Cold War classic U-2 hits milestone on ISIS-intel mission - We Are The Mighty
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Cold War classic U-2 hits milestone on ISIS-intel mission

A 48-year-old U-2 “Dragon Lady” spy plane reached a milestone — 30,000 hours of flight time — while flying a mission to gather intelligence on ISIS, U.S. Central Command said Thursday.


A release from the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing said that a U-2 flown by a pilot identified only as “Maj. Ryan” hit the 30,000-hour mark while “collecting critical, real-time information to give commanders the decisional advantage” against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

Related: The real purpose behind China’s mysterious J-20 combat jet

The high-altitude surveillance and reconnaissance plane flew out of a base in Southwest Asia, the report said.

Cold War classic U-2 hits milestone on ISIS-intel mission
U-2 pilot Maj. Ryan enters into a cockpit before flying a sortie in support of Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia, Feb. 2, 2017. | U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Tyler Woodward

The Lockheed U-2 is only the second of the unique aircraft to reach the 30,000-hour mark. In 2016, a U-2 with the 5th Reconnaissance Squadron at Osan Air Base in South Korea completed 30,000 flight hours as the first-ever in the U.S. fleet.

“It takes a lot of people to launch and recover a jet and to keep this going,” said Ryan, of the 99th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron. “Today, we hit 30,000 hours. I hope it gets 30,000 more.”

Cold War classic U-2 hits milestone on ISIS-intel mission
USAF Lockheed U-2 Dragon Lady | U.S. Air Force photo

An assistant maintenance operations officer identified as Capt. Lacey said, “The mere fact alone that we’re able to continue flying this aircraft to this day is an achievement in itself, let alone fly 30,000 hours on one aircraft.”

Also read: F-35s, F-22s will soon have artificial intelligence to control drone wingmen

A maintenance superintendent was quoted as saying, “The accomplishment of the U-2 flying 30,000 hours is extraordinary because the airframe itself is 48 years old, and it is flying with the most technologically advanced ISR [Intelligence, Surveillance Reconnaissance] systems available today.”

Cold War classic U-2 hits milestone on ISIS-intel mission
These guys are clearly stoked.

With a thin fuselage and 80-foot wings, the U-2 was developed during the Cold War for photo reconnaissance against the Soviet Union. The aircraft were first flown by decommissioned Air Force pilots for the CIA but later became Air Force assets.

The service has plans in the works eventually to replace the U-2s with unmanned RQ-4 Global Hawks but, in the meantime, the aircraft remain a vital intelligence tool.

Lists

The 5 best military books of 2017

Often as the direct memories of events fade, our ability to place them into context and understand their meaning only increases. It only makes sense, then, that some of the best writing about the Civil War, the World Wars, and Vietnam is happening now.


As you prepare your reading lists for holiday travel or look for items to give to family and friends, we present our choices for this year’s best books on Military History.

5. Grant By Ron Chernow

Cold War classic U-2 hits milestone on ISIS-intel mission
Grant By Ron Chernow

Ron Chernow is an exceptional writer. Among his achievements have been an exceptional biography of Alexander Hamilton that served as the foundation of the Broadway show. His portrait of the Ohio general is equally beautiful. Chernow delves into the relationships and temperament that made Grant a terrific leader as well as his lifelong belief in emancipation.

Grant was a quiet, even shy man, who had concern even for animals, yet was called a “butcher” during the War. It was tacitly assumed that Robert E. Lee was the great General of the Civil War for years and that Grant was merely lucky to have been on the right side of history. The facts do not perfectly align with that viewpoint. Lee may have been a very good strategist, but several skilled men before Grant tried and failed to do what he did. Chernow’s biography gives wonderful insights into what made Grant different.

4. Hue 1968: A Turning Point of the American War in Vietnam by Mark Bowden

Cold War classic U-2 hits milestone on ISIS-intel mission
Hue 1968: A Turning Point of the American War in Vietnam by Mark Bowden

In the early part of 1968, the 400,000 strong armies of the North Vietnamese and Vietcong launched a general offensive against South Vietnamese and American troops, which, at the time, numbered 1.3 million. The American strategy had been to win a war of attrition in which the enemy reached a point where the number of soldiers being killed exceeded the number of new recruits, making clear the hopelessness of continuing the struggle. With that mindset, the American military elite, politicians, and journalists were shocked by the aggressiveness of the offensive. After the initial shock, the South and the United States regained control of the situation and 60,000 Communist troops died by the end of the year.

Of all the targets of the Tet offensive, the assault on the city of Hue was the most consequential. Hue was the third largest city in Vietnam and at a key logistical point in the country. While the fighting that began with the Tet offensive was generally over within a week, the battle for Hue lasted six weeks and the urban bloodbath changed the war.

Bowden does a wonderful job telling this story from the perspective of the ordinary soldier who fought for his life while being burdened with poor leadership.

