Army's new lightweight body armor plates could feature 'shooter's cut' - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

Army’s new lightweight body armor plates could feature ‘shooter’s cut’

The U.S. Army is close to approving a new lightweight body armor plate with a “shooter’s cut” to provide close-combat forces with greater mobility in combat.

Program Executive Office Soldier officials announced October 2018 that the Army was trying to design new plates that are significantly lighter than the current plates soldiers wear to protect from enemy rifle rounds.

Spring 2019, Brig. Gen. Anthony Potts, head of PEO Soldier, plans to brief the Army’s senior leadership for a decision on whether to move forward on a new version of the Enhanced Small Arms Protective Insert, or ESAPI, that features a more streamlined design.


“We are looking at a plate with the design that we refer to as a shooter’s cut,” he told reporters recently. “We believe that an increase in mobility provides survivability just as much as coverage of the plate or what the plate will stop itself.”

Potts said the new design offers slightly less coverage in the upper chest closest to the shoulder pocket.

Army’s new lightweight body armor plates could feature ‘shooter’s cut’

The Modular Scalable Vest being demonstrated at Fort Carson.

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Lance Pounds)

“Our soldiers absolutely love it, and the risk to going to a higher level of injury is .004 meters squared. I mean, it is minuscule, yet it takes almost a full pound off of the armor,” he said.

Potts said he plans to brief Army Vice Chief of Staff James C. McConville in the next couple of months on the new plate design, which also features a different formula limiting back-face deformation — or how much of the back face of the armor plate is allowed to move in against the body after a bullet strike.

“Obviously, when a lethal mechanism strikes a plate, the plate gives a little bit, and we want it to give a little bit — it’s by design — to dissipate energy,” Potts said. “The question is, how much can it give before it can potentially harm the soldier?”

The Army has tested changing the allowance for back-face deformation to a 58mm standard instead of the 44mm standard it has used for years.

“We have found what we believe is the right number. We are going to be briefing the vice chief of staff of the Army, and he will make the ultimate decision on this,” Potts said.

“But right now, with the work that we have done, we think we can achieve, at a minimum, a 20 percent weight reduction. … We have been working with vendors to prove out already that we know we can do this,” he said.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Soldiers see real-time drone feeds from new handheld devices

The Army and Textron Systems are developing a lightweight, portable One System Remote Video Terminal (OSRVT) that allows dismounted soldiers to view, in real-time, nearby drone video feeds using a modified frequency.


OSRVTs have been in combat with the Army since 2007. They are integrated into vehicle platforms, such as Stryker vehicles, allowing infantry to view feeds and control sensor payloads from nearby drones while on the move.

Related: The Army has new drones that can strike deep behind enemy lines

The laptop-like drone controllers are configured with an adapter kit so that they can operate from almost every Army vehicle. In fact, OSRVT software is hosted in the Army’s emerging Humvee replacement, the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle. Fielding of OSRVTs is currently 69 percent complete, Army officials said. This new technology allows soldiers, such as dismounted infantry not in vehicles, to view combat-relevant drone feeds while on foot.

Army’s new lightweight body armor plates could feature ‘shooter’s cut’
Spc. Lavoyd Anderson from the 64th Brigade Support Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, prepares to launch his Raven unmanned aerial vehicle.  (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Shane A. Cuomo)

Current OSRVTs include a transceiver, antenna, and ruggedized tablet computer that enables an unmanned aircraft, Army Program Managers for OSRVT, UAS Common Systems Integration Office, have told Warrior.

Certain small, handheld Army drones, such as a Puma or Wasp, can be operated by dismounted soldiers. However, while quite useful in combat circumstances, they have a more limited range, endurance, and sensing ability compared to larger, medium-altitude drones, such as an Army Gray Eagle.

More: The Army wants to make drones using a 3-D printer

Other planned upgrades to the OSRVT configuration include a modified Ku-band Directional Antenna (KuDA) for mobile vehicle operations that will be ready this year and bi-directional technology by 2020. The Army plans to have additional communications security for the OSRVT in place by 2020 as well, Army developers said.

The OSRVT system supports level of interoperability three (LOI3) via a KuDA; LOI3 allows the OSRVT user to control the sensor payload (except weapons) when allowed by the primary operator.

Army OSRVTs have been fielded to active duty forces, reserves, and National Guard units.

Army’s new lightweight body armor plates could feature ‘shooter’s cut’
U.S. Army Special Forces soldiers of the 3rd Special Forces Group. (Department of Defense)

Upgrades to the OSRVT supports and improves the Army’s current combat-zone progress with “manned-unmanned teaming.” This technology, already deployed in combat in Afghanistan, allows Kiowa and Apache attack helicopter crews to view video feeds from nearby drones and control the sensor payload from the air.

The new technology is slated to be ready by 2020, Army developers said.

Special Operations radio enables soldiers to view drone feeds

Harris Corp. is working with Special Operations Command to develop a new handheld, two-channel radio with an ISR receiver to enable drone video convergence, company officials said.

The radio, called RF-335, is designed to utilize wideband waveforms and a datalink to support full-motion video from nearby drones.

Read more: Move over Amazon, the Army also wants to deliver supplies with drones

“In the past, someone on the ground would have a traditional comms radio and use an ISR receiver. This converges those capabilities into one platform by pulling down video from the air, cross-banding the video into a two-channel radio,” Dennis Moran, senior vice president at Harris, said last year.

The radio functions like existing software programmable radios, using high-bandwidth waveforms to network voice, video and data across the force in real time. Setting up an ad hoc terrestrial network, the radios are designed to function as a battlefield network in austere environments where there is no satellite connectivity or fixed infrastructure.

Harris is also building upon this radio technology with an RF-345 two-channel, vehicle or soldier-mounted manpack radio.

“We add filtering so we can operate those radios close together without interference,” Moran said.

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How sailors keep their warships from breaking down

American warships are capable, lethal, and imposing, so much so that it can be easy to forget that they are still just lumps of metal floating through highly damaging saltwater while running at high power as hundreds or thousands of sailors prowl their decks.

Here’s how sailors make sure that all the sailing, work, and seawater doesn’t doom the ship before it can shoot its way through enemy fleets:


Army’s new lightweight body armor plates could feature ‘shooter’s cut’
Hull Maintenance Technician 2nd Class Ryann Galbraith brazes piping aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt.
(U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Michael Hogan)

One of the most important parts, besides avoiding enemy missiles and shells, obviously, is making sure that the saltwater stays in the ocean and doesn’t get inside the ship. That’s why the Navy has hull maintenance technicians like Ryann Galbraith, above. They work on all the plumbing, decks, structures, and hulls, patching, welding, riveting, etc. to keep fluids and steam in dedicated pipes.

