After much back and forth, it looks like the summit between President Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un is back on schedule. The details are starting to emerge about the quickly-approaching June 12 conference, including expected talking points, the venue, and the extensive security measures in place.
Each leader is responsible for bringing their own security detail from their own nation, but the overall security is going to be overseen by none other than the world’s most intense fighting force: the Nepalese Gurkhas.
Gurkhas have earned a reputation for being the hardest and most well-trained mercenaries in the world. They’ve formed a strong bond with the United Kingdom’s forces in East Asia and used Hong Kong as a base of operations until 1997. Today, they’re based out of the UK and are still the premier fighting force in East Asia.
(Photo by William B. King)
They maintain a relatively low profile considering their legendary status in law enforcement. Recently, they watched over a security conference between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, and other East Asian ministers in Singapore.
They’ll be at it again when President Trump and Kim Jong-un meet for the first time.
Each Gurkha is rigorously trained and outfitted with some of the best armor and weaponry in the world. In addition to this high-tech armory, each Gurkha is armed with their signature khukuri knife. It’s said that this knife must draw blood each time it’s unsheathed.
“They remain very much a substantial and frontline force, and the demands of this kind of event are precisely the sort of special operation that the Gurkhas are trained to handle.”
It is unknown how many Gurkhas will be deployed for the conference but the International Institute for Strategic Studies lists the total number of Gurkhas in the Singapore police at 1,800, divided among six different paramilitary companies.
The 2010 smash-hit video game Call of Duty: Black Ops featured many of the conspiracy theories surrounding the Cold War. While some of them have been proven false, others are impossible to debunk — but a select few are very much true. One such example is the true-to-life way in which the protagonist receives orders throughout the campaign: through a “numbers station.”
In the game, your character, Alex Mason, listens to a shortwave radio station transmitting from a boat off the coast of Cuba that intends to send a message to Soviet sleeper agents in the States. Unlike the more fantastical elements of the game, there is historical precedent for remote numbers stations being used by spy agencies of the time.
Before the era of radio encryption, anyone with a radio receiver could listen in on any conversation. Single-channel military radios operate much like the radio in your car, just at a much lower frequency — one that car radios can’t receive. To make sure a secret message wasn’t intercepted by a random person with a radio, agencies used cryptic codes. A well-known example of such secret speech is the American military’s use of Code Talkers.
The other, equally ingenious method was the use of numbers stations. At a given moment and on a known frequency, a one-way message was sent. That message could be, as the name implies, just a string of numbers, either simply spoken or hidden within a specific song or Morse code. The listener would then use a cipher to translate what those numbers meant.
An outed numbers station transmission, The Swedish Rhapsody, sounded like this.
Someone could, for instance, turn on their car radio at exactly 12:34 PM and tune to a station that’s normally just static and hear a person call off a string of numbers, which could then translate into something like, “continue the mission.”
In the case of the video game Call of Duty: Black Ops, this method was used for espionage purposes. The radio station from which these messages were broadcast roamed the Gulf of Mexico, avoiding detection.
The use of open radio frequencies meant that more than one spy could listen in at the same time. Although never officially confirmed, many spy agencies from around the world have alluded to using them in such a manner.
Numbers stations are, allegedly, still in use. The confirmed Cuban numbers station, Atención, was at the center of an espionage case in the late 90s. Cryptic messages are still broadcast in Cuba at random times to this day.
Philip Hollywood grew up in a Navy family, so when World War II started he enlisted in the Navy — at the ripe young age of 17. After his combat training, he was assigned to the USS Melvin, a destroyer homeported in the Philippines.
The Melvin fought in the Battle of Leyte Gulf in 1944, which turned out to be the largest naval battle of World War II and possibly the largest in history. Leyte Gulf was also the first time the Japanese used coordinated kamikaze attacks.
“The Kamikazes… that was scary to me. Anyone who says they weren’t scared, I don’t think they’re telling the truth,” says Hollywood. “It was a new experience trying to kill an opponent who only wanted to kill you and not survive.”
The battle was much more than fighting kamikaze attacks. Two days into the fight for Leyte, a Japanese task force of two battleships, a heavy cruiser, and four destroyers tried to steam through the narrow Surigao Strait to support the main force in the Gulf. The Japanese ran into six American battleships (five of which were sunk at Pearl Harbor, but were repaired and brought back to service), four heavy cruisers, four light cruisers, 28 destroyers, and 39 torpedo boats in Surigao’s narrows.
