While most drones require an operator to control them, the ones in DARPA’s Fast Lightweight Autonomy (FLA) program fly themselves. Although not perfect in its current phase, the program’s first flight test exceeded expectations.
“We’re excited that we were able to validate the airspeed goal during this first-flight data collection,” said Mark Micire, DARPA program manager. “The fact that some teams also demonstrated basic autonomous flight ahead of schedule was an added bonus. The challenge for the teams now is to advance the algorithms and onboard computational efficiency to extend the UAV’s perception range and compensate for the vehicle’s’ mass to make extremely tight turns and abrupt maneuvers at high speeds.”
Advancing algorithms and extending perception range. That’s what we thought.
Now watch this video of DARPA’s first test flight:
There’s an old U.S. Marine adage: “The only color that matters in the Corps is green.” That saying got its start in the 1970s under the guidance of Gen. Leonard Chapman, Jr. In the 20th Century, the U.S. military was far ahead of the rest of the country in terms of race relations.
But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have its shameful moments.
There are so many stories of American troops overcoming racial bias in World War II because Chapman is right: the only color that mattered was (and still is) green. It would be years before these stories became widespread. It would take even longer for the stories of racial bias without happy endings to come to light.
One such story is that Cpl. John E. James, Jr. James, an African-American drafted in 1941, attended officer training school at Fort Benning, Georgia, in 1942. But instead of graduating with the deserved rank of second lieutenant, he was given corporal’s stripes and shipped overseas with an all-black unit.
The U.S. Army rectified that error in judgment on June 29, 2018, according to the New York Times. James was promoted to the rank of second lieutenant at age 98.
“It’s unbelievable,” James, who comes from a military family dating all the way back to the Revolution, told the New York Times. “I thought it would never happen.”
James’ daughter spent three years fighting the Army Review Board to get her father his promotion. It was originally denied because his OCS records were lost in a fire – but they resurfaced in the National Archives. His daughter even had a photo of his graduating class as proof.
(Museum of the American Revolution)
When James was told he wasn’t going to be an officer, he did his duty like any U.S. troop might have during World War II. He took the racial injustice and became a typist in a quartermaster battalion. When he got home after the war, he didn’t even tell his wife.
But 76 years later, with the support of his family and his senator, he found himself reciting the officer’s oath to retired Air Force General and former Chief of Staff John P. Jumper at the Museum of the American Revolution.
There is no word on his date of rank and if it comes with back pay.
Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley is a firm believer that a strong military is key in a whole-of-government approach to national security issues.
Still, he cautions, there are Americans who believe some myths about the military.
Here are his four “Myths of War”:
Abraham Lincoln and George B. McClellan in the general’s tent.
(Library of Congress)
1. The ‘Short War’ Myth.
This is a very prominent myth and one that recurs throughout history, Milley said.
President Abraham Lincoln called for troops to put down the rebellion in 1861. He was so sure it would be a quick war that he only called for 90-day enlistments. Both the French and Germans in 1914 believed the conflict would be short, but World War I lasted four years and took millions of lives.
“War takes on a life of its own,” Milley said. “It zigs and zags. More often than not, war is much longer, much more expensive, much bloodier, much more horrific than anyone thought at the beginning. It is important that the decision-makers assess the use of force and apply the logic we’ve learned over the years. War should always be the last resort.”
Gen. Mark Milley, then Army chief of staff, at the 2019 Army Birthday Ball, in honor of the 244 Army Birthday, at the Hilton in Washington, DC, June 15, 2019.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Dana Clarke)
2. The ‘Win From Afar’ Myth.
Americans’ belief in technology encourages this myth. At its heart is that wars can be won from afar, without getting troops on the ground. Whether it is the strategic bombing during World War II or launching cruise missiles, there are those who believe that will be enough to defeat an enemy.
“These allow you to shape battlefields and set the conditions for battle, but the probability of getting a decisive outcome in a war from launching missiles from afar has yet to be proven in history,” Milley said.
Troops of the US Army 2nd Infantry Division.
(U.S. Army photo)
3. The ‘Force Generation’ Myth.
This is the idea that it is possible to quickly generate forces in the event of need.
In World War I, it took more than a year for American forces to make a significant contribution on the battlefields of France after the United States declared war in April 1917. In World War II, the US Army fought on a shoestring for the first year.
