China has quietly been reaching a naval milestone: They floated their first indigenous aircraft carrier on April 23, 2017. The vessel is sort of a half-sister to their current aircraft carrier, the Liaoning.
And the Chinese decided to copy this less-than-successful vessel – which probably should be hauled away to the boneyard.
According to DefenseNews.com, the new vessel, reportedly named Shandong, is almost a copy of the Liaoning. The big difference is in the arrangement of phased-array radars. But it has the same limited capacity (roughly 36 planes). Appropriately, the carrier has been designated as he Type 001A, while the Liaoning was designated Type 001.
The Shandong, though, may be the only ship in her subclass. The DefenseNews.com report notes that China is no longer testing the ski ramp – and instead has been trying to build catapults for launching aircraft. According to GlobalSecurity.org, China is planning to build two Type 002 aircraft carriers, followed by a nuclear-powered design, the Type 003.
The Type 002 carriers are slated to include catapults – which are far better at launching planes than the ski jump on the Kuznetsov-class design, and displace anywhere from 70,000 to 80,000 tons. The Type 003 will displace about 100,000 tons and be comparable to the Nimitz and Ford-class carriers.
China has stated a goal of having 10 aircraft carriers by 2049.
The Afghan Defense Ministry says 43 soldiers have been killed and nine wounded in a Taliban attack on an army camp in the southern province of Kandahar.
Ministry spokesman Dawlat Wazeri told RFE/RL that six soldiers were unaccounted for after the attack on the Afghan National Army base in the Maiwand district early on October 19.
Only two of the soldiers stationed at the base escaped the attack unhurt.
Waxeri said 10 militants were killed.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the assault, the third major attack on Afghan security forces this week.
The Western-backed government in Kabul is struggling to beat back insurgents in the wake of the exit of most NATO forces in 2014.
A local security official told RFE/RL that a suicide bomber detonated a car filled with explosives near the base, before a number of gunmen launched an assault against the facility.
The official, who was speaking on condition of anonymity, said the militants failed to overrun the base as reinforcement arrived at the scene.
Some reports said there were two suicide bombings.
Elsewhere in Afghanistan, six police officers were killed in an ambush in the northern Balkh Province late on October 18, according to Shir Jan Durani, a spokesman for the provincial police chief.
In the western province of Farah, the authorities said that militants attacked a government compound in the Shibkho district, killing at least three police officers.
The Taliban also claimed responsibility for the two attacks, which came after the extremist group launched two separate suicide and gun assaults on government forces on October 17 that left at least 80 people dead and about 300 others wounded, including soldiers, police officers, and civilians.
The attacks targeted a police compound in the southeastern city of Gardez, capital of Paktia Province bordering Pakistan, and a security compound in the neighboring province of Ghazni.
U.S. President Donald Trump recently unveiled a strategy to try to defeat the militants, and officials said more than 3,000 additional U.S. troops were being sent to Afghanistan to reinforce the 11,000 already stationed there.
As I have written elsewhere, the Army’s leadership has taken a number of bold steps to reform its sclerotic acquisition system. Army Secretary Mark Esper and Chief of Staff General Mark Milley have set ambitious goals for a revamped acquisition system. Secretary Esper has spoken of reducing the time it takes to formulate requirements from an average of five years to just one. General Milley wants new capabilities ten times more lethal than those they replace. Getting there, he suggested in a recent speech, is as much a matter of attitude and culture as it is about technology:
I’m not interested in a linear progression into the future. That will end up in defeat on a future battlefield. If we think that if we just draw a straight line into the future and simply make incremental improvements to current systems, then we’re blowing smoke up our collective fourth point of contact…
There is no question that the Army’s leadership is all-in on acquisition reform. This does not mean that success is assured. It is natural for the current system to resist change, marshaling all the weapons of law, regulation, custom, and habit to retard or even negate progress towards the goals of a faster and more effective way of designing and procuring new capabilities. In a recent RollCall article, Under Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy recommends that elements within the current acquisition system will present the hardest challenge as they attempt to preserve their “bureaucratic rice bowls.”
As aggressive as the Army acquisition reform program has been, they could be bolder still. Here are three additional initiatives that should be pursued.
