As we settle into the new normal of our kids distance learning and all of us staying home as much as possible, it’s important to stay connected to our family members and friends around the world. One great way to stay connected is through the power of shared storytime.
For 30 years, United Through Reading has helped military families stay connected through deployments, drill weekends, TDYs, and irregular work hours. Now with shelter in place orders across the country, their app is a great way to stay connected to extended family members in the military.
With the free United Through Reading App military families are able to record and enjoy storytime on demand and also receive complimentary books!
The app launched in May 2019 and uses TroopID to verify military affiliation.
“By using TroopID, retirees, veterans, service members, and their immediate family members have a United Through Reading story station in their pocket – opening up endless possibilities to connect with their families over storytime,” said Dr. Sally Ann Zoll, CEO of United Through Reading.
CMSgt (Ret) Denise M. Jelinski-Hall reads everyday to her one year old grandchildren Dakota and Hunter, but last year when she found herself traveling away from their home in Colorado, she turned to United Through Reading.
“Reading their favorite stories provides consistency in their little lives. When Grandma can’t physically be there – the recordings are the next best thing. They get to hear Grandma’s voice, see my face and all the silly things they love. The recordings also are available on ‘their time’ as I’m not always available at the right time to read a story but the recordings are always there.”
The babies loved it, crawling right up to the laptop their mom Ashley set up for them to have storytime with Grandma, giggling and following along.
Photo courtesy of CMSgt (Ret) Denise M. Jelinski-Hall
For Caitlin Sommer, United Through Reading helps her kids connect with her brother Jesse who is in the Army. Jesse sent a number of books and recordings to his sisters ahead of a deployment and Caitlin’s two sons watch them two to three times a week.
“The sappy side of me – I want them to know Jesse, their brain spans are goldfish, for me when he comes back they can pick up where they left off,” she said. “As video chat becomes more common, even today with social distancing, it’s a wonderful way to stay in touch with people. Reading is really important to kids; it’s wonderful they have a personalized video from their uncle.”
Whether you want to connect with your niece or nephew, grandchild, or godchild, United Through Reading is a way to stay connected no matter the distance. To learn how to use the app check out this video:
And the best part about the app? You can send a book to the child for free! So start reading along with all of the kids in your life today – for now and future times away from home. Download it today at utr.org/app.
The Marine Corps is nearing the end of testing for a new heavy-lift helicopter expected to be a game-changer for the service.
The CH-53K King Stallion is on track to enter service in 2019, replacing aging and worn CH-53 Echo heavy-lift helicopters.
While the aircrafts look similar, and have comparable footprints, program managers said April 9, 2018, at the annual Sea-Air-Space exposition that the new aircraft represents a leap forward in capability and intelligence.
“[This is] the most powerful helicopter the United States has ever fielded,” said Marine Col. Hank Vanderborght, the Corps’ H-53 program manager. “Not only the most powerful, the most modern and also the smartest.”
The King Stallion recently lifted an external load of 36,000 pounds into a hover and hoisted a Joint Light Tactical Vehicle into the air, expanding a capability envelope that is ultimately expected to see the new helicopter carrying three times the load that its predecessor could handle.
(US Marine Corps photo)
With flight tests ongoing since October 2015, the King Stallion has logged more than 800 flight hours and is headed into the final stages of testing before initial operational capability sometime in 2019
Smart controls and a fly-by-wire system make the aircraft safer to fly and decrease the workload for the pilot, Vanderborght said.
“A month ago, I got to fly the 53K for the first time,” said Vanderborght, a CH-53E pilot by trade. “It is absolutely night and day between Echo and the Kilo. I could have pretty much flown the entire flight without touching my controls.”
That matters, he said, because in “99-plus percent” of aviation mishaps, a major cause is human error.
“In degraded visual environments, we lose sight of the ground and crash the aircraft. If you’re able to take the human out of the loop, you’re going to increase that safety factor by multiple Xs,” he said. “That’s what the 53K is going to do for the Marines.”
The CH-53K is equipped to fly so the pilot “pretty much could be sipping on a martini while the aircraft does its thing,” Vanderborght said.
All that capability comes with a price tag, but it’s not as high as some feared it would be.
In 2017, Rep. Niki Tsongas, D-Mass., raised concerns that the per unit cost for the King Stallion was climbing, to $122 million apiece in development. Program officials said the aircraft was never set to cost that much in production.
