A recent ambush of British special operations forces in Mosul reportedly required hand-to-hand combat for survival.
Military sources told The Daily Star on July 2 that an intelligence gathering operation by Special Air Service personnel in Iraq turned into a firefight with roughly 50 ISIS terrorists. Over 30 were killed near a riverbed before the British troops ran out of ammunition.
“They knew that if they were captured, they would be tortured and decapitated,” a source told the Star. “Rather than die on their knees, they went for a soldier’s death and charged the ISIS fighters who were moving along the river bed. They were screaming and swearing as they set about the terrorists.”
The Daily Star reported that the SAS operators had roughly 10 rounds between them, so they charged the ISIS bad guys with knives, bayonets and improvised weapons.
One terrorist was reportedly drowned in a puddle by an operator.
“[The warfighter] then picked up a stone and smashed it into the face of another gunman wrestling with one of his colleagues,” the source said. “Another killed three of the fighters by using his assault rifle as a club. Others were stabbing at the gunmen who wanted to capture the British troops alive.”
The team, all suffering injuries, eventually met up with Kurdish allies after the remaining ISIS fighters fled.
Mitsuo Fuchita was just shy of 40 years-old during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. When he took off in the observer’s deck of a Nakajima B5N2 ‘Kate’ torpedo bomber that day, he probably never imagined he would spend much of the rest of his life in the country he was set to destroy.
Commander Fuchita was in the lead plane of the first wave of bombers that hit Hawaii that day. He was the overall tactical commander in the air and led the attacks that destroyed American air power on the ground and crippled the Navy’s battleship force — a strike group of 353 aircraft from six Japanese carriers.
It was Mitsuo Fuchita who called the infamous words “Tora! Tora! Tora!” over the radio to the other Japanese planes.
He later wrote:
“Like a hurricane out of nowhere, my torpedo planes, dive bombers and fighters struck suddenly with indescribable fury. As smoke began to billow and the proud battleships, one by one, started tilting, my heart was almost ablaze with joy. During the next three hours, I directly commanded the fifty level bombers as they pelted not only Pearl Harbor, but the airfields, barracks and dry docks nearby. Then I circled at a higher altitude to accurately assess the damage and report it to my superiors.”
Fuchita next led the Japanese bombing of Darwin, the largest enemy attack ever wrought on Australia. He then led attacks on British Ceylon — now known as Sri Lanka — where he sank five Royal Navy ships.
He was still aboard the Akagi during the Battle of Midway, perhaps the most pivotal naval battle in American History.
When Midway began, Fuchita was below decks, recovering from appendicitis. He could not fly in his condition so he assisted other officers, coming up to the bridge during the fighting. When Akagi was evacuated that afternoon, Fuchita suffered two broken ankles as the bridge, already burning, exploded.
He was soon promoted to staff officer rank and spent the rest of the war on the Japanese home islands. Fuchita was even one of the inspectors who went to assess Hiroshima after the U.S. dropped an atomic bomb on the city.
When WWII ended, he left the Navy and converted to Christianity after reading a pamphlet written by Jacob DeShazer, one of the Doolittle Raiders who was captured after the raid. He was converted by the pamphlet but was astonished upon meeting DeShazer a few years later.
He called the meeting his “day to remember,” referencing the attack on Pearl Harbor. The experience with the Doolittle Raider changed him “from a bitter, disillusioned ex-pilot into a well-balanced Christian with purpose in living,” Fuchita wrote after the war.
After his conversion, Fuchita toured the United States and Europe as a traveling missionary, regretting the loss of life he inflicted during the war. America, the country he attacked in 1941, eventually became his permanent residence. He wrote numerous books about his wartime experiences and conversion to Christianity.
Though he spent much of the rest of his life in the U.S., Mitsuo Fuchita died in Japan in 1973.
Military working animals are just as much troops in the formation as their bipedal handlers. They go through rigorous training, like the Joes. They get weeded out through selection, like the Joes. And they even hold rank, like the Joes. Military working animals, especially the military dogs, are trained in a wide array of specializations, from drug sniffing and explosives detection to locating survivors in wreckage and providing emotional support to our wounded service members at countless hospitals.
These dogs give just as much as everyone else in the formation — yet, unlike the Joes, they didn’t have official recognition by the United States Armed Forces for their their gallant deeds. That could change with the recently proposed “Guardians of America’s Freedom Medal.”
Fun fact: The first organization to care for military working animals was called “Our Dumb Friends League” — which is still a less agitating way to refer to an animal than when people call their Pomeranian their “fur baby.”
(Imperial War Museum)
Currently, the Dickin Medal is given to military working dogs of all allied nations — but this is not an American award nor is it even officially from the military. It’s from the UK’s People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals. Despite that, the current Dickin Medal means a great deal to the handler because it doesn’t just mean a printed certificate and a tiny medallion for a creature that’d much rather play with a tennis ball — the medal also comes with benefits and care for the dog.
Physical proof that a military working dog is, in fact, a very good boy gives handlers the evidence they need to back up their requests for help. Handlers currently have little support from Uncle Sam when it comes to ordering new supplies, like harnesses, training aids, etc. With recognition, which, to this point, has meant the Dickin Medal exclusively, the animal is pampered with all of the dignity and respect it earned.
