Old nuclear bombs are getting fancy new guidance kits - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

Old nuclear bombs are getting fancy new guidance kits

The Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center received formal approval in late October 2018 to enter the production phase for the B61-12 nuclear gravity bomb’s new guided tail-kit assembly, or TKA.

“This marks the completion of a highly successful development effort for the tail kit,” said Col. Dustin Ziegler, AFNWC director for air-delivered capabilities.

The AFNWC program office recently passed the Air Force review of the weapon system’s development and received approval to end its engineering and manufacturing development phase and enter the next phase for production of the tail kit. In the production phase, the testing environment will more closely approach real-world environments.


Known as Milestone C, the decision to enter this next phase marked the completion of a series of developmental flight tests. The program office completed a 27-month test program in less than 11 months, with 100 percent success for all of its 31 bomb drops. The accelerated schedule, as well as other risk mitigation strategies, enabled the program office to save more than 0 million in development costs, according to Ziegler.

Old nuclear bombs are getting fancy new guidance kits

A frontal view of four B-61 nuclear free-fall bombs on a bomb cart.

(DoD photo by Phil Schmitten)

“The flight tests demonstrated the system works very well in its intended environment,” said Col. Paul Rounsavall, AFNWC senior materiel leader for the B61-12 TKA, Eglin AFB, Florida. “This development effort brought the first-ever digital interface to the B61 family of weapons and demonstrated the B61-12 TKA’s compatibility with the Air Force’s B-2 and F-15 aircraft. In addition, the TKA achieved greater than five times its required performance during developmental testing and is ready to start initial operational test and evaluation.”

The Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration is responsible for the B61-12 nuclear bomb assembly. The Air Force is responsible for the B61-12 TKA, joint integration of the bomb assembly and TKA into the “all-up-round” of the weapon, and its integration with aircraft.

Headquartered at Kirtland AFB, AFNWC is responsible for synchronizing all aspects of nuclear materiel management on behalf of Air Force Materiel Command and in direct support of Air Force Global Strike Command. The center has about 1,100 personnel assigned to 18 locations worldwide, including Eglin AFB; Hanscom AFB, Massachusetts; Hill AFB, Utah; Kirtland AFB; and Tinker AFB, Oklahoma, in the U.S. and Ramstein Air Base in Germany.

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

Articles

America’s top strategic bomber once had devastating tail guns

The B-52 has been serving in America’s nuclear deterrent arsenal since 1952. But a lot has changed on the BUFF and its mission since it was on the front line against the Soviet Union during the Cold War.


The strategic bomber has gone from being designed to deliver huge nuclear bombs on Russia to dropping precision-guided conventional bombs on al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. Today, it is far more likely to deliver its nukes using air-launched cruise missiles than a gravity bomb.

But little did most people know that part of its post-World War II heritage equipped the lengthy bomber with tail guns.

The retirement of Chief Master Sgt. Rob Wellbaum is notable since he was the last of the B-52 tail gunners in the Air Force. Most versions of the BUFF had four .50-caliber M3 machine guns – fast-firing versions of the historic Ma Deuce (1,000 rounds per minute, according to GlobalSecurity.org) that were also used on the F-86 Sabre. Two B-52 versions went with different armament options, the B-52B (twin 20mm cannon in some planes) and the B-52H (an M61 Vulcan).

Old nuclear bombs are getting fancy new guidance kits
This is what a B-52’s tail looks like now, with the M61 Vulcan removed. A sad sight. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

In the B-52G and H, the tail gunners were in the main cabin, using a remotely operated turret. Earlier models had the tail gunners sitting in a shooters seat in the rear of the plane, providing the BUFF an extra set of eyes to detect SAM launches.

Those tail guns even saw some action. During the Vietnam War, three B-52Ds used their tail guns to score kills. All three of the victims were North Vietnamese MiG-21 Fishbeds, who found out the hard way that the BUFFs weren’t helpless targets on their six.

The B-52s up to the G model ultimately used the MD-9 fire-control system for the tail guns. The B-52G used the AN/ASG-15 for its remotely-operated quad .50 caliber turret while the B-52H used the AN/ASG-21 to guide its M61 Vulcan.

Old nuclear bombs are getting fancy new guidance kits
A F-4G Wild Weasel, the plane involved in the friendly fire incident that prompted the removal of the tail guns and tail gunners from the B-52. (USAF photo)

An incident during Operation Desert Storm, though, would soon change things for the BUFF. A friendly-fire incident occurred when a tailgunner thought an Iraqi plane was closing in. The plane was actually an Air Force F-4G Wild Weasel. The crew of the U.S. jet mistook the B-52G’s AN/ASG-15 for an enemy air-defense system. The Weasel crew fired an AGM-88 High-speed Anti-Radiation Missile, which damaged the BUFF. The BUFF returned to base, and was reportedly named “In HARM’s Way” as a result.

Shortly after the misunderstanding, the Air Force announced that the tail guns were going away.

So, for all intents and purposes, a generation has passed since the B-52 had a tail gunner. Gone are the days when a fighter had to watch its steps when trying to get behind the B-52. To get a glimpse at what was lost, check out the video below.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Oregon Veterans Home pleads for video messages to bring hope to residents in lockdown

The veterans currently living in the Lebanon Veterans Home in Lebanon, Oregon have walked through tough times. The majority of them are over 70 years old and around one third of them over 90. Many of them saw combat in the Korean War, Vietnam War and even World War II. They made it home from those wars only to have another show up at their doorstep at what should be a quiet time in their lives: COVID-19.

Trying to survive a global pandemic is their new war.


