Sea Mines Are Cheap and Low-Tech, but They Could Stop World Trade in Its Tracks - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

Sea Mines Are Cheap and Low-Tech, but They Could Stop World Trade in Its Tracks

When you stop and think about it for any length of time, it seems a miracle that the global economy spins on as well as it does. As the spread of the coronavirus Covid-19 has shown, any decent disruption to the global supply chain causes ripples from tourism to iPhone supply that cost billions. Nevertheless, there’s a level of resilience in the global economy, and even though predictions are sounding dire, there isn’t quite panic in the streets yet. So, if you really wanted to cause global havoc and cause your enemies to suffer, what would it cost? Billions? Trillions? Or maybe just the price of a second-hand car? Enter the sea mine.


More than 90% of global trade occurs by sea. This makes strategic maritime chokepoints, such as the Strait of Hormuz and Bab el Mandeb in the Middle East, some of the most strategically important patches of water on earth. Close one or two of those down for any length of time, and we’ve got a serious problem on our hands. This fact is not lost on most major players—hence the military patrols, diplomatic negotiations and international conventions in place to try to mitigate risks to these vulnerable spots.

Sea Mines Are Cheap and Low-Tech, but They Could Stop World Trade in Its Tracks

upload.wikimedia.org

You’d think it would take something pretty expensive and sophisticated to circumvent these controls, but no. A sea mine is cheap, easy to use, and highly effective at blockading chokepoints. The simplest types of sea mines—variations on the classic spiky ball bobbing in the water—cost only a few thousand dollars but can stop shipping in its tracks.

Iran famously mined the Gulf during the Iran–Iraq War in the 1980s for that very reason, and appeared to be repeating similar tactics last year in both mine and torpedo attacks on tankers traversing the Strait of Hormuz as the sabre-rattling with the US heated up. The Houthis in Yemen are doing their own mining in the Red Sea, ostensibly to protect their ports from Saudi attack. However, in recent weeks, an Egyptian fishing boat in the Red Sea reportedly struck a Houthi mine, killing three of its six crew, and there are reports of Houthi-laid mines drifting off from their original sites and heading who knows where.

The effectiveness of sea mines as a strategic tool lies not just in their immediate threat to an individual ship, but in the time and cost that must go into clearing waters suspected of harbouring mines. Such operations, even in a relatively limited area, can take weeks, months or even years. Australian operations to support mine clearance in Kuwait after the first Gulf War in 1991, for example, stretched for almost five months, searched two square kilometres and dealt with 60 mines. For comparison, the Bab el Mandeb chokepoint is 29 kilometres across at its narrowest point and stretches down some 500 kilometres of Yemeni coastline. And the Houthis may have access to hundreds or even thousands of mines.

The Strait of Hormuz is a slightly roomier 39 kilometres across, but with exponentially higher volumes of oil and gas trade squeezing through its narrow waters. If the sea lines of communication of the Middle East were shut for any length of time, the results for the global supply chain could be catastrophic. To put it in perspective, the Kuwaiti mine-clearance operation of a couple of square kilometres took months; Australia’s current strategic oil reserves, which are heavily dependent on Middle Eastern supply via Singapore, would last around 28 days. Even if Australia reached internationally mandated minimum fuel reserves of 90 days, that’s still well short of the time the Kuwait operation took.

There isn’t even a lot of legal limitation on employing sea mines. Unlike with land mines, there are no treaties in place to ban the use of sea mines, or even a clear definition what counts as one. Given the ubiquity and longevity of mines, there’s plausible deniability in laying a few Soviet-era sea mines here and there.

But how likely is it really that someone will employ sea mines to stop the world? If you’re a state reliant on the global supply chain for your own existence, the answer is: not very. Moored or floating mines in the Strait of Hormuz would do as much (or more) damage to Iran’s economy and geopolitical standing as they would to anyone else’s, and Iran’s leadership is well aware of that. Most non-state actors that have access to such mines are hesitant to use them offensively for similar reasons.

Sea Mines Are Cheap and Low-Tech, but They Could Stop World Trade in Its Tracks

upload.wikimedia.org

But what about someone with nothing to lose, poor impulse control or a dangerous combination of both? An officer of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps or a Houthi leader with a halfway-decent sense of strategy and self-preservation would probably baulk at more aggressive use of sea mines in high-profile locations. But IRGC Quds Force leader and key regional networker Qassem Soleimani is dead, US President Donald Trump is surrounded by advisers intent on backing Iran into a corner, and Iran’s Houthi partners are on the offensive and have a history of using cheap weaponry to great effect.

This isn’t the time to be watching the strategist who stockpiles a thousand mines; this is the time to be watching the zealot who only wants one.

This article originally appeared on Real Clear Defense. Follow @RCDefense on Twitter.

Articles

Service branches and elite units are testing a 60-round drum

LAS VEGAS — A compact polymer drum magazine from Magpul that can hold 60 rounds is being tested for potential use by several U.S. military service branches, as well as elite units, the company’s director of government and international affairs said.


Tray Ardese would not specify which branches and commands are testing the PMAG D-60 drum, but said range testing by the services so far appears to be going well.

Related: The Marine Corps has ordered Leathernecks to use PMAGs for their rifles

“We’re under kind of a handshake [non-disclosure agreement] right now to let them get their tests in so we don’t put a lot of pressure on them,” Ardese told Military.com at SHOT Shot on Tuesday. “But each branch of the service has at least a few of them. It is a solution right now that could save lives.”

Sea Mines Are Cheap and Low-Tech, but They Could Stop World Trade in Its Tracks
Image via Magpul

Magpul appears at the show after a major coup: The Marine Corps’ decision in December to approve the company’s high-performing Generation M3 PMAG as the only magazine authorized for use in combat, replacing the legacy metal magazine.

Ardese said Magpul hopes the ruggedness, balance and reliability of the drum will also win over military users.

“I was one of the biggest drum haters in the world until I saw this one,” said Ardese, a retired Marine colonel. “Because … they’d work great when you treated them with care, but the second you got them dirty or beat them around, they would stop on you. This one hasn’t stopped on me yet and I’ve shot a lot of rounds through it, and I’ve seen thousands and thousands and thousands of rounds shot through it. It runs flawlessly.”