War has only become more complicated since then, Milley said, and it will take even longer for forces to generate. “I think for us to maintain strength and keep national credibility, we need a sizable ground force, and I have advocated for that,” he said.
Milley at the Anakonda 16 opening ceremony at the National Defense University in Warsaw.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Betty Boomer)
4. The ‘Armies Go to War’ Myth.
“Armies or navies or air forces don’t go to war. Nations go to war,” Milley said.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
It is one thing to admire a 125 pound Belgian Malinois Military Working Dog from a distance. It is quite another to let it attack you for an Air Force training exercise.
Freelance writer Justin W. Coffey was brave enough to take the road less traveled. After visiting the K-9 kennel on the U.S. Air Force base in Japan where he lives, a Security Forces Commander asked if he was interested in letting one of the animals try and rip him to shreds. Intrigued, he conceded, and wrote about his adventure so readers like us could experience the incident without actually getting throttled by a killer dog.
Coffey shared his experience of getting attacked by Fritz the dog with Gizmodo:
It was 95 degrees out, so donning the heavily padded safety suit felt like putting on a sauna. After my first encounter with Fritz, I was happy to be wearing it. Sh–, I’d have worn two if it was possible.
The first thing they had me do was hold my arm out while the dog sat there, patiently awaiting its orders. It’s an odd feeling to have an animal as powerful as this one look at you in anger. And suddenly, before you can even blink, he’s on you, with his teeth sunk into the suit’s arm. They told me to fight, to throw my arm back and forth, to pull up if I could. The idea is to try and prevent the dog from “typewritering,” moving his bite up and down your arm. Being that Fritz is just 25lbs shy of my weight, his bite and subsequent thrashing threw me around like a rag doll.
“Fight back!” The handlers screamed. “Keep him from biting your hand!” It was all in vain; I was typewritered.
They shouted some abrupt orders that I couldn’t understand and Fritz let go, tongue wagging, eagerly awaiting his next command.
“Say something mean to the dog and then run away!” The handlers instructed. “You need to provoke him, it’ll make the pursuit more realistic.”
Alright. “F–k you Fritz!” And I ran, as fast as I could.
To read more about Coffey’s intense encounter, check out photos and the full article at Gizmodo
An increased emphasis on large-scale ground combat and a greater focus on cybersecurity during combat operations are among key changes in the Army’s updated Field Manual 3-0, Operations, released Oct. 6.
America’s potential enemies now have capabilities greater than what Soldiers faced from insurgents in the Middle East. Threats from near-peer adversaries today include the infiltration of communication networks and cybersecurity compromise during combat.
“They have the ability to reach out and touch you — to interrupt your networks, to amass long-range artillery fires on your formations,” said Col. Rich Creed, director of the Combined Arms Doctrine Directorate at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. “How to consider protection is different… (they) force you to dig in, or stay mobile and to consider air defense of your key assets … those are the kinds of challenges we’re talking about.”
The changes, directed by Gen. Mark Milley, the Army’s chief of staff, mark the first updates to the manual since 2011, when the Army moved from the AirLand Battle concept to unified land operations focusing on the joint force. To revise the guidance, the CADD worked closely since last fall with Lt. Gen. Michael Lundy at the Combined Arms Center and Gen. David Perkins at the Training and Doctrine Command.
The updates highlight a shift in readiness from counter-insurgency and stability operations to large-scale combat. Three chapters of the new manual will heavily focus on large unit tactics during large scale ground combat, addressing both the offense and the defense during operations. The emphasis on large-scale combat stems from the perception that conflict with a peer adversary is more likely now than any time since the end of the Cold War. Conflict with a nation state able to field modern capabilities approaching our own is quite different than facing insurgents in Afghanistan and Iraq, Creed said.
“Those adversaries have modernized,” Creed said. “They represent a type of capability that would be more challenging in many ways than what we’ve been doing. That type of warfare — large-scale ground combat — is a very different environment.”
Creed said CAC researchers examined which countries had the most dangerous conventional capabilities that were proliferated around the world so that doctrine could take a more threat-based approach to operations.
While the Army has focused resources on cybersecurity for years, Creed said the new manual will help account for cyberspace threats during combat and large-scale operations.
