Russia is quietly staging missiles for war in Baltic - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia is quietly staging missiles for war in Baltic

NATO forces are converging on Norway for Trident Juncture, which will be the alliance’s largest military exercise in nearly two decades.

But military activity has been increasing on the other side of the Baltic Sea and in Kaliningrad — areas that have long been flash points for Russia and NATO.

Moscow assumed control of Kaliningrad after World War II and retained it after the breakup of the Soviet Union.

Now an 86-square-mile exclave, Kaliningrad is home to about a million people who are separated from the rest of Russia by Lithuania, Poland, and Belarus. But that location makes it strategically valuable.


It has Russia’s only Baltic Sea port that is ice-free year-round. In addition to several air bases, it is also home to Russia’s 11th Army Corps. It also looks over one side of the Suwalki Gap, which NATO worries could be blocked during a conflict, cutting the Baltics off from the rest of Europe.

Russia appears to be upgrading its military facilities there.

Moscow has in the past deployed Iskander short-range, nuclear-capable missiles there temporarily, but in February 2018, a Russian lawmaker confirmed that the Iskander, which has a maximum range of about 310 miles, had been moved there permanently in response to NATO’s buildup in Eastern Europe.

It was “the biggest move we’ve seen” in regard to Russian military activity in Kaliningrad, a US defense official said at the time. The Kremlin said it had a “sovereign right” to put forces there.

Russia is quietly staging missiles for war in Baltic

Russian crew members service an Iskander missile.

(Russian Defense Ministry)

Satellite imagery taken between March and June 2018 showed activity around bunkers in Baltiysk, the main base of Russia’s Baltic Fleet, including the fortification of buildings “characteristic of explosive storage bunkers,” Matt Hall, a senior geospatial analyst at 3Gimbals, told Defense One in July 2018.

Other imagery detailed in June 2018 by the Federation of American Scientists showed renovations of what appeared to be an active nuclear-weapons storage site.

Imagery taken between mid-July and the beginning of October 2018 showed upgrades at least four sites in Kaliningrad, according to CNN.

That included construction of 40 new bunkers and the expansion of a military storage area near Primorsk, which is Russia’s second-largest Baltic port. Images also showed improvements at the Chkalovsk air base and upgrades at a base in Chernyakhovsk, which houses Iskander missiles.

Kaliningrad received much of the Soviet weaponry in Eastern Europe after the USSR’s collapse, and for a long time the area “was a bit of a dumping ground,” said Jim Townsend, a transatlantic security expert at the Center for a New American Security.

Moscow’s focus on Kaliningrad increased in the early 2000s, around the time the Baltic states — Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania — joined NATO. Their inclusion was especially galling for Russia, which sees them as its “near abroad.”

“Kaliningrad has been on a trajectory of improvements since the Baltic tensions and certainly since” the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014, Townsend said.

The Iskander deployment is of a piece with Russian efforts to influence other European capitals, Townsend added. “They would say, ‘Look, if NATO puts troops into the Baltics, we’re going to put Iskanders onto Kaliningrad.”

Northeast Europe is a particularly sensitive area for Russia, Townsend said.

St. Petersburg, from which the Baltic can only be reached by passing Finland and Estonia, is Russia’s second-biggest city. To the north is the Kola Peninsula, home to Russia’s Northern Fleet and its submarine-launched ballistic missiles.

“The Baltic is kind of a backdoor to that. Kaliningrad helps to defend that backdoor,” Townsend said. “So that’s very sensitive.”

Russian officials reportedly told Defense Secretary Jim Mattis in early 2017 that they would be willing to use tactical nuclear weapons against NATO if there was a war in the Baltics.

‘There’s a big regional adversary right there’

Russia’s military is not the only one active in the Baltics.

The NATO buildup cited by Moscow as reason for permanently deploying Iskander missiles was the multinational battle groups the alliance has stationed in Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia since 2016.

More recently, the US Air Force and the Estonian air force heralded the completion of a joint-use facility at Amari air base near the latter’s capital, Tallinn, which was the first completed military construction projected fully funded by the European Deterrence Initiative.

Soviet jets were stationed at Ameri during the Cold War, but since 2004 it has hosted NATO aircraft during their rotations in the alliance’s Baltic air-policing mission. (The Baltic countries don’t have their own combat aircraft.)

Russia is quietly staging missiles for war in Baltic

US airmen from the 493rd Expeditionary Fighter Squadron marshal in an F-15C Eagle at Siauliai air base, Lithuania, Aug. 29, 2017.

(US Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Matthew Plew)

Improvements at Amari “provide strategic access into that very contentious part of Europe,” said Brig. Gen. Roy Agustin, director of logistics, engineering, and force protection for US Air Forces in Europe and Africa, according to Stars and Stripes. “You look right across the border and there’s a big regional adversary right there.”

The EDI, previously called the European Reassurance Initiative, has funded military projects in Europe since Russia’s intervention in Ukraine in 2014. Since then, the US has spent millions upgrading facilities across Eastern Europe to allow its military and partner forces to respond quickly to crises.

EDI funding also covers Operation Atlantic Resolve, which includes US armored rotations in Europe, a continuous presence in the Black Sea area, and prepositioning equipment and weapons around the continent.

The Pentagon’s 2019 budget request for the EDI was nearly doublewhat it got for the program in 2017 and six times what was allotted for it in 2015.

North of the Baltics, Sweden and Finland — close NATO partners that remain outside the alliance — have also turned increasing attention to military readiness.

Sweden’s armed forces said in 2018 that they needed to boost staffing from 50,000 to 120,000 by 2035 — in addition to adding new surface vessels, subs, and combat aircraft — to meet future challenges.

The report also said Sweden’s military budget would need to more than double over that period. Every mainstream party in the country’s September 2018 parliamentary election backed a military budget increase, but that growth will take time.

Stockholm’s defense outlay has tumbled since hitting 3.68% of GDP in 1963. The 1.03% of GDP currently spent on the military is a historic low, according to Defense News.

Sweden has also reintroduced military conscription and put troops back on Gotland Island in the middle of the Baltic Sea.

More recently, Finland, which shares a 838-mile border and a history of conflict with Russia, has begun pumping money into military modernization — notably id=”listicle-2614964544″.5 billion for the Squadron 2020 program, which includes buying four multirole, ice-breaking, submarine-hunting corvettes armed with surface-to-surface missiles, torpedoes, and sea mines.

