Israel maintains it will strike Iranian targets in Syria as long as they ally with Hezbollah and Hamas, both anti-Israel US-designated terror organizations that operate near Israel’s borders.
Despite the near constant stream of powerful countries bombing targets in Syria, and Syria’s weak attempts to defend against the attacks, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aide in charge of foreign military assistance said Syria had “everything it needs.”
Israel has long wanted Russia to withhold its more powerful defenses from Syria.
Israel is in charge now
Israel stomped on Russian-made Syrian air defenses on May 9, 2018, in the largest Israeli Air Force attack in Syria since the two countries went to war in 1973. The massive battle saw Syria’s older Russian-made air defenses outmatched — and obliterated.
Israel has carried out strikes with the express purpose of beating down Iranian forces in southern Syria. By all accounts, the attacks succeeded in taking out command posts, infrastructure, and munitions. Israel won’t tolerate a buildup of Iranian forces along its borders in Syria as Iran explicitly seeks to destroy Israel.
Though Israel has engaged in more than 100 airstrikes in Syria since 2012, mostly against Iranian-linked forces, it has treaded softly and attempted to avoid a larger war.
Without new reinforcements like Russia’s S-300, and with the former defenses laying in ruin, Iranian forces in Syria will be greatly exposed to Israeli air power.
Russia may continue to trade with Tehran after the US imposed sanctions following its withdraw from the Iran deal, and continue to be Iran’s ally on paper. But Russia, by denying Syria air defenses, looks to have turned its back on supporting the regional ambitions of Ayatollah Khamenei.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
As if shortages of toilet paper, bottled water and hand sanitizer were not enough; shooters are reporting ammunition shortages amid the 2020 COVID-19 outbreak. The response to the virus seems to be responsible for the next nationwide shortage of ammunition and possibly firearms.
The ever prescient Alexander Crown, recently penned an article for RECOIL, When the Brass Dries Up and lays out some of the more recent ammunition shortages and how to cope with them. It seems very timely amid reports we have been hearing since early February.
We’ve seen subtle signs of a panic buying here and there the past few weeks but it looks like the lid is about to blow off.
A looming shortage of ammunition and firearms
A reader from Arizona, Brent Stuart, tried to purchase two cases of pistol primers last week from Sportsman’s Warehouse in Phoenix, AZ, this afternoon and was told he could only purchase one case. The clerk at the counter told him there was a new corporate policy limiting the amounts of firearms, ammunition and reloading components purchased in a single day. According to the employee, he had received a copy of a memo from corporate headquarters that morning limiting firearm, reloading components and ammunition purchases temporarily.
The memo states:
With increased demand and limited supply on select items, Sportsman’s Warehouse has implemented the following purchase limits to ensure our product reaches as many of our customers as possible. Firearm Limits:
Handguns (any type): 2 per customer per day.
Modern Sporting Rifles: 1 per customer per day.
Ammunition and Reloading Components Limits:
All Bulk Handgun and Centerfire Rifle Ammunition (100 rd + count box): 1 Per caliber, per customer per day.
Bulk Rimfire (200 rd + count box): 1 per customer per day.
All Handgun, Rimfire and Rifle hunting ammunition: 3 boxes per customer per day
All 25 ct. shotgun shells: 10 boxes per gauge per day.
All primers: 1k per day.
Keg powder (4,5,8): 1 per day.
All 1lb powder cans: 1 per day.
We tried contacting Sportsman’s directly Friday 3/13 and our call was placed on hold for more than 30 minutes. So, we took the liberty of calling a few of the local stores in Reno and Carson City, Nevada. Both stores reported no limits on anything, but said ammunition was flying off the shelves. One employee reported a 75% decrease in stock on the shelves within the two hours he had been there. The other stated that it would not surprise him if such a policy would be put into place soon as a measure to stop ammunition and firearm shortages due to COVID-19.
Online retailer blames COVID-19 for buying surge
Online ammunition retailer, Ammo.com, reports a significant increase in sales since February 23, 2020. The company believes that this surge corresponds with the public concern regarding the COVID-19 virus.
When compared to the 11 days before February 23 (February 12 to 22), in the 11 days after (February 23 to March 4), Ammo.com’sber of transactions increased 68%.
Alex Horsman, the marketing manager at Ammo.com, said of the surge, “We know certain things impact ammo sales, mostly political events or economic instability when people feel their rights may end up infringed, but this is our first experience with a virus leading to such a boost in sales.” Horsman continued, “But it makes sense. A lot of our customers like to be prepared. And for many of them, it’s not just facemasks and Thera-Flu. It’s knowing that no matter what happens, they can keep themselves and their families safe.”
We queried another big box store, Cabela’s and Bass Pro-Shops, who reported that ammunition is selling at a record pace. Week to date tallies for Herter’s 9mm 115-grain FMJ ammunition is 5,589 boxes. That’s 279,450 rounds and it’s not even Saturday. Month to date sales are 40,152 boxes for 2,007,600 rounds and we are not even halfway through March for just that one type and brand of 9mm ammo.
