The Israeli military has bought some copter drones that can carry some serious firepower – up to and including 40mm grenade launchers.
According to a report from DefenseOne.com, the Israeli Defense Forces are buying a number of TIKAD drones from Duke Robotics. The company, founded by Raziel “Razi” Atuaran — an Israeli special forces veteran who still serves as a reservist — is also pitching this drone to the U.S. military.
“You have small groups [of adversaries] working within crowded civilian areas using civilians as shields. But you have to go in,”Atuar explained. “Even to just get a couple of guys with a mortar, you have to send in a battalion and you lose guys. People get hurt.”
Sick of seeing civilians and fellow Israeli troops get killed, Atuar sought a way to deal with enemy forces in urban areas that would greatly reduce the risks. One way to do that is not to send a person in to clear a building, but to instead send a robot.
The use of a helicopter drone to carry firepower isn’t a new idea. A viral Youtube video showed how a typical drone one buys from Amazon can be rigged to carry a pistol.
But accuracy from such a platform is dubious at best. Payload from a drone can be an issue. The Israelis have used an off-the-shelf drone to haul a sniper rifle that had a maximum of five minutes of flight time. That’s not very useful in a pitched urban fight.
The TIKAD drone, though, fixes those problems by setting up a gimbaled platform that can hold up to 22 pounds. This provides a stable platform that ensures accurate fire.
The Israelis have not revealed how many TIKAD drones they are buying. The company, though, has moved to Florida, where U.S. Special Operations Command and Central Command are both headquartered.
You can see a jury-rigged armed drone using a pistol — an example of how not to arm a drone — below.
From Guam in the Pacific to Puerto Rico in the Atlantic, from north of the Arctic Circle to south of the equator, the U.S. Coast Guard patrols and protects the world’s largest exclusive economic zone, covering nine time zones.
It is one of the five military branches, a member of the intelligence community, a first-responder and humanitarian service, and a law-enforcement and regulatory agency that defends more than 100,000 miles of U.S. coastline and inland waterways.
On an average day, the Coast Guard’s more than 56,000 personnel — operating on 243 Cutters, 201 fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft, and more than 1,600 boats — carry out 45 search-and-rescue cases, save 10 lives, seize 874 pounds of cocaine, perform 24 security boardings, screen 360 merchant vessels, do 105 maritime inspections, and assist the movement of $8.7 billion worth of goods and commodities in and around the U.S.
Below, you can see photos from a year in the life of the Coast Guard — where no day is ordinary:
27. The Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star cuts through Antarctic ice in the Ross Sea near a large group of seals as the ship’s crew creates a navigation channel for supply ships on Jan. 16.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer David Mosley)
26. Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Richard Bacone from Maritime Safety and Security Team New York conducts a security sweep with his canine, Ruthie, during a Jan. 19 dinner cruise in Washington, D.C.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Matthew S. Masaschi)
25. A Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew forward-deployed in Cold Bay, Alaska, surveys the area around the fishing vessel Predator prior to hoisting three people off near Akutan Harbor on Feb. 13.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo)
