Coast Guard commandant warns of cruise missile-equipped Russian icebreakers - We Are The Mighty
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Coast Guard commandant warns of cruise missile-equipped Russian icebreakers

Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft has one very clear message: The country needs more icebreakers.


Zukunft reiterated that point time and again during an Aug. 24 speech to members of the Alaska policy nonprofit Commonwealth North in Anchorage.

He recalled a conversation he had with then-National Security Advisor Susan Rice when Rice asked him what President Barack Obama should highlight shortly before the president’s extended trip to Alaska in late August 2015.

“I said (to Rice) we are an Arctic nation. We have not made the right investments and we do not have the strategic assets to be an Arctic nation and that translates to icebreakers and that’s almost exactly what President Obama said when he came up here,” Zukunft said.

Coast Guard commandant warns of cruise missile-equipped Russian icebreakers
US Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley.

“Fast forward — it’s Jan. 20, 2017, and I’m sitting next to President Trump and as they’re parading by he says, ‘So, you got everything you need?’ I said, ‘I don’t. The last administration, they made a statement but they didn’t show me the money. I need icebreakers.’ (Trump said) ‘How many?’ ‘Six.’ ‘You got it.’

“You never miss an opportunity,” Zukunft quipped.

It’s well documented in Alaska that the US has “one-and-a-half” operable icebreakers. That is, the heavy icebreaker Polar Star and the medium icebreaker Healy, which are in the Coast Guard’s fleet. A sister ship to the Polar Star, the Polar Sea remains inactive after an engine failure in 2010.

Zukunft noted Russia’s current fleet of 41 icebreakers to emphasize how far behind he feels the US is in preparing for increased military and commercial activity in the Arctic as sea ice continues to retreat — a message Alaska’s congressional delegation stresses as well.

Coast Guard commandant warns of cruise missile-equipped Russian icebreakers
USCGC Healy. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

“We are the only military service that’s truly focused on what’s happening in the Arctic and what happens in the Arctic does not happen in isolation,” Zukunft said.

He added that Russia is on track to deliver two more cruise missile-equipped icebreakers in 2020.

“I’m not real comfortable with them right on our back step coming through the Bering Strait and operating in this domain when we have nothing to counter it with,” he said.

The Coast Guard’s 2017 budget included a $150 million request to fund a new medium icebreaker, which Zukunft characterized as a “down payment” on the vessel expected to cost about $780 million, according to an Aug. 15 Congressional Research Service report on the progress of adding to the country’s icebreaking fleet.

Coast Guard commandant warns of cruise missile-equipped Russian icebreakers
Photo from United Sates European Command.

For years it was estimated that new heavy icebreakers would cost in the neighborhood of $1 billion each, but those estimates have been revised down as the benefits of lessons learned through construction of the initial vessel and ordering multiple icebreakers from the same shipyard are further examined.

The CRS report now estimates the first heavy icebreaker will cost about $980 million to build, but by the fourth that price tag would go down to about $690 million for an average per-vessel cost of about $790 million. That is on par with the cost for a single new medium icebreaker.

Zukunft said the Coast Guard is working with five shipyards on an accelerated timeline to get the first icebreaker by 2023, but how it will be fully funded is still unclear.

“We have great bipartisan support but who is going to write the check?” he said, adding that aside from Russia and China, the United States’ economy is larger than that of the other 18 nations with icebreakers combined.

Coast Guard commandant warns of cruise missile-equipped Russian icebreakers
The Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star, a heavy icebreaker homeported in Seattle. USCG photo by Petty Officer 1st Class George Degener.

The Obama administration first proposed a high-level funding plan for new icebreakers in 2013 that has not been advanced outside of small appropriations.

“Our GDP (gross domestic product) is at least five times that of Russia and we’re telling ourselves we can’t afford it,” Zukunft continued. “Now this is just an issue of political will and not having the strategic forbearance to say this is an investment that we must have.”

He also advocated for the US finally signing onto the United Nations Law of the Sea treaty, which lays out the broad ground rules for what nations control off their coasts and how they interact in international waters.

Not signing onto the Law of the Sea, which was opened in 1982, leaves the US little say as other nations further study and potentially exploit the Arctic waters that are opening, he said.

“We are in the same club as Yemen; we are in the Star Wars bar of misfits of countries that have not ratified the Law of the Sea convention,” Zukunft said.

