The sinking of the Soviet nuclear submarine Komsomolets 30 years ago was one of the worst submarine disasters of all time, and the lasting damages may be far from over.
Norwegian researchers believe that the wrecked K-278 Komsomolets, the only Project 685 Pavnik nuclear-powered attack submarine, is leaking radiation on the seafloor. While two of three preliminary water samples taken on July 8, 2019, show no leakage, one alarming sample showed radiation levels 100,000 times higher than uncontaminated seawater, Norway’s state-owned broadcaster NRK reported.
Low levels of radiation were detected by Russian scientists in the early 1990s and again in 2007, The Barents Observer reported. Norway, which has been taking samples every year since 1990, found elevated concentrations of the radioactive substance cesium-137 near the wreck between 1991 and 1993. No leaks were ever found.
The Norwegian research ship GO Sars set sail on July 6, 2019, from Tromsø to the location in the Norwegian Sea where the Komsomolets sank and sent a Norwegian-built remote-controlled mini-sub to examine the situation. The Soviet submarine, which was lost to the depths with its nuclear reactors, as well as two torpedoes carrying plutonium warheads, is resting at a depth of around a mile below the surface of the sea.
The use of the Ægir 6000 mini-sub is a new approach for the Norwegians, one that is expected to offer more precise readings, NRK reported. “The new surveys,” Ingar Amundsen, Head of Directorate for Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety explained, “are important for understanding the pollution risk posed by Komsomolets.”
Norway is particularly concerned about the potential impact on commercial fishing in the area.
“It is important that the monitoring of the nuclear submarine continues, so that we have updated knowledge about the pollution situation in the area around the wreck,” researcher Hilde Elise Heldal of the Institute of Marine Research said in a press statement. “The monitoring helps to ensure consumer confidence in the Norwegian fishing industry.”
Heldal said she was not overly surprised by the recent findings given some of the earlier detections of apparent radioactive emissions. Experts have said previously, according to The Barents Observer, that there is little chance of food chain contamination given the limited marine life presence at the depth the wreckage is located.
The massive 400-foot-long Komsomolets was launched in 1983 at Severodvinsk, where it became operational a year later. The Soviet submarine, expected to be the first of a new class of large attack submarines, had the ability to operate at depths below 3,000 feet, making it one of the world’s deepest diving subs, according to the Central Intelligence Agency.
The vessel, attached to the Soviet Northern Fleet, sank on April 7, 1989, about 100 miles southwest of Bear Island after a fire broke out in the engine room. Forty-two of the 69 were killed, most due to exposure resulting from the slow reaction of the Soviet navy to rescue the stranded crew.
News of a possible radiation leak from the Komsomolets comes a little over a week after 14 Russian sailors perished due to a fire aboard a secret submarine believed to be the Losharik, a top secret deep-diving nuclear submarine suspected to have been designed to gather intelligence, tamper with undersea cables and pipelines, and possibly install or destroy defensive sonar arrays.
Norwegian researchers have been monitoring this incident for signs of radioactive contamination.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Recently, the Navy announced that the expeditionary fast transport USNS Brunswick (T EPF 6) completed Pacific Partnership 2018 in Thailand. If you’re out of the know, you may be asking yourself why this operation is such a big deal. Well, believe it or not, this annual exercise has been going on for a dozen years now and it’s an essential part of being ready for the worst.
After the 2004 tsunami ravaged Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, and several other neighboring countries in one of history’s worst-ever natural disasters, the United States deployed relief ships to provide humanitarian aid. This generated generated a lot of good will among affected nations and their allies. This matters a great deal — when you have a reservoir of good will among a population, you’re much less likely to find yourself embroiled in war.
USNS Mercy (T AH 19) taking part in Pacific Partnership 2018.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kelsey L. Adams)
At the time, the United States had a pair of hospital ships, USNS Mercy (T AH 19) and USNS Comfort (T AH 20), that hadn’t seen much use. Although these ships are slated for replacement, they still house much more advanced medical facilities than most countries can offer. Those aboard USNS Mercy rendered care for 108,000 patients between 2004 and 2005.
After supplying aid in the wake of a terrible disaster, the Navy began to make annual deployments. The Navy has also used the big-deck amphibious assault ships of the Tarawa and Wasp classes in these deployments.
A Navy corpsman gives a tour of the medical facilities on board USNS Mercy (T AH 19) during Pacific Partnership 2015.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Mayra A. Conde)
During Pacific Partnership, not only does the Navy provide a lot of medical aid, they host disaster relief training exercises with partner nations, like Thailand. As the old saying goes, “you fight like you train.” The same can be said of providing disaster relief.
This exercise is not entirely a one-way street, however. During Pacific Partnership, in exchange for advanced training, the Navy gets a lot of knowledge about the terrain and personnel are given the opportunity to build relationships with their local counterparts.
Big-deck amphibious ships, like USS Essex (LHD 2), have also been used in Pacific Partnership deployments.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Adam Brock)
The operation isn’t exclusively for governments. Representatives from various non-governmental organizations also take part. These aren’t the normal passengers on Navy vessels, and having them aboard allows the Navy to practice operating as part of grand-scale, disaster-relief efforts.
