Russian bombers buzz international airspace close to Alaska - We Are The Mighty
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Russian bombers buzz international airspace close to Alaska

The U.S. military has intercepted a pair of Russian bombers flying off the coast of Alaska, a Pentagon official says amid escalating tension between Moscow and Washington over a recent U.S. strike on Syria.


Pentagon spokesman Commander Gary Ross made the announcement on April 18, saying that two US Air Force F-22 Raptor aircraft had intercepted the Russian TU-95 Bear bombers within 160 kilometers of Alaska’s Kodiak Island a day earlier.

The American stealth fighters escorted the Russian long-range bombers for 12 minutes before they reversed course and headed back to their base in eastern Russia, according to the official.

Ross said the intercept was “safe and professional,” and there was no violation of U.S. airspace and any international norms.

The Pentagon spokesman noted that Russia’s TU-95s are capable of carrying nuclear weapons, but there was no indication that the planes were armed.

Russian bombers buzz international airspace close to Alaska
F-22 Raptors from Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, fly over Alaska May 26, 2010. | U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson

The provocative move comes at a time when the U.S. and Russia are at odds over a six-year conflict in Syria and Russia’s engagement in fight against the Daesh terrorist group (ISIL) in the Arab country.

In a recent development on April 7, U.S. President Donald Trump ordered two U.S. Navy destroyers to fire Tomahawk cruise missiles from the Mediterranean Sea at Syria’s al-Shayrat airfield, in retaliation for a deadly chemical incident in Khan Shaykhun, which American authorities have blamed on the Syrian air force without providing any evidence.

Damascus and Moscow argue that the incident was a result of an air strike hitting a chemical depot belonging to militants fighting the Syrian government. At least 87 people were killed in the town on that day.

This is while the Syrian government turned over its entire chemical stockpile under a deal negotiated by Russia and the U.S. back in 2013.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Marine who witnessed Iwo Jima flag-raising dies before battle’s 76th anniversary

A Marine who was present for the Battle of Iwo Jima’s history-making flag-raising has died days before the battle’s 76th anniversary.

Elwood “Woody” Hughes died Feb. 2 at age 95, the Daily Herald newspaper reported. Hughes, of Illinois, landed on the Japanese island of Iwo Jima on Feb. 22, 1945, the day before the flag-raising. He was a private first class at the time, who had joined the Corps in 1943 and had served under legendary Marine Corps Gen. H.M. “Howlin’ Mad” Smith, known as the father of U.S. amphibious warfare.

In a 2020 interview with American Veterans Center, Hughes described being part of the 5th Amphibious Corps Signal Battalion attached to the 5th Marine Division. He worked with the famous Navajo Code Talkers, once delivering an urgent message for relay. He described his role on the island as that of a runner or “gofer,” downplaying the danger of his work. But he admitted he could hear the close “rat-a-tat-tat of machine-gun fire” from the command center.

“We were very close to mortar fire … we would get a siren … they would tell you to take cover,” he said.Advertisement

Hughes, who was an active member of his Marine Corps League detachment in Arlington Heights, Illinois, called the Battle of Iwo Jima the “most historic event in the history of the United States,” but said he spoke about it in tribute to those who gave their all in the battle.

Hughes, one of his state’s last survivors of the battle, made a decision in 2019 to speak publicly about his story, adding his name to a flag touring the country with the names of the other Iwo Jima survivors on it.

“They kind of treat people like me as a celebrity and a hero, and I feel I’m not. I shouldn’t be, because the heroes never walked off of Iwo Jima,” he said in the 2020 interview. “I feel I’m doing it more for the honor of those who sacrificed their lives on Iwo Jima.”

The Battle of Iwo Jima stretched from Feb. 19 to March 26, 1945, and involved some 70,000 U.S. Marines. It was a consequential, but costly, U.S. victory; with nearly 7,000 Marine casualties, it was the bloodiest battle of the Corps’ history.

The Marines’ raising of the U.S. flag on Iwo Jima’s Mount Suribachi became a symbol of the Corps’ indomitable spirit.

Then-Navy Secretary James Forrestal reportedly said, “The flag-raising on Suribachi means a Marine Corps for the next 500 years.”

Hughes was also known in his community as a longtime high school basketball coach and physical education teacher, according to news reports and his obituary.

“Due to his vivacious character and his unique outgoing style, Woody was instantly likable to all who met him. He was often remembered for his smile, a story, and a gleam in his eye,” his obituary reads. ” … Woody will be greatly missed by all those who know him.”

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‘Tactical miscalculation’ likely if Iran boat harassment persists

With a recent rash of close encounters and fast approaches by Iranian vessels in international waters prompting U.S. ship commanders to fire flares and warning shots, the Navy’s top officer is warning that the consequences of this harassment could be significant and is advocating for an agreed-upon rule set to govern these at-sea encounters.


During a discussion at the Center for American Progress on Monday in Washington, D.C., Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson told Military.com that individual ship commanders had broad autonomy to respond to these Iranian harassment incidents.

