Marines want to shut out China, Russia with laser communications - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Marines want to shut out China, Russia with laser communications

As the Pentagon reorients toward great-power competition with adversaries like Russia and China, its preparations go beyond learning to ski and practicing to drive across Europe.

US military units rely on wireless networks and radio-frequency communications to talk on the battlefield, sharing intelligence, targeting data, and orders.


But concern is growing that rivals like China and Russia could pick up those transmissions and jam them, change them to confuse or deceive, or track them to target the people sending and receiving them — tactics Russia and Russian-backed forces are believed to have used before.

The Pentagon has started exploring the use of laser communications systems that are harder to detect and disrupt.

Marines want to shut out China, Russia with laser communications

Marine Corps field radio operators remove the free space optic system from a tactical elevated antenna mass at Camp Hansen, Okinawa, Aug. 17, 2018.

(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Timothy Valero)

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has been working on sensors and hardware to send and receive signals from free-space optical technology — which sends light beams through the air rather than a cable — for some time.

in early 2017, the Defense Department awarded million for a three-year project involving three of the service branches, focused on developing a laser communications system — “basically fiber optic communications without the fiber,” Linda Thomas, whose team at the Naval Research Laboratory got about one-third of the grant money, told Breaking Defense at the time.

Thomas’ team’s Tactical Line-of-sight Optical communications Network, or TALON, was able to send messages through laser beams over distances similar to those of Marine Corps tactical radios, which typically can range to about 45 miles.

Free-space-optical communications systems are available commercially, but their range is limited. The Naval Research Lab team was able to exceed the range of those systems, a problem that involved sending the low-power beam through the atmosphere without it being made unintelligible, though Thomas didn’t say how they did it.

Marines have already gone into the field to test a free-space optics system developed by the Naval Research Lab.

Marines want to shut out China, Russia with laser communications

Marines lift a tactical elevated antenna mass mounted with the free space optic system at Camp Hansen, Okinawa, August 17, 2018.

(US Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Kindo Go)

Marines from the III Marine Expeditionary Force tested a free-space optics system that “transfers data on a highly secured and nearly undetectable infrared laser, separate from the radio frequency spectrum” in Okinawa this month, according to a Marine Corps release.

The mobile system allows more data — larger files and imagery — to be transmitted without using more of the radio-frequency spectrum, “an already constrained resource,” one of the Marines involved said.

“When it first came up, we thought it would be a lot more difficult to set up and understand,” said Marine Sgt. William Holt, a cyber-systems administrator. “When the Marines heard ‘free space optics’ and ‘lasers,’ they got nervous about that. Then when they actually got behind the gear and were able to operate it, it was easier than expected.”

Thomas and other engineers from the Naval Research Laboratory were also on hand.

“We came out to Okinawa because it was one of the harshest humid environments with highly variable weather on very short time scales,” she said. “We are looking at how the system operates and handles these conditions and how we can better fulfill the needs of the future Marine Corps.”

Marines want to shut out China, Russia with laser communications

Russian troops participating in Zapad-2017.

(Russian Ministry of Defense)

‘The threat is out there’

US Marines are not the only ones gearing up to communicate in a contested environment.

China’s People’s Liberation Army considers electronic warfare a central component of its operations, and its EW doctrine “emphasizes using electromagnetic spectrum weapons to suppress or to deceive enemy electronic equipment,” the Defense Department said in a report about Chinese military capabilities released in August 2018.

Chinese units “routinely conduct jamming and antijamming operations against multiple communication and radar systems and GPS satellite systems in force-on-force exercises,” the report said. In addition to testing Chinese troops’ ability to use these systems, such tests “help improve confidence in their ability to operate effectively in a complex electromagnetic environment.”

Russian forces carried out similar tests during the massive Zapad 2017 exercise conducted late 2017.

Marines want to shut out China, Russia with laser communications

A training specialist from the Army Space and Missile Defense Agency shows Army National Guard soldiers on how to detect electromagnetic interference on a GPS receiver, June 23, 2018.

(US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Michael Carden)

According to Estonia’s military intelligence chief, Col. Kaupo Rosin, the amount of jamming Russia deployed against its own forces during that exercise “was at a level we haven’t seen.”

“The threat of the Russians is that if they are jammed, they can fall back into a civilian infrastructure on their own land, which gives them an advantage in operating in the vicinity of Russia,” Rosin told Defense News in 2017. “So they have that advantage.”

US troops have also tested their capacity to thwart electronic interference.

Ohio National Guard troops trained with a team from the Army’s Space and Missile Defense Command in summer 2018 in order to be to detect and mitigate cyberattacks on GPS systems.

“There are adversaries out there with the capability to deny, degrade and disrupt our capabilities,” said Capt. Kyle Terza from US Army Space and Missile Defense Command. “The threat is out there and … we have to be trained and ready to operate without it.”

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

popular

Milspouses can now get free LinkedIn memberships through DoD

The Defense Department’s Spouse Education and Career Opportunities program is launching a new partnership with LinkedIn, the virtual professional networking platform.

Military spouses will soon have access to a free LinkedIn Premium membership, valid for one year, every time they have a permanent-change-of-station move, including access to more than 12,000 online professional courses through LinkedIn Learning, as well as access to LinkedIn’s military and veterans resource portal. The membership is also available for the spouse of a service member who is within six months of separation from the military.


