The ability to rapidly project power and force against any threat on a moment’s notice has long been a hallmark of American military might. Dozens of advanced stealth fighters carried on that tradition during a combat power exercise Nov. 19, 2018.
During the exercise, the US Air Force put a lot of destructive power in the air very quickly, launching a total of 35 F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters in 11 minutes.
Check out these stunning photos of this show of force by dozens of F-35s.
Maintainers from the 388th Maintenance Group prepare an F-35A for its mission Nov. 19, 2018.
(United States Air Force photo by Todd Cromar)
F-35A pilots from the 388th and 419th Fighter Wing prepare for takeoff as part of a combat power exercise at Hill Air Force Base, Utah.
(United States Air Force photo by Cynthia Griggs)
2. The milestone drill marks the first ever F-35 “Elephant Walk” combat power exercise, the purpose of which is to fly as many sorties as possible in a predetermined time period in preparation for a possible combat surge.
F-35A Lightning IIs from the 388th and 419th Fighter Wing fly in close formation during the combat power exercise.
(United States Air Force photo by Cynthia Griggs)
10. During development, the F-35 has faced numerous setbacks. The aircraft, recognized as the most expensive in military history, suffered its first crash in South Carolina the same week it completed its first combat mission.
The situation surrounding a number of Allied ships sunk in a series of desperate battles around what is now Indonesia 75 years ago is a mixed bag, a new report finds. Late last year, advocates worried that many of the wrecks had been looted by modern-day grave robbers, forever altering important monuments to World War II history.
At Tjilatjap, Java, Feb. 6, 1942, seen from USS Marblehead (CL-12), which was passing close aboard. Houston’s colors are half-masted pending return of her funeral party, ashore for burial of men lost when a bomb hit near her after eight-inch gun turret two days earlier during a Japanese air attack in Banka Strait. (US Navy photo)
According to a report by USNI News, recent sonar surveys show the wreck of the heavy cruiser USS Houston (CA 30) is still in good shape, while there is inconclusive data on the Australian light cruiser HMAS Perth.
Past surveys have revealed that other wrecks, including the Dutch destroyer HNLMS Kortenear, the British heavy cruiser HMS Exeter and the British destroyers HMS Encounter have been stripped by looters.
The British destroyer HMS Electra, also sunk in the battles around Indonesia, has been “picked over,” while the Dutch cruisers HNLMS Java and HNLMS Dr Ruyter have had large portions of their wrecks removed. In one special case, the submarine USS Perch (SS 176), scuttled by her crew, has also been salvaged.
According to the United States Navy’s Naval History and Heritage Command, only 368 personnel survived the sinking of USS Houston when she sank as a result of gunfire from the Japanese cruisers HIJMS Mogami and HIJMS Mikuma. Of those 368, only 291 survived roughly three and a half years in captivity.
In a release, the Naval History and Heritage Command noted that the survey, conducted by the Australian National Maritime Museum and the National Research Centre of Archaeology Indonesia was the first survey to provide a full view of USS Houston’s wreckage, thanks to the use of remotely operated vehicles and multi-beam sonar scanning.
Past surveys had focused on sections of the ship, using underwater video cameras and still cameras to assess the status of the wreck.
“We’re grateful to the Australian National Maritime Museum and Indonesia’s National Research Centre of Archaeology for sharing this information with us,” Naval History and Heritage Command Director Sam Cox said in the release. “We take very seriously our obligation to remember the service of American and allied Sailors who have made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of freedom. We’ll do everything we can, and work with everyone we must, to safeguard their final resting places.”
The War of 1812 isn’t remembered very much nowadays. Often considered America’s second war of independence, not much really changed on the map as a result of the war. But what’s more incredible than the story of the War of 1812 itself is the incredible number of small stories to which the war gives context.
The Battle of New Orleans, for example, was fought by pirates, American Indians, slaves, and civilians alongside the U.S. Army… after the war was over. Then there’s the outrageous fact that the biggest naval battles of the war happened on the Great Lakes, not at sea.
The event that few ever forget, however, is the British burning of Washington, D.C., when they put the Capitol and other government installations to the torch. British troops even had dinner at the White House before setting it ablaze. But there was one building in the DC area that was spared — and, potentially, for a very good reason.
It was the only time the American capital was ever occupied by a foreign country and the thought seems next to impossible these days. Some 4,000 British troops landed at the Chesapeake Bay and made their way eastward, toward Washington. The only thing standing in their way was 6,500 American militiamen and 420 U.S. Marines. The British routed the Americans so bad, the battle went down in history as “the greatest disgrace ever dealt to American arms.” Worse than that, it left the door to Washington open and the redcoats just walked right through it.
There was one bright silver lining to the Battle of Bladensburg, however. Navy Captain Joshua Barney and his 360 sailors and 120 Marines didn’t get the order from Gen. William H. Winder to retreat from the battlefield. Eventually, it was this force of just shy of 500 left to fight the entire British Army, often using their fists or the sailors’ arsenal of cutlasses. They would not be able to hold back the entire enemy force, but they made their stand last for two full hours.
Marines making do at Bladensburg.
This stand gave many in Washington, including Congress, President James Madison, and his wife, Dolley, time to escape the city. Dolley Madison was able to take many of the White House’s most treasured artifacts with her.
