Air Force 4-Star: F-16s may be vulnerable to cyber attack - We Are The Mighty
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Air Force 4-Star: F-16s may be vulnerable to cyber attack

Air Force fighter jet mission data, sensors, missiles, intelligence information, precision guidance technology, data links and weapons targeting systems are all increasingly integrated with computer systems in today’s fast-moving high-tech warfare environment — a scenario which simultaneously upgrades lethality, decision-making and combat ability while also increasing risk and cyber-vulnerability, senior service leaders explained.


With this paradox and its commensurate rationale in mind, senior Air Force leaders unveiled a comprehensive “cyber campaign plan” designed to advance seven different lines of attack against cyber threats.

While faster processing speeds, advanced algorithms and emerging computer programs massively increase the efficiency, accuracy and precision of combat networks and weapons systems, increased computer-reliance also means weapons systems themselves can become more vulnerable to cyber-attack in the absence of sufficient protection.

For instance, how could Joint Direct Attack Munitions pinpoint targets in a combat environment where GPS signals have been destroyed, hacked or knocked out? What if navigation and geographical orientation were destroyed as well? How could an F-35 use its “sensor fusion” to instantly integrate targeting, mapping and threat information for the pilot if its computer system were hacked or compromised? How could drone feeds provide life-saving real-time targeting video feeds if the data links were hacked, re-directed, taken over or compromised?

These are precisely the kind of scenarios Air Force future planners and weapons developers are trying to anticipate.

Seven Lines of Attack 

Speaking at the annual Air Force Association Air Warfare Symposium, National Harbor, Md., Gen. Ellen Marie Pawlikowski Commander, Air Force Materiel Command, delineated the inspiration and direction for the 7 lines of attack.

Air Force 4-Star: F-16s may be vulnerable to cyber attack
US Air Force photo

A key impetus for the effort, as outlined in the first line of attack, is working to secure mission planning and recognized cyber vulnerabilities, Pawlikowski explained.

For instance, she explained the prior to embarking upon a global attack mission, an Air Force F-16 would need to acquire and organize its intelligence information and mission data planning – activities which are almost entirely computer-dependent.

“We did some mission planning before we got that in the air. Part of that mission planning was uploaded into a computer,” Pawlikowski said.  “An OFP (operational flight plan) is developed using software tools, processors and computers. When you lay out a mission thread it takes to conduct a global mission attack, you find that there are cyber threat surfaces all over the place. How do you make sure your F-16 is secure? We need to address each and every one of those threat surfaces.”

Air Force 4-Star: F-16s may be vulnerable to cyber attack
A U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft assigned to the 18th Aggressor Squadron takes off from Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska | US Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Joseph Swafford Jr.

The second line of attack is described in terms of technology acquisition and weapons development procedures. The idea, Pawlikowski said, was to engineer future weapons systems with a built-in cyber resilience both protecting them from cyber-attacks and allowing them to integrate updated software and computer technology as it emerges.

“We want to understand cyber security as early as we can and develop tools that are needed by program managers. We want to engineer weapons systems that include cyber testing in developmental and operational tests,” she said.

Brining the right mixture of cyber security experts and security engineers into the force is the thrust behind the third line of attack, and working to ensure weapons themselves are cyber resilient provides the premise for the fourth line of attack.

“We can’t take ten years to change out the PNT (precision, navigation and timing) equipment in an airplane if there is a cyber threat that negates our ability to use GPS,” Pawlikowski explained.

Part of this equation involves the use of an often-described weapons development term called “open architecture” which can be explained as an attempt to engineer software and hardware able to easily accommodate and integrate new technologies as they emerge. Upon this basis, weapons systems in development can then be built to be more agile, or adaptive to a wider range of threats and combat operating conditions.

In many cases, this could mean updating a weapons system with new software tailored to address specific threats.

“Open mission systems enable me in avionics to do more of a plug-and-play capability, making our weapons systems adaptable to evolving cyber threats,” she explained.

The fifth line of effort involves establishing a common security environment for “classification” guides to ensure a common level of security, and the sixth line of attack involves working with experts and engineers with the Air Force Research Laboratory to develop built-in cyber hardening tools.

Air Force 4-Star: F-16s may be vulnerable to cyber attack
US Air Force photo

For instance, Pawlikowski explained that by the 2020s, every Air Force base would have cyber hardening “baked” into its systems and cyber officers on standby against potential cyber-attack.

Preparing to anticipate the areas of expected cyber threats, and therefore developing the requisite intelligence to prepare, is the key thrust of the seventh line of effort.

“We planned and built our defenses against an expectation of what our adversary was able to do. We need to understand where the threat is going so we can try to defend against it,” Pawlikowski said.

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Air Force approves incentive pay for airmen in Turkey

The Air Force recently approved incentive pay for Airmen assigned to Turkey, just months after a military coup prompted defense officials to suspend accompanied deployments there. The Pentagon had ordered Air Force dependents out of the country in March.


According to the Air Force Times, unaccompanied tours to Turkey will be reduced from 15 months to 12 months. Airmen will be given the option to extend their tours from 12 to 24 months with an incentive pay of $300 per month.

Air Force Personnel Command says that Airmen must apply for Turkey Assignment Incentive Pay either prior to leaving their current duty station, within 30 days of arriving in Turkey, or “during their date eligible for return overseas forecast and initial vulnerable to move list windows.”

