During the Korean War, the North American F-86 Sabre helped the United States keep control of the skies. As aviation historian Joe Baugher notes, the Sabre shot down at least 792 MiG-15s during the conflict (another 118 were scored as “probable” kills). MiGs, on the other hand, had only 78 kills against the Sabre.
That’s about a 10.15-to-1 ratio. If you include the probable kills, that ratio climbs to 11.67-to-1. That’s a pretty decisive edge for the Sabre. So, why was the F-86 so dominant?
First, many American F-86 pilots were World War II vets. Among the better-known dual-war pilots were James Jabara (15 kills in Korea, 1.5 in World War II), Francis Gabreski (6 kills in Korea, 28.5 in World War II), and John W. Mitchell (11 kills in World War II, 4 in Korea. He also lead the mission that killed Isoroku Yamamoto). Pilot quality matters — just ask Japan.
Second, the F-86’s armament was better for the air-superiority mission. The F-86 packed six M3 .50-caliber machine guns. These were faster-firing versions of the M2 machine guns used on the North American P-51 Mustang. By comparison, the MiG-15 had two NR-23 23mm cannon and one N-37 37mm cannon. This was designed to kill a lumbering bomber, not to deal with a fast, maneuvering fighter. Having the right tool for the job matters.
This series of four pictures taken from gun camera film shows the beginning of the end of a Russian-built MiG in an air battle high over North Korea. The “kill” was recorded by the camera in a U.S. Air Force F-86 “Sabre” jet flown by 2nd Lt James L. Thompson, a member of the 51st Fighter Interceptor Wing who was credited with the destruction. (USAF photo)
Third, the F-86 had a new, crucial piece of technology: the AN/APG-30, a radar gunsight. This made aiming the weapons much easier for the Sabre pilots. It used to be that a pilot (or anyone firing at an enemy plane) needed to judge angle and deflection on their own. With the AN/APG-30, the radar handled all that. All a pilot needed to do was to put the enemy plane in the center of his gunsight, squeeze the trigger, and bam, the MiG becomes a “good MiG.” Making it easier to put lead on-target matters.
In short, the F-86 came in with three big advantages over the MiG-15. Those advantages helped the Sabre keep South Korea free from Communist domination.
In 2018, Boeing filed patents for a number of potential cannon mounting solutions for the supersonic heavy payload bomber, the B-1B Lancer, with the intent of creating a B-1B gunship similar in capability to the famed Spooky AC-130 and its most recent successor, the AC-130J Ghostrider. While the patents indicate Boeing’s interest in prolonging the life of the venerable Lancer, there’s been little progress toward pursuing this unusual design.
Recently, the U.S. Air Force announced plans to begin retiring its fleet of B-1Bs in favor of the forthcoming B-21 Raider, prompting us to ask ourselves: could we actually build a B-1B gunship to keep this legendary aircraft in service?
Could we really build a B-1B Gunship?
Boeing’s patents indicate a number of cannon-mounting methods and even types and sizes of weapons, giving this concept a broad utilitarian appeal. America currently relies on C-130-based gunships that, while able to deliver a massive amount of firepower to a target, max out at less than half the speed that would be achievable in a B-1B gunship. The Lancer’s heavy payload capabilities and large fuel stores would also allow it to both cover a great deal of ground in a hurry, but also loiter over a battlespace, delivering precision munitions and cannon fire managed by a modular weapon control system.
In theory, it all sounds well and good, but there are also a number of significant limitations. The B-1B Lancer’s swing-wing design does allow it to fly more manageable at lower speeds, but it would almost certainly struggle to fly as slowly as an AC-130J can while engaging targets below. Likewise, a B-1B gunship would be just as expensive to operate as it currently is as a bomber–making it a much more expensive solution to a problem one could argue the U.S. has already solved.
But that doesn’t mean we’ll never see this concept, or even these patents, leveraged in some way. If you’d like to learn more about the concept of turning a B-1B into a gunship, you can read our full breakdown (that the video above is based on) here.
As interviewer David Begnaud said, “The world is looking for some good news right now.”
This interview with 87-year-old Marine veteran Frank Eller who contracted COVID-19 on a cruise is it. Eller has emphysema, heart disease and all sorts of underlying medical conditions, but also the USMC in his blood.
Facebook photo/Frank Eller
Eller was feeling pretty rough a few days into a two week cruise when he finally went to the medical center on the third day of symptoms at his wife’s insistence. Barely able to breathe, Eller got a chest x-ray which revealed his lungs were filled with infection. The doctor started antibiotics and he was evacuated by the United States Coast Guard to a hospital in Puerto Rico, where he was finally administered a test for COVID-19.
