New details emerge of Medal of Honor recipient's heroism - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

New details emerge of Medal of Honor recipient’s heroism

Tech. Sgt. John Chapman ran out of a bunker on the Takur Ghar mountaintop for the second time, intentionally risking fire from heavily armed enemy fighters.

Shot several times already, Chapman attempted to halt the al-Qaida forces’ assault on an incoming MH-47 Chinook helicopter carrying U.S. special operators.


He no longer had the cover of night, and exposed himself to the enemy as he ran. Dashing out to the ridge line in five-foot-deep snow, Chapman fired at the enemy fighters who were loading rocket-propelled grenades, helping additional American forces to enter the landing zone.

It would be his final bold act before two shots from a large-caliber machine gun cut through his torso, one destroying his aorta and killing him instantly.

But this, Chapman’s final fight, occurred well after the special tactics airman had already been presumed dead.

New details emerge of Medal of Honor recipient’s heroism

Tech. Sgt. John Chapman.

(U.S. Air Force photo)

A 30-month investigation involving eyewitness testimony from nearby Army and Air Force service members and drone targeteers, intelligence reports and aircraft video feed proved that Chapman not only lived after he was initially hit and knocked unconscious early in the mission, but that he at one point engaged the enemy in hand-to-hand combat, fighting for about 70 harrowing minutes on the ground alone. In August 2018, officials who investigated the circumstances surrounding his death spoke publicly for the first time about their findings.

Chapman, a combat controller assigned to the 24th Special Tactics Squadron, will posthumously receive the Medal of Honor, an upgrade of his Air Force Cross, for his actions on March 4, 2002, during a ceremony at the White House on Aug. 22, 2018. He will become the first U.S. airman to receive the military’s highest award since the Vietnam War.

“John was the only American that was alive on [that] mountain top, and there was somebody fighting for an hour,” said an Air Force special tactics officer who was part of the investigation team.

Speaking on background during a briefing at the Pentagon on Aug. 16, 2018, the officer explained how the Air Force Special Operations investigative team and the Pentagon concluded that Chapman had lived and continued to fight after his presumed death.

“When you watch [these videos], heroism jumps right off the page at you,” the officer said. “It chokes you up, and it makes you realize the incredible sacrifice.”

He added, “You don’t have to do 30 months of analysis to see that.”

In all, Chapman sustained nine wounds, seven of which were nonfatal, according to his autopsy report. A medical examiner concluded he lived and fought through gunshot wounds to his thigh, heel, calf and torso, which pierced his liver. He had a broken nose and other facial wounds, suggesting he engaged in hand-to-hand combat in close quarters. The final fatal shots likely came from a PKM machine gun, officials said.

New details emerge of Medal of Honor recipient’s heroism

John Chapman holding a child in Afghanistan.

The evidence

The night infiltration began March 3. The reconnaissance team aboard the Chinook, call sign Razor 03, was unaware of the hornet’s nest of al-Qaida forces they were about to encounter. Their overall mission was to establish a reconnaissance position in the Shah-i-Kot Valley in southeastern Afghanistan.

After the assault began, a Navy SEAL, Petty Officer 1st Class Neil Roberts, fell out of the helicopter, which then crash-landed about four miles away.

Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator Britt K. Slabinski led the SEAL Team 6 unit, known as Mako 30, to which Chapman was assigned back up the ridge on another helicopter, designated as Razor 04. Chapman began calling in airstrikes from AC-130 gunships circling overhead before returning with Slabinski and five other members around 4:27 a.m. local time.

Slabinski, now a retired master chief, was awarded the Medal of Honor in May, 2018 for his own heroism during the costly battle.

The team’s new objective was to rescue Roberts on the mountainside, which would become known as “Roberts Ridge.” Roberts did not survive.

Chapman ran ahead of his teammates, taking fire from multiple directions. He dug himself into a World War II-style pillbox that was chest-deep and hardened, designated as Bunker 01, officials said. He was 10 meters from a second bunker, but left cover to engage the al-Qaida forces.

At 4:42 a.m., U.S. forces with night-vision goggles observed Chapman falling in battle.

Statements from a nearby Army and Air Force reconnaissance team helped investigators prove that a U.S. service member was on the ridge alone, fighting from a bunker position — Bunker 01.

The second, five-member reconnaissance team was three miles away, listening to Chapman’s radio calls.

“I am absolutely positive [it] was John’s voice. I have no doubt whatsoever,” said one unnamed witness quoted in the months-long investigation, as cited by the Air Force.

“They saw somebody fighting against the enemy from that bunker position for an extended period of time,” the special tactics officer said. “They heard the enemy talking about the American on the mountaintop … And the enemy was talking excitedly — ‘An American! An American! An American!’ — and they were actually planning their assault.”

Meanwhile, another special tactics airman on the same radio frequency heard Chapman transmitting his call sign — MAKO 30C.

Two AC-130 gunships, dubbed “Grim 33” and “Grim 32,” were circling overhead alongside an MQ-1 Predator drone. The three were capturing different angles of the firefight below, although gaps in coverage existed for technical reasons or repositioning.

Grim 32 used a low-light TV sensor that could see various infrared markers, such as reflective tape on Chapman’s body armor as well as strobes from his scope.

New details emerge of Medal of Honor recipient’s heroism

Tech. Sgt. John Chapman.

“I continued to observe glint tape, strobe lights, muzzle flashes, and [Infrared Illuminator] laser movement after [4:42] from Bunker 1,” one AC-130 crew member said in his testimony.

The AC-130 pilots and navigator continued to reference Chapman’s position, but the gunships needed to leave the airspace as they had expended their fuel and the enemy could see them overhead.

By overlapping the AC-130 feed and eyewitness testimony alongside the MQ-1 drone feed and the reconnaissance team’s audio observation, “we took seven different subject matter experts that all looked at this independently from an intel perspective and then layered those conclusions in,” the special tactics officer said.

Additionally, the National Geospatial Agency worked with the Air Force to survey the terrain to measure correct distances, height and trajectory of the firefight.

The videos and testimony substantiated what Air Force officials had believed all along, providing the additional clarity needed to piece together the series of events.‎

“No one thing would tell [Chapman’s] story in its totality. It was bits and pieces combined,” the special tactics officer said.