The Lebanon Veterans Home houses more than 145 veterans and some of their spouses. There have been 14 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in the home, which has been wreaking havoc on the world. On Sunday March 22, 2020, a veteran of the home died from the disease. He was in his 90s and served this country with honor.

While the residents of the home continue to reel from the death of one of their friends and neighbors, the fight for their well-being is just beginning. The entire facility is now in complete lockdown with no visitors allowed. The residents are also now barred from doing group activities or even eating together anymore. In a sense, they are quarantined to their rooms. This is a traumatic change for these veterans and is causing a negative impact to their mental health.

The intensity of the response to combating COVID-19 for these veterans is due to all of them being considered high risk with their age and medical conditions. Although warranted to prevent the spread of this disease, the veterans are suffering in their isolation.

But the public can help change this.

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vimeo.com

Tyler Francke, a spokesman for the Oregon Department of Veterans’ Affairs spoke with We Are The Mighty to ask our readers for their help by submitting messages of hope, encouragement and gratitude via homemade videos. The veterans home has a closed-circuit TV that they can showcase the videos on. These videos would go a long way to let these veterans know they aren’t alone and they can make it through this tough season.

“The Lebanon Veterans’ Home is an amazing place,” Francke said, “and it’s all because of the dedicated and hard-working staff, and the incredible residents who live there. The men and women there are unbelievable. They’re our nation’s heroes, and yet, they ask for nothing. Instead, they do what they can to brighten your day. Around the Home, I know it’s become something of a rallying cry: ‘They fought for us, now we fight for them.’ I know there are a lot of people all around the community, the state and even the country who are pulling for them, and we just thought this would be one really cool way for everyone to show it.

Francke asked that people send 30-45 seconds of positive videos with big smiles and clear voices offering messages of support, encouragement and hope. These can easily be done on a cell phone and do not require any production.

Old nuclear bombs are getting fancy new guidance kits

Residents smile for a photo. Picture via Facebook.

These videos would take but a moment out of your day to make a veteran smile and bring hope to their hearts. This is a great project for kids to do while they’re in virtual learning. Many of the veterans have grandchildren and great-grandchildren they’re unable to see, and it’s a great way to teach your kids about history, service and selflessness.

These veterans sacrificed so much for America, help show them they haven’t been forgotten and that they can make it through this.

Videos should be submitted to: odvainformation@odva.state.or.us

Articles

The making of ‘Range 15’ is even crazier than ‘Range 15’

“Nothing’s off limits.”


That’s a quote from one of the actors in Range 15, but it’s also the way the creators of the film live their lives.

And before you start getting all teary-eyed over it, know that it’s also the attitude they bring to their dark, effed up, and glorious comedic projects.

Old nuclear bombs are getting fancy new guidance kits

For people who can relate to military humor, it doesn’t get much better than the veteran-produced zombie flick “Range 15”…until you find out they also made a behind-the-scenes documentary.

For those who haven’t seen “Range 15” (it’s for sale as a digital download at Amazon.com), it’s about some military buddies who have a wild party and find themselves tossed into the drunk tank. They wake up to the realization that the zombie apocalypse is in full swing.

Think of what follows as a threesome between “Team America,” “Zombieland,” and “The Hangover.”

Old nuclear bombs are getting fancy new guidance kits

According to a report by the Military Times, the documentary made its debut on June 30, 2017. The video, dubbed Not a War Story, details the making of the movie, which was filmed in 13 days — a balls crazy pace. The 80 vets who made the film, some of them amputees, had very little (if any) experience shooting feature films, but they didn’t let that stop them.

Old nuclear bombs are getting fancy new guidance kits

In the trailer, William Shatner, who plays an attorney in the film, strikes a very poignant tone as he recognizes the sacrifices many of these veterans have made. “You’re the fellows who altered your life to do the job,” he says.

Oh, and good news for Range 15 fans: Military Times mentioned that a sequel is reportedly in the works.

In the meantime, check out the trailer for Not a War Story and check out the film on iTunes Nov. 7, 2017.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Here’s a detailed look at the Army’s new M17 and M18 handgun — and how it shoots

It’s the first time the U.S. military has made a major upgrade to personal weapons in over 30 years, and so far, the only way anyone’s gotten an impression of what this new gun can do is to look at press releases and a few pictures from test ranges.


But as the Army is set to field upwards of 500,000 new M17 and M18 Modular Handguns to replace the 1980s-era M9 Beretta pistol, We Are The Mighty got an exclusive look at the impressive new firearm from the folks who designed and built it.

Old nuclear bombs are getting fancy new guidance kits
Soldiers on the range testing the new Sig Sauer M17. (Photo from US Army)

Comparing the M9 to the M17, gone are the external hammer, double action and decocker, and in its place is a slick handgun with a streamlined build based on the most modern technology available in pistol operation and design.

Engineers with M17 maker Sig Sauer likened switching from the M9 to trading in a 1980 Pontiac Bonneville station wagon for a 2015 Honda Accord.

“That old car works just fine, but think of how far car design has come in over 30 years,” one Sig official said. “That’s kind of what’s happening here with the M17. Pistol design has come a long way since the 1980s.”

The new M17 — and its smaller cousin, the M18 — is a 9mm handgun based on the ground-breaking P320 civilian pistol, which is a lot like a pistol version of a Lego set.

The M17 is built with a removable trigger module that can be inserted into new grips and mated with new barrels and slides to make a whole new handgun based on whatever the mission calls for.

