If you think it’s hard getting tickets to a summer blockbuster on opening night, try getting into Kennedy Space Center these days to see a Space Shuttle launch.
After two and a half years of anticipation, people around the world want to see NASA boost back into action and the show sells out quick. Thinking about slipping in through the back door?
Along with the formidable force of standard security at Kennedy, a highly trained and specialized group of guardians protect the Center from would-be troublemakers. They are the members of the Kennedy Space Center Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team and they mean business.
“We’re here 24-7,” said SWAT commander David Fernandez. “There’s never a point when SWAT is not here, so we’re ready to respond to something if needed at a moment’s notice.”
NASA contracts the 29-member team from Space Gateway Support (SGS) to protect Kennedy’s employees, visitors, and national assets like the Space Shuttle from any potential threat. The SWAT team carefully prepares for special events like launch day and the arrival of astronauts and VIPs, but it also stands ready every day for possible problems that may arise.
Additionally, the SWAT team provides support to Kennedy security when special expertise may be needed to diffuse a dangerous situation. Skills like rappelling, defensive tactics, or marksmanship may be used to help keep the peace.
To stay sharp and fit for their job, members of the team have to pass annual physical fitness tests and maintain updated certifications for using their weapons.
“The training that we do out here is very intense sometimes,” Fernandez said. “But that’s because we’re at a stage which could be considered by some to be advanced. The training has to be more intense and challenging.”
As a part of staying in shape, members of the Kennedy Space Center SWAT team participate in competitions with the most elite teams around the world. SWAT officers hone their skills in events testing their speed and accuracy with special weapons and equipment. In 2019, the team from Kennedy placed 10th out of 55 teams at the annual SWAT Roundup in Orlando, Fla.
SWAT team logo Members of the SWAT team admit that one of the best parts of their job is getting the “big-boy toys.” But senior officer Eric Munsterman said there is also a rewarding bond they share with one another.
“In the civilian world, outside of police work or fire work, I don’t see where you’re going to find [camaraderie] as strongly as we develop it,” Munsterman said.
They may have their differences during the week, but when they suit up and go to work, that all goes away, Munsterman said.
Through a strong commitment to each other, members of the SWAT team ensure things at Kennedy stay safe. If you plan to come see a Space Shuttle launch, make sure you have a ticket.
“If anybody means harm to the astronauts or anyone else that works out here, they’re not getting past us,” Munsterman said.
Jonathan Pollard, the most damaging spy in U.S. history, was sentenced to life in prison in 1987 for passing documents to Israel. After thirty years in jail, he was released on parole to great fanfare from his wife, the government in Israel, and the American pro-Israel lobby. According to Pollard’s lawyers, he will be required to wear an electronic bracelet so his movements can be monitored at all times and his computers and those of any employer who hires him will be subjected to “unfettered monitoring and inspection.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the release “a dream come true” and that “the people of Israel welcome his release.” The PM’s office restricted celebrations of his release in hopes the American government will allow him to travel to Israel sooner.
While Israel is an American ally and has access to a lot of American intelligence, the information provided by Pollard to Israel is said to have caused grave damage to the national security of the United States. The information was so damaging, when President Ronald Reagan’s Secretary of Defense, Caspar Weinberger, presented an assessment of Pollard’s spying to the presiding judge in his trial, the judge threw out Pollard’s plea deal and threw the book at him and his wife.
Weinberger said he sought to “dispel any presumption that disclosures to an ally are insignificant; to the contrary, substantial and irrevocable damage has been done to this nation.”
The most damaging release included the 10-volume Radio and Signal Intelligence [RASIN] manual, aka “the Bible,” detailing the entire U.S. global listening profile, “frequency by frequency, source by source, geographic slice by geographic slice. RASIN was in effect, a complete roadmap to American signal intelligence.” The manual revealed which communications channels of which powers, in which regions, the NSA was intercepting and in what order of priority, providing insight on where and what actions the U.S. military might take next.
The memo said many documents the spy gave the Israelis included details on sourcing and the identifications of U.S. agents abroad. Among other information Pollard admits giving to Israel:
Detailed information about a Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) HQ in Tunisia
Iraqi and Syrian chemical warfare factory locations and production capabilities
Regular PLO operations plans
Soviet arms shipments to Arab states unfriendly to Israel
Soviet fighter jet information
Information about Pakistani nuclear weapons programs
“Unauthorized disclosures to friendly powers may cause as great a harm to the national security as to hostile powers because, once the information is removed from secure control systems, there is no enforceable requirement nor any incentive to provide effective controls for its safekeeping,” the memo read.
The CIA believes the information Pollard gave them might have been traded to the Soviet Union in exchange for looser travel restrictions of Russian Jews trying to emigrate to Israel.
Pollard claimed he was acting in a sense of altruism and loyalty toward Israel. Yet, In an exhaustive 1987 report, NCIS investigator Ron Olive alleged Pollard passed material on to South Africa and tried to pass it on to Pakistan as well. He took intelligence documents about China which his wife used to advance her business interests. He passed No Foreign Access (NOFORN) information on to an Australian Navy officer.The government’s case against Pollard included unsuccessful attempts to broker arms deals with South Africa, Argentina, Taiwan, Pakistan, and Iran. And for all of Pollard’s altruism, he accepted more than $30,000 in cash and luxury items from Israel in exchange for information.
Many former Department of Defense officials are against his release. Some prominent Jewish-American figures are against it. Even once-ardent supporters of Pollard disagree with the timing. Ron Olive, the NCIS investigator who caught Pollard after he handed more than a million documents to Israeli agents over 18 months, believes the spy should stay in jail. So does Vice-President Joe Biden. Then-CIA director George Tenet threatened his resignation if President Clinton released Pollard in the late 1990s.