A battle that was so mismanaged with a victory so lopsided lasted only a short few hours. That the most intense fighting was done against the United States Marines and the Navy did not go unnoticed by the British forces. Nonetheless, they pressed on to Washington.
The burning of the American capital was not just some sudden spark of victory-fueled euphoria. The Americans burned the capital of British North America, Canada, at York (modern-day Toronto) the previous year. Now, the British would get their revenge, torching the Capitol Building, the Library of Congress, the White House, and many, many other government buildings.
One of the few buildings that was spared in the melee was the Commandant of the Marine Corps’ house at the Marine Corps Barracks. The reason for this, according to Marine Corps legend, is that the British were impressed by the Marines’ performance at the Battle of Bladensburg and, thus, spared the house out of respect.
The Home of the Commandants at Marine Barracks Washington is the oldest continuously used public building in Washington, DC.
This could be the reason, or even a secondary one, but some historians say it’s likely that the house was just overlooked in the chaos of the burning city. Still, an unscathed structure so close to the burning Navy Yard seems unlikely to go unnoticed, especially because the house looks everything like a military target and the British had all the time they needed to double check.
There have been calls to award a Nobel Peace Prize to everyone involved with ending the Korean War, including President Donald Trump. Given that the award has a broad selection process, it’s much more competitive than you’d think and the specifics about the process are often kept secret for fifty years.
Any person, group, or organization can be nominated after doing, in accordance to Alfred Nobel’s will, “the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.” The only officially recognized nominators include heads of state, former Nobel Peace Prize laureates, and current or former members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee.
Any submissions must be done begin in September and the absolute cut-off is February 1st. Between the beginning of February and the end of March, the list is combed through and a short list is prepared for April.
In 2018, there were 328 candidates and each of the five members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee usually pick five nominees. Because of the secrecy around the process, the Nobel Committee combs through the maybe twenty-five candidates until September.
(United States Agency for International Development)
In October, the voting between the members begins and the winner is chosen. The decision is final and there are no appeals. Hence the secrecy. No one can be upset that they weren’t picked if they didn’t know they got that far. Once the voting has finished, it’s announced to the world who the winner for that year will be.
Then comes the big day on December 10th. The new laureate receives their shiny golden award, a diploma, and a monetary prize. The prize money in 2017 was 9 million Swedish Kronas, which is $1,028,655 US Dollars. The prize money is often donated to which ever cause the recipient championed.
May Day was a big deal in East Germany. As a matter of fact, it was a big deal in all of the Communist Eastern Bloc countries during the Cold War era. It was, after all, a day for celebrating workers around the world. Since Communist countries were supposed to be a worker’s paradise, it stands to reason they would take a day off from shooting dissenters and waiting in lines to watch a few parades.
And those parades were
It was because everyone was preparing for May Day that Wolfgang Engels was able to escape from East Germany.
The wall began construction in 1961.
Engels was born in 1943 in Düsseldorf, Germany (what would have been West Germany just a few years later), but his Communist mother took him to East Germany after the end of World War II. As a young man, he was drafted into the Army of the new German Democratic Republic, what we know as East Germany.
The young soldier was a believer in the new ideology as a young man. He called his upbringing “thorough” and “socialist” and noted his mother even worked for the Stasi. It wasn’t until much later in his service that someone managed to convince him that things were not all they were made out to be.
But one of his first assignments as a newly-minted East German was to help build the Berlin Wall.
A Soviet-built East German BTR-152, like the one Wolfgang Engels drove through the Berlin Wall.
He soon felt terrible about what the wall became. Not just the barrier between the Iron Curtain and Freedom, but a symbol of the ideological struggle of the Cold War — and he was on the wrong side. The GDR was not the Germany he thought he knew.
After two years, the pressure was getting to him. Suddenly, well before his defection, he was accused of trying to cross the border illegally. He and two friends were looking for a concert in a cafe near the border wall. The group was found and unable to explain, to the guards’ satisfaction, what they were doing and so they were manhandled and mistreated. It drove the reality of East Germany home to him.
In reality, the thought of crossing the wall hadn’t occurred to him until his East German superiors put the idea in his head. But attempting to flee came with a stiff fine, two years’ jail time, and maybe even a bullet to the head. Still he remained determined — and even asked random passersby to come with him, but no one took him up on the offer.
His plan to escape was simple enough. He would steal an armored personnel carrier, drive to the most famous wall in the world (at the time at least), and then drive right through it. That’s exactly what he did, but it was nice of him to stop a couple of times and ask if anyone wanted to come.
The armored personnel carrier came from the preparations being made for the upcoming May Day parade. It was a BTR-152. A six wheeled, Soviet-built vehicle whose top could open upward, luckily for Wolfgang Engels. When the workmen went off to lunch, Engels started up his new vehicle, garnering little notice in a military-run city.
He had roughly 100 meters — the length of a football field — to gather enough velocity to crash through a single layer of cinder blocks less than ten feet high. Unfortunately, Engels’ APC didn’t fully penetrate the Berlin Wall and he was soon stuck in his vehicle — and stuck in the wall. East German border guards began to open fire on the BTR-152 and Wolfgang Engels. He decided it was time to book it.
He left the relative safety of the vehicle and tried to climb away. Ensnared in barbed wire, he was shot at close range while attempting to flee. Twice — once in the back and once in the hand. The second bullet tore through his body, in then out.
