Early in its combat testing, a test pilot’s damning report leaked to the press and exposed the world’s most expensive weapons system, the F-35, as a bad dogfighter that the F-16 routinely trounced in mock battles.
But new videos leaked from the US Air Force’s F-35 demo or stunt flying team show the jet making head-spinning turns that older jets could never hit.
In 2015, the test pilot’s write up of the jet’s combat performance obliterated the idea of F-35 as a capable dogfighter due to a glaring flaw: Weak maneuverability.
“Overall, the most noticeable characteristic of the F-35A in a visual engagement was its lack of energy maneuverability,” the pilot wrote.
the U.S. Air Force F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Samuel King Jr.)
“The F-35 was at a distinct energy disadvantage in a turning fight and operators would quickly learn it isn’t an ideal regime… Though the aircraft has proven it is capable of high AOA [angle of attack] flight, it wasn’t effective for killing or surviving attacks primarily due to a lack of energy maneuverability,” he continued.
Furthermore, according to the pilot, there was basically nothing the F-35 could do to escape getting killed by the F-16’s gun. Any move he tried to escape the F-35’s cannon read as “predictable” and saw the pilot taking a loss.
But the F-35 program and its role in dogfights hadn’t been as well figured out back then.
Since then, the F-35 has mopped up in simulated dogfights with a 15-1 kill ratio. According to retired Lt. Col. David Berke, who commanded a squadron of F-35s and flew an F-22 — the US’s most agile, best dogfighter — the jet has undergone somewhat of a revolution.
New moves, new rules
In the video, the F-35 pilot takes the plane inverted, hits a tight loop, and appears to pause in mid-air as he enters a flat spin that makes his hundred-million-dollar jet appear like a leaf floating down towards earth. (Really better to watch than read about it.)
The flat spin move is often used by F-22 and Russian fighter pilots to show off the intense ability of their planes to sling the nose around in any direction they wish.
According to Berke, this F-35 stunt “demonstrates what the pilots and the people around the aircraft have always known: It’s vastly superior to almost anything out there,” in terms of agility.
Furthermore, according to Berke, an F-16 could not hit the move shown in the demo team’s video.
Berke and others close to the F-35 program have described to Business Insider a kind of breakthrough in the maneuvering of the F-35 throughout its development.
Berke said the video proves that the F-35 is a “highly maneuverable, highly effective dogfighting platform,” but even still, he wouldn’t use that exact maneuver in a real dogfight.
The flat spin is “not an effective dogfighting maneuver, and in some cases, you would avoid doing that.”
F-16 Fighting Falcons.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Joshua Kleinholz)
“If me and you were dogfighting and we’re 2 miles away, and I had a wingman 5 miles away, you’d be super slow and predictable and easy for him to find,” due to executing the move, said Berke.
But despite the F-35’s impressive moves and ability to win dogfights, Berke said he’d stay on mission and try to score kills that take better advantage of the jet’s stealth.
“I want to avoid getting into a dogfight, but if I had to I’m going to be able to outmaneuver most other aircraft,” he said.
After all, the F-35’s makers never intended it as a straight World War II-era Red Baron killer, but a rethink of aerial combat as a whole.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The personnel chiefs for the Navyand Marine Corps revealed Tuesday that both services are considering updating their policies to require mandatory processing for administrative separation for troops found to have engaged in abusive social media activity, a move that would make online violations akin to drug use and sexual assault.
Lt. Gen. Mark Brilakis, Marine Corps deputy commandant for Manpower and Reserve Affairs, told Military.com that a task force organized to address the aftermath of a social media scandal implicating Marines is considering the option.
The scandal centers on a private Facebook page called Marines United, where hundreds of active-duty troops and reservists apparently viewed and exchanged nude and compromising photos of female service members without their consent. The Naval Criminal Investigative Service probe into the illicit activity has since expanded beyond the page to other groups and users, NCIS officials said last week.