At the end of the day, Pacific Partnership is one of the U.S. Military’s greatest chances to practice responding to a disaster. The fact that it generates good will and gets some nice press is just a bonus.
The United States says it is halting deliveries to Turkey related to the F-35 fighter-jet program in response to Ankara’s decision to move ahead with the purchase of Russian air-defense system.
“Pending an unequivocal Turkish decision to forgo delivery of the S-400, deliveries and activities associated with the stand-up of Turkey’s F-35 operational capability have been suspended while our dialogue on this important matter continues with Turkey,” a Pentagon spokesperson said on April 1, 2019.
Washington has been warning Ankara for months that buying the S-400 system would jeopardize its planned purchase of the advanced fighter aircraft.
Turkey has said it is committed to a deal to buy S-400 missile-defense systems from Russia.
Unexploded ordnance, often called “UXO,” has long been a problem after wars. In World War II, the Allies dropped almost 1.6 million tons of bombs on Germany – the equivalent of 6.4 million 500-pound bombs. Every major city was hit.
The problem is that not all the bombs exploded — not surprising when so many were dropped. These have been hanging around – and even now, 72 years after V-E Day, some of them still turn up.
And in Hanover, Germany, on May 7, 2017, three of those UXOs were found by construction crews, according to the BBC.
With so many people affected, the city decided to throw a big UXO party. Numerous events were set up, including screenings of films for kids, sporting events, and museum tours. There were also efforts made to provide food and other essential supplies to the evacuees while the Allied bombs were secured.
There’s no doubt about it, UXO can still kill, even after decades under ground. The BBC reported that in 2010, three German EOD techs were killed while trying to defuse a World War II leftover. In 2012, a construction worker was killed when his equipment hit an old bomb. Old World War II ordnance has sometimes been discovered during training exercises, notably in the Baltic Sea.
In the United States, most of the UXO is from the Civil War. In the wake of Hurricane Matthew, a number of cannonball left over from that conflict were unearthed.
QUANTICO–In the Marine Corps’ rush to drop weight, one of the most beloved and storied pieces of gear could be left behind. At the service’s first Equipping the Infantry Challenge here Sept. 27, program managers said they’re looking for a lighter, more practical alternative to the iconic ammunition can.
Scott Rideout, program manager for ammunition at Marine Corps Systems Command, told industry leaders that the rectangular can, which today looks much the same as it did during World War II and Vietnam, may be overdue for an upgrade.
Marine Corps ammo comes to the warfighter, he said, “in the same metal can that it’s come in for 100 years. That metal can is one of those things that when the ammunition is brought to Marines, they take the ammunition out, distribute it however they’re going to distribute it, then throw [the can] away. The ammo can itself provides no value added to the Marine, except to help get the ammunition there.”
Some may disagree. The blog Shooter’s Log in 2013 listed 50 possible uses for the ammo can that range from improvised washing machine to anchor. Another website, Survival List Daily, topped that with 74 uses, including field toilet and cook pot.
The gear is even more central to Marine Corps identity: one of the elements of the Combat Fitness Test that all Marines must pass once a year is the ammunition can lift, in which troops are tested on the number of times they can lift a 30-pound can above their head and shoulders within two minutes.
But the calculus is simple, Rideout said: “Ounces equal pounds, and pounds equal pain.”
Emerging technology, such as logistics drones that might be able to carry resupply items to troops in the field, may also put limits on how much a new delivery of ammunition can weigh.
The cans, which weigh anywhere between three and seven pounds depending on their make and the caliber of ammunition, can amount to a quarter of the ammo weight that Marines are carrying, Rideout said.
“If we can get that weight out of the system, that’s more ammunition that can be resupplied to Marines to allow them to do their jobs,” he said. “So we need lighter-weight packaging. Ammo is what ammo is, but there are a couple areas out there where we can reduce weight to enable Marines to do their jobs better, especially against a near-peer type competitor or distributed ops.”
Ammo cans aren’t the only area getting a look.
Rideout and Mary Flower LeMaster, chief engineer for ammunition at SYSCOM, said the brass casing that houses bullets may also be ripe for improvement.
“The brass provides no value added to the weapons system; it’s just to enable the round and the propellant to interface with the weapon to provide effect downrange,” Rideout said. “That’s where we need to attack that weight. And there is technology out there that can do that and so we’re looking for industry to help us there.”
Rideout and LeMaster provided no alternatives to these key ammunition items, and it’s unclear how the Marine Corps might move forward with service-specific improvements to items used by multiple service branches, like ammo cans and brass. But this call-out to industry is in keeping with a broader service effort to solicit revolutionary ideas to improve the way Marines fight on the battlefield. During the same Infantry Equipping Challenge event, SYSCOM Commander Brig. Gen. Joseph Shrader said he wanted ideas for a meal, ready-to-eat optimized for Marine infantrymen in the field, with more efficient and practical packaging.
Currently, the ammunition managers said, they’re looking for ideas to improve five different calibers of ammo, as well as the cans: 9mm, 5.56, .762, .50-caliber, and .300 Winchester Magnum.