Vanderborght said the unit cost of the aircraft is now set to come in at $87 million. While that means the King Stallion will still be the most expensive helo the Marine Corps has ever bought, it’s below the service’s initial cost estimate of $89 million in production.
In possibly the most polite and delightful medal ceremony of all time, World War II veteran Edna Wells, 94, was surprised with her long overdue service medal — and a few extra celebrants.
Edna, a member of the Women’s Royal Naval Service, was eighteen years old when she became a “Wren” — the popular term for those who served in the WRNS.
“It was great. I was just so happy to be doing my time for my country,” Edna shared of her military service.
When the war was over, Edna didn’t know that service members had to ask for their commendation medals, but thanks to her granddaughter Sharron and Joanna Lumley of the BBC, Edna finally received the gratitude she deserved.
Watch the video — and trust me, you’re going to want the sound on for her lovely Scottish lilt alone!
World War Two veteran Edna never claimed her service medal – until now?️ | VE Day 75 – BBC
When asked what it was like to serve with “all those sailor boys” Edna joked, “Well, I had a few! And a lad in every port!”
Edna’s ceremony coincided with the 75th anniversary of VE Day, or Victory in Europe Day, when the Allies gained victory over the Axis powers in the European Theater of World War II. Lumley asked Edna what she remembered of May 8, 1945.
“It was one party after another. Nobody did anything that day. It was just abuzz. We didn’t believe it to begin with — we went to the officers and they said, ‘Yes it’s true. The war is over,'” Edna recalled.
Lumley then hinted that Edna would be receiving her overdue medal sooner than she’d expected and invited the veteran to go outside. Waiting for her, from a respectful and safe distance, was Captain Chris Smith, regional Navy commander for Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Smith presented Edna with her medal, placing it before her so that Sharron could pick it up and wipe it clean before hanging it from her grandmother’s collar.
Edna returned Smith’s salute with one as sharp as ever while neighbors banged pots and pans and cheered her on.
The commander-in-chief of the Russian Navy says that Russia will build a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier for the first time, but the country will not have this modern flattop anytime soon.
“There will be, of course, a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier but not in the short-term perspective,” Navy Commander-in-Chief Adm. Nikolai Yevmenov said July 10, 2019, in St. Petersburg, according to the state-run TASS News Agency.
The admiral’s comments reflect earlier reports citing unnamed sources in the Russian shipbuilding industry that suggested development of a new carrier might not begin until well into the next decade.
Russia’s naval forces are not expected to even receive the ship until sometime in the 2030s — assuming they ever receive it at all, shipbuilding sources previously told Russian media.
The new carrier is expected to be a marked improvement over the troubled Admiral Kuznetsov.
Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier.
Last fall, the Admiral Kuznetsov, Russia’s only aircraft carrier, was severely damaged when the massive Swedish-built PD-50 dry dock at the 82nd Repair Shipyard in Roslyakovo sank with the aircraft carrier on board. A heavy crane fell on the vessel, punching a large hole in the hull and deck.
Russia’s ability to repair the damage appears to be limited due to the substantial damage to the vital shipyard, and there has even been talk of scrapping the flagship of the Russian navy rather than paying for costly repairs. The carrier offers very little in terms of capability, even with the planned modifications meant to modernize the often disappointing Cold War relic.
The Nevskoye Design Bureau, part of the United Shipbuilding Corporation, presented its design for what it called the Project 11430E Lamantin nuclear-powered aircraft carrier this week at the St. Petersburg international maritime defense show, where the Russian admiral made his comments.
The carrier, as designed, would displace about 80,000-90,000 metric tons, making it much larger than the Kuznetsov but smaller than US Nimitz- and Ford-class carriers.
While Russia has dreams of building a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, the cash-strapped country is also considering conventional alternatives.
Last month, the Krylov State Scientific Research Center unveiled what it said was “a principally new concept of an aircraft carrier” designed to outshine the UK’s HMS Queen Elizabeth. The conventional gas turbine-powered carrier would be, according to the developers, four to six times cheaper than a nuclear-powered version the center presented a few years ago.
Russian defense firms and research centers have been pitching aircraft carrier designs for years, but for now, the Russian Navy has only the out-of-action Kuznetsov.
