In case you didn’t know, the former Secretary of Defense, Chaos Actual, Gen. James Mattis (ret.) wrote an Op-Ed in the Wall Street Journal and it’s just ahead of his memoir covering how he learned leadership from his time as a young buck Lt to his time leading the Pentagon.
Of course, Mattis makes a very in-depth analysis into why America’s allies are vital and some insight into his resignation last December – but he also makes a case against the tribalistic political-sphere that seemed to envelope 2019. He’s always remained apolitical, despite sitting in the Trump cabinet. The petty squabbling and BS just distracts from the mission.
I know reading lists were sort of his thing – and it’d be kind of awkward for him to put his own book on his own reading list for people to buy and read. So just assume it’s on there since I don’t think he’s even updated it since he was last in the office.
Anyways, here are some memes to get your extended weekend started while I shamelessly give an unsponsored plug for the Patron Saint of Chaos’ new book.
The U.S. Navy has released video of a Su-27, a Russian fighter, conducting an extremely dangerous maneuver against the crew of an EP-3 Aries plane taking part in Trident Juncture, the massive NATO war games that have sent the Russian military into a tizzy.
The depicted aerial maneuvers, which included the Russian plane flying within a few feet of the U.S. aircraft with engines roaring, were seemingly conducted solely with the intention of threatening the unarmed plane. The intercept included two passes and lasted for approximately 25 minutes. According to a Navy statement,
On Nov. 5, 2018, a U.S. EP-3 Aries aircraft flying in international airspace over the Black Sea was intercepted by a Russian SU-27. This interaction was determined to be unsafe due to the SU-27 conducting a high speed pass directly in front of the mission aircraft, which put our pilots and crew at risk. The intercepting SU-27 made an additional pass, closing with the EP-3 and applying its afterburner while conducting a banking turn away. The crew of the EP-3 reported turbulence following the first interaction, and vibrations from the second.
Article IV of the agreement specifically calls for commanders of aircraft to “use the greatest of caution and prudence in approaching aircraft and ships of the other Party,” something that this November 5 incident seems to be a flagrant violation of. This follows a November 2 incident in which a Russian bomber flew nearly directly over a U.S. command ship, the USS Mount Whitney.
A Pentagon spokesperson told Business Insider that Russia failed to make radio contact with the plane before conducting its maneuvers, making this interaction especially dangerous.
This sudden increase in incidents is no accident. NATO’s Trident Juncture war games are a response to increasing Russian aggression, including the illegal annexation of Crimea and election meddling across the Europe and the U.S.
The military exercises have triggered a series of responses from Russia, which include the dangerous intercepts, a huge missile exercise announced and held in the middle of NATO’s training, and an increased naval presence in the waters in and around the exercise.
Russia’s concerns about the large exercise ring hollow, though, since Russia held the Vostock 2018 war games in September, which it claimed was its largest exercise since the Cold War. While Russia inflated the size of Vostock, claiming 300,000 troops where there may have been as few as 150,000, it was still much larger than Trident Juncture, which has only 50,000 participants.
But Trident Juncture is still frightening for Russia as 30 nations are taking part. Vostock had only three participants: Russia, China, and a small Mongolian force. And Trident Juncture includes nations that are Russian neighbors and either members of NATO or friends of the alliance, posing a big threat to Russia’s ability to push around its neighbors.
In every parking lot on every military installation is a bumper sticker that reads, “not all heroes wear capes!” It’s a great message and all, but it’s always fun to speculate what life would be like if each branch of the U.S. Armed Forces was a superhero. What super powers would they have?
So, in a completely tongue-in-cheek response to a nice and sweet bumper sticker, here’s what the superhero branches would be.
Powers: Generic super strength, speed, and durability.
Weakness: Entirely bland.
The largest and most self-sustaining branch among the Armed Forces would also be the most run-of-the-mill superhero.
In comic books, nearly every protagonist who gets superpowers pretty much just checks off the standard hero boxes: super speed, super strength, super durability, etc. Now, this doesn’t make for a bad superhero, but it’s also not the most interesting. A perfect fit for the most average branch of the Armed Forces.
Coasties are a part of the Armed Forces. They’re not always attached to the Department of Defense, but they’re still brothers-in-arms. The Puddle Pirates are out there constantly fighting the good fight, but no one really gives a damn about them. If they are remembered, it’s by other vets mocking them for being essentially the Navy National Guard.