Russian bombers buzz international airspace close to Alaska
Iranian fast-attack boats during a naval exercise in 2015. | Wikimedia photo by Sayyed Shahaboddin Vajedi

“There’s really nothing that limits the way they can respond,” Richardson said. “These things happen on a time scale that really doesn’t allow those commanders to sort of phone home for permission and then respond. They’ve got to know what their commander’s guidance is, they’ve got to be given the freedom to act, to take advantage of fleeting opportunities, and also to make sure that they can respond to these very fast moving opportunities.”

To date, these responses have been limited to warning measures and rebukes. But the Iranian ships’ behavior, Richardson suggested, could have grave consequences.

“From the standpoint of, is our Navy prepared to respond, I would say, yes in every respect,” Richardson said. “These are some of these potentially destabilizing things. A tactical miscalculation, the closer and closer you get to these kinds of things, the margin for error gets smaller, human error can play a bigger and bigger role. I think it’s very important that we eliminate this sort of activity when we can and nothing good can come from it.”

Richardson said he hopes to establish a dialogue with Iranian naval leaders in order to develop a code of conduct to govern encounters at sea. He added that such a rule set had been very effective in dictating behavior during maritime encounters with the Chinese Navy, even amid heightened tensions in the South China Sea.

“We’re working to sort of think our way through what are the possibilities there, both with the Iranians and I would say with the Russians who exhibit this behavior as well,” Richardson said, “so we can get up on the line and sort of have a conversation of, whether this would be helpful or hurtful, this is not in the helpful category.”

It remains unclear whether the leaders of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy would be interested in engaging in the sort of dialogue Richardson wants.

The deputy chief of staff for Iran’s armed forces, Brig. Gen. Masoud Jazayeri, told a state news agency this week that Iranian boats involved in the encounters with U.S. ships in the Persian Gulf were in keeping with international standards and norms.

“The claims [of harassment] are not only untrue, but stem from their fear of the power of Iran’s soldiers,” Jazayeri said, according to Agence France-Presse reports.

The Pentagon has reported at least five incidents of harassment by Iranian boats in the last month. In at least one of the encounters, an Iranian vessel came within 100 yards of a U.S. patrol ship.

Separately, Iran over the weekend threatened to shoot down two U.S. Navy aircraft — a P-8 Poseidon maritime surveillance plane and an EP-3 — that were flying in international airspace near the Strait of Hormuz, CNN reported.

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Why the longest-serving Bond was the ultimate vet

Roger Moore, famous for his roles on the small screen and his seven films over 12 years as James Bond, died at the age of 89 in Switzerland on May 23, 2017. His family said that he died “… after a short but brave battle with cancer.”


He had previously defeated prostate cancer.

Russian bombers buzz international airspace close to Alaska
Sir Roger Moore in London in 1973. (Photo: Allan Warren, Public Domain)

But while Moore is most famous for his acting career, a lot of soldiers could relate with the man’s little-known military service. Moore was drafted from a blue collar family in England in 1946, married his first of four wives while he was in the military, and then returned home to so little available work that he had to move to America.

In 1946 at the age of 18, Moore was an up and coming young actor and child of a police officer when his career was interrupted by conscription. He answered the call and married his friend, Lucy Woodard, who performed as an actress and ice skater under the name Doorn Van Steyn.

Moore was deployed to West Germany under the service ID number 372394 and rose to the rank of captain. After a short period, he was able to transfer into the Combined Services Entertainment Unit, a morale-boosting initiative that allowed some Cold War-era servicemen to complete their service obligation entertaining the rest of the military.

Russian bombers buzz international airspace close to Alaska

According to a June 2015 question and answer session on his website, it was in the CSEU that he really enjoyed his national service.

When he left the military after about three years, Moore returned to England to pursue acting once again. Despite his training before the service as well as his experience in the British Army, jobs were few and he wasn’t able to make much headway.

Russian bombers buzz international airspace close to Alaska

The jobs were so lean that Moore decided to move to Hollywood and pursue work there. Before he left, he divorced his first wife who he later accused of domestic violence.

In Los Angeles, he did some modeling and bit parts before MGM signed him and put him into a series of movies, none of which were hugely successful.

Moore transferred over to Warner Brothers where he saw more success and got a role on the TV show “The Saint,” a spy series that helped lead to his being cast as the lead in “Live and Let Die,” his first James bond role.

Russian bombers buzz international airspace close to Alaska

For the next twelve years, Moore would film another six Bond movies including “The Man with the Golden Gun,” and “Octopussy.”

He continued acting after leaving the Bond role but also expanded his work in charitable causes. It was his extensive work as a goodwill ambassador for UNICEF that led to his being knighted and becoming Sir Roger Moore.

Articles

Female Army aviator bringing vet voice to media

To say that Amber Smith comes from a military family is an understatement. Her great-grandfather was in World War I, her grandfather was in World War II, and her father was a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne. Both of her parents were pilots. Both of her sisters are military pilots.