3. Restructure the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for acquisition technology and logistics (ASA/ALT)
One of the major problems the current reforms is intended to address is the stovepipes that exist between requirements formulation and capabilities development and procurement. The proposed solutions, including the creation of Futures Command, do not go far enough. Currently, Army Material Command (AMC), the organization that oversees the actual development and production of new capabilities, reports to the Chief of Staff. However, by law, AMC’s Program Executive Offices (PEOs), which manage specific programs also report to the Secretary of the Army through the ASA/ALT.
This creates an inherent conflict of interest for the PEOs who are responsible both for program execution and oversight. There will be a natural tendency for PEOs to exploit this organizational contradiction to pursue their own interests and maximize their freedom of action. But this is more than just a bureaucratic problem. There are reports that some PEOs have been told by Army lawyers that they cannot participate in the work of the newly-created Cross Functional Teams. The current system also runs counter to Congress’ efforts to allow the Service Chiefs greater authority over the acquisition process.
Army leadership needs to change this system. The logic of the current reform campaign dictates that the entire acquisition process be placed under the Army Chief of Staff. The role of the Assistant Secretary of the Army should be limited to oversight, assessment, and review of the work done by AMC and the PEOs. Clearly, this will require action on the part of Congress to rewrite the current law. But the Army needs to make a case for restructuring ASA/ALT.
2. Seek Relief from the onerous requirements of the Congressional appropriations process
The current defense budget appropriations process requires the Services to produce detailed descriptions, called exhibits, of the programs they are pursuing, including the specific quantities and types of equipment to be procured as well as the funds required. A lack of specificity in these documents often results in the appropriations committees refusing to fund a request.
The problem is that the Services’ budgets must go through an elaborate review and vetting process at multiple levels before a defense budget is actually submitted to Congress. Consequently, they may be up to two years out of date. But if changes are required, a reprogramming request must be submitted, which is a laborious process in itself.
This has been a particular problem of late in the procurement of munitions since the Services, particularly the Air Force and Army, did not anticipate two years ago how many weapons would be expended in the fight against ISIS. It is already a serious problem in areas such as cyber and communications systems where the technology cycle time is measured in months, not years. But if the Army can accelerate the acquisition system, it will become a problem in multiple areas.
The Army, really all the Services, need to work with the appropriations committees to revamp the budget document process. There needs to be a way of promoting flexibility for the PEOs while allowing for Congressional oversight. This could involve building off-ramps or alternative pathways into the reports that can be executed without triggering the need for a reprogramming request.
1. Make aggressive use of available rapid acquisition authorities
In the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act, Congress gave the Department of Defense the authority to waive virtually all procurement regulations in order to rapidly acquire critically needed capabilities. Congress also expanded the power of the Services to employ other transactional authorities to speed up the acquisition process. The current Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, Ellen Lord, has proposed using these new authorities to reduce contracting times by fifty percent.
To date, the Army has not taken advantage of these new authorities. The Army needs to walk through the open door provided by Congress and senior leaders of the Department of Defense. The Secretary and Chief of Staff need to identify a set of candidate capabilities that could be acquired using the new authorities. This has both a practical and symbolic value. There are a number of capability gaps that would benefit from the introduction of an interim solution.
More importantly, the use of rapid acquisition authorities is a demonstration of how serious Army leaders are about changing the risk-averse, “all the time in the world” acquisition culture. The Army has shown it can terminate programs that are failing or no longer meet warfighters’ needs. It must show that it is just as capable of making rapid decisions when it comes to procuring new capabilities.
Implementing organizational change is hard; altering an institution’s culture is even more difficult. The key to success is to go big and fast. The Army needs an even bolder program for reforming its acquisition system.
A new report compiled by U.S. Senate researchers warns that Russia has been emboldened by its efforts to interfere in U.S. and European elections, and calls for a stronger U.S. response to deter Moscow.
The report, released Jan. 10 by staff members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, listed a series of policy recommendations to counter what it called “Russian President Vladimir Putin’s nearly two-decade-long assault on democratic institutions, universal values, and the rule of law across Europe and in his own country.”
The document highlighted various efforts by European governments to counter what researchers called Kremlin policies.
For the United States, the report calls for establishing a single government body to coordinate the U.S. response to Kremlin operations, publicizing assets and wealth held by Kremlin officials and politically connected businessmen in the West, and formalizing various Russia-related sanctions programs into a single designation: “State Hybrid Threat Actor.”