The final fight

The mission was part of Operation Anaconda, a large-scale attempt to clear the Shah-i-Kot Valley of al-Qaida forces. Chapman died after fighting off al-Qaida forces for roughly two hours, but his efforts allowed the special ops teams that followed to advance their position on the mountainside.

Along with Chapman and Roberts, Senior Airman Jason Cunningham, Army Sgt. Bradley Crose, Army Sgt. Phillip Svitak, Army Spc. Marc Anderson and Army Cpl. Matthew Commons also died during the mission.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis made the recommendation to upgrade Chapman’s Air Force Cross earlier this year. Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson and then-acting Defense Secretary Robert Work were also involved in the recommendation process as the investigation advanced.

The review of Chapman’s award and actions was part of the 2016 Defense Department push to audit more than 1,100 post-9/11 valor citations to determine if they warrant a higher award such as the Medal of Honor.

Even as rumors of Chapman’s upgrade remained unconfirmed for months, officials lauded his efforts.

“I think John Chapman is deserving of any honor that is bestowed upon him,” Wilson told Military.com in May. “If that happens, I think it will be an important day in the Air Force and for his family.”

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

Articles

USS Constitution returns to Boston waters after a 21st century restoration

Old Ironsides touched her native Boston waters once again July 23. A full moon reflected the highest tides of the season as the 219-year-old warship pulled out of a flooded dry dock in Charlestown Navy Yard.


A large crowd gathered around Dry Dock 1 in the Navy Yard, the country’s second-oldest dry dock, built in 1833. After 26 months of heavy restorations, the shiny, restored warship returned to Boston waters in a slow undocking process.

“It went perfectly,” said Historian Margherita M. Desy, an expert on all things Ironsides. “When you plan and you know what you’re doing, it goes on flawlessly, and that’s what we had tonight.”

New details emerge of Medal of Honor recipient’s heroism
The USS Constitution enters dry dock for renovations. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Peter Melkus

Desy said through the USS Constitution Museum’s social media pages, thousands of people across the world tuned in to the undocking event.

Those tuning in may have seen the hundreds of spectators cheering and singing patriotic tunes, waiting hours for the grand undocking spectacle. Despite starting a half hour earlier than planned, an illuminated USS Constitution officially crossed the sill (where a modern caisson is usually stationed to block out ocean waters) right on time at 11:30p.m., according to Desy.

Just as the ship began to move, crews had to pause the operation for several minutes as a member of the undocking team was transported for a medical emergency.

The individual was not aboard the ship, but standing in the Navy Yard viewing area when the emergency occurred. Lieutenant Commander Tim Anderson, Executive Officer of the USS Constitution, said the individual was a military member and appeared to be recovering well. The ship continued to slowly move along following the medical response.

Old Ironsides, whose nickname honors the ship’s proud performance in the War of 1812, boasts being the oldest commissioned naval vessel afloat. The $12-15 million restoration project breathed life into the historic landmark operated by the US Navy and the Naval History Heritage Command Detachment Boston.

New details emerge of Medal of Honor recipient’s heroism
Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Victoria Kinney

Since May 18, 2015, crews have applied much more than elbow grease to the American landmark: besides the removal and replacement of the lower hull’s copper sheathing, crews caulked various planks and the ship’s keel (the bottom-most part of the ship) with coveted white oak timber.

The ship’s bow (or “cutwater”) was inspected and restored, support shoring and scaffolding were installed, and a few other restorative measures were completed to ensure Old Ironsides was capable of hosting an estimated 10 million or so more tourists in the next two decades, when she is likely to be worked upon again.

Organizers said the high tide helps ensure there is enough water to allow the ship to float. The Dry Dock was flooded steadily over several hours as crews inspected the ship to ensure operations flowed smoothly.

And smoothly she sailed, right into Pier 1 East in the Navy Yard, where Old Ironsides will remain for the rest of the summer season.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Iran tries to blame U.S. for horrible terror attack

Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley rebuked comments from Iranian President Hassan Rouhani that blamed US support for a terror attack on a military parade Sept. 22, 2018, that killed 25 people and wounded 60.

Haley waved off Rouhani’s condemnation of America, and said in the aftermath of the attack, “he needs to look at his own home base.”

“The Iranian people are protesting,” Haley said on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sept. 23, 2018. “Every ounce of money that goes into Iran goes to his military. He has oppressed his people for a long time.”


Haley continued: “He can blame us all he wants, but the thing he’s got to do is look in the mirror.”

Rouhani lashed out at America’s support for mercenary countries in the Persian Gulf, saying it helps to “instigate them and provide them with necessary means to commit these crimes.”

President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal and re-impose relevant sanctions crippled the economy and drew ire from leadership, Haley said.

“They don’t like the fact that we’ve called them out,” Haley said. “We have called them out for ballistic missile testing. We’ve called them out for their support of terrorism. We’ve called them out for their arms sales. And they don’t like it.”

New details emerge of Medal of Honor recipient’s heroism

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

Despite the tensions, Haley contradicted Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani‘s claims from a day earlier the US was seeking a regime change and promised Trump would remain strict with Iranian leadership.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted immediately after the attack Sept. 23, 2018, to blame regional countries and their “US masters,” calling the gunmen “terrorists recruited, trained armed and paid” by foreign powers, raising tensions in the region amid the unclear future of Tehran’s nuclear deal.

“Iran will respond swiftly and decisively in defense of Iranian lives,” Zarif wrote on Twitter Sept. 23, 2018.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke to “Fox News Sunday” before Rouhani’s statement, calling Zarif’s comments “an enormous mistake.”

“The loss of innocent life is tragic, and I wish Zarif would focus on keeping his own people secure rather than causing insecurity around the world,” Pompeo said.

Haley said the September 2018 United Nations General Assembly would be a chance for countries to sort out tension, but Trump isn’t planning on a meeting with Iranian leadership, as Rouhani “has to stop all of his bad behavior before the president’s going to think he’s serious about wanting to talk.”

Haley added: “There is no love for Iran here in the United States, and there’s no love for the United States in Iran.”

