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.
When did it emerge?
The first mention of a Taliban “special-forces unit” was in June 2015, when Taliban fighterspublished 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.
Weeks later, Afghan officials blamed it for a spate of attacks on Nov. 13 and 14 during whichdozens 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, waskilled 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).
“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.
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.
“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.
In the realm of medicine, what you don’t know can indeed kill you.
Six months have passed since China reported the first coronavirus cases to the World Health Organization. But even now, what experts are still trying to understand sometimes seems to outweigh what they can say for certain.
That is little surprise to any infectious-disease researcher: Highly contagious diseases can move through communities much more quickly than the methodical pace of science can produce vital answers.
What we do know is that the coronavirus seems to have emerged in China as early as mid-November and has now reached 188 countries, infected more than 10.4 million people, and killed around 510,000. Population-level studies using new testing could boost case numbers about 10-fold in the US and perhaps elsewhere as well.
Here are 11 of the biggest questions surrounding the coronavirus and COVID-19, and why answering each one is critically important.
How did the new coronavirus get into people?
The first coronavirus infections was thought to have emerged in a wet market in Wuhan, in China’s Hubei province. But newer research suggests the market may simply have been a major spreading site.
Researchers are fairly certain that the virus — a spiky ball roughly the size of a smoke particle — developed in bats. Lab tests show that it shares roughly 80% of its 30,000-letter genome with SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome), a virus that also came from bats and triggered an epidemic in 2002 and 2003. It also shares about 96% of its genome with other coronaviruses in bats.
Still, researchers still aren’t sure how the coronavirus made the jump from bats to humans. In the case of SARS, the weasel-like civet became an intermediate animal host. Researchers have suggested that civets, pigs, snakes, or possibly pangolins — scaly nocturnal mammals often poached for the keratin in their scales — were an intermediary host for the new coronavirus. But it could also be that the virus jumped straight from bats to humans.
A May study suggested that SARS-CoV-2 (the virus’ clinical name) may be a hybrid of bat and pangolin viruses.
Global tallies of cases, deaths, recoveries, and active infections reflect only the confirmed numbers — researchers suspect the actual number of cases is far, far larger.
For every person who tests positive for the novel coronavirus, there may be about 10 undetected cases. This is because testing capacity lags behind the pace of the disease, and many governments, including in the US, failed to implement widespread testing early on.
New estimates from MIT suggest the world had already seen 249 million coronavirus cases and 1.75 million deaths by June 18. That would make the global case total 12 times higher than official reports, and the global death toll 1.5 times higher.
Other similar research estimated that the US alone may have seen 8.7 million coronavirus cases from March 8 to 28. US researchers also suggested in May that the nation’s official death count may “substantially understate” the actual number of coronavirus fatalities.
Why it matters: An accurate assessment is critical in helping researchers better understand the coronavirus’ spread, COVID-19’s mortality rate, the prevalence of asymptomatic carriers, and other factors. It would also give scientists a more accurate picture of the effects of social distancing, lockdowns, contact tracing, and quarantining.
What makes the coronavirus so good at spreading?
Viruses are small, streamlined particles that have evolved to make many, many copies of themselves by hijacking living cells of a host.
The measurement of a virus’ ability to spread from one person to another is called R0, or R-naught. The higher the value, the greater the contagiousness — though it varies by region and setting. The novel coronavirus’ average R0 is roughly 2.2, meaning one infected person, on average, spreads it to 2.2 people. But it had a whopping R0 of 5.7 in some densely populated regions early in the pandemic.
A person’s ability to transmit the virus depends partly on their viral load: the amount of virus particles they release into the environment. Coronavirus patients tend to have high viral loads in the throat, nasal cavity, and upper respiratory tract, which makes the virus highly contagious. Research indicates that there’s little difference in the viral loads between coronavirus patients who show symptoms and those who don’t.
Coughing — a signature symptom of COVID-19 — helps spread viruses in tiny droplets, especially in confined spaces. But the virus can also spread through singing, normal breathing, or even loud conversation.
Why it matters: Knowing how a virus gets around can help everyone better prevent its spread. Getting a handle on its behavior may also spur governments to act sooner to contain future outbreaks of this or other similar diseases.
What drives mortality in people infected by the coronavirus?
First, the virus’ spiky proteins latch onto cell receptors in the lungs called ACE2. Our immune system then senses a threat and responds by activating white blood cells. Among patients who develop severe outcomes, immune systems can overreact by producing a “cytokine storm” — a release of chemical signals that instruct the body to attack its own cells.
The reaction may cause milder coronavirus symptoms like fever, fatigue, muscle aches, or swollen toes. But it can also lead to severe symptoms including blood clots, excessive leaking in the blood vessels, fluid in the lungs, depleted oxygen in the blood, and low blood pressure.