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What is the big deal about Kwajalein?

According to a report by UPI, an LGM-30 Minuteman intercontinental ballistic missile was taken from Minot Air Force Base and launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base to test America’s land-based deterrence force.


The missile landed at the remote Pacific base of Kwajalein Atoll. Now, the United States has used these islands for atomic tests and as a place for missiles to land for years.

But Kwajalein has a bit more significance to the U.S. than most other atolls out there. You see, it was one of the many islands American forces had to take from Japan during World War II – and thus, it is consecrated ground.

Coast Guard commandant warns of cruise missile-equipped Russian icebreakers
Diagram of the American plans to attack the Marshall Islands. (USMC graphic)

During World War I, Japan had taken the Gilbert Islands, Marshall Islands, and Caroline Islands from Germany. According to an official Marine Corps history of the 4th Marine Division, the islands were soon fortified with bunkers, air strips, a lot of firepower, and very fierce troops.

In Nov., 1943, the United States had taken Tarawa in the Gilberts – and paid a heavy price. According to Seizure of the Gilberts and Marshalls, published by the Center for Military History, 3,301 Marines were killed, wounded, or missing after the effort to take Tarawa. Kwajalein was expected to be even tougher, prompting legendary commanders like Raymond Spruance, Richmond K. Turner, and Holland Smith to oppose hitting Kwajalein at all.

Coast Guard commandant warns of cruise missile-equipped Russian icebreakers
Troops of the 24th Marines near the beach on Namur, thankful for having made it safely ashore, are now awaiting the inevitable word to resume the attack. (USMC photo)

Admiral Nimitz overruled their objections, and Kwajalein it was. Taking into account the lessons of Tarawa, this time, the United States brought overwhelming force. The major targets were Roi Island, Namur Island, and Kwajalein Island. For almost two months, air strikes were launched, including some with B-24 Liberators and others by carriers, on the Marshalls.

When the attack on Kwajalein came, it still took time, but only 142 American military personnel were killed in attacking Kwajalein Island proper.  Another 190 died while taking the islands of Roi and Namur. Total casualties in those assaults – dead, wounded, and missing – were 1,726.

Coast Guard commandant warns of cruise missile-equipped Russian icebreakers
Map of the Reagan Test Site. (DOD graphic)

After World War II, most of the American forces left, but Kwajalein today serves as part of the Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site.  332 Americans paid the ultimate price to take it 73 years ago. Today, it helps America develop systems that can save hundreds of thousands – if not millions – of lives.

MIGHTY TRENDING

China is building a brand-new space station

China is building a new space station — the latest move in what some experts see as a brewing space race between China and the US.

China’s UN ambassador, Shi Zhongjun, recently invited the whole world to participate in the new space station.


“CSS belongs not only to China, but also to the world,” Shi told Xinhua, a state news agency. “All countries, regardless of their size and level of development, can participate in the cooperation on an equal footing.”

The new space station could become operational as soon as 2022, according to documents released by the UN’s Office for Outer Space Affairs.

The US has barred China’s space agency from using the International Space Station (ISS) or sharing any technology over security concerns.

But the ISS may come to an early end. President Donald Trump has said his administration is considering ending the US’s involvement in the space station by 2025, which is three years ahead of the previously accepted schedule.

That change in plans is part of the Trump administration’s larger push to privatize much of the US’s space operations.

Coast Guard commandant warns of cruise missile-equipped Russian icebreakers
The International Space Station in orbit.
(NASA photo)

NASA has already spent about $100 billion to keep the space station — which functions like an orbiting laboratory for astronauts and scientists — in top shape. The space agency pumps around $3-4 billion per year into the program, but those funds may dry up sooner than anticipated.

Meanwhile, many of the partners behind the ISS are already being courted to invest in China’s new space station, according to hotel billionaire Robert Bigelow, who has his own plan to build an inflatable space station more than twice as big as the ISS.

Europe’s space agency, the ESA, has agreed to a partnership in which European astronauts would be able to use China’s new station throughout the 2020s, reports Ars Technica.

China hopes its future space station can be operational for around a decade and support up to six astronauts for 180-day stays, during which they would conduct research.

Parts of the Chinese space station are already complete, including the core module, dubbed Tianhe-1 or “Harmony of the Heavens.” That module is expected to be sent into orbit as early as 2020, with the rest of the station expected to be completed by 2022.