Cabela’s had no plans to limit purchases at this time.
Firearm sales and COVID-19
Firearm sales numbers are always difficult to nail down definitively, but at least in Nevada, calls into the state’s background check system have been taking in excess of 2 hours. At certain times after waiting for 30 minutes or more a message tells the dealer that the queue is full and disconnects the line, causing them to call back in and having to wait again.
We’ve witnessed that happening while in several different gun shops and ranges over the past several weeks. It appears more people are buying firearms than usual.
Firearm and ammunition sales in California are reported to be five times above normal due to COVID-19.
A shooting range in Clovis, California, had to stop customers from buying ammunition to take home because they were running out of ammunition for the range. The Firing Line owner Jake Belemjian says people are stocking up on ammunition because of COVID-19 and the shop can’t keep up with the demand.
If this were not bad enough, the NRA is reporting that today, an ordinance has passed in Champaign, IL, to empower the mayor to “[o]rder the discontinuance of selling, distributing, dispensing or giving away of … firearms or ammunition of any character whatsoever.”
Apparently, politicians want to fan fears of limiting access to firearms and ammunition, leading more people into panic and creating more shortfalls in supply. We have speculated that the State of Nevada’s background check system’s extensive hold times may be the work of an anti-gun governor ordering staff cuts or allocating personnel elsewhere, but it seems coincidental with the timing of COVID-19.
The fact that it is an election year with an outspoken anti-gun candidate on the presidential ticket could add fuel to this fire and spur along potential ammunition and firearm shortages even without COVID-19, but probably not this early in the cycle.
Is This a Nationwide Shortage?
Dealers and distributors who have maintained good inventory should be able to continue to service customers. Most shooters who’ve gone through these shortages before have learned from the past and planned accordingly.
We aren’t yet seeing a firearm shortage due to COVID-19 in our neighborhood, but there may be an extended ammunition shortage on the way if it is not here already. In 2014, it was 22 LR, according to Ammo.com that caliber is moving a lot, but the surprise we found topping their list of most in-demand ammunition for the past few weeks was 40 SW.
40 SW: 410%
12 gauge: 95%
380 ACP: 43%
45 ACP: 35%
308 Winchester: 32%
22 lr: 29%
We would never tell anyone to not buy ammunition. Just don’t act all panicky and act like the folks who are building toilet paper forts in their garages.
Speaking of which, Franklin Armory has a smoking deal on Government issue “MRE” toilet paper and it comes with a free BFS-III binary trigger. Of course, that means that you will probably need to buy more ammunition.
Imagine how long it takes to reprogram millions of years of evolution in the human brain, trying to snuff out the instincts that kept early humans alive. Forcibly changing those instincts to instead train an individual to put themselves in harm’s way. If you ask a Navy SEAL, he’ll tell it takes about about six months, give or take — the amount of time you need to get through BUD/S.
If it ever seemed like SEALs and SEAL veterans just tend to think differently than most other civilians and veterans, then you’re on to something. Their brains have actually been reprogrammed, specifically within the amygdala, to process fear differently from everyone else.
Fear is a primal instinct that kept a lot of early humans from becoming food for dire wolves and cave hyenas. These days, humans have fewer cave hyenas to worry about, but that instinct still keeps us from walking down a dark alley in a tough neighborhood at night. Fear helps us manage risk and book it out of a situation that overwhelms us. The part of the brain that processes fear is the amygdala, which actually processes all emotions.
With fear present, the amygdala alerts the brain stem, which causes you to sweat, causes your heart to race, and initiates your body’s “fight or flight” response. The amygdala’s emotional response process is twice as fast as the frontal lobe’s logical decision-making processes.
Humans, as it turns out, are emotional creatures. The Navy takes full advantage of that.
“We introduce our students, on day one, to absolute chaos,” Capt. Roger Herbert, then-commander of the SEAL training program at Coronado Island, told the History Channel. “When you look at historic mistakes on the battlefield, they’re almost always associated with fear and panic. So, the capacity to control these impulses is extremely important.”
Petty Officer 1st Class Zack Schaffer, U.S. Navy SEAL and an advanced training instructor, engages targets during a close quarters defense hooded-box drill at Naval Special Warfare Advanced Training Command. The drill tests operators’ ability to quickly react to lethal and non-lethal threats with the appropriate use of force. Individual augmentees are used as role players during each scenario.
(U.S. Navy Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Michelle Kapica)
Navy SEAL recruits are put through special training to change how their brains react to fear. The Navy wanted to know why lifelong athletes could fail BUD/S training while some kids who never saw the ocean before the Navy could succeed.
One close-quarters combat exercise, the hooded box drill, involves putting a hood on a SEAL candidate that renders them blind and deaf, and then putting them in a combat situation. The hood is then ripped off and the candidate has to respond in seconds.
Sometimes, the response needs to be lethal and sometimes it needs to be nonviolent. Panic is not an option. Constant exposure to fear results in experiencing suppressed emotional responses and less lag time between the fear response and the frontal lobe logic process.
A gap between the two responses could leave a special operator standing frozen, unable to respond, not knowing what to do next. Navy SEALs do not have this problem.