On the bright side, at least the Coast Guard has one superhero: Spectrum, whose superpowers vary greatly. One of which she, coincidentally, shares with the U.S. Coast Guard – not being noticed.
Participating in adaptive sports helped to get Major out of a serious depression he had fallen into after being severely wounded, he said. Adaptive sports are designed or modified for disabled athletes to compete against others with similar disabilities or injuries.
“Before I got injured I loved competition, sports, and getting into shape,” said Major, who represented the Baltimore Veterans Affairs at the Army Trials.
Participating in adaptive sports “changed my life,” he said.
“It made me more sociable with other veterans who have similar injuries and stories,” Major said.
Sports also helped him to have a more positive attitude about his injuries, he added.
During the Army Trials, Army athletes in wheelchairs, with prosthetic limbs, and some with injuries that weren’t apparent at first glance competed in a variety of events.
They came from more than a dozen installations and participated in track and field, cycling, archery, shooting, wheelchair basketball, and seated volleyball.
Most had compelling stories, like Major, about how participating in sports got them out of a dark place and thrust them into a new chapter in their lives.
Lt. Col. Luis Fregoso was one of the organizers of the Army Trials with the Warrior Care and Transition Program in Arlington, Va. This Army organization oversees the most critical cases of wounded, injured, and ill soldiers and helps them transition back to active duty or to civilian life.
Sports can play a huge role in the healing process, said Fregoso, who is from Los Angeles.
“A lot of soldiers, when they have this life-changing event happen to them, they will get into a dark place,” Fregoso said. “The common theme is they just don’t feel their normal self and start spiraling into a bad area, especially in their mind.”
Sports help them to adapt to their “new normal” and can give them the confidence to tackle other areas in their lives, Fregoso added.
Retired Master Sgt. Shawn “Bubba” Vosburg still has the look of a soldier out on a mission. But he suffers from post-traumatic stress, a traumatic brain injury, and a slew of other injuries up and down his body.
Competing in sports helps to “tie you back to the military,” said Vosburg, who is originally from Colorado Springs, Colo., but now calls El Paso home. He represented Fort Bliss during the recent competition.
“You do so much time in the military, and you lose that when you retire,” Vosburg said. “But (adaptive sports) introduces you to new people whom you consider friends and family, and that family is growing.”
Vosburg credits sports for saving his life and he wants to return the favor to his fellow veterans.
He is working on a master’s degree in social work at the University of Texas at El Paso and wants to help “bring more soldiers out of the dark, like I came out of,” he said.
In the 1965 film The Sound of Music, Captain von Trapp ran a tight ship at home. He also ran a tight ship at sea, commanding two U-Boats for the Austro-Hungarian Empire during World War I. By the war’s end, he was the most decorated naval officer in Austria-Hungary.
Looking at the life and family of Captain Baron Georg Johannes Ritter von Trapp through the lens of the Sound of Music alone, you’d never know this man spent WWI on a u-boat that spewed poisonous fumes to its crew or that he sank tons of allied shipping in the Mediterranean — killing hundreds of enemy sailors — and was basically the best thing Austria-Hungary had going for it.
Aside from the 14 ships sank and one captured during his World War I service, he led Austria’s troops during the Boxer Rebellion in China, circumnavigated the globe twice, and saw his navy switch from sails to steam to diesel engines over the course of his career. At the war’s end in 1918, von Trapp’s record stood at 19 war patrols taking 11 cargo vessels totaling 45,669 tons sunk, two enemy warships sunk, and one captured.
U-5 was just 100 feet long but packed a terrible punch, with just a crew of 19 and four torpedoes.
Command of U-5
Captain von Trapp conducted nine combat patrols in the Adriatic and Mediterranean Seas, and most of them were full of action. He got his first kill just two weeks after taking command of U-5, sinking the French cruiser Leon Gambetta off the coast of Italy. 12,000 tons and 684 sailors went to the bottom. Four months later, he sank the Italian submarine Nereide.
For his command during the sinking of the Leon Gambetta, von Trapp was awarded the Military Order of Maria Theresa, Austria’s highest military award.
Command of U-14
His next command was a reclaimed French submarine that was upgraded and modernized. He was the bane of British and Italian shipping in the Mediterranean, sinking 11 more enemy vessels. He earned a knighthood and then became a Baron for his service in Austria’s navy for his actions in World War I.
That’s one helluva way to start a naval career.