The Dickin Medal also allows the animal to be buried, with full military honors, at the Ilford Animal Cemetery in London. Non-decorated working animals don’t have that right, but the Department of Defense has been taking steps in the right direction. Now, military working animals are allowed to be buried next to their handler at certain national cemeteries. Additionally, the DoD decided (finally) that it was a terrible idea to just leave working dogs on the battlefield or euthanize them when their service isn’t required anymore.
Military working dogs have proven time and time again that they’re patriots.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Aaron S. Patterson)
The Guardians of America’s Freedom Medal would give nearly all of those same benefits — along with official recognition by the United States Government — to the animals that have bravely served their country.
This medal, which costs nothing more than a few bucks and a commander’s recommendation, will help showcase the heroism of our military working animals and give them more than just a pat on the head and an extra treat.
As of December 31st, 2013, 92 military working animals have lost their lives in support of the Global War on Terrorism. 29 of those dogs suffered gunshot wounds, and another 31 were killed by explosions. The other 32 have fallen due to illness. Another 1,350 dogs have suffered non-combat-related injuries or illnesses.
The award will probably mean little to an animal that doesn’t comprehend why everyone’s applauding, but it’s a step in the right direction — and it will give the handlers that extra push they need to get the care our military working animals deserve.
Intense humidity, leeches, and snakes were just a few of the dangers our Vietnam Veterans faced while in the jungle — besides getting shot by bad guys. In all, 2.7 million Americans suited up for The Nam, and the average age of an infantryman was just 19-years-old.
And every single one of them at one time or another claimed the title of “f*cking new guy,” or “FNG.”
Patton, Schwarzkopf, and Mattis didn’t start out on day one of their military careers by making all the right decisions, they had to learn from their mistakes time and time again, adapting to them before ultimately succeeding.
Like every story, every man whose served has a beginning — a seed.
“I didn’t know squat, I wasn’t prepared for this,” Larry “Doc” Speed, a Combat Medic from 173rd Delta Company, explains in an interview about his first few days in the bush.
Entering the grunt world as an “FNG” is a stressful time in every new infantryman’s life.
Having to prove your worth from the moment you step onto the battlefield was just as difficult as shaking off those first dramatic moments of being pinned down by accurate enemy gunfire. Until you prove yourself, you’re just another blood bag with a name stenciled on a uniform.
“It’s a different world when you’re brand new, you’re just scared,” Jesse Salcedo, an M60 machine gunner admits. “It took three or four firefights before I could function before I could see the enemy.”
Dr. Vince Houghton is a U.S. Army veteran and Historian and Curator of the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C. He grew up watching and loving the original Star Wars Trilogy. While in the Army, he served in a sort of intelligence role and after leaving the military, he earned a Ph.D. in Intelligence History with a background in diplomatic military history.
Every year on May 4th, he gives a lecture at the museum, making the argument for Star Wars being a series of spy films.
“People always debate about it,” Houghton says. “Is this fantasy, is this sci-fi, is it a western in space? For whatever reason, I’ve always seen it as a spy movie.”
Houghton argues that the backbone of the original trilogy is a spy operation — a story made into the latest Star Wars film, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. That story is the catalyst for Star Wars IV: A New Hope, which he sees as a classic spy movie.
“You could replace the death star with V2 or V1 or a German atomic bomb or the Iranian atomic bomb or any kind of scientific and technological intelligence and it becomes a spy movie,” he says. “Strip away all the science fiction and it’s a woman with stolen plans for a weapon trying to get them to a group of guerrillas fighting against this totalitarian empire — it could be the World War II resistance.”
But Houghton takes his argument further.
“With Empire Strikes Back, the whole thing is kicked off by the Empire attempting to use imagery intelligence, their drones, their probes, to locate the secret base of the rebels,” he says. “It’s still an intelligence operation, just a different kind.”
Houghton claims Return of the Jedi is a story based on intelligence gathering and counterintelligence.
“That’s also the catalyst behind Return of the Jedi,” Houghton says. “It’s stealing the plans for the second death star. It turns out, that’s actually a big deception operation — another key issue when it comes to intelligence.”
The Spy Museum Curator is talking about Emperor Palpatine allowing the Rebel Alliance to know the location of the second Death Star. Rebel Bothan spies capture the location and plans for the space station, but it’s a ruse for the Emperor to defeat the Rebel fleet on his chosen battlespace; it was a trap, a classic deception operation designed to hide the true strength of his forces.
“You could go all the way back to Mongolians in this case,” says Houghton. “Genghis Khan did everything from tying brooms to his horses’ tails so it would kick up a lot of dust and make sure it looked like there were thousands of soldiers instead of hundreds.”
In the case of Return of the Jedi, the Emperor’s plan just didn’t work because, you know, it’s Star Wars.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is in theaters Dec. 16th. You can catch more of Dr. Vince Houghton on the International Spy Museum’s weekly podcast, Spycast, on iTunes and AudioBoom.
When Alonso Flores started a serious cycling routine about two years ago, he was totally on his own. Rousting himself out of bed at 0-dark-thirty to get into his gear and hit the road was a chore. And try telling your young family that you’re dragging at the end of the day because you got up to ride a bike at 4 in the morning.