Luckily for him, West German police officers from a nearby watchtower fired back at the Eastern border guards, providing much-needed cover and time for Engels. But really, it was time enough for a group of revelers at a nearby bar to come out and help pull him out of the wire and into the freedom of the West. They formed a human ladder, freed him from the wire, and brought him over. They carried his unconscious body back to the bar, closing up the blinds.
“I came to on top of the counter,” he says. “When I turned my head and saw all the Western brands of liquor on the shelf, I knew that I had made it.”
He ordered a cognac.
Wolfgang Engels was sent by ambulance to a nearby hospital where he recovered from a collapsed lung for three weeks.
He wouldn’t see his mother again until 1990, after the fall of the wall. He learned the East Germans were planning to abduct him and charge him with desertion before the wall fell. As for the soldier who shot him, Engels is just grateful he didn’t turn his AK-47 on automatic.
The upcoming Army Combat Fitness Test is intended to improve soldier readiness, transform the Army’s fitness culture, reduce preventable injuries, and enhance mental toughness and stamina.
But the new test leaves one question: How do soldiers train safely?
First Sgt. Daniel Ramirez, the first sergeant for Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, First Army, answered this question for his soldiers by partnering with a local functional fitness gym. He and fifteen other soldiers of the Detachment recently attended a four-day, in-depth class at Foundation in East Moline, Illinois on proper techniques for lifting, squatting, and other exercises essential to safe completion of the ACFT. The goal of the workshop was to “Train the Trainer,” enabling First Army personnel to be subject-matter experts in advising their teammates on safe and efficient methods of exercise.
“We want to get everyone on the same page technique-wise so we can prevent injuries,” said Ramirez. The Foundation coaches, Ramirez said, were ideal instructors, due to their knowledge and experience.
Soldiers of First Army practice lifting techniques and proper lifting posture at Foundation in East Moline, Illinois.
Command Sgt. Maj. Todd Sims, Command Sgt. Maj. First Army, also attended the training. He agreed with the idea of partnering with fitness professionals to learn the fundamentals.
“It’s crucial to have a better understanding of what we are asking our soldiers to do,” explained Sims. “By working with professionals in this, it’s only going to build our knowledge base when we go back and train the rest of the team.”
Brandon Bartz, Co-Owner of Foundation in East Moline, Illinois, observes Soldiers of First Army practicing their technique that will be used during the standing power throw of the Army Combat Fitness test.
Brandon Bartz and Josiah Lorentzen, owners of the Foundation, instructed the soldiers in the proper exercise techniques.
“We just want to help the soldiers get ready for the new test,” explained Bartz. “We just want all of you to be able to train effectively and safely.”
In addition to developing First Army’s philosophy as a team of Fit Army Professionals and preparing for the fitness test, the event also strengthened ties to the local community and the Rock Island Arsenal.
Josiah Lorentzen and Brandon Bartz, Owners of Foundation, in East Moline, Illinois, demonstrate the proper dead lift technique to First Army Soldiers.
“It’s awesome to work these soldiers, said Lorentzen. “They are close to home, so we love getting to work with them whenever we can.”
The Army Combat Fitness Test becomes an official for record test staring in October of 2020.
North Korea held a military parade and rally on Kim Il Sung Square on Feb. 8, just one day before South Korea holds the opening ceremony for the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.
More than 10,000 troops trained for the parade at a military airfield for several weeks and residents had practiced in plazas around the North Korean capital with bouquets of plastic flowers to spell out slogans during the parade.
A South Korean government official said tens of thousands of people participated or watched the parade that morning in Pyongyang. It wasn’t clear if Kim Jong Un spoke during the event, as he has on previous prominent national events.
The South Korean official also says it wasn’t immediately clear whether North Korea displayed strategic weapons such as intercontinental ballistic missiles during the parade. The official didn’t want to be named, citing office rules.
The North had said the parade and rally would mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of its military.
Feb. 8 has been seen as a less important founding anniversary but was elevated this year in part because it is the 70th — a nice round number.
But the Olympics undoubtedly weighed heavily in the decision to elevate the occasion, and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is going out of his way to make sure the North will hold attention throughout the games.
Following a last-minute proposal during Kim’s annual New Year’s address, North Korea is sending 22 athletes to compete and a delegation of more than 400 musicians, singers, martial artists, and cheering squads to the games.
Kim is also dispatching his younger sister, Kim Yo Jong, to attend the opening ceremony. That, in itself, is a major development — she is one of his closest confidants, holds a senior party position, and her trip will mark the first time any member of the ruling Kim family has visited the South since the Korean War.
The North’s conciliatory moves related to the Olympics have generally been welcomed in the South. The parade, however, was more problematic.
Though possibly best known for their legions of goose-stepping troops, North Korean military parades are the country’s primary means of showing off its most recent advances in military technology — sometimes with aspirational mock-ups.
The North unveiled five new kinds of missiles at its most recent major military parade last April.
The U.S. Army’s Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA) program passed through the Army Requirements Oversight Council and received preliminary approval to set the capabilities development.
In replacing the UH-60 Blackhawk, the Army looks to modernize its aircrafts vertical lift capability. The idea is to complement the Army’s air assault mission and ability to move tactical level troops into and out of combat.
Brigadier General Wally Rugen told Defense News that, “we really are focused on our air assault mission configuration and what that means for the number of troops that would need to be aboard and what requirements are needed to conduct that mission in darkness. Otherwise, the FLRAA program won’t have a ton of mandatory attributes in order to leave a lot of space for innovation as long as we achieve that air assault mission configuration.”