Russian bombers buzz international airspace close to Alaska

Her parents’ love of flying sparked her interest, and she started flying private planes at a young age. As she got older she started considering a career in aviation, specifically military aviation. Then in 2003, she was introduced to a future she didn’t know was possible.

“I talked to the Marines, I talked to the Air Force, and I talked to the Navy because I didn’t even know the Army had aviation,” Smith says. “I grew up in fixed wings. Never once did the thought of helicopters cross my mind.”

The other three branches told her the same thing: get a college degree and then come talk. But Smith just wanted to join the military as an aviator. When she spoke to the Army they told her could still be a pilot, just flying helicopters instead of planes. Smith’s experience as a civilian pilot allowed her to join before finishing her degree through the Warrant Officer Flight Training Program.

Russian bombers buzz international airspace close to Alaska

While still in college and before joining the Army, Smith met her parents at an air show where helicopter rides were offered. She hopped in to see if a helicopter was really something she wanted.

“I went on this helicopter flight and I was immediately hooked,” she remembers. “I was like, ‘this is for me. I love it!’ I didn’t even want planes anymore, give me a helicopter.”

After basic training and Warrant Officer Candidate School, she went to flight school where she met her bird: the OH58 Kiowa Warrior Helicopter. The Kiowa Warrior is a light attack reconnaissance helicopter; a two-seater carrying a fifty cal machine gun and 7-shot 2.75 in (70 mm) Hydra-70 rocket pods, configurable for Hellfire missiles.

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An OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopter from the 1st Infantry Division takes off on a mission from Forward Operation Base MacKenzie, Iraq. It is armed with an AGM-114 Hellfire and 7 Hydra 70 rockets. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Shane Cuomo)

“I loved my time flying the Kiowa,” Smith recalls. “I knew that was the best and most bad ass flying I would ever do in my life.”

Her mission was direct support for ground forces, looking for IEDs, providing aerial security for convoys, and responding to troops in combat (TICs). Smith deployed with her unit, the 101st Airborne Division, to Iraq from 2005, where she made Pilot in Command. She went to Afghanistan in 2008, where she made Air Mission Commander, seeing combat in a combat arms role years before the ban on women in combat ended.

Russian bombers buzz international airspace close to Alaska

“Before they lifted the restriction, aviation was the only branch within what was called Combat Arms – now it’s maneuvers, fire, and effects – but it was the only Combat Arms branch that allowed women,” Smith says.

Her views on women in combat is simple: there needs to be a mission standard, not a gender standard.

“As long as the standards remain the exact same as today, I think women should be given the opportunity to try it,” Smith says. “I don’t believe in quotas or lowering standards but I don’t think it should matter if you’re a man or a woman. If you can do the job and contribute to the mission that’s what matters.”

The Army’s proposed integration plan includes first adding female officers to leadership roles within combat units. Amber Smith think it’s a smart move but the plan for and acceptance of women in combat jobs will take time.

“Reducing the standards creates resentment,” she says. “When I got to my unit in 2004, women were very rare in the Kiowa Warrior community. I worked very hard to do my job and contribute to the mission. As soon as they realized that, I was a part of the team.”

Russian bombers buzz international airspace close to Alaska

Smith left the military in 2010, but while she was in, she completed a Bachelor’s in Professional Aeronautics from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. After transitioning, she earned her Master of Science in Safety, Security, and Emergency Management with a specialization in Homeland Security from Eastern Kentucky University.

While in graduate school, she noticed that too often the media lacked a credible veteran’s point of view.

“It’s important the American people need to hear the perspective of people who have been on the operational side of national security,” she says. “People who have been to war and have seen the enemy everyone talks about on TV every day.”

Smith started a blog and got published wherever she could. Within three months, the calls for television appearances started. Her career just took off from there. She just completed her first book, Danger Close: One’s Woman’s Epic Journey as a Combat Helicopter Pilot in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

“2015 was the year of my book,” Smith says. “I wrote it myself, I didn’t have a ghostwriter or anything. I wanted to preserve my voice. The Kiowa Warrior is an incredibly effective tool on the battlefield, essential in the two theaters of war. Nobody knows about it, all anybody knows about is the Apache. So I want people to know who we are and what we did.”

Smith is now a Senior Fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum and Senior Military Advisor for Concerned Veterans for America. She is also a writer and television commentator on national security issues, foreign policy, and military operations. She regularly appears on Fox News, Fox Business, CNN, and MSNBC.

Her book is due out in September and is available for preorder on Amazon.

Follow Amber Smith on Twitter

Articles

This is how 12 other countries celebrate their version of Veterans Day

Note that when writing “Veterans Day,” there is no apostrophe. It’s not a day that belongs to veterans, it’s a day for the country to recognize veterans – all of them.


The United States has a tradition of recognizing those who fight in its wars. Memorial Day began as a way for Union soldiers who fought in the Civil War to decorate the graves of their fallen comrades (the day was originally called Decoration Day). Eventually, it would come to recognize all Americans troops killed in action.

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Soldiers celebrating World War I Armistice.