Training, Circumnavigation, and China service
He trained in the Officer Training School of the Austrian-Hungarian Imperial Navy through the Maritime-Academy at Fiume in what is today Croatia, starting his career on sailing ships, going around the earth on the corvette SMS Saida II. He returned to Austria and joined the crew of the SMS Zenta, an iron steamship, in 1897. By 1899, the crew of the Zenta was fully engaged in China, part of the eight-nation alliance sent to relieve the foreign legation in Peking from the siege of the Chinese Boxers.
Georg was one of the seamen detached to the alliance to take one of the Taku Forts. The Austrian helped assault Fort Pei Tang with 8500 others in the multinational force. Many were killed in the bloody fighting but the allies took the fort and went on to relieve the legation in Peking.
Unfortunately for Capt. von Trapp, World War I did not end well for Austria-Hungary and he soon found himself out of a job, seeing as how the new Austria was landlocked and had no use for a Navy – and he was no about to become a Nazi just to command a ship. So he trained his children to perform and took them on tour, eventually settling down and starting the Trapp Family Lodge in Vermont.
After World War II, he founded Trapp Family Austrian Relief, Inc. to help aid the recovery of Austria and Austrians from the war’s devastation.
The men and women who serve our country deserve our gratitude and our support, but historically they’ve received a whole lot less. Many veterans in recent decades have struggled to make a smooth return to civilian life, and the programs available to them were lacking. Thousands ended up on the street- a grievous injustice and betrayal to those who deserved our support the most.
The good news is, Americans wanted to do better, and we did! According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, the number of homeless veterans has dropped by 43.3 percent since 2011. Those are some amazing stats, but our work still isn’t done. In 2019, over 37,000 veterans were still without roofs over their heads. The more people who are aware of the problem, the easier it is to fix it. Here’s how you and your family can help bring that number to zero!
We all love to think we’re openminded and understanding, but there’s still a strong stigma against people who have become homeless. Many people in shelters struggle with substance abuse or mental illness. If I give them money, one might think, they’ll just buy alcohol. Why should I fund that? Why should I help someone who won’t help themselves?
Before you go any further, imagine a day in their shoes. Imagine you don’t have a job, and you can’t afford a haircut or clean clothes, so no one will hire you. You might not have a degree, either. You spend most nights alone, cold and shunned from the society you swore to protect. Statistically, 90% of homeless veterans are men, and only 2% are part of a family. In other words, if you’re a homeless veteran, you probably came back from war to no job, no family and no support. Considering substance abuse is closely tied to low income and lack of emotional and social connections, is it any wonder these veterans are struggling? Then, factor in conditions like PTSD and chronic pain, and well…that would push ANYONE to the brink.
Understand that being homeless doesn’t mean a person doesn’t care about getting back on their feet. It means they need help to do it. An easy way to show your support is by offering bottled water, nutritious food or a warm coat. These are small acts of kindness, but they help.
Reach out to your local government officials to discuss what your city is doing to help reduce the number of veterans in shelters each night. Push for plans that include affordable housing for veterans, treatment programs for substance use and employment programs. If they don’t have plans in place, ask how programs like that can be launched.
If no one’s listening, make them
If there’s a marked lack of support for homeless veterans in your area, consider starting a coalition. Gather people you know who support the cause and work together to make a difference. Start a canned goods drive, a coat drive or a meal train. Plan a peaceful march to boost awareness. The more visibility your group has, the more city officials will listen.
If you happen to be a lawyer, why not use your powers for good? Visit local shelters to help veterans apply for benefits and housing programs that they may not know are available to them. Medical professionals can also help by treating minor injuries and illnesses.
Hire a veteran
If you own a business and need more employees, consider hiring a veteran! While their individual skillsets and qualifications may not match every industry, they’re likely to be hardworking, quick learners, and a great fit for most entry-level jobs.
Not everyone has time for hands-on involvement, and we get it. If that’s the case for you, just donate! Organizations like DAV, U.S. Vets and Volunteers of America are great charities to donate to at the push of a button.
And remember, if you see a veteran, whether at a family reunion or on the street…say thank you. A little appreciation goes a long way.
In honor of Russian Aerospace Force Day, the Russian Ministry of Defense has released its first official footage of the fifth-generation stealth aircraft, the PAK FA Sukhoi T-50.
The government unveiled the montage of its prized stealth fighters launching from an aircraft carrier’s ski-jump ramp, along with several other aircraft such as the MiG-29KUB naval fighter and the Su-35S.
Although the T-50s only appear for a few brief seconds, it’s enough to make out the the two camouflage patterns of the first new fighters produced after the Cold War.