“There is mandatory processing for administrative separation in a number of different cases. Use of drugs requires mandatory administrative processing, sexual harassment requires mandatory administrative processing, sexual assault requires mandatory administrative processing,” Brilakis said, following a congressional hearing on military social media policies on Capitol Hill.
“We are considering whether events wrapped up in Marines United, those things, would rise to the level where the commandant would recommend or direct me to begin mandatory administrative processing for separation,” he said.
Processing does not guarantee that an individual will be separated from the service, but it does direct that the relevant commander begin a review, and an administrative board review the case of the service member in question. Such a move would require a change to the Marine Corps separations manual, Brilakis said.
The Navy, which organized a senior leader working group in the wake of the scandal, is considering a similar step, Chief of Naval Personnel Vice Adm. Robert Burke told the House Armed Services subcommittee on personnel Tuesday.
“We are reviewing the [Uniform Code of Military Justice] and Navy policy governing mandatory administrative separation to ensure they are adequate,” he said.
The fact that both services are considering such a move, reserved for violations for which the military has a zero-tolerance policy, underscores how seriously the military is now addressing the problem of social media harassment and the pressure from lawmakers to produce results fast.
Similar policies implemented in the 1980s to combat drug use in the services resulted in a huge reduction. According to Defense Department statistics, 47 percent of troops were found to have used drugs in 1973, compared to just 3 percent by 1995. More recently, the military has worked to apply the same approach to sexual harassment and assault, though the results to date have been more muted.
The policy reviews come as multiple lawmakers express outrage at service members’ alleged behavior and call for decisive action.
Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, a freshman Democrat from New Hampshire, called on the military to boot offenders, reading aloud from an enlistment document that states troops will be subject to separation if their behavior falls short of military standards.
“I don’t know why we have to debate and you tell them at the very beginning and you sign off saying their behaviors are unacceptable,” she said. “I don’t understand why we have to then pursue many various avenues. Do you still have the power to throw them out if it’s very clear they can’t do this?”
Brilakis, however, emphasized that everyone in uniform deserves due process and will continue to receive it.
“Whether it be through an administrative procedure or a military justice procedure, there are processes,” he said.
The ‘Rambo’ series didn’t start off with John Rambo as a one-man Army, hell-bent on killing anyone who stood between him and his mission. But that’s what it turned out to be. And now few action movie images are more iconic than Rambo tightening up his trademark red headband.
You know the one.
The series began as a very poignant, yet action-packed treatise on the treatment of Vietnam veterans in the years following the end of their war. In First Blood, there’s only one onscreen kill, a guy who falls out of a helicopter for trying to kill Rambo. Rambo isn’t purposely involved in his death. If you want to know the whole point of the first Rambo movie, you can just watch John Rambo’s speech at the end of the movie.
By First Blood: Part II, the idea that John Rambo was just a simple guy with extraordinary training in extraordinary situations, was long gone. In the second Rambo movie, John Rambo is the perfect man to lead a mission back to Vietnam to rescue POWs still held there. Rambo is twice as ripped and definitely kills people in this movie. By Rambo III, he just lays waste to an entire army.
If you don’t remember any of that, Sylvester Stallone posted a helpful reminder to his Instagram account.
From G.I. Joe-level animation for First Blood, the VCR-level graphics in between the “trailers,” the backyard, action figure quality of the trailer for First Blood: Part II, to the 8-bit Nintendo-style graphics for the Rambo III trailer, everything about this rundown of John Rambo’s life is perfect. And perfectly chock-full of late 1980s to early 1990s nostalgia. Whoever came up with this idea – and it very well could have been Stallone himself – needs an award of some kind. A webby, a grammy, a Pulitzer. Something.
The fun doesn’t stop at the original three Rambo movies. The “trailer” for the fourth installment is a nod to a hilarious “Reading Rambo” meme. This comes in the form of a Rambo IV children’s book, narrated by Sly, describing the most epic and violent Rambo scene in the series’ history.
You know the one.
