Navy orders stand-down of littoral combat ships after breakdowns - We Are The Mighty
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Navy orders stand-down of littoral combat ships after breakdowns

Navy orders stand-down of littoral combat ships after breakdowns
The littoral combat ship USS Coronado (LCS 4) underway in the Pacific Ocean | US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Keith DeVinney


After the littoral combat ship USS Freedom sustained major engine damage July 11 because a seal malfunction allowed seawater to seep in, the commander of Naval Surface Forces quietly ordered all LCS crews to observe a stand-down, halting operations to review procedures and engineering standards.

“Due to the ongoing challenges with littoral combat ships, I ordered an engineering stand-down for LCS squadrons and the crews that fall under their command,” Vice Adm. Tom Rowden said in a statement. “These stands down allowed for time to review, evaluate and renew our commitment to ensuring our crews are fully prepared to operate these ships safely.”

The reviews were completed by Aug. 31, Navy officials announced Monday, adding that every sailor in each LCS crew with a role in engineering will observe retraining.

The training, officials said, will take place over the next 30 days. During that time, leadership of the Navy’s Surface Warfare Officer’s School in Newport, Rhode Island, will review the current LCS training program and recommend any other changes they see fit.

The school’s engineers will also supervise current and future training efforts. They will develop a knowledge test and specialized training for LCS engineers, to be deployed to them by Oct. 5. A separate, comprehensive LCS engineering review is being conducted by the commander of SWOS, Capt. David A. Welch, and is expected to take between 30 and 60 days.

“From there, more adjustments may be made to the engineering training pipeline,” officials with Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet, said in a statement.

The Freedom, the first of its class made by Lockheed Martin Corp. and Marinette Marine, returned to its San Diego homeport Aug. 3 to address the damage it sustained to one of its diesel propulsion engines, which Navy officials said will require an engine rebuild or replacement.

It remains unclear what caused another LCS, the USS Coronado, to be sidelined with damage to one of its flexible couplings assemblies Aug. 29.

Upon its return to Pearl Harbor Sept. 4, the Coronado was met by a group of maintenance experts sent by Rowden to inspect the ship, officials said. The experts investigated the ship’s engineering program, but no information has been released about the cause of the problem or whether it might be related to previous engineering casualties.

“A preliminary investigation will provide an initial assessment and procedural review of the situation, and any shortfalls will be addressed quickly to get the ship fixed and back on deployment,” officials said.

The Coronado, so far the only trimaran-hulled Independence-variant LCS made by Austal USA to suffer an engineering casualty, had been just two months into its maiden deployment.

The Freedom and the Coronado are the third and fourth littoral combat ships to experience engineering casualties inside a 12-month span.

Last December, the LCS Milwaukee broke down during a transit from San Diego and Halifax, Nova Scotia when a clutch failed to disengage when the ship switched gears. The ship had to cut short the transit in order to be towed to Joint Base Little Creek, Virginia, for repairs.

In January, the LCS Fort Worth was sidelined in Singapore when it broke down in what officials said was a casualty caused by engineers failing to properly apply lubrication oil to the ship’s combining gears. After eight months in port in Singapore for repairs, the Fort Worth departed for its San Diego homeport in August.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Shia hits the fan: Understanding Iran’s role in the Middle East

The Islamic Republic of Iran was America’s original nemesis in the Middle East before Saddam’s Iraq stole the spotlight from 1990-2003. (Saddam and the Iranians, by the way, fought a bloody 8-year war against each other in the 1980s.) A casual observer might assume that the Islamic Republic of Iran must be best buddies with the infamous Islamic State (ISIS)…but no, they share a mutual hatred of each other.


Yeah, it’s all a bit complicated and messy, so strap in, and we’ll clear things up a bit.

Iran is a theocracy, meaning the country is governed by religious law. Rather than a single strongman dictator, Iran is ruled by a group of religious clerics who control the country’s “elected” leaders like former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (remember him?) Iran became the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1979 after religious fundamentalists overthrew the secular government of Shah Reza Pahlevi.

The Shah was a dictator, albeit one less brutal than the current regime, who came to power in 1954 with the help of the American CIA. It was a bad look for Uncle Sam, and many Iranians never forgot it.

Navy orders stand-down of littoral combat ships after breakdowns

American hostages in Iran following the Islamist takeover of 1979.

(Source: Associated Press)

The Iranians are not Arabs like their neighbors to the west. Rather, they are Persians. Instead of Arabic, they speak a dialect of Persian called Farsi. The Iranians are predominantly Shia Muslims, whereas most Arabs are Sunni Muslims.