Related: Here’s a sneak peek at the new World War I Memorial going up in DC

Veterans Day was born from the trenches of World War I. The horrors of that war spurred not just Americans but most combatants to recognize those who fought in that terrible conflict.

In America, the anniversary of the war’s end became known as Armistice Day. After the brutal fighting of World War II and Korea, Armistice Day became Veterans Day.

The United States certainly isn’t the only country to experience the devastation a war can take on its population (and especially on those who fight that war). A few others take a day to recognize the significance of those who serve.

1. Australia and New Zealand

The land down under celebrates it veterans on what is known as ANZAC Day, on April 25. The day marks the anniversary of the first major military action from Australia and New Zealand Army Corps during World War I, the Battle of Gallipoli, against the Ottoman Turks. The first ANZAC Day was in 1926 and was later expanded to include the World War II veterans.

Russian bombers buzz international airspace close to Alaska

These days, ANZAC Day begins at dawn, with commemorations at war memorials and reflections on the meanings of war.

2. Belgium

Since 1928, Belgium recognized its fallen on Armistice Day with the “Last Post” ceremony. A bugler calls out the “Last Post,” noting the end of the day (a British song, similar in effect to the modern U.S. Army “retreat”). Poppies are spread out from the tops of the Menin Gate in Ypres, Belgium.

3. France

The French also recognize Armistice Day on Nov. 11. The country throws military parades and its people wear black or dark clothing.

4. Denmark

While Denmark was officially a neutral country in WWI, it doesn’t share the Nov. 11 remembrance with other Western European countries. Instead, Denmark honors living and dead troops from any conflict on its Flag Day, Sep. 5th.

5. Germany

Volkstrauertag is a day honoring the nation’s war dead on the Sunday closest to Nov. 16. The German president speaks to the assembled government and then the national anthem is played just before “Ich hatt’ einen Kameraden” (“I had a comrade”).

6. Israel

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Sirens sound throughout Israel marking the start of Yom Hazikaron.

Since 1963, Yom Hazikaron, or “Day of the Memory,” has been Israel’s day for celebrating its fallen troops and for those who died in terrorist attacks and politically-motivated violence. It’s traditionally held on the 5th of Ivar (on the Hebrew calendar) but will be held in the preceding days to avoid falling on Shabbat.

7. Italy

Italy also celebrates its veterans with the marking of the end of World War I. Since Italy spent the bulk of the war fighting the Austro-Hungarian Empire and peace on the Italian Front was separate from the rest of the Western Front, the end of the war – and Italy’s veterans – are celebrated on Nov. 4.

8. The Netherlands

Veteranendag, recognizing everyone who served in the country’s military, happens on the last Saturday in June. The celebration has gained importance since the country began deploying to Afghanistan. Celebrations include a ceremony in front of the King of the Netherlands in the Hall of Knights, a parade in The Hague, and a meeting between veterans and civilians at the Malieveld, a National Mall-type area in The Hague.

9. Nigeria

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As a member of the Commonwealth, Nigeria originally shared Nov. 11 as Remembrance Day but changed it to Jan. 15th to commemorate the end of the Nigerian Civil War in 1970.

10. Norway

Veterandagen is celebrated every May 8, coinciding with the World War II Victory in Europe Day. Norway’s observation of the day is recent, as they’ve only been celebratingit since 2011.

11. Sweden

The Swede celebrate their veterans and those who served as UN Peacekeepers every May 29 with a large ceremony in Stockholm, attended by the Swedish Royal Family.

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(photo by Holger Ellgaard)

12. The United Kingdom and the Commonwealth

Those watching the news or sporting events on BBC or CBC may have noticed a red, flower-looking device on the lapels of the announcers. Those are poppies worn for Remembrance Sunday. For the month or so leading up to Nov. 11, Great Britain and the Commonwealth countries wear poppies to remember those who died in war. Wear of the poppy actually started with an American school teacher, but became a symbol of WWI because of the poem “In Flanders Field” by John McCrae.

Russian bombers buzz international airspace close to Alaska

There are actually rules on how to wear a poppy on Remembrance Day. Britain and the Commonwealth observe two minutes of silence at 11 a.m. every Nov. 11 to commemorate the signing of the armistice that ended World War I.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Trump envoy: U.S., Russia to hold nuclear arms talks in June, China invited

The United States and Russia have agreed on a time and place for nuclear arms negotiations this month and invited China, President Donald Trump’s arms negotiator says.

“Today agreed with the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister [Sergei] Ryabkov on time and place for nuclear arms negotiations in June,” U.S. Special Envoy for Arms Control Marshall Billingslea wrote on Twitter on June 8.


“China also invited. Will China show and negotiate in good faith?” he added, without providing further details.

There were no immediate comments from Russian officials.

Earlier, Bloomberg quoted an unidentified U.S. State Department official as saying that Ryabkov and Billingslea would meet in Vienna on June 22.