Old nuclear bombs are getting fancy new guidance kits
The M17 and M18 use the same polymer grip module and trigger group, with new slides and barrels for full-sized or compact models. (Photo from We Are The Mighty)

But the main difference most soldiers will notice with the M17 is the change from a double action to a striker fired operation. What that means is an end to that heavy first-shot trigger pull with much lighter follow-up pulls. With the M17, every tug of the trigger is the same — and that makes for easier training and better familiarity with the handgun during yearly qualifications, Sig officials say.

“Soldiers will have a consistent trigger pull every time they shoot the M17,” said Sig Sauer pistol product manager Phil Strader.

Also, the M17 does away with the need for a decocker, so soldiers won’t have to be taught how to drop the hammer before holstering the weapon. Now, once you’re done shooting, you simply engage the external safety and put the gun on your belt.

Shooting the M17 is a no brainer. The design of the grip encourages a natural aim and the 4.7-inch barrel provides good balance between accuracy and compactness. During quick draw-and-shoot drills engaging steel targets at 10 meters, the M17 hit the target every time, even in this amateur’s hands and without taking the time to line up the sights.

Old nuclear bombs are getting fancy new guidance kits
The new M17 is lighter and simpler to use than the Beretta M9. (Photo from We Are The Mighty)

For those not used to an external safety on a striker-fired handgun, switching from safe to fire and back again takes a bit of getting used to, and lining up your grip hand thumb so that it doesn’t engage the slide released takes a few mags to drill into muscle memory.

But other than that, the M17 and M18 are pretty much as easy as any modern pistol to figure out.

The M17 also comes with glow-in-the-dark Tritium sights. The sights have a green front sight and orange rear sights to encourage proper alignment under stress, Strader said. What’s more, the M17 and M18 slides have a removable rear plate so soldiers can install Delta Point red dots optics.

All that, and the M17 is being outfitted with two extended 21-round magazines and a standard 17-rounder. The more compact M18 uses the same frame as the M17 with a size-medium grip and features a 3.9-inch barrel and shorter slide.

Soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division will reportedly be the first to receive the M17, with more units following closely after. Rumor has it that the M17 and M18 have attracted the attention of the special operations community as well, with SEALs — who recently ditched their Sig P226 handguns for Glocks — particularly digging the ability to tailor the same gun to a variety of missions.

It was a tough fight that took many years, but in the end the U.S. military is poised to field an innovative, modern new handgun that makes the most of today’s technology and could give troopers a big advantage for a last ditch defense.

MIGHTY TRENDING

3 injured as Syria intercepts Israeli missiles

Syrian state media says the country’s air defenses have downed several Israeli missiles in a wave of attacks that injured three soldiers.

Syria’s state news agency SANA reported on Dec. 25, 2018, that most of the missiles fired from Israeli jets were intercepted before reaching their targets.

“Our air defenses confronted hostile missiles launched by Israeli war planes from above the Lebanese territories and downed most of them before reaching their targets,” SANA quoted a military source as saying. The source added that an arms depot was hit and three soldiers were injured in the attack.


The Israeli Army only noted on its official Twitter account that “an IDF [Israeli Defense Forces] aerial defense system activated in response to an anti-aircraft missile launched from Syria,” while the U.K.-based monitoring group The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that the missiles were launched from above Lebanese territories and targeted western and southwestern Damascus rural areas.

Old nuclear bombs are getting fancy new guidance kits

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Syria has been engulfed in a bloody civil war since 2011 with Russia and Iran backing President Bashar al-Assad.

Israel has become alarmed at Tehran’s increased power in the country and has struck targets it says are Iranian deployments.

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

MIGHTY FIT

Do you need a Drill Instructor in your civilian life?

Remember your initial indoc school to the military? I do: It was hot and heavy, and not in a good way, like at a rave or water park. You were asked in a short period of time to learn the entire guiding doctrine of your service of choice, so much so that you could easily fold into the operational forces upon completion of the school.

That is no small task.

How was this accomplished? We weren’t given textbooks and told to read. We weren’t even put into classes and told to take notes. Nope.


Old nuclear bombs are getting fancy new guidance kits

I’m just walking bro, no need to yell.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class William Blankenship/Released)

We were taken under the wing of professionals who have already lived and breathed that which we were about to undertake.

I fully understand that that is a rose-colored-glasses approach toward the DI, MTI, RDC, or Drill Sergeant that you still have nightmares about. Hear me out though: an argument can be made that an instructor, who I’ll affectionately refer to as a “coach” from now on, is the one thing standing between you and your personal and professional goals.

Old nuclear bombs are getting fancy new guidance kits

He wants you to hate him. It’s his coaching style.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. David Bessey)

The research

The body of literature on the topic of coaching is dense and complicated, but suffice it to say that the question is not if a coach is effective. It’s how can coaches be most effective.

Two of the main factors discussed are attitude and control.

The attitude evoked by the person who is teaching you dictates how well you perform. You and your coach need to be on the same page. In your basic training, your “coach” did this whether you realized it or not. It was most likely in an “us vs. them” approach. Meaning your instructor made you want to prove him or her wrong. The dirty secret is that they wanted you to prove them wrong as well. #reversepsychology.

Control is simple. The person learning needs to have some sense of control over their outcome. In the beginning of your schoolhouse, undoubtedly you had little to no control. Over time, you were given choices and tasks that directly impacted whether or not you chose to be successful.

These are the fundamentals of great coaching in a high volume way.

Old nuclear bombs are getting fancy new guidance kits

Civilian life has its pitfalls too. Don’t wait until it feels like its too late.