It’s not clear yet who is responsible for the truck attack that killed dozens at a Bastille Day celebration in France. But terrorist groups have long been calling for supporters to attack “infidels” with cars.
At least 70 people were killed in the southern French city of Nice when a truck ran into a crowd celebrating the country’s national holiday Thursday night.
The earliest information from the attack does point to terrorist involvement. US President Barack Obama said it appears to be a “horrific terrorist attack.”
The truck was reportedly loaded with firearms and grenades, and US officials told The Daily Beast that the terrorist group ISIS (also known as the Islamic State, ISIL, or Daesh) is a top suspect in the attacks.
Both ISIS and Al Qaeda have publicly called for supporters to use vehicles as weapons.
The Institute for the Study of War noted in a 2014 report that ISIS spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani instructed supporters in a speech in September of that year.
“If you are not able to find an IED or a bullet, then single out the disbelieving American, Frenchman, or any of their allies. Smash his head with a rock, or slaughter him with a knife, or run him over with your car, or throw him down from a high place, or choke him, or poison him,” Adnani said.
And a 2014 ISIS video aimed at French-speaking recruits encouraged supporters to attack people in France with cars and other easily accessible weapons.
“If you are unable to come to Syria or Iraq, then pledge allegiance in your place — pledge allegiance in France,” a French ISIS member says in the video. “Operate within France.”
The man then goes on to mention cars specifically: “There are weapons and cars available and targets ready to be hit. … Kill them and spit in their faces and run over them with your cars.”
Al Qaeda has also put out global calls to attack Westerners with cars.
In the second issue of its English-language magazine “Inspire,” the terrorist group referred to pickup trucks as “the ultimate mowing machine.”
“The idea is to use a pickup truck as a mowing machine, not to mow grass but mow down the enemies of Allah,” the magazine article states.
Pro-ISIS accounts on the messaging app Telegram, which the terrorist group uses as a platform to disseminate its message, have been celebrating the Nice attack. But the group has yet to make any claim of responsibility.
ISIS in particular has increasingly been relying on external attacks as it has been losing territory in the Middle East, where its self-declared “caliphate” lies.
When the terrorist group first rampaged across Iraq and Syria claiming territory, it encouraged supporters to travel to the Islamic State, but recently ISIS rhetoric has shifted to focus on encouraging people to mount attacks in their home countries. Sometimes these attacks are directed by ISIS leadership, but sometimes they are carried out by lone actors who don’t have any significant contact with ISIS members.
Mia Bloom, a terrorism expert at Georgia State University, told Business Insider that it’s too soon to tell who’s responsible for the Nice attack.
“It is true that Isis has returned many fighters to France for these kinds of attacks,” she wrote in an email. “It is equally true that if Al Qaeda felt ignored it might plan an elaborate operation to get itself back in the the media spotlight and back on the map. My research showed groups might compete with each other for ever-[more] spectacular attacks.”
How did you get such an immense craft off the ground? Very carefully.
The B-36 had six Pratt and Whitney R-4360 engines in a pusher configuration and four General Electric J47 jet engines. These were able to lift a fully-loaded B-36 off the ground and propel it to a top speed of 435 miles per hour.
Depending on the model, the B-36 had up to 16 20mm cannon in twin turrets. The B-36 entered service in 1948 – and it gave SAC 11 years of superb service, being replaced by the B-52. Five planes survive, all of which are on display.
Below, this clip from the 1955 movie “Strategic Air Command” shows how this plane took flight. Jimmy Stewart plays a major league baseball player called back into Air Force service (Stewart was famously a bomber pilot who saw action in World War II and the Vietnam War).
Also recognizable in this clip is the flight engineer, played by Harry Morgan, famous for playing Sherman Potter on “MASH” and as Detective Rich Gannon in the 1960s edition of “Dragnet.”
With a deafening roar that rattled windows, SpaceX — the rocket company founded by Elon Musk — fired up its new Mars rocket-ship prototype for the first time April 3, 2019.
The roughly 60-foot-tall stainless-steel rocket ship, called the “Starhopper” (previously the “Test Hopper”), is a basic prototype of a much larger vehicle called Starship. When completed, perhaps in the early 2020s, the two-stage launcher may stand perhaps 400 feet tall and be capable of landing its nearly 200-foot-tall spaceship on Mars.
The Starhopper prototype gave a full-throated yet brief one-second roar of its sole Raptor engine at 7:57 p.m. CDT on April 3, 2019, based on Business Insider’s eyewitness account.
“Starhopper completed tethered hop. All systems green,” Musk tweeted shortly after the brief firing here on Brazos Island. SpaceX had planned to test the rocket ship earlier this month but had issues with ice-crystal formation in the engine.
A camera on South Padre Island, which is located about 5 1/2 miles from SpaceX’s launch site, recorded the first fiery “hop” test through the haze:
FIRST STARSHIP RAPTOR STATIC FIRE TEST AT SPACEX BOCA CHICA TEXAS
The sound here on Brazos Island was deafening — so loud that part of a resident’s window blinds was knocked off its frame.