See Also: This is why ‘Hue 1968’ is ‘Black Hawk Down’ for the Vietnam War

3. Stalin: Waiting for Hitler, 1929-1941 by Stephen Kotkin

Cold War classic U-2 hits milestone on ISIS-intel mission
Stalin: Waiting for Hitler, 1929-1941 by Stephen Kotkin

A brilliant recounting of the disastrous period of 1929 and 1941 in the Soviet Union, in which Stalin maintained his absolute grip on power, but whose purging of the military and terrible economic policies almost cost the Soviet Union the war with Germany that started in 1941. What is remarkable is how Kotkin is able to tell the tale from the viewpoint of a monster like Stalin and never loses his readers’ attention.

2. Alone by Michael Korda

Cold War classic U-2 hits milestone on ISIS-intel mission
Alone by Michael Korda

Alone follows one of the heroes of history, Winston Churchill, as he rallies a country and averts disaster at Dunkirk before getting help from the previously neutral countries of the Soviet Union and the United States.

1. Sons and Soldiers by Bruce Henderson

Cold War classic U-2 hits milestone on ISIS-intel mission
Sons and Soldiers by Bruce Henderson

An incredible story that few had heard before its recounting by Bruce Henderson, author of And the Sea Will Tell. After escaping Hitler’s clutch, about 2,000 Jews trained at Camp Ritchie in Maryland were deployed in Europe as a key intelligence asset during the War. This is their story.

Articles

The Nazis nearly completed a super-cannon capable of hitting London and France

Cold War classic U-2 hits milestone on ISIS-intel mission


WW2 saw the nations of the world investing massive amounts of manpower and money into the development of better ways to extinguish life in hopes of turning the tide of the war in their respective favors, sometimes including coming up with outlandish contraptions like (surprisingly effective) bat bombs and pigeon guided missiles, anti-tank dogs,flying jeeps and tanks, suicide torpedoes,super ships made of ice, and even balloon bombs randomly sent out with the hope they might land somewhere thousands of miles away on enemy soil. Today we’ll be looking at another notable WWII weapon, the V-3 cannon- a piece of artillery capable of hitting a target more than 100 miles (165 km) away, shooting its projectiles at around 3,400 mph (5500 km/h)!

Technically defined as a “supergun”, a term given to guns of such comically large size they need to be categorised separately, the V-3 was 430 feet long (131 metres). This massive size meant that the gun had to be built already aiming at its target and could only reliably hit a target the size of a city, a fairly minor trade-off considering the weapon’s nigh-unparalleled range for a non-rocket based weapon.

Cold War classic U-2 hits milestone on ISIS-intel mission
The V-3 was able to achieve the incredible projectile range due to a rather unique firing mechanism that utilized multiple smaller explosions, rather than one big one, along the length of its barrel set to go off just as the projectile passed these side chambers. This allowed the supergun to fire its payload at extreme distances without damaging the barrel, which had proved to be a problem for other, similarly massive guns.

Notable here, for reasons we’ll get to in a minute, is the so-called Kaiser Wilhelm Geschütz (quite literally, Emperor Wilhelm Gun). This was a 200 ton, 111 foot long gun used by the German’s to shell Paris during WW1. It could only fire around 60 rounds before its entire barrel needed to be replaced due to damage from the explosions used to launch its 106 kilo or 236 pound shells.  The projectiles also had to be numbered and fired in a specific order, with each one slightly bigger than the previous one to account for the increasing diameter of the barrel as the massive cannon was fired each time.

The Emperor gun was so powerful, it was noted for being the first man-made invention to launch an object into the stratosphere, with the shells it launched peaking at an altitude of around 40 kilometres during flight. The range of the gun was so unthinkably extreme for such a weapon that the 80 man team in charge of firing it had to aim a little under a kilometre “to the left” of the target to account for the Coriolis effect. The French military genuinely suspected for a time that these projectiles were being launched from super-high Zeppelins hiding behind clouds because the idea of them being fired from a gun up to 75 miles  (120 km) away was deemed to be too absurd.

Virtually all records of this gun’s existence and how it was constructed were destroyed towards the close of WW1. Nonetheless, it was known to the French and in response they drafted plans for an even bigger gun that utilised multiple explosions to launch projectiles a similar distance.

Sound familiar? These plans were ultimately archived by the French after WW1 and were found by German soldiers in 1940 who then passed them onto August Cönders, the guy who designed the V-3 cannon… In other words, the only reason the V-3 cannon was even invented is because the Germans found plans at the start of WW2 explicitly drafted to counter another giant gun they’d used during WW1.

Cold War classic U-2 hits milestone on ISIS-intel mission
Mini Replica of the V-3

In any event, beyond its massive range, a battery of V-3 cannons could fire close to 300 shells an hour, or roughly one shell every 12 seconds. This is a fact that piqued the interest of Hitler himself, who enthusiastically granted the project near unlimited support when existence of a prototype was brought to his attention in 1943 by his advisor, Albert Speer, even though said prototype had yet to fire a single shell.