Army’s new lightweight body armor plates could feature ‘shooter’s cut’
U.S. Navy divers, assigned to Southwest Regional Maintenance Center, drop a cofferdam into the water prior to performing underwater hull maintenance on the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer.
(U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Trevor Welsh)

Of course, the hull itself can be vulnerable, accumulating barnacles and other sea life and rusting from the exposure to water and salt. To deal with this, the Navy sends sailors around the ship, often in small boats, to touch up paint or clean off risky accumulations. Also, they send divers under the water to clean the hull and perform more maintenance.

Army’s new lightweight body armor plates could feature ‘shooter’s cut’
Chief Fire Controlman Ryan Pavelich and Fire Controlman 2nd Class Robin Norris inspect the closed-in weapons system on the USS Wayne E. Meyer.
(U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kelsey L. Adams)

But the ship also needs to be able to hit back if it comes under attack, and weapons like the Phalanx close-in weapons system allow it to knock the enemy’s missiles and other airborne threats out of the sky. But, you guessed it, all those moving parts and sensitive electronics need a lot of maintenance as well.

Wires fray, parts wear out, electronics degrade. Fire control sailors make sure their weapons will protect the ship when called upon.

Army’s new lightweight body armor plates could feature ‘shooter’s cut’
Chief Machinist Mate Benjamin Carnes and Gas Turbine Systems Technician 1st Class Johnathan Hovinga make final inspections in preparation to start the main engines on the littoral combat ship USS Fort Worth.
(U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Antonio P. Turretto Ramos)

The maintenance can get a lot more complicated when you go inside the ship. The engines on Navy ships, whether fueled by diesel, gasoline, or nuclear, are pretty complicated. They need to be regularly inspected, pumps and belts have to get replaced, oil and other fluids need to be changed.

And that’s all if everything goes according to plan. When engines experience a real breakdown, it can necessitate people crawling through the engine or the ship getting towed into port for drydock maintenance. So, doing the maintenance is worth the effort.

Army’s new lightweight body armor plates could feature ‘shooter’s cut’
Gas Turbine System Technician Fireman Steven Garris, from Youngsville, Pennsylvania, changes a burner barrel to prevent soot build up in a boiler aboard amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard.
(U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Diana Quinlan)

But Navy engines actually have a lot of maintenance needs with few civilian equivalents. The sailor above is changing out the burner barrel on an amphibious assault ship. Do any of your vehicles have burner barrels? Mine don’t. And few people need specially trained staff to keep their nuclear reactors from poisoning the passengers.

Army’s new lightweight body armor plates could feature ‘shooter’s cut’
Onboard USS Wasp, Petty Officer 2nd Class Jarrod Prouse conducts repairs on the handle of a Collective Protective System hatch.
(U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Rebekah Adler)

Other routine maintenance on ships is much more sensitive and demanding as well. Navy ships have doors that need to be welded properly, or else lethal substances could leak through when the ship is in a chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear environment.

Army’s new lightweight body armor plates could feature ‘shooter’s cut’
Hull Maintenance Technician 2nd Class Alexander Fleischer, from Crystal Lake, Ill., assigned to the submarine tender USS Frank Cable, welds a gusset while performing repairs to the cradle of a crane aboard the ship.
(U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Heather C. Wamsley)

By the way, there are so, so many pictures online of sailors welding. That’s not surprising since ships are made of metal and that metal needs to be repaired. But still, so many pictures. This particular one shows a hull maintenance technician repairing a crane cradle on a submarine tender.

Army’s new lightweight body armor plates could feature ‘shooter’s cut’
Aviation Boatswain’s Mate 1st Class Scott Skeate, Aviation Boatswain’s Mate 1st Class Darryl Johnson, Aviation Boatswain’s Mate 2nd Class Luke Hart, and Airman Apprentice Mccord Brickle perform maintenance on a waist catapult shuttle on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz.
 (U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jacob Milner)

Most Navy ships have specialty systems not seen on civilian vessels or even on most other vessels of the fleet. For instance, carriers have catapults that, except for the USS Gerald R. Ford, are powered by steam. The catapults have to be repaired as parts wear out, and they have to be carefully calibrated even when everything is working properly.

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35 years ago, the Challenger exploded. Could it happen again?

In January 1986, the country was buzzing with excitement. Seven astronauts were heading to space, including a civilian. An ordinary teacher, Christa McAuliffe, would be the first average Joe in space. The Challenger shuttle had already completed nine successful missions. This one should have been no different. 

The crew of the Challenger shuttle
The crew of the ill-fated Challenger space shuttle.

Tragically, it was. Viewers looked on in horror as steam and fire began streaming from the shuttle just minutes after launch. The Challenger exploded, killing everyone aboard. So what happened, exactly? More importantly, could it happen again? 

By 1986, NASA had plenty of experience with space flight.

NASA announced the first manned, reusable spacecraft in 1976. They named it a space shuttle. Just five years later, they took the Columbia shuttle for a test spin. It went without a hitch. The Challenger came along in 1983, and again the mission went swimmingly. The shuttle went on to make eight more voyages before 1986.

The 10th voyage included something unique: an average high school social studies teacher. 37-year-old Christa McAuliffe won a spot through NASA’s new Teacher in Space initiative, which aimed to motivate students to set their sights on future careers in technology, science, and space flight. As it turns out, the mission may have had the opposite effect.

The Challenger’s 10th expedition should have been a slam dunk.

The mission was intended to launch on January 22nd from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The launch was pushed back because of bad weather and technical issues. On the 28th, NASA pushed ahead with the launch. Engineers on the project were uneasy. They spoke up, telling their superiors that some of the shuttle’s components weren’t intended to function in cold weather. The rubber O-rings, in particular, were prone to failure at low temps. The Challenger launched anyway. 

After just 73 seconds, the shuttle exploded over hundreds of onlookers. The families of the astronauts on board watched in horror from the ground, while the rest of the country watched it live on the news. The shuttle landed in the ocean, in pieces. Among a crew of seven, there wasn’t a single survivor. 

The challenger shuttle exploding
The Space Shuttle Challenger explodes 73 seconds after liftoff from the Kennedy Space Center.

It was an ordinary expedition. And that was the problem. 