“I was cooking collard greens and my house started rattling. It was like a couple of jet airplanes taking off in your living room,” said Maria Pointer, a retired deck officer who lives with her husband, Ray, about 1.8 miles from SpaceX’s new launchpad.
She said previous tests by SpaceX were loud — comparable to the noise of a jet engine — but “this was magnified to about 10 jet-engine roars,” she said.
First Raptor Static Fire test on StarHopper – April 3, 2019
“It reminds you of when the Blue Angels fly over real low,” she added. “That’s the sound. It rattled everything. This was the full Raptor with all the juice going to it. This was the real thing.”
The lone road to SpaceX
SpaceX has been coordinating with Cameron County law enforcement to close access to Highway 4 — the only road into and out of the remote beach community, which about two dozen people share with SpaceX.
During SpaceX’s tests and road closings, renters and longtime residents are permitted to pass through a soft checkpoint about 15 miles east of Boca Chica Village. For safety reasons — the Starhopper is an experimental vehicle that might explode — no one is allowed to pass through a hard checkpoint about 1 1/2 miles west of the launchpad.
Boca Chica Beach, a popular spot with locals from Brownsville and other areas, is also closed during testing operations. Each day of testing has lasted about eight hours.
SpaceX workers taking Starhopper to a launchpad near Boca Chica Beach, Texas, on March 8, 2019.
On April 3, 2019, multiple residents said the road closings had proved increasingly vexing, given their frequency, extended hours, and tightening security meant to ward off gawkers.
When Cameron County, the state, and other authorities gave SpaceX permission to use the site in 2014, the company agreed to close the road about once a month. Ray Pointer said the road had closings more or less every day for the past week.
Despite the tightened security and compounding inconvenience, Maria Pointer said it was fun to hear and see a bit of history taking place.
“This is the good part about it all,” she said. “It’s exciting.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
In December of 1903, the Wright Brothers made history in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina as they took to the skies in their powered and controlled aircraft, making an 852-foot flight. Less than a dozen years later, mankind revolutionized military aviation with a hugely important invention: the synchronization gear.
This ingenious device managed the milliseconds that stood between crashing to the ground and defeating your enemy.
In the early days of World War I, aviation was still very much in its infancy. People were skeptical about the effectiveness of aircraft in battle, so many turned to mounted cavalry for reconnaissance. When that couldn’t cut it, they finally gave aircraft a shot — which turned out to be an effective way to cross no-man’s land without serious risk.
The low-power engines of the time, however, couldn’t build enough lift to carry any weapons what weren’t also found on the battlefield below. Machine guns only become a viable option once the engineers increased wing space. Thus, the iconic biplane was born.
The attached machine gun, which usually faced the rear of the aircraft, could rain Hell from above, but they were extremely ineffective against other aircraft. To address that need, they affixed a forward-facing machine gun that could fire in the direction of the aircraft. The problem was, however, that there was a propeller to contend with.
As an interim solution, the British developed the F.E.2. This machine-gun faced the front of planes but, to avoid hitting the propellers, it was located in the middle of the aircraft. It wasn’t pretty but it was an effective compromise.
Then, the Germans introduced their newest advancement: the synchronization gear. Pilot Kurt Wintgens scored the first aerial victory utilizing one on July 1, 1915 — and it changed everything.
The theory behind it is fairly simple to explain. The machine gun was placed directly behind the propellers and would fire only when the propellers were safely out of the way. The execution, however, was much trickier. A poorly timed synchronization gear meant that the pilot would drop out of the sky like Wile E. Coyote.
Let’s talk mechanics: A timing cam rotated at the same speed as the propellers. This would physically stop the trigger from pulling at the moment a propeller was in the line of fire. The timing cam allowed the propeller to move at a various RPMs without adjusting the machine gun itself.
Americans improved on this design by employing hydraulics near the end of the war. This meant a faster rate of fire, more acute synchronization, and increased gun accuracy. The system could be adapted for nearly any engine and aircraft. The synchronization gear became a relic after the jet engine eliminated the need for propellers, but it still stands as one of the most ingenious inventions in aviation.
For more information on the physics of WWI aviation, check out the video below:
The Air Force is now finalizing requirements documentation, planning a new round of combat-scenario assessments, and refining an acquisition strategy for its fast-tracked new Light Attack aircraft.
The Air Force plans a new round of tests and experiments for the new aircraft — a new multi-role aircraft intended to fill specific and highly dangerous attack mission requirements amid circumstances where the US has achieved air supremacy.
Following an initial Air Force Light Attack aircraft in August 2017, which included assessments of a handful of off-the-shelf options, the Air Force is now streamlining its effort to continue testing only two of the previous competitors from summer 2017 — Textron Aviation’s AT-6 Wolverine and the Sierra Nevada/Embraer A-29 Super Tucano.
Senior Air Force leaders had told Warrior Maven that, depending upon the results of summer 2017’s experimentation at Holloman AFB, N.M., the service might send a light attack option under consideration to actual combat missions to further assets is value. Now, given what is being learned during ongoing evaluations, service officials say an actual “combat” demo test will not be necessary.