With Hitler throwing everything the German military had at its disposal behind the project in mid-1943, the V-3 cannon, dubbed the “Hochdruckpumpe” or “High-Pressure Pump” during construction to hide its purpose from spies, went from the idea phase to construction almost immediately.  Since Hitler wanted to use the gun to shell London, and the gun had to be built aiming at its target, the location had to be somewhere in Northern France. The gun also needed to be built within close proximity to a railway (due to the size of its ammunition which could only be transported effectively via rail).

Luckily for the Nazis, an ideal location was found in the form of limestone hill located in the French hamlet of Mimoyecques in Landrethun-le-Nord. The location was deemed ideal as the chalk that made up most of the hill would be easy to excavate but was ultimately strong enough to tunnel through to create the underground infrastructure needed for the weapon.

Construction of 50, V-3 guns began in earnest in September of 1943 utilising a combination of drafted German engineers and Soviet POWs. The initial plan was for two separate facilities to be constructed roughly 1000 metres apart, each housing 25 V-3 cannons built into drifts dug into the hillside. They also planned to build tunnels connecting each facility that would be used for storing the shells, which in turn would be transported to the guns via an underground railway.

Cold War classic U-2 hits milestone on ISIS-intel mission
Amazingly, construction of most of the underground tunnels was completed. However, construction of the guns themselves was severely hampered when the allies learned of a German plan to attack London using an unknown superweapon in the latter stages of 1943. Knowing that the German’s were planning something at Mimoyecques, and putting two and two together, the RAF doggedly attacked it throughout the last few months of 1943 and the first half of 1944. This led to the proposed number of V-3 cannons dropping from 50 to 25 when the RAF destroyed the Western-most site. This was further reduced to 5 following a bombing run utilising “tallboy” bombs specifically designed to destroy fortified bunkers on July 6, 1944. Plans were dropped altogether in on July 30th that same year due to the advance of allied ground troops.

The allies wouldn’t actually learn about the existence of the V-3 cannons until after the war, at which point then Prime Minister Winston Churchill was reported as saying that the site could have been responsible for the “most devastating attack of all on London”.

Although the Nazis never got a full-size V-3 cannon working during WW2, they did manage to construct two much smaller versions of the weapon with which they shelled the recently liberated Luxembourg from a somewhat less impressive distance of 43 kilometres (26 miles) away in late 1944. Smaller, but still impressively powered, these mini V-3’s were capable of shooting off their deadly projectiles at speeds of over 2,000 mph or 3300 km/h.

Despite the impressive specs, and with the guns firing hundreds of rounds (142 of which hit Luxembourg), only 10 people were killed and 35 wounded as a result. While the Nazis tried desperately to use the gun again, even deploying one during their last major offensive of WW2, Operation Nordwind, they never actually successfully fired another version of the V-3 again during the entire war, giving these guns a laughably low kill rate given the resources put into them.

Today the failed location of the French battery has been converted to a museum containing what remains of the guns.

Articles

This massive air offensive had an adorable name

As the Allies put their plans into action in 1944 preparing for the eventual D-Day landings, they knew that they needed to break German logistics in Normandy. As part of the process, Gen. Jimmy Doolittle and the 8th Air Force targeted the rail networks that crisscrossed France.


But while the landings would be known as Operation Overlord and the evacuation of the Dunkirk was called Operation Dynamo, the rail bombings were named Operation Chattanooga Choo Choo.

Cold War classic U-2 hits milestone on ISIS-intel mission
The generals had a lot of choices for operation names, and they choo- choo- choosed that one. (GIF: YouTube/Simpsons Channelx)

The operation wasn’t named after the “The Simpsons” episode. That would be ridiculous, reader who apparently doesn’t understand that World War II happened before “The Simpsons.”

No, it was named after a popular song of the day. Glenn Miller had recorded the song “Chattanooga Choo Choo” in 1941 and someone on the staff must have liked it. That would be similar to the missile strikes on Syria having been named after a Katy Perry or Taylor Swift song.

Cold War classic U-2 hits milestone on ISIS-intel mission
B-17 formation over Schweinfurt, Germany, Aug. 17, 1943. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

Despite the silly name, the operation was a huge success. The air forces wanted to limit German logistics while obscuring the site of the upcoming landings in Operation Overlord. So they dropped bombs all over occupied France but stipulated that two bombs be dropped at Pas de Calais for every one that hit in Normandy.

Adolph Hitler and his cronies were convinced the landings could come at Calais. The bombs ripped through German railways, marshaling yards, wireless radio stations, and other key infrastructure, softening up Normandy for the invasion.

All thanks to Operation Chattanooga Choo Choo.