“There’s always been hackers,” Creed said. “We didn’t generally worry about that during military operations because the people that we were fighting couldn’t really do a whole lot to affect our operations. However (China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea) are very active in cyberspace and have significant capabilities in cyberspace that extend into the military realm. So there’s no separation of cyberspace between civilian and military; you have to be aware of it all the time.”
Other areas addressed by the manual include consolidation after tactical victories, one of the Army’s strategic roles. Creed said after US forces seized Baghdad during the Iraq invasion of 2003, after the quick strike, the enemy was allowed to extend the war.
“(We) gave the enemy the opportunity to reorganize and protract the conflict for a long time,” Creed said. “Because we didn’t account for the different possibilities that they could continue resistance … There’s a lot of other things you need to do after the initial battles to secure an area and make those gains enduring.”
Each of the manual’s chapters aligns with the Army’s strategic roles of shaping operational environments, preventing conflict, prevailing in large-scale ground combat, and consolidating gains.
The manual will also emphasize the roles of echelons above brigade. Creed said building around brigades won’t be enough in large-scale combat and that divisions, corps and theater armies take increased importance in large-scale operations. Finally, CAC made adjustments to the operational framework, the model commanders use to plan and conduct ground operations.
Creed said the revisions in the FM 3-0 will help deploying units continually prepare for future conflicts as the Army remains wary of threats from these nation states.
“We needed to make sure from a doctrine perspective that we had adequate doctrine to address those kinds of conflicts — the high-intensity type of conflicts,” Creed said. “If you are engaged in large-scale combat with a nation-state adversary with modern capabilities, you’ve got a different problem set to deal with. So that’s the underlying reason for what we’ve done.”
Famed science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke once wrote that any sufficiently advanced technology will be indistinguishable from magic. Some of the tech the Army and other scientists are working on aren’t quite in the realm of magic, but given the incredible nature of the work they’re doing, there are many reasons to be excited about the future if you’re a U.S. servicemember. There’s no telling how long it will take to apply these ideas to military life, but the possibilities seem endless.
The U.S. Army is working on a new airdrop system it calls JPADS – Joint Precision Airdrop System. JPADS is intended to be used to drop critical supplies to troops in dangerous locations without endangering more troops by using a truck convoy. Current systems use GPS guidance systems that are prone to the same errors as any satellite system, such as satellites being out of place and their vulnerability to hacking. The new JPADS doesn’t use GPS. It drops the pallet from 25,000 feet at distances up to 20 miles. The JPADS optical sensors analyze the local terrain and compare it to preprogrammed satellite imagery so the chutes move the cargo to its programmed destination.
2. Stealth Coating
It turns out stealth aircraft technology isn’t 100 percent fail proof. Radar works by bouncing electromagnetic waves off of objects to pinpoint their locations. Original stealth technology scrambled the returning waves using “destructive interference,” solid layers of material that would amplify the waves so that they effectively cancel out the returning waves. It doesn’t work 100 percent of the time, however. Scientists have created a polarized crystal material that absorbs radar waves to prevent them from bouncing back instead. Hexagonal boron nitride captures 99.99 percent of radar waves and prevents refraction. Researchers will now need to create a thin coating to be able to apply it to current aircraft.
3. Smart Tanks
DARPA, or the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the military’s premier think-tank for future weapons, is developing a light armor all-terrain tech for vehicles called “Ground X-Vehicle Technology.” This next-gen tank is lightweight, highly mobile, and hard for the enemy to spot on any spectrum, visual, infrared, or electromagnetic. The “crew augmentation” system on the X-Vehicle gives the tank “semi-autonomous driver assistance and automation of key crew functions.” The external sensors on the vehicle allow for the tank not only to avoid being spotted by enemy tanks but to dodge incoming fire if they are.
4. Space Drones
DARPA strikes again. The new XS-1 space shuttle doesn’t go into space but rather boosts a payload into low-Earth orbit as it flies to the edge of space. The new shuttle has no pilots, but will be so reusable that it could fly ten times in ten days. A flight to boost something into space will still run as high as $5 million, but DARPA is working with private contractors Masten Space Systems, Virgin Galactic, Northrop Grumman, and the Jeff Bezos-owned Blue Origin to make the trips faster, smoother, and cheaper. DARPA already developed a space drone for military purposes, the X37-B, but few details are available, as the X37-B is classified.
