The US' most powerful helicopter ever enters service next year - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

The US’ most powerful helicopter ever enters service next year

The Marine Corps is nearing the end of testing for a new heavy-lift helicopter expected to be a game-changer for the service.

The CH-53K King Stallion is on track to enter service in 2019, replacing aging and worn CH-53 Echo heavy-lift helicopters.


While the aircrafts look similar, and have comparable footprints, program managers said April 9, 2018, at the annual Sea-Air-Space exposition that the new aircraft represents a leap forward in capability and intelligence.

“[This is] the most powerful helicopter the United States has ever fielded,” said Marine Col. Hank Vanderborght, the Corps’ H-53 program manager. “Not only the most powerful, the most modern and also the smartest.”

The King Stallion recently lifted an external load of 36,000 pounds into a hover and hoisted a Joint Light Tactical Vehicle into the air, expanding a capability envelope that is ultimately expected to see the new helicopter carrying three times the load that its predecessor could handle.

The US’ most powerful helicopter ever enters service next year
A CH-53K King Stallion aircraft prepares to land at Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation, Jupiter, Fla., March 8, 2016.
(US Marine Corps photo)

With flight tests ongoing since October 2015, the King Stallion has logged more than 800 flight hours and is headed into the final stages of testing before initial operational capability sometime in 2019

Smart controls and a fly-by-wire system make the aircraft safer to fly and decrease the workload for the pilot, Vanderborght said.

“A month ago, I got to fly the 53K for the first time,” said Vanderborght, a CH-53E pilot by trade. “It is absolutely night and day between Echo and the Kilo. I could have pretty much flown the entire flight without touching my controls.”

That matters, he said, because in “99-plus percent” of aviation mishaps, a major cause is human error.

“In degraded visual environments, we lose sight of the ground and crash the aircraft. If you’re able to take the human out of the loop, you’re going to increase that safety factor by multiple Xs,” he said. “That’s what the 53K is going to do for the Marines.”

The CH-53K is equipped to fly so the pilot “pretty much could be sipping on a martini while the aircraft does its thing,” Vanderborght said.

All that capability comes with a price tag, but it’s not as high as some feared it would be.

In 2017, Rep. Niki Tsongas, D-Mass., raised concerns that the per unit cost for the King Stallion was climbing, to $122 million apiece in development. Program officials said the aircraft was never set to cost that much in production.

Vanderborght said the unit cost of the aircraft is now set to come in at $87 million. While that means the King Stallion will still be the most expensive helo the Marine Corps has ever bought, it’s below the service’s initial cost estimate of $89 million in production.

MIGHTY HISTORY

5 of the deadliest mercenary armies throughout history

Mercenaries are warriors who are paid for their martial services by a nation’s leader or other “employer,” and who get a little extra coin from the spoils of war.


Most mercenaries once fought in professional armies before joining the motley ranks of private forces. They have no allegiance to a nation unless that nation pays well, and even that is transient.

But throughout history they’ve been seen as skilled warriors — albeit dubious about ethical conduct — and have proven effective for leaders who need an extra punch in an all out fight.

Here is a list of some of the most notable mercenaries in history:

5. The Apiru/Habiru

The US’ most powerful helicopter ever enters service next year

When the Amarna Letters were discovered, the world was introduced to a group of people the Egyptians called Apiru or, in Akkadian, “Habiru.”

The Habiru were described as a group of Asiatics wandering about the Levant, much like the Hebrews. The Sumerians were the first to mention this group as the SA.GAZ as far back as 2500 BCE. Hittite texts also refer to them as SA.GAZ. Texts found at Boghazkoi in Anatolia use both names, Habiru and SA.GAZ, interchangeably. The term also is associated with the Akkadian habbatu (“plunderer” or “robber”) or saggasu (“murderer”).

Instead, SA.GAZ means “one who smashes sinews;” this is typically in reference to a small band of soldiers who are employed as local mercenaries. This wandering body lived on the social fringes of civilization.

Also read: This is what you need to know about Hawaii’s ancient special forces

The Habiru were indeed an enemy to many, but a useful and complex one.

The philosopher Martin Buber described them as, “…people without a country, who have dissociated themselves from their national connections and unite in common journeys for pasture and plunder; semi-nomadic herdsmen they are, or freebooters if opportunity offers.”

While it’s well documented that the Habiru were viewed as landless undesirables who at times served as mercenaries in military ranks throughout the Near East and Egypt, it was their civil skills that were often overlooked and most desired. While it is tempting to correlate the Habiru with the Bedouin, that’s not always accurate.

The Habiru traveled in much larger groups and their social structure was complex. They were highly skilled pastoral people who were tenders of cattle, vintners, stonecutters, stockbreeders, agriculturalists, merchants, construction workers, skilled government employees, and fishermen.

4. The Ten Thousand

The US’ most powerful helicopter ever enters service next year
Heroic march of the Ten Thousand Greek mercenaries. (Painting by Bernard Granville Baker (1870-1957)

The “Mighty” Ten Thousand were mentioned in Xenophon’s Anabasis. The Ten Thousand, according to Xenophon, were a mixed bag of motley Greek warriors hired by Cyrus the Younger to help oust his brother King Artaxerxes II from the Persian throne.

In 401 B.C., the hardened Greek veterans of the Peloponnesian War fought alongside Cyrus near Baghdad against the Persian forces led by Artaxerxes. While the Ten Thousand fought bravely, it was not enough; Cyrus was killed in the battle. Afterwards, Tissaphernes, a local satrap (governor), met with the Greek commanders to negotiate new terms, but Tissaphernes refused their services and they were murdered.

Once word of the event got out, the Greeks elected new leaders and fled.