24. U.S. Coast Guard ice-rescue team members training on Lake Champlain at Coast Guard Station Burlington on Feb. 17.
(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Sarah Mattison)
23. Boomer, the mascot of Coast Guard Station Crisfield, Maryland, sitting on the deck of a 45-foot Response Boat-Medium on Feb. 28. Boomer was rescued from a shelter and reported to Station Crisfield as the mascot in Dec. 2013.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Jasmine Mieszala)
22. A small boat crew aboard Coast Guard Cutter Dauntless prepares to get underway to pick up Mexican navy sailors for a partnership meeting in the Gulf of Mexico on March 11.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Dustin R. Williams)
21. Coast Guard crew members prepare for a live-fire exercise during a Firearms Training and Evaluation-Pistol course at the Dexter Small Arms Firing Range at Coast Guard Base Honolulu on March 28.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Tara Molle)
20. Coast Guard Cutter Munro passes under the Golden Gate Bridge on its way into the Bay Area on April 6.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Adam Stanton)
19. Sgt. 1st Class Chris Richards of the Connecticut National Guard along with U.S. Coast Guard Chief Warrant Officer Benjamin Jewell and Petty Officer 3rd Class Andrew Hayden of the Coast Guard Cutter Oak prepare a sling that will be used to hoist a 12,000-pound beached buoy, near Chatham, Massachusetts on May 9. The buoy broke free of its mooring off the coast of Maine during a winter storm and eventually washed ashore near Chatham.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Andrew Barresi)
18. The crew of Coast Guard Cutter Oak scrapes mussels off a buoy and shovels them back into the ocean off the Massachusetts coast on May 10.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Andrew Barresi)
17. U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Hamilton unloads about 18.5 tons of cocaine — worth $498 million — seized in 20 separate incidents in international waters in the eastern Pacific Ocean, at Port Everglades, Florida on May 18.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo)
16. A family poses with Jane Coastie at the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum in New York City on May 29.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Himes)
15. Petty Officer 2nd Class Lyman Dickinson, an aviation survival technician at Coast Guard Sector San Diego, is lowered into the water from an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter during a joint search-and-rescue exercise with the Mexican navy off the coast of Ensenada, Mexico on June 7.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Joel Guzman)
14. Belize, Trinidad and Tobago, and Dutch Caribbean Coast Guard members watch a member of the U.S. Coast Guard demonstrate a maneuver during a maritime law-enforcement training session for Exercise Tradewinds 2017 in Bridgetown, Barbados on June 7.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Marine Seaman Michael Turner)
13. Steven Celestine, a member of the Commonwealth of Dominica Coast Guard, practices law-enforcement techniques during Exercise Tradewinds 2017 at the Barbados Coast Guard Base in Bridgetown, Barbados on June 9.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Melissa Leake)
12. Chief Warrant Officer Matthew Rogers, from Coast Guard Maritime Safety and Security Team San Diego 91109, shows Naval Sea Cadets the MSST’s armory during a tour of the MSST facilities on June 22.
11. Petty Officer 2nd Class Cory Stepien, a boatswain’s mate at Coast Guard Station Eastport, navigates the northern coast of Maine in 29-foot rescue boat on July 26.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Andrew Barresi)
10. Petty Officer 1st Class Kim Nguyen, a health-service specialist aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Healy, gives IV training to a joint Coast Guard-Navy dive team and Healy crew members while underway off the coast of Alaska on July 27.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Meredith Manning)
9. U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Eagle sailed into some foggy weather in Casco Bay during its arrival in Portland, Maine on Aug. 4. The arrival coincided with Coast Guard’s 227th birthday.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Steve Strohmaier)
8. Overhead view of Coast Guard Aviation Logistics Center in Elizabeth City, North Carolina on Aug. 11. The ALC is staffed by about 1,350 Coast Guard members and civilians who maintain aircraft from 25 different Coast Guard air stations.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Auxiliarist David Lau)
7. Coast Guard members offload MH-65 Dolphin helicopters from an Air Force C-17 aircraft at Coast Guard Air Station Miami in Opa Locka, Florida on Sept. 11.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo)
6. The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Elm restores aids to navigation buoys in San Juan, Puerto Rico on Sept. 27.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Taylor Elliott)
5. Petty Officer 3rd Class Anderson Ernst uses a line-throwing gun to help pass the tow line to 65-foot fishing trawler Black Beauty, off the coast of New Hampshire on Nov. 11.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo)
4. Petty Officer 2nd Class Brian Rodriguez, an aviation survival technician at Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point, and Sung Jun Lee, from the Korean coast guard, hoist Oscar the dummy during a vertical-surface and self-rappelling exercise at Makapu’u Lighthouse, Oahu on Nov. 16.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Tara Molle)
3. Petty Officer 3rd Class Christopher Hale, an aviation survival technician at Coast Guard Sector Columbia River, demonstrates a rescue procedure to representatives from the People’s Republic of China and the People’s Liberation Army Southern Theater Command during the US/China Disaster Management Exchange held at Camp Rilea in Warrenton, Oregon on Nov. 16.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Levi Read)
2. Crew members from Coast Guard Station Sand Key, Florida, take part in survival swim training on Dec. 8.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Michael De Nyse)
1. Coast Guard Lt. Jodie Knox, Sector Lake Michigan, and Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Brian Wood, Pacific Strike Team, monitor the lifting of the Sailing Vessel Citadel near Red Hook, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands on Dec. 15.