“The partnership with LinkedIn will offer military spouses a great opportunity to advance their careers during their times of transition,” said Eddy Mentzer, associate director of family readiness and well-being in DoD’s Office of Military Community and Family Policy. “Spouses will be able to access a global network of professionals any time, from any place. They can plan their next career step before they move, as soon as they have orders [for a permanent change of station].”

More Than Networking

A premium account includes enhanced insights comparing users to other applicants, on-demand learning, and use of the InMail feature, where users can send direct messages to LinkedIn members they’re not connected to. As corporate interest in hiring military spouses steps up, DoD and LinkedIn will be using the military spouse LinkedIn group to connect spouses to each other and employers.

Marines want to shut out China, Russia with laser communications
Personnel Specialist 2nd Class Kendra Velasquez speaks with a representative from Facebook during a job fair hosted by The Fleet and Family Support Center at the Kitsap County Fairgrounds in Silverdale, Wash.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Christopher R. Jahnke)

“It is important for military spouses to see LinkedIn Premium as more than just enhanced networking. LinkedIn has developed a learning path specific to military spouses to help them find and succeed in remote, flexible, and freelance work opportunities,” Mentzer said. “Additionally, LinkedIn provides enhanced resources for spouses that own and operate their own business as well as for employers to search the military spouse community for potential employees.”


The LinkedIn partnership is designed to help military spouses overcome a common challenge, sustaining steady employment. The number one contributing factor to military spouse unemployment is continual relocation from duty station to duty station. On average, active-duty military personnel move once every two to three years, more than twice as often as civilian families, and military spouses move across state lines 10 times more frequently than their civilian counterparts.

Empowering Spouses

“Empowering our community of military spouses to reach their personal and professional goals is part of maintaining a healthy military community,” said A.T. Johnston, deputy assistant secretary of defense for military community and family policy. “We encourage military spouses to take advantage of the LinkedIn Premium membership opportunity as just one of many tools available to them through the SECO program.”

Military spouses interested in the LinkedIn Premium upgrade can visit MySECO for more information and to learn how best to maximize this new service. Eligible military spouses are expected to have access to the LinkedIn Premium membership later this summer.

The DoD established the SECO program to provide education and career guidance to military spouses worldwide, offering free comprehensive resources and tools related to career exploration, education, training and licensing, employment readiness and career connections. This program also offers free career coaching services six days a week. This program may further develop partnership with private sector firms such as LinkedIn for purposes of enhancing employment opportunities for military spouses pursuant to authority in Section 1784 of Title 10, United States Code. The formation of such partnerships does not signify official DoD endorsement of any such private-sector entity or its products or services. Learn more about the SECO program by visiting Military OneSource or calling 800-342-9647 to speak to a SECO career coach.

This article originally appeared on the United States Navy. Follow @usnavy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

U.S. service member killed in Afghanistan

A U.S. service member has been killed in action in Afghanistan, the second American to die while supporting operations in the country in January 2019.

Officials with Operation Resolute Support announced Jan. 22, 2019, that the death of the service member, whose service branch was not identified, is under investigation.

It’s not clear where the service member was killed. Defense Department policy is not to release the names of those who died supporting combat operations until 24 hours after next-of-kin is notified.


This most recent death comes five days after Army Sgt. Sgt. Cameron Meddock, of the 75th Ranger Regiment, died from combat wounds at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany on Jan. 17, 2019. Meddock was shot during combat operations in Badghis province, Afghanistan, on Jan. 13, 2019.

Marines want to shut out China, Russia with laser communications

Sgt. Cameron A. Meddock, 26, of Spearman, Texas.

(U.S. Army Special Operations Command)

Earlier January 2019, Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jonathan R. Farmer and Navy Chief Cryptologic Technician (Interpretive) Shannon M. Kent were killed, along with an American DoD contractor and civilian worker, in a bombing in the northern Syrian town of Manbij. Three other American troops were wounded in the bombing.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

DARPA has a new voting booth, and it wants you to hack it

DARPA, the group behind the modern internet and stealth technology, is taking a big swing at hack-resistant voting booths.


It has been working on new ways of securing computers and other electronic devices for years now in a program it calls System Security Integration Through Hardware and Firmware. The basic idea is simple: Instead of securing electronics solely or primarily through software, they can improve hardware and firmware—the programming at the most foundational level of how a computer operates so that hackers can’t get in.

Now, there’s a demonstration voting booth with some of these improvements incorporated into it, and DARPA is taking it on the road to a hackers’ conference.

To be clear, though, this isn’t a finished product, and DARPA hasn’t indicated that the demonstration booth will prove to be secure. In fact, there are 15 processors in development with university and industry teams working on this DARPA program, and only two will be made available for hackers to attempt and intrude upon.

The demonstration booth will be set up at DEF CON 2019, one of the largest and longest-running underground hacking conferences. It will have a set of processors, and the participating research teams will be able to modify those processors according to their proposed hardware and firmware security upgrades.

Hackers will then be able to attack the booth via USB or ethernet access.

Any weaknesses that the hackers identify will be addressed by the research teams as they continue to develop hardware designs and firmware upgrades to make voting booths more secure. Once the teams have finished products with robust security, DARPA will … probably close down the program.

Yeah, DARPA doesn’t typically create final designs of products or manufacture anything. It even does relatively little of its own research most of the time. The standard DARPA model is to identify a problem or opportunity, set up a program that recruits lots of researchers from academia and industry, give those researchers money according to performance metrics, and then let the industry partners buy up research and patents and create new products.