There was a lot of new technology brought to the battlefield during World War I. Two of those were used in tandem – and somehow managed to perfectly compliment each other. It was the fighter plane and the machine gun, mounted perfectly for the pilot’s use, without shooting up the propeller that kept the bird aloft.
Was it the gun that was designed to fire through the propeller or the propeller designed to be used with the machine gun? Yes.
The system worked because of its synchronization gear which kept the gun from firing when the propeller would be hit by the bullet. While airborne the prop would actually be spinning five times as fast as the weapon could fire, so there was little margin of error. The problem was solved by the addition of a gear-like disc on the propeller that would only allow the gun to fire in between the blades’ rotation.
Often called an “interrupter” the disc did not actually interrupt the firing of the weapon, it merely allowed it to fire semiautomatically instead of at an even pace. When the prop spun around to a certain position, it would allow the weapon’s firing mechanism to fully cycle and fire a round. Usually, when the round was supposed to be interrupted, the weapon was actually just in the process of cycling.
So pulling the trigger would essentially connect the weapon to the propeller, and the prop would actually be firing the gun. Letting the trigger go would disconnect the weapon from the propeller.
Later versions, such as the Kauper interrupter used on the Sopwith Camel, allowed for multiple machine guns at different rates of fire. The interrupter was a welcome change from the early days of combat aviation, where props were sometimes metal plated just in case mechanically uncoordinated rounds hit the propeller, so the bullet would ricochet.
One of Russia’s largest defense contractors, Rostec, released new footage of their most advanced military exoskeleton in use on Monday, and as is so often the case when Russia makes such an announcement, a number of media outlets have taken their claims at face value in their reporting.
However, historical precedent would suggest that we might want to hold off on congratulating Russia on cracking the exoskeleton egg. Russia has a long history of headline-grabbing military tech claims that have repeatedly proven misleading at best, and downright fabricated at worst.
Perhaps the most egregious falsehood Western Media briefly fell for in recent past was the Russian bipedal robot dubbed “Borris” that was unveiled in December of 2018 at the Putin Youth Forum in the city of Yaroslavl, Russia. The robot performed impressively, seemingly handling a number of complex tasks with ease, suggesting to many that Russia may be further along in the robotics game than many had previously suspected.
“At the youth forum Putin was shown “the most modern robot Boris”. But this is just a man in a suit.” “Here is that “modern robot” for you – an exclusive photo of the preparations for Putin’s youth forum in Yaroslavl.”
Of course, that wasn’t Russia’s first robotic claim to be full of hot air in 2018. In April, famed AK-47 maker Kalashnikov unveiled their own intimidating battle suit that was hailed by Western media outlets as something “straight out of Aliens the movie,” despite actually being little more than a statue with automated arms… that bears a closer resemblance to Robocop’s Ed-209… in that it too can’t go up stairs.
Kalashnikov claimed a more mobile version would be unveiled in 2020, but has yet to manifest. (Kalashnikov)
Not all of Russia’s exoskeleton or robotic failures have been quite so openly fabricated, and indeed some could be chalked up to little more than Russia’s propaganda machine spinning up faster than the nation’s real military technology could keep pace. Such was likely the case with Russia’s (once again) headline-grabbing Uran-9 unmanned ground combat, or infantry support, vehicle.
Russia’s Uran-9 in rehearsal for the Moscow Parade (Dmitriy Fomin on Flickr)
The entire world reported on Russia’s announcement that their armed infantry drone, the Uran-9, would be deployed to Syria for combat operations and further testing. The fact that Russia was already placing an armed, semi-autonomous robot into combat suggested to many that Moscow was demonstrating a significant lead when compared to Western efforts to do the same… but after a flurry of coverage regarding the deployment, coverage ceased regarding it’s use. The reason was that Russian state-media outlets (where most Western coverage of these advancements are derived) stopped covering the platform.
It wasn’t until months later that the Uran-9’s long list of deficiencies made its way to the public, not through press coverage picked up by the West initially, but rather after discussions between military leaders held months later found their way online.
Uran-9 unmanned combat ground vehicle displayed in 2016 (WikiMedia Commons)
In 2018 discussions at a Russian security conference called “Actual Problems of Protection and Security,” held at the N.G. Kuznetsov Naval Academy in St. Petersburg, made their way to the press. The truth regarding the Uran-9, it was revealed, was not nearly as impressive as its coverage in the West would have suggested.
A.P. Anisimov, a Senior Research Officer from the 3rd Central Research Institute of the Russian Defence Ministry, concluded that the platform was incapable of performing the tasks it was designed for. Press coverage claimed a three-kilometer range for the control of the ground drone, but the truth was that operators lost control of it at distances as short as 300 meters or any time they lost line of sight. Operators lost complete control of the vehicle for at least one minute on new fewer than seventeen separate occasions, with two of those instances lasting longer than an hour.
Keeping it on the truck for the Moscow Parade was probably a good decision. (Dmitriy Fomin on Flickr)
Other significant issues included the chassis repeatedly failing, forcing repairs in the field, the cannon failing to function on six different occasions, and its targeting system proving so poor that engaging targets at any distance was almost impossible.