Other recommendations include working more closely with U.S. allies in Europe on a joint approach to deterring Russia and cyberthreats, pressing social-media companies like Facebook and Twitter to be more transparent in political advertising, and reducing European imports of Russian natural gas and oil.
But the report also strongly criticizes President Donald Trump’s administration, saying its response has emboldened Moscow.
“Never before in American history has so clear a threat to national security been so clearly ignored by a U.S. president,” it says.
The White House did not respond to requests for reaction to the report.
In the past, Trump officials have given mixed messages about how to deal with Russia, with Trump himself espousing more conciliatory policies, while others backing stronger responses, including financial sanctions and more U.S. military weaponry for European allies.
The Republican-controlled Congress, meanwhile, has pushed forward with Russia-related legislation, largely in response to the U.S. intelligence agencies’ finding that Moscow actively meddled in the 2016 presidential election.
In August, lawmakers passed the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act overwhelmingly and the measure was reluctantly signed into law by Trump.
Russia has repeatedly denied any effort to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.
On Jan. 8, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov rejected assertions by CIA chief Mike Pompeo that Moscow planned to meddle in the November 2018 elections that will determine whether the Republicans retain control over both houses of Congress.
The report was authored by staffers working for Democratic members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and commissioned by the panel’s lead Democrat, Ben Cardin, an outspoken critic of the Kremlin.
Asked at a briefing on Jan. 9 why Republican committee staffers or members were not involved in the report, staffers insisted that Republicans would be supportive its findings and recommendations.
Russia is seeking to undermine European democracies and sow doubt in the West through malign activities and a “fog of lies,” the head of Britain’s domestic spy agency has told European intelligence chiefs.
In a May 14, 2018 address in Berlin, MI5 chief Andrew Parker said that Russia was carrying out “aggressive and pernicious actions” and risks becoming an “isolated pariah.”
Parker’s address to the gathering hosted by Germany’s BfV domestic intelligence service was the first public speech outside Britain by a serving head of the agency.
Parker said that a March 2018 nerve agent attack on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia was a “deliberate and targeted malign activity” on British soil, and one of Moscow’s “flagrant breaches of international rules.”
London has blamed Moscow for the poisoning of Skripal, a former Russian military intelligence operative who became an informant for Britain’s MI6 foreign spy service, in the first use of a nerve agent in Europe since World War II.
Skripal and his daughter were both found unconscious on a bench in the English city of Salisbury on March 4, 2018. Moscow has repeatedly rejected the accusation that it was behind the attack.
Parker also condemned what he called a disinformation campaign mounted by Russia following the attack.
He said there was a need “to shine a light through the fog of lies, half-truths, and obfuscation that pours out of their propaganda machine.”
Skripal, 66, remains in the hospital. His daughter Yulia, 33, and a British police officer injured in the attack have both been discharged from hospital, while an investigation to identify the culprits is under way.
Parker also thanked the international community for its joint response to the incident, with 18 out of 28 European countries agreeing to support Britain in expelling scores of Russian diplomats.
The MI5 chief also said that the Russian occupation and annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula cannot be acceptable and neither is meddling in Western elections.
Parker also stressed the importance of post-Brexit security ties, warning that Europe faces an intense and unrelenting terrorist threat.
The extremist group Islamic State is plotting “devastating and more complex attacks,” Parker said.
“The security challenges we are facing are stark, but we will counter them together,” he concluded.
After a routine training run in Alpena County, Michigan in late July, US Air National Guard Capt. Brett DeVries survived the perfect storm of malfunctions to safely land his A-10 Thunderbolt II on its belly without the benefit of landing gear.
During a training exercise where A-10 pilots practice dropping inert bombs and ripping the planes’ massive gun, DeVries’ gun malfunctioned. Moments later, his canopy blew off his plane as he flew along at 375 miles an hour, according to a US Air National Guard write up of the event.
The incredible winds smacked DeVries head against his seat, nearly incapacitating him. “It was like someone sucker punched me,” he said. “I was just dazed for a moment.”
DeVries wingman, Major Shannon Vickers, then flew under his plane to assess the damage, finding bad news. The panels under his plane had been damaged, and it was unclear if he would be able to lower his landing gear.
Meanwhile, DeVries struggled against the wind and having everything loose in his cockpit. He could no longer benefit from checklists, which had become a liability that could now potentially fly out and get stuck in his engine.
