Army snipers field test a more accurate, ergonomic rifle - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

Army snipers field test a more accurate, ergonomic rifle

Eight Ivy Division snipers with the 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team field tested an upgrade to the Army’s sniper rifle in the shadows of the fabled Rocky Mountains.

Engineered as an upgrade to the M110 Semi-Automatic Sniper System, the Compact, Semi-Automatic Sniper Rifle (CSASS) was redesigned to enhance a sniper’s capability to perform missions with greater lethality and survivability, according to Maj. Mindy Brown, CSASS test officer with the Fort Hood, Texas-based U.S. Army Operational test Command.


Upgrades being tested include increased accuracy, plus other ergonomic features like reduced weight and operations with or without a suppressor.

A sniper team fires the M110E1 Compact, Semi-Automatic Sniper Rifle (CSASS) in Mission Oriented Protective Posture (MOPP) gear during operational testing at Fort Carson, Colo.

(Photo by Maj. Michael P. Brabner)

Brown said the purpose of the operational test is to collect performance data and soldier feedback to inform the Army’s procurement decision regarding the rifle.

“We do this by having the snipers employ the system in the manner and the environment they would in combat,” Brown said.

“In doing this, we achieve a twofold benefit for the Army as we test modernization efforts while simultaneously building unit — or in this case — sniper readiness.”

She went on to explain how the 2nd IBCT snipers stressed the rifles as only operators can, during the 10-day record test.

The snipers fired 8,000 rounds from various positions while wearing individual protective and tactical equipment as well as their Ghillie suits and cold weather gear.

A sniper engages targets from behind a barrier during the short-range tactical scenario of the Compact, Semi-Automatic Sniper Rifle (CSASS) operational test at Fort Carson, Colo.

(Photo by Maj. Michael P. Brabner)

To also test how the CSASS allowed snipers to shoot, move, and communicate in a realistic combat environment, they also executed Situational Training Exercise (STX) force-on-force missions in what they described as, “the best sniper training they’d received since attending Sniper School at Fort Benning, Ga.”

The 2nd IBCT snipers really pushed each other, testing the CSASS in what evolved into a competitive environment on the ranges.

“Despite single-digit frigid temperatures, gusting winds, and wet snow, the snipers really impressed me with their levels of motivation and competitive drive to outshoot each other,” said Sgt. 1st Class Isidro Pardo, CSASS Test Team NCOIC with OTC’s Maneuver Test Directorate.

An agreed upon highlight of the test among the snipers was the force-on-force day and night STX Lanes.

A test sniper occupies an observation post and conducts counter-sniper operations on a dismounted Situational Tactical Exercise Lane at Fort Carson, Colo..

(Photo by Maj. Michael P. Brabner)

Sniper teams were pitted against one another on tactical lanes in natural environmental and Urban Terrain to see who could infiltrate, detect, and engage whom first.

Staff Sgt. Cameron Canales, from Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment said, “The force-on-force STX lanes were an extremely fantastic way for us as snipers to hone our field craft.”

One other sniper, Sgt. 1st Class Cecil Sherwood, from Headquarters Troop, 3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment said he really enjoyed all the “trigger time” with the CSASS.

A test sniper engages targets identified by his spotter while wearing a Ghillie suit during the Compact, Semi-Automatic Sniper Rifle (CSASS) operational test at Fort Carson, Colo.

(Photo by Maj. Michael P. Brabner)


Sherwood said he was able to learn from the other test snipers and improve his field craft.

“In a regular sniper section, I would never get this much trigger time with a sniper rifle or be issued nearly as much ammunition to train with in a fiscal year, let alone a 10-day period,” he said.

While OTC celebrates its 50th Anniversary, 2nd IBCT snipers and OTC’s CSASS Test Team are a testament to the importance of the half century relationship between the Operational Force and the test community.

“As we move into a period of focused modernization, now, more than ever, that relationship is decisive to ensuring only the best materiel capability solutions make it into the hands of the men and women in uniform serving on the front lines around the world and at home,” Brown said.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia tries to explain away MH17 missile once again

The Russian military has made a new claim about the downing of a passenger jet over the war zone in eastern Ukraine in 2014, asserting that the missile that brought Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 down was sent to Soviet Ukraine after it was made in 1986 and never returned to Russia.

Defense Ministry officials made the claim at a news conference in Moscow on Sept. 17, 2018, in an apparent attempt to discredit the findings of an international investigation that determined the system that fired the missile was brought into Ukraine from Russia before the Boeing 777 was shot down on July 17, 2014, and smuggled back into Russia afterward.

Kyiv swiftly disputed the Russian assertion, which a senior Ukrainian official called an “awkward fake,” while the Dutch-led Joint Investigation Team (JIT) said that it was still waiting for Russia to send documents it requested long ago and that Russia had made “factually inaccurate” claims in the past.


In a statement to RFE/RL, the Dutch government said it had “taken notice of the publications in relation to the press conference by the Russian Ministry of Defense.”

“The Netherlands has the utmost confidence in the findings and conclusions of the JIT,” the statement added. “The JIT investigation has broad support by the international community. The government is committed to full cooperation with the criminal investigation by all countries concerned as reflected in [UN Security Council] Resolution 2166.”

Speaking to RFE/RL’s Russian Service in an interview, the founder of cybersleuthing outfit Bellingcat accused Russia of “lying about the content” of videos it used as evidence, and said there was “absolutely no way to know” whether the records it cited are genuine.

All 298 passengers and crew were killed when the jet, which was en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, crashed in an area held by Russia-backed separatists in the Donetsk region.

The tragedy caused an international outcry and deepened tensions between Moscow and the West following Russia’s seizure of Crimea and support for the militants in their fight against Kyiv’s forces after pro-European protests pushed Moscow-friendly Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych from power.