As the forces of Artaxerxes were pursuing them, the Ten Thousand banded together and fought their way out of enemy territory. Once Xenophon had been elected as one of their new leaders, the mercenary army embarked on a grueling nine-month journey that took them from the province of Babylonia all the way to the Greek Black Sea port at Trapezus.

During their journey, they fought off bad weather, famine, ambushes, and hallucinogenic honey. Once back on friendly soil, only three-fourths of their numbers remained.

3. The Varangian Guard

The US’ most powerful helicopter ever enters service next year
Varangian Guardsmen, an elite unit that served as bodyguards for Byzantine Emperors. (Image: an illumination from the Skylitzis Chronicle)

The Varangians were an elite guard that one served as the personal bodyguards of Byzantine rulers from the 10th to the 14th centuries. When not protecting the ruler, they were sent to the front in times of war to protect and expand the borders of the Byzantine Empire.

The Varangians were Swedish merchants who penetrated eastern Russia. Their story begins in 874 when the Kievan Rus and Constantinople established a peace treaty in which the Kievan Rus was obliged to send the Byzantines military assistance, but it would not be for some time. The first appearance of Varangians acting in the interest of the Byzantine state was during the reign of Emperor Michael III (842–867), in which they served as his personal security entourage. This peace opened the door for the Kievan Rus not only economically but also militarily. The establishment of the Varangian guard as permanent security organization started in 911.

What made the guard so exceptional was their loyalty to the emperor. Of course, if one is being paid a substantial wage while allowing the best pickings of loot from pillage cities, ones loyalty is hard to sway. They were instrumental in keeping the empire together and requiring lost territory, but also in protecting the Byzantine throne. However, the Varangians’ time would soon end after the sacking of Constantinople in 1204 by Western Europeans during the Fourth Crusade; the Varangians never fully regained their once regal position and eventually faded away.

2. The White Company

The US’ most powerful helicopter ever enters service next year
John Hawkwood lead The White Company, a fighting unit shrouded in both myth and reality. (Image: Funerary Monument to Sir John Hawkwood by Paolo Uccello, 1436)

The famed mercenary leader John Hawkwood was in charge of the infamous White Company. The White Company was one of the most notorious mercenary groups of the so-called “free companies” to conduct warfare in 14th century Italy. The unit first rose to prominence in the 1360s under the leadership of Albert Sterz before falling under the command of Sir John Hawkwood. John Hawkwood was an Englishman who served in the English army during the Hundred Years’ War, and he was knighted for his service.

Once Hawkwood took command of the White Company, they soon became known as an elite (if not the elite) mercenary army in Italy. The cultural makeup of the White Company was an amalgamation of English, German, Breton, and Hungarian adventurers. These well-trained mercenaries provided a combined arms approach to warfare. Their swift tactics and willingness to fight in harsh conditions terrified opponents.

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What made the White Company so effective in 14th Century Italy is because Italia was fractured into many small provinces and city-states. Loyalties swayed as quick as the wind and because of this, Hawkwood saw the lucrative benefits awaiting him. From 1363 and 1388, Hawkwood’s While Company fought nearly nonstop, for and/or against the Papal States, the city of Milan, and the city of Florence.

1. Henry MacIver

The US’ most powerful helicopter ever enters service next year
Henry Ronald Douglas McIver (1841–1907) was a soldier of fortune who fought for 18 countries. (Image courtesy of Richard Harding Davis’ “Real Soldiers of Fortune”)

Most people have never heard of Henry MacIver had it not been for author Richard Davis and his book Real Soldiers Of Fortune published in 1906.

MacIver was born in Virginia in 1841. Much later in his life, his family sent him to finish his education with his uncle General Donald Graham. The reason for this is once MacIver had finished with school he would be sent to West Point. However, MacIver ditched West Point and joined the army of the East India Company. He was only 16 years old.

While with the East India Company, he would see his first action at age 17 during the Sepoy Mutiny. MacIver nearly died after being seriously wounded in the arm and head. Not long after, he made his way to Italy, where he fought alongside Giuseppe Garibaldi.

After mixed success, he found his way under the command of the Don Carlos, who was the pretender for the Spanish crown. In 1861, Civil War broke out in the United States and MacIver made his way to join the Confederacy, in which he served with distinction.

After the war was over, MacIver fled to Mexico and joined Emperor Maximilian and his war against the Juarez rebels. However, his fighting was short-lived. He was captured by Indians, but he would escape three months later and rejoin Maximilian’s forces. He would be given the title of Count for his valiant efforts on the field of battle at Monterrey.

Related: Shaolin monks have a colorful history as elite martial artists

Soon after, the Juarez rebels won the war and executed Emperor Maximilian. MacIver fled for South America and laid low for a time.

When the Russo-Turkish War (1877–1878) broke out, MacIver made his way to the Balkans and offered his services to the Serbians. He was given the rank of colonel and led a company of volunteers but would soon rise to the rank of general and cavalry commander of the Serbian contingents. MacIver considered this the highest point of his career and was his happiest.

After Serbia, MacIver raised more volunteers and planned further expeditions in Central America. Before that could happen, however, he found himself serving as the United States Consul. He would offer his services once again to President McKinley during the Spanish-American War of 1898.

By this time, he had grown older and his services on the field of battle were not needed. MacIver would go on to find more lucrative enterprises elsewhere in the America’s but as Davis says, MacIver’s “…life is, and, from the nature of his profession, must always be, a lonely one. Still he has his sword, his blanket, and in the event of war, to obtain a commission he has only to open his tin boxes and show the commissions already won. Indeed, any day, in a new uniform, and under the Nineteenth Flag, the general may again be winning fresh victories and honors.”