Doctors have linked blood clots to the increased prevalence of strokes among coronavirus patients. An aggressive immune response can also damage the heart, kidneys, intestines, and liver. But most coronavirus deaths are due to respiratory failure, meaning the lungs aren’t supplying enough oxygen to the blood.
Why it matters: Understanding how the coronavirus does so much harm could lead to more effective treatments in hospitals and make for promising drug targets.
What percent of people infected by the coronavirus die?
Death rates for COVID-19 are not one-size-fits-all. Many factors are at work.
Age is a big one. Older people are more likely to die as a result of lung failure, strokes, heart attacks, and other problems triggered by coronavirus infections, while younger individuals are much less likely to do so. However, people of all ages, including children, have experienced severe symptoms and sometimes death.
One hypothesis is that the answer lies in an individual’s genetic code. People whose genes tell their bodies to make more ACE2 receptors — which the coronavirus uses to invade our cells — could get hit harder.
Why it matters: Variations in death rates help researchers expose flaws in government responses, supply chains, patient care, and more, ideally leading to fixes. Being able to identify the people at higher risk of severe symptoms and treati them accordingly could also lower death rates. However, the early data is clear enough: The coronavirus has the capacity to kill millions of people in a relatively short time.
Why do young people face the least risk of dying?
On a per-capita basis, young people are the most resilient to the coronavirus. But they do get infected and suffer from it. Even blood clots and strokes have emerged among some younger patients.
Typically, young kids and older people are in the same risk category for diseases like the flu. But it’s not so with COVID-19: About 70% of US deaths have been people 70 and older. Children, meanwhile, represent less than 2% of confirmed coronavirus infections in China, Spain, Korea, Italy, and the US.
It’s not clear yet whether kids are less likely to contract the virus in the first place, or whether many of their cases are simply being missed because they are often mild or asymptomatic.
Out of more than 2,500 pediatric cases in the CDC study, only three patients died. The study concluded that “most COVID-19 cases in children are not severe.”
One reason for this could be that children have less mature ACE2 receptors — the enzymes that serve as ports of entry for the coronavirus — which could make it more difficult for the virus to infect a child’s cells.
Why it matters: Understanding why kids don’t often show signs of the disease — either because they’re not as prone to infection or because they more often experience very mild, cold-like symptoms — could have huge ramifications for vaccine development and understanding how the disease spreads.
Can you get reinfected?
The body almost certainly develops short-term immunity in the form of antibodies, and immune-system researchers are reasonably confident that the body will recognize and fight the coronavirus in the future.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told the “Daily Show” host Trevor Noah in March that he’d be “willing to bet anything that people who recover are really protected against reinfection.”
There have been a small number of cases in which people tested positive for the coronavirus, were later found to be free of the virus, then tested positive again after that. But these cases are mostly the result of false positives and misinterpretations of test results, since some diagnostic tests can detect leftover pieces of dead virus in the body.
Still, no one is certain about the prospects for long-term immunity. For other coronaviruses like SARS and MERS, antibodies seemed to peak within months of an infection and last for a year or more. But a June study found that SARS-CoV-2 antibodies may only last two to three months after infection. Asymptomatic individuals also demonstrated a weaker immune response to the virus, meaning they could be less likely to test positive for antibodies.
Researchers also don’t know the specific levels of antibodies required for a person to be fully immune.
A May study from Mount Sinai Hospital in New York showed that most people with confirmed coronavirus cases tested positive for antibodies — but longer or more severe cases didn’t necessarily produce more antibodies than mild ones. Instead, the amount of antibodies a person produces may be related to innate differences in people’s immune responses.
Why it matters: Understanding whether long-term immunity is the norm would have major ramifications for controlling the pandemic and could enable officials to lift social-distancing restrictions for people who have already gotten sick.
How seasonal is the coronavirus?
Warmer temperatures and lower humidity may hinder the virus’ spread, according to research published in June. That could explain why New York City had a higher growth rate of new infections compared to Singapore in March, though other factors like testing and contact tracing likely played a role as well.
An April study found a similar link between the virus’ lifespan and the surrounding temperature. At 4 degrees Celsius (39 degrees Fahrenheit), the coronavirus lasted up to two weeks in a test tube. When the temperature was turned up to 37 degrees Celsius (99 degrees Fahrenheit), that lifespan dropped to one day.
But warmer temperatures haven’t done much to quell the US outbreak. The nation’s surge in new daily cases has surpassed its prior peak in April.
Why it matters: Knowing how much — if at all — the coronavirus is affected by changing seasons would help governments around the world better deploy resources to stop its spread.