“[When] it comes to joint when it comes to fires when it comes to the tactical objective, the air movement — which is a bit more administrative in nature and not as intense on the combat scale — when we talk about air assault, we want transformational reach,” Rugen added. “That ability to exploit any penetration and disintegration that the Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft ecosystem, along with our joint partners has created.”
The two main competitors for the FLRAA are the Bell V-280 Valor tilt-rotor aircraft and the combination of Sikorsky and Boeing with their SB-1 Defiant coaxial helicopter. Each entry will submit proposals within the first half of next year with eyes toward a contract award in fiscal 2022 for the winning prototype. Prototypes would be delivered in early-to-mid 2026, with production beginning in 2028 and the new aircraft being fielded in 2030.
The Sikorsky-Boeing SB-1 Defiant is a compound helicopter with rigid coaxial rotors. It is powered by two Honeywell T55s, and a pusher propeller in the rear of the aircraft. These give it a 115 mph speed advantage (100 knots) over the conventional helicopters it aims to replace.
Sikorsky is planning on replacing the T55 engines, which power the Chinook helicopters, with the Future Affordable Turbine Engine (FATE) to meet the radius requirement of 264 miles, (424 km). The crew compartment is 50 percent larger than the current Blackhawk helicopters. Recently in a test flight, the aircraft hit a speed of 205 knots, with a planned top speed of 230 knots which is the requirement and even up to 250 knots according to the company.
“Exceeding 200 knots is significant also because it’s beyond any conventional helicopter speed, and we understand that speed and low-level maneuverability is critical to the holistic survivability in a future FVL environment,” Jay Macklin, Sikorsky’s Director of Future Vertical Lift Business Development said back in June.
Bell Helicopter’s V-280 Valor design is designed for a cruising speed of 280 knots (320 mph), hence the name V-280. It can reach a top speed of 300 knots (350 mph).
The maximum range of the V-280 is 2,100 nautical miles (2,400 mi). It has an effective combat range of 500 to 800 nmi (580 to 920 mi), which is nearly 1500 KM.
Unlike the V-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft, the engines remain in place while the rotors and drive shafts tilt. A driveshaft runs through the straight wing, allowing both prop rotors to be driven by a single-engine in the event of engine loss.
The V-280 has retractable landing gear, a triple-redundant flyby wire control system, and a V-tail configuration. The wings are made of a single section of carbon fiber reinforced polymer composite thus reducing weight and production costs. Dual cargo hooks will give it a lift capacity to carry a 10,000 lb (4,500 kg) M777A2 Howitzer while flying at a speed of 150 knots (170 mph; 280 km/h). The fuselage is visually similar to that of the UH-60 Black Hawk medium-lift helicopter. The V-280 will have a crew of four and be capable of transporting up to 14 troops. In July, Rolls-Royce confirmed an agreement with Bell to develop a propulsion option for the Bell V-280 Valor tiltrotor program.
It’s a rite of passage for veterans. The morning of the day they’re set to receive their DD-214 is one of the last times for a long time that many vets will pick up a razor. Some still shave to maintain a professional appearance when they enter the civilian workforce, but the most important thing is that it’s their choice to give their face a trim.
Those veterans who do decide to sport their well-earned lumberjack style may run into a few speed bumps along the way. The vet beard isn’t for everyone — but those who can rock it look like glorious Vikings ready to storm the bar and take every keg of beer with them.
If you’re struggling to keep up with these majestic-as-f*ck vets, here’s a few pointers:
Growing a beard is actually pretty easy. You just have to wait.
(Cpl. Brandon Burns, USMC)
Patience is a virtue.
A great beard takes time. Throughout the growing process, there’ll be many great moments, like the point where your mustache gives you an 80s action-hero look. But then it’ll grow longer to the point where you’re getting a mouthful of mustache whenever you take a bite of food — not to mention the constant itchiness. But you’ll have to endure if you want that vet beard.
Many of the these downsides can be addressed with proper care. As long as you treat your beard right, you can minimize the downsides and simply enjoy envious looks from your peers.
If Luke Skywalker can keep his hair and beard on point despite being on some deserted planet for years, you can take a few seconds out of your day to put some shampoo in yours.
Your beard is still hair. Use conditioner and brush it.
It’s surprising how few people actually care for their beard as it’s growing out. You shampoo and condition the hair on top of your head in the shower, why skip the hair on your chin?
You can also brush it to keep it in proper form after you’re done in the shower. This also helps get out all the accidental bits of food that occasionally get trapped in there. Using conditioner and regularly brushing will help the scratchiness of your beard and help it from basically becoming Velcro on everything.
If you know what you’re buying, it’s fine. Just don’t expect much other than a slightly more luscious beard that smells nice.
(Photo by Marc Tasman)
Beard oil isn’t some magical, instant-beard formula
Oils are (usually) exactly what is being advertised. They’ll help if you think of it more like a leave-in conditioner that will make your beard smell nice, but many people who buy beard oils are under the impression that it’s more like a type of Rogaine for your face — it’s just not going to immediately give you something like in that episode of Dexter’s Laboratory.
Oils marketed to promote “beard growth” will actually make your beard grow in healthier and prevent breakage, so your beard will appear thicker and longer, but it still won’t happen over night.