Of course, does a history of making up news related to Russia’s military exoskeleton and robotic capabilities in the past mean this new Rostec system is similarly more hype than function? Not necessarily. Exoskeleton design has been at the top of many firm’s priority list in recent years. In fact, the Marine Corps started receiving real robotic exoskeletons for testing earlier this year, though the Corps is focused on using them for logistics, rather than combat — as the margin for error is much higher in a warehouse than a firefight.
Marine Corps exoskeleton (Sarcos Defense)
Of course, America’s tech innovations aren’t immune to being propagandized either, but the Marine Corps’ decision to slow the introduction of exoskeletons until the technology is robust enough for combat at least seems like a more realistic progression.
There are a few more related announcements made by Russian military tech firms recently that later proved to be bunk, aside from their unconfirmed claims about the capabilities of real (and likely largely functional) platforms like the Su-57 stealth fighter, the PAK-DA stealth bomber, or the Su-70 Okhotnik-B stealth UCAV.
In 2018, Russia claimed to have developed active camouflage that could hide soldiers and even vehicles behind a Predator-style cloak of invisibility. Those claims were also made by Rostec, the same firm responsible for this new exoskeleton, and have yet to materialize.
The Ratnik-3 combat suit. (Rostec)
In another social media gaff, Russia’s state news agency RIA Novosti tweeted that Vladimir Putin was observing the exercises of Russian military robots, again hyping Russia’s emphasis on combat robotics. The news outlet reported that the students were demonstrating their own robot invention.
However, it was soon revealed that the robots were actually South Korean-sourced toys that can be purchased on Amazon.
In other words, based on historical precedent… it would be logical that we hold our applause until some evidence of Rostec’s system actually functioning properly in field conditions finds its way to the media.
The Navy is firing weapons, engaging in combat scenarios, and refining warfighting tactics through a rigorous training regiment aimed at better preparing the sea service for massive warfare on the open ocean.
Described by Navy officials as “high-velocity learning,” Surface Warfare Advanced Tactical Training (SWATT) is focused on speeding up combat decision making and responding in real time to emerging high-tech enemy weapons such as missiles, lasers, sea mines, long-range anti-ship missiles, and torpedoes, among others.
“We are focused on the high-end fight” Cmdr. Emily Royse, SWATT leader, told Warrior Maven in an interview.
The emphasis also has a heavy academic focus, lead by specially prepared Warfare Tactics Instructors, aimed at briefing — and then debriefing — a range of operational maritime warfare scenarios.
“For each training type we focus on sea control type events. Warfare units are presented with a scenario and we are there to help them through the decision making process to help them fight that scenario. For surface warfare, for instance, they might plan how they are going to get all their ships through narrow, high-risk straights or how to respond to small boat threats,” Royse added.
The training crosses a wide swath of maritime combat missions, to include mine countermeasures, Amphibious Ready Groups, Carrier Strike Groups, and other elements of surface warfare. The idea is to further establish and refine tactics, techniques, and procedures needed for major warfare against high-tech enemies.
“Sea control objective is to ensure that our forces are able to move freely within the sea lanes and ensure that they are free from threats or able to counter threats,” Royse said.
U.S. Navy ships assigned to the USS George Washington Carrier Strike Group sail in formation for a strike group photo in the Caribbean Sea.
Some of the particular kinds of enemy weapons these courses anticipate for the future include a range of emerging new systems — to include lasers, rail-guns, and long-range missiles, among other technologies.
Not surprisingly, these courses appear as somewhat of a linear outgrowth or tactical manifestation of the Navy’s 2016 Surface Force Strategy document. Tilted “Return to Sea Control,” the strategy paper lists a number of specific enemy threat areas of concern focused upon by course trainers.
Examples of threats cited by the strategy paper include “anti-ship ballistic and cruise missiles, integrated and layered sensor systems, targeting networks, long-range bombers, advanced fighter aircraft, submarines, mines, advanced integrated air defenses, electronic warfare, and cyber and space technologies.”
Much like the training courses and the Surface Force Strategy, the Navy’s Distributed Maritime Operations Concept also builds upon the Navy’s much-discussed “distributed lethality” strategy, in place now for a number of years. This strategic approach emphasizes the need to more fully arm the fleet with offensive and defensive weapons and disperse forces as needed.
Having cyber, space, and missile weapons — along with over-the-horizon ship and air-launched weapons — are relevant to offensive attack as well as the “distributed” portion of the strategy. Having an ability to defend against a wider range of attacks and strike from long-distances enables the fleet to spread out and conduct dis-aggregated operations, making US Navy forces less vulnerable to enemy firepower.
Interestingly, the pressing need to emphasize offensive attack in the Navy fleet appears to have roots in previous Navy strategic thinking.
The U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Enterprise, the world’s first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, steams alongside the French nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Charles De Gaulle.
(U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate Airman Doug Pearlman)
Part of the overall strategic rationale is to move the force back toward open or “blue water” combat capability against near peer competitors, such as that which was emphasized during the Cold War. While the importance of this kind of strategic and tactical thinking never disappeared, these things were emphasized less during the last 15-plus years of ground wars wherein the Navy focused on counter-terrorism, securing the international waterways, counter-piracy and things like Visit Board Search and Seizure.