The rapid turn toward diplomacy could defuse building tensions over the North’s accelerated testing of missile and nuclear devices to develop a nuclear-armed long- range missile that can target the U.S. mainland.
The Trump administration has led a “maximum pressure” campaign that imposed tough sanctions on Pyongyang, and planned for possible military action, if needed, to force the Kim government to give up its nuclear program.
Chinese President Xi Jinping said he was delighted with the progress being made to reduce regional tensions and facilitate direct talks between Trump and Kim.
The Chinese leadership has closely consulted the U.S. and South Korea on the prospects of talks. Lu Chao, a North Korea expert at the Liaoning Academy of Social Science in China said Beijing has nothing to fear from being left on the sidelines of the upcoming summit between Washington and its ally in Pyongyang.
“Beijing’s role will not be diminished. Neither will China’s interests be compromised if the U.S. engages in direct talks with the North Koreans,” said Lu.
The Global Times, China’s Communist Party newspaper, also reacted to the prospect of a Trump/Kim summit by urging the Chinese people to “avoid the mentality that China is being marginalized.”
Yet other China scholars in the region worry that Trump’s diplomatic initiative could undermine Beijing’s influence and further strain already tense relaxations between Xi and Kim.
“There is evidently anxiety on the progress being made in the absence of its [China’s] influence all of a sudden,” said Seo Jeong-kyung, a professor with the Sungkyun Institute of China Studies in Seoul.
North Korea has still not reacted to Trump’s response, nor confirmed the offer for a summit that was communicated though a South Korean envoy that met with Kim in Pyongyang.
If the summit does happen, Trump would be the first head of state who Kim Jong Un will meet since he came to power in 2012. The North Korean leader has yet to meet with Chinese President Xi.
Even though North Korea is dependent on China for over 90 percent of its trade, relations between the two allies has been strained over Pyongyang’s nuclear program. The young leader of North Korea has also not cultivated friendly ties with China, and has repeatedly ignored Beijing’s calls for Pyongyang to refrain from provocative missile and nuclear tests.
In contrast, Kim Jong Il, the father of the current North Korean leader, often visited with the leaders in Beijing, despite his own disagreement with China over nuclear weapons. In the 2000s China led six party talks – that included the U.S., North Korea, South Korea, Japan, and Russia — to reach a denuclearization deal. But in 2009 Kim Jong Il walked away from these talks to resume his country’s nuclear development program.
President Xi’s frustration with past failure and with the young North Korea leader may also be part the reason why Beijing is willing to sit out the denuclearization talks this time.
“China wants to play some role, but the greatest obstacle is Kim Jong Un’s hostility against China,” said Shi Yinhong, a political science professor at Renmin University in Beijing.
Improving U.S.-North Korea relations could further estrange Kim from Xi. With a nuclear deal in place, the Trump administration would no longer need Beijing’s support on sanctions and could take a more confrontational approach to deal with Chinese trade issues and to counter Chinese aggression in the South China Sea.
For China, there are clear benefits to a North Korea nuclear deal. It would reduce the potential for conflict in the region and restore expanding cross border economic activity.
Rather than lead to confrontation with the U.S. on other issues, there is also speculation that Beijing could leverage its support of U.S. led sanctions to end Washington’s objections to China’s claims in the South China Sea, or to the “One China Principle” on Taiwan.
“There have been discussions about trying to obtain the cooperation of the U.S. to unify Taiwan into China, after securing a good deal with the U.S. on the North Korea issue,” said Seo Jeong-kyung, with the Sungkyun Institute of China Studies.