Kind of like how Mat Best does it. Still professional, yet bearded.
Trim it down to maintain a professional appearance
If you’re down with looking like a bum, by all means; you can do whatever you want with your facial hair in the civilian world. That’s your choice now. Still, if you’re looking to make strides in the professional world, first-impressions are important — arguably more important than an extensive resume.
Even if your beard puts a Civil War general to shame, tidy it up with a pair of scissors to keep an organized appearance. You can also shave off the under-chin and the scraggly bits on your cheek to make your beard growth look intentional.
I’m going to go out on a limb as say that the dudes from ZZ Top don’t care about touring in the northern states during the winter.
(Photo by Ralph Arvesen)
If you can endure the summer heat, you’ll do well in the winter
Summers suck with long beards, but things start getting better after Labor Day. If you live an active lifestyle, no one will fault you for cutting it down in the summers to keep the sweat out. But don’t chop it all off if you want a head start when things cool down and you’ll probably look like a thirteen year old when you do.
Soldier through it and, when the winter chills start hitting your chin come December, you’ll be happy you took the extra few months to grow your own face protection.
Or shave it however you want, like what Tim Kennedy does every now and then. Welcome to the civilian world, where you have options again!
(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class Jim Greenhill)
There’s no shame in shaving what you can’t grow
The ability to grow beards is entirely hereditary. If your dad could grow a bear, you’re probably good. But the person you should probably look toward for a better indication of your potential beardliness is if your maternal grandfather. That’s just how it works; genetics are funny.
It’s all a roll of the dice. If your face is better suited for a goatee, rock it. If your granddad could be confused with Gandalf, go all out. If you can’t grow a beard, embrace it. That’s just you.
In spite of criticisms and concerns that Russia’s fifth-generation is actually fifth-generation “in name only,” the Kremlin is pushing ahead with plans for its sixth-generation jet.
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said on Wednesday that Sukhoi has delivered plans for its new sixth-generation fighter, TASS Newsreports.
“I’m referring also to new design concepts briefly presented by the Sukhoi design bureau and by the general designer appointed for all aircraft systems and armaments,” Rogozin told reporters, accordingto TASS.
“They have really come up with the designs for the creation of the sixth-generation fighter.”
And, as TASS reports, Commander of the Russian Aerospace Forces Viktor Bondarev told reporters on Wednesday that the potential sixth-generation jet will be produced in both manned and unmanned versions. Meaning, essentially, that the new jet will be planned to be able to function in some conditions as a drone aircraft.
However, beyond that hint, the Kremlin delivered few other details about its new potential jet. The plans for the new jet comes as Russia is continuing to test its fifth-generation PAK FA fighter. Although, as the National Interest notes, it is not uncommon for militaries to begin testing and designing the next generation of aircraft decades in advance.
Currently, Russia’s PAK FA is expected to enter into service sometime in the next six years. However, the aircraft has been called fifth-generation “in name only” due to a host of complaints affecting the aircraft’s radar cross signature, its avionics, and its engines.
Is the Dark Side stronger?” Luke Skywalker first asked the question as he trained with Master Yoda on Dagobah, wondering if all his hard work could ever make a difference against the full power of the Dark Side of the Force. Yoda insisted that while the Dark Side is “more seductive,” it is inferior to the Light Side of the Force. It’s a nice sentiment that reassures Luke (and viewers) that good will triumph over evil. But wise as he is, Yoda is also a Jedi and might be a little biased.
So to prove once and for all whether a Jedi or Sith Lord is the most powerful warrior in the galaxy, one YouTuber figured out an alternative to just taking Yoda’s word. He had 20,000 Jedi Knights face off against 20,000 Sith Lords in the ultimate Star Wars battle royal. Despite being amazing, the only tragedy of this fan-made simulation is that it likely won’t find it’s way in the next big Star Wars movie, Episode IX.
YouTuber SergiuHellDragoonHQ used the PC game Ultimate Epic Battle Simulator to initially pit one Sith (who is pretty clearly Darth Maul) against one Jedi. All fine and good, but he soon realized that things would get more interesting if the battle was considerably grander. He upped the simulation to 20,000 warriors per side. Not surprisingly, the battle quickly descended into total chaos and, well, never really stopped ⏤ at least not for 26 minutes. Still, the absolute beautiful insanity of the battle is worth checking out at least for a few of them.
So who ended up winning? Sadly, it looks like Yoda may have bet on the wrong side of the Force, as the Sith handily defeated the Jedi Knights. By the end, there were still nearly 14,000 Sith Lords standing, while only 5,000 Jedis remained alive.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
Los Angeles-class fast attack submarine USS Hartford (SSN 768) and Seawolf-class fast attack submarine USS Connecticut (SSN 22) both surfaced in the Arctic Circle March 10, 2018, during the multinational maritime Ice Exercise (ICEX) 2018 in the Arctic Circle north of Alaska.
Both fast-attack submarines, as well the UK Royal Navy submarine HMS Trenchant (S91), are participating in the biennial exercise in the Arctic to train and validate the warfighting capabilities of submarines in extreme cold-water conditions.
“From a military, geographic, and scientific perspective, the Arctic Ocean is truly unique, and remains one of the most challenging ocean environments on earth,” said Rear Admiral James Pitts, commander, Undersea Warfighting Development Center (UWDC).