The nation was understandably put off by future space travel. President Reagan launched a commission to find the cause of the explosion in hopes of correcting the issue for future space missions. After analysis by a team of experts that included the famous Neil Armstrong, the commission concluded that the engineers were right. The rubber O-rings that were intended to seal the Challenger’s rocket booster had cracked from the cold. Flames were able to escape the booster, damaging a fuel tank and destroying the shuttle’s integrity. 

The company that designed the boosters, Morton Thiokol, was aware of potential issues. Managers at NASA were also aware of the risks, but after several successful missions, they didn’t take them seriously. 

And that was the problem. The mission was so routine, that the details were largely ignored; even details that spelled out the difference between a historic success and a crushing tragedy.

Could another explosion like the Challenger’s happen? Absolutely.

Have we learned from our own hubris? Hopefully. 

After the Challenger explosion, NASA was taken down a few pegs. They spent two years refining their design before launching a new shuttle, the Discovery. That shuttle went on to carry out several successful missions, which included the construction of the International Space Station, or ISI. 

But in 2003, a second shuttle exploded. The Columbia failed to reenter the atmosphere, disintegrating in mid-air. Once again, all seven passengers were killed. Missions resumed in 2005, but in 2011, the space shuttle program was officially ended. The risk of space shuttle travel was simply too high for the potential reward. 

Knowing human beings, and American human beings, in particular, it’s doubtful that our future in space is over. Space shuttles were risky and experimental, but the astronauts on board knew that. Much like the mountaineers who climb Everest or Lindbergh’s first transatlantic flight, those who explore space are powerfully driven to do so- no matter the cost. 

While Christa McAuliffe paid the ultimate price, her backup, a fellow educator named Barbara Morgan, made it safely to space and back in 2007. The Challenger disaster taught us that when lives are on the line, there’s no room for arrogance. Just a sliver of impatience can be deadly. Teachers in space taught us to keep trying anyway.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Army’s 1st SFAB unit returns from Afghanistan says advisor mission a ‘success’

The 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade deployed in March 2018 to Afghanistan to carry out the inaugural mission for the newly-created SFAB concept. The brigade returned in November 2018, and leaders say their experience there has proven successful what the Army hoped to accomplish with the new kind of training unit.

Army Brig. Gen. Scott Jackson, 1st SFAB commander, spoke May 8, 2019, at the Pentagon as part of an Army Current Operations Engagement Tour. He said the Army’s concept for the new unit — one earmarked exclusively for advise and assist missions — was spot on.

During their nine-month deployment to Afghanistan, Jackson said the 800-person brigade ran 58 advisory teams and partnered with more than 30 Afghan battalions, 15 brigades, multiple regional training centers, a corps headquarters and a capital division headquarters.


“That’s nearly half of the Afghan National Army,” he said. “I believe we could only accomplish our mission and reach these milestones and validate the effectiveness of an SFAB because the Army got it right — the Army issued us the right equipment, and provided us the right training to be successful. But most importantly, we selected the people for this mission . . . the key to our success is the talented, adaptable, and experienced volunteers who served in this brigade.”

Lessons learned

Jackson outlined two key lessons learned from the unit’s time in Afghanistan. First, they learned their ability to affect change within those they advise and assist was greater than they thought.

Army’s new lightweight body armor plates could feature ‘shooter’s cut’

Sgt. 1st Class Jeremiah Velez, center, an advisor with the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade’s 3rd Squadron, interacts with Afghan Command Sgt. Maj. Abdul Rahman Rangakhil, left, the senior enlisted leader of 1st Kandak, 4th Brigade, 203rd Corps, during a routine fly-to-advise mission at Forward Operating Base Altimur, Afghanistan, Sept. 19, 2018.

(Photo by Sean Kimmons)

“As our Afghan partners began to understand the value of 1st SFAB advisors, they asked us for more,” Jackson said. “So our teams partnered with more and more Afghan units as the deployment progressed.”

Another lesson, he said, was that persistent presence with partners pays off.

“Units with persistent partners made more progress in planning and conducting offensive operations and in integrating organic Afghan enablers like field artillery and the Afghan air force than unpersistent partnered units,” Jackson said.

Those lessons and others were passed to the follow-on unit, the 2nd SFAB, as well as to the Security Force Assistance Command.

Another observation: the Afghan military is doing just fine. They’re in charge of their own operations. And while U.S. presence can provide guidance when needed — and it is asked for — the Afghans were proving successful at doing their own security missions without U.S. soldiers running alongside them. It turns out that just having an SFAB advise and assist presence has emboldened Afghan security to success.

“We saw enormous offensive maneuver generated, and not just at the brigade level,” said Army Lt. Col. Brain Ducote, commander of the 1st Battalion, 1st SFAB. “They weren’t overdependent. They were able to execute offensive operations themselves. It was a huge confidence builder when we were sometimes just present. Even if we didn’t support them, just us being there gave them the confidence to execute on independent offensive operations.”

Confidence is contagious

Ducote said that the confidence moved from brigade level down to battalion, or “kandak” level. Commanders there also began running their own offensive operations, he said.

“They believe in themselves,” the lieutenant colonel said. “The Afghan army has tremendous freedom of maneuver and access to areas where they want to go. If they put their mind to it and they say we’re going to move to this area to clear it . . . they are good at it. And they can do it. Would they, given the choice, want advisors with them? Absolutely. Why not? But let there be no mistake: the Afghans are in the lead, and the Afghans can do this.”

Army’s new lightweight body armor plates could feature ‘shooter’s cut’

Advisors with the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade’s 3rd Squadron and their 3rd Infantry Division security element exit UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters during a routine fly-to-advise mission at Forward Operating Base Altimur, Afghanistan, Sept. 19, 2018.

(Photo by Sean Kimmons)

Ducote said Afghan success is evident by their expansion of the footprint they protect, such as in Kunar and Kapisa provinces, for instance.

“[There are] all sorts of provinces where they expanded their footprint and influence,” he said. “And the people absolutely support their security forces.”

Also a critical takeaway from Afghanistan and an indicator of the value of the SFAB mission there is the authenticity of relationships between SFAB advisors and Afghans.

Building real relationships

During their nine months in theater, the 1st SFAB lost two soldiers to insider threats. Army Capt. Gerard T. Spinney, team leader for 1st Battalion, 1st SFAB, said that what happened after the attacks revealed the strength and sincerity of the relationship between Afghan leadership and SFAB leadership.