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time a badger lived in the White House

President Theodore Roosevelt is known for being a Rough Rider, a trust-buster, and coining the infamous phrase, “Walk softly, but carry a big stick.” He also turned the White House into a veritable menagerie during his stay there. He, of course, had plenty of cats and dogs, but he was known for keeping guinea pigs for his children, and several of his sons had rabbits as well as a bright blue macaw named Eli Yale.

Arguably his most exotic pet, and probably the most unpredictable animal to inhabit the White House, was a real-life badger.


New details emerge of Medal of Honor recipient’s heroism

Theodore Roosevelt, like the badger, don’t give a f*ck.

(Giphy)

While on a railroad tour through the West, President Roosevelt stayed for several days in Sharon Springs, Kansas. After he’d fulfilled his presidential duties of talking with residents and giving speeches, he was getting ready to head further west when a girl named Pearl Gorsuch, who was twelve-years-old at the time, came up to him to ask if he’d like a badger.

Not exactly your average fan gift.

Whether the president didn’t actually think she was serious, or if he was immediately ready to take a badger on a train ride, no one’s really sure, but when Pearl returned, she had with her a two-week-old badger as well as the rest of her family.

Roosevelt graciously showed the family (and accompanying badger) around his private rail car, and gave Pearl a locket and a carnation as a thank you. When he took the badger, he was delighted when it started nibbling on his fingers. He named the badger Josiah after Pearl’s father and took it with him in his private car.

On the rest of his trip, Josiah proved to be good-natured, even when met with young children who were enchanted by the animal. Roosevelt wrote to his own children to inform them that he’d be bringing the badger home, and that he’d nicknamed Josiah “Josh” for short.

As the Roosevelt family did have plenty of dogs, a badger-specific cage had to be built, including two feet of underground space for him to burrow.

New details emerge of Medal of Honor recipient’s heroism

The Roosevelt family with Skip, just one of their many pups.

(upload.wikimedia.org)

Roosevelt himself loved setting the badger loose, as Josiah was known for biting ankles, and the family soon learned to stand clear when he was out of his cage.

Archie Roosevelt, who was the second youngest of six children, was nine when Josiah arrived at the White House and laid the best claim to the animal. He would walk around the grounds holding Josiah around the waist. When Teddy expressed concern that Josiah might take advantage of the positioning to bite Archie’s face, Archie insisted that little Josh only bit legs, not faces.

Though Josiah the badger did come home with a penchant for nipping but an overall friendly demeanor, he eventually lost his pleasant attitude. He may have grown overwhelmed by the bustle of the Roosevelt’s White House, or just succumbed to his primal nature, but whichever reason, the result was the same.

The Roosevelt family had him placed in the Bronx Zoo in New York, which was probably for the best both for the animal and the family. However, they continued to visit him, just to make sure he didn’t develop any abandonment issues.

Though each president has had different pet preferences—the Coolidge family actually had a pet raccoon named Rebecca—it’s safe to say that Teddy Roosevelt came the closest to running a zoo out of the White House. But really, who’d refuse a little girl in a small town in Kansas handing you a baby badger?

New details emerge of Medal of Honor recipient’s heroism

First Lady Grace Coolidge shows off her pet racoon, Rebecca, at the White House Easter Egg Roll April 18, 1927.

(Courtesy of the George W. Bush White House Archives.)

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Team from 10th Special Forces Group wins Best Warrior Competition

Earlier in August, a team from the 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) won the 2020 Best Warrior Competition that was organized by the 1st Special Forces Command (1st SFC).

The 10th SFG team was comprised of a Special Forces Engineer Sergeant (18C), who competed in the NCO category, and a Nodal Network Systems Operator-Maintainer (25N) who competed in the junior enlisted category. Both soldiers came from the 2nd Battalion of the Group and had previously won a unit-level competition that qualified them from the big event.


Because of the Coronavirus pandemic, the competition was conducted virtually. Teams from across the command competed in a series of events.

The competition was broken up into a series of several events that assessed soldiers holistically. Competing teams had to take the Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT), shoot the M4 qualification test, write an essay, take a military knowledge exam, complete a 12-mile ruck march, and answer questions for an oral military board. Attention to detail throughout the competition was paramount, and teams were even graded on the correctness of their uniforms.

The Engineer Sergeant explained that some of the tasks were unfamiliar even for a Special Forces operator.

“I have very little background in Army doctrine and the reasons they do certain things,” he said in a press release. “It got me out of my comfort zone and now I have a greater base of knowledge than I did prior to this.”

The junior member of the 10th SFG team added that “it was definitely weird for us because you can’t see who you’re competing against. It’s a different feeling for sure and in a competition that really drives me.”

Both soldiers remained anonymous due to the sensitive nature of their job.

New details emerge of Medal of Honor recipient’s heroism

10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) snipers training at Fort Carson (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Jacob Krone).

1st SFC is responsible for the Army’s Special Forces Groups (there are five active duty, 1st, 3rd, 5th, 7th, and 10th, and two National Guard, 19th and 20th), the 75th Ranger Battalion, the 4th and 8th Psychological Operations Groups, and the 95th Civil Affairs Brigade.

The command sergeant major of 2/10th SFG said that “hands down I’m proud, they represent the battalion very well. This battalion has a blue-collar work ethic, so if they’re going to do it, they’re going to do it to the best of their ability.”

Green Berets primarily specialize on Unconventional Warfare, Foreign Internal Defence, Direct Action, and Special Reconnaissance. True to their soldier-diplomat nature, they embed with a partner force, which, depending on the situation, might be a guerrilla group or a government army, and work with and through that local force to increase their effectiveness and achieve their mission.

New details emerge of Medal of Honor recipient’s heroism

(Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Gregory Brook)

Special Forces soldiers deploy in 12-man Special Operations Detachment Alphas (ODAs). Each ODA is comprised of an officer, warrant officer, operations sergeant, intelligence sergeant, and two weapons, engineer, communications, and medical sergeants. The idea behind the duplicate military occupational specialties is to enable the ODA to split into two, or even more, smaller teams.