If you’re interested in watching the entire Rambo series recap, check it out on Stallone’s official Instagram feed. If you’re interested in recapping the entire series in its non-cartoon entirety, you can join me on my couch on Thursday as I attempt to contain my overwhelming excitement for the best action movie series since … ever.
Multiple experts recently told Business Insider that Russia’s program to acquire and field the Su-57 desperately needs an infusion of cash from an international investor, like India.
Initially, India was a partner in the Su-57 program, and intended to help develop, build, and, eventually, buy scores of the advanced fighter jet pitched as a rival to the US F-22 and F-35, but those talks soured and Russia never saw the money.
Experts now allege that Russia’s deployment of the underdeveloped, underpowered fighters to Syria, a combat zone where they’re hardly relevant as air-superiority fighters not facing any real air threats, was a marketing ploy to get more investment.
But while Russia rushes off the Su-57s for a deployment that lasts mere days and demonstrates only that the supposedly next-generation fighters can drop bombs, the US has made real inroads selling the F-35 to countries that might have looked at the Su-57.
The US sent F-35s to the Singapore Air Show in February 2018 as part of an international sales pitch. President Donald Trump’s administration has loosened up regulations on who the US can sell weapons to, and the F-35, once a troubled program, finally seems to have hit its stride.
“The Russian economy is a mess,” retired US Air Force Lt. Gen. David Deptula, now head of the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies, told Business Insider. “One of the things they can actually get money for is the advanced tech in their weapons systems.”
But with the Su-57 seeming like a long shot with trouble ahead, and the F-35 now ready to buy, the Trump administration’s expressed strategy of punishing the Kremlin’s cash flow with military sales might bear fruit.
Asked if the F-35’s export to countries like India posed a threat to Russia’s Su-57 program, Deptula gave a short answer: “Yes.”
The Su-57’s death blow could fall in a boardroom in New Delhi
Japan and South Korea are both thinking about buying more F-35s, but most importantly, The Diplomat rounded up several reports indicating that India’s Air Force formally requested a classified briefing on the F-35A, and it may buy up to 126 of the jets.
At around $100 million per airframe, such a purchase would likely leave little room in the budget for India to buy Su-57s, which would require vastly different support infrastructure than the US jet.
“Having been to India and met with their Air Force leadership, while they are a neutral country, their culture is one that fits very well with English-speaking nations around the world,” said Deptula, who said the US trying to sell F-35s to India would be “worthwhile.”
If India decided to buy F-35s, or really any Western jet, Russia would have its struggling Su-57 and one fewer customer for it. Meanwhile, Russia has only ordered 12 of the Su-57s, not even enough for a full squadron.
So, while jet enthusiasts have long debated who would win in a fight between the F-35 and the Su-57, we may never find out.
The US’s F-35 is a real jet — three real jets, actually — that has significant money behind it to keep it flying in air forces around the globe for decades to come. Russia’s Su-57 has no such security.
One Navy Cross and one Silver Star were presented posthumously, including an upgrade from a Silver Star to a Navy Cross for SEAL Charles Keating, IV, who was killed during an ambush in northern Iraq while assisting anti-ISIS Peshmerga forces.
“Today we honor some of our nation’s finest heroes, not just for their individual acts of courage and bravery in the face of danger, but for the everyday selflessness that they and their peers demonstrate,” Mabus said. “This generation of Sailors, and particularly those serving as part of our Naval Special Warfare team, is an extraordinary group of men and women who have given so much to our country.”
These awards were upgrades to previously awarded medals for valor in combat and upgraded as a result of the Department of the Navy’s Post 9/11 Valor Awards Review Panel. This panel reviewed award nominations from combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan to ensure members were appropriately recognized for acts of valor.
The Navy did not disclose the names of the SEALs whose awards were upgraded.
According to Keating’s Silver Star citation, he lead Peshmerga fighters in repelling an assault by 100 ISIS fighters, including intercepting a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device with sniper fire and rockets. Keating’s actions occurred in March 2016, two months before he was killed.