Airmen who have been in Turkey over 30 days may elect to extend their date eligible for return overseas, or DEROS, for 24 months past their current DEROS. Airmen who elect to accept Turkey Assignment Incentive Pay under these conditions will begin to collect the incentive pay on the first month of the 24 month extension, the service said.

All other Airmen who are eligible for Turkey Assignment Incentive Pay, and accept it, will serve 24 months in Turkey and will begin receiving the incentive pay upon arrival in country.

The Air Force Times reports that civilians previously assigned in Turkey will automatically have their tours reduced from 24 months to 12 months, unless an extension is approved by the U.S. Air Forces in Europe commander.

Turkey, a NATO ally, has seen civil unrest progress in recent years, with terror attacks and a failed coup in July. The country is host to a key airbase at Incirlik, which is critical to the coalition fight against Islamic State terrorists in Syria and Iraq.

The Air Force Times reports that Airmen who find that this recent change in tour requirements presents a hardship for them may request a “home-base or follow-on assignment” and that the Air Force will consider cancellation requests on a case-by-case basis.

The changes to Turkey assignments do not impact personnel assigned to the U.S. Embassy or Security Cooperation Organizations in Turkey.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The ISIS vs Taliban war in Afghanistan is heating up

Northern Afghanistan is at risk of falling to the Islamic State. Their latest attack in Sar-e Pul Province killed 15 Taliban fighters at prayer, but it’s just the latest in a series of ongoing conflicts that have seen hundred killed on both sides. The ISIS stronghold in Nangarhar Province is pushing westward in an effort to undermine the al-Qaeda-affiliated Taliban there.

All the groups involved in the fighting, including those who support the Ghani government in Kabul, are having the same logistical and intelligence problems faced by anyone fighting in the mountainous country — fighters and civilians switch their allegiances as often as their clothes.

The two terrorist groups are vying for power in the country’s eastern and northern regions. The Taliban want to push the Islamic State out of the country before it can establish a clear footprint. In June 2018, the Taliban launched two sweeping offensives in Kunar and Laghman. ISIS, for its part, did not observe the recent three-day ceasefire for the Eid al-Fitr holiday observed by government and Taliban troops.


Related: Afghanistan just called a temporary ceasefire with the Taliban

Air Force 4-Star: F-16s may be vulnerable to cyber attack

The black represents ISIS support as of December 2015.

(Institute for the Study of War)

It was during that holiday, the holiest of days for the world’s Muslim population, that ISIS killed 25 in a suicide car bomb attack in Nangarhar. According to The National, a newspaper based in the United Arab Emirates, ISIS sources say the recent Taliban advances were effective and that the Islamic State is experiencing “setbacks” in the rocky provinces of Kunar.

Fighters from Islamic State arrived in force in Afghanistan in 2015, just as ISIS fortunes in Iraq and Syria started to turn sour. The strength the group projected outside the country in recent years invited many defections from other terrorists groups and militias, especially from the Pakistani Taliban. The Afghan Taliban and ISIS have been butting heads ever since.

The Taliban dislikes the Islamic State’s brand of Islamic fundamentalism.

Air Force 4-Star: F-16s may be vulnerable to cyber attack

A lot. A whole lot.

ISIS hates that the Taliban draws its legitimacy through ethnic and nationalistic foundations, not Islamic jurisprudence like the kind declared by the Islamic State. To ISIS, Afghanistan is a province they call “Khorasan” and subject to the rule of their self-proclaimed caliphate. The Afghan Taliban’s alliances with Pakistan’s intelligence services and even Shia Muslims are just a few more reasons ISIS declares the Taliban to be non-Muslim nationalists.

There will be no possibility for peaceful resolution between the two.

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5 reasons Die Hard is absolutely a Christmas movie

Christmas movies can be broken down into their own sub-genres. You have classics like It’s a Wonderful Life and Miracle on 34th Street, rom-coms like Bridget Jones’s Diary and Love Actually, and modern family favorites like Elf and Home Alone. But, don’t forget the all-important action Christmas movie sub-genre. Undoubtedly, the king of this category is the legendary 1988 film Die Hard. Here are 5 reasons why and why it is, in fact, a true Christmas movie.

1. Christmas music

Air Force 4-Star: F-16s may be vulnerable to cyber attack
Believe me, it’s a Christmas movie (20th Century Fox)

You can’t have a Christmas movie without Christmas music, and Die Hard checks this block. The film features the Christmas classics of “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!” by Vaughn Moore and “Winter Wonderland” by Felix Bernard & Dick Smith. Additionally, while Argyle the limo driver is waiting, he’s listening to “Christmas in Hollis” by Run-D.M.C. If that’s not enough breadth of musical accompaniment, I don’t know what is.

2. It’s literally Christmas

Air Force 4-Star: F-16s may be vulnerable to cyber attack
That’ll get ya into the holiday spirit (20th Century Fox)

Let’s break this one down. Holly’s company is having its annual Christmas party on Christmas Eve when Hans Gruber and his cronies take them hostage. Gruber even says, “It’s Christmas, Theo. The time for miracles.” When McClane gets his hands on an HK94 (they were converted to look like MP5s; note the button magazine release when Marco reloads on the table above McClane), he writes “I have a machine gun now, Ho Ho Ho” on the body of the terrorist that he took it from. The book that the film is based on, Nothing Lasts Forever by Roderick Thorp, also takes place on Christmas Eve. Oh, and Steven de Souza, the film’s writer, has confirmed that Die Hard is a Christmas movie. Can’t argue with writer’s intent.