MacIver would die the following year in 1907, but is remembered as a true soldier of fortune.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Defectors living openly in US happens ‘far more often than people would think’

A former Russian official whose background matches descriptions of a high-level CIA spy hurriedly extracted from Russia has been living openly outside Washington, DC, under his own name.

According to documents from a 2017 real-estate purchase reviewed by Insider, Oleg Smolenkov bought a house in the DC area in 2018 for $925,000.

Intelligence sources told Insider that such a situation — a former agent living under his own name — was less unusual than it might at first appear, partly because of precedent and the unique personality type of high-level sources.


Smolenkov was named in Russian media Sep. 10, 2019, as a possible identity of the extracted spy. Reuters and the BBC were among Western outlets to also report the name.

A spokesman for the Kremlin said Smolenkov had worked for the Russian state but reportedly dismissed reports that a high-level spy had been extracted as “pulp fiction.”

The US’ most powerful helicopter ever enters service next year

Smolenkov was named in the wake of reports by The New York Times and CNN that described an unnamed Russian official who worked for the CIA for decades before fleeing to the US in the wake of the 2016 presidential election.

The descriptions from Russia of Smolenkov’s work for the Kremlin, the timing of his disappearance in 2017, and his presence in the suburbs of Washington, DC, appear to match the reports.

When an NBC News reporter knocked on the door of the Smolenkov house Sep. 9, 2019, he was intercepted by unidentified men asking what he was doing.

Two former FBI officials told NBC News that they thought the man in Virginia was the intelligence asset.

That asset is reported to have supplied critical information that helped shape the US government’s understanding of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

The asset’s identity remains unconfirmed. Among assets in a similar position, however, the practice of living openly in a Western country under a real name would not be unusual, according to a former US Drug Enforcement Agency agent who regularly ran intelligence and drug-cartel sources.

“Not shocking at all to those of us who have been there,” said the former member of the DEA’s special-operations division, which handles high-level investigations and sources.

“A guy like Smolenkov spent decades working his way to the top of the Russian government and succeeded while also being an asset for the CIA,” the source said. He asked for anonymity to protect former sources and assets around the world.

“That level of political success at the same time he knew every day for decades he could be revealed and arrested usually requires a special level of ego and appetite for risk,” the source said.

“So it’s not shocking that the first reports said he turned down a chance in 2016 to escape before being convinced by the media coverage that he finally had to go in 2017. Getting him to give up that level of status inside his own homeland along with the status he secretly held with the CIA … it’s a powerful combination.”

Three other former intelligence agents contacted by Insider were less willing to talk about the story, which immediately grabbed the attention of the media and intelligence circles Sep. 9, 2019.

But all three noted that Russian intelligence assets tended to keep their identities intact after defection despite usual pleas from their handlers to adopt fake names and go into hiding.

All three noted that the Russian defectors Sergei Skripal and Alexander Litvinenko lived openly in the UK after fleeing Russia and continued to consult for intelligence services and private companies under their own names.

The US’ most powerful helicopter ever enters service next year

Footage of Sergei Skripal’s 2006 trial.

(Sky News)

Both men were poisoned in cases where UK has blamed the Russian state.

Skripal and his daughter narrowly survived a nerve-agent poisoning in 2018, while Litvinenko died in 2006 after drinking tea laced with radioactive poison.

“It’s unlikely that someone with the level of ambition to rise that high in the Kremlin while working as an agent for the Americans would want to easily drop the social status that came with both sides of their double life,” the former DEA agent said.

“And it gets even harder to convince them they’re actually threatened and need to go into deep witness-protection programs if they have families that probably didn’t know they were working for another country on the side.

“Then you add that these are people rather used to risk and living off their wits and so ego plays a huge role.”

When asked how often high-level defectors refused to completely abandon their old life and identity, the former DEA agent said “far more often than people would think.”

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

6 things you didn’t know about G Shock watches



The US’ most powerful helicopter ever enters service next year

Ibe wearing the classic G Shock “Square” (Casio)

1. They were invented after an accident

Casio engineer Kikuo Ibe conceptualized the G Shock watch after he tragically dropped a pocket watch given to him by his father. With his family heirloom broken, Ibe was inspired to change the identity of the timepiece from a fragile piece of horological jewelry to a tough and reliable gadget accessible to anyone and everyone. In 1981, Project Team Tough was formed to make this idea a reality. After two years and over 200 prototypes, the team finally released the first G Shock watch model DW-5000C (DW standing for Digital Water resistant) in April 1983.

The US’ most powerful helicopter ever enters service next year

The many layers of G Shock toughness (Casio)

2. All G Shocks must adhere to the “Triple 10” philosophy

When Ibe set the standards for this new tough watch, he developed what is known as the “Triple 10” philosophy. The watch had to be water-resistant to 10 bar (100 meters), possess a 10-year battery life and, of course, withstand a 10 meter drop. Note that the 10-year battery life is from the time the battery is fitted in the factory. If a G Shock has been sitting on the PX shelf for a few years, your mileage may vary. Of course, the “Triple 10” philosophy is a minimum standard and many G Shocks surpass it.

3. They are certified for space travel by NASA

That’s right, the humble G Shock is a certified astronaut watch. Specifically, the DW-5600C, DW-5600E, DW-5900, DW-6600 and DW-6900 models are all flight-qualified for NASA space travel. The G Shock is joined by the Timex Ironman and the more famous Omega Speedmaster Professional and Speedmaster Skywalker X-33 on the prestigious list of NASA-approved watches.