Are there any safe and effective drugs to treat COVID-19?
There is, as of yet, no slam-dunk treatment for the coronavirus or its symptoms. However, 17 leading treatments are being tested.
Clinical trials have also shown that dexamethasone, a common, cheap, steroid, can reduce deaths in severely ill COVID-19 patients.
Why it matters: Having tools to slow infections or perhaps even stop the coronavirus from harming people could curtail its spread, reduce suffering, ease the burdens on healthcare systems, and save lives.
Will there be a vaccine for the coronavirus, and when?
Arguably the most promising vaccine is a messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccine developed by biotech company Moderna. The company was the first to publish early results in humans after starting its first trial on March 16. It aims to start a late-stage efficacy trial with 30,000 people in July.
Other promising candidates include “vector vaccines” — which use live viruses to teach the immune system how to fight off pathogens — developed by the University of Oxford and Johnson Johnson. The Oxford vaccine is spearheaded by British pharma company AstraZeneca, which will start its own efficacy trial in August. Johnson Johnson aims to enroll more than 1,000 healthy volunteers in a clinical trial in July.
The US government hopes to have hundreds of millions doses of a vaccine ready by January 2021 — a record timeline. But some vaccinologists and industry analysts doubt a vaccine will be ready before 2022 or 2023.
Why it matters: Developing a vaccine would help the world put an end to the pandemic.
What are the long-term consequences for those who survive COVID-19?
It’s not yet clear what the long-term consequences of weathering a severe bout of COVID-19 might be. In severe cases, the virus may cause permanent damage to the lungs and other organs, resulting in chronic, lifelong issues.
Patients who experience blood clots also face a risk of longer-term damage, pain, and loss of function, especially in organs.
While some people’s symptoms seem to clear up after two weeks, even those with milder cases have reported symptoms lasting for several months — including fatigue, chest pain, difficulty breathing, and loss of taste and smell. These symptoms may be the result of lingering inflammation rather than an active infection.
“The symptoms are probably coming from an immune reaction,” Dr. Ramzi Asfour, an infectious-disease doctor in the San Francisco Bay Area, told Business Insider.
“You have to separate the damage from the disease,” he added. “It’s going to be difficult to tell for now what subset is active, ongoing infection and what subset is really just pure immune dysfunction.”
Why it matters: Knowing the extent of lasting damage due to the coronavirus can help governments prepare for long-term strain on healthcare systems, impacts to the workforce, and slower economic recoveries. Governments can also push for more research into the underlying causes of lingering symptoms and effective treatments for them.
Throughout military history, it was common for generals to only know of each other by reputation or by the deeds of their troops.
But when lines are drawn, ideologies change, and another war is fought for another reason, you may find yourself fighting against your former allies and those old interpersonal rivalries can get ugly fast. It takes a darker turn when both sides of that rivalry have an army ready to kill and die at their command.
Let’s take a look at some of history’s greatest rivalries between former brothers-in-arms.
1. George Washington and Benedict Arnold — Revolutionary War
One man would later be known as the “Father of America” while the other would become synonymous “traitor.” Both Washington and Arnold were heroes of the American Revolution early on and fought many battles together.
This was until Arnold switched allegiances back to the crown. His reasons for turning his back on America are still debated by historians, but the accepted reasons include money, disillusionment, and personal vendettas against the Continental Congress.
2. Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee — Siege of Veracruz
Both Generals would earn historical prestige leading their respective armies against each other during the American Civil War, but they weren’t always enemies. In fact, at the beginning of the Civil War, Lee was offered command of the U.S. Army before resigning his commission. Eight days later, he accepted command of Confederate troops in Virginia.
Back in the Mexican-American War, however, both men fought side-by-side as then-Lieutenant Colonel Lee led troops in Scott’s March on Mexico City with a young then-First Lieutenant Grant. Both Lee and Grant marched under the command of then-General Zachary Taylor. In fact, the Siege of Veracruz was full of names that would eventually become essential pieces of the Civil War, including future Generals Meade, “Stonewall” Jackson, and Longstreet.
3. Charles de Gaulle and Phillipe Petain — Battle of Verdun
Petain rose in rank to eventually become Marshal of France and, later, Prime Minister of the Nazi puppet state, Vichy France. He took strong and direct opposition to Charles de Gaulle’s revolutionary Free France. After the fall of the Nazi Regime, Petain was spared the gallows because of his actions as “The Lion of Verdun” and hero of France. France’s new leader, Charles de Gaulle, refused to execute the disgraced former-Marshal.