(Photo by Campaign Creators on Unsplash)

Civilian life

The assumption of a coach is that you are going to get better, and faster than you would with no one helping. Eventually, you would have figured out the rules of the military well enough to “graduate” to the active forces, but it would not have been as cleanly or efficiently as it was with the guiding force of your instructor.

It’s quite common for former service members to decide they can do everything alone upon separation. That’s a mistake. We assume that we are now the commander of our own lives until we eventually hit a wall. Then we start looking for guidance.

Don’t wait for that moment.

Old nuclear bombs are getting fancy new guidance kits

Pro athletes know this truth. They can’t do it alone.

(Photo by Xuan Nguyen on Unsplash)

“No man is an island…” -John Donne

If you want to be an entrepreneur, find someone who has done it and learn from them. They will keep you from falling into all the typical pitfalls.

If you want to stay home and raise a family, read from the best and learn from your friends and family that have the types of children you want.

If you wanna get in killer shape, find someone who makes that happen for people.

Don’t waste your time.

You are always in the basic training of something.

Don’t spend more time on Parris Island getting eaten by sand fleas than necessary. Find and follow the coach that will lead you past your goal.

Old nuclear bombs are getting fancy new guidance kits

How would he know where to crawl if it wasn’t for explicit guidance?

(Photo by David Dismukes)

Tips for finding a keeper

For many service members, the whole reason they get out is because they are sick of other people telling them what to do.

Now you have the choice as to what type of person you want to get your guidance from. If you don’t like the volatile gunny with bad breath and a worse temper, you don’t need to work with him anymore. Here are five things to look for in your coach of choice for any endeavor you may have.

Old nuclear bombs are getting fancy new guidance kits

This kid knows what’s up. What’s his economy of force coach?

(Source: pixabay.com)

  1. Attitude: Find someone who has a similar attitude towards your goal that you have or hope to develop.
  2. Control: Look for someone who allows you to maintain control over your life. Someone that guides instead of mandates.
  3. Save time: The whole purpose is to find someone who gets you where you want to get faster with less time wasted. Don’t spend more time digging a hole than is necessary.
  4. Feel happier: Happiness is subjective. You need not be smiling the entire time. You simply want to feel like you are making progress that you can be proud of.
  5. Find your economy of force: A great coach will show you where to employ the bulk of your effort and show you what tasks and practices you should approach with a minimum effective dose mentality.
Old nuclear bombs are getting fancy new guidance kits
MIGHTY TRENDING

Here are the top conspiracy theories surrounding Kennedy assassination

Just under 54 years ago, two years into his presidency, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated on a visit to Dallas, Texas.


An investigation by the Warren Commission determined a former US Marine named Lee Harvey Oswald shot Kennedy from a nearby book depository, but the murky facts of the case have led to a number of alternate theories.

Also read: 2 million declassified documents reveal new details of JFK assassination

They include a CIA conspiracy, a mafia hit job, a covert operation by Lyndon B. Johnson, and more.

In anticipation of the National Archives releasing 3,100 documents related to the assassination on Oct. 26, here are the top theories that have swirled ever since.

The CIA theory

Old nuclear bombs are getting fancy new guidance kits

People who believe the CIA was behind Kennedy’s assassination speculate the agency strongly opposed a number of the president’s stances on Cuba and Communism.

The theory posits that Kennedy’s refusal to offer air support for the failed Bay of Pigs invasion, a CIA-sponsored mission to overthrow Fidel Castro, triggered the CIA to eliminate Kennedy from the picture altogether.

Theorists tend to believe the CIA set Oswald up as its scapegoat.

The Mafia theory

Old nuclear bombs are getting fancy new guidance kits

A related theory suggests the CIA worked with the Mafia to have Kennedy killed. At the time, the two organizations had a shared interest in overthrowing Castro, as the Mafia held a number of investments in Cuban casinos at-risk of being shut down.

Government documents show the CIA did work with the Mafia to take down Castro; some conspiracy theorists claim the two also worked together, along with anti-Castro Cubans, to assassinate Kennedy.

The Cuban exile theory

Old nuclear bombs are getting fancy new guidance kits
Members of the Cuban invasion force meet President and Mrs. Kennedy in 1962. Photo: John F. Kennedy Presidential Library

Some believe the effort was far less sophisticated than a federal conspiracy, but carried out by a group of rogue Cuban exiles who saw the failed Bay of Pigs invasion as sufficient evidence that Kennedy was unfit as president.

Between 1959, when the Cuban Revolution brought Castro to power, and Kennedy’s assassination in 1963, his popularity among exiles had eroded considerably. In October of 1963, anti-Castro Cubans met with right-wing Americans to discuss frustrations with Kennedy.

Theorists speculate the meeting may have been a tipping point for the assassination a month later.

The Lyndon B. Johnson theory

Old nuclear bombs are getting fancy new guidance kits

One theory speculates that LBJ feared getting dropped from the Democratic ticket in the 1964 election so intensely that he plotted to have Kennedy assassinated.

According to a 1968 memoir written by Kennedy’s personal secretary, Evelyn Lincoln, it is true that Kennedy planned to replace Johnson as vice president. Kennedy told Lincoln as much on Nov. 19, 1963 — three days before he was killed.

Conspiracy theorists point to the timeline as partial evidence that Johnson might have had a hand in orchestrating the murder.

The KGB theory

Old nuclear bombs are getting fancy new guidance kits
President Kennedy meets with Chairman Khrushchev at the U. S. Embassy residence, Vienna. U. S. Dept. of State photograph in the John Fitzgerald Kennedy Library, Boston. 03 June 1961

Some theorists believe a band of Soviet officers carried out Kennedy’s assassination, directed by Premier Nikita Krushchev.

