Early one morning in Galeana, Mexico, a series of pickup trucks pulled up to a small, unassuming house. It was like many houses in the state of Chihuahua, except this one was occupied by the family of a man who decided to stand up to the drug cartels that had for so long terrorized his friends and neighbors. The man (along with a friend who had come by to check on the commotion) were dragged away at gunpoint. The narcos drove them down the street and shot them.
That was the last straw. Now there’s a new force standing up to the cartels terrorizing the people and government of Mexico, a resistance is coming from what you might think of as an unlikely source: The Mormon Church.
The war on drugs in Mexico has seen an uptick in violence in recent years. When the government switched its tactics to take down the higher-ranking members of the cartels, their successes left power vacuums in their wake, which sparked wars for dominance among individuals inside the cartels. As a result, the drug-related violence has only gotten more widespread and more intense as time wore on. The violence is ten times deadlier in Mexico than in Iraq or Afghanistan.
Vice reporter and founder Shane Smith drove down to Chihuahua to talk to the long-established Mormon colony run by the Lebaron family, descendants of the first Mormon settlers in the region. The Lebaron family, like most who stand up to bullies, were just pushed around once too often, as a result of kidnappings, extortion, and ultimately, murder.
Vice founder Shane Smith with the Mexican Federal Police at a Chihuahua road block.
Mormons first came to Mexico in 1875 to escape persecution from the U.S. government for their beliefs, specifically plural marriage – also known as polygamy. Those who refused to adhere to the United States’ demand to end the practice came to Mexico where they could continue what they saw as not only a divine right, but a commandment. Their descendants still live there to this day, just south of the border.
The murders in Galeana were the result of the Mormon colonies who put pressure on the cartels through their political partners in the Mexican government. After one of their own was kidnapped, they told the government to do something about it, or they would do it themselves. The kidnapped child was returned unharmed, but shortly after, the Mormons paid the price with the lives of Benjamin Lebaron and his friend Luis Widmar.
Firearms smuggled from the United States into Mexico and captured by the Federales.
That changed the game. The Mormons went through the process of getting gun ownership rights in the country, no small feat. Then they called in the Federales, who use their colony – a known safe haven from narcos – as a base of operations, intercepting drug smugglers on major highways in Chihuahua, conducting patrols and raids, and watching the traffickers as they work. The Mormons themselves have also joined the fight, they have adopted the tactics of U.S. troops fighting insurgents in the Iraq War, setting roadblocks and observation posts of their own.
Word got around to the narcos, eventually. Rumor has it the Mormons employ scouts and snipers to defend their colonies. The drug traffickers are all known to the Mormons now, their vehicles and faces easily identifiable to Church leaders, who work in close concert with the Mexican federal police. Their enduring vigilance has led to an uneasy stalemate in violence and kidnappings. They still occur, but with much less frequency.
Already planning that special family getaway for next summer? If you’re thinking Disney World might be a little too expensive for your family, think again. Not only does the Magic Kingdom want more visits from more troops, but they’ve even created a special VIP place inside the kingdom just for American soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and yes, Coast Guardsmen.
It’s a place for all shades of green and as a matter of fact, they call it Shades of Green.
Situated between two golf courses, now everyone who stays at Shades of Green can feel like they’re really in the Air Force for just a little while. Military members and their families can get discounts on food, stays, and park admission while staying here too – and it’s all just a stones throw away from the Disney World parks. The newly-renovated hotel area even has a direct walkway to the park. It is the only Armed Forces Recreation Center located in the continental United States and room rates are based on rank, starting with the lowest rates for E-1 to E-6 military personnel.
Before you start booking, be sure to check the resort’s eligibility requirements. To stay at Shades of Green, you must be an active duty service member, a retired service member, a surviving spouse, or a 100 percent service-connected disabled veteran. There are more categories to list but if you’re unsure, check out the eligibility requirements before you book. Sorry, regular vets with an honorable discharge. That’s not enough to stay on the Disney World AFRC any time you want. But through the Salute to Veterans program, honorably discharged vets can stay during the months of January and September.
Sure beats Minot in September.
If you’re wondering if January and September are worth the wait, keep in mind that Shades of Green has a great place in the area near Walt Disney World, very close to Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort and sits right between two PGA-level golf courses. Besides the pools, spas, and restaurants that one would expect at a Disney World Resort, the Shades of Green Resort also boasts Princess and Pirate Makeovers for the kids, arcades, tennis courts, and playgrounds (just in case the kids have a lot of extra energy to burn at the end of the day).
For the adults, the resorts boasts world-class bars and restaurants, along with a giant outlet mall filled with 50 different retail brand names. To top it all off, the resort even has an AAFES Exchange store, where you can still use your military benefits to get tax-free items for every day as well as Disney souvenirs.
Since the Shades of Green is a DoD Morale, Welfare, and Recreation facility, all proceeds from the resort go right back into keeping the facilities up and expanding its offerings.