The program will also fund upgraded fast-attack missile vessels and upgrades to Finnish mine-layers and mine-countermeasure vessels, according to Defense News.

“The Baltic Sea has become a possible focal point for tension between East and West,” said Finland’s defense minister, Jussi Niinistö. “We are dealing with a more unpredictable Russia.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Communist China started building its third carrier

With a second carrier already launched and currently being prepared for entry into the People’s Liberation Army Navy, it’s clear that Communist China isn’t resting on its laurels. In fact, China has already started building the first in a new class of aircraft carriers.


According to a report by the South China Morning Post, the first Type 002 carrier, which so far is being called CV-18, was started last year in Shanghai. This is China’s first indigenously-designed class of aircraft carriers. The Type 001 class, which consists of the Liaoning and the larger Shandong, is based on the Russian Navy’s Admiral Kuznetsov-class aircraft carrier.

Russia is quietly staging missiles for war in Baltic
The Liaoning. (JMSDF photo)

GlobalSecurity.org notes that this carrier is intended to be a counterpart to retired, conventionally-fueled aircraft carriers. The last such carrier in United States Navy service was USS Kittyhawk (CV 63), which was decommissioned in 2009. It will be equipped with catapults to launch aircraft as opposed to the ski-jump used on the Liaoning and Shandong.

CV-18, at 85,000 tons, is reportedly able to hold up to 85 aircraft. This puts it close to the aircraft capacity of the Nimitz-class nuclear-powered supercarriers that currently form the main striking power of the United States Navy. The Chinese Communists plan to build a second Type 002 carrier.

Russia is quietly staging missiles for war in Baltic
The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) arrives at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam to participate Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2010 exercises. RIMPAC is a biennial, multinational exercise designed to strengthen regional partnerships and improve multinational interoperability. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Shawn D. Torgerson)

While the oldest Nimitz-class carrier, USS Nimitz (CVN 68), turns 43 years old this year, it operates not only fighters and helicopters, but also airborne, early-warning aircraft and electronic-warfare planes. GlobalSecurity.org notes that China, at the present time, has neither a carrier-borne airborne radar plane nor an electronic warfare plane in service.

The Chinese also are planning to build two nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, known as the Type 003. These vessels would potentially be able to match the Gerald R. Ford-class nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and would displace 110,000 tons. The first Type 003 is slated to enter service by 2028.

Russia is quietly staging missiles for war in Baltic
USS Gerald R. Ford underway, propelled by two A1B reactors. (US Navy photo)

By that time, the United States Navy will have three Ford-class carriers in service, USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), USS John F. Kennedy (CVN 79), and USS Enterprise (CVN 80). A fourth carrier, known only as CVN 81, will be in service in 2030. That said, China will be able to give the Navy a tough fight.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

China’s F-16 ripoff just got new stealth upgrades

China’s Chengdu J-10 multirole fighter jet may be getting an engine upgrade that will increase its maneuverability and make it harder to detect on radar.

Defense News reports that a photo of a J-10C in an unknown Chinese defense magazine features an engine that appears to be equipped with a thrust vectoring nozzle. The engine also appears to have sawtooth edges, according to Defense News, and the bottom part of the compartment that houses the fighter’s drogue parachute was removed.


The new nozzle will enable the J-10 to be capable of thrust vectoring, sometimes referred to as thrust vector control or TVC. TVC happens when the engine itself is directed in different directions, directly manipulating the thrust generated from the engine.

This gives the pilot greater control of altitude and angular velocity, and enables the aircraft to make better turns, substantially increasing maneuverability.

The new nozzle suggests that the Chinese have made gains in their attempts to add TVC technology to fighter jets.

But increased maneuverability is not the only thing that the engine provides. The sawtooth edges around the nozzle are similar to those used by other stealth aircraft like the F-35 and F-22. Russia’s Sukhoi Su-30/35 Flanker series of fighters also utilize the same edges.

The J-10C is actually an improved version of the J-10. It features enhanced 4th generation electronics, like an active electronically scanned array radar, and also has a diverterless supersonic inlet, an air intake system that diverts boundary layer airflow away from the aircraft’s engine lowering its radar cross section.

The J-10 itself is rumored to be a Chinese copy of the American F-16.

Russia is quietly staging missiles for war in Baltic
A 35th Fighter Squadron F-16 Fighting Falcon takes off for a Beverly Bulldog 14-01 sortie Nov. 19, 2013, at Kunsan Air Base, South Korea.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Armando A. Schwier-Morales)

In the 1990s, Israel was hoping to make its own domestic fighter jet that could compete on the international market. It required assistance from US companies and ended up making the IAI Lavi, a fighter that heavily resembled the F-16.

After it was discovered that up to $1.3 billion of US aid to Israel was spent on the development of the Lavi, and that the US was essentially funding a potential competitor, the project was canceled.

The plans for the fighter were then said to have been sold to China. Some US government officials even believed that Israel and China were collaborating with each other to develop the fighter. China and Israel have both denied all such claims.

China has been aggresively pursuing stealth capability for its jets. In September 2017, the government officially announced that its stealth fighter jet, the J-20, was in active service.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Divers wore 1940s gear to inter Pearl Harbor survivor on USS Arizona

Pearl Harbor survivor Lauren Bruner was laid to rest aboard the sunken remains of the USS Arizona with the help of two Army divers in diving gear from the period.

Army 7th Dive Detachment Divers SSG Fred Bible and SPC Julio Melendez wore lead boots and a drysuit — weighing a total of 220 pounds — and the last two Mark 5 vintage hard hats certified for operational use on the dive.

Bruner, who died on Sept. 10, 2019, at 98 years old, was interred on the wreck of the Arizona on December 7, the 78th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.


Russia is quietly staging missiles for war in Baltic

(Library of Congress)

After Bruner’s death, only three Arizona crew members are still alive today.

According to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, Bruner survived the attack on the Arizona by going hand over hand across a rope stretched 70 feet above the harbor. Forty-four other survivors have had their remains interred on the ship, alongside their more than 900 shipmates who went down with the ship during the attack.

Bruner will be the last survivor to be interred on the wreckage, the Star-Advertiser reports; he was the second-to-last man to escape the flaming ship, according to CNN.

Russia is quietly staging missiles for war in Baltic

Attendees salute Bruner’s ashes.

(Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Holly L. Herline/US Navy)

SSG Fred Bible and SPC Julio Melendez wore vintage diving suits to place Bruner’s ashes in the well of barbette number four.

Bruner suffered burns on 80% of his body, but went back into service after he healed. He served aboard the USS Coghlan in eight other battles against Japan’s forces, CNN reports.

Russia is quietly staging missiles for war in Baltic

US Army 7th Dive Detachment Divers SSG Fred Bible and SPC Julio Melendez interred the remains of Pearl Harbor Survivor Lauren Bruner amongst the remains of his fellow crewman on board the sunken USS Arizona.

(Screengrab/Sgt. Laura Martin/US Army/DVIDS)

The diving suits are similar to what salvage divers would have worn on salvage missions into Pearl Harbor.

The Mark 5 helmet and dive suit was used from 1916 until the 1980s, according to the US Naval Undersea Museum.

“In retrospect, it’s very historical and super-cool, but it’s kind of uncomfortable,” Melendez told the Star-Advertiser. “It’s super heavy and it’s kind of amazing to think that it took so long to kind of upgrade it.”

Russia is quietly staging missiles for war in Baltic

US Army 7th Dive Detachment Divers SSG Fred Bible and SPC Julio Melendez interred the remains of Pearl Harbor Survivor Lauren Bruner aboard the USS Arizona.

(Screengrab/Sgt. Laura Martin/US Army/DVIDS)

Underwater, Melendez and Bible walked about 200 feet along the wreckage of the Arizona before they brought Bruner’s remains to their final resting place.

While the Navy has performed this kind of ceremony before for other Pearl Harbor survivors, the divers have always worn modern diving kits.

“I think it was a really fitting tribute and I think it’s an interesting way to kind of close out the last of the interments — to have it done not only with the ceremony that we normally do, but to have historic hardhats like it would have been during the salvage in World War II,” Brett Seymour, the deputy chief of the National Park Service’s Submerged Resources Center, told the Star-Advertiser.

Russia is quietly staging missiles for war in Baltic

(Screengrab/Sgt. Laura Martin/US Army/ DVIDS)

“We’ve never done an interment with hardhats for sure,” Seymour told the Star-Advertiser.

“It was historical. I was left speechless, honestly,” Melendez told the Star-Advertiser. “It was a very in-the-moment experience. Just kind of taking it all in and realizing what we were doing and the history that’s being made and remembering Lauren Bruner and everything that he had done.”

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

The fastest fighter jet in the world is over 50 years old

Fastest jet in the world? That’s easy. Most people know it’s the SR-71, the reconnaissance plane so fast it could outrun missiles. But the fastest fighter jet? Well, the Soviets created a fighter jet to chase down the SR-71 Blackbird, and it was so fast that it’s still the fastest fighter jet ever built. And it’s still in service today.


The MiG-25 Foxbat looks ungainly and boxy next to fourth and fifth-generation fighters. Its younger sibling, the MiG-29, is much sleeker, and the aggressive-looking F-35, F-22, and even the Su-57 make for way better wall posters than the Foxbat.

By comparison, the Foxbat looks almost like a box truck. If you’re feeling generous, you could compare it to something like an old Chrysler LeBaron, instead.

But only if that Chrysler Lebaron could sweep down a drag strip at speeds over 60 percent faster than its rivals.

Russia is quietly staging missiles for war in Baltic

A two-seat trainer version of the MiG-25 flies over forested land.

(Leonid Faerberg (transport-photo.com), GFDL 1.2)

The story of the Foxbat is a fairly simple one. When Russia first understood the SR-71, it realized that the step from a reconnaissance plane that could fly three times the speed of sound to a bomber that could do so was large but hardly insurmountable. They had to plan on U.S. bombers that could outrun ground-launched missiles.

And so they got to work on a fighter that could move on the edge of space with the SR-71 and the planned XB-70 Valkyrie. While they knew it was unlikely they could create a fighter that could fly faster than a reconnaissance plane, there was a decent chance that it could outfly the bomber since the bomber would have to carry more weight.

Lacking the materials science to create light airframes like the SR-71, it did the next best thing and just made the engines so powerful that they could muscle through, carrying the nickel-steel alloy frame to record heights and speed. And the engineers at the Mikoyan and Gurevich Design Bureau (MiG is a shortening of that name), were some of the world’s best engine designers.

They came up with a twin-turbojet design that could propel the MiG-25 to Mach 2.8 in operational conditions and 3.2 if the pilots were willing to risk the engines. The plane quickly set world records for speed, time to climb, and top altitudes for a fighter.

And that scared the U.S. and the rest of NATO. Not only was the Foxbat ridiculously fast and powerful, but its design suggested that it was super maneuverable, a design characteristic that the West was moving toward.

But two events would completely change the calculus for the Foxbat. One made it a plane without a mission, and the other took away much of the fear for pilots who might be called to face it.

XB-70 Valkyrie Mid-air collision June 8, 1966

www.youtube.com

First, a catastrophic crash killed two pilots and destroyed the 0-million XB-70 Valkyrie test aircraft in a program that was already suffering cost problems. The program was canceled. Suddenly, there was little prospect of a Mach 3 bomber for the Foxbat to chase, meaning the most critical mission for Soviet planners was preventing American air superiority.

And then, a Soviet pilot defected to Japan with his MiG-25 in 1976, and NATO learned that the Foxbat was actually sort of horrible at air superiority.

When they disassembled, studied, re-assembled, and tested the plane, American engineers realized that it would almost always have a speed and altitude advantage against NATO planes, but it couldn’t capitalize on it. The Foxbat didn’t have a look-down, shoot-down radar system.

Without getting too into the technical weeds, the science of getting a radar that can see ahead of a fighter and beneath it without getting confused by ground clutter is actually sort of tough, and the Soviets hadn’t nailed it yet. So Foxbat pilots would be forced to descend to engage other fighters.

And once it was on a relatively even altitude with its adversaries, it would be relatively easy pickings. While it was undeniably fast, it was not actually super maneuverable. It was unlikely that a Foxbat could dodge missiles or win a dogfight. With a few changes to doctrine, planes like the F-4 Phantom could keep the Foxbat on the run or down it entirely.

Still, the Foxbat has continued in service in Post-Soviet Russia, and it’s still the fastest and highest-flying fighter jet in the world, carrying its full combat load so high that the pilot’s tears will boil off their faces. It just doesn’t matter because there’s nothing up there for the Foxbat to fight.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Army will get first light tank prototypes in 2020

The U.S. Army awarded contracts Dec. 17, 2018, to two defense firms to build prototypes of a new lightweight tank to give infantry units the firepower to destroy hardened enemy targets.