“At this time, we believe we have the right information to move forward with light attack, without conducting a combat demonstration. The Air Force is gathering enough decision-quality data through experimentation to support rigorous light attack aircraft assessments along with rapid procurement/fielding program feasibility reviews,” Air Force spokeswoman Capt. Emily Grabowski told Warrior Maven.
Grabowski added that the for the new aircraft, a $2.5 billion effort over the course of the service’s 5-year development plan.
In keeping with the Air Force vision for the Light Attack aircraft, the anticipated test combat scenarios in which for the US Air Force has air supremacy – but still needs maneuverability, close air support and the ability to precisely destroy ground targets.
The emerging Light Attack aircraft is envisioned as a low-cost, commercially-built, combat-capable plane able to perform a wide range of missions in a less challenging or more permissive environment.
The idea is to save mission time for more expensive and capable fighter jets, such as an F-15 or F-22, when an alternative can perform needed air-ground attack missions — such as recent attacks on ISIS.
Light Attack aircraft, able to hover close to the ground and attack enemies in close proximity to US forces amid a fast-moving, dynamic combat situation, would quite likely be of substantial value in counterinsurgency-type fights as well as near-peer, force-on-force engagements.
The combat concept here, were the Air Force to engage in a substantial conflict with a major, technically-advanced adversary, would be to utilize stealth attack and advanced 5th-Gen fighters to establish air superiority — before sending light aircraft into a hostile area to support ground maneuvers, fire precision weapons at ground targets from close range, and even perform on-the-spot combat rescue missions when needed.
Additionally, the Air Force will experiment with rapidly building and operating an exportable, shareable, affordable network to enable air platforms to communicate with joint and multi-national forces and command-and-control nodes, Grabowski said.
The upcoming experiment, to take place from May to July of 2018 at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, is expected to align with combat-capability assessment parameters consistent with those used August 2017.
“This will let us gather the data needed for a rapid procurement,” Heather Wilson, Secretary of the Air Force, said in a written statement.
Air Force officials previously provided these parameters to Warrior Maven, during the analysis phase following summer 2017’s experiment:
– Basic Surface Attack – Assess impact accuracy using hit/miss criteria of practice/laser-guided bomb, and unguided/guided rockets
– Close Air Support (CAS) – Assess ability to find, fix, track target and engage simulated operational targets while communicating with
the Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC)
– Daytime Ground Assault Force (GAF) – assess aircraft endurance, range, ability to communicate with ground forces through unsecure and secure radio and receive tactical updates
– Rescue Escort (RESCORT) – Assess pilot workload to operate with a helicopter, receive area updates and targeting data, employ ballistic, unguided/guided rockets and laser-guided munitions
– Night CAS – Assess pilot workload to find, fix, track, target and engage operational targets
At the same time, service officials do say the upcoming tests will more fully explore some additional criteria, such as an examination of logistics and maintenance requirements, weapons and sensor issues, training syllabus validity, networking and future interoperability with partner forces.
A-29 Super Tucano
US-trained pilots with the Afghan Air Force have been attacking the Taliban with A-29 Super Tucano aircraft.
A-29s are turboprop planes armed with one 20mm cannon below the fuselage able to shoot 650 rounds per minute, one 12.7mm machine gun (FN Herstal) under each wing and up to four 7.62mm Dillion Aero M134 Miniguns able to shoot up to 3,000 rounds per minute.
Super Tucanos are also equipped with 70mm rockets, air-to-air missiles such as the AIM-9L Sidewinder, air-to-ground weapons such as the AGM-65 Maverick and precision-guided bombs. It can also use a laser rangefinder and laser-guided weapons.
The Super Tucano is a highly maneuverable light attack aircraft able to operate in high temperatures and rugged terrain. It is 11.38 meters long and has a wingspan of 11.14 meters; its maximum take-off weight is 5,400 kilograms. The aircraft has a combat radius of 300 nautical miles, can reach speeds up to 367 mph and hits ranges up to 720 nautical miles.
AT-6 Light Attack
The Textron Aviation AT-6 is the other multi-role light attack aircraft being analyzed by the Air Force. It uses a Lockheed A-10C mission computer and a CMC Esterline glass cockpit with flight management systems combined with an L3 Wescam MX-Ha15Di multi-sensor suite which provides color and IR sensors, laser designation technology and a laser rangefinder. The aircraft is built with an F-16 hands on throttle and also uses a SparrowHawk HUD with integrated navigation and weapons delivery, according to Textron Aviation information on the plane.
Five international partners observed the first phase of the Light Attack Experiment, and the Air Force plans to invite additional international partners to observe this second phase of experimentation, a service statement said.
NATIONAL HARBOR, Maryland — The Marine Corps is proving the potential of its newly established rapid capabilities office with an early purchase: a tactical decision-making kit, invented by Marine grunts, that blends a range of cutting-edge technologies to allow infantry squads to compete against each other in a realistic simulated training environment.