China is planning to send a probe to study the dark side of the moon as well, in another move to expand its presence in space. The country is building a Mars simulation base deep in the Tibetan desert, too, where it hopes to train astronauts for a potential Mars mission.

China plans to launch a Mars probe in 2020.

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

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This is the world’s military handgun of choice

Coast Guard commandant warns of cruise missile-equipped Russian icebreakers
A British soldier aims a Browning Hi-Power 9 mm pistol on a shooting range in Basra, Iraq. (Photo: Ministry of Defense)


For more than seven decades, if a soldier carried a 9mm pistol into battle as part of his weaponry there was a good chance it was a Browning Hi-Power.

The Hi-Power is a pistol that has been on both sides of almost every world conflict during the 20th Century, wielded by the good, the bad, and almost certainly by the opposing force.

Even during the current age of pistols made of polymers and exotic metals, the Hi-Power is still in the holsters of many warriors.

It was once the standard NATO sidearm. In fact, more than 90 nations used weapons genius John Moses Browning‘s last pistol design – at least 50 countries still have it in their arsenals.

“Soldiers will continue to face one another with a Hi-Power in their hands,” said Doug Wicklund, senior curator at the NRA National Firearms Museum in Virginia. “It happened during World War II, it happened during the Falklands, and it will happen again.”

It seems like everyone wanted a Hi-Power.

Saddam Hussein carried one that he frequently fired into the air to excite crowds of his Iraqi followers. Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi owned a customized, gold-plated Hi-Power that had an image of his face etched into the grips.

During World War II, both the Waffen-SS and the special operators who opposed them such as agents of the Office of Strategic Services or the Special Operations Executive often carried the pistol. When the British and the Argentines faced off during the Falklands War in 1982, both sides carried the Hi-Power – and frequently captured the pistols and its ammunition from each other.

There is even a version of the Hi-Power with an adjustable tangent sight and detachable shoulder stock that transforms the pistol into a pint-sized carbine.  The combination has its flaws (the pistol’s attachment to the stock is wobbly at best) but in the hands of a skilled marksman the Hi-Power could hit even distant targets.

The Hi-Power is really history’s first high-capacity pistol – and you can thank the French Army for the idea .

During the early 1920s, the French army sought a new pistol that would have a high-capacity magazine of least 10 rounds and chamber 9 mm Parabellum ammunition. Impressed with the power and reliability of the M1911 .45-caliber pistol designed by Browning, the French generals in charge of new ordnance established a standard they called grande puissance – literally “high power” – that the new pistol would have to meet.

In 1923, Browning filed a patent for a prototype pistol that was the forerunner of the Hi-Power. However, he died in 1926 before he refined the design.

Dieudonné Saive of the Belgian weapons company Fabrique Nationale Herstal took up the project and completed the pistol’s design. By 1934, FN began production of the Hi-Power in earnest – too late, though, for the fickle French who decided to adopt another pistol.

But the Belgian Army seized the opportunity and adopted the gun. The pistol’s magazine capacity set it apart:  A Hi-Power magazine holds 13 rounds of 9 mm Parabellum ammunition, 14 rounds if it is a Canadian-made Inglis magazine.

“That’s quite a bit more than a Luger,” Wicklund said, noting that no other combat handgun in the world at the time could compare.

After occupying Belgium in 1940, German forces took over the FN plant. German airborne and SS troops often used the Hi-Power pistols manufactured under German control. Those weapons have the designation Pistole 640(b) (“b” for belgisch, “Belgian”) and are highly-desired collector’s items today.

A number of FN designers and engineers escaped Belgium ahead of the Nazi invasion with the plans for the Hi-Power. Canadian manufacturer John Inglis and Co. in Toronto re-tooled their factory and began production of the pistol, which were issued to a variety of British imperial forces.

But there were also large batches of Inglis-produced Hi-Powers made for a special purpose – as so-called “sterile weapons.” Made without serial numbers or other markings, they were issued to covert operators as one more ruse that could protect the cover of the agent or commando who carried the pistol as a sidearm.

In fact, many of those sterile pistols remained in the inventory of the British SAS well into the 1980s.

By the 1990s, the Hi-Power was beginning to show its age. One name began to make world militaries think twice about maintaining the venerable weapon as their main battle pistol: Glock.