5. Jetpack-Assisted Running
The Wearable Robotics Association conference opened in Phoenix last Wednesday and featured there were Arizona State University students who developed a jetpack that enhances a troop’s ability to run in combat. Using compressed air, the pack can boost running speeds up to 15 mph.
The 1911 pistol has been around for over 100 years. It is beloved by many for its ergonomics, accuracy and heavy-hitting .45 caliber round. In fact, some versions are still in service with the Marine Corps as the M45.
When something’s been around for so long, it’s also a safe bet that people are tinkering with its design. You can find 1911s in various calibers aside from its original .45 ACO, including 9mm NATO, 10mm Auto, and .22 long rifle.
In an article at PopularMechanics.com, Ian McCollum of ForgottenWeapons.com noted that during World War II, the Office of Strategic Services wanted something that could allow commandos and other secret agents to kill sentries quietly and at a distance.
This is actually very important because if the sentry sees you and sounds the alarm, he’s won. It doesn’t matter if he’s hit the alarm with his dying effort. That alarm could even be him dying very noisily.
The key to this was a two-part system that could be added to just about any M1911 pistol that was called “Bigot.” The rear portion was inserted through the ejection port. It had to be set up right to allow the M1911’s slide to close. Then, the piston would be screwed in. After that, a variety of darts – or even mini grenades – could be inserted for use in silently dispatching a sentry of the two-legged or four-legged variety. The darts and grenades would be fired by a .25 ACP blank.
Tests with a quickly-made reproduction were kind of iffy (only one-third of the darts broke a glass target eight feet away). It’s probably why the Bigot never saw any real action.
Still, if Buffy needed a little extra edge to dust some vamps or if 007 wants a gadget that makes for great cinematic eye candy, it’s probably a good choice. Watch the video below to hear Ian relate what we know about this nifty-looking piece!
Hawks and falcons are an essential part of the ecosystem and are one of nature’s instinctive predators. Although these natural aviators are beneficial to the environment, they can pose a threat to the safety of Airmen, aircraft and vulnerable wildlife.
The 97th Air Mobility Wing Bird/Wildlife Aircraft Strike Hazard, or BASH, program, expanded with the addition of the Predatory Bird Relocation Program.
After seeing the risks predatory birds, or raptors, have when they live near or on airfields, Adam Kohler, a U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services wildlife biologist at Altus Air Force Base, created the Predatory Bird Relocation Program, which safely removes birds that have the potential to injure themselves or aircrew.
“I work for the USDA Wildlife Services which acts kind of like the government’s wildlife damage management program,” Kohler said. “One of the big areas we work in are airfields. We use the BASH program to help keep the public and aircraft safe from accidents that may happen with wildlife.”
The Predatory Bird Relocation Program is an important aspect in forwarding the mission of the 97th AMW. Each year, the Air Force spends approximately 0 million repairing damage to aircraft from birds and other wildlife. Since Kohler founded the program in the fall of 2018, more than 20 raptors have been safely captured and relocated away from the airfield saving Altus AFB time, lives and money.
“While hawks and falcons are less abundant than other birds found in this area, they are one of the species with the highest risk of getting hit,” Kohler said. “Although there is less of them out there, they get struck by aircraft more often, and because of their size they inflict more damage when they are hit. That is why we created the program specific to relocate the raptors.”
When a raptor is within a close enough range of the airfield to become a hazard, Kohler sets out harmless, simple traps to capture the bird. Once the raptor is caught, Kohler places a tracking band on its foot and relocates it to a safer environment.
“By us going out there and banding the raptors, it helps out U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services and any agencies that are studying wildlife,” Kohler said. “It’s a great cooperative effort between us and every other wildlife research agency towards gaining knowledge from and understanding different species.”
Each tracking band has a specific number on it to help identify the bird in the future. This is a very important part of the relocation process because it can help identify which birds return to the airfield once they have been relocated. If a banded bird does return, it is relocated to a different environment, hopefully to keep the raptor satisfied at its new location.
“Banding the birds is an essential part, nationwide, to the agencies research of the effectiveness in relocating raptors,” Kohler said. “Throughout our research we have found that more than 90 percent of the relocated birds have stayed in their new location, away from the airfield. It’s good because this data helps us show that catching and relocating these birds actually keeps them away and safe, and not returning.”