The official didn’t rule out that the United States may be willing to extend the New Start nuclear-weapons treaty, if Russia “commits to three-way arms control with China and helps to bring a resistant Beijing to the table,” according to Bloomberg.

New START, the last major arms control treaty between the United States and Russia, is scheduled to expire in February 2021.

The accord caps the number of nuclear warheads and so-called delivery systems held by the two countries.

While Moscow has pushed for a five-year extension, Washington has balked, saying it wants the deal to be broadened to include China.

China, whose nuclear arsenal is a fraction of the size of Moscow’s and Washington’s, has said it was not interested in participating in such talks.

The Trump administration has pulled out of major international treaties, prompting warnings of an increased possibility of an arms race or accidental military confrontations.

Last month, Washington gave notice on withdrawing from the 35-nation Open Skies accord, which allows unarmed surveillance flights over member countries, due to what U.S. officials said were Russia’s violations.

The United States also cited Russian violations when it exited from of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia.

Moscow has denied the U.S. accusations and said the United States was seeking to undermine international security.

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

Articles

7 Incredible Narco Tanks Built By Mexican Cartels

As violence in Mexico raged with intense competition between rival drug cartels and the Mexican government, the cartels came up with a radical solution for improving their capabilities in the street.


Through ingenious engineering, and by taking a page out of “Mad Max,” cartels created so-called narco tanks.

These home-made armored vehicles, also known in Spanish as “monstruo” for their hulking size, reached peak popularity in 2011 as the Mexican military seized a garage from the Los Zetas that was being used to construct the vehicles. Four narco tanks were seized in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas in addition to an additional 23 trucks that were awaiting modification.

The Mexican military’s subsequent crack-down on the creation of monstrous forced the practice to go underground. Narco tanks are still produced, but today’s versions have their armored paneling on the inside so as to not draw unwanted attention from rival cartels and the military.

Below are some of the most impressive narco tanks from the vehicles heyday.

The behemoth versions of narco tanks were created from modified semi trucks.

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Photo: screenshot/YouTube

Dump trucks were also modified into massive steel-plated monsters.

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A narco-tank seized in Monterey, Mexico, in 2011. (Photo: screenshot/YouTube)

Even smaller narco tanks were armored almost completely with steel plates that could be upwards of 2 inches thick.

Russian bombers buzz international airspace close to Alaska
Photo: Screenshot/YouTube

As part of further defensive measures, the tanks were usually equipped with double wheels.

Russian bombers buzz international airspace close to Alaska
Photo: Screenshot/YouTube

Offensively, narco tanks had armored turrets and weapon bays on the side, out of which cartel members could point assault rifles.

Russian bombers buzz international airspace close to Alaska
Photo: Screenshot/YouTube

Some vehicles were equipped with battering rams to plow through traffic and any potential roadblocks.

Russian bombers buzz international airspace close to Alaska
Photo: Screenshot/YouTube

More from Business Insider:

This article originally appeared at Business Insider Defense Copyright 2015. Follow BI Defense on Twitter.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

For Marines, the break from PFTs and tape tests is over

Marines‘ brief reprieve from fitness tests and dreaded body-tape measurements is over.

The service announced Tuesday that the combat and physical fitness tests, along with the Body Composition Program, will resume immediately. That’s after Commandant Gen. David Berger announced in April that some of those requirements were suspended at the start of the coronavirus pandemic.


Marines will be required to complete the Combat Fitness Test by the end of the year, a new administrative message released Tuesday announced. And even though the Physical Fitness Test, which normally runs the first half of the year, was previously waived, anyone who failed it in 2019 must be ready to pass it in the next 90 days.

The tape test is also back for Marines outside height and weight standards who need body composition evaluations. Any Marine who couldn’t get a tape test during tight restrictions due to the pandemic must now be measured by the end of the month, the message states.

Marines will wear cloth face coverings during fitness tests if they’re not able to keep at least six feet apart. The distancing requirement will be impossible for some events, including one on the CFT that requires Marines to carry and drag a teammate. Marines also hold each other’s legs for the crunches portion of the PFT, though the test allows them to swap out that event and opt to hold a push-ups-like plank position.

During the tests, Marines must follow Defense Department guidance issued during the pandemic that requires frequent cleaning of gym equipment. Items that might require disinfection include the ammunition cans Marines lift during the CFT and the pull-up bar they use during the PFT.

The pandemic has changed a host of military policies, affecting everything from boot camp to deployments and unit physical training. When canceling some fitness tests earlier this year, Berger stressed that Marines’ fitness must remain a priority.

“I expect each of us to continue to maintain our fighting condition,” he said in April.

The Navy’s personnel chief announced last week that sailors’ fitness tests will resume in January.

“Please be ready,” Chief of Naval Personnel Vice Adm. John Nowell told the force.

The military has had nearly 40,000 COVID-19 cases among uniformed personnel. Marines made up 4,872 of those cases. Seven troops have died from the illness.