However, despite the fancy paint job and Russia touting the T-50, critics say its features may fall short of it achieving the prized moniker of “fifth-generation aircraft.”
For one, the evolutionary technology onboard the T-50 doesn’t make the quantum leap that other aircraft, such as China’s Chengdu J-20 or the US’s F-35 Lightning II, incorporate. Instead, it seems to have inherited the same engine from the Su-35, an aircraft that’s considered to be 4++ generation — between fourth- and fifth-generation.
Additionally, the primary trait of fifth-generation aircraft, namely stealth, is also called into question when compared with others around the world. According to RealClearDefense, in 2010 and 2011, sources close to the program claimed that the T-50’s radar cross section, the measurement of how detectable on radar an object is, was estimated to be 0.3 to 0.5 square meters.
Although these figures may sound impressive, when compared with the US Air Force F-22 Raptor’s 0.0001-square-meter RCS or the F-35’s 0.001-square-meter RCS, it’s worth taking a second look at by engineers.
Despite the controversy, the T-50 excels where other fifth-generation aircraft have not: its cost. With each unit more than $50 million, it’s considered a bargain when comparing it with the F-22’s $339 million and the F-35’s $178 million price tags.
Specialist Bryan Anderson’s first question when he came out of a seven-day coma and saw his mother was, “What are you doing in Iraq?” But his mother wasn’t in Iraq. She was at his bedside at Walter Reed Medical Center.
A week before Anderson had been on his second combat tour, once again serving as an Army MP this time charged with training members of the Iraqi police. His unit had to travel the streets of Baghdad in up-armored Humvees to get to the various police stations around the city, and they were getting hit by IEDs on a daily basis.
“It wasn’t a matter of if we’d get hit, but when we’d get hit,” he said.
Anderson’s exposure was increased by the fact that the unit commander liked his squad. “He knew we knew what we were doing,” he said. “So our mission became to take him wherever he wanted to go to do whatever he wanted to do.”
And his CO wanted to see everything. “He was ‘Capt. America,’ as we called him,” Anderson said. “I get what he was trying to do – lead by example – but at the time we viewed it as he was putting our lives in danger because he was going out to the same Iraqi police stations every day.”
Although they tried to stay unpredictable with their routes and times, there were only so many police stations and so many ways to get to them. The odds caught up to Anderson on October 23, 2005 at 11 o’clock in the morning. He was driving the last of three Humvees in a slow-moving convoy when an IED triggered by a laser beam exploded next to him.
“I had both my hands on the bottom of the steering wheel and one leg curled under the other because we were only doing, like, five miles per hour, which is why we’re all still alive,” Anderson explains. “The IED was set for a vehicle traveling 30 miles an hour, so instead of going through the passenger compartment the explosion took off the front of the Humvee.”
But although the detonation didn’t happen as the insurgents had planned, the toll on Anderson’s body was substantial. “I saw smoke, fire, and sparks coming through my door,” he said. “And then it was pitch black because there was so much smoke.”
The soldier riding shotgun jumped out before the vehicle stopped with shrapnel in his wrist and hip. The gunner got what Anderson called the “Forrest Gump wound” – shrapnel to his butt – and he jumped out of the turret.
Anderson tried to get out of the Humvee but couldn’t, unaware of his wounds. The two others busted the bolts off the driver’s side door and pulled him out of the wreckage.
“All I could see was my friends running back and forth like they’d just seen a ghost, and I knew something was wrong,” Anderson said.
He tried to use his right hand to swipe the flies away from his face, and noticed that his index finger tip was missing. He turned his hand over and could see shattered bones and torn ligaments.
As he was looking at his right hand a fly landed in his left eye. He went to swipe it with his other hand, but “whiffed,” as he put it. His left hand was gone.
Then he looked down. His legs were gone. He couldn’t process what he was seeing. “There’s no way that just happened,” he thought to himself. “I’m dreaming.”
“Then I got this weird feeling, like, ‘Oh, man, my mom’s gonna kill me,” he said.
Then he looked up at the soldier who was attending to him and asked, “Do you think I’m ever going to get laid again?”
It took the medevac helicopter 12 minutes to get to the scene. Anderson was having trouble breathing because his right lung had collapsed with the concussion of the bomb. The shock was wearing off a bit, and he described the initial pain sensation as a “burning all over, like putting on too much Icy Hot.”
The helo landed in what Anderson described as “an impossible place.” Once they were airborne he passed out.