The JIT also found that the Buk missile came from Russia’s 53rd Antiaircraft Missile Brigade and was fired from territory held by the Russia-backed separatists.

Many of the JIT’s findings have been corroborated or supported by evidence gathered by journalists and independent investigators, such as the British-based Bellingcat.

The Russian Defense Ministry officials claimed that some of the evidence used by the JIT, including videos investigators used to track the path of the missile from Russia to Ukraine and back, was falsified. They cited alleged evidence whose authenticity and accuracy could not immediately be independently assessed.

Citing what they said were newly declassified documents, the Defense Ministry officials asserted that the missile was manufactured in Dolgoprudny, outside Moscow, in 1986 — five years before the Soviet Union fell apart — and was sent by railway to a missile brigade in the Ternopil region of western Ukraine in December of that year.

“The missile belongs to the Ukrainian armed forces and never returned to Russian territory,” said Lieutenant General Nikolai Parshin, chief of the Defense Ministry’s missile and artillery department.

In Ukraine, National Security and Defense Council Secretary Oleksandr Turchynov said Russia’s “statement alleging that the missile that downed MH17 had a Ukrainian footprint was yet another awkward fake [issued] by the Kremlin in order to conceal its crime, which has been proven by both the official investigation and by independent expert groups.”

Earlier, Bellingcat’s Eliot Higgins cast doubt on the allegation that video footage was doctored by investigators, writing on Twitter that the Russian Defense Ministry “should probably know we have the original version of the video they’re talking about at the moment.”

“And we’ve never published it. And the JIT has it,” Higgins added in successive tweets.

In a statement on Sept. 17, 2018, the JIT said it would “meticulously study the materials presented as soon as the Russian Federation makes the relevant documents available to the JIT as requested in May 2018″ and required under a UN Security Council resolution.”

The JIT said that it asked Russia to provide “all relevant information” about the incident back in 2014, and in May 2018 “specifically requested information concerning numbers found on several recovered missile parts.”

The investigative body said that it had “always carefully analyzed” information provided by Russia, and in doing so “has found that information from the Russian Ministry of Defense previously presented to the public and provided to the JIT was factually inaccurate on several points.”

Bellingcat’s Higgins echoed that statement, telling RFE/RL’s Russian Service that “the Russian Ministry of Defense has a long and well-established track record of lying and faking evidence.”

“So, really, there is absolutely no way to know that this information is genuine,” Higgins said. He also disputed the claim that videos were doctored, accusing the Defense Ministry of making “purposely misleading” statements about video evidence and “just lying about the content.”

The new Russian assertions follow several other attempts by Russia to lay blame for the downing of MH-17 on Ukraine, including initial suggestions — now discredited — that the jet was shot down by a Ukrainian warplane.

The 298 victims of the crash are among more than 10,300 people killed since April 2014 in the war in eastern Ukraine, where fighting persists and the Moscow-backed militants continue to hold parts of the Donestk and Luhansk provinces despite internationally-backed cease-fire and political-settlement deals known as the Minsk Accords.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The untold story of the Navy SEAL and canine hero who caught Bin Laden

In 2008, Navy SEAL Will Chesney was introduced to the SEAL canine program, a team of four-footed recruits tasked with saving soldiers’ lives. What Chesney did not realize at that moment was that his canine partner, Cairo, would become instrumental in saving his life both on and off the battlefield.

Through the course of the next couple years, Chesney and Cairo forged an impenetrable bond.


“A military working dog must be a fighter first and foremost,” Chesney told We Are The Mighty. “We have a saying, ‘Dogs have a switch on or off mode,’ [so when you] put their vest on, they know they’re working, turn it off, they’re playful. You could turn it off, [and] Cairo was a family dog. He got attacked by my girlfriend’s mom’s bulldog and got his arm sliced up. And he didn’t do anything, [but] as soon as you put on his vest, he knew it was time to go to work and was always happy to go to work.”

During a mission in 2009 that involved heavy firefight with insurgents, Cairo was shot.

“I remember seeing him drop and I thought he was dead,” Chesney said. “I was devastated, but we had to continue the mission. I got to him, I was able to go and check on him fairly quickly. A lot of dogs don’t make it when they get shot, unfortunately. I got to him and carried him, as I was getting Cairo’s medical kit out, a medic came over. We got to him immediately considering the circumstances and a teammate saved his life.”

Cairo was not expected to redeploy, but on May 2, 2011, Chesney and Cairo were part of the team of two dozen Navy SEALs who touched down in Pakistan and descended upon Osama bin Laden’s compound in what would come to be known as Operation Neptune Spear.

“For us, it was business as usual,” Chesney explained. “We conducted a little more training than normal, we’re always conducting training, being prepared for anything. We knew that the stakes were higher and there was definitely a lot more energy, because of who we were going after. A lot of good people put in a lot of hard work, they were pretty confident. Cairo always fed off everybody’s energy. Your emotions run up and down the leash. If you’re mad, the energy is going to run down that leash. For Cairo, it was just another day at work.”

After the successful mission in eliminating bin Laden, only one hero’s name was released — Cairo, Belgian Malinois. Upon the team’s arrival home, President Obama awarded each team member, except Cairo, a silver star. In the wake of the Al Baghdadi raid, it’s something the president has brought up. Currently service dogs are not entitled to military awards, and that is why Cairo never received the Silver Star. It’s also why Cairo doesn’t have a trident pin like his two legged teammates.

Post-mission, life went on for Chesney and he deployed again, but this time without Cairo. A grenade blast in 2013 left him with a brain injury, PTSD and the inability to participate in missions.

Suffering from crippling migraines, chronic pain, and depression, Chesney pursued modern medicines to ease the pain, but only found moderate relief.