4. They are the choice of Special Forces

Ok, you probably knew this one. After all, most people who wear the uniform also strap a G Shock to their wrist. Operators like Marcus Luttrell, Grady Powell and Jared Ogden have all been pictured sporting the tough G Shock. It’s always nice to remember though, that even if you can’t grow out a cool-guy beard, walk around with your hands in your pockets, or run around on secret squirrel missions like the tier one elite, the G Shock on your wrist was made in the same factory as the one that they’re wearing.

5. It holds a world record

In order to prove the toughness of G Shocks, Casio subjected a classic G Shock DW-5600E-1 “Square” to the most extreme test in the pursuit of the Guinness World Record title for the heaviest vehicle to drive over a watch. In order to break the record, the watch had to be running properly after being driven over by at least a 20-ton truck. On October 30, 2017, the “Square” was placed face-up and run over by three tires of a 24.97-ton truck. The watch sustained no significant damage and functioned normally, claiming the world record.

The US’ most powerful helicopter ever enters service next year

The gold G Shock still adheres to the “Triple 10” philosophy (Casio)

6. The line continues to evolve and expand

Since its invention nearly 40 years ago, the G Shock line has incorporated over 3,000 different models. Today, while you can still buy the classic G Shock “Square” for just over , there seems to be a G Shock for every buyer, occasion and budget. The G Shock Women and Baby-G lines offer the same toughness and durability expected from the G Shock name in a smaller, more restrained case size. Modern features like GPS, Bluetooth and heart rate monitoring are also available. Materials have similarly been updated in the 21st century with the Carbon Core Guard, G-Steel line and even 18-karat gold. Announced in 2019, the G-D5000-9JR was limited to 35 units and retailed for ¥7,000,000, or about ,000, making it the most expensive G Shock ever.

Articles

Marines killed in Chattanooga terror attack awarded Navy and Marine Corps Medal

Gunnery Sgt. Thomas Sullivan and Staff Sgt. David Wyatt were posthumously awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal, the highest non-combat award, at Ross’s Landing Riverside Park in Chattanooga, Tennessee, May 7, 2017.


Sullivan and Wyatt were awarded the medal for their actions during the July 16, 2015 shooting that occurred at the Naval Reserve Center Chattanooga and also killed Sgt. Carson Holmquist, Lance Cpl. Skip Wells and Petty Officer 2nd Class Randall Smith.

“We talk about these men so that we do not forget their sacrifice,” said Maj. Chris Cotton, former Inspector-Instructor for Battery M, 3rd Battalion, 14th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division, Marine Forces Reserve, the unit that Sullivan and Wyatt were assigned to.

The US’ most powerful helicopter ever enters service next year
Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, Jr., and his wife Ellyn Dunford pay their respects during a memorial service at Chattanooga, Tenn., Aug. 15, 2015. The memorial was to honor U.S. Marines Gunnery Sgt. Thomas J. Sullivan, Staff Sgt. David A. Wyatt, Sgt. Carson A. Holmquist, Lance Cpl. Squire K.P. Wells, and Navy Logistics 2nd Class Randall S. Smith, who lost their lives in the Chattanooga shooting. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Gabriela Garcia/Released)

According to eye witness statements and 911 transcripts during the event, Sullivan and Wyatt took charge in the evacuation of unit personnel and contacting authorities. They also returned to the scene of the incident when personnel were unaccounted for, risking their lives in the process.

“This is a day to celebrate the heroic, exemplary, and selfless service of two great Marines, who were by all counts great human beings, devoted Marines, and wanting nothing more than to take care of their Marines,” said Maj. Gen. Burke W. Whitman, commanding general of 4th MARDIV, who attended the ceremony along with Sgt. Maj. Michael A. Miller, sergeant major of 4th MARDIV.

During the ceremony, Cotton presented the medal to Jerry and Betty Sullivan, parents of GySgt Sullivan; and to Lorri Wyatt, wife of SSgt Wyatt.

“It’s a great honor and we’re humbled by it, it’s something you don’t want to receive but it’s good to have him recognized for the actions he took that day,” said Jerry Sullivan.

The Navy and Marine Corps Medal is awarded to members of the Navy and Marine Corps who perform an act of heroism at great personal and life-threatening risk to the awardee.

The Reserve Center, the Chattanooga community, and across the nation people have all been sending their support and condolences, said Jerry Sullivan.

“We take care of our Marines and families,” said Cotton, “No man gets left behind.”

The ceremony was also attended by members of the local Government, including Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke, Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger and Tennessee’s Congressman Chuck Fleischmann.

“This is truly a touching moment,” said Fleischmann. “As a member of congress, it makes me remember the men and women who serve us in the United States Marines and all our branches, are truly our very best and willing to put on the uniform and make the ultimate sacrifice for their country. These fallen Marines did that and they are being justly honored today.”

Fleischmann also took part in ensuring all the service members who died in the 2015 shooting received Purple Hearts and a permanent memorial at Ross’s Landing Park.

“I hope this does bring a little closure to the families,” said Fleischmann. “But I also hope it forever honors and serves and memories of these fallen heroes, and they are heroes to America.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

Marines return to their old stomping grounds

Marine Corps Recruit Training Depot Parris Island is a sacred place that shapes everyday citizens into United States Marines. The journey from recruit in training to United States Marine is unforgettable and some even describe it as the best worst time of their life. Once a Marine leaves the island, most may never return.

U.S. Marines with 2nd Transportation Battalion, Combat Logistics Regiment 2, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, were given the opportunity to visit MCRD Parris Island, South Carolina during a professional military education trip on June 14, 2019.


The day started off with the Marines visiting the famous yellow footprints, the place where the training begins. They then made their way to the receiving bay where all recruits are allotted one phone call home to let their families know they arrived safely, followed by a tour of a recruit living quarters.