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

Articles

Habakkuk: Churchill’s aircraft carrier made of ice

Lasting five years, eight months and five days, the Battle of the Atlantic was the longest military campaign of WWII. Allied supply convoys were being continuously threatened by German U-boats and Luftwaffe aircraft, and when Italy’s Regia Marina introduced submarines into the mix when they entered the war in June of 1940, Allies were exhausting every idea possible to protect lives along with invaluable resources. Enter Winston Churchill, an unmatched powerhouse of a leader during the war who, in this instance, spearheaded a project more akin to a fictional Bond villain than a 1940’s combat strategy.

The idea itself was simple enough in theory: create an aircraft carrier using as many natural resources as possible, in an attempt to mitigate the high cost of materials like steel, which was in short supply. Pike’s solution was ambitious to say the least. Instead of costly materials that were in high demand, he’d build his aircraft carrier out of one of the most plentiful materials on earth: water, or more accurately, ice.

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Illustration showing the design for HMS ‘Habbakuk

Invented by an outside-the-box thinker

The concept came from British journalist, educator, and inventor, Geoffrey Pyke. Pyke was no stranger to the perils of war, having been in a German internment camp during WWI after being caught traveling there using someone else’s passport, in an attempt to work as a war correspondent. He had been arrested just six days after he arrived, and spent over 100 days in solitary confinement before escaping. Despite his continued contributions to both war efforts, he would go on to struggle both personally and professionally, before committing suicide in 1948 at age 54. The British paper “The Times” printed his obituary, which included, “The death of Geoffrey Pyke removes one of the most original if unrecognized figures of the present century.”

The aircraft carrier would be the second significant proposal Pyke would make during WWII. The first was following Germany’s invasion of Norway, when it became clear there needed to be a better way to transport troops through the snow and another difficult-to-traverse terrain. Project Plough was Pyke’s motion to build a screw-propelled vehicle, based loosely off of old patents for Armstead snow motor vehicles. It would be the first time he would get the attention of Louis Mountbatten, the newly appointed Chief of Combined Operations. Mountbatten would bring the inventor, and his ideas, in front of Winston Churchill. Despite the interest in the project, Canada and the U.S. beat Britain to the punch when they began producing the M28 (then T15) and M29 Weasel, both inspired by Pyke’s original design.

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A screw-propelled prototype of the M29 Weasel (left), and a tracked M29 later in service with the U.S. Army

It wouldn’t be long before Pyke and Churchill would see eye to eye on another idea. Project Habakkuk, as it would be known, was supposed to be the answer to the increased presence and efficacy of Allied air forces in the Atlantic.

Pyke chose the name based on the bible verse Habakkuk 1:5, which reads as hubristic optimism for the success of the project.

King James Bible version:

“Behold ye among the heathen, and regard, and wonder marvelously: for I will work a work in your days which ye will not believe, though it be told you.”

New International Version (NIV):

“Look at the nations and watch – and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told.”

Project Habakkuk

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What would Pike’s Habakkuk apart from traditional aircraft carriers was the fact that it would be made almost entirely of a combination of ice and wood pulp. Eventually dubbed ‘Pykrete’ (named dually after Pyke and its strength compared to concrete), these two materials would become the main focus of his research and development. With the help of molecular biologist, glacial expert, and eventual Nobel Prize-winning protein chemist Max Perutz, and a hidden refrigerated meat locker underneath London’s Smithfield Meat Market, Pyke was able to fine-tune the functionality of the pykrete, while also discovering some of its unavoidable challenges.

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Using Pykrete to build a dome (WikiMedia Commons)

RELATED: AN-1: AMERICA’S PLAN FOR SUBMARINE AIRCRAFT CARRIERS

Perutz determined 14% sawdust or wood pulp to 86% ice was the ideal breakdown for structural soundness, and championed the prospective benefits of a full-scale carrier that could utilize seawater when necessary to repair damages. It wouldn’t be easy, however. Expansion during freezing made construction more difficult than Pike anticipated, and the ice/sawdust mixture would start bowing under its own weight at temperatures above five degrees Fahrenheit (-15°C).

Despite the new structural considerations, a small-scale model of the Habakkuk was greenlit, and a team started work in Jasper National Park, a 4,200 square mile park within the Canadian Rockies. In addition to troubleshooting the known issues, the goal of the scale model was to test environmental durability as well as how pykrete held up against various weapons and explosives. The 60 foot long, 1,000-ton model took eight men around two weeks to complete, and seemed to hold up well enough to both nature and manmade adversaries. Upon its completion, Churchill almost immediately announced the order for the real thing, full scale, and with the highest priority of importance.

Russian bombers buzz international airspace close to Alaska
What remains of Project Habakkuk now lies here, at the bottom of Patricia Lake in the Canadian Rockies (Wikimedia Commons)

full-scale Habakkuk was a tall order, and while completion was optimistically slated for mid-1944, the supply list would prove to be a living document. The original list called for 300,000 tons of wood pulp, 25,000 tons of wood fiber insulation, 35,000 tons of timber and a conservative 10,000 tons of steel. All of this totaled around £700,000 (equivalent to just under $10.6 million today). Seasonally driven temperature changes quickly made the team realize that using steel as internal support was not only necessary, but would require much more of it than they had initially estimated. Factoring in more steel, the final proposed cost would be triple what had been anticipated, sitting at £2.5 million.