DeVries, having the flight from hell, had two of his radios go down and had to communicate with Vickers and flight control on his third backup system. They worked together to find him a nearby spot to land and Vickers observed that DeVries would not in fact be able to use his landing gear.
“I just thought, ‘There is no way this is happening right now.’ It all was sort of surreal, but at the same time, we were 100 percent focused on the task ahead of us,” Vickers said.
Miraculously, thanks to the meticulous training A-10 pilots undergo and the incredibly rugged design of the plane, DeVries walked away unscathed, and maintainers will be able to fix the plane.
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, countless businesses across the nation and around the world have been forced to close their doors, some for good. Nonprofits like the famous Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama have suffered even more.
As a result of the pandemic, attendance at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center museum and Space Camp has dropped significantly. Though Space Camp reopened following a four month closure, limited admission and a lack of international students forced the weeklong camp programs to close again.
(U.S. Space Rocket Center)
Overall, the organization has seen a 66% loss in revenue. Having exhausted all funding possibilities, the U.S. Space Rocket Center and Space Camp will be forced to close in October. To prevent this, the U.S. Space Rocket Center Foundation has started a GoFundMe campaign with a goal of id=”listicle-2646867862″.5 million.
Founded in 1982, Space Camp uses the U.S. space program as the basis to promote math and science to children. The idea for the camp came from famed rocket scientist Wernher von Braun. While touring the U.S. Space Rocket Center in 1977, von Braun noticed a group of schoolchildren admiring the rockets and said to the museum director, “You know, we have all these camps for youngsters in this country—band camps and cheerleader camps and football camps. Why don’t we have science camps?”
While Space Camp is generally used to describe any sort of educational program relating to space, the camp actually offers a variety of programs for different ages and durations of visit. Space Camp is a six-day program for children ages 9-11 and features a curriculum designed to balance education and entertainment. Space Academy caters to children ages 12-14 and is also offered in six-day sessions. Advanced Space Academy (originally called Space Academy Level II) is designed for 15- to 18-year-olds and offers attendees one credit hour of freshman-level general science from the University of Alabama in Huntsville. Family Camp allows parents or guardians to attend Space Camp with their children aged 7-12 years.
(U.S. Space Rocket Center)
Following its success, other variations of Space Camp were developed including Space Camp for Interested Visually Impaired Students and Deaf Space Camp. The U.S. Space Rocket Center Foundation also offers scholarships for children who have disabilities, financial needs or other disadvantages to be able to attend Space Camp.
There are also internationally licensed Space Camps including Space Camp Canada, Space Camp Belgium and Space Camp Turkey. Space Camp Florida and Space Camp California opened in 1988 and 1996 respectively, but both closed in 2002 due to financial difficulties caused by low attendance rates.
Throughout its 38 years of operation, Space Camp has educated and inspired thousands of young people to achieve great things. Dorothy Metcalf-Lindenburger attended Space Academy in 1989 at the age of 14 and became a NASA astronaut in 2006, the first Space Camp alumna to do so. Jasmin Moghbeli, a U.S. Marine Corps test pilot and NASA astronaut, attended Advanced Space Academy in 1998 at the age of 15. Annika Rose Vargas, who donated an incredible 0 to the GoFundMe, found her calling at Space Camp and pursued an engineering degree at UAH. A 0 donation from Sam and Clara Bailey came with a note attesting, “I would not be a UH-60M pilot without [Space Camp].”
(U.S. Space Rocket Center)
It’s not just Space Camp alumni and their family members donating though. One anonymous contributor said, “My grandfather, James Milton Willis, would have been 100 today. He worked on the first Saturn V Rocket. In honor of his birthday, I’m donating 0 to the Space and Rocket Center. Every time I look at that Saturn V Rocket, it reminds me of him. I don’t want Huntsville to lose this national gem.”
As of July 30, 2020, the 2-day-old GoFundMe has had nearly 6,000 donations and raised over 0,000 of its id=”listicle-2646867862″.5 million goal. This incredible outpouring of support is a testament to the positive impact that Space Camp has had on thousands of people who hope that it can continue to do so for generations to come.
British WWII Veteran Roy Vickerman, 90, and Nora Jackson, 89, are getting married after breaking up seventy years ago.
They first met back in 1940, Roy was the new kid in Nora’s high school. According to Vickerman, he was enamored from the moment he laid eyes on her.