He awoke seven days later to see his mother standing over him, saying, “You had an accident.”
Anderson considered his injuries and thought to himself, “Really?” Fortunately his entire family was there along with his mother – his identical twin brother, his sister, his aunts and uncles. “That gave me enough strength to say screw it,” he said. “One day at a time, right?”
He spent 13 months at Walter Reed, six weeks in-patient and the rest living at the Malone House as he did physical therapy. For the first four months he had a good attitude, sort of what he called a “wait and see” outlook. But then he fell into deep depression. “I’d look at myself as a triple amputee and ask, ‘What am I possibly going to be able to do?'”
He had panic attacks and flew into uncontrollable rage. He didn’t sleep for two weeks. Then one day he was sitting by a reflecting pond near the Malone House talking to his twin brother who asked him if he was listening to music. Anderson replied that he wasn’t. His brother gave him a CD of a mutual friend’s band.
“I was listening to the chorus of this one song,” he recounts. “The words got to me: ‘Life’s been less than kind. We’ve all been hurt; we’ve all been sorry. Take a number, stand in line. How we survive is what makes us who we are.’ For some reason that just resonated with me, and at that moment I felt like I’d grabbed the first rung of the ladder to pull myself out of this hole.”
The second rung was an impromptu trip to Las Vegas. “I was able to just be a dude for the first time in a long time,” he said. “I had fun, and that forced me to think about what’s in front of me. It made me live in the moment.”
When he got back to Walter Reed he mediated at the reflecting pond again, and it struck him that he had two choices: He could roll over and die or he could go live his life.
“At that moment I made the decision to start figuring out what I could and couldn’t do,” he said. “And it turns out there’s not a lot I can’t do.”
Anderson started skateboarding and snowboarding again. And, after being profiled in Esquire magazine and receiving a couple of offers, he decided to head to LA to pursue an acting career, something he’d always wanted to do.
His first gig was as a stunt driver in “The Dark Knight.” On the set he befriended the movie’s star, Heath Ledger. “He was a skater,” Anderson said. One day he mentioned to the actor that it was intimidating to talk to him with his Joker makeup on. Ledger replied, “You realize I could say the same thing about you, right?”
Anderson’s next role was in “The Wrestler” in which he has a brief scene handing Mickey Rourke one of his prosthetic legs to use as a weapon against an opponent. After that he played a wounded Navy SEAL accused of murder on “CSI: New York.”
Following a couple of episodes of “All My Children,” a cameo in “The Wire,” and an episode of “Hawaii Five-O” he landed a part in “American Sniper.”
“I was standing next to Clint Eastwood and Bradley Cooper thinking, ‘This is crazy,'” Anderson said.
The first scene he was in had no script. “Bradley Cooper told us, ‘Clint likes to do things natural,’ and he told us to just say whatever we wanted. Nobody was talking, so I just wound up taking the lead and telling the story about how my right hand was saved the day I was hit because I reached for a cigarette.”
Anderson’s plan for a future in Hollywood is pretty simple: “More parts,” he said.
Whatever happens he’s going to leverage the main lessons his life since that tragic and fateful day in Iraq has taught him: “Nobody’s going to make you happy. You have to do that yourself,” he said. “And take advantage of all the opportunities that come your way.”
A notorious French criminal is on the run after pulling off a brazen escape in a helicopter from a prison near Paris.
According to the Associated Press, Redoine Faid, who is serving 25 years for failed robbery and murder of a police officer, previously escaped another prison in 2013 using explosives hidden in packs of tissues before being rearrested a month later.
Faid pulled off his latest escape at around 11:20 a.m. local time on July 1, 2018, according to the BBC. Three gunmen dressed in balaclavas and armed with assault rifles landed a stolen helicopter in the Reau Prison courtyard. The pilot of the helicopter had been taken hostage from a nearby flying club.
Police later found the helicopter burned in the town of Garges-les-Gonesse, north of Paris. Faid and his accomplices are believed to have ditched the airplane and escaped by car. The pilot was later released with no physical injuries, according to AP.
France’s Justice Ministry Nicole Belloubet said the escape took only “a few minutes.”
“It was an extremely well-prepared commando unit that may have used drones to survey the area beforehand,” she said, according to the BBC.
The manhunt is ongoing and an interior ministry official told AFP that nearly 3,000 French police were recruited for the search.