A False Prophet: Issues in the ice

The project also wasn’t without some creative differences and office politics. Britain wanted to ensure America was invested in the idea, and began to phase Pyke out of the process. Back during Project Plough, Pyke had some significant conflicts with Americans working on his designs, causing him to be removed from that project well before it was ultimately scrapped. While Pyke’s exclusion had little bearing on the final outcome, the timing of it fell towards the beginning of the end for Habakkuk.

The summer of 1943 welcomed more criticisms and observations, and with them, higher expectations for the carrier. With a 2,000 foot runway to accommodate the Royal Navy’ heavy bombers, and 40-foot thick walls to withstand torpedos, the Habakkuk carrier would end up displacing 2,000,000 tons of water (compared to the U.S. Navy’s Nimitz class carrier, which at just over 1,000 feet, only displaces about 100,000 tons). It was also expected to have a 7,000 mile range and be able to handle the highest recorded waves on the open sea. However, its immense size, along with concerns about speed and steering, soon made it more and more clear that the odds may be stacked against Pike’s Habakkuk.

Russian bombers buzz international airspace close to Alaska
Wikimedia Commons

The last meeting about the build took place in December of 1943. By this time, a number of factors had changed in regards to the war itself, and that, coupled with the challenges they were already facing, ended up being the final nail in the coffin for the project. Portugal had given the Allies permission to use their airfields in the Azores, which allowed them the opportunity of deploying more airborne U-boat patrols over the Atlantic.

An increased number of traditional aircraft carriers, as well as newly introduced and integrated long-range fuel tanks that allowed for longer flight times over the Atlantic, essentially made the Habakkuk obsolete before it could even take shape. The prototype found its final resting place at the bottom of Jasper’s Lake Patricia.

In his collection of essays titled, “I Wish I’d Made You Angry Earlier: Essays on Science, Scientists and Humanity,” Pertuz concluded: 

“The US Navy finally decided that Habakkuk was a false prophet.”

Myth Busting: The return of the Habakkuk

Russian bombers buzz international airspace close to Alaska

While the world never got to see the larger-than-life, movie-villain-worthy tactical ice island, there were two special effects experts who decided to put Pyke’s pykrete to the test.

In a 2009 episode of MythBusters (ep. 115 “Alaska Special”), fabrication wizards Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman wanted to explore the validity of some of the claims made about pykrete. The first was the idea that it was bulletproof, which the two believed they confirmed after their test of firing .45 caliber rounds into a block of solid ice, which shattered on impact, and a block of their own pykrete, which only sustained a 1-inch deep gash when it was hit.

The second “confirmed” theory was that pykrete was inherently stronger than ice on its own. Through a mechanical stress test using a cantilever, Adam and Jamie found that the solid ice broke at only 40lbs of pressure, while their pykrete supported all 300lbs – and a few hits with a hammer- before it fractured.

The third test was the culminating event, trying to determine whether or not Project Habakkuk was even possible. They set to work building their own (much smaller) boat, made from Hyneman’s “super Pykrete”–a mixture of ice and newspapers–which they had found to be even stronger than the original Pykrete formula.

In a conclusion they deemed “plausible but ludicrous,” the Mythbusters team were able to get about 20 minutes of smooth sailing in, reaching up to 23mph, before the boat began to deteriorate. They stayed afloat for the ten minutes it took them to get back to shore, but weren’t confident their particular design would have lasted much longer. While they loved Pyke’s ingenuity, they felt the Habakkuk was, at best, highly impractical.

Project Habakkuk sits comfortably among a long line of attempted military innovations that were never fully realized. What it does prove however, is that tough times can inspire some of the most unconventionally inventive ideas, and there’s sometimes something to be said for those who err on the side of eccentricity.


This article by Amy Dickey was originally published by Sandboxx News.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Mattis says the military will help protect elections from Russia

The Defense Department will provide all support necessary to the Department of Homeland Security and law enforcement agencies to protect U.S. elections from Russian interference and other bad actors, Defense Secretary James N. Mattis told reporters today.

The secretary also said the U.S. military must address space as a developing warfighting domain that may lead to creation of a new combatant command.

The Russian government was responsible for the attacks on the U.S. election process in 2016, Mattis told reporters. “We all saw what happened in 2016 when the Russians – and possibly others, but the Russians for certain – tried to do both influence operations and actually get in to try to corrupt some of the process,” he said.


Articles

Test shows that A-10 can obliterate Iran’s small boat swarms with ease

About 35 local boat captains simulated swarming attack maneuvers in fishing boats rigged with machine guns while fighter jets, attack helicopters, and the A-10 “Warthog” simulated attacks from above in the Choctawatchee Bay, Florida.


The Air Force at Eglin Air Force Base organized the simulation, called Combat Hammer, to address one of the more pressing threats to the US navy — attacks from swarming fast-attack craft.