The 10th SFG troops had to prepare for the competition while still excelling at their jobs. “Right from the beginning you could tell that they were putting in the effort to study and brush up on warrior tasks,” added their sergeant major. “Ultimately they displayed impressive levels of physical and mental toughness.”

Special Forces teams are often the first in a hot spot because of their unique combinations of combat effectiveness and cultural expertise. They led the campaign against al-Qaida and the Taliban in Afghanistan; they invaded northern Iraq and held numerical superior enemy forces during the 2003 Iraqi invasion; and they were the first in Iraq to stop the Islamic State onslaught.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

MIGHTY TRENDING

China’s Navy plans on beating the US to an operational railgun

China looks set to beat the US to the punch on a naval railgun — which the US has spent more than $500 million and a decade on — by deploying the game-changing weapon on a navy ship.

But the complicated railgun doesn’t even have to work to succeed, as it looks as if Beijing’s doing this to embarrass Washington.

The US Navy started work on a railgun in 2005. For years, the Navy struggled to reign in the wild technology that allows a railgun to fire a projectile at such high velocity that it will make a devastating impact without an explosive charge.


Some grounded tests of the Navy’s railgun produced fantastic imagery, but it remains far from battle-ready and may never be fielded on a warship.

Earlier 2018, a Chinese navy ship appeared on the water with a railgun of its own. By actually putting the weapon on the ship, China succeeded where the US Navy had failed for over a decade.

Citing people with knowledge of a US intelligence report, CNBC reported in June 2018 that China had been working on its railgun for seven years and was just another seven from deploying a working model on a ship.

It’s “pretty obvious that China is working towards that goal, and probably faster than the US is,” Melodie Ha, who’s part of the Center for a New American Security’s Asia-Pacific Security Program, told Business Insider.

“It’s very possible that they will mount a working railgun on a ship” by 2025, Ha said. But everything is not always as it appears with the Chinese military.

A railgun doesn’t even really make sense

New details emerge of Medal of Honor recipient’s heroism
All this fire is caused purely by friction.
(U.S. Navy photo)

Instead of gunpowder, pure electricity powers the railgun’s projectiles. But despite the lack of explosives, railgun projectiles still cause fireballs, because the round travels so fast that the air and metal itself combust under the immense friction. This indicates the massive amount of electricity needed to fire the railgun — a big problem for China, or any warship.

The US has proposed putting a railgun on the new Zumwalt class of destroyer. The Chinese are likely to put a railgun on the Type 055 destroyer. The Zumwalt produces twice the electricity of the Type 055, according to Ha.

Additionally, the Chinese would have to clear the same engineering and operational hurdles that have kept the US from mounting the railgun on a ship. Railguns produce a lot of heat and have a short barrel life. After rapid-fire shots, the gun barrel might be susceptible to dangerous warping. And aiming a railgun that can fire at targets as far as 100 miles away — and from a warship that’s rocking in the seas — also poses serious challenges.

Strategically, it’s also unclear how the railgun fits into naval warfare. The US, China, and Russia all have hypersonic anti-ship cruise missile programs designed to thwart existing defenses, and they generally have higher accuracy and much greater range than the railgun.

And if the railgun’s barrel melts after a few shots, why bother?

“As long as the US can launch a second strike, if the Chinese can’t knock down the second missile, then what’s the point?” Ha said.

China’s railgun has a reported range of only 124 miles — so by the time the railgun could strike a target, the Chinese ship would already be in range of US missiles.

The real purpose behind the railgun

New details emerge of Medal of Honor recipient’s heroism
The Office of Naval Research Electromagnetic Railgun located at the Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division.
(U.S. Navy photo by John F. Williams)

A railgun doesn’t make sense in today’s warfighting environment, but it makes perfect sense for another mission of China’s navy: embarrassing the US.

“In terms of Chinese maritime grand strategy, it would fit in their entire plan,” Ha said, adding that railguns are “next-generation technology” and that China wants to “prove to the US and the entire world that they are technologically advancing.”

China’s opaque system has shrouded the new railgun prototype in mystery. If China were to place one of these mysterious, next-generation guns in the South China Sea, it would have beaten the US to the punch on a major technological advance and projected a unique kind of power unmatched by the West.

At a time when the US and China are battling to see whose vision of the future can win out, it makes sense that Beijing would try to shame Washington by winning this leg of the arms race.

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

Articles

This is the reason Wild Weasel pilots have a low survival rate

The job of a Wild Weasel is the most dangerous mission faced by today’s fighter pilots, a job more hazardous and difficult than shooting down enemy jets, according to retired Air Force Lt. Col. Dan Hampton in his book Viper Pilot: A Memoir of Air Combat.


These gutsy pilots are tasked with flying their specially outfitted fighter jets into enemy surface-to-air missile envelopes in order to bait SAM operators into targeting them with their radars. Once targeted, the radar waves are traced back to their source allowing the Wild Weasels and other attack aircraft to destroy the threat.

Actually, the unofficial motto of the Wild Weasel crews is YGBSM: “You Gotta Be Sh-tting Me.” It was B-52 Electronic Warfare Officer (EWO) veteran Jack Donovan’s natural response when he was introduced to the tactics and mission details. His exact reply was: “you want me to fly in the back of a little tiny fighter aircraft with a crazy fighter pilot who thinks he’s invincible, home in on a SAM site in North Vietnam, and shoot it before it shoots me, you gotta be sh-tting me!” His vernacular stuck and YGBSM is prominently displayed on the patch of some squadrons, adding to the legend of the Wild Weasel.

The Wild Weasel radar detection and suppression concept was developed by the Air Force during the Vietnam War to combat the growing surface-to-air (SAM) threat, specifically the Soviet-made SA-2 Goa. It’s the same type of missile that brought down the CIA U-2 spy plane over Russia piloted by Francis Gary Powers on May 1, 1960. Powers was arrested by the Soviets after he was shot down and eventually released to the U.S., he’s the subject of Tom Hank’s 2015 film, Bridge of Spies.

New details emerge of Medal of Honor recipient’s heroism
50 years of YGBSM. Contains the following Wild Weasel Jets: F-100F Super Sabre; F-105F Thunderchief; F-105G Thunderchief; F-4C Phantom II; F-4G Phantom II and F-16CM Fighting Falcon. Image courtesy of Aircraft Profile Prints.