“Although today we recognize these individuals for their heroism and valor in combat, we are also honoring the Sailors and Marines who fought beside them and those who are still in the fight,” Mabus said.
The Department of the Navy reviewed more than 300 valor awards and the review was completed Nov. 15.
The Navy Cross, the U.S. Navy’s second highest decoration, is awarded for extraordinary heroism while engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States. The act must be performed in the presence of great danger or at great personal risk.
The Silver Star is awarded for gallantry in action against an enemy of the United States, while engaged in military operations with a friendly force. It is the fourth highest military honor that can be awarded to a member of the U.S. Armed Forces and the third highest award for valor.
Marine Corps System Command today gave defense industry representatives a glimpse of the service’s new equipment wish list that includes lighter, more flexible body armor, more comfortable individual equipment and rifle barrels with built-in suppressors.
Col. Michael Manning, who oversees weapons and equipment programs for MCSC, told industry that Marine equipment is still not integrated as much as it could be.
It used to be that the Marine Corps selected weapons, accessories and equipment and just expected Marines to carry it, Manning told an audience at Modern Day Marine 2017.
“We said ‘you know what, if it adds 10 more pounds, so be it. Get over it,'” Manning said. “It’s time for all of you to help me stop getting over it. Ounces equal pounds, pounds equal pain.
“When you can throw it on top of an already 70- ton tank, then that is one thing. When you throw it on top of a 200 pound marine, it’s completely another.”
The U.S. Military has come a long way in the development of individual body armor in the past 20 years, Manning said.
“We have come a long way in the past five years, when it comes to technologies that can defeat multiple rounds,” he said.
But ceramic rifle plates have not changed that much, Manning said.
“We have dropped ounces off of everything we carry, but we haven’t dropped weight on ceramic plates,” Manning said. “There are other technologies out there. Maybe we don’t have to defeat threat whatever multiple times. Maybe it’s only a one or two hit in this caliber.”
Ceramic plates are also too rigid, Manning said.
“Our current plates — you can’t shape them; you can’t mold them to the individual Marine and we all know that,” Manning said. “Let’s get to the next step. Let’s figure out how to mold them.”
The Marine Corps also wants better knee and elbow pads, Manning said.
“The issue is not that we don’t have them out there; the issue is Marines won’t wear it if it’s not comfortable or it falls off or it’s a pain to get over top of everything they are already wearing,” Manning said.
“They fall off, they slide around, so we tear ourselves apart.”
Marines are also working on a Squad Common Optic.
“In the last 10 years we have done a lot of technology improvements, but what we haven’t done is merge all of those improvements into singular optics,” Manning said.
“So now we have infantry squads that are carrying multiple optics. We need to merge thermal, we need to merge I-squared, we need to merge all those technologies together” without adding extra weight.
The current technology for individual weapon suppressors also needs improving, Manning said, explaining that Marines need built-in suppressors.
“Get rid of the suppressor on the end of the barrel … so now when we have a 14.5 inch barrel or a 16 inch barrel, you just added four or five inches and I am right back to 20 inches,” Manning said.
“There are a couple out there now that integrate with the weapons themselves, that is really where we want to go.”
In April, 2015, the son of a New Jersey pizza shop owner left the United States. His destination was an Islamic State training camp in Syria. Shortly after arriving, he allegedly emerged in a video posted to social media, beheading Kurdish fighters captured by ISIS. Now, Zulfi Hoxha may be in command of ISIS fighters in the country.
How Islamic State fighters survive the onslaught from American, Kurdish, Syrian, Russian, Iranian, and/or Turkish forces is baffling to many, but Zulfi Hoxha has managed to stay alive through it all, even after the fall of the ISIS capital at Raqqa and the subsequent collapse of the terrorist “caliphate.”
Hoxha now goes by the name Abu Hamza al-Amriki, the last being a nod to his country of origin. He’s been seen in a number of pro-ISIS jihadist propaganda videos, doing everything from encouraging “lone wolf” attacks in the United States to actually beheading enemy soldiers captured in combat. At just 26, he’s being touted as one of the most dangerous recruiting tools of the declining Islamic State.