The drum, at 7.4 inches in length, is designed to be no longer than a traditional 30-round magazine, so shooters in the prone position don’t have to adjust their positioning to fire. And it’s compatible with all the weapons that can accept the PMAG, although Ardese said the drum is particularly well suited to the Marines’ M27 infantry automatic rifle.

Sea Mines Are Cheap and Low-Tech, but They Could Stop World Trade in Its Tracks
Magpul’s 60-round drum is currently undergoing range tests by the U.S. military. | Image via Magpul

The Corps is currently undergoing experimentation to determine whether more infantrymen should be issued the IAR in place of the M4 as their standard service rifle. The weapon has a slightly longer effective range than the M4 carbine and has features including a free-floating barrel that make it more accurate. And unlike the standard M4, it includes a fully automatic mode. Currently, each Marine infantry fire team is equipped with one IAR, carried by the team’s automatic rifleman.

“M27 is the perfect platform for this magazine. This magazine gives the IAR gunner, the automatic rifleman an advantage in volume of fire right off the bat if they were ambushed or they were hit,” Ardese said. “They immediately have two magazines’ worth of ammunition in a flawlessly feeding drum that is very well balanced. It is a must for the IAR gunner.”

The drum, he said, lends itself to any situation where a warfighter needs to have a lot of ammunition at the ready.

“It would be great for vehicle interdiction, any place you would need a large volume of firepower right now,” he said.

It’s not clear when the services currently testing the drum will make a decision on whether to field it, and for what weapons, Ardese said.

He has received only positive feedback from those in charge of range testing, he said.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How China is weaponizing capital all over the world

China’s move to boost defense spending has sparked dismay among US officials in recent days, but it is Beijing’s efforts to gain influence that are more worrisome, the secretary of the US Navy said on March 7, 2018.


China’s finance ministry said this weekend that the country’s defense budget will rise 6% to 1.1 trillion yuan or $173 billion. It is the biggest increase in three years and makes China’s defense budget the world’s second-largest — behind only the US.

Chinese state media defended the new budget as proportionate and low. “If calculated in per capita terms, China’s military lags well behind other major countries,” official English-language newspaper China Daily said.

More: China increases military spending by $175 billion

On March 6, 2018, US Navy Adm. Scott Swift, the head of US Pacific Fleet, said the military budget lacked transparency and that China’s “intent is not clearly understood.”

On March 7, 2018, US Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer — asked about Russian and Chinese activity in relation to the newest US National Security Strategy— echoed those concerns but pointed to a different kind of spending.

“When it comes to China, the bottom line there is the checkbook, to be very frank with you,” Spencer told members of the House Appropriations Committee. “Not only in the dollar and cents that they are writing to support their military expansion and their technological [research and development] work, but what they’re doing around the globe that I know you all are aware of, which is weaponizing capital, to be very frank with you.”

Sea Mines Are Cheap and Low-Tech, but They Could Stop World Trade in Its Tracks
Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer speaks during an all-hands call at Naval Station Mayport. (Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Timothy Schumaker.)

Spencer pointed to a summer 2017 deal China signed with Sri Lanka, the island nation just south of India, where Beijing agreed to a 99-year lease to operate the strategically located deep-water port of Hambantota, which is located near important shipping routes in the Indian Ocean.

“Going into Sri Lanka, redoing the port, putting an interest rate — not as aid, but as a total secured loan with a pretty hefty coupon — [the] debtor fails on that, and the asset owner comes and reclaims it and says, ‘These are now ours,'” Spencer told the committee of the deal. “They’re doing that around the globe. So their open checkbook keeps me up at night.”

Also read: China is sick of people stealing its supercomputer technology

Many Sri Lankans were themselves dismayed with the agreement, taking to the streets to protest what they saw as growing Chinese influence in their country. India, which has eyed Chinese infrastructure deals and military activity in South Asia and the Indian Ocean region warily, also objected.

“This is going to be a standing example for the other countries to watch, because China is not Father Christmas, handing out dollar bills. They want return on the money, and they want the money to come within a certain, certified period,” K.C. Singh, former secretary at the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, said in July 2017.

“Is it a model then for future extension of the Chinese strategic footprint?” Singh added. “When … countries can’t return the money, then you grab territory?”

Sea Mines Are Cheap and Low-Tech, but They Could Stop World Trade in Its Tracks
China’s One Belt, One Road initiative. China in Red, the members of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank in orange, and the 6 proposed corridors in black. (Map by Lommes)

The port deal was a part of China’s One Belt, One Road initiative, a project to link scores of countries in Asia, Oceania, Africa, and Europe through Chinese-backed railways, shipping routes, and infrastructure projects.

As a part of that effort, China has funded development projects in poorer countries, which it leverages for more advantageous relations or for regional access. The trend has also been called “debt-trap diplomacy.”

Related: Why the Navy dares China to fight in their disputed territory

Hambantota is not the only port deal secured by the Chinese government or a Chinese state-owned company in recent years. Beijing has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to win over locals and develop a deep-water port in Gwadar, on Pakistan’s Indian Ocean coast.

The moves are a departure from China’s usual approach to such foreign projects, but the focus has concerned India and the US, which see Beijing’s investment in Gwadar as part of efforts to expand Chinese naval influence.

 

Sea Mines Are Cheap and Low-Tech, but They Could Stop World Trade in Its Tracks
Gwadar port of Pakistan. (Photo by Umargondal)

 

Chinese state firms are also growing their presence in Europe, buying up ports and cargo terminals on the Mediterranean and Atlantic coasts — including Spain, Italy, Greece, and Belgium.

Chinese state-owned enterprises now control about one-tenth of all European port capacity.

European leaders have become concerned Beijing plans to leverage its financial interests into political clout. Greece, where Chinese influence has grown in recent years, has blocked recent EU efforts to condemn China over its human-rights record and other policies.

US Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller, speaking alongside Spencer, voiced similar concerns about China.

“The Chinese are playing the long game. They are, as the secretary said, everywhere I go, they’re there,” Neller said. “They’re going and they’re buying airfields and ports to extend their reach … they want to win without fighting.”