Birth of the Wild Weasel

During the Vietnam War, the Weasels used two tactics to accomplish their mission. The first tactic, dubbed “Hunter Killer,” used Wild Weasels to hunt down enemy air defense systems and F-105 Thuds to kill them.

The tactic was developed from on-the-job training, for lack of a better description. It was the best play they had against the SA-2. All the U.S. military knew about the SA-2 was that they were usually camouflaged, had a range of 15 to 20 miles and used a target tracking radar. The latter was key for the Weasels because they used it to home in on the target with radar-seeking missiles while the F-105s flew in with heavier ordnance and cluster munitions to complete the kill.

“We knew that we could survive at low-level, use terrain masking, pop up to get their readings and attack the sight,” said a former Weasel pilot in the video below.

The second tactic was to protect the strike force during regular missions. The Weasels would provide themselves as decoys to encourage SAM launches that generated enough smoke to make them visible — like a smoking gun. Meanwhile, the strikers zeroed in on their targets. The Weasels would orbit the target area for 20 to 40 minutes exposed to enemy fighters, SAMs, and air artillery shells (AAA).

Both tactics were very dangerous and resulted in a high fatality rate. After about seven weeks of operations, the first Wild Weasels only had one aircraft left, and many members of the original 16 aircrews had been killed in action, were POWs or had left the program, wrote Warren E. Thompson for HistoryNet.

This documentary perfectly captures the Wild Weasel mission and history:

(YouTube: Joe Hodges)
MIGHTY TRENDING

This is the reason Russian and Western tactics are changing

Russia has worked to enhance its naval capabilities since 2000.


The war in Syria has given it a chance to test those new assets, and Western and Russian warships now both operate in the eastern Mediterranean.

Their operations there underscore how naval tactics and strategy are shifting.

Western and Russian warships have been in close proximity in the eastern Mediterranean, where both sides are assisting partners fighting in Syria.

Also read: This is the Russian super torpedo that could sink the US Navy

Both sides have used it as an opportunity to keep tabs on each other, studying their adversary’s capabilities and tactics.

A Russian attack submarine left the Baltic Sea in early May, heading to the eastern Mediterranean, according to The Wall Street Journal.

It was tracked along the way by NATO ships, including by a Dutch frigate that took a photo of the sub in the North Sea.

New details emerge of Medal of Honor recipient’s heroism
Russian Krasnodar, as spotted by a Dutch frigate in the North Sea. (Image Adm. Rob Kramer Twitter)

By the end of the month, it had arrived on station, and the Russian Defense Ministry announced the cruise missiles it fired hit ISIS targets near Palmyra in Syria.

A few days later, the USS George H.W. Bush sailed through the Suez Canal, meant to support US-backed rebels in Syria.

For sailors and pilots from the Bush, with little formal training in anti-sub operations, their duties now included monitoring the Krasnodar.

“It is an indication of the changing dynamic in the world that a skill set, maybe we didn’t spend a lot of time on in the last 15 years, is coming back,” Capt. Jim McCall, commander of the air wing on the USS Bush, told The Journal.

The cat-and-mouse game continued in the eastern Mediterranean throughout the summer.

US helicopters ran numerous operations in search of the sub. Flight trackers also picked up US aircraft doing what seemed to be anti-submarine patrols off the Syrian coast and south of Cyprus. In mid-June, the Krasnodar fired more cruise missiles at ISIS targets in Syria, in response to the US downing a Syrian fighter jet near Raqqa.

New details emerge of Medal of Honor recipient’s heroism

In Syria, an increasingly complex battlefield situation has sometimes set the US and Russian at odds. Russia has offered few details about its operations, and the US-led coalition has had to keep a closer eye on Russian subs in the eastern Mediterranean.

The Krasnodar didn’t threaten the Bush during these operations. But subs are generally hard to detect, and one like the Krasnodar attracts special attention. Its noise-reducing abilities have earned it the nickname “The Black Hole.”

“One small submarine has the ability to threaten a large capital asset like an aircraft carrier,” US Navy Capt. Bill Ellis, commander of US anti-sub planes in Europe, told The Journal.

Russia has beefed up its naval forces considerably since 2000, seeking to reverse the decline of the 1990s.

The Krasnodar marked an advancement in Russian submarines, and more a new class of subs — designed to sink aircraft carriers — is now being built, according to The Journal.

While Russia has gotten better at disguising its subs, the US and Western countries have kept pace with enhanced tracking abilities.

New details emerge of Medal of Honor recipient’s heroism
An SH-60F Sea Hawk helicopter assigned to Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron 15 flies past the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson during an air power demonstration. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class James R. Evans)

“We are much better at it than we were 20 years ago,” Cmdr. Edward Fossati, who oversees the Bush’s anti-sub helicopters, told The Journal.

But the Krasnodar’s Mediterranean maneuvers appeared to meet Moscow’s goals, striking in Syria while avoiding Western warships.

Moscow’s naval activity around Europe now exceeds what was seen during the Cold War, a NATO official said this spring, and NATO and Russian ships sometimes operate in close quarters around the continent.

When the UK sent its new aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth, to sea trials in June, navy officials said they expected Russian submarines to spy on it. During US-UK naval exercises — in which the Bush participated — off the coast of Scotland in August, a Russian submarine was spotted shadowing the drills.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Everything you need to know about the Taliban’s special forces unit

On the increasingly crowded battlefields of Afghanistan, a feared, commando-style Taliban unit is gaining attention for a series of deadly attacks on Afghan security forces.


Known as “Sara Kheta” — Red Unit or Danger Unit in Pashto — it is said to be the Taliban’s elite special-forces group. Unlike regular Taliban fighters, analysts say the outfit is better trained and armed and is sent on special operations targeting bases and posts of the Afghan National Army and police force.

The so-called Red Unit’s rise has raised concerns among government forces struggling to fend off the Taliban since the withdrawal of NATO troops in 2014 and suffering record casualty rates on the battlefield.

New details emerge of Medal of Honor recipient’s heroism

When did it emerge?