Theologically, Shias and Sunnis are akin to Protestants and Catholics in the Western world. 85-90% of Muslims worldwide are Sunni and, while the world’s Shia are concentrated in Iran, there are Shia minorities throughout the Arab world. Iraq is unique because it has both an Arab majority and a Shia majority, giving Iran a prime opportunity for heavy influence there (check the news…)

Al Qaeda and the Islamic State are Sunni jihadist groups, whereas Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Houthis in Yemen, and many of the large militias in Iraq are Shia.

Navy orders stand-down of littoral combat ships after breakdowns

(Source: Pew Research Center)

So the Iranians are Persians and not Arabs, and their leaders are fundamentalist Muslims but from the opposite branch of Islam than bin Laden and the Islamic State.

So what’s Iran’s game plan? In a nutshell, Iran wants to preserve and spread its “Islamic revolution” by boxing out the Sunni Arabs and supporting Shia groups across the Middle East (they also work with certain Sunni groups like Hamas.)

To dominate the Middle East, Iran’s leaders want to exploit the “Shia Crescent,” a network of Shia populations stretching from the Persian Gulf to Lebanon. Iran’s message to these Shia populations is “Big Brother Iran is here to save you from the Sunnis, the Israelis, and the Americans.”

Navy orders stand-down of littoral combat ships after breakdowns

(Source: Geographic Intelligence Services)

You can think of the fight against ISIS as World War II, with ISIS filling the role of Nazi Germany. During WWII, the Western Allies and the Soviet Union set aside their rivalries to defeat a common threat. The Defeat-ISIS campaign was similar in that Iran’s Shia coalition shared a mutual enemy with the American/Sunni alliance, even though the two sides weren’t officially partners.

But now, like in 1945, the old rivalries are back in play once again. On one side, Iran leads Syria, Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Houthis in Yemen, and other Shia factions in the region. Opposing them are the Sunni Arab countries aligned with the United States.

Fear and mistrust of Iran runs deep in countries like Saudi Arabia- so deep, in fact, that Saudi Arabia has reportedly made secret arrangements with Israel to counter the Iranian threat (that’s, uh, a plot twist…to put it mildly.) Iraq, with its Shia majority but close and complicated relationship with the United States, remains stuck in a tug-of-war between the rival coalitions.

Navy orders stand-down of littoral combat ships after breakdowns

Alleged secret plan for Israeli aircraft to use Saudi airspace to strike Iran. Saudi Arabia publicly denies this.

(Source: Rick Francona)

Iran was once the great ancient empire of Persia, and there is more to modern Iran than its leaders’ ambitions. Iran has a population of over 80 million, and resentment toward the regime is widespread. Strict religious tyranny and a weak economy cause frequent protests which the Iranian regime suppresses with ruthless violence. It’s unclear if this unrest will eventually put the regime’s power in serious jeopardy.

Iran’s economic problems are driven in part by economic sanctions imposed by the U.S. and Europe. These sanctions, in turn, are imposed partly as a result of Iran’s nuclear program- a program which, the regime insists, is strictly for domestic energy production. Iran’s alleged quest for nuclear weapons is concerning because an atomic Iran could lead its Sunni rivals to pursue their own nuclear weapons.

Navy orders stand-down of littoral combat ships after breakdowns

Iranian protesters in 2009.

(Source: Getty Images)

Further Iranian vs. American bloodshed seems to have been averted in the immediate aftermath of the U.S. assassination of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani, but violence between the two countries is nothing new.

The infamous 1983 Beirut bombing, which killed 241 U.S. servicemen, was perpetrated by an Iranian suicide bomber and 1988’s “Operation Praying Mantis” pitted the U.S. Navy against the Iranian Navy in the largest American naval combat operation since WWII. The whole region remains a Game of Thrones-tier snake pit of conflicting loyalties, religious conflict, and political scheming.

Hopefully now, however, you better understand what led to the U.S. government ordering a drone strike on that guy who looked like Sean Connery.

Navy orders stand-down of littoral combat ships after breakdowns

Iranian Quds Force general Qasem Soleimani, killed by a U.S. drone strike in January 2020.

(Source: Getty Images)

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A Russian fighter just buzzed a US reconnaissance plane

A Russian Su-27 Flanker came within five feet of an American reconnaissance plane over the Baltic Sea. The incident came shortly after a major multi-national exercise concluded.


According to a report by FoxNews.com, the advanced Russian fighter armed with air-to-air missiles buzzed an Air Force RC-135. Since June 2, there have been 35 encounters between American and Russian aircraft, but this incident was notable due to how close the Flanker came to the American plane.

Navy orders stand-down of littoral combat ships after breakdowns
An underside view of a Soviet Su-27 Flanker aircraft carrying air-to-air missiles. (DOD photo)

It is not the first close encounter. Earlier this year, a Russian plane came within 20 feet of a Navy patrol plane. Russian planes also buzzed the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) in the Black Sea in February, and a Russian “tattletale” operated off the East Coast earlier this year.