These missions are, of course, still important, however the Navy seeks to substantially increase its offensive “lethality” given that rivals such as Russia and China have precision-guided anti-ship missiles able to hit targets at ranges greater than 900 miles in some cases. The advent of new cyber and electronic warfare attack technologies, enemy drones and the rapid global proliferation of sea mines all present uniquely modern nuances when compared to previous Cold-War strategic paradigms.
Nevertheless, the most current Naval Surface Warfare Strategy does, by design, appear to be somewhat of a higher-tech, modern adaptation of some fundamental elements of the Navy’s Cold-War-era approach — a time when major naval warfare against a Soviet force was envisioned as a realistic contingency.
A 1987 essay titled “Strategy Concept of the US Navy,” published by Naval History and Heritage Command, cites the importance of long-range offensive firepower and targeting sensors in a geographically dispersed or expansive open ocean warfare environment. The paper goes so far as to say the very survivability of US Naval Forces and the accomplishment of their missions depends upon offensive firepower.
“Integrated forces may be geographically distant, but their movements, sensors, and weapons are coordinated to provide maximum mutual support and offensive capability,” the paper writes.
The Cold War-era Strategic Concepts document also specifies that “Naval defensive capability should include long-range detection systems such as airborne early warning, quick reacting command and control systems and effective defensive weapons systems.”
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.
Wars are as culturally defining for a nation as its pop culture and politics. Each generation of war veterans breeds a new generation of writers who are willing to expose their scars and bleed them onto the page. The act itself violates a warrior-culture taboo: breaking the quiet professionalism ethos.
The Global War on Terrorism began when the twin towers fell on Sept. 11, 2001, and it continues to this day. It has been operating in the background of American life for the past two decades. Over 2.77 million men and women have deployed in direct support of it, creating a new generation of veterans and war correspondents who have seen fit to share their experience and knowledge through literature. What follows are seven of the most defining books of the Global War on Terror.
Maximilian Uriarte is the creator of the popular comic “Terminal Lance” and the author/illustrator of the graphic novel “The White Donkey.”
1. “The White Donkey” by Maximilian Uriarte
A beautifully illustrated and written graphic novel by the creator of the “Terminal Lance” comic strip, “The White Donkey” follows the story of Lance Corporal Abraham “Abe” Belatzeko, who joins the U.S. Marine Corps in the later stages of the Iraq War. In search of something he can’t explain, he trudges through the mundanity and physical discomfort of being a boot infantryman. Abe yearns for the opportunity to prove himself as a man and find enlightenment through spilling the blood of the enemy. But then the irreversible horrors of combat show him that war ain’t as glamorous as it’s portrayed in the movies.
When Abe returns home, the demons that were spurred from his experiences and regrets on that deployment cause him to disassociate from his fellow Marines, friends, and family. Uriate’s attention to detail in his realistic imagery is striking. He captures the essence of mid-2000s military and civilian life: The flip phones. The protests. The general population’s misunderstanding of the Iraq war. Through the story of this single Marine, “The White Donkey” takes us back to a war that has almost been forgotten.
Sebastian Junger is an American journalist, author, and filmmaker. In addition to writing “War,” he is noted for his book “The Perfect Storm: A True Story of Men Against the Sea,” which became a bestseller and for his documentary films “Restrepo” and “Korengal,” which won awards.
2. “War” by Sebastian Junger
What’s it like at the edge of the world? “War” follows the paratroopers from the U.S. Army’s 173rd Airborne Brigade as they establish a forward operating base in the Korengal Valley in Afghanistan. The valley is a route used by the Taliban to smuggle in fresh troops and supplies for their Jihad against the Americans. The area has been left alone in the past because it was too remote to conquer, too poor to intimidate, and too autonomous to buy off.
Private First Class Juan Restrepo is amongst the first casualties of the platoon on this deployment. His death leaves such a rift that they name their FOB after him. Aside from the occasional resupply helicopters and their sister platoon in the valley, the men are completely cut off from the rest of the world, deep in hostile territory. Facing the ever-present threat of being overrun by a determined and skillful enemy, they eagerly await their next firefight, as the boredom and repetition of war sets in.
Evan Wright is an American writer known for his extensive reporting on subcultures for Rolling Stone and Vanity Fair. He is best known for his book on the Iraq War, “Generation Kill.”
3. “Generation Kill” by Evan Wright
In March 2003, on the dawn of the invasion of Iraq, Evan Wright (a reporter from Rolling Stone magazine) joined the Marines of 1st Reconnaissance Battalion. Taking a passenger seat in the lead Humvee full of colorful Marines, Wright followed them on a road trip to war. What makes this book so captivating is not the war itself, but rather how Wright was able to capture the personalities of the Marines he was with.
The dialogue between Sergeant Colbert and Corporal Person are masterful examples of how humor is amplified by and transcends the chaos of war. The mean-street-influenced philosophy of Sergeant Espera offers surprising insight into human nature and how the white overloads really control the people. Trombley’s cavalier eagerness to get his first kill is strangely relatable.
Wright also captures many of the shortcomings of the chain of command, from overly strict enforcement of the grooming standards to its recklessness in abandoning a supply truck carrying the colors that their battalion had taken into combat since Vietnam. In a vivid scene, the company commander, known as “Encino Man,” attempts to call in artillery fire that is danger close to his men, only to be stopped by his subordinates because it may get them killed. The internal strife and politics alongside the basic discomfort of life in a combat zone wears thin on the morale of the unit.