The US’ most powerful helicopter ever enters service next year

U.S. Marines with 2nd Transportation Support Battalion, Combat Logistics Regiment 2, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, pose for a group photo with Brig. Gen. James Gylnn, commanding general of Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, and Sgt. Major William Carter, sergeant major of Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., June 14, 2019.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Scott Jenkins)

“Going back to MCRD Parris Island was an overwhelming feeling,” said Pfc. Johnny Francis, who graduated from Parris Island on Nov. 23, 2019, now a motor vehicle operator with 2nd TSB. “It is the place that broke me, made me want to give up, but also gave me the courage to keep going and in turn allowed me to become a United States Marine.”

Marines pride themselves on being the best, and it all starts at recruit training. The Marine Corps has the longest entry level training of any of the four branches.

The US’ most powerful helicopter ever enters service next year

U.S. Marines with 2nd Transportation Support Battalion, Combat Logistics Regiment 2, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, walk down the road at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., June 14, 2019.

Recruits endure 13 weeks of rigorous physical, mental, and spiritual challenges. Under 24/7 watch and care of the Marine Corps Drill Instructor, recruits are completely stripped of their civilian habits and relearn everything the Marine Corps way.

“Getting to see recruit training as a Marine made me understand why we are held to such a high standard,” said Lance Cpl. Charlene Yabut, who graduated from Parris Island on Nov. 29, 2018, now a landing support specialist with 2nd TSB. “Those recruits don’t know it yet but they will remember everything that was drilled into their head. Being a Marine takes everything you have to offer every day and without the foundation that is laid here, we wouldn’t be the U.S. Marines.”

The US’ most powerful helicopter ever enters service next year

U.S. Marine Corps 1st Sgt. Nicholas Underwood with Company K, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, Recruit Training Regiment, gives Marines from 2nd Transportation Support Battalion, Combat Logistics Regiment 2, 2nd Marine Logistics Group a tour of Company K’s recruit living quarters at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., June 14, 2019.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Scott Jenkins)

2nd TSB ended their trip on the island with witnessing 570 new Marines from P and M Company march and graduate on the Pete Ross Parade Deck.

Graduation day marks the end of recruit training; it is the culminating and most awaited day by all new Marines.

“We wanted to bring the Marines from our unit here to allow them to reflect and remind them that we all stepped foot on those yellow footprints for a reason; we all wanted to become Marines,” said Capt. Brian Hassett, Alpha Company Commander, 2nd TSB, CLR 2, 2nd MLG. “We have earned the title, but it doesn’t end there. We have to keep working hard, stay dedicated and be prepared for when America calls.”

This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

US Marine Corps at the forefront for ground-based lasers

A drone-killing, directed energy weapon prototype is now in the hands of Marines. The Compact Laser Weapons System — or CLaWS — is the first ground-based laser approved by the Department of Defense for use by warfighters on the ground.

“This was all in response to a need for counter unmanned aerial systems to take down drones,” said Don Kelley, program manager for Ground Based Air Defense at Program Executive Officer Land Systems. “We developed a CLaWS prototype for Marines to use and evaluate.”

In recent years, the Defense department has assessed directed energy weapons — more commonly known as “lasers” — as an affordable alternative to traditional firepower to keep enemy drones from tracking and targeting Marines on the ground.


CLaWS is not intended to be a standalone system for Marines to use to counter enemy drones. Rather, if the prototype continues to do well in the current research and development phase, it will serve as a component to an overall system used to counter drones.

The US’ most powerful helicopter ever enters service next year

“We’re providing CLaWS to Marines as a rapid prototype for evaluation,” Kelley said. “Depending on the results, CLaWS could become part of a larger capability set.”

Rapid prototyping, rapid delivery

The GBAD program, managed within the portfolio of PEO Land Systems procured the CLaWS prototype through the Defense Ordnance Technology Consortium — or DOTC — which was commissioned by the then-Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics to foster collaboration between government, industry and academia regarding ordnance technology development and prototyping.

“The typical acquisition timeline can be lengthy,” said Lt. Col. Ho Lee, product manager for GBAD Future Weapons Systems at PEO Land Systems. “But this project, from start to finish — from when we awarded the DOTC contract, to getting all the integration complete, all the testing complete, getting the Marines trained, and getting the systems ready to deploy — took about one year.”

From a production standpoint, Lee said that the program office and its partners integrated various commercial items to create CLaWS.

The US’ most powerful helicopter ever enters service next year

(U.S. Marine Corps)

“We’ve been doing rapid prototyping, rapid delivery,” said Lee. “With this and a lot of the other efforts we are doing, we are using items currently available and integrating them to meet a capability. Little development, if any, went into this.”

Leveraging expertise for increased lethality

Obtaining the green-light to deliver and deploy CLaWS requires a bit more finesse, which is why PM GBAD leveraged DoD interagency partnerships to fulfill the need.

The operational use of new laser weapons, such as CLaWS, requires approval from the Office of the Secretary of Defense, as it involves various factors such as legal reviews, concepts of employment, rules of engagement, tactics, potential collateral damage and human effects, proposed public affairs guidance and other relevant information.

“This program lives and dies with the leveraging of expertise and resources with others,” said Kelley. “It’s about getting these capabilities quickly into the hands of Marines and being good stewards of taxpayer dollars.”

Move fast and laser things

As Marines evaluate the CLaWS systems over the next few months, the GBAD program office already has their next target in mind: upgrading it.

Depending on the results, the program office says it could incorporate the CLaWS into other fixed-site and mobile C-UAS defeat capabilities.

“What’s interesting about CLaWS for the Marine Corps is, usually for things like this, we’re on the back end,” said Lee. “With this one, we’re actually in front. Everybody is watching closely to see what’s going to happen.”