The BALTOPS exercise this year was notable in that all three American heavy bombers in service, the B-52H Stratofortress, the B-1B Lancer, and the B-2A Spirit, participated, an Air Force release noted. A B-52H was intercepted by Russian fighters earlier this month.

Navy orders stand-down of littoral combat ships after breakdowns
U.S. Air Force E-3 Sentry AWACS, an RC-135, and KC-135s sit at the CURACAO/ARUBA Cooperative Security Location. | Photo via SOUTHCOM.

USNI News had reported that Russia threatened to target any U.S. aircraft in Syria west of the Euphrates River in response to the downing of a Syrian Su-22 Fitter by a Navy F/A-18E Super Hornet. Russia has also deployed nuclear-capable ballistic missiles to Kaliningrad, an enclave surrounded by Poland and Lithuania.

It was not immediately clear which version of the RC-135 was intercepted by the Russians in this incident. The Air Force has three variants of the RC-135. The RC-135S Cobra Ball specializes in ballistic missile tracking. The RC-135U Combat Sent is an electronic intelligence aircraft that specializes in locating emitters for radar systems. The RC-135V/W Rivet Joint specializes in electronic intelligence – and is even capable of intercepting communications.

Articles

7 Interesting Facts About The Javelin Missile System


The FGM-148 Javelin is portable and cheap when it is relatively compared to the targets it was designed to destroy: tanks. Developed in the 80s and implemented in the 90s, it’s one of the most devastating anti-tank field missiles. Here are seven cool facts about the shoulder anti-tank missile system:

Texas Instruments – the same company known for their scientific calculators – developed the Javelin.

Navy orders stand-down of littoral combat ships after breakdowns
Texas Instruments calculator (Photo: Wikimedia), Javelin (Wikimedia)

To be precise, two companies developed the Javelin: Texas Instruments and Martin Marietta (now Raytheon and Lockheed-Martin).

A Javelin launcher costs $126,000, roughly the same price of a new Porsche 911 GT3.

Navy orders stand-down of littoral combat ships after breakdowns
Javelin (Photo: Wikimedia), Porsche 911 GT3 (Photo: m7snal7arbi/Instagram)

The Javelin is a fire-and-forget missile; it locks onto targets and self-guides in mid-flight.

Navy orders stand-down of littoral combat ships after breakdowns
Photo: YouTube

The gunner identifies the target with the Command Launch Unit (CLU) – the reusable targeting component of the Javelin system – which passes an infrared image to the missile’s onboard seeker system. The seeker hones in on the image despite the missile’s flight path, angle of attack, or target’s movement.

The CLU may be used without a missile as a portable thermal sight.

Navy orders stand-down of littoral combat ships after breakdowns
Photo: Staff Sgt. Bret Mill/US Army

The Army is working on a new CLU that will be 70 percent smaller, 40 percent lighter, and have a 50 percent battery life increase.

The Javelin has two attack modes: direct attack and top attack.

Navy orders stand-down of littoral combat ships after breakdowns
Photo: Wikimedia

In direct attack mode – think fastball – the missile engages the target head-on. This is the ideal mode for attacking buildings and helicopters.

Navy orders stand-down of littoral combat ships after breakdowns
Photo: Wikimedia

In top attack mode – think curveball – the missile sharply climbs up to a cruising altitude, sustains, and sharply dives onto the target. This is the mode used for attacking tanks. A tank’s armor is usually most vulnerable on its top side.

The main rocket ignites after achieving about a five to ten yard clearance from the operator.

Navy orders stand-down of littoral combat ships after breakdowns
Photo: USMC

The Javelin system ejects the missile from the launcher using a conventional motor and rocket propellant that stops burning before it clears the tube. After a short delay – just enough time to clear the operator – the flight motor ignites propelling the missile to the target.

A Javelin missile costs approximately $78,000; about the same price of a base model Range Rover.

Navy orders stand-down of littoral combat ships after breakdowns
Javelin (Photo: Wikimedia), Range Rover (Photo: eriq_adams/Instagram)

Because launching a Javelin missile is about the equivalent of throwing away a Range Rover, most operators never get the opportunity to fire a live Javelin round.

NOW: This Sniper Round Can Change Direction In Mid-Flight

AND: DARPA Is Building A Drone That Can Tell What Color Shirt You’re Wearing From 17,500 Feet

MIGHTY TRENDING

The UK is sending another warship to the Persian Gulf

The UK is deploying an additional frigate and a support ship to the Persian Gulf region, although the UK Ministry of Defence said the deployments were not related to increasing tensions in Iran.