“When the teacher told the class there’s a new boy from London, all the faces turned towards me but the only one I saw was Nora,” Vickerman said in a recent interview with ABC News “I thought to myself, she’s the girl for me.”
They were engaged in the summer of 1944 – one week before Vickerman would depart for Normandy. He made it through D-Day and the Battle of the Bulge, but never made it to the alter.
Roy served with the famous Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) and Britain’s Highland Light Infantry. In 1945, a bullet from a Nazi sniper shattered a bone in his lower leg that required reconstructive surgery.
His visible wound wouldn’t prevent him from walking down the aisle with his fiance, but his invisible wounds would. He developed ‘shell-shock’ or what is now known as Post Traumatic Stress (PTS) from the war.
In 1946 Vickerman had called off their wedding due to the hard time he had transitioning into civilian life after his service.
“Nora stayed with me as long as she could,” he told the Daily Mail, “but in the end I wanted to be on my own and she gave me the ring back.”
The two went their separate ways. Vickerman went on to become an architect and Nora worked at a local factory. They each got married and had children. Neither of them heard from the other for seven whole decades.
Last year, Vickerman dialed Graham Torrington’s “Late Night Love” show on BBC radio and reminisced on air about his long lost love. He told the host he wished he could ask her forgiveness for leaving her. The show’s producer ended up tracking down Jackson’s home address. Their homes were only two miles apart, but amazingly had never had run into each other over the years. Vickerman, a widower for four years, hesitated to reach out to her for a week.
“I didn’t want to intrude if Nora had a husband,” he said, “but one day, I just thought, ‘No, I’ll just go get some flowers and tell them I’d like to ask how Nora is and that I’d like to apologize to her for what happened.”
It turned out there was no man in her life for him to be concerned about. Jackson’s husband had passed away 12 years ago.
“Nora came to the door and put her arms around me and gave me a kiss,” he told ABC News “She told me, ‘Oh Roy, I thought I’d never see you again,’ and then she gave me a kiss and said, ‘Hold me.'”
Jackson, who admits to have dreamed about Vickerman, told her side of the story to the Telegraph,
It’s a really lovely story, there’s no doubt about it. It’s so clear in my mind. I heard the bell and I opened the curtain a little bit. I was so taken aback. I knew him straight away but I never thought I would see him again. He had changed a lot but I could still recognise him. We put our arms around one another and we went into the living room and sat and talked for hours. It was a shock to see him because it had been such a long time but it was lovely. It was just like old times.
Four hours into their reunion, he finally went outside to tell the cab driver that he would be staying. They have seen each other every day since. And on March 26th, Vickerman’s 90th birthday, he proposed to her with the same ring he used 72 years before. She said yes.
They couple is planning to get married this summer. “It would certainly do for me if we could wed in a week! We certainly do believe fate brought us together again,” he added. “I’m sure it was the will of God.”
We’ve slammed the Russian defense industry for their failures before, but those mostly the result of bureaucratic missteps, when the Russian Ministry of Defense overreaches on requirements and underfunds budgets. Russian weapons designers are, however, perfectly capable and they can come up with some gems when given the money and time.
Here are seven weapons to watch out for if a new war kicks off:
The S-400 launch vehicle needs to be combined with a radar and a command vehicle to get the job done, but it’s absolutely lethal.
(Vitaly Ragulin, CC BY-SA 3.0)
S-400/S-300 surface-to-air missile systems
The S-300 was a game-changer in the Cold War, allowing the Soviets to drive a few trucks that could detect enemy planes, track multiple targets, and guide multiple missiles to multiple targets at once. They can carry two types of missiles at once, a long-range missile and a short range one — it’s like having anti-aircraft rifles and shotguns in one package. Decades of upgrades have kept the system fully capable.
But while the S-300 is still potent, its descendant, the S-400, is better. It retains all of the S-300’s power while being capable of carrying four missile types. To continue the comparison above, it adds a submachine gun and a SAW to the mix as it targets American jets. And while it isn’t certain that it can detect and track F-22s or F-35s, it is possible. Upcoming missiles could extend its range out to 250 miles.
In a war, things could turn into a quick-draw competition between jets and air defense crews to find and kill each other first, but Russia can build and export missiles faster and more effectively than we can make jets.
The Saint Petersburg, a Lada-class diesel-electric attack submarine in 2011.