3. Reconciliation and making friends

Air Force 4-Star: F-16s may be vulnerable to cyber attack
They’re still friends in the sequel too (20th Century Fox)

It’s often said that Christmastime is a time for forgiveness and strengthening bonds. It’s also a time to make new friends, and John McClane does both of these things in his battle through Nakatomi Tower. The whole point of the NYPD cop being in Los Angeles was to reconcile with his wife, Holly (another Christmas reference). The man shows up with a giant teddy bear and everything. McClane then builds trust and understanding with LAPD Sergeant Al Powell. Once they establish this relationship, Powell spends the rest of the movie trying to help his new friend and eventually takes down the last terrorist before he can kill McClane. Isn’t that what Christmas is all about? Good will to all men, unless they’re threatening your buddy in a gunfight.

4. More Christmas

Air Force 4-Star: F-16s may be vulnerable to cyber attack
‘Twas the night before Christmas and in Nakatomi tower, John McClane and Hans Gruber were struggling for power (Insight Editions)

If the movie itself doesn’t convince you that Die Hard is a Christmas movie, and the best action Christmas movie, how about the fact that it spawned more Christmas-themed media. The film’s 1990 sequel, Die Hard 2, also takes place on Christmas Eve. Die Hard 2 also adds snow into the mix for those who complained about the lack of it in the first one (despite the Southern California setting). But, there’s more. Looking for a Christmas bedtime story to read your kids and teach them about American hero John McClane? Why not read them A Die Hard Christmas: The Illustrated Holiday Classic by Doogie Horner. The illustrated kid’s book is sure to be a re-read request as much as the film is rewatched.

5. Rewatchability

Air Force 4-Star: F-16s may be vulnerable to cyber attack
Die Hard, still great (Warner Bros.)

Speaking of rewatching, is a movie really a Christmas movie if you can’t rewatch it every year? Well, Die Hard is the gift that just keeps on giving. We’ve all quoted lines along with McClane like, “Come out to the coast, we’ll get together, have a few laughs,” and, “Welcome to the party, pal.” Of course, you don’t even need to have seen the film (but if you haven’t, what are you even doing?) to know, “Yippee-Ki-Yay, Motherf**cker.” It doesn’t even have to be Christmas for you to watch it and quote along. Remember what movie Ross, Joey, and Chandler from Friends always end up renting from the video store (when those were a thing)? That’s right. It’s Die Hard. It’s never a bad time to watch it, but Christmastime is what the movie was made for.

Air Force 4-Star: F-16s may be vulnerable to cyber attack
(20th Century Fox)
MIGHTY TRENDING

The oldest living Marine just turned 105

On July 31, 2020, the town of Stockton, California held a drive-by birthday celebration for a distinguished resident of The Oaks at Inglewood assisted living facility. A parade of local residents and first responders turned out to greet Marine Maj. Bill White a very happy 105 birthday.


Air Force 4-Star: F-16s may be vulnerable to cyber attack

Maj. White in January (Pegasus Senior Living)

“Feels just as good as it did at 104,” Maj. White said.

The outpouring of fanfare and support were a testament to Maj. White’s positive spirit and service to the nation. For his family members, who haven’t been able to visit him much because of the coronavirus pandemic, the celebration was a touching display.

“It’s very heartwarming and very just—it does get to you that there are so many people that love him and appreciate him for his service,” said Maj. White’s daughter Mary Huston.

Maj. White enlisted in the Marine Corps in October 1934. Before the outbreak of WWII, he was stationed in Shanghai. During the war, he fought on Iwo Jima where he earned a Purple Heart for wounds suffered from a grenade. Maj. White continued his service after the war, spending 30 years in the Corps.

Air Force 4-Star: F-16s may be vulnerable to cyber attack

Maj. Bill White in his Marine dress white uniform (Bill White)

Maj. White’s dedication to service continued after the military. He served as a police officer and started a family. One of his favorite hobbies is scrapbooking.

“This started way back,” Maj. White said. “My mother, parents taught me to conserve and observe memories as much as possible.”

Maj. White made headlines back in February when he put out a call asking for Valentine’s Day cards to add to his collection of memories. He launched “Operation Valentine” the month before with a goal of 100 cards. By the end, Maj. White’s call had gone viral on social media and he received more than half-a-million cards and gifts from around the world including a special note from NASA and President Trump.

Like any good Marine, Maj. White keeps his uniform in good order and likes to wear it for special occasions. Looking sharp in his dress blues, Maj. White revealed that the secret to his longevity is keeping his mind sharp by reading. “Right now I’m trying for 106,” he said. “One at a time.”


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6 tips we learned from ‘Ferris Bueller’ on how to ‘skate’ in the military

Ferris Bueller is the ultimate skater.


Skating is an art form which most people will never fully learn — until now. In 1986, Paramount pictures released “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” which taught countless teens how to play sick and get out of school.

Written and directed by the legendary John Hughes, the film focuses on a teenager who embarks on an incredible journey throughout Chicago while being unknowingly stalked by his high school principal.

While taking the day off, Bueller and his two friends learn more about themselves in a day than they would ever expect.

Related: 8 tips for ‘skating’ in the military

So check out our list of how Bueller taught us the art of the skate.

1. Be convincing

First, come up with an epic excuse why you’re unable to partake in a military activity (like going to work), and make sure you sell that sh*t like Bueller sold being sick to his parents.

Getting a “Sick in Quarters” slip is the goal if you’re in the military.