The Type 45 frigate HMS Duncan is in transit to the region, as the UK announced it would also deploy Type 23 frigate HMS Kent and support ship RFA Wave Knight. The moves were reported first by Times of London reporter Lucy Fisher and confirmed by MoD.

British frigate HMS Montrose successfully stopped Iranian gunboats from seizing a tanker on July 10, 2019.


The MoD issued a release confirming that the ships would be deployed as part of Operation KIPION, its “commitment to promoting peace and stability as well as ensuring the safe flow of trade, and countering narcotics and piracy.”

“RFA WAVE KNIGHT’s role is to deliver food, fuel, water and other essential supplies to [Royal Navy] and Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) ships,” according to the release. The MoD states that the HMS Kent will take over for the HMS Duncan, a warship currently deploying to the Gulf to “maintain a continuous maritime security presence” in the region.

The news caps off over a month of high tensions between Iran, the US and its allies.

Earlier this week, the Associated Press reported that a UAE-based tanker has gone missing in the Strait of Hormuz.

The 190-foot, Panama-flagged Riah oil tanker entered Iranian waters and stopped transmitting location data more than two days ago, according to the AP. Capt. Rajnith Raja from data firm Refinitiv told the AP that losing the signal from the Riah was “a red flag.”

The Riah was last heard from in Iranian waters, near Qeshm Island, the AP reported, citing a US defense official. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which the US designated as a terrorist organization earlier this year, has a base on the island.

Escalating tensions: Iran calls on United Kingdom to release oil tanker

www.youtube.com

The US official told the AP that the US “has suspicions” that the Riah is in Iranian hands.

On July 4, 2019, the government of Gibraltar, a British territory, seized an Iranian tanker it said was carrying oil to Syria through the Straits of Gibraltar; Iran vowed retaliation, and attempted to block a British tanker in the Strait of Hormuz a week later. Britain sent a second warship to the region to replace the HMS Montrose, which had been patrolling the British tanker and prevented the seizure.

Britain has agreed to release the Iranian tanker under the condition that it will not transit to Syria.

In June 2019, Japanese and Norweigian tankers were attacked in the Gulf of Oman; the US blamed Iran for the attacks, but Iran has denied responsibility.

The US has proposed a plan for a coalition of allies to patrol Iranian and Yemeni waters as incidents in the Gulf increase.

“We’re engaging now with a number of countries to see if we can put together a coalition that would ensure freedom of navigation both in the Straits of Hormuz and the Bab al-Mandab,” Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said July 2019.

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

Articles

Mother of Marine killed in Afghanistan adopts his working dog

A gold star mother from Rancho Cucamonga, California is honoring her Marine son’s last wishes by taking in his beloved working dog, Sirius. She made that promise the very last time she spoke to him.


Navy orders stand-down of littoral combat ships after breakdowns

Sgt. Joshua Ashley was soon killed in Afghanistan by an improvised explosive device (IED). Sirius was with Joshua when he died. He was 23 years old.

Navy orders stand-down of littoral combat ships after breakdowns
Sirius sits on a memorial dedicated to Sgt. Joshua Ashley, his handler. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

His mother, Tammie Ashley kept the promise four years later, after Sirius was retired from the Marine Corps. She picked the pup up at the airport in Ontario, California.

“It was the strangest thing,” Ashley told CBS Los Angeles. “He was smelling my face like he was going to lick it, and it was almost like ‘I recognize you.’ Like, ‘You were Josh’s mom.'”

Navy orders stand-down of littoral combat ships after breakdowns
Sirius during his deployment to Afghanistan (U.S. Navy photo)

Sirius, a German Shepherd, was 7 years old when Ashley died. It was a big loss. The team of Ashley and Sirius scored a 100 percent in their pre-deployment training class. Four months later, on July 18, 2012, Ashley hit the IED that killed him.

Their story is recounted in author Rebecca Frankel’s “War Dogs: Tales of Canine Heroism, History and Love.”

Articles

The Air Force wants airmen to say nice things about the troubled F-35

Taking a page from the 2006 self-help book The Secret, the United States Air Force believes saying good things about the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter will make them come true. In an eight-page For Official Use Only (FOUO) memo to its public affairs offices, the Air Force gives detailed instructions on how to say only nice things about the troubled weapons system.


The estimated price tag of the 14-year-old Joint Strike Fighter program now tops $1.5 trillion. The Air Force, a service that has trouble keeping track of the cost of its new weapons systems, is pushing the fighter as a weapon designed for the “entire battle space.” The problems with the fighter are mounting, well beyond the battle space.

Navy orders stand-down of littoral combat ships after breakdowns
This is the space where it gets the most help.