Articles

Watch this amazing stunt pilot fly a helicopter upside-down

Chuck Aaron is a 63-year-old stunt helicopter pilot whose major trick is the ability to upend his bird.


Completely upside-down.

Sea Mines Are Cheap and Low-Tech, but They Could Stop World Trade in Its Tracks
You know, inverted. (Paramount)

According to a profile of the man in Popular Mechanics, a helicopter’s rotator blades would bend toward its skids when flying upside down. The blades would cut off the tail and the vehicle would return to Earth. Very quickly. And uncontrollably.

So how does Aaron do it?

He had assembled his own U.S. Army attack helicopter from spare parts when Red Bull came calling. They wanted to know if it were possible to configure a helo to fly upside down. His gut feeling was an instinct to stay alive and he gave them a firm no. But as he thought about it, he began to come up with modifications that just might work for that purpose.

It helps that Red Bull covered the tab. Aaron doesn’t discuss the exact modifications he made, but you can see the results speak for themselves.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This new laser system will fend off heat-seeking missiles

The US Army is testing a laser system designed to confuse and deter infrared-guided missiles aimed at its UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters, according to an Army release.

The new Common Infrared Countermeasures system (CIRCM), developed by Northrop Grumman, is designed to counter short-range heat-seeking missiles fired from man-portable air-defense systems, or MANPADS, which are easy-to-use, highly portable weapons that can be operated by a small crew and are available on the black market, making them attractive to non-state actors who want to target low-flying aircraft like helicopters.

The CIRCM will replace the Advanced Threat Infrared Countermeasures (ATIRCM), which is only deployed on CH-47 Chinooks aircraft because of its size. CIRCM will be a lighter-weight update that Black Hawks, and eventually CH-47 Chinooks and AH-64 Apache gunships, can use, according to The Drive.


Soldiers from the 3rd Assault Helicopter Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment at Fort Hood in Texas deployed to Alabama’s Redstone Arsenal to test the new system, flying eight missions of varying types — including medical evacuation, air assault, and air movement — during both day and night.

Sea Mines Are Cheap and Low-Tech, but They Could Stop World Trade in Its Tracks

1st Lt. Peter Zeidler, test unit officer-in-charge, conducts an air mission brief during operational testing of the Common Infrared Countermeasures at the Redstone Test Center, Redstone Arsenal, Alabama.

(US Army photo by CWO 4 Toby Blackmon)

The missions produced 40 hours of usable data showing how the system would operate in realistic combat environments, according to the Army.

“We designed the test events to cover all the potential environments that aircrews may find themselves in,” Chief Warrant Officer 4 Toby Blackmon, of the US Army Operational Test Command’s Aviation Test Directorate, said in the release.

The CIRCM uses two compact pointer/trackers to follow infrared-guided weapons aimed at an aircraft and then engages one of its two lasers to confuse the weapons and keep them from hitting the target. Its technology is designed to evolve as new infrared weapons systems are designed and threaten US aircraft, according to Northrop Grumman.

“Due to the evolving battlefield threats, the CIRCM comes at a pivotal time for Army aviation in order to improve the survivability of our crews that will be deploying in support of combat operations,” Blackmon said.

Sea Mines Are Cheap and Low-Tech, but They Could Stop World Trade in Its Tracks

Four UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters from the 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division take off simultaneously from Cooper Field.

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Joe Armas)

The CIRCM complements the Common Missile Warning System (CMWS) already in place in Army helicopters. The CWMS detects missiles using electro-optical sensing, which “sees” the missile and warns pilots of incoming threats using audio and visual signals.

MANPADS have become increasingly adept at evading countermeasures, leading the military to install Directional Infrared Countermeasure (DIRCM) systems, like the CIRCM, on many of its helicopters and some aircraft.

Northrop Grumman also developed a Large Aircraft Infrared Countermeasure (LAIRCM) system for use on Apaches, Chinooks, and some Black Hawks but had unexplained issues using the system on the UH-60, according to The Drive.

LAIRCM systems are still in use on VH-60N helicopters, which are designated Marine One when they carry the US president, and work by jamming the attacking missile.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This South Korean howitzer can bring the thunder if Pyongyang attacks

One of the biggest threats North Korea poses is not measured in a few nukes on a few dozen ballistic missiles. We get it that nukes can do a lot of bad stuff, and the consequences of their use can be downright horrific. But they aren’t the only game in town.


In fact, one of North Korea’s deadliest threats are regular old howitzers.

To be honest, we’re talking lots and lots of howitzers. A veritable horde of howitzers, in fact. Try close to 8,000, according to GlobalSecurity.org. However, South Korea has not been idle in the howitzer field.

Sea Mines Are Cheap and Low-Tech, but They Could Stop World Trade in Its Tracks
A 46-ton K9 Thunder self-propelled howitzer with its 155mm gun raised. (Wikimedia Commons)

According to Hanwha Defense Systems, the South Korean military has been using the K9 self-propelled howitzer. This vehicle carries a 155mm howitzer that has a range of about 25 miles that can fire up to eight rounds a minute, including a burst of three rounds in 15 seconds.

But the firepower isn’t all this is about. The K9 is also able to scoot – able to dash at just under 42 miles per hour and go as far as 223 miles on one tank of gas. The crew of five is able to start shooting within 30 seconds, and they have 48 rounds on board. The vehicle can be quickly resupplied by the K10 Ammunition Resupply Vehicle, which can reload the K9 in just under 18 minutes.

Sea Mines Are Cheap and Low-Tech, but They Could Stop World Trade in Its Tracks
The K10 Ammunition Resupply Vehicle. (Wikimedia Commons)

It can take punishment, too. Its armor protects the crew from 14.5mm machine gun fire and fragments from 152mm artillery shells. According to GlobalSecurity.org, over 1,100 of these self-propelled guns are in South Korean service.

The K9 has also secured an export buyer in Turkey, which is acquiring 300 of these guns. In short, this gun will potentially see action on both sides of the continent of Asia.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The US Army is practicing a new way to get to a fight in Europe

Soldiers from the 1st Cavalry Division’s 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team started arriving in Europe this week for a nine-month rotation as part of Operation Atlantic Resolve.

