Operation Red Wings through the eyes of the Night Stalkers - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

Operation Red Wings through the eyes of the Night Stalkers

The sun was fading behind Afghanistan’s Hindu Kush mountains the evening of June 27, 2005, as a team of four U.S. Navy SEALs walked up the ramp and into the back of U.S. Army Captain Matt Brady’s MH-47 Chinook helicopter on Bagram Air Base.

Tasked with inserting the SEAL special reconnaissance (SR) team deep into enemy territory in unforgiving terrain, Brady knew the SEALs — Lieutenant Michael Murphy, Petty Officer 2nd Class Danny Dietz, Petty Officer 2nd Class Marcus Luttrell, and Petty Officer 2nd Class Matthew Axelson — had a difficult mission ahead. Marines in the area knew it was an extremely dangerous place filled with Taliban fighters.


Brady had no way of knowing at the time, but it would be the last time anyone at Bagram would ever see three of those four Americans alive.

Operation Red Wings through the eyes of the Night Stalkers

The Afghanistan mountains and forest from the valley where soldiers searched for the remains of the three SEALs who were killed in action. Photo courtesy of Steven Smith.

The Army’s elite 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR) is known for having some of the most skilled aviators in the world, who fly the most elite special operators into some of the most austere environments on earth using the most advanced aircraft in the U.S. military inventory. They are famous for the roles they played in both the Battle of Mogadishu and the mission to kill Usama Bin Laden but are revered throughout the special operations community for acts of valor that often never see the light of day due to the classified nature of their work.

As a pilot in the 160th, Brady was the air mission commander for the operation. He and some of his fellow “Night Stalkers” felt the SEALs’ plan was too risky.

The mission was to capture or kill Ahmad Shah, a Taliban commander. The three-phase plan called for inserting a four-man SR team the first night, then inserting the second element of SEALs the following night to establish an isolation zone around Shah. Finally, 150 U.S. Marines would come in to establish blocking positions for the SEALs’ assault on Shah’s compound.

The Night Stalkers’ job was to insert the SEALs on a ridgeline where the terrain left few options for landing zones. The commandos would have to descend from a rope — fast-rope — while the helos hovered high above the trees. That meant if the SEALs got into trouble, extraction would potentially require the use of a hoist to pull the SEALs out, which was a time-consuming and dangerous option.

As he approached the insertion site, Brady could see lights dotting the mountains below through his night-vision goggles.

Operation Red Wings through the eyes of the Night Stalkers

An MH-47 Chinook with 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment and a KC-130J Super Hercules with Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 152 conduct aerial refueling during Exercise Yuma Horizon 19. Photo by Lance Cpl. Seth Rosenberg, courtesy of DVIDS.

“This was a desolate part of the Hindu Kush, and at night, you wouldn’t really expect to see much,” Brady told Coffee or Die. “Not really sure who they were, but there was more activity than I expected.”

As the pilots climbed the last 1,000 feet of elevation, the AC-130 crew providing overwatch on their destination radioed to say they had to leave their position due to a mechanical issue. Brady knew that surveillance aircraft going off station without backup was supposed to result in aborting the mission.

He asked the AC-130 crew for one final report on the four potential landing zones the Night Stalkers had identified for the mission.

“We’ve got two military-aged males, possibly armed, on the northernmost LZ,” the crew reported. “Primary and secondary zones appear to be clear of potential threats.”

Believing the gunship could make it back on station in time for the insertion, Brady made the call to continue the mission.

Operation Red Wings through the eyes of the Night Stalkers

From left, SGT Carlos Pacheco (3/160 medic, former 3/75), SFC Marcus V. Muralles (Legend – 3/160 medic), MAJ Sam Sauer (3/160 flight surgeon), SFC L.E. Shroades (medic R/160), SGT Dan Bell (E Co/160) during during the timeframe of Operation Red Wings. Photo courtesy of Daniel Bell.

Approaching the insertion point, the pilots flared the Chinook and came into a hover. As the lead aircraft descended, it became clear the LZ was on a steep slope of the mountain, making descent difficult due to the front rotors approaching the mountainside faster than the rear of the aircraft.

“Hold your right and left; hold your front and rear,” came the internal radio traffic from the flight engineer to Brady.

There were 100-foot-tall trees on all sides of the Chinook, and they were so close the pilots had no room to sway as they descended.

“When you hear all four directions, everyone gets pretty tense,” Brady said. “It means you can’t drift any direction without crashing.”

The pilots descended to the point where the Chinook’s front rotor was just a few feet away from the mountainside with tall trees all around the aircraft. The flight crew kicked out the ropes, and the SEALs fast-roped down.

When the crew chief tried to pull the rope up, they found it was entangled below. After several tense moments of struggling to bring in the rope, they decided to cut it loose. The odds of enemy fighters hearing the echo of the dual-rotor helicopter increased every second it remained in a hover. The SEALs did their best to hide the rope and keep their presence on the ridgeline hidden from enemy fighters.

It wasn’t an ideal insertion, but the Night Stalkers had accomplished their mission. They ascended and flew back to Jalalabad to link up with another group of SEALs and standby as a quick reaction force (QRF) in case the SR team was compromised.

At Jalalabad, Brady was approached by SEAL Commander Erik Kristensen in the command operations center. Kristensen confronted him about the decision to cut the rope at the LZ and asked if the Night Stalkers would go back and retrieve it.

Operation Red Wings through the eyes of the Night Stalkers

A UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter from 1-228th Aviation Regiment conducting hoist operations. Photo by Spc. Steven K. Young, courtesy of DVIDS.

“We would have to drop a man down with a hoist in that hole of an LZ,” Brady explained. “Hoisting a man at that altitude on that kind of terrain at night is a dangerous operation. Once on the ground, they’d have to pick up the rope, hook it to themselves, and get hoisted back up. Hovering for that long over the same spot would burn the LZ and likely alert the enemy to the SR team’s presence.”

Kristensen agreed with Brady’s evaluation, and after the SR team radioed that they would be laying down for the day in their hide site, Brady and Kristensen called it a night.

Walking toward the flight line, the SEAL commander quipped, “What made you want to fly such ugly helicopters?”

“They’re not much to look at, but they get the job done,” Brady fired back. “Kind of like SEALs.”

They shared a laugh as they loaded up for the flight back to Bagram.

At the Bagram operations center, Major Stephen Reich approached Brady urgently, asking why he didn’t follow abort criteria and fly back with the SR team after the AC-130 had to leave the airspace.

Brady said he estimated the AC-130 would only be off station briefly and that the crew had reported no hostile activity on the LZ. He told Reich pushing the mission back would allow Shah to continue his terrorist activities, likely leading to the death of locals and U.S. military in the area.

“Good,” Brady recalled Reich saying. “I’m glad you’re a thinking air mission commander and not simply one that takes a black-and-white view of the situation.”

With that, they retired to their rooms to rest for phase two of the operation the following night.