Toward the end of the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, Krushchev was ultimately forced to remove the intercontinental ballistic missiles he’d deployed in Cuba due to US militaristic threats against the Soviet Union.

Conspiracy theorists claim the move motivated Krushchev to have Kennedy killed.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The raid on Camp Bastion was a bloody first for some Marine aviators

On Sept. 14, 2012, 15 heavily armed Taliban fighters disguised in U.S. Army uniforms infiltrated Camp Bastion, a large Marine Corps and British forces base and Afghan National Army training complex. Camp Bastion could accommodate some 30,000 people, so when the Taliban split into three teams to wreak havoc on the base’s interior, things could have gone very badly for the Marines.

The infiltrators made it all the way to the flight line, where their coordinated, complex attack began by targeting the Marines’ Harrier aircraft. It would be the single biggest loss of American airpower since the Vietnam War. It would also be the first time that the maintainers and pilots of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 211 (VMA-211) operated as riflemen since World War II.


Old nuclear bombs are getting fancy new guidance kits

A video released later showed the attackers dressed for the assault.

The fighting began at 10pm local time with one Taliban team engaging the flight line personnel, another targeting the refueling area, and a third focusing on destroying aircraft using explosives and RPGs. It was an aircraft explosion that signaled the start of the attack.

Within minutes, six Harriers were burning on the tarmac, the Marine helicopter area was surrounded by fires, and the cryogenics and fuel pit areas were on fire as small arms crackled and tracers lit up the night sky. The Taliban brought everything from hand grenades to heavy machine guns and caught the Marines completely off guard.

Old nuclear bombs are getting fancy new guidance kits

Lt. Col. Christopher Raible’s memorial.

Marines scrambled to protective barriers as RPGs exploded around the flight line. They initially believed it was an attack of opportunity from outside the base — a random, lucky hit from rockets or mortars. But after ten explosions, one every ten seconds, it was clear that this was more than a few lucky shots. The Troops in Contact alarm began to sound. They called in the British quick reaction force, but they were on the other side of the base and the Marines would have to hold their own until they arrived.

The Marines quickly moved to don their flak jackets and retrieve their rifles. The Taliban weren’t going to stop at the aircraft. They fired RPGs at the building that housed Marine workstations while another hit a building that contained the medical section. An anti-personnel RPG killed the commander of VMA-211, Lt. Col. Christopher Raible, before he could organize a defense. Shrapnel from one of the RPGs lodged in his neck as he was leading a crew full of mechanics and maintainers out into the night as a rifle unit.

Old nuclear bombs are getting fancy new guidance kits

By this time, every Marine was operating as a rifleman. Weapons and ammo were doled out to anyone without one and Marines began taking up their fields of fire. The air wing was a total, confusing mess as the fuel bladders blew up, temporarily turning the night into day.

A Huey aircraft commander and two enlisted Marines were the ones who brought the weapons to the flight line area. They went to check on the entry control point and began to take fire from the cryogenics area. A Huey crew chief manned an M240 to suppress the enemy fire.

At the same time, Marines were struggling to get remaining aircraft in the air to provide close-air support. All they could muster was two Hueys and a Cobra, but the Marines managed to get them ready to fly in the midst of the confusing, intense attack. Thick smoke, burning ordnance, and enemy fire loomed as flight line Marines took up defensive positions to cover the helicopters’ takeoff.

Old nuclear bombs are getting fancy new guidance kits

One of the Harrier jets destroyed in the raid.

When the helicopters were airborne, things changed quickly on the ground. They told the JTAC to concentrate fire toward the enemy position in the cryogenics facility. When the southern wall of that building lit up with tracers, the AH-1 Cobra helicopter peppered the building with 20mm rounds and UH-1V Venom Hueys tore through it with 300 .50-cal rounds while a gunner on the ground hit it with 600 rounds from a GAU-17.

After the aerial hit, the British quick reaction force arrived and cleared out the infiltrating Taliban in the cryogenics facility with 40mm grenade launchers. That left four Taliban hiding in the T-walls near the flight line. As Marines on the ground attempted to converge on the remaining Taliban attackers, guns from the helicopters eliminated the last of the threat.

When the smoke cleared, two Marines, Lt. Col. Raible and Sgt. Bradley Atwell, had been killed. Allied wounded numbered 17, six Harriers were completely destroyed, and another two were damaged, along with an Air Force C-130E. Three fuel bladders and a few sunshade hangars were also destroyed. All but one of the attacking Taliban fighters were killed in action. The attack caused some 0 million in damages.

Old nuclear bombs are getting fancy new guidance kits

Maj. Gen. Charles M. Gurganus, left, and Maj. Gen. Gregg A. Sturdevant were forced to retire just one year after the raid.

(U.S. Marine Corps)

The story doesn’t end there. The Marine Corps wanted to know how 15 heavily armed Taliban fighters were able to get onto the base in the first place. It turned out the commander of Bastion, Maj. Gen. Charles Gurganus, reduced the number of Marines patrolling the base of 30,000 from 325 to 100 just one month before the attack, leaving the base guarded by troops from Tonga. He and Maj. Gen. Gregg Sturdevant were forced to retire in the days following the incident. Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. James Amos, said the two failed to accurately assess the strength and capabilities of the enemy in the area and failed to protect their troops.


Sturdevant was the Marine aviation commander of the base and was blamed for inadequate force protection measures on the flight line area that night. The two Marines who went to check the entry control point found it unmanned before they started taking fire from the cryogenics facility. Meanwhile, the British review of the attack found that only 11 of 24 guard towers were manned that night. Both generals retired with fully pay and benefits.