The 2nd ABCT’s rotation is the fifth one by an armored brigade in support of Atlantic Resolve, which started in 2014 to show US commitment to Europe’s defense after Russia’s interference in Ukraine.

But the unit is the first “in recent memory” to use the port of Vlissingen in the Netherlands, where soldiers, Army civilians, and local workers started unloading the first of three shipments of equipment early on Oct. 11, 2019.


Sea Mines Are Cheap and Low-Tech, but They Could Stop World Trade in Its Tracks

A 2nd ABCT soldier directs an M1A2 Abrams tank as vehicles are offloaded at the Port of Vlissingen, Netherlands, Oct. 11, 2019.

(US Army photo by Sgt. Kyle Larsen)

Armored units deployed for Atlantic Resolve rotations are typically stationed in Germany or elsewhere in Eastern Europe and have in the past arrived at ports closer to their bases.

But the 2nd ABCT’s arrival at Vlissingen — like that of the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team at the nearby port of Antwerp last spring — is part of an Army effort to practice navigating Europe’s bureaucratic and geographic terrain.

NATO has been trying to operate out of more ports in Europe since around 2015, according to Ben Hodges, who led the US Army in Europe between 2014 and 2017.

There was a need to “to reestablish capabilities in all these ports” and “to demonstrate that we could come [into Europe] at a variety of different places,” Hodges, who is a retired lieutenant general, told Business Insider in 2018.

Vlissingen is the “first main juncture point” for the 2nd ABCT’s current deployment, and its troops and gear will arrive at ports in Poland, Latvia, Belgium, Greece, and Romania throughout October, the Army said in a release.

Sea Mines Are Cheap and Low-Tech, but They Could Stop World Trade in Its Tracks

First Lt. Quanzel Caston, a unit movement officer with the 2nd ABCT, examines M1A2 Abrams tanks at the Port of Vlissingen, Netherlands, Oct. 11, 2019.

(US Army photo by Sgt. Kyle Larsen)

In total, the unit will deploy about 3,500 soldiers, 85 tanks, 120 Bradley fighting vehicles, 15 Paladin self-propelled howitzers, 500 tracked vehicles, 1,200 wheeled vehicles and pieces of equipment, and 300 trailers.

Massing forces across the Atlantic Resolve area of operation “displays the US Army’s readiness, cross-border military mobility and speed of assembly,” the release said.

The Army’s 598th Transportation Brigade will move the 2nd ABCT’s gear a variety of ways, including by “low-barge, rail-head, line-haul and convoy operations.”

It’s the first time the Army has used a low-barge inland cargo ship to transport tracked armored vehicles across Europe for Atlantic Resolve.

“The significance of using the low-barge is it enhances readiness in the European region by introducing another method of movement to the Atlantic Resolve mission,” said Cpl. Dustin Jobe, noncommissioned officer in charge of lifting provisions for the 647th Expeditionary Terminal Operations Element.

Sea Mines Are Cheap and Low-Tech, but They Could Stop World Trade in Its Tracks

Sgt. Julian Blodgett, a senior mechanic with the 2nd ABCT directs an M1A2 Abrams tank for loading on a low-barge cargo ship at the Port of Vlissingen, Netherlands, Oct. 12, 2019.

(US Army photo by Sgt. Kyle Larsen)

‘Better than it was’

The US Army in Europe shrank after the Cold War. Since Russia’s intervention in Ukraine in 2014, however, the Army has beefed up its presence with exercises along NATO’s eastern flank and back-to-back rotations of armored units.

But returning to Europe in force has highlighted NATO’s problems getting around the continent, where customs rules and regulations, insufficient infrastructure, and shortages of transports for heavy vehicles inhibit movement.

These obstacles would present issues for any peacetime mobilization effort and led NATO to conclude in a 2017 internal report that its ability to rapidly deploy around Europe had “atrophied since the end of the Cold War.”

Sea Mines Are Cheap and Low-Tech, but They Could Stop World Trade in Its Tracks

A local contractor attaches lift chains to an M1A2 Abrams tank for lowering into a low-barge ship at the Port of Vlissingen, Netherlands, Oct. 12, 2019.

(US Army photo by Sgt. Kyle Larsen)

European countries, working through the European Union and NATO, have sought to reduce or eliminate the hurdles.

A new NATO command based in Germany now oversees the movement of alliance forces in Europe, and the EU has set up Permanent Structured Cooperation, or PESCO, to address security issues by “integrating and strengthening defence cooperation within the EU framework.”

The logistical skills of the US and its NATO allies will face their biggest test yet next year, during Defender 2020 in Europe — the US Army’s largest exercise in Europe in 25 years. It will range across 10 countries and involve 37,000 troops from at least 18 countries.

The point of Defender 2020 “is to practice the reinforcement of US forces in Europe for the purposes of collective defense of the alliance,” Lt. Gen. Christopher Cavoli, the head of US Army Europe, said on Monday during a panel hosted by Defense One at the Association of the US Army’s annual conference in Washington, DC.

Sea Mines Are Cheap and Low-Tech, but They Could Stop World Trade in Its Tracks

A 2nd ABCT M1A2 Abram tank is raised over the pier at Vlissingen to be lowered onto a low-barge ship for transportation to another location in Europe, Oct. 12, 2019.

(US Army photo by Sgt. Kyle Larsen)

“That’s something that requires practice, because you’re moving large forces great distances through complicated infrastructure and across a variety of different national lines,” Cavoli added.

“We call this strategic readiness, the ability to strategically deploy and to project a force,” he said. “It’s a significant concatenation of small things that have to go right in order to do this well.”

Asked about Europe’s railways, which vary in rail size and have differing regulations, Cavoli said there were procedural and infrastructural issues that had to be addressed.

“Procedurally, we’ve made a great deal of progress across the alliance. Some countries, they’ve relaxed some of their restrictions, shortening the notification times required,” Cavoli said. “We, as an alliance, have gotten much more practice scheduling and moving and loading rail, and we’re able to move very, very quickly across great distances.”