(Mike1979 Russia, CC BY-SA 3.0)
It’s generally accepted that top-of-the-line diesel submarines are quieter than their nuclear counterparts, and Russia has the best. While diesel’s drawbacks in range make them a poor choice for offensive warfare, their greater stealth is valuable when you’re defending your own waters.
The Kirov-class nuclear-powered Frunze underway in the 1980s. These ships were specifically designed to down American aircraft carrier.
(Defense Intelligence Agency)
The Kirov Class is a nuclear-powered Cold War weapon that doesn’t get discussed as often as it should. While there are only four of them and they are aged, they were specifically designed to take out American aircraft carriers while defending themselves with anti-aircraft missiles — and they are still capable of that today.
The Kirov-Class ships can find U.S. targets with satellite feeds, an onboard helicopter, or their own systems, and then can engage them with 20 supersonic missiles carrying 1,653-pound warheads up to 300 miles. And, sure, American jets can fly further than that, but the Kirovs carry the same anti-air missiles as are on the S-300 as well as shorter range anti-air, making attacks against them risky.
Russia’s Krasukha-4 is a potent electronic warfare platform.
(Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation)
It may seem odd to see an electronics warfare platform on a list like this, but cutting the enemy’s lines of communications is always valuable, especially in modern warfare. It gives you the ability to blind ISR platforms and cutoff forces in the field from their headquarters and other assets.
Since the Army hasn’t had armored anti-air defense since the Linebacker was retired, that means it would have to rely on Patriot and Stinger missiles to defend formations. A less-than-ideal solution against enemy attack helicopters.
2S35 Koalitsiya-SV 152mm self propelled tracked howitzer Russia Russian army rehearsal Victory Day
The Koalitsiya 152mm self-propelled howitzer is a powerful weapon that, like the T-14 Armata, Russia won’t be able to buy in significant numbers as long as sanctions and mid-range oil prices remain the norm. But it does boast a huge range — 43 miles compared to America’s Paladin firing 18 miles and Britain’s Braveheart, which only fires 24.
Its automated turret can pump out rounds, reportedly firing up to 15-20 per minute. Paladins top out at 8 rounds per minute and have to drop to one round per three minutes during a sustained fight. That gives the Koalitsiya a massive advantage in a battery vs. battery duel.
If any of them do become operational, they’re game-changers, flying so fast that many anti-missile defenses can’t hit them, and punching with enough power that even missiles with small warheads can do insane damage. But successful deployments of the missiles are likely years away.
A member of the “shark watch” on a Coast Guard cutter had to open fire on a shark this week to dissuade it from continuing to approach his crew mates.
When you’re out on the open ocean, even recreational activities require proper planning and safety precautions, as the crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Kimball demonstrated in dramatic photos released earlier this week.
A carefully planned swim call, or a period of recreational swimming organized by the ship’s crew, started like any other — with rescue swimmers standing by and an armed “shark watch” standing guard from an elevated position, keeping his eyes trained on the surface of the water for any signs of danger.
Crew members of the Coast Guard Cutter Kimball during a swim call (Coast Guard photo)
The Coast Guard maintains a “shark watch” or a “polar bear watch” any time crew members are in the water and there’s potential for danger posed by indigenous wildlife. This time, it was Maritime Enforcement Specialist 1st Class Samuel Cintron who was tasked with keeping a lookout for any aspiring “Jaws” star as other members of the crew got a chance to kick back and enjoy the warm Pacific water.
Maritime Enforcement Specialist 1st Class Samuel Cintron on Shark Watch (Coast Guard)
It wasn’t long before Cintron and others spotted the grey silhouette of what appeared to be a longfin mako or pelagic thresher shark approaching the swimming crew. Cintron stood ready, and as the shark closed to within 30 feet or so of the swimmers, Cintron was ordered by his chief to open fire. The gunfire likely came as a real shock to the swimmers; many of whom were not aware of the approaching shark until the shots rang out.
Cintron fired a “well-aimed burst right at/on top of the shark to protect shipmates just feet away,” according to a post on the Coast Guard’s Facebook page. It seemed to do the trick at first, only to have the shark once again turn and close with the swimming crew, who were now working to evacuate the water in a calm and organized manner. As the shark once again closed to within 30 or so feet, Cintron fired another burst.
Cintron firing on the approaching shark. (Coast Guard photo)
“ME1 fired bursts as needed to keep the shark from his shipmates with amazing accuracy. The shark would wave off with each burst but kept coming back toward our shipmates,” according to the post.