The service awarded General Dynamics Land Systems Inc. and BAE Systems Land & Armaments LP with what’s known as Middle Tier Acquisition (Section 804) contracts worth up to $376 million each to produce prototypes of the Mobile Protected Firepower (MPF) system.


The two companies will build 12 prototypes each and begin delivering them to the Army in about 14 months so testing can begin in spring 2020. The goal is to down-select to a winner by fiscal 2022 and begin fielding the first of 504 of these lightweight tanks sometime in fiscal 2025.

“This capability is much needed in our infantry forces,” Brig. Gen. Ross Coffman, director of the Next Generation Combat Vehicle Cross Functional Team, told reporters at the Pentagon on Dec. 17, 2018.

Russia is quietly staging missiles for war in Baltic

MGM-51 Shillelagh Anti-tank missile fired from M551 Sheridan light tank.

“As we close with the enemy, at this time, there is artillery — which is area fires that can be used — but there is no precision munition to remove bunkers from the battlefield and to shoot into buildings in dense urban terrain to allow infantryman to close with the enemy,” he said.

The MPF concept emerged several years ago when maneuver leaders started calling for a lightweight, armored platform armed with a large enough cannon to destroy hardened targets for light infantry forces. The idea was to field it to airborne units for forced-entry operations.

Parachute infantry battalions can be used to seize airfields as an entry point for heavier follow-on forces. Airborne forces, however, lack the staying power of Stryker and mechanized infantry.

The 82nd Airborne Division was equipped with the M551 Sheridan Armored Reconnaissance Airborne Assault Vehicle until the mid-1990s. Developed during the Vietnam War, the Sheridan resembled a light tank and featured a 152mm main gun capable of firing standard ammunition or the MGM-51 Shillelagh anti-tank missile.

The MPF, however, will not be air-droppable, Coffman said, explaining that Air Force C-17 Globemasters will carry two MPFs each and air-land them after an airfield has been secured.

Russia is quietly staging missiles for war in Baltic

A U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III T-1 flies over Owens Valley, California, for a test sortie.

(US Air Force photo)

Army requirements call for the MPF to be armed with a 105mm or possibly a 120mm cannon and rely on tracks to maneuver over terrain so it can keep up with advancing infantry, Coffman said.

GDLS and BAE beat out SAIC and its partner ST Kinetics, but Army officials would not comment on the reason the winners were chosen.

“This is an integration of mature technology. The vehicles don’t exist, but the technologies — the pieces, the systems, the subsystems — they do exist,” said David Dopp, project manager for MPF.

The plan is to conduct developmental testing to assess the prototypes’ mobility, survivability, and lethality.

“So these have a long-range precision weapon system on them, so over … several kilometers, how well do they perform? How lethal are they?” Coffman said. “They are going to take a couple of these vehicles out, and they are going to shoot them with likely enemy caliber munitions. They are going to see which ones can absolutely protect our soldiers.”

The Army then will move into a soldier vehicle assessment followed by a limited user test scheduled for fiscal 2021, Dopp said.

“In the soldier user test, we will execute likely missions that [infantry brigade combat team] will have in full-scale combat,” Coffman said. “So this isn’t driving down the road looking for IEDs; this is American soldiers engaged in full-scale combat.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

7 of the world’s worst aircraft carrier (right now)

There are at least 42 commissioned aircraft carriers in service with at least 14 navies around the world.

Aircraft carriers come in many shapes and sizes: some carry large aircraft fleets of fighters and electronic attack planes, some only carry helicopters; some are nuclear powered, some are fueled by gas; some have vertical take-off and landing, some have short take-off and vertical landing, some have catapult assisted take-off and arrested recovery, where a tail hook snags a cable to catch the plane on landing.

Whatever the specifications, a carrier is not much use to any navy if it’s breaking down or not able to launch the full range of combat sorties it was built to perform.

So we put together a list of seven of the worst commissioned flattops, which have a history of breaking down or limitations on the missions that these ships were built to perform.

Check them out below:


Russia is quietly staging missiles for war in Baltic

1. China’s Liaoning (16).

Commissioned in 2012, the Liaoning is a Kiev-class aircraft carrier that Beijing tricked Ukraine into selling by sending a Hong Kong businessman to purchase it under the guise of it being used as a casino in 1998.

The Liaoning was later commissioned in 2012, becoming China’s first aircraft carrier.

But just a few years later, the Liaoning was spewing steam and losing power, and in at least one incident, a steam explosion blew out the ship’s electrical power system.

Since then, the Liaoning has been rather unreliable, like most Soviet Kiev-class carriers, and used mostly as a training carrier.

Russia is quietly staging missiles for war in Baltic

2. Russia’s Admiral Kuznetsov (063).

The Kuznetsov is a Kiev-class carrier that is currently undergoing repairs and won’t be ready for service until 2021.

In October 2016, the Kuznetsov was sailing to Syria through the English Channel on a combat deployment when it was spotted belching thick clouds of black smoke.

“The main problem with the ship is that is has a very problematic propulsion system,” Dmitry Gorenburg, a senior research scientist at the Center for Naval Analyses, previously told Business Insider. “It’s just unreliable.”

Commissioned in 1995, the Kuznetsov experienced a serious breakdown in 1996, and wasn’t available again until 1998.

The National Interest recently even placed the Kuznetsov on its list of 5 worst aircraft carriers ever built.

Take a tour of the Kuznetsov here.

Russia is quietly staging missiles for war in Baltic

Thailand’s Chakri Naruebet.

(United States Navy photo)

3. Thailand’s Chakri Naruebet (911).

Commissioned in 1997, the Chakri Naruebet was once a fleet carrier, but was later relegated to a helicopter carrier in 2006, mostly because of budgetary issues.

Although the Chakri Naruebet was used after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsnuami and in rescue operations after flooding in Thailand in 2010 and 2011, the carrier has mostly resided in port for much of its 20-year career with the Thai Navy.

So while the Chakri Naruebet has not necessarily suffered from design flaws or repeated maintenance issues, we included it on the list because it’s simply not being used for what it was supposed to.

Read more about the Chakri Naruebet here.