The Pentagon is aggressively implementing major provisions of its recently completed Electronic Warfare (EW) strategy by working closely with the military services to accelerate development of a wide range of EW weapons and technologies designed to meet fast-emerging, near-peer threats in the electromagnetic spectrum.
Emphasizing both offensive and defensive applications of EW, Pentagon officials familiar with the new strategy point to the Air Force’s Electronic Warfare and Electromagnetic Spectrum Superiority effort, the Army’s growing investments in Multi-Function EW, and various Navy plans to advance the Next-Generation Jammer, among other things.
“While the air, land, and sea domains each have their unique features, all threat investments in A2/AD (Anti-Access/Area Denial) capabilities require long-range sensors, long-range guidance, very capable missile seekers, and long-range communication capabilities. Each of these threat capabilities depends upon the electromagnetic spectrum. The electromagnetic spectrum continues to grow in importance each year,” Pentagon spokeswoman Lt. Col. Michelle Baldanza told Warrior in a statement.
This DOD electronic warfare strategy took on new urgency following Russia’s successful use of advanced EW technologies in Ukraine and the pace of global technological progress in the area of EW systems, according to industry and government sources.
Electronic weapons can be used for an increasingly wide range of combat activities – from detecting and defending IED attacks to jamming enemy communications or even taking over control of enemy drones.
“Hardening the kill-chain,” for example, uses EW tactics to prevent an armed U.S. drone from being “hacked,” “jammed,” or taken over by an enemy. Also, EW defenses can better secure radar signals, protect weapons guidance technologies and thwart attacks on larger platforms such as ships, fighter jets, and tanks.
The strategy also identifies cross-geographical boundary radiated energy technologies designed to strengthen U.S. platforms and allied operations, DOD officials said.
The concept is to use less-expensive electromagnetic weapons to destroy, intercept or jam approaching enemy missiles, drones, rockets, or aircraft. An electronic weapon is much less expensive than firing an interceptor missile, such as a ship-fired Rolling Airframe Missile or Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile, which can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars each. This tactic prods enemies to spend money on expensive weapons while decreasing the offensive and defensive weaponry costs to the U.S.
Improving electronic warfare modeling and simulation to better prepare for emerging weapons systems is also a key element of the strategy. This can help anticipate or train against future weapons threats which may not exist yet but nevertheless pose an emerging threat.
Authors of the new Electronic Warfare strategy have worked closely with the Pentagon Electronic Warfare Executive Committee, which was created in August 2015 to translate electromagnetic experimentation into actual capabilities for deployment.
The Air Force is revving up electronic warfare upgrades for its F-15 fighter to better protect against enemy fire and electronic attacks, service officials said.
Earlier this year, Boeing secured a $478 million deal to continue work on a new technology with a system called the Eagle Passive Active Warning Survivability System, or EPAWSS.
These updated EW capabilities replace the Tactical Electronic Warfare Suite, which has been used since the 1980s, not long after the F-15 first deployed. The service plans to operate the fleet until the mid-2040’s, so an overhaul of the Eagle’s electronic systems helps maintain U.S. air supremacy, the service said.
Various upgrades will be complete as early as 2021 for the F-15C AESA (Active Electronically Scanned Array) radar and as late as 2032 for the various EW (electronic warfare) upgrades, Air Force officials said. The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is also integrated with an AESA radar.
The Navy is engineering a new, more powerful, high-tech electronic warfare jamming technology, called the Next-Generation Jammer, designed to allow strike aircraft to destroy enemy targets without being detected by modern surface-to-air missile defenses.
The Next-Generation Jammer, or NGJ, consists of two 15-foot long PODs beneath the EA-18G Growler aircraft designed to emit radar-jamming electronic signals; one jammer goes on each side of the aircraft.
The NGJ departs from existing EW systems in that it can jam multiple frequencies at one time, increasing the scope and effectiveness of attacks. This better enables U.S. aircraft to elude or “jam” more Russian-built air defenses able to detect aircraft on a wide range of frequencies, such as X-band, VHF, and UHF. Russian-built S-300 and S-400 air defenses are believed to be among the best in the world.
Radar technology sends an electromagnetic ping forward, bouncing it off objects before analyzing the return signal to determine a target’s location, size, shape, and speed. However, if the electromagnetic signal is interfered with, thwarted or “jammed” in some way, the system is then unable to detect the objects or targets.
Baldanza told Warrior the Navy plans multiple technology development contracts for NGJ Inc 2. “The program will address the mission need for a robust low band radar and communications jamming capability from an airborne platform that will require capabilities beyond the currently deployed system,” she said.
The emerging system also uses AESA. It will be the only AESA-based carrier offensive electronic attack jamming pod in DoD. The NGJ, slated to be operational by 2021, is intended to replace the existing ALQ 99 electronic warfare jammer currently on Navy Growler aircraft. The new jammer is designed to interfere with ground-and-air based threats, such as enemy fighter jets trying to get a missile “lock” on a target, developers explained.
Since the beginning of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the emergence of the Improvised Explosive Device (IED) or roadside bomb as a major threat, the Army has fielded a host of technologies to thwart or “jam” the incoming signal from a Radio-Controlled IED (RCIED), thus delaying or preventing detonation and potential injury to soldiers.
The majority of existing EW systems used by the Army, such as the vehicle-mounted DUKE v3, soldier portable Thor III, and GATOR V2 tower use standard RF jamming techniques; many of these, industry experts explain, are effective in thwarting detonation signals but often emit a larger, more-detectable signal themselves. A key emphasis when it comes to next-gen EW, is more targeted or pinpointed electromagnetic spectrum attacks to better obscure a point of origin from enemy detection.
The Army’s Rapid Equipping Force, which works on near-term requirements to fast-track available combat technologies to the theater, has an interim solution and COTS focus. At the same time, REF leaders say, they often find that existing Army development programs have near-term, deployable solutions which can be brought forward.
