Fast-mover hit by enemy ground fire over Afghanistan - We Are The Mighty
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Fast-mover hit by enemy ground fire over Afghanistan

 


Fast-mover hit by enemy ground fire over Afghanistan
An F-16 launching with external fuel tanks.

AFP is reporting that an American F-16 was hit by small arms fire over Paktia Province in eastern Afghanistan over the weekend. The damage to the jet was severe enough that the pilot decided to jettison all external stores (drop tanks and bombs) before returning to Bagram Air Base north of Kabul.

Although a number of rotary wing aircraft have been shot down or damaged by ground fire while operating over Afghanistan, tactical jets have been basically untouched by the enemy since the first airstrikes started in October of 2001.  The Taliban don’t have much in the way of an integrated air defense system (a la Desert Storm-era Iraq), and jets can usually remain out of the reach of shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles (like Stingers) and small arms fire by flying above 10,000 feet while delivering GBUs or JDAMs.

So, in order to have been hit by bullets, the F-16 pilot had to have been flying pretty low.  Pilots generally fly low for two reasons:  A “show of force” pass or a strafing run.  Non-precision (“dumb”) bombing can cause a pilot to bottom out at low altitude, but it’s unlikely the Falcon was carrying other than smart weapons, even for a close air support mission.

The Taliban claimed to have downed the F-16 and pictures have emerged of them posing with wreckage, but the U.S. military responded with the following statement: “On October 13, a US F-16 encountered small arms fire in the Paktia Province in Afghanistan. The surface to air fire impacted one of the aircraft’s stabilizers and caused damage to one of the munitions.”

Now: 4 things that made the F-16 years ahead of its time

Articles

Destined for the Medal of Honor: The legend of Col. Ralph Puckett

In the closing days of 2020, the Department of Defense released its 2021 Defense Budget. A voluminous document that contains the projected spending for all services for the next year, the Defense Budget also includes small tidbits of seemingly unrelated information, including proposals for awarding the Medal of Honor, the highest award for valor under fire, or upgrading a lesser award to the Medal of Honor

In the 2021 Defense Budget, there were four recommendations for an upgrade. Specialist Dwight Birdwell (Vietnam War), Sergeant First Class Earl Plumlee (Global War on Terror, Afghanistan), Sergeant First Class Ashlyn Cashe (Global War on Terror, Iraq), and finally retired Colonel Ralph Puckett (Korean War).

Although the first three of their families are still waiting for news, Col. Puckett’s case moved forward, and the legendary Ranger was awarded the Medal of Honor last month. A true warrior, Puckett received the Medal of Honor at the age of 94.

Destined for Glory

Fast-mover hit by enemy ground fire over Afghanistan
President Joseph Biden presents the Medal of Honor to retired Col. Ralph Puckett Jr. during a ceremony at the White House in Washington, D.C., May 21, 2021. (Spc. XaViera Masline)

Puckett was born in 1926 in Tifton, Georgia, and commissioned in the Army as an infantry second lieutenant in 1949 after he graduated from West Point. His first duty station was in Okinawa, as part of the occupation force there.

When the Korean War broke out in 1950, Puckett volunteered for the Rangers, a light infantry, special operations unit. During World War Two, the Rangers had undertaken a series of the hardest and most sensitive missions, including scaling the cliffs of Pointe du Hoc and destroying fortified German positions in Normandy during D-Day and the Cabanatuan prisoner of war rescue mission in the Philippines.

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Modern-day Rangers from the 75th Ranger Regiment reenact the scaling of the Pointe du Hoc in 2019 (US Army).

By now a 1st Lieutenant, Puckett was selected to lead the only Ranger company at the time, the 8th Ranger Company, 8213th Army Unit, 8th U.S. Army. He had only a little over a month to train his troops to work as a team before they deployed to the front.

A Leader to Follow

Fast-mover hit by enemy ground fire over Afghanistan
Col. Ralph Puckett on the radio in Vietnam (Photo courtesy of the Puckett Family)

On 25 and 26 November 1950, Puckett and his Rangers were attached to Task Force Dolvin and led the advance of the 25th Infantry Division in the vicinity of Unsan. His unit attacked and captured Hill 205. However, the Chinese were determined to recapture the strategic position regardless of casualties.

For over four hours, the Chinese threw wave upon wave of troops at Puckett and his men. The Americans were outnumbered by ten to one but they kept fighting into the night. Finally, after having repelled five counterattacks, the Rangers were overrun in the sixth. By that point, they had no supporting artillery and were low on ammunition with multiple casualties. Hand-to-hand combat reminiscent of the trenches of World War One ensued, and the Rangers were forced to fall back in the face of overwhelming numbers.

By that point, Puckett had suffered multiple wounds throughout his body, a testament to his dedication to his troops and to leading from the front. He exposed himself to enemy snipers and machine-gun fire several times to reveal their positions so his Rangers could take them out. When the Chinese eventually overran their position, Puckett ordered his men to leave him behind, an order which they openly disobeyed, fighting their way to their wounded leader and taking them with them. For his actions, leadership, and fighting spirit, Puckett was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross at the time, the second-highest award for valor in combat.

The citation for the Distinguished Service Cross, which was upgraded to the Medal of Honor, Puckett received is telling:

“With complete disregard for his personal safety, First Lieutenant Puckett led his company across eight hundred yards of open terrain under heavy enemy small-arms fire and captured the company’s objective. During this operation he deliberately exposed himself to enemy machine-gun fire to enable his men to spot locations of the machine guns.