Russia is quietly staging missiles for war in Baltic

The Wasp didn’t sail on a combat deployment for seven years, at the height of the Iraq and Afghan wars, for reasons that remain mysterious.

(United States Navy photo)

4. America’s USS Wasp (LHD-1).

The Wasp is an amphibious assault ship that was recently fitted to carry F-35Bs.

But until then, the Wasp was conspicuously absent from major deployments from at least 2004 to 2011.

A Navy spokesman said in 2013 that it was because the ship was being “configured to serve as the Navy’s Joint Strike Fighter test platform,” but that reason only accounted for the years 2011-2013.

“That’s a CYA [cover-your-ass] reason. That is not the reason it’s not deploying,” a retired Marine general told the Marine Times in 2013. “It doesn’t seem to make sense to keep one of these ships out of the deployment rotation for so many years.”

Although F-35Bs have since touched down on the Wasp, and it departed its homeport in Japan for a mission in the Pacific in early August 2018, something might still not be exactly right with the ship.

“If people are worried about a hollow force, this is a hollow ship,” a congressional analyst told Military Times in 2013.

Russia is quietly staging missiles for war in Baltic

HMAS Canberra, a Royal Australian Navy landing helicopter dock ship, arrives at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam for Rim of the Pacific 2016.

(United States Navy photo)

5. Australia’s HMAS Canberra (L02).

Commissioned in 2014, the HMAS Canberra is a Landing Helicopter Dock carrier, and one of two for the Royal Australian Navy.

Although the Canberra took part in RIMPAC 2018, it was sent back to port in March 2017 with serious propulsion problems.

It was expected to take only about seven to 10 days to resolve, but in May 2017, the Canberra was still undergoing repairs in dry dock.

“It may well be a design issue,” Rear Admiral Adam Grunsell told ABC in May 2017.

One of the problems appeared to have been that faulty engine seals were leaking oil into different engine areas.

Russia is quietly staging missiles for war in Baltic

The Adelaide is Australia’s second helicopter carrier.

(United States Navy photo)

6. HMAS Adelaide (L01).

Commissioned in 2015, the HMAS Adelaide is Australia’s other Landing Helicopter Dock carrier.

The Adelaide also took part in RIMPAC 2018, but it was sent back to port at the same time in 2017 as the Canberra with the same problems.

Given that both ships, which were commissioned around the same time, had similar problems at the same time, might very well hint at design problems.

Russia is quietly staging missiles for war in Baltic

The USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) is seen underway on its own power for the first time on April 8, 2017, in Newport News, Virginia.

(United States Navy photo)

7. America’s USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78).

Commissioned in July 2017, the USS Gerald R. Ford is the most powerful and capable supercarrier ever built — but it’s been dogged by repeated problems and is still not ready for combat a year after it entered service.

In April 2017 and January 2018, the Ford was sent back to port after experiencing a “main thrust bearing” failure.

In May 2018, the Ford was at sea undergoing trials, when its propulsion system malfunctioned, forcing back to port again after only three days.

The Ford has also had issues with the state-of-the-art Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System and Advanced Arresting Gear systems designed to launch and recover airplanes, which have suffered repeated delays, despite recent reports of progress.

The Ford’s AAG caught its first C2-A Greyhound aircraft in late May 2018, according to General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems.

When we reached out to renowned ship expert Eric Wertheim about our inclusion of the Ford in this piece, he pushed back.

“It’s important to give new complex warships and weapon systems time to mature through operational experience,” Wertheim told Business Insider in an email. “If you had looked at many of the most successful weapons and warship designs, they often might have looked like miserable failures early in their life cycle, but they eventually turned a corner.”

“If a warship is still underperforming its mission after a decade or more, it’s probably not a very sound design,” Wertheim added.

You can take a tour of the Ford here.

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

popular

Why the US military has shoulder pockets

In 2004, the U.S. Army unveiled its new combat uniform, complete with upgrades including wrinkle-free fabric and a digitized camouflage print. The Army Combat Uniform (ACU) had many changes (18, in fact), but one of the troop favorites was the shoulder pocket.


 

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Obviously, pockets themselves weren’t new to military uniforms. The quintessential pant-leg cargo pocket was indispensable in the Korean War; as a result, cargo pockets have adorned military combat uniforms (and military-inspired fashion?) ever since. They were also used on blouses during the Vietnam War, and after 9/11, they got fancy even more utilitarian.

“This isn’t about a cosmetic redesign of the uniform,” said Col. John Norwood, the project manager for Clothing and Individual Equipment. “It’s a functionality change of the uniform that will improve the ability of Soldiers to execute their combat mission.”

One of the favored changes was the addition of the shoulder pocket, which replaced the bottom pockets on the jacket after troops realized they couldn’t access the front of their uniform while wearing body armor. The shoulder, however, was a handy location. These were tilted forward and buttons were replaced with zippers for function and comfort in combat.

Also read: 5 ways US military combat uniforms have changed since Vietnam

Prior to the uniform change, troops in the field had been modifying their gear to include the shoulder pocket for years, including Desert Storm and the early years of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.

 

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It’s the perfect size for your sanity. (Image via Mil-Spec Monkey)

Regulations around the pocket only dictate that “articles carried in pockets do not protrude from the pocket or present a bulky appearance,” so what’s actually carried in them is up to the individual, but it gets fascinating. Users on reddit list everything from pens and notebooks, U.S. flag patches to hand out to local children, to candy…which got me thinking…

…what did you carry in your shoulder pocket? Leave me a comment and let me know.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Navy’s first-ever female admiral died at age 98

Retired Rear Adm. Alene B. Duerk, the Navy’s first female admiral, passed away July 21, 2018. She was 98 years old.

“It took 197 years and a forward-looking Chief of Naval Operations, Elmo Zumwalt, to break with tradition before Alene Duerk became the first woman admiral in the U.S. Navy,” said Naval History and Heritage Command director Sam Cox. “But the credit goes to Duerk. From the crucible of caring for wounded sailors, Marines and prisoners of war during World War II in the Pacific, she blazed a trail of stellar performance in tough jobs, serving as an inspiration for an ever increasing number of women officers who have followed her path.”


Born in Defiance, Ohio, on March 29, 1920, she received nursing training at the Toledo [Ohio] Hospital School of Nursing, from which she earned her diploma in 1941. From there, Duerk entered the U.S. Naval Reserve and was appointed an ensign in the Nurse Corps.