Air Force 4-Star: F-16s may be vulnerable to cyber attack
I hope I look sick enough. (Source: Paramount/Screenshot)

2. Use your assets properly

Unfortunately, Bueller doesn’t have a car to drive himself around. So once he officially earns his day off via his parents, it’s time to get on the phone and find someone to pick you up.

Skating should be a team effort, but make sure you repay the favor and help someone else skate on another day.

Air Force 4-Star: F-16s may be vulnerable to cyber attack
Come over to the barracks and pick me up. (Source: Paramount/Screenshot)

3. Know the loopholes

Here, Bueller hacks the school’s computer absence program and changes how many days he has been absent. You probably won’t have this ability unless you have a special security clearance, but the moral of this story is to understand your limits.

For instance, if your boss isn’t going to be around — you’re not going to be around. Get it? Good.

Air Force 4-Star: F-16s may be vulnerable to cyber attack
Knowing the loopholes will get you far in life. (Source: Paramount/Screenshot)

4. Have an epic backstory

During roll call, Bueller’s name is called out several times before this hot girl (Kristy Swanson) gives the teacher a bullsh*t reason why he isn’t in school. It works well during military roll call when the service member calling out names just wants to get on with the day and not hear any excuses — another loophole.

Air Force 4-Star: F-16s may be vulnerable to cyber attack
How could you not trust this face? (Source: Paramount/Screenshot)

5. Play the role

In the event you get an unknown phone call or run into someone outside your skating circle, divert into the sick mode ASAP.

Air Force 4-Star: F-16s may be vulnerable to cyber attack
Remember act sick. (Source: Paramount/Screenshot)

Also Read: 11 hiding spots for an E-4 to sham

6. Make it a team effort

Ferris uses his best buddy Cameron to impersonate his girlfriend’s dad to get her out of school. Now, you probably won’t have to do all that, but it’s awesome to have military friends who are willing to skate alongside you that you trust.

Air Force 4-Star: F-16s may be vulnerable to cyber attack
Our favorite hypochondriac, Cameron Frye. (Source: Paramount/Screenshot)

MIGHTY HISTORY

The true story behind the recovery of Extortion 17

The following passage is an excerpt from “Violence of Action: The Untold Stories of the 75th Ranger Regiment in the War on Terror.” It has been edited for clarity.

On the night of Aug. 5 through Aug. 6, 2011, one of the worst tragedies in modern special operations history occurred. By this point in the war, the men who made up the special operations community were some of the most proficient and combat-hardened warriors the world had ever seen. Even so, the enemy always has a vote.

The men of 1st Platoon, Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment were on a longer-than-normal deployment as the rest of their company was on Team Merrill and they surged ahead with them.


Air Force 4-Star: F-16s may be vulnerable to cyber attack

Coalition security members prepare to conduct an operation in search of a Taliban leader. Photo by SGT Mikki L. Sprenkle, courtesy of Department of Defense.

They had yet another raid mission in pursuit of a high-value target in the Tangi Valley, which was in Wardak Province, Afghanistan, on the night of August 5.

The mission was not easy. The Rangers took contact not only during their movement to the target but also on the target. Despite the tough fight that left some wounded, the enemy combatants were no match for the Ranger platoon. They secured the target and were gathering anything of value for intelligence when it was suggested by the Joint Operations Center (JOC) back at the Forward Operating Base (FOB) that a platoon of SEALs from a Naval Special Mission Unit be launched to chase down the three or four combatants that ran, or squirted, from the target.

This was a notoriously bad area, and the Ranger platoon sergeant responded that they did not want the aerial containment that was offered at that time. The decision was made to launch anyway. The platoon-sized element boarded a CH-47D Chinook, callsign Extortion 17, as no SOF air assets were available on that short of notice.

Air Force 4-Star: F-16s may be vulnerable to cyber attack

U.S. Special Forces Soldiers, attached to Special Operations Task Force-Afghanistan, alongside Afghan agents from the National Interdiction Unit, NIU, load onto CH-47 Chinooks helicopters for their infiltration prior to an operation in the Ghorak district, Helmand province, Afghanistan, Sept. 12, 2016. Photo by Sgt. Connor Mendez, courtesy of U.S. Army.

As Extortion 17 moved into final approach of the target area at 0238 local time, the Rangers on the ground watched in horror as it took a direct hit from an RPG (rocket-propelled grenade). The helicopter fell from the sky, killing all 38 on board. The call came over the radio that they had a helicopter down, and the platoon stopped what they were doing to move to the crash site immediately. Because of the urgency of the situation, they left behind the detainees they fought hard to capture.

The platoon moved as fast as possible, covering 7 kilometers of the rugged terrain at a running pace, arriving in under an hour. They risked further danger by moving on roads that were known to have IEDs (improvised explosive devices) to arrive at the crash site as fast as they could, as they were receiving real-time intelligence that the enemy was moving to the crash site to set up an ambush.

Upon their arrival, they found a crash site still on fire. Some of those on board did not have their safety lines attached and were thrown from the helicopter, which scattered them away from the crash site, so the platoon’s medical personnel went to them first to check for any signs of life. With no luck, they then began gathering the remains of the fallen and their sensitive items.

Air Force 4-Star: F-16s may be vulnerable to cyber attack

Footage of the Extortion 17 crash site revealed mangled weapons and melted metal. Screen capture via YouTube.