Eller spent 25 years with the Marines and as you can see, is tough as nails with a great sense of humor and an awesome family.
87yo U.S. Marine survives #COVID19 after being evacuated from cruise ship & treated in Puerto Rico
The colorful sticks of wax have been a dietary staple for members of America’s 911 Force ever since the internet gods gave us all the gift that keeps on giving: a near-perfect meme riffing on the “stereotype” of how we Jarheads are the dumbest of all service members — so dumb that we eat crayons and paste with the same vacant zeal of that mouth-breathing, short-bus rider from kindergarten whose mom dropped him on his head. Mmmmmmmm, crayons.
Praise be to the meme lords who bless us with their bounty.
Having served on active duty for more than 10 years, Marine Corps veteran Tashina Coronel knows a little something about eating crayons. The 35-year-old mother of three in Waco, Texas, recently developed a line of novelty confections targeted toward the massive market of crayon-eating Devil Dogs.
“You throw a crayon at a Marine, and they’re going to eat it,” said the former administrator. “Yes, crayons have always been edible, but mine taste better.”
Coronel said she’s been in the dessert-making business for seven years. After leaving active duty in 2014, she attended the San Diego Culinary Institute. She now owns and operates Okashi by Shina. The name, which pays tribute to Coronel’s Japanese heritage, translates to “Sweets by Shina.”
Tashina Coronel on active duty. Photo courtesy of Tashina Coronel
Coronel’s packs of 10 Edible Crayons sell for on her website. She has received hundreds of orders and an overwhelmingly positive response since launching the colorfully named specialty chocolates.
“My website just went live two weeks ago, and it’s been surreal how many orders have come in,” she said. “I got 130 orders in two days.”
Each crayon is cleverly titled according to its corresponding color: Blood Of My Enemies, Glow Strap, Little Yellow Bird, Green Weenie, Blue Falcon, Hazing Incident, Zero-Dark Thirty, Tighty Whities, Silver Bullet, and Butter Bars.
Okashi by Shina’s set of chocolate “Edible Crayons.” Photo courtesy of Tashina Coronel
Okashi by Shina also offers a Crayon Glue MRE Set that includes an edible glue bottle filled with marshmallow cream.
Coronel said she used several Facebook groups for Marines to focus group her idea before launching the product.
“I didn’t really know if people were going to take it personally,” she said. “I didn’t want people to be like, ‘Oh, she’s jumping on the bandwagon to insult us; she sold out.'”
After designing her product and developing names for the crayons, Coronel shared her concept in the Marine Facebook groups.
“I loved the idea right away,” said Marisha Smith, a former Marine KC-130J crew chief who saw Coronel’s Facebook posts. “It’s an ongoing joke that we eat crayons, so we’ve just taken it and run with it. I plan to send some of the crayons to friends in November for the Marine Corps Birthday. I’m sure any Marine or service member in general would get a kick out of these. The fact they taste great too is just a plus.”
Coronel said before her website went live, most of her orders were coming from friends and family. Since getting some initial press coverage, fulfilling orders has become a full-time job.
“The majority of orders are actually coming from male Marines,” she said. “It means a lot that my brothers are looking out for and supporting me. With everything going on in the world right now, the coolest thing about this is I really enjoy being a morale booster and giving people a reason to laugh and have fun. I love being able to bring something to Marines that’s their own and share a little bit of our culture with others.”
Prepping for quarantine like …
Coronel said her family and God are the main driving forces in her life. Her husband, who served as a Marine artilleryman, has stepped up to help fulfill orders and handle the increased demand.
“My family inspired me to start my own business, and my husband is really supportive,” she said.
Coronel said she hopes to open a brick-and-mortar location to expand her operations and eventually partner with military exchanges to sell her products on bases. She said she knows there are a lot of challenges ahead, but she’s ready to chase her dreams.
“As a Marine, I know if somebody calls us crazy, we’re just going to show them how crazy we are,” she said. “Nothing’s really an insult unless you call us soldier. Then it’s like, we’re fighting.”
The challenges the United States sees from Russia and China are similar because both have studied the America way of war, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said Oct. 1, 2018.
Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford was visiting Spanish officials after attending the NATO Military Committee meeting in Warsaw, Poland.
The bottom line for the United States and the country’s greatest source of strength strategically “is the network of allies we’ve built up over 70 years,” Dunford told reporters traveling with him. At the operational level, he added, the U.S. military’s advantage is the ability to deploy forces anywhere they are needed in a timely manner and then sustain them.
“Russia has studied us since 1990,” Dunford said. “They looked at us in 2003. They know how we project power.”
Russian leaders are trying to undermine the credibility of the U.S. ability to meet its alliance commitments and are seeking to erode the cohesion of the NATO alliance, he said.
