Navy states poor training, leadership failures led to Iran capturing sailors - We Are The Mighty
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Navy states poor training, leadership failures led to Iran capturing sailors

Navy states poor training, leadership failures led to Iran capturing sailors
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As the U.S. Navy crews of two riverine command boats were being held on Iran’s Farsi island by members of the Revolutionary Guard, their captors began to interrogate the group, demanding to know where the Navy “mothership” was.

The ten crew members insisted on the truth — that there was no mothership, and the 50-foot boats were making a transit of 250 nautical miles from Kuwait to Bahrain on their own.

Reportedly, the captors were incredulous, telling the group they didn’t believe the boats could make the distance on their own.

“Yeah,” at least one of the Navy crew members reportedly laughed. “I wish you could tell my people that, because we told them these boats can’t do that.”

This exchange, revealed for the first time in a Navy command investigation made public Thursday, highlights many of the key findings regarding the circumstances that led to the 15-hour detention of the ten sailors Jan. 12.

The 170-page probe found shoddy training, poor preparation, communication gaps and leadership failures all were to blame for the international incident, which was manipulated into a propaganda victory by the Iranians.

Among other discoveries, the investigation found that members of the riverine boat crews had been up all night before the planned transit attempting to repair the poorly maintained boats, a violation of policies requiring ample rest before journeys of that length.

They determined that the sailors had unknowingly passed through Saudi Arabian territorial waters before accidentally entering Iranian territorial waters. And they found the sailors had committed multiple code-of-conduct violations while detained, demonstrating a lack of understanding of policy and insufficient training.

In all, the investigation recommends that eight Navy officers and petty officers be held accountable for leadership and conduct failings in the incident.

Transit gone wrong

According to the investigation, the transit of the two riverine boats, assigned to Coastal Riverine Squadron 3 began in the afternoon Jan. 12. The boats were ordered to transit from Kuwait to Bahrain to support an upcoming military exercise, a longer distance than the crews, or anyone from the squadron, had ever covered before in the vessels.

The boats planned to meet up with the Coast Guard Cutter Monomoy before sunset to refuel, and altered their course as soon as they got underway to reach the cutter faster, but without notifying anyone of their plans, according to the investigation.

From the outset, communications were a problem. The second riverine boat, 805, eventually established satellite communication with officials from the parent unit, Task Force 56.7, in Bahrain. The lead boat, 802, never established satellite communication.

Shortly into the journey, just before 3:30 p.m. local time, the boats unknowingly entered and passed through Saudi Arabian territorial waters. Just after 3:45 p.m., they entered Iranian waters around Farsi Island, which lies between Saudi Arabia and Iran in the Persian Gulf. The Monomoy, monitoring the journey, notified task force officials that the boats appeared to be in Iranian territorial seas.

Fewer than 30 minutes after the boats entered the region, boat 802 discovered a loss of lube oil pressure. The two boats decided to go “dead in the water” to investigate the engine issue, just 1.5 nautical miles south of Farsi island.

Minutes later, two small Iranian boats approached, crew-mounted weapons pointed at the riverine boats. Some of the riverine crew members went to man their own crew-mounted weapons, but the captain of the lead boat, a Navy lieutenant and the only officer in the group, waved them off in an attempt to de-escalate.

Sailors detained

As Iranian troops racked their weapons and pointed AK-47s and .50-caliber guns at the sailors, the officer made another attempt to extricate the boats from the worsening situation, ordering the lead boat’s coxswain to accelerate through the Iranian boats in a getaway attempt. But the coxswain disregarded the order, telling investigators later that he thought members of the crew would be killed if he followed it.

Two additional Iranian boats arrived, and members of the guard boarded the riverine boats, tearing down the American flags they were flying and hoisting Revolutionary Guard flags in their place. They blindfolded the sailors, taking their personal belongings and tying their hands together with pieces of Iranian flag, according to the report.

Then the guided the two riverine boats to Farsi island, where the sailors would spend their brief period as detainees.

The ten sailors were kept together in a room, where they were first interrogated together, then one-by-one, in sessions ranging from 15 minutes to two hours. Iranian captors would bring in food and attempt to film the sailors with a video camera as they ate. The lead boat captain resisted these efforts to film the crews, but ultimately told the sailors they should eat because it wasn’t clear when their next meal was coming.

In perhaps the most significant misstep during this period of detention, the lead boat commander agreed to read scripted remarks on camera in front of an Iranian “news crew” in which he apologized for the mistake of ending up in Iranian water and said the incident was “our fault.” He did this in exchange for the promise of release, the investigation found, against military code of conduct rules for such situations. Unbeknownst to him, the release of all the sailors had already been secured by the U.S. government and their departure from Farsi island was imminent.

Contributing factors

Because of unit upheaval and reorganization in previous years, Coastal Riverine Squadron 3 and its parent unit, Coastal Riverine Group 1, found themselves undermanned and overtasked. The crews of the two command boats had missed key skills training periods due to operational commitments, the investigating officer found, and were lacking navigation training as well as training needed to prepare them to operate in the Middle East during their deployment.

Poor communication meant that the then-commander of Task Force 56, Capt. Kyle Moses, didn’t realize the units were inadequately prepared for deployment, the investigator found. On top of that, the investigation determined, the task force fostered a “can’t say no” command climate, meaning that lower-ranking troops fell in line rather than raising important concerns.

Neither Moses, nor the commander of Task Force 56.7 in Bahrain, nor the Kuwait detachment officer-in-charge, understood the poor condition of the riverine command boats, neither of which was fully operational, the investigation found. Neither task force had a sense of ownership of the boats, officials said.

This lack of leadership and training was considered by investigator to be an extenuating factor in the conduct of the riverine boat crews, which made a series of bad choices starting with “blindly” deviating from course at the outset.

The two boat captains did not understand proper procedure for addressing an engine failure underway. They failed to keep their weapons manned while dead in the water to guard against a surprise attack. Both captains failed to exercise self-defense when the Iranians demonstrated hostile intent, the investigation found, due to a lack of understanding of how to do so. The lead boat captain surrendered both boats to the Iranian authorities, the probe found. While the military code of conduct acknowledges that troops may be captured, it forbids surrender if they have the means to resist.

And while detained, the crews showed some confusion about what they were permitted to say. The investigator found some volunteered pieces of information apart from name, rank and serial number, including the top speed of the riverine boats and the fact that the parent command owned a third boat. The sailors’ comment about telling their command the boats couldn’t make the journey demonstrated lack of trust in their chain of command to the detaining forces, the investigator said, and could have been used for propaganda purposes.

Discipline and recommendations

Despite the missteps of the captain of the lead boat, the investigating officer accounted for his junior rank and lack of fleet experience and oversight, recommending only that a copy of the investigation be forwarded to his commander for appropriate oversight.

“He was placed in a difficult position, albeit one in which his own actions placed him and nine other sailors in danger,” the investigating officer wrote. “His deployment to the Fifth Fleet area of operations lacked any form of oversight and he lacked basic mentorship and development from his entire chain of command. Left to his own devices, he emulated the poor leadership traits he witnessed firsthand within his own chain of command.”

The report also recommends discipline for the commander of the second boat and the coxswain who disobeyed the order to accelerate away, asking that the investigation be forwarded to their chain of command for action.

Discipline is also recommended for Task Force 56 Commander Moses, the Task Force 56 chief staff officer, the commanding officer and executive officer of Coastal Riverine Squadron 3, and the Kuwait officer-in-charge at the time of the transit.