A recent RAND corporation study found the fundamentals of the F-35 design to be “double inferior to Chinese and Russian designs.” Other comments from the RAND study include: “Inferior acceleration, inferior climb, inferior sustained turn capability. Also has lower top speed.” Earlier in 2015, the F-35 lost a dogfight to the F-16, a jet from the 1970s. If that wasn’t enough, the Air Force and Lockheed only just recently figured out what kept causing their engines to ignite on takeoff. Finally, the Air Force is taking a lot of flak (see what I did there?) from Congress and a community of military members who support the A-10 Thunderbolt II (aka the Warthog). In an effort to put billions toward the F-35, the Air Force is trying to forcefully retire the A-10’s close air support mission in favor of the new stealth fighter, even though the F-35’s gun won’t fire until 2019.

The Air Force Public Affairs Agency’s communications theme is “Lethal, Survivable, and Adaptive.” Lethal is a strange choice for an airframe whose weapons won’t be operational for another four years. Survivable is good to know if you’re piloting a plane whose engine is known to ignite. Adaptive is good for cost sharing with Coalition partners, because all of this stuff is really expensive.

Navy orders stand-down of littoral combat ships after breakdowns
Pictured: a $300 Million Bonfire

It’s so expensive that in July of this year, the USAF released a 20-year strategic forecast titled “America’s Air Force: A Call to the Future,” which calls for an end to big-ticket programs like the F-35. That report says it’s no longer possible to build a strategy advantage with large, expensive programs that take years to complete. Yet Lockheed and the U.S. military hope to produce 2,400 of the F-35s over 20 years.

The public affairs memo coaches public affairs officers how to address other questions, like the fighter’s $400,000 helmet, the advanced technology the U.S. is sharing with 11 countries, or the fact that the F-35 is bad at long range power projection.

After addressing concerns about the F-35, the Air Force believes it will see “U.S. opinion leaders, the American public and international partners are reassured and have confidence in the capability and can articulate why the F-35 is required for national defense.”

Are you reassured yet, American public?

Navy orders stand-down of littoral combat ships after breakdowns
USAF Public Affairs: Puttin’ out fires left and right

Now: The B-29 Superfortress debuted 73 years ago – relive it’s legacy in photos

MIGHTY TRENDING

The US just sent nearly 1M bombs and missiles to Guam — here’s why

The Air Force munitions stockpile in Guam recently received a ten percent boost, according to the U.S. military.


A total of 816,393 munitions assets valued at over $95 million dollars were delivered to Andersen Air Force Base between Aug. 21 and Sept. 30, 36th Wing Public Affairs revealed in a statement Wednesday.

“The inbound munitions ensure required assets are available in theater to support national objectives,” explained Maj. Erik Schmid, 36th Munitions Squadron commander. “The munitions will increase the overall availability of day-to-day training assets and War Reserve Material stocks to support warfighting capabilities,” the statement introduced.

The commander of the Pacific Air Forces addressed the severity of the North Korean threat Monday while warning that the U.S. military remains ready to fight should that course of action be required.

“The North Korean nuclear weapons and missile development program is truly a threat to us all,” Pacific Air Forces commander Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy said in Seoul, South Korea, adding, “While the United States will always seek peace over war, we remain poised to defend our ideals, our allies, and those who help preserve these international rules and norms.”

Navy orders stand-down of littoral combat ships after breakdowns
Kim Jong Un in a nuclear facility in North Korea. (KCNA)

The strategic air assets located at Andersen Air Force Base facilitate America’s continuous bomber presence in the Asia Pacific and are regularly used to warn North Korea of the dangers of threatening the U.S. and its allies.

B-1B Lancers, powerful bombers that are no longer nuclear capable but carry the largest conventional payload of any U.S. bomber, are regularly sent to Korea to train alongside South Korean and Japanese forces, conduct practice bombing raids, and carry out flybys near the inter-Korean border. These flights typically follow North Korean provocations, such as missile and nuclear tests.

With memories of the intense bombing campaigns of the Korean War still fresh in mind, Pyongyang tends to express outrage about the threat posed by U.S. flights around the peninsula. North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho recently suggested that North Korea has the right to defend itself and could move to shoot down U.S. aircraft that get too close.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is how a Marine amphibious vehicle caught fire during training in CA

An amphibious vehicle hit a gas line sparking a fire that injured 14 Marines and a sailor during a training exercise at a California base earlier this week, a US military official said Sept. 15.


The vehicle got stuck and as it tried to get free, it hit the gas line, said the official who was not authorized to discuss the incident publicly so spoke on condition of anonymity.

The Marines from the 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, and 3rd Assault Amphibian Battalion and a Navy corpsman were conducting a combat readiness evaluation as part of their battalion training at about 9:30 a.m. Sept. 13 when the amphibious vehicle ignited in an inland area of Camp Pendleton, north of San Diego, said Marine 1st Lt. Paul Gainey.