Russia has devoted serious money to modernizing its military, the chairman noted, and that covers the gamut from its nuclear force to command and control to cyber capabilities. “At the operational level, their goal is to field capabilities that challenge our ability to project power into Europe and operate freely across all domains,” Dunford said. “We have to operate freely in sea, air and land, as we did in the past, but now we also must operate [freely] in cyberspace and space.”
Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, center, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, attends the official welcome ceremony before the start of the NATO Military Committee conference in Warsaw, Poland, Sept. 28, 2018.
(DOD photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Dominique A. Pineiro)
The nature of war has not changed, but the character of war has. The range of weapon systems has increased. There has been a proliferation of anti-ship cruise missiles and land-to-land attack missiles. Cyber capabilities, command and control capabilities, and electronic warfare capabilities have grown.
Great power competition
These are the earmarks of the new great power competition. Russia is the poster child, but China is using the same playbook, the chairman said.
“What Russia is trying to do is … exactly what China is trying to do vis-a-vis our allies and our ability to project power,” Dunford said. “In China, what we are talking about is an erosion of the rules-based order. The United States and its allies share the commitment to a free and open Pacific. That is going to require coherent, collective action.”
Against Russia, the United States and its NATO allies have a framework in place around which they can build: a formal alliance structure allows the 29 nations to act as one, Dunford said.
However, he added, a similar security architecture is not in place in the Pacific.
The United States has treaties with Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, and Thailand. Politically and economically, the United States works with the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
“I see the need for all nations with an interest in the rules-based architecture to take collective action,” Dunford said. “The military dimension is a small part of this issue, and it should be largely addressed diplomatically and economically.”
He said the military dimension is exemplified by freedom of navigation operations, in which 22 nations participated with more than 1,500 operations in 2018. “These are normal activities designed to show we will fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows, and not allow illicit claims to become de facto,” the chairman said.
After suggesting in late March 2018, that the US would be pulling out of Syria “very soon,” President Donald Trump reportedly told his national security team that he is open to keeping troops in the country for the time being, but wants to look to pull them out sometime soon, a senior administration official told CNN.
The US has now been involved in Syria for about three and a half years, having started its military intervention there as part of Operation Inherent Resolve in September 2014. The military has carried out numerous operations in Syria against ISIS and other targets, according to the Department of Defense, and members of the US Marines, Navy, Air Force, and Army are active in the country.
As of December 2017, there are approximately 2,000 US troops in the country. Four US soldiers have been killed in action in Syria.
The US has carried out over 14,989 airstrikes in Syria since 2014, according to the Pentagon.
While it is difficult to ascertain exactly how much the US military spent in Syria specifically, Operation Inherent Resolve as a whole has cost over over $18 billion as of February 2018, according to the Pentagon. The majority of these funds were spent on Air Force operations.
Since the US mission began, ISIS has seen its territory dwindle in Syria, and now almost all of its holdings have been conquered by local forces on the ground with US support.
US forces are fulfilling a variety of roles in the fight against ISIS
The US mission in Syria is aimed at defeating ISIS and its offshoots, providing coordination between air assets and troops on the ground and the anti-ISIS coalition. So far, this mission has largely been a military success — the group has reportedly lost over 98% of its territory since it stormed across Syria and Iraq in 2014.
(US Army photo)
The US has also been supporting Syrian Kurds in Syria’s north, bolstering a coalition of forces led by the Kurds called the Syrian Democratic Forces by deploying coalition advisers to train, advise, and assist the group. The SDF has conquered swathes of territory from ISIS in northeastern Syria with support from US airstrikes and special forces and, according to the Pentagon, is leading the fight against the remnants of the Islamist group in the country.
But the incredibly fractured nature of the conflict lends itself to additional challenges, Pentagon spokesman Eric Pahon told Business insider.
“It’s the most complex battlefield in modern warfare,” he said, explaining that there are active lines of communication open between US forces and other actors in the conflict like Turkey and Russia, which serve to avoid accidental military engagements and as deconfliction hotlines.
Pahon said that now that the active fight against ISIS is drawing down, the US is pivoting to civilian reconstruction efforts, clearing IEDs, and rebuilding civilian infrastructure.
“That’s a big challenge for getting people back into their homes, especially in populated areas like Raqqa,” Pahon said, citing numerous ways in which fleeing ISIS fighters have booby-trapped abandoned homes with explosives.
Pahon said part of the US civilian effort is training people on the ground on how to de-mine former urban battlefields.
He also pointed out that in addition to the military aspect of US operations in the country, other parts of the US government like the State Department and USAID are also active in reconciliation efforts, recovering water access, and rebuilding the power grids in destroyed towns and cities.