“I was in a very bad place,” Chesney admitted. “A lot of guys try a lot of modalities and they get tired of reaching out and go into a very bad place. One of my best friends ended up dragging me to a brain health clinic. It took him reaching out to me.”

While medicine eased the pain, the one place Chesney found true comfort was alongside Cairo, who he visited as often as possible. When Cairo was officially retired, Chesney was there, ready to sign the adoption paperwork to make it official.

“I never thought I would write a book, but there were some articles I had seen that weren’t factual,” Chesney shared. “[Operation Neptune Spear] was the biggest mission in history and Cairo was a really good dog. I thought, ‘Why not write a book about my dog?’ I wanted to get the true story of Cairo out there.”

Chesney penned No Ordinary Dog, the factual story and timeline of Cairo and his work, their relationship, and Chesney’s own personal struggles with mental health.

“If you step back and think about it, the night Cairo got shot, he saved guys’ lives,” said Chesney. “And then I got out and he saved my life. And now I’m using his stories to save more lives. If Cairo can help someone in some way, that could be great and by using the platform to talk about some of the issues I went through, [I’m] hopeful it would inspire others to reach out.”

In his book, Chesney writes,

“I share this story not because I seek the spotlight — indeed, I have always withdrawn from its glare — but to honor my fellow soldiers, including a multipurpose canine military dog named Cairo, who was in many ways just as human as the rest of us. We fought together, lived together, bled together. Cairo was right by my side when we flew through Pakistani airspace that night in 2011. He was an integral part of the most famous mission in SEAL history. After nearly a decade of pursuit, he helped us get the ultimate bad guy, and he was no more or less vital than anyone else on the mission.

But the story doesn’t end there, and it doesn’t end on a high note. It never does with dogs, right? Someone once said that buying a dog is like buying a small tragedy. You know on the very first day how it all will turn out. But that’s not the point, is it? It’s the journey that counts, what you give the dog and what you get in return; Cairo gave me more than I ever imagined, probably more than I deserved.”

Adds Chesney, “There is something uniquely American about a man and his dog. This is not a SEAL book, and it’s not a dog book. It’s a story about friendship.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is the agenda for Mattis’ Indo-Asia-Pacific tour

Strengthening ties with allies, increasing defense capabilities in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region, and discussions about the threat of North Korea are among the topics Defense Secretary Jim Mattis will contend with on his trip to the region, he told reporters traveling with him yesterday.


The secretary arrived in the Philippines on Oct. 23. He laid out his agenda for the trip during an in-flight news conference.

Mattis will meet with Philippine officials before taking part in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations defense ministerial set for Oct. 23-25. That meeting is at the former Clark Air Base.

“One of the first things I’m going to do when I get there is commend the Philippine military for liberating Marawi from the terrorists,” he told reporters. “It was a very tough fight, as you know, in southern Mindanao. And I think the Philippine military sends a very strong message to the terrorists.”

The Armed Forces of the Philippines battled forces allied under the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria in Marawi. Coalition forces helped the Philippine troops with intelligence, advice and logistic support. While small pockets of terrorists remain, the government declared the city liberated Oct. 17.

Marawi, Phillipines, sits on the northern bank of Lake Lanao. The tiny country is surrounded by the Phillipine, South China, Sulu, and Celebes Seas, and the Pacific Ocean to the east. (image Chrisgel Ryan Cruz)

ASEAN

The association has been in existence for almost 50 years and is a force promoting peace and stability in the region. It is a forum for the nations to discuss issues among themselves and hash out ways to cooperate that brings prosperity to the region, Mattis said. The meeting also marks 40 years of friendship and cooperation between ASEAN and the United States.

“ASEAN provides an international venue, giving voice to those who want relations between states to be based on respect, not on predatory economics or on the size of militaries,” he said. “ASEAN nations have demonstrated that they can listen to one another, they identify opportunities to increase defense cooperation for their own security and seek shared solutions to shared concerns. The U.S. remains unambiguously committed to supporting ASEAN.”

The secretary will take advantage of his time at the meeting to visit with his regional counterparts, he said. In addition to meeting Philippine counterparts, Mattis is scheduled to meet with representatives of Japan, South Korea, India, Indonesia and Malaysia.

He will also hold trilateral talks with Japanese and South Korean defense officials.

Signalman Seaman Adrian Delaney practices his semaphore aboard the amphibious dock landing ship USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 49) during an at-sea training evolution with the Royal Thai Navy tank landing ship Her Thai MajestyÕs Ship (HTMS) Prathong (LST 715) during the Thailand phase of exercise Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT). (U.S. Navy photo by Journalist 3rd Class Alicia T. Boatwright.)

North Korea

Mattis said the regional disturbances created by North Korea will be on the agenda at ASEAN. He said will also emphasize the shared values the nations of the alliance have, the territorial sovereignty of the nations and the need for “freedom of navigation through historically international waters and fair and reciprocal trade.”

Related: This is why Mattis isn’t losing sleep over threats from North Korea

At the conclusion of the meeting, Mattis will lead the official U.S. delegation to the funeral of Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who died in October 2016. The royal cremation rite ends the period of mourning for the country — one of America’s treaty allies in the region. “He was understandably beloved by his people and a proponent of our strong Thailand-United States relationship,” the defense secretary said.

After the ASEAN meeting ends, Mattis will move on to Seoul, where he and South Korea’s Defense Minister Song Young-moo will co-chair the 49th annual Security Consultative Meeting. “There, we will underscore our ironclad commitment to each other,” Mattis said.