The Navy announced that CRS-3 executive officer Cmdr. Eric Rasch had been relieved from his post in May. Moses was relieved earlier this month. Actions regarding the other officers have not been made public to date.

The investigating officer also recommended an immediate operational training and readiness stand-down for Task Force 56 to ensure adequate training and readiness, as well as the implementation of monthly live-fire training and a review of policies and procedures for maritime operational centers.

In view of the confusion surrounding who was in charge and the chain of command once the riverine boats got underway and the lack of familiarity with the boats’ capabilities, the investigator recommended developing a career track “specifically for the competitive selection and detailing of post-department head surface warfare officers to officer-in-charge billets at the coastal riverine squadrons.”

The report casts a strongly unfavorable light on the actions of the Iranian guards, who the investigating officer found accosted and detained U.S. sailors in an innocent passage through territorial waters, against international norms. The riverine boats were inappropriately searched and communications wires cut, the probe found. And many of the sailors who were interrogated had their personal space invaded during periods of questioning as Iranian interrogators sought to intimidate them into giving up information.

These findings appear to run somewhat counter to remarks from Secretary of State John Kerry, who negotiated the sailors’ release and thanked Iranian authorities for their quick response.

“All indications suggest that our sailors were well taken care of, provided with blankets and food and assisted with their return to the fleet,” Kerry said Jan. 13.

In a largely damning report, there are a few commendations. The investigating officer recommended that the No. 2 gunner aboard the second riverine boat — the only female sailor among the ten detained — be recognized for her quick thinking in activating an emergency beacon while “kneeling, bound and blindfolded” at Iranian gunpoint, in a brave but ultimately thwarted attempt to call for help.

The commanders and crews of the cutter Monomoy and the guided-missile cruiser USS Anzio, which coordinated to track the captured sailors and provided assistance on their return, were also recommended for special recommendation.

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson was expected to discuss the findings of the investigation on Thursday.

Articles

Here are the best military photos of the week

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:

A formation of F-15C Eagles, assigned to the 493rd Fighter Squadron, and an F-15E Strike Eagle, assigned to the 492nd Fighter Squadron, fly over Gloucestershire, England, to attend the Royal International Air Tattoo air show at Royal Air Force Fairford July 7, 2016. The RAF Lakenheath aircraft were on public display, along with many other military aircraft from around the U.K., to provide an opportunity for the U.S. military and its allies to showcase their capabilities.

Navy states poor training, leadership failures led to Iran capturing sailors
U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Erin Trower

Airmen complete the Grog Bowl ritual during a combat dining out at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, July 9, 2016. The combat dining out is a modern informal twist on the ancient tradition of the military dining in. 

Navy states poor training, leadership failures led to Iran capturing sailors
U.S. Air National Guard photo/Tech. Sgt. William Buchanan

ARMY:

Soldiers assigned to 1st Armored Division, Task Force Al Taqaddum, fire an M109A6 Paladin howitzer during a fire mission at Al Taqaddum Air Base, Iraq, June 27, 2016. The strikes were conducted in support of Operation Inherent Resolve and aimed at eliminating the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

Navy states poor training, leadership failures led to Iran capturing sailors
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Donald Holbert

A soldier assigned to the Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade, crosses a river using a single line rope bridge at Camp Rudder, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., July 7, 2016. The Florida Phase of Ranger School is the third and final phase that Ranger students must complete to earn the coveted Ranger Tab.

Navy states poor training, leadership failures led to Iran capturing sailors
U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Austin Berner

NAVY:

NAVAL STATION ROTA, Spain (July 10, 2016) President Barack Obama departs USS Ross (DDG 71) after a tour aboard the ship. During the president’s visit to Naval Station Rota, he met with base leadership, toured USS Ross (DDG 71) and spoke to service members and their families during an all hands call. Naval Station Rota enables and supports operations of U.S. and allied forces and provides quality services in support of the fleet, fighter, and family for Commander, Navy Installations Command in Navy Region Europe, Africa, Southwest Asia.

Navy states poor training, leadership failures led to Iran capturing sailors
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Brian Dietrick

AMSTERDAM (June 21, 2016) Amphibious dock landing ship USS Carter Hall (LSD 50) makes its way through the locks of the North Sea Canal enroute to Amsterdam for its second port visit after the ship’s participation in exercise BALTOPS 2016. BALTOPS is an annually recurring multinational exercise designed to enhance flexibility and interoperability, and demonstrate the capability and resolve of allied and partner forces to defend the Baltic region.

Navy states poor training, leadership failures led to Iran capturing sailors
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Julio Martinez Martinez

MARINE CORPS:

Lance Cpl. Mackinnly Lewis, a landing support specialist with Combat Logistics Battalion 2, Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force-Crisis Response-Africa, guides an MV-22B Osprey during a helicopter support team exercise aboard Naval Station Rota, Spain, July 6, 2016. This training prepares Marines to deliver and recover supplies and equipment quickly and efficiently in potential future missions around Europe and Africa.

Navy states poor training, leadership failures led to Iran capturing sailors
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Tia Nagle

Marines with Headquarters and Service Company, 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, Marine Rotational Force Darwin, fix a humvee during Exercise Hamel at Cultana Training Area, South Australia, Australia, July 8, 2016. Exercise Hamel is a trilateral training exercise with Australian, New Zealand, and U.S. forces to enhance cooperation, trust, and friendship.

Navy states poor training, leadership failures led to Iran capturing sailors
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Mandaline Hatch

COAST GUARD:

Twenty-six nations, 49 ships, six submarines, about 200 aircraft, and 25,000 personnel are participating in the Rim of the Pacific exercise, the world’s largest international maritime exercise, from June 29 to Aug. 4 in and around the Hawaiian Islands and Southern California.

Navy states poor training, leadership failures led to Iran capturing sailors
Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Tara Molle

The Maritime Security Response Team is a highly specialized team with advanced counterterrorism skills and tactics.

Navy states poor training, leadership failures led to Iran capturing sailors
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Melissa Leake

MIGHTY TRENDING

Army, Navy, Air Force team up on 3-way surgery

A joint surgical team comprised of three separate branches assembled at U.S. Air Force Hospital Langley at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, in December 2018 to perform an operation.

Consisting of a Navy surgeon, Air Force nurse, and Army technician, the team was organized to perform a functional endoscopic sinus surgery to restore a patient’s sinus ventilation to normal function.

“It’s always a great experience working with different branches in the operating room where we are able to learn from each other and share different perspectives,” said Army Spc. Travona Parker, Specialty Care Unit surgical technician.


Providing health care in a joint environment works to improve readiness by ensuring that health care providers have the capabilities they need while providing patients with convenient access to care.

Navy states poor training, leadership failures led to Iran capturing sailors

U.S. service members assigned to a joint surgical team prepare for surgery at Joint Base-Langley-Eustis, Virginia, Dec. 11, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Samuel Eckholm)

At the end of August 2018, Fort Eustis’ McDonald Army Health Center closed its operating room and joined the Navy in conducting surgical procedures at Hospital Langley. While operating-room time has always been a hot commodity, having both the Army and Navy integrated into the Hospital Langley facility has maximized their utilization.

According to U.S. Air Force Maj. Erni Eulenstein, Surgical Operations Squadron Operating Room flight commander, “Allowing multiple services to operate at Langley has helped reduce the duplication of effort while also increasing efficiency.” If an operating room is not being used by the Air Force, it is often able to be filled by an Army or Navy surgeon to help increase utilization.