After capturing the objective, he directed preparation of defensive positions against an expected enemy counterattack. At 2200 hours on 25 November 1950, while directing the defense of his position against a heavy counterattack, he was wounded in the fight shoulder. Refusing evacuation, he continued to direct his company through four more counterattacks by a numerically superior force who advanced to within grenade range before being driven back During these attacks, he left the safety of his foxhole in order to observe movements of the enemy and to direct artillery fire. In so doing, he repeatedly exposed himself to heavy small-arms and mortar fire.

In the sixth counterattack, at 0300 hours on 26 November 1950, he was wounded again, so seriously that he was unable to move. Detecting that his company was about to be overrun and forced to withdraw, he ordered his men to leave him behind so as not to endanger their withdrawal. Despite his protests, he was dragged from the hill to a position of safety.”

A short video about Colonel Ralph Puckett and his actions.

Warrior for Life

Despite the action he saw in Korea and the wounds he received as a result, Puckett decided to stay in the Army and continue to serve his country. A decision he affirmed even after the Army offered him a medical retirement.

After he recovered from his wounds, Puckett was assigned as an instructor to the U.S. Army Ranger School, West Point, and as a Ranger advisor to the Columbian Army, where he established the famous Escuela de Lanceros special operations course. Puckett, however, had had enough of cozy assignments, and he volunteered and completed the Special Forces Qualification Course in 1960 and was assigned to the 10th Special Forces Group in Bad Tolz, Germany.

In 1967, Puckett, a lieutenant colonel at that point, found himself again on the front lines as commander of 2nd Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division.

On August 13, 1967, elements of his unit came upon a North Vietnamese battalion and a fierce fight ensued. Puckett went straight to the frontline and coordinated defense. He moved through a heavily mined area several times while directing the fight. Day gave way to darkness and the battle was still going. Puckett repeatedly exposed himself to enemy fire to visit foxholes and rally his troops. At one point, he personally evacuated two wounded soldiers after a mortar barrage. Even as the battle was going badly, he refused evacuation and instead stayed with his men.

One of his lieutenants who was preparing his platoon for a final stand recalled that “word of Colonel Puckett’s arrival spread like wildfire. We all stiffened up and felt that nothing bad could happen now because the Ranger was with us.”

Fast-mover hit by enemy ground fire over Afghanistan
Colonel Ralph Puckett receiving his second Distinguished Service Cross from President Lyndon B. Johnson “To the family of Colonel Ralph Puckett Jr. – Who distinguished himself in very exceptional service to his country – a proud son of Georgia – a great national patriot.” (Photo courtesy of the Puckett Family via US Army.)

Puckett retired in 1971, after 22 years of service.

After his retirement, the 75th Ranger Regiment made him an Honorary Colonel of the Regiment from 1996 to 2006 and also established the annual Colonel Ralph Puckett Leadership Award, which is awarded every year to the best junior Ranger officer in the unit whose actions and leadership during demanding circumstances made the difference. Given that the 75th Ranger Regiment has been continuously deployed in Global War on Terror for more than 7,000 consecutive days, competition for Colonel Ralph Puckett Leadership Award is fierce.

In 1992, Puckett was inducted into Ranger Hall of Fame, in 2004 he was selected a distinguished graduate of the US Military Academy, and in 2007 he received the Infantry’s Doughboy Award.

Fast-mover hit by enemy ground fire over Afghanistan
Retired Colonel Ralph Puckett Jr. poses for a photo with then-Lt. Col. Jeff Bannister, 75th Ranger Regiment, and a local national friend, Afghanistan, 2005. Puckett was an honorary colonel of the 75th RR. (Photo courtesy of the Puckett Family via US Army)

“He feared no man, he feared no situation and he feared no enemy. Clearly a unique, courageous Soldier in combat and even more importantly, in my opinion, Col. Puckett was an ultimate Infantry leader,” General Jay Hendrix, a former commander of the US Army Forces Command, the largest Army formation, said.

Puckett’s awards include the Medal of Honor, Distinguished Service Cross, two Silver Stars (the third-highest award for valor), two Bronze Stars for Valor (the fourth-highest award for valor), two Legions of Merit, five Purple Hearts, ten Air Medals, and the Army Commendation Medal, among other decorations.

Puckett also earned the Combat Infantryman’s Badge with star, Special Forces Tab, Ranger Tab, Parachutist Wings, Glider Badge, and the Columbian Lancero Ranger Badge.


This article by Stavros Atlamazoglou was originally published by Sandboxx News

MIGHTY CULTURE

Here’s what other branches could do with Air Force’s budget for a single coffee cup

In a recent scandal, the Air Force came under fire for reportedly spending over $300,000 on specialized, fragile coffee cups. That’s right — the Air Force has been buying, breaking, and replacing cups that reheat liquids in air refueling tankers mid-flight at the low, low price of $1,280 a pop.

But one of the most peculiar things about this scandal is how civilians are shocked and outraged, while those in the military aren’t batting an eye. Why? Because of course the Air Force has that kind of money to blow on stupid crap. And of course they’d be spending exorbitant amounts of money on coffee cups. In fact, it’s probably the most Air Force thing on the planet.

To be fair to the airmen, we get that it’s important for your KC-10 Extender to have nice, warm coffee to keep you alert on long flights. We get it — but, seriously? You guys get to toss out broken, four-figure coffee mugs while we’re training with sticks and tape?

You guys should just give us the money. The other branches would find a better use for that much-needed cash.


Fast-mover hit by enemy ground fire over Afghanistan

Judging from the sailors I know and work with, that may only be enough to get the party started…

Navy

Every branch likes to talk about how much they consume, but the expression is “drink like a sailor” — not “drink like a soldier.” A fact that, as a soldier, I am sour about. Nearly every single time sailors get shore liberty, they’re out proving this stereotype true. But beer costs money.