“It’s more than a military effort, it’s a whole of government effort,” he said.
Known simply as “The Wall” to the men and women who can find the name of a loved one inscribed on it, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall lists the names of those who fell during the Vietnam War. The names are arranged first by date, and then alphabetically. There are more than 58,000 names on more than 75 meters of black granite, memorializing those who died in service to that war.
The eligibility dates span Nov. 1, 1955, through May 15, 1975, though the first date on The Wall during its dedication was from 1959. A service member who died in 1956 was added after The Wall was dedicated – and names have actually been added on multiple occasions.
When The Wall was completed in 1982, it contained 57,939 names. As of Memorial Day 2017, there were 58,318 names, including eight women. There are veterans still eligible to have their names inscribed with their fellow honored dead. The Department of Defense decides whose name gets to go on The Wall, but those inscribed typically…
…died (no matter the cause) within the defined combat zone of Vietnam (varies based on dates).
…died while on a combat/combat support mission to/from the defined combat zone of Vietnam.
…died within 120 days of wounds, physical injuries, or illnesses incurred or diagnosed in the defined combat zone of Vietnam..
10 more names were added to The Wall in 2012 and the statuses of 12 others were changed. The 10 servicemen came from the Marine Corps, Navy, Army, and Air Force, and died between 1966 and 2011. The Department of Defense determined that all deaths were the result of wounds sustained in Vietnam.
As for the status changes, the names are still recorded on The Wall. For those who’ve never seen The Wall in person, each name is also accompanied by a symbol. A diamond means the person was declared dead. A name whose status is unknown is noted by a cross. When a missing person is officially declared dead, a diamond is superimposed over the cross. If a missing person returned alive, the cross would be circumscribed with a circle.
The latter has never happened.
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial features more than just The Wall, it also includes the Women’s Memorial and “The Three Soldiers” statue.
Status changes happen all the time, as the remains of those missing in action are found, identified, and returned home.
While the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall doesn’t include the names of service members who died through diseases related to Agent Orange exposure, other state and local memorials may include them. As recently as October, 2018, the California Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall began to include those who died through such illnesses.
The US Marine Corps is denying it uses dating apps to recruit after a screenshot of an apparent Bumble conversation depicting such efforts turned up on Reddit.
The screenshot shows a message that says, “Hey! My name is Kaitlin Robertson and I am with the Marine Corps. I would love to have one of my recruiters sit down and talk with you about your options within the Marine Corps including education, financial stability, hundreds of job opportunities, and free health/dental insurance, just to name a few. I would love to make you part of our Marine Corps family!!”
An quick-witted, unnamed young man responded, “You’re not even going to bribe me with crayons?”
But Marine Corps Recruiting Command spokesman Gunnery Sgt. Justin Kronenberg told Stars and Stripes the Marine Corps is not employing popular dating apps to draw in young, able-bodied recruits. He also claimed the Bumble message was not written by a recruiter.
Recruits from Kilo Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Bridget M. Keane)
“We don’t condone use of dating apps for business purposes and no, that Bumble post was not written by a recruiter,” Kronenberg said.
The US military has struggled to recruit in recent years, and all of the branches have sought to find innovative ways to bolster their ranks. The US Army, for example, is on the hunt for a new slogan and is scrapping “Army Strong” in an apparent effort to increase its appeal to young folks.
But it seems that dating apps, however effective they might be, are not going to be included in the military’s recruitment efforts anytime in the near future.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Rising above a sea of asphalt parking are the stubby turrets of Russia’s first-ever foray into the theme-park business. At first glance, the complex in Moscow bears a slight resemblance to Disneyland, the American amusement park that Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev was not allowed to visit in 1959, but hoped one day to reproduce at home. Now, after several false starts, Russia finally has its own amusement park: Dream Island.
With none other than Russian President Vladimir Putin on hand, joining Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin, the park was opened to the public on February 29.
Officials are hoping millions of visitors from Russia and abroad will pass through the turnstiles annually, lured by Dream Island’s attractions scattered over its 30 hectares, all enclosed under glass domes to keep out the Russian capital’s notoriously harsh weather.
Russian officials are quick to note that the id=”listicle-2645441716″.5-billion theme park is the largest in Europe and Asia and to predict it will be a key part of the legacy Sobyanin leaves behind. The opening was delayed twice: once in 2018 and again in December 2019.
Many Russians, not least those active on social media, are skeptical to say the least with many lampooning what they see as a boondoggle and a poor imitation of the Disney original. Many lament the forest that was chopped down to make way for the park and the enormous expanse of parking. Others note the shady background of those involved with the project.
Perhaps more than anything, ticket prices at the park have been a lightning rod for criticism.