In a video produced by AARP, Hollywood recalls his memories of the battle, the kamikaze, and how it felt to sink the Japanese battleship Fuso.
Hollywood died shortly after this video was produced.
“Phil Hollywood was the last of a dying breed,” says TJ Cooney, one of the video producers. “I am so thankful for the time that I had with Phil to make this story, he was an amazing man and truly an American hero and treasure. He is going to be sorely missed and never forgotten.”
Tradition has long been an essential part of the United States Marine Corps. It’s tradition that’s responsible for instilling a Corps-wide expertise with rifles. It’s the reason why a Marine squad has always been a baker’s dozen — and it’s why those thirteen personnel can put some real hurt on the bad guys.
Every Marine in a fire team will be packing a M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle.
(USMC photo by Lance Cpl. Tanner Seims)
The traditional rifle squad had three four-man fire teams. Each fire team was made up of one Marine with a rifle-mounted grenade launcher, another Marine with an automatic rifle (formerly the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon, now the M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle), a third Marine to assist the automatic rifleman, and a fourth packing just a regular rifle.
The new squad will consist of an even dozen Marines and will be comprised of three-man fire teams. Bad guys shouldn’t think that this makes things easier, though. Every member of the fire team will pack an M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle. That’s a lot of rock and roll inbound for the bad guys.
Big changes are coming in the shoulder-launched weapons area: The SMAW is out, and Carl is in.
(USMC photo by Sgt. Melissa Marnell)
There will also be a change to the squad command structure. It used to be that there was a squad leader and that was it. Now, there will be an assistant squad leader (a second-in-command, if you will), as well as a new position for a “squad systems operator.” This Marine will operate quadcopter drones, with which each squad will be outfitted. One other thing: The Marines are leaving open the possibility of adding a rifleman to the new fire team organization should a mission call for it.
Other changes include replacing the shoulder-launched multi-purpose assault weapon (SMAW) with the latest multirole anti-armor anti-personnel weapon system (MAAWS), also known as Carl Gustav. Each battalion loses two 81mm mortars and four BGM-71 TOW missile launchers, but will have a total of 12 FGM-148 Javelin anti-tank missiles.
The company that makes the Army’s new handgun is in hot water over concerns that the pistol the new M17 is based on has a potentially serious safety flaw.
About a week ago, news trickled out that the Dallas Police Department had banned its officers from carrying the Sig Sauer P320 pistol after one of them had discharged a shot after it was dropped. Other reports disputed that claim, suggesting the department banned the P320 for carry because of a legal disclaimer in the user manual that stated a discharge could happen if the gun is dropped in extreme situations — a legal ass covering common to most handgun user manuals.
A photo taken by Soldier Systems Daily at a recent briefing by Sig officials on the -30 degree drop tests. (Photo linked from SSD)
The P320 is Sig’s first so-called “striker-fired” handgun, which uses an internal firing pin to impact a round rather than an external hammer. Various internal safeties are supposed to keep this type of handgun “drop safe,” making it suitable for duty carry where an officer or service member might accidentally fumble it out of a holster or during a shot.
While at first Sig denied it had a safety problem, later tests showed some of the company’s P320s could discharge a round when dropped at a -30 degree angle from a certain height onto concrete. The company says such a condition is extremely rare and that under typical U.S. government standards, the P320 will not discharge if dropped.
“Recent events indicate that dropping the P320 beyond US standards for safety may cause an unintentional discharge,” Sig said in a statement. “As a result of input from law enforcement, government and military customers, SIG has developed a number of enhancements in function, reliability, and overall safety including drop performance.”
Sig said the version of the P320 that’s being deployed with the Army and other U.S. troops has a new trigger assembly that make discharges from a drop at any height and angle impossible.
That’s why the company is issuing a “voluntary” upgrade of some of its P320s to install the so-called “enhanced trigger” that comes directly from the Army’s new M17 handgun.
“The M17 variant of the P320, selected by the U.S. government as the U.S. Army’s Modular Handgun System, is not affected by the voluntary upgrade,” Sig said.
“I learned about the Semper Fi Fund through a class I was in at Camp Pendleton, California, to learn more about traumatic brain injuries and how they affect you,” says Sergeant Nora Mund, who was deployed to Afghanistan for seven months in 2010. “After being in that group for over a month, the Fund gave us iPads to help us organize our medical appointments and daily activities, and also to have apps to help improve memory.”