Let’s say it costs around 0 for a keg of beer. That means, rounding down, we’d be able to get 12 kegs for the price of one Air Force coffee mug. At 15.5 gallons of beer per keg, that gives us a grand total of 186 gallons of beer, which would mean one hell of a Friday night for the 340 enlisted sailors aboard a Ticonderoga-class Guided Missile Cruiser.

Cheers.

Fast-mover hit by enemy ground fire over Afghanistan

It’s funny how all the Marines will get to shoot but those 4000+ rounds will all be police called by six or so lance corporals.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Tommy Bellegarde)

Marine Corps

If there’s one thing Marines love more than talking about how bad they have it compared to other branches, it’s shooting. So, it should come as no surprise that, given some extra cash, they’d buy some ammunition to hit the range and prove that every Marine is, indeed, a rifleman.

At 30 cents per round, the cost of one specialized cup means roughly 4,266 rounds — which would give a platoon of Marines a single afternoon of fun.

Fast-mover hit by enemy ground fire over Afghanistan

You do what you gotta do downrange — even if it means weekly kidney stones.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Jb Jaso)

Army

The Army is a hodgepodge of different people, professions, and missions, so it’s kind of hard to find one unifying thing that connects all soldiers together — except for an undying love for the one thing that gets the specialists ready for war: energy drinks.

At the cost of about dollar per full-sized can, you’d be able to get an entire brigade’s E-4 mafia a round of the “official soft drink of war!” (trademark pending).

Fast-mover hit by enemy ground fire over Afghanistan

Or it could be used to post bail for the Coastie who started a fight at the local bar with someone who mocked their branch. Personally, I believe this would be more effective at proving their “realness.”

(Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class David R. Marin)

Coast Guard

The Coast Guard is a branch of the United States Armed Forces, despite being under Homeland Security and not the Department of Defense. And, despite the fact that they’re generally seen as the smartest branch (considering their high ASVAB score requirements), we’re sure that Coasties are also debilitating alcoholics who try to pick up strippers in the Mustang they’re paying for at a 28% interest rate. That’s the true test of a troop’s “realness.”

So, if there’s one thing that pisses off Coasties more than anything, it’s having their branch status brought into question.

For the bulk price of 9.99 per 500 copies, the Coast Guard could buy 4,000 single-sided pieces of paper that simply read, “the Coast Guard is a real branch. Change my mind” and drop that sh*t from a MH-65 Dolphin like they’re on a PsyOps mission.

Articles

The Army is offering $5K bonuses to join new training brigade

The U.S. Army is authorizing $5,000 bonuses to woo top-performing troops into a new training brigade as the service once famous for shouldering the burden of America’s wars works to meet the growing demand for advisers in places ranging from Iraq and Syria to Afghanistan and Africa.


The plan recognizes the new reality of America at war: Army soldiers are more often training and building local security forces rather than doing the fighting for them on foreign soil. It replaces what has been a hodgepodge of programs over the past dozen years with projections for five new, permanent, fully-trained brigades that can be deployed around the world as professional advisers.

“It’s a recognition that this is an enduring requirement for the conventional Army,” Gen. Robert Abrams, head of U.S. Army Forces Command, told The Associated Press in an interview.

Fast-mover hit by enemy ground fire over Afghanistan
A Marine assigned to Task Force Taqaddum (TF TQ) advises and assists designated Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) in Anbar Province to enable ISF to degrade and defeat Da’esh (an Arabic acronym fro ISIL) and support the Mosul counterattack. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Ethan Hutchinson/Released)

“Most times we’re falling in on existing institutions that are probably failing, and bringing them up to a certain competency level so they can secure themselves. And we’ve got to be able to do that on a large scale.”

The new program and its signing bonuses also illustrate how the Trump administration has endorsed the Obama administration’s emphasis on working “by, with and through” local forces.

That policy emerged from the deadly and tumultuous years after the 2003 Iraq invasion, when as many as 160,000 American troops were on the ground battling insurgents while struggling to transform a rag-tag mix of often ethnically-opposed Iraqi troops into a functioning fighting force.

U.S. troops left Iraq in 2011. Less than three years later, the Iraqi security forces largely collapsed as Islamic State militants seized control of large swaths of territory. U.S. troops then returned to Iraq, training, advising and enabling the Iraqis to oust IS from the country.

Also read: Here’s how the Army is assisting Iraqi forces in the fight for Mosul

The $5,000 bonus got final authorization on May 3 and is expected to be available beginning in June. The Army has chosen a colonel to lead the first training brigade and he will travel to a number of military posts in the coming weeks to recruit soldiers for the unit. Joining is strictly voluntary.

Since it’s a new program, Abrams acknowledged some soldiers may be reluctant to shift away from current career paths by taking a chance on something they fear may fail or lose support over time.

“There is natural apprehension in the field: ‘Is this a flash in the pan?’ It’s not a flash in the pan,” Abrams said. “The chief is committed and the Army senior leadership is committed, I’m committed. This is going to be an enduring capability.”

The challenge, he said, is getting mid-grade non-commissioned officers to sign up. That’s where the bonus will help.

Of the 529 soldiers in the brigade, 360 will be officers who don’t qualify for the bonus. The rest will be enlisted soldiers and non-commissioned officers who can earn the extra money.

The objective is to fix some problems created by the current training programs. In Iraq and Afghanistan, chunks of combat brigades have been deployed to serve as trainers and advisers to local forces, often leaving the remainder of their units back at home. Right now, for example, portions of three brigades are in Afghanistan and Iraq.

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U.S. Army and Iraqi soldiers cross an intersection during a routine security patrol in downtown Tal Afar, Iraq (U.S. Navy photo)

“It separates the leaders from those they lead, and it degrades (unit) readiness significantly,” Abrams said, adding that Army leaders have expressed frustrations over breaking units apart to staff the mission.