Army Cpl. Joseph Maciel was working for Spinney in Tarin Kowt District, Afghanistan. He was killed there by an Afghan soldier in July 2018 — a “green on blue” threat.

“His sacrifice will never be forgotten,” Spinney said. “But we still had to continue advising afterward. That day, my partner, a kandak commander . . . wanted to come see me.”

Spinney said the Afghan soldier who had killed Maciel didn’t belong to this commander — but that commander still wanted to meet with him.

Army’s new lightweight body armor plates could feature ‘shooter’s cut’

Afghan soldiers listen to a map reading class taught by Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Davis, an advisor with 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade, Sept. 18, 2018.

(Photo by Sean Kimmons)

“He was very adamant coming to see me,” Spinney said. “He was angry. He was embarrassed. He was determined to rid [his own] unit of anything like this. And it was sincere. During the deployment he lost many soldiers. I had to sit with him and almost echo the same sympathies. I think the relationship got stronger.”

“You have to be there with them, good times and bad times, successes and failures,” the captain said. “That’s how you build trust, that’s how you show you care. He was there for us that day. Our relationship survived. And I’d say from that point on he wanted to make us feel safer. From that point on we saw differences in security . . . they took care of us because they wanted us there.”

Jackson said that insider threat might have derailed the 1st SFAB mission. In fact, he said, he suspects that was the intent of the enemy that carried out those threats. But it didn’t happen that way, he said.

“It didn’t derail the mission,” Jackson said. “Despite a brief pause maybe, as we reassessed what happened and what we needed to do both on the Afghan side and the American side, in the end our relationship was stronger.”

Ensuring success

The SFAB concept was first proposed by Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Mark A. Milley. And since then, Jackson said, the Army has put a lot of effort into ensuring the success of the SFAB mission. That includes, among other things, training, people and gear.

Ducote said the equipment provided to 1st SFAB was critical to its success in Afghanistan.

Army’s new lightweight body armor plates could feature ‘shooter’s cut’

Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Davis, an advisor with 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade, teaches a map reading class to Afghan soldiers Sept. 18, 2018.

(Photo by Sean Kimmons)

“These teams are operating at distance, in austere environments,” Ducote said. “In some cases without electricity. We need the right equipment to be able to extend the trust that we give to them, and the trust that we extend to them. We want that to be manifested through the right equipment — communications specifically.”

He said the gear that proved essential to SFAB success included medical, communications and vehicles — and all were adequately provided for by the Army.

“The Army got it right what they gave us,” Ducote said. “We were able to do that mission, at distance.”

Home again

Back home now for six months, Jackson said the brigade is back to repairing equipment, replacing teammates and conducting individual and small-unit training to prepare for its next mission. He said their goal is to provide the Army a unit ready for the next deployment, though orders for that next mission have not yet come down.

The advise and assist mission is one the Army has done for years, but it’s something the Army had previously done in an ad hoc fashion. Brigade combat teams, for instance, had in the past been tasked to send some of their own overseas as part of security transition teams or security force assistance teams to conduct training missions with foreign militaries. Sometimes, however, the manner in which these teams were created may not have consistently facilitated the highest quality of preparation.

Army’s new lightweight body armor plates could feature ‘shooter’s cut’

Sgt. 1st Class Jeremiah Velez, an advisor with the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade’s 3rd Squadron, flies in a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter on his way to Forward Operating Base Altimur, Afghanistan, Sept. 19, 2018.

(Photo by Sean Kimmons)

The SFAB units, on the other hand, are exclusively designated to conduct advise and assist missions overseas. And they are extensively trained to conduct those missions before they go. Additionally, the new SFABs mean regular BCTs will no longer need to conduct advise and assist missions.

The Army plans to have one National Guard and five active-duty SFABs. The 1st SFAB stood up at Fort Benning, Georgia, in early 2018. The 2nd SFAB is based at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, but is now deployed to Afghanistan. The 3rd SFAB, based at Fort Hood, Texas, is now gearing up for its own first deployment. The 4th SFAB, based at Fort Carson, Colorado, is standing up, as is the 54th SFAB, a National Guard unit that will be spread across six states. The 5th SFAB, to be based at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, is still being planned.

“As subsequent SFABs come online, it creates a huge capacity for the rest of the combatant commands in the world,” Jackson said. “I would be confident to say that there are assessments ongoing to see where else you could apply SFABs besides Afghanistan.”

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US Marines practice maneuvers that should keep China on its toes

Everything that is old may indeed be new again.

During World War II, US Marines moved from island to island, fighting bloody battles against entrenched Japanese forces determined to dominate the Pacific. Now, as the possibility of conflict with China looms, the Marine Corps is dusting off this island-hopping strategy.


Last week, US Marines from the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit led a series of simulated small-island assaults in Japan, the Corps announced March 21, 2019.

Army’s new lightweight body armor plates could feature ‘shooter’s cut’

Marines with Charlie Company, Battalion Landing Team, 1st Battalion, 4th Marines, during a live-fire range as part of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit’s simulated Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations at Camp Schwab in Okinawa, Japan, on March 13, 2019.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Gunnery Sgt. T. T. Parish)

The 31st MEU, supported by elements of the 3rd Marine Division, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, and 1st Marine Aircraft Wing; members of the Air Force 353rd Special Operations Group; and Army soldiers with 1st Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group, practiced seizing Ie Shima Island.

After the Marines seized the island’s airfield, US troops quickly established a Forward Arming and Refueling Point. Additional force assets, such as Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters and C-130J Super Hercules transport aircraft, then moved in to deliver extra firepower.

Army’s new lightweight body armor plates could feature ‘shooter’s cut’

An F-35B Lightning II fighter aircraft with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 being refueled at a Forward Arming and Refueling Point during simulated Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations at Ie Shima Training Facility on March 14, 2019.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Dylan Hess)

Rocket artillery units brought in aboard the C-130Js carried out simulated long-range precision-fire missions while the stealth fighters conducted expeditionary strikes with precision-guided munitions.

“This entire mission profile simulated the process of securing advanced footholds for follow-on forces to conduct further military operations, with rapid redeployment,” the Corps said in a statement. The exercise was part of the Corps’ efforts to refine the Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations concept, which is the modern version of the World War II-era island-hopping strategy.