It’s important to note that bullets lose a significant amount of energy the minute they impact water. In fact, it’s common for bullets to come apart and tumble harmlessly in just a few inches of water. There was no blood in the water near the shark, and according to Coast Guard public affairs, there were no indications that the predator was injured in the altercation.
The close encounter with a shark ultimately proved harmless, with the entire crew back on board and only one reported injury (a scrape, ironically enough, right in the middle of a tattoo of shark jaws on one crew member’s leg). Still, this unusual engagement is incredibly rare. According to Military.com’s Patricia Kime, the last reported shark sighting during a Coast Guard or Navy swim call was in 2009, and no shots were fired.
“We have hundreds of years at sea between all of us and no one has seen or heard of a shark actually showing up during a swim call. This goes to show why we prepare for any and everything,” ship officials wrote.
There’s almost no way getting around it — if you’re serving in the US military, maintaining one’s physical fitness is a duty that you have to fulfill, unless you’d prefer to struggle to catch your breath.
Starting in the early 1800s, United States Military Academy (USMA) cadets neglected physical exercise and merely practiced military drills — even recreational activities were frowned upon. After realizing their mistakes, Congress and Army leaders sent officials to Europe to determine the best course for implementing a physical education program for their future officers.
Tasks within this new program included scaling a 15-foot wall without using tools, vaulting on a horse 15-hands high, leaping a ditch 10-feet wide, an 8-minute mile run, and a 3-mile march carrying a 20-pound knapsack in one hour. Also recommended in this new program was the ability to dive and remain underwater for 45-seconds.
Shortly after the Civil War, the USMA appointed its first pedagogically-trained instructor, Herman Koehler, as its “Master of the Sword.” As the new head of West Point’s Department of Physical Education, Koehler focused on gymnastics as a key element for fitness and brought into existence the first Army-wide training manuals for physical training in 1887.
In 1906, the Army then implemented its first unit-wide physical training program. Tasks included a weekly 12-mile march for the infantry and 18-miles for horse-mounted artillery and cavalry units. Even the President at the time, Theodore Roosevelt, was obsessed about starting a physical regimen for the military — as a sickly kid during his childhood, he developed a philosophy of strenuous exercise.
World War I then brought new fitness requirements for the Army — the first manual to identify quantifiable physical objectives was developed. This Individual Efficiency Test measured combat physical readiness with the following requirements: running 100 yards in 14 seconds, a 12-foot broad running jump, an unassisted 8-foot wall climb, throwing a hand grenade for 30 yards into a 10′ diameter circle, and an obstacle course run.
Shortly before the attack on Pearl Harbor and the US’ involvement in World War II, the US was seen as a complacent country that neglected physical activity due to the 20 years of peace and continued innovations to make life easier — over a third of the military’s inductees were considered to be in “miserable shape”, and half of them weren’t even able to swim well.
This proved to be a harrowing precursor to the landing of D-Day, when it was determined that a significant number of deaths were attributed to the fact that many servicemembers had drowned in waters that were 10-15 feet deep.
To address these inadequacies, in 1944, the Physical Efficiency Test Battery was created. This battery of tests included pull-ups, 20 seconds of burpees, squat jumps, push-ups, a 100-yard pig-a-back run, sit-ups, and a 300-yard shuttle run. Normative scales were included during this examination to provide participants with the added incentive to score higher and to incite a “competitive spirit” amongst themselves.
Finally, in the 1980s, testing requirements shaped into what it currently resembles within the Army. The gender-integrated Army Physical Readiness Test (APRT) evaluated soldiers on their ability to do push-ups, sit-ups, and a 2-mile run in that order, with 10-20 minutes of rest time between each event.
After receiving initial data on the results, research teams concluded that about 5% of soldiers should be able to score the maximum points allotted for the test. During the beginning of this era, there were no scoring standards for soldiers over the age of 40, and those that were only authorized to be tested on the 2-mile run.
Since then, there has been much debate with the current scoring system in the Army’s physical fitness test — many scorn the “corporate fitness” model and it’s detraction from its more combat-oriented roots. It remains to be seen if the Army implements a more functional assessment to meet the demands of today, such as the Marine Corps’ Combat Fitness Test.
Whichever way the Army decides to keep rolling along, you can be sure that servicemembers will be profusely sweating.