Tickets on the weekend cost 11,000 rubles (3) for a family of four. The average monthly wage in Russia last year was just over 46,000 rubles (3). And inflation continues to take bites of that. Overall, in 2019, about 14 percent of Russians lived on less than 0 per month, the official poverty line.
“According to the official site of the new Moscow park: ‘Dream Island is a socially significant site for the Moscow region.’ An entrance ticket for anyone over 10 years old costs 2,900 rubles . That means, it costs at least 8,700 [rubles, or 1] for a family [during the week]. The mayor’s office has a strange idea of ‘social significance,'” lawyer and moderator for the nationalist Tsargrad television channel Stalina Gurevich wrote on Twitter.
Others have taken issue with the id=”listicle-2645441716″.5 billion price tag. Twitter user Sakt points out that the Burj Khalifa, the needle-shaped, 830-meter skyscraper that dominates the skyline in Dubai, cost roughly the same, suggesting the United Arab Emirates got more bang for its buck.
Some are aesthetically appalled with what they consider a poor rip-off of the American theme-park icon.
Vasily Oblomov, also on Twitter, juxtaposed Dream Island and Disneyland.
“Today in Moscow the amusement park Dream Island is opening. One photo shows the pathetic foreign version. The other, the unique, Russian original. I think it won’t be difficult to figure out which is which.”
Another Twitter user, identified as Kolya Shvab, also was less than impressed with Dream Island’s castle: “What a mess. One look is enough to know that the person who designed this blindingly ugly barn with turrets, never in his life saw a real castle.”
“It was horrible from the beginning, but the builders managed to screw it up even more. All the rounded elements were made square. It’s not a ‘Dream Island’ but an island of shame,” he writes.
That message of disgust with the design of Dream Island was echoed by Twitter user, Sofiya, who identifies herself as an “architect” and “designer.”
“Dream Island is the ugliest thing I’ve ever seen in my architectural life. This is hell for an architect. But my son is 13 years old. That means I’ll probably go there soon as a loving mother, and while my son enjoys the attractions, I’ll be suffering.”
Others were perplexed by the massive parking lot stretching out for acres in front of the park entrance, wondering why it couldn’t have taken up less space by being built underground or as a multilevel complex.
“Are we correct in thinking that for the Moscow authorities Dream Island is parking in front and beautiful scenery in the background so that parking wouldn’t be so boring?” asked Twitter user Gorodskie Proekty.
“Parking in front of the park. Were the builders morons?” Katyusha Mironova asked on Twitter.
Even before its opening, the theme park was targeted for criticism, not least from those living near the site, who were among the loudest complaining after a forest was chopped down to make way for the project.
Twitter user Interesting Moscow posted what appears to be satellite imagery of the area before and after the park was built.
Others couldn’t help but notice the opening just happened to coincide with a demonstration in the Russian capital to commemorate Boris Nemtsov, the Putin critic who was shot dead near the Kremlin five years ago. Many used the event to protest proposed amendments to the country’s constitution. Critics say the planned changes are aimed at extending Putin’s grip on power after his current presidential term ends in 2024.
The owners of the complex are Amiran Mutsoyev and his brother, Alikhan. The two are the sons of Zelimkhan Mutsoyev, a shady businessman and former State Duma deputy from the ruling United Russia party with alleged ties to organized crime figures.
Whether any of that will matter to Russians considering a visit to Dream Island remains to be seen.
Admit it, you read that headline and thought, “Yeah! Marines are super cocky!” Well, you aren’t exactly wrong. Hell, even if you are a Marine, you’ll agree with that fact. But why are we this way? What is ingrained in our DNA that makes us so damn arrogant?
Marines already know the answer. We’re reminded of it every day while we’re on active duty. Higher-ups are constantly telling us that we’re a bunch of morons with guns bad asses backed by a long and illustrious history of proof. But, if questioned by anyone outside of the Corps, we might not have an easy answer. Furthermore, service members in other branches might be supremely annoyed by the arrogance — and who could blame them?
So, if you’re wondering why this is, here’s your answer:
The fighting spirit and notorious reputation we’ve gained throughout history is a huge source of arrogance for us.
(U.S. Marine Corps)
As mentioned above, Marines can always point to their history as proof that we really are as badass as we say. Of course, higher-ups and drill instructors might have you believe that it’s because Marines have never lost a battle or retreated but… that’s not exactly true.
Marines have definitely had to surrender, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t fight like hell beforehand. When Marines had to surrender, you can bet that they made the enemy pay for it with blood. Regardless, Marines have a history of (usually) winning battles, typically against overwhelming odds. Victory comes at a high price. The ability to do this is certainly something to be proud of.