Overall, particularly in light of Russia’s use of EW in Ukraine and fast-evolving EW technologies around the world, the U.S. Army realizes it needs to think differently about EW to position itself for potential near-peer adversaries.
“As an Army, we have fallen behind because of where we have been the last 10 to 15 years. How do we close the gap? We are changing how we look at EW, including doctrine, organization and other things,” REF director Col. John Lanier Ward told Warrior in an interview earlier this year.
Ward explained that more EW capability can, in the near term, come to fruition by a simple move to use a stronger, better antenna, improved software or more powerful amplifiers. Additional means of integration or application, also, can expand EW capability. The REF, Ward explained, is now advancing a program called EW TV, electronic warfare for tactical vehicles where cutting-edge functional weapons are placed on military vehicles.
Some of the jammers fielded during the initial years of the war, such as the vehicle-mounted Duke V2 and Warlock jammers, were the basis for subsequent upgrades designed to defeat a greater range of threat signals. For instance, the Duke V3 vehicle-mounted jammer, now fielded on thousands of vehicles in theater, represents a technological improvement in capability compared to prior systems.
The Thor III is a soldier-portable counter RCIED “jamming” device designed to provide a protective envelope for dismounted units on patrol. The device is configured with transceivers mounted on a back-pack-like structure that can identify and “jam” RF signals operating in a range of frequencies. Thousands of Thor III systems, which in effect create an electromagnetic protective “bubble” for small units on-the-move, continue to protect soldiers in theater.
GATOR V2 is a 107-foot retrofitted surveillance tower equipped with transmit-and-receive antennas designed to identify, detect and disrupt electronic signals. The GATOR V2 establishes a direction or “line of bearing” on an electronic signal and can use software, digital mapping technology, and computer algorithms to “geo-locate” the origin or location of electronic signals within the battlespace.
Baldanza said the Army is growing its investment in Multi-Function Electronic Warfare from $4 million to $24 million from 2017 to 2018.
Overall, the new strategy could be described as two-fold; it will work to sustain an open architecture approach in order to upgrade existing EW technologies, often by adding software upgrades to hardware. Also, the effort is expected to emphasize the exploration of a wide range of emerging technologies, such as the utilization of more SIGINT platforms, directional antennas and use of a greater number of frequencies simultaneously.
The Air Force’s all-new advanced trainer aircraft, the T-X, has officially been named the T-7A Red Hawk.
Acting Secretary of the Air Force Matthew Donovan made the announcement during his speech at the 2019 Air Force Association’s Air, Space and Cyber Conference in National Harbor, Sept. 16, 2019.
Donovan was joined on stage by one of the original Tuskegee Airmen, Col. Charles McGee, who flew more than 400 combat missions in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. Also seated in the audience were members of the East Coast Chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen.
After a short video highlighting the aircraft’s lineage, Donovan said, “ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the newest Red Tail!” A drape was then lifted to reveal a quarter-scale model of a T-7A Red Hawk painted in a distinct, red-tailed color scheme.
“The name Red Hawk honors the legacy of Tuskegee Airmen and pays homage to their signature red-tailed aircraft from World War II,” Donovan said. “The name is also a tribute to the Curtiss P-40 Warhawk, an American fighter aircraft that first flew in 1938 and was flown by the 99th Fighter Squadron, the U.S. Army Air Forces’ first African American fighter squadron.”
The T-7A Red Hawk, manufactured by Boeing, introduces capabilities that prepare pilots for fifth generation fighters, including high-G environment, information and sensor management, high angle of attack flight characteristics, night operations and transferable air-to-air and air-to-ground skills.
“The T-7A will be the staple of a new generation of aircraft,” Donovan said. “The Red Hawk offers advanced capabilities for training tomorrow’s pilots on data links, simulated radar, smart weapons, defensive management systems, as well as synthetic training capabilities.”
Along with updated technology and performance capabilities, the T-7A will be accompanied by enhanced simulators and the ability to update system software faster and more seamlessly. The plane was also designed with maintainers in mind by utilizing easy-to-reach and open access panels.
Two Boeing T-X trainers.
The T-7A features twin tails, slats and big leading-edge root extensions that provide deft handling at low speeds, allowing it to fly in a way that better approximates real world demands and is specifically designed to prepare pilots for fifth-generation aircraft. The aircraft’s single engine generates nearly three times more thrust than the dual engines of the T-38C Talon which it is replacing.
“The distance between the T-38 and an F-35 is night and day,” said Air Force Chief of Staff General David L. Goldfein. “But with the T-7A the distance is much, much smaller, and that’s important because it means the pilots trained on it will be that much better, that much faster at a time when we must be able to train to the speed of the threat.”
A .2 billion contract awarded to Boeing in September 2018 calls for 351 T-7A aircraft, 46 simulators and associated ground equipment to be delivered and installed, replacing Air Education and Training Command’s 57-year-old fleet of T-38C Talons.
The first T-7A aircraft and simulators are scheduled to arrive at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas, in 2023. All undergraduate pilot training bases will eventually transition from the T-38C to the T-7A. Those bases include Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi; Laughlin AFB and Sheppard AFB, Texas; and Vance AFB, Oklahoma.
During the opening three days of the Mosul offensive, U.S.-led airstrikes rattled the city at a rate of one bomb every eight minutes, an official said.
The sheer volume of strikes sets the operation apart from others in the ongoing campaign against militants affiliated with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, according to Col. Daniel Manning, the deputy director of the Combined Air Operations Center.
“It’s a pretty intense bombing campaign if you think about each of these bombs are precision-guided weapons … so it’s a really high rate to be concentrated over one city over a prolonged period of time,” Manning told Military.com in a telephone interview Friday.