It wasn’t easy.
But during a family cycling event sponsored by his home town of Yuma, Arizona, Flores met some riders that would change his life — and give him a sense a purpose he hadn’t had riding on his own.
“Now I feel like I’m part of something bigger than myself,” Flores said.
It was during that get together that Flores bumped into two other riders who were part of the veteran outreach group Team Red, White Blue, a national non-profit whose mission is to enrich the lives of America’s veterans by connecting them to their community through physical and social activity.
Team RWB is focused on bridging the civilian-military divide through a shared interest in physical activity like running, hiking, CrossFit workouts, and yoga classes, along with participating in social and service-oriented events. And that’s how Flores, a 41-year-old heavy machine repair technician and civilian, got involved.
Spread across 199 chapters all over the world, the 110,000-member veteran’s group established in 2010 is geared toward creating a place for former servicemembers to meet and do a little PT — and invite their friends and family along to join them.
So Flores teamed up with his newly-minted cycling friends at Team RWB and started biking with them three times per week — waking at 4 AM, meeting at a coffee shop, riding 20 or so miles and chilling over a hot cup of mocha when the ride is done.
“Team RWB brings great teamwork. Before I met them I was riding by myself 20 miles a day,” Flores said. “Now I’m doing the same thing, but I feel like I have a purpose.”
For the third year in a row, Team RWB has sponsored its so-called “Old Glory Relay” — a cross country run-and-bike relay carrying an American flag from Seattle, Washington, to Tampa, Florida. Organizers say it’s intended to connect the Team RWB chapters and its veterans and friends with the communities they live in.
So when Team RWB was coming through Yuma for this year’s Old Glory Relay, Flores jumped at the chance to help. He and a couple other teammates helped carry the flag on the non-running parts of the trip between Yuma and Gilabend, Arizona — over 100 miles — in one day.
And while Flores didn’t carry the flag the entire 116 miles of his relay leg, the 47 miles he rode with the Stars and Stripes on his bike gave him a lasting impression of the country he’s come to love and those who’ve served to keep him free.
“I came here from Mexico when I was 11 years,” Flores said. “People always ask me if I miss Mexico and I tell them that I don’t know any other country than this one. And carrying the flag in the Old Glory Relay put an exclamation point on that.”
In fact, Team RWB has become a big part of Flores family’s life as well. He’s started bringing his 10-year-old daughter and wife along on Wednesday evening fun runs where other kids and parents do a little PT and come together later for dinner and companionship. And even though Flores didn’t have any military experience, that hasn’t stopped his new vet friends from counting him as one of their own.
“It’s just a great organization. I see that Team RWB shirt and I know what it’s all about,” Flores said. “Even if I don’t know the person, I know what Team RWB means and that I’m part of something bigger.”
On Aug. 6, 1941, P. Siomes, a German priest, was sitting in his room when the sunny, summer day outside was suddenly lit by an even brighter light that blinded him just before an explosion of sound and heat slammed into the building he was in.
The next month, he gave a full recounting of the hours and days following the bombing in a statement to the U.S. Army.
Author’s note: This article is based on a statement from P. Siomes, a German priest who was in the outskirts of Hiroshima when the bomb dropped. His English is great, but not perfect, but we’ve decided to be as honest to his original text as possible when transcribing. This leaves a few minor grammar and spelling errors, but we do not believe it hinders comprehension. His full statement is available here.
An atomic cloud rises over Hiroshima after the bomb is dropped.
(509th Operations Group)
Siomes was part of the Society of Jesus, headquartered in a church at the edge of Hiroshima, and he remembers it being about 8:14 when the city center suddenly filled with a bright, yellow light. He described it as being like the magnesium flash from a camera, but sustained. Over the next ten seconds, he felt an increase in heat, heard what sounded like a small and distant explosion, and was halfway to his door when his window suddenly exploded inward.
He was later glad to have made it away from the window, because he later found that his wall was filled with large shards of glass from the explosion that would’ve been embedded in him instead of the wall.
Siomes had believed that the damage to the building was from a bomb that burst overhead, assuming that the light was an unconnected phenomenon. But when he went outside to check the damage, all the worst damage was on the side of the building facing the city, and there was no bomb crater in sight.
A Red Cross Hospital is one of the only things left standing after the bomb. Near the center of the city, even the buildings that survived the blast were consumed within hours and days by the fires triggered by the heat and radiation.
(Hiroshima Peace Media Center)
But looking out into the city, he could see the extent of the damage. Houses were burning closer to town, and nearby woods were already becoming a large inferno. As the men at the facility, mostly monks and priests, begin helping fight the flames, a storm started, and rain began to fall.
Yes, the skies were clear before the bombs dropped, but a sudden rainfall is actually one of the very weird side effects of a nuclear blast. This would help fight the fires, but it also carries tons of irradiated dust, debris, and ash back to earth and helps it cling to the skin of survivors, but Siomes didn’t know this in 1945.
He and his fellow Christians began assisting the wounded in addition to fighting the fires. One of the priests “had studied medicine” before he took his vows, and the priests gave as much medical support as they could.