A nuclear deal would also increase pressure on the United States and South Korea to reduce their military presence and remove the THAAD missile defense shield that was deployed on South Korea in 2017.
The maintenance team from the Army’s 2nd Battalion, 501st Aviation Regiment has been working nonstop in Puerto Rico since they flew in from Fort Bliss, Texas, Oct. 9. The crew maintains six CH-47 Chinook helicopters that deliver humanitarian supplies daily to some of the hardest-hit and most remote areas of Puerto Rico following Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
Soldiers need to do 90 percent of the maintenance work at night to allow full usage of the helicopters during the day for essential humanitarian missions, said Army Lt. Col Chris Chung, the battalion commander.
“At first, night shift was running from 3 p.m. to 1 a.m., sometimes 2 or 3 a.m.,” said Army Sgt. Jason Gonsalves, a CH-47 helicopter repairer. “We were working long days, only stopping to take a break for thirty minutes.”
When the unit arrived, the maintenance team had to reassemble the Chinooks, which they had only recently disassembled to fit on C-5 Galaxy transport aircraft for the trip from Texas, Gonsalves said.
In order for two Chinook helicopters to fit aboard a C-5, their rotor systems and housings must be detached and disassembled.
The maintainers had the helicopters back together and ready to fly within 48 hours, said Army Pfc. Zachariah Ingram, a CH-47 helicopter repairer.
In addition to regularly scheduled maintenance, the crew has to be vigilant for other problems that come with the operating environment. For example, the salt air and humidity inherent with operating in tropical environments can lead to corrosion, Gonsalves said.
When not working on the helicopters, the maintainers volunteer to help with the humanitarian airlift.
“I’ve gone on a flight to help pass out supplies and talk to the populace,” said Army Spc. Juan Betancourt, a CH-47 maintainer.
Betancourt, a native Spanish speaker, uses his skills to help other soldiers communicate with the island’s residents.
“There was a younger girl, maybe 12 or 13, who came up and gave me a hug and said ‘Thank you,'” Betancourt said. “It was heartwarming.”
The work of the maintenance crews has not gone unnoticed.
“Our maintainers have done a phenomenal job keeping the Chinooks … up and running at the mission-capable status that we need to continue to achieve missions that are requested of us and to be on standby for those that are not,” Chung said. “It’s not a small task and it’s not a small feat.”
Five al-Qaeda militants hijacked American Airlines flight 77 on Sept. 11, 2001. The plane was on its way from Dulles Airport outside of Washington, D.C., to Los Angeles. The plane made it as far as eastern Kentucky before the terrorists took over the plane and slammed it into the Pentagon.
The FBI added 27 images the agency took on the ground that day to their photo vault, as first responders raced to rescue the wounded and remove the dead from the shell of the nation’s symbol of military power.
Debris from the plane and the building are highlighted in the Mar. 23 release of photos. The attack killed 125 people in the Pentagon, as well as all aboard the flight
The Boeing 757 took off from Dulles ten minutes early.
Some of the passengers were teachers and students on a National Geographic Society field trip.
Authorities estimate the flight was taken over between 8:51 and 8:54 in the morning, as the last communication with the real pilots was at 8:51.
The terrorists were led by a trained pilot, as the other four herded the passengers to the back of the plane to prevent them from re-taking the aircraft.
The hijacker pilot did not respond to any radio calls.
With no transponder signal, the flight could only be found when it passed the path of ground-based radar.
At 9:33 am, the tower at Reagan Airport contacted the Pentagon, saying “an aircraft is coming at you and not talking with us.”
At 9:37:46 am, American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon.
As of Monday, Christopher Miller is the new (acting) Secretary of Defense. He is now responsible for the entire US military behemoth. A tough proposition, despite his experience navigating bureaucracy as the Director of the National Counterterrorism Center and as Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict.
But Miller has a vast special operations background to assist him in his new position.
When the terrorist attacks took place on 9/11, Miller, who was a major at the time, was commanding a Special Forces company in 3rd Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group.