Later, it would be revealed that the attackers spent months posing as poppy farmers, probing the base defenses and testing reactions from perimeter guards. They were able to map out the base, its defenses, its fuel farms, and the airfield. They were even trying to target Prince Harry, who was stationed on the base at that time.

Articles

This World War I aviator was just posthumously awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross

Army Capt. James E. Miller, one of the first aviators in the U.S. military and the first U.S. aviation casualty in World War I, has been named recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross nearly 100 years after his heroic actions over France in 1918.


On the 242nd birthday of the Army, during a twilight tattoo ceremony at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Virginia, Acting Secretary of the Army Robert M. Speer presented the Distinguished Flying Cross to Miller’s great-grandson, Byron Derringer.

“We’re very proud today to have some of the descendants from James Miller’s family here and able to represent him and a lineage of what he achieved on those battlefields as the first individual who gave his life in that war in aviation,” Speer said.

The presentation of the cross to a World War I soldier is significant, given that the theme for this year’s Army birthday is, “Over There! A Celebration of the World War I Soldier.”

Old nuclear bombs are getting fancy new guidance kits
(Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

America Enters World War I

The United States declared war on Germany on April 6, 1917. On Dec. 7, 1917, the U.S. declared war on Austria-Hungary, Germany’s ally.

“This is the 100th anniversary of [America’s entry into] World War I,” Speer said. “And it’s the 242nd birthday of our Army. But 100 years ago, there were significant changes in terms of the character of war. You had at that time, for the first time, the Army going off to war in foreign lands with our allies, fighting side-by-side with our allies, and representing the United States — which placed the United States into a significant leadership role in the world.”

Speer said several aspects of warfare changed during World War I, including the development of armor units and precision artillery. One of the most significant developments, however, was that the U.S. military had “aviation for the first time as part of the U.S. Army Air Corps,” he said.

“We have a privilege today to be able to recognize not only the heraldry of our total 242 years but also that point and time, where we recognize, late, a Distinguished Flying Cross for an American hero,” Speer said.

Old nuclear bombs are getting fancy new guidance kits
Army photo by Spc. Trevor Wiegel

As part of a twilight tattoo event at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Va., held on honor of the Army’s 242nd birthday, Acting Secretary of the Army Robert Speer, left, and Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Mark A. Milley, right, present a posthumous Distinguished Flying Cross for Army Capt. James E. Miller to Miller’s great-grandson, Byron Derringer, center, June 14, 2017.

Early 20th Century Aviation Warfare

As a soldier in World War I, Miller was one of the first to make use of new aviation technology. The captain took command of the 95th Pursuit Squadron on Feb. 10, 1918 — just 10 months after the United States declared war on Germany. The men in the squadron were the first American-trained pilots to fight in the war.

On March 9 of that year, Miller, Maj. M. F. Harmon and Maj. Davenport Johnson began the first combat patrol ever for the U.S. Army Air Services. They flew 180-horsepower, French-built SPAD XIII aircraft. The aircraft, a biplane, is named for its developer, the Société Pour L’Aviation et ses Dérivés.

Old nuclear bombs are getting fancy new guidance kits
SPAD XIII at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Harmon’s plane experienced trouble early in the sortie, and so he was unable to continue on the patrol. But Miller and Johnson pressed on together and crossed into enemy territory. There, they fought off two German aircraft, but soon met more. It was then that Johnson’s aircraft experienced trouble with the machine guns.

Miller Fights On

According to the DFC citation, Johnson was forced to leave Miller to continue the fight against German aviators on his own.

“Miller continued to attack the two German biplanes, fearlessly exposing himself to the enemy, until his own aircraft was severely damaged and downed behind the German lines, where he succumbed to his injuries,” the citation reads. “Miller’s actions are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, the United States Army Air Services and the American Expeditionary Forces.”

Afterward, Derringer said of both the recognition and the twilight tattoo that accompanied the recognition, “it’s spectacular, I know that the family, everybody, is just honored to be here.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

The borderline-unbelievable assassination of Kim Jong Nam remains a mystery

The trial into the assassination of the half-brother of Kim Jong Un ended on April 1, 2019, without testimony from either defendant.

The resultant lack of detail on how Kim Jong Nam’s assassination really went down could turn the death into a mystery forever.

A Vietnamese woman, Doan Thi Huong, and an Indonesian woman, Siti Aisyah, were accused of killing Kim Jong Nam after smearing the lethal nerve agent VX on his face at Kuala Lumpur International Airport, Malaysia, in February 2017.


The video below shows footage of the assassination, obtained by Japan’s Fuji TV channel and annotated by the UK’s Channel 5 News.

New CCTV shows moment Kim Jong Nam assassinated | 5 News

www.youtube.com

Both women were originally charged with murder, but denied it. In Malaysia, murder is punishable with death.

While the women accept that they rubbed a substance into Kim’s face, they have said they did not know what it was, and thought they thought they were taking part in a prank TV show.

Kim was the eldest son of North Korean’s former leader Kim Jong Il and one of his mistresses. He was once considered a potential successor.

The murder trial, which started in October 2017, has been mired in multiple delays and ended abruptly, without the murder charges being fully litigated.

On April 1, 2019, Doan Thi Huong, the Vietnamese defendant, pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of voluntarily “causing hurt by a dangerous weapon” — in this case the nerve agent — and was sentenced to 40 months in jail.

The sentence will be counted for her February 2017 arrest, which would give her a release date of June 2020.

However, her lawyer told reporters that Huong would be freed in this May, less than two months after her guilty plea, because of a a one-third reduction in her sentence for good behavior, The Associated Press reported.