Petain’s military mind helped save France in WWI at the Battle of Verdun. One of the most heroic battles and early turning point of Verdun took place when the Germans were contained at Douaumont and surrounded by 90,000 men and 21,000 tons of ammunition. There stood de Gaulle, the then-Captain in the French 33rd Infantry Regiment, leading Petain’s charge. Charles de Gaulle was wounded and captured in that battle.
4. Mao Zedong and Chiang Kai-shek — Second Sino-Japanese War
While Mao Zedong is etched in history as the Chairman of the People’s Republic of China, his main rival was Chiang Kai-shek, the Chairman of the National Government of China (or, as it’s more commonly known in America, Taiwan). To briefly summarize a long, storied conflict, both of these nations claim to be China. As the Communist Revolution swept over the mainland during the Chinese Civil War, the capitalists fled to Formosa (the island of Taiwan), but neither ceded statehood.
Just like the nations they led, Mao and Chiang have a history that oscillates between cooperation and opposition. First, they supported each other during the Northern Expedition. Then, they went at each other’s throats during the Chinese Civil War. Then, during the Second Sino-Japanese War, when Axis-aligned Japan invaded a Soviet- and American-backed China, they allied again.
If you’ve joined the Marine Corps or if you’ve studied military history, then you’re likely very familiar with the legendary Dan Daly. For the uninitiated, he’s known for being one of the most decorated service members of all time. He coined an expression that will forever live on in books, movies, and among troops,
“Come on, you sons of bitches, do you want to live forever?”
Although Marines of all ages are taught many incredible things about the career of this bold war hero, there are few things you probably didn’t know about Sgt. Maj. Daniel Joseph “Dan” Daly.
Daly wasn’t the bigger guy ever
The New York-native joined the Corps in January, 1899, expecting to see action during the Spanish-American War. Unfortunately for him, the war was over before he had finished his training.
Sgt. Maj. Daly stood 5 feet, 6 inches tall and reportedly weighed about 135 pounds. Regardless of his size, the prideful Marine was well-respected within the ranks and was seen as a tough, fearless man.
He earned two Medals of Honor — and almost got a third.
Sgt. Maj. Daly was one of only two Marines to be awarded two Medals of Honor during two separate conflicts. He earned the first one during the China Relief for killing numerous enemy combatants on his own. He received his second for heroic actions done during the invasion and occupation of Haiti. Alone, he crossed a river to retrieve a machine gun while under intense enemy fire.
He almost earned a third for his part in a counterattack against the enemy in the famous Battle of Belleau Wood. Instead, Daly was given the Distinguished Service Cross and, later, the Navy Cross.
Daly turned down an officer commission
For his outstanding leadership, the Marines offered Daly a commission. He turned it down by saying,
“Any officer can get by on his sergeants. To be a sergeant, you have to know your stuff. I’d rather be an outstanding sergeant than just another officer.”
That’s so badass!
The USS Dan Daly (DD-519)in honor of the Marine Corps legend.
On February 6, 1929, Daly hung up his rifle for good and received a hero’s parade that marched from Bedford Ave. to the Williamsburg Plaza in Brooklyn in honor of his decorated military service. From then on, Daly led a quiet life as a guard at a Wall Street bank.
He never married. It just goes to show that if the Corps wanted you to find a spouse, they’d issue one.
On September 20, 2020, at the Mariposa at Ellwood Shores assisted living facility in Goleta, California, Lt. Charles Dever celebrated his 105th birthday. But, he wasn’t alone. Along with his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, Dever was joined by a color guard and senior officers from Vandenberg Air Force Base including the 30th Space Wing Commander Col. Anthony Mastalir.
Dever in his uniform (Dever family)
Originally from Englewood, New Jersey, Dever joined the Army on February 11, 1941. During his four years of service on active duty, Dever served as a B-24 Liberator lead navigator in the 98th Bombardment Group. Throughout WWII, he flew over 50 missions bombing shipping and harbor installations in Libya, Tunisia, Sicily, Italy, Crete, and Greece to stem the flow of Axis supplies to Africa as well as airfields and rail facilities in Sicily and Italy. Devers described his wartime career as the time of his life, but he was also scared to death. “Every mission, waking up, preparing, reading the intelligence, getting ready for the flight, knowing that that could be your last, but doing it day after day after day,” said Col. Mastalir of Dever, “it’s truly amazing.” During his time in the Army Air Force, Dever earned a number of medals including an Air Medal with oak leaf cluster and the Distinguished Flying Cross.
Until last year, Dever had lived on his own. To give her father a special surprise for his 105th birthday, Dever’s daughter, Kathy, reached out to Vandenberg Air Force Base asking for help. “We thought we would shoot for the moon and see where we landed,” she said. When the base leadership learned about Devers’ birthday, they got to work.