Aside from the usual military discounts and benefits, the reasons for staying at Shades of Green are many. The resort’s rooms are larger than most other resorts on the Disney World Complex and the rooms are exempt from the Hotel Tax imposed on all other rooms in Florida and beyond. The best part is, the agreement between the DoD and Disney means that the rooms’ quality must meet Disney standards, so you aren’t staying in some forgotten lodging room somewhere. Also included are access to Disney FastPass services and Extra Magic Hours, and the monorail is just a short hike away from nearby Polynesian Springs.
So now there’s no excuse not to go to Disney World. You don’t even have to leave behind the comforts of the base or post when AAFES and MWR are traveling with you.
The US Army is using its developmental Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS) heads-up display, which was created to help soldiers better wage war on future battlefields, to combat the novel coronavirus, the service revealed.
The Army recently tweaked the software for a number of IVAS prototype goggles to allow the devices to detect fevers, and soldiers at Fort Benning, Georgia have been using them to scan hundreds of troops on base.
“That’s the genius of this system; we can use this technology today to fight the virus, even as we shape it into the combat system our Soldiers need tomorrow,” Brig. Gen. Tony Potts, who heads PEO Soldier, said in a statement.
The Army has been partnering with Microsoft to create a mixed-reality heads-up display for the dismounted soldier that offers a warfighter immediate access to dozens of valuable combat tools in digital space.
With this system, soldiers can see in the dark, shoot around corners, translate text, take photos and video, and track targets, among other things.
Based on Microsoft’s HoloLens technology, IVAS is the Soldier Lethality Cross-Functional Team’s signature modernization effort, and the team has been pushing forward with its development even as the coronavirus continues to upend plans.
At the same time, the Army has figured out how to use its IVAS head-up display to help combat the virus.
The service is using the system to “rapidly assess the temperature of hundreds of Soldiers as they prepare for training” at Fort Benning, where thousands of soldiers go through a variety of different courses and training programs, the Army said in a statement.
One common symptom among individuals who have been infected by the coronavirus is a fever.
Last week, Tom Bowman, the director of IVAS Science Technology Special Project Office with C5ISR’s Night Vision Laboratory at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, realized that the HUD’s digital thermal sensors used to detect enemies in the dark could be repurposed to spot temperature spikes.
Modified IVAS heads-up displays were quickly sent to Fort Benning, Georgia. With these devices, which display scanned forehead and inner eye temperatures in the user’s goggles, soldiers were able to scan and process around 300 individuals in just 30 minutes.
The Army said that anyone who had a fever was sent to a nearby medical facility for evaluation.
Scanning was carried out indoors in a facility where commercial thermal referencing sources were used to calibrate the devices to room temperature.
“We’ve always planned for an agile software system and a digital platform that can be upgraded and adapted to use against emerging threats in the future. No one anticipated the next threat to emerge would be a virus, but that’s the enemy we face today,” Bowman said in a statement.
If everything goes according to plan, the Army intends to start fielding IVAS goggles to soldiers in the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2021, in summer of next year.
The list of female astronauts who could potentially is a short one. Only 12 would be able to go to the moon by 2024, in line with President Trump’s direction that the Space Agency should return to the moon, according to NASA. But only one of those women is Army strong.
Lt. Col. Anne McClain goes by the call sign “Annimal,” a reference to her old rugby nickname. She started her career as a Kiowa Warrior pilot flying combat missions in Iraq, graduated from test pilot school, and was eventually chosen to be part of astronaut group 21, the youngest astronaut on NASA’s roster. Her Army career took her to the International Space Station in 2018, and she completed her first spacewalk in March 2019. She has since returned to Earth.
In December 2017, President Trump directed NASA to prepare to send astronauts back to the lunar surface to make way for a long-term human presence on the moon. The project, dubbed Artemis, is not just a vanity project for the 45th President. It’s an effort for NASA to prepare for an even longer trip, sending human astronauts to Mars. When deciding to return humans to the moon, NASA determined they would send a woman.
McClain took a selfie during one of her spacewalks.
While it may seem odd to send an Army troop to the moon, one could argue there’s no better preparation for going to the moon – or even Mars – than a few years in the Army. Working in austere, desert environments with barely enough tools to complete the mission but still somehow succeeding is what the Army is all about.
For Ann McClain, she’s a decorated Army combat veteran with more than 2,000 flight hours, a West Point-educated engineer, and the perfect soldier to lead a project called Artemis, named after the twin sister of Apollo, who was the namesake of the effort to put a man on the moon.
Newly-released data from the Department of Defense shows an alarming spike in the number of American personnel wounded in the fight against ISIS.
Since October, at least 14 US troops were wounded in combat operations under Operation Inherent Resolve — nearly double the number wounded since the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria began in August 2014. At least 8 Americans were killed in combat since the campaign began, while 23 have died in “non-hostile” events.
The Pentagon’s quiet acknowledgement of a spike in casualties was first reported by Andrew deGrandpre at Military Times.