Father Noktor who, before taking holy orders, had studied medicine, ministers to the injured, but our bandages and drugs are soon gone. We must be content with cleansing the wounds. More and more of the injured come to us. The least injured drag the more seriously wounded.
A military document provides a guide to the extent of destruction caused by the single bomb on August 6.
(U.S. Army illustration)
And the damages to the city and surrounding area weren’t limited to just the immediate effects of the bomb. High winds damaged infrastructure and knocked over trees and buildings for hours after the initial blast. Siomes believed that this may have been caused by the fires pulling in more air, and research after the war backed him up.
Finally, we reach the entrance of the park. A large proportion of the populace has taken refuge there, but even the trees of the park are on fire in several places. Paths and bridges are blocked by the trunks of fallen trees and are almost impassable. We are told that a high wind, which may have resulted from the heat of the burning city, had uprooted the large trees.
Later on, Siomes would see some of this chaos himself. He went into the city with others to search out some of the missing priests, and they were able to find their quarry. But as they tried to make it back out ahead of the fire, they kept finding wounded trapped under debris, and attempted to rescue them, but then had to move on as the fires got close.
Eventually, they’d take refuge in Asano Park and, as the fires got close:
A very violent whirlwind now begins to uproot large trees, and lifts them high into the air. As it reaches the water, a water spout forms which is approximately 100 meters high.
This infrastructure damage made it harder for survivors to organize themselves and render aid, which was catastrophic as new emergencies kept popping up. Worse, planners had never envisioned losing an entire city in one fell swoop, and they had concentrated key supplies in a few caches near the city center, all destroyed by the bomb and fires.
For Siomes, the priests, and the monks, this all meant that their aid would necessarily be limited. It took more than a day for them simply to find out where all of their own survivors were. Some of them even had the exotic new injuries that only nuclear bombs can create.
One of the priests had been serving in the city when the bomb hit, and while he was processing the sudden burst of light, his hand was already blistering from what would later be identified as radiation. It was the equivalent of an instant, severe sunburn.
Father Kopp is bleeding about the head and neck, and he has a large burn on the right palm. He was standing in front of the nunnery ready to go home. All of a sudden, he became aware of the light, felt the wave of heat and a large blister formed on his hand.
Father Kopp was lucky; he had actually been near the epicenter of the blast but was well protected by the structure which held firm.
The city of Hiroshima after the bomb was dropped on August 6, 1945.
(U.S. Navy Public Affairs)
As the hours turned into days, the survivors kept tending the wounded and eating what they could find. Bodies lined the rivers and streets, and only skeletons remained of most of the buildings. Survivors had to drag the bodies or carry them on available carts out of the city, gather wood, and then cremate them in the valleys.
Rumors and stories began to rise, especially among the fifty or so refugees that were housed at what remained of the church, about what exactly had happened.
Some were likely propaganda or ill-informed attempts to explain what had happened:
As much as six kilometers from the center of the explosion, all houses were damaged and many collapses and caught fire. Even fifteen kilometers away, windows were broken. It was rumored that the enemy fliers had first spread an explosive and incendiary material over the city and then had created the explosion and ignition.
View, looking northwest, from the Red Cross Hospital which survived the bomb. The other structures are largely ones re-built after the bomb.
Some of the rumors were reports of how different victims suffered from the bombs:
Many of the wounded also died because they had been weakened by under-nourishment and consequently the strength to recover. Those who had normal strength and who received good care slowly healed the burns which had been associated with the bomb. There were also cases, however, whose prognosis seemed good who died suddenly. There were also some who had only small external wounds who died within a week or later, after an inflamation of the pharyax and oral cavity had taken place.
A paragraph later, Siomes recalls:
Only several cases are known to me personally where individuals who did not have external burns died later. Father Kleinserge and Father Cisslik, who near the center of the explosion, but who did not suffer burns became quite weak some fourteen days after the explosion.Up to this time small incised wounds had healed normally, but thereafter the wounds which were still unhealed became worse and are to date (in September) still incompletely healed.
But the biggest surprise probably comes at the end of the document where Siomes shares debates between he and his peers about the morality of the bomb.
He doesn’t come to a final decision, but he does note:
None of us in those days heard a single outburst against the Americans on the part of the Japanese, nor was there any evidence of a vengeful spirit…We have discussed among ourselves the ethics of the use of the bomb. Some consider it in the same category as poison gas and were against its use on a civil population. Other were of the view that in total war, as carried on in Japan, there was no difference between civilians and soldier and that the bomb itself was an effective force tending to end the bloodshed, warning Japan to surrender and thus avoid total destruction.
It’s an argument that continues today, but apparently consumed some of the immediate attention of survivors in the hours and days following its first use.
The Air Force had a number of various uniforms even before its independent inception in 1947. The evolution was a long and sometimes painful (on the eyes) one. Wear of Air Force uniforms is pretty important to airmen, and is governed by Air Force Instruction (AFI) 36-2903, the only AFI most airmen know offhand. It also contains uniform requirements for the Civil Air Patrol as if the Civil Air Patrol counts as the military… I mean, its nice that perfect attendance is required for your “basic training” but call us when the UCMJ applies to you.