The troops were sent to area hospitals, including eight who were rushed to a burn center. On Sept. 13, five were listed in critical condition. The Marine Corps has declined to release information on their conditions since then, citing privacy concerns.

Navy orders stand-down of littoral combat ships after breakdowns
An Assault Amphibious Vehicle. USMC photo by Lance Cpl. Immanuel Johnson.

The command is investigating the cause of the incident. Gainey said he had no further information to release.

The armored vehicle is used to carry troops and their equipment from Navy ships onto land. It resembles a tank and travels through water before coming ashore. It has been used in the Marine Corps since the 1970s.

In 2013, a 21-year-old Camp Pendleton Marine died and four others were injured when ordnance ignited an amphibious assault vehicle during a training exercise at Marine Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, in the California desert.

The Marine Corps has since developed a safer mine clearing system for its amphibious assault vehicles.

Articles

Here are the best military photos for the week of Feb. 4

The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:


AIR FORCE:

An A-10C Thunderbolt II from the 74th Fighter Squadron taxis down the runway during Green Flag-West 17-03 Jan. 23, 2017, at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. The 74th FS brought 12 A-10s to GFW in support of a joint, large-force, combat-readiness exercise for close air support integration training.

Navy orders stand-down of littoral combat ships after breakdowns
U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Ryan Callaghan

Two Air Force teams hand off their batons during the mile relay at the 27th annual Air Force Invitational at the U.S. Air Force Academy’s Cadet Field House in Colorado Springs, Colo., Jan. 21, 2017. The Falcons fielded five teams, grabbing the top two positions, with the Colorado Buffs finishing in third place.

Navy orders stand-down of littoral combat ships after breakdowns
U.S. Air Force photo by Bill Evans

ARMY:

U.S. Army and Latvian Soldiers conduct winter survival training during Operation Atlantic Resolve.

Navy orders stand-down of littoral combat ships after breakdowns
Latvian Land Force photo by Normunds Mežiņš, Young Guard and Information Centre

173rd Airborne Brigade and Latvian Soldiers conduct winter survival training during Operation Atlantic Resolve, Jan. 26, 2017.

Navy orders stand-down of littoral combat ships after breakdowns
Latvian Land Force photo by Normunds Mežiņš, Young Guard and Information Centre

NAVY:

PACIFIC OCEAN (Jan. 30, 2017) Capt. Doug Verissimo, commanding officer of the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70), conducts pre-flight checks in an F/A 18E Super Hornet from the Kestrels of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 137. The Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group is on a western Pacific deployment as part of the U.S. Pacific Fleet-led initiative to extend the command and control functions of U.S. 3rd fleet.

Navy orders stand-down of littoral combat ships after breakdowns
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Matt Brown

ATLANTIC OCEAN (Feb. 1, 2017) An E/A-18G Growler assigned to the Lancers of Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 131 launches from the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77). The ship’s carrier strike group is conducting naval operations in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations in support of U.S. national security interests.

Navy orders stand-down of littoral combat ships after breakdowns
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Christopher Gaines

Marines assigned to Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, fire a M252A2 81mm mortar system at Range 106 during Integrated Training Exercise 2-17, at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, Calif., Jan. 13, 2017. ITX is a combined-arms exercise which provides all elements of the Marine Air Ground Task Force an opportunity to utilize capabilities during large scale missions to become a more ready fighting force. 1/3 is currently participating as the ground combat element for this exercise.

Navy orders stand-down of littoral combat ships after breakdowns
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Aaron S. Patterson

Marines observe the abilities of military working dog teams during a training exercise in Okinawa, Japan, Jan. 25, 2017. The Marines are dog handlers with 3rd Law Enforcement Battalion, III Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group, III Marine Expeditionary Force.

Navy orders stand-down of littoral combat ships after breakdowns
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Jessica Etheridge

A 29-foot Response Boat-Small II boat crew from Station Sand Key, Florida, prepares to set a safety zone before the annual Gasparilla boat parade in Tampa Bay, Florida, Saturday, Jan. 28, 2017. The Coast Guard partnered with multiple local agencies to ensure the safety and security of boaters during the event.

Navy orders stand-down of littoral combat ships after breakdowns
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Ashley J. Johnson

An MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew flies over the Gasparilla barge, Jose Gaspar, during the annual Gasparilla boat parade in Tampa Bay, Florida, Saturday, Jan. 28, 2017. The Coast Guard partnered with multiple local agencies to ensure the safety and security of boaters during the event.

Navy orders stand-down of littoral combat ships after breakdowns
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Ashley J. Johnson

Articles

‘World of Tanks’ lets players hop into intense armored combat

After Action Report | World of Tanks from WATM on Vimeo.