Army’s new lightweight body armor plates could feature ‘shooter’s cut’

A Marine with Charlie Company, Battalion Landing Team, 1st Battalion, 4th Marines, bounding toward a defensive position during a live-fire range as part of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit’s simulated Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations at Camp Schwab.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Gunnery Sgt. T. T. Parish)

“It is critical for us to be able to project power in the context of China, and one of the traditional missions of the Marine Corps is seizing advanced bases,” Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate Armed Services Committee last week. “If you look at the island chains and so forth in the Pacific as platforms from which we can project power, that would be a historical mission for the Marine Corps and one that is very relevant in a China scenario.”

As its National Defense Strategy makes clear, the US military is facing greater challenges from near-peer threats in an age of renewed great-power competition. In the Pacific, China is establishing military outposts on occupied islands in the South China Sea while seeking to extend its reach beyond the first island chain.

With the US and Chinese militaries operating in close proximity, often with conflicting objectives, there have been confrontations. A close US ally recently expressed concern that the two powers might one day find themselves in a shooting war in the South China Sea.

Army’s new lightweight body armor plates could feature ‘shooter’s cut’

Marines with Charlie Company, Battalion Landing Team, 1st Battalion, 4th Marines, engaging targets while assaulting a defensive position during a live-fire range as part of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit’s simulated Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations at Camp Schwab.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Gunnery Sgt. T. T. Parish)

“We continue to seek areas to cooperate with China where we can, but where we can’t we’re prepared to certainly protect both US and allied interest in the region,” Kenneth McKenzie, the director of the Joint Staff, said at the Pentagon in May 2018.

“The United States military has had a lot of experience in the Western Pacific taking down small islands,” he said when asked whether the US had the ability to “blow apart” China’s outposts in the South China Sea. “We had a lot of experience in the Second World War taking down small islands that are isolated, so that’s a core competency of the US military that we’ve done before.”

It’s just a “historical fact,” he said.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

U.S. warns of Russian hacking group’s attempts to gain ‘dream access’ to computer systems

The U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) on May 28 warned government partners and private companies about a Russian hacking operation that it says uses a special intrusion technique to target operating systems often used to manage computer infrastructure.

“This is a vulnerability that is being actively exploited, that’s why we’re bringing this notification out,” said Doug Cress, chief of the cybersecurity collaboration center and directorate at NSA, in an advisory. “We really want…the broader cybersecurity community to take this seriously.”


The notice is part of a series of public reports by the U.S, agency to share actionable cyber defense information.

The NSA said the hacking activity was tied to “Russian military cyber actors, publicly known as Sandworm Team” and are part of Russia’s Main Intelligence Directorate’s (GRU) Main Center for Special Technologies.

The NSA said the hackers have used the special intrusion technique to add privileged users, disable network security settings, and execute code that enables further network exploitation – “pretty much any attacker’s dream access – as long as that network is using an unpatched version of Exim [mail transfer agent].”

Exim mail transfer agent is software widely used on Unix-based operating systems such as Linux but is far less known than commercial alternatives such as Microsoft Exchange. The vulnerability was patched last year, but some users have not updated their systems.

The NSA did not say who the Russian military hackers have targeted, what business sectors had been most affected, or how many organizations were compromised. But senior U.S. intelligence officials have warned in recent months that Kremlin agents are engaged in activities that could threaten the integrity of the November presidential election.

The Sandworm group is the same one that interfered in the 2016 presidential election, stealing and exposing Democratic National Committee emails and breaking into voter registration databases.

It also has been blamed for disruptive cyberattacks against Ukrainian electric production facilities.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called out the same GRU unit in February for conducting a cyberattack against the country of Georgia.

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

Articles

This Somali war criminal has been guarding Dulles Airport for the last 20 years

As if you needed another reason to avoid what is widely considered the DC-area’s worst option in terms of airports, a CNN investigation revealed that one of Dulles International Airport’s security guards is a Somali man wanted for war crimes.


Yusuf Abdi Ali has lived in the area of Alexandria, Virginia for the past 20 years. He has been employed by the airport, one of an estimated 1,000 war criminals living and working in the United States.

Army’s new lightweight body armor plates could feature ‘shooter’s cut’
CNN video still of Ali on duty at Dulles

Everyone employed by Master Security, Dulles’ security contractor, undergoes “the full, federally mandated vetting process in order to be approved for an airport badge,” the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority told ABC News. The process includes a background check by the FBI and the Transportation Security Administration. Master Security employees working at Dulles must also be licensed by the Commonwealth of Virginia, the state in which Dulles is located.

“We have verified that all of these processes were followed and approved in this instance,” MWAA said in a statement.

Ali is the subject of a lawsuit from The Center for Justice and Accountability (CJA) on behalf of his alleged victims. He is accused of torturing people, burning villages, and conducting mass executions during The Somali Civil War from 1986 – 1991. Ali denies all accusations listed in the CJA lawsuit.

Army’s new lightweight body armor plates could feature ‘shooter’s cut’
Yusuf Abdi Ali in a Canadian Broadcasting Company documentary about his a

Ali was a military commander under the regime of Somali dictator Mohamed Siad Barre. He fled Somalia after the fall of the regime, eventually ending up in the United States in 1996.

The suit was dismissed by a circuit court which found the case lacked jurisdictional authority. A higher ruling allowed the suit to proceed and it is now waiting for review by the Supreme Court to determine if foreigners living in the U.S. can be held accountable for crimes committed abroad.

Army’s new lightweight body armor plates could feature ‘shooter’s cut’
Ali in uniform under the Barre regime.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials estimate at least 360 arrests of human rights violators in the U.S. in the past 12 years. ICE has also deported more than 780 such cases. According to CNN, they currently have 125 active investigations. Ali’s airport credentials have been revoked and he is on administrative leave pending an ongoing investigation.

 

MIGHTY CULTURE

This Navy mom is taking on veteran health care

Women veterans make up 8% of Oregon’s veteran population. However, that growing population requires answers to the unique challenges facing women veterans.

The Women Veterans Program at the Roseburg VA Health Care System is designed to identify those challenges. It also works with women veterans to find those answers, according to Jessica Burnett, social worker and interim Women Veterans Program manager. Burnett is pictured above with her daughter Emily.


Army’s new lightweight body armor plates could feature ‘shooter’s cut’

“How can we serve them best?”

For Burnett, the mission is personal

“I am a true Oregonian. After visiting many places, I knew Oregon is where my heart is,” said Burnett. “I spent nearly 15 years providing rural social services in Coos and Curry Counties. I decided it was time to move to a warmer climate and relocated to Roseburg, where my daughter attended college.