Similar to the Jessica Lynch rescue mission almost a decade prior, the Rangers on the ground decided to push as many guys as possible out on security to spare them from the gruesome task. Approximately six Rangers took on the lion’s share of the work. They attempted to bring down two of the attached cultural support team (CST) members, but had to send them back as they quickly lost their composure at the sight of it all. On top of that, the crashed aircraft experienced a secondary explosion after the Rangers arrived that sent shrapnel into two of the medics helping to gather bodies.

Despite their injuries, they kept working. Later in the day they had to deal with a flash flood from enemy fighters releasing dammed water into the irrigation canal running through the crash site in an attempt to separate the Ranger platoon, cutting them in half. Luckily, because of the sheer amount of water heading toward them, they heard it before it hit them and were moved out of the way before anyone was hurt. If that wasn’t enough, there was also an afternoon lightning storm that was so intense it left some of their equipment inoperable and their platoon without aerial fire support.

Meanwhile, 3rd Platoon, Delta Company from 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment was alerted after coming off a mission of their own. They took a small break to get some sleep before they flew out to replace the other platoon, which would hold the site through the day. Once they awoke, they were told to prepare to stay out for a few days. They rode out and landed at the nearest Helicopter Landing Zone (HLZ), 7 kilometers from the crash site, and made their way in with an Air Force CSAR team in tow.

Air Force 4-Star: F-16s may be vulnerable to cyber attack

Austin Williams visits the gravesite of U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Christopher C. Campbell in Section 60 of Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day, May 30, 2016. Campbell was one of 30 Americans killed when a CH-47 Chinook helicopter, with the call sign Extortion 17, crashed in Afghanistan. Photo by Rachel Larue, courtesy of Arlington National Cemetery.

After arriving, the platoon from 2/75 had to make the 7-kilometer trek back to the HLZ, as that was the nearest place a helicopter could land in the rugged terrain. The men were exhausted, having walked to their objective the night before, fighting all night, running to the crash site, securing it through the day only to execute another long movement to exfil.

New to the scene, the platoon from 1/75 did what they could to disassemble the helicopter and prepare it to be moved. The last platoon evacuated the bodies and sensitive items on board, so now the only thing left was the large pieces of the aircraft spread out across three locations. They were out for three days straight, using demolitions as well as torches to cut the aircraft into moveable sections and then loading them onto vehicles that the conventional Army unit that owned the battlespace brought in.

Despite the gruesome and sobering task, Rangers worked until the mission was accomplished. The third stanza of the Ranger Creed states that you will never fail your comrades and that you will shoulder more than your fair share of the task, whatever it may be, 100 percent and then some. The Rangers of these two platoons more than lived the Creed in response to the Extortion 17 tragedy.

Air Force 4-Star: F-16s may be vulnerable to cyber attack

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.


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The Battle of the Crater turned a brilliant plan into self-inflicted defeat

Air Force 4-Star: F-16s may be vulnerable to cyber attack


During one of the final and most important sieges of the Civil War, a combination of racism towards black troops, concern for appearances, and sheer blinding incompetence and cowardice led to the bloody disaster that was the Battle of the Crater.

The Confederate Army was engaged in a last ditch defense of Petersburg, Va., the logistics and rail hub that supplied the forces defending their capital at Richmond, against the Union Army under command of General Ulysses S. Grant. Once Petersburg fell, the war was as good as over.

The siege had turned into trench warfare that presaged World War I. Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s mastery of field fortifications and defense in depth had made offensive operations by the Union against entrenched Confederate troops a terribly bloody endeavor. The siege was at a stalemate, and new tactics were called for.

The Union 48th Pennsylvania Regiment was largely drawn from coal country, and its commander, Col. Henry Pleasants, was convinced they could dig a long mine under the rebel lines and use blasting powder blow to a large hole in their fortifications. A four-division assault force would then seize the heights overlooking Petersburg, greatly shortening the siege. His corps commander, Gen. Ambrose Burnside, endorsed the plan.

The operation was conducted with a strange mix of brute force labor and a strategic lassitude from higher command, and suffered from a chronic lack of logistical support. Most of the Union leadership, from Grant on down, was skeptical of the plan, and saw it as a way to keep the soldiers busy at best.

The 4th United States Colored Troops (USCT) under Gen. Edward Ferraro was specially trained to lead the assault, specifically to flank the crater on both sides. But Gen. George Meade, commander of the Union Army at the battle of Gettysburg, thought little of the plan and the abilities of the black troops to carry it out.

He also voiced concerns to Grant that if the attack failed, it would look as if black soldiers had been thrown away as cannon fodder. Grant agreed, Burnside inexplicably had his division commanders draw lots, and Brigadier Gen. James Ledlie drew the short straw.

It was bad enough that the last minute change brought in badly unprepared troops for a tricky attack, but Ledlie had the distinction of being one of the most drunken cowards in the Union officer corps. This was to have terrible consequences.

Union troops operating north of Petersburg had drawn off most of the Southern troops, leaving the line weakened, and the time was ideal for the assault. After months of labor and the emplacement of more than four tons of blasting powder under the Confederate fortifications, the attack began with triggering the explosives at 4:45 a.m. on June 30, 1864.

The resulting blast was the largest man-made explosion in history up to that point. A massive mushroom cloud, which sent men, horses, artillery, and huge amounts of earth flying into the air, left a crater 130-feet long, 75-feet wide, and 35-feet deep. The explosion killed a full third of the the South Carolina unit defending the strongpoint, over 200 men, in an instant. The concussive force of the explosion left the rest of the brigade stunned for at least 15 minutes.