Articles

US troops may take prominent role in attacking ISIS capital

US military forces seem poised to take a prominent role in the long-awaited battle to take down Raqqa, Syria, the capital of the self-proclaimed Islamic State.


Though the Pentagon has long downplayed the role of US ground troops in the fight against the ISIS terror group in Iraq and Syria, recent deployments of many more “boots on the ground” suggest they may be front-and-center in the coming months.

Earlier this week, a convoy of US Army Rangers riding in armored Stryker combat vehicles was seen crossing the border into Syria to support Kurdish military forces in Manbij. The convoy, identified by SOFREP as being from 3rd Ranger Battalion of the 75th Ranger Regiment, was the most overt use of US troops in the region thus far.

Related: Meet the female Peshmerga fighters battling ISIS

Until this most recent Ranger deployment, the Pentagon had adamantly stuck to the line that its “regional partners” — Iraqi security forces and Kurdish Peshmerga for the most part — were bearing the brunt of the battle.

But on Wednesday, another curious deployment seemed to counter that narrative. According to The Washington Post, US Marines from the 1st Battalion, 4th Marine regiment had left their ships to establish a combat outpost inside Syria that is apparently within striking distance of Raqqa.

“For the base in Syria to be useful, it must be within about 20 miles of the operations US-backed forces are carrying out,” the Post wrote.

The unit, part of the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, recently finished conducting training exercises in Oman and Djibouti. Its new outpost inside Syria has M777 Howitzers that fire 155mm projectiles, which are likely guarded by additional infantrymen at the site, according to The Post.

Cold War classic U-2 hits milestone on ISIS-intel mission
U.S. Marines fire artillery to break up ISIS fighters attacking Kurdish and Peshmerga forces. | US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Andre Dakis

Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, the commander of Operation Inherent Resolve, told the Fayetteville Observer last year that most US troops were in Iraq or Kuwait, though “some” were operating inside Syria.

Meanwhile, US special operations forces, who are said to be taking a training and advisory role with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, were quietly given more latitude to call in precision airstrikes and artillery. As the AP reported in February, advisors are now able to call in airstrikes without seeking approval from an operations center in Baghdad.

Additionally, advisors were embedded at lower echelons of Iraqi security forces at the brigade and battalion level, rather than division — meaning that US forces are increasingly getting closer to direct combat.

Cold War classic U-2 hits milestone on ISIS-intel mission
Special Operations Command photo

Though the new directives were lauded by the Pentagon as “adding ‘precision’ to ground operations,” wrote The Institute for the Study of War, “it also underscores that US personnel are increasingly at the frontlines of the operation. Indicators from the new US Administration, including a proposed 10% budget increase for the Department of Defense, suggest that it may expand the level of US involvement in Iraq, beyond the Mosul operation.”

A spokesperson for the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit did not respond to a request for comment.

Col. John Dorrian, a spokesman for OIR, said the moves into Syria were to pre-position US forces so they can provide logistical and fire support to “Syrian partnered forces” who will eventually assault Raqqa.

Related: ISIS Fighters ordered to flee or blow themselves up

The Marines and Rangers will provide the “commander greater agility to expedite the destruction of ISIS in Raqqah. The exact numbers and locations of these forces are sensitive in order to protect our forces, but there will be approximately an additional 400 enabling forces deployed for a temporary period to enable our Syrian partnered forces to defeat ISIS,” Dorrian told Business Insider.

He added: “The deployment of these additional key enabling capabilities allows the Coalition to provide flexible all weather fire support, training and protection from IEDs, and additional air support to our Syrian partners.”

Cold War classic U-2 hits milestone on ISIS-intel mission
U.S. Special Operations personnel take cover to avoid flying debris as they prepare to board a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter. | DoD photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Clayton Weiss, U.S. Navy

The White House is considering whether to send another 1,000 American soldiers to Kuwait to serve as a “reserve force” for the Raqqa offensive, Reuters reported Wednesday. Officials who spoke with Reuters said there were about 6,000 US troops currently deployed in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, up from the 5,000 that was reported in January.

The presence of additional US ground troops inside Syria — even miles from the frontline — would bring with it considerable risk. Combat outposts often draw rocket and mortar fire, in addition to small arms. Last March, a Marine outpost established to support the operation to retake Mosul, Iraq came under rocket attack by ISIS militants, killing Staff Sgt. Louis Cardin.

A total of nine American service members have been killed in OIR combat operations, while 33 have been wounded, according to Pentagon statistics.

Articles

This is what the writing on the Taliban flag means

For more than two decades, the Taliban flag has been a symbol of dominance as a terrorist militia of Afghanistan. Earlier this month, civilians in Jalalabad protested the Taliban rule following the move by the US to withdraw troops from Afghanistan. Demonstrators in the streets removed the white and black symbols and replaced them with Afghan’s red, green and black multicolored Afghan flag to show their resistance.