The plan calls for a military assistance training academy to be created at Fort Benning, Georgia. About 90 civilian and military staff members are being recruited. The first class will begin in October.

Members of what is being called the new Security Force Assistance Brigade will go through a training course of six-to-eight weeks. Almost 200 will receive 16 weeks of intensive language instruction. Others will get an eight-week language course.

More reading: SEAL Team 6 is experimenting with sensory deprivation chambers to learn languages faster

The first brigade could be ready to deploy by the end of 2018, Abrams said, but there has been no decision on where they will go. Iraq and Afghanistan are the most likely locations, he said.

As more brigades are created, they would deploy to other areas of the world. While the Army initially conceived of one base in each geographical military command around the globe, it’s more likely they’ll simply be sent where most needed.

The Army will select soldiers for the second brigade in about a year. All five brigades will be created by 2022.

Articles

This sniper rifle company is trying to lighten the M240 medium machine gun

Let’s face it, today’s soldiers and Marines have a lot weighing on them.


Between gear, ammo, and weapons, some are carrying over 100 pounds. But how do you reduce that burden?

Barrett Firearms, which created the mighty M82A1 and M107 .50-caliber sniper rifles, has managed to do just that by improving the M240 medium machine gun. Now, the M240 is based on the FN MAG, which is is a classic machine gun used by many NATO allies.

This gun even replaced the M-60, which was the backbone of squad firepower for the U.S. military through Vietnam and Desert Storm.

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Lance Corporal Kendall S. Boyd (left) and PFC Ryan J. Jones (right), combat engineers, Combat Assault Battalion, 3rd Marine Division, hone their machine gunnery skills by firing the M240G medium machine gun in 2004. Note the rivets on the receiver. (USMC photo)

The question comes: How do you improve a machine gun used by just about all of the Western world? The Army has developed the M240L, which uses titanium to lighten the gun, but they kept the riveted design, albeit with a 5-pound weight reduction.

However, Barrett managed make its 240LW medium machine gun five and half pounds lighter than the M240B without the use of exotic materials. The secret was in how they made the receiver. Barrett machined the receiver from forgings and welded them together, according to a brochure handed out at the National Defense Industry Association’s 2017 Armament Systems Forum.

Fast-mover hit by enemy ground fire over Afghanistan
This is the receiver of the Barrett 240LW – note that there are no rivets. (Photo from Barrett.net)

Not only did this reduce the number of components from 64 to two, it also helped take about five and half pounds off the machine gun. The change also has boosted the reliability of the gun – by removing the rivets – which can be shaken loose by firing thousands of rounds.

There’s also less metal, due to the fact that there is no need to overlap the metal components.

Will the 240LW make an impact with the United States military? That remains to be seen, but it does show how Barrett manages to be very innovative when it comes to designing – or improving – small arms.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Did the Pentagon just drone the top ISIS drone makers?

The US military says it has killed three men who played key roles in developing, building, and modifying Islamic State drones.


Col. Ryan Dillon, a spokesman for the US-led military coalition in Baghdad, told reporters at the Pentagon Sept. 28 that the three were killed in a series of US airstrikes in Syria in mid-September.

Fast-mover hit by enemy ground fire over Afghanistan
Wikipedia

Dillon says two of the men were responsible for manufacturing and modifying commercially produced drones. The other man was described as a drone developer, who was killed when his research workshop near Mayadin, Syria, was hit by two airstrikes.

The Islamic State group has used drones for surveillance and to fire small weapons, in both Syria and Iraq.

Articles

How does the B-52 get more awesome? With lasers, that’s how

Air Force scientists are working to arm the B-52 with defensive laser weapons able to incinerate attacking air-to-air or air-to-ground missile attack.


Offensive and defensive laser weapons for Air Force fighter jets and large cargo aircraft have been in development for several years now. However, the Air Force Research Lab has recently embarked upon a special five-year effort, called the SHIELD program, aimed at creating sufficient on-board power, optics and high-energy lasers able to defend large platforms such as a B-52 bomber.

“You can take out the target if you put the laser on the attacking weapon for a long enough period of time,” Air Force Chief Scientist Greg Zacharias told Scout Warrior in an exclusive interview.

Possibly using an externally-mounted POD with sufficient transportable electrical power, the AFRL is already working on experimental demonstrator weapons able to bolt-on to an aircraft, Zacharias added.

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DARPA image

Given that an external POD would add shapes to the fuselage which would make an aircraft likely to be vulnerable to enemy air defense radar systems, the bolt-on defensive laser would not be expected to work on a stealthy platform, he explained.

However, a heavily armed B-52, as a large 1960s-era target, would perhaps best benefit from an ability to defend itself from the air; such a technology would indeed be relevant and potentially useful to the Air Force, as the service is now immersed in a series of high-tech upgrades for the B-52 so that it can continue to serve for decades to come.

Defending a B-52 could becoming increasing important in years to come if some kind of reconfigured B-52 is used as the Pentagon’s emerging Arsenal Plane or “flying bomb truck.”

Lasers use intense heat and light energy to incinerate targets without causing a large explosion, and they operate at very high speeds, giving them a near instantaneous ability to destroy fast-moving targets and defend against incoming enemy attacks, senior Air Force leaders explained.

Defensive laser weapons could also be used to jam an attacking missile as well, developers explained.

“You may not want to destroy the incoming missile but rather throw the laser off course – spoof it,” Zacharias said.

Also, synchronizing laser weapons with optics technology from a telescope could increase the precision needed to track and destroy fast moving enemy attacks, he said.