Sergeant First Class Nicholas Moore served in the United States Army for 14 years and went on 13 deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. His military awards include the Purple Heart, two Bronze Stars, and the Army Commendation Medal with “V” device.
4. “Run to the Sound of the Guns: The True Story of an American Ranger at War in Afghanistan and Iraq” by Nicholas Moore
The true, firsthand account of Sergeant First Class Nicholas Moore, who has spent more than a decade preparing for and going to war with the U.S. Army’s 75th Ranger Regiment. When 9/11 occurred, Moore was a young private going through Ranger School. He was not scared of going to war — he was afraid of missing out on the action. Everyone thought that the war in Afghanistan would end quickly, similar to the more recent conflicts in Grenada, Panama, and Somalia. Little did he know that he’d be taking part in some of the war’s most famous events, such as rescuing Jessica Lynch and Operation Red Wings, the latter involving the search for a U.S. Navy SEAL element that had been pinned down.
The foul-mouthed nature of Rangers is softened considerably in Moore’s account, which is due to the fact that Moore is a family man who wanted to set a positive example for his children. However, he has no qualms with friendly criticism of his fellow special operations units. In these pages, you’ll catch a glimpse of the intense operation tempo of the 75th Ranger Regiment. Moore’s personal and professional development from lower-enlisted to senior noncommissioned officer is in direct parallel to the changes the GWOT and Ranger Regiment underwent.
Fred Kaplan is an American author and journalist. His weekly “War Stories” column for Slate magazine covers international relations and U.S. foreign policy.
(Author photo by Carol Dronsfield)
5. “The Insurgents: David Petraeus and the Plot to Change the American Way of War” by Fred Kaplan
The post-Vietnam War American military had adopted a “never again” philosophy toward fighting an indigenous guerilla force. The hard lessons it acquired in Vietnam through bloodshed were tossed aside as it returned to the Cold War-era of mass manpower military in a superpower conflict like World War II. The collapse of the Soviet Union and the destruction of Saddam Hussein’s vast tank columns during the first Gulf War left the U.S. the only super left on the planet. When the invasion of Iraq in 2003 ousted Hussein from power, a power vacuum occurred as the civil service administration run by the Ba’ath Party also collapsed.
General David Petraus, commander of the 101st Airborne Division during the invasion, found that he was fighting off an insurgency in Mosul, which was unthinkable to the top military commanders at the Pentagon. Petraus’ academic studies and military career had prepared him for such a mission. While his fellow field commanders were doing what the military does best — destroying the bad guys and asking questions later — Petraus knew that was counterproductive in terms of winning over the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people. To defeat an insurgency, the U.S. military needed officers who were well-versed in politics, diplomacy, economics, and military strategy.
There was a loose network of officers in the military who sought to fundamentally change the way America conducted its war. They argued that the small wars the U.S. had been reluctant to engage in would be the wars of the 21st century, and that there was a need for a deep and comprehensive counterinsurgency plan in order to win them. The military would be its own worst enemy during this period because of the bureaucratic pushback that change and reform entails. It required a paradigm shift in the role of the military in these conflicts.
Marty Skovlund Jr. is the senior editor of Coffee or Die Magazine. He is a journalist, author, and filmmaker, as well as a U.S. Army 1/75 Ranger veteran.
6. “Violence of Action” by Marty Skovlund Jr., Lt. Col. Charles Faint, and Leo Jenkins
The 75th Ranger Regiment really came into its own during the GWOT. Marty Skovlund Jr., a former batt boy himself, gives an ambitious and in-depth overview of the regiment’s transformation from 2001 to 2011. Skovlund captures details such as the evolution of the combat gear worn to the change in operating procedures and mission scope. “Violence of Action” adds a personal touch with essays written by Ranger veterans and a Gold Star mother.
What stands out is how different every individual Ranger’s experience is in their battalion, yet each seem to have an overwhelming eagerness to complete the mission. Many small stories that would otherwise be lost in time are captured in this collection. Readers will get a sense of Ranger humor and crassness as these elite warriors seek to make the best of otherwise heart-wrenching and painful situations.
Still, a strong sense of duty and pride radiates through the pages as each man recounts their experiences in the toughest infantry unit in the world. No other book on the 75th Ranger Regiment does as much for the average reader in terms of understanding this secretive and oft-misunderstood unit.
David Burnett is a U.S. Army veteran from Colorado. “Making a Night Stalker” is his first book.
7. “Making a Night Stalker” by David Burnett
In the special operations world, all the glory goes to the ground pounders — Rangers, SEALS, Special Forces, and the special missions units. Yet the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR), known as the Night Stalkers, is to aviation what Rangers are to infantry: an elite unit comprised of the best aviators in the Army.
Specialist David Burnett started his military career as a CH-47 Chinook mechanic, but found the assignment unfulfilling. While he did maintain the helicopters in his unit, he didn’t feel like he was personally doing anything to fight the war. That changed when he saw a group of crew chiefs preparing their helicopters for a mission. Impressed by their professionalism and that they didn’t miss out on the fun of riding on the birds, he applied for selection for the 160th SOAR while deployed in Afghanistan. A good omen appeared to him that day when he saw, for the first time in his life, a Night Stalker’s signature black Chinook on the airfield.