Taliban militia had gained control of the northeastern side for over four days before they were hit with massive resistance along with negotiation by local leaders. With the Taliban threatening to distill Afghan values into the unsettling writing on their flag, it appears that this emblem will be marked with bloodshed. What does it mean?

Who are the Taliban?

The Taliban militia first arose in the winter of 1994 following the withdrawal of Soviet forces from Afghanistan in 1989. Initially, the Soviet Union invaded the country in 1979, rooting their communist ideologies, but met with exceptional resistance. Ultimately, the Soviets were defeated by Islamic fighters called the Mujahedeen in a proxy cold war.

The victory was, however, short-lived as the different factions who disagreed started fighting, which led to civil war. Following the brutal civil war in which thousands were killed, the Taliban emerged with a promise to restore Islamism’s core values and drive off the warlords. Within months of intense warfare, the Taliban took over most of the country.

Symbol of military power

The Taliban used an Islamic state flag with white and black inscriptions known as the Shahada written on it. The Shahada is an Islamic proclamation within which the five core principles of Islam are rooted in words that say, “I bear witness that none deserves to be worshiped except God, and I bear witness that Muhammad is a messenger of God.”

In addition to all Muslims reciting this proclamation, they accept it to be true. Anyone unable to make this proclamation is not considered Muslim. In daily and legal senses, the Shahada embodies observation, witness and giving good testimony. There has, however, been some resistance in the adoption of the Taliban flag, with many people within and outside Afghanistan using the inscriptions to symbolize defiance. 

The rule of an iron fist

Since the Taliban captured Afghan as an Islamic state in 1991, they have imposed harsh interpretations of the Quran along with brutal public punishments, floggings and mass executions. The militia has also shown an utter intolerance of different religious practices, first implemented by destroying the Great Buddha’s Tower of Bamiyan. Although considered an object of wonder around the globe, the militants’ leader maintained that the destruction was holy and that it is easier to destroy than to build.

With this rule came a framework of modern government, including ministers and a well-outlined bureaucratic system. At the street level, however, there was a religious edict at the height of individual commanders that dictated the everyday life of Afghans. 

What it means for girls and women

Principles founded the Taliban ideology with strict guidelines regarding women playing the most prescribed roles in society. When they first got power, they barred women and girls from going to school, taking on jobs or leaving their homes with faces uncovered.

Since the US forces toppled the Taliban rule, millions of Afghan girls have had colossal gains in their public life, political and school progress. Yet, even in government-controlled areas, these gains are insufficient and fragile. Although recent research by Human Rights Watch has shown a widespread acceptance of education, the Taliban rule has deeply rooted insecurity, family resistance and community impediments.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Hawaii emergency agency password photo shows why OPSEC is actually important

On Jan. 13, people in Hawaii were awakened by a terrifying false alert about an inbound missile. Hawaii’s Emergency Management Agency has said a worker clicked the wrong item in a drop-down menu and sent it, and that its system was not hacked.


“It was a mistake made during a standard procedure at the changeover of a shift, and an employee pushed the wrong button,” Gov. David Ige said.

But an Associated Press photo from July that recently resurfaced on Twitter has raised questions about the agency’s cybersecurity practices.

In it, the agency’s operations officer poses in front of a battery of screens. Attached to one is a password written on a Post-it note.

 

Computer, enhance:

 

An agency spokesman told Hawaii News Now that the password is authentic, and had been used for an “internal application” that he believed was no longer being used.

While these computers are unrelated to the system that sent the false missile alert, the photo raises questions about the approach to information security at the agency. (On the other screen, another note reminds the user to “SIGN OUT.”)

Writing down passwords isn’t a strict security no-no. Some experts say that keeping a hard copy of a password in your wallet is defensible — if you can keep the piece of paper secure. But a note on a monitor is not secure, especially if it’s for computer systems dedicated to keeping people safe.

Also Read: The Hawaii worker who ‘pressed the wrong button’ has been reassigned

The photo has already drawn some ridicule from those in the operational-security industry.

Here’s what the system that sent the false alert on Jan. 13 looks like:

 

Articles

Here are the best military photos for the week of Apr. 7

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


Air Force:

Tech. Sgt. Michael Christiansen, a 100th Security Forces Squadron assistant flight chief, draws back a bow and arrow March 28, 2017, at RAF Mildenhall, England. Christiansen was selected to represent U.S. Air Forces in Europe at the 2017 Department of Defense Warrior Games in Chicago where he will compete in the rifle, pistol, recurve archery and sitting volleyball events.

Cold War classic U-2 hits milestone on ISIS-intel mission
U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Micaiah Anthony

Retired Air Force Col. and astronaut Buzz Aldrin, flies with the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds, April 2, 2017, at Cape Canaveral, Fla.