Nora, a Colorado native, enlisted in the Marine Corps in 2006 – “mainly because I wanted to explore the world and knew that I needed more discipline in my life.” She deployed in March 2010 to Afghanistan, where she remained until October of that year.
“I was a squad and team leader in the Female Engagement Team (FET) assigned to 1st Battalion, 6th Marines and 2nd Battalion, 6th Marines,” she explains. “The FET team was designed specifically to interact with the local populace of Afghanistan and to assist the area commander on missions and community outreach.”
Her job also put her in a position to witness firsthand the types of combat realities that can lead to PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and, in her specific case, TBI (traumatic brain injury).
“I remember walking alongside a road heading to our destination,” she recalls, “and the next thing I know an explosion happens to my left and the dust that surrounded me is so thick I couldn’t see more than a foot ahead of me.
“It wasn’t until about six or seven months after my return home that I had a medical appointment and they told me I have a traumatic brain injury,” Nora continues.”They also discovered that I had herniated disks in my neck that causes a lot of pain in my back and numbness in my left arm. I had occupational therapy for almost a year working on my memory, plus physical therapy for my back and neck.”
Today, Nora is a full-time student at the University of Colorado, where she is working to get her Bachelor’s degree in psychology. “I’m also a research assistant for the Canines Providing Assistance to Wounded Warriors (C-PAWW) initiative, where we study the interaction between humans and their animals,”she says. “We hope to influence policy makers with hard science showing how service and companion animals help veterans and other vulnerable populations.”
On May 21, 2014, Colorado Rep. Ed Perlmutter recognized Nora on the floor of the House of Representatives, saying (in part): “Mr. Speaker, I rise today to recognize and honor Sergeant Nora Mund for her service to our country. She was the first female assigned to serve as the senior armor / small arms repair technician for the Marine Corps Infantry Officer’s Course, Quantico, Virginia. Sergeant Mund volunteered to deploy to Afghanistan with Operation Enduring Freedom and was selected to serve on the Marine Corps’ first Female Engagement Team. Through her courageous service, Sergeant Mund charted the path for future generations of women to serve in the military. I extend my deepest appreciation to Sergeant Nora Mund for her dedication, integrity and outstanding service to the United States of America.”
“I’m excited to take life on,” says Nora. “When you’re injured, you have a tendency to view the oncoming days in such a negative light, so when you learn that there are good days in your future, you have energy and excitement for the future.”
“I think it’s important to let this generation of veterans know that they may not know it now, but they have great futures ahead of them–if they only just believe in it.”
We Are The Mighty is teaming up with Semper Fi Fund and comedian Rob Riggle to present the Rob Riggle InVETational Golf Classic. The veteran-celebrity golf tournament will raise money and awareness for Semper Fi Fund, one of our nation’s most respected veteran nonprofit organizations, in support of wounded, critically ill and injured service members and their families. Learn more at InVETational.com.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte followed through on numerous threats to end his country’s Visiting Forces Agreement with the US on Tuesday, notifying Washington of his intent to withdraw, triggering a 180-day countdown.
On Friday, Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said he thought the two sides could reach a political resolution, but recent history suggests the pact’s demise could be an opportunity for China in a strategically valuable region.
Since taking office in 2016, Duterte has repeatedly criticized the US and US officials. The US, which ruled the Philippines as a colony in the first half of the 20th century, remains close with the Philippines and is very popular there — as is Duterte, who had 87% approval in December.
But the Philippine president nevertheless decided to end the VFA, with his spokesman saying it was “time we rely on ourselves” and that the country “will strengthen our own defenses and not rely on any other country.”
While President Donald Trump said he didn’t “really mind,” the US Embassy in the Philippines said it would “carefully consider how best to move forward,” and Defense Secretary Mark Esper said it was “a move in the wrong direction.”
Asked on Friday about the decision, McCarthy touted US-Philippine ties.
Washington and Manila have “a long history” of working “very hard together” and of “very strong” military-to-military relations, McCarthy told an audience at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. “We have about 175 days to work through this diplomatically. I think we can drive forward to an end state that will work out for all of us politically.”
The US and the Philippines are also bound by the Mutual Defense Treaty and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, but ending the VFA would undercut those and the legal standing US forces have when in the Philippines.