Since Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s Oct. 16 declaration of the beginning of the assault to recapture Mosul, whose population has dwindled to about 665,000 residents, the air coalition conducted more than 191 strikes through Nov. 1, employing over 1,352 weapons for operations, according to Air Forces Central Command spokeswoman Kiley Dougherty.
From the start of Operation Inherent Resolve in 2014, Dougherty said the coalition has struck Mosul with 1,239 targets, dropping 5,941 bombs.
“You tend to employ more weapons when the weather is better, and when you’re partner forces are on the move because when they’re on the move, they’re finding the enemy, forcing the enemy to reveal themselves, and we’re there to strike them,” Manning said.
“We can certainly employ weapons in all weather — we have sensors that can look through the weather — but [a storm] usually slows down an operation of this size,” he added.
Mosul has been a months-in-the-making operation, Manning said. And planning out the airspace for Air Force and coalition aircraft has been essential to “work the stack” of aircraft operating in a vast city but tight airspace.
Aircraft from drones to fighters to bombers “are given different altitude restrictions, from low to very high where you’re assigned a certain block of altitude at the flight of two aircraft, and you maintain that block knowing that there are aircraft below and above you,” Manning said.
The same goes laterally. If there is an artillery strike from below that has the ability to fire high enough where “it can reach aircraft, you have to stay East or West of a certain line,” he said.
A coveted aircraft during the operation has been the B-52 long-range bomber. The Stratofortresses have the ability to stay airborne for a longer duration, have capable sensors to identify targets, and carry a wide-variety of bombs “attacking everything from vehicles to large-site targets.”
“Frankly, we want our partners and the enemy to see the airpower [the B-52] has overhead,” Manning said. “A B-52 encourages our partner force that we have their back. Being seen is actually a pretty good thing.”
In April, several B-52s arrived at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, to join the American-led campaign in place of the B-1B Lancer. The aircraft stepped up lucrative targeting throughout May and June, more than doubling their strikes against weapons caches, then-AFCENT spokesman Lt. Col. Chris Karns told Air Force Times in June.
The tactics ISIS have been using to try and thwart the coalition in Mosul aren’t revolutionary but they’ve complicated the dynamic throughout the city, Manning said. The group has burned oil trenches to throw off intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft; set off vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices; attempted hostage takeovers; and used snipers to kill coalition forces.
That’s why ISR aircraft — most heavily used throughout the Middle East theater — are a must-have to predict ISIS’ next move while detecting the location of civilians.
In May, Lt. Gen. Charles Brown, now the deputy commander of U.S. Central Command, noted the use of ISR almost always translates into a more clean-cut mission.
“I would actually like to have more ISR and really be able to use it,” he said at the time, “Because what it helps me to do is develop targets [and] … strike at the same time as we develop those targets. The more ISR I have, I can minimize the risk to civilian casualties and continue the precision air campaign that we have.”
“It’s also very likely when ISR aircraft go out over Mosul, they will employ one if not all of the weapons that they have,” Manning said.
For example, MQ-1 Predators and MQ-9 Reaper drones account for 15.6 percent of strikes in OIR, ACC spokesman Benjamin Newell told Military.com last month. They also account for 8.6 percent of all Combined Forces Air Component weapons dropped in OIR. “They are involved in nearly every operation in OIR, in one capacity or another,” Newell said.
“This is a very, very difficult way to fight,” Manning said. “And we can’t say when it’s going to be over.”
WATCH: B-52’s are gearing up to drop bombs on ISIS
Germany dropped a lot of bombs on England (not to mention the rest of the United Kingdom) during World War II. Not all of them exploded – and unexploded ordnance, or UXO, has been an ongoing issue.
According to a report by NavalToday.com, war’s gift that keeps on giving turned up in Portsmouth, England. This is where the Royal Navy is planning to base the 65,000-ton Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers.
The report said that the German SC250 bomb, which weighed 500 pounds and had 290 pounds of high explosive, was discovered while dredging was underway as part of a program to improve the Royal Navy base’s infrastructure. The London Guardian reported on a past UXO find in Portsmouth in November that was rendered safe in a controlled detonation. The Guardian report also mentioned a bomb discovered in September.
UXO has been a long-running problem after wars. In fact, last October saw EOD personnel in the United States tasked to deal with Civil War cannonballs that were unearthed by Hurricane Matthew. UXO from World War I and World War II has been very common in Europe, including poison gas shells.
In 2009, a U.S. Navy release reported that a number of leftover mines and a British torpedo from World War II were discovered during a mine countermeasures exercise during that year’s BALTOPS. Three years later, during that same exercise, an unexploded aerial bomb was discovered according to another U.S. Navy release.
A 2011 Navy release estimates that in the Baltic Sea alone, there are over 200,000 pieces of UXO from not only conflicts, but training exercises dating back to the Russian Revolution.
With those words, Air Force veteran Nadine Stanford became the first Community Living Center resident at VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System to complete a battlefield acupuncture (BFA) treatment.
Not more than 15 minutes before treatment, Stanford told VA Pittsburgh acupuncturist Amanda Federovich that the pain in her buttocks was a ten on the zero-to-10 pain scale. Ten reflects the worst pain Stanford could imagine.
Stanford had previously tried narcotic painkillers, analgesics, benzodiazepines, kinesthesia and music therapy. Nothing really worked for her pain until Federovich gently inserted five tiny needles into each of Stanford’s ears.
Five points on the ear correspond to specific areas of the body, explained Federovich. Point by point, the acupuncturist places needles in one ear and then the other until the patient says they feel better. By confining treatment to the ears, battlefield acupuncture practitioners can give care on the battlefield or whenever a service member’s entire body is not available for treatment.
“I have no pain,” said Nadine Stanford after treatment.
Each time Federovich placed a pair of needles, she asked Stanford to move her arms and hands. With every placement, Stanford found it easier to move. Every time Federovich asked Stanford if she wanted the treatment to continue, she responded with an enthusiastic “Oh yeah” or “Yes ma’am!”