Army Special Forces primarily specialize in Unconventional Warfare, Foreign Internal Defense, Direct Action, and Special Reconnaissance. Their ability to partner with a government or guerilla force and train, organize, and lead it to combat is what distinguishes the unit from the rest of America’s special operations forces.
A mere few days after the 9/11 attacks, Colonel John Mulholland, the then commander of the 5th Special Forces Group, sent Miller to Special Operations Command Central (SOCCENT) with instructions to get the unit into the fight. SOCCENT is responsible for all special operations in the Central Command’s (CENTCOM) area of operations, which is Central Asia and the Near and Middle East.
At the time, the Pentagon was somewhat at a loss on how to respond to the attacks. The shadow of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan loomed above the planning process. There was no question that the US military could pound to history Al-Qaeda and their Taliban protectors. But a full-blown invasion would be susceptible to the same tactical and strategic woes the Soviets had encountered – fast forward 19 years, and this has become apparent.
So, the unconventional warfare approach gained traction in some planning circles. Why shouldn’t we send Special Forces teams with all the airpower they can handle to partner with friendly forces and defeat the enemy, a small group of planners asked.
Known as the “True Believers,” these men pushed for an unconventional warfare approach to Afghanistan. And they managed to persuade their superiors. The outcome was a sweeping campaign, with Special Forces soldiers, CIA operatives, and Tier 1 operators at the forefront, that defeated Al-Qaeda and drove the Taliban out of power.
In all of this, Miller was key in getting his unit to be a core part of the Joint Special Operations Task Force Dagger, which led the fight. (If you wish to learn more about how that campaign was fought from a Special Forces perspective, Eric Blehm’s “The Only Thing Worth Dying For” offers a brilliant account.)
Miller went on to participate in the invasion of Iraq in 2003. And, as the commander of 2nd Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group, Miller was responsible for all Special Forces operations in central Iraq in 2006 and 2007. All in all, he was responsible for 18 Special Forces Operational Detachment Alphas (ODAs) and three Special Forces Operational Detachment Bravos (ODBs).
Interestingly, Miller’s appointment as the Secretary of Defense means that both the top civilian military leader and the top military leader, General Mark Miller, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, are Special Forces qualified, both having served in the 5th Special Forces Group.
On a side note, like in General James Mattis’s case, the administration will have to obtain Congress’ approval in order for Miller to become a permanent Secretary of Defense. By law, no person who has served in active duty as a commissioned officer can be appointed as the secretary of defense within seven years of his separation from the service. Miller retired in 2014, so he is a year away from meeting the constitutional (non-waivered) requirements for the permanent position. With a new administration coming in, however, that might not be necessary.
In an embarrassing moment for the Swiss Air Force’s demo team, the Patrouille Suisse squadron made a low-altitude pass over a yodeling festival when it was supposed to be making a commemorative flight honoring a local aviator a few miles away.
The Swiss aerial display team was expected to fly over an event marking the 100th anniversary of the death of aviation pioneer Oskar Bider in Langenbruck, but the team missed their mark by about four miles, flying over the nearby Muemliswil instead, The Aviationist first reported.
The obsolete F-5E Tiger II fighters flown by the demo team are not equipped with GPS, and the team did not have a man on the ground, as is often the case for these types of events. As the team was approaching the intended destination, the team leader spotted a festival area with tents and incorrectly assumed they were in the right place for the show.
The Patrouille Suisse.
Spokesman for the Swiss military Daniel Reist, local media reported, explained that the instruments in the aircraft flown by the display team are over four decades old. “Navigation is done with a map, a feeling and sight,” he said in a statement, adding that these aircraft are no longer suitable for combat and would never be used in a crisis.
“Unfortunate circumstances led to the mistake” the spokesman said. Switzerland’s Ministry of Defense said that the demonstration team had not had a chance to practice the maneuver prior to the event, explaining that the team was distracted, The Associated Press reported.
The commander of the Swiss demo team has apologized for the error.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
As World War II was ending, American soldiers coming off of frontline conflict were assigned to guard important structures from both looting and attempts by criminals to destroy evidence of war crimes. 101st paratroopers from the famous Easy Company were given the task of guarding Kehlsteinhaus, Hitler’s “Eagle’s Nest.”