The increase in combat wounds — which can be caused by small-arms fire, rockets, mortars, and other weaponry, though the Pentagon does not release specifics of how troops are injured — lines up with ongoing offensives against ISIS in the Iraqi city of Mosul and its Syrian capital of Raqqa.
US military officials have often downplayed the role of American troops in the region, saying they are there mainly to “advise and assist” Iraqi and Kurdish personnel fighting on the front lines.
The military has more than 5,000 troops on the ground in Iraq currently, a number which has steadily crept up since roughly 300 troops were deployed to secure the Baghdad airport in June 2014.
With 15 combat injuries, the Marine Corps has the most wounded in the campaign so far. The Army, Navy, and Air Force had 11, 3, and 1 wounded, respectively.
It’s been more than two decades since the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina ended, but Plamenko Priganica knows the enemy still lurks in the Majevica hills near his home in Tuzla.
Priganica is one of the thousands to have become a victim of land mines planted during the 1992-95 conflict that tore the country — and the former Yugoslavia — apart at its ethnic seams.
“The killer is still waiting 25 years after the war,” the 57-year-old, who lost his left leg below the knee, told RFE/RL from his home.
The Bosnian government’s Mine Action Strategy for 2009-19 was supposed to put an end to the fears of Priganica and the half a million other Bosnians who live in or around areas where leftover mines remain. Instead, the fields and forests where many still scavenge for wild strawberries and mushrooms are still littered with explosives.
The 2019 target set out in the strategy for clearing all remaining ordnance will be missed by several years, according to the Bosnia-Herzegovina Mine Action Center (BHMAC), amid a funding shortfall and political inaction.
By 2013, the center estimates that less than half of the funding needed for projects was realized, a percentage that has fallen since then. While part of the problem, BHMAC says, is a decrease in donor funding, the greater issue is with government contributions to the program.
“In looking at the 2009-19 strategy, we are lagging behind by about four years. There is a new strategy and under this strategy Bosnia and Herzegovina will be clean from mines by 2025,” says Miodrag Gajic, an information officer at the center.
BHMAC estimates that while around 2,900 square kilometers of land have been cleared of explosive materials, just over 1,000 square kilometers of Bosnia — or about 2.2 percent of the country — is still polluted by mines. Nearly 600 people have been killed by mines or unexploded bombs since the war ended and more than 1,100 others have been injured, according to the center.
The highest-risk zones are often forests where the front lines that separated warring factions once ran. These include municipalities such as Velika Kladusa, Orasje, and Doboj.
In March, a farmer in Tulic, near the city of Tuzla, was dragging firewood from a forest when his tractor hit a mine. The blast killed the driver.
Nizam Cancar, a deminer who lost his leg to an explosive device in 1994 during the war, says it’s easy for such accidents to happen.
Years of harsh weather conditions have muddled what few maps authorities have of mined areas. Devices, he says, can shift under such conditions, making a dangerous situation even more treacherous.
“It’s very difficult to find them. If you put them in a particular place 20 years ago, they are no longer there. It could move a meter or two in any direction,” he says.
The problem of land mines in Bosnia once attracted international attention.
This past summer marked the 20th anniversary of Princess Diana’s visit to Bosnia as part of her crusade against land mines. In her last overseas trip before she died in a Paris car crash in 1997, Diana met with victims in the small village of Dobrnja, near Tuzla.
One of those Diana met was Mirzeta Gabeljic.
In 1997, Gabeljic was a 15-year-old schoolgirl returning home when she stepped on a land mine. The blast took her right leg below the knee.
Like many victims, she has struggled since her accident, given the limited resources available from the state for amputees, although now she is looking to start the country’s first sitting volleyball club for women.
According to Priganica, the provision of orthopedic supplies have not improved in the 25 years since the war.
“They can be purchased abroad, but they are very expensive,” he says.
Adding to the problem is that the large number of humanitarian organizations that worked here after the war have left, he claims, “because the focus of their interest has moved somewhere else.”
Bosnia emerged from the breakup of the former Yugoslavia as Europe’s poorest country, with gross domestic product per capita at 28 percent of the European average. Unemployment is high and corruption rampant, stunting the development of social services for large swaths of the country.
Considering the tough economic times Bosnia currently faces, BHMAC’s Gajic hopes that help from other countries will once again increase.
“Within our new strategy, we plan to have a donor conference in mid-November. This is a date where I hope we will have more bountiful donor funds,” he says.
Time is also of the essence for a task that is painstakingly slow.
Deminers try to work eight-hour shifts, but the task is so intense and angst-ridden that they must take breaks every 30 minutes to remain focused.
Squatting and searching the ground while wearing protective suits that can weigh up to 25 kilograms, deminers probe about 2,500 times just to check just 1 square meter of ground. On a good day, they will cover 50 square meters, according to Nail Hujic, a technical director at INTERSOS, a nonprofit humanitarian aid organization.
The deminers, he says, must constantly assess the type of munition they may have to deal with, how it is placed in the ground, and even the possibility of deliberate traps laid by whoever planted the land mine.