ICEX provides the U.S. Submarine Force and partners from the Royal Navy an opportunity to test combat and weapons systems, sonar systems, communications, and navigation systems in a challenging operational environment. The unique acoustic undersea environment is further compounded by the presence of a contoured, reflective ice canopy when submerged.
According to Pitts, operating in the Arctic ice alters methods and practices by which submarines operate, communicate and navigate.
“We must constantly train together with our submarine units and partners to remain proficient in this hemisphere,” Pitts said. “Having both submarines on the surface is clear demonstration of our proficiency in the Arctic.”
In recent years, the Arctic has been used as a transit route for submarines. The most recent ICEX was conducted in 2016 with USS Hampton (SSN 767) and USS Hartford (SSN 768).
The first Arctic under-ice operations by submarines were done in 1947-49. On Aug. 1, 1947, the diesel submarine USS Boarfish (SS-327), with Arctic Submarine Laboratory’s founder, Dr. Waldo Lyon, onboard serving as an Ice Pilot, conducted the first under-ice transit of an ice floe in the Chukchi Sea.
In 1958, the nuclear-powered USS Nautilus made the first crossing of the Arctic Ocean beneath the pack ice. The first Arctic surfacing was done by USS Skate (SSN 578) in March 1959. USS Sargo was the first submarine to conduct a winter Bering Strait transit in 1960.
The units participating in the exercise are supported by a temporary ice camp on a moving ice floe approximately 150 miles off the coast of the northern slope of Alaska in international waters. The ice camp, administered by the Arctic Submarine Laboratory (ASL), is a remote Arctic drifting ice station, built on multi-year sea-ice especially for ICEX that is logistically supported with contract aircraft from Deadhorse, Alaska. The ice camp will be de-established once the exercise is over.
Sheik Abdul Hasib is a stout Pakistani who chose to fight under the flag of ISIS in eastern Afghanistan. The area he chose as his redoubt is the border with Pakistan, not too far from where Osama bin Laden and the Arab-speaking jihadis chose to build caves and fight the Soviets in the ’80s. Now seeking to tax poppy growers in the Nangahar province and establish ISIS Khurahsan, the long-haired Pakistani Orakzai tribal fighters have been streaming over four mountain passes from the Khyber and Orakzai regions in Parchinar since 2015. Since then, they’ve terrorized the locals, beheading children and elders alike, and launched a number of violent attacks in Afghanistan.
The Afghan anti-terrorist force began in Kabul and expanded to other major urban areas. Unlike the military, they’re trained by the world’s most elite counter-terrorism units to work in intense scenarios in which hundreds of civilians may be at risk. Photo from Recoilweb.com
ISIS established a foothold in the Pakistan tribal areas in mid-2014 with the fracturing of the “little T” Taliban that was made up of former Pakistan-based Taliban fighters. Leaderless, they flowed northward into Afghanistan in 2015 when around 70 ISIS trainers travelled from Syria to school them in tactics, public relations, and ambushes. Led by Abdul Rauf Khadem, a former bin Laden confidant, ISIS began paying three times the Afghan government salary, and twice that of the Taliban. They launched their new sub brand, ISIS-Khurasan, with brutal videos of hapless villagers being blown up and other filmed executions. Islamic religion tradition insists that horse-mounted jihadis carrying the Black Flags of Khurasan will signal the retaking of the Holy Land and the end of Christianity. Not surprisingly, ISIS PR cameramen filmed chubby Pakistanis jogging and jerking along on Afghan nags carrying black flags in their videos.
The cash and the PR campaign worked. In September 2015, the UN estimated ISIS penetrated 25 out of the 34 provinces.
The Crisis Response Unit is legendary in Afghanistan. They’re never seen in public and stay on their base until a crisis occurs, and then they deploy in minutes directly into a hostage situation. Photo from Recoilweb.com
When I met with Resolute Support commander General “Mick” Nicholson in December, he made it clear that although the NATO side of the war was treading water, the counter-terrorism fight wasn’t hindered by a lack of funding or increasing intensity. While the USA waited patiently for the election to end, General Nicholson made his move.
On April 13, 2017, the sky lit up above Achin and the ground shook through eastern Afghanistan as US special operations forces dropped a 12,000-pound MOAB munition that detonated above the exact area ISIS selected as their headquarters.
Nicholson’s air strike had maximum effect. The USA turned the ISIS fighter’s concealment and isolation into their damnation. About 90 fighters were killed instantly by the pressure wave and collapsing buildings.
Although the rank and file of ISIS K were decimated, the work of actually finishing the job was left to US ground operators and Afghans. Ten days later, at 10:30 p.m., 50 US Army Rangers and 40 Afghan commandos went in on the location of Sheik Hasib, gunning him down about a mile away from where the bomb went off in Mohmand Valley. As in all special operation ground missions, drones, AC 130s, F16s, and Apaches provided constant top cover and ISR support. Down below, air controllers coordinated the troops moving forward, calling out targets and hostiles for Afghan commandos. ISIS in the east was snuffed out like a candle.
(Photo from Recoilweb.com)
The top leadership and 35 members of ISIS were finally removed because they had crossed the line. They had carried out a devastating March 2017 attack on a 400-bed military hospital in Kabul in which ISIS personnel disguised as medical staff killed scores of people. Enough was enough.