Russia has nuclear-powered submarines, but it has never had a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier in its fleet. In the final years of the Cold War, the Soviet Union began work on a nuclear-powered carrier known as the Ulyanovsk, but the fall of the Soviet Union led the Russians to suspend development. The project was scrapped, and the ship’s partial hull was disassembled.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
One of the most celebrated World War II tank gunners received the bronze star during a surprise award ceremony 74-years in the making.
Clarence Smoyer, 96-year-old former 3rd Armored Division tank gunner, never bragged about the five tanks he destroyed in the war, including an infamous Nazi tank he leveled during a dramatic duel in war-torn Cologne, Germany.
He didn’t ask for anything, either. To Smoyer, he was just doing his job to protect the men he considers family.
(Pictured left) Clarence Smoyer, former 3rd Armored Division tank gunner, and Joe Caserta, World War II veteran of Omaha Beach, Normandy and the Battle of the Bulge, attend a Bronze Star award ceremony, with Smoyer as the guest of honor, Sept. 18, 2019, at the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. Smoyer was nicknamed the “Hero of Cologne” for his efforts destroying a German tank during the battle.
(Thomas Brading, Army News Service)
Duel at the cathedral
It was March 6, 1945, and WWII was winding down, much of Germany was left in ruins.
Cologne, one of the country’s largest cities, was no exception. Once a bustling metropolis, Cologne had been reduced to rubble, with only a few identifiable buildings remaining — including its cathedral.
As the Americans entered Cologne, Smoyer recalls the now-infamous words of his lieutenant, Bill Stillman, who said, “Gentlemen, I give you Cologne, let’s knock the hell out of it.”
Clarence Smoyer (top middle) was a 21-year-old Pennsylvania native when he, and his fellow tank crew members, were photographed in Cologne, Germany, in 1945. This photo, courtesy of the National Archives, was taken moments after the battle of Cologne, Germany, and Smoyer delivered the fatal shots that destroyed a German tank.
“So… we obliged,” Smoyer joked, thinking back to that day.
American forces, before making their way east toward Berlin, had to conquer Cologne first. Their goal was to secure a bridge over the Rhine River, but a nearby Nazi tank had other plans.
“Attacking such a large city gave the enemy plenty of places to hide,” Smoyer said. “Not just in the horizontal plane, but from the basements to the tops of five-story buildings — Cologne put us to the test.”
“We were chosen as the first tank(s) into the city,” he added. “Everyone else followed us in. So, for us, it was constant firing. You fired at anything that moved. That’s when a gunner’s instinct kicked in.”
One street over from Smoyer, the Panther tank, used by the Nazis, took out an American Sherman tank, killing three soldiers inside, including Karl Kellner. The Wisconsin native, and Silver Star recipient, had received a battlefield commission to lieutenant just two weeks prior.
(Pictured left) Clarence Smoyer, receives his long-awaited Bronze Star Sept. 18, 2019, during a ceremony at the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. Smoyer was recognized for his heroic efforts during the battle of Cologne, Germany, where as a tank gunner, he delivered the fatal blows to a German Panther tank and was nicknamed “The Hero of Cologne.”
(Thomas Brading, Army News Service)
After being hit, Kellner’s leg was amputated at the knee. He jumped from the tank and landed on his remaining leg. Smoke lifted from his stump like a ghost fading into the air, witnessed remembered.
Nearby, Stars and Stripes reporter, Sgt. Andy Rooney — the future acclaimed television journalist — along with another man sprinted toward Kellner. He was lying near the destroyed American tank. They moved him to onto a jumble of debris, safely out of the way, and attempted to stop the blood as it flowed from Kellner’s severed limb.
Rooney, the future 60 Minutes newsman, held Kellner in his arms as he died. Later, Rooney would say it was the first time he witnessed death. The other two tankers, both killed by the Germans, never escaped the Sherman tank. Meanwhile, Smoyer and his crew were slowly approaching the battle.
The Panther tank idled quietly in the street, as the Americans approached.
Veterans Clarence Smoyer and Joe Caserta stand near a Pershing tank, similar to the ones they were both crewmembers of during World War II, Sept. 18, 2019, near the National World War II Memorial in Washington. Both men were present in their respective tanks in Cologne, Germany, March 6, 1945, when Smoyer’s tank crew “Eagle 7,” took out a German tank.