North Korea is a threat to the region and globally, defense officials have said. Two unanimous U.N. Security Council resolutions have isolated the state from the rest of the world. The U.N. acted after North Korea detonated nuclear devices and flew an intercontinental ballistic missile over Japan. During his meetings in South Korea, the secretary said he will discuss reinforcing diplomatic efforts to return to a denuclearized Korean peninsula.

The defense leaders will also discuss “how we are going to maintain peace by keeping our militaries alert while our diplomats — Japanese, South Korean and U.S. — work with all nations to denuclearize the Korean peninsula,” Mattis said.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Leaked Army photos show they’re building a cannon that shoots over 1,000 miles and ‘Merica couldn’t be more excited

“Leave the Artillerymen alone, they are an obstinate lot.” ~ Napoleon Bonaparte

Imagine shooting artillery from Berlin and hitting Moscow? Shooting from Dubai and hitting Tehran? Shooting from Taiwan and hitting Beijing and Pyongyang with the same barrage?

What was just an impossible thought might be a reality by 2023.


The Army is working on a cannon that can fire over extremely long ranges with precision accuracy. The Strategic Long Range Cannon (SLRC) is on its way to providing the United States military such capabilities. A couple of days ago, it seems as if a prototype for the cannon was inadvertently leaked.

Pictures showed up showing an astoundingly big gun being towed by an eight-wheeled vehicle. Along with the picture was models and illustrations explaining the basic parameters of the superweapon.

It looks as though this will be crewed by eight artillerymen and can be moved by a six-wheeled vehicle if need be. It can be transported by air or sea. Four guns will make up a battery, and the cannon will be able to penetrate enemy defenses from up to 1,000 miles.

When you see the mockup, there is a particular country that seems to be the motivation for developing this weapon.

China.

There is a reference about the cannon’s ability to penetrate A2/AD defenses. What is A2/AD?

It stands for anti-access and area denial. It is a strategy the Chinese are working on that will allow them to block U.S. forces, planes, ships and drones out of a wide area using artillery, radar, defensive systems and air power. The Chinese are using it to keep enemies away from its coast. If they ever decide to invade Taiwan or any other Pacific neighbor, a properly implemented A2/AD defense could keep the U.S. at bay while they carry out operations.

The long-range cannon would be an effective (and potentially inexpensive) way to counteract the Chinese strategy. In theory, the Chinese would be able to intercept planes, drones, and cruise missiles using A2AD, but a barrage of artillery from 1,000 miles away could take out key military targets.

And since the artillery is far away, it would be safe from any counter-battery actions the Chinese would take (unless, of course, they develop a long-range cannon of their own).

Right now, the Army is trying to figure out two things: How to get a projectile to go that far, and how to make it cheap.

As you may remember, the Navy flirted with a long-range gun that could hit targets fired from a ship to land from over 100 miles. The problem was the projectile cost 0,000 EACH. So, the Navy ended up with big guns they can’t shoot.

The Army is determined to find a way around this. It is also determined to look at the past so it can prepare for the future. As many of you know, the history of artillery evolved to the point where the Germans were using whole trains to transport super cannons around Europe. But they hit a limit on how far they could go, and with the advent of nuclear weapons, artillery pieces became smaller and more mobile. Bigger bombs (like nuclear weapons) meant development in bombers, ICBMs, submarines and drones.

But with the Chinese developing A2/AD, these assets are potentially ineffective.

How will the Army get around cost and range issues? The answer is ramjets.

Ramjets are engines that turn air intake into energy. A high-velocity projectile, like an artillery round can use the incoming air to propel it further (in theory)

While the leaked picture is a mockup and might not even be close to the final product, it does look like the Army is investing in revolutionizing warfare by taking what was old and making it new again.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Back to the basics: SEAL teams invest in underwater operations

After decades of sustained land operations, the Navy SEAL Teams are pivoting back to their underwater roots. The acquisition of the SEAL Delivery Vehicle Mark 11 has marked this strategic shift.

SEAL Delivery Vehicles are used to clandestinely transport SEAL operators closer to a target. Naval Special Warfare currently uses the venerable SDV Mark 8.


But the Mark 11 is an improvement to the old design. The new mini-submarine comes with better navigational abilities and increased payload capacity. The new vehicle also weighs 4,000 pounds more and is 12 inches longer, 6 inches taller, and 6 inches wider.

SDVs are wet submarines, meaning that water flows in the vehicle. The SEAL operators have to have underwater breathing apparatuses and wetsuits to survive. They are cumbersome and taxing on the operators, but they get the job done. Naval Special Warfare, however, is looking to add dry submarines to its fleet of midget subs – what you would think of a submarine — in the near future.

The new SEAL Delivery Vehicle (SDV) Mark 11 during navigation training in the Pacific Ocean (US Navy).

Last October, the U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) awarded Teledyne Brown Engineering a 8 million contract for the ten Mark 11s. The company has delivered five midget subs already, the last one in June. The remaining five are to be spaced out between Fiscal Year 2021 and 2022.

Currently, the Mark 11 is undergoing operational testing. Of particular importance is the landmark test of deploying and recovering a Mark 11 from a submarine.

Expediting the date of initial operational capability is the fact that both the Mark 8s and Mark 11s utilize the same Dry Dock Shelter (DDS) platform. DDS are attached to a submarine and carry the SDVs closer to the target.

A SEAL Delivery Vehicle (SDV) is loaded aboard the Los Angeles-class fast attack submarine USS Dallas (SSN 700). A Dry Deck Shelter (DDS) equipped submarine is attached to the submarine’s rear escape trunk to provide a dry environment for Navy Seals to prepare for special warfare exercises or operations. DDS is the primary supporting craft for the SDV (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Journalist Dave Fliesen).

The improved SDV capabilities of Naval Special Warfare are in response to the National Defense Strategy, which has marked the shift from counterinsurgency operations to near-peer warfare and categorized Russia and China as the biggest threats to U.S. national security. China, in particular, seems to be the main focus of that drive for a potent and well-maintained SDV capability.