2. American troops toured, lived in, and worked in Saddam’s palaces.
The palace of this amazingly ineffective dictator was one of the largest palaces in the world and was in good shape when World War II rolled around. Allied soldiers moving up the Italian peninsula moved into the palace grounds and used the fountains for swimming and baptisms as shown above.
4. Gen. MacArthur hung out with the Japanese emperor.
Gen. Douglas MacArthur was tasked with occupying Japan after the island nation’s surrender that ended World War II.
As part of the effort to both diminish the emperor in Japanese eyes and to raise the stature of the American occupiers, MacArthur had photos taken of himself and the emperor together, a surprising visual for the Japanese people. He also had men stationed on the palace grounds.
Chinese citizens are furious after the death of Li Wenliang, the whistleblower doctor who was censored for warning about the beginning of the coronavirus, and his mother said she wasn’t able to say goodbye.
“During the fight against the novel coronavirus outbreak, Li Wenliang, an ophthalmologist at our hospital, was infected. Efforts to save him were ineffective. He died at 2:58 a.m. on Feb. 7. We deeply regret and mourn his death,” the post said.
Li had warned some of his medical-school colleagues about the virus on December 30, about three weeks after the outbreak started but shortly before the government officially acknowledged it. The virus has now killed more than 630 people, mostly in China, and spread to more than 20 countries.
Li had said that some patients at his hospital were quarantined with a respiratory illness that seemed like SARS. But he was reprimanded and silenced by the police in Wuhan, made to sign a letter that said he was “making false comments.”
Li is now being hailed as a hero in China, with posts seeking justice for him and calling for freedom of speech trending on Weibo. Many were removed from the site, which often complies with government demands to censor politically sensitive content.
The top two trending hashtags on Weibo on Friday were “Wuhan government owes Dr. Li Wenliang an apology” and “We want freedom of speech,” the BBC reported. It said that hours later those hashtags had been removed and “hundreds of thousands of comments had been wiped.”
According to the BBC, one comment on Weibo said: “This is not the death of a whistleblower. This is the death of a hero.”
Li’s death was the most-read topic on Weibo on Friday, with more than 1.5 billion views, The Guardian reported.
Li’s death was also widely discussed in private messaging groups on WeChat, the instant-messaging sister app to Weibo, The Guardian said.
One image shared on Weibo showed that someone had carved “farewell Li Wenliang” into the snow in Beijing.
People’s Daily wrote on Friday: “At present, China has entered a critical stage of epidemic prevention and control work. The country needs solidarity more than ever to jointly win a battle that it cannot lose, so that its people can be protected against disaster and patients around the country can return to health.
“No one can make an accurate prediction about when the battle will end, but everyone knows that only with sufficient confidence can the people win the battle against the novel coronavirus.”
To say that Amber Smith comes from a military family is an understatement. Her great-grandfather was in World War I, her grandfather was in World War II, and her father was a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne. Both of her parents were pilots. Both of her sisters are military pilots.
Her parents’ love of flying sparked her interest, and she started flying private planes at a young age. As she got older she started considering a career in aviation, specifically military aviation. Then in 2003, she was introduced to a future she didn’t know was possible.
“I talked to the Marines, I talked to the Air Force, and I talked to the Navy because I didn’t even know the Army had aviation,” Smith says. “I grew up in fixed wings. Never once did the thought of helicopters cross my mind.”
The other three branches told her the same thing: get a college degree and then come talk. But Smith just wanted to join the military as an aviator. When she spoke to the Army they told her could still be a pilot, just flying helicopters instead of planes. Smith’s experience as a civilian pilot allowed her to join before finishing her degree through the Warrant Officer Flight Training Program.
While still in college and before joining the Army, Smith met her parents at an air show where helicopter rides were offered. She hopped in to see if a helicopter was really something she wanted.
“I went on this helicopter flight and I was immediately hooked,” she remembers. “I was like, ‘this is for me. I love it!’ I didn’t even want planes anymore, give me a helicopter.”