Fast-mover hit by enemy ground fire over Afghanistan
US Air Force image

Another method of increasing laser fire power is to bind fiber optic cables together to, for example, turn a 1 Kilowatt laser into a 10-Kilowatt weapon.

“Much of the issue with fiber optic lasers is stability and an effort to make lasers larger,” he explained.

Targeting for the laser could also seek to connect phased array radars and lasers on the same wavelength to further synchronize the weapon.

Laser Weapons for Fighter Jets

Aircraft-launched laser weapons from fighter jets could eventually be engineered for a wide range of potential uses, including air-to-air combat, close air support, counter-UAS(drone), counter-boat, ground attack and even missile defense, officials said.

Low cost is another key advantage of laser weapons, as they can prevent the need for high-cost missiles in many combat scenarios.

Air Force Research Laboratory officials have said they plan to have a program of record for air-fired laser weapons in place by 2023.

Ground testing of a laser weapon called the High Energy Laser, or HEL, has taken place in the last few years at White Sands Missile Range, N.M. The High Energy Laser test is being conducted by the Air Force Directed Energy Directorate, Kirtland AFB, New Mexico.

The first airborne tests are slated to take place by 2021, service officials said.

Air Force leaders have said that the service plans to begin firing laser weapons from larger platforms such as C-17s and C-130s until the technological miniaturization efforts can configure the weapon to fire from fighter jets such as an F-15, F-16 or F-35.

Air Combat Command has commissioned the Self-Protect High Energy Laser Demonstrator Advanced Technology Demonstration which will be focused on developing and integrating a more compact, medium-power laser weapon system onto a fighter-compatible pod for self-defense against ground-to-air and air-to-air weapons, a service statement said.

Air Force Special Operations Command is working with both the Air Force Research Laboratory and the Naval Support Facility Dahlgren to examine placing a laser on an AC-130U gunship to provide an offensive capability.

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Image via General Atomics

Another advantage of lasers is an ability to use a much more extended magazine for weapons. Instead of flying with six or seven missiles on or in an aircraft, a directed energy weapon system could fire thousands of shots using a single gallon of jet fuel, Air Force experts said.

Overall, officials throughout the Department of Defense are optimistic about beam weapons and, more generally, directed-energy technologies.

Laser weapons could be used for ballistic missile defense as well. Vice Adm. James Syring, Director of the Missile Defense Agency, said during the 2017 fiscal year budget discussion that “Laser technology maturation is critical for us.”

And the U.S. Navy also has several developmental programs underway to arm their destroyers and cruisers will possess these systems to help ships fend off drones and missiles.

Man-in-the-Loop

As technology progresses, particularly in the realm of autonomous systems, many wonder if a laser-drone weapon will soon have the ability to find, acquire, track and destroy and enemy target using sensors, targeting and weapons delivery systems – without needing any human intervention.

While that technology is fast-developing, if not already here, the Pentagon operates under and established autonomous weapons systems doctrine requiring a “man-in-the-loop” when it comes to decisions about the use of lethal force, Zacharias explained.

“There will always be some connection with human operators at one echelon or another. It may be intermittent, but they will always be part of a team. A lot of that builds on years and years of working automation systems, flight management computers, aircraft and so forth,” he said.

Although some missile systems, such as the Tomahawk and SM-6 missiles, have sensor and seeker technologies enabling them to autonomously, or semi-autonomously guide themselves toward targets – they require some kind of human supervision. In addition, these scenarios are very different that the use of a large airborne platform or mobile ground robot to independently destroy targets.

NOW WATCH: AC-130 gunships could be outfitted with laser cannons

popular

This is the most revered dagger in military history

In London’s Westminster Abby there is St. George’s Chapel, where on one of the chapel’s walls hangs the Commando Association Battle Honors flag that lists where the Commandos fought and died during World War II from 1940 to 1945.

Under the word COMMANDO in gold letters is a stylized portrayal of a singular knife – the Fairbairn-Sykes fighting knife.

Soldiers throughout history have always carried blades as weapons and as tools. Yet, no other knife is more commonly associated with WW II elite forces or possesses more mystique than the Fairbairn-Sykes knife.

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An example of the Fairbairn-Sykes commando dagger. (Wikipedia photo)

Commonly referred to as the “F-S knife” or “F-S dagger,” it is still issued to British Royal Marine Commandos, the Malaysian Special Operations Force, Singapore Commandos and Greek Raiders. In addition, the image of the knife is part of the emblem of the United States Army Special Operations Command (Airborne) as well as the emblems of special forces units in Holland, Belgium and Australia.

Yet, it is a weapon born out the experience of dealing with 1930’s knife fights in Shanghai and developed by two men who had no scruples about dirty fighting. In fact, William Fairbairn and Eric Sykes taught an entire generation of warriors that one of the quickest, quietest and deadliest ways to kill Germans was cold steel thrust into Nazi vitals – preferably from behind.

“The Commando dagger would become a symbol not just to the men who were issued it, but also to British civilians at a time when Britain was on the back foot, and any deadly way to strike back at the Germans was considered a boost for morale,” wrote Leroy Thompson is his book Fairbairn-Sykes Commando Dagger.

Whether it was the Roman pugio (a short-bladed dagger that served as a legionnaire’s backup weapon), bowie knives wielded on both sides of the U.S. Civil War, or the “knuckle duster” trench knives of the Great War, soldiers have always carried blades for use in close-quarters fighting.

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…and doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon (USMC photo by Cpl Jericho Crutcher)

However, from the late 19th century until World War II many European generals thought it was unseemly for soldiers to bring personal knives into combat. Some thought it would reduce reliance on the bayonet and diminish the fighting spirit of soldiers.