Also read: The ‘Chopper Popper’ scored the A-10’s first air-to-air kill…against an Iraqi helicopter

In the Persian Gulf, Iran has repeatedly used small, agile attack craft to harass US Navy ships in dangerous encounters that could lead to a broader conflict in a moment’s notice.

US Navy ships have had to go as far as firing warning shots at approaching vessels, but that was before Iranian-backed Houthi militants used a suicide boat laden with explosives to kill two aboard a Saudi Arabian Navy vessel off the coast of Yemen.

Russian bombers buzz international airspace close to Alaska
An A-10 Thunderbolt IIs with the 74th Fighter Squadron from Moody Air Force Base, Ga., flies over the Gulf of Mexico Feb. 7 during Combat Hammer. The 86th Fighter Weapons Squadron’s Combat Hammer is a weapons system evaluation program at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. | US Air Force photo by Ilka Cole

The Navy was already aware of the threat posed to their large, multi-million dollar ships by small, cheap ships — but the January Houthi attack demonstrated the threat was even more acute.

The Air Force’s annual Combat Hammer exercise sought in part to answer the question of how the Navy would deal with a large mass of erratic attack craft — and that involved A-10 Warthogs firing inert 30-millimeter rounds at unmanned ships.

The exercise also included attack helicopters, multi-role fighter jets, and Canadian F-18s dropping simulated guided munitions.

Russian bombers buzz international airspace close to Alaska
Local boat captains and mariners operate fishing boats equipped with makeshift guns and weapons invaded the Choctawatchee Bay area Feb. 6 during the 86th Fighter Weapons Squadron exercise, Combat Hammer. The boat swarms helped create a realistic environment to provide exercise participants an opportunity to train like they fight. | US Air Force photo by Ilka Cole

“We evaluate precision guided munitions against realistic targets with realistic enemy defenses,” said Lt. Col. Sean Neitzke, the 86th Fighter Weapons Squadron commander in an Air Force statement. “There are plenty of places in the world where low-tech adversaries can mount 50-caliber machine guns and rocket launchers on small boats for use against us. They could also use other types of shoulder launched weapons, all of which could be a threat to American assets.”

Related: A-10 vs. F-35 flyoff may begin next year

The situation described by Neitzke bears eerily similarities to the situation with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy.

Patrick Megahan, an expert on Iran’s military with the Foundation for Defense of Democracy, told Business Insider that even without the Air Force, the US Navy has plenty of ways to counter the threat posed by Iranian-style swarm attacks.

“US Army Apache attack helicopters also frequently drill aboard US Navy vessels in the Persian Gulf for countering exactly this threat,” Megahan said of the swarming boats.

Russian bombers buzz international airspace close to Alaska
An MH-60 Seahawk. | US Navy

“This doesn’t include the Navy’s own Hellfire-equipped Seahawk helicopters or the Marine Corps’s very capable attack helicopter squadrons that maintain an almost constant presence in the waters off the Persian Gulf and Arabian Sea. In fact, two fully-load American attack helicopters would likely wreak havoc on an Iranian small boat swarm.”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

All it takes to fool facial recognition at airports and border crossings is a printed mask, researchers found

Facial recognition is being widely embraced as a security tool — law enforcement and corporations alike are rolling it out to keep tabs on who’s accessing airports, stores, and smartphones.


As it turns out, the technology is fallible. Researchers with the artificial-intelligence firm Kneron announced that they were able to fool some facial-recognition systems using a printed mask depicting a different person’s face.

The researchers, who tested systems across three continents, said they fooled payment tablets run by the Chinese companies Alipay and WeChat, as well as a system at a border checkpoint in China. In Amsterdam, a printed mask fooled facial recognition at a passport-control gate at Schiphol Airport, they said.

The researchers said their findings suggested that a person who prints a lifelike mask resembling someone else could bypass security checkpoints to fly or shop on their behalf.

“Technology providers should be held accountable if they do not safeguard users to the highest standards,” Kneron CEO Albert Liu said in a statement. “There are so many companies involved that it highlights an industry-wide issue with substandard facial recognition tech.”

Russian bombers buzz international airspace close to Alaska

live.staticflickr.com

Some facial-recognition software proved impervious to the printed-mask test, however. The researchers said Apple’s Face ID and Huawei’s system passed; both use more sophisticated technology known as structured light imaging. Kneron said its own facial recognition software also passes the test.

Researchers said that tests at security checkpoints were carried out with the permission of security guards supervising them — suggesting that as long as humans are present to notice the mask, facial-recognition checkpoints aren’t entirely unsecured.

In the month after its mask study went viral, Kneron announced that it raised million from investors including Alibaba, Qualcomm, and Horizons Ventures.

“We are excited to continue our journey with partners like Horizons Ventures who share our passion and dedication towards our mission to enable AI on any device [and] democratize AI,” Liu told Business Insider after the fundraising was announced.

Here’s the pitch deck Kneron used to raise million.

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

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