A five-week smoke fest known as Green Platoon is the selection process that each candidate must endure to test their mental fortitude and commitment. Burnette graduated, earned the maroon beret, and was assigned to Alpha Company, which is a Chinook Flight Company.
When he reported to the 160th, his new platoon sergeant handed him a stack of manuals and a list of schools, including Dunker School and SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape) School, that he had to complete before he would be allowed to fly. Getting used to the high operational tempo of his unit, Brunette learned that remaining a Night Stalker during the GWOT was harder than becoming one.
Once dubbed “the world’s most dangerous road,” the 7.5-mile stretch from Baghdad’s Green Zone to the airport was called “Route Irish” during the American-led occupation of Iraq.
It was a fitting introduction to the country during the height of the war. For years, Route Irish was a trial by fire: if you survived the drive from the airport, you would be ready for anything.
The Americans and British had a hard time controlling the road for nearly two years. Most taxi drivers refused to go anywhere near it and those that did sometimes got caught up in the mix between the insurgency and the occupation forces. It wasn’t just dangerous for troops; it was dangerous for everyone.
1. It was an easy target.
Irish was the direct airport road, connecting the International Zone (aka the “Green Zone”) with BIAP and the Victory Base Complex. Insurgents of all brands, from loyalists to al-Qaeda in Iraq terrorists knew coalition forces were based along the road and knew they would have to use the road and the areas adjacent. Irish became a magnet for bullets, rockets, mortars, VBIEDs, and hidden IEDs.
Suicide bombers lurked on the exit ramps and road crews repairing holes from previous attacks buried IEDs. It became so bad, that by December 2004, State Department personnel were banned from using Irish and troops began calling it “IED Alley.”
2. The road was a bumpy ride.
All those explosive impacts created craters in the asphalt and littered the road with husks of destroyed vehicles. Besides making the trip seem like you were riding a bucking bronco for miles on end while dodging obstacles, the hastily filled-in holes created by explosions made the trip much longer than it had to be. The craters and garbage also made it easy for insurgents to hide IEDs.
Riding in a Bradley in 127-degree heat with little light and less air flow makes the 8-minute ride seem like it takes hours. Bumping your head on the side of this hotbox a few times will make anyone appreciate a foot patrol or IED sweep.
3. Getting aboard “the Rhino” was intimidating.
“The Rhino” was a Rhino Runner, a 22-seat bus with heavy armor, designed by Florida-based Labock Technologies. Troops, contractors, and VIPs traveling to and from Victory Base, BIAP, or the Green Zone had to mount up into the belly of this behemoth. Looking at this veritable mountain of a vehicle made the first time fobbit on his or her way to Iraqi Freedom’s nerve center think twice about whether or not they could conduct their business via email.
In November 2004, a three Rhino convoy was ambushed on Route Irish with a 250-pound suicide VBIED that made a crater 6 feet wide and 2 feet deep. A dust cloud over 1,000 feet long could be seen for miles around the city. There were no injuries to the 18 people in the vehicle.
4. The road required constant patrols.
Eventually, Irish would be secured by American troops using concrete obstacles, Iraqi Army units, and taking control of the neighborhoods adjacent to the road. Until then, Coalition forces had to keep the road as clean as possible and remove the blown-up car carcasses.
At one point, the Boston Globe reported the U.S. Army dedicated an entire battalion of the 10th Mountain Division to keeping the road as clear and safe as possible. This opened the troops up to constant attacks from suicide bombers, a tactic the military could do little to prevent short of destroying the car before it reached the target.
5. If the attacks weren’t dangerous enough, the Iraqi drivers were.
Because of the frequency and severity of attacks on American and other Coalition personnel (and sometimes sectarian violence) drivers in the city put the pedal to the metal while driving along the road. They so slow down for U.S. vehicle convoys because the turret gunners have no problem taking a few shots at a tailgater.
Iraqis drove the highway at high speeds, veering away from the median (a potential source of IEDs) except when they were veering away from the exits (a source of suicide VBIEDs), and randomly weaved while driving under overpasses for fear of someone dropping something on them.
Civilians who wanted a ride from the Sheraton to the airport could easily hire their own armored shuttle service – for the deeply discounted price of $2,390 each way.
Altering graduating from West Point Military Academy at the top of his class, Paul Bucha continued on to Stanford University, where he studied for his Master’s degree. During his summer breaks while attending the prestigious college, he received Airborne and Ranger training.
Soon after completing his MBA, Bucha started his military career at Fort Campbell before heading off to Vietnam with the 187th Infantry in 1967. There, he’d face an impossible challenge of leading a company of troops most soldiers would avoid.
After Bucha settled into Vietnam, he was quickly promoted and given his first company of soldiers. His brigade commander filled Bucha’s newly formed company with those thought to be the ‘rejects’ of other units. The reputation of the soldiers placed in his company earned them the label of “the clerks and the jerks.”