Despite the spectacular success of the mine blast, the assault started to go wrong from the beginning. Ledlie was drunk and hiding in a bunker in the rear, and his leaderless division ran into the crater instead of around it, milling about uncertainly.Other units pouring into the attack only added to the chaos.

The recovered Confederate troops laid a kill zone around the crater, keeping the Union troops pinned down, and fired everything from rifles to mortar shells into the packed troops stuck in the blast zone. The 4th USCT, despite being relegated to the second wave, penetrated farther than anyone, but suffered severely in the process.

After holding out for hours, a final counterattack by a Confederate brigade of Virginians routed the still numerically superior Union forces, which suffered appalling casualties, and many were taken prisoner.

There are many Southern eyewitness accounts of black prisoners being summarily shot down by Confederate troops, and the particularly severe casualty rates suffered by the black units seem to bear this out. Even some Union soldiers were reportedly involved in the killings, driven by fear of the Confederate warnings of reprisals for fighting alongside black soldiers. The shouting of “No Quarter!” and “Remember Fort Pillow!” by the black troops during their charge was also later cited as a justification for the executions by the Confederacy.

Burnside and Ledie were both relieved of duty after the disaster, though Burnside was later cleared by Congress since it was Meade who decided to replace the USCT at the last moment. Burnside never held a significant command again.

The supreme irony of the battle was that despite the efforts to spare the lives of black troops from politically inconvenient slaughter, the utter failure of the lead wave to force the breach lead to terrible casualties for the black units they had replaced. Gen. Grant later said “it was the saddest affair I witnessed during the war.”

The siege would drag on for another eight months, and Petersburg’s fall led to the prompt surrender of Richmond, precipitating Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Courthouse. The Crater remains a prime example of a brilliant plan spoiled by incompetent execution.

MIGHTY TRENDING

These soldiers defeated tanks by hacking them

A tank unit deployed to the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California, for a training exercise had a big surprise when they were ordered to carry out an assault. Their movement was halted not by artillery and missiles, but by ones and zeros. They had been hacked.


According to a report by DefenseSystems.com, the assault was thwarted by cyber weapons. While the exact nature of the hacking wasn’t disclosed, the report did state that it targeted the radios and wireless communication systems on the tanks.

 

Air Force 4-Star: F-16s may be vulnerable to cyber attack
Photo: Capt. Kyle Key

“These tanks had to stop, dismount, get out of their protection, reduce their mobility,” Capt. George Puryear told DefenseSystems.com. The need to do so resulted in their “defeat” in the training exercise.

Other electronic warfare and cyber warfare capabilities were also tested at Fort Irwin. In one of the tests, hackers were able to infiltrate into a network and provide false data to the commanders. The potential mischief that can be wreaked with that capability is endless – to include “tricking” a force into friendly-fire incidents.

Air Force 4-Star: F-16s may be vulnerable to cyber attack
A US Navy (USN) EA-6B Prowler from the Electronic Attack Squadron-133 (VAQ 133), out of Woodby Island, Washington, takes off from Eielson Air Force Base (AFB), Alaska, in support of exercise NORTHERN EDGE 2002.

The implications of these exercises have not been ignored. The Army’s Rapid Capabilities Office and United States Cyber Command have been working on technology to protect American battlefield networks from hackers. One of the systems being applied is a kit that can either be carried by troops or mounted on armored vehicles.

The kits, said to be more capable than the jammers used by aircraft to combat enemy air defenses, have the ability to recognize and analyze electronic signals. During combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, electronic warfare planes like the EA-6B Prowler and EA-18 Growler were used to scramble enemy communications, but in combat against a country like Iran or North Korea, not to mention Russia, those planes may be needed for other mission.

Air Force 4-Star: F-16s may be vulnerable to cyber attack
M1A2 Abrams Main Battle Tanks move to engage targets during a joint combined arms live-fire exercise near Camp Buehring, Kuwait Dec. 6-7, 2016. The multi-day exercise was designed to test the efficiency of the U.S. Army and Kuwaiti Land and Air forces abilities to identify and eliminate enemies’ anti-aircraft capabilities. Around 30 M1 Abrams Main Battle Tanks, two Kuwaiti AH-64 Apache helicopters, several Bradley Armored Fighting Vehicles, scout sniper teams, 120mm mortar teams, and M109 Self Propelled Howitzer artillery fire assaulted mock enemy positions during the exercise. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Aaron Ellerman)

 

The kits are slated to be tested during a NATO exercise known as Saber Guardian that will take place in Bulgaria, Hungary, and Romania. The Army is also looking at alternatives to the Global Positioning System, including the Adaptive Navigation System, which uses software algorithms to measure not only a cloud of atoms in the system, but also to analyze radio, TV, and even lightning strikes to generate accurate positions. The Army is also developing the Spatial, Temporal and Orientation Information in Contested Environments program, using long-range signals, data sharing, and self-sufficient tactical clocks to overcome jamming.

Those two systems and as many as five others could begin testing in 2018, according to Maj. Gen. Wilson A. Shoffner, the Rapid Capability Office’s director of operation, in hopes of preventing future hacking incidents. 

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This colorized German war footage shows why Stalingrad was hell on Earth

It was the pivotal battle that most historians believe turned the tide against the Nazis for good in World War II, resulting in a cascade of defeats as the Wehrmacht beat its retreat to Germany from the Soviet Eastern Front.


But it wasn’t always that way, and in the opening months of Operation Barbarossa the German army seemed poised for a stunning victory against the Red Army.