“Alene Duerk was a strong and dedicated trail blazer who embodied the very principles that continue to guide Navy Medicine today,” commented Vice Adm. Forrest Faison, Navy surgeon general, upon learning of her passing. “She will forever be remembered as a servant leader who provided the best care to those who defended our nation, honoring the uniform we wear and the privilege of leadership.”

Her first tours of duty included ward nurse at Naval Hospital Portsmouth in Virginia, Naval Hospital Bethesda in Maryland, and sea service aboard the Navy hospital ship, USS Benevolence (AH 13), in 1945. While anchored off the coast of Eniwetok, Duerk and the crew of the Benevolence would attend to the sick and wounded being brought back from the Third Fleet’s operations against Japan.

Upon cessation of hostilities on Sept. 2, 1945, Duerk and the Benevolence crew took on the task of repatriating liberated Allied prisoners of war, an endeavor that solidified her commitment to nursing and patient care.

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An undated official portrait of Rear Adm. Alene B. Duerk.

(U.S. Navy photo)

Years later, when asked about her service for the Library of Congress’ Veteran’s History Project, Duerk said, “The time I was aboard the hospital ship and we took the prisoners of war, that was something I will never forget . . . that was the most exciting experience of my whole career.”

Thereafter, Duerk was assigned to Naval Hospital Great Lakes until being released from active service in 1946.

In 1951, Duerk returned to active duty serving as a nursing instructor at the Naval Hospital Corps School in Portsmouth, Va. and later as inter-service education coordinator at the Naval Hospital Philadelphia, Penn.
Her skills in ward management, surgical nursing and mentoring would be put to use over the next two decades while serving at hospitals in San Diego; and Yokosuka, Japan; at the Recruiting Station in Chicago; and in Wash., D.C.

In May 1970, following assignments as assistant for Nurse Recruitment in the Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (Health Affairs) and assistant head of Medical Placement Liaison (Nurse Corps) at the Bureau of Naval Personnel, Duerk was appointed director of the Navy Nurse Corps.

Over the next five years, Duerk provided direction for the Nurse Corps, updating policies affecting Navy Medicine and expanding the sphere of nursing into ambulatory care, anesthesia, pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology.

Her selection to the rank of rear admiral was approved by President Richard Nixon on April 26, 1972. The first woman to be selected for flag rank, she was advanced on June 1, 1972.

Rear Adm. Duerk retired in 1975, but remained a strong advocate for Navy nursing through the remainder of her life.

Duerk was awarded the Naval Reserve Medal, American Campaign Medal; Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with bronze star; World War II Victory Medal; Navy Occupation Service Medal, Asia Clasp; and the National Defense Service Medal with bronze star.

Duerk’s biography offers greater insight into her service, it can be found online at the website of the Naval History and Heritage Command here: http://www.history.navy.mil/browse-by-topic/diversity/women-in-the-navy/first-female-flag-officer.html

See the entry on Duerk at the Library of Congress Veteran’s History Project online here: http://memory.loc.gov/diglib/vhp/bib/loc.natlib.afc2001001.28852

The Naval History and Heritage Command, located at the Washington Navy Yard, is responsible for the preservation, analysis, and dissemination of U.S. naval history and heritage. It provides the knowledge foundation for the Navy by maintaining historically relevant resources and products that reflect the Navy’s unique and enduring contributions through our nation’s history, and supports the fleet by assisting with and delivering professional research, analysis, and interpretive services. NHHC is composed of many activities including the Navy Department Library, the Navy Operational Archives, the Navy art and artifact collections, underwater archeology, Navy histories, nine museums, USS Constitution repair facility and the historic ship Nautilus.

For more news from Naval History and Heritage Command, visit www.history.navy.mil.

This article originally appeared on the United States Navy. Follow @USNavy on Twitter.

Articles

The Navy will soon order a new submarine that’s deadly AF

The Pentagon is trying to finalize an order for 12 new ballistic missile submarines, the lead ship of which will be named USS Columbia (SSBN 826).


The Navy hopes to place the order before the Trump administration takes office.

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Concept art of USS Columbia (SSBN 826). Image by Naval Sea Systems Command

According to reports by the Daily Caller and USNI News, the order will permit the Navy to start the process of designing and building the submarines. The Congressional Research Service reports that the sub will carry 16 Trident ballistic missiles, a decrease from the 24 missiles carried by the 14 Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines presently in service.

Four other Ohio-class submarines were converted to fire BGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missiles and to support SEALs with covert commando raids.

According to the CRS report, the Columbia-class submarines are expected to be 560 feet long and 43 feet in diameter, roughly the size of the Ohio-class submarine. The vessels will have technological improvements, notably a reactor that will not require refueling as well as taking advantage of techniques used to build the Virginia-class submarines, including modular construction and the use of open architecture to make upgrades easier.

Earlier this year, BreakingDefense.com reported that the vessels will be built by Electric Boat.

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Concept art of the Columbia-class submarine. (US Navy graphic)

This would be the ninth ship to carry the name USS Columbia in U.S. Navy service. The eighth, a Los Angeles-class attack submarine, is still in service and has the hull number SSN 771.

A 2013 Navy release states that the first Columbia-class boomer is expected to begin construction in 2021, enter service in 2027, and undertake its first deterrence patrol in 2031. According to a report by USNI News, each sub is expected to cost about $8 billion.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is SecState’s plan to welcome Taliban into Afghan government

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Oct. 20 there is a place for moderate elements of the Taliban in Afghanistan’s government as long as they renounce violence and terrorism and commit to stability. He also delivered a blunt warning to neighboring Pakistan, insisting Islamabad must step up action against terrorist groups that have found safehaven within its borders.


Speaking on an unannounced trip to Afghanistan where he met Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, and other senior officials at Bagram Air Base north of Kabul, Tillerson said the Taliban must understand that they will never win a military victory and should prepare to negotiate with the government.

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Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah. Photo from US Department of State.

“Clearly, we have to continue to fight against the Taliban, against others, in order for them to understand they will never win a military victory,” Tillerson told a small group of reporters allowed to accompany him from the Qatari capital of Doha. “And there are, we believe, moderate voices among the Taliban, voices that do not want to continue to fight forever. They don’t want their children to fight forever. So we are looking to engage with those voices and have them engage in a reconciliation process leading to a peace process and their full involvement and participation in the government.”