With coordination from Team Vandenberg, birthday cards, notes, and emails poured in not only from Vandenberg but from across the country. Team Vandenberg also coordinated with Kathy to arrange a socially distanced grand ceremony to include a color guard, parade, speeches from leaders, and the folding of and presentation of the American flag.
Dever with his birthday cake (U.S. Air Force)
During the ceremony, Col. Mastalir commended Dever for his service. “It is the legacy of warriors like Lt. Dever who have set the standard and expectation that I hope to achieve during my years in service,” he said. “Just like you led the way to the birth of the Air Force, your example [to] our airmen, as they transition to become space professionals, we’re so grateful for all that you have done.” Col. Mastalir presented Dever with the 30th Space Wing challenge coin and a framed certificate making him an honorary member of the United States Space Force.
Dever was amazed and overjoyed with the ceremony. “It’s incredible,” he said. “I never expected anything like this at all.” When asked what the secret to a long and fulfilling life was, the Greatest Generation and now Space Force member said, “Breathe in and out.”
In would could herald a major escalation in America’s effort to fight ISIS in Syria, photos emerged in early March appearing to show a convoy of specially-modified U.S. armored vehicles rolling toward a town recently liberated by anti-ISIS allies.
Media outlets in Syria posted photos and video footage of what look like tricked-out M1126 Stryker infantry carrier vehicles rolling across the Euphrates river into Syria headed toward the town of Manbij, now the front line in the anti-ISIS coalition’s fight to take the last remaining militant stronghold in Raqqa.
The vehicles appeared to be carrying U.S. special operations troops and were flying American flags on their antennae.
Operation Inherent Resolve spokesman Air Force Col. John Dorrian confirmed the influx of American armor in a March 4 statement via Twitter, saying the armored push was a “deliberate action” to reassure allies and to defeat ISIS.
The armored escalation comes just days after top Pentagon brass reportedly delivered a new plan to President Donald Trump on how to defeat ISIS. In a Feb. 28 speech to a joint session of Congress, Trump vowed to “demolish and destroy ISIS” and to “extinguish this vile enemy from our planet.”
Though details of the new plan have not been publicly released, the Washington Post reports one preferred option weighs heavily on an increase in U.S. combat power into Syria, including ground troops, helicopters and artillery. There are currently an estimated 500 U.S. special operations troops operating in Syria in a largely advisory role.
The Stryker vehicles rolling into Syria appear to have incorporated modifications that make it more like an ultra-up-armored Humvee as opposed to an armored combat vehicle. Some of the photos show an open crew compartment and a unique driver capsule that sits above the usual eye line.
A fleet of up-armored Humvees are also pictured rolling into Syria accompanying the Strykers.
But at the same time, the F-15 has been facing increasingly better competition. Perhaps the most notable is the from the Flanker family of aircraft (Su-27/Su-30/Su-33/Su-34/Su-35/J-11/J-15/J-16), which has been receiving upgrades over the years.
Boeing, though, hasn’t been standing still, even as it lost the Joint Strike Fighter competition. Instead, it has been pursuing F-15 upgrades.
The Eagle 2040C is one for the F-15C air-superiority fighter, which has been asked to continue soldiering on with the termination of F-22 production after 187 airframes.
In the video, one of the planes is seen carrying 16 AIM-120 AMMRAAMs — enough to splash an entire squadron of enemy planes! (“You get an AMRAAM! You get an AMRAAM! EVERYONE gets an AMRAAM!” a la Oprah)
Check out Boeing’s Eagle 2040C video above. Seems like they missed an opportunity for one hell of a Super Bowl commercial.
The nominee to lead U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) told lawmakers Dec. 4, 2018, that the unrelenting pace of operations may force the elite organization to pass some missions off to conventional combat units.
Army Lt. Gen. Richard Clarke, testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee as part of his nomination process to assume command of SOCOM, said he believes it has an “adequate” number of personnel but needs to avoid taking on missions that conventional forces are capable of handling.
“Special Operations Command should only do those missions that are suited for Special Operations Command, and those missions that can be adjusted to conventional forces should go to those conventional forces,” he said.
Currently, special operations forces are responsible for conducting U.S. counter-terrorism missions in Afghanistan and elsewhere and handling missions such as combating weapons of mass destruction.
A U.S. Army Special Forces Soldier, from Special Operations Task Force-East, watches Afghan Commandos, from 2nd Commando Kandak, while patrolling a village in Dand Patan district during an operation.
(US Army photo)
The elite, multi-service SOCOM, made up of about 70,000 service members, also is slated to play a significant role in the Pentagon’s new defense strategy, which focuses on near-peer adversaries such as Russia and China.
Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, asked Clarke whether there is a clear delineation within the Defense Department between SOCOM and conventional missions.