The Air Force officially ended wear of olive green dress uniforms in 1952, switching over to distinct blue uniforms to stand out from the other services. In the years since, those “blues” (as they came to be called) evolved as times changed and as the Air Force itself changed.
This served for most airmen, but for those who still required a utility uniform, green would be (and still is) the mainstay for those uniforms. But Air Force utility uniforms always incorporated a distinctive blue, in some way, over the years to ensure its separation from the Army and little else.
The Air Force, like the Navy, appeared to be struggling with a uniform identity crisis in recent years, but it looks like they’ve got a handle on things.
The USAF came a long way, and so it’s good to take a look back at the best and worst of what the Air Force thought was a good idea, lest history repeat itself.
1. Flight Suits – (1917- Present)
The coolest looking and most comfortable uniform, the flight suit is easily the number one in the Air Force wardrobe. Early flight suits had the same needs as today’s flight suits. Aircrews need warm clothing with pockets to keep things from falling out. Early flight suits required jackets, usually leather, to keep the pilots warm. The need for pressurized cockpits allowed the flight suit to become what it is today: flame resistant, comfortable, practical and still cool-looking.
2. Battle Dress Uniform (1981-2011)
Maybe it’s because i’m partial to the uniform I wore every day, maybe it’s because the BDU is both comfortable and utilitarian, maybe because it’s a uniform which was worn across all branches of the U.S. military. In my mind, the only bad thing about this uniform was the M-65 BDU field jacket, which worked against the cold every bit as well as any crocheted blanket, which is to say, not at all. There’s a reason it was the longest-serving uniform.
3. Blue Shade 1084 & 1549 Service Dress Uniform (1962-1969)
This is the one which became the iconic Air Force blues uniform after appearing in Stanley Kubrick’s 1964 film Dr. Strangelove. An Air Force officer in the film, cigar-chomping Brig. Gen. Jack D. Ripper, acted and looked a lot like real life Air Force Gen. Curtis LeMay, who is famous for his hardline thinking. He was once quoted as saying:
“If I see that the Russians are amassing their planes for an attack, I’m going to knock the sh-t out of them before they take off the ground.”
Army and Air Force personnel wore this both stateside and deployed to the Southeast Asia theater. It was replaced by the Tropical Combat Uniform in Southeast Asia but outside it continued to be the work uniform of choice through the 1970s when it was replaced by the woodland BDU.
5. SR-71 Pressure Suits (1966-1999)
Its almost not even fair. They get to crew the greatest airframe ever designed AND look like an awesome alt-metal band in the process.
6. Air Force PT Uniforms (2006- Present)
Have you ever gone to the gym and wondered how much greater your workout could be if you did it while wearing swim trunks? The Air Force physical training uniform combines all the internal mesh of swim trunks to keep yourself in place with all the length of 1970s tennis player shorts to ensure you’re not only uncomfortable working out but so is everyone who has to look at you.
7. Air Force Band Drum Major
I understand military tradition requires bands, but do we still have to make them dress like they should be guarding Queen Elizabeth? I wonder what possible purpose that giant hat served, even when it was a real part of a military uniform. Did the scepter ever serve a real purpose? And that sash looks makes him look less like an Air Force Chief and more like he’s the WWE Intercontinental Champion.
8. Air Force Command Staff Ceremonial Uniforms (2012)
In 2012, Gen. Mark Welsh III rolled out a new set of ceremonial uniforms for the Air Force Command Staff. Commenters from Air Force magazine were quick to crack jokes about the special uniforms:
“General Welsh looks like a Russian crown prince at an embassy ball. What is it? Come on, General LeMay would never wear that!!”
“It appears the general is or was a member of the Air Force Band.”
“Exactly when did the AF adopt John Phillip Sousa’s uniform as its own?”
Air Force Times offered Welsh an opportunity to talk about the uniform, but he declined.
9. Air Force Summer Service Uniform (1956)
This one is so bad, it’s hard to find evidence of it. It looked like your mailman earned rank and started maintaining aircraft. Yes, in the photo above even other airmen can’t believe these guys are actually wearing Khaki shorts and a safari hat. Ladies usually love a man in uniform, but these guys will be single until they ditch those ugly things.
10. Merrill McPeak Dress Blues
The uniform was criticized for looking too much like the Navy’s uniforms, like an airline pilot’s uniform, or “a business suit with medals,” it featured a white shirt and the signature clouds and lightning bolts (aka “Farts and Darts”) on the sleeves of the jacket. McPeak’s uniform was popular with absolutely no one but McPeak. These uniforms went away as soon as he did.
China’s military rise is well-planned, and Chinese leaders are following a strategy they believe will lead to greater power and influence both regionally and globally, according to an unclassified report released today by the Defense Intelligence Agency.
The 125-page report, “China Military Power — Modernizing a Force to Fight and Win,” details some of the efforts made by the world’s most populous nation to build a military force that will allow it to back up plans for “great rejuvenation.”
“As we look at China, we see a country whose leaders describe it as moving closer to center stage in the world, while they strive to achieve what they call the ‘great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation,'” said Dan Taylor, a senior defense intelligence analyst with the DIA. “This ambition permeates China’s national security strategy and guides the development of the People’s Liberation Army.”