Although predatory birds are necessary in local environments, flying too close to an airfield is a threat to the raptors’ own lives and the safety of Airmen. By relocating these raptors to a safer location, Kohler and the USDA Wildlife Services team help keep the 97th AMW safe and mission ready.
Defense Department officials detected and tracked multiple missile launches out of North Korea Monday, four of which landed in the Sea of Japan, Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis told reporters this morning.
Davis said the four medium-range ballistic missiles were launched from the northwest corner of North Korea, traveled over the Korean Peninsula and out into the sea, totaling about 1,000 kilometers in distance, or more than 620 miles.
The missiles landed in the vicinity of Akita Prefecture off the coast of Japan near that nation’s exclusive economic zone, he said. The EEZ is defined as a sea zone prescribed by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea over which a state has special rights regarding the exploration and use of marine resources, including energy production from water and wind.
“The North American Aerospace Defense Command detected that the missiles from North Korea did not pose a threat to North America,” Davis said. “This [North Korean missile launch] is very similar in terms of the path and the distance of the three missiles that flew into Japan’s EEZ in September 2016.”
He added, “These launches, which coincide with the start of our annual defensive exercise, Foal Eagle, with the Republic of Korea’s military, are consistent with North Korea’s long history of provocative behavior, often timed to military exercises that we do with our ally,”
The United States stands with its allies “in the face of this very serious threat and are taking steps to enhance our ability to defend against North Korea’s ballistic missiles, such as the deployment of a [Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense] battery to South Korea, which will happen as soon as feasible,” Davis said.
U.S. Strikes AQAP in Yemen
Also overnight, the United States made an airstrike on Yemen’s Abyan Governorate against al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula fighters, bringing to 40 the strikes there in the past five nights, Davis said.
Since the first airstrike against al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula in Yemen on Feb. 28, “We will continue to target [al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula] militants and facilities to disrupt the organization’s plot and protect American lives,” the captain said.
The strikes have been coordinated with and done in full partnership with the government of Yemen with the goal of denying al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula terrorists’ freedom of movement within traditional safe havens, Davis emphasized.
The captain also confirmed the deaths of three al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula operatives in March 2 and 3 airstrikes in Yemen.
Usayd al Adani, whom Davis described as a longtime al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula explosives expert and facilitator who served as the organization’s emir, was killed in a U.S. airstrike March 2 within the Abyan Governorate. Killed with him was former Naval Air Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detainee Yasir al Silmi.
Killed March 3 was al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula fighter and communications intermediary for Adani, Harithah al Waqri, Davis said.
“[Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula] has taken advantage of ungoverned spaces in Yemen to plot, direct and inspire terror attacks against the United States and our allies,” he said. “And we will continue to work with the government of Yemen to defeat [al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula].
The US Marine Corps wants to add another title in front of some of its officers’ ranks: Doctor.
The service is establishing two pilot programs to offer qualified majors through lieutenant colonels with a doctorate-level education on the Corps’ dime, as long as they agree to stay in the service for an additional six years.
The program’s goal is to develop a “cohort of strategic thinkers and technical leaders capable of applying substantive knowledge, directing original research, and leveraging relationships with industry and elements of national security … to achieve the innovative thinking desired by the Marine Corps,” according to the announcement August 3.
“Uniformed doctorates provide the Marine Corps deployable, highly-skilled manpower in support of senior leader decision-making as well as helping generate national, defense, and service strategies in an increasingly complex world.”
The pilot will likely be competitive, since only four officers will ultimately be picked; two will be required to pursue a doctorate in strategic affairs, while two others will be required to attend a doctoral program with a technical focus.
Applicants will be required to already have a masters degree, or currently be pursuing one if they are applying for the technical doctorate.
The Corps wants officers to get technical degrees in operations research, modeling virtual environments and simulation (MOVES), information sciences, or computer science, the announcement says. Strategy degrees should be geared toward national security, military history, public policy, political science, government, or some other related field.
Applications are being accepted until the end of August 2017.
A recent report from the USS Theodore Roosevelt, an aircraft carrier stationed in the Persian Gulf and supporting the US-led fight against ISIS contained a startling realization — US pilots are fighting in an insanely complicated space that puts them in danger.
“When it first started, ISIS was just steamrolling across Iraq and Syria and there wasn’t really much resistance going on … There weren’t a whole lot of places you could go where there was no ISIS presence about three years ago,” Lt. Joe Anderson, an F/A-18F pilot aboard the Roosevelt, told the US Naval Institute.