“I was elated that Nadine was pain-free by the end of the session,” Federovich said. “Her daily life is a struggle due to pain from her contractures, spasms, and wounds. It is very overwhelming to see her that happy and relaxed.”
Federovich cautioned that battlefield acupuncture doesn’t always work so quickly and dramatically. “The average response to BFA is a 2.2-point reduction in pain [on the zero-to-10 scale] from pre- to post-session. Some veterans have a more significant pain reduction response than others. Having total pain relief is the best-case scenario.”
Federovich said that battlefield acupuncture, along with standard acupuncture, is a key component of the Whole Health movement. Whole Health focuses on outcomes the veteran wants for their life, as opposed to diseases or injuries they may have. It also arranges care to meet those outcomes.
“We’re empowering our veterans to be an active participant in their health care,” she said. “Things like chronic pain, anxiety, PTSD, these are things that battlefield acupuncture can address so the veterans are not dependent on meds.”
Federovich is the first advanced practice nurse at VA Pittsburgh to be certified in battlefield acupuncture. As a result, she is ready to train other health care practitioners. “I am eager to roll BFA out to the rest of the facility. I am hopeful that other veterans will have similar responses and improve their quality of life.”
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
Each year, hundreds of movies are released for audiences to enjoy worldwide. A small fraction of those films fall under the “war movie” genre and, of those, an even smaller fraction are worth heading out to your local cineplex to watch.
Critics could debate for days on which movies are the best acted and directed of all time. However, the majority of them don’t have the military resumés to properly judge levels of authenticity.
So, we asked several veterans what war movies of the last decade they loved the most.
Written and directed by Martin Zandvliet, Land of Mine takes place in post-World War II Denmark as a group of hated, young German POWs are ordered to clear thousands of landmines under the watch of a Danish sergeant who slowly learns to appreciate their worth.
9. War Horse (2011)
Brought to the big screen by Hollywood legend Steven Spielberg, this film captures the story of a young man who enlists in the military after his horse is sold off to the cavalry. The story takes audiences through deadly World War 1 trenches and dazzles with stunning imagery and incredible performances.
(Image via DreamWorks)
8. 12 Strong (2018)
Directed by Nicolai Fuglsig, the film chronicles one of the first deployments of a Special Forces teams to Afghanistan after 9/11. The team joins forces with the Afghan resistance and rides into battle against the Taliban on horseback.
The film stars our friend Rob Riggle, Chris Hemsworth, Michael Pena, and Michael Shannon.
7. American Sniper (2015)
Directed by a filmmaker who needs no introduction, Clint Eastwood is one of the creative minds behind bringing the real-life story of former Navy SEAL Chris Kyle to the big screen. The story chronicles Kyle’s multiple combat deployments and his tragic, untimely death.
After crashing their plane in WWII, Olympian Louis Zamperini spends 47 days on a life raft with two fellow crewmen. Eventually, he’s caught by the Japanese and sent to a prisoner-of-war camp where he’s tortured and forced to endure hard labor — but he never gives up.
5. Lone Survivor (2014)
Based on the heroic tale of Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell, the film showcases the power of human will and man’s ability to push forward against incredible odds.
4. Fury (2014)
When David Ayer’s World War II film debuted in theaters, the realistic and diverse cast of characters, including the likes of Gordo, Bible, and the seasoned Don “War Daddy” Collier, made the dangers of being a tanker feel real to enraptured audiences.
3. Dunkirk (2017)
Directed by Christopher Nolan, this epic story covers the enormous evacuation of allied soldiers from Belgium as the German Army surrounded them during “Operation Dynamo.” The detailed account puts extreme human courage on display on multiple levels.
Directed by Mel Gibson, the story follows an American Army Medic, Desmond T. Doss, as he serves in the Battle of Okinawa, becoming the first man in American history to earn the Medal of Honor without ever firing a shot.
1. 13 Hours (2016)
Directed by Hollywood powerhouse Michael Bay, this movie focuses on a security team who struggles to make sense out of chaos during an attack on a U.S. compound in Libya. Based on actual events, the team members do everything they can under strict, Libyan rule.
Ah, football. Nothing’s sweeter than getting everyone together to drink beer, eat hot dogs, watch sports, and look at corporate slogans painted on a 250-foot weapon of war that floats over them just like it floated over Nazi and Japanese submarines before bombing them into Davy Jones’ depths.
Yeah, that’s right — the Goodyear Blimp used to be a bona fide badass.
A K-class blimp flies during convoy escort duty.
(National Museum of Naval Aviation)
See, during World War II, America actually still had a pretty robust blimp program. While the rest of the world pretty much abandoned airships after the Hindenburg disaster, the U.S. was able to press forward since it had the bulk of the world’s accessible helium.
And press forward it did. While the more ambitious projects, like experimental, flying aircraft carriers, were shelved in the 1930s, America had 10 operating blimps in the U.S. Navy when Pearl Harbor was attacked, and they were quickly sent to patrol the U.S. coasts, watching for submarines.
The K-class blimps were 250-foot long sacks of helium that carried a control car with the crew inside. A fully staffed crew was 10 men, which included a pilot, gunners, and anti-submarine warriors.
Crew members load one of the four depth charges onto a K-class blimp.
The ability to spot and attack submarines while able to fly out of attack range made airships valuable on convoy duty, where they would hunt enemy subs and report the locations to escort ships. When appropriate, they’d drop their own depth charges against the subs, but re-arming required landing on a carrier, so it was best to not waste limited ammo.
A crew member checks his .50-cal. machine gun during operations.
(National Museum of Naval Aviation)
One of the airships’ most famous battles came on the coast of Florida when the K-74 spotted a German sub bearing down on two merchant ships during the night of July 18,1943. There were typically somewhere around 10 German subs off the coast of the U.S. at any time, but the War Department and Navy Department at the time tried to keep it quiet.