Other commanders deemed rough-and-tumble knife fighting downright “ungentlemanly” – there’s a reason why betrayal is often called a “stab in the back.” Killing face-to-face with the bayonet was considered the more honorable way to dispatch the enemy.

However, the beginning of World War II reinvigorated belief in the close-combat knife as an essential weapon.

Prime Minister Winston Churchill was less fussy about how British troops killed the soldiers of the Third Reich. He placed great stock in commando forces, covert operations, and what he called “ungentlemanly warfare.”

The newly created Special Operations Executive taught knife-fighting as part of agents’ training. So did the British Commandos and airborne forces.

That meant there was a demand for a specific kind of knife that would be used to quietly kill the enemy, preferably in a surprise attack.

“In close-quarters fighting there is no more deadly weapon than the knife,” Fairbairn wrote in his manual Get Tough! How to Win in Hand-to-Hand Fighting (1942). “An entirely unarmed man has no certain defense against it, and, further, merely the sudden flashing of a knife is frequently enough to strike fear into your opponent, causing him to lose confidence and surrender.”

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Fairbairn wasn’t worried about making friends (Wikimedia Commons)

Fairbairn would have known: During his 20-year career with the Shanghai Municipal Police, he fought in hundreds of street fights against assailants armed with knives and daggers. His friend and colleague Sykes served on the same police force and faced the same adversaries in what was at the time one of the most dangerous cities in the world.

In 1941, both men collaborated on the knife’s original design. Although the knife went through several variations during the war, it remained a double-edged stiletto well-balanced like a good sword and suited to thrusting and cutting more than slashing an opponent.

The models made by high-quality cutlers were manufactured from carbon steel so they could be honed razor sharp.

David W. Decker, a U.S. Navy veteran, knife-fighting expert, and collector of F-S knives, said a man trained in the use of the Fairbairn-Sykes knife learned confidence and aggression. In the hands of a properly-trained individual, it is a fearsome weapon.

“The knife has tremendous capacity for penetration of an enemy’s clothing, web gear and person,” Decker said. “A vital part of the training was the instruction in hitting lethal targets on the human body. Many of these targets had to be reached through the rib cage, so the slender blade was most efficient. The approximately seven-inch blade is capable of reaching all vital organs. Fluid in the hands, the grip was designed like that of a fencing foil to enhance the maneuverability of the knife.”

Another advantage of the F-S dagger was its ease of carry, said Decker, whose website chronicles the development of the knife and has photographs of many examples.

Relatively lightweight compared to other combat knives of the time, it was easily concealed or secured in a battle dress cargo pocket. Some men carried them strapped to their legs, tucked behind their pistol holster, or in a boot.

The needle-nosed point and razor-like edges of the dagger sometimes caused problems, Decker said. For example, one British commando could not pull the dagger out of the body of a German sentry because the knife was stuck in his ribs.

“At least one knife-maker was quoted as saying he made knives for stabbing Germans, not peeling potatoes,” Decker said, indicating some manufacturers made F-S knives with smooth edges so a soldier could remove the blade more easily from the enemy’s body.

Despite differences in quality and manufacture, the F-S knife gained popularity with both British and American soldiers during the war.

Members of the U.S. Army Rangers and Marine Raiders carried versions of the knife. U.S. Army Gen. Robert T. Frederick, commander of the 1st Special Service Force known as The Devil’s Brigade, based his design for the V-42 stiletto issued to his troops on the F-S knife.

Fast-mover hit by enemy ground fire over Afghanistan
U.S. Army photo

Today, the F-S knife remains an iconic symbol on both sides of the Atlantic of what it means to qualify as an elite soldier.

At Fort Benning, Georgia, there is the Ranger Memorial. Behind two stone pillars holding a stylized Ranger tab are two smaller pillars and a knife sculpted in stone – a Fairbairn-Sykes fighting knife.

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Ex-President Jimmy Carter perfectly trolls Russians fighting in Syria

Given that their country’s humor is so steeped in subtle and sophisticated irony, Russian officials’ frequent inability to get a joke can be pretty mind-blowing.


And it appears that former U.S. President Jimmy Carter just had a good laugh at Moscow’s expense.

Speaking this weekend, the 91-year-old Carter said he had offered to provide Russia with accurate maps of Syria so its pilots could actually target Islamic State positions in the country — rather than U.S.-backed opponents of President Bashar al-Assad.

Carter, who was among a group of prominent former global leaders who met Putin this past spring, said the Russian president had provided him with an email address.

“I sent him a message on Thursday [October 15] asking him if he wanted a copy of our map so he could bomb accurately in Syria,” Carter said.

He added that the next day the Russian Embassy “called down and told me they would like very much to have the map. So in the future, if Russia doesn’t bomb the right places, you’ll know it’s not Putin’s fault but it’s my fault.”

The maps Carter spoke of are publicly available on the Carter Center’s website, which on October 8 published a report saying that the vast majority of Russian airstrikes in Syria were not hitting Islamic State targets.

In the video of Carter’s remarks posted in YouTube, it is clear that the 39th U.S. president, who is known to have a playful sense of humor, was just having a little fun.

WATCH: Jimmy Carter Jokes About Offering Maps To Putin

But it appears that Moscow didn’t pick up on the joke. The Interfax news agency flashed the following: RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY CONFIRMS THAT EX-U.S. PRESIDENT JIMMY CARTER HANDED MAPS INDICATING ISLAMIC STATE’S CURRENT LOCATIONS IN SYRIA TO RUSSIAN EMBASSY IN WASHINGTON

Russian news sites followed up with stories citing Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova as saying that “it was with a big thanks that we accepted this gesture by the former U.S.president who obviously is sincerely calling for joint efforts in the fight against terror and is concerned about the fate of the Syrian people.”