“The result of all this, as well as of inadequate equipment and mental and physical fatigue among deminers, is frequent accidents,” Hujic says. “Unfortunately, we have to say that accidents are common in this line of work. They usually leave deminers severely physically disabled, although fatalities are less frequent.”
Even if foreign donors pony up the funds needed to jump-start the clearing program, the money will come too late for Asim Kudra, who lost his uncle to a land mine when he returned home after the war to Zlatiste, near Sarajevo.
Kudra says the area was demined, but residents still live in fear.
“You cannot say that it is safe for certain, because it isn’t,” he says.
Having fast hands and quick feet are just a few of the skill sets boxers need to possess to survive in the ring.
This month, sports fans are eagerly anticipating the much-talked-about Mayweather versus McGregor fight, so check out our list of men who went from serving their country, to “duking-it-out” in the ring.
During the early 1940s, Louis reportedly joined the Army after fighting in a Navy charity bout and was assigned to a segregated cavalry. He served proudly for the next fours years and earned himself the Legion of Merit medal for exceptionally meritorious conduct.
Fighting under the name “Kid Blackie” and “The Manassa Mauler,” Dempsey began his professional boxing career in 1914. During WWII, Dempsey joined the New York State National Guard before serving in the Coast Guard where he retired in 1953 reaching the rank of commander.
3. Ken Norton Sr.
Norton joined the Marine Corps in 1963 where he began to develop his boxing skills. Shortly after his discharge in 1967, Norton turned pro and started fighting elite boxers like Muhammed Ali. He retired in the early ’80s with the outstanding winning record of 42-7.
4. Rocky Marciano
Marciano was drafted into the Army in 1943 and discovered his boxing talent while stationed at Fort Lewis, Washington. In 1946, he dominated an amateur armed forces boxing tournament taking first place. After a brief hiatus to pursue a baseball career, Marciano eventually returned to boxing where he began racking up knock outs.
Spinks joined the Marine Corps in 1973, giving him an opportunity to develop his boxing skills. Spinks fought in the 1976 Olympic games in Montreal and squared off with the legendary Muhammed Ali who he beat after fighting for 15 brutal rounds.
Spinks retired from the sport of boxing in the mid-’90s with the record of 26-17.
Nicknamed “Semper Fi,” Herring began his boxing training in the early 2000s before enlisting in the Marine Corps where he served two tours in Iraq. During his time in the Marines, Herring found himself on the All Marine Corps boxing team and competing on the national stage.
After a routine training run in Alpena County, Michigan in late July, US Air National Guard Capt. Brett DeVries survived the perfect storm of malfunctions to safely land his A-10 Thunderbolt II on its belly without the benefit of landing gear.
During a training exercise where A-10 pilots practice dropping inert bombs and ripping the planes’ massive gun, DeVries’ gun malfunctioned. Moments later, his canopy blew off his plane as he flew along at 375 miles an hour, according to a US Air National Guard write up of the event.
The incredible winds smacked DeVries head against his seat, nearly incapacitating him. “It was like someone sucker punched me,” he said. “I was just dazed for a moment.”
DeVries wingman, Major Shannon Vickers, then flew under his plane to assess the damage, finding bad news. The panels under his plane had been damaged, and it was unclear if he would be able to lower his landing gear.
Meanwhile, DeVries struggled against the wind and having everything loose in his cockpit. He could no longer benefit from checklists, which had become a liability that could now potentially fly out and get stuck in his engine.
DeVries, having the flight from hell, had two of his radios go down and had to communicate with Vickers and flight control on his third backup system. They worked together to find him a nearby spot to land and Vickers observed that DeVries would not in fact be able to use his landing gear.
“I just thought, ‘There is no way this is happening right now.’ It all was sort of surreal, but at the same time, we were 100 percent focused on the task ahead of us,” Vickers said.
Miraculously, thanks to the meticulous training A-10 pilots undergo and the incredibly rugged design of the plane, DeVries walked away unscathed, and maintainers will be able to fix the plane.
Europe is wilting under record heat that has already sparked deadly fires and looks unlikely to relent any time soon.
The heat is exacerbating another problem that European countries have long dealt with: Still-potent weaponry left over from World War II.
At the end of July 2018, firefighters grappling with a forest fire southwest of Berlin were further challenged by unexploded World War II ammunition still buried there.
Firefighters had trouble getting inside a pine forest near Fichtenwalde, which is about 22 miles from the German capital, because of safety concerns. There were signs that some explosives had already gone off because of the fire.
The fire came within about a half-mile of the village of Fichtenwald before firefighters were able to halt the flames. Because of the leftover ammunition, they employed an extinguishing tank — a tracked vehicle used by emergency responders in dangerous situations. Such tanks are sometimes built on the frame of a battle tank.
The fire, which may have been sparked by a discarded cigarette, also caused road congestion and closures, but firefighters were able to contain it after four days, withdrawing on July 30, 2018.
Residents of Fichtenwalde and the firefighters who battled the flames there are not only ones who’ve been exposed to leftover munitions because of the heat.