Sea Mines Are Cheap and Low-Tech, but They Could Stop World Trade in Its Tracks

US Army Reserve Cpl. Dustin Jobe watches a 2nd ABCT M1A2 Abram tank as it’s raised over the pier to be lowered onto a low-barge ship for transport elsewhere in Europe, at Vlissingen, Netherlands Oct. 12, 2019.

(US Army photo by Sgt. Kyle Larsen)

But infrastructural problems remain, Cavoli said, pointing specifically to a difference in rail gauge between Poland and Lithuania. But Lithuania plans to buy dual-gauge rail cars for heavy equipment, Cavoli added.

“In addition to that, across the alliance, there’ve been some challenges with bridge classification, with the strength of rail heads … can it take a tank driving off a train there?” Cavoli said. “The EU has really stepped in using prioritized … shopping lists, prioritized by NATO, and it has been investing throughout the alliance in mobility infrastructure.”

Cavoli said recent exercises had exposed challenges to mobility but had also prompted NATO members “to get after those challenges. So I think we’re in a fairly good place right now.”

Asked to assign the alliance a letter grade for mobility, Cavoli demurred, saying only that it’s “better than it was previously.”

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

Watch sailors fight off World War II kamikaze attacks in amazing 4K

By 1944, the tides of the war in the Pacific had turned against the Japanese Empire. The United States and its allies repelled the Imperial Japanese Navy in critical battles like Midway, Milne Bay, and Guadalcanal. The stage was set for the U.S. to retake the Philippines in 1944, but the Japanese were getting desperate. Low on ships, manpower, and material, they turned to the one thing they had in abundance — zeal for the Emperor.


That zeal led to the surprise kamikaze attacks that have come to define the war in its closing days. The amazing video producers at AARP are dedicated to keeping the memory of veterans of every American war alive and their latest offering is the story of Phil Hollywood aboard the USS Melvin at the Surigao Strait in incredible 4K video.

The Melvin was a Fletcher-class destroyer, part of the U.S. 7th Fleet Support Force moving to help the Allied landing at Leyte. But first, they had to get through the 47-mile Surigao Strait. Waiting for them was a fleet of Japanese battleships ready to halt their advance and stymie the allied landing — and the famous return of General Douglas MacArthur to his beloved Philippine Islands.

Phil Hollywood was a young sailor who enlisted after Pearl Harbor at age 17. He was aboard the Melvin at Surigao and talked to AARP about his role as a Fire Controlman 2nd Class during what would become the last battleship-to-battleship combat in the history or warfare. The Melvin was his first assignment, a ship made of, essentially, engines, hull, and guys with guns.

“It was everything I ever wanted in a fighting ship,” he said. “Facing the enemy was everything. I didn’t think of anything else.”
Sea Mines Are Cheap and Low-Tech, but They Could Stop World Trade in Its Tracks

Former U.S. Navy FC2 Phil Hollywood, a World War II Pacific veteran, looking at photos of destroyers from that era.

(AARP)

The Melvin was supposed to be looking for flights of Japanese planes via radar and alert the main landing area at Leyte. It was not safe to be on a destroyer in the Pacific during World War II, even by the standards of that war. Some 77 destroyers were lost in the war and 17 of those were from kamikaze attacks. Hollywood’s battle station was at the top of the director, moving guns on target.

“There were moments I was afraid, not sure if I was going to live or die,” he told AARP. “But one thing’s for certain, I wanted to fight and save our ship. The patriotism was raging in my blood.”
Sea Mines Are Cheap and Low-Tech, but They Could Stop World Trade in Its Tracks

World War II veteran Philip Hollywood enlisted in the Navy when he was 17 years old. He was just 19 when he took part in one of history’s greatest naval battles.

(AARP/Phil Hollywood)

Hollywood recalled what it was like to face the kamikaze pilots in battle. The pilots were not well trained. For many, it was their first and last flights, and the planes were loaded up with weapons so traditional flight profiles weren’t really able to be used by the enemy pilots. It was a frightening experience. It seemed like no matter how much they threw at the pilots, they kept coming.

“During a kamikaze attack, being in the main battery directory, we were on telescopes,” he recalled. “It looked like he was coming down our throats. I was frightened, my heart was pounding, one looked like it was gonna hit us. We kept hitting him and hitting him… until I could see the flex of his wings breaking up.”

That was the moment he looked death in the face. Luckily, the plane crashed into the ocean. For Hollywood, it was both a sigh of relief and a moment to think about. Maybe the first thought other than avenging Pearl Harbor – which says a lot for the salty combat sailor Hollywood was by this time.

“It was a new experience,” he said. “Trying to kill an opponent who only wanted to kill you and not survive. Anyone at that time who says they weren’t scared… I don’t think they’re telling the truth.”
Sea Mines Are Cheap and Low-Tech, but They Could Stop World Trade in Its Tracks

The Destroyer USS Melvin.

The Battle of Surigao Strait was really a part of the greater Battle of Leyte Gulf, the largest naval battle in military history. It put 300 American ships against some 68 Japanese ships. The Japanese had always believed that one great naval battle could knock the United States out of the war and win it for Japan. This was a must-win battle for both sides, and it showed. The fighting at every level was intense but only one side could come out on top, and it wasn’t the Japanese.

Surigao was just the beginning of the greater battle, and sailors like FC2 Phil Hollywood and the crew of the Melvin started off the biggest naval battle of all time, a battle that would rage on for three full days.

MIGHTY TRENDING

F-35 pilot describes A-10 as ‘Chewbacca with chainsaw arms’

The desert screams by below. The clouds scream by above. Both stretch on into the horizon. It’s deceptively calm in the cockpit. There’s a constant, seemingly discordant stream of chatter coming through his helmet. The digital screens in front of him, along with images projected onto his visor, provide enough information to save lives and take a few as well. In the sky ahead are more than 60 advanced enemy aircraft, flown by some of the best fighter pilots in the world. They are hunting — looking to kill him and his wingmen. He just graduated pilot training. Welcome to Red Flag.