Of the surgical operations currently going on at Hospital Langley, roughly 68 percent are done by Langley providers, 28 percent are done by Fort Eustis providers, and the rest are done by Portsmouth providers.

With different services coming together, challenges would be expected. However, besides a few scheduling issues, things have run smoothly. “Everyone seems to be integrating and working well together,” Eulenstein said.

Navy states poor training, leadership failures led to Iran capturing sailors

U.S. Air Force Maj. Mandy Giffin, Surgical Operations Squadron operating room nurse, prepares the OR for surgery on Dec. 11, 2018 at Joint Base Langley-Eustis.

(U.S. Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Samuel Eckholm)

Navy Lt. Cmdr. Dinchen Jardine, Navy Medical Center Portsmouth Department of Otolaryngology, served as the lead surgeon during the FESS procedure and appreciates the opportunity to utilize Hospital Langley’s facilities while working side-by-side with the Air Force and Army. “It definitely helps everyone see and understand best practices that then in turn can add to providing the best care possible for patients.”

Air Force Maj. Mandy Giffin, Surgical Operations Squadron operating room nurse, has served in all three branches, bringing a lot of experience into the operating room. She enlisted in the Army before joining the Navy reserve as a surgical technician. She then joined the Air Force and went to nursing school where she now serves on active duty at Hospital Langley.

Giffin believes there are many benefits to working as a joint surgical team. “You are able to hear what everyone’s different experiences are and you can compare them to how you do things yourself.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US Air Force F-35As make first combat appearance

Two U.S. Air Force F-35A Lightning II aircraft conducted an airstrike at Wadi Ashai, Iraq, in support of Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve, April 30, 2019.

This strike marked the F-35A’s first combat employment.

The F-35As conducted the airstrike using a Joint Direct Attack Munition to strike an entrenched Daesh tunnel network and weapons cache deep in the Hamrin Mountains, a location able to threaten friendly forces.


“We have the ability to gather, fuse and pass so much information that we make every friendly aircraft more survivable and lethal,” said Lt. Col. Yosef Morris, 4th Fighter Squadron commander and F-35A pilot. “That, combined with low-observable technology, allows us to really complement any combined force package and be ready to support AOR contingencies.”

Navy states poor training, leadership failures led to Iran capturing sailors

A KC-10 Extender refuels an F-35A Lightning II above an undisclosed location, April 30, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Chris Drzazgowski)

The F-35As, recently deployed from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, joined the Combined Forces Air Component team in the U.S. Central Command area of operations on April 15. This marks the F-35A’s third deployment and first to the CENTCOM AOR. In preparation for deployment, crews prepared and trained on the aircraft for the AFCENT mission.

Navy states poor training, leadership failures led to Iran capturing sailors

A KC-10 Extender boom operator refuels an F-35A Lightning II above an undisclosed location, April 30, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Chris Drzazgowski)

“We have been successful in two Red Flag exercises, and we’ve deployed to Europe and Asia,” said Morris. “Our airmen are ready and we’re excited to be here.” Red Flag is the U.S. Air Force’s premier air-to-air combat training exercise which includes U.S. and allied nations’ combat air forces.

There are many airmen ensuring the planes are ready for their combat missions.

Navy states poor training, leadership failures led to Iran capturing sailors

A F-35A Lightning II assigned to the 4th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron taxis down the flightline before taking off from Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates, April 24, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Chris Drzazgowski)

“This jet is smarter, a lot smarter, and so it can do more, and it helps you out more when loading munitions,” said Staff Sgt. Karl Tesch, 380th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron weapons technician.

Navy states poor training, leadership failures led to Iran capturing sailors

A F-35A Lightning II assigned to the 4th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron, Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C. takes off from Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates, April 24, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Chris Drzazgowski)

A central tenant to the F-35A’s design is its ability to enhance other battlefield assets. In this case, the aircraft joins the combined joint airpower team already in place to maintain air superiority and deliver war-winning airpower.

“The F-35A has sensors everywhere, it has advanced radar and it is gathering and fusing all this information from the battlespace in real time,” said Morris. “Now it has the ability to take that information and share it with other F-35s or even other fourth generation aircraft in the same package that can also see the integrated picture.”

This article originally appeared on United States Air Force. Follow @USAF on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

A Marine vet is one of the best zombie writers around

Mark Tufo wrote Zombie Fallout, a 16-book series that follows Marine Corps veteran and family man Mike Talbot as he tries to keep his family safe in a world overrun by zombies.


Like the character Talbot, Tufo served in the Marine Corps before returning to civilian life, starting a family, and adopting an English bulldog. The similarities end when Talbot’s neighborhood is taken over by flesh-eating and brain-hunting zombies, forcing him and his family to fight their way out.

Zombie Fallout book cover

Tufo’s writing about the zombie apocalypse is a refreshing take on the genre because the character of Talbot thinks tactically about what he’s doing. He drives his jeep slowly to protect his radiator, keeps food handy, and has survivors pull watch. And the whole family knows how to use their guns, obviously.

Now, Talbot and his family might be getting their own TV series. Brad Thomas, a television producer and fan of the series, has teamed up with Tufo to bring the zombie epic to the silver screen. WATM got to spend a day with them and some military veteran fans on the set as the crew filmed a teaser for the show.

You can also check out the music video teaser for Zombie Fallout.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Special Forces saved a civilian farmer during a training op

Soldiers from the 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) and Republic of Korea Special Forces responded to a farming accident while conducting partnered training in the Republic of Korea on April 25, 2018, saving the civilian’s life.

Together, the U.S. and Republic of Korea Special Forces Soldiers responded to an injured, unconscious, elderly Korean farmer who fell from his tractor and lacerated his right knee. The tractor subsequently caught fire and burned the farmer’s airway. Local civilians flagged down the Soldiers, who stabilized the patient and extinguished the tractor fire, then transferred the patient to emergency medical services.


“There’s a Korean man who is alive today because of the efforts of U.S. Special Forces and Republic of Korea special operations troops who were training nearby. We are exceptionally proud of their effort as well as the training and expertise they possess that allowed them to stabilized an injured civilian, extinguish a vehicle fire, and transfer the patient to local emergency medical services personnel,” said the commander of the 2nd Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) Soldiers involved in the event. “This incident is indicative of the broader strength of the ROK-U.S. alliance and the things that we can accomplish together as one team.”

Navy states poor training, leadership failures led to Iran capturing sailors
Soldiers from the 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) and the Republic of Korea Special Forces provide lifesaving emergency care to a Korean farmer.

The farmer in his 50s was injured and unconscious after an accident with his tractor, which turned over and caught fire, in the vicinity of Yeongcheon, North Gyeongsang Province.

Navy states poor training, leadership failures led to Iran capturing sailors
A Republic of Korea Special Warfare Command general presents citations to Soldiers


A Republic of Korea Special Forces general presented the American Soldiers with citations on behalf of the Republic of Korea Special Warfare Command commanding general.

Navy states poor training, leadership failures led to Iran capturing sailors
Soldiers from the 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) and the Republic of Korea Special Forces receive recognition from the Republic of Korea Special Warfare for their lifesaving actions.