After basic training and Warrant Officer Candidate School, she went to flight school where she met her bird: the OH58 Kiowa Warrior Helicopter. The Kiowa Warrior is a light attack reconnaissance helicopter; a two-seater carrying a fifty cal machine gun and 7-shot 2.75 in (70 mm) Hydra-70 rocket pods, configurable for Hellfire missiles.
“I loved my time flying the Kiowa,” Smith recalls. “I knew that was the best and most bad ass flying I would ever do in my life.”
Her mission was direct support for ground forces, looking for IEDs, providing aerial security for convoys, and responding to troops in combat (TICs). Smith deployed with her unit, the 101st Airborne Division, to Iraq from 2005, where she made Pilot in Command. She went to Afghanistan in 2008, where she made Air Mission Commander, seeing combat in a combat arms role years before the ban on women in combat ended.
“Before they lifted the restriction, aviation was the only branch within what was called Combat Arms – now it’s maneuvers, fire, and effects – but it was the only Combat Arms branch that allowed women,” Smith says.
Her views on women in combat is simple: there needs to be a mission standard, not a gender standard.
“As long as the standards remain the exact same as today, I think women should be given the opportunity to try it,” Smith says. “I don’t believe in quotas or lowering standards but I don’t think it should matter if you’re a man or a woman. If you can do the job and contribute to the mission that’s what matters.”
The Army’s proposed integration plan includes first adding female officers to leadership roles within combat units. Amber Smith think it’s a smart move but the plan for and acceptance of women in combat jobs will take time.
“Reducing the standards creates resentment,” she says. “When I got to my unit in 2004, women were very rare in the Kiowa Warrior community. I worked very hard to do my job and contribute to the mission. As soon as they realized that, I was a part of the team.”
Smith left the military in 2010, but while she was in, she completed a Bachelor’s in Professional Aeronautics from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. After transitioning, she earned her Master of Science in Safety, Security, and Emergency Management with a specialization in Homeland Security from Eastern Kentucky University.
While in graduate school, she noticed that too often the media lacked a credible veteran’s point of view.
“It’s important the American people need to hear the perspective of people who have been on the operational side of national security,” she says. “People who have been to war and have seen the enemy everyone talks about on TV every day.”
Smith started a blog and got published wherever she could. Within three months, the calls for television appearances started. Her career just took off from there. She just completed her first book, Danger Close: One’s Woman’s Epic Journey as a Combat Helicopter Pilot in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“2015 was the year of my book,” Smith says. “I wrote it myself, I didn’t have a ghostwriter or anything. I wanted to preserve my voice. The Kiowa Warrior is an incredibly effective tool on the battlefield, essential in the two theaters of war. Nobody knows about it, all anybody knows about is the Apache. So I want people to know who we are and what we did.”
Smith is now a Senior Fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum and Senior Military Advisor for Concerned Veterans for America. She is also a writer and television commentator on national security issues, foreign policy, and military operations. She regularly appears on Fox News, Fox Business, CNN, and MSNBC.
This Friday, February 26, Fred Lewis will lead his all-military team to muscle through setbacks due to aging equipment. Lewis and his team of patriots are no strangers to delays, but one team member is particularly hedging his bets on this endeavor. ‘This needs to work out, I don’t want to be another homeless vet,” said Kyle Pletzke. This quote reveals more about the team than before. Pletzke is one of the nation’s homeless veterans who joined Lewis in Discovery’s Gold Rush in pursuit of fame and fortune. Homelessness is an in issue so pervasive that even I, the author, was a homeless veteran at one point in the not-too-distant past.
Time and again Lewis and his crew go through the gauntlet. Reinforcements arrive as the situation grows dire. Mitch Blatshke from Parker’s crew leaves no man left behind and renders aid to the other team’s machines. Will it be enough or too little too late? Mitch races against the clock to accomplish the mission.
In 2019 there were 37,085 homeless veterans registered with the VA’s PIT Count. The goal of the PIT count (point-in-time count) is to show Congress there is a need to end homelessness amongst veterans. From 2018 to 2019 the program reduced the homeless population by 2.1% by providing shelter.