(Photo by C. Todd Lopez, DOD)
“Experience taught me it’s impossible to knock out a German tank in one shot,” he said. “So, I worked a plan with our driver. He was to edge into the intersection, I’d shoot, and then he’d back up — fast! When we roared into the intersection to shoot, everything went out the window.”
Instead of “seeing the flank of the Panther in the periscope,” like he planned, Smoyer looked at the Panther’s super velocity muzzle pointed at street level, right at him, he said.
Smoyer added “his heart stopped.” The driver, also staring down the barrel of the German’s muzzle, panicked and “floored the gas.”
“We were totally vulnerable,” Smoyer said. “I snapped off a quick shot and hit him first. I kept yelling for (armor-piercing) rounds and kept hitting him until he caught fire. I could hardly breathe as we backed out of there.”
Smoyer’s finger squeezed the trigger of his tank, and he fired 90mm rounds into the side of the Panther tank, garnishing three direct hits.
World War II veterans Clarence Smoyer, Joe Caserta and Buck Marsh stand for the chaplain’s invocation during a Bronze Star award ceremony at the National World War II Memorial in Washington, Sept. 18, 2019.
(Photo by James K. Lee, DOD)
“People always ask why I fired three times,” Smoyer said. “Some say I was butchering that German crew by not giving them a chance to flee the tank. Any crewman still alive in that Panther could have pulled the trigger and with that powerful of a gun still pointing at us, we’d all be dead.”
But, that wasn’t the case. The Americans won, and Smoyer, the thin, 21-year-old curly blonde haired corporal, earned the nickname “the hero of Cologne.”
Footage of the battle, captured by Tech. Sgt. Jim Bates, a combat cameraman attached to the 165th Photo Signal Company, made its way into movie newsreels worldwide, including back home in Pennsylvania, where Smoyer called home.
“That’s Hon!” Smoyer’s sister-in-law yelled during an airing of the newsreel, Hon was Smoyer’s family nickname.
She later convinced the theater owners to replay the reel, so Smoyer’s parents, who had never been to a movie theater, could see their son was still alive.
Author Adam Makos and World War II veteran Clarence Smoyer walk to a Bronze Star award ceremony at the National World War II Memorial in Washington, Sept. 18, 2019.
(Photo by James K. Lee)
History in the making
For his actions that day, Smoyer was notified he earned the Bronze Star. However, this was short-lived after Smoyer talked to German children, who were begging the soldier for bubble gum. This small act of charity cost him the medal.
“They wanted bubble gum and I was still searching my pockets when a jeep full of (military police) turned the corner,” Smoyer said. “Fraternization was a no-no.”
Smoyer added, he felt bad for the kids, who had been on the frontlines of war longer than him. The MPs took his name, tank, serial number, and indirectly, his Bronze Star.
Army Maj. Peter Semanoff salutes World War II veteran Clarence Smoyer after awarding him the Bronze Star during a ceremony at the National World War II Memorial in Washington, Sept. 18, 2019.
(Photo by James K. Lee, DOD)
“I could have avoided all that if I just had a stick of gum!” He joked.
But, it was never about the medals and glory. As decades passed, the war ended, and Smoyer returned to civilian life. His neighbors in Allentown, Pennsylvania, never knew they lived by a war hero.
That all changed after an author, Adam Makos, who wrote a book on Smoyer’s story, happened upon information that changed everything.
“Smoyer’s tank commander and an Army combat cameraman both received Bronze Stars for their actions that day — yet, Smoyer got nothing,” Makos said.
This inspired the author to change that. He used witnesses to Smoyer’s actions, evidence he collected, including Bates combat camera footage, and contacted the Army.
World War II veterans Joe Caserta and Clarence Smoyer embrace during a Bronze Star award ceremony at the National World War II Memorial in Washington, Sept. 18, 2019.
(Photo by James K. Lee, DOD)
In the end, a military review board agreed with Makos, and Smoyer was awarded the Bronze Star. Three additional Bronze Stars were also awarded to the rest of the tank crew, making Smoyer’s tank crew “one of the most celebrated in Army history,” according to Makos.
To keep the surprise, Smoyer’s loved ones convinced him he was visiting the WWII Memorial as a tourist. The monument was filled with soldiers, fellow WWII veterans, news crews, and onlookers. Then, overwhelmed with emotion, he received the long overdue medal.
With the Bronze Star pinned to his chest, Smoyer promised to, “Wear the medal to remember the ones who lost their lives” that day, nearly 75 years ago.