“I haven’t been flying that long. There are things that stand out in my career. My first solo flight, my first F-35 flight and my first Red Flag mission. I don’t think I’ll ever forget those things,” said 1st Lt. Landon Moores, a 388th Fighter Wing, 4th Fighter Squadron, F-35A Lightning II pilot.

Moores is one of a handful of young F-35A pilots who recently graduated their initial training and are currently deployed to Nellis Air Force Base as part of exercise Red-Flag 19-1. Now they are being battle-tested.

Sea Mines Are Cheap and Low-Tech, but They Could Stop World Trade in Its Tracks

An F-35A Lightning II takes off at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Feb. 1, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw)

“Going from F-35 training a little over a month ago to a large force exercise with dozens of aircraft in the sky is pretty crazy,” Moores said. “For the initial part of the first mission, I was just kind of sitting there listening. I was nervous. I was excited. Then the training kicked in.”

Red Flag is the Air Force’s premier combat training exercise where units from across the Department of Defense join with allied nations in a “blue force” to combat a “red force” in a variety of challenging scenarios over three weeks.

“For us, the biggest difference between this Red Flag and our first with the F-35A two years ago is that we have a lot of pilots on their first assignment,” said Lt. Col. Yosef Morris, 4th FS commander. “Putting them alongside more experienced wingmen is what Red Flag was designed for.”

Combat training has changed dramatically over the years, Morris said.

“When I was a young pilot in the F-16, I had a couple of responsibilities in the cockpit. One, don’t lose sight of my flight lead. Two, keep track of a bunch of green blips on a small screen in front of me, and correlate the blips to what someone is telling me on the radio,” Morris said. “Now, we’re flying miles apart and interpreting and sharing information the jets gather, building a threat and target picture. We’re asking way more of young wingmen, but we’re able to do that because of their training and the capabilities of the jet.”

Capt. James Rosenau flew the A-10 in four previous Red Flags, but he’s brand new to flying the F-35. He graduated from the transition course in December 2018.

Sea Mines Are Cheap and Low-Tech, but They Could Stop World Trade in Its Tracks

Pilots from the 388th Fighter Wing’s 4th Fighter Squadron prepare for launch at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Jan. 31, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw)

“I loved the A-10 and its mission. It’s like a flying tank. Like Chewbacca with chainsaw arms. A very raw flying experience,” Rosenau said. “Obviously the F-35 is completely different. It’s more like a precision tool. After seeing the F-35 go up against the near-peer threats replicated here at Nellis (AFB), I’m a big believer.”

The two aircraft are similar in one way. They do very specific things other aircraft aren’t asked to do.

“In the A-10, I liked being the guy who was called upon to directly support troops on the ground. To bring that fight to the enemy,” Rosenau said. “Now I like being the guy who can support legacy fighters when they may be struggling to get into a target area because of the threat level. We have more freedom to operate. We have this big radar that can sniff out threats. We can gather all of that and pass it along or potentially take out those threats ourselves.”

The threat level is high at Red Flag. From the skill and size of the aggressor forces in the air to the complexity and diversity of the surface to air threats, there is a real sense of the ‘fog and friction’ of war. The adversary force also uses space and cyber warfare to take out or limit technology that modern warfighters rely on. Cutting through the clutter is a strength of the F-35A.

“One of the jet’s greatest assets is to see things that others can’t, take all the information it’s gathering from the sensors and present them to the pilot,” Moores said. “One of our biggest jobs is learning how to process and prioritize that. For the more experienced pilots it seems like it is second nature. … If we don’t, it’s not like we’re getting killed (in the F-35), but we could be doing more killing.”

The pilots say seeing the F-35A’s capabilities being put to use as part of a larger force has been invaluable.

“When we mission plan with other units, it’s not always about kicking down the door,” Rosenau said. “It may be about looking at what the enemy is presenting and ‘thinking skinny.’ With the F-35, we can think through a mission and choose how we want to attack it to make everyone more survivable.”

MIGHTY MONEY

These are the veterans that benefit from a higher minimum wage

Nearly 2 million US veterans would benefit from raising the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour.


Approximately 1.8 million of the 9 million veterans in payroll jobs across the US would get a raise if Congress raised the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2024, the liberal-leaning Economic Policy Institute determined in an analysis on the Raise the Wage Act of 2017 in honor of Veterans Day.

Nearly two-thirds of the veterans who would get the raise are age 40 or older, over 60% have some college experience, and nearly 70% work full time, the EPI found.

Sea Mines Are Cheap and Low-Tech, but They Could Stop World Trade in Its Tracks
Desert Storm veterans. (USAF photo by Ssgt. F. Lee Corkran)

“This means that despite their service to the country, the intensive training that they have received, and the access to additional education provided to veterans through the GI Bill, 1 out of every 5 veterans is still being paid so little that they stand to benefit from raising the minimum wage,” the Economic Policy Institute’s David Cooper and Dan Essrow wrote.

The debate over raising the federal minimum wage has heated up over the past few years. Those against raising it argue that a higher minimum wage could lead businesses to raise their prices or to cut jobs and benefits in an attempt to offset the cost.

Those in favor of raising it, on the other hand, argue that raising the minimum wage above the current $7.25 per hour federal standard would improve living standards, and would enable consumers to spend more. That increased spending would then give a nice, healthy boost to an economy that still shows some slack several years after the Great Recession.

The current federal minimum wage is at $7.25 per hour. Parts of the country have raised their minimum wages above that, including a number of states and major cities like Seattle, Washington and Los Angeles, California.

Also Read: This is how much troops were paid in every major American war

The Raise the Wage Act of 2017 was introduced by Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Patty Murray (D-A), and Reps. Bobby Scott (D-VA) and Keith Ellison (D-MN) back in April, 2017. It would incrementally raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2024, and starting in 2025 it would be “indexed” to median wages so that each year the minimum wage would be adjusted based on the growth in median earnings. It would also increase the subminimum wage for tipped workers (which has been at $2.31 per hour since 1991) and phase out the youth minimum wage and the subminimum wage for workers with disabilities.