Cold War classic U-2 hits milestone on ISIS-intel mission
U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Christopher Boitz

Army:

A U.S. soldier surveys a training ground near Kandahar, Afghanistan, March 14, 2017. The Soldier was part of a security detachment supporting Afghan Tactical Air Coordinators and advisers with Train, Advise, Assist Command-Air. As part of Resolute Support Mission, TAAC-Air works in tandem with Afghan counterparts to foster working relationships and fortify confidence in the mission.

Cold War classic U-2 hits milestone on ISIS-intel mission
U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jordan Castelan

GRAFENWOEHR, Germany – U.S. Army Soldiers and European military candidates observe the chemical decontamination portion of the U.S. Army Europe Expert Field Medical Badge evaluation in Grafenwoehr, Germany on March 20, 2017. Approximately 215 military members from the U.S. Army and eleven European partner nations attended this biannual evaluation in hopes of achieving the coveted U.S. Army EFMB.

Cold War classic U-2 hits milestone on ISIS-intel mission
U.S. Air Force photo by TSgt Brian Kimball

Navy:

MEDITERRANEAN SEA (April 7, 2017) The guided-missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) conducts strike operations while in the Mediterranean Sea, April 7, 2017. Porter, forward-deployed to Rota, Spain, is conducting naval operations in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe.

Cold War classic U-2 hits milestone on ISIS-intel mission
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ford Williams

ATLANTIC OCEAN (April 4, 2017) Sailors clean and maintain an F/A-18F Super Hornet assigned to the “Fighting Swordsmen” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 32 in the hangar bay of the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69). The ship and its carrier strike group are underway conducting a sustainment exercise in support of the Optimized Fleet Response Plan.

Cold War classic U-2 hits milestone on ISIS-intel mission
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Neo Greene III

Marine Corps:

CAMP BEUHRING, Kuwait – Lance Cpl. Alexander Seick, a communications specialist with Combat Logistics Battalion 11, 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), closes the feed tray of an M240B medium machine gun after conducting a functions check during a sustainment training exercise near Camp Beuhring, Kuwait, March 5. Marines can use the M240B’s high rate of fire to provide suppressive fires, subduing enemy threats while moving toward an objective. The 11th MEU is currently supporting U.S. 5th Fleet’s mission to promote and maintain stability and security in the region.

Cold War classic U-2 hits milestone on ISIS-intel mission
U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Sgt. Xzavior T. McNeal

YUMA, Arizona – U.S. Marines with 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment and 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion, take cover from shrapnel behind a blast blanket while conducting urban demolition breach training for Talon Exercise 2-17, Yuma, Arizona, March 30, 2017. The purpose of TalonEx was for ground combat units to conduct integrated training in support of the Weapons and Tactics Instructor Course 2-17 hosted by Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron One.

Cold War classic U-2 hits milestone on ISIS-intel mission
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Santino Martinez

Coast Guard:

A 45-foot Response Boat-Medium from Coast Guard Station Seattle and an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter from Coast Guard Air Station Port Angeles conduct night time hoisting training on April 4, 2016. Crews conduct weekly training to remain proficient at hoisting, even in adverse weather conditions.

Cold War classic U-2 hits milestone on ISIS-intel mission
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Logan Kellogg

Petty Officer 2nd Class Jacob Warner, a rescue swimmer at Air Station Kodiak, performs an ice rescue during training at Upper 6 Mile Lake on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, March 17, 2016. During the training, members from Air Station Kodiak, Sector Anchorage and the National Ice Rescue School in Essexville, Mich., worked together to perform ice rescues from an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter and an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter.

Cold War classic U-2 hits milestone on ISIS-intel mission
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Meredith Manning

MIGHTY CULTURE

Marines may get new tropical uniform in time for summer heat

The Marine Corps is preparing to select a maker for the service’s new tropical uniform for hot and humid climates.

The Marine Corps Tropical Combat Uniform is a rapid-dry, breathable uniform to be worn for prolonged periods in wet, jungle environments as an alternative to the current Marine Corps Combat Utility Uniform and the Marine Corps Combat Boot. This month, Marine Corps Systems Command (MCSC), published a request for proposals to industry to manufacture the uniforms, with plans to get them into troops’ hands by the final quarter of this fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30.


“This new tropical uniform allows Marines to be more comfortable and less fatigued while focusing on the mission at hand,” Lou Curcio, MCSC’s tropical uniform project officer, said in the release.

The tropical uniform effort is a result of the U.S. military’s increased emphasis on the Pacific region in an effort to prepare for a potential war with China. The Army finalized the design for its Improved Hot Weather Combat Uniform last year.

The trousers and blouse of the new uniform will be made of the same 50/50 cotton-nylon blend as the Marine Corps Combat Utility Uniform and features the same camouflage pattern, the release states. The fabric will also be treated with permethrin to provide protection from insects.

The difference is in the weave and weight, resulting in a lighter material that dries more quickly, according to the release.

Hundreds of Marines participated in various user evaluations from June to September 2017 to assess the fit and durability of a prototype tropical uniform that’s designed to dry faster and keep Marines cooler in warm climates, the release adds.