But in 2018, the US-led coalition against ISIS has all but crushed the terror army. Now, the US troops in Syria, and their backups aboard the Roosevelt, have moved on to other objectives.
“Now where we’re at, there’s not as much going on … Mostly they’ve been whittled down to just isolated pockets within Iraq and Syria,” Anderson said.
As the fight against ISIS dwindles down, the US has turned its attention to denying Iran influence within Syria and a land bridge to arm Hezbollah fighters in Lebanon, as well as denying Syrian President Bashar Assad access to the country’s rich eastern oilfields.
US Navy pilots now spend much of their time “doing on-call [close-air support] and doing more defending the US and coalition forces on the ground in the area, and specifically Syrian Defense Forces who are in the mix doing their thing,” Anderson said.
That means the US is defending a group of Syrian rebels with embedded US ground troops in one of the most complex fights in history. The US supports the SDF and Kurdish forces in Syria’s north, but Turkey, a NATO ally, launched a military campaign against the Kurds. The US’s SDF allies oppose Syria’s government, but Russia and Iran back them.
US pilots fly the same skies as Iranian, Turkish, Syrian, and Russian aircraft, and they’re only allies with the Turks.
Crazy-complicated skies put the US at risk
Anderson’s commander, Rear Adm. Steve Koehler, told USNI that “the threat picture in Syria is just crazy.”
“How many different countries can you cram in one different place, where they all have a different little bit of an agenda? And you put a tactical pilot up there and he or she has to employ ordnance or make defensive counter-air decisions with multiple people – Russians, Syrians, Turks, ISIS, United States,” Koehler said.
As a result of the multi-faceted geopolitical complexity, US pilots are now in much more danger than a regular combat mission, according to retired US Marine Corps Lt. Col. David Berke.
“Now the pilots in the airplanes are under stress and using ordnance now have to do interpretations of human behavior and derive the intention of a potential adversary, or at least someone who’s not there for the same reasons,” Berke told Business Insider.
In normal situations, like over Iraq or Afghanistan, US pilots fly with coalition partners and against enemy aircraft, but the divergent agendas in Syria mean aircraft with potentially bad aircraft can square right up to the US without tripping any alarms.
Berke emphasized that the difference in each country’s agenda made the coordination and combat fraught with difficulty.
If an armed Turkish jet was speeding towards Kurdish forces with US troops embedded, how should a US pilot respond? US pilots and air controllers train endlessly on how to fight, but drawing the line between what constitutes aggression or self-defense is a different matter.
This could start a war
“If you misinterpret what someone does, you can create a massive problem, you can start a war,” Berke said. “I can’t think of a more complex place for there to be or a greater level of risk.”
As a result, US pilots are somewhat bound to deescalation, and may be tolerating higher levels of aggression from adversaries or non-allies in the skies above Syria. No US pilot wants to make headlines for kicking off an international incident by downing a Russian jet, or failing to defend US forces in a very murky situation.
“The less you know what’s going on, the more likely you’re going to make a bad decision that you’re not aware,” Berke said. “The fact that it hasn’t escalated beyond what it is now is a testament to the professionalism of the US military, it could have gone sideways any number of times.”
Every badass commando needs their own fighting knife. When the battle gets up-close and personal, all the rules are thrown out and it’s anything goes. When a suitable blade doesn’t exist, you get one made. On Nov. 4, 1940, John “Jack” Wilkinson-Latham, Charlie Rose, Lieutenant Colonel William Ewart “Dan” Fairbairn, and Major Eric Anthony “Bill” Sykes met at Wilkinson Sword Co. Ltd. to discuss the prospect of engineering a new combat fighting knife.
Each man brought desirable knowledge in practical concepts to the drawing board. Taking three decades of past experience as a peace officer and firearms instructor for the Shanghai Municipal Police (SMP) in China, then the most violent cop-beat in the world, Fairbairn had the required intangibles to show up for a conversation. He was one of the original members of the world’s first Special Weapons And Tactics (SWAT) teams and had expertise in forensic ballistics. These bullet points in Fairbairn’s life were what allied clandestine units eyeballed. “I was in police work in the Orient for 30 years [1907-1940],” he said. “We had a tough crowd to deal with there so you had to be prepared to beat every trick in the book.”