So the best case for DARPA isn’t that their demonstration voting booth fends off all attackers. It’s that the booth takes some real hits and the research teams find out what vulnerabilities still exist. Then the research teams can create awesome hardware architectures and programming that will be more secure. But DARPA does have one surprise twist from their standard model.

Instead of leaving most of the tech developed for the voting booths in private and academic hands, it’s pushing for the design approaches and techniques to be made into open-source technologies, meaning anyone can use them.

But still, don’t expect to see these amazing voting booths when you vote in 2020. DARPA wants to spend 2019 touring the booth at universities and allowing more experts to attack it, then bring it back to DEF CON in 2020 with new tech built on a STAR-Vote architecture, an open-source build with its own democratic safeguards like paper ballots. Most state and local governments don’t update their voting hardware all that often, let alone in the months leading up to a major election.

So the earliest you could see new, DARPA-funded tech at your local polling place is the 2022 mid-terms, and more likely the 2024 or later elections.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This was the first American to die in combat in Afghanistan after 9/11

Among the first Americans to enter Afghanistan in 2001 after the Sept. 11 attacks were members of the Central Intelligence Agency’s shadowy Special Activities Division, along with elite special operations personnel from the US military’s various branches.


Marines want to shut out China, Russia with laser communications
Mike Spann during operations in Afghanistan in 2001. (Photo from CIA)

Tragically, it would be one of the CIA’s Special Operations Group – the armed paramilitary branch of the SAD – who would be the first to lay down his life in the War on Terror, becoming the first American casualty in Afghanistan.

In November 2001, Johnny “Mike” Spann, an SOG operative, found himself at Qala-i-Jangi, a century-old fortress positioned near Mazar-i-Sharif, where hundreds of Taliban fighters were held prisoner by Afghan Northern Alliance militia, having been captured during the Siege of Kunduz that same month.

Marines want to shut out China, Russia with laser communications

Spann was a graduate of Auburn University and a former Marine, having served six years as an artillery officer before being recruited to the CIA in 1999. He later went on to join the SAD’s SOG soon afterwards, delving deeper into the world of black operations.

The CIA tasked Spann and another officer – an Uzbek language specialist – with interrogating the captives to glean intelligence on Taliban and Al Qaeda activity. The prisoners, as one might expect, were extremely uncooperative, and were additionally very poorly screened by their Afghan captors.

In a matter of minutes, the situation devolved into chaos.

A number of the prisoners rebelled against their captors, pulling out hidden hand grenades and detonating them in suicide attacks. Prisoners crowded around Spann during his questioning session began lunging at the SOG officer.

Spann and a fellow CIA operative immediately brought their guns to bear – the former pulling a pistol, and the latter grabbing an AK-47 from a Northern Alliance guard. In the blink of an eye, Spann was mobbed from all sides and disappeared under a mass of Taliban fighters, while his colleague attempted to make his way to his fallen comrade.

Marines want to shut out China, Russia with laser communications
Northern Alliance troops in 2001 (Photo Wikimedia Commons)

Reports estimate that Spann put down anywhere between three to seven enemy fighters with his pistol, before succumbing to the onslaught. The remaining CIA officer systematically dropped more Taliban fighters who had, by now, killed a number of Northern Alliance troops and took possession of their weapons, before running over to warn Red Cross and other civilian workers in the area to escape.

After contacting US diplomatic services in Uzbekistan, a quick reaction force consisting of American and British special forces hailing from Task Force Dagger was assembled and deployed to the area. The QRF established contact with the sole remaining CIA agent, while digging in for a long fight.

American fighter aircraft were directed to drop smart bombs on the fortress, while a pair of AC-130 Spectre gunships, operating under the cover of night, arrived on station, pounding the resistance into submission with concentrated fire.

After a two-day siege, the fort was retaken and most of rebels had escaped to the fort’s main dungeon.

Marines want to shut out China, Russia with laser communications
A memorial to Spann, built at Qala-i-Jangi (Photo Wikimedia Commons)

The prisoners holed up in the dungeon finally surrendered after it was flooded with cold dirty irrigation water from nearby fields. Spann’s body was recovered with care in the aftermath of the battle, having found to be booby trapped by Taliban fighters. Of the 300-500 Taliban prisoners taken captive at the fortress, only 86 were recaptured alive.

Spann’s remains were repatriated to the US , and was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery. He was posthumously awarded the Intelligence Star – equivalent to a Silver Star – and the Exceptional Service Medallion.

Today, a memorial still stands today at Qala-i-Jangi, commemorating Spann – the first American casualty in Afghanistan post-9/11.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US has a secret knife missile that kills terrorists, not civilians

The US has developed a secret missile to kill terrorists in precision strikes without harming civilians nearby, and it has already proven its worth in the field, The Wall Street Journal reported on May 9, 2019, citing more than a dozen current and former US officials.

The R9X is a modified version of the Hellfire missile. Instead of exploding, the weapon uses sheer force to kill its target. “To the targeted person, it is as if a speeding anvil fell from the sky,” The Journal wrote.

What makes the weapon especially deadly is that it carries six long blades that extend outward just before impact, shredding anything in its path. The R9X is nicknamed “The Flying Ginsu,” a reference to a type of high-quality chef’s knife.


The missile, which can tear through cars and buildings, is also called “The Ninja Bomb.”