As part of its push to secure the southern Caucasian oil fields, the German 6th Army was ordered to take the city of Stalingrad in September 1942, a move some historians believe was strategically irrelevant as the Nazis were already well on their way to Baku.

Air Force 4-Star: F-16s may be vulnerable to cyber attack
The German army quickly made it to the center of the city in Stalingrad, but was eventually cut off from resupply and forced to surrender in early 1943. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

But many believe Adolf Hitler wanted to capture the city as a thumb in the eye to Soviet leader Josef Stalin, for whom the city was renamed.

Initially, the German army was able to push well into the city, taking the Univermag department store at its center. But the Red Army dug into the city’s industrial areas along the banks of the Volga river and the battle ground down into a brutal street-by-street slugfest.

One of the Red Army’s most accomplished generals, Marshall Georgi Zhukov, hatched a plan to surround the 6th Army and cut off its supply lines. And by mid-November, the Soviets began to squeeze the Nazis inside the city.

As winter descended, the Germans were running out of food, ammunition and other supplies, and when a rescue mission launched by Field Marshall Erich Von Manstein failed to break through, the Nazi’s fate was sealed. The German forces under the command of Gen. Friedrich Paulus eventually surrendered in early February 1943.

Air Force 4-Star: F-16s may be vulnerable to cyber attack
While the Soviets lost nearly 500,000 men in the battle, the Wehrmacht surrendered 91,000 soldiers and lost nearly 150,000. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

It was a horrific battle waged on a titanic scale in a battlefield unlike any seen in modern times. In all, the Germans lost about 147,000 men in the battle while surrendering 91,000. The Soviets took even more catastrophic losses, with 480,000 dead and 650,000 wounded. An estimated 40,000 civilians were killed in the fighting.

Watch some of the extraordinary footage sent back by German photographers of the battle for Stalingrad culled from historical archives and colorized for a more vivid portrayal from FootageArchive.

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These are a former NATO Supreme Allied Commander’s favorite books

Air Force 4-Star: F-16s may be vulnerable to cyber attack
Adm. James Stavridis (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)


Admiral James Stavridis, a former leader of the US Southern Command and once the Supreme Allied Commander of NATO, has shared some of his favorite books in an interview with Marcia Desanctis from The Millions.

Stavridis, who is now the dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, is a voracious reader with broad literary tastes. For a person who was once one of the most important figures in the world’s most powerful military, books serve as a crucial way to make sense of a complicated world.

“Reading is integral to my life … And I think, in the end, we solve global problems not by launching missiles, it’s by launching ideas,” Stavridis told The Millions.

Here are some of Stavridis’ favorite books, along with his favorite naval movie.

My Life In France” by Julia Child and Alex Prud’Homme

Air Force 4-Star: F-16s may be vulnerable to cyber attack
My Life In France: Julia Child (Photo: Amazon)

“My Life In France” is a memoir documenting Child’s move to France with her new husband, Paul. The book follows the culinary icon’s growing career as a chef and author, and captures all of her successes and failures.

The book left Stavridis in tears.

“This is an incredibly quirky, wonderful book about discovering yourself and discovering your life,” Stavridis said. “The voice in the book is so authentic and so beautiful, so wonderfully rendered.”

The Circle” by Dave Eggers

“The Circle” is a disconcerting look at the future of online privacy. Imagining a world in which transparency is valued more than privacy, Eggers evokes a world that may not be too far off in the future.

“In the largest sense, by one of our most creative contemporary writers, David Eggers, it is a story about what we hold to ourselves, what is privacy, and what transparency can provide but take away from each of us,” Stavridis told The Millions. “It’s a profoundly important novel that helps us deal with this collision between privacy and transparency.”

Gulag: A History” by Anne Applebaum

“Gulag: A History” documents the rise of the Soviet prison camp system from the Russian Revolution through its collapse during glasnost towards the end of the Cold War. Applebaum’s research documents both the details of individual camp life and the greater significance of the gulag system for the USSR and its leaders.

“It’s a brilliant book,” Stavridis said. He also featured the book on the reading list at the end of his autobiography, “The Accidental Admiral.”

Generation of Winter” by Vassily Aksyonov

“Generation of Winter” is a novel that follows the saga of the fictional Gradov family from 1925 to 1945. With a vast range of characters and settings, the novel shifts from Moscow to the frontlines of WWII battles in Poland and Ukraine, capturing the difficulties of Russian life during that twenty-year time period.

“It’s a beautiful novel,” Stavridis said. “It’s also, I think, a portrait of a really interesting period in Russian society that transitioned from the World War II generation and how they were effectively betrayed.”

The Caine Mutiny” starring Humphrey Bogart

Air Force 4-Star: F-16s may be vulnerable to cyber attack
The Caine Mutiny DVD cover

Without further explanation, Stavridis said “The Caine Mutiny” was his favorite movie about the Navy “by a country mile.”

More from Business Insider:

This article originally appeared at Business Insider Defense Copyright 2015. Follow BI Defense on Twitter.

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Fast-mover hit by enemy ground fire over Afghanistan

 


Air Force 4-Star: F-16s may be vulnerable to cyber attack
An F-16 launching with external fuel tanks.

AFP is reporting that an American F-16 was hit by small arms fire over Paktia Province in eastern Afghanistan over the weekend. The damage to the jet was severe enough that the pilot decided to jettison all external stores (drop tanks and bombs) before returning to Bagram Air Base north of Kabul.