World of Tanks” has a simple premise: Get into a tank and go kill stuff. And yes, it’s as fun as it sounds.


The game starts off with a tutorial level that gives the absolute basics of tank driving in World of Tanks before allowing players to fight bots for practice. After that, players are thrown into the deep end with other players.

And that’s when it gets really fun. After all, “World of Tanks” is a multiplayer game, and the best parts happen when fighting in the massive 15-on-15 tank battles. Playing in random groups gives you the chance to drop right into the action. But players can set up platoons with friends so that they can go into the battle and fight as a team.

Navy orders stand-down of littoral combat ships after breakdowns

Fighting as a team is very valuable considering the game has 120 million players worldwide, some of whom have been gaining experience since the game launched five years ago.

These teams are built around a mix of tank types. Players can drive light, medium, and heavy tanks as well as tank destroyers and self-propelled guns.

No matter which tank type you try driving, you get the feeling that you’re moving out in a true, multi-ton weapon of war, driving over trees and through buildings in battle.

Navy orders stand-down of littoral combat ships after breakdowns

But, you learn that the enemy is just as strong as you the first time a medium or heavy tank starts pounding on your hull with anti-tank rounds or an SPG hits you with artillery through your soft top armor.

Each kind of tank has its own strengths and weaknesses, and “World of Tanks” does a good job making them feel unique while teaching players how to tactically use each tank on its own and in a platoon.

Tactics are very important in “World of Tanks.” The game’s physics discourage firing from slopes down onto the enemy, a big no-no in real tank combat as well.

Each vehicle has specific weak points that players learn to protect. Players also have to quickly learn to fire from behind cover and to use concealment when maneuvering.

Juggling all of this can be hectic but is exciting in matches, especially when the enemy missteps and you’re able to blast them away with a shot in the rear armor.

Navy orders stand-down of littoral combat ships after breakdowns

To make your mission a little easier, the game lets you recruit and train crew members, allowing for faster reloads or better tank handling in combat. Players can also upgrade their tanks. Researching a new gun may give a semi-automatic capability or buying a new engine will get a tank around the battlefield faster. The eight research trees are split by nationality and each country’s armor strategy feels unique.

Navy orders stand-down of littoral combat ships after breakdowns

With all eight tech trees combined, the game features 450 tanks complete with their own handling, armor, and weapons characteristics as well as notes about their history and development.

Historical accuracy is important to “World of Tanks,” and the tanks and weapons are carefully created to match their real-world counterparts. The game does take some liberties with the historical accuracy, though, tweaking some weapons and stats to keep the game balanced and fun.

Basically, everything is kept true to history unless one tank starts being able to run roughshod over everyone else. When that happens, the designers make a few small changes to rebalance the game.

While 15-on-15 tank battles are the default, the game does have other modes like Clan Stronghold or Global Map, where clans of tankers fight each other for resources.

Wargaming.net is even bringing Football Mode back for a short time to celebrate Euro 2016. Basically, it’s soccer with tanks:

The game is free to play, but the premium version allows players to more quickly upgrade their tanks. Players can also opt to buy awesome, premium tanks in one-time transactions.

Check the game out for free on Wargaming.net.

MIGHTY TRENDING

In a world of vet-owned coffee, Rakkasan Tea has a mission of its own

Brandon Friedman wants you to know that just because coffee has the reputation of being the military’s beverage of choice, tea isn’t reserved for Brits in silly hats enjoying crumpets. For Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, their wars have centered mostly around having tea. After all, foreign fighters and tribal leaders hold court over tea, not coffee. Friedman thought it was strange that tea isn’t more associated with the military experience. He founded Rakkasan Tea Company with that in mind.

Friedman was commissioned as an Army infantry officer in 2000 and was assigned to the 3rd Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division — known as the “Rakkasans,” the old Japanese word for “parachute.” By March, 2002, he and his unit were in an air assault into Afghanistan’s Shah-e-Kot Valley as part of Operation Anaconda. In 2003, he was part of the initial invasion of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and eventually became part of the force that held Tal Afar and Mosul.


By 2004, he was out of the Army and taking his career in a different direction. His now-business partner in Rakkasan Tea was then-Pfc. Terrence “TK” Kamauf, whom Friedman met in his unit. Kamauf was a machine gunner then, but stayed in long after Friedman left. Kamauf went on to become a Green Beret and was in another six or seven years. Now, the two import tea together.

Navy orders stand-down of littoral combat ships after breakdowns

Friedman’s partner in Rakkasan Tea, Terrence “TK” Kamauf (left), in Iraq.

(Courtesy of Brandon Friedman)

But Friedman’s love for the leaf began in Iraq. As many veterans can attest, all business was conducted over tea. It was an introduction to what Friedman calls the “social experience of tea.”