This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

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Universal Orlando offers first-ever Military Freedom Pass

Universal Studios Orlando announced it is offering the first-ever Military Freedom Pass, a seasonal pass option for military families, to use in its parks.

The Military Freedom Pass can be used any day through Dec. 31, with no blackout dates. Service members can choose from two-park or three-park options, and all tickets must be purchased at an ITT office.

The Military Freedom Pass costs $199.99 per person for the two-park option and $264.99 per person for the three-park option. It is similar to the park’s current Preferred Pass that is valued at $394.99 per person. It includes free valet parking, discounts on food and beverages, and more.

The US’ most powerful helicopter ever enters service next year

Universal’s Military Freedom Pass is available to active-duty service members, National Guard members, reservists, retired military, and military spouses. It is also available to Department of Defense civilians.

The two-park option includes access to Universal’s Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Florida. The three-park option includes access to Universal’s Islands of Adventure, Universal Studios Florida, and Universal’s Volcano Bay. Volcano Bay, a waterpark, is expected to open in March.

Military service members, retirees, and DOD civilian employees can also get discounts on vacation packages. Packages can be customized through the ITT office and start at $75 (this does not include ticket pricing, airfare, or other additional package costs).

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Harry Potter fans can create the ultimate vacation as well, with customized packages to visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter starting at $85.

Military service members, DOD civilians, and their families can also get discounts on some of the most popular Universal Studios Orlando hotels including 40% off at Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort and 30% off at other Universal hotels.

Universal Studios Orlando is currently following strict COVID-19 protocols. Face coverings are required in the park and temperature checks are required before entering. In addition, there are services like mobile ordering for food and drinks, virtual line return times for rides, floor markings to ensure social distancing, limited capacity, and increased cleaning protocols. Read more about Universal Studios’ safety guidelines here.

To purchase your Military Freedom Pass ticket for Universal Studios Orlando visit your local ITT office.

This article originally appeared on Reserve + National Guard Magazine. Follow @ReserveGuardMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This airsoft gun can only be purchased by military and law enforcement personnel

If you search online for airsoft guns, you’ll find a plethora of replica firearms that shoot 6mm plastic bbs. Airsoft guns can be used in a range of activities from casually plinking soda cans in the backyard to fully immersive military simulation events that can last for days. Naturally, U.S. military firearms like the venerable M4 carbine and M1911 pistol are popular choices for airsofters to carry into their bb battles. As a result, the airsoft market is awash with every conceivable variant of these, and other, real-world firearms. However, one gun has long been coveted by airsoft players for its popularity and rarity.

Used by armed forces, security agencies and police forces in at least 48 countries, Glock pistols are some of the most iconic firearms in the world. Though they are not standard issue with the U.S. military, their use in special forces units and general popularity led to a great demand for airsoft replicas. However, the Glock Company was very wary of their designs and trademark being used without their permission and aggressively combated airsoft replicas coming to the U.S. from Asia as counterfeit products.


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U.S. soldiers receive instruction from their British counterparts on the Glock 17 (DVIDS)

Airsoft guns shipped from Asia bearing Glock logos were confiscated by U.S. Customs and were unable to be sold in the United States. To get around this, some retailers selling to U.S. customers would solder the trademarks off of the replica Glocks in order to get them past customs. The occasional entrepreneurial airsofter would make a trip to Japan and bring back a few airsoft Glocks declared only as “toy guns”, and sell them at an inflated price on the Glock-hungry American airsoft market.

However, despite the incredibly high demand for the airsoft version of Gaston Glock’s famous firearms, the replicas that did make it into the states were not perfect copies. Aside from the orange tips and the fact that they shot bbs rather than bullets, the airsoft Glock replicas were slightly wider than the pistols that served as their template. As a result, they did not fit in holsters designed for real Glocks.

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Left: Elite Force really wants you to know that they have the Glock license (Author)

Right: If you force an Elite Force Glock into an OEM Glock holster, you’ll have a heck of a time getting it back out…trust me (Author)

In 2017, airsoft history was made when Glock finally gave out the license for Glock airsoft guns. The German manufacturer Umarex and its subsidiary, Elite Force, obtained a worldwide (except France and all French territories) exclusive license. The French company Cybergun obtained the Glock license in France and its territories. It’s a little confusing, but this detail is important.

With its parent company holding the license, Elite Force contracted Taiwan-based airsoft manufacturers Kien Well Toy Industrial Company and Vega Force Company to produce the licensed gas-powered airsoft Glocks. Both KWC and VFC had been making unlicensed airsoft Glocks and simply adjusted some of the markings on their guns to meet Elite Force and Glock’s requirements. However, even these licensed replicas suffered from the aforementioned fault of being too wide and not fitting in Glock holsters.

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Credit where it’s due, the Elite Force Glock Gen 4s do have interchangeable backstraps (Author)

Enter Cybergun and its subsidiary, Spartan Military Law Enforcement. Holding licenses in France for FN Herstal, Sig Sauer, Famas, Colt, Kalashnikov, and now Glock, Spartan MLE contracts airsoft manufacturers to supply realistic training tools to military units and law enforcement agencies around the world. Since plastic bbs are extremely inexpensive compared to simunition rounds or other training solutions, many organizations have implemented airsoft as a training tool. Building their products to a high standard to simulate real firearms as closely as possible, Spartan MLE dictates precise specifications to their airsoft manufacturers.