Although MOAB was a global headline grabber and there’s every indication that America is getting back into the fight, much of the dirty work of killing terrorists face to face has been left to the Afghans. It’s for this reason that I visited a little-known counter-terrorism unit high above the hills of Kabul.
It’s Friday, the day off in Afghanistan, but Lieutenant Colonel Abdul Raqib Mubariz, the head of Afghanistan’s elite’s counter-terrorism team, has invited me over. He’s clean-shaven, tall, and eager to meet me. He runs the Afghan Crisis Response Unit 222, or CRU 222 for short. He’s unapologetic about his team. His and his men’s job is to kill terrorists in Kabul. Fast.
It’s a brutally simple idea taught to them originally by the SAS and carried forward in their training by American, and now Norwegian, commandos. When suicide bombers try to take hostages en masse, the unit’s mission is to get in and kill them without restraint. In their brutal experience, the faster they kill terrorists the lower the casualties.
Their spotless base sits on the old site of Camp Gibson, overlooking the outskirts of Kabul.
Kabul is the fifth fastest growing city in the world. Under the Taliban in 2001 the population was barely 1.5 million; today almost 4 million people call Kabul home. Photo from Recoilweb.com
Mubariz walks me around the camp and explains the unit has three groups, one active, one in training, and one in reserve. On operations they have a 60-man protection unit and three operations groups. They work 15 days on and 15 days off, and they’re set up to respond to a crisis quickly; their goal is to be out the door within five minutes of a call.
He expresses pride that his men can “assess a situation, form a plan, and have all the belligerents dead within minutes. Instead of the hours it used to take, now we can be ready in three minutes.”
To underline the seriousness and intensity of their task, he estimates that last year 97 of his 7,000-person, nationwide staff were killed. The high-casualty rate doesn’t faze his enthusiasm for the task.
The training for the anti-terrorist squad lasts four months with a dropout rate of 10 to 15 percent of the class. “We get better training than the commandos, but we work together,” Raqib tells me, talking about another Afghan special mission unit that operates in the rural areas of the country. “We recruit from all over the country.”
I want to understand how this unit ended the March 2017 hospital attack, the most brutal terrorist act after the recent bomb attack at Camp Shahin. He offers to have his men perform a demonstration.
The men roll up to a practice building in armored Humvees, dismount, and take a knee; they lay out a protective circle and deploy snipers. They set up a command and control center, gather intel, and agree on an entry plan. Then, the teams deploy and breach, clearing each room until they reach the top.
(Photo from Recoilweb.com)
The men are fast, aggressive, and their actions appear well rehearsed. But this is an empty building with a journalist sticking a camera in their faces, not a burning building with martyrs killing their way to a 72-virgin afterlife.
The 222 benefits from the knowledge passed on by foreign military advisors. Norwegians from the Marinejegerkommandoen were also on hand supervising and offering training guidance. The Norwegians declined to be officially interviewed, but 222’s opinion of them is effusive. “We love it when they taught us how to shoot off the back of motorcycles in the dark,” one commando laughs.
To understand 222’s tactical response to the Kabul hospital attack, I met with the officer (unnamed at his request) that led the hospital attack.
The soft-spoken colonel describes the siege. “It was Wednesday, March 8, 8:45 in the morning. The first car bomb went off at 9 a.m. at the rear of the hospital. By 9:45 a.m. we were stuck in all kinds of traffic. We travel in armored Humvees, five men to a vehicle. We had to hit cars to get out them out the way. We were waved around to a different entrance from the normal entrance when the second car bomb went off.”
The remnants of a vehicle bomb during the March 8, 2017, ISIS attack on the Sardar Daud Khan Military Hospital in Kabul. (Photo from Recoilweb.com)
The eight-story pink Sardar Mohammad Daud Khan Hospital is in the Wazir Akbar Khan District of Kabul and is the largest military hospital in Afghanistan. Named after the last prime minister before the Soviets landed, the staff provides medical care to members of the Afghan military and their families. There are also two floors filled with wounded Taliban fighters along with a VIP wing; in addition, there are soldiers housed here who are wounded so seriously they can’t be sent home.
“It was complicated when we arrived on scene because we had more than 1,000 doctors, patients, and visitors.” The colonel says there were 400 beds in an eight-floor building and an unknown number of terrorists wearing suicide vests with grenades, knives, and rifles inside. “I was just thinking how we can protect civilians before we can kill the terrorists.”
The men ISIS sent to cause mayhem weren’t just suicide bombers, but fourth-generation suicide fighters called inghimasis, or “those who plunge” into battle. The four attackers were let into the hospital by an employee, the colonel tells us. They put on white lab coats and began to shoot indiscriminately, using knives to kill bedridden victims to conserve ammunition.
“Once the Afghan Army commandos arrived, I stopped everyone and explained how we can work together. We have British SAS tactics; the Afghan Special Forces uses American [tactics]. We have different training and tactics, and we could kill each other.”
The units deconflicted by leap-frogging each other as they cleared the buildings seven floors, floor by floor.
“We are clearing each room, but ultimately we run to the shooting,” says the colonel. “The problem was most of the victims were being stabbed with knives and [the attackers] were dressed in lab coats like many of the hostages. On the second floor we killed the third man; we shot him, and he blew up. Again we ran to the shooting. In various rooms, there were people hiding. The gunman had killed one or two people in each room.”
The responders killed another shooter on the fourth floor as he was hiding behind a bed. “We found another terrorist on the fifth floor. We shot him, and he blew up.”