Only a few dozen Americans have left the U.S. to join international terrorist organizations. Hoxha is significant in that he is now a major propaganda star and is featured as a senior commander of the Islamic State forces. But since the apogee of ISIS’ rise to power in 2014, the group has lost the kind of success that would attract followers like Hoxha.
Having graduated from an Atlantic City, N.J., high school in 2010, youth like Hoxha saw ISIS in control of some 34,000 square miles of territory cut out of Iraq and Syria – a territory roughly the size of Maine. In the years since, the group has lost most of that territory, along with the prestige, money, and followers that kind of success attracts. In previous years, ISIS members like Hoxha were propaganda stars on social media, but after the worldwide effort to curb ISIS recruiting, jihadists are more likely to be found on dark websites than on Twitter.
Iraqi Federal Police hold an upside-down ISIS flag after retaking streets in Mosul.
Hoxha has had minimal contact with former friends and family back in New Jersey. He sent a message to one friend shortly after leaving the United States to tell him that he had arrived in “the Safe House.” He also told his mother that he was going to be training for three months. Now he is one of just a few Americans who rose to a leadership position in the Islamic State and other jihadist organizations.
Many of the others are dead, most killed by U.S. airstrikes.
The recent delivery of a QF-16 from Boeing to the 82nd Aerial Target Squadron marks an important milestone on the road to recovery for Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida.
“The arrival of this QF-16 brings us one step closer to resuming operations,” said Col. Steven Boatright, 53rd Weapons Evaluation Group commander. “It is vital to the warfighter that we resume operations when it is deemed safe to do so.”
The QF-16 enables live fire weapons testing in the Joint Gulf Range Complex, which is made up of 180,000 square miles that stretches from Key West to northwest Florida, and allows for joint test and training exercises.
The 82nd ATRS currently has 18 QF-16s assigned to Tyndall AFB. Six QF-16s are unmanned, but all of them are modified to be flown remotely. The manned configuration of the aircraft can be used with a pilot in the cockpit to train the remote pilots flying from the ground station.
“It is important that we continue to accept new target aircraft into the fleet to keep test programs on schedule and to deliver capability to the warfighter,” said Lt. Col Ryan Serrill, 82nd ATRS commander. “Our people are safe and are eager to get the flying mission back off the ground. Our mission is one that will continue at Tyndall and we look forward to getting back to flying operations.”
A QF-16 is prepared for takeoff during an unmanned live fire exercise at Holloman Air Force Base, N.M., June 25, 2014.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Aaron Montoya)
In addition to supporting the test community, the WEG hosts visiting fighter aircraft units from around the globe to participate in Combat Archer. During their two week stay at Tyndall AFB, units are evaluated on all phases of air-to-air combat operations including an end-to-end kill-chain evaluation of man, weapon, and machine in a realistic combat environment.
“No other Air Force in the world comes anywhere close to the same scale of weapons testing as the Air Force,” said Serrill. “We recognize the importance of this data to continually improve our warfighters ability which is why it’s so important that the WEG mission continue.”
Government civilians and contractors provide the backbone of QF-16 operations in both its manned and unmanned configurations. They are critical to our unique unmanned mission, as they are the only ones that operate the target in its final unmanned configuration.
“Our group is comprised of military, civilians and contractors,” said Boatright. “These are men and women who have called Panama City home for decades, and have poured so much of their life into Tyndall AFB and Panama City. We couldn’t do what we do in the WEG without them. I am proud to be able to serve alongside not just our uniformed military, but our local civilians and contractors. It is devastating to see what the hurricane did to this community, but we will rebuild. The men and women who survived Hurricane Michael are just as eager as I am to be fully mission ready again.”
A military K-9 injured in a bomb explosion in Afghanistan along with his military police officer partner now has a lot of support after a photo of the dog wearing a Purple Heart Medal in a hospital in Germany has gone viral, the Killeen Daily Herald reports.