Dermot O’Neill teaches combatives learned from his days as an SMP officer.
A bloody fight in an alleyway hospitalized Fairbairn after he was ambushed by goons from a Chinese separatist gang. Covered in bandages after being stabbed over a dozen times and left for dead, he awoke to notice a plaque on the wall that read: “Professor Okada, Jiu-Jitsu and Bone-setting.” He had an epiphany to use Jiu-Jitsu and combine it with other martial arts such as boxing, judo, and wrestling. He called it Defendu and used it to better protect his officers in these types of melees.
Sykes, a special sergeant attached to the sniper unit, was highly respected by Fairbairn. Together they tussled with street thugs in riots and patrolled among the political unrest across the red light districts. In just 12.5 years, they were present during more than 2,000 riots and fights, 666 of which were shootings. They deescalated 200 of them, a remarkable record considering that a mob can turn into a violent riot fairly quickly. This anomaly exposed them to real-world tactics shaped from classroom theory to results-driven practices. The skill to incapacitate called for a specific level of training because killing was the last resort.
From 1927 to 1940, Fairbairn made connections with the 4th Marine Regiment stationed in China; those from the “China Marines” were exposed to his methods in how to kill with a blade. These connections would prove to be effective down the road in his role with the implementation of unarmed combat within the U.S. military and select special operations units.
A commando concealing his F-S knife in a sheath on his calf.
After retiring from the SMP, the pair returned to the United Kingdom in 1940 and were approached by the Secret Intelligence Service’s (SIS) “Section D” (for destruction) to set up a combatives program for the newly formed Commandos and Special Operations Executive (SOE). Since their November 1940 meeting, it took Rose, the top development engineer at Wilkinson Sword Co. Ltd. Experimental Workshop, 10 days to work out the kinks in the “First Pattern” of the F-S knives. The expedited process ensured a batch of 1,500 daggers would reach schoolhouses across England.
“In modern warfare, the job is more drastic,” said Fairbairn. “You’re interested only in disabling or killing your enemy. That’s why I teach what I call ‘Gutter Fighting.’ There’s no fair play; no rules except one; kill or be killed.” Their nimble design had a long, thin 6.5- to 7-inch blade; the grip was made from solid brass, and the grip handguard was nickel-plated.
Designed for combat applications, the double-edged stiletto could be worn and concealed on the calf of a commando. Its usage was common in the ETO (European Theater of Operations) but saw action among members of SOE’s Force 136, including James Alexander E. MacPherson, who carried it in the Far East.
This lightweight model was then introduced to Lieutenant Colonel Rex Applegate, a counterintelligence officer assigned to the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) instructor cadre. Known for his instruction on “Point Shooting” with handguns and a visionary in combat application, he traveled to the U.K. to witness the commandos training firsthand. He and Fairbairn inspected the field reports of the dagger’s effectiveness on body armor, conducted additional training, and met up with Fairbairn’s then-compatriot Sykes. While Sykes remained in the U.K. instructing his “Silent Killing” course, Fairbairn and him had a disagreement that is rumored to have hurt their relationship.
Applegate and Fairbairn returned to the West to introduce their methods to the Americans at Camp Ritchie, then later at the 275-acre farmland training grounds called STS-3 (Special Training School), or Camp X, in Oshawa, Canada. Camp X opened on Dec. 6, 1941, a day before the attacks on Pearl Harbor. It became an instrumental link between British and American special operations forces who cross-trained before going to war. They eventually made a knife of their own called the Applegate-Fairbairn fighting knife.
The Shanghai connection didn’t stop there. Irishman Dermot “Pat” O’Neill served amongst the SMP, following in his father’s footsteps. As he rose through the ranks, O’Neill earned a fourth dan black belt. His influence was feared — a SWAT cop mingling in the same gyms as Judo students who were trained as spies for the Kempeitai, the Japanese version of the Gestapo. Adding to the heat already upon him was rampant corruption in the SMP, including the chief of detective squad, Lu Liankui. He was a Green Gang boss and disciple of the Ji Yunquing, one of the eight leaders of the Big Eight Mob. O’Neill expected retribution and bailed onto a fishing boat for Sydney; he soon received a telegram from Fairbairn requesting his presence in the United States.