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The “Made in Taiwan” sticker rather clashes with the “Austria” marking (Author)

Though the Spartan MLE Glocks are made by VFC like the Elite Force Glocks, Spartan MLE required VFC to update their design to make the guns as close to the real thing as possible. As a result, Spartan MLE Glocks feature a more definitive trigger (Glock triggers are infamously mushy, so that says a lot about the poor triggers in the Elite Force Glocks). Though it’s unnecessary in airsoft, the slide on Spartan MLE Glocks reciprocates the same distance as real Glocks and locks back fully; Elite Force Glocks have a shorter cycle and lock a few millimeters shorter to save gas. Finally, Spartan MLE Glocks are a 1:1 scale replica of real Glocks and fit perfectly into their holsters.

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Like a glove (Author)

Unfortunately for many American airsofters, the Spartan MLE Glocks can only be sold to military and law enforcement personnel. In fact, when Spartan MLE first sold the airsoft Glocks in the states, the guns had to be purchased in bulk by military units or police departments. Today, individual military and law enforcement personnel can submit their identification to airsoft retailers and purchase the airsoft Glocks for personal use.

Whether you want to train at home for your duty weapon or just have the most exclusive gun on the airsoft field, the Spartan MLE Glocks offer service members and law enforcement personnel the best replica on the market today.

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An Air Force Special Operator fires a Glock 19 (U.S. Air Force)


MIGHTY HISTORY

This is the drug Russians took to beat the Nazis during World War II

The Germans were not ashamed of using performance-enhancing drugs on the front lines of World War II. After all, anything that gives your side an edge really matters when the stakes are life and death. Nazi soldiers used Pervitin, a kind of methamphetamine, to stay awake, alert, and march that extra mile during the blitzkrieg conquest of Western Europe. It was so effective that the allies even started experimenting with similar drugs, but none was really perfect for the Allied cause, so the matter was dropped.

Not so in the Soviet Union.


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The USSR had some problems unique to their theater of war.

(Museum of the Great Patriotic War)

Aside from the brutality of the fighting between the Nazis and the Communists, two competing ideologies who downright hated each other, the Eastern Front was one of the deadliest of World War II because of one terrifying factor: the weather. Neither side was properly equipped to fight in the long, harsh Russian winter. Hitler didn’t trust meteorologists and instead listened to occultists when deciding how to outfit his Eastern armies. The first winter of the Soviet War began in earnest in September 1941 and would get so cold that German troops’ eyelids were lost to the cold. Some temperatures were recorded at -45° Fahrenheit near Leningrad (modern-day St. Petersburg).

The Red Army had its own problems with the cold and its own problems in dealing with the cold. Its solution was to use a drug of its own, which they called “heat pills,” but the rest of the world knows it as 2,4-Dinitrophenol – a potent high explosive, herbicide, and weight-loss drug.

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In Soviet Union, drug eats YOU.

(Stock Image)

When your choices are to take a potentially dangerous weight-loss drug that makes you feel warm when you’re definitely not warm and risk a heart attack or maybe feel every moment of freezing to death while a hundred Nazis try to murder you, the choice becomes very clear when you’re the average Red Army Ivan trying not to be one of the 26 million or so dead Soviets by the end of the war. For the USSR chain of command however, they quickly realized they had a problem.

Weight-loss drugs sped up the metabolism of their already too-hungry front line soldiers. It also actually fatigued them further by burning fat for heat instead of energy. Also, it killed a lot of Russian troops, either through heart attacks or fever. But what was the Soviet high command supposed to do? Properly clothe them? That’s not how the Red Army works, comrade.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Comparing the Soviet SKS rifle to the American M1 carbine

Whenever you compare the merits of two firearms against one another, there will be a huge row. Just ask fans of the M1911 carbine, designed by John Moses Browning — which served in the American military as the primary sidearm for seven decades — what they think of the M9 Beretta.

But let’s take a look at two semi-automatic carbines that were in service about 70 years ago: The Russian SKS and the American M1 carbine.


Both were in service in World War II (prototypes of the SKS saw action against the Nazis) and both saw action in Korea and Vietnam. However, they’re very different.

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A Marine covers personnel during the first flag-raising on Mount Suribachi.

(USMC photo by Staff Sergeant Louis R. Lowery)

The M1 carbine, first introduced in 1942, fires a special .30-caliber round that’s about an inch-and-a-third long (as opposed to the roughly two-and-a-half-inch length of the .30-06 round). It’s semi-automatic and can use a 15 or 30-round detachable magazine. It weighs about five pounds unloaded. Today’s troops carrying a lot of stuff — that light weight can be a back-saver. The 110-grain .30 carbine round could go 1,990 feet per second.

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Malian troops stand at attention with SKS rifles.

(US Army photo by Staff Sergeant Samuel Bendet)

The SKS rifle introduced the 7.62x39mm cartridge to the world. It uses an internal 10-round magazine that is reloaded using stripper clips. In a way, this is much like how just about every modern (post-1898) military rifle prior to the M1 Garand was reloaded. The 7.62x39mm round propels a 123-grain bullet at 1,653 feet per second. The SKS weighs in at roughly eight pounds.

So, which of these rifles is better? Let’s be honest: Both have passed the longevity test. The M1 Carbine is still in service with Israel and Nicaragua, among other countries, and the SKS still sees action in places like Mali. But assuming all other things, like training and competency, are equal, a soldier with the M1 carbine would have a slight edge — at least at close range —due to the increased magazine capacity and the rifle’s lighter weight.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Shanahan officially takes over from Mattis at Pentagon

Patrick Shanahan has taken over the helm of the Pentagon, as U.S. President Donald Trump attacked his Defense Department predecessor, pointing to what he said was a lack of success in Afghanistan.

Shanahan, who has been serving as deputy defense secretary, worked his first day in office as acting defense secretary on Jan. 2, 2019, as the replacement for Jim Mattis, who resigned as defense chief on Dec. 20, 2018, saying his policies were not fully “aligned” with the president.