People’s Liberation Army troops prepare for a parade in September 2017 commemorating the PLA’s 90th anniversary.
(Photo from Defense Intelligence Agency 2019 China Military Power report)
Taylor pointed out that the PLA is not actually a national institution in China, but rather the military arm of the Chinese Communist Party. About 3 million serve on active duty in the PLA, making it the largest military force in the world. Additionally, it’s thought the PLA receives about 0 billion a year in funding — about 1.4 percent of China’s gross domestic product — though lack of transparency means exact numbers can’t be determined.
Comprehensive national power
Communist party leaders in China, Taylor said, are looking to build “comprehensive national power” over the first few decades of the 21st century, and a key component of that is enhanced military power.
“China is rapidly building a robust, lethal force, with capabilities spanning ground, air, maritime, space and information domains, designed to enable China to impose its will in the region, and beyond,” Taylor said.
Economic growth in China has enabled it to spend significantly to modernize the PLA, and continued development is expected, Taylor said.
“In the coming years, the PLA is likely to grow even more technologically advanced and proficient, with equipment comparable to that of other modern militaries,” Taylor said. “The PLA will acquire advanced fighter aircraft, modern naval vessels, missile systems, and space and cyberspace assets as it reorganizes and trains to address 21st century threats farther from China’s shores.”
According to the DIA report, Chinese efforts to advance the PLA have been informed, at least in part, by what it has observed of the U.S. military during past military operations — including both abilities and gaps in capability.
“The Gulf War provided the PLA stark lessons regarding the lethal effectiveness of information-enabled weapons and forces, particularly mobility and precision-strike capabilities, that had become the standard for effectively waging war in the modern era,” the report says.
The Chinese also have adapted their forces and doctrine to exploit perceived gaps in U.S. defenses.
Following the Gulf War and the fall of the Soviet Union, Chinese leaders perceived a period of strategic opportunity, the report says.” Convinced they would not see a major military conflict before 2020, China embarked on a period of economic and military development.
The Chinese increased the PLA budget by an average of 10 percent per year from 2000 to 2016, for instance. They additionally reformed the way the PLA bought weapons, and instituted several broad scientific and technical programs to improve the defense industrial base and decrease the PLA’s dependence on foreign weapon acquisitions.
The PLA saw the capabilities U.S. and Western forces fielded. Those forces used realistic training scenarios, and the Chinese adapted that to their forces as well. Leaders also implemented personnel changes to professionalize the PLA.
“The PLA developed a noncommissioned officer corps and began programs to recruit more technically competent university graduates to operate its modern weapons,” the report says. “PLA political officers assigned to all levels of the military acquired broader personnel management responsibilities in addition to their focus on keeping the PLA ideologically pure and loyal to the CCP.”
Professionalization of the PLA, with an increased push to focus on an ability to “fight and win” — a goal that mirrors U.S. doctrine — has been a hallmark of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s recent military strategy, said one defense official speaking to reporters on background.
Key takeaways from the DIA report include the Chinese emphasis on cyber capabilities, the defense official added. “It’s clear to us it’s a very important area to the Chinese,” the official said. “But it’s hard to know exactly how effective a cyberattack capability is until it’s actually used.”
China’s focus on Taiwan also is a focus of the DIA report.
“Xi Jinping has made it clear that resolving or making progress, at least, on resolving … the Taiwan situation is a very top priority for him,” the defense official said.
C. Todd Lopez of Defense.gov contributed to this report.
The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) was supposed to fill multiple roles for the Air Force, Navy, Marines, and US foreign partners.
The jet — the most expensive US weapons project of all time — was designed to have aerial combat, close-air support, and long-range-strike capabilities.
But that’s not how the plane’s turned out so far. A string of damning reports have seriously called the $1.5 trillion plane into question, specifically it’s “dogfighting” ability when matched against less sophisticated aircraft. And now, one expert has made a convincing case that the fighter’s long-range capabilities don’t measure up to expectations either.
In a report for War Is Boring, military analyst Joseph Trevithick writes that in a long-distance engagement, the F-35 would have to rely on stealth to avoid enemy-radar detection while maneuvering close enough to engage enemy air and ground targets.
In an ideal situation, the F-35 would eliminate its targets before detection and leave. But as Trevithick notes, Russian and Chinese fifth-generation fighters have been outfitted with infrared sensors that can pinpoint a plane’s heat signature over fairly vast distances. The F-35 has a single, large rounded engine nozzle that leaves a larger heat signature than the flat nozzles of other stealth aircraft, such as the F-22 or the B-2.
This infrared signature could tip off enemy fighters to the F-35’s location, negating any benefit it may have from its stealth design.
Stealth may offer diminishing returns anyway. The technology isn’t foolproof, and radar technology is improving around the world.
“You can only go so fast, and you know that stealth may be overrated,” Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jon Greenert said during a speech in February. “Let’s face it, if something moves fast through the air, disrupts molecules and puts out heat — I don’t care how cool the engine can be, it’s going to be detectable. You get my point.”
The F-35 may be more detectable at distance than the plane’s advocates claim, meaning the plane might have questionable utility during long-range aerial combat and attack runs. On top of that, the F-35 could find itself outgunned in a potential missile engagement with rival Russian or Chinese fighters.