Development reportedly began in 2011 as an attempt to reduce civilian casualties in the war on terror, especially as extremists regularly used noncombatants as human shields. A conventional missile such as the Hellfire explodes, creating a deadly blast radius and turning objects into lethal shrapnel. That’s why it’s suitable for destroying vehicles or killing a number of enemy combatants who are in close proximity, while the R9X is best for targeting individuals.

The weapon is “for the express purpose of reducing civilian casualties,” one official told reporters.

The US military has used the weapon only a few times, officials told The Journal, revealing that this missile has been used in operations in Libya, Iraq, Syria, Somalia, and Yemen. For example, the RX9 was used in January 2019 to kill Jamal al-Badawi, who was accused of masterminding the USS Cole bombing in 2000.

Marines want to shut out China, Russia with laser communications

The USS Cole is towed away from the port city of Aden, Yemen, into open sea by the Military Sealift Command ocean-going tug USNS Catawba on Oct. 29, 2000.

(DoD photo by Sgt. Don L. Maes)

While the Obama administration emphasized the need to reduce civilian casualties, the Trump administration appears to have made this less of a priority. In March 2019, President Donald Trump rolled back an Obama-era transparency initiative that required public reports on the number of civilians killed in drone strikes.

Officials told The Journal that highlighting the new missile’s existence, something they argue should have been done a long time ago, shows that the US is committed to reducing civilian casualties.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Here are the tools of a modern bladesmith

A pleasant drive through a farming community a little south of Phoenix, Arizona, leads to a dirt driveway with a sign that reads, “Wuertz Farm.” As cars file in past the miniature donkeys and horse corrals, a gentleman directs drivers where to park. A cameraman with a pack that appears to be tethered to a 100-ft extension cord works to get a live feed on a large flat screen TV. What may sound like a trip to the state fair is the opening scene to the Wuertz Machine Works 2019 Hammer In.


Marines want to shut out China, Russia with laser communications

Travis Wuertz welcomes the crowd at the start of the 2019 Hammer In.

The Hammer In is a gathering of bladesmiths from around the country, who come to share and exchange knowledge of their ancient craft. As one might expect, there is no shortage of beards on site, but not everyone is shrouded in Viking-style facial hair. A quiet young lady with a secret passion for bladesmithing stands alone, trying to warm herself in the morning sun, while a fifteen-year-old bladesmith of two years shows off some of his amazing work to his adult colleagues. Regardless of age, gender, experience, or skill, it is immediately apparent that this is a brotherhood like no other — a brotherhood of steel.

Marines want to shut out China, Russia with laser communications

The beautiful work of 15-year-old bladesmith Zander Nichols.

Not so primitive

While the perception of some may be that bladesmithing is a primitive craft, the reality is quite different. There is an old Japanese proverb, “On-ko Chi-shin,” which literally translates, “Study the old, know the new.” The idea is that by studying the old ways, one can better understand the new ways. This very concept can be seen in practice by the astute observer within seconds of setting foot into the Wuertz Hammer In.

A hundred-year-old power hammer that has been retrofitted with an electric motor sits just feet always from a self-regulating, ribbon-burner forge, built by Travis Wuertz himself. As an engineer who is constantly looking to refine his bladesmithing, Travis designed a forge that not only distributes heat consistently throughout using a ribbon burner design, but also automatically adjusts to maintain a consistent temperature, and monitors the gas/oxygen mixture for efficient fueling. The design ensures very precise control during the forging process, where overheating can result in damaged steel.

Marines want to shut out China, Russia with laser communications

A not-so-primitive self-regulating, ribbon burner forge in action.


Mareko Maumasi, a Forged in Fire champion from Connecticut, and a wizard of Damascus steel, can be seen splayed over a large white easel pad working out a complex mathematical equation. When asked about it, he explains that it is an equation for predicting Damascus patterning. Apparently, there is more to it that just mixing hard and mild steels.

Old dogs and new tricks

Throughout the two-day gathering, both young and seasoned bladesmiths deliver periods of instruction on topics in which they are highly skilled. Michael Quesenberry, who specializes in daggers, bowies, and forged integrals, kicked off the event with a demonstration of how he forges his integral knives. An integral knife is one in which the blade, bolsters, tang, and pommel are forged from a single steel billet. With finesse and precision, Quesenberry hammers a round billet into an integral knife in less than an hour.

Marines want to shut out China, Russia with laser communications

Michael Quesenberry demonstrates how he forges his integral knives.

William Brigham awed attendees with a detailed explanation of Mokume-gane, a Japanese metalworking process used to bond a mixture of metals to produce a distinctive layered pattern, similar to wood grain. Mokume-gane loosely translates to “wood grain metal.” This process was originally used in Japanese sword-making to produce highly aesthetic accoutrements like the Tsuba (guard) and now serves modern bladesmiths in like manner.

A gathering such as this could not take place without plenty of talk about Damascus steel. Mike Tyre and Eric Fleming gave an informative lecture about feather Damascus. This technique involves stacking many layers of steel several inches tall and using a dull wedge to split through and stretch the layers. A feather-like pattern is the result when the sections are rejoined and flattened out. Mareko Maumasi also gave a mathematically-charged lecture on mosaic Damascus, and shared the cold coffee etching recipe that he uses to create the deep color contrast his blades are known for.

Marines want to shut out China, Russia with laser communications

Mareko Maumasi lectures the crowd on Mosaic Damascus.