Operation Red Wings through the eyes of the Night Stalkers

Some of the Night Stalkers hanging out in the B huts they slept in, enjoying much needed down time. Photo courtesy of Matt Rogie.

As the Night Stalkers slept, the SR team was discovered by a numerically superior force of enemy fighters. They engaged in a fierce firefight, and at some point the task force lost contact with them.

Brady’s maintenance officer woke him and said the SR team was in trouble and the Night Stalkers had orders to spin up and pull the team out.

“That’s not possible,” Brady replied, confused at how quickly the SEALs had become compromised. “They’ve got their own quick reaction force. We’re completely separate commands. It doesn’t make sense.”

But he knew and lived by the Night Stalkers’ promise to every customer: “If we put you in, we’ll stop at nothing to get you out — even if it’s technically someone else’s job.”

Brady rushed to the operations center where Chief Warrant Officer 4 Chris Eicher was telling the task force commander that they should wait until dark before sending the QRF because going in during daylight would subject them to more danger. The 160th had only lost helicopters during daylight missions at that point — they’re called Night Stalkers for a reason.

The commander explained that the ground force commander had already rejected that plan and didn’t want to wait any longer.

Brady ran over to where his platoon sergeant, Sergeant First Class Mike Russell, was sleeping and updated him on what had unfolded.

“Are you serious?” Russell replied.

Russell went to work right away getting the crews together to prep the aircraft for the mission.

Operation Red Wings through the eyes of the Night Stalkers

Three of the 160th’s MH-47D Chinooks on the flight line in Bagram, Afghanistan. Photo courtesy of Matt Rogie.

Back in the operations center, leaders were busy trying to figure out the SEALs’ last known location and calculating how many soldiers each helicopter could fly with. They finalized plans and sent the Night Stalkers on their way.

As Brady approached the Chinook he’d be flying, he noticed the tail number: 1-4-6. The bird’s call sign was Turbine 33. Kristensen and his SEALs were waiting on the ramp, standing in a circle.

“Our plan of action is for you to get us to the high ground as close to the troops in contact as you can, and we’re going to fight our way downhill,” Brady recalled Kristensen saying.

Since the SEALs weren’t sure where exactly the compromised team was located, Kristensen believed inserting at a position of tactical advantage was the best option.

“Drop us on the high ground, and we’ll make our way to our swim buddies,” Kristensen told Brady.

Operation Red Wings through the eyes of the Night Stalkers

Navy SEALs operating in Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. From left to right, sonar technician (surface) Petty Officer 2nd Class Matthew G. Axelson, of Cupertino, California; Senior Chief information systems technician Daniel R. Healy, of Exeter, New Hampshire; quartermaster Petty Officer 2nd Class James Suh, of Deerfield Beach, Florida; hospital corpsman Petty Officer 2nd Class Marcus Luttrell; machinists mate Petty Officer 2nd Class Eric S. Patton, of Boulder City, Nevada; and Lt. Michael P. Murphy, of Patchogue, New York With the exception of Luttrell, all were killed June 28, 2005, by enemy forces while supporting Operation Red Wing. Photo courtesy of DVIDS.

As Brady climbed into Turbine 33 and started strapping in, Reich tapped his shoulder and asked what the plan was. Reich, who had been designated mission commander for phase two of the operation, felt the QRF was his responsibility.

“We argued for what seemed like 10 minutes but was actually about 30 seconds,” Brady recalled.

But Reich cut the debate short. “I don’t really care, Matt,” he told Brady, “just get your stuff and get off the airplane. This is my mission.”

Brady said he pleaded with Reich to at least let him come with and act as an extra gun and set of eyes.

“Nope, I want you to take my spot as the operations officer and monitor from here,” Reich replied.

Disappointed, Brady followed the order and got off the aircraft. As he watched the two Chinooks taxiing onto the runway, he locked eyes with Russell, his platoon sergeant.

“He had a look of competence and professionalism — like he was ready to live out the Night Stalker creed,” Brady said.

He walked back to the operations center to monitor the situation and provide support from Bagram.

Operation Red Wings through the eyes of the Night Stalkers

Matt Rogie, left, and Matt Brady having jovial conversation in Bagram. Photo courtesy of Matt Rogie.

The two Chinooks — Turbine 33 and Turbine 34 — were packed with 16 SEALs each, plus the Night Stalker pilots and crewman. Flying toward Jalalabad en route to the last known position of the SEALs, they received word from Bagram on the number of men they could have on board each aircraft and still fly at the extreme elevation. They would have to offload eight SEALs from each helicopter before continuing.

“A lot of guys really wanted to stay on the mission,” recalled Chief Warrant Officer 3 Tim Graham, one of the pilots on Turbine 34.

The plan was for the SEALs to fast-rope onto the ridgeline above the original LZ. The Night Stalkers would then circle back and pick up the remaining SEALs who offloaded at Jalalabad.

During the flight, the Night Stalkers passed two Apache gunships whose pilots asked if they wanted to slow down so they could provide surveillance and support for the operation. Not wanting to burn valuable time waiting on approval from the task force commander for the audible, the Night Stalkers continued on without the Apaches.

Operation Red Wings through the eyes of the Night Stalkers

Tim Graham standing by in Bagram. Photo courtesy of Matt Rogie.

Arriving at the insertion point on the ridgeline, Turbine 33 descended into a hover. Graham watched from Turbine 34 as Turbine 33’s ramp lowered and the crewman walked onto it to observe the landing zone below. Graham’s aircraft pulled off to the right to circle around and insert their payload of SEALs after Turbine 33 moved off to allow their entrance.

That’s when Staff Sergeant Steven Smith, the flight engineer in the rear of Turbine 34, saw a smoke trail emerge from the tree line directly toward Turbine 33. The projectile flew through the open ramp of the Chinook and exploded inside. Turbine 33’s nose dipped down, and the aircraft slid to the left, appearing to almost recover. Then the helo’s blades started hitting each other, and the aircraft rolled to the right before inverting as it descended to the mountainous terrain below.

Smith and the others in Turbine 34 watched helplessly as the Chinook full of their fellow aviators — their friends — crashed into the mountain and erupted in a ball of flames.

“Al and Kip were on the ramp when the RPG impacted,” Smith, who witnessed the horrific event, recalled. “They rode it all the way in that way.”

Operation Red Wings through the eyes of the Night Stalkers

Soldiers sit on the rear deck of a CH-47 Chinook helicopter while flying over southern Afghanistan Oct. 19, 2010. Photo by Cpl. Robert Thaler, courtesy of DVIDS.

Graham and his co-pilot whipped their Chinook around to look for survivors. As they were turning around, Graham saw five Black hawks performing a star-cluster evasion. Turbine 34 started taking heavy gunfire from unseen fighters below. They broke off and flew out of reach of the enemy fire.

Graham reported the situation back to Bagram. Receiving the transmission, Brady couldn’t believe it. He would have been on that bird were it not for the last minute change. He asked Graham to repeat, unable to register what he had just heard.

One of Brady’s soldiers in the operations center was asking him a question, but Brady was momentarily frozen with shock. Then the realization hit: He was now in charge.