Also read: Here’s what Mattis has to say about his loyalty to the White House

“There’s a place for them in the government if they are ready to come, renouncing terrorism, renouncing violence and being committed to a stable, prosperous Afghanistan,” Tillerson said.

Tillerson outlined to Ghani and Abdullah the Trump administration’s new South Asia policy, which the president rolled out last month and views the region through a lens that includes Afghanistan as well as Pakistan and India, both of which he will visit later this week. The approach is heavy on combatting and beating extremist groups in all three countries.

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Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Photo from US Embassy Consulate in Korea.

“We also want to work with regional partners to ensure that there are no threats in the region,” he said. “This is very much a regional effort as you saw. It was rolled out in the strategy itself, demanding that others deny safehaven to terrorists anywhere in the region. We are working closely with Pakistan as well.”

Tillerson will visit Islamabad on Oct. 21 and said he would be telling Pakistani officials that their cooperation in fighting extremists and driving them from hideouts on their territory is imperative to a good relationship with the US.

“It will be based upon whether they take action that we feel is necessary to move the process forward for both creating opportunity for reconciliation and peace in Afghanistan but also ensuring a stable future Pakistan,” he said. ” Pakistan needs to, I think, take a clear-eyed view of the situation that they are confronted with in terms of the number of terrorist organizations that find safehaven inside of Pakistan. So we want to work closely Pakistan to create a more stable and secure Pakistan as well.”

The administration’s strategy for South Asia envisions it as part of what Tillerson referred to in a speech last week as Indian-Pacific Ocean platform, anchored by four democracies: India, Australia, Japan, and the United States. The US is placing high hopes on India’s contributions in South Asia, especially in Afghanistan where Tillerson said New Delhi could have significant influence and presence by creating jobs and “the right environment for the future of Afghanistan.”

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Gen. John Nicholson. Photo from Dept of Defense.

Tillerson also met at Bagram with senior members of the US military contingent, including Army Gen. John Nicholson, the top US commander in Afghanistan. He underscored the ongoing US commitment to stabilizing Afghanistan but stressed it is “conditions based,” meaning that the government must meet certain benchmarks. He praised Ghani for his efforts to curb corruption and prepare for the country parliamentary elections next year.

Related: Former Pentagon chief warns against putting too much trust in generals to lead US through political fights

“It is imperative in the end that we are denying safehaven to any terrorist organizations or any extremists to any part of this world,” Tillerson said.

He arrived in Afghanistan cloaked in secrecy and under heavy security. He had slipped out of Qatar in the pre-dawn hours and flew a gray C-17 military plane to Bagram, jettisoning his public schedule, which had him meeting with staffers at the US Embassy in Doha.

Tillerson, a one-time private pilot, rode in the cockpit wearing a headset and chatting with the crew as the plane took off from the Al-Udeid Air Base outside Doha.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The US invaded Iraq 15 years ago today

The US invaded Iraq 15 years ago on March 20, 2018.


The invasion was approved by Congress and had majority support among the American public, but is now considered one of the greatest foreign policy blunders in US history.

Former President George W. Bush’s administration sold it on the pretext that Saddam Hussein had, or was trying to make, weapons of mass destruction (most notably nuclear weapons), and that Iraq’s government had connections to various terrorist groups, including al-Qaeda.

Also read: John Bolton still thinks the Iraq War was a good idea

While Hussein’s links to terrorism and nuclear ambitions turned out to be untrue, the US occupied the country for nearly eight years before pulling out, creating a power vacuum that ISIS filled.

Two years later, the US military was back in the country — this time fighting a completely different enemy.

Here’s a look back at the last 15 years:

“The Iraqi regime has plotted to develop anthrax, and nerve gas, and nuclear weapons for over a decade,” Bush said during the 2002 State of the Union Address.

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U.S. President George W. Bush at the 2002 State of the Union address in January 2002. (Wikipedia)

For more than a year after 9/11, the Bush administration made similar comments about Hussein’s nuclear ambitions, and also his ties with terrorism.

“Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction,” Vice President Dick Cheney said in August 2002.

“We don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud,” National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice said on CNN in September 2002.

These statements, and others made by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Colin Powell, turned out to be based on faulty intelligence.

Some disagreed with the Bush administration’s intelligence assessments, including former Commander of US Central Command Gen. Anthony Zinni, and even argued that the administration lied about Hussein’s nuclear ambitions and links to terrorism.

On March 20, 2003, after Bush gave Hussein 48 hours to relinquish power, the US launched Tomahawk cruise missiles on Baghdad in a strategy the Pentagon called “shock and awe.”

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The “shock and awe” bombing strategy was followed by an invasion of about 130,000 US troops.

In early April 2003, Baghdad fell, symbolized by the toppling of a state of Hussein in Firdaus Square.

In May 2003, Bush landed on the USS Abraham Lincoln in a fighter jet while wearing a flight suit, and announced that major combat operations in Iraq were over.

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The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72).

A large sign reading “Mission Accomplished” hung behind him as Bush spoke, but in reality, the US military would fight a long, brutal insurgency for years after his speech.

In March 2004, a few months after Saddam Hussein was captured near Tikrit, four Blackwater contractors were killed and hung by insurgents from a bridge in Fallujah.

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The incident led to a nearly year-long battle for Fallujah.

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An Iraqi T-72 tank during the Liberation of Fallujah by Iraqi

The insurgents that US troops battled over the coming years were a diverse group, composed of criminals, former Iraqi soldiers, Sunni militias, and eventually foreign fighters such as al-Qaeda.

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al-Qaeda fighters.

In 2004, and in the coming years, US troops battled insurgents not just in Fallujah, but all across Iraq, including Mosul, Samarra, Najaf, Abu Ghraib (where it was discovered US troops were torturing and abusing detained Iraqis), and many more.

In January 2005, photographer Chris Hondros captured US troops accidentally killing the parents of 5-year-old Samar Hassan seen below.

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The incident shined light on a growing concern that US troops were often accidentally killing civilians.

One of the most egregious incidents came in 2007 when Blackwater contractors killed 17 Iraqi civilians in Nisour Square in Baghdad.

By 2007, as Iraq was in chaos and US troops were battling a bloody insurgency that some characterized as a game of whack-a-mole, the US decided to deploy 30,000 more troops to the country in what became known as the “surge.”

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(Photo by US Air Force Staff Sgt. DeNoris A. Mickle)

With nearly 900 killed, 2007 was also the bloodiest year for US troops in Iraq, which added to the growing anti-war sentiment among the American population.