The latter effect would endanger hundreds of military exercises and other military cooperation. US Special Forces troops have been stationed in the Philippines to help fight ISIS-linked militants, and the US military has trained there with other countries in the region. The Philippines has also hosted US troops deployed as part of Pacific Pathways, which is meant to allow US and forces in the region to build stronger partnerships and readiness.
Asked about the effect of the VFA withdrawal on US basing and training, McCarthy said Friday that “conversations are underway” particularly among the White House and State Department.
“The VFA, by changing that would change basically the freedoms that you have to do the training,” McCarthy said, “but this is a very close ally, and we would work through that, but it’s basically [changing] the protocols of how you would work together if it actually goes through.”
There a number of reasons the VFA may ultimately survive. Philippine military and security forces value the relationship, under which they receive military assistance, training, education, and weapons.
Philippine officials have suggested a need to review the VFA “to address matters of sovereignty” but have stopped short of advocating withdrawal. Duterte’s foreign secretary also indicated on Tuesday that the announcement should be seen as a jumping-off point for such negotiations, saying “other reactions have been idiotic.”
But it’s not the first time the Philippines has pulled out of this kind of deal. In 1991, it did not renew a mutual basing agreement, leading to the closure of Naval Base Subic Bay, the largest US base in the Pacific, and the withdrawal of US forces.
Manila “quickly discovered that after it did that it was rendered largely defenseless with its limited military capabilities, and China actually started taking very bold actions in the South China Sea, including the occupation of the Mischief Reef,” Prashanth Parameswaran, a senior editor at The Diplomat, said on The Diplomat podcast.
“We’re now left in a situation where we’re not just hypothetically talking about what might happen,” Parameswaran added. “We actually have a historical record about what happens when the alliance goes through periods like this.”
Duterte has won concessions on other issues by pushing on Washington, Parameswaran said, calling a similar outcome this time the “optimistic scenario,” but in light of the impulsiveness of both Duterte and Trump, there remains “an element of risk.”
Agreements like the VFA take time to negotiate and ratify — after ending the basing agreement in 1991, the two countries weren’t able to establish the VFA until 1998 — and other countries in the region, like Australia and Japan, can’t replace US military assistance to the Philippines, leaving Manila weaker in the face of Chinese ambitions.
“That is the big, worrying scenario about Day 181,” Parameswaran said, “because the Philippine military, it’s building up in terms of its capabilities, but it’s still one of the weakest militaries in the Asia-Pacific, and that’s going to be laid bare on Day 181 if this doesn’t get sorted out.”
China has launched a new “world-leading unmanned warship” that is supposedly ready for combat, Chinese media reports.
The JARI multi-purpose unmanned combat vessel, a new product of the state-owned China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation, is 50 feet in length and displaces 20 tons. Chinese media reports that this ship is capable of conducting the same missions as China’s Type 052 destroyers, namely air-defense, anti-ship and anti-submarine missions.
Chinese military observers refer to China’s latest development as a “mini Aegis-class destroyer” because of its radars, vertically-launched missiles and torpedoes, the Global Times reports, referencing the US Navy Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, many of which are equipped with powerful Aegis radars, surface-to-air missiles, and anti-submarine warfare capabilities.
“This is [People’s Liberation Army] vaporware,” Bryan Clark, a US defense expert and former naval officer, told Insider, referencing technology that is a bit more conceptual than meaningfully applicable.
“The boat is very similar to commercially-available unmanned harbor patrol vessels,” he said.
“Like those boats, there is a mount on the forward deck that would normally carry a machine gun. It may also have some vertically-launched rockets or small missiles in cells on the rear deck or behind the gun.”
China has yet to say what type of missions this vessel might conduct. “This boat doesn’t have the range for operations very far from Chinese territory. Therefore, it may only be good for patrolling around China’s islands in the South China Sea or around Chinese ports,” he said.
China first revealed a model of the JARI unmanned warship last year in South Africa at the Africa Aerospace and Defence exhibition, where a China industry representative explained to Navy Recognition that the medium-sized vessel is propelled by a single water jet, has a maximum speed of 42 knots, and has a maximum range of 500 nautical miles.
The model showed a 30mm main gun with eight vertical launch systems behind the cannon and two light torpedo launchers on each side of the superstructure.
Another model was again showcased at the International Defense Exhibition and Conference in Abu Dhabi back in February, where Defense News noted that the vessel included an electro-optical sensor, a phased array radar, a dipping sonar, and a rocket launcher, among the previously-mentioned features.