Brady told his operations NCO to give him a minute to gather more information to get the next plan of action in place. He walked out of the operations center and found Eicher.

“Chris, Turbine 33 has just been shot down,” he told Eicher, who earned the nickname “Iceman” for his always cool demeanor.

Eicher looked at Brady and said, “Nah, they probably put down for maintenance.”

Brady persisted with the details. He and Eicher hurried back to the operations center.

The two Apaches had arrived on station, drawing heavy gunfire, but nonetheless giving Turbine 34’s crew back in the operations center a good look at the crash site.

“It didn’t look like there was any way anybody could have survived,” Graham said. “You hope they could. It just didn’t look good.”

Operation Red Wings through the eyes of the Night Stalkers

The crash site of Turbine 33. Photo courtesy of Steven Smith.

They ascended back into orbit and remained there for an hour until the task force commander ordered them back to Jalalabad. Not wanting to leave their brothers, the SEAL team commander hatched a plan with the Night Stalkers to insert higher up on the ridgeline and fight their way down to the crash site so Turbine 34 could fly back to Jalalabad, pick up as many SEALs as he could, and fly back to reinforce the eight SEALs. The task force commander denied the request and ordered Turbine 34 back to Jalalabad. Frustrated and angry, Graham followed the order.

Smith said everyone on the Chinook was angry. One of the SEALs even drew his pistol and attempted unsuccessfully to force the Chinook to land so they could try to save their friends.

Graham made a stop at a Forward Arming and Refueling Point (FARP) just outside of Jalalabad. After landing, Graham saw the same five Black Hawks that had peeled off earlier parked on the runway. He didn’t think much of it at the time, but many years later he found out a new platoon leader came into their company within the 160th and was responsible for those Black Hawks.

Each of the five Black Hawks was loaded with Marines and had flown out thinking they were the QRF for the SR team. When Turbine 33 was shot down, they received orders to fly back along with Turbine 34 and the Apache gunships until the next phase of the mission was developed.

Operation Red Wings through the eyes of the Night Stalkers

Flight line view of U.S. Army UH-60L Black Hawk helicopters. Photo by Mark C. Olsen, courtesy of DVIDS.

After refueling, he continued on to Jalalabad and off-loaded.

“When I met him there on the ground in Jalalabad, Graham was fairly shaken to say the least,” Brady recalled.

The task force commander debriefed the men and then focused on planning their next steps.

Smith said he saw a line of armored vehicles full of troops.

“I could see a lot of vehicles with troops armed to the damn teeth,” Smith recalled. “They rolled out with a convoy and with some vengeance, and they fought their way up that mountainside, all the way up to the crash site.”

The remaining Night Stalkers prepared for a rescue operation. Navy SEALs, Army Rangers, and other Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) personnel loaded onto five Chinooks. All the men were anxious, angry, and ready to retrieve their brothers in arms.

The Chinooks took off toward the mountains once again, but as they climbed in elevation, severe weather rolled in. Thunder boomed as lightning struck all around them.

“So the enemy is one factor, but the terrain and weather are now a huge factor, and they’re starting to overtake the enemy in terms of danger to the force,” Brady said.

He said visibility got so bad that he couldn’t see the heat glow of the engines from the Chinook in front of him. The order was given to again abort the mission and return to base. It was a gut-wrenching decision for everyone on the mission, as they knew the original SEALs on the SR team were fighting for their lives and one of their own aircraft and crew was burning on the side of a mountain.

Back at Jalalabad, the commanders decided they had no choice but to wait for better weather and try again the next night.

Operation Red Wings through the eyes of the Night Stalkers

Troops searching for the KIA and survivors. Photo courtesy of Matt Rogie.

As the storm raged, the members of the task force — haunted with thoughts of their brothers on the mountain — tried to sleep.

As the next night approached, the task force went to work, planning another insertion onto the deadly ridgeline. The Night Stalkers again loaded their Chinooks with Rangers and SEALs and took off toward the mountains.

Arriving on site, the task force members fast-roped in. The extreme height of the trees made the full length of rope — approximately 90 feet — necessary. Many of the men suffered scorched hands from gripping the rope through gloves for such a long descent.

Once on the ground, they started their search for casualties, potential survivors, and sensitive equipment.

As the Night Stalkers flew back to Bagram, the JSOC ground force that had convoyed to the crash radioed to the task force that they had secured the site. There were no survivors.

The JSOC troops, along with their newly arrived reinforcements, went to work recovering those killed in action as well as sensitive equipment that could not fall into enemy hands. They then used explosives to clear out a large enough area for Chinooks to land when they came back.

Operation Red Wings through the eyes of the Night Stalkers

Explosives were used to chop down trees due to width of the trees being too big for chainsaws. Photo courtesy of Steven Smith.

Chief Warrant Officer 4 Matt Rogie arrived in Bagram just before the Night Stalkers came back after dropping off the recovery force. Assigned to replace Eicher as senior flight lead, he was trying to learn as much as he could before hopping into an aircraft and joining the mission.

Rogie met Eicher on the flight line when he landed after returning from the mission.

“I’m glad you’re here because I am spent,” Eicher told him.

The Night Stalkers flew back to their newly forged landing zone the following night. The weather was turning bad again as they offloaded Marines to assist with security.

“I could see the grass being blown by the rotor wash and all the remains bags being lined up in a row — 16 of them,” Rogie recalled. “There was still some smoldering from the crash site, and I could see the glow from the heat through my night vision.”

Operation Red Wings through the eyes of the Night Stalkers

Some of the fallen members of Turbine 33 prior to being flown out. Photo courtesy of Steven Smith.

One by one, the Rangers and SEALs loaded the fallen onto the Chinooks and headed back to Bagram with their brothers. The flight back was pure silence. The loss weighed heavy on the men.

As the Night Stalkers approached Bagram they could see what looked like everyone on base standing outside, showing their respect for the fallen.

“When we landed, we just saw a row of Night Stalkers and Rangers and SEALs for as far as I could see, lined up and ready to help transport the remains off and take them to the mortuary affairs section,” Brady recalled.

When the ramp lowered, the Night Stalkers on the Chinooks stood tall and proud for their fallen brethren as task force members boarded and began solemnly moving each remains bag to the mortuary affairs building.

“All of us were pretty broken up at that point,” Rogie said.

Operation Red Wings through the eyes of the Night Stalkers

Pastors from the task force lead the caskets onto the C-17. Photo courtesy of Daniel Bell.

The C-17 sat on the runway with the ramp down, waiting to receive the 16 interment cases containing the fallen warriors. Brady stood next to a SEAL commander — both had to take command of their respective units when Reich and Kristensen were killed on Turbine 33. Their war-weary faces were chiseled stone as they watched the task force solemnly load 16 flag-draped internment cases into the C-17.

Brady said it seemed like the whole base turned out to give the fallen a proper sendoff. As the cases were being loaded, a SEAL ran up to the new SEAL commander and placed a written note in his hand. The note said that Marcus Luttrell was alive at a nearby village. The SEAL commander broke down and cried at the desperately needed positive news.