At one point during the second day, one of the ABS Master Bladesmiths attending the event turned to this author and said, “You know, I’ve been doing this for 30 years. There’s not a whole lot I haven’t seen or don’t know how to do when it comes to making knives, but these new guys are taking things to a whole new level.”

Fit & finish

Any bladesmith worth their salt will tell you the clean finish and precise fitting of a blade to the handle and accessories is what truly distinguishes the master craftsman. This requires the ability to work around a grinder to cut, shape, refine, and polish the blade, handle, and fittings. Mike Quesenberry demonstrated his mastery of fit and finish with a handle shaping demonstration and a blade grinding demonstration. There are few blade designs that challenge a bladesmith’s symmetrical grinding ability like a dagger, and Quesenberry showed us why he is one of the best at making daggers.

Marines want to shut out China, Russia with laser communications

A well-used TW-90 grinder, the invention of Travis Wuertz himself.

Of course, the Wuertz Hammer In would not be complete without a demo from Travis Wuertz himself. Travis has designed the most coveted knife making grinder on the planet, the TW-90, so he finished up the two-day event with some of his tips and tricks for precise grinding and finishing using his grinder and the myriad of attachments he has designed to make the knife maker’s life a whole lot easier.

Shenanigans

At rare events like this, where bladesmiths and knife enthusiasts gather from all over the country, there’s not much desire to go back to the hotel at the end of the day, rather the real fun begins when the day is “over.” The hammers come out, the forges are lit, and sparks begin flying in the darkness of night as the intimate exchange of information takes place and the good times roll.

Perhaps the most attention-grabbing after-hours activity was the knife throwing class taught by Jason Johnson, an expert knife thrower and Forged in Fire: Knife or Death Season 1 finalist. Johnson instructed participants in his instinctive and powerful knife-throwing technique prior to turning them loose on the firing line, so they could try their hands at sticking some knives. It was an impressive sight to see even the young kids sticking knives into the wooden targets at various ranges after only a few minutes of instruction from Johnson.

Marines want to shut out China, Russia with laser communications

Knife Throwing expert Jason Johnson schools us on his personal method.

Wrapping it up

At the end of this two-day venture, new friendships have made, old friendships have been rekindled, and this brotherhood of steel is alive evermore. These bladesmiths are bonded by the blood, sweat, and tears that flow through down the anvil and the spirit of fire that burns through the forge. They part ways with the kinds of hugs and handshakes that only those of a kindred spirit can share. Until they meet again.

Marines want to shut out China, Russia with laser communications

A coffee-etched kitchen knife created by Don Nguyen of Tucson, AZ.

This article originally appeared on Recoilweb. Follow @RecoilMag on Twitter.

Articles

The Navy’s newest warship is named after this Marine hero

America’s newest warship, the USS Rafael Peralta (DDG-115) was just commissioned the last week of July — it’s the 65th Arleigh Burke-class destroyer to have been built for the US Navy.


Brimming with the latest in naval warfare technology, DDG-115 is named after Sgt. Rafael Peralta, a US Marine whose story continues to inspire long after his passing in Iraq in 2004.

Born in Mexico City, Rafael Peralta immigrated with his family to the United States where he would attend high school in San Diego in 1993, and be awarded a green card in 2000. Upon receiving his green card, the young Peralta immediately walked into a recruiting station, enlisting with the Marine Corps.

Marines want to shut out China, Russia with laser communications
The future USS Rafael Peralta (DDG 115) successfully completed acceptance trials after spending two days underway off the coast of Maine. (U.S. Navy photo/Released)

According to family and friends, it was no surprise that Peralta would join up — the 21-year old was fiercely patriotic, just as his father was before him. Peralta received his citizenship after finishing basic training, placing his boot camp graduation certificate on the walls of his childhood bedroom next to a copy of the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

Marines want to shut out China, Russia with laser communications
Rafael Peralta’s boot camp graduation picture (Photo Wikimedia Commons)

In 2004, Peralta would be deployed with 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment to Iraq, seeing combat during Operation Phantom Fury in Fallujah. It was during Phantom Fury that the young Marine would give his life for his comrades in arms, etching his name in Marine Corps and Navy history forever.

After clearing three houses during a patrol, Peralta was hit multiple times with enemy fire in a fourth house. Alive, though critically injured, Peralta dropped to the floor in order to clear the way for other Marines to engage hostiles inside the building.

Shortly after, a grenade bounced near Peralta and the Marines returning fire, about to detonate in just a matter of seconds. Without hesitation, Peralta yanked the grenade underneath him, allowing his body and gear to absorb the brunt of the grenade’s deadly detonation.

Though Peralta was killed immediately, the lives of the other Marines in that house were spared.

Then-commander of 1st Marine Division Lt. Gen. Richard Natonski recommended the fallen Marine for a Medal of Honor, basing his request in no small part on the accounts of Marines who were there when Peralta sacrificed his life by falling on the grenade. However, it was announced that Peralta would instead receive the Navy Cross, second to in precedence to the Medal of Honor.

Marines want to shut out China, Russia with laser communications
Sgt. Peralta’s family with then-SecNav Ray Mabus during his Navy Cross ceremony in 2015 (Photo US Navy)

An upgrade for Peralta’s award was not considered between 2008 and the present day due to conflicting perspectives on whether or not Peralta was already clinically deceased when the grenade was thrown, or was fully conscious and deliberate in his actions. New evidence recently brought to light might be what finally proves Peralta worthy of the nation’s highest award for valor in combat.