The heatwave in Germany has driven water levels so low along the Elbe River that weapons and ammunition from World War II have started to emerge. At the city of Magdeburg, the water level is just a few centimeters above the historic low measured in 1934.
In Saxony-Anhalt in eastern Germany, police have warned people not to touch the grenades, mines, or other weapons that have started to appear. Munitions were found five places at the end of July 2018, and over the past few weeks there have been 24 such finds , compared to 12 during all of 2017. Specialists are working overtime to deal with the munitions — sometimes defusing them where they’re found.
A police spokeswoman from the region said most of the munitions were discovered by people walking through areas usually covered by water, but some people had gone out in search of leftover explosives. “This is forbidden and dangerous,” the spokeswoman said.
Even after decades underwater, the weapons can still be active — in some cases, sediment can build up and obscure rusted exteriors and the dangerous components inside. “Found ammunition is always dangerous,” the spokeswoman said.
Dense smoke over Lithi village during a wildfire on Chios island, Greece.
Little relief on the horizon
Temperatures in Saxony-Anhalt hit a high for the year so far on July 31, 2018, and the month of July 2018 is expected to be one of the hottest months on record for Germany. Temperatures are expected to remain high in the coming days, though below record levels.
The heatwave being felt in Germany has hit much of the continent, creating all sorts of problems.
Authorities in Poland banned swimming on some beaches along the Baltic during the final days of July 2018, as unusually warm weather had stoked the growth of toxic bacteria in the water. The Rhine and Elbe rivers have also soaked up so much heat that fish living in them have started to suffocate .
In Zurich, Switzerland, police dogs were issued special shoes to keep them from burning their paws on sweltering pavement. Swiss authorities have also canceled fireworks displays out of concern they could spark forest fires. Norwegian officials have warned drivers to watch out for reindeer and sheep trying to escape the heat in tunnels.
Mediterranean countries are issuing warnings for temperatures expected to top 104 degrees Fahrenheit in early August 2018.
Italy has given a red alert — the highest of its three warning levels — for the country’s center and north.
In Portugal — where blazes killed 114 people in 2017 — officials are warning that record heat in the coming days will create a high risk of forest fires. Nearly 11,000 firefighters and 56 aircraft are standing by.
The worst of the hit in Iberia is expected to hit Spain, where at least 27 of 50 provinces have been declared under “extreme risk” from high temperatures.
Wildfires in Greece killed 91 people in June 2018.
Sweden has also seen some of its worst wildfires in decades, including some blazes above the Arctic Circle (though recent rains have improved the situation). The fires overwhelmed responders and prompted some unusual measures.
Today, the modern soldier wakes up, eats chow, goes through a day of training with his or her squad before resting up. They follow this schedule every day from Monday to Friday. If the troop is on a deployment, they could work anywhere from 12 to 18 hours (if not more) per day, seven days a week, for nearly a year.
It’s a tough lifestyle.
Once a troop fulfills their service commitment, they can be honorably discharged or reenlist — the choice is theirs.
Now, let’s rewind time to around 15 C.E. The Roman Empire is thriving and you’re an infantryman serving in the Imperial Roman army under Emperor Tiberius. In many ways, life was quite different for the average sword-wielding soldier when compared to today’s modern troop. In other ways, however, things were very much the same.
Many young Romans joined the army at the age of 18. Of them, most were poor men with little-to-no life prospects due to being born into a family of low standing. Once they became soldiers, Roman troops had to overcome 36 kilometer (22 miles) marches in full battle rattle.
For these ancient troops, a full loadout consisted of body armor, a gladius (sword),a scutum (shield), and two pilum (spears). This gear weighed upwards of 44 pounds. To add to that weight, troops carried a scarina (backpack), which contained rations and any other tools needed to serve the Roman officers.
At the end of each grueling march, soldiers set up camp to get some rest. Men were assigned to stand watch and look over the others, the gear, and the animals hauling the heavy equipment. Being ambushed in the middle of the night was a constant possibility.
Like most troops, they feared the unknown. At any given moment, they could encounter a fierce battle, contract sickness from other soldiers or the environment, or be left to endure the elements. It was a consist struggle to survive in a cutthroat world that was all about expanding the Roman Empire.
In their downtime, most men would gamble, play instruments, or talk about future plans. If the soldiers served for their full 25-year commitment, they would receive several acres of land on which to retire — but surviving to the end was considered a longshot.
So, in many ways, the typical Roman infantryman was a lot like the ground pounders of today — only they were stuck in the suck for longer.
The venerable Sea Cobra first flew in 1969. Now, 50 years later, it’s descendant the Super Cobra is still a mainstay of Marine offense and defense, using missiles to destroy enemy strong points and firing its cannon to break up maneuver forces trying to hit American lines. Here are 11 photos from the Super Cobras of today and history.
(U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Jason Grogan)
AH-1W Super Cobra sends 2.75-inch rockets into an enemy mortar position during a close air support mission at Wadi-us-Salaam cemetery, near Najaf, Iraq, in Aug. 2004.