The first mention of a Taliban “special-forces unit” was in June 2015, when Taliban fighters published photos on social media purportedly showing a training camp where recruits were being trained on heavy machine guns and anti-aircraft guns.

In December 2015, the Taliban said it was unleashing its special forces to eliminate fighters allied with the militant group Islamic State (IS) that had emerged in Afghanistan earlier that year.

In August 2016, Afghan military officials confirmed the existence of the Taliban’s Red Unit in the southern province of Helmand.

But the unit has fought its way to greater prominence in the past month or so. On Nov. 1, the Taliban uploaded photos of the unit on its official Telegram account. The photos show members of Red Unit in new uniforms and armed with the kind of tactical assault gear worn by soldiers and law enforcement teams around the world.

Also Read: The Taliban killed 15 Afghan police in separate attacks

Weeks later, Afghan officials blamed it for a spate of attacks on Nov. 13 and 14 during which dozens of Afghan security personnel were killed in the southern province of Kandahar and the western province of Farah.

On Dec. 3, Afghanistan’s intelligence agency said the commander of the new unit, Mullah Shah Wali, also known Mullah Naser, was killed in an air operation in Helmand Province the week before.

How is it different from other Taliban units?

“What distinguishes this force from other fighting units is its intensive and longer training, the degree of vetting, its tactics, weapons and equipment, and structure,” says Borhan Osman, senior Afghanistan analyst at the International Crisis Group (ICG).

New details emerge of Medal of Honor recipient’s heroism

“The unit is mainly used for quick interventions, high-value targets, special operations, or offensives such as capturing a highly strategic area, breaking major sieges of regular Taliban forces, jailbreaks, and escorting important leaders,” Osman adds.

Military analysts estimate the size of the unit at anywhere from several hundred to up to 1,000 fighters.

Those tactics and capabilities were on show in the November attacks when Afghan officials said the unit, equipped with lasers and night-vision gear, attacked police checkpoints and army bases and rapidly left the scene to avoid NATO air strikes. On Nov. 14, the unit drove a pickup truck loaded with explosives into a police checkpoint point and then launched attacks on 14 nearby posts, killing over two dozen police officers.

In Farah Province the same day, Taliban units with night-vision scopes killed eight police officers in their beds early in the morning. Three police officers in the province were also killed in night attacks around the same time.

New details emerge of Medal of Honor recipient’s heroism
Screengrab from released Taliban video.

The U.S. military has equipped many Afghan soldiers with night-vision equipment, but police forces rarely possess them.

“The Red Unit and regular Taliban forces use the same types of weapons: small arms, RPGs, and machine guns,” says Bill Roggio, senior fellow at the Washington-based think tank Foundation for Defense of Democracies and editor of the Long War Journal. “Typically, the Red Unit has newer weapons, and is occasionally seen with night-vision devices that have been seized from Afghan forces.”

The unit is believed to equipped with the Taliban’s most advanced weaponry, including 82-millimeter rockets, laser pointers, heavy machine guns, and U.S.-made M-4 assault rifles. They are also known to have used and possess dozens of armored Humvees and Ford Ranger pickup trucks stolen from Afghan forces.

Ahmad K. Majidyar, a South Asia and Middle East expert for the Washington-based Middle East Institute, says it is misleading to call the unit a special-forces outfit because it lacks elite commando capabilities of even the Afghan Special Forces, let alone advanced elite commando units such as the U.S. SEAL Team Six.

“The Red Team is more a heavily armed group used in surprise attacks against vulnerable Afghan security check posts,” he says. “It also has well-trained snipers that aid ordinary Taliban militants in their attack against the Afghan forces.”

The unit has also spread from southern Afghanistan, where it was established, and has expanded into eastern and western regions.

 

 

How much of a threat is it?

“The Red Unit poses a significant threat to Afghan forces,” Roggio says. “It has had great success on the battlefield when going head to head with Afghan units.”

Roggio says the unit operates like shock troops, often leading assaults on Afghan district centers, military bases, and outposts.

The NATO-led mission in Afghanistan has said it has not seen any evidence of the Taliban possessing advanced weaponry like night-vision equipment, which Afghan officials say the militants have purchased on the black market or have accumulated after overrunning Afghan army bases.

But Afghan military officials have confirmed the unit’s capabilities.

Kandahar’s powerful police chief, General Abdul Raziq, has said the Red Unit is part of the Taliban’s “new approach and new tactics,” adding that it was “well equipped and highly armed.”

Majidyar says he expects the Red Unit to come under increasing pressure if President Donald Trump relaxes U.S. rules of engagement.

“The Taliban will suffer more significant losses on the battlefield in the coming months,” he predicts.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

6 things geardos buy that are actually useful

No one wants to be labelled a “geardo.” They’re the person in the unit that spends way too much money to buy themselves things that are either not authorized for wear with the uniform or are redundant because the issued version is just as good.

It’s not inherently a bad thing to make yourself more prepared for combat, it’s more that people who buy extra crap are wasting their money to tack on useless crap that will do nothing but slow them down. Being fully decked out in mostly useless gear is also a telltale sign that the person has no idea what is actually used in combat — meaning they’re probably a POG.

All that being said, some of the crap they buy isn’t without merit. Sometimes, buying your own version of gear, something that was designed by someone other than the lowest bidder, helps plenty. The following pieces of gear are popular among geardos, but are actually useful.


New details emerge of Medal of Honor recipient’s heroism

If you’re on a boring field op that you know won’t require you to fire your weapon, having a muzzle cap will make it so you can just immediately turn your weapon into the armorer, no problem.

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Dustin D. Biven, 22nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)

Muzzle caps

A dumb geardo buys anything to look cool. Smart geardos, however, buy things that actually serve a tangible purpose. Take the muzzle cap, for instance. It costs all of seven bucks for a pack of five and it’s literally just a piece of plastic.

That insignificant-seeming muzzle cover makes sure that dust and sand don’t get inside your barrel. Typically, grunts clean their rifles more often than POGs, but making sure that you’re spending time cleaning just carbon out of the chamber instead of all the rest of the gunk makes life so much easier.

New details emerge of Medal of Honor recipient’s heroism

They also make great unit shirts that everyone will actually want to wear… just saying.