The real federal minimum wage peaked back in 1968 at $8.54 in 2014 dollars, according to an analysis by the Pew Research Center. The chart below from Pew compares the real (adjusted for inflation to 2014 dollars) federal minimum wage to the nominal (non-inflation adjusted) federal minimum wage since 1939.

A study from The Economist in 2015 found that “one would expect America… to pay a minimum wage around $12 an hour” based on how rich the country is and the pattern among other developed economies in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) .

Articles

First female Marine to attempt infantry course dropped on final attempt

The first female Marine to try to become an infantry officer has been reclassified to a different military occupational specialty after failing her second attempt at the grueling Infantry Officer’s Course, Military.com has learned.


The officer, who has not been publicly identified, began the 84-day course July 6 and was dropped July 18 after failing to complete two conditioning hikes, Capt. Joshua Pena said.

“IOC students may not fall out of more than one hike during a course,” Pena said.

Sea Mines Are Cheap and Low-Tech, but They Could Stop World Trade in Its Tracks
U.S. Marines from Delta Company, U.S. Marines from Delta Company, Infantry Training Battalion (ITB), School of Infantry-East (SOI-E) listen to a combat order brief before stepping off on a raid, which is part of the Infantry Integrated Field Training Exercise aboard Camp Geiger, N.C. | U. S. Marine Corps photo by CWO2 Mancuso, Paul S. Combat Camera

In all, 34 of the 97 officers who began the course have been dropped. Nine, including the female officer, were recommended for MOS redesignation, meaning they will be placed in a non-infantry job within the Marine Corps.

The female officer first attempted the course in April, just months after Defense Secretary Ashton Carter declared all previously closed ground combat jobs open to women and ordered the services to design plans for integration. She was dropped on the 11th day of that attempt, after failing to complete a second hike.

Notably, the officer passed the notoriously challenging first day’s combat endurance test both times she attempted the course.

While 29 female officers had attempted the IOC on a test basis in a three-year period before the integration mandate was handed down, none would have had the chance to enter infantry jobs upon passing the course.

And because all but one of the female officers were volunteers attempting the course for personal improvement and Marine Corps research purposes, they were not guaranteed a second shot at the course the way male officers were. (The other female Marine was attempting to become a ground intelligence officer, a job that opened before other infantry jobs.)

For that reason, female officers now have their fairest shot at passing the course as the Corps looks to integrate previously male-only units.

But it remains to be seen how many women will attempt to enter these formerly closed positions.

Pena said there are now no female officers enrolled or slated to participate in future IOC classes. The current class will conclude Sept. 20.

In April, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said the Marine Corps would not change its physical standards in an attempt to help its first female infantry officers enter the fleet.

“One of the questions I got at IOC was, ‘OK, five years from now, no woman had made it through IOC. What happens?’ ” Mabus said at Camp Pendleton on April 12. “My response was, ‘No woman made it through IOC. Standards aren’t going to change.’ “

MIGHTY MOVIES

6 reasons ‘The Long Road Home’ might be the most realistic military show ever

This week, National Geographic will air the first episode of The Long Road Home. The miniseries is a scripted retelling of the beginning of the U.S. Army’s fight in the Siege of Sadr City of April 2004. What began with an uprising against the U.S. occupation forces in the Shia neighborhood of the capital led to a long protracted siege spanning years.


The Long Road Home is the story of an ambushed Army escort convoy from 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division. It’s based on the true story of a platoon forced to hole up in a civilian home and await rescue. With eight American soldiers lost in the initial fighting in the Baghdad neighborhood, the battle came to be known as “Black Sunday.”

Adapted from ABC News correspondent Martha Raddatz’ book of the same name, the show meticulously created what might be the most accurate military story in film or television.

1. The show’s military advisors were in Sadr City that day.

Any military show or movie with an interest in authenticity is going to have veteran technical advisors on hand to tell the director when things are wrong. But in The Long Road Home, you can expect more than infantry badges and rank to be in the right place. You can expect the people and vehicles to be in Sadr City in the right places too.

Sea Mines Are Cheap and Low-Tech, but They Could Stop World Trade in Its Tracks
The actors and 2-5 Cav vets from The Long Road Home talked to We Are The Mighty about their experiences making the show. (National Geographic)

Showrunner Mikko Alanne hired two veterans from Black Sunday – Eric Bourquin and Aaron Fowler – to be the show’s military advisors. If one of the actors needed to know how to wear a patrol cap, the two veterans could show him. But unlike most shows, if the director needed a minute-by-minute breakdown, he could ask the guys who were there.

“Personally, I like it,” says Fowler. “Because I’m a retired Sergeant First Class, so I have the anal-retentive part down. I’ve got lots of notebooks, and I have access to all the guys. If one of the actors had a question, I could get my phone and hand them the person that did the action they had questions about.”

Sea Mines Are Cheap and Low-Tech, but They Could Stop World Trade in Its Tracks
Jeremy Sisto as Sgt. Robert Miltenberger in The Long Road Home. (National Geographic)

“Eric [Bourquin] was in the platoon that was pinned down on the roof and Aaron [Fowler] was among the rescuers,” says Alanne.

“I’m very proud to be a part of what happened and how it’s been handled. I’ve struggled with having to open up, because having such a wide spotlight cast on a pretty intense part of my life,” says Bourquin. “I learned things I didn’t know transpired. Because the whole time, I was stuck on the roof for four hours. People were out there trying to come in, to get us, so I’d been exposed to a lot of things that I wasn’t aware of and that was healing too. This is honoring them. Now everybody’s gonna always know their story. With that being said, how could I not be involved?”

2. Raddatz’ interviewed everyone close to the fighting.

You don’t get to be the Chief Global Affairs Correspondent of a major network without being addicted to the facts. Martha Raddatz, who literally wrote the book on the events in Sadr City that day, was working for ABC News in Baghdad at the time when she heard about what happened. She ended up talking to everyone from 2-5 Cav that was still in country.

“This story came to me,” she says. “I was covering politics and policy when a general told me about this battle. I had to go talk to these guys. We did pieces for ABC News, for Nightline… I was just so stricken by them. I come from a foreign affairs background and I see presidents make policy and then I went over and saw the effects of that policy.”