Fellow Marine and current congressman Duncan Hunter has been championing Peralta’s Medal of Honor cause for years, having introduced legislation to have Peralta’s award upgraded in 2012, and filing a petition with Secretary of Defense James Mattis in February of this year for the same.

Marines want to shut out China, Russia with laser communications
The Rafael Peralta, prior to commissioning (Photo US Navy)

Hunter was, however, successful in helping cement Peralta’s legacy of service with the naming of a destroyer, officially announced in 2012 by then-SecNav Ray Mabus. The destroyer will carry his Navy Cross in a display case.

Peralta is the second Marine killed in action during the Iraq War to have a ship named after him. Corporal Jason Dunham, an infantryman with 3rd Battalion 7th Marines, was killed after shielding his comrades from a grenade blast by smothering it with his helmet and body. His actions earned him the Medal of Honor, and in 2010, the USS Jason Dunham (DDG-109) was commissioned and remains in active service today.

 

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Air Force snagged the alleged Minot M240 thief

The Air Force’s long national nightmare is over. Its missing M240 machine gun was finally recovered from the home of an airman stationed at the base, according to a press release from the Air Force Global Strike Command.

The theft prompted many to question how it could have been lost, why the Air Force has an M240, does the Air Force really need an M240, how many do they have or need, and would the Air Force notice if I took one.

The Air Force Office of Special Investigations obtained a federal search warrant, executing it at the off-base residence of a Team Minot airman on June 19, 2018.

Missing for little over a month, the automatic weapon and the fallout of its theft made waves across the military-veteran community and in the military news cycle. After a box of 40mm MK 19 grenades fell off the back of a humvee while traversing a Native American reservation, the subsequent inventory of the Air Force arsenal on Minot discovered the missing M240 machine gun. This prompted the 5th Bomb Wing, 91st Missile Wing, and other installations to make a thorough inventory of their weapons.


Marines want to shut out China, Russia with laser communications
The Air Force released this super helpful photo of what the case of grenades probably looks like.

The theft also caused the dismissal of 91st Security Forces Group commander Col. Jason Beers, who was moved from Minot to his new job as Chief of Air Force Special Operations Command’s installations division. With AFSOC being based primarily in Florida, I think we can call that an overall win for the Colonel but unfortunately Chief Master Sgt. Nikki Drago was also fired as the unit superintendent.

Not much is known about the airman whose home housed the missing weapon or his motivation for the theft, if he did take it. Perhaps he wanted to help fight the burgeoning crime problem in the Minot area.

The case of grenades is still missing, though. And the Air Force would very much like them returned. If you know where the Air Force’s grenades are, there’s $5,000 reward waiting for you.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Believe it or not, your CO can order you to be a human guinea pig

Many of us have heard the expression, “Canary in a coal mine.” It refers to a time when miners would carry caged birds with them as they entered mine tunnels. If the miners encountered dangerous gases such as carbon monoxide, the gases would kill the canary before killing the miners, allowing them to escape safely. It turns out the military has a similar warning process in the event of a chemical attack, but instead of using canaries, they could use… you.


That’s right, Field Manual 3-11.4 “Unmasking Procedures Without the M256-Series Chemical Detector Kit” states: “If an M256-series kit is not available … the senior person should select one or two individuals. They take a deep breath, hold it, and break the seal for 15 seconds, keeping their eyes wide open.” The procedure is called, “Selective Unmasking,” which is surprisingly calming for what is actually happening.

Basically, if the $H%T hits the fan, you can be ordered by your command to take off your mask and take one for the team … just like a human canary. (Worth noting: the U.S. Air Force determined that this process is not within their acceptable range of risk. Not shocking.) Now, before you decide to run for your DD-214, know that we can’t find one recorded event of Selective Unmasking ever happening with deadly consequences. There have been false alarms, such as during the chemical threats from Saddam’s forces during the 2003 invasion, but everyone walked away safely, except for a few angry individuals.

Marines want to shut out China, Russia with laser communications

While seemingly insane, Selective Unmasking is based on the same logic used to test poisonous plants in the wild, I.e., expose yourself to a limited dose for a short period of time and wait to see what happens. According to the Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear Defense handout from the Marine Corps The Basic School, senior leaders will use the following steps when ordering a Selective Unmasking:

  • Designate two-three Marines
  • Brief them on the procedures to be followed
  • Have them sit in a shaded area out of direct sunlight
  • Ensure they are unarmed ——(Wonder why?)
  • The selected Marines will:
    • Take a deep breath.
    • Keep their eyes open.
    • Break the seal of their masks for fifteen seconds.
    • Then reseal and clear their masks.
    • Wait for ten minutes.

Now, if you’re a gung-ho hard charger you can always volunteer to be a human canary. But, if you’re facing some real chemical threats such as Anthrax, Sarin or Mustard, you might want to think twice. Certain agents can cause blistering, choking or even seizures. To avoid the chance of being chosen, you will have to play some unit politics.

Here’s our advice on how to avoid Selective Unmasking:

Marines want to shut out China, Russia with laser communications

1. Rank has its privileges.

Officers, NCOs and unit leaders are mostly vital to the mission and will most likely not get picked. That leaves junior enlisted or new arrivals to the unit. So take promotion seriously before you enter a chemical battlefield.

Marines want to shut out China, Russia with laser communications

2. Don’t be a dirtbag (or the new guy).

Your CO and NCO’s know how much value you are bringing to the unit on a daily basis. Dirtbags can cause their chain of command endless hours of paperwork and new arrivals haven’t even had a chance to prove themselves. If you aren’t fitting into the team good luck and on that note.

Marines want to shut out China, Russia with laser communications

3. Luck

In a chemical attack, get your MOPP gear on and keep your head down. That being said, fighting during a real chemical attack is going to suck so start racking up karma points now.

Selective Unmasking is by far a last resort in one of the worst situations on earth. All of this can be avoided with proper planning and pre combat checks so bottom line….bring your test kits!

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7 stunning photos of Air Force spec ops planes getting ready for action

Air Force Special Operations pilots are some of the best in the world. But what is it like to be with this awesome community as they make sure they’re ready for action?


Here are some photos that are worth more than the proverbial thousand words.

The MC-130J, like the C-130J, can be loaded with vehicles. In this case, they can carry the specialized vehicles used by other special operators like Rangers, Green Berets, and SEALs.

Marines want to shut out China, Russia with laser communications
U.S. Air Force Airmen from the 17th Special Operations Squadron prepare to load a vehicle onto a MC-130J Commando II as part of a mass launch training mission June 22, 2017, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Routine flights and airdrops are conducted to maintain proficiency and training certifications for prospective missions. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman John Linzmeier)

Of course, before take-off, there is the ritual of the pre-flight checklist. At least the tablet means there’s no chance of losing a page.

Marines want to shut out China, Russia with laser communications
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Thomas Parris, 17th Special Operations Squadron MC-130J Commando II loadmaster, reviews a preflight checklist as part of a mass launch training mission June 22, 2017, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. The MC-130J was among four others that flew in formation and completed airdrop training on Ie Shima Range, Okinawa. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman John Linzmeier)

The pilot, of course, will be in his office during this exercise, so the tablet is conveniently mounted.

Marines want to shut out China, Russia with laser communications
A U.S. Air Force MC-130J Commando II pilot from the 17th Special Operations Squadron maneuvers toward a five-aircraft formation during a mass launch training mission June 22, 2017, off the coast of Okinawa, Japan. This is the third iteration of the annual training, which is referred to as ‘The Day of the Jakal.’ It entailed a series of airdrops at Ie Shima Range, Okinawa, to hone in low-altitude maneuvers and supply-delivery capabilities. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman John Linzmeier)

“Tail-end Charlie” gets a good look at the other planes in the formation.

Marines want to shut out China, Russia with laser communications
U.S. Air Force MC-130J Commando IIs from the 17th Special Operations Squadron line up in a five-aircraft formation during a mass launch training mission June 22, 2017 off the coast of Okinawa, Japan. Airmen from the 17th SOS conduct training operations often to ensure they are always ready perform a variety of high-priority, low-visibility missions throughout the Indo-Asia-Pacific-Region. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman John Linzmeier)

Here, you can see two of the planes breaking, while others wait patiently in line. This isn’t just a training exercise for AFSOC, it’s also practice for the VA.

Marines want to shut out China, Russia with laser communications
Four U.S. Air Force MC-130J Commando IIs from the 17th Special Operations Squadron break out of a formation June 22, 2017 off the coast of Okinawa, Japan, during a mass launch training mission. Airmen from the 17th SOS conduct training operations often to ensure they are always ready perform a variety of high-priority, low-visibility missions throughout the Indo-Asia-Pacific-Region. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman John Linzmeier)

The view from the front of the line is much better, no?

Marines want to shut out China, Russia with laser communications
MC-130Js in a line behind another MC-130J during a training exercise. (USAF photo)

Preparing for the air-drop: This is what all that flying is about – delivering the supplies to the boots on the ground.

Marines want to shut out China, Russia with laser communications
A U.S. Air Force loadmaster from the 17th Special Operations Squadron prepares to airdrop a package onto Le Shima Range, Okinawa, Japan, during a mass launch training mission June 22, 2017. Aircrews must consider a number of variables in order to execute a precise and effective airdrop, to include wind speed, aircraft velocity, altitude, location and timing. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman John Linzmeier)

Every day, this is the type of stuff that Air Force Special Operations Command does to support America’s top commandos.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This German general told Hitler off in the most satisfying way ever

Known as the Lion of Africa, General Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck was one of the most respected military minds of World War I and, reportedly, he never suffered a defeat in battle. Born in 1870 to a military family, Lettow-Vorbeck started his military career at the age of 11 by joining the cadet corps in Potsdam, Germany.

By 18, the future officer finished school as valedictorian and was appointed lieutenant of the 4th Footguards. After that, he began working with the U.S. during the historic Boxer Rebellion, where he polished his guerrilla warfare tactics. Through outstanding performance, Lettow-Vorbeck quickly worked his way up in rank.

Lettow-Vorbeck was next sent to German South-West Africa (which is known as Namibia today) to put down a rebellion fueled by Herero and Namaqua tribesmen. After suffering injuries, he was moved to South Africa to recover. In his absence, the quelling of the local insurrection devolved into what’s now considered the first instance of 20th-century genocide — nearly 100,000 locals were killed.

Marines want to shut out China, Russia with laser communications
Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck (middle) with two other Germans, 1919.

Afterward, the Prussian officer spent a few years back in his homeland of Germany until 1914, when he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and given command over colonial troops in German East Africa.

Then, World War I broke out. As war raged, the German governor of the African colony, Heinrich Schnee, was determined to remain neutral. Lettow-Vorbeck had other ideas. Knowing full-well that the African theater was a sideshow to the real war, the Lieutenant Colonel set out to entangle as many British troops as possible.


Although highly outnumbered, Lettow-Vorbeck and his men successfully held a front using guerrilla tactics and avoiding fighting out in the open — a smart move when you have fewer troops than the opponent. Lettow-Vorbeck’s maneuvers helped defeat the British, Belgian, and Portuguese armies. For his actions, he was promoted to the rank of major general. The new general was well-respected by all of men, including the Askari troops he commanded due to the fact that he was fluent in Swahili, their native tongue.

Once the war had ended, he returned to Germany and received a massive, hero’s welcome from his countrymen.

Marines want to shut out China, Russia with laser communications
Lettow-Vorbeck reaching a heroes welcome.

Although the general was a known anti-semite, he wasn’t a faithful member of the Nazi party. Because of this, Lettow-Vorbeck maintained a great distrust of Adolf Hitler. In letters he wrote, he expressed a thorough distaste for Hitler’s racist rhetoric.

In fact, when Hitler offered him the ambassadorship to the Court of James in 1935, he told Hitler to go f*ck himself.

Some literature suggests that Lettow-Vorbeck didn’t use those exact words — in fact, his words weren’t so kind.

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Army evaluates new shoulder-fired rocket tech

The U.S. Army is testing new recoilless rifle technology designed give soldiers shoulder-fired rockets that are lighter and more ergonomic and in future, make them safe to fire in tight urban spaces.


Testers at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland are evaluating upgrades to the M3 recoilless rifle, also known as the Multi-role Anti-armor Anti-personnel Weapon System, or MAAWS. The improvements will make it more ergonomic, six pounds lighter and shorter.

Also read: The Army’s new grenade has a split personality

Maneuver officials at Fort Benning, Georgia, are also conducting a live-demo on the new Shoulder Launched Individual Munition, or SLIM, as part of the Army Expeditionary Warrior Experiments, or AEWE, 2017.

SLIM is a new lightweight, disposable shoulder-fired rocket, made by Aerojet Rocketdyne. It weighs 14.9 pounds and is designed to be safely fired from inside enclosures without causing hearing or respiratory system damage, Army officials at the Army’s Maneuver Center of Excellence at Benning maintain.

Marines want to shut out China, Russia with laser communications
A soldier tests the recoilless rifle known as the M3E1 Multi-role Anti-armor Anti-personnel Weapon System. | U.S. Army photo

“At 14.9 pounds, it lightens the soldier load, increases engagement lethality and flexibility by eliminating the need for multiple specialized rocket systems with single purpose warheads,” according to a recent press release from MCOE.

Officials from Benning’s Maneuver Battle Lab will document findings in an initial report on live fire capabilities Nov. 1 and present them in conjunction with the AEWE 2017 Insights Briefing to the public on March 1, 2017.

Findings from the assessment of SLIM and other technologies will inform the material selection process for the Individual Assault Munition capabilities development document and final production decision, Benning officials say.

The Individual Assault Munition, or IAM, is a next-generation, shoulder-launched munition being designed for use by the Objective Force Warrior.

IAM will also contribute to survivability by enabling soldiers to engage targets from protected positions without exposing themselves to enemy fire, Army officials maintain. The new weapon is being designed to combine the best capabilities of the M72 LAW, M136 AT4, M136E1 and M141 BDM and replace them in the Army arsenal.

Meanwhile, Aberdeen test officials are testing improvements to the M3 MAAWS . The 75th Ranger Regiment and other special operations forces began using the recoilless rifle in 1991.

The Army began ordering the M3 for conventional infantry units to use in Afghanistan in 2011. The M3 weighs about 21 pounds and measures 42 inches long. The breech-loading M3 fires an 84mm round that can reach out and hit enemy bunkers and light-armored vehicles up to 1,000 meters away.

Program officials will incorporate modern materials to “achieve input provided by U.S. Special Operations Command and other services’ users,” said Renee Bober, Product Manager for the M3E1 at U.S. Army Project Manager Soldier Weapons, in a recent Army press release.

To assist in the project with funding and expertise, the M3E1 team turned to the Army Foreign Comparative Testing Program and began working with the M3’s Swedish manufacturer, Saab Bofors Dynamics, for testing and qualifying its next-generation weapon, known as the M3A1.

Saab unveiled the new M3A1 in 2014. It’s significantly lighter and shorter than the M3 recoilless rifle. It weighs about 15 pounds and measures 39 3/8 inches long.

The Army project team traveled to Sweden so they could observe and validate the vendor’s testing instead of duplicating it back in the U.S., said William “Randy” Everett, FCT project manager.

“It was an innovative solution that saved more than $300,000,” he said.

When testing and qualifications are completed in spring 2017, it is scheduled to go into type classification in the fall of 2017, Army officials maintain. After that, the system will be available for procurement to all Department of Defense services.

The upgraded weapon will able to fire the existing suite of MAAWS ammunition, Army officials maintain.

One of the upgrades will include a shot counter. For safety reasons, a weapon should not fire more than its specified limit of rounds.

Right now, soldiers are manually recording the number of rounds fired in a notebook provided with each weapon. The shot counter will help the system last longer because soldiers can keep a more accurate count of how many rounds go through each weapon, Army officials maintain.