Clarke said Defense Secretary Jim Mattis “has been very clear … that SOCOM should be specific to SOCOM missions, so I don’t think there is any issue of delineation within the Department of Defense with that.”
Hirono then asked whether the U.S. military needs to do a better job adhering to the policy of assigning SOCOM-specific and conventional missions.
“The publishing of the National Defense Strategy and relooking at the prioritization of the force has given us a very good opportunity to relook at all of our deployments, look where the forces are and make sure that SOCOM forces are, in fact, dedicated to the missions that are most important and are specific to special operations forces,” Clarke said.
Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Arkansas, said recent proposals to leave SOCOM out of the proposed 5 percent cut to the DoD’s budget would not guarantee that the command would not suffer.
A Special Forces Operation Detachment-Alpha Soldier scans the area as Afghan National Army Commandos, 2nd Company, 3rd Special Operations Kandak conduct clearance of Mandozai village, Maiwand district, Kandahar province, Afghanistan.
“At a time of tight budgets, when some in the administration are already talking about cutting 5 percent from the Department of Defense budget, many people say, ‘But that’s OK, because since the Special Operations Command is bearing so much of the fight, it will be fully funded,’ ” he said. “Can you talk about your dependence on the rest of the conventional military and how our special operations forces fight with them, and why stable, predictable and increasing funding for those conventional forces is so important for Special Operations Command?”
Clarke replied that SOCOM relies heavily on conventional forces from every branch of service.
“Especially for longer-term operations, we need the support of the services,” he said. ” … Special Operations Command is made up of the services. Much of the recruitment, much of the force, is actually started in the conventional force and actually came up through the ranks, and they were identified as some of the best of breed in that particular service in which they served, and they raised their hand and volunteered for special operations.”
The Army’s conventional forces have taken responsibility for training and advising conventional forces, standing up six Security Force Assistance Brigades to help establish, instruct, and enable conventional forces in countries like Afghanistan and elsewhere.
In the past, the mission to train foreign militaries fell to Army Special Forces. Special Forces units now focus on training foreign commando units.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
President Donald Trump said he was going to “remain flexible” and left open the possibility of shelving highly anticipated talks between the US and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
“We’ve never been in a position like this with that regime,” Trump said during a joint press conference with Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe on April 18, 2018. “I hope to have a very successful meeting. If we don’t think that it’s going to be successful … we won’t have it. We won’t have it.”
Trump went further, and floated the possibility of leaving Kim during the summit.
“If the meeting when I’m there is not fruitful, I will respectfully leave the meeting,” he said.
The exact location and date of the proposed Trump-Kim summit is not yet clear, but Trump reportedly said it could happen by early June 2018. The president said five locations were being considered, but added that the US is not one of them
US officials confirmed that CIA director Mike Pompeo made a secret trip to North Korea during Easter weekend 2018, to meet with Kim. Pompeo visited the country as part of Trump’s advance envoy to lay the groundwork for the proposed summit, during which the two leaders are expected to discuss the regime’s nuclear weapons program.
“I like always remaining flexible,” Trump said. “And we’ll remain flexible here. I’ve gotten it to this point.
“This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
A Marine corporal may have come up with a brilliant way to treat a gunshot wound the moment a bullet pierces body armor.
Cpl. Matthew Long, a motor transport mechanic, designed a tear-proof package filled with a cocktail of blood clotting and pain-killing agents that sits behind body armor, which would be released instantly if pierced by a bullet. Though Marine body armor, called “flak” jackets, come with small arms protective insert (SAPI) plates to stop bullets, they can have trouble stopping multiple rounds.
Long’s invention, if fielded, would render first aid immediately, without a Marine having to do anything. The seemingly-simple tweak could save lives when a medic is not immediately available.
The corporal was selected as a winner for his invention in September during the Corps’ Logistics Innovation Challenge.
“We thought we’d get one, maybe two ideas, but thanks to your support, we got hundreds,” Lt. Gen. Mike Dana said in a video announcing the winners. “We’re going to send all winners out to DoD labs to prototype their idea. These ideas might end up in the Marine Corps.”
Long and the nearly two dozen other winning projects will be considered for further use by the Marine Corps. As part of this, challenge winners are being partnered with government-affiliated labs to prototype, experiment, and implement their idea.
Other winners include a team of enlisted Marines who came up with a way to make affordable 3d-printed drones, an officer with an idea for a wrist computer, and glasses made for medical tele-mentoring.
The Marine Corps is adopting a new precision sniper rifle to increase the lethality and combat effectiveness of scout snipers on the battlefield.