“The polymer-framed pistol captured imaginations around the world,” Wicklund said. “The Hi-Power really had its heyday during the period of steel-framed pistols from the 1940s to the 1980s. It is still sought after, but it is just not in the same demand.”

Coast Guard commandant warns of cruise missile-equipped Russian icebreakers
Canadian soldiers of Alpha Company, 3rd Battalion, 22nd Regiment, Canadian Royal Army, inspect their Browning Hi-Power 9 mm pistols prior to training on the firing range at Camp Blanding, Fla., in support of Partnership of the Americas 2009. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Christopher J. Gallagher.

However, there are good reasons why the Hi-Power is still in use. It is robust and reliable, capable of withstanding battlefield abuse, and its 9mm ammo is widely used around the world.

What’s more, it is easy to field strip and clean, a feature always beloved by the common soldier who has to clean his or her weapon.

The Hi-Power’s magazine capacity, ergonomics, ease of maintenance, reliance on a commonly produced ammunition and solid construction virtually guarantee it will stay in use throughout the 21st Century.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Google drops out of $10-billion DoD contract competition

Google dropped out of the competition for a crucial Pentagon cloud computing contract valued at over $10 billion, the company confirms with Business Insider.

The news, which was originally reported by Bloomberg, comes on the same day that the search giant announced the shutdown of the Google+ social network, in the wake of reports of a major security lapse. It also comes just months after Google employees protested en masse over the company’s work with the United States military.

This $10 billion cloud contract, called the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI), will be awarded to one company to build cloud services for the Department of Defense. Google says it will not to compete for the contract because it believes that it would conflict with its corporate principles, and because it believes it may not hold all of the necessary certifications.


“While we are working to support the US government with our cloud in many areas, we are not bidding on the JEDI contract because first, we couldn’t be assured that it would align with our AI Principles and second, we determined that there were portions of the contract that were out of scope with our current government certifications,” a Google spokesperson said.

Companies competing for the contract must submit their bids by Oct. 12, 2018. As only one company will be awarded the contract, Amazon is seen as the frontrunner. Several companies, including Oracle, IBM, and Microsoft, were working together to oppose the winner-take-all approach, rather than splitting the contract among multiple vendors. Google, in particular, believes it would be in the Pentagon’s best interest to allow multiple clouds.

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The Pentagon building.

“Had the JEDI contract been open to multiple vendors, we would have submitted a compelling solution for portions of it,” a spokesperson said in a statement. “Google Cloud believes that a multi-cloud approach is in the best interest of government agencies, because it allows them to choose the right cloud for the right workload.”

In early 2018, controversy emerged within Google over the company’s participation in Project Maven, an effort to build artificial intelligence for the Department of Defense to analyze drone video footage, which could be used to target drone strikes.

In April 2018, more than 4,000 Google employees signed a petition demanding that the company discontinue Project Maven and promise to never “build warfare technology.” Some employees even resigned in protest.

In June 2018, Google said it would not renew the contract once it expired, and that same month, it released a set of principles for its work in AI. According to those principles, Google will not design or deploy AI that can cause harm or injury to people, that can gather information for surveillance that “violates internationally accepted norms,” or that violates international law and human rights principles.

“We will continue to pursue strategic work to help state, local, and federal customers modernize their infrastructure and meet their mission critical requirements,” a Google spokesperson said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Google CEO Sundar Pichai recently took meetings in Washington to try to rebuild the company’s relationship with the military amid all the employee unrest. The company faces allegations from President Donald Trump and his allies that it biases search results against politically conservative sources.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

These were Britain’s ‘manned torpedoes’ in World War II

You’ve probably heard about Japan’s Kamikaze tactics, and maybe you’ve even heard about Japan’s manned rockets and torpedoes. But, oddly enough, Japan wasn’t the only combatant in World War II that had manned torpedoes. Britain used manned torpedoes and did so years before Japan.


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A Kaiten Type 10 manned torpedo. Japanese manned torpedoes were a little more “terminal” than British ones. (Kansai Man, CC BY-SA 2.0/ Wikimedia Commons)

But there is an important distinction between the two programs. Britain’s manned torpedoes were designed with a focus on getting the pilots back safely after the mission, while Japan’s program was essentially Kamikaze tactics, but under the water.

For Britain, it all started in December 1941. Less than two weeks after Pearl Harbor, Britain suffered its own surprise naval raid on December 19. Two British battleships and a tanker suffered serious damage in the Port of Alexandria in Egypt when large explosions ripped through their hulls from outside.