Two American soldiers have been killed while conducting combat operations in Iraq, the US military said, adding that the deaths were “not due to enemy contact” but instead were the result of an artillery “mishap.”
Five other soldiers were wounded, the DoD said.
The soldiers killed in the incident were identified as 22-year-old Sgt. Allen L. Stigler Jr. of Arlington, Texas, and 30-year-old Sgt. Roshain E. Brooks of Brooklyn, New York.
Both were artillerymen assigned to 2nd Battalion, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division. The 2nd BCT is based at Camp Swift, Iraq.
Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, the commander of US forces battling the Islamic State group in Iraq, said the coalition “sends our deepest condolences to these heroes’ families, friends and teammates.”
More than 5,000 US troops are taking part in the war against IS in Iraq, according the Pentagon. The vast majority operate within heavily guarded bases, collecting and sharing intelligence with Iraqi forces and providing logistical support.
But as the fight has evolved over the past three years, more and more US troops are operating close to the front lines. In addition to the two troops killed August 13, five other US troops have been killed in Iraq in the fight against IS, including two in the battle to retake the northern city of Mosul.
More than 1,200 Iraqi forces were killed in the battle for Mosul and more than 6,000 wounded, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said earlier this month.
Iraq’s prime minister declared victory against IS in Mosul in July, and Iraqi forces are now preparing to retake the IS-held town of Tel Afar, to the west.
President Donald Trump has ordered the immediate withdrawal of more than 7,000 US troops from Afghanistan, according to multiple reports, citing defense officials.
In what appears to be the first major step toward ending America’s involvement in a war fought for nearly two decades, the president has decided to cut the US military presence in Afghanistan in half, The Wall Street Journal reported. There are currently roughly 14,000 American service members in the war-torn country.
News of the withdrawal comes just one day after Trump declared victory over ISIS and announced the withdrawal of US troops from Syria, a move that reportedly drove the president’s secretary of defense to resign from his position Dec. 20, 2018.
“I think it shows how serious the president is about wanting to come out of conflicts,” one senior U.S. official told TheWSJ. “I think he wants to see viable options about how to bring conflicts to a close.”
Another official told The New York Times that the Afghan forces, which have suffered unbelievably high casualties, need to learn to stand on their own, something senior military leaders have suggested they may not yet be ready to do.
Troops secure a landing zone in Afghanistan.
US military leaders, most recently Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford, have characterized the war in Afghanistan as a “stalemate” with no end in sight. A total of 14 American service members have died in Afghanistan this year, six in the last two months alone.
US troops are both training, advising, and assisting Afghan forces and carrying out counterterrorism operations against regional terror groups, like ISIS and Al Qaeda. In September 2017, Trump ordered the deployment of an additional 3,000 troops to Afghanistan.
The decision to reduce the number of US troops in country to roughly half their current levels was reportedly made at the same time Trump decided to withdraw from Syria.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The new Karakurt-class corvette — dubbed “Typhoon” — was launched at the Pella shipyard in St. Petersburg Nov. 24, after a short ceremony.
The Typhoon, only the second Karakurt-class corvette made so far, is the latest example of the Russian Navy’s increased reliance on small and heavily armed ships that can carry a massive payload of missiles. Russia plans to make 18 Karakurt-class corvettes in total.
The small vessels, comparable to the US Navy’s littoral combat ships, and known in the naval world as corvettes, were originally designed for use in the littoral zone, the area of water close to the shore. As such, the corvettes are much smaller than the frigates and destroyers that are the traditional focus of navies around the world.
Russia, however, has always had difficulty competing with its rivals in this regard, and now seems to have turned to smaller vessels. Russia used its corvettes for missile strikes on targets deep inside Syria, proving that corvettes are just as capable and threatening as their bigger naval brethren.
What makes the Karakurt-class so potentially dangerous is the fact that it is a much more improved version of Russia’s previous corvettes.
The Karakurt-class corvettes have a displacement of only 800 tons (compared to over 900 for Russia’s Buyan-M class), can operate in the deep sea for fifteen days, has an operational range of 2,500 nautical miles, and has stealth technology that will make it even harder for potential enemies to target, given their small size.
But it’s the Karakurt-class’ armament that makes the threat so apparent. It is equipped with eight vertical launching systems that can carry either supersonic P-800 Oniks anti-ship missiles or Kalibr-NK cruise missiles.