It is unclear how many of these features have been effectively incorporated into the final design. There are actually quite a few uncertainties surrounding this technology.
Seth Cropsey, a seapower expert at the Hudson Institute, told Insider that China is getting better and better at technology but said there are questions of “how soon the Chinese can field this, what its real capabilities are versus what its advertised capabilities are and, this is important, how many of these things they are going to put out to sea.”
The JARI can, the Global Times reports, be controlled remotely or operate autonomously, although more testing is required before it can fully do the latter. Chinese military analysts have talked about this vessel being used with other drone ships to create a swarm.
The US military has experimented with small crewless swarm boats, as well as medium-sized unmanned surface vessels like the Sea Hunter.
Earlier this month, the US Navy expressed an interest in the development of a large unmanned surface vessel, “a high-endurance, reconfigurable ship able to accommodate various payloads for unmanned missions to augment the Navy’s manned surface force.”
The Navy has said that it is pursuing “a balance of high-end, survivable manned platforms with a greater number of complementary, more affordable, potentially more cost-imposing, and attritable options.”
Expert observers suspect the new revelation is a response to US Navy plans. “I believe one of the drivers for this rollout from the PLA is the US Navy’s recent announcement of its proposed Large USV,” Clark told Insider.
Cropsey explained that “this is a start” for the Chinese, but added that “it doesn’t really compare to what we’re planning.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Do you have that buddy who scratches messages into his M4 rounds? Or maybe you’re the sailor who Sharpies “This one’s for you” onto JDAMs destined for a flight over the Gulf. Regardless, it turns out that you’re part of a tradition that dates back to a few hundred years before Jesus.
Yeah, we’re all comedians.
(Air Force Master Sgt. Dave Nolan)
Writing messages on bombs, missiles, and other munitions is a common and long-standing tradition. After the 9/11 Attacks, messages of solidarity for New York and vengeance against al Qaeda and the Taliban started popping up on bombs headed for Afghanistan. Hussein and the Ba’ath party were favorite targets for graffiti over Iraq in the early 2000s.
More recently, bombs headed for Iraq and Syria have had messages for ISIS and Baghdadi, and messages supporting Paris were popular after the attacks in 2015.
Obviously, there’s about zero chance in Hell that anyone on the receiving end will actually read the messages. After all, the bomb casings will get obliterated when they go off. But it’s fun for the troops and lets them get a little steam out. Most service members will never fire a weapon, drop a bomb, or throw a grenade in anger.
(Imperial War Museum)
So it can sometimes be hard for support troops to connect their actions to dismantling ISIS, defeating Saddam, or destroying al Qaeda. It helps the ordnance crews reinforce their part of the mission, and they can imagine their Sharpie-soaked pieces of shrapnel shredding enemy fighters.
But this tradition really dates back. In World War II, British troops designated bombs to destroy the German battleship Tirpitz. And these Americans were hoping their bombs would be great party favors for the Third Reich.
Some really cool photographs of two dozen F-22s from the 3rd Wing and 477th Fighter Group taxiing in close formation with an E-3 Sentry and a C-17 Globemaster III during a Polar Force exercise at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, were posted online on Mar. 26, 2019. Both types are based at JBER.
The aircraft staged what is known as an “Elephant Walk”, a kind of drills during which combat planes (including tankers) taxi in close formation in the same way they would do in case of a minimum interval takeoff, then, depending on the purpose of the training event, they can either take off or return back to their parking slots.
What is particularly interesting in the photos of the exercise at JBER, is the fact that, along with the Raptors, also a Sentry took part in the “walk”.
F-22 Raptors from the 3rd Wing and 477th Fighter Group participate in a close formation taxi, known as an Elephant Walk, March 26, 2019, during a Polar Force exercise at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska.
Launching the AEW along with the fighters is a “tactics” that allows the Air Defense to extend the radar coverage and to better investigate the eventual presence of additional bombers or escorting fighters flying “embedded” with the “zombies” (as the unknown aircraft are usually dubbed in the QRA jargon). At the same time, the presence of an E-3 allows the Raptors to improve their situational awareness while reducing the radar usage and maximizing as much as possible their stealth capability (even though it must be remembered that F-22s in QRA usually carry fuel tanks that make them less “invisible” to radars).