The fallen Night Stalkers of the 160th SOAR included:

Staff Sergeant Shamus O. Goare

Chief Warrant Officer Corey J. Goodnature

Sergeant Kip A. Jacoby

Sergeant First Class Marcus V. Muralles

Major Stephen C. Reich

Sergeant First Class Michael L. Russell

Chief Warrant Officer Chris J. Scherkenbach

Master Sergeant James W. Ponder III

Operation Red Wings through the eyes of the Night Stalkers

Soldiers and Sailors from the Task Force saying their final goodbyes. Photo courtesy of Daniel Bell.

The members of the task force said their final goodbyes. The C-17 closed its ramp and taxied down the runway and took flight. The fallen warriors were now on their way home.

The lone C-17 aircraft lumbered through the sky after departing Germany, a necessary stop on the way back to the United States. The back of the aircraft contained the flag-draped coffins of 16 great Americans: the fallen Night Stalkers and SEALs from Turbine 33.

Children of varying ages ran around the coffins, playing and yelling, not yet old enough to understand the sacrifices these warriors made. A Taliban high-value target (HVT) sat tucked into the corner away from them all, guarded by other soldiers.

Three war-weary escorts — one of them a SEAL and the other two Night Stalkers Daniel Bell and Chris Eicher — sat off to the sides, grimly staring off into space. They were exhausted and angry with the mistake the U.S. Air Force had made when they allowed Space-A seating to be filled on this leg of the flight home.

Operation Red Wings through the eyes of the Night Stalkers

The men of the task force saying their final goodbyes to the fallen before they are flown home to their final resting place. Photo courtesy of Matt Rogie.

The rescue operation, known as Operation Red Wings II, continued for weeks. Almost every variety of special operations troops in the U.S. military inventory participated in a coordinated effort through some of Afghanistan’s most dangerous and austere terrain during the search for their brothers — both alive and fallen.

Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell was the only survivor from the initial four-man SEAL reconnaissance element.

For the Night Stalkers of the famed 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, the war on terror continued.

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.


MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is all the aircraft China will bring to its wargame with Russia

China is sending some of its most advanced fighter jets and bombers to Russia in late July 2018 for a major international military exercise.

“The International Army Games 2018, initiated by the Russian Ministry of Defense, will start on July 28, 2018,” China’s Ministry of Defense said in a press statement last week. “It is co-organized by China, Russia, Belarus, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Armenia, and Iran.”


“Participation in the International Army Games is an effective way to improve fighting capabilities under real combat conditions,” the press statement added.

Yue Gang, a retired PLA colonel, told the South China Morning Post that the exercises will help the PLA learn more about the strengths and weaknesses of its aircraft and also learn from Russia about hardware and pilot training.

China and Russia’s militaries have grown increasingly close lately, with Chinese Defense Minister Gen. Wei Fenghe and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov saying in early April 2018 that the two nations had forged a “strategic partnership” against a “unipolar” world dominated by the US.

Here’s what China is bringing:

Operation Red Wings through the eyes of the Night Stalkers

(China media)

1. H-6K bombers

The H6-K is China’s main strategic bomber, able to carry a variety of land attack and anti-ship cruise missiles and precision-guided munitions, according to The National Interest.

“It will be the first time that H-6K bombers … have gone abroad to take part in military competitions,” China Ministry of Defense said.

Operation Red Wings through the eyes of the Night Stalkers

2. J-10A fighter jets

Read more about the J-10 here.

Operation Red Wings through the eyes of the Night Stalkers

3. JH-7A fighter-bombers

Read more about the JH-7A, which is armed with a single 23mm twin-barrel GSh-23L auto cannon and a variety of air-to-air and anti-ship missiles, here.

Operation Red Wings through the eyes of the Night Stalkers
Operation Red Wings through the eyes of the Night Stalkers

5. Y-9 transport aircraft

This will also be the first time China is sending Y-9 transports to participate in military exercises abroad.

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

Articles

This is who would win a dogfight between Russia and Israel

Russia recently summoned Israel’s ambassador to deliver a message: The days of launching air strikes in Syria are over.


According to a Reuters report, the Russians were hopping mad over a recent Israeli air strike in Syria they said was targeting an illegal arms shipment to Hezbollah. The Russians say the strike aided the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

Operation Red Wings through the eyes of the Night Stalkers
Russian Su-35 Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The Israeli strike was also notable in that an Arrow missile shot down a Russian-built SA-5 Gammon surface-to-air missile. But what would happen if the Russians decided to challenge the Israeli Air Force?

At present, Russia has a limited number of aircraft in the region, centered around the Su-24 Fencer strike plane and versions of the Flanker (including the Su-30, Su-34, and Su-35).

The Russians may be small in numbers, but it backs up the Syrian Air Force, which has a substantial number of MiGs – mostly MiG-21 Fishbeds and MiG-23 Floggers, along with about 50 MiG-29 Fulcrums of varying models. Likewise. Russia has deployed the S-400 surface-to-air missile system, but many of the air defenses on the ground are Syrian, and older model missiles.

In essence, the Russian deployment was corseting the Syrians.

Operation Red Wings through the eyes of the Night Stalkers
F-16I Sufa (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

The Israeli Air Force is primarily centered on the F-16 Fighting Falcon – FlightGlobal.com reports that Israel has 77 F-16C and 48 F-16D Fighting Falcons on inventory, plus about 100 F-16I Sufa fighters.

Israel also has about 80 F-15A/B/C/D/I fighters as well, according to the Institute for National Security Studies. Many of these planes have been customized with Israeli electronics – and the engineers of Tel Aviv are masters of electronic warfare.

So, what would happen if Russia tried to stop an Israeli raid to take out some new weapons for Hezbollah? Keep in mind that the Russian deployment to Syria included a craptastic carrier and at least two splash landings.

And that’s just the follies they couldn’t keep from the press.

On the other hand, the Israelis, while they have made their mistakes in the past, are probably the best military force in the region. They also have a huge quantitative edge in modern fighters.

In essence, the early rounds would likely go the Israelis’ way. The big question would be how much Russian President Vladimir Putin would be willing to risk after the initial dogfight.

If Putin goes all-in, the Israelis could be in a world of hurt.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Thousands of Russian private contractors are fighting in Syria

Ivan Slyshkin was killed by a sniper in Syria at age 23, but his name won’t be found among the Russian Defense Ministry’s official casualties in the fight against Islamic State extremists.


That’s because he was one of thousands of Russians deployed to Syria by a shadowy, private military contractor known as Wagner, which the government doesn’t talk about.

Also Read: Ukrainian sniper killed, husband injured, in ambush

The St. Petersburg-based website Fontanka reported that about 3,000 Russians under contract to the Wagner group have fought in Syria since 2015. When Putin went to a Russian air base in Syria on Dec. 11 and told Russian troops that “you are coming back home with victory,” he did not mention the private contractors.