The F-35 is supposed to be outfitted with AIM-120 Slammer missiles, which have a comparable range to Russian and Chinese air-to-air missiles.
However, as Trevithick notes, the F-35 may actually turn out to be slower than its Russian and Chinese rivals. It’s lagging speed means that it cannot launch the missiles with as much force as enemy jets. Moving at supercruising speed, a sustained speed exceeding the sound barrier, an enemy aircraft could “potentially fling its missiles farther than a missile’s advertised range.”
The difference in missile range might not actually be that important. If the F-35’s stealth capabilities are as good as advertised, or if enemy aircraft don’t have the weight load or sophistication to carry longer-range missiles, the plane will be able to maintain its expected supremacy over other fifth-generation models. Additionally, in a war gameconducted by the Royal Aeronautical Society, the F-35 beat the advanced Russian Su-35s in a long-range aerial engagement.
But in that simulation, the F-35 wasn’t armed with the AIM-120 but with the Meteor Beyond-Visual-Range Air-to-Air Missile (BVRAAM). No concrete figures have been released on the BVRAAM’s range, but it is thought to be greater than that of the AIM-120 and any current air-to-air missile in either the Chinese or Russian arsenal.
Unfortunately, as a different War is Boring article notes, any integration of the BVRAAM with the F-35 is years off. The F-35 will not be able to use the BVRAAM until Lockheed releases its next software update for the F-35, which is still in early development. Until that time, the F-35 may find itself in a challenging position relative to Russia and China’s own upcoming fifth-generation fighters.
The F-35 has questionable abilities at shorter range, too. A leaked report from an F-35 test pilot obtained by War is Boring noted that the aircraft was incapable of outmaneuvering and besting an F-16 in a simulated dogfight. The F-16 first entered service in 1978 and is one of the planes that the F-35 is being built to replace.
In response, Lockheed Martin wrote in a July 1 press release that “the F-35’s technology is designed to engage, shoot and kill its enemy from long distances.”
The wind blows viciously as it sweeps across the open waters, but the sound of gum being popped out of the pack is a familiar feeling that Senior Chief Quartermaster Steve Schweizer will never forget, even after retirement. It’s something that he takes on every mission, a lucky charm that he’ll leave behind when he walks out of the Assault Craft Unit Four (ACU-4) facility for the very last time.
“I won’t fly without it,” said Schweizer. “I’ve actually been on the ramp getting ready to go and I was feeling my pockets and thought ‘oh it’s not there, no I have to run back inside I know it’s in my desk.’ I’ll look at the water, look at the weather, and I’ll just kind of almost go into a quiet place, like just relax. I know that as soon as that mission starts, it’s ‘go go go’, it’s stress, it’s just operational, operational, operational.”
Schweizer first thought of joining the Navy after being unsure what he wanted to do in life.
“I took half a semester of college and realized it wasn’t what I wanted to do,” said Schweizer. “I had an uncle in the Navy who I didn’t talk to very much, but I told him I decided to join the military and he told me how much fun he had in the Navy so I figured I may have made the right decision.”
Schweizer first joined the LCAC program in 2004 and enjoys what he does.
“I’ve been here for fifteen years and I love what I do,” said Schweizer. “I love flying the crafts, I love teaching people how to fly the crafts, and I like our mission.”
Schweizer began running as a hobby before his 2014 deployment, describing it as an escape and a stress reliever.
“I just put my music on, go for a run, and I just tune everything out,” said Schweizer. “It’s just my relax time, my alone time. It’s definitely one of those things where it’s like if you think of work all the time, if you think of the stress of your job all the time, it’s going to get to you, so it’s my outlet.”
The program has a very high attrition rate and has a difficult training pipeline.
“This is a 90×50 foot hovercraft, it weighs about 200 thousand pounds,” said Schweizer. “You’re controlling it with three different controls. Your feet are doing one job and both hands are doing separate jobs. It takes a lot of coordination and it’s not easy.”
Training in the simulator and manning the live craft are completely different, and requires a lot of attention.
“You always have that heightened sense of awareness,” said Schweizer. “Anticipation of what the craft is going to do and how to counteract it. Never take anything for granted.”
On a small craft that is only manned by five personnel, personnel develop a closer relationship with crew members quicker, Schweizer explained.
“They develop that bond because you know that person has your back, or you know that person is looking out for you,” said Schweizer. “I know my crew, I know their families, I know what they like to do in their spare time, they know that if they’re ever in trouble they know they’ll call me first, or they’ll call one of their crew members first.”
Anything close to the maximum structural speed for a jet is usually just for the glossy brochure—99.9% of the time we don’t come close to reaching it. There was one time, though, that I pushed the F-16 as fast as it could go.
I was stationed in Korea and there was a jet coming out of maintenance; the engine had been swapped out and they needed a pilot to make sure it was airworthy. It was a clean jet—none of the typical missiles, bombs, targeting pod, external fuel tanks were loaded. It was a stripped down hot-rod capable of it’s theoretical maximum speed.
When we fly, we usually go out as a formation to work on tactics; every drop of fuel is used to get ready for combat. This mission, however, called for me to launch as a single-ship and test the engine at multiple altitudes and power settings. The final check called for a max speed run.