Zakharova added that she hoped that another Carter — U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter — would continue this spirit of cooperation.

Perhaps Zakharova was joining in on the joke. But history suggests otherwise.

The Foreign Ministry is far from the only part of official Russia that has trouble understanding contemporary humor.

Back in May, prosecutors in Rostov questioned the organizer of a local spelling bee about whether he has any connections to so-called “grammar Nazis.”

Grammar Nazi, of course, is a slang term for somebody who habitually — and often annoyingly — corrects other people’s grammar. In recent years, it has developed into a satirical Internet meme, which uses imagery that vaguely resembles swastikas.

But prosecutors in Rostov didn’t get the joke. They interrogated spelling bee organizer Aleksei Pavlovsky, asking him whether he believed people who make spelling and grammatical mistakes should be exterminated.

NOW: 5 Crimes involving a lot of troops forgiven by the United States

OR: This deadly failure in the Iranian desert lives in rescue mission infamy

 

MIGHTY TRENDING

Yes, Big Brother IS watching: Russian schools getting surveillance systems called ‘Orwell’

MOSCOW — You might think governments seeking digital oversight of their citizens would avoid invoking the author who coined the phrase “Big Brother is watching you” and implanted the nightmare of total state surveillance in the imaginations of millions of readers.

Think again, because Russian officials appear to disagree.

According to the business daily Vedomosti, contracts exceeding 2 billion rubles ($29 million) have been signed for the procurement and installation in schools across Russia of surveillance cameras linked to a system that has facial-recognition capability and is called Orwell, after the British author of dystopian novels 1984 and Animal Farm.


The company tasked with executing the project on behalf of regional governments is the National Center of Informatization (NCI), a subsidiary of state defense and technology conglomerate Rostec, Vedomosti reported on June 15.

The video surveillance systems have been delivered to 1,608 schools across Russia, an unnamed representative of the company told the newspaper, adding that the equipment was intended to keep tabs on students’ comings and goings and identify strangers who attempt to enter school grounds, among other things.

Elvis-Neotech, a subsidiary of state nanotechnology company Rosnano, is responsible for preparing the systems for sale, according to Yevgeny Lapshev, a representative of that company. Lapshev told Vedomosti that the Orwell system will become a security feature in all of Russia’s schools in the coming years — more than 43,000 in all.

On June 16, the media outlet RBK cited an anonymous NCI representative who disputed aspects of the Vedomosti report, saying that the company had not signed contracts for the delivery of video equipment to 43,000 schools.

The representative told RBK that NCI had taken part in a pilot program to equip 1,600 Russian schools with video surveillance systems that were not equipped with facial recognition, and that a decision on expanding the program to all Russian schools was yet to be made.

‘Total Surveillance’

The reported plans come after a rise in recent years in violent incidents at Russian schools, including a spate of stabbings in late 2017 and early 2018 that prompted renewed calls from lawmakers for increased security measures and strict monitoring of visitors.

“The requirements for training and certifying employees of private security organizations, especially those guarding schools and kindergartens, must be as strict as possible,” Vasily Piskarev, chairman of parliament’s Committee on Security and Corruption Control, said after a knife incident in October 2019.

But amid the push to expand monitoring capabilities and beef up security at schools, rights activists in Russia are warning that facial recognition and other surveillance technologies are being used much more widely and with minimal oversight, leading to a curtailment of freedom of speech and movement and ultimately toward a loss of data privacy.

Since March, when Russia’s coronavirus epidemic began, the authorities have used facial-recognition technology to identify and fine quarantine violators, deploying — in Moscow alone — a network of over 100,000 cameras that link to a central database accessible to thousands of law enforcement officials at any time.

In addition, a range of smartphone apps and digital passes unveiled since March — some of which remain mandatory for people with COVID-19 symptoms despite the lifting on June 9 of many lockdown restrictions — have prompted fears among data-privacy campaigners that those and other new digital tools may integrate into a ratcheted-up, post-pandemic surveillance apparatus.

Alyona Popova, an activist who launched a lawsuit in October 2019 against Moscow’s use of facial-recognition cameras, warned that “under the guise of fighting the coronavirus,” officials are working to implement “total surveillance.”

Last fall, Russia’s Education Ministry clarified the criteria under which facial recognition could be used in schools. All parties, including school employees and the parents of students, would have to give permission, the newspaper Izvestia quoted an official as saying.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

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Navy sub-hunting aircraft joins search for EgyptAir wreckage

Fast-mover hit by enemy ground fire over Afghanistan


A U.S. Navy P-3 Orion surveillance aircraft joined the search Thursday over the Mediterranean for EgyptAir Flight 804 which went missing on a Paris to Cairo flight, the Pentagon said.

The P-3, flying out of Naval Air Station Sigonella in Italy, was the only U.S. military asset involved in the search thus far, said Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook. The U.S. did not have any ships in the area and there were no immediate plans to send any, Cook said.

“At this point, it’s just the aircraft that’s involved,” he said at a Pentagon briefing.

The four-engine turboprop planes made by Lockheed Martin Corp. have been maritime surveillance and submarine hunting workhorses for the Navy for decades. The aircraft features a distinctive tail antenna, or “MAD Boom,” for the underwater magnetic detection of submarines and other objects below the surface.

EgyptAir Vice Chairman Ahmed Adel told CNN that what was believed to be the plane’s wreckage had been found in the Mediterranean about 160 miles north of the Egyptian coast. He said the search and rescue operation was on the verge of “turning into a “search and recovery” mission.