“After decades of combat superiority across nearly all operating environments, our military now faces a world in which every domain is aggressively contested,” had said Rear Admiral Collin Green, the commanding officer of Naval Special Warfare in a discussion about the future of his force.

To begin with, there is China’s pugnacious and expansionist foreign policy in the South China Sea. The Chinese Navy, moreover, seems to be going through an arms race reminiscent of the Dreadnaught race between the United Kingdom and Germany that adumbrated the First World War. It can field more than 700 ships in the case of a conflict.

“We are adapting to the evolving strategic environment in order to remain the NSW force the nation expects – flexible, agile, networked, sustainable, and lethal. I am proud to lead this incredible force of highly skilled and creative problem solvers. Our strength lies in the diversity of thought, background, race, gender, and experience found throughout our force,” had added RADM Green.

Last year, Naval Special Warfare Command decided to reactivate SEAL Delivery Vehicle Team 2 (SDVT-2) as the committed East Coast SDV unit after 11 years, further signaling its commitment to return its underwater special operations roots. SEAL Delivery Vehicle Team 1 (SDVT-1) is responsible for the West Coast.

Here’s an interesting fact about the SDV Teams: Master Chief Kirby Horrell – the last Vietnam era Navy SEAL to retire from active duty after an astounding 47 years in uniform – went through the three-month-long SDV school at the age of 56 (he was promoted to Master Chief while in the course). Training dives in SDV school and the SDV Teams are no joke. Some last eight hours or even more.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.


MIGHTY TRENDING

The military may need more of the historic tunnel rats

American planners looking at contending with North Korea, ISIS remnants and copycats, and fighting in megacities against near-peer enemies have identified a shortfall of current U.S. training and focus: our enemies are turning to tunnels more and more, but modern U.S. forces have no idea how to best fight there.


An Army infantryman is lowered into Vietnamese tunnels during a search-and-destroy mission in Vietnam, 1967.

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Howard C. Breedlove)

This has triggered a look at new technology and old tactics that could make the difference in fighting underground. The Defense Intelligence Agency has even floated the idea of a new warfighting domain: subterranean.

First, to define the problem. Insurgent and terrorist cells — notably ISIS, but also many others — have turned to tunneling to hide their activities from the militaries sent to stop them. Some of this is to allow fighters and supplies to flow across the battlefield undetected and unchallenged, but some of it is to hide intelligence and weapons or to force security forces to move through dangerous tunnels during last-ditch fighting.

Meanwhile, North Korea has been tunneling for decades just like communist forces did in Vietnam. Their military assets, including ballistic missiles and warheads, have been stored and moved through tunnels for years, making it harder to ensure an aerial first strike gets them all in one go. Iran has entire missile factories underground.

An Iranian missile is fired during testing. Iran has built three underground missile factories. In a potential war with the country, expect that someone will have to secure all the subterranean sites.

(Tasnim News Agency)

Modern infrastructure is increasingly built underground, from cable networks and natural gas systems to, increasingly, power lines. This leaves both America and its enemies vulnerable to disruptions of modern water supplies, information sharing, and power supply of multiple types due to underground attacks.

But Americans haven’t fought underground on a large scale since Vietnam, and even the exploits of the heroic tunnel rats pale in comparison to what would be required to take and hold underground territory, especially under the cities and megacities that the bulk of human population will live in within a few decades.

So, the military has turned to DARPA and to long-term planners to figure out how American warfighters will maintain an advantage.

www.youtube.com

DARPA announced a new grand challenge last year called the DARPA Subterranean Challenge. The agency opened two research tracks: one for teams that wanted to compete in a physical challenge and one for those who would compete in a virtual challenge.

No matter the course selected, teams have to develop systems that will give American forces and first responders an advantage in human-made tunnel systems, the urban underground (think subways), and natural cave networks. The final event won’t happen until 2021, but the winner of the physical challenge will get million while the virtual track winner will get 0,000.

Meanwhile, the Army has invested 2 million in training soldiers to fight in subterranean networks with a focus on the sewers and other networks constructed either under large cities or as standalone bases. A 2017 assessment estimated that there are 10,000 military facilities constructed partially or entirely underground. Almost 5,000 of them are in North Korea.

“We did recognize, in a megacity that has underground facilities — sewers and subways and some of the things we would encounter … we have to look at ourselves and say ‘okay, how does our current set of equipment and our tactics stack up?'” Col. Townley Hedrick, commandant of the Infantry School at the Army’s Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning, Georgia, told Military.com in an interview. “What are the aspects of megacities that we have paid the least attention to lately, and every megacity has got sewers and subways and stuff that you can encounter.”

Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Daron Bush roleplays a simulated casualty at Camp Gonsalves, Okinawa, Japan, Feb. 16, 2018. Imagine having to get injured Marines through miles of caves to medevac within the golden hour.

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jamin M. Powell)

The military has been asking for new tunnel hardware for years. A 2016 wishlist from the Combating Terrorism Technical Support Office asked for technology that would detect and possibly intrude into tunnels. In 2017, the Army got a new piece of equipment that allows them to map underground tunnels to an unknown extent from the surface.

Still, there’s a lot to be done. Troops will need less cumbersome armor or will be forced to fight bare in cramped quarters. Batteries will need to be light and compact, but even then it will be impossible to carry enough power to use many of the modern gadgets soldiers are used to. Many current technologies, like most radios and GPS, are useless with a few feet of rock disrupting signals, so special guidance and comms are essential.