The service inked a $6.4 million contract March 31 for enough kits to outfit 24 infantry battalions with the technology. The contract came just 51 days after Marine leaders identified the technology, invented in a Camp Lejeune barracks room, as a valuable capability for the service, said Lt. Gen. Robert Walsh, commanding general of Marine Corps Combat Development Command.
In an interview with Military.com on Tuesday at the Navy League’s Sea-Air-Space conference, Walsh said leathernecks from 2nd Battalion, 6th Marines, decided to turn space inside one of the battalion’s barracks facilities into a makeshift warfighting lab, combining a handful of technologies already in use by the Corps into a sophisticated mission rehearsal system.
The North Carolina-based 2/6 created what it called a tactical decision room, linking computers equipped with deployable virtual training environment simulation software already in use by the service.
The Marines used quadcopters to create a 3D map of a real training area, which was then uploaded to the simulation. They could then run and re-run the same realistic mission in the simulated environment. They added in the Corps’ Instrumented-Tactical Engagement Simulation System equipment, technology that allows tracking of battlefield movements and simulated fires using lasers, allowing for realistic training and complex after-action feedback for the warfighter.
“So now what we’re seeing these guys do is, they’re gaming in their barracks, squad-on-squad — gaming back-and-forth on decision-making,” Walsh said. “… They all get to take it 3D, plug it into what they look at virtually, figure out how they’ll attack it, then go conduct the mission.”
In an article published in the Marine Corps Gazette, four platoon leaders from 2/6, all second lieutenants, described how they saw the system they helped create fitting into infantry training.
“As infantrymen, we do not spend as much time in the field as we would like,” they wrote. “The decision room is a way to maximize our training and tactical prowess garrison … we can optimize the natural technical aptitudes of millennials while not requiring units to purchase additional materials.”
The Office of Naval Research assisted with pulling the software components together and making them communicate as a complete system, Walsh said. Ultimately, top Marine leadership, including Commandant Gen. Robert Neller and Assistant Commandant Gen. Glenn Walters, designated the system as a candidate for investment through the Corps’ rapid capabilities office, which activated late last year.
Col. James Jenkins, director of Science and Technology for the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab, said the value of the system is in the ability of squads and small units to run and re-run the same scenario with detailed after-action feedback.
“Here’s the debrief, here’s who shot who when, and here’s why, and go back and just get better every time,” he said. “It’s all about that sets and reps.”
Jenkins said the first system will be delivered early next month, with planned delivery of four tactical decision-making kits per month until all 24 battalions are equipped. Jenkins said the kits will be delivered strategically when a unit has time to learn the technology and incorporate it into training, not during pre-deployment workups or other kinetic seasons.
This summer, between June and July, the Corps plans to publicly promote the tactical decision kit within the service, describing the innovation process at 2/6 and how relatively junior-ranking grunts came up with something of value to the greater institution.
“It was truly bottom-up, how could we make this better,” Jenkins said.
Walsh said the purchase illustrates the need for the rapid capabilities office and funding for fast prototyping and development. Ideally, he said, he would like to have around $50 million available to invest in new ideas and technologies.
“Is it the 100 percent solution? Probably not. We’re going to have to keep adjusting,” he said of the 2/6 invention. “But it’s now getting every squad in the Marine Corps wargaming, experimenting and doing tactics and learning from them.”
According to The Daily Mail and The Sun, a Bulgarian “migrant hunter”, Dinko Valev, has somehow managed to get his hands on an ex-Bulgarian Air Force Mil Mi-24 Hind hybrid gunship/light troop carrier, and has added it to his small arsenal of military gear, which also includes a pair of armored personnel carriers (APCs). Valev, a former semi-professional wrestler, made headlines in Europe for forming small posses of Bulgarian locals to chase down illegal immigrants and, who he calls, potential terrorists from Turkey. The Bulgarian government allegedly helped him acquire the two APCs just last year, while ISIS put a bounty on his head for $50,000 USD.
There aren’t any indications that point towards Valev’s new Hind’s operational status, and there’s nothing to suggest that the aircraft is even flightworthy at all. However pictures of the aircraft show the Hind’s chin turret still equipped with the barrels of a Yak-B 12.7mm 4-barrel Gatling cannon, though those barrels could possibly be plugged and the internal mechanisms removed or disabled. Also noticeable in the picture are two empty UB-32 rocket launcher pods, attached to the port wing of the aircraft. The short video also took a look inside the Hind’s surprisingly clean front cockpit, though the rear cockpit, where the main flight control systems are, wasn’t shown. Valev indicates that he’ll use this Hind to continue his “jihadi-hunting” activities to an even greater magnitude than before. How he’ll actually get the Hind working, armed or even up in the air at all is an entirely different question altogether.
It actually isn’t all that difficult to get your hands on old Soviet-era military hardware, and a buyer’s options list ranges anywhere from worn-out utility trucks to fighter jets, and everything in between. Just last year, the Albanian government put up a number of retired yet still flightworthy fighter aircraft for sale as part of a massive downsizing of their military. Bids for the aircraft, which included an assortment of MiG-15, -17 and -19 fighters, began at a whopping $8,600 USD… meaning that just about anybody could have actually entered the bidding process to pick up an aircraft! That, of course, doesn’t include certification, operations, parts and maintenance costs, but that’s still a relative steal!