Faid, a 46-year-old gang leader, committed his first bank robbery in 1990, and was arrested in 1998 after three years on the run in Switzerland and Israel, according to local media. He was sentenced to 30 years in jail but was released on parole after ten years. In 2009 he wrote a memoir, and claimed to have given up a life of crime.
But he was arrested in 2011 on suspicion of masterminding a robbery that resulted in the death of a police officer.
According to the BBC, Faid has said his lifestyle was inspired by Hollywood gangster films, including “Scarface.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
All five branches of the U.S. military have earned high marks from American adults, according to a Gallup poll.
More than three in four of Americans surveyed who know something about the branches have overall favorable views of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, or Coast Guard, according to Gallup. More than half have a strongly favorable opinion.
In Gallup’s annual Confidence in Institutions poll released May 26, at least 72 percent of participants expressed “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in the military in the past eight years.
“This Memorial Day, Americans will once again have the opportunity to honor those who fought and died in service of their country,” Gallup’s Jim Norman said. “It comes at a time when the percentage of Americans who are military veterans continues to shrink, even as the nation moves through the 15th year of the Afghanistan War — the longest war in U.S. history.”
Broken down by branch, Air Force had the highest favorability rating of 81 percent — 57 percent “very favorable” and 24 percent “somewhat favorable” rating. Other branches were Navy and Marines each at 78 percent, Army at 77 percent, and Coast Guard at 76 percent.
Differences exist by political party, race, and age.
The biggest gap is among Republicans and Democrats with about a 30 percentage point difference. The largest is for the Navy with 74 percent favorability rating by Republicans and 39 percent among Democrats.
Republicans, non-Hispanic whites, and those aged 55 have more favorable views of each of the five branches than Democrats, non-whites, or those younger than 35.
Those surveys also were asked to list the most important branch. Air Force was No. 1 (27 percent) followed by the Army (21 percent), Navy and Marines (20 percent each), and 4 percent say the Coast Guard is the most important branch to national defense.
Gallup conducted telephone interviews April 24-May 2 with a random sample of 1,026 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. The margin of error is 4 percentage points.
Tesla Cybertruck’s controversial style and decked out armor-like exterior and towing capability seem like overkill for everyday driving, but they could be perfect for camping just about anywhere.
During the presentation, Tesla emphasized that the Cybertruck is “completely adaptable for your needs.” The company is marketing the truck as the best of a truck and a sports car, but information on its website hints at other future possibilities.
The most expensive edition of the Cybertruck has 100 cubic feet of storage space, which would be useful for camping gear.
Tesla’s renderings at least show that the company is thinking about the possibility of a camper conversion, with one image showing a tent attached over the truck bed and what appears to be cooking attachments on the tailgate.
Tesla fans have shown an interest in converting their electric vehicles into more comfortable places to sleep in the past. Dreamcase sells mattresses designed for specific car models, designed to “transform your car into a luxury double bed.” It already sells mattresses for three current Tesla models.
Regardless of whether Tesla releases more information about possible camper conversions, the Cybertruck design already has the ability to tow an RV. The Cybertruck has a towing capacity of up to 14,000 lbs, which is more than enough to tow even the heaviest Airstream on the market.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
It can be hard to take a precision shot on the ground. It can be even harder to do in the air. Helo-borne snipers are elite sharpshooters who have what it takes to do both.
“There are a million things that go into being a sniper, and you have to be good at all of them,” veteran US Army sniper First Sgt. Kevin Sipes previously told Business Insider. When you put a sniper in a helicopter, that list can get even longer.
“Shooting from an aircraft, it is very difficult,” US Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Hunter Bernius, a native Texan who oversees an advanced sniper training program focused on urban warfare, told BI.
“Getting into the aircraft is a big culture shock because there are more things to consider,” he added. “But, it’s just one of those things, you get used to it and learn to love it.”
A lead scout sniper with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit’s Maritime Raid Force, provides aerial sniper coverage during a simulated visit, board, search and seizure of the dock landing ship USS Ashland (LSD 48), underway in the Coral Sea, July 7, 2019.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Isaac Cantrell)
“Eyes in the sky”
Helo-borne snipers are called on to carry out a variety of missions. They serve as aerial sentinels for convoys and raid teams and provide aerial support for interdiction missions.
“As far as taking the shot, it is not often that we do that,” Bernius explained to BI. “Our primary mission is reconnaissance and surveillance, just being eyes in the sky for the battlefield commander.” But every aerial sniper is prepared to take the shot if necessary.