The Kalibr-NK missile has a range of 2,500 kilometers (approximately 1,553 miles), while the p-800 Oniks has a range of 500 kilometers (approximately 310 miles). The Kalibr-NK was the missile used against ISIS targets deep inside Syria.
The ship also has an AK-176MA 76.2mm automatic gun in the front, capable of firing 150 rounds per minute, and can engage targets as far away as 15km.
In terms of anti-air defenses, the Karakurt is equipped with a naval version of Russia’s Pantsir-S1, called the Pantsir-M. It is a combined surface-to-air missile and anti-aircraft artillery system that can shoot down targets up to 20km away.
In essence, the Russians seem to have created a small ship that is as fast as a destroyer and just as capable, but smaller.
However, the Karakurt-class may not be the thing that keeps NATO commanders awake at night.
Michael Kofman, a research scientist at the Center for Naval Analyses specializing in Russian military affairs, told Business Insider that although the corvette is very capable, its threat level “must be placed in perspective.”
“Russia and NATO are, in some respects, on the same team when it comes to over-blowing Russian military capabilities and engaging in a bit of threat inflationism,” Kofman said in an email.
“It is true the corvettes can hold most of Europe at risk with cruise missiles,” Kofman said. “But conventional cruise missiles don’t do all that much and it would take quite a few corvettes to equal the strike power of even a single US destroyer.”
Kofman also notes that despite its stealth technology and increased seafaring capabilities, it still has lower endurance and survivability in comparison to other vessels, making the Karakurt not cost-effective for any type of ground-attack role.
Rather, the corvette is most likely to excel in an anti-ship role. “It is more than likely intended to venture out and fire salvos at enemy surface action groups or carrier strike groups should they get near Russian maritime approaches,” Kofman said.
However, he said that despite this, the Karakurt-class corvette is a good investment for Russia, saying that “it is an effective platform for fielding long-range, anti-ship weapons, and thus deterring in conflict NATO or US forces.”
French-made anti-tank weapons supplied to the Kurds and U.S. versions given to the Iraqi Security Forces have been blunting a main method of attack by the Islamic State, according to Kurdish and U.S. Central Command officials.
Kurdish Peshmerga forces used the MILAN (Missile d’Infanterie Leger Antichar, or light infantry anti-tank missile) to stop ISIS counter-attacks using vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices in the successful push to take the northwestern Iraqi town of Sinjar last week, according to the Kurdish Security Council and Western reporters traveling with the Kurds.
The MILANs were used to defend against at least 16 vehicle-borne IED suicide attacks by fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, in the initial stages of Operation Free Sinjar, according to Kurdish commanders cited by Rudaw, the Kurdish news agency.
The U.S. has also been supplying hundreds of AT-4s — a shoulder-fired, Swedish-made recoilless weapon — to the ISF. The AT-4s have been appearing on Iraqi Security Forces frontlines in the long-stalled effort to retake Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province.
In addition, Syrian fighters backed by the U.S. have been using U.S. BGM-71 Tube-launched, Optically- tracked, Wire-guided, or TOW, anti-armor missiles supplied by the CIA against the armored columns of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, according to Syrian activist groups.
The MILANs, portable medium-range, anti-tank weapons manufactured by Euromissile in Fontenay-aux-Roses, France, have become standard weapons for NATO allies and other countries. The system was initially developed for the French and German armies.
Germany began supplying the MILANs and other weapons directly to the Kurds last year to avoid the chokepoint that can develop by shipping arms through Baghdad. The Germans have also taken Kurdish officers back to Germany for training in the use of the MILANS.
Rudaw quoted Gen. Araz Abdulkadir, commander of the Kurdish 9th Brigade, as saying, “The MILANs are very important” in offensives in stopping ISIS suicide attacks with vehicle-borne IEDs. “They greatly improve the morale of the Peshmerga. The troops know it is a very clever weapon, which can stop any car bomb.”
ISIS used the weapons to devastating effect in shattering Iraqi defenses in taking Ramadi last May in a major setback for the campaign to degrade and defeat the terrorist group. Iraqi forces fled the city, leaving behind much of their equipment.
Following the fall of Ramadi, a senior State department official, speaking on background, said that ISIS used a coordinated series of at least 30 suicide car and truck bombs to take out “entire city blocks” as the ISF fell back.