But the captain of the HMS Valiant had captured two Italian divers just before the explosions, and one of them had asked to meet with him just before the blasts. Coincidentally, they had been detained in the room just above the damage to the hull. So he summoned those dudes again and asked what, exactly, had happened to his ship and the two others. (A fourth ship was damaged by the blasts, even though the Italian teams had only hit three targets.)

Coast Guard commandant warns of cruise missile-equipped Russian icebreakers
Two British sailors on a manned torpedo, the Chariot Mk. I. (Royal Navy Lt. S.J. Beadell)

 

Four other divers were captured by Egyptian police in the following days, and Britain pieced together how the attacks were carried out. The men had launched from an Italian submarine on a torpedo modified to propel the divers through the water. These torpedoes not only had warheads, but they also had two little seats for the divers.

Basically, imagine a two-person motorcycle, but shaped to fit in a large torpedo tube and propelled by a propeller instead of wheels. Now attach a mine to the front. Or you could’ve just looked at the picture above, but whatever. Let’s keep going.

Britain saw this and was all, “Hey, Brits can be strapped to metal tubes, too! We should strap dudes to metal tubes.” So they developed the Chariot starting in April 1942 and attempted the first manned torpedo mission that October.

Coast Guard commandant warns of cruise missile-equipped Russian icebreakers
A British Chariot Mk. 1. (Imperial War Museum)

 

The British Chariot Mk. I was about 22 feet long, 3 feet wide, and weighed over 1.75 tons and had a 600-pound Torpex warhead, equal to almost a 1,000 pounds of TNT. The plan was that divers would get onto the torpedo and steer it through the water to a target. Then the divers would remove the warhead from the torpedo and place it on the target ship’s hull with a timer, and then pilot the submersible away.

If all went to plan, the 600 pounds of high explosive would then blow a large hole in the target.

The first Chariot mission failed after the torpedoes were lost at sea as a ship delivered them into range of their target. Their target, by the way, was the German battleship Tirpitz, which would’ve made for an epic combat debut if it had succeeded.

But Britain modified submarines to carry the new torpedo and began sending the Chariot into combat.

Coast Guard commandant warns of cruise missile-equipped Russian icebreakers
U.S. Navy SEALs prepare to fly through the water in a SEAL Delivery Vehicle. (U.S. Navy Chief Photographer’s Mate Andrew McKaskle)

 

Chariot torpedoes were used against Italian ships, the beaches of Sicily, and Japanese ships in Phuket, Thailand. And, yeah, it turns out those massive warheads do work. Britain even made a new design of Chariot, the Mk. II Terry Chariot, that was faster, had a warhead twice the size, and a larger combat radius.

But if it was so good, why aren’t there a bunch of manned torpedoes zipping around today? Well, there are actually a few. The U.S. Navy has the SEAL Delivery vehicle which is, basically, a manned torpedo that SEALs use to get to targets, but the Navy is looking to can it and get mini-subs instead. These would perform the same mission, but SEALs wouldn’t need to be exposed to the outside water in the mini-subs.

But yeah, manned torpedoes have mostly given way to submersibles and mini-subs because manned torpedoes were really valuable for delivering divers. When it comes to delivering warheads, even during World War II, it made more sense to fire conventional torpedoes.

Today, guided torpedoes make the use of manned torpedoes for explosive delivery completely unnecessary.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This new approach to health is changing the lives of veterans

Here’s a question that could change your life: What matters most to you in your life? The answer can start you on the path to Whole Health.

Whole Health puts the focus of health care on the veteran rather than just the veteran’s illnesses and symptoms. It’s a patient-centered approach that considers the full range of physical, emotional, mental, social, spiritual, and environmental factors that can influence your health. Veterans examine these areas of their lives and set goals based on what matters most to them. In turn, those goals drive the health planning decisions they make with their VA care team.

All VA medical centers and clinics now offer training in Whole Health and personal health planning, as well as a range of well-being programs.


Articles

4 things that got a Nazi an automatic Iron Cross

Germany’s highest awards for valor, the Iron Cross, was the most awarded of the top tier medals of any nation in World War II. But Germany awarded more top-tier valor awards than any other country for two very good reasons. First, most German troops fought for the duration or the war unless they were crippled.