K-74 attempted a surprise attack, dropping depth charges right onto the sub from 250 feet in the air, interrupting its attack and saving the merchant ships. Unfortunately, the submarine crew spotted the attacking airship and lit the low-flying vessel up with the sub’s anti-aircraft guns while the airship dropped two depth charges.
A blimp crashes during a nuclear test. Four K-class blimps were destroyed this way in the late 1950s.
(U.S. Department of Energy)
The consequences were immediate and severe for the blimp. The air envelope was severely damaged and set on fire by the German guns. The crew was able to extinguish the fire, but they could not maintain altitude and slowly settled into the sea. The commander stayed behind to dump classified gear and documents while the rest of the crew escaped in lifejackets.
The commander was separated from his men and rescued the next morning when he was luckily spotted by the crew of another airship.
The crew, all nine of them, climbed onto the airship envelope which floated in the water, and they were spotted the next morning as well. Unfortunately, a shark found them between when they were spotted by a sea plane and when a ship was able to rescue them. The shark attacked and killed one crew member, but the other eight escaped and survived.
It marked the only time an airship was destroyed by enemy fire. As for the submarine, it had received damage from the depth charge attack and was damaged again by a U.S. plane while escaping the east coast. It was forced to stay on the surface of the water en route to Germany for repairs and was spotted by British planes. Bombing runs by the Brits sealed its fate.
Airships were rarely allowed to directly attack submarines, and the attack by K-74 is one of the only documented times an airship directly damaged an enemy sub. In April 1945, K-72 dropped the newest weapon in its arsenal, an acoustic torpedo, into the water against German sub U-879. A destroyer documents a clear underwater explosion but no debris or wreckage was recovered and, so, no kill was awarded.
An airship crew distributes life jackets while operating over the water.
(National Museum of Naval Aviation)
But the airships were valued anti-submarine tools, often called into hunts to maintain contact with enemy subs as surface vessels danced around to avoid torpedoes.
Hubbard would later claim one sub killed and the other too damaged to return to port, but the crews of the other vessels disputed the claim and Hubbard did not collect any physical evidence of his kill.
Blimps served a number of functions off the coast of Europe, mostly convoy duty, mine sweeping, and cargo carrying.
The airships also engaged in less glamorous work, moving supplies and troops from position to position, out of range of enemy subs but vulnerable to air attack. They were sometimes used for fast trips across the ocean or for ferrying freight from England to other allied outposts like the Rock of Gibraltar.
Some arguments were made that the airships were one of the best options for minesweeping. They were used heavily for this activity off the coasts of Europe where the airships flew over the water, cataloging mine locations and reporting them to surface vessels which could avoid the fields until the Navy was ready to remove them.
Four K-Class blimps were tested near nuclear blasts to see how they stood up to the over pressurization from the atomic blast. They didn’t fare well.
(U.S. Department of Energy)
In one high-profile mission, airships were tasked with protecting President Franklin Roosevelt’s and Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s convoy to the Yalta Conference in 1945.
If there’s anything people know about troops and veterans, it’s that they’re disciplined and more often than not, they plan things very well. It should come as a surprise to no one that the gangster who perfected the bank heist was a soldier who did his due diligence.
It might also surprise no one that the same soldier decided to end it all in a blaze of glory while surrounded by people trying to shoot him.
You can thank former Prussian soldier Herman Lamm for all the great bank robbery movies, gangster shows, and heist flicks you’ve ever seen in your life. The legend of Robin Hood-like, gun-toting gangster robbing banks and speeding away from the cops in a hail of bullets? That’s Lamm too. Machine Gun Kelly, John Dillinger, and Bonnie and Clyde owe their successes to Lamm. Known as the “father of modern bank robbery” Hamm pioneered the idea of conducting the heist in the same style as a military operation.
Lamm was born in the German Empire and later joined the Prussian Army before emigrating to the United States, where he began to rob and steal. Instead of being your average stick-up thief, he adapted the tactics and psychology he was taught by the Prussian Army to his crimes. The effect became legendary.
John Dillinger has Lamm to thank for his bank robbery style.
In what would later be dubbed “the Lamm Technique,” he would watch a bank, its guards, and its employees. People in his gang would map the layouts of the banks in various ways, posing as reporters or other outsider professions. He even meticulously planned his getaways, which cars to use, and cased out what routes to take at which times in the day. For the first time, it seemed, each member of the gang was assigned a specific role in the heist, hiring a race car driver to drive the getaway car.
Most importantly, he drilled his men on the action. He practiced and timed every action with every member of the gang to ensure the most German-level efficiency of the heist.
The movie “Heat” and other heist movies have Lamm to thank for their success.
Lamm was not as flashy as the gangsters of the era who decided to make a show of their heists, so history doesn’t remember him as fondly as his contemporaries. He died in his final bank heist, surrounded by armed cops, all trying to get a piece of history’s most efficient thief. But Lamm didn’t give them the satisfaction, ending his own life instead of getting gunned down by Indiana cops.
With Confederate statues coming down across the nation, it’s time to ask: Should we change the name of Army bases named after Confederate Generals?
I think it’s a good discussion for us to have as a nation and an Army. When we can assess the problem and make rational decisions, I trust the Army leadership to make the best decision for our force and nation. We may not all agree on that or those decisions, but one of the greatest parts of America is civil discourse. It’s not difficult to see the pain these names may cause or why the current names don’t matter.
I’ve been to countries where they’ve torn down statues and changed names, erasing history without dialogue. There were many more significant issues, but none of those places have peace and prosperity. A statue or name change alone will not change society or bring a land of opportunity. When not done correctly, it divides people. However, this is an opportunity to do something right for the current and future generations.