Even with new gadgets and tactics, subterranean fighting will be horrible. Cramped quarters limit maneuverability, favoring a defender that can set up an ambush against an attacker who doesn’t have room to maneuver. Front-line medics will take on increased responsibility as it will be essentially impossible to evacuate patients from complex cave systems within the golden hour.

So, expect a call for modern tunnel rats within the next few years. But, good news for the infantrymen who will inevitably get this job: You’ll be equipped with a lot more than just a pistol and flashlight, and you might even have enough room to walk upright.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The possible connection between defense cuts and deadly accidents

A staggering report from the Military Times concludes that accidents involving all aircraft of the US military rose 40% between the 2013 and 2017 fiscal years, and that those accidents resulted in the deaths of at least 133 service members.

The accidents are likely tied to the massive budget cuts that Congress put in place during the sequestration, as well as to an increase in flight hours despite a shortage of pilots.


The report is the first time the deadly crashes have been mapped against the sequester, showing the effect budget cuts may have on the military, according to Military Times Pentagon Bureau Chief Tara Copp, who authored the story.

Approximately 5,500 accidents occurred in the four year period, but the Military Times database records 7,590 accidents that have happened since 2011. They were divided in three categories: Class-A, Class-B, and Class-C.

Class-A was defined as an accident that resulted in “extreme damage, aircraft destroyed or fatality.” Class-B was defined as an accident that rustled in “major damage,” and Class-C as “some damage.”

A crashed CH-53 on the island of Okinawa, Japan.
(Kyodo News via NewsEdge)

Class-C accidents were the majority of the mishaps at 6,322. Class-B accidents were second at 744, followed by Class-A accidents at 524. The last three of those accidents, which killed at least 16 pilots or crew members, happened in the last three weeks.

In addition to the cost of life, the various categories also take financial costs into account. Class-A accidents cost the most, at $2 million or more. Class-B follows at $500,000 or more, and Class-C at $50,000 or more.

For 10 of the last 11 years, the military was funded through continuing resolutions under the Budget Control Act, which was signed in 2011. As the sequestration efforts ramped up in 2013, the military saw more cuts.

The budget cuts due to the sequestration efforts have long angered many in the Department of Defense. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis said in February 2018, that “no enemy in the field has done as much to harm the readiness of US military than the combined impact of the Budget Control Act’s defense spending caps.”

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.
(DOD photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)

“Hopefully someone in Congress will wake up and realize things are bad and getting worse,” an active duty Air Force maintainer, who has worked on A-10s, F-16s, and F-15s, told Military Times. “The war machine is like any other machine, and cannot run forever. After 17 years of running this machine at near capacity, the tank is approaching empty.”

President Donald Trump signed a $700 billion defense policy bill in December 2017. Trump also signed a $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill in March 2018, touting that it had the largest increase in defense spending in 15 years.

The Air Force has responded to the report with an announcement that they have launched an investigation into the large amounts of Class-C accidents. They also stressed that Class-A incidents have been on the decline.

“Any Class A accident is one too many,” Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Stephen “Seve” Wilson said in an interview with Military.com.

“The safest year ever was 2014, and 2017 was our second safest year, so our Class A mishaps have been trending down,” he added.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The new USS Indiana is one of the most lethal subs ever built

The US Navy commissioned its newest Virginia-class fast attack submarine in late September 2018.

The nuclear-powered USS Indiana (SSN 789), the fourth Navy vessel named after the state of Indiana and the Navy’s sixteenth Virginia-class submarine, entered service on Sept. 29, 2018, at a commissioning ceremony in Port Canaveral, Florida.

Indiana is a flexible, multi-mission platform designed to carry out the seven core competencies of the submarine force: anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare, delivery of Special Operations Forces (SOF), strike warfare, irregular warfare, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, and mine warfare,” the Navy said in a press statement.

Check it out below.


(US Navy photo)

The Indiana is the sixteenth commissioned Virginia-class fast attack submarine, and the sixth commissioned Virginia-class Block III submarine.


Virginia-class submarines are developed in blocks, with each block having slightly different specifications than other blocks.

(US Navy photo)

The Indiana is 377 feet long, 34 feet wide, about 7,800 tons when submerged, and has a 140-person crew. It also has a top speed of about 28 mph.

Source: US Navy

(US Navy photo)

(Photo by Chief Petty Officer Darryl Wood)

(Photo by Chief Petty Officer Darryl Wood)

Here’s a close-up of the navigation computer.


One of the newest features on Virginia-class submarines are advanced periscopes, which are called photonics mast. They can be pulled up on any monitor in the submarine, and on the Indiana, are operated by XBOX controllers.

(Photo by Chief Petty Officer Darryl Wood)

(US Navy photo)

(Photo by Chief Petty Officer Darryl Wood)

(Photo by Chief Petty Officer Darryl Wood)

(Photo by Chief Petty Officer Darryl Wood)

(Photo by Chief Petty Officer Darryl Wood)

(US Navy photo)

youtu.be

Finally, watch the Indiana in motion below.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Top podcasts for the commuting veteran

The popularity of podcasts is soaring exponentially. It is a radio renaissance. With over 500,000 podcasts on just the Apple store alone, it’s obvious that with rising popularity comes oversaturation. But have no fear—We Are The Mighty is here—to help clear the mist and show you the best podcasts for anyone with a military background. Whether you’re a veteran with a long morning commute, an on-base active serviceman with duty that could use some spicing up, or simply a prospective enlistee, at least one of these podcasts will be just right for you.


SOFREP Radio

This podcast flat out kicks ass. The host, Jack Murphy (Army Ranger/Green Beret) talk with experts across every aspect of military life. He’s straight, to the point, no bulls**t. The podcast focuses on ways of cultivating mental and physical toughness with respect to special operations. With over 400 episodes already out, there is plenty to dive in and catch up on. This is the premier military podcast.