The Mk13 Mod 7 Sniper Rifle is a bolt-action rifle that offers an increased range of fire and accuracy when compared to current and legacy systems. It includes a long-action receiver, stainless steel barrel, and an extended rail interface system for a mounted scope and night vision optic.
The Mk13 is scheduled for fielding in late 2018 and throughout 2019. Units receiving the Mk13 include infantry and reconnaissance battalions and scout sniper schoolhouses. This weapon is already the primary sniper rifle used by Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command, or MARSOC.
Fielding the Mk13 ensures the Corps has commonality in its equipment set and Marine scout snipers have the same level of capability as North Atlantic Treaty Organization forces, said Master Sgt. Shawn Hughes from III MEF.
“When the Mk13 Mod 7 is fielded, it will be the primary sniper rifle in the Marine Corps,” said Lt. Col. Paul Gillikin, Infantry Weapons team lead at Marine Corps Systems Command. “The M40A6 will remain in the schoolhouses and operating forces as an alternate sniper rifle primarily used for training. The M110 and M107 will also remain as additional weapons within the scout sniper equipment set.”
The Marine Corps identified a materiel capability gap in the maximum effective ranges of its current sniper rifles. After a comparative assessment was conducted, it was clear that the Mk13 dramatically improved scout sniper capabilities in terms of range and terminal effects.
The 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines Scout Sniper Platoon used the weapon for over a year (including during a deployment) in support of the 2025 Sea Dragon Exercise. Feedback from MCSC’s assessment, MARSOC’s operational use, and 3/5’s testing of the weapon system led to its procurement of the Mk13 for the Corps.
The Mk13 increases scout snipers’ range by roughly 300 meters and will use the .300 Winchester Magnum caliber round, a heavier grain projectile with faster muzzle velocity — characteristics that align Marine sniper capability with the U.S. Army and Special Operations Command.
“The .300 Winchester Magnum round will perform better than the current 7.62 NATO ammo in flight, increasing the Marine Sniper’s first round probability of hit,” said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Tony Palzkill, Battalion Gunner for Infantry Training Battalion. “This upgrade is an incredible win and will allow snipers to engage targets at greater distances.”
The Mk13 will also be fielded with an enhanced day optic that provides greater magnification range and an improved reticle.
“This sniper rifle will allow Marines to reengage targets faster with precise long-range fire while staying concealed at all times,” said Sgt. Randy Robles, Quantico Scout Sniper School instructor and MCSC liaison.
“The new day optic allows for positive identification of enemies at greater distances, and it has a grid-style reticle that allows for rapid reengagement without having to dial adjustments or ‘hold’ without a reference point,” he said. “With this type of weapon in the fleet, we will increase our lethality and be able to conceal our location because we are creating a buffer between us and the enemy.”
MCSC completed New Equipment Training for the Mk13 with a cross section of Marines from active-duty, Reserve and training units in early April 2018.
“The snipers seemed to really appreciate the new capabilities that come with this rifle and optic,” said project officer Capt. Frank Coppola. “After the first day on the range, they were sold.”
In a time where technology, ammunition and small arms weapon systems are advancing at an increasingly rapid rate, it is extremely important to ensure the Marine Corps is at the forefront of procuring and fielding new and improved weapon systems to the operating forces, said Gillikin.
“Doing this enables the Corps to maintain the advantage over its enemies on the battlefield, as well as to secure its trusted position as the rapid crisis response force for the United States,” he said.
U.S. Army weapon officials announced Wednesday that the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) will be the first unit to receive the service’s new Modular Handgun System.
The announcement comes as the service waits for the Government Accountability Office to rule on a protest filed by Glock Inc. in February against the Army’s selection of the Sig Sauer P320 as the replacement for its current M9 9mm pistol.
The GAO is expected to make a decision in early June, but the service is free to continue work on the effort.
The Army awarded Sig Sauer a contract worth up to $580 million Jan. 19. Sig Sauer beat out Glock Inc., FN America and Beretta USA, maker of the current M9 9mm service pistol, in the competition for the Modular Handgun System, or MHS, program.
The 10-year agreement calls for Sig to supply the Army with full-size XM17 and compact XM18 versions of its 9mm pistol. The pistols can be outfitted with suppressors and accommodate standard and extended-capacity magazines.
The service launched its long-awaited XM17 MHS competition in late August 2015 to replace its Cold War-era M9 9mm pistol. The decision formally ended the Beretta’s 30-year hold on the Army’s sidearm market.
Army officials have said very little about the new MHS since the contract award.
“It has increased lethality, faster target acquisition, better reliability,” Lt. Col. Steven Power, who runs Product Manager for Individual Weapons, told an audience at the National Defense Industrial Association’s 2017 Armaments Systems Forum.
Power said there have been a lot of misconceptions about what the requirements community meant when they described the new pistol as modular.