“My daughter came home one day and said, ‘Hey Mom. I’ve decided to take a different path in life and I signed up for the Navy.’ I didn’t see that coming. She said, ‘This is something I felt called to do and this is what I’m going to do.’ My role at that point was to be a support person. I felt if my daughter is feeling called to do this, I’m going to see what I can do to support veterans, and I came to VA.”

Burnett hopes to expand services available for all veterans – primary care, mental health, housing assistance. She also wants to localize it specifically for women veterans. She fosters a program that is open, accessible, welcoming and veteran-centric.

“From my perspective, we should be taking a patient-centered approach. Hearing their feedback, what is it that they need? Let them tell us what they need so we can best support them. It is their journey, their life. We don’t know unless we ask the question, ‘How can we can serve them best?'”

For Burnett, the best way to serve women veterans is to expand on the understanding of women veteran needs and the availability of health care specific to women: yearly exams, such as pap smears and mammograms.

And support for those recovering from post-traumatic stress disorder and military sexual trauma.

Army’s new lightweight body armor plates could feature ‘shooter’s cut’
“When she comes home, I want her to have top-notch health care.”

Women veterans, the fastest growing minority population

“Women veterans served alongside men. They are a minority within the VA, but they’re the fastest growing minority population,” said Burnett. Her daughter serves aboard the USS Gerald R. Ford, which is stationed in Norfolk, Virginia.

“Women tell me all the time they get addressed as ‘Mister’ instead of ‘Miss.’ It’s just assumed that they are a spouse or if it’s just a last name, that they are male.

“I feel we really need to put a lot of effort and work into women’s health care in VA because it is an area that, previously and historically, hasn’t been part of VA.

“My daughter is active duty right now, but when she comes home, I want her to have a health care system that is top-notch.

“I want it to be better than what she can find in the community.”

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Don’t bleed around your unit cartoonist; Bill’s trick back

Master Sergeant George Hand US Army (ret) was a member of the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, The Delta Force. He is a now a master photographer, cartoonist and storyteller.

Master Sergeant Bill — and that was his real last name — had a trick back, so he claimed. It seemed to flare up just as we were on the cusp of an unpleasant mission. My gosh, it didn’t seem to trouble him much at all during “good deal” trips, no Sir. Whether or not it was a valid ailment, that we shall never know, but the timing of the affliction sure seemed suspect over the years.

Well sure, I understood as well as the next man, that with all of the non-stop training we did to satisfy our charter to deploy in just a few hours, to deploy to the four corners of the planet and be ready to sustain combat for several days… a brother just needed a break now and then to harness and hold a semblance of sanity — “to each his own,” I often rationalized.


Army’s new lightweight body armor plates could feature ‘shooter’s cut’

“Woo, yeah brother… I can feel my back getting ready to go out again. Yes sirree I can feel it coming on.”

“$hit Bill, your back goes out more than a hooker on East Central… I don’t suppose your back is just feeling the freezing cold early on, is it?”

“What freezing cold?”

“Yeah, the freezing cold of our trip to Fairbanks Alaska for Arctic weather training.”

“Oh, yeah… well I guess that is coming up, isn’t it…”

“Oh, well yeah… I guess it is, Bill.”

Army’s new lightweight body armor plates could feature ‘shooter’s cut’

(Arctic warfare training always promised deep snow and freezing temperatures)

There were a few brothers that had a perceived penchant for backing out of what we called “bad deal trips,” in favor of pursuing only the “good deal trips.” They were just slick like that. Again it was just a perception, but perception is the better part of reality in most cases.

Three of the guys earned the following monikers:

Samuel: Good deal Sam, bad deal — scram!

William: Good deal Will, bad deal — chill!

Martin: Good deal Marty, bad deal — departy!

Ah, but Sergeant Bill… now he just carried his maneuvers a smidge farther than the rest, and he didn’t deserve any finesse in his moniker:

Bill: Good deal Bill, bad deal — fake a back injury!

When I look back on some of our more gruesome training missions I am aware, ever so aware, that I do not recollect his presence there. There was the Arctic training in Alaska where we endured temperature plummets as low as -45 degree Fahrenheit while we made death marches on skis and snowshoes all night long.

No Sergeant Bill — threw his dang back out.

There was the trip to British Guyana 100 miles south of the infamous Jones Town where some 950 followers of Jim Jones’ “religion” committed suicide by poisonous Kool-aid in honor of their leader. Triple canopy jungles, All night movements again on foot and by tactical assault boats through snaking inland riverways in the sweltering heat.

No Sergeant Bill — threw his dad-blamed back out.

Hey but the desert mobility training trip where we planned extreme long range patrols… Bill was there! Oh, but his back got to acting up, and he stayed in the rear at the communications relay station — bless his lame heart. If that were not enough, then there was this thing that happened:

Long range tactical patrols meant movement all night long. Before the sun comes up, we stopped and set up camouflage nets. We then performed work priorities, set out guards, and tried to sleep in the frying pan desert as best we could.

Army’s new lightweight body armor plates could feature ‘shooter’s cut’

(An Austrian Pinzgauer, the vehicle of choice for desert mobility movements)

We played the tactical game to the hilt because we knew there were Russian helicopters flying the desert looking for our Rally Over Day (ROD) locations at this particular state-side training venue. To be spotted was a compromise and we would have to pack up and run from them in daylight— a losing situation.

To the lonely sound of the buzzing of deer flies, punctuated by the omnipresent smacking noise of the swatting of deer flies, was the low rumble of men in fitful sleep. Very suddenly came the booming of the heavy rotor blades of a Russian Hind-D attack helicopter looming at some 75 feet of altitude… with spineless Bill leaning out of a cargo window pointing wildly to us on the ground.

Army’s new lightweight body armor plates could feature ‘shooter’s cut’

(The very intimidating Russian attack helicopter Hind-D)

“I’m going to kill him pretty soon… I’m going to kill spineless Bill. I’m going to chop him up into pieces then burn each of the pieces to ashes. I’m going to collect up those ashes and tamp them down into the barrel of a 12-pound Napoleon cannon, and fire his ashes out of over a field full of cow sh!t; when the cows come to eat the grass I’m going to kill them too and then burn the grass… and I’m going to do it all on a piping-hot Summer’s day,” projected the oath a particularly agitated brother.

The moral of the story here could possibly be: whether your back injury is real or faked, and perception being the greater part of reality, your shenanigans will not write you a day pass from… THE UNIT CARTOONIST!