A long range sortie is not easy to plan. Even more so a strike sortie: the bomber are not only required to fly inbound the target (TGT) and reach a convient position to simulate the attack and weapons delivery, they also need to take in consideration many other factors. First of all “what is your goal?” Do you want to train for a realistic strike? Or do you want to “spy” or show your presence or posture?
Other factors are distance from own country, opponent’s defense capability, minimum risk routing according to the threats, presence of DCA (Defensive Counter Air), supporting assets, etc.
Usually, during a strike sortie, bombers are considered the HVA (High Value Asset), the one that must be protected. For this reason during the planning phase they are always escorted by fighter and protected by the Ground to Air threats by means of SEAD/DEAD (Suppression/Destruction of Enemy Air Defenses), EW (Electronic Warfare) and everything is needed to let them able to hit their targeted.
An F-22 Raptor takes off after Raptors from the 3rd Wing and 477th Fighter Group participated in a close formation taxi, known as an Elephant Walk, March 26, 2019, during a Polar Force exercise at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Justin Connaher)
However, escorting a strategic bomber is not always possible (nor convenient): considered their limited range, the presence of the fighters would heavily affect the long range planning, requiring support from multiple tankers along the route. For this reason, although the Russians visit the West Coast quite often, they usually are not escorted by any fighter jet (as happens, for instance, in the Baltic region, where Tu-22s are often accompanied by Su-27 Flankers). However, it’s better to be prepared and trained for the worst case scenario and this is probably the reason why NORAD included an E-3 AEW in the QRA team: to have a look at the Tu-95s and make sure there was no “sweep” fighters or subsequent “package”.
The configuration of the F-22 aircraft involved in the Elephant Walk at JBER is also interesting as the stealth jets carry underwing tanks: that is the standard external loadout both in case of QRA launch and for ferry flights and forward deployments.
After taking the shots, the aircraft cleared the runway, taxied back to the threshold of RWY24 and took off in sequence.
If you watch a movie and see troops lighting up a cigarette, you’ll probably notice that Zippo in their hand. Search-and-destroy missions in the Vietnam War were often referred to as “Zippo missions.” There’s simply no denying the fact that American troops have long had an intimate relationship with Zippos.
Troops are always searching for reliable gear as, oftentimes, the stuff we’re issued is absolute trash. That’s where Zippos come in. They’re reliable and compact, two criteria that “military-grade” items tend not to satisfy. But it’s not just that they work well — they’ve had a long history with troops.
Zippos during WWII were primarily used to light cigarettes. Vietnam, however, was another story.
(U.S. Marine Corps)
The American Zippo Manufacturing Company was founded in the 1930s, but when World War II started, the company ceased all production for consumer markets altogether and instead manufactured lighters exclusively for troops being sent to war. Millions of them were carried by troops and, no matter what, they knew they could rely on their trusty, metal lighter to spark their cigarette during a long day of ass-kicking.
Some units who performed these Zippo missions were referred to as “Zippo Squads.”
Zippos took on a different function during the Vietnam War. Aside from reliably lighting cigarettes, they were used to light flamethrower tanks when the built-in, electrical igniter didn’t work. They were also used as mirrors to shave, to heat up popcorn, and the list goes on.
In fact, Zippos became synonymous with Vietnam War operations as troops would raze villages with lighters on seek-and-destroy missions. But Zippos weren’t just for burning things down — they actually became a kind of cultural timepiece.
Some of the best pieces of military history.
(Photo by Joe Haupt)
In Vietnam, troops began engraving designs onto the sides of the hardy, metal lighters as a way to pass the time. By looking at those engravings, we’ve been able to glean some insight into the mindset of troops from the era. It might have been just an idle habit at the time, but such historical artifacts are invaluable for future generations.
The practice of engraving Zippos is one that carries over to modern-day service members. It may not be as popular as it once was, but troops all over still use the iconic lighter to spark up cigarettes or even burn frayed paracord.
Regardless, one thing is for sure — Zippos remain one of the most iconic pieces of unofficial military gear.
Since Russia’s 2014 incursion in Ukraine, NATO leaders have been focused on securing the alliance’s eastern flank.
But defending that boundary and deterring threats to member countries there takes more than just deploying troops. It means moving them in and out, and, if necessary, reinforcing them, and that’s something that’s always on US and European military commanders’ minds.
“I will tell you that when I go to sleep at night, it’s probably the last thought I have, that we need to continue to improve upon, and we are, from a road, rail, and air perspective, in getting large quantities of hardware and software from west to east on continent,” US Air Force Gen. Tod Wolters, head of US European Command, said at a Defense Writers Group breakfast in Washington, DC, on Tuesday.