The Sea and Super Cobra variants of the AH-1 have decades of service. But their predecessor, the AH-1 Cobra, dates back even further to Vietnam. It was originally pitched to the Army as the UH-1G, basically a “tweaked” utility helicopter.
While anyone with eyes could easily see the design was something new, Bell had just lost an attack helicopter competition to Lockheed, and a brand new attack helicopter would’ve required another competition, delaying the weapon’s debut and potentially setting up the craft for a loss to another manufacturer. So Bell played fast and loose with the rules and the Army played along.
(U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Reece Lodder)
An AH-1W Super Cobra helicopter and UH-1Y Huey helicopter fly off the coast of the island of Oahu, toward Marine Corps Base Hawaii during maintenance and readiness flights, June 13, 2013.
But the Army eventually admitted the UH-1G Huey Cobra was an all-new craft, and it was re-designated the AH-1. According to an Air Space history, “Cobras would launch with twice as much ammunition as Huey gunships, would get to the target in half the time, and could linger there three times longer.” Troops loved it.
The Marines in Vietnam loved the helicopter as much as soldiers did, but when the Corps went shopping, they wanted a bird with two engines so that an engine failure between ship and shore wouldn’t doom the crew.
And so the AH-1J Sea Cobra was born, first flying in 1969 and making its combat debut in 1975, barely making it into the Vietnam War. Over the following years, the Marines upgraded the guns, missiles, and rockets and proceeded to the AH-1W Super Cobra designation in 1986.
(U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Patrick Dionne)
Aviation Boatswain’s Mate 1st Class Patrick Henry braces Airmen Andrew Jerauld as he signals to an AH-1W Super Cobra helicopter as it lands on the flight deck of the amphibious transport dock ship USS Green Bay.
But the era of the Super Cobra is coming to an end. With the debut of the AH-1Z, the Marine Corps moved to the “Viper” designation, and the Vipers have already proven themselves in combat. So the last Super Cobras in the American inventory, the AH-1Ws, are slated to be pulled from active units in 2020 and sold or gifted to overseas allies.
(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Matthew Casbarro)
A Marine Corps AH-1W Super Cobra helicopter supports a beach assault during Rim of the Pacific 2016, a maritime exercise in Hawaii, July 30, 2016.
Typically, it carries the 20mm cannon as well as pods for 2.75-inch Hydra rockets and Hellfire missiles, but it can still carry and employ those other missiles and rockets easily when necessary, giving commanders a flexible, fast platform that can kill everything from enemy radar sites to helicopters to ground troops and vehicles.
(U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Gabriela Garcia)
U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Philip A. Gilbert supervises the preflight ground maintenance of an AH-1W Super Cobra helicopter on Camp Bastion in Helmand province, Afghanistan, June 24, 2013.
Updates to the AH-1W granted it the ability to see in night vision and infrared, helping pilots to more quickly acquire and destroy targets at night or in bad weather. During Operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield, 48 AH-1Ws destroyed 97 tanks, 104 armored personnel carriers and other vehicles, 16 bunkers, and two anti-aircraft artillery sites with zero losses.
(U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Mackenzie Gibson)
A UH-1Y Venom and an AH-1W Super Cobra shoot 2.75 inch rockets through the night sky and meet their targets during close air support training operations at a range near Fort Drum, N.Y., March 16, 2017.
Typically, the AH-1Ws, and now the AH-1Z Vipers, are deployed alongside UH-1s in Marine light attack helicopter squadrons. These units specialize in close air support, reconnaissance, and even air interdiction. The Super Cobras’ Sidewinder missiles are crucial for that last mission, allowing the Marine pilots to take out enemy jets and helicopters.
(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Samuel A. Nasso)
A U.S. Marine Corps Bell UH-1Y Huey helicopter and a Bell AH-1W Super Cobra take off on one of the first flights for the new Huey from Bastion Airfield, Helmand Province, Afghanistan in 2009.
While the Super Cobras are faster and have more weapons, the Hueys can carry multiple gunners which can spray fire in all directions. And the UH-1Y Hueys can also carry and deploy up to 10 Marines each, allowing the helicopters to drop an entire squad on the ground and then protect it as it goes to work.
(U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Kevin Jones)
An AH-1W Super Cobra Helicopter takes part in a live fire exercise at Pohakuloa Training Area, Hawaii, May 15, 2013.
The aircraft can fly up to 18,700 feet above sea level, allowing it to clear many mountain ranges while serving on the frontlines. But commanders have to be careful sending the helicopter into the thin air that high as its crews aren’t typically equipped with the robust oxygen equipment of bombers or jet fighters. So the Super Cobras try to stay at 10,000 feet or below.
Check out more photos of the Super Cobra:
(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Ashley McLaughlin)
(U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Russell Midori)
(U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sergeant Dean B. Verschoor)
The 2018 Invictus Games started Oct. 20, 2018, and competitors, staff members, family and friends are excited for the fourth iteration of this international competition. With a record 18 allied nations participating, the Invictus Games has grown immensely in popularity and stature since its inaugural event in London in 2014. It has become the pinnacle event for many wounded, ill and injured service members around the world who compete in adaptive sports.