The Fairbairn-Sykes commando knife is present on many modern-day unit insignias, including the U.S. Army Special Forces.
(Open source graphic.)
O’Neill weaved his way to Camp X, where Fairbairn utilized his expertise teaching OSS officers. Here he taught students how to sneak up on sentries and eliminate them. He ran the students through real-world scenarios because shooting paper targets on a range and performing hand-to-hand combat drills on dummies wasn’t going to cut it in war. Fairbairn put students through “indoor mystery ranges” (the “shoot houses” or “kill houses” today’s special operations soldiers are familiar with).
“Under varying degrees of light, darkness, and shadows, plus the introduction of sound effects, moving objects, and various alarming surprises,” Fairbairn explained, “an opportunity is afforded to test the moral fiber of the student and to develop his courage and capacity for self control.” The students referred to these tests as the “House of Horrors” for its authenticity.
Fairbairn’s web of connections brought helped spread the Fairbairn-Sykes combat fighting knife around the world, and it has a lineage in many different historical units. When O’Neill left the OSS, he later joined Lt. Col. Robert Frederick’s First Special Service Force (FSSF), commonly referred to as the Devil’s Brigade. The joint U.S.-Canada team learned quickly that O’Neill wasn’t there to teach them how to incapacitate an enemy — he was there to teach them how to kill.
Frederick developed his own knife called the V-42 stiletto. Inspired by the Fairbairn-Sykes fighting knife, Frederick issued his “Cross Dagger” to his commandos. Today, the lineage can be seen in the insignia of the British Special Air Service (SAS), Royal Marines, U.S. Army Special Forces, U.S. Army Rangers, Dutch Commando Corps, and the Australian 2nd Commando Regiment.
When Harold Berg stepped onto the white beach of Guadalcanal in late July, he carried memories of the battle he participated in 75 years ago, and also of his buddies he left behind.
“That to me, is the greatest thing. I didn’t know the men who died, but I’ll be representing the Marines that should be there. I feel that I am doing that,” he said. “I feel that I am representing the Marines who should be there.”
Berg, 91, is among the last of the World War II Raiders, an elite unit that was the precursor of special operations in the US military. And this soft-spoken, former insurance salesman from Central Peoria is the only veteran of that battle able to make the trip to the Solomon Islands for the dedication of a new memorial to honor the Raiders who fought and died there.
And what a trip. He flew from Peoria to Los Angeles to a small airport in the Fiji Islands. From there, he caught a connecting flight to Guadalcanal, a mere five hours away. Also to be present were members of the modern Raiders, the Marines with the US Marine Corps Special Operations Command, which carries on the namesake of their World War II brethren.
Berg was asked to participate because he is among the last of those who served in the original Raider battalions, which were based upon British commando units. The two-year experiment was a way to bring the fight more quickly to the Japanese who, until Guadalcanal, had ridden roughshod across the Pacific. Raiders weren’t designed to win big battles.
They conducted small unit raids. Essentially, they were to land on Japanese-held islands before the main force of Marines, disrupt the beach defenses, and to cause as many casualties and as much destruction as they could. They were on their own, without much support.
Berg dropped out of Woodruff High School as a junior and enlisted in the Marines when he was 17. “It might not be politically correct, but I wanted to fight the Japanese,” he told the Journal Star late last year.
And he did, participating in Guadalcanal, where he waded ashore in early 1943. The bulk of the fighting was over, but thousands of Japanese soldiers still were on the island looking to kill as many GIs as they could. He also was wounded in Guam and participated in the battles for Saipan, Bouganville, and New Georgia.
After the Raiders were folded into the 4th Marine Regiment, he participated in Okinawa as a squad leader. All 12 of his men were killed or wounded during the fighting. He, too, was injured in the Pacific’s last big campaign.
Berg wants to go not just to honor his fallen Marines but also to bring history to life for the younger generation. For many, he says, the war has become nothing more than words on paper. By talking at memorials or reunions or functions, Berg shows a more human side and that it was, indeed, real.
“I have a lot of friends that I meet every week and I tell them what I see,” he said of his frequent outings with area veterans. And his son, Brad Berg, agrees.
“This is a chance to tell his story and for others to hear it. Am I nervous? Yes, he’s going a long way, but he’s going back there to help and to honor the Marines and others,” his son said. “I am proud of him.”