As for helicopters, you can even find yourself a Mil Mi-24 Hind via a number of websites online, set up by small enterprises which got a hold of a considerable chunk of Soviet-manufactured military gear around and after the fall of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s. When it became unsustainable for the Russian military to continue to operate the large numbers of aircraft, tanks, armored vehicles, etc. it had amassed during the Cold War, entire regiments and brigade-sized elements were retired, their hardware either left to rust and rot on abandoned airfield, sold off at cut rates to other countries, or pawned off (sometimes illegally) to individual buyers. In 2015, everybody’s favorite online auctioneer, eBay, actually put up a Mi-24 for sale, retailing at $4,000,000 USD. Apparently, everything about this particular Hind was operational, save for its weapons, which were removed.
Organizations like Russian Military, based out of the United Kingdom, are another option for folks looking to get their hands on old Soviet planes, tanks and other military vehicles. They too offered a Mil Mi-24 Hind at one point, though without a price listed on their official website. This particular helo was de-militarized, possibly used as a prop in a few movies, and left in a state of disassembly, though it was apparently fully capable of being reassembled and flown. It’s unclear whether or not it sold.
The AV-8B Harrier has been a mainstay of the United States Marine Corps for over three decades. The same could be said about some other fixed-wing aircraft or helicopters (some of which have been around even longer), but the Harrier has a cachet about it that no others can match.
Part of its clout may stem from the fact that many of the Marine Corps’ most legendary squadrons have flown (or still fly) the Harrier. These squadrons include VMA-214, the famous “Black Sheep Squadron” led by Pappy Boyington, and VMA-211, the “Wake Island Avengers” who made a heroic stand at Wake Island and were tragically not reinforced.
The AV-8B Harrier has seen a fair bit of action, notably during Desert Storm, over the Balkans, and in the War on Terror.
The Harrier has the ability to hover – making for some interesting tactical possibilities. Its GAU-12 can bring about 85 percent of the BRRRRT of the A-10.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Jamean Berry)
But it’s not all history for the Harrier — performance counts, too. With Vertical/Short Take-Off and Landing (V/STOL) capability, the Harrier is much less dependent on usable runways than other jets (plus, hovering just above a landing site looks cool as hell). Upgrades in the 1990s gave the Harrier the APG-65 radar (as used on the F/A-18 Hornet) and the ability to fire the AIM-120 AMRAAM.
The Harrier first entered service with the United States in 1985. It can achieve a speed of 633 miles per hour and has a maximum range of 900 nautical miles.
The Harrier’s V/STOL capability allows it to operate from ships and way from conventional runways.
(U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Michael J. Lieberknecht)
An Afghan soldier has opened fire on American troops, wounding at least seven of them, before being shot dead in a military base in northern Afghanistan, officials said, in the second so-called “insider attack” in the past week.
Abdul Qahar Araam, spokesman for the US military, said on June 17th that the attack took place at Camp Shaheen in Mazar-i-Sharif. Araam added that the soldiers returned fire and killed the attacker.
General Dawlat Waziri, a spokesman for the Afghan defense ministry, also confirmed the incident.
The Resolute Support, the international training mission to Afghanistan, announced on its Twitter feed that seven US service members were wounded, adding that there were no US fatalities.
Al Jazeera’s Rob McBride, reporting from Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, said NATO soldiers were training their Afghan counterparts at the base where the attack took place.
“A source told Al Jazeera that the attack happened at the end of a training exercise,” he said.
“We understand that the soldiers were getting back into their vehicle when a soldier from the Afghan national army picked up what is said to be a rocket-propelled grenade and fired it at the group of soldiers, and that is how these injuries have happened.”
Another insider attack
Three US soldiers were killed and a fourth was wounded on June 11 when an Afghan soldier opened fire on them at a base in eastern Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province.
Taliban claimed responsibility for that attack. Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the armed group, said at the time that a Taliban loyalist had infiltrated the Afghan army “just to attack foreign forces.”
On June 17th, Mujahid praised the Camp Shaheen attack in a statement sent to the media, but did not claim Taliban responsibility.
In April, scores of Afghan soldiers were killed when fighters breached security at the camp, detonating explosives and shooting hundreds at a mosque and dining hall on the base. The attackers were disguised in Afghan army uniforms.
The day started like any other Thursday fly day. We briefed, put on our flight gear and stepped to the jets. Startup, taxi, takeoff and departure to the airspace all went as planned.
Upon reaching the outer limits of Salt Lake City airspace, I felt the cabin pressurize, the air conditioning stop and a warning tone annunciate in my headset and on the panoramic cockpit displays.
While maintaining aircraft control and keeping a safe distance from my flight lead, I looked at my Integrated Caution and Warnings, or ICAWs, and saw that I had an “IPP FAIL” warning along with an advisory telling me that I was now using the auxiliary oxygen bottle instead of the Onboard Oxygen Generation System, better known as OBOGS.