(U.S. Air Force Photo by Tech Sgt. Carlos J. Treviño)

Moisture-wicking shirts

If you’re sent to the desert, you’re going to sweat every minute of the day. Standard-issue undershirts are made of heavy cotton, which means they’re heavier, thicker, and hold all that nasty sweat.

Most Army regulations state the undershirt of your ACU top needs to be the same, “coyote tan” color. Thankfully, there’s a lot of wiggle room in the regulations and there are plenty of third-party options to pick from.

New details emerge of Medal of Honor recipient’s heroism

They’re helpful, once you learn how to put the damn thing on.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Cayce Nevers)

Three-point rifle slings

When you’re deployed, you constantly need to have your assigned weapon on your person, POG or grunt. The single-strap sling that you’re given can get caught when you’re trying to get to the low-ready. The three-point sling makes things a lot more ergonomic and less of a hassle.

And then there’s the overly cool one-point slings that just tie around the buttstock. You’re going to drag your rifle through the dirt and mud with that thing — that’s entirely a geardo buy.

New details emerge of Medal of Honor recipient’s heroism

You seriously don’t want to ever overdo it. Ounces make pounds, after all.

(U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. Daniel Johnson)

Store-bought magazine pouches

One of the defining traits of a geardo is the number of pouches they have on their kit or rucksack. As long as you don’t have more than your standard six plus one magazine pouches, no one will accuse you of being a Fobbit.

But if you swap out the six that the Army gave you with the store-bought varieties, you can use the extra magazine pouches to hold all the other crap, like those AAFES pogs that replaced coins. The M249 SAW drum pouch is actually extremely useful because it’s about the same size as a folded-up poncho.

New details emerge of Medal of Honor recipient’s heroism

Whatever it takes to make you not go deaf.

(DoD photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Kitt Amaritnant)

High-speed ear pro

Tinnitus is a very serious problem. It’s a constant ringing in your ears that lasts for the rest of your life, and it seems to hit the military community in far greater numbers than the civilian world — for obvious reasons. It’s actually the number one disability among U.S. veterans.

The ear pro that your supply NCO tosses out barely works and is a pain in the ass to put in properly. If going out of your way to buy a good set of ear protection gets you to actually use them and not screw up your hearing, it’s a hundred-percent justified.

New details emerge of Medal of Honor recipient’s heroism

Once you make the switch, it’s kinda hard to go back to regular boots.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Robert L. McIlrath)

Barely authorized boots

If there’s one piece of military gear that the Army keeps issuing out despite being complete garbage, it’s got to be the general-issue boots. They rip easily, they have no arch or heel support, and the soles wear out extremely quickly.

As long as you can find a pair that is within regulations for your branch and your command doesn’t seem to mind if you supply your own, these are a must.

MIGHTY HISTORY

These invincible Russian tanks rolled through Nazi artillery

The KV-1 and KV-2 are recognized as being amongst the most heavily armoured tanks deployed during WW2. At least initially largely impervious to anything less than a direct, point-blank hit from a dedicated anti-tank weapon, the KV series was so formidable that the first time the Wehrmacht encountered them, Soviet soldiers destroyed dozens of anti-tank guns by simply driving towards them in a straight line and running them over.

Introduced in 1939 and named for famed Soviet officer Kliment Voroshilov — a man who once personally tried to attack a German tank division with a pistol — the KV series was designed to replace the T-35 heavy tank, which was somewhat mechanically unreliable and costly to produce. The extremely heavily armoured KV series was first deployed during the Soviet Union’s 1939 war with the Finnish and then subsequently used throughout WW2.


The KV series was effectively designed with a single feature in mind — survivability. Towards this end, it was equipped with exceptionally thick armor. While this thickness varied somewhat based on model, for reference the KV-1 boasted armor that was 90 millimeters thick (3.5 inches) on the front and 70 millimeters (2.8 inches) on the rear and sides.

Of course, there’s always a trade-off in anything, and the thickness and weight of the KV’s armor came at the expense of almost everything else. The tank was slow, had limited maneuverability and firepower relative to what you’d expect from a tank this size, and, to top it all, had exceptionally poor visibility. In fact, it’s noted that Soviet commanders frequently complained about the tank, despite the defensive protection it offered. These sentiments weren’t echoed by the German troops who initially encountered this moving shield.

New details emerge of Medal of Honor recipient’s heroism

A 1939 KV-1 model.

The KV-1 and KV-2 (the two most popular models of the tank) were nearly invincible during initial skirmishes with the Germans, as few anti-tank weapons they possessed could punch a hole through the armor, and even the ones that could required uncomfortably close range to do it.

As noted by an unspecified German solider in a 1949 report compiled by the U.S. Army’s Historical Division,

…there suddenly appeared for the first time a battalion of heavy enemy tanks of previously unknown type. They overran the armored infantry regiment and broke through into the artillery position. The projectiles of all defense weapons (except the 88-mm. Flak) bounced off the thick enemy armor. Our hundred tanks were unable to check the twenty enemy dreadnaughts, and suffered losses. Several Czech-built tanks (T 36’s) that had bogged down in the grain fields because of mechanical trouble were flattened by the enemy monsters. The same fate befell a 150-mm. medium howitzer battery, which kept on firing until the last minute. Despite the fact that it scored direct hit after direct hit from as close a range as two hundred meters, its heavy shells were unable to put even a single tank out of action…

In another account, a German soldier in the 1st Panzer Division noted,

The KV-1 and KV-2, which we first met here, were really something! Our companies opened fire at about 800 yards, but [they] remained ineffective. We moved closer and closer to the enemy, who for his part continued to approach us unconcerned. Very soon we were facing each other at 50 to 100 yards. A fantastic exchange of fire took place without any visible German success. The Russian tanks continued to advance, and all armour-piercing shells simply bounced off them. Thus we were presently faced with the alarming situation of the Russian tanks driving through the ranks of 1st Panzer Regiment towards our own infantry and our hinterland. Our Panzer Regiment therefore about turned and rumbled back with the KV-1s and KV-2s roughly in line with them.