Overcoming the challenge of boot camp is just the first step.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Justin J. Shemanski)
Whether Marine Corps boot camp is, in fact, the toughest basic training in the military is impossible to prove, but one thing is for sure: it sucks. And then after that, if you’re a grunt, you’ll go to the School of Infantry and, any one of us will tell you that SOI sucks way worse than boot camp ever could.
Even when you hit the fleet, you’ll still have to train for deployments, and that sucks, too. But through the experience of “The Suck,” you gain a lot of pride. You overcome these insane challenges that you never thought you could, and you understand that you did so by digging deep into your own spirit to find the motivation.
Even something as simple as morning PT sucks.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Carlos Cruz Jr.)
The lifestyle of a Marine is, in short, not that great — especially considering that we almost exclusively get leftovers no one else wanted. We work with trash and usually come out on top regardless. Remember the training we were talking about? It sucks worse than everyone else’s (outside of special forces) because we simply don’t have the ability to make it any easier.
But who needs easy when you’re a badass? Not Marines. If there’s anything that lends itself to the arrogance of a Marine, it’s the lifestyle. Having to live in barracks with broken air conditioning during the summer in Hawai’i or the Stumps, eating garbage mess hall food, having strict rules regarding everything, etc. These are all things that make us believe we’re better than everyone else because we know that we have it tough, but that’s what makes us so damn good.
Marines can be some of the best people you’ll meet.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Ernest Scott)
No matter what you think about arrogance or Marines or the combination of the two, Marines can be some of the most compassionate, humble people you’ll ever meet, and it’s specifically because of our tough lifestyle. We don’t have the best gear to work with and our living quarters suck, but we learn to live with less and it teaches us to appreciate little things.
Most of us think of highly-trained spies and espionage units as the best of the best, Cold War ninjas who would never dream of getting caught lest they be disavowed by Washington, Moscow, London, or wherever they come from.
If 1980s-era film and television has taught us anything, it’s that the Russian spy agencies are among the best of the best. If that was true, something is severely lacking lately, because one of their spy units keeps getting caught doing some high-profile greasy stuff.
Russia’s GRU unit 29155 was recently outed as the unit behind the alleged payment of bounties to the Taliban for killing U.S. troops in Afghanistan. But that’s not the only high-visibility mission that was uncovered in recent days. 29155 was also allegedly behind the effort to hack Hillary Clinton’s State Department emails during the 2016 U.S. presidential election, the assassination of former KGB spy Sergei Skripal in England, and an attempted coup in Montenegro.
The unit is part of the Russian military intelligence apparatus, responsible for intelligence gathering and operations outside of the Russian Federation. The GRU (as it’s known outside of Russia and the former Soviet Union) was not as widely known or regarded as the Soviet KGB or the KGB’s antecedents, the Russian SVR and FSB, but today it is the go-to agency for military-related operations.
Why? Because it deploys six times as many foriegn operatives as the FSB or SVR. The GRU is Russia’s largest foreign security service. But unlike the KGB, the GRU has been largely unchanged since its Soviet heyday.
The GRU is the unit that takes on the most important military operations, like say, partnering with the Taliban or killing off former Soviet spies. But Foreign Policy says their work has been pretty sloppy in the past few years.
In the case of bounties on American troops in Afghanistan, U.S. intelligence services were actually able to track bank transfers between the Taliban and GRU accounts overseas. As for the other plots, it didn’t even require intelligence services. Media outlets inside and outside of Russia have been able to track members of 29155 because they kept reusing aliases with questionable cover stories to travel throughout the world.
Using these bits of information, the movement of GRU assets was relatively easy to track for the media, who published their findings. It was so easy, the information was confirmed by multiple countries’ intelligence agencies. The members of 29155 were mapped and tracked all over Europe.
Two of the 29155’s agents, Alexander Petrov (really Alexander Mishkin) and Ruslan Boshirov (real name Anatoliy Chepiga), were caught red-handed by Scotland Yard on closed-circuit tv cameras in the 2018 assassination plot of Sergei Skripal.
In that plot, the use of a Soviet nerve agent, along with the GRU operatives, led investigators not only to 29155, but to Chepiga entire graduating class of the GRU academy. From there, they uncovered plots to poison an arms dealer, interfering in elections in Spain, and even a coup in NATO member Montenegro.
Western intelligence saw the effort as a “Rosettta Stone” in reading Russian intelligence movements abroad.
When a group of hot-shot fighter pilots praise computers over speed, it’s clear times have changed. Fifth generation aircraft, such as the F-22 Raptor and the F-35 Lightning II, aren’t just powerful — they’re exponentially superior tactical machines.