In the F-35 Lightning II, loss of the Integrated Power Package, or IPP, means loss of OBOGS, cabin pressurization, cooling functions to many vehicle systems, backup generator power and numerous other functions.
From my emergency procedures training, I knew the first steps in the 11-step checklist were to descend below 17,000 mean sea level, manually turn on the backup oxygen system, bring the throttle to idle for five seconds and actuate the flight control system/engine reset switch. These critical steps made sure I wasn’t exposed to any physiological effects from the cabin depressurizing or losing the OBOGS and hopefully reset the IPP without further troubleshooting.
A US Air Force F-35A from the 421st Fighter Squadron at Hill Air Force Base in Utah, takes off during Operation Rapid Forge at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, July 18, 2019
(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jonathan Snyder)
Unfortunately, these initial actions did not reset the IPP, so I radioed my flight lead to let him know what was happening. He confirmed that I had completed the initial checklist actions, gave me the lead and backed me up in the checklist. I saw no other abnormal indications other than the IPP warning, so I began the process to manually reset the IPP. At this time, there was no urgent need to land, so we maintained our flight plan to the airspace with hopes a successful reset would allow us to continue our mission.
I began the reset procedure, and after a few minutes, the IPP FAIL went away, indicating the jet believed I had a successful reset; however, things did not seem right in the cockpit. The air conditioning seemed weak and I did not feel or see the cabin pressurize as expected. Realizing this, I pushed my power up to military power, or MIL, and within a few seconds got a second IPP FAIL warning.
After the second failure, my flight lead and I concurred that we needed to return to base quickly. It was a warm day in September, and degraded aircraft cooling could be an issue. He took the radios and began coordinating with Salt Lake Center Approach while I finished up with the checklist.
I turned my cabin pressure switch to RAM, or ram air, which allows for outside air cooling for flight critical systems and also turned off my nonessential avionics to reduce the cooling load. We declared an emergency, approach cleared us to our normal recovery pattern and we began to prepare for landing at Hill Air Force Base, Utah.
A US Air Force F-35A, from the 421st Fighter Squadron, Hill Air Force Base, Utah, takes off at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, during Operation Rapid Forge, July 16, 2019.
(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kyle Cope)
As we pointed to our recovery point, another ICAW annunciated, indicating degraded cooling to my flight control system. This ICAW was expected when the IPP failed; however, when I opened the checklist, I initially went to the failed cooling page, which told me to land as soon as possible. I told my flight lead, we pointed directly to the field for a visual straight-in approach, and I began to dump fuel — something I should have considered prior to this point due to still having roughly 13,000 pounds of fuel; well above what I wanted to land with.
We switched to the supervisor of flying, or SOF, frequency and updated him on our plan. The SOF backed us up and made sure we were all on the same checklist. This was when I realized that I needed to reference the degraded cooling checklist, which was right next to the failed cooling checklist. It did not change our game plan, but it was something I could have handled better during the emergency procedure.
As I flew to a 5-mile final, my flight lead told me to focus on flying a good final and adhering to all normal checklists. The last thing either of us wanted was to make an emergency situation worse by flying a bad approach.
At 5-mile final, I put my gear handle down and the gear extended normally. Seconds after putting my gear down, I heard another warning tone and saw another ICAW, this time indicating some serious cooling issues had occurred to my voltage converters, which are critical for several aircraft functions that allow us to land. This ICAW starts a worst-case, 14-minute timer for gear, brake and hook actuation.
I did not have time to reference my checklist since I was already on 5-mile final, so I told my flight lead to confirm checklist steps with the SOF, primarily for immediate concerns and after-landing considerations. The landing was normal, and I elected to taxi clear of the runway and shutdown as soon as possible since I now had multiple cooling issues.
Crew chiefs with the 421st Aircraft Maintenance Unit work on an F35A Lightning II returning to Hill Air Force Base, Utah, after a two-month European deployment, July 31, 2019.
(US Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw)
Overall, IPP FAILs are not common in the F-35, but they do happen from time to time and we train frequently to emergency procedures in simulators to handle them correctly. As a young wingman in a single-seat fighter, I learned — and confirmed — five good lessons that I believe are applicable for any airframe and pilot:
Always maintain your composure and accomplish each phase of flight or emergency procedures one step at a time.
Take your time and maintain control of your aircraft before digging into a checklist.
Use the resources around you to back up your diagnosis and decisions. This will allow you to focus on the highest priority tasks. In this case, I had an awesome flight lead who took the radios and trusted my ability to handle what I was seeing. The supervisor of flying backed me up on checklist management and our game plan, and Salt Lake Approach Control got us where we needed to go in an expedited manner.
Checklist management is critical, especially in a single-seat, single-engine aircraft with hundreds of different checklists. I believe this was something I could have done better as we made our recovery back to Hill AFB.
Once you are on final and prepared to land, focus on making a good approach and landing a bad aircraft, as to not make a bad situation worse. My flight lead did a great job reminding me of that and making sure my mind was in the right place as we approached final.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.