The former report also notes that a lone KV tank (the exact model isn’t clear) simply parked in the middle of the road blocking the main supply route and sat there soaking up anti-tank rounds for several days. “There were practically no means of eliminating the monster. It was impossible to bypass the tank because of the swampy surrounding terrain.”

Among the initial armament brought against the troublesome tank were four 50mm anti-tank guns. One by one the tank took them all out suffering no meaningful damage itself.

Frustrated, the Germans commandeered a nearby 88mm anti-aircraft gun, positioning it a few hundred feet behind the tank (basically pointblank range for a gun design to rip planes in half). While this weapon was capable of piercing the tank’s armor at that range, before they could fire, the KV turned the gun’s crew into a pink smear.

New details emerge of Medal of Honor recipient’s heroism

A KV-1 on fire, knocked out near Voronezh in 1942.

Next up, the Germans decided to send an engineer crew in under cover of darkness to try to take it out up close and personal. While they did manage to get to the KV and attach demolition charges, it turned out they underestimated the needed explosive power and only a few pieces of the tank’s track were destroyed, leaving the tank still fully functional.

As for the tank crew themselves, they initially received needed supplies to continue their barrage on the Germans via cover of night. However, ultimately the Germans were able to cut off supply access to the tank and then sent a whopping 50 of their own tanks in to take it out, or that was seemingly their plan; while the massive number of tanks were approaching and occupying the attention of the KV crew with their limited visibility, the Germans were able to, according to the 1949 account from the unnamed German soldier, “set up and camouflage another 88-ram. Flak to the rear of the tank, so that this time it actually was able to fire. Of the twelve direct hits scored… three pierced the tank and destroyed it.”

Of course, all good things must come to an end and the KV line’s many limitations saw it quickly go from a near impervious mobile fortress to a virtual sitting duck, with German forces reacting to it by developing new explosive anti-tank rounds fully capable of taking the KV’s out.

While still used throughout the war, once this happened, the KV’s were largely replaced by the more well-rounded T-34 tank. Still, it’s impossible to argue that the KV didn’t make one hell of a first impression, even if, ironically enough, it didn’t have staying power.

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia, China prepare for nuclear war in massive war games

Russia and China, the two key threats to the US named in official Pentagon documents, will carry out their biggest-ever military drill to reportedly include simulations for nuclear warfare.

US defense officials told the Washington Free Beacon’s Bill Gertz that the drills, the largest in Russia since 1981 and the largest joint Russian-Chinese drill ever, will include training for nuclear war.

Russia, the world’s largest nuclear power, and China, another long-established nuclear power, have often clashed in the past and still hold many contradictory policy goals, but have become main targets of the US.


Under President Donald Trump, the US has redefined its national security and defense postures, and in both documents pointed towards China and Russia, rather than terrorism or climate change, as the biggest threat to the US.

It’s unclear how China and Russia may coordinate nuclear war, as they have very different models of nuclear strategy. Russia holds the most nuclear warheads in the world, and has employed them on a growing number of dangerous and devastating platforms. Russia hopes to soon field an underwater doomsday device that could cripple life on earth for decades. Also, US intelligence reports indicate Russia is struggling with a new nuclear-powered, nuclear-armed cruise missile.

New details emerge of Medal of Honor recipient’s heroism

A briefing slide, seen on Russian television, showing what Putin described as a nuclear torpedo.

China, on the other hand, has taken the opposite approach to nuclear weapons by opting for minimum deterrence.

Where Russia and the US have established nuclear parity and a doctrine of mutually assured destruction where any nuclear attack on one country would result in a devastating nuclear attack on the other. Russia and the US achieve this with a nuclear triad, of nuclear-armed submarines, airplanes, and ground-launched missiles so spread out and secretive that a single attack could never totally remove the other country’s power to launch a counter strike.

But China, with just around 200 nuclear weapons, has its force structured to simply survive a nuclear attack and then offer one back weeks, or even months later. Nonetheless, the Pentagon’s annual report on China said that Beijing trains for strikes on the US using nuclear-capable bombers.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said that about 300,000 troops and 1,000 aircraft will participate, using all of the training ranges in the country’s central and eastern military districts.

Beijing has said it will send about 3,200 troops, 30 helicopters, and more than 900 other pieces of military hardware.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Army-Navy Game saw the first use of Instant Replay

In the fourth quarter of the 1963 Army-Navy game, Army’s “Rollie” Stichweh faked a handoff and ran in the endzone for Army’s final touchdown against Navy for that contest. The touchdown didn’t change the outcome of a 21-15 loss for Army. What was special about it was the broadcast for the viewers at home.

CBS play-by-play commentator Lindsey Nelson had to tell people watching that Army didn’t score twice – they were watching the future of sports television.


In the days before the Super Bowl was the game that brought America together for TV Sports’ biggest day, the game that brought everyone to their televisions was the Army-Navy Game. In December 1963, the Army-Navy Game was airing just days after the assassination of President Kennedy shocked Americans to the core. And CBS Director Tony Verna brought a 1,300-pound behemoth of a machine to use for his broadcast.

Millions were watching, and this monster was either going to make or break the young director’s career. Nelson was worried that the new technology might confuse people. So was Verna.

“There was the uncertainty about this game,” says Jack Ford, a correspondent for CBS News. “How is it gonna be played? How are fans going to react to this?”

In those days, replay technology still took up to 15 minutes to get ready, far too long to rehash an individual football play. Verna’s machine would be able to do it in 15 seconds when and if it worked. What happened during the game play was not as Verna had hoped. The machine mostly saw static, and when it did replay plays, there was a double exposure from what the crew had taped over, which was an old episode of I Love Lucy. As a result, Lucille Ball’s face could be seen on the field during the replays.

But when it came down to it, Verna’s machine did work, just in time to catch Army’s last touchdown of the game. It was the only time fans saw the instant replay during that game, but it was revolutionary. One of the Dallas Cowboys’ big executives, Tex Schramm, called Verna to congratulate him.

“He told me the significance of it, that I hadn’t confused anybody, which Lindsay and I were worried about, certainly me,” Verna told NPR later in life. “And he said, ‘You didn’t confuse anybody. It has great possibilities.’ “

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