War College

War College explores weapons, tech, and various military stories related to the instruments of war that soldiers need to be familiar with. One week they’ll talk about Navy pilots experiencing UFOs, and the next they’ll break down the Air Forces’ new “Frozen Chicken Gun.” Highly informative.

The Joe Rogan Experience

The Joe Rogan Podcast has become a cultural phenomenon. The premise for one of the most popular podcasts of all-time is simple: Joe Rogan sits across from a guest and has an intelligent back and forth conversation for about 3 hours. His guests range massively in scope: Elon Musk, UFC fighters, fellow comedians, scientists, psychologists, authors, and more. Joe Rogan’s centrist sweep highly appeals to people in the military sphere, and the topics covered on here would be interesting to anybody. It’s not just an internet meme, it’s a great listen.

American Military History Podcast

For all the military history buffs out there—look no further. This podcast goes deeper than the surface facts we usually associate with historical events. I found myself surprised to learn contextual facts about historical battles I thought I knew. The key aspect of this podcast that sets it apart from other military history podcasts is the context. It gives perspective and crafts interesting narratives out of that context.

Mind of the Warrior

In this podcast, Dr. Mike Simpson (former Special Forces Operator and highly regarded expert on both combat trauma and combat sports medicine), delves into the psychology of what it takes to be a modern day “warrior.” He talks with top-ranking policemen, to combat veterans, to MMA experts, and many more—all in pursuit of talking about combat and the common threads that loom warriors to the same fabric.

This Past Weekend with Theo Von

Every military service member needs some laughter in their life, too. Theo Von and his hilarious podcast “This Past Weekend” have just the right flavor for a military background listener. In case you don’t know, Theo Von is a rising comedic voice and one of the absolute funniest dudes in the country. His Louisiana drawl contrasts his bizarre shoehorning of the English language and, when combined with some downright brilliant joke writing, becomes a really easy recipe for some deep belly laughs on your commute. The only downside is you can’t see his glorious mullet through your headphones.

War on the Rocks

Ryan Evans swills some drinks and talks policy, life, and security on this well-produced podcast. The issues span from diplomacy to economic to domestic. Ryan has a really contagious charisma which makes for a lot of vehement nodding in agreement while listening. A must listen for anyone interested in geopolitics.

Bill Burr’s Monday Morning Podcast

And finally, we have the legendary Bill Burr, in one of the longest-running comedic podcasts out there. If you have served in the military, and you haven’t heard of Bill Burr, just listen to a single episode. All of your internal frustrations will be hilariously articulated right before your eyes as Bill Burr rants to himself (and a 1,000,000+ listeners) about issues small and large. His clear cut, no-nonsense approach is really sobering and refreshing. His east-coast Boston accent layers his precisely supported rants with an authentic edginess. Feels kinda like an audio shot of whisky on your way to work.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This World War I artillery was the longest-ranged gun ever

When the Germans wanted to shell Paris during World War I, they knew exactly what they were doing. The only problem was the Germans just couldn’t quite break through to get Paris in their artillery crosshairs. So they did what any German might do: build a gun that could hit Paris from where they were – 75 miles away.


The Paris Gun, as it was named, had the longest range of any artillery weapon in history.

Here comes the boom.

Nobody really knows what the Paris Gun’s full capabilities were because all of them were destroyed by the retreating Germans. All that was ever captured were fixed-gun emplacements. And since all the men who might have fired one are dead, it’s just a design lost to history. What we do know is that the weapon was able to hurl 230-plus pounds of steel and explosives some 75 miles, over the World War I front lines and into the streets of Paris in just about three minutes. More interesting still is that the rounds flew 25 miles into the air, the highest point ever reached by a man-made object at that time.

The reason the gun wasn’t more popular among the Germans is that it did relatively little damage. It carried only 15 pounds of explosives, and only 20 rounds could be fired per day. Parisians didn’t even realize the shelling was coming from artillery at first – they thought they were being bombed by an ultra-high zeppelin. With some 360 rounds fired, the guns only killed 250 people, mostly civilians. It did not have the terrorizing effect the Germans hoped.

Though one round did collapse the roof of a church during services. Not great PR when you’re trying not to be evil.

To make matters worse, the rounds ate away at the barrel of the gun as they fired, so rounds had to be used in a strict numerical order with ever-changing sizes as the crew fired. Once all the rounds were fired, the barrel had to be removed and sent back to Germany to be re-bored.

Allied forces never captured one of these record-setting artillery pieces, as the Germans either destroyed them as the Entente troops advanced or sent them all back to Germany after the Armistice of 1918. They were supposed to provide France with one of the weapons, as set in the Treaty of Versailles, but never did. No schematics, parts, or barrels survive. Only the static emplacements captured by the Americans in 1918.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Navy freaked out when it got rid of bell-bottom pants

Some uniform changes are welcome in the U.S. military (goodbye, ABUs!) and some are very much not. There are uniform features troops love because it actually makes their jobs easier. There are fabrics that are easier to wear, and there are styles that just became iconic over time. For instance, imagine if the Marine Corps suddenly changed their dress blues to an all-white uniform to match the Navy whites – there would be rioting from Lejeune to Pendleton.


That’s almost what happened when the Navy ditched the bell-bottoms on its dungarees.

That just does not look like a good work uniform.

The U.S. Navy had been sporting the flared cuffs on its work uniforms since 1817. The idea was that sailors who would be working on the topmost decks, who were presumably swabbing it or whatever sailors did up there back then, would want to roll their pants up to keep them from getting wet or dirty. Sailors were also able to get out of their uniforms faster in the event that they had to abandon ship for some reason.

When in the water, then-woolen pants even doubled as a life preserver. Now, that’s a utility uniform. In 1901, the fabric of the uniform was changed to denim, and the Navy’s dungarees were born. They still sported bell-bottom pants.