As German ace Gunther Rall put it, that meant Third Reich troops’ destiny “was either the Iron Cross or the wooden cross.” They would be heroes or they would die in the attempt.

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The Iron Cross second class. (Photo: Public Domain)

Second, German troops could earn the Iron Cross with a series of events, like succeeding in enough aerial battles, rather than for just a single act of extreme valor like in most militaries. While the medal was awarded for singular military achievements and bravery, it was also automatically warranted after a service member completed a challenging act.

Here are four things that would get a World War II German soldier an automatic Iron Cross:

1. Destroying a set number of enemy tanks

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A German Tiger tank rolls forward in the Battle of Kursk. (Photo: German Army archives)

For German tankers, the “easiest” way to earn an Iron Cross was to achieve enough tank victories to qualify. While the number required increased as the war ground on, 50 was the magic number for a few years. That’s 50 Allied tank kills before a single tank managed to kill them.

2. Killing a set number of Allied planes

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(Photo: Public Domain)

German Luftwaffe pilots could net an Iron Cross by accruing an ever-increasing number of points. Single-engine aircraft were worth one point, dual-engines netted two points, and four engines were worth three points. Fighters could get the Iron Cross second class for becoming an ace (downing five enemy aircraft).

3. Sinking a set amount of Allied shipping

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Photo: German Federal Archives

For submariners, the Iron Cross was usually awarded for sinking tons of Allied supplies. The Iron Cross second class usually required sinking 50,000 tons of shipping, while the Knight’s Cross, a higher level of the same award, would be granted to those who sank 100,000 or more tons.

4. Downing a “Night Witch”

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(Photo: Creative Commons BY-SA 3.0 Douzeff)

Oddly enough, pilots could earn an Iron Cross for downing a single wooden biplane, as long as it was being flown by the Night Witches.

These were older, frail planes piloted by Soviet women who would carry a few bombs at a time and drop them on Nazi massed forces, breaking up German attacks on Soviet positions. But the planes were so slow and quiet that they were hard to find and harder to fight, so the Luftwaffe promised an Iron Cross for a single kill.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Navy to start flying Union Jack in honor of their greatest naval victory

The Navy on Feb. 21 released a NAVADMIN 039/19 directing the display of the union jack instead of the first Navy jack aboard Navy ships and craft.

U.S. Navy ships and craft will return to flying the union jack effective June 4, 2019. The date for reintroduction of the union jack commemorates the greatest naval battle in history: the Battle of Midway, which began June 4, 1942.

“Make no mistake: we have entered a new era of competition. We must recommit to the core attributes that made us successful at Midway: integrity, accountability, initiative and toughness,” said Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson. “For more than 240 years, the union jack, flying proudly from jackstaffs aboard U.S. Navy warships, has symbolized these strengths.”


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How Marines used a 3D printer and a little ‘grunt ingenuity’ to make gadgets that help them in combat

Second Lt. Ben Lacount knows that it’s never a good thing to run out of rounds during a firefight. And it’s certainly not a good thing to be surprised that you have.


That’s why he invented the “Lacounter” with help from Navy engineers and a 3D printer that allowed him to cut prototyping time down to a fraction. The device allows shooters to see how many rounds they’ve expended while pulling the trigger so that they’re not in a bind when they do.

The Lacounter even works with belt fed weapons like the M249 and M2 .50cal.

Lacount’s prototype takes advantage of a process known as “additive manufacturing,” and it’s one that could change the face of military logistics forever.

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U.S. Marine 2nd Lt. Ben Lacount presents his winning entry from the Marine Corps Innovation Challenge during a showcase at Naval Surface Warfare Center, Carderock Division, in West Bethesda, Md., Aug. 15, 2017. Lacount created an expended rounds counter for the M16 rifle in the Manufacturing, Knowledge and Education Laboratory, Carderock™s additive manufacturing collaborative space. (U.S. Navy photo by Dustin Q. Diaz/Released)

“My goal for this project was to have a simple, lightweight, low-cost and no battery solution to this issue,” Lacount said, according to a Naval Surface Warfare Center Carderock release.

Coast Guard commandant warns of cruise missile-equipped Russian icebreakers

And Lacount’s not alone.

Captain Kyle McCarley helped come up with a new way to carry the “Bangalore torpedo,” an explosive device used to blow up obstacles like barbed wire. While they are very useful, they are bulky, and take up space. But McCarley used a 3D printer to make a quiver-like pack with elastic straps for the devices that can attack to a normal assault pack.