Although a number of rotary wing aircraft have been shot down or damaged by ground fire while operating over Afghanistan, tactical jets have been basically untouched by the enemy since the first airstrikes started in October of 2001.  The Taliban don’t have much in the way of an integrated air defense system (a la Desert Storm-era Iraq), and jets can usually remain out of the reach of shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles (like Stingers) and small arms fire by flying above 10,000 feet while delivering GBUs or JDAMs.

So, in order to have been hit by bullets, the F-16 pilot had to have been flying pretty low.  Pilots generally fly low for two reasons:  A “show of force” pass or a strafing run.  Non-precision (“dumb”) bombing can cause a pilot to bottom out at low altitude, but it’s unlikely the Falcon was carrying other than smart weapons, even for a close air support mission.

The Taliban claimed to have downed the F-16 and pictures have emerged of them posing with wreckage, but the U.S. military responded with the following statement: “On October 13, a US F-16 encountered small arms fire in the Paktia Province in Afghanistan. The surface to air fire impacted one of the aircraft’s stabilizers and caused damage to one of the munitions.”

Now: 4 things that made the F-16 years ahead of its time

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The US military took these incredible photos in just one week-long period

The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here is the best of what they shot this week:


AIR FORCE

Tech. Sgt. Timothy Cotterall, an Air National Guard emergency manager, is decontaminated following attempts to identify multiple biological contaminants in a simulated lab during a Global Dragon training event on March 18, 2015. Held at the Guardian Centers of Georgia, Global Dragon Deployment For Training provides a refresher course for Airmen, allowing them to put their skills to use to identify live chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear agents and materials. 

Air Force 4-Star: F-16s may be vulnerable to cyber attack
Photo: Tech. Sgt. Timothy Cotterall/US Air Force

The lights along the flightline at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, shine under the Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights March 18, 2015. Eielson is home to RED FLAG-Alaska, a series of Pacific Air Forces commander-directed field training exercises for U.S. forces, provides joint offensive counter-air, interdiction, close air support, and large force employment training in a simulated combat environment.

Air Force 4-Star: F-16s may be vulnerable to cyber attack
Photo: Staff Sgt. Shawn Nickel/US Air Force

NAVY

WATERS NEAR GUAM (March 26, 2015) The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62), right, comes alongside the Military Sealift Command fleet replenishment oiler USNS Pecos (T-AO 197) for a replenishment-at-sea during Multi-Sail 2015.

Air Force 4-Star: F-16s may be vulnerable to cyber attack
Photo: Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Patrick Dionne/US Navy

WATERS NEAR GUAM (March 27, 2015) U.S. Navy and Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force ships are underway in formation during Multi-Sail 2015. Multi-Sail is an annual Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 15 exercise designed to assess combat systems, improve teamwork and increase warfighting capabilities in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility. The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force is participating in Multi-Sail for the first time.

Air Force 4-Star: F-16s may be vulnerable to cyber attack
Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Daniel M. Young/US Navy

ARMY

The sun sets on Soldiers assigned to 2d Cavalry Regiment, after conducting a tactical road march from Mihail Kogalniceanu Airbase to Smardan Training Area, Romania, March 24, 2015. The Soldiers are preparing to partner with Soldiers assigned to 173rd Airborne Brigade and Romanian forces for a multinational training event in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve.

Air Force 4-Star: F-16s may be vulnerable to cyber attack
Photo: Sgt. William A. Tanner/US Army

Paratroopers assigned to 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, conduct an after action review after completing a night live-fire, on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.during U.S. Army Alaska’s Exercise Spartan Valkyrie, March 23, 2015.

Air Force 4-Star: F-16s may be vulnerable to cyber attack
Photo: Staff Sgt. Daniel Love/US Army

MARINE CORPS

A Marine engages targets from a UH-1Y Venom with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 161, 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, during Composite Training Unit Exercise (COMPTUEX) above San Clemente Island, California, March 20, 2015. COMPTUEX gives the Marines of VMM-161 the opportunity to practice real-world scenarios and hone their skill sets.

Air Force 4-Star: F-16s may be vulnerable to cyber attack
Photo: Sgt. Jamean Berry/US Marine Corps

A Marine with Combat Logistics Battalion 2, dives underwater to perform a self-rescue drill during a swim qualification course aboard Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, March 18, 2015. The purpose of the course was to maintain proficiency, and enhance the Marines skills in water survival techniques.

Air Force 4-Star: F-16s may be vulnerable to cyber attack
Photo: Lance Cpl. Andre Dakis/US Marine Corps

COAST GUARD

Coast Guard members from Coast Guard Sector Boston, Coast Guard Station Merrimack River and the First Coast Guard District conduct flare training on Plum Island, Mass., Dec. 15, 2014. The participants fired several different types of flares to gain familiarity with the operation and appearance for each type of flare.

Air Force 4-Star: F-16s may be vulnerable to cyber attack
Photo: Petty Officer 3rd Class MyeongHi Clegg/US Coast Guard

As the sun sets, a crew member acts as lookout aboard Barque Eagle in the North Atlantic, April 2, 2014. Coast guard Cutter Eagle is the only active commissioned sailing vessel, and one of only two commissioned sailing vessels along with the USS Constitution, in American military service.

Air Force 4-Star: F-16s may be vulnerable to cyber attack
Photo: Petty Officer 2nd Class LaNola Stone/US Coast Guard

NOW: Why Vietnam vet and Hollywood legend Dale Dye thinks ending the draft was a ‘terrible mistake’

AND: 5 sports stars who saw heavy combat in the military