We can have discussions and study our Civil War for years. There are a few undeniable conclusions. The Confederates attempted to succeed from the Union and the score was Union – 1, Confederates – 0. The Confederates implicitly or tacitly endorsed slavery of people based upon the color of their skin. We can learn from these difficult times in our nation’s history, so as not to repeat them. We should not honor these generals that fought against their country and therefore the right to own slaves.
In my 20-plus year military career, I never once cared about a base’s name, let alone whether the name of a general inspired me. What motivated me were the units that called those bases home. The famed 82nd Airborne, 101st Airborne, 10th Mountain Division and United States Army Special Forces — these and other storied units are what inspired me. We stand on the shoulders of giants. I’d read about these units in books and watched them in movies. The unit lineage is what mattered to me, and I’m willing to bet most of those I served with would agree.
I also didn’t care that they were named after famous generals. They didn’t inspire me or give me a sense of pride. Truthfully no generals, living or dead, ever inspired me. I had the privilege to work with some of the finest generals of our time. I have immense respect for these men and what I learned from them is invaluable. However, I wouldn’t say I was inspired. Why, you might ask? These generals are so removed from the fight that I find it hard to gain inspiration. Those that inspired me were leaders closer to us out conducting missions in the dirt, and my brothers and sisters that I served with.
I will not lose sleep if we change the names of our bases to Fort Tomato or Fort Pine Tree. I hope that we make these decisions with a thorough process. If Army leadership is considering such a process, I do have some excellent suggestions. Medal of Honor recipient, MSG Roy P. Benavidez, Fort Benavidez. Commander of the Tuskegee airmen, General Benjamin O. Davis, Fort Davis. The list of worthy American soldiers is much longer than the number of bases.
The truth is, we are hurting as a country. If this can help our nation heal, I’m all for it. It’s absurd not to have the discussion. Let’s reinvigorate patriotism and pride in our Army. We can run major marketing campaigns sharing the stories of these worthy soldiers. We can all be proud to say “I’m reporting to” or “served at” Fort (insert great American name).
I leave you with only one question: Will you be part of the discussion with me?
The U.S. Navy’s Aegis Combat System is primarily a defensive weapon (Aegis was first used in English as a synonym to “shield”), but it can also be used to attack enemy land and sea targets. Many American allies have sought to have Aegis installed on their ships or land installations, a trend that Russia hates and often protests.
The Aegis Ashore Missile Defense Test Complex fires during a flight test in December 2018.
For America’s allies around the world, this can be a godsend. Japan has to constantly worry about the possibility of a Korean nuclear missile attack. So, a package deal for highly capable radar and compatible missiles is highly desirable. But when Japan bought two of them for use ashore, Russia lodged protests.
Russia is a regional power. While it doesn’t have the might or clout of the Soviet Union, it did inherit a lot of the Soviet treaties and nearly all of the Soviet nuclear weapons when that nation collapsed. And so it doesn’t want to see its own missiles made obsolete in the unlikely chance of war with Japan, especially when it can lodge protests under treaties like the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.
But when it comes to Europe, Russia is even more sensitive. The Soviet Union used to hold sway over all of Eastern Europe, but American diplomatic expansion after the Soviet collapse has allowed the U.S. to find friends in places like Ukraine, Poland, Estonia, and more that border Russia or its enclave at Kaliningrad.
While Aegis ships at sea can be equipped with everything from Tomahawk Land-Attack Missiles to the entire family of Navy Standard Missiles, Aegis Ashore was initially equipped with just the ballistic defense missile known as Standard Missile-3. But some American leaders have floated the idea of adding the missiles SM-2 and SM-6, missiles capable of killing enemy cruise missiles, jets, and helicopters.
Aegis Ashore Site in Poland under construction in August 2019.
(U.S. Navy Lt. Amy Forsythe)
For Russia, this creates obvious problems. While it has sought to fight in the so-called “grey zone” just short of open warfare in the last few years, it has previously invaded neighbors like Georgia and would like the option of doing so again. A network of missiles that could shred its jets would make the situation worse.
But Russia’s diplomatic protests against Aegis are all aimed at the Tomahawk missile, a potential treaty-violating weapon that would truly terrify Russia if deployed near its borders in large numbers. Aegis at sea can control these missiles and rain them down on America’s enemies like it did against Syria.
But as long as Aegis systems are going in across the world, Russia is going to be protesting. The Tomahawk problem is just the part they can protest against. It’s likely that the real problem for Russia is its missile threat being negated and its bombers and fighters threatened.
But, you know, sucks to be you, Russia. Get on our level.
Senior Army and Pentagon strategists and planners are considering ways to fire existing weapons platforms in new ways around the globe – including the possible placement of mobile artillery units in areas of the South China Sea to, if necessary, function as air-defense weapons to knock incoming rockets and cruise missiles out of the sky.
Alongside the South China Sea, more mobile artillery weapons used for air defense could also prove useful in areas such as the Middle East and Eastern Europe, officials said. Having mobile counter-air weapons such as the M109 Paladin, able to fire 155m precision rounds on-the-move, could prove to be an effective air-defense deterrent against Russian missiles, aircraft and rockets in Eastern Europe, a senior Army official told Scout Warrior.
Regarding the South China Sea, the U.S. has a nuanced or complicated relationship with China involving both rivalry and cooperation; the recent Chinese move to put surface-to-air missiles on claimed territory in the South China Sea has escalated tensions and led Pentagon planners to consider various options.
Officials are clear to emphasize that no decisions have been made along these lines, yet it is one of the things being considered. Pentagon officials have opposed further militarization of the area and emphasized that the territorial disputes in the South China Sea need to be resolved peacefully and diplomatically.
At the same time, Pentagon officials have publicly stated the U.S. will continue “freedom of navigation” exercises wherein Navy ships sail within 12 miles of territory claimed by the Chinese – and tensions are clearly on the rise. In addition to these activities, it is entirely possible the U.S. could also find ways to deploy more offensive and defensive weapons to the region.