A US soldier guides an M1 Abrams tank off ARC vessel Endurance at the Port of Antwerp, Belgium, May 20, 2018.
(US Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Jacob A. McDonald)
The US, which has drawn down its forces in Europe since the end of the Cold War, has put particular focus on both returning to Europe in force and on moving those forces around the continent.
This has included working at ports not used since the Cold War and practicing to move personnel, vehicles, and material overland throughout Central and Eastern Europe.
“We’re improving, but I will tell you, as a supreme allied commander of Europe and a commander of US EUCOM, I’m just not satisfied,” Wolters said. “It’s got to continue to get better and better and better, and we are dedicating tremendous energy to this very issue.”
“In US EUCOM, we have directors, which are flag officers that work for me, and they’re called J codes, and our J4 is our logistician, and he’s a Navy flag officer, and he’s probably one of the busiest human beings on the European continent,” Wolters added. “He gets to sleep about one hour a day, and his whole life exists from a standpoint of finding ways to improve our ability to move large quantities at speed from west to east in road, rail, and air, across the European continent.”
‘There will be some snags’
The renewed focus on moving US and NATO forces around Europe has highlighted the obstacles posed by varying customs rules and regulations, insufficient infrastructure, and shortages of proper transport vehicles.
Those would be challenges for any peacetime mobilization and led NATO to conclude in a 2017 report that its ability to rapidly deploy around Europe had “atrophied since the end of the Cold War.”
To correct that deficiency, NATO has stood up two new commands. One, Joint Forces Command in Norfolk, Virginia, will oversee movements across the Atlantic. The other, Joint Support Enabling Command based in Ulm in southern Germany, is responsible for movement on the ground in Europe.
US Army vehicles during a tactical road march in Germany, April 22, 2018.
(US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Sharon Matthias)
“We’ve also recognized the need in NATO to improve in this area,” Wolters said. “Through NATO command structure adaptation … we elected to standup an entire new command called Joint Support Enabling Command, JSEC, and it’s run by … a NATO flag officer, and that commander’s sole purpose in life is to nest with all the nations to find ways to improve our ability to move large resources at speed from west to east across the continent.”
That will be on display during Defender Europe 20, the US Army’s largest exercise in Europe in 25 years, which will involve 37,000 troops from 18 countries — including 20,000 US troops deployed from the US — and take place in 10 countries in Europe.
Defender Europe 20’s actual drills won’t take place until next year, but, Wolters said, “it’s already started, because the benefit of a large exercise is all the planning that takes place beforehand.”
“The strategic message is we can demonstrate our flexibility and adaptability to lift and shift large forces to any place on planet Earth to effectively deter … and that’s incredibly valuable,” Wolters said.
But, he added, getting the logistics right on the ground may be the biggest obstacle.
“We want to make sure that from a border-crossing perspective and from a capability perspective in those 10 nations in particular that we’ve got it right with respect to our ability to lift and shoot and move and communicate with an exercise at speed,” Wolters said.
“There will be some snags along the way. We will find things that we’re not happy with. We will will after-action review those. We will find remedies in the future, and when we have another large-scale exercise we’ll demonstrate an ability to get through those snags … and we’ll just be that much quicker and that much faster in the future.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
One of Russia’s largest defense contractors, Rostec, released new footage of their most advanced military exoskeleton in use on Monday, and as is so often the case when Russia makes such an announcement, a number of media outlets have taken their claims at face value in their reporting.
However, historical precedent would suggest that we might want to hold off on congratulating Russia on cracking the exoskeleton egg. Russia has a long history of headline-grabbing military tech claims that have repeatedly proven misleading at best, and downright fabricated at worst.
Perhaps the most egregious falsehood Western Media briefly fell for in recent past was the Russian bipedal robot dubbed “Borris” that was unveiled in December of 2018 at the Putin Youth Forum in the city of Yaroslavl, Russia. The robot performed impressively, seemingly handling a number of complex tasks with ease, suggesting to many that Russia may be further along in the robotics game than many had previously suspected.
“At the youth forum Putin was shown “the most modern robot Boris”. But this is just a man in a suit.” “Here is that “modern robot” for you – an exclusive photo of the preparations for Putin’s youth forum in Yaroslavl.”