Like many Afghans, and out of respect for the dead, he won’t describe the specifics of the dozens of victims. Most of the people had been killed with knives. Later I find out from one of the men who was there that a pregnant women, the wife of a military officer, screamed, “You can’t kill me!” He looks down and describes the brutality, “They cut out her child and then killed her.”
(Photo from Recoilweb.com)
Finally, there were 65 hostages on the top floor being held by the last gunman.
“I had heard shooting from the rooftop, and I requested an air drop,” says the Colonel. “The Mi-17 will carry 15 troops and can land on the roof where people were fleeing. Some were on the window ledges outside. [Our] snipers were using the windows, but there weren’t clear shots in the confusion. There is a green house on the top floor, and we went up and found the hostages.”
“We were using CS grenades and wearing gas masks,” he says. “It’s hard to see through the mask when you’re running and the smoke. So I aimed for his center of his vest and he exploded, killing some of the hostages.” When I ask him why he didn’t take a head a shot he looks up and just gives me a pained look.
“I think we were done by 14:00. We then had to coordinate the removal of the dead and wounded, and order ambulances since all the staff had fled.”
At the end, over 60 people were dead and roughly as many were wounded.
The attackers were trained in Pakistan and were reportedly told to kill as many people as possible before detonating their suicide vests. (Photo from Recoilweb.com)
UNDERSTANDING THE ENEMY
Colonel Mir Ebaidullah Mirzada from Kapisa province explains how ISIS recruits and trains for these attacks. “I was in military school in high school, then I joined CID police. I spent 31 years in the intelligence service,” he says. His job now is to make sense of these attacks and understand the enemy. That enemy, he says, is increasingly more foreign.
The history of the CRU also coincides with violent attacks launched from Pakistan.
“There was a series of attacks in Kabul in 2005. At that time there was no special unit. They sent police, members of the Afghan National Directorate of Security and the Army, and there were a lot of civilian casualties. It was then they decided to create the CRU. National Security Advisor Hanif Atmar established a division of special police when he was interior minister.”
The work of CRU 222 is not without sacrifice. In 2016, 97 members of the Afghan national anti-terrorism group were killed. (Photo from Recoilweb.com)
The first unit was 222. They started with 100 members; now they have around 7,000. Ebedullah was one of the originals. “We started with Hungarian and Bulgarian AKs, Russian PiKas (PKM), and Iranian RPGs. We swapped to Russian AKs [after] seven years with a gift of 20,000 AKs, and now, thanks to the US Embassy, we’re using M4s.
The men of the 222 still have to tape their flashlights to the barrel and make do with Chinese knockoff gear. They favor the bright green laundry bag camo pattern sprayed on their gear. It used to take three hours for the unit to jock up, and now it takes them less than five minutes to get out of their compound. Still, a Colonel gets by on $600 a month, and some of the men aren’t fully kitted. But they don’t complain. He pulls out the dossier on the attack on the hospital attack.
More than 70 percent of Kabul’s population lives in illegal settlements like these hillside homes built without permits or proper sanitation. These migrants include thousands of former jihadis returning from Pakistan. (Photo from Recoilweb.com)
“The attackers were from Pakistan, two from Tajikistan, and two were Afghan. The people know that Pakistan is behind this.” He takes pains to read the next sentence carefully.
“They trained for four months by Major Ahmad from ISI Punjab, in Mansehra near the military base at Rawalpindi. This information comes from the ‘other side,'” he noted with a smile. Manserhra is only 13 miles north of where bin Laden was found and killed in Abbottabad.
Recruiting is done from the madrasas, free religious schools sponsored by Sunni donors from the Gulf area.
(Photo from Recoilweb.com)
Mirzada lays out the training process. “They pass three steps to come. The first step is for ISI people who operated under the guise of being scholars who train young people. They identify those who respond to extreme ideology.”
Despite the steady stream of violent attacks, the people of Kabul go on with their daily lives. In 16 years the country has experienced dramatic growth and education. (Photo from Recoilweb.com)
“In the madrasa they’re separated, and when they say, ‘I want to be a martyr,’ they’re ready. Then the preparation work stops. They blindfold them and take them to a military base. There they’re trained about three months on weapons, explosives, and what destiny awaits them in paradise. Before the plan [takes] place they set up companies to provide fake IDs, transportation, and lodging. They transport them to Kabul without weapons.”
Typically, he says, they’re between 14 and 25 years old, mostly from poor families. Their family gets paid 400,000 Pakistani rupees, just under $4,000 US, after they’ve reached the end of their path to martyrdom.
“The handlers train them again to get used to the area where they speak Pashto,” Mirzada says. “There are also people who know Farsi. Once they learn the area, then they ship in the weapons. There are also people who are responsible to make the film. Even when they rush and fight, they’re always filming. Before they attack they film a speech and they get injections to make them brave.”
The elite reputation of CRU 222 attracts hundreds of young Afghan recruits; 15 percent will drop out during training. (Photo from Recoilweb.com)
One witness in the media insists he heard one of the men talking to “Mullah Sahib,” which sounds like Mullah Hasib, the head of the ISIS cell in Nangahar. The man gunned down after the MOAB was dropped by US forces. Mirzada closes the file.
When and if another hostage situation occurs, CRU 222 sits waiting for the call, stopwatch at the ready.