Since the capture of Ramadi, the U.S. has launched airstrikes specifically targeting sites where ISIS was believed to be manufacturing vehicle-borne IEDs.
In an August briefing to the Pentagon, Marine Brig. Gen. Kevin Killea said that airstrikes had destroyed a facility near the north-central Iraqi town of Makhmur where ISIS was making vehicle-borne IEDs.
“These strikes, conducted in coordination with the government of Iraq, will help reduce the ability of Daesh to utilize their weapon of choice – VBIEDs,” Killea said, using an Arabic term for ISIS.
In several briefings to the Pentagon from Baghdad, Army Col. Steve Warren, a spokesman for Centcom’s Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve, has described the supply of AT-4s to the ISF and the training by U.S. troops of the Iraqi Security Forces in their use.
Warren said ISIS uses the vehicle-borne IEDs “almost like a guided missile” in the offense to break Iraqi Security Forces lines and allow advances.
According to a report by ynetnews.com, the package includes four frigates based on the Littoral Combat Ship, 115 M1A2S Abrams tanks, the MIM-104F Patriot PAC-3 missile system, the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system, 48 CH-47 Chinook helicopters, 150 Blackhawk helicopters, and a number of other systems.
Bloomberg News reports that the deal was originally for two ships based on USS Freedom (LCS 1), which is currently in service with the United States Navy, but was increased to four, and there is an option for four more vessels. This is the first export order for the LCS hull.
The Lockheed Martin website notes that this ship adds remotely-operated 20mm cannon, the RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow missile, long-range surface-to-surface missiles, and the AN/SLQ-25 “Nixie,” a decoy intended to draw torpedoes away from a ship.
A separate deal could include up to 16,000 kits for the Paveway series of laser-guided bombs. These weapons are used on Saudi jets, including the F-15S Strike Eagle, the Tornado IDS, and the Eurofighter Typhoon.
Many of the weapons deals had been initiated during the Obama Administration, but had been placed on hold due to concerns about civilian casualties in the Yemeni Civil War. The Saudi Arabian military has been launching strikes against the Houthi rebels to back the Yemeni government.
On Aug. 11, Russia named its new stealth fighter the Su-57, but despite having a name, a finalized design, and a tentative date for its delivery, it already looks like a huge disappointment.
Russia first flew the Su-57 in 2010, demonstrating that it would enter the race towards fifth-generation aircraft after the US revolutionized aerial combat with the F-22, and later the F-35.
But in the years since, the Su-57 has failed to present a seriously viable future for Russian military aviation. Russia already fields some of the most maneuverable planes on earth. It has serious firepower in terms of missiles and bombs, and long-distance bombers and fighters. But what Russia doesn’t have is a stealth jet of any kind.
While Russian media calls the Su-57 an “aerial ghost,” a senior scientist working on stealth aircraft for the US called it a “dirty aircraft,” with many glaring flaws that would light up radars scanning for the plane.
Additionally, two of the plane’s most fearsome weapons, the Kh-35UEm a subsonic, anti-ship cruise missile, and the nuclear-capable BrahMos-A supersonic cruise missile, can’t fit in the internal weapons bay and must hang from the wings, as the Diplomat’s Franz-Stefan Gady reports.
Since a stealth plane needs every single angle of the jet to perfectly contour to baffle radars, hanging weapons off the wings absolutely kills stealth.
But stealth is just one of the Su-57s problems. The other is the engine. Unlike US stealth jets that have new engines, the Su-57 currently flies with the same engine that powers Russia’s last generation of fighters.
Additionally, Majumdar reports that Moscow will only buy 12 of the planes by 2019 and perhaps never more than 60 in total.
Though Russian media boasts the Su-57 can be piloted remotely and handle extreme G forces, the combination of a lack of stealth and a lack of truly modern propulsion has caused critics to say the plane is fifth-generation “in name only.”
Whatever the plane’s performance is, the low buy numbers out of Moscow indicate that the budding Su-57 is already a flop.
As troops walk through the bazaars of Afghanistan, they’ll always see the same collection of things for sale. Bootleg DVDs of shows that weren’t even interesting during their time, horrible knockoffs of brand-name clothing, souvenirs with the names of neighboring countries (mostly) scraped off, and gorgeous, handcrafted rugs depicting the mujahedin fighting the Soviets.