Spc. Andrew Brown, 22, and his military dog, Rocky, were searching a structure for explosive materials in southern Afghanistan’s Helmand Province Dec. 3 when the bomb exploded, the Texas newspaper reported Friday.
“They were working with Special Operations Forces in an effort to identify explosive materials,” Army spokesman Sgt. Michal Garrett told the paper.
Brown and Rocky survived the blast and were taken to a military hospital in Germany. There, a photo was taken of Rocky wearing the Purple Heart and posted on the Facebook page of Fort Hood’s 89th Military Police Brigade. Brown is assigned to the brigade.
The photo had more than 89,000 likes, 118,000 shares and more than 9,500 comments as of Sunday morning.
“The Army typically does not process awards for our working dogs the same way we do for our other soldiers,” Garrett told the Daily Herald. “The Purple Heart in the photo was placed on Rocky as a sign of respect and solidarity between him and Brown during their recovery.”
Two days ago the brigade posted another photo of Brown and Rocky in a hospital room on Facebook that said, “They are both very thankful for your thoughts and prayers and are in the process of heading back home.
The post said Brown had arrived earlier Friday at Walter Reed Army Medical Center Hospital in Washington where he was met by his waiting family.
The Daily Herald reported that Brown, of Eliot, Maine, suffered non-life threatening injuries and will undergo a series of tests for traumatic brain injury. The tests are routine for soldiers injured by roadside bombs.
Rocky is expected to return to Fort Hood in the coming weeks. The canine suffered shrapnel wounds and a broken leg.
She is “currently a poolee,” Marine Capt. Adam Flores told the Beaufort Gazette, “and will begin recruit training in the near future.” Opha Mae will be the 21st such mascot, but her starting date is currently unknown.
She will eventually take over duties, which include attending ceremonies and graduations, from Cpl. Legend, who is in poor health, the Beaufort Gazette said.
If it weren’t for the Japanese, the Marine Corps’ biggest enemy in the Pacific theater of World War II might well have been the U.S. Army. On at least five occasions, Army commanders were relieved of command for what the Corps deemed was a lack of proper aggression. Those commanders were given the benefit of being relieved by their Army commander. When one brigadier was relieved by his Marine commander, it caused a grudge the branches held on to for years.
Gen. Ralph Smith began World War II with a promotion to brigadier general and a command of American soldiers in the Pacific. With Smith came his experience in previous American conflicts. He served under Gen. John J. Pershing in Mexico, during the Punitive Expedition. He also fought on the Western Front of World War I and was among the first American troops to land in France. He earned two Silver Stars in combat during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive of 1918. His bravery and combat credentials were without question.
When he earned his second star, he also took command of the 27th Infantry Division, an Army unit that was soon folded into the 2nd Marine Division. The new mixed unit formed the V Amphibious Corps under Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Holland M. “Howlin’ Mad” Smith and its target was the Gilbert Islands. The Marines would attack and capture Tarawa while the Army did the same on Makin. The Marine Corps’ Smith thought the Army’s 6,400-plus troops should be able to overwhelm the 400 defenders and 400 laborers who held the reinforced island.
But it didn’t happen as quickly as “Howlin’ Mad” Smith though it should. This would build tensions when it came to take Saipan.
As if Saipan wasn’t tense enough.
On Saipan, the Marines and the Army would fight side-by-side on a dream team that would not be matched until the USA Men’s Olympic Basketball Team in 1992. When the U.S. began its assault on Mt. Tapochau in the middle of the island, the Marines found themselves advancing much further, much faster than their Army counterparts. The soldiers at Mt. Tapochau were tasked with taking an area known as “Hell’s Pocket.” The Army was expected to go into a valley surrounded by hills and cliffs under enemy control.
Now, if terrain is given a nickname by the Americans tasked to take it, that’s a pretty good indication of some intense fighting. But Holland Smith didn’t know that because he hadn’t inspected the terrain. The Army commander devised a plan to split his forces, using one battalion to hold the pocket while the other outflanked the Japanese defenders. Unfortunately, he would not be in command to implement it. It turns out “Howlin’ Mad” Smith was about to live up to his nickname.