The Russian Defense Ministry has said 41 of its troops have died in Syria, but according to Fontanka, another 73 private contractors have been killed there.

Articles

The makers of the AK-47 just built a new riot control vehicle

Russia’s Kalashnikov company, the maker of the prolific assault rifle, has presented a new product: a formidable crowd control vehicle.


The Shchit (Shield) anti-riot vehicle is based on a heavy truck with a broad extendable steel shield attached to its front. The machine has ports in the shield for firing projectiles and also carries water cannon.

Operation Red Wings through the eyes of the Night Stalkers
The Kalashnikov Shchit. Photo from Defence Blog.

The company has presented the new design at last week’s Moscow arms show, saying it has developed it for Russian law enforcement agencies. Kalashnikov described the new machine as the most advanced such vehicle in the world.

Russia’s newly-formed National Guard has recently received an array of new equipment intended to disperse demonstrations, reflecting what is widely seen as the Kremlin concern about possible mass protests amid Russia’s economic troubles.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Army is holding a competition for the world’s best tank crew

Four-person tank crews from across the U.S. Army, U.S. Marine Corps and partner nations met at Fort Benning, Georgia, to take part in the Sullivan Cup April 30 through May 4, 2018. The Sullivan Cup is a biennial competition to determine the best tank crew through a series of scored tests.

The Maneuver Center of Excellence, the U.S. Army Armor School, and the 316th Cavalry Brigade host the competition.


At a demonstration at Red Cloud Range at Fort Benning April 27, 2018, Col. Thomas Feltey, 316th Cavalry Brigade commander, talked about the competition, which began Monday, April 30, and to which the public is invited.

“You’re going to see a demonstration of our Army’s tank crews’ proficiency, conducting both live fire and maneuver exercises,” said Feltey. “What we’re putting together is a series of arduous testing — it’s both technical and tactical — to get the most out of our Soldiers in this competition.”

The crews are from the following units:

– 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division
– 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division
– 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division
– 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division
– 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division
– 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division
– 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division
– 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division
– 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division
– 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division
– 11th Armored Cavalry Division
– U.S. Marine Corps
– 30th Armored Brigade Combat Team, 29th Infantry Division, National Guard
– The School of Armour, Australian Army
– 35th Brigade, Kuwait Land Force

Feltey stressed the complexity of the tank crew’s performance.

“There’s a lot of activity that goes on inside these tanks, so they’ve got to synchronize the actions of the driver, the loader, the gunner and the tank commander,” he said. “Then they’ve got to understand the terrain so they can move their vehicle tactically … while taking into account what the enemy is doing.”

Operation Red Wings through the eyes of the Night Stalkers
Winner of the 2016 Sullivan Cup Competition.

One of the goals of the Sullivan Cup, according to Feltey, is the demonstration of good doctrinal technique, which begins at the Maneuver Center of Excellence and Fort Benning.

“We’re following our doctrinal foundation of our integrated weapons training strategy,” he said. “And we’re modeling exactly what these tank crews and these units can do back at their home station. So really, in our way, it’s Fort Benning leading the way and showing our Army what right looks like.”

Throughout the week, the crews are scheduled to perform a gunnery skills test, engage targets with their tanks’ weapon systems, call for fire, take written exams, perform tank-related physical fitness tasks, conduct a competitive combat maneuver exercise, conduct a timed stress shoot, and more.

The weeklong competition is open to members of the public, whom Felty welcomed so they might witness the difficult work that goes into tank operation.

“This is their Army, so it’s a great opportunity for them to come out and see what we do on a daily basis,” he said. “There’s a lot of hard work and a lot of preparation that goes into being able to fire these tanks.”

The first big event of the Sullivan Cup was Operation Thunderbolt, which took place in the afternoon of April 30, 2018, at Red Cloud Range.

“If they come to the demonstration on Monday, they’re not only going to get to see a tank, but arguably they’re going to feel the power of the 120mm main gun and also our mortars that are out here,” said Feltey.

Children younger than 5 and pregnant women should not attend.

To keep up with the Sullivan Cup, visit the Maneuver Center of Excellence and Fort Benning Facebook page at www.fb.com/fortbenningmcoe. Family and friends are encouraged to tweet updates on their teams during the competition using @FortBenning and the hashtag #Sullivancup.

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

Articles

This LVAW is SOCOM’s overpowered answer to the SMG

The current theme of special operations weapons seems to be small and quiet. I can’t blame them. Small, lightweight weapons with suppressors are quite comfortable for a wide variety of roles. When you have a far-from-average job, you need far-from-average equipment. That’s where guns like Sig Sauer’s LVAW come into play. LVAW stands for Low Visibility Assault Weapon, and it’s become well-represented in the hands of the men of the Army’s elite Delta Force, the Navy’s famed SEAL teams, and other JSOC commandos.

Operation Red Wings through the eyes of the Night Stalkers

The LVAW offers selective fire capability and is only available to police and military forces. From the military perspective, this rifle is a submachine gun (SMG) killer. For the longest time, suppressed 9mm SMG platforms dominated the quiet-riot role. Capable as these weapons can be, however, they’re limited by the ammunitions. The 9mm round offers pretty poor penetration when compared to most standard rifle calibers. Weapons like the SIG LVAW were designed to provide an extremely quiet and compact weapon that brings rifle cartridges to the table, making them a superior alternative to an SMG is just about every way.

At Its Core

Operation Red Wings through the eyes of the Night Stalkers
Sig MCX (Sig Saur)

At its core, the SIG LVAW is a SIG MCX rifle designed and modified to fit a specific mission type. The MCX rifle from SIG Sauer is a short-stroke piston gas-operated rifle series. While the classic Stoner design has been proven to work extremely well, they tend to lose reliability when barrel length is limited to under 10.3 inches.

Short stroke gas piston guns work extremely well with short barrels, and the LVAW has one of the shortest rifle barrels on the market. It features a 6.75-inch barrel, which, I should point out, is absurdly short for a rifle. The SIG MCX design uses an upper and lower receiver that mimic the famed AR 15 and M16 series of rifles. This ensures the controls of the LVAW perfectly match the service rifles operators grow up on in service. This lowers the training time required to get familiar and proficient with the weapon and allows for a retained standard manual of arms across platforms.

Operation Red Wings through the eyes of the Night Stalkers

Since the gun uses a short-stroke gas piston, there’s no need for a buffer, buffer spring, or buffer tube. In order to make things even more compact, SIG installed a simple folding stock that allows the gun to maintain even lower visibility when stored or stashed.

SIG also equipped the weapon with a modular handguard and industry-standard optics rail. Commandos can attach optics of all kinds, as well as PEQ-15s, lights, and whatever else they may need to make the LVAW better suited to its environment. It’s a short and lightweight weapon; however, tracking down official measurements has proven difficult.

Into the LVAW

The super-short barrel seems odd for a rifle, but keep in mind the LVAW was designed from the outset to be used with a suppressor. In fact, without a suppressor, you could actually damage the rifle’s handguard. The handguard encompasses the barrel and a portion of the suppressor. Without the suppressor, the muzzle blast can damage the handguard. While the suppressor likely can be removed, it seems feasible that it might be only for maintenance purposes.