Army’s new lightweight body armor plates could feature ‘shooter’s cut’

(12-pound Napoleon cannon)

popular

This is the reason Wild Weasel pilots have a low survival rate

The job of a Wild Weasel is the most dangerous mission faced by today’s fighter pilots, a job more hazardous and difficult than shooting down enemy jets, according to retired Air Force Lt. Col. Dan Hampton in his book Viper Pilot: A Memoir of Air Combat.


These gutsy pilots are tasked with flying their specially outfitted fighter jets into enemy surface-to-air missile envelopes in order to bait SAM operators into targeting them with their radars. Once targeted, the radar waves are traced back to their source allowing the Wild Weasels and other attack aircraft to destroy the threat.

Actually, the unofficial motto of the Wild Weasel crews is YGBSM: “You Gotta Be Sh-tting Me.” It was B-52 Electronic Warfare Officer (EWO) veteran Jack Donovan’s natural response when he was introduced to the tactics and mission details. His exact reply was: “you want me to fly in the back of a little tiny fighter aircraft with a crazy fighter pilot who thinks he’s invincible, home in on a SAM site in North Vietnam, and shoot it before it shoots me, you gotta be sh-tting me!” His vernacular stuck and YGBSM is prominently displayed on the patch of some squadrons, adding to the legend of the Wild Weasel.

The Wild Weasel radar detection and suppression concept was developed by the Air Force during the Vietnam War to combat the growing surface-to-air (SAM) threat, specifically the Soviet-made SA-2 Goa. It’s the same type of missile that brought down the CIA U-2 spy plane over Russia piloted by Francis Gary Powers on May 1, 1960. Powers was arrested by the Soviets after he was shot down and eventually released to the U.S., he’s the subject of Tom Hank’s 2015 film, Bridge of Spies.

Army’s new lightweight body armor plates could feature ‘shooter’s cut’
50 years of YGBSM. Contains the following Wild Weasel Jets: F-100F Super Sabre; F-105F Thunderchief; F-105G Thunderchief; F-4C Phantom II; F-4G Phantom II and F-16CM Fighting Falcon. Image courtesy of Aircraft Profile Prints.

 

Birth of the Wild Weasel

During the Vietnam War, the Weasels used two tactics to accomplish their mission. The first tactic, dubbed “Hunter Killer,” used Wild Weasels to hunt down enemy air defense systems and F-105 Thuds to kill them.

The tactic was developed from on-the-job training, for lack of a better description. It was the best play they had against the SA-2. All the U.S. military knew about the SA-2 was that they were usually camouflaged, had a range of 15 to 20 miles and used a target tracking radar. The latter was key for the Weasels because they used it to home in on the target with radar-seeking missiles while the F-105s flew in with heavier ordnance and cluster munitions to complete the kill.

“We knew that we could survive at low-level, use terrain masking, pop up to get their readings and attack the sight,” said a former Weasel pilot in the video below.

The second tactic was to protect the strike force during regular missions. The Weasels would provide themselves as decoys to encourage SAM launches that generated enough smoke to make them visible — like a smoking gun. Meanwhile, the strikers zeroed in on their targets. The Weasels would orbit the target area for 20 to 40 minutes exposed to enemy fighters, SAMs, and air artillery shells (AAA).

Both tactics were very dangerous and resulted in a high fatality rate. After about seven weeks of operations, the first Wild Weasels only had one aircraft left, and many members of the original 16 aircrews had been killed in action, were POWs or had left the program, wrote Warren E. Thompson for HistoryNet.

This documentary perfectly captures the Wild Weasel mission and history:

 


Feature image: USAF photo by Jake Melampy

Humor

6 of the most disappointing military movies of all time

A good film can do amazing things for a viewer. It can you give an authentic glimpse into a real-life situation. It can stir up emotions and force you to sit with them. Yes, there is a reason that it’s called, “movie magic.”


Of course, we know that not everything can be good. There are far more bad films than there are good ones — this is equally true of the war movie genre.

This is, in part, because the details are what make a military movie good (more so than in other genres) and, when those details are missing, the films can get downright hard to watch.

Related: Bombs away! Here are the 13 worst military movies in Hollywood history

6. Rambo 3

There’s a reason that Stallone is still relevant many years after we were first introduced to him. His first two major releases (Rocky, Rocky II) endeared us all to him so much so that we’ve given him more than a few passes for some of his less impressive work.

One of his most notorious missteps is Rambo III. Sadly, this series evolved from a rich, layered film in First Blood to our eponymous hero inadvertently supporting the Taliban in the debacle that is Rambo III. Even watching this as a very young kid, the movie left plenty to be desired.

Army’s new lightweight body armor plates could feature ‘shooter’s cut’
Stallone watching his last f*ck float over the horizon as he films this gratuitously bad movie. (Photo from TriStar Pictures’ Rambo III)

5. Basic

I was a young airman stationed in Oahu when this came out. While the cool quasi-group, Section 8, inspired many a young service member and friend to create “wild” cliques, that cape made anything and everything else about the movie unacceptable.

Army’s new lightweight body armor plates could feature ‘shooter’s cut’
Does anyone have any idea where I can get an official Army enlisted cape? (Photo from Columbia Pictures’ Basic)

4. Jarhead 2

Jarhead is based on the real-life accounts of the Persian Gulf War from a real-life Marine, Anthony Swofford. I’m still trying to figure out what the sequel is based on.

Why was considered a good idea to made two sequels that have little in common with the original outside of the title, anyway?

Army’s new lightweight body armor plates could feature ‘shooter’s cut’
We’re all asking the same question: Why?! (Photo from Universal Pictures’ Jarhead 2).

3. The Marine 2

Two things that just make it uber hard to take this film seriously.

1. It is made by the WWE.

2. The lead actor is Ted DiBiase Jr. No, not the Million Dollar Man, Ted DiBiase… but his son.

Army’s new lightweight body armor plates could feature ‘shooter’s cut’
We needed the first one, but we definitely didn’t need the second. (Photo from 20th Century Fox’s The Marine 2)

2. Windtalkers

In a classic example of style over substance, Windtalkers is easily one of the most inaccurate, poorly executed war movies of the last 20 years. Not coincidentally, it enjoyed the third biggest financial loss for a war-themed movie ever.

Also Read: 7 more professional athletes you didn’t know were veterans

Army’s new lightweight body armor plates could feature ‘shooter’s cut’
This movie could very well give you the Cage stare. (Photo from Metro Goldwyn Mayer’s Windtalkers)

1. Pearl Harbor

This is a three-hour movie, though only roughly 20 minutes of it is actually about the attack on Pearl Harbor. I was stationed at what is now Joint Base Hickam-Pearl Harbor when this premiered back in 2001 and there were some survivors there.