When he first flew the F-22, Marine Corps Lt. Col. David Berke, who flew the Raptor as an Air Force exchange pilot and now flies the jump-jet F-35B, remarked, “I was enamored by just how powerful the airplane is … but [that’s] the least important thing about the F-22.”
No pilot who flies a fifth generation fighter “will tell you that what’s impressive is what’s on the outside,” Berke said during a Nov. 7 conference sponsored by the Air Force Association’s Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies.
Although fourth generation fighter pilots might have felt a “need for speed”, now information is what wins battles. In a high technology war, Berke suggests that the fastest airplane could be the first to die.
Air Force Lt. Col. Scott Gunn said the F-35A that he now flies “is a lot of sensors and computers … a processing machine that has an aircraft wrapped around it.”
Air Force Maj. David Deptula, who flew the F-22 in combat in Iraq and Syria, said what was “particularly useful” to U.S. and allied air forces was the Raptor’s ability “to detect targets in the air and on the ground and distribute that information in near real time.
“With that information, you’re enabling everybody else,” he said.
As potential adversaries field more advanced defensive systems, Berke said a key question about new airframes is “how survivable they are, and how lethal.” The information processing capabilities of fifth generation fighters “improves both of those, exponentially,” he said.
And with their ability to share the information, the fifth generation planes also “make the fourth gen aircraft more survivable,” he added.
Several of the pilots noted that the F-22 and F-35 not only collect massive amounts of data on the threats and other elements of the combat environment, they process the data and present it as crucial information that the pilot can use to make decisions.
“The big thing is not so much the sensors on the airplane, it’s the computers,” Gunn said. Instead of the pilot having to devote a lot of effort operating the sensors and analyzing data, “the airplane is doing that. I’m the one who gets to make the decisions.”
Major Andrew Stolee, an F-22 instructor at the Air Force Weapons School, said an increased speed of decision making is an important factor “in how we conduct air warfare. The biggest gain we get out of these airplanes is what they allow the human to do.”
Although the F-22 currently has problems sharing its sensor information digitally with fourth generation aircraft, Gunn said the F-35 has a Link 16 system that allows it to share battlespace information with the older airframes.
“In a recent exercise,” he said, “when the F-22s ran out of missiles the older fighters asked them to stay to help them find targets.”
“Enabling all the fifth generation aircraft to share battlespace information with the older aircraft, which will make up most of the fighter forces for decades, is one of the major requirements for the future,” said Maj. Gen. Glen VanHerck, commander of the Air Force Air Combat Center.
Another “bill to pay,” VanHerck said, is the need to greatly improve the current air combat training ranges, which cannot adequately duplicate the integrated air defense threats the new fighters must be able to handle. “We’re going to see a lot of our training in the virtual, simulated environment,” he said.
With their unmatched technological advancements and superior aerodynamic designs, fifth generation fighters don’t just exceed air domination capabilities–they define them.
I was both excited and anxious the day I got my orders to Minot Air Force Base. I requested to be sent to a nuclear missile base because of the challenges and opportunities the mission presented. Every day, Airmen at Minot and its sister nuclear missile bases operate, maintain, and secure weapons that have an immediate and direct impact on US strategic policy. The thought of leading those Airmen was awesome but also daunting. In the weeks leading up to my first day in Minot, I was concerned with whether I had what it took to be the right leader in my unit. Unsure of what to do, I simply decided that I would approach everything with optimism and enthusiasm.
In time, I found (miraculously) my plan to simply throw my energy and passion into the job actually worked. I had a great relationship with my commander, my airmen appreciated my effort (or at least found their lieutenant’s attitudes novel/humorous), and I worked well with my peers to accomplish the mission. As a reward for my efforts, I was given an extremely unique opportunity that was the highlight of my time at Minot; the nuclear weapons convoy mission.
It was a major change of pace for me. I had my own unique vehicle fleet, command and control systems, specialized weapons, and an entire flight of hand-picked airmen. I also had to take responsibility for my own mission tasking and planning, work independently, and ensure the dozens of different agencies involved in every convoy were working in harmony with each other. But by far the biggest change for me was that I suddenly found myself with a significant degree of authority and responsibility to accomplish a mission that had very real consequences on US strategic policy.
What I humbly share here are the lessons I learned from long, cold days on the road, ensuring the safe and secure transport of the world’s most destructive weapons. They were hard-won lessons delivered to me in the form of long nights, strange situations, and a desire to do right by the most talented and motivated airmen in the Air Force. I hope these lessons help the next round of lieutenant’s taking up the watch in the great, wide north.