“Being here in Sydney and at the Invictus Games is such a different level,” said retired Maj. Christina Truesdale, who is among those competing at the Invictus Games for the first time this year. “The human connection is unreal. Everyone is so friendly and it’s all hugs, love and respect for each other.”
Truesdale discovered adaptive sports in the fall of 2017 while recovering from a tethered spinal cord and traumatic brain injuries at the Warrior Transition Battalion, Fort Benning, Georgia. She has since made huge strides in her adaptive sports journey. After competing at the 2018 Department of Defense Warrior Games in Colorado Springs, Colorado and in multiple cycling races, this will be Truesdale’s first taste of international competition.
“I’ve trained with expectations and I hope I win a medal, but I have to remember, I’m here in Sydney at the Invictus Games with so many other awesome athletes. It’s a great experience and it’s important to live in and enjoy the moment,” she added.
U.S. Army Maj. Christina Truesdale pushes through the second of three grueling laps on the cycling course before gutting out a bronze medal in her upright classification during the cycling event June 6, 2018, at the 2018 Department of Defense Warrior Games. She is competing in the Invictus Games, happening Oct. 20-27, 2018.
(U.S. Army photo by Robert Whetstone)
Another first time Invictus Games participant is U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Altermese Kendrick, who recovered at the Warrior Transition Battalion, Fort Hood, Texas after suffering a hip labrum tear and back injuries. She competed at both the 2017 and 2018 DOD Warrior Games and is also excited to have reached the next level, achieving her goal of representing Team USA and checking a visit to Australia off her bucket list.
“It’s an honor and privilege to represent my country and compete alongside the different services [instead of against them at Warrior Games],” Kendrick said. “Competing at the Invictus Games is a way for me to show what I’ve learned and showcase what the coaches have taught me and what I’ve worked so hard to achieve.”
One of the most exciting elements of the Invictus Games, according to both women and many other competitors, is getting to know wounded, ill and injured service members from other countries. “I’ve been making it a point to meet people from the other teams and learn about them, hear about their countries, experiences, and build bonds with others across the world,” Kendrick said.
Truesdale added, “It’s interesting to interact with others you know are on a similar journey as you. They may not speak the same language, but we all identify with each other because we’ve all served and been through something.”
For the 500-plus athletes competing in the games, each of them is ready for their opportunity to show the world their unconquered spirit — but for Kendrick, just having that chance is what it is all about.
“I’m going to love every microsecond of the Invictus Games experience. I’ve worked hard to get here and whether I win a medal or not, it’s already mission accomplished.”
The Army is fast-tracking an emerging program to engineer a longer-range artillery cannon able to out range enemy ground forces by hitting targets at more than twice the distance of existing artillery.
The service is now prototyping an Extended Range Cannon Artillery weapons with a larger caliber tube and new grooves to hang weights for gravity adjustments to the weapon — which is a modified M777A2 mobile howitzer.
Existing 155m artillery rounds, fired with precision from mobile and self-propelled howitzer platforms, have a maximum range of about 30km; the new ERCA weapon is designed to hit ranges greater than 70km, Army developers said.
“When you are talking about doubling the range you need a longer tube and a larger caliber. We will blend this munition with a howitzer and extend the range. We are upgrading the breach and metallurgy of the tube, changing the hydraulics to handle increased pressure and using a new ram jet projectile — kind of like a rocket,” a senior Army weapons developer told Warrior Maven in an interview.
The modification adds 1,000 pounds to the overall weight of the weapon and an additional six feet of cannon tube. The ERCA systems also uses a redesigned cab, new breech design and new “muzzle break,” the official explained.
“The ERCA program develops not only the XM907 cannon but also products, such as the XM1113 rocket assisted projectile, the XM654 supercharge, an autoloader, and new fire control system,” an Army statement said.
As part of an effort to ensure the heavy M777 is sufficiently mobile, the Army recently completed a “mobility” demonstration of ERCA prototypes.
The service demonstrated a modified M777A2 Howitzer with an integration kit for the mass mock-up of the modified XM907 ERCA cannon at Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona.
“Their [user] concern is that when the self-propelled program is done they will be left with a towed cannon variant that they can’t tow around, which is its number one mode of transportation,” David Bound, M777ER Lead, Artillery Concepts and Design Branch, which is part of the Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center, or ARDEC, said in an Army statement.
The ERCA is currently being configured to fire from an M109a8 Self-Propelled Howitzer, using a 58-Cal. tube; the existing M109a7, called the Paladin Integrated Management, fires a 39-Cal. weapon.
ERCA changes the Army’s land war strategic calculus in a number of key respects, by advancing the Army’s number one modernization priority – long-range precision fires. This concept of operations is intended to enable mechanized attack forces and advancing infantry with an additional stand-0ff range or protective sphere with which to conduct operations. Longer range precision fire can hit enemy troop concentrations, supply lines and equipment essential to a coordinated attack, while allowing forces to stay farther back from incoming enemy fire.