A lead scout sniper with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit’s Maritime Raid Force, tests his Opposing V sniper support system on a UH-1Y Huey aboard the amphibious transport dock USS Green Bay (LPD 20) prior to a simulated visit, board, search and seizure of a ship, underway in the Coral Sea, July 7, 2019.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Isaac Cantrell)
‘It can throw you off’
Helo-borne snipers typically operate at ranges within 200 meters, closer ranges than some ground-based sharpshooters, and they’re not, as Bernius put it, “shooting quarters off fence posts.” That doesn’t make hitting a target from a helicopter any less of a challenge.
Either sitting or kneeling, aerial snipers rest their weapon, a M110 Semi-Automatic Sniper System (SASS) in the case of the Marines, on a prefabricated setup consisting of several straps the sniper can load into to reduce vibration. “We’re constantly fighting vibration,” Bernius said.
Like resting your gun on the hood of a big diesel truck while it’s running, the helicopter vibrates quite a bit, Bernius explained. “If you’re talking about a precision rifle, it’s substantial when you are looking through a small scope at a hundred meters. It can throw you off a few inches or even more.”
The vibration of the aircraft isn’t the only concern. Aerial snipers also have to take into consideration rotor wash (the downward pressure from the rotating blades impacting the bullet as it leaves the barrel), wind direction and speed, altitude, and distance to target, among other things.
Communication with the pilots, who often act as spotters for these elite troops, is critical. “Going in without communicating is almost like going in blind,” Bernius explained.
Before a sniper takes his shot, he loads into the rig to take any remaining slack out of the straps and dials in the shot, adjusting the scope for elevation and wind. Breathing out, he fires during a brief respiratory pause. If the sniper misses, he quickly follows with another round, which is one reason why the semi-automatic rifle is preferred to slower bolt-action rifles.
Helo-borne snipers can put precision fire down range regardless of whether or not the helicopter is in a stationary hover or moving. In cases where the aircraft is moving, the aerial snipers will sometimes use a lagging lead, counterintuitively placing the reticle behind the target, to get an accurate shot.
Scout Snipers – Aerial Sniper Training On Helicotper
The urban sniper training that Bernius oversees is an advanced course for school-trained snipers, Marine Corps sharpshooters who have gone through the preliminary basic sniper training at Camp Pendleton in California, Camp Geiger in North Carolina, or Quantico in Virginia.
In the advanced sniper program, Marine Corps snipers go through four weeks of ground-based sniper training before transitioning to the air. “It’s primarily 600-meters-in combat-style shooting from tripods, barricades, and improvised positions,” Bernius told BI.
“The first three days is laying down in the prone, and then after that, they will never shoot from the prone again,” he explained. “These guys get pretty good at putting themselves in awkward situations. They get very familiar with being uncomfortable,” which is something that helps when the sniper moves into a cramped helicopter.
Nonetheless, moving from the ground to a helicopter is tough, and a lot of snipers get humbled, Bernius said. Fighting the vibrations inside the helicopter is difficult. “Some guys can really fight through it and make it happen, and some guys really struggle and they just can’t get over it and can’t make accurate shots,” he explained.
In many cases, Bernius told BI, aerial snipers have to rely more heavily on instinct than the guys on the ground. That takes repetition. That takes practice.
But once a sniper has mastered these skills, they can use them not only in the air, which is the most challenging, but also in any other vehicle. The skills are transferable.
Sgt. Hunter G. Bernius, a scout sniper with Weapons Company, Battalion Landing Team 3/1, 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit and Lufkin, Texas native, shoots at a target placed in the water from a UH-1Y Huey during an aerial sniper exercise.
(US Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Chance Haworth)
‘I’m doing this for the love of my country’
Not everyone can be a Marine Corps sniper, and each person has their own motivations for serving. “I grew up in a small town in East Texas hunting, playing in the dirt, hiding in the woods. It was a lot of fun. I could do that all day, day in and day out,” Bernius explained to INSIDER.
That’s not why he joined up, though.
Bernius had the opportunity to play baseball in college, but in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, he decided to join the Marines instead. “I don’t regret it one bit.”
“I’m very patriotic,” he said. “I’m doing this for the love of my country. I’ve been in 13 years. There’s been a lot of ups and a hell of a lot of downs. But, I would say love of the country is what’s keeping me around.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The US Air Force is vigorously upgrading the 1980s-era F-15 fighter by giving new weapons and sensors in the hope of maintaining air-to-air superiority over the Chinese J-10 equivalent.