It’s almost surreal. Among the piles of junk are these masterpieces marred with spelling errors.
Afghanistan has a history filled with constant warfare. So, it makes sense that their cultural art reflects this. Afghan carpets have been a staple of the culture’s art for hundreds of years, but it was during the 1979 Soviet invasion that the rugs were used as a form of quiet protest.
Their AK-47s and tanks were woven into the rugs next to geometric shapes and flowers. The Baluch or Tup-e-Tung (or just “war rugs”) began appearing all over the country. The tradition continued well into America’s intervention in 2001. Contemporary war rugs now include the attack on the World Trade Center and drones.
(Photo by Sgt. Heidi Agostini)
Funnily enough, the Afghan people prefer not having a constant reminder of the warfare that has plagued their homeland for generations. However, Westerners go crazy for them. War rugs almost exclusively sold to foreigners can fetch up to $25,000 at auction — but are often bartered for much less.
While it’s true that they’re very well-crafted and are the cause for much employment in the country, it still needs to be said that the U.S. Department of Labor recognizes that some are created using child labor. The rugs sold on U.S. and NATO military bases in Afghanistan are carefully vetted to avoid the exploitation of children.
Soldier lingo has a tendency to reference things that only exist in the Army. Here are some terms outsiders probably don’t know.
1. Private News Network: The rumor mill or soldier gossip.
2. Grab some real estate: This is a command to get on the ground and start exercising, usually with pushups. It’s issued as a punishment for a minor infraction. The command can also be stated as, “beat your face.”
3. LEG/NAP: Acronyms for any soldier who is not trained to parachute from airplanes. LEG, or low-entry ground soldier, is considered offensive. Non-airborne personnel, or NAP, is the accepted term. Most NAP are quick to point out that airborne soldiers, once they reach the ground, are little different from their peers.
4. Fister: An artillery observer. The term refers to the soldier being part of the Fire Support Team, or FiST. These soldiers direct cannon fire. The symbol of the observers is a fist clutching a lightning bolt.
5. Beat feet: To move from your current location quickly.
6. Don’t get wrapped around the axle: Refers to how vehicles can be halted or destroyed when something, like wire, wraps around the axle. It means a soldier needs to steer clear of the little problems and move on to the real issues.
7. Azimuth check: Azimuth checks are a procedure in land navigation when a soldier makes sure they haven’t wandered off course. Outside of patrols or land navigation courses, azimuth check means to stop and make sure the current task is being done right.
8. “Acquired” gear: Equipment that may have been, but probably wasn’t, obtained through proper channels.
9. Good Idea Fairy: Like the tooth fairy, except it creates work for junior soldiers. It suggests to officers and sergeants that they should grab the closest soldiers and make them do something like build new shelves, clean out a storage unit, or mow grass with office scissors.
10. Why the sky is blue: Soldiers, even the noncombat ones, are trained starting in basic training that the sky is not blue because air particles transmit blue light. It’s blue because infantry soldiers are denoted by blue cords, discs, and badges, and God loves the infantry.
11. Fourth point of contact: A butt. In Airborne Training, future paratroopers are trained to fall through five points of contact. First, they hit the balls of their feet, then they roll across the ground on their calf muscle, thigh, buttocks, and finally torso.
12. Come up on the net: Communicate with your unit what is going on with your personal life or the mission.
13. Joes: Slang term for soldiers, usually referring to the junior enlisted personnel. Can also be used as “Private Joe Snuffy” to refer to a single soldier generically.
14. PX Ranger: A soldier who has a lot of unnecessary gear that they bought for themselves from a post exchange or other shop.
15. CAB Chaser: Noncombat soldiers who try to get into a minor engagement to earn a combat action badge. They generally do this by volunteering for patrols and convoys where they aren’t needed.
16. Beat your boots: A physical exercise. A soldier stands with their legs shoulder-width apart, hands on hips. They then lower at the waist, hit their boots or shoes with their hands, return to the start position, and repeat. Generally used for punishing minor infractions.
17. Dash ten: The user manual. Army publications are all assigned a number. Technical manuals, the closest thing to a civilian user/owner manual, are usually assigned a number that ends in “-10.”
18. Sham shield: Derogatory name for the rank of specialist. Specialists are expected to shirk some duties and the symbol for a specialist is shaped like a small shield.