“This largely focused on the shooter’s hand size and the enablers that the weapon is compatible with,” Power said, describing how the MHS offers different grip sizes and can accept various attachments such as lights and optics.
The base configuration of the full-size XM17 pistol will come with Tritium sights and three magazines — one standard 17-round magazine and two extended 21-round magazines. Army equipment officials are developing a holster for the MHS as well.
One aspect of the MHS that Army officials have been reluctant to talk about is the type of ammunition the service’s new sidearm will use.
A new Defense Department policy — that allows for the use of “special-purpose ammunition” — allowed the Army to require gunmakers to submit ammunition proposals along with their pistols to be evaluated in the competition.
The ammunition chosen to go with the Sig Sauer is a “Winchester jacketed hollow point” round, Power told Military.com.
But before it can be issued, the Pentagon must complete a “law of war determination,” which is scheduled to be complete in the next two months, Army officials said.
“Before we can field it, we have to have a law of war determination on the specific ammunition that was submitted with the handgun before we actually continue to field it to the soldier,” said Col. Brian Stehle, head of Project Manager Soldier Weapons.
“We have a law of war determination that stated that this type of ammunition is usable. We are very confident that the winning ammunition will be usable.”
The current plan is for the Army to buy 195,000 MHS pistols. Here’s a look at the MHS quantities the other services intend to buy, according to Army officials:
People like to talk about the best tanks, rifles, and tactical gear. It’s a great discussion — there are many sophisticated pieces of tech in the military world, each with various strengths and weaknesses. That said, we rarely talk about the flip side of this coin: What are some of the worst pieces of gear out there?
There are some weapon systems out there whose sole purpose in existence is to act as an example of what not to do. So, let’s dive in, without restraint, and take a look at the very worst the world has to offer across several gear categories.
U.S. Army soldiers train with the G36, which had a lot of problems in hot weather — or after firing a lot of rounds.
Worst Rifle: Heckler and Koch G36
Heckler and Koch usually makes good guns. The MP5 is a classic submachine gun that’s still in service around the world. The G3 rifle was second only to the FN FAL. But then there’s the G36.
Intended to replace the G3, the G36 was to be Germany’s new service rifle in the 5.56mm NATO caliber. Well, the gun had many problems. First and most importantly, the gun was horribly inaccurate when hot. In temperatures above 86 degrees Fahrenheit or after firing many rounds, the gun was liable to miss a target 500 meters away by as many as 6 meters. Spray and pray is not a tactic known to successfully defeat an enemy.
It would help if the MG5 could hit the broad side of the barn…
(Heckler and Koch)
Worst Machine Gun: Heckler and Koch MG5
Heckler and Koch has the dubious distinction of owning two items on this list. HK made the under-appreciated G8, which could serve as anything from a designated marksman rifle to a light machine gun in 7.62 NATO. The company’s MG4 is a solid 5.56mm belt-fed machine gun — again, the company knows how to make good weapons. Unfortunately, they also made the MG5.
This is a gun that can’t shoot straight. Granted, when you’re using a machine gun, the task usually involves laying down suppressive fire, but it’d probably help to hit the bad guys occasionally.
The crew of this T-72 was smart and abandoned it rather than try to face the United States.
(USMC photo by Cpl. Mace M. Gratz)
Worst Tank: T-72
Two words: Desert Storm. This tank’s poor performance speaks volumes. When it fired its main gun at a M1A1 Abrams tank from 400 yards, the round bounced off. Read that again: The. Round. Bounced. Off.
You can’t get worse than that. In general, the best anti-tank weapon is another tank, but the T-72 is simply useless. Any crew you send out in this vehicle should be immediately considered lost.
The Koksan self-propelled howitzer has long range, but that may be its only virtue.
(USMC photo by Albert F. Hunt)
Worst Artillery: Koksan self-propelled howitzer
This thing has a long range (it hits targets up to 37 miles away) but, for everything other than that, this gun is impractical. The rate of fire is not measured in rounds per minute, but rather by minutes per round — to be precise, two and half minutes per round.
Yes, it is self-propelled, but it has a very slow top speed (25 miles per hour) and it doesn’t carry much in the way of ammo.
It’s had a good career, but the AAV-7 is not able to handle modern threats.
(DoD photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Daniel E. Smith)
Worst APC/IFV: AAV-7
First, let’s talk about the good of this vehicle: it can carry a lot of troops (21 grunts and a crew of three) and it has some amphibious capability. Unfortunately, those benefits are outweighed by the huge size, relatively puny armament (a .50-caliber machine gun and a 40mm automatic grenade launcher), and light armor.
The design is 45 years old and ready for retirement yesterday.