Perhaps my biggest lesson, which was taught to me time after time, was the most important thing I could do in any sort of situation was remain calm. Your troops will reflect your attitude. If you panic, they will panic and start making poor decisions. Their panic will be mirrored and then amplified down the chain. But if you remain cool and calm, your troops will try to emulate your attitude even if they are upset internally. When you talk over the radio, speak clearly and calmly. When you give orders, act naturally and with confidence.
Low emotional neuroticism is what you should seek within yourself. This trait does not mean that you have to be an unfeeling robot as that would be just as bad as being an emotionally reactive person. You should figure out what your “trigger moments” are and then seek to balance your emotions in front of your troops. Remember, don’t sweat the small stuff.
2-Learn to Let Go of Control
Many will find this ironic, but one of the keys to successfully moving a nuclear weapon is to actually let go of control. Not control of the weapon of course, but rather control of the programs and processes that surround the mission. I quickly discovered a nuclear weapons convoy had way too many moving pieces to effectively manage on my own. As a result, I had to rely heavily on my NCOs to manage these moving pieces on my behalf. I did this by providing a clear, guiding intent for their programs and squads, and then giving them as much freedom and power as I could to let them achieve that intent.
While it seems like common sense leadership advice to trust your NCOs, it is still very hard to let go of things that you know you will have to answer for if they go wrong. But trust me, it will work out. We have the most talented airmen in the world and they will find great solutions to the unit’s problems, even if it is not the solution you envisioned.
3-Don’t Let Yourself Get Tribal
As stated before, moving a nuclear weapon across North Dakota requires the coordination of dozens of different units and agencies. It is truly a whole-base effort and a fantastic example of the bigger Air Force in action. This kind of mission requires that the various participants act selflessly to become a “team of teams.”
While unit morale and espirit-de-corps are must haves in any military unit, it should never come at the expense of cooperation with other friendly forces or devolve into petty rivalries. Unfortunately, too often leaders tend to destroy the larger picture under the delusion that we they looking out for our tribe. I had an obligation to build relationships with partner units, learn their processes, and make the whole-base effort happen in order for the nuclear convoy mission to succeed. If you always think in terms of “them” versus “us”, you will find it’s only “us” in the fight and no “them” will be coming to save you.
4-Give Your Leadership the Information They Need
Because of the nature of the position, I frequently found myself in meetings and discussions that other lieutenants were not normally allowed to participate in. I was also the subject matter expert for a very high visibility mission, and thus officers and commanders who were much more senior to me looked to me for my honest opinions on issues that affected the convoy. When questions about the risks involved in a particular mission came up, the heads in the room would turn to me to help determine the outcome (a feeling that I never got used to).
When you do find yourself in a situation where senior leaders want your viewpoint, be respectful and honest. It is your responsibility to provide your leadership with truthful answers and to do so in a way that is not antagonistic. At the same time, you must also be willing to accept your leadership’s decisions based on the information you provide. Trust goes both ways. My leadership trusted me to lead the convoy mission and I trusted them to make decisions on those missions that would keep me and my Airmen safe.
5-Embrace Failure and Avoid Fear
I once read in a history class that a popular saying in the old Strategic Air Command was “to err is human, to forgive is not SAC policy.” While that may sound clever and certainly carries the bravado of General Curtis LeMay with it (the founder of SAC and the modern nuclear Air Force), I can tell you that zero forgiveness makes for an abysmal unit culture.
If you refuse to accept failure while learning from it, you will create a unit culture where members are afraid to come forward, speak up, or sound the alarm to major problems. Your troops will hide things from you, and that type of behavior is what gets people hurt or killed. Show your airmen, through both action and words, honest mistakes are forgiven and embraced as a learning opportunity.
During my entire time at Minot, I made it a point to find the bright side of things and enjoy my job. Like any duty station or mission series, Minot had its fair share of challenges. There is no way to sugarcoat the experience of having to walk out into sub-freezing temperatures and still get the work done. Yet when these situations happened, I looked to others to keep a good attitude and make the best of the situation. I was always able to find a reason to laugh or smile(even if icicles started to gather on my face).
You too can find success with something as simple as finding a reason to smile more often or to laugh at stupid, silly things. Staying calm in front of your airmen can have a similar effect to having a happy attitude and can be contagious in a unit.
I am grateful to the proud Defenders of the 91st Missile Security Operations Squadron who were patient with me as I worked to develop the mission, the airmen, and myself. In the face of -20 degree temperatures and a demanding nuclear mission, they chose to follow me in giving their all towards building a lethal, combat-ready team.
Andrew is an Air Force Security Forces officer currently assigned to Buckley Garrison, US Space Force, Colorado. He oversees base security operations for the installation. He loves taking road trips with his wife and dog, snowboarding beautiful mountains, and enjoying great Colorado beer.