The suppressors obviously reduce the signature of the gun while fired (though certainly not to the extent depicted in movies). It also acts as a means to lengthen the barrel and increase the velocity of the round, which is important due to the super short 6.75-inch barrel.

Operation Red Wings through the eyes of the Night Stalkers

In terms of sound reduction, the SIG suppressor brings the sound of the LVAW down to a level that almost matches the MP5SD. The MP5SD is a 9mm suppressed submachine gun that’s widely considered one of the quietest options available for its purpose, which put the LVAW in good company. The suppressor also eliminates muzzle flash and helps control muzzle rise and recoil; making the user harder to spot during an engagement and making it easier to put their second and third rounds on target respectively.

All this makes the LVAW an extremely capable Close Quarters Battle (CQB) weapon. Its quiet operations allows the operator to engage threats without causing an alert. But lowering the volume does more than that. When the gun is used inside a vehicle or in extremely close quarters with teammates, operators can still communicate with each other and avoid causing serious hearing loss, as is prone to happen when using un-suppressed weapons in tight situations.

Operation Red Wings through the eyes of the Night Stalkers

It’s hard to overstate just how loud gunfire can be in an enclosed space. The noise can permanently damage the hearing or those nearby and significantly reduces an operator’s situational awareness. But the LVAW design doesn’t do it all by itself. It functions so silently due, in part, to its round of choice: the 300 Blackout.

Into the 300 Blackout

The 300 Blackout cartridge is relatively young when compared to most of its military peers. This cartridge was developed for a very specific purpose, and that purpose includes exactly what the LVAW does. The 300 Blackout was designed to functioned extremely well when fired from a rifle with a short barrel.

On top of that, or maybe as a part of that function, the 300 Blackout was also designed to function well with suppressors. It can utilize both supersonic and subsonic rounds without needing any internal parts swapped out. Subsonic rounds, for those who aren’t ammunition savvy, don’t break the sound barrier, eliminating the supersonic crack that makes up a fair portion of the audible bang when the weapon is fired. Using subsonic rounds in a suppressed weapon makes for a very quiet day.

Operation Red Wings through the eyes of the Night Stalkers

The downside to subsonic ammo is that it’s really only useful at short ranges. So LVAW users can use subsonic ammunition when they need to remain sneaky and quiet, and then swap magazines for supersonic rounds when they need to extend their range on the fly.

As a rifle cartridge, the 300 Blackout provides better penetration and range than any pistol round. It beats soft armor and deals more damage to hard armor. It’s extremely effective, and the 300 Blackout makes the LVAW one highly versatile firearm.

The Low Visibility Assault Weapon

SIG’s LVAW strikes a certain chord with the special operations community, and it comes as little surprise that it’s been seen in the hands of DEVGRU (colloquially known as SEAL Team 6) and Delta commandos. Specifically, it seems to be a very popular weapon for personal security details. General Austin Miller’s bodyguards were seen carrying these firearms in Afghanistan, and it’s easy to see why. They’re small but capable and work well, both in and out of buildings and vehicles.

The LVAW likely won’t ever be a general issue service rifle; it just wasn’t designed to be. However, in its niche, it’s tough to find a better option. It’s a low-issue item used for specific mission sets, and a fascinating design that seems to be popular among the elite of the elite.

This article by Travis Pike was originally published by Sandboxx News. Follow Sandboxx News on Facebook.

Articles

13 funniest military memes for the week of Oct. 21

Alright, everyone. Remember to pace and budget yourselves. Next weekend is Halloween weekend, so don’t blow your entire savings account and get an Article 15.


You do that next weekend. In the meantime, check out these 13 funny military memes:

1. When your commander goes into the fine detail of each policy letter on day one:

(via Team Non-Rec)

Operation Red Wings through the eyes of the Night Stalkers
Don’t even fight it. Just make it worth it.

2. This is why they do sustained airborne training before every jump (via Air Force Nation)

Operation Red Wings through the eyes of the Night Stalkers
Because this would be a horrible time not to remember what to do next.

SEE ALSO: This Coast Guard reservist saved an Army-Navy convoy in world War II

3. Hey, at least he actually managed to get a signal out (via Military Memes)

Operation Red Wings through the eyes of the Night Stalkers
He’s using none of the proper radio protocol, but still. Got a signal.

4. Just apply the fundamentals the same way, and these site adjustments will put you dead center (via Team Non-Rec).

Operation Red Wings through the eyes of the Night Stalkers
Except you know that the trigger puller is going to change their site picture.

5. Only gets an 8 out of 10 because he has no ammo (via Military Memes)

Operation Red Wings through the eyes of the Night Stalkers
That shirtless look becomes much less cool when the armor starts to chafe.

6. If it’s on the list, you better have it (via Devil Dog Nation)

Operation Red Wings through the eyes of the Night Stalkers
I like the idea of ancient knights with PT mats.

7. Really didn’t think the Coast Guard would have the bootiest boots who ever booted, but there you go (via Coast Guard Memes)

Operation Red Wings through the eyes of the Night Stalkers

8. And that’s when things got serious (via Air Force amn/nco/snco)

Operation Red Wings through the eyes of the Night Stalkers
How often do security forces use their radar guns to check passing planes? Better be constantly.

9. How the Air Force feels whenever one of the surface branches wants to make fun of them:

(via The Salty Soldier)

Operation Red Wings through the eyes of the Night Stalkers
They get much quieter when you challenge them to anything physical.

10. “So, want to walk close enough that one grenade could kill everyone?” (via Military Memes)

Operation Red Wings through the eyes of the Night Stalkers

11. Seriously, admin. Why can you not keep track of this for more than 10 minutes?

(via The Salty Soldier)

Operation Red Wings through the eyes of the Night Stalkers
There’s no way it’s that hard to not lose sheets of paper.

13. Sweepers, sweepers, time to do our sweepers.

Operation Red Wings through the eyes of the Night Stalkers

12. The time to prep for a tornado is not during the tornado (via The Salty Soldier).

Operation Red Wings through the eyes of the Night Stalkers
That poor CQ NCO is going to have some uncomfortable talks with the sergeant major.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Watch an interview with the last surviving witness to the Lincoln Assassination

Samuel J. Seymour was away from his home for the first time at just five years old. He was with his father on a business trip to Washington, D.C., a city filled to the brim with soldiers and other men with guns. He was nervous and scared at the sight of so many firearms. To put him at ease, his nurse decided to take him to a play, and President Lincoln himself would be there.

It was an event he would never forget, as he recounted it to a TV audience and celebrity contestants Bill Cullen, Jayne Meadows, Henry Morgan, and Lucille Ball some 90-plus years later.


“It wasn’t a pleasant thing,” Seymour told Meadows when describing his night at Ford’s Theater on a 1956 episode of I’ve Got A Secret. “I was scared to death.”

