with Greece in the area as a show of solidarity. (The US and Turkey have also conducted recent exercises.)

Crucially, Greece’s chief of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Constantine Floros, has said that a Greek response to a Turkish attack would not be confined to a particular area, likely making Turkish officials think twice before acting.

The Turkish position is to force Greece to the negotiating table — something, interestingly, that Greece also wants and has looked for since Turkey unilaterally stopped diplomatic discussions on the issue in 2016.

Ankara understands that its position in terms of international law is weak and its allies in the region few. Thus it believes that threatening war would make Greece more amenable to an agreement that gives Turkey a slice of the natural resources pie.

Turkey does not recognize the International Court of Justice or UNCLOS, both of which would be key in settling the dispute.

Implications for the US

The implications for the US and for NATO of a conflict between two members of the alliance are hard to judge. There has never been an incident where two NATO allies came to blows.

US-Turkish relations have been steadily deteriorating in recent years. Turkey’s purchase the advanced Russian S-400 anti-aircraft system prompted the US to refuse delivery of the F-35 fighter jet. The Turkish invasion of northern Syria and targeting of the Kurds, a longtime US partner and a leader in the fight against ISIS, led to sanctions against senior Turkish officials and to tariffs on Turkish steel.

Moreover, the recent revelation that Ankara has been providing Turkish citizenship and passports to Hamas operatives is bound to further upset US-Turkish relations. The US declared Hamas a terrorist organization in 1997. The passports offer great freedom of travel to Hamas terrorists, aiding their malign activities.

Adding insult to injury, Erdogan recently hosted two senior Hamas leaders the US has branded Specially Designated Global Terrorists.

US Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Winston S. Churchill during an exercise with Turkish navy frigates TCG Barbaros and Burgazada in the Mediterranean Sea, August 2020. US Naval Forces Europe-Africa

The US does not want to push Turkey toward Russia or Iran, and successive US administrations have recognized the country’s value to US interests in the region, both in its general location and in the assets based there, like the nuclear missiles in Incirlik Air Base.

Yet if Turkey needs to be pushed to change its behavior — as its actions suggest it would be — then the US will have to rethink the geopolitical balance in the region.

Erdogan understands and takes advantage of his country’s strategic importance to the US, leveraging it to pursue an increasingly pugnacious foreign policy that often directly conflicts with the US’s.

If it comes to blows, the US and EU will call for an immediate end to the hostilities but probably do little more than that. It’s likely, then, that Greece and Turkey will sort it out between themselves, with the lasting geopolitical implications only becoming clear once the smoke has cleared.

Stavros Atlamazoglou is a defense journalist specializing in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (National Service with the 575th Marine Battalion Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate.

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


MIGHTY TACTICAL

Air Force wants more hypersonic weapons in growing arms race

The US Air Force is ordering more hypersonic weapons as the competition with Russia and China heats up.

The service awarded a contract to Lockheed Martin Missiles & Fire Control Monday to develop the Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW), a hypersonic weapon prototype expected to cost no more than $480 million to design, according to an Air Force press release.


“We are going to go fast and leverage the best technology available to get hypersonic capability to the warfighter as soon as possible,” Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson said in an official statement.

The request is the second such request for hypersonic weapons from the Air Force in 2018.

The service awarded Lockheed Martin a contract for a Hypersonic Conventional Strike Weapon (HCSW) in April 2018, just a few weeks after Russian President Vladimir Putin boasted about some of the hypersonic systems Russia is presently developing, such as the Avangard hypersonic boost-glide vehicle expected to be mounted on the country’s Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile.

The latest request from the US Air Force comes about one week after China tested a new hypersonic aircraft, a high-speed strike platform that some expert observers say could evade air and missile defenses to obliterate enemy targets with both conventional and nuclear payloads.

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The Xingkong-2 (Starry Sky-2) hypersonic experimental waverider vehicle designed by the China Academy of Aerospace Aerodynamics in Beijing can reportedly travel at six times the speed of sound (Mach 6). The waverider is a type of hypersonic aircraft that rides the shock waves generated during hypersonic flight.

The speed, as well as the unpredictable flight trajectories, of these vehicles make them particularly difficult for existing defense systems to intercept. Chinese military experts suspect that the system is still three to five years away from being weaponized.

Senior leadership from the Department of Defense, Missile Defense Agency, Air Force, Navy, and Army all signed a memorandum of agreement in late June to strengthen American hypersonic capabilities.

“The Joint Team requires the right mix of agile capabilities to compete, deter and win across the spectrum of competition and conflict,” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein said in an official statement. “We must push the boundaries of technology and own the high ground in this era of great power competition and beyond.”