Then there was Staff Sgt. Daniel Diep, an artilleryman. After noticing that the cable for the Chief of Section Display got damaged from debris that got stuck in the cable – something that took a week and $3,000 to fix – he designed a 3D-printed cable head that cost $10 to make.

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Marines with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit fire their M777 Howitzer during a fire mission in northern Syria as part of Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve. USMC photo by Lance Cpl. Zachery Laning

“The neat thing about this cable cap is the cable heads themselves can be additively manufactured, and Marines like myself can take all the old cables, cut them down, and we can put new heads on them after 3-D printing,” Diep said.

But the neatest trick of all is getting the 3D printers closer to the grunts. Captain Tony Molnar and Master Sgt. Gage Conduto have worked that out – not only by bringing the printers to units at FOBs, but also a processing center to recycle plastic, like water bottles often delivered to troops on deployment. This will be a huge boon for explosive ordnance techs like Conduto.

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Spc. Ryan Rolf, a combat engineer from Fullerton, Nebraska, with the 402nd Engineer Company, places a field expedient bangalore packed with C-4 explosive in a barbed wire obstacle during an in-stride breach event at the 2014 Sapper Stakes competition at Fort McCoy, Wis., May 5. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Michel Sauret)

“I can’t walk down to the Marine Corps machinist with a stinger missile in my hand and say, ‘I need a set of tools made, can you get these back to me next week?'” he said.

But the tech could go even further, than just helping come up with new tools. In fact, it could be a huge game-changer for any forward-deployed unit.

Coast Guard commandant warns of cruise missile-equipped Russian icebreakers
3D Printing in a laboratory setting. Now, imagine a field-deployable 3D printer set-up, along with something to harvest or recycle materials to use in the printer. (Photo by Jonathan Juursema.)

“This container will benefit the Marine expeditionary units and the Marine Corps and DOD because it can do two things: One, it enhances the expeditionary readiness of forward-deployed units by being able to print parts locally on site using recycled materials, and second, it helps those combat units forward by providing stuff that they can’t do, as well as printing stuff for the local populous during humanitarian disaster relief that we couldn’t normally do and that we’d have to pay someone to do,” Molnar told the Navy News Service.

Marine grunts getting inventive — that’s a very frightening thought … for America’s enemies.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How the branches stacked up in the Pentagon’s first-ever audit

In 2018, the Pentagon underwent its first audit in the history of the institution – and failed miserably. It will probably surprise no one that the organization which pays hundreds of dollars for coffee cups and thousands for a toilet seat has trouble tracking its spending. But the issues are much deeper than that. The Pentagon’s accounting issues could take years to fix, according to then-Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan.


“We failed the audit, but we never expected to pass it,” Shanahan told reporters at a briefing. “We never thought we were going to pass an audit, everyone was betting against us that we wouldn’t even do the audit.”

The Pentagon famously did the audit with the non-partisan, nonprofit think tank Truth In Accounting. In July 2019, Truth in Accounting released its report card for the branches of service and their reporting agencies.

Coast Guard commandant warns of cruise missile-equipped Russian icebreakers

Anyone who interacts with a military finance office already has feelings about this right now.

Before ranking the branches, military members should know that the best performers in the audit were the Military Retirement Fund, the Defense Finance and Accounting Service, the Defense Contract Audit Agency, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. So we at least know your retirement accounts are exactly what they tell you they are.

Unfortunately, the four of the five lowest-scoring entities were the four major military branches.

Coast Guard commandant warns of cruise missile-equipped Russian icebreakers

U.S. Marine Corps

The Marines topped the list as least worst among the branches, probably because they need to scrape together anything they can to train and fight while keeping their equipment in working order. Since the Corps also has the smallest budget, there’s like less room for error but remember: it’s still the top of the bottom of the list.

Coast Guard commandant warns of cruise missile-equipped Russian icebreakers

U.S. Army and U.S. Navy

Tied for second in terrible accounting practices is the Army and Navy, which kind of makes sense – they have a lot of men, vehicles, purchases, organizations, and more to account for. But if we have to put them at numbers two and three, it would be more accurate to rank the Army higher – its budget is usually twice that of the Navy.