A 70-kilometer target range is, by any estimation, a substantial leap forward for artillery; when GPS guided precision 155mm artillery rounds, such as Excalibur, burst into land combat about ten years ago — its strike range was reported at roughly 30 kilometers. A self-propelled Howitzer able to hit 70-kilometers puts the weapon on par with some of the Army’s advanced land-based rockets — such as its precision-enabled Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System which also reaches 70-kilometers.
In a modern threat environment, wherein near-peer and smaller-level rivals increasingly possess precision-guided land weapons, longer-range C4ISR technology and drone weapons, increasing range is a ubiquitous emphasis across the Army and other services. Russia’s violations of the INF treaty, new S-500 air defenses, new Armata tanks and fast growing attack drone fleet — all point to a growing need for the US to outrange and outgun potential adversaries.
In fact, senior Army developers specifically say that the ERCA program is, at least in part, designed to enable the Army to out-range rival Russian weapons. The Russian military is currently producing its latest howitzer cannon, the 2S33 Msta-SM2 variant; it is a new 2A79 152mm cannon able to hit ranges greater than 40km, significantly greater than the 25km range reachable by the original Russian 2S19 Msta – which first entered service in the late 1980s, according to data from globalsecurity.org.
Early 2018, statements from the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation said that 2S19 Msta-S modernized self-propelled howitzers were fielded near Volgograd, Russia. The 2S19 Msta-S howitzers are equipped with an automated fire control system with an increased rate of fire, digital electronic charts, ballistic computers and satellite navigation systems, the report says.
Therefore, doing the simple math, a 70km US Army ERCA weapon would appear to substantially outrange the 40km Msta-S modern Russian howitzer.
(photo from Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation)
While senior Army weapons developers welcome the possibility of longer-range accurate artillery fire, they also recognize that its effectiveness hinges upon continued development of sensor, fire control and target technology.
“Just because I can shoot farther, that does not mean I solve the issue. I have to acquire the right target. We want to be able to hit moving targets and targets obscured by uneven terrain,” the senior Army developer said.
Multi-domain warfare is also integral to the strategic impetus for the new ERCA weapon; longer range land weapons can naturally better enable air attack options.
Operating within this concept, former Army TRADOC Commander Gen. David Perkins and Air Force Air Combat Command Commanding General James Holmes launched a new series of tabletop exercises several months ago — designed to to replicate and explore these kinds of future warfare scenarios. The project is oriented toward exploring the kind of conflicts expected to require technologically advanced Army-Air Force integration.
In a previous Pentagon report, Holmes said the joint wargaming effort will “turn into a doctrine and concept that we can agree on.”
Such a development would mark a substantial step beyond prior military thinking, which at times over the years has been slightly more stove-piped in its approach to military service doctrines.
Interestingly, the new initiative may incorporate and also adjust some of the tenants informing the 1980’s Air-Land Battle Doctrine; this concept, which came to fruition during the Cold War, was focused on integrated air-ground combat coordination to counter a large, mechanized force in major warfare. While AirLand battle was aimed primarily at the Soviet Union decades ago, new Army-Air Force strategy in today’s threat environment will also most certainly address the possibility of major war with an advanced adversary like Russia or China.
Jumping more than 40 years into the future beyond AirLand Battle into to today’s threat climate, the notion of cross-domain warfare has an entirely new and more expansive meaning. No longer would the Air Force merely need to support advancing armored vehicles with both air cover and forward strikes, as is articulated in Air-Land Battle, but an Air Force operating in today’s war environment would need to integrate multiple new domains, such as cyber and space.In fact, the Army’s new Operations 3.0 doctrine already explores this phenomenon, as it seeks to pivot the force from more than a decade of counterinsurgency to preparedness for massive force-on-force warfare.
After all, drones, laser attacks, cyber intrusions and electronic warfare (EW) tactics were hardly on the map in the 1980s. Forces today would need to harden air-ground communications against cyber and EW attacks, network long-range sensor and targeting technology and respond to technologically-advanced near-peer attack platforms, such as 5th-generation stealth fighters or weaponized space assets.
In a concurrent related effort, the Army is also engineering a adaptation to existing 155mm rounds which will extend range an additional 10km out to 40km.
Fired from an existing Howitzer artillery cannon, the new XM1113 round uses ram jet rocket technology to deliver more thrust to the round.
“The XM1113 uses a large high-performance rocket motor that delivers nearly three times the amount of thrust when compared to the legacy M549A1 RAP,” Ductri Nguyen, XM1113 Integrated Product Team Lead.” “Its exterior profile shape has also been streamlined for lower drag to achieve the 40-plus kilometers when fired from the existing fielded 39-caliber 155mm weapon systems.”
Soldiers can also integrate the existing Precision Guidance Kit to the artillery shells as a way to add a GPS-guided precision fuse to the weapon. The new adapted round also uses safer Insensitive Munition Explosives.
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.