In March 2019 Malaysian prosecutors unexpectedly dropped murder charges against Aisyah.

Neither the judge presiding over the case nor prosecutors explained the reasoning behind the early release.

Malaysian Attorney General Tommy Thomas said it came after lobbying from the Indonesian government, and that Malaysia made the decision “taking into account the good relations” between the two countries.

The end of the case means that neither Huong nor Aisyah were able to testify.

Their testimonies would have provided an important glimpse into how the two women were involved in the plot and who recruited them.

There are still a number of unexplained mysteries and inconsistencies about the case — and now they may never be resolved.

Old nuclear bombs are getting fancy new guidance kits

Kim Jong Nam.

The defendants said they thought it was a prank, not an assassination

The two women have claimed to know nothing about any assassination plot. Aisyah said she was recruited to be part of a Japanese prank show in January 2017, five weeks before the assassination.

She said her “trainers” led her through luxury hotels, malls, and airports in Malaysia and Cambodia, where she practiced smearing oil and hot sauce on Chinese-looking men, GQ reported in September 2017. It’s not clear if Huong received the same training.

Aisyah’s handlers — a man who purported to be Japanese, and another who purported to be Chinese — were later revealed to be North Korean agents, GQ reported.

Malaysia singled out four North Korean suspects in the murder, but they fled the country on the day of the assassination. Their whereabouts are not known.

According to GQ, Aisyah was so convinced by the gameshow cover story that she even thought her arrest and imprisonment were part of the prank.

Andreano Erwin, the acting Indonesian ambassador in Malaysia, told GQ: “The first time we visited her, she kept asking when she could leave the jail. The second, she complained that she still hadn’t been paid for the last prank. The third time, she accused us of being part of the prank.”

“The fourth time, we showed her a newspaper proving Kim Jong Nam had died,” he said. “When she saw it, she started to cry.”

Why plot to kill Kim Jong Nam?

Kim Jong Un is believed to have felt uneasy about Kim Jong Nam, who was previously spoken of as a successor to their father.

This has prompted claims that Kim Jong Un engineered the murder plot.

Old nuclear bombs are getting fancy new guidance kits

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

(Kim Jong Nam fell out of favor with his father in the early 2000s, reportedly after he and his family were caught trying to enter Japan on false Dominican Republican passports so they could go to Disneyland.)

Japan’s Asahi Shimbun reported in 2018 that days, before Kim was killed, he met with a US intelligence official in Malaysia.

The news outlet said records from Kim’s computer showed a record of a thumb drive being inserted.

The alleged meeting reinforces a theory that the US, and possibly even China, were trying to groom and leverage Kim Jong Nam to possibly remove Kim Jong Un from power, Business Insider’s Alex Lockie reported.

Why was Kim Jong Nam was carrying an antidote?

Kim was carrying a dozen vials of atropine, an antidote for poisons like VX, in his bag on the day he was assassinated, the murder trial heard.

Six months before he was killed, he also reportedly told a friend that his life was in danger.

Nial Wheate, a pharmaceutics lecturer at the University of Sydney, told CNN in 2018: “If you know someone is coming after you with a nerve agent, atropine is a key drug you would want to carry.”

Why he did not use the antidote upon being smeared with VX is not clear.

Upon hearing her sentence on Monday, Huong cried in the courtroom and later told reporters according to the BBC: “Only God knows that we did not commit the murder. I want my family to pray for me.”

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why the Navy backed off railguns (and China should too)

The prototype Chinese railgun is the first technical demonstrator of the tech on a ship at sea, but there are real reasons why the Navy is slow-rolling the railgun, and it’s unlikely that China has broken the code on how to make railguns viable.


First, for anyone who isn’t up on what railguns are, they’re a type of naval artillery that uses massive amounts of electricity to propel the round instead of a chemical reaction (read: gunpowder). This would be a major improvement in logistics and safety as the Navy would no longer need to ship bags of gunpowder around the world, but the best advantages come in range and lethality.

Railguns can hurl rounds very far. Navy engineers have said they think they can reach 230 miles with current technologies. And when the rounds hit the target, they’re going so fast that the total amount of damage on a target is like it was hit by a missile or a massive, high-explosive warhead but the fast-flying rounds can also pierce most armor and even underground targets and bunkers.

Oh, and the rounds are super cheap, costing about ,000 dollars per shot while the missiles they could sometimes replace are usually 0,000 a shot or more. Also, this hasn’t been proven yet, but railguns might be able to fire as fast as every 6 seconds.

Rain. Of. Fire.

So, railguns can fire up to 10 times as far as conventional artillery with a safer round that does more damage when it hits the target. And this isn’t theoretical — railguns have actually achieved these things in Navy tests. Time to put them on ships before China can, right?

Old nuclear bombs are getting fancy new guidance kits

High-speed photograph of Navy prototype railgun firing.

(U.S. Navy)

Not exactly. Because while railguns are a huge step up from conventional artillery and have a lot of advantages, there are also some serious drawbacks. First, they need a decent amount of deck space as well as a ton of space below decks. That’s because the guns require a ton of electricity, up to 9 kilowatt hours per shot. That’s how much energy an average U.S. house uses over 7 hours. The only surface ships with that kind of power on tap are the three Zumwalt-class destroyers and aircraft carriers.

Meanwhile, the weapons have improved in maintenance requirements in recent years, but still need new launcher cores every 400 shots and barrels every thousand.