Another resource is the Salvation Army. When I was homeless, the VA and the Salvation Army’s case workers banded together to help me find temporary housing. The irony of the situation was I could work from home, yet I didn’t have one. Long story short, my roommates lost their jobs due to the pandemic and instead of giving me a heads up to find my own place they kept me in the dark until we abruptly had to move.
If it wasn’t for We Are The Mighty and the fans who read my work I probably would have ended up a statistic. This artform is a cathartic release that pulled me through my darkest days. My mother lost her kidneys to Lupus and was fighting for her life. I’m still taking care of my sister. Veterans are proud and we won’t ask for help. However, it is important to call broken arrow when your back is against the wall.
Help is there and it will come.
That’s why this episode resonates so deeply for me. Another veteran is out of ammo and is fixing his bayonet, refusing to accept defeat. Gold Rush paints the perfect example of the camaraderie forged in the fires of combat. The other veterans also share their stories of their past and how they got into gold mining. Gold Rush is one of the few shows that accurately displays the brotherhood of the military.
Gold Rush airs this Friday at 8 PM ET/PT on Discovery, followed by the military Gold Rush special at 10 PM ET/PT on Discovery. Fans can also binge all previous seasons of Gold Rush on Discovery+.
The U.S. Air Force recently awarded a $96-million contract to Raytheon to produce more Miniature Air-Launched Decoys, missiles that can be launched from jets or dropped out of the back of C-130s to simulate the signatures of most U.S. and allied aircraft, spoofing enemy air defenses.
Two Miniature Air-Launched Decoy missiles sit in a munitions storage area on Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, March 21, 2012. The missiles can dress themselves up like nearly any U.S. or allied aircraft and can fly pre-programmed routes.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Micaiah Anthony)
The missiles, which Raytheon calls “MALD® decoy,” can fly 500 nautical miles along pre-programmed routes, simulating missions that strike aircraft would fly. Modern variants of the missile can even receive new flight programming mid-flight, allowing pilots to target and jam “pop-up” air defenses.
To air defense operators on the ground, it looks like a flight of strike aircraft are coming in. So, they fire off their missiles and, ultimately, they kill nothing because their missiles are targeting the Air Force-equivalent of wooden ducks floating in a pond.
Meanwhile, real strike aircraft flying behind the decoys are able to see exactly where the surface-to-air missiles and radar emissions are coming from, and they can use anti-ship and anti-radiation missiles to destroy those defenses.
The Raytheon missiles are the MALD-J variant, which jams enemy radars and early-warning systems without degrading the illusions that make the decoy system so potent. This leaves air defenders unable see anything except for brief glimpses of enemy aircraft signatures — which might be real planes, but could also easily be MALDs.
The missile is a result of a DARPA program dating back to 1995 that resulted in the ADM-160A. The Air Force took over the program and tested the ADM-160B and, later, the MALD.
The Air Force began fielding the missile in 2009 and they might have been launched during attacks against Syria while emitting the signatures of Tomahawk cruise missiles, but that’s largely conjecture. In fact, it’s not actually clear that the MALD can simulate the Tomahawk missile at all.
Two Miniature Air-Launched Decoy missiles wait to be loaded onto a B-52H Stratofortress at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, Ma 14, 2012. The B-52H crew can communicate with the missiles in flight and change the flight patterns to engage newly discovered enemy air defenses.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jonathan Snyder)
Meanwhile, the Navy commissioned the MALD-N, a networked version of the missile, for their use.
Whether or not the missiles were employed in Syria, they represent a great tool for defeating advanced enemy air defenses, like the S300 and S400 from Russia or the HQ-9 and HQ-19 systems from China. While the missile systems and their radars are capable, possibly of even detecting stealthy aircraft like the B-1s and B-2s, they can’t afford to fire their missiles and expose their radars for every MALD that flies by.
At the same time, they also can’t afford to ignore radar signatures emitted by MALDs. They have little chance of figuring out which ones are decoys and which ones are real planes before the bombs drop.