“It’s hard to find that in the U.S. because this is such a coffee country and coffee is really a solitary drink,” He says. “Tea brings people together and we think the U.S. is ready for that. I know we won’t convert everyone, but the veteran community should certainly give tea a serious look.”

Navy orders stand-down of littoral combat ships after breakdowns

Friedman with his platoon of Rakkasans in Iraq.

But where Rakkasan Tea Company gets its tea is central to its ongoing mission. The company imports solely from post-conflict countries as a way to promote peace and economic development.

“As a veteran-owned and veteran-staffed company, we understand what conflict does to communities,” Friedman says. “And we want to get as many veterans into this business as we can. So, we often describe our mission as being one that helps communities recover from war at home AND abroad.”

Rakkasan Tea comes from places like Nepal, Rwanda, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, and Laos. With the exception of Sri Lanka, these are difficult to find on American shelves. The tea imported from Laos is significant because it comes from one of the areas most devastated by American bombing during the Vietnam War — more ordnance was dropped on Laos than in the entirety of Europe during World War II.

Navy orders stand-down of littoral combat ships after breakdowns

One of Rakkasan Tea Company’s Vietnamese tea pickers.

(Courtesy of Brandon Friedman)

The latest effort in Laos centers on small farms in the mountainous Xiengkhouang Province and on the Bolaven Plateau in southern Champasak Province. The teas come from some of the oldest trees in the world and you won’t find this quality at Starbucks or Whole Foods.

Navy orders stand-down of littoral combat ships after breakdowns

To Friedman, tea is like wine: its character, flavor, and aroma are all greatly influenced by its environment. That might be why he sells tea both by the type of tea and its place of origin.

“Rainfall, altitude, soil content, processing techniques, and more all factor into the taste and quality,” Friedman says. “So when we say we have premium tea grown in Rwanda’s volcanic soil or tea grown on northern Vietnam’s 400-year-old tea trees, that’s of interest to tea enthusiasts. Because it’s really good.”

He wants you to know how good it is and he wants you to be a repeat customer. He obsesses over the returns from his customers. Their feedback really does have an influence on the direction of the company.

“First, I hope we’re living up to the Rakkasan ideal of honor, justice, and commitment,” he says. “But meeting people who enjoy our product is best part of doing this.”

Articles

The invasion of Iraq began 13 years ago

U.S. and coalition forces invaded Iraq 13 years ago today,  kicking off a war that would last until the end of 2011.


President George W. Bush had given Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein an ultimatum to cede power and leave the country by early-morning Mar. 20, 2003. American forces stepped off the line of departure 90 minutes after the clock ran out.

Navy orders stand-down of littoral combat ships after breakdowns
An F-117A Nighthawk drops a laser-guided bomb during training. Photo: Air Force Master Sgt. Edward Snyder

Jets and Tomahawk missiles struck government and military targets deep within the country, including some within Baghdad. The first strike was conducted by F-117 stealth fighters against Dora Farms, a retreat near Baghdad where Saddam and two of his sons were believed to be that morning.

Most of Dora Farms was destroyed in the attack, but Saddam had left the area long before the bombs fell.

Saddam quickly went into hiding as CIA operatives and special operations troops called in airstrikes throughout Iraq. Fearful that the Iraqi military would destroy infrastructure and set traps for advancing troops like they did in the First Persian Gulf War, the coalition sent in ground forces just hours after the first airstrikes.

Navy orders stand-down of littoral combat ships after breakdowns
British Royal Marines prepare for the invasion of Iraq. Photo: Ministry of Defence Dave Coombs

U.S. soldiers under V Corps and Marines with the I Marine Expeditionary Force invaded from Kuwait into Iraq towards Baghdad.

At the same time, U.S. Marines, British forces, and Polish commandos began an assault over land and sea against Al Faw peninsula and the port city of Umm Qasr. The area is home to a large amount of oil infrastructure and it controls waterways that would be vital to moving ships loaded with supplies into the country.

Just behind the front lines, Spanish troops moved into Iraq to provide humanitarian assistance.

Navy orders stand-down of littoral combat ships after breakdowns
Photo: US Air Force Tech. Sgt. John L. Houghton, Jr.

The initial invasion ran from Mar. 20 to May 1 and was an unqualified success. While Saddam Hussein managed to escape into hiding, his forces put up little resistance. U.S. and allied forces were able to capture the entire country with little damage to infrastructure. American troops were pushing into Baghdad and walking American flags through palaces owned by Saddam by early April, just weeks after the invasion began.

Of course, things got more complicated after that, to put it mildly. Sectarian violence and a brutal insurgency against the new government of Iraq and the coalition forces would drag out the war for another 8 years.

But that’s another story . . . .

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