“Many Marines said the [uniform] feels like pajamas, appreciating how lightweight it is,” Curcio in the release. “They also noted how quickly the uniform dries upon getting wet.”

The boots, awarded on a separate contract, are also lightweight, with self-cleaning soles to improve mobility in a tropical environment, the release states. They are more than a pound lighter than the current Marine Corps boot.

Marine Corps Systems Command awarded two contracts in August for up to 140,000 total pairs of tropical boots, according to Monique Randolph, spokeswoman for MCSC.

One contract worth up to .1 million went to Atlantic Diving Supply Inc., for up to 70,000 pairs of Rocky brand tropical boots, and a contract worth up to .7 million went to Provengo LLC for up to 70,000 pairs of Danner brand tropical boots, Randolph said.

The Corps plans to purchase 70,000 sets of the new tropical uniforms to support the fleet training or operating in tropical climates, the release states, adding that the MCSC procured more than 10,000 sets of blouses and trousers under a manufacturing and development effort.

Based on January 2020 market research and responses to a November 2019 request for information, the Marine Corps estimates it should see a potential cost reduction of up to 60% per uniform, the release adds.

“[The tropical uniform] will bring many advantages during training and combat in tropical environments,” Curcio said in the release. “For all the sacrifices and challenges they endure, Marines deserve a uniform like this one.”

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

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An ode to the Zeppelin, arguably the worst idea in aviation history

Sure, you can think of history as the grand narrative of human progress—but the past is also full of examples of really dumb ideas. Here’s one we can’t get over: the rigid airship, better known as the Zeppelin after a particularly successful design. Invented in Germany in the late 19th century, Zeppelins were hailed as a milestone of air travel. They were also completely ridiculous. Here’s why.


You could travel faster in your car

Cold War classic U-2 hits milestone on ISIS-intel mission
Wikipedia

Why do people subject themselves to air travel at all? Simple: planes get us where we need to go as quickly as possible. You might think that there was a similar rationale behind Zeppelins and other rigid airships—but you’d be dead wrong. The max speed of the classic Graf Zeppelin? a staggering 80 miles per hour. The famous Hindenburg was a bit better—at 84 MPH. Sure, the fact that it could cross the Atlantic in two and a half days was impressive compared with the five days required for an ocean liner trip, but, as I hope my next two points will make clear, that’s still way too long to allow yourself to be inside a Zeppelin.

They were filled with (extremely) flammable gas

Cold War classic U-2 hits milestone on ISIS-intel mission
Wikipedia

You’ve heard about the 1937 Hindenburg disaster (pictured above), but that was scarcely the only time an airship burst into flames. Some, like the Imperial German Navy L 10, exploded after being struck by lightning. Others went up in flames, killing all crew and passengers, for no apparent reason. And let’s not forget that Zeppelins were a staple method of military transport, including air raids, during WWI, meaning they were prime targets for enemy fire: slow-moving, enormous, and a single spark could take the whole thing down.

A gust of wind could flip a stationary Zeppelin upright

Cold War classic U-2 hits milestone on ISIS-intel mission
Wikipedia

This 1927 photograph of the USS Los Angeles shows one of the many hazards of Zeppelin travel: while docked, a gust of wind caused the airship’s tail to rise straight up in the air, a “sudden increase in lift which was not controllable.” If that’s not scary enough on its own, check out the interior of a passenger cabin, which (unsurprisingly for the 1920s) had nary a seatbelt in sight. Ouch.

Cold War classic U-2 hits milestone on ISIS-intel mission
Wikipedia

Winds could really mess with a Zeppelin even when they didn’t turn them on end: many of history’s airship disasters involved a Zeppelin simply floating away uncontrollably, with or without people inside.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This Blue Angels cockpit video is terrifying and amazing

This cockpit video footage of Blue Angel 4 in the “slot” position shows F/A-18 Hornets flying INCHES from each other — even as they do advanced aerial acrobatics.

Oh, and it’s a 360 degree video, so you can get the full picture of what these maneuvers are like (minus the 8’s pulled during the demonstration).


The U.S. Navy Blue Angels showcase the pride and badassery of the United States Navy and Marine Corps. Each year, they perform more than 50 flight demonstrations at more than 25 air show sites.

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I was lucky enough to fly a JET-O (Jet Orientation) flight as a cadet in a T-37, and while my pilot was generous enough to take me on some thrilling barrel rolls (I did *not* throw up, thank you very much), that sortie was nothing compared to this aerial demonstration.

Anyone with VR sets can take this video to awesome heights, but even without, it’s pretty breathtaking.