The U.S. Army’s 27th Infantry Division marches to the front on Saipan.
With what he saw as a lack of aggression on Makin fresh in his mind, the inability of the Army to advance on Saipan made the Marine Corps’ Maj. Gen. Smith furious. He not only relieved the Army’s Maj. Gen. Smith of command of the Army on Saipan, he ordered Ralph C. Smith off the island. It would be the only time an Army commander would be relieved of command by a superior from another branch, and the Army wouldn’t forget it for years. The firing was so public that Smith could no longer command a unit in the Pacific and spent the rest of the war in Arkansas.
After the war, a panel of inquiry was convened. Known as the Buckner Board, it was staffed entirely by Army brass. When it looked into the Saipan incident, it found that Holland Smith had not looked at the terrain facing the Army on the island and was not in possession of all the facts. The plan hatched by the Army’s Maj. Gen. Smith to take Hell’s Pocket worked, and the Army was able to catch up to the Marines.
As the fighting in Mosul has started, some ISIS militants have been trying to make a fast getaway. Not a bad idea when you consider the atrocities they’ve committed and the size of the force lining up to drive them out.
According to the British newspaper The Sun, though, some of these militants have been trying to escape under the radar by dressing as women. For at least two of them, though, it didn’t work out – Kurdish peshmerga fighters saw through the disguise and nabbed them.
The tactic sometimes worked, as a 2009 article by the New York Daily News described how some Taliban insurgents were able to slip away from Marines. Items of clothing like the burqa also were used to hide weapons and explosives.
In the wake of Eagle Claw, the disastrous mission to rescue American hostages in Iran in 1979, President Carter and then-Defense Secretary Harold Brown ordered the U.S. military to form what would become the Joint Special Operations Command, or JSOC. Much of the failure of Eagle Claw was due to the inability of the services to work together on specialized missions which required interoperability between branches. The Defense Department wanted to guarantee it would not repeat such fiascos during operations where failure would not be an option.
This year, author and counterterrorism reporter Sean Naylor published Relentless Strike: The Secret History of Joint Special Operations Command, recounting the history and organization of this most secretive military group, from before Eagle Claw to the units in place today. It features inside stories on recent famous ops, including the raid in Pakistan which resulted in the death of Osama bin Laden and the rescue of Captain Richard Phillips from Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean. It also contains stories behind the other successes and some of the failures of the organization, all of which are fascinating reads. Here are eight more interesting tidbits from Naylor’s book:
1. Two helicopters ran out of ammo while fighting the Taliban, then switched to small arms
In the early days of the Afghan War, two MH-6 “Little Bird” pilots hit a Taliban column of armored personnel carriers and T-55 tanks with their onboard .50 caliber guns and rockets. They then run into a truck full of Taliban fighters. The remaining Taliban personnel attempted to flee on foot into the desert. The helicopters, now out of ammunition, pulled out their personal M-4 rifles and grenades and engaged the fleeing fighters from their pilot seats.
The fighters would try to split up to escape the helicopters, but they kept flying a “wagon wheel” formation, with the pilot in the left seat firing at the enemy in the middle, dropping grenades forcing them back into the circle.
2. JSOC used homemade bombs on insurgents, which looked like an insurgent-made bomb
It was called the “Xbox” and it was used to take out insurgents who received political protection from the Iraqi government, then led by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Maliki protected Shia insurgents, who provided money and materiel to jihadis and militia in Iraq from Iran.
The device used parts and ingredients used by local insurgents after EOD troops disabled them and reverse-engineered them. In the Afghan-Pakistan theater of operations, the Xbox would be made from Chinese circuits and Pakistani parts with the explosives from old Soviet weapons. It was designed to be indistinguishable from an insurgent-made device.