Coast Guard commandant warns of cruise missile-equipped Russian icebreakers

U.S. Air Force

It’s not really a surprise that the Air Force has the worst accounting practices of all the branches of the military. This is the branch that uses high-tech, expensive equipment, one-time use bombs, and all the fuel it can handle while still giving airmen a quality of life that seems unbelievable to the other branches. If ever you could accuse an organization of voodoo economics, the smart money is on the Air Force – who would probably lose it immediately.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Here’s the Coast Guard’s new class of cutters

One thing is glaringly obvious about the Coast Guard’s medium endurance cutters: they are old. Real old. According to the Sixteenth Edition of the Naval Institute Guide to Combat Fleets of the World, 15 of the Coast Guard’s 28 medium endurance cutters are over 45 years old, and only three of them were commissioned after music superstar Taylor Swift was born. You could say they are due to be replaced.


Fortunately, the Coast Guard has been working on a replacement. They call it the Heritage-class Offshore Patrol Cutter, and according to a handout WATM obtained at the 2018 SeaAirSpace expo in National Harbor, Maryland, it will be replacing all 28 of the medium-endurance cutters currently in service.

Coast Guard commandant warns of cruise missile-equipped Russian icebreakers

A Reliance-class medium endurance cutter. Most of these ships are over 50 years old.

(USCG photo)

These cutters, the first of which will be named USCGC Argus, will pack a 57mm gun (like the National Security Cutter and Littoral Combat Ship), as well as be able to operate a helicopter. Globalsecurity.org notes that the cutters will displace 3,200 tons and will have a top speed of at least 22 knots.

The Coast Guard currently operates 14 Reliance-class cutters, from a class of 17 built in the 1960s. Three of the vessels were decommissioned and transferred to allied navies. These vessels displace about 879 tons and have a top speed of 18 knots. Their primary armament is a 25mm Bushmaster chain gun, like that used on the M2 Bradley.

Coast Guard commandant warns of cruise missile-equipped Russian icebreakers

A Famous-class medium endurance cutter. These vessels can be equipped with Harpoon anti-ship missiles and a Phalanx close-in weapon system.

(USCG photo)

The other major medium endurance cutter is the Famous-class cutter. This cutter comes in at 1,200 tons, and has a 76mm OTO Melara gun as its primary armament. It has a top speed of just under 20 knots, and is also capable of carrying two quad Mk 141 launchers for Harpoon anti-ship missiles and a Mk 15 Phalanx Close-In Weapon System (CIWS).

Finally, there is the Alex Haley, an Edenton-class salvage tug acquired by the Coast Guard after the United States Navy retired the three-ship class. Two sisters were transferred to South Korea. It does remain to be seen how 25 Offshore Patrol Cutters can replace 28 older hulls, though.

Articles

Putin says Russia is pulling its forces from Syria

Russia announced today that they are pulling most of their forces out of Syria because Russian air and missile strikes there over the last six months have allowed the Syrian government to push back rebels in many key areas.


“I hope that today’s decision will be a good signal for all parties to the conflict,” Putin said on state television. “I hope that this will considerably increase the level of trust between all parties of the Syrian settlement and will contribute to a peaceful resolution of the Syrian issue.”

Russia will keep forces at its new air force base in Latakia, Syria. The base was carved out of Bassel Al-Assad International Airport in 2015 and has been the central hub for Russian air operations in Syria. Russian forces will also remain at the Cold War-era naval base in Tartus, Syria.

Coast Guard commandant warns of cruise missile-equipped Russian icebreakers
Russian Hind helicopters launch rockets. Photo: Alex Beltyukov CC BY-SA 3.0

According to Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu, the Russian mission in Syria flew over 9,000 sorties and helped the Syrian government retake 400 settlements and 3,860 sq. miles of territory.

The Syrian government was teetering on the edge of collapse before the Russians intervened, but now it has forces surrounding the rebel stronghold of Aleppo. In February, government forces took sections of the city before their supply lines were cut by ISIS attacks.

Putin’s announcement that Russian forces were withdrawing came the same day that peace talks resumed in Geneva, Switzerland. Earlier talks had resulted in a shaky ceasefire but the Syrian government was accused multiple times of breaking the terms of the deal. The timing has led to speculation that Putin’s announcement was timed to place pressure on President Bashir Al-Assad to seek a peace deal.

Any deal would not directly affect operations against ISIS as the terror group is not party to the negotiations. But, a truce between government forces and moderate rebels would allow both groups to focus more resources and manpower against ISIS.

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