The signal from the EgyptAir Airbus A320 carrying 66 passengers and crew was lost at about 2:30 a.m. early Thursday local time as it began its approach to Cairo. None of the passengers were listed on terror watch lists and three security officials were on board the aircraft, according to CNN.

Cook declined to speculate on whether terrorism may have been involved but said U.S. law enforcement agencies were in contact with the Egyptians.

Egyptian Civil Aviation Minister Sharif Fathi said technical failures and terror are both possible explanations for the disappearance of the aircraft.

“But if you analyze this situation properly, the possibility of having a different action aboard, of having a terror attack, is higher than having a technical problem,” Fathi said.

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Check out these sweet Royal Marine combat moves

The Royal Marines apparently hold unarmed combat displays to engage with the public on “Poppy Day,” the British Commonwealth version of Memorial Day. And the display the Marines put on is pretty impressive.


This 2015 demonstration was held at the Waterloo station in London and featured four Marines fighting and a few announcing, answering crowd questions, and collecting funds for Remembrance Sunday.

The Marines showed how they could sneak up on armed guards and take them out:

Fast-mover hit by enemy ground fire over Afghanistan
It’s like being attacked by an ultra-violent spider monkey. (GIF: YouTube/Ministry of Defence)

They displayed a masterful and nuanced way to kick someone in the chest:

Fast-mover hit by enemy ground fire over Afghanistan
This probably didn’t hurt. Especially not when his head landed off the mat and on the tile. (GIF: YouTube/Ministry of Defence)

And, of course, they choked a dude out and then took a selfie with him:

Fast-mover hit by enemy ground fire over Afghanistan
Pics or it didn’t happen. (GIF: YouTube/Ministry of Defence)

See more of the Royal Marines’ awesome moves in the video below:

MIGHTY TRENDING

Kim Jong Un seems to be caving to Trump before they meet

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un appears to be making huge concessions before meeting with President Donald Trump or South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

Moon said on April 19, 2018, after South Korean diplomats held a series of meetings with Kim and his inner circle, that North Korea essentially wanted nothing in return for ridding itself of nuclear weapons.


According to Moon, North Korea wants “complete denuclearization” of the Korean Peninsula. While experts usually take that to include a removal of US forces from South Korea, Moon said that was not the case.

“I don’t think denuclearization has different meanings for South and North Korea — the North is expressing a will for a complete denuclearization,” Moon said during a lunch with chief executives of Korean media companies, according to Reuters.

Moon went on to say North Korea wouldn’t be asking the US to do much in return for denuclearization.

“They have not attached any conditions that the US cannot accept, such as the withdrawal of American troops from South Korea,” Moon said. “All they are talking about is the end of hostile policies against North Korea, followed by a guarantee of security.”

Essentially, according to Moon, all North Korea wants is the US to promise it will not attack it and end the sanctions and other forms of overt pressure.

Why that may be too good to be true

Fast-mover hit by enemy ground fire over Afghanistan
Kim discussing North Korea’s nuclear weapons program in an undated photo released by the country’s Korean Central News Agency on September 3, 2017.
(KCNA photo)

For North Korea, these statements represent an about-face. North Korea has for decades defended its pursuit of nuclear weapons as a means to deter a US invasion.

North Korea has spent decades criticizing the US for its military presence in South Korea, and it routinely complains about military exercises the US holds with South Korea, sometimes launching missiles during the events.

Additionally, North Korea has entered into and exited out of denuclearization and peace talks several times in the past, each time leaving the US frustrated after gaining much-needed cash in the form of sanctions relief. None of the many experts contacted by Business Insider doubt that stalling for sanctions relief may be Kim’s game this time around too.

Consider the messenger

Moon is not an impartial messenger when communicating North Korea’s stance to the world. Moon won office on a progressive platform that promoted talks and engagement with North Korea.

With many Korean families divided by the war and the armistice that technically still has not ended it, Moon also faces pressure to reunite the two Koreas.

Fast-mover hit by enemy ground fire over Afghanistan
President Donald Trump andu00a0President Moon Jae-in.
(Republic of Korea photo)

Seoul, South Korea’s capital of some 25 million people, also stands to be the hardest-hit city if war struck between the US and North Korea.

While Trump and Moon maintain that their alliance is ironclad and they’re committed to peace, Trump’s new national security adviser, John Bolton, has argued extensively in favor of bombing North Korea, rarely mentioning how many South Koreans could die in a counterattack.

Maybe Trump really did nail it

Though talks with North Korea have failed before, a few things are different this time. North Korea recently announced the completion of its nuclear intercontinental ballistic missile program, which experts say it can use as a bargaining chip in negotiations. With all tests completed and what North Korea believes is a working missile capable of hitting the US with a nuclear payload, Kim may now be motivated to talk.

Fast-mover hit by enemy ground fire over Afghanistan
Kim Jong Unu00a0meets with South Korea’s Chief of the National Security Office Chung Eui-yong in Pyongyangu00a0in discussion of peace talks between the countries.

Kim is also younger than his father, Kim Jong Il, was when he entered talks with the US, and he is possibly more open to changing his country. He has already allowed markets and capitalism to creep into the country, and he recently allowed South Korean pop bands to play a show, which he reportedly loved.

Today, North Korea is under greater sanctions pressure than ever before. Andrea Berger, an expert on North Korean sanctions at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, told Business Insider it had become virtually impossible to do any business with North Korea that wouldn’t violate international sanctions. Fuel prices are way up in the country, and reports of the people becoming disenchanted with their strict leadership roll in frequently.

Perhaps above all, North Korea has never faced a US president who spoke so candidly, and so often, about bombing it. To an extent unlike that of his predecessors, Trump has made North Korea a top priority and portrayed himself as a leader willing to go to the insane length of nuclear war to disarm it.

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

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