3. A SEAL accidentally killed a British hostage
British aid worker Linda Norgrove was kidnapped in Afghanistan in September 2010. U.S. intelligence in Afghanistan found her in a compound in the country’s dangerous, infamous Korengal valley. SEAL Team 6 dispatched a squadron to rescue her the very next month. As they engaged insurgents while fast-roping from a Chinook, one of the SEALs threw a grenade at what he thought was a fighter in the brush.
That fighter was with Norgrove, who was fatally wounded in the grenade blast. The U.S. military initially reported a SEAL shot set off a suicide vest, but only because they didn’t know the other threw the grenade. They found out what happened when that SEAL told his team leader.
“To this day, the guy that threw the grenade, he’s a wreck,” a senior Team 6 operator told Naylor.
4. Delta Force created its own Iraqi intelligence network
They called these Iraqis “mohawks.” They were native Iraqis completely vetted and had necessary back stories to fill their cover. They provided Delta Force with information on buildings and targets of interest which the operators couldn’t get close to. They conducted Human Intelligence by talking with their families and friends and recruited other sources of information. They tracked insurgent activities all over, from Internet Cafes to the insurgents’ homes.
All this was part of Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s effort to “build a network to fight a network” in Iraq, the enemy network being al-Qaeda and other insurgent groups.
5. The search for Saddam Hussein crossed into Syria
JSOC used helicopters to chase a convoy of Iraqi vehicles they watched cross the border on June 18, 2003. They believed Saddam Hussein was in the convoy somewhere. Then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld confirmed a week later the attack happened, but in his words, it was “near the Syrian border.”
Delta operators and Army Rangers from the city of Mosul flew in helicopters and arrived slightly too late to keep the convoy from crossing into Syria. Rumsfeld himself cleared their pursuit into the neighboring country.
6. JSOC used cell phones to monitor, track, and kill insurgents
If insurgents were using their phones, JSOC could track the number and pinpoint its location, then they would hit the target. They developed a device that could home in on a specific mobile phone number, even if that phone was turned off. JSOC figured out how to turn phones on remotely, using cell phones as listening devices. They could clone an insurgent’s phone even without having the phone in their possession, allowing them to send and receive text messages from that phone.
Insurgents caught on to this vulnerability soon. Zarqawi and those closest to him were not allowed cell phones. One insurgent leader turned off his mobile, only to turn it on a year later, possibly thinking the U.S. couldn’t be tracking it after so long. He was incorrect, and got droned.
7. Delta operators dressed as farmhands to capture al-Qaeda in Iraq’s second in command
Ghassan Amin was not only al-Qaeda in Iraq’s number two guy and a close associate of its leader, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, he also controlled an efficient counterintelligence force, completely controlled the Rawa region of Iraq, and controlled the flow of international Jihadist into Iraq, he also owned a farm on the West Bank of the Euphrates river. JSOC intelligence learned Amin would personally come to his fields to watch the harvest come in.
Delta operators dressed as Iraqi farmworkers floated down the Euphrates, “sequestered” the farmhands currently working in the fields, and began to do the work themselves, even driving tractors, waiting for Ghassan Amin to appear. When Amin arrived at the farm, he and two of his lieutenants walked right up to the operators, greeting them in Arabic. The Deltas took out their weapons and subdued Amin and his men.
8. Admiral McRaven wanted Seal Team 6 to surrender to the Pakistanis if surrounded
The SEAL team who went on Operation Neptune’s Spear were going to be more than 120 miles from the nearest U.S. forces. The CIA did clear the area before the raid and established a safehouse. In many media accounts, McRaven told the White House to seek a negotiated solution with the Pakistani government while the SEALs strongpointed the bin Laden compound, but Naylor writes some Team 6 operators believed McRaven said they should surrender to the Pakistanis.
President Obama rebuffed that idea, saying,”No, they’re not going to surrender. They’ll fight their way out and we’ll go in and get them if we have to.” It never came to that. Pakistani fighter jets scrambled while SEAL Team 6 made their way back to Afghanistan, but the jets flew to the east instead of west.