The Navy will still find ways to look absurd to the other branches, don’t you worry.

Bell-bottoms even appeared on the sailors’ dress uniform as far back as the early 19th century. The Navy got rid of the bell-bottom on its dungarees at the turn of the 21st Century, some 180 years later. In 1999, the Navy phased out the pants with flared 12-inch bottoms for a utility uniform that features straight-legged dark blue trousers. Sailors were not thrilled.

“They are trying too hard to make us look like the Coast Guard and the Air Force,” said Petty Officer Chad Heskett, a hospital corpsman on the frigate USS Crommelin. “It’s taking too much away from tradition. It will cost the Navy more to buy these new uniforms.”

By 2001, the bell-bottoms were gone.

Heskett wasn’t alone in his disdain for the new uniforms. The loss of “tradition” was echoed throughout the Navy, as is often the case with new uniforms. The Navy was adamant about the change, however, and the new utility uniforms were phased in on schedule. It turned out to be a good decision.

For tradition, the Navy will always have its crackerjacks.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Brand-new Air Force tanker is being tested with the service’s biggest plane

The US Air Force’s newest air refueling aircraft, the KC-46A Pegasus, is undergoing a variety of tests out of Edwards Air Force Base, California.

Starting on April 29, 2019, the KC-46 conducted the first refueling test with a Travis AFB C-5M Super Galaxy. The testing is a part of a larger test program to certify aerial refueling operations between the KC-46 and 22 different receiver aircraft.

Maj. Drew Bateman, 22nd Airlift Squadron chief of standardization and evaluation and a C-5M pilot, flew the Air Force’s largest aircraft for testing on April 29, 2019. He flew it again May 15, 2019.

“The April 29 sortie was the first where the KC-46 and the C-5M made contact,” Bateman said. “That was awesome to be a part of. You have a few pinch me moments in life and this was one of them for me. Not everyone gets to be a part of something like this. We were able to get two aircraft together for the first time.”


“Every test flight begins with a continuity check so the KC-46 crew ensures they can connect and disconnect safely with our aircraft,” Bateman added. “From there, we continue testing a variety of items at multiple speeds and altitudes throughout the sortie.”

A Boeing KC-46A.

One capability Bateman and his C-5M crew mates tested with the KC-46 was the ability to connect with both aircraft near max gross weight.

“For these tests, we were required to be over 800,000 pounds with cargo and fuel,” Bateman said. “Our 60th Aerial Port Squadron Airmen developed a load plan. The expediters loaded the cargo onto the airplane, and our maintainers ensured the C-5M was flyable. It’s a huge team effort to ensure we are mission ready. I feel like I have the smallest part of it. I just fly the airplane.”

A KC-46A Pegasus during testing with a C-5M Super Galaxy for the first time on April 29, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Christian Turner)

On April 29, 2019, Master Sgt. Willie Morton, 418th Flight Test Squadron flight test boom operator, oversaw operations in the back of the KC-46 during the testing process.

“This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Morton said. “I was a KC-10 Extender boom operator at Travis for about 13 years so going to the KC-46 and being a part of the next step in aerial refueling is pretty awesome. I have the chance to provide input on an aircraft that will be flying missions for many years.”

A United States Air Force KC-10 Extender.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Mark C. Olsen)

To complete refueling with the KC-46, boom operators must use a series of cameras that project a 3D image on a screen. These refueling experts then use that image to carefully guide aircraft into position, Morton said.

“We are testing capabilities at low altitudes, high speeds, high altitudes and high speeds, as well as heavy and light gross weights so we know how the aircraft will respond,” he said. “We have to find the optimal speed the C-5M can fly at to support refueling. We are also doing our best to ensure the mechanical compatibility of the KC-46 and C-5M.”

According to Lt. Col. Zack Schaffer, 418th FLTS KC-46 Integrated Test Force director, the testing is a joint effort between the USAF and Boeing.

“The KC-46s being used for this test effort are owned by Boeing and operated by a combined Air Force and contractor crew,” Schaffer said. “All the test planning and execution is being led by the 418th FLTS, part of the 412th Test Wing at Edwards. The flight test program evaluates the mechanical compatibility of the two aircraft at all corners of the boom flight envelope, as well as handling qualities of both the tanker, boom and receiver throughout the required airspeed and altitude envelope at different gross weights and center of gravity combinations.”

The 418th FLTS is also responsible for developmental testing of the C-5M, and is providing a test pilot to support the C-5M side of the certification testing, Schaffer added. The C-5M was crewed primarily by the 22nd AS with augmentation from the 418th.

A United States Air Force C-5 Galaxy in flight.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Brett Snow)

“Additionally, the military utility, lighting compatibility and fuel transfer functionality is also being evaluated,” Schaffer said. “The testing is expected to take approximately 12 sorties to complete.”

Once the testing is complete, the results will be used to develop the operational clearance necessary to allow KC-46s to refuel the C-5M for missions.

“The C-5M is also one of the receivers required to complete the KC-46 Initial Operational Test and Evaluation program, which is a prerequisite to the KC-46 being declared operationally capable,” Schaffer said. “Completing the testing necessary to expand the operational capabilities of the KC-46 is a critical step in modernizing the Air Force’s aging tanker fleet. The 60th Air Mobility Wing at Travis has provided outstanding support to ensure this testing can get the warfighter expanded capabilities as soon as possible.”

Identifying potential problems is also a focus of the testing, Moore added.

“It’s important, if any issues are identified during the testing, to ensure counter measures are created to overcome those issues,” Moore said. “We want to get the best product to the warfighter to extend global reach and mobility.”

Travis is scheduled to receive its first KC-46 in 2023.

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