Naturally, a move of this kind would need to involve close coordination with U.S. allies in the region, as the U.S. claims no territory in the South China Sea. However, this would involve the deployment of a weapons system which has historically been used for offensive attacks on land. The effort could use an M777 Howitzer or Paladin, weapons able to fire 155m rounds.
Photo: US Army Spc. Gregory Gieske
“We could use existing Howitzers and that type of munition (155m shells) to knock out incoming threats when people try to hit us from the air at long ranges using rockets and cruise missiles,” a senior Army official said.
Howitzers or Paladins could be used as a mobile, direct countermeasures to incoming rockets, he said. A key advantage to using a Paladin is that it is a mobile platform which could adjust to moving or fast-changing approaching enemy fire.
“A Howitzer can go where it has to go. It is a way of changing an offensive weapon and using it in dual capacity,” the official explained. “This opens the door to opportunities and options we have not had before with mobile defensive platforms and offensive capabilities.
Mobile air defenses such as an Army M777 or Paladin Howitzer weapon could use precision rounds and advancing fire-control technology to destroy threatening air assets such as enemy aircraft, drones or incoming artillery fire.
They would bring a mobile tactical advantage to existing Army air defenses such as the Patriot and Theater High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, which primarily function as fixed-defense locations, the senior Army officials said.
The M777 artillery weapon, often used over the years in Iraq and Afghanistan, can fire the precision GPS-guided Excalibur artillery round able to destroy targets within one meter from up to 30-kilometers or more away. Naturally, given this technology, it could potentially be applied as an air-defense weapon as well.
Using a Howitzer or Paladin could also decrease expenses, officials said.
“Can a munition itself be cheaper so we are not making million dollar missiles to shoot down $100,000 dollar incoming weapons,” The Army official said.
While Pentagon officials did not formally confirm the prospect of working with allies to place weapons, such as Howitzers, in the South China Sea, they did say the U.S. was stepping up its coordination with allies in the region.
“We continue work with our partners and allies to develop their maritime security capabilities,” Cmdr. Bill Urban, Pentagon spokesman, told Scout Warrior.
Strategic Capabilities Office
The potential use of existing weapons in new ways is entirely consistent with an existing Pentagon office which was, for the first time, recently announced publically. It is called the Strategic Capabilities Office, or SCO, stood up to look at integrating innovating technologies with existing weapons platforms – or simply adapting or modifying existing weapons for a wider range of applications.
“I created the SCO in 2012 when I was deputy secretary of defense to help us to re-imagine existing DOD and intelligence community and commercial systems by giving them new roles and game-changing capabilities to confound potential enemies — the emphasis here was on rapidity of fielding, not 10 and 15-year programs. Getting stuff in the field quickly,” Carter said.
Senior Army officials say the SCO office is a key part of what provides the conceptual framework for the ongoing considerations of placing new weaponry in different locations throughout the Pacific theater. An Army consideration to place Paladin artillery weapons in the South China Sea would be one example of how to execute this strategic framework.
In fact, the Pentagon is vigorously stepping up its support to allies in the Pacific theater. A 2016 defense law, called the Southeast Asia Maritme Security Initiative, provides new funding to authorize a Department of Defense effort to train, equip, and provide other support to the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand, Urban explained.
“The Secretary (Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter) has committed $425M over Fiscal Years 2016-2020 for MSI (Maritime Security Initiative), with an initial investment of $50M available in fiscal year 2016 toward this effort,” Urban said.
Army Rebalance to the Pacific
While the Army is naturally immersed in activities with NATO to deter Russian movements in Eastern Europe and maintaining missions in Iraq and Afghanistan – the service has not forsaken its commitment to pursuing a substantial Army component to the Pentagon’s Pacific rebalance.
Among other things, this involves stepped up military-to-military activities with allies in the region, coordinating with other leaders and land armies, and efforts to move or re-posture some weapons in the area.”The re-balance to the Pacific is more than military, it is an economic question. the Army has its hands full with the Middle East and with Europe and is dealing with a resurgent problem in Europe and North Africa,” an Army official said. “We have been able to cycle multiple units through different countries,” the senior official said.
Also, the pentagon has made the Commander of Army Pacific a 4-star General, a move which enables him to have direct one-to-one correspondence with his Chinese counterpart and other leaders in the region, he added.
As of several years ago, the Army had 18,500 Soldier stationed in Korea, 2,400 in Japan, 2,000 in Guam, 480 in the Philippines, 22,300 in Hawaii and 13,500 in Alaska. The service continues to support the national defense strategy by strengthening partnerships with existing allies in the region and conduction numerous joint exercises, service officials said.
“The ground element of the Pacific rebalance is important to ensure the stability in the region,” senior officials have said. Many of the world’s largest ground armies are based in the Pacific.
Also, in recent years Army documents have emphasized the need for the service to increase fire power in the Pacific to increased fielding of THAAD, Patriot and the Army Tactical Missile System, or ATACMS in the Pacific region. ATACMS is a technology which delivers precision fires against stationary or slow-moving targets at ranges up to 300 km., Army officials have said. In 2013, the Army did deploy THAAD missile systems to Guam.
Army officials have also called for the development of a land-based anti-ship ballistic missile, directed energy capability, and additional land-based anti-ship fires capabilities such as the Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System.
Army officials have also said man support a potential adaptation of the RGM-84 Harpoon and calls for the development of boost-glide entry warheads able to deploy “to hold adversary shipping at risk all without ever striking targets inland.
Boost-glide weapons use rocket-boosted payload delivery vehicles that glide at hypersonic speeds in the atmosphere. An increase in the Army’s investment in boost-glide technology now could fast track the Army’s impact in the Air-Sea Battle fight in the near term, Army papers have stated.