When Lincoln arrived, he smiled and greeted the crowd from a flag-draped booth in the balcony. The President’s smile and the mood of the theater relaxed the young boy. Until a shot rang out. Strangely, the five-year-old Seymour was very concerned about the man who appeared to have fallen from the balcony of the theater in the middle of the performance. He had no idea someone had been shot, let alone that it was President Lincoln.

“Pandemonium” then swept through the theater, Seymour recalled, as his nurse hurried the boy out of the theater. He heard calls of “Lincoln’s shot! The President is dead!”

Operation Red Wings through the eyes of the Night Stalkers

Seymour died two months after his TV appearance.

The man, of course, was Lincoln’s assassin, John Wilkes Booth. Booth waited until the play’s funniest line when the shot would be masked by the sound of laughter. Booth calmly walked into the President’s booth, barred the door, and fired a single shot into the President, who was laughing at the line. Union Army Maj. Henry Rathbone, who accompanied Lincoln that night with their wives, fought Booth for his single-shot derringer and was stabbed for his effort. His constant wrangling with Booth caused the assassin’s boot spur to get tangled in the flag as he jumped from the President’s box. This is why Booth landed awkwardly on his leg.

Many in the crowd were confused. Not everyone heard the shot, and many thought it was still part of the play. Little Samuel Seymour didn’t understand it either.

“I saw Lincoln slumped forward in his seat,” the old man said. “That night I was shot 50 times, at least, in my dreams – and I sometimes relive the horror of Lincoln’s assassination, dozing in my rocker as an old codger like me is bound to do.”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

5 Army weapons soldiers might actually get their hands on soon

Despite all the disruptions of 2020, Army modernization officials have tested new, longer-range and more precise infantry weapon systems. They also announced efforts that could lead to future machine guns, precision grenade launchers and possibly even hand-held directed energy weapons.

Soldier lethality is a key Army modernization priority, one that has gained momentum since the service unveiled a strategy in 2017 to equip combat units with a new generation of air and ground combat systems.

In the short term, the Army wants to field new squad-level weapons to close-combat units and a set of high-tech goggles that projects a sight reticle in front of soldiers’ eyes.

The service announced long-term efforts to develop new belt-fed, crew-served weapons, as well as to begin thinking about what infantry weapons will look like decades from now.

Here’s a look at five weapons-related programs Military.com has reported on this year:

Operation Red Wings through the eyes of the Night Stalkers
Soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division used the latest prototype of the Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS) during a trench clearing exercise in October at Fort Pickett, Virginia. The event was part of a larger Soldier Touchpoint, the third major milestone in the development and testing of the IVAS, which will undergo one more STP in the spring before initial fielding next year. (U.S. Army Photo by Bridgett Siter)

1. Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS).

In October, Army modernization officials finished the third soldier touch point (STP) in which troops evaluated the first ruggedized version of IVAS. The Microsoft-designed goggles are intended to provide a heads-up display that offers infantry troops situational awareness tools to help them navigate, communicate and keep track of other members of their unit day and night.

But IVAS is also designed to enhance troops” marksmanship with a tool known as Rapid Target Acquisition. A special thermal weapons site mounts on the soldier’s weapon and projects the site reticle into the wearer’s field of view via Bluetooth signal. Soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division involved in the STP said it took some adjustment to learn how to shoot with IVAS, but most said they were easily hitting 300-meter targets from a standing position. If all goes well, the IVAS is slated to be ready for fielding sometime in 2021.

2. Next Generation Squad Weapon (NGSW).

The Army is in the final phase of evaluating NGSW rifle and auto rifle prototypes, chambered for a new 6.8mm round, that are slated to start replacing the 5.56mm M4A1 carbine and the M249 squad automatic weapon in infantry and other close-combat units in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2022.

Textron Systems, General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems Inc., and Sig Sauer have delivered prototype systems and ammunition that have gone through STPs. Each vendor’s design is unique and fires a different version of the 6.8mm ammunition. The Army plans to select a single firm to make both the weapons and ammunition in the first quarter of fiscal 2022.

The NGSW weapons are so promising that U.S. special operations units such as the 75th Ranger Regiment and Special Forces units are expected to adopt them, as well as conventional units.

Operation Red Wings through the eyes of the Night Stalkers
A soldier aims an XM25 Counter Defilade Target Engagement weapon system at Aberdeen Test Center, Md. Army photo

3. Precision Grenadier.

Army weapons officials announced in November that the service is pursuing a longer-term effort to arm some infantry squad members with a precision, counter-defilade weapons system designed to destroy enemy hiding behind cover. Currently, two infantrymen in each squad are armed with an M4A1 carbine with an M320 40mm grenade launcher to engage counter-defilade targets, but weapons officials have long wanted something more sophisticated.

During the past decade, the Army tried to field the XM25 Counter-Defilade Target Engagement System — a semi-automatic, shoulder-fired weapon that used 25mm high-explosive, air-bursting ammunition. XM25 stirred excitement in the infantry community but, in the end, the complex system was plagued by program delays that led to its demise.

The Army is currently conducting the Platoon Arms and Ammunition Configuration (PAAC) study — scheduled to be complete by 2024 — which will look at the enemies the service will face in the future and help guide weapons officials to a new counter-defilade weapon sometime in 2028, Army officials say.

Operation Red Wings through the eyes of the Night Stalkers
1st Lt. Emilio Pacheco, an Expert Infantry Badge Candidate from 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, fires blank rounds from an M2 .50 caliber machine gun during training at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., on Oct. 18, 2019. The Army and Marine Corps are looking for a replacement for the M2, known as “Ma Deuce.” Army photo

4. Next-Generation Medium and Heavy Machine Gun.

Army weapons officials also announced in early November that the service wants to eventually replace the venerable 7.62mm M240 and the .50 caliber “Ma Deuce” M2 with next-generation machine guns. But Army officials said that the decision to move forward on such a program will depend on the future performance demonstrated by the NGSW once it’s fielded. The PAAC study will also help to guide decisions on what the next-gen medium and heavy machine guns would look like, according to Army officials.

The Marine Corps is working the Army on the next-gen machine gun effort but is also assessing a .338 Norma Magnum machine gun — that U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) is developing — to potentially replace the M240s in Marine rifle companies.

Operation Red Wings through the eyes of the Night Stalkers
Soldiers at Fort Benning, Georgia live-fire testing a new suppressor from Maxim Defense on M240 Machineguns during Army Expeditionary Warrior Experiment (AEWE) 2021 which began in late October. (U.S. Army)

5. Machine Gun Suppressors.

The Maneuver Battle Lab at Fort Benning, Georgia, live-fire tested a promising M240 sound suppressor from Maxim Defense during Army Expeditionary Warrior Experiment (AEWE) 2021, which began in late October. Benning officials said this is the first year that a machine gun suppressor has created excitement in the maneuver community.

Other suppressors in past tests have not been able to stand up to the heat and audible roar produced by the 7.62mm M240. Finding a durable, affordable suppressor that can dampen the sound signature of an M240 would make it more difficult for enemies to locate and target machine gun teams from a distance, Benning officials say.