Trump has not specified a time frame for choosing a permanent defense secretary or said whether Shanahan could potentially assume that role.

Mattis initially said he would be leaving the Pentagon at the end of February 2019. But Trump later announced that Mattis, 68, would be leaving earlier after the defense secretary published a letter that directly criticized the president.

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Former Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis.

(DOD photo by Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)

In televised remarks on Jan. 2, 2019, Trump said he “essentially fired” Mattis. “I’m not happy with what [he has] done in Afghanistan — and I shouldn’t be happy,” said Trump, as Shanahan sat by his side.

“I wish him well. I hope he does well. But as you know, President [Barack] Obama fired him, and essentially so did I. I want results.”

A former Marine general, Mattis was fired by Obama in 2013 as head of U.S. Central Command over what the then-president said were too hawkish views toward Iran.

Shanahan, 56, meanwhile, said his priorities would include the impending U.S. troop withdrawal from Syria and countering China’s military might.

“While we are focused on ongoing operations, Acting Secretary Shanahan told the team to remember: China, China, China,” a Pentagon official said.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

7 unwritten rules that all soldiers know

The world is full of unwritten rules. Don’t make eye contact over a urinal wall. Order your usual or cheaper food when a friend is picking up the tab. I before E except after C or when sounded as eh as in neighbor and weigh, or when its the word science and a bunch of other exceptions. (That last one is less useful than others.) Here are seven rules that all soldiers pick up:


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Yes. You suddenly outrank most people in the room. Congratulations. Now, please recognize that you don’t know anything yet.

(U.S. Army Spc. Isaiah Laster)

The LT absolutely does not outrank the sergeant major or first sergeant

Sure, on paper, all Army officers outrank all enlisted and warrant officers in the military. But new second lieutenants have zero experience in the Army while chief warrant officers 4 and 5 generally have over a decade and platoon sergeants and above have 10-ish or more experience as well. So none of those seasoned veterans are kowtowing to kids because they happen to have a diploma and commission.

Instead, they mentor the lieutenants, sometimes by explaining that the lieutenant needs to shut up and color.

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“Hey, POG! Can I get my paycheck?” “No.”

(U.S. Army Sgt. Elizabeth White)

Finance will get it wrong, but you have to be nice anyways

Every time a group of soldiers goes TDY, deploy, or switch units, it’s pretty much guaranteed that at least a few of them will see screwed up paychecks. Get into an airborne slot and need jump pay? Gonna get screwed up. Per diem from a mission? Gonna get messed up.

You better be nice when you go to finance to get it fixed, though. Sure, they might be the ones who screwed it up. But the people who are rude to finance have a lot more headaches while getting pay fixed. So be polite, be professional, and just dream about beating everyone you meet.

(Caveat: If you’re overpaid, do not spend it. Finance will eventually fix the mistake and garnish your wages.)

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Your plane is late. And the pilot is drunk. And the fueler is missing. It’s gonna be a while.

(U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Alexandria Lee)

All timelines get worse with time

The initial mission or travel plans for any Army scheme will likely have time built in for breaks, for maintenance, for error. But as D-Day comes closer and closer, tweaks and changes will yank all of that flex time out of the timeline until every soldier has to spend every moment jumping out of their own butt just to keep up.

Count on it.

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If it’s in your bag and kit, you have it. If it’s on the logistics plan, you might have it. If you have to request it in the field, you probably won’t have it.

(U.S. Army Spc. John Lytle)

Don’t rely on it being there unless you ruck it in

All big missions will have logistics plans, and they might be filled with all sorts of support that sounds great. You’ll get a bunch more ammo and water seven hours after the mission starts, or trucks will bring in a bunch of concertina wire and HESCO barriers, or maybe you’re supposed to have more men and weapons.

Always make a plan like nothing else will show up, like you’ll have only the people already there, the weapons already there, the water and food already there. Because, there’s always a chance that the trucks, the helicopters, or the troops will be needed somewhere else or won’t get through.

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Dropping uniform tops, driving in all-terrain vehicles, and piling up sandbags are all fine. But pulling an umbrella in that same weather will cause some real heartache.

(U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Andrew Carroll)

Officers do not carry umbrellas (neither will anyone else)

This one actually comes from a formerly written rule that literally said that male officers couldn’t carry umbrellas. But the sort of weird thing is that the official rule has been withdrawn, but almost no one carries an umbrella in uniform, and you will be struck down by the first sergeant’s lightning bolt if you tried to bring one to formation.

And God help the soldier dumb enough to bring one to the field.

Don’t steal personal items; don’t steal anything from your own unit

Look, no one likes a soldier who jacks gear. But some units like failing hand receipt inspections even less, so there’s often pressure to get the gear needed by hook or by crook. But there are some rules to grabbing gear or property. (Turns out, there is honor among thieves.)

First, you do not steal personal property. If it belongs to an individual soldier, it’s off-limits. And, if it belongs to your own unit, it’s off-limits. You don’t shift gear in your squad, in your platoon, or often in your company. But for some folks, if there are some chock blocks missing from their trucks, and the sister battalion leaves some lying around, that is fair game.

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The guy at the front of the formation is a wealth of knowledge, knowledge that most of his students will be told to forget at some point.

(U.S. Army Spc. Tynisha L. Daniel)

Doesn’t matter how your last unit/drill instructor did it

This is possibly the most important. New soldiers go through all sorts of training, and then their first unit does all sorts of finishing work to get them ready for combat.

But that unit doesn’t care how the drill instructors taught anything in training. And other units don’t care how that first unit did business. Every unit has its own tactics, techniques, and procedures. So when you arrive at a new unit, stash everything you learned before that into a corner of your brain to pull out when useful. But fill the rest of the grey matter with the new units techniques.

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