Justin “Hasard” Lee in the cockpit of an F-16 (Sandboxx)
I took off, entered the airspace, and quickly started the profile. Topped off, I could only carry 7,000 pounds of internal fuel; never enough with the monster engine behind me burning up to 50,000 pounds of fuel per hour. I knocked out the various tasks in about 15 minutes and then was ready for the max speed run.
I was at 25,000 feet when I pushed the throttle forward, rotated it past the detent and engaged full afterburner—I would have 5 minutes of useable fuel at this setting. I could feel each of the 5-stages lighting off, pushing me forward. I accelerated to Mach 1—the speed of sound that Chuck Yeager famously broke in his Bell X-1—and started a climb. A few seconds later 35,000 feet went by as I maintained my speed. Soon I was at 45,000 feet and started to shallow my climb to arrive at the 50,000 foot service ceiling. This was as high as I could go, not because the jet couldn’t go higher, but because if the cockpit depressurized, I would black out within seconds.
(U.S. Air Force photo by MSgt. Don Taggart)
Looking out at 50,000 feet, the sky was now a few shades darker. I could start to see the curvature of the earth. To my right was the entire Korean peninsula—green with a thin layer of haze over it. To my left, a few clouds over the Yellow Sea separating me from mainland China.
As I maintained my altitude, the jet started to accelerate. At 1.4 Mach, with only about 2 minutes of fuel left, I bunted over and started a dive to help with the acceleration. In my heads-up-display 1.5 Mach ticked by, backed up by an old mach indicator slowly spinning in my instrument console.
Justin “Hasard” Lee (Sandboxx)
At 1.6 Mach, the jet started to shake. I was expecting it—the F-16 has a flight region around that airspeed that causes the wings to flutter. Still, this jet had a lot of hours on the airframe, and if anything were to fail, the breakup would be catastrophic. Similarly, ejecting at that speed would be well outside the design envelop—the air resistance at Mach 1.6 is about 300 times what a car experiences at highway speeds. A few pilots have tried, only to break nearly every bone in their body.
So now, the option was slow down until the vibration stopped, or push though until it smoothed out on the other side. I was running low on fuel, so I elected to increase my dive so I could accelerate faster. Slowly 1.7 Mach ticked by, next 1.8, and then at 1.9, everything smoothed out. I was now traveling 1,500 mph over the Yellow Sea. The cockpit started feeling warm so I took my hand off the throttle and put it about a foot away from the canopy and could feel the heat radiating through my glove, similar to sticking your hand in an oven.
At this point I was entering the thicker air at 35,000 feet which was preventing the Mach from going any higher. I was also nearly out of fuel, so I pulled the throttle out of afterburner and into military-power—the highest non-afterburner power setting. Despite a significant amount of thrust still coming from the engine, the drag at 1.9 Mach caused the jet to rapidly decelerate, pushing me forward until my shoulder-harness straps locked. It took over 50 miles for the jet to slow down below the mach.
Justin “Hasard” Lee (Sandboxx)
Taking a jet to 1.9 mach isn’t any sort of record; in fact, some aircraft have gone twice as fast. It is an interesting feeling, though, to be at the limit of what an iconic aircraft like the F-16 can give you. Thousands of incredible engineers, who I never had the chance to meet, designed the plane and you are now realizing the potential of what they built. The heat and vibration, coupled with being outside the ejection envelope, let you know the margin of safety is less than it normally is.
I’ve since moved on to the F-35 which correctly prioritizes stealth, sensor fusion, and networking over top speed, so that’s likely as fast as I’ll ever go. It was a visceral experience that was a throwback to the 50’s and 60’s—where the primary metrics a plane was judged by how high and fast it could go.
Clear eyesight, pinpoint accuracy, and having overwhelming patience are just some of the key factors of being an effective sniper in the battlefield.
Nine days after Britain declared war on Germany, Francis Pegahmagabow of the Shawanaga First Nation enlisted in the Algonquin Regiment of the Canadian Army, and shortly after left for basic training in Valcartier, Quebec.
Within just a few months, Francis and his unit were transported to the trenches of WWI and began enduring the war’s hardships, including exposure to the first of many German gas attacks.
During his first few engagements, Francis began making a productive name for himself serving as an effective sniper and taking missions alone into “no man’s land,” surprising his commanders.
Climbing in rank and earning respect amongst his peers, Francis found himself in the vital role of the battalion sniper, collecting a variety of intel like enemy machine gun posts, patrol routes, and defensive position locations.
Francis would even sneak his way through enemy lines and cut souvenirs off of German uniforms while they slept, which eventually earned him a promotion to corporal. In 1916, he reverted back to the rank of private at his own petition.
He was wounded in the leg and later caught a case of pneumonia, but hit the ground running upon his return to the front lines, racking up medals for bravery by improving his kill count numbers and running messages back and forth to Allied troop units.
Francis Pegahmagabow passed away on Aug. 5, 1952, but was credited with 378 kills and aiding in the capture of approximately 300 enemy combatants — making him the deadliest sniper of the Great War.
Check out The Great War‘s channel for a more in-depth look at Canada’s most prized sniper of WWI.