When the AEWE concludes in early March, Battle Lab officials will compile a report detailing the performance of equipment tested. If testing continues to go well, the Battle Lab may recommend that the Maxim suppressor undergo further testing for possible fielding, according to Benning officials.

Looking further into the future, it will likely be a long time until infantrymen are armed with the blaster weapons like those carried by Stormtroopers or Han Solo in the “Star Wars” saga, but Army weapons officials have already started thinking about it.

“We are working on the Next Generation Squad Weapon … but then what’s the next weapon after that?” Col. Rhett Thompson, director of the Soldier Requirements Division at Benning, said during the National Defense Industrial Association’s Armaments, Robotics and Munitions conference in early November.

“Does it fire a round? Instead of a magazine with ammunition, is it some sort of energy capacity … or is it something more directed energy or something else?” he said. “That is really what we are getting at as we get further out there, and some of that is kind of fun to think about.”

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This suppressed pistol was custom made for Navy SEALs

The Mk 22 is a modified Smith & Wesson M39 pistol with a silencer, but it’s mostly known as the “Hush Puppy.”


During the 1960s, the Navy SEALs were just starting to develop their clandestine techniques that would eventually turn them into one of the finest fighting forces in the world. Being special operations commandos, they had their pick of conventional and non-conventional military weapons.

One of those was the M39. But after a few runs in the field, the frogmen started asking for modifications, which resulted in a longer barrel threaded at the muzzle to accept the screw-on suppressor, among other modifications.

“We’d go into these villages at two or three o’clock in the morning, and the dogs and ducks raised all kinds of kain [noise],” said former Navy SEAL Chief James “Patches” Watson in the video below. “We needed something to shut them up without disturbing the whole neighborhood.”

The gun was fantastic for silencing noisy dogs, hence its nickname. (Editor’s note: please don’t kill dogs.)

American inventor, Hiram Percy Maxim created the first commercially successful firearm suppressor in the early 1900s, giving way to the quietest gun on the battlefield.

Ironically, his father, Hiram Stevens Maxim, was the inventor of one of the loudest — the Maxim Gun. This weapon was the first fully automatic machine gun, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica.

Maxim Jr.’s suppressors were popular in the 1920s and 30s among shooters and sportsmen before being adopted by the Office of Strategic Services — the predecessor of the modern CIA — during World War II. The next use by the American military were by the Navy SEALs, according to this American Heroes Channel video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rm9zGv8oIR8

American Heroes Channel, YouTube

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Navy just finished testing a robot helicopter

The Navy has operated helicopters from ships for a long time — and as early as the 1960s, they briefly operated a drone helicopter. Now, new robot helicopters may soon join the fleet. The MQ-8C Fire Scout completed its first round of initial operational tests and evaluations in June 2018 and could soon see service.

Currently, the Navy operates the MQ-8B Fire Scout, which has been in operational service since 2009. This unmanned helicopter can remain airborne for roughly five and a half hours and has a top speed of 85 knots. In 2010, this system made a drug bust while conducting testing aboard the Oliver Hazard Perry-class guided missile frigate USS McInerney (FFG 8).


The new system, the MQ-8C, is larger, based on the Bell 407 helicopter. This boosts its deliverable payload by two-thirds (up to 1,000 pounds from 600). It also features a substantial boost in range and endurance, according to the U.S. Navy. Its top speed of 135 knots leaves the MQ-8B in the figurative dust.

Operation Red Wings through the eyes of the Night Stalkers

Tale of the tape between MQ-8B and MQ-8C.

(US Navy)

The primary purpose of the MQ-8 series helicopters is to carry out Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) missions. The Fire Scout is equipped with electro-optical and infrared sensors and a laser designator. Some also have received radars capable of tracking targets as far as 50 miles away. This advanced equipment allows the Fire Scout to locate, track, and designate targets, providing accurate targeting data to ships and aircraft, and perform post-strike assessments on targets without risking human lives.

Operation Red Wings through the eyes of the Night Stalkers

A MQ-8B lands on USS McInerney during its evaluation, during which it made a drug bust.

(US Navy)

Although it’s looking to be the best iteration yet, the MQ-8C isn’t the first drone helicopter to be used for these types of missions. During the Vietnam War, the QH-50 Drone Anti-Submarine Helicopter (DASH) was used to handle gunfire spotting. It served a total of six years and lasted eight years more in the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force.

The MQ-8 series, though, is proving to be an extremely versatile, effective piece of technology that’ll likely be around for a long time.

MIGHTY HISTORY

4 things you didn’t know about Agent Orange

Over many centuries, various armies have created and deployed all sorts of weapons to be used against their enemies on the battlefield. Some of these inventive weapons go under modifications and come out the other end even bigger and more badass than before. On the flip side, some old school engineers and scientists get froggy and develop a liquid mixture that they don’t fully understand before they let it loose into enemy territory. Once such infamous mixture that is still affecting troops today, years after exposure: Agent Orange.


Operation Red Wings through the eyes of the Night Stalkers

1. It’s full of deadly ingredients

When you combine 2,4,5-T (Trichlorophenoxyacetic) acid with 2,4-D (Dichlorophenoxyacetic) acid, you produce one of the worst herbicides mixture known to man — Agent Orange. The idea of destroying the enemy’s landscape is a historic military tactic, but using an herbicide was considered new and clever development.

However, the chemical compound that could achieve the damaging goal was considered a new type of weaponry. During the Vietnam War, the U.S. stored the Agent Orange liquid in 55-gallon drums that were waiting to be picked up and sprayed.

2. It’s use was codenamed ‘Operation Ranch Hand’

The idea was to use the chemical to burn up the enemies’ vegetation and decrease the number of locations they had available to hide.

During a nine-year period, it’s estimated that 20-million gallons of the toxic liquid were sprayed over the jungles of south-east Vietnam. This mission to deploy the herbicide was known as Operation Ranch Hand.

Also read: A brief, deadly history of chemical weapons

Operation Red Wings through the eyes of the Night Stalkers

3. There were other agents

During World War 2, England and the U.S. came up with the idea of using these herbicides but didn’t deploy the liquid compounds on the battlefield. Although Agent Orange is the most infamous type, there were also Agents Blue, Pink, Green, Purple, and White. Each different type varied in mixtures and strength.

It’s estimated nearly two and a half million troops were exposed to Agent Orange during their time in Vietnam.

4. It contains TCCD

In addition too Trichlorophenoxyacetic and Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid, Agent Orange also contains Tetrachlorodibenzodioxin. TCCD is known for being extremely dangerous, even in small amounts. When troops serving in Vietnam came home, many reported side defects of cancer, congenital disabilities (in their children), miscarriages, and skin diseases among others.

According to the History channel, evidence of Agent Orange can still be found in many areas where the chemical was dropped — nearly 50-years ago.

Check out the HISTORY‘s channel below to watch the interesting breakdown on such a controversy chemical.

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