Of course, that wasn’t Russia’s first robotic claim to be full of hot air in 2018. In April, famed AK-47 maker Kalashnikov unveiled their own intimidating battle suit that was hailed by Western media outlets as something “straight out of Aliens the movie,” despite actually being little more than a statue with automated arms… that bears a closer resemblance to Robocop’s Ed-209… in that it too can’t go up stairs.
Kalashnikov claimed a more mobile version would be unveiled in 2020, but has yet to manifest. (Kalashnikov)
Not all of Russia’s exoskeleton or robotic failures have been quite so openly fabricated, and indeed some could be chalked up to little more than Russia’s propaganda machine spinning up faster than the nation’s real military technology could keep pace. Such was likely the case with Russia’s (once again) headline-grabbing Uran-9 unmanned ground combat, or infantry support, vehicle.
Russia’s Uran-9 in rehearsal for the Moscow Parade (Dmitriy Fomin on Flickr)
The entire world reported on Russia’s announcement that their armed infantry drone, the Uran-9, would be deployed to Syria for combat operations and further testing. The fact that Russia was already placing an armed, semi-autonomous robot into combat suggested to many that Moscow was demonstrating a significant lead when compared to Western efforts to do the same… but after a flurry of coverage regarding the deployment, coverage ceased regarding it’s use. The reason was that Russian state-media outlets (where most Western coverage of these advancements are derived) stopped covering the platform.
It wasn’t until months later that the Uran-9’s long list of deficiencies made its way to the public, not through press coverage picked up by the West initially, but rather after discussions between military leaders held months later found their way online.
Uran-9 unmanned combat ground vehicle displayed in 2016 (WikiMedia Commons)
In 2018 discussions at a Russian security conference called “Actual Problems of Protection and Security,” held at the N.G. Kuznetsov Naval Academy in St. Petersburg, made their way to the press. The truth regarding the Uran-9, it was revealed, was not nearly as impressive as its coverage in the West would have suggested.
A.P. Anisimov, a Senior Research Officer from the 3rd Central Research Institute of the Russian Defence Ministry, concluded that the platform was incapable of performing the tasks it was designed for. Press coverage claimed a three-kilometer range for the control of the ground drone, but the truth was that operators lost control of it at distances as short as 300 meters or any time they lost line of sight. Operators lost complete control of the vehicle for at least one minute on new fewer than seventeen separate occasions, with two of those instances lasting longer than an hour.
Keeping it on the truck for the Moscow Parade was probably a good decision. (Dmitriy Fomin on Flickr)
Other significant issues included the chassis repeatedly failing, forcing repairs in the field, the cannon failing to function on six different occasions, and its targeting system proving so poor that engaging targets at any distance was almost impossible.
Of course, does a history of making up news related to Russia’s military exoskeleton and robotic capabilities in the past mean this new Rostec system is similarly more hype than function? Not necessarily. Exoskeleton design has been at the top of many firm’s priority list in recent years. In fact, the Marine Corps started receiving real robotic exoskeletons for testing earlier this year, though the Corps is focused on using them for logistics, rather than combat — as the margin for error is much higher in a warehouse than a firefight.
Marine Corps exoskeleton (Sarcos Defense)
Of course, America’s tech innovations aren’t immune to being propagandized either, but the Marine Corps’ decision to slow the introduction of exoskeletons until the technology is robust enough for combat at least seems like a more realistic progression.
There are a few more related announcements made by Russian military tech firms recently that later proved to be bunk, aside from their unconfirmed claims about the capabilities of real (and likely largely functional) platforms like the Su-57 stealth fighter, the PAK-DA stealth bomber, or the Su-70 Okhotnik-B stealth UCAV.
In 2018, Russia claimed to have developed active camouflage that could hide soldiers and even vehicles behind a Predator-style cloak of invisibility. Those claims were also made by Rostec, the same firm responsible for this new exoskeleton, and have yet to materialize.
The Ratnik-3 combat suit. (Rostec)
In another social media gaff, Russia’s state news agency RIA Novosti tweeted that Vladimir Putin was observing the exercises of Russian military robots, again hyping Russia’s emphasis on combat robotics. The news outlet reported that the students were demonstrating their own robot invention.
However, it was soon revealed that the robots were actually South Korean-sourced toys that can be purchased on Amazon.
In other words, based on historical precedent… it would be logical that we hold our applause until some evidence of Rostec’s system actually functioning properly in field conditions finds its way to the media.