While the Air Force is pursuing hypersonic weapons of its own, US Strategic Command and the Missile Defense Agency are trying to figure out how to bolster American defenses to protect the homeland against the growing hypersonic threat.

“If you can’t see it, you can’t shoot it,” Missile Defense Agency director Lt. Gen. Samuel Greaves said in March 2018. “We have globally deployed sensors today, but — just look at the globe — there are gaps. What we are looking towards is to move the sensor architecture to space and use that advantage of space, in coordination with our ground assets, to remove the gaps.”

“Why is that important? The hypersonic threat,” he asked and answered.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

What to do when your ship pulls in to Rota, Spain

Naval Station Rota, Spain (NAVSTA Rota) is a beautiful Navy base located in Southern Spain. Called “the Gateway to the Mediterranean,” the port sits on the Atlantic Coast, but is only a few hours from Gibraltar, Mallorca, and other Mediterranean destinations. It’s a small base, with the main buildings all within a mile of the port. There are busses to take you from port to the NEX shopping Center, and from there, you can walk or grab a taxi to the destinations below.

There’s plenty to do on base, off base, and in the surrounding towns, so keep reading and make your libbo plans before the ship pulls into port!


Top 7 things to do in Rota, Spain

1. Get essentials from the NEX. When ships pull into port, they can almost double the on-base population. This means longer lines for everything and a shortage of supplies at the NEX and Commissary. If you need to stock up on cigarettes, razors, snacks, or other essentials, then go here directly from the ship. That way, you’ll avoid the empty shelves at the end of the weekend.

2. Check out MWR tours. Rota is an active base with a small number of permanent personnel stationed there, but a large number of troops come through on ships — some of who remain for a deployment. The base MWR office plans weekly activities. You can find them listed in the Vamos magazine, on their website, or by calling 727-1517 (on base). MWR plans bus rides to local towns, flamenco shows, and castle visits. They handle the transportation and the local guide, so you can just relax and take in the sights.

3. Sign up for Outdoor Rec. Whether you want to rent a bike or SCUBA gear, go on a rock climbing excursion, find local hiking trails, or ride quads in Tarifa, the Outdoor Rec Center is the place to begin. They can fill you in on group activities (listed in the Vamos magazine) or help you plan your own adventure.

4. Visit the Liberty Center: If you need a place to relax or get Internet access, the Liberty Center has a lounge, TVs, computers, and pool tables to enjoy. They also host regular events for single service members, like movie and bowling nights, sports competitions, or trips to local restaurants.

5. If you don’t have a car, walk through Rota: You can easily walk out the Rota gate and downhill through the town. There’s a Welcome Center to your left just as you walk out the gate where you can grab a map or ask questions. Visit the town hall (a 13th century castle), a medieval church, the beach paseo (boardwalk), and have lunch at any of the restaurants near the water.

6. Go golfing. The base has a nice golf course with low rates for service members. They host regular tournaments and events, or you can rent clubs and play a round on your own. If golf isn’t your thing, round up some friends to enjoy the Foot-Golf course, which is set up to play with a soccer ball.

7. Enjoy Spanish food. While Spanish food is not at all like Mexican food (it’s much more mild and based on fresh, Mediterranean ingredients), it is refreshing and delicious. To eat, try paella (rice and seafood), tortilla (an egg and potato dish), gazpacho (cold tomato soup), or any fresh seafood. To drink, don’t miss out on sangria (chilled wine with fruit) or a cerveza (beer).

If you have a car:

You can rent a car on base at the airport, or off base, just outside the Rota gate. You just need ID and a valid American driver’s license to reserve a vehicle. It will be more cost-effective if you team up to rent with some friends. Rental cars are typically stick shift, so make sure someone in the group can drive manual. Having a car will give you access to the town of El Puerto (just a few miles outside the base Puerto gate) and any other towns in Southern Spain that are within your liberty limits.

Here are some of the most popular:

1. Spend a day in Cadiz. This city just 40 minutes from Rota has a great history museum, church, and amazing seafood. It’s a gorgeous city with plenty of parks and unique architecture, and it holds the honor or being one of Europe’s longest continuously-inhabited cities — 2,000 years of constant development and counting!

2. Drive to Seville. Over an hour North of Rota is the royal city of Sevilla, once the port where all the New World gold passed through. The medieval cathedral and alcazar (castle) are both gorgeous and worth the visit. This is also a great location to purchase colorful Spanish pottery.

3. Go to Gibraltar for a day. You’ll need a passport to visit Gibraltar because it is not part of Spain! The town actually belongs to England as an overseas territory. The residents there speak English, eat fish and chips, and have occasional parades of British soldiers. After enjoying lunch at one of the pubs around the main square, take the tour up the Rock to see the monkeys and the Pillar of Hercules.