Although the Army’s superior officers saw them as duds, the young lieutenant instead saw a great group of troops he was honored to lead into war.
In March 1968, Bucha and his men were the lead elements of a counterattack after the Tet Offensive. For two days, Bucha’s men destroyed several enemy strongholds and killed off pockets of resistance. As they continued to push forward, the brave men discovered a battalion-sized element of well-trained Vietnamese fighters.
An intense firefight broke out, pinning them down. Bucha surged forward with his RTO while tossing several hand grenades to clear the way. Positioned well beyond the reach of allied artillery, the young lieutenant was unable to call for support — they were on their own.
Bucha continued to lead the men for several more hours as the fight raged on, never backing down. Through the night, he encouraged his men to press on, and that’s precisely what they did for their respected leader. Bucha continuously devised and revised plans to keep his men in solid defensive and offensive positions, which saved lives.
By daybreak, Bucha and his men had managed to fight off their overwhelming opposition, leaving over 150 dead enemy troops on the battlefield.
Paul Bucha received the Medal of Honor on May 14, 1970, for personally directing the successful defense of his besieged unit.
Check out the Medal of Honor Book‘s video below to listen to this incredible story for yourself.
Boeing recently unveiled a conceptual model for a new hypersonic jet that would replace the SR-71 Blackbird, according to Aviation Week Aerospace Daily.
The conceptual model was displayed at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics SciTech forum in Orlando.
The “airplane concept and associated technology are targeted for a hypersonic ISR (reconnaissance)/strike aircraft that would have the same type of mission as the SR-71,” Boeing spokeswoman Sandra Angers told Business Insider in an emailed statement. “In that sense, it could be a future replacement for the SR-71.”
“It’s a conceptual model for an eventual demonstrator, but no one has committed to building a reusable hypersonic demonstrator yet,” Angers added. “We’re constantly looking to advance concept in technology areas that could someday be asked for by the customer.”
Boeing is one of the largest defense contractors and political donors in the U.S.
Angers also told Business Insider over the phone that the future generation concept would be able to hit speeds of more than Mach 5.
Boeing’s chief scientist for hypersonics, Kevin Bowcutt, told Aviation Week that the twin-tailed, waverider configuration is an evolving yet feasible hypersonic design.
Aviation Week also reported that Boeing “envisions a two-step process beginning with flight tests of an F-16-sized, single-engine proof-of-concept precursor vehicle leading to a twin-engine, full-scale operational vehicle with about the same dimensions as the 107-ft.-long SR-71.”
Boeing has already experimented with two unmanned hypersonic planes, the X-43 and X-51, according to Popular Mechanics.
In 2013, Boeing tested the small X-51, which hit speeds of Mach 5.1 for more than three minutes before crashing into the ocean, Popular Mechanics reported. The X-51, however, was dropped from a B-52 and used a jettisoned booster to reach Mach 5.1.
Boeing’s conceptual design will have to take off and land on its own, which is much harder, Popular Mechanics reported.
The day before Thanksgiving is a time many people spend with family and friends. This year, Marines and Sailors of 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion, 2nd Marine Division decided to spend their time giving back to the local community.
Approximately 200 Marines and Sailors with 2nd Recon and their families participated in a charity ruck march Nov. 27, 2019. The Battalion loaded up their packs with non-perishable food donations and hiked approximately six miles from the Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune Main Gate to the United Way CHEW! House in Jacksonville, North Carolina.
“Without the support of the community we wouldn’t be able to support this program. In Jacksonville, Marines are the biggest part of our community and for them to be able to give back to the community is huge.” Shelly Kiewge, the community impact director for United Way
“We have a lot to be thankful for,” said Sgt. Maj. Joseph Mendez, the 2nd Recon Sergeant Major. “As Marines, we are guaranteed the basic things like housing and food. It’s important that we realize that not everyone in our local community has that opportunity.”
The event was organized by 2nd Recon to build unit camaraderie through physical training, and donate much needed food items to the Onslow County United Way’s Children Healthy Eating on Weekends program.
“It’s always important to help out the local community,” said Staff Sgt. Joseph DeBlaay the staff non-commissioned officer in charge of 2nd Recon training command. “For us, it lets the community know we’re here and easy to approach when needed.”
U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. David Ford the assistant training chief with 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion, 2nd Marine Division reads off the total donations after a charity ruck march.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Tyler Solak)
The CHEW! Program was created to provide bags packed with healthy food for children in need over the weekend who wouldn’t be fed otherwise. The program helps over 700 school-aged children.
The Marines donated over 3,800 pounds of food to the CHEW! program.
“I want my Marines to understand the importance of this. Not that it’s just a battalion mandated event,” said Staff Sgt. DeBlaay. “I want them to see the importance of why we’re doing this to help out the community and help out those in need.”
This is the second year the battalion has organized this event and plans to continue the tradition in years to come.
“When you join the Marine Corps you do it as a means to help people who traditionally can’t help themselves,” said Lt. Col. Geoff Hoey, battalion commander of 2nd Recon. “Whether it’s people in a different country or helping people here at home who don’t have enough money to put food on the table. It’s inherent to what Marines do — we help people in need.”
This article originally appeared on Marines.mil. Follow @USMC on Twitter.