Sea Mines Are Cheap and Low-Tech, but They Could Stop World Trade in Its Tracks
Raddatz is still covering military operations in the CENTCOM area as of 2016.

She was introduced to the families through the soldiers who fought there that day.

“It will be with me forever,” Raddatz says. “It felt like they could all be my neighbors. One day they’re all in minivans with their kids, and in three days they’re in the middle of a battle. These aren’t a bunch of action figures, these are real human beings.”

3. Mike Medavoy is an executive producer.

If the name of a film producer doesn’t excite you, that’s fine. An executive producer’s name likely doesn’t carry a lot of weight with most of America.

In the case of The Long Road Home, however, the addition of Medavoy puts the miniseries in the hands of a guy who helped make the legendary war movies Apocalypse Now, Platoon, and The Thin Red Line (not to mention non-military films Rocky, Raging Bull, and Terminator 2).

4. The Long Road Home’s depiction of Army families is heartfelt and real.

When the cast arrived at Fort Hood and met the families of 2-5 Cav, they got just a taste of what living in a military family is like.

“I took away an incredible sense of community,” says actress Katie Paxton, who plays Amber Aguero, wife to Lt. Shane Aguero. “You felt that community from the soldiers. When you’re in war covering your sector, you’re covering the guy to your left. You’re covering the guy to your right. And those guys are your family. I never really understood that until I talked to soldiers.”

Sea Mines Are Cheap and Low-Tech, but They Could Stop World Trade in Its Tracks
A still from the opening episode of The Long Road Home. (National Geographic)

“I grew up in the city as a city kid, and this totally dispelled all of my ideas of what the soldier was actually like,” says actor Ian Quinlan, who plays Spc. Robert Arsiaga. “There was a very significant through line between these soldiers – a lot of these guys joined after 9/11. It blew me away because as a New Yorker I didn’t know anyone in my immediate vicinity in New York who would ever think of that.”

“Hearing their stories, you just feel the goosebumps,” says Karina Ortiz, who plays one of the Gold Star Wives. “The soldiers leave and everything is fine at first, but then people start hearing things. Rumors. The waiting. The not knowing. I would get teary-eyed and just feel their pain. Or I’d feel their fear.”

Sea Mines Are Cheap and Low-Tech, but They Could Stop World Trade in Its Tracks
Jason Ritter portrays Capt. Troy Denomy with Kate Bosworth as Gina Denomy on the set of The Long Road Home at Fort Hood, Texas. (Photo: National Geographic/Van Redin)

The experience of recreating the events of April 2004 even had an effect on its veterans.

“One of the Gold Star Wives came up to me after the Fort Hood premiere and told me thank you,” Eric Bourquin says. “I don’t know why. Her husband died trying to come rescue us guys that were stuck on the roof. But the more I thought about it I realized everyone watching is going to see what the families and everyone involved goes through when shit happens.”

5. The showrunner’s background is in documentary.

“I was very cognizant from the beginning that real life people were going to be watching this,” says Mikko Alanne. “It was my hope that we would be able to use everyone’s real name, and so Martha and I worked very closely on reaching out to all the families.”

The two were very successful. The show originally premiered in Fort Hood’s Abrams Gym. After the show’s Los Angeles premiere, the veterans and Gold Star Families took the stage with their TV counterparts, to a standing ovation from an elite Hollywood audience. But the realism didn’t stop with cooperation.

Sea Mines Are Cheap and Low-Tech, but They Could Stop World Trade in Its Tracks
A still from The Long Road Home. Sadr City was meticulously recreated on Fort Hood for these scenes. (National Geographic)

“So many of the families sent us their photographs, actual photographs used as props, or photographs of their homes for us to recreate,” Alanne says. “And it was very important to me the cast reached out to their real-life counterparts. Bonds were formed between the actors and the real life families, and everyone became infused with the same mission that Martha really started; that these families and these experiences would not be lost to history.”

6. The Fort Hood scenes are really Fort Hood.

When you see Fort Hood, Tex. depicted on screen, you can be sure that’s what Fort Hood really looks like. The show was shot entirely at Fort Hood. The cast even lived in base housing. More important than that, however, is the exact recreation of Sadr City built on Fort Hood that took the veterans on the base back to April 2004.

“The smell was the only thing that wasn’t exactly recreated,” says Fowler. “We veterans and Gold Star Families got to walk back to the streets of Sadr City that we would never get to go. It was an incredibly healing experience. Exposure therapy plain and simple.”

Eric Bourquin agrees.

“Being able to travel back to your battlespace without fear of being captured and ending up in a YouTube video is a gift that can’t be put into words,” he says. “Just like the guys that go back and visit France, or Korea, or Vietnam — it’s become a reality.”

Sea Mines Are Cheap and Low-Tech, but They Could Stop World Trade in Its Tracks
A candid from behind the scenes of The Long Road Home on Fort Hood. (National Geographic)

The Long Road Home starts Tuesday Nov. 7 at 9pm on National Geographic.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Watch how this vet made $700,000 on his deployment gift to himself

We’ve all had that item we wanted to buy but maybe couldn’t quite justify or afford, but figured out a way to make it happen. For Air Force veteran David it was a 1971 Rolex Cosmograph Oyster. He appeared on Antiques Roadshow this week to tell his story and to have the watch that he so desperately wanted, but ultimately didn’t wear, appraised.


David entered the Air Force in 1971 with a draft number of seven.

He was stationed in Thailand from 1973-1975. While he was there, he flew on Air America and Continental and noticed that the pilots wore Rolex watches. “I was intrigued,” he told appraiser Peter Planes.

At his next duty station, Planes started scuba diving and found that the Rolex Cosmograph Oyster was a great resource to have underwater. He ordered one from the base exchange in November of 1974. With his ten percent military discount, it cost him 5.97. Making only 0 to 0 per month, that was a big buy. When he got it, it was too beautiful to wear. David put it in a safe deposit box and has kept it there since he bought it, only taking it out a few times to admire it. With all his original paperwork and the watch in pristine condition, David fell on the floor when Planes told him the value of the watch.

See his reaction and how much the watch is worth now:

www.youtube.com


Do Not Sell My Personal Information