​4.See Roman ruins. The Roman town of Baelo Claudia has been excavated and partially restored, near the Spanish city of Bolonia. A quick day trip will let you walk through the ancient avenues, see the amphitheater, and marvel at the pillars of the public forum. This seaside port was once a bustling Roman town, and on a clear day you can see the coast of Africa. There are other places to see Roman ruins in Spain (statues in the history museums of Cadiz or Seville, aqueducts in Segovia, the theater in Merida), but Baelo Claudia is the closest day-trip to Rota.​​

Things NOT to do in Rota, Spain:

1. Avoid the forbidden clubs. Your libbo safety brief will probably include a list of establishments not to visit within the town of Rota. There are a few bars and clubs that are off-limits to service members. These establishments are on the list either because of illegal substances, or because they have experienced too many service member-related fights inside. Steer clear. Shore Patrol knows these locations and will check them regularly.

2. Don’t go to Morocco: Although the African city of Tangiers is just a ferry ride away from the Spanish town of Tarifa, service members are generally restricted from traveling to Africa. Not only would you need a passport, but you also need written permission from your CO because of occasional political unrest in Morocco.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The US military is starting to get concerned about law enforcement dressing up in Army uniforms

Defense Secretary Mark Esper has made the Trump administration aware of his concerns with the appropriation of the US military’s uniforms by law-enforcement agencies as they face off with protesters in cities like Portland, Oregon, a Pentagon spokesman said Tuesday afternoon.

“We saw this take place back in June, when there were some law enforcement that wore uniforms that make them appear military,” Defense Department spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said to reporters, referencing the George Floyd protests throughout the country earlier this year.


“The secretary has a expressed a concern of this within the administration, that we want a system where people can tell the difference,” he added.

The confusion became apparent after video footage and pictures showed law-enforcement officials, many of whom refused to identify themselves or the agency they were working for, wearing the US Army’s camouflage uniform as they confronted demonstrators.

This confusion has been compounded after other activists, such as members of the Boogaloo movement, wore pieces of the same uniform or carried with them military-style gear to the same protests throughout the country.

Customs and Border Protection’s immediate-response force, also known as the Border Patrol Tactical Unit, often wear military uniforms with custom patches.

Members of this group were sent to Portland to quell the protests, which went on for over 50 days and were linked to the defacement of federal buildings, according to CBP. The Border Patrol Tactical Unit’s actions at the protests were scrutinized after video footage showed its agents detaining someone suspected of assault or property destruction and whisking them away in an unmarked minivan. The incident prompted lawmakers to demand an investigation.

US Army Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, previously highlighted his concerns about the optics of law-enforcement officials dressing like military service members while responding to protests, saying there needs to be clear “visual distinction” between the two organizations.

“You want a clear definition between that which is military and that which is police, in my view,” Milley said during a congressional hearing on July 9. “Because when you start introducing the military, you’re talking about a different level of effort there.”

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

Articles

US special operators accidentally show off the gear used against ISIS

President Barack Obama announced that 250 more special forces troops would be sent to Syria to bolster U.S. efforts in the fight against ISIS. Their specific mission is not clear, but in neighboring Iraq, ground forces have provided fire support to Iraqi troops fighting to retake Mosul and have acted as advisors to Iraqi and Kurdish forces.


Meanwhile, the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command has conducted raids against ISIS in Syria, killing or capturing leaders of the terror group. In recent days, U.S. special operators were captured on video by France’s media outlet France24, as U.S. troops directed A-10 Thunderbolt strikes in support of Syrian Democratic Forces fighting to take the village of Shadadi from ISIS.

Shadadi is a border town that once served as the crossing point for ISIS fighter heading into neighboring Iraq. It was captured recently by Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units and Syrian Democratic Forces. The recapture took less than a week.

The video keep the men’s identities secret, but shows the gear used against ISIS in the battle for the town. The small group of operators are seen carrying Remington’s Modular Sniper Rifle, an M-32 semiautomatic grenade launcher, and equipment that allows for them to call in airstrikes, acording to Twitter’s Abraxas Spa, who describes their feed as an “all-source analyst.”

 

One operator is using the Mk. 4 scope on a tripod while another is marking objects with the LA-16 laser marker. The LA-16 will guide bombs to targets on the ground using the handheld laser.

The operators are also using a ROVER, Remote Operations Video Enhanced Receiver, which allows for troops on the ground to see a video feed of what aircraft overhead see. The Tactical ROVER-p can provide real-time imagery to a tablet.