Some of the sentiment, however, had been tempered over the previous four years by Bush’s decision to not allow the media to photograph the coffins of returning US troops — something they knew helped the Vietnam protesters in the 1970s.

Source: NBC

Related: How the Iraq War inspired North Korea to build nukes

Growing anti-war sentiment led not only to the Republicans losing Congress in 2006, but also the election of President Barack Obama in 2008.

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Shortly after Obama’s inauguration, he announced the drawdown from Iraq, which culminated in the last troops leaving in December 2011.

In total, the war in Iraq killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians, 4,500 American troops, and cost over $2 trillion.

But the Iraqi government and army could not fill the power vacuum left behind by the departing US military. In 2014, a new terrorist group called ISIS began taking large swaths of northern Iraq.

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This photo from an ISIS video shows a painful part of the ISIS recruit training.

ISIS, which was founded by Abu Musab al Zarqawi in 2004, entered Mosul in June 2014.

In 2014, a few thousand troops were sent back to Iraq to dislodge ISIS, but this time the US had a new strategy.

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US soldiers gather at a military base north of Mosul, Iraq, January 4, 2017. (Photo by US Army)

Whether learning from old mistakes or simply because there was a new administration with a different agenda, US troops this time were deployed mainly to train and support Iraqi security forces and Kurdish militias battling ISIS.

More: The US is beginning to draw down from fighting in Iraq

In October 2016, the main battle for Mosul began, where the Iraqi military slowly retook the city with US artillery support. By July 2017, the city had fell after a long siege.

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(Photo by US Army)

An AP investigation found that 9,000-11,000 civilians were killed in the battle for Mosul.

In December 2017, the Iraqi military declared the country “fully liberated” from ISIS. Although sectarian tensions still remain, Iraq has become more stable since the fall of ISIS.

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There remains disagreement about who or what is responsible for ISIS gaining so much ground in Iraq. Some blame Bush’s initial invasion, some blame Obama’s drawdown.

While the two are not mutually exclusive, it cannot be denied that the Bush administration initiated the fighting.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How US Marine Wayne Terwilliger charged a Japanese tank head-on

The nose of their amphibious tank entered the ocean and bobbed through the waves en route toward the reef of Saipan, the largest archipelago among the Northern Mariana Islands. Wayne “Twig” Terwilliger, a radioman assigned to the 2nd Armored Amphibian Battalion of the 2nd Marine Division, watched helplessly as they crept over the reef toward the beach into the range of Japanese defensive positions.

“I started seeing these puffs of water all around us, and it took a second to realize what was causing them,” Terwilliger wrote in his autobiography. “Then we heard small arms fire hitting our tank, and the reality sank in: there were people on that island who wanted us dead.”


Prior to the invasion of Saipan, U.S. Navy frogmen conducted a daring reconnaissance mission in advance of the assault force. Valuable intelligence collected had provided the amphibious tanks with adjustments to successfully land on the beach — but they didn’t anticipate how their tracked vehicles would navigate earth displaced by battlefield weaponry in combat.

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Wayne Terwilliger, third from the left, on the beach at Saipan during a shelling attack, June 1944. The photo ran in newspapers across the country; in 2000, it appeared as background on a sheet of commemorative stamps issued by the U.S. Postal Service. Photo courtesy of wayneterwilliger.com

While the amphibious tanks attempted to land on the beach, some were destroyed and others became trapped in craters left from mortar shells in the sand. “Japanese mortars kept whistling over our heads,” Terwilliger said, describing his first hours in combat stuck inside a large, green, immobilized target. “Most of them were headed toward the beach area, but we never knew when one would come our way. We also had no idea how long we’d be stuck there. We were there at least a couple of hours, though it seemed like forever.”

Terwilliger’s crew left the disabled tank and scattered, diving into foxholes situated out of the open. Gunfire snapped overhead, and explosions from mortars and grenades flung a wall of shrapnel through the air. Before they could catch their breath the rumbling sound of an unfamiliar tank grew nearer. Their horror realized Japanese armor with the big red “Rising Sun” emblem on the tank’s side was blasting its 37mm turret gun and had stopped directly beside their foxhole.

With nothing more than a few hand grenades, his crew couldn’t defend themselves. They pulled the pins and hurled them at the tank before fleeing for cover, but there wasn’t any within crawling distance. Terwilliger ran under heavy fire across open ground until he reached an old Japanese artillery piece. His stomach dropped when he realized he had run the wrong way. He found a little path, as if all of the enemy’s attention was upon him, and sprinted toward the beach as bullets zipped passed. He looked over his shoulder to find the Japanese tank trailing his every move.

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Wayne “Twig” Terwilliger, front left, with Company D, 2nd Armored Amphibian Battalion, which was created to lead the assault on key islands in the South Pacific. They fought at Saipan, Tinian, and Iwo Jima, and were preparing for new battles when the war ended. Photo courtesy of wayneterwilliger.com

He zigzagged through the soft sand to give the tank a harder target to hit. Marines waved and yelled to get his attention, and he dashed over a small sand dune for cover. “I looked back just in time to see one of our tanks made a direct hit, which knocked the Japanese tank on its side,” Terwilliger reflected. “That was my first six or seven hours of combat.”

Terwilliger served honorably in the U.S. Marine Corps, participating in the invasion of Tinian, as well as being among the first amphibious tanks to lead the invasion of Iwo Jima. During World War II, many amateur and professional baseball players joined service teams when not actively participating in combat operations.

“We didn’t have any spikes so we played in the boots the Marines issued us,” Terwilliger told ESPN. “You would have an air-raid sound during the game, you would scatter and then come back later to finish.” Terwilliger helped lead his battalion team to a 28-0 record, even winning the 2nd Division Championship — not bad for a high school second baseman.

When news of Japan’s surrender in 1945 came in, Terwilliger was in Hawaii, preparing to invade mainland Japan. He left the military that same year and went on to have a successful career as a player, coach, and manager in Major League Baseball. For 60 years, taking Terwilliger well into his 80s, he remained active in America’s national pastime. He was a teammate of Jackie Robinson — the first Black player to break the color barrier — and a personal friend of Ted Williams, one of the greatest hitters in all of baseball. However, Terwilliger’s most prized experience was his service as a U.S. Marine.

BRCC Presents: WWII Army Ranger Roy Huereque & The Best Defense Foundation

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

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