“It was a great opportunity for the detachments to demonstrate the friendship and interoperability ‎of ROK and U.S. SOF,” said the Republic of Korea Special Forces battalion commander in charge of the Korean Special Forces soldiers involved in the event. “Further, it demonstrated to the Korean people that we can be trusted as a combined force. It was truly the friendship between our forces that set the conditions for the Soldiers to help the elderly farmer, and leave a positive impression on the local community.”

Navy states poor training, leadership failures led to Iran capturing sailors
The commander of 2nd Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group, presents his battalion coin and congratulates a soldier from the Republic of Korea Special Forces.

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @usarmy on Twitter.

Articles

Army Stryker gets lethality upgrade

The US Army will soon receive its first prototypes of a newly-engineered up-gunned Stryker infantry vehicle armed with a more lethal, longer-range 30mm cannon as compared with the currently installed .50-cal machine guns.


Called the Stryker Enhanced Lethality Program, the effort was implemented as a rapid-development acquisition program to better equip 9-man infantry units with combat arms to support their missions, maneuvers and ground-attacks.

“It is really about mobile protected fire power for the Infantry Brigade Combat Team. In the Combat Vehicle Modernization Plan it talks about every vehicle having an organic blend of those capabilities… mobility, protection and firepower,” Maj. Gen. David Bassett, Program Executive Officer, Ground Combat Systems, told Scout Warrior in an interview.

Navy states poor training, leadership failures led to Iran capturing sailors
US Army photo

General Dynamics Land Systems (GDLS), which builds and engineers the new enhanced lethality Stryker vehicles, will deliver the first eight prototype vehicle in December of this year, Wendy Staiger, Stryker Program Director, GDLS, told Scout Warrior in an interview.

Compared to an existing M2 .50-cal machine gun mounted from Strykers, the new 30mm weapon is designed to improve both range and lethality for the vehicle. The new gun can fire at least twice as far as a .50-Cal, Tim Reese, Director of Strategic Planning, General Dynamics Land Systems, told Scout Warrior in an interview.

“It shoots at a rapid rate of one, three or five-round bursts when you pull the trigger,” Resse explained.

The 30mm cannon can use a proximity fuse and fire high-explosive rounds, armor piercing rounds and air burst rounds, Reese added. During live-fire testing at Fort Benning, Ga., the 30mm cannon was able to demonstrate firing ability out to ranges of 3,000 meters; this is about twice the range of existing .50-cal guns. Also, while the .50-Cal is often used as a suppressive fire “area” weapon designed to restrict enemy freedom of movement and  allow troops to maneuver, the 30mm gun brings a level of precision fire to the Stryker Infantry Carrier that does not currently exist.

Dismounted infantry units are often among the first-entering “tip-of-the-spear” combat forces which at times travel to areas less-reachable by heavy armored platforms such as an Abrams tank or Bradley Fighting Vehicle. Certain terrain, bridges or enemy force postures can also make it difficult for heavier armored vehicles to maneuver on attack.

Navy states poor training, leadership failures led to Iran capturing sailors
US Army photo

As a result, having an up-gunned, highly-mobile wheeled Stryker vehicle can massively supplement Infantry Brigade Combat Teams (IBCTs) on the move in hostile warfare circumstances, Basset explained. Also, a gun with greater range and fire-power could better allow forward-positioned infantry units to attack enemies and conduct operations with massively enhanced fire support.

“IBCTs are great in terms of getting Soldiers to the fight but they do not have that staying power unless there are combat platforms that will let them do that. They can hit targets that otherwise they would be engaging with Javelins,” Bassett said.

The new gun, to be fully operational by 2018, incorporates a number of additional innovations for Stryker Infantry Carrier Vehicles and Reconnaissance Vehicles.

“The medium cannon has a feed system with links pulling into the breach. This is a link-less feed system. The ammo is in canisters attached to the breach of the gun and rounds are pulled into the breach one at a time. It is much less prone to jamming,” Reese said.  “It Uses the same firing control handle as the current machine gun and same physical display channels.

Deterring Russia

The new, more-powerful Orbital ATK XM 81330mm 30mm cannon, which can be fired from within the Stryker vehicle using a Remote Weapons Station, will first deploy with the European-based 2nd Cavalry Unit.

While US Army leaders did not, quite naturally, specify that the weapon is intended to counter Russian forces on the European continent, they do often speak candidly about Russian aggression in Ukraine and other areas. In fact, a RAND study months ago determined that the Russian military could invade and overrun the Baltic states in merely 60-hours given the small amount of NATO forces in the area. It is not surprising, given this scenario, that the Pentagon and NATO are amidst various efforts to strengthen their force posture in Europe.

Navy states poor training, leadership failures led to Iran capturing sailors
US Army photo

It appears to be no accident that this initiative to better arm Stryker infantry carriers comes at a time when the US Army and US European Command are deliberately revving up arms, multi-national training exercises with NATO allies and armored mobility for its forces in Europe – as a direct counterbalance or deterrent to Russia’s aggressive posture in the region.

For instance, last year’s US European Command’s Dragoon Ride convoy across Europe was, among other things, designed to demonstrate the mobility, deployability and responsiveness of NATO armored forces across the European continent. There have been several additional exercises, involving US Army collaboration with Eastern European NATO allies since this convoy and many more on the immediate future.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This Navy vet built his own car from a top-secret jet engine

The first thing one might notice about the barracks at a military base is that there are a lot of nice, shiny, new cars parked there. It’s not a secret that troops like to buy new vehicles when they join the military. When someone with a love for cars and speed learns how to rebuild and maintain jet engines, like many in the military do, no one should be surprised that they use those skills in their post-military career.


Navy states poor training, leadership failures led to Iran capturing sailors

Pictured: The TAPS Class of the future.

Arthur Arfons didn’t actually become a jet engineer when he joined the Navy in 1943. He was a diesel mechanic who worked on landing craft in the Pacific Theater of World War II, even landing at Okinawa to support the Marines invasion of the Japanese island. He may have been a Petty Officer Second Class, but his mechanic’s skills were first-rate. It was just something he loved to do. By 1952, he had returned to his native Ohio and started building drag racing cars with his brother, Walt.

That’s how Art Arfons would make history.

Navy states poor training, leadership failures led to Iran capturing sailors

Art Arfons in the “Green Monster 2.”

In their first outings, they used a classic V6 Oldsmobile engine that barely peaked at 85 miles per hour. Their next attempt was a significant step up. They put an Allison V12 aircraft engine, normally used in a Curtiss P-38 Lightning fighter plane. Called the “Green Monster 2,” and painted to resemble the nose of a P-38, it would break the existing land speed record by clocking at 145.16 miles per hour.

When Art Arfons split from Walt, he somehow picked up a General Electric J79 jet engine from a scrap dealer. The engine had sucked up a bolt and was considered unsalvageable by the U.S. military. Art bought it from scrap for just 0. GE and the U.S. military were very much against Arfons purchasing the J79, considering it was Top Secret technology at the time.

Navy states poor training, leadership failures led to Iran capturing sailors

The “Green Monster” featuring a Starfighter engine arrives to set a record.

Arfons rebuilt the jet engine, capable of 17,500 pounds of static thrust with its four-stage afterburner. His newly rebuilt engine, normally used in an F-104 Starfighter, was put into the next iteration of his “Green Monster” vehicles (he named all his vehicles “Green Monster”), where he used it to set the land speed record three more times between 1966 and 1967, topping out at 576 miles per hour.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Green Berets remember first mission in Afghanistan after 9/11 (Part II)

The movie “12 Strong” arrives in theaters this Friday, and tells the harrowing story of the first U.S. special forces mission in Afghanistan following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The following is the second part of an Army.mil exclusive three-part feature recounts the events of the Green Berets’ first mission in Afghanistan, as they sought to destroy the Taliban regime and deny Al-Qaida sanctuary in that country.