But the biggest problem is the range. While a 230-mile range is phenomenal for artillery, it’s still a paltry reach compared to missiles. Tomahawk cruise missiles can reach between 810 miles and 1,550 miles depending on the type, and China’s “Carrier Killer” DF-26 is thought to strike at 1,200 miles or more. Meanwhile, a carrier-launched F-35 has a 1,380-mile range that can be extended with aerial refueling.

A railgun fires during testing at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, in 2016.

(Monica Wood, Fort Sill Public Affairs)

So, were railguns obsolete before they were launched? No. There are still plenty of niche uses for the railgun, and the Navy has slowed development but is still pursuing the weapon. Accurate railgun fire could intercept enemy missiles and fighter jets for cheap, possibly while plugged into the super capable Aegis combat system.

And while railgun-equipped ships would likely be too vulnerable to missile strikes to be “door-kicking” ships that take out enemy defenses on day one of a conflict, they would still be very valuable for shore bombardment, strike missions, and other tasks after the first week or so of a war, after the worst of the enemy’s missiles are taken out.

So why is China pursuing the weapon so hard? It’s unlikely that it has solved the power-generation problems of the railgun. And the U.S. is working hard to get the barrels right so they could fire 1,000 rounds instead of the 10 or less that were standard pretty recently. There’s a chance that China is still struggling with that and similar problems.

Old nuclear bombs are getting fancy new guidance kits

An artist’s illustration of a Navy Joint High-Speed Vessel with the prototype railgun installed for testing.

(U.S. Navy)

But being the first navy to put a railgun to sea has already granted China a pretty great and relatively easy propaganda victory. The country has worked hard on their technology in recent years in order to be seen as a great naval power, potentially positioning themselves as an arms exporter while deterring conflict.

And the U.S. will have to prepare for the possibility that the railgun is for real. The first pilots to fly within the ship’s range if a war breaks out have to reckon with the possibility that a 20-pound shell might be flying at Mach 7 towards their aircraft at any moment. Missile attacks against a fleet with the ship will have to decide whether to concentrate on the railgun or an aircraft carrier or another combatant.

But, again, this could all be China exploring the tech or bluffing, but with none of the breakthroughs needed to make the weapons viable in combat. If so, they would be wise to concentrate on the many other breakthroughs their military could use for an actual fight.

Articles

Top sniper squads from around the world just competed in Germany

Military trainers in Germany just wrapped up a four-day competition to determine the best sniper squad in Europe and a Norwegian team took first place at the end of 27 events designed to test key tasks that snipers must complete in combat.


Eleven countries sent squads to the competition, and the U.S. sent five squads including paratroopers and Marines.

Old nuclear bombs are getting fancy new guidance kits
A Spanish soldier fires at a target from a Zodiac boat during the European Best Sniper Squad Competition at the 7th Army Training Command’s Grafenwoehr Training Area, Germany, Oct. 24, 2016.(Photo and cutline: U.S. Army Spc. Emily Houdershieldt)

The competition, hosted by the U.S. Army Europe and organized by the 7th Army Training Command, took place at Grafenwoehr Training Area, Germany. Participants took part in multiple shooting competitions as well as casualty evacuation, ruck marching, and other general military events.

Also read: Meet the 62-year-old sniper who has over 170 ISIS kills

Old nuclear bombs are getting fancy new guidance kits
Spanish soldiers master the Rough Terrain Run task during the European Best Sniper Squad Competition at the 7th Army Training Command’s, Grafenwoehr Training Area, Bavaria, Germany, Oct. 26, 2016. (Photo and cutline: U.S. Army Visual Information Specialist Gertrud Zach)

“The competition challenged the competitors’ physical and mental toughness as well as their marksmanship proficiency,” said U.S. Army Maj. Erick Nyingi, the officer in charge of the competition.

One of the most suspenseful and distinctly sniper-oriented events was the stalking lane, where squads had to proceed as far as possible without being detected by observers.

Old nuclear bombs are getting fancy new guidance kits
A Latvian soldier checks the camouflage of his weapon before taking part in the stalking challenge of the European Best Sniper Squad Competition at the 7th Army Training Command’s, Grafenwoehr Training Area, Bavaria, Germany, Oct. 26, 2016. (Photo and cutline: U.S. Army Spc. Emily Houdershieldt)

Some high-octane events included a high-angle shot lane where snipers rode in a Black Hawk helicopter and had to engage two targets in under two minutes using three rounds or less. There was also a water shoot where the snipers engaged targets from a boat.

Old nuclear bombs are getting fancy new guidance kits
U.S. Marines conduct the high-angle shot lane during the European Best Sniper Squad Competition at the 7th Army Training Command’s Grafenwoehr Training Area, Bavaria, Germany, Oct. 24, 2016. (Photo and cutline: U.S. Army Visual Information Specialist Gertrud Zach)

The sniper squad competition is the 2016 version of the annual Best Squad competition held by U.S. Army Europe. Each year focuses on a different type of squad. Last year, it was infantry squads.

No matter which type of unit is highlighted, the goal is to bring NATO members and other allies together to share tactics and engage in friendly competition so the troops can share new tactics, and training techniques.

Old nuclear bombs are getting fancy new guidance kits
The Norwegian squad finished in first place during the 2016 European Best Squad Competition, hosted by U.S. Army Europe at 7th Army Training Command’s Grafenwoehr Training Area, Oct. 27, 2016. (U.S. Army photo by Visual Information Specialist Gertrud Zach)

“Overall the competition will definitely meet the objective of getting the squads to exchange ideas and [tactics],” Nyingi said. “There was a lot of collaboration after each day’s events, and I believe the greatest dividends will be realized from this exchange of ideas.”

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