Some of those survivors explored the two bases — taking a trip down memory lane, I’m sure — before and after the premiere. I was lucky enough to converse with a few of them.

Let’s just say they didn’t have the best opinion of the movie and when I was able to see it, I understood exactly why.

Army’s new lightweight body armor plates could feature ‘shooter’s cut’
At the time of release, everyone in this photo was a star. Not so much today. (Photo from Buena Vista Pictures’ Pearl Harbor)

Articles

Here’s what would happen if US tried to strike Russian-backed targets in Syria

In a bold-faced power move, Russia just moved additional missile defense batteries to Syria and issued a thinly veiled threat that it would shoot down any US or coalition aircraft that tried to bomb Syrian regime targets without warning.


This step, just days after US and Russian bilateral negotiations for a ceasefire fell through, shows the depth of Russia’s commitment to Syrian President Assad, who has shown a ferocious willingness to use chemical and banned weapons against his own people since the war started in 2011.

Also read: Here’s who would win if Russia, China, and America went to war right now

But the Russian S-300 and S-400 missile defense batteries pose a serious question about US and coalition military capabilities versus the Russians.

Gen. Igor Konashenkov, a Russian Defense Ministry spokesman, went as far as to say that “all the illusions of amateurs about the existence of ‘invisible’ jets will face a disappointing reality,” referring to the US’s fifth generation stealth aircraft, the F-22 and F-35.

Army’s new lightweight body armor plates could feature ‘shooter’s cut’
Russia’s S-400 missile defense battery and the US’s F-22 Raptor. | Dragan Radovanovic

While the US fields the greatest Air Force in the world, the capabilities of Russia’s S-300 and S-400 air defense systems in Syria represent a very real challenge to the US’s ability to operate in those zones without being shot down.

Dr. Igor Sutyagin of the Royal United Services Institute, an expert on Russian missile defense systems and strategic armaments, told Business Insider that in this case at least, Russia is correct.

“Konashenkov is absolutely right – ‘stealth’ as ‘invisibility’ is just amateurs’ invention, not a technical term.”

However, according to Sutyagin, some of the Russian capabilities also fall in the category of speculation rather than hard capability.

For instance, as advanced as Russian surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems are, and they are really quite advanced, they still face very real limitations.

Russian “air defense systems are designed to intercept high flying targets at a maximum range of  about 250 miles,” said Sutyagin. While this does pose a threat to US and coalition aircraft operating normally in the region, the missile defense can be outfoxed, as they less optimal against low flying planes or missiles.

Even though the Russian systems have great radar range and capabilities, in the real world obstacles abound, and that makes it very hard to get a clear picture of real world air spaces.

The Russian missile defense systems sit on trucks, ready to be positioned wherever needed in a specific region. Some reports indicate that Russian crews can get the missile battery up and running within 5 minutes of parking the truck. Additionally, the mobile missile batteries present an ever changing target, and a puzzle that incoming aircraft must solve anew each time they enter the air space.

But they battery is still just a truck on the ground. Parking it on a hilltop makes it visible. Parking it in a valley severely limits the range due to natural obstacles. So just as the US fantasy of “invisible jets” doesn’t completely pan out when the rubber hits the road, neither does the Russian fantasy of a 250 mile air defense zone.

Indeed to flesh out this idea of the Russians, they’d need to operate Airborne Warning and Control Systems (AWACs), or planes that carry large radars and can survey battle spaces free from obstructions on the ground, which Sutyagin says Moscow does not currently have in Syria.

But who would come out on top?

Army’s new lightweight body armor plates could feature ‘shooter’s cut’
Land-based S-300 surface-to-air missile launchers | Creative Commons photo

According to Sutyagin, stealth US planes like the B-2, F-22, and F-35 could knock out Russian SAM sites in Syria, but not without a fight.

“Yeah they can do it. In theory they can do it because they will be launching stand off weapons,” said Sutyagin, referring to long range missiles as “standoff weapons.”

“The tactics of these low visibility planes as they were designed originally was to use the fact that detection range was decreased so you create some gaps in radar range and then you approach through gap and launch standoff weapons,” said Sutyagin.

At this point, Russia’s “defenses will inevitably detect it, but maybe too late,” said Sutyagin, who emphasized that firing a missile doesn’t always mean a hit, and detecting a missile doesn’t always mean an intercept.

“There is no 100% reliability, but still it will be much more difficult” for Russian SAM sites to intercept missiles fired from US stealth aircraft that can get up close and personal and locate the site first.  “If the standoff weapon is also low visibility,” the chances only improve, according to Sutyagin.

Additionally, Russian SAM sites in Syria have a limited magazine capacity.

“One air defense battalion with an S-300 has 32 missiles. They will fire these against 16 targets (maybe against cruise missiles they would fire a one-to-one ratio) but to prevent the target from evading you always launch two… but what if there are 50 targets?”

This limitation explains why Russia deployed the S-300 battery to Syria when they already have the more advanced S-400 stationed there.

According to Sutyagin, it takes “40-50 minutes to reload launchers.” The SAM sites are then unarmed, with their positions exposed and they’re “not well prepared to meet another threat.”

What it comes down to

Army’s new lightweight body armor plates could feature ‘shooter’s cut’
US Air Force photo

So the US could overwhelm Russian defenses. Or Russia could shoot down US fifth-generation aircraft over Syria. What it comes down to, according to Sutyagin, is training.

Sutyagin says that overall, the situation is “very complicated” and that there is “no easy solution to suppress air defense, but there are opportunities.”

Each combat scenario brings unique challenges and opportunities that may benefit one side or another. Generally, there is reason to believe that the pilots of US fifth-generation aircraft are among the best in the world, and that they would have the edge in almost every situation.

Indeed, Sutyagin says that the US’s airborne capabilities put them in a better situation than the US was in during Vietnam, when Russian SAM sites shot down many US planes.

Though the details of the how US F-22 Raptor pilots would engage an enemy SAM site are classified, a pilot with the program recently told National Interest’s Dave Majumdar that the F-22 pilots are confident they could prevail.

But jets and SAM sites fight battles on air, over seas, and on land — not on paper.

“If American pilots will be not experienced in their fifth-gens, they will be shot down. If they are brilliant, operationally, tactically brilliant, they will defeat them,” concluded Sutyagin.

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