ON THE GROUND

Special operations forces have a famously tight bond. As the Green Berets stepped off the SOAR’s highly modified MH-47 Chinooks into Afghanistan, they stepped back in time, to a time of dirt roads and horses. They stepped into another world, one of arid deserts and towering peaks, of “rugged, isolated, beautiful, different colored stones and geographical formations, different shades of red in the morning as the sun came up,” said Maj. Mark Nutsch, then the commander of ODA 595, one of the first two 12-man teams to arrive in Afghanistan. The world was one of all-but-impassable trails, of “a canyon with very dominating, several-hundred-feet cliffs.” It was a world of freezing nights, where intelligence was slim, women were invisible, and friend and foe looked the same.

They arrived in the middle of the night, of course, to the sort of pitch blackness that can only be found miles from electricity and civilization, at the mercy of the men waiting for them. “We weren’t sure how friendly the link up was going to be,” said Nutsch. “We were prepared for a possible hot insertion. … We were surrounded by — on the LZ there were armed militia factions. … We had just set a helicopter down in that. … It was tense, but … the link up went smoothly.”

HORSEMEN

Navy states poor training, leadership failures led to Iran capturing sailors
Starting Oct. 19, 2001, 12-man Special Forces detachments from the U.S. Army Special Operations Command’s 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) began arriving in Afghanistan in the middle of the night, transported by aviators from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Battalion (Airborne). They were the first ground Soldiers of the war on terrorism following 9-11 and their mission was to destroy the Taliban regime and deny Al-Qaida sanctuary in Afghanistan. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Army Special Operations Command)

The various special forces teams that were in Afghanistan split into smaller three-man and six-man cells to cover more ground. Some of them quickly found themselves on borrowed horses, in saddles meant for Afghans who were much lighter and shorter than American Green Berets. Most of the Soldiers had never ridden before, and they learned by immediately riding for hours, forced to keep up with skilled Afghan horsemen, on steeds that constantly wanted to fight each other.

But that’s what Green Berets do: they adapt and overcome. “The guys did a phenomenal job learning how to ride that rugged terrain,” said Nutsch, who worked on a cattle ranch and participated in rodeos in college. Even so, riding requires muscles most Americans don’t use every day, and after a long day in the saddle, the Soldiers were in excruciating pain, especially as the stirrups were far too short. They had to start jerry-rigging the stirrups with parachute cord.

“Initially you had a different horse for every move … and you’d have a different one, different gait or just willingness to follow the commands of the rider,” Nutsch remembered. “A lot of them didn’t have a bit or it was a very crude bit. The guys had to work through all of that and use less than optimal gear. … Eventually we got the same pool of horses we were using regularly.”

Also Read: ’12 Strong’ showcases the best of America’s fighting spirit

Nutsch had always been a history buff, and he had carefully studied Civil War cavalry charges and tactics, but he had never expected to ride horses into battle. In fact, it was the first time American Soldiers rode to war on horseback since World War II, and this ancient form of warfare was now considered unconventional.

“We’re blending, basically, 19th-century tactics with 20th-century weapons and 21st-century technology in the form of GPS, satellite communications, American air power,” Nutsch pointed out.

AUDACITY

And there were military tactics involved. Even the timing of the attacks was crucial. Nutsch remembers wondering why the Northern Alliance wanted to go after the Taliban midafternoon instead of in the morning, but it accounted for their slower speed on horseback, while still leaving time to consolidate any gains before darkness fell. (They didn’t have night vision goggles.)

Navy states poor training, leadership failures led to Iran capturing sailors
U.S. Army special operators confer with Afghan chieftains and resistance fighters. Starting Oct. 19, 2001, 12-man Special Forces detachments from the U.S. Army Special Operations Command’s 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) began arriving in Afghanistan in the middle of the night, transported by aviators from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Battalion (Airborne). They were the first ground Soldiers of the war on terrorism following 9-11 and their mission was to destroy the Taliban regime and deny Al-Qaida sanctuary in Afghanistan. They scouted bomb targets and teamed with local resistance groups. Some of the Green Berets found themselves riding horses, becoming the first American Soldiers to ride to war on horseback since World War II. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Army Special Operations Command)

Supported by the Green Berets, Northern Alliance fighters directly confronted the Taliban over and over again. Some factions, like Nutsch’s, relied on horses for that first month. Others had pickup trucks or other vehicles, but they usually charged into battle armed with little more than AK-47s, machine guns, grenades and a few handfuls of ammunition. Meanwhile, the Taliban had tanks and armored personnel carriers and antiaircraft guns they used as cannons, all left behind by the Soviets when they evacuated Afghanistan in the 1980s.

It took a lot of heart, a lot of courage. “We heard a loud roar coming from the west,” said Master Sgt. Keith Gamble, then a weapons sergeant on ODA 585, as he remembered one firefight. “We had no clue what it was until we saw about 500 to 1,000 NA soldiers charging up the ridge line. I called it a ‘Brave Heart’ charge. What the NA didn’t realize was that the route leading up the ridgeline was heavily mined. The NA did not fare too well, as they received numerous injuries and had to retreat. We continued to pound the ridge line with bombs until the NA took it that evening.”

“They weren’t suicidal,” Nutsch, who worked with different ethnic groups, agreed, “but they did have the courage to get up and quickly close that distance on those vehicles so they could eliminate that vehicle or that crew. We witnessed their bravery on several occasions where they charged down our flank (to attack) these armored vehicles or these air defense guns that are being used in a direct fire role, and kill the crew and capture that gun for our own use.”

Green Berets remember first mission in Afghanistan after 9/11 (Part I)

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Army fast tracks new howitzer that can out-reach Russia

The Army is fast-tracking an emerging program to engineer a longer-range artillery cannon able to out range enemy ground forces by hitting targets at more than twice the distance of existing artillery.

The service is now prototyping an Extended Range Cannon Artillery weapons with a larger caliber tube and new grooves to hang weights for gravity adjustments to the weapon — which is a modified M777A2 mobile howitzer.

Existing 155m artillery rounds, fired with precision from mobile and self-propelled howitzer platforms, have a maximum range of about 30km; the new ERCA weapon is designed to hit ranges greater than 70km, Army developers said.


“When you are talking about doubling the range you need a longer tube and a larger caliber. We will blend this munition with a howitzer and extend the range. We are upgrading the breach and metallurgy of the tube, changing the hydraulics to handle increased pressure and using a new ram jet projectile — kind of like a rocket,” a senior Army weapons developer told Warrior Maven in an interview.

The modification adds 1,000 pounds to the overall weight of the weapon and an additional six feet of cannon tube. The ERCA systems also uses a redesigned cab, new breech design and new “muzzle brake,” the official explained.

“The ERCA program develops not only the XM907 cannon but also products, such as the XM1113 rocket assisted projectile, the XM654 supercharge, an autoloader, and new fire control system,” an Army statement said.

Navy states poor training, leadership failures led to Iran capturing sailors

Marines fire an M777A2 155 mm howitzer.

(United States Marine Corps photo)

As part of an effort to ensure the heavy M777 is sufficiently mobile, the Army recently completed a “mobility” demonstration of ERCA prototypes.

The service demonstrated a modified M777A2 Howitzer with an integration kit for the mass mock-up of the modified XM907 ERCA cannon at Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona.

“Their [user] concern is that when the self-propelled program is done they will be left with a towed cannon variant that they can’t tow around, which is its number one mode of transportation,” David Bound, M777ER Lead, Artillery Concepts and Design Branch, which is part of the Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center, or ARDEC, said in an Army statement.

The ERCA is currently being configured to fire from an M109a8 Self-Propelled Howitzer, using a 58-Cal. tube; the existing M109a7, called the Paladin Integrated Management, fires a 39-Cal. weapon.

ERCA changes the Army’s land war strategic calculus in a number of key respects, by advancing the Army’s number one modernization priority — long-range precision fires. This concept of operations is intended to enable mechanized attack forces and advancing infantry with an additional stand-off range or protective sphere with which to conduct operations. Longer range precision fire can hit enemy troop concentrations, supply lines and equipment essential to a coordinated attack, while allowing forces to stay farther back from incoming enemy fire.

A 70-kilometer target range is, by any estimation, a substantial leap forward for artillery; when GPS guided precision 155mm artillery rounds, such as Excalibur, burst into land combat about ten years ago – its strike range was reported at roughly 30 kilometers. A self-propelled Howitzer able to hit 70-kilometers puts the weapon on par with some of the Army’s advanced land-based rockets – such as its precision-enabled Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System which also reaches 70-kilometers.

In a modern threat environment, wherein near-peer and smaller-level rivals increasingly possess precision-guided land weapons, longer-range C4ISR technology and drone weapons, increasing range is a ubiquitous emphasis across the Army and other services. Russia’s violations of the INF treaty, new S-500 air defenses, new Armata tanks and fast growing attack drone fleet – all point to a growing need for the US to outrange and outgun potential adversaries.

Navy states poor training, leadership failures led to Iran capturing sailors

An M109A6 Paladin fires a gas propelled 155mm Howitzer round.

In fact, senior Army developers specifically say that the ERCA program is, at least in part, designed to enable the Army to out-range rival Russian weapons. The Russian military is currently producing its latest howitzer cannon, the 2S33 Msta-SM2 variant; it is a new 2A79 152mm cannon able to hit ranges greater than 40km, significantly greater than the 25km range reachable by the original Russian 2S19 Msta – which first entered service in the late 1980s, according to data from globalsecurity.org.

In early 2018 statements from the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation said that 2S19 Msta-S modernized self-propelled howitzers were fielded near Volgograd, Russia. The 2S19 Msta-S howitzers are equipped with an automated fire control system with an increased rate of fire, digital electronic charts, ballistic computers, and satellite navigation systems, the report says.

Therefore, doing the simple math, a 70km US Army ERCA weapon would appear to substantially outrange the 40km Msta-S modern Russian howitzer.

While senior Army weapons developers welcome the possibility of longer-range accurate artillery fire, they also recognize that its effectiveness hinges upon continued development of sensor, fire control, and target technology.

“Just because I can shoot farther, that does not mean I solve the issue. I have to acquire the right target. We want to be able to hit moving targets and targets obscured by uneven terrain,” the senior Army developer said.

Multi-domain warfare is also integral to the strategic impetus for the new ERCA weapon; longer range land weapons can naturally better enable air attack options.

Operating within this concept, former Army TRADOC Commander Gen. David Perkins and Air Force Air Combat Command Commanding General James Holmes launched a new series of tabletop exercises several months ago — designed to to replicate and explore these kinds of future warfare scenarios. The project is oriented toward exploring the kind of conflicts expected to require technologically advanced Army-Air Force integration.

In a previous Pentagon report, Holmes said the joint wargaming effort will “turn into a doctrine and concept that we can agree on.”

Such a development would mark a substantial step beyond prior military thinking, which at times over the years has been slightly more stove-piped in its approach to military service doctrines.

Interestingly, the new initiative may incorporate and also adjust some of the tenets informing the 1980’s Air-Land Battle Doctrine; this concept, which came to fruition during the Cold War, was focused on integrated air-ground combat coordination to counter a large, mechanized force in major warfare. While AirLand battle was aimed primarily at the Soviet Union decades ago, new Army-Air Force strategy in today’s threat environment will also most certainly address the possibility of major war with an advanced adversary like Russia or China.

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(Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation)

In fact, the Army’s new Operations 3.0 doctrine already explores this phenomenon, as it seeks to pivot the force from more than a decade of counterinsurgency to preparedness for massive force-on-force warfare.

Jumping more than 40 years into the future beyond AirLand Battle into to today’s threat climate, the notion of cross-domain warfare has an entirely new and more expansive meaning. No longer would the Air Force merely need to support advancing armored vehicles with both air cover and forward strikes, as is articulated in Air-Land Battle, but an Air Force operating in today’s war environment would need to integrate multiple new domains, such as cyber and space.

After all, drones, laser attacks, cyber intrusions, and electronic warfare (EW) tactics were hardly on the map in the 1980s. Forces today would need to harden air-ground communications against cyber and EW attacks, network long-range sensor and targeting technology and respond to technologically-advanced near-peer attack platforms, such as 5th-generation stealth fighters or weaponized space assets.

In a concurrent related effort, the Army is also engineering a adaptation to existing 155mm rounds which will extend range an additional 10km out to 40km.

Fired from an existing Howitzer artillery cannon, the new XM1113 round uses ram jet rocket technology to deliver more thrust to the round.

“The XM1113 uses a large high-performance rocket motor that delivers nearly three times the amount of thrust when compared to the legacy M549A1 RAP,” Ductri Nguyen, XM1113 Integrated Product Team Lead.” “Its exterior profile shape has also been streamlined for lower drag to achieve the 40-plus kilometers when fired from the existing fielded 39-caliber 155mm weapon systems.”

Soldiers can also integrate the existing Precision Guidance Kit to the artillery shells as a way to add a GPS-guided precision fuse to the weapon. The new adapted round also uses safer Insensitive Munition Explosives.

This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

A Bulgarian just bought an attack helicopter to personally fight terrorism

According to The Daily Mail and The Sun, a Bulgarian “migrant hunter”, Dinko Valev, has somehow managed to get his hands on an ex-Bulgarian Air Force Mil Mi-24 Hind hybrid gunship/light troop carrier, and has added it to his small arsenal of military gear, which also includes a pair of armored personnel carriers (APCs). Valev, a former semi-professional wrestler, made headlines in Europe for forming small posses of Bulgarian locals to chase down illegal immigrants and, who he calls, potential terrorists from Turkey. The Bulgarian government allegedly helped him acquire the two APCs just last year, while ISIS put a bounty on his head for $50,000 USD.


There aren’t any indications that point towards Valev’s new Hind’s operational status, and there’s nothing to suggest that the aircraft is even flightworthy at all. However pictures of the aircraft show the Hind’s chin turret still equipped with the barrels of a Yak-B 12.7mm 4-barrel Gatling cannon, though those barrels could possibly be plugged and the internal mechanisms removed or disabled. Also noticeable in the picture are two empty UB-32 rocket launcher pods, attached to the port wing of the aircraft. The short video also took a look inside the Hind’s surprisingly clean front cockpit, though the rear cockpit, where the main flight control systems are, wasn’t shown. Valev indicates that he’ll use this Hind to continue his “jihadi-hunting” activities to an even greater magnitude than before. How he’ll actually get the Hind working, armed or even up in the air at all is an entirely different question altogether.

Navy states poor training, leadership failures led to Iran capturing sailors
A left side view of a Soviet-made Mi-24 Hind-D assault helicopter in-flight.

It actually isn’t all that difficult to get your hands on old Soviet-era military hardware, and a buyer’s options list ranges anywhere from worn-out utility trucks to fighter jets, and everything in between. Just last year, the Albanian government put up a number of retired yet still flightworthy fighter aircraft for sale as part of a massive downsizing of their military. Bids for the aircraft, which included an assortment of MiG-15, -17 and -19 fighters, began at a whopping $8,600 USD… meaning that just about anybody could have actually entered the bidding process to pick up an aircraft! That, of course, doesn’t include certification, operations, parts and maintenance costs, but that’s still a relative steal!

As for helicopters, you can even find yourself a Mil Mi-24 Hind via a number of websites online, set up by small enterprises which got a hold of a considerable chunk of Soviet-manufactured military gear around and after the fall of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s. When it became unsustainable for the Russian military to continue to operate the large numbers of aircraft, tanks, armored vehicles, etc. it had amassed during the Cold War, entire regiments and brigade-sized elements were retired, their hardware either left to rust and rot on abandoned airfield, sold off at cut rates to other countries, or pawned off (sometimes illegally) to individual buyers. In 2015, everybody’s favorite online auctioneer, eBay, actually put up a Mi-24 for sale, retailing at $4,000,000 USD. Apparently, everything about this particular Hind was operational, save for its weapons, which were removed.

Also Read: Take a closer look at the cinematic villain helicopter of the 1980s: The Mi-24 Hind

Organizations like Russian Military, based out of the United Kingdom, are another option for folks looking to get their hands on old Soviet planes, tanks and other military vehicles. They too offered a Mil Mi-24 Hind at one point, though without a price listed on their official website. This particular helo was de-militarized, possibly used as a prop in a few movies, and left in a state of disassembly, though it was apparently fully capable of being reassembled and flown. It’s unclear whether or not it sold.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The first clash of iron fleets was in 1866, and it was weird

In 1862, the Merrimack and the Monitor fought the famous naval battle at Hampton Roads where ships with iron armor fought each other for the first time. That clash is often cited as one of the moments where warfare changed overnight. Suddenly, it was clear that most cannons couldn’t penetrate iron hulls, and so every navy rushed to armor their hulls.


Just four years later, two fleets of wooden and iron-hulled boats clashed in the waters near Venice, and this first clash of iron fleets got weird, fast.

The Battle of Lissa was fought near an island of the same name in the Adriatic Sea, sometimes known as Vis, its Croatian name. A large Italian fleet of about 26 ships, including 13 ironclads, faced off against about 26 Austrian ships, but only seven Austrian ships were ironclads.

But the ironclad numbers weren’t the end of the Italian advantage. The ships that took part were powered by a mix of sail and steam. Like, each ship used both. Some ships were predominantly steam-powered but had sails to make them more efficient on long voyages, and some were sail-powered with small steam engines and paddles to help them quickly turn in combat. The ships predominantly powered by steam were generally more effective in combat, and Italy had a higher mix of those. And the Italian ships were generally larger, as well.

But most importantly, the Italian ships had larger guns and more rifled pieces. At the time, rifle-fired rounds and exploding rounds were about the only thing that could pierce iron armor. And by larger guns, we mean the largest Austrian guns were 48-pounders, and every piece of Italian naval artillery was larger.

So, the Italian ships were larger, better armed and armored, and technologically advanced. Guess the Italians won. Cool. Thanks for coming to my TED Talk.

Navy states poor training, leadership failures led to Iran capturing sailors

The Austrian wooden battleship Kaiser rams an Italian ironclad in the Battle. The ship left its figurehead behind after the clash.

(Eduard Nezbeda)

Except, nope, just wait. Italy sent ships to capture the island of Lissa from an Austrian garrison on July 16, 1866. This assault was repelled, and the Italian ships returned on the night of July 19 to try again. The next morning, July 20, 1866, was rainy and the waters were covered in mist.

But the Italian fleet used the weather as a cover for their coming bombardment and landings right up until a dispatch vessel ran back to elements of the fleet with news that Austrian ships had reached the island. The Italian fleet had been split up to bombard multiple targets and land troops. They were not properly massed for a naval battle.

The Italians were unimpressed, though, and continued to focus on landing troops. With the technological and numerical advantage, it must have seemed that they could bat away any attempts at disturbing the landings.

The sun came out a couple of hours later and burned away the mist, and the Italians had to deal with a real Austrian threat. Three groups of ships, all arranged into arrowhead formations, were bearing down on them. But while this was a threat, it would have seemed like an easily countered one.

Ships are designed with long bodies to minimize resistance and to give stability, but artillery works best when it’s deployed side-by-side with all the guns firing in support of one another. So, when one group of ships charges on another, the group firing broadsides can typically fire many more cannons than the group that is charging. So, seemingly, this would work to the Italians’ advantage.

But then the Italian admiral did something completely baffling. He changed flagships as the Austrians bore down on him. He would later claim that he did this so he would be on a faster ship that could more efficiently relay orders, but the Italian ship crews didn’t know about the change and so would look to the wrong ship for direction for most of the battle.

And then the Austrians got a second break. Their headlong charge was obscured as the naval guns opened fire and began to emit those huge clouds of smoke. The Austrian commander, Rear Adm. Wilhelm von Tegetthoff, charged through the smoke with most of his ships and suddenly realized that he had unwittingly passed through the Italian line of battle.

So the Italian fleet was receiving no clear orders from what the captains thought was the flagship, was obscured by smoke, and suddenly had an enemy literally sailing through their lines. The battle quickly descended into a tight mass of ships circling and firing on one another with little real coordination. As the smoke filled the air and everyone lost sight of nearly everything, it became tough for combatants to tell who they were supposed to fight.

Navy states poor training, leadership failures led to Iran capturing sailors

An illustration shows Rear Adm. Wilhelm von Tegetthoff during the Battle of Lissa.

(Anton Romako)

Von Tegetthoff, though, had issued an order that worked perfectly in this insanity. Remember, Austria’s largest guns in the battle were nearly useless for firing at armor plating. The 48-pound shells that were his most powerful projectile would still need a lucky shot to seriously damage an Italian ironclad. So, von Tegetthoff had ordered his ships to ram Italian vessels whenever the opportunity arose.

And so the spinning, chaotic, smoke-filled brawl that morning was perfect for them. It softened the impact of the Italian artillery advantage, and Austrian crews began ramming everything that looked vaguely Italian.

Yeah, the first clash of iron fleets descended into a battle of naval ramming, a tactic that had lost favor in the decades prior because rammings were hard to pull off as the ships required a lot of time and space to build up speed, but easy to avoid as the targeted vessel could pull out of the way or turn so that an otherwise lethal blow would be a glancing hit instead.

In the melee of Lissa, ships of both sides rammed each other, and gun crews fired on ships that they were locked into combat with. An Austrian battleship rammed an Italian vessel and left its figurehead, a statue of the emperor, in the enemy’s iron armor. The Austrian ship even caught fire when one of its masts broke, landed on its own smokestack, and then became overheated by the exhaust.

Navy states poor training, leadership failures led to Iran capturing sailors

The Italian ship Re d’Italia sinks at the end of the Battle of Lissa.

(Carl Frederik Sørensen)

When the ships were exchanging shells, the Italians generally got the better of the exchanges as they could lob 300-pound shells from some guns. But the Austrian proficiency at ramming claimed a greater toll.

The original Italian flagship, the Re d’Italia, became the target of multiple Austrian ships looking to capture the enemy commander and his colors. Austrian gunners managed a hit that broke its steering, limiting it to forward-back maneuver. And then the Austrian flagship, the Ferdinand Max, bore down on it for a solid ram and scored a hit amidships, punching an 18-foot-wide, 7-foot-tall hole in it with a ram mounted at the waterline.

The heavy Italian ship rolled away, rolled back, and then sank in less than two minutes as sailors and marines struggled to escape the suction of the quickly sinking iron.

The fleets disentangled themselves. The Austrian forces had lost no ships, had only one badly damaged, and had suffered almost 200 casualties including 38 killed. The Italians had lost a prized ironclad and hundreds killed. Worse, a fire was spreading on another ironclad, the Palestro. Despite heroic efforts by the crew to save the ship, including flooding its powder magazines, a separate store of shells and powder was ignited.

The ship blew up like a massive bomb, sending parts of its plating and hull high in the air. Hundreds more Italian sailors died, and the wreckage sank within minutes. Italy had lost a second ironclad, and its death toll for the battle rose to 620. Not to mention, the shores of Lissa were now safe from the threatened Italian amphibious assault.

The aftereffect of Lissa was even weirder than the battle, though. The success of rams led to new ship designs that emphasized the weapon for decades, so even in World War I modern-ish battleships and many smaller vessels still carried iron rams at the waterline. And, maybe even more surprising, the Austrian success at Lissa had become moot before it was even fought.

The Austrian Empire had been decisively defeated on land at the Battle of Königgrätz by Prussian forces on July 3. Prussian forces on the continent kept pressure on Austria for the rest of July, and the war came to an end with Prussian victory.

Germanic tribes, and their Italian allies, were allowed to consolidate their peoples into new nations separate from the Austrian Empire. That empire renamed itself the Austrian-Hungarian Empire and, 48 years later, one of its archdukes was killed while riding in a car in the town of Sarajevo, less than 130 miles northeast of Lissa.

(Today, the island is part of Croatia and is known by its name in the Croatian language, Vis.)

Articles

6 times troops marched all night and laid waste in the morning

Turns out, the military is hard work. Apparently, sometimes you don’t even get a real break between marching all night through treacherous terrain and then having to crush your enemies, seeing them driven before you, and hearing the lamentations of their women.


These six units had no issue with that:

6. The 37th Illinois Infantry assaults a stubborn hill after 36 miles of marching

Navy states poor training, leadership failures led to Iran capturing sailors
Confederate and Union forces clash at the Battle of Bull Run. (Image: Library of Congress)

The 37th Illinois Infantry was maneuvered across the Battle of Prairie Grove, Arkansas, repeatedly, completing 36 miles of marching and fighting repeatedly in 36 hours. On Dec. 7, 1862, they were marched to a new position and most of the men fell asleep despite an hour-long artillery duel going on over their heads.

They were awoken and ordered against a hill with an unknown enemy force. The 37th hit it in good order and manged to take and hold the edge before enemy artillery on the flanks pushed them back.

Despite their exhaustion and weaker position, the 37th formed back up and held the line at the bottom of the hill, containing the Confederate units for the rest of the battle.

5. The 101st raced to Bastogne and then fought a multi-week siege against the Germans

Navy states poor training, leadership failures led to Iran capturing sailors
American soldiers rush during an artillery attack in the Battle of the Bulge. (Photo: U.S. Army)

When the Germans launched their daring attack that would become the Battle of the Bulge, the U.S. rushed to evacuate some headquarters from the area while sending in those who would hold the line, including the 101st Airborne Division. With the commanding and deputy commanding generals out of the country, the division’s artillery commander was forced to take the men to the front.

The paratroopers rushed into the breach, moving throughout the day and night and almost ending up in the wrong city due to a miscommunication. But the troops took their positions just as the Germans reached Bastogne, exchanging fire immediately after their arrival.

Over the following month, the light infantry in Bastogne held off the better armored, armed, and supplied German tanks and refused requests for their surrender.

4. American troops route Mexican defenders in 20 minutes after a night march

Navy states poor training, leadership failures led to Iran capturing sailors
(Painting: Adolphe Jean-Baptiste Bayot, Public Domain)

Near the end of the Mexican-American War, American attackers near the outskirts of Mexico City needed a way through the defending forces. One route was promising, but a force of 7,000 Mexican troops was defending it.

After the first day of fighting, a lieutenant found a ravine that cut to the rear of the Mexican camp and marched his troops through it. At dawn, the main force made a frontal assault while a smaller group launched from the ravine and into the enemy’s rear. In less than 20 minutes, the Mexicans were forced to retreat and other American troops were able to assault into the city.

3. Washington crosses the Delaware at night to surprise the Hessians on Christmas, then attacks the British at Princeton

Navy states poor training, leadership failures led to Iran capturing sailors
(Painting: Battle of Trenton by Charles McBarron)

On Dec. 25, 1776, Gen. George Washington led his men across the partially frozen Delaware River and on a 19-mile march to the Hessian camp at Trenton, New Jersey, surprising the Hessians before dawn and killing their commander as well as 21 others while capturing 918.

Just days later, British reinforcements had Washington cornered near Princeton. After nightfall on Jan. 2, Washington led 4,500 men through the night while 500 others made it look like the whole force was still in position. Washington’s men clashed with another British force and beat them, proving that the British Army could be defeated.

2. The Rangers march through the evening to attack Sened Station at full dark

Navy states poor training, leadership failures led to Iran capturing sailors
Rangers practice for their assault on Arzew(Photo: U.S. Army)

On Feb. 11, 1943, four Ranger companies set out with each man carrying just their canteen, a C-ration, a half shelter, and their weapon. They marched eight miles and then waited four miles from their target for full night to fall.

When twilight took over, they marched the remaining four miles to their target and attacked under the cover of darkness. Italian defenders at Station de Sened, Tunisia, suspected an attack was coming and fired machine guns into the night, giving away their positions.

Three maneuver companies assaulted the Italian positions while the headquarters formed a blocking force. In less than an hour, the Rangers were victorious and held 11 prisoners and had killed 50 enemy troops.

1. Stonewall Jackson orders a night march to surprise Union artillery with flank attacks

Navy states poor training, leadership failures led to Iran capturing sailors
(Photo: Library of Congress)

Confederate Maj. Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson ordered a few night marches in his day, but few were as important as the June 9, 1862, march at Port Republic that arguably saved the Confederacy for a few years. The battle would decide whether Jackson could send reinforcements to Gen. Robert E. Lee who was defending the rebel capital.

And the Union forces had the better ground at Port Republic. Their cannons were arrayed on a high ridge where they pummeled Confederate attempts to advance through the valley. But that’s where a night march by the 2nd and 4th Virginia came in. They attacked the Union guns, were pushed back, and attacked again with new reinforcements, capturing and holding the former Union position.

The Confederates held the ridge, forcing the Union to retreat and allowing Jackson to reinforce Lee at Richmond, allowing the war to drag on three more years.

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