Cold War classic U-2 hits milestone on ISIS-intel mission
Look at that precision. I’ve seen troops that can’t even walk in formation, let alone fly a supersonic jet three feet away from another supersonic jet.
(Photo by Dirk HansenFlickr)

Also read: This WWII ace scored kills from every Axis country — and the US

Blue Angels fly fighter aircraft that are maintained to near combat-ready status — except for the paint scheme and the removal of weapons. More specific modifications include the use of a specific smoke-oil for demonstrations and a more precise control stick.

“Precise” is the operative word here. Check out the video below to see for yourself — butt clenching begins around 2:10. You can drag your mouse or move your phone to look around.

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This wounded airman saved his team (with an A-10’s help)

Air Force Tech. Sgt. Robert Gutierrez is a Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC) who was awarded the Air Force Cross for heroism during an intense firefight in Afghanistan in 2009.


JTACS are military personnel who direct combat support aircraft like the A-10, calling in air strikes to support ground operations.

Gutierrez was part of a nighttime raid with an Army special forces detachment to capture a high-value Taliban target, a “brutal” man living outside of the city of Herat in Western Afghanistan.

The team was attacked with heavy fire from a numerically superior and battle-hardened enemy force. Gutierrez was shot in the chest, his team leader was shot in the leg, and the ten-man element was pinned down in a building with no escape route.

“We were just getting hammered, getting peppered,” he recalls in a six-minute interview. He talked to his team’s leader who wanted to drop bombs on the enemy targets.

“If you put a bomb on that it’ll kill us all,” he told his leader. “Guys are getting wounded. Our best chance is a 30mm high-angle strafe.”

Gutierrez is having this discussion as bullets pepper the walls behind him, as a medic works on his chest wound, a through-and-through which the medic couldn’t find the entrance wound. He is also still holding off Taliban fighters with his M4 rifle.

“This is danger close, I need your initials,” he told his team lead.

“How close?”

“Less than 10 meters.”

Gutierrez needed the support of an A-10 Thunderbolt II, aka “Warthog,” whose 30mm GAU-8 Cannon rounds are the size of beer bottles, to make a precision strike on the attacking insurgents.

Cold War classic U-2 hits milestone on ISIS-intel mission
An A-10 bombing run, too explosive to support Gutierrez’ team (U.S. Air Force photo)

Capt. Ethan Sabin, an A-10 pilot based at Kandahar Airfield, asked a nearby F-16 pilot to mark the target with the laser on his targeting pod.

The A-10 attack was so close, Gutierrez’s right eardrum burst and his left eardrum was severely damaged from the noise. He lost five-and-a-half pints of blood getting away from the combat zone.

After the first A-10 strafing, the medic had to re-inflate Gutierrez’ collapsed lung so he could direct two more strafing runs. For four hours, the team held off the enemy fighters and escaped the battlespace.

To give an idea of the kind of interactions JTACs have with close-air support pilots in the heat of the moment, the video below is a prime example of the extraordinary actions Gutierrez and airmen like him perform on the battlefield every day.


Feature image: USAF photo

MIGHTY TRENDING

One Navy officer and a pink phone prevent all-out war with North Korea

It happens at least twice a day. A pink phone in the U.S.- South Korean part of the Joint Security Area rings. On the other end is North Korea. The phone is an old-timey touchtone phone, and the calls come in at 0930 and 1530 every day. This is the first time since 2013 these calls have been made. Picking up the phone is Lt. Cmdr. Daniel McShane, U.S. Navy, and while he’s not talking to Kim Jong Un, these are the most important talks with the North since President Trump went to Hanoi.


Cold War classic U-2 hits milestone on ISIS-intel mission

It didn’t hurt, though.

In a piece for the Wall Street Journal, McShane told Timothy W. Martin that he actually has eight people on the other side of the demilitarized zone that he talks to now. While their exchanges are amenable but often brief, the important part is that someone is calling. For the years between 2013 and 2018, they weren’t – and that was a big problem.

“If they’re talking, they’re not shooting,” says McShane, who will speak to his counterparts in either English or Korean. In-between coordinating the return of Korean War dead, removing mines, and coordinating helicopters, the North Koreans have come to know McShane has a Korean girlfriend and that he loves baseball, especially the LA Dodgers. When there is no message, that’s okay too. They still call to tell McShane there is no message to send that day.

Cold War classic U-2 hits milestone on ISIS-intel mission

Even North and South Korea have begun to coordinate in recent years.

He’s not the only one who answers the phone, according to the Wall Street Journal, but he’s the most widely known. A few others around the office help him manage phone calls. The younger, enlisted people who have picked up the phone at times have marveled at how well the North Koreans speak English

“I worried about a communication barrier, but there are times when I think, ‘Wow, your English is better than mine!’ ” says Air Force Tech. Sgt. Keith Jordan. He and a handful of others help enforce the UN-brokered cease-fire. The two groups have even met face-to-face, the few groups who do so unarmed. For the time being, it seems that casual conversations about choco-pies and the Dodgers will be the limit of U.S.-North Korean interaction. But as long as that interaction is happening, neither side will be mobilizing for war.

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