The multi-pronged effort includes the current addition of electronic warfare technology, super-fast high-speed computers, infrared search and track enemy targeting systems, increased networking ability and upgraded weapons-firing capability, Air Force and Boeing officials said.
“The Air Force plans to keep the F-15 fleet in service until the mid-2040’s. Many of the F-15 systems date back to the 1970’s and must be upgraded if the aircraft is to remain operationally effective. Various upgrades will be complete as early as 2021 for the F-15C AESA (Active Electronically Scanned Array) radar and as late as 2032 for the various EW (electronic warfare) upgrades,” Air Force spokesman Maj. Rob Leese told Scout Warrior.
The Air Force currently operates roughly 400 F-15C, D and E variantsA key impetus for the upgrade was well articulate in a Congressional report on the US and China in 2014. (US-China Economic and Security Review Commission —www.uscc.gov). Among other things, the report cited rapid Chinese technological progress and explained that the US margin of superiority has massively decreased since the 1980s.
As an example, the report said that in the 1980s, the US F-15 was vastly superior to the Chinese equivalent – the J-10. However, Chinese technical advances in recent years have considerably narrowed that gap to the point where the Chinese J-10 is now roughly comparable to the US F-15, the report explained.
Air Force and Boeing developers maintain that ongoing upgrades to the F-15 will ensure that this equivalence is not the case and that, instead, they will ensure the superiority of the F-15.
Among the upgrades is an ongoing effort to equip the F-15 with the fastest jet-computer processer in the world, called the Advanced Display Core Processor, or ADCPII.
“It is capable of processing 87 billion instructions per second of computing throughput, translating into faster and more reliable mission processing capability for an aircrew,” Boeing spokesman Randy Jackson told Scout Warrior.
The F-15 is also receiving protective technology against enemy fire with a system called the Eagle Passive Active Warning Survivability System.
“This allows the aircraft to identify a threat and actively prosecute that threat through avoidance, deception or jamming techniques,” Mike Gibbons, Vice President of the Boeing F-15 program, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
High tech targeting and tracking technology is also being integrated onto the F-15, Gibbons added. This includes the addition of a passive long-range sensor called Infrared Search and Track, or IRST.
The technology is also being engineered into the Navy F-18 Super Hornet. The technology can detect the heat signature, often called infrared emissions, of enemy aircraft.
“The system can simultaneously track multiple targets and provide a highly effective air-to-air targeting capability, even when encountering advanced threats equipped with radar-jamming technology,” Navy officials said.
IRST also provides an alternate air-to-air targeting system in a high threat electronic attack environment, Navy, Air Force and industry developers said.
The F-15 is also being engineered for additional speed and range, along with weapons-firing ability. The weapons-carrying ability is being increased from 8 up to 16 weapons; this includes an ability to fire an AIM-9x or AIM-120 missile. In addition, upgrades to the aircraft include adding an increased ability to integrate or accommodate new emerging weapons systems as they become available. This is being done through both hardware and software-oriented “open standards” IP protocol and architecture.
The aircraft is also getting a “fly-by-wire” automated flight control system.
“Fly by wire means when the pilot provides the input – straight to a computer than then determines how to have the aircraft perform the way it wants – provides electrical signals for the more quickly and more safely move from point to point as opposed to using a mechanical controls stick,” Gibbons explained.
Along with these weapons upgrades and other modifications, the F-15 is also getting upgrades to the pilot’s digital helmet and some radar signature reducing, or stealthy characteristics.
However, at the same time, the F-15 is not a stealthy aircraft and is expected to be used in combat environments in what is called “less contested” environments where the Air Force already has a margin of air superiority over advanced enemy air defenses.
For this reason, the F-15 will also be increasing networked so as to better support existing 5th-generation platforms such as the F-22 and F-35, Air Force officials said.
The intent of these F-15 upgrades is to effectively perform the missions assigned to the F-15 fleet, which are to support the F-22 in providing air superiority and the F-35 in providing precision attack capabilities, Leese said.
“While these upgrades will not make these aircraft equivalent to 5th generation fighters, they will allow the F-15 to support 5th generation fighters in performing their missions, and will also allow F-15s to assume missions in more permissive environments where capabilities of 5th generation fighters are not required,” Leese added.
Gibbons added that the upgrades to the F-15 will ensure that the fighter aircraft remains superior to its Chinese equivalent.
“The F-15 as a vital platform that still has a capability that cannot be matched in terms of ability to fly high, fly